I watched a lot of not very good films in December, in order to make sure I wasn’t missing anything for my end-of-year list. But I did see some good things. And here they are.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (Perstichetti, Ramsey, Rothman)
I think I enjoyed this more for the barrage of fun geeky shout-outs more than for the actual story per se, which sometimes felt curiously involving – possibly due to the (admittedly beautiful) stylized animation. In fact, the pop art visual barrage does get a little tiring. I probably enjoyed the trailer more than the actual movie.
HOWEVER, the nightmarish quality of Fisk seeing multiple Vanessas leaving him, whilst he rides a runaway subway car through a reality void, was enjoyably unsettling. Peter B Parker has pretty good characterization. And Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) has some great lines. Ultimately, this is probably going to wind up as the best Spider-Man movie of this generation; a notch above the usual Marvel product.
The Night Comes For Us (Tjahjanto)
The plot is nonsense, told in a slightly fractured, digressive style which is probably mostly intentional… the lead isn’t as charismatic as he could be… and the quality of the fight editing isn’t always up to scratch (sometimes you can see them not really making contact). On the other hand, some of the fights are GREAT, with fantastic balletic choreography and beautiful mood lighting. I wonder if the crew varied slightly?
The supporting characterization is wonderful. Specifically, any scene involving any of the female fighters is 100%. And the bit where he runs a knife down some poor guy’s forearm… YIKES.
If you loved THE RAID 2, you should like this. One word of advice, though: it’s much, much gorier.
Under the Silver Lake (Mitchell)
Caustic noir satire deconstruction sitting somewhere between Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE, Schiller’s NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, Pynchon’s THE CRYING OF LOT 49 (and to a lesser extent INHERENT VICE) and Ellis’s IMPERIAL BEDROOMS.
Maybe not a great movie, but a great LA movie. It does need that re-edit. But I liked it a lot anyway. And sure, I’ve ready all the bad takes. Nonetheless. This movie is good. Even if film bros without self-awareness end up embracing this… I don’t care. It’s still good.
Mitchell totally socks it to Garfield’s dipshit narcissist in the final shot, too.
Bad Times at the El Royale (Goddard)
Fun riff on the strangers-in-an-inn tale with enjoyably silly hard-boiled dialogue: as such it is bound to bring to mind The Hateful Eight. For a while this looks like it might be the better movie, but the energy seems to leak out of it once Chris Hemsworth’s cult leader rocks up, and the ending felt like a missed opportunity somehow.
Cynthia Erivo is MVP, naturally, but John Hamm wandering the corridor is the best sequence by far.
Robust, heartfelt, MeanStreets-esque take on race, gentrification, criminality, and how we see each other (or don’t). A loose, genre-adjacent rumination on violence both explicit and implicit. This film was criminally failed by its distribution, but will (eventually) find a home on VOD, I’m sure.
Beautifully shot, great performances, great characterization, real “stand-up-from-your-chair and urge someone to die” stuff. Sadly, in hindsight, the plot is much thinner stuff than I would have liked. Admirably downbeat/bleak ending though. and it makes decent use of the fatalistic “once you fall out with the mob, you can never recover” trope.
Private Life (Jenkins)
Funny how jazz is such a signifier of upper middle class NYC cultural chatterati.
Central plot is a little too baggy/meandering/episodic to sustain two full hours, but there are a lot of well observed caustic little satirical digs on the way, and I did chuckle multiple times in a New Yorker cartoon sort of way.
The standout, thought is a great “watch through your fingers” dinner-party scene. Utterly mortifying.
Available now on Netflix.