Sunday, June 8, 2014

Movies April-May 2014

BEST

The Lives of Others. This German film is the best film I've seen in the last few months. It won a ton of awards, and it deserved them. I don't want to say too much about the plot because it's a delicate one and I don't want to ruin the suspense for you should you end up seeing it.

Kick Ass. This film has more gratuitous violence in it than anything I've ever seen with the exception of Game of Thrones, but it's laugh-out-loud funny in a very dark way. About a young man who decides to make himself into a superhero. Did you see Olga Korbut's perfect-10 performance in the Olympics years ago? Chloe Grace Moretz's performance in this film reminds me of Olga's attitude as she achieved athletic perfection.

GOOD

NO. A charming Chilean film about the advertising campaign that helped oust Augusto Pinochet from power. The context of this story was sometimes puzzling: in any American movie on this theme, thugs would show up at the door and blow the ad man's head off, and why that doesn't happen in this one means there was a context here that wasn't fully explained. Clearly Pinochet had the power to stay in power if he'd wished.

The Master. The first word that occurs to me about this film is "disturbing," and I recommend it only for the performance of Joaquin Phoenix, which is the best I've ever seen him do, and that's saying something. He plays a sailor after WWII who is persuaded to become a sort of disciple-slash-henchman to a charlatan who is clearly based on L. Ron Hubbard. There are loose threads left dangling, which seems unnecessary coming from filmmaking of this caliber: for example, at one point Phoenix's character enters a hotel room with malicious intent, and there are apparently no legal consequences.

La Vie en Rose. I knew nothing about the life of French singer Edith Piaf, and I rented this primarily because it starred Marion Cotillard, whom I enjoyed so much in Rust and Bone. It's mostly a sad film about a talented singer whose voice was unforgettable but who never became an adult; it's like watching a child become an alcoholic. Most of the singing is Piaf herself; whoever re-mastered her work did such a great job that I thought they must have dubbed in an imitator.

Samsara. An intriguing film, and oddly, the very first image, of Thai dancers, is what stayed with me, although there were many scenes throughout the film that were visually stunning. If, like me, you liked the idea of Koyaanisqatsi but don't care for its soundtrack by Phillip Glass, I recommend Samsara for more enjoyable music to accompany the sometimes startling images.

Seducing Doctor Lewis. Sort of a lighter-hearted retake on Waking Ned Devine with less realism and a lot more integrity. I love the music, performances and scenery in Waking Ned Devine but the townspeople's dishonesty gets to me: I believe it's going to come back to bite them sometime after the story ends and there are no more movie cameras watching; maybe they all get cancer or die in a tsunami. Seducing Doctor Lewis takes a different approach, and I'm less concerned about the long-term risks for the townspeople.

DIDN'T LIKE

Seven Psychopaths. I actually liked some things about this film, it was just so frigging disturbing and the violence was ridiculous. It's very reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, with the scenes in time-ordered sequence and not as funny. Sam Rockwell's performance as a psychopath is so strong that I might be uncomfortable speaking with him in person.

TV SHOWS

Wishbone. Paul mentioned that his daughter Niki loved the Wishbone TV series when she was little. As I hadn't heard of it, we rented it, and found it sadly dated and no longer very funny, but that may be more due to our age than the length of time since it was produced.

Game of Thrones. Okay, I'll add a few words to the storm surge of writing on the web on this topic. When I moved in with Paul, he was watching GoT every Sunday night, and it was the end of Season 2, and I had a hell of a time figuring out what was going on and who was who. I continued watching the series with him up until the Red Wedding, when I signed off in disgust. Later, however, I read synopses of early episodes and realized that I had missed a good deal of the story's background and character development. So we rented Season 1, and from there kept watching (except for the Red Wedding, skipped those scenes) until I'd seen all the episodes I missed and re-seen the ones I'd seen before. I now get the characters a lot better, and every time we went out for a walk over a period of several weeks we began talking about the various characters and what we expected to happen. There are now just 2 episodes remaining in Season 4, and if the author has decided to kill off Tyrion Lannister, I suspect we'll give up on the series for good. But I for one have an idea how that can be avoided if anybody's interested. (The head of the Tyrell family, played by Diana Rigg, lures Jamie Lannister to a spot where her guards take him prisoner. She then reveals to Jamie's father, Tywin Lannister, that she's the one who killed Joffrey, and why (to protect her granddaughter), and lays the real responsibility for Joffrey's death at the feet of Cersei, who raised a monster, and Tywin, who allowed the monster to become king. What do you think?


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