There isn’t much to say about the two movies I got to see this week, other than the fact that they are very different beasts. Not only are they divided by more than two decades, but one is a considerably obscure feature while the other is as mainstream Hollywood as they come. It is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, then, but to me they were both rather good films in their own right.
Distant Voices, Still Lives (1989) - 7/10 Distant Voices, Still Lives was my introduction to the cinematic world of Terence Davies, and I found the film immensely moving. As a surreal and non-linear movie, the experience of watching Distant Voices, Still Lives proved to be a tad daunting at times, but I managed to allow myself to get lost in the images on screen and be guided by Davies’s vision. There are some truly masterful visual collages and soundscapes to be found in this film, and the way Davies depicts memories and recollection is unique and thoroughly fascinating. The late, great Pete Postlethwaite delivers a mesmerising and raw performance as a domineering patriarch, and the rest of the actors hold their own as well. As a slight negative, I have to confess that I found the first part of the film far more effective than its latter half, and thought that the narrative became a bit muddled towards the end. Perhaps that is exactly what Davies was going for, as memories do often take on an inconsequential form. Nevertheless, that did turn out to be something of a gripe I had with an otherwise bold little film. I look forward to exploring more of Terence Davies’s odd cinematic landscape in the future.
The Ides of March (2011) - 6/10
There’s no denying George Clooney’s talent in front of the camera, but there seems to be little talk of his proficiency behind it. Clooney makes use of his versatility in The Ides of March, occupying the director’s chair while also taking on a significant role in the film itself – not that he hasn’t done all this before, mind you. Still, I continue to be impressed, and it’s no different in this case, either. The Ides of March is a solid political thriller all around. It may not rank amongst the most well-written, nor perhaps amongst the most showy in terms of performances, but genre exercises are certainly not often as competent as Clooney’s latest. Industry veterans such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Marisa Tomei hand in worthy performances here, and the younger Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood hold their own as well. Clooney confidently passes on the torch to Gosling, who carries the film with a natural screen presence. It’s also refreshing to see Clooney in roles that are less his usual fare, and his portrayal of a corrupt politician on the rise is appropriately charismatic and surprisingly slimy. Despite all this, The Ides of March stumbles here and there plot-wise, and the film’s overarching thematic elements aren’t ultimately all that effective. I still say it handles itself well enough in the end, and is in my opinion a very serviceable political thriller, if nothing else.
All quiet on the Western front this week, I’m afraid. There is an interesting pairing of films for next week, however, and I will try to get that posted as soon as possible. In the meantime, I want to take a moment and talk about how the year 2011 was going so far. The quality of films didn’t seem to be up to par to what last year had in store, though I admit that my cinema attendance has been suffering a bit as a result of my focus on university-related coursework. That being said, there were still a couple of months to go before the year was over, and as you can read from previous Weekly Updates posts, I had already seen a few films that would definitely show up among my top ten of the year. As of writing this, I still have not posted my top films list for the year 2011. I still have one or two movies I need to get to, and I prefer to be as thorough as possible when compiling my list. Stumbling upon a gem from years prior and regretting not having seen it during a more relevant period is something I want to avoid as much as I can. With that in mind, I do feel like the list is long overdue, so I will clear my movie watch list as soon as possible and get to work.
A family reunion at a remote cabin is interrupted when a mysterious group of masked killers invade the property.
+ great main character + clever and inventive setpieces + well-placed moments of comedy + gripping middle act + doesn't take itself too seriously + entertaining through and through + interesting family dynamic
* high level of violence and gore * low level of scares and frightening scenes * moderate level of nudity and sexual themes * high level of profanity
things I learned from watching this movie (potential spoilers ahead)
1. Don't brag about being the fastest person in a group. 2. Having really paranoid parents pays off. 3. Winning an argument takes precedence over the arrow stuck in your chest. 4. Killing your brother is incredibly awkward. 5. Having sex next to your dead mom is not an appropriate way to ‘spice things up’ in a relationship. 6. Three former American marines are just about the equivalent of an Australian woman raised in the Outback. 7. ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’ is not the wisest procedure for a policeman to follow.
At first glance, You're Next seems indistinguishable from the contemporary run-of-the-mill horror indie, opening with a generic first scene and twenty-something minutes of textbook exposition. Appearances, however, can be deceiving, and You're Next follows up its misleading beginning with a thrill ride that delivers both kills and laughs in equal measure. Featuring one of the most memorable final girls in recent years, You're Next stands out from the crowd of would-be subversive slashers by turning the tables on its masked antagonists. Sharni Vinson shines in the leading role, but the rest of the cast does not fare as well in terms of either acting or character three-dimensionality, and the film also suffers from some plot-related issues. Despite its faults, You're Next is sufficiently inventive and fun for it to mark a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tired out genre.
* high level of violence and gore * high level of scares and frightening scenes * low level of nudity and sexual themes * moderate level of profanity
things I learned from watching this movie (potential spoilers ahead)
1. Running away from the police for no reason is a bad idea. 2. Don't engage in a high speed car chase while your child is with you in the vehicle. 3. If you're a crazed religious fanatic, don't let Pyramid Head catch you. 4. Religion and death by burning go hand in hand.
Silent Hill is something of an anomaly as far as video game adaptations are concerned simply through the fact that it is, actually, quite good. Not only is the film as eerie and atmospheric as the series of video games it is based on thanks to some outstanding art design and a haunting soundtrack, but it also benefits from solid performances by its cast, and a few instances of effectively used violence and gore. These excuse the rather poorly executed special effects, as well as some of the weaker writing noticeable in certain parts of the film. Considering the ill-fated history of video games adapted for the big screen, Silent Hill has no right to be as good as it is.