Not quite the worst comedy I saw in 2013, or even the second-worst, but still very bad. Danny McBride and James Franco occasionally amuse, but mostly it’s just dull, and a major problem is that it tries to take its fantasy action sequences seriously instead of making them funny.
Meryl Streep won a well-deserved Oscar for the incredible performance that lies at the heart of this film. She completely inhabits the character and moves it well beyond mere imitation/impersonation and into something entirely convincing and ultimately quite moving. As a movie, though, there is a key misstep: while it is a good decision to frame the story with the ageing Thatcher suffering dementia, there is too much of a focus on her dementia-fueled interactions with her dead husband, which mostly come across as trite. Also, at times it feels like we’re getting a summarised ‘greatest hits’ version of her political career that glosses over some important moments. Despite these issues, there is much to like (in addition to the amazing Streep).
Mediocre comedy with two-dimensional characters (surprising in a movie from the Farrelly brothers, I know!) and a fairly repugnant premise. I really don’t see the appeal of Jason Sudeikis. Still, there were a couple of laughs – one involving poo and a g-string was particularly memorable. The always reliable Richard Jenkins steals a couple of scenes playing against type. Also good to see Stephen Merchant and J.B. Smoove in supporting roles, though for the most part both are wasted. The post-credits sequence featuring Merchant is worth waiting for.
Oh, Scorsese, why? Some of the visuals are interesting and I’ll admit I now know more about Georges Méliès than I did before. Beyond that, this mostly stunk. I didn’t care about the characters or the story, and it degenerated into self-indulgence (OK Marty, we get it, you love Méliès and think early cinematic history is terribly important) and – worse – tedium. The supporting characters were distractingly pointless. For some reason this was critically acclaimed.
Fast, witty comedy, one of the best I’ve seen. I can imagine some people interpreting it as just another high school comedy, but for me it went beyond self-awareness to a level of meta I associate with Community (a high compliment indeed). The cast of unknowns (to me at least) does a fine job, but it’s the script and style that are the real stars. It’s such a shame this was a critical and commercial failure; nobody seems to have heard of it. Track it down and watch it!
Fascinating story that gives insights into the Iranian bureaucracy/legal system, and into universal experiences of family/relationship/domestic strife, in equal measure. At first it doesn’t seem that engaging, but once you’re about 20 minutes in, it grabs you and doesn’t let go until the very end of the credits.
Quite a disappointment. The first half hour is great – I was immediately drawn in by the unique style, the clever homages to the silent film era, and the surprising sense of fun – but then it starts to drag and never really recovers. The second half commits the cardinal cinematic sin of being boring. Jean Dujardin is quite good but Bérénice Bejo is even better.
Experimental indie film has parts that work and parts that don’t, but you have to give them points for trying. Probably the aspect I’ll remember most is the depiction of the central friendship; it felt genuine and warm. But then, of course, there are the parts that don’t work… and instead come across as self-indulgent or – worse – laughably silly.
It’s very play-ish (unsurprising given it’s an adaptation of a play!) and at times the performances seem a bit stylised, but it’s still an interesting demonstration (and exploration) of how easily the façade of polite society can be stripped away to reveal our selfish, arseholish cores.
I did laugh a few times, mostly at Zach Galifianakis and occasionally at Dr Ken Jeong. However, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Todd Phillips and his co-writers actually thought viewers would overlook the fact that they’ve recycled the premise and storyline of the original movie almost beat-for-beat. There is literally nothing new in this, and what little freshness and liveliness there was in the original is now completely gone. Followed by The Hangover Part III.
An undeniably powerful story told in quite a straightforward, almost old-fashioned way. It’s the uniformly excellent performances from the large cast, mostly women, that truly elevate this; in particular, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain (all of whom were nominated for Oscars, with Spencer winning) are outstanding, with Emma Stone, Alison Janney and Bryce Dallas Howard close behind. The young twins who played Mae Mobley also do well, providing – together with Davis – some of the movie’s most moving moments (e.g. the lovely, and ultimately heartbreaking, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” refrain). Period music is used well, though there’s also one new song (by Mary J. Blige) that’s quite jarring and thankfully only appears right at the end. Final thought: given the movie’s subject matter, is it at all ironic or worrying that its protagonist, its writer/director, and the author of the novel upon which it was based, are all white?
Very interesting Iranian film that isn’t a film: it’s an ‘effort’ by filmmaker Jafar Panahi and his documentarian friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. At the time, Panahi was under house arrest, awaiting the results of his appeal against a six year jail sentence and twenty year filmmaking ban for “propaganda against the regime”. Shot over ten days (though edited together to create the appearance that it takes place over a single day), this ‘effort’ is a pseudo-documentary that allows Panahi to express himself creatively without breaching his state-imposed silence, while exploring what it means to ‘make’ rather than ‘tell’ a film. Overall, nothing much happens (which is why, ultimately, I can’t score it higher), but this is really all about context: we bring our own meaning to it through our knowledge of the circumstances in which the ‘effort’ was made (and the circumstances in which it came to us: it was apparently smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick hidden inside a cake!) and what it represents in terms of Panahi’s irrepressible creativity and the oppressive regime silencing him.
Excellent exploration of mental illness draws much of its power from the performances: Michael Shannon is rivetting and Jessica Chastain strong in support. The scene at the community gathering/dinner was particularly memorable (I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe once throughout the scene), as was the ending of course.
A superior piece of advocacy documentary filmmaking. There’s nothing especially explosive about this chapter compared to its predecessors except that it brings the West Memphis Three story to a close, providing some measure of resolution. At times it comes across as little more than a conventional – or even pedestrian – TV documentary, but on reflection, considering the access, the range of footage and material presented, the events captured and regurgitated for us, and the power of the message at its core, I think it rises above that. As with the first two parts, it includes some extremely graphic crime scene footage and photos of murdered children. I found myself more upset by them this time, perhaps because I now have a child of my own. Their inclusion still feels somewhat exploitative; they’re effective in once again hammering home the horrific nature of the crimes, but somehow it feels like material that should remain private. The trilogy provides an interesting case study of how documentary, as a form, can be used to persuade; from the first and second parts we were convinced John Mark Byer probably killed the kids, and now from this third part we’re led to believe Terry Hobbs probably did so. Reflecting on that – and the fact that any future sequel could lead us to another conclusion entirely – is somewhat unsettling.
Jack Black is great in this overlooked gem from Richard Linklater. An interesting take on the Christopher Guest-style mockumentary genre, it mixes in interviews with actual residents from the small town at the centre of the story who knew the real Bernie. The songs performed by Black are permanently stuck in my head.
Harrowing personal story of one man, his family and his community in the West Bank, told through footage he captured with his five cameras over five years. Fully deserving of its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. Some aspects felt somewhat manipulative, and parts of Burnat’s story were glossed over (e.g. where some of his cameras came from; his connections to activist groups; the cause of a car accident at one point), but nonetheless it’s powerful due to the intimate nature of the footage and the sense it generates of actually being on the ground experiencing events in this troubled Palestinian town. It made me very glad to be raising a child in Australia rather than – say – the West Bank.