My Month in Film: May 2014

This month I published full write-ups of:

I also reviewed the back half of Hannibal’s second season:

Forced Viewing Podcast episode 28’s featured films were Cheerleader Massacre (Drudgie’s pick), The Asphyx (my pick) and We Are What We Are (Jori’s pick), which we discussed with Mr. Benzedrine.

Other films I saw:

Julia Garner & Ambyr Childs in WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)

We Are What We Are (Jim Mickle, 2013)

The director of Stake Land takes on this remake of the 2010 Mexican cannibal-family film, with middling results.

It’s well-shot and decently acted, with a very good performance from Michael Parks, and only a couple of major problems. What it isn’t is memorable. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m pretty sure that most of the details of the film will have slipped out of my mind in six months or so.


Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o & Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

A lot of ink, both physical and virtual, has been spent about 12 Years a Slave and I don’t think I really have anything new or insightful to add to the conversation, other than this: I’m sure that a kindly white Canadian really did play an instrumental part in freeing Solomon Northrup from slavery. I just feel it’s a bit self-serving of Brad Pitt, who produced the movie, to cast himself in the role of kindly white Canadian.

Other than that, wow, I think this one actually has a better ensemble than August: Osage County. And Chiwetel Ejiofor was robbed–he really should have gotten the Best Actor Oscar, not Matthew McConaughey.

Overall, a remarkably affecting film and an incredible achievement for everyone involved. Including, presumably, Brad Pitt. I still think I like August more, though.


A scene from GODZILLA (2013)

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)

Okay, yes, this is basically another one of those big-budget movies where more attention is paid to the effects than the characters, and the digital team smears CGI bukkake all over the screen. And, yes, there are plenty of plot holes and why does it seem like everyone running the Japanese power plant is white and American?

But, for the most part, this is about as great as you can make a summer action genre blockbuster. It’s invested with a genuine sense of awe which seems to be solely lacking from the recent spate of nine-figure wonders. A lot of that comes from the cast. While Bryan Cranston isn’t as good as we’d all hoped he’d be, he’s still pretty good, and Aaron Johnson isn’t as bad as everyone says. And Ken Watanabe is simply awesome.

And I also love that–spoilers!–nothing humans do ends up having much of an effect on either Godzilla and the MUTOs (y’know, just like a real Godzilla movie). You just try to get them into the same place, give them some space and hope for the best.


Benedict Cumberbatch & Daniel Brühl in THE FIFTH ESTATE

The Fifth Estate (Bill Condon, 2013)

It’s an overly technical techno-thriller with an incredibly obvious moral. But I found it fascinating, for a couple of reasons.

First, I spent my teens on the outermost fringes of the modem culture of the times; I don’t think I knew any actual “cypherpunks” but I knew people who knew them. (For example, one of my acquaintances from that period is now convinced that he knew whoever it was that was responsible for the legendary “Max Headroom” WGN/WTTW broadcast hack of ’87.) The second thing is that I find cult leaders incredibly fascinating for some reason, entirely divorced of what they actually believe, and The Fifth Estate paints Julian Assange as kind of a cult leader.

Plus, phenomenal performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange.


Despicable Me

Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud, 2010)

I wanted to see this at the time but then I found out it wasn’t actually about the Minions so I took a pass. That was a mistake, although it must be said that the Minions are the best thing about the movie.

I also feel that Gru’s redemption arc was kind of shoehorned into the narrative. I don’t think there was any around that because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have wanted to watch Gru be nasty to everyone, particularly the girls, for the whole movie. So I don’t know how valid that criticism is.

Also, for a film this packed with comedic acting talent I found it really weird that there were so few indispensable performances: Steve Carrell as Gru, Elsie Fisher as Agnes (“It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”) and the directors plus the one guy from the Conchords as the Minions. I mean, I don’t think Russell Brand brought anything to Nefario that any other actor with a British accent would have brought.

And am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like Danny McBride? I guess I am.

Lot of bitching about a film I really liked, huh?


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