Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Flixster Reviews #4

Let The Right One In
Ahhh, a Swedish Vampire film that doesn't play up to the commercialised stereotype! (As I may have mentioned at some point before) I enjoy all things icy. I don't know what it is - something in the stillness, the beauty and the unspoken danger of it all (I also decided during this film that I would quite like for it to be arranged that I am now Swedish). So the choreography was lovely to look at. The long, sparse landscapes also played on the characters loneliness and inability to communicate with others which was very clever (AND WHY THE AMERICAN REMAKE WILL NEVER WORK! RAHH!) Some details were hard to grasp, but the central - and most important - story wasn't: the love story between Oskar and Eli. It was so interesting for once for the vampire not to be - shock horror, a dark and brooding troubled young man! - no room for supernatural fantasies here, this is the real thing: bloodlust, monstrous, murderous - but not without a human side. Eli can relate to Oskar because of an inner rage he has, and a desire to kill. He also offers friendship to her, and accepts her for the thing she is. The loyalty will come to a head in the final scene where she saves his life (in a horrible, bloody way!) The young actors were so impressive in this, and even though the plot was quite thin on the ground, you keep watching to see what will become of Oskar and Eli. Captivating and unrelenting - it shows how two outcasts can strike a connection, even though in practice it's unthinkable.

Blimey, I didn't realise this was going to go all Elephant on us! A bullying story done really well, and gets you riled up. You just want the victim to stick up for themselves, or a teacher to come along and break the whole thing apart - but that doesn't happen in this film. There are no resolutions, only horrible, horrible consequences. The climax was really startling, and my heart was thumping as they made their way to the canteen. You got to see how something that's pent up in the wrong type of person can unravel, and it's disturbing to say I found myself siding with the killers at the end, and quite wanted all the horrible thugs to die! I can't feel any animosity towards them, but the ending is quite shocking, and so depressing. No one ever helped Joseep :( (and Joseep was quite hot too, in an adolescent Jared Paladecki way) On the downside, we had a terrible translation of this in our screening which made the whole thing seem a little amatuer, which is a shame because it's well written, has a lot to say and it's extremely relevant to today.

The Last Kiss
This wasn't as bad as I remembered when I first watched it. I think I hyped it up so much, because it seemed like a follow on from Garden State - even though the only thing they have in common is Zach Braff starring in them. The premise is perfect reading for me, in fact - knock a few years off the ages of the characters, and it probably IS something I've wrote! BUT - somehow it just doesn't translate well in this film. Firstly - I hate hate hate hate the first 20 minutes or so, when it's setting up each character and their particular problem so blatantly. It makes all the writing so contrived, and it should be much more natural and subtle, to make the audience intrigued and work for information for themselves. I hate being spoon fed things. Also, a couple of the 'main' male characters could have easily be chopped out of the film. Their storylines were poor, cliched, and added nothing. Braff & Affleck are much more interesting. AND DON'T GET ME STARTED ON THE PARENTS WHO ARE ALSO CONVENIENTLY HAVING A MELODRAMA. How much does this film need to cram in?! Once all that is out the way though, the lead storyline with Braff/Barrett/Bilson is done really well. Lots of lovely angst, and original ways to show it (love the ending where he spends ages on her porch, no matter the weather and the way she softens a bit more every day). Rachel Bilson is so cute in this. And the fight scenes are extremely well done too, such as when the camera follows the pair from one location to another. It's definitely worth a watch this one, but don't expect to be blown away with any major revelation. (Also, disturbingly, I seem to own most of the soundtrack to this film. Best use of "Prophecy" I've seen; most inappropriate and wasted use of "Hide & Seek" in all eternity! Don't use it if it doesn't work!)

Red Road
I don't get how people giddy themselves over films like this. Yes, it's well made and captures the tone and essence of grittiness and bleak outlook of a Northern city... but it's just not very interesting. I didn't find it remarkable in any way. It was engaging to a point, but definitely didn't hold my full attention (in fact, it was quite fun to guess aloud what the motive was!) I just don't find films like this interesting. I think it's a mixture of wanting a bit more colour, a bit more humour, and also....I have to immerse myself in bad news every day, thank you very much. I can do without escaping there!

Mean Girls
I LOVE this film, I think Tina Fey has got everything spot on, she's such a talent. This is a quirky take on the teen flick which is a great thing - it leans more towards films such as Jawbreaker and Drop Dead Gorgeous in style, but without laying on too much black comedy. Some of the gags are very subtle, and I've watched it so many times now there are some real, laugh out loud moments (when she leaves the Halloween party and the boy screams and falls off the wall). One of those films where, if you even start watching a little bit of the beginning, you HAVE to sit and watch it all the way through, even though you know exactly what happens! 

Bridge to Terabithia
Ohhh, I'm having such a problem with intangible fantasy at the moment. Plus, this was Disney-ed to the max on schmaltz overdose. It was alriiiight, but nothing special. Definitely a kids film, but I had been led to believe it strikes a chord with adults as well. No it doesn't! Not when you sadly lose your imagination for play when you're about 13. I need my monsters and magic to be presented as FACT otherwise I'm going to have a real problem believing any of it, or becoming enchanted with the story - which is what happened here. Shame, because I really wanted to like this, and it had echoes of The Man in the Moon about it, too.

I enjoyed this. The plot fell somewhere on trodden ground, but it was interesting to see fantasy characters adjusting to life in the real world for a change, and not the usual person gets sucked into a book and hilarity ensues schtick. It was strong enough to hold my attention too, even though the idea of the mysticality of a silvertongue is a bit trite. They relied heavily on the power of the book, which I liked, and I didn't mind too much about the way the action was resolved in the end by new writing because it emphasised this, and the influence of the written word. This film had other gripes to contend with. Firstly, there were some HUUUGE miscasts in this. Brendan Fraser was completely wrong for this role, and yet with surprise I find out that it was the author who was desperate for him to play it. He is the epitomy of a buffoon, running over at the end waving his hands, "ohhh wait up! I forgot to end the film sufficiently for the kids!" Whilst it works in some films - and could have worked here perhaps in a different role - he ridicules the main character and should have been more broody. And speaking of ridiculous - what the hell was Helen Mirren all about? She was utterly out of place in this, and embarrassing to watch, not to mention irrelevant. They should have found more of an eccentric to play the aunt figure if they so needed her. However Paul Bettany was EXCELLENT as Dustfinger, and clearly the most interesting character out of the lot. He played it perfectly, and I was cross his story got such a tacked-on ending. Andy Serkis was also brilliant, so strange to see him as an actual human for once! Eliza Bennett is also a talented little thing. And I can't believe Super Hans is in this!! Made me giggle so much when I realised who it was. They threw in a fair too many shots of the scenary as well, which was beautiful, but after a while it's like, "yes, we KNOW you're in Italy, and we KNOW it's beautiful. Now show more flying monkeys." Really hope they complete the trilogy, because I'd like to properly see the world of Inkworld! And perhaps the character of Mo could magically change actor when he gets sucked into the book...

Hmm, not sure what to make of this one, really. It was good, but I don't have a lot to spiel about. It really does become a bit crazy towards the end, and you're not sure what's really going on. I find it hard to really commit myself to film when I know that's going to happen. And it was very 1984 - but I know it wasn't intended that way! It was all a trifle mad - definitely from the mind of Terry Gilliam, but though it's considered a classic, not my favourite concoction of his.

The Company of Wolves
Now this was just a bonkers film. I remain on the fence about Angela Carter: I can't quite decide if she's a genius, or just a bit too intense. The whole film had this fuzzy coloured 80s feel about it which was rather nice, but all the action seemed a bit all over the place. And then at the end it was all a dream! Some kind of acid dream - Little Red Riding Hood on poppers. I definitely, definitely applaud the idea of changing the normal perception of a fairytale (I do like all the darker, orginal stuff) but film-wise this was all a bit messy. It felt a bit like a foreign movie, actually. It was all rather entertaining though, if you sit down to watch all the flying heads and creepy dolls coming to life, rather than seriously trying to work out what the hell is going on.

 The Brothers Grimm
Just.... a great big chuffing mess, really. There were so many things wrong with it, when, on paper, it probably looked like quite a good idea (even though it's all a bit ludicrous when you think about it properly). Terry Gilliam is unconventional, and a bloody strain to watch at times. Sometimes it pays off (Tideland), sometimes it doesn't - here. He starts without properly starting, which is quite a feat actually. Somewhere you hope to have a true idea of what's going on, but that moment never comes. The mixing seemed really bad as well - I couldn't hear a lot of what was said, and I bet some great lines got lost with poor editing/acting. The plot was all over the place... in fact, it reminded me of an episode of a TV Show rather than a film. (Just do an extended version of Supernatural's 'Bedtime Stories', which is amazing!) There was something wrong with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger's portrayals, too. Who's fault that was I don't know, but the idea to stage them as incompetent con men just did not work. In fact, it made them seem less credible to the viewer, and frustrating to watch. You just wanted them to bloody overdose on their magic beans. A lot of people warned me beforehand that this was bad, but I still wanted to keep an open mind and watch it in the hope I saw something others didn't. What wishful thinking...

I really enjoyed this! It was cheesy 80s stuff, but I've been told this is one of the better films, and it was actually really easy to sit and watch and giggle to, even though this story has been done to death recently! It was highly improbable (how the hell would he just get a job like that? And in a toy factory?!), but that's what made it so fun, because the possibilities were endless in this film. I really liked how they didn't kop out at the end either, by having him stay 30, or the love interest become a teenager so they could "be together". It was more sentimental when they parted. I wish I could remember the really hilarious bits as well - definitely a film which hasn't dated in the quality stakes. Also, Tom Hanks was really brilliant in this - a perfect role for him. And a bit hot, too...

Arghhhh! Think I want those 90 minutes of my life back please! Very dull in parts, extraordinarily annoying and silly, completely cliched...yadda yadda. I can't staaaand Patrick Dempsey - why they can't bundle the cast of Grey's Anatomy off the edge of a cliff I'll never know. James Marsden was only slightly less rubbish, as he pulled his character off better. And Amy Adams! She was good, but why is she doing films like this? She was wonderful in Junebug, and this was all too cosy for her. Thank goodness she has a few meatier roles coming up in the future! The chipmunk was REALLY annoying as well, he should have been made into roadkill. And the damn kid. Also: why on EARTH would you want to live in reality with such an ugly mug when you get the chance to live in a Disney fantasy land of technicolour?! They should remake this, and make it much, much darker. Mwahahahaha.

Fantastic film! Reminded me a lot of epics such as Cold Mountain and The Assassination of Jesse James. I was trying so hard to find ways it was nothing like Gone with the Wind, but then he goes and puts a bloody silhouette shot in front of a sunset! Tsch! I'm so glad I enjoyed it and was carried away by the drama of it all, because it did not start out that way at all. Really didn't like the beginning very much - Baz Luhrmann is very distinctive with his style, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It was all very camp and pop art and the narration didn't set it up well at all. In fact I was nodding off when the big cattle/cliff scene was on - ha ha! Thankfully the film picked up a lot after that. The one thing I loved about this movie was the use of magic in it. When Nalluh stopped the cattle I thought it was huuuugely ridiculous and hated it for about half an hour, but then as they kept reinforcing the message, and "singing" to each other, it all got rather Pocahontas and lovely. The cast were really good too (even though I find Nicole Kidman extremely annoying), but the kid who played Nullah was a revelation. He has such a bright future ahead of him! He was quite wonderful in this. Setting was fabulous too - I would kill to live in such an extreme climate like that, and the changing landscape and weather was portrayed so beautifully. Few ickle gripes (of course!) - the ending was a bit silly - if you're going to shoot the kid, just do it. Not that I wanted Nullah to die, but it seemed a bit melodramatic at the end. There must have been a better way of putting Fletcher to justice. And the story did feel contrived to fit around the World War II bombing, but it was a fabulous story so I forgive it! (oh and the water tank death - comical!) My faaaaavourite bit (which made me cry loads) was when they go to Mission Island to search for survivors, and one by one, the kids emerge from the smoke. Of course Nullah was going to survive, but it was a real emotional burst when all the other kids came out, too. Really beautiful, powerful film that just falls short of being a masterpiece it so desperately wanted to be.

This film is perfect popcorn viewing (or jellybeans, if you're me). Intriguing and modern new take on Rear Window, played really well by the cast. Really impressed by Shia LeBeouf in this and be interesting to see where his career goes (hopefully not continuing down the action flick route!) His sarky little commentaries through his binoculars are fab. This film does the double, triple bluff really well, and you're not quite sure what the truth is until the end sequence. Loads of well done creepy shots thrown in as well. Yes it could have been more clever, but then it may have alienated some people who just want a good watch - especially after a long day at work!

Slumdog Millionaire
I'm not really sure what this film was trying to be. I guess it was "feel good" because all the voiceovers keep telling me so, but it didn't really leave me with any kind of emotion at all. It was good; there were definitely some really good parts to it, but then there were some parts which just left you stunned by how generic it all was - especially considering the enormous hype around it. The story was pretty much bullet-pointed to perfection - all they had to do was make a good story out of it (the fact that the questions matched the exact chronology of his life is best forgotten). And for the most part they did that, exploring the city slums, violence, poverty, exploitation and with a very solid love story at the centre. I liked how the relationship between the two brothers developed, too. The shots and the music were also brilliant throughout the film (I quickly made my exit from the cinema when the ill fitting Bollywood number came on at the end though) and Danny Boyle captured a real authentic blast of India. But things bugged me. The "D: it is written" declaration. Because he was lucky - he guessed the right answer. It would have been better for Latika to have told him the answer over the phone - because then it would have made sense: through knowing her, and staying loyal to her, he would have won. Instead it made the phone call really pointless. I suspect he would have waited at the train station every day at 5pm regardless. And his brother dying at the exact same moment he becomes a mill-a-nare? UGH! What a tacky bit of filmmaking that was! I did like the very ending sequence though where they are reunited, and it does a clever reverse shot of the moment they see each other before she's bundled into a car. That was really well put in. The case for this film is that it's original, but it isn't extraordinary. It doesn't deserve to win Best Picture at the Oscars, (BAFTA is a shoe-in), but with the other contenders around it as unremarkable as this, then the "feel good" factor that it supposadly has, and all critics love, will probably mean that it unjustifiably does so. I kind of wish everyone had just left it alone, so it could blossom on its own in a quiet, underground way!

 Halloween (2007)
Have been wanting to see this for ages, as the original is one of my favourite all time horror films. I think it was worth doing: the first 45 minutes or so was excellent - showing the family life of Michael which you don't get to see in the original was a great input, and there were some really, really brutal scenes! (I know it's a good horror when even I can't watch.) However, I'm not sure the idea to follow events from Michael's POV was the best plan. It was certainly worth trying, as a scene by scene remake of the original would have been pointless - but it then meant a lot of the suspense didn't intensify. Plus there were killings right from the get go, so there wasn't much of a pay off - it was very, VERY relentless. I really liked the little nods to the original though, and some of the death/stalk'n' slash scenes were very well done and scarific. Definitely worth a watch if you're a horror fan. I would suggest you watch the original 70s version before this, though...

Rachel Getting Married
Oh, I adored this. This is SUCH a culturemouse film. From the very first few shots I knew I'd love it! It was actually completely unique to anything I've seen before: it was shot as if it was a documentary, home camcorder-style, yet it was all scripted and had a strong story running through it as well. Some of the scenes were wonderfully enchanting because they were so novel. There's a whole scene where they have a dishwasher stacking race, and you keep waiting, expecting something to go wrong, for there to be a point to it, and there just isn't one! It was like being this other invisible person at the house, and you could watch what was going on! Brilliant directing. Anne Hathaway was a revelation. This is such a different role for her, and she should definitely do more stuff like this. Partly her character was written so well, but she helped bring her to life in a way which made her self obsessed, chaotic, but also really, really tragic. The other thing which made me in awe of this film is the way it doesn't actually revolve around Kym. Yes, she is a main part, but there are other scenes as well which drill home the message that this is about RACHEL'S WEDDING. I liked that they were so unassuming and fluid. I loved the scene where she is giving her speech at the rehearsal dinner: it's difficult to watch actually, but she delivers it so, so well. Not sure if she deserves an Oscar, but she definitely deserves a few more scripts like this falling on her doormat. The rest of the cast were also brilliant - I loooooooooooved Sidney! He was so adorable. Any time he did anything I just started to cry because he is so lovely. Adding the gospel/multicultural element to the film really worked. But best of all was getting to see the portrayal of this family dynamic. Every one of them was fleshed out, with their own emotional turmoil and individual thoughts on events, and Kym's character. They could scream and scream at each other, but ultimately they're a family, and they're bound to one another, and they love. It just means that everything that happens is surprising, painful and also completely relatable. A brilliant, brilliant film that leaves you wanting more after it's ended!

The Neverending Story
If you don't see a classic fantasy film when you're younger, then you've lost it for good - that's how I feel about this film. It was classic 80s cheese, and some bits that would probably be scary or magical as a kid are just hilarious when you're older! Unfortunately, this didn't do much for me because I came to it at the wrong time.

Marie Antoinette
I don't get the hate! It was Marie Antoinette done as a chick flick, and it was loads of fun! I can understand it not being to everyone's tastes, but there's enough stuffy, linear adaptions of her life already, so why not try something a bit different and quirky? I love Sofia Coppola's style; she made this into such a girly romp! I wish I could have been in Marie Antoinette's gang, and eat fabulous cakes, buy new shoes and dresses every day, and then go to fabulous parties every night where you drunkenly run out to see the sunrise at 5am! Some of the shots were so pretty - it was so obvious a woman directed this, and I'm glad she chose to focus on the character of Marie, and not make the whole film about events dicatated by her reign. (That said: I was surprised she chose to end the film where she did, and not see it through to the end of the revolution) I usually hate Kirsten Dunst, but she was alright in this. Maybe she is only good under the direction of Coppola! I just couldn't believe Jason Schwarzman as Louis XVI, though. He will always be a comedian to me. Steve Coogan was a nice surprise too! It does lack a little something, and the beginning is very slow. But it's very indulgent once it gets going, deliciously so.

The Family Stone
What a shocking film this was! Absolutely horrific. I should have turned off the moment they introduced the deaf gay paired with the black gay! it was so desperately trying to be thought provoking, original, endearing, funny and it was just HORRIBLE. Every character was cliched, boring and throughly annoying (even poor Rachel McAdams, who I didn't even realise was in this until she popped up). Sarah Jessica Parker's character was ANNOYING. I don't care if she was being ostrachised by the family - GOOD. None of the characters got any sympathy from me, they were all unlikeable. Clare Danes was also a waste in this! Her character seemed solely to serve as a plot device, thinly veiled as, somehow, a cutsey falling in love at first sight story which was blatant, unbelievable, cringeworthy nonsense! All the male characters were unappealing as well - I didn't care who ended up with who, hell, resort to incest for all I care. Its message and focus was muddled throughout, and the script a hotpotch of other, BETTER films. There is a horrible scene/sequence in the middle of the film that actually made me walk out of the room to vent my anger, it was that bad. Go and watch Junebug instead. This was utter tripe.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
This was a lot of fun. I don't care if Michael Cera is being typecast at the moment, he is adorable in everything he does, and he was lovely in this! (except maybe a little neurotic). Teenage life in New York seems so exciting! It was really fun to follow the characters around the city, chasing bands and chasing wayward friends! All the actors played their roles really well, and there were some great funny moments (and UGHHHHHHHHHHH moments, too!). The actress who played Caroline was hilarious! She had being paraletic down to a tee! Loved the gang of gays as well. And Kat Dennings as Norah was so uber cool and dry - and gorgeous - that you completely root for her and Nick to be together. Oh and random Michael from Damages appearance alert! This doesn't really do anything original (although the set up definitely has cause to argue) and some parts were soooo unbelievably cheesy: "Aren't you sad we missed it?" "This IS it!" - yuck; but it's very easy to let the film get away with it because it's really, really enjoyable and you just want to be in their gang!

Revolutionary Road
This film reminds me in so many ways of Kate's first film Heavenly Creatures - not just because of the 60s setting and the unhappiness of suburbia, but also because along with HC being absolutely brilliant and one of my favourite films, Revolutionary Road is also an extremely harrowing, depressing experience which burrows its way inside your mind within the first half an hour and haunts you for ages afterwards. I LOVED the set up before the title comes on - it's the perfect first act of the play. I thought there was going to be a lot more flashbacks than there were actually, but it all blends in beautifully. Kate Winslet does an amazing job in this role. I haven't read the book, and I'm not even sure it's ever blatantly stated what her state of mind is, but she manages to flip between every mood superbly, with great emotion and conviction. I root for April at every turn, and her demise into dispair is so unhappy, and so foreboding as well. The breakfast scene is like one huge hold of breath. I can't decide if Leo is average, or really good. His character is so unlikeable it makes it hard to judge! I had absolutely no sympathy for him whatsoever. Michael Shannon is a surprise. He is menacing and brilliantly off-kilter as John. And Kathy Bates was definitely overlooked for award recognition. Loved Sam Mendes direction - it wasn't as flighty and surreal as American Beauty, but I loved how quiet, and deliberate each scene felt. It had an eerie sense of beauty. The ending reminded me so much of the Coen Brothers as well, and also was a final comment on how the story wasn't about one couple's misery, it's about a whole community, a whole generation. Depresssssssssing. But I love dark, ominous, bleak films. And this was beautifully done. So top marks from me!

Great solid drama with some AMAZING performances - I am thinking this may be my first Meryl Streep film, I can't remember... anyway, she blew me away in this. I didn't particularly like her character, and was trying to always see the benefit of the doubt (ho ho) with Hoffman's character, but regardless of that it was a stellar performance. The last confrontation scene in particular stood out to me as riveting. Someone said it's "drama that pins you to your seat", and that's exactly how I felt! Haven't seen the play, but it seemed to transfer seamlessly onto the screen. Really interesting directing as well - I especially liked how Meryl Streep's character was introduced at the very beginning. It's a really thought provoking film too, because each side of the story is so perfectly balanced. No matter what you want to believe, you are always going to have doubts - perfect. For my two pence - I think he was innocent, and she became unhinged by the changing modern society around her. Actually, that's quite interesting because of the paranoia we have today in the world with paedophilia... (but I'm not going to start an essay here!) A really intellectual, actor's film. I still think it's hilarious that Natalie turned the film down because she couldn't understand celibacy, though! Hee!

Jean de Florette
*do do dooo doooo doooo dooooooooooo. do do dooo doooo doooo DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO* I've been humming the music from this for daaaays. Anyway, it's quite hard to judge this film without judging Manon as well (because I see them as one entity), but this is a lovely little French film exploring some really simple, but important, themes. The countryside is gorgeous to look at, and I was so jealous of the thunderstorm (I do get quite jealous of thunderstorms in films, ha!). Unfortunately I knew what was going to happen at the end, so that spoiled it slightly, but it was still really moving and powerful. And onto Manon...

 Manon Des Sources
... I preferred this film to the first - perhaps because you know there isn't another installment so the ending packs more punch. Manon is verrrrry pretty, and I like how Ugolin goes all Jean Luc the gardener with her (except when he sews the hanky to his chest! UGGGH!) I loved how she exacted her revenge, and then how the town reacted to it. Politics in small communities is always really interesting to watch, and with compulsive characters it's always going to be explosive. I liked the ending more when it was pointed out to me how much of a Greek Tragedy it all was. And it's so true! Really quite sad, but also very clever.