Showing posts with label 1995. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1995. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Before Sunrise

A chance meeting aboard a train from Budapest to Paris results in a wonderfully constructed whirlwind romance for two strangers. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is travelling alone through Europe when he begins talking to the pretty French lady across the isle from him. That woman is Céline (Julie Delpy) who is on her way back to Paris after visiting her grandmother in the Hungarian capital. They strike up a friendly conversation which continues in the dining car before Jesse’s stop in Vienna approaches. Sensing a connection he suggests that Céline disembarks with him to continue their discussion. She impulsively agrees and the duo spends the night wandering Vienna together.

Before Sunrise lacks any sort of plot but is nevertheless beautifully written and structured. I never once wished for something to happen besides the continuing conversation and discovery. The dialogue is deeply woven and superbly delivered by two actors on top form. Their connection seems so real that it’s hard to believe that the actors themselves didn’t end up together. Nothing is forced and the conversations meander naturally while at all times remaining high brow and intellectually stimulating. Occasionally there is a lull in the engagement I had with the dialogue but this still works as it’s how one would react when listening to any long conversation.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Toy Story

After watching Cars this morning and being disappointed, I thought I’d go back to where it all began and watch Toy Story. In Andy’s room, top toy Woody (Tom Hanks) is head honcho and garners the love and respect of his fellow toys with prime place on Andy’s bed. Woody’s world is upset though when Andy gets a new Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) for his birthday. Woody finds himself forgotten by Andy and plots to get rid of Buzz. Upon the realisation that what he has done is wrong, Woody sets out to rescue Buzz and bring him back to Andy’s room where they both belong while trying to avoid Andy’s toy murdering next door neighbour Sid in the process.

I have seen this film numerous times, until today the most recently being in 3D (which didn’t improve it). It was the first entirely computer animated feature film ever and spawned the now industry standard GCI cartoon. The animation remains very good but lacks the detail of the latest films. The characters also have a noticeable shine to them which is most apparent in the human characters. Nonetheless, the film’s animation and design stand up well after 17 years of frantic technological advancement.  

What stands the test of time even more successfully though are the wonderful characters and story. The film uses a mixture of toys which are recognisable to young and old and introduces its own to the story. Each toy is given a neat character which works without exception. Of course Little Bow Peep is a sexy blonde bombshell and why wouldn’t Mr. Potato Head be looking for a Mrs. Potato Head? Great care and attention has been given to each toy to give them a distinct and believable personality. Even after at least six or seven viewings I still find myself gripped by the story and find myself urging Buzz and Woody to get back to the safety of Andy’s arms. It is a lovely idea that is beautifully executed.

The film is fully of subtle comedy and details, some of which I only noticed on my latest viewing. Towards the beginning of the film, Woody is stood in front of a book case on which are books with titles that refer to Pixar’s earlier shorts such as Tin Toy and Red’s Dream. There is even a book called Ant & Bee go on vacation which seems like a Tarantinoesque nod to Pixar’s second feature, A Bug’s Life. The film is littered with subtle nuances and comedic touches which never fail to impress and are bold for a debut film.
Subtle background details
The script is fantastic and features clever word play to go along with the tremendous story and characters. It is smart and witty which helps the film appeal to both children and adults alike. I first saw the film when I was around ten and each time I see it I seem to appreciate it in different ways. Along with the funny script there are plenty of visual gags which will keep everyone entertained.

The film isn’t afraid to deal with more adult themes than its Disney predecessors. At the beginning of the film, Buzz doesn’t realise that he is a toy (which is very funny), but when he does he spirals into depression and no longer cares if he lives or dies. Depression isn’t the sort of thing you’d find in your average children’s film. It is also very dark in places. This is particularly the case when Woody and Buzz end up in Sid’s room. The film takes on a horror feel as the central characters are confronted with the sight of mangled and disfigured toys. Another adult theme is that of rejection and fear of being outdated. When Buzz arrives on the scene with his shiny plastic body and electric buttons, Woody feels unwanted and outdated. This could be seen as a comment on how parents themselves feel as their children grow and no longer need them as much. This theme was explored in greater detail and with emotional results in Toy Story 3.

Toy Story is a cinematic classic and will go down in history as one of the greatest animated films of all time. It appeals to people of all ages and has an endearing and timeless story. It will still be shown to the grandchildren of the first children to watch it back in 1995 and is responsible for changing the shape of animated films forever.  


Saturday, 18 February 2012


Outbreak came at a time before infection type disaster movies were the mainstay of Hollywood. Since 9/11, film makers have shied away from the terrorist type disaster movies of the 1980s and 90s and films such as 28 Days Later, Rec and Contagion have taken over from the likes of Die Hard and The Siege. So Outbreak was perhaps slightly ahead of its time. I am too young to remember its initial release in 1995 but I can imagine that its actors were as big a draw as they are today with some of them at the height of their careers. Morgan Freeman features, a year after The Shawshank Redemption, Cuba Gooding Jr was a year away from his Oscar win for Jerry Maguire and Kevin Spacey had appeared in Seven and The Usual Suspects in the same year. With the additions of Dustin Hoffman and Donald Sutherland, this film is the definition of an all star cast.

The film is about a virus that is found in Zaire which later turns up in a small town in California. It has mutated and infected the town’s population and a team of military scientists which includes Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr must battle both the virus and the military to save the town and possibly America itself.

The plot is fairly formulaic with few surprises. Due to the nature of the story there is also little peril. At one point, the President orders the infected town to be bombed but you know this will never happen in a mainstream Hollywood movie. In another scene, Hoffman and Gooding Jr are in apparent danger when a plane is on course to hit their helicopter but again, you know this won’t happen. I think this is where films such as 28 Days Later and Children of Men have an edge as the danger feels more real and the characters more at risk. The film also features a lot of plot explanation which gave me the feeling that the writers thought the audience was too dumb to understand certain parts of the script. There was one very good plot device in which the outbreak of the virus in the Californian town happened in a cinema which I thought would have increased a cinema audience’s fright/enjoyment.

Kevin Spacey after being shown the finished film

Considering the film contained such an esteemed cast I didn’t feel like any one of them excelled. Either they cancelled each other out, weren’t trying very hard or the script and direction didn’t allow for any great performances. I have a feeling it is down to a mixture of the last two.

The film hasn’t aged too badly considering it is now seventeen years old and one of the two countries in which it is set no longer exists but this is a nuts and bolts disaster movie with a cast that promises a better film than it delivers.