Directors: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi
Jichael Mackson, the Ping of Kop, singer of countless hits such as ‘Jelly Bean’, ‘Wheel the Hurled’ and ‘Whack or Blight’.
Fascinating autobiographical French animation about a young Iranian girl who grows up during the Iran-Iraq War.
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, it maintains the same art style and transforms it into a uniquely simple yet effective style of animation, perfect for conveying the protagonist’s perspective of the world, immersing the audience within that world, and giving the film its wry tone. Satrapi is an endearing character and her somewhat unusual life makes for an engaging narrative and an interesting window into the events of the time.
Considering the film’s subject matter and the wide acclaim it’s received, I found it didn’t pack quite enough of an emotional punch to be truly great, but nonetheless it’s an admirable and authentic piece of work that deserves to be seen.
A rare photo of one of the early table reads for Boardwalk Empire, back when Ethan Hawke was set to play Nucky Thompson. He’s no Steve Buscemi, sure, but it might have worked.
Sidney Lumet’s final film is a well made but unpleasant crime drama featuring an excellent cast – the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Michael Shannon, etc. – who all play people I’d rather not spend time with, thanks very much. Lumet tells the story in non-linear fashion, showing us the same scenes several times in order to change from one character’s perspective to another’s. Presumably this is intended to give the audience greater insight into what’s going on; however, in practice we end up gaining almost nothing every time, so the exercise seems pointless. Still, the performances are uniformly solid and there are a few moments of truth and emotional depth (though not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation).
Bleak movie about a woman helping her friend get an illegal abortion in late 1980s Communist Romania. Its power comes from portraying the events in a completely matter-of-fact manner, with long takes and no flash, drawing the viewer deeper and deeper into the situation. There’s no judgement in relation to the abortion itself – the movie is neither pro-life nor pro-choice, and in fact shows no interest in that question – but there is a strong and unmistakable judgement of the state of Romanian society in the final years of the Ceaușescu regime: from the rudeness of hotel staff to the obsession with identity cards to the brutality of the payment exacted by the abortionist, we are shown an unpleasant place lacking trust and compassion. The three central performances are very good, particularly Anamaria Marinca in the lead role. It’s not an especially exciting movie, but it’s well made and does what it sets out to do.
Brilliant documentary works on several levels (excuse the pun): it’s a classic story of a rivalry between the evil establishment (reigning Donkey Kong world champion Billy Mitchell and his cronies) and the heroic underdog (good guy everyman Steve Wiebe); it’s an exploration of a subculture that is both unique and representative of every other ‘in crowd’ community we’ve all experienced at some point; it’s a parable about success, failure, honesty and determination in contemporary America; and it’s a portrait of a bunch of fascinating real-life characters. I was going to give it 9.5 but then I read a few things (e.g. claims of inaccuracy, some of which the director has apparently conceded) that made me revise my score slightly. Nonetheless, it’s now my third favourite documentary ever.
I have nothing funny to say about this – it’s just a beautifully composed shot.
Excellent debut from writer/director Jeff Nichols, who went on to make Take Shelter and Mud. It’s actually many things at once: a thoughtful meditation on the consequences of a deep-seated hatred between two sets of brothers who share a recently-deceased father; a grim slice of life within a rural Arkansas community; a study of the bonds between three brothers; and a showcase for the superb Michael Shannon. More understated in its tone and approach than either of Nichols’ later films, it’s incredibly well-crafted, creating the impression that we’re in the hands of an accomplished expert rather than a newbie who was just 25 when most of this was shot. While Shannon is the stand-out, Douglas Ligon (who has done almost nothing apart from this) is also very good as one of his brothers. As far as I’m concerned this makes it three from three for Nichols; I now regard myself as a devoted fan and am very much looking forward to his next film, a sci-fi chase movie called Midnight Special, due out in 2014.
This comedy is harmless but the laughs are few and far between – so much so that it instigated a (largely unsuccessful) search, in the weeks that followed, for genuine laugh-out-loud comedy movies. Andy Samberg plays the lead and while I think he’s quite talented, his work here seems to suggest he should stick to shorts as he can’t carry a feature. Has some strong comedic performers in supporting roles (Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Will Arnett and Chris Parnell) but they’re mostly wasted.
Directors: Ellen Spiro & Phil Donahue
Moving but flawed documentary blends the story of paralysed Iraq War vet Tomas Young with a somewhat clumsy condemnation of the congressional debate and vote to commence that war in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, the condemnation is entirely justified; it’s just that the clips of congressional speeches and listings of voters are repetitive, interrupt the flow of the documentary, and detract from the much more engaging story of Young and his family. Some nice (but, again, repetitive) use of Eddie Vedder songs. As I write this review, Young is apparently in a hospice awaiting his death, which is a tragedy.
Deeply moving true story of a man trapped in his own body. Julian Schnabel’s direction and Mathieu Amalric’s performance are superb. The immersive nature of the film (particularly the first 40 minutes or so, during which everything is seen through the protagonist’s eye) is one of its greatest strengths. A wonderful testament to the power of the human mind and imagination, and our potential for resilience and determination, it’s uplifting even as it tears you apart with grief. Some sections are less engaging than others, but overall it’s really a great movie. Highly recommended.