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7 stars

August: Osage County

August: Osage County

The only way to stop her is to kill her. But then you become the new her.

dir: John Wells

Some families… some families are so toxic that they shouldn’t exist.

Some characters are so toxic that they’ll either make you cringe in horror, or you’ll feel compelled to give them awards, to make them stay away.

Perhaps that is, in part, the theory here, with August: Osage County. Rarely have I seen an ensemble cast in such desperate need of awards, all of them swinging for the bleachers, as an American abusing a sports metaphor would aver. Almost every single one of them gets their special scene that should have For Your Consideration underneath them as they’re intoning their cumbersome, purple dialogue.

It's overstuffed with good actors, and they all want their chance, but perhaps there's too many of them, and too many of those awards-grubbing scenes for this to be anything but an actor's showcase.

Still, it's no surprise that Meryl Streep was nominated, playing the monstrous matriarch of this toxic clan. So, sure, she 'acts' the most, flexing her acting muscles in every single scene, but that's what you hire Meryl to do. At this stage of her career, it's almost impossible for her to not receive Oscars just for showing up. If she went to the opening of a carwash and cut the ribbon, she'd probably earn herself an Oscar or a BAFTA or a Gold Logie just for saying, "It is an honour to be here."

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Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives

Not even God will forgive you for being so devilishly handsome

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

Holy Shit! What the hell was that all about?

What a strange, pointless film.

Well, maybe it’s not pointless, in that its point is to be a very lurid kind of film, very similar to other kinds of lurid, nasty films that this same prick of a director has made in the past. Refn has made, to date, films as stylised, nasty, pointless and quease-inducing as the Pusher trilogy, Bronson, Valhalla Rising and Drive
.

All nasty, all distinctive (in that they look like the work of a few other directors, rather than most other directors), but hard to really pin down, or, in my case, like. Drive, his last one, was beloved by a lot of people who have the singular distinction and blessing of not being me. I really couldn't see what the fuss was all about. I will agree that a non-verbal Ryan Gosling could be a good thing if you didn't like the Canadian way he talked, but I like Gosling as much when he's talking as when he's not.

I knew that Only God Forgives would be something of a trawl, a low-life transgressive foray into the dark underbelly of Refn's brain, and I expected to hate it, hearing how pointlessly lurid and violent it was.

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Keep an eye on the silverware as well, with this one.

dir: Brian Percival

2013

Homework. Some books feel like homework. Some movies feel like homework.

Now, please don’t start interpreting this as veiled or unveiled anti-Semitism: I am not going to launch into Holocaust-denying or Climate Change-denying or arguing that there's empathy fatigue because of the sheer quantity of books and movies about World War II and the Nazis and the Final Solution. It's great, wonderful, we need more of them, surely.

It's just that, well, since high school, where we had to study books like The Diary of Anne Frank and Elie and had to be taken along as a class to see Schindler's List, I just automatically associate World War II - Weren't Those Nazis Total Bastards? narratives to be somewhat obligatory and something tedious. I feel like I'm watching it or reading about it because I have to write a 500 word essay about it to be handed in first thing first period.

But of course, writing a review about it is a completely different prospect! I initially read the book years ago, thinking I would hate it, actively hating it when I started, but I was won over as it went on. There was something about how it was calculatedly put together, and the clumsiness of the narrator as Death, or Death as the narrator, I guess more appropriately, that brought my hackles up. The hackles came down over time as Liesel and her story moved me in appreciable ways.

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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

So adorably edible, for those of you who like
seafood / primates

dirs: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn

There I was, basking in the glory that was the presents, breakfast-in-bed, happy birthday birthdayness of my actual birthday on Saturday, when my daughter loudly and joyfully asserted that since it was my birthday, we should do what I wanted on this hallowed day.

And if that meant I wanted to watch a movie, then, by gum we were going to watch a movie. And if that movie happened to be Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, then that was the best birthday present that I could possibly want.

How did this happen? Maybe I was hungover and very suggestible, or, like most parents, I gave in to forestall having to see that look of manufactured yet still heartbreaking disappointment on a child’s face. Whatever it was, somehow I agreed to go to the cinemas to see an advanced screening of this movie.

This movie? On my birthday I should have had the gods-given right to insist that everyone watch the most spine-crackingly boring movie I could find (as long as it was no more than PG-rated). I should have made them sit through 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the even more boring Russian version of Solaris. I should have had the dictator-like right to make my family sit through all 8 hours of Bela Tarr’s Satantango without being arrested for domestic abuse.

Instead, we watched a flick where food comes to life, and it’s meant to be a good thing.

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The Way Way Back

The Way Way Back

Would you buy a used Coming-Of-Age story
from this man?

dir: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Coming of age stories… what would cinema be without them? It’d all be giant robots and zombies and werewolves and cars smashing all over the place, hopefully all in the same movie.

Their virtue is that they’re meant to be universally relatable, both to troubled teens and their dull, enervated parents who very faintly remember what it was like to be a troubled teen. It’s a way of reliving highly charged times, and vicariously, in some cases, getting it right this time around.

The Way Way Back, it’s pretty obvious, was initially written to be set in the 1980s. It had to have been considering the sheer abundance of 80s references and marginalia. However, someone must have decided that you could just set it contemporarily, not have people wandering around with iPhones and tight pants slightly drooping down at the crotch, and you could have the best of both worlds, as dubious a concept as that might be.

The lead character is Duncan (Liam James), a shrinking violet if ever a violet shrunk. He has good cause. His parents have divorced recently, which is bad enough, but her new partner, Trent (Steve Carrell) is the classic kind of arsehole these stories invariably require. Everyone needs obstacles to overcome, and quite often those obstacles are the people that treat you like shit.

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Elysium

Elysium

Kill kill kill kill kill the Poor. Eat eat eat eat eat the Rich!

dir: Neill Blomkamp

2013

Before I watched this movie, I'd heard that it was a thinly-veiled attack on the kinds of people who think the unwashed, unhealthy, unwealthy masses should be desperately scrambling after medical treatment like a bunch of low blood sugar office workers fighting to the death over the last donut. Those people, I guess, think health care should be no more a common right than everyone having the right to gold-plated flying unicorns.

These people, I believe, are called conservatives. They're trying to do the 'right' thing by conserving the precious and scarce amount of health care that's out there, because, let's face it, poor people don't deserve health care, they'd just end up wasting resources by living longer, moochier lives.

So when I heard these claims about a flick I hadn't seen, I thought it was the usual outrage bullshit propaganda these 'types' of people invariably come up with, along with blaming everything on Communists, Jews, Gays and Lesbians, Single Mothers, Dark Skinned People, or combinations thereof. You know the types of people I'm talking about: they're called idiots.

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Lovelace

Lovelace

And I thought this flick was going to be about Ada Lovelace, the
world's first computer programmer!

dir: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

I think everyone deserves a biopic made about their lives. Maybe not everyone deserves to have Amanda Seyfried play them in their movie, in both senses of the word "deserves", but surely this will one day come to pass.

As for who should play me in the inevitable biopic of My Life, which should be called Drowning in Awesomeness, I'll leave that to the learned reader to decide. Perhaps bloviating windbag Kevin Smith? Or Comic-Book Guy from The Simpsons? Mark Ruffalo after a serious car accident? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Ron Perlman? Tom Waits lesser known cousin Guido?

So many choices. During Linda Lovelace's life, she being the subject of this startling and depressing biopic, if you'd shown her a picture of Amanda Seyfried, and told her that one day she would be playing Linda in the story of her life, she probably would have been flattered. Flattered and confused, as I am, a little bit.

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World War Z

World War Z

The queues for Luna Park rides are getting worse and worse

dir: Marc Forster

I wonder if there is anyone on the planet not sick of zombies as yet.

We, and I’m speaking on behalf of all of cinema-going humanity here, are even more sick of zombies than we are of vampires. I am so sick of vampires and zombies that I generally avoid new movies with them even if people I really like are in them, and I hear that they’re good films. I’m sick of them all, and I can’t be summoning the energy and time to watch them and review them, I just can't do it.

Except for this one. Come on, I was curious.

I have read the book this is based on (another reason for my undead care-factor fatigue), but the film has about as much to do with the book as any other flick about zombies has to do with the book: they’ve both got zombies in them, and that’s about it.

Out of the dry reportage of the novel comes a story with an allegedly relatable hero (Brad Pitt, as if any mere mortal men can relate to him) and a story at a scale we can grasp despite it being about a global epidemic of flesh-chomping. It’s the right approach, I guess. They also have to make it even more relatable by making the main guy motivated to find a solution to the zombie apocalypse by his having a redheaded wife and redheaded children: so if he doesn’t find a ‘cure’ or whatever, not only will everyone die, but some redheads too!

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Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2

They kick no ass at all, but they do kill a lot of people

dir: Jeff Wadlow

I know, I know, whenever you hear “It’s better than the first one!” regarding a sequel to an ordinary movie, the immediate response is "well, that's not saying much."

In some ways, though, ways that probably don't matter that much, Kick-Ass 2 is probably a better, or at least less repugnant movie that the first one, though not from want of trying.

The Kick-Ass stories falls into a sub-genre of hero flicks which are about regular people with no discernable skills or abilities wanting to be crimefighters. Also, of regular scumbags who want to be supervillains despite having nothing that makes them particularly super or villainous.

Kick-Ass himself is defined by a look, being a green-and-yellow wetsuit, the wielding of two batons, and no actual abilities. But he has the desire, the will to do good for the city, and he has inspired others to do the same.

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Man of Steel

Man of Steel

He almost looks like a real person

dir: Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder was given an incredible reward when they chose to make him the director of a Superman film. This is very strange, to me, a very strange turn of events.

Snyder’s last film was called Sucker Punch. What was Sucker Punch , I hear you ask, since you blocked it out of your memory or didn’t see it and it doesn’t seem like a real film that was released in this, the apparently real world?

Sucker Punch was an incredibly bad movie, a movie so bad it assaulted the very nature of the word ‘movie’. 'Movie' almost became a derogatory word for a degenerate and pointless form of entertainment previously adored by the masses and now shunned for the horrid waste of time and money that it became post-Sucker Punch for all eternity.

The actual shitty movie itself seemed like it was the fevered dream of an idiot on acid and meth simultaneously, furiously and pointlessly masturbating as he watched a whole bunch of fetish material (Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun film clip, nubile females in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms fighting Nazi robots and samurais and dragons and lobotomies), who then somehow translated this dirty weekend of cable watching and jerking off of his into a movie, an actual movie, that people paid for and such. Not just to make, but to watch!

And like an idiot, I was one of those people!

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