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Monday, May 20, 2013

Roundup of New Cinema Releases for the Weekend of 17/05/2013 (and more)

Hey, what do you know, I fell behind again. The good news though, is that I've actually covered most of the noteworthy films already in full review form so there isn't that much to catch up on. Also, I was waiting to see This is Forty before doing the roundup for that weekend but, as it turned out, that was something of a mistake for a number of reasons. Anyway, on with the show, starting off with this week.

I just posted my very long review of The Great Gatsby and just in case I wasn't clear enough, it's terrific and simply must be the film of the week. Admittedly, I haven't seen the new Tyler Perry movie because, really, at this point, why bother but I think it's safe to say like every single one of his bloody movies, if you like Tyler Perry films you'll probably like this one, if you don't you won't. I don't. I also haven't seen Bernie, which I have heard good things about. I hope to check it out soon as I am a big Linklater fan and will include my thoughts in an upcoming roundup or review.

This means that the only film to talk about this week is the latest Stallone actioner, Bullet to the Head. I could just say that having an actual bullet to the head would be more fun, but I'll also say that it's stupid, boring, derivative, humourless, woefully misjudged and nasty in every wrong way possible. And Stallone has simply never been worse. Avoid like the proverbial. (1/10)

As for some older new releases, lets starts off with This is 40. Judd Apatow's fourth film (I know, considering how many films he's produced, you'd think he would have directed more) might just be proof positive that he should leave the actual filmmaking to better filmmakers. I can't think of a writer/ director whose quality of work has maintained a steady downward curve since the beginning of his career. He started off working on Paul Feig's wonderful cult TV show, Freaks and Geeks but it's been a steady decline ever since. Undeclared, his other TV show, was very good but worse than Freaks and Geeks. Moving to film, he  started on a very high point with The 40 Year Old Virgin but followed it up with the uneven and somewhat problematic Knocked Up and the very indulgent and mostly annoying Funny People.

The good news is that This is 40 is very slightly better than Funny People. The less good news is that it's, at best, troubled. Apatow does assemble a good supporting cast and has enough solid jokes for a good 90-minute comedy. The problem is that the film is 135 minutes long, doesn't feature only the supporting cast and it's a drama more often than it's a comedy.

There really is no two ways about it, the two central characters (played by Leslie Mann and the usually instantly likable Paul Rudd) are horrible, narcissistic, whingeing, vapid assholes that are absolutely impossible to sympathize with for a moment. The fact that you're supposed to care about what happens to them brings the entire film to a shuddering halt every single time it moves away from the far more fun supporting cast. You kind of just wish that they would kill each other in the first few minutes and let us spend the rest of the time with everyone else in the film who is not them. They could work fine in a pitch-black black comedy but in a "human drama" they're insufferable.

As such, this is 40 has some decent laughs but is otherwise a fairly painful and quite hateful watch. (4/10)      

Going in completely the opposite direction, we have Safe Haven, which is yet another Nicholas Sparks movie that's like every other Nicholas Sparks movie. As such, it is predictable, incredibly silly and very cheesy and has one of the most laughably stupid twists that I've ever seen, especially since it happens seconds before the final credits roll. And, yeah, some of the acting is not exactly Oscar caliber. I will say this though, that however much every neuron in my brain was screaming out for me to hate it, it's hard to get past just how pleasant these films can't help but be. It has good looking, likable characters, plenty of unintentional humour and that look at small town, water-logged Americana that I find both intriguing and incredibly soothing. Safe Haven is rubbish, in other words, but hey, at least it's nice rubbish. (6/10)

Significantly less nice but even more significantly better is Stoker that has nothing to do with literal vampires (Stoker - Bram Stoker... geddit?) but they're the only thing missing from this delightfully insane film by director Park Chan Wook whose similarly delightfully insane Oldboy must rank as one of the strangest modern classics of all.

The plot seems straight forward enough at first as we meet a moody teenager trying to come to grips with the premature death of her beloved father but it quickly evolves into something far less expected as its entirely unpredictable tale explodes with bloody dollops of bloodlust, (implied) incest and deranged familial relationships.

It has top-notch acting, moody direction and wonderful cinematography but it's worth it purely for just how unapologetically nuts it is. (8/10)

Finally, Promised Land is anything but nuts as it presents a very well-intentioned little tale that looks like it's about the dangers of fracking but is mostly about what total bastards big corporations are. It's nothing special but it's still pretty engrossing, if leisurely paced and it's hard to take against anything by two of the most apparently likable personalities in Hollywood, Matt Damon and John Krasinski. I wouldn't rush out to see it but definitely give it a look when it hits DVD and/ or TV screens. (7/10)

As for this week's DVD pick, may I suggest the afore-mentioned Oldboy - as long as you have the stomach for it, at least. It really is the most peculiar revenge flick I've ever seen.

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