Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

SF: This film is based on first hand accounts of how they found Osama Bin Laden. Surely the CIA would want this information locked away for years? Anyway the film itself is nothing short of brilliant. It never falls into sensationalism, everything is measured and understated in the right way. In some ways it has the same appeal as a documentary rather then entertainment, which is probably the right approach. I'm making an effort to leaves the politics out of my score. That said it is not a film that is enjoyable to watch and I'd never watch it again. Some bits were horrifying. However I could not think of a way that it could be improved. 9/10

50 Eggs: n/a

DonkeyB: My immediate thoughts about this film were that it was near flawless; it is very difficult to think of any way in which this film could be better. The first part is tense and interesting and dramatic; then the raid starts and its an action thriller which is near pitch perfect. In some ways similar to Apollo 13 in that we know the outcome from the start and yet the film grabs you from the start and never let's go, which means you don't have time to consider the fact you do know exactly where the film is going.

There has been a lot of controversy about whether the film promotes torture- and some people have said that it clearly doesn't- Catherine Bigelow and supporters of the film have defended themselves and the film of the charge by saying that depicting something is not the same as condoning it. They are undoubtedly correct in this assertion and I think it is fair to say the film does not explicitly endorse the torture it dipicts- it is also not the only Hollywood film to depict torture- I seem to remember Rendition and Syriana both deal with torture.

What I think troubles people about the film is that the politics of the film as a whole are very ambiguous. The film does endorse the "War on Terror", at least tacitly by making a major intelligence protagonist the hero of the film. The sexual politics of the film might be right on liberal- but there are plenty of liberals in Hollywood and elsewhere who are more than a little bit squeamish about extraordinary rendition, carpet bombing of countries America is supposed to be allied with or protecting, drone strikes on "high level targets", and extra-judicial killings of alleged terrorists. This is a morally complex aspect of 21st Century international politics and the film never really engages with the moral ambiguity of what is essentially a revenge plot.

Maybe this would have been different if real life hadn't intervened and Bin Laden hadn't been found and killed- there is a scene in the embassy in Pakistan when Chastain's character confronts Kyle Chandler's character (her boss), and the film does briefly engage with to topic of teh purpose of the "War on Terror", but the film takes a different direction and treats the scene as a straight power play between Chastain and her boss.

I think everyone should see the film, and I hope it makes everyone who sees it think, because they should, its a serious film, with a point of view that you might not agree with. 9.5/10

Overall: 9.25/10

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Django Uncahined

SF: I liked some westerns, others I find boring, protracted and painful. This managed to be both. We track the course of Django's rise from slavery to bounty hunter and his quest to rescue his wife. On paper this should work rather well. It has been done many time before and tends to yield good results. The problem is that the character I was really interested in wasn't Django at all but Dr King Schultz (Christopher Waltz). If the film had just been about him, it would have been great. The first 90 mins are a fairly enjoyable mentor - padawan type film. Great pace, excellent character development and mildly humorous at points. I honestly thought I liked it as much as True Grit. Then we get to the quest and this is when my stomach turned, maybe it was suppose to - the Mandingo fight was one of the most horrific scenes in of any Tarantino movie. From there on out the whole thing was just dull. Violence for the sake of it was to be expected but nothing really held my attention, not even the scene where you see EVERYTHING of one Jamie Foxx. The last 25 mins were particularly dull and I just want to go home. 6/10

50 Eggs: I'm not the biggest Tarantino fan but I enjoyed his earlier stuff. Unfortunately this is more like his latter stuff, i.e Deathproof. There are some engaging scenes, and as usual the dialogue is great, but mostly this is just an overblown, over-long rescue movie. I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with the film strutting around , thinking its clever when it isn't. 6/10

DonkeyB: I have no original thoughts on this film. It is unoriginal, its supposed to be (I think). It is far too long. There is a bizarrely misguided directorial cameo. If the defence of the numerous uses of "nigger", is that this is how people spoke back then, why is all of the other dialogue proto-typical Tarantino (highly entertaining this time) verbo-babble? Christolph Waltz gives a performance several levels more entertaining than that in the vastly over-rated Inglorious Basterds.

The film is in two parts; the first part- the mock western is very, very, entertaining, the second part- the exploitation revenge action film with long and dull scenes of Leonardo DiCaprio chewing scenery (and watching his dogs chew his slaves alive for entertainment), is unnecessary and unwelcome. I know the 'heightened' violence is supposed to be entertaining (I never find it such), but actually I find myself wanting to take Mr Tarantino to a gun range and have him film real life things getting shot with real guns (if he insists in extreme close-ups and ultra-slow-motion). If the purpose of the second part of this film isn't to glorify and fetishize violence then I don't know what it was for. I was very, very bored by it, and quite annoyed.

So can I review the films separately? First half 8.5/10 Second half 2/10 = 5.25

This review was brought to you by the punctuation mark "-"

Overall: 5.75/10

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Les Miserables

SF: The first hour or so was brilliant. The production value is fantastic  a great blend of cinematography but also excellent staging. The whole film is sung, so I expected this to get tiring rather quickly but on the whole it worked very well. As I've never seen any production of Les Mis before but I was very impressed. Hugh Jackman leaves nothing out when delivering his songs and acting-wise he does a most convincing job, I really felt Jean Valjean's despair. Anne Hathway's rendition of "I dreamed a dream" was the most moving scene of the entire film, I almost cried.
The second half of the film was hard work. I found it unengaging and very very long. The only character that stood out was Éponine who I felt didn't get enough focus. While Russel Crowe can carry a tune he is woefully poor compared to the other singers in this film, also I found Javert's demise a bit random. Helena Bonham Carter is playing the same role she has been for years and Amanda Seyfried wasn't particularly interesting. One surprise, who knew Eddie Redmayne had a good voice? He still scares me though. Also a few things get confused towards the end, too plot holes that annoyed me. I would have loved this if I'd stopped watching after the first part and even though I got bored, it remains a very good film. 7/10   

Donkey B: I am not a musicals person, I don't like them. I don't like the idea of them. I haven't seen the stage play, but I have read the book, although it was a long time ago.

First the bad. As SF has said the entire film is sung and I have to say I found it wearing. Russell Crowe's singing isn't all bad, but some of it is. The base material of the novel is terrific, but I found that the constant singing undermined the pretty serious themes of the book, the film is also staggeringly a-historical (history nerd alert) for a historical film. This may be a problem imported from the musical, but the fact that the film was set in post-Napoleonic France seemed only to offer a few more words to help make rhymes in the libretto, whereas in the book the constantly changing political and historical backdrop is almost a character in itself. The fact that Paris at one point becomes Dickensian London, right down to "cor-blimey g'vner" mockney artful dodger types, is I fear just the most obvious example of the film's contemptuously lazy interaction with its period and setting.

Having said all that, Anne Hathaway's performance of the Dream song is spectacular, it is also a very clever piece of directing, representative of Tom Hooper's approach to the whole film; the entire song is performed in extreme close-up, focusing on the extremely emotional performance. Obviously this is something which even the people in the front row of a theatrical production couldn't experience- and goes some way towards answering the question, "what can a film do which is different to the stage production?"

The film is spectacular but I think it is winning people over more by brow beating them into submission than by genuine quality. I suspect if you like musicals you'll love it.

50 Eggs: There's not a lot I can add here that hasn't already been said by SF and Donkey B. But it’s hard for me to review this anyway as, it transpires, I just don't get musicals. It probably not very cultured of me to say that I didn’t think the songs were very catchey. And I'm definitely missing the point when I say that I felt half the film could have been spoken, that the characters were often singing words for the hell of it. But alas that is how I feel. There were some striking visuals though, so 5/10

Overall: 5.8/10

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pitch Perfect

SF: I'll admit it I really enjoyed this film. I wasn't keen on seeing it because I thought that Glee had covered this pretty well (at least in the first two seasons). Ten mins in I find myself starting to like it, about 30 mins in I'm ready to sing along. It is a bit cliche at points and yes chances are you can predict it. Don't watch this if you are looking for a deep and meaningful art house film. This is pure entertainment. It's well paced and keeps you laughing throughout and there is nothing bad about that. I think I like it more than Mean Girls.  Watch out for some great lines from Hana Mae Lee. Also, is it me or does Anna Kendrick have the whitest teeth on earth? 7.5/10

50 Eggs: Ok this is good. Ordinarily I wouldn't go within sniffing distance of a musical, but I very much enjoyed this.  It really is very funny and the music is great - rather than using the normal cheesy ballad style songs we get to hear modern music that will get your toe tapping whether you like it or not. I'd have given this an even higher score if it weren't for the fact that I found the lead character totally unlikable. 8/10

DonkeyB: Lots and lots and lots of fun. It's a feature length episode of Glee. Funny: really, really, really, laugh out loud funny. I was very ready for this film, I was absolutely delighted to see something frothy and entertaining and that is exactly what this is. Even the songs are fun. The most I've smiled in the cinema since The Muppets. 8/10

Overall: 7.85/10

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Seven Psychopaths

SF: There was a lot of hype for this film, given that it is written by Martin McDonagh I could see the potential,  In Bruges (7/10) was most enjoyable.
Sadly the fantasy and reality are starkly different. Firstly the entire meta approach of watching while the writer comes up with the concepts and themes for the very film your seeing is very annoying and not particularly interesting. As there is no real plot, just the promise of one, it would difficult to categorise. I think the film makers were attempting to make a black comedy but it seemed more like an excuse to showcase ideas rather than an actual film. Also the over use of dramatic irony is equally irritating rather than entertaining. Only two character held my interest played by Christopher Walken and Tom Waits, it is a shame they get such little screen time. The film remained funny in parts but suffered from trying so hard to be witty that all your left with is painfully forced dialogue holding together something that needs a lot more work. Did anyone else think it was a bit like Tales from the Crypt? 4.5/10

50Eggs: n/a

DonkeyB: Let's start at the beginning, the opening scene on the dam, is brilliant, witty and funny. The rest of the film I hated. After 20 minutes I would have walked out but the cinema was packed and we were too far from the end of the row. I can promise eveyone reading that I did not laugh once after the scene on the dam. I hated the film, on every level, I thought the violence was pointless and pornopgraphic. SF is correct- the film is "meta", what this means in this case is that Christopher Walken's character gets to be the 'producer' type character, giving 'notes' to the 'writer' character, this apparently means the film can be a stupid, mysogynistic and dull as it likes as long as Hans points it out- well not in my book. I found the stupidity, violence and mysogyny very irritating and then got even more angry when Christopher Walken pointed out to me that I was still watching it. I am sure that Martin McDonagh's brother had read an early draft for this lazy stupid script when he wrote the infintely funnier The Guard and included this little exchange. I found myself desperate to scream "you're a sociopath not a psychopath" at the screen repeatedly, but will gladly settle for a chance to bellow it at any and all of the people associated with the film at some point in the future. 0/10 Most angry I've ever been about a film.

Overall: 2.25/10