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Mute

Mute

See, it's a giant neon mouth, and he can't talk. Makes you
think, huh.

dir: Duncan Jones

2018

I can’t… It’s not…

I’m trying to find nice things to say about Mute, and I can’t. I really wanted to like it, I was excited when I heard Duncan Jones had a flick coming out, and when I heard the premise for this, but, having endured this weird smorgasbord of shiteness, which just kept going on and on far longer than it deserved to, I actually come away from the experience feeling cheated and disgruntled.

It’s not like I paid to watch it, well, not like I paid extra beyond my monthly Netflix subscription. This falls under the somewhat interesting banner of movies actually “made” by Netflix, not just a movie that Netflix overpaid for first screening rights. Of the three “Netflix Exclusives!!!” that I recall seeing over the last year, this is by far – BY FAR – the worst.

The problem here, just to be a glib smartarse, is that it is terrible, which is a shame, because the central performance, despite being ill-conceived, is actually all right. Good, yet baffling.

Alexander Skarsgaad has nothing to be ashamed about here. He is, in fact, practically the only good thing in the whole grating experience. And that isn’t enough, I’m sad to say, because the other stuff is so fucking awful.

For the longest time it’s been like I’ve been reluctant to ever really give a flick a critical bollocking, or that when I watch something truly terrible I don’t even bother reviewing it because it’s like rubbing salt into my own wounds getting me to waste even more of my precious time. But some movies stand out in their singular awfulness, and need time and attention paid to them in order to try to stop them happening again.

Rating:

Green Room

Green Room

I'm with the band, I swear. No, wait, nah, I'm not with the band,
never heard of them, let me out of here, please?

dir: Jeremy Saulnier

2016

As usual, instead of talking about the film I’m meant to be reviewing, I’m going to squander much of the start of the review and much of your patience talking about a completely different film. And I have to do that, or at least I feel like I have to do that, in order to point out what attracted me to the film under review in the first place.

Yes, this review is about Green Room, but the reason why I so desperately sought out Green Room is because I loved this director’s previous flick Blue Ruin ever so much. I loved it down to its gritty, grimy bones. It’s one of the best flicks of its kind that I’ve seen for decades, mostly because I haven’t seen anything like it in decades.

And Green Room, despite having a completely different story, has plenty of what I loved so much about Blue Ruin. There is craft involved here, real craft on the director’s part, and I really, really appreciate it.

And more!

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The Two Faces of January

Two Faces of January

Her name is not January, and she only has one face.
Confusion ensues

dir: Hossein Amini

2014

Something being based on a Patricia Highsmith novel isn’t always a guarantee of quality, but it is often enough to pique my interest. And if you cast Viggo Mortensen in something, well, I’m halfway through the door.

Kristen Dunst? Eh, not so much, but Oscar Isaacs I really like. The Two Faces of January is essentially a three-hander, something of a period piece, probably set in the 1960s. It’s something of a low-key thriller, but not in the sense that it’s like a spy action film or anything. It’s about a con artist (Isaacs), who gets caught up with a couple of con artists (Dunst and Mortensen), where you start to wonder who is better at it, and who is going to get what they want, and how many people are going to be left alive at the end of it.

The setting is Greece, and it’s filmed in such a way that makes it look a thousand times nicer than it actually is. Also, being set in the last century, it helpfully avoids having to acknowledge the current dire economic circumstances, and saves on costumes (most of the old people in the flick are wearing their own ‘vintage’ clothing from the 1960s without having even to be asked). In fact many of those old Greek people probably don’t even know the war is over.

Rating:

Trance

Trance

This is not a glitch. It's really meant to look like this

dir: Danny Boyle

Trance. Trance. Trance. Trance isn’t the film you might think it is.

It's definitely nothing to do with trance music, in case you were worried.

It’s probably more accurate for me to say that it wasn’t the flick I thought it was.

I went into this expecting one thing, and I got a whole heap of others thrown at me, though I walked into it remembering one or two things about Danny Boyle.

He may have won Oscars, and directed the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics, but you have to remember that this is the same game who made Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.

Yes, you can argue about A Life Less Ordinary almost destroying the cinematic medium for all time, erasing the good films out there from the last century, but he remains a director who enjoys a good shock.

Trance is a fairly low-budget (looking) but stylish movie about something fairly high-concept: human memory, and how malleable it might be.

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Syrup

Syrup

He has a very punchable face, that's for sure,
and they both look very happy to be here

dir: Aram Rappaport

Syrup is an edgy, in-your-face satire of corporate madness and the dark side of the Force that is Marketing;

or

Syrup is a hilarious send-up of the American Dream and its malcontents: the people sucked in, chewed up and spat out by its machinations, which is pretty much everyone in the Western world;

or

Syrup is a limp approximation of what would happen if a bunch of uni students got stoned, drank a heap of energy drinks and then came up with a script based on their half-baked knee-jerk thoughts mocking Big Business and the Earth's mindless slovenly drones who do nothing but consume consume consume;

or

Syrup is the greatest film ever about anything.

The movie could be any of those, or none of those. What it would ultimately 'be', even if it was just, like, my opinion, man, is what I spun it to be. Apparently, the movie Syrup, based on the book Syrup, by Max Barry, is the first flick ever to posit the idea that creating desire in consumers, which is the pure purpose of marketers everywhere, is a bad thing.

Rating:

Sound of My Voice

Sound of My Voice

I know everything that's wrong with your life, and for only
$299.99, I will help you find out what it is

dir: Zal Batmanglij

Listen to the soothing sound of my sinuous voice, and I’ll release you from all your troubles, bring you to a new holy place of pure salvation, where bliss reigns supreme and all your mistakes are washed clean… all I need is for you to listen to my voice, obey my every command, and give me all your credit card numbers…

This film is a complete out-of-nowhere thing for me, a flick I knew nothing about prior to watching. It has a tiny budget, and consists mostly of footage shot in the confines of some LA basement.

It’s really well done, for what it is, and what it is, is a story about two people who infiltrate a cult, with the intention of exposing it to the world, or at least to the other freaks in LA. Peter (Christopher Denham) is the driving force behind this, wanting to go all the way to be a journalist, perpetrating some serious undercover journalism with these people. He’s even gone to all the trouble to learn their very jive-turkey secret handshake from the 70s, which takes about fifteen minutes to do properly.

Rating:

Argo

Argo

Whoever has the better beard should be the Supreme
Leader, I reckon

dir: Ben Affleck

3 for 3. How does Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck get to be such a good director after a lifetime of blockheaded roles and lacklustre performances? Ben Affleck from Armageddon? Ben Affleck from Gigli? Ben Affleck from Pearl Harbor? That Ben Affleck?

And yet Gone Baby Gone, The Town and now Argo are all superbly made films. How does that work?

Well, there’s a scene where Affleck’s character Tony Mendez is asking an old Hollywood special effects hack about whether it’s possible to teach someone how to fake being a director in one day. The weary hack states quite unambiguously that he could teach a rhesus monkey how to be a director in one day.

Affleck must have put this in as an in-joke, he must have, aimed at both the people who admire what he’s done as a director and those who can’t believe such a hammy actor has the temerity to direct films, and good ones at that.

The fact is he can direct, and he’s doing really well thus far. I’m sure my appreciation of him, which will be reported back to him by some perky squirrel of an unpaid intern, who trawls the tubes of the internets for nasty or nice comments about him, will warm the cockles of his heart and tickle the follicles of his under-beard.

Rating:

The Hunter

The Hunter

Support your local Greens candidate, or Willem will come after you

dir: Daniel Nettheim

The Hunter is a sombre, icy film from last year that I didn’t get a chance to see in the cinemas at the time. It’s a pity on the one hand because I’m sure the sometimes harsh Tasmanian wilderness would have looked sublime up on the big screen.

Alternately, my perplexity at the ending and the point of it all would not have been lessened by the big screen experience.

A German biotech company called Red Leaf hires a man, a manly American man (Willem Dafoe) to go out into the Tasmanian wilderness in order to find the last remaining thylacine. As in, the Tasmanian Tiger which has been long thought extinct.

It’s all hush hush, and the company treats this as if they’re planning to whack the pope (which is not a masturbation euphemism, though maybe it is). Martin, as Dafoe’s character is called, travels to the backwaters of the backwater that is Tasmania, and is unimpressed with his surroundings. It doesn’t help that the place he happens to be staying seems to be infested with hippie children and the power is out.

Rating:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Stinkers, blackmailers, bludgers, bad guys

dir: Tomas Alfredson

I generally reject the idea, outright, that a really good film could also be really boring, the way a lot of people said about Tree of Life. Not necessarily at the same time, or to the same person, but if a flick is strong, then how can it be boring?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not a boring flick at all. It’s a great adaptation, and a great looking film, meticulously filmed and acted. Alfredson has filmed this (or at least his cinematographer) as exquisitely as Let The Right One In, with a very different plot but a strong, sombre tone.

I can see, however, that this is probably not a flick that should be watched by people under forty. The visual look of the sixties and seventies depicted here, and the cool, stately scenes, edits and transitions, and the considered, intricate nature of the plot is going to anesthetise audiences hoping for the kind of movie they think of when they hear the words ‘spy thriller’.

This is certainly a thriller about spies, but this has to be at the absolute other end of the spectrum from action flicks like Ghost Protocol or The Bourne Legacy. In fact, a flick like this seems to be mocking them outright.

Rating:

The Debt

The Debt

How bloody deceptive is this poster? You'd think this was an exciting movie or something

dir: John Madden

Who would have thought a flick about three Mossad agents trying to hunt down a sadistic Nazi war criminal could be a depressing and unfulfilling trawl through the sewers of human weakness and failure?

Not me, proving how truly not bright I am, which is why I’m reviewing films instead of making them. But there’s nothing I can do about that now *sob*. So let’s just talk about the film then, shall we?

John Madden is, I’m sure he’ll be mortified to hear, not a director I’ve ever had much time for. The most famous thing he’s done is probably Shakespeare in Love, which has about as much to do with the actual Shakespeare as that recent hilarious flick Anonymous did, which argued that Shakespeare himself was too much of a bloody peasant to have ever written all those plays and sonnets, and so it had to have been the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere. But even if he had something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow shooting forth like the poisonous, leprous star that she is, and she may have even won a goddamn Academy award, if I’m not mistaken, for her weepy performance, he obviously wishes that he was directing stuff that was taken a bit more seriously.

So, instead of following Gwyneth’s lead and popping out strangely-named children, he persists in making movies, much to our collective disinterest.

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