Not good at all. Has some interesting ideas, and the basic premise (The Shining in space) has promise, but it descends into such stupidity! Plots holes galore and some laughably bad sequences, particularly in the second half. Plus, the explanation we’re given for what’s going on is pretty lame.
Mostly charmless Australian movie (based on a novel I hadn’t heard of) about a country girl’s experiences at an exclusive Melbourne boarding school in the 1890s. It’s fairly by-the-numbers and is a bit of a slog to get through. The main problem is that it’s boring, a consequence of bland subject matter, too-familiar themes, and static direction by Bruce Beresford. Look for young incarnations of Kerry Armstrong, Sigrid Thornton and Noni Hazlehurst.
One of those remakes that takes the ‘bigger is better’ approach and consequently fails. Scorsese exhibits skill as a filmmaker, as he always does, but it’s all for nought. There are several reasons for this: there’s no proper suspense or sense of reality; things that are supposed to be scary or creepy are instead silly or muddled; the attempt to delve more deeply into the story’s underlying themes (mostly by making the protagonist less heroic and his family dysfunctional) doesn’t pay off; the unusual stylistic flourishes, such as occasionally flashing to negative film images, add precisely nothing; and Robert De Niro ruins every scene he’s in. I was shocked to discover De Niro was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, since I found his laughably bad Southern accent almost as distracting as his unfortunate overacting. On the bright side, it’s nice to see the stars of the 1962 version appear in cameos that play against their original roles, though it does have the effect of bringing that far superior movie to mind, and the comparison does Scorsese no favours. (In my case, watching this version immediately after the original made the comparison even more stark and certainly contributed to my distaste.) My least favourite Scorsese film.
In some ways this is a difficult movie to judge. It’s written and directed by Louis C.K., one of my favourite people, but he was apparently fired during the editing process (after which point it was extensively reedited) and has effectively disowned it. In a sense it can be pointed to as the justification for FX’s decision to give Louis complete creative freedom in making his crazy-good TV series Louie: Pootie Tang is what happens to Louis’ work when he doesn’t have creative freedom; Louie is what happens when he does. Some actors and comedians I really like are in it: J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Reg E. Cathey (The Wire), J.D. Williams (The Wire), Chris Rock, David Cross (Arrested Development) and Todd Barry. However, putting aside my feelings about them (and Louis himself), I have to be honest: it’s pretty bad. I got the feeling it might have been better with a more talented comedic actor in the lead role. Most of the 3.5 goes to Wanda Sykes and her hilarious dancing as Biggie Shorty (plus her memorable line, “You think that just cause a girl likes to dress fancy and stand on the corner next to some whores, that she’s hookin’?!”) . Wa Da Tah!
I loved Kick-Ass and was really looking forward to this sequel. I saw that it had been savaged by critics, but as I recall lots of critics disliked the first movie too, so I didn’t totally lose hope. Then I watched it… what a piece of crap! It has occasional moments of fleeting entertainment, but by and large it feels entirely pointless. It begins with both Kick-Ass and Hit Girl lacking any of the confidence and heroism they had mastered by the end of the first movie, and then spends the rest of the movie contriving to enable them to get their respective mojos back. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is considerably less engaging than he was in the first movie, especially at the start, when he’s kind of annoying. Hit Girl’s entire character arc felt like a chore to get through; OK, we get it, your guardian doesn’t want you to be a superhero but you’ll obviously end up being one, whoopee! Christopher Mintz-Plasse is still fun but the role is fairly charmless and one-note this time around. Jim Carrey’s role is little more than a cameo, and it doesn’t add much. One of Mother Russia’s supervillainous rampages is accompanied by a rock version if the Tetris tune – get it, she’s Russian? – but they don’t even have the gumption to include any actual Tetris gags in the sequence. Writer/director Jeff Wadlow had nothing at all to do with the original movie, and from this point forward I shall have nothing at all to do with him.
I’m such a fan of the original Jurassic Park that the shortcomings of this sequel are all the more painful. It’s one of those sequels that attempts to recreate (and outdo) all the elements that made the first movie succeed, but in doing so it becomes little more than a soulless imitation. The motivations of the different factions on the island are entirely uninteresting. I’ll admit that one raptor moment made me jump. The final act seems entirely superfluous – but then, in a sense, so does the whole movie. At least the cast – featuring lots of familiar names and faces – is good. Incidentally, this is one of the movies I have in mind when I refer to Julianne Moore as a ‘replacement actress’; she steps in to fill the gap left by Laura Dern. (Similarly, Moore took on Jodie Foster’s Silence of the Lambs role in Hannibal; in that case the replacement was even more direct as she was playing the same character.)
Even if this had a thousand redeeming features, Brad Pitt’s woeful accent and performance would have rendered it dreadful. Unfortunately, the redeeming features are considerably fewer: the backdrops are pretty enough, the relationship between Pitt’s character and the Dalai Lama is somewhat engaging, and the John Williams score is fine. Beyond that, it’s pretty bad. And seriously, that accent is so distractingly terrible!
I find it hard to rate well-made bad movies like this one: do they get points for being well-made, or lose points for not living up to their potential? At least with poorly-made bad movies there’s a certain consistency; you quickly adjust your hopes and expectations. This movie, Nicholas Winding Refn’s follow-up to the excellent Drive, is stylish but pointless. There are some tense sequences, but the whole thing has a sense of gravity that’s not warranted or helpful, and the characters are wholly unappealing and uninteresting. Ordinarily I don’t have a problem with extreme depictions of violence; in this case, in contrast to my reaction to Drive, I found them to be fairly tiresome.
I like indie comedies as much as the next guy, but this one just didn’t really work. I’ve seen it described as being like a Todd Solondz film directed by Wes Anderson; unfortunately, it lacks the punch either of those directors would have brought to the material. Also, it’s only very rarely funny. Nick Offerman is good in a supporting role, but he’s not enough to make it worth watching.