2-8 June 2008

June 11 2008 at 10:47 pm (The list)

From the shame list last week were:

Pi (1998)
I was a bit disappointed by this. Yes, it’s well directed and Darren Aronofsky is a good director and gets across the paranoia of his protagonist with aplomb. The grainy black and white and bonkers camerawork brings us closer to the action and the fact that we’re never quite sure exactly what is going on or what people are talking about makes it all the more affecting. However, ‘paranoid’ thrillers are better when the audience thinks that the hero might not be paranoid after all. While the threat of some Wall Street big wigs and a Kabbalah sect might be very real, the central concept of ‘a meaning behind the numbers’ was stretching things a bit too far. I found it hard to care about what was going on since people were trying to find meaning in a place where, as far as I am concerned, there is none.
Rating: 3/5

Force of Evil (1948)
A solid noir that sees John Garfield sell his brother out and then try to undo all the wrong that he has done. It’s a very atmospheric piece or work, all the more notable for it being director Abraham Polonsky’s first of only three films. The tension builds at a steady pace with a brilliant denouement, but I’m frankly not a big fan of noir (not yet anyway) so I can’t in all honesty say that this did a lot for me.
Rating: 3/5

The Big Chill (1983)
Seven college friends from the 1960s hang out for a weekend following the suicide of one of their number. It’s a nice ensemble piece that doesn’t really go anywhere and doesn’t really need to. They talk, they drink, they smoke, they laugh, they have sex, they listen to a lot of sixties music, and only occasionally is anyone brave enough to broach the subject of Alex’s suicide. Of course, the film is all about nostalgia and growing up, and the balance between misty eyed comedy and soul-searching sorrow is dealt with very well allowing the film to come across a bit like The Breakfast Club for adults, which is no bad thing.
Rating: 4/5

Shame list total: 776

Also watched last week:
Candy (2006)
This hard hitting Australian drama makes Trainspotting look like Airplane! Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish) are two junkies in love and resort to some pretty unpleasant ways of getting cash to feed their addiction. While it’s often uncomfortable viewing (the cold turkey scene is all the more effective than that in Trainspotting for not resorting to magic realism), the final message is a heartbreaking one of redemption at a cost. It’s worth watching for the affecting performances and as a poignant reminder of just how good Heath Ledger was.
Rating: 4/5

The Savages (2007)
Any film that has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as brother and sister who don’t get along is bound to be good, and this is. Jon and Wendy are a couple of academics who rarely see each other until their elderly father falls ill and they have to work together to take care of him. With dashes of black humour, the film is a bittersweet look at the inevitability and sadness of old age. Linney is perfectly cast as the uptight sister while Hoffman gives a typically nuanced performance (and again proving that he is one of the best shouters in the business), but it’s Philip Bosco as the father who breaks your heart the most. Watching him live out his final days while his two children bicker and ignore him is truly tragic.
Rating: 4/5

Venus (2007)
A sweet film with a sobering and honest performance from Peter O’Toole, and an almost equally impressive turn from newcomer Jodie Whittaker. O’Toole plays Maurice Russell, an elderly respected theatre actor who, despite his age and decreasing health, still feels young at heart. When his friend Ian (a delightfully cranky Leslie Phillips) recruits a helper, 20-year-old Jessie, Maurice falls in love and embarks on an ill-advised and occasionally creepy courtship ritual. While some of the dialogue is unconvincing (it’s hard to believe that a 20-year-old girl would even entertain approaches from an elderly gent), it’s a warm-hearted tale of two people finding solace in each other.
Rating: 4/5

Waitress (2007)
This rich, warm romantic comedy may not sound as such on paper. Set in and around a diner in small town America, the luminescent Keri Russell plays Jenna, a waitress with a talent for pie making. When Jenna discovers that she is pregnant, she decides to run away rather than raise the child with her childish, controlling and abusive husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto, proving once again to be adept at playing scumbags). This is made difficult when she begins an affair with her married gynaecologist (played by the ever brilliant Nathan Fillion). The film is so good-natured that Jenna’s plight becomes all the more tragic. With a terrific script and wonderful performances from all, especially Jenna’s friends Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (the late Adrienne Shelly, who also wrote and directed), this is the perfect antidote to the kind of predictable rom-com schmaltz that is so rife at the moment.
Rating: 4/5

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
A fun, if miscast, look at some important events in recent American history. There’s a lot of flag waving, some decent laughs and a downbeat ending which adds up to one of the films main problems – it’s never quite sure what it wants to be. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great (as usual), but Julia Roberts is barely there and Tom Hanks just doesn’t look right as the hard drinking, womanising titular character.
Rating: 3/5

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