2010’s In Film Day 4 (2014)

January – Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

This is probably the biggest horror franchise which I’ve completely ignored. No idea why as I’ve heard the first one is quite good, I’ve just had no interest in them. I was going to do them for Halloween blog last year but I accidentally purchased the mockbuster version instead. Maybe it would have been funnier to do those films instead, but I had so little free time in October that I didn’t want to waste it watching bad films.

February – Robocop

How is this not bigger? Maybe it was a timing thing. The general feeling of Obama’s America was more hopeful than it is now. Now everything seems bleak and horrible. We’re a few days into the year and the political climate is heating up (as is the actual climate, as the devastation to Australia has proven), there’s cynicism and hatred everywhere. Nobody has any hope that the future will get better. Even people who support the parties in charge think the future will suck for a lot of people “but it will be worth it to get blue passports”. So maybe now is the time we need a Robocop film.

March – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I feel this is the most important movie in the MCU. Not so much because of the story, but because of the quality of the film. This was when Marvel movies went from dumb fun to capable of brilliance. This is where comic book movies stopped being a genre and started being a subdivision of other genres as diverse as spy thrillers, space comedies, and family dramas. All that’s left now is a comic book horror movie. For more of my thoughts, read here.

April – The Amazing Spiderman 2

A month after The Winter Soldier wowed audiences, this came out. I feel those two things are linked. Since the MCU started, a lot of other franchises have been attempted. Not many have worked, probably due to the fact that it took the MCU a while to get going, and people forget this. People think all the Marvel movies started being connected, yet The Incredible Hulk was a standalone movie, the only reference to Iron Man being a short post-credits scene (well the only obvious reference anyway). It was possible to enjoy those films on their own, yet a lot you can’t, they spend far too much time setting up future franchises that they don’t really spend enough time on it’s own story (biggest offender is The Mummy reboot a few years ago).

May – Godzilla

Now, this is a potentially better franchise. Kong and Godzilla work as standalone films and are great spectacle films. I feel age has been kind to this film, there was a lot of disappointment when the film came out. That was mainly because it had Bryan Cranston in it and people expected him to be the main character, so when he died and was replaced with Aaron Taylor-Johnson it was bound to rub fans up the wrong way. Yet if you know about it and watch it again then it’s actually quite an impressive piece of film-making. It’s not a film that you’ll love, but if you have an impressive enough television and sound set-up then it’s a great way to spend an evening with people. A few years ago I watched the Planet Of The Apes trilogy over New Years eve, I feel the two Godzilla movies and Kong would also make a great thing to watch like that. Have a few people round and have the film in the background as you chat shit and eat cheese. This film also has a REALLY creepy piece of music.

June – Oculus

This was the first film I watched with my Cineworld card, and it remains the worst cinema experience I have ever had, to the point where it soured me on the movie. The lights came on about 10 minutes before the film ended, completely ruined the experience. You don’t realise how lights affect the cinema experience but it does. As soon as those lights came on it deflated the room, it took everyone out of the movie. I do need to watch this film again to give it a fair go, I feel the constant “it’s real! no it’s not! yes it is! no it’s not!” fake outs would still annoy me, but maybe not as much.

July – Guardians Of The Galaxy

I feel people have forgotten what happened before this film came out. It seemed destined for failure. A lot of people were saying it’s going to be the first bomb of the MCU. That a film featuring characters most people don’t know, featuring actors a lot of people don’t know, set in space, wouldn’t work. That it would fail, and fail HARD. Just goes to show, nobody has any idea what will work. People expected The Lone Ranger to be huge, and I bet you completely forgot that film existed until now. Again, my thoughts here.

August – Sin City 2

The time between this and the first film: 9 years. That film was a success, this was bombed. Just goes to show the importance of timing when it comes to sequels. If you do them too soon then the audience will get burned out (think of the game series with yearly release cycles), yet if you space them too far apart then the audience either won’t care, or society would have moved on beyond what you’re making (best example of this is the Duke Nukem game). I don’t know why this is so much worse than the first one, it just feels less than. It feels like the first one was a labour of love, and this one was in pursuit of fans of the first one. I could be wrong, and usually am.

September – Life After Beth

I love this film. I know it’s not the greatest film of all time, but it’s unique and very funny. The closest film is Shaun Of The Dead, but that’s only in terms of genre as they’re both zombie rom-coms. When it comes to style and tone, this is a completely different bushel of bananas. Something about this film feels very 90’s or late 80’s. It would be easy to imagine this as a brat pack John Hughes movie. I haven’t said it yet in this blog, but I highly recommend this film. Even if you don’t like it, I very much doubt you’ll be bored.

October – Gone Girl

So damn creepy and dark. I saw What We Did On Our Holidays about 2 weeks before, a very different performance from Rosamund Pike. It also has the best Tyler Perry performance ever. To the point where you almost forgive him for the Madea movies (I feel I’m being mean to those movies considering I’ve never seen them, they could be comedic classics that I love, but after watch the trailers, I sincerely doubt it). Again, I highly recommend you watch this film, but you will need to prepare something nice for after. This film will drain you, but not in a way that makes you feel empty (if that makes sense). It will emotionally kill you, but when some films do that they leave you unable to speak for a while. This is the opposite, you’ll come out talking a lot. It also has the best blu-ray presentation ever. It comes with a childs book that is kind of nice, but when you read it in the context of the film, it’s horrifying. This, and Life After Beth, heavily inspired us to make this.

November – The Drop

Wait, I saw this just after Gone Girl? Damn 2014 was great. I thought this film would be kind of standard “Boston gangster” film. It’s GREAT though. A huge part of that is Tom Hardy, this is the film where I fell in love with him as an actor. It made me realise he gives great performances. I truly believe he’s probably the greatest actor around at the moment, every role he has he throws himself completely into it. He doesn’t really have a performance “type”. He’s helped in this film by the script though It’s so fucking good. It takes you by surprise every step of the way and will hook you in for the duration. Not just a great film, a very very smart one too.

December – St. Vincent

An annoying film. Because it’s really good. It’s smart, funny, and touching. But the worst thing about it is Melissa McCarthy is REALLY good in it. As such it’s disappointing when you see so many films where she returns to type. It also shows another side to Bill Murray, a slightly sadder and softer side. Bill Murray is lucky he’s Bill Murray. Seriously, watch films he’s in and imagine his character is played by another actor, you would HATE that character. Most of his characters are arseholes, complete dicks. Yet somehow he makes them work. Lucky bastard.

A Cure For Wellness

Some films you see them and you have an automatic visual reaction, for example when I saw Gone Girl for the first time, after the film ended there was spontaneous applause (something I’ve only ever seen for about 4 other films), but occasionally the most interesting part is when nobody does anything. Sometimes this is bad, it can indicate disappointment or a feeling of being short changed, you have a room full of people sitting there thinking “was that it? That was so boring it almost sent me to sleep”, but sometimes the silence says more than any other reaction possibly could. For example when I saw Buried at cinema in Portsmouth, it ended and the reaction was complete silence, everyone was too depressed to move, the silence lasted for at least 20 seconds (which doesn’t seem long, but sit there and time it, it’s longer than you think) until it was broken by somebody saying “I think I need to self-harm now”. That was pretty much the reaction to this, just a sense of unease among everyone in the cinema, when we left there was a feeling like we’d all just gone through a shared trauma. Yet it was by no means a horrible film, there was beauty in the ugliness. The beauty of the way shots were composed meant the ugliness was more striking. Haven’t seen a film like this since Nocturnal Animals, and even that wasn’t as unrelenting as this was. This film starts off making you feel slightly uncomfortable and uneasy, and never gives you pause throughout the (some would say “slightly excessive) 146 minute runtime.

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Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention that, this film is very very long, and I feel it doesn’t really need to be. There are moments where characters do things which they should have done earlier (for example, the main character is constantly woken by a knocking noise, this happens throughout the film, yet he doesn’t investigate it until very late on in the film). There’s also scenes which are slightly repetitive, the film wants you to think something and doesn’t want to risk you not realising certain things. A lot of the supporting characters are also woefully underwritten, Celia Imrie’s character for example was interesting in what we saw, but we needed a bigger investment into her for certain things to have narrative weight. Not the only flaw in this film, in fact this film is deeply flawed in many areas, particularly in terms of pacing, yet (for me anyway) those flaws can be ignored because of how great the film is.

I can see a lot of people really hating this film, it’s an easy film to dislike, and not just “not my thing” dislike, more “I want to harm everybody involved in making this piece of shit” dislike, but I can also see people who like it really loving it. It’s divisive, like marmite, Batfleck, or Fantf4stic.

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The “”Was it “bad” or “irredeemably awful”” debate rages on

What this film does well though, it does very well. The aforementioned feeling of dread throughout is remarkable, it feels like the characters spend the entire film with a sword dangling over their heads, and you’re waiting for it to drop (yes, that is occasionally exactly as frustrating as that sounds). It could be argued that when it does drop it not only spends forever making it’s journey, but it also doesn’t seem to live up what it promises, it promises excalibur dropping and all you get is a sewing needle. Yet for me it worked, it won’t be for everybody but I kind of dug how they ended it.

The performances in this were also superb, I haven’t seen Chronicle, so all I know Dane DeHaan from is the woefully under appreciated Life After Beth, a film which he is good in, but the performance he gives is just kind of standard. He is amazing in his, you really feel his fear throughout the film, you feel his anger and frustration at what’s happening, if you don’t buy the characters reactions, the entire film crumbles as theres no jeopardy. Jason Isaacs is as good as you expect him to be, coming off as an English actor who was created by someone attempting to draw Jon Hamm from memory. Just realised he has never won a BAFTA, how is that possible? He’s amazing and obviously talented, it’s about time that was realised. The best performance in this film; Mia Goth. I’m not familiar anything she’s done before, was truly a revelation in this. The vulnerability of the character is shown very well in her performance, not just vocally but the way the character moves adds to the performance, you see her walking across a room and automatically feel fearful for her. Interested to see what she does next.

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Ah, a remake of this. Interesting

Is there an obvious improvement that could be made to this film? Only one I can think of is it could have been nicer. If there were more moments of joyful bliss and serenity then the underlying creepy nature would have more weight when it eventually emerges. It wouldn’t have taken long, just a few scenes of idyllic comfort at the building, make it seem more like a genuine place of joy. As it is, everything is so obviously creepy that the fact there’s an underlying creepiness isn’t really surprising. It would be like finding out “Dave The Axe Murderer” is a killer, you’d be like “well, yeah, kind of guessed that”.

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I was more confused why she was called “Dave” tbh

Which brings me on to my next point: the marketing. There was nothing special about, and I feel that was a problem. Batman Vs. Superman did a lot wrong (that’s an understatement) but one thing I loved is that they tied an advert for an airline company into the advertising for the film, it was a unique way of marketing it and I kind of dug it. I’d have loved to have seen marketing materials not about the film, but about the wellness facility featured in the film. Just a short teaser about the facilities there, with a slight underlying creepiness implying the real intentions. Even the website for it is magnificently mediocre;

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I mean, look at that, that doesn’t set you on edge, it doesn’t do anything emotionally to you. It’s dull. Nothing about it is unusual or unique. A massive disappointment. They had a perfect opportunity to have a really unique marketing campaign and they blew it. They should have a website for the facility, adverts for it etc, maybe youtube testimonials about how “there’s something in the water” which means you “never want to leave”. Maybe have an alternate reality game that allows you to delve into the mythos, maybe a quick 5 minute walking simulator released online I don’t know. I don’t care what you do, just DO SOMETHING!

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“Why don’t we do the poster for Slither, but sexy?” “Genius! More cocaine”

So, in summary. Should you watch this film? I’d say yes. This is a film that deserves to be seen, there’s a chance you’ll hate it, but there’s a chance you’ll love it, but either way you’ll have strong reactions to it.

Cure

  • Great performances.
  • Masterfully shot.
  • The two teeth-based scenes (not spoiling them here, but trust me they’re horrific).

Sickness

  • Glacial pacing.
  • Underwritten supporting characters

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)