Archive for the Reviews Category

Inception (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

Ok, I’m not going to write a synopsis, because if you haven’t seen Inception yet, you should be watching it without knowing anything of the plot beforehand…it’s all the more fun to discover it during the viewing! The only thing I’ll say is that it’s about dreams…

This is a movie that requires a bit of thinking from its audience…how refreshing is that? All of the actors are great, though some are given more to work with than others. Leonardo DiCaprio proves yet again just what an arresting screen presence he is. He carries this movie effortlessly. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is swoon-worthy (ok, so I have a crush), Marion Cotillard (as usual) manages to bring something special to every scene she’s in, Ellen Page is great as the young architect…and many of the other supporting players are similarly good. This a a great ensemble piece and it’s an added bonus that all of them are great to look at too.

This is a blockbuster, which makes this film even better because it doesn’t cheat the audience; it shows us that you don’t have to substitute substance for explosions. It was written, directed and producer by Christopher Nolan…we must all bow down to him!  I wasn’t too fussed on The Dark Knight (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a really good film, but not great. Definitely not 5 stars…) but this is fantastic. I was completely into it the whole way through and the movie just flew by. It’s a crazy ride…afterwards I was left with the sense that I’d been dreaming. Weird. Some people found this movie too confusing, but I just went with it. I hate it when people try to pick apart the logic of the movie after they’ve seen it. JUST ENJOY IT!

Inception has hardly any swearing and is not terribly violent (while there are plenty of gun fights etc, there’s no blood or gore), so it appeals to a wider audience. While the themes are quite dark (Marion Cotillard’s character, in particular, provides some creepy moments) it is suitable for teens and up. I won’t say any more about this. It’s a total crowd pleaser. Some have said this is an instant classic, and I might agree with them. Unless you’re one of those indie people that hates all commercial films (you know who you are!), I guarantee you will enjoy this one.

 My rating:

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The Social Network (2010)

Posted in 2010, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews with tags , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

The Social Network is a film about Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Facebook, and how he developed Facebook when he was a student at Harvard. As portrayed in the film by Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Zuckerberg is a man-child with poor social skills and extreme intellect. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, he drunkenly hacks into the college websites and creates a website where everyone can rate the hotness of undergrad girls. The website is extremely popular and is shut down quickly. Zuckerberg creates a name for himself and is approached to help create a a social networking website. Zuckerberg has ideas of his own and eventually launches The Facebook. It doesn’t take long for the website to take off, for friendships to fall apart, and for the legal battles to begin.

This is a wonderful film about recent events. Is it all true? Doubtful. But it does make for engaging entertainment. Mark Zuckerberg is a very interesting protagonist/antagonist. I came out of the movie thinking “What a douche!” But that’s not really the point. The point is that this brilliant student created the biggest website in the world. He is 26-years-old, and one of the world’s youngest billionaires. More than 500 MILLION people use Facebook. I’m one of them.

 The actors all do a fine job. Jesse Eisenberg is quite fantastic as Zuckerberg, managing to make you empathise with this largely unlikable character. The character you care about most is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), probably because he’s a kind of naïve guy that gets totally betrayed by Zuckerberg. That’s gotta suck (but then again, don’t believe everything you see; it’s impossible to tell how much is fact and how much is fiction). Many of you may be wondering about Justin Timberlake. Well, JT is JT. He always seems to be playing a version of himself, and he hasn’t convinced me that he can act. But he’s fine in the role of Sean Parker.

I did come out of this movie wondering about my own involvement in Facebook. It’s the most addictive website ever created, and I find myself sitting in front of my computer, hitting refresh every two minutes. Seriously, how sad is that? But this is the phenomenon that Zuckerberg created, and it’s fascinating to get an insight into the origins of Facebook in this fantastic film.

It’s kind of a weird movie in a way, because it doesn’t seem like the kind of material that would make a good movie. Just imagine pitching this one to anybody! But the script is fantastic, and the film really works. It seamlessly moves between 2003, when Facebook was created, and 2007 during a lawsuit. It’s hard to rate something like this. It was totally engaging, and it was directed by David Fincher so of course technically everything was pretty perfect. But as far as emotions, it isn’t the kind of film that really moves you. I know I harp on about this a bit, but I think that’s the thing that makes a film stay with you long after you leave the cinema. I watched Frost/Nixon, for example, and thought it was a wonderful movie, but it’s quit forgettable because it doesn’t really move you. It’s the same with this movie. It’s great, but will I remember it in a year? Will I want to watch it again?

Only time will tell.

 My Rating:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Teen with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

This is part one of the seventh installment of the hugely successful Harry Potter series. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about Harry and his adventures, and this film sets the scene for the grand finale. The question is, does it live up to its predecessors?

With Lord Voldermort in power, the wizarding world is now a dangerous place, where a Nazi-like regime threatens muggles and mixed-blood wizards. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are on the search for Horcruxes, objects that contain parts of Voldermort’s soul. Two horcruxes have already been destroyed, but they must find and destroy the remaining four before Lord Voldermort can be killed.  Finding and destroying the horcruxes proves more difficult than they imagined, and their friendships are tested and their lives put in danger….but hey, I’m sure you know all of this already!

There have been many mixed reviews for this film, but Potter fans will probably love it. It’s great to catch up with these characters and see them grow. Harry, Hermione and Ron really come into their own in this film, the first time they have been of age and away from Hogwarts. Their relationships with each other are more complex than ever, particularly in the confines of a tent as they move around the countryside. Apart from Harry, Ron and Hermione, not many of the other characters get much screen-time. We see the Dursley’s very briefly (which is a shame, because it would have been nice to have seen the scene with Dudley from the book play out) at the beginning, and also see the Weasley family at the beginning. We see Luna (the lovely Evanna Lynch), Snape (Alan Rickman), Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes), the Malfoy’s, a brief glimpse of Neville…but really, the primary focus of this film is the trio. This is essentially a road movie, and they won’t reach their destination until the next installment.

The performances are all fine. Alan Rickman is only in one scene at the beginning but he manages to steal it even when he says very little. His on-screen presence is impressive, and Rickman is certainly one of the best performers in the franchise (though he doesn’t have much screen-time in this one). Daniel Radcliffe is good as Harry, Emma Watson has really improved and is lovely as Hermione, and Rupert Grint gets some meaty angst that he plays it very well. Ron is a flawed character but he’s also very genuine, and I get the feeling he’s the firm fan favourite (but maybe I’m just biased, he’s certainly my favourite!)

Casual Potter fans will have trouble keeping up, and Potter first-timers will have absolutely no chance of understanding what’s going. The days of Potter being family entertainment are over; this is definitely not a film for children. It has got some scary sequences (especially with the snake) and mature themes. Romance blooms between Ron and Hermione (Yay! Adorable!) but it falters when Ron suspects that Hermione has feelings for Harry. DRAMA!

 The film has one main fault: it’s just too long. I really enjoyed the movie, but, as Part I of this book, 2.5 hours is much too long, it should have been 2 hours maximum. It tends to drag in places, particularly for people who haven’t read the book.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH>>>>>>> 

The Godric’s Hollow sequence is the most superfluous in the film, and could easily have been cut. It worked in the book but only weighed the movie down. We didn’t need to see Harry at his parents’ graves, and we certainly didn’t need to see the sequence with Bathilda Bagshot. It added nothing to the story. The only thing that furthered the plot here was that Hermione found the book by Rita Skeeter, which led them to finding out who the boy in Harry’s visions was (Grindelwald), but they could have found another way to do this, because this section of the movie really drags, especially since Ron is MIA. Another thing: if you’re a softie, be prepared for a few tears at the end when our beloved Dobby dies!

 END SPOILERS

I saw this film twice in the cinemas and I will be buying it on DVD. This is not a masterpiece by any standards, but it is very competent filmmaking and fans of Harry Potter will really enjoy seeing the saga played out on-screen. I, like many others, have come to love these characters and this world, and I will feel sad to say goodbye to Harry Potter, a franchise that’s been in my life since I was 10-years-old, when the 2nd Part is released next year.

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:

Up (2009)

Posted in 2009, Animated, Comedy, Disney, Kids/Family, Reviews with tags , , , , on January 24, 2010 by filmglutton

Up is Disney/Pixar’s latest animated feature, and it sure does live up to the Pixar name. It tells the the story of grumpy old Carl Fredrickson (Edward Asner). As a young boy he used to dream of great adventures, and found a soul-mate, Ellie, who shared similar dreams. The years pass and life gets in the way; before he knows it, Ellie is gone and Carl is an old man. The neighbourhood has completely changed. Carl is being forced to move into a retirement home, but he decides to embark on one last adventure, fixing thousands of balloons to his house so it can float away in the direction of Paradise Falls, South America. His plan unravels when he discovers Russell, a young Wilderness Explorer has stowed away on the front porch. From here Up becomes one great adventure as Carl and Russell battle storms, deflating balloons, evil dogs and a certain explorer named Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer).

Up might seem like a bit of a hard sell, particularly since the main character is an elderly man, but this is a genuine crowd pleaser. All of the characters are really great; Carl is amusingly grumpy, Russell is awkwardly funny, the bird is hilarious, and Dug the dog will just melt your heart – he gets some of the sweetest and funniest lines. I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, but the joke with the evil dog nearly killed me. The animation is no less than perfection, but what else would we expect from Pixar?

I had already read a lot about the opening few scenes so I wasn’t surprised by them but I was still touched.Some have argued that Up is Pixar’s funniest film, and I can see why. I laughed pretty much all the way through this, and I feel that this is more of a ‘gag’ film (in a good way) than some of their other films. It also has a really heartfelt tender side, I shed a few tears at the start and the end. Both adults and kids can enjoy it and will get a lot out of it.

We can’t help wanting to compare Pixar films…where should Up go? Well, Toy Story 2 is still my favourite. I feel like all the films from Toy Story through to The Incredible really form the canon, but things start to get a bit different with Cars and Ratatouille. I can’t really explain why they seem different, maybe it’s different directors or something. They are still great but have a different style (and Cars is definitely a bit of a low point).

This is another fantastic film from Pixar, one for the whole family. Be prepared to laugh.

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…)

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: