An amicable start to the 15th Keswick Film Festival. The broad strokes of the story may be overly familiar but it's hard not to like when it's done with such charm.
February 28, 2014 at 11:23AM
Films rated as I see them
The scores mean something like the following:
5 - Outstanding, 4 - Good, 3 - Alright, 2 - Not so good, 1 - Bad
(C) - Cinema, (D) - DVD, (T) - TV, (R) - Recorded from TV, (I) - Internet/Xbox, (S) - Sky, (B) Blu Ray
It's been good to finally catch up with some of Kurosawa's films. It's easy to see why his films have been so influential. Yojimbo is essentially a blockbuster film, full of action and humour and always looking great. The story is strong which helps explain how it can be retold in different genres and times.
I wasn't expecting to like this but I went in with an open mind hoping to be surprised. I guess I just don't like "epic" films, I doubt I've ever watched a film and said "that was fine but it could have done with being a bit longer". Not only excessively long but also incredibly dull. Both the performances and acting felt dated and stilted, and I didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't even think the film looked that great, perhaps the epicness is lost on TV or somehow mangled by Channel 5.
Somebody else on Letterboxd said that you could watch Brief Encounter three times in roughly the same time and that would have been a better use of my time.
Somewhat overlooked on it's UK release by coming out at the same time as the much anticipated and similar themed The World's End when this started appearing in end of year lists I thought it would be worth catching up with. It isn't. That's not fair, the first hour is great wonderfully playing up on cast's personas, self referential and full of great cameos. It quickly becomes self-indulgent desperately in need of one of the friends to shout "Cut". Much worse though is that later on it just isn't funny and has more in common with the Scary Movie style parodies than anything else (I quite liked the first Scary Movie but I don't think we have a collective name for all the atrocities that followed).
The American suburbs in the 1980s in one of my favourite places to visit, especially when it comes from the mind of Speilberg. Whilst establishing the life of the family the haunted house elements are slowly introduced. The family always feel real which is why when the horror starts it's believable and so effective. The title and premise suggest a horror film but for the majority of the film I was reminded more of Close Encounters, where normal people just have to deal with an extraordinary situation. There are scares but not too many which only makes them more effective. Towards the end things become more chaotic and the film slides more into horror but it is an enjoyable theme park style ride which feels fully deserved after everything that precedes it.
It would seem that the original Taking Of Pelham One Two Three is held in high regard by quite a lot of (American?) people. It was a film I'd never heard of before the remake but the love of the original helps explain some of the bad reception Tony Scott's version received upon release. Both versions are fine and although there are many flaws with the remake (Travolta is OTT and distracting, the ending tails off) it's still an enjoyable ride. In the past I took Tony Scott's distinctive style for granted, probably even dismissing it, but there's a lot to be said for how great things look even in this average film; it's a shame we'll never see him direct another great film. Similarly with Gandolfini, before his death his role as "Mayor Gandolfini" was just more or the same and now it serves as another reminder just how great a screen presence he always was.
The German title Der müde Tod translates as "Weary Death" and that would be more appropriate title for these dull and tedious tales. Only the final segment had anything to pique my interest but even then I was hoping Death would be victorious just to bring and end to the misery. I usually try and find something to at least appreciate from an academic perspective but really struggled here. The artistic decision to use illegible fonts (different in each segment) in the intertitles was maddeningly frustrating and stumbling across strange characters or rereading what seemed like dodgy translations broke the flow and often resulted in not reading the full card. Then to make matters worse the intertitles started stating the obvious ("A cockfight", "The Letters"), was this some kind of von Trier type joke to see how far the audience could be pushed?
Apparently inspirational and a favourite of Hitchcock amongst others, it may well be that I was just in the wrong mood or too tired to really appreciate the film.
At least I enjoyed the live score by HarmonieBand.
A huge amount of fun but ultimately disappointing. I'm not sure why I was looking forward to The Lego Movie so much; I can only think that it must be something to do with how much fun the Lego video games are. Or perhaps it's just that Lego is great. Or maybe the chance of mixing up the franchises seemed like such a good opportunity. It's been a relief over the last week or so to see the film so well received and echoes of "not just for kids" everywhere the film is mentioned.
The film (like Lego?) is for everyone. There's so much happening and it's so smartly written that it's hard to imagine somebody couldn't find something to like. It's also so self-referential there's a danger it could twist itself inside out and it could be argued that perhaps it does in a brilliant way towards the end. So why was I left disappointed? Well lots of the good stuff is revealed in the trailer (although thankfully some things have been held back) and little else is done with those cameos. More importantly whilst the story is smart I felt the dialogue could've been better and indeed was better in the City Undercover Wii U game from last year.
Hopefully on a second watch I'll have lowered my expectations and enjoy it all a lot more. Everything is (nearly) awesome.
#IlkleyFF with live accompaniment by British Sea Power.
In the beginning I was slightly concerned because the footage didn't seem that interesting and whilst I was enjoying the music it didn't feel like part of the film. However after a few sequences things started to blend together and somehow built into a completely mesmerizing partnership. A brief clip towards the end could have literally been from the first place I worked and this personal connection elevated everything by making me feel part of the 100 year history covered by the film.
It seems like a long time since there has been a good vampire film (I skipped Byzantium after so-so reviews) so it was pleasing to see them handled so well here. After a great setup of both mythology and characters the film just floats along and doesn't do much. I was left simultaneously wanting more but also wanting the film to end, a more tightly edited version would have had more impact (although I could have just been tired at a late screening).
There's much to admire and the film was unexpectedly funny in places but it also felt like a wasted opportunity. I can't help but wonder how it would have fared as TV series because it felt like there were more stories to be told.
Her is a film that is so full of great ideas it's a surprise that it doesn't start to come apart at the seams. Touching on so many things that have a personal resonance, disappointment seemed inevitable but thankfully never arrived. A fantasy rooted in reality. An absurd comedy where the laughter comes from simple human interactions rather than the high concepts. A love story, just a love story - like any other love story but different from every love story. Wonderful visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, quiet understated and believable performances from all of the cast.
I had hoped that the film would build to an outstanding ending which it doesn't quite manage. Towards the end, the logic of the film's world may not stand up to too much scrutiny and things become a little predictable but this just allows the the climax to be quietly satisfying rather than mind blowing which on reflection may be the right choice.
At the screening I attended there were sporadic rounds of applause during the credits but also one person loudly claiming "what a stinker", I can only assume his internal operating system needs an upgrade. Every moment in the film can launch so many discussions on love, technology, humanity, communication, ethics, romance, privacy, relationships and probably numerous other topics and it's those reasons that I'll be thinking about Her for a long time to come.
It's always great when somebody's passion and enthusiasm comes across in a documentary and their is a gushing of love for Sound City and analogue recording here. Dave Grohl has put together a well made film making great use of photos, music and interviews to tell the story.
Made at a time when effects were still special there is a certain magic to the entire film that's hard not to admire. Unfortunately the more pantomime aspects and accompanying audience laughter age the film badly.
(According to Letterboxd I've seen this before but I don't remember it. The 2006 entry was automatic based on title so could have been a different version but it's unlikely I'd be watching the Disney version on TV)
The Best Documentary Oscar nominee list is always strange, frequently missing out the best films (Stories We Tell) and including largely unknown films such as The Square. Without the Oscar nod I doubt I would have known about this film, with the nod I expected great things. Unfortunately like so many documentaries this is nothing special; rarely cinematic, poorly scripted, muddled messages and lacking enough background to ever be fully engaging. I've frequently said that the subject matter should never matter for a great documentary and just capturing fascinating footage of real life events or people doesn't necessary make a great a film.
The film does a great job of throwing you into the middle of all of the action taking place in The Square over the last few years. There are some truly devastating and unbelievable moments captured on film but I came away lacking a fuller understanding of the situation which is perhaps the biggest problem.
I've heard a few people have been disappointed with the Coen's latest; wanting to like it everything in it but unsatisfied how it all comes together. I adored the film but days later still don't know exactly why. It's just unassumingly brilliant, quietly passing you by without ever forcing it's greatness on you, perhaps like Llewyn Davis himself.
It may be remarkable that Wadjda even exists as a film, which only makes it more disappointing that the film is so average. Beautiful to look at and a strong central performance can't save a simple, dull and entirely predictable story. The story behind the film is far more interesting and hopefully one day somebody will make that into a far more engaging film.