For August, we have 5 films in the Film Fight…
First up, Monsters University is the entirely unnecessary prequel to what is possibly Pixar’s greatest film, Monsters Inc. It obviously has a heavy burden to live up to its forebear. The good news is that it doesn’t entirely fluff it, though it clearly isn’t operating at the same level. It has a number of funny bits, interesting characters and the charm you’d expect of a Pixar movie, so you won’t miss out in seeing it. That said, it feels like it’s just being made for the money; building out a backstory that no-one needed. It’s good, not great. (See my Monsters University Twitter review).
Nicholas Winding Refn has directed some excellent films, like Bronson and Drive (which won the 2011 Film Fight Finale – even if I latter changed my mind, and decided that Another Earth should’ve won). Only God Forgives is not an excellent film; it’s astonishingly bad. While it looks incredible throughout, the rest is pretentious, lacking substance, flimsy and poorly constructed. It’s unevenly paced, has paper-thin characters, and many of the scenes simply do not matter. It is incredibly badly judged on almost every level. A strong contender for the worst film of the year, and certainly the most disappointing. (See my Only God Forgives Twitter review).
Kick-Ass 2 manages to be even more nihilistically fun and gleefully violent than its predecessor, which is no easy task given the explosion of colour and carnage of the original. The main plot is about a supervillian uprising, funded by an unexpected source, and a group of vigilantes trying to stand up for normal people while realising they’re not playing a game. There’s a subplot following Hit Girl to high school which has some laughs, but is entirely superfluous to the main plot. On the whole, it’s hit-or-miss, but fun enough that it’s worth seeing. (See my Kick-Ass 2 Twitter review).
Lovelace is the dark story, based on her biography, of Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat. It is first presented as a “fun” telling of her story (with enough warning signs to see what is coming), but the narrative doubles back to show the horrendous abuse she suffered, essentially being forced into the industry by her then husband. Peter Sarsgaard puts in a terrifically terrifying performance as the abuser, and Amanda Seyfried (an actress whose output I would normally avoid) is very believable as the abusee, showing real vulnerability. Very worth seeing. (See my Lovelace Twitter review).
Finally, Elyisum is Neill Blomkamp’s first film since the very impressive District 9. How has he done with a bigger budget and better known cast? It’s certainly a grander presentation, but a much less effective story. As an allegory, it’s clunky and obvious, whilst as a straight-up story it’s inconsistent. Even the action sequences are, at best, hit-or miss. The physicality of District 9’s action (even though much of that was CG) gives way to some limp shoot-outs with gadgets that you will not care about. The film, tellingly, comes alive each time Sharlto Copley’s character, the main antagonist, is on-screen as he tears himself towards some goal through sheer force of will, even if we don’t care much about said goal. Mostly bad. (See my Elysium Twitter review).
The winner is Lovelace. The performances were worth seeing, and the rest of the production wasn’t exactly slouching either.