Tag: Jan-Apr 2017

Falling Leaves

A short film that wears its melancholy lightly. A doctor says that a young woman will die of consumption when the last of the autumn leaves has fallen; there are very different interventions from a doctor and the woman’s young sister. It’s obvious that Alice Guy-Blaché – and narrative cinema itself – had taken great […]

The Hurt Locker

I’ve seen Kathryn Bigelow’s tense, muscular Iraq War movie before, but rewatched it in late January 2017 as it’s the first film covered by a distance learning course I’ve enrolled in. We used it to examine signifiers of genre, looked at various The Hurt Locker DVD covers from around the world, analysed the opening scene […]

Seven Samurai

My first ‘Blind Spot’ movie of 2017 is a big ‘un. Seven Samurai is only the second film I’ve seen by Akira Kurosawa, and it is deserving of its lofty reputation, though I do prefer his later masterpiece Ran (and have a feeling that I’ll lean more towards other Kurosawa films as I get round […]

La La Land

A rewatch. This time round I saw it at a drive-in. Not the American kind, where I presume people still pull up in Ford Thunderbirds before ordering chilli dogs and watching, I dunno, Space Vixens vs Dogzilla, or something similar. I mean the English kind, where slightly miserable-looking families steam up their Renault Espaces in […]

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson is the cinematic equivalent of Tom Jones: his speciality is full-on bluster, but there will always be a need for quieter, subtle moments, which he can’t manage quite so readily. And so the calmer, scene-setting first half of Gibson’s World War II-set Hacksaw Ridge – which requires plenty of subtlety and nuance – […]

Red Army

An entertaining documentary about the Soviet ‘Red Army’ national ice hockey team and its many successes during the late 1970s and 1980s, examining the players’ relationships with the Russian authorities, each other and their stringent, much-disliked coach Viktor Tikhonov, as well as the team’s significance in relation to the Cold War. The footage of the […]

Silence

Yes, Martin Scorsese’s rumination on belief and persecution Silence is very good, and yes, this is a magnificent filmmaker at work who is rightly cherished by film fans of all ages and tastes. There are two good actors in the lead roles whose careers are still very much in the early stages, and I’m not […]

Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley’s romantic drama has a lovely, warm magic hour hue and yet another impressive central performance by Michelle Williams (Seth Rogen, playing the husband her character is contemplating leaving for another man, is noticeably not as good, but he’s OK). The director obsesses over feet – understandable given that this is a film about […]

A Monster Calls

A film that tries very hard to move its audience, with fairly successful results (I didn’t cry myself, but it’s a sad story and I gather it has left plenty of cinemagoers in floods of tears). It also tries very hard to address how children may feel when dealing with the terminal illness of a […]

Rancho Notorious

Fritz Lang’s 1952 vengeance western stars a confident Marlene Dietrich as a former singer and current ranch owner, and she definitely stands out among the plethora of men in her den of thieves (even though she only gets to sing once). There are a couple of excellent fist fights, a rushed bank robbery, an entirely […]

Norwegian Wood (Noruwei No Mori)

Not a bad job, considering the depth of the original Murakami novel; the director handles the more tender moments that occur within this story very skilfullly indeed. But because of its constant state of melancholy and introspection it suffers from inertia – I watched it three or four years ago and couldn’t remember much about […]

Trainspotting

A rewatch of a film I know off by heart, though this is the first time I’ve watched it in more than 10 years. As with any work that successfully taps into somebody’s/anybody’s idea of a zeitgeist, there’s a danger that the passing of time won’t be kind, but Danny Boyle’s effervescent mid-90s tale of […]

Chocolat

This circus-set period piece (early 20th century) examines the typical historical roles of black entertainers and performers within predominantly white, western society (specifically Paris), and sadly one can’t help but think ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ – which I think is the overall point being made. Omar Sy plays a clown who […]

Unbroken

The early life of Olympic gold medalist and Second World War pilot/prisoner of war Louis Zamperini is quite a story, and one can see the draw for those that turn such real life tales into money-spinning movies, but there’s something flat about this one, despite some promising moments early on. Jack O’Connell stars and Angelina […]

Scenes From A Marriage (Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap)

A well-acted two-hander from Ingmar Bergman – initially broadcast as a six-part TV series in Sweden – that shows the slow death of a marriage over the course of a decade. So yes, as you’d expect it’s a piece that’s packed with scenes of heightened emotion, which generally ring true, at least to my eyes […]

Gimme Danger

An entertaining documentary by Jim Jarmusch about The Stooges that resembles the music docs by Julien Temple up to a point, though it’s less hyperactive and more focused on the talking heads – mainly vocalist/lyricist Iggy Pop and drummer Scott Asheton, who sadly passed away last year. It’s only slightly better than your average music […]

Margaret

Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret was stuck in post-production hell for a number of years, with the director apparently unable to agree upon an edit with the studio – Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker were drafted in to help, and came up with a 165-minute version that Lonergan approved, but he disavowed the 150-minute cut that was […]

Manchester By The Sea

This awards season contender from Kenneth Lonergan is a strong, intelligent and superbly-acted drama; it may lose out to more eye-catching films in certain categories, but the excellent work by star Casey Affleck may well be rewarded with a slew of bright, shiny gongs during the next few weeks (though I can’t really say whether […]

The Invitation

A word-of-mouth sleeper hit in 2016, Karyn Kusama’s thriller is a chamber piece that pulls the age-old trick of trying to make you identify with one character among many before playfully forcing you to question his reliability and mental state for the next hour or so. The story involves a dinner party from hell, a […]

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

A rewatch; I just wanted to catch it a second time at the cinema, which is something I’ve done with all of the Star Wars movies. I still didn’t like the CGI recreations of certain characters, remained disappointed that the only standout ‘good’ character was a robot (sorry, but I just don’t think that Felicity […]

La La Land

At this point in time I feel less inclined than ever to write about the big ‘award season’ contenders this year, of which La La Land is one of the most celebrated frontrunners (I’m writing this after it hoovered-up at the Golden Globes but before the next big circle jerk takes place). However, it has […]

The First Monday In May

Andrew Rossi’s documentary about the annual Met Gala – one of the most important events on the fashion calendar – also takes plenty of time to explore the ins-and-outs of so-called ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions, primarily focusing on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 show China: Through The Looking Glass, which highlighted objects in the museum’s collection […]

I Am Not A Serial Killer

There’s the faintest echo of Donnie Darko in this blackly comic adaptation of a YA novel, given that its protagonist is a smalltown/suburban high school misfit who fixates on mortality – plus it shares an animal mask as a recurring motif – though Billy O’Brien’s film definitely ploughs its own peculiar furrow. It smartly sets […]

Pete’s Dragon

A defiantly old-fashioned reworking of Disney’s late-70s cartoon/live action romp – it’s simple, well-meaning and I imagine young(ish) kids will like it; the CGI dragon Elliot, who lives in the woods somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, is very non-threatening, even when he is breathing fire. I guess it’s easy to be cynical about the film’s […]

The Ardennes (D’Ardennen)

There’s nothing drastically wrong with this low-budget Belgian crime drama, but I just wasn’t in the mood for its gloominess (colour-drained cinematography = our film is serious and authentic and miserable and you should certainly not be expecting to enjoy yourself), or in the mood to forgive it for the use of numerous clichés. For […]

Girls Lost (Pojkarna)

An offbeat Swedish slice of magic realism in which three female, teenage, bullied misfits are transformed into male ‘equivalents’ by way of a strange plant. I have placed the word ‘equivalents’ in quotation marks above because one of the points being made here is that when these girls experience life as young men, they are […]

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

A ropey update of the 1947 Danny Kaye vehicle made by and starring Ben Stiller in the titular role, which arrives replete with all the ugly, attention-seeking, 21st Century money-spunking we’ve come to expect from Hollywood remakes: there’s a wacky, ultrafast chase set piece through busy Manhattan streets and avenues, completely unnecessary and unconvincing CGI […]

A Walk Among The Tombstones

More pap from a fairly uninspired and uninspiring Liam Neeson – but this one lacks the cheap-and-enjoyable thrills you’ll find in some of the actor’s other recent crime thriller/action flicks, such as Taken. It suffers from clichéd dialogue – though admittedly that’s nothing new in this genre – and is further hampered by flat direction, […]

Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s typically hard-nosed account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden was a political hot potato back in 2013, with questions raised about the accuracy of early scenes depicting enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. I purposefully avoided the film at the time, though of course three or four years later […]

On The Waterfront

Here’s a film that deserves the praise that has been heaped upon it by successive generations of film fans. Elia Kazan’s tightly-wound dockland morality tale sucks you in with its opening exchanges and never lets up. For the next hour-and-a-half Marlon Brando’s wounded puppy dog/has-been ex-boxer Terry Malloy wrestles with his conscience as his own involvement […]

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet), 1957

A much-admired arthouse classic from Ingmar Bergman, though I realise now that I’ve seen it that I didn’t actually know much about it beforehand, aside from the fact it contains famous scenes in which Max von Sydow’s wandering knight Antonius Block – returning to Sweden after the Crusades – plays a high-stakes game of chess […]

The Wait (L’Attesa)

Piero Messina’s debut is a deliberately (sometimes wearyingly) slow Euro drama, in which Juliette Binoche’s wealthy, grieving mother refuses to disclose news of the death of her son to Lou de Laâge’s visiting girlfriend, who remains oblivious for much of the film. It won’t be to everyone’s liking – primarily because of the pace, or […]

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015): It’s the third time I’ve watched this entry into the world’s greatest nerf herding saga; I just wanted to see how it stacked up next to Rogue One, which I caught a week or so earlier. I’m undecided as to which of the two is the […]