Here we go with the first Film Diary post in its new weekly slot. It's been pretty quiet so far, but from here on in it's going to get a lot more bumpy. Remember, if you're willing to offer me suggestions for what to watch, I'm more than willing to take them on board- if I don't own them, I'll even go and source them so I can share the love. For anyone who missed it, heres the skinny. Basically, what Im presenting here is my attempt to chart a whole years worth of film-watching something I have wanted to do for some time now. The aim is to post frequently, chronicling every film I watch this year both offering reviews and setting myself the ultimate goal of watching (and writing about) as many films as humanly possible, without abandoning the necessary functions of normal existence...Film #36 Tangled
A beautiful example of Disney's continued success, and a rare CG-animation win without the guiding influence of Pixar. The characters are typically well-rounded and charismatic, and the musical numbers are good enough to guarantee longevity (can anyone name me a song from Brother Bear for two points?). Shame about the title- what exactly is the matter with just calling it Rapunzel? It's unlikely to sell a lot of Disney merchandise (other than princess dresses), since there are few obligatory "cute" characters, besides the Chameleon side-kick- but that is merely the ideal testament to Disney's new-found confidence in their artists' and story-tellers' characterisation abilities. Tangled feels a little more grown-up- just like Princess & The Frog did- and through this, and that former addition to the Mouse House canon of work, it seems they've rediscovered the ability to make proper, highly-anticipated tent-pole releases, without relying on the merchandising dollar or catering almost entirely to only child audiences to sell their films. Great work. Score: 4.5/5 Film #37 The Fighter
Widely heralded as a perfectly justified Best Film nomination, but something about The Fighter left me decidedly cold. It might look like The Wrestler with boxing gloves on, given the similar redemptive story-line, but while Aronofsky's measured film was all and only about Randy the Ram, The Fighter suffers a glaring identity crisis at its centre- despite purportedly being about Mark Wahlberg's Mickey, the film is Christian Bale's (watch him walk off with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as proof), which effectively leaves a vacuum in the middle of the film. Dicky definitely isn't the lead character- even if he is the real Fighter of the title- because his story is still at the margins of focus, even though the performance itself is a power-house one that obliterates nearly everything else in the film, especially Wahlberg. In truth, Wahlberg doesn't really turn up, and that compounds the feeling of hollowness- unfortunately for me, that feeling grew so much that I couldn't enjoy the film as much as I'd have liked. You see, to me The Fighter is just like an ugly guy with a huge penis- a great gift to have, but pretty much wasted given the context, and there is only so much focus you can give that kind of singularly impressive characteristic before it just becomes perverse.
Score: 3/5Film #38 Open Season 3
Who knew that there was even a second addition to the Open Season franchise, let alone this straight to DVD third instalment?! Well, apparently I knew, since a cursory look through the O section of my DVD collection actually includes it (I think it's only right to own every film I have seen, especially the worst one so I can back up my harrowing opinions with real evidence). Anyway, it's out now on DVD for anyone hardy enough to accept the challenge of finding enjoyment among its silly jokes and poor quality animation. The plot isn't exactly what you'd call thrilling: the film opens on Boog (Matthew J Munn) prepping for his "guy's trip", but then finding out that his usual companions are otherwise engaged with their own lives, including his best friend Elliot (Joel McHale). In a huff, Boog heads off to the woods alone, stumbling upon a travelling Russian circus in the process. To his joy, the circus includes two grizzly bears- one of whom- Doug (who somehow has an American accent)- is a double for Boog and offers to switch places with him so he can spend some time with another bear, while Doug returns to the forest in his place. Thing is, the other bear- a female called Ursa (Melissa Sturm) - ends up capturing Boog's heart at the same time as hating him openly for Doug's former conduct. So far, so tepid. Then, Boog discovers the circus is due to return to Russia, just as his friends discover that Doug is an imposter and set out to free Boog from the circus. Meh. That took way too much effort to even type. So anyway, the voice "talent" of the first instalment has all gone- even those like Billy Connolly who stuck around for the follow-up have up and left, apart from Joel McHale, who replaced Ashton Kutcher as deer lead Boog for the second outing (at presumably much smaller cost). Those left seem far more content to offer impressions of the original cast- McHale's take on Kutcher's high-energy idiocy is quite good- than bring their own identity to the characters, which gives the film itself the odd effect of being an extended impression of the first. And side-by-side, there can be no comparison. Although the animation is still reasonably done in places, it was never initially as accomplished as say Over The Hedge which came out the same year as the first Open Season, and now with a reduced purse that lower quality is hit even harder as the quirks and characteristics that made the first enjoyable are replaced with empty attempt to capture that magic. The look, then is like that of a poor video game, thin and flat and without the sparkle that makes a company like Pixar so rich. As with every over-bloated franchise that should have wound up after the first film, Open Season 3, and to a lesser extent Open Season 2, seems to be a little over-concerned with chasing that initial success. Sadly, stripping everything away leaves nothing but a soulless husk, with a poor script, uninspiring overall plot and substandard execution. Kids will probably enjoy it, though not once they get past the age where film's are valued for more than their silly visual gags and colourful pallette. For everyone else, this is one to avoid, as you'll struggle to find any entertainment at all. Score: 1.5/5 Film #39 Big Momma's HouseFilm #40 Big Momma's House 2Read my full reviews here.Film #41 Up
One of Pixar's finest, and a genuine heart-breaker of a movie. Still, multiple viewings in, I cannot resist the tears during the perfect montage sequence at the film's start. Not once, but twice. I remember seeing it first time in Cannes two years ago (incidentally also my first experience of "new" 3D), and crying quite openly behind my chunky glasses surrounded by a lot of critics suspiciously dabbing at their eyes beneath their own ocular accessories. Such things should be cherished and celebrated vocally- after all films that inspire positive emotional response in the same scope are usually heralded as triumphantly successful. But make someone cry, and do it well, and it seems you're destined to be considered in far baser terms.
Score: 4.5/5Film #42 Air Force One
For a while Harrison Ford couldn't make a bad film. But then of course he did: he made Six Days Seven Nights, and something changed in the way I viewed this former untouchable for the worse. Air Force One is one of Ford's late-career bests, before the slump and the probable revival that will follow Cowboys & Aliens, and it is the perfect reminder that at one point, Ford was like the thinking man's Bruce Willis. It's also further reminder of just how good an actor Gary Oldman is. So forget the flagrant jingoism and enjoy it, like I did as a typical cat and mouse movie, with the added emotional layers of the desperate father protecting his brood- think Taken in the sky. Score: 4/5 Film #43 Despicable MeSee my full review here.Film #44 Raging BullSee my full review here.Film #45 Radio Days
Definitely one of Woody Allen's finest- the joy of Radio Days is in its enormous charm and touching nostalgia. It feels almost like an intimate encounter with a wise old man, who regales you with endless, wonderful anecdotes through a sentimental, sepia-tone filter. Like you've been invited to eavesdrop at the door of this particular family, full of idiosyncracies and the minute tensions of proper relationships. The humour is gentle, and none of the subject matter is as complex as some of Allen's other works, but the characters are all great portraits of quirky normalness (you feel immediately familiar with them all) and the dialogue zings with Allen's typical energy and panache. If you haven't seen it- and it is one of the least seen of Allen's films oddly- go and find it. I watched it on Turner Classic Movies, so if you're a Brit look out for it on there. Score: 4.5/5 Film #46 The Social Network
Forget Money Never Sleeps- it is The Social Network that is the correct successor to the original Wall Street's crown. In the same way that Oliver Stone's story of excess and redemptive betrayal was the perfect commentary on the 1980s culture of authorised excess, The Social Network channelled something expertly appropriate to our time. Thanks precisely to the advent of social networking, and the accessibility of celebrity types, it isn't what you know these days, it's who, which has created both a cynical culture of disposable wannabe celebrities and a society of commenters and tweeters who believe themselves to be invincible by their assumed proximity to their idols. Mark Zuckerman's Zuckerberg's story, full as it is of betrayal and malicious ambition is the perfect analogy for that whole phenomenon; as he seeks to be the best, or more appropriately the most notorious we should see an element of ourselves- just as Oliver Stone shone a mirror on his 1980s contemporary society. Score: 5/5 Past Entries:Film #1 Big & Film #2 Toy Story 3Film #3 Around the World in Eighty Days & Film # 4 EnchantedFilm #5 Iron Man, Film #6 The Incredible Hulk & Film # 7 The IncrediblesFilm #8 The Simpsons MovieFilm #9 Tron LegacyFilm #10 The King's SpeechFilms #11- 25Films #26-35
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