Monday, 4 April 2011

Review Round-Up | March 2011

Amadeus (1984)

F. Murray Abraham is never less than excellent in his performance as (prior to this film) all-but-forgotten composer Antonio Salieri, consumed by a paradoxical cocktail of hatred and guilt over his role in the tragic fate of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His aging Salieri bookends the film with panache, whilst his performance as the composer in his prime is a compelling and enigmatic tapestry woven simultaneously of idolatry and envy, awe and hate. Tom Hulce as Mozart begins the film as an unsavoury caricature, gaining layer upon layer as the film progresses as Hulce constructs a sympathetic and enthralling presentation of the tragic genius. Mozart's music is wonderfully showcased throughout, especially his operas, with fantastic staging and highly polished performance at every opportunity. The Director's Cut version of the film, to me, felt somewhat slow during the middle acts, with little driving the story forwards here and there; this is a minor niggle in what is a captivating, entertaining and very well made piece of cinema from start to finish.

Eraserhead (1977)

Often described as a nightmare on film, or the ultimate manifestation of male paranoia, Eraserhead is far from a comfortable watch. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, as director David Lynch clearly never intended to make an easy film to sit and relax to. That said, I at times found parts of the film had been made weird simply for weirdness' sake, rather than to enhance either the telling of the story or the quality of the film. The pacing of the film is perpetually slow, which allows Lynch's brooding imagery and style to fully hit home only slightly more often than it makes the film drag. Ultimately a film that I definitely appreciated more than I enjoyed, being as it is a unique and fascinating piece of art within the historical context of cinema. As my first experience of Lynch as a director, however, this was in hindsight almost certainly throwing myself in at the deep end; I would very much like to revisit this film once I've experienced more of his work.

Seven (1995)

The film which allowed director David Fincher to spread his wings, take off and begin to soar after having them cruelly clipped during his tenure at the helm of the famously problematic Alien 3. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are both superb - over fifteen years later and both men's performances are regularly cited as amongst the best of their career. The detective pairing created by Pitt and Morgan - the former as pigheaded Mills, the latter as stoic Somerset - is a relationship that is unwaveringly compelling and believable. Solid support comes from Gwyneth Paltrow and R. Lee Ermey, and whilst Kevin Spacey's final act turn as John Doe takes nothing away from the film, I don't think I'll ever become a fan of his. It is the film's final act that somewhat lets things down all round, relatively speaking, as its more conventional feel doesn't match up to the moody, grimy, noir-esque cinema preceding it that Fincher allows us to gorge upon. Overall, however, this is finely crafted and thoroughly enjoyable.

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (2010)

If it's a standard action adventure blockbuster you're after, it really doesn't get much more standard than this. All involved have fun with the sword-and-sorcery style swashbuckler, and the story, whilst tangling itself in a couple of knots here and there, isn't totally mindless and firmly takes a backseat to the action and set pieces. Jake Gyllenhaal earns his action chops with a generally satisfying performance as hero Dastan. Gemma Arterton is satisfactory in support as damsel-in-distress-cum-strong-and-independent-female Tamina, and Ben Kingsley is enjoyable hamming it up immensely as Nizam. Ultimately this never excels, but never really does anything wrong either, from the enjoyable yet somewhat reserved action and fight sequences to Alfred Molina's amusing yet largely forgettable ostrich race organiser (yes, really). This feels like a live action version of Disney's Aladdin on several occasions (which, again, is not necessarily a bad thing) and if you enter into the spirit of it wanting unchallenging and enjoyable 12A-certificate action that's light on depth then you'll most probably enjoy this.

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