I only watched one bad movie this past week. I’m not even sure if I have a right to call it bad, because I’m not entirely sure I “got” it, but here it goes.
Prince Avalanche (2013) – 5 (IMDb 6.6) – Comedy, Drama (USA)
In my experience director David Gordon Green has been full of surprises, both good ones and bad ones. When I first heard of Prince Avalanche it was in the context of the Berlin Film Festival and it was getting a lot of praise, so after the train-wreck that was Your Highness and the moderately enjoyable ‘Sitter’ I decided to give this movie a chance. I was actually kind of looking forward to it and enjoying it at the beginning, but then it sort of just ends up going nowhere. Well, maybe nowhere isn’t even the right way to describe it, because it just becomes weirder and weirder, but not in a good way. You know how some people say certain types of movies are a complete “mind-fuck”? They normally don’t mean it in the way that a movie like Prince Avalanche is weird. The film follows two highway road workers who, isolated and lonely in nature, discuss their romantic life. There’s also something about a house that burned down, but I’m not sure what it all means. Oh and weird scenes à la Dogville, but again I’m not sure why. Can’t say I completely hated it, but it’s not like I would re-watch it so, that’s why it ends up in the ‘bad’ category. Also, I like both actors (Emile Hirsch & Paul Rudd), but oddly enough their performances here didn’t impress me all that much or maybe it was just their unlikable characters, I’m not sure.
Last week was a great week for movies at my house. I watched three Woody Allen films, re-watched one of last year’s favorites (Spring Breakers) and one of my all time favorite films: Lars von Trier’s Dogville. I also managed to squeeze in a short film by Lukas Moodysson called Talk (1997). All in all a very satisfying week for movie watching. How about you guys?
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Zelig (1983) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
A black and white faux documentary written, directed and starring Woody Allen as a human chameleon, literally. Charming film, funny, thoughtful and probably one of Woody’s best film. I also like Mia Farrow in this, she’s great as the psychologist trying to cure Woody Allen’s character from his strange disease. I guess Woody was trying to make some kind of social commentary and of course reprising his usual themes (love, art, death) and the film has much more going on under the surface than what it looks like. Good film, works for me, recommended.
Spring Breakers (2012) – 8.5 (IMDb 5.7) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
Alyce (2011) – 7.5 (IMDb 5.1) – Horror (USA)
Good horror movies aren’t easy to come by these days, Alyce is certainly one of the best American genre films in a while. Successfully mixing comedy and horror (which is never easy) Alyce tells the story of a young woman that accidentally kills her best friend and her subsequent descent into madness. The film works so beautifully thanks to Jade Dornfeld’s convincing performance and a witty script. While the story and the subjects discussed in Alyce are hardly new or original its execution is well above average genre fare. The only thing bothering me is the blatant social commentary, which I agree with ideologically, but is poorly presented and mostly out of place.
Scoop (2006) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.7) – Comedy, Mystery (USA)
Another great Woody Allen film from his British period this time. Scoop starring Woody Allen himself, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman is a funny comedy/mystery. Typical Woody Allen humor, an intriguing case and some great performance make this film worthwhile. The story revolves around a young journalist (Johansson’s character) that gets a scoop about a serial killer from a dead journalist. Helpless she turns to Woody Allen’s character, an illusionist, who assist her, if only because she is so incredibly good-looking. Hugh Jackman’s character is the suspect and does a fantastic job at playing this charming rich kid above suspicion.
Au Hazard Balthazar (1966) – 7 (IMDb 7.8) – Crime, Drama, Criterion (France)
This film is a classic and part of the criterion collection, so it was about time I checked it out. This is the first film by French auteur Robert Bresson that I’ve seen and I enjoyed it. It’s about a young girl and her (mis)adventures, all of which are tied together by this donkey that shows up in her life very early on. It’s a character piece I would say, an exploration of many themes part of the human experience, so it’s difficult to pin it down to just one, because it’s about a number of things. Strong performances, a well wrought screenplay and gorgeous black & white cinematography are what sticks out for me in Au Hazard Balthazar.
Dogville (2003) – 9 (IMDb 7.9) – Crime, Drama (Denmark)
Small Time Crooks (2000) – 7 (IMDb 6.5) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Considered one of Woody Allen’s lesser films Small Time Crooks is actually an excellent exploration of what fame and fortune can do to people. It’s also features one of Allen’s most hopeful endings, this and Midnight in Paris are as close at it gets to a happy ending for him. I really dug the story of this normal Manhattan couple who suddenly makes a lot of money selling cookies. The wife wants to be part of high society, but the “real” rich people don’t care about her, because she’s ignorant and has bad taste. Her husband, a thief, doesn’t care, he seems to be missing their old life. He was content with what he had, even if it was mediocre.
The Purge (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.6) – Horror, Thriller (USA)
Great concept doesn’t always equal great movie. The premise of The Purge is that in the future the US government will legalize crime for one night of the year, so that people “get it out of their system”. The film is about a family whose home is invaded and how they have to fight to survive. Besides plot holes and a cheesy script, I must say the atmosphere and tension mostly work. It’s the cast that sells it. The social commentary is so obvious I won’t discuss it, but it does make you think and it does bring up some interesting questions and issues. At the end of the day though this film is more interesting from a philosophical stand point than a filmmaking one.
That’s it for this week. I tried to keep the reviews really short: It saves time. See you next week!
Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a beautiful young woman on the run. In her escape from the mob, she arrives in a rural small town somewhere in America. Dogville is a quiet place isolated from the rest of the world. Its residents are simple people who like to keep to themselves and see her arrival with some skepticism. Fortunately for Grace, Tom (Paul Bettany) a young philosopher is willing to help her. His generosity is not completely selfless: He is trying to prove his people a point. Tom wants to teach the town’s people that if they are able to accept a stranger they will only be better off for it. At first reluctant to engage with Grace, the people soon start benefiting from her presence. She offers her services to everyone in town and so after a two week trial period they decide that she can stay. On the fourth of July however, the police issues a fake warrant for her arrest. The people of Dogville know she is innocent, but nevertheless they begin to treat her like she owes them more. Grace is abused, she tries to escape, but fails and is abused once more until Tom has had enough and decides to call the mob. It all ends in an epic climax you’d have to see to believe. Continue reading