Although I do tend to object to short reviews on principal, sometimes I really can’t help it. I’m still saving up the time to write overdue pieces on things I actually things to talk about (Looper, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Rust and Bone I’m looking at you – among others). Perhaps, though, my general loquaciousness will be better served by aiming for succinctness. I will say, I couldn’t endorse my usual 99 word write-up in the case of any of these films because even as I’m too lazy to devote full reviews to them, I’ve still got shit to say.
Snippet “reviews” ahead – some overdue since September. Woe is me. Enjoy.
(This is all in effort to rid myself of the reviews that have been piling at Paolo’s urging.)
"The Gods Love No One": directed by Drew Goddard; written by Joss Whedon
Against my better judgement – scratch that, I’m just kidding. Isn’t that just about the worse way to start any critical non-think-piece? But, I digress. There are more than a dozen films I’ve liked more than The Cabin in the Woods this year but there are less than half a dozen which I had as much fun sitting through. This potentially unwieldy mixture of horror, comedy, thriller and silly has many issues working against it – like any film which decides to take on larger-scale issues there’s always that potential of there being too many open loops to justify the reality of their immediate conceit. But, it seems like such a killjoy thing to consider with The Cabin in the Woods not (just) because I’m having too much fun to care, but because the film sort of precludes any righteous indignation of potholes by ultimately blowing everything up. Literally. Five types head to a cabin…in the woods for a retreat. It seems they’re in a typical horror movie until the underlying horror of their existence turns out to be deliberately generic with more sinister overtones. Shenanigans ensues. And who doesn’t love shenanigans?
"Just like you to believe your own legend…": directed by John Hillcoat; written by Nick Cave
It is impossible to deny that this filmis gorgeous. In spite of all its gorgeousness, though, Lawless unfolds with a strident element of self-consciousness. It’s not quite to the detriment of the film, considering that this subtle embarrassment is in keeping with its occasionally callow protagonist but it’s initially disconcerting. So much that I’m tempted to nix my byline and begin again – because of all its gorgeousness Lawless unfolds with a strident sense of self-consciousness. Three brothers do their best to keep up their illegal moonshine business in the twenties is well trodden ground, but that’s not a knock against the film, either. The initial reserve dissipates to genuine feeling in the second half as the film reveals significant (and at times surprising) care for its characters. Because so many beats ring familiar the characters are not especially profound in their own right (although Cave’s screenplay serves them well). But, even if those characters aren’t deep the actors are committed. Hardy glowers impressively, Pearce is necessarily smarmy, Chastain is radiant and LeBeouf is especially on-point. True, there’s an element of the fanciful evokes throughout – especially towards the end – but this is very much a boyish fable. There’s been a lot of narration in the cinema this year and I’d hesitate to pronounce Shia’s as the finest but its sparse use is never a detriment to the film. It adds to the film feeling calculated, but a parable emanating from the romantic Jack could not be anything but…
my thoughts on the civil rights' drama and the other end-of-the-world drama below the jump...
"Shall we stop this bleeding?": directed by Steven Spielberg; written by Tony Kushner
Loath as I am to begin a review with a “comparison”, in many ways I feel the same way about Lincoln this year like I felt about War Horse. Somewhere, somehow there is a hoard of persons for whom this film will sing, and for whom singing praises to it will seem natural – but I’m not person. And, it’s curious because the legal procedural aspects of the film are much more my “thing” than the roaring landscapes of War Horse were. So, in that regard Lincoln is a – minor – improvement in things Spielbergian. But, even I am mildly taken aback by how little invested I found myself being in the machinations at work on screen. If I care to search for the hammer to hit the nail on the head I’d probably come up with some dissertation on the way that estimable plots (Lincoln trying to abolish slavery) do not necessarily lead to estimable art forms. It’s an argument difficult to run away from, when serious things are put to film – is the onus on you to forgive your lack of love for the film because it endeavours for greatness? It is a slippery slope. Ultimately, even as I observe so many things in the fabric of Lincoln that seem ripe for the fêting, I can’t truly admit to being one of those that was significantly moved.
"I mean, they're not for everyone, you know?": directed and written by Lorene Scafaria
The worst thing about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is that, ultimately, it has few real surprises in store for you. It trudges along just as you expect, leading to just what you expect. And even if the ultimate surprise comes when you'd given up on it when it comes, you think - Oh, I expected that. Is this a legitimately objectionable trait, though? I hesitatingly say no because the film itself takes such great pains to be charming and effervescent throughout. And it succeeds. With the end of the world announced in two weeks Dodge’s wife takes off and he realises he let the love of his life get away once upon a time. He sets off in search of her….but why? Does he truly believe this is his true love? Or has the promise of the definitive end made him realise how little he has in his life? It’s vexing, but not surprising that the film doesn’t take much interest in answering that. Especially when he teams up with the younger, lither, and sillier Penny who will accompany on his journey. They set out on a journey to find true love…for him. Beneath the winsomeness there are deeper, untouched issues of whether that love at the root is only an end-result because of the tragedy forthcoming. And in not examining the unseemly roots of the romance it ignores questions it teased us with at the beginning. What is it about the end that makes people so desperate to find something to cling to? It’s entirely possible, though, that answering these questions would have made for a wholly different, and probably less lithe, film.
So, did you catch any of these end-of-world excursions? The civil rights drama? The moonshine lullaby?