This year was no exception.
Saturday December 22nd we strolled in and watched new Tom Cruise vehicle, Jack Reacher.
1) Action Cruise tends to be good Cruise and
2) Werner herzog as a Bond style villain with a comically milky eye.
Apart from those things I had fairly low expectations and they were further lowered when I was set upon on Twitter and told that it was a load of old rubbish and I should avoid it.
Well I'll tell you the problem with Jack Reacher the movie and no, Lee Child purists, it has nothing to do with Tom Cruise's height you bunch of negative whiny bitches. The problem with Jack Reacher the movie was the marketing. As always marketing companies (who should really change their name to mismarketing companies or talentless hacks, they can take their pick) have fouled this up and advertised it as a relatively dumb action film. This is to do the film a disservice as it has a clever witty script, it trundles along at a decent pace, the performances are excellent and it's a good old fashioned pulpy, unpretentious, wise-crakin', ass-whuppin' good time of a conspiracy thriller.
It has a twisty-turny-yet-fairly-obvious-if-you-know-how-these-things-go type story to tell and it gets in and out with no fuss. The action is good, clear, tight and to the point too with a great finale that manages to amuse, thrill and surprise in a satisfying way.
In the shadow of the events recently in Connecticut it's a little tricky in parts because it does fall squarely on the side of the right wing where guns are concerned but, to be fair, that is hardwired into its western style, dime novel sensibility.
Lastly the casting of Werner Herzog is a stroke of sheer genius, every word he utters (and that's not a lot as he doesn't have nearly enough scenes) is the sort of nonsensical yet deep sounding babble that drips from the Bavarian's lips as easy as if he were reading a shopping list. It's an absolute wonder to behold and, actually, a little went a long way where he was concerned, any more and it would've veered into really questionable and confusing Bond style villain antics and that would've derailed the simplicity and succinctness with which Christopher McQuarrie told the story.
The wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this, sorry if you didn't that is a real shame because this movie is fun, aware of its cliches but written well enough to not over play them.
8 out of 10
Next up was This is 40 on Dec 24th
Ok, let's get started. I have a love hate relationship with Judd Apatow. I love that he has made possible some really great comedy films and that without him comedy in the last 10 years might have been just whatever Tyler Perry finds funny this week but I hate Judd Apatow because of his clear belief that, in his own directed films at least, that he is some Woody Allen like exposer of deep truths and a witty commentator on the silly little flaws of human nature. I also hate him because he seems to think showing naked bits of people that are usually, thankfully covered up is somehow hilarious and daring... oh and he produces that shitfest of incessantly pointless whiny drivel and mind numbingly shallow pile of arse 'Girls'... oh and he puts his famous musician friends in movies... oh and he needs someone to tell him to fucking stop once in a while.
Lets make something clear, hardly any film needs to be over 2hrs long and certainly not a comedy. OK. There are only a handful of stories in the world and the art form of film used to have a 90min standard because it worked. If you can't tell your story in a three act structure over the course of 90 minutes then you really shouldn't be working in film. You want to ramble? write a book, do a podcast anything but make a movie, let alone a comedy movie that is LITERALLY ABOUT NOTHING.
Are there exceptions to the 90min rule? sure - plenty.
Is there wiggle room where a movie at 105mins or even 120mins can be good or better? of course
Can you name a time you laughed for longer than 90mins? Probably not very frequently and certainly not at this Crate & Barrel catalogue looking mound of beige whining arse.
In fact John Cleese, the far too psychologically minded member of Monty Python, once said that, on average, people can laugh happily for around 40 minutes and after that there better be some plot, action or emotion going on to maintain momentum into the third act. The easiest example of this is Four Weddings and a Funeral because you laugh at the first three weddings, then there's the quiet bit where you are a little sad at the funeral, then end strong with a big, funny ending that ties all the story-lines together.
The trouble with 'This Is 40' is actually not that it isn't funny, it's actually, in places, very funny and when it comes to actual funny lines it is funnier than Apatow's previous effort 'Funny People' but the problem is it's not about anything.
The movie starts and two very annoying, idiotic, pretty people who live in a wonderful home, spend money like it's going out of style and with two daughters who are far cleverer and less annoying than them, have two Dads both of whom fucked up their first marriage and are now living with second families with varying degrees of success. When the movie ends this is all still true, except that Leslie Mann's Dad, played by John Lithgow, is a little more sympathetic and that's it. Nothing is learnt, nothing has changed and no one has said to these two whiny, whingey, stupid people "Shut the fuck up and sort yourselves out!"
The performances are fine too, although Leslie Mann, because of her high pitched nasaly voice, gets to points in this film where I could've quite easily beaten her to death with a shovel but all round there's nothing really bad about the way it's acted or shot.
It's just we're talking about a film where two people, because of their woeful communication, utter inability to manage their money and staggering lack of personal awareness and insight decide that selling their beautiful home is the solution to their problems rather than, I don't know, not spending $12,000 on flying a band no one has ever heard of ever to play in a tiny bar, not spending $10,000 on a catered Birthday party and suing the pilled-up, drippy girl who just robbed them of another $10,000.
I don't care about any of the people in this film and if the ending was that they were all mowed down by a hail of machine gun bullets from the arseholes of 8ft robot destroyers it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest and, at least, it would've been an ending.
4 out of 10
Lastly, Django Unchained on Dec 25th
Then came Django Unchained. I have seen the original, Franco Nero starring, film which is an ambiguous, rambling, strange, pulp, cult spaghetti western and like it, for what it is.
So, there, a few sentences and you understand where I am coming from and can probably see I didn't enter the screening tonight with anything more than a glimmer of hope.
Well after what felt like 5hrs but was really, a still ludicrous, 2hrs 45mins later I left the cinema utterly frustrated because while half of me wants to scream, shout, break things and write Tarantino off completely as a tired, old, unoriginal, repetitive, long winded, self congratulatory, masturbatory hack, the other half of me found a lot to enjoy in this saga of a film.
Whichever way you slice it though, it's TOO DAMN LONG. It's not one film, it's about eight and like all of Tarantino's stuff it's ever so pleased with itself and the way it sounds. For the first 3 films Christoph Waltz wanders around with a case of, sometimes amusing but mostly incessant, verbal diarrhea and in the second 5 films he is joined in his eloquent verbiage by Leonardo DiCaprio. They both swan about spewing out endless dialogue for ages and ages and ages.
Then, after all the talk, there's lots of shooting and blood letting, just like there was at the end of the previous 7 films that make up Django Unchained and also at the end of Inglorious Basterds because, in the absence of plot or momentum, violence will do.
I felt like I was actually living the year that this film takes place in, every single day of it, every moment.
I firmly believe that Tarantino is so surrounded by sycophantic dribbling nerds in his infamous screening room in LA that no one has the balls to read one of his scripts and say to him "MAKE IT SHORTER" and no the answer, in this case, just like it wasn't for Kill Bill and isn't for the Hobbit, is not to make this two films, three films, eight films, whatever. It's to have an editor or a script doctor go over his work and tear vast useless chunks out of it and then say "there... go make that movie"
So enthralled is he with his own repetitive, obvious and not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is dialogue that he believes every word must be left in, clearly! because, if not, explain to me how a fairly run of the mill rescue and revenge film takes almost 3hrs to finish.
Ok, so enough about the bloated running time, what about the whole 'making Django African American' thing, well considering the time period this film is set in (2 years before the civil war) it's an absolutely brilliant idea if he hadn't already done the same thing with the far superior Jackie Brown. Also, before everyone goes and gets confused, thinking that Django somehow has some big important statement to make about racism, slavery, hatred etc. it doesn't.
Honestly, it really doesn't.
I don't know about you but I didn't need 2hrs 45mins of N words and racist violence from Quentin Tarantino to know that slavery was wrong and despicable. Ok?
This is how the conversation went at Tarantino towers:
"The original Django is set just after the civil war and this is going to be a prequel. Well, you know how I like black people and am best friends with Samuel L Jackson? how about Django is black and we set it before the civil war... am I a genius or what"
That's it people, seriously.
If the film was more serious then I would completely take your point but, and I hate to sound like Spike Lee because he's an over reactionary idiot who needs to get over himself, sitting watching the film is a bit like watching a white guy relish getting away with a ton of harsh racist slurs and referencing things like Mandingo fighting while patting himself on that back for being oh-so-clever.
And on that subject, Tarantino, just because you know one German opera does not make you a cultural scholar, ok?! especially when you have so little faith in your own audiences intelligence that you spell out EXACTLY your incredibly obvious plot references.
Lastly, and then I'll get on to some good stuff about the film, Tarantino needs to pick: either you're making an exploitation film or you are making an epic western with a serious message. Never before have a mix of genres and styles from someone who is supposedly a master at it, been so all over the place.
Man it was a frustrating vast chunk of my time I will never get back.
On the good side the acting is showboaty but entertaining, the script has some genuinely funny and exciting moments and the direction, when he can be bothered, is decent. His use of titling and soundtrack however, is, by now, completely tedious and irritating.
The exploitation elements are fantastic, the gore is excessive, the gun play enjoyable and the odd comic asides, like a scene where early Klan members dispute their poorly made eyeholes in their hoods, are genuinely surprising and funny but would be perfect if included in an exploitation film length film.
Despite the length there was enough going on to keep me watching but it felt like plowing through a miniseries on a Sunday afternoon rather than watching a film. The cinematography was pleasing and there was some interesting use of the camera but if I am honest, I am struggling to come up with lots of really positive things about it.
We all know that Tarantino rips off other films but when he starts ripping himself off (the exploitation violence and Tarantino cameo of Resevoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, the African American switch from Jackie Brown, the epic length and revenge plot from Kill Bill, the shoot everything ending from Inglorious Basterds - shall I go on) it's maybe time someone call him on his bullshit.
All I can say is, despite how this review sounds, I didn't hate it and the things that are wrong with it come completely from Tarantino (and others) believing that his shit doesn't stink. There is a GREAT film in there screaming, kicking, clawing and endlessly nattering trying to get out but until he either gets an editor or someone cuts him down a peg or two, he's not going to make one again it seems.
As to whether I will ever watch another QT film in the cinema (I have seen every single one since Pulp Fiction) well when the next one comes out, if it's below 2hrs long then I'll think about it.
5 out of 10