Jun 012016
 

JamesWhite

Though it was a quieter month at the cinema – just four trips – I got through a heap of viewing at home. Some of this viewing was in preparation for Sydney Film Festival. Some of it was catching up on films I missed at the cinema, on digital platforms. I ended up watching 29 films and 15 episodes of TV. But, more importantly, I finished two projects I had been working on for months. The first: Bond. I watched all 24 James Bond films and ranked them here. The second: Goosebumps. In one of the most ambitious and foolish things I have ever attempted, I re-read all 62 of the original Goosebumps novel series, and ranked and wrote about each one. The idea, to spark some nostalgia and to take once R.L. Stine fans through each novel and give the experience of re-living them. Also, it serves as a guide on which ones to never ever read again.

In addition to all this I recently began reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Tremendous work, but deeply scarring. I have read over 400 pages in a short amount of time, and am struggling to emotionally process some of this beautiful, but distressing story. On the TV front I have been addicted to The Thick of It, a perfect tonic to a long tough day at the office, but haven’t really given much time to anything else. Albums of the month go to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and James Blake’s The Colour in Everything. 

Coming up in June: Sydney Film Festival. Check back in regularly for reviews and a series of diary entries. Some thoughts on fresh watches after the jump:

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Theatrical Screenings

Green RoomTerrifyingly intense and plausible, survival instinct on bloody overdrive v. clinical business preservation. All hail Imogen Poots. A big jump in skill and craftsmanship for Jeremy Saulnier. (4/5)

The Nice GuysReviewed (3.5/5)

Bad Neighbours 2 – Reviewed (3.5/5)

Alice Through the Looking GlassIt is just never as trippy as it should be despite some inspired production, effects and a great Sacha Baron Cohen performance. An improvement on Burton’s dire effort, but still pretty lackluster stuff (2/5).

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New-at-Home

The Spy Who Loved Me – Certainly the best-made of the Moore outings, and one of the most spectacular films in the entire series. I mean, check out the way this opening sequence ends. Carly Simon’s Bond theme is one of the very best too. Then there’s  Jaws, the henchman with metal chompers, Carl Jurgens’ megalomaniac wishing to launch World War III and start a new civilisation under the sea, and Barbara Bach’s very capable Soviet KBG agent/sidekick Triple X. One of the few films in the series to generate awe, so at the end of the day it is just a ripper of a film. (4/5)

Octopussy – Considered by many to be one of the worst, but I found it to be amongst Moore’s strongest outings as 007. Yes, that title is ridiculous and ‘All Time High’ may be the worst Bond theme song, but Octopussy is a rare Bond film that doesn’t waste a minute of its runtime. It is Bond on overdrive – suturing electrifying action sequences (the train!) with sexy rendezvous on women-only islands and adventurous shortcuts through the jungle. It doesn’t let up and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, the clowns and all. (4/5)

James WhiteA brilliantly acted NYC-set life-in-disarray study with a sobering sense of stakes. (4/5)

For Your Eyes Only – The final Bond film I watched. Claims that it is Moore’s most serious and sobering Bond outing are accurate, but it nevertheless remains a whole lot of fun, and secured Moore as my personal favourite 007. Carole Bouquet’s revenge mission packs an emotional punch, the underwater sequences are superbly photographed and Bond’s navigation of the shifting allegiances between Greek businessman Aris Kristatos, and his drug smuggling rival, is deftly scripted. But, what was it with that sexed-up blonde figure skater? (3.5/5)

Grimsby – SBC’s best work since Borat? Hilarious spy spoof and endearing celebration of brotherhood, and family. Loved that it makes you recalibrate what qualifies as ‘too far’, and never wastes a joke. (3.5/5)

Kung Fu Panda 3The trilogy’s weakest (so far)- the plot is hurried, and some of the characters get distractingly short-changed – but this is still some of Dreamworks’ best work. Great family entertainment, with powerful messages about what identity, family and nurturing potential. Looks beautiful, as you’d expect, with some nifty score progressions(3.5)

DheepanA dubious Palme d’Or winner last year, but it tells a timely story of freedom in the wake of suffering, and the struggle to maintain that freedom when the hyenas of war again arrive at your doorstep. This is a confused film; on one hand telling a compelling immigrant story – a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior flees to France with a woman (not his wife) and a young girl (not his daughter) – which is essentially an undercover mission to start a new life, and building a volatile and unpredictable environment to test the acclimation. Then, it becomes a different film entirely – a violent one, dealing with the resurface of repressed psychological trauma when that fleeting harmony comes under threat. (3/5)

Mei Ren You [The Mermaid]I didn’t know what to expect here, but I’d heard things. Including that it became China’s highest grossing film of all time. Somehow. It is a genuinely bonkers environmental-awareness/anti-development/romance hybrid that is manages to run a gauntlet of hysterical and inspired to shoddy and terrible. There’s also…no action? (3/5)

EntertainmentHe is a loathesome offensive brute, and yet I can’t look away. Flirts with unwatchability, but there was something mesmerising about this comic’s fade into the wasteland of American failure. (2.5/5)

Moonraker – A weird one. Bond goes into space, so it is completely absurd, and yet early on a woman is mauled to death by dogs. Despite pigeon double-takes and Clint Eastwood impersonations it isn’t the barrel of laughs I expected. Oh, and Dr Goodhead? Come on now. (2/5)

The Lady in the VanThe only memorable feature is Smith, who plays a cantankerous old bat. Well. Again. (2/5)

Gods of EgyptWell, it isn’t really trying to be anything other than silly, I don’t think, but it doesn’t even do a good job at that. Still, there are worse things out there. (1.5/5)

I have also watched a bunch of pre-SFF screeners that I cannot yet discuss. They include: A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, Girl Asleep, Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil, Sonita, Morris From America, Let Them Come, Kate Plays Christine, Blood Father, A Fish, In Jackson Heights, Non Fiction Diary

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Re-watches

Carol – (4.5/5)

Spectre – (4/5)

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TV

The Thick of It S2 E3 (Season – 4/5)

The Thick of It Season 3 (5/5)

The Think of It [Special] – ‘Rise of the Nutters’ (4/5)

The Thick of It [Special] – ‘Spinners and Losers’ (4/5)

Casual S1 E2-3

Hap & Leonard S1 E2-3

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