I may have been too tired to fully appreciate this but I struggled to follow what was going on and found very little to get excited by.
September 29, 2014 at 10:16PM
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
The closing film at the #CinemaForAll conference had almost the opposite effect on me as the day's first film Human Remains. The Italian film didn't ever feel like it was anything special but was thoroughly enjoyable; this French film feels like it's constantly trying to do interesting things but somehow never found a way to keep me fully engaged. As somebody behind me pointed out "it was good but wasn't for me" and hopefully that's the case and others will enjoy the film more because it has a unique flare that deserves to be seen.
I'm still not sure if there's anything that outstanding about Human Capital. It certainly starts off fairly conventionally and it's only when the structure of the film reveals itself (I knew nothing about the film apart from it was Italy's foreign language Oscar entry) that it could be argued it's doing anything clever. But it doesn't need to be clever because what it does do is tell an engaging story really well and I was completely hooked. Towards the end there are some disappointing coincidences which I'm sure could have been handled better to achieve the same results (there's also an annoying nag about how Italian insurance works).
This is mainstream cinema done really well, it just happens to be Italian and subtitled. It wouldn't be out of place in a more episodic format on BBC4 on a Saturday night and certainly better than the Swedish Crimes Of Passion currently in the slot. I disliked the one Crimes Of Passion episode I saw thinking the drawing room explanation too old fashioned; Human Capital actually uses a similar technique to reveal the mystery but with the structure of the film rather than the detective gathering the culprits in one room.
See it before the inevitable American remake.
A great documentary works even if you have no interest in the subject matter. Unfortunately I don't think Life Itself falls into that category. I enjoyed the film a lot, especially the behind the scenes bickering between Ebert and Siskel, but I'm not sure if those without an interest in cinema, criticism or Ebert will get much from the film.
A strange film heavily based on the mundane realities (bowel movements, dog marriages, barks and bites) but frequently expressed via imaginative animation. The strangest moment came the next day when out for a run I suddenly started seeing all the dogs in a slightly different way.
There is always a danger that when you finally catch up with a much loved or respected film that you fail to understand what all the fuss was about. I've certainly felt that way before so it was with some trepidation that I finally found myself watching The Great Escape for the first time. Without any personal or nostalgic connection I wouldn't go as far as calling it great but it certainly was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Of course I was familiar with many of the moments and it was a shame that the ending was given away in a question on The Chase a few weeks ago (there is no statute of limitations on spoilers), otherwise I may have come away even more impressed.
There are so many laugh out loud moments in the first ten minutes it's a bit of a shock to find that Pride isn't an all out comedy. The film manages to tackle a (largely unknown) serious true story with warmth and heart which makes it an extremely emotionally engaging film, as a cliched poster would not doubt claim "you'll laugh, you'll cry".
If there are problems it's that the outcomes are entirely predictable. It's a shame that the word formulaic has such negative connotations because a formula exists to to make something to perfection and Pride comes pretty close.
Even a suggestion that this may be a return to form for Luc Besson was enough to hook me in. Things start of well with a good opening with an English speaking Pilou Asbæk followed by one of the best scenes of the year as Lucy finds herself in a hotel room with a mysterious locked briefcase. Unfortunately things start going wrong soon after, ironically the more Lucy untaps her full potential the dumber the film becomes. It's hard to sympathise with Lucy after she performs what seem like unnecessary acts of violence. It's also difficult to take her powers seriously, it may be intentional that they seem so far fetched and unbelievable to our normal human brains but it only comes across as silly. Smarter writing could've easily conveyed the same intention in more believable ways, I also struggle with the believability of various X-Men's powers but they are presented in a context that you buy into and go along with. It seems many people completely lose patience by the time Lucy unlocks the full potential of her brain but I actually came back on board here, far-fetched to the point of enjoyment and bizarrely reminiscent of The Tree Of Life and 2001, whereas most of the rest of the film feels like the dull generic action films Besson has been producing for the last decade.
Plus it works as a prequel to both Her and Under The Skin which is perhaps the most unintentionally fascinating thing about Lucy.
I'd never heard of Mikio Naruse and therefore Floating Clouds but when it was shown on Film4 recently the word "masterpiece" was being thrown around on Twitter. I thought I'd like it, sweeping generalisations aside, I like Japanese films and culture but it didn't work for me. Nothing about it grabbed it in any meaningful way. I saw nothing masterful and didn't care about any of the characters. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood, maybe I am just a philistine, it's possible I wasn't paying attention but unfortunately I doubt I'll give the film another chance to see if I was wrong.
Oh dear. I'd heard some bad reviews but I still wasn't expecting this to be so damn boring. Watching the original film last week I was surprised how fresh everything still seemed nine years later, here everything already feels tired and clichéd. It doesn't even look that great with inconsistent styles being more distracting than engaging. In fact all the things that people complained about in the first film are true here: most of the violence is unnecessary, women are treated badly and have lost their clothes, it drags on for too long and is mostly just boring.
Earlier this week I gave a harsh 1.5 star rating to War Horse mostly because it was made by talented people but the end result was a horrible mess and huge disappointment. I had no expectations from Tower Heist and whilst I can't begin to claim it's a good film I was happy to sit through it and be mildly entertained along the way.
This review reportedly contains spoilers.
I really wanted to like Two Days, One Night more. Glancing at other reviews and hearing other people on the way out it seems that there are plenty of people for whom the film really worked. I'm not alone in my disappointment, one disgruntled partner on the way out complained that it was basically the same 10 minutes repeated for 90 minutes and whilst that is an exaggeration it's based on a truth. The problem when a film doesn't grab you is that all the bad points seem to bubble up to the surface. I was completely prepared to overlook what seemed like an improbable (and illegal?) set up to serve up a central conceit to tell a story. I hoped the film would offer an interesting yet mundane look at weekend life (something the Twitter account @satscenes does really well) but each visit does end up being essentially the same. Sandra arrives at the house, all the women are at home but then men are out doing something else. Despite looking up most of the addresses in the phone book, no one thinks to ring to either check anyone's at home or just do the conversation over the phone. There's little conflict, most people are in the same situation and so we move onto the next.
One of my problems isn't with the film but how the term "bonus" has become completely misused by society; it's supposed to be something extra not something to rely on and so everybody's dilemma feels less real.
Disappointing then because I ended up being annoyed by both Sandra and the film in many small ways which all added up. The ending is really well done and it would make an excellent short film.
* spoilers follow*
How is what Sandra doing any different from the foreman rigging the first vote? Half the film she tells others how people are going to vote and then suddenly it's a secret ballot but at the end the two groups visibly split and identify themselves. Despite facing redundancy, they eat out in a restaurant, stop for ice cream, buy small bottles of water from a corner shop on a hot day spent in a car. Even the title is confusing, it's supposed to be Saturday, Sunday and Sunday evening when she's talking to people but it doesn't feel like those are full days and Sandra spends most of the time sleeping, which I know is related to her depression which is handled quite well but not really integrated into the story well enough.
If I'd known War Horse was this bad I would have happily let it slip through the cracks and remain unseen. Even now it seems inconceivable that a Spielberg film, co-written by Richard Curtis with a great cast could end up so spiritless and dull. In places the script sounds like it was written by a ten year old with some truly awful lines and at least two "oh pur-lease" moments (which I've instantly forgotten).
The opening scenes are terrible, essentially an hour about ploughing a field. Worse, despite being shot on location, everything looks like it was filmed on green screen and has a terrible unnatural look. It looks like something out of Lord Of The Rings and not in a good way. The music in these scenes is also overbearing so John Williams can also add his name to the list of people who should be ashamed of themselves.
Things do improve once the war starts and there are occasional moments when the film looks like it's being directed by someone of Spielberg's calibre. Unfortunately there's another unnecessary diversion with a bland sequence at a windmill which adds nothing apart from minutes to the already excessive running time.
Many scenes feel too theatrical and don't translate to film, the more cinematic scenes also seem out of of place which means very little of the final product works. I starting wondering if they'd recorded a voice for the horse (I imagined Morgan Freeman) but realised that it was too ludicrous; at least that would explain why they thought the finished film wasn't as bad as everybody else seems to think it is.
If War Horse has been made by anybody else it probably wouldn't have seemed as bad but everybody involved in this film is capable of so much more and this is a huge embarrassment.
In nine years I don't think anything else has come close to capturing the style of Sin City. It many ways it's a shame that the over the top violence distracts from stunning look of the film. This really is one of the most beautiful films I've seen and a rare occasion when an effects lead film stands the test of time. Unfortunately there's too much story for one film which means things drag on but I also wouldn't know what to lose. Perhaps if Sin City were being filmed today it would be as a TV series and I have a feeling that the episodic format would have been a better fit.