Capsule Reviews (but mostly bullet points): Films Seen in 2014 #135-139


Have a batch of 1992 releases to catch up on, but for this post I’m rounding up my 2014 viewings and plopping them into one post. They get progressively more bullet point-heavy. I just got back from a trip and I’m moving soon so I’d like to haphazardly get these (and my next post) in so I can concentrate on the upcoming transition and finishing up 1992. When I get back from L.A next week, my next capsule review post will be those 1992 films (and bonus Mauvais Sang and Step Brothers). By the way, I’m closing out 1992 soon, a pretty big deal considering I began my exploration of the year all the way back in mid-May. I have two more films to revisit (Porco Rosso and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me) and three more first time viewings (Malcolm X, In the Soup and Life, and Nothing More)

snowpiercer-2

135. Snowpiercer (2014, Bong) 
Full Review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/review-snowpiercer-2014-bong/

Child's pose

#136. Child’s Pose (2014, Netzer)
The central conceit of Child’s Pose is a MacGuffin to show¬†irrevocably¬†disintegrating bond¬†between an overbearing, to put it mildly, mother and a dismissive son. The death of an¬†adolescent (who the son accidentally ran over, likely due to drunk driving) is propped up for a different kind of mourning. Netzer’s¬†formal ‘verite’ aping proves both a distraction and a disservice. The most compelling scenes are the ones that go on longest because the camera calms itself, allowing¬†the rhythms of the actors to take over. A scene between Cornelia (Lumini»õa Gheorghiu) and Carmen (Ilinca Goia) is the standout.

Lumini»õa Gheorghiu is the main reason to watch¬†this. Starting from¬†Cornelia’s perspective, we are gradually clued in to just how deluded and suffocating she is in regards to¬†her son. She is armored with fur coats, obliviousness and an unerring penchant for morally bankrupt negotiations and takeovers.¬†Gheorghiu plays her as at once ruthless and pitiable.

But it’s a dead end of a film, both in its inability to key into its story and because for all the acute observances of the breaking point between mother and son, its ending suggests that the son’s growth should matter to us when it no way does.

strangerbythelake_05

#137. Stranger by the Lake (2014, Guiraudie)
“We can’t stop living”
(Major spoilers ahead)
It’s a¬†place of routine, where parking creates the same makeshift shapes and bodies hang unabashed and inviting. But the saturated regularity of surface nakedness belies murderous secrets and hidden longings. This is an insular world where death does not deter the community. Stranger by the Lake pits the assumed initial set-up of the dangers of¬†anonymous hookups¬†against the removal of anonymity and the ambiguity of¬†desire trumping and further instigating a discard of safety and logic.

Franck is a romantic. He wants love so badly and he’s looking in the opposite place for it. He wants to be kissed when he cums. He wants a relationship. This is a reversal on the Gothic-influenced¬†romance thriller, where romance segues into life threatening discoveries. Here, the discovery comes first, the notion of romance after. The tension comes from Franck’s knowledge (and that Michel doesn’t know of it) and continued self-endangerment. There’s something very lonely about Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), and thus about Stranger by the Lake in general. Henri (Patrick d’Assum√ßao), the heart of the film and a sideline commentator, is also lonely, but¬†looking for something more abstract.

The film takes place 100% at the lake. There is no score. It feels almost like a sexually rampant purgatory of sorts. There are two¬†characters often in frame, the camera shooting head-on, direct. There have been so many Hitchcock comparisons, but the only reminder I felt were the voyeuristic elements. The final moments are of the type that would normally irk me. As of the past few years, I’ve overdosed on the¬†ambiguous ending trope of smaller films. But this works for two reasons. First, because of how hauntingly¬†black the shot is, only shoulder blades visible. Second, that¬†Franck is¬†calling out Michel’s name. After all this, after the climactic blood-letting and pursuit to kill, Franck still ends the film, even though he’s also now the pursued in the worst of ways, as the pursuer.

It’s the Little Things:
РLove that long take of Michel (Christophe Paou) coming out of water, at first a killer, then he begins to put on his sneakers and puts himself back together as someone we, and Franck, recognize.
Also fond of the odd bits of humor.

Planet of the Apes

#138. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014, Reeves)
Handsomely mounted by¬†Matt Reeves with more care and tautness than¬†I would ever expect, even after the relative surprise of Rise. It feels so redundant to talk about the effects work and performance capture, but it’s remarkable. Blue Eyes gives¬†a little pause, but Caesar, Maurice, and especially Koba are so tangible that I’m still wrapping my head around the technical accomplishment.
– I cried. A lot. What can I say; I care about Caesar.
РThe apes are our focal perspective point, the humans ushered in later like the intruders they are. A mainstream audience is forced to rely on simple gestures and visual storytelling for much of its first act; an uncommon request of a major summer release.
РBut every story beat is painfully predictable and the mood is a representative of self-serious storytelling  overflowing with competence and entirely without surprises.
– It’s very much a middle film, really showing a necessary character transition and hard life lessons for Caesar.
РBattle scenes are a slog, carrying little momentum despite inspired moments like the 360 tank shot and long take of Jason Clarke on the run trying to evade apes
– Gary Oldman is forced into the story at every turn, a weak parallel for the Caesar/Koba conflict.
РGiving people backstories in post-apocalyptic settings have become the laziest because guess what? 100% chance their baggage is that they lost someone.
– Such strong production design all around. Loved looking at the scale of San Francisco microcosm. An antidote to
– Blunt and hits on things that are hot button right now.
– This would be a 5-star film if “Shock the Monkey” had played either during the end credits or instead of “The Weight” ”
РJason Clarke an inspired casting choice. He has little to do but boy does he do even that well. Palpable sense of awe and I was invested in him for the humanity he projects as opposed to character specifics.
– Rote narrative that nevertheless grabbed me. But when the stakes came to matter as far as action goes, it became unengaging.
РFound other things to grab onto. Particularly the hope that a misunderstanding between Caesar and Clarke be dissipated, and that they have a mutual respect and understanding (so yes, I felt that heads touching shot like mad).

Jenko (TATUM) and Zook (WYATT RUSSELL) out on the field

#139. 22 Jump Street (2014, Lord & Miller) 
Just because you’re aware that your sequel is bloated, doesn’t mean you get ‘Cate Blanchett’, as Jenko would put it, to be bloated. Look, there’s a lot of hilarious stuff here; I laughed a lot.¬†Lord and Miller, with their animation background, have a particular strength in swerving towards visual jokes. Hill and Tatum are still great together. Tatum’s Jenko is the character we thought we never needed but now can’t imagine life without. But a lot of 22 Jump Street runs in place. Not in a fashion where plot can¬†be zanily discarded, but leaning on it without making narrative work in its favor.
– Wanted Jenko and Zuke to stay together.
– Feels like Jonah Hill was not edited down enough. He gets some of the film’s biggest laughs (Cyn-thi-a) but he’s playing less of a character here;¬†it’s more a collection of scenes where Hill just runs with it. Which is fine as far as working methods go because it’s how Hill gets the job done (more than enough is better than not enough), but it’s only successful¬†when post-production trims the material down to its essentials. The initial meetup with Tom Sizemore is a perfect example.¬†It goes on forever.
– Hill and love interest; boo.
– Third act much improved over predecessor. In fact, the spring break section is my favorite, with that physical battle between Gillian Bell and Hill being the film’s highlight (I smell an MTV movie award!).
–¬†There’s a difference between material strikes indifferently and actively unfunny material and unfortunately for every two genuinely funny moments, there’s something not funny soon afterwards. The entire Dave Franco/Rob Riggle scene did not sit well with me at all.
– Not as invested in Schmidt and Jenko as a pair this time.
– Amber Stevens major step down from Brie Larson
– Meet Cute. Bad trip. Schmidt’s Slam Poetry
– Major missed opportunity; Jenko in a Human Sexuality class. So much more could have been done with that.
РMeta jokes worked better as a whole than I expected even if they were relied upon far too heavily
– Probably the big detractor is that there are, much like Dawn, no surprises. With both I don’t talk about plot or some notion of twists or what have you. I talk about ways of approaching and executing the material. I love the way 21 plays with high school culture, its smart and disarming way of zigging when you think it’ll zag. But there’s none of this here.
– Wyatt Russell in more films please. Also saw him in this year’s Cold in July.

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3 thoughts on “Capsule Reviews (but mostly bullet points): Films Seen in 2014 #135-139

  1. davecrewe says:

    I agree with a lot of this! Especially re: “Shock the Monkey.” I felt that Child’s Pose, however, was mostly supposed to work as allegory rather than a story of mother and son (for better and for worse – I thought it was an intelligent film but found the shaky cam use actually made be nauseous).

    1. Thanks for commenting! I wouldn’t say I loved Dawn but I did like it. Yes, would definitely appreciate more Maurice screentime in the next installment!

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