Welcome

Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Alice in Wonderland


**

Thirteen years after her original trip to Wonderland, 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is called back there to lead an army to victory against The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), and slay the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee).

Before I look at the prominent downsides of the film, I must take a few lines to describe the upsides. The visuals of the film are beautiful, colourful and sharp. Considering Tim Burton is one of the most gothic directors in history, he throws in so many beautiful colours, which all come together like a rainbow. There are two good performances (only two). They are Johnny Depp, who is wonderfully quirky as Mad Hatter; and Bonham Carter, who is deliciously angry and over-the-top as Red Queen.

The rest of the performances don't cut it. Wasikowska is trying far too hard to play the meek English girl, resulting in a performance that is far too bland and altogether false, with a very forced feel to it. As The White Queen, Anne Hathaway is also giving a very forced performance trying to make (in her words) a "punk rock vegan pacifist, full of darkness but outwardly beautiful", and she fails to pull it off. Too miscast, and too beautiful and meek to play such a character is how I would sum it up. I won't go into detail about the other poor performances - most memorably Crispin Glover as The Knave of Hearts - as I will be typing for hours if I do, but the other major disappointment was Christopher Lee, for which none of the blame lies at his feet. I am a huge fan of Lee, but he was given two lines, and for such a legendary actor this is just wrong. Had he voiced The Knave of Hearts I would be happier - I'll only be 100% satisfied to see him in live action performances. Yes, I know The Knave was live action, but he was so computer distorted later on he may as well have been a CGI creation.

To be fair, it's not totally the fault of the cast, as the screenplay is too underwritten. In 108 minutes (credits included) Burton has crammed as much as he can, resulting in far too many drastically underdeveloped events, which move from one to the next too quickly for there to be anything particularly memorable about them; as well as underdeveloped characters with little substance. Even after her major adventure Alice still just seems like a meek young English girl, The March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) is basically a deranged fur ball with sharp teeth, and Matt Lucas's Tweedledee and Tweedledum remain a pair of idiotic tubs of lard throughout. The essence of Lewis Carroll's beloved children's story is gone, it is just Tim Burton trying to make a load of dazzling fantasy visuals, with no care for the development of the narrative, events or characters, which is most likely why there are so many poor performances. It most definetly is his worst film to date, and my solution to getting through it would be to wear some ear muffs and just let the visuals amaze you, except for when Depp or Bonham Carter are on screen, because their scenes are actually watchable.


2010.
PG.
Stars:
Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall, Barbara Windsor, Stephen Fry, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Imelda Staunton, Trevor Person, Leo Bill.

Oscars: Best Art Direction (Robert Stromberg, Karen O'Hara), Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood).
Oscar nomination: Best Visual Effects (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, Sean Phillips).

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Robin Hood


**

The legend of Robin Hood is one of the all time most famous, with many film, story and stage adaptations having been made over the last few centuries. In this take on the legend it is 1199, and Robin (Russell Crowe) - a common, yet exceptionally skilled archer in King Richard's (Danny Huston) - has returned from a war in France to inform the people of the King's death. Under the alias of war victim Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), Robin works with the people of Nottingham to stop King John (Oscar Isaac) from taking over the town, and kindles a romance with Loxley's widow, Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett).

A real feeling of common medieval England is successfully created in this film thanks to some intricately designed sets and well designed costumes, that really highlight the contrast between the living of the rich and the poor. The poor live in ramshackle huts that look ready to topple as soon as the wind gets too strong, and wear shabby clothes of a poor material, a major contrast to the rich, who live in well built stone houses and wear warm clothes of a fine cloth, and the difference is noticable throughout. They are well designed sets and costume and clearly the design department worked hard for their creation. The battle scenes are also quite gritty and rather brutal. The viewer is really brought into the action with the quick edits and well-angled shots showing the battle from all sides; and the brutality of it really makes you feel like you are part of it - as long as you try to remember that in this world Ridley Scott created a beheading results in only a tiny amount of blood spilt - which is a sign of a successful battle scene.

However, well made visuals and some gritty (though virtually bloodless) battle scenes are no substitute for a strong screenplay, brought to life by a strong cast and good direction, which is not in this film at all. The screenplay moves from one event to the next with the bare minimum amount of connection between them, and moves so fast that the previous scene never gets a chance for development. As for the fights/battle scenes, they are all very quick, which is bad for gritty scenes, as the several scenes previous had built up for what you expect to be an impressive battle scene, but which happens so fast you end up sitting and asking "Is that it?"
And the battle scenes are one of the many noticable areas in which Crowe gives a poor performance. In battle you expect a warrior like Robin Hood to fight with a lot of passion as the character wouldn't feel real otherwise. William Wallace in Braveheart (1995) - passionate. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-3) - passionate. Leonidas in 300 (2006) - passionate. Robin Hood - no passion whatsoever. This wouldn't disappoint so much were it not for the fact that Crowe played a very passionate Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000).
What else in Crowe's performance is poor? Where do I begin? His inconsistent accent - from Northern, to Welsh, to London, to Irish, to his native New Zealand, all in one film. Here's a tip, Crowe - pick an accent and stick with it. And of course his very poorly played romance with Maid Marian, which seriously lacks chemistry and is not exactly helped by a very wooden, and rather bored Cate Blanchett. One has to ask why Scott chose Crowe when he was on such poor form, but it's no surprise after the excellent, multi award winning turns he did as Maximus in Gladiator, and Richie Roberts in American Gangster (2007).

Sadly, none of the cast really distract from Crowe as they are all generally giving poor performances. As mentioned Blanchett just seems bored throughout. As Sir Godfrey, the main antagonist, Mark Strong plays some quite cold malice, but really does nothing else worthwhile with the role. Isaac is basically a cocky little kid as the bad tempered King John. The only half-memorable, decent performance really comes from von Sydow, who really plays the blind old man type quite well, never milking at all, yet the character doesn't get a vast amount of screen time, so we never get a vast amount of bond felt for the character. But, if one of the cast members deserved to be remembered for playing some decent moments then it is definetly von Sydow. Gladiator was Scott's epic masterpiece, which meant Kingdom of Heaven (2005), a decent but flawed epic, did disappoint when released. Robin Hood, however, just crashes and burns, and is easily one of Scott's worst films to date.


2010.
12.
Stars:
Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Max von Sydow, Mark Lewis Jones, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Matthew Macfadyen, Jonathan Zaccai, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Lea Seydoux, Alan Doyle.

Teen Choice Award nominations: Choice Movie: Action Adventure, Choice Movie Actor: Action Adventure (Russell Crowe), Choice Movie Actress: Action Adventure (Cate Blanchett).

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Chicken Run


****

Determined to escape from the prisonesque chicken farm Tweedy's Farm, young hen Ginger (Julia Sawalha) is on the verge of giving up after many failed attempts. However, when circus rooster Rocky (Mel Gibson) crash lands in the farm, it looks like the prayers of numerous hens may be answered.

By the time Chicken Run was released in 2000, Aardman was already very well established, thanks to their Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit short films (1989/93/95). Chicken Run is their first feature length film, and, like Wallace & Gromit, it is 100% claymation animation, which is renowned for needing constistently high amounts of detail, as no more than a few seconds can be filmed at a time, and, what's most impressive, is that it's all miniatures shot really well. The claymation animation (or 'clanimation') is all very bright, colourful and detailed. Like with Wallace & Gromit the clanimation creates superb characters, with a wide variety of facial expressions. For me, however, the most impressive clanimation creation is the insides of a large pie making machine which the Tweedys (Miranda Richardson, Tony Haygarth) buy. All of the mechanisms, cogs, et cetera, are brought together like a well oiled machine (almost literally), and a superb sequence showing Rocky and Ginger escaping the machine is created, that includes impressive recreations of moments from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

Although the animation is bright, vibrant and clever, the characters are the most memorable element of the film thanks to a stellar voice cast, and smart screenplay. Gibson makes Rocky suave and charming, creating excellent chemistry between himself and Sawalha's no nonsense, gutsy Ginger. The supporting birds are also as entertaining; Jane Horrocks making Babs very believably dim witted and innocent; Imelda Staunton making Bunty tough and brutal; Lynn Ferguson makes Mac a great mad scientist type; and Benjamin Whitrow is wonderfully pompous as Fowler. Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels make rats Nick and Fetcher the perfect spivs; though Richardson and Haygarth steal the show as the Tweedys. Their arguing is hilarious, as is Mr Tweedy's fear of his short tempered wife; and the ironic twist that the moronic husband proves to be more switched on than his wife is really well written.

Very well written with lovely clanimation, and bright, vibrant characters, this is a great piece of entertainment for the whole family.


2000.
U.
Stars:
Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Benjamin Whitrow, Imelda Staunton, Jane Horrocks, Lynn Ferguson, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Tony Haygarth.

BAFTA nominations: Best British Film (Peter Lord, Nick Park, David Sproxton), Best Visual Effects (Paddy Eason, Mark Nelmes, Dave Alex Riddett).

Sunday, 26 December 2010

What did I get for Christmas in terms of films?

On the DVD front for Christmas I was given:
The Haunting (1963; Dir. Robert Wise)
The Italian Job (1969; Dir. Peter Collinson)
Apocalypse Now: Director's Cut (1979/2001; Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Forrest Gump (1994; Dir. Robert Zemeckis)
Trainspotting (1996; Dir. Danny Boyle)
The Thin Red Line (1998; Dir. Terrence Malick)
Fight Club (1999; Dir. David Fincher)
The Hurt Locker (2008; Dir. Katherine Bigelow)
Robin Hood: Director's Cut (2010; Dir. Ridley Scott)
Kick-Ass (2010; Dir. Matthew Vaughn)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010; Dir. Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois)
Iron Man 2 (2010; Dir. Jon Favreau)
Inception (2010; Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Toy Story 3 (2010; Dir. Lee Unkrich)
Shrek Forever After (2010; Dir. Mike Mitchell)

I also taped The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and Carrie (1976). Having watched Muppet this morning I'm very glad I did as it was the first time I'd seen the film since I was about 8 or 9. Having already watched TS3, Dragon and Shrek 4, I still have 12 films to watch, but can't wait to do so.

The Muppet Christmas Carol


****

Taken through the story by our ("in person") narrators, Charles Dickens (The Great Gonzo) and Rizzo the Rat (as himself), we follow miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), who, on Christmas Eve night, is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Jessica Fox), the Ghost of Christmas Present (voiced by Jerry Nelson), and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (performed by Robert Tygner), who visit him to make him realize he must change his ways, or else a bleak future lies ahead.

In terms of this design this is a very well created film. The sets of Victorian London are very intricately designed, so that everything from windows, to paving slabs, to the cobbled roads look very authentic, with extra authenticity coming from the horse and carts and the market stalls; and, like almost all Victorian Christmases apparently were, there is a lovely blanket of snow covering all. We Londoners may have had our white Christmas a week early this year, but they certainly didn't. The costumes are also very authentic and show the difference between rich and poor very clearly - Scrooge wears a tuxedo and top hat, while background characters, and poorer characters, such as Emily Cratchit (Miss Piggy), wear shawls and slightly frayed clothes.

Like any good adaptation of Charles Dicken's beloved tale should, the three Christmases that Scrooge is shown by the Ghosts are well contrasted and well created. Christmas Past, which shows several Christmases Scrooge celebrated (or didn't celebrate) when he was younger, shows how he never really was into Christmas, as he was often too focused on accountancy, but could always be persuaded by somebody or other to join in the festivities, until eventually he refuses. This could scare younger viewers (aged 4 or 5) into thinking that one day they may hate Christmas, but within older viewers it really makes us realize just how much Christmas becomes less special as we age (although at 18 I'm still literally the biggest kid ever on Christmas Day).
Christmas Present makes our hearts break and warm up at the same time. It depicts Bob Cratchit's (Kermit the Frog) smallest, crippled and frail son Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) thanking Scrooge and saying that, for paying his father's (pitiful) wages he is a good man, and won't hear a word said against him. This is quite heartwarming as it shows that just how kind-hearted children are, yet at the same time breaks the heart as it makes you think that there are many sick children out there who are loving towards those who cause problems for their loved ones, and who think of themselves last.
Christmas Yet to Come is made dark and poignant, showing how everyone is happy when Scrooge dies and, shows the Cratchits grieve for Tiny Tim. The fact it is dark is made so by the fact that the Ghost of this Christmas is a Grim Reaper type figure (minus huge, deadly weapon), and the fact that it ends in a stereotypical cemetery, all fog and darkness. The poignancy will brim within anyone who has lost a loved one, and who grieve for them especially at Christmas, as it is one thing many of us can relate to, and a feeling of pain that much of the world will feel at some point.

Like anything with The Muppets, however, this film is also a very witty one and has vast amounts of comic relief from the dark, meaningful scenes. The comic moments are very well scripted and delived by the various cast members (both human and puppet) perfectly, and they all bring vast amounts of energy and vibrancy. The banter between Gonzo and Rizzo is also very witty and entertaining, as they try to make cheap jabs at each other, and the contrast between their respective intellectual levels is also very amusing. The pair even break the fourth wall a couple of times, which is classic Muppet material. The humans are just as strong, particularly Michael Caine, who steals the show as Scrooge, perfectly co-ordinating himself with the puppets, bringing depth, emotion and perfect delivery and comic timing to Scrooge, and making him cold as ice at the start.

All in all a very entertaining film for kids and adults alike, with great visuals and the Muppets being so well coordinated and in sync with the humans, bringing lots of energy and comedy to the film.


1992.
U.
Stars:
Michael Caine, Dave Goelz as various (including The Great Gonzo, Waldorf, Dr Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot), Steve Whitmire as various (including Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Lips), Jerry Nelson as various (including Robin the Frog, Statler, Lew Zealand, Floyd), Frank Oz as various (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal), David Rudman as various (including The Swedish Chef), Jessica Fox, Robert Tygner, Stephen Mackintosh, Meredith Braun, Robin Weaver, Ray Coulthard, Russell Martin, Theo Sanders, Kristopher Milnes, Edward Sanders, David Shaw Parker.

Fantafestival Award: Best Direction (Brian Henson).

Saturday, 25 December 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

To all readers old and new I wish you all a Merry Christmas and all best for 2011!!!

2010 has been a big year in cinema. It has been the second most profitable to date, due to having many critical and commercial hits, and (for the first time ever), two films that have surpassed $1 billion in box office reciepts (Alice in Wonderland with $1.024 billion, and Toy Story 3 with $1.063 billion). Naturally it will be years before 2009 is topped as the most successful, which is way ahead of all competition thanks to Avatar (which grossed $2.782 billion, over $900 million more than 1997's Titanic, and over $1.6 billion more than 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

For my growth in the Christian Faith, this year has been incredible. I finally got to grips with what the gospel is all about, and feel I have really grown, but there are so many friends of mine who encouraged and helped, and without whom I really would be lost. God bless you all!!!

When it comes to film, this year was when I really began getting properly into Film Criticism. I got a B at A-Level Film Studies too (only just missed an A - GRRR!!!), and have seen a good 150 films for the first time, not sure of the exact figures. My favourite three films that I saw for the first time this year are 1994's The Shawshank Redemption (I can't believe it took the best part of 16 years to see it, it's just so rarely on British TV, so I went out and got the DVD for £3), 2010's Toy Story 3 (like 2009's Up, and it's predecessors from 1995 and 1999, this film really stole my heart), and 1994's Pulp Fiction (Tarantino's gritty, deep, powerful masterpiece). As a critic the three best films I saw for the first time this year have to be The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and 1990's GoodFellas (Scorsese's all time great), which goes to show that the '90s produced some truly incredible films.

For some, however, Christmas is a sad time. It reminds us of those we have lost and the suffering we have endured. In Haiti, China and North Korea, among others there will only be sadness this Christmas. In Chile there will be celebration, for many believed the miners would not live to see another Christmas, and yet they all survived and have been discharged from hospital. Let us remember those for whom Christmas is sad and difficult, in both our prayers and our thoughts this Christmas, and let us not take for granted how lucky we are.

To you all, I wish you all the best for 2011 and a Merry Christmas!

God Bless You All!!!

The Polar Express


***

On Christmas Eve night a young boy (Daryl Sabara as a child, Tom Hanks as an adult), who is questioning Santa's (also Hanks) existence is picked up by magical steam train The Polar Express, which takes himself and a number of other children to the North Pole to meet Santa, in what proves to be a magical, life-changing adventure.

To create the film, director Robert Zemeckis used motion capture animation, to create the most realistic, intricate humans, based on the cast's live action performances. They are absolutely stunning. Never before had an animated human looked so realistic, with every tiny (what we would consider insignificant) musclular movement captured to perfection. The film is beautifully computer animated and detailed; the North Pole is bright, colourful and vibrant, and is made such a wonderful, heartwarming creation of a place; The Polar Express's journey is animated and shot to an incredible standard, with it all being jaw-droppingly eye-catching in terms of animation, and beautifully edited to make the journey fast paced, exhilarating and a magical piece of cinema, stealing hearts of old and young alike.

Despite its incredible visuals, the film does, however, have a rather flawed screenplay. Although the musical numbers are made vibrant in the finished film, their lyrics are rather basic and repetitive. As for the dialogue and narrative (as opposed to musical numbers) there is not that much character development, with them being one sided; and the events are also underdeveloped, quickly moving from one to the other without vast substance, and it is as if they want to be as loyal to the 1985 book as possible, without making the film more than 100 minutes so children would not get bored - as if they would be bored when such incredible visuals are before them.

A heartwarming family film, its flawed screenplay is made up for by the incredible animation, that will dazzle viewers old and young.


2004.
U.
Stars:
Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen, Charles Fleischer, Steven Tyler, Michael Jeter, Leslie Zemeckis, Isabella Peregrin.

Oscar nominations: Best Sound Editing (Randy Thom, Dennis Leonard), Best Sound Mixing (William B. Kaplan, Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands), Best Original Song (Believe - Glen Ballard, Alan Silvestri).

Friday, 24 December 2010

War of the Worlds



***

During autumn, a number of alien tripods land on Earth, and begin destroying anything and everything in sight and in their way. To protect his kids (Justin Chatwin, Dakota Fanning), loser Ray (Tom Cruise) starts to drive them across the country, desperate to outrun the tripods, and, more desperately, trying to get his loved ones to safety.

There is one major downside to the film, which I am just going to get out of the way right now, and that downside is the film's ending (the last ten minutes or so). Throughout the film the Martians are ever-powerful, unstoppable and so deadly it would give younger viewers nightmares. However, like in H.G. Wells's 1898 novel of the same title, the Martians' machines can't survive long on Earth due to the chemicals and microbes in the air. This has always been a major anticlimax, in both the book and the various adaptations. In this adaptation Ray spots that the Martians (who supposedly can only be destroyed from the inside due to a protective shield) have birds landing on them, so the US army shoot it with a bazooka a couple of times, the alien in the machine falls out and immediately dies; with the final shots of the film being shots of the US, with dozens of defeated martians lying in the wreckage they created, while the vocals of our Narrator (Morgan Freeman) comments on how the littlest things protected our planet from future alien invasions, at the cost of one billion lives.
This is a very anti-climactic ending, as throughout the film the aliens seem invincible and then they all just seem to become weak and are easily taken down, though the first dead machine went down by itself. In the space of a minute, the biggest threat to mankind ever is defeated, when the rest of the film has built up to it being an all-out, dragged on battle to the death for both sides. This ending has caused a lot of complaint and controvesy, and when you watch it it isn't hard to see why. However, one must be fair before judging and remember that it is an adaptation of a novel, so it is always going to be a difficult ending to execute, no matter how hard you try, as you have to be keeping the essence of the source material, and the source material is anticlimactic.

The film boasts superb effects, absolutely superb. The machines are colossal and have an incredible main weapon created by CGI - a heat ray that turns humans to dust in a second. The shots of the heat ray are bright and powerful, with some vivid imagery in it that dazzles, but shocks at the same time; and the machine is large and bold, on three legs it stands firm and out against everything else, it's presence being ever-dominant in the film, and the driving force of almost the entire narrative. It's ability to turn people to dust is also seriously well created by CGI, with the people the heat ray hits exploding into dust. These images are gripping, and probably the most shocking one is a close-up of an extra's face as she is destroyed by the heat ray. Shot in slow motion it shows her turn to dust as she continues to run, suck up within herself and then explode, and this image is vivid, and actually quite sickening to watch. These whole easy killings are as sickening to watch as they are, just because it is scary to think that anything other than a train going at 100 miles per hour (I live in London, the cross-country trains go at least 75, and that is when passing through a suburban station) could destroy a person as quickly and horrifically as that.

The danger that Ray and his family are in is also made effective. No matter where they go, they can't stay safe for long, and (when you watch the film for the first time) you feel an ever increasing sense of dread and worry for the safety of the characters who are in almost every scene. They escape to the house the kids and their mother (Miranda Otto) live in, a plane crashes nearby, destroying the front of the house; they drive to a small town, the car gets stolen and Ray and Robbie are nearly killed; they board the Athens ferry, a Martian capsizes it and they almost drown. Even when Ray and Rachel take refuge in the basement of an abandoned house with a guy (Tim Robbins), whose family was killed by the Martians, they discover he's mentally ill/majorly traumatized and Ray has to kill him for their safety.
They genuinely can't get a break from it all, and the various dangers on their cross-country journey that stops them from getting safety and refuge for much more than several hours at a time (I can't quite describe how) builds up fear and dread within the viewers' hearts, although at points one does feel it's getting a little too absurd. You want them to survive, you want it all to be over for them, you relate to them as the film makes you wonder what you would do in an alien invasion.

The film also features very little in the way of prominent cast, but what prominent cast there is is a good ensemble.
There's nothing particularly special about Tom Cruise, his fear and panic seeming genuine enough, but his cheesy moments and lazy slob type dad moments are all quite artificial and are almost as cheesy as his grin, although the moments of grief, and his horror over killing Ogilvy (it was intentional, but it had a horrific effect on Ray) are heartfelt and sincere. Dakota Fanning excels as Rachel, her fear and panic over the situation/context of the film, and the fact that she is too young to be caught in such horrors, are made very powerful, very sincere and the effect it has on the youngster is played perfectly by Fanning, really leaving a lump in one's throat. Justin Chatwin really plays the moody teen type well, and brings much passion to 16-year-old Robbie's wish to join the military and take on the Martians very heartfelt and passionate. In a brief (10 minutes tops) role, Tim Robbins steals the show, making the trauma of Ogilvy very heartwrenching, and the character's demeanour very creepy and spine-tingling, and I wish he had had more screen time.

Altogether this film may anticlimax at the end (not its fault ultimately), but it is gripping, tense and creepy, though gets a little too farfetched and absurd in places, with a lot to scare younger viewers, and amazing visuals to wow anyone.


2005.
12.
Stars:
Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, David Alan Basche, Roz Abrams, Camillia Sanes, Lenny Venito, Lisa Ann Walter.

Oscar nominations: Best Visual Effects (Dennis Muren, Randy Dutra, Daniel Sudick, Pablo Helman), Best Sound Editing (Richard King), Best Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Ron Judkins, Anna Behlmer).

Stand By Me



*****

When they hear that missing boy Ray Brower's (Kent W. Luttrell) body is in the woods near the train tracks, friends Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O'Connell) hike along side the tracks to find the body in what proves to be a life-changing experience for the four 12-year-olds.

Based on Stephen King's novel The Body (1982), the narrative tells of four boys, similar yet different, each of whom has their own emotional backstory which is drives their attitudes and motivations, each of which is realised perfectly by the four young actors. Gordie, iss unloved by his father (Marshall Bell) as they both grieve for his older brother Denny (John Cusack), whom had recently died in a car crash, who his dad loved and who was always trying and failing to get their dad to see what a great son Gordie is. Wheaton brings a lot of emotion to the role, really showing how Gordie is a character who has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and can't come to terms with what has happened, in a sensitive and quietly realised performance, conveying it all through Gordie's eyes and an attitude that is more mature than those of the other four boys.
Chris is a character who is stereotyped due to a violent father, and who people naturally assume will fail in life, and while Phoenix plays the tough guy perfectly, he also portrays Chris's sensitive side beautifully, showing that there is more to this character than meets the eye. Teddy has an abusive father and little is expected of him in the future, and while he appears to be his father's son in a rather daredevilesque and cocky turn from Feldman, he is also very caring and really loves his father despite the past, and Feldman portrays that family love and loyalty conquers all in an emotional performance. Vern, meanwhile is a pudgy nerd teased by the others, and O'Connell portrays very well how this has made Vern an inwardly angry individual who yearns to be treated with more respect, culminating in a scene where he decks Teddy after having enough, and O'Connell puts in a lot of passion to create this character.

What the screenplay, like the source material also does successfully is not only give the four boys interesting and strong personal contexts, but also gives them personalities and attitudes that are believably childlike. This ranges in everything from how they tease each other and (in Chris and Teddy's cases) act the big men, which is the kind of adolescence attitude and banter which most go through; and goes as subtle as the chats they have as they walk and as they sit around the campfire, discussing things that most youngsters question, e.g. "If I could only have one type of food for the rest of my life?" and "Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog, so what's Goofy?" Little touches such as this show the talent for writing in King, and the talent for adapting in Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans, as it could be so easy to either write them to be too grown up or unbelievably juvenile, but the four boys are written perfectly for the age that they are.

Another strong element is the wonderful narration by Richard Dreyfuss as an older Gordie typing the events into his computer nearly 30 years on after hearing of Chris's murder. Through a well spoken and well written dialogue for said narration, we are shown that this is a very moving and personal story for Gordie and we really bond with him as the story progresses. This combined with the other mentioned elements, among others makes this a beautiful piece of film making and a touching coming of age drama, which is a wonderful contrast to the horrors we naturally expect to be adapted from Stephen King novels, such as Carrie (1976) and The Shining (1980).


1986.
15.
Stars:
Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Casey Siemaszko, John Cusack, Richard Dreyfuss, Gary Riley, Bradley Gregg, Marshall Bell, Frances Lee McCain, Bruce Kirby, Scott Beach, Kent W. Luttrell, Dick Durock, William Bronder.

Oscar nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay (Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans).

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Father of the Bride


****

After completing her Architecture Masters in Rome, Annie (Kimberly Williams) comes home to inform her parents (Steve Martin, Diane Keaton) and little brother (Kieran Culkin) that she's marrying a successful computer genius/technician/programmer (George Newbern) four years her senior. Dad George agrees to pay for everything, but when wedding organizer Franck (Martin Short) is hired the expense goes through the roof and George looks set to have a breakdown.

Narrated from start to finish by Steve Martin's George, the film is constantly witty and scripted very sophisticatedly. The majority of comedies today are just over the top and stupid, but Father of the Bride comes from an era where comedies were still craftily scripted and sophisticated, mixing farce with refined humour to a perfect tee, other films in this era including Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Home Alone (1990) and Mrs Doubtfire (1993). In fact the only farcical moment is when George and Nina (Keaton) visit Bryan's (Newbern) parents (Michael Peter Goetz, Kate McGregor-Stewart), and George gets chased by their dogs, resulting in him falling in the pool with John's (Goetz) bank book. Apart from this the entire screenplay has witty setups, charming characters, and physical and verbal comedy that is well delivered and doesn't have to be way over the top to be funny.
Martin steals the show as George making his hate of expenses very sincere and his horrified face is priceless; and he also makes George's breakdown in the supermarket very well timed and delivered brilliantly, as he does everything. Seriously, forget the stuff he's been doing these last few years, this is brilliant Steve Martin stuff. The support cast also do a very good job, all of whom have excellent comic timing and delivery. The most memorable one's however are Culkin as 9-year-old Matty, who makes the kid very witty and mischievous, a classic comedy child - he even helps move the cars of the wedding guests, despite being scarcely four feet tall; and Short, who makes Frank a genuinely amusing gay stereotype, bringing great delivery and energy to his role, and making the camp voice and inability to speak properly a genuine barrel of laughs.

In short, a genuinely well written, witty comedy that is really brought to life by its cast. And, to all fathers out there, if your daughter is married then it will probably create feelings of nostalgia, if not then it will make you think about how you will feel the day she does.


1991.
PG.
Stars:
Steve Martin, Kimberly Williams, Diane Keaton, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin, Martin Short, B.D. Wong, Peter Michael Goetz, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Carmen Hayward, April Ortiz, Mina Vasquez.

MTV Movie Award nominations: Best Comedic Performance (Steve Martin), Best Breakthrough Performance (Kimberly Williams).

Monday, 20 December 2010

My Bloody Valentine



*

Eleven years ago a miner (Richard John Walters) killed his friends to survive in a trapped mine, only to wake up the following Valentine's Day and kill people partying near the site of the disaster, and is supposedly killed by the Sheriff (Tom Atkins). Ten years later, people connected to the events of over 10 years earlier are butchered and it soons appears that Harry Warden, the dead miner, is behind them.

I have yet to see the 1981 original, but I've researched and it is supposedly a very poor film in spite of the cult following it has, and this remake is (presumably) just as poor, if not poorer. The screenplay is very poor, it is artificial, there is no substance. The murder scenes may be bloody, but the fear of the victims feels rather artificial thanks to the poor performances of the cast, and the fact that these scenes are so graphic makes little difference.

The scenes between the said murder scenes are poorly scripted with an artificial feel. Slowly paced with a notable dragged out feeling, there being no substance to the development of the narrative, which is not brought to a real climax till almost the end, and with the bare minimum of build-up and development leading up to this climax; or the film's characters, who are poorly played by the cast as they are all wooden characters with little development or substance; and it is as if they just put those scenes in to make the plot make sense, which they barely manage. The climactic revelation also just makes you cringe with revelations reminiscent of Fight Club (1999). Were it not for flashbacks it wouldn't be made sense of, but it still doesn't fully get picked apart to 100% make sense. A build up that has very occasional surprises, but is poorly scripted, but which then just comes crashing down and causing confusion in the process. Seriously?

Seriously, I don't recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a good film, but for anyone who just loves gore, you may as well, there's little else going for it, and the gore is really piled on.


2009.
18.
Stars:
Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Edi Gathegi, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe, Megan Boone, Karen Baum, Joy de la Paz, Marc Macaulay, Todd Farmer, Jeff Hochendoner, Richard John Walters.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Horton Hears a Who!


***

Elephant Horton (Jim Carrey), is overjoyed when the speck on a clover he finds contains a town called Who-ville, the Mayor (Steve Carell) of whom befriends Horton. However, a hot headed kangeroo mother (Carol Burnett) takes great offence by Horton's claims, and soon Horton has to run in order to protect Who-ville from being destroyed.

The film boasts some beautiful computer animation; bright and colourful, vast amounts of detail are put into everything in order to make it all as similar in design/style as the illustrations in the 1954 Dr Seuss story as possible, creating a really authentic Dr Seuss style for it. A number of imagination and flashback sequences are hand drawn in the style of the illustrations in the original children's book, which is not only lovely to look at but increases the feeling of authenticity to it all. The voice cast are also good, particularly Carrey and Carell. Anybody who goes into long chats with me about comedy films will know I am not that amused by most Carrey and/or Carell stuff and find it unimpressive, however, their niche is in voice roles, especially in this film where they pack in vast amounts of energy, enthusiasm and character into their roles.

The film's major flaw, however, is the screenplay. The pace of the film is inconsistent - one moment it's fast and frantic, the next it's slow and plodding - throughout. The characters are also quite underdeveloped and altogether unmemorable. Yes, the stars of the film put their all into their voice roles but with such flaws in the characters and the screenplay they just don't quite pull it off. Were it not for the flawed screenplay I would be giving it four stars, because no matter how wonderful the animation is to watch it is no substitute for a strong screenplay.


2008.
U.
Stars:
Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Jesse McCartney, Josh Flitter, Seth Rogen, Amy Poehler, Isla Fisher, Will Arnett, Dan Fogler, Jaime Pressly, Laura Ortiz, Joey King, Jonah Hill, Niecy Nash, Charles Osgood, Dan Castellaneta, Frank Welker.

Annie Award nominations: Best Animated Effects (Alen Lai), Best Character Animation in a Feature Production (Jeff Gabor), Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production (Lee Sang Jun), Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production (Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production (John Powell).

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Avatar


***

On the planet Pandora, paraplegic former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is tasked by the RDA with infilatring the Na'vi - the alien race living in Pandora's jungles. Entering his own Avatar in the form of a Na'vi he infiltrates their culture. However, before too long he is putting his mission in jeopardy after falling in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the chief's (CCH Pounder) daughter.

There are two feelings which this film evokes within me when I watch it - love and hate - the reasons for which I shall write within this review.

Why is love evoked when I watch Avatar? This film has truly incredible visuals, possibly the best of all time, certainly when it comes to CGI created visuals. Shot in High Definition, the majority of scenes are predominantly created by outstanding CGI Animation, which means they are absolutely beautiful to look at. This is not least due to the fact that within these beautiful images are a number of bright colours, none of which threaten to outshine each other, and which come together like a wonderful painting. Just looking at such dazzling images really makes one feel like a child, as (like when you were a child) you are just in jaw dropping awe of the bright colours, and artistic side of the film which is sharp and bold to look at. In perfect sync with the incredible visuals are superb sound effects, which are sharp and bold to listen to and are just right for a film with such bold, dazzling imagery.

So why is hate evoked when I watch Avatar? No matter how incredible the Oscar winning visuals are to watch, one can't deny that the screenplay is flawed and unoriginal. The characters are generally rather bland and their journies don't get anywhere near as much development as they could, which I'm sure is the main reason behind the fact that a number of the performances (particularly Worthington's) are rather wooden. Messages of green peace and anti-terrorism are also ladled on rather thickly, meaning that what could be some really deep underlying messages are really over milked. As for the plot, it seems quite flimsy when one takes into account that this was a 13 years in the making film with vast media hype. Infiltrating an alien planet has been done since Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), and the subplot of a forbidden romance was done by Director James Cameron in The Terminator (1984) and Titanic (1997). All that hype and we are simply offered a flashing lights show? Clearly Cameron was too focused on the visuals and spent too little time on his screenplay. My mature critic really does cry out at this.

Ultimately, in spite of its flawed screenplay this film is a milestone in cinema history. Using (so far) the best CGI of all time it is also the film that redefined 3-D - a 3-D film never awestruck me as much as this one did - so it is no wonder it is the highest worldwide grosser in history, taking over $2.78 billion. It may be flawed but it is very entertaining and is most definetly worth a viewing. You will be awestruck, no matter how unimpressed you are with the screenplay.


2009/2010 (Extended Edition).
12.
Stars:
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Wes Studi, CCH Pounder, Joel David Moore, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao.

Oscars: Best Art Direction (Rick Carter, Kim Sinclair, Robert Stromberg), Best Cinematography (Mauro Fiore), Best Visual Effects (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (James Cameron, Jon Landau), Best Director (James Cameron), Best Editing (James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin), Best Sound Mixing (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson), Best Sound Editing (Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle), Best Original Score (James Horner).

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Up



*****

The opening of the film sees a small boy called Carl Fredericksen (Jeremy Leary), biggest fan of renowned explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), befriend wild child Ellie (Elie Docter) and promise to go with her to Paradise Falls, South America one day. A series of silent, but heartwarming clips, show them marry and the events of their married life, both the good and the bad. Tragically, however, on the day Carl gets the tickets for their trip to South America, roughly 70 years after first promising, the elderly Ellie collapses and later passes away in hospital.

The start of this prologue that shows Carl and Ellie as kids is a genuine barrel of laughs, with well-written gags and a very funny contrast between the shy, quiet Carl and the wild child Ellie, a role to which Elie Docter (daughter of Director Pete Docter - better known as the gangly genius behind 2001's Monsters, Inc.) brings great amounts of energy and excitement. Now, to a die hard Pixar fan like myself, this says that the film will be like all other Pixar films before it (1995-2008), very sophisticated and charming, witty and ridiculously child-friendly, with more than enough for adults, as well as, without a doubt, a film with incredible animation. Don't get me wrong, the film is all of these things, only there is a lot more material for adults, as well as a lot for children.
The montage of clips showing Carl and Ellie's marriage has no dialogue, as I said before, but the score to it is absolutely beautiful, and perfect for such a scene. There are good gags in it that kids will enjoy as much as adults, such as Carl's slightly more clumsy habits, which are rather amusing, and the first clip, which shows the major contrast in brashness of behaviour between Carl's family and Ellie's on their wedding day.
There are, unlike what one could come to expect from Pixar films after the first nine before Up (yes, Up is Pixar's tenth animated feature), some powerful and rather adult themes in the rest of the clips, such as Ellie being informed that she can't have children, as well as Ellie's tragic death, which really are poignant clips, thanks to a heartbreaking piece of piano music, which accompanies these two moments and really tugs at the heartstrings, to the extent where you are more than likely to find yourself welling up while watching. True, each Pixar film has had at least one true moment of poignancy (great examples being Jessie's memories of Emily in 1999's Toy Story 2; or Sulley saying goodbye to Boo in Monsters, Inc.), more often than not made so by the accompanying score. However, such a moment has never come so early within a film, and it genuinely does come as a huge surprise.

That's enough about the prologue, let me now (in brief, don't worry) describe the main plot of the film...
Following Ellie's death 78-year-old Carl (Ed Asner) decides to have the adventure in South America that he and Ellie had always dreamed of. Tying tens of thousands of large balloons to his house he flies South for adventure and happiness in Paradise Falls. Accidentally joining him, however, is 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer Russell (Jordan Nagai), who (unbeknownst to Carl) was on the porch when the house took off. The pair make it to Paradise Falls, however, when they arrive they discover a tropical flightless bird (Pete Docter), who takes an instant liking to them, and then find that the bird is in fact being pursued by Carl's childhood hero, Charles Muntz, and his pack of talking dogs, who pose as a huge threat to the safety of them all.

Having already made nine films, four of which - Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007) and WALL-E (2008) - had won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Pixar reached a whole new standard with Up, which in my view, is their best film to date, only just surpassing Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 (2010). Becoming the second animated film to ever recieve an Oscar nomination for Best Picture - the first being Beauty and the Beast (1991) - Pixar has made their most refined, grown up film to date with Up. It's slightly more adult themes of love and bond (the everlasting love and bond between Carl and Ellie), loyalty and friendship, loss and desperation are all so powerful and so well written.
When it comes to loyalty Carl is ever loyal to the promise he made Ellie, and his determination to get the house to the top of Paradise Falls truly reflects that. Loyalty is also a major theme in the bond Carl and Russell develop, not just between the two of them, but also with the bird (who Russell names Kevin, despite it being a girl) and Dug (Bob Peterson), one of Muntz's many dogs who talks through a digital collar, and who betrays Muntz after bonding with Carl (his new master) and Russell. These bonds of loyalty are powerful, heartfelt and gripping, and the film could never be the same without them, and this is also how friendship is one of the most major themes.
Loss is also made so powerful through Carl's everlasting grief over the loss of Ellie. His tendencies to panic everytime anything of Ellie's looks like it might get even slightly damaged are very emotional to watch, and it is clear in the way he reflects on what's going on by speaking up to the house or a picture of Ellie, that every bit of his being misses her greatly and is still grieving. This is so heartfelt and powerful, to the extent where it could move even the toughest of men to tears, as I'm sure many men can relate to it if their father went through the emotions Carl went through after being widowed.
Desperation is made as prominent in the film as it is through the character of Muntz. In the prologue it is revealed that the then young Muntz had been boycotted by the exploration community for making a fake skeleton of one of Kevin's species (whether or not it was really fake is never revealed) and that he is returning to the jungles of South America in his blimp Spirit of Adventure to capture the bird and clear his name, yet he has still failed 70 years on. By the time Carl and Russell meet him he is desperate to clear his name, and seven decades of failing has made him drastically paranoid to the extent where he believes anyone who comes to the jungles is after his bird, and will kill anybody who poses threat. The latter is never specifically said, but the presence of the leather helmets and goggles of explorers and pilots majorly hints towards that. Muntz is a very powerful character and his paranoia and evil is really powerful and gripping.

Those are the more adult themes of the film which are powerful throughout, but now it really is time to look at other elements of the film.

Like every single Pixar film, Up boasts outstanding animation. As we would expect it is exceptionally bright, colourful and detailed, as well as amazing to look at, absolutely stunning. With each Pixar film there has been something the animation has achieved that is more impressive than anything else achieved in the film's animation - Sulley's fur in Monsters, Inc.; the undersea lighting effects of Finding Nemo; the racing scenes in Cars (2006). In Up there are two that amazed me more than anything else. Firstly is the effect of the sunlight shining through the balloons. In a very beautiful shot we see Carl's house pass a little girl's apartment bedroom window as it ascends into the sky. As the balloons pass the window, the light shines through them, bathing the room in glowing multicolours. The amount of detail that must have gone into creating that, having to get just the right amount of transparency and brightness must have been huge, but they made it perfect and beautiful.
The other really impressive creation is South America, its rock formations, its waterfalls, its rainforests, it is all there, and it is stunning. The images are powerful, bright and bold, with vast amounts of effort going into them (apparently it took them four years to get it just right). The images also capture South America down to a tee - one of the DVD Bonus Features shows the film's creators, filming that particular part of South America, and comparing it to what was computer animated for the film, I can see basically no difference, it is perfectly captured. The animated South America is so boldly created that you really feel you are there, looking at what an awesome sight it is both on and off screen.

Now, let's look at the characters and their voice actors...
Voicing Carl, Asner captures the grouchy old man stereotype down to a tee, making Carl very irritable and short-tempered, a memorable moment when he tells off Dug, Kevin and Russell by saying
"I don't want you here [Dug], and I don't want you here [Kevin]. I'm stuck with you [Russell]."
However, from the moment they realize that their lives in danger, Carl becomes much more courageous and loving soul, really bonding with Russell, Dug and Kevin and Asner makes his determination to save his friends really engrossing and powerful. The grief over Ellie is also made very heartfelt and emotionally strains at the heartstrings within us viewers, which is just the effect it should.
As Dug, the film's Co-Director Bob Peterson is brings great excitement and some wonderful energy, making the "talking" dog very heartwarming and entertaining, while Director Pete Docter makes Kevin a very believable bird, by creating some squawks that genuinely sound like those of a bird. Plummer is also very sadistic and chilling as Muntz, making the paranoia and evil heart very believable/naturalistic, and truly makes Muntz one of the all time great Pixar antagonists with his powerful vocal performance. The performance, however, that is most memorable is that of Nagai as Russell, who brings so much energy and excitement to the role and is a genuine case of perfect voice casting. Pixar has always had a very good track record when it comes to casting children - John Morris as Andy in Toy Story; Hayden Panettiere as Dot in A Bug's Life (1998); Mary Gibbs as Boo in Monsters, Inc.; Alexander Gould as Finding Nemo's titular character; and Spencer Fox as Dash in The Incredibles. Nagai, however, stands out more in the memory than any of the others. Every scene he is in, he is so believable, making Russell's emotions and character very believable too, whether it is excitement over meeting Dug, being nervous about being on a floating house, or being exhausted and needing the bathroom, Nagai brings bags of energy and excitement, and creates outstanding comic timing and delivery, making it one of the all-time greatest performances by an 8-year-old, if not the greatest.

Before wrapping up this (very long) review, let's take a look at the film's screenplay...
Like with all of Pixar's films (with the possible exception of Cars), this screenplay boasts excellent comedy, both physical and verbal, superb and vibrant characters that are voiced to perfection, excellent dramatic sequences, as well as pathos and truly poignant moments. Pixar films usually have one more minor adult theme as well - illegitimacy in Ratatouille is a good example. However, as mentioned above, adult themes and poignancy are very prominent within Up, without making it unfriendly for children, but grabbing the hearts of us adult viewers and really making this a moving and powerful film for us to watch, and yet there is still plenty of comic relief coming from characters such as Russell and Dug which is hugely entertaining and works in perfect harmony with the rest of this immensely engrossing film. There is also vast amounts of character development within the film, that really makes these characters as powerful as they are. Over the course of the film Carl goes from being a small, shy child, to a grumpy, irritable old man, to a brave, courageous adventurer; Russell goes from being a hyperactive, slightly nervous little kid to a confident and determined individual; while Muntz goes from being a determined adventurer in the prologue, to a charming, but paranoid and evil madman type by the time he and Carl at last come face-to-face. Even though Ellie dies within the first ten minutes, her presence is always there, her memory always driving Carl forwards, and helping him in making his decisions, and this ever present spirit, I guess, is what brings so much power and grit to the screenplay.

In conclusion Up is Pixar's best film to date, full of power, poignancy and incredible characters, boasting superb animation, a wonderful screenplay and some great comic moments, and evoking poignancy and reflection within adult viewers a lot, while providing a lot of wonderful entertainment for children. A masterpiece is what I would use to describe this film in one word.


2009.
U.
Stars:
Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Christopher Plummer, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary, David Kaye, Josh Cooley, John Ratzenberger, Danny Mann, Donald Fullilove, Jess Harnell, Mickie McGowan.

Oscars: Best Animated Feature (Pete Docter), Best Original Score (Michael Giacchino).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (Jonas Rivera), Best Screenplay (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy), Best Sound Editing (Tom Myers, Michael Silvers).

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Swiss Family Robinson



****

After a pirate ship drives their ship into a storm, the Robinson family (John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran) find themselves and the ship's animals stranded on a deserted island. There they tame the jungle's wild animals, and build treehouses to live in, and soon they are enjoying life on the island. However, eventually the pirates come back and it's an all-out job to defend against them.

The strongest component of the film is by all means the jungle. It genuinely does feel so desolate and middle of nowhere. The sandy beaches that are deserted, bar a couple of animals really makes you aware quickly that the Robinsons aren't going to find civilization here, and the island's jungles are thick and tense, and combined with the animals living within them, are given a real desolate feel of danger. This really makes it sound like the film is a hardcore dramatic piece of cinema. It really is not. The film is rather comical, most especially within the banter between the three sons (MacArthur, Kirk and Corcoran) which is well-timed and full of comic energy that really brings it to life. The film is also very exciting to watch, the jungles scenes fast-paced and engaging, but nowhere near as much as in the climactic battle with the pirates to defend the island, which is full of fast-paced and well choreographed action, that a lot of work clearly went in to, creating very entertaining results.

With great set pieces and costumes, as well as really engrossing action, enjoyable characters and excellent comic moments, this is a very good film for all of the family, and I would most definetly recommend it.


1960.
U.
Stars:
John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Janet Munro, Sessue Hayakawa, Cecil Parker, Andy Ho, Milton Reid.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince



***

As Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, the pressure of fulfilling the prophecy resting heavily on him, he is tutored by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) in just how he must defeat Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, not appearing in this film), with the first obstacle being the fact he must get a vital old memory of the teenage Voldemort (Frank Dillane) from Voldemort's old teacher, Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).

Opening with a scene of the Death Eaters not only causing destruction to Diagon Alley, but to Muggle London as well, the film features absolutely superb visuals. The special effects are bold, powerful and very eye-catching, the highlights being the destruction of the Millenium Bridge, a Death Eater attack on the Burrow, and Dumbledore's fending of vast numbers of Inferius, by producing vast whips of fire from the end of his wand. Clearly the visuals team spent vast amounts of time working on the CGI created visuals of these scenes, as nothing seems out of place or artificial and it all works together so beautifully. The editing is to an equally high standard, especially in the Quiddith match against Slytherin, which is fast paced and very engrossing to watch, thanks to the quick edits and fast-paced shots, which really make you feel as if you are there, flying with the Gryffindors.

The cast make a good ensemble, but this film has more flaws within the cast than in any of the previous films (2001-7). Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson give their most artificial and poor performances to date, and it is as if they have simply thought, in the moments before Director David Yates yelled "Action", "I've made my millions, can I really be bothered to put in the effort anymore?" Fortunately their supporting stars more make up for it. Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith are as strong in their respective roles as they were in the previous films. Tom Felton really starts to shine as Malfoy, making him very powerful and his difficult emotions very engrossing and powerful to watch. The latest, strong additions to the cast are Broadbent, who provides excellent comic relief as Slughorn, created to perfection through Broadbent's top-notch comic timing and delivery; and Helen McCrory, in a brief but strong role, as Malfoy's distressed mother, and who plays the distressed, loving mother part beautifully.

The screenplay, however, is the film's major flaw. As a Potter maniac the most disappointing factor is the fact that vast amounts of the 2005 novel are just removed, even events that felt strong and important in the book, most of which being memories of Voldemort, and information about what the Death Eaters are currently up to. The main disappointments, as a critic, come from the lack of character development. A number of minor characters are cut, which one could see as fair enough as they were minor characters in the first place. Vast amounts of included characters have very little role, however, notable examples being Smith as Professor McGonagall, who is strong in the three scenes she has a good part in; Evanna Lynch and Matthew Lewis, who have a lot less chance to shine as Luna and Neville as they did in the previous film; and Timothy Spall as Wormtail, who appears for about ten seconds, with no lines, which is disappointing as he had been very good as Wormtail in films three (2004) and four (2005), and here it is as if they just included his cameo to satisfy the fans of the books. True, he had barely any role in the book, but even just one little bit of dialogue to show the contrast between himself and the other Death Eaters in terms of confidence and importance would have sufficed. The romance between Harry and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) is also very corny and very artificial and tense. It genuinely feels like the most forced romance ever and you are guaranteed to cringe when watching it.

All-in-all this film is good, but Potter maniacs will be disappointed. The screenplay may have major flaws but the cast as a whole are good and the visuals excellent, so it is definetly worth a watch.


2009.
12.
Stars:
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Tom Felton, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Bonnie Wright, Maggie Smith, Helen McCrory, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Dave Legeno, David Thewlis, Natalia Tena, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch.

Oscar nomination: Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel).

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Devil's Backbone

El espinazo del diablo


****

Set in a Spanish orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, the film follows new kid Carlos (Fernando Tielve), who leads an investigation into the case of Santi (Juni Valverde), a dead child who will not rest until his death is avenged.

Directed with skill and passion by Mexican Auteur Guillermo Del Toro, this is a tense, dark piece of cinema from start to finish. The feelings of tenseness and unease are made by the excellent cinematography, which includes long shots of the orphanage's hallways, which are dimly lit to make them very creepy, and the tenseness this causes is only heightened by a gritty soundtrack which will get the spine tingling. Santi's ghost is naturally the most effectively creepy element, however, thanks to some seriously impressive make-up. Gaunt, chalk white, covered in black lines and shadows, and dripping in cold, icy water, Santi's ghost is a bold and vivid image that sticks in the mind and is possibly the film's most effective component.

The cast are also very effective. Eduardo Noriega, who plays the caretaker responsible for Santi's death, is a very cold-hearted and calculated antagonist; while Federico Luppi and Marisa Paredes are very strong as the orphanage's doctor and administrator, creating a tough, gritty double act. The children, however, are the true stars, working in perfect sync with the adults and each other to help make this such a powerful film.

In short a gritty and tense film, that shows just how talented Del Toro is, and is a must see for his fans.


2001.
18.
Stars:
Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces, Eduardo Noriega, Junio Valverde, Federico Luppi, Marisa Paredes, Irene Visedo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Adrian Lamana, Berta Ojea, Daniel Esparza, Franciso Maestre.

ALMA nomination: Outstanding Foreign Film.

Shrek the Third


**

When King Harold (John Cleese) literally croaks it, Shrek (Mike Myers) realises he can't be King, so goes with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas) to find Arthur (Justin Timberlake), Harold's nephew and the only other heir. Meanwhile, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) learns she is pregnant with triplets, but her happiness is interrupted by Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and a host of fairy tale villains trying to claim Far Far Away's throne.

After the outstanding Shrek (2001) and very good Shrek 2 (2004), great excitement had been built up for this third installment. Tragically, however, great disappointment hit us huge fans of the franchise with this installment. The animation is just as wonderful as ever, there is no question about that. It is bold, dazzling and colourful, bringing the characters to a very eye catching life, and making Far Far Away really eye-catching, as well as bringing great colour mixes that really dazzle to Merlin's (Eric Idle) magic spells. It is also very detailed, almost giving life to every golden locke on Charming's head, and giving Puss's fur a real stand up on its own type of life. So Shrek the Third is as much a visual treat as its predecessors.

The rest of the film is what disappoints, however, most disappointments coming from the screenplay. The events of the screenplay jump from one to the next with little development, which results in their being little substance to the specific events, and (in the bigger picture) no substance to the screenplay in general. The characters, both old and new, are just as poorly written. Charming just acts too feminine to be a decent villain; Arthur - or Artie - is too much of a little tantrum thrower to be taken even slightly seriously; Merlin the crackdown magician is too over the top with little entertaining quality, which is a shame when it is Eric Idle of Monty Python fame voicing him; and the manly Doris (Larry King) was funny in Shrek 2 as she was just so ladylike, only looking manly, but here she is a lot more harsh and brutal so the comedic quality is automatically lost. And finally the screenplay also greatly misuses some pop songs, which ruins some scenes; e.g. at Harold's funeral which is made to look very moving some singing frogs start singing Live and Let Die, which kills the mood and just wouldn't work at all at a funeral scene, even if Harold had been voiced by Paul McCartney; when Gingy's (Conrad Vernon) life flashes before his eyes he begins singing On the Good Ship Lollipop, and you can't help but groan at the stupid unoriginality of it.

Clearly, the DreamWorks team were too focused on making another visual spectacle and didn't bother too much with a screenplay or characters. In what was a poor era for computer animated features - particularly for DreamWorks who released Shark Tale (2004), Madagascar (2005) and Flushed Away (2006) during this era of dropping standards - one hoped Shrek the Third would mark the end of below par computer animations, but alas not.


2007.
U.
Stars:
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Julie Andrews, Larry King, Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Conrad Vernon, Cody Cameron, John Cleese, Aron Warner, Ian McShane, Regis Philbin, Eric Idle, Seth Rogen.

BAFTA nomination: Best Animated Film (Chris Miller).

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


***

One year (1300 Narnian years) after their adventures, the four Pevensies (William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley) are transported back to Narnia, where they must aid Caspian (Ben Barnes) in leading a Narnian army against Caspian's uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellito), and his army of Telmarines, to bring peace back to the once great land.

From start to finish there is a much darker, much more atmospheric feel to the film, which is created through a tense score that sends shivers down the spine at points, and much more dimly lit sets. The film also features a lot less open spaces than its 2005 predecessor, instead, with most of the action taking place in forests, caves and castles, all of which are stunning to look at. The effects are also very good, particularly when the Pevensies are transported to Narnia, which is edited quickly and beautifully, making it really beautiful to look at; and the climactic battle scene, which is explosive and full of CGI masterpieces - no wonder that the film had a budget of $225 million.

Again the film features some very good performances, both live-action and vocal. Although Barnes isn't particularly good, mostly due to the Mediterranean accent which does not make the anger or determination he is portraying that powerful or heartfelt, Castellito makes Miraz very cold-hearted and a classic villain. Liam Neeson once again brings wisdom and authority to Aslan, while Eddie Izzard brings great comic relief with his excellent vocal performance as mouse, Reepicheep. Other memorable performances that are consistently well created include Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis as dwarves Trumpkin and Nikabrik, and Ken Stott as badger Trufflehunter.

The film's major flaws, however, all stem from the screenplay. The majority of the characters are underdeveloped - many of the various Telmarine humans, and Narnian creatures, they get barely any role within the film, and it is as if they are just there as eye-candy so Narnia looks more impressive. The original novel was meant to have deep and meaningful substance, where as here it just feels like a children's fantasy, where everything must be child-friendly, with little to impress the adults other than the visuals. Even the central religious theme of faith (Lucy's faith that Aslan will aid them and bring peace) is poorly created, with Lucy's original fight to persuade the others made a simple attempt at saying "But I know what I saw", followed by inconsistent doubt. Part of the Christian faith is the fact we all have moments of doubt, it's in the Bible that we will have troubled, doubtful moments, but a strong representation of this that was in the book is not displayed in the film, and it is very understated and sidelined so that the War against Miraz dominates completely.

Visually impressive, it may be, well-written it is not. Good entertainment for the family, with some good performances and family friendly characters? Yes it is. It's not brilliant, but it's worth a viewing.


2008.
PG.
Stars:
William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellito, Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Pierfrancesco Favino, Cornell John, Ken Stott, Damian Alcazar, Shane Rangi, Vincent Grass, Simon Andreu, Predrag Bjelac, Tilda Swinton, David Bowles.

Saturn nominations: Best Special Effects (Dean Martin, Wendy Rogers), Best Costume (Isis Mussenden), Best Make-up (Paul Engelen, Gregory Nicotero).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix



***

As his fifth year at Hogwarts begins, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finds that all of his claims that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned are getting boycotted by the Ministry. Realising that the Ministry are also preventing Hogwarts students from learning defensive magic, he (in secret) begins the DA (Dumbledore's Army), where he teaches fellow students defensive magic.

Visually, this is a very well made film, with very eye-catching, sharp effects, full of explosions, fires and collapses; as well as atmospheric, with a very, very dark tone to it, which serves to make the more adult sides of the screenplay a lot more tense and dramatic; and excellent cinematography, with aerial scenes on both broomsticks and Thestrals being very well shot, and really making you feel you are there, the scenes over the roofs of London being possibly vertigo inducing when viewed on a large screen.

The cast all work together well to create a good ensemble. Michael Gambon, Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, Robert Hardy, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson and David Thewlis are all just as strong in their respective roles, as they were in the first four films (2001-5). As Neville Longbottom, Matthew Lewis really shows his talent, and gives Neville his most deep and complex appearance to date. For this film, three new strong supporting stars are introduced, in the forms of Imelda Staunton as new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Cornelius Fudge's (Hardy) right hand woman, making her cold-hearted, sadistic and sickening, also providing some very good comic moments and is so wonderful to watch; Helena Bonham Carter, as Voldemort's right hand woman, Bellatrix Lestrange, and who makes Bellatrix very effectively mentally disturbed, and a wonderful representation of pure evil; and Evanna Lynch as Ravenclaw student Luna Lovegood, who gives good comic timing, and makes Luna very believably airy-fairy.
There are, however, two main drawbacks to the ensemble. The major one is that Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson give inconsistent performances as the three leads. Their performances feel more forced and artificial than before, and it just feels as if the trio have just thought "I've made my millions, I don't think I can be that bothered anymore", but only in some scenes; where as in most others they give strong, developed performances, particularly Radcliffe who is very complex as Harry.
The more minor is the fact that so many characters who were given substance in the novel (2003) - such as Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Kingsley (George Harris), Tonks (Natalia Tena) and Malfoy (Tom Felton) - are given scarecely any role to play and just feel like they have been chucked in as props just to please fans/readers of the book, which is especially painful in Ginny's case as she is a big part of the climactic battle with the Death Eaters at the Ministry of Magic.

The flaws within the ensemble of characters and actors, however, are largely down to the flawed screenplay. Order of the Phoenix is the longest book at 766 pages (UK edition), yet it became the second shortest film at 138 minutes, second only to Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), which is 130 minutes. This is more than noticeable, as vast numbers of subplots - such as a number of Harry's various problems with Umbridge, and attacks on Hagrid (Coltrane) and McGonagall (Smith) - are removed. As well as this almost every single event in the film, which is actually included, is done as quickly as possible, as if they were bet that they couldn't make the book into a film that was under two and a half hours and which results in vast amounts of underdevelopment. As a critic, this is infuriating, as a film and its characters need development and substance, and every scene needs to gel together, which it doesn't. As a die hard Potter fan this is infuriating for me, as I found the book fantastic, with everything clicking together and I couldn't wait to see how the film did it. The feeling of the screenplay trying to get everything over and done with angers most in the climax at the Ministry of Magic, where it's all over and done with in less than twenty minutes, whereas it took at least four chapters in the book.

Majorly flawed, especially in the screenplay, there is no denying that this film is visually fantastic, and has some truly excellent cast members, who make the film very watchable, and rather entertaining in places.


2007.
12.
Stars:
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Robert Hardy, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, Oliver Phelps, James Phelps, Katie Leung, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Tom Felton, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling, Natalia Tena, George Harris.

BAFTA nominations: Best Production Design (Stuart Craig, Stephanie McMillan), Best Special Visual Effects (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Emma Norton, Chris Shaw).

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Ratatouille



****

Set in Paris the film follows Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat who dreams of being a master chef and who runs in with Linguini (Lou Romano), illegitimate son of Remy's deceased hero, Gusteau (Brad Garrett), France's most renowned chef. With Remy's ability to cook, the two agree to have the little rat go under Linguini's hat and control him like a marionette into making good food, bringing Gusteau's struggling restaurant back to what it was before the great chef died.

Post The Incredibles (2004), computer animated features were generally to a much lower standard - Madagascar (2005), Chicken Little (2005), The Wild (2006), Over the Hedge (2006), Cars (2006), Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Shrek the Third (2007) to name some. Ratatouille, however, is the start of what has so far proved to be a generally excellent comeback, with other strong computer animations released since including Kung Fu Panda (2008), WALL-E (2008), Bolt (2008), Monsters vs Aliens (2009), Up (2009), How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and Toy Story 3 (2010).

First, let's go over the film's animation. Like with every film Pixar has ever released, it is outstanding. It is beautiful, you really fall in love with it. The sense and feeling to Paris is really captured perfectly. The cobbled streets, the old-fashioned, yet beautiful architecture, they are all captured perfectly, and it is clear that vast amounts of work went into creating the perfect Paris. The Parisian cafes, the little shops, it is all there, and it is beautiful beyond words. The animation also creates the food perfectly, as well as the muscular movements required to make the food the way it is, and your mouth really waters as you look at what, in real life is some of the most sumptious food in the world, being cooked. The animation also creates both the fur of the rats and the atmosphere of the sewers perfectly.

The characters are also as wonderful as the animation, but this wouldn't have been half as achievable were it not for the stellar voice cast. Oswalt brings great passion to Remy, making the characters narration and love for food refined, and the character charming and rather quirky. Romano brings great comic timing and nervousness to the part of Linguini making him entertaining and powerful. Janeane Garofalo makes chef Colette a very headstrong, no-nonsense kind of woman, to a very powerful and engrossing level. The two most memorable, however, are Ian Holm as antagonist Skinner, a bad-tempered dwarf of a chef, which Holm creates superbly with great levels of energy and strength; and Peter O'Toole as harsh food critic Anton Ego, a role to which O'Toole brings great power, great authority and harshness, making a really engrossing performance, and almost a Vincent Price type character.

The screenplay is also a very strong one, with lots of superb character development gone into it, making them characters you can really relate to and feel for. Remy's narration is what makes the screenplay, however. It is well written, exceptionally engaging and with a lot of power and beauty brought to it, thanks greatly to Oswalt's excellent vocal performance. Without such an all-round strong screenplay, however, the film would just completely flop, and it is just such a masterpiece of writing, like almost all of Pixar's screenplays to date.

With superb animation, excellent characters and a wonderful screenplay this is an excellent film and more than makes up for the disappointment caused by Cars a year earlier. It is a great film for adults and children alike, although I do suggest to adults that it is watched when you have a glass of wine in your hand, as it really makes you feel refined doing that.


2007.
U.
Stars:
Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O'Toole, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger, Teddy Newton, Jake Steinfeld, Tony Fucile.

Oscar: Best Animated Feature (Brad Bird).
Oscar nominations: Best Screenplay (Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco), Best Sound Editing (Randy Thom, Michael Silvers), Best Sound Mixing (Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, Doc Kane), Best Original Score (Michael Giacchino).

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe



***

After being evacuated to the countryside from London during World War II, four siblings (William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley) enter a wardrobe...only to come out the other side into the magical winter wonderworld of Narnia, where they learn they must lead an army to victory against the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton), in order to fulfill a prophecy.

There are two ways in which this film is successful. Firstly, it is successful as a visually beautiful piece of cinema. Filmed in Director Andrew Adamson's native New Zealand, the film features vast, open landscapes that are absolutely stunning to look at. The snow capped mountains, the rivers and waterfalls, the forests and hills, all are shot with stunning cinematography to make the viewer look at them in awe, though never to the same extent as with The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-3). The second is as a piece of fantasy. Almost all of everybody's favourite fantasy creatures are in this film - centaurs, minotaurs, dwarves, a phoenix, a witch and fauns to name a few - as well as a number of talking animals, naturally most memorably of all, the all-powerful, Christ like lion, Aslan (Liam Neeson), and other memorable ones being Mr and Mrs Beaver (Ray Winstone and Dawn French). Coupled with the climactic battle and the overall magic of Narnia it does make very good fantasy.

The cast make a decent ensemble. Moseley, Popplewell and Keynes aren't brilliant, not bad, but not brilliant, but Henley really stands out and is the film's true star, making Lucy such a powerful character, especially for an 8-year-old. Neeson makes Aslan wise, and brings great authority to the part, while Winstone and French provide great comic banter as the beavers. The two most memorable, for me at least, however, are Swinton, who makes the White Witch cold and wonderfully evil; and James McAvoy as faun, Mr Tumnus, who makes the creature heart-warming and meaningful.

There are, however, two major flaws to the film. The first is the fact that the Christian allegories, that were so important in the book, are greatly dumbed down. Aslan, a representation of Christ, is depicted as more of a tragic hero with magical powers in the film, where as in the book, he was a parallel of Christ in almost every way possible. It is hard to explain, but the dumbed down feeling is constantly there, and is very difficult not to notice. The second is the screenplay. There is very little depth and meaning to it, making the film more like a kid's film than the deep, powerful and indepth masterpiece that C.S. Lewis wrote over five decades earlier, and vast amounts of events are underdeveloped and move from one to the next with little connection and consistency.

Although very good entertainment, and a very good film for a family (particularly one with young children) to watch, there is a lot that will disappoint big fans of the books, particularly ones who are big on the Christian allegories. This is never the less a fun film to watch though, so I still say watch it.


2005.
PG.
Stars:
William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Ray Winstone, Dawn French, Kiran Shah, Patrick Kake, Rupert Everett, Jim Broadbent, Michael Madsen, Shane Rangi, James Cosmo, Elizabeth Hawthorne.

Oscar: Best Makeup (Howard Berger, Tami Lane).
Oscar nominations: Best Sound Mixing (Terry Porter, Dean A. Zupancic, Tony Johnson), Best Visual Effects (Dean Wright, Jim Berney, Scott Farrar, Bill Westenhofer).

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon



****

One of the best French films of all time, the film tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), a well-known journalist, who, at aged 42, suffers a stroke which leaves him with rare condition "locked-in syndrome". Paralyzed completely, his only communication is through his left eye, and answering "Yes" and "No" questions with blinks, dictates his memoirs.

In real life Bauby died of pneumonia 10 days after the publication of his memoirs and hearing the first reviews, and this comes up in font form at the end of the film. Seeing as his death was over 13 years ago, and he was unable to do more than mumble in his final months, nobody will ever really know what he was thinking in those two and a bit years trapped inside himself. The film offers what is the nearest anybody will ever come to knowing the full truth of what was going on in his mind as Bauby narrates, the subtitles in italics, so that we know for a fact it is all thought not actual speech. The narration of his thoughts expresses his hate of what has happened to him and what he has become; the frustration of the fact that he can't communicate properly; his grief and anger over the fact his family will never experience him in the same way again. Like I say, nobody will ever know his exact thoughts, but that is most likely version, almost all of which comes from his memoirs.

For me, the most ingenius quality of the film is the fact that a good two-thirds of the film is seen through Bauby's eyes. With a variety of very clever carefully angled slightly blurred shots we can see everything from his perspective, the hospital rooms, the proxemics, his reflection in hallway mirrors, and most of all we feel and have our hearts wrenched as we basically become his tears, the shot blurring and wobbling as a tear that forms. Almost all films are shot at various angles, creating a third person perspective, with us the viewer as the third person, therefore it is such a refreshing change when we see the narrative through first person, and coupled with the narration, it makes the film even more poignant to watch.

Very heartfelt, very poignant and very beautifully created, this is a superb piece of French cinema that will break hearts and really provoke the thoughts.


2007.
Language: French.
12.
Stars:
Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Consigny, Marie-Josee Croze, Olatz Lopez, Patrick Chesnais, Max von Sydow, Gerard Watkins, Theo Sampaio, Fiorella Campanella, Talina Boyaci, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Isaach De Bankole, Marina Hands, Niels Arestrup, Emma de Caunes.

Oscar nominations: Best Director (Julian Schnabel), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood), Best Editing (Juliette Welfling), Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski).