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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released over (like most of) October 2011

I have a couple more Channel24 reviews to post and I'll get to them shortly but here's a roundup of a bunch of films that I haven't gotten to over this month. I should be back on a regular schedule this week but until then, here's some of the films that were released this month. And one that wasn't!

Before getting onto films that were actually released this month, here's one that was oh so wisely pulled from the schedule at the last minute. Hopefully that will be it for Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (picture on the left is, in fact, not the poster, but I think it represents the film more faithfully) but just in case some idiot does decide to release it on DVD or show it on TV, consider this an official warning to stay the hell away from it. It's clearly the worst film of the year and I doubt that's going to change any time over the last few months of 2011. Simply put, this "comedy" about a young schmuck who finds out that his redneck parents were huge porn stars in the '70s and decides to try and follow in their footsteps, is essentially Boogie Nights as reimagined by a bunch of subhuman man-children with the collected IQ of 3 and all the sense of humour of - well, a worse-than-usual Adam Sandler film. Yup, this grotesque abomination was co-written and produced by Sandler and stars Nick Swarsdon, a man so cosmically unfunny as to make Adam Sandler look like George Carlin. It's just atrocious.

Infinitely better but still pretty bad is romantic comedy What's Your Number. It stars two incredibly likeable lead actors (Anna Farris and Chris Evans) and is breezy and lightweight enough to never cause offense. Still, even for a genre as tired as the Hollywood romcom, What's Your Number is still immensely predictable and generally quite pointless. Worst of all, it's entirely without a single halfway decent laugh - surely the ultimate, unforgivable sin for any apparent "comedy"?

Rounding off the month's bad or unremarkable entries is Ceremony. Ceremony is the textbook definition of unmemorable, which is rather a large problem when you consider that it was screened months and months ago to critics. This story of a rather unsympathetic guy gatecrashing his ex-girlfriend's wedding to try and win her back gets points for not entirely entirely bucking to formula but, aside for some pretty location work, it's mixture of flat direction, witless writing and mostly unlikeable characters causes it to land up on just the wrong side of forgettable. Lee Pace as the ex-girlfriend's eccentric soon-to-be husband is the only really enjoyable thing in the film but even he can't stop Ceremony from being a perfectly functional but decidedly mediocre dramedy.

  Fortunately, in spite of how it may at times seem, there were some more worthwhile film released this month as well. One, I'll get to when I post the full review from Channel24 but there are at least three others that are at least somewhat worth your time. First up is Warrior, a sports drama about two estranged brothers who end up competing against one another in a Mixed Martial Arts (as near as I can tell, a mix of kickboxing and wrestling) competition. It has, at its centre, a brilliant performance from up and coming brit-actor Tom Hardy and a brace of very solid supporting turns from everyone else, as well as a solid script, assured direction and a thrilling half hour of grown men beating the stuffing out of one another. It does have one fatal flaw, though: With its cinema verite style, it was so busy trying to be The Fighter or The Wrestler that it never realized that what it really should have been going for was a 21st century version of Rocky III. Instead, its a tonally schizophrenic mess that can't decide if it wants to be a serious family drama concerned with the way things like the current economic meltdown and the war in Iraq play havoc on the lives of so-called "normal people" or a shamelessly sentimental, feel-good sports drama about grown men beating the stuffing out of one another. As such, the final act is terrifically good, b-movie fun but you have to sit through some overly serious, awards-courting over-reaching to get there.

Similarly worthwhile but disappointing is Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, an old fashioned virus-breakout thriller that has on its side a sterling cast of A-list actors (including Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishbourne, Marrion Cotillard and Jude Law); tense, no-nonsense direction and a threat that seems to be all too real. Why, then, did I feel so unengaged by what was going on on screen? The problem, I think, lies in the film's two failings. For a start, the characterization is so slight as to barely be there at all so the emotional aspect that should be front and centre in this sort of film is sadly lacking. Secondly, it has the same problem that stops me from getting into something like TV's House - despite my man-love of the awesome Hugh Laurie: Too. Much. Technobabble. Much of the "action" in the film involves a bunch of people in lab coats yacking on and on in audience-alienating medical jargon that may give the film a real sense of authenticity but also makes it more than a little dull to get through.

Best of all, though, is The Help. I realize that describing The Help as basically a mixture of To Kill a Mockingbird and Fried Green Tomatoes, might come off as little more than a lazy shorthand but, in this case, it actually works. Like those films, The Help is a period piece set in the American South and has the prejudice-based themes of Mockingbird and the female-centric focus of Tomatoes and its mix of light comedy, tragedy and triumph certainly puts it in a similar storytelling tradition as well. It's not quite up to those other stories (sorry but the Mockingbird film ain't a patch on the book) but The Help, for all of its rather indulgent length, occasionally simplistic characterization and issue-tastic earnestness is a thoroughly enjoyable, touching little film. Its look at the relationship between the white women of this time period and place and the black "help" that they have working for them obviously has a certain resonance for South African audiences but its true pleasures lie in its shameless warmheartedness, its stellar cast and the interactions between the various women.



  1. Re: Bucky Larson - how dare you even put the name George Carlin in the same paragraph as Adam Sandler! Disgraceful! hahahahha

  2. Actually... I really can't disagree with that!