Category Archives: SD/NP

SD/Films – Lebowskis, Tenenbaums & Hosts

A week of pretty good movies. I’m going to make this as brief as possible because, well…

I always try to make them as brief as possible, don’t I? It almost never works out like that, though.

(Note: It didn’t work out like that.)

As always, I’ve included links to many of these films at Amazon in the write-ups, and though it’s difficult for me to imagine that any of you don’t have either a LoveFilm style thing going on, or your own copy of “Lebowski”, if you do fancy giving any of them a try, it’d help me out if you picked them up via the links. All of the films I’ve mentioned are unnervingly cheap – especially “Fargo”, which is pretty much my favourite film of all time.

And actually, there’s a question – how useful are links to cheap DVD versions of films to you lot? Are most of you strictly Blu-Ray by now? Please do enlighten me in the comments!

The Big Lebowski

The Big LebowskiI realised midway through watching “The Big Lebowski” the other night, with three people who hadn’t seen it before, that despite knowing it really well, I think I’ve only seen it the once.

It’s an odd film, Lebowski. It’s a very deliberate, tight farce, but with the illusion of shambling chaos. It rolls by with a fairly definitive plot, but it feels like you’re watching an experiment in tone, a refining of the Coen brother’s peculiar approach to making you laugh and care without delivering jokes or sentiment.

And while I knew I enjoyed it, I’ve always been shocked by the pure adoration that the film has received from so many people that I know, above other Coen greats like “The Hudsucker Proxy” and my favourite, “Fargo”.

But I have to admit, watching it through again, with certain touchstones already in place so that I wasn’t coming to it oblivious, it is a truly great film.

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SD/Films – RockNRolla, Shoot ‘Em Up & Inglourious Basterds

Righto. So, three films in the last week, all of them guns and glory, and not one of them with a properly written title. Excellent.

Rock N Rolla

Rock N Rolla

I’ve got a soft spot for “Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels”, and I recall enjoying “Snatch”, though I’ve never felt the need to watch it again, but Guy Ritchie has become a bit of a figure of fun for the world at large in recent years, and that’s made it hard to see his particular ouvre of mockney gangster movies as having any authenticity any more, if they really had any to

begin with in the first place.

I guess that’s why I hadn’t rushed to see “Rock N Rolla” when it came out. I’d heard only bad things about “Revolver”, and can be suggestible about such things.

It’s a shame, really, because “Rock N Rolla” is quite fun. Granted, it’s got a similar convoluted caper plot to “Lock Stock…” and “Snatch”, and does about as much to realistically represent organised crime in London as “Oceans Eleven” does for career thieves. Or “Finding Nemo” did for sea life.

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Films – The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker movie posterDespite appearances, “The Hurt Locker” is Kathryn Bigelow‘s return to familiar ground – the subject of addiction to adrenaline.

What differentiates this film from “Point Break“, however, is that where that film is a big, daft action movie, made for ease of use rather than use of brain, this one is a much more solemn and intense affair. Set in Iraq, the film follows a squad of bomb disposal experts, as they do their best to keep the streets, if not exactly danger free, at least free of planted explosives.

The film opens as tragedy hits the team, and are joined by a new team leader – Sergeant First Class William James, played by Jeremy Renner, who brings a sardonic edge to the over-confident and super-competent bomb disposal expert.

We’re trained by movies to expect certain things at this point – conflict between him and his new team as his maverick attitude puts them in danger, high-octane action set-pieces, bonding moments, and ultimately resolution as he proves himself to team-mates and audience alike.

Bigelow’s movie totally subverts everything we expect from it, almost wilfully daring the viewer to bitch about their thwarted expectations. Which is kind of mean when you consider how much her earlier work has done to create the expected modes in the first place!

What we get instead is a naturalistic, political or social agenda-free movie that follows its characters around as they do their jobs, in admittedly emotionally heightened conditions, rather than have them explain their actions.

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SD/Movies – Getting Schooled, Getting Drunk, Knowing Stuff & Getting Whacked

Old School/The Hangover

We watched “Old School” based on the enthusiastic recommendations of our friends. These friends, it’s worth mentioning, are the ones who recommended “Euro Trip” all those months back, and despite the various movie triumphs we’ve had based on their suggestions since, the old wound runs deep!

Old School“Old School” doesn’t clear up the scar tissue, but it at least alleviates the remnant pain a little.

Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughan shamble their way through a mildly raucous movie that isn’t quite shocking enough to be a screwball romp, but isn’t sharp enough to be an insightful relationship comedy.

There are a few pretty good laughs scattered through the movie, and Wilson and Ferrell give likeable performances… Even Vaughan’s totally amoral oiliness has it’s charm.

The film is a little all over the place, though, never sure which of its plot threads or elements are really the point, and as such it doesn’t hold together all that well as a movie – there are plenty of decent quotable moments, but the sketchy pacing makes the whole thing fall a little flat.

The Hangover - Zach Galifianakis“The Hangover” features an almost identical character dynamic to “Old School” – and if we go back further I guess we’d find similar archetypes at play in Todd Phillips’ earlier “Road Trip” – but with the newer movie the writer and director have a clearer sense of where the movie’s strengths are than they did with “Old School”, and the rolling motion of the plot – the search for the impending groom through the fog of a devastating (read “awesome!”) stag party – gives it a pace and clarity lacking in the earlier one.

The Hangover - Heather GrahamIt also has frankly more impressive talent in the reluctant-straight-fall-guy and out-of-control man-child roles – Wilson and Ferrell do good work, but Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis shine in “The Hangover”. If doing a sterling job at playing a handicapped or mentally ill character can usually be considered a fast track to award recognition, it seems a shame that Galifianakis will probably not get consideration for his lovably perverse and broken odd-ball here. His performance is what makes the movie stand apart from other similar romps, giving it most of its shocks, as well as any pathos present.

Mind you, as fun as “The Hangover” is, it’s not a classic, and the above observation could easily be said of the brilliant Bobcat Goldthwait in the not so brilliant “Police Academy” movies.

“Old School” is available at Amazon on DVD for £4, or packaged with “Anchorman” for £5!

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