Sunday, December 29, 2013

Films I did see in 2-0-1-3

Apropos nothing, here are brief thoughts on all the films I saw at the cinema this year.  (A couple of them are 2012 releases, 'cos I missed them last year and saw showings at my excellent local arts centre, the Farnham Maltings, which tends to show films a month or more after their general release.  So there.)

Hmm, well.  I was quite excited about this one what with all the plaudits hurled at it but it was a bit of a letdown.  Quvenzhané Willis and Dwight Henry were both fantastic as the leads – especially when you consider they were both amateurs and the former was six – but it never really grabbed me.  I couldn’t sympathise that much with the basic message that the Bathtubbers should basically be left alone.  If they were all adults, fine, but there were kids there.  It rubbed me the wrong way.

Now this was great.  Who other than uber-film nerd Tarantino would think to blend a Western with a blaxpoitation flick?  Surprisingly – considering I don’t really go in for Westerns, the only other one I’ve watched all the way through is the Coens’ adaptation of True Grit – the first half, the Westerny half, was the half I enjoyed more.  It was great all the way through, though.  Full of verve, a movie that’s just so delighted in being utterly itself.  I caught the end on Sky Movies last month and I’d forgotten how blackly funny the massacre at Candieland is.

The first in a little series of Films Based On Books From The Early Noughties That I Wouldn’t Have Thought You Could Make A Film Out Of – see also Cloud Atlas and the forthcoming The Book Thief – this wasn’t amazing, but it was very good.  I saw it in 2D and rather wished I’d seen it in 3D.  Oh well.

Now this was great.  I basically wasn’t bothered at all until they threw all the Oscars at it, and when the Maltings showed it I thought, “Yeah, why not.”  And I loved it, beginning to end.  Funny, thoughtful, touching, tense in places, and it had Chris Tucker in it which probably shouldn’t have worked and yet did!

I can’t decide if this was great or merely good.  Watched it, liked it, thought it wasn’t amazing.  Thought about it some more and it grew in my estimation, so I bought it on Blu-ray.  Watched it again, still thought it was good but not amazing.  Then caught the end of it on Sky Movies the other day and loved it.  So...yeah.  One thing’s for sure, the colours!  So pretty.  And the gaming jokes are delightful.  The “Aerith Lives” graffiti in the subway made me laugh far too hard, and I’ve never even played Final Fantasy VII.

I quite enjoyed this!  Although apparently I was the only person on the planet who did.  It certainly wasn’t up to the standard of the first three, but I thought it was on a similar level to the fourth film.  Apparently I’m weird and have no taste?

Very good, with caveats.  (And possibly some cravats.)  The film-the-singing-live concept worked well on an emotional level, but you could tell several of the stars were struggling – witness poor old Russell Crowe getting flack; I thought he had a perfectly decent voice, but he just didn’t have the lungpower required for Javert’s songs.  Surprisingly, I also thought Hugh Jackman struggled.  And I don’t get why they basically didn’t age him at all – surely that’s one of the great benefits of doing it on film, you can get across the passage of time better than on stage?  And the first time I saw it (ended up seeing it twice) I thought the second half of the film seemed rushed, after doing the first half pretty much as thoroughly as possible.  However, it didn’t seem such a problem on a second viewing.  Other than that, good stuff.  (Anne Hathaway may have made me cry, but I assure you it was a very manly crying...)

Good performances looking for a film worth their while.  Not bad by any length, but a bit “...And?”

Marvel really have got their crowd-pleasing blockbusters down to a fine art, haven’t they?  This was a thoroughly enjoyable effort with just enough spiky undercurrent and genuine intelligence to buoy it up.  While the twist was clever, I think my favourite bit was the goon who gave up – “Honestly, I don’t even like working here.” 

Never boring, but rarely amazing.  It entertained, but it wasn’t up to the last one.  I do like the fact that RoboCop was the head of Starfleet, mind.

And here’s the second book I wouldn’t have thought you could make a film out of!  But they did, and I loved it.  The post-apocalyptic Hawaii bits were the only stumbling block, as they went a bit overboard on futurespeak to the point that it was hard to understand what the heck anyone was saying.  Other than that, top stuff.

This took a little while to get going, but it was great once it was on track (pun entirely intended).  I found the early scenes tricky because I was having trouble focusing on which brother we were watching – despite the fact it told you in little onscreen captions – but once the big adventure was underway it was delightful.  The young cast were superb, too.

Oh, here’s another book they couldn’t have filmed!  So they didn’t and basically made up a new story.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to – its great advantage was that it was unusual in being a zombie movie with a big budget, so it could actually show the virus spreading rather than picking up after the event and asking the audience to imagine it.  That and the awesome Israeli soldier (did she actually have a name?).  In my head she’s eventually going to team up with Daryl out of The Walking Dead and it will be AMAZING.  (It was also refreshing to see an American movie with a properly global view for a change.)  One thing: what the fuck was up with Brad Pitt's hair?

Hmm...I was expecting to absolutely adore this, but I didn’t.  Still good, mind.  I...can’t remember much about it?  Which is fitting for a film about dementia, I guess.

My film of the year!  (Well, it's a tie if you count Silver Linings Playbook, but that's cheating.)  Clever, exciting, funny and surprisingly wistful.  I’ve only watched it the once thus far but I know it’ll reward repeat viewings.  I also love that it’s a sci-fi film that’s entirely original – not based on a comic, or a book, or a reheated idea from somewhere else or whatever.  Plus, the fight scenes were remarkable.  Heaven knows how long they took to set up and rehearse.

Yeah, not bad.  Not amazing, but amiable enough.  I hope Yukio shows up in Days of Future Past, I liked her.

Slow start, but utterly charming once it got going.  Not one of Ghibli’s top tier, but certainly one of their better ones.

Another wholly original sci-fi!  Lovely.  Not District 9-levels of quality, but not too far off.  Looking forward to watching this one again once I pick up the Blu-ray.

Slick, enjoyable, probably falls apart if you think about it too much but that’s a magic trick for you.  Great cast clearly enjoying themselves with a reasonably clever script.  Sometimes that’s all you need.

“Hello, my name is Cate Blanchett, I would like all your awards please.”

I got really excited about this one, so was rather disappointed when it was merely good as opposed to brilliant.  Nice to see a Much Ado take that gives the Hero/Claudio plot as much focus as the Beatrice/Benedick one, mind (even if the H/C plot is still ridiculous).  Overall, though, I think I liked the charming story behind the making of the film more than I liked the film itself.  Go figure.

This ambled along pleasantly enough until the last five minutes really pulled me up short.  Made me think about the film a lot after watching it.  So yeah, excellent work there.

I wasn’t quite as blown away as some people, but bloody hell, that’s how you make a thriller and make special effects work for your film instead of working over your film.  A remarkable piece of craftsmanship.

Good, but lacking the pull of the first film that kept me gripped despite knowing what happens.  Some nice touches (I especially liked bringing Snow’s granddaughter into the series proper), but cleaved too closely to the book overall.  (I can remember the exact moment I’d had enough: when Katniss is held underwater by the mutant baboon thing I thought “Yeah, actually, you could just finish the movie now if you wanted.  I know what’s going to happen, I don’t need to see it.”)

Much better than the first one, although what the fuck was up with the elf-dwarf-elf love triangle?  It was weird and led to scenes that were basically just repeats of bits of The Lord of the Rings.  “Oh no, Frodo’s  Kili’s been stabbed with a Morgul blade shot with a poisoned arrow!  Maybe Arwen’s Tauriel’s healing skills can save him, if only Sam Bofur can find some kingsfoil!” Not really what you need in an already really long film.  Still, other than that I loved it.  Bombur’s barrel-fu was probably the funniest moment I’ve seen in cinema this year.

Entertaining, even if at times it was just reframing old gags from the first one.  I’d’ve liked to have seen more of the surprisingly sweet romance between Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig.

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