What I Watched: December 2013

pain-and-gain-sunbed

Whoa. So, that was 2013. I’ve watched so many films over the Christmas break that I think I ran out of capacity to watch any more… for, oh, at least a day. Here are the three films I liked most this month:

Pain & Gain

Unexpectedly, Michael Bay’s (relatively) low budget action movie about a real-life gang was kind of brilliant? I know the likes of Mark Kermode have called it evil, pornographic, and other hyperbolic things, but I think they missed the point. This is an angry film, a bitter condemnation of the American dream, or at least the perverted version of it the Sun Gym gang were chasing. It almost makes me want to re-evaluate Michael Bay’s previous films… but, uh, I probably won’t. This is way smarter and more political than it looks, though. It’s kind of shocking. (And what’s even more shocking is that the BBFC only gave it a 15 rating. What do you need to do to get an 18 nowadays?)

Weekend

Maybe what you need to do to get an 18 is include depictions of consensual gay sex, because this gorgeous, low key, low budget British romance got one. It’s a fairly simple film, really, just following two men as they meet and spend a weekend together, but oh, God, it hits you where it hurts. It’s got a political edge, too, but what makes it special is how believable the romance is. All those awkward looks and touches, all those careful conversations, all that lust, it’s just breathtaking.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

This is one that’s grown on me, oddly. I saw it back in August and liked it, but in the months since then I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot, and how its reception reflects our culture’s idea of what’s an acceptable power narrative and what isn’t. And so I bought a US DVD to see it again. Yeah, it’s a little silly, but it’s got so many great ideas and such an interesting world than I couldn’t help falling for it a bit.

And the rest

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (typical moralising Tyler Perry rubbish); Scavengers (ugh); Insidous (still scary); Atlantic Rim (exactly as bad as you’d expect); The Starving Games (terrible); 11-11-11 (actually not as terrible as you’d think, but not great); Election (expected to love this, but really didn’t); Despicable Me 2 (cute); White Heat (over-the-top noirn nonsense); Love Wrecked (the bad kind of teen romance); The Others (brilliant, though I wish I hadn’t known so much about the plot in advance); 47 Ronin (dull); Jumper (as awful as everyone said it was); Mysterious Skin (devastating); Valentine (surprisingly stylish giallo-style slasher); The African Queen (the kind of old movie you watch on a hungover Sunday); The Brotherhood of Satan (disappointing); The Girlfriend Experience (empty); Of Human Bondage (young Bette Davis’s accent is appalling – how did she get nominated for an Oscar for this?); Willow (generic 80s fantasy); The Wicker Man (still fantastic); Santa’s Slay (a Christmas Eve tradition in my house); Jamaica Inn (an utter perversion of du Maurier’s novel, and it just doesn’t work); Tangled (delightful); Rites of Passage (intriguing but massively flawed insanity from Wes Bentley’s dark period); The Tractate Middoth (dull, boring, pointless); Hatchet for the Honeymoon (stylish but kind of boring); Curtains (ditto); Independence Day (overblown jingoistic delight); Looper (just brilliant); Frenchman’s Creek (sweet and incredibly faithful adaptation of another du Maurier novel); I Am Number Four (mildly silly teen action stuff); Rogue (decent-ish creature feature); Black Sunday (disappointingly incoherent gothic gorgeousness); Darklands (a confused Welsh Wicker Man); Predators (fun but cliched silliness); The Thirteenth Tale (another awfully dull BBC ghost story – without a ghost).

And that’s a whole year’s worth of film-watching. I think I’ll figure out a different way to write about film next year; this has been kind of fun, but probably only for me. I dunno. We’ll see. For now – happy New Year! Hope your 2014 gets off to a brilliant start.

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