Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Django Unchained

Year: 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington

Before I begin my review….


Where do you go from that name? His directorial style is one of the most recognisable in this day and age. He is one of a kind. He is able to do things in his movies that if other people attempted to do, they would be criticised till the cows come home. Yet, when Quentin Tarantino does it, it is considered genius.

Tarantino’s last two films, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained have taken him in a new direction with his film making. He does historical films in such a unique way. He doesn’t neglect what makes his film making style recognisable and remembers that making a film is about entertaining as well as informing. Both of the mentioned films are quirky in the Tarantino way, but quirky when you are Tarantino means brilliant.

Honestly, this is one film I would love to see win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  I think it has everything it takes to win. So it aches to say that I don’t think it is the winner, even though I would love it to be. It may just still be a little too extreme to win. However, it definitely is one of the best films of the year and there are no complaints about it being one of the nine films nominated.

This being said, I think it is a certainty to win Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For Screen. Yes, Tarantino did win this award at the Golden Globes so chances are good for him, but it is an amazing script. Brilliantly written and a verbal dream.

Another name which is right up there is an Oscar contender is Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor.  His main competition it would seem is Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, but as Lincoln has yet to be released in Australia, I can’t make an informed decision as of yet. I will say that Waltz’s performance in Django Unchained is Oscar worthy. We’ve seen Waltz play the bad guy on a few occasions now, but here he shows his versatility playing the good guy and does so with so much character and charisma that when you leave the cinema, you feel like you want to go and visit him to spend more time with that character.

26 days till the 85th Academy Awards, five more Best Picture nominees to review.


American history gets the Quentin Tarantino treatment in Django Unchained and for that we are thankful.

Django Unchained is thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. It has heroes to root for and villains to hate, a gripping story and killer script. Like any other Tarantino film, nothing is done with subtlety. Yet, like other Tarantino films, this lack of subtlety is what makes his films so entertaining and the art of film is not lost on his visual extremes.

The year is 1858 and slave, Django (Jamie Foxx)is about to become a free man. German bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) takes Django under his wing to help him find a set of wanted men, but then seeing promise in him makes him his partner for the winter. As a condition, Dr Schultz will help Django find and free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Before Django and Broomhilda can be together, they have some life-threatening hurdles they must face all in the form of plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The Tarantino technique of film making makes viewing a historical film unlike any other film in the same category. The way he combines, in this case, brilliant dialogue by colourful characters with amazing cinematography, crazy images and a unique musical score is an absolute winner.

It is not often you watch a historical film that has music which is associated with the present time accompanying it and it actually works for it. Images of slaves heading towards a plantation with rap music playing in the background is something you know isn’t right, but it seems perfect.

The script is just brilliant. The dialogue used throughout the film is perfect for each of the characters and very interesting to listen to. There are some very funny lines in the film, and one scene in particular involving cutting holes in sheets is hilarious.

The characters created by Tarantino, who also wrote Django Unchained as well as directed, are just fantastic. All the main characters have a background and their development is fantastic. You love the good guys and hate the bad guys. The good guys become your friends and the bad guys your evil enemies.

Jamie Foxx is very good as lead, Django (the “D” is silent). He is the perfect example of wonderful character development. He starts off at the bottom of the food chain and you see him change and become arrogant, and then changes again to ensure survival. Django becomes like a rock star who deserves applause and cheering.

However, Christoph Waltz is in a class of his own here. Even though he is being categorised as being in a supporting role, he outshines Foxx in every scene he is in. He has so much charisma and is such an interesting character. Dr Schultz was written so well by Tarantino and brought to life by Waltz in spectacular fashion. This is one director/actor team that can do no wrong, considering this is the second time Tarantino has directed Waltz and could well be the second Oscar win form this partnership.

Django Unchained is the first film in which Leonardo DiCaprio has taken on a villainous character and proved that…yes….this man can do anything. He is terrifying. There is nothing better than when a character is terrifying without needing a scary physical appearance to add to this perception.

Samuel L. Jackson is one that tends to flourish under Tarantino’s light as well. Here he is another great character. Playing Candie’s butler, Stephen, he has hints of being a good guy, but is ultimately evil. He is quite evil, but also provides a few giggles.

Don’t be fooled, this is Tarantino film so there is violence. If you didn’t his earlier films because of the violence and language, don’t think that he has changed this. There is lots of blood spilt and F-bombs dropped, but they aren’t the centrepiece of the film and there is a great movie around it.

Django Unchained is Tarantino’s best film to date (which is no light comment). A quirky film in which everything is exaggerated, but done in the most brilliant way possible.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly

Before I begin my review….

On the eve of the 85th Academy Awards nominations announcement (when being in Australia I stayed up until 12:30am to find them out), a friend of mine asked if I had any predictions for the nominations.

My prediction was that some nominations are pretty predictable and don’t vary too much from the Golden Globe nominations, but there is usually one film that people consider a surprise because it didn’t really have a representation in the Golden Globes. Beasts Of The Southern Wild is that film for 2012/13.

In all honestly, I can’t say I was particularly surprised that Beasts Of The Southern Wild, director Benh Zeitlin and it’s gorgeous lead star, Quvenzhane Wallis have been nominated. With the bucket load of awards it has won at film festivals and the buzz it created, there was plenty of talk floating around on the net that this film could well be an Oscar contender.

The Golden Globe nominations were released and there was no sign of Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Now this isn’t the first time the Globes’ have ignored a film which made an impact on the nominations at the Oscars. There are many examples, but let’s look at more recent example in the Coen brothers, True Grit. The film got nominated for no Golden Globes at all, yet got nominated for a massive 10 Academy Awards including Motion Picture of The Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Performance by an Actor In A Leading Role and Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role. Again, I wouldn’t call it a surprise in my eyes when the Academy Award nominations were released as True Grit is a fantastic film and one of my all-time favourites.

Anyway, so my verdict about this movie as far as actually winning the awards goes. Well, I can’t actually see it winning any of the four awards it is up for. Not because this isn’t a very good film, but it is a tough competition at the top.

Quvenzhane Wallis may have the biggest chance of winning and, at her nine years of age, she will go down in history as being the youngest person ever to win a competitive Oscar if she does. It is truly amazing for someone as young as her to almost carry the whole movie herself and give such an amazing performance at such a young age.

Is there any chance of the academy bring back the Juvenile Award which Judy Garland won back in 1940?

It was worth a try anyway…..


Beasts Of The Southern Wild has a rare type of beauty not often seen in films.

Told through the eyes of a beautiful, young and innocent soul, Beasts Of The Southern Wild combines harsh realities of life with fantasy and makes you start to see the true beauty in life that we sometimes miss. There is nothing better than seeing movie that just happens to be one of those things of true beauty.

Six year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives in a bayou on the edge of the world with her hot-headed father, Wink (Dwight Henry). When he father disappears and then returns with an illness, the world starts to crumble around her with storms raging and icecaps melting, which releases the mystical aurochs. In order to survive, Hushpuppy learns about how life is not always kind, but that in order to survive you need courage and love for those around you.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild is such an original film and has you entranced from the first few minutes when you see that beautiful scene of Hushpuppy with her sparklers. A completely fitting opening to the film by showing the youth and innocence of Hushpuppy running around with her sparklers without a care in the world.  This is just the beginning of some extraordinary cinematography in the film.

Another great thing about this film is that it is party fantasy, but very rarely does it seem like that. There is a magical quality to it, but nothing is done in an exaggerated fashion to suggest that it is unlike real life. Of course there is the aurochs, but they don’t seem entirely out of place in the surroundings.

The score is also beautiful and adds to the overall beauty of the film. The southern wild is visually very interesting to watch. The bayou in which Hushpuppy lives in, Bathtub is full of quirkiness. Her household is like a mini museum.

It is incredible how well Quvenzhane Wallis carries the film. Her age is not an issue when it comes to being the lead and being in almost every scene. The way her character develops throughout the film is incredible. She starts off as being a little girl, but when her father leaves, she steps into the shoes of being the head of her “house”. How much her character develops is completely evident in the scene when they have taken her into the hospital. She stands there in a little girl’s pink dress, but through your eyes, you are seeing a grown woman in little girl’s clothes not able to communicate with the other children as she far too advanced for them.

It is a wonderful film debut by Wallis and she has a very bright future ahead of her.

By the end of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, you are feeling full of love and you know that if a little girl can be so courageous, we all have the same strength inside us.

A thing of true beauty.


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Impossible (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast

Before I begin my review….
This movie was not an easy watch, and I knew it wouldn’t be. However, I promised myself I would see as many of the Academy Award nominees before the 24th of February as I can, if not all. I can’t let all of you down! I must do this!

As soon as The Impossible finished, the one thing I really wanted to do was hug my husband and son. The movie struck a personal chord with me being a family woman like Naomi Watts’ character, Maria. It could drive me to insanity being put in a situation where I was separated from my family and didn’t know whether they were alive or dead. I’m the type of person who would see something like the tsunami or the fires which are happening in Australia at the moment, and I have to switch it off because of the terrible stories that come out of it. I just tears me up inside. So after seeing The Impossible, I just wanted to go home and hug my loved ones a little tighter.

So let’s talk Academy Awards before I start my review. This is Naomi Watts’ second nomination in the Best Actress In A Leading Role category, her first being for 21 Grams in 2004.

Honestly, she is brilliant and this is her best work to date. I do believe Watts is better in The Impossible than she was in 21 Grams and her work in this film is Oscar worthy. However, I can’t make a decision on whether she will win the Academy Award as I have only seen one other performance in this category, which is that of Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts Of The Southern Wild (which I will be reviewing next).Two very different performances.

As I said though, I don’t want to make a prediction of who I think is going to win this category until I have seen all four performances.

No doubt Watts is very much deserving of this nomination though.

It is impossible to not be affected on an emotional level by The Impossible.

It is an incredible film, but a terrible film because it deals with something so intense and heart-breaking and has the potential to make you feel as though you have been hit by a bus when you leave the cinema.

On Boxing Day 2004, a tsunami hit south-east Asia which caused widespread devastation along the coast.
The Impossible is based on the true story of one of the holidaying families who were affected by the great natural disaster. Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry Belon (Ewan McGregor) took their three young sons to Khao Lok for an exotic Christmas holiday. They are sitting by the resort’s pool when they hear the dreaded roar of the wave, before it appears wiping out everything in its path. Henry and the two younger boys remain in the vicinity of the hotel, while Maria and Lucas (Tom Holland) are swept away. The whole family fight for survival and in doing so learn about what is really important in life and dream of the time when they are all finally reunited.

Like the Bennett’s, The Impossible reminds you in a very brutal fashion what is important in this life. It is extremely moving and the emotion of the film cuts you to the core. The fact that this is a true story makes it even more intense. The great thing about the story and what makes it suspenseful is that at no point in time are you sure whether all five members of the family will ever be together again.

The film begins in a really interesting fashion. It almost has a horror movie feel to it, as you know the tsunami is the horror of the film and you know the film is building up to it. The black screen with the beginning credits is accompanied by the sounds of the ocean getting louder and louder. A serene and calm beach appears, and the image is interrupted by the deafening and surprising roar of a plane. It is an interesting choice by director, Juan Antonio Bayona, but one that works.

The cinematography is great. The recreation of the tsunami is incredible. The underwater shots of the wave are chaotic and give a dizzy effect, which is just like it would be underwater.

However, as to be expected, there are some very graphic visuals. There is no holding back in the hospital scenes and the injuries which Maria sustains are quite disturbing.

Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are incredible in the two lead roles. Watts gives the performance of her career thus far. She is incredibly powerful and gives an amazingly realistic portrayal as a mother who would lay her life down for her children, but who’s strength is fading fast.

 Watts is deserving of her Oscar nomination, but it is a shame that Ewan McGregor hasn’t been acknowledged in the same way. His performance isn’t quite as graphic or confronting as Watts’, but he does give one of his best dramatic performances of his career. Again, he plays a father trying not to let his young sons see him falling apart, but when he does, it in heart-breaking.

Tom Holland is a star to watch. He is wonderful to watch, and the best thing about his character is that he has amazing character development. Lucas starts off as a typical teenage boy, and develops into a man in a short time.

A beautiful cameo by Geraldine Chaplin is also commendable.

There is nothing subtle about The Impossible. Everything is done to the extreme so it portrays the true horrors endured by this family.  Very hard-hitting and emotionally draining, but very well made and very hard to discard from your thoughts.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Hitchcock (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy, Jessica Biel, Toni Collette

Before I begin my review…
Let me have a selfish moment, I was so, so excited about Hitchcock considering I am a HUGE Alfred Hitchcock fan.
HUGE as in the man is my all-time favourite director. In a time where something a little too different in a film was considered not risky but just plain wrong, Hitchcock was the only director who could try something different in his films and be considered an absolute genius. He embraced film as the art form that it is as well as wanting to completely enthral his audience.
Like all old Hollywood films, actors and directors, it upsets me how so many people these days are ignorant to his genius. They only know bits and pieces about the great man. As much as I love Psycho, there are a lot of people out there who have just heard about the movie and haven’t even seen it. Then they assume that Hitchcock was primarily a horror film maker as they just think of the Psycho shower scene. He was the master of suspense and yes, Psycho and The Birds are considered horror films, but the large majority of his film catalogue are categorised as mystery and thriller.
Take for example someone I once served when working in retail.
My co-worker: Are you a Hitchcock fan?
Myself: Yes, I am a Hitchcock fan
Customer: What, you're a fan of being scared?
Myself: I'm just a fan of good film making
(Customer gives blank look)
This conversation just proves to me that some people, who aren’t film crazy like myself, do not understand the true genius of Hitchcock, nor do they understand that he was one of the greatest film makers of all time and not just a horror film director.
And just because we are on the subject of Hitchcock, my top five Hitchcock films are Vertigo (James Stewart, Kim Novak), Rebecca (Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine), North By Northwest (Cary Grant, Eve Marie Saint), Rear Window(James Stewart, Grace Kelly) and Psycho (Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh), with Shadow Of A Doubt and Marnie.
Everybody is welcome to share their top five Hitchcock films in the comments section!

Hitchcock allows the great man to be seen as never before behind the scenes of one of his greatest movies, Psycho.
For movie lovers, Hitchcock is extremely interesting as it gives you a behind the scenes look at Psycho, but also what happened when the cameras stopped rolling and Alfred Hitchock went home to his wife, Alma Reville. However, people who are not as enthralled with film and its history may find the film slow and lacking in the suspense department…maybe even a tad predictable. However, predictability is something that was always going to be hard to avoid with such a film about a film which is perhaps one of the most popular horror films ever made.
Alfred Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) latest film, North by Northwest has just opened and is a huge success, but Hitchcock knows that you are only as successful as your last film. He takes a chance on Psycho, the film Hollywood is afraid to touch and goes on his emotional journey of dealing with the censors and with his leading ladies. While when he leaves the set, he enters another emotional battlefield with his wife and uncredited business partner, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).
Perhaps the biggest problem with Hitchcock, which may not even really be a problem, is that you always know where the movie is going. It is no secret that Psycho was a success when it was released in 1960 and still continues to be to this day, so this is really not a film of suspense about the master of suspense. Even Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife is fairly predictable.
 However, is this really a problem? The film does what it is supposed to be as it informs and entertains whether you know what is going to happen or not. It is great fun to watch and really is very interesting. Hitchcock fans in general will love the film and those who don’t know too much about him will find out plenty about him and about the production of Psycho.
The film is quite well made, although there are some interesting choices made by director, Sacha Gervasi. Gervasi has designed Hitchcock as though we are actually watching an Alfred Hitchcock film. He implies that Hitchcock’s mind actually did work like one of his films, as is shown in some of his scenes with Alma, especially with the scene in the kitchen. It does work well for the film and makes it a tad quirky, much like Hitchcock’s films. However, at times it does seem as though he is trying to do a little too much and trying to make it abstract in ways it doesn’t need to be. Once again, nobody can do Hitchcock like Hitchcock.
Yet, some of Gervasi’s choices of scenes in the film are a bit odd in that they seem out of place in the film and don’t seem to add to the film as a whole. For example, the scenes of Alma with the red bathing suit. You can see what Gervasi is trying to say, but it is already a point that has been made without needing to be pointed out once again.
The script, as written by John J. McLaughlin, is great. It covers every aspect of Hitchcock’s relationships and puts beautifully into words his fascination with his leading ladies. The banter between Hitchcock and Alma is also very entertaining.
There are some wonderful performances in Hitchcock. What can you say about Anthony Hopkins? With Hopkins you know you are never going to see a bad performance and this role proves his consistency. Hopkins has studied all of Hitchcock’s facial expressions, body language and speech and has it all perfected. He gives a wonderful performance and truly brings the man back to life.
Helen Mirren gives an absolute knockout performance. However, like Hopkins, Mirren is an actor who you just expect brilliance from. She gives an absolutely amazing monologue in the film when Hitchcock asks her for support which sends shivers down your spine.
What both Hopkins and Mirren have in this film, is the ability to tell so much about the way they are feeling without having to use words.
Scarlett Johansson gives an above average performance as Janet Leigh and again brings the actress back to life. Her recreation of the infamous shower scene is her absolute shining moment of the film. James D’Arcy is also a very convincing Anthony Perkins.
Hitchcock is a wonderfully informative and entertaining biopic with some brilliant performances. A must see for any old Hollywood and Hitchcock fanatics. Hopkins does the Alfred Hitchcock complete and utter justice.


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