Monday, 29 April 2013

[MINI MOVIE REVIEWS] - April 2013


Neil Maskell in underground tunnel in Kill List
Director: Wheatley     Starring: Maskell, Buring    Run-time: 95 minutes

Kill List is a mess; for an hour it's a brutal hitman thriller shot with harsh realism until the last act inexplicably turns all Wicker Man on the audience with the introduction of a sacrificial cult. One of the essential roles of a director is to effectively communicate the story and Wheatley fails. His direction is just down-right sloppy and confusing. Whilst interesting and different, the final act comes completely out of left field. Even worse, it opens up so many unanswered questions and possibilities and makes no attempt to answer them. The first hour of the film is an interesting character study of a psychopath, the last half is unexplained nonsense.



Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester in The Oranges
Director: Farino   Starring: Laurie, Meester, Keener   Run-time: 90 minutes
 
The DVD art-work for The Oranges has, in block capitals, the words SEX, SCANDAL, LIES. Yes, there are a few lies, there's sex and the plot is rather scandalous but all three of these topics are handled with excruciating tedium. This film is your typical 'first-world problem' middle-class dramedy but it's completely uninspiring. Seasoned actors such as Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener are utterly wasted on a flat, superficial script that has nothing to say. Aesthetically and performance-wise it's not a bad film but it's distinctly average and entirely forgettable. Two days after seeing it and all I can really remember is that Leighton Meester looked gorgeous. That's all I've got.



Ghost bride in The Innkeepers
Director: Ti West     Starring: Paxton, Healy     Run-time: 101 minutes

If you've read my Evil Dead review, you'll know that I favour tension-building, slow paced supernatural horror films over gory slashers. Essentially, two wannabe-ghost hunter hotel clerks are spending the last night in the hotel before it gets closed down. Director Ti West, knows how to shoot a suspenseful film and this is a marked improvement over House of the Devil, which I thought suffered from amateur production values. With some well-handled Shining visual nods and heart-stopping tension, The Innkeepers had all the ingredients to be a favourite of mine but it falls apart at the last hurdle. The ending, which feels rushed, is so bitterly disappointing. Still, if you're a patient horror fan who digs films like The Others, you may enjoy this.


John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything...
Director: Crowe    Starring: Cusack, Skye, Mahoney    Run-time: 100 minutes
Am I allowed to say... over-rated? Watching Say Anything... was an odd experience for me. I've loved every Cameron Crowe film I've seen, I'm a huge advocate of the 80's and I really enjoy John Cusack in this type of role. But the romantic element of this film did NOTHING for me. In fact, the relationship between Lloyd and Diane felt unnatural and forced, they felt unsuitable in my modest opinion. I didn't feel any chemistry between Cusack and Skye either, which is a big problem when the film hinges on you rooting for them! As with all Crowe films the musical choices are perfect and the dialogue is fab but I've gotta say, this is the least engaging film of his I've seen. Damn shame.


Vincent Cassell in Trance Boyle
Director: Boyle    Starring: McAvoy, Dawson, Cassel    Run-time: 101 minutes
It speaks volumes that this is a new release that I saw in the cinema and yet it's being summised in a short Mini Movie Review paragraph. Let me get straight to the point with Trance, Danny Boyle's return to film-making after his London Olympics triumph. Trance is a simple story over-complicated by non-linear editing. Boyle uses misdirection, editing tricks and an untrustworthy narrator in order to intrigue his audience and also drag out the film's run time. You'll most likely reach the startling revelation before any of the character's do, which make the twists and turns a little tedious. With all that said, the visual style is wonderful with some bizarre, but strangely effective, camera angles and movements. Vincent Cassel is also brilliant but for the most part, this is Boyle just having some fun and finding himself again.


Adam Sandler playing on harmonium in Punch-Drunk Love
Director: Thomas-Anderson   Starring: Sandler, Watson   Run-time: 95 mins
 
Adam Sandler take a bow! Sandler is Barry Egan, a depressed businessman who's unsuccessful in almost every avenue of his life. This isn't helped by his nervousness and severe anxiety, a product of being raised in a family of seven sisters. Unfortunately, the film isn't as memorable as Sandler's performance. It's a very strange, unique film that ambles and drifts, much like Egan himself. There are many strands to the story, some of which aren't fully explored but the most important is Barry's courtship of Lena. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also shows his face as the owner of a phone-sex line extorting poor Barry. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Punch-Drunk Love is a technically flawless drama but the slow, tangential and down-right weird script isn't for everyone.



Kakihara in Ichi the Killer movie
Director: Miike     Starring: Asano, Ohmori     Run-time: 120 mins
 
Ichi the Killer is easily the most violent film I've ever seen. Easily. Based off of a graphic (with emphasis on the word graphic!) novel, Ichi the Killer follows sadomasochistic Yakuza member, Kakihara, as he tries to track down his boss who has been taken hostage by an opposing gang. Be warned, this film isn't for the faint-hearted. Kakihara is one of the most evil movie characters I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing. In one scene, he puts hooks through a man's back, hangs him from the ceiling and cooks shrimp on him! It's not just the gore and sadism that makes this difficult to watch either. There are plenty of rape and abuse scenes that I found hard to stomach. Would I watch it again? Not all the way through but there's definite genius in all of this madness.


Steve Oram and Alice Lowe in Sightseers
Director: Wheatley     Starring: Oram, Lowe     Run-time: 88 minutes

Proving you can't judge a film-maker by just one film, here's Ben Wheatley's follow-up to Kill List - black comedy, Sightseers. In a bid to escape her controlling mother, Tina sets off on a camping holiday with her new boyfriend Chris. Their innocent tour of Britain's railway stations and museums is put on hold however when Chris brutally murders another holiday-maker in front of Tina. Sightseers is so quintessentially British. The only thing missing is Winston Churchill and the Queen. The comedy is very, very dark and Tina and Chris' murderous exploits are portrayed in graphic detail, which some may find distasteful. I, however, found the film to be refreshing and hilarious. In basic terms, it's Natural Born Killers set amongst the fields and green valleys of Britain. I'd highly recommend it.



Fast Times at Ridgemont High stoner van
Director: Heckerling    Starring: Penn, Leigh, Cates    Run-time: 90 mins
 
Wait, that's Sean Penn? The guy from I Am Sam, Mystic River and Milk? No way! Fast Times At Ridgemont High is a coming-of-age high school film that completely slipped by me. It's a snap-shot of a group of Cali teenager's lives as they experiment with sex, drugs and dream of leaving their small town. It's a familiar story elevated by a fantastic young cast of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Some have criticised the film for not adequately dealing with some of the issues raised, i.e. abortion, rape and promiscuous sex but I had no problem with the portrayal of these themes. This is a time capsule of a very specific era, just like American Graffiti and Grease. My only real issue is it all ended too quickly.


Dustin Hoffman pool scene The Graduate
Director: Nichols    Starring: Hoffman, Bancroft    Run-time: 106 mins

I'm always wary when I finally get round to viewing 'classics' but The Graduate truly deserves such a title. For a film approaching half a century, it really does hold up well. Hoffman's performance as a lost graduate uncertain of his future really struck a chord with me. Unfortunately I'm not in the middle of a mother-daughter love triangle but I identified 100% with the rest of Hoffman's character. Hoffman succeeds at being endearing, which makes you cheers for his achievements and cringe at his failures. I was surprised at how contemporary feeling the cinematography, direction and script were. The camerawork and framing is stunning with so many iconic shots. I not only enjoyed The Graduate, I feel like I connected with it on a personal level. It's definitely a new favourite of mine.

4 comments:

  1. Ummm... I'm one of those who criticised FAST TIMES for how it handled its issues. Awkward!

    I agree with you on PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE and THE GRADUATE, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fast Times was just a silly teen romp, nothing more. I don't think it had a responsibility to deal with those issues. It wasn't the director's intention.

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  2. i man, just discover your website,

    I know it is all your opinion, but

    Kill List: I think it is brilliant, at least a one time watch

    Punch Drunk Love: PTA movie! It is an instant classic.

    Sightseers: Great, agree.

    Fast time: didn't get it at all, maybe because I am not from usa.

    The Graduate: It is well made, but I don't know if it is classic.

    The others haven't seen them yet.....

    Interesting opinion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting. You should log in with a Google Account so you're not anon!

      Delete

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