As you can see, July turned into a pretty hectic watching month for me. An absolute Weeds marathon with my partner as well as a bunch of new releases left me with a whole bunch to write about here. Share your thoughts on these in the comments section below.
- Before Sunrise (1995), Richard Linklater – This is a schmaltzy concept that really shouldn’t work. Somehow it does though. Naturalistic performances from Hawke and Delpy along with fantastic dialogue help a lot. Tis charming to see such a high concept idea pulled off with zero pretension. Really captures that awkwardness of new love, or the possibility of it at least. Ethan Hawke’s goatee is absolutely rubbish in it though.
- Before Sunset (2004), Richard Linklater – In my opinion this improves on the first film and is actually something of a modern day classic. The device to bring the two main players back together is really clever as is the dealing with the conclusion of the first film. Again the dialogue is one of the chief joys. I am not sure how much is scripted and how much is improvisation. Incredible how the film picks the characters back up but also perfectly captures the time passed. I just watched the entire film with a smile on my face that these two characters had been reunited.
- End of Watch (2012), David Ayer – This didn’t cause much of a stir on release, but I think it should have. As a gritty, ‘day in the life’ look at life as a cop, I have not seen many better. The handheld style worked for me, it gave the film a real jolt of immediacy. The cops are not simplistically cast as heroes. At times they abuse their power. But the film sets out to present the events rather than to editorialise them. Searing stuff.
- This is the End (2013), Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg – Whilst I did not enjoy this as much as most, it is still an enjoyable enough way to while away a couple of hours mindlessly. It is a little too clever for its own good and heaps of jokes fall flat. But enough meet their mark and the cast is charming enough too. Also features comfortable the greatest musical outro I’ve seen, a device which is generally pretty tired.
- Weeds Season 2 (2006), Jenji Kohan – Some of the plot points require a suspension of belief. But the central storyline of this season is gripping and builds to one of the best season finales I can recall. The show is unafraid to take on some pretty controversial subjects. Not always successful with it though, the storyline of a boy being sexually assaulted in a brothel is bungled. But every single character is really fully formed. Even the bloody kids are complex and interesting whereas usually they are totally neglected. My favourite season of a show I love.
- Weeds Season 3 (2007), Jenji Kohan – Starts a little slow after the incredible finish to season 2. But the dialogue is incredibly written and this is probably the funniest season to date. Plus the show continues to create the most interesting characters, including the peripheral ones. This is a really bold and open show, which is to be applauded.
- Mud (2012), Jeff Nichols – A little strangely for a simple film, I suspect this will open up with repeat viewings. The two young blokes are fantastic, especially Tye Sheridan who plays Ellis. I dunno what happened with Matthew McConaughey, but a couple of years ago he decided to stop wasting his talent and has been killer ever since, including here as the grizzled Mud. This is not, as has been suggested, a Huck Finn story. But it is definitely informed by that world.
- Ping Pong (2012), Anson & Hugh Hartford – A pretty intelligent doco. This focuses on a seniors table tennis tournament, but draws out a lot of other ideas in the process. Focuses on ageing and cultural difference and especially addresses and challenges the way we think about the care of the elderly in our society.
- Weeds Season 4 (2007), Jenji Kohan – This season kicks off with an extended cameo from the always awesome Albert Brooks. The show continues to take a mildly absurdist look at plenty of issues including a really well done euthanasia angle. Once again it doesn’t hold back at all and goes some really interesting places. Also mixes it up a little, almost turning into a drug running thriller and really begins to examine what is right and wrong about a life of crime. However in this season, the stories of the various family members do begin to feel a little disparate.
- Weeds Season 5 (2009), Jenji Kohan – The show remains clever at slightly reinventing itself whilst maintaining what drew fans to it in the first place. This season it gets better at balancing the disparate narrative storylines of the characters. It also introduces yet more peripheral characters that become firm favourites and make the show as a whole more interesting.
- The Heat (2013), Paul Feig – This is probably my favourite comedy of the year so far. I actually laughed a lot which I rarely do in comedies these days. Melissa McCarthy is possibly the best comedic performer going around at the moment and whilst Sandra Bullock has less to work with, she is a worthy foil. The heartfelt stuff is perhaps a little less successful, but thankfully there is not that much of it and the jokes keep coming thick and fast.
Not Worth Watching:
- Grown Ups (2010), 2010 – Don’t even ask me why I watched this. I was sick and it was clearly affecting my brain. Possibly the most terrible collection of characters ever – you want to slap each and every one of them. Literally within 3 minutes of putting this on, I was reconsidering my lifelong aversion to not finishing a film. Fumbles its good theme of how life can get away from you spectacularly. If sexism and unoriginal jokes about the elderly and physical appearance is your thing, you will have a blast.
- Man of Tai Chi (2013), Keanu Reeves – This truly terrible film is, aside from a couple of cool fight scenes, a complete and utter failure. Keanu Reeves gives one of the absolute worst performances I can recall. And the film shows him to be a pretty talentless director. Kinda cool to see a different martial art onscreen, but it does not get the film very far. Attempts and fails miserably to say something about our celebrity and reality TV obsessed culture. An absurdly bad film.
- Monsters University (2013), Dan Scanlon – Pixar are officially in a funk. Who knew the prequel to such a full of life and creative film could be so tepid. The narrative is a bland amalgam of every average college & high school flick you have ever sat through. Also, none of the highly unique design of the first film is on display here. Possibly my biggest disappointment of the year so far.
- Man of Steel (2013), Zack Snyder – Many will disagree but I found this a real bore. The flashbacks throughout are just origin story tick the box. Whilst the Krypton sequences are well realised, what follows is too slow and not meaningful enough. You think things will pick up when Supes dons the cape. But they don’t really, unless you count endless destruction with no real rhyme or reason as things picking up. Supes and his super foes are so super it proves quite hard to stage a grounded fight scene. I’m also not too sure what the very intentional invocation of 9/11 is meant to achieve. I do think the performances were pretty good though. Henry Cavill has the potential to be a long term Supes and Amy Adams is really good.
If you only have time to watch one Before Sunset
Avoid at all costs Man of Tai Chi
A little late with the Worth Watching roundup for June thanks to The House of Caine kicking things off here on the blog for the month. Not the busiest month of viewings, but some good stuff and a contender for my least favourite of the year. Take a read and share your thoughts.
- The Great Gatsby (2013), Baz Luhrmann – Just because the visuals on display here are so incredible, doesn’t mean this film is all style over substance as many have claimed. Indeed the film brings to life the disillusionment and vapidity of life better than the book did for me. Awesomely acted, I thought all four leads were excellent and I was also a big fan of the pretty divisive soundtrack.
- Premium Rush (2012), David Koepp – This is perfect Saturday night with a beer fodder. I had a lot of fun with this film. I mean how can you go wrong with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger and Michael Shannon as the bad guy. He is soo delightfully Michael Shannony in this film. It does some quite interesting things visually and also has some really fun bike versus car chase sequences. I loved this film.
- Tabu (2012), Miguel Gomes – Ambitious (perhaps even pretentious) but unfortunately not as successful as I would have hoped. It is too slow, especially the first half, which is essentially an hour long prologue for the incredible love story of the second half. A tale of adultery in mid 20th century colonial Africa. This second half is wondrous, with incredible acting (with no dialogue!) and lovingly brought to life in 4:3 black and white.
- Weeds Season 1 (2005), Jenji Kohan – It takes a little while to settle on a tone, but when it does, this is really original stuff. Mary Louise Parker is utterly fantastic. Her character is a really bloody good one and has such a good arc as the season progresses. The whole thing feels really authentic. Parker’s character in particular does not always have her shit together which is refreshing.
Not Worth Watching:
- After Earth (2013), M. Night Shyamalan – What an utter toilet of a movie. Will Smith’s kid has the most annoying presence on screen. As for Will, his laconic screen charm has disappeared. This is a film that is mind numbingly stupid and at times so cliché it is literally laughable. Arouses no emotion or feeling, even when straining incredibly hard to do so. Doesn’t even look particularly good.
- World War Z (2013), Marc Foster – Whilst this has some upsides, I was disappointed. The early action sequences are just shaky cam – if you want to convey highly kinetic danger, you need to do it more intelligently than that. The globe-hopping structure, clearly yearning for the book, feels half cocked. Adventure film-lite if you will. Plus the whole conclusion is a let down, leaves you feeling pretty hollow. Despite a reasonable running time and a couple of good performances, this really dragged for me.
If you only have time to watch one The Great Gatsby
Avoid at all costs After Earth