Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams
In My Own Words
“Shutter Island” is definitely one of my most anticipated films of the year. It was supposed to be released back in October 2009, and I was not impressed to hear that Scorsese’s new film had been pushed back 4 months. The reason I was so excited for it was that “Shutter Island” looked unlike anything Scorsese had ever done before. The genius director is no stranger to thrillers, but this was his first attempt at one that bordered on horror the way “Shutter Island” looked like it would be according to the trailer. I really wish that the film was released back in October, rather than been released now with the huge build up and very high expectations. Although the expectations would’ve been high regardless of the timing because of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s past record.
The expectations may have ruined it for me, but when I take away the expectations from my judgement, I still come to a similar conclusion about this film. I can’t help but think that original endings in Hollywood are completely going out the window. All I can really hope is that I can start seeing suspenseful thriller movies soon where I can’t guess the ending. Or is there really such thing as originality anymore? It’s a sad thought. I’m a big fan of receiving the unexpected in movies, whether I be disappointed by who dies and who doesn’t or what not, at least I feel like I haven’t seen the film 5 times before.
These are my own words and here is my review.
The much anticipated latest Martin Scorsese film “Shutter Island” is to put it simply, a disappointment. The biggest disappointment about it being that it is one of those films, that there seems to be quite a few of these days, where the ending can easily be guessed at the beginning. “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane may be clever and surprising on paper, but as a screenplay, it is highly predictable. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a US Marshall who has been assigned to a case on Shutter Island at Ashcliffe, a hospital for the clinically and criminally insane. He and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to investigate a mysterious disappearance of a woman from Ashcliffe. Even though Daniels did his research before he arrived on the island, he discovers more about the island than he thought he would and feels himself becoming part of the island.
During the film, “Shutter Island” can be absolutely intriguing. It is hard to explain how this film can be intriguing, yet unoriginal without giving too much of the story away. It is like many other films and their endings, just in a hospital for the mentally disturbed, which makes it interesting. The atmosphere of the locations does indeed make the film creepy and the patients and their stories are certainly disturbing. It can be put into the same category as films such as “Girl, Interrupted” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, where it is so unsettling that you do not want to look away. The visuals of the film are gorgeous, especially that of the island itself, and the recreation of the asylum in the 1940’s is well done. However, it does seem at times that Scorsese tries a little too hard to create suspense and eeriness in his use of cinematography and sound.
DiCaprio gives a solid performance and does well as Teddy, as he always seems to do under the direction of Scorsese. Ruffalo also gives a good performance as Eddy’s partner. The two are definitely the stars of the film. Michelle Williams, who plays Teddy’s deceased wife, can only be described as flat and boring. She falls short of the expectations of the character she plays should have. Emily Mortimer and Jackie Earle Haley both deserve credit for their creepy roles as patients in the hospital.
Unfortunately, this all comes down to the realization that “Shutter Island” is unfortunately Scorsese’s worst film to date. Not because there was anything wrong with the way he made the film, but because it is highly predictable and very much like many other films that are out there. Scorsese is not normally known for fitting into film trends, but that is just what he has done here. Even if the director of “Shutter Island” was not Martin Scorsese, it would just be another film with the same ending, just better made than most.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench
In My Own Words
I went into this movie with the lowest of expectations. I always see it as a bad thing if a film has a huge Oscar buzz about it and then doesn’t deliver come nomination time. It’s never a good sign. However, I enjoyed “Nine” a lot more than what I thought I would. I love feeling this way, there is such a buzz coming out of a film you thought would be a complete fail and knowing you were wrong. In saying that, I can understand why it has been panned by other critics and neglected from much of the Oscar nominations. In saying this, I believe that the academy even got the nominations “Nine” did get wrong.
One thing I will say is that Rob Marshall must be a huge Federico Fellini. Obviously “Nine” is based on the Broadway show of the same name, but the Broadway show is then based on the 1963 Italian film “8 ½” . “8 ½” is not a musical so it does not contain the breaks in the story for the musical numbers, and the story is different. The majority of the characters have the same names and certain scenes are recreated to the finest detail, such as Saraghina’s little beach number. There are even certain scenes, such as Claudia at the fountain, which reminds me of another Fellini masterpiece, “La Dolce Vita”. I honestly think that films like “8 ½” and “La Dolce Vita” work better in the style that they were initially filmed in rather than try to be redone mixing both the stage show and the film. I did like the film, but there were parts of the film that I didn’t like, and Rob Marshall trying to mix “Chicago” and “8 ½” was the main reason I didn’t like it.
These are my own words and here is my review.
“Nine”, based on the Broadway play of the same name, can be described as an enjoyable mess. There are some amazing things about the film, yet there are some things that bring its buzz down. The unstoppable Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini, a film director who under pressure to write and direct a film in 10 days. It isn’t only the pressure of the film playing on his mental health, but also the relationships with the women in his life. His trials and tribulations with himself and his women are expressed through both the script and musical numbers. However, the two narrative forms collide in this film making the combination quite messy. The film could have been constructed in a way so that these two could have worked together to flow smoothly, but the way which director, Rob Marshall separates the script and the songs makes the film jerky and uneven. The jerkiness of the film makes the storyline seem weak. It is as though Marshall is trying to put what proved to be the winning formula of the musical numbers on the stage that was present in “Chicago” into “Nine”, as well as having the storyline carried off the stage. Unfortunately this is formula is not for this film.
In saying this, there are many good things about “Nine” that stop it from being a failure. Firstly, the scenery and visuals are stunning. The film is definitely a great tourist advertisement for Italy, even if we are no longer in the 1960’s when the film is set. The musical numbers are also outstanding and the songs are extremely catchy, especially “Take It All”, “Cinema Italiano” and “Be Italian”. The musical numbers, although disruptive to the storyline rather than enhancing it, are well choreographed and beautiful to watch.
The acting is also a stand out in this film. Daniel Day-Lewis is perfect as Guido and is perfectly cast. The star of the film is the consistently brilliant Marion Cotillard as Guido’s wife, Luisa. She gives a heartfelt performance in which the audience feels her emotion, especially in her number “My Husband Makes Movies”. She is extremely unlucky to have not received an Oscar nomination for her efforts in this film. There is great screen chemistry in between her and Day-Lewis, both in love and anger. Penelope Cruz is also a stand out as Guido’s mistress, Carla. She plays the role of the mistress well, being sexy as well as vulnerable and desperate for Guido’s affections. Dame Judi Dench is charming as per usual, and it is joyful to see her try her hand at a musical number throughout the film. Both Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson have almost unnecessary roles, but both provide great songs for the film soundtrack.
“Nine” is a great musical, but not one of the great stories of the year. There are some extremely fun moments throughout the film and the players are far from bad, but the weakness of the storyline lets its good points down.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Hurt Locker
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes
In My Own Words
There is nothing about “The Hurt Locker” that isn’t intriguing, both on screen and off screen. Even before I saw the film, the idea of a woman directing a war film, traditionally a male genre, is more than interesting. The fact that Kathryn Bigelow has done it so well and has earned an Oscar nomination for her efforts is astounding and something to be celebrated. She is only the fifth woman nominated for Best Director and has a huge chance of taking away the honour. Even more intriguing here is that her main competitor is her ex-husband, James Cameron. The competition of two ex-spouses for the honour of Best Director is unprecedented and it is a long shot that it will ever happen again. However, the two are amicable and Cameron is even said to have encouraged Bigelow to undertake the project of “The Hurt Locker”. Upon receiving his Golden Globe for his direction in “Avatar”, Cameron admitted that he thought Bigelow was sure to beat him to the honour.
Whether “The Hurt Locker” is a female directed film or not is completely beside the point as to why the film is such a masterpiece. My personal experience with the film was that felling of holding my breath for the whole film and when the credits start rolling, I could finally exhale. At times I was completely uncomfortable due to the onslaught of tension and nervous anxiety. It was one of those films where I felt like I wanted to run out of the cinema in order to be released from the films tight grip of me, but I knew I could not do that and feel comfortable in not knowing what was coming next. Besides a sore neck from the stress, the film also gave me a new perspective on what the soldiers really go through while in a war zone and the dangers and horrors they encounter everyday.
These are my own words and here is my review.
“The Hurt Locker” could well be the movie of the year and is definitely in contention for the academy’s grand prize. It is very rare for a film to come along in which it is a struggle to find no fault with, yet this is one of them. A movie that is climatic from the beginning till the end is indeed a rare find. “The Hurt Locker” shows the ugly and evil side of war, yet the film is so beautiful. The film is non-stop action and suspense from start to finish, extremely confronting and not for the faint hearted. In Iraq, a group of Americans participate in the bomb squad and are met daily with situations that could end their lives. Each day they are met with different dangerous situations and are faced with the concept of their own mortality.
The film itself does not have a straight story line, but is more a way of putting the audience in the shoes of these soldiers. Instead of having a beginning, middle and climatic ending, the whole film is a climax. The audience is completely on edge constantly and there is no sign of the end of the film until the credits start rolling. However, the lack of a whole and traditional storyline does not bother anyone. The film is a masterpiece to watch. The cinematography and editing are absolutely superb. It is a credit to Kathryn Bigelow as a director the way she has constructed her film. It is not a traditional war film, as it is not driven by acting and shooting, but rather by the anxiety of knowing that everyday you wake up in an area where a war is, everyday could be your last. How do they make it through each day knowing this and knowing that this is all part of your job? Some soldiers are completely disturbed by it, while others are oblivious to it. “The Hurt Locker” shows that no one is immune to weakness and it is not possible to be strong 100% of the time.
Jeremy Renner, who plays the lead as Will James, is superb and is well deserving of his Oscar nomination. He is witty and smart, and constructs both a strong and weak character. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty play his sidekicks in the field and are both superb in their roles. The character development of the main character, Will James is fantastic. Again, it is not the traditional character development just at the beginning of the film, the development continues throughout the film thanks to a wonderfully written screenplay by Mark Boal.
The special effects that are used for the bomb blasts can almost be described as beautiful, if they were not being used for destructive purposes. The first blast in unforgettable and sets the stage for a beautiful, yet horrifying movie. There are many gasps throughout the film and at no moment do you feel safe watching these characters put their lives on the line. There are no guarantees of anyone being spared throughout the two hours. The suspense which the audience feels and the intense emotion felt are indications of how amazing the film really is. Congratulations Kathryn Bigelow, you are a genius.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Can an unoriginal film ever be classified as a great film? That is the question posed with “The Wolfman”. It can definitely be a good film, but nothing that is worthy of the highest praise. Of course, there are always exceptions, but “The Wolfman” does not feel as though it is. However, it is by no means a bad film. Joe Johnston does a great job at making a well made film out of an idea that has been done over and over in the past 100 years of film. In this 2010 version of “The Wolfman” (there have been numerous films relating the werewolves and wolf men over the years, too many to list here), Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns to his childhood town of Blackmoor in England to investigate the death of his brother. He is confronted with his father (Anthony Hopkins), who had a large hand in contributing to his disturbing childhood and also some disturbing revelations about himself and his family. There is no guessing what those revelations are.
On the whole, “The Wolfman” is very well made. The recreation of turn of the century England is extremely impressive and makes for a perfect period piece. The visuals of the film in each scene are captivating and aesthetically pleasing. A horror period piece is not a common breed of movie, as one only comes out every few years, and it is exciting to see the most recent perfect the period visually. The script isn’t bad and also captures the period piece, but the story is a typical werewolf story. It is highly predictable and can be quite silly. But these two criticisms are true to the film’s genre. The criticisms of the film are criticisms that could be applied to any film of its genre and any werewolf film both past and present. However, again, it is a good film for its genre.
The role of Lawrence Talbot for Benicio Del Toro is in some ways a different role to what he is typically seem playing. Del Toro takes on the gentleness of the grieving Talbot to begin with well, which is a change from the usual harsh quality of his roles. In some ways, he feels miscast as Sir John Talbot’s son, until he makes his transformation to the monster of the film. It is then obvious to see why he was cast in this role as physically, he is perfect for the role. “The Wolfman” is by far not Anthony Hopkins best role of his career, and is almost forgettable, if it wasn’t for some unsettling moments. Emily Blunt performs well, as she does in period dramas. Blunt is one of those rare young actresses who can successfully pull off characters from any time in history, although her role as Gwen here is like a non-regal version of the young queen she played in “The Young Victoria”. Hugo Weaving is a standout in the film in the role of Abberline. He is dark and sarcastic, but his wit makes him strangely endearing.
“The Wolfman” is definitely enjoyable to watch and if you take it as a horror film with the classic werewolf character, it is not a bad film at all. However, if you are expecting a suspenseful film with an ending that is surprising, there is a disappointment in store. “The Wolfman” is a highly anticipated film release and lives up to its expectation.