Taika Waititi directs Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Christian Bale in this Marvel superhero adventure comedy where Thor reclaims his standing in the universe only to find his mortal ex-girlfriend has assumed his mantle.
Didn’t bother with this at the multiplex. Turned out to be the right call. Messy, indulgent, self satisfied. Bale’s Gorr The God Butcher is a freakish antagonist… but he gets lost in a numbing jumble of mega budget soap, sitcom, snark and weightless spectacle. My buddy Russell Crowe also shows up for a dud extended cameo – at least he got a few beers out of the Marvel juggernaut.
Céline Sciamma directs Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz and Nina Meurisse in this French time warp fantasy where a grieving eight year old gets to spend a week playing with her mother back when she was the same age.
Big themes tackled in a low key, accessible way. Felt slightly minor to me but always beautiful.
Allen Coulter directs Ben Affleck, Diane Lane and Adrian Brody in this true crime story of Fifties Hollywood where a sleazy private eye tries to exploit the murky death of the first actor to play Superman, George Reeves.
Affleck is very impressive here as the B-movie star who knows his career is running out of winning moves. His fall makes for a decent enough murder mystery that goes off the boil whenever we aren’t focusing on him and Lane. They are so anachronistically glamorous a pairing in period dress that you just crave more from them than the story structure can allow. Don’t want to plonk the blame entirely at a damp Brody’s door but he really struggles to carry his half of the movie. Nothing is really resolved by the end. Feels more “Meh!” than “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown…”
Jon Nguyen directs David Lynch, Jack Nance and Peggy Lentz in this documentary following the artistic journey of celebrated filmmaker and surrealist painter David Lynch.
An extension / reduction of the autobiography Room To Dream. Childhood to Eraserhead with some wobbly submerged memories only alluded to. The real joys are getting to see all that Lynch art (thick textured paint, scribbled nightmare juice) which I’d guess belongs to a slew of private collectors, and a man who has achieved a happy existence through his talent and vision. I don’t love every film Lynch has made but he’s certainly the modern cinematic voice I cherish the most. Nice to tinker around his enigmatic but always guarded head for a bit…
Eric Laneuville directs Jennifer Love Hewitt, Cybill Shepherd and Teddy Sears in this TV movie, based on a true story, where a go-getting Texan housewife with a massive rack and crippling debt starts wanking off massage clients for money, gets a cocaine habit and grasses up all the men in her community for the hope of a reduced sentence when busted.
Might have been a guilty pleasure as exploitation or gripping as a drama but this is neither and therefore an utter waste of time. Side note – I would visit brothels if they baked me bespoke homemade cookies.
Kevin Smith directs Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Rosario Dawson in this indie comedy sequel where foul mouthed wage slaves Dante and Randall now work at a fast food chain after their New Jersey Quik Stop burns down.
It was always going to be sweet to check back in on the characters where it all began but it is fair to say the ViewAskew house style was starting to wear thin 12 years down the line. The message board banter lacks the eloquence and philosophy of Smith’s debut – it is still as filthy and mock challenging… sometimes just way too aimlessly. The best beats are pretty dialogue free; a dance lesson to the Jackson 5, Jay’s tribute to The Silence Of The Lambs, a blissful Go-Kart break, Jason Lee’s popped collar. Rosario Dawson is a notable boon to the cast. What this goddess sees in Dante Hicks is anyone’s guess? II definitely is bright and garish… stark contrast to its monochrome no budget progenitor. Redundant but silly, with a lotta heart. Roll on Numero III.
Jules Dassin directs Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff and Dorothy Hart in this policier – where a rookie and a seasoned detective investigate the murder of a fashion model – filmed on the real streets of New York with genuine residents as extras.
Cutting edge and hard hitting back in its day, there’s oodles to savour here. The attempt to portray realistic detective work is admirable and this really feels like an ahistorical early step toward a NYPD Blue or Homicide episode in terms of form, grit and personality. Barry Fitzgerald, as ever, proves a fantastic screen presence and the talkier scenes really buzz whenever he is around. The New York location work is brimming with local colour – I’d be shocked if Lumet, Friedkin and Godard didn’t study this. Two chase sequences feel like monochrome dry runs for The French Connection. So… some dated Hays Code era attitudes aside… you certainly couldn’t say this was some fusty museum piece despite its long reaching influence on the sub-genre. The opening murder is brutal, the footwork believable enough, the everyday hustle and bustle of Manhattan hypnotic, the interruptions of stark emotion are complex rather than brute manipulation. I’ve read a fair bit of criticism towards the overbearing narration. Hard boiled poetry that maybe is overly intrusive but mirrors the literary journalism of a crime beat op-ed. “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Shit might be hokey… corny… but it is still iconic!
David Fincher directs Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton in this fantasy romance where a man ages backwards, geriatric to baby, over the 20th century.
I was dating a girl when The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button came out. And we broke up on the car ride home. The problem wasn’t she hated it and I loved it. The problem was neither of us felt comfortable enough to vocally disagree about the movie. And who can live like that?
This felt like a definite outlier in Fincher’s filmography on release after 16 years of mind fuck thrillers and procedural horrors. It isn’t exactly a soft piece of cinema. The clicking clock of death and the cruel vagaries of fate and time prey on these people like a serial killer or a xenomorph. In fact the old age effect work in the first act often resembles the creepier earlier stages of Alien3’s monster and flesh. But this is, first and foremost, a romance film told in a flow of interlinked short stories. It doesn’t have a traditional structure, more chapters. Each one is slightly imperfect. Button’s doddery old faux-Dickensian childhood is most memorable but has the ropiest FX work. There’s some unsettling uncanny valley moments. A cold romance between Pitt and Swinton in Fifties’ USSR feels completely self contained. It is hard to fully tally the attraction between Blanchett’s Daisy and Pitt’s Benjamin. The script and acting successfully sidesteps the inevitable ickiness yuckiness of a pensioner and a pre-pubescent girl becoming soul mates. Yes… I understand the fairytale aspect of the vibes… Brad Pitt being the most attractive man on Earth helps. It is like watching The Ugly Duckling in a romcom knowing exactly how the swan reveal will eventually play out.
Is there a lot of negativity in the above paragraph? I think Benjamin Button is a project where the inherent flaws make it fascinating. Almost as if Fincher and Pitt signed up at the height of their powers knowing this could be a suicide note. Difficult to realise. Difficult to market. Difficult to dodge the snark of people who live to hate cinema in general. It is admirable that such a bad bet is realised so sumptuously. There’s no resting on laurels here. They wanted to make a Forrest Gump (Eric Roth is a shared screenwriter) without the draw of nostalgia. They wanted to tip toe through history while avoiding all landmark events. This is the world turning, seen at a distance, never better captured than in the Amelie-esque set piece where fate conspires to take Daisy’s dreams away from her. And then a little later, a moment of maturity, rarely achieved in the Hollywood blockbuster – Daisy proclaims she wouldn’t have been a dancer for much longer anyway, her achievement were brief but spectacular. This movie is epic, spectacular but also intimate and pragmatic. It really is a precious wonder from another age of mainstream storytelling.
Kelly Reichardt directs John Magaro, Orion Lee and Toby Jones in this Western drama where two settlers in Oregon fall into a scheme where they steal milk from the only cow in the region each night.
Kelly Reichardt is one of those directors whom I admire but have yet to see that movie which unlocks their work for me (though I do remember seeing Old Joy when it was first broadcast on UK TV and making a note of it). First Cow comes closest to winning me over so far, I’ve not seen Certain Women yet. It feels like two minor characters from Deadwood have had their fan edit. With all the villains and anti-heroes left abandoned. And to wit, there is a certain degree of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot or Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to their minor, but focussed deeply on to, story. See also Steptoe & Son and Only Fools & Horses in terms of the relationship dynamic, only set in the “settling” of America. I’m surprised there aren’t more of these pre-Wild West, pioneer stories. There’s something fascinating about the immigrants who claimed America as their own. The people who created this risky dominion were rarely the winners of their previous communities – and that makes for fascinating dramatic possibilities. Reichardt seems attuned to this – her cinema is never overcooked or weighed down by forced complexity. Fable-like. Low key, small scale, convincing in its brevity of detail… you can’t help but be won over by these two ratty hopefuls’ dishonest scheme and mild mannered dreams.
Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn direct Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker and Adrian Dunbar in this Northern Irish biopic of Terri Hooley – a non-partisan record shop owner in Belfast who championed punk as an alternative to civil war.
I’d heard good things about this but always misread and prejudged it as a bit preachy. I was wrong. Has a really nice energy to it, a mordant sense of humour and, in the first half, some nifty magical realist flights of fantasy. The excitement and seduction of getting lost in a gig is captured wonderfully a few times. Not many other movies take the time to get that right. Terri Hooley was probably a bit of a prat to work and live with in real life, this biopic all but comes out and says as much, but Richard Dormer delivers a fine, if rare, lead powerhouse of a role. This should’ve made him a star. Obviously the soundtrack is fantastic and Jodie Whittaker also works great on the big screen… now, post Dr Who, the world must be her oyster, surely? There’s a lot to praise here.