Films I Saw This Week (10/08/2015)
Inside Out (2015)
The best Pixar film since Toy Story 3 and the unlikely-to-be-topped film of 2015, Inside Out is the magic combination of big laughs, gorgeous animation and devastating emotion we haven’t seen from Pixar in years. Focusing on 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and the five emotions– Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Fear (Bill Hader) – that control her, Inside Out is an incredibly bold film that aims to teach children that sometimes, it’s okay to feel sad.
It’s hard to recall a finer looking animation from Pixar; dazzling colours, fast paced action, and amazingly expressive and emotive human characters (perfected since The Incredibles). Similarly, the voice acting ranks up with there with Pixar’s best; Poehler is an unstoppable ball of energy; teenager Dias makes Riley completely sympathetic even at her most difficult moments; Hader and Black steal the show with many of the film’s funniest moments; and Richard Kind is absolutely wonderful in a surprising role.
Inside Out is not just a perfect children’s film. It’s a perfect film, full stop.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
I loved David Wain’s They Came Together (despite it’s pretty rubbish scores with critics and audiences alike), but I had a harder time with his cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer. While it’s fun to see pre-fame stars like Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, that’s about the only fun I had with this patchy comedy. A parody of 80’s teen films, Wet Hot American Summer is just too weird and unfocused to really nail its target. There’s the odd good line and some funny performances (especially David Hyde Pierce as a geeky astrophysicist), but Wet Hot American Summer is the definition of hit-and-miss.
The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Comedians turning to drama often yields excellent results (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and The Skeleton Twins proves no exception as Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig give terrific performance as an emotionally damaged brother and sister. Wiig is very sympathetic in a downbeat role, while Hader is heart-breaking as a complete trainwreck. Meanwhile, great support comes from super-positive Luke Wilson and slightly creepy Ty Burrell. The Skeleton Twins occasionally fails to meet the high standards of its performances, with a slow middle section and a slight lack of ambition, but both leading actors deserved more awards nominations than they received.
Joe Wright’s 2007 masterpiece Atonement, an emotionally draining tale of lies and forbidden love in World War Two, is one of the best directorial efforts of the 00’s. Most famously of all is the rightly heralded Dunkirk Beach sequence, a five minute tracking shot featuring a thousand extras that is one of the most visually extraordinary scenes I can remember seeing. Beyond that, Wright gets terrific performances from James McAvoy (so often excellent in bad films) and Keira Knightley (a harsher, more brittle take on her usual role), as well as an Oscar nominated performance from a young Saoirse Ronan. Atonement is frustrating and brutal in its twists and turns, but its power and melancholy will stick with you for a long time.
The Thing (2011)
Somehow even more pointless than vampire remake Let Me In, the 2011 remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing is by far the most pointless update of a classic horror film ever made. Claiming to be a prequel but actually following the original plot almost totally, this version of The Thing offers no interesting characters (Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fairly decent, but what was Joel Edgerton thinking?), bland CGI gore, and a general sense of tedium. Only worth seeing to remind yourself how good John Carpenter’s The Thing is.
Midnight Run (1988)
With twenty years of mediocrity behind him, it can be easy to forget why Robert De Niro is the finest screen actor of all time. Martin Brest’s classic action comedy Midnight Run is a great reminder of what made De Niro such an icon. As bounty hunter Jack Walsh, De Niro is at his most charming and likable as he takes in mob accountant Charles Grodin and finds himself running from the police, the mafia, and fellow bounty hunter Marvin (John Ashton). De Niro and Grodin have an astonishing amount of chemistry and get a lot of laughs, but it’s the quieter moments, like De Niro refusing money from the daughter he hasn’t seen in nine years, that cement Midnight Run as one of the best films of the 80’s.
The Counsellor (2013)
It’s finally happened. I’ve finally seen a Michael Fassbender film I hate. Perhaps the worst film made by a major director in the last decade, Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor is a boring, pretentious mess. Light on action, heavy on long winded conversations about nothing, The Counsellor sees Fassbender’s titular character mixed up with the cartel and risking the lives of his girlfriend Penelope Cruz, and best friends Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz. The odd bit of brutal violence lives things up, but with awful dialogue (“Truth has no temperature”), an incoherent plot, and the blandest performance of Fassbender’s career, The Counsellor offers very little to recommend.
By Harry Ford
- Posted in: Films I Saw This Week
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