Monday, 1 December 2014

November 2014 in Review

One more month and another year is finished. This month, I managed to experience one of my all-time favourite films in a new light, get a lot of films from this year viewed, with a few thanks to the exceptional Bath Film Festival (my first film festival, yay!). And with Bicycle Thieves, I passed 200 films which I saw over 2014. So, let's see what films I saw in the month that was November.

Drive (rewatch) - 5/5 - BBC Three did a special showing of the film, with a brand new score. The result paled in comparison to the original soundtrack, but still works well as an alternative soundtrack. Plus, this is a good way of confirming that without the soundtrack, the film is still a masterpiece. My full thoughts on the alternative soundtrack can be found here.

Harold and Maude - 4.5/5 - To say Hal Ashby's films opening is unique is an understatement, but it does fantastic work in setting the tone for this picture. What we're given is something that's equal parts touching & hilarious, as things revels in the morbid scenario of Harold faking his suicide. Impeccable acting is brought thanks to the wonderful duo of Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, whose characters share an unconventional romance that proves to be one of the best depictions seen on-screen. Utterly fantastic.

Bicycle Thieves - 5/5 - A film focusing on a man's search for his stolen bicycle may not seem initially compelling, but it's about what the bicycle represents. It represents a job for Ricci, which he can earn money to ensure his family are well off in this post-war world. Through this, Vittorio De Sica crafts a tale that elicits humor and sympathy in equal parts from the audience, leading to an ending which will make your heart break. Fantastic stuff.

Hotel Transylvania (rewatch) - 3.5/5 - Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky makes his feature film debut on this animated film that boasts a great concept, powered by some great imagination that is brought to life through some wonderful visuals. Granted, the storytelling could've been less predictable, the humor could've been more funny, the auto-tune song at the end could've been less generic and some of the characters could have been better defined (Here's looking at you, Ceelo Green's mummy character). But where things shine brightest is in the beating heart that's evident throughout, and in the great imagination which I'm glad to mention again. Plus, the voice cast all do great work, even Sandler and his entourage.

Best film of the month and
Best film rewatched: Drive

Green Lantern (rewatch) - 2/5 - It's astounding how much a rewatch can change your opinion. For the past few years, I have been one of the (very) few defenders of 2011's big screen adaptation of Green Lantern. Granted, I knew it had problems, but I still had a good amount of fun and liked the performances. I guess my defence of the film stemmed from trying to convince myself that DC could make good films that didn't involve Batman or Superman, but the cracks are now evident right before my eyes. Hal's a jackass whose development is to not be a quitter, the effects might as well have been done on Microsoft Paint and the humor attempts feel forced and awkward. How did Martin Campbell manage to take one of the most unique comic book characters out there, and give him a film that's utterly generic and derivative?

The Losers (rewatch) - 2/5 - Released in the same year as the big screen adaptation of The A-Team, this film was initially dismissed as an inferior rip-off of the popular alphabetically labelled team, which is unfair, since the film is too bland to be rip-off the unnecessary big screen adaptation of Mr. T and his bitches. Sylvain White does an amateur job directing, while Jason Patric is too cartoonish as the villain. Chris Evans is the highlight of the cast, while the rest are merely competent. Special mention goes to the non-existent chemistry between Zoe Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

The Babadook - 4.5/5 - First time director Jennifer Kent superbly directs the tension and atmosphere to a spine-chilling effect, even managing to send shivers down spines just by showing the pages of a book. As for Mister Babadook, what a chilling creation. Essie Davis does a magnificent job as Amelia, perfectly managing to portray the character who holds disdain for her son, while also unable to overcome the grief of losing her husband, with the latter causing a slip of her sanity. Noah Wiseman also deserves praising in his role of young Samuel, even if the character initially comes off as too annoying.

Best film seen in cinemas: Wild Tales

Mean Girls (rewatch) - 5/5 - No matter how many times I watch this, I still find myself laughing and loving this film as if I'm discovering it for the first time. Tina Fey's sharp writing delivers a perfect satire on social cliques and high school, while leaving room for fantastic performances and hilarious moments. Truly a classic.

Little Shop of Horrors - 4.5/5 - Frank Oz's adaptation of the popular musical proves to be one of the best musicals out there. The cast are all strong, but Steve Martin is definitely something special here, giving a brilliant performance as the sadistic Dentist who regularly abuses his girlfriend, with his musical number proving to be the films highlight. While I do question the choice to make the films only prominent female character a victim of spousal abuse, Ellen Greene proves to be lovable and charming in her role as Audrey. What's undoubtedly the most impressive thing here is the effects utilized for Audrey II. The effects are impressive in their own right (and better than much of todays effects), but the puppetry work to make the lips sync with the lyrics is really good work that deserves nothing but praise. The musical numbers are an array of fantastic songs that can be endlessly replayed.

Best Man Down - 1.5/5 - Was the intention here to make a drama with comedic moments, or a comedy with moments of drama? It's unclear, but the disconnected feeling of the melodramatic subplot, the forced emotional moments and the insensitive complaining about the loss of a honeymoon after the best man's death make this a waste of time.

Biggest Disappointment: Green Lantern

Let's Be Cops - 2.5/5 - Jake Johnson & Damon Wayans Jr are entertaining in their roles, with the New Girl stars sharing great chemistry. Unfortunately, the great chemistry can't compensate for the weak material, such as the script which runs though many clichés and hits moments full of predictability. There are also many poor attempts at humor, including the lazy tactic of having a kid that swears.

Lilting - 4.5/5 - Hong Khaou chooses to focus on a quietly affecting drama which deals with many themes, including communication & loss. Junn (Cheng) is a mother who's lost her son, Kai. Richard (Whishaw) was Kai's long-term boyfriend, who Junn believed to only be a friend to her son. It's evident how much the loss has affected these two people, as Kai was somebody close and dear to both of their hearts. The pain and loss is clearly felt to a heartbreaking degree, thanks to outstanding performances from the two leads. While Whishaw and Cheng may be separated by a language barrier, the scenes which involve these two acting off one another is nothing short of fantastic. The relationships are twinged with a sense of sadness at what has been lost, and Hong Khaou puts this across beautifully. This is a beautifully shot film, with not one shot wasted on superfluous filler. Come awards season, this is truly deserving of some nods.

Obvious Child - 4.5/5 - Gillian Robespierre handles this abortion romcom with refreshing honesty and maturity. Jenny Slate gives a wonderful star making performance, while sharing wonderful chemistry with the charming Jake Lacy.

Biggest Surprise: Little Shop of Horrors

Grease - 4/5 - Well it's clear to see why this was such a hit. Grease is a very entertaining musical, with fantastic characters, brilliant performances and a terrific central romance to get invested within. The best thing is the entertaining musical numbers, which all are wonderful to listen to and fun to sing along with (barring Beauty School Dropout). But the biggest problem of the overall film has to be how things end with Sandy changing who she was in order to be with her love, which is a horrible message to pass on.

Cell 211 (rewatch) - 5/5 - Daniel Monzón delivers a gripping, unpredictable tale that centres within a prison riot, as a new guard poses as a prisoner in order to survive within. The performances which lead things are fantastic, with Luis Tosar proving frightening as Malemadre, while Alberto Ammann is enthralling as the lead character who goes on a brilliant transformation. Astounding stuff.

Wild Tales - 5/5 - Argentina's entry for Best Foreign Film category at The Oscars is certainly deserving of a nomination, or even the win. It focuses on 6 short stories, only sharing a focus on the relief that comes from giving into your anger, and outstanding doses of blackly comedic material is mined from this. Go into this knowing as little as possible.

When Animals Dream - 3.5/5 - A werewolf story, but an unconventional one that uses them as a metaphor for growing up, sexuality and aggression. The initial slow pace tests your patience, the relationship is handled conventionally and the werewolf dreams feel ripped from an entirely different film. But the performances are wonderful, with Lars Mikkelsen and Sonia Suhl doing the best work, while Marie's story arc is handled well.

Worst film of the month: Best Man Down

The Imitation Game - 4/5 - No wonder Benedict Cumberbatch has been tipped for awards glory. He gives an enthralling performance that makes your attention focus solely on his character, even if he's portrayed as a bit too proud of his own intelligence and rude towards others. The rest of the cast are brilliant, especially Keira Knightley. The film can't overcome how clichéd the storytelling is, but Morten Tyldum still manages to make this work as both a biopic and a thriller.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - 4.5/5 - Yes, this film suffers from Part One syndrome, being left without a final act because of the studios decision to split the films to make more money tell more of the story. But this doesn't diminish the first two acts, which are completely gripping in their conversations over action moments. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson do outstanding jobs, and the social allegories helped make this a fantastic start to the end of this franchise.

Birdman - 5/5 - A black comedy that takes an astounding look at the ego, but is powered by fantastic performances into brilliant characters. Michael Keaton and Emmanuel Lubezki deliver career best performances in what can be called a remarkable film.

Pride - 4.5/5 - Matthew Warchus dramatizes the true events of how the LGSM banded to support the miners during their year-long strike. Granted, nothing new, unique or conventional is brought to the table, but what we are given is a touching story that never becomes manipulative, a talented ensemble who are each given the opportunity to showcase their talents, a carefully crafted balance between comedy and drama, and an infectious sense of fun that'll have you cheering when Dominic West is dancing on the tables. Magnificent stuff.



Best film of the month: Drive
Best film seen in cinemas: Wild Tales
Best film rewatched: Drive
Biggest Disappointment: Green Lantern
Biggest Surprise: Little Shop of Horrors
Worst film of the month: Best Man Down

Number of films watched: 21

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