Film Journal

THE FILM JOURNAL | February 2013

I look back at the films I watched through the previous month, whether they were brand new in the cinema or simply new to me. Dates are by UK release. Here are my thoughts.


 

Bitter cold didn’t stop me frequenting the dark confines of the cinema – February was full of rewarding watches, including some brilliant discoveries at the Glasgow Film Festival, and also includes the largest number of ‘Recommended’ watches since the inception of The Film Journal. That means some seriously fantastic films are included in this latest edition, so firstly read, and secondly view.

• Unmissable
Those pieces of work that prove cinema is one of humanity’s better endeavours.
Example: Apocalypse Now

• Recommended
Extraordinary films that are must-sees, but perhaps not considered masterpieces.
Example: Kick-Ass

• Avoid
Movies that exhibit technical ineptitude, cause severe ideological malaise, or both.
Example: Grown Ups

~ ~ ~

flight1Flight [2013]
While not particularly ambitious, Zemeckis’ return to live action is a welcome housing for a stoic Denzel Washington performance. And the plane crash? Thrilling – but not even the director’s best (that belongs to Cast Away).

Finding Neverland [2004]findingneverland1
A genuinely heart-warming tale on the subject of believing. Johnny Depp completely sells it as J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and the sensitive direction adds to the gentility of the story spun.

straightstory1The Straight Story [1999]
• Recommended
An old man journeys to his estranged brother over hundreds of mile, his mode of transportation a slow-moving tractor. The film takes form as a series of vignettes that serve as microcosms of American life – the subject director David Lynch is most deft at portraying and exploring. There is beauty in getting old, too.

 

Torn Curtain [1966]torncurtain1
Zipping Paul Newman from location to location, tense situation to tense situation, Hitch’s 1966 thriller is too uneven in its aims to achieve much more than brief, insubstantial entertainment. But when the Master is at his worst, he’s still better than most.


martyrs1Martyrs [2008]
Good grief. I’m usually able to express something quite easily, except this film. Disgusting, shameless and yet curiously profound in its final fifteen minutes, it’s an uneasy, dirty feeling of catharsis that compels Martyrs, a French ‘torture-porn’ – though somehow, that term doesn’t fit this particular movie’s methods.

 

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back [2001]jayandsilentbobstrikeback1
Perhaps it’s a tad wrong to judge something that’s so transparently silly, but Kevin Smith’s meta-humour gets a bit too tedious during the run-time of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It’s chock-full of Smith’s typical penchant for pop culture reference, and the two central characters are as fantastic to watch as they come, but by the end (and Mark Hamill’s ill-conceived cameo) your brain will have melted out of your ears, and trickled into a better, more intelligent place.

carancho1Carancho [2010]
A gripping, superbly acted document on relationships being put through the wringer. A real fantastic low-budget foreign film, Carancho grasps fully its characters and the narrative drives that compel them.

 

 

The Room [2003]theroom1
• Unmissable
If there exists a more brilliant bad movie, it hasn’t been discovered yet. Transcendence through arrant ineptitude.

 

warmbodies1Warm Bodies [2013]
What could easily be a drab premise relying on its peculiarities alone, Warm Bodies is a genuinely romantic yarn of moving sentiment . While it doesn’t gleefully subvert its two genres to the extent you may be expecting, it simply doesn’t need to; instead, it relies on its potentially mawkish values that, instead of ramping up the predictability and schmaltz, give it an endearingly beating heart.

 

 

Wreck-It Ralph [2013]wreckitralph1
Endless fun, but sets its themes out episodically, and when the narrative settles during its Sugar Rush segment, this model laid that has been laid out by the first third superficially takes away some of its momentum. But a strong message serves as a touching impetus for this pastiche-happy (yet inventive in its own right) animation – even though a conventional storyline robs it of reaching Pixar-level originality or articulacy.

 


no1No [2013]
• Recommended
An astute study of the Chilean political regimes existent at the time of Pinochet. The medium truly is the message here, and the result is a complex political polemical that has such a purity in its execution, that it becomes clear that cinema was the only way it could exist.

 

A Place in the Sun [1951]aplaceinthesun1
A twisty-turny country drive through the darkest parts of human desire, bolstered by camera-enticing performances from Montogomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.

agoodday3A Good Day to Die Hard [2013]
• Avoid
John McClane, please retire. Your job is simply too perilous to continue – and let’s all address the elephant in the room, you’re getting on a bit. It’s for your own good, John.

 

Compliance [2013]compliance1
A deeply troubling account of what we do when under the duress of obedience. The fact that the events that transpire in this movie actually happened makes this even more disturbing to sit through, and for a film that doesn’t need any more reason to have you squirming in your seat, it makes for an eye-opening dictation on the willingness of subjugation present in each one of us.

iwish1I Wish [2013]
A film about a group of smiling kids has never been so endearing, and free of schmaltz. There are strains of Stand By Me in this Japanese fable about the unbreakable beauty of childhood innocence.

 

I Give It A Year [2013]igiveitayear1
Gross-out gags that actually work! Shame there’s not much heart behind these otherwise interesting characters.

thisis40_1This Is 40 [2013]
This is Aimless. This is Meaningless. This is 40 Minutes Too Long. Judd Apatow, please, reel it in.

 

Call Me Kuchu [2012]callmekuchu3
A devestating and downright shocking documentary following Uganda’s strife with anti-homosexuality. The day-to-day pain these people go through is unbelievable – there needs to be a change, and sooner rather than later.

indiegamethemovie1Indie Game: The Movie [2012]
The surprisingly tremendous effort that goes into developing an independent game is depicted in a documentary that follows a handful of game makers. Their struggle is palpable, even for a group of traditionally social inepts, making for a documentary that is moving and insightful.

 


Dormant Beauty (Bella addormentata) [2013]dormantbeauty1
An ill-conceived character study on characters who don’t do anything, this is Italian melodrama at its worst.

cloudatlas1Cloud Atlas [2013]
• Recommended
Stupendous. Ambitious storytelling of this insight and scope should be applauded, and the fact that this generation-spanning hymn to the human condition was unanimously ignored by audiences and the Academy is shameful – but somehow, expected. Unfortunately, a movie that attempts to be not only about something, but about everything, and then achieves that on almost every level, will never be understood or accepted in today’s film-going climate. Hopefully in the future, perhaps in one of its own potential far-flung fantasies, Cloud Atlas will acquire the audience and praise it rightfully deserves.


Gangs of Wasseypur [2013]gangsofwasseypur1
A sprawling crime saga set across multiple decades of India’s past. Familial values and such have never been so strained, thanks to its five-hour plus running time – and never so exciting or involving.

——

———

passionofjoanofarc1The Passion of Joan of Arc [1928]
• Unmissable
Montage is a powerful thing – so are close-ups too, for that matter. In fact, Carl Theo Dreyer understood and mastered almost every technique, as is presented in his masterwork The Passion of Joan of Arc. The camera is a living, breathing thing with its own intricacies of judgement, mood and bias – this is filmmaking on another level.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]placebeyondthepines1
• Recommended
The next collaboration between director Derek Cianfrance and actor Ryan Gosling since Blue Valentine, you naturally expect to be good. But how it achieves that level of ‘good’ is the important element here – and forget Silver Linings Playbook, this is Bradley Cooper’s best performance to date. Mesmerising, profound, endlessly surprising and dramatically uppercutting, it’s a gentle maelstrom of humans affecting each others’ lives. Astounding, indispensable work.

greetingsfromtimbuckley1Greetings from Tim Buckley [2013]
Meagre meditation on the father-son dynamic, in the form of the famous Buckleys. It’s all very unspectacular, but hey, at least that actor sounds like Jeff when he sings.

 

Blancanieves [2013]blancanieves1
A magical retelling of the Snow White tale, spun in dreamy monochrome and scored to the chimes and claps of flamenco. ‘Charming’ doesn’t cut it; the cocktail of humour, whimsy and heart, elevated at moments of frantic editing which the silent style seems to suit perfectly. But is there much purpose to it?

robotandfrank1Robot & Frank [2013]
A wonderfully warm, laugh-out-loud buddy picture. Ultimately, it reveals itself as a rumination on memory, and loss of it as a potential loss of self.

Welcome to the Punch [2013]welcometothepunch1
Unexciting, senseless crime flick. It doesn’t seem to care that it makes no sense at any juncture, and seems to care less so about being any fun either.

tothewonder1To The Wonder [2013]
‘What is this love that loves us?’ It’s these sort of inane, cloying voice-overs that Terrence Malick employs to, it would seem, destroy his delicately judged camerawork.

Chasing Amy [1997]chasingamy1
• Recommended
An articulate (if talky) Jersey gab about gender roles. It raises Kevin Smith as a director who’s capable of high-end, cultural commentary and not just tiresome (yet usually fun) meta-humour (see Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Wonderfully acted and written, quiet and loud in its comments.

 

stoker1Stoker [2013]
Brimming with lyrical visual storytelling, Chan-wook Park’s English-language debut is a stylistically impressive stunner – but with an ounce more style than substance.

Bambi [1942]bambi1
• Recommended
Erm… yeah.

—stoker

Follow the editor @GaryGreenScreen

About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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