This Week In Cinema: December 01-07, 2013

hot fuzz

I’ve had trouble with the fuzz, never this funny mind you!

A lot of newish movies this week, I’m as surprised as you are, trust me,

Breaking The Girls (2013, Jamie Babbit, United States Of America) *

A cheap and insipid attempt at softcore porn, without being willing to actually make softcore porn. Stupid characters doing stupid things and an actress, Madeline Zima, delivering one of the least convincing portrayals of a smart schemer I’ve ever had to sit through. Jamie Babbit’s film wants to be Strangers On A Train with a dash of Wild Things tossed into the mix. Miss Babbit’s cowardliness stops that from ever happening, as at every turn she’s unwilling to actually attempt to be smart or to truly push the envelope with her images of sexual acts. Not even good enough to be a 1990s Cinemax late night film, and that says it all right there.

Saving Santa (2013, Leon Joosen & Aaron Seelman, United Kingdom/United States Of America) **

Terribly generic, both in terms of animation and story. The sort of film that is forgotten very soon after finishing it. As a matter of fact I’m sitting here a day after having finished Saving Santa and I’m struggling to remember the film already. Some stuff happens, there’s a stupid elf who makes lots of dick and fart level jokes, and eventually he saves the day. I couldn’t be bothered to care about anything that was happening in Saving Santa. That’s what happens when are movie is as generic and vanilla as Saving Santa.

Hot Fuzz (2007, Edgar Wright, France/United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2

Genuine, that’s what I thought when I finished watching Hot Fuzz. It’s a very funny movie, it’s satire of action films, specifically those from the 1990s, but it’s real strength lies in how genuine the film feels. Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman form a true friendship. Things like that are special in a buddy cop movie, because far too often the buddy aspect is forced. Their relationship makes the drama more real, the comedy funnier, and the violence all the more sweet. The fine direction of Edgar Wright, and the superb acting of everyone involved do help matters. But it’s the relationship that truly anchors the film. A satire and a genuine buddy cop action movie, that’s what makes Hot Fuzz special.

Bridegroom (2013, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, United States Of America) **1/2

Talking heads can only carry a documentary so far. Bridegroom relies almost exclusively on talking heads and after a while it gets very tiresome to move from one talking head segment to another. There’s an interesting story present in Bridegroom, but the method it takes to get to the story comes across as empty and vacuous. What do we ever end up actually knowing about Shane or Tom, not a whole heck of a lot. What happened to Shane is troubling, but the film never gets to a place where I deeply cared and was moved by the structure of the film.

Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan, United Kingdom/United States Of America) *

An incredibly stupid movie that unfortunately thinks its highly intelligent. It goes from the little things such as Liam Neeson’s character shouting out jiu-jitsu when he’s getting punched, as if jiu-jitsu is a martial art that involves striking. To the larger things like an end sequence that is filmed so horrendously that it offers absolutely no sense of time, place, or even meaning. Batman Begins is also super cheesy, but everyone involved thinks the movie they’re making is insanely serious. There’s also the fact that much of the filming looks terrible, like when Batman is framed against a subway background that looks like it’s from an early 2000’s video game. Then there’s also Christopher Nolan’s inability to understand anything about humanity, women, or how to make his female character believable or the films supposed humanity actually have merit. Pure and utter bollocks.

Stuck (2013, Thaddaeus Scheel, United States Of America) ***

Strong subject matter but I felt the documentary didn’t delve deep enough into the topic. It treads on easy emotional strings, but I don’t think there’s really any way for a film about kids not being adopted to avoid that. Still, why did these families want to adopt children from other countries so badly? What is the process actually like for international adoption? What if it’s a same sex couple? The questions go on and on, but Stuck doesn’t really bother broaching the more interesting questions. Emotional yes, but not a great documentary.

The Croods (2013, Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders, United States Of America) ***

The very definition of decent, that best describes The Croods. The story is okay, if a bit tired and old hat. The animation has moments where it is finely detailed and world expanding, but it lacks all around verve. The characters are stock, and the humor misses almost as much as it hits. All in all The Croods is an inoffensive work. It’s not a film that will garner great discussion or have anyone clamoring for a sequel, but it is a decent time at the movies.

Time Bandits (1981, Terry Gilliam, United Kingdom) ***

Loaded up with imagination Time Bandits makes the most of its imaginative streak. That being said, the rest of the movie falls flat. It’s funny sometimes, but more often than not it’s dry to the point of not being funny. The outlandishness matches the imagination, and that is a good quality. I guess my main beef with Time Bandits is that I never felt truly invested in what I was watching. It was a fun romp and I really enjoyed the way the film played up the human imagination, but large chunks of the movie left me cold.

Sound City (2013, David Grohl, United States Of America) ***

An enlightening look at the way music used to be made. Sound City benefits from featuring lots of great musicians and from never settling for being a talking head documentary. Near the middle of the film it takes on a less nostalgia based presence. It becomes about the battle between digital and analog recording. That subject was extremely fascinating, but David Grohl’s documentary never digs deep enough tino that area. It also goes on for about fiteen minutes too long, but on the whole Sound City is a well made and compelling doc.

Withnail & I (1987, Bruce Robinson, United Kingdom) ***

At times it’s funny, tragic, and it aches for poignancy and authenticity. Yet, none of the elements of Bruce Robinson’s film ever hit home for me. I didn’t find it all that funny, the tragedy didn’t come across as all that tragic, and what was supposed to be poignant rang hollow. It’s well made, and it certainly has its charms, but Withnail & I is one cult classic where I fail to see the classic.

Wrap-Up:

A lot of movies, but only one that truly reached the level of great. That’s why Hot Fuzz is an easy choice to take home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “This Week In Cinema: December 01-07, 2013

  1. Some solid write-ups here which I enjoyed reading. Regarding BATMAN BEGINS, what made you think that those involved believed the film to be “highly intelligent” or “insanely serious”? Since I first saw it in the cinema, my take on has been that it manages to balance the humour and more dramatic elements better than most Batman films, certainly more successfully than any that came before it (Burton was at times too dark, and Schumacher took things too far the other way). Compared to all the other reviews in this article, your BATMAN BEGINS write-up feels much more unforgiving.

  2. It’s a problem I have with all of Nolan’s work. I find him far too self serious, where even the moments he thinks are humorous are framed in such a serious manner. I’ve never denied how much I loathe Nolan and how unskilled I find him as a filmmaker, and Batman Begins is a shining example of how terrible I find him to be.

  3. I find it fascinating that Nolan is a director who polarises opinion so much, with people largely either loving or hating his whole body of work. I’ve been a fan of his for some time, but I’ve also come to realise that those who dislike his films have their reasons. I respect your opinion, even if I totally disagree with it.

  4. Yeah, I’m in the not so vocal minority when it comes to Nolan. I don’t actively avoid his films or anything like that, and I always try to go into his movies with an open mind. Still, he has a general style that just doesn’t work for me and that has remained consistent across his body of work.

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