February 28, 2006

Last Five Films…

Well, it's actually 7 films. But from henceforth, it will actually be a running feature, rating and providing brief commentary on the last 5 films I've watched recently. :obsessed: I originally typed comments that bordered on mini-reviews (I have a taste for excess), but alas I'm restricting myself. I like quick, to-the-point comments or proper full-length reviews. No inbetweens! So the last seven films I've seen…

KISS KISS BANG BANG (Shane Black; 2005)
3½ stars (out of 5)

Terrific entertainment, thanks in part to the fact that it's so self-aware regarding its own narrative. Delightfully plays with generic conventions, never overdoes the pastiche, is effortlessly stylish and finds Robert Downey Jr. in top comic form. One of the best films of the year.

JARHEAD (Sam Mendes; 1999)
3 stars (out of 5)

From the director of my favourite film ever. (!!) Despite the superb trailer, I had low expectations for this based on reviews. Its actually a surprisingly good film, a different and original kind of war movie, successfully recreating the tedium of the "other" war experience via a series of anticlimaxes. Some beautiful shots as well, do Mendes' films always have great cinematography?! Nonetheless, I felt quite apathetic towards it. Was that the intention? I don't know, but my admiration isn't great enough for me to rate it any higher.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER (Fernando Meirelles; 2005)
3 stars (out of 5)

Astonishing reception to this at Student Cinema on Sunday (shocking number of people crying). Undoubtedly a moving film – but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good. In spite of a fascinating structure and apt direction, it tries and fails to be a lot of things: political exposé, gripping thriller, bitter revenge saga, delicate romance. It does excel, however, in portraying a critical juncture in a man's life: Fiennes (superb in his role, seriously – WHY is Weisz getting all the praise for this?) beautifully understates the growing desperation of a man determined to gain some meaning re: his existence by reassessing the past. And thanks to him, this film works.

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (Joel Zwick; 2002)
2 stars (out of 5)

Umm, was this really the biggest independently-financed hit in America prior to The Passion of the Christ? Bleh. Feels much more like a mindless studio romcom than an indie (thus explaining its success, I presume). Has a few funny moments, but if I was a Greek I'd probably be quite offended at my representation in this film.

OUT OF THE PAST (Jacques Tourneur; 1947)
4 stars (out of 5)

Of the traditional Hollywood film noirs that I've seen, I'd argue that only The Big Sleep is superior to this incredibly cold and dark take on the noir style. Superb screenplay - both in the way its structured as well as the memorable exchanges of dialogue - as well as great manipulation of mise-en-scene make this well worth watching. Although like I say – its very VERY cold. Particularly admire the way Mitchum distances the audience from his character, refusing us the right to any subjectivity regarding his actions. Only element it lacks is real suspense/thrills – but it doesn't need it. Excellent film.

ORFEU NEGRO [BLACK ORPHEUS] (Marcel Camus; 1959)
1 star (out of 5)

Most disappointing movie experience for quite some time. Expected something amazing based on great reviews, an Oscar for Foreign Language Film and the Palme d'Or at Cannes. It's shit. A vicious assault on the senses (and I mean VICIOUS) that blinds with bursts of grossly radiant colour, deafens with mortifying bad variations on a standard tribal chant, and rips the piss with some hilariously awful symbolism. An exercise in the art of lacking any subtlety whatsoever, and a repugnant retelling of the Orpheus myth. For a better reworking, check out Jean Cocteau's wonderful Orphée from 1950, which transposes the myth into contemporary France yet maintains his trademark surrealist touch. His immensely superior version also boasts a terrific interpretation of Death by the ever-wonderful María Casares.

MUNICH (Steven Spielberg; 2005)
2 stars (out of 5)

Kudos to Spielberg for tackling a difficult subject. Unfortunately, as I suspected, he's not fit to be taking on such issues. Munich is a terribly muddled movie. It starts off as an exciting political thriller, but quickly wanders off into the territory of bland existentialism. Any attempts to show an authentic portrayal of human guilt and redemption is thwarted by Bana's half-hearted thespianism (which consists solely of puppy-dog eyes). Supporting characters are fleeting, and espouse mindless political rhetoric whilst serving as our representation of "other" perspectives. Ultimately, however, he wastes our time with 3 hours of political waffling, only to tell us something any human with an ounce of intelligence should already be aware of: that an "eye for an eye" political reaction isn't a good idea. No shit, Sherlock. I agree with him, but for 2 hours the film descends into such mediocrity that by the end the audience is left remarkably unconcerned. And considering that this film attempts to deal with so many highly controversial and politically resonant issues, that's not a good reaction to have.
EDIT: Also loses points for one of the most horrifically conceived sex scenes ever put to screen. I'm still recovering.


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