Archive for August, 2009

Lost in Translation (2003)

Posted in 2003, Drama with tags , , , on August 7, 2009 by filmglutton


Lost in Translation (2003) – directed, produced and written by Sofia Coppola – is an exploration of loneliness, alienation and friendship set in modern Tokyo. After continuously encountering each other in their hotel during the middle of the night, middle-aged actor Bob (Bill Murray) and 20-something newlywed Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) share culture shock, displacement and insomnia, leading to the development of a complicated friendship.


Bob and Charlotte are ‘lost’ in many ways. Feeling as though they lack purpose in life, both have the same Finding Your True Calling CD, both have trouble sleeping, and both have troubled marriages. Charlotte’s husband leaves her in the hotel while he goes away on business, while Bob’s wife sends him urgent faxes regarding carpet samples. Both of them are keen to break out of their monotonous lives, and they soon spend many nights out exploring Tokyo together.


Lost in Translation is extremely visual; Coppola has an appreciation of Tokyo that is evident in the cinematography, creating a beautiful yet surreal atmosphere. The film avoids Hollywood clichés, instead aiming for subtlety. I didn’t know how the story would end when I first saw it, as the progressions in plot seem very natural. The characters are very real; there is a truth within them that is a testament to good writing and performances.


Overall, Lost in Translation is a great film. It was nominated for 3 Oscars and reaffirmed Coppola’s status as a director to watch. Focusing more on visual style and character than plot development, the story at times seems to aimlessly drift from one thing to the next, but this is not necessarily a bad thing; it all contributes to the disassociated, out-of-body vibe the audience experiences.

My rating:1111


John Hughes dies of heart attack

Posted in Random Movie News with tags on August 7, 2009 by filmglutton


John Hughes, the director of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, has died. He was 59 years old. The Michigan-born writer, director and producer died suddenly of a heart attack while taking a morning walk during a trip to Manhattan to visit family. He is survived by Nancy, his wife of 39 years, sons John and James, and four grandchildren.

John Hughes was 34 years old when he released his first feature, Sixteen Candles, but no director before or since was ever more in touch with his inner teenager. The next four films he would make — writing and directing The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and writing and producing Pretty in Pink – defined what it was to be adolescent in the age of Reagan. The kids in his films weren’t merely mindless horn dogs peeking through peep holes into the girl’s locker-room shower; they were funny, smart, and troubled — fully formed characters in a genre that usually presented teens as little more than bundles of hormones.

Hughes began his film career as a screenwriter, penning many of the early National Lampoon franchise comedies, some based on autobiographical stories he originally wrote while a staffer on the National Lampoon magazine (1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation was based on a story called “Vacation 58”). Later in his career, after the success of his high school films, he tried directing more grown up comedies, like 1987’s Trains, Plains, and Automobiles, and 1988’s She’s Having a Baby, but they never matched the success of his “brat pack” pictures, the ones that made household names out of young actors including Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael Hall. “It’s a great honor to make a little dent in the culture,” Hall ruminated over his Hughes years with EW in 2006. “That [the movies] get mentioned with seminal films like Rebel Without a Cause or American Graffiti — that just blows my mind.”

As it happens, Hollywood was originally skeptical of Hughes’ more nuanced view of on-screen teenagers. When he first screened The Breakfast Club for Universal executives, the studio brass hated it. “They said, ‘Kids won’t sit through it. There’s no action. There’s no party. There’s no nudity,’” Hughes told Premiere magazine in 1999. “But they were missing the one really key element of teendom, and that is that it feels as good to feel bad as it does to feel good. At that age, I remember, many times, staring out the window and feeling sorry for myself. ‘The whole world is against me. Nobody understands me.’ It’s a lot of fun. One of the great wonders of that age is that your emotions are open and fresh and raw. That’s why I stuck around that genre for so long.”

But even as Hughes’ directing career waned in the 1990s, his writing successes continued. In 1990, he tapped out a story about a little boy who gets accidentally left behind by his family and ended up with the billion-dollar Home Alone franchise. In 1994, he officially retired to northern Illinois, with his wife Nancy but continued to write (sometimes under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes) for movies like 2002’s Maid in Manhattan and 2008’s Drillbit Taylor. Eventally, though, Hughes finally got in touch with his inner grown-up. “If you’re a father of a teenager, you’re a dork, no matter what you do,” he said in 1999. “But it’s OK. It’s natural. Going through these phases, that’s what makes life wonderful. I ain’t going to dye my hair. I’m just fine being the old gray guy.”


I was quite saddened by this news. John Hughes really spoke for a generation of young people through his work. Even though I wasn’t born until after his biggest hits, I have seen his films and they are relevant to people of any age or generation, with real human themes that resonate with the viewer.

Rest in peace John.

Public Enemies (2009)

Posted in 2009, Action, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by filmglutton


Based on a true story, Public Enemies is about infamous American outlaw John Dillinger. The film opens in 1933 with Dillinger staging a daring escape from the Indiana State Penitentiary. From here he and his gang embark on a series of bank robberies, quickly and effortlessly stealing thousands of dollars with every hit. Between prison stints Dillinger falls in love with Billie (Marion Cotillard), a woman he meets at a restaurant. Dillinger is regarded by law enforcement as being public enemy number one, so top dog Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is enlisted to apprehend him.


I went into the film knowing next to nothing about the story. All I knew was that both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were in it – good enough for me! Unfortunately, the film left me feeling a little “whelmed”. The characters are rather one-dimensional, and they don’t really develop over the course of the narrative. Even Johnny Depp, as brilliant as he is, has very little to do. Christian Bale tends to play one-note characters, and Purvis is no different – it’s a shame, because he has shown himself to be a capable actor. The narrative is a bit messy and confusing, particularly in the middle section. The action sequences, while highly energetic, are hard to follow. This is partly because you are unsure of the characters (they all look a bit the same in their black coats and hats), but also because the movie was shot on HD instead of film. With HD the picture is so sharp, lacking the slightly softer movements seen on film. I found it very hard to focus on anything when there was a lot of action on the screen, particularly as a lot of it was handheld. One of the most chaotic scenes, a night-time gunfight, is especially hard to watch – my eyes were feeling rather tired by the end! I think it’s great that HD has a place in modern filmmaking (gives us financially-challenged filmmakers a bit of hope!), but it certainly has its limitations.


The film seemed to run for too long, but my main issue was that it lacked any real emotional impact. There were only a few moments where I really felt anything for the characters (and that mainly came in moments of violence, most notably when Billie is in custody). I think that was the main problem with Public Enemies – it didn’t make me care for characters. In fact, I had a very flippant attitude towards their fates. I was taken on their journey but was never really bothered about what happened to them.


All in all this is quite an enjoyable film. John Dillinger is an intriguing historical character and he makes for a good cinematic suject. There is nothing especially bad about Public Enemies, but nothing really stands out either. The film isn’t memorable but it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

My rating: 111

Nim’s Island (2008)

Posted in 2008, Comedy, Kids/Family with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by filmglutton


Nim (Abigail Breslin) is a young girl who lives with her father Jack (Gerard Butler), a world-renowned marine biologist, in a tree-house on a secret South Pacific island. Nim is ‘island-schooled’, scurrying up trees to get coconuts, climbing volcanoes, and just generally having an awesome time! She is frequently accompanied by her menagerie, which includes a pelican, a lizard, and a sea lion. While Jack immerses himself in work, Nim reads the latest Alex Rover adventure novels (an Indiana Jones type character who happens to look just like her dad). Nim is a great fan of Alex Rover’s bravery and the adventures he has.


Life on the secret island is idyllic, but everything changes when Jack gets lost at sea on one of his expeditions, leaving Nim alone on the island. To make matters worse, the island is threatened by tourists! Nim has to do whatever she can to protect her island, but she can’t do it alone – she emails Alex Rover for help. Unbeknownst to Nim, Alex Rover is actually Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic writer who barely leaves her apartment and spends most of her time using hand sanitiser. Alex is not exactly the hero she writes about, so she needs to confront many fears if she is to help Nim!


Nim’s Island is based on a children’s book by Australian author Wendy Orr. It’s very much a children’s adventure story – there’s not much here for adults (even the somewhat childish ones like myself)! Kids will love Nim and her adventures. She is so brave and capable, a great fantasy role model for kids to aspire too…it’s always good to see smart and non-bratty kids onscreen. Abigail Breslin is really sweet and charming, and Jodie Foster is great in a rare comedic role (although there is little or no character development). In contrast, Gerard Butler is quite average in his dual roles as Jack and Alex Rover (he seems more comfortable as adventurous Alex than as father-figure Jack). The storytelling is quite unsubtle, with the filmmakers going for cheap slapstick jokes at times, and some of the effects shots are a bit fake-looking. The story unfortunately lacks depth for adults, but they are not the target audience so it’s ok.

This really is a film for very young kids, I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 10 being swept away by this – maybe if you try to recapture your inner childhood you may find yourself amused by some of the sillier jokes. I must admit I got a bit sidetracked as I watched this, but it was reasonably enjoyable (and I always love to see another film with Jodie Foster, she is such a phenomenal actress).

My rating: 112

Forgotten Silver (1995)

Posted in Documentary/Mockumentary, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2009 by filmglutton


Ok, for my very first review I’ll be reviewing Forgotten Silver (1995), which I saw for the first time today. Directed by Costa Bates and Peter Jackson (one of my favourite directors – read his biography if you love filmmaking, I guarantee you will be inspired!), Forgotten Silver chronicles the life and work of Colin McKenzie, an unknown Kiwi filmmaker who (among other things) made the first ‘talkie’ in 1908 and the first colour film in 1911. The film opens with Jackson telling us the story of how he found McKenzie’s film reels in his neighbour’s garden shed. What Jackson uncovers is a trove of amazing archival footage, and it becomes clear to everyone that Colin McKenzie deserves a place among history’s great filmmaking pioneers.


McKenzie was an innovator cursed with bad luck. His epic film Salome was thwarted by financial problems, and his personal life was also somewhat tumultuous. The story is engrossing, encompassing McKenzie’s original footage, interviews, and sequences with Jackson and Bates searching for the lost set of Salome in the New Zealand wilderness.


If this is sounding more and more unbelievable, well, it is! The entire thing is made up (right down to the closing credits, where Hannah McKenzie and others are in the cast list). Forgotten Silver is one cleverly disguised mockumentary! There are some pretty obvious clues here and there – why have we never heard of a man that achieved so much!?! – but the story is so grounded in reality that it fooled many New Zealander’s when it originally aired (leading to some disappointment and, in some cases, pure outrage!) There are very convincing interviews with industry heavyweights Sam Neill, Harvey Weinstein and Leonard Maltin, lending veracity to the story, and Colin’s life is woven with real events such as World Wars I & II.


I’ve been wanting to see this for a while. This is essentially a telemovie, but for a project that aired on local television in New Zealand, the creativity and craftsmanship are superb (do we expect anything less from Mr Jackson?). I watched a behind the scenes clip on the DVD, where the filmmakers go into the history of the project and how it was made. They used some green screen and visual effects, and Colin McKenzie’s archival shots have been treated to look old and authentic – all in all some really great stuff!

If you like documentaries, mockumentaries, early films or just films in general, I’m sure you will get some enjoyment from this!

My rating: 1111