Monday, 20 July 2009

The Flixster Reviews #5

Friday The 13th (2009)
This was a helluva lot of good fun, but by the end of it all it did seem a little pointless. It was as if they wanted to make a good slasher film and needed the character of Jason, when they could have thought up somebody else; because this film doesn't really add anything to the original like Rob Zombie's Halloween did. I wanted a bit more backstory on Jason, other than "he saw his mother get beheaded and so this justifies his hillbilly insanity" and "oh look, a hockey mask on the floor. And this is how I got my schtick." Laaaaaaaaazy! However, it's quite fun to see lots of unlikeable teenagers getting sliced and diced. At times it felt like a parody because it was SUCH a generic horror film: "Oh, I'm just going to go down to the tool shed..." DON'T GO DOWN TO THE TOOL SHED! NEVER GO DOWN TO THE TOOL SHED! Sigh... But oh yeah, lovely Jared was in this. Mmmm. He was quite good as well, although I kept expecting him to phone Dean so the two of them could go after Jason together and be FIERCE.AS. (Oh, and maybe get Bobby to help, too - find some latin or something.)

He's Just Not That Into You
This is a perfect guilty pleasure film, even though it's trying so desperately to be profound and illuminative and fails miserably! But that's OK, because I have no problems at all with watching a series of angsty relationship stories and all the drama, drama, drama! I actually thought of it as a female version of The Last Kiss, actually. Really loved Ginnifer Goodwin! I've never seen her in anything before, and was such a sweet little thing, so infectious and genuine! She was definitely the most likeable character, and even though her story was very cliched, they did play about it with a bit so as to not make it too cheesified. Scarlett Johansson was gorgeous and seductive as ever, she really suited her role. The male characters were also pretty competent, too. Can't say the same for Jen Aniston and Drew Barrymore who were annoying and really are past it, now (miaow!). And as much as I love Jennifer Connelly - she just shouldn't do rom coms! Her character here is exactly the same as in Little Children: up tight, responsible, boring, steadfast, over controlling, paranoid - it just doesn't work well. And when she tried to be funny, it just felt a bit cringey! She should stick to rawer stuff like Requiem. I think I'd watch it again. It's definitely one to watch with all your girly mates. Oh, and I had some of the most ANNNNNOYING chavs in this viewing, so it's a miracle that I followed what was going on at all!

Really oddball horror movie which is unlike anything else I've seen before! It doesn't really start - you're just thrown into the film, and you just have to accept that May has turned out the way she has and not question why (although I think the psychology would be really interesting...) Angela Betis is perfect in the role, and pulls off an amazing turn where you feel completely sorry for May, yet freaked out by her at the same time. Film had some really clever touches as well, with links to Frankenstein and nods to her favourite parts of people's bodies when she meets them, so for the gory climax, you know where she's gonna be waving those scissors! Really good comic horror, which saves it from being really quite nasty.

This was so much fun! Once you get around the fact that it's supposed to be a comedy, and isn't taking itself seriously (and I should have got that from the second scene where Ian McShane is travelling down the River Styx trying to bribe Charon!), it was really enjoyable to watch! It was like Woody Allen doing a Scooby Doo adventure! Scarlett & Hugh were very cute together. I can't quite decide if Scarlett is any good at comedy or not - she definitely had some hilarious lines, but that was all Woody (who was his usual twittery gibbery self!). The great thing about Woody Allen in London movies is you get so many random cameos, too - like Mr Giles turning up as a policeman at the end, and then I hadn't even realised Mark Heap was in it, and had to rewind and watch his little reach-over-to-eat-some-pic'n'mix and you'll miss it scene! Lots of fun - I actually liked this more than...

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
This film was the epitomy of luusssssshh. It actually shows a really pretty, green side to Spain which you would normally associate with France. It definitely makes you want to take a plane out there! I really liked how the architecture and the countryside was woven into the storyline. Despite a lot of the main characters being American, it definitely has a European feel about it. It's just a pity the story wasn't all that interesting! Couldn't really warm to any of the characters - I don't think the narration helped, telling us the exact personality, morals and beliefs of each character and how each little incident impacted upon this. It was all a bit patronising and smug! Acting was very solid (although Penelope Cruz wasn't THAT amazing), but I didn't care very much for what happened to them because we were told more about them than them actually showing us, and winning us over. Nothing seemed to have been achieved from the sojourn either, so in the end it felt a bit empty. A nice idea, but it felt too controlled.

Gran Torino
BRILLIANT FILM! Probably my favourite of the year so far. It made me laugh, it made me angry, it opened my eyes, and it made me cry SOOOOO much at the end! I was utterly raptured throughout. Never seen a Clint Eastwood film before, so it felt like a bit of a treat! He was marvellous as Walt, and loveable even if he was a bad tempered old racist! I loved how he growled at everything - it made people in the cinema really giggle! He WAS this character, and by the end you are with him all the way, no matter what. The supporting cast were definitely not the best bunch of actors (in fact they weren't even actors!), but Su did a good job, I loved her no nonsense approach with Walt. But because Eastwood outshadows everyone in the film, you don't really mind the rest of the cast being so underpar, you're so entranced! The story is so important as well, and rips open a community in America that needs to be exposed. Some of the stuff that happens is really uncomfortable to watch, and you just feel more angry and vengeful as the film goes on because you are so wrapped up in these families' lives. That's why the ending is so tragic, but also completely moving and brilliant at the same time. For a split second you think you've been cheated, but then the realisation of why what's happened has happened makes you realise that you haven't been, and the right thing has been done...but at a cost. Ooooh, it's so good - everyone should go and see it immediately! It's an absolute traversty this has had no recognition at the Oscars. (I also loved the fact the bitchy granddaughter is one of the bitchy Blairites from Gossip Girl! hee)

Went to see this with a load of geeks (ahem), and fully expected to not have a clue what was going on. Surprisingly, I understood it completely and also more surprisingly, really enjoyed it! I don't really 'do' superhero films, but I do like the darker stuff, and Watchmen makes the Dark Knight very shiny and clean cut in comparison! Reminded me a lot of Sin City in places (but thankfully not as shit), and it was extremely intelligent and interesting for a 'caper' movie. Particularly loved the opening credits and use of music throughout the film - just gave it a really good vibe. Kudos to Snyder (and everyone is wrong about 300 anyway. SO wrong!). Daddy Winchester was EXCELLENT (me? bias?) as the Comedian, but he better not get too popular now or I'll be cross! Rorschach was by far the most outstanding portrayal (ha, like I really know what I'm talking about) out of them all though - Jackie Earle Haley is such an amazing actor, I can't believe he's only done a handful of films. This movie really benefitted from the cast being relatively unknown. Jude Law as Ozymandias would have been awful! Thought Silk Spectre was teh rubbish. Why does the token girl have to be the worst actor? I found Patrick Wilson a bit implausible at times, too (and didn't even realise he was Nite Owl until about halfway through!) The special effects were breathtaking, and even some of the little, subtle scenes were wow. Brilliantly put together, if a little long - it didn't drag, but I had to change seating position about six times. Few gripes: too much melodrama when SS finds out who her dad is. Yawn. (your father is Daddy Winchester! Now go be a hunter and die six times!) and the reveal as to who the 'baddie' was felt a little flat, because you don't get very much backstory on the character and it just feels a little meh. Apparently there is more in the graphic novel, so that doesn't really detract away from the story. The ending was really, really powerful and makes you think, my God they're right! It's very uncompromising, but it works, so it leaves lots to discuss afterwards. (oh, and they left out the big alien monster. woo!) Definitely worth a watch. It's very character based, but with some fantastic action sequences too and some clever set pieces. It's got to be right up there as one of the best films of the year. Also, it was SO nice to be in a packed cinema for once, with people dressing up and so on. I haven't seen anything like as busy for aaaages and it just makes the atmosphere when you're watching a film that much more special.

Two Lovers
I enjoyed this. It was a bit 'America tries to be European', but the characters are interesting and quirky, and the plot very understated. The pace is quite slow, and parts vary from predictable to far fetched (how on earth did he find the ring again?!) but I didn't mind too much. Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant as an unstable, impetuous son who is simultaneously in love with two different women and flits between the two of them in a desperate attempt to fill the immediate void in front of him. He had some brilliant one liners, and even managed to get some rapping in there as well! hee. Gwyneth Paltrow was also surprisingly good in a very different role for her. It poses a very negative view of love, and leaves you slightly put out by the end, but it's worth a looksee.

Wild Child
I'm really not sure what to think about this! It was absolute TOSH, but: a) it's a kids film, so not supposed to be sophisticated, and b) it was really memorable, and I have no idea why! I found the dialogue/direction really messy and very annoying at times! I couldn't work out if Emma Roberts was any good or not. I think its charm lay in the fact that it was based in a girl's boarding school, and I am quite obsessed with boarding schools... I think I was expecting this to be more emotionally involving, but it was very shallow and more like a music video in places. I wish a proper, angsty film would be made now! (PREP!)

Wendy and Lucy
This felt more like a snapshot rather than an actual film! It was so short, and it was entirely set in the present, with no insight into what happened previous to events or what will happen in the future. But when you don't get any info it's fun trying to work things out. Michelle Williams was really good in the title role: she had perpetually-pissed-off-at-the-world down to a tee! And of course, the dog was a cutie. I really liked the store clerk as well - what an annoying creature he was! But bit characters weren't in it enough to make a real impact, it was all about Williams' stark performance. Altogether it's very bleak and sombre (even in the colours and shades used), it's fascinating to watch. I don't think you journey with the character enough to feel much for her at the end though, and the eternal optimist in me says she would come back anyway! Hopefully...

In The Loop
When a film can make you spout quotes as much as this one, then you know just how brilliant it is! I lovvvvvvved this, it was absolutely hilarious. I heart anything Armando does anyway, but I thought this might be a bit too clever for me to understand.... (heh heh). But the sheer ridiculousness of every character soon put that to rest! Soooo many favourite moments... you honestly needed to go in with a notepad so you could jot them all down. "difficult, difficult.... lemon difficult" is possibly my most favourite thing ever ever ever at the moment (closely followed by Fuckity Bye!) The bit with the Barbie calculator was also genius. Armando + the writers of Peep Show = what more could you want?! GO AND SEE THIS NOW, I COMMAND YOU ALL!

This is marvellously creepy and ingenious - one of the most imaginative and twisted children's fairytales for a long time. From the opening sequence with the doll being stitched together, and the moody music, the film oozes a darkly ominous tone, perfectly accompanied by the eccentricity of the characters and Coraline herself, who is spunky and headstrong but also utterly precious! Every scene is a maze of colours, shapes, expressions and little touches of magic from Selick. It's pure delight; easily up there with his other creations. There were so many darling characters in this, I'm at a loss to choose the best: probably the dogs, because they were hilarious (I loved the dog audiences! And the dogbats!), but Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as the nutty actresses downstairs were also amazingly fabulous. What probably let the film down a bit was the plot, as it was very formulaic and there were a few too many unnecessary elements thrown in (like looking for the ghost eyes). But I guess this is a kid's film, and I need to look at it from that point of view - it's actually fun to think of it from that angle because if I watched this aged 8 or the like, I would have been bleeding TERRIFIED of the Other Mother, especially the scene at the end with her escaped hand (ugh, it's like Princess Mumbi all over again!). There are some genuinely disturbing, understated moments that probably - quite thankfully - elude a young mind... but it freaks a 23 year old girl out no end! I did watch this in 2D, so there's probably lots more to discover and love in the 3D version, but still it's a lot of fun to watch, and I firmly believe that all children's films should be like this, because it's intelligent, captivating - and it makes you squeal. This film is a definite must-see for every adult fairytale lover. (Plus I managed to get through this whole review without mentioning a certain director who should not be accredited with everything macabre and unearthly that comes out at the cinema!)

Is Anybody There?
What a beautiful film! And comepletly touching and sentimental, I was in perpetual states of wet eyes. This film completely struck a chord with me - having worked as a care assistant for five years I loved the insanity of it all, and the personalities and quirks of the residents were brilliant - it brought it all back! In fact, it reminded me soooo much of the first home I worked in - which was a converted old house and only had about 8-10 residents in, and you could actually sit down and paint their nails and chat with them instead of drowning in paperwork at some of the bigger places. It captured the atmosphere perfectly - the part with them singing the wheels on the bus was pure tragi-comedy. But it's the relationship between Clarence and Edward that makes this film so brilliant. Their honesty and how they learn from one another is just lovely to watch. Both actors are stellar - the fact they are so far apart in age makes this even more credible. You could tell they had the utmost respect for one another. Bill Milner reminds me a lot of Nicholas Hoult from About A Boy, and is sure to go far. Caine - flawless as ever. This film probably had a stronger impact on me more than most, but nevertheless I still think it is a fantastic, heart-warming, tender story about friendship and death and - even though it was randomly abrupt - the ending was emotionally uplifting. Drenched in sentiment, but I loved it! ... and the magic show scene still has me completely stunned!

Once upon a time there was a brilliant show on television called The Secret Life of Us. It was an Australian This Life, basically. It was intelligent and emotional drama that (grrr) was not given the proper recognition over here in the UK. Somersault comes from the writer of TSLOU, so I was extremely interested in seeing if it could match the same great heights. It was almost relenting in its portrayal of Heidi as being a "burgeoning sexual female" - for the most part I was just thinking it was ridiculous the way she threw herself at every bloke who glanced at her. But then slowly, and subtley, it managed to justify this. She has no father, she's not particularly close to her mother, she doesn't seem to have any friends, she's all alone in this bleak town in sparse Australia (I'm going to have to look this up - I didn't know Australia had snow!) and she has all these feelings she doesn't know what to do with, how to express, and how to contain. It is very emotional to watch, particularly when the people she gets to know in the town just view her as a troublemaker and a whore, and treat her appallingly because of it. Her relationship with Joe (Sam Worthington! Gonna be hearing a lot from him soon!) is awkward and dependant and could never work, but the film does a really good job of making them realise they have been good for each other. As despondent as he is, Joe has been the only stability in Heidi's life. The film is beautifully shot too - it reminded me a lot of Wendy & Lucy which I've seen recently, but with bursts of colour. Abbie Cornish is a great little actress, with a lot of strength to give and it'll be interesting to see where her career goes (by chance, her next role looks AMAZING). The reconcilliation scene at the end is very moving, and had me in tears. A really stark look at relationships and broken families as an Aussie Indie. Leaves you strangely transfixed.

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
AWESOME. My favourite bit was the continued use of the same three CGI shots. And the spontaneous romance in the last act with Debbie Gibson and the scientist dude. And, "HOLY SHIT!" Get lots of friends, and snacks, and alcamahol, and treat yourselves to Asylum's 'best' film by a mile.

Paranoid Park
This was really interesting because the storytelling wasn't linear like I was expecting it to be. To be honest even if it had been it still would have been good, because this is classic Van Sant. But presenting it in this way just exudes more and more mystery and guilt, and it is so cleverly done! You watch scenes not knowing when they quite happen, and they're suddenly slotted into the storyline seemlessly, as if what you saw before was just a glimpse, or a dream. Brilliant! The murder scene was pretty horrific when it came. It was also done in such a way that meant a) it wasn't really a murder, but it wasn't really an accident either and, b) the death was so shocking that it's obviously going to be imprinted upon this poor boy's mind for the rest of his life, and whether he confesses or not, nothing will take that away. Very powerful and evocotive stuff. The main actor was really good in the role as well, very haunting eyes. (And a random appearance from Little J as the girlfriend. Hee!) Not sure why this got panned so much on release - I think the key is to look at the director, and not the reviews.

Drag Me To Hull Hell
I'm going to comment as a non Sam Raimi geek (I've only half watched Evil Dead), but I really enjoyed this - even though it frit me sideways on more than one occasion! In fact I'm forever glad I watched the trailer just before we went to see this because I knew the bed scene was coming and I averted one's eyes - ha ha! Whilst the plot wasn't particularly full proof (seriously. Sat in a cafe for hours on end. You WOULD check to see if the button was in the envelope. Hell (hoho), you would check before you left the car! It was so obvious she hadn't picked it up, but the twist at the end where it doesn't end up being her boyfriend she sends to hell was quite clever), it was a lot of fun! Once you get used to the nature of the horror then it's not so FREAKING TERRIFYING, although I second "best use of a possessed hankie in a film" quote as it probably gave me the most jumps. The way Alison Lohman played her character as well was important because even when she screamed in terror, there was something very tongue-in-cheek about it. Plus the fact she gets every kind of bodily goo in her face at various points and she still gets on with things. I really liked the ending too, when she thinks she's escaped. You're never quite sure what's going to be the outcome at the end, and that's what makes a film like this so credible, and it gets a thumbs up from me. Loving the possessed goat as well. "You HO!"

Lars and the Real Girl
This is a gorgeous, warm, fuzzy film - one where I can swipe aside the "It's too sentimental! That would never happen in real life!" comments and shout I DO NOT CARE! IT'S BOOTIFUL! in a big loud voice. There isn't a dip in the tone of the film at all, not a moment where it veers into Love Object territory. Ryan Gosling makes Lars completely adorable in his delirious affection towards the doll (or perhaps that is just me being a complete sappy girl). There are some real quirks of humour as well, and it made me cry at the end! (quelle surprise there, then) Also another great positive - Emily Mortimer is actually OK in this and I didn't want to constantly slap her across the face. Wow! 

Sunshine Cleaning
This film is like a cup of tea that isn't stirred properly: it tastes pretty bitter all the way through but you get used to it, and then you suddenly get all the sugar at the end and YUK! (well, maybe not that harsh) I'm soooo glad Amy Adams is still doing indie films and she hasn't been swallowed up into the Hollywood evil. I wanted to be both Amy Adams AND Emily Blunt watching this, which was quite a headache. Emily Blunt was essentially playing the grown up version of her character from My Summer of Love, which I didn't mind at all (she's soooo pretty when she's being indie). The best characters though were actually the men (and boys!): I LOVE Alan Arkin, he was just the perfect granddad in this ("Do you stare out of the window all the time? Well that proves it, you're a genius!"). And the son was just adorable. The story was really interesting, and I liked the 'mother's death screwing them up' morbid theme. But it was all a bit TOO cutsey, with the car speaker, etc etc. "I think I'm going to take a road trip." WHAT? WHY?? urgh. That said, it was really enjoyable to watch and I'm such a sucker for any Sundance picks.

Fermat's Room
Well this was pretty rubbish - like being in the middle of a maths lesson at school to suddenly find out you're in Cube (like that happens). With really infuriating people. I tells ya, maths revenge doesn't get anymore ludicrous than this!

I found this pretty dated to be honest (old time cop! maverick cop! they don't get on, but they sure as hell LEARN from each other!), and perhaps it's just the way films are made lately, but I was expecting there to be a twist, and there wasn't. It's always bloody Kevin Spacey. And the climax at the end where he was trying to get Brad Pitt to become one of the seven deadly sins was yawwwwwwwwn (Brad Pitt was actually terrible in this film). There were some good things - mainly the chase sequences (the one in the apartment block was ace!), and the grisly forensic investigations. But I just didn't feel very involved, or gripped. Its high rating just baffles me. 

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Oh noes! The plot didn't change at all from the book! Which meant it always going to be completely flawed, with characters who are too contrived to be emotionally engaging (I have no time for mid life crises, only Blake Lively). Seeing as I have already bemoaned the book/plot once in my life, I will concentrate on the film: the music was good, the shots were good, the acting was competent/brilliant (depending on who you looked at), and the casting was actually superb. Ben and Grace looked like they were actually siblings! They didn't look as though Herb and Pippa were their parents... but STILL! They were brother and sister! And I thought the mannerisms between young Pippa and older Pippa were brilliantly matched by Blake and Robin Wright Penn (who I've been thinking was Kristen Scott Thomas. Oooooops!). But some of the little sequences were so off, and jarring. What the hell was the cartoon bit all about?! It was trying too hard to be a Euro-indie, and you're never going to achieve that with a cast that includes Keanu Reeves. Ugh. And they cut some of the (only) best bits out of the book as well to do with Blake's character - such as visiting all the bondage/sex clubs, and how she moved from job to job and house to house depending on whose muse she was at the time. And her affair with the older man at her dad's church was completely missed out too! So when Pippa drones on about having a "difficult life" you're just left thinking: nooooo - you ran away from home, had a difficult - I dunno - TWO years, then you got married and had a family. You weren't bloody Eva Peron. The film does not capture the (flimsy) journey the character does in the book. And it's not a long film, so there's no excuse. Best bits were definitely between Pippa & Grace, and their relationship. Perhaps they should have concentrated on that instead, and left out all the ridiculous soapy stuff.

Encounters at the End of the World
THAT'S IT - I'M PACKING MY BAGS AND HEADING FOR CHILLIER CLIMATES! This was such a refreshing departure from all the wildlife focused documentaries, and you actually get to meet the *crazy, cough, crazy* people who work and study in Antarctica. Plus, Werner Herzog's commentary and asides are often hilarious. I LOVVVVVED the piece about the deranged penguins, and how some of them just get up one day and head into the wilderness alone. "Fuck this, I'm off to shoot myself/found my own city/discover my true vocation." Brilliant! Really enjoyed the musical moving imagery as well with the cathedral diving. I think it was the right mix of wildlife/eccentric characters/science. And it wasn't ALL about climate change either, which was really welcome. Oh, and icebergs still remain the most terrifying thing to inhabit the earth (apart from rabbits/people in bunny suits). And now to end the review, I will flex out my hands, interlock my fingers and show you my knuckles. Aha! I am descendant of the Royal Inca people. Have I shown you my hands?

I'm actually surprised by how much I HATED this film. I've been looking forward to watching it for ages, and people have raved about how good it is, so I am going to get a right telling off after this! And there were signs at the beginning that I was really going to like it, as it did have its quirks (like naming a pie after a particular feeling/situation). But I soon became really bored. ALL - yes, ALL! - of the characters were so annoying, stereotyped, cliched, unlikeable, etc etc etc. Especially Jim (?), the old codger who, quel surprise, ends up having a heart of gold and leaves all his money to the Waitress (god, I can't even remember her name! I got bored halfway through and started doing other things!), who also learns to love hated unborn baby at the end. YAWN YAWN YAWN. Is it wrong to actually feel a bit sorry for the husband? He was the most interesting character - I don't think he was truly evil, just had a lot of anger and emotional issues. Oh well - who cares! The only thing good about this film was the baking bits and the urge I now have to make fruit pies.

 The Life Before Her Eyes
Kudos to this film from suddenly going from shit to AMAZING in the last 20 minutes. It was so badly acted/scripted in the first couple of scenes that I wondered if I could carry on, so what a change around when it actually becomes deeply clever and emotional at the very end. I actually feel outsmarted by a film - yes I do! Evan Rachel Wood was brilliant in this. I think this was my first Uma Thurman film, too (mehhh...maybe Pulp Fiction which I fell asleep in. Oh, I fell asleep in Kill Bill, too. HA!), and she played her part well, but Wood's part was just so much more feisty and arresting. The teenage life/adult life storytelling weaving was done relatively well, although a little cheesy and overt at times. It definitely gets better as you watch, because I thought the set up in the first five minutes when the gunman comes into the bathroom and ultimates them was too soon to have any impact. But as you get to know more about the characters, and they reveal tiny bits more of what happens in the bathroom, then it becomes much more dramatic and effective. And I REALLY thought I knew what had happened, and was just wanting to know the exact details, and then all of a sudden the film just turns on its head. And for a second you think it's going to be a horrid M Night Shama-hama-hama-lan twist where it's all inexplicably and ridiculously something else - but then you realise that it's much, MUCH cleverer than that, and the story changes constantly with the character's head. Ooo-er, it's a bit Charlie Kaufman. Anyways, I LOVED the end even though it was so incredibly sad and depressing. Hurrah for bleakness! It did get a bit melodramatic at times, espesh with Uma Thurman, but overall I didn't feel cheated - it does all come together at the end for a brilliant film. I think I want to read the book now! Oh - and Eva Amurri Martino looked SOOOOOO much like a young Melanie C it was just helluva distracting!