400 And Counting: Week Three (Time With The Family)

November 4, 2014

Once more I ride the wave of SBS On Demand movies. Last week I managed a measly five films, far beyond my required seven-point-something films I’m supposed to watch each week. I haven’t hit seven films this week, but I’m doing better than last week, so that’s something.

Don’t judge me!

The Judge (2014) (did I mention I am great at segues?)
Director: David Dobkin
2:21:00 (Completed)

Robert Downey Jr. has daddy issues. On the surface, that sums up The Judge, but it’s also a legal drama, a family drama, a movie about loss, lost love and a comedy. It manages to be all those things by being long. Really, really long.

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) is a successful but jaded lawyer who returns to his hometown and his troubled relationship with his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), after his mother’s death. Like all family dramas, old wounds are soon brought up as we peek into the past of the Palmer family. Broken dreams, alcoholism, abandonment and resentment all bubble to the surface as Hank’s father faces a murder charge on the night of his wife’s funeral.

The legal side of things keep the film flowing and interesting. The stark differences between father and son is what drives the film; I wanted to find out what caused this rift. I’m not really sure if it would help if you have daddy issues of your own, but it might help you connect to Hank and the movie.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011)
Director: Constance Marks
1:15:56 (Completed)

This is just a joyful and uplifting documentary about Kevin Clash, better known as the voice of Elmo. The film follows his early days as a kid watching Sesame Street, to making his own puppets, to starting his career and beyond.

The passionate and dedicated artists that Clash learned from and worked with were just incredible. It’s a story about following your dreams, meeting your idols and learning from them and creating with them. It’s a story about Jim Henson, Frank Oz and puppet designer Kermit Love and it’s about the impact that one muppet can have.

I talked about documentaries in Week One, about how a good doco makes you care about things you didn’t care about before. Elmo and Sesame Street are not things I really care about. I certainly liked The Muppets and was interested in filmmaking and Jim Henson, but the film made me care about this little red puppet.

I found Being Elmo moving, and I really think you should watch it.

(Subsequent events have affected my thoughts on Being Elmo; I’ve written about this at the end of this post)
(This film is part of the regular SBS on-demand services and expires on the 2nd of November)

At this stage, I’ve made it pretty clear that I enjoy watching movies at the cinema. It’s a great environment and the best way to experience a film, far more engrossing than watching on a monitor. What do I like more than seeing a movie at the cinema on a Saturday night? Seeing two!

Fury (2014)
Director: David Ayer
2:15:00 (completed)

Fury is one of those war films that can’t decide if it’s an action film or a drama about the effects of war. It rides the line somewhere in the middle.

It stars Brad Pitt as a Staff Sergeant in charge of a tank, ‘Fury’, during World War II. His veteran crew has been together since Africa and now, while fighting in Germany they lose a gunner. Enter Logan Lerman as the young inexperienced clerk assigned to the tank. What follows is an interesting look at what war does to ones innocence and compassion, and how warfare creates a bond among soldiers.

Now, before you roll your eyes too much, it also contains a number of great tank battles and action scenes.The five guys in the tank are all interesting and well acted. They felt real. The film drags a little and the pacing is a bit strange, which comes back to the question at the beginning: Is this an action movie? The best answer I can give you is “…kind of.”

Overall, I thought this was a pretty cool movie.

This is Where I Leave You (2014)
Director: Shawn Levy
1:43:00 (Completed)

This film has a great cast and a great trailer. This worried me. I was terrified that the film contained exactly two-and-a-half minutes of funny dialog and great moments and 100 minutes of dreadfully dull family drama.

Thankfully, that was not at all the case.

Let’s start with the cast; Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne (yay!), Timothy Olyphant and Jane Fonda — as I said, great. The film focuses on the Altman family, who come together to mourn their father and, despite not being Jewish, sit Shiva, basically a week of being grounded. What results is a typical but nonetheless enjoyable family drama.

Sure, it sounds a lot like The Judge, but where that focuses more on the bond between a father and son, This is Where I Leave You is more about a family together brought together by loss.

But there are are still plenty of laughs (and yes, I was a little drunk when I saw this). I liked this film a lot!

I figure that two family dramas is enough for Week Three, it’s time to watch something different. Next up is a German film I saw at the Melbourne International Film Festival during my first year at film school. Don’t worry, it’s not a wanky experiential art film.

The Wave (2008)
Director: Dennis Gansel
1:42:39 (Completed)

Who knew that a film about a political science class would be so great. The Wave is based off the 1967 social experiment, The Third Wave, which aimed to showed the power of fascism and how intoxicating and powerful the group mentality can be.

The Wave is set in modern day Germany, when laid back punk teacher Rainer Wenger misses out on teaching a class on Anarchy — instead he gets Autocracy. His students don’t believe that a dictatorship is possible in this day and age. As you can expect, it soon spirals out of control and is an interesting look at a changing political climate, group mentality, and makes you understand, on some level how caught up one can get.

It reminds me of some scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street where Leo is basically preaching and has a captivated and loyal audience. This is pretty similar and equally powerful.

Despite this being my second viewing of The Wave, it still grabbed me and kept me hooked.

Every Jack Has a Jill (2009)
Director: Jennifer Devoldere
1:18:55 (Completed)

The main reason I watched this movie was because it had Billy Boyd. As I scrolled down the SBS page, his name caught my eye and so I gave Every Jack Has a Jill a shot. Why Billy Boyd? I was lucky enough to interview him and thus wanted to see more of his non-Lord of the Rings work.

Anyway, this is a kooky little romantic comedy. It’s a French/American film, so it has bits of both languages. Melanie Laurent, who you may remember from Beginners, stars as Chloe, she’s the loner, socially awkward girl (in a cute way, of course, basically every Zooey Deschanel character). She loses her bag and ends up with a bag belonging to Jack (played by Justin Bartha, who you won’t remember from The Hangover). Naturally, she opens it and basically falls in love with him based on the contents of his bag. It follows on from there.

The film has some sweet moments but it’s mostly sappy and over the top. It’s certainly not a bad movie, it just didn’t engage me or keep me that interested. Not even Pippin could save this film.

With that, Week Three is over. I would like to say that next week I’ll be able to balance work, New Game Plus, hobbies (basically Magic: The Gathering), the Book Of Mormon soundtrack I just purchased, and the required seven-plus films. I won’t even come remotely close. The reason? PAX Australia, the three day convention will keep me and the entire New Game Plus crew busy.Then afterwards is the frantic rush to edit as much stuff as possible.

I’m going to hope to hit five films. I guess not watching enough movies is a good problem to have. Better than having maggots on my scrotum (I really like The Book of Mormon soundtrack!)

Film of the Week: The Wave
Movies Watched This Week: 6
Did Not Finish (DNF) This Week: 0
Time Spent This Week: 10:36:30
Total Movies Watched: 21/400
Total DNF: 1
Total Time: 34:57:35


A note on Being Elmo:
The documentary was released to (well deserved) critical success in 2011. On November 20th, 2012, Kevin Clash resigned from Sesame Street after sexual abuse charges were brought against him by a number of young men, the youngest being 16 when they started their relationship. Clash maintained that the relationships were between consenting adults. In July 2013, he was cleared of the charges, due to the lawsuits falling outside of New York State’s statute of limitations. So while he may have been cleared, and in fact it might have been a consensual adult relationship, the waters are just a little too murky for me and the documentary was basically tainted. What was a joyful and rewarding doco which now leaves a sour taste.

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