The SAVAGE BEAST micro-reviews

October 12th, 2020

In case you’re not following The Savage Beast on twitter (@SavBeastPod”), we write film micro-reviews there. Here’s a repository of them so far for your convenience…

  • We watched Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, 2019) a decent Irish riff on The Thing/Alien. Some nice atmosphere and uses its limited budget well but it was perhaps a bit too tasteful; we wanted it to go further.
  • We re-watched The Last Boyscout (Tony Scott, 1991) Scott is at the peak of his power-ballad directing phase and Bruce Willis is granite-hewn and frazzled, but the rancid tang of misogyny coursing through the film capsizes the fun here. Verdict – conceived in snowdrifts of cocaine.
  • We watched Greed (Michael Winterbottom, 2019), which is a catastrophically misjudged film that is both toothless and offensive, tonally scattered, confused and confusing. Winterbottom’s usual light touch and ability to weave together disparate stories is absent here. Ugly.
  • We watched Parasite (Bong Joon Ho, 2019) and loved the effortless hot-stepping around genres, without ever feeling self-conscious. A supremely confident tone that effortlessly manages character development and melodrama, with juicy pulp beats. Exhilarating.
  • We watched The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (Ben Berman, 2019) which is flailing, awkward and not nearly as Kaufman-esque as it thinks it is. Fatally the director eventually turns the focus on himself and the narcissistic neediness eclipses the whole thing.
  • We watched How To Build A Girl (Coky Giedroy, 2019) and laughed ourselves hoarse at the gritty, realistic portrayal of the music press, which made us nostalgic for those far away times when music writers were rich enough to have parties in hot tubs.
  • We watched Zero Charisma (Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews, 2013) a joyously unromantic, steely-eyed look at nerdism, obsession and self-defeating misanthropy. It’s powered by a terrific performance by Sam Eidon as a protagonist who resists learning and loving at every step.
  • We watched The Swimmer (Frank Perry, 1968) and it is a totally singular experience. A mythic, poetic horror film about the demolition of a male ego, with an astonishing, bruised and blue eyed Burt Lancaster under the glare of the magnifying glass. They *never* made ‘em like this.
  • We re-watched Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005) which riffs on Herzog’s usual preoccupations of delusional, arrogant dreamers and the uncaring natural world that steps on them. Laughter dogs the edges of this tragedy and it’s hard to know whose.
  • We watched Spaceship Earth (Matt Wolf, 2020) which is an astonishing true story that feels like it was written by Robert Anton Wilson. Crazy, illuminating, prescient; corporate hippies, errant billionaires, physical theatre, bio-domes, science-as-spectacle and the end of a world.
  • We watched Casualties of War (Brian De Palma, 1987) Sean Penn chews scenery like a hungry goat but packs a necessary punch. Michael J Fox is the moral compass. De Palma keeps pyrotechnics to a minimum but it’s urgent and angry. Definitely a male take on rape however.
  • We’re watching The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987) and are once again struck by its compelling and intoxicating sense of place and atmosphere. You can smell the incense on the boardwalk. Forget the lame ironic 80s appreciation – perennially undervalued and always a total blast.
  • We watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005) and were surprised and a little taken aback at a gay character being such a novelty in showbiz Hollywood circa 2005. Seriously, what is it with Shane Black constantly dumping on his own considerable talents?
  • We watched LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997) and were left convinced of its status as the Greatest Dad Movie of All Time. Classy direction, knockout cast (Russell Crowe as a sentient steak) and gorgeous backdrop always refreshes. The 90s synth drums still sound horrid though.
  • We rewatched Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008) which is easily the best McKay/Ferrell film and boasts a career near-best from John C Reilly. Lean, conceptually tight and consistently hilarious. Killer support from Adam Scott and Katherine Hahn too.
  • We re-watched Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987) and it’s the most truthful and brutal war film, whilst still being curiously mannered and distant. It’s about the alienating effect of conflict so that makes sense. The grunts are literally speaking their own language.
  • We watched Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016) a fantastic, original ghost story with a fascinating, complex heroine in a complex situation. A compelling treatise on repression, motherhood and the terrors waiting outside the window. Also damn scary.
  • We watched Host (Rob Savage, 2020) a thrillingly contemporary and nasty little chiller that uses form limitations to scary effect. It’s a film that only gets more impressive when you think of the hellish logistics of making it in lockdown.
  • We watched Cats (Tom Hooper, 2019) which was a monumental horrific epic; a testament to the peverse Boschian vision of hell of the director. Hats off to the FX team for their stomach-churning work. Not for everyone, but definitely the work of a bold new voice in horror.
  • We watched Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008) one of his very best; a joyful, nuanced character study made by Sally Hawkins note-perfect, instant star-making turn. Also a deeply feminist film with a sly rejection of the romanticisation of Johnny’s awful misogyny in ‘Naked’
  • We watched Big Night (Stanley Tucci & Campell Scott, 1996) a small, warm and delightfully played film about food, family, dreams and missing what’s right in front of you. Perfectly cast, funny and heartbreaking, it also predicts current cultural obsessions with food and flavour.
  • We watched Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011) benefitting from the odd pleasure of people talking confidently about things you don’t understand. A fascinating depiction of how evolution is caused by curveballs. Pitt set to ‘powerhouse’, Sorkin dialled down to ‘bearable’.
  • We watched The King of Staten Island (Judd Apatow, 2020) which has a languorous charm of sorts and is an attempt to move out of Apatow’s usual middle-class privileged milieu. There’s a much more interesting, meaty film trying to get out though. Davidson shows dramatic potential
  • We watched Beyond The Mat (Barry Blaustein, 1999) Rough and ready, just like it’s incredible subjects, the Jake The Snake story alone has more pathos, heartbreak & broken joy than Aronofsky’s overrated ‘The Wrestler’. It treats the wrestlers like people of flesh, blood and bone

 

 

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