Monday, December 12, 2011

New Year's Eve (2011)

New Year’s Eve
Year: 2011
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michelle, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Jessica Biel, Abigail Breslin, Jon Bon Jovi
Before I begin my review….
Wow, after I had written down the cast for New Year’s Eve, I thought to myself how impressive that list of actors really is.
There are a few Academy Award winners or nominees in that list, but those who aren’t…it is a who’s who of chick flicks really.  Sarah Jessica Parker is once again enjoying her time in New York City, Katherine Heigl plays the same film role she always does, Lea Michelle is belting out a tune and Zac Efron busts a move on the dance floor. Besides the winners/nominees circle where Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin belong, everyone is happy playing who they normally do.
My favourite thing about the movie? The bloopers reel. In my opinion, every comedy film should have a bloopers reel at the end. They just keep the laughs going right until the credits role. Honestly, some blooper reels are even funnier than the movies themselves. For the record if I was in a movie, my blooper reel would be like that of Halle Berry’s.
What did British film Love, Actually start?
Garry Marshall has continued his 2010 film Valentine’s Day with this year’s New Year’s Eve. What is this film designed to do? Not much else than the collaboration of some big names for box office draw and create some sort of feeling of optimism. Other than that, it is a completely faulted film with more wrong with it than right.
New Year’s Eve follows the much used film technique of a number of stories being told over a particular time period with characters who’s lives all link in with each other. It is New Years Eve in New York City and everyone is trying to get through the night of nights in their own way. The night doesn’t end up the way any of the characters expect and there are tears, smiles, laughter and, of course, that elusive midnight kiss.
The best thing about New Year’s Eve is it does have a party atmosphere which makes everyone in the audience ready for the party season. However, the ball has to drop for this to be felt.
The first half of the film is incredibly boring and slow which will only prompt you to check your watch.  No suspense is felt and none of the subplots are really that interesting.  It is more of the same old, same old chick flick stories you see rolled into one with no time for any real emotion and any connection as the film darts from one story to the next. 
The script is very lack lustre and relies on the sparkly glitter and confetti to make the film fun and enjoyable.
For a comedy, there isn’t very many actually funny moments. The moments in the film which are supposed to be funny are more just very forced and the jokes are really quite old. The blooper reel at the end of the film is funnier than the majority of the film.
None of the characters have absolutely any depth to them and people will walk away asking questions about the background of them, as there are definitely questions there to be asked. For example, how is Sarah Jessica Parker’s character of Kim Zac Efron’s Paul’s sister? There is at least an age difference of 20 years there. Some explanation of the family dynamics there would have been nice.
Hilary Swank, who plays the vice president of New Year’s Eve proceedings in Times Square Claire Morgan, starts off shaky and a bit rubbishy, grows into her role towards the end, helped by Robert De Niro who plays her father. Halle Berry is also quite good as Nurse Aimee, although her role is really very brief. It’s also good to see Abigail Breslin growing into a woman and still holding onto her acting talents.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Ingrid is so pathetic at times that she is just irritating and Efron is also completely irritating at times. Lea Michelle’s Elise seems like a whole lot of nothing besides a singing voice and her and Ashton Kutcher have absolutely no screen chemistry.
Katherine Heigl is once again, just Katherine Heigl.
New Year’s Eve is, if nothing else, relevant for this time of the year. Completely unmemorable and trying a bit too hard to be everything it’s un named predecessors were.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Ides Of March (2011)

The Ides Of March
Year: 2011
Director: George Clooney
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Before I begin my review…..
As awards season creeps closer, I and most probably all the other film geeks out there are expecting to see an increase in the calibre of films.
Honestly, I was expecting The Ides Of March to be one of the big contenders this year. Killer cast, director and a storyline that has a world of opportunities. Although there were actually some aspects of the film which I believe are quite magnificent, I’m hoping there are some films which are nominated and are of better calibre than this otherwise it symbolises a particularly mediocre year in film. I’m not saying I am writing The Ides of March off as far as Golden Globes and Oscars go as weirder things have happened and I know my opinions are not shared by everyone out there.
However, Ryan Gosling….I feel confident in saying that he will get a Golden Globe and perhaps even an Oscar nomination for either Drive or The Ides Of March.
How about some more predictions while I am at it? Either Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady or Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn will win the Best Female In A Leading Role. I haven’t seen either of the films yet so I may change my mind once I see them, but judging by the small parts of the film I have seen they are forces to be reckoned with. Plus Streep is long overdue for her next Oscar win and Williams is due for her first.
But let’s talk about The Ides Of March,
The Ides Of March is the perfect example how you can have everything it takes to make a brilliant film, yet it can be the script that can completely let you down.
Although there are some magnificent things about The Ides Of March such as the cinematography and a power house performance by Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov’s screenplay slows down the film at an alarming rate to point where it is just a chore to sit through.
Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is running for President with a powerful team behind him which is led by Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) and Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Stephen dedicates his life to politics and is committed to seeing Morris win the presidential race. He sees himself working in the White House, whether it is with Morris or not. After a meeting with the opposition parties campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) Stephen starts to wonder whether he would put his loyalties ahead of his ambition. Further complications arise with his relations with campaign intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) when she reveals a secret to him that changes everything.
The problem lies primarily with the screenplay. The story of The Ides Of March has so much potential. IT should be riveting and captivating. Yet nothing moves quickly in the film and it slows down the interest of the audience in return. It isn’t always a bad thing if a film is slow, but The Ides Of March has no suspense to it at all. Stephen’s situation in the film and the presidential race of Morris is worthy of suspense and the audience should feel the importance in their situations. However they don’t, it all just feels flat lined.
Clooney’s direction is a little inconsistent throughout the film. His choices of editing and cinematography have maestro moments and he brings out the best in his actors, yet he is partly to blame for the lack of suspense and urgency. The director should employ tactics to increases these features. Maybe he never knew they were lacking?
However, the cinematography is still very well done. One stunning image is of Gosling’s silhouette up against a huge American flag. So stunning it should have been the film’s official poster. The opening of the film is also visually stunning and very effective.
Ryan Gosling gives by far the most outstanding performance in The Ides Of March. He has such a range of emotions which he exhibits and his character has so many developments throughout the film. He goes from cocky, to unsure, to emotional, to broken and then back again. He carries the film so well and there is no doubt he is one of the best things about it.
Clooney directs himself well, but his performance is not one that goes above and beyond. His character doesn’t change at all throughout the film despite what happens to and around him. Philip Seymour Hoffman has some great moments, such as his hotel room discussion with Stephen.
 Evan Rachel Wood is okay, but not entirely convincing in the part she plays. You never quite figure out what type of girl she really is. She is a bit of an enigma. Marisa Tomei is very convincing in her role as journalist, Ida Horowicz. She is tough, but actually likable.
Not the worst film you will see this year by any means, but not enough to cross the line into the land of films you will not forget.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moneyball (2011)

Year: 2011
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robyn Wright
Before I begin my review…
Moneyball is a sports movie with a difference. Even though there is plenty of baseball romanticism, it shows that there is more to sport than what happens on the playing field. Probably a good thing we have a film like that as the sports movie where the losing team eventually becomes the winning team and everyone is left feeling happy is becoming very cliché and boring.
You have really got to hand it to Billy Beane for completely changing the way sports teams are run. This isn’t just restricted to baseball, you can see it in American grid iron football and even in rugby codes. Being a team is all about working together and not just having a few stars and back up dancers (if you can think of it that way).
However, Billy Beane and Brad Pitt really look nothing alike. I would’ve though Brad Pitt would have dyed his hair darker for the role at least.
And just for the hell of it, go Red Sox!!
Moneyball gives us the type of sports movie we have been waiting for since the likes of Jerry Maguire.
You cannot have a sports movie without some winning and losing and sports footage, but Moneyball shows what happens behind the scenes to those who sometimes miss out on all the credit.  It is the intelligent sports movie.
Ex baseball player and now General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is stuck with the tough job of rebuilding the team after their three star players leave at the end of the season. However, he has to do this on a tiny budget compared to all the other teams in the league which means not being able to afford players of the same calibre as the ones who have left. With his new Assistant General Manager, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) he devises a plan to focus more on runs rather than stars and is ridiculed and scorned by all those around him at the A’s.
The best thing about Moneyball is that it is intelligent. The script by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin is very well written and covers all bases.
This is director, Bennett Miller’s second feature length film (his first being the critically acclaimed Capote) and he has once again done a great job. The way he has assembled the script against the visuals and combined visuals of the A’s actual games and filmed cinema footage is commendable.
However, because Moneyball does focus so greatly on the script and the story, it is quite slow and many people will not quite appreciate the sequences of pure conversation with not much else happening.
Brad Pitt is fine as Billy Beane, although in some moments he is better than others. In the first half an hour, he isn’t quite convincing in his role. It seems as though he isn’t really acting, just sitting down and talking to his co-stars. His best moments in the film are the moments where he is in a fit of rage. In his defence though, it is not one of the hardest roles of his career and he does fine.
Jonah Hill gives a good performance as the brains behind Beane’s plan and embraces a character different to the ones he normally plays. Philip Seymour Hoffman is satisfactory in his role as the A’s team manager.
A sports film that not only sports fans will enjoy. One completely refreshing thing about Moneyball is that it is one of the only Hollywood films released this year where there isn’t a romance between two people subplot. Something to be rejoiced.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Drive (2011)

Year: 2011
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac
Before I begin my review…
                I have a brilliant idea.
                We all know how this year is the year of the Rabbit in Chinese astrology and next year is the year of the Dragon. I’m not necessarily into astrology for reasons which are my own and I’m not going to start a debate about it here, but I propose each year to be a year of a particular movie star. This “movie star” year is selected according the achievements of a particular movie star of that year. Not like the Oscars, as the Oscars are based on one performance. This is based on a year of work.
Only problem is that it is usually in the second half of the year that you notice that you have pretty much seen this actor in almost everything that year. You know what I mean. 2004 was the Year of Jude Law. His film roster that year included I Heart Huckabees, Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow, Closer, Alfie and The Aviator. That’s an impressive year. Unfortunately Movie Critical wasn’t in existence then, so seven years later we will declare 2004 the Year of Jude Law! Well done Jude!
Back to the present, I proclaim 2011 to be the Year of Ryan Gosling. He has had a big year. He has starred in Crazy Stupid Love, Drive and The Ides Of March, as well as short Quiet Ryan. It seems as if we have seen Gosling everywhere the past few months. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe at the beginning of 2011 for Blue Valentine.
What do we love best about Gosling? Not the so called “photo-shopped” chest which Emma Stone refers to in Crazy Stupid Love, but that he never gives anything less than 100% in every single one of his performances. He’s a good looking boy, but don’t let the looks fool you into thinking that that’s all he relies on in his movies. Just watch Drive.
Drive is an absolute sackful of surprises.
For the first half of the film, you think it is one type of the film. However at the halfway point it completely switches pace, rhythm and becomes a totally different film entirely. It may not be the change some are happily expecting, but it does allow intrigue and keeps up interest in the film.
Ryan Gosling’s Driver is a Hollywood stuntman by day and is a hired getaway driver for criminals at night. He lives a solitary life and avoids emotion of any kind. That is, until he meets his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). He finds himself becoming drawn to both of them, even when Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaacs) is released from prison which leads to inevitable complications with his emotions and profession.
Drive is very well directed by Nicholas Winding Refn. The cinematography is truly brilliant and he makes the most of every scene no matter how non-aesthetically pleasing the contents of that scene may be. Refn is a fan of the mirror reflection shot and this is used a great deal throughout the film.
There are aspects of Drive which seem extremely 1980’s, such as the pink handwriting at the beginning of the film and the somewhat retro music played throughout.
The first half of the film is quite slow, but is so in order to create character for the Driver and also for Irene and her family. However, once Standard and Driver team up the film does a complete 360 degree turn and changes entirely. It becomes fast paced and action packed and really quite violent. There are fragments of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde scene with the addition of a great deal more blood.
The car chases in the film are particularly memorable and prompt you to reach for your seatbelt like you are on a ride and afraid of falling out.
Ryan Gosling does a good job in his role, but you really wish you knew more about his character. However, it is interesting that for the lack of character development, you feel an instant relationship with the character from the first few scenes. His acting is really quite good for a character who doesn’t say much or show much emotion. You are able to see the subtle flicker of emotion in his eyes during the relevant scenes. Yet, you do wish at times that he might say a bit more.
Carey Mulligan never puts in a bad performance, but it doesn’t seem like the best role for her. She is sweet, but not a strong role really. Oscar Isaacs is believable and actually quite likable, which is a surprise for a criminal. Christina Hendricks doesn’t have a big role, but she doesn’t do badly. It is a big change from her Mad Men persona.
Not a typical “rev-head” movie so does draw in a wider audience. Not for those who cannot stand blood.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Year: 2011
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Sebastian Armesto,
Before I begin my review….
                So Anonymous isn’t sitting well with those at Stratford-Upon-Avon. I can’t imagine why (sarcasm intended here).
                Although I think the whole concept of Anonymous makes for a great story and conspiracy theory, I’m not really convinced. I know it is impossible for me to say with any great confidence as I was not alive in Tudor England (funny that) and therefore do not know any people who could have been involved in the “cover up”. All research I do on the internet on this subject is completely non-conclusive and doesn’t really present anything else that I hadn’t heard in Anonymous.               
                There is also no real evidence that Queen Elizabeth I gave birth to any illegitimate children let alone as many as they say in the film.  There’s always at least one commoner in history who wants to tell the whole world that they have or are*insert famous person name here* illegitimate child. In Tudor times there was no way to tell whether it was true or not unless the Queen herself came forth and said that it was true. It does sound like a fun idea to make believe, doesn’t it? You may get treated like royalty and may earn a few shillings! Or people may think you are crazy.
                Anyway, I am a fan of Shakespeare and of Tudor England so it was all fun and interesting to me either way.
                Was Shakespeare a fraud?
It doesn’t really matter when it comes down to it in this case, just as long as the film is entertaining and brings people into the cinemas. The subject matter is certainly interesting in Anonymous and the controversy surrounding it is enough to make people want to come in and find out what all the fuss is about. It is interesting enough, but there seems to be something missing.
In Tudor England under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), the stage is gaining in popularity with the emergence of actor turned play writer, William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall). However, Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) knows the truth…that Will Shakespeare is illiterate and all his plays were written by Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans). The Earl has to keep his name hidden due to his and his plays personal connection to royalty.      
There are some terrific moments in Anonymous and some moments where you wish the film would just hurry up and get on with it.
The opening of the film is an interesting choice by director Roland Emmerich. It does work as an introduction, but there are other more fitting ways the film could have begun that would have been more fitting for the story and time period. Some of the editing is also a bit of a strange choice and the flashback sequences are a bit erratic.
Visually, the whole film is stunning and it is a beautiful period piece. The costumes, especially those of the Queen, are amazing.
The script, written by John Orloff, is tight and very clever, never forgetting that this was taking part nearly 500 years ago and the language needs to always be appropriate of that time. It contains lots of historical fun facts and is a good learning experience for all the audience.
The part of the film that lacks the most is that it does go for about half an hour longer than what it should. It isn’t boring as a result as such, but more just takes a bit longer than what it should to get to the point.
There are some really credible performances in Anonymous, yet no actual feeling of being emotionally connected to any of the characters. Perhaps the only character you feel really attached to and have some sort of feeling to is Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford  as Rhys Ifans. This role is the best of his career so far and he is truly superb in it.
Mother and daughter team of Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson are wonderful as the young and older Queen Elizabeth.  Richardson brings out both the sweet and fiery side of the younger Elizabeth and Redgrave is completely memorable in her portrayal as the older Elizabeth. It is not often we see Elizabeth at the end of her reign on screen and she is wonderful.
Sebastian Armesto’s performance seems like it is almost supposed to be comical at times, even though this is not the intention. One of his first scenes when he bursts onto the stage in rage of his play being received wrongly, it almost seems like a Monty Python.
Jamie Campbell Bower is wonderful as the young Oxford and continues his good form and rise to fame with this film.
If not a little far-fetched and a little too long, still an interesting and half an entertaining watch.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Midnight In Paris

Year: 2011
Director:  Woody Allen
Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody
Before I begin my review…..
You know, there is a difference between thinking a film is a good film and truly liking it. Of course the two can usually come hand in hand with each other, but you can walk away from a film saying “Yes, it was good”, but it is different to walk away and saying “I really loved that film!”
Being a reviewer, I see many films that I know are great films and because I am a fan of great film, I do like them. Yet that doesn’t mean that I am going to put the film on my list of all-time favourite films.
On my list of favourite films, there are many films which I would consider great film, others which I know perfectly well won’t end up on any “Greatest Films Of All Time” lists…except mine. These are the films which you think are great films, but you have that extra emotional attachment to them because they strike an interest with you or you can relate to them.
Why am I talking about this? Because I loved Midnight In Paris! It is a good film, not one of the best films at the year or a contender for the Academy Awards (but I wouldn’t mind seeing it as one!), but it had a lot of me in it. I love the city of Paris, I loved all the literary and art maestro’s in the film and I love films that take you back to the glory days or yesteryear. Yes, I do want to live in Paris in the 1920’s. And if I do, I want to look and dress like Marion Cotillard.
Here is my review…
It’s been a long time since Woody Allen has made a critically acclaimed film and you may have heard that Midnight In Paris is his best film in decades. You may like to know that this is true.
Woody Allen is completely back to form in Midnight In Paris. He has discharged the trends in the films he has made in the past 10 years which were still selling cinema tickets, but clearly not working for him. Midnight In Paris is subtle but charming and very sweet. It is almost like a modern day fairy tale with the all-important moral of the story at the end. New territory for Allen, but it works.
                Hollywood screen writer, Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams) are on a trip to Paris. Gil, who is struggling to write his first novel, falls in love with the city, while Inez is quite the opposite and doesn’t romanticize Paris the way her fiancé does, except if it includes her friends and in particular old flame, Paul (Michael Sheen). Gil decides to take a night walk back to their hotel while Inez goes out dancing, and he finds that Paris comes alive at midnight.
                It is completely obvious within the first five minutes that Allen is in love with Paris the same way he is with New York. His montage of Parisian landmarks and Parisian life is a wonderful way to set the scene and make the audience fall in love with the city.  His cinematography of the city is loving and beautiful.
                People who are not fans of Allen’s past work will still enjoy Midnight In Paris, as it is completely different from the majority of his films. It hasn’t got the same “weird” vibe as most people describe his films as having. It is a load of fun, and helps if you know a bit about great writers and artists of the early twentieth century to make it all the more fun. Some people may find it all just a bit silly and the concept completely ludicrous, but there is no doubt it is entertaining.
                The script is very clever for a subject which is actually quite simple when it comes down to it. The concept of going back in time is not a new one, but it seems completely fresh in this film and Allen does a wonderful job of recreating both turn of the century Paris and 1920’s Paris.
                What the best thing about Owen Wilson’s role in this film as opposed to his past roles, is that he comes across a lot more natural than usual. He is often criticised for giving forced roles where she seems like he is trying too hard to be funny, but here he is just completely at ease. He gives one of his best performances in years.
                Wilson and Rachel McAdams are completely mismatched on screen, which means that they have achieved their objective. Unfortunately, she is not quite as believable as the hard to handle fiancé. She seems like she still really wants to be nice so her performance does feel forced.
                Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston are a real treat as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Adrien Brody is hilarious as Salvador Dali. Marion Cotillard is charming as usual and completely at home in her city of Paris.
                A wonderful treat, especially for those who love Paris.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Three Musketeers

Year: 2011
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Cast: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz
Before I begin my review……
                It’s insane how many times The Three Musketeers can be remade and the characters can be featured in different films, and they can still be a huge box office draw.
                I did a quick search and The Three Musketeers have been made into nearly 30 films in at least four different languages including English, Spanish and Danish. Disney have, of course, had a go at it, as has Japanese anime. The characters of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan also appear in such films as 1998’s The Man In The Iron Mask. 
                The words The Three Musketeers are known to everyone, whether you have seen the films are not. They still capture the heart of adventure lovers from every generation.
                I guess The Three Musketeers is like many other remade adventure/ action movies these days. Film makers want to remake them as when they watch the original, they think to themselves “Imagine what we could do with thus film with all the film techniques we have available to us these days”.
                The 2011 version is definitely an example of “Hey! Look what we can do now!”
                2011 seemed about time to make another The Three Musketeers, so why not? Just don’t expect too much different from other films of the same name as far as the story goes, visually except so much more!         
                Young D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is the son of a once Musketeer and travels from country France to Paris to become one himself. When he arrives, he finds that the three Musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are not quite as popular and heroic as he once thought. However, when Lord Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) visits from England, he and Athos’ once love, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) scheme to steal a diamond necklace from Queen Anne (Juno Temple). The Musketeers embark on an adventure to England to claim back what belongs to France.
                The Three Musketeers is one of those adventure films with plenty of corn cheese to it. It is very unrealistic with fights in air ships, fighting on top of English and French landmarks and blowing these landmarks to pieces. But hey, true story adventures were never this fun, right?
                Everything is very over the top, there is backing music to accompany every situation, even if it makes everything just seem all the more ridiculous. The graphics and special effects are very good and enhanced by 3D. However, some special effects visuals don’t look quite as realistic they could be.
                The musical score is very good and the sword fighting scenes are impressively choreographed. 
                Logan Lerman does well as the young D’Artagnan and Macfadyen, Stevenson and Evans are all very good as the Musketeers. Lerman, Macfadyen and Stevenson do very well with each of their characters and you know the true self of each of them. Evans lacks a tad in this area as you don’t really know where his character fits in personality wise with the others.
                Christoph Waltz is, as always, at home in the role of the villain. Not quite as evil as his previous roles of late, but still convincing as the Cardinal. Orlando Bloom impresses as Buckingham. Bloom isn’t known for playing the villainous roles, but he is completely convincing here and actually very entertaining to watch.
                Milla Jovovich is perhaps the most over-emphasised character. Absolutely everything about her character is completely overdone. Every facial expression and line she says just has a little too much in it.
                The Three Musketeers is this time around just as entertaining as the previous versions. Nowhere near the best version and not really very memorable, but entertaining enough.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Contagion (2011)

Year: 2011
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard
Before I begin my review………
Contagion is not a movie for hypochondriacs or those who are obsessive compulsive.
If you think you are sick all the time and are constantly worried that you are going to catch something somehow, Contagion will only fuel the fire.
I don’t consider myself a hypochondriac or obsessive compulsive, but this movie had the ability to make me paranoid. When Kate Winslet’s character, Dr Erin Mears said “The average person touches their face 3000 times a day”, I immediately became aware of how many times I touched my face or whenever someone around me did.
One of the first signs of the virus in the film is the presence of a cough. There were some coughers in the cinema, and my heart skipped a beat every time I heard one of them.
I suppose these reactions I had to the film are just an indication of how realistic Contagion is. It is now a few hours since I saw the film and the more time elapses, the more disturbing I find it. The dislodging of your emotions in a film is always a sign of a good film. You may enjoy the film or not, but the fact is that if a film makes you feel a way you weren’t feeling when you walked in the cinema, then it is doing something right.
Contagion is Steven Soderbergh back to his best.
Soderbergh rejuvenates his ability to unsettle his audience while they are completely unaware as they are completely taken by his brilliant film-making skills.
Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip to Hong Kong with what she thinks is a bad case of the flu combined with jet lag. It is clearly not, as Beth and her young son both collapse into seizures and die within a few days. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon) is determined to find out what happened to his wife. The virus spreads rapidly around the globe and with millions affected and scientists cannot find a cure quick enough.
Although Contagion can be considered a suspense film, the film goes deeper than just being a race against the disease. Contagion is a scary dose of the mortality of humans and how society acts when faced with their mortality.  The realism in the film is incredible. Soderbergh’s direction makes you feel like you are right there when everything happens.
However, Contagion does lack something which a suspense film normally excels at, pace.  The first half of the film is the perfect pace, while the second half completely slows down and makes it feel longer than its 106 minutes. Yet this is Soderbergh taking time to show the stages society goes through and what the virus does to each of the characters emotionally.  This period of the film does come across as a time where not much is really happening, but look deeper to see what Contagion is really trying to tell you.
The musical score is fantastic and completely suits the atmosphere of the film. The beginning sequence of the film is the perfect way to begin the film and heightens your curiousity and interest straight away.
There is not one actor who puts in a bad performance in Contagion. Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne are perfect in their roles, but these three actors seem to be a rare breed of actor who can clearly just not give a bad performance.
Jude Law is also a real stand out with a role which is very different to his usual role. His character of Alan Krumwiede is very interesting. He plays the part well of the “journalist” who completely takes advantage of the situation, or so it seems.
Matt Damon is probably the only lead actor who you feel could have given more in his role. He isn’t quite as grief stricken as he should be considering his wife and stepson have just died. The relationship with his daughter, Jory played by newcomer, Anna Jacoby-Heron, doesn’t seem at all realistic. However, Jacoby-Heron is one to watch out for.
Contagion may not be a film for those who are worried about their mortality and health and will unsettle you, but there is no denying that it is very well made and a piece of art.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Lion King 3D- Absolutely timeless

The Lion King 3D
Year: 1994
Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Cast: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg
In My Own Words
I was in my last year at primary school when The Lion King was first released back in 1994. When that infamous first note of “Circle Of Life”, memories from that year of my life came flooding back to me. I felt like I was that eleven year old watching the classic Disney film for the first time.
The good news for Disney fans, is that today Disney announced that they will also be releasing The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and Finding Nemo also in 3D in the future! Hooray! One of the great things about when I was younger was that Disney would re-release their old films to the cinemas. I remember seeing such films as 101 Dalmatians, Fox And The Hound, Lady And The Tramp and Snow White And The Seven Dwarves at the cinemas as re-releases. I can’t remember when exactly this stopped, but it is something I missed. There is always something magic about seeing Disney classics on the big screen. So exciting times are ahead!
These are my own words and here is my review.
Seventeen years after it was first seen in cinemas, The Lion King appears again. This time in the ever present 3D.
The honest truth is The Lion King is really a beautiful movie that all ages can enjoy. Whether Disney has re-released it in 3D or not, it still would have pulled in the same audience numbers which it has. The 3D is just an excuse for Disney to re-release The Lion King, when in all truth they really didn’t need an excuse.
The Lion King is all about lion cub Simba (with the voice talents of once Home Improvement star Jonathan Taylor Thomas as young Simba and Matthew Broderick as older Simba), who “just can’t wait to be king”. When his evil uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons) plots to kill his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Simba so he can take the crown for himself, Simba escapes into a life of exile unable to face his guilt. He lives a carefree and problem free life until his childhood lion cub friend, Nala (Moira Kelly) shows up and Simba is forced to face his past.
Disney do as much with the 3D as they possibly can with this film that was made when 3D was only something you experienced when you went to a theme park. It doesn’t make a big difference to the film, but when you notice the 3D it is impressive. However, it doesn’t enhance or add to the film. The graphics and colours are gorgeous in themselves of the African landscape and don’t need any help from 3D.
The Lion King charms as it always has. The music by Hans Zimmer is a strong point with songs which have been sung now for well over a decade.
Disney has an amazing ability to take a story of talking lions fighting over who is the king of the pride which does sound pretty silly when you say it like that, and make it into a film which does seem corny or silly in any way. It’s a movie children love, but adults also love. It’s a movie which those who were children when it first came out, remain loyal fans to throughout their lives. They grow up, but their love for The Lion King and other such Disney films remain a constant in their lives.
Absolutely timeless.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monte Carlo- Sickly sweet cotton candy

Monte Carlo
Year: 2011
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Cast: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith
In My Own Words
                Some people refuse to see movies in the school holidays because of the havoc that occurs in the cinemas throughout that period. However, I find it quite an opportunity for interesting observation really.
                So my first movie to watch during this school holiday period in Sydney was Monte Carlo. It was the 10:30 session on the first day of school holidays so I wasn’t expecting it to be overly full with school kids and teenagers, I thought they may want to sleep in on their first day off.
But I was wrong. The cinema was full with girls ranging in age from 10 to 18. I have to say it’s been years since I was in such an audience at a cinema. The last time was probably when I was in that age bracket. It was quite an interesting audience to observe. There was much giggling and a lot of talking during the film about how Selena Gomez was crying because Justin Bieber wasn’t there and when the object of the girls affection was going to show up and save the day.
An interesting thing I found was how different girls in this age bracket act when at the movies and the opposite sex isn’t there. I’ve had many experiences where I’ve been in the same cinema as boys and girls of that age bracket and it was far less pleasant. The guys show off by mocking the characters in the film and making funny sounds, while the girls laugh at all the jokes and laugh at serious moments in the film. As I said, it’s been awhile since I witnessed these girls in a cinema without the opposite sex, and I find them not quite as obnoxious as I thought they were. It’s all just an act for the opposite sex!
Was I ever like that too?
These are my own words and here is my review.
Monte Carlo is the teenage girl’s dream from the onset. Cast wise it is a combination of Disney, Gossip Girl and Glee placed in French locations, and these may well be the only reasons people will appreciate Monte Carlo.
The film is very predictable and cliché, as well as very over the top with its prettiness. It perfectly caters towards its target audience, but anybody who isn’t a female between the ages of 10 and at the very most 18 will find this piece of cotton candy sickly sweet.
Grace (Selena Gomez), her friend Emma (Kate Cassidy) and her step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester) travel from Texas to Paris only to find out that the organised tour they are part of is an absolute disaster. When a case of mistaken identity occurs and Grace is mistaken for troubled heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also Gomez), the girls are presented with a chance of a lifetime to travel to Monte Carlo and stay for a week in complete luxury.  Each of the girls falls head over heels for the city and the men they find in it. However, things were never going to go smoothly when the real Cordelia Winthrop Scott shows up.           
The best thing about Monte Carlo is the backdrop of Paris and then of Monte Carlo. Seeing these two places on the big screen is enough to want to pack your bags and be off. However, the introduction of these towns on the screen by placing its name on the screen is very 1950’s/60’s, but not in a good way. It’s very out dated.
The script is extremely cheesy and the outcome completely predictable. The film is just so focused on giving its stars screen time and showing off all the fashion and gorgeous landmarks, that it forgets about doing anything else well.
The performances aren’t of a great standard really. Gomez is sweet but bland as Grace and she is actually more interesting when she is playing the obnoxious Cordelia. Leighton Meester has some good moments but she doesn’t come across as quite so bad as everyone makes out. Yes she complains a lot of the time, but the role could have afforded some of the evil she brings to the TV screen as Blair Waldorf. Katie Cassidy’s performance is so forced and quite irritating really and Cory Monteith, who plays her Texan boyfriend, doesn’t really seem to be acting, more just walking through the film saying lines. Some may say its natural, some may say it’s boring.
Monte Carlo is extremely audience specific. An extremely girly film which will satisfy the need for all the adolescent females who are looking for something to do over the school holidays. Nobody else really.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cowboys And Aliens- The hybrid you never though you would see, but doesn't matter if you don't

Cowboys And Aliens
Year: 2011
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
In My Own Words
                Genre hybridity. It makes all things possible.
I first learnt about genre hybridity, which in colloquial terms means when a film belongs in two sections at the DVD store, in the basics of film studies at university a couple of years ago. A classic could be a comedy or a drama, a drama could also be a thriller and a western could also be an action.
But a western being a hybrid with a sci-fi? That example was never in Film Studies 101!
The interesting thing about Cowboys and Aliens is that I truly believe it couldn’t have been made any time before the 21st century. The special effects that were available before this period in time would not have been adequate to make this film anything but a B grade film. Could you just imagine John Wayne on his horse with a UFO on a string behind him?
The CGI available now to film makers who have the major bucks to use the top equipment makes this hybrid actually work. Sure it is not the most realistic concept, but when was a sci-fi ever realistic? You have to admit, the concept is kind of cool. This is probably the only time you will ever see western and sci-fi fanatics unite in the same theatre for something which a film which is right up both their alleys.
These are my own words and here is my review.
                Cowboys And Aliens? Many would have thought that Jon Favreau was headed for disaster just with a film concept like that, but hey, there’s no reason that aliens exist they didn’t do so in 1873 in a small town in Arizona!
Yet, pulling off a somewhat complicated genre collision doesn’t mean a great movie is created. Favreau obviously needs to be complimented for taking on such an adventurous project and pulling it off, but… can’t have any sort of a good action film with no suspense.
A cowboy (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert with no recollection of who he is or where he has been, but with a strange metal bracelet around his wrist. He stumbles into the small town of Absolution, which has trouble written over it. However, the trouble soon doesn’t just involve cowboys and outlaws and barmen. Absolution is being targeted from the night’s sky as well.
Cowboys And Aliens is a passable film. The pros and cons are equal with each other. The major pro is that the film is that visually the film is pretty amazing. The special effects are very well done and the western landscape and the town of Absolution are exquisite.
Another great thing about Cowboys And Aliens is that it stays true to both of its genres. There are the right signs there for a western such as the old western bar, shoot outs and the music that would accompany a western. And then there is obviously the signs of the sci-fi, which are aliens and advanced technology far beyond the comprehension of those who come to encounter it. It is a very successful meshing of genres.
However, the big downfalls of Cowboys And Aliens are that it is not suspenseful at all and the middle of the film is really quite tedious. It is very hard to remember what happened in the film between the initial attacks of the aliens and the finale. And if it is hard to remember, one can only conclude that it was boring and nothing really happened. As a result of this black hole, the film is just very slow and there is no urgency or suspense as to what will happen.That’s never a good thing to hear about a film.
Favreau cast his characters well. Each of the major actors is perfectly at home in a western. Daniel Craig pulls off the mysterious unidentified cowboy well. There isn’t too much emotion there in the moments it is warranted, but the majority of the time emotion is not really needed with his hard-front character. Harrison Ford is just a veteran of adventure films, so here he is in his element. Another hard fronted character which Ford really has no problem doing.
Cowboys And Aliens show that these days any genre hybrids are possible, but they don’t ensure a complete success as a film.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Help review- Is it wrong for a serious matter to be beautified?

Year: 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
In My Own Words
                Ron Howard has got one talented daughter.
                Don’t get me wrong, I think all the actors in The Help are very talented women and I have a tremendous respect for each one of them, but Bryce Dallas Howard is one actor I have kept my eye on for the past few years.
                I know M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village has a lot of haters, but I didn’t mind it. It was one of those films people went into expecting a horror film with a lot of blood and guts, monsters and ghosts. So if you were expecting that and weren’t open to anything else, then yes, you would be disappointed. I liked it because it was actually a really good period piece film and it had a difference to it. And Ms Howard’s breakout performance as the blind, wise girl was extremely memorable.
                Since then, I have been waiting for another performance like that from her. Manderlay and As You Like It weren’t bad, as wasn’t The Loss of A Diamond Teardrop. However, I had been waiting for her to take on meatier role to show her true talents. In The Help, she does a great job at the sweet but evil Hilly Holbrook and I was so pleased to see her in this role. I still believe she has more in her than what we have seen though. Get her in the right role and she is one of the future Academy Award winners. How’s that for a big prediction?
                These are my own words and here is my review.
                If you want to see how perfect character development in films should be done, it is right here in The Help.
                The characters in The Help are so well constructed that you as the viewer truly feel as though you have made true friends and enemies in the space of 146 minutes. The acting is brilliant, as is the background of the south in the early 1960’s. The only drawback is that it can be a little bit too pretty at times for a film which has very serious undertones. It isn’t all doom and gloom though.
                Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is an aspiring writer in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, a time when women weren’t supposed to want a career, just a husband. After approaching, the maid of one her friends, Aibileen (Viola Davis) for help with her column, she realises how much Jackson’s help has to tell. Skeeter undertakes the ambitious and dangerous task of writing a book from the point of the Help about the white families they work for. The further Skeeter explores, the more she sympathizes with the Help and realizes the evil that is all around her in Jackson.
                Kathryn Stockett’s novel is brought to life in brilliant fashion. The time period of the 1960’s in the south is very well represented. It is startling revelation to many that this time of unease and cruelty was not so long ago. There are some startling and very emotional moments throughout The Help, but also some comedic and triumphant moments. The script provides some memorable moments as well, particularly when the Help are telling their stories.
                Visually, the film is rather gorgeous. The town of Jackson is picturesque and the town’s milk bars make you long for that part of the 60’s with the music of the times blaring while you drank your milkshake. The classic Cadillacs are a novelty and the costumes for the women are stunning.
The only problem is that these things can make the film a little too pretty. The poster for The Help is bright yellow, which is a funny colour the make a poster of a film where the main subject is the cruelty towards the coloured Help, as yellow normally symbolises happiness. The lives of the white women in Jackson come across as enviable as visually everything looks so perfect and fun and pretty for the female audience. It turns The Help into a chick film based purely on the visuals. It does seem strange for Tate Taylor to make a film with content like this so pretty, but it does open it up to a larger audience of females of all ages by doing so. However, making the film so “pretty” does take away the seriousness of the full picture.
                The characters are wonderful. The best thing is you know exactly who all the characters are and where they have come from. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer give tremendous performances and they are so real. You know the background of each of the characters and you feel connected to the two of them and feel everything they go through.
                Emma Stone does well in a role that is unlike her comedic roots. She has one very touching moment when she finds out the truth about her old maid. Bryce Dallas Howard is great as the sweet and sour Hilly Holbrook. Her character is the type of person every fears, the one people feel they have to be friends with because otherwise they will tear you to shreds. Both her and Stone are completely natural in their roles.
                Jessica Chastain, who plays Celia Foote, does well at times, but her character does come across as a bit too silly and plays the dumb blonde stereotype a bit too over the top. The small roles in which the men of the film have portray the white men of Jackson to be just as much dumb blondes as what Chastain’s character is.
                Enjoyable and visually fun, but is it wrong for something of such a serious matter to be visually fun?