Here is this week’s trailer. Albeit a little later than usual, so apologies for that. Also the ongoing neglect of everyone else’s blogs as I travel and fight crappy internet connections.
I am not all that familiar with Christopher Nolan’s non-Dark Knight work. But this trailer has me pretty excited. It looks like Terrence Malick has made a sci-fi flick. And if the end product turns out anything like that, this will be one hell of a film. Not to mention it has Matthew McConaughey who has managed to go from laughing stock to one of the most reliable actors in the world in remarkable time. What do you guys think of this one?
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
- J. Edgar (2011), Clint Eastwood – Concerns a very complicated man and the way history remembers him, and by extension all men. DiCaprio is very good in the lead role and the old man makeup does not annoy as much as usual. The ending features a twist of sorts, which features a really clever way of addressing memory and how one recalls their own achievements. A fantastic film.
- Young Adult (2011), Jason Reitman – This is a very dark film, almost like a black comedy sans comedy. A great script sees Diablo Cody showcasing the writing chops that gained her so much recognition for Juno. Charlize Theron is very good as a troubled woman looking to recapture something from her past. Patton Oswald is equally exceptional, their relationship is like no other you will see onscreen this year.
- Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012), Timur Bekmambetov – My expectations for this were so low as to be non-existent. But it impressed, well at least for the first hour or so. Sorta ran out of steam after that. It looks cool, I thought the 3D really popped in this one. The whole film is built on some pretty solid characterisation which helps too. Despite the unimpressive looking vampires and battles, this is still a pleasant surprise.
- Headhunters (2011), Morten Tyldum – The latest off the Scandinavian thriller production line comes courtesy of author Jo Nesbo. This was really interesting, truly unique in terms of both tone and character motivation. There is no hero, barely even an antihero, at least until the final quarter where these crystallise. A very interesting thriller with an extremely satisfying community.
- Haywire (2011), Steven Soderbergh – A cracking action flick, set in beautifully shot locales by Soderbergh. Looks awesomely slick, and has some really nice pacing. More artistic than is standard, with cool use of music and black & white. There are some really effective looking MMA inspired action sequences to balance things out. Despite a not entirely satisfying storyline, the awesome cast ensures this is worth checking out.
- Cosmopolis (2012), David Cronenberg – An examination of the capitalist ails of society presented in an original and episodic way. The film only falls down when it lingers in the last half hour, but an incredible final scene makes up for that. Robert Pattinson is brilliant as a young, isolated multi-billionaire in search of a haircut whilst Cronenberg shoots most of the film in surrealist close-ups. A real adaptation with much of Don DeLillo’s source novel present. Many found this too oblique dialogue heavy, but I think this is a clever, engaging examination of the film’s chosen themes.
- V For Vendetta (2006), James McTeigue – A singularly original, very British graphic novel adaptation. An awesome cast of British performers support the excellent lead turns from Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. The story is in the classical dystopian mould, concerning manipulation, the repression of minorities and role of the police in society. There is also a cool structural countdown, making this a film which knows how to build to a crescendo perfectly.
- The Sapphires (2012), Wayne Blair – The best thing about this is how it subtly weaves in issues such as the stolen generation, Aboriginal purity and the Vietnam War into the storyline, without beating you over the head with them. The film’s storyline is inspired by a forgotten piece of Australia History. Chris O’Dowd is utterly magnificent and the four band members are all really well brought to life, with Jessica Mauboy proving she has acting chops to go along with her singing ones. A rousing and well made tale.
- The King is Dead (2012), Rolf de Heer – Man this is a dark film. Reminds me of a British era Hitchcock thriller… but you know, made 80 years later in Adelaide. A very suburban nightmare, a young couple buy a home next to the neighbours from hell. In what follows they attempt, not always successfully, to do what most would only ever think in order to solve the problem.
- Ted (2012), Seth McFarlane – It is turning out to be a good year for comedy. This is a simple narrative, delivered through a firecracker script. Crass, extremely so at times, but even those parts make you laugh because of the charm with which it is all brought to life. The character of Ted looks phenomenal, he is a remarkable technical achievement. Jeff Winger in a smarmy supporting role and a wonderful teddy bear vs Mark Wahlberg fight scene round out the awesomeness.
- The Campaign (2012), Jay Roach – This is pretty standard Will Ferrell fare. I’m a fan of his and this got me to laugh a fair bit. Despite being concerned with politics, there is nothing particularly cutting here. It’s all standard sex and Will Ferrell being bitten by a rattle snake jokes (the latter I found hilarious for some reason). Despite a short running time, it lags toward the end. If you have seen any Will Ferrell film, you will probably know what to expect with this.
- Bernie (2011), Richard Linklater – I haven’t seen a film like this all year. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film like this. Tale of an assistant undertaker in a small town who befriends a widow and what happens when he feels increasingly imprisoned by her. Jack Black is in career best form with an awards-worthy turn. Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine offer sterling support. The true genius here is the usually tired mockumentary being reinvigorated by using real townsfolk. Their raw, real interviews add a real layer of depth to this darkly comic film which leaves you thinking long after it has finished. Make sure you stay for the credits.
- Community: Season 1 (2009), Dan Harmon – I’ve generally avoided TV comedy. But this is a fantastic, clever show. A brilliant cast of comedy characters and scripting that gets more consistently hilarious as the season wears on. Some side splitting moments – Troy and Abed’s Spanish rap for example. Abed’s constant stream of self knowing pop-culture references also help to make this extremely fun viewing.
- The Bourne Identity (2001), Doug Liman – Damon’s man who has lost his identity really made for a very different action hero. Cool, quick and realistic hand to hand combat scenes are fantastic to watch. The emotional and psychological depth that is here is a real point of difference to standard action fare.
Not Worth Watching:
Absolutely Nothing. A good month then.
If you only have time to watch one Bernie
Avoid at all costs Nothing – go and see it all.