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So far so good
Three episodes in and so far this is a well written and likable sitcom. Don't be put off by the trailer which didn't really do it justice or the fact that it's screening on the home to some of the worst crimes against TV comedy in recent years, BBC3.
The basic premise is a down on his luck uncle, recently split from his girlfriend and feeling suicidal, saved at the last minute by a call from his sister asking him to look after his nephew. Cue initial hostility followed by gradually thawing / odd couple relationship and some quite moving moments for a sitcom.
It's funny but not really laugh out loud funny that often but somehow that seems to suit its gentle, at times almost Wes Andersonesque, style.
Overall, best new sitcom I've seen in a while and well worth checking out.
Mike Leigh for Sun Readers
Firstly let's get the Mike Leigh / Nuts In May comparison out of the way. Yes, Ben Wheatley is clearly inspired by that film but there is no real similarity.
Mike Leigh creates intense characters who, however unpleasant or unlikable, can be funny and compelling due to their roots in reality and the depth of the investment of the actors. There is nothing remotely believable about any of the characters in Sightseers. It's like watching a sketch show where everything is about setting up the next comedy moment and the characters are just two dimensional props. Or like an adult carry on film where we're trying to guess the next outrageous thing the characters will do or say.
There is no attempt to understand what lies behind the deranged pair's murderous spree which oddly begins with an accidental killing of someone who seems to have been set up as a deserving victim and then abandoned to a cheap punchline. There's no emotional truth here, just a laboured attempt at clever or shock humour, most of which doesn't work very well because the characters are so poorly sketched and it's so heavy handed. I'm a fan of this style of humour when it's done well. A sitcom like Peep Show gets it right because the characters are so very well drawn that when they get put into ridiculous or surreal situations, the pay off laugh is earned. In Sightseers it all feels shallow and manipulative.
I imagine younger viewers will like this. It seems to be aimed at the adolescent male market who love ultra violence coupled with quotable one liners. It will almost certainly become a cult classic among sixth- formers. To me it just felt tired and juvenile.
Maybe I'm getting too old for this sort of thing but was drawn in by the 4 & 5 star reviews which all now seem so surprising. I'll have to take a closer look at the poster to check they weren't taken from Nuts, Zoo, The Sun etc.
This Is the End (2013)
Went into this with mixed feelings, thought it might be a bit self indulgent or full of in jokes and while at times it was probably both of those things, for the most part it was just extremely funny.
Kind of like watching a really long episode of your favourite sitcom. The true talent of the script was to very quickly set up the characters (exaggerated versions of themselves or playing up to / against their public personas) and then just give them lots of space to riff off of each other, make loads of alternating self deprecating / aggressive comments.
The humour is vicious at times but there's also a real warmth in the relationships. So it's both really funny and with that feel-good feeling you get from truly great comedies. Maybe at times it wanders to far into the realm of fantasy and it would have been nice to have the pre apocalypse scenes extended a little. I'm hoping that the Blu-Ray will have lots of deleted scenes.
So yeah, I liked it. And I went in with no expectations so I'd recommend this one to anyone. Best comedy I've seen in a long time.
Año bisiesto (2010)
A misogynistic film.
The film's basic premise; and this isn't giving too much away since it's so heavily sign posted very early on, is that a woman must suffer severe abuse at the hands of a man in order to find happiness.
Terrible film making. The way the camera lingers over scenes of torture and humiliation as if these things couldn't be illustrated in other ways.
It is very possible to portray violence and sexual abuse of women without making it exploitative - Paddy Considine did it in the horrific scenes of 'Tyrannosaur' which, while harrowing, knew where to stop and leave things to the imagination.
What really gets me about films like these is that people who know nothing of such abusive dynamics watch them and have the experience normalized. I'm sure many abusive husbands and partners will get great satisfaction seeing how their acts of violence and hate can actually help women (something they probably told themselves all along).
This is a film which sends out the wrong message about violence towards women. To come back to 'Tyrannosaur', that film is not without flaws but it at least gets the emotional response of women to abuse right. Women do not just put up with rape and torture and then suddenly get better because of some leap of insight. It may seem that way to an abuser of course which is why 'Leap Year' is the ultimate abuser's fantasy. Told from a male perspective and dwelling obsessively on the imagined nobility of female suffering.
A truly dangerous film.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Starts well, then collapses under the weight of its own self satisfaction
This is a film that looks outstanding. It has that feel of the best seventies cinema. The acting similarly is outstanding but still, a few things stop it from being the stone cold classic it could have been.
The cracks started to show when Cogan(Pitt) has his first talk with Mickey(Gandolfini). It's the latest in a long series of head to heads that play out more like acting master-classes than anything relating to the film. That scene effectively breaks the spell and reminds us that we are watching "good quality acting" combined with "a good script".
The film seems to go off the rails after this. Any charm or involvement is soon stopped by another showy scene from the director who seems more concerned with showing off his film making skills than actually making a good film.
The final thing that jars is Brad Pitt. He had the same effect on Fight Club. Pitt is too big a star for a film like this. He simply doesn't convince as the cynical cold blooded killer. Why would such a man spend that much time on his physical appearance for instance?. A more earthy, hard boiled actor could have made the character believable.
Not a bad film but overbearingly condescending at the finale (which I won't spoil here). The film that went before doesn't earn that pay off and its impact isn't felt on the screen. Which makes the end deeply unsatisfying.
Shame really as with more editing and less egos involved, this could have been so much better.
La délicatesse (2011)
A delightful French romance
This film achieves something that a heck of a lot of films, particularly romantic comedies, get wrong.
It captures that feeling of two people messily entering into a relationship. The initial joys and awkwardness. The moments of fright when it all seems overwhelming. The calm reflective times and the stormy moments of doubt.
After a shaky start, the film blossoms into a refreshingly cliché free study of a beautiful woman impulsively starting a relationship with a shy, ungainly, but good natured man. It's his goodness that comes through. He wins out over the slick womanisers through sheer innocent charm and a desire to do good.
A heart warming film about the need to love fearlessly and without following the crowd and of taking happiness where it's found.
Dredd as it should be done.
The first thing that strikes you about this film is that there are no gradual set ups, no back story, no over explaining. It's straight in with the violent action and anybody unfamiliar with the character will pick it up soon enough.
The film has none of the Hollywood sheen that ruined the first film and is closer to the darkest Dredd stories with only brief glimpses of humour. It works extremely well. The budget isn't huge and this helps add a grungy dark atmosphere to the film. 3D effects aren't overly intrusive and add some nice touches here and there.
This is a tight and well made action film. I only hope it will be a box office hit and there will be sequels exploring Mega City One and other characters in the future.