12 November 2010

Films Of The Weak Week!

Disclaimer- this post is not as much about Kat Dennings as it appears.
Ultra Culture makes a fine point. This week is really weak for new releases. Next week's three posts on this blog will look like this- Skyline, The Tournament, Harry Potter, and only one of those actually hits cinemas in wide release today. I also haven't had time for a trip to the always reliable Tyneside Cinema to see some of the limited releases I haven't got around to yet. What to do when I havent seen Another Year?

Never fear! Believe it or not, there are a couple of films from 2010 I haven't yet reviewed! Sifting through my LoveFilm rentals from the last couple of months, I've picked out a few films I either came to later than expected or simply neglected to review until now. They're still uber-exciting though. Sandra Bullock wins an Oscar! Demons stalk a Faustian surrogate in London! Kat Dennings is adorable! Read on for all of this and more...

Let's get to Miss Dennings first. She's one of the stars of Defendor, a superhero satire that went straight to DVD a few months ago. Woody Harrelson plays Arthur, a man with foetal alcohol syndrome who spends his evenings fighting crime as the titular vigilante. Defendor's life's work is to find and stop Captain Industry, the menace who plagues the city he loves. He befriends a wily prostitute, just as some uncomfortable truths about his life begin to become clear.

In the year that Kick-Ass came out, this Canadian indie movie doesn't really make much of an impression. It's not for any lack of quality- Woody Harrelson and Kat Dennings are both fantastic in it. I make no secret of the fact I have a thing for Dennings, and it's unfortunate that my opportunity to say so comes in the week that nude pictures of her found their way onto the internet, and so everyone and their penis has decided they have a thing for her. Aside from being rather adorable, she's pretty funny in this one, and she's well-matched with Harrelson, who tones down his usual bug-eyed machismo for a more heartfelt turn as Arthur.

As a black comedy, it's not really that funny, to me. Perhaps this post-modern superhero movie lark has finished as quickly as it came around, but you can't escape the feeling that you haven't really travelled anywhere with Arthur when you come to the end of Defendor. It's certainly worth watching for its performances, but not a lot else, sadly.

More intriguing, to me at least, is Heartless. With a heart-shaped birthmark obscuring most of his face, Jamie has been reviled his whole life. He's a lonely photographer who lives with his mum in East London, afraid of the anarchy that reigns on the streets amongst youths in demon masks. When Jamie has a close encounter with one of the attackers, it becomes clear that they might not be wearing masks, and so begins an introspective battle with the devil himself.

As I understand it, writer-director Philip Ridley alienated the hardcore horror crowd when his film premiered at FrightFest last year, by calling it a "proper film" and thus degrading everything other film his paying audience enjoyed watching. I can understand their indignation- Ridley has just reinvented the wheel and by his comments at FrightFest, fulfilled the rather more amateur idea that everyone thinks their idea has never been done before. It's a pretty straightforward Faust allegory. But let the horror buffs hate him if they want, because this isn't an amateur horror film. It's a damn good horror film.

Boasting a great cast that includes the likes of Jim Sturgess, Noel Clarke and Timothy Spall, Heartless is heart-clenchingly tense in its best moments and highly profound for the rest of the time. It's a million miles from the traditional modes of horror even if it's not entirely original, and it's chock full of memorable moments, including a cameo from Eddie Marsan that you'll be thinking about for ages afterwards. It's artful and deeply compelling- go and check it out.

Finally, I caught up with the only Best Picture nominee I didn't catch from this year's Oscars- The Blind Side. Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy, a high-powered matriarch who takes in Michael Oher as part of her own family. The traumatised Michael has been abandoned by his mother, and in rehabilitating the guy, Leigh Anne figures that the gentle giant would make a perfect American football player.

It's not that Sandra Bullock doesn't give a great performance in this, but that she'd only deserve an Oscar if you gave her a Razzie for All About Steve in the same weekend. And what do you know? They did just that. It's Bullock's character who I don't like- the very fact that we have two scenes where Leigh Anne eats lunch at an expensive restaurant with her three friends should tell you what you're dealing with. It's the kind of female character who's inexplicably become popular after the success of Sex and the City, and it's only Sandra Bullock who could hold the audience's attention as well as she does in a film about that character.

As for the rest of it, it's the standard sports movie baloney. As I suspected at the time, Invictus was the better sports movie, and The Blind Side is basically the weakest Best Picture nominee I can think of in years. It's really no better than an adequate massage to the social guilt of rich white Americans, too hesitant to probe into the motivations of its protagonist beyond the obligatory third-act obstacle.  The ending is an unresolved mess too. If they really needed a tenth nomination, Clint Eastwood's rugby film trumps this softly-softly melodrama any day of the week.

The Blind Side, Defendor and Heartless are all available to rent or buy on DVD now.
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If you've seen any of these films, why not share your comments below? If you stuck with me this long, I'm surprised! I fully expect that I'll lose everyone once I mention there are nude pictures of Kat Dennings on the internet.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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