The cloud has lifted. SIFF 2014 is over. I’ve seen 40 films. FORTY. (*Takes deep breath, drag off inhaler*) While I grossly miscalculated just how much a marathon watching 40 films in the span of a month (on top of new wide releases) would be and how taxing on my creative spirit, to have it done and over with is like a right of passage. With this capsule review series now at a close, I can assuredly say that SIFForty has certainly had a wealth of good stuff to offer but they’re nothing if not hidden amongst a trove of unenviable watches. As always, the good is mixed in with the bad, brown-paper-bagged and drawn at random. But of course, this is why you read reviews.
Even in this final leg, I’m keeping within the rules and regs of SIFF protocol so these micro-reviews are sliced and diced down to a brief 75 words so you can read them fast, I can write them fast and the studio’s happy. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This is the close of a beautiful friendship.
Standing Aside Watching (Na Kathesai Kai Na Koitas)
dir. Giorgos Servetas star. Marina Symeou, Marianthi Pantelopoulou, Nikos Georgakis (Greece)
This Greek pseudo-tragedy thinks it blends elements of feminism in a bowl of misogyny but winds up a fallen soufflé of smut; a concoction of hopelessness and gray scenery that reads snuff film. Just when you think the film might barrel into a satisfying direction of minxy revenge, Servetas’ film succumbs to more violence against women and more senseless sentences carried out by the meat-headed minds of men. An unpleasant and dark experience not worthy of embarking on. (D)
How to Train Your Dragon 2
dir. Dean DuBlois star. Jay Baruchel, Gerald Butler, Cate Blanchett, Craig Robinson, Djimon Hounsou (USA)
Soaring nearly as high as its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 represents the best that animation has to offer. With Roger Deakins serving as a visual consultant, the film looks goddamn brilliant with Dreamworks ushering in a new gold standard for animated features in era of post-Pixar brilliance. And while most (if not all) of the comic beats fall on deaf ears (and ought to have been cut entirely), Dragon’s heart is so big and worn so proudly on its sleeve that you’ll have to be a monster to not erupt in tears on multiple occasions in this undeniably excellent yarn on a man’s maturing relationship with his beast. (A)
Life Feels Good (Chce Sie Zyc)
dir. Maciej Pieprzyca star. Dawid Ogrodnik, Dorota Kolak, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Helena Sujecka (Poland)
Taking a page from the book of My Left Foot, Life Feels Good explores similar territory as a young man suffering from cerebral palsy tries, but fails, to communicate with the world. While Left Foot showed the immeasurable progress of a boy once thought to be a dullard, Life Feels Good is more about the institutional fallacies that circle mental disorders; the metaphysical prison that is disability juxtaposed against the physical prison that is a mental hospital. In Dawid Ogrodnik‘s stirring, wordless performance, we feel just how tortuous being trapped inside yourself would be and how damning the world around you can be. (B-)
They Came Together
dir. David Wain star. Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Cobie Smulders, Bill Hader (USA)
Don’t get me wrong, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd make for a charming duo. Nevertheless They Came Together is a rom-com spoof in the same witless vein of Jason Friedman and Aaron Seltzer (The Starving Games, Meet the Spartans). Accordingly, it’s somewhat shocking to see Wet Hot American Summer‘s David Wain attached as director and helmer of this jokeless torpedo. His lambasting efforts are futile, his hammy parody a complete wash. While Wain’s conceit appears to be grounded in an attempt to skewer the genre instead of merely recreating pop cultural references, it works like a montage of dead baby jokes and there’s ultimately nothing differentiating this from Scary Movie 6, Epic Movie or Vampires Suck. They Came Together joins the great American tradition of not knowing comedy from an asshole. (F)
Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.
Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up
Part 4: Difret, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, In Order of Disappearance
Part 5: Willow Creek, Firestorm, Mystery Road, 10,000 KM
Part 6: Obvious Child, To Kill a Man, Night Moves, The Internet’s Own Boy
Part 7: Canopy, Intruders, The Babadook, Happy Christmas
Part 8: Frank, The Grand Seduction, Venus in Fur, Gold
Part 9: Leading Lady, Tom at the Farm, Grand Central, The One I Love