Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Month in Review: November

For a number of reasons that I'd rather not go into I'm glad November is over, but like most months many good films were watched and re-watched. In fact my watch/re-watch ratio was about half and a half which I'm very satisfied with as I have enough to warrant a diverse 'Top Ten' picks and something extra. November also sadly brought on the passing of a much respected veteran actor who I will acknowledge at the end of this post, so be sure to read to the very end! But on a lighter note I'm sure we're all glad that December is now here which means to it's time to break out the Christmas movies. For me that will include a sixth consecutive viewing of the much loved classic It's a Wonderful Life. Happy Holidays! 

Great Balls of Fire (1989) – 01/11/14 ★★★1/2
A high energy music theme biopic about an immensely talented but flawed musician who was plagued by controversy during his sudden rise to fame. The film celebrates the seductive side of rock n' roll of the 1950s and how it was met with equal praise and criticism.

Ed Wood (1994) – 01/11/14 ★★★★★
A touching and enthusiastic tribute to a filmmaker who's relentless passion for making movies overshadowed their obvious poor quality. Also highlighted is the individual's unprejudiced and kind hearted nature, giving others a chance at fame despite their rejection from mainstream show businesses.

Big Fish (2003) – 02/11/14 ★★★★1/2 
The magical art of cinematic storytelling is beautify shown in this touching story of one man's extraordinary life that blurs the divide between truth and fiction with an uplifting message of immortality through lasting memories and tall tales.

The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr (1996) – 02/11/14 ★★★★
An interesting and fascinating documentary presented in a bizarre and unconventional style that features many candid interviews with former members of Ed Wood's entourage of unique individuals. The often contradicting stories makes it difficult in drawing a conclusion on the character of the obscure film-maker. 

The Club (1980) – 03/11/14 ★★★★1/2  
A mildly comedic observation of the boardroom politics and on-field dramas of an Australian Rules football club featuring colourful characters all with separate agendas and views on the game and club they're supposedly loyal to. The exceptional writing caters to a wide audience not just fans of the much loved national sport.    

The Seven-Ups – 04/11/14 ★★★★
In the wake of The French Connection this lesser known crime drama holds firm with a cleverly interwoven plot that keeps audiences guessing while proving plenty of thrills including one of the most impressive and exhilarating car chase scenes ever put to film. 

Interstellar (2014) – 06/11/14 ★★★1/2 
This very ambitious science-fiction adventure impresses with incredible mind bending visuals while striving for scientific accuracy and realism. The philosophical theme offers many thought provoking sequences although the plot becomes unnecessarily confusing during the final act.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle – 05/11/14 ★★★★
This bitter-sweet inner city crime piece explores the day to day life of working class criminals, brilliantly showing their often fragile existence through insecurity and the natural wave of change. Robert Mitchum gives a raw performance as the aging gangster, symbolising the film's central theme.

The Yakuza (1974) – 07/11/14 ★★★★
In what is a poignant homage to 1940s cinema, personal values and traditions are upheld by three individuals who are bound by moral obligation while resistant and unphased by cultural change. Beautiful cinematography emphasises the contrast between old and new along with the recurring theme of mortality.

Save the Tiger (1973) – 09/11/14 ★★★★1/2
The despair of middle age disillusionment is realistically expressed by an individual through constant reminiscing of a bygone era which evokes mixed feelings of sympathy and nostalgia amongst viewers regardless of age. Symbolising a decline in morals and values throughout a rapidly changing society, our protagonist feels increasing out of step and alienated.

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (2004) – 11/11/14 ★★★1/2
An in depth documentary about the senseless criminal acts conducted by a specific group of fanatics during the height of the anti-establishment movement. Candid interviews from numerous individuals involved along with an impressive amount of stock and archival footage firmly places the viewer in the middle of increasingly bizarre story which will no doubt aggressively divide opinion.

The Other (1972) - 11/11/14 ★★★1/2
An equally haunting and mysterious psychological thriller about the torment of grief and the loss of a loved one. Less conventional than many films involving 'troubled children' as it offers a realistic explanation rather than resorting to one of a supernatural nature. Striking camera work and a picturesque setting add a very homely tone.

The Odd Couple (1968) – 13/11/14 ★★★★1/2
A relentlessly funny and well executed comedy that revolves around conflicting lifestyles and ideas, featuring two main players with dynamic and energetic chemistry. Neil Simon's script brings a level of genuine emotion about coping with unexpected change in addition to the many laughs and memorable lines for the numerous characters.

Primal Fear (1996) – 14/11/14 ★★★★
During a decade where crime thrillers were all the rage, Primal Fear stands out due to its unique and unconventional plot. A morally conflicted protagonist as the film's star along with then up and comer, Edward Norton make for compelling viewing as their interactions plunge the viewer deeper into the multi layered story.

Big Bad Wolves (2013) – 16/11/14 ★★★★1/2
An exceptional foreign language thriller that offers a unique viewing experience by cleverly balancing a mix of dark humour and extreme acts of violence. Symbolism and a recurring Grimm fairy-tale motif adds to the film's surreal quality making for highly sensory, edge of your seat cinema.   

The Man Who Too Little (1997) – 17/11/14 ★★★1/2
A mostly forgotten comedic gem with a hilarious off the wall premise that creates an element of unpredictability which keeps the laugh consistent. The over the top performances combined with the film's odd-ball and slapstick humour are a sweet reminder of comedy cinema from past decades.

Se7en (1995) – 18/11/14 ★★★★1/2
The dark side of society is explored in graphic detail through the questionable acts and warped logic of a most ambiguous antagonist. A constant religious motif relates to all involved creating a sense of great moral confliction. Disturbing imagery in addition to an unpredictable plot make it a staple and popular title in the crime thriller genre.

Dazed and Confused (1993) – 20/11/14 ★★★★
A celebratory portrayal of 1970s youth culture through music, fashion and attitude which takes place on the eve of a new social chapter in the numerous stages of adolescents. The carefree existent shared amongst the characters creates a longing for a simpler time. Viewers will have fun picking out the then young up and coming actors.

Salon Kitty (1976) – 22/11/14 ★★1/2
An interesting portrait of the depraved and obsessive nature of the Third Reich displayed through an elaborate plot to weed out undesirables, which present moral dilemmas and opposing viewpoints that are cleverly expressed through the various characters. While it's a genre of film I don't normal watch, the cinematography and direction must be admired.

The Hunter – 22/11/14 ★★★★1/2 
A highly symbolic piece which echoes themes of natural preservation and adversity. The indescribably beautiful Tasmanian wilderness is utilised to emphasise the importance of life as well as cleverly reflecting the changing tone of the story. Naturalistic performances adds to the film's realistic quality.   

The Wicker Man (1973) – 23/11/14 ★★★1/2 
Bizarre imagery, behaviour and a highly sexualized nature makes for a truly surreal and unsettling cinema-going experience. In what is a sinister journey through a self-isolated community living under their own set of twisted beliefs, our morally bound protagonist finds strength through conviction despite the growing danger.

Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) - 24/11/14 ★★★1/2 
A highly imaginative fantasy adventure that will appeal to viewers both young and old. Despite the film's age it holds up well due to its fast place plot, two very likeable child characters and creative use of simplistic special effects that still manage to impress.

Return from Witch Mountain (1978) – 24/11/14 ★★★1/2 
An exciting fun-filled follow up which is easily on par with the original. The elaborate plot in addition to a most sinister and brilliant antagonist played by Christopher Lee are the film's strongest elements. Like its predecessor simple special effects are used to great effect and hold up reasonably well by today's standards.    

Moneyball (2011) 25/11/14 - ★★★★
The burden of a great financial disadvantage within a struggling major league baseball team is portrayed with great emotion amongst players and management. Traditions and methods are challenged in what is an inspiring story about giving those who are deemed undervalued by the system a second chance to fulfil their potential as professional athletes.

Moon (2009) 26/11/14 - ★★★★1/2
Proof that films don't require a big budget to make a lasting impact on viewers. In what is a compelling story of isolation, solitude and the value of a person's life, the remote setting allows the audience to sympathise and understand the protagonist on a very intimate level. True a defining film's in Sam Rockwell's career.

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) 27/11/14 - ★★★★
A harrowing piece portraying in disturbing detail the plight of countless aboriginal communities during a shameful chapter in Australian history.  Opposing viewpoints are explored which give a strong sense of the time period, however the delusional and narrow mined mentality of 1930s white society are stressed throughout the film.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – 29/11/14 ★★★★1/2
This highly comedic cross country journey wonderfully captures the holiday spirit with all its chaos, unpredictability and human kindness. Our two leads play well off each other while embodying the reluctance of accepting help from strangers despite conflicting personalities. The film’s timeless quality and popularity warrants repeat viewings.    

Romper Stomper (1992) – 30/11/14 ★★★1/2 
The senseless and violent acts of a band of Neo-Nazis in a culturally diverse suburb of North-West Melbourne are shown in relentless and confronting fashion. Overall the film has a very aggressive and hateful tone which highlights the twisted logic and motivate behind these individuals.  

Top Ten Picks:

1. Big Bad Wolves (2013)
2. Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)
3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
4. The Seven-Ups (1973)
5. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
6. The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)
7. Interstellar (2014)
8. Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (2004)
9. The Other (1972)
10. Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Top Five (Re-Watched)

1. Ed Wood (1994)
2. The Odd Couple (1968)
3. Save the Tiger (1973)
4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
5. Big Fish (2003)

R.I.P Ken Takakura (1931-2014)
Just three days after revisiting The Yakuza, I was shocked to learn of the passing of Japanese actor Ken Takakura. Often refereed to as Japan's Clint Eastwood he carried great on screen presence, his discipline nature and body language compensated his lack of expression which further enhanced his fierce intensity. He was one of a kind and will no doubt be truly missed. 

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