My Fortnight in Film, 2016 Weeks 43 & 44

It’s been another two weeks since the last update, and in that time I’ve watched the entire first series of The Night Of, so here’s my (spoiler-free) thoughts on it.
the-night-ofIf you’re not familiar, The Night Of sees Naz (Riz Ahmed), a generally decent, awkward kid who borrows his Dad’s taxi one night to go to a party in the city, but ends up picking up a fare in the form of Sofia Black-D’Elia’s Andrea, heading back to her home, doing some drugs, getting drunk, playing the knife game from Aliens and waking up in the morning to find her stabbed to death 22 times. In a disoriented panic, Naz flees the scene, but in the most incriminating manner possible, ends up accidentally getting caught and things get worse from there. The series covers his trial, with his lawyer (John Turturro) attempting to coach Naz and find out what happened on the night, and whether anyone else could have possibly committed the crime, whereas the police (led by Bill Camp’s Detective Box) see the orgy of evidence in front of them and understandably assume Naz is guilty. Meanwhile, Naz and his family try to cope with the ordeal, with Naz attempting to survive in prison under the wing of Freddy (Michael K Williams) and Naz’s parents struggling to get by outside, with the taxi impounded as evidence and the shame of their son’s arrest hanging over the family. I loved the opening episode, especially the look-through-your-fingers car crash TV that is Naz doing everything as perfectly wrong as he could, and the cranking of tension as he sits as yet undiscovered in the police station, and was genuinely intrigued for the first few episodes. However around about halfway through the season the character of Naz takes an abrupt and jarring change that felt necessary for his situation, but entirely too sudden. Ahmed is terrific though, someone I’d only previously seen in Nightcrawler, and I’m now looking forward to Rogue One a little bit more due to his involvement. I think a bit too much time was spent on Turturro’s skin issues – his character has fairly serious eczema and allergies – given they don’t pay off a great deal with the overall plot, simply adding background flavour to his character and why at times he is more nervous, stressed or out=of-place than others. Finally, I was a little disappointed with how the finale turned out. Some very relevant aspects were only introduced in the final episode, so it would have been impossible to make any kind of prediction as to who the eventual culprit was, and it was all lacking in the last couple of degrees of closure, so whilst it wasn’t exactly unsatisfying, I could have done with just a little bit more. Still, I was gripped throughout the show, and apparently a second season has been commissioned, so I look forward to it.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been watching recently week movie-wise:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
night-of-the-living-deadGuess what the latest franchise we covered on the Lambcast is?
Lists: 2015 Movies, 2016 Movies, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500
Full review coming soon.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
dawn-of-the-deadYep, here’s the next one.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Total Film Top 100
Full review coming soon.

The Martian (2015)
martianI think this may be one of those films that I love every time I see it. This was my third viewing, and I still found it immensely enjoyable. As far as I’m concerned, DiCaprio robbed Matt Damon of his Oscar this year. Also, after spending two weeks in China when I cam home pretty much every sentence I started began with the phrase “When I was in China…” for about three weeks. How long do you think Damon’s Mark Watney would start everything he said with the phrase “When I was on Mars…”?
Lists: None
Choose Film 9/10

Day of the Dead (1985)
day-of-the-deadHere’s the third one. These first three are all on other review-required lists, so I’m hoping to have write-ups done soon. Knowing me track record though you’re likely to see them some time in the spring.
Lists: Empire’s 5-Star 500
Full review coming “soon”.

Land of the Dead (2005)
land-of-the-deadUnsurprisingly Land of the Dead isn’t on any of my lists, so you get a mini review here instead. The world has been over-run with zombies for a long time now, but there are relatively safe areas, such as the luxury skyscraper Fiddler’s Green and the surrounding slums/ Fiddler’s Green is a haven for the wealthy, run by Dennis Hopper’s Kaufman, who uses some of the poorer folk – like Simon Baker’s Riley and John Leguizamo’s Cholo – to supply him with luxuries and keep everyone safe from the hordes outside. When Cholo is denied somewhere to live in the Green, he steals Kaufman’s high-tech zombie-proof vehicle, and Riley – who designed it – is sent after him. Meanwhile, the zombies appear to be evolving, and don’t like how the surviving humans are treating their kind. Of all Romero’s zombie films, this is the least subtle when it comes to the portrayal of the us-and-them class divide, which has always been at least partially present in the earlier films, but here is very much text instead of subtext. I also find it quite a dull film with characters I can’t really latch onto, mainly because very few of them have anything approaching any kind of depth, especially Asia Argento as a generic sort-of love interest for Riley, who doesn’t get a whole lot else to do. There’s not even that much zombie action. I appreciate the world-building of this zombie-filled land and how humanity has approached a world where the undead have risen – using them as target practice, putting them in caged fighting matches, that sort of thing – but I can’t see any reason to recommend this.
Lists: None
Choose Life 5/10

Diary of the Dead (2007)
diary-of-the-deadWhilst the Lambcast primarily looked at the first four of the franchise, we also touched on the last two, Diary and Survival of the Dead. I didn’t get around to seeing Survival because I’ve heard it’s awful, but I tried to refresh myself with Diary of the Dead, but had to abandon it not that long into it, because it’s terrible. It’s a found footage film, but one that’s been edited together after the fact from various sources and overlayed with a score, all of which I find frustrating. Also the characters are pretty much all incredibly annoying, you get the best moment very early on (a zombie makes a particularly disgusting encounter with a defibrillator) and I’m pretty sure every minute of the film I saw had some part of the “Why are you still filming this?” conversation rife amongst the worst found footage films.
Lists: None
Choose Life 2/10

The Danish Girl (2015)
danish-girlEddie Redmayne was Oscar-nominated for his role as Einar Wegener, a landscape artist who, after modelling for his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) eventually came to the realisation that he would rather live life as a woman, and would go on to become one of the first recipients of gender-reassignment surgery. As stories go it could be an interesting one, but Tom Hooper’s film seems more focused on the performances of his two leads than anything else, and whilst Vikander is incredible – she won Best Supporting Actress, which is a crime because she’s possibly in the film more than Redmayne is – Redmayne at times left a little to be desired, and I often couldn’t fully get behind his performance. Everything looked stunning and if I could appreciate a good dress then I’m sure I’d describe the outfits as such, but story-wise this moves painfully slowly.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 6/10

Green Room (2016)
green-roomI’ve heard nothing but good things about Jeremy Saulnier and his films, particularly Blue Ruin, which I’ve still not seen, so I eagerly looked forward to catching up with Green Room. I had half a sick day on Tuesday this week, so spent the afternoon on the sofa making terrible choices of films to drift in and out of, and this was one of those. It’s probably not a great idea to pick something so sporadically violent as this in terms of entertainment when you’re feeling under the weather. A penniless punk band picks up a gig at a skinhead bar, where they make the mistake of opening with the Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off. After the show, one of their number accidentally witnesses a murder before they all leave, and the band, along with the dead girl’s friend, become holed up in the green room with a bouncer and no way to escape. It could have been my virus-induced state but I couldn’t get on board with the film. It lacked tension or any kind of depth, and most of the characters were whiny and annoying. Patrick Stewart shows up as the club’s owner, and it’s always fun seeing him do something different, but still this all felt quite messy and poorly paced. I’ve heard Blue Ruin is considerably better, so I’ll still check that out some time, but I was disappointed with this, and found some scenes to be unexpectedly gory.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 6/10

Anomalisa (2015)
anomalisaProbably another poor choice for a sick afternoon was Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animation drama about a man, Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), visiting Cincinnati for the day to speak at a public relations seminar. To him, everyone has the same face and voice (Tom Noonan), even an old flame he meets with. By accident he runs into a couple of fans and one of them, Lisa, looks and sounds different to everyone else (she is voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh), something Michael cannot ignore. It’s a fantastic film, expertly made and executed, but it was perhaps just a little slow and introspective for what I needed in my phlegm-filled stupor. I initially found the stop-motion angle to be some kind of gimmick, especially given the character design, where the gaps between body and face parts are clearly visible, but there are certain elements that could not by adequately achieved were this live action, such as the supporting cast all having the same face, and parts of a dream sequence that are right out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’m not sure Anomalisa really stuck the landing, but I enjoyed the journey.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10

A Hologram For The King (2016)
hologramTom Hanks plays a salesman for an electronics company, tasked with visiting Saudi Arabia to sell hologram equipment to the king for a massive new development, but is beset by a multitude of obstacles, the least of which is the person he’s supposed to be meeting with is never actually there. Surprisingly directed by Tom Tykwer, this mash-up of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen offered little opportunity for his usual fondness for innovative film-making techniques and effects, save for a drunken emailing session and an anxiety attack sequence. It’s an overall pleasant film, but it feels overly edited – some characters and plot strands peter out before getting anywhere – and unsure of what it really wants to be. Hanks, as always, is good though.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 4/10

The Boss (2016)
the-bossMelissa McCarthy does nothing for me except make me reach for the remote, but I’d heard this was better than her usual fare and, whilst that may be true, it’s still not exactly worth watching. She plays a ruthless businesswoman convicted of insider trading who, upon her release, finds no-one left willing to stand by her except for her former assistant, Kristen Bell, and Bell’s daughter. McCarthy sees an opportunity in the daughter’s girl scout-esque cookie selling mission, so sets up a rivalry brownie business, much to the chagrin of her former lover and nemesis, Peter Dinklage. The supporting roles, from Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Tyler Labine, Cecily Strong and Veep‘s Timothy Simons are all fun, but there’s a consistent lack of humour for vast stretches of the film. There are funny scenes, with a troupe-on-troupe street fight straight out of Anchorman (Will Ferrell and Adam McKay helped produce this), but alas the overall plot is bland.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 5/10

Posts you may have missed:
Lambcast #345: Podcast of the Dead: I was joined by Darren Lucas, Howard Casner, Daniel Lackey and Vern to discuss George A. Romero’s zombie franchise.
Lambcast #346: Movies That Scared Us: I was joined by Matthew Stewart, Damien Riley, Zoe Rose Smith and Audrey Fox to discuss the films that scared us the most, plus voicemail messages from other Lambcast all-stars.
October 2016 Update
Little Children
Forbidden Planet

Goals Update
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
Reviewed: 51
Should be on: 85
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Reviewed: 9
Should be on: 10
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Reviewed: 10
Should be on: 10
On Track: Yes!

Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Reviewed: 15
Should be on: 21
On Track: No!

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One thought on “My Fortnight in Film, 2016 Weeks 43 & 44

  1. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBCAST #347 DOCTOR STRANGE

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