As I predicted before buggering off to Vietnam for three weeks, I’ve had no time to produce any form of film criticism for an entire month. My brain didn’t turn to total mush though because I kept a travelogue during my trip to Asia. I found it very fulfilling and I’ve concluded that writing about cinema is no fun for me anymore. It doesn’t require nearly as much as creativity as I’d like to be using, and ultimately people can make their own minds up – if not, there’s still ten million web critics out there anyway. I will maintain this movie blog business until at least the end of the year– I’m still proud of it, plus I sort of have to because of my editing position with the Mancunion – but I’m going to try and branch out a bit. Thank you for reading.
Rampart (2011) – 2/5
Director: Oren Moverman
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson, John Bernthal, Ice Cube
David Douglas Brown is a cop. A bad cop. Known nationally for his suspected para-legal vigilantism and Rodney King-reminiscent racism, it’s a wonder he’s still on the force. In effect, Woody Harrelson is playing the exact same womanising, self-hating, bigoted character he embodied in the True Detective series, minus the social responsibilities to rein him in or a script good enough to keep him interesting. On unpaid leave pending internal investigations, the hard drinking Brown is so high strung that he barely has time to sit down to eat; when he does he violently vomits it back up anyway. As in Bad Lieutenant or Filth, the corrupt cop hero goes almost willingly down a path of self-destruction which leads to acts of increasing desecration of the law book and a borderline suicidal abandon. Rampart’s problems lie in the half-baked interactions between Brown and his two daughters (half-sisters, their mothers being sisters who took turns marrying Brown), the eldest played by Brie Larson. Worse is the way Rampart shoehorns in a token Angry Street Smart guy in the form of Ice Cube. Fuck tha Police (Up On Misconduct Charges)?
Blue Ruin (2013) – 4/5
Director: Jeremy Sauliner
Cast: Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves, Devin Ratray
A travelling hermit goes on a rampage when his parents’ suspected killer gets out of prison early. Blue Ruin takes its name from any number of thematically attuned objects and places that fill its environment. One could be the rusting turquoise car which homeless lead character Dwight inhabits; another could be the reoccurring use of clear sky-coloured linen which at least one person is unfortunate enough to be wearing before the blood starts spraying. Weapons, headlamps, swamp bayou backdrops – all these things are uniformly blue and are subsequently despoiled or put to ruinous use. Blue Ruin is about the shattered innocence of Dwight, played magnificently well by Macon Blair, who keeps his vagrant hero sympathetic without saying hardly a word in most scenes. Dwight’s actions are by no means heroic despite their protective intentions; he goes too deep and the only way out of his hole is to fill it with the bodies of others. His headbanging hillbilly childhood friend Ben (Devin Ratray, who made his big break as an automobile expert in Nebraska) turns out to be a hell of a lot worse, as do most of Blue Ruin’s rural dwelling deviants. Blue Ruin has some gruesome, unforgettable moments of tension and horror – it’s on Netflix, so, watch it I guess.
The Skeleton Twins (2014) – 3/5
Director: Craig Johnson
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson
Another film made by Saturday Night Live people to keep Saturday Night Live people in work? Perhaps. Still, The Skeleton Twins is one of the better examples. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, whose comedic chemistry was far and away the best part of Kirsten Stewart/Jesse Eisenberg romance rollercoaster Adventureland, play dizygotic siblings Maggie and Milo, who’ve been separated by a decade of melodramatic stubbornness. When they do come together following Milo’s failed self-poisoning attempt they find that they really do like one another and struggle to recall what it was that tore them apart in the first place. Luke Wilson (playing Maggie’s fun addict husband) flies around their dysfunctional relationship like a balloon full of oxidised Red Bull, but no one pays attention to him, nor any of the roster of well-known faces that make up the supporting cast. The Skeleton Twins’ fascination lies in the life changing decisions two people make, and about the sacred bond of brother/sisterhood that can never be broken but which only children like myself can only wish they understood. Hader and Wiig are on hysterical form here, but the film may perturb those who’re expecting a cutesy feel-good flick because it definitely sits in black comedy territory. Here be a clip.