Dec 012015
 

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Krysten Ritter filming "Jessica Jones" on March 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)

I watched a total of 29 films in November, with a third of them experienced in the cinema. As we near the end of the year publicity screenings start to increase rapidly, with distributors trying to show their December and January films before the Christmas break. December is going to be an equally busy month, and we can look forward to The Revenant, Star Wars and Carol amongst many more. In addition to these screenings, we attended the British Film Festival, which yielded the month’s top film. On home viewing, I have been enjoying working through all of James Bond films, inspired by the release of Spectre. With ten down (including what I understand to be Connery’s best and Brosnan’s worst), I should be able to complete them all before the end of the year. I also caught up with a few intriguing films that eluded me in cinemas (People, Places, Things and Far From Men) as well as a couple of upcoming indie releases The End of the Tour and Mississippi Grind. Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Marvel’s Jessica Jones have taken up a chunk of my viewing time too – and are amongst my favourites shows of the year. I am only five episodes into the latter, but I’ll be adding completion to the December goals too.

Check out my thoughts on everything I watched in November after the jump:

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In Cinemas

Brooklyn – This beautiful and understated romantic drama is pretty close to perfection, and utterly impeccable when the story is in Brooklyn. It tells a universally relatable immigrant story, of the courage it takes to build a life independently in a big city or strange land. It juxtaposes the youthful embrace of a challenge, with the unadventurous comforts of home. Saoirse Ronan and an equally Oscar-worthy Emory Cohen are wonderful; their chemistry delightful, but Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent are also very charming. Costumes, period design, musical score – all divine. (4/5)

Creed – Brash, modern and emotional filmmaking wears its withered nostalgia proudly. Most committed to observing Adonis develop his mental toughness as he searches for his identity, but the bouts are astonishingly shot. Sly and Jordan are fantastic. Full of chilling, heart-wrenching moments, including a single take for the ages. (4/5)

Spectre – Odd chatter with this one, I thought it was a fantastic 007 film. The best Craig since Casino Royale. Loved what Hoyte Van Hoytema brought to the look, the action sequences were spectacular, Seydoux’s sidekick ‘Bond girl’ was one of the more memorable, and the return of goofy classic Bond elements (the ridiculous villain-lair, the mute henchmen) was surprisingly welcome. The final act return to London is disappointing but just about everything preceding it (save for the Bellucci bit) is really strong. (4/5)

The DressmakerMakes a case for one of the weirdest, wildest films of the year. It is incredible that a film this insane has become such a hit crowdpleaser. My audience didn’t know what to make of it. But, it is pretty clear that co-writer and director Jocelyn Moorehouse knows exactly what she is doing here, guiding this unclassifiable concoction of contradictory genres and tones through the plot’s compelling mystery and dark twists and turns, while somehow keeping her film from becoming unruly. Fantastic performances from Winslet, Davis, Weaving and Hemsworth. (4/5)

45 Years – Like [the superior, IMO] Weekend Haigh gives his brilliant performers every chance to shine here, relying on the quiet pauses between exchanges, and looks that tell more than any words could. His efficient screenplay is simple on the surface, but as the ghosts from the past invade the relatively peaceful present, it is an emotionally draining experience. He tugs at and pries open the nuances of the contract of marriage and the psychology of what it means to truly understand another human being. Nothing really to fault here, Rampling and Courtenay are stunning. Having said that, it didn’t bowl me over so I expect I won’t ever have the desire to watch it again. (4/5)

Knight of Cups – Sleepwalking through life, experience, relationships and clinging to fragments – Malick’s kaleidoscope appears initially to elude the full-circle meaning that made The Tree of Life AND To the Wonder such amazing films, but on consideration it is a beautiful, poetic study of Los Angeles, and one man’s desire to escape his cages of manufactured opulence and debauchery in search of the natural beauty of the world. From staring toward the horizon through his floor-to-ceiling glass windows, walking through the desert, to escaping to the beach with his new blonde girlfriend. Malick’s The Great Beauty. Lubezki’s photography continues to dazzle, with some of the year’s most beautiful shots. (3.5/5)

In the Heart of the Sea – Review to come. Epic tale but didn’t emotionally resonate, despite remarkable technical achievements and compelling work from Hemsworth. (3/5)

Suffragette – Carey Mulligan’s fiery and passionate performance elevates everything a tad, but the sacrifices of this one fraction is not amplified to the national movement as a whole and Mulligan’s character is far too convenient a ride through this very important slice of history. Also, every man in this film is “LOATHSOME”, Meryl Streep’s ‘cameo’ speech is so Meryl it is impossible to take seriously, and though the hand-held photography is a risky aesthetic choice – I get why they went with it – its bothersome. (2.5/5)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Reviewed (2.5/5)

Love the Coopers – A very strange and very bad film. My soft spot for bad Christmas movies doesn’t stretch to this. Fails the six laugh test, and most of them come within the film’s funniest minute (an hour plus in). There is a moment when split quadrants of the screen are used, and a decision is made to see what the dog is up to. They totally knew their human characters were unlikable and uninteresting. (1.5/5)

Queen of the Desert – A disastrously terrible film. Herzog waffles around in the desert, creates an appallingly written, structureless bore with some of the worst acting I have seen in a serious film for a long time. (1/5)

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New-at-Home

The End of the Tour – Reviewed (4.5/5)

Dr. NoPerhaps the most complete Bond film I have seen to date. Nay a foot wrong in its efficient, low-key screenplay, building an intriguing mystery that ends with Bond infiltrating (along with iconic Bond Girl Ursula Andress) a secret island lair that’s so wonderfully inventive. Also holds up really well from a visual perspective. Seriously, better than the Brosnan ones decades later. (4/5)

Risky BusinessI knew it featured an iconic early Tom Cruise performance, but I didn’t expect this unusual blend of teenage angst and American go-get enterprising to work so well. Plus the involvement of Tangerine Dream helps a lot. (4/5)

GoldfingerIconic. Has the flashy car, the substantial villain/henchman and the one-liners that would define Bond forever. It also has unusual pacing. There isn’t a lot of action – Bond and Goldfinger play golf  for ages – but its not that interested in shoot-em-up stuff. This is a ‘spy’ movie. (4/5)

Girl Walk // All DayPure joy. You can watch it here for free. (4/5)

People, Places, Things – Flight of the Conchord’s Jemaine Clement is so charming and funny here, and this is a lovely little NYC-tale of separations, single-fatherhood struggles and fresh starts. (3.5/5)

Far From MenA reclusive, unbecoming schoolteacher (the ever-fascinating Viggo Mortensen speaking fluid French and Arabic here) is tasked with escorting a convicted murderer to a nearby village for trial. On the journey fate results in these men allying and together fleeing the rumbling rebellion around them, with the unforgiving Atlas Mountains the least of their fears. Striking cinematography and a haunting soundscape add class to this maturely crafted and contemplative study of masculinity and redemption. (3.5/5)

Mississippi GrindThis sprawling loosely plotted Southern-set road movie/addiction drama rewards through the fascinating chemistry between Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. It is the story of a man desperate to win, but having grown so comfortable with losing he’s not sure what to do with it the ‘win’ if it comes along. (3.5/5)

ThunderballMore money (and it shows, that finale scuba fight must have been a nightmare), more gadgets, more beautiful women, but sadly more plot. It is very very long, but enjoyable. (3/5)

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Re-Watches

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage – Top-class Argento debut. An obsessive amateur-sleuth procedural with a ton of suspense. Argento, in his debut feature, wrangled Ennio Morricone in for the score. (4/5)

Casino Royale – My favourite Bond film so far. One of the strongest stories, Craig’s best performance as Bond, and a memorable villain in Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre. (4/5)

Of Horses and MenI still don’t know how this film was made. It is an incredible technical feat, and one of the funniest films I have seen in years. (4/5)

From Russia With LoveI did a big about-turn on this. On first look about three years ago I hated it, but this time I found a lot to admire, and having seen a few more Connery-as-Bond films understand why it is considered one of the favourites in the franchise. (3.5/5)

Quantum of SolaceAs a Bond film, it is a weird one. But as a hardcore (violent) action film it is very good. Pity it is shot and edited so poorly at times, because there are some brilliant moments in this. And then there is Gemma Arterton’s character, who is…embarrassing. (3/5)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Holds up very poorly. Very drawn out – the victim of the unnecessary split of the final novel – but save for a few sequences it barely engages for long periods. (2.5/5)

The World is Not Enough – Back when I was 12, and maybe a little obsessed with Denise Richards, I enjoyed this. It’s a slog to sit through, but its certainly not as bad as what was to come next. (2/5)

Die Another Day This. Terrible. No redeeming qualities whatsoever. (1/5)

I also watched The Man Who Knew Infinity but for professional reasons I cannot discuss it.

TV

Jessica Jones S1 E1-5 – Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of Marvel. Certainly the most intense and…adult. Jones is a flawed, fascinating character and the procedural drama is prickly. Love Ritter’s little tics – she’s committed – and the sly revelations around David Tennant’s villainous Killgrave. There’s a reveal at the end of the fourth episode that is a wonderful collaboration of editing and music and sums up the consistent high quality (so far). (4/5)

Master of None S1 E1-10 – Most people know Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation but this guy is now taking over. This is a good thing. His stand-up shows are hilarious, and his new show takes those clever nuggets of observation (about topics ranging from dating, parenting, immigrant stories, to the portrayal of Indians in popular culture) and builds his character into them. Dev is charming and likeable, his friends feel like his real friends, and it is continuously on-point with modern life. It isn’t quite as funny as say, Curb Your Enthusiasm or as ‘fuck convention’ as Louie, but it’s a fantastic observational comedy that I hope takes off.  (4/5)

Scream Queens S1 Various – Still fun. (3.5/5)

W/ Bob and David S1 E1-2 A patchy sketch show that I think benefits from some exposure with the duo’s previous collaborations. Still, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have not tainted their reputations as very funny men. (3/5)

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