Showing posts with label 2011. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2011. Show all posts

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Red State

Red State, more thriller than horror, is a film inspired by those nonsense sprouting, humanity hating people of the Westboro Baptist Church as well the as current terrorism policy. Three teenage boys peruse the internet looking for local women to have sex with but discover that their chosen woman isn’t all that she said she was online. The boys find themselves locked inside a church with hate preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) talking about the end of days. He puts humanity’s demise down to homosexuality and has the bought the boys to his church to help free the world of sexual deviancy. Unfortunately for Cooper, a routine police patrol drives past his compound and discovers a car wanted in connection with a road traffic accident. When the police officer hears shots from inside the church he calls for backup and soon an ATF team lead by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) is on the scene.

I’m generally in favour of any movie which highlights the evil of organised religion. Whether through subtle satire or full blown exploratory investigation, if religion is getting a kicking then I’m on board. What Red State does though is make both sides the bad guys. The despicable, murdering in the name of Jesus loons obviously get a hard time from the film makers but so do the Government Agents bought in to take them down.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

In Darkness

Based on true events, 2011 Polish film In Darkness focuses on life in Nazi Occupied Poland during the Second World War. Leopold Socha (Robert Więckiewicz) is a sewer worker and part time thief who hides his horde of ill gotten goods in the sewers beneath the streets of Lwow. While in the sewers on day he comes across a group of freshly escaped Jews who have bored a hole through the ground from their Ghetto above. After threatening to turn them in for a reward, Socha instead agrees to help them in return for an even larger fee. For over a year he attempts to keep ‘His Jews’ hidden while living off the funds they provide him.  

In Darkness was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar and was met with wide critical acclaim upon its release. The film is deeply harrowing and manages to create well rounded characters in both the Jews and Poles but unfortunately it lives in the shadows of Schindler’s List which has covered most of the ideas before.

Friday, 5 April 2013

This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place is a film which frustrated me. In amongst its less appealing aspects are some great camera work, interesting ideas and flawless deadpan performance from Sean Penn but this is all stifled by a script which doesn’t know what it wants to be and despite introducing some heavy topics, doesn’t have anything to say. The film centres on an aging and bored American Rock Star called Cheyenne (Sean Penn). Cheyenne, still dressed in his Goth rock attire, shuffles around his Irish Mansion and into town where he stares aimlessly at supermarket shelves. His lack of vigour is stark contrast to the joyful expressions of his wife Jane (Frances McDormand) who occasionally attempts to remove the gloom from her husband’s life. One day Cheyenne decides he is going to attempt to reconcile with his estranged father and travels back to New York to see him. Arriving too late he instead takes it upon himself to go on a road trip and track down the 90 year old ex-Nazi who persecuted his father in Auschwitz.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

This is Not a Film

In March 2010 Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most internationally known and award winning film makers was arrested for committing propaganda against the Iranian Government. The staunch anti regime director was banned from film making and scriptwriting for 20 years and as of 2011 was under house arrest, awaiting the appeal of a six year jail sentence. While wasting his days at home, Panahi gets the idea to ask a fellow director to visit him and pick up a camera. Mojtaba Mirtahmasb films Panahi in his high rise apartment as he watches TV, takes phone calls and runs through his most recently rejected screenplay, careful all the while to avoid making a film.

Jafar Panahi isn’t a film maker I’d previously come across and in a strange twist of fate, had the Iranian government not imprisoned him, it is possible that myself and many others would have lived out our lives without knowledge of the man or his films. What Panahi does with This is Not a Film is to give the viewer a fascinating insight into the mind of a tortured man as well as the mind of a film maker. Panahi often explains his predicament through the use of film clips and draws on his back catalogue to provide parallels between himself and his characters. The film is truly absorbing.

Thursday, 28 February 2013


A few years ago I saw a film called Love Exposure by Japanese Director Sion Sono. I’ve seen that film three times now and even though it is over four hours long it has become one of my all time favourites. I’d been on the look out for other films from the Director and came across Himizu, a film set in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake that caused the Tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A fourteen year old boy runs a boat renting business. He is surrounded by an unusual bunch of adult friends who live vagrant lives near his house having been made homeless by the earthquake. With an absent mother and mostly absent and violent father, the boy has constant thoughts of suicide. A girl from his school becomes infatuated with him and attempts to bring his life into focus but struggles against the boy’s violence and depression.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Help

It’s rare that I watch a film and want to hurt the cast but I deeply disliked about 60% of the characters in The Help and wanted to punch about 20% of them in the face. The Oscar winning 2011 film tells the story of disenfranchised maids living in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) returns from college with the world at her feet but realises that her family and friends expect very specific things of her. She is to act and dress in a certain way, not think too hard and settle down with a husband as soon as possible. Skeeter goes against what is expected and gets a job at the local paper. Desperate for something worthwhile to write about she asks her friend’s maid Aibileen (Viola Davis) if she can write about life from the help’s perspective. Although weary at first, Aibileen soon opens up to Skeeter and soon fellow maid Minny (Octavia Spencer) is telling her story too.

I never saw The Help on its initial release and is in fact a rare example of a recent Best Picture candidate I’ve missed. Something about the movie didn’t appeal to me and my early hatred of the bad guy characters coupled with finding Emma Stone’s character annoying got me off to a bad start. By the end though I was wishing the film wouldn’t end and would have watched another act. I grew to respect and love certain characters but still want to punch others and the story is a remarkable example of bravery, courage and setting right what is wrong.

Monday, 24 December 2012


I never intended to see Bridesmaids. When I saw the trailers at the cinema I thought to myself that it was a cross between two films I deeply dislike, Sex and the City and The Hangover. How wrong I was. I saw the film at the cinema, in IMAX oddly, and for a second time on TV yesterday and both times I laughed more than enough times to satisfy and on the first viewing at least, really enjoyed the story. The film helped to change the perception of women in comedy and gave several great roles to terrific comic and straight actresses. Written by its star Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo who herself has a brief but funny cameo, the film is about a group of women preparing for a wedding. Annie (Wiig) is going through a sort of third life crisis and feels shunned by her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) friendship with a wealthy and beautiful banker Helen (Rose Byrne). Things go from bad to worse for Annie as she loses her job and apartment and reaches rock bottom when her behaviour at a bridal shower loses her her invite to the wedding.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Front Line

Set mostly amid the 1953 Korean War ceasefire negotiations, The Front Line (고지전) stars Shin Ha-kyun as First Lieutenant Kang from Military Intelligence. Kang is sent to the Front Line to investigate the suspicious death of a Captain and to intercept any North Korean mail that is being sent through the Southern Postal Service. When Kang arrives at the front he discovers a comrade he though was long dead is in fact alive and well. Lieutenant Kim (Go Soo) is found serving in the same regiment as Kang is forced to investigate and finds life on the Front Line even harsher than he imagined. In the midst of his investigation the war is still raging on as both sides attempt to capture an important hilltop.

South Korea has produced many excellent War Movies over the last decade or so but despite some great scenes and cinematography I wasn’t able to fully get on board with this one. That being said there is a lot to like about the film and it won four Grand Bell Awards in 2011 including Best Film. I found that throughout the film I was interested in the story but not the characters.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Iron Lady

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) now in her eighties is struggling with dementia and has difficulty distinguishing the past from the present. As she potters around her home she tries to place herself but continues to struggle with the reality that her husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) has passed away. As Thatcher attempts to come to terms with her loss she slips back into the past, remembering her lower middle-class youth and subsequent rise to becoming the world’s most powerful woman. With Dennis by her side she finds it difficult to let go of the past and realise that she no longer has the power she once had. As an ageing woman she realises that she has virtually no power at all, not even over her own life.

I have really mixed feelings about The Iron Lady. On the one hand it features a career defining performance from someone who is already one of the most distinguished actresses in history but on the other hand it is a biopic about one of the most divisive people in recent history that somehow manages to treat a neutral line. There is surely no one in Britain who has neutral feelings towards the former Prime Minister. People either love her or loathe her yet the film appears to brush over both the best and worst of her character and time in office, leaving a fairly mundane story in its wake.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -Part 1

The penultimate film in the inexplicably popular Twilight series is probably the worst to date. Having avoided the hordes of mindless team whatever fans on its initial release I finally persuaded myself to sit down and watch the DVD twelve months on. I was unable to get through it in one sitting. The plot is one of the least tortuous and most dull affairs I’ve ever seen. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is marrying Edward (R-Patzzz), much to the distain of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who shows his anger by ripping off his shirt less than five seconds into the film. Following their seemingly real time marriage which feels longer than most actual weddings I’ve been to, the happy couple go on their honeymoon, first passing through Rio, full of stereotypical dancing Brazilians before ending up on a secluded island. Edward is worrying about hurting Bella during consummation and through a vomit inducing sex montage; they finally consummate their love after all these years. But uhoh!! They must have skipped sex education class as Bella ends up with a baby up all inside her belly. How this happens is beyond me as the father is dead. I was under the impression that dead people had no living cells but somehow Edward’s sperm are alive. Anyway, the baby starts trying to kill Bella and lots of people attempt to save her, despite the fact that she’s one of the least likeable characters in cinema history.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

My Week with Marilyn

In 1956 the world’s most iconic film star, Marilyn Monroe travelled to England to star in a new romantic comedy, The Prince and the Showgirl alongside famed actor/director Sir Laurence Olivier. Throughout an arduous shoot a young man called Colin Clark who joined the production as third AD kept a diary which became the basis of his memoir and this film. The production took place at a difficult time in the lives of both stars and Clark became very close to Monroe in particular, allowing him to present a rare glimpse into the private life of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

My Week with Marilyn was generally well received upon its release in 2011 and was nominated for seven BAFTAS and two Oscars. I unfortunately missed it on its theatrical release but felt very happy when I caught up with it on DVD. The film is an enjoyable watch with some occasional dark turns which gives an almost unprecedented look into a brief snippet of the life of one of the world’s original mega stars.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Woman in the Fifth

A writer and University Professor (Ethan Hawke) arrives in Paris with hopes of relocating to the French capital and reconnecting with his estranged daughter. After tracking down his ex wife and child he is shunned by the former and warned to stay away. His ex tries to convince the daughter that her father has been in prison but he claims he was just ill. The writer soon finds himself robbed of all his possessions and manages to secure a small room in a hotel run by a gangster in exchange for acting as a night guard, an ask no questions role. One evening he meets a mysterious widow (Kristen Scott Thomas) and the two begin a strange affair, ruled by her odd request of meeting at 5pm sharp in her 5th arrondissement apartment.

This is a film with a lot of build up and minimal payoff. I spent seventy five minutes waiting for the reveal in an ever increasingly bizarre film but it never came. It’s very difficult to discuss the film without spoilers so I’ll write what I thought and then present my opinions at the bottom of the page in case anyone doesn’t want any spoilers.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

A Lonely Place to Die

A group of five friends are on holiday, hiking and climbing around the remote mountains of Northern Scotland when they chance upon a strange noise. Tracking it down they discover a pipe sticking out of the ground and what appears to be a girl trapped in a box underground. After setting her free they begin their trek to the nearest town to report a kidnapping but are chased every step of the way by the shady men who put the girl in the hole in the first place.

I have a vague recollection of the film’s title and my girlfriend assures me that we wanted to see it so she borrowed it from a friend. I wish she hadn’t bothered. The plot is ok but doesn’t go deep enough and the acting and dialogue seem like they were done by people who understood the concept but had never actually seen it practiced.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Le Havre

An ageing shoeshine, Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) takes in a young African boy, Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) after he escapes from a ship’s cargo container in the French port of Le Havre. Despite Marcel’s lack of money and sadness that his wife Arletty (Kati Outinen) is gravely ill in hospital, he does all he can to reunite the young migrant with his mother who has settled in London.

Le Havre had an olden feel to it which permeated the whole film. The location, costume, cars, and ambience gave the impression that it was set in the late 1960s or early 1970s. You get the idea that the world has moved on and forgotten people like Marcel who sits outside the station waiting to shine shoes, looking down at people’s feet to see mostly trainers and looking up at faces to see mostly aversion in people’s eyes. You also get the sense that like many port cities, Le Havre is also a city that has been left behind. Marcel’s neighbourhood in particular has an almost Dickensian air about it with a small bakery, grocery shop and narrow streets lined by small, dilapidated houses. The arrival of a young African boy in to the mix spices up the area and adds a sense of rejuvenation, bringing the community together.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Kid with a Bike

A troubled young boy Cyril (Thomas Doret) lives in a Children’s Home after his father decided he was no longer able to cope with caring for him. Unable to accept this, the boy escapes the Home and goes back to the apartment that he and his father shared. Finding him gone, the boy continues to run from the Home’s staff before clattering into a woman in a Doctor’s waiting room while yelling about his missing bike. Later, the same woman is able to track down the bike and brings it to the Home and the boy asks if he can stay with her at weekends. The woman, a hairdresser called Samantha (Cecile de France) accepts and the boy spends time with her while she attempts to free him from the anger and rage that keeps getting him into trouble.

I first heard about this film last May when it won the Jury Prize at Cannes. I’d wanted to see it at the cinema but being a Belgian film about an angry boy and a bicycle I was unable to find it in the city of 3 million people in which I live. Although I was disappointed not to get to see it at the cinema, now I have seen it I don’t feel like I was missing out. While it’s an interesting story about two very different relationships, I didn’t personally enjoy it as much as the reviews I’d read suggested I would.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Known in the UK as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, this film charts a particular adventure of Hergé’s famous comic book creation Tintin. Young Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys an old model ship at a market. Straight away he is approached by two men who offer to buy the ship from him for any price. After he declines Tintin’s ship is stolen and while tracking it down he uncovers a mystery involving lost treasure. With the help of his intrepid dog Snowy and a drunken Sea Captain called Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin sets out to find the hidden loot and uncover the secret of the Unicorn. 

I used to watch Tintin cartoons when I was very young and though can’t remember much about them now, I do remember enjoying them. I wish I could say the same for this film. I’d read that the film was an adventure in the mould of Indiana Jones but I found the plot incredibly dull and predictable. The film was saved only by some first rate animation and a typically impressive John Williams score.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

In Time

"For a few to be immortal, many must die"

In the near future the human race has managed to genetically engineer itself to stop aging at 25. Once you reach 25 though you are given one year of time until your death. As a result time becomes currency with people able to exchange, rob and work for it. Society has been divided by social class into various time zones and it is in one of the poorest zones that we find factory worker Will Salas (Justin Timberlake). Salas lives day to day in the ghetto, never having more than a few hours to live. After the death of his mother (the totally hot Olivia Wilde) Will saves the life of a 104 year old with a death wish. The old man gives Will all of his time he but is then hunted down by Time Keeper (Cillian Murphy) under suspicion of murder. Will travels to the prosperous New Greenwich where he meets heiress Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried). When the time keepers catch up with him, Will kidnaps Sylvia and the two go on the run.

There is a very interesting idea somewhere in this film and occasionally it attempts to shine through but is often hampered by poor dialogue and an obvious, much told story.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Project Nim

"Nim Banana Eat"

Project Nim is a 2011 Documentary feature about the life of a Chimpanzee called Nim Chimpsky. In 1973 the two week old Nim became the subject of a Columbia University study that attempted to ascertain whether or not Chimps were capable of communicating with humans in the form of sign language. Nim was bought up as a human by a variety of people based at the University and eventually learned 125 signs for the likes of ‘eat’ ‘play’ ‘Nim’ ‘hug’ and ‘cat’ and was able to string the signs together to form basic requests such as ‘Banana eat me Nim’. Once Nim became too old to be handled he was returned to the Primate Institute in which he was born but then had a traumatic final fifteen years.

I remember studying Nim for A Level Psychology and being fascinated with the idea that Chimps could communicate in this manner. Since that time I have become interested in anthropology and primatology and while I’m no expert, I wasn’t shocked or surprised by any of the incredible things that Nim was capable of. Had I come to the film with no knowledge of Nim or the study I expect I would have enjoyed the film more than I did.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Debt

"The truth stays in this room, between us"

In 1997 an Israeli journalist is at the launch of her new book. The story is based on her mother’s (Helen Mirren) first assignment as a Mossad agent in which she and two other agents captured the Nazi War Criminal “The Surgeon of Birkenau” (Jasper Christensen). The plot then shows what happened in East Berlin in 1965 and reveals there is much more to the story than the published account.

The film goes back and forth from 1965 to 1997 but stays in 1965 for the most part. We watch as Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) arrives in Berlin and takes up her role as a field agent along with David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas). The trio successfully track down the old Doctor and capture him before a problem with his extraction means that they have to bring him to their apartment and find a new means of escape. The film is full of surprising twists and revelations which along with some great acting and terrific script make a dramatic thriller.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Meek's Cutoff

In 1845 a small band of settlers travel across the Oregon Desert under the guidance of Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood). What was meant to be a two week journey is stretched to five as the group begin to wonder if Meek actually knows the way. With food and water scarce and tensions running high, the settlers’ chance upon a local native, capture him and attempt to get him to lead them to water. Will they find it? Will he actually lead them to it? And, will they ever make it across the desert?

I’ve become quite a fan of modern Westerns recently and have really enjoyed the likes of The Assassination of Jesse James, There Will Be Blood and True Grit amongst others. Meek’s Cutoff shares little with those films though other than its time in history and genre. This is a film about the isolation of the old west and the physical and mental pain that one must go through in order to continue the expansion west. Unlike most other Westerns, this is also told from mostly the female perspective.