Hello friends! I am going to start counting down my favorite films of this year! As of now, they're unnumbered as I still have a few movies to see, but we'll be starting nice and slowly. So, read, comment, and enjoy!
While it isn’t Sacha Baron Cohen’s best film, The Dictator is a super playful, equally clever and idiotic comedy that highlights the magic wonder of improvisational humor. The cast is filled to the brim with some of the best comedic actors today, such as Jason Mantzoukas, Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly, Anna Faris, Seth Morris, Kathryn Hahn, Ian Roberts, JB Smoove, Kevin Corrigan, Chris Gethard, and many more, who all manage to hold their own in swift, clever strides. Of course, Cohen holds his own, impressively so, and does well as the loveable idiot/asshole as he normally does. Sure, this isn’t the most high-brow, intelligent comedy to come out, but you can get a lot out of the Dictator if you aren’t expecting too much. By that, I mean just enjoy it for what it is! It’s a simple comedy full of very funny people being very funny. And for the record, the satire that kicks in near the end is actually very funny and well done, much like a lot of the comedic set pieces throughout the film, for which The Dictator definitely praiseworthy.
MEN IN BLACK 3!
I adore the Men in Black films. As a child, according to my mom and our broken VCR player, I would constantly rewind and watch Men in Black, with my eyes glued to the screen (which explains my poor eye sight.) Even today, Men in Black, and even Men in Black 2 (not amazing, but totally does suffice) hold up quite well. I’m glad to say that Men in Black 3 does its deed well, and stands tall as a worthy part of the series. Barry Sonnenfeld’s visual direction still contains a fun amount of style, and doesn’t overstep itself. His push with this film is very much in the direction of fun, and he succeeds in pulling that tone off, especially with a very interesting story driving the universe. Thankfully, he has a really strong cast help carry the film from all corners. Will Smith does what Will Smith does, and that’s enjoyable for those who like it. Tommy Lee Jones does fine for his small portion he has in the film, and Josh Brolin who carries the character of Agent J into the past really kicks the crap out of doing a Jones impression, as well as just maintaining the character on his own. On the sides, we’ve got fun pulls from the likes of Bill Hader, Michael Stuhlbarg, and the VIP of the entire picture, Jemaine Clement, as a very, very good bad guy. What cements my admiration for MiB3 is its heart, which it maintain throughout the film, and really works near the end in perfect ways. It’s a fun ride with satisfactory pay off, and I was pleased to be surprised about how much I enjoyed it. Also, just see this film regardless of how you feel in order to see Jemaine Clement snarling at himself. It’s art.
(Here’s my full review!) Sometimes, I am interested in seeing strengths in style over substance. I don’t think that the imbalance is necessarily good, but I love seeing a well-made, ambitious film! Silent House has an interesting visual conceit behind it that I feel was pulled off really well. The entire story being in one long take is impressive to me, even though they snuck some cuts in there- it’s still an admirable feat that I think works in the end. As a fan of survival horror video games, the way many of the more frightening and intense scenes of the film are captured is similar to this behind the back advantage, with a lot of moving into close ups for the sake of building tension, which it does really well. The performances are serviceable, and it’s always nice seeing Elizabeth Olsen doing good work, especially in something unique like this. I say that the film is to be praised for its technicals more than story, but even though it’s a tale that feels familiar, it’s still not bad! The revelation of backstory and delivery of the mystery behind everything going on works, and by the end, the film doesn’t really hold your hand with explaining what is going on. In a way, it’s bold in this department. What I can definitively say is that Silent House is an intriguing spectacle, which can be enjoyed solely on its visuals, but could possibly surprise you with what else it has to offer.
THE HUNGER GAMES!
(Here’s my review!) The Hunger Games somehow avoids making many, many poor choices that other young adult fiction films drive head-on into, and makes for an actually impressive, intriguing film. Director Gary Ross made many smart choices with the film, starting with its visuals. He made a beautiful looking film, highlighting the universe created for the story really well in opposing ideals. It’s a smart approach, I felt, and it made for a great looking film with purpose. On the performance side, we’re left to the reliable devices of such talents as Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Woody Harrelson’s wig, Elizabeth Banks, friggin’ Lenny Kravitz of all people, and most importantly, Jennifer Lawrence, who absolutely ruled in her performances this year (this film being no exception), delivering upon the action and emotion required of her. Her performance as Katniss is strong, and very impressive in pulling off such a demanding heroine presence. And being a film about a world rich full of history, but directed toward an action-heavy event, it almost takes on this Full Metal Jacket approach, wherein the first half is the set-up and build-up, which it does really well, and the second half is the titular Hunger Games, which a lot of the time are well done in terms of delivering tension and not holding back on violence except for the fact that it’s a PG-13 film- the heft behind it is still very strong. The story this film tells is a heavy one, and Gary Ross and gang don’t take that lightly, as made apparent with this
CASA DE MI PADRE!
(Here’s my review!) Making purposefully bad films is a recent comedic art form, in a way. Funny or Die usuals Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele worked together, with the help of the Gary Sanchez gang, to put together a somewhat endearing, bold, and generally clever send-up of Spanish dramas in comedic parody. It’s a crazy little film, inventive up the wazoo and full of creative comedic input, visually and contextually. Many of its filmmaking choices are so minutely (and purposefully) poor that it goes above and beyond your occasional boom dip, and takes mediocre movie making to a whole other inventive level. The game of it all being bad on purpose could reasonably run thin for anyone and anything, but enough of the decisions made are so clever and subtle that if it doesn’t fly over your head, it’ll keep you constantly entertained and on your feet. Filling the frames is a strong, strong cast of Spanish actors and Will Ferrell. Ferrell does okay, especially considering he’s speaking Spanish the entire film- his acting style applies well here, and he almost does what he did in The Other Guys and plays a more low-key kind of absurd character, almost being the straight man. Really, the highlights here are Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, who are normally known for their dramatic performances, but really go places with their stereotypical roles. Bernal is a fantastically charismatic villain who eats up his dialogue with ease, and Luna does everything his part requires like a pro, delivering on the comedy and “drama.” It also helps that the script is equally as ridiculous in strangely underspoken ways. As well, the character work and story within it, in the style of what the genre being parodied, actually kind of works. By the end of its runtime, it almost turns into what it is parodying, but in such a weird, well done way that contains a strange level of affectation and heart that would otherwise be absent in your standard genre parody affair. It even begins to just blatantly look good, which is as much of a treat as the bad stuff is. It has the surreal absurdist beats of your usual McKay/Ferrell production, which isn’t a bad thing, but Casa De Mi Padre ends up having a lot more up its sleeve, and makes what would be a very trite concept something strangely special.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next installment, and have a good one, my friends!