Tuesday, 6 September 2016

5 September 2016

Its been a while since my last post. I have watched a fair few films. I will probably have forgotten a bunch here so I will catch up on those later. Because there are so many I will make my blurbs smaller than usual (if I can I will try to keep some of them as small as a single sentence).

99 Homes (2015)

99 Homes is timely, deep, engaging and very well shot. This is a perfect companion piece to watch after the big short (which I should revisit one of these days). It is very well acted with Michael Shannon putting in a particularly strong performance. At times, however, it is not an easy watch. It really saddens me how people can be so driven by greed. Regardless it is well worth the watch.

Midnight Special
What happens when Spielberg meets King? You get an engaging drama with plenty of heart. The suspense in this film is great, I simply love the feeling of watching a movie and wondering what is going to happen next. Additionally, the whole cast give great performances, particularly Micheal Shannon (again) and Joel Edgerton whose slightly gruff personas work very well together. It is also shot very well. That being said, the ending was much more simple than I had hoped for and the second act felt lie it dragged on a little too long at times. Regardless, a fun little film that is made with a lot of love.

Into the Woods

Into the woods is a fun, if middle of the road musical. There are some really great and fun moments and some really good music. There are some great performances, particularly I thought Chris Pine really surprised me in a comedic role very unlike what I would normally expect from him. Additionally, Emily Blunt and James Cordon are great in the lead roles and Meryl Streep is fine (if over-rated) as the witch. I was somewhat disappointed with the rest of the cast. I found in particular that Anna Kendrick's voice (which is really great when paired with the right music) was not well suited to this material.

The set-pieces are all nice as you would expect, as are the costumes (with the exception of whatever Johnny Depp was wearing). I did struggle to love this movie though. It sort of feels like they started out trying to make something wacky, out there and slightly dark but then reined it in too much. It ends up sitting in that in between space where it is too wacky to be played straight but not wacky enough to be as much fun as it should be. Overall though it is fine and there really is a lot to like. I just wished it was more.

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)
What a disappointment! I am personally a big fan of the office. I think David Brent is a very well developed, strangely likable and funny character. I was therefore cautiously excited for this movie because despite feeling like it was a tad unnecessary I felt like it should be at the very least entertaining. Unfortunately it wasn't. 

It started out fine, introducing an interesting group of new characters, which had me thinking yeah they could definitely do something with these. Then the second act came along and joke after joke started falling flat. It really wanted to be outrageous but I feel like it wanted too much to have a low age rating too. This meant that when he tried to go for the big shock laughs (which were 90% of the jokes) they were reined in too much to have any impact. 

As far as positives go, it had a very strong third act that would have been quite affecting and emotional if I hadn't been too bored in the second act to develop a feeling for these characters. The supporting cast are also pretty great. Doc Brown really impressed me (a name I had never heard before this film. In the end, however, I cannot call this movie anything other than a disappointment. The jokes fell flat, the scenarios mostly felt stale and the character has, by now, probably worn out his welcome.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

I am a big fan of studio Laika but after The Boxtrolls I became worried that they may have run out of good stories to tell. I am glad to say they hadn't. Kubo is fantastic. The stop-motion animation is as gorgeous as it has always been in Laika's films. The characters are interesting, the jokes are funny and the story is engaging. One thing I have not mentioned is the action. My god is it well staged. I just had so much fun watching the creativity unfold in this beautifully realized world. 

As far as characters and voices go I absolutely loved Matthew McConaughey's character, known only for the majority of the story as Beetle. McConaughey seemed to be having a refreshingly fun time with the character. I thought Charlize Theron's mostly serious, overprotective "Monkey" makes for a good contrast to this. The rest of the voice cast were great too.

If I really wanted to criticize it somewhere, I would say that the big plot reveal before the third act was way too easy to guess. I would not say that is too much of a problem though. They did not put much effort into hiding it and part of the fun was knowing what was going on before the main character did. Overall I adored Kubo, it is funny, smart and just really fun to watch.

Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003)
As a New Zealand film geek (and well, as a film geek in general) of course I love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I recently rewatched it and just like every other time I have watched it, I remembered why I loved it so much. 

I do not feel there is much point in reviewing individual movies because they fit together as if a single movie such that I do not feel a need to distinguish between them. Regardless, what is not to love: the characters are well crafted and well cast, the set-pieces, costumes and CGI are very impressive (especially the practical effects). 

The cinematography is great, the action is very well staged. It has heart, it has soul, it is just simply a beautiful series. Then there is that score that is just to die for. If I had to criticize anything, it possibly has one too many endings but after so many hours of wonder, fuck it just let them have it! Seriously, this movie is as close as you can get to perfect.

The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys is over the top, outrageous and absolutely hilarious. Is it at times a tad contrived? Maybe. But that doesn't stop it being fun. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are a much better pairing than they have any right to be and seem to be enjoying the shoot far too much. I laughed a lot and felt surprisingly engaged in this overthetop, never-ending thrill-ride.

Irrational Man (2015)

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in a Woody Allen movie? That sounds like a pretty good pairing to me. That is until I actually saw the movie. I am struggling to find something I liked about this movie. I could not believe in, let alone empathize with, any of the main characters. When they weren't explaining to the camera how they were feeling, they were giving a narrative on how they were feeling or giving long, dumb expositions that were supposed to sound smart and sophisticated. 

I guess some of the cinematography was pretty I guess but there was really nothing else I could think of to praise this movie for. When it started out I found myself thinking "okay the needless expositions will finish soon and we will start to get a decent movie" but then they didn't and the point that I realized where the movie was heading was the point in which I realized just what a mess I was watching.

But then the third act came along and it got even worse. The characters all started acting in ways contradictory to the way they were set up earlier and the whole plot seemed to be going for "how shocking can we be" but rather than shocking me just ended up pissing me off. I guess I have give it half a mark for being somewhat pretty at times (although its far from Woody Allen's best) but beyond that this movie is simply awful.

Sing Street (2016)
Its official, John Carney is the most underappreciated filmmaker working today. With a cast of completely unknown stars, Carney makes a deeply moving, heartfelt film about friendship, brotherhood and the desire to fit in. It manages to put itself out there while still staying very much grounded. The cast are great, the music is great, its very well shot. This is a movie more people should have seen. It was an absolute delight and I would thoroughly recommend it.

I am sure there are plenty I missed but I can add them to the next big post. I still need to do a post about the animated shorts at the film festival (I will make it short) and one discussing the Harry Potter films (which I just rewatched).