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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Mr. Nobody

"is it a compliment that Mr.Nobody could arguably sit alongside Terrance Malick's Tree Of Life with everything its trying to say?"
During the run up to the Reading Festival this year Kerrang magazine promoted the dvd release of Jared Leto's new film Mr. Nobody (although had a limited release as far back as September 2009) giving his acting career as much emphasis as his band 30 Seconds to Mars. While Leto's band played the main stage at Reading and Leeds this year his acting career in recent years has been infrequent yet aroused much recognition. Personally I always see Leto either singing heavy repetitive rock or next to Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in Fight Club - surely everyone's favourite film.


Mr. Nobody is a surreal sci-fi dram which centres on Leto's character Nemo Nobody, Leto plays both the 34 and 118 year old version of Nemo - It sounds like it shouldn't work, but it weirdly does. Nemo finds himself in the strange new world of 2092 where he is the last living mortal human alive, (for reasons that are far too boring and complicated to elaborate on) Nemo recounts his life to a a young journalist played by British actor Daniel Mays. Nemo tells the story of key events in his life, such as the moment when his parents split up and Nemo's complicated love life, however as Nemo faces tough decision like which parents to stay with, we see the consequences of both. Like the journalist interviewing Nemo years later we're left wondering "so which one did you pick your Mother or your Father?" Nemo answers "...Both"


Director Jaco Van Dormael has made a quirky film about life and fate and the choices we make, is it a compliment that Mr.Nobody could arguably sit alongside Terrance Malick's Tree Of Life with everything its trying to say? I'm certainly not one to demand a linear narrative and I enjoyed the way this one came together. Some people may have disliked them, but the moments when Nemo has monologues in front of a green screen about the meaning and the strangeness of life I found to be both insightful and  a welcome break from the story which seemed to drag on . Nemo in one of these monologues asks such rhetorial question as "Why does smoke leave the cigarette? Why do bacteria cells multiple away from each other?". Mr. Nobody will have been off the radar for most people but it's certainly worth checking out, although I know a slice of you with dislike it and may review it words such as "meaningless" and "preachy". 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

 "I sat in my seat and felt smug in the knowledge Michael Bay could not interfere with my night."
Tomas Alfredson brings John le Carré spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to life but it feels like it's been a long and difficult task and that traditional Hollywood would have thrown it away a long time ago. I may have said "spy" and so have all the trailers but do not expect any Bourne like car chases or perfect fighting moves in this one. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is two hours of pure dialogue and although that sounds understandably boring Alfredson demonstrates how vital a look or a bead of sweat can be to the narrative. 


I assume its the stories pedigree that led it to the cinema, this is very un-Hollywood and I praise it because unlike most films there is the assumption the audience is some-what intelligent. I sat in my seat and felt smug in the knowledge Michael Bay could not interfere with my night. If you do invest your time and attention with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the impressive British cast is reward enough, Gary Oldman takes the lead and you can't help but wonder where he's been hiding. Colin Firth furthers provides evidence why he'll be out of his seat getting awards once again, while Benedict Cumberbatch reminds you of the forthcoming new episodes of the BBC's 21st century Sherlock Holmes. Tom Hardy (Inception, Bronson) is the star of the show in my opinion along side Oldman and I believe it will only be a matter of time before he gets the critical acclaim he deserves. 


In a time of predictable cinema,  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is brave and intelligent although I do not think its for everyone. I hope people embrace and give Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a go, we'll just have to see how well it does at the box office, it will surely lack the staying power of Harry Potter 7. 





Sunday, 18 September 2011

Los ojos de Julia/Julia's Eyes

"It took its time but I think that's why I loved it so much, when it finally came good it packed one of the best punches of the year."
 Following on from the well liked blog of Spanish film The Skin I Live In here are my thoughts on Julia's Eyes. The film is another collaboration between Guillermo del Toro (Producer) and actress Belén Rueda, following on from The Orphanage.  Unlike the last few reviews I have posted on here I can not soak Julia's Eyes with enough praise. 


Julia's Eyes starts with a very iconic scene when Julia's sister that has become blind mounts a stall to commit suicide and has the stall knocked away from a mystery invisible man (this features heavily in the trailers).  Julia then takes on the mystery and tackles what she believes to be a murder and not the suicide the police and her husband are convinced it is. It may have been my knowledge of del Toro's involvement but it seemed to have his stamp all over it. I started to worry that as the film progressed and the suspension of horror built it would never deliver the killer punch.


It took its time but I think that's why I loved it so much, when it finally came good it packed one of the best punches of the year. Julia's Eyes started to remind me of The Shining, especially as I began to shout at the screen maybe it was because I  just saw people running after each other with crazed looks and knives. Julia's Eyes made me fall in love with world cinema all over again and further ignite my passion for Spanish language films. I concede that del Toro may have now found his perfect range but if it provokes films such as Julia's Eyes bring them on thick and fast. Julia's Eyes is without question one of my films of 2011. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Insidious

"the first half the film jabs you in the face with the freakishness of the house and the child yet as it moved onto the second half it lacked a knock-out punch"
 I'm back from a working weekend, with another on the horizon I've been struggling to both watch films and upload reviews. I've been a bit fixated on The Killing series one after watching the first four episodes in one afternoon, should upload a review?

Anyway, new dvd release Insidious is meant to be the main attraction here and it's definitely worth letting it give you a scare. Insidious is basically a hunted house horror film with a twist, the twist being that its in fact the child that is hunted. In the first half the film jabs you in the face with the freakishness of the house and the child yet as it moved onto the second half it lacked a knock-out punch and left me wanting them to re-do certain parts.

In my opinion the horror genre is the most difficult to get right and so many have fallen short, I recommend Last House on the Left, The Silent House and Creep. Insidious is a very attempt and I can see why many people have expressed how much they liked it to me although the critics had a mixed opinion. I most enjoyed such highlights as the possibility the child was going to go on a crazy hunted rampage and felt let down when this did not happen.

Point of interest - Tiny Tim and the song Tip Toe through the Tulips - This song is heard a lot in the film and is probably one of the spookiest things in the film.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sucker Punch

"It's less high brow and more Xbox"


Following the recent trend of my reviews, Sucker Punch is another new DVD release, yet the problem with reviewing it is that the critics have said it all, really. Sucker Punch is a mess of a film that director Zack Snyder should not list on his CV next time he is pitching a film. I ended up checking the plot of the film on Wikipedia as it never seemed sure what it was doing and only acted as the background to predictable and repetitive action sequences

The story starts with a 20 year old nicknamed "Babydoll" (Emily Browning) who is sent to a mental institution after her mother and sister are killed by her sexually abusive stepfather (Gerard Plunkett). The institution and her stepfather convince the authorities to have Babydoll lobotomised, and upon waiting for this to happen Babydoll spirals into different fantasies which consume almost the entirety of the film. Babydoll fantasies she is in brothel run by a mobster character called Blue, where she befriends other girls and plans an escape. On being forced to dance Babydoll fantasies she is fighting a variety of characters from wartime Nazis to futuristic robots.

When the action scenes come to a climatic end everyone is impressed by the apparent standard of Babydoll's dancing although Snyder never lets us see the presumed highly sexual dance. I refuse to waste any more time describing the plot. The action/fight scenes play like video games and the constant use of music during these adds to the overall nauseous feeling you get from watching them. Although Snyder clearly knows his way around a green screen, his previous films 300 and Watchmen prove his idea of a film is to place CGI above script and any intention In his first original screenplay it is apparent that Snyder has a vivid imagination, yet after a while this seems to come to an abrupt halt. Only when the film remembers it must have a script somewhere does the the story hold any interest, but there is a feeling it is too little too late.

Snyder may have had some intention to make a film led by a young woman that kicks ass, but instead he just objectifies all the female characters. I have to agree with St. Petersburg Times critic Steve Persall who made a very accurate assertion about the film that it "suggests that all this objectification of women makes them stronger. It is supposed to be reassuring that men who beat, berate, molest and kill these women will get what is coming to them. Just wait, Snyder says, but in the meantime here is another femininity insult to keep you occupied."
All in all, I want to say this film is awful and what it says about its female characters should make Snyder ashamed, yet unfortunately there are many even worse films. It is less high brow and more Xbox. Give it a miss.


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The Skin I Live In

Introducing Mireia Nicolas the first guest blogger to the Films blah blah blah world, hopefully she'll provide many more. A great review for a film I recently had a lot to say about in Small Films For Big Cinemas

La piel que habito / The skin I live in (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)

Almodóvar has always been a love-him-or-hate-him kind of director, especially in his (and my) home country, Spain. I must admit that, even though I loved Volver with all my heart (he always manages to get the best out of Penélope Cruz) I was on the hate-him side. I always thought he gave an awful image of Spain – I was worried the irony in his colourful films, so outrageous and crazy and stereotypical, so evident for the Spanish audiences, would be lost on others and make them think Spaniards were actually like this, and quite frankly, in a world where people think Mexican hats are Spanish and that Spain is somewhere between Venezuela and Brazil, it was kind of thanks but no, thanks. Anyway, I am digressing.

One of my best friends found a job in Montreal and before leaving, he suggested we go see The skin I live in and for tapas (don’t judge us, we are Spanish). I was slightly wary, but I am not going to see my friend for a very, very long time so I accepted. Boy, were we in for a ride! The skin I live in can’t be described easily, nor can I talk about its plot freely. It tells the story of plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Lergard, (played by Banderas) who is obsessed with his mysterious patient Vera, (played by Elena Anaya). Vera/Anaya wears a full-body cat suit and spends her days doing yoga and creating art. She is secluded in a room in a big, beautiful estate near Toledo (Spain), where Banderas lives with his housekeeper, Marilia (played by Marisa Paredes, another constant actress in Almodóvar’s world) and the service. Soon we learn Lergard/Banderas has been experimenting with genetically modified human skin, in humans. The film goes back and forth in time, showing moments that explain us who Lergard, Vera and Marilia are.

Formally outstanding, the film offers some moments that are truly uncomfortable, so much that rumour has it during its premiere in Cannes some people started giggling nervously, the kind of giggle you can’t supress when you feel so awfully uncomfortable you either start giggling or just go away. The characters are tortured, crazy, deranged, their actions only comprehensible to them. The music is tortured, crazy, deranged – the soundtrack is excellent, sharp violins that go hand in hand with the images and keep the viewer on the edge of the seat. Banderas’ acting is outstanding, although his accent is a bit off at times, an Andalusian trying to speak in a normal Spanish accent – something anyway that only a very picky Spanish speaker like me would notice. However, it is not a film where he speaks a lot, a trait which is awfully unsettling – every time he is about to speak you worry he will do something terrible. Dr Ledgard is truly scary. Elena Anaya’s Vera is mysterious, alluring: her eyes tell a thousand stories in every single close up, her skin glows and glistens, her face wonderfully perfect, wonderfully crazy. She is the key to Bandera’s obsession, and it is only in the very end that we understand why. Marisa Paredes once again proves why she is one of the great actresses in the Spanish-speaking world, her character nurturing but at the same time unfriendly.

All in all, The skin I live in is an unsettling, impressive film that will leave you without words. Go and watch it. 8/10.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Your Highness

"Your Highness proves its the king of masturbation humours but little else"

Your Highness is a comedy film that has a basic medieval premise that should equal laughs and a cast that should provide them and fill cinemas, however it seems to do none of these things. The biggest bemusement I have with this film is the cast, Natalie Portman makes another appearance on our screens and James Franco was clearly having an off day when he said yes to this. Portman seems to be everywhere at the minute, she's turning into the female Matt Damon. Whereas James Franco seems to do a gem of a film followed by an absolute stinker - Milk followed by Date Night, 127 Hours followed by Your Highness - Commonly known as Oscar-flop syndrome (Unintended double meaning referring to his uncomfortable Oscar hosting)

The comedy veteran Danny McBride tries to not only provide the laughs but keep this mess of a film together, and he's clearly the most natural comedy actor in this film. Hipster queen Zooey Deschanel plays Belladonna the virgin love interest but her casting only made me look lovingly towards the 500 Day Of Summer dvd in the corner of the room. The final strange casting I could have done without was Damian Lewis playing a "brave" knight who turns rogue, somebody please tell him that a serious actor doing comedy rarely works.

This was a very unfunny film where the jokes all seemed to be written by a 14 year old, Your Highness proves its the king of masturbation humours but little else. It's attempt at humour is at times insulting and offensive. As it began to push past the 90 minute mark my patience started to wear thin the ending couldn't have come soon enough.

Small Films For Big Cinemas

"In a time when we have lost the UK Film Council we should be championing great British films, instead we are being swamped by the left overs of the summer blockbusters. "


Fancy going to see a great new film this weekend? Well I hope you live in a big city or you may be in for a lengthy car journey, this is what many will face this weekend with the apparent non-release of Kill List and The Skin I Live In. I know there are some great independent cinemas around the country that need out much needed attention, however the this post concentrates on the distribution of films by Odeon Cinemas, this should not be viewed as an attack on them but a question of how one of the largest cinema companies in Europe decides what films to screen.

After the great reviews Kill List has been getting I planned to book tickets for its opening weekend at my local Odeon (Coventry) however I soon discovered the film is not been shown at all. Instead my local Odeon is screening Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 now in its 8th week and dominated by hits such as The Smurfs 3D and new release Friends With Benefits. After searching the Odeon cinemas where I could watch Kill List I found out it is only being shown at only 10 Odeon cinemas. In fact the nearest Odeon showing Kill List is in Manchester roughly 78.29 miles from my house. In a time when we have lost the UK Film Council we should be championing great British films, instead we are being swamped by the left overs of the summer blockbusters. The same applies with The Skin I Live In, although I put its marginalisation down to it being a foreign language film (Spanish) even the stardom of Antonio Banderas could not give it a bigger presence in Odeon cinemas.

Although I am not a professional film critic or do I work in any capacity for the film industry, I do know that the screening and distribution of films works on a supply and demand system and that Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2's long run this summer is a testament to its box office success. The box office takings both Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Smurfs 3D can in my opinion be partly explained by their 3D versions. I urge you people in such "big cities" (Manchester,Liverpool, London, Edinburgh) to go and see the films that are slipping under the Odeon radar.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Michael Haneke Dissapointment

Recently, Lovefilm decided to reignite my previous Michael Haneke passion by sending me The Seventh Continent. Although The Seventh Continent is Haneke's first film, this was my third taste of the Austrian film-maker's work, slotting in behind Caché (2005) (Hidden) and Funny Games (1997). However, my love for Haneke came to a sudden end about an hour into The Seventh Continent as I became bored with the tedious lives the film centred on. My relationship with Haneke seemed like it would blossom as I threw myself into his collection, yet beyond Caché I only managed one and a half additional films before throwing in the towel -- maybe I've given in before experiencing the best of Haneke?

Caché was marketed as a thriller and promised suspense -- this really was not the full picture, more a way to draw in the audiences.The film centres on a Paris family, that of Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) and their school-age son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). The household start receiving strange tapes showing the outside of the house, the tape goes on for a couple of hours and shows members of the family leaving and returning.What follows is not the excitement you may expect. Instead, it turns into more of a moral tale which may leave many disappointed.

Funny Games is more a stereotypical thriller about a break-in that leaves the household inhabitants feeling under attack in their own home. What Caché lacked, Funny Games made up for and still left the viewer with a clever Haneke after-taste. This time the only thing I could criticise Haneke over was the needless English language remake in 2008 -- if Haneke is responsible for the recent trend in remakes I would have asked for a divorce a long time ago.

Haneke's weak point is his obvious preaching. There is absolutely nothing bad with giving a political message on a film, but his insistence on spreading his ideology is counter productive for his art -- his films end up feeling like indoctrinating propaganda with some story in the middle.

Trust

Just a quick message before I get going -
Further to the notes in the description in this blog, I will be trying to post a new review if not every day, every other day. If for some reason you don't hear from me you could either send out a search party or congratulate me for getting a "proper" job. Like already stated in the description most reviews will be a result of the latest lovefilm dvd rental and if I'm waiting on the post then I'll try and post a review I did that currently sits on another dormant blog. - Hope that makes things nice and clear for everyone. Now for the main attraction.

Following the theme of reviews on new DVD releases (Little White Lies) I recently watched Trust (2010). The film is directed by David Schwimmer aka Ross from friends and is based on a screenplay by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger. The film stars Liana Liberato as Annie Cameron a 14 year old girl that becomes close to a boy called Charlie that she befriends online played by Chris Henry Coffey. As a young innocent Annie becomes close to Charlie her parents played by Clive Owen and Catherine Keener seem to humour their daughters new found friend while both seem distant. Owen's character Will is heavily wrapped in his work while Keener's character Lynn has her attention on her son, who is moving away to college.. These circumstances push Annie to further interact with Charlie and their online relationship grows. However, as Charlie tells Annie his real age is 20, which then he admits is actually 24, Annie becomes unsure of her new found friend.

Charlie pushes forward relentlessly and arranges to meet Annie, who upon meeting him discovers Charlie's real age is 35. He nevertheless convinces her to come to his motel room, where he rapes her. Even after Annie's awful attack she believes Charlie and her are soul mates and he loves her. The majority of the film focuses then on the aftermath of the attack dealing with both Annie's relationship with Charlie and her father's attempt to understand and deal with the attack. However the middle part of the film seems to fall down after the interesting early development of the relationship between Annie and Charlie, although it does find its feet once again towards the end.

Schwimmer's intention for the film comes across as a film to educate adults on the difficult subject of Internet grooming, and although the topic seems to have lost media attention in the past couple of years, it is a worthy portrayal of a uncomfortable topic. Its cinema presence seems awkward and by accident and may end up finding its true calling on the small screen (or at parent education classes). It tackles the subject in the most clichéd way possible but clichés are clichés for a reason, I guess! Anyway, they do become slightly obvious and the whole film seems to lack subtlety at times.

Verdict It's interesting to see a difficult subject such as this on the big screen and we should credit Schwimmer for its quality and his conviction to bring it to life -- it tackles it head on but does it well.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Little White Lies

After my last post about the newly released dvd Submarine I thought I'd give you lot another one, this time its French comedy-drama Little White Lies. Like most of the films I rent I knew little about this foreign language film except that it had received praise and there had been a lot of talk about actress Marion Cotillard. The film centres on a group of friends that go ahead with their holiday despite the recent scooter accident which has left their nonfriend in hospital fighting for his life. The rest of the gang head for the holiday home but of course cut their holiday down to only two weeks in what we're lead to believe is a justifiable tribute.

What follows is a two and a half hour lacklustre adventure through the groups lives, the highlight is early on, when Vincent confesses his attraction for Max.

"I love your hands"

The problem I find with foreign language films is when they attempt comedy like Little White Lies flirts with from the onset it seems to get lost in the subtitles. When Vincent tells Max his true feelings there is a sense this should provoke a big laugh, I could only manage a giggle chuckle.

The rest of the film is taken up with contrived dramatic moments for each and every character, with each one that follows becoming more obvious than the last. Marion Cotillard's character is by far the most appealing character as it seems to have more depth, while the rest of the characters battle with a mixture of relationship breakdowns, sexuality and weasels. Each dramatic moment seems to be accompanied by a song posing the question when does a soundtrack become utterly pointless and forced?

The most annoying thing about the film apart from its unnecessary length is that its most annoying quality is even mentioned in the script. Spoiler alert Max's boat house friend (sub -character) finally break the news that Ludo has died of his injuries. With the climatic emotional scene in full swing they are all told how their selfish lives and lies have meant they have ignored their friend when he most needs them. The most annoying example of their selfishness is the holiday in the first place and then when one of the friends goes to ask advice about his love life while Ludo lays in hospital near death - Ludo even looks away and thus seems to suggest he's wondering how on earth he became friends with these people in the first place.

Verdict Little White Lies has its funny moments and the development of the characters will keep anyone half interested but the film is let down because of its length and thus by the end I did not care about the lives of these people. The film seemed like Guillaume Canet had read the "directing a comedy drama for dummies", it ticked all the boxes but it didn't do much else.



Submarine

It is difficult to think of a better way to start a directorial career other than “Submarine”, especially when you think it comes from the mind of someone that many will know best from Channel 4’s The IT Crowd and his character Moss. However “Submarine” is much more than something new from an unknown face, if the critics have not already given it the superlatives it deserves then the audiences surely will. This coming-of-age story set in Wales ticks all the boxes that will win fans over. Taken from Joe Dunthorne’s comic novel we see the film through Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) eyes and his unusual take on the world around him. Although the teenage problems he faces, such as his virginity, the declining relationship of his parents and his new found love interest Jordana (Yasmin Paige) may seem unremarkable and common place in a teenage orientated films, Oliver brings a surreal take on events and many laugh-out-loud moments, all of which set the film apart.

The fifteen-year-old Oliver’s self-monologue and his self-conscious belief that his life is the fictional work of a tormented director gives the film some of its best moments. “I’ve tried smoking a pipe,” he muses, “flipping coins – listening exclusively to French crooners” – cut to a Serge Gainsbourg LP sleeve – “I’ve even had a hat phase”. The inner working of Oliver’s troubled antics is played out over the events of his mother’s (Sally Hawkins) possible romance with the next door neighbour Graham (Paddy Considine), who is a crazy, mullet-styled self-help guru…What else would you expect in Wales in the 1980’s? Oliver of course then takes it upon himself to hold his parents’ marriage together, and protect his melancholic dad (Noah Taylor), while trying to negotiate the working of a first love.


Ayoade’s style although refreshing is also the acknowledgment of many credited influences (Wes Anderson) and at times is both a revelation and portrays the experience of meeting an old friend. The most obvious example of this is the collaboration of Ayoade and Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner who wrote and sang the five-piece soundtrack. Their joint venture is a virtue to their long standing friendship and leaves some scenes reminiscent of liner notes from possible Arctic Monkeys album artwork. For those that relish the film as many have, the chance to turn to Turner’s songs will offer solace between the next watch of this sure to be cult hit..

Friday, 2 September 2011

Joan Rivers - A piece of work

Looking at any review of the Joan Rivers documentary you will find an endless list of superlatives, it deserves everyone but this review and blog in general is not about the obvious. You'll quickly learn from the outset that Joan Rivers is the ultimate professional and has a work ethic of a super human comedy machine. I always thought Rivers was hard faced and foul mouthed I'm not wrong really but what comes across is a woman that has fought gender inequality and heartbreak in her life and still performed at the very top for years and years. The clip in the doc when Joan goes through her flies of jokes that she has collected over the years and kept is a very touching moment, for so many reasons, it's an honest opening into her mind.The film is full of honesty and this is no more apparent than when Rivers talks about her acting and states after the "failure" of her play to impress the critics in London "You can say you don't like me as a comedian but saying you don't like me as an actress....that just kills me" "When your hot your hot" - The highs and lows Joan Rivers has ridden in her career are amazing, losing her husband and by the end parting with her oldest friend. It's genuinely touching when she admits how now she has nobody to talk about the old day with "You remember way back when?...." Okay I'm finding it difficult not to litter this review with words such as touching, moving, ambitious etc - It is all these and more, think you know Joan Rivers? trust me you haven't got a clue until you've watched this doc.