Deepening the dent

As promised here’s a rundown of what’s been causing the bum-shaped dent in my leather sofa to get deeper – popcorn kernels of opinion on the various movies I have seen this month:

Last night I watched Child 44 and apart from the bit where I fell asleep it was pretty good. The Scott Free produced films I have seen lately have all been a little lacklustre so it was good to see one that worked ok. Tom Hardy plays quite a convincing conflicted Russian and the support in the form of Ridley Scott fave Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman do a good couple of turns. It was nice to see Vincent Cassel and Josef Altin (who I met once at a ComicCon) getting a couple of minor roles.

I got the impression from watching the film that the book by Tom Rob Smith is probably a good Kafkaesque read (and would help smooth over some rather awkward section and time transitions not handled that elegantly in the movie). Also it was odd to hear people shouting in Russian while the main characters were talking in Russian with a variety of different accents.

Byzantium and Runner Runner both star Gemma Arterton, one is a modern vampire tale, the other is a story about crooked online gambling also starring Justin Timberlake. I enjoyed the vampires more than the gamblers but both films could have been better. In both I didn’t have any great deal of sympathy for any of the characters. Byzantium felt like another take on Interview with the Vampire and Runner Runner a dodgy mishmash of casino related films.

However the prize for the worst film I have seen on Amazon this month has to go to The Internship which is like a giant infomercial for Google and no doubt had a script that was vetted by their gang of lawyers before it got anywhere near to being filmed. It is a predictable walk through a buddy movie starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson who seemed happy to cash in their checks at the end of the day with little effort at being anything other than the walking clichés they always seem to play. It evangelizes Google and viewed in the shadow of current corporate tax stories left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Siggy and I watched the classic Arnie documentary Pumping Iron and then Generation Iron for something to do earlier in the month. It’s interesting to see how the sport of body building has changed over the decades.

There is a scene in Generation Iron which should be used to explain the concept of ‘irony’ to anyone who doesn’t understand it. The scene involves a Texan body builder sitting on his horse and being interviewed about his extremely intensive training schedule. The interview tells him that his rivals for the Mr Universe crown have suggested that if he continues the way he has started that he will soon get injured. The body builder says that the assertions are rubbish and that all the injuries he has previously sustained have happened outside of the gym. He then proceeds to chivvy his horse into action. The horse goes mental and throws him off. In the process the body builder sustains an injury. The last laugh is actually his because the year after the film he won the competition.

Say When is a reasonably quirky film about a slacker played by Keira Knightley who falls in with a group of teenagers and tries to relive her youth while she attempts to figure out if she wants to marry her long term boyfriend or run off with one of the girl’s dad played by Sam Rockwell. Chloe Mortez (Hit Girl from Kick Ass) is the daughter and while predictable it’s quite an entertaining laid back film. There’s a low point at the end of Act 2 in much the same way as The Internship (and every other romcom or buddy movie) but I found it a lot less offensive to my cinephile brain.

The Gunman isn’t your average Taken style movie and seems to have more of a moral backbone and depth to it. Sean Penn plays a sniper who in true Bourne fashion comes out of hiding to uncover a conspiracy he was unwittingly part of. Penn is as usual excellent and it was interesting that the character suffers some physical problems as a result of his work. It is something I am hoping to write about this year in the context of a soldier caught in an IED blast – but the story might not see the light of day for a few years at the rate it is currently progressing.

Tonight I finished watching Cobain Montage of Heck as I had to consume it in two sittings as Siggy got back from a social event before the end yesterday. I have seriously mixed feelings about the film. It is very well produced and uses a lot of drawings, notes and recordings made by Kurt Cobain, features bits of interviews with a lot of people (but not Dave Grohl I noticed) and was co-produced by his daughter. However I can’t help but think that it presented an edgy but ultimately sanitised, almost MTV, version of Cobain’s life.

No-one really seemed to be saying anything particularly insightful and his suicide was not really handled. At times it felt grossly voyeuristic and although Courtney Cox was a willing contributor it didn’t in my mind paint a particular pleasant picture of her. I’m not pointing any fingers of blame btw but I wonder whether Cobain might still be alive if he had a better network of support around him. If Dave Gahan and Anthony Kiedis can survive similar drug addictions then why not Kurt Cobain, was it just luck?

Get Low stars Robert Duvall and Bill Murray and is a reasonably interesting period drama about a recluse with a shady past who wants some kind of redemption and understanding from his surrounding community, somewhere rural in America, before he dies. To that ends he organises a funeral party to be held while he is still alive and invites all those people with stories of him so he can tell his story and set the record straight. It also stars Tokyo Drift’s Lucas Black and a very old looking Sissy Spacek. It’s not a comedy but I found it quite a light-hearted film with a quite a satisfying story.

Anchorman 2 is better than The Internship in terms of comedy but is only truly funny and original in a few places. All the old newsroom buddies from the original film are back in action and I guess because I’m not a huge fan of the original I didn’t enjoy this as much as I might have done. For me the ridiculous push-the-farce-until-it-almost-breaks multiple newsroom battle in the park towards the end of the film was the best bit because by then any semblance of reality is dropped. I seem to recall the History Channel fielding a centaur for instance.

The Blind Side was a fairly typical rags to riches sports story with the twist that it was based on the true story of NFL star Michael Oher. Sandra Bullock does what she does best in an almost comedic role in portraying the main instigator of Oher’s transformation into an American hero. The Tuohy family are to be applauded for what they did and I found the story inspiring once I had overcome the urge to throw up at the rather schmaltzy Hollywood treatment. it would have been a shame if I had vomited as I had eaten a very nice fish and chips dinner.

John Wick for me was probably better than The Gunman in terms of delivering a visceral action film. It is far simpler than The Gunman and relies wholly on the visuals rather than the writing to entertain. Keanu Reeves is awesome as a retired hitman (yes yes I know it sounds like Taken already…) whose dead wife left him a puppy which gets killed when some punks break into his house and steal his muscle car. The whole thing is driven by his need for revenge and the great fight sequences and car chases.

Monsters: Dark Continent is a rather poor follow up to the original film with a different director and a much bigger budget. It is basically a modern war film with some monsters thrown into the back drop. As a modern war film it actually works rather nicely. As a sequel to Monsters it’s a bit of a flop.

Bunraku is most definitely best described as a marmite film along the lines of Sin City. The set design and artwork where green screen has been used is highly stylised to give a comic book feel. The story is reminiscent of Kill Bill in some ways and I couldn’t help but feel that it might have been better if they had filmed it on realistic locations and dispensed with all the design and green screen stuff. The worst thing for us was that we got a dodgy press of the Blu Ray from Lovefilm which did not have any subtitles when some of the characters were talking in Japanese. It was kind of fun to begin with to make shit up – ‘have you farted’, ‘yes I farted’, ‘you fart again I kill you…’ etc. – but in the end just got annoying.

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