As usual I was able to catch up with a number of films while flying to Brazil. Her (2013) directed Spike Jonze was a film that did not appeal to me due to its premise. And I didn’t enjoy it. Joacquim Phoenix did a great job essentially talking to himself, but I didn’t find the characters sympathetic. It was essentially a romance and not even a romantic comedy. I had to admire the ways in which Jonze made it interesting to watch despite the fact that it was essentially a talking head film.
Captain Phillips (2013) was another Oscar nominated film that I was hesitant to see because it stars Tom Hanks, who always plays himself-this film is not an exception (he and Katherine Keener have the worst southern accents I’ve ever heard in a major film). That being, said it is a thrilling concept: based on a real story, modern day pirates off the coast of Somalia capture a ship and its captain. The Somali pirates were the best thing about the film, which was not whitewashed in its violent ending.
I had heard many good things about Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son (2014). It is a powerful family drama that raises some interesting questions about what family is in a country where it is strictly regulated by blood ties and legal register. There was some suggestion that one of the fathers had a stepmother (possibly through divorce-which is never confirmed). I think it would have been more realistic and interesting if he had brought up the idea of severing ties with one parent through the draconian single custody laws. The idea of mixing children at birth at this day and age is somewhat ridiculous, but the reason in the film is the malicious act of an angst ridden nurse make sit seem somewhat more likely. That being said it does not detract from the film’s effectiveness as a drama. There are great performances form the parents and children throughout.
Seeing Shield of Straw (2014) by Takashi Miike confirmed the beating it took from critics. The concept of a hated child killer being transported across Japan overland with a large bounty protected by a crack team of detectives was preposterous. Several other fanciful plot contrivances muck up the story. And its mediocrity is rounded out by the amateurish TV style overacting.
The romantic comedy is one of my least favorite genres of film, but it can be charming if done correctly as it was done in Stanley Doren’s 1963 classic Charade. In this film we have the witty repartee between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in a sort of cold war thriller about retrieving stolen gold from WWII with a all-star cast of villains and supporting actors led by the likes of James Colburn, Walter Matthew, and George Kennedy.
I have to say I enjoyed the camp aspects of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (2012). And this was almost entirely due to Johny Depp’s commanding performance, but there was great work from Michele Pfeiffer, Helen Bonham Carter, and Eva Green among others.
I had never heard of the documentary, Good Ol’ Freda (2013), about The Beatles Fan Club secretary Freda Kelly. It must have been a blast to have come of age in the swinging 60s as rock-n-roll established itself as the definitive youth movement of the day.
I had heard good things about The Lego Movie (2014) and agreed with all those things. It was a great satire with great effects and clever adult jokes throughout the film that seems to owe something to Terry Gillian’s classic film Brazil.