February was a rare perfect month for me, including a pretty wide variety of new releases and some older films too. Carol was the standout and I can’t imagine it not being on my top 10 of the year when I come to write it. Everything else, whilst good, totally pales in comparison.
- Goosebumps (2015), Rob Letterman – I used to devour these books as a kid and this captures the spirit of them pretty well. It takes too long to get into it and the male protagonist is the blandest character in the film. But once it gets going it’s a pretty creepy load of meta-fun helped by effects that suit the film perfectly. The character of R.L. Stine inserted into the film is a pretty inspired way into the adaptation, even if Jack Black never entirely lands that performance. It’s Odeya Rush in the female lead who gives the standout turn. A throwback to when they still made good family adventure films in the 90’s.
- Inside Man (2006), Spike Lee – All the technical elements are here. A really well written heist film that is snappily shot, full of cool angles and cuts. Not to mention how good the cast is. A young Chiwetel Ejiofor sizzles alongside Denzel, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen etc etc etc. But the toying with structure detracts a little from the intrigue of the narrative. Overall it descends a little into standard bank robber territory, in part cause the experimental flourishes don’t work so well. But even as a standard genre flick, it’s an above average, exceptionally acted one.
- Jack Irish: Dead Point (2014), Jeffrey Walker – As far as crime on TV goes, these telemovies are pretty slick. Irish is a good character well brought to life by Guy Pearce. The writing helps. Balancing him being just the right of down on his luck with clear, believable motivations. It’s well shot and makes especially good use of the Melbourne locations. And of course Aaron Pederson is the absolute best. So watchable.
- 1971 (2014), Johanna Hamilton – Knew nothing about this doco going in. Chronicles a radical group’s file theft from a small FBI office through the words of those involve. Concerned with govt surveillance and shows how nothing has really changed. Great historical document of very ordinary folks disrupting the Vietnam War. Also shows the pretty seismic historical actions their actions set off. The presentation is a touch flat but the passion of those involved shines through.
- Carol (2015), Todd Haynes – A love story captured so perfectly, in a wholly unmanufactured way. Exquisitely shot on 16mm, the grain perfectly suiting the film and the photo-like composition. Performances are all wonderful. Chandler is good in a tough role, but Blanchett and Mara could not be better. Love is so hard to capture onscreen cause it’s intangible, hard to pin down. But somehow this quite simple film does just that. A familiarity to how their love grows. The film travels along and then all of a sudden by they end you’re utterly invested. Sorta perfect.
- Deadpool (2016), Tim Miller – It’s not revolutionary, but at least it’s a comic book film that feels a little different. Plus I laughed a whole heap at the idiocy of it. A good use of Reynolds charm and talents. It’s a nothing story but it looks decent and the leads are all good too. The little team-up is played for fun, rather than as yearning for shared universe potential. Is cool to see a legit hard R, stylistically fuckin violent comic book film.
- American Mary (2012), The Soska Sisters – A pretty provocative title when you think about it. The film succeeds in large part because of the cool aesthetic – grimy underground surgery table, stark costuming. It’s hard to buy Mary’s initial casual jumping into body-modification surgery for a quick buck. Not so much the later jump where the film veers into rape-revenge territory. It’s a tough watch. Visceral. Perhaps too much so, as that element finds it hard to ponder the interesting ideas. Katherine Isabelle is great in this with realistic charm and bravado.
- The Intern (2015), Nancy Meyers – This is slow to get going. De Niro, whilst seemingly more engaged than usual, does not go down smooth as a blundering old dude. Whilst the business-speak laden early scenes with Hathaway are awkward. But as soon as those two get together everything pops a little more. It’s a gentle film, with a pretty patchy script that rocks a range of tones and some surprisingly crass moments. But the leads have a great, totally platonic chemistry between the two of them and their patter shines. There’s’ some good gender stuff too.
- Seventh Son (2014), Sergey Bodrov – Has a real 80s throwback vibe. More of a rollicking adventure film than a fantasy one. Looks kind of decent when they are not bothering with crappy CGI. A great cast bringing the awesome silliness. Awfully plotted, though in an endearingly bad way. Much like Jeff Bridges’ on-point quip game.
- Obvious Child (2014), Gillian Robespierre – Jenny Slate is awesome. She is really good at the emotional stuff and at conveying that late 20’s point in life. Not a huge amount of substance to the film. But it’s really well acted and good supports help to maintain the tone. Not really the ‘abortion rom-com’ as advertised, rather it makes a couple of nice, very valid points but aside from that it’s just part of the story. Endearing.
If you only have time to watch one Carol
If you only have time to watch two Obvious Child