In my first week back from holiday, I more than caught up by watching a whole bunch of films.
The Right Stuff (1983)
This was supposed to be the first in a new top ten of science fiction films but due to poor research on my part it fell into the category of science fact. The story of the Mercury program – America’s first human spaceflight program – it is a compelling drama with great performances and superb cinematography. However, at over three hours it is too long and has a little too much ‘God Bless America, let’s stick it to those damn Commies’ jingoism. Still it’s good to see early screen performances from Fred Ward, Lance Henriksen, the never-ageing and impeccably cast Ed Harris (look up John Glenn on Wikipedia and you’ll see what I mean) and Dennis Quaid, who has apparently always looked like someone has successfully mated Jack Nicholson with Harrison Ford.
Shame list total: 1,202
Revolutionary Road (2009)
Post-war sun drenched New England suburbia – the perfect setting for some bitter marital hatred. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are relentlessly nasty to each other at a variety of different volumes. Sam Mendes directs his wife and her one time co-star with the same panache for which he won an Oscar, but despite the pretty leafiness of the setting, this is jet-black drama of the most depressing kind.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2009)
Or ‘Nick and Norah’s Ultimate Kooky Indie Rom-Com’ – the perfect antidote for Kate and Leo’s yelling. Nick (Michael Cera) is the straight bassist in an otherwise gay indie band, and is still hung up on his princess bitch ex-girlfriend Tris. After a gig, he meets quirky, sarcastic but otherwise perfectly nice Norah (Kat Dennings) and his mates attempt to get them together. Their banter plays out over the top of their quest to locate Norah’s drunk friend (who gets most of the laughs) and a secret gig by their favourite band Where’s Fluffy? It’s as indie as a stripy beanie hat and bobs along at a decent rate, and despite an unfortunately trite ending, it is a perfectly adequate way to spend 86 minutes of your life.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
I’ve always found Wes Anderson to be somewhat overrated. His brand of offbeat comedy has been a little too muted for my tastes. I even found the universally lauded The Royal Tenenbaums to be too subtle to hold my attention. However, I approached The Darjeeling Limited with an open mind, willing to have my opinions changed. Sadly, it was, for me, another ambitious misfire. Brothers Francis, Peter and Jack (played respectively by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzma who co-writes) who haven’t spoken to each other in years get together following the death of their father on a spiritual journey across India on the titular train in order to bond and become family again. The joke, however, is that none of them have a spiritual bone in their body and all too quickly their journey runs out of steam… a bit like the film. Anderson’s constant camera panning rapidly ceases to be inventive and becomes instead annoying, and, like the brothers, the film seems to lack direction. However, there are some nice quirky touches including an escaped rattlesnake, matching luggage and Francis’ head being bandaged up for most of the film.
I also watched The Shining for the umpteenth time. It’s still awesome.
Henry (Eric Bana) suffers a genetic disorder that means he zips uncontrollably back and forth through time. During these journeys, he meets Claire (Rachel McAdams) at various stages of her life. The couple fall in love and marry, but Claire gradually realises that being married to a time traveller is both a blessing and a curse.
Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel was a big and brilliant epic of love, longing and mind-melting time warps. Although perhaps inevitable that it should become a film, what’s surprising is that it’s so meagre. Although director Robert Schwentke does a good job of telling the frankly ingenious plot, the film’s short running time means that much of what made the book so special has been omitted. That said it’s a proper tearjerker and worth watching, even if just for Rachel McAdams, who is and always has been utterly perfect in every way imaginable.
Read the book instead. And stare at a picture of Rachel McAdams for 107 minutes. Mmmm, Rachel…
Since I was on holiday for a couple of weeks, the only thing to report is that I watched The Proposal in which a Canadian literary editor’s visa expires and she persuades her long-suffering assistant to pretend to marry her so she can continue to live in New York. The perennially wholesome Sandra Bullock fails to convince as a powerbitch leaving Ryan Reynolds to carry the film almost by himself. There is some moderately entertaining fish-out-of-water stuff but it is largely a predictably dull comedy.
Thankfully I also fed my slowly growing obsession with Stanley Kubrick by revisiting A Clockwork Orange (as well as watching the DVD extras) and being reminded how great it is, if only for Malcolm McDowell’s smug lopsided grin.