Sunday, January 4, 2015

December 2014 Film Wrap-Up

An Honest Liar (Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein, 2014) = 3.5/5

"Magicians are the most honest people in the world; they tell you they're gonna fool you, and then they do it."

These words are spoken by James Randi early on in An Honest Liar, and they form the conceit of this documentary about the magician-cum-scientific sceptic’s storied life. The 86-year-old Randi regaled Thinkers following a screening of the film at the Metro Theatre last month, and he was nothing but candid on the night. But the documentary sheds a more scrutinising light on Randi’s professional and personal life. Through the medium of film, we are reminded that the mise-en-scène of a particular movie (even a documentary) is merely a director’s subjective interpretation of a given subject. Cuts, dissolves, and wipes are all a form of trickery. Filmmaking is fundamentally an act of tomfoolery, and An Honest Liar is in itself one elaborate, honest lie.

You can read my full review here.

Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain, 2001) = 3.5/5

Unabashed madness from start to finish. Boosted by a likeable cast, many of whom would go on to bigger, greater things. Crude without being nasty.

Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994) = 1/5

It's not offensive, just sugar poured on Froot Loops, or pop-up ads on MySpace. An ugly mess. I couldn't wait for those end credits to roll.

Bad Words (Jaon Bateman, 2013) = 3.5/5

I just had to watch this because I'm a spelling geek and I'll watch anything where a spelling bee is the focal plot point. (Akeelah and the Bee, anyone?) It's crass and a bit predictable, but Bateman owns his role as the foul-mouthed protagonist. 

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) = 4/5

An unsettling film cloaked in a brooding atmosphere. The polished production undercuts some of the scares, but this is the calibre of cinema Australia needs to be churning out on a regular basis if the local industry is to be taken seriously.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Dwight H. Little, 1988) = 3/5

If you can disregard the laughable mask worn by Myers (see above), you'll notice this movie tries harder than the third sequel in a horror franchise is expected to. I was often impressed by the cinematography, and the ending is unabashedly morbid.

Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011) = 4.5/5

Pulses with a raw, cathartic resonance. In turns a sexy and tragic meditation on power dynamics. Fassbender is phenomenal.

This was my second viewing and my rating has dropped by half a star. Nonetheless, this is still one of the best films of the post-2000 era.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Chris Columbus, 1992) = 5/5

Look, I'm not even gonna list the reasons this film gets 5 stars from me, because I've mentioned them before on this blog. Just do a search for Home Alone 2

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012) = 4.5/5

There are certain movies you watch at pivotal moments in your life that shape your outlook on the future and perhaps even change you as a human being. I imagine The Perks of Being a Wallflowerwill be that type of film for many adolescents (and maybe some adults) around the world. Over the years, Hollywood has bombarded us with countless movies about teenage lives. Some have worked, but plenty have dismally failed due to lazy writing and threadbare characters. Perks is very well-written, and the characters are almost painfully authentic. Chbosky achieves the sincerity that John Hughes mastered in the 1980s. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Chbosky adapted his own novel. He has had a relationship with these characters ever since he concocted them for the page. With full creative control and nurturing hands, he has successfully transitioned them to the screen. 

You can read my full review here.

Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990) = 4/5

Its characters are pretentious, but writer/director Stillman knows this and makes us care for them. Underneath the biting witticisms and banal dissections of essays lie the same anxieties harboured by people not lucky enough to be born into their elite circle. A forgotten gem.

A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006) = 3.5/5

An ethereal visual style and convoluted plot make it difficult to follow, but it's fiercely original with engaging characters. It's the type of film that is made to be seen more than once.

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) = 4.5/5

It's enshrouded in an unsettling atmosphere of foreboding, and it's absorbing from start to finish thanks to a sense of moral ambiguity and some well-crafted, enthralling characters. Hitchcock suggests that, even when the most threatening danger presents itself, the desire to maintain order may hold sway over the desire to rebel, and this can be extremely detrimental.

In Summary - The Must-See Films (4.5 or 5 Stars)
* Shame
* Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
* The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
* Shadow of a Doubt

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