By way of celebrating this blog’s Exciting New URL!, let’s do another batch of my thoughts on the films I’ve watched over the past couple of months that I hadn’t previously seen. I’ve slowed down a little with my Lovefilm viewing – partly because my commutes for a month or so were taken up with ploughing through all three seasons of The Big Bang Theory in quick succession – but have still managed to keep up a rate of just about one “new” film per week. Which ain’t bad going, especially when I also keep getting distracted by the desire to go and watch things I’ve seen countless-times-but-not-for-ages like Galaxy Quest and Dumb & Dumber. Anyway, this is what I’ve rented and cinema-ised since finishing Goodfellas in February…
The Science of Sleep
Meant to see this for ages, as Eternal Sunshine is one of my favourite films and I adore Michel Gondry’s aesthetic. And “aesthetic” is what this is really about – it’s a dreamy, gentle trip through his own personal oddness. It’s nowhere near as sharp as anything scripted by Kaufman, but it’s got a very quiet charm to it nevertheless – helped considerably by the two leads, who make the stuttering and flawed relationship feel real despite the surrealism that surrounds it. And I spent the film finding Charlotte Gainsbourg quite attractive but not being able to figure out why.
Be Kind Rewind
This, on the other hand, was a disappointment. At the time of release I’d looked forward to it hugely, but while there are some cracking moments (largely revolving around the “sweding”) and good performances, too much of the film is lost in a bizarre and pointless subplot that simply doesn’t work, and shows even more than Science of Sleep that Gondry needs a better writer to work with than himself – he simply never comes close to establishing who the characters are, how they relate to one-another, and why we should care. Not entirely without merit, but considerably disjointed.
As yet another quirky and slightly melancholic sort-of-rom-com about a nerdish guy and an aloof girl, I’m not sure this quite manages to fully carve out a specific reason to exist. It doesn’t help, either, that Kristen Stewart’s character is so spectacularly unlikeable, lacking the idiosyncratic charm that these characters usually have when played by someone like Zooey Deschanel (or, er, Charlotte Gainsbourg?). Where it does work, however, is in its devastatingly accurate portrayal of long summers working at theme parks – speaking directly to my own personal experiences (three years at the now-closed Southport Pleasureland) even down to the fact that it’s specifically the games that they all work on (I even had a near-identical experience with a customer who was trying to cheat – only mine involved being spat at in the face rather than an attempted knifing). It’s generally a warm film, if a little slow, and Eisenberg is likeable – plus there’s a surprisingly strong turn from Ryan Reynolds – but aside from evoking memories of Uni summer work, it’s not the most memorable.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
This seems to have become my sister’s All Time Favourite Movie over the last year or so, and while I’d consider her enthusiasm a little excessive, I can still sort of see where she’s coming from. You wouldn’t think a documentary about thirtysomething men who devote their entire lives to beating each others’ top scores on Donkey Kong and other ’80s arcade games to be that compelling – but it is, bizarrely and magnificently so. Most of the discussion about it centres on the awe-inspiringly malevolent Billy Mitchell – and it’s true that he’s a pantomime supervillain to put Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom and the Master to shame – but my favourite aspect by far is Brian “There’s a potential Donkey Kong killscreen coming up” Kuh, a character I’d call one of the greatest comic creations of all time were it not for the simple matter of his not being fictional. The only really disappointing thing about the film is that it ends – you could happily run an ongoing TV docusoap about these guys, and it’d pretty much never get tiresome.
Took far too long to get round to seeing this, but finally caught it on Sky Box Office while at home visiting my parents. And it’s cracking, isn’t it? Probably vies with Moon as the best sci-fi film of the last few years. Thoroughly gripping, and with a brilliantly inventive and near-unique alien design, it’s perhaps a little heavy-handed in its “here’s the allegory”ness – but then, pretty much all social-commentary-sci-fi is heavy-handed with it, it’s sort of a facet of the genre. The action and visual effects are quite astonishing for a film of its budget, and Sharlto Copley is superb (even though I couldn’t help but think of this when watching his excited spiels to camera early in the film). Slightly slow to begin with but it really kicks in to become pretty darned thrilling by the end.
I Love You Philip Morris
Okay, so if you don’t like Jim Carrey, you’re not going to get on with this – but I like Jim Carrey a lot, so I thought it was terrific. Great fun, and easily his best comedy in years – but actually a surprisingly warm love story for all that, too. Features an absolutely brilliant twist (that simply seemed too ludicrous to expect – and I still refuse to believe it actually happened in real life), and a great soundtrack to boot. Just really enjoyable stuff, basically – and it offers Carrey the opportunity to do what he does best without overdoing it.
I generally try and avoid doing this with discs I’ve rented, but man… I just got bored of this about halfway through, and ended up sending it back rather than spending another 45 minutes on it. It’s not terrible – the performances are decent (Gervais just doing his usual schtick, admittedly – but I don’t hate that as much as some – and Greg Kinnear is always good value), it’s just that it was dull and uninspired, and I could see exactly where it was going. And Tea Leoni is tedious, tedious, tedious. And while pleasant enough, as a comedy it would have been better served by some jokes.
Not amazing, but a perfectly enjoyable Saturday-night-out kinda thing. Wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if not for its two stars – Steve Carell and Tina Fey, in case you didn’t know – but playing slightly more grounded versions of their famed sitcom characters they carry it effortlessly, and as a bonus spark off each other really well. Lots of nice “Oh, it’s so-and-so!” cameos, too, including an uncredited Ray Liotta and a highly amusing Mark Wahlberg.
Iron Man 2
Reviewed here and also discussed on the blog recently. Good fun, but not as good as the original, and makes me look forward to The Avengers more than to Iron Man 3, basically.
Son of Rambow
Aw, this was cute. Such a completely different sort of film from Garth Jennings’ previous effort (the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, which – while far from perfect – I definitely liked more than some) but the similarity in directorial style is clear (as is the fact that it appeared to again be Joby Talbot doing the music). I think I expected there to be a bit more focus on (and footage of) the film being made by the kids, rather than it really being a macguffin on which to hang the story of their friendship (and, to a lesser extent, the story of his mother – Jessica Stevenson yay! – breaking free of the oppression of her religious group). And it’s really rather sweet and likeable, even if it hits all the classic “angry rebel kid meets quiet meek kid” story notes. I’m not sure the subplot of the French exchange students really works, but it makes for some amusing moments (most notably when Didier, considered impossibly cool by all the English kids, gets back on the bus at the end and is immediately pilloried as the uncool nerd). Quiet, but enjoyable – and if anything, in showing the kids’ Rambo-inspired film, it almost beats Be Kind Rewind at its own game.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
So absolutely not what I was expecting. The comparisons to Spinal Tap (and yes, the connections are hard to shake – from the visit to Stonehenge to the bit where they talk about the first song they wrote together to the drummer named Robb Reiner) made me think this was going to be an exercise in schadenfreude, laughing at the trials and tribulations of a terrible, ageing metal band with delusions of grandeur. It’s not, though – it’s really not. It’s funny, sure – but it’s also warm, and affectionate, and uplifting. The guys themselves, particularly Lips, have an appealing, honest charm about them (most telling is the part where, in an attempt to raise the money needed to go to the UK and record a new album with Chris Tsangarides, he takes a second job at a telemarketing centre – but admits he’s terrible at it because he simply can’t lie and be rude to people) – and really, the film is just about ordinary people who know they’re quite good at something (and although I’m not a metal connoisseur, it’s clear Anvil aren’t exactly hopeless) and just want to pursue their dream of having fun with it and giving other people enjoyment. It’s not quite at King of Kong levels of genius, but it’s a very well-put together (if at times, you suspect, mildly contrived), touching and winning documentary nevertheless.
Yeah, rubbish picture. iPhone camera, stuck up in the seating area. Seating position didn’t hamper enjoyment as much as I’d anticipated, mind. I’m getting old.
My sister and I spent the entire gig hoping they’d play “Carrot Rope”. It’s one of the quintessential videos from the days, around ten years ago, when we’d sit in front of MTV2 during pretty much any period of time that we weren’t in school and our parents weren’t watching the telly. It was always one of our favourites. And it’s their best song, let’s face it. But clearly it holds too many bad memories of being the last track on their last album, the album that they fell out while making and that was seen as unfairly skewed towards Malkmus’ songwriting (as it happens, Terror Twilight is by far my favourite of their records, though I know I’m in a minority there). But still, they did a wonderful “Shady Lane”, and “Cut Your Hair”, and “Summer Babe”, and “Trigger Cut”, and “Gold Soundz”, and “Range Life”, and a lot more in a two-hour set. Little about it felt truly magical, but it was just nice to get to see them, as them, playing those songs.
But in honour of the fact that they didn’t play it: