Sunday, 20 November 2011

Some movie talk

I promised you a movie post recently... and here it is.

While we were away for the six months earlier this year we didn't get to see many movies... and the ones we did see were usually h's 11 year-old choices (she was with us pretty much all the time). Even in hotels and motels we had to watch junior-compatible fare as she was often awake till quite late (and even more so if we were trying to watch something - “what are you watching?”, “what are they doing?”, “who's in this?” - she's more the movie geek with every passing day). We managed “The Social Network” and the new “True Grit” whilst staying with relatives in Canada and found the former not too bad (if fiction, so they say) and the latter really very good. We also managed to sneak in series 2 of “Nurse Jackie” whilst with relatives elsewhere too but otherwise it was pretty much cartoons, tweens and Lindsay Lohan all the way (for 6 months...). Good job we had so much else to see and do...

Anyway, once back home (and needing to stay in a bit to save money...) we have been catching up on some serious grown-up movie-watching. Below are the good (and the average) of what I've watched since the beginning of August (all at home on TV because we are, once again, miles from a cinema now we're home). The only exception was our trip to Dundee to see the documentary "You've been Trumped" (but I wrote about that a few posts ago - here). So let's start with...

The Good

Four Lions (2010, dir. Christopher Morris)
This is a really excellent film - a perhaps unlikely comedy about British jihadists from the Chris Morris house of he-didn't-he-did-he-really-did humour. It's funny (always good from a comedy) and then really not funny at all in places (as you might expect... considering the subject matter). There is top notch acting too (Riz Ahmed as the lead is very good, Kayvan Novak as the daftest terrorist is... terrifying) and it's a really effective movie all round. A must-see really... unless you have no sense of humour of course.

Waitress (2007, dir. Adrienne Shelly)
This is the one where the writer/director, Shelly, died before its release (murdered in her New York apartment). Reviews for this one were good and they weren't wrong as it really is a charming film about crap marriage, pregnancy and pie. It was beautifully made and well-acted too (Shelby acted in it as well as everything else – she was in several Hal Hartley movies in the late '80s/early '90s). Try to catch this one - that's my tip (sorry!).

Inside I'm dancing (2004, dir. Damien O'Donnell)
(Also released under the title “Rory O'Shea was here”).
In this one the central characters Michael and Rory are both in wheelchairs (Michael has cerebral palsy and Rory muscular dystrophy) but whereas Michael is quiet and well-behaved Rory is gobby and full of ideas and schemes. The story starts when Rory (James McAvoy, as good as you've ever seen him) moves into the residential home where Michael has lived for years and pretty much turns lives upside down (Steven Robertson does a great job as Michael too). I loved it, really loved it. Proper drama, proper moving - superb.

Goodfellas (1990, dir. Martin Scorsese)
Well, most of you will have seen this one by now. Daughter was away for the weekend though and this movie was on the free film club thing so we threw ourselves once again into the world of pasta sauce, mass murder and hiding cocaine all around the house. The best mob film ever made? Quite possibly. I find it almost too enjoyable in some ways.

Burn after Reading (2008, dir. Ethan & Joel Coen)
For me Coen brothers films are a bit hot and cold but this project, luckily, is one of the hotter ones. Clooney plays a blinder (a really weird blinder...), McDormand likewise and the whole thing is kind of a “Tinker, Tailor, Shagger, Spy”. We loved it.

Un Proph├Ęte (2009, dir. Jacques Audiard)
This one came via the postal dvd business. It's a French film that doesn't rely on pretty little brunettes and moody music and, that for me, was a plus point straightaway. Instead it's a fascinating story of life in a French prison – seen via a young Arab inmate, Malik (Tahar Rahim). It's quite a long film but hey, time takes time and I'd say it's really worth the hours. It features a great central performance, an unpredictable story/screenplay and it is really quite a “Goodfellas” in its way. Highly recommended.

A Mighty Heart (2007, dir. Michael Winterbottom)
I've yet to see a Winterbottom film I don't like in some way or other (2002's "In this World" is excellent, for example) and this is quite some movie too. Even though it's based on the true story of Daniel Pearl and his kidnap and murder in Pakistan it's hard to feel sympathy for the journalists in places (and I should think that's no accident). Still the film draws you into the Pearl story bit by bit... and from so many other angles. Angelina Jolie is pretty good as Mariane Pearl and some of the details (like music choice) are so well done - good work.

Mean Girls (2004, dir. Mark Waters)
OK, so we're still watching some Lohan... but this one is so well-written in places that it makes me want to weep with joy (screenplay by Tina Fey, based on the original book by Rosalind Wiseman). Its certificate is 12 but in places it's so brutally honest (and just plain brutal) that I wonder really how good it is for the younger end of its audience (or at least the portion of that audience that is sensitive and thinks about things at all). Still, it's a very good film and in fact we've liked a few of Mark Waters' movies (the Lohan/Lee Curtis “Freaky Friday” is excellent and we enjoyed the “Mr Popper's Penguins” this year too). I notice that Waters' brother Daniel wrote “Heathers” back in 1988 (surely a prequel of “Mean Girls”). Interesting.

Funny People (2009, dir. Judd Apatow)
Though I've heard of some of his titles, I haven't seen any of Apatow's films to date (“The 40 year old virgin” etc.). Then I read about this one in the papers a while back and it did sound like my kind of thing (I'm interested in almost anything to do with comedy – good comedy anyway - and this story concerns Adam Sandler as a successful stand-up/comic movie star who is facing death). Again this is another quite long movie but it is one I really enjoyed – lots of humour, a good story and the very likeable Seth Rogen as the real hero of the piece (a wannabe comedian). Other comedy stuff I've enjoyed recently includes this interview with English funny woman Sarah Millican (currently at the “in everything on TV” stage) and this piece on the edgiest of edgy comedians (and one of my current favourites) Stewart Lee.

Field of Dreams (1989, dir. Phil Alden Robinson)
Somehow I missed this movie in the '80s (and boy, is it an '80s number!) but it came up in a movie quiz game we were playing recently and I fancied giving it a try. I expected heaps of baseball (the reason I had “somehow missed it” no doubt) but I wasn't expecting all that interesting stuff with James Earl Jones as the radical writer in hiding. I was surprised to really enjoy it ('80s hair and all).

The Devil wears Prada (2006, dir. David Frankel)
Daughter wanted to watch this so I tried it with her recently (I avoid fashion movies on the whole – I don't get any of the references for a start...). However this one, of course, has Meryl Streep in stunning form so its appeal cannot be denied. We both loved it but I was pleased to note that I still hated all the clothes the characters were all drooling over. I've always been more Millets than Milan when it comes to clothing (and accessories).

So that was the good – the films I really rated. Now let's have a go at...

The rest
(and see if I can diss/dismiss them all in one line each... though I may bend that rule here and there).

I am legend (2007, dir. Francis Lawrence)
Will Smith looks gorgeous, the dog is cute (and you know what that means...) and the zombie things are nasty.

Casino Royale (2006, dir. Martin Campbell)
James Bond is still pretty predictable – it just takes longer to find out (good freerunning scene near the beginning though).

The Road (2009, dir. John Hillcoat)
All I can say is... life is depressing enough (nice to see more of “the Wire”s Omar/Michael Kenneth Williams though).

Swimming with Sharks (1994, dir. George Huang)
The Spacey is great (as ever) as an evil movie boss in this cheapish “Player” meets “Misery” drama (in fact all the cast are good) but the script has some major holes for me (I hate watching a film that makes me shout “there's no way he wouldn't know that!” at the screen).

Shutter Island (2010, dir. Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese films are always watchable and/or striking but this one needed a script edit or two maybe.

Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan)
Just because something is complicated and/or expensive that doesn't necessarily make it good.

Submarine (2010, dir. Richard Ayoade)
I so wanted to like this movie from the “The IT Crowd's” Ayoade but it just felt really unoriginal in the script department to me (I kept feeling like I'd heard it all before a bit... maybe a younger/less jaded viewer would get more from this film though... and it is about youth).

Twilight (2008, dir. Catherine Hardwicke)
We watched this to see when it would be suitable for daughter but really it's “Endless Love” with vampires (yawn)... saying that I adored “Endless Love” when I was about 13.

Salt (2010, dir. Phillip Noyce)
Featuring Angelina Jolie doing a “24”/Bond/Bourne type thing, this is preposterous (unless you like action movies... in which case it's all the usual stuff... leaping off buses, buildings etc.)

Music and Lyrics (2007, dir. Marc Lawrence)
OK, so this one was with the daughter (she likes a rom-com here and there). I expected to hate it but it was really quite funny in places (the com is ok, the rom is painful). The opening '80s video spoof (see here) is really quite amusing and Hugh Grant, perhaps unsurprisingly, does ham pretty well.

Now shoot me.



hope said...

No, won't shoot you. I actually agree with most of you "The Rest" list. I actually wanted to hit Will Smith up side the head for making "I Am Legend"..had I known the plot, I would've skipped it. "The Road" is the most depressing movie I've ever seen! And I refuse to watch ANY of those stupid "Twilight" movies!

I did like "Inception" but I saw it on the big screen, where it makes an amazing impact. On the small screen (at home) it didn't seem quite as amazing.

I like your movie reviews: next time I want a review, I will check with you first. :)

Titus said...

I've only seen 3 of the 'Goods', so that's quite a list to get through! Really wanted to see Four Lions, then months go by and lo, still haven't seen it. Resolved now. Goodfellas. Superb.

I so built myself up for Shutter Island, thinking Scorsese and DiCaprio unable to fail. God, we even got a babysitter and had a night out! I thought it was really poor, and also really annoying. Like you, when a script makes no sense I just want to scream at the screen.
I did fancy Submarine though, and had heard some good stuff about it, so maybe better give that miss. The Road? Didn't like the book at all, so not even Viggo would drag me there.

You do, however, make Salt sound enormously attractive to me.

Rachel Fenton said...

I agree with you on the ones I've seen.

I also thought mean girls was ace - and apt, sadly, for our current woes. Odd Girl Out is a serious version of the same dilemma.

I wish LiLo would get into some serious films though 0 she's got a talent that's going to waste!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Hope. And yes, I didn't hate "Inception". I think it was the whole wife thing that bugged me the most though... oh, and that line from Michael Caine about "someone even better than you" or whatever.

I think you would enjoy "Salt",T. Obviously it was a Mark choice but I did quite enjoy it and I can't be arsed with Bourne and 24 and all that mostly. "Four Lions" is on Film 4's current roster.

LiLo, R? I've not heard that name for her. Our girl has been a huge fan, posters on her wall, knows new "Parent Trap" off by heart etc. As for LL's current time in the wilderness... some of the best folk have been lost in there for a while! Hopefully she'll make it back out.


Rachel Fox said...

p.s. I hadn't read "The Road" book. I had read Ken Armstrong writing about it though!

The Weaver of Grass said...

All I can say Rachel is that you have certainly made up for lost time. In the time since your returned home I have not watched one single movie on TV!!!

Rachel Fox said...

Just think of all that time you've had to do other things! But then we don't watch many TV series just now... well, apart from "Strictly Come Dancing" of course (house religion). It's possibly the best series of that ever (bizarrely!).

hope said...

@Titus: I listened to actor David Strathairn read me "Shutter Island" on CD. He was so good, after a couple of minutes I forget he was doing ALL the parts!

When they declared Leo D'Cap would be playing the lead, I yelled "NO!" at the top of my lungs and refused to see it. Thankfully y'all have made me realize that was a good thing!

Rachel Fox said...

I hadn't heard of the novel of SI at all, Hope. Though I notice that the author (Dennis Lehane) also wrote "Mystic River" which I seem to remember turned into quite a good movie (although saying that I know I've seen it but I can't remember too much about it...).


Rachel Fox said...

As for Leo D'Cap... I do like him in some things ("The Departed", "Revolutionary Road"...) but as I haven't read the SI book I can't say whether he was right or wrong for that one. I'm not a fan but I'm not a not-fan either (of his).

The Solitary Walker said...

I liked 'Shutter Island' - but 'Revolutionary Road' much more.

More 'Millets' than "Milan'? Oh no, Rachel. Oh, no. And I speak as a walker. ;)

Rachel Fox said...

Your angle being...? Millets is too lower end? You hike in Gucci? What?

Rachel Fox said...

And I didn't hate "Shutter Island" - it just wasn't one of Scorsese's best. And of course his best are pretty amazing.

Rachel Fox said...

And again I wrote about "Revolutionary Road' (the book) back here


The Solitary Walker said...

You made me laugh, Rachel! I'll tell you a secret. I hike in Calvin Klein underpants, a mixture of nylon and elastone. Expensive - but incredibly comfortable, absorbent, itch-free and long lasting. I wouldn't generally buy any walking/camping gear from Millets - yes, it's budget end, and too little choice.

Rachel Fox said...

Glad to make you laugh. What better reward is there?

I don't get to Millets myself much these days - we don't have one in Montrose for a start. I hardly buy anything new...wear a lot of second hand... charity shops, friends' cast-offs. I am so not that cliched woman shopper!! Though I have a bit of an Amazon marketplace habit (books/cds/dvds...).

As for you in your CK splendour... I will never think of you in the same way again!


ken armstrong said...

I got a mention!! :) 'The Road' (book) is great. The Road (movie) is not as good although it's effectively the same. Go Figure. :)

I agree with *so much of what you say here. 'Burn After Reading', I saw on telly a few months back. I liked it and then fell in love when it made me go 'Whoa!!'. I think you'll know where.

Inside I'm Dancing was on my list and slipped off somehow It is now firmly back on.

Now, listen carefully, my Movie of The Year (although it's from a few years ago is 'The Secret in Their Eyes'. Seek it out, if you can, before it gets remade. Adult, unexpected and moving - a thriller/murder mystery with and exotic edge.

And, yes, the new True Grit was good, wasn't it? The music played a huge part, I thought.

Rachel Fox said...

There you are Armstrong! We need you on a movie post.

I don't think I've heard of that "Secret" film - will seek it out.

It helped with new "True Grit" that I couldn't remember the original at all. I will have seen it (two brothers, I saw a lot of war'n'cowboys...) but that's all I can tell you. Thought Matt Damon was great in the new one though... and the lead (Hailee Steinfeld)... and Bridges.


swiss said...

i was utterly disappointed with shutter island beyond the opening music but that was nothing compared with the loathsome the departed (me and t big fans of the original). scorses seems to have lost his way which is a shame. inception as well - i don't think i've ever wanted a film just to end as much!

i loved a prophet tho and must watch it again sometime soon. burn after reading? not the coens best i think but great performances and the scene where brad pitt says 'you think thta's a schwinn' will never, ever get old for me!

Rachel Fox said...

'Shutter Island' wasn't my choice to watch but I'm always willing to give mental hospital subject matter a go at least. I found it very so-so - like it didn't quite know what it wanted to be. As for "The Departed" (again not my choice to watch...) we actually both enjoyed it though we hadn't seen the original. In fact I didn't even know it was a remake... sorry!! As I say... not something I'd sought out. I have liked some of Scorsese's but I think we're crazy to ever expect a director to only make films we like/approve of. He's only 'uman.

"Inception" - it was the whole wife story line that got my goat most of all. The women in the movie felt so decorative... and of course the wife 'ad to be gorgeous and French... yawnsville. Though I like the actress - nothing against her personally..