Sunday, 18 December 2011
2011 has been the Year best described as “Different”, to some it’s better than last year and according to the NY post it’s a bad year because “I haven’t given more than two movies 4 stars”. Well nor have I, and with the evidence shown below to you the Jury, it can be safely asserted that his hypothesis is incorrect. 2011 has given us the return of modern visionaries, the auteurs of their craft, the founding fathers of the weird and the wonderful. Terrence Malick returned after, a presumably shorter hiatus than usual, and expanded our knowledge of the universe, from its beginnings right the way through to its reconciling ending. It was an epic tone poem in the most personal of ways, one that touched even though it contained those dinosaurs. It’s flawed, with an almost fan boy like appreciation taken over the many who have lauded it as the best film of the year, but it will leave with a distinct impression on you afterwards, whether you take that as positive aspect or not is up to you.
Lynne Ramsey returned for the first time in 7 years with her adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s celebrated book “We need to talk about Kevin” a film that has unusually, since seeing the film in October, has garnered as much acclaim and aggressive criticism as any other this year. It’s an unflinchingly fearless film with Tilda Swinton at her usual best. However, new comer Ezra Miller almost steals the show as a rampaging teen with a heart as black as death itself. Whatever you take from Kevin, it is a dizzying, poisonous and gripping experience. The return of others has been met with a final “hurrah, you have made a good one”. Martin Scorsese returned with the fun and delightful “Hugo” all about the indescribable feeling that one gets from cinema. Pedro Almodovar gave us an intoxicating mix of melodrama and body shock horror in “The Skin I live in” with Elena Anaya as Antonia Banderas human guinea pig.
The genre that has dominated this year, however, has been the presence that something isn’t right and that the world may just end. Greg Akari gave us the not so serious “Kaboom”,a raunchy teen sex end-of-the world comedy, where the world ends at the push of a button. Soderbergh returned, as you can almost guarantee he will, with “Contagion” , a revamp of the disaster film played through a modern setting where Gwyneth Paltrow sets the world into chaos (it’s either that or “Country Strong”). Lars Von Trier became infamous in 2011 for this years most overblown controversy where he was issued a Persona Non Grata for being a bit of a Nazi. His vision of the world ending was played through the eyes of Kirsten Dunst where she brings the world to its end with the planet“Melancholia” . David Mackenzie may have given us the best however with the flawed but fascinating “Perfect Sense”, where the world begins to lose all there senses and have to learn to adapt. Maybe this is, as depressing it is to be writing on a Sunday morning, a message for our times. Cinema, with its screens being clogged up with countless 3D film’s, is stopping the amount of other, smaller more original films to be shown in your city and with the end of the UK film council what is the hope for us the continuing growth of original British films. Will this year be the last “Hoorah” for British cinema?
Why be depressive, its Sunday, it’s a week before Christmas and this is the crowning achievements of 2011 as listed below to the shock and awe of some that there is no Superhero films listed below.
10. Le Quattro Volte/ Love like Poison
I am cheating, I know, but it is a testament to the amount of films shown this year, in my eye’s, which are worthy of these positions. Number 10 represents the best in Arthouse even though they both deserve equal acclaim in their own right. Le Quattro Volte (or “The Four Times”) has been described by Mark Kermode as the “Silent goat farming film”. The film is almost indescribable, it’s wordless almost listless tone at time’s gives the film an almost meditative feel, while a man, a goat, a tree and coal symbolise the four stages of life. It sounds all so “Tree of life” but this would be doing the film an injustice. It’s moving, profound and has a beguiling sense of humour which will charm even the most hardened of “Arthouse” cynics.
Love like Poison is a French film, which premièred in the 2010 Cannes film festival, however it has only just got its release in the UK. Poison represents the best dysfunctional family film of the year, with it tackling different strands from teenage love, death, family breakdowns, intruding on a young girl’s sense of innocence and pulls it off effortlessly. Wanting to see the film again and prying deeper into the film is something that has to be done
9. Meeks Cutoff
Not for everyone, so the warning goes out to you all before attempting to watch Kelly Reichardts contemplative and ravishing western. As much a survival film as it is a Western, the “Meek” of the title is Bruce Greenwoods almost unrecognisable appearance as Stephen Meek take families across the Oregon Trail. Its use of the 4:3 aspect ration gives the film the refreshing look of something old. It flips all the conventions, showing precisely the painful journey to find civilisation. Instead of Men as the hunters they become the hunted at the hands of Michelle Williams Emily Teethrow, examining there look at why they are doing what they are doing and what the ensuing capture of a slave does to them. Unusually centred around, it continued the work of the likes of Winters Bone in getting rid of the final taboo of women no being a fierce presence in modern cinema. It’s barren, expansive and open to the possibility of danger at any moment, isn’t that the essence of a true Western?
Rango is Gore verbinskis best film, having gone through the sludge of Pirates of the Caribbean and the witless and dull Nicholas Cage vehicle The Weather Man, with Johnny Depp playing a lost chameleon on the search for his purpose. It’s an inventive, funny and bonkers tale, with the added bonus of not being in 3D. If Rango doesn’t suit your tastes then Studio Ghiblis magical Arriety, based around a tale adapted from the Borrowers, is thrilling in different way. It’s even a different fair from classic Ghibli, moving away from the childish, but still brilliant, fare of the previous films such as Ponyo. It’s an unashamedly simple love story about two people in two different worlds fighting to be friends. The film can be described in one word-Lovely.
Danny Boyles thrilling take on Aron Ralston's experience of being stuck between a boulder and a hard place-the world. Through his ordeal he begins to contemplate about, not just what has happened to him but the person he is. It’s a thrilling adventure film even though the setting is largely one man, an arm, a boulder and a knife. It’s survival of the fittest and 127 hours turns out to be one of the year’s best most uplifting stories, even with the whole “cutting the arm, I’m looking away” sequence.
6. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
After the flawless Let the right one in Tomas Alfredson makes the decision to do another adaptation, this time John Le Carre’s famous and windingly complex novel. Gary Oldman is George Smiley, a retirement agent hunting a mole in the secret service in this cold war set spy thriller. It’s a spy film without the antics of bond and is instead interested on a character level. Seeing it twice reveals all of its little clues, making the payoff even more intense the second tie. It’s a film that compromises nothing for its audience, and as the story takes a back step, we have Alfredson knack for creating atmosphere to knife cutting levels. It’s a film about trust and keeping that time honoured tradition of keeping your friends close and enemies even closer.
5. Benda Bilili/ Pina
“Life Love Music” is the tagline for Benda Bilili but it could easily sum up both these films. Benda Bilili is this year’s best unseen film. It’s delightful and inspiring without seeping into a TV like sentimentality of there impoverished conditions. Five filmmakers went on a trip to make a film about ethnic music and instead came back with Benda Bilili, a tale of triumph over adversity in the best sense with one the most joyous celebrations of humanity you bound to witness all year. Pina is a different beast all together, Wim Wenders pushes 3D (or so I am told, sorry saw it n 2D) to a level in which we can credibly see why we have 3D in the first place. As the Times states, it’s an experience which goes beyond live performance, becoming a swoon of colours and performances which in capitulates the highest form of human emotion all the way down to the darkest of all emotions. Surreal and moving and like all Documentaries it get’s you interested in a subject which you may never of thought could grab you but yet in it entrances you instead.
4. Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams make a perfect pair bringing unhappiness upon each other in Derek Cinafrance’s perfectly realised Blue
Valentine. A love story with a more realistic edge, showing the high points and the low points of a relationship at the hands of a destructive husband who cares too much and a wife who cares to little. Through the performances we are given a perfectly realised version of relationships, from the highs and the lows, turned all the way up to an extreme, at time cathartic level. Apparently with the writer had made over 60 drafts of the script and we can’t thank him enough for doing so.
3. Submarine/Animal Kingdom/ True Grit
All three are unique in their own way. Submarine is the “romantic comedy” that wasn’t a romantic comedy which was way ahead of all other this year, with it having a funny, wise tone and hmmm the one thing that very few others have, an original voice and something to say. Animal Kingdom became 2011's most destructive family drama, examining, almost in the same as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the race to gain all the power and people who a fearful of their own kind, especially a vicious Jackie Weaver as the little old lady with all the power. True Grit is the Coen Brothers retelling or “adaptation” of John Waynes infamous Oscar Vehicle, this time having the Dude replace the Duke.
2. A Separation
Described as Hitchcockian whodunit, this Drama set in the midst of Iranian culture continues the trend of increasingly important and vital films from Iran, leading the trend with the likes of No one knows about Persian cat’s. After an accident causes a rift in the household between the father, an award worthy Peyman Moaadi, and their maid to watch over his sickly father, we are increasingly drawn into a moral maze, where we judge everyone and no one at the same time. With tension and pacing as flawlessly executed as this you want every drama to be as gripping and involving as this.
1. Weekend/13 Assassins
If you can find a similarity between these two films then please let me know. Weekend is here because it’s a film which as enticed me in a way that no other film has this year. It’s the story of two men who quickly begin to fall for each other over one weekend. What seems typical as a one night stand for Glen and Russell, quickly turns into something that they didn’t expect. To put “I” Into the equation I believe you be entranced by the sheer effortless nature of the script in portraying a modern relationship which is both traditional and modern, while also being emotionally resonant, and searching for, between these two characters, answers to questions which are deeply personal to everyone when in a relationship. The performances are so seamless that you would think the film had turned into a documentary. It may be one of the best pieces of filmmaking, seeming to be in comparison to the look of Joe Lawlor and Christine Molly’s Helen, you are likely to see. For craftsmanship and sheer (I hate to use this word) epicness, Takashi Miike’s bloodthirsty epic grabbed m attention and didn’t let go for over two hours. It’s Miike’s version of Seven Samurai which adds something that Seven Samurai really needs-Flaming Bulls.
If I had to pick, for conformist’s sake (even though this year it can’t be done), an official top 10 then it would be …..
10. le Quattro Volte
9. Meeks Cutoff
7. 127 hours
6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
5. Benda Bilili
4. Blue Valentine
3. True Grit
2. A Separation
Plenty that have been missed like Peter Mullan’s NED’S, Documentaries (which have been the crowning achievements as always throughout 2011) such as Senna, Project Nim, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Even Horror made a comeback in the shape of Kill List, part revenge thriller, part kitchen sink drama and part the Wicker Man; this was a confounding and unsettling horror film, which I hope continues a new wave in “extreme but smart” horror films. And there were quite few more, in this healthy year of film, that I would mention and those will be issued in a top 30 soon.
Friday, 29 July 2011
It's first time goings for most at the Manhattan international film festival, which includes the film makers as much as the audience. Indeed the festival is new and fresh and coming together as an occasion which is refreshingly un-marketed-there are few famous faces and even fewer press coverage’s. It makes a refreshing change, at times, from the overpopulation of modern film festivals, allowing you to sit back and enjoy in traditional New York cinemas, the best in unreleased independent cinema.
It would have made a nice change of pace in New York, stepping into an air conditioned theatre, being able to escape from the scorching heat of New York's unusual heat wave. On show at the festival you have range in quality and genre-from the Professional looking to the down right armature, from comedy all the way to horror. Yes, they weren't anything to shout about but there was, well a film, which was worth shouting about.
Run to the East an inspiring and professional looking 2009 production which has been circling the festival circuits throughout 2011 and was part of the official selection for the program. The documentary follows three senior high school cross country runners, who all have the chance to be the odds of their towns-they live in communities which are over run with violence, poverty and drugs. The film introduces you to three characters (all with different levels of compelling narrative) who go on their own journey’s, moving form the ups and downs, with hopefully the final goal of landing a scholarship.
We are introduced to Tails who early on tells us that she never thought of this as something she would ever get into when she was younger but now finds running as a way of escaping her poverty ridden community of Navaho to hopefully a better life. Closely afterwards we are introduced to Thomas Martinez who goes through a striking array of hairstyles all with different levels of success. He comes from a similar background-father addicted to drugs and trying to cope with the death of his mother-he finds the perseverance needed in running as a way of coping with issues and inevitable pain. Lastly Dillon Shije, who is seen as having a certain advantage compared to the other two’s seen as the fastest of the bunch-quick and determined with a loving and supportive family.
Throughout the film it becomes less about the running and more about the characters. We see where each of them lives-with them telling a little bit about there up bringing which seems a bit like tailored made questions which the director has asked them to answer. It moves through their lives for one year showing their homes (their homes are bare minimum and afford few luxuries) and it shows the depravity associated with the area in a respectful manner, and then we are back to running following who will get scholarships and who will get into the prestigious Wings of America running team. Henry Lu serves an inspired if by the numbers documentary, essentially about a story of hope. A little bit of middle class guilt sentimentality works itself through the film and it drags through spaces but nowhere near the same amount as Jig. It’s a modest documentary which ultimately succeeds in it's convictions, it’s pulpy, lively soundtrack with the like of the Phoenix's keeps the film moving at a good pace and the film has done it's trick on the community. It was good to see a film which ultimately was able to inspire some and uplift others from the communities in which these characters came from.
As it came to its end the Australian comedy The wedding party, directed and written by Amanda Jane, ultimately came to be a partly amusing farce which is almost entirely forgettable. The story is hard one. If I were to cut it short I would summarises it as a film about sex. The thing about sex is it shouldn't work but it is known for being so damn pleasurable. Your heart rate increases, your blood flow increases and your pupils dilate, you’re in an inch of your life and then it is all over. An exciting whirlwind is what I hoped early on with The Wedding party-with some funny riffs about marriage and keeping your love life inventive. Ultimately we get a shallow piece of work with same amount of well observed humour as a Dennis Dugan film-Just go with it for example. It’s relies too heavily on clichéd tropes which are never really played with and are more or less just played out in a straight manner. It’s obvious, overstuffed and slightly sexist towards both genders.
Did I forget to say that I absolutely love The Wedding party compared to the festivals next offering, a completely vapid, amateurish and laughable history drama based around a game of chess. It’s called Under Jakob's Ladder and if it were actually released on a nationwide scale it would surely be somewhere on every ones worst of the year list. As for just now however, you can just take my word for it that Under Jakob's ladder is one of the worst films to be screened in a cinema for all that 2011 will have to offer. The story is centred on a personal vendetta that one person has for another over a game of chess. When Jakob Seel defeats a Russian grandmaster of chess, Jakob hands the winning chess piece to the grandmasters son Nikoli, who doesn't take the chess piece as a compilation price but as an offence and vows to take revenge on Jakob somehow, somewhere, someday fade of into background. That sentence seems to fit the entire misjudged tone for the film. It takes it self seriously right the way through to its biter end, dragging the audience behind with it.
The film has an important issue at hand, in the same tone as films made by Rachid Bouchareb, in that it is trying to show a forgotten and powerful part of forgotten history. The story is set around an incident where people were kidnapped by a soviet regime during World War Two. The subject is never given any respect and hopefully you can think of this story being told in a better fashion by a director like Bouchareb,but the director here Mann Munoz, is more in tone with what I would presume Uwe Bolls Auschwitz would be like watching. As it stands it's a laughable mess, a jaw dropping, wrist-cuttingly awful experience of a film. It’s sporadically hysterical, over dramatic and overacted with the feeling of a film which you would watch as a treat in a history class from a very mean teacher. Thinking back I think I have seen better films in a history class, but at least it was funny, if unintentionally and for that reason it was better as a comedy than The Hangover part 2.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
X-men first class is directed by Mathew Vaughn. X men first class is also written by British screen writer supremo Jane Goldman. Together they formed to create the superbly sharp, rebellious and funny Kick Ass. With Kick ass they created a sharply witted superhero film with a catch-it wasn't really a super hero film. It was in a genre inhabited by no other. This time they have competition. The X-Men universe has expanded over 4 films and all with limited success. The Kick Ass team can hardly been seen as original on a story basis, with Kick Ass being adapted from characters created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr and X-men's universe already expanded over 40 years of comics. Vaughn and team have revitalised The X-men series but at a price. This X-men seems out of place, if we are looking at the series as a whole, compared to the height of the great X-men series (well apart from the one giving to us by Brett Ratner).Pause for shudder.
The film starts the way it should, at the start of the first X-men. Erick (Michael Fassbender) is in the concentration camp which was only teased at in the first. Here we learn how he came about his power through blind emotion and anger. This leads us to Charles Xavier (James Mcavoy)a slightly odd child wondering why his mother is in their kitchen. This brings us to Raven (Jenifer Lawrence) who is invited to be Xavier's best friend. Jump ahead 20 years, Charles is the professor on mutation and Raven is still by his side. Erick is now trying to find the killer of his mother Sebastian Shaw (Kevin bacon) but there are others, even humans, who share the same goals. In the beggining X-men First Class sets itself up with everything tonal in balance, working on the strengths of the first two films, instead of the rushed approach to the last stand. There even seems to be a directors personal touch to the film, with a visually thrilling sequence matching at least the versatility and speed of sequences in Kick Ass.
Jumping ahead to the 60's will have certain consequences. The CIA are after Sebastian, who has every country leader and commander in his back pocket. Moria Mactagert (Rose Byrne) see's things she could have lived without, seeing an interaction between the American commander to start the Cuban missile crisis. So far, so real. She enlists the help of Xavier, asking not the questions of science but of life. Have species evolved so much as to have created another race. This starts to get more complex with Raven and Xavier travelling with the CIA on mission to capture Sebastian Shaw. But not if Erik get's there first. This is where they first meet, which we know forms their friendship. Before everyone is introduced and bonds are formed (essentially the X-men as we know it) the film is, for the first time in a superhero film, interesting. We learn of a friendship between Raven and Xavier untouched by the previous films and we see a time when Magneto was an underpowered and angry adult with revenge being the only thing set on his mind.
But when did the writers get lazy, when did they doze off leaving us with fillers rather than actual drama. Once the team is formed all we are given is an orgins film with one point-to give answers to questions we don't really need answering. It was interesting to see that Raven (also known as the blue laced goddess Mystique) was part of the good side, having a relationship with Xavier and being persuaded by the tactics of Magneto- other mutants aren't the enemy, humans are. But do we really need to know why she is called Mystique, why cerebro is cerebro, why they have that plane, why magneto is called magneto? The answer from the writers is to doing is swift and quick manner using dull contrivances "you know what you should be called....... X-men". The series can hardly being seen as built around human emotion but at least it had room for a dramatic range and stories build around characters. First class attempts to do the same thing but with stories so thickly based around character it's strange that it's so lacking in character.
The superhero film it mostly reminded me of was the underappreciated Hell boy, a juggernaut of horror, fantasy, drama, comedy. A superhero film with the Guillermo Del Toro trademark across every scene. Vaughn has the same sensibility as the Hell boy film, having similar intentions to blend action and comedy, but it's a much nosier if similarly energetic film. But the surprise coming from Vaughn, or more Goldman, is that the film can simply be branded cheesy.
The film is X-men and feels like X-men but yet it lacks the almost sophistication or the seriousness of the first two, resorting sadly to what we all feared: The Brett Ratner school of script writing. This is, tonally, much more childish and cartoonish. Maybe it's because of the inclusion of a younger cast and a younger generation of superhero’s but this is the watered down version of a series of better films, to a breed of a new generation of blockbusters, X-men fans and cinema goers who have so far been treated to 3D and forgettable sequel, after sequel. The age of comic book films is not fresh now; it has now grown its own genre, it’s own following and fan base. There is still a market for these films but for how much longer can we hold out for a new story cantered around X-men? For me everything that has been said has been said and somehow i just miss Wolverine.He was the reason why we had X-men (hence why origins was pointless).His story was compelling, his character was interesting.He was the wit, appeal and drive of X-men.
I was completely taken off guard by Kick Ass but X-men first class has taken a talented duo, responsible for making a superhero film successfully about Kids and has now made a super hero film for kids, a demographic which the original films and even the Hell Boy films didn’t always appeal to. It will suck you in with a engrossing sub plot only to take you out with a somewhat cheesy sense of campness.
However there is enough, in an otherwise similar slice of superhero life, to grant the audience its predictable needs. At least the one crime that isn't committed is that no matter how many flaws there are with the film-it can't be called boring. This is the X-men origins story we all want but what else has X-men first class really expanded on. Whatever you think of X-men First Class it's better than The Last Stand and certainly not X-men origins: Wolverine.
** ½ / ****
Monday, 11 April 2011
Revenge is sometimes a dish best served cold according to some and by the looks of things in Jee-Wonn kim's stylised thriller the main character completely agrees. We follow our protagonist Sun-woo(Byung-hun lee) from the daily works of an undercover job, working as an enforcer for the hotel company. Through traditional Asian cinema traditions this has a ring of a samurai story in partnership and structure. Sun-woo is a man who follows a strict regime of Self-discipline and obeys his master Mr Beak, played to an underwhelming affect by Jeogn-Min Hwang. Sun woo is giving a simple assignment, follow the girl, see what she's up to, if anything gets out of hand deal with it.He makes the wrong descion. Sun woo makes a bargain with the girl and her estranged lover- don't see each other and this will all go away. But the power of love, something sun-woo is unaccustomed to, cannot be stopped.
That's the force that eventually drives the story of A bitter Sweet life, a bravely cheap yet sleek crime drama. Continuing through the story and Sun-woon is now on the run.His boss has betrayed him. His colleagues are under Mr Beaks tiny little thumb. Through some technically dazzling feats of cinematography and camerawork that make you think how did they do that, we meet sun-woo where he will inevitably be: his death.He brakes out his code of silence to carry out cold hearted revenge. In a way that makes Jee-Woon Kims film at it's heart the perfect movie about a killer(s).To call the characters in A bittersweet life barren and emotionless is an understatement.There are scenes which are undeniably harsh, one scene which isn't particularly violent where someone is beating to death with a phone.Fine we see the justice,but these characters have not got any understanding of the word human compassion.It makes the villains technically great antagonist but not entirely compelling ones.
However on a side note it would be to simple to write this off as another crime thriller.This is a film which may look simple on the top but it's complexities lye underneath.There's an interesting shift with the gangster sub culture with the film "You can't play with life" is one line which seems contradictory,even funny when you take that against there job.
Sun-woo never let's his emotions get in the way of his work.He's a cooly calculated perfectionist.That makes him perfect for the job.But once the girl stops him in his tracks something human beckons in him.It's that twinkle of relief that he now has a purpose in life, which in turn (like last years sophisticated,high gloss euro thriller The American) Sun-woo becomes a killer with a heart.There are even ties to the traditions of gangster and samurai heritage, intermingled in A Bittersweet Life.The business that is run is illegal but legit, a type of inport-export service for the hotels rather unpleasant guests. Sun-woo is traditional when it comes to kicking ass.He,not until the end,never uses gun's, knifes or any weapons.Just good old fistie cuffs. Whether it was down to the director or the choreographer the film, when the action is on the screen, does a strangely realistic job of framing the action.The action throughout is unapologetic violent, so making the film watchable and pleasing is one triumph of the film and with an twisted wit (sometimes even quirky humour) at it's fingertip's it makes for a hard edged version of any R-rated film you've ever seen.
The action is seen as making these staged, almost acrobatic scenes seems natural.Everything is rough around the edges but feels like there was a great deal of work put into the fight sequences and this is without any of inducing sickness of shaky cam.A triumph of style over substance?.There are impressive shot's which are florid, kinetic and energetic all from the directors point of view.However i couldn't shake the feeling that something felt eminently cheap and forgettable, like a less memorable version of a John woo film. Recently i went on the IMDB page for the film.Underneath the first review there are always recommendations for other films, most of these are Asian crime dramas and two are from John woo. There will always be the notion that in every country there is a hack.In America there is Bay .In Asia........?.I wouldn't call Jee-woon kim a hack, i would just that the film is flawed.When the action kicks the film is thrilling, when it slows down, we are occasionally left with something half cooked.However, when a film tackles a romantic sub plot-this time down with beauty and grace contrasting the brutal and tired business he works for- and does it with this strong an execution, then we have adequate supplement to keep us engaged.It's flawed but the style, oh the the style.
Friday, 1 April 2011
"Source code" has already been called many things. Its "Groundhog day meets inception", "Hitchcockian", "rare class" and someones bound to say it at some point "A mind f**k". All these statements are true. Source Code, directed by Moon's Duncan Jones, is a rare breed of mainstream cinema. Simple yet complex and clever, strong performances, sharp script with old fashioned stardom power and a director of S-f who hasn't messed up his second feature (take a closer look at the past and Richard Keely's Southland tales or DJ Caruso's equally terrible second hit Eagle Eye come to mind). Source Code is exactly what Eagle Eye wasn't; Good.
Source code is a computer program; it will hold you in a state on immersion in the last and only the last eight minutes of a man's life. I would also presume that goes for women too. It has taken into its program Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhall), a helicopter pilot for the US military, who is unaware of what is going around him. His mind literally is the key for solving what is an apparent terrorist attack on a passenger train going in to Chicago. His mission is simple, find the bomber and you can prevent another attack. But his mission is in trouble; he's been swayed by Christine (Michelle monaghan).His plan swerves away from the objective, he thinks he can save millions of lives and save the girl. Remember people this all to be done in 8 minutes.
The comparison to Inception is a weight on Source Code. It would seem that every mainstream science fiction film that is in anyway loopy will be compared to Christopher Nolan's blockbusting hit. It can't and sadly won't be lifted but credit is due in part to the writer Ben Ripley. The story is intelligently put together and down not only to his part, Jones and Ripley are able to grab you in instantly. It starts off like Carry Grants first knowledge that something’s not quite right in North By North West, cranked up to hyperventilating levels and with an impressively old fashioned soundtrack from Chris Bacon making this classily put together thriller, almost Hitchcock like in feeling. Questions are also asked within Source Code which it quickly and immediately answers. As with Inception, it has rules but less annoyingly has little to do with the rules of a time paradox.
The rules are set up so you’re never distracted by the nagging feeling that something doesn't quite make sense. There are little contradictions to the story and with that little reason to have to have a a huge suspension of disbelief. Source Code can simply be composed primarily as surrounding an idea; that idea is being able to go back in time. But it's not as souly mechanical as Inception or gimmicky. Instead it's a closely compacted version of Cludo, where the central idea runs along characters and old fashioned twist and turns. You taken into the mystery, never knowing what direction Jones is going to take the film. Which is a good thing seeming it is centred around a repetitive premise, which could have easily turned tedious but for the mainstream thrills alone, the film will certainly keep you entertained and with the trippiest of quantum leap plots, it keeps you thinking even if it is simply a "who dunnit" scenario.
So what is stopping Source Code from greatness? It is hard to comprehend with a film which has it's roots in so many other films, if anything it's a less flashy version of Déjà Vu, a less memorable version of Minority Report and a less than engaging version of Moon. By the end Source Code is the perfect balance of Popcorn cinema and thinking man science fiction .However when the fun, the mystery and the excitement stops we are giving to squander at what is left-that is the love stories. The two female leads are Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monahagn-who both have a part to play in colters life. One is in reality and one is in the source code. Monahagn's Christine is sexy and charming but less than strong compared to the hard nosed Collen Goodwin. They both trust and fall for our doomed protagonist, yet on both sides we don't know really why. Farmega adds a connection to the story in reality, allowing for her character to be swayed from her path. She adds as sense of urgency to the story, every time he comes out of the source code the next attack is getting closer. Gyllenhalls character isn't giving a particularly strong back-story, we never know why when he turns into Sean (who he turns into for the last 8 minutes of the man's life) he has such a strong connection to monaghan. It has none of the wild excitement of a relationship, beginning out of thin air, in its most noticeable comparison to North By North west where Carry grant meets the irresistible and spontaneous Eve Kendall.
The reason why this years The Adjustment Bureau worked so differently from the mainstream was because the two leads were far from dull. There dialogue and chemistry never dragged and was endlessly engaging and no matter how preposterous the film got it was always believable. With Gylenahll and Monahagn we are just given that these two have to fall for each other, as the script by Ripley never gives the two leads to have a real moment just to talk, instead it is focused on the overall mission. She is ultimately clueless and he is far too much like the heroic caricature we have seen in other similar films. However there is far much more praise for Ripley. This is a film that keeps you engaged yet its continuously repeating itself and by the end once things quieting down, it truly rings a happy, sentimental and romantically touching lump in the throat.
Source Codes biggest obstacle for success is to stand head and shoulders high with the massively popular Inception. Maybe it will have to stick to the Cult Status label but you'll be wrong to think this is worse, it's better. Complexly told yet strangely simple and accessible and never as overbearing as Inception's philosophy, and with the film set in our reality we are given real drama and a sense of playfulness and humour to Gylenhalls storyline.It's a film which favours set piece's, which are big and explosive but never dumb down the story to needless set pieces instead of philosophical insight's or gimmicky trciks. Jones has crafted a film that is always intriguing and this is a rare first, genuinely clever. In fact this makes Source Code ahead of it's predescessors
Duncan Jones has already shown with Moon that he has a fine hand at crafting character driven stories, but how does a small budget director learn to tackle the mainstream. Source code is overly long and at 93 minutes that's a problem it's primarily with the last 15 minutes being a somewhat anti-climax and with a stronger and less preachy ending Source Code would be the next big thing. It’s not quite as memorable as you would want the film to be but this is a solid and well crafted thriller. Quantum leap would be begging for as much class.
Popcorn cinema at it's most preposterously engaging. It’s a fun, particularly old fashioned film the type that you would only expect the types of Spielberg to direct. But it's by Duncan Jones and this is only his second feature. It is simple and less memorable than Moon but more accessible and if he play's his cards right, Mute is certainly one to be getting excited for in the near future.
Thursday, 24 March 2011
Documentaries are seen as primarily having a focus point. The recent "Inside job" is the strongest case for fact orientated film and probably deserved the Oscar on those grounds, a lightweight yet still meaty film which was about the one and only topic dawning on so many people-Money, the economy and all leading up to the corrupted banks. But when is enough. Many of these films never know just when to stop, not that they can't shut up but their yield point is higher than the average test of patience. As with "Cave of forgotten Dreams" the game has been turned upside down. Herzog has continued from Encounter at the end of the World, pushing even further the bar to breaking point; this is slow almost multi layered filmmaking with a director at the height of his craft pushing the envelope ,with a dilibreaty bizzare structure of loopy insanity, to the peak and then dropping us down in a swooning, stylish fashion. Where is the film going? Nobody, not even Herzog, knows.
Herzog takes us to his 12 year olds dreams, a cave so untouched by nature and locked off from the world that it might be out of this world, maybe even alien.35,000 years ago cave men travelled, worked maybe even lived in the Chauver-d'Arc,a cave in the south of France. The main aspect of the cave to Herzog is the cave paintings, a collection of engraved drawings of familiar animals-Horses, cattle, lions, panthers, Bears and even an unnoticed Hyena painted by artists some 35,000 years ago. Artists of that age continued for another 10,000 years perfecting the drawings adding to them, making them more distinct than they already were. But a collapse in the cave shut it off from humanity for life until a discovery in 1994.
We, as the audience, are giving a first glance at an otherwise unseen part of creation. We take the first steps into the cave in the same way as Herzog and his crew do. We step along a thin, metal walkway of a specially designed path through the cave. Everything is in pristine and untouched condition as if the markings were made only yesterday. What we feel is Herzog’s dismay on the path; we know that he is itching to walk on the other side of the path, the other side of the past. This doesn’t seem unusual from the maverick film maker; already known for showing us such topics as man against beast in "Grizzly Man" and man alongside nature with "Encounters at the end of the World". Forgotten Dreams is a collection of all those films but don’t be complacent in thinking this is a shoe string effort, this is an exemplary Herzogian effort. At one the film travels back to Nature. In the beginning the film establishes its ground in reality; we are giving a swooping crane shot from the ground and up into the sky as if to say this is where the dreams are seen before travelling off into an unknown dystopia. Symbolism to rich for you here, then you might as well give up as it’s about to travel into the bizarre.
The film, for a documentary, is starkly offbeat. The film never has a traditional aim; there’s no investigatory journalism or secret government truths to be found. This is time, place, camera, action and strangely creating his purest and simplest film in what can be seen as his trilogy of documentaries. It’s also the reverse and deconstruction of the documentary. All Herzog is doing is observing what we see, it makes a fresh change from the norm, where documentary film makers don’t dare to just simply document what they see. But the film was never going to be safe with Herzog behind the camera and with lines such as “Are we truly the crocodiles who look back into the abyss of time” you know what you getting yourself into. It’s all done with a traditional stylistic pallet; it always helps when there maybe little going on to keep you engaged. But with only four hours to film each day in the cave you could forgive him if things are incoherent, rough, or choppy.But thats the rough and tumble,the wild excitement that you get when you are going into the darkness of the unknown,invading what possibly should never have been seen. It's described as if "they were staring right back at us".
Continuing on through the film and things do follow a more traditional path. Instead of Subtitles we are given dubbed soundtracks and interviews of the people in the field; even with such an idea every director needs a little help. But there is no encouragement made for Herzog to make a traditional film. Every interviewee is a character in a film that has a story to tell. There’s the archaeologist who worked in the circus, the perfume owner who sniffs out caves and the man in a cave man outfit playing a modern day version of the flute, performing a rendition of stars and stripes. And once the interviewing is done we are given one last tour in the cave; where his camera does all the talking. The final 20 minutes are illuminating, where Herzog just lets it all hang out; where the modern age of art meets where art began where a simple combination of picture, camera and an orchestral soundtrack come together in perfect harmony. Thhe person next to me perfectly summarises the last shot'as “relaxing”.
Herzog is in the end a story teller. He has the narrative backbone through the stories that we are told through the art, the characters with their rich back stories and the setting, a mysterious forgotten land that are eventful protagonists travel through to discover forgotten treasures. Cave of forgotten Dreams is the closest Herzog has ever come to remaking Indiana Jones.
Proof that all you need is a camera, some theatrical music and a cave and you get something far more meaningful than a documentary on the financial meltdown.Mysterious,creative and all guided by the only Herzog voiceover you will ever need to hear.
Friday, 18 March 2011
It's a timely excuse to judge a book by it's cover and if a book had the phtoshopped cover of Chalet Gril the PR team would be running into marketing hell.But at the prise of taking a risk,Chalet Girl staring Felicity jones, pays off to bring a modest but enjoyable rom com to up hold the right of the cliche and what a matinee screening was made for.
Felicity Jones plays Kim, a skateaholic (don't get that mixed up with Ice skating though) a pretty,successful skateboarder who is taken out of the limelight of her career after the untimely death of her mother, the force that pushed her to the top of success, that has now forced her to rock bottom.Now working in fast food version of MacDonald's, Kim is told of the amazing work as a Chalet Girl.Whoopee now we know the meaning of the title. Kim travels to the alps of Switzerland where she unexpectedly falls in love but here's the catch he's to posh and rich for her and she's just another Chalet Girl.
Dreadful title, dreadful poster, yuck filled premise of a cataclysmic proportions with a predictable string of events that would make Katherine Heigl blush and it's filled to the bone with sappy, OMG sappy sentiment.It's looking like the perfect romantic comedy for the Hollyoaks generation, a squeaky clean rom com with nice country views. In actual fact this is just another romantic comedy, there's nothing really that separates this from No strings attached, well minus the sex.
The tradition of the rom com also isn't tarnished either and seeming that this type of predictable schmaltz is the standard of romantic comedies, Chalet Girl sticks to the path pretty faithfully. Eventually Kim learns how to snowboard in the Alps "A Chalet Girl who doesn't know how to Ski,what will they think of next" and we get the inevitable montage of the triumph over the the task which she had given up on because of the loss of her mum-every time she gets too high, the memories just flood back, right on time to. It's all perfectly cued to a pleasant, popular soundtrack of No 1 chart topping hits and adds to the appeal of the film as a pleasant,well meaning film,smiley,occasionally very funny and occasionally not very funny.
The cast is unusually strong for this type of film and you wonder why the likes of Bill Nighy were attached.Not that they aren't good, in fact the non comedic actor is surprisingly funny- as is the other Bill, Bill Bailey. The two main leads at least for this comedy you might actually like,see or want to fall for each other.It's free from the cynical jokes of Bell or Heigl and is all in all strongly cast. The top cast consists of Brooke shields, Bill Nighy and host of famous cameos but this isn't one for the stars of British celluloid, this is the film to show the works of it's fresh new comers.
Felicity Jones has starred in other films, noticeably starting off in Cemetery Junction and lastly staring in Soulboy and will probably be propelled to stardom later this year with the sundance weeper "Like Crazy". But it's the two leads who steer the film in the right direction. However, this "teen" comedy might just be to hip clashing with it's old school premise with references to Facebook "poke me" and the creation of what will go down as one of the most annoying brother in Laws in movie history (seriously in all your screen time and mutter it's a constant string of dialogue ,reduced to sex in a gondala).The predictability is the film's fashion, it's never daring to take risk's but possibly the biggest risk of all is that the film was made and that it finally works and is never directly offencive.
The film is released in time for Red Nose Day, so i propose that if your not in the mood for doing a run or that £5 donation wasn't enough then you might want to spend the price of £6.75 on a matinee screening.
THE LOW DOWN
Harmless fun for the people who are sick of the "new"