Daredevil S2

After I’d watched Marvel/Netflix’s Jessica Jones, I wrote about how I felt having watched the series. So now I feel like I need to write about this second season of Daredevil.

I enjoyed the first season, so went into this with positive vibes. But it was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. Not awful, just disappointing.

Note: spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned!

The season got off to a slow start, with very little daredevilling in the first few episodes, and very little lawyering either. I was also struggling to believe the Karen and Matt relationship – too gushy, and it just didn’t click with me.

Actually Karen is a character I’ve never really warmed to anyway. She has a potentially interesting back story which is hinted at from time to time, but appears to be either a legal assistant or miraculously an investigative journalist whenever the plot requires it, with no real explanation. But the really horrible thing about Karen is how the writers have, yet again, taken a female character and have her drawn to bad guy, thinking she can fix him. Marvel/Netflix really needs to think about how it writes its female characters, because after Jessica Jones, I’m definitely starting to worry.

The other female character is Elektra, who has to be one of the most annoying characters ever. Dropping back into Matt’s life as if nothing has happened, she snaps her fingers and he jumps. It’s not the actress’s fault that I found her clipped English/French accent difficult to listen to, but in her presence Matt turns into a total asshat and lets everyone down, including himself. And his flip-flopping between the two women was ridiculous. This was not the Matt Murdock I met in season 1. Had I done so, I would not have been back for season 2.

I wonder if there was a competition to see how many villains could be on the rampage at any one time? I counted around 10 different groups or individuals – and this is not your usual villain of the week turn. Several of them showed up all at once and I lost track of who was working with/turning against whom.

With the exception of Wilson Fisk. As soon as he appeared, there were fireworks; he electrified everything. His scene with Matt in the prison was brilliant.

And the other brilliant thing is Foggy. He is completely wonderful and is treated shabbily by Matt, who fails to support him in his work, and by the writers, who managed to make him disappear from most of the final two episodes.

And then suddenly it’s Christmas. In New York City – with no snow?

I very nearly gave up on this season – Vincent D’Onofrio pulled me back in. He better be back soon.

 

Disorder

A great vehicle for Matthias Schoenaerts, who manages to convey a whole lot of what’s going on behind those eyes without saying very much at all. He’s very good at that generally, and I don’t think he gets enough credit.

Here he’s a soldier suffering from psychological and medical issues, who picks up a private security job between tours of duty. A pounding, outstandingly atmospheric soundtrack accompanies his anxieties and suspicions, as trouble erupts and he has to deal with violent situations.

We see virtually everything from over his shoulder, and are therefore right in the middle of things. Even to the point where we’re not always sure if it’s real, or imagined.

It’s not a perfect film, but it’s tense, and I enjoyed watching.

Oh, and it’s directed by Alice Winocour, if you’re looking for films directed by woman for your list.

High-Rise

I had a idea about the type of film I should be expecting going in to this, but I’m not quite sure if this was quite what I had been anticipating.

That’s not to say I didn’t find it interesting though. Difficult, perhaps. Or as a woman coming out of the screening in front of me said “exhausting”.

The building which plays host to the events of the film almost has a personality of its own, and Tom Hiddleston is magnetic (and I’m not a fangirl). There’s a great soundtrack, and the wardrobe department clearly had a field-day recreating the 1970s.

The cracks in this vertical society are already there at the start of the film, and as it all starts to crumble, it is unsettling as the camera-work puts you right in the middle of the chaos. I wanted to get out, but I couldn’t. Well, I suppose I could have joined the dozen or so walk-outs, but that’s not me.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

What an unholy mess of a film. I really wanted to like this, despite Man of Steel making me very angry.

Some mild spoilers ahead, perhaps come back if you’ve not seen the film yet.

Let’s start positively – Jeremy Irons as Alfred was a delight to watch, but wasn’t around enough. And Gal Gadot was present just the right amount, was awesome, and was far and away the best thing about this film.

Beyond that, ugh.

Gadot aside, the women are mothers or girlfriends to be rescued at appropriate moments, to be easily sacrificed, or to be an anonymous plaything for a billionaire vigilante on his night off.

Affleck plays a grumpy Bruce Wayne prone to Trump-like anti-alien rhetoric. Cavill’s Kent/Superman has two expressions – puzzled and confused. There was a distinct lack of charm.

By far the biggest irritation though was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  So annoying, I wanted to find the off-switch every time he appeared.

Even if you tied me up and called me Martha I’d be hard pushed to explain some of the plot points fully. People inexplicably knowing secret identities; others knowing what to do or where to go as if by magic; a handily placed tank of badness for the baddie to do bad with.

Flashbacks, dreams, visions all mixed up together – as I said, an unholy mess of a film.

The thing is, there really is no need for Batman to v Superman at all. They’ve both always been doing the same thing (on opposite sides of the bay, it would seem – who knew?) – wouldn’t a civilised little chat between two superheroes have sorted out everything?

Anyway. Over to you, Ms Prince.

El botón de nácar – The Pearl Button

Director Patricio Guzmán made one of my favourite films of 2012 – Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light), in which he examined murky aspects of Chile’s history.

El botón de nácar does the same thing, but over a much broader timespan of subjugation and dictatorship. This time, instead of the desert holding the secrets, it’s water. Guzmán gently prods around at why Chile, with its thousands of miles of coastline, has an almost non-existent day-to-day relationship with the ocean. It explores the colonisation and virtual extermination of the indigenous, water-faring civilisations of Chile’s south, and makes connections with Pinochet’s desaparecidos and the sea.

It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking story which makes a good companion piece to Guzmán’s earlier documentary, and features some absolutely beautiful cinematography.

Anomalisa 

First thing to say is what beautiful animation! Every detail has been acutely observed – the way fingers curls around a cigarette, a hand opening a medication bottle – even the slight rise and fall of the chest as a character breathes gently. So, so exquisite.

I’ve seen comments that this film’s protagonist made this less enjoyable that it could have been. And while he is no saint, I was content to spend time with him because his unpleasantness and unhappiness stems from a very fragile sense of self, despite his outward success. Which we see peeping through from time to time.

So I liked this, and was happy watching it, except for the final 15 minutes. It’s not often I say a film could do to be longer, but it kind of hurtled towards a conclusion and didn’t seem to balance with the rest of the story. I felt there was a bit more to learn about Michael before we said our goodbyes.

Hail, Caesar!

“This motion picture contained no visual representation of the godhead.”

At face value, this would appear to be a very flimsy plot interspersed with some highly entertaining scenes from imaginary movies from the 1950s.  But this is just the surface.

Joel and Ethan Coen wander through the back lot of Hollywood exploring the subject of faith – whether it’s faith in religion, political ideals or in other people, it all boils down to what’s important to you and what you’re willing to stand up for. The outward glamour of the movies, which Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix works so hard to maintain, is merely the top layer of a murkier reality – and the same could be said for organised religion and political movements. What do you do if your faith in your chosen system is challenged – walk away, or stay with it because it has worth?

And while the film is asking these serious questions, it also has you laughing and grinning the whole time with the glorious sequences from the various films in production around the studio.

Everyone on-screen plays their part to perfection, (I specify on-screen for a reason – what on earth was the Michael Gambon voiceover for?) and perhaps my favourite of the non-showy performances was Heather Goldenhersh (Mannix’s secretary Natalie). Alden Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle is sparkling, and his spaghetti lasso sequence so well executed.

But the show-stopper has to be Channing Tatum. His is a proper, skillful dance routine reminiscent of Gene Kelly musicals, but which has obvious deeper connotations and it’s worth seeing the film for this sequence alone.

Now, can we please see the Burt Gurney musical all the way through?

Det borde finnas regler – There should be rules

As a rule, I avoid anything which has the tag ‘coming of age’ – I don’t want my leisure time to be filled with precocious teenagers.

And while there is an element of that with one of the friends, Mia – who takes centre stage – is fortunately more interesting than this and is played very competently by 14 year old Anna Hägglin.

As you would expect in a film featuring three teenagers, the adults in their lives are usually absent or messed up, but the fact that the young people themselves aren’t miraculously perfect helps this film a lot.

Despite the Falling Snow

I wonder if Sam Reid will ever grow up to play himself? He’s been a young Peter Firth in Spooks, a young Stellan Skarsgård in The Railway Man, and here he’s a young Charles Dance.

But this cold war/thaw film, which jumps around quite a bit in the first third between the early 1960s and the 1990s, actually revolves around Rebecca Ferguson in a dual performance, with one foot in each time frame.

In the 1960s scenes she has a look of Ingrid Bergman, and carries herself in a reserved and understated manner as she steals state secrets from the government. She was less successful in the 1990s scenes, where she plays an artist in search of information about her aunt, and I put this down to her struggling with accents, and a slightly annoying character. The American characters have American accents, and Ferguson’s slipped quite a bit – but then, she is Swedish; the Russians mostly have plummy English accents which which she was fine.

The stand-out performance was Anthony Head – his vodka-soaked Mikhail oozes self-loathing and demands our sympathy.

And for anyone on the #52filmsbywomen trail, this is directed by Shamim Sarif, so add it to the list.

Broke

A washed-up former rugby star is given a chance at redemption when he is offered shelter by a fan who remembers his glory days.

Match-fixing is apparently a real problem in Australian rugby, so this is addressing topical issues, some of them head-on.

I liked the performances, particularly the daughter (Claire van der Boom), and the general direction the story took (apart from the fact that it should have ended 5 minutes before it did).

But there were also some events which were just a little too convenient, which softened the narrative and were a little implausible. Nevertheless, I didn’t mind that I watched it.