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Showing posts from April, 2015

Shut up and taste this, amuse-douche.

Chef (2014)
It’s quite understandable that reviewers have highlighted the perceived autobiographical elements of Jon Favreau’s Chef, the story of a successful man in his chosen field brought low by the critics. After rosy responses to Zathura , Elf and Iron Man, Favrea’s lustre was tarnished by back-to-back underwhelmers Iron Man II and Cowboys and Aliens. Following the line of thought that his Chef character in is commentary and payback for this doesn’t really follow, however, not unless Favreau wants us to believe those who brought him low are a sobering force of good. Whatever his intentions, the retreat into a small personal movie has done Favs the world of good; it’s his best picture since he made Marvel Studios what it is by casting Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark.

Favreau wrote, starred and directed, so he’s consciously setting his dish up to be wolfed down or regurgitated across the sidewalk. He plays Carl Casper, a Miami-born chef at a Riva’s (Dustin Hoffman) L.A. restaurant. Wh…

Someone’s got the cheese fits again.

The Boxtrolls (2014)
I’m not quite sure how The Boxtrolls scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Perhaps it was purely on the basis of the stop motion craftsmanship, rather than the film as a whole? It’s good news for Laika, the studio behind it, which is three-for-three in Academy Awards nods (or four-for-four, including their contract work on Corpse Bride), but in terms of storytelling they’re suffering diminishing returns.

Perhaps this is explained by the quality of the source material of their first feature, Coraline. Certainly, it’s way out in front of both this and Paranorman. And Paranorman is superior in turn to The Boxtrolls. Based on Alan Snow’s 2006 novel Here Be Monsters!, Graham Annable and Antony Stacchi’s movie (from a screenplay by Travis Knight and David Ichioka) concerns the attempts to exterminate the titular creatures from the town of Cheesebridge. Take a wild guess as to its most prolific product; the fromage-based gags are actually one of the picture’…

We call it confabulation.

Before I Go to Sleep (2014)
(SPOILERS) An interesting cast (and Nicole Kidman) can’t do much with Rowan Joffé’s adaptation of SJ Watson’s 2011 bestseller. Before I Go to Sleep is a thriller about a woman with anterograde amnesia, who can only store up the memories of one day before she resets herself. This a movie daft enough that it makes the condition seem like a ludicrous invention, one suggesting unexplored options that might undermine the whole conceit (what happens if she decides to pull an all-nighter?), but not daft enough to really go for broke and have fun with its inherent ridiculousness.

Joffé, son of Roland (remember him? He’s been regularly making movies no one has bothered seeing since the end of the ‘80s), received decent notices for the unnecessary recent re-adaptation of Brighton Rock, so why he felt the need to squander that goodwill with this tripe is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the paucity of the material does serve to highlight his slick and well-honed technique, even …

What did you do to him?

Fruitvale Station (2013)
Ryan Coogler’s debut is a laudably intentioned account of the events at Fruitvale BART station on New Year 2009, in which 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by a police officer while under restraint. The injustice was greeted with quite understandable outrage, leading to protests and rioting. The majority of Rylan Coogler’s film is a low-key affair, however, tracing Oscar’s final fateful day and sketching in his background, family, and pressing concerns. Fruitvale Station really comes into its dramatic own depicting the lead-up to his death (deemed manslaughter by the judge), in which the police’s customary lack of restraint and racist behaviour are shown to be front and centre.

There is perhaps a lurking sense that this Sundance hit is built more as an awareness raising exercise more than a film one with clear sense of narrative. The result is equal part longueur and a sense that the audience is being led by the nose. Part of the interest is that there…

You don’t know what dreams are any more.

The Last Wave (1977)
(SPOILERS) Peter Weir’s perception- and reality-bending third feature may not hold quite the same level of foreboding or uncanny resonance as Picnic at Hanging Rock, but it is very much kindred. The Last Wave comes at a point when Weir’s cinematic explorations were neither bound nor fully-informed by the strictures of the traditional Hollywood narrative, at liberty to take his tales wherever he felt they needed to go.

In terms of premise, you might be forgiven for regarding The Last Wave as one part cautionary eco-parable and one part white man’s guilt espoused over the treatment of Australian Aboriginals. Certainly, Pauline Kael tore the picture apart over its perceived hand wringing. Her case is overstated, as was often the case with her vibrant and engrossing critiques, and she is unfairly dismissive of Weir’s main intent.

The opening finds a desert school deluged with enormous hailstones. It sets the scene for the torrential rain underpinning much of the picture…