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Posts Tagged ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’

Another interested and varied month month, the contenders for movie of the month are: 

Juliet, Naked – Chris O’Dowd plays a music bore, obsessed with reclusive singer songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).  The release of a “Naked” version (acoustic demo) of his supposed masterpiece Juliet results in an unexpected chain of events featuring O’Dowd’s long suffering girlfriend (Rose Byrne).  After the disappointment of A Long Way Down (excellent book, poorly served on film) I went into Juliet, Naked with a little trepidation, but also a certain optimism, largely because of Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.  Fortunately the film is excellent as are the aforementioned stars.  The comedy is sharp and telling, but often subtle, never overpowering the drama.  Chris O’Dowd’s character is truly annoying, but even he has his moment in one excellent scene.  Not the commercial hit that Fever Pitch or About a Boy were, but just as worthwhile seeing. Juliet Naked

Some Like it Hot – Screened in a stunning 4K restoration as part of the BFI comedy genius season – Two down on their luck musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.  They escape town disguised as women with an all female band bound for the Florida sun, where they intend to skip out on the band.  There is however a complication, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  If there is any such thing as a perfect movie, this is it.  Sixty years later the comedy is still relevant and hilarious.  The performances (including Marilyn Monroe’s) are outstanding, but its Billy Wilder’s sharp script and direction that shine through.  What has long been my favourite film plays even better on the big screen with an audience. Some Like it Hot

Overlord – A small group of American soldiers are on a mission to parachute behind enemy lines in the hours leading up to D-Day to destroy a MacGuffin.  As you would expect things don’t go entirely to play, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if they did!  Unfortunately, I saw the trailer for this film before seeing it so knew what was coming.  It would probably have been even better without prior knowledge of where the story goes.  The cast of relatively unknown and vaguely recognisable actors (Wyatt (son of Kurt) Russell, Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), Jovan Adepo (Fences), and Mathilde Ollivier) are all really good.  Wearing its 18 certificate as a badge of honour the action scenes are well shot on a relatively modest budget and there are some real scenes of gore.  The story gets very silly, but it’s always entertaining and never boring, I really enjoyed it. Overlord

Widows – After a heist goes wrong the surviving partners, the widows of the title, are forced to take on their own criminal enterprise.  I have a strange relationship with Steve McQueen movies (12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger), I admire them, but I didn’t necessarily like or enjoy them.  I have never had the urge to re-watch a McQueen movie.  When it was announced the Oscar winner was making a movie based on the 1980’s Lynda La Plante TV mini-series, it was suggested he was slumming it, making a genre picture.  More a drama than a thriller, the film is outstanding, and for my money his best film.  The script (by McQueen and Gillian Flynn) is taught and the story rolls along at a perfect pace.  The twists in the plot, never surprise, I’m not sure they are intended to, but they always please.  The cast are all outstanding: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo (only a matter of time before she gets an Oscar to complete her EGOT), as the main characters and Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Daniel Kaluuya in major supporting roles.  The true sign of how good the film is, there are plot strands (Davis’ grief, Farrell and Duvall’s bickering, how the fallout affects Rodriguez and Debicki’s, Erivo’s strugle to make ends meet, and Kaluuya, doing what he does) that are all essential for the overriding story, but could have made a film in their own right.  All this is topped off by a less then subtle subtext about the state of politics and society. A hugely impressive film.  Widows

Wildlife – Montana, 1960, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) is trying to fit in at a new school when his father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job.  Seemingly not for the first time.  Jerry decides rather than finding a new job, he will go to fight wildfires much to the annoyance of wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan). Paul Dano debut as director is a sublimely confident one.  The script adapted from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name by Dano and partner Zoe Kazan is excellent.  Gyllenhaal is on top form but pales in comparison to Carey Mulligan who is sensational.  Despite the teenage viewpoint, this is Jeanette’s story, pinpointing a small window in history, where a woman had more choices than a generation before, but not the same as a generation later.  The film ends with a stunning image, the meaning of which is open to interpretation, its meaning probably says more about the viewer than the filmmaker. Wildlife

Assassination Nation – What begins as brash, and crude teen high-school movie descends into chaos following a computer hack that exposes the secrets the people of Salem.  A witch-hunt for those suspect of being responsible ensues.  Sold as a modern take on the Salem witch trials, it is both more, and less than that depending on your point of view.  The film is a mess, with a long slow build-up.  It is always intended to be satirical, but it does quickly decent into parody and farce; however, it is during this decent the film finds its place, and its voice.  An interesting note on the casting, one of the main characters is a trans woman played by a trans woman (Hari Nef), this is notable it that its unlikely to have happened in a movie of the type a few years ago; on the other hand, it probably won’t be a thing worth mentioning in a few years as the industry becomes more inclusive.  On the whole I enjoyed it but not without reservations although I expect a lot of people to hate it.Assassination Nation

Suspiria – Taking the place of a girl who has recently gone missing, an American dancer joins a German company led by a legendry choreographer.  I came at this film with mixed feelings.  While I remember loving Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria on each of the three occasions I have seen it, the most recent of those was around ten years ago.  It is also a film that lacks enough plot to hang any memories on, it is a film that exists as a feeling, or a splash of colour (often red) in the back of your mind.  By extending the runtime by an hour would Luca Guadagnino bring more plot to the party? The main reason for seeing the film is the reteaming of Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, whom I loved in Guadagnino’s earlier A Bigger Splash.  Strangely, very little happens, again there is little plot, beyond a little investigating from two of the characters. Despite this the 152 minute runtime never feels long. The film is far from subtle; it may not have messages deep within subtext, but the director is certainly making a lot of statements. Is it far better than people are giving it credit, or am I giving it a pass as it ends well leaving a good impression? SUSPIRIA

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald –  There seems little point in reviewing a film like The Crimes of Grindelwald, those invested in the world of Harry Potter will see it, those who aren’t are unlikely to see it, unless like me you just watch a lot of movies.  As someone who has seen the harry potter movies but isn’t necessarily invested in them, I can look at this with a certain prospective.  The story is wafer thin, the special effects set pieces are of varying quality.  The big issue is the characters; Grindelwald is neither a moustache twirling hissable villain, nor a complex sometimes sympathetic one (even Star Wars gets this right with Hux and Kylo Ren).  Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein are terribly dull, and most of the supporting cast are window dressing with little to do. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) was one of the more interesting characters in the first film, while the plot didn’t serve her well this time around, it does look like she may have more substantial part in future.  Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) looked like she was going to be interesting, but was then wasted.  Not a disaster, but needs to get back on track, or the next film may me.  I would start with hiring a writer, J.K. Rowling may be a good novelist, but screenwriting is a different discipline, and she needs some help.  And possibly a director with a bit of flair, I seem to remember the third Harry Potter got that one right!Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Lisbeth Salander is hired by a computer programmer to steel his own program from the American government as he fears the power it gives.  This sets in motion a chain of events that are uncomfortably close to home for Salander.  Claire Foy is nothing short of fantastic.  Not exactly the character of the original trilogy, even a little more human and dare I say it warm than the previous incarnations, she is still recognisable as Salander in both look and temperament.  The plot is total nonsense, but does its job in that it gives an environment for the characters to shine.  A little like The Fast and Furious franchise has morphed into Mission: Impossible, Lisbeth Salander has become equal parts Robert McCall, Simon Templar, James Bond and Jack Reacher, except, she’s a girl! Once you accept this, you can enjoy it for what it is, or should I say what it has become, a dumb, but fun thriller.  The story diverges a lot from the plot of the book on which it is based, this isn’t a bad thing as the book was flawed and served Blomkvist better than Salander. Not a classic, but it’s never boring,I hope it does well enough to get a sequel for two reasons; the second book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is a better story, and more importantly, I want to see more of Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander!The Girl in the Spider's Web

Escape From New York -Another remastered John Carpenter classic.  Made in 1981 and set in the future, 1997 where Manhattan has been turned into a giant maximum-security prison.  Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the prison to rescue the president after Air Force One is hijacked.  What could have been a forgettable Sci-Fi B-movie is elevated to stone cold classic by the inclusion of the iconic Snake Plissken, and more importantly Kurt Russell’s portrayal of him.  Made in a cynical post-Vietnam war/Watergate American it is strangely and frighteningly relevant today. Escape From New York

Robin Hood – Hitting all the beats and containing all the characters you would expect from a Robin Hood movie, but looking like a cross between Call of Duty, Peaky Blinders and last year’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  parts of the movie are fun, the cast isn’t bad, and it isn’t as bad as bad some of the reviews suggest, but it is totally pointless and derivative.Robin HoodBy far the best film of the month was Some Like it Hot, but I don’t include re-releases for movie of the month, this leaves a clear winner: Widows.  widows movie poster

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Do you remember Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998, Dante’s Peak and Volcano in 1997 or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Robin Hood in 1991? There are countless other examples, last year we had two takes on the Snow White fairytale with Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Later in the year we will get to see how White House Down compares to Die Hard in the West Wing Olympus Has Fallen. Before that we have the recently released After Earth to pair up with Oblivion from earlier in the year:

The concept

Oblivion: In the future, one man (Tom Cruise) and his wife (Andrea Riseborough) remain on an abandoned earth to maintain the machines set to mine the planets natural resources.

After Earth: In the future, a man and his teenage son (Will Smith and Jaden Smith) crash land on an abandoned and inhospitable earth.

Oblivion and After Earth posters

The Talent

Oblivion: Despite a few missteps in recent years, Tom Cruise is still one of the biggest stars in the world as he has been since the late 80’s. the supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) , but the standout performance comes from Andrea Riseborough who is nothing short of amazing in a limited role.

After Earth: The film is book-ended and contains flashbacks with other characters the film is largely a two character movie. The two are played by superstar Will Smith and his son Jaden who you may remember from The Karate Kid. The girl in the flashbacks is played by Zoë (daughter of Lenny) Kravitz last seen in X-Men: First Class.Oblivion & After Earth The Talent

Whose behind the camera?

Oblivion: With just his second feature Joseph Kosinski again shows the visual flare he showed with TRON: Legacy, but again shows a lack of depth in his character development.

After Earth: Newsflash, the Emperor is but fucking naked. M.

Night Shyamalan is not a good director. The Sixth Sense (1999) is just about the most overrated movie of the last twenty years. The Village (2004) is okay and Unbreakable (2000) is a decent film. The rest of his output is forgettable at best.Joseph Kosinski and M Night Shyamalan

The Good

Oblivion: The movie is set within a believable Sci-Fi world. The film is shot largely on location this is enhanced by visual effects rather than dominated by them, this helps it look amazing. The acting is generally good and as mentioned above sometimes amazing.

After Earth: The film looks good and the action scenes are practically well handled.

The bad

Oblivion: The plot and the characters all feel a little thin and the twists and turns in the plot are telegraphed to the audience.

After Earth: The dialogue is terrible at best. The plot is thin and full of holes.

The Similarities

The two movies are both set on a largely abandoned earth and feature megastar actors with something to prove.

The differences

Oblivion is largely plot driven and plays out with a combination action adventure and mystery thriller. After Earth is more like a computer game where one character has to achieve a task within a timescale.Oblivion & After Earth

The Verdict

After Earth isn’t a terrible film and doesn’t deserve the critical pounding it has received. That isn’t to say it is a great film, it is deeply flawed and gets away with a lot thanks to its short running time and well choreographed action. Oblivion is surprisingly good, the end is either perfectly executed or a contrived cop-out depending on your point of view.

The best abandoned Earth movie from 2103 is:oblivion-movie-poster

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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