Friday, 30 December 2011
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Black Swan achieves a rare feat in cinema, in that by the film's climax I was genuinely unsure as to how much of what I was watching was real and how much was in the head of a character. By the time the credits rolled director Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman in the lead role had led me so expertly to this point, exactly where they wanted me to be, that I could do nothing but allow the emotional, psychological, beautifully dramatic spectacle I had just witnessed to continue washing over me.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Life's Too Short is the latest television comedy offering from contemporary giants of the genre, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Described by Gervais as the third in their TV sitcom trilogy (The Office and Extras being the first and second parts respectively), Life's Too Short shows promise in the first two episodes, but there is also the feeling that maybe we've seen this all before.
Surrogates is clearly influenced in its style by a great many other sci-fi films, from big names such as The Matrix and the Terminator franchise to cult titles such as Gattaca. The problem is, it's never quite as good as any of the films it has been inspired by.
Monday, 14 November 2011
So, as you may have picked up on, activity here over the past couple of months has been somewhat scarce (let's face it, there's been more activity in a nun's knickers) and for this I apologise. To be honest, I'm not even sure who visits this blog any more in terms of reading what's written here, so I might be apologising to myself and nobody else, but hopefully there's a few more people than that.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Too long, as the plot is stretched out to fit the running time of a minute over two hours; there are several moments in the film which feel like filler, and occasionally the film strays over to the undesirable side of self-indulgence. The narrative also becomes patchy and confused at times. The film's moral message (to put it crudely: fun is good, war is bad) feels laid on at times and things get somewhat schmaltzy at several points. That said, there are great performances from all involved, and the vast majority of the jokes and comedy set pieces throughout are successful and clever without feeling self-aggrandising. The film is a visual treat as well, with scene after scene providing an imaginative treat for the eyes. Ultimately, Toys is flawed but enjoyable.
An incredible action film packed with stylish, adrenaline-fuelled fight sequences and set pieces throughout. Woo uses many of the hallmarks seen in his previous action movies, but makes them seem fresher and more electric than ever. The main contrivance of face-swapping is a risky plot device, but in the skilled hands of Woo it comes off brilliantly. The greatest credit, however, must go to Cage and Travolta for two outstanding performances throughout the film. The way in which both men inhabit both characters that they play is superb and a delight to watch. Both men manage to mimic each other's tics and traits whilst keeping the film firmly away from farce and parody. The skill of the two leads raises this from being a great film to an outstanding one. One of the defining, must-see action films of the 1990s.
Leaving Las Vegas (1997)
Strong performances from both Cage and Shue, and the genuine chemistry between them, provide the backbone for the film's success. Cage in particular balances extroversion and high emotion well, bringing to his character a pleasing balance of humour and sadness. The narrative is simple, and becomes somewhat hazy in the second half, which results in the film feeling unfocused at times. The film's slow pace throughout is also a double-edged sword: whilst it allows for the central relationship between Cage and Shue's characters to properly develop, it also made the film drag occasionally. Figgis' cinematography presents a paradoxically gritty yet artificial Las Vegas, giving the film's setting an unnervingly unpredictable quality rarely achieved in cinema. Ultimately a very good film, although be prepared for some emotionally punishing and unashamedly graphic scenes throughout.
The King's Speech (2010)
A highly polished film that exudes quality in every way. Hooper's direction and use of cinematography is refined with welcome splashes of originality, and the script is tight and charming. The film has a wonderful sense of authenticity, recreating the period in which it is set with panache, whilst at the same time delivering a sharp and fresh contemporary cinematic experience. At the core of the film are some outstanding performances from both Firth and Rush, bringing to life the relationship between the two men with authenticity, emotion and genuine humour. The supporting cast are also incredibly strong; Bonham Carter especially deserves high praise for a charming and heartfelt performance. A truly excellent piece of cinema that deserves the high accolades it has received.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Like all the zombie movies it has spawned in the four decades since its release, the film is at its best when dealing not with the dead brought back to life, but with the very human stories that are created through those who are living through the horrific situation. The actions and reactions of the band of survivors thrown together through circumstance are compelling viewing and a masterful comment on human behaviour. Romero's direction is fantastic, with cinematography clearly inspired by Welles and Hitchcock and even matching their standard when at its very best. The film suffers from a middle act slower and less focused than its opening and closing sections, almost as if Romero felt the need to pad things out a little, and as such the television report sequences become a little tedious. The final act, however, gives the film a harrowing, punch-packing finale. Ultimately, an entertaining and effective horror film which has stood, and no doubt will continue to stand, the test of time incredibly well.
The Addams Family (1991)
Not only a film that brings back great memories of childhood enjoyment, but also one that, two decades on, has stood the test of time incredibly well. The script and style of the film timelessly and effortlessly parodies gothic horror as well as lampooning society and culture without locking the film into an early '90s time capsule. The main cast are incredibly strong and never miss a beat, with Anjelica Huston and the late Raul Julia deserving particular mention for a pair of flawless performances. The plot is somewhat simplistic and the narrative a little thin here and there, but this is pettifogging as what the film does right vastly outweighs anything it gets wrong. Clever, entertaining and very very funny.
Addams Family Values (1993)
Considered by many to be superior to the first film, for me when Values is at its best it outshines its predecessor, but it also manages to miss a few more beats than the original film. Its strengths are similar strengths to the first film - Julia and Huston are again perfect as Morticia and Gomez; Lloyd is given more time to truly shine as Fester than in the previous outing; Ricci as Wednesday is superb; and Cusack is a welcome addition bringing her reliable wackiness to the antagonist role. The script at its sharpest is even better than the first, but there are elements which begin to tire - whilst the summer camp subplot begins ingeniously it eventually becomes a little tedious, and the segment where baby Pubert (best baby name in film history?) suddenly becomes cute always feels somewhat tacked on with no real purpose other than to unnecessarily pad things out. That said, just like in the first film, there is a huge amount more here to like than dislike. Overall, this sits well with the original to form a pair of excellent comedies.
Sluggish pacing and decidedly unimpressive direction from Crichton hamper the telling of what is a genuinely excellent story. The first hour gets gradually more tedious as no character receives enough development, and whilst Benjamin and Brolin's performances are fine, they never make either of their characters sufficiently memorable. It is Brynner who shines here with a chilling performance throughout that, upon expansion during the film's second half, elevates the final act far above what has preceded it. It is clear to see that Westworld is an important entry into the action sci-fi canon, with obvious influence on future films including Terminator and Jurassic Park; as a film in its own right, whilst this is undoubtedly enjoyable it is also unforgivably flawed.
The Super Mario Bros. (1993)
For a video game fan, there is fun to be had in spotting the homages to the original video games; it is pitiful, however, that you can count them on one hand. Simply put, the film is dull and unimaginative, wasting one opportunity after another. Hoskins and Hopper phone in their performances, clearly under no illusions that what they are creating is worthwhile, and it's a wonder that Leguizamo managed to forge a respectable career after debuting in this turkey. The film presents a mix of action and fantasy which never sit comfortably together throughout. The film has retained a modicum of kitsch and cult value which save it from being entirely unwatchable, but with far better options in the video game adaption and action fantasy camps, there's very little point in doing so.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Successfully gels the action, mystery and thriller genres with style and seamless excellence. Damon brings the right balance of gritty authenticity and action-hero audicity, making Bourne a believable yet fittingly enigmatic protagonist. The story is solid, and the action set pieces are consistently adrenaline-charged and entertaining with some fresh ideas presented throughout. The supporting cast are solid, with particularly strong performances from Cooper and Potente, as well as Stiles, Owen and Cox bringing pleasing quality to relatively minor roles and adding strength to the film as a whole. Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and well made action movie that rightfully left its mark on the action and spy genres giving a somewhat stale subcategory within film a welcome reboot.
Saturday, 27 August 2011
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Super 8 is resplendent in its Spielberg credentials. Honestly, why shouldn't it be? When you've got one of the most successful men in the film industry executive producing your film, you'd be a fool not to make the most of it. Except Super 8 doesn't just make the most of it, instead going beyond paying homage to Spielberg's earlier work (think pre-Schindler's List and you're about there) to jam-packing the film so full of stylistic and thematic references to other films that writer and director J.J. Abrams too often seems to forget to put in any of his own film.
Saturday, 20 August 2011
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Monday, 1 August 2011
Firstly, apologies for June and July not having their own entries - no specific excuse other than life being very hectic over the last couple of months. However, seeing as the next month or so should allow me more time to write here, I'll make up for my neglect with a few individual reviews in the near future. Anyway, to get things back up to date, here's June and July's reviews.