A Big Film Catch-up : Part 2

Posted by Lou. The time is 3.20pm here in London, UK.

And now for everything in between...

The Good

The first ten minutes of Boy are comedy perfection. Utterly. Fucken. Hilarious. While the humour continues throughout, the film isn't purely for laughs with Taika crafting a simple and affecting story about growing up. Boy is excited by the return of his adventurer father (who is actually a complete loser who has just been released from prison), but soon has to contend with the harsh reality of this person he has surrounded in myth. While the director himself takes the role of the father, the star and heart of the film is acting newcomer James Rolleston whose Boy is engaging, lively, and fully lives up to New Zealand's tradition of producing electrifying child performances.

I was pleasantly surprised by the directing - it is spectacularly well shot, with some scenes and shot choices showing signs of cinematic genius. The reason I have put it in with "the good" rather than "the great" is that personally I felt like the story arc is still not quite yet big enough to fully fulfil the scale of cinema, but it is leaps and bounds on from his debut feature Eagle vs Shark. While obviously I am a huge supporter of New Zealand's domestic cinema and love when New Zealand's creative geniuses choose to live and work in their home country, part of me would love to see what he could do with a Hollywood budget and a script by a great writer.


Drew Barrymore's directing debut Whip It! is everything you'd want it to be - full of sassy and interesting female characters, and centred around the aggressively physical roller-derby scene. Ellen Page is the perfect lead, the supporting cast come in all shapes and sizes (with Barrymore herself providing the comic relief), the "love interest" is befittingly cute-in-an-alternative-way, and all-in-all it's a bit of a middle-finger at dominant ideas of "what girls should be like" as according to mainstream American culture. Oh, and there's lots of eye-liner. High-fives Drew!


I love Robert Downey Junior. I think he has made probably one of the best Hollywood comebacks ever with the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes series. He's just so gosh-darned likeable and quirky. In fact, it's pretty criminal that it took until now for me to even see Iron Man. And as expected, it ruled (because he rules). If only they had cast an unknown instead of ol' Gwynnie in the role of Pepper Potts - she is both spectacularly unsuited to the role, and the role is beneath her status as an Oscar-winning A-lister. It distracted me hugely, especially knowing that there are so many 30-something-year-old actresses out there deserving of a break who would have taken the role and made it awesome. But other than that, I give two-thumbs-up to RDJ's Iron Man.


The Disappointing

Okay it was only marginally disappointing, as I did like the film, but Baby Mama wasn't quite all I wanted it to be (unlike Whip It). This is solely because Tina Fey is fucking hilarious - in 30 Rock, on Saturday Night Live, and seemingly in real-life - but this film didn't quite showcase her comedy chops. It is a funny film however, as Amy Poehler is a riot. Fey is a successful career woman who, in her late-30s, is desperate for a baby and - unable to conceive - engages Poehler to be a surrogate. Physical comedy and witty banter ensues.

I liked the story - it seemed extremely empathetic towards a very real situation of being a woman with a ticking-down biological clock who wants a baby and doesn't have someone to be the daddy. It doesn't portray this as being a pitiable state, or present a man as being the solution. It very much centres upon two women in a comedy-double-act scenario that is traditionally seldom given to women on the big screen. There is also humour that is seldom portrayed by women (toilet humour and the like), and they do it well. And actually in writing this I'm wondering why I have put it in the disappointing section? I guess I just wanted Fey to be funnier.


Up. What the...? It got so much attention, so many award nominations, such great word-of-mouth... and yet... it's so disappointing. The first half is great, don't get me wrong. I thought the opening sequence was emotive and engaging, the characterisation excellent, and watching the house be carried up into the air by a flurry of helium balloons is brilliant. But once they reach a destination it just becomes a bat-shit-crazy downer. It took something like 5 minutes from me to go from being utterly engaged to tapping my fingers and wondering what the fuck. I'd recommend hitting the stop button once the balloon has landed.


The Sandra Bullock

A Certain Somebody who is married to a Certain Co-Blogger is quite a big fan of Ms Bullock, which has led to my Co-Blogger having quite a detailed knowledge of her films, which in turn piqued my curiosity enough to devote some of my in-flight film-watching time to checking out The Blind Side and Two Weeks Notice. Then coincidentally I arrived home one night to find The Proposal in the DVD player.

I don't think we're in any doubt that she won the Oscar for The Blind Side because she is a Megastar known for comedies, and Hollywood likes to reward Megastars who pleasantly surprise us by showing that they Actually Can Act. Whilst her performance is fine, take out the Megastar factor and we have a performance that would have barely garnered notice in a made-for-tv film. I guess elevating it to cinematic status is in itself worthy of reward, but overall it's just a good performance in an okay film.

I have a huge problem with this film. It addresses a stubborn form of racism, yes (the separation between white upper-middle-class lives and black communities upon whom they look down and "otherise"), and I can totally see how Bullock would be attracted to such a positive message and good intention on the part of the filmmakers. But for all the dialogue-heavy openmindedness, the actual substance of the film was discomfortingly patronising and, well, down-looking. You see, whilst Michael (the disadvantaged black teenager who Bullock's Leigh Anne adopts) says things like "I'm not dumb" and Leigh Anne says things like "I know you're not stupid" and some of the teachers say things like "he is really smart", the screenwriter and director have given us an entirely one dimensional Michael that lacks any personality, intelligence or spark, which entirely undermines the whole point of the message when set amongst the lively personalities of Leigh Anne and the white members of her family.


As for the other two... well. Whilst I would give The Blind Side a pass for trying and for managing to evoke an emotional reaction (no matter how superficially), there's not much I can say about Two Weeks Notice and The Proposal, other than that both films are entirely carried by the charisma of the two leads (Bullock and Hugh Grant, and Bullock and Ryan Reynolds). Oh well actually, Reynolds' body helps in the latter also... The plots are predictable and the laughs sorely lacking. Yawn.

2 thoughts on “A Big Film Catch-up : Part 2”

  1. Some dude wrote Baby Mama. I watched thinking Tina Fey had written it and was a bit sad face at the end, because, as you say, it could've been funnier. She needs to have a crack at a feature and bring on the lolz!

    Boy is being promoted all round the place as NZ's #1 comedy EVEERRRR!! Strange, considering that it is really quite a poignant and moving film!

    Man I loved Whip It. Why ain't that out on DVD yet?? And have you heard if the book is a good read? (the woman's autobiography)

    PS I am on high alert now that Sandra is apparently single again. Co-blogger's husband has been looking a bit spoony.

  2. Totally - I got to the credits of Baby Mama and was like "WHAT?! WHAT??!" as I had assumed Tina Fey wrote it, especially as there was so much talk about it being her film around the time. And so was like "BUT SHE WASN'T EVEN THAT FUNNY". Like, knowing she was not involved behind-the-scenes, I would say it is Amy Poehler's film as she totally steals it.