Saturday, February 27, 2010
This is any movie lover's busy time of the year, almost like Christmas. I'm rushing to make time to see as many Oscar nominated movies as possible before the big day! Well, I saw 'The Hurt Locker' last night. From the moment it begins, it's unrelenting and confronting. The story follows a crack Army bomb squad unit Bravo Company on it's daily tasks of finding and defusing bombs in Iraq. It's the last month of the team's tour and the surviving members, SGT Sanborn and SPc Owen Eldridge are just trying to get through the days. Eldridge in particular is finding it particularly difficult to reconcile being in Iraq in these horrific, stressful circumstances. If it sounds a little groundless, have no fear, Director Kathryn Bigelow knows exactly where she's going with this film. A new, talented and extremely cocky maverick, SSG William James (relative newcomer Jeremy Renner) joins the team, and his relationships with his colleagues change all of their lives forever. This movie could easily have spiralled into cliche and predictability but it's extremely well rounded. The actors are, without exception, superb. There are small parts for the commanding presence of Guy Pearce and the impossibly blue-eyed talent of Ralph Fiennes. Jeremy Renner gives a complexity and amiability to a difficult character. The thrill and terror he seeks and gains from his job is palpable. The danger he puts himself and others in is sometimes laughable but foolhardy. The whole film is surrounded by menace and heat, you can smell it. My heart was racing through most of the time and you are constantly looking out, on the soldiers behalf, for snipers and danger. The scenarios just seem to get worse and worse and when you think that humanity can't go any lower, something else pops up to shock. This must only give a miniscule insight into what the soldiers have to deal with and boy, is it an eyeopener. Is it pumped full of testosterone? Of course it is. That is the type of person this film deals with, and they are keeping people safe. It's confronting, but doesn't judge. This is not a political film by any means. There is no glorification, nor is there bleeding hearts. It's a film about warring men and their struggles, sometimes with how much they enjoy the life, which makes it all the more real and human. The cinematogrophy is wonderful, I was a little dubious because I knew some of it was filmed on hand held camera and that usually makes me feel like I've spent 6 months on a leaky boat. The film is far too professional though, and my fears were allayed when I had not one queasy moment. There is little music thankfully and what there is is put to good use. I can't imagine what it must be like over there. If it looks like hell, and sounds like hell, surely it must be hell. The subtle scenes of homelife make this film a stand apart from other war films. I get what all the fuss is about. I think Mr Cameron needs to steel himself. THE HURT LOCKER: Bigelow has this locker's combination all worked out. Lest We Forget. 8/10.
I knew that this film was adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, so was expecting it to be bleak and desolate as he also wrote 'No Country for Old Men'. It's the story of a post-apocolyptic world, you never know what happened, but everything is either dead or dying, including all the plants and animals. A Father (the imperial Viggo Mortensen) and his son, Kodi Smit-McPhee, a wonderful natural and likeable young Australian actor journey to get to the coast, where they hope to find a better life. It's a dream that keeps them both surviving. Some of the events they have to survive are blood curdling and horrific, gangs of subhuman cannibals dwelling in these amazingly beautiful old American houses making the debauchary even worse somehow. You will need a strong stomach for some scenes. Charlize Theron plays the wife/mother in flashback form which she plays beautifully, a woman possessed by maternal instinct and loss of hope and humanity. No one is given any names. There are a couple of cameos, I won't tell you who they are because they are almost unrecognisable and it's quite a shock when you realise who they are! Along the way, they meet people, some to trust, some not. Most are just trying to get through a day at a time. It has some extremely poignant rewarding moments, the Father showing his son things that we all take for granted, and his wonder at them all. The film really makes you work for your rewards, however. It's incredibly painful to watch and at times it gets all a bit bleak and hopeless. It's such a beautiful portrayal of a Father's love for his son, he will literally do anything, without hesitation, for the betterment of his beloved child, and it's heartbreaking. It's very confronting seeing the decaying world, the scenery is spectacular. No actor can be faulted for their performance. The real shame of this beautifully crafted film is that it's so well thought out, and so well crafted, but the ending really lets it down. I remember feeling a little like that at the end of 'No Country for Old Men', it's as if the author suddenly thought, "I've had enough of this" and just wraps it up neatly when it doesn't even make sense. I felt really double crossed I have to say. Still, it's very much a film worth watching as long as you're not having too bad a day to begin with. With a little bit more care, it would have been a classic. THE ROAD: It's long and winding, with a dead end. 6/10
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Much has been made of this movie. The frustration at having the dates pushed back and then finally, like Christmas, it was apon us. There is little to tell of the story of this Hitchockian film noir by Sir Martin of Scorsese, for to outline the story too far would be to give the plot away. It's the tale of Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a US Marshall, that along with his partner (Mark Ruffalo) embark on a journey in 1954 to an institute for the criminally insane on Shutter Island. Their task is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an inpatient. Teddy is assisted with his enquiries by the Director of the Institue (Sir Ben Kingsley) and various other inpatients and staff. During the course of the film the Marshall descends in on himself in a spiral of hallucinations, memories of the liberation of Dachau, meetings and migraines. All is not as it seems on Shutter Island...
Firstly, without question, the acting is superb. Leonardo DiCaprio gives yet another powerhouse performance, his descent into hell is emotional and understated, you feel his confusion and despair. Mark Ruffalo is consistantly excellent in everything he does, and his turn as Leo's partner is relaxed and warm, an excellent contrast to Marshall Daniel's wreck. Sir Ben Kingsley needs no introduction and his portrayal as the kindly, compassionate Director (or is he?) is wonderful. The rest of the cast, the divine Patricial Clarkson, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Hayley, the formidable Max Von Sydow, Ted Levine (remember him as Jame Gumb?) all just add to the quality and depth of this film. The score is menacing, the scenery hellish and strangely beautiful and the flashback/hallunication/nightmare sequences are the stuff of dreams, albeit rather hellish ones. The atmosphere this film creates is menacing, but with a sadness too. People will be looking for twists and turns at every corner, I say relax, it's not The Crying Game, there is no big reveal, rather a slow revelation over the course of the 2 1/2 hours. Be warned, some of this film is hard to watch, and shockingly confronting. Enjoy this magnificent film which embraces many genres, it's a wild ride, but I wouldn't want to take it with anyone other than Leo and Martin. SHUTTER ISLAND: Don't pay the Ferry Man. 9/10.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Ever since Bram Stoker's Dracula, I've had a bit of a penchant for Gothic horror. Actually, it probably goes back further than that to the days of watching 'Hammer House of Horror' on a Friday night with my sisters in awe of Peter Cushing hamming it up for all he was worth. I love the campness, fog and humour of them. The Wolfman was just one of these movies. Now I know it's been pretty much panned by the critics, but honestly, what did they expect? It was fairly obvious from the shorts what sort of a film it was going to be, and it didn't disappoint. The story is of Laurence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), a British actor who has lived in the United States (thus neatly explaining his accent) called back to his home in England to help find his brother. There he meets his brother's fiancee (Emily Blunt) and reunites with his eccentric father (Sir Anthony Hopkins). There unfolds a dark tale of werewolves, betrayal and curses. It is filled with gypsies, intestines, love and dark humour, all the while with silver bullets flying. There is a supporting cast which reads like a who's who of English character actors, and Detective Abberline (a real life character who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders) is given not enough airtime and played by the eminently watchable Australian actor Hugo Weaving. Art Malik and Geraldine Chaplin round off this delightful cast as the long sufferring Sikh servant and the all knowing gypsy (I'll leave you to guess who plays who). Benicio Del Toro reminds me of Brad Pitt's Puerto Rican younger brother (if he had one), he is disconcertingly magnetic and always looks like he's seen a whole lot of life. He seems to be more comfortable playing the wolfman than Laurence. Emily Blunt is sympathetic and sufficiently mourning (although not for long once Benicio arrives) and Sir Anthony is aptly eccentric with his dysrhythmic speech pattern and accent from who knows where. I enjoyed this film for what it was. The effects were great, and the wolfmen were true to the old style movies version, and all the better for it. THE WOLFMAN: Pure silver. 6/10
Saturday, February 13, 2010
John Keats was a wonderful romantic poet, and this beautifully crafted film brings him to life. Directed by Jane Campion, it stars, in my opinion, one of the best young actors the UK has to offer, Ben Whishaw. He is almost more Keatsian than Keats himself with his starved good looks, raffish hair and threadbare clothes. It is the story of the last two years of Keats'life and the inspiration he draws from the love of Fannie Brawne. Fannie portrayed by Abbie Cornish, who until now hasn't really had much chance to spread her acting wings. Well, she does in this one, and she flies. Fannie is an independant young woman who designs the most beautiful clothes, (the costumes are divine) and she brings a real and true quality to this feisty woman. Obviously, it's a very sad story but surprisingly upbeat and fun. The romance is true, rather than the fluttering eyelids and flowery words of some period dramas. There is a stellar support cast, and the music is just perfect as it's very sparse and the music there is is sent from heaven in the form of Mozart sung by a choir, including the vocally competent Mr Whishaw. Like many other stories of centuries past, it echos how bound people were by class and substance, which makes it all the more heart-breaking for the doomed couple. I can't recommend this film highly enough, but please be warned, you will need to have no shame and plenty of tissues for the last ten minutes, and the closing credits music and voice-over is one of the most powerful I have witnessed. BRIGHT STAR: This movie couldn't have been given a better title, a celestial treat for anyone who has ever loved. 9/10
Friday, February 12, 2010
Oh George, with your chestnuts eyes, and hair of the silver fox, is there anything you can't do? It seems not. Now some don't like Mr Clooney, too suave and charming, the question is can you chastise a giraffe for being tall and eating leaves? You cannot. Even in his lesser roles his urbane European charisma oozes through, it's not his fault you see, he's everyone's favourite Uncle (the good one, not the bad one that noone talks about). I have to say that whilst I find him totally irresistable and a wonderful actor, I don't actually fancy him, so think I can be fairly objective.
Up in the air is directed by Jason Reitman, of brilliant 'Juno' fame and he's hit the nail on the head again with this delightful story. It's about Ryan Bingham, he's the opposite of a head hunter, a hired gun who flys all over the USA firing people. The majority of these fired people are played by actual victims of the US recession who verbalise their feelings on the traumatic events in their lives with dignity and humour. Ryan loves his job and his detached life. He loves his world up in the air and his only real concern is reaching the million frequent flyer miles club, an astounding feat. Then a hungry and ambitious young lady (Anna Kendrick) comes up with a cost cutting idea, and it's up to a disapproving Ryan to show her the ropes. This journey, both literal and emotional they both go on is fascinating and believable. Ryan's boss is played by the ever reliable and likeable Jason Bateman, and a love interest pops up in the form of the softly beautiful Vera Farmiga as Alex Goran, in her own words, a female version of Ryan who shares his love of the shallow world of status and card collecting. The film is full of gentle twists, turns and suppositions, not all of them unpredictable, but wholly enjoyable. There's a wedding thrown in and Ryan also performs in some fairly excrutiating self-help seminars in some pretty drab and depressing settings. This is one man's story of a chapter in his life, it's gentle and funny with wonderful actors, every one of them faultless and an amazing script. Ryan appears to be one person, and by the end of the film you see him in a completely different light. The ending is perfect. No gimmicks. The film is pretty perfect too, and one of my favourites of the year and an Oscar pick for me. UP IN THE AIR: An extremely grounded film. 9/10
What can you say about the much hyped, much anticipated film that is 'Avatar'? Quite a bit actually! I would first like to say that I like James Cameron's films. I'm not one of those fickle people that raved about 'Titanic' when it came out and now look on it with loathing and sheer snobbery. I stand by my enjoyment and love of that film excuse the pun, but it swept me away and still manages to all this time later. So it was with excitement that I went off to see the film, even forking out for the extra 3D, and then having to pay extra for the privelege of 3D glasses!
First, the graphics are quite simply beautiful, amazing, creative and cannot be faulted. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as some being suicidal at the wrench of having to leave the planet of 'Pandora' in the cinema (I don't really fancy the idea of having to combat huge rhino like creatures of an evening), it was truly beautiful especially the neon lights at night and the botanical gardens. The Na'vi people were very realistic and it was quite a strange experience believing totally that they were a race of people in their own right. The 3D was unobtrusive whilst enhancing the whole event.
That, unfortunately is where the glowing report ends. The question I ask myself with 3D is, "Would the film still be good as good without it?" The answer, for me is a resounding 'no'. The cast were fine as they had very little to do really. Sam Worthington was sufficiently brooding, all square jaw and antipodean rugged good looks. Zoe Saldana has a fine voice as Neytiri (you never see the actress), Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi as the hippy botanist and evil, weak head of operations respectively were solid. Michelle Rodgrigez deserves a medal for churning out the most dire lines of the movie. You see, the problem is that, taking away all the bluster and shine, it's just not a very good movie. The plot is as weak as a cup of my Grandmother's tea. Paraplegic Marine (yawn) takes over his smarter twin brother's role as a Na'vi avatar to infiltrate the people, gain their trust and either learn more about their ways, or take all of the 'unobtainium' ( a rare and extremely expensive mineral only found at the bottom of their sacred tree). Is the name of the mineral supposed to be ironic? Sorry, the film doesn't strike me as clever enough for that. James Cameron wrote this as well, and it shows.He should stick to directing. At times, the lines are so crass, it's embarrassing. I won't give the plot away if you're the one person in the world reading this that hasn't seen it, but suffice to say, it's predictable and uncreative, even down to the 'action man' scarred, flat-topped military man who wants to see the whole world of Pandora burn. Yawn yawn yawn. It was far too long, talk about clock watching and how many fight scenes can you put into one film?
I just remember the feeling when I saw Titanic that I'd never seen anything like it before in my life, and what a rollercoaster of emotions you rode on. With Avatar, I felt nothing for any of them. I am quite a greeny, and on principal would have been rooting for the botanist, but sometimes found myself gunning for G.I Joe. The romance was laughable, no feelings came through at all. I guess I was just really disappointed that all of this time and money had been spent on effects and the wonders of Pandora, and very little creative thought on editing, script or the film as a whole. I'm sure it will sweep The Oscars, but if it wins best picture, there is no justice. The last scene set up nicely for a sequel, one I won't be hooking my dragon up to and flying off at the first opportunity to my local cinema for. A children's film for adults. AVATAR: Shows that even these brilliant avatar's can't whip up emotion like good old fashioned flawed people can. 8/10 (for graphics) 4/10
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"Please not another Vampire movie"! I thought as I read the cinema guide for last week. As it is my movie rule to see a film a week, whether there is something that I really want to see or not, off I trotted. As it turned out, it wasn't just another Vampire movie. Directed by the Spierig brothers and stars the increasingly attractive Ethan Hawke as the reluctant Haematologist medic Edward (yes, another Vampire named Edward!) who was turned to the darkness by his gung-ho soldier boy brother. Sam Neill plays the divinely unctious Charles Bromley, corporate head of a blood bank, Willem Dafoe as 'Elvis' a former Vampire (woefully underused) and Australian actors Claudia Karvan and Vince Colosimo. This is an imaginative story set in 2019 and is a tale of ethics, love and frights. When the good Dr who is trying desperately to find an alternative to the rapidly depleting blood supply stumbles across some extremely valuable (and trusting) humans, they offer a much more humane solution to the dilemma the world finds itself in. The Dr feels he's hit the jackpot, but do the large corporations really want an alternative, or is money and status the real goal? There are some really gory bits, as you would expect and hope, and some lovely heart stopping moments in this film. There is a subdivision of Vampires, that are even more terrible called the subsiders, a mutant form of vampire that are forced to suck other vampire's blood or, even more revoItingly, their own. These subsiders provide most of the fun and possible heart attacks. The movie is about 1 hour 40 mins, so not too long. The script is quite well thought out and there are some really funny moments. The relationship between Charles Bromley and his daughter ( a beautiful Australian actress named Isabel Lucas, the jury is still out on whether she can do much more than look great) is a bit shallow, and so almost seems unnecessary. I would have much preferred a bit more dark humour considering the originality of the story, and at times it seemed a little too serious and self-important. All in all, an enjoyable romp with good solid acting and more than a little adventure. DAYBREAKERS: Worth venturing out in the night for. 6/10