Archive for March, 2009

29
Mar
09

‘The Last Kiss’

2006
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Starring: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson

‘What Is This, Some Sort Of Sappy Love Story For Women?!…I Think Not…’
Remade/Reworked from the 2001 film ‘Ultimo Bacio, L’, written and directed by award winner Gabriele Muccino (‘Seven Pounds’, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’), ‘The Last Kiss’ shows us the story of ‘Michael’ (Zach Braff), and his friends, of how their lives progress and any dilemmas faced ahead. ‘Michael’ is in a committed relationship with ‘Jenna’ (Jacinda Barrett), they’ve been together for 3 years and are about to have a baby, in an influx of confusion over the way his life has planned out, fate delivers ‘Kim’ (Rachel Bilson) to ‘Michael’, and impulses start developing within him. Soon and sure enough, implications arise as she tries to seduce him.

Now, clearly, as the title and brief synopsis suggest, the first impressions of this film through text make it sound like some ‘smultchzy’, weepy, emotional film aimed at women and sensitive males in which people love, have problems, love again and thus; happy ending. But this simply is not the case with this film, with such pre-conceptions it becomes easy for expectations to be exceeded rather soon.
Initially this film seems like nothing special, we have some rapidly established characters, yet with minimal connection to the audience. This is fine, and you’d expect this to develop throughout the film; but it seems as if this doesn’t develop quickly enough. After being briefly introduced to our characters and the central plot, we are at a wedding, and it is here where ‘Michael’ meets ‘Kim’.
The immediate chemistry between Braff and Bilson seemed to be not that disparate to the chemistry displayed between Braff and Natalie Portman in the highly acclaimed film ‘Garden State’, this is slightly disappointing, but only to those who have seen the film in question. This chemistry, however, successfully veers off into something more unique and intriguing as the film goes on.
Also, in its opening scenes, there is nothing that shouts “I am great!” There are few nice shots and it’s generally aesthetically ordinary. Much of the acting is fairly quotidian with the exception of a handful of cast members, and the script promptly seems quite plain with some nice bits of dialogue here and there. Yet with all these obvious flaws outlined very early on, there is still something quite captivating about this film, and at first thought, it’s hard to pin-point exactly what it is.

As mentioned, there is much to be desired of the acting; all the cast performed their roles very well, but there always felt like there was something missing in their performance. In particular, Rachel Bilson (‘The O.C.’), who seems somewhat unconvincing at times.
Braff gives a fantastic performance however, especially in some heavy scenes nearer the end of the film where he irrevocably portrays his emotions and facial expressions.
Casey Affleck is quite surprising too, having not seen him in anything before myself, I expected him to be on par with his brother Ben Affleck in terms of acting ability. Casey is convincing in his role, he doesn’t quite surmount his brother, but he definitely shows some promise, (despite his peculiarly effeminate voice.)

One of the films underlying themes is how we treat our dreams and aspirations, as well as how we deal with the common dilemmas of modern day civilisation. It makes a point of arguing what is worth fighting for and why, as well as displaying the options of running away. You don’t necessarily learn from these points, but for certain people it’s not impossible to assume that it could put some viewers’ individual real-life problems into some form of perspective in terms of how they’re dealing with them. This is a great aspect, be it intentional or fluke.
Though despite this, some character actions and behavioural traits don’t seem to make complete sense. For example, ‘Kim’ knows that ‘Michael’ is in a committed relationship, yet she tries to seduce him anyway, and personally I can’t comprehend why you would try to aide and incur the self sabotage of someone’s relationship for personal gain. This made ‘Kim’ a mystery, and gives a very ambivalent feeling towards her, being that you enjoy aspects of her character, yet at the same time dislike her actions.

This goes for most characters though; there is a great deal of ambivalence and even contempt for a lot of the cast, and in the films early moments it’s hard to see why. As the film goes on, or more specifically, near the end, you realise something about the characters, and the artistic intentions with the characters involved. Throughout the film the contempt and ambivalence for the characters is consistent, assumedly this would be a bad thing, but this is in fact not a mistake. The only reason this is felt is because the mind expects to have a specified emotional attachment towards each of the characters dictated to it by the film. But this is one of those surprising elements; the film does not care whether you like the characters or not, it has a complete disregard for your personal feelings on how you wish the events to turn out as well as how you desire the characters to behave. The film basically says “Here is a story for you, but I don’t care if you like it or not”, the reason for this, is because every single character, good performance or not, is just incredibly human. Every character has a certain level of good qualities as well as a great deal of flaws, none of the characters are perfect, and none of them claim to be. This realisation makes any discontentment towards the characters vanish.

In this instance, the film fantastically avoids being predictable, as well as being some kind of ‘feel good’ escapist film to enjoy every once in a while on a weekend afternoon. The film convincingly tells a story of human life, and common modern social behaviour in adulthood.
This overall makes for a very surprising film, and at the end you’re left feeling very satisfied, and the feeling that you greatly enjoyed the movie. Even though the acting and cinematography leave much to the imagination at times, the films avoidance of escapism and its unpredictability just make this film rather unique and highly enjoyable.
It may require you stick with it however, but either way, 8 out of 10 for originality!

Advertisements
24
Mar
09

‘Magnolia’

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: John C. Reilly, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy

Got 3 hours to spare?
The six degrees of separation state that you’re never too far away from amazing people, extraordinary things happen everyday to loads of people, and it’s something the human race often take for granted. ‘Magnolia’ highlights this point of presupposition and expands on it, in quite a beautifully captivating style; giving us a glimpse into numerous peoples inattentive intertwined lives on a seemingly ordinary day in South California.

This is a film that hasn’t really set out to be anything ground-breaking or magnificent, but while prevailing in that to certain individuals, this film is just quite ordinary; but not in a bad way. The film is filled with many characters who are, basically, really ordinary people; the sorts of people whom you may even come across (or have come across) during your life, which makes for a set of characters which are easy to get along with.
This is a strange aspect, when contemplating it, the characters actually aren’t really all too well established; yet at the same time, are established really well.
A handful of characters are introduced in the beginning, in a nicely paced and well edited sequence. Each character instantaneously displays a certain nuance of their personality which, to the viewer, consciously or subconsciously gives away a great deal about them, and who they are. During the course of the film, these traits are sustained, and are also subtly developed, bringing about new depths to characters, whilst also distorting certain preconceptions developed in their initial insertion.

The opening is fantastic, well shot and well edited; giving us a few examples of the way in which fate works, and how nature can pan out. After this the pace slows down a little to introduce the first of our characters, but it is still an acceptable and engrossing pace. However, after approximately 20 minutes, the momentum seems to notably decelerate as we delve into the early actions of certain people. While it is clear the pace has slowed down, it doesn’t seem to phase too much, this is mostly down to the brilliant cinematography, which alone is arguably strong enough to keep the viewer enthralled, if nothing else. Though, later on the progress picks up; during the course of the film it is realised that the pacing is a little inconsistent at times and seems to elevate the viewers interest, but for what reason?

There are several aspects to the film which seem to unnecessarily pique the intrigue of the audience, the most discernable of which is the soundtrack. This is a particularly messy element, whilst there are some nice compositions and songs chosen throughout; their combination, overlapping and crossing over can be a little disconcerting. The compositions are the biggest culprit here, the ambient music created gives a false sense of suspense, tension and intrigue by being oddly climatic. On first thought it is insignificant; the film is gripping enough to the point where it’s not impossible to forget about time, and how long you’ve been watching it. But when it feels like it’s coming to an end an hour and a half before it actually does, it starts to drag on.
About 1 hour and 40 minutes in, is the point at which it starts to feel a little laborious, but this is only due to the extrinsically momentous compositions.

Also, the heart of the film seems to be built upon character psyche; while there are some early distinctions shown, as mentioned, it takes quite a while to fully crack into the complete mindset of the characters…Possibly too long. Though, disdained from this, the acting is very solid and the character relationships are phenomenally entrenched.
One particularly surprising performance is from John C. Reilly, he is an actor who has been around for years, but is mostly recognised lately for his roles in the comedy genre such as ‘Talladega Nights’, ‘Walk Hard’ and ‘Step Brothers’. Having personally only ever seen him in ‘Talladega Nights’, I didn’t think Reilly to be anything that special in terms of acting ability; but his role as ‘Officer Jim Kurring’ in this film, is amicably convincing and well performed, especially the subtle negativities to the characters traits.
Generally the performances are convincing and well performed by a pretty talented cast compiled of familiar faces (but not in a daunting sense, such as ‘The Departed’). The only clear exceptions are Julianne Moore and Tom Cruise, whilst Moore can give some nice performances, there are certain moments where she is a little unconvincing, similarly for Tom Cruise. It is no secret that I have a personal contempt towards Cruise, but there have been certain instances where he has been tolerable (and dare I say; good.), however in the instance of ‘Magnolia’, he is being exactly what I’d expect; an over-actor. His early introduction is fairly tolerable, he displays tendencies typical to his real-life stereotype, and being the over-actor he is, he exaggerates upon these things and becomes the eccentric, energetic, arrogant and vaguely misogynistic ‘Frank T.J. Mackey’. Whilst initial appearances are tolerable in terms of acting ability, it is not until later where he displays some emotion. This emotion starts off as adequate, but then veers off into something a little bathetic.

The best part of this film, however, is the relationships between certain characters and the style in which they banter, communicate and behave with each other. There is something very natural and fascinating about this, and makes it a joy to see any character; in particular, an early scene between Macy and Alfred Molina, as well as a scene between Reilly and a young boy.

Overall, this isn’t a bad film. There are some nice issues raised, particularly that of child stardom (Which has proven to still be a hot topic today, specifically Miley Cyrus), as well as ‘gold digging’ and general depression. Whilst there is a lack of strong connection between audience and character, it works perfectly, making characters seem more natural and more human. This makes for some genuinely touching emotional scenes as well as some sympathy, and perhaps even empathy for certain characters. This makes for a script that works really well with some nice dialogue. But the major drawback of this film is the unnecessarily climactic soundtrack here and there, as well as the length which is roughly 180 minutes. Personally, I’m torn between the length; on one side it worked brilliantly in slowly unfolding the workings of each character, as well as telling their stories, yet on the other hand it feels like it could have been tremendously shorter. Despite this, this film is a solid 8 out of 10. It’s definitely worth making the time for…Even if you despise Tom Cruise.

17
Mar
09

‘The Departed’

2006
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio

An All Star Cast, And A Fantastic Story – Perfect……?
‘Billy Costigan’ is a cop who goes deep undercover as a mole within a pack of gangsters. Similarly, ‘Colin Sullivan’ is under the gangsters’ payroll to rat out the cop’s next move towards arresting them…Only ‘Sullivan’ works as a police sergeant.
It’s not long before trouble is stirred on both sides, and a race is on for both sides to unearth their mole first.

With a fairly gripping premise, this makes for anticipatory enthrallment; and with the legendary Scorsese at the helm as director, it is only natural to expect great things. On top of this, the film has won 4 Oscars, some of which are; “Best Motion Picture of The Year” 2007 going to producer Graham King, and Scorsese also received his only ever Oscar for this film for “Best Achievement in Directing”. Though there has been some debate as to whether this film deserved it, or whether he should have received it for his earlier (and some say, better,) films.
As well as this there is an all star leading cast consisting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Ray Winstone. With such an expensive and mostly talented cast, it is only natural to expect a great film with fantastic depth.

The all star cast is, in fact, distracting during the opening sequence. While the beginning had some great dialogue and fantastic shots, the amount of cast members introduced in the setup take you out of the story from the off. Each time a new famous actor comes onto screen, the mind wanders off into the realms of “Oh that’s Alec Baldwin!” or maybe even “Now where have I seen him before?” This makes it tricky to take in the story in the introduction and engage your mindset into the films situation.
However, you naturally get used to it, but by this time it is possible that it could become taxing to comprehend certain early character actions or reactions, as well as parts of the story. Thankfully (mostly due to the films length), it is easy to connect yourself back into the story and identify with certain characters.

While it is nice to see an all star cast in some films, this isn’t the case in a film with such a convoluted plot as ‘The Departed’. There are many character nuances and actions which are crucial, and really need to be identified clearly. This is not the case with all, however, some felt like they could have been a lot deeper.
In spite of this, there are certain characters that are very well established, as are their connections with others. If able to disregard the initial overload of acclaimed cast, the opening becomes a very interesting setup, and a great introduction to some roles.

Mark Wahlberg, plays a stereotypical renegade ‘asshole’ cop by the name of ‘Dignam’. For this, he was nominated for an Oscar in the category of “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role”. Thankfully he did not receive the award. Whilst Wahlberg is not a bad actor in general, he definitely did not match up to other cast members within this film. His performance was inconsistent, albeit acceptable, but there were numerous instances of dodgy line delivery; mostly down to his undeveloped accent.
However, within the celebrity cast there were some great performances. The best, in my humble opinion, is the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio who plays ‘Billy Costigan’. This is one of his early roles within adulthood, and he gives a superbly convincing performance. As many will probably agree, in his younger years he seemed like a talentless young boy who just had a pretty face, for this reason many people had a great dislike towards him for the amount of mainstream work he got based possibly on his looks. I will admit; that I used to be one these people who didn’t pay any specific attention to his ability to act in his early career. Often when attention was paid, there didn’t seem to be anything special about him. ‘Blood Diamond’ was the first film I saw him in, in which he behaved as an actual actor; I gave him a chance, and was shocked at what he has become. After seeing ‘The Departed’, there is a whole new level of respect for DiCaprio; he is not just a pretty face, he does have fantastic talent.
DiCaprio gives a stellar performance in this film, and it is easy to get really involved in his character, who is in a worse situation than to his counterpart ‘Sullivan’ (Matt Damon). Resultantly, it becomes somewhat effortless to develop a sense of fear for him.
A connection along similar lines is also attempted to be established with Damon’s character, although trying to insinuate different emotions. Unfortunately this connection is lost due to Damon’s sub-par performance. Whilst (like Wahlberg) he is generically not a terrible actor, his performance just feels too familiar in this film, much like his character in ‘Good Will Hunting’ just with a different accent, which is fairly disappointing. Despite this, his role is a strong solid one and is well established, it’s just that it’s a little hard to care about him sometimes down to his performance.
Nicholson also gives a superb performance, somewhat reminiscent of his portrayal of ‘The Joker’ in Burton’s ‘Batman’, yet giving his character his own unique spin. This works well, and Nicholson gives a brilliantly convincing performance to a great character.

The whole theme of the film has a very evocative aura around it, very implicative of the old epic gangster films such as ‘The Godfather’, or perhaps one of Scorsese’s previous gems ‘Goodfellas’. This film seems to take movies such as that, but bring it into the modern day, and make it contemporary. Although the story in ‘The Departed’ is a bit deeper, and more convoluted than the aforementioned examples, it separates itself from being directly affiliated with such films. In this sense it is cleverly written.
The scriptwork is fantastic, the story flows really well. While it takes a while to get used to the shifting of storylines, the film does become pretty absorbing, captivating and genuinely intriguing in its nature, mostly down to its brilliant cinematography and excellent use of camera angles. Added to this, there are some fantastic lines of dialogue; in particular the opening line delivered by Nicholson’s character; “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” As well as this, there are some funny lines of dialogue, which initially make the film seem quite humorous. The film starts with some very comedic undertones, which make any and all initial scenes of violence seem a little black, but can also turn into something a little more impacting when the realisation hits that it’s not supposed to be funny. While this is a nice aspect, it seems to dwindle as the film goes on. It would have been nice to keep this undertone, as it added a unique punch to the scenes displaying violence.
Although, despite some great performances, a great story and a well developed script; the film doesn’t cumulatively feel as if there is that much to it. There is a main story, and a severely underplayed and vaguely interesting sub-plot which seems a little disparate from the main plot. This can make a few scenes less enthralling, but not really that tedious. Certain scenes just feel less important to character and plot development. Additionally, there is only the one sub-plot; for such a long film it would have been nice to have a lot more to the story than just the enticingly convoluted, yet empirical, ‘good cop/bad cop’ structure.

Overall, this is a rather prepossessing film which happily and easily keeps you watching throughout, as well as sustaining interest in the story. However, it doesn’t really feel that unique. By the end, there is something about it which just feels a little too familiar, and this is possibly down to its recollective aspects. Despite this, there are some pleasing performances, and the cinematography is very visually gratifying. This film also engages the mind in terms of following the story, and makes for a very interesting watch.
With some fantastic aspects as mentioned before, this film is 7 out of 10. When its elements are good, they’re brilliant; but when they are bad, they are just sorely disappointing and detract from the films mood. But it’s definitely worth watching, and is fantastically entertaining.

09
Mar
09

‘Dark City’

1998
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland

“You Are Not Who You Think You Are.”
A man wakes up in a bath tub, with absolutely no idea of who he is or how he got there. He soon finds himself accused of being a serial killer, and pursued by strange men with bright white faces. He sets out on a mission to find some answers; but before too long, he finds himself part of a much more sinister plot.
Director Alex Proyas (‘I, Robot’, ‘The Crow’) directs this Burton/Gilliam-esque portrayal of understanding the essence of being.

This is very well compiled movie, with some great undertones to it. The opening is pretty gripping, in which a lot seems to happen and is somewhat subliminal in content. It is very fast paced, and erratically cut together so that it doesn’t spend too long on each scene, this doesn’t often give you time to consciously take in what happen, but the mind still registers what is going on.
These erratic visuals make for an incredibly surreal opening; it is imperative that you allow yourself to suspend disbelief, and brace yourself for science-fiction mayhem. This setup is reflective of the protagonist ‘Murdoch’ (Rufus Sewell), being that neither the audience nor the main character understand what is going on at all. Lots of questions are asked, and it isn’t until about 40 minutes in that the first question is vaguely answered.

However, the length of time to answer even one question does not feel like a long time. Due to the pacing and the whole manner of execution in the first 40 minutes, it is easy to forget about time (considering you are at least accepting of such a genre of film). This is aided very well by some fantastically designed sets, lit perfectly to emulate the title and storyline of the film. Due to this, it is onerous to reference parts of the film without spoiling much of the plot.

The plot is surprisingly deep for a film of its genre, with certain underlying themes as well as visuals which are slightly reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’. It deals with the concept of what truly makes us human, and judges how unique we really are as a species. This is not only an aspect dealt with directly in the plot, but also has the potential to make you think about it too. The development of this plot is also superb, amidst the fast pace, the progression seems to be quite gradual.

The acting talents were pretty inconsistent around this film, whilst there were some good performances; there were also some bad ones which detracted from the flow of the film at times. The film itself is remarkably gripping due to its pacing and visual intensity. But the acting takes you out of this. In particular, Kiefer Sutherland; while his character is a pretty strong and solid character, Sutherland just simply isn’t convincing in his role. He seems to be trying to hard too be disparate to the roles he has performed before, as if trying to set himself up as a character actor, but unfortunately he fails with horrid consequences. Jennifer Connelly is also fairly mediocre; she gives a fairly bland, empty performance and is somewhat disappointing.
Despite this, when the acting’s good…It is really good; Richard O’Brien for one gives a fantastic performance as a darkly sinister villain, whilst also adequately incorporating his much loved element of camp behaviour.
Rufus Sewell shines too, in the beginning he seems fairly unsure, but as the film goes on he gradually emerges to give a very interesting and plausible performance. Similarly, William Hurt gives a great performance too.
These performances make for some good tension and suspense throughout; being that the plot is quite secretive in its build-up, it is hard to predict some actions as the film moves along.

While there are some great visuals in cinematographic terms, as well as good performances and an intriguing story; there are some parts of the script which don’t seem to fit, being that certain parts of dialogue are quite cheesy, in a bad sense. The line “I have Murdoch in mind” (which doesn’t make sense here) is quite a paltry piece of speech. When watching the film it will be obvious why it has been noted.

The special effects are also quite enjoyable, but they start to become overused by the end of the film. The climax to this film is somewhat a little dissatisfying and predictable, at which point tension and suspense becomes negligible. It is a surprising climax to have given the nature of the rest of the film, and due to the content of the climax, it is also somewhat tedious in its execution and brings the film down substantially. However, after this there is a great final scene in a visual sense.

Overall, this film is pretty entertaining and not a typical film of the sci-fi genre. This is definitely one for fans of the genre, especially those who enjoyed ‘Brazil’ or ‘The Matrix’.
With some great performances, and a generally good script this is a highly entertaining and engaging film which requires some brain power to follow (which is often refreshing with a film of this style). This is 8 out of 10, unique, creative and visually enthralling. It is also heavily suggested that it be viewed in a darkened room for optimal impact.

08
Mar
09

‘Watchmen’

2009 – Out Now
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Harley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson

‘Hello Mr. Snyder, is that another overhyped mainstream display of laziness in your pocket?’
Adapted from the popular graphic novel of the same name, ‘Watchmen’ delves into the dark emotional mentality of a superhero; but at what cost?
Zack Snyder once again captivates the minds of hoards of fans with his “visionary” directing skills.

The word visionary, is a poor label to slap on Snyder. I would give him credit for it in ‘300’ being that I’ve not read the book for it, but in the instance of ‘Watchmen’, I have read and greatly enjoyed the graphic novel. Whilst reading it I was unsurprised that a movie was being made, and was also unsurprised that Snyder would be directing. But from the point I heard his name, my expectations started to drop. Having seen, and been greatly dissatisfied by, ‘300’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (His biggest previous hits) I couldn’t say I was expecting too much directionally from ‘Watchmen’.

Often when low expectations are in order, they are exceeded particularly easily. However they were matched, and actually having read the graphic novel, I saw exactly what kind of director Snyder is. He is a lazy one. Pretty much for all of his shots, he used the graphic novel as a storyboard. He used practically no creativity in creating his shots; he just took them straight out of the book and slapped them onto the big screen. This does not make Snyder a visionary; this makes him a very lazy boy, as well as a cop-out. I can only assume this was his vague attempt at appealing to fans of the novel, when fans have already been drawn in by the name of the film.

The film also lacked a lot of the depth that the book had. The film had an onslaught of flashback sequences establishing characters psyche, and the way they are in the present time frame. While somewhat necessary to the depth of character, there are many more inventive ways of establishing the same sense of character, and this is once again laziness, but on the hands of screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse. However, while these flashbacks gave great depth of character to the cast members who could act well, it detracted very heavily from the main story, which is where the depth is lacking the most.

In the novel, the story is a very well executed consistently running undertone. In the film it is a poor one. We start with an introduction to the main plot, and then it seems to be practically dropped for all the flashbacks and character establishment. By the end the main plot is wrapped up far too quickly, with minimal and static development which could easily leave new audiences a little bemused and clueless as to what happened, as well as how and why.

The shining performance here is without a doubt, Jackie Earle Haley. Haley plays ‘Rorschach’, the darkest and deepest character, and his performance throughout is absolutely perfect. Not only does he portray the character well from the book, but he simply performs brilliantly as an actor. Billy Crudup also gave a fantastic performance as ‘Dr. Manhattan’, his facial expressions and attenuate display of emotion is executed superbly.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for most of the other cast, in particular Malin Akerman, who plays ‘Silk Spectre II’. Whilst she is without a doubt the most stereotypical character in the novel, this is no reason why she cannot perform well. She is greatly unimpressive. Patrick Wilson lacked something too. He’s not a terrible actor from what I’ve seen before, but it feels as if he is lacking something as ‘Nite Owl II’. It is possible that this is down to Snyder’s direction, but could equally be Wilson’s fault.

Whilst overall depth is lost, with only two exceptional performances, and replicated camera work; it can’t be faulted that the special effects are stunning. The effects are quite thrilling, but the thrill isn’t really felt too much, it’s eye candy with no heart. The fight scenes with gratuitous violence, ‘Rorschach’s unorthodox methods of acquiring information, and almost anything involving ‘Dr. Manhattan’ (in particular, obliterating Vietcong with a single thought), made for a visually pleasing set of scenes, even if the cinematography is just an uninventive replication.

Though, these scenes are simply not enough. Due to the lack of story depth, it leaves most in-between scenes feeling underdeveloped and a little tedious; perhaps not so much for fans of the novel, but especially for new audiences. It feels like they tried to simply replicate the graphic novel as is, whilst taking odd bits out here and there. For new audiences this will create a feeling of emptiness, due to the fact that there are subtle nuances within the book that might not seem valuable, but add to the character as well as story, and are thus actually important.

As a companion to the book, this is pretty entertaining and works well, being that fans will know what is going on and are able to fill in any blanks. But for new audiences, especially those who’ve never heard of ‘Watchmen’ before, this will just seem tedious, undeveloped and perhaps just a little bit messy with some visual high-points around.
Added to this, the soundtrack was particularly ‘try-hard’, including Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ during a notably cheesy love scene. As well as some dreadful rock song over the end credits. This seemed distinctly detached from the rest of the film, especially given the time period.

Overall, this works best as a companion to the book and is mostly fan orientated. But for new audiences I don’t really recommend it, for there will be disappointment and emptiness.
Personally, I must admit that I was reasonably entertained by the film, but I feel this is because I am a fan of the novel, and therefore know the ins and outs of the story. But it doesn’t really do the book much justice to be perfectly honest.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for Jackie Earle Haley, but I won’t be rushing out to see this film again. This is a fairly unimpressive 6 out of 10; an uncreative, lazy, near beat-for-beat replication.

04
Mar
09

‘Gran Torino’

2009 – Currently showing in UK cinemas
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang

Racist, Non-PC, A Little Stereotypical….But Absolutely Brilliant.
‘Walt’s wife has just died, he is distant from his children, and his local area is filled with Koreans; the kind of people who he killed back in Vietnam. ‘Walt’ is a disgruntled, cynical old man who just wants to be left alone. Until his neighbours insist he goes over for some food, he realises he is not that dissimilar from these people whom he claims to hate.

This is quite possibly one of those films that has been hyped nearly to death, every piece of marketing you see raves about how great, amazing and superb it is. Often times the hype is the direct opposite of the film, and in this instance, the trailers didn’t help either.
However, surprisingly; this does live up to the hype and I instantly highly recommend it.

In a world where political correctness is starting to take over, it’s nice to see something break the rules with total disregard for them, and better still – It’s mainstream. ‘Walt’ initially starts of as a stereotype, but he has various nuances which slowly come across through the progression of the film. The most common phrase I’ve heard to describe Eastwood’s performance in this, is that “Dirty Harry is Back.” This is an unfair statement, judging on the numerous times I heard these quotes, I figured it might have been more beneficial to base the film around the character of a retired ‘Dirty Harry’, but Eastwood’s character is pretty unique. While he does display various habits similar to ‘Dirty Harry’, you could also equally compare him to the characters he played in the old westerns. Additionally, you could apply the same logic to plenty of actors. I feel Eastwood has been singled out in this sense due to his most prominent role.
Eastwood’s performance in this is superb, and he proves that he has still got it…Or should I say, never lost it. He establishes an early connection with the audience by coming across as so cold and heartless, that you can pretty much see through this and it’s easy to understand him.
‘Walt’ is such a non-pc character; he brings about great comedy in this film. Some of the humour has the possibility of making you cry whilst laughing. He pretty much refers to all Hmong locals by racist slang terms, such as “gook” and calling a character ‘Youa’ “Yum-Yum” because he doesn’t have the patience to remember her name.

Unfortunately, some of the younger supporting cast were not as good. While most of the expressions and physical mannerisms were convincing and believable, there were some faults within certain line delivery, this didn’t necessarily detract from the driving force behind the film, but it definitely threw you back at certain times.
Bee Vang (‘Thao’) is a good example of this, but despite it, his chemistry with Eastwood is very natural throughout the film. They work incredibly well together. Chances are that Vang may have been a bit daunted by working so closely with Eastwood. This is also Vang’s first credited acting role, and it is a major supporting role, in a mainstream film; directed, acting and starring a film industry legend. So Vang, as well as some of the other young cast members, all deserve a massive round of applause for their efforts.
Christopher Carley is without a doubt worth mentioning too. Playing a priest, he gives some added depth and rhetorical questioning to an already strong script.

When thought about, this is actually an ‘Urban Youth’ movie, but nothing like the kind that filled the 90s and the early 00s. This in fact initially preyed on the stereotype of such films, in a way which subtly parodied it. This is another of our politically incorrect ties to this film, due to the style in which the ‘gangland’ figures are portrayed.
There are several stereotypes written in here, but they are not for ease of story or anything, they are cleverly inserted either because they work with the plotline, or because they have a specific satirical objective.
The various comedy across the film also has a different effect, due to the nature of the humour carried through the film, it makes the serious scenes seem much more impacting. These moments change the mood of the film in a complete instant.

However, it is easy to see why some people might not be convinced by the story. This is not to say that it is contrived, but that some viewers might see this as ‘nothing special’, and perhaps misunderstand elements across it that separate it from all the ‘Urban Youth’ movies, as well as the various other films involving Vietnam veterans.
Some may also find the pace to be less than satisfactory. Personally, I think the pace is perfect, any drawn out moments or shots were vital to character portrayal.
There are also people who simply don’t condone political incorrectness, and will view this film frankly as unjustified racism. Although, this racism is essential to the characters; given the surroundings of ‘Walt’, it is an essential aspect to the plots development, also giving great strength to the ambivalent key component of the age and culture gap. This is indubitably something worth keeping an eye on as a theme in the film.
Another element that isn’t so good is the use of army drums, whenever ‘Walt’ is committing an act that involves the use of his army technique. This was somewhat unnecessary, and didn’t seem to fit in that well with the film.

Overall this is quite a touching film, and distinctly different to any of the films in which it will most likely be compared to. The script is fantastic, and the story flows fantastically. It is more likely to make certain people cry, than films designed to make people cry. That is for sure.
This is 9 out of 10, and will possibly thwart any inaccurate pre-conceptions developed.

01
Mar
09

‘Death Note’

2006
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Yu Kashii

Two-Dimensional Characters And Predictability; The Way To A Teenagers Pocket Money.
‘Light Yagami’ comes across a powerful notebook with the power to kill whomever’s name is written within it. He starts to use this newly acquired ability to rid the world of criminals…But is he really any better than those he is taking the lives of?
Adapted from a Manga series, ‘Death Note’ is a teenage phenomenon of the new millennium…With great popularity, comes great wads of cash.

Having not ever heard of this series before seeing the film, I could only take it for face value. Though I am sure if I knew nothing about it, it would be apparent this film was adapted from some form of comic due to various elements across it.
Unfortunately, as a complete piece, this doesn’t flow all too well. It came across as more of a TV serial given that the plot development felt as if it were coming across as episodes. This is one of the films several let downs.

The film started with some nice opening aerial shots amiably edited together, there were some nice shots throughout the film, but unfortunately such shots seemed to be placed at random places rather than being a persistent theme. As well as this, the overall look of the film clearly couldn’t decide whether it wanted to reflect some form of altered reality, or whether it wanted to be a depiction closer to the original medium; in this sense it is somewhat messy. There were also various characters which seemed to have been plucked out from the Manga, being that there was a great deal of bad overacting and certain typically cartoonish characters. Additionally, many of the characters had the physical demeanour of that you would expect from a Japanese Anime.

It is disappointing that they couldn’t treat this film as live-action, it seems that the people involved couldn’t comprehend the difference, or it is equally possible that they sacrificed consistency to please a great deal of existing fans.
This film seems to have a very niche market, being teenagers and existing fans. It is incredibly clear through this film as to why there is such great popularity amongst this series, however I don’t think in this instance it worked well as a live-action film.
For example, the ‘Gods of Death’ or ‘Shinigamis’ were CGI spectacles. This is an unsure aspect, it is clear that they are a key part of the original concept, but it doesn’t seem as if they fit in all too well in this film considering the opening build-up.

The initial development is adequately intriguing, but this becomes lost within the first quarter of the film when the predictability comes into it. Due to ‘Light’s personal usage of the ‘Death Note’, it was foreseen that there would be some kind of internal debate as to whether he is doing the right thing by killing criminals, or whether he is just as bad as them. This is an aspect which is trying to be clever, but just comes across as predictable. As well as that, this element quickly dwindled and wasn’t really referenced again.

There were numerous predictable elements to this film, such as the actions in which the protagonist takes as well as certain characters relationships to other characters. Resultantly any created tension seems lost due to the conjecture of the upcoming events. Assisting this is the dimensionality of the characters. With the exception of ‘Light’, all the characters are either one dimensional or two dimensional and don’t really have any expanded psyche. This made for a set of particularly monotonous and transparent characters.

‘Light’ (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is the only genuinely multi dimensional character within the span of the film, and is actually quite a talented young actor. Some of his performance felt distinctly like that of an Anime character however, and I think this was down to the direction.
‘Light’ also has some good character development, and is possibly the only unpredictable element. This is very gratifying.

However, the basic premise of this is none too special and it’s fairly inane which makes it some very easy viewing. The aforementioned underlying theme of moral questionability seemed to be a bit pretentious, as if trying hard to make the story more than it was. This was some badly executed attempted intellect in which interest is simply lost.

There isn’t really much else to say on this, other than this film does make you want to read the Manga. Despite the predictability and simplicity of the story, it is clear the original medium is greatly aesthetically pleasing, and it would probably have more to it in terms of story and character.
While this film has many various flaws in artistic taste as well as script, this film is actually entertaining and somewhat enjoyable, as a whole.
It’s a film that can be viewed with very little brain power; the more you turn off your mindset, the more likely you are to appreciate the film visually.

Whilst having various discrepancies, it still manages to vaguely capture the uniqueness that quite possibly makes the whole concept so internationally popular. Although the interesting shots are quite clumsily dispersed through the film, there are enough of them regularly to keep you visually enthralled. That isn’t to say, however, that this film is captivating in any way.

Overall, this is a surprising 7 out of 10 because of what it becomes towards the end. The film was pretty disappointing overall when thought about, having many poor points to it, but it’s actually quite pleasurable and more or less satisfying. It’s not bad…But it could have been a lot better.