Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Flixster Reviews #2

Paris Je T'aime
Oh wow, everybody should see this film! The 18 vignettes from directors such as Gus Van Sant, the Coens and Alexander Payne vary from the bizarre (Elijah Wood is a vampire), to the annoying (Emily Mortimer in Pere Lachaise) to the utterly delightful (the mimes in love!) and to the Natalie (Natalie is in it being cute!). I went all the way to Sheffield (!) to see this film, and it was well worth the trip. Whimsical, innovative and touching, it's a gift for almost every film fan and has spawned "the cities of love" franchise, with New York I Love You and the upcoming Jerusalem, I Love You.

Eagle Vs Shark
This a delightful film! So entertaining to watch, and to see how all the relationships develop. Lily is such a cutie, and the actress who plays her is amazingly talented. A particular highlight: "Tell him justice is waiting for him." "OK Justin, I'll tell him!" A more emotional and realistic Napoleon Dynamite.

 The Other Boleyn Girl
I'm confused because some said it was a soap opera, some said it was stodgy (absolutely ridiculous) and it was neither - it was historical drama done extremely well. Scarlett was tone perfect: naive, trusting, forgiving and completely comendable, Bana was better being angry and broody at the end of the movie, and somehow Natalie managed to go from being pompous, minxy, a bitch, pathetic to utterly tragic. I don't know how the girl does it! Perhaps it's because we know her fate, but it's impossible to hate her (plus the fact she is Natalie, of course). Obviously a few snags here and there (mainly dialogue and lack of depth), but completely engaging and painful at times to watch, in particular some scenes with Anne. I was so apprehensive going into this movie because everyone was being so marmite about it, but they're all sooo wrong - this has got so much to please, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre
A film I wanted to be ready to watch because of its infamy. Watched it at the right time - of course this film was terrifying in its day but the genre has moved in such a gallop that I wasn't as scared as I would have been back in the 70s, or indeed if I had been 13. Still not for the faint hearted though - the fact that all the action happens mainly in the daylight makes it more shocking. Characters were annoying as hell though.

The Page Turner
Ah, the French do the psychological drama so well - it's all in the acting, and not the dialogue. Melanie is calculating, unpredictable and down right out for revenge. Great performances and extremely watchable, but could have done with a bit more oomph. The faint at the end was also a little OTT...

The Island
This film could have done with many things, all amounting to taking the scriptwriters and the director to the job centre and saying "here you go, you're fired" (perhaps even in an Alan Sugar type way) because they were complete and utter nonces on this. I don't think I've cringed so much at the dialogue of a film since, well, My Blueberry Nights (!). And it's touches like that which drag a movie down. It's a shame because the concept (although not completely thought through) was promising, and they did deliver a range of emotions towards the end which stopped this film from becoming totally terrible. But the casting was all wrong, there were some extremely CONVENIENT plot lines, and endles endless pointless car chases that contributed nothing expect more cash. If they'd toned it down more, and concentrated on the moral implications of the idea, then it would have been soooo much better. As it is, it's just a futuristic big bucks 1984.

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Enchanting, if slightly unoriginal. The great thing is it could have been extremely kiddy and cheesy, but the acting of Freddie Highmore, the humour and the CGI are all exceptional. Still a little kiddy in places (why did they have to get the terrible mother involved?!), but definitely one of the best fantasies out there.

The Orphanage
One of the best "horror" movies for a while. Not a classic horror, it was a very well told ghost story and you can tell it's good when the whole cinema jumps at the same point. So many things to praise: the acting; the director (first film? FIRST FILM?!); the constant tension coupled with a great pace - the scary bits are quite frankly not good for the ol' heart; how well put together the story was - literally brilliant how they explained the ending, and deeply troubling, and just some brilliant, terrifying scenes. The "one, two, three, knock on the wall" scene was one long hold of breath. Brilliant, brilliant. brilliant.

The Butcher Boy
Very good acting, and an interesting watch. The jovial narrative meant his descent into madness didn't come off as disturbing as it should have been. It was a tad long too. But a faithful adaptation of the Patrick McCabe novel. And Sinead O'Connor as the Virgin Mary!

The Aviator
This is the first grown up film that I've seen Leo do, and in fact I think my first Scorsese film. Leo's pretty good, but he doesn't establish the character of Howard Hughes to the fullest. He is competent. The problem with biopics is that you are limited with your story because who you choose is what you get. Howard Hughes was a pretty interesting character, but I'm not quite sure what the call was for a 2 hour 40 minute movie about him, which in turn would have been more effective if they had spanned his whole life and not just the interesting middle bit. I liked all the pretty 1940s images though and there were enough sub plots lines and twists and turns to keep me interested for the whole time. I'm glad I didn't pay to see this, though.

Oh dear, this film seems to have been gladly scandalized by those folks who want a bit of paedophillia drama. Whilst this film is hugely ambiguous (the coffins are never explained for one) I would say coming to the conclusion that the girls are being groomed for life outside the boarding school is completely skewered and the effects of living in today's society. The film is exactly what the title suggests. It's about a time of innocence, and the film ends with the end of innocence and the introduction of money and sex (which is what all corruption is based upon, non?). It's quite a melancholy and depressing film actually: the teachers seem throughly demoralized with "the outside world" and look on worringly when men start to take an interest in the girls (in a non perverse way I may add). The problem here is that it is all done very subtely, and perhaps the emphasis on the evils of 'outside' should have been pressed with a more adult voice. It was also very slow and you had to stick with it. The synopsis also falsely shows this film up as being a creepy underground boarding school drama which turned a lot of people off. Interesting and very evocative - a second watch would be all the more enlightening.

If I'm going to see a mutant superhero film that's brainless, ballsy and filled with cheesy lines... it may as well be directed by Del Toro and have Ron Perlman in! Lots of fun (but not as good as the sequel).

Little Children
MUCH better than the book, which has been everly tainted by that terrible, terrible ending. Here, they've turned it from ridiculous to melodramatic, which tones it down a notch but it does have haunting rocking swings as the end shot. It made a good film as well. Can't help but think that about all Perrota books (although Election was just brilliant) - maybe he should just cut out the middle man? Excellent choice actor for McGorvey with Jackie Earle Haley, and Kate Winslet's best performance since Heavenly Creatures: a completely convincing, flawed and devastating Sarah. Desperate Housewives with substance? Only because of the eyeball scratching OMNIPOTENT NARRATOR which ruined everything. There's a reason 'show' is before 'tell', y'know.

Gone Baby Gone
Oooh here's a moral dilemma for you: does a child deserve its mother, or a good childhood? Does an offender have the right to die or rehabilitation? Who is better looking - Ben Affleck or Casey Affleck? BWAH, what a silly question! This film was stupennnndous. Perhaps almost as good as Zodiac, although replace "sinister" with "salacious". Finally a director makes a film about the real, white trash America - no colourful suburban houses here. Much more akin to the streets of any British city. Dipped in the middle and thought it was going to be unbelievably unsatisfying, but then it picked up the pace and opened up the corruption of the police, the immorality of human kind, and the lengths you'd go to to protect a child. Congratulations Mr Affleck - you did a fantastic job, you made me second guess myself and I even shed a tear. Good, proper American cinema. PLUS CASEY AFFLECK!

Very good adaptation of the book. Hitchcock doesn't mess about trying to do anything fancy, or change the genre. In fact, this story's right up his street. Mrs Danvers was suitably scary as hell, and oooh, Joan Fontaine is sooo lovely. She plays the role very well. Two things though: I didn't like the portrayal of Max De Winter. He just seemed a bit of a dandy, and not brooding enough. And the story in itself still infuriates me because I would have be a bit more ballsy about things! But then again, that isn't Hitchcock's fault...

The Black Dahlia
Not even Scarlett Johansson and Rose McGowan could save this film. At times I felt like I was watching Dick Tracy, and not a "serious crime thriller". And why the need to shoot a 1940s film IN a 1940s style? It does nothing for the tone of the film at all, and it's as ridiculous as putting Josh Hartnett in the lead role. He should never be allowed to do films like this - send him back to Wicker Park! As with "crime capers" (which was what it was, ultimately) by the end everyone was double crossing everyone else with the bank jobs, and the blood money and the vendettas and I was sooo confused and past caring. There is NO need for "voice echoes" to spell out a conclusion to a film if it's done well. BLAH.

Oh God, another of those horror films that gets right under the skin and leaves you (initially anyway, in a room with a broken lightbulb) uncomfortable, vulnerable, on edge, depressed... certainly not a film to watch again and again for the 'fun' aspect of the genre, because there isn't any of it here. However, to get this reaction means the film is good and deserves to be highly rated. The pacing is excellent at just under 80 minutes, and the events unfold with more and more bizarre, alarming and horrifying results. Cinematography was top notch. Music not so great, and the tension didn't quite pack the punch when the actual "boo!" moment happens, and that's a bit disappointing, but the general ambience of the film more than makes up for it. The quiet scene of the wood at the end, and the slow morning traffic unknowing to what has happened during the night just metres away is especially sobering. Real stuff to give you nightmares, particularly because "Them" are actually real, the threat is present and uncompromising, and of course because THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED (ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!) Last night I doubled checked all the doors, all the windows, and made sure there was a weapon near the bed.

Spain are delivering all the horror goods this year! Another terrifying film - not quite as jumpy as The Orphanage; this time you knew something bad was coming, and it was all about the timing. Luckily I'd scrunched my eyes up in time! I'm not really one for "zombie movies" (I cannot stand anything by Rob Zombie, and the generic form of films), but the more modern outings are pretty enjoyable (28 Days Later, etc) and also quite alarming, because of today's high security, high paranoid society. And plus I didn't even realise this was going to turn into a zombie movie, and it isn't really - it has supernatural elements, but it's more about 'a rage virus'. Horror films done on the shaky camera format are so much more effective than disaster films such as Cloverfield. They used this really well in the film, even if you start wondering halfway through - JUST DROP THE DAMN THING AND RUN! Nasty, bitey stuff - although the ending was SO cliche. And now for a brief rant - I am so, so pissed off with the Americans having to remake any good foreign horror film, literally, the day after it is released in Europe. [rec] only came out in March, and yet Quarantine (ugh) is out in October. For fuck's sake. How hard is it to read subtitles and look at different actors once in a while?

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
DISCLAIMER: I am giving this film 5 cheeses purely because of the brave, tough talking, fighting mice. The actual film itself is four cheeses. Ahhh, films with kids in who can't act. Thank goodness for magical story telling, amazing CGI and...well... you know, THE MICE! SO much better than the first film,and I am so relieved. I think as the series goes along each film will become more and more established and polished, and hopefully we can forget the "Peter turns into a 70s porn king" scene ever happened. There is an improvement here - Susan is very competent, and all the Narnia creatures are excellent. The DLF! Had me giggling (and the rest of the cinema which was lovely) for ages! The rest of the clan were so-so, except for Ben Barnes who is the weakest thing since wet paper. I can't believe he was in Stardust! Maybe it was that ludicrous Spanish accent they gave him, but no wonder everyone's calling him the boyband prince. He should have broken out into a choreographed dance routine in the middle of the battle! Minor gripes: first third was very slow paced, there was no real need for the romance other than to shove Susan out of the next few films, the baddies weren't as good as an evil ice queen with turkish delight, and a lot of it felt like LOTR-lite, with KIDS. bawh! But I loved the fact they had humour that worked in this film, and I loved all the battle sequences - the flying eagles, the river God, Aslan is a jerk, etc. I'm such a soft hand for fantasy epics anyway, I was never going to dislike this.

The Edukators
Very good, engaging film that is surprisingly warm, touching and of course, has a real message interwoven into it. It's been ages since I've seen a real honest messy love triangle, so that was quite refreshing, and the plot was brilliantly different to everything else, with sooo many dimensions. Love love love German cinema at the moment (even if this is an 'oldie').

Reign of Fire
Well this was complete and utter balls. I thought it was going to be quite exciting with fire breathing dragons attacking civilization, and lots of dramatic storytelling. But by the first 20 minutes I realised I didn't care what the hell was happening, and wanted the dragons to win. Kudos to McConaughey and his Irish accent though.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The most fun I've had in a cinema for ages! They literally crammed everything in there, which is fab for a kid's film because they don't want any boring, fleshing out parts. Bit disappointed I didn't get to see this in 3D because I could see how it would have worked from the camera shots - but I'm not paying to go and see it at the IMAX again, it wasn't that amazing! Was really exciting and beautifully put together - the mine shaft ride actually scared me a bit (!) and I got all tearful when they found the dead dad - sob! I didn't even mind Brendan Fraser, and that's saying something! Ooh, and Anita Briem is lurvely. I can't help thinking how awesome this would be if it ended up on the desk of Peter Jackson, though...

Red Eye
This was some nice entertaining drivel to keep me entertained on a Saturday night. Not that you'd ever expect anything truly amazing from Wes Craven, but this was a nicely acted little thriller, with some good touches (oooh, we like a bit of running around a house being chased by a psycho) and attention to detail - but the whole plot itself was beyonnnnd silly. Rachel McAdams is lovely, and was very pleased when she nutted him back! hee hee.

The Signal
Ohhh, it starts off so well with its grainy image, and foreign feel to a film which could have been terribly melodramatic had it not been indie. Unfortunately that is pretty much negated when it comes around to Act II when the whole thing becomes messy, farcical and a little boring. Picks up a bit at the end, although at that stage I really don't care about any of the characters getting out safely, and the film would probably trick me into it anyway, such as it was trying to be too clever for its own good.

The Shining
One of the best horror movies of all time. Love the whole mood of the film - the snow, the mountain roads, the empty corridors, the hallucinations - brilliant, so iconic. I still can't watch the scene where the Shiner comes in to the hotel to see if the family are OK... bluuuwwhhhh.