Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Flixster Reviews #3

The Witches
One of my favourites! Loved this when I was a kid, especially the Grand High Witch unveiling, which was obviously terrifying. As an adult it's just as enjoyable, remembering the folklore that Dahl created at the beginning of the film - such a good book as well. Really well acted, and just one of those films that you have to watch when it's on TV - when Iwatched it recently I realised I could quote large chunks of it offhand - ooops! A classic.

The Princess Bride
Found this disappointing at the time - maybe it's the CGI in me, but this did feel terribly 80s. Maybe I needed to have seen it as a child, at the time (as showing adult friends the Labyrinth just produced utter apathy). It's still good fun for tea time viewing.

Office Space
Miiiilton! This film is wonderful. "but...but...but I can burn the building down..." Milton is probably one of my favourite comedic film characters of all time, and he just steals this film (an excellent endearing performance from Stephen Root). An under the radar peach of a film following the misguided attempts of a group of disillusioned office workers to launder money from their company. Also boasts the title of most decent Jennifer Aniston film!

Underwhelmed. I hate, hate, hate animation that has a preachy, ethical message to it. Cartoons are supposed to be visually beautiful, enoyable, surprising and escapist and if they have to have a message, it's something emotionally moral and rooted in all of us. I don't really want to be told about the beneficial effects of recycling, the danger of obesity and how we are screwing up the world when I am trying to have a bit of childish fun. OK - rant over! I am confused about what I think of this film though: not a patch on Finding Nemo or Toy Story. In parts I caught myself switching off completely and wondering what I'd missed! Other times the plot twisted in a really interesting direction which I hadn't been aware of in the promo for this, and so that kept me entertained. WALL-E's hoard of junk was like Ariel's cave of wonders! Absolutely loved the spork moment. Found him quite annoying at times, although whenever there was a threat to his relationship with EEEEEEVAH tears were rolling down my face like I was a loon! So up and down, wow and meh, not sure if I would watch it again and Pixar need to stop being so up themselves. Oh and PS - I ADORED Presto! Even the bunny was fab!

Batman Begins
I'm afraid I just don't get this superhero shtick. Whilst I'm led to believe this is one of the more "realistic" interpretations that has been done (I haven't seen any of the Batman films, but I can have a good guess) it still seemed pretty ridiculous at times. Christian Bale's attempt at portraying intense and charismatic through his voice just made me think of Jim Carrey putting on the wise-guy accent from Me, Myself & Irene - he may as well have stuck out his finger, tilted his chin and clicked his tongue. (Not that I have anything against Christian Bale, he's a fine actor) I lost interest half way through, mainy because I don't know the background to any of Bruce Wayne's antics and therefore had no idea what was going on or who was who. I loved the setting of Gotham City though, superbly macabre and gothic. And what's the deal with the Katie Holmes bashing? She was perfectly reasonable in this. Maybe I've been caught up in the Dark Knight/Heath Ledger buzz...

The Dark Knight
Amazing! 100x better than Batman Begins, which was: "let's get the boring bit out of the way, and now we're onto the proper stuff!" Even the start sequence is destined to cult status - the film doesn't let up for a second. Towards the end of the brilliant brilliant middle sequence I found myself thinking "I don't want this to end!" - if it had ended with the death of Rachel, then it would have been perfection and worthy of five stars. The ending let it down slightly - why scramble up a Harvey Dent/Two Face mini storyline in the last 30 mins when the film has already been stolen by the Joker? I was really expecting the transformation to set it up for the next film. I did like how the film ended though, and Two Face was pretty ridiculous as a villain, so maybe it was worth it in the end! Can't praise Heath Ledger enough - WHAT A WASTE. I can't believe we'll never see this man do anything again. Rest of the cast were so-so. Maggie G's neck was really annoying me throughout. I wanted my cinema audience to clap when the truck flipped over as well! But at least everyone erupted into laughter when Heath Ledger revealed himself in the nurse's costume, sat down, preened himself and then said, "allo."

 Hard Candy
Taut, well acted and monochrome drama which addresses the latest taboo subject with some deftness. I say "some" because there's nothing truly shocking in this film (other than the actions of Hayley) and it's only an 18 because of the subject matter. I found parts of the film quite slow and "chatty", and then I guessed one of the big double bluffs because they strung it out so much. But I did like the psychological twist at the end, and how ambiguous Hayley's character is. By golly, Ellen Page is a bit of a star isn't she? She's got a few Oscars coming her way.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging
Well it wasn't hugely bad - it was pretty average throughout and in some places utterly dire, but then some bits were quite funny (mainly involving Angus and the stuffed olive) and overall, I'd probably just call it nice. Good things: a) The Nicholson family was cast really well. I really liked Georgia Groome - she's not overly pretty, but she's a good actress, b) I thought they did sentiment really well, if a tad too much. It really knocked me back to the days of high school and stalking around the 6th form boy you fancy! The trying to dance away from a boy who clearly wants to dance with you bit made me cringe soooo much! c) Whelk boy was AMAZING. Such a talented little actor, with an interesting face! He was so funny when he was moping after her. The whole snog lesson set up was brilliantly done. - they tried their best to keep to the books, and I appreciate that. I still think they could have done more, but at least they had a go. And now the bad things: a) WHERE THE HELL WAS JAS'S FRINGE?! I mean, honestly, ask any Georgia fan the first word to describe Jas and they would say fringe. And they cast someone who is much too tall, too assured looking, with a big forehead and they make her wear a THONG! A THONG! Jas is famed for her big knickers. And that leads me to... b) the casting of the Ace gang was so, so so WRONG. Rosie looked like one of those skanks you get in schools who wear too much eye make up and constantly walk around with their mouths open. Sven was barely in it, Dave the Laugh looked like one of those annoying smelly boys who has fleas and was not attractive AT ALL, Wet Lindsay was suddenly 'Slaggy' Lindsay with no flat chest at all, Tom was practically a skin head and Robbie was all moochy moochy over his newly implemented cat. Who the hell does the research for these things?! Utterly bonkers. And they missed out Hawkeye, and Elvis - who was one the main characters in the first book (however: Miss Stamp was brilliant). c) Some of the acting was absolutely dire, and Eleanor Tomlinson needs to go and bash her head against a wall so she can loosen up a bit. Steve Jones can just fuck off. d) Where were the berets?! e) The ending was complletely ridiculous, predictable, unbelievable and melodramatic. Very Mean Girls, actually, except in ATAPS Georgia's bitchiness is glossed over and there is no recompense at all for her actions. She just gets a massive party with a band. Ha! If only high school life was really like that... It was all very feel good though, and sweet in lots of ways. I guess I wouldn't be so harsh if the books weren't so substantially better. I wonder if they'll do another. I wonder if it will be any better and less cheese-fest and safe. I wonder if they'll actually get Louise Rennison to HELP next time around. She was what was missing from this film: the god damn author.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Cute little film, and I wish I could say more about it, but you know when a friend lends you a DVD and you just don't get around to watching it, and then you sort of have to rush watch it, at a time when you're not really in the mood so you can give it back to them?! So I did miss a lot of what was going on (have no idea why she was arrested), and it was all a bit cliched watching it today, but it was still really sweet and I loved the "let's have a day of doing things we've never done before!" and the rainy alley scene at the end. Audrey was sweet, too. I probably should watch it again under better circumstances! 

Hellboy 2
AWESOME film, one of my favourites of the year so far. I just wish someone would find the technology to clone Del Toro so we could get twice as many films out a year because he is an absolute genius. The special effects were thoroughly outstanding, jaw dropping. The Giant rising from the Giants Causeway was one of the best revelations I have seen in terms of sheer impact, and the forest spirit attacking Brooklyn Bridge was also wonderous. Very similar to Pans Labyrinth with the monsters/drawing, yet he makes them all so intrinsicly different, scary and amazing to look at. But what made the film so enjoyable were the characters and the humour - just the right balance, it stopped it from being so ruthless. LOVED LOVED LOVED the bit in the middle where Hellboy and Abe get really drunk and start singing "can't smile without you" and Seth MacFarlane was hilarious as Johann Krausse. JA, JA! There were also some great story dimensions as well which made it deeper (although it was all about the action bits) and hopefully sets us up for a third.

The Mist
Oh God, one of the most depressing and horrible endings I have seen for a long time! I was laughing along, closing it all off in my mind when I suddenly remembered it didn't have a happy ending. And then it got worse, and then the twist came and it was just HORRIBLE! But also really cleverly done (Stephen King in quite good shocker alert!), and it definitely gave the film a credible factor, because it did start off quite silly with the tentacles and giant bugs and spiders. There's something quite indulgent in King adaptions. I quite want to get the Langoliers now... Oh yes, and I was SO pleased when they finally shut that religious nutter up. Never have I ever wanted to enter a movie so much and pull the god damn trigger myself.

Pans Labyrinth
I cannot fault this film: I remember seeing this in the HPPH brochure a few years ago and it was on my birthday, and it just looked sooo amazing, it was such a treat to see it then! Every time I watch it, I keep seeing and loving more things about it. One of my favourite things is the attention to detail Del Toro makes to every single little thing: from the Pale Man, right down to the little mandrake root. How he came up with this story is just beyond me - again, I hail to the man's geniosity. Such a legend. As well as the mythology which he has created himself, he has also managed to create such a diverse, rich script which begs the question at the end: what was reality and what was fantasy? Is what you perceive the truth or is it a mask? It really divides opinion, and I love showing this film to people - not because they'll be blown away by the fantasy sequences - but because I love to see how people have interpreted the story. I seem to be the only one who thinks it's a happy ending though! A perfect adult fairytale.

Girl With a Pearl Earring
There's something really quiet about this drama which I liked: it doesen't become overly melodramatic, or bogged down by technicalities - every scene feels so delicately put together, almost like painting itself. I knew nothing of the story going into this, so the climax being what the whole film is about was very well done, and meant it didn't peak too soon. Scarlett was very similar to the character she played in The Other Boleyn Girl, and I think she plays both meek and minxy really well. Colin Hanks with long hair was a right ole giggle. It was all played seamlessly though - understatement being the key: the power of the unsaid. Enjoyable to watch, and it's a good tale on love and jealousy too, as well as the birth of a famous painting. Also - why on earth does Cillian Murphy keep popping up in all the films I watch? I swear he's become stuck in my DVD player and can't get out!

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
There's something really comforting about a Wes Anderson film: whether it's the quirky humour, the solidly good story telling or the presence of Bill Murray (who is excellent in pretty much everything he does). This film is great fun to watch, and as always, you come to love the bumbling characters and their little ways. But not one of his finest.

The Strangers
As a horror film, it's pretty competent. When comparing it to Ils however, it's a pale comparison. It starts off promising (the masks definitely do add a degree of horror to the story, and there were a couple of jumpy moments) but then it reeeeally drags in places, and that's unusual for an 85 minute film. Bringing in a friend who gets caught out in the cat & mouse chase added a new dimension it did not need. And what on EARTH was the deal at the end when Liv Tyler wakes up? Is she dead or not?! What a cheap ending. Ils left me feeling depressed and shaken, but this just left like another stalk and slash. Better than other offerings of late, but within the home invasion genre, it's pretty poor.

The Darjeeling Limited
I love this film. Watching it a second time around just made me love the characters even more. I love how pathetic they all are, and their hilarious fantasy that a 'spiritual' journey will make them all closer and better people, and it's just a catastrophe! I love how each brother cements his role in the family: Owen Wilson is particularly brilliant as the older brother who has to control everything. Such good mini characters as well: Brendan has got to be the new Milton! The dialogue is also wonderfully dry, and filled with sibling bitchery. The way they see through all of Jack's fictional pieces is brilliant. Of course, the line of the film has to be: "I love you but I'm going to mace you in the face!" I also love the music, the way it links with Hotel Chevalier (ahem), the cinematography... now I really want to go on a longhaul train ride through India!

The Blair Witch Project
Wow, I haven't seen this film for nine years; since I went to see it at the cinema for my 15th birthday (where I wore clunky 90s heels as I recall.) I swear I either went to see a different film or I invented it all up in my head: this is COMPLETELY different to how I remembered it. I thought there were more eyes & hat shots, and at the end I thought we actually saw the witch figure standing in the corner - how jumbled up I was! In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more this time (probably because I am more intelligent and not so pre-occupied by "wooo at the cinema on my own with my friends seeing my first certificate 15!") because I'm quite used to this style of film now - I think back in 1999 everyone thought this was really weird, and cheap. But this style makes it so much more realistic and chilling (see [rec]), particularly the voodoo bits in the trees, and the sense of helplessness when they realise they are going around in circles. It also made me think about what was happening to them in a much more in-depth way. Why were they getting lost? Is it a feature of the wood, or is there some greater force present? What noises did they hear at night and how was something able to creep up to their tent and leave offerings without being noticed? And most of all: who on EARTH was carrying the video camera in the last 20 seconds? I think this film is so undervalued for what it is, and the effort they went into producing this so it looks the real deal is a great testament. There are also loads and loads of theories as to what actually happened, leaving the film open to interpretation and oooh: I do like that in a film!

The Wave
Really, really enjoyed this. I love my dark school stories (adolescents are so easily manipulated), and the premise for this really interested me, especially the setting in Germany. It really forces you to think of what it's like growing up there, and how they are taught about Nazism. I love how the kids are sucked into the Wave and are thrown on its destructive path. It preys on all their insecurities - boyfriends, friends, clothes, bullying - and gives them this deluded sense of power through belonging to a unit. It just shows how something done with the right person, in the right climate, can be so dangerous. The film built suspense up really well as it led to the disturbing ending. No over dramatics, just a heightened sense of paranoia that nods nicely to the 1940s regime. Intelligent script, rocky soundtrack, great young performances - hurrah for German cinema at its finest.

Das Experiment
Not as amazing as I thought it was going to be: although I had just seen The Wave so I had high expectations! I thought the beginning was a little rushed, and they could have taken some more time to explain the background to the experiment and what they were looking to achieve, rather than just starting it. And the scenes with the love interest were not needed either: they didn't seem to serve any purpose at all. On the up side, this film raises so many questions, the main one being: if the roles had been switched around, would the events still have turned out the same? Is it individuals who have the power, or is it the power which has the people? Contentious stuff.

The Fall
Oooh, I wanted this to be more amazing than it was. It didn't quite manage to make the most of the two-tierred storytelling and I'm not sure why. Visually it was stunning, and some of the shots they used really set it apart, and the two leads were great too: nice to see Lee Pace playing someone a bit darker than in Pushing Daisies, and oh my, little Catinca was gorgeous! Such a talented little thing, she's sure to go far. I think the two main gripes were the story wasn't strong enough: even though it cleverly used characters from real life (ala Wizard of Oz) and the fluidity of the storytelling was also quirky, it was quite messy at times and jolted too much without being clear that it was shifting perspective. And enough wasn't explained to us about the characters and their world: a thing, I guess, Roy wouldn't think to put in because he has no real enthusiasm for what he's telling, but that's a poor kop out for the viewers. Also, the background of the characters in real time wasn't well established - spent half the time trying to work out what era and country the hospital was set in! Overall it was good fun, a nice bit of escapism that isn't that dissimilar to a Terry Gilliam film, or even the recent Mirrormask. But it could have done with a bit more concrete before dancing on it.

The Lives of Others
Another gem of a film. Completely engrossing throughout, and even though no clear reason is ever given as to why Wiesler comes to be on the side of the couple, it doesn't spoil the plot of the film at all. This gives a real insight into a period of history I didn't know much about and it really had not progressed that much from the Nazi regime 40 years before it which is astonishing. I got really involved with the film, especially when the poet was so adamant that his flat was safe. NO, NO, NO! Thank goodness for Wiesler, who was the central heart of the film (strangely) and such a complex, interesting character. Just when you think it's all been for nothing, you realise he HAS changed, and the way he embraces this change is strong and inspiring. I lovvvvved the ending when he buys the book; it wasn't sentimental enough to have me crying my eyes out, but there were a few tears! It wasn't all for nothing after all! Ahh, it was so well acted and so tightly put together. What a shame Ulrich Muhe isn't with us anymore :( Defiinitely deserved its Oscar win.

Sleeping Beauty
Not as good as I remembered it, to be honest! I love the story of it, and Maleficient is one of my favourite Disney villains - loved everything about her castle on the Forbidden Mountain. But I like my Disney characters to say things! Aurora and Philip barely spoke at all, and I think it would have added so much more if they had. Perhaps I am conditoned to the "newer" forms of Disney - and this is one of the older ones - but it did lack a little something. It's very nostalgic though, and brought back lots of memories. I love the scene where they bake the cake and make the dress and fight over the colours (psst, blue!).

Into The Wild
NOOOOOOOO I was so disappointed with this! I found the storytelling vague, the background scanned over without providing any real reasons as to why he decided to do what he did. The main problem was the main character himself: he was pretentious, acted like every word he spoke was a wise insight (at 23!), selfish, righteous and bah - he needed taking down a peg or two! Found his death at the end a kop out (I wasn't aware it was a true story until the end credits) - of course they couldn't have changed it, but they could have damn well made a better job of squeezing the sympathy out of this viewer. I was just past caring after a point. I just feel the whole thing could have been done so much better. Less jumping around, more linear. More actual detail on the character and the relationship with his family. How are we supposed to guage things from small, clipped scenes? Such a let down.

The Vanishing
Have I seen too much disturbing stuff in my time or is this film completely overrated? I'm afraid it didn't leave me with anything other than a half hearted meh, and a wave of the hand. There were some nice parts: I like the beginning in the tunnel, and the flashback as to how Saskia is actually abducted. 'Twas a little freaky, especially as it was all done in a busy daylight scene. But that was about it: didn't care for the main character, thought the villain was more 'wacky' than the stuff of nightmares, and - buried alive? Really? is that the most ingenious, inventive thing you can come up with? I was expecting it to be clever, something you would never think of happening, such that it would haunt you for days afterward. Not so. Perhaps I am too desensitized to it all now, but, meh....

I find this film so precious. I love every single moment of it: every character, the funny quirks, the one liners, the brilliantly imagined story, all the soppy mush. I LOVE IT! I remember watching this in the cinema, and everyone was enjoying it so much, it was really lovely - that feeling stays with me every time I watch it. Definitely a film I could watch over and over again, and become more and more enchanted by. Yvain and Tristan are soooo sweet (I actually think the more I watch this film, the more I fall a teeny bit in love with Charlie Cox, to the point where very soon it will be a big ol' crush) - I love how detailed they are with her shining every time he touches her. It's brilliant! I heart the mouse scene, too. Everything with Robert De Niro is AMAZING. I can't believe they made all that up for the film: quite disturbing, if you think about it... Michelle Pfeffier is wonderful to watch too, but I actually think my favourite characters are the princes - both alive and as ghosts. There's some amazing British talent there - I think Mark Heap is the perfect Dr Statham/Tertius crossover! Mark Strong has some of the best scenes as well, because he plays the role so straight - when he discovers Captain Shakespeare, when he's drowning-sword fighting at the end, and my faaaaaavourite moment of the whole film: when he kills Ferdy and walks off snapping, "FREAK!" I think it's hilarious! I love how they made a fairytale so witty and so dark and yet still managed to keep it within the realm of fantasy, topped off with a happy ending. I sob at the end every time - this film is pure joy in a little disk!