Ad Astra (2019)

This was the perfect movie for me at this time, it’s just what I needed. The last film I watched was so bad it almost put me off the concept of film, and the concept of enjoying things. This film put me back on track. It’s glorious as fuck. It looks magnificent, there’s not even a single second where you don’t buy into everything you watch on screen. I was sold in the opening scene when a space station blew up and people plummeted to earth (horrific way to die when you think about it by the way) and the way it looked meant this scene which could just look like a standard action scene, instead looked as terrifying as it would be in real life. Really, think of how that scene would play out in most films; it would be loud, lots of screaming, but you won’t feel anything. You’d be very aware you’re watching a movie and that there is no suffering on screen. This is the opposite, you feel everything that happens.

It’s not just the visuals, the sound work is great too. Well not just the sound, the use of silence too. Far too many films are scared of silence or don’t utilise it properly. When it’s used effectively it’s one of the best tricks in a filmmakers arsenal. This is doubly so in two specific genres; horror and sci-fi. The sound of silence can really help drive home isolation and nothingness. We’re so used to some form of background noise that complete silence is incredibly unnerving to experience, in a good way.

Now onto the bad; I felt this movie was lacking emotional depth. There’s a moment at the end which is supposed to be a huge emotional moment but for whatever reason, it didn’t really hit home. I think it might be because the entire film was building towards something happening, and then it did happen it wasn’t executed very well and just seemed kind of bland. Also, the narration was unnecessary.

There were also a few moments where it dragged slightly. Not as much as you’d think though. It’s a long film, and A LOT of the film is just padding, but it kind of works as these are the moments where the film breaths and truly comes into its own. Some of the wasteful scenes do highlight another problem with this film; disposable side characters. Brad Pitt’s character is undoubtedly the main character, but that would be a weird film to watch for two hours, so the film brings in side characters for very brief moments. Sometimes they just tell him “your dad killed my parents” and then help him on his way, sometimes they worked with his dad years before they had an argument and stopped talking, and sometimes they want him to detonate a bomb on a planet to kill his dad. Either way, these characters all only appear for a few minutes and then are never referred to again. Also, it’s kind of weird how his entire character is his dad, even in terms of how other people relate to him. Look at all those characters I just described, they’re all focused around his dad, not him. As such he doesn’t really get chance to develop much of a character, I realise that could be the point to show how we live in the shadow of the sins of those that came before us, but the character spends most of the film on his own, it’s important he is well defined and this just about doesn’t manage it.

So in summary, see this, and see it a cinema, it’s what it deserves. This film is crying out for a big screen and immersive experience. And it’s great to see Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland again. Side note; Donald Sutherland would be a great voice for an animated movie.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Now I freely admit that these reviews are purely subjective, based entirely on my opinion and tastes. As such there are times where my reviews don’t line up with popular opinion. To the point where “Well I Liked It” is an award I give at the end of every year to films which I like but everyone else seems to hate. Previous films I’ve nominated for that have included Gringo, Murder On The Orient Express, Table 19, and The BFG. Conversely, there are times where it goes in the opposite direction, where a film is loved by everybody except me. The best examples of these tend to be horror films; The Shallows, The Gallows, The Marshmallows (I may have made that last one up). Films which I just didn’t get. I mention all of this to provide context for this review. I really disliked this film, for multiple reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, from a technical standpoint it was great, the performances were sublime and it nailed the look and feel of the time. It truly feels like it belongs in the time it’s set in. There aren’t many anachronistic nods and winks, you know, where someone makes a comment that we know has comedic implications, like “Westerns will always be the most popular movie genre”, or “Rosemary’s Baby? That will never work as a film”. As such you’re not really pulled out of the film that often by the dialogue. The film itself, however, is incredibly tedious. Almost 3 hours long with 20 minutes of story. I spent so much of the film bored. 90% of the film was not needed. Actually, entire sub-plots and characters aren’t needed.

That doesn’t compare to two things which push it into dislike territory for me. One was the deification of Roman Polanski. I get he was important in the reality, but this film isn’t about reality, and if he wasn’t mentioned you wouldn’t notice his missing. I know back then people did deify him, but to a modern audience, it’s weird to hear it. It would be like watching a film about a pop-punk band in early 2000’s and they constantly mention how much they love lostprophets.

More jarring than that is something very specific to Tarantino; feet. In case you hadn’t heard, he kind of has a foot fetish. A fact he makes ABUNDANTLY clear during this film. There are multiple scenes where female characters put their bare feet up to the camera. Here’s an example:

7838de257b1be3b0-600x338

How is that anything but jarring? It adds nothing to the film, it just takes you out of it completely. It’s incredibly distracting and kind of weird. The only thing it adds is more material to the director’s wank bank.

Normally with films like this, I’d say it should have been cut down, with this I think it should have been made longer and made into a TV series instead. It would have allowed it to compartmentalise some of the separate plots into their own distinct sections, with the overarching themes running in the background. It also would have allowed some of the performances to have more meaning. As I said, the performances are REALLY good. Dakota Fanning is suitably creepy, DiCaprio and Pitt are on top of their game. Two performances deserve a special mention though; Mikey Madison and Julia Butters. Two people I’m not that familiar with, but I’ll be keeping an eye on as they are mindblowing in this. Julia Butters, in particular, gives the film most of its emotional weight when she’s on-screen.

It may seem like I hated this film; I didn’t. The closing scenes were too good for me to hate it. They were scenes of chaos with some amazing performances. It’s not good enough to make me like it though. Many people love this film, and I get why they would. It’s just not for me, at all. And that’s okay, I don’t have to like everything, and I sincerely doubt Tarantino will give a shit that one person didn’t like it.

Films Worth Seeing from 2015: The funny ones

Instead of a normal top ten list of the best films of 2015, here’s a list of film worth a watch from 2015, separated by genre and in now real order.

The Comedies (or the next best thing)

People, Places, Thingspeople-places-things-alternative-poster-2.jpg

A little seen but a very affectionate film that follows a witty but depressed cartoonist trying to be a single father and bounce back from his divorce. Now it doesn’t sound that different from your atypical rom-com shlock, but with a sensitive script that knows how to pluck your heartstrings to make you laugh and feel, and a surprisingly nuanced turn from Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the concords’ fame) and his chemistry with everyone he shares the screen with, People, Places, Things, becomes the movie equivalent of an awkward bear hug and a nice cup of coffee.

 

Mistress America

mistress_america_poster_midnight_marauder_2The second film this year from Indie director superstar Noah Baumbach, after his critically acclaimed While We’re Young, which was…okay. But he makes up for it here in this sharply funny and very earnest film about adult life, facing your limitations, and the fact that the people who act the happiest rarely really are. All as seen from the POV of an introverted university student as she gets to know her new manic pixy hipster step-sister. Again a bit of a plot-less film, but the shear energy Greta Gerwig brings to her role, and the zany dynamic she and every other character has, takes this film and its characters to a whole other level, and then turns the comedy around to look at the tragedy of it all. It’s possibly his best work since The Squid and the Wale.

The Big Short

the-big-short-movie-posters-001.jpg~original.jpgFrom the director of Anchorman of all people comes the other awesome investigative film of the year, and don’t believe the trailers, that is what this film is. Selling itself as some form of Ocean’s 11 but about the 2008 Credit Crunch, what this film actually turned out to be is a very in-depth and detailed look into all the fraud and corruption the Bank’s did to cause the financial crash. And it’s told from three different parties separately looking into it, each group led by an outstanding Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt. But the trailer didn’t completely lie; this is a comedy (if a thrilling emotional one), with most of the big laughs coming from an enjoyably

Picture1.pngsleazy Ryan Gosling who narrates the film while also having his own place in it, trying to explain to us the inner workings of stock broking, and introduces some ridiculous celebrity cameos. Surprisingly well directed, and masterfully written and acted, it has a few bums and clunks in its tone, but is much more than the fast and funny caper the trailer tried to sell it as.

The Voices

This being Troubled Production’s other producer’s favorite film of 2015, I’d8345_poster_iphone of felt bad if I didn’t mention it somewhere, but that’s far from the biggest reason it’s here. The Voices is a delightfully quirky black comedy from the director of Persepolis (because of course), led by a possibly career best Ryan Reynolds as a mentally ill serial killer who talks to his dog and cat. If that doesn’t sell it to you, nothing will. This film revels, revels, in its warped quirky darkness, and manages to be simultaneously, outlandishly funny, disturbingly dramatic, and just plain charmingly odd because of it. It’s a film with a bonafide destiny to be a cult classic, for the people who like their comedy, dark, violent, and silly. And with this, thevoices0002

Mississippi Grind, and a hopefully awesome Deadpool, let’s hope the underrated Mr Reynolds is back on the rise.

 

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

8c9eb37b259f536f6381af56983f06baThe oddest but most accurate description I’ve heard for this 70s set coming of age dramedy, is that it’s the spiritual sequel to Inside Out…now they don’t mean that the titular teenage girl has a bunch of voices in her head, but is instead referring to that it follows the growing development of a young soon to be woman. As Inside Out ends with Riley on the cusp of teenhood, The diary of a teenage Girl picks up a few years later with a fifteen year old girl’s sexual awakening (forgive me for using the word sexual in the same sentence as Inside Out), and that’s what the film is about in a nutshell; sex. It’s about the first time and the times after that, it’s about becoming comfortable with yours and other’s bodies; Picture2it’s about experimenting and working out what gets you off, and then finding the limits. And I have SUCH respect for this film, because it’s about a fifteen year old’s sexual awakening and it shows it. There are no cutaways or clever angles, you see all of her, and that adds such authenticity to her and her story; because the fact that the film doesn’t shy away from you, means you don’t shy away from it; through every sweet, funny, and emotional moment, on this journey to the end of innocence and the start of everything else.

Man Up

This is that special romantic comedy large_large_y7C1EQ9zxJ3mlaQeRztw3NVw41Pthat’s the perfect mix of cynicism and cheese ball romance, of those little moments and grand gestures. And is the best non-blockbuster/ Edgar Wright film Simon Pegg has ever done. Following a 30 something woman in a romantic rut, she ends up stealing someone else’s blind date, and going on an amazing date with them instead. Now with that set-up this could have easily turned into a basic liar revealed plot, but I’m happy to say it doesn’t (if it did would it be here), and instead goes off in much sweeter and funnier directions. It’s definitely one of the funniest films of the year, and the perfect date movie for people who hate date movies.

Sleeping with Other people

236272This is just funny. Yeah it’s sweet, raunchy, and romantically mature too at times, but mostly it’s just funny. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie make a strong double act, playing two sex addicts who start a platonic friendship to try and help each-other deal with their relationship issues, and of course fall in love along the way. So it does get a bit too cliché at the end, but the journey there is so fun and so tastefully raunchy it’s still definitely worth a watch.

 

 

 

Me, and Earl, and the Dying girl

Along with The Big Short, and The me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-poster-olivia-cookeDiary of A Teenage Girl, this is the other film pushing the boundary for ‘comedy’ this year. Not because it isn’t funny, it’s filled to the brim with funny teen angst and witticisms, but it’s also about a girl dying of cancer, and this isn’t no Fault in Our Stars shit (I say actually liking that film), and stays far away from schmaltz, opting for a much bleaker and deadpan look at teen life and death, and has no quorum ramping up the seriousness and heart wrench when the time comes. Now it maybe too self-indulgent and referential for some people and it definitely reeks of 90’s teen dramedy at times, but past that I found a very earnest and true look at teen life on the outside and at dealing with death, that really captures the teenage voice.

Top 5

large_4Om1d8n5wFQYcLLFOinZiCqhiY

 

 

Oh and Top 5 was pretty funny. Forgot about that one till I just came to post this.

Why I love Zodiac

This isn’t a review; it is a spiel about our love of films and what not. So expect spoilers, biased opinions and general rants.

zodiac
Easily the best poster, and of course its the one you can’t get.

I’m not sure where my love of mysteries started, probably from a childhood (and teenhood, and adulthood) of watching Scooby Doo, nothing major, but a place to start. Now, from LA Confidential, to Memories of Murder, it’s hard to think of a mystery film I haven’t seen, (but please don’t try, I hate having to face my lies) but Zodiac is one of, if not, the best.

Scooby_Doo zodiax

Right out the gate I’ve gotta say, it’s my favorite Fincher film, followed closely by The Social Network and Gone Girl (yes you read that right, neither Se7en nor Fight Club do I consider his best). And Zodiac is a near three hour, investigative murder mystery journalism film, where they never catch the killer. And damn it’s riveting. It’s that last bit, about the Zodiac never being caught, being one reason to why I love and find this film so re-watchable (I watch it almost Bi-monthly). As unlike almost every other serial killer flick, when you know who did it, you can never not know, no matter how enjoyable of a film it is, the first watch is usually the best. That’s part of what makes Zodiac special, though it hazards a guess at who the Zodiac was, and follows it through with compelling, even satisfying evidence, you never know 100%, so with every watch your still looking, thinking, trying to see if there was anything you missed that could lead you to the Zodiac.

fincher filmns
I really don’t have any deep problems with any of Fincher’s films, I just thought this made a good image….Expect maybe Se7en!

It also features one of my favorite scenes in cinema, it happens in the last fifteen minutes of the film (I love it when the best part of the film is near the end, it’s something to look forward to during it), and it doesn’t feature a gun fight, it doesn’t move me to tears, it’s not shot in partially amazing fashion; it’s just two guys (Gyllenhaal’s cartoonist and Ruffalo’s detective respectively), sitting in a café, as Gyllenhaal lays out the entire case, the entire film in front of us. Every complex facet of evidence, every casual event, all the major characters, it’s all led to this, and it’s explained in a perfectly written scene, with an enthrallingly intense turn from Gyllenhaal, till it climaxes with this films closes thing to a big reveal. And god it’s satisfying.

cafe
Never has the choice over salt or pepper been so intense.

This scene also sums up why it’s my favorite serial killer film, and the tagline summaries it perfectly too. “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer”. It’s a film about obsession, and how it can eat you alive. Unlike films where you’re worried about the characters  dying, there’s rarely a moment where you think someone’s going to be killed (outside the victims obviously),  but as it unfolds and the characters (mainly Gyllenhaal) fall deeper and deeper and deeper, even when its all said and done, you can’t help but wonder. Can they live again?

Jake

Now I know it’s not cool to care about Academy Awards, and I get it, overall they’re pretty cheap with whom and what they consider worthy (no love for Jake Gyllenhaal unless he’s macking on a cowboy it seems). But at the same time, they do tend to choose pretty good films, and Zodiac easily should have been a major awards contender in 2008, for directing, writing, acting (Robert Downy Jr especially), cinematography (the usual Fincher staples), and the reason it wasn’t I completely put on the studio. They released it at the wrong time, and advertised it the wrong way. Selling it as a fun, messed-up, thrills per-minute serial killer film (Se7en cough, cough) and releasing it in spring; instead of in Oscar season (October-December) and as the investigative drama it is (All The President’s Men meets Citizen X), what the makers always intended it to be. But though I blame them for this, I can see why they did it. Coming off the big hit of the very enjoyable thriller Panic Room, and Fincher’s last serial killer film being a massive hit, I see why the studio treated it like they did. They wanted another Se7en, even though Fincher gave them something much more.

seven 2

It’s films like Zodiac that made me pretty happy when I heard Fincher’s series with HBO had fallen through, because despite how much I like House of Cards, and have heard that Utopia is a great show, I didn’t want Fincher’s spending all his time on a TV series when he could be making more films like this, or Gone Girl, or The Social Network. TV’s amazing right now (check out last weeks post on Breaking Bad, wink, wink), with a lot of hugely talented people creating epic feats of fiction, so we need to make sure Film stays great, and Fincher’s pretty good at that.
(Yes I’m aware he’s still producing the TV Show Shakedown and Video Synchronicity (both which sound really good), but who the hell knows at this point, and at least he’s not directing the entire series.)