Showing posts with label 2009. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2009. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Inglourious Basterds

Set in Nazi occupied France, Inglourious Basterds is a film that took Quentin Tarantino over a decade to write and produce. Multiple plot threads, an ever expanding script and difficulty with the movie’s conclusion meant that from first to final draft, a decade had elapsed. The completed script is one of pure Tarantino penmanship. Featuring ideas of revenge, duplicity and malice while scattered with pop references, albeit from a different era, Inglouious Basterds is as Tarantino as a Mexican stand-off in a Big Kahuna Burger Restaurant. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and taking over $320 million worldwide, it is also one of the director’s most successful to date.

Split into five chapters, the film focuses on the efforts of two sets of people to bring down the Third Reich. Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) is a young Jewish woman who, early in the film, escapes death at the hands of the gifted ‘Jew Hunter’ Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Having dodged an early grave, Shosanna relocates to Paris where she runs a small cinema which we shall come back to later. Meanwhile, elsewhere in France, the Basterds, a group of American Jewish soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) are scouring the countryside in search of Nazis to bludgeon and scalp. When the Basterds hear that the entire Nazi high command will be in Paris for the Premier of Goebbels latest propaganda film, they set in motion a plan to end the war the very same night.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Nine is a 2009 movie adaptation of a Broadway musical of the same name which was in turn inspired by Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film, . Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a gifted film maker on the cusp of his fiftieth birthday. Struggling for ideas on the back of a series of flops, he flees to a remote health spa and turns to the women in his life for inspiration. The movie is notable for containing several fleeting performances from some of the most beautiful and talented women in Hollywood as well as Kate Hudson. Although poorly received by critics and a certified box office failure, the movie garnered four Academy Award nominations and in my opinion contains some superb cinematography as well as a couple of great performances.

The main problem with the movie for me is that it isn’t . There are a few scenes, especially those featuring Day-Lewis and Penelope Cruz, which look like shot for shot recreations of Fellini’s masterpiece and these bought back happy memories of watching that movie. During a lot of the other scenes I just wished that I was watching Fellini’s film. The problem with making a movie based on such a well respected source is that you’ve got to make it pretty special to make people want to watch yours instead of the film you’re basing your work on. In the case of Nine, it just made me remember how good is.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Lars von Trier’s censor terrorising, award winning 2009 horror film Antichrist was the first film I saw from the Danish art house Director and its beauty, graphic violence and almost pornographic visuals left me stunned for days. For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to get my girlfriend (who disliked Melancholia more than I did) to watch it, in part because I knew it would disgust her. Much to my relief it did. Antichrist is one of the most violent and certainly the most sexually explicit film I’ve ever seen but it isn’t simply a trashy exploitation Tits & Guts horror, it is a well crafted, beautifully made and deeply traumatic horror film.

Antichrist begins with a prologue featuring a married couple who are never named (Willem Defoe & Charlotte Gainsbourg) making love in super slow motion. The scene is filmed in black and white and using a camera capable of capturing a thousand frames a second. While the couple pound away their young son climbs out of his cot and heads towards an open window before falling to his death. The couple enter into the grieving process in very different ways with the husband taking a clinical approach while the wife spirals deeper and deeper into depression. The film is divided into chapters which mirror Gainsbourg’s emotional state with Grief being followed by Pain and Despair. The couple make the decision to relocate to a cabin in the woods but the wife’s emotional state takes a dark and bloody turn for the worst.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Black Dynamite

Black Dynamite is a 2009 blaxploitation action/comedy spoof written by and starring Michael Jai White. Although my knowledge of blaxploitation cinema extends to what little I’ve picked up during some light reading and watching Jackie Brown, Black Dynamite is one of the funniest and most enjoyable films I’ve seen in recent years and I’ve now seen it five times. Black Dynamite is a pitch perfect pastiche of the genre that it imitates and takes special care in making sure that the look, direction, acting and mistakes are done just right. It is a film that I’ve recommended to several people, all of whom have laughed their way from start to finish and I’d recommend it to anyone, regardless of age, race or gender.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is an ex-CIA Agent/Kung Fu expert who leaves a trail of satisfied women and battered crooks in his wake. When his brother Jimmy is killed by the mob Black Dynamite goes back into service to catch his brother’s killers, clean up the streets and generally kick ass, ya dig? Along the way Black Dynamite gets the help of several members of the community from Pimps to Black Panther members, seducing and reducing as he goes.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Following on directly from the second film in the Millennium trilogy, the final part of the series deals with the aftermath of the events that took place during the previous film. Both the central protagonist Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and her father Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) lie seriously injured in hospital while journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) tries desperately to clear Salander’s name and discover the links between the state’s poor treatment of her and a shady underground police organisation known as The Section.

After the disappointment of the Girl Who Played with Fire I was glad to see a partial return to form in this film. The poor end to that film is partially explained as this one picks up seconds after the climax of the second. Although never reaching the heights of The Girl with the DragonTattoo, this movie is interesting but rarely tense. The story is more reminiscent of the original film and ties the series together nicely.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Following hot on the heals of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the second film in the Millennium trilogy finds our heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) back in Sweden following a year abroad. While she tries to keep a low profile and lives of the wealth accumulated in the first film, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is helping a young employee with an exposé of Swedish human trafficking and prostitution which threatens to expose high ranking officials. After three grisly murders the police have Lisbeth as the only suspect but separately she and Blomkvist attempt to prove her innocence.

I’ve never read any of Stieg Larsson’s novels but really enjoyed the first film in the series and to a lesser extent the pointlessAmerican remake. The shock and suspense of the first film feels far away from the sequel which is unremarkable by comparison. The plot is thicker and much more confusing and overall the tension from the first film is greatly diminished.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

A lonely but imaginative boy is fed up with being ignored at home and after an argument with his mother, runs away. He reaches a pond and gets into a small sailing boat. The pond soon becomes a sea and after days afloat he finds himself on an island inhabited with seven giant creatures. Spotting a similarity between himself and the destructive Carol (James Gandolfini) the boy Max (Max Records) soon finds himself in the middle of the group and convinces them he is a King in order to stop them eating him. Each monster is like a version of Max and themes of jealousy, fear, boredom and frustration are the same which trouble pre teen children as they grow up.

I never saw the film on its initial release back in 2009 but had heard some good things about it. A quick search confirms that it appeared on numerous Top 10 lists but for me it isn’t quite that good. I thought the effects and cinematography were excellent and the story had its moments but it was also a little dull in places and the sort of film which I’d rather have watched in my early teens.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Damned United

The Damned United is a sports-drama based partly on facts surrounding the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the outspoken but gifted football manager Brian Clough. We follow Glough (Michael Sheen) back and forth from the late 1960s to 1974 beginning with his and Assistant Manager Peter Taylor’s (Timothy Spall) triumph in taking lowly Derby County from the bottom of the second division to national champions. This remarkable feat is spliced with events several years later when in 1974 Clough, without Taylor as his Assistant, took over the job of managing Leeds Utd, then the dominant force in English football. Clough’s time in charge of the club was to last just 44 days and this film portrays what happened during that turbulent month and a half as well as the years that preceded it.

The accuracy of the film’s ‘facts’ is open for debate with family members and players who knew Clough claiming that the portrayal of events are inaccurate but what can’t be denied is that Michael Sheen pulls off yet another pitch perfect performance in a film that is a fascinating watch for a football fan and a great story for someone who is not.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fantastic Mr. Fox

When I first saw Fantastic Mr. Fox at the cinema in 2009 I fell asleep. I think this is the only time I’ve ever slept through a film and although there were mitigating circumstances I still feel bad as Wes Anderson is one of my favourite Directors. I’ve loved all of his pre Mr. Fox films and Moonrise Kingdom is one of my favourite films of 2012 so far. One of the reasons I fell asleep three years ago was because I was bored by the film but due to my love of Anderson’s work I felt the need to go back and reassess it. Unfortunately my first viewing experience was very similar to my second; the film bored me and I consider it Anderson’s worst film by quite some distance.

Based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name the plot centres upon a fox (George Clooney) who despite promising his wife (Meryl Streep) that he would stop killing farmer’s chickens for a living, can’t resist one final spree in which he goes for three local farms, run by the meanest farmers around.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

OSS 117: Lost in Rio

OSS 117: Lost in Rio is the sequel to one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and is bought to us by the team behind that film and The Artist, Oscar Winners Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin. A James Bond pastiche, Dujardin stars as OSS 177, France’s top secret agent. It’s 1967 and he is on a mission to capture a microfilm containing the names of French Nazi collaborators from an ex-Nazi now residing in Brazil. He is joined by a beautiful Israeli Army Officer, Delores Koulechov (Louise Monot) who is tasked with bringing the Nazi back to Israel to face a war crimes tribunal. 117 bumbles his way through Brazil with the help of his Israeli colleague, attracting the interest of various women and the CIA along the way.

I was really excited to see this sequel as Cairo, Nest of Spies is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in the last year. I’d previously read that the sequel wasn’t as well received in France as the original and I’d have to agree with that assessment. It is in no way as good as Cairo, Nest of Spies but is still an enjoyable hour and a half.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Road

"You think I come from another world, don't you?"

In the years following an unspecified apocalyptic event a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spend life on the road, constantly moving south in search of food and shelter and hoping to avoid bands of hungry cannibals.

I first saw this film in the cinema a couple of years ago and was blown away by its bleakness and beauty. I’ve mentioned before how much I love the look of decaying beauty and there are few films that show that so much as this. The screen is filled with various shades of grey and the sun never shines. The backdrop to the family’s struggle is filled with decrepit landscapes ruined by an unknown catastrophic event. These scenes are further heightened by flash backs to before the event in which Mortensen and his wife Charlize Theron are seen to be enjoying life in a colourful and vibrant world. Other flashbacks show life in the years after the apocalypse during which Theron is pregnant and subsequently where she struggles to deal with her harsh new surroundings.  

Monday, 23 April 2012

Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee

Shane Meadows (This is England) directs this mock music documentary about Le Donk (Paddy Considine), a Nottingham based roadie working for The Arctic Monkeys and managing rapped Scor-zay-zee (playing himself). The film blends reality and fiction and is set and filmed in five days leading up to an Arctic Monkeys gig in Manchester. Le Donk has recently separated from his pregnant girlfriend (Olivia Coleman) and travels to Manchester with Scor-zay-zee for work and with the hope that he can somehow get the rapper on the bill at the gig.

Paddy Considine is brilliant as Le Donk and carries the entire movie. Most of his lines are improvised and the majority work, with hilarious results. He appears to be channelling David Brent and Alan Partridge at times but is thoroughly convincing.  The film itself outstays its welcome after about 45 minutes. Despite a promising start the joke kind of gets old by the mid way point and although the film comes in at only 71 minutes, it feels long. I couldn’t help feeling that it was more suited to TV and perhaps would have worked better as a 45 minute or one hour special. I’m glad that I didn’t see it at the cinema myself.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Cove

2010 Oscar winner The Cove is a documentary that looks into and questions the morality of Japan’s dolphin hunting policy. The film shows viewers evidence of the 23,000 dolphins which are killed in Taiji, Japan each year. It also touches upon the trade of catching and selling dolphins for the entertainment industry.

The main interviewee is Ric O’Barry, the man responsible for training dolphins for the 1960s TV show Flipper. After his favourite dolphin is said to have committed suicide, O’Barry turned away from dolphin training and vowed to free every captured dolphin he could. After discovering the cruel practice of dolphin killing in Taiji, O’Barry has spent many years fighting the local fisherman and government and trying to bring the killing to the attention of the international community, with little success.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s (21 Jump Street) directorial debut, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a computer animated family pastiche on the disaster film genre. Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is an enthusiastic but sometimes misguided inventor who lives on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean which has come on hard times since the local Sardine factory closed its doors. The islanders are left with nothing to eat but the oily fish so in an attempt to create a different source of food for the islands inhabitants, Lockwood invents a device which turns water into food. While an intern weather girl Sam (Anna Faris) is visiting the island from New York to document the opening of the theme park ‘Sardine World’, Lockwood accidentally launches his invention into the sky. After a short time, food begins to fall from the sky and the islanders are overjoyed but soon things take a dramatic turn when Lockwood’s invention becomes sentient and creates food-weather storms which threaten the entire planet.

This is probably the most visually appealing computer animated film I’ve ever seen. The animation is bright, colourful and bold. It really is a joy to look at. Some of the animation such as certain foods and especially water look incredibly real while the human characters have an eccentric and unique look to them. There is also great detail given to the background. In one scene for instance, two children are seen squirming while two adult characters kiss. Although they can barely be seen, it’s a nice little bit of attention to detail.

The script is full of wonderful witty and quirky sight gags and the dialogue had me laughing out loud. The characters are great and well defined. I especially like the way the cop (Mr. T) says ‘Flint Lockwood’ as if it is three separate words. Other fantastic characters include Lockwood Snr (James Caen), a technophobe who only communicates in fishing metaphors and Steve the Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris) who Lockwood has given the power of speech to via a Monkey-translator. I think Steve is funnier than the dog in Up.

The story is obviously crazy but it works. I was enthralled by it and even though most of what was going to happen was pretty obvious, I went with it. Other than the actual premise of precipitating food, there isn’t really anything new here. Like most modern children’s films, there is a strong message which it delivers to its young, captive audience. The film shows the perils of overeating and also warns that actions have consequences.

The film isn’t afraid to make fun of itself but more importantly the disaster film genre. One scene in particular was very amusing. After seeing giant food land in Times Square, on the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China and on Big Ben, a weather man pronounces that the storm is taking a strange course, focusing on the world’s major landmarks before spreading to the rest of the world. The film is full of little nods to disaster films.
Since watching the film, another thing that has amused me has been the discovery of what the film was called in non-English speaking countries. For instance in Poland the title was Little Meatballs and other Weather Conditions. In Russia it was Cloudy, possible precipitation in the form of meatballs. While I could continue to laugh at funny foreigners, I end by saying that Cloudy… is a unique and quirky film which has great visuals and a funny script. The story isn’t groundbreaking but the animation perhaps is.        


Thursday, 5 April 2012


Korean drama Mother is a story of maternal love. Bong Joon-ho director of The Host tells the story of a widowed woman (Kim Hye-ja) who sells herbs in a small Korean town. She looks after her only son Do-joon (Won Bin) who has an unspecified mental disability which makes him shy and come across as forgetful and dim-witted. He is referred to as a retard by those who know him and want to get a reaction from him. One night on his way home from a bar, Do-joon spots a teenage girl walking alone. He calls after her but then goes home. The next morning the girl is found dead and Do-joon is arrested for her murder. Convinced of his innocence, his mother stops at nothing to uncover the real killer.

The story is thoroughly enthralling and it twists and turns, constantly throwing up new clues or misdirections. I thought I had figured out who the killer was, and what their motives were on a number of occasions only to have another twist thwart my attempts to figure it out. The film is very good at giving obvious misdirected clues as well as subtle hints, some of which go nowhere while others are important. The story had me well and truly gripped.

Both lead actors are excellent. Kim Hye-ja, who won awards for her portrayal of the mother, is full of despair and determination and you can emphasise with her cause. You get the feeling from the outset that she will do literally anything to prove her son’s innocence and not stop until she has exhausted every line of enquiry. Won Bin is also very good as the mentally challenged Won Bin. It looks as though a lot of work went into researching his character and getting every facet spot on. Bong Joon-ho’s direction is quite superb. Each shot is exquisitely framed and the film looks very beautiful. He has also got superb performances from his cast.

The film has a satisfying climax which as well as tying up all the loose ends, gives complete closure to every part of the film. It was well worth waiting the 128 minutes to get to.

I haven’t got a bad word to say about the film but it lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on to make it a five star film. Nonetheless, it is remarkably well made and features some very poignant moments, particularly towards the end as well as great mystery and even a humorous first act.     


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

2009’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is the first of two recent film adaptations of the best selling novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. It centres on the hunt for answers after a young girl was murdered in 1966. Writer Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has recently been found guilty of libel and is due to be spending a few months in prison. On behalf of Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) a young investigator called Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) does some background research on Blomkvist and Vanger asks him to help solve the mystery surrounding his niece’s disappearance forty years ago. Blomkvist accepts and travels to the island upon which many of the Vanger family are based and where the missing girl, Harriet was last seen. As Blomkvist begins to gather clues and evidence, Salander continues to hack into his computer and becomes interested in both him and the case. Eventually she cracks a clue and sends her findings to Blomkvist who finds her and persuades her to help him. She is at first reluctant but agrees. Together the two try to uncover the mystery and end up uncovering much more than they ever expected to or even wanted to.

Having now seen the film I can now totally understand why the novel has gained such a large following and has sold as many copies as it has (53 million for the trilogy combined). The plot is fascinating and intriguing and is delivered at a steady pace. It successfully feeds just enough information to keep you interested but not enough to allow you to have it all figured out too early. It is quite literally a thrilling Thriller.

Nasty man
Many of the themes of the film are quite dark and have had to be tackled delicately. One of the main themes is violence by men, towards women and indeed the original Swedish title is Men who hate women. There are a few grizzly and quite frankly horrific scenes, one of which has stayed with me the day after seeing it. The films lead female, Lisbeth Salander has undergone some quite horrific acts at the hands of men, many of which are played out during the film and this gives us an understanding as to why she has turned into the woman she has. She is very distanced, especially around men. She is cold and introverted and has difficulty connecting with people. She is sexually ambiguous and shows great hostility towards men who do women harm as a result of her traumatic childhood. All of these traits are performed wonderfully by Noomi Rapace who is simply sublime as Salander. The male lead Mikael Blomkvist is an intelligent and dedicated investigative journalist and Michael Nyqvist plays him well. He is very believable but his performance is completely overshadowed by that of Noomi Rapace.

Another theme which has a place in Sweden is Nazism. This is something that is still quite a contentious subject in the country as many Swedes joined their Aryan cousins, the Germans during World War II. I was shocked to discover in a recent book on the subject that towards the end of the War there were many Swedes, Norwegian and even French volunteers fighting in the streets of Berlin when most of the German’s had been killed or had surrendered. This murky past is explored in the film and becomes a major part of the deduction the two leads undertake.   

The film kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Salander is a compelling heroine who I was rooting for in every scene is which she was able to enact some revenge on those who had wronged her. Towards the end as all the loose ends had been tied up, I felt that the film carried on for two long but this was obviously to set the story up for the sequel. I also felt that at 152 minutes it was on the long side but having said that there is little I’d want to take out. In regards to the graphic sexual violence, although disturbing I thought that it was necessary in order to show the audience what Salander has had to go through. The film is a great thriller which features a gripping and horrific story and some fantastic acting from Noomi Rapace who deserves all of the nominations and awards that she won for the role.  


Friday, 9 March 2012


Park Chan-wook is at it again. Thirst is a breathtaking film from the Director that bought us Oldboy and I’m a Cyborg, but that’s ok. Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho The Host & The Good, The Bad, The Weird) is an unhappy and depressed priest who volunteers for a medical experiment knowing that it will likely kill him. It is his way of killing himself without facing hell as suicide is a great sin for a Catholic. After being injected with a deadly virus and a prototype vaccine, Sang is cured but has a terrible side effect – he is now a vampire. Sang struggles to deal with the two sides of his personality and vows not to kill but to steal blood from comatose patients at the hospital in which he volunteers. Meanwhile he meets a family he once knew when he was young and becomes friendly with them. Their adopted daughter Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin) is unhappily married to their son and is treated like a slave by the rest of the family. She is drawn to Sang and he to her and the two begin a strange and erotic love affair. Sang must then decide whether to ‘turn’ Tae-ju and risk turning her and her increasingly erratic and unpredictable behaviour into a monstrous killing machine.

Park Chan-wook is fast becoming my favourite director and is the master of making a beautiful looking film. All of his films have a wonderful look to them, posses exquisite framing and cinematography and Thirst is no exception. Every shot is creative. There is never a time when the director simply has a camera in a conventional or boring position. There is always something to each shot. Park is a unique film maker and his trademark style and technique is visible to see. The internal sets look tremendous too. The family home at the centre of the story is transformed late on and looks wonderfully clinical and menacing. The all white set looks strangely beautiful when spattered with blood.

The story is attention-grabbing, crazy and well told. Both central characters undergo a transformation during the film and it is a joy to watch. The film deals with themes of religious duty, suicide, love, deceit and moral ambiguity. Each idea is dealt with in a satisfying and knowledgeable way. I did feel the film was slightly too long and that sometimes the story was a bit clunky but these are my only criticisms of an otherwise superb film.

The acting is without exception flawless. Song Kang-ho is an actor I could watch all day. He has a terrific range and I haven’t seen him give a bad performance yet. Here he transforms from a mild Priest into a conscientious but dangerous vampire and carries off both roles with aplomb. Beautiful newcomer Kim Ok-bin is equally as impressive as the innocent and impish young woman who turns into a vicious and vile seductress. Her transformation is incredible and she acts both parts perfectly. At times it was like watching two actresses. The supporting cast is also excellent, in particular Kim Hae-sook who plays Tae-ju’s mother and Shin Ha-kyun who is brilliant as Tae-ju’s idiot husband.

This film is obviously a must watch for Park Chan-wook fans and should be for fans of darkly funny and stylish horror. The violence is tasteful yet gory and the story gets stranger with each new scene. It features some fantastic acting and is wonderfully directed by Park.  


The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Set in 1930s Manchuria, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a Korean Western about three men and a map. The film focuses on the three men’s rivalry as they try to keep the map for themselves and reach the treasure that the map points to while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits. The three main characters are a bounty hunter known as The Good (Jung Woo-sung), The Bad (Lee Byung-hun), a no nonsense killer and The Weird (Song Kang-ho The Host, Thirst) who is a train robber.

The film features everything you’d want from a Western with great scenery, stand-offs, a train robbery and great action throughout. The fact that it is set in Asia makes little difference as it is a true Western. The directorial style of Kim Ji-woon is visually appealing and reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino. There is plenty of detailed stylization but it is not overdone and it helps to immerse the audience in the film. You feel very much as though you are part of the action thanks to the skill of Kim. The film features the odd twist and a mixture of serious Western dialogue and more funny dialogue from The Weird. The cinematography is wonderful with plenty of panoramic vistas, fast cut editing and unique camera movements. The costume design is also excellent. The Bad wears a modern, dark suit which together with his straight, dark hair and piercing eyes help him to seem nastier. The Good wears a traditional Western gunslingers outfit but The Weird, given his name, wears flying hat and goggles, paper gloves and traditional Korean dress. Each costume matches the character well.

The film is at its best during the more action packed sequences. They are without exception very well choreographed and acted and the film’s main set piece in a thieves market is superb and reminded me of a more light hearted 13 Assassins. It is not so successful in the more quiet moments but I think that is more of a testament to the action rather than a criticism of the less action packed scenes. While the film doesn’t have anywhere near the level of tension as Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on which it’s loosely based, the final Mexican Standoff was excellent and bought the film to a satisfying close. On the downside, the story is noticeably lacking and back story mostly non existent but had the plot been thicker I doubt the film would have been improved much as it is the action that draws the audience in.

The acting is outstanding, especially from the main cast. Jung’s Good and Lee’s Bad are similar in many ways and both actors bring a quiet, determined and cold-hearted feeling to their characters but the Bad is much more unsympathetic. Lee performs the role of the villain superbly. Song is excellent as The Weird, a man who seems unfit for the life he leads but somehow gets through every scrape unhurt. He brings a lot of humour to the role but is no slouch when the action starts. Though the acting is great, this is definitely director Kim Ji-woon’s film. He stamps his mark all over the proceedings and delivers an action packed and funny Western to rival anything from Hollywood.  


Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Who knew the apocalypse would be so boring? If the Mayans were right and the world ends this year, at least it will probably be quicker than sitting through 2012.

This science fiction disaster movie, directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow) is set in the year 2012, the year that the Mayan civilisation supposedly predicted that the world would end. Dr. Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an American geologist, working for the White House. He travels to India where his friend and fellow scientist has discovered that neutrinos (remember them?) from a giant solar flare have mutated and are heating up the Earth’s Core. The US President (Danny Glover) begins a top secret project which involves building giant ships in order to save around 400,000 of the worlds best and brightest (and richest). The more human side to the story comes in the form of John Cusack’s character, Jackson Curtis who spends the film trying to avoid the disaster and save his family.

The film has been lauded for its special effects, and they are spectacular. While it is impressive to see cities destroyed and mountains covered with waves, the characters never appear to be part of it. Even when John Cusack is driving a limousine through the crumbling streets of Los Angeles he feels distant and separated from it and you never get the sense that he is in any real danger. It never feels real. Perhaps part of the problem is the realistic knowledge that none of the main characters are going to be killed off in the first two acts and this takes away any feelings of peril.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The script is really poor. The dialogue feels unrealistic and lacks drama while the characters are one dimensional. Much of the film is ill thought out; for example upon returning early from holiday, Cusack’s character suddenly receives a call to say he is late for work. He’s meant to be on holiday. Also, every time the US President walks into a room, the rest of the world’s leaders are waiting silently for him. I expect in real life they’d probably at least be talking amongst themselves about the end of the world and not always waiting for the US to sort everything out. Without giving too much away, the President also does something which he would never be allowed to do once the disaster strikes.

The acting isn’t very good. Many people are miscast. Danny Glover is unconvincing as the President and John Cusack’s wife is an empty shell. I expect some of this is down to the script and characterisation though. Cusack is affable but nothing more but Woody Harrelson shines in a small role as the token nut-job who was right all along.

"Stay perfectly still. Earthquakes can't see you if you don't move".
At 158 minutes, the film is about half an hour too long. It is too boring to keep you entertained for even two hours, let alone nearly three. Maybe the obligatory shots of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben could have been lost. We get it, we are in France, we don’t need to see the bloody Eiffel Tower. As with any film of this nature there were plenty of moments where the audience are left thinking “come on! What are the chances?” Examples include the whole earth shifting on its axis so that Cusack and co doesn’t run out of fuel over the sea and a chance meeting with a Tibetan monk on a Chinese mountainside. I know I should cut the film some slack but come on!

There is plenty more wrong with the film but I try to keep these reviews fairly brief. It took over $700m at the box office so it must be doing something right. All I can say is that Independence Day wasn’t that good but it had more likeable characters and was shorter. The Day After Tomorrow had equally as good GCI, more likable characters and was MUCH shorter. And despite both having fairly poor storylines at least they didn’t have (SPOILER ALERT) a character called Noah saving everyone on an Ark and a parallel to the evolution of our species by resettling in Africa.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Taking of Pelham 123

2009’s The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name. I haven’t seen that film so I can’t comment but the remake is a let down. A man by the name of ‘Ryder’ (John Travolta) takes control of a Subway train in New York City where he and three fellow hijackers take several hostages and demand $10m for their freedom. Ryder is in contact with a NYC train dispatcher called Garber (Denzel Washington) and the film follows his attempts to control the situation and stop any hostages from being killed.

The film starts off with an annoying frame rate which is reminiscent of watching strobe lighting. Thankfully this technique ends with the opening credits but it was a bad start to a poor film. At times it had my heart pounding, thanks in most part to a thumping techno soundtrack, but for the most part it was lifeless and dull. It is difficult to get excited about the film when the majority of the dialogue takes place via radio with Garber in his control room and Ryder in a Subway tunnel. When the action is taken outside these confines towards the end of the film, it picks up somewhat but by then it is too little too late.

I've got a goatee, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Denzel Washington does his thing of the everyman caught up in an extraordinary situation but John Travolta is completely unconvincing as a bad guy. Even with a gun to a passenger’s head he seems more like he’s playing a man who is a little bit naughty than the part of a deranged psycho with a score to settle. The supporting cast featuring John Turturro and James Gandolfini are given little to do and Gandolfini’s character of the Mayor takes off half way through the film, seemingly with a plan in mind, never to be seen again. It didn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps the edit messed up his character’s arc…

The film’s ending seemed rushed and was disappointing but to be fair even a fantastic ending wouldn’t have prevented the film from being just mediocre.