Archive for the Drama Category

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

Posted in 2010, Drama, Romance with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

The ladies are back. This time Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is scared that she and Big (Chris Noth) are settling into married monotony, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is battling menopause with gusto, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has hit the glass ceiling in her job, and Charlotte (Kristen Davies) is worried that Harry’s eye is wandering to the braless breasts of their young Irish nanny. Samantha is offered a work opportunity and the girls are whisked off to Abu Dhabi. Carrie runs into her ex, Aidan (John Corbett), who offers an exciting contrast to Big back at home. And…actually, that’s all I can really say about the plot.

Let me preface this review by saying that I loved the TV series, and even though the first movie wasn’t well-received, I was involved enough in the characters’ journey to thoroughly enjoy it. So it hurts me to say that this movie is a big pile of crap.

Honestly, this is just terrible. It goes downhill from the gay wedding at the beginning of the film in which Liza Minelli performs Beyonce’s Single Ladies. The whole plot was completely pointless. It was like they were happy with where they left the characters at the end of the last movie, but they wanted to make another film, so they created conflict out of nothing.

None of the characters have a decent story arc. Miranda was always my favourite, and she is given the short end of the stick here, with absolutely no story at all. Only Carrie and Charlotte are given real ‘problems’, but they are not interesting enough for us to care. Carrie has returned to her typical selfish self. Seriously, after all that time trying to win Big’s heart, what the hell is she whinging about? Charlotte whinges her way through the film without ever confronting Harry. Actually, the men only make a brief appearance at the beginning of the film. Only Big has a decent amount of screen time, but he is by far the most annoying of the spouses, so this is not particularly welcome. The dialogue is terrible, the cinematography is dreadfully dull…basically nothing about this is worth watching.

This was a true disappointment to me and the friend I saw it with. I’m not a chick-flick fan at the best of times, but the series was so great. Don’t waste your money with this one, it was a total waste of time…and very long, too, at nearly 3 hours. The clothes aren’t even nice, and don’t get me started on how racist and offensive it is. Blergh.

I unfortunately know women who enjoyed this movie. I only hope they get out and see some better films so they can learn to see the difference between a quality movie and this pile of junk.

My rating:

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Pretty in Pink (1986)

Posted in 1986, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Teen with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

18-year-old Andie (Molly Ringwald) lives with her father on the wrong side of the tracks (literally). Her best friend is Duckie (Jon Cryer), a sometimes annoying/sometimes endearing pal since childhood. Andie is an intelligent individual, creating her own clothes from items she finds in second-hand stores. Of course, this makes her somewhat the outcast at school. Andie manages to catch the eye of wealthy boy Blaine (Andrew McCarthy), a sensitive type who is unlike his pretentious friends. He asks her out on a date, and from here the develop a relationship with many obstacles…

Of all the Brat Pack films, this is probably my favourite. It’s not as original as Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but there’s a real honesty here. This kind of story has been done over and over. Poor girl, rich boy, disapproval from both sides. However, it is, probably thanks to the king of teen cinema, the late great John Hughes, a wonderful teen romance. The film manages to be tender and feels fresh despite the apparent cliches.

A lot of the success of the film can be pinned on the wonderful performances of the leads. Nothing too special, but all of them are charismatic with good screen presence. Molly Ringwald really was something in those days. Several of the other main cast are still working today…see Two and a Half Men, my most hated TV show, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, another of my most hated.

 

It’s refreshing to see a film where not everyone lives in an upper-middle-class world where nobody seems to work but there’s always enough money for everything. Andie has real problems. Her mum left her and her dad. Her dad has been depressed and can’t hold a steady job. She is frequently ridiculed at school, but she is strong and faces her problems with dignity. This might not be the most original story ever but it is told sincerely and with heart.

 

I really liked this movie, I thought it was sweet and even though the concept is old I felt like I was seeing a ‘new’ story, one in which the outcome was not necessarily set in stone. A good teen flick.

My rating:

Nine (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Musical, Period Film, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2010 by filmglutton

Based on the Broadway musical which was based on Fellini’s 8 1/2, Nine is the story of Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a big-time movie director struggling with ideas for his next film. He is only 10 days away from starting shooting, yet still he has no script. He desperately searches for answers as he remembers the many women of his life.

I’d heard quite bad reviews for this one but I generally like Rob Marshall’s work, so I went into this with mixed expectations.

Nine is nowhere near as good as Marshall’s previous musical Chicago, but this is mainly because Nine is not a great musical. I felt that when I saw it on stage and I felt it when I saw if on screen. This is as handsome a production as we have come to expect from Marshall, but Nine has a distinct lack of truly great songs. The only showstopper is Be Italian, which is sung by Fergie, who has the smallest role of all the women. So you won’t leave the cinema singing any songs other than that one, unlike so many great musicals.

So, the acting. Daniel Day-Lewis is as convincing as ever, although I don’t think this is a particularly difficult role for him. It doesn’t really require a lot of depth in the performance. Other roles that leave the actors with very little to do include Sohpia Lauren as his mother, Kate Hudson as an American journalist, Nicole Kidman as his muse, and the aforementioned Fergie. Judi Dench has a slightly larger role but again is not required to do anything too difficult.  Penelope Cruz is good as the emotionally fragile mistress, while Marion Cotillard steals the show (in my opinion) as the long-suffering wife. She has a really nice voice, too, and her character has the most depth and humanity of any of the others.

The musical numbers are beautifully choreographed. Marshall was once a choreographer so the musical scenes are always impressive. All of these numbers are enjoyable but ultimately forgettable if not for the dancing and the visual style. I thought it was very well edited, and the cinematography by Dion Beebe (who also collaborated with Marshall on Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha) is as interesting and beautiful as we have come to expect from him. He is a truly great DP.

Other than the lack of great songs, the main problem with Nine is that the story just seems to drift by us. It’s a reasonably interesting storyline but also a bit underwhelming. This is probably why this movie has been getting negative reviews, because it leaves no real impact on the audience. I noted that Marion Cotillard provided some of the only emotional interest in Public Enemies, and I think it’s true here too.

This is not a great film by any means, but definitely worth checking out if it comes on TV or you can see it cheap on DVD.

My Rating:

Shine (1996)

Posted in 1996, Australian, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by filmglutton

Shine is based on the life of Australian pianist David Helfgott. Gifted from a young age, David showed exception prowess in chess and piano. His main obstacle and encouragement in life is his father (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Peter Helfgott (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a survivor of the Holocaust, is a man that cares deeply about his family but doesn’t know how to relate to any of them. He never shows David or his sisters any love. He is furious when David comes home with second prize at a piano competition. He even beats David. It’s almost like Peter loves him too much, and every time David disappoints him he becomes irrationally angry. When David is offered a scholarship to study piano in America, Peter goes nuts, screaming that he is the head of the family and that they won’t be separated. What a terrible disappointment to poor David. This emotional and physical abuse in David’s childhood is central to his later life.

The film opens with middle-aged David (Geoffrey Rush) running around in the middle of the night, his talking frenzied and incoherent. He is gripped by schizophrenia, and as the film moves through his earlier life, it is extremely painful for the audience to watch this develop. We don’t want it to happen but there’s nothing we can do to stop it. When David starts taking piano lessons (he previously learnt from his father), Peter insists that he learn Rachmaninoff’s 3rd, an extremely difficult piece technically and emotionally. Each teacher refuses to teach him that song; David eventually learns it at college, but the sheer emotional demands of the piece threaten to unravel his fragile psyche. Music, and his father’s advice, nearly destroys him. We see him at three stages in life, from his childhood to his adolescence and young adulthood (Noah Taylor) and finally in later life (Geoffrey Rush). Lynn Redgrave has a small but important role later in the film.

There are some truly fine performances in this film. Geoffrey Rush won the Oscar for his role, but I think Noah Taylor and Armin Mueller-Stahl are both fantastic as well. The music is almost a character in itself. It is incredibly beautiful and skilfully used throughout, never being too much. Music is David’s life-force and a driving force in the narrative. The music in the film was played by David Helfgott himself, while Geoffrey Rush acted as his own hand double. While music is extremely important in the film, the film focuses on the relationship between father and son and how that affects David as an individual. There is one scene about 3/4 of the way into the film between older David and his father that is so just incredibly moving, it brought me to tears. It’s a bitter reminder of so many wasted years, wasted time. Boy, that was strong writing and strong performances. You will know it when you see it.

Much of the criticism aimed at Shine has focused on the blurring of fact with fiction, or about how David Helfgott is not a great pianist. It’s even more contentious because David Helfgott is still alive and still touring. I’ve chosen to judge the film as it is, not on outside debate.

Oh my goodness, this was a great film. I rarely hear Shine mentioned whenever the ‘Australia’s best films’ debate crops up, and I have absolutely no idea why. This is an Australian film that has a really wide appeal and can resonate with anyone. It has universal themes of family and love and growing old and regret. Why can’t we make more films like this instead of the crap we see in the cinemas now? I can’t believe it took me so long to see this, very fine direction from Scott Hicks.

Absolutely loved this. Watch it now.

My rating:

(just as a side-note, it was very difficult to find pictures for this review, so I kind of gave up…)

Braveheart (1995)

Posted in 1995, Action, Based on True Events, Best Film Oscar, Blockbuster, Drama, Epic, Period Film, Romance, War with tags , , on January 15, 2010 by filmglutton

Braveheart, winner of the Best Picture Oscar, tells the story of William Wallace, the legendary hero who fought for Scottish independence in the late 1200s. This film has Mel Gibson in the lead role, a rugged and brave man with a keen intellect and sense of humour. Oh, just so charming. Anyway, as a young boy William has to cope with the death of his father and older brother, killed in a resistance battle. He goes away to live with his uncle, and when he returns he is intent on marrying and making a life for himself on a farm. He wants nothing to do with the violence that took his family away from him. He marries his childhood friend, Murron, in secret, but a tragic event causes him to retaliate against the English, and from here it escalates into full-blown battles led by Wallace and his loyal men.

It’s really strange to think back to the days when Mel Gibson sat on top of the movie making world. Think about it: this was an ACTOR who won best DIRECTOR for the film that won BEST PICTURE. It sounds like something from a screenplay. I do find it hard to believe he directed this, because I always think of him as an actor, but with Braveheart he proved that not only could he direct, but that he was very, very good. Because this is an extremely good film. The cinematography is beautiful, James Horner’s score is fitting, and the direction really is commendable. The battle sequences are amazing, it convincingly looks like there are thousands of men onscreen.

Besides William himself, other characters include love-of-his-life Murron (Catherine McCormack), best friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson), evil Edward I (Longshanks) of England (Patrick McGoohan), insipid Edward II (Peter Hanley), his French wife Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), and claimant to the Scottish throne Robert Bruce (Angus Macfayden). The actors are all fine, but this is really Mel’s film.

The battle scenes are violent and brutal. Perhaps not as gory as some more recent films, but they certainly have a raw brutality; and do be warned, we do see throats slashed and heads crushed. But Gibson does not dwell on these moments, so anyone who is a bit squeamish (like myself) will be fine!

The film has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, corny one-liners, obligatory romance, for depicting only one side of the story, for supposedly being homophobic, and Gibson himself has been criticised for being too old (well, yes, especially when they want us to believe that Murron and William are almost the same age – yeah right!)  BUT Braveheart is not pretending to be a true historic account, it is presenting a myth. It is a piece of entertainment, a story of great breadth and excitement.

Braveheart is purely entertainment, a cinematic epic. And if you choose to look at it in this way, instead of an historical travesty, it joins the ranks as one of the great epic war films.
My Rating: 

Bright Star (2009)

Posted in 2009, Australian, Based on True Events, Drama, Period Film, Romance with tags , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

Bright Star is about the last three years of John Keats’ life and his relationship with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. Fanny is a strong-willed young woman with a skill for sewing, and she finds beauty in John’s poetry and personality. As the fall in love, however, we see that his health grows weaker, making for a sparkling yet doomed romance.

Bright Star has been hailed as Jane Campion’s best film since The Piano. I haven’t seen any of Jane Campion’s films other than The Piano, so I can’t really comment on that, but I will say that I think The Piano is the superior film.I think my problem with Bright Star was that it had very little plot. This is not a terrible thing, but it meant that the film felt quite, well, slow at times. I was still very engaged with the characters, but since you will probably know the outcome of the story (as spoiled by every review you read) there are no surprises in this film, nothing to keep you hanging on. And while I think the two leads had good chemistry, there is actually quite a lack of sexual tension (which was so prevalent in The Piano and is something which really draws the viewer in).

Abbie Cornish is really lovely as Fanny, she’s not a character you’ve seen 50 times before in period dramas. She has her own ideas but she’s not as headstrong as an Elizabeth Bennet or Jo March. She is a fantastic seamstress, creating a range of interesting fashions that are looked down upon by stuffy neighbours. Abbie Cornish gives her life and intelligence, I really like some of her work (although Fanny is supposed to be 18 and Cornish is clearly much older). Ben Whishaw as John Keats is suitably poetic and vulnerable…I don’t know much about Keats, so I can’t comment about his characterisation. Paul Schenider as Keat’s friend and fellow poet Brown is suitably irritating, I think he played this role really well (and probably had good fun with it!). Pretty good performance from this American actor in Scottish accent. The other roles are quite small; Edie Martin puts in a natural performance as Fanny’s younger sister Toots. And just excuse the animal lover in me for one second while I say I loved the cat. Cats in films = win.

The cinematography in this film is simply stunning. The locations are beautiful, and there are some shots that film fans will just drink in. At times one could get sick of that dreamy, overexposed look but it is just beautiful. Even if you aren’t interested in the film the cinematography is definitely worth the admission, beautiful photography. Also worth mentioning is the art design. The sets are good, but I really loved some of the costumes.

I want to see more from Jane Campion, I wish some directors wouldn’t take so long to bring out their next project. Bright Star is a lovely film with good performances. I think some people will abolutely love this, and most others will appreciate the talent displayed here.  Keats fans may particularly like it, but it is less about him than about Fanny and their relationship.

Worth watching.

My Rating:

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Reviews, Teen, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

I have been eagerly anticipating The Lovely Bones for a couple of years, ever since I first read that Peter Jackson would be adapting it. This is partly because I read and enjoyed the book, but also because I am a great fan of Peter’s and I’m always interested to see what he does next. I’d read some mixed reviews so I went into this with mixed expectations.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl who is murdered by a neighbour. It’s the 1970s and things like that are almost unheard of, particularly in pleasant suburbia where Susie’s family lives. The film deals with her death and her subsequent afterlife as she watches her family, unable to move on from the ‘in-between’ (the place between heaven and Earth) whilst her family is emotionally tormented and her killer still at large.

Alice Sebold’s book has been extremely popular, probably mainly with teenagers. It might seem a strange choice for Jackson to adapt this novel, but I guess it spoke to him in a certain way.

There are some sequences in The Lovely Bones that are so beautiful, so perfectly put together that it’s a shame the whole thing isn’t so finely tuned. This is a film that could have been incredible, but it falls short. I actually like the changes made to the novel. I like that the ending has changed, I liked that Jackson did not show Susie’s brutal rape and murder, instead adopting a more elusive approach. But the material isn’t taken far enough. Reviews have been mixed and you will probably leave the theatre with quite mixed feelings. I know I did.

All of the actors are  very good, if somewhat underused. For all the negative anticipation surrounding Mark Wahlberg, he is actually believable empathetic here as a grieving father. Rachel Weisz has one of the smallest parts as Susie’s mother, but she does well with what she has. Susan Saranon provides comic relief for the audience, emotional support for the family. Rose McIver is good as Susie’s younger sister Lindsay (even though Rose is actually 6 years older than Saoirse), who takes it upon herself to find Susie’s killer. Saoirse Ronan is as good as you would expect from a young Oscar nominee, but the real standout here is Stanley Tucci. I know it can be really cliched for an actor to get accolades for such an extreme role, but he really does bring this real edge to Mr Harvey. A lot of people have made comments about his supposely stereotypical paedophile moustache, but I don’t think he was cliched in this role. He gave me the creeps, especially since I’m so used to seeing him in likeable roles.

The most problematic thing about The Lovely Bones is the sequences of Susie in the in-between. Whenever the action moves to Susie we want it to move back to the family, we want the story to move on., because there is no real storyline involving Susie. She just watches, wanting her killer to be caught and for her family to be ok. Although there are some moments with Susie (when she connects with her family) that work really well, most have a really lame Ghost (the Demi Moore film) feel to them, right down to the breathy voice uttering wise words. And even though the ending is far better than that of the novel, it’s still not satisfying, and may have a few audience members rolling their eyes. The Lovely Bones is so grounded in reality that these fantasy sequences don’t fit in.

But there is a lot to like about this film. Suspense is built really well (even though we know who the murderer is) and, as I said, some sequences are close to perfection. I loved the music, and I actually liked the design of the film (which some have derisively likened to a 70s record cover)I would love to see Peter do just one film without any fantasy sequence. I know he loves and specialises in special effects, but I think he could make a really terrific film without special effects.

As it is, this one falls a bit flat, but it still has a lot to offer.

My rating: