I have let you all down again. I’ve dropped the ball considerably in regards to my blogging, a combination of seeing a lot of things and busying myself with the ever surmountable University work. Once again, it is not from lack of watching, please never attribute such a thing to me. Here are my mini reviews of some of the films I have caught in this late-Autumn period.
The prospect of Bad Grandpa was not one that immediately thrilled me. In my opinion, Jackass died with Ryan Dunne. And I have not missed the films or the TV series, it had run its course. The idea of taking a sketch, Johnny Knoxville in prosthetics as a foul-mannered OAP, and fleshing it out to a feature run-time was not one I initially warmed to. Frankly I thought it was stupid. But once the first trailer came out, my cynical mind was slightly swayed. The hybridization of traditional narrative and the Jackass aesthetic looked to be an interesting mix of styles, and it looked like the film had many a laugh to spare. I did eventually find myself in a cinema screen taking in the latest offering from the MTV grown Jackass. Much of what is worth seeing of Bad Grandpa has already been shown to you within the trailers, leaving a lack of many great surprises. But when it hits, it strikes the funny bone hard. Nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is, but most definitely good for a far few chuckles. 3/5
Ridely Scott’s foray into the world of Cormac McCarthy is much less successful than the other stops we have made in the fever pit world of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning author. Lacking the wit of No Country For Old Men and the narrative power of The Road; The Counsellor none the less is one of the most bizarre and hypnotic films I have seen all year. But I would by no means recommend it. Following Michael Fassbender as the titular Counsellor, the film dives into a dark world of the US/Mexican border, as Fassbender finds himself on the wrong side of a powerful Mexican Drug Cartel. The performances rage from the dull (Cruz and Pitt), to the absolute down-right bonkers (Bardem and Diaz), but the power of the film comes from the strange atmosphere generated by the script. It never reaches its full potential however due to the haphazard way in which Scott chooses to stage the rather dialogue driven scenes. The film improves when it begins to work on a more visceral, shockingly violent level, but before that the film becomes a drag. However, the power of the screenplay (and it is exquisitely written) makes this film an intriguing oddity, but ultimately one that should have been a great deal better. 3/5
Joseph Gordon-Levitt needs to stop being good at things. Seriously. He’s making us all look bad. The young actor, who with his easy going charisma, has charmed us many a time on the screen in the past, tries his hand at the writing and directing game with one of the most confident directorial debuts of recent memory. The story: Jon (JGL) only cares about a few things in his life; his ride, his body, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn. When he begins to want a relationship outside of the realms of his laptop, he hopes the answer lies in the curvaciously sexy Barbara (Scarlett Johannson). But is she really the person who will give him the connection he craves? A lighter take on the subject of porn addiction, Don Jon is an incredibly witty, hilarious and super stylish film. It may not do anything more than you’d expect it to, merely hitting beats very effectively, but hey, sometimes that’s all you need a film to do to impress. It is fun, breezy, and driven by a sharp satire on the modern man, while also being incredibly sexy to boot. And it also features Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch on the soundtrack, extra points should always be given for that! 4/5
It is hard to know what to write about Gravity without it sounding like a regurgitation of what most people have said. It has been hailed as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of modern times, and without a doubt it is. Alfonso Cuaron’s space odyssey is beautiful and an innovation in every technological sense. Every movement and stunning long take is planned out meticulously and it is all rendered with gorgeous care and realism. Story-wise, it is less innovative. There is no innovation at all to be honest. It works with thread-bare, cliched details that offer you just enough to stay hooked, and enough for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney to wrangle with. This is a story about survival, and is more about the visceral experiences that come with that, rather then caring about narrative progression. I must say though, I have no desire to see this film again. For the simple reason being, I cannot see me enjoying it anymore than I did watching it in I-MAX 3-D. I think watching the film in any other format will merely diminish my love and respect for it as a film, and will only cause me to criticism its narrative workings more. A profound film, that proves you do not need to have a 3 hour long running time to be considered epic. Gravity is a must-see experience. Just make sure you see it the right way. 5/5
I, for one, was not the first Hunger Games’ biggest fan. As well as it did to establish the world, it suffered a great deal from cheap special effects, awkward direction, frustrating use of shaky cam, and rather dull performances. Fans of the book consoled me though in the fact that apparently the second book was much better than the first. That doesn’t always mean the film will be, but with The Hunger Games that is thankfully the case. With a more politically driven plot, Catching Fire does what a sequel should do; improve, improve, improve. Following Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) on their victory tour of the Districts, we begin to see the revolutionary inspiration Katniss’ actions have had in this dystopian world. Wishing to destroy her image, President Snow (a suitably menacing Donald Sutherland), makes the 75th Annual Games a competition between previous victors of each District, throwing both Katniss and Peeta once again into a battle to the death. It is a good half an hour too-long, but it is a film of much more confident style (this time directed by Francis ‘I Am Legend’ Lawrence), which makes it much easier to sit through. The games themselves are much more insane and vividly designed, but it is the build up that impresses most, crafting a genuine sense of dread and tension as we move towards the games. I still have a problem performance wise; J-Law at times looks positively bored with the rather dull Katniss, while Hutcherson is once again lumbered with a one-dimensional role as Peeta. But there is plenty here to make one excited about the upcoming installments, even if it is another case of splitting one book needlessly into more than one film. 4/5
I was tempted to write a full review for this most-recent take on the Stephen King novella, but I really do not have enough things to say, and frankly, it doesn’t deserve it. Telling the story of poor loner Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), shielded from the world by her overtly-religious mother (Julianne Moore), who develops telekinetic powers, director Kimberley Pierce squanders our hopes of a (for once) decent horror remake. Instead, what we have is an uninspired retread of the Brian DePalma original, lacking any sense of originality, freshness, or reason to be in existence. You can tell you are in for a rather terrible movie at around the ten minute mark, which was when I decided to just kick back and let the train-wreck form. And hell, I’ll say it, I ended up having quite a bit of fun. It is a terrible film, make no doubt about it, but this 21st Century Carrie can join the ranks of films so terrible that you can’t help but laugh at them (the deal clincher has to be when Vampire Weekend crops up on the soundtrack). Despite stylish lashings of gore, the film is simply just a bit pointless, and surprisingly safe update of truly great material. Moretz, though she tries, is mis-cast, Julianne Moore hams it up so much you expect her to be walking around with a ring of Pineapple on her head, while the supporting cast are laughably atrocious (I’m looking at you Portia Doubleday). Uninspired, dull-looking, but rather fun to laugh at; Carrie 2.0 joins the steam-pile of horror remakes that are not worth your time. 2/5