Showing posts with label Russell Crowe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russell Crowe. Show all posts

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Man of Steel

Eight years ago, Christopher Nolan reinvented a seemingly dead superhero franchise with his Dark Knight trilogy. Here he’s acting as a producer to attempt the same with another DC comic book hero and perhaps the most famous of all, Superman. There have been Superman films in the past of course and it’s only seven years since the forgettable Superman Returns hit screens to a decent critical and lukewarm box office reception. Taking control of Man of Steel is director Zack Snyder, a man a distinct style and experience of large, special effects movies. I’ve never had much affinity for the Superman character although I enjoyed the 90s TV series. The character, coupled with a director whose films I rarely enjoy lead me to having low expectations for the latest in a long line of superhero based blockbusters. Unfortunately even my low expectations failed to be met with Man of Steel, a dull movie which lasts for an age and goes nowhere.

The film does what all superhero re-boots are doing this century and gives us the origin story. The problem with Superman’s origin story is that it’s long and complex, or at least it is in this film. Spider-Man gets bitten by a spider, develops heightened senses and web stuff then goes with it. Batman invents stuff and goes from man to superhero. Superman though has a story which involves the end of a world, a race’s battle for survival, civil war, unusual childhood development and alienation before self discovery. That’s a lot to put in one movie and of course the movie doesn’t want to just give us the origin, it wants to entertain us with a villain and large scale battle. This results in a two and a half hour film which is full of long, unnecessary exposition and long winded flash backs.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Beautiful Mind

I saw A Beautiful Mind sometime in 2003 when I was still living at home with my parents. I remember that we all loved it and for a little while it became my favourite film. (Note I discovered Martin Scorsese the next year). Ten years later and I barely remembered a thing about it. I remembered Russel Crowe and something about maths and spying but that was all. I didn’t even remember how remarkably well formed Jennifer Connolly looked. I certainly didn’t recall any twists or surprises. Coming back to the film after ten years in my bid to watch every Oscar Best Picture winner (the film won in 2002) I was left disappointed by some very obvious twists and character development, something my young mind didn’t pick up on in 2003 and had subsequently forgotten. This early flaw put a dampener on the entire film and although it is very good in places, I could never quite get over the early let down.

The film is based on the life of Mathematician John Nash (Crowe) and we pick up his story as he begins his Doctoral thesis at Princeton in 1947. It is immediately obvious that he is highly gifted, egotistical and sure of his talents but lacks interpersonal skills. This is something which is picked up upon by his class mates and he makes very few friends in his time at College. He does gradually become acquainted with his eccentric English room mate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany) and the two remain close for many years. After a major breakthrough at Collage, Nash begins working at MIT but his unusual personality begins to develop into something more and he is taunted by mental illness which interrupts his work and threatens to break up his family.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Les Misérables

Based on the musical of the same name which itself was based on a French novel, Les Misérables is a musical film Directed by Academy Award winning Director Tom Hooper. A large ensemble cast star in a tale set over several decades during a period of multiple French Revolutions. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison twenty years after stealing some bread. Placed on parole for the rest of his life he eventually skips it and starts anew. Over the years he is mercilessly chased by Prison Guard turned Police officer Javert (Russell Crowe). Set against the backdrop of social inequity and extreme poverty the plot intertwines a love story featuring idealistic reformist Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and the illegitimate daughter of Prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway), Cosette (Amanda Seyfried).

The mass excitement at the release of Les Misérables caused a huge traffic jam outside my local cinema today on what is by far the busiest day I’ve seen in my four years using it. The film has just been nominated for eight Oscars and nine Baftas and in my opinion is in no way a perfect movie but deserves its plaudits. The film has an intense beginning and a slight lull in the middle before ending on a huge and powerful high which caused tears from many and in a first for me, the audience burst into applause. That is something which rarely if ever happens in a UK Cinema.

Friday, 11 January 2013

L.A. Confidential

Intertwining the stories and cases of three LA Cops while also managing to focus on both the glamour and seedier side of 1950s L.A., L.A. Confidential is a fantastic and gripping neo-Noir thriller set towards the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. With Micky Cohen in jail, L.A. finds itself free of Organised Crime and the LAPD wants to keep it that way. On the front line are three very different Detectives; the brutish Bud White (Russell Crowe), book smart and career orientated Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Jack ‘Hollywood Jack’ Vincennes (Kevin Spacey). The three inhabit different worlds within the same department and a run in between White and Exley causes mass tension amongst the whole of the force. A murder at the Night Owl Café one evening sparks an investigation which involves all three officers, corruption, racism, organised crime, prostitution, glitz, glamour and grime.

I saw L.A. Confidential several years ago and it didn’t really have an impact on me. I can only assume I saw it too young because yesterday I saw it again and thought it was spectacular. Director Curtis Hansen and Cinematographer Dante Spinotti create a realistic version of L.A. full of bright, soft light and period detail but the film avoids going for an all out Noir feel and incorporates more of a modern feel in amongst its 50s setting. The setting and fantastic design are a mere backdrop however for what is essentially a character study. The film may look beautiful but it is in its characters where it truly shines.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


“The General who became a slave, the slave who became a Gladiator, the Gladiator who defied an Emperor”.  Gladiator is the story of Roman General Maximus (Russell Crowe) who seeks revenge for the murder of the Caesar and of his own family at the order of new Caesar, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

The story is enthralling, and the battle scenes, epic. The impressive sets and locations are a reminder of the great historical epics of the 1950s and 60s. It is a joy to see real places at a time when CGI is often used instead. Talking of the CGI, it has held up to scrutiny very well and despite being twelve years old at the time I’m writing this, it looks as good as all but the best 2012 has to offer. The wonderful images are joined by a great score by Hans Zimmer. 

The main characters are well defined and attention-grabbing. Crowe’s Maximus is a man on a mission who shows little emotion while in battle but a great deal of love and emotion towards those he loves. Crowe is opposite one of the most hateful characters in all of cinema history. To me, Joaquin Phoenix often comes across as unlikeable but he takes this to new heights as the villain of the piece, Caesar Commodus. The supporting cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou and Connie Nielson are all very good but the stand out is Oliver Reed who unfortunately died during filming, making this his last film. His scenes were completed at a cost of $3.2m using motion capture and CGI, money well spent in my view as it is difficult to spot.

The whole film itself seems fairly inexpensive when compared to its contempories. It cost $103m in 2000 whereas Titanic cost $200m three years earlier and Kingdom of Heaven cost $147m five years later. I think you get a lot of film for your buck with Gladiator. (This is especially so when you compare it to Pirates of the Caribbean 4 which had an estimated budget of $150-250m and is a poor excuse for entertainment).

Occasionally the film gets a bit repetitive. Maximus is forced to fight one opponent after another in the Coliseum and after a while this begins to get tiresome. Each new battle introduces new elements such as chariots or wild animals which help it to keep fresh but you do get the feeling you are just watching the same thing over and over again and waiting for the final battle between the central characters which will obviously be coming. This being said, on the whole Gladiator is a great historical epic which should keep you entertained for over two hours and is better than similar films such as Troy and Alexander in a genre that it helped revive.