30 April 2013

Films Seen in 2013: April

Films I've seen in 2013 for April. The format is: film title (English lang. and/or original language where required -- occasionally a film's alternative title, too); director(s) and year; whether it's a rewatch; starred grade out of 5; numerical grade out of 10 (all grading is subject to change, of course, and intended as merely a personal indicator/reminder). Titles in bold indicate that the film is a 2013 UK first release. Films are listed seen chronologically (as viewed) from bottom to top.

The Verdict (Sidney Lumet/1982) ***½ / 7
Rich, somber filmmaking. Lumet's poised exploration of injustice is entirely enthralling. Newman slowly, quietly sets it alight.

The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges/1941) *** / 6
Fonda adds the kindling; Stanwyck adds the spark. Cracking dialogue. Supporting cast supplement greatly. Very funny, but it meanders. 

Contact (Alan Clarke/1985) *** / 6
Military manoeuvres at a remove. Clarke's skilful direction explores the intensity between exterior action and interior pause.

Life Without Principle (Johnnie To/2011) ***½ / 7
Money matters. Trio of plot strands mostly gel. Makes acute points on financial crisis. A more understated To movie. Sound and edit of a pen furiously crossing out a name (of a failed sale) to flicking notes on a money counter is genius.

Excision (Richard Bates Jr./2012) *** / 6
Very spiky, and has some provoking things to say about conformity. Nicely filmed, too, with some great performances (Lords esp good). After Dark Horse yesterday, it appears that Bates Jr. has made a better Todd Solondz film than Todd Solondz.

Dark Horse (Todd Solondz/2011) *½ / 3
Hate to do the old 'did they see the same film as me?', but having read near unanimous praise for Solondz's film, I'm guessing so. It doesn't seem to have a clear point. Solondz listlessly attacks his same-old concerns (*again*). It descends into weary disarray. Casting Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow in your film and frittering their talents on bland scenes and bare-shell characters is a waste. I didn't grasp any real critique or satire. What's the point of 85 minutes of dour characters going through the motions just, ya know, coz. Donna Murphy was very good, however.

The Paperboy (Lee Daniels/2011) *** / 6
A hotbed of mania. Scene after scene infused with cracked abandon. Enjoyably disjointed; cultishness beckons. Ripe as old fruit. It veers all over the place: score opts for melodrama; its shape, tone suggest noir; rest is up for debate. There's fun to be had. Great to see this cast unabashedly take hold of such material. All interact solidly; perfs. are confident. It's never boring. Love that genuinely odd/untidy commercial fare can still get through in a time of Tran$former$ and King's Speech-y awards bait.

World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries (Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates/2011) *½ / 3
Not so much 'world', more 'a few fields and an outhouse'. Cheap, wobbly-cam, awful chars, same old...

The Heroic Trio

The Heroic Trio (Johnnie To/1992) ***½ / 7
Yeoh, Cheung, Mui. Air combat. Magic sewer worlds. Invisible cloaks. Swords. Motor stunts. Flying. Fighting. It's all good.

Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez/2013) **½ / 5
It grossly ambled by. A few icky high points, but it lacked any character (or good characters). Not great, but not hashed. Unsure why new it's gained more esteem? scrutiny? than other horror remakes. It's the same old thing, all told. Passable but prosaic.

The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance/2012) **** / 8
Crime and corruption circle the years. A broody melodrama with many peaks, a few flaws. Great direction, solid cast. Also, wonderful photography (all dour, inky), score (used well in choice scenes) and use of dissolves to urge the story forward.

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld/2012) **½ / 5
Diverting fun, mostly due to the general Jemaine Clement verbal daftness. Enjoyed the FX work on the aliens too.

Road (Alan Clarke/1987) ****½ / 9
Beer, bitterness, Be-Bop-A-Lula. '80s Britain conveyed as wry, angry street theatre. The characters are like end-of-the-world strays. Clarke's deft genius with his camera draws out the requisite spite and substance of Jim Cartwright's words. Performances are captivating. Scene in a derelict pub (with fire-breather, dancing, jugglers and sad glances) set to the entirety of Mel & Kim's Respectable is amazing. No one's doing now what Clarke did then, whether due to drive, funding, opportunity... His work deserves a comprehensive DVD release.

Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalondo/2011) **½ / 5
Very nicely directed and with fun perfs. It meanders here and there, but has a charming low-key vibe. Might've been better as a short.

Rise of the Zombies (Nick Lyon/2012) ** / 4
Cheap as chips and with a script that scrapes rock bottom. But if I said I was bored I'd be lying. Tinny, groan-worthy fun.

One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later

One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later (James Benning/1977/2005) ****½ / 9
Windows on Milwaukee. Benning's 2 hours of 60-second "still" shots is some of his most fun, surreal and best work.

Downhill Racer (Michael Ritchie/1969) ***½ / 7
Does fame warp absolutely? Detached as hell and persuasive for it. Redford's stillness works wonders. Editing scores highly.

ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell/2012) ***½ / 7
Nicely made and a joy to watch. It gleefully shows its love of horror history and rallies a big cheer for the put upon and different.

Dark Skies (Scott Stewart/2013) ** / 4
Another 'someone's in my house' effort. Efficiently made but as rote as day. Has the most depressive aura. Snores over scares.

Exiled (Johnnie To/2006) ****½ / 9
Bullets, regrets, beautifully-directed action. To turns Macau into the most strange, kinetic and moving Spaghetti Western yet made.

Storage 24 (Johannes Roberts/2012) *** / 6
Follows a well-worn path, but enjoyable all the same. Larfs were stingy, but well delivered when they came. Nice alien FX work.

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine/2012) *½ / 3
Skirts satire, nudges toward parody, embraces... boredom. About as subversive as a pair of slippers. Not sure if it works. "A neon riot!" "A nightmare masterpiece!" "A kinetic thrill-ride!" -- I've had pins and needles that were more electrifying. Intentional parody or not, the voiceovers were dull and draining on the ear. In fact, the tannoy announcements at my local branch of Tesco were more interesting than the voiceovers in Spring Breakers

District 13: Ultimatum (Patrick Alessandrin/2009) *** / 6
The plot's bobbins, but the copious jumping up/across buildings and witty stunts work wonders on the thrill temples.

Vengeance (Johnnie To/2009) **** / 8
An exploration of the complicated patterns of revenge. Epic absurdity amid the grand gunplay. To on wonderful, wayward form. He uses glorious pause to create finesse in his shootouts. One, played to the rhythm of clouds passing across the moon, is grand; another, set in a windswept junkyard, with characters heaving cubed stacks of recycled paper along as barriers, is sheer astounding.

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski/2012) ***½ / 7
Review here

To the Wonder

To the Wonder (Terence Malick/2012) **** / 8
Malick scribbling the brightest, most heart-rending love doodles. All staccato stitching & piecemeal impressions. Fine work. (I say this as someone who wasn't esp. taken with The Tree of Life: that looked back, away; To the Wonder looks to now and more closely at people.) Lack of "performance" wasn't an issue. I took a lot from who these people were from what was given in Tezzer's slight slices. Scenes with Bardem were perhaps most affecting. Visual rhyming in the editing was splendid. Lubezki's photography was terrific as per usual.

In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo/2012) *** / 6
Film as a playful reverie. Hong Sang-soo and Huppert go all out on the awkward/funny. Delightful, but gets a bit wisplike.

Who's Minding the Store? (Frank Tashlin/1963) *** / 6
Poodles, vacuum cleaners, golf balls. Hapless Lewis goodness. Pratfalls, gags and snappy asides all projected with joy.

The Players (Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Emmanuelle Bercot, Fred Cavayé, Alexandre Courtès, Michel Hazanavicius, Eric Lartigau/2012) * / 2
A tonal mess. It's a haystack; any comedy whatsoever = a needle. Indulgent, charmless, dull as teeth. Last segment was pitiful.

Prometheus (Ridley Scott/2012/rewatch) **** / 8

Sister (Ursula Meier/2012) ***½ / 7
Fine, polished work all round. Stark but emotive and visually very fresh. Slightly baggy at times, but Meier has a solid directorial voice. Standout photography - no surprise as it was shot by Claire Denis regular Agnès Godard. Shades of The Kid with a Bike and Breathing to the plot.

Mad Detective (Johnnie To/2007) ***½ / 7
As wilfully playful as it is absurd. The control To and Ka-Fai exert is guided by the joy of a genre they've ably twisted here.

28 Hotel Rooms (Matt Ross/2012) * / 2
Review here

Trance (Danny Boyle/2013) *½ / 3
A coiled mess that drifts in and out of dullness. Cranky angles, uninspired performances and 'porn' lighting help no one. A bumbling misfire. Review/notes here

Laurence Anyways

Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan/2012) **** / 8
This is why I give a director a third (or fourth, fifth...) shot. I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats did zero for me, but this is sublime drama. The weaving of moving character study and romance is often remarkable. Put me in mind of the likes of Head-On, Rust and Bone. The overflow of style worked wonders and was backed up with rounded, fascinating characters. Poupaud and Clément were marvelous. Wondered initially if at 161m it was a touch overlong, but it couldn't have done with any scenes featuring either lead trimmed.

The Mission (Johnnie To/1999) **** / 8
Fluent crime games. Streamlined plot maxed to the hilt with wonderfully showy shootouts. To's compositions made me beam.  

The Road: A Story of Life & Death (Marc Isaacs/2012) *** / 6
Very moving, socially pertinent and made with fuss-free care.

Bad 25 (Spike Lee/2012) *** / 6
Thorough, diverting look at album's process. Snappy talking head stories add enthusiasm, flavour. As with many Lee films, a bit overlong. Re NY filmmakers: both Lee's & Scorsese's recent docs are often more fascinating than their recent features. Maybe Woody Allen should do one.  

Five best new (2013) films:

To the Wonder
The Place beyond the Pines
In Another Country
The Paperboy

Five best older (non-2013) films:

One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later
Laurence Anyways

12 April 2013

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski/2013)

Tom Cruise is one of our premium movie stars. He lends his premiere star status this week to Oblivion, Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to TRON: Legacy. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise through and through here. Movie star Tom Cruise who headlines big action blockbusters like War of the Worlds and the Mission: Impossible quartet, not the once-in-a-while movie actor of Magnolia, Collateral, Rain Man. Oblivion doesn’t require a Cruise performance, as such; it needs a strutting, panicked Cruise action presence. He gives good combat and freak-out, that’s plenty enough. He plays his reliable go-to guy: the blue-collar worker type – called Jack of course – facing insurmountable odds. Jack likes unfussy, simple things: books, baseball, rustic cabins, Conway Twitty records. But he has to kick it into top gear to overcome feats of futuristic peril.

Jack and his co-worker/bed-sharer Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) operate a maintenance outpost on a destroyed and depopulated post-invasion earth. It’s a stunning home-owner’s wet dream of an outpost, however: austere on stilts in the sky, full of billowy curtains, glass surfaces, topped with a top-end technical finish. (It’s a dwelling so impossibly, stylishly open-plan with the potential for threat that I was expecting Diamonds Are Forever's Bambi and Thumper to jump out on Cruise at any given moment.)

The pair answer to Mission Control Sally’s (Melissa Leo) orders; linked via a screen, she tasks them from Titan, a planet off Saturn, with clearing earth, saving its resources and repairing flying robot maintenance drones in between avoiding the hostile ‘Scavengers’ – all whilst readying themselves for a return ‘home’. Because the pair are nearing the end of their shift (“only two weeks left, Jack!”), of course something goes awry: a droid mysteriously goes missing and Jack discovers a strange woman (Olga Kurylenko) jettisoned to earth from a space shuttle. Who is she? Why does Jack feel he’s seen her before? Who’s got the droid? Has Cruise cracked a smile yet?

The plot from here on out becomes rather convoluted. Although it’s fun to play catch up with and, ultimately, it coheres better than first assumed. But it’s the creatively imagined world that astonishes most vividly. Vast, seemingly endless lush and/or ruined vistas – many of which are the very same Icelandic wasteland locations seen in Prometheus – full of expanse, substance and digital elegance are an visual treat. The effects are exemplary and integrated with seamless skill; eyeballs are dipped in unusual reconfigurations of slickly photographed known landmarks and inhospitable crevices. Credit to production designer Darren Gilford, cinematographer Claudio Miranda and, well, the whole technical crew for evoking sublime alienating earth landscapes. The score, by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 and Joseph Trapanese, a Daft Punk collaborator, thuds and fizzes with an electronic orchestration that aptly suits the visual splendour and compatibly meshes with the impressive sound design.

Cruise is on and off spaceships, bikes, buildings, peaks; he’s in and out of cavernous ruins, pools and hot zones. He applies the same level of manful adventurousness on screen as he most likely does in his leisurely pursuits on his days off. Oblivion being a top-tier Cruise vehicle – like, say, Jack Reacher, The Last Samurai, Knight & Day – it’s inevitably all about him and what feats of kinetic endurance he can master. And he’s still up to the task. He may not display a knack for characterisation in films such as this often, but he does bring star power and the guarantee of a hefty budget – via which burgeoning talents like Kosinski can project their long-gestated dream ideas with luxurious ease. (Oblivion was based on a graphic novel concept he first drew up in 2005.)

A fine supporting cast has been assembled too, however inconsistently deployed: Kurylenko is given a lot of elusive emotion to carry yet not the character to hold its weight; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau looks sturdy on the sidelines with a muck-smeared face; Morgan Freeman teeters on the comical side even though his role suggests otherwise; Melissa Leo is a ghost in the machine. It’s the ever-excellent Riseborough who stands out, however. She gives Victoria much measured poise and poignancy – and the most memorable performance of the film. The big shame, though, is that Zoe Bell is in the cast and isn’t given any big action scenes or stunts.

As with various recent grand-scale sci-fi cinema – Star Trek, Prometheus, Total Recall, Avengers Assemble, Cloud AtlasOblivion ponders big ideas alongside its sleek action scenes. To add some intricate flavour, Kosinski follows sci-fi law by peppering his futuristic environments with inventively realised state-of-the-art gizmos and gadgetry (the dragonfly-like pod ships, the spherical droids, the large polyhedron space ‘Tet’, Victoria’s iPad-style operational desk). Many of its ample thrills derive from the pleasure these tokens of design offer to viewers who like to embrace the sci-fi genre regardless of what hiccups or highs the story attains.

Oblivion is interstellar entertainment made with due craft and attention to detail, even if some elements feel over familiar. It’s the thrill of seeing spectacle writ large – particularly if seen on an IMAX screen – that provides the most enjoyment. Luxuriating in giddy genre joys is not always something that gets taken into consideration when, for some, the fun seems to revolve around the discovery of faults and numerous references instead of simply allowing the good times to play out in front of them. Sometimes giving the deeper fouls of plotting some respite and focusing on the wow yields more enjoyment. Oblivion isn’t Great Art, and it surely doesn’t ask for that label, but its apparent artistry meant I was willing to let it get away with a few ills so I could take in its glorious sites of extinction.

9 April 2013

7+ Notes on Trance

*Very mild spoilers below*

Familiarity begets familiarity. Trance is, in variable ways, most reminiscent of the likes of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting within Boyle’s filmography. Mainly in that it features his favourite protagonist plot position: the man in over his head in a situation beyond his control (also see: Slumdog Millionaire, The Beach, 28 Days Later... , Sunshine, A Life Less Ordinary, 127 Hours). The plot (an outline of which you can read here or here) has an immediate hook, an upfront showiness prescribed by a cool poster/promotion campaign (left) and, most likely, the word-of-mouth factor; the kind of things via which Trainspotting and Shallow Grave gained momentum in the nineties. We’re in typically characteristic Boyle territory. But really, what’s moved on? Haven’t we had this (kind of) film from him before? Familiar tropes and tricks and approach to narrative. The endpoint differs, but the journey remains the same.

Many directors reconfigure ideas previously ploughed in one way or another. Hitchcock, Lynch, Tarantino, Tarkovsky, pick one – pretty much every director repeats motifs, ideas, approaches. An auteur is an auteur is an auteur. But there’s a large gap between concrete auteurism and cyclical self-reference (and, perhaps, lazy repetition). Trance doesn’t feel like either an artistic or thematic progression in the way that some of Boyle’s other films have. It feels like a digression, or a time-filler, or at least a moment of treading water – a reminder that he’s a film director as well as the guy who ‘directed the Olympics’. For all its edgy showmanship it’s just a set of safe, self-same themes and reinstated narrative turns given a jolly polish. There was little here that was surprising, vital, entrancing. Boyle, along with his most notable peer Michael Winterbottom, is one of the UK’s most intrepid directors (look at where his films go in the world), but Trance is stuck in perpetual turnaround on home turf already ploughed. Boyle and Winterbottom are both venturesome filmmakers, but of the two Winterbottom is perhaps slightly more adept at self-reinvention.

28 hours later... and I can’t recall anything noteworthy about the three main performances. A day or so after seeing it I had trouble recalling anything any of the main trio said or did. I don’t blame the actors. James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson are capable performers who have given good performances elsewhere – Cassel in particular can be an electric presence. I blame the tricksy, blitz-you-into-bafflement structure. Trance’s plot is generally easy enough to follow, in a fashion, and the editor does a commendable job of ordering everything to get the best narrative sense out of the thing (whilst retaining its important ‘upending expectations’ vibe). But it was what I sensed to be Boyle’s need to make an essentially straightforward story inordinately kinetic that stunted any coherence in the performances for me.

There’s not that much to it, all told. The way in which Boyle and his writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge set up and have shaped their plot creates an awkward discord and fogs how the cast perform, and largely curdling any filmmaking clarity. The cast get a handful of scenes to outline and explore their characters – their inner selves, their shady dealings, their emotional withdrawals, their manipulative switches – but the results are diced and dotted about, each one less creatively dovetailing into the next, smothered by another tricky piece of the narrative puzzle. Trance feels like an attempt by Boyle to take back the Bestest Coolest British Director crown passed over to Christopher Nolan circa Memento. The Inceptionising process of Trance zapped any fluency from the script.

The Usual Suspects didn’t have a problem juggling a multi-faceted plot with seven main characters. Its Chinese-finger-trap narrative pushed and pulled right up to the last scene before it signed off with cohesive realisation. I always knew what kind of woman Laura Dern was, out of the trio she played, as I watched all of them cascade down Inland Empire’s knotty rabbit holes. Terence Malick’s sense of geographical and temporal place was shunted six ways to Sunday for 99% of The Tree of Life, but I still felt grounded by the people drifting through the film however much he made them appear as elusive signifiers. But the threesome’s actions here battered me into boredom. What’s a decent idea (HEIST WITH A DIFFERENCE!*) if the characters who interpret it appear to be thoroughly subsumed by it?

There’s an abundance of cranky, canted angles to infer mental displacement. Boyle’s neverplace London is a muted kaleidoscope of anonymous and/or expensive interiors viewed askew as if to strengthen illogic and reinforce dislocation. The directorial approach chimes with its thematic content, but is it just a lot of illusory cup-shuffling, all visual swagger masking an echoing core? Tom Hooper recently cranked and canted his Les Misérables cityscapes into submission and was roundly mocked by critics for it. But the much more respected Boyle’s skew-whiff camera trickery will likely pass unmentioned. Why is one risible and one passable? And exactly how many ‘cool points’ does one lose for marginally preferring the former’s use (it necessitates its characters’ desperation, however heavy-handed) over the latter‘s (it idly makes the action appear much more intense, urgent than it actually is)?

Trance trail. Boyle himself has mentioned Nicolas Roeg as an influence (perhaps due to the wired perspectives and the oddball sexual pull), and this makes sense. I also saw a smidgen of Guy Ritchie, most notably Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and RockNRolla. Also, to a greater or lesser degree, Eastern Promises (not only for the presence of Cassel), The Crying Game (no, not in the way you’re thinking), Shopping (largely forgotten 1994 Jude Law ram-raiding movie), Stormy Monday (Mike Figgis’ Brit-noir, his debut) and Layer Cake (which had better supporting parts and some humour). There’s a weird kinship with Steven Soderbergh’s latest, Side Effects, too (I think, whatever the intentions, both directors’ female characters are more convenient ciphers than actual fully-realised people).

A few further thoughts/questions:

If Rosario Dawson were to nonchalantly tear a page out of one of my favourite art books/plot MacGuffins, for little-to-no reason, I’d be livid. And I wouldn’t then do an ill-conceived impression of the caped figure in Goya's Witches in the Air (left) to appease her like McAvoy does.

If Boyle had, say, taken his name off the credits – for some kind of Dogme95 style larf – or if, for some ridiculous reason, people went to see Trance not knowing that it was a Danny Boyle film, do you think they might wonder why it hadn’t gone straight to DVD?

Boyle recently mentioned the need for better female characters, so why is the sole significant female character in Trance twice introduced in a given scene via a pan across/tilt up her naked body displaying her shaven vagina (for nefariously explained plot reasons)?**

Whether via Anthony Dod Mantle’s vividly retro cinematography, giving everything a slick yet businesslike sheen, the score by Rick Smith (from the band Underworld), with its reversive techno lilt, or the general throwback feel of Trance, there appeared to be definable zeitgeist-like hankering for late-eighties/early-nineties nostalgia. I’d rather see Boyle and co. move forward.

*Maybe Boyle wanted to “heist” some art himself. Maybe it’s a comment: “steal” a film (Trance was based on a 2001 TV movie of the same name written and directed by Ahearne), make a replica, and then display it in a different light. If this was the case, then surely he could’ve taken his own lead and – in reference to the stolen Rembrandt painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee shown and discussed in the film – flashed us a subliminal cameo shot where he’s breaking the fourth wall with a glance – a Trance glance...

 **A different nod to Winterbottom here: he did a very similar thing in both 9 Songs (with Margot Stilley) and Code 46 (with Samantha Morton).

7 April 2013

Broken Mirrors x2

Broken psyche: Mad Detective/San Taam (Johnnie To, Ka-Fai Wai/2007)

Broken face: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (John Hyams/2012)

4 April 2013

28 Hotel Rooms (Matt Ross/2012)

Never has nearly a month’s worth of illicit fucks been as dull as door mats. The riskiest thing here is a naughty rooftop drink binge, the most spontaneous thing the painting of toenails. Two strangers act up and make out in a random selection of hotels. He’s (Chris Messina, doing what Chris Messina usually does) a successful writer experiencing an unsuccessful second book; she’s (Marin Ireland, channelling Marion Cotillard by way of Sarah Polley) a married corporate accountant who “just pushes numbers around”. They’re both a bit unhappy; both seem to want to put the puzzle pieces of life together, mainly by repeatedly talking at length about how they don't know who the other person truly is. They continually meet up and occasionally have sex. But their post-coital conversations dry out the bed sheets and cool any adulterous ardour. Nothing much is ever truly said. Mostly they just mope deeply into each other’s faces. Director-writer Matt Ross should, but doesn’t, interpret his characters’ woes and desires. Glimpses of who they really are – through choice, telling snippets of dialogue or, say, some exploratory direction – are thin on the ground. (When there are just two people and four walls on offer the direction needs to wring the most pertinent interactions out of the situation.) Their personalities and past experiences, things that would make the drama flourish, are hemmed in as much as the outside world is shut out.

Over the course of these trysts she gets married, he divorced; she has a child, he has a breakdown, of sorts. They both have another bath or ten. But no emotional progress outside disagreeable mumbling and looking forlornly at beautifully blurry shots of cities through high-rise windows is made. Each chapter is divided up into the randomly-selected rooms they frequent. Room 609. Room 1205. Room 527. 308. 615. 1009. And so on – totalling the titular 28. By the twelfth inter-title I was hoping that the next room they booked would be 237 at The Overlook – let them feel the scary shag pile there and see what dramatic events emerge. (The whole thing needed something, anything, to give it some vital pep.)

Ireland better convinces as a more believable character than Messina. She often lets a suggestive glance or smirk tell us more than a verbal outpouring could. He likes to shout at people from hotel balconies. She messily gets out of the bath like she needs to find the nearest towel, as you do. He coyly gets out of the bath like he’s being filmed by a camera crew. Intimate hotel-room-set drama The Center of the World (2001) managed a similar feat of tedium, though with a few supporting characters to stem the dullness; so too did the similarly-themed 9 Songs (2004, review here), just with an, um, abundance of cum shots and music cues. Many people bemoaned Last Night (2010, review here) – in which a married couple experienced an eroticised evening apart, with other people – for being flat and lifeless, but it had more fervour and vibrancy in five minutes than this does over its entirety. 28 Hotel Rooms is innumerable sighs and twice as many eye-rolls over 82 arduous minutes. Hotel hook-ups shouldn't be as dreary as this.

1 April 2013

Films Seen in 2013: January - March

Films I've seen in 2013, the first three months in one post; all other months from here on out will have their own individual posts. The format is: film title (English lang. and/or original language where required - occasionally a film's alternative title, too); director(s) and year; whether it's a rewatch; starred grade, out of 5; numerical grade, out of 10 (all grading is subject to change, of course, and intended as merely a personal indicator/reminder). Titles in bold indicate that the film is a 2013 UK first release. Films are listed seen chronologically from bottom to top.

Triad Election

Triad Election (Johnnie To/2006) **** / 8
Bachelorette (Leslye Headland/2012) * / 2
The Comedy (Rick Alverson/2012) **½ / 5
Insidious (James Wan/2010/rewatch) ***½ / 7
Your Sister's Sister (Lynn Shelton/2011) *** / 6
A Letter to Elia (Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones/2010) **** / 8
District B13 (Pierre Morel/2004) ***½ / 7
Election (Johnnie To/2005) **** / 8
Hypothermia (James Felix McKenney/2010) * / 2
Oz: The Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi/2013) *** / 6
The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely, Freddie Francis/1962) **½ / 5
Identity Thief (Seth Gordon/2012) ** / 4
Stolen (Simon West/2012) * / 2
Repeaters (Carl Bessai/2010) ** / 4
Serenity (Joss Whedon/2005/rewatch) ***½ / 7
Sleep Tight (Jaume Balagueró/2011) **** / 8
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Don Scardino/2013) **½ / 5
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene/1920) ***½ / 7
Grabbers (Jon Wright/2012) *** / 6
Immortals (Tarsem Singh/2011) **½ / 5

House by the River

House by the River (Fritz Lang/1950) ***½ / 7
Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh/2012) *½ / 3
The End of the World (August Blom/1916) ***½ / 7
This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb/2011) ***½ / 7
Deadfall (Stefan Ruzowitzky/2012) ** / 4
The Land Unknown (Virgil W. Vogel/1957) *** / 6
American Mary (Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska/2012) *** / 6
Invisible Invaders (Edward L. Cahn/1959) *** / 6
Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs/2012) **½ / 5
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Edward L. Cahn/1958) *** / 6
Mama (Andrés Muschietti/2013) *½ / 3
Argo (Ben Affleck/2012) **½ / 5
Stoker (Chan-wook Park/2013) ***½ / 7
Blood Creek (Joel Schumacher/2009) *½ / 3
War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg/2005/rewatch) ***½ / 7
Universal Soldier: Regeneration (John Hyams/2009) *** / 6
The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen/2001/rewatch) ***½ / 7
Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski/2012) **** / 8
Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer/1959) ***½ / 7
Hollow (Michael Axelgaard/2011) *½ / 3
Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley/1992) ***½ / 7

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (John Hyams/2012) **** / 8
Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij/2011) ***½ / 7
Sleepwalk with Me (Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish/2012) *** / 6
Sector 7 (Ji-hoon Kim/2011) ***½ / 7
Side by Side (Christopher Kenneally/2012) *** / 6
Grave Encounters 2 (John Poliquin/2012) ** / 4
Catacombs (Tomm Coker, David Elliot/2007) *½ / 3
This Is 40 (Judd Apatow/2012) ½ / 1
Un Flic (Jean-Pierre Melville/1972) **½ / 5
The Oregonian (Calvin Reeder/2011) ** / 4
Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow/2012) ***½ / 7
Choose (Marcus Graves/2010) ** / 4
Rammbock (Marvin Kren/2010) *** / 6
Compliance (Craig Zobel/2012) ***½ / 7
Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine/2013) **½ / 5
Juan of the Dead (Alejandro Brugués/2011) *** / 6
Wreckage (John Asher/2010) ** / 4
Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Biglelow/2012) ***½ / 7
Gone (Heitor Dhalia/2012) ** / 4
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg/2012) *** / 6
Area 407 (Dale Fabrigar, Everette Wallin/2012) *½ / 3
Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne/1996) ***½ / 7

The Giant Mechanical Man

The Giant Mechanical Man (Lee Kirk/2012) *** / 6
Running Fence (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin/1977) **½ / 5
The One (James Wong/2001) *½ / 3
V/H/S (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingrad/2012) **½ / 5
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino/2012) **** / 8
Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene/1966) **** / 8
The Reeds (Nick Cohen/2010) ** / 4
The Rig (Peter Atencio/2010) ** / 4
Les Misérables (Tom Hooper/2012) **½ / 5
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (Stevan Riley/2012) ** / 4
Uninhabited (Bill Bennett/2010) ** / 4
The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona/2012) *** / 6
Fear Island (Michael Storey/2009) **/ 4

 5 best new releases:

Django Unchained
Universal soldier: Day of Reckoning
Cloud Atlas
Sleep Tight

5 best non-2013 new releases:

Election / Triad Election
A Letter to Elia
Black Girl
House by the River
Citizen Ruth