I apologise to the few that still follow this blog, I really haven't updated it in a long time. I am now over at Letterboxd which is much easier to keep up to date and offers other functionality too. The site is still currently in beta but should be open to all relatively soon.
If you wish you can follow me there (sadly you will need an invite and I have none spare) - http://letterboxd.com/lordcookie/
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Hopkins) and Helena (Jones), and their daughter Sally (Watts) and husband Roy (Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds. After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller. Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.
Breaking with tradition I'm not going to talk about whether this is a return or not for Woody Allen. In truth I don't think we will ever see Allen return to form so why try and compare his modern films with his classics when we might be unfairly judging perfectly acceptable films because they don't quite match the brilliance of Annie Hall. Unfortunately even viewing this movie more objectively it still comes up short. The characters are dull and strangely detached and the simple story is incredibly exposition heavy and uninvolving. The humour is flat, the criss-crossing interconnected stories provide little interest and the impressive cast are nearly all wasted. Anthony Hopkins, an actor I traditionally dislike, is by far the best in the film and even then his character is far from brilliant. However, the biggest problem is that by the end the overriding thought is, is that it? The entire film feels like a waste of time and talent.
A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.
It's not always easy to tell at what point you fall in love with a film, normally it just creeps up on you but on rare occasions you can pinpoint it exactly. Watching Drive that point came with the introduction of the first musical note, a mere minute into the movie. I can't explain why, it wasn't even particularly memorable looking back at it, but it was the moment that I knew I was going to be Nicolas Winding Refn's bitch and I was happy wherever he wanted to lead me. Drive is very much a movies movie, a film drenched in filmic references of the past yet still feeling utterly fresh and contemporary. The comparisons with '80s era Michael Mann are inescapable (particularly Thief) in its deliberate and pitch-perfect pacing, minimal dialogue and air of undeniable cool. Yet at its heart it is perhaps closest to the George Stevens' classic Western, Shane, thankfully without the irritating child in tow. But for all the elements it cribs from other films it still stands on its own. It shares the style of Mann but is no mere imitator, the story may be markedly similar to Shane but there is an original twist to the classic tale.
Drive is a rather deceptive film. Your immediate response is to the surface details; the beautiful cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel or the perfectly judged score and soundtrack choices. These distractions and the simple narrative can divert you away from how expertly the editing is used to reflect the mental state of the Driver (notice how even when driving fast the car always appears to be coasting until a job goes wrong and he is taken out of his comfort zone. It is only then that the true speed is shown on screen) or how much is said with so few words. These are not deep characters, to the point where Driver's development is expressed most clearly through a garment of clothes as he transforms from the frog to scorpion, but they are performed so beautifully it doesn't matter. The romantic relationship between Driver and Irene (another great Mulligan performance) bristles with both tension and passion, she presents more danger than any robbery or film stunt yet also provides the safety and hope that Driver has removed from his life. These aren't new story ideas but few films have delivered them with such style and efficiency before. The punctuation of bloody violence is shocking but never gratuitous, which is surprising considering just how graphic it is in places. Instead it fits both the world of the film and the character of Driver as words were never going to solve his problems.
Like all the best things in life, Drive will not be loved by all. It is a film that will win you over early or not at all (I should know, the other people I saw it with hated it) but if it does grab hold you'll be hard pressed to find a better film this year.
Friday, 4 November 2011
A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on the 24th of July, 2010.
A documentary of this kind could never have been made without the Internet but is the documentary just a neat little concept or is there depth behind the idea? In truth the answer lies somewhere in-between as whilst it does have some beautiful moments it also feels like a waste of a concept. A big problem is that there is a strong American bias which is hardly surprising but it is a shame other countries and cultures are not as well represented as they tend to be the most interesting clips. Most of the video footage is rather inane which is no doubt deliberate to show the daily rituals so many of us share but it doesn't necessarily make for interesting viewing, especially when the film resembles little more than a condensed version of trite YouTube videos. Yet for all the faults of the documentary there are enough moments of rare beauty or compelling characters to make the film a worthwhile watch. With so much raw footage to work with (over 4,500 hours) it was always going to be an impossible job to edit it down to one film and for the most part Kevin Macdonald does a good job of creating a narrative that ties these disparate stories together, I just wonder what stories were left on the cutting room floor.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
A man who runs an apartment house for women is the demented son of a Nazi surgeon who has the house equipped with secret passageways, hidden rooms and torture and murder devices.
A film with Klaus Kinski playing a murdering Nazi landlord should be great but even though Kinski is always watchable the film itself falls flat. In many ways it reminded me of a more innocent and gentle version of Saw with the evil but strangely cuddly landlord setting traps to kill his tenants. Much like Saw though it also neglects one of the more overlooked element in a good horror film - characters. Beyond Kinski, who himself is hardly fleshed out beyond the mad scribbles in his diary discussing his father and his need to kill, none of the victims are given any real development at all. Even when they do meet their sticky end the kills are disappointing and lacking in invention, especially considering they involve elaborate traps. Although occasionally amusing (deliberately so, thankfully) it is never scary and as such is hard to recommend as a horror film.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
A romantic comedy centered on a guy and a gal who try to keep their love alive as they shuttle back and forth between New York and San Francisco to see one another.
Well this was a surprise and for once it was of the pleasant variety. Typically I hate Hollywood romantic comedies, they are full of detestable characters with dubious priorities and the stories are reliant on cliché and sugar coated sentiment. This is exactly what I was expecting with Going the Distance yet what I got was a far more grounded and authentic romantic comedy. Don't get me wrong, it still drifts into romcom territory with the broadly comedic friends but it gets a lot right.
Firstly the characters are earthy and believable with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long having a genuine and easy chemistry (hardly surprising given they were in an off-screen relationship at the time). Normally the lead female would either be neurotic or the perfect womanTM yet here she has very clear faults without them feeling manufactured. You actually want to see the relationship work and I can't remember the last romcom that has happened with. Even the comedy buddies are surprisingly amusing without feeling as if they are only there to help fulfill the 'com' quota. The relationship obviously hits its fair share of problems but they are all fairly believable and clearly the film is comfortable in letting the characters sell the film rather than putting them in increasingly unrealistic situations. Even the end is sweetly judged rather than the mawkish overblown bullshit the genre normally craps out.
As a word of caution I do not want to oversell the film, it's not perfect but it is a cut above the competition.
The extraordinary story of three Rwandan kids who walk 3000 miles to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. Using a sack load of ingenuity and sass (and a World Cup wall chart for a map), our pint-sized protagonists set off through the endless horizons of Africa in pursuit of an unlikely dream. And as they walk they gather a tribe - a ragamuffin team - of broken and brilliant characters who help them negotiate a way through a series of glorious, dangerous, hilarious and often bizarre situations. Through these kids, we will encounter an Africa few people ever get to see; experience the hard reality of an epic walk through seven countries; as well as the joy, laughter and hope - 'the ubuntu' - that comes from making an incredible journey together.
This film troubles me a little; on the one hand it is a charming magical realist family adventure film centred on well developed characters and their mammoth quest, yet it deals with big important issues in rather pat and superficial ways. Clearly the South African World Cup is used as a symbol of hope for the entire continent and I have no problem with that but the film does a whistle stop tour of Africa's biggest troubles (AIDS, famine, sex trafficking, child soldiers, genocide etc.) as if football could hopefully be the answer. Of course this is a family fillm so to expect these issues to be dealt with in any meaningful way is probably unrealistic but some subtlety would have been welcome. Aside from this rather big issue the film gets a lot right. The central characters are all great, they have spark and personality and played to perfection by the inexperienced cast. The animated flourishes also work well and have a unique style whilst the story pulls you into their world and hope they eventually get to the World Cup. Its charms do outweigh the problems so is probably worth a watch if you are able to look past the glossed over wider context of the story.