It’s a clear case of quantity over quality this week; I watched a fair few movies, but most of them were unbearably, unforgivably, pants.
The Grudge III (Toby Wilkins, 2009)
Poorly acted and scripted, and about as terrifying as doing my laundry without any fabric softener. Then again, the only reason I watched it was because it has Beau Mirchoff (ne plays Wisteria Lane hottie Danny Bolen in Desperate Housewives) and he was criminally underused.
Julie and Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009)
A sweet enough idea but the film sadly turns out to be a little drab. I found all the hoo-ha over Streep’s performance nonsensical as she did nothing but sport a crappy accent (she did much bettr work in It’s Complicated). Amy Adams was at her charming best and I found her half of the film semi-engaging, particularly when she gets her blog up and running.
Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)
The only film I saw this week that I would deem excellent. Gene Tierney plays the eponymous female who, at the beginning of the film, is being presumed dead. As the film develops, a very tangled web of jealousy, love and possession are uncovered. The cast are collectively brilliant, in particular Tierney and Dana Andrews. Furthermore, the scene in which Laura returns to her house is one of the most finely orchestrated I’ve scene; the camera seems to widen to allow the full shot of the detective sleeping there, and the sound, which features a brief second of nothing but a clock ticking, captures the suspense perfectly. Great movie.
Nine (Rob Marshall, 2009)
Oh dear. I was so looking forward to this, hoping it’d be another Chicago, which I loved. But the thing about Chicago is that it had Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly and Billy Flynn as its main characters, and focussed well on them, allowing us to engage and actually care about them. In Nine, the movie tries to cover the film director’s life, his mother, his wife, his mistress, his movie, his stars and his costume lady. And it fails, so hard. I thought the performances (acting and musical) would be enough to redeem the cringe-inducing script, but they weren’t even all that. Daniel Day-Lewis just looked constipated for most of the movie and Penelope Cruz, much as I love her, annoyed the crap out of me here. Marion Cotillard was good though, but one actress alone can’t make up for two hours of contrived writing, irritating characters and musical numbers that look like Britney Spears rejected them.8 ½ this most certainly isn’t.
Funny Games (Michael Hanake, 2007)
Not-so-proud recipient of a place in Bung’s Worst Films of 2008 last year, and, a year on, my opinion still hasn’t changed. Watching the film with my friend Anna only accentuated the darkly comic elements of the film. The rest was just crap.
A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009)
Colin Firth plays an English lecturer in the US, contemplating suicide during what he believes to be his last day on Earth as he comes to terms with the death of his 13-year lover Matthew Goode. The film was beautifully shot and decorated, although the technique of varying the colour palate according to George’s mood got a little obvious after a while. The performances are generally top notch; I loathe Nicholas Hoult and will probably throw a party the day he dies, but Firth was wonderful, the epitome of nuanced sadness. Julianne Moore was somewhat larger-than-life and a little irritating, but I think that suited her character well, and the scene between George and Charley was great fun with some witty banter. The flashbacks featuring Matthew Goode were lush; he’s fine. On reflection, A Single Man is my pick for one of the better movies of 2009, it wasn’t without its slow moments, but overall, the themes of grief, acceptance and inner contentment sat well with me.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (Bob Gosse, 2009)
Omg, this film sucked so hard. It was soooooooooooo shit. I don’t even know where the start. It was just the smuggest, most vile “lad’s movie” I’ve ever seen. It’s about this womanizing, sexist goon who takes his two best friends out for a stag night. One of them is about to get hitched and the other has just been dumped by his girlfriend because she cheated on him. They bar-hop for a bit, but not without sharing their less-than-savoury opinions of the lesser-sex, as well as making offensive jokes about women, disabled people and ethnic minorities. One of the least funny things I’ve ever seen.
The Hurt Locker (Katherine Bigalow, 2008)
Right, without sounding like a pleb, can I just say, YAWN?! This is tipped to win Best Picture? What a sad, sad, sad state of affairs. During the rare moments which my eyes were open during the film, I struggled to be interested at all in the endeavours of the soldiers, and when my eyes were closed, crappy sound editing effects assailed my ears. There was one thing I liked about this film, and that was the cheeky lad who sold things, from pirate DVDs to gay sex, who named himself “Beckham”. He was cool. The rest of the film, not so much. Jeremy Renner was OK, I suppose. Um… yeah. *twiddles thumbs*
Crazy Heart (2009)
It’s the age old plot – man falling down the slippery slopes of despair finds life has a meaning when he discovers the right woman for him. In this movie, the man is country singer Jeff Bridges, and the woman is reporter Maggie Gyllenhaal. Crazy Heart moves along at its own gentle pace and for the most part I found it fairly engaging. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Bridges and Colin Firth, and both gave strong vocal performances. The last 20-or-so minutes of the film had one of the lamest and most predictable plot turns in history, but the strength of leading male and female just about make up for it. Slight, but likeable
The Secret of Kells (2009)
Bizarre little Irish quest movie. Got a bit too weird for me, but I was a fan of the distinctive animation style and the voice work.
The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson, 2009)
I’m sure you all know by now that the book sits in my list of most loathed literature, but when I watched the trailer with its clever use of Alice by the Cocteau Twins and the fact that it had Saoirse Ronan, bright young thing that she is, I would be giving the movie a chance. And Saoirse is every bit as wonderful as I knew she’d be. Susie Salmon is a very different role from Briony in Atonement, but she is equally as engaging and we come to care for her plight, without her needing to overact like many child actors tend to. Another excellent performance in the film belonged to Stanley Tucci. Sure, he played a monster, but he was so convincing as George Harvey; I was genuinely terrified watching him. The girl playing Susie’s sister was also pretty good, and it was nice to see Christopher off The Sopranos bung up as well. Performances that weren’t so good included the kid playing Susie’s little brother, and Rachel Weisz, who provided many a lol in the scene where she was crying into Mark Wahlberg (rather unfortunate that, seeing as her character had just heard her daughter was dead.) However, my main problem with the film lay with the juxtaposition of the dark and the beautiful. I understand that Peter Jackson wanted to make money, hence making the movie a PG-13 and side-stepping the rape completely. That just about makes sense. But the problem with that is that the source material, weak as it was, was so memorable because it was so dark, and in showing us montages of pretty yellow trees and giant penguins, we’re transported to this whimsical, child-like universe. Then Jackson tries to modulate the tone to child murders. It doesn’t really sit, to be honest, and if you were to ask me and my friends if we’d rather watch this film again or get murdered, we couldn’t truthfully say we wouldn’t pick the latter.