Thread: Filmlist 2015
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Old 30th Dec 2014, 22:43   #2
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Default Re: Filmlist 2015

01 Charley Varrick
Bit dated (dating has certainly changed), bit fun. Walter Mathau as the titular crim, a relatively slimline Joe Don Baker as the mean-edged hitman sent to track down the mob-money Charley's gang mistakenly nabbed. I suggest you read Our Own Bill's blogpost about this, and Michael Mann's Thief, because that's why I decided to watch both of them.

02 Stoker
Strange one, this. I have to say, I liked it, in the way that the elaborately over-blown can be quite enjoyable. There's more than an argument to be made for it being style over substance, but I was never bored, occasionally winced, rolled my eyes from time to time, laughed once or twice... you could say it has it all. Nicole Kidman, Alice in Wonderland and the late-series love interest from The Good Wife star as participants in a spectacularly screwed up family drama - spectacular in its chilly, glassy stillness, and Korean director Chan-wook Park tinkers with the visuals for quite a while before letting loose with the kind of beats that made Old Boy and the Vengeance movies stand out.

03 The One I Love
Strange one, this. I have to say, I liked it, and now I'm getting a weird sense of deja vu. Daisy the Ad Man from Mad Men stars as one half of a self-destructing couple who are sent to a charming cottage in the hills to get away from it all by their therapist, Ted Danson, only to find that's exactly what they aren't doing. Exactly what they aren't doing. I'm not going to tell you what that means, because there's literally no way to say more without spoiling it - which includes warning you off from something you might not like, since-- even hedging like this is probably saying too much. Good, weird fun. Give it a try and don't blame me.

04 It's All About Love
Strange one, this. I have to say, I liked it, in the way that the elaborately over-blown can be quite enjoyable. There's more than an argument to be made for it being style over substance, but...

...hang on a minute.

So, another one dug up from the invaluable resource that is My Year of Flops, this features Joaquim Phoenix and Clare Danes (and Sean Penn, occasionally) in a sort of intra-apocalyptic romantic sci-fantasy, where Ugandans are threatened with levitation into the sky at any moment, New Yorkians are dropping dead of loveless heart failure, and the world's fresh water temporarily freezes solid on an annual basis. Snow in July, cats and dogs living in harmony, got to be the end of the world. The director is Thomas Vinterberg, who made the gob-smackingly excellent Dogme movie Festen. Hard to see the link, but there's something sort of hypnotic about this. A good pair for Stoker, maybe.

Think it's going to be a strange, three-star year for me, 2015.

05 Shock Treatment

I've been musing over giving this a watch since Mark Kermode gave it props a year or so ago. I think I agree with him (I think he said this) that, taken as a set, the songs are better than those of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but what this most conspicuously boasts is a Tim Curry-shaped hole at its centre, and that rather sinks it as an attention grabber. The plot ends up tossed out but it was kind of weak to begin with and, coupled with there being no central font of charisma, I'm not all that surprised it ended what might have been a parade of vaguely counter-culture musicals before they really began.

06 Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

So, last year I watched Great Balls of Fire, the year before (possibly, maybe, I'm not going to check) Walk The Line, and this year (because last year I heard about it) this, a goofy, funny spoof of one or both of those films, with Matthew C. Reilly starring as the titular breakout country star, featuring a few laugh-out-loud songs (the end credits one is a cracker) and nails every music biopic cliché in the book.

07 Gentleman Broncos
Still "Yep".

A silly comedy about the pains of niche genre authorship, in which Michael Angarano (Bertie from The Knick) is Benjamin, a young Utahian fan of a small-scale scifi author (treacle-voiced Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords) who is inspired to write his own fiction. It's (very clearly) from the team that brought you Napoleon Dynamite and is suffused with exactly that sense of the absurd, and exactly the same affection for the same. Sam Rockwell provides strange-as-fiction backup in the visualised excerpts from the central story, Yeast Lords - The Bronco Years, which one man sees as his only hope to salvage a career on the rocks, two small town filmmakers sees as their 83rd and best motion picture, and Benjamin simply hoped would lift him and his mother to the life of their dreams...

08 The Imitation Game
I would like to pre-emptively deny the charge that I'm lying about my true star-feelings regarding films I watch this year.

This is a good film. It is also more than a bit of an easy film. It is full of tidy, within-the-limits performances that absolutely do the job, and the story is Hollywood perfect. I felt so carefully entertained, and therefore so unchallenged by it all that I had to stretch twice when it was over, partly because I'd been sat for two hours, partly because it hadn't stretched me even slightly. And even though there were a few cheesy things I didn't like, I'd still have given it four stars if it wasn't for them over-egging the pudding with the "but my brother, we can make an exception for my brother" moment, which was a terrible, manipulative misstep that had been made utterly redundant by everything that had happened not ten seconds earlier. Really, such a poor bit of blatant string-pulling that my eyes rolled right out of my head.

09 Warrior
Nor, while we're on the subject, am I deliberately seeking out films I somehow magically know I'm going to neither love nor hate. This one is a crunching martial arts drama, genre heir to the Rocky-style boxing movie, itself heir to the Barton Fink-style wrestling movie - where can this trend lead next, I wonder...

Anyway, Tom Hardy's pucker plays a former jar-head turned mixed martial arts kickpunching machine, who resurfaces out of nowhere intending to compete for the world's biggest MMA purse - a $5 million literal knock-out contest which, and I can't believe I'm about to say this, but which his estranged, on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy, family-man-science-teacher older brother also winds up competing in (played by a guy who looks like a ripped Conan O'Brien), all under the once gin-soaked gaze of their reformed alcoholic father.

Yes, you've guessed it: Nick Nolte.

In many ways, it's an interesting piece of work. It starts off working class low-key, with Hardy the grudge-bearing, taciturn prodigal to Nolte's sympathy-inducing weary old man, and kicks off (again, literally) fifteen minutes in with a (that's right, literally) gob-smacking fight that I'd guess lasts under thirty seconds, and you believe it would have. Then it takes a radical left-turn to introduce former fighter turned suburban dad Conan (fine, "Joel Edgerton", but compare) who's going to lose his house to debt, takes up illegal MMA fighting at the local level out of desperation and loses his job as a result. That $5 mil would pay a lot of bills...

During the various dramatic scenes that lead up to the big event it remains a fairly engaging watch, and the scraps are crunching throughout... but none of those battles really compare with the stunning opener. Instead we end up with gruelling, face-punching endurance challenges in which just the last ten seconds of a round drag on longer than the entirety of Hardy's brutally authentic thirty second thriller. Frankly, it all starts to drag. Come the climactic half hour, I was torn wondering which of the two clichés we'd end up with: A) the needy underdog perma-crippled before his tear-stained wife, so his freshly reconciled brother could take down Drago in revenge (yes, there is a Russian super-fighter here); or B) brother against brother in the grand final.

I think on balance they picked the better option, but ultimately the movie feels comically implausible, as well as drizzled with the kind of over-emotional cheesiness that only the original Rocky ever really got away with. And it's a shame, because keeping the two brothers' stories separate but letting the parallels between the glamorous and grotty chime off each other would have been far more convincing, far more moving, than beating down our sense of disbelief for a grandstand finish.

10 The Purge
Yay! Two stars!

Ahhhhh-merica: it's great! Unemployment and crime are all but eradicated, and how? Because the New Founding Fathers have decreed that, for a twelve hour period once every year, the Purge will take place, and then anything goes. All legal bets are off, the police, fire and medical services are off the clock, which instead is ticking on your night of guilt-free bloody violence. Probably not a good idea to live in suburbia...

Ethan Hawke and his trademark Beautiful Family have made exactly that mistake, and it isn't their last. He's sold expensive security systems to all their affluent neighbours, then rubbed their noses in it by building a castle-like extension to his sandstone mansion. His wife fails to appropriately mask her familial pride when gossiping with the glassy-eyed bitch from down the street. Senior teen daughter is rebelling over her forbidden love for the too-old boyfriend, who's snuck inside after the blast doors come down. And weird loner Junior Teen son puts those blast doors up again long enough for a homeless black man to escape the clutches of a sociopathic gang of trust-fund college kids, who really want him back.

Cue moral/immoral hijinks and Eeth an' Co try to decide if they can justify throwing a fat man onto the tracks to save themselves from being slaughtered alongside him. There's probably a pack of film makers out there convinced they've made a social satire akin to The Handmaiden's Tale for the armour-piercing generation. Proof, if proof be need be, that "high concept" doesn't mean "not stupid".

11 Panique Au Village

12 The Theory of Everything

13 Whiplash

14 Lucy

15 The Valley of Gwangi
Beginning of a "weird western" film-watching binge, ahead of some blogging later in the year. Stared with a ...classic... and found it to be the kind of thing Mystery Science Theatre 3000 would have targeted, assuming they didn't. Not very good, really.

16 high Plains Drifter
Very much of it's time - the sexual politics especially - but also a weird gem. Clint Eastwood rides out of the heat haze into a small frontier town where someone once came a cropper at the hands of just about every member of the community. Was it Clint? Was it his brother? Did he die, whoever it was, and is this his vengeful ghost? Who cares, what follows is a bizarre overturning of the citizens' lives in pursuit of justice, or maybe just ice - revenge best being served cold, after all...

17 Wild Wild West
Wow, what a turkey this was. Coming two years after Men In Black made Will Smith into a scifi comedy god, this feels like a hammy mess made half-a-dozen years earlier. It attempts to harken back to those rip-roaring silver screen adventures the way Indiana Jones did perfectly, but just fucks it all up.

18 Ravenous

19 Cowboys Versus Aliens
Cheesy attempted blockbuster that was doing okay for quite a while, but got progressively sillier the longer it went on. Shootout at the X-Files Coral.

20 The Birds
Watched because, A) I'd never actually seen it, at least not that I could remember; B) due to Slavoj Zizek's fascinating analysis, which I revisit every year or so; and C) so I could blog about intra-apocalyptic-fiction-in-films-and-fiction. I was really enjoying it, although I have to say I found the ending extremely anticlimactic; Hitchcock seriously pulls du Maurier's punch for her. Not, though, regarding his females - I can't help but feel that Melanie is being punished for not being a good little wifey.

21 On The Beach
Boring, stilted, and populated by far older young people than Hollywood (and its stars) try to get away with any more. I only watched it because, as I said, I'm on a post-apocalypse binge these days and wanted to write a blog post about a handful of them. The Death of Grass already provided the bad to go with The Birds' good, but this was so dull I left it out entirely.

22 John Wick
Keanu Reeves in The Matrix mode again: minimal acting, maximal action. I liked it, but I didn't pee my pants with ecstasy-laced champagne the way some people seemed to...

23 Guardians of the Galaxy
Worked for me in a way that most of the Marvel Movie Monsoon hasn't quite managed. Iron Man (1) and Captain America (1) probably remain my favourites to date, but this was good fun from the start, vastly better than the last big screen "space adventure" outings (ie: Star Wars 12&3 and the Star Trek reboots). I wonder how the next Star Wars trilogy will compare, especially since being helmed by J. J. Abrams it brings together both of those rivals...

24 Birdman
Hollywood gazes into its navel and wishes people took it seriously as art. You know, like they do with theatre. Really enjoyable nonsense (I thought the Academy didn't "do" comedies - this is one), but nonsense none the less.

25 Boyhood
Technical-conceptually smart, but that doesn't win you Best Picture and underneath this proves to be a typically Linklaterish semi-narrative, and neither do they. I started to roll my eyes every time the main character opened his mouth once he reached his teens; the know-nothing "wisdom" of kids talking to other kids may be brilliantly realistic, but it doesn't make for engrossing dialogue. Patricia Arquette is well worth her Oscar though.

26 House of the Devil
One for Junkmonkey and Bill here (though Bill's probably seen it).

An out-of-pocket college student somewhere in America agrees needs to make $300 so she can pay the deposit on a flat and get away from her promiscuous room-mate. In desperation, she calls the number on a baby-sitter needed sign on campus, and...

...the thing is, this is unashamedly an homage to those cheesy, low-budget horror flicks of the 70s and 80s. The chunky yellow title font, the flannel shirts and jeans, the brick-sized walkman our heroine lugs around, the editing--even the pre-spoiling "Back in the 70s and 80s everyone thought the Satanists were culting" is there to tell you, and we are there now. But, unlike Tarantino's screaming it in your face via digitally degrading the print for laughs, here there is just an old-fashioned horror movie, played straight, in an old-fashioned style. It might be a cliché, but when you do it with affection it can still be good.

27 The Burrowers
A horror western that starts out reasonably well, with at least the promise of being a character-driven "with monsters" version of The Searchers. And it's still going reasonably well right up to the point where A) we see the monsters, and B) you realise there's only about twenty minutes left and start to suspect the makers don't actually have an ending for this thing. They don't.

28 Mad Max: Fury Road ½
This film is too long by at least thirty minutes. Much of the dialogue is poor or unnecessary. IT'S AWESOME. Not a feminist screed in my opinion, although it does have "strong" female roles in it.

EDIT: I watched it again, and I was too tough on this. The dialogue is ropey in places, but it's not too long and it's worth a straight .

This is what all those movie remakes or reinventions should be reaching for, and consistently fail to achieve. Even beyond that, it's just a strikingly inventive action flick, one where the progression of format set-pieces are each distinctive in spite of the necessity of all being variations on a single theme. Loved it.

29 Erin Brockovich
Bad Tuesday made better.

30 The Babadook
A great piece of disturbing, low-key horror.

31 The Innocents ½
Badly dated in terms of line-delivery, at times, but wonderfully uncanny all the same.

32 An American Werewolf in London
Well, it's showing its age a bit now, but still good fun. The Yorkshire Brits are cold as the moo-oor, the London Brits are awfully plummy, Griffin Dunne is great, and the werewolf himself does fine.

33 CHAPPiE ½
Weak, another serious back-step for BlomKamp after showing such potential with the flawed but far from bad District 9. I thought I hated Elysium, but now I realise I didn't. This is seriously poor, an unfunny remake of Short Circuit that isn't saved by Hugh Jackman in shorts. Nor by Die Antwoord, an act I like - this is less interesting than a movie-length version of one of their music videos, thought it tries its hardest to be exactly that, with them trickling out of every background radio from start to finish.

34 Inherent Vice ½
Not bad, though after The Big Lebowski (of all things) it feels a bit light and in-cohesive in terms of story.

35 The Panic in Needle Park
Early Al Pacino flick that I'd never heard of, and which turned out to be really quite good.

36 A Midsummer Night's Dream
Oh my. This is the James Cagney 1935 "blockbuster", which apparently died in the box office, almost certainly due to Mickey Rooney's appallingly irritating turn as Puck - however, Olivia de Havilland as Hermia wasn't bad and occasionally shone in her first screen role, Cagney and Joe E. Brown (Jack Lemmon's husband-to-be from Some Like It Hot) are good fun in the theatrical troupe, and some of the fairy-scenes are lovely to look at. My tongue in cheek viewing log can be found here and here.

37 Jiro Dreams of Sushi
A sweet salute to a culinary treasure which is also fascinating for the insights it gives of Japanese culture. Jiro is a sushi master in his 80s who has dedicated most of his life to his art. His eldest son, upon whom an inevitable and weighty inheritance will one day fall, continues to work, willingly, in his father's shadow, even though the fate of the successors to unparalleled greatness can be a harsh one, dismissed as inferior by default. It's light, unsurprisingly always respectful, but there are wise lessons about hard work and commitment throughout. And the food looks delicious...

38 Indie Game: The Movie
One that's been on my radar for a while. Much like the fantastic Tetris documentary I watched last year, this may be one for the geeks on the surface. What we also get is a large slice of personality, meeting bedroom coders and computer game storytellers doing what the mega-bucks industry doesn't: handcrafting games that are a true labour of love, even if it means risking everything to do so.

39 El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes)
Argentina, 2000: a retired lawyer attempts to write the novel of the unsolved case that still haunts him. Argentina, 1975: Esposito works in the offices of a judge alongside his alcoholic friend and colleague Sandoval, under the command of Irene, their attractive and wealthy new boss. The murder of a gorgeous, sweet-natured young woman all but destroys her husband, and the unrivalled depth of love between them comes to obsess Esposito, who dedicates himself to finding the killer even in the face of institutional corruption that threatens all their lives. It's a straight forward piece of storytelling, which is usually the best kind. Crossing the decades results in a bit of iffy old-man makeup, but--once you're past the really quite grim opening minutes--it proves an enjoyable mystery with a hint of romance.

40 Josie and the Pussycats
Not my usual fare, but My Year of Flops forced my hand again. Stupid fun, I didn't like the music, but it is satire, not just an example of what it satirises. Also, Rosario Dawson is dreamy.

41 Frank
Strange, in the best way of being that. Domhnall Gleeson is perfect as the "normal" out of his depth amongst the creative madness, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays "emotionally hard" very well, the French rhythm section are suitably aloof, and Fassbender is... is a big fibreglass head. From the concept, it ought to be a Spike Jonze movie, but even in its more fraught sections it feels less melancholic than he would have made it, and the end result is a sweet-natured take on weirdness, the modern pseudo-family, and knowing who you are and where you need to be.

42 Ex Machina
Very, very good. Where CHAPPiE played the AI-genesis story as a juvenile slapstick shoot-em-up, this treats the subject seriously with a slick, intelligent execution. Low-key performances from Domhnall Gleeson (fast joining his dad as one of my favourite "British Isles" actors) and, necessarily, Alicia Vikander as the AI in question. Plus another strong turn from Oscar Isaac, who I'm yet to see put a foot wrong (although apparently he was in Sucker Punch - I must have blanked that).

I was fairly scathing of writer-director Alex Garland's first "serious" scifi effort, Sunshine, and I stand by that - people were calling it the new 2001, but for me it fell light years short. This, however, I would allow to sit on the same shelf Kubrick's sf-masterpiece occupies, and that's about the highest complement I can offer.

Marvel may bust the blocks, but given that Garland scripted 2012's DREDD, which I rank alongside Snowpiercer and this year's colossus, Mad Max: Fury Road, as the best pulp sci-fi flicks in a long, long time (to say nothing of writing 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, both of which I rate), I think he represents one of the quiet champions of contemporary spec-fic cinema.

43 The Bourne Legacy
Not bad, but the lead (whose name I can never quite remember, "Something Jenner"? The bow-and-arrow dude from Avengers) lacks leading-man charisma in my opinion, and the whole thing feels a bit half-arsed. The actions scenes are well-handled, but the main plot results in a flat anti-climax of escape from Random Hitman 8, someone only introduced two minutes or so before the big chase scene takes place; but, to compare with The Bourne Identity's cracking hot pursuit sequence, here this basically leads straight into the end credits, instead of setting the scene for another hour of mystery and action. The upshot is... er, they escaped from that last guy on a bike? The End.

Ed Norton is quite good as the CIA's administrative bad guy, but there's none of the integration of story-strands that the original Bourne flick enjoyed and his side of matters just... sort of... stops being there. Instead, it leads into cameos from previous admin-adversaries talking about, well, the other movies instead of this one, a strikingly weird choice in my opinion. It's little more than a talking-heads montage, and has the feel of something that was originally going to take place in the opening five minutes, not the closing ones.

Paddy Considine is in it, though, that made me perk up. Two scenes: one where he crosses a road, one where he gets shot in the face (plus, fair enough, his photo is on the news shortly afterwards: three scenes, but the same amount of dialogue). What's the point of that? His "investigative journalist" could have been played by literally anyone, there must be major footage on a cutting room floor somewhere, because why would anyone established even look twice at a role like that?

This is a nuts-and-bolts three star action flick, and that's just fine, but they screwed it up and lost a star by failing to include all the nuts and bolts.

44 Winter's Bone
Excellent. Jennifer Lawrence has skills.

45 Ruby Sparks
Problematic. I'll expand this at some point, but let's just say that if it hadn't been written by a woman (and by the actress playing that character, in fact) I could see feminist sparks flying at this. To be honest, I'm not sure why they wouldn't anyway.

46 Criminal Law
Now this is a mad-ass movie. To be continued.

47 Spy
Funny, really very funny. Silly, yes, really very silly. But funny. But silly. But Funny!

48 The Woman in Black
Solid stuff, some good flinch moments, some good chills. I'm not really convinced Daniel Radcliffe will ever be a stellar screen presence, but he's okay, and I had good fun with this.

49 Human Nature
To be continued.

50 Something Wicked This Way Comes
To be continued.

51 Detective Story
To be continued.

52 Once Upon a Time in America
Good grief. I had to watch this over three consecutive nights, I just couldn't endure the sloth-like pace across nearly four hours of movie. And in the final analysis? Well, it's baggy, and the story has some holes in it you could drive a bus through - not conceptual gaps, just absences of straight forward tell-the-story please connective tissue. Other bits are great, but this could be done in half the time and be far better for it.

53 The Invention of Lying
Also triggered by My Year of Flops, this Ricky Jervais vehicle (which he also built, drove and purchased, not just rode in) isn't bad, though it slides into bad towards the end. He demonstrates unexpected capacity for unexpected pathos in the central scene, inadvertently kick-starting the notion of religion in a world devoid of deceit, and for the most credible of reasons; but the false correlation that demands a world without lies to also be a world where everyone bluntly speaks their mind with "autistic" rudeness makes Jennifer Garner its bitch, and makes his deliberately pathetic pursuit of her a bit hard to credit. Fat people can't have love seems to be the message Ricky's here to save his people from, but that's not a lie in the real world because we're capable of fibbing. Still, more funny than not by a decent margin.

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Last edited by Noumenon; 26th Sep 2015 at 15:17.
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