Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Movie Diary #6: December 2012

Merry New Year! January is upon us and so here is my look back at December.

The movie watching month started off on fire and didn't really let up throughout, somehow leaving me in the position of having watched more movies in December than November, 65 to be precise as per Letterboxd. And it seems like the majority were highly enjoyable, of course Christmas is ideal for sitting around all day and watching your favourite films so that certainly helped on both counts. Of the 65, 4 starred Bill Murray, 17 were rewatches (the Christmas effect) and 25 occupy that middle ground that I don't care enough about one way or another to list for you, leaving me a disgusting amount of work to do to make picture collages of 40 movie posters. Note to self, watch fewer films.

Fun stat: On 12th December I watched 5 movies, 4 of which feature in Why Did They Even Bother?  Surely this can only be bettered by a pop star marathon of Crossroads, Glitter, Honest and When Justin Met Kelly topped off by The Room in terms of worst movie day ever?

Before I make my recommendations let me just plug my end of year review posts one last time. This was the first year I have been an active blogger for this type of post to be worth while, so I put together four lists, nothing flashy, just a simple selection of Bottom 5 2012 Releases, Top 5 Pre-2012 Catchup, Man of the Year and naturally Top 10% 2012 Releases.

Why Did They Even Bother?
Of course it wasn't necessary to make this or watch it but the kid in me still hopes for a good sequel, perhaps with Macauley Culkin as the dad? Anyway it was horrific and wasn't even saved by the transformation of Jodelle Ferland from scary child actor to beautiful young woman.
Somewhere inside this movie is a great idea desperate to be heard but it is drowned out by a parade of awful. I'm not suggesting it is of the same low quality as The Room but it's certainly on it's way in that direction. This is pure silliness with plot holes galore in a script that wanders all over the place and relies on a disastrous voiceover to tie things together. It's billed as a comedy but I don't think I laughed with it once, laughing at it on the other hand is easy enough to do. It was clearly influenced by such classics as Buckaroo Banzai and Repo Man but has none of the class to go along with it. In a world that had already produced Blade Runner and The Terminator I'm just not sure how this one got made.
King of the Underworld (1939)
It upsets me to include a Bogart movie on this list but with it being Bogie month on TCM I had the misfortune to witness some of his lesser moments from before he was famous, King of the Underworld was the least of the lot.
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
It may be that it has aged badly but Walter Matthau in a Paul Simon comedy sounded like a good idea and as it turned out it was painfully unfunny the majority of the time.
Outrage (1964)
A stupid lazy American remake of Rashomon, things don't really change we're just more aware of its prevalence now.
Liberal Arts (2012)
I can't explain why this got overlooked in my Bottom 5 of 2012 post but it's certainly deserving of a place.
I am so thoroughly unimpressed with this dramatic sophomore slump from director/writer Radnor. I have spent the best part of an hour complaining non stop about it and not a single one of those criticisms can be put in to an eloquent review.
Basically this is a dreadful piece of self aware nonsense with nothing going for it at all. And no Elizabeth Olsen is not charming, her performance is great only if you are supposed to despise the vacuous and annoying nature of her character.
But in her world I should just shut up because people shouldn't discuss the things they don't like, merely talk about puppies and flowers and unicorns and other nice things.
What a fucking dickhead, if she was a girl I'd just met I'd definitely not write her dozens of really boring cliche ridden letters to an obvious classical soundtrack.
When even Allison Janney has a bad day at the office you know a movie is in trouble. I won't even mention Zac Theodore Logan Efron.
Arbitrage (2012)
On the list of things that I don't give a shit about this movie pretty much captured them all, I don't care how good Richard Gere's performance is.
Taken 2 (2012)
Yep, worst movie of 2012. So grateful for its existence. 
This one was mean spirited, derisive, clichéd, convoluted, slow, boring, un-thrilling, stupid, senseless, pointless, messy, exposition filled, racist, badly directed, horribly written, disastrously performed, and unnecessary.
Frankenweenie (2012)
Seen after I made my Bottom 5 list, just might have made the cut. Obviously I shouldn't have watched it based on my track record with the director.
Tim Burton is overrated and dull to the extreme, ooo look at me I'm a kookie artist. Go hide in your parents basement, I'm sick of you.

It Passes The Time
Premium Rush (2012)
One of the better 2012 releases but not Earth shattering. This movie is so much fun, pure entertainment with the added bonus of starring JGL
The Harder They Fall (1956)
Bogie's final film. It's a good one too.
Shaft (1971)
I can't believe I've gone this long without seeing Shaft! Or for that matter a real Blaxploitation movie. Seeing this after the remake just served to demonstrate just how bad John Singleton's version was despite SLJ running around being a total badass. Even he couldn't be as cool as Richard Roundtree was here. Sure, it lags in some spots and gets a little too convoluted in the plot department but all in all this is an enjoyable film and enables me to randomly insert the word Shaft in conversation from now on.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
As I said last time this appeared in my movie diary we're big fans of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in this house so seeing Charlie in the very funny Horrible Bosses was a nice treat. The three TV actors make for a believable group of friends and the three big name movie stars play terribly cliched characters and are possibly guilty of overacting. It even gets better on repeat viewing.
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)
I liked it much more on the second viewing. There are a lot of tense, well crafted moments sandwiched in between lots of not quite so well done moments. James Spader is excellent and makes up for the two irritating females.
The Detective (1968)
The film itself starts off at a fast pace similar to classic noirs of the past from Chandler and Hammett but loses its way with several flashbacks that ended up a bit redundant and a very slow denouement. Tackles tough subject matter for the time in a very impressive manner. This should really be a better known movie, especially with its Die Hard connections.
To Have and Have Not (1944)
This movie is so close to being Casablanca it's hard to judge it on its own merits. It does however boast a superior coupling in the first meeting of Bogie and Bacall.
The Baytown Outlaws (2012) AKA Baytown Disco
This movie is so much fun! It's 21st century pulp fiction southern style. Car chases, kidnapping, drug dealing, gun play, politically incorrect humour, Fox Force 5 as hooker assassins, Andre Braugher and Billy Bob Thornton, what more do you want from a movie? Owes a lot to Tarantino and Rodriguez but unlike a lot of the post-Desperado/Reservoir Dogs/Grindhouse clones this is very much its own movie packed with one liners and OMG moments, wrapped up in a near faultless 90 minutes film. Sure it has all the same problems that are inherent to the genre including silliness, filler and pacing issues but they're easily forgettable if you're up for a good time, whip-ass extravaganza.
Tomorrow You're Gone (2012) AKA Boot Tracks
David Jacobsen and Matthew F. Jones's Boot Tracks AKA Tomorrow You're Gone plays like hillbilly noir directed by David Lynch. So much of the surreal element is underplayed that you're left scratching your head wondering what was in Stephen Dorff's mind and what was real. I can't commit to having understood what was going on for large parts of the plot but there's an addictive and mesmerising quality to the film that leaves you watching the hillbilly train wreck. Unexpected from the director of Dahmer, this is one of those rare movies chosen by Stephen Dorff that doesn't suck the pleasure out of watching from the second you press play and also features Willem Dafoe at his usual high standard and an almost constantly semi-naked Michelle Monaghan.
The Red Circle (1970)
It's not Melville's best movie but it features several great performances and one of the best heist sequences in cinematic history. My major issue is that it's too long for its content, sure there's so much of that famous Melville style, acres of silence and an extra helping of the super cool Alain Delon but at nearly 2.5 hours it's a little bloated on itself.
Jack Irish: Black Tide (2012)
Yes it is an Australian TV movie based on a novel by Peter Temple starring Guy Pearce in case you're wondering.
If the increased enjoyment I received from the second of these Jack Irish movies is anything to go by I sure hope they make some more as pretty soon they'll be great.
Guy Pearce is really very good as Jack Irish and naturally as a superstar he will get the plaudits but this TV movie excels in more ways than one. The humour is pitched just right and everybody seems to have raised their game acting wise and despite the general absurdity of the plot it was an enjoyable piece of 21st century crime/noir TV.
I very much recommend seeing these two features in order.
Argo (2012)
It wasn't as incredible as I was expecting but was still a solid, well crafted movie based on an incredible true story. To borrow some hyperbole from Total Film - "Argo is this decade's All The President's Men!" If you document American history well you're almost guaranteed an Oscar, except this year when there's three of the fuckers to choose from.
Home Alone 2 (1992)
Whilst not being as good as the original this one manages to make me laugh so hard I cry thanks to the great comedic performances of Pesci and Stern getting tortured by Mac. 2 hours pretty much flies past and surprisingly it isn't Rob Schneider that brings the mood of the piece down for once, that honour goes to Susan Boyle the bird lady whose storyline is so fake and forced on to the structure in an attempt to provide a moral to a movie about a kid beating up two criminals.
Mona Lisa (1986)
Bob Hoskins deserved that Oscar nomination for his performance as the recently released criminal now driving a prostitute around high class hotels. Beyond that Michael Caine was a bit of fun, as was Robbie Coltrane and, as a prime example of his early career, Clarke Peters was woefully underused. The plot gets dark pretty quickly and some pretty grim things happen, it's just not as layered as it likes to think it is and parts do have some pacing issues.
This Sporting Life (1963)
This classic of British New Wave really does hammer home the "angry young man" vibe they all got labelled with back in the day. Richard Harris is a whirlwind of repressed anger and hostility that bursts out of him at the strangest of times. Sure his rage and desire drive him on to better things but it hangs over him just waiting to destroy him. A fascinating movie if at least half an hour too long to be truly amazing.
The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner (1962)
Another fine film from the British New Wave, highlighting the lack of options for the youth in post war Britain thanks to groundbreaking direction from Richardson and a strong performance from Courtenay.
Sometimes They Make Something Great

Casablanca (1942)
It's not one of the finest examples of classic Hollywood cinema for no reason. I just love watching this film. Every single performance is perfect.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
As seen in my end of year review this film astounded me, I didn't expect it to be so good. Reichardt has created cinema that verges on perfection but doesn't quite make it.
Backroads (1977)
This just might be my favourite Australian movie yet. Semi-improvised road movie about a gang of petty crooks on their way across the bush to Sydney featuring the great Bill Hunter. Noyce's debut movie has a lot to offer in terms of direction, the loose cameras give it a real verite style look that is enhanced by the amateur performers and semi-improvised dialogue. I can't imagine anything this intelligent getting made today in this country.
Point Blank (1967)
Another late entry in to my year end review and suddenly I'm a Lee Marvin fan. The influence of this film cannot possibly be estimated and the fact that Soderbergh recorded a commentary for the DVD points to it being his major influence in making The Limey. Plus Sid Haig appears in it.
Die Hard (1988)
This movie is nearly 25 years old and still feels as fresh and exciting as it did in 1988. Everything that has come since has basically been a clone of some sort and none of them can really compare. Marks of a masterpiece of the genre. Great fact, based on novel that was a sequel to the source material for the Frank Sinatra movie Detective, the studio was contractually obliged to offer Frank Sinatra the role that made Bruce Willis a star. Images of a 72 year old Ol' Blue Eyes gunning down Alan Rickman and yelling Yippee Kiy-ah abound.
Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
A fine brooding movie featuring lots of fear and paranoia, a one armed guy laying the smack down on weak minded fools and a small town saved by an (almost) anonymous High Plains Drifter. A fine companion piece to Welcome To Hard Times and would sit nicely in the middle of a triple feature as the sensible more mainstream film of the three. If you haven't seen it and love noir, westerns, classic movies, great storytelling or great cinema I must send you to your nearest video store now to rectify this problem.
Ps Lee Marvin gets knocked out in a bad way and STILL his cowboy hat remains fixed to his head!
Le Samourai (1967)
One of the greatest movies ever made in any genre, any movement, any country, any period. From the opening shot Melville crafted a mesmerising film noir featuring quite possibly the coolest protagonist the genre will ever know. Told with so few words it makes There Will Be Blood look positively verbose in comparison, I could watch this movie on repeat for an entire day and not get bored of seeing Melville's art. I may however lose my voice from exclaiming in awe too frequently.
Ghostbusters (1984)
Dogs and cats living together it'll be anarchy, never ever gets old.
Home Alone (1990)
This movie just doesn't seem to get old. Watching for the bazillionth time as a fully grown person it's still funny despite the many wtf moments where your grown up brain realises the complete improbable nature of things. And how mean are the entire MacAllister family?! If they were my family I'd definitely want to live alone when I grow up and get married.
Hogfather (2007)
A modern Christmas classic and a fine adaptation. This is a charming and funny story that discusses the power of belief without taking the step over the edge in to Hallmark territory. It has become a key part of our Christmas movie watching schedule.
Unlike with The Colour of Magic they really seem to have taken a lot of care over this production. Marc Warren is decidedly creepy as evil assassin Teatime whilst Sir David Jason is perfect as Albert (in direct contrast to his awful casting as Rincewind) with the rest of the cast putting in solid performances, notably that girl from Downton Abbey as Susan.
Scrooged (1988)
Everybody looks like they're having the best time in this movie, even Bob Mitchum who kicks a cat in frustration. Such good fun, Bill Murray is great in it too, it's hard to imagine how it got so many negative reviews on its initial release.
Groundhog Day (1993)
I recommend stopping by Films Worth Watching for a review of this film, Jon's reviews are always worth reading.
Groundhog Day is one of the most intelligent and funniest comedies ever made, Bill Murray is superb in what I can only assume is the watershed moment of his career. In this movie he really demonstrates his ability as a serious actor, without this he might not have gone on to star in Broken Flowers and Lost In Translation. Just a few more reasons to appreciate this film.
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
This is the Die Hard of romantic comedies. Almost 25 years old and still as fresh and funny, charming and romantic as ever. Between this and Four Weddings the impressionable teenage Toby formed his idea of what men and relationships were about. Big mistake watching those video cassettes so many times I think!
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
It might not be When Harry Met Sally but Four Weddings is still one of the best romcoms ever made and makes the Curtis movies that would follow look like inferior, less funny, star vehicles. Hugh Grant is PERFECT in the role, so good that he's still playing it nearly 20 years later. There's so much humour and despite having seen it countless times, enough to know Grant's dialogue, it's still funny. A shame about Andie MacDowell, the bad sound syncing and the silly Breakfast At Tiffanys ending but you can't have everything.
Bullitt (1968)
Steve McQueen is perfect as the hard-boiled titular character, a tough as nails detective on the hunt for the killer of a senate witness who was under his protection, but the star of the movie has to be Peter Yates as director, whose choices behind the camera are what truly make this the high quality police procedural thriller it still is 45 years later.
That's all folks! Plenty to recommend you see and several to stay away from. If you haven't noticed by now my opinion seems to differ dramatically from other film lovers and critics so use your experience of me wisely and do feel free to share your feelings on any one of these 40 recommendations in the comments.


  1. Bad Day at Black Rock has been one of my favourites since I first saw it in a university class 18 years ago. It's always been my go-to example whenever I've needed to make a point about the economy of older films against the sprawl of newer ones.

    As for Home Alone 5, I didn't even know it existed until now, and I wish I still didn't.

    1. Hey James, thanks for coming to say hi. I think your point is perfectly made there with Bad Day at Black Rock. I can't pinpoint the reason why there is a need for this sprawl in modern media; the length of modern fiction is equally incomprehensible to me. Lack of any real ability to tell stories succinctly should be a real concern for anybody who enjoy cinema and literature instead of demanding a series of 700 page novels about one day or sprawling four part movies that say nothing except "we want as much of your money as possible."

  2. Yay! Finally someone else who didn't like Frankenweenie. It looked great, but everything else was lacking.

    Glad you loved Bad Day at Black Rock, but I'm surprised you liked Premium Rush so much.

    1. Yeah it's not a masterpiece of cinema BUT it does that other thing that film is supposed to do every now and then, entertain. i think it's such a rare commodity in modern cinema that i have clung to it's sheer exuberance as proof that it can happen with brains and without being a comic book adaptation