The Round-Up #18 - August 2023
As the end of summer arrives and the end of the transfer window takes up the majority of my time, I've still found time to give the movies a good going over this month, flexing my eyeballs, ready for the battle that will be the Spookathon in October. Currently there are FIFTY-FOUR titles that I'm going to be looking at, all first time watches, with a huge update at the end of it, I'm guessing. We've added a new 'Cinebuffs Recommends' category to enable you to skip through the rubbish to get to the good stuff, in our opinion. I've considered going back through all of the posts to pick up the previous ones, but honestly, I can't promise anything, but if it happens, then you'll see it. Song of the month is below, as normal. Was a close one this month as not really had much chance to listen to too much.
The Immaculate Room (2022) **.5 - Can't really imagine the pitch meeting for this. 88 minutes of a married couple stuck in a room with literally nothing to do for fifty days. My first reaction was that for the prize, five million dollars, I could easily be bored, knowing that the pay day was coming. But then I thought if I had to spend it with my ex-wife, well, there's a very good chance that one, or maybe both of us, would never come out. A perfectly good argument for personal space.
In A Good Way (2023) *** - What you can do with ten grand if you get some decent actors and give them a considered, poignant and effective script. My unplanned Couples Therapy weekend has certainly been improved by the performances of Audrey Kovár and Ryan Balas. These two have some of the best chemistry I've seen for a long time in a budget-conscious independent effort, as the estranged married couple who hook up for a couple of days in Omaha. Real enough to be both joyful and uncomfortable by turns, filmed bare-bones and honestly blunt. Consider me happily surprised.
Chevalier (2022) *** - I'll admit I was drawn more by the cast than the content. This story of Joseph Bologne was continually entertaining, even if it doesn't really know where it wants to sit. Neither convincing musical drama or love story this also fails as a historical postcard of pre-revolutionary France. I mean, Blackadder was more thorough. Not dreadful by any stretch, with beautiful sets and costume design and strong performances, but nobody wants a Ferrari Testarossa with a Fiat Punto engine, right?
Paradise (2023) ** - A great idea, done okay. The dystopian vision was on point and for the first half an hour, this really had the balls to see the idea through to the end. It's second act was a little ropey for my liking and the character arcs didn't really ring true, so that by the conclusion, you had no idea what our protagonists would end up doing, making them difficult to root for. Overall, a little too weak in the delivery and, perhaps lost in translation, the English dub reduced the soul of it, even if the original German would be harder on the ears. Not bad, certainly, but like my teachers used to say, must do better.
Insidious: The Red Door (2023) *.5 - I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. And there's no way he's that good at it. Now, it may be down to the fact that I was rolling my eyes for the last three of these efforts, but honestly, I had no recollection of anything that had gone on before, so was grateful for the brief flashback at the beginning. Otherwise, I would have had no idea what the hell was going on. This is just as all over the place as all of the other ones, but people had said some nice things, so I thought I should at least pay attention. Shouldn't have bothered, as it transpires. Yawn. On the plus side, I am never undergoing another MRI scan as long as I live.
To Catch a Killer (2023) ** - It started well, it promised to have smarts like Fincher but quickly tailed off to humdrum. The performances were good overall but the plot was uncompelling and staid. Characters arcs were unbelievable and more often than not, compromised by narrative continuity. I wasn't buying it, essentially, despite its cinematic visual prowess. To give it credit, I watched it through in its entirety, cajoled enough by the closure, which I felt like I was hoodwinked by when it arrived. Unchallenging, really, which is beneath the talent on show.
Corner Office (2022) **.5 - A definite curiosity, to be sure. Hamm displays a fine knack for comedy and his work of late can best be described as eclectic. The same is true here, as he tackles the character of Orson, an office worker that spends alot of his working day in an allegedly non-existent office that only he can see, compelled seemingly by a need to reach a calm from stress brought on by who knows what. It's dark and minimal, even occasionally funny, but this hides a more salient message about loneliness and mental health.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (2022) ** - Littered with faces you'll immediately recognise, this really is Sunday afternoon entertainment personified. The story of A.J. Fikry, owner of the bookshop on Ellis Island, with support from Hale and Hendricks, who both also produce here. This is quite lovely, warm and fuzzy, but because of that, it lacks substance and is largely devoid of realism. It has a certain amount of depth but still manages to feel unconvincing, like a dream of a life that all rational people would most likely scoff at. Unchallenging schmaltz, albeit still well-intentioned.
Robert The Bruce (2019) ** - Being distantly related to the man himself, I was only watching to really see what the makers made of Robert the Bruce's story. I needn't have bothered. Not quite Highlander in its approach to authentic Scotland in the 1300s, but not far away. If you class Montana as not far away, where most of this was shot, I believe. Ponderous and overlong with a dismal script and performances that are mostly forgettable. It's 1300 and something, it's Scotland. We know it's going to be cold and grim and full of hairy men fighting pointlessly with one another. Come to think of it, this is just the same as the last time I was in Glasgow for a pint. I'm glad they didn't film that, to be honest.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016) *** - Well, if there's a less suitable movie for a balmy summer afternoon with the family, I haven't seen it yet this year. Nicolas Pesce gave us 'Grudge' only four years after this arrived. Seems like the innate talent in him turned a few heads. His is an arguable success story, with the meat of the tale here still with its gristle on, metaphorically speaking. This black and white effort is more arthouse than horror and his eye for a frame is not lost here at all. Continually unsettling throughout and one part overt and unpleasant for every other part ugly and yet still helplessly beautiful. Not for the faint of heart or the impatient.
The Old Way (2023) *.5 - I really only bothered because it was Nicholas Cage in a Western. And that's exactly what we got. I'm sure it only exists because he fancied doing it and seeing this, I'm not sure he'll be in such a hurry to do another. I really don't enjoy Westerns at the best of times, even if it sure does look purdy. so there usually has to be something charming, original, innovative or just plain decent about it (which there really isn't) to make me sit through it in its entirety. Thankfully this was short and VLC can play at time and a half.
The Founder (2016) *** - Michael Keaton is likeable where I'm sure Ray isn't. This is entertaining enough to sit through largely thanks to the performance from Keaton. Written and delivered well enough to still root for who is ostensibly the bad guy in this true story, when the opposite should really be true. Support is fine too, which helps no doubt, but this is all Keaton, and without that being the case, this may well have belly -flopped.
How It Ends (2021) ***.5 - This was quite a bit more fun than I would have expected. I do like a well-stocked Indie and this certainly is one, with a host of recognisable and surprising cameos included, this walking tour with your younger self on the last day before the end of the world is an innovative and very creative project that asks more of its audience than seems apparent. Quirky and often silly, there is a solid script here, performed ably by all, and as a snapshot of a suburb of Tinseltown, it's about as specific as you can get, even if the intention of the narrative is much broader. Short and sweet.
Champions (2023) **.5 - It would take quite the coldest of hearts to be too negative about this effort, given that the cast are, for the most part, challenged in one way or another. There is something to be said for many films that cast actors in roles that they aren't suitable for and you cannot accuse the film of doing this here, but also have to admit that these same actors would be unlikely to be cast in any movie that didn't concern itself with issues that these actors live with every day. As such, this is as good as you can get and Harrelson holds this nicely together. Too long, however.
Showing Up (2022) ***.5 - "Leave the cheese alone. Seriously."
With a simple minimalistic use of the script, this gives off naturally muted performances. You need to be in the right mood for this type of thing, because despite simplicity there is a complex story bubbling underneath. Carefully directed with due care and attention. Not unlike Reichardt's First Cow, this is in no hurry to take you there, allowing you meander gracefully on your own. Accomplished, but hard to get excited about.