7 September-4 October 2009: four week round-up

October 14 2009 at 5:06 pm (The list)

OK, it’s been a while, but I’m back with loads more films in a four-weekly update. Last week’s will follow shortly along with a few cinema reviews too.

From the shame list:

thx1138THX 1138 (1971)

Six years before Star Wars made George Lucas a household name, he made a feature length version of the student film that won him first prize at the 1967-68 National Student Film Festival. The human race lives in a tightly controlled underground society where emotions are kept in check with medication, people pray to a painting of Christ and are entertained with holographic image of sex and violence. THX (Robert Duvall) becomes a fugitive when he stops taking his meds and falls in love with his roommate LUH. Lucas was borrowing heavily from George Orwell’s 1984 but not unsuccessfully – it’s a classic dystopian science fiction premise and Lucas shows his flair for stunning visuals, if not for dialogue. (4/5)

wallstreetWall Street (1987)

Released bang in the middle of the 1980s, Oliver Stone’s ‘money makes the world go round’ drama is the perfect artefact of The Decade That Taste Forgot. Michael Douglas earned his only (so far) acting Oscar as Gordon Gecko, as slimy as an oil slick. It’s the kind of drama that nobody would dare make anymore (although the theme is just as relevant today, if not more so). Rarely has there ever been a film been quite so much of its time – the smoke filled offices, the trenchcoats, the big hair, large eyeglasses and enormous mobile phones. It’s almost as if Oliver Stone went forward 20 years, asked people what was funniest about the 80s, and then went back and made a film based on his findings. (4/5)

Shame list total: 1,200

And also…

i love you manI Love You, Man (2009)

What happens when audiences get bored of regular romantic comedies? Make the central relationship about the heterosexual relationship between two men. It’s not entirely new territory (the ‘buddy’ subgenre is burgeoning) but in this man-meets-man-com here it’s a little off kilter. Peter (the ubiquitous but enjoyable to watch Paul Rudd) gets engaged but can’t pick a best man as he has no male friends whatsoever. Fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones) suggests that he goes on some man-dates to find one. He meets and befriends cocksure, brutally honest Sydney (Jason Segel) but, inevitably, their growing friendship starts to have an effect on Peter’s relationship with his fiancée. It’s full of the kind of throwaway quirks you see in this new wave of Apatowesque man-child comedy – Peter and Sydney bond over an unlikely shared love of rock band Rush (who were presumably bigger in the States than in the UK) and there’s a pointless sub-plot in which Peter (a real estate salesman) struggles to sell one-time TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno’s house. Paul Rudd is a great comedy performer and gets the most out of an underwritten role, but the film belongs to Segel, perfect as the laid-back lunk. Overall it’s a bit empty and forgettable but worth watching just for Paul Rudd’s comic talents. (3/5)

push-posterPush (2009)

If released at the same time, Push and Jumper would be a great head-to-head battle the like of which we haven’t seen since Armageddon faced off with Deep Impact. Both films have science fiction themes and ideas which are far better and more interesting than the plot. People born with a variety of special powers are pursued across the world by a shadowy company called Division. ‘Mover’ Nick Gant (Chris Evans), ‘Watcher’ Cassie (Dakota Fanning) and ‘Pusher’ Kira (Camilla Bell) – three of the many people born with special abilities – are pursued across Hong Kong by Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a dangerous agent of shadowy company Division. Basically it’s basically a cut price version of X-Men, or Heroes: the movie. The special powers are nothing new and the clumsy plot meanders about without enough decent set pieces to hold your patience, leaving you focusing more on the Hong Kong scenery than anything that’s going on. (2/5)

passengers-poster-fullPassengers (2009)

Psychotherapist Claire (Anne Hathaway) is assigned to help a group of survivors of a plane crash including Eric (Patrick Wilson) who doesn’t seem as traumatised by the event as he should be. As Claire gets closer to Eric, strange things start to happen. To say any more would spoil things which is the problem with ‘twist’ films like this. They’re designed to keep you guessing from the outset – can you really call it a twist when you know from the start that what you’re being shown isn’t what’s really going on? Still, it’s not a bad little twist and it makes for a fun ninety minutes of guessing games before the big reveal and a fairly satisfying ending. (3/5)

seven-pounds-posterSeven Pounds (2009)

Ask anyone whether who’s seen Seven Pounds whether it’s any good will probably give neither a positive nor a negative opinion. The adjective that immediately springs to mind is ‘depressing’. IRS agent Ben Thomas (Will Smith) with a secret attempts to change the lives of seven strangers and falls in love with one of them (Rosario Dawson). To say more would be giving the game away because it maliciously uses sleight of hand to make you think one thing and then reveal another. It’s not actually as depressing as many people make out, but it does feature another Oscar- baiting performance (he didn’t even get nominated though) from Will Smith who spends a lot of the time looking very serious and at one point goes for a run in the rain – the mark of a good drama. (3/5)

ghosts_of_girlfriends_pastGhosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)

That this film is even watchable has nothing to do with Matthew McConnaughey. The man’s acting talent comprises just two facial expressions: smug pervert and confused goldfish. Plus from out of nowhere, he’s developed an unusual tic of squealing like a parrot when his character is in trouble: watch the wedding cake scene. Based fairly loosely on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, three ghostly figures take McConnaughey’s glamour photographer on a journey into his past, present and future in an effort to change his womanising ways and see that big-chinned beauty Jennifer Garner is the love of his life. Of course, the fact that the film is actually fairly enjoyable has more to do with the quality of Dickenss tale than some Texan pretty boy. Oh and it’s got Michael Douglas as a dead playboy. Every film should star Michael Douglas as a dead playboy. (3/5)

Duplicity (2009)

So zippy, so sparkly, so hugely entertaining that I fell asleep. The bits I stayed awake for (I estimate about 40% of the film) were actually not bad. If only I could have timed my naps so that I saw all of Paul Giamatti’s and Tom Wilkinson’s performances and none of Clive Owen’s. (An estimated 3/5)

FirefliesInTheGardenPosterFireflies in the Garden (2009)

If there were a competition for the meanest screen father of all time, Willem Dafoe would score highly. Well, he would if this film was more well-known. As it is, it’s a typical family drama with all the charm and warmth of a dip in the North Sea in February. It is saved by an all-star cast (Ryan Reynolds, Julia Roberts, Emily Watson to name a few), not because they’re all good (most of them are on auto-pilot) but because they’re all there. Viewing the film is punctuated by gasps of incredulity – ‘Oh my god is that him from Fantastic Four?’ is followed by ‘That’s that bird from The Matrix, isn’t it?’ – which only goes to show that star power is nothing compared to an engaging story. (3/5)

I also watched Full Metal Jacket for only the second time in my life, and Eyes Wide Shut for the nth time. Man, that Kubrick fella was good.


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