I haven’t done this in a while, but I have watched quite a few movies lately, so I’ll reprise it this week and try to keep it up. It’s not like many people care anyway, but to the few good souls that actually read my stuff: Je suis désolé. After a month of basically non-stop horror, I wanted a week where I could basically just watch whatever, based on my mood and my snobbish sensibilities. And so I did. I was mostly successful in my intent, but of course you can’t avoid a couple meh flicks, nothing bad though, so that’s cool.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Frances Ha (2012) – 8 (IMDb 7.6) – Comedy, Drama, Criterion (USA)
Slacker (1991) – 7 (IMDb 6.9) – Comedy, Drama, Criterion (USA)
Richard Linklater’s Slacker is a film about a bunch of slackers, all seemingly living in the same area (boy business gotta be bad down there). It is only appropriate that the film has the same attention span and focus of a pot addict, since most of the films protagonists seem to be smoking some sort of substance. There is no real story or recognizable plot, the film sort of follows these slacker characters for a couple of scenes, then moves on the the next slackers, the “new” ones that made their appearance in the previous scene. Unfortunately, sometimes just when things were about to get interesting, the film changes subject and characters. Most of the slacker-dynamics are very similar: There’s the very talkative, almost annoying slacker, the quiet slacker, the stoned out of his mind slacker and so on. It’s just the actors that change. All in all, as with every Linklater film dialogue is king. While there are some interesting thoughts and discussions in Slacker the film is far from his strongest effort.
The To Do List (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.8) – Comedy (USA)
I was ready to dismiss The To Do List as a bad teen comedy with no spine and guts, but I had to change my mind watching the film. Of course Aubrey Plaza was the deciding factor in me even giving it a shot, but I must say that I was more impressed with Johnny Simmons in this film. Set in the 1990s the movie is about a nerdy high-school girl graduating with top grades, but lacking sexual experiences. Being a very organized and serious girl, she decides to do a check list of all the sexual activities she needs to learn before going to college (and sleeping with her crush). What sets this film apart from standard genre fare is the ending (which I won’t spoil). Oddly enough, even though it’s supposed to be an homage to the 90s, the film feels more 80s than anything else in its structure, humor and characters. One issue I take with the film is Plaza’s character, which is not as likable and relatable and ends up feeling artificial and annoying. Not all the jokes work, but overall the film is entertaining enough especially if you like this type of films.
Casino (1995) – 6.5 (IMDb 8.2) – Biography, Crime, Drama (USA)
Directed by Martin Scorsese Casino is the story of two guys trying to make it big in Las Vegas in the casino business. Of course being a Scorsese picture, you know it’s going to be about the mob, the seedy underbelly of the Sin City, the Italian tough guys with strong accents and goofy voices. I’m not going to lie it’s a great film, but I was overwhelmingly annoyed by Joe Pesci’s voice-over. I detest his whiny voice. His lines were supposed to be funny, but made me cringe instead. Every time he was talking I checked out mentally and actively tried not listening to him. Aside from that I’d say the film’s strength lies in the great performances and the overall solid acting (including Pesci). De Niro is great, Sharon Stone is almost unrecognizable (which is automatically a good thing, right?). It’s an intriguing story, even if sometimes it just seems like a list of events and names. One last complaint is that the film is a bit too long. Some leaner editing, less running down facts and voice-overs would have made the whole thing more enjoyable. Still a great film on every other technical level.
Bitter Moon (1992) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.9) – Drama, Romance, Thriller (France)
As a big fan of Roman Polanski when I heard that he had done a Lolita-type story, I was immediately curious to check it out and I must say that I wasn’t disappointed. Bitter Moon is about a couple (Hugh Grant & Kristin Scott Thomas) traveling to India by ship. On their journey they meed a strange disabled man on a wheelchair and a drop dead gorgeous femme fatale (Emmanuelle Seigner), who is his wife. Of course Grant’s character wants to have an affair with the mysterious voluptuous woman, but the man in the wheelchair know this. So instead of forbidding him to touch his wife, he starts to tell him the story of how they met and how she basically ruined his life. The whole film is basically just Peter Coyote telling the story, but the story is so intriguing, sexy and twisted that it works. Like with every Polanski film you have to ask yourself if it’s not all just a bad dream. I was very impressed with this film, great casting and actors, an engrossing story, well-rounded, three-dimensional characters and a very romantic, yet dark atmosphere. Highly recommended.
If you thought this week’s mini-reviews were particularly inspired, you can thank the ridiculously adorable brunette that was irradiating the library with her beauty today. Or maybe it’s just the pretty pictures I added to this section. Yeah, it’s probably just the pictures.
Two disappointments this week. Actually: It’s three, but we’ll get to that. For now enjoy the meh films of the week.
Only God Forgives (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Crime, Drama (Denmark)
The best thing about Only God Forgives is its beautiful neon infused cinematography by Larry Smith and Cliff Martinez’ atmospheric score. It helps to set a very specific mood and tone throughout the film. It’s no ‘Drive 2′, I’ll tell you that much. None of the characters are likable, they are realistic, because they are horrible people, but at the end of the day: Why should we care about them? In terms of performances Kristin Scott Thomas definitely stands out, but the Thai cast is very good too; not too impressed with Ryan Gosling (who was great in Drive). The story is simple: Billy (Tom Burke) is a fuck up who rapes and kills an underage prostitute. The Thai police let the father of the girl have his revenge, so he kills Billy. This is where Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) comes in. She flies all the way to Thailand to ask Julian (Ryan Gosling) to get revenge for his brother’s death. Stuff gets complicated, people die, you know the drill. All in all fairly disappointed, but I did like that the film feels a bit Danish, especially in its humor.
Cabaret (1972) – 6 (IMDb 7.7) – Drama, Music (USA)
Not a big fan of Bob Fosse, I watched this, because Sofia Coppola mentions it as one of her influences. Also, I’ve been watching Arrested Development a lot and Liza Minelli is great in it. She’s actually the best thing in season 4. Anyway, Cabaret feels uneven. It’s not my sense of humor, it’s wanna-be “moral lessons” are pathetic, but the songs and numbers are quite good. Maybe Fosse should have stuck with that: Filmmaking is not for everybody. I feel however like I’m in the minority for disliking Fosse, so make up your mind and watch the film yourself if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. The story is predictable, quite boring in some parts and I prefer the more mature Liza Minelli we have now, if I have to be honest.
Next up bad movies. Or should I say movie. Or should I say.. Ugh!