It sounded like a great premise: Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a fictionalised version of himself who gets caught up in a post office heist gone wrong. Unfortunately the execution is fairly muddled and it doesn’t do anything interesting with the situation or with Van Damme. Oh, what might have been.
What an incredible film. I highly, highly recommend it. The manner in which the story is told is very clever, gradually drawing you further and further into the horrific events as the interviewees bring Folman closer to them through his and their memories. So many sequences will stay with me. Also, the animation style is excellent. And when, in the final moments, animation is replaced with archival footage – all of a sudden it hits and crushes you.
This is great: imagine if This Is Spinal Tap was a documentary rather than a mockumentary, and you’d have a fair idea of what to expect here. Anvil is a Canadian heavy metal band that was on the cusp of ‘making it’ in the early ’80s but never quite got there, and yet they’ve stayed together ever since. This documentary gives us a sweet portrait of a friendship between two guys who never give up their dreams and retain hope in the face of near-continual mediocrity and failure. I want the painting of a turd in a toilet drummer Robb Reiner shows us at one point. Ironically the band has now achieved a measure of success solely due to the release of the documentary. Interestingly it was directed by Sacha Gervasi, a former Anvil roadie, who after this went on to direct Hitchcock.
I’d heard such good things about this so my disappointment was perhaps inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, what Philippe Petit did is incredible, and it was wonderful to see so much footage of the preparations and lead-up (it almost seemed that Petit and his posse were angling for a documentary to be made thirty years later!), but when the main event came, the absence of any footage of the walk itself struck me like a sucker punch. Yes, yes, I realise it wasn’t the fault of the filmmakers (though they could have better prepared us for it), but it really felt anti-climactic. There were also some odd parts (e.g. an incongruous sex scene, two central interviewees tearing up in misleading or bizarre ways, etc.).
Not sure why it took me five years to get around to watching this. Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe are good, but the real revelation here is Mark Strong, who I normally don’t like. It’s not Ridley Scott’s best work, but it’s definitely worth a watch.
Little-known comedy about a pair of con artist brothers from Rian Johnson, who went on to make Looper (and direct some excellent episodes of Breaking Bad). It’s wry smile comedy rather than the laugh-out-loud variety, which is fine, and parts of it are quite fun – especially when we think we’re in on the brothers’ cons. Good performances from Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, and especially Rachel Weisz. The main trouble is that it thinks it’s incredibly clever, and we’re led to believe it will be, but the final stretch just doesn’t meet those expectations, and consequently detracts from everything that led up to it. I went along for the ride, expecting the con-within-a-con-within-a-con structure to lead to an ingenious resolution, but instead it left me disgruntled.
Coming-of-age story about a young drug dealer in New York and the shrink he deals to and befriends. It’s harmless enough but contains nothing we haven’t seen before. Setting it in 1994 adds a small measure of novelty, but that isn’t enough. Ben Kingsley is quite good in the interesting role of the shrink. The best part is the period rap and hip hop music, which I listened to on repeat for quite a while afterwards (when I wasn’t listening to the Easy Rider soundtrack).