Sunday, 27 March 2011

Film-a-day: Week 5: 13-19 Feb 2011

We'll start with a film I watched purely because 65daysofstatic were doing a live re-score of the film at the Glasgow Film Festival. The rest are, as usual, behind the cut.

Silent Running (1972) ***
Silent Running [live re-score by 65daysofstatic] ****
Not that I was, but if I were in any doubt before, now I'm certain. Music can dramatically change the impact of a film and how it's ideas and messages come across. Silent Running by itself is a bit of a strange beast. The story is a little on the perplexing side for one, especially for the rating it was given. Keep in mind that this was given a U for universal in the UK and G for general audiences in the USA. The main character kills three of his crew, two of them are blown up and the other strangled. I had this argument with a friend about whether the message outweighed the reason for ratings, and to be honest I kinda felt like rating this a so low is pretty irresponsible. Still, that has more to do with the BBFC and MPAA, but it does shine a light on where the film has this character.

Bruce Dern does no wrong here as the main man, left at his wits end trying to protect the worlds last forest from everyone else in the universe, who have plans to turn this sanctuary ships into cruise liners. He shines in a film that was built to have one strong main character tell his own story, and the look of the ships is incredibly well done too, especially considering how long ago it came out. However, the plot drifts a lot in the middle when the idea falls to it's basic elements, and the soundtrack is one of the worst I have ever heard. Which is where 65daysofstatic come in. I've never been to a live re-scoring before, but this was definitely a match made in heaven. The band used their post-rock to set the scenes and used their electronic side to ramp up the sci-fi element perfectly, and left me feeling more for the issues at hand than the first viewing ever could. It was a perfect marriage, and I came out wanting that to be the final cut of the film; wanting them to record the re-score and have Universal release it on the films 40th anniversary next year. Who's with me?

After The Cut: The Terminal, Marley And Me, The Cocoanuts, Choke, Paper Heart and The Goods (Live Hard, Sell Hard).
The Terminal (2004) ***
At first glance, I dismissed this film as just a bit of fluff, nothing worth paying any attention to, naff. Of course, learning that it was at least partly based on the true story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri who spent 18 years in an airport peaked my interest. What I found was a sweet and heart-warming story that gave us a great insight into a wonderfully rounded character, with a terrible accent. At times, it does talk down to it's audience, which was almost a given from the get go, but it gives a simple story adequate room to breathe. Not to mention the fact that Chi McBride and Diego Luna are both great in their supporting roles, bringing key scenes to life. However, the real star here is Kumar Pallana who is brilliant in every scene, owning his performance brilliantly, and not afraid to be silly it up when necessary, like in the superb dinner scene. However, Catherine Zeta Jones may be mis-cast and it's hard to see Stanley Tucci as a bad guy here, so the film has many varying peaks and troughs.
Marley And Me (2008) **
I love dogs. I'd never been able to have one growing up, as my mum is allergic but have always wanted to have man's best friend to take for walks and play with. So film's that portray dogs in a real light should be perfect for me, right? Apparently, wrong. Marley and Me gives you a real insight into owning a troublesome dog, and the love that comes with it. It takes you through the dogs life through the eyes of the family who own it, and what they learn from it along the way. Blergh. What really happens is they show you how fun it would be to have a dog, and also how annoying it is, and then at the end they have some 'emotional' bollocks. It's overwrought, it didn't make me want a dog any more or less and it was ridiculously un-affecting when it came right down to it. It's not enough, and it is barely enjoyable fluff, which mucks up what could be an entertaining film.
The Cocoanuts (1929) ***
I absolutely love Marx Brother films. I grew up watching them from a very young age and I've now seen twelve of their thirteen films, with only Love Happy left. Having never seen The Cocoanuts before, this was a pretty interesting watch for me. If you forget about the random dance sequences and the five minute long beach sequence at the beginning, this film is a lot better than three stars. As it is the film is just good, as while Groucho, Harpo and Chico are all starting to show their comedy bare bones in their first feature, there are lax performances from other actors throughout the film. However, this is almost forgiveable considering this was in the very early days of 'talkie' cinema, and the film survives (barely) as another fine example of the comedy genius of the Marx Brothers.
Choke (2008) ***
Seeing this film from me, was just about seeing more Sam Rockwell films. He's quite possibly one of the best actors working today, with his work in Moon being an incredible example of just what he is capable of. Here is no difference, and he calmly plays a character with almost no morals whatsoever. Along the way he gets worse and better in different ways and with every turn Rockwell matches the tone, never missing a beat. He has a good supporting cast in Anjelica Huston and Kelly McDonald, who are both superb in their scenes with the leading man. However a few of the sex scenes are needless, as we already have the point that he's a sex addict drummed into us from the beginning. Aside from that it's an enjoyable 90 minutes and is held together quite well, even if the plot does wear thin around the middle.

Paper Heart (2009) ***
Going in, I had some idea that this was part documentary, part fiction so I wasn't shocked when the two stars started dating mid-way through the film. If I hadn't know though, I wouldn't have been convinced, as it's the most contrived thing trying so hard to put the two together. However, if you know it's fiction, it's generally more enjoyable purely because you know they could take it anywhere. Of course, there is another side to this film, and it's one which I deeply enjoyed. Charlyne Yi goes around talking to couples who got together in interesting ways and they tell their stories to camera. The stories are animated in a rudimentary fashion and are made all the more cute for it. To be honest, 90 minutes of that would have been lovely, but as it is a movie of two half's, it suffers a little by going back and forth. Had this been two separate films, it may have worked really well, but as it is it's just enjoyable.

The Goods (2009) ***
I have no idea what critics were moaning about when reviewing this film. Sure, it's not as good as other output from the actors on display but it's not terrible. There's a lot of fun to be had watching The Goods and it comes from a lot of different sources. Jeremy Piven plays the lead rather well and pulls of the salesman motif greatly, while Ving Rhames puts in an unusually funny performance. The team is rounded out by the wonderful David Koechner who is a little underused and a pretty average performance by an actor I've never been convinced by, Kathryn Hahn. From the car dealership, the always underused Ken Jeong is superb, and Craig Robinson is a nice addition as the psycho DJ. However, both James Brolin and Jordana Spiro seem mis-matched for their characters, and the usually great Ed Helms fails to spark. Besides that, it's a very enjoyable film which is tied together nicely by some appearances by Will Ferrell and Kristen Schaal.

Total Films: 34

More soon,
Carl England

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