Category: Film reviews

BRIEF THOUGHTS ON: TANGERINE, MAD MAX, DODES’KA-DEN

Hello there. It’s been a long time since I last posted here, and in that last post, I said that this would be “weekly or bi-weekly”. Well, guess what. I lied. Right through my teeth. So from this point onward, consider these posts to be whenever I can be bothered. Ideally monthly, but setting myself an actual schedule seems optimistic. Also I’m no longer publishing my thoughts on every movie I see, because sometimes what I write is really bad. If you’d like to see my thoughts on every movie I’ve seen recently for some reason, presented in the form of an arbitrary star rating, feel free to check to check out my letterboxd account here: https://letterboxd.com/itstune/

Anyway, here are some rambles for you. Enjoy.

Mad Max (197madmax.jpg9)

Lindsay Ellis at one point described this film as “an extended first act”, which I am going to co-opt here because I think it’s true. The style is very much the substance here, with the script itself being a pretty standard revenge flick. All the performances are campy as shit, and it’s rather hard to tell how seriously the film is to be taken, but despite that it’s generally pretty entertaining, though the preamble to the event that triggers Max going mad goes on waaaaaaay to long. Still, I have a lot of respect for it. It’s an ingenious bit of low budget film making, with the justly celebrated action scenes being the highlight of the generally pretty amazing style. Looking forward to checking out the sequels, which sound much more up my alley.

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Tangerine (2015)

The ultra-low-budget-shot-on-some-iPhones-comedy-drama-hyphenate-heavy-romp through the seediest parts of LA. It’s decent. Mostly it revolves around two transgender women, one of whom has discovered that her boyfriend may have cheated on her while she was in prison, and thus, wreaks havoc. It’s not the most original concept for a movie, but it does work fairly well. Not all the jokes hit home, and though I admire how much the filmmakers managed to do with a couple of Iphones, I personally find the heavily colour corrected, hyperactive visual style to be rather unpleasant to look at (though maybe that’s the point). But despite those issues with it I still found the film rather interesting. All the performances are good, and it’s cast highlights a lot of different demographics that don’t get nearly enough media representation, as well as the trials and tribulations that they face. And, most admirably, it squeezes a not insubstantial amount of depth and complexity into all the major players into it’s rather short run-time. While I confess that it’s not really my thing, I’m glad it exists and I’m glad I saw it.

Doddodeskadenes’ka-den (1970)

Kurosawa’s first in colour is perplexing to say the least. It’s the collected stories of the inhabitants of a desolate slum. The movie is all over the place, in terms of tone, thematics, pacing, and quality. Some scenes in the film are legitimately great, such as the scene when the salaryman has his
colleagues over for drinks, or when an old man convinces someone to find meaning in their life, another moment between the Father and his children, and several scenes involving two drunks who have a tendency to swap wives from time to time. I even like the scenes with Roku-chan and his ‘trolley’, though I find it very hard to discern whether I’m supposed to find it tragic, funny, uplifting or all three. Other subplots are well executed, such as the one involving the abused niece or the ‘house-builders’, but devolve into such misery that it’s hard to say that I actually ‘enjoyed’ them. And some could have just been cut altogether; the one involving the estranged couple springs to mind. The only real uniting factor for the whole thing is that it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. I’m pretty sure only Kurosawa could make a literal garbage heap look so interesting. Though he would achieve greater things with colour in
Ran, this is still an incredibly impressive and utterly beautiful film just to look at. I especially love the stylized painted sky that we see in some of the night scenes. All the performances are good, and even when the whole thing devolves into misery porn, it’s hard to say that it leaves you unaffected. It’s by no means a masterpiece or even particuarly essential viewing, but if you are one who enjoys sprawling disjointed narratives full of beautiful colours, occasional heart warming humanism and a not insignificant amount of soul crushing bleakness, seek this one out. 

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Sorry this has been so long folks. Been rather busy. Not sure how regular these are going to be with me actually trying to be a half decent student and trying actually having a sleep schedule, but I’ll try to get them up weekly or biweekly, depending. Apologies for any typos and shitty analysis. Enjoy.

Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998)

A kind of proto-youtube poop of the old Andy Hardy teen comedies. It’s… weird. Comparing it to YTP is sort of underselling it, (I don’t think YTP ever could reach this level of disturbing), but still, it is just a remix of previously existing clips. And with those previously existing clips it creates a tale of implied incest, unintentional orgasm sounds, and daddy issues. You know, good solid family entertainment. Like I said, it’s weird. At times funny, but very weird. And also, really freaky. Most of the film is just these clips repeating over and over again, with these horrifying sounds and strange jerky movements, combined with edits that almost act like jump scares, all of which dig so deep into the uncanny valley that the movie starts to get under my skin, in a Lynchian sort of way. Still, it’s always fun to watch something so innocent turned so very…not. Give it a look.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

Godard’s psyche circa 1967… THE MOVIE! Yes, this film is basically everything that Godard had on his mind at that point in time, told through weird whispery voice over and various people talking directly into the camera, most often, Mariana Vlady, playing ostensibly the main character, though it’s hard to really call her a “character” in the tradiotional sense, in the smae way that it’s hard to say that the film has a plot. The DVD descriptions would give you the impression that this is a film about a housewife/prostitute living her life or whatever, and I suppose if you took random 3 second clips of the film you might get that impression. But no, you have been mislead, this is not a film about plot, it is a film about raising philosophical, moral, and social issues and questions to the viewer through the most obtuse language possible, giving you about 5 seconds to think about it, and then it hurtles on to the next thing, and the cycle repeats itself. So, you may be wondering, what are those issues/questions?

Well:

  • What is it to speak?/What is language?
  • Objectification of women/people in general
  • The Vietnam War
  • Materialism
  • What is it to “know” something?
  • Social ills of Paris
  • Malaise
  • And about 500 other things that I didn’t get a chance to write down.

At one point during the film, I wrote in my notes “this movie is so dense I’m drowning”, which I think sums it up quite nicely. All of the topics on display here are really interesting, and the movie is hardly badly put together, nor does it poorly cover it’s topics, it’s just…. Exhausting! Every second you’re being hit with a new concept, communicated in weird metaphors and hard to follow language. Your head starts to spin, “OH GOD THERE IS SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT, OH NO THE WORLD IS SO FULL OF SUFFERING AND HARDSHIP AND GODARD KEEPS WHISPERING IT AND I CAN’T HEAR AND THEY KEEP BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL AND OH GOD I FEEL DIZZY I’M GOING TO THROW UP”.

And so on for 83 minutes.

It’s not an easy movie to watch to be sure. However, it is very well constructed, with some gorgeous shots of Paris and it’s inhabitants. And though I did just sound like I was angry at Godard for making a film so dense, I’m not really. It’s frustrating to be sure, but, presuming you’re not repulsed by the pretension of it all, there’s a lot of things that are worth grappling with and thinking about. There’s a lot to be said for a film that gets you thinking, and when it’s done by someone with the same level of skill as Godard, it’s hard to say that it’s not worth at least one look.

14th of February

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Wes Anderson’s candy coloured comedic caper of saying the phrase “Oh hey look it’s [RECOGNISABLE ACTOR NAME]!”

Also it’s really good.

For one thing, all those recognisable actors that I just mentioned: Really good, every one of them. That same sentiment also goes for the not so famous actors. Pretty much every one is killing it, is what I’m trying to say. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in particular, as mains M. Gustave and Zero respectively, are not only excellent in their own right, but have great chemistry, working off each other extremely well, delivering most of the funniest scenes in what is a very funny movie, as well as pretty much all of the most poignant ones. 

And of course, like any Wes Anderson film, it’s immaculately made. I know his freakishly geometric style isn’t exactly everyone’s bag, but I personally really enjoy it. Everything feels hyper constructed and unreal, but that aesthetic just adds to the playfulness and the fun of the film.

Did I mention it’s fun? I should, because it it so much fun. It’s fun to look at, it’s fun to watch the increasingly nutso plot play itself out, it’s fun watching all these well known actors, who are all clearly having a blast, deliver the hilarious dialogue. All fun, all the time.

And yet, in spite of that, It’s also strangely melancholy. Mostly this is just a result of the use of several different time periods during the film, seem to serve one purpose, and one purpose alone, a purpose you’re made aware of from the first shot onward: Pretty much every character you’ll have any reason to care about is almost certainly long dead. This kind of casts a cloud over the whole movie, that other “period” (I hesitate to use that word with this film, but I can’t think of much else) pieces wouldn’t ever bother to make so specific. While you’re watching the film, most of you is going “oh yeah, this a blast”, but then the movie reminds you every so often that this movie takes place quite a long time ago and that the march of time has come for these characters, as it comes for all.

So, what purpose does that serve? Why bring the mood down with that small reminder that everybody’s gonna die and there’s nothing we can really do about. 

Well, I guess I’d say that it’s for pathos. For the reason of turning a film that should just be particularly delicious junk food into something that’ll actually move you, to some extent. To add a degree of emotional complexity that, at a glance, wouldn’t seem that emotionally complex at all. And it is all the better for it.

Or maybe I’m just a pretentious teenager who knows.

19th of February

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Umm… What to say about The Man Who Fell to Earth? It’s a confounding film really, the kind of forces you to do mental gymnastics if you want to figure out what, if anything it’s trying to say. Is it about consumerism? The depravity of humanity? Corruption of the soul? All of those things? None of them? I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about tone, about feeling like you’re completely lost as to what is going, but you don’t really mind, following a stranger in a stranger land…


But I haven’t even really said anything actually concrete about the film at this point, have I? Well, The Man Who fell to Earth is a 1976 science fiction film directed by Nicolas Roeg, of Don’t Look Now and Walkabout fame. It also happens to star beloved musician and dead-for-a-year-but-it-still-feels-recently deceased celebrity David Bowie, in the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a dying planet in search of the precious water that his race is in desperately short supply of. To paraphrase from just about every piece of writing about this film, this was the role Bowie was born to play. I mean, he doesn’t really do a lot of particularly difficult acting, but just from looking the way David Bowie did in 1976, and giving off the vibe that he did around that time, he really does make you think that he’s from another planet. All the other performances in the film are good too, with Rip Torn and Candy Clark being the standouts, basically on the merit of being the only two who get more than a couple of lines, but none leave quite as strong an impression as the main star (though that, to be fair, is difficult). I should also mention that it is gorgeous to look at, being shot primarily in New Mexico, with some lovely desolate locations.

It’s also edited in (what I am told) to be Roeg’s trademark style, with heaps of cross cutting, jump cuts, and several time skips that are not always entirely clear, which isn’t exactly helpful in trying to follow the already rather opaque plot, but it does add a lot of meaning to several scenes that would be rather bland without it.
Anyway suffice to say, overall I did quite enjoy it. While I’m not entirely sure exactly what it is trying to say, if anything, it does make for strangely compelling viewing, with it’s very strange take on what is, essentially, a rather familiar tale. Worth checking out, though do be prepared to be a bit perplexed.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth Review

This is just a quick little review that I wrote on IMDb, but I figured I may as well publish it also, as I haven’t posted here for waaaaaaay to long. Not the most complex thing I’ve ever written, but still something to read. Enjoy!

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth is a 1997 film that acts as both a recap of the original series Neon Genesis Evangelion and a preview for the at-the-time upcoming film The End of Evangelion. The Death and Rebirth in the title refers to the two segments of the film; Death being the recap, and Rebirth being the first half an hour of EoE.

At the time of the film’s release, the film was supposed to act as an alternative to watching the original 26 episode series, most likely to draw in non-fans to come and see End of Evangelion. In my opinion however, the film isn’t a very good alternative to watching the original series. It’s organised out of chronological order and forgoes a lot of the plot to give brief outlines of the main character’s personalities, which could lead to a fair amount of confusion. Most of the animation in the “Death” segment is just reused footage from the series. The only parts of the film that are not reused are scenes where the three main leads practice classical music, which are more or less purposeless and really only serve as an excuse to listen to nice music. If you had not seen the original series before watching this, I would guess that you would be rather confused.

However if you are a fan of this franchise (like me), you’ll probably quite enjoy it. Though the recap is strangelyorganised, it’s still Evangelion, which is inherently pretty cool if you love the show. The organisation can be seen as an interesting new way to experience the show, and it can also act as a nice refresher on the events of the series. While The End of Evangelion segment is kind of pointless, it’s still the End of Evangelion, which, in my opinion, is one of the best animated films ever made, so watching a bit of it is hardly a bad thing.

Still, the film only really functions as a curiosity piece for super fans. If you are not super invested in the franchise already, you probably don’t even know it exists, and if you do, you probably don’t care.

You can go see my IMDb profile here: http://www.imdb.com/user/ur65995582/?ref_=nb_usr_prof_0

Twitter:@tuneishere

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

sadbatman

Review contains spoilers

So, I just saw the new big superhero movie that everyone hates annnnnnd…. I hated it too! Wow, what a shock. How could acclaimed film maker Zack Snyder, director of such classics as Teenage Boy Fantasy: Ancient Greece Edition and Teenage Boy Fantasy: Pretty Girls Edition, fuck up a movie so badly?

It’s not like he has a history with bad comic book adaptations or anything! He has always created quality cinema! How could such a terrible thing happen to a film this big!

 

WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN SUCH TRAGEDY!?

 

In case you couldn’t tell, the previous paragraph was all absolutely biting sarcasm. Zack Snyder has a history of making movies that divide people. While it is true that I have not seen either of the previously mentioned films in their entirety, I have seen enough to gauge that Mr Snyder is not exactly the greatest film maker of our generation. I don’t think he’s a particularly terrible director. I actually quite enjoy his visual style; I just think he tends to make films that are rather… low brow. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to mean that his works often contain a lot of similar elements. They are all heavy on action and SERIOUSNESS, and low on good writing and well-developed characters. Batman V Superman is no exception to this with its big set pieces and “epic” speeches. Unfortunately for it, it also has to deal with setting up the new DC universe so Warner Brothers can catch up to Marvel and make that superhero monaaaaaay.

 

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG????

 

Well, firstly, the plot can. The plot of this film is entertainingly stupid at its best and utterly undecipherable at its worst. As a consequence of being a setup for the next billion DC films the movie completely collapses under its own weight, with the various different characters and concepts that are introduced throughout the movie getting little to no explanation, and if it did, the film will probably end up contradicted that explanation at some point. For example, Lex Luthor. Why did he hate Superman so much? I don’t know! Why did Batman suddenly decide that he no longer hated Superman because Superman’s Mum was dying, even though Superman was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Metropolis, which is Batman’s MAIN REASON FOR FIGHTING SUPERMAN IN THE FIRST PLACE?

 

I DON’T KNOW.

 

I could try to describe the actual plot of the film to you, but as I could not understand what the living fuck was going on throughout most of the film, I am unable to provide a better plot synopsis than “Words are said and things explode.” And I am not a minority in this opinion. I saw this film with a group of friends and the amount of times that some variation on the phrase “what is going on?” was uttered throughout the film numbered somewhere in the hundreds. It might have been easier to understand had the film been two hours, rather than two and a half. But no, we have to force a fight with Doomsday, and we have to jam in introductions for a bunch of superheroes that won’t be relevant until another one these god forsaken movies come of, and than, at the very end of it all, we have to pretend like Superman is dead, only to bring him back at the literal last second.

That was all soooo necessary.

 

Thankfully, the movie was not without its positives. Namely, Ben Affleck as Batman. Despite the shitty material that he was given, Affleck pulled off a relatively convincing rendition of my favourite superhero. Even though his acting was often over the top, I really believed that he was The Caped Crusader. He was suitably angry and brooding, he looked the part, and he talked the part. I unfortunately cannot say the same for the other characters. Henry Cavill was perfectly bland as Superman, who continues to show that he could be a pretty good Superman if he was given a competent script. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was atrocious. He was about as intimidating as a hyperactive child on sugar and about as interesting as a small twig with the word “INSANE” written on it. Again, this is not entirely the fault of Eisenberg, as he was also working with very bad material. At the very least he looks like he is enjoying himself, which is more than can be said for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who looks completely bored for the short period of time that she was shoehorned into the film. I could go on about the various failures of acting and writing in the movie, but then we may be here for several thousand words, so instead, let’s get onto the other positives of the film.

The music for the film was pretty great. It was composed by Hans Zimmer, who also did the Dark Knight movies, Interstellar, and Man of Steel. Like those soundtracks, it is made up of loud orchestral pieces that suit the tone of the film, which made it end up as the only part of the movie that I thought to be legitimately “epic”.

Like I said before, I quite enjoy Zack Snyder’s testosterone filled visual style, even if it is rather silly. The film is no visual masterpiece, but, excluding the final action scene, which is ruined by the bad CGI on Doomsday, the film looks pretty cool.

Now, with all the ranting I have done, do I think you should watch Batman V Superman?

YEAH!

The movie may be a total train wreck, but is a blast to watch with friends. It’s incredibly easy to make fun of, making it a great hate watch. I don’t know if you should actually support the movie, as it does really suck, but if you have some friends around and want to laugh at an overly serious piece of shit blockbuster, then this movie is sure to be on your favourite illegal download site in the very near future.

Unfortunately for the movie though, I am judging the film on what it was trying to do, not what it actually does, so I am forced to give Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, an overall grade of D, with a special “entertainingly bad” recommendation.

That concludes the rant ahem… “review”. Thank you for reading, and I shall see you in the next post.

TWITTER: @tuneishere

 

Quick Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Okay, I feel personally that telling you anything about the plot specifics of this film will kind of make the film less enjoyable. So, in this short little piece I’ll just be giving you my very brief opinions of the film. 

To preface, I’m a massive fan of Star Wars. As much as it kills me to say this, The Phantom Menace was my first movie, but, as I don’t like the prequels very much, I like to think it was actually A New Hope. So, I may be a little biased about this new one. Then again, I wasn’t paticularly hopeful about this film. However, I am happy to report that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, in my opinion, a rather excellent movie. It manages to pull off a plot that is still very much classic Star Wars, but also feel fresh and new. All the performances in the film are done very well, except for one or two lines that feel a little bit wooden. At points in the film, I teared up with happiness. This was a very cheesy and pretty silly thing to do, but so were the original Star Wars movies, and that’s why I love them. Overall, I had a brilliant time with The Force Awakens, and highly recommend it to pretty much anyone, before you too are spoiled. The film isn’t perfect, but then no film is. I may do a proper spoilery review in a few weeks, when I feel most people who wanted to see film would’ve seen it, but until then… May the force be with you.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Spartacus Film Review

Hello there ladies and gentlemen. How are you? Don’t answer that, you’ll look strange. Anyhow, the other day I just saw a very nice remastering of the swords and sandals classic Spartacus from 1960, directed by Stanley Kubrick, though he didn’t have nearly as much input on this film as he did his others. So I thought that it was time I shook things up a little and talked about a film rather then another anime review. As I haven’t quite got a format for film reviews fully worked out I’ll just be winging it for the most part, so bear with me. Right, let’s go.

Story

The story of this film is basically just a highly romanticised version of the tale of Spartacus. For those unaware, the story is that of the young Thracian slave Spartacus, who after being forced to become a gladiator by Romans, incites a rebellion to try and free the slaves from oppression. Like all legends, how much of this is real and how much is fiction is unknown, but the Wikipedia page about it can do a much better job of explaining it then I can. This film also includes a fictional love story. The purpose of this was presumably to make Spartacus a softer and more likable character. But don’t take this is a criticism, as I actually really loved this movie. It’s an exciting, well directed, mostly well acted film, with some super impressive practical effects as well. With the new digital restoration (the one I saw) the film looks crisp and sharp. Not to say that this film looks new. If this film was made today, it would be mostly CGI for the battle scenes, and probably would have nowhere near as big a budget (or be nearly as good). This kind of film could only really work when it was made. Any earlier or later and it would most likely have failed. It’s like a time capsule of the late 50s to early 60s Hollywood film, and for that, I think it’s wonderful.

Characters

The characters of this film are simple, there’s no denying that. What makes them work is their execution. This film is full of at the time A-list actors, such as Kirk Douglas as our hero Spartacus, Laurence Olivier as the villain, Crassus, and Jean Simmons as Spartacus’s love interest Varinia. These actors all play their characters with great skill, especially Laurence Olivier, who is kind of the perfect villan. He is appropriately calculating as well as being a little nuts. My only problem with him is not really the character but more a fault of the script. There is one scene in the film that comes off as a little homophobic around the middle of the film, where it is heavily implied that Crassus is homosexual in a scene that is meant to come off as threatening. It tries to make the character come off as alien and deviant, which at the time I’m sure made sense, but now in what I like to think is a more enlightened and less stupid world, it just comes off as silly and unnessacary. This is just an issue of the times and not really a problem with the film itself, but still, it’s worth keeping in mind.

Kirk Douglas plays an appropriately charming freedom fighter in the form of Spartacus.  He may not be a paticularly deep and complex character, but that’s not really what he’s supposed to be. He’s supposed to be a likeable and heroic character who fights for freedom and justice. Douglas pulls this off perfectly. There’s not really much else to say about him other then that.

The rest of the supporting cast is great too. Crassus’s fellow senator Gracchus (played by Charles Laughton) is one of the higlights of the movie. Spartacus’s fellow rebels all serve their purpose excellently, and the slave trader Batiatus, played marvellously by Peter Utinov, is incredibly entertaining as the cowardly, money grubbing idiot.

Sound

The film’s soundtrack is rather excellent. Most of the songs are quite epic  in nature, which suits the tone of the film. There are also some love ballads thrown in there for the romantic scenes, which sound great as well. The other thing I like about the music is that it knows when to be quiet. Certain scenes become all the more intense when there is no music playing in the background.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, I absolutely loved Spartacus. It’s the quintessential midcentury Hollywood blockbuster. On a purely technical level, this is one of the most impressive films I have ever seen. The amount of time, effort, and money that must of been spent on this film boggles my mind. It’s worth seeing just for that, but even taking all that away, the film is still tons of fun to watch. It’s nothing paticularly thought provoking or insightful, but it is a really good time. I highly recommend it.

Grade: A (Most excellent)