This weekend I was able to play a little catch up on more recent films rather than 50-year-old black and white international films. The only film I am not listing yet is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby by Ned Benson because it is an interesting concept for a film. The one story exists in three different film, Her, Him, and Them. So far I have watched Her and Him but since Them is and crosscut edit between the two other films and I am not sure that I am ready to watch the same(ish) movie for a third time in a row so I will get back to them at some point. They are very good films, though, and worth the time.
Gone Baby Gone
dir. Ben Affleck – 2007 – 5.2 – Every director has to start somewhere and this launched Ben Affleck behind the camera to make a Boston film (is that officially a genre?) with his brother Casey in the starring role. I cannot say that it is a great film, and that is okay. It was well made
but the passing is a mess, which is probably an issue in its source material but after about 45 minutes I was expecting the clock to say 90 minutes and the credits to role.
There is nothing overly special about the film, it’s a neo-noir, sort of, but there are better options, it is a Boston film but there are better options. What works, especially Casey Affleck’s performance, works very well. If you watch it, though, be ready for a bumpy ride.
dir. David Ayer – 2014 – 5.93 – If you squint your eyes you might see some women in the film. That is not entirely fair as there is a whole scene, one whole scene, with TWO women! The rest of the film is a brimming with testosterone, blood, spit, and adult language. There is an interesting look at the function of a tank column and there are decent action scenes but it is terribly predictable and there are more than enough better war films available. I thought about Bernhard Wicki’s The Bridge several times while watching Fury and I think I would rather watch the former a dozen times before watching the latter again.
Straight Outta Compton
dir. F. Gary Gray – 2015 – 6.07 – I am relatively familiar with this story and I am not a big fan of their style of hip-hop but Straight Outta Compton is a very fine biopic and it is a good change of pace against so many other available musician biopic options. If you are
unaware, and missed the hype, Straight Outta Compton is the biography of the hip-hop group N.W.A. from Compton, California. The performances are fantastic and the overt sexism is precisely as clear as you may be expecting. The film serves its purpose well while irritating the films villainous manager to the point of filing a lawsuit over how sleazy he is portrayed.
The Peanuts Movie
dir. Steve Martino – 2015 – 6.2 – The animation of this film is incredibly charming but it is twice as long as it should be. By the end I was wondering why it had not already finished. I had some laughs and it is dripping with nostalgia but I don’t imagine the film has the same legs as the Great Pumpkin, which is too bad.
dir. Nancy Meyers – 2015 – 6.2 – The Intern is a very funny comedy that was so close to really hitting the mark. The film is about an Internet start-up which decides to bring in senior citizen interns. They briefly mentioned why but I don’t remember. The film is an interesting twist on
the manic pixey girl trope in which Anne Hathaway plays the founder and CEO of the start-up and her life is running of the rails only to be (spoilers, I guess, but you could already guess it within the first 10 minutes of the film (actually by the time you finish ready the description)) righted by Robert De Niro’s senior intern.
The performances are wonderful and the film is very entertaining. If your goal is to laugh and walk away with a warm heart, then it is a great film. The issue that I take with film is that boiled down it takes an old white guy to save the successful woman from herself. Hathaway’s CEO Jules, is a very strong woman and too much ballyhoo is made to objectify her and her family over her success only to have the old white guy tell people why they are wrong. There are a few other dangling storylines that don’t really need resolving but they exist and are noticeable.
dir. John Crowley – 2015 – 7.0 – Holy cats Brooklyn is a charming melodrama about a young Irish woman who moves to Brooklyn, New York to create a life for herself. Everything that missed in The Intern hit here as Saoise Ronan (boy howdy I am glad I spelled checked that one) plays an incredible character who leaves everything she knows about small-town life and relocates to New York, alone, with the graces of a church patriarch who’s help is barely needed. Brooklyn is one of the finest romance films I can speak of and cannot think of anyone who could really enjoy the film, maybe not today, but someday they will mature enough to see this wonderful film.
dir. Brad Bird – 2015 – 7.47 – I cannot figure out why people don’t like this movie. While there are flaws you must remember that it is also a Disney
movie, for kids, about managing a planet decaying from climate change, not Bergman. I’d say it is a little violent for a kids’ movie but I am probably wrong, and woefully ignoring how violent the cartoons I watched were. It’s a fun movie. Don’t expect more and you will like it just fine.
The Big Short
dir. Adam McKay – 2015 – 7.47 – I am having a hard time thinking about other movies that made me laugh and have anxiety attacks
but The Big Short is heavy on both. The movie is about how greed and sub-prime lending caused the 2008 financial crisis and resulting recession. Much of the film is fascinating but the crowning achievement is that it made people want to watch a movie about economics. Picking the best part about the film is difficult since I gave it 10’s in editing, the performances of the main cast, the story, and the script. Adam McKay’s decision to make the technical jargon as sexy as possible was something that I did not expect but oddly balanced the rampant narcissism peppered through the film.
I feel bad when I think about how much I was rooting for these asshole, sociopaths, who destroyed so many lives but the whole structure of the film kept me on the edge of my seat (figuratively) wanting to see these people succeed. I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this. The deepest cuts come at the end of this true story, you know the part, when they stop the filming and spit out some text telling the viewer what is happening in their lives now, like the end of Animal House, but this time if you laugh I am not sure I want you reading my blog.
dir. Tom McCarthy – 2015 – 7.53 – I have a pal who works as an editor for a local paper and now I have a decent idea about a time in his life. He was not involved in this story but he told me that everything that they fabulous actors did in the film is something that he has done before in his long career. What you get in Spotlight is a window into the life of the reporters who broke the nationwide store about the history of molestation by Catholic priests in the Boston archdiocese.
This is a very special film and is a testament to the craft of journalism and the important place that journalists have in our society. There is little point in me saying much about the movie because everyone needs to watch the movie as it is a perfect example of what drama films want to be; well-paced, well-acted, well-written, this is a film school film and an excellent example of a film that can bridge the gap between American films and international cinema. These are rare and should be treated as such.