Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sherlock Holmes


Sherlock Holmes
Year: 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

In My Own Words
Everyone knows the basics of “Sherlock Holmes”. He is a British detective who has an offsider named Watson. That’s pretty much my extent of my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes. I love reading, but have never read a Sherlock Holmes book. Upon seeing this film, I was expecting a bit of a background about Holmes, or maybe even a beginning point where Holmes becomes a detective. This is not what the film is about. It throws you in the deep end of a Holmes story and expects you to understand everything and everyone in it. This is not always a bad thing, as a little mystery in a film is a good thing. However, too much mystery can be messy.

Upon researching a bit more once I got home, it turns out that Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually does not disclose much about Holmes’ world outside his detective work. He does not write much about his family, his past education or his love life. So this film can be forgiven for its lack of character development. Yet, I still believe that a director such as Guy Ritchie could find a way of including some type of subtle character development, whether or not it be through words. Perhaps he was just trying to stay true to the books, as many directors who are adapting novels into movies do. One thing is certain, there must be a sequel to this film, as too many questions are unanswered here for there not to be. We can only hope so anyway, or it will be one of those films I will be thinking about for years to come, still trying to figure out why certain things were there in the movie. Such as, does Watson’s betrothed, Mary, really look a bit suspicious, or is it just me? Or was Irene Adler constructed so basically because she is to have an unravelling or character in the future? These are the things I am wondering about anyway.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
The highly anticipated “Sherlock Holmes” will delight many, but disappoint many others. The film ultimately does what it sets out to do, which is entertain the audience. It is nothing short of entertaining with its special effects and action sequences, but it does certainly lack substance in certain areas, in particular, that of character. “Sherlock Holmes” opens with the legendary Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner, Dr John Watson (Jude Law) stopping the evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from taking the life of a sixth young woman by using his black magic. Lord Blackwood is sentenced to death and hung, but somehow comes back to life. Holmes is once again called upon to stop Blackwood, who also has a keen interest in Holmes.

First and foremost, this film is thoroughly entertaining. The special effects and the story will keep audiences entertained and capture their attention for the whole time. There are some stunning visuals of London in the 1800’s and the period is perfectly captured by director, Guy Ritchie. It is obvious that this film has been made by Ritchie, as it contains dark humour and has a rough edge to it. It also contains a few fighting scenes which are reminiscent of his earlier films. He does do a good job, but there are quite a few criticisms of this film. Firstly, there is not much character development and many things that do not seem to make sense. As a stand alone film, it does not work quite so well. Ritchie assumes that the audience knows who Holmes, Watson and Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) are, and does not attempt to give the audience a helping hand as to find out where these characters have come from and why they are the way they are, and why they have these relationships with each other. Apparently, the Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was not a fan of the retelling of each of the characters and their personal stories in his novels, so Ritchie may be forgiven for making this choice in his film, as he stayed true to the novels. However, many audience members will be sure to feel lost, as they would not have heard much about these characters before seeing this movie. The film does also leave room for a sequel, as there are unanswered questions both during the film and at the end of the film.

Robert Downey Jr. does definitely shine as Sherlock Holmes. He is quirky and puts a new spin on the traditional Sherlock Holmes, making him more rugged and comical. He is also extremely likable. Jude Law is also perfectly cast as Watson. The two actors compliment each other on screen and play off each other. The characters are both witty and quick, making their relationship interesting and humorous. The screenwriters must be complimented for the way they have written the relationship between Holmes and Watson. However, Rachel McAdams does not shine. She does not seem suited to the role of Irene Adler. One would expect, as she is said to be a criminal, for her to be far more devious in nature and bordering on the femme fatale role, rather than just plain. There does not seem to be much depth to her character and can in fact be quite boring at times. There are moments throughout the film where it is unclear why she is even there. Adler and Holmes were supposedly madly in love with one another once up a time (or, we suspect this, but there is not spark or on screen chemistry between her and Holmes. There is suggestion towards the end of the film that if there is a follow up, she may have a bigger role then, but her role is almost useless in this film. It would seem that Kelly Reilly, who plays Watson’s fiancé Mary, would have been more suited to the role of Irene Adler than McAdams.

Overall, “Sherlock Holmes” does what it sets out to do, entertain. It is witty and clever, and people will be excited to learn of all of Holmes detective methods, but the connection to the characters may not be there as much as one would hope.
6.5/10

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bright Star


Bright Star
Year: 2009
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw

In My Own Words
Let me just start of by saying how much I love this time of the year when it comes to movies. Not that I don’t love this time of the year for other reasons, but Boxing Day and New Years are great for new movies. I spent most of December looking forward to the 26th of December and the onslaught of new films being released on that day. This was one of the films that I had been looking forward to seeing.

My trip to the cinemas today to see this movie did not go as much to plan as I thought it would. Being a public holiday and a rainy day in Sydney town, everybody wanted to go to the movies. My local cinema would have had at least 10 sold out sessions today. I turned up to watch the 1:10pm session of “Bright Star”, only to find out it was full and I had to buy a ticket for the 4pm session, which eventually became sold out too.

I enjoyed “Bright Star” as much as I thought I would, which is always a pleasant finding. Abbie Cornish was absolutely delightful, which I was very happy about. It was quite a different role for her, as I have never seen her in a period piece before, but she pulled it off beautifully. The film was visually stunning, one I would definitely buy on DVD so I would be able to watch the most breath taking scenes again. I am also not ashamed to say, this is the only film I have seen this year that has had me in tears at the cinema.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
“Bright Star” is the highly anticipated period romance from celebrated director, Jane Campion. The film is extremely romantic and is nostalgic of the days of falling in love without the technology of mobile phones and the internet. It is the semi-biographical story of the romance between poet John Keats and Frances “Fanny” Brawne. Set in 1818, Fanny (Abbie Cornish) cares more about fashion than poetry, until poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his business partner, Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) move in next door. They fall for each other, but it is a love affair plagued with class prejudice and sickness.

“Bright Star” is truly amazing. It is beautifully filmed and cast. Campion is in her element with a film such as this and this film shows how well she works with a project such as this. Everything about the film is stunning. However, the main criticism people will have of this film is that it is quite slow. It takes awhile to get to the point of the film, but there is a reason behind this slow pace. “Bright Star” exhibits fantastic story and character development. The audience is able to completely identify with the characters and feels like they know the characters personally, and this makes the slow pace of the film quite acceptable.

Abbie Cornish is amazing in this film as the young Fanny, who is first and foremost concerned with fashion and sewing until she meets Mr Keats. Her performance is amazing as it is extremely heart-felt and at times, tear jerking. It could well be her best role yet, although she was superb in “Somersault” and “Candy”. There were rumours that she may have been up for a Golden Globe nomination, but due to heavy competition this year, she was left out. However, there is always hope for an Oscar nomination for her. Ben Whishaw is far from bad as John Keats, but Cornish is definitely the star of the film. Both Cornish and Whishaw are brilliantly cast, as they work so well together on screen. The chemistry between the two is extremely believable and they are visually suited to being on screen together. Paul Schneider is also noteworthy as the unlikeable Charles Brown. The audience feels real hatred for the sarcasm and immaturity of his character.

The cinematography of “Bright Star” is superb. The images and the way in which they are filmed are visually stunning. The choice of shots and editing is spot on to show the importance of certain scenes and highlight the emotions that the characters feel. As one would expect with such a romantic film, there are some amazing visuals involving flowering meadows and butterflies that one should definitely watch out for. The costumes are always noteworthy, especially those which Fanny wears.

“Bright Star” is an amazing film on so many levels. As may be expected from it though, it is not a film that everyone will enjoy for its subject content and its pace. However, it is definitely one that should be seen in order to admire some amazing acting, cinematography and beautiful visuals.
8.5/10

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar


Avatar
Year: 2009
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang

In My Own Words
I never expect much from blockbusters. The spectacle is normally bigger and better than the movie itself. This is exactly how I felt going into “Avatar”. I had heard so many good things about it that I was sceptical. Could a movie that is so highly anticipated really be everything that it is cracked up to be? I was starting to think that it really could be so when the Golden Globe nominations were released and “Avatar” was there among the Best Picture nominees. However, I refused to expect too much going into the cinema.

I’m glad I didn’t expect too much, as it made the thrill of it being such a great movie even better. My boyfriend and I came out of the cinema buzzing with excitement. Our only disappointment being that we didn’t see it in 3D. Of course we could always go and see it again though. I always respected James Cameron as a director, but I believe this is his finest work, even better than his Oscar winning “Titanic”, although the two are very different films. This movie shows how amazingly creative he is and it really is a ground breaking film. After seeing this, I am now thinking that it will be a fight between him and Quentin Tarantino for Best Director at the Golden Globes in January.

People are saying that “Avatar” will change the future of film making. I’m hoping it doesn’t, because I found this movie so original and creative, and it’s been so long since I feel like I have watched something completely new. I just hope there won’t be a series of copycats after this. I love to celebrate originality.
These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
The hype is true, “Avatar” is like nothing you have ever seen before. It is completely original and a tribute to James Cameron’s direction and imagination. It’s not only original, but extraordinarily stunning and shows how far CGI has come in film. Ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent to the planet Pandora in place of his recently deceased twin brother in order to fulfil his duties. Pandora is inhabited by an indigenous race who the humans on Pandora are trying to get to abandon their territory. Jake is given an avatar who’s body he will enter in order to try and survive Pandora and it’s dangers. He ends up becoming part of the tribe and understanding them more than any other human ever has.

It is impossible to encompass the story behind “Avatar” in a paragraph, as there are so many underlying themes that contribute to the story. Pandora is a complex world, but an extremely beautiful and intriguing one. “Avatar” is 160 minutes long, but does not seem like it. It keeps the audience captivated from the very first scene to the last. Again, it is unlike anything else that has ever been made and is a breath of fresh air. James Cameron wrote and directed the film, therefore creating the world of Pandora and showing what an amazing imagination he has and an even more amazing talent for being able to bring this world to life on the screen.

“Avatar” is first and foremost visually stunning. Many images in the movie are completely breathtaking, and you will definitely hear people around you in the cinema exclaiming when they see Pandora at night in all its beauty. The combination of real life actors and CGI characters works extremely well, making you almost forget that you are seeing a computer generated world. The combination of the two is one of the reasons why “Avatar” is so successful, it is a fantasy film which is extremely life like and realistic.

Sam Worthington is the star of the film and does the best he can with the role. Sigourney Weaver is also a stand out as the tough-talking scientist. However, it is not the acting in the film that is the stand out. The main celebrations of the film are the graphics and Cameron’s direction. Cameron could well be on his way to another Oscar nomination for this film and his work on it come March.

“Avatar” is one of the best films of the year, and if you are only going to see one film at the cinemas this year, it should be this one.

9/10

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Golden Globe Nominations and Predictions

And so here it is! The beginning of the awards season and the “who’s going to take home the big one” guessing game! The Golden Globe nominations were released at the early hour of 5am this morning in Los Angeles. The Golden Globe’s won’t be awarded until the 17th of January 2010, so that gives us a whole month to speculate who will take home the honours and who may be destined for Oscar glory on the 7th of March 2010. So here at Movie Critical we have the list of nominees for you and our tips for the winners.
Best Motion Picture- Drama
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire
Up In The Air

Movie Critical says: This year’s category is really strong. There are several movies that have been left out of the category, such as “Invictus”, “An Education” and “Bright Star”, which people have been predicting to be nominated. However, the Oscars will have 10 nominees in their Best Picture category this year rather than 5, so chances are they will be there. It’s hard to pick a winner from these 5 (especially since only two have been released here in Australia thus far). Both “Up In The Air” and “Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire” and getting some astonishing reviews in the states and may be the two fighting it out for the Golden Globe. “Avatar” is too receiving some amazing reviews, but is it too commercial to be the Golden Globe winner? “Up In The Air” is our pick.

Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
(500) Days Of Summer
The Hangover
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia
Nine


Movie Critical says: This is an interesting category this year. Before “Nine” was actually released in the states, it was the front runner from this category. However, it is not living up to its expectations. It still may be in contention though. As hilarious as “The Hangover” is, it probably will not get a look in here as it is not quite as well made as some of the others in this category. It’s a hard one to pick. “(500) Days Of Summer” is clever, witty and original and “Julie & Julia” has a stellar performance by the one and only Meryl Streep. Our pick, “Nine” may still be the winner for its combination of its musical score, cinematography and visuals.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Drama
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart"
George Clooney in “Up In The Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Tobey Maguire in “Brothers”

Movie Critical says: Again, quite a challenge for Movie Critical to predict a winner considering none of these films have been released in Australia as of yet. Judging by what American critics have been saying Colin Firth and George Clooney are the front runners for this award. From the looks of it, those two will definitely be the ones to beat. However, Clooney is our pick.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama
Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria”
Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe for "Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire”

Movie Critical says: Again, another very strong category. This is Sandra Bullock’s first Golden Globe nomination despite her being in the spotlight now for over 15 years. “The Blind Side” is supposed to be the best role of her career thus far, but unfortunately the company she is in in this category is too strong for her to take home the award. The front runners, according to critics, are Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe here. Emily Blunt was divine in “The Young Victoria”, but not as strong as other performances in this category. Helen Mirren may be up there, but not much has been said about her performance in “The Last Station”. Movie Critical has reviewed Mulligan in “An Education” and she is definitely worthy of an honour for it. However, Sidibe is supposed to be amazing in “Precious”. From what we have seen, Mulligan is our pick, but from what we’ve heard Sidibe is our pick. Definately a hard category to pick.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
Matt Damon in “The Informant!”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “Nine”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Sherlock Holmes”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “(500) Days Of Summer”
Michael Stuhlerg in “A Serious Man”

Movie Critical says: Another interesting category. As much as Robert Downey Jr. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt are crowd favourites, they will most likely not get a sincere look in here. Matt Damon, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Stuhlberg are all strong contenders here. Our pick here, is Daniel Day-Lewis, though he is not a clear front runner. Damon and Stuhlberg are right behind him.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal”
Marion Cotillard in “Nine”
Julia Roberts in “Duplicity”
Meryl Streep in “It’s Complicated”
Meryl Streep” in “Julie & Julia”

Movie Critical says: Our pick, clear and simple, Meryl Streep for “Julie & Julia”. She is the favourite for this category and it is going to be a controversy if she does not take home the Golden Globe. She gave a fine performance as Julia Child and should definitely be rewarded. It will be interesting to see Marion Cotillard in “Nine”, when it is eventually released here, as she is known for her amazing performances.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christopher Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds”

Movie Critical says: Although Australia is yet to see all but one of these movies, we can make the pick of Christopher Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds”. He was superb in his role and the critics are still raving about him.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Penelope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up In The Air”
Anna Kendrick in “Up In The Air”
Mo’nique in “Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire”
Julianne Moore in “A Single Man”

Movie Critical says: Another one of the interesting categories this year. There has been strong Awards whispers around Anna Kendrick for her performance in “Up In The Air” and she was the favourite until “Precious” hit cinemas in the states. Mo’nique is now the front runner for this category for her performance as the abusive mother, and she is said to be extremely hard to beat. So Mo’nique is our pick, but we would love to see Kendrick get up there to be rid of her “Twilight” tag.

Best Director- Motion Picture
Kathryn Bigelow- “The Hurt Locker”
James Cameron- “Avatar”
Clint Eastwood- “Invictus”
Jason Reitman- “Up In The Air”
Quentin Tarantino- “Inglorious Basterds”


Movie Critical says: What a category. This category will be watched with great interest. Very rarely will a director win when their film is not nominated for best picture, so with this fact in mind, one would think that Kathryn Bigelow and Clint Eastwood are out of the running here. Although “Invictus” is nominated in other categories, so that may still put him in the race. James Cameron could win for his masterpiece “Avatar”, but we think that it will be a competition mainly between Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino. Our tip here is Tarantino.

So there are our tips for the upcoming Golden Globes! Unfortunately it’s not the easiest trying to decide who will win when all the films haven’t been released yet, but from reading articles and reviews on each of the movies, these are what seem to be the whispers as of late. Our tips for the Oscars will be a bit more informed as all the films would have been out in Australia by then. In the meantime, enjoy Awards season and please comment if you have anything to add!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vote for Movie Critical's Favourite Christmas Movie!

Vote for your favourite Christmas movie in our poll!
The poll is on the right hand side of the page.
It's A Wonderful Life?
Miracle on 34th Street?
Love, Actualy?
White Christmas?
A Christmas Carol?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hidden Gem: Hercules Returns


Hercules Returns
Year: 1993
Director: David Parker
Cast: David Argue, Bruce Spence, Mary Coustas

In My Own Words
Welcome to the first Hidden Gem post! Hidden Gem’s are movies which are not well known, but are definitely memorable. When you are a movie buff, you tend to find quite a few of these films. For Movie Critical’s first Hidden Gem, I’ve chosen “Hercules Returns”. My Dad has been asking me to review this for months, so here is the answer to his pleas! I also think this is a perfect movie to start with as it is an Australian movie and, being Australian myself, I would love build recognition for Australian films.

I can’t remember the first time I saw “Hercules Returns”, although I know it was on video quite awhile after it was released. Afterwards, my Dad, brother and I quoted lines from it for years and years. We still even quote it here and there nowadays. It’s just one of those movies that has so many memorable lines in it. “Hercules Returns” is an extremely funny and random film. Other people may not find it as funny as what my family and I did, but I do know it has a big cult following here in Australia. I would love more people to watch this movie and discover the insane world of “Hercules Returns”!

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
If the name “Hercules Returns” conjures up images of the long-awaited sequel to Hercules and a serious period piece set in Roman times, you are severely wrong. Brad McBain (David Argue) is an ex-employee of one of the biggest cinema chains in Australia and wants to re-open a run down classic cinema palace. After restoring the palace, he decides that he wants to show the last film shown at the cinema before it closed down ay the opening night. That film happens to be “Hercules”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t find out until the very last minute that “Hercules” is all in Italian and it has no subtitles. His friends and business partners, Sprocket (Bruce Spence) and Lisa (Mary Coustas) come to the rescue as the three of them decide to dub the film. The result of which is hilarious and absolutely nothing like the original “Hercules” was ever supposed to be.

The film is considered to be a B grade film, but is an example of how a B grade film doesn’t necessarily mean a bad film. The concept of the film follows in the footsteps of Woody Allen’s film, “What’s Up Tiger Lily” by dubbing an already made film with something which is the complete opposite to the original story. One can only imagine how long it would have taken to match a new story and its jokes to the original footage. One also feels encouraged to watch the original film to find out the real story behind the images. However, try and watch the original without remembering the dialogue from “Hercules Returns”, it’s impossible. It is extremely clever and as mentioned before, extremely funny. For anyone who likes random and silly humour, this is the movie for you.

The acting is not amazing, as there is actually very little of it to be done as the “Hercules” movie takes up the majority of the feature. Although, Coustas is hilarious as the quick-witted Lisa and Michael Carman is believable as Sir Michael Kent. The film is more centred around the comical value rather than the dramatic so it is excused for not having award winning performances.

“Hercules Returns” may be hard for some people to find, especially those of you who are overseas, but if you are keen to see it, it is easily ordered over the internet. It has recently been released on DVD and is definitely a movie worth seeing if you are needing a laugh.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are

Year: 2009
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker

In My Own Words

This is one of the movies that I was really looking forward to, but I came out of it feeling confused. I’m completely confused whether I should be liking it or not. However, one reason for liking it outweighs all the reasons I have for not liking it. I loved the feeling of seeing things through the eyes of a child again. It made me recall how I had been as a child. I was continuously making the most of my imagination by writing stories and, even though I looked extremely freaking doing so, acting them out in my lounge room by myself. I also would like to play in the garden outside and make little cardboard cut outs of people and pretend they lived in the garden. Very few adults still have an imagination like that. I doubt any grown ups really use their imagination like this anymore, and if they did, they would be considered crazy. That’s what makes the child’s imagination and their way of using it so special. You can only take advantage of it in that way for a certain amount of time. From that time on, the only way to use your imagination the way a child does is in story-telling and writing.

I never really thought about this that much until I saw this movie. I saw “Where The Wild Things Are” as being a metaphor for this. The tagline “There’s one in all of us” I believe is a representation of how the imagination of a child still exists in all of us, but we can’t express it the way a child can anymore. “Where The Wild Things Are” reminded me so much of my childhood imagination, and for that I am thankful. It brought back some memories of a time when I was oblivious to the real world and lived in my own world where everything was made by me, and therefore perfect. In this movie, all is not perfect for very long, which I interpreted as being the point where he grows up and accepts that things may not always be perfect in the real world, but there are always people who will love you no matter how imperfect you or your world may be. This was my interpretation anyway. Maybe I am reading too much into it.

There are my own words and here is my review.

Review
Who would have ever thought that the 338 page book, “Where The Wild Things Are” could be made into a 101 minute film? Spike Jonze is the man to do it. Obviously, quite a bit is added into the film that is not in the book in order to make it appropriate for a feature length film. The long awaited film will be appreciated by adults as long as they go into the film ready to see the world through the imagination of a child. In saying this, children will see this film and enjoy it as it is imaginative and a story with big friendly (and other times not so friendly) and fluffy monsters.

Max (Max Records) is a young boy who is full of imagination. He spends his days creating new worlds for himself to escape the troubles he experiences with his older sister and her friends, and his single mother (Catherine Keener). One day after getting himself into trouble, he runs away from home and sails to a new land, which is inhabited by large and unusual creatures. Max tells the creatures that he is a king, and he immediately becomes the flavour of the month, especially with Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini). Max tries to make life happier for all the creatures, but ends up finding out that it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time.

“Where The Wild Things Are” is the story of a child’s imagination. The visuals of the land where the wild things live are perfect for this theme, as they are both imaginative, as they are abstract, unreal, large and full of detail. The visuals are unlike any other seen in a recent film and the recreation of Carol and his friends is fantastic. The cast that lends their voices to these wild things does a great job in bringing to life these characters from the book. The soundtrack is also commendable, as it reflects the childlike behaviour and emotions presented in the film.

However, the film can be dull at times. There are some scenes that seem slow and quite tedious, as it seems as though the film is not going anywhere. The conflict in the film is not strong, which is where the film loses its strength. The moral of the film and visuals are there, however at times they just do not seem to work. It is first and foremost a children’s book and ultimately is seen as a children’s movie, but this is no excuse for lack of strength in a movie. Records gives a good performance as Max, but he can come across as forced. His best performance is as happy Max, but sad Max is not convincing. Yet, he is a very young actor so he can be forgiven. Still, the film almost feels too basic, even for a children’s film.

The moral of the film is fantastic, that there is a world like the one in the movie inside all of us. Most people are not aware of this world or have forgotten it, as it is evident mainly in children but not in adults. Therefore, children will love this movie as it will tap into their imagination. For adults, it will only do this if they are aware of the morals and themes of the film and are willing to go into viewing it with the mind of a child. A child’s imagination is far greater than the average adult as it knows no limits, yet there does come a time in everyone’s life when reality becomes greater than the imagination and this is what “Where The Wild Things Are” presents.
7/10

Monday, December 7, 2009

Top 10 Movies Of The Decade

The Top 10 Films of the Decade
Well, I’ve jumped on the band wagon of listing the Top 10 Movies of the Decade. With the year and the decade drawing to a close, it’s time for reflection on the best made films of the decade. The following list has 10 films (not in order) which I believe are particularly memorable for one reason or another. Whether it be that they were a breakthrough in film making or it be the way they made people feel, they are all films that will be remembered and are a compliment to the films of the 2000’s. I understand that many people may feel differently to me regarding this list, but this is only one person’s opinion.

1. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

How could anyone deny the magnificence of Peter Jackson’s film interpretation of Tolkein’s “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy? All three of the films are amazing, but the third instalment, “The Return Of The King” is the most critically acclaimed and with good reason. The film won a staggering 11 Academy Awards and made $377 million worldwide. Many thought that the trilogy could never be made into a successful film as the novels were far too complex and detailed. However, Jackson was able to recreate Tolkein’s magic onto the big screen and do so in fine form. The visuals are stunning as are the costumes, make-up and special effects. The acting is superb, especially by Viggo Mortensen and Sean Astin. The movie is almost flawless. The criticism you are likely to hear about it is that it is very lengthy.

2. The Departed(2006)

Even if mob movies are not your cup of tea, it is still extremely likely that “The Departed” will impress you. Martin Scorcese fans were ecstatic to see him get his long awaited Academy Award for this movie in both the Best Picture and Best Director categories. The film is a fine adaptation of the Cantonese film “Infernal Affairs”. The film centres around both an undercover cop in the mob and a rat in the police force in Boston, the result of which can never be good. Plenty of thrills and suspense , plus an intriguing storyline make this film more than an action film and more than a drama. is packed full of talent and has some amazing performances by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. “The Departed” could well be the best mob movie of the decade.

3. Le Fabuelex Destin d'Amelie Poulain (Amelie)(2001)


One of the most loved and talked about French films of all time, “Amelie” must have a place in this list. If you are not a foreign film lover for the pure fact that it requires you to read and watch at the same time, this is one film you should definitely make an exception for. Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou)is a young woman who wants to find happiness and beauty in life for herself and for those around her. The film is visually beautiful and Tautou shines as the quirky Amelie. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this film was the feel-good film of 2001 and continues to be a favourite of movie lovers everywhere.

4. There Will Be Blood (2007)


One of the greatest achievements in cinematography of the decade also comes with one of the finest performances by a male actor of the decade in “There Will Be Blood”. A film set in the turn of the century with the protagonist being Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man who travels to California in search of future business, not letting anything, including family and faith, stop him. The film is amazing to watch, with every camera angle bringing the most out of every camera shot. The visuals are breathtaking and one cannot go past praising Day-Lewis, as his performance is full of strength and power. Brilliantly directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a cinematic masterpiece.

5. Slumdog Millionaire(2008)


The Academy got it right when presenting its Best Picture Oscar to “Slumdog Millionaire”. This film had everyone talking. It is completely different to any other movie that has previously been released and was brilliantly adapted for the screen by director Danny Boyle. Filmed on location in India and using unknown actors, the movie creates a realistic view of slum life and one which many may find too realistic to handle. The music is amazing and the cinematography is equally amazing. “Slumdog Millionaire” is moving and is a feel good movie that is definitely an achievement in film making.

6. El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) (2006)


Quite possibly, along with “The Lord Of The Rings” the best achievement in fantasy of the decade. This amazing film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is a fantasy film, which is also a drama and a war film. Therefore, “Pan’s Labyrinth” (it’s English title) is not a children’s fantasy film, as many parents found out the hard way. It is moving, thrilling and sad. The film won Academy Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction and Make-Up and deservedly. The film is a dark fairytale like none seen before and is an absolute pleasure to watch.

7. Gladiator (2000)

One cannot deny Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”. The heroic story of Maximus (Russell Crowe) was a favourite at the Academy Awards and with movie fans world over. The recreation of ancient Rome and its colony was staggering, everything for the period was perfect down to the smallest detail. The film is suspenseful, moving and action-packed with amazing direction. The performances by both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix and the film is definitely one of the best of the decade and worthy of all the praise it receives.

8. Moulin Rouge! (2001)


Baz Luhrmann’s extravaganza “Moulin Rouge” may not be a film for everyone as it is exaggerated and well over the top. However, it is these features which allow it to make this list. This romantic musical drama with a slash of comedy gives all its got in every song and dance and does so in a beautiful fashion. The visuals are amazing and colourful and the camera does it all complete justice. Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are the perfect choices as the lead roles and show their versatility as actors in roles which no one had ever seen them in before.

9. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)


“Little Miss Sunshine” is the indie hit of the decade. The Academy Awards could not overlook this film and the fine performances in it. This film exhibits how a great film does not need over the top graphics or special effects to be successful and well liked. “Little Miss Sunshine” follows a dysfunctional family on the road as they strive to help the youngest daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin) achieve her dream of competing in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The film is heart-warming and funny. Alan Arkin won an Oscar for his performance as the out-spoken grandfather and Breslin earned a nomination for Best Performance of an Actress in a Supporting Role. Although quirky, it shows how families bond in a time of need no matter how dysfunctional they seem from the outside.

10. Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

The first instalment of the “Pirates Of The Carribean” trilogy is definitely memorable and makes this list for its wide appeal . The film is so appealing as it has something for everyone, whether you are young or old, or if you are a fan of action or romance. The film was inspired by the Disneyland ride and therefore contains that Disney magic. Gore Verbinski direction is perfect as is his set design and visual effects. Johnny Depp’s performance of Captain Jack Sparrow is also extremely memorable and humorous.

Well that’s my top 10 films of the decade! I would love to hear any feedback or even your own top 10!

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Education



















Year: 2009
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Carey Milligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Domonic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour

In My Own Words
Tonight I finally got to see the performance of Carey Mulligan in “An Education”, a role that has had many people suggesting that an Oscar nomination is well on its way. Miss Mulligan is one of those stars who has had a solid acting career, yet has not found actual stardom outside the UK until now. It has been a big year for her with the release of “Public Enemies” and “An Education”, and the release of “Brothers” not too far away. The hype is true, she really is brilliant in this film and steals the show.

I really enjoyed this film. It may be a movie more for girls than boys, as it is a coming-of-age drama about a young girl, and addresses issues that young girls faced pre-feminism. The movie also makes you realize how important education is of any kind, whether it be through school books or through enriched life experience. The movie is based on Lynn Barber’s memoir, but there are quite a few things changed in order for it to work on the big screen, and these changes worked well. The film is moving, entertaining and, dare I say it, educational. It seems like a while since I saw a film at the cinemas which really made me happy to watch and observe all the wonderful things about it. I would be absolutely delighted to see this film and Mulligan considered for Academy Awards come 2010.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
“An Education” is based on the memoirs written by Lynn Barber and written for the screen by Nick Hornby, writer of “About A Boy” and “High Fidelity”. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a bright sixteen year old whose parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) have high hopes for her to attend Oxford. Although Jenny does see Oxford in her future, her mind is also consumed with her cello and everything French. Her life is turned upside down when she accepts a lift home from the charming David (Peter Sarsgaard). David, although 15 years her senior, takes her to fancy restaurants, away for weekends in the country and concerts, all the while completely charming and winning over her parents and making Jenny fall in love with him and her world. Before long, Jenny starts to notice that there are many questions that have gone unanswered about David’s world and that she may well need to choose between David or her dream of Oxford. Like many other teenagers on the verge of adulthood, she also realizes that her parents may not always know best.

Although this movie may sound like much like a typical teenage drama, it is presented far from it. It shows the transformation from a young schoolgirl into a woman of the world in a very grown up way, thanks to both fantastic direction from Lone Scherfig and amazing performances by the cast. Scherfig captures the 1960’s in a perfect manner and chooses a perfect soundtrack to back up what is happening on screen. The cinematography is amazing, such as the camera angles and shots. The choice of camera angles on Jenny help support her personal journey by showing her changing persona. However, the ending of the film may not be suited to everyone’s taste. Some people may feel satisfied with it while others may be left feeling as though the movie ends flat.

The best part of the film is defiantly the performances by the cast. Mulligan is the star of the film. As Jenny, she is charming, likeable and a joy to watch. She perfectly transforms from a young schoolgirl to a woman, whilst still regaining an air of youth and also naivety. Although in real life Mulligan is actually 24, you would find this very hard to believe when watching her on screen. Alfred Molini is also a stand out as Jenny’s father, who is protective of her and concerned about her future. Rosamund Pike, who plays David’s friend and Jenny’s some-what mentor in David’s world Helen, is also praise worthy. She supplies lots of humorous moments to the film and is an audience favourite. “An Education” also features Emma Thompson as the disliked headmistress of Jenny’s school and Sally Hawkins, star of “Happy-Go-Lucky”, also makes a cameo.

“An Education” is a beautiful film which contains both humorous and dramatic moments. The film and its cast are definitely of the Oscar caliber and it is worth seeing on the big screen to grasp the full emotion and strength it generates.

8.5/10

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Invention Of Lying



The Invention Of Lying
Year: 2009
Director: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Cast: Rickey Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey

In My Own Words
The main reason I wanted to see this movie was to see one of my heroes, Tina Fey back on the big screen. All five minutes of her on screen it turned out, but I knew I wouldn’t mind watching Ricky Gervais once again, especially after his hilarious performance in “Ghost Town” last year.

It turned out that this review was going to be one of the harder ones to write, which I was totally unaware of before I went to see the movie. The reason being is that I am a Christian, and this movie does poke fun at religion, especially aspects of Christianity. I know some people who would take offence to most of the second half of the movie. I was a little offended, but I tried not to take it too seriously. The movie in itself is a story, it’s not a story that is meant to be taken literary. That is the way I looked at it anyway. Although, unlike most comedy movies of its kind, it will evoke many a conversation between people who go to see it afterwards. Some people may think it makes some valid points about religion (if you are atheist anyway) and some people may think that it just makes some valid points about human nature and existence. I did think that it made some valid points about the latter, which I definitely did talk about after the movie over dinner.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
“The Invention Of Lying” is the motion picture directorial debut from British comic, Ricky Gervais. Mark Bellison (Gervais) is a single, lonely man living in a world where everyone tells the truth, and it is inconceivable to speak of what isn’t. When things are at their very worst for Mark after being rejected by Jennifer (Jennifer Garner), losing his job and being told he is being evicted from his apartment, he finds that he is able to lie, and because nobody else in his world has ever lied before, he can finally live the life he has always dreamed of. He find that by lying, he can not only make his life better, but he can also make life better for other people. However, he finds even though lying can initially have benefits, those benefits do not last.

The film is quite clever and very well written, as one would expect from Gervais. There are some great laughs in the film, especially in the first half. The concept of a world where no one lies is more like a world where everyone says it as it is, rather than just telling the truth. The folk in this town that the movie is based in reveal all their thoughts when they talk each other, such as people waiters telling patrons that they are embarrassed to be there and how they want to ask a girl for her number. The people can come across quite rude as a result, but that adds to the humour. Gervais is hilarious in his role as Mark, while it is not Garner’s best role. She comes across as weak and at times, very annoying. The film is packed with cameos such as Tina Fey, in a tiny role as mark’s secretary and one that does not seem to fit her after becoming familiar with her as television show producer Liz Lemon in “30 Rock”. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a hilarious cameo as a bartender, as does Jason Bateman as the doctor.

This may not be a film for everyone, particularly those who are religious, as during the film, there are references to religion and its origins not being true. However, there are quite a few holes in the story as a result of this. Of course, the idea of no religion in the world of the world in non-existent, but this is not supposed to be a true story. There are also references to marriage before there is any mention of the “Man in the Sky”, and marriage is considered an institution related to religion, in many cases anyway. So some people may want to avoid the movie for this reason, but the movie, just like the things Mark says in the film, is just a story and should not be taken seriously. Particularly as it is a comedy movie. The movie does have some morals that should be taken home in it and even though it pokes fun at religion at times , it does also make some good points about how religion can do good in society and peoples lives.

This film may not be for everyone for the above reason, but it has got some very funny moments in it. The jokes tend to get less funny towards the end of the movie, but the first half will give the audience loads of laughs.

5.5/10

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rising Stars

Anna Kendrick


Many of you may recognise this face as being that of Jessica from the inescapable Twilight Saga. However, you may not yet know that Anna Kendrick's acting career extends far beyond that of playing the supporting role of Bella's mortal friend in "Twilight" and "New Moon". There been whispers that she may be up for an Oscar nomination for her role in the upcoming film, "Up In The Air".

Anna Kendrick was born on the 9th of August 1985 in Portland, Maine. She became a victim of the acting bug at a young age after performing in several local productions. When she was 10, she was discovered by a talent agency, and by 13, the industry had sat up and taken notice of this new Broadway star. At this age, she starred in the Broadway version of "High Society" as the spirited Dinah. For this performance, she earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She unfortunately did not take home the prize, but instead she took home a new reputation, that of being the second youngest Tony nominee of all time.


Kendrick then took a few years off acting to complete her schooling. Come 2007, she then started her career in film. She starred in the film "Rocket Science" as Ginny, a star high school debater. After this performance, she was cast as Jessica in the highly successful "Twilight" series. After being in the first two installments of the saga, she is cast for the third film, "Eclipse", to be released in June 2010. It is her performance as Natalie, the young business woman in "Up In The Air" that has made the world realise that Kendrick is not just another actor whose career cannot extend beyond a pop culture phenomenon. The film itself is already an Oscar favourite and Kendrick is tipped for a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.



Anna Kendrick is a young actor who's acting abilities extend far beyond the simple character of Jessica and with her upcoming roles will prove this to all that disbelieve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Peoples Choice Awards

Remember to vote for your favourite movie and movie stars in the 34th Peoples Choice Awards!

http://www.peopleschoice.com/pca/votenow.jsp

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rising Stars

Sam Worthington

For Movie Critical’s first Rising Star, we have chosen Sam Worthington. Worthington shot to international stardom with his role as Marcus Wright in “Terminator Salvation” and plays the lead of Jake Sully in the highly anticipated “Avatar”. He is quickly becoming one of the most recognised action stars in film today, but his roots don't lie in this film genre, as many Australian film fans will know.

Worthington was born in Perth, Australia on the 2nd of August 1976. He did not always aspire to be an actor, but his life changed when he accompanied a friend to his audition at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). NIDA is known for being extremely hard to win a place in, so they must've seen something very special in Worthington as he was accepted, while his friend wasn't. After starting his career on stage, he was soon being cast in roles in such Australian TV shows as "Water Rats" and "Blue Heelers".

His first film role was in "Bootmen", a film in which he has admitted to not learning much about tap dancing during, even though that is what the film is about. This was followed by roles in "Dirty Deeds", "Gettin' Square" and "Thunderstruck". However, in 2004,it was his role in the multi AFI award winning film "Somersault" that won him critical acclaim and secured his place in amongst Australia's acting elite. He won the Australian Film Institute's award for Best Actor in A Leading Role and from here the sky was the limit.Before entering the USA market, he also played the lead in the 2006 film version of "Macbeth" and also appeared in the giant crocodile film,"Rogue".













Since then, Worthington stole the show in "Terminator Salvation" and hasn't looked back. Besides "Avatar", he is also starring in the upcoming "Clash Of The Titans" which is to be released in early 2010. Worthington, for the time being, has seemed to find his niche in action film, but from he previous roles it is clear to see that he will not have a problem fitting into other film genres in the future.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon



The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Year: 2009
Director: Chris Weitz
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner

In My Own Words
Here it is, the awaited follow up to “Twilight”. Well, it will not have been awaited if you are not a Twilight fan and the first thing I will say about this movie before I tell you my own thoughts and my experience with this movie is that this movie is NOT for you if you are not a fan of Twilight. My boyfriend who followed me along for the special midnight screening gave it a 2/10, he was not impressed. I, myself, have tried not to become part of the “Twilight” phenomenon, but I have been drawn in, more by the books than the movies though. I did enjoy “Twilight” when that came out at the cinemas last year, I thought it was enjoyable. Sure it wasn’t the best movie ever made and does not rival “Gone With The Wind”, but it was fun to watch nevertheless.

My boyfriend bought tickets for me for the midnight screening at my local cinema as I wanted to review it before the majority of the world. Also I had never been to a midnight screening of anything so it was very exciting! Although I did go to the 9am first screening of “The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King” when that opened, but this was a bit more exciting at night for some strange reason. I was shocked, I have never seen my local cinemas so packed. They had six cinemas all sold out, all by people (mostly girls) under the age of 25. It can be hard to take a movie seriously when you have some groups of girls showing off to their friends by laughing at parts in the movie which aren’t even funny and are supposed to be serious. That was something that I was prepared for though.

So, as far as the film went, not as good as the original “Twilight”. Nowhere near as cheesily enjoyable as it was. And I repeat, stay away from this movie if you do not like “Twilight” at all, it won’t change you mind. However, if you are a “Twilight” fan, it is still worth seeing and you may find some happiness and enjoyment seeing Edward, Bella and Jacob on the big screen again.

These are my own words and this is my review.

Review
There is no escaping the “Twilight” phenomenon, especially leading up to the release of “New Moon”, the second installment of the saga. The film, whether it is good or not, will make millions worldwide in the box office from fans going to watch it numerous times. However, movie goers who go to watch the film who either did not like the first film or didn’t see it, will be completely dissatisfied and confused. The movie makes no sense without the first film and will not appeal to those who are not fans of Edward and Bella to begin with.

In the second film, eighteen year old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) have carried on their relationship despite their differences and the fact that Bella was nearly killed by a fellow vampire in the previous movie. After another close call, this time with members of the Cullen family, Edward decides that it is best for him to leave Forkes and Bella. Bella is left heartbroken and finds comfort in her friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). However, she then finds out that Jacob has a secret of his own. Jacob, despite his feelings for her, does not fill the void left in her heart by Edward. The film will delight Twilight fans. It stays true to the book and makes the most of each of the main characters.

However, as a stand alone film, it fails. As it is the follow on to “Twilight”, there is really no character development or explanations as to why things are happening in the film. The actors make the most of their roles, and make all there is to make out of their characters. Stewart can be painful sometimes as the emotional Bella, but that is the way that Bella is written in Stephanie Meyer’s book and plays the part perfectly when compared to the literature Bella. Pattinson and Lautner’s performances are not spectacular, but do not do a bad job. Ashley Greene’s role as Alice Cullen is probably the most interesting role and has the most variation to work with. However, it is not until the end that Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen show up and their roles are both rushed and almost non-existent.

The change of director for this movie does not work well for the saga. Weitz does not do the film much justice and one can only hope that the change of director to David Slade for the next film, “Eclipse” will be advantageous. However, the visuals of Forkes are stunning, even though it was filmed in Canada. The soundtrack is also fitting. It is just a shame that there is no suspense and complete predictability throughout the whole film to overshadow it.

Again, avid “Twilight” fans will still enjoy the film and there is no doubt it will be one of the biggest box office hits for the year. The movie unfortunately does not live up to the hype and the spectacle is greater than the film itself.

5.5/10

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2012



2012
Year: 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, Oliver Platt

In My Own Words
When “2012” was announced, I groaned. Another world disaster movie. It doesn’t seem to be something Hollywood tires of very easily, or at all. The heroes, the villains, the special effects, the demolition of large cities….all pre-requisites for disaster movies. Today was the only day I could have gone and seen the movie as it requires a full three hours of your time, a reason many people will probably not go and see it. I caught the early session so it didn’t take up too much of my day off.

I was hoping this movie may pleasantly surprise me as I am a John Cusack fan. It wasn’t the worst movie ever, but when it comes down to it, wasn’t original at all. That will never score many points with movie-goers. As I said, wasn’t to worst movie that I’ve seen this year, it did have some good points, but its length and unoriginality do not make it a masterpiece by any means.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
The well known premonition of the world ending is the basis and just another reason to make the newest disaster movie “2012”. The film itself is like a tsunami, volcano, flood, and earthquake film rolled into one, with the 2 and a half hours to carry each one. There are some good points about this movie, but it is really what is to be expected from a film such as this. However, it is entertaining and is definitely worth seeing the film in the cinema for its special effects.

The movie begins in 2009 and shows how the world is preparing for the end of the world as we know it in 2012. However, the end is closer than people think, as discovered by Adrian Helmsley ( Chiwetel Ejiofor) , who alerts the American government. The protagonist of the story is California writer, Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) who has taken his two children to Yellowstone National Park, where they stumble upon a top secret government “hot spot” and he finds out about the 2012 conspiracy. He, his children and ex-wife (Amanda Peet) survive the demolition of his hometown by many close calls to try and join in the survival of the human race. As expected, the film contains loads of special effects, some which seem more realistic than others. This may have something to do with the unrealistic scenes in which the unrealistic special effects occur in. There are several times in the movie that the lead characters have near misses. One can believe one or two near misses to keep the suspense, but too many can lead to the audience rolling their eyes and sarcastically thinking “Wow, I did NOT see that one coming”. It is almost exhausting how many things happen in the film and how long the film is doesn’t make tit any better.

However, the acting in “2012” is really not too bad. Cusack gives a good performance, as does Ejiofor and Morgan Lily, who plays Lilly Curtis, gives a great performance at such a young age. Roland Emmerich’s direction and script is also commendable. There is great character development with the main characters and the audience does indeed connect with them. The role of Carl Anheuser, as played by Oliver Platt, is particularly unlikable and well played for this reason. It is proof that the characters are really forming a relationship with the audience when one feels such dislike towards one of them.

The film does have some good points, as pointed out, but its lack of original content does let it down.

5/10

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol
Year: 2009
Director: Robert Zemekis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robyn Wright-Penn

My Own Words
Welcome to Christmas! That’s what I saw this movie as representing. The start of the Christmas media season. I’m actually surprised it wasn’t released at the beginning of December rather than the beginning of November.

Anyway, I was very excited about seeing this movie. I love the story of “A Christmas Carol”, although, sadly, I have never read the book. I really should get around to that one day. There have been over 35 films based on Charles Dickens novel. However, I have only seen two of them. Those being “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and “The Muppets Christmas Carol”, both of which I love. This version which I saw tonight, was a very different interpretation. In saying that though, I did really enjoy it and thought it was a great movie.

The one thing I have to say about this movie and is a bit of a warning to parents out there or people who were contemplating taking children to see this, it is not as child friendly as it appears. There are some pretty frightening parts in it for children. One of my friends took her three year old to see it the other day and as she was buying the tickets, the attendant told her that if the movie gets too scary for Bailey, feel free to bring him back out and she will refund her money. Apparently this had been the case with quite a few small children. But little Bailey soldiered on. He apparently got scared in a few bits, but was happy to stay until the end. In other words, “A Christmas Carol” is more of an adult animation. There were even bits I thought were a bit too full on!

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
The latest interpretation of Charles Dicken’s masterpiece, “A Christmas Carol” comes at the hand of Robert Zemekis. The new, animated version of the timeless classic is beautifully made and is an extremely unique interpretation that still remains true to the original story. It exhibits how much computer generated animation can now achieve and is truly impressive.

For those that don’t know the story, Ebenezer Scrooge( Jim Carrey) lives a lonely life consumed by his wealth and greed. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by his past and long dead business partner who informs him that tonight he will be visited by three ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmases Yet To Come. This version is quite dark and at times, can be disturbing. Although it is by the Disney company and looks harmless enough, it is definitely not a children’s movie. There are several images that would not seem out of place in a horror movie in terms of their fright factor, especially those of Jacob Marley.

However, the images, gruesome or not in some parts, are amazing. This film is definitely a credit to Zemekis and his direction. It is clearly obvious on screen who Jim Carrey is, as well as Gary Oldman in his portrayal of Bob Cratchit and Colin Firth as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. Carrey’s Scrooge is extremely well constructed as it shows his sadistic and pessimistic nature right down to the tiniest detail, and the changes throughout the movie to the character are well portrayed. Even though it is animation, it is still very easy to pickup on Carrey’s mannerisms and facial expressions. Credit must be paid to him for portraying an old man so successfully, even if it is in animation!

The only criticism with “A Christmas Carol” is that it can feel in some sequences that Zemekis is trying to show off the amazing things that animation is able to do these days. This can lead to some sequences being longer than they have to be. However, in saying this, these sequences are still beautiful and it is indeed amazing what animation of this kind can do nowadays. Otherwise, it is extremely hard to find another criticism for this movie. It is a movie that everyone should see before Christmas and is likely to get you in the Christmas spirit. Just don’t expect it to be light and fluffy because it is clearly not a happy Christmas movie for the majority of the film. The film is dark, but it is still incredibly beautiful and a great version of a classic using modern technology.

8.5/10

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife


The Time Traveler’s Wife
Year: 2009
Director: Robert Shwentke
Cast: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams

In My Own Words
Another film I had been looking forward to for a long time. I read “The Time Traveler’s Wife” at about this time last year while I was travelling in the USA. I really enjoyed the book written by Audrey Niffenegger. Although, I knew two things going into the movie. One was, the movie is very rarely as good as the book, so my expectations weren’t too high. Two, I knew it would be really hard to carry out a lot of the things in the book on the screen. So before going into the movie, I was guessing a lot of the ways in which director, Robert Shwentke would translate. Oh…and I was also expecting some tears! Especially if Rachel McAdams was able to carry out the same sort of performance she gave in “The Notebook” back in 2004. I was impressed with the casting of her and Eric Bana in the lead roles as the physically resembled the images I had seen of Henry and Clare in my mind whilst I was reading the book.
However, there were no tears. The trailer was a bigger tear-jerker than this movie. I don’t like crying, but crying in a movie is sometimes a good thing as it symbolizes the movie making emotional connection with the audience. In other words, a success! There was also many unanswered questions at the end of the movies for those who had not read the novel. So, you can see in which direction I will be going with this review.
These are my words and this is my review.

Review
Based on the best-selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger, “The Times Traveler’s Wife” is ultimately about the love between the time traveler, Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic disorder that enables him to involuntarily travel back and forwards in time, which obviously causes strain on his relationship with Clare, who has to cope with his unexpected absences and unwelcome surprises. Fans of the novel would have been eagerly awaiting the release of this movie. However, like many movies based on novels, it does not reach the same heights and emotions that the book does. It was inevitable that “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was going to be turned into a romantic drama on the big screen and it was also inevitable that it would be difficult to be successful, but this interpretation has not done it much justice at all.

The direction of Robert Schwentke is, for one, commendable in this film. The locations in Chicago and the sets used are perfect for the film. Each scene is well edited and the special effects are also well done. There really are some beautiful images in the film, such as those of open meadows and falling snow. However, this is as far as the brilliance goes. The main thing that is missing from the film is the emotion. One would consider a film in which a woman is constantly losing and missing her husband and goes through several other traumatic experiences to be a tear jerker of sorts. However, there are few moments that the audience actually connects with the film and feels and emotional connection with the characters and their situations. Even the end, which should not leave a dry eye in the house, is lack lustre and not as heart warming as it should be. This is the major downfall of the movie. As said before, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was always going to be a hard novel to convert to a movie, but the movie should pull emotion just with the same subject content.

The acting is also disappointing, which is a shame considering it is Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in the lead. Bana is not bad as Henry, but he still could have taken the role much further, as is the case with co-star McAdams. The best acting throughout the whole movie from McAdams is right at the very beginning when she see’s Henry for the first time in the library. Her face completely fills with happiness and makes one excited about what is yet to come. The two look perfect on screen as Henry and Clare, yet there is very little character development and they do not succeed in gaining any empathy from the audience.

Overall, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was a disappointment. Perhaps it will be more of a disappointment to those who have read rather than to those why are flying blind when entering the cinema. So much more could have been done with this film than was. Maybe the movie will be remade in another few years and will be more of a success then.

5/10

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus



The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus
Year: 2009
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell

In My Own Words
Another movie I had the pleasure of seeing for free as I also won tickets to this! I did not know much about this movie when I walked into the cinema. All I really knew about it was that it was a fantasy and that it was Heath Ledger’s last movie. This fact in itself will draw crowds to see it. The movie itself, I found interesting. It was one of those movies that I go home and look up information about, particularly about how the film managed to be finished without one of the main characters. From doing this, it was easy to see how the films opening was a great deal delayed. The script had to be rewritten and Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell had to be brought in. I won’t go into the reasons why these actors were brought in, as it would definitely contain spoilers for those who plan to see the movie. However, it is admirable that this movie was finally released, as many movies become unfinished projects when one of the leads dies in the middle of filming. For example, 1962 movie “Something’s Got To Give” remains unfinished due to the death of Marilyn Monroe.

I’m glad I saw this movie, as it is not often a movie comes out like “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus”. It was something different and although not a movie I would go out and buy on DVD, was a pleasant watch. However, it is slightly odd, or very odd, depending on what you are into.

These are my own words and here is my review.

Review
“The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus” is a clever, visually stunning fantasy movie, that some will adore, but it will also seem a little too far fetched for others. If you enjoy films that combine the modern world with fantasy without crossing over into the sci-fi genre, this movie may well be for you. While fantasy fans will flock to see this film, so will many others just to watch Heath Ledger in his last performance on the big screen. “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus” is all of these things... a Heath Ledger tribute, stunningly beautiful and completely and utterly bizarre.

Thousand year old story-teller and imagination guider Doctor Panassus (Christopher Plummer) is the leader of a travelling sideshow in modern times, which is extremely unsuccessful. As a result of a wager he made with the devil, Mr Nick( Tom Waits), sixteen years ago, he is in danger of losing his beautiful daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). A new wager is set up to see who gets to keep Valentina, both Mr Nick and Doctor Panassus vie to be the first to collect five souls in the Imaginarium. With the appearance of a mysterious stranger, Tony (Heath Ledger) the competition turns out to be more than what everyone involved has bargained for. “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Panassus” is very slow to begin with, but speeds up in the second half to the point that it is almost going too fast. The story gains momentum and becomes intriguing in the second half, thanks to the entrance of the Imaginarium in the film. The visuals created for the Imaginarium are amazing, and are likened to a cross between the visuals in “Lord Of The Rings” and “Corpse Bride’, beautiful yet dark. Even the stage for the Imaginarium is beautiful and vintage, as are the costumes used for Doctor Panassus and his troop.

The first image of Ledger in the movie is almost spooky, like seeing an image from beyond the grave. It is an extremely different role to the ones in which Ledger was known for, although it isn’t too far removed from the Joker in “The Dark Knight” in some sequences. It is a fitting farewell to the Australian actor, and a fun and pleasant last role for fans to remember him by. The role of Doctor Panassus, as played by Plummer, is supposed to be of a role in which people feel sorry for and connect with. However, he just comes across as a drunk who doesn’t show much feeling until the very end. Perhaps the best performance in the movie is by model turned actress Lily Cole. Her portrayal of the young and naïve Valentina show both the strong and weak sides of her character. Valentina is both a temptress and a child and Cole is perfect in the role. She shows how she has made the successful transition from model to actor and has a promising acting career ahead of her. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell’s roles are more like cameos, there in place of Ledger. Their roles are, however, not clearly defined, and are more like talking points for the audience to decode and come to their own conclusion about what they mean after the movie.

As mentioned, it is a great story and very clever. The writers did a great job of reassembling the script after the shock of having one of the major stars die. One would have to imagine what their Imaginarium would be like. However, much of the film is not thoroughly explained and can be confusing. It is not a realistic movie at all, which is inevitable of it being a fantasy film, but it can come across as extremely bizarre. This degree of strangeness will be a reason why people both love and hate the film.

7/10

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Box


The Box
Year: 2009
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella

In My Own Words
I was proud of myself going into this movie. I was going in to watch a film without reading a single review about it. Therefore I went in with no expectations and no clue as to whether this would be a good or bad movie. Unfortunately, I found it to be the latter, which is really a shame because the preview for it looked so good! I guess that is a credit to the people who edited the preview, they made it look like it should be good and worth watching. That’s what their job is though, to advertise the movie and buy it, just like any other product. Well, it worked! I bought a ticket for something I probably didn’t need…just like good advertising does. But, I just enjoy watching movies so it really wasn’t as bad an experience as what I am making out.

Review“The Box” is about a financially struggling couple, Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who wake one morning to fins a mysterious box only containing a button on their front door step. Later in the day, a mysterious stranger appears to inform them that if they hit the button, they will receive a million dollars. However, if they do this, then someone, who they don’t know, will die. From this plot summary, one would assume that “The Box” is going to be a film about the moral questions in life. The movie posters for it and its preview also add to the equation the assumption that this movie is a race against time. However, this film is none of these.

Although the question of whether or not you would push the button will be asked amongst viewers after the movie, the movie focuses very little on this question. It also lacks the suspense and other elements that would qualify it as being a thriller. The movie is completely different to what people will perceive it as being before they go in and may or may not, but in most cases, won’t be a pleasant surprise. For the first half of the movie, the audience is keep enthralled by the mysterious happenings and tries to piece the puzzle together. It is in this time that there is hope of the film coming to a pleasing finish, but it is soon vanquished by a turn that just seems ridiculous. The story does just not work as it is hard to follow in parts and completely unrealistic and far-fetched.

The direction of this film leaves much to be desired, with bad choices in editing, character and script. It is a shame to see such actors as Diaz, Marsden and Langella in a film that does not do them any favours. Diaz is unlikable and painful as Norma Lewis. In a role such as hers, the audience should feel pity for her, but instead feels nothing for her. And despite the facial abnormalities of Langella, his character is not intimidating or scary, or whatever he is supposed to be. Not a good choice of role to his follow up from “Frost/Nixon”. Their was evident character development for each of the characters which made the audience understand and acknowledge were each of them had came from, yet this was not enough to create any type of connection or empathy with them.

“The Box” certainly does not live up to the hype and many people will find watching the preview of it far more exciting than watching the movie itself.

3/10