You know what? I sort of liked that Liked/OK/Hated format I used for my movie log before posting my Top 10 films of 2014 article. So for the time being, I think I'll stick with it. I haven't seen a lot of films since the last time we met, but let's start sorting things out.
And let's do it in reverse: yeah, it hasn't been a great start so far. Let's clean the bad tastes of out our mouths first.HATED.
First up it's The Wachowski's Jupiter Ascending
. A major letdown, although I was well aware of its critical reception by the time I went to see it. This movie is one of the most evident cases of not giving a fuck in the most labourious way possible. I wouldn't be surprised if this movie ends up getting nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, or Best Visual Effects: they're all really top notch here (especially the costumes). Almost every new scene in this movie is densely welcomed with some fresh, vibrant wardrobes and imagery. A bit too much, perhaps, as the movie tends to fall on the rococo side of things, too. But still, even with all this handmade, expensive craft put on stage... dear God, Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are sleepwalking. They have zero chemistry together. And Eddie Redmayne... he's Redmemeyne now. He's way over the top here, devouring the scenery whole. All this could've been forgiven somewhat if the script was witty or had something fascinating to say, but it's a dull, recycled Matrix-like mess that reeks of bureaucracy and marriage conspiracies, with the occational dumb quote that'll become the stuff of legendary punchlines at parties. The Wachowskis, man. Their highs are so, so high, but the lows... they're unbelievable.
And then, of course it had to happen. I saw Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey
. What do you want me to say that hasn't been said by now? It's edgeless, shallow, supremely uneventful, and the characters are as plain and frigid as they get. The time you're wasting watching this movie could've been used on watching Secretary instead. And you'll have some time to spare, too. Skip this fucker.
... Finally, of course. Dreamworks' had to show its ugly, ugly rear right after delivering my favorite film of 2014. How can they go from making something so wonderful and pitch perfect like How To Train Your Dragon 2 to Tim Johnson's Home
. This movie has next to no plot. No joke. If you saw the trailer, then you've seen it whole. It's an hour and a half of Jim Parsons talking in lolcats language and Rihanna and J.Lo songs playing like clockwork every 15 minutes. It's nothing but a series of gags and skits, all of them painfully unfunny and going for far too long for their own good. And though I mentioned there's no plot here, what microscopically little there is here, is nothing but yet another series of generalizations and conveniences. I wish I had something else from Dreamworks to clean my palate, but alas. This is all we're gonna be getting from them this year. Bummer.
Some of my friends were really, really into Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service
-- and with good reason. It's a fun Bond throwback that never takes itself too seriously, although that's a bit of a double edged sword for the film. If given the chance, it'll go all out in a heartbeat; but then again, it's not a movie that makes much sense. But any movie where I get to see Colin Firth being a motherfuckin' gentleman refinedly kicking eleven sorts of asses is a good one. TOO BAD THEY CENSORED THAT ONE PART OF THE MOVIE HERE IN CHILE, THOUGH. Thanks a bunch, you prudes.
I wanted for Oliver Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria
to be better than it eventually turned out to be. I really, really didn't like Something in the Air, so I was very willing to check out something new. This movie's still heavy on the Assayas-isms that made me dislike 'Clouds' so much (the adriftness, the constant fading to black mid-scene, the way it never ends up saying anything about its topic no matter how much it tries); but it's all about Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart here. The two of them are fantastic -- particularly Stewart, whom I think is easily delivering the best performance of her entire career here. She's really the assistant everyone would be desperate to have, so constructive and involved with her employer. But aside from these two performances, I don't think there's much else going on here. At this point, I feel like just saying "it's Assayas" whenever I'm not enthused with his movies.
Then it's Neill Blomkamp's Chappie
. Three movies now, and I feel the dude's just running in circles. He's still trying to do the District 9 thing, if you can believe it. Two races/social stratas in conflict, a gritty, grimy, decayingly poor South Africa, and cutting edge technology to keep the status quo. But if anything, what I really liked here is that for as much as he's trying to recycle his own material, this time around he's letting the Die Antwoord guys take a shot at it. And they're pretty good, in all its ultra-chav, outlandishly neon-bright glory. Without them, I may have even hated this movie, but they make it positively distinct not just in the Blomkamp catalogue, but in the sci-fi genre as a whole. It's just crazy. However, I would've liked it better if it tried a little harder in getting away from the Blomkamp camp. I don't know, I just wish the guy tried something different next time. Something really unexpected. You can't (or rather, shouldn't) live in the shadow of your greatest success for long.Paul Tibbitt and Mike Mitchell's The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
. It's Spongebob. Nothing else to say. Take it or leave it.
I mentioned I'd be dreading this day, and it arrived far earlier than I had anticipated. I got to see Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There
, the de facto last Ghibli film, unless they return one of these days. It was a decent, heartfelt sit, albeit it was too cyclical and predictable for its own good. It's about the secret rendezvous between Anna, a shy, socially awkward child spending a few days in a town by the sea, and Marnie, a mysterious child with a really magnetic personality. Marnie lives in a mansion Anna's fascinated by, and she spends nearly every day over there having finally found some much needed company and friendship in her. This movie cherishes platonic love to the point its a bit harmful to its development. Characters don't develop much until the third act, and surprises are relatively low here because the script keeps pushing intrigue and investigation to the very end of the movie. But in any case, the chemistry between Marnie and Anna just works. It's great. It's effective, too. By the end I was in tears both by their relationship and the way it seems to bookend an entire company's story -- Ghibli's. It's a goodbye, but not quite. Just one for now. We hope.
And then I completed this year's Best Animated Film Oscar lineup by watching Tomm Moore's Song of the Sea.
For fuck's sake, this movie is just gorgeous. Every frame of this movie belongs to a museum. However, much like their own previous effort, The Secret of Kells... I thought that this was just an OK film. A beautifully OK film, but one that failed to fully grab me. It's an adventure story about a brother and his sister trying to get back home -- but the sister is actually a magical folk creature whom the other several folk creatures need to restore their freedom. But there's an item she's missing if she wants to help them, so they must find that, too. This could've been quite a good story, but it's too engrossed in its visuals to have anything honestly fascinating to say with words. The visuals are all there and they're fantastic, but the story is a bit lackluster and it takes some time to become fully likeable, as the kids here a two little shits at first. Once things get desperate, they obviously become more interesting, but that's a bit of a while until then. I'd say give it a watch if you're an artist -- especially if you're into animation.LIKED.
I think "liked" is a bit of a strong word here, but hey. As of now, it's my favorite film of 2015. We're that early, perhaps, but it's also the best made film so far, in my opinion. It's Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella
... and thank God it's Cinderella, because I don't have to spend any second writing a summary of its plot. Not here, especially, as it's nearly a shot-by-shot live action remake of the original film. There are a few changes here and there, but it's largely just a copy of the real thing. And honestly... that's pretty good. Why fix something that wasn't broken? No need to update this story with newer lingo and pop-culture references, just keep it classy and tethered to the source to get a timeless feeling. Lily James is easily delivering the best performance this fairy tale genre has seen in recent memory, bringing a really appreciated vulnerability and show-stopping grace to every scene she's in. Cate Blanchett's not far behind as her cruel stepmother, basically behaving like James' diametrical opposite, yet one not impenetrable or impervous to imperfections. She's also vulnerable and exposed, fighting a losing battle with every fiber of her body. She's great. And the costumes... yeah. Unsurprisingly magnificent. Stop wasting time, everyone, the Best Costumes Oscar has already an owner. Something HUGE must come for me to make me change my mind. So, yeah. Give this one a watch!
That's it for now, everyone. See you next time!