So, with a perfect wedding and lovely but cut-short-by-cyclone Honeymoon to start the month – on Hamilton Island and Fiji respectively – there was a bit of a break from film, TV and media. I read books. Several. While lounging around the villa or by the pool I read The Circle, Night Train and The Cuckoo’s Calling, while I still have not quite finished 11.23.63. The latter is shaping up to be one of Steven King’s very best, and all of the the others ascend in quality.
We also invested in a new PS4 game – Dragon Age: Inquisition – and I now know what addiction is. This game is amazing. With an enormous, beautifully crafted world, immersive story with interesting characters and an often-daunting amount of gameplay options, this is RPG at a level I have never experienced. So, with work, this game and the occasional film (20) I have kept myself pretty busy.
What has been shortchanged? Reviews, mostly. You can find my brief thoughts on everything I watched in March below:
A Most Violent Year – Another brilliant piece of work from J.C Chandor (All is Lost), who I wholeheartedly trust. Oscar Isaac (how good is this guy?), Jessica Chastain and Albert Brooks are all fantastic. Lots of emotional heft here, the complexities of the narrative mount without one even realising. And props to Bradford Young for more fine work. (4.5/5)
The Salt of the Earth – Had more in common with The Man Who Planted Trees than I was expecting. Including being wonderful. What a life this man had. A document of the ability of man to repair the world he forever tears apart. It is also a study of the way that art changes an artist, as the art itself evolves. Some of the captures, with that accompanying music, sent chills down my spine. (4/5)
Shaun the Sheep – Reviewed (4/5)
‘71 – Reviewed (4/5)
Big Eyes – A change for Burton, which is nice to see. The period details are ace. This is a fascinating true story of art stripped of it’s personality and exploited for fame/commodity. The work’s source of inspiration lost in the desire to possess rather than appreciate. That was interesting, but the film doesn’t take too many risks on the way. Really flabby middle, and a genuinely silly finale. It is never all that funny, but the tonal shift to darker domestic-abuse thriller is very jarring. Waltz distractingly OTT. One of his worst performances. (2.5/5)
Chappie – Still not sure what to make of the wild, hyperactive genre-mash that is Chappie, but I know that Blomkamp (of District 9 fame) falls to sub .500. There are some interesting ideas in there dealing with artificial authority, and the ability to fuse human consciousness with a machine, but the Khaki-shorted, mulleted Hugh Jackman is memorably bad. He’s one of the worst screen villains since, well, Sharlto Copley in Elysium. Gets points for the effects, which are seamless, but I was not emotionally engaged with Chappie at all. (2.5/5)
Focus – Occasionally amusing and stylishly photographed con-artist study, but repeatedly cheats audience with elaborately explained and questionable twists, and frustratingly elusive character motivations. I pretty much went for Margot Robbie, and she was…fine and fine. (2/5)
New at Home
The Secret of Kells – Remember when this shocked everybody and was nominated for Best Animated Film? Umm…it is great. It is gorgeous – visually and musically – and the story doesn’t muck about. (4/5)
Hot Rod – I really like Andy Samberg’s comedy and Hot Rod was the perfect bike for it. So silly, but chockers with funny. And it has the secret weapon: Bill Hader. (3.5/5)
The Dead Lands – Authentic-feeling pre-colonial Maori tribe-war revenge thriller has brutal, well-shot conflict. It is not quite ‘great’ though. Slim on story but layers battle sequences with a fascinating sense of spiritual connection to land, family and legacy. (3.5/5)
Escobar: Paradise Lost – We finally got Medellin, with Del Toro perfect casting. Interesting angle to story – following surfer dude Hutcherson who marries into the Escobar ‘family’ – and it ramps up tension pretty well in latter half. (3/5)
Better Living Through Chemistry – All the points go to Sam Rockwell here. As is often the case, he is better than the film he is in. This clear straight-to-DVD comedy about a dissatisfied pushover pharmacist/family man who prescribes his own chemically-influenced life shake-up has ‘just’ than enough laughs to entertain for 90 minutes. (3/5)
Our Day Will Come – I could watch Vincent Cassel in anything, and he’s magnetic again here, but this aggressively immoral, angry, demented road movie is ugly stuff. It’s a love it or hate it, and I mostly hated it. I just struggled to understand what Cassel’s bitter, racist and genuinely repulsive counselor/psychiatrist’s motivation was; tagging along with a wayward teenage outcast on an anarchic, crime-riddled journey to Ireland (or self-imposed oblivion, whatever comes first). To install himself in his life, wherever it is headed, and try and help him find what he is searching for at any cost? There is an emotional complexity to his character that only a gifted performer like Cassel could add, but Gavras’ ideas don’t really gel into anything satisfying. (2/5)
Re-watches (In Order of Preference)
Inherent Vice (4.5/5)
While We’re Young (4/5)
Speed Racer (4/5)
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (3.5/5)
The Witches (3.5/5)
You’ve Got Mail (3.5/5)
Bored to Death S2 E1,2,3,4,5,6 – The second season hasn’t missed a beat, with the trio finding themselves in even more outrageous situations. Galifainakas has never been better and Ted Danson will become a legend of television comedy.
The Last Man on Earth S1 E1,2,3,4,5,6,8 – The first few episodes were hilarious; the editing and timing of the visual humour perfect. This is a great role for Will Forte, and January Jones makes a seamless transition into comedy. The last four episodes, however, have been very disappointing. I hope it bounces back.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S1 E1 – Not for me. Catchy theme song though.
American Crime S1 E1 – Timothy Hutton is great in the pilot episode. The rest..isn’t. Will persevere (but haven’t yet). This show is trying waaay too hard.
Peaky Blinders S1 E5 – I like this show, but I lump it together with shows like Deadwood. I can watch one episode (maybe two) at a time, but that 58 (ish) minutes has begun to feel like a drag.
Togetherness S1 6,7,8 – There were some rough patches because the characters are so sad (Brett in particular), but I can’t deny that the season ended well.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine S2 Various – Makes me happy every week.