RENTAL ROUND-UP (August-October 2013)

Maniac

Image

I’ve never seen the original 80’s film, but this new version is one of the most disturbing horror films I’ve seen in a while. Elijah Wood’s performance shows range I never knew he had; you’ll never look at Frodo the same way again. The POV cinematography is excellent, as it really puts you inside this character’s head and really makes you feel a part of this depraved experience. Seriously, I went out for a walk after watching this movie and I still felt like I was looking through the eyes of a psychopath. This helps raise the film above what is otherwise a pretty standard horror film, and is one of the few films I’ve seen get away with style over substance; it’s like the Drive of horror movies. Seek this one out if you’re up for being disturbed. 8/10

Bullet to the Head

Image

Geri-action movies are a dime a dozen these days, so here’s Sylvester Stallone throwing us another one with this generic piece of work. I can hardly call Bullet to the Head bad; it’s just so bland on pretty much every level that there’s not much to say but “meh”. Nowhere near as good as the insanity of Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, but nowhere near as bad as Bruce “$1 million a day or f*** off” Willis’ A Good Day to Die Hard. The plot is forgettable, the characters are barely fleshed-out, the comedy is flat, even most of the action scenes are pretty generic. The only things worth seeing in this movie are a ludicrous axe fight between Stallone and Jason Momoa at the end, and watching Christian Slater prance around being so sleazy I swear he mustn’t have known he was being filmed. It’s sad to see classic director Walter Hill work with such weak material, and hopefully everyone involved with this will move on to much better pastures. 4/10

Broken City

Image

Yay! Another bland, dry political thriller with low stakes and stock characters. If this movie were any less energetic, I’d swear it was dead. What starts as a premise for what could be a decent movie falls behind due to slow pacing and not enough going on to keep up interest. The story lacks any real sense of surprise or ingenuity, and the characters are so cookie-cutter that you can sense where pretty much every major player is going. Despite the valiant efforts of Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, who put a good amount of effort into their roles and help raise the material, the film just fails to capture my interest. This has nothing to do with the fact I have no interest in politics; a good political thriller like The Ides of March gets you invested in what is going on no matter what your stance on the matter is. Broken City? More like broken movie. 3.5/10

Mama

Image

A well-crafted and original horror movie? Wow, those are rare. Mama is genuinely creepy from start to finish, mainly thanks to creative cinematography, wonderful performances from the entire principal cast, and beautifully creepy creature design. The film avoids falling back into too many clichés, but even when it does it remains effective. The bond between the characters, a major theme of the film, is so strong that you do become truly invested in the outcome; it really is one of the few horror films that feels more character-driven and isn’t just a monster-of-the-week jump scare fest. Whilst produced by Guillermo Del Toro, the film feels much more like a combination of the grim atmosphere of an early Tim Burton film and the suspenseful thrills of a classic Alfred Hitchcock picture. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch Mama. Just make sure she isn’t watching you. 8.5/10

21 & Over

Image

Hangover rip-offs are a constant part of the comedy landscape these days, but here’s one from the guys who actually wrote The Hangover. It’s like The Hangover…but in college. And that’s about it. The formula, the revelations, and the gags: they are all laid out exactly like The Hangover. And what isn’t from The Hangover is just from every other college comedy ever made. But luckily, the film manages to just about hold together thanks to some genuinely good comedy setpieces here and there, and some solid performances from Miles Teller and Francois Chau. If you like these kinds of movies and have watched all the others, it’s not a bad experience. Just be prepared to see a lot of what you’ve seen before. 5.5/10

Identity Thief

Image

Wow. I mean…wow. I didn’t think I’d see a movie worse than Movie 43 this year but…wow. This movie. It’s…just awful. Really…awful. This movie is a comedy, or at least that’s what I think it’s supposed to be. But generally, I think the goal of a comedy is to make you laugh. But this film just made me want to crawl up into a ball and cry. And I pretty much did. Not because the film is sad or anything; just because it is that unbelievably putrid. I did not laugh once for the entire two hours this waste of time lasted. Not one laugh. NOT ONE LAUGH! Instead, just a lot of pain, anger and frustration. Even Movie 43 made me chuckle in sheer bafflement at points, but this movie doesn’t even have that distinction. What else is there to say? Jason Bateman fumbles around doing what he does in every f*cking movie he’s in these days, and Mellissa McCarthy plays one of the most grotesque, despicable and downright annoying characters in cinematic history. And the movie expects us to SYMPATHIZE with this b*tch? A woman who stole this man’s identity, completely destroys his life, and then spends most of the movie insulting him? SCREW YOU! No. I think I’ve said enough. I don’t like getting mad like this, but I can’t take it anymore. F*CK THIS MOVIE! And if you liked this movie, then F*CK YOU TOO! AHHHHHHHHH! 1/10

The Kings of Summer

Image

Some of the best comedies these days can be found in the indie market and, whilst Kings of Summer isn’t one of the better ones, it is enjoyable. The film does tell a unique coming-of-age tale, dealing with issues I find surprising haven’t been touched on, but also borrowing elements from classics like Stand By Me. The film does have some good moments both dramatic and comedic, and the performances from Moises Arias and Nick Offerman are certainly enjoyable. However, the film’s overly-indie quality sometimes felt a little pretentious and out of kilter with the rest of the movie; almost as if I was watching National Lampoon’s The Tree of Life. Enjoyable and charming, but nothing special. 7/10

Mud

Image

Now THIS is a really good indie effort! Mud gives us another great performance from Matthew McConaghey, who has managed to pull a Ben Affleck and be in some really great movies lately after being in a load of tripe. But the rest of the movie is excellent as well. The story is a very invigorating tale about love, life and family, and the performances from fellow supporting players like Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard and Reese Witherspoon compliment the film really well. Even Joe Don Baker comes off as good here. A true hidden gem that I’m sad I missed in theatres. 9/10

Much Ado About Nothing

Image

Joss Whedon and Shakespeare? What a match made in heaven! The witty nature of both of these artists melds perfectly together in this comedic tale of love and betrayal. It’s also quite possibly the cheapest film I’ve seen this year, having been shot entirely at Whedon’s house and starring all his friends. But that only adds to the charm and mood of the film, and it is more about the performances than the look anyway. And what wonderful performances there are; particular standouts being Fran Kranz as Claudio, Agent Coulson himself Clark Gregg as Leonato, and the ever-lovable Nathan Fillion as the bumbling Dogberry. Watching this film just made me want to go up to Baz Luhrman and tell him “THIS is how you modernize Shakespeare, you arty arse!” 8.5/10

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Image

Another movie about magicians? As a comedy? Sigh. Burt Wonderstone isn’t bad, but it is just dull for the most part. The film follows a pretty standard fall from grace story with little ingenuity or fun; it is predictable to every last detail. Steve Carell feels tremendously miscast in a role that feels like it was meant for someone like Will Ferrell or Zach Galifinakis, Olivia Wilde constantly feels like she’s meant to do something but is little more than eye candy, and Jim Carrey wanders about doing shtick that just isn’t funny. Only a few funny gags from the likes of Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin help raise the film to something a little more than plain boring.  4/10

Spring Breakers

Image

Spring Breakers is among a group of films I like to call “Artsy Bollocks”. These are films that attempt to look like they’ve got some deep message about society or culture, but really want to show you some nice cinematography and some shocking imagery; Only God Forgives is pretty good example of this movement, so read my review of that if you want more detail. But yeah, Spring Breakers is artsy bollocks. No character, no real sense of narrative, no meaningful message. It’s just terrible, shallow people doing terrible, shallow things. But some nice lighting work, some of the soundtrack by Skrillex and a truly bizarre performance from James Franco makes this movie somewhat memorable at least. 3/10

The Place Beyond The Pines

Image

A riveting tale of parenting and legacy that spans many years, The Place Beyond The Pines is like three movies in one. The central performances from Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Dane DeHaan are all excellent, and supporting actors like Ben Mendelsohn and Ray Liotta are also really good. The cinematography, especially during several bank heists and motorcycle scenes, is superb, and the score by Mike Patton is riveting stuff. Only an overlong runtime, occasional predictability and a weak performance from Emory Cohen hold this film back for me. 8.5/10

The Bling Ring

Image

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation was truly wonderful film, but since then she hasn’t done anything that even comes close in terms of quality. Unfortunately, The Bling Ring doesn’t either. Based on true events, the story of the film has the potential to be something interesting. But Coppola’s view on the events feels too distant and simplified. The main characters we follow are severely lacking in depth, and they all just come off as shallow arseholes. The film quickly becomes repetitive, as we watch scene after scene of these kids breaking into a house, say “Oh my God” when they find expensive sh*t, mess around with that expensive sh*t, possibly steal some of that expensive sh*t, and then leave. Rinse and repeat. Perhaps if the film had taken some liberties with the story and gone for a more traditional caper comedy, it could have been at least entertaining. But as it is, it feels like I’m watching some boring reality show. Only Emma Watson and Leslie Mann’s performances help liven the film up and make it remain watchable. 4/10

Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s