My Month in Film: July 2014

To misquote Jay Cluitt: life versus blog; which will win? In June I watched and wrote a lot of stuff. In July, life won: too much stuff going on and less time for blog. Which is not a bad thing. I had some massive social experiences, including the LAMB meetup. I think–I think–a new path might be open in the bits of my life that don’t involve watching movies and writing about them on a weekly basis. If I’m correct, life will win for some time to come…not that I’ll complain.

• So didn’t I promise True Detective reviews in July? I did. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a handle on how to write them up. So I decided to watch all the first season, then to rewatch the episode two-by-two and write them up based on the rewatch. I will get these done before the next season of Hannibal premieres next winter (or so I assume).

Thanatomorphose kind of killed my urge to watch horror-and-nothing-but, so I’m planning to take a temporary break from that for a while. I finally have a chance to watch a pile of stuff that’s been on the docket for a while, stuff that isn’t really horror but might be part of the Gallery’s remit. This may include one or more of the following: Cheap ThrillsThe DoubleEnemySnowpiercerUnder the Skin. Horror fans are advised not to despair, however: my review of Almost Human will publish next week, and I should get back to horror in time for the Hallowe’en season.

New or recent releases:

A scene from PHILOMENA

Philomena (Stephen Frears, 2013)

Of the most recent batch of Oscar-bait, this one’s my favorite. I dunno, there’s always something about tales of ordinary people used as pawns in ideological crusades by two groups of assholes that really captures and holds my attention. I’m of Irish stock and had a Catholic upbringing; while I don’t really know where I stand as far as spirituality, I have a lot of affinity for Irish Catholicism as a culture. I’m not entirely unsympathetic even when I disagree with it (which is a lot of the time). But wow, when Sister Hildegarde asserts without any shame whatsoever that all the injustices she and her fellow sisters inflicted upon Philomena and her son constitute a perfectly reasonable punishment for having premarital sex…I just wanted to step into the film and fucking strangle her. Barbara Jefford deserves some sort of Oscar for that.

Yet the film makes it clear that Martin Sixsmith isn’t really all that better just because he’s on the side of “justice,” whatever that means in this situation. He’s the sort of character Steeve Coogan has made his name playing–the self-absorbed yet moderately charming jerk–and Coogan can probably do it in his sleep, but he’s still amazing here. But this is clearly Judi Dench’s show and while it’s been easy to take her for granted over the twenty or twenty-five years we’ve been paying attention to her career, she once again demonstrates what exactly it is we all love about her.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from JESSE STONE: BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt (Robert Harmon, 2012)

This is a typical Jesse Stone movie, which basically means I enjoyed it well enough when I watched it but can’t remember a much about it now. People get killed, the town council asks Jesse to find out who did it, pretty much the same as every other one. This one is a bit weird, because Suit and Rose are barely in it, and Gloria Rueben’s character (I’m sure she has a name, but damned if I can remember it) gets more screen time. And Jesse’s got a more combative dynamic with Steven McHattie (can’t remember his character’s name either) than usual.

Oh, and Hasty’s back on the town council (I have to wonder how that happened). His scheme in this movie is particularly dumb, considering the last time he committed a crime and tried to manipulate Jesse in the wrong direction, he landed in jail. I don’t know, maybe that brain cells power that bow-tie of his and every time he turns it on he becomes just a little bit more stupid. But it would be worth it, because that bow-tie is awesome.

P.S. I don’t know if that’s actually a screencap from Benefit of the Doubt, because it seems like every Jesse Stone movie has a scene in which Tom Selleck stands on a dock wearing his blue PPD hat and broods.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from RIO

Rio (Carlos Saldanha, 2011)

I have been playing Angry Birds Rio for years, so it’s probably a bit weird that I’d never seen this. It’s okay, your basic CGI-cartoon kiddie fare. You can spot every plot development 40 minutes before it happens, Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t have much chemistry with Anne Hathaway, and I don’t know what the hell Paulo from Lost thinks he’s getting at with his performance.

The plus side: Linda is adorable, Leslie Mann rocks and Jemaine Clement steals the entire show.

“Real in Rio” is an okay song, but it totally deserved to lose the 2011 Best Original Song Oscar to “Man or Muppet.” Ironically and amusingly, the two songs were the only nominees in the category that year, and they both have connections to Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie wrote “Man or Muppet”).

My rating: Mixed.

A scene from HERE COMES THE DEVIL

Here Comes the Devil (Adrián García Bogliano, 2012)

By no means is this a good movie, but it was a lot of fun to watch. I think the filmmakers were going for a ’70s-ish “throwback” vibe, which would explain all the crash-zooms, the “one nude scene every ten minutes” average, and the self-consciously retro closing titles.

But they were just trying too goddamn hard, and while that didn’t make the film better, it made it more entertaining. I particularly loved the constant dissonant noises on the soundtrack (late in the film, such noises accompany every crash-zoom), the Lucio Fulci-esque murder of a character actually named Lucio, and the fact that the film takes place in Mexico but every car seems to have California license plates. Sly reference to John Carpenter’s Halloween or just shoddy god damn filmmaking? You make the call.

My rating: Mixed.

100 Monsters (Kimiyoshi Yasuda, 1968)

(I couldn’t find a screencap from this movie.)

Greedy businessmen tear down a shrine and call the forces of darkness down upon themselves in this weirdly charming monster movie which comes off as a cross between 90% of all lazy J-horror films and Nightbreed, except it takes place in the Edo period and was made in the ’60s. It’s a lot of fun, and most of its effects work holds up well considering where and when it was made.

An interesting thing I noted about the DVD copy I watched is that the subtitles were translated using modern language: people drinking sake sing about “getting plastered,” groups of people are referred to as “you guys,” and so forth.

Also, there is an umbrella monster in this movie.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from I ORIGINS

I Origins (Mike Cahill, 2014)

I’m not going to go into this one too much, because I will eventually give it a full-length writeup. But I need to see it again before I do so, and I don’t know when that will be.

Suffice it to say: I’ve seen it once, and I give it five stars. And the first rule of ratings is that nothing gets five stars without a second viewing. Obviously there have been exceptions–well, an exception (Blue Ruin). So that gives you some idea of how amazing this film is.

Huge thanks to Amy, the awesome M’Lady Edgewater, for introducing it to me. “Follow the elevens!”

My rating: Pro.

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