Sorry for the lateness, but I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)
“Louche” is the word that comes to mind looking at screenshots from the new David O. Russell flick.
I’m Excited About…
- American Hustle (20 December). You should know how I feel about Jennifer Lawrence, because you should really feel the same way, but it’s a great ensemble cast with a dependable director, and though I thought Silver Linings Playbook was decent if not amazing, I continue to have high hopes of this film.
I’m Not Sure About…
- Homefront (6 December). By all accounts, this isn’t all that good, but it’s a new Jason Statham flick, and I have a soft spot for Mr Statham. Plus, it pits him against James Franco, who continues to pick roles for the WTF factor.
- Frozen (6 December). The new Disney animation, probably a whole lot sappy, but who cares? I’m interested in some feel-good non-controversial entertainment from time to time.
- Nebraska (6 December). New Alexander Payne films don’t excite me like they do some people, but I still want to see it.
- Kill Your Darlings (6 December). There have been a few films about the exploits of the Beat Generation recently, and these don’t tend to interest me because as a group these guys tended to be a bit tediously macho (particularly Kerouac). Still, this new film focuses on a weedy Daniel Radcliffe as poet Allen Ginsberg, and that gives me a bit of hope for it.
- Fill the Void (13 December). I like films that show me experiences of life I don’t (and often cannot) share, and this film by an Orthodox Jew living in Israel about that society, could well be fascinating.
- Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (18 December). This is the season’s big comedy release, and hey, I liked the first one, so I expect to like this one too. Doesn’t look too challenging really.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (26 December). I’ve seen Ben Stiller’s new movie already in advance previews, and my solid prediction is that I liked it probably more than most people will/do. But there you go, I found it likeable.
- 47 Ronin (26 December). Big, silly martial arts nonsense with big, silly Keanu Reeves. I am tentatively hopeful, but don’t expect much.
I’m Not So Excited About…
- Old Boy (6 December). The Korean original was a decent, effective thriller with some nasty kicks. I can’t really be bothered for this US remake, even if it’s by Spike Lee. Not sure why it exists, but maybe I’ll catch it on a plane someday, or on TV.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December). Don’t even start me about this series, or The Lord of the Rings for that matter. I have no time; I do not like; I do not want. Those who do will seek it out, and all the best to them.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Ridley Scott | Writer Cormac McCarthy | Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski | Starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penélope Cruz | Length 117 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Haymarket, London, Tuesday 3 December 2013 || My Rating bad
© 20th Century Fox
Oh dear, where do I start? I went into this film — whose showing was conveniently aligned with a two-hour gap in my schedule, rather than because I specifically sought it out — with low expectations, to which the film was more than equal. I’ve read and enjoyed novels by Cormac McCarthy in the past, as I have watched and enjoyed films by Ridley Scott, though both are known for a certain pared-down muscularity to their work. It’s not simply that I did not connect with this product of their collaboration, because in many respects I admired the filmmaking on show, as found it to be actively offensive.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Abdellatif Kechiche | Writer Ghalia Lacroix (based on the graphic novel Le Bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh) | Cinematographer Sofian El Fani | Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux | Length 180 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Haymarket, London, Monday 25 November 2013 || My Rating excellent
© Wild Bunch
There has been, it must be said, a lot written about this new movie, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes film festival, and very little of it has particularly engaged with the film itself. Which suggests that the film’s most famous scene between the two female protagonists was a little bit of canny marketing to generate column inches. That aside (and I’ll deal with that particular scene later in my review), “The Life of Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2″ — it takes its English title from the graphic novel from which it is adapted — is a bold and compelling coming of age film focused on one young woman growing up in the suburban fringes of Lille, a city in France which lies near the border with Belgium.
ADVANCE SCREENING FILM REVIEW || Director Ben Stiller | Writer Sean Conrad (based on the short story by James Thurber) | Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh | Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn | Length 114 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Monday 25 November 2013 || My Rating likeable
© 20th Century Fox
When I wrote about The Paperboy earlier this year, I talked a lot about what for me is the defining quality of a two-star film (at least under my ratings system as it was; you could also call it a 5/10 or grade it a solid B), and this new film from Ben Stiller hits all those middling marks. There are plenty of ways in which this is not objectively a good movie (if such a critical standpoint can be said to exist), but it’s one I found fascinating in all its strangeness. Unlike The Paperboy, Walter Mitty does seem to be straining after awards credibility — which may explain its pre-Christmas release date — but at its heart it’s every bit as perplexing as the more luridly pulpy Paperboy.
FILM REVIEW || Director Simon Curtis | Writer Adrian Hodges (based on the diaries The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and the memoir My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark) | Cinematographer Ben Smithard | Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson, Judi Dench | Length 95 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Friday 22 November 2013 || My Rating likeable
© The Weinstein Company
There’s not a great deal to be said about this likeable piece of cinematic fluff, so I’ll keep this review short. It deals with events around the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) as seen through the eyes of its Third Assistant Director, Colin Clark, who released two books on this (undoubtedly to him) memorable period of his life. It hardly answers any questions the viewer may have about Marilyn Monroe’s life (she is an evanescent presence at the heart of the film), but affords Michelle Williams plenty of opportunity to craft a fine cinematic performance, as well as showcasing a wonderfully barking egotistical turn by Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, a man surely close to his own actor-directorial heart.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Francis Lawrence | Writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt (based on the novel Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins) | Cinematographer Jo Willems | Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci | Length 146 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Sunday 24 November 2013 || My Rating good
Blockbuster franchises by their nature always seem to be perfect for teenage viewers, more than ever in recent years. I suppose that Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations skew a little older, just as that seemingly unending Harry Potter series went for the younger ones. But even amongst the crowded marketplace, The Hunger Games has set itself rather above the competition to my mind. That said, I haven’t read the books, and I don’t think the films are perfect by any means, but they flesh out a credibly multilayered world with a more dystopian bent than you might expect given the target audience, and occasional flashes of cutting satire. Most of all, the series has for its lead actor Jennifer Lawrence, who’s been carving out quite a niche in playing resourceful young women since her breakout performance in Winter’s Bone (2010). This second film in what’s shaping up to be a tetralogy is another notch in her acting belt and a proficient change of pace for the franchise.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Alfonso Cuarón | Writers Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón | Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki | Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney | Length 90 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Enfield (IMAX 3D), London, Monday 18 November 2013 || My Rating very good
© Warner Bros. Pictures
I can’t help but wonder if I’m maybe going through a bit of a fallow period with my film writing. There’s only so many reviews you can bang out in a week (and I’ve been posting every weekday for the last few months, pretty much) without it all feeling a bit same-y. Perhaps I’m unenthused by what’s on offer at the cinemas right now, or maybe it’s just an autumnal thing of feeling like getting out and doing more exercise. In any case, when I think about Gravity — and more specifically, when I think about all the hype around it, about all the reviews of it that I’ve read over the last couple of months (for it was on release around the rest of the world before it came to the UK) — I don’t really feel I have a whole lot new to add. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it: that might actually be a new angle on it. No, it was great in several respects. You’ve probably seen it, and you may well agree. If you haven’t, it’s a disaster movie set in space and it focuses on two astronauts, Ryan (Sandra Bullock) and Matt (George Clooney).
FILM REVIEW || Director Baillie Walsh | Starring Bruce Springsteen | Length 124 minutes [see note at the end] | Seen at home (Blu-Ray), Friday 15 November 2013 || My Rating likeable
© Black Dog Films
I can imagine that when one is making a music-based documentary, the question of whether it has ‘crossover’ potential is a big one. So I’m not exactly sure that if you’re not a fan of Bruce Springsteen you will gain any particular insight from Springsteen & I. This is a fan-made paean to the star popularly known as ‘the Boss’ and doesn’t exactly make clear what makes him different from any other middle-of-the-road stadium-filling rock musician. However, it’s all very likeable, so unless you harbour some strong antipathy to Springsteen’s blue-collar rock, it should at least be diverting.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director/Writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Cinematographer Thomas Kloss | Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore | Length 90 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Sunday 17 November 2013 || My Rating worth seeing
© Relativity Media
There are a lot of serious issues to confront when dealing with modern Western society, and the way that women are pervasively sexualised in advertising and on the internet is certainly one of them, so it’s to director/writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s credit that he tries to tackle this thorny issue in Don Jon. Unfortunately it flirts rather too much with being an earnest social problem film and as such is let down by overreaching in its final third, but these are flaws that point to Gordon-Levitt’s good intentions and I can only hope that with future films his writing will gain greater subtlety of expression.
This series is inspired by the Movie Lottery blog, whose author is picking DVD titles from a hat in order to decide which films to watch. I’ve selected another one from the hat to watch and present my review below.
FILM REVIEW: Movie Lottery 9 || Director Leos Carax | Writers Leos Carax and Jean-Pol Fargeau (based on the novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities by Herman Melville) | Cinematographer Eric Gautier | Starring Guillaume Depardieu, Katerina Golubeva, Catherine Deneuve | Length 131 minutes | Seen at home (DVD), Tuesday 12 November 2013 || My Rating excellent
I’ve been familiar with this film for many years, having bought the soundtrack CD quite some time ago. It’s by probably my favourite modern musical artist, Scott Walker, whose career seems every bit as shrouded in enigma as this film he was involved with as composer. Even in his 1960s pop heyday as a member of The Walker Brothers, Scott’s compositions have had an elegiac and melancholy air, and his ‘comeback’ album a few years prior to this movie was Tilt, a darkly opaque piece of work that makes even Pola X seem light by comparison. But it’s a family psychodrama with strong overtones of incest, so it’s not really light by many standards except those set by Walker’s music. The director, Leos Carax, was making his own comeback of sorts after the troubled production on his budget-stretching Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991), though one gets the sense that commercial success isn’t really a metric that much bothers Carax, and the amount of time between this film and his next (and most recent) one, Holy Motors (2012), was even longer.