Monday, June 10, 2013

DVD(s) of the Week: More Catching Up!

Time of another catch up the DVDs we've watched over the last few weeks. A bit of an eclectic mix, but thats the benefit (?) of random lists, I guess. Also, whilst a few of the bigger films of the Oscar-bait period are now starting to come out on DVD, annoyingly a lot of them are being held from rental for an extra couple of months, which I don't really understand. After all, whilst I'd like to see, say, Les Miserables, I'm not going to rush out and spend £15 buying it, I'm just going to wait, whilst vaguely resenting the studios distribution policy.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
I shall start with Ewan's succinct review of Perks of Being a Wallflower: "It was good, but it was mostly Teenager stuff". This pretty much sums up my feelings on it too - its well scripted, well acted and well shot, but it's also very, very much about being an angsty teenaged outsider. I suspect that your mileage will vary depending on how much you empathise with that plight, or at least how well you remember it.

Centred around a school year - the first for one character, the last for two more - it's a film about that "Teenager stuff" like growing up, finding your place in the world and the awkwardness of first love, and approaches it in a interestingly complex, messy way. However, there is a strong sense of nostalgia to the piece, so whilst many of the themes are universal it felt more aimed at my generation, looking back, than at a current generation, looking around.

That shouldn't detract from what is a series of charming central performances and a witty script, and a film that manages to escape being sucked into the cliche vortex it occasionally flirts with.

Occasionally you come across a film that is less than the sum of it's parts. Lawless has a great cast (and Shia LeBoeuf!), is handsomely shot, tells an interesting true story, but really doesn't add up properly. Set around a family of Bootleggers during Prohibition, it tells of their run-ins with larger Organised Crime, turning their sleepy, small-town operation into something bigger, and bloodier. You've got romance, brotherhood, vengeance, all that good stuff.

But somehow it doesn't fit together, as if all these elements are somehow clashing, rather than meshing together. You've got some great performances, a glowering Tom Hardy, a guarded and damaged Jessica Chastain, possibly the best Shia LeBoeuf performance I've seen him give, but it feels strangely engaging even as it ramps up the tension and body-count. On paper it's a good story. Its certainly a decent script, and handsomely shot. Its just frustrating I can't really put my finger on what lets it down!

British black comedy Sightseers is another slightly odd beast, although one I liked rather a lot. Mousy, put-upon Tina goes on a caravaning holiday with new boyfriend Chris, taking in such sights as Fountains Abbey, the Ribblehead Viaduct and a Pencil Museum, and along the way embark on an "erotic odyssey" of murder, dognapping and caravan parks. It's a strangely off-kilter movie, a mix of psychopathy and bickering, as Chris and Tina work their way though their new relationship with the odd death along the way.

The film never lets you settle on where your sympathies should lie, either. At times the naturalistic dialogue and kitchen-sink aesthetic is engaging and funny, but this is tempered by repeated call-backs to the sort of loss that their murders create. They're hard to like, but many of their victims aren't terribly sympathetic - "He's not a person Tina, he's a Daily Mail Reader" explains Chris at one point - but all their infractions are small offenses. In the end though, I really enjoyed Sightseers. And I've been to a lot of the places they visit, and haven't been murdered yet!