Feb 282015

Throughout the month of February I watched a total of 25 films. I started out with half a dozen straight at the cinema, but have cooled off since then and been catching up with French Film Festival screeners and DTV stuff since then. It has been a rom-com/Daniel Radcliffe month.

Horns, film still

In my limited spare time I played NBA Live 15, Child of Light, Drive Club and The Last of Us on PS4 and worked through Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’. We have also been busy getting the final preparations for the wedding together, it is a feat I managed to achieve this much.

All of the categories after the jump are ranked in order of preference:

Theatrical Screenings


Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson has done it again. The vastly-threaded narrative requires strict attention, but at the same time it is rewarding to just relax and luxuriate in its plethora of riches and not worry about putting all of the pieces together. About as good an adaptation as is possible of Pynchon’s novel I’d say. Phoenix is amazing…again. Review to come soon. (4.5/5)

CitizenFour – A terrifying film. Loaded with audio and visual data, often simultaneously, with a striking sense of immediacy and scope. The sourced information comes from within the trappings of Snowden’s ruffled hotel room and is delivered to the global headlines hours later. Extraordinary privilege to witness this process. Imagine watching this, Dirty Wars and Inside Job back to back? I am not sure I could contain my anger about the state of the world we live in. (4/5)

The Gambler – Reviewed (3.5/5)

Top Five – Personal celebrity-insider study about sticking to your honest self; both sincere and crass. Over-stretches a bit, but often very funny. Littered with hilarious cultural tidbits and cameos. And provokes immediate consideration: Who’s your top five? (3.5/5)

The Theory of Everything – Reviewed (3.5/5)

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Sharp suits, sharp legs, and a whole lot of Bond-esque try-hard. That’s the key point I think, it is trying waaaaay to hard. Plenty of the usual Matthew Vaughn ingredients – a blindness to the artificiality masking any attempt at satire (Kick Ass), bloodthirsty decapitations and impossible takedowns by young super humans (Kick-Ass again), young ‘specially skilled’ people training at a large estate (X-Men: First Class) and casual sexism and homophobia curiously amongst them. The fact that I haven’t particularly liked any of Vaughn’s films since Layer Cake is the reason I was wary of getting involved in this. Hey, there are some jokes that actually work, some unforgettable moments (the edge-of-your seat skydive challenge, the astounding and sure-to-be classic church massacre and how that all wraps up) but this film gets so preposterous I couldn’t be bothered trying to keep up with it. Especially when the jokes, and political commentary, are so on the nose it is actively trying to aggravate. A dapper-dan Colin Firth seems to be having a great time, Michael Caine plays Alfred…I mean Arthur…and Jackson is the brunt of a peculiar running joke that never drew a laugh, personally. I just don’t know who this film is for. 16-year-old boys who are cheering that they can now see violent films without their parents? A generally obnoxious individual at the very least, I imagine. (2.5/5)

Rosewater – Prior to Bahari’s capture this is an interesting story of ethical journalism in a hostile environment, but the monotonous questioning, and claustrophobic imprisonment, reveals that Stewart isn’t a great director at all. Really quite tiresome, and disappointing. Couple of things: Bernal is a great actor but he was poor casting here. As was Bodnia, whose forever lemon-shirted specialist was a confusing character indeed. Terrific use of Leonard Cohen, and I would have loved to see more of the underused Haluk Bilginer (Winter Sleep). (2/5)

Jupiter Ascending – Channing Tatum is on neutral in the Wachowski’s terrible new film, but he’s the clear standout from a very bad cast. Just watch Eddie Redmayne and Mila Kunis in this. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw is there for two whole minutes. What a waste. Self-aware campiness and the considerable visual pleasures offer no saviour here. I wasn’t so much bored as in “can I go home now?” but I was just numb as to what was going on plot-wise, what was actually happening in the chaotic action sequences and what all of this confusing hodgepodge of design decisions ultimately added up to. The fact that I am laughing to myself when thinking back on this mess means that this will never be a film I hate. I like that the Wachowski’s make films the way they want to. I defend the brilliant Speed Racer, and loved the recent Cloud Atlas, but this was bad. (1.5/5)

I also watched Love and Mercy, but for professional reasons I cannot discuss it or present an opinion.

New at Home


Toys – Reviewed (4/5)

Sleepless in Seattle – THE Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com before You’ve Got Mail, which I saw with my family at a young age and enjoyed very much. Similar feelings here. (4/5)

Les Combattants [Love at First Fight] – Reviewed. (4/5)

What If – Before watching this I still wasn’t convinced that Daniel Radcliffe was a particularly good actor. Well, now I am sure he’s got some skills. He’s fantastic here as the endearing lead in a rom com?. A warm, witty and charming rom-com. Zoe Kazan is a perfect manic pixie dream girl and Adam Driver inserts so much energy whenever he is on-screen. Lovely snapshot of the great city of Toronto too. Directed by Michael Dowse, who made Goon. Also worth a look. (3.5/5)

When Harry Met Sally – I didn’t love it, but I get the love. Billy Crystal is excellent. Pretty dated now, but obviously influential. See What If. (3.5/5)

Jimmy’s Hall – During a disgraceful period of Irish history, a movement – via an influential culture hall – opposes Church power/hypocrisy. The story is very upsetting, but there’s optimism, with Ken Loach adopting a no-nonsense style to build a core group of characters we grow to support. (3.5/5)

Fort Bliss – Solid drama. Michelle Monaghan is terrific and entirely credible as a woman struggling to assimilate with life outside of the army and her dual allegiances – to her ongoing army medic responsibilities, and young estranged son who she risks losing in a custody battle. Takes some predictable and familiar directions – straining for that extra emotion – but this extremely tough situation is handled with honesty. (3/5)

Horns – About 60% of this unusual, trashy and inexplicably compelling mess of a film worked really well. The premise itself – a young man, believed responsible for the rape and murder of his longtime girlfriend, suddenly sprouts devil horns and draws the darkest secrets and desires out of anyone in his presence as he searches for the real killer – and Radcliffe’s commanding all-American bad-boy performance, is enough to keep this watchable. I am trying to understand why this film tried to be funny, because it dropped the ball almost every time it plays for laughs. Aja, who I don’t mind as a filmmaker, struggles with this stuff. As a whodunit/macabre fantasy thriller, it is pretty neat. The lengthy flashbacks to Ignacius’ childhood stifled the flow of the present narrative – more compelling by far. Things also get pretty silly late in the final act too, once the reveal has occurred. Radcliffe is great, Juno Temple is underused but also very good, and Joe Anderson plays a trumpet. (3/5)

Saint Laurent – Allure wears off with its unjustified length but this is an aesthetically ace study of YSL’s struggle with dissatisfaction and addiction through his hey-day. Plenty of shots of beautiful people dancing at nightclubs, and that’s okay. The music and photography throughout excellent. (3/5)

Eddie Murphy: Delirious – 22yr old Murphy letting it rip, revealing incredible comedic skillset. Often horrifyingly offensive, but his impressions are amazing. (3/5)

God Help The Girl – Pretty thin on plot, but I feel like I connect to any film about the rejuvenating power of music, and creative inspiration. And this one has its share of charm. This is super-twee – dogs delivering messages and lines like: “I like your knees” – but the performances are decent and there are some catchy musical sequences in there. It just drifts away, though. (2.5/5)

The Eiger Sanction – Dumb. A spectacular Alps setting and ‘holy shit!’ climbing footage is pretty much undone by a pointless story that takes a lengthy detour through the desert before hitting the peaks that everyone came for. Watchable enough though, with some great early classic-Eastwood lines, despite the token sexism throughout. (2/5)

The Little Death – There’s an excellent final vignette starring T.J Power and Erin James (the touching relay phone service call between a young deaf man and a sex-call service), that is a complete about-turn to the rest of this bothersome, misjudged and largely boring film. Patrick Brammall the other pick of the cast. He is very good in a selfish, nasty little story. A sporadically, and I mean very sporadically, interesting look at the sexual fantasies of suburban middle-aged couples (I know, who cares!), and how their miscommunications have disastrous (and contrived) effects. Except for Josh Lawson’s character, of course, who manages to be forgiven after organising a ‘realistic’ fake rape of his girlfriend, by busting out a fat diamond ring. (2/5)

The Last Diamond – A by-the-numbers heist film that leaves plot holes in its wake and the characters do things you don’t believe. Some decent sequences amongst the outrageous developments, but it is often laughably bad. (2/5)

The New Girlfriend – Oof. I am done with Ozon. Amongst the most needlessly padded-out films I have seen recently. Every shot is a second (or more) too long on either side of the action, the themes tackled had potential but buried under unnecessary titillation and convolution. (1.5/5)

Comet – Woeful. (1/5)

New-to-Me TV (In order of preference)


Much slower month for TV. Back to my usual amount. Minimal. Kept up with these three shows consistently throughout the month, but didn’t binge on anything like in January.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine S2 Various (4/5)

Togetherness S1 E3,4,5 (3/5)

Broadchurch S2 E5,6,7,8  – A sophomore slump. (2.5/5)