Friday, February 1, 2013

Monthly Round-Up: January 2013 Viewing

Moving house is tiring and stressful. For the first three weeks of 2013, my life revolved around working at the cinema and moving, with a bit of time in there for watching some films and writing. You might have noticed that there has been less content on the site recently. I just have not had time. I have also been enjoying taking more time to put together my reviews, and I think this is benefiting my writing (at least I hope it is). I have kept pretty busy covering the awards season for Graffiti With Punctuation.

As one of my goals in the new year was to read 10-12 novels/books over the course of the year, I will announce that this month I read "It's Only A Movie" by Mark Kermode, a very entertaining read, and finished off the formerly unfinished "All The Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy.

January has mostly been occupied by catching up with the new releases and the watching the rest of the Academy Award nominees. There are only a couple of new releases I did not see - The Guilt Trip and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger - but I have had it covered. It has been a terrific start to the year in my opinion. Before watching Life of Pi on January 3, I had seen just four of the nine Best Picture nominees. After watching Lincoln on Tuesday night, I have now seen them all, and have an opinion on just about every category. Keep an eye out for my predictions over the next few weeks. I did catch up with a few interesting films for the first time (Bottle Rocket, 50/50) and revisited some old favourites (The Conformist, Jackie Brown and Black Swan).

Keeping it short and sweet, I have watched 28 Films so far in 2013.

New To Me Films (In Order of Preference)

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

Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (F. W Murnau, 1927)

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) 

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

 This is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi, 2012) - A provocative work; a defiance against repression and a fascinating study of an artist unwilling to abandon his craft.

Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis, 2011) - Vital and intimate insight into a marine's psyche, conveyed via extraordinary footage from frontline and home rehabilitation. Director/photographer Dennis immerses us in Harris' company, revealing his abilities as a natural leader and struggle to adapt to civilian life.

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)

Flight (Robert Zemeckis, 2012)

Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996) - High energy and a lot of fun, with many hilarious moments. Wilson brothers are great in this surprisingly emotional buddy film. Wes Anderson's first feature film.

ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell, 2012) - Smart, conceptually unique, suitably creepy and a lot of fun, ParaNorman makes intelligent horror throwbacks while telling a meaningful tale about social outcasts. Through the angst of the supportable Norman, we learn that the witches and zombies he encounters are less a threat than the living ghouls tormenting him daily. There are some pretty potent messages strung throughout. The voice cast is great too. The actors become the characters and transcended their recognisable voices, a feature not shared by a lot of animated films.

50/50 (Jonathan Levine, 2011) - I enjoyed 50/50. Inspiring tale of a young man faced with life-changing health scare. Scenes between JGL (good form) & Kendrick worked well, but wasn't too keen on Rogan's antics, though he was undeniably amusing at times. Also, Angelica Huston was terrific in a couple of scenes.

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012) - Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as Abraham Lincoln, completely immersing himself to the point he is unrecognisable. The rest of the film can't complete, but it's worth a look solely for the great man. Tommy Lee Jones is also great, and after a pretty dry opening act, it remains compelling. Terrific screenplay.

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

Die Hard: With A Vengeance (John McTiernan, 1995) - When it screened on TV last night it seemed like the perfect way to end a long day - a mindless sequel to one of the best action films ever made. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it a lot, and it is actually a pretty decent film. The plot is overlong and unnecessarily complicated and there are preposterous developments, but the diverse range of epic action set pieces are impressive, and the high-energy action is well-shot. Willis and Jackson work well together, and Jeremy Irons is a smarmy villain. It is no DIE HARD, certainly, but there are plenty of highlights, and it is rare sequels deliver this consistently.

The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2012)

Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)

The Innkeepers (Ti West, 2012) - Creepy, slow-burn ghost thriller supports scares with character development. Impressive visuals take advantage of claustrophobic location.

Black Water (Andrew Traucki, 2008) - Decent low-budget Australian Mangrove-set croc thriller. Rejecting CGI, directors Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich cleverly utilise location & build effective tension. Dermody scores marks from the cast. Final act is less successful, but by offering up numerous means of escape, only to adequately foil them, their dire situation is convincing enough, and it is a savage survival flick from the team (well, at least Traucki) that went on the make The Reef (2011).

 Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012) - There is some stunning production in ANNA KARENINA - the interchanging sets were an interesting idea and the Oscar nominated technical work (set design, costuming, photography and score) was all impressive - but I didn't care about the story or the characters one bit. Thank goodness for Matthew Macfayden, who provides timely charisma, and Jude Law, who created a sympathetic character we could care for. Aaron Johnson was awful & Keira Knightley, as usual, was a pain. Certainly disappointing given the minds involved. Sometimes jaw-droppingly beautiful, but mostly dull.

Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, 2012) - Very average. It is sorely lacking in insight (relying on familiar facets of his life and Psycho-related tidbits), but is a pleasant enough snapshot of the great director's interesting marriage and PSYCHO's dramatic journey to the screen. Hopkins and Mirren were good, though latter's SAG nomination baffles, and the supporting cast were hit (Johansson's Janet Leigh) and miss (Biel's Vera Miles). Flat and lacking in cinematic qualities and padded with boring subplots & weird scenes involving Hitchcock & Ed Gein that peculiarly didn't influence Hitchcock's vision for PSYCHO, but rather helped him get a grip on his tumultuous marriage. I did enjoy the scenes with Mirren and Hopkins together. That's where the heart lies. Still, this is very disappointing considering Gervasi's other work.

Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer, 2013)

Re-watches (In Order of Preference)

Koyaaniqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)

The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970) - Bertolucci's potent political thriller wasn't as engaging as I remember (I watched it at University years back and was obsessed with it for a while) but there's some extraordinary photography (Vittorio Storaro) and design. It is a provocative examination of an individual crisis of identity and allegiance during the powerful reign of the Italian Fascist regime, and there is a palpitating atmosphere of tension and unpredictability.

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)

Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2011)

Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)

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