Friday, 31 January 2014


One of two wonderful covers recorded by Robin Wright for the tour-de-force that was The Congress, one of the year's best films. The other is her version of Leonardo Cohen's 'If It Be Your Will', which is also very moving, but this Bob Dylan cover is even better, I think. It's gorgeous out of context, and even more so in context. A film you must see and a song you must hear. Runners-up include 'If I Needed You' from The Broken Circle Breakdown, 'The Moon Song' from Her and 'So You Know What It's Like' from Short Term 12.


Go find somewhere else to read about this. That Jeremy Irons. Gagging for a cock in his arse.


Not that I give a shit. ScarJo's got her guns out. Is she hovering over West Bank?


Two films which premiered (in different competitions) at Cannes last May and which both won major awards there, and which I caught last October in London, and which feature plenty of (simulated) gay sex lead this year's Cesar nominations with eight each, alongside a third LGBT-themed film with ten. And they're both excellent films, too. Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake and Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Colour lead the nominations, featuring in the same or mirroring categories, just behind Guillaume Gallienne's Me, Myself and Mum. Awards will be handed out on the 28th of February, two days before the Oscars. P.S. In what world is Golshifteh Farahani a newcomer?!

Best Film
9 Month Stretch
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Jimmy P.
Me, Myself and Mum
The Past
Stranger by the Lake
Venus in Fur

Best Director
Arnaud Desplechin (Jimmy P.)
Albert Dupontel (9 Month Stretch)
Asghar Farhadi (The Past)
Guillaume Gallienne (Me, Myself and Mum)
Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake)
Abdellatif Kechiche (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)
Roman Polanski (Venus in Fur)

Best Actor
Mathieu Amalric (Venus in Fur)
Michel Bouquet (Renoir)
Albert Dupontel (9 Month Stretch)
Gregory Gadebois (One of a Kind)
Guillaume Gallienne (Me, Myself and Mum)
Fabrice Luchini (Cycling with Moliere)
Mads Mikkelsen (Michael Kohlhaas)

Best Actress
Fanny Ardant (Bright Days Ahead)
Berenice Bejo (The Past)
Catherine Deneuve (On My Way)
Sara Forestier (Suzanne)
Sandrine Kiberlain (9 Month Stretch)
Emmanuelle Seigner (Venus in Fur)
Lea Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)

Best Supporting Actor
Niels Arestrup (Quai d'Orsay)
Patrick Chesnais (Bright Days Ahead)
Francois Damiens (Suzanne)
Patrick d'Assumcao (Stranger by the Lake)
Olivier Gourmet (Grand Central)

Best Supporting Actress
Marisa Borini (A Castle in Italy)
Francoise Fabian (Me, Myself and Mum)
Julie Gayet (Quai d'Orsay)
Adele Haenel (Suzanne)
Geraldine Pailhas (Jeune & Jolie)

Best Original Screenplay
Mariette Desert and Katell Quikkevere (Suzanne)
Albert Dupontel (9 Month Stretch)
Asghar Farhadi (The Past)
Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake)
Philippe le Guay (Cycling with Moliere)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Antonin Baudry, Christophe Blain and Bertrand Tavernier (Quai d'Orsay)
Arnaud Desplechin, Kent Jones and Julie Peyr (Jimmy P.)
Guillaume Gallienne (Me, Myself and Mum)
David Ives and Roman Polanski (Venus in Fur)
Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)


There's surely not enough room in the film industry for films like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. A Jason Bourne knock-off that's several years too late, it's a boring corporate thriller with boring characters and a deficit of style. Kenneth Branagh never was one to imbue his films with much subtlety or depth of tone, but what he has normally ensured filled those gaps somewhat was a sense of fun. This dour, rote exercise in mid-level franchise fare is only intermittently fun, and always as if by accident. It's too serious in its seriousness, too straightforward, too sure of the magnitude of its dreary, dated plot. With Mr. Average himself, Chris Pine, as the cinema's least worthy protagonist (he only actually develops a character when affecting severe inebriation, and even then it's an aggravating character), and a supporting cast of actors in dire need of something to actually do, it's a bizarrely glum film that seems to take forever to achieve anything. When it does, it's not where you'd expect it: Branagh proves himself a decent director of the obligatory action (or at least active) set-pieces. The film noticeably picks up the pace and one's attentions thusly, and for once you might wish less time had been spent on developing character and plot (since neither need / receive much anyway) and more on the naff car chases and over-edited bits where lots of people loudly and urgently say lots of important things. Though Ken could have been a touch less heavy-handed with the sudden sound effects and jump moments... Kevin Costner stars as some guy who recruits Jack into the CIA, and Keira Knightley really tries with her American accent as the girlfriend he utterly does not deserve, but who of course stands by him through everything, because this is the movies.

Thursday, 30 January 2014


Does this trailer need to be this long? I don't need that extra minute to know how bad this looks, I already got that. Good to see Liam Neeson adopting an American accent... oh no wait. A Million Ways to Die in Ballymena. I'd take any of them. Out on the 30th of May in the US and the 6th of June in the UK.


A typical January weekend at the cinema, with just one new nationwide release, and it was a horror movie. And a bad one. And a low-grossing one, as I, Frankenstein made a pitiful $8.6 million, landing in sixth place. So the top five remained the same, though thanks to yet another light decline, Frozen climbed above Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, with the sixth-highest ninth weekend in wide release in box office history; it's the first movie since Avatar to have spent so many weekends within the Top 5. Ride Along held onto the top spot with $21.3 million. Further expansions for Oscar-nominated films saw their fortunes improve, as 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and Nebraska (14-17, respectively) all gained money on last weekend, and Nebraska finally pushed its weekend figure past $1 million (in fact, it was up to $1.6 million). Moderate releases Jai Ho and Gimme Shelter neither could break into the Top 20; a little more successful were limited releases Gloria, Stranger by the Lake and Visitors, with per-theatre averages ranking between $9,000 and $19,000.

Top 10

  1. Ride Along ($21,299,495)
  2. Lone Survivor ($12,900,960)
  3. The Nut Job ($12,101,118)
  4. Frozen ($9,118,806)
  5. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ($9,084,687)
  6. I, Frankenstein ($8,610,441)
  7. American Hustle ($7,061,676)
  8. The Wolf of Wall Street ($5,478,368)
  9. August: Osage County ($5,029,030)
  10. Devil's Due ($2,786,241)


Eugh. Not for me. Out on the 6th of June in the US and the 20th in the UK never, if I have my way.


I like this trailer for David Michod's new film, The Rover, and that's partly because I liked his other film, Animal Kingdom. Even if this does star Robert Pattinson. Still not sold on him. Nor Guy Pearce, actually. But I am sold on David Michod. More on this when I hear of it!


The internet is abuzz with surprise at how SFW this trailer for Nymphomaniac: Volume II is. What sort of work do these people do?! What isn't safe for work?! Anyway, obvs I still like the look of this. I like the look of everything Lars von Trier makes. Y'all already know that too.


I'm well looking forward to seeing Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier's sophomore film as director, which won the FIPRESCI prize for the Directors' Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival last May. Almost a year after its premiere, it'll receive its first international theatrical release in the US on the 25th of April. And it looks ace.


The only way Meg Ryan's gonna get back onto the big screen is if she directs the film herself. Oh look! She'll do just that with an adaptation of William Saroyan's novel The Human Comedy, in which she will take on dual duties, starring alongside Sam Shepard and Melanie Griffith as well as directing. Wait, Meg Ryan, Sam Shepard and Melanie Griffith? Is it 1989?!


The three highest openers at the US box office over the January 17-19 weekend tallied grosses inverse to their budgets, with the cheapest coming out on top and the most expensive opening down in fourth. Ride Along topped Cloverfield's previous January opening weekend record with $41.5 million, proof of the strong appeal of its concept and its leading actors. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was basically dumped into theatres by a tentative Paramount, and it made a mere $15.5 million - certainly not the Jason Bourne style start they had obviously once been hoping for. Open Road Films still haven't reported actuals for their animated film The Nut Job, though it seems it took in around $19.4 million in third place, a fair amount for the family film up against box office behemoth Frozen, which fell just 20.1% since the weekend before. And horror movie Devil's Due bombed in seventh place, though it still managed to take in more than its entire budget in those three days. Expansions for Oscar nominees reaped strong results, with both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave making it back into the Top 20, and Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips into the Top 25.

Top 10
  1. Ride Along ($41,516,170)
  2. Lone Survivor ($22,058,815)
  3. The Nut Job ($19,423,000)
  4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ($15,451,981)
  5. Frozen ($11,771,854)
  6. American Hustle ($9,866,363)
  7. Devil's Due ($8,308,220)
  8. August: Osage County ($7,364,721)
  9. The Wolf of Wall Street ($7,069,383)
  10. Her ($4,034,417)


History was made last year, as the most pointless piece of shit ever to be put to film was released into cinemas. After the original Hangover movie made a lot of money (and won a Golden Globe, I mean plz), they made a second one, which was repulsive. Then they made a third one last year, which was redundant. It wasn't as offensively bad as The Hangover Part II, but it was far more offensive in its concept, which was to close off a trilogy no-one had asked for (and no-one wanted after seeing Part II), and without even sticking to the previous films' central conceit. Yeh, The Hangover Part III isn't even about a hangover. As a film, it's a mere hangover itself.


Bruce Broughton, former governor of AMPAS' music branch and a sitting member of the executive committee, composed the music for Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone, which was (apparently) released last year in the US. His song, 'Alone Yet Not Alone', for which the lyrics were written by Dennis Spiegel (and which is shit), received an Oscar nomination earlier this month for Best Original Song. I thought it might have been nominated since it was probably near the top of the list for voters, being 'Alone Yet Not Alone' from Alone Yet Not Alone, after all. It turns out, actually, that Broughton emailed fellow branch members to raise awareness of the fact that he had a song in contention for a nomination, and that's against the rules. It's not often that the Academy does this, but they have rescinded that nomination, meaning that a film which no-one saw (it has made less than $150,000 worldwide) is now a film with no Oscar nominations. I haven't seen it myself, but it looks like proper christian shite, just as the song is. Thus, there are now four songs nominated for the Oscar, as no other will replace it on ballots. Broughton is defiant, insisting that his actions qualify as 'the simplest grassroots campaign'. Hahaha!


This might be the worst thing about international filmmaking. The proliferation of one nation's output, and specifically that one nation's most hackneyed tropes, serves as an influence on filmmakers worldwide. Rather than create original, compelling stories and styles unique to themselves and their country, these wannabes try to play with the big boys, and bigger does not always mean better. The narrative material in Mystery Road is not original, not compelling and, eventually, not even important. A native Australian girl is found with her throat slashed in the Outback, and in investigating her death, the native policeman assigned to the case uncovers dark details about the lives of some prominent figures in local society. Ivan Sen doesn't appear interested in following this 'mystery' (it's anything but) to its close, instead trusting all of his protagonist's assumptions and leading the plot to a climactic shootout, of all things. It's as if he thought there was just one too few cliches already in the film, and rectified the situation with a shootout. I would have recommended that this policeman be a week from retirement too, and that he begins an affair with someone connected to the girl's death, but then that wouldn't have left very much time for lots of gruff stoicism from Aaron Pedersen and blandly picturesque shots of the Aussie landscape. So he keeps that plot simple - so simple, in fact, that he doesn't even avail of subplots or red herrings, staying to the straight and narrow of this thoroughly un-mysterious storyline. Another Australian debut director recently took crime movie conventions and manipulated them into something striking and memorable - David Michod - so it's not impossible. And could I name all the brilliant films set in the Outback?! So that's not impossible either. What's unfortunately very possible, though, is that international filmmakers continue to proliferate this sort of tired rehashing of boring old movies in an attempt to gain our attention.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


Labour Day's not gonna win Jason Reitman any Oscars. He didn't win any for Up in the Air either. Since Jason's worked out that he actually could win one, he's been proper after them, and since David O. Russell's been looking ever more likely to beat him to it, he's been rabid!! The Descendants won Alexander Payne his second Oscar, remember? And now another novel from that one's author Kaui Hart Hemmings is to be adapted by Mr. Reitman so he can secure that award.


I can't be bothered to try to find the words to do Gemma Arterton's Byzantium character justice. But also, I don't think I could possibly top what I wrote about her last June:

As Clara, Gemma Arterton is like a blaze of blood-red fire, a real bad-ass bitch. She turns up to a parent-teacher meeting in a lace bustier, leather pants and hooker heels. When she bathes in the cascade of a waterfall, the bloody streams spilling over her cleavage, it's an image of sinful glee, of glorious triumph. She opens up a brothel to earn some money, and deals with the competition, a local pimp, by killing him and sucking his blood. I choose to believe Gemma Arterton does that in real life.

Role model of the year.


Not so much delight in this amiably erratic comedy from Jill Soloway, as she delves into the full spectrum of awkwardness faced by the modern American woman, constricted by comical societal conventions, and by a fundamental shyness and reluctance in her character. Truly, you've never seen so many white people problems in one woman alone, but Kathryn Hahn is a vivid and generous performer, and Soloway lampoons the lifestyle of her and her friends with such piquancy that this is easily overlooked. Hahn plays Rachel, who finds herself inexplicably compelled to befriend and eventually take in a stripper / sex worker, McKenna, after receiving a lapdance from her. As platonic as their relationship is, McKenna's presence begins to open Rachel's mind, including reigniting a long-dormant sexual spark between herself and her husband, but it also throws up understandable issues. Tonally, Soloway is refreshingly unconcerned with maintaining any kind of balance between the raunchy comedy in some of her scenarios and the incisive realism she infuses others with, and she yields instead to both. So the film is sloppy and shapeless, but in a charming manner. Still, for all its unexpected twists, the path she has drawn out through this plot is unfocused, and too quickly predicted. And those white people problems do grate, since this is yet another indie 'dramedy' about the difficulties of being rich and white in America; Soloway graciously doesn't demonise McKenna, whom Juno Temple inhabits with an impressive amount of confidence and conviction, but while Rachel's cluelessness about the effects their friendship is having on her life works well in Afternoon Delight's comedy scenes, it stretches credulity in the dramatic ones. A colourful cast is comfortable in a variety of roles, including Annie Mumolo, brilliant as Kosher Amanda, and Jane Lynch as Rachel's self-obsessed shrink Lenore.


Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani have been all over this blog in the past year, and rightfully so. My introduction to their work came in the anthology horror The ABCs of Death, and their marvellous short segment 'O is for Orgasm'. This being a film comprised of 26 short films about death, the likelihood of it winning my prize for the best death sequence of 2013 was fairly high, and the likelihood, should it succeed, of Cattet and Forzani's contribution meriting top mention was even higher. Orgasmic to behold, their mastery of sight, sound and sexuality produced the year's most unforgettable depiction of death. The film's 'T is for Toilet' segment came close, as did the dog's death in Norte, the End of History.


No prizes for guessing which films have won the Richard Attenborough Film Awards from the UK Regional Film Critics! Usual suspects abound, meaning at the very least the second-favourites to win Oscars in March. Not gonna complain, like, not given the quality of these critics' choices. Word has it that Screen On Screen itself was narrowly beaten to the award for Blogger of the Year, but that it was beaten in a tie-break round, and only because of sympathy votes for Den of Geek, obvs.

Film of the Year
                12 Years a Slave

Director of the Year
                Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Actor of the Year
                Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Actress of the Year
                Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Screenwriters of the Year
                Spike Jonze (Her)

British Breakthrough of the Year
                George MacKay (How I Live Now / Sunshine on Leith)

British Film of the Year (Public Vote)

Visual Effects of the Year (Public Vote)

On-Screen Duo of the Year (Public Vote)
                Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Blogger of the Year (Public Vote)
                Den of Geek

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Elizabeth Banks has never directed a full-length feature, though she has helmed three short films, including one (not the worst, but still not all that good) from last year's anthology film Movie 43. She'll make her feature-length debut directing Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to the comedy musical from 2012 which made rather a lot of money, which I guess is why they're making a sequel! A good booking, I'd say, since Pitch Perfect's audience and Banks' fans probably have quite a lot of overlap.


The 2014 Sundance Film Festival closed up at the end of last week with the unveiling of its awards. Miles Teller-starring Whiplash won the most prolific award available at the festival, the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, won last year by Fruitvale Station.

U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize

U.S. Dramatic Directing Award
Cutter Hodierne (Fishing Without Nets)

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins)

U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award
Christopher Blauvelt (Low Down)

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score
The Octopus Project (Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter)

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent
Justin Simien (Dear White People)

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
I Origins

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award: Best of Next
Imperial Dreams


It was only a matter of time before Dame Helen Mirren was bestowed the BAFTA Fellowship, the academy's highest honour. BAFTA will induct her into their most elevated ranks at their annual awards ceremony, to be held this year on the 16th of February. She joins former winners Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Vanessa Redgrave, Steven Spielberg and Laurence Olivier. Esteemed company indeed.


It was the shining star of Harvey Weinstein's promo roll at last year's Cannes Film Festival, but then it was postponed from the current, crowded awards season until 2014, and reports of a feud between Weinstein and director Olivier Dahan emerged. But Grace of Monaco will nevertheless serve as the opening night gala premiere at Cannes this May. Plans for a US release and possible Oscar campaign are as yet unclear, signalling that maybe TWC will wait until reviews surface from Cannes before deciding if it would be worth their marketing dollars.


When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun is 115 minutes long, according to IMDb. According to my bum, it's more like 115 hours long. I guess I'll never be able to outright slate a Free Tibet documentary, but this one lost major points from me for being way, way too long. The pacing is sluggish and the film's rhetoric repetitive, and it seems to reach its natural conclusion just over an hour in. I exited the cinema shocked that it hadn't been even two hours, when I could have sworn it had been three. When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun is far from 2013's longest film, but it's easily 2013's most unnecessarily long (or long-feeling) film.

Monday, 27 January 2014


Starts well. Ends as the kind of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland style CGI shitfest I'm dreading it will be. Still, there's always Angelina. Out on the 30th of May in the UK and the US.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


These haven't changed much since last week. No, Alfonso Cuaron's DGA win has not changed my mind. I still think 12 Years a Slave will win the Best Picture Oscar.

Best Picture

12 Years a Slave (Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt)

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Original Screenplay
David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)

Best Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)


As the superhero genre continues to defy all sense and reason in growing in popularity year on year, the scale and scope of the films within the genre has also grown. And that includes the X-Men franchise, the original superhero team-up, with this year's upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past. Just someone forgot to tell Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, who wrote the screenplay for the smallest-budgeted X-Men film since X2, the smallest-feeling since X-Men, and the smallest-grossing since, well, ever. The Japanese setting was redundant, the plot way over-complicated (and corporate, I mean, this is a summer blockbuster, and the story is about a company changing hands?!) and the international cast a shameless attempt to draw increasingly lucrative foreign revenue. Which was a success, actually. But the film itself, quality-wise, was not. A step up from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but several steps down from what the character and the franchise both deserve. And so fucking dated. Like I said, scale and scope! Both of which were entirely absent from this mid-level performer, which should have been so much bigger and so much better.


The DGA is seen not only as the best predictor of who will win the Best Director Oscar but also as the best predictor of what will win the Best Picture Oscar. Which is why Alfonso Cuaron's DGA win for Gravity yesterday doesn't help to clarify a very close race in the Academy's top category - it has yet to win a major Best Picture award outright, something which 12 Years a Slave, its closest competition, has had no trouble in achieving. Our biggest clue might have to come from the BAFTAs, but that's three weeks away! Jehane Noujaim also won for Best Documentary Director - a female winner from a field in which women outnumbered men.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
Jehane Noujaim (The Square)


Pure proof that you can't polish a turd. You might be able to turn the turd into a meaningful work of art, or the very statement of the turd itself into the same, but no amount of spit and shine could ever make it any more than just a turd. Should Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado be applauded for attempting to draw something more artistically credible from their torture porn narrative shell? Or should they be ridiculed for not believing that this artistic credibility is nullified by its blatancy and its cliche? What actually imbues Big Bad Wolves with meaning is its comic value, which for me was low, but the limitless subjectivity of comedy is a factor there, and so I won't denounce a film's humour as a failure just for the fact that it didn't completely connect with me. It's decently-mounted comedy. As decently-mounted as the rest of this film, perhaps, and as unsuccessful. Its most troubling feature is its attitude toward police brutality. I'm the last person to rail against irresponsibility in film, and the first to laugh when someone gets hurt, but the vindication, bordering on heroism, of sickeningly violent cop Micki's deplorable actions turned my stomach. The supposed irony of his behaviour is treated as a source of mirth, while equally depraved characters are depicted as vile and vicious. The final shot is the strongest possible way for Keshales and Papushado to laud Micki for the dreadful cruelty he so horribly inflicted on suspected paedophile Dror, and the film's eagerness to prey on public hysteria surrounding sexual perversions of any manner is even more distasteful. Keshales and Papushado have crafted a slick, shallow film, with signs of individuality occasionally coming to light and with satisfactory, though bland, stylistic credits.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Would have been better if he was naked. For more info on what that might look like, hit that cut (or should that be uncut?).


I read good things about Oculus out of TIFF's Midnight Madness programme, and it was a runner-up award winner in that section. It'll be released on the 11th of April in the US. This trailer doesn't look half bad.


What with Jada taking a break from the movies last year and Willow's non-starter of a music career, it was up to the boys of the Smith family to buoy their fortunes in 2013. Not that they rly needed to... But their gargantuan flop of a summer blockbuster, After Earth, that risible Scientology commercial, was hardly the most fortunate venture for either father or son. M. Night Shyamalan turned director-for-hire, his career having plummeted to the deepest depths, guided the pair through their self-penned sci-fi bomb, supposed to be Will's comeback, but in the end only sinking his star even further.


It's films like Spike Lee's Oldboy that give remakes a bad name. This dull and distasteful retread of Park Chan Wook's ten-year-old classic thriller sapped all of Park's idiosyncratic verve out of its challenging material, replacing it with styleless, gratuitous violence, a generous dose of misogyny and a hammy performance of such overblown theatricality from Sharlto Copley that it would have ended his career, had more people seen the film. It's an embarrassment for FilmDistrict, soon to be merged (and effectively transformed) into Focus Features, that they were behind such drivel, and the film has only just scraped together a little over three times as much as the Korean Oldboy made, ten years ago, and in less than a twentieth of the theatres.

Friday, 24 January 2014


You can sense a slight despondency in Ken Scott's Delivery Man. It's the half-hearted whimper of a last-ditch attempt at the big time, before being pastured in a quick and cruel fashion that nobody really wants, but everybody really needs. Vince Vaughn has aged into an actor whom Hollywood will soon stop finding uses for: he's now playing the father of the characters he used to play, only he's still that same character himself. That's not the type of father figure audiences are looking for, alas. The warning signs are all over Delivery Man, with its supporting cast of young, upcoming faces. And the kicker comes when Scott seems to abandon all hope in Vaughn's ability to pull in the punters and devotes one key sequence to his straight man sidekick, Chris Pratt. It's in the framing, and the scripting: Pratt is the star of this show, taking that straight man role and effortlessly drawing out of it the funniest role in the entire film. There's something to be said for a film that loses its way without a supporting character, and, at that, one who spends most of the second act absent, and that something is not a good thing. Since Delivery Man is a comedy, and since it knows it, and since it is clearly the work of talented people just not trying very hard (Jon Brion wrote the score, which is a low for him but a high for the film), there are some successful gags in the film, though they're way too often undercut by schmaltz, contrivance and the nagging notion that Vince Vaughn fathered 533 children and they're almost exclusively slim and sexy. None of them have quite enough gall to consciously show Vaughn up - he's the daddy, after all. But daddy's looking a little tired, now, and a little despondent. Put him out to pasture already, and bring in some fresh meat. Bring in Chris Pratt.

Thursday, 23 January 2014


I first posted this trailer under its alternative title, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Takahata Isao's latest film has yet to receive significant international distribution, but the above trailer is my favourite of 2013, beating out also lovely trailers for The Wind Rises, Her, The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears and Nymphomaniac. Well, that one wasn't exactly 'lovely'. Only trailers for films released in 2013 were considered.


Contracted is a deceitful body horror film, with shifting identities and an apparent lack of logic. It reveals its true self in its final shot, whereupon it starts making sense, though the preceding first and second (and third) acts were, until this point, a more collectively befuddling affair than they needed to be. If you rearrange the film with its climactic revelation in mind, all of the pieces are present and correct, though were writer / director Eric England to have devised a conclusion more cohesive with what he appears to promise for the majority of Contracted, I doubt the issue of deception would have arisen. What matters is not how audacious England is in his creativity, but how effective he is in the application thereof. He lacks much conceptual creativity, actually, and this is a resolutely conventional film in its pure narrative and tonal content, but there are definite points of interest scattered throughout: he is surprisingly strong at guiding inter-personal relationships in the film to powerful effect, and lead character Samantha's tense bonds with her unresponsive girlfriend and her interfering mother are very keenly portrayed. He also makes a definite effort to ratchet up the retch factor, with all manner of gag-inducing effects generously employed. It's by no means subtle, though horror movies have some licence to avoid subtlety where they deem necessary, and I'd give Contracted a pass on that ground. England doesn't supply his gore with much purpose, much reason to exist, though, so these are empty eughs he's provoking from us, albeit hefty ones! Once Contracted begins, in the most abrupt and dissatisfying manner, to wrap up, the body horror angle is abandoned, unfortunately, and the film's identity makes its most pointed shift. As disappointing as it may be, it's not illogical. But what matters is not how audacious England is, but how effective he is. And, in the end, he's not very effective at all.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Too much!


Nominations announced a week ago have morphed into award winners from the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association. 12 Years a Slave is this group's favourite film of the year, as with so many others', though the only film to win more than one award is Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Film of the Year
12 Years a Slave

Film Performance of the Year - Actor
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Film Performance of the Year - Actress
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Documentary of the Year

Foreign Language Film of the Year
Blue Is the Warmest Colour

LGBT Film of the Year
Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Unsung Film of the Year
Kill Your Darlings
Short Term 12

Visually Striking Film of the Year

Campy Flick of the Year
I'm So Excited!

Wilde Artist of the Year
James Franco

Timeless Award
Lily Tomlin


Funny is as funny does, but funny does not when funny is not. It doesn't matter how many comic talents you enlist to beef up your cast, if the material isn't good enough, there's very little they can do. The writing is bland and laboured and the direction like an episode of Modern Family (expect Stu Zicherman's career to flourish on TV rather than in cinema), and this poor, talented cast must gurn their way through the charade as though this were legendary stuff. It's to their credit that they wring some considerable juice out of the screenplay, which aims to get by on trite comedic conceits which might have passed for genuine set-pieces thirty years ago, but which now are as humdrum as the next. Dear Catherine O'Hara and Richard Jenkins display their natural flair for humour as warring divorcees whose younger son is getting married to a girl he's known for mere months - their twenty-year feud has set their older son, played by Adam Scott, on edge about relationships, and his efforts to control every aspect of his brother's wedding only make things much worse... for him, at least. A supporting ensemble of familiar faces keeps materialising at odd junctures, distracting from the central narrative thrust, which takes a few more twists and turns than it can sustain since it's so thinly conceived. That said, hands down the best thing in A.C.O.D. is Jane Lynch as the opportunistic Dr. Judith - the role is no stretch for Lynch, but she shows off her impeccable ear for comedy in the role far better than she's been allowed to on screen for some time. She and a few choice moments here and there brighten up an otherwise rather tedious, though short, film; Nick Urata's score attempts to do similarly, but is immeasurably annoying instead.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


Iron Man 3 was a pretty darn good superhero blockbuster. It rly was. I had a lot of fun watching it. But its violent streak was far from fun, though not for the violence itself, but for the subtext surrounding that violence. Unlike previous superhero movies, Iron Man 3 posited an argument that violence is, indeed, the answer, that it is not something which ought to be tightly contained and controlled, and that the wholesale annihilation of the enemy is the most effective mean of dealing with the threat they pose. Otherwise, this is genuinely an extremely good film, but this particularly nauseating aspect of Iron Man 3 proper rubbed me up the wrong way, especially in its calamitous climactic sequence.


The blockbuster summer season may have extended well into the months beforehand, March and April, but the first weekend in May remains a lucrative box office placement. And that's the weekend set to be occupied by Batman vs. Superman in 2016, having been delayed by more than nine months from its initially-planned opening on the 17th of July, 2015. Reports are that the film would need more time; this is no surprise, since a year and a half until the release of a film that may become one of the biggest earners of all time does seem rather short. Warner Bros. previously had success on that same weekend with both of the most recent Batman films, and plans now to release Joe Wright's Pan next July instead. It's no wonder they've vacated next summer, as new films from franchises such as The Avengers, Jurassic Park and Fast & Furious scheduled for release then.


Since international attention has brought more acclaim, and more financing, to the wuxia genre, there has been a shift backwards in time, rather than forwards, to the origins of martial arts as we now know them. Wong Kar Wai may have been among the last of China's most prolific directors whom one would expect to succumb to this popular and populist genre, but he succeeds in doing so whilst not sacrificing the spirit of his own inimitable directorial style. In fact, Wong's eye for dazzling sensorial beauty and unconventional shot and editing structure conspires very well with The Grandmaster's action sequences, instead of muddying them and rendering them incomprehensible, which was the danger. It's when he must deal with the plot, non-fictional, linear, that he finds himself adrift in new and uncomfortable territory. Characters are introduced and dialogue is spoken and all perfunctorily, as Wong takes utmost care with capturing the admittedly breathtaking aesthetics he and his peerless crew have assembled. Since parting ways with Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Wong has struggled to find a DP with a visual style quite so closely matched to his own intentions; Philippe Le Sourd's striking, classical compositions are still perhaps better suited to this more traditional era than to what Wong intends to do with it, but their collaboration has yielded some stunning results, no doubt. And his trusty multi-hyphenate filmmaking partner William Chang has matched his very best work here, with a production design that warrants the attention lavished upon it, and a strong editing job. Though even he is unable to save the film from its rather flat narrative structure, that which so baffles Wong, and sometimes scene after scene will pass with little in the way of significant movement in terms of pacing. Nevertheless, each and every frame is so stuffed with the finest of finery that cinema can offer, that The Grandmaster survives its tribulations, and emerges as one of 2013's most technically impressive features.