Happy Endings (aka Winter Passing): when a struggling actress is offered some quick cash for her famous mother and father’s early love letters, she goes back home to weigh up her choices. First-off, this is Ms Deschanel being quirky and indie to the max: the movie opens with her singing at the 2 minute mark, and playing the piano within 15 mins so be prepared for full-on mopey, morose and tedious Zooey. It’s not just her though, every character is defined by their quirks and eccentricities, which makes them all memorable, but annoyingly the film ends up containing more randomness than a green flamingo in a roller-skate carrying a backpack full of iguana-flavoured blancmange. Don’t be fooled though, there’s some good moments of acting in here, particularly Ed Harris and Will Ferrel, who both go beyond their stereotyping and comfort zones. If you love a bit of shoe-gazing solemn quirkiness this will be right up your trendy street.
Cheer up goth!
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale – something very Christmassy is buried under a mountain at the Russia/Finland border; when it’s dug up, everyone will believe in a very different Santa! The story is quite basic, but is laced with just enough crazy and black humour to keep you interested and watching. Nothing’s rushed and the story slowly plods along with plenty build up but not much action, until quite an absurd final 20 minutes, but hey – this is fiction! The setting, timeline and snow make the film quite Festive, but with the impending cluster-fudge and gritty Santa figures, you’d do well to keep away from the kids (something not right about hundreds of naked old men running towards a kid!!) There are also some strong Finnish political views and attitudes woven through the duration, but stick out a bit. Overall, it’s a good idea, and admirable execution but definitely hampered by the budget – especially the ending. While it’s another good twist on old tales, for me, this year’s winner of obscure Scandinavian folklore-based films goes to Troll Hunter! Rare Exports is a decent enough B-Movie, much like the secret cargo in the film, this will do better to remain underground.
Hanna: Raised as an assassin, Hannah is cut loose in the real world and soon becomes a fugitive. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that this is nothing short of meticulously filmed – there’s some fantastic single takes, stunning framing / mise en scéne and the action is put together with enviable ease. Said action’s also heightened by a great soundtrack; not dissimilar to Lola. Being set, filmed and funded by Europeans – it has a great anti-blockbuster quality and feel that’s pretty difficult to describe. Distracting everyone from the all of the awesomeness mentioned so far is a cast jammed with as many ridiculous characters as the story could hold: a washed-up clown Grimm, two Neo Nazis, comedy homosexual hitman, ke-razy traveling family (with the worst daughter ever). Because of these characters, the tone bounces around frenetically – serious chase, followed by fish-out-of-water, followed by some action, then a Volver-esque ‘genuine’ Spanish street performance, then some serious plot development… Cast-wise, you can always rely on Eric Bana to pull through and Blanchett nails her portrayal of a determined, cold villain. Ronan was good, considering her part kept flipping between comedy and thriller. Hanna proves to be an above average, and well-directed cat-and-mouse movie with a nice backstory that’s drip-fed throughout the duration.
Richard Pryor Live in Concert: a 74 minute stand-up show filmed at one of Pryor’s 1978 gigs. Starts with an onslaught of “Whiteboys do this stupidly, niggers do it a different way” observations, although they weren’t as frequent after the first 15 minutes. In the course of this he covers topics as diverse as: police methods, dogs, death, fathers, camping, boxing, running, kids, Chinese people, and sex all with enthusiasm and fantastic execution. As someone that’s performed stand-up live and enjoys the genre, it’s clear that Pryor was light years ahead of the curve with his personification of things, delivery, voices and acting. Unfortunately, because this gig – and Pryor – are now so famous all of the best bits are shown on every TV clip show and countdown. Although it’s clearly a great performance, the focus of race throughout puts me off a bit. Pretty dated, slightly risque but unquestionably funny.