Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monthly Round-up - November 2013 Viewing

I watched 31 films in November, despite being overseas for close to two weeks. Actually, we watched about 10 films - including Mr Pip and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the cinema - while there. 

This is a very busy part of the year - screenings for most of December and January are on offer. Throughout December I will also endeavour to re-watch a few films which hit cinemas throughout the year in preparation for my end-of- year lists. 

At home I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the first time, caught up with Ben Wheatley's latest, the brilliant A Field in England, and watched Friedkin's crime classic The French Connection on the plane. Their acclaim is understandable.

New-to-Me Films (In Order of Preference)

-------- Essential Viewing --------

12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) - Powerful, vital cinema. An unflinchingly brutal portrayal of a devastating slavery story. The cast is extraordinary. Steve McQueen is a truly gifted filmmaker.

The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt, 2013) - A winner. Sad, but quite lovely. Absolutely nailed that confusing high-school/college cusp, the glory/inadequacies of living in the now, and the pressures that family and relationships place on the cultivation of our individual identity. Hit very close to home actually. Excellent work from the young cast - Teller and Woodley particularly.

The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971) - Friedkin's classic Brooklyn-set crime thriller avoids glamour, captures ugliness of a drug sting equipped with some exciting chases.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987) - A hilarious, heartwarming buddy film. Martin and Candy are terrific, bad travel karma leads to an unlikely friendship. Candy's acting during the motel sequence where Martin rips him (and his outrageous antics) a new one is phenomenal. Wanted to cry. And, learning about just how different their lives were and what they were returning to. So unexpectedly moving.

A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013) - After Sightseers, which I didn't much care for, Wheatley is back in form with the brilliantly surreal A Field in England. This one's not going anywhere.

Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, 2013) - There's humour and warmth to this often-sad study of post-divorce floundering and unique attractions. Great writing, cast chemistry. Been far too long since we saw the great Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on the big screen.

-------- Essential Viewing --------

Mr Pip (Andrew Adamson, 2013) - A young woman finds hope and inspiration through an eccentric teacher (Laurie, excellent), Dickens' classic novel and her own imagination. Shocking PNG history effectively weaved into a moving story of how literary characters voiced differently can relate in surprising contexts.

The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969) - I struggled to follow, or remain interested in, the incoherent first half of THE ITALIAN JOB, but once the mission started and the minis were introduced I was hooked.

The Butler (Lee Daniels, 2013) - Traces significant US historical events through the incredible story of one man and his family. Moving, but very inelegantly edited. It tries for too much, but Cecil's personal journey and family drama was affecting. Oprah/Whitaker impress most.

Great White Shark 3D (Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas, 2013) - Worth a look in IMAX. I learned something about their evolution and natural behaviour, plus the footage was incredible.

As I Lay Dying (James Franco, 2013) - Franco's adaptation of Faulkner's bleak tale of a family's tumultuous journey through Mississippi is an admirable endeavor. Multiple perspectives are conveyed through an often-distracting split screen. Cast performs well, the personal turmoils effective realized.

Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen (Gyorgy Palfi, 2012) - Inconsistently successful for me. Clever montage and audio/visual syncing - OLDBOY with The Bee Gees one - but lost direction/focus.

Hairspray (Karl Irvine, Joanna Moore, 2007) - Full of energy, some catchy songs/dance choreography and likable performances (a scary-looking Travolta the exception). A surprise.

Parental Guidance (Andy Fickman, 2012) - Watchable family fun. Crystal/Midler's bewilderment and attempts to tame assorted grandkids the source of enough amusement.

Touchy Feely (Lynn Shelton, 2013) - A brother and sister face unusual middle-age anxieties. Uninteresting characters and thin, predictable plot needs a jolt of energy. A disappointing deadly dull follow up to Your Sister's Sister.

Filth (John S. Baird, 2013) - McAvoy is excellent, but this is really rotten stuff.

Re-watches (In Order of Preference)

Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2013)
The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013)

An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)

Oldboy (Park Chan-Wook, 20013)

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, 2013)

Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)

Tabu (Miguel Gomez, 2012)

My Week With Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2012)

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, 2011)

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)

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