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.