Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Flixster Reviews #6

The Mermaid (Rusalka)
Wonderful whimsical film from Russia. Wasn't really how I expected to be at all: I expected Ailsa to be much prettier in a conventional way (I guess, how the Little Mermaid is portrayed), but her face was more handsome, but she broke into such beauty when she smiled and played around. This is just the kind of film I like, with its quirky characters and their original takes on life and love, and all the randomness that throws up. But this film wasn't as sentimental as others I've seen (particularly when you get to the ending!), which gave it a somewhat upflifting elegy to the whole film. It couldn't leave you feeling fuzzy and warm inside: but yet, you couldn't come out feeling bleak, either. It was much more powerful than that, which is the mark of a great film. A lot of people seem to be calling it the Russian Amelie. I don't think so - Ailsa is too stroppy and melancholic to be as sanguine as Amelie, as ingenious. I found it had more in common with The Science of Sleep - which isn't as happy-go-lucky as Amelie, and the characters are not given any huge visible reward at the end; there's much more focus on the unconscious. Really, really good film and I just hope that it gets some kind of independent release in the UK or at least a DVD release - else I may never see it again, and it may all become a beautiful dream! :(




A Streetcar Named Desire
Streetcar! Not actually my favourite Tennessee Williams play, but a close second. And this is a brilliant brilliant adaptation of the play, with amazing performances from all four of the lead roles - and I can't believe they all won Oscars except for Marlon Brando! Who is probably the epitomy of Stanley, and the performance everyone thinks of when they think of the character. What a robbing! It's really interesting to see how the film is changed from the play to suit with Hollywood at the time, and how they worked around it. Thankfully Williams wrote the screenplay, so it didn't spoil it too much (except the ending, which I wish they hadn't changed! I don't care if it's more depressing, it's the real ending!) Vivien Leigh is the perfect Blanche - flicking from one personality to the other with such beauty. She really brings alive two of my favourite scenes in the play (kissing the boy, telling her tragic history under the full moon). Of course the direction and the cinematography is brilliant as well (I love the use of light and shade, it translates really well from the stage). I'm really not a fan of old black and white films, but I could watch this again and again and again. I would actually get a rage on if they re-made this! Such a classic that everyone should own. But read the play first!





Fireflies in the Garden
Oh dear, why do I get drawn into films which have comparisons to Garden State? They're clearly never going to reach the dizzy vertigo heights of my all time favourite ever film - in fact, trying to imitate such brilliance would probably just be embarrassing! As it turns out, the main problem with this film is that no one seems to have proof read the screenplay. Or this film has the worst editor alive who needs to be rendered unemployed immediately. There are some atrocious plot holes in this - no, actually plot dead ends, where you get the beginning of an event ("no one can know what happened!") and do you get an answer? No. Do you get one of those if-you-watch-it-again-and-read-between-the-lines-you'll-get-it answers? NO! They just forget to answer it! It's completely bizarre! And it happens on about three key occasions. There seems to be too many themes spread too thinly as well, and the relationship between father and son (heart of the film) is horribly, choppily put together so at the end you don't have a clue where they stand. The flitting between past and present is also redundant because it is so badly proportioned. How this starry cast ensemble agreed to do this film is beyond me! It's a shame because Ryan Reynolds is particularly good as Michael, and jeez, Willem Dafoe is the scariest man alive as the father. And Hayden Panettiere is not nearly as annoying as I was expecting her to be. So, some good acting but poor, poor material to work with! I wouldn't bother watching, as for all its good intent you end up feeling massively bereft by the credits.





Just Like Heaven
Awww, I actually really loved this even though I'm not a rom-com type of person (bring on the angst!) I think a successful rom-com isn't always dependent on the script, but on the chemistry and ability of the actors, and so many of the same dull, charmless, talentless bunch (Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz... the entire cast of Grey's Anatomy I'm looking at you) who do the circuit churn out these god awful two star trite films saturating the genre. So when films like this where you get two leads who have great comic timing, likeability and a playfulness come along, they really help to restore your faith in a beautifully put together love story. I've always had a soft spot for Reese Witherspoon, but I was surprised at how good Mark Ruffalo is in this - the one man acting scene in the bar was hilarious! This film was a prime example of the "they hate each other, but really it's love" boreline, but the acting, humour and general kookiness of it raised it head and shoulders above the rest in its field. The ending was always going to be a bit of a mess, but they probably chose the right option by going for the slush factor (I think if they had separated it would have actually really unsettled me for weeks after, ala Butterfly Effect!). Oh, and Jon Heder was in this!! LU-CKY. He was esentially playing Napolean Dynamite is a blasé medium so that was ace. Deffo worth a watch for the cynics of the genre.



The Rules of Attraction
Wow, it's like Closer on acid! Fantabulous! I thought this was excellent - almost perfect aside from the drug dealer storyline (yawn), some slow bits towards the beginning and the line Lauren utters towards the end about how love isn't for "their type of people", which spoiled the whole thing for me. If it's that pre-determined then why are you getting so cut up about failed crushes and relationships? It was a quasi-emo moment the film could have done without! I thought the leads were all excellent (although I am SO SURE Lauren is Milly from This Life. Are they sisters or what?), although James Van Der Beek was slightly too into his role at some points, where all he seemed to do was sneer menancingly and resemble a devilish bull. Ian Somerhalder is the most hilarious gay I've ever seen on the screen! The part where they jump and dance about to George Michael's Faith on the bed in their pants is a right hoot! Some scenes were actually quite disturbing (especially the beginning) and some were just OTT absurdity - I think it was a really good Bret Easton Ellis adaptation. Of course, the essence of the film is all about the amazing camera work. They picked some really clever hypnotising shots throughout the film, and I loved the rewinding to play into someone else's storyline device - it made everything seem so faceachingly cool. A deserved cult hit, that's just a bit too shallow and melodramatic to leave you feeling as freaked out as you should!




Adam
Bit of a 'hmmmmmmmm'-er here. (not a 'hummer', that is a Slovenian lobster.) It veered so much on the quality meter - the beginning was sheer bizzare, attempting to be weighty and dramatic with its fade to black every time he walks out of a room/eats some food/scratches his nose (seriously, WHAT?), the horrible awkwardness of the middle part establishing the relationship with Beth, and then by the end it's actually quite sweet and lovely, but still holds massive frustrating questions. It was always going to be touchy subject, and no matter what they tried to do they would have ended up getting up the wind of somebody. So it was never going to be perfect - still, it could have been a lot, lot better. It felt like they thrust every single emotion at Adam just so we could get the Asperger "range" (here's what happens when his dad dies! here's what happens when he loses his job! here's what happens when you lie to him!). Of course all of these things are completely accpetable - and necessary - as actual plot points of a film, but they seemed very staged to me, as if it the scenes were pieces of a jigsaw that merely lined up against each other rather than completely locking to make a complete shape. The point being - it just didn't flow very well. Scenes ranged from cringingly awful ("hmmm, I think I like the boy too." - URGH! URGH! URGH!), to the hauntingly beautiful (Adam copies Beth's movements in front of the fireplace, not because he was trying to learn how to behave at an interview as I first suspected, but because she was being quiet after the revelation of her dad's affair and he needed to connect with her because he didn't understand). Too many of the subtleties were replaced with awkward gestures by the director, and that's a real shame. Hugh Dancy was brilliant as Adam - he'd clearly researched the part and he brought a lot of sympathy and pathos to the role without making you pity him. Rose of course is amazing any way, but this isn't one of her best. The ending left me ticked off in a number of ways. Firstly - Beth demanding to know why he wants to take her to California, ie. how does he really feel about her? Well - she knows he can't properly express how he feels and his emotions, so it was completely inapprorpiate for her to ask, and to judge her whole relationship on what he says. Did she suddenly expect him to drop the act and speak (ahem) like a NT? I thought it was weak. And how could she just let him move across the country when he's never left the city before in his life? She should have at least gone with him to help him out with the practicalities and settle in instead of just ditching him. hmph! Also at the end, Adam seems to have improved drastically and there is no showreel shown for this, and I felt a bit cheated. How did he improve? Was it because of Beth, or was it some other help he received in California? It all seemed to tie up very quickly which was unsatisfying. That said, the last little scene with the book was lovely. A bit of a clumsy film, which was trying to do something a bit different but never properly succeeded. But not a completely wasted attempt.




The Time Traveler's Wife
After all the delayed months of production, re-shoots, terrible put together trailer and then slamming reviews by everyone and their menagerie, I was fully expecting this to be a complete balls up of an adaptation. (why on earth they would put such a complex and affecting novel in the hands of a guy who only has Flightplan on his CV?) But I kept faith, and actually all things considered, this isn't as bad as everyone is saying it is. Sure it has major, major issues but what it does decide to show remains true to the novel, perhaps a little too keenly. Because it picks out the main plots from the book, it relies a lot on the rest of the mechanics of the story being known already by the viewer. So I suspect those who are completely new to the world of Henry & Clare were slightly confused as to what the hell was going on, why everyone was so accepting of it, and why not a lot was done to sort it out. Of course all the answers to these questions are in the book, but because the film glazes over them it lacks so much depth, and the characters of Henry & Clare are never properly realised - which is SUCH a shame because they're so beautiful together in the book! Big chunks of narrative were missed out, especially to do with teen Clare (and my favourite part - the Christmas at Clare's house when Henry is time travelling) and the tests carried out on Henry with Dr Kendrick. And ARGHHHH - the first thing I said when the credits went up - where was Clare at 80 years old? It's the bit that made me cry in the book, and the perfect ending. I can't believe they chopped it off just because some useless Americans said "uhhh...who's that old lady? I do't understand." Rah! If Eric Bana can be 30 (no stubble) and 40 (hmmm, stubble) then I'm sure they could have made Rachel McAdams look 80 with a few wrinkles and a cardigan? Bah, who makes these films? (oh yes, Robert Schwentke...) I hated some of the storytelling devices that were used as well - real old skool amateur type stuff that I would have got told off for doing during my degree! ("so tell me, how did we meet again?" Flashback...) Rachel McAdams was brilliant and thoroughly convincing as Clare. Wish I could say the same for Eric Bana, but really: this guy.can.not.act. He kept slipping into an Australian accent as well! Surely he's done enough Hollywood films by now to realise what country he's in?! Bizarre! He was completely out shone by McAdams. The younger actors were great too, especially young Clare who was awarded with quite a lot of startled laughter by my audience at her prim little madam style! She was brilliant. It's a shame so many of the supporting cast & characters were dealt with so badly by the producers - only briefly introduced before being shuffled away into the background again. The film pulls through because the story is so strong. They did a lot to show the relationship and love between Henry & Clare and I was welling up a little at the end! There are some nice little touches of humour as well, although sometimes it was a bit too reliant on laughs when they should have been exploring something a lot more relevant and emotionally striking. Not a bad attempt, but unfocused and hollow at times. I have hopes that in 30 years time someone will come along, dust the book off, and have another go at adapting this into a film again. And hopefully this time it will be somebody who has a little bit more idea of what is needed to truly bring this accurately to the big screen.




Cinderella
Definitely one of the more bizarre Disney films, and seems to be caught somewhere between classic-but-boring Disney (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and newer, better Disney (Beauty and the Beast). In fact, having watched it recently and it still being fresh in my mind, this was almost an absolute copy of Sleeping Beauty! The King and his stooge being ploddy and excitable, obsessed with marriage; a half baked princess and her animal friends who sing, get into scrapes and make clothes; a dull as soaps Prince Charming and the best character being the villainous woman. Mmmmm, probably best enjoyed on a rainy Saturday when you're 3 and not 23! hee.




Tell No One
Ohh, I so wanted to enjoy this, and I did for the majority of it - but after I while I just gave up trying to guess what was going on and just run with it hoping my brain would tie everything up together in the background, and then give me a knock when it had sorted it all out. The back story to this was clever, but much too convoluted to be really satisfying. Such a shame! This film had some really brilliant set pieces (the chase between Alex and the Police on the motorway was proper THIS IS CINEMA! kind of stuff), and the acting, the script (for the most part), the pace, the music was all top notch if at times curiously put together. The ending was lovely - it reminded me so much of Wicker Park actually (without the endless sobbing for half an hour afterwards!). I'll definitely watch it again, as I think it's a grower.




The Class
Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it! It was so gripping - not in an edge of your seat kind of way, but just becoming engrossed in all of the students stories and backgrounds, with little glimpses of the teachers' lives too. BUT - because the film never strayed away from the school environment, what we learn is very negotiable and I LOVED that! Children are the best unreliable narrators! Obviously this led to a few drawbacks - mainly a big event would happen and then it wouldn't be properly concluded (ie, Wey's mother. Wey was my favourite character so obviously I was concerned - with him being NotReal and all). But for something which was obviously loosely scripted it was fantastic at capturing a realistic documentary approach - you're like a fly on the wall, and you never really know anybody's true feelings or intentions. It reminded me of Elephant in that regard. It was also a fasinating expose (albeit fictional) on life inside a French school - and an inner city racially mixed one at that. Although practices were different (the student council reps being allowed to sit in on report briefings was just madness!) the emotions, bullying and tensions that exist in English schools (and beyond) are exactly the same. I really enjoyed all the little devices they used to open up the crux of the film as well - such as the character portaits and the "what have you learned this year segment?" They all worked so well. I don't know how much direction these kids were given, but they were damn convincing! Wonderful film, highly recommended.





(500) Days of Summer
This is exactly the kind of quirky romcom (my favourite genre) that I love, the kind of film that fools you beautifully by its completely unrealistic authenticity. A lot depends on the performances of the cast in a film like this, and whether it exudes humour and charm and not pretentious smugness - this was the former. Zooey Deschanel was kooky and adorable (although her gravelly drawl always surprises me!) and I saw a new side to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was almost completely interchangeable with Zach Braff. Obviously in a good way. And Oh My Goodness - Karl Benson was in this! I knew I recognised that face! Any film with Karl Benson in is automatically amazing. The little sister was intensely annoying though - no one that age is that wise. Perhaps that was the joke but urrrrgh. They could have easily written her out. Really liked how the structure of the story, and the number flicking calendar device. Some of the individual scenes were particularly memorable: playing houses in Ikea, Tom's morning after joy (ha, even I enjoyed the little nod to Enchanted), Summer turning up at the flat after their fight - I loved the use of colour in that scene, although it could have generated more angst...(!) My favourite scene though was only about 5 seconds long - Tom on the bus listening to his headphones and suddenly spazing: "I HATE THIS SONG!" Utterly Brilliant! One thing is bugging me though: the scene in the trailer where he gets on the bus and every passenger is Summer - that wasn't in the film. I kept waiting for it to appear but it didn't. Hmmmm. My gripes (other than the kid sister): obviously they don't end up together in the end, and I love that, but she gets married?! The way the film was spliced together made it seem overly harsh! Plus she got together with him, got engaged and married all in the space of about 100 days which was pretty impressive. I guess it matches her erratic character, blah blah. The film definitely loses its way in the last 20 minutes or so as it tries to explain fate, love, coincidence and give a satisfactory and playful conclusion. It's a bit messy ("Hi I'm Autumn!"... oh dear) but all the fun before that more than makes up for it. No doubt I shall be watching this again a few times in the future, and I'll be interested to see what Marc Webb does next. An excellent debut film!




Carrie
One of the iconic horror films of all time featuring some genuinely disturbing scenes and menacing religious symbolism. A role that is now synonymous with Sissy Spacek, she is brilliantly terrifying in this, especially during the climatising Prom scene where her mind wreaks revenge on everyone. The contrast between meek innocent Carrie and streaked in blood possessed Carrie is both acted and directed superbly. Excellent use of music and suspense by DePalma, too. Not one of the scariest films ever IMO, but a classic all the same.



Dorian Gray
Oooh it was so gothic! The setting, the re-creation of Victorian London, the moody blue shots set against milky yellow streetlamps! I was actually pretty impressed by the amount of effort they put in! Reminded me a lot of Perfume. The tone was awry: it jumped from Jack the Ripper to Casper the Friendly Ghost too many times, and Ben Barnes' acting was all over the place. There were times when he was pretty good (particularly being devlish), but other times when I actually stifled a giggle at how bad he was (yes, I think he actually gulped when he was told of Emily's suicide!). By contrast Colin Firth was a solid force of excellence, and he carried this film. Even though his character was morally virulent he came across as likeable and ultimately the hero in the end. Rebecca Hall was good too, although I'm not quite sure I believed her depiction as a 18-20 year old girl! It was a bit slow to get going, but in fact the story kept me interested throughout. Some of the plot was a little flimsy (so covering the painting with a big bit of cloth stops it gurgling and growling), but - good God - it was actually a bit creepy at times! Also really enjoyed the silly ending where the painting goes a bit Vigo on us. Hee! Not a bad little watch, lots of fun. Oh, and I really enjoyed the debauchery!




Adventureland
Fairly drab coming of age dramedy that ends in an overly nauseous ending. Perhaps I've seen this thing far too many times before: all the characters seemed to be going through the motions, to the point where you could sit with a list of standard plot points in indie teen films and tick them off as you watch. I didn't really care for any of the characters, although the acting was solid all round. It's a pity they had to work within the limits of stereotypes. Really nice to see Martin Starr getting to do some big films (I also loved that he had a nut allergy just like Bill in Freaks and Geeks!). There were a few chuckles here and there, but it never really got going and some stunts felt a little put-on. I can't believe how utterly ridiculous the ending was! Did I miss the part where he was given her address, or did he just manage to find her in a city of 19 million people on his first night there?! Really wasn't taken in by their relationship at all, and I think it would have been better if they'd never seen each other again and just learnt from the bad experience. Really rather average. I'll think twice about watching a film written by the spawn of Superbad in future, no matter the (puzzling) great reviews!





Eden Lake
Let's replace rednecks with chavs! Has anyone written a response document to this film of all the things they shouldn't have done? It was quite fun ordering them about from the sofa! Because the couple were so unbelievably annoying - I was warned about this beforehand by several sources, but I still couldn't believe HOW annoying: the woman was a human sized talking doll and the guy was just such a DUMBASS! (Even though it was Michael Fassbender, who's actually a good actor) - you just don't care for them, and because the film lacked any kind of suspense at all, it became very enjoyable watching them flailing about the quarry (ROMANTIC? SRSLY?) getting burned with impaled feet and so on. Not that I was cheering on the chavs - I would have dispatched them all within 30 minutes of the running time (it was quite satisfying when she rammed the car into the girl chav). The ending had some merit to it - she finally escapes, but it's not a release at all (ahhhh, The Descent!). It had quite a sobering feel to it, even though it would never happen in a million years (well maybe in certain Northern towns). Not nearly as harrowing as it wants to be, but an interesting take on the genre.





Julie & Julia
I think a film where you rush out to the Cookery section of Waterstones immediately after it's finished to buy books is a very special one indeed! I adored this film! I was already in baking mode anyway, and so this only furthered my need for a big kitchen, a mixing bowl and a sticky wooden spoon. Being an uber foodie I loved all the cooking scenes, and endless recipes, and shopping for ingredients - I especially loved where she has an egg for the first time! Ahhh, the sanctuary of an egg. (the boiling Mr Pinchy and his family scene wasn't very nice at all though!) Loved Meryl Streep, I thought she was delightful! Stanley Tucci was brilliant too - I thought they made such a lovely couple, and it was so upsetting when it became clear that they weren't able to have children. I've heard a few whispers she might get Oscar nominated for this role, and I was surprised considering it's not very high brow. But after watching it I really wouldn't argue! The Chris Messina/Amy Adams (she was like a little boy in this! Reminded me of an elf child, like Peter Pan) relationship was a lot more contrived and a little annoying, but I still really enjoyed that storyline - VERY jealous when she gets all those calls from literary agents and publishers! The interspersing of the two stories was done very well, and both were so much fun to watch you weren't left pining for the other! I also applaud how they didn't go for a overly saccharin ending where the two of them get finally meet each other. I think they got the tone just right, although it's definitely a girly film. It's a wonderfully uplifting film that spurs you to go out into the world and create something, folded in with the cosy comfort of a newly baked loaf. Mmmmm. More rocky road this weekend?





Zombieland
Bahhhh mmmm notreallybothered mmmmmm stupidzombies mehhhh mmmmm BILL MURRAY?!!!11 Just go and see this film for Bill Murray. He is terrific and very, very funny. God I love Bill Murray. I would probably go and see a Cameron Diaz film if Bill Murray was in it. Apart from that, the film itself is pretty entertaining, especially for BM lifting things up midway through - once you follow them for a bit the characters do start coming into their own, particularly Woody Harrelson's. I can't decide if Jesse Eisenberg is more Michael Cera or a young Zach Braff. And I kept getting distracted by Emma Stone's fringe. ENVY! Anyway, there was lots of blood and crunching and chomping on guts, but it was all very tongue in cheek and they looked like they had such fun making it. Lots of new inspired ways of dispatching zombies for the hardcore out there! But really - you're going to see it for Bill Murray. Cavalier!





Up
Possible favourite film of the year. I loved this SO much, I think it may be my favourite of all the Pixars (although Finding Nemo runs very close). It was the perfect cartoon: where the impossible becomes beautifully possible! A real, proper stonking adventure film that is so much fun to grab onto - although at times you do feel yourself pausing for breath even though you know they're not going to die! That's the brilliance of Pixar. The inspired story has so much heart to it, basically making me cry every 20 minutes or so, but then interspersed with so much intelligent, sophisticated humour which makes them so memorable and accomplished. Some of the cartoon was actually a little too adult at times - when he hits the construction man on the head and he starts bleeding - I found that really bizarre for a kid's film! And the moment Carl & Ellie are told they can't have children is one of the most upsetting things I've ever, ever seen (I'm welling up now!). Characters...I loved Dug and Kevin the most, obviously: "I hid under your porch because I LOVE YOU!"/"I know you're hiding back there!" But all the characters were great - an amazing amount of effort and pathos was instilled into Fredricksen which gives him so much range and depth - for a cartoon character I find that astonishing. With Russell, the two of them make one of the best comedic double acts in film history. In fact I don't have anything bad to say about any of the characters - they were all so well rounded, quirky and full of win. The dog army was a stroke of genius - I loved how they were human one moment and then they were dogs the next: "SQUIRREL!" What else, what else? There was a bit in the middle of the film which spoofed the Wizard of Oz which made me grin lots. I loved the old men fighting and their muscles spasms. I loved the baby Kevins. I loved the dogs choosing the wine and cooking a selection of dishes. I also loved "Partly Cloudy", the short film at the beginning. Awwwww - more tears! I want to go and see it again already! [Although a quick note: don't bother with the 3D, it doesn't add anything] An absolute treasure!





Paranormal Activity
ARGHHHH - it's SO hard to rate films like this. Does the fact that I spent a good hour last night waiting to not be dragged out of my bed and down the hallway a good thing? Does my overactive imagination spying dark figures materialising at the end of my bed mean it deserves a handful of cheeses? Hmmmm. It's like the Open Water dilemma. Or Tale of Two Sisters! *shudder* For me the scariest films are the ones involving the supernatural, and this film was truly horrifying. Even worse than Blair Witch I think, because we are more engaged with these two characters (even though Micah is a complete twat!) and the fall into demonic capture is cruel, and random, and completely insurmountable. These types of films frustrate you so much, because there are so many paths and doors open for the protagonists to go down that they don't take, or even if they do, it's all an illusion and there is no hope. It's depressing as hell. Some of the scenes were so unnerving: where she gets out of bed (possessed) and stands looking at the bed for over an hour. The whole attic scene. The part where she looks at the camera and says "we'll be OK now" - you can hear the demonic distortion in her voice and you know that's it, there's nothing good left to come from this, she's been taken. The fact that her boyfriend is so completely oblivious to this (buoyantly so - twat!) and other events they have captured - er, hello, the ouija board just caught fire all by itself - is quite ridiculous, although I don't think he deserved his fate at the end. Btw, this review is based on the cops ending and not the Steven Spielberg "WE NEED CGI PRONTO" ending, which is much more effective for her sitting down and shaking to and fro on her heels in a catatonic state with blood all over her, knife in hand, for a whole DAY after the struggle. I'm still not sure about the whole cops killing her before they even knew the situation, but still, it's better than CGI demon face. It just fits more with the mood of the budget film, where everything is implied and not explicit, thrown-in-your-face mainstream rubbish. I'm so glad this is doing well in America. Hurrah for virals! I would say don't watch this at night - but I watched it during the day, and then followed by three Melrose Places, a 90210, X Factor and Arrested Development but STILL had a horrible night's sleep. So whenever, and if you watch this film, be prepared to suffer the consequences afterwards because it is not easy to just switch off.




Moon
Mehhhh - pretty underwhelmed to be honest. After all the good reviews I was expecting something really clever and psychological to do with being confined in such a small, extraordinary place alone for so many years. Instead, it was about CLONES! Not very well explained clones, either - perhaps if I hadn't had to look up the whole plot on imdb afterwards it might have succeeded in being a more convincing and admirable film! Sam Rockwell was really good, and displayed control and conviction in every stage of each clone's life - but I didn't really care for the character. I didn't think the film had any particularly interesting message to convey either. The central premise was curious, but I want it delivered to me in a clear and intelligent way and it wasn't! I wouldn't call the film boring, but for me I was always bobbing above the surface of interest. Oh, but the computer's emoticons were good...




Fantastic Mr Fox
OH MY GOD I LOVED IT! It was so Wes Anderson! I have been intrigued for ages about this film, and Wes going into animation. How would it work? How could it possibly work? But it does! It really does! I think the decision to stay away from CGI and stick with stop motion was a genius idea, and he completely exploits this to wonderful effect. I was distracted for the first 30 minutes or so thinking "this isn't for children! How are children going to understand this?!" I think they would have got the basic plot and events that were happening, but there was so much subtext, humour and dialogue that will have gone completely over their heads! If I were young, I could see it fascinating me in a deep way, and then going back to it when I was a few years older and it being so rewarding. George Clooney fits perfectly into the Wes clan (although I was a bit confused as to when Meryl Streep replaced Anjelica Huston?) and he was wonderful as Mr Fox. It was quite fun trying to guess which actor was who actually, as I couldn't remember. I thought Willem Dafoe was one of the farmers, so was quite surprised when he turned out to be the rat! I also loved that some of the clan only lent themselves to a few lines - Adrien Brody as that cute little field mouse! Brilliant! My favourite was Jason Schwartzman though - he was soooo good as the petulant son vying for attention from his dad and feuding with his cousin. I loved the scene where they're just sat having tea and he has this massive award next to his plate. And someone mentions it, and he just says "oh this? Just something I won" - the Anderson humour lives on in stop motion! The whole film is so beautiful to look at - every scene full of rich autumn colours and such fine little details. Some scenes were so astonishingly perfect that I wanted to run up and hug the multiplex screen. Kristofessen climbing silently under the train track and then starting to cry, when Ash comes down from his bunk and turns the track on to stop his tears and they watch the train go round together in the dark was beautiful. Only surpassed by one of ALL TIME FAVOURITE SCENES EVER - when they are escaping from the farm at the end and they stop to gauge the wolf: "I asked him if we were in for a hard winter" and then saluting each other. It was so magically bonkers, I loved it! All the scenes where they dig somewhere too - it reminded me to a satisfying and alarming amount of Lemmings! hee hee. I really hope he dips into animation again, because this was absolutely worth all that effort. It's quirky, touching, and even though the plot is thin on the ground (he did lengthen it out like chewing gum to make a full length piece), it doesn't matter because everything else more than makes up for it. Who cares about the kids, go and see this to be completely and utterly delighted!





An Education
This was probably one of the most uncomfortable films I've watched in a fair while. It definitely hindered my enjoyment of it which is a shame because I was really looking forward to this one (even though Nick Hornby wrote it!). It's strange because I don't know if it was supposed to be as harrowing as it was - it would be interesting to see what the tone of the memoirs are like. Certainly Hornby's script - and he's about as feel good as you can get! - wasn't able to shift the uncomfortable odour that hung about the film. I found all of the characters distinctly unlikeable, even Jenny. Even though she was being thoroughly exploited by David - and I never warmed to him for a moment! - I didn't feel sorry for her. I just felt like I didn't want to be sat witnessing this happen! Having said that the acting was excellent. Carey Mulligan was impressive to watch - particularly her facial actions - she did a great job of portraying a teenager trying to act in her 30s. Looking forward to seeing her alongside Natalie next year- heh heh. Peter Sarsgaard was like a young Seymour Hoffman in this! He captured that charming, sleazy and slightly unstable David wonderfully - TOO wonderfully, as he creeped me to the bone. I wanted to crawl under my cinema seat during the whole "just let me have a look" scene. I did enjoy seeing a new side to Britain in the 60s, and whole feel of the movie was very authentic and proper English morose - definitely suited the "we're all bored!" mofif of the film. Well acted and will probably get lots of recognition come awards season - but not a fun watch.





Where The Wild Things Are
Disappointing - I didn't love this half as much as I thought I was going to. I found it rather akin to a child begging you to watch it as it plays, and you smile encouragingly at it as it pretends to be a creature or whatever, but really you find it tiresome and the more it goes on the border you get. I have no knowledge of the book, so I wasn't really sure what to expect other than I trust Spike Jonze's genius, and the trailer looked on par with Labyrinth awesomeness - I did love how they shunned use of CGI for the monsters and got people to run around in giant furry suits. But the 'plot' just seemed to drag on and on without any real engaging relations and, dare I say it, without much charm. I didn't suddenly want to be a child again. My imagination didn't soar to any lofty heights. The overall feeling of the film was too morose for any of that. I could appreciate what it was trying to tell me - each wild thing represents a different emotion of Max's, yadda yadda - I just wasn't enchanted or uplifted by any of it. The music was lovely, and I did love the lowls and their knock knock joke. And it was quite sad when Max leaves and Carol runs after him to the boat. But everything else felt like it should have been condensed into a pretty short, or a series of music videos. Ultimately this film was the epitomy of childhood itself: some bits good, some bits bad, but in the end you don't really want to go back there.





Bunny and the Bull
As a prelude to the actual Boosh movie, this was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Real Boosh humour, but actually deals with quite a dark and heavy subject as the ending is revealed which was quite surprising. The two leads were effectively a b-side Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding, but the A gamers were spot on in their cameo roles. The sets were beautifully put together, and reminded me a lot of a Michel Gondry film (specifically Science of Sleep) - so imaginative and colourful, and some of the scene cuts were expertly done. In hindsight probably not an essential watch, but if you're a fan of the Boosh then it's definitely worth a goggle.





La Vie en Rose
Really powerful and moving drama which is elegantly and emotionally put together to guarantee the biggest impact. It made me want to watch a flurry of French films afterwards! Not knowing anything about Edith Piaf (even though I have visited her grave!) the film isn't brilliant at making the story and the characters accessible to an ignorant audience - I did get confused as to who was who at times, and the film relies a lot on previous knowledge and implication (for instance, the man whom Edith is working for at the beginning of her career who is later murdered is a prominent mobster). But the central character played by an astonishingly brilliant Marion Cotillard (she really deserved the Oscar for this!) is captivating to watch: so enarmoured, fiery and passionate in her youth, and then later flitting between the erraticness of depression and a sanctuary of snatched happiness. I had to double check that it's definitely Cotillard who plays the aging Piaf, she looks completely unrecognisable under all that make-up! She is tremendous throughout, and really captures every stage of the singer's life. The romance between Piaf and Marcel, though brief, is extremely convincing and moving to watch, and the scene where she learns of his death is genuinely upsetting for its heightened sense of tragedy (akin to the emotional surge of Fanny in Bright Star). Definitely one of the best scenes, as is the final one which is aptly chosen as her performance of non, je ne regrette rien. I did find the flitting between the different years of her life - present, future, near future, present, near future, future, etc - a bit disorientating, even though the scene was always dated. I understood why they did it, but for me it was a little distracting and served no higher purpose. Even if biopics aren't your thing - and they're certainly not mine - this is a remarkable woman with a remarkable story to tell, and Marion Cotillard is simply wonderful in it.




Avatar
Let's not beat around the bush here - this is a big blockbluster Ferngully. There isn't anything original (no, seriously there isn't - any number of films flash through your head whilst watching this film) and whilst the film has several other problems, the fact that it presents such a carefully beautifully constructed world in 3D manages to save it from being a complete flop. I knew the script was going to be terrible from the very first line "the bullet blew a hole in my life" - UGH! WHO WRITES THIS TRIPE? (the director, cough) Perhaps in some of Cameron's less complex films such as Titanic this wouldn't prove an issue, but here - in this scientific, futuristic landscape that we don't understand, it's more vital than ever that he has something interesting to say. Instead it's cliche after cliche after cliche. Boy wasn't Ferngully ahead of its time? Somehow - somehow - Sam Worthington is convincing Hollywood directors to put him in big films as the protagonist. Yet he has the charisma and personality of a wet teabag. He must use hypnosis or something... QUICK, STOP HIM, SOMEONE STOP HIM NOW! he's not a bad actor because I've seen Somersault, but these weighty roles are not right for him. I just do not care for his character in this, and therefore (sadly) I don't care for his relationship with whatshername either. There is zero backstory, and we don't get to see enough of him as a human to really understand him. I believe the film was trying to get some real emotion out of the viewer when he is able to wriggle his toes, walk, run as an avatar, but it was all a bit shrug-your-shoulders. Who cares? Where are the magical mushrooms and exotic creatures? He is bland, and should have been written better or cast by another actor. The rest of the cast were just about laudable - I'd heard a lot of good things about Sigourney Weaver, but I thought she was amateurish in this. Everyone else was either underwritten (who the hell was the guy that suddenly turned up halfway through the film as one of their accomplices?! He wasn't in it for half of it!) or stereotyped. They were all unlikeable. AND STOP CASTING ANA LUCIA FROM LOST IN THINGS! SHE CANNOT ACT! The film was all about Pandora and the Na'vi for me. I wasn't as impressed as I thought I was going to be - too much hype - but it was lush to get lost in. I enjoyed how we were shown their lifestyle, how they communicate, who they befriend, how they live and develop. It was easy to see why being a human would pale in comparison after that! Zoe Saldana's Na'vi was probably the best character - she was perky, genuine, and was pretty in her battle paints. I kind of wish there hadn't been a big war and it had been more of a quest adventure through the world of Pandora instead. The war scenes were good, but after having seen LOTR, the precedent has been set. I did find it pretty unbelievable that she *knew* at the end she had to go into the trailer and that he needed to wear the oxygen mask.... ahem. The 3D element definitely helped to enhance the enjoyment of the film, especially during the flight scenes which were a lot of fun. For me it was a fun watch, but it lacked a lot of heart and you don't really come to invest in any of the characters. It thinks it's a lot cleverer than it actually is, which is ultimately a glorified trumped up cartoon adventure.





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