Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movies: October to December

There will be Blood was great on a rewatch, but I still haven't managed to perfect my Daniel Plainview impersonation.

I expected Rescue Dawn to be a man-against-the-jungle movie, but it turned out to be far more of a prison break film. Nice to see Jeremy Davies and Steve Zahn get some serious screen-time (and it reminded me of my favourite Steve Zahn performance - in Sahara, where he plays a cocky guy who doesn't realise that he's Matthew McConaughey's sidekick.)

Drag Me to Hell: Torment porn from Sam Raimi. I really enjoyed it, even though the last half hour had that inevitability that comes from figuring out a key plot point a little too early. This film provided a powerful reminder to me that inappropriate bodily fluids being forced through people's mouths is what true gross-out horror is all about.

The Science of Sleep is Michel Gondry's film about dreams, love and hope. At first it uplifted me, but in the end it left me terribly terribly sad.

The Godfather Part 2 didn't seem as clearly plotted to me as Part 1, perhaps because the identity of Michael's antagonist is hidden for so long, but the intercutting between timelines is elegant. It's a satisfying, classy story of revenge, and a timely reminder never to go fishing on Lake Tahoe.

Priceless is a fun sexy French comedy with a totally coherent storyline and sexy selfish characters I really cared about.

Twilight was brilliant because when it turned out that Bella's mum was played by Sarah Chalke (Nina Myers on 24), I learned that my flatmate is a huge fan of 24 too, so we spent the last half hour of the film talking about that.

Green Street Hooligans is a fun B-grade movie (that wants to be an A-grade movie) about Elijah Wood learning to be a football-hooligan. Worth watching for the climactic fight where the film-makers were unable to afford the rights to Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, and instead had to create a similar-sounding song.

2012 is totally worth $16 at the movies. It feels like a video-game with some pretty annoying things to say about how women should look after the kids and not take any independent action, but it blows stuff up amazingly. A really (often unintentionally) funny film, with the best cast of actors of any Roland Emmerich film so far.

I still like Miami Vice, but I suspect my opinion may change after a few more viewings. Perhaps it is the The Phantom Menace of Michael Mann films.

12 Monkeys is a movie I'd forgotten I'd owned. It gets increasingly strong as the film goes along, and Bruce Willis gets saner and saner. I'm not a fan of overly expressive camera angles, but I am a fan of doom.

Last Days is Gus van Sant's take on Kurt Cobain's suicide. I got through about half of it before having to turn it off. While it's brilliantly shot, performed and written, with a really quiet quiet way about it, Last Days was just taking me into an emotional place that I didn't want to go.

The Waters of Mars had some nice scary imagery in it - reminiscent of The Event, actually - but overall felt like stuff I'd seen before. Loved the final two or three minutes though. The Doctor as 'arrogant' is something I'd like to see more of, and I can't wait for the fifth Dr Who special.

Torchwood: Children of Earth. I don't know if I'm on the record about Torchwood, but I don't think it works as a show. Season 1 veered between broad comedy and OTT angst; while it had a few good episodes, I found Season 1 so inconsistent that I didn't even bother watching its finale. I certainly didn't bother watching any of Season 2. So bear that in mind when I say that Torchwood: Children of Earth, a 5-part mini-series about alien abduction. Is. Fucking. Awesome. If you're in to dark British SF at all, it's a must-see.

Enemy of the State is a movie I've only watched in bits and pieces before. Having now sat through the whole thing, I feel exactly the same way. It's excellently crafted to stress you out though, and quite amazing in how quickly (and implausibly) they make scenes move through plot points in order to destroy Will Smith's life.

Zombieland is one of the feel-good films of the year. The way it turns zombies into an element of the setting, rather than a threat helps focus the story on the survivors and their rom-com / buddy movie relationships. Also: a fascinating example of how you can make splatter completely acceptable as long as you surround it with a sight gag or a really funny line of dialogue. Highly recommended.

The Plan is the final film in the Battlestar Galactica reboot. It's the story of two Cavils who find themselves in different parts of the war. I found that seeing the Galactica-based events of Season 1 from Cavil's POV gave me a lot of insight. Unfortunately, the other Cavil (based on Caprica) didn't have enough screen-time to really justify his change of character for me. As a result, I'm calling this one insightful but not essential.

I found Where the Wild Things to be a melancholic film about gently damaged people. It was not the movie I'd hoped for. Rather than being full of subtext, there were a few too many sequences for me where what was happening on screen was all that was happening - which made the movie a little too simple in places. It is, however, beautifully shot, with spectacular images, great performances and an interesting message about how complicated human relationships are. I'm torn about this one - but I'm coming down on the side of "it's good and worthwhile seeing."
It's pretty much an art film in


Mashugenah said...

I still like Miami Vice, but I suspect my opinion may change after a few more viewings. Perhaps it is the The Phantom Menace of Michael Mann films.

I am intrigued by this, but can't quite unpack the whole meaning. Care to elaborate?

Steve Hickey said...

Sure thing. So, the first three times I watched Phantom Menace in the cinema I thought it was great. I especially loved the first 40 minutes: the city under the lake, the journey through the centre of the earth attacked by giant fish. I was ecstatic that I was seeing a STAR WARS movie that was showing me new worlds, new monsters and new chases and fights.

At the same time, many of my friends and people on the street were muttering and complaining about the film. And gradually, as I watched it more, I began to realise that it was a far weaker film than I first thought. But it took multiple viewings to actually start analysing it rather than admiring it.

With Miami Vice, I am one of about 4 people I know that enjoy this film. Most of them come at it from the perspective of being Michael Mann fans. Now I am a fan, but in this case I admire the film's attitude, intensity and pace.

On this viewing, though, I began to realise that the scenes are oddly constructed in a way I can't articulate yet. It has something to do with the fact that these characters not only aren't real, they aren't 'Hollywood' characters either. They're more ... schematic than that.

I guess I'm wondering whether, on future watches, they'll become 2-dimensional to me, and the movie will begin to not hold up. And I'm further wondering if that's what my many friends who have seen Vice and not liked it are talking about when they say it's not a good film.

(Hence: 'The Phantom Menace' of Michael Mann films - a film I initially admire and then begin to see more and more weaknesses in.)

Quincey said...

It's funny - I thought the point of Sahara is that Matthew McCoughnahey's (sic) character is the sidekick and Steve Zahn is the hero. Hence the "You go get the girl, I'll save the world." I mean, I know which one I'm more impressed with, and it ain't the overly greasy muscle-bound texan

Steve Hickey said...

Holy crap, KC: you may have given me a reason to rewatch Sahara - something I hadn't thought was possible.

Jenni said...

You seem to have ended this blog post mid sentence.