Playing catch-up yet again – this time trying to squeeze in a bunch of films I’ve seen from the beginning of this year up until the end of March! It’s sheer madness trying to keep on top of all of this, but I made a commitment to myself to try and write (at least a little) about every new film I see. So here goes: a super quick overview of the many films that I have seen that is the Film Roundup Turbo 4!
The fun challenge (or laziness if you prefer) for this one is to try and write a maximum of three sentences on each film. Here we go:
Casa de mi Padre – Will Ferrell speaks Spanish for the whole movie in this pastiche of Mexican soap operas with added gangsters. Great supporting cast - Gael Garcia Bernal especially has fun as the bad guy – despite being somewhat underdeveloped as a character. Worth watching if you like Will Ferrell and his style of humour.
Your Highness – Danny McBride and James Franco are clearly having a great laugh in this fantasy comedy romp. If you are willing to forgive how silly it all is and embrace your inner man-child, this one is worth watching. Good to see British talent such as Toby Jones, Damien Lewis and Charles Dance gamely taking part too.
30 Minutes or Less – Actor-wise this features many love-it or hate-it performances, in particular regards to Jesse Eisenberg (reluctant loser/hero) Aziz Ansari (motor mouthed best friend) and Nick Swardson (ineffectual but loveable sidekick to Danny McBride’s criminal). Danny McBride is well pretty much Danny McBride – ‘nuff said, you know what you are getting. I loved seeing Michael Pena as a gangster and the featuring of a pen gun (!), but ultimately not enough is done with the story – watch it for the characters instead.
Fast & The Furious 5 (AKA Fast Five) – They just keep on making these! Reuniting nearly all the protagonists from the entire series, there isn’t actually any racing in this one – it's a heist movie! One for the fans only, I’m afraid – although you do get to see Vin Diesel and The Rock throw each other through walls…
Moonrise Kingdom – You will either love it or hate it, not much middle ground with this one. Director Wes Anderson has such a distinct style now to his films (quirky characters, offbeat humour, nostalgically styled 70s production design and costumes, eclectic music choices etc…) that it ends up feeling almost too forced at times. Personally, I liked the characters but not the story they inhabited so much – it’s certainly a visually striking movie, just unsatisfying overall.
John Dies at the End – Based on the cult novel by Cracked.com editor David Wong, this sci-fi/horror mash-up is brave and offbeat but lacks some of the cohesion that the book probably has – I cant say for sure as I haven’t read it. A big Yay! for lots of practical effects – but unfortunately the lack of budget shows through at times as the scope of things they try to show towards the end of the movie is a little overambitious. Good to see Paul Giamatti supporting projects like this.
When the Lights Went Out – A ghost story set in 70’s Yorkshire based on the supposedly true events of ‘The Black Monk of Pontefract’. Despite the good intentions of the cast (some manage a convincing Yorkshire accent, others not so much) this one is neither scary nor interesting enough to watch. Expect a lot of hearing people call each other ‘sods’ throughout the movie.
Livid – Another slightly disappointing horror movie from the makers of the grotesquely brilliant Inside, it has great creepy elements - a big old house, mutilated ballerina girls, a scary woman in black - but ultimately gets bogged down by its over complicated story about souls and stuff. The ending will leave you scratching your head. Inside is recommended for fans of horror, skip this one.
Stake Land – Impressive effort for a low budget indie film, but do we really need more post apocalyptic vampire movies? It’s suitably grim in parts but there are better vampire movies (30 Days of Night) and better post-apocalypse movies (The Road) out there already, in my opinion.
Ruby Sparks – An enjoyable comedy/drama about a writer who somehow wills the girl of his dreams into existence just by writing about her. Paul Dano is great at playing whiny characters and Zoe Kazan impresses in her debut as both the screenwriter and titular character. Although there are some clumsy moments here and there, the film doesn't just dwell too much on the improbably fantasy concept it is based on, but rather spends time looking at the subject of male pride and insecurities that arise within a relationship – even those that are ‘user-defined’ such as this, the climactic scene especially being both shocking and heartbreaking in equal measure.
The Man with the Iron Fists – Props for RZA for even attempting something like this – a throwback to classic Shaw Brothers era kung-fu, complete with grindhouse style violence and gore, comic book villains and crazy weaponry (the knife/gun/scissors thing?). Unfortunately, the unfocused meandering plot and wooden dialogue make the transition too. Oh, and RZA can’t really act, he should have concentrated more on the directing instead of giving himself the main part! Still it’s fun to watch (Russell Crowe is clearly having a hoot and Bautista is an absolute beast!), you just can’t help feel it could have been a bit better.
Gangster Squad – A decidedly comic book and glammed up take on a 50’s LA police vs mobsters story. Sean Penn is a fun (if slightly over the top) villain Mickey Cohen and yet a lot of the great cast aren’t given much to do (Emma Stone’s role consisted of pretty much ‘stand there, look pretty’). Which is a shame as there is a great ensemble here – including Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi. Enjoyable yet ultimately forgettable.
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap – A documentary, fronted and directed by Ice-T, which charts the rise of the art-form via interviews with many, many MCs. There are a lot of gorgeous shots of New York (and LA) but mostly this documentary consists of Ice-T palling around with his peers and watching them reciting each other’s lyrics. Interesting if you are a fan of Hip-Hop, unlikely to appeal to you if you are not.
Holy Motors – A bat shit crazy film about a rich man who rides around in limo and dresses up in different guises (via self applied costume and makeup) and just gets up to… weird things. It’s kind of indescribable – if you like your films straightforward you will definitely not enjoy this, but those looking for something more experimental will be in for a treat – its madder than a box of frogs! Watch out for surprise cameos by Eva Mendez and Kylie Minogue!
Silent Hill: Revelations – A sequel to the panned (but pretty faithful in spirit) videogame adaptation Silent Hill, this is visually quite effective at times but is a mess of story telling and largely forgettable. It all gets a bit silly and not quite as dark and ominous as the first film, plus Sean Bean always sounds unconvincing with an American accent. Kit Harrington fares better with his – they are both in Game of Thrones playing father and son... Weird.
Wreck-It Ralph – A CG animation form Disney Animations Studios – the most amazing part of this is just how many licenses they must have had to purchase to get famous computer game characters just to cameo in this game – in most cases just for a few seconds. That aside, the film is pretty good, kids will enjoy the slapstick and adults will enjoy the in-jokes and nostalgia. Recommended if you have ever spent time playing videogames in your life.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation – The return of Mel Gibson to acting since his last film, The Beaver. Here he’s back on the action tip again, playing an American criminal locked up in a Mexican prison town. It’s not that exciting…
Headhunters – based on the hit novel by Jo Nesbo, this intriguing and very watchable thriller starts off by following a successful art thief’s mode of operations but soon turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Featuring tense set pieces and unexpected twists and turns in the story, this one comes recommended. Strong support from Game of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Grave Encounters – Yet another ‘found footage’ horror. Despite the creepy setting (a production team of a paranormal investigation TV show stay the night in an abandoned asylum) nothing happens for so long in this film that boredom sets in early on. When things eventually do go down you don't even care anymore. Avoid.
The Possession – A horror movie about a little girl who gets possessed by an evil spirit that resides in a wooden box. Despite having its moments (the opening scene is particularly effective) the film ends up falling back on tired tropes, lazily lifting from The Exorcist, Drag Me To Hell and so on. They even cast a girl that looks like Linda Blair! Jeffrey Dean Morgan tries hard as the increasingly desperate father, but this film is perhaps recommended for committed genre fans only.
Grabbers – An ambitious B-Movie style monster movie set in a coastal village in Ireland. The largely CG tentacled beasties are well realized and suitably nasty and the central idea of ‘they wont get you to suck your blood if you are blind drunk’ (as the creatures turn out to be allergic to alcohol) leads to a uniquely comic setup. With likeable characters and decent effects for a small budget film, this one is worth watching once.
The Wedding Video – Told via camcorder-filmed footage, this comedy about a man making a video for his brother’s wedding is actually more charming than it sounds. Rufus Hound is decent in his acting debut but it’s odd to see Robert Webb playing the straight role for a change as the groom to be. The standout is naturally Lucy Punch, whose great at playing slightly unhinged characters – although how it all turns out in the end is a little incredulous (even for a light-hearted comedy such as this). Fans of British rom-coms may enjoy this.
The Innkeepers – From horror director Ti West comes this ghost story set in an ageing hotel in its last week before closure. The set-up takes a long time to establish itself, West chosing to focus more on the two main characters rather than ghostly goings on for the majority of the movie. In that respects its pretty good, but for someone looking for solid scares this one might prove a little too slow burning.
Lovely Molly – directed by Eduardo Sanchez, one half of The Blair Witch Project’s duo of directors, this bizarre horror film concerning a woman being haunted by memories of childhood abuse as well as ghostly goings on that may or may not be the spirit of her father or some kind of horse demon. Seriously. Thematically, its pretty layered, but a lot of it is open to interpretation and the lack of answers will frustrate many viewers. Once again, probably best avoided unless you are a genre fan.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A ponderous teen drama that's well acted but a little too drab and depressing overall for my taste. Emma Watson does okay with an American accent and Logan Lerman plays well against type - but its Ezra Miller who stands out as a highlight (previously seen as the evil titular character in There’s Something About Kevin).
The Amazing Spider-Man – You can’t help but feel how pointless this movie is. Rebooting a successful franchise after only 5 years and having to redo an origin story yet again just feels a bit tiresome. Featuring inconsistent performances, lurching tone and uneven CGI – and to top it all off it doesn't even look or feel all that different to the previous movies. Isn’t that the whole point of a “reboot”? Exasperating.
Absentia – Another micro budget horror film. Despite an interesting premise about people going missing in a tunnel and some early effective jump scares, the film’s second half descends into giant silverfish silliness (no joke). A lack of budget certainly results in the filmmaker’s having to be inventive, but literally not showing anything at all in a movie like this results in a bit of a letdown come the climax.
Killer Joe – The big screen adaptation of the darkly comic play by Tracy Letts, directed by William Friedkin. With a uniformly excellent cast, this one was surprisingly good, despite most characters in the film being absolute scumbags. It's like an impending train wreck you just cant look away from – but in a good way… Matthew McConaughey is chillingly good as Joe – and I guarantee you will never look at fried chicken the same again after watching this.
So there you have it - 28 films done and dusted! I know some of the descriptions went over three lines but what are you? The line count police?
See you next time!
2nd April 2013