Twister (1996)

Posted in 1996, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Romance, Thriller with tags , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

Jo (Helen Hunt) was a child when an F5 twister ripped through their rural property and took her father with it. Fast-forward thirty years and Jo is a scientist obsessed with tracking twisters. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton), a former twister tracker himself, arrives with his new fiance in tow to get divorce papers signed. Jo shows him the new machine they developed together, the ‘Dorothy’. Dorothy is intended to be sucked up by the twister and emit signals and data. Suddenly the plot takes off…there’s a twister to chase! Arrrrrrr!

Twister is the ultimate disaster blockbuster. I saw it when I was young, and after that I had an inbuilt fear of tornadoes. Luckily Australia doesn’t get any of those, but it didn’t stop me from being concerned.

The visual effects are incredible. My latest viewing was on blue ray, and the film holds up incredibly well. Sure, there are some effects shots that don’t look so great, but generally the twisters still look believable. I can’t help but think of all the work that went into making this film. This must have been an enormous undertaking, because they had to deal with weather situations, vehicles, remote location shooting, visual and special effects etc etc. Must have been a producers nightmare, but I think the filmmakers can still be proud of this film.

 

The same can be said of the actors. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton headline, and both are good in their roles, even managing to squeeze in that romantic angst. Hey, everyone knows that having ex-lovers always creates romantic tension. There are several recognisable faces here, both in Jo’s team and the team of their nemesis. In fact, he is played by Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame. Among the recognisable faces is Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his first film roles. He is a highlight in this and he has some good one-liners.

A lot of critics panned this for its lack of plot. Um, WHO CARES??? Personally, I think it has just enough personal backstory to ensure that you are emotionally invested. Aside from the whole twister chasing thing, the main personal story here is the estranged relationship between Jo and Bill, and  I honestly think it’s done very well, even if it does take back-seat to the action plot.

Maybe the storyline is a little ludicrous, but it doesn’t matter. This is one I can watch again and again and again. It’s always exciting, and you always pick up new things along the way. Honestly, if you like disaster films or just ‘adventure’ish films, this is one to watch. Always reminds me of the 90s!!

My rating:

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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:

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:

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…)

Addams Family Values (1993)

Posted in 1993, Comedy, Kids/Family with tags , , , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by filmglutton

Addams Family Values, sequel to The Addams Family (1991),  is about our favourite creepy, kooky and spooky family. Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and Gomez (Raul Julia) welcome a new baby, Pubert, to the family. Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsly (Jimmy Workman) feel immediately theatened and make numerous attempts to kill the baby. Morticia hires a nanny, Debbie (Joan Cusack), to look after the children, unaware that Debbie is actually a famed serial killer who marries rich men then kills them to inherit their fortune. Debbie ensures that Wednesday and Pugsley are sent to summer camp (where they befriend nerdy Joel, played by David Krumholtz) as she turns her attentions to Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd). The whole family must try to save Uncle Fester from Debbie before it’s too late!

In some ways this is your typical kids film, but it has some really nice elements that adults will appreciate. The production design is really great, very gothic. It has  really top cast and they are all really good in their roles, they look like they are having a lot of fun, especially Joan Cusack, she is just crazy! Anjelica Houston gets some brilliant lines – she got a Golden Globe nomination for this role. There is a real black, dry humour to this film. Example: Gomez says to Uncle Fester “One day you’ll find someone. Someone who won’t press charges”; or Debbie says of Gomez “Isn’t he a ladykiller”, to which he replies “acquitted!”. All of those witty lines will go over children’s heads, but adults will enjoy them. I guarantee you will laugh, the whole thing is just ridiculous. It only slips into that slapstick children’s-film-mode a couple of times, such as when the baby slides down the banister, flies into the air etc. It’s a shame they did that, because those moments aren’t particularly funny and adults will roll their eyes. Or maybe I am just being too miserly, I’ll shut up about that.

This actually has a lot of well-known actors in it, even down to the two camp counsellors (played by Peter MacNicol of Sophie’s Choice and Christine Baranski of Mamma Mia!), who have smallish roles. An interesting piece of trivia is that Peter MacNicol and David Krumholtz now work together on the TV show Numbers. Christina Ricci steals the show as Wednesday…such a delightfully morbid child! Sending them to summer camp was a great idea, there are plenty of good gags there because they are so completely opposite to the happy blonde children running around the camp.

Not really anything else to say about this one, it’s a really entertaining film. If they had removed some of the sillier elements and replaced them with more black humour this could have been a cult classic (although perhaps it already is?) I haven’t seen the first film in about 10 years, but the sequel holds up quite well on its own. In fact, from what I remember, it’s better.

My Rating: