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…..you 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?