This month I focused more on watching television. I set myself a goal to watch a number of shows in their entirety, and succeeded. Mostly. I also managed to watch quite a few films (24) – more on VOD at home than in the cinema, surprisingly enough. We did attend the Avengers: Age of Ultron premiere, which was a fun night, but that was the only screening. We set ourselves an enlightening Easter long weekend marathon – to watch a number of filmmakers’ debut films. Andrea Arnold, Jean-Luc Godard and Christopher Nolan amongst them.
I continued to work my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PS4 and am nearing the conclusion. If I play a better game in 2015 I am a lucky newly-inspired gamer.
You can check out some brief thoughts on everything I have watched in April after the jump:
Avengers: The Age of Ultron – Reviewed (4/5)
Black Sea – Reviewed (3.5/5)
Cinderella – Classic tale elegantly told, genuinely lovely and wisely conventional. Ace casting of James and Madden. The entirety of ball sequence was very clever. Enjoyed. (3.5/5)
Red Road – Loved the use of CCTV footage and Andrea Arnold’s ability to keep key plot details hidden. Transforms in surprising ways. Part of the Debut Features marathon, and easily the best one of the lot. (4/5)
Re-Animator – A relentless pace ensures this zips by. Schlock-tastic extreme-gore man-made Zombie fun, with an unusual sense of humour. Herbert West is an icon. Now I get why this has become a cult classic. Trailed Evil Dead and The Thing by a few years, but amongst the genre innovators. One of the great scores in a horror film, too. (4/5)
Coherence – Wait. What? I got right into this very clever zero-budget indie, which offers up a series of sci-fi Primer-esque incomprehensible paradoxes merged with credible chamber drama. It’s trappings becoming jarringly evident at times when the exposition seeps in, but I loved the mostly-naturalistic feeling dialogue and performance. Sticks with you, and demands a second look. (4/5)
Wet Hot American Summer – Everything I hoped it would be. That wonderful cast alone. Hilarious pop satire with a barrage of sketches that share a rare Python-esque unity. (4/5)
Following – Funny enough, turns out to be one of Nolan’s best. Can certainly see where Memento spawned from. This no-budget crime noir toys with time and perspective in clever ways. Kept me guessing all the way and the B&W/handheld aesthetics are effective. (4/5)
Dear White People – Still struggling to articulate my feelings about this film, but it came together very well and has continued to appreciate since. The four central characters, who all have striking features, are all fully realised characters and are portrayed by superb young performers. (3.5/5)
Lost River – Narrative shortcomings obviously, and clear cinematic influences (Malick, Refn, Cianfrance included), but it is never boring. Often beautiful, atmospheric, interesting and with a hypnotic soundscape. Mendelsohn as his reptilian best. (3.5/5)
I Hate Christian Laettner – As an NBA fan this was right up my alley. A very entertaining doco, and a fascinating insight into a competitor I remember watching play in the latter stages of his career. He was a rare 90’s college-level basketball celebrity who achieved greatness widely despised by the populace, and left behind a legacy that still stirs commentary today. He hit one of the biggest shots in college history and balanced an air of pretty-boy privilege with a bullying enforcer-esque toughness. And he had the ability to make teammates better. I certainly didn’t hate Christian Laettner at the end of this doco. In fact, I respected him immensely. Guy could ball. (3.5/5)
Louis C.K: Live at the Beacon Theatre – Comedy is dependent on taste, and there are were number of jokes here that didn’t work for me. But, there is a heap of comedy gold. I have been watching a lot of Louie, and thought I’d complement with one of his stand-up shows. (3.5/5)
Living is Easy (With Eyes Closed) – A pleasant film. The great Spanish actor Javier Camara leads this unusual roadtrip film. Was selected as Spain’s representative for the Foreign Language Oscar, and while it was too slight in story to ever pose a challenge there, I expect this is one of Spain’s top films from 2014. (3.5/5)
World of Tomorrow – It’s good. There are a lot of jaw-dropping moments (that second-to-last shot, whoa), but the way people have been talking about this film I kind of expected it to be, like, the best film ever made. (3.5/5)
It’ Such A Beautiful Day – See above. Will probably get crucified for this reaction, but I didn’t love this. I actually thought it was too long. Then I learned that this was comprised of three separate short films (each interesting) connected together, and the sense of disjointedness made sense. Still, the amount of emotion squeezed out such simplicity is incredible. (3/5)
Listen Up Phillip – Not narrated by Anthony Bourdain? This would have been more fun if it was narrated by Anthony Bourdain. A not-enjoyable study of the ‘who-cares’ woes of elitist writers, but oddly entertaining dialogue and cast. After reading some opinion pieces on this film I have appreciated it more, but I won’t ever be watching it again. (3/5)
Camp X-Ray – Strong performances from Kristen Stewart (who I like a lot) and Peyman Moadi, and well-intentioned, but kinda dull. (3/5)
Mad Max – What is everyone on about? This is not very good at all. Open-road driving porn, and reeeaaaallly thin on story. (2/5)
Breathless – J-LG hugely-influential technique, stripped bare narrative, sharp dialogue and stars’ sense of style is undeniably iconic. (4/5)
Interstellar – Well, I might have been wrong about some of this. I got quite emotional at the end on a second look – sitting in my living room, watching this on my laptop with Zimmer’s [wonderful] score blaring through my headphones. So different to the IMAX experience that did not engage me. Still has lots of problems, and it is the longest thing, but its scope seemed to transcend the tiny screen and I appreciated almost everything that little bit more. (3.5/5)
Back to the Future Part III – I always had it in my head that Part III was the second strongest in the trilogy. After the somewhat convoluted second chapter this favors simplicity. And it is a throwback to Wild West/Eastwood films, and that’s a lot of fun. (3.5/5)
Back to the Future Part II – I forgot just how clever this film is, and the way it manages to make its pretty complex series of overlapping realities and time periods easy to absorb. Plus, it ingeniously ties back into the events of the first film. (3.5/5)
James and the Giant Peach – I remember this being better, but I was a kid the last time I saw it. Pretty trippy. A solid Dahl adaptation. (3/5)
Mission: Impossible – Ahhh Brian De Palma. It is obviously his film early on. Like the big twist. How was I ever surprised by that reveal? Some classic moments, but after all this defending of Tom Cruise recently (seriously, he has been great) I concede defeat here. He’s terrible in this. (3/5)
Black Mirror S1 – Three mini feature films that are better (in smarts and prescience) than almost everything I have seen this year. Highlight: Fifteen Million Credits. (5 / 5)
Black Mirror S2 – A shade weaker than season one, for me. But still terrifying. Highlight: White Bear. (4.5 / 5)
Louie S4 – So weird and random. Louis C.K does it all. We follow Louie on his bizarre daily adventures as he grapples with the trials and tribulations of being a single dad in New York city. This show feels less like a scripted show than anything I have seen (it even has Curb beat here), and it is consistently genius. I have to track back to the first three seasons. I am obsessed with this guy. (4 / 5)
The Layover S1 – The ultimate escape. No traveler of the world is more entertaining to follow than Anthony Bourdain, who just doesn’t give a fuck, and does whatever he wants. That’s fine, because they usually happen to be the things I like doing. I have serious travel bug. (4 / 5)
House of Cards S3 E1-8 – 8 episodes in and so far this is much better than the pretty ordinary second season. But still less than engrossing television. Will report back next month when I have finished.
Daredevil S1 E1,2 – Yeah, this is good so far. Top casting, Daredevil’s origin story is interesting and it features excellent action + excellent cast chemistry and dialogue. Whoa!
Bored to Death S2 E7,8 – I love this show. Simple as that.
The Last Man on Earth S1 E9,10 – Better lately, but the first episode of this show is still far superior to everything has has come since.