Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monthly Round-up: July Viewing

A much quieter month, July. I have been working full time and this has been limiting my chance to not only watch films, but also write about them. I have had to prioritise which ones to focus on - resulting in just eight feature reviews this month. I have also become more interested in reading novels, finding it very relaxing. I have almost completed six novels, which is about the same amount I have read all year.

In July I watched a total of 29 films.

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

Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, 2013) - Very entertaining. The purity of Shakespeare's language, which is an absolute pleasure to listen to, entwined with plentiful humour and tragedy. Stellar comic performances from Joss Whedon's likable ensemble bring this tale of unlikely love and villainous conspiracy to life. Unwavering energy and hilarity. Highly recommended.

The Killing of A Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976) - My introduction to Cassavetes' filmmaking. Wow, what a film. Ben Gazzara is brilliant. A plunge into sleazy 70s underground profiteering as a club owner finds himself owing the mob a debt - coerced into a suicide hit.

The Way Way Back (Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, 2013) - An utterly delightful coming-of-age tale with themes of familial unraveling and adolescent social dislocation that evokes amused guffaws and a fulfilled heart in equal measure. I left a happy man. Top cast, but it is Sam Rockwell who especially excels.

The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013) - Full-throttle action, inebriated hilarity, a surprisingly affecting dramatic edge and curve-balls aplenty. Loved a lot about it, but with so many elements to consider, does it all gel as well as the individual scenes stand out? Another viewing imperative. 

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) - Coppola's wonderfully vibrant and decadent take on French royal court etiquette and the defiant teen princess. Dunst is terrific. Love the sound design and the s/track choices work well, especially the use of Gang of Four's 'Natural's Not In It' in the opening credits.

Pacific Rim (Guillermo Del Toro, 2013) TWICE - Yes, it is an enormously epic struggle between giant robots and monsters, but the human characters are essential and form the heart of this pretty incredible film. Strong performances from Elba, Hunnam, Kikuchi and Day give this supportable human resistance a lift. It is a jaw dropping sensory experience (duh) - edge-of-your-seat intense, genuinely emotional and has plenty of odd humour that fits in well. So unlike, say, Man of Steel it is action packed AND entertaining. My favourite of this year's Blockbuster crop, and quite substantially. Had a great time.

Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon, 2012) - An entertaining NYC-set story of two youngsters who face repeated foils in pursuit of a unique but meaningful experience. The two actors share an impeccable and natural chemistry, and their desperate caper is endearing.

To The Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2013) - Poetic and beautiful tragedy entwined with tales of faith. Perhaps Malick's least successful image tapestry, but a hell of a lot to like.

-------- Essential Viewing -------- 

This is the End (Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, 2013) - The premise alone should be worth the investment - a giant party at James Franco's house, with guests including Michael Cera and Emma Watson - but the laughs are big and consistent from beginning to end with the interruption of an Apocalypse. The dynamic amongst the survivors at Franco-house are ripe with moronic antics, self deprecating lunacy and a plethora of nods to the actors' work and public personas, as well as weaving a narrative that stresses the importance of friendship, despite selfish celebrity status often clouding it. Will this group put their differences aside and earn their survival? ALL of the cast have their moment to shine, and though a bit long, there are many terrific sequences. You'll know the ones.

The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962) - I can imagine The Manchurian Candidate causing a big stir during 1960's Cold War paranoia. Assassinations ordered by rival campaigns. Yikes. On reflection, I am becoming more appreciative.

Rewind This! (Josh Johnson, 2013) - Covers every avenue of the rise/fall of the VHS era, the fostering of a subculture and the recent transitions. Insightful fanatics reveal their collections and reminisce. Any film buff interested in preserving a tangible collection will appreciate the nostalgia and passion these fans have for the VHS format. Some of the selected clips are beyond bizarre.

White Reindeer (Zach Clark, 2013) - A woman is forced to significantly re-examine her life in wake of her husband's death in this odd, sad, darkly comic and original Christmas tale. Zach Clark’s film is populated with sympathetic and strange characters, wrestles with seasonal cynicism and hope.

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013) - Phenomenal acting from Douglas and Damon but through the sharp tonal shifts and the indulgence with lifestyle excess it lost established flair.

My Sassy Girl (Jae-Young Kwak, 2001) - Though far too long for my tired eyes, this classic Korean romantic comedy was a lot of fun. There is an underlying sadness that further strengthened these terrific characters, while the young leads are spectacular.

Last Days Here (David Argott, Demian Fenton, 2012) - Frontman of 70's metal band Pentagram faces death after decades of drug addiction, acquaintances try to resuscitate his health and passion. This guy hit rock bottom, the footage is upsetting. The dedication of those who kept believing in him makes for inspiring and powerful story.

Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull, 1972) - A touching Sci-fi - Dern is affecting, the environmental message important, effects impressive - but never fully absorbed.

Molly Maxwell (Sara St. Onge, 2013) - Molly Maxwell is a whip-smart, privileged teen who both intellectually and sexually matures after falling for her English teacher. While the drama brewing in Molly Maxwell is familiar, it is sold with a candid approach and a breezy charm. Also, with the prestigious academic atmosphere, it never felt tired. An accomplished debut from Sara St. Onge, and keep an eye out for the stunning Lola Tash in the future.

Tlatelolco, Summer of 68: Well-crafted (but loses its audience frequently) Mexican historical drama detailing a publicly quieted tragedy, an activist massacre, just pre-1968 Olympics.

The Wolverine (James Mangold, 2013) - Logan finds himself in Japan embroiled within a family of rivals and challenged by mortality, a leggy blonde. Generally dull.

The Heat (Paul Feig, 2013) - It was a struggle for lengthy stretch but this crass female buddy cop comedy wasn't so bad in the end. I mean, the trailer was atrocious. McCarthy's wild free reign as a rough-as-guts Boston cop grew quickly grating, but I enjoyed Bullock's work as an ambitious, straight-laced FBI agent. Also, Marlon Wayans has an interesting supporting role. Far too long, and in Feig (director of the enormously overrated Bridesmaids) fashion the gags are very inconsistent, with some hits soon becoming aggravating when drawn out as long as they are. When the pair willingly partner up, instead of being at each others throats, the story does possess some heart and is far more watchable, but not enough to recommend with any enthusiasm.

Re-watches (In Order of Preference)

Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960) - Fear captured as art, consumed for pleasure. A deeply disturbing film, an audience aligned with the psychosis of a killer. Masterful. Every time I watch Peeping Tom I respect it more. There is a confronting level of participation demanded of the audience in Mark's fetishes.

Cloud Atlas (Lana and Andy Wachowski, 2012)

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (John Hughes, 1986)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2012)

The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012)

Margin Call (J. C Chandor, 2012) - Jumped up a few grades this time. I wasn't that impressed when I first saw it at the cinema. Impeccably shot and acted, this well-researched yet fictional version of the 2008 Wall Street collapse is given a lift by incorporating rich personal dramas into the holistic crisis.

No comments:

Post a Comment