Flash Reviews, Pt. 5

26 June 2015-30 Sept. 2015

Welcome to another installment of Flash Reviews, where I share brief snapshot reviews of the movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read and occasional other entertainment I’ve consumed since the last time I did this. Usually once every two months or so. WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead, so just watch out. Not super detailed spoilers, since these are just snapshots, but the better you know my tastes, the more likely you’ll be to find something spoiled.

 

FILM

Shaun of the Dead

Hilarious. Awkward. British. Lovely.

Ant-Man

I went in a hopeful skeptic and came out a committed believer. Small-scale and intimate in a way that superhero films have lacked. Self-deprecating in a way that I think we need more of. Imagine Ocean’s 11, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World combining in a glorious storm of awesome and you’d get something like Ant-Man.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

I’m still conflicted and torn about this film, months after watching it. Incredibly well edited and cleverly shot, but disturbingly violent. And I don’t think in a self-aware, “realize that you’re enjoying violence” way. Seemed pretty far into the glorifying side of things. But, still trying to process it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Witty. Very much enjoyed this and its parody of spy films. Great dialogue, fantastic action, nice pacing, well-acted. Worth watching. Probably more than once.

Wolf Totem

Stunning cinematography, animals=wow, the wolf-blizzard-horse scene unbelievable and terrifying. Some of the symbolism seemed a little heavy-handed and the dialogue was a bit stilted (probably? Due to translation problems and subtitles awkwardness).

Force Majeure

Incredibly crisp cinematography—wonderful. Musical interludes were fascinating, clever, hilarious. The dinner scene with Fanni, Mats, Tomas, and Ebba was very interesting—how for the first lengthy bit it only shows the back of Ebba’s head, which once she sits at the table totally blocks of Tomas. Then when they all chat and Ebba shares the avalanche experience it doesn’t show Tomas, but a lot of the focus is on Mats. Yet, an intensely uncomfortable film, a very intimate interrogation of masculinity that caused me to doubt things I thought I knew about myself. Well worth watching, although maybe not enjoying.

Lucy

Hmm. Enjoyable, but nothing special. Premise falls a bit flat. Scarlett Johansson is excellent, as usual, but intentional increasingly cold and emotionless. Also, can we stop with the whole 10% of our brain thing? It’s frustrating for a film to pretend to be so rooted in science, when the premises it’s based on are straight-up wrong, like demonstrably, undeniably wrong.

Two Days, One Night

Loved this. Marion Cottilard is amazing. Devastating. Deeply human. The whole film is rooted in real struggles and emotions, filled with moments of redemption and humanity—beautiful. The utter lack of non-diagetic music was a key tool in achieving this deep humanity.

Death in Venice

Da fuh? Not good. Like in any way. The music is overbearing and wildly inconsistent. The acting is ‘meh’, the flashbacks are overused and add to an already disjointed, incoherent film that doesn’t know what it wants to do and say or how it wants it done/said. Tries to be deep and settles on surface level quotables that lack legit significance. Also, CREEP. And not in an engaging, thought-provoking way, just in a super creepy, sometimes so awkward all you can do is laugh at the preposterousness way.

The Turn of the Screw (1974)

Creepy. Miles seemed straight-up terrifying. Flora was super devious. The music and their creepy, creepy smiles and death stares as the camera would pan over them. Yikes. An adaptation that played it fairly close to the text, plot-wise. Some interesting artistic choices to parallel Miles and Quint.

The Innocents (1961)

More overtly creepy, with the music box and the laugh at the beginning, also suggesting how unstable the governess is. Seemed much more like she was just losing it, than the kids being awful, although they were creepy enough to blur the lines of that a bit.

Uncle was charming, interesting to have Mrs. Grose be the same actress as the 1974 The Turn of the Screw.

Almanya

A hilarious, heart-warming at times tragic film. A great exploration of family and belonging. Loved the funeral scene with the adult and childhood versions of the characters co-existing, showing the links between our past and present selves and the move towards youth that we often have when faced with dark moments of crisis.

The Color of Paradise

A beautiful, absolutely poetic film. The symbolic imagery used throughout the film is stunning and deep, the bird/feather and water motifs run throughout and aid in understanding characters and their relationships one to another. A tragic, deeply emotional film, but definitely worth watching.

The Others

Woah. I was totally blindsided by the twist. I can usually see stuff like that coming, but for whatever reason I was caught off guard. This was tense and creepy, but in a largely good way. Nicole Kidman and the child actors crushed it—just a phenomenal job. The music was also used to great effect as were the camera angles around the house, particularly on/around the staircase.

The Dark Knight

Easily the best Batman film, one of the greatest superhero films, and one of my favorite films period. It holds up incredibly well under repeat viewings (something that Nolan’s films tend to struggle with). A tightly constructed fascinating morality tale, which goes to some dark, dark places, but showcases the power and beauty of the human spirit. Performances across the board are fantastic, although Harvey’s line in the restaurant has some stilted overtones reminiscent of his classic seminary video “what about the pain?” line. The opening sequence of the film is one of the greatest film and character intros that I can think of. Soooo good.

Anina

A cute, adorable family friendly film about identity. Clever and beautiful animation. Loved the style.

 

BOOKS

Coleridge: Early Visions, Richard Holmes

A well-written look into Coleridge’s early life. Did a nice job of bringing Coleridge’s voice to life by incorporating a lot of his writings into the narrative. Well done.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Intriguing premise and a thoroughly enjoyable read. A bit convoluted for some probably, but I read it straight through in a manner of hours.

Wordsworth and the Victorians

Another Stephen Gill masterpiece. Loved this. Some may find his style stuffy and overly academic, but the detail and strength of the insights provided make it all worth it for me. Also, fascinating look at how Wordsworth was appropriated by the Victorians and incorporated into every day discourse.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

One of the best books I’ve read in a looooong time. It’s a beast to get through, but absolutely delightful. Harry Potter mixed with Jane Austen. A historical fantasy set in an alternative nineteenth century England. Also, the snark of the author evident in the footnotes is so delightful. Read it. Right now.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

Interesting, some powerful ideological/philosophical bits, yet not super powerful emotionally—seemed a bit deadened and I struggled to buy into the Dorrigo/Amy relationship—however there was one beautiful scene that moved me to tears—when the dudes have totally wrecked the fish and chips’ place window (Nikitaris’s Fish Shop), then go back to pay up and start chatting with the owner, who then refuses to take their money and simply eats/drinks/bonds with them over the war, since he lost a son. “Everything was strange and welcoming at the same time” (299).

The Martian

Very engaging. Quick read, paced incredibly well. Easy to consume, nothing super brilliant here, but worth checking out.

The Skeleton in my Closet Wears a Wedding Dress

Ugh. Poorly written with some frustrating ideas about Mormonism perpetuated. Some friends go into depth on a podcast of theirs (I guest-hosted on Episode 17, you can check them all out here, if you’re into that).

Tuesdays With Morrie

Not my scene. Too saccharine for me. The intensely quotable nature of every single thing that comes out of Morrie’s mouth just caused me to envision vinyl lettering all over a cutesy wall. The prose is really pared down and conversational, which worked for the piece, but lacks the beauty that I long for in what I read.

 

 

Past Installments here: Part One, Part TwoPart Three, and Part Four.

 

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