Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Film’

My 2010 Film Awards

08/01/2011 2 comments

I’ve just returned from holiday, so this is a little late, but I decided to round off the year with an awards-esque thing. This is what I made of the year:

Best Screenplay: This is easy – Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network was incredible. No question about this one.

Best Soundtrack/Score: I’m going for the Shutter Island score, assembled by Robbie Robertson. Mark Kermode described it as “honking and quacking”. I loved it. It fit the film perfectly.

Best On-Screen Chemistry: Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak were hilarious in Four Lions, so I’m giving this one to them. Really great performances and a really touching relationship.

Best Villain: It has to be Lotso from the wonderful Toy Story 3. What a bastard.

Best Horror: I haven’t seen a lot of horror this year, so this is going to Frozen. This one caught me unawares, a real pleasant surprise.

Best Sci-Fi: No doubt that this has to be Inception, one of the films of the year. As everyone keeps on saying, it proves that popular cinema does not have to be dumb.

Best Comedy: I’m going back to Four Lions again. Hilarious. And I haven’t seen a whole lot of comedies this year.

Best Supporting Actress: Emily Blunt in Wild Target. Not a great film, but I enjoyed watching her, and she was very funny.

Best Supporting Actor: Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones and Easy A. I enjoyed both movies, and Tucci is the man.

Best Actress: Ruth Williams as not-Cherie Blair in The Ghost. An excellent performance from an excellent actress.

Best Actor: DiCaprio for Inception and Shutter Island. The man is infinitely watchable.

Best Director: I think I’ll say Chris Nolan for Inception because it was so spectacular, but with a massive nod to David Fincher.

Best Film: Definitely The Social Network. Perfect in every way.

And, just to end on a downer:

Worst Film: Vampires Suck. Easily the worst thing I have ever paid to do.

This is what I had to choose from, I think I saw 42 in total:

127 Hours (8/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (4/10)

Buried (6/10)

Clash of the Titans (2/10)

Devil (8/10)

Easy A (7/10)

Four Lions (9/10)

Frozen(8/10)

Get Him to the Greek(7/10)

Green Zone (8/10)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (8/10)

Inception (10/10)

Invictus (8/10)

Iron Man 2 (7/10)

Kick Ass (8/10)

Knight and Day (5/10)

Let Me In (5/10)

Monsters (8/10)

Predators (7/10)

RED (5/10)

Remember Me (7/10)

Salt (6/10)

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (7/10)

Shutter Island (8/10)

The American (7/10)

The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (7/10)

The Book of Eli (6/10)

The Expendables (7/10)

The Ghost (9/10)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (4/10)

The Killer Inside Me (6/10)

The Lovely Bones (8/10)

The Other Guys (7/10)

The Road (6/10)

The Social Network (10/10)

The Town (8/10)

The Wolfman (4/10)

Toy Story 3 (10/10)

Up In The Air (7/10)

Vampires Suck (1/10)

Wild Target (7/10)

Winter’s Bone (8/10)

The Other Guys and Knight and Day. Two average movies.

I’m trying to catch up with what’s gone on this year, and I decided to start with two of the more surprisingly positively refused movies. Adam McKay’s The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz juggernaut Knight and Day, directed by James Mangold.

There are a lot of similarities between the two films. They are both essentially buddy cop comedies with one extremely annoying element, they both end incredibly predictably and they are both fairly decent.

First, the annoying elements. Will Ferrell’s shouty doofus shtick is more than past its best. While it may have been funny back in the Anchorman and Elf days, its now worn beyond thin. However, Marky Mark more than makes up for it with a pitch-perfect straight man role, frustrated at the incompetence of his partner and angry at the demotions that it all leads to.

In Knight and Day, the smug, self-congratulating way in which Cruise and Diaz portray their relationship is painful. It’s like they’re saying “Hey, we don’t even need to pretend that these are characters. Let’s just let everyone see how good looking we are. That’ll do it.”

As I said, they aren’t bad movies, but they are both let down by some really crucial errors.

Peter Bradshaw gave The Other Guys five stars in The Guardian, and listed it among his top films of the year, and fair enough, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, it isn’t a five star movies. Even looking at movies with a degree of relativity and comparing it to movies of the same genre, if this is a five star movie, the likes of I Love You, Man and Superbad need a new set of ratings to be introduced to allow their superiority to be properly displayed.

These aren’t bad films but there are a lot of better things out there. Worth a watch, but don’t buy them.

The Town – Oscar Contender?

I’ve been looking around the web at various bits of Oscar-related news and came across WB’s “For Your Consideration” page for Ben Affleck’s The Town. Not convinced. I liked The Town. I’d even go so far as to say that I very much enjoyed it, but Oscar contender? Not for me.

It is one of the most straight-forward, down-the-line, simple films I have seen this year. Affleck’s direction and acting is good, but not world class. I could see Jeremy Renner or Rebecca Hall getting Supporting nominations, perhaps, but the big two are never going to happen, and the day Affleck wins an Oscar for his acting is the day Hell freezes over. And I say that as a fan.

To be fair, Renner and Hall were excellent in this movie – they did everything required of them well and convinced me of their somewhat two-dimensional characters – but there are probably five better nominations I could think of having only seen about 30 films this year – Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Nic Cage (Kick Ass), Robert Duvall (The Road), Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) are all better bets for Supporting Actor than Jeremy Renner, and I would venture that Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones), Emily Mortimer and Michelle Williams (Shutter Island), Amy Ryan (Green Zone), Eva Mendes (Bad Lieutenant) and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter) all did better jobs than Rebecca Hall in their respective roles. OK, maybe it’s a stretch to suggest that the likes of Kick Ass and Harry Potter will get Oscar noms in the big categories, but they deserve them more.

I genuinely liked The Town, but it is no more than a solid film with solid direction and solid performances. It is, in a word, solid. Solid. Although, given that nowadays we get 10 Best Picture nominations, it is possible that The Town will get one of these. I won’t support it, but it’s possible.

The Social Network’s Oscar Campaign

30/11/2010 1 comment

As everyone knows, David Fincher’s The Social Network is the film of the year. Concise, gripping and brilliant, it lacks nothing and has everything. What Fincher doesn’t have, however, is an Academy Award. The man who made Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac has not been recognised by the Academy. A travesty, I’m sure you agree.

This week, there has been a lot of Oscar chat, due to the Gotham Independent Awards, at which Winter’s Bone won Best Picture. Now, Winter’s Bone is being talked about as a key contender for the Oscar, alongside The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The Kids Are All Right and The King’s Speech. These all tick boxes for Oscar nominations – token kids movie? Check. Indie movie? Check. Minorities movie? Check. British movie? Check. Best film of the year? Check.

If The Social Network doesn’t win either Best Picture or Best Director, the Academy needs to take a long, hard look at itself. I have gone on and on about The Social Network to whoever will listen, and was disheartened to be told last week that it was “boring”, before being told that Inception was a better film. Not just that it was the opinion of this person that it was a better film, but that it actually is a better film because it is a more exciting story and it has action. Hmm.

What has really surprised me is the story that Justin Timberlake is campaigning hard for a Supporting Actor nomination. He was certainly good in the film, but if The Social Network is to get a Supporting Actor nod, I would expect it to go to either Andrew Garfield, who is heavily tipped, or Armie Hammer, who was fantastic as the Winklevi. Timberlake did a good job, sure, but he was very much a background character. He certainly did something different from what we’ve seen before in the likes of Southland Tales and Black Snake Moan. Whatever the case, he’s a long way from N*Sync now.

The American – A Review

Anton Corbijn’s The America is a bizarre beast. Part clichéd melodrama, part existential-crisis thriller and part genre-throwback, the film never really settles despite creating a haunting, romantic atmosphere.

Corbijn, in conspiracy with cinematographer Martin Ruhe, shoots the village of Castel del Monte impeccably, giving every scene its own unique feel. While this may contribute to the overall lack of cohesion in the film, it gives the viewer something spectacular to look at, and while the film may lack in certain areas, there is always something beautiful to look at, whether it be one of the many establishing shots of the town, the paradiso of a riverside clearing or the scarlet-lit interior of prostitute Clara’s bedroom.

The plot centres on George Clooney’s eponymous Jack, an assassin sent to rural Italy to await his next assignment. Paranoid and mistrusting, he feels uneasy in this unknown environment and resorts to keeping company with a priest hiding a secret and a hooker who quickly falls in love with Jack.

Clara could be seen as the centre of the film. As one of the two characters that Jack connects with, she plays a key role in bringing him to resolution, giving him a purpose and a reason to leave what he does behind. Her honourable intentions make her a rare figure in The American; where most characters have dark motives for their actions, Clara wants to leave Castel del Monte and to start her life again, with Jack.

While the film is stunning to observe, it is sadly lacking in the storytelling department. To condense a 400-page novel into 105 minutes of film takes skill, and between Corbijn and screenwriter Rowan Joffe, it falls despairingly short. The relationship between Clara and Jack feels forced and rushed, with no time given to developing them from hooker and client to prospective life-partners, and Paolo Bonacelli’s Father Benedetto is given no closure, a character left suspended while the film progresses to its climax.

Perhaps these are intentional, highlighting the spontaneity of life and the lack of endings that many characters in our lives get, but it does not feel right to leave a character as important as Benedetto behind, or to allow Jack to change his life in such a short period of time.

For a film that purports to be so intelligent, The American is incredibly clichéd. We have seen basic symbolism – look out for the butterflies – so many times that it now feels hackneyed and stale; dull rather than deep. The ending is telegraphed as soon as the final act begins, leaving the viewer waiting for what they know is going to happen. While it doesn’t ruin the film, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Clooney once again gives a fantastic performance. Quiet and isolated, but powerfully dangerous, he comes across as the bastard child of an odd three-way between Jason Bourne, Harry Caul and Clooney’s own Ryan Bingham from Up In The Air. Clooney no longer gives outstanding performances, as each matches the great heights of the last, but this is among the best he has ever done. At 49, he is finally cementing his place as not just the biggest movie star on the planet, but one of its very best actors.

Although the film fails to deliver a truly convincing emotional climax, as a piece of visual art it is second to none. Clooney’s performance makes it stand out, but Joffe’s screenplay is lack in several key areas. The film has received some harsh criticism, but this can be put down to the disastrous mismarketing of this as an “action-thriller”; the action if minimal and the slow pace renders this film anything but thrilling. A rushed climax does damage The American, as the contemplative build-up deserves more, but ultimately it is a satisfactory watch. It won’t challenge intellectually, but it will entertain visually.

7/10

High Plains Drifter

I watched High Plains Drifter – Clint Eastwood’s second directorial feature – two nights ago, and I enjoyed it a fair amount. This isn’t a review, I just want to share my thoughts on it.

Now, my first thought when the credits began to roll was “Why was this rated 18?” Sure, there’s a rape scene, and a fair few people get killed, but it’s all pretty tame my today’s standards; there is barely a drop of blood, the only nudity we get is Clint Eastwood topless as he undresses for a bath, and the overall tone of the film is nowhere near as dark as a film like A Fistful of Dollars, which is rated 15 over here.

I would have no qualms about showing this movie to even a 15-year-old; if they can walk into HMV and pick up a copy of Hot Fuzz, which has numerable uses of “cunt” and “fuck”, as well as lot more explicit violence and gore, I don’t see why they are not allowed to buy this. It is also a valuable tool in film education, as it is yet another reason to fall in love with Clint Eastwood, possibly the greatest person ever to have lived.

To quickly summarise the plot, Clint plays, unsurprisingly, a high plains drifter, who drifts into a small town called Lago, which is steeling itself for the return of three notorious outlaw types, who are due to be released from prison in the next couple of days. Clint’s first action is to kill Lago’s three self-styled protectors, obviously, because he is awesome. It is just after this that he commits what is possibly the tamest rape I have seen on screen. Despite its tameness, it was a bit creepy given that Mordecai, the town midget, is watching them.

I really don’t understand how the certification of this film works at all, and the BBFC website has no information, so I guess I stay stuck in this state of confusion and bewilderment.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is a spoiler, so don’t read on after this if you don’t want High Plains Drifter spoiled for you. To be fair, if you don’t figure it out in the first 20 minutes, if not the first five, there is something wrong with you.

***********************************SPOILERS*************************

 

 

 

So Clint is a ghost, or something. He is Marshall Jim Duncan, once of Lago. He was killed by the three dickheads that are coming back to town and was buried in an unmarked grave. Early in the film, one of the female characters says something along the lines of “If you’re buried in an unmarked grave, you’re destined to wander the earth forever, looking for something.” Or something like that. This is an obvious clue, along with Clint’s flashbacks to being savagely attacked in the middle of the town, with no-one helping him.

I get why maybe they thought this was a good idea, but it just seems a little weird to me. To be fair, if he had just been a nice guy who came in and helped, I would probably be writing something like “I don’t get why Clint would help out this little town for no reason, blah blah blah…”, so maybe this plot element is warranted.

However, due to my sanity, I don’t believe in ghosts, and generally when one watches a movie about ghosts, the whole notion is very stylised or fantastical in a way that makes it acceptable to show me ghosts. When I watch a western, it’s all about real badasses doing real badass things, and the idea that ghosts could be a part of this bothered me quite deeply. I did enjoy the film, but a lot of the time I was thinking “Well, why would a ghost do that?” Why didn’t he just go and murder the criminals in their cells? Why did he make Mordecai the sheriff and the mayor? Why did he paint the town red?…That was really weird. It has to be said that sometimes I read films slightly naively, but this time, the red thing really went over my head. I understand that he ripped off the townspeople because they let him die, but certain elements seemed very odd.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on High Plains Drifter – a very good film, but not my favourite Clint movie or my favourite western. Very accomplished, and very entertaining, but the supernatural stuff did irritate me slightly. It’s a solid movie, and if you like westerns, you’ll like this. If you don’t like westerns, a) you probably won’t like this and b) what is wrong with you?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – A Review

I feel as if I should get this out of the way: before Friday I was not much of  a Potter fan. I had read books 1-6 and seen films 1-3, as well as half of the last movie a few weeks ago. I had some fondness for the series as it was a part of my childhood, but ultimately, I didn’t care any more. I went along on Friday morning because I thought I should probably see this. And I’m glad I did.

What is most apparent about this latest installment is that it is not a movie for kids. Looking back on the old films, they very much are. As good as they are, they are for children. The Death Hallows is dark, it’s violent and it’s very grown up. And so are the actors – having not really seen them since they were about 14, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, it was a shock to suddenly realise that these are real people, and more importantly, they are very good actors. Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint are more than accomplished in roles that they have clearly grown comfortable with. Their performances seem effortless and cool. Whereas before, they seemed more concerned with remembering their lines than performing them convincingly, now they simply are Hermione, Harry and Ron.

The opening scenes of The Deathly Hallows tell us immediately that we aren’t in for an easy ride. We are privy to a Death Eaters meeting, complete with torture, murder and wand-breaking. The unfortunate recipient of which is Jason Isaacs’ (Hello!) Lucius Malfoy, father of the douchey Draco.

After this, we lose two of the most memorable characters from the series (who, I won’t reveal, but one is particularly heartbreaking), and the realisation that this is a dangerous, deadly world in which the characters exist.  There are clear parallels to the Nazis’ persecution of impure races and people; a real-life scenario that the makers have done well to mirror in this most fantastical of universes, as it adds vital emotional resonance and pathos to the story we are told.

As opposed to previous Potter stories, this is told far from the comfort of Hogwarts, as we follow our heroic triumvirate as they seek to destroy the horcruxes that hold the power to defeating, once and for all, Lord Voldemort, while avoiding the attention of bounty hunters, snakes disguised as friends, and general bad luck. The chemistry between the three leads is what keeps the story going; lesser performances from any of them would really damage the movie, as they really are the sole focus of the events we see.

It is important to note that this film only tells half a story, and the divide is chosen at an opportune moment – one that leaves the viewer wanting to see the rest of the story, while feeling satisfied with the story they have already been told.

Some critics have offered the opinion that there isn’t enough action on show, and that the majority of the film is boring. However, I would argue that the lack of action adds to the already-palpable tension, and only serves to make the impeccable moments of action all the more relieving and exciting.

The Deathly Hallows is, simply put, an excellent film. As someone who hasn’t followed the story for some five years, I picked up the story fairly comfortably and enjoyed what I was given. We have action, humour, romance, suspense, and the all important magic, and each element of the story is told as well as the next. If you haven’t watched a Potter film in years because they were too childish, this is the film you need to see. Compelling, dark and it ends on a cliffhanger. What more could you want?

9/10