Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Decade So Far Pt. 1: Disappointments

The same people who bash Interstellar confusingly hold this film on a pedestal of praise. Nolan is going in the right direction here- the direction of stunning visuals. I just wish he didn't need to create an entire character (Ellen Page) to explain what was going on half the time.

Black Swan
Mulholland Dr. but on a diet. No, seriously. The performance Natalie gives notwithstanding. I just don't see the mind fuck that everyone else is seeing. Maybe a few strokes and that's it.

The creature featured in the movie has the name Dren. That is nerd backwards! Get it?! I wonder how you can create an anagram for Failure out of Splice.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Dear Oliver Stone,
Bubbles? Seriously? What in the blue fuck were you thinking.
Sincerely, a passionate fan of your 80's and 90's work.

Steps to making an exploitation homage:
Step 1: Do not laugh at the genre at which you are attempting to pay homage to.
Step 2: Watch Death Proof for pointers.

"I was once here- near the top of directors to watch out for. Now look how far I fell"

The Fighter/Silver Linings Playbook/American Hustle
Three Kings feels more and more like an anomaly in the work of David O. Russell. The cast of his last three films deliver solid, enjoyable performances. I will concede that his new muse Jennifer Lawrence delivers a rock solid performance along with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, which is easily the most enjoyable of the the last three pictures he made, which isn't saying a lot. Christian Bale even ended up delivering one of his best roles in American Hustle. I just wish his scripts were tighter and more focused. American Hustle bears the brunt of it. Imagine a less focused GoodFellas with the sequence where Henry is all coked out inserted at random moments in the film.

Super 8
I wanted to like this. I really did. It tickled my Spielberg fancy that brought me back to Close Encounters and E.T. The thing is, J.J. Abrams is not Steven Spielberg. So with that, all I can say is, good luck with Star Wars VII. The most genuine part of the movie is when all of the kids are at a diner. The dialogue felt authentic. As an homage, this movie works. On its own though it is frustratingly stale.

Moonrise Kingdom
Wes finally did it. He is now parodying itself. He had peaked with his signature style on Tenenbaums because he had the perfect script to funnel his style through. The writing in Moonrise feels kitsch and desperately tries to be hip. It felt like he was on auto pilot here which makes it his worst film. Thankfully he rebounded with Grand Budapest.

Killing Them Softly
Hey folks! This is Capitalism. I'm not going to be subtle at all in delivering this political message. Now fucking pay me. I found the film, especially the first half, misdirected and heavy handed.

Seven Psychopaths
Come on McDonough. Do you really have to be THIS over the top? So much of the material in this movie isn't even necessary.

Zero Dark Thirty
Hurt Locker was a solid B and had tight direction from Bigelow. The bomb disposal scenes in particular. So it pains me to say that what was present there is absent here. Everyone talks about the last forty minutes of the movie. Nobody really gets excited over the first two hours though. I don't remember any memorable characters. I just remember that Joel Edgerton and Jessica Chastain are in this movie. Chastain does the best she can with what she was given. The film really took off because of the death of Osama bin Laden helped make the film go in a new direction. So much so, it landed on many top ten lists and earned a Best Picture nomination. I wasn't really impressed. Here's hoping Bigelow comes back with something better scripted.

Danny Boyle is such a maddening director to follow. Not to the point of a Ridley Scott. But still frustrating. The man who cranked out Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine also made a painfully misguided movie in the last decade with Slumdog Millionaire. The trailer for Trance had me excited. It looked like Boyle was tapping into genre territory again. Maybe even horror. The benefit of reuniting with screenwriter John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) excited me even more. Unfortunately it suffers from Inception syndrome. This time Rosario Dawson has to fill us in on everything. I prefer her to Ellen but come on, man.

The 2nd and 3rd acts of Place Beyond the Pines
This may be the biggest disappointment. When you know a film is a solid A during the 1st part. Gosling nails the performance of Luke here and creates the most interesting character in the whole film. Unfortunately the triptych story line doesn't really deliver with the next 2 acts. Especially the third one. Generational turmoil makes for a damn intriguing story line. Just don't blow your load prematurely.

Frances Ha
I did not like Frances. I did not like her friends or the people she associated with. These are the types of people who I hope I never bump into. Self absorbed, entitled snobs.

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors. So when I heard this was was of his best roles, I felt obligated to see it. Going in the screening I saw a giant standee with an 'A' review from Peter Travers. I'm not a fan of Travers' reviews but seeing a standee where a giant paragraph heaped praise upon a film I was about to see made me take note. Greengrass is someone whose movies I do not follow. Bourne Identity was OK. United 93 I still have to see. Captain Phillips, stylistically was a mess. The shaky cam has been done to death in cinema in the last 10 years. The choice to use it hear felt out of place and to make things worse, the setup of the ending felt hokey and very 'America Fuck Yeah!'. Look, I know this is based on a true story. So many 'serious' movies are. There's just so many other ways to tell this kind of story.

The Sacrament
Religious cults like the one at Jonestown led by Jim Jones rank high on the list of things I would be most interested in seeing depicted in film. So when you actually try to depict, don't half ass the thing with shaky cam bullshit. The sting of this project is still felt because there is enormous potential for a movie about this subject. And it hurts even more to see a talented director like Ti West stumble over what should have been a home run.

Nymphomaniac Vol. 2
I have rarely seen a more blatant hatred for the audience in a film as this one. While the Depression trilogy (Antichrist, Melancholia, Nymphomaniac) brought to light great performances by female leads (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst), the final installment manages to sucker punch us and then continue to kick us while we're down. The constant intellectualizing of sex, the drawn out scenes S & M, spoons finding themselves in unnecessary places. For what? It's like watching kids build a sand castle on a beach and then the parents come along and destroy it. Every character that was set up in a genuine way in the first volume, all the points to this four hour story, were betrayed by a pretentious fuck you statement.


  1. Great post! I agree with you about Inception (I never did understand the hype) and Seven Psychopaths. Some of the movies you've listed I really like, and others I haven't seen. I am not going to touch Nymphomaniac with a 10-foot pole. :-)

    1. The movies in this list don't really offend me. The exception to the rule is Nymphomaniac.

      Glad you agree on Inception and Seven Psychopaths.

  2. I don't agree on all of these (I loved Moonrise Kingdom) but I'm so with you on the undo praise heaped on Russell, the mediocrity that was Black Swan and my high expectations shattered with Super 8. I don't hate any of them, but I expected so much more. Great post!

  3. Glad we see eye to eye on Black Swan and Russell.

  4. Not seen all of these. I did enjoy: Pines, Moonrise, & Black Swan. Inception I was unsure about on first watch, but it's a film I am able to go back to and enjoy.

    Agree Seven Psychopaths was disappointing. A few funny one-liners, but I didn’t care who lived or died. For me, the film completely loses direction once they go to the desert mid-movie.

    My biggest disappointment of the 2010s is probably The Descendants (2011). I hope Payne brings back his co-writer Jim Taylor for future projects. Nebraska (2013) also failed to grab me emotionally.

  5. I wholly agree on Inception and Black Swan. The latter being one of the decade's absolute worst.