I’m continuing to try and get a little more up to date with these Worth Watching posts. And continuing to fail. This was a pretty mixed month. Plenty of stuff I liked, though not really anything I would say are totally unmissable. But plenty of real rubbish amongst the not worth watchings. Let me know your thoughts on any of these in the comments below. I’m also trying to do a lot better at engaging with people on here.
- The Wolverine Director’s Cut (2013), James Mangold – I missed the theatrical release of this one, but heard this director’s cut is superior in any case. Boldest possible start for a comic book film – atomic bombing of Japan from the Japanese side. Overall it’s an interesting choice of Wolverine story to adapt. Him being mortal an interesting spin on the superhero losing their powers trope. At its strongest when the Japanese setting & culture permeate the film. Jackman is perfect in this antihero role. Film features some very cool action sequences, not CG focused, just long physical back and forth. Even the CG moments are nicely drawn. A very different comic book film.
- A Most Violent Year (2014), J.C. Chandor – Real sense of place. Soundtrack and Oscar Isaac running the NY streets. I liked this a lot. Machinations of business on the street, Isaac attempting to rise above that. Chastain a total badass. Right from the start, she is the one who seems to have the power, control of the situation. An interesting dynamic. These two give such great performances and their to-and-fro is the reason to watch. It’s quiet, but builds the tension and menace, ably assisted by a great score and excellent supporting performances.
- The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013), Jean-Pierre Jeanet – A sorta family film about the intersection of imagination/idealism with science. Stark and creative visually, which I understand matches the approach of the book. The eccentricity is grounded in a realistic family dynamic. Thankfully doesn’t slip into over the top try-hardiness where everything is totally eccentric and unbelievable. A jauntiness overall, along with a balance of eccentricity and a generic family heart that is the film’s greatest asset.
- Utopia Season 1 (2014), Rob Stich, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner – Had this on in the background for a few days on paternity leave and smashed through it. As an Aussie public servant, this is just too frightening. Workplace language is hilariously spot on. Has that mixture of sharp satire and silliness that all the best Working Dog stuff has. Well acted, especially from Rob Stich in the lead role who is in essentially every scene.
- Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), Scott Glosserman – Generally a fan of meta-horror and this is a top addition to the sub-genre. Adore how they reference other slasher villains in the world of the film. Digs wonderfully into horror film mythos. Funny too, though the surreal aspects do work against the film a little in the end. Makes it feel too light. A slow burn that would have potentially been better as a short form thing. Features a nicely layered dynamic between the villain (hero?) Leslie and the doco crew following him. Despite a heavily forecast twist and the low budget trimmings showing through on occasion, this is an ace flick.
- San Andreas (2015), Brad Peyton – How you feel about this film depends on how you feel about a The Rock saving his family from natural disaster plotline. Earthquakes are fuckin frightening aye. There’s some pretty good big screen destruction to go along with your Rock. Hoover Dam getting mashed is a particular highlight. Paul Giamatti’s character is essentially just a scientific exposition spouting machine. Deeply silly popcorn fluff that makes no attempt to deal with the weight of death and destruction it depicts.
- Digging up the Marrow (2014), Adam Green – There’s a certain innocence to this film. Essentially involves around a childlike search to prove monsters are real. Employs very straight doco stylings. It’s pretty clever and really quite scary. The practical monsters are a very cool throwback. Nicely constructed, with Green appearing onscreen and showing raw footage to others around the production office. There is a reasonable amount of charm to his onscreen persona. A good dramatic dynamic to his relationship with his co-workers, their doubts of him.
- The Martian (2015), Ridley Scott – Would not have picked ’15 Ridley Scott to deliver popcorn sci-fi this fun. It’s so light with nary a weighty theme in sight that it barely qualifies as an entry in the genre. Damon’s wise-cracking character that jarred so heavily in the trailers, is a sassy and frequently funny anchor for the film. Stakes never feel very high, the writing eliciting minimal tension from the situations at hand. But this is a different kind of film. A damn pretty one for sure, with both the Martian landscapes and spaceship sets looking great. Performances are uniformly good, Ejiofer gets the best of the supporting roles. But it’s Damon’s film and he handles tones both dramatic and more comedic with aplomb.
- The Good Wife Season 5 (2013), Robert King & Michelle King – Starts off literally the moment the last one ended which I like. The whole series is populated with excellent supporting performers – Jeffrey Tambor being symptomatic of that. Not sure about some of the characterisation, Alicia gets very smug for a while which takes away her likeability. But the relationship between Will and Alicia remains the best thing in the show. It should have been focused on more because there’s a complexity there that is rare. There are some tonally missteps when things get too silly and there is a big overreliance on flashbacks. Performances are excellent, especially from Alan Cumming and Josh Charles. But everything in this season is totally overshadowed by a death in the middle of the season of a massive character that totally comes out of nowhere story wise. It promises to totally change the direction of the show, and I’m not sure that is necessary.
Not Worth Watching:
- Everly (2014), Joe Lynch – A high concept action flick starring an ass-kickin Selma Hayek raises expectations. It starts promisingly, dripping in style, with simple & unobtrusive exposition setting the scene. But the action looks cheap in a way that detracts from the story. The cast is nicely diverse, though performances are patchy to the extent some of them disrupt the flow of the film. I like the simplicity of the story but it’s a little underdeveloped. Its funny moments are mainly just awkward. It’s all a shame really, because the creative moments such as a wide-shot elevator fight are great. All just a little melodramatic and shit, not to mention unnecessarily sadistic at times.
- While We’re Young (2014), Noah Baumbach – After this one, I have decided that Baumbach is just not for me. He seemingly has such derision for so many people. A lot of the runtime is spent ridiculing various folks. There’s a sheen of hipster insincerity and self-awareness that is utterly overwhelming. Especially on the script front. The message of this film boils down to basically duh some people are old, some people are young. And the exploration of the professed themes of artistic integrity and documentary authenticity is totally shallow. Another insufferable effort from a director who excels at them.
- Arbitrage (2012), Nicholas Jarecki – Totally nothin start and it never really improves from there. Bland and underwhelming. A film will have to be a lot better to make me care about a rich, fraudulent, adulterous prick who I’m supposedly meant to be empathising with. Ill advised in the extreme to expect an audience to give a shit about him. An even bigger issue is there’s just nothing bloody happening in this film. There’s some moderately interesting stuff about power. But it’s barely there. Also, there’s basic gaps in logic throughout.
- Into the Woods (2014), Rob Marshall – I have a natural aversion to musicals and the early going here backs that up. There is nothing interesting or entertaining about people just singing what they are doing. But then the combination of fairytales idea and excellent performances shine through for a fair while. Corden, Blunt, Pine, Streep and especially Lilla Crawford are all really great. The film looks relatively good too in terms of costuming, effects, design and sets, though it is all a little uncreative. All in all it’s a decent enough jaunt… until a monumentally awful 50 minute coda to finish the film. The storytelling just falls off a cliff and it’s so overwhelmingly crap that it effects the whole film, going as far as not bothering to wrap up the arcs of important characters.
If you only have time to watch one A Most Violent Year
Avoid at all costs While We’re Young