Some Recent Films

I’ve been most remiss about noting recent films that I’ve seen on this blog – if only to serve as a contemporaneous record for myself as to what I thought of various films.
But before I begin, can I just say that it really can’t be healthy that I’ve had to tell people off twice in the last three visits for using their mobiles or Blackberrys in the cinema. I’m not talking about making calls or actually answering a phone they forgot to switch off or turn to silent. I mean people texting other people, checking their email, Twitter or whatever.
Well if you end up in the cinema with my, and your LED lit device is waved around by you, then be warned – I will ask you to switch it off. It’s curious that at various screenings security strictly monitors whether I might be surreptitiously recording a film with the camera on my phone, but I’ve never seen cinema security asking somebody to switch off their phone.
Seriously – if you’re not really interested in the film you’ve paid to see, why bother going at all. The cinema is not the same as your home where you can do what you like.
You wouldn’t like it if I waved around a torch. I don’t like you using your mobile.
Anyway, back to the films:
Public Enemies is a fairly decent return to form for Michael Mann after Miami Vice which was just a little bit too moody. Here we’re on safer ground with a decent gangster film. Johnny Depp is good as Dillinger, and Christian Bale didn’t annoy me too much as Purvis, the FBI agent Hoover puts in charge of his manhunt. Marion Cotillard didn’t have enough to do until towards the end. And it was good to see lots of familiar faces from Brotherhood and The Wire filling out some of the roles. Overall a very fine film, and the music was terrific. I thought I recognised the night club singer, and of course it was Diana Krall.
The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was Mann’s use of video as a shooting medium. It felt very strange – especially in a period piece. I think the only time it really worked was during a fight out scene when along with his shooting style, it suddenly felt very visceral. At other times it just drew attention to itself – particularly in low lighting conditions where video really struggles and it suddenly became quite grainy. While it worked very well for Collateral, I’m not at all sure it was so successful here.
When I went to a preview screening of Bruno (or should that be Brüno?) a couple of weeks ago, everyone in the auditorium was forced to sign an embargo promising not to publish anything on the film until the Monday just gone. Also included in the embargo, by name, were blogs, Facebook and Twitter! Anyway, with the film hitting cinemas tomorrow, I’m not “allowed” to say what I think about it.
It’s true to say that I laughed quite a bit. I never saw Borat, because I had mixed feelings about the use of the character and what people were being told. In particular, I was uncomfortable about what I knew were early scenes filmed in Romania where people weren’t quite told what was going on. I did see a documentary on BBC Four called When Borat Came To Town, and although that showed some money grubbing lawyers just trying to get some cash from the film producers, the whole enterprise still felt uncomfortable.
Bruno was going to be looking at the fashion industry – at least I thought it was. And I felt a lot more happy with that industry being targeted. In fact, very quickly Baron Cohen is “busted” and he moves on from the European catwalks to the US where his character wants to become famous.
There’s a sort of narrative to this film, but it’s really been put together in the editing suite. It’s clear that director Larry Charles and company have basically shot lots of material all over the place, employing the same techniques that Baron Cohen has been using since the 11 O’Clock Show and even earlier on Paramount Comedy Channel. Sometimes it’ll work; and sometimes it won’t. It doesn’t matter – just keep going until you have eighty odd minutes of footage carefully edited together. It’s pretty cheap to make, and the rewards and high.
This is a pretty crude film. As I say, I’ve not seen Borat so I can’t compare it, although people I saw it with said it was ruder and cruder than that film. I’m not sure it’s joking at the expense of homosexuals, and in many cases it’s more a case of targeting the bigoted. But some earlier scenes are a little uncomfortable.
That said, the single most uncomfortable scene involves a US TV reality star and some nonsense about Britney Spears’ sister. We’ll leave it there – but I thought that it was bit poor. Another scene involving La Toya Jackson may well have been snipped out of the film that goes on general release given subsequent events – I’m not sure.
What’s also clear is that in some cases, certain people have been primed and set-up. We’re not told which, but the presence of cameras from multiple angles makes it clear it’s not quite what we’re being (or not being) told. In particular, a particular character at a swingers’ party was surely sent in by producers.
There are “brave” elements – in particular an ultimate fighting style scene at the end of the film where, while there are obviously security in attendance, there was a danger to the actors.
So I laughed. It’s crude. Would I recommend it? Probably not. I think Baron Cohen can do better and it doesn’t need to be a race to the bottom. Ali G showed that he could be smarter (not that the resulting film with that character did anything to help).
I really loved Little Miss Sunshine, and Sunshine Cleaning comes from the same stable. It has no link with the previous film, and frankly the name “Sunshine” has been shoe-horned into the film. It could probably be safely removed and then we wouldn’t make comparisons.
I enjoyed this film, although it’s not as funny as its predecessor. But I can’t say I totally loved it.
The main problem – and I’m not sure why – was that the plot seems to have been put together with a formula from one of those Robert McKee courses (and I say that never having read his book or been on his course). What I mean is that there are very obvious acts. Setup. Hero does well. Hero has a set back. And so on. It’s just too formulaic. And the ending feels very rushed.
That all said, the performances are terrific – especially from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.
Finally a word on the utterly wonderful Let The Right One In. This is a vampire film, but it’s so much better than you might think that makes it. The performances from a young cast are superb. The 1970s setting is as real as anything I’ve seen since the somewhat more harrowing Breaking The Waves.
Anyway, see this film ahead of all the others I’ve talked about here – assuming it’s still on in cinemas. Otherwise, pre-order the DVD.
Now I must try writing about really good films when they’re still on in the cinemas in future!