clytemenstra: (Cinema Paradiso)
21. Joy (dir. David O'Russell, 2016)

I originally watched this a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I like Jennifer Lawrence, and also because her previous collaborations with O'Russell have been good. And it is pretty good - the story of Joy Mantango, who went from near-broke housewife to millionairess inventor via a cable shopping channel - is well thought out, well written, and well directed. Like all O'Russell's films, there are equal parts of comedy and tragedy, and if you liked his prior releases, you might want to give this a try.

22. Where To Invade Next (dir. Michael Moore, 2016)

Michael Moore is possibly one of America's most interesting, and most irritating filmmakers, due to his starting from a big premise - Ban guns! Don't invade! Bring in free healthcare! - and then pulling in all sides of the argument. However, this films falls down quite badly. Whilst I completely agreed with Moore that America could learn a lot from European countries about education, prison reform, holidays, and workers' rights, there is also the fact that there is a lot about America that's really pretty good. It also failed to note that part of the reason for free tuition in Slovenia, and the Finnish education system, is due to the massive taxes. Plus, whilst I like the idea of a two hour lunch break, he also failed to note that in Italy the cities, such as Rome, are moving more towards a London/NYC style. A slightly odd film, that frustrated me more than it educated.
clytemenstra: (Cinema Paradiso)
In the last couple of weeks, I've watched 4 films, and 1 boxset, so here are the reviews...

16. Deutschland 83 (dirs. Edward Berger and Samira Radsi, 2016)

This eight part series is something I wanted to watch in one go - and then being sensible kicked in and I managed to stretch it over 4 days. Unlike the increasingly tiresome The Americans, which boasts stunts and disguises but is light on plot, this German series really does expose how frightening - and dangerous - the early 80s were. A young man in East Germany is smuggled into the West, to act as a mole. What follows is a volatile game of espionage, involving honeytraps, family secrets, and broken loyalties. The acting is superb, as is the script, and the clever use of archive footage really does bring home how the world was teetering on the edge of nuclear annihilation. Highly, highly recommended.

17. Lars and the Real Girl (dir. Craig Gillespie, 2007)

Watched a week ago, on a warm Friday.

Nearly a decade ago this was released? Wow! This is one of Ryan Gosling's early indie films, before he became a huge star, and I never thought I'd think the subject content of this was sweet - but that's what good performances and scripting do. Gosling is the titular Lars, a lonely young man from small town Minnesota, who following a colleague's advice, buys a real life, real size doll - Bianca. At first his neighbours and family are schocked, but under counsel of a wise psychotherapist, excellently played by Patricia Clarkson, the community colludes and leads Lars to a place of more social integration. Its a very sweet film, and lightly played - and there is a happy ending. If you like interesting indie flicks, this is one to check out.

18. Anna Karenina (dir. Joe Wright, 2012)

Watched on the wet Friday just gone.

Trying to cram an 800 page novel into a 2 hour film is ambitious - and despite the beauty of the cinematography and costumes, this doesn't quite work. I found it a bit superficial, as it loses the depth of the novel, and characters which are central are sidelined in favour of it being a love letter to Anna. Keira Knightley is terrific in the titular role, and the conceit of setting it in a theatre, to underline the pomposity and stageiness of imperial Russia is a brilliant idea, but its more a patchwork of set pieces than a cohesive narrative. Still, enjoyable for a wet afternoon.

19. Welcome to Leith (dir. Michael Beach Nichols, 2015)

I watched this documentary last night - and its certainly preyed on my mind. Leith, a tiny hamlet in the wilds of North Dakota, got a shock a few years ago when White supremacist Craig Cobb, a man whose ideas seem to be a xerox of Hitler's, started buying land to house a white supremacist community there. What unfolds is the story of people who are deluded in thinking their ideas will work - but also the delusion of a community who believe that they are insulated from the outside world. The biggest twist is that Leith, a community suffering from social and economic isolation, reject Cobb's ideas, despite the fact that his ideas are most popular in communities like Leith. A strange portrayal of what happens when you blame the wrong people for misfortune, Welcome to Leith is chilling and compulsive viewing.

20. Sensation (Dir. Tom Hall, 2010)

I watched this this afternoon, and its not what I expected. A film about a lonely, recently bereaved, and socially awkward Irish farmer going into business with an attractive Kiwi call girl sounds like a crude sex comedy, and I have no doubt that were this made by an British or USian director, starring the likes of Jonah Hill or Simon Pegg, it would be. But its an Irish film, starring Domnhall Gleeson (which was a pretty key reason for it going on my Cinema Paradiso list) with a cast of relative unknowns - and as such its a pitch black and quite touching film about a lonely man trying to make a connection with someone who shies away from the connection he's trying to make. There are some dark moments in this - the opening scene brings home just how much of an isolated character he is, plus there's a painful scene which reveals his lack of social standing. But there are moments of genuine sweetness, and the ending is somewhat happy. Rather like Secretary and Don Jon,its not for everyone, but if you like stories of redemption, and also, like me, believe there really is someone out there for everyone, try it.
clytemenstra: (being at the movies)
One of the many benefits of a staycation (aside from my local Costa, local gym, my cockatiel, being able to cook and eat food I like, sleep when I like, and no bloody jetlag) is the fact I can watch films. So, four films I've enjoyed over the last couple of weeks...

12. High Rise (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2016)

If you haven't read JG Ballard's dystopian novel, its safe to say some of this won't make much sense. Written as a diatribe against the trend for new high rise blocks in the late 1960s, Tom Hiddleston is a doctor who buys an apartment, only to find that he's increasingly institutionalised in a self-contained world where you never need to leave. As social boundaries blur and fray, he finds that people start to turn on each other. Filmed in hyper real, dreamlike state, this is a difficult film to like, but its underlying message about the fragility of civilisation is timely. Worth watching.

13. Jason Bourne (dir. Paul Greengrass, 2016)

Seen at the cinema, with Dad.

This is essentially three action set pieces, cobbled together with minimal dialogue and Matt Damon looking rather confused. However, as Bond seems to be sliding back into self-parody, its good to see a tough, gritty film that shows just how dangerous Black Ops is - and also how it has to be done with co-operation. Damon is typically excellent, but its Alicia Vikander who really steals the show as a Cyber division head with conflicted loyalties. If you've seen the other four films, you're good to go, but anyone who likes a decent action flick will find things to enjoy.

14. Suicide Squad (dir. David Ayer, 2016)

OK, its had terrible reviews, and people are screaming that it a massive let down - but I actually enjoyed it, possibly because I'm a simple soul, or maybe its because I recognise this for what it is - a big, lurid, trashy comic book fest that doesn't and shouldn't be taken seriously. There are weak spots - the plot is nonsensical, Cara Delevigne can't act for toffee and Jared Leto is really bloody annoying. But there's also Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Viola Davis being totally badass - and they're all wonderful. Oh, and its also only 2 hours - which considering the bum numbing length of some comic blockbusters, is very, very welcome!!

15. Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols, 2016)

This is a really interesting film - its essentially a chase movie, with an intelligent sci-fi concept underpinning it. It also features Adam Driver as a bespectacled FBI agent, so that was a win for me...but this is good. Stylistically, its very subtle - its filmed in a muted palette of colours, and I'm guessing that the setting is intended to be the late 70s/very early 80s. Its also a character driven film, so not much actually happens - but what evolves is a story of love and the desire to protect, and if you like clever, well thought out sci fi, you may want to check this out. Worth watching.

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