For a flowery film there should be a flowery review. I know I’ve said I don’t do these but… when needs must.
Lavish, luscious, sumptuous, opulent…Read More
I wished I’d seen Baraka. Because I think it might have made this film easier to review.
Samsara is a stunning piece of work. The film takes us across a world damaged by disaster, mechanised by industry, shrouded in ritual and punctuated by beauty. This world.Read More
When is an Alien movie not an Alien movie? When it’s a sci-fi movie, it seems.
In preparation for Prometheus I watched Alien, Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection during the week*. Truth is, I was never massively into the first two Alien films. I don’t have a problem with them per se, my hazily remembered impressions were positive… I just don’t care about them. I’d never seen the last two so now seemed as good a time as any to “get around to it”.Read More
In case you hadn’t heard, The Artist won 3 gongs at the 69th Golden Globe Awards last night – Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource’s work, Best Actor for Jean Dujardin and Best Film – Comedy or Musical. Well done them!
I don’t usually put trailers in my review but I thought this one warranted it. Probably best viewed on a 40 ft screen. Or failing that, full screen.
I just remember thinking, I have never seen anything like that before.
I didn’t know anything about it and the trailer didn’t really tell me all that much. At that stage it wasn’t out in the US, there wasn’t a UK or Irish release date and there was so little info on it that I didn’t even know that it was a silent movie… so there was every chance it was going to be just a one week run in the IFI or something. I didn’t matter though, I knew I had to see it.
Flash-forward to today and The Artist is everywhere. Some are even calling it the film of the year. It’s only 16th January for Pete’s sake!
I wouldn’t go that far, not just yet, but I will say that it is an absolutely delightful affair. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a star in the world of silent movies, whose career is threatened by the advent of the age of the Talkies. As his star is falling, another is rising, in the form of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Miller is a talented bright young thing, who Valentin had helped with her first break.
Despite how charming the film is, and how charming it looked in the trailer… it is, oddly enough, not the film I thought it was going to be. I suppose I thought it was going to be some kind of epic, in the old style of film-making, and it wasn’t. It is, pretty much, the story of George Valentin. And Uggy. Not that this was disappointing, but I’m just surprised that people seem to be so swept away by a film which is, fairly simple to be honest.
What sets it apart from the usual is that it’s quite clever, since there’s no dialogue writer/director Michel Hazanavicius has (obviously) had to call upon his actors to EMOTE. And for EMOTING to look sensible, you’ve gotta have sharp actors. Everyone here is up to the task, John Goodman and James Cromwell in particular, shine in their respective roles. The Artist works very well in this way. I never thought the gimmick wore thin…
… what wore a little thin for me was Valentin’s trials and tribulations. And, when things got a bit heavy, I’m not sure that the tone matched the story we were being told. But, I’m not going to go into the plot. Suffice to say that I thought the runtime was slightly long, even though it was only 100 mins. Aside from that, there isn’t a lot to complain about. It’s a perfectly lovely slice of throwback cinema, a cute and entertaining look at a bygone era.
In any case, they saved it all at the end. I loved the ending.
So, go out and watch this film. While you might not think it’s the film of the year, you’re bound to enjoy it. Unless you don’t like music. If you don’t like music you might have a problem.
Have you watched it yet? Ok, great. On with the review.
So as you can tell from the trailer, Battle: Los Angeles is set during an alien invasion. I’m all on for alien invasion films. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen a proper one (unless you count Transformers, and I don’t) so I was up for it.
At the same time though, as I mentioned in the earlier post, I wasn’t really expecting much from it. Yeah, it was a great trailer but I think it’s fair to say that if you expected all films to be as good as their trailers, you’d be sorely disappointed almost every time you went to the cinema. I’m not saying that to be contrary or anything. It’s just a fact. I mean honestly, when’s the last time you went to a film and thought “Wow! That was way better than the trailer made it look!”? Personally I think “Not as bad as the trailer made it look” is almost as positive as you can hope for when it comes to trailer vs. film…
Anyway, on to the film so that I can get to the real reason I’m really writing this review…
… Except that I should probably tell you a bit about the film first.
Ok, so we start off with aliens invading Earth but the film fairly quickly gets to it’s focus – One platoon (I’m not sure if that’s the correct terminology, let me know if I’m wrong) of Marines in Santa Monica who have one mission to do during this invasion. This is not some big drama / thriller encompassing the whole of the world and the effect of the alien invasion. It’s a war film focusing on this one group of people.
The fact is that, while Battle: Los Angeles is set during an alien invasion, it’s really an war/action film, with some beautiful special effects. To that end, I thought it was very well done. I found it reasonably well structured. I thought it was exciting. I thought we got to know enough about the characters (for an action film). I thought the battles were well choreographed. I thought the special effects were fantastic. I did think some of the music was a little… melodramatic maybe, but not so much that it became annoying. Yes, some of the dialogue was a bit clichéd and a bit cheesy and I may have laughed a few times but, it’s not a film that so po-faced that laughing would signal some kind of failure in it.
I also, predictably, if you’ve ever seen any of my comments about him, thought that Aaron Eckhart was very well cast as the tough, grizzled but handsome Staff Sergeant. He brought a bit of class to the proceedings. Ne-Yo? Well, put it this way, I had no idea there was a popstar in the cast and when I found out afterwards I couldn’t guess which one he was. So I’m taking that as a good sign. Michelle Rodriguez? I really don’t like Michelle Rodriguez generally, I find her good-looking bad-ass schtick irritatingly dull… but she didn’t annoy me in this. All the same I’d like to see her play against type some time. The rest of the characters were grand, I mean they were all grappling with the clichéd dialogue but I felt they all made it through. More on that anon.
Here’s the real reason I’m writing this review.
Over the last day or two I have seen a lot of negativity around Battle: Los Angeles. At last check it was around 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Well I’m here to be one of the voices on the other side. I thought B:LA was class fun. Ok, it’s no Starship Troopers but it put me in mind of it and Starship Troopers is probably my favourite alien film of all time so… it’d be a bit lofty to hope that B:LA could reach those heady heights… but the fact that it put me in mind of ST is an achievement.
The main criticism I’ve seen of B:LA is that it’s cliché ridden. Well that’s true. I’m not going to deny that. The beginning is a bit cringe-worthy as they roll out the characters using every disaster movie cliché in the book. That turns out ok though, given the action later on, they had to introduce the characters early on and well, you have to have something interesting to say about them no? With hindsight, it was pretty efficient actually. The only way it could have been more efficient would be if they’d just lined them up and had them salute and say their names. But then they really would have just been grunts, no different from the aliens. As for the military clichés later on, well come on. You can’t have soldiers running around without at least sometimes shouting “Hoo-Arr!” or some other such rousing call. And let’s face it, it’s not a war film if you don’t have like, the rookie and pissed off fella and people making ridiculous sacrifices and so forth. It’s just how it goes.
Oh, oh! And the most annoying criticism I’ve seen of it is people saying “Is this supposed to be some kind of military propaganda? Are we all supposed to feel good about the war in Afghanistan now?”. Good Lordi people. Where the hell did that come from? It’s a film about people doing their jobs. It’s a film about being human. It’s a film about trying to survive. It never rams any kind of jingoism or any moral or political judgement of any kind down your throat. So the characters are wearing Marine uniforms, so what? If I watched a film about a really good chef, I wouldn’t assume that film is trying to encourage me to become a chef.
What else did I want to complain about? Oh yeah. This other idea I’ve seen bandied about some reviews – that we don’t get to learn enough about what’s going on on the aliens side. I don’t get that. We hear what they’re after and it’s made more than clear that their military procedures are pretty much exactly like ours. What more do we need to know? Ok, they could have, I suppose, shown us some of what goes on with the aliens… But like I said, the film is tightly focussed on this platoon and their mission. If they started doing other stuff it would have been a completely different movie, if you know what I mean. And who cares if we don’t see their faces? Why do I want to see their faces? Just to see how good the make-up people are on the film? What does it matter?
Last thing I’m going give out about is all these complaints about the shaky camera. Now. I hate shaky camera. I suffer badly from motion sickness, check my reviews of Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity to see how that can affect my enjoyment of a film. And I didn’t particularly feel it in this. It was a little dodgy around the start but as the film went on they toned it down and I really didn’t notice any ill effects from the camera shaking. If there was any, it was not excessive in my opinion.
I think that’s enough for now.
Oh no, just briefly as well. I keep seeing people saying “It’s like District 9 without the X,Y,Z” or “It’s not half as good as District 9” or “Go watch District 9 instead”.
First of all – and I did really like it, gave it the same rating as I’ll give this – but District 9 is not the be all and end all of alien films. Yeah, it was good but it’s not like it’s AMAZING. And secondly, I just don’t see how you can make the comparison anyway. All that’s similar about it is that aliens come to town. That’s all. Battle: Los Angeles is a war film that happens to have some aliens in it. You’d be better off comparing it to the likes of Green Zone than District 9.
Phew. I feel better now.
… Ok, ok, I’ll be a little magnanimous. I think a lot of people maybe went into this expecting something else. I don’t know what they expected but I know I expected nothing in particular, except some good special effects. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see characters and a plot and some good battles. I guess if you were expecting more than that then you’d want to find criticism wherever it may be.
Suffice to say, I really liked Battle: Los Angeles. If it sounds like your kind of thing, then go see it. Just don’t expect some ground-breakingly breath-taking new take on the alien invasion film. Expect a competent action film and you should be alright.
Well, I think about all my reviews – words don’t appear on the screen by themselves* – but usually it’s less about what I’m going to say and more about how I’m going to say it. This film had me thinking about… stuff.
Ah ok, there’s no point in shying away from it. It had me thinking about how circumstances shape lives… and, to a certain degree, how different my life could have been. Doesn’t really have anything to do with the specific subject matter of the film… but I felt that, through the way the film told it’s story, it invited you to have a look at your own story. Err… perhaps more so if you happen to be a woman…
… but I do think that there’s something there that everyone can relate to. It struck a chord with me and I believe that it really does almost force you to look at your own life. Whether you’re happy with what you see or not is really up to you.
Or maybe I’m just getting carried away, after all I don’t know if it’s by accident or design. And besides, what do I know? Perhaps it’s one of those things I should have asked the director – I was lucky enough to catch this at a Q+A session organised by Element Pictures, the distributors of the film.
Let’s talk about the film.
His & Hers is a documentary from Irish writer and director Ken Wardrop. Up until now it seems he has been a very successful short film director. I know extremely little about the short film landscape in Ireland but if it’s producing directors like this then I’m thinking I should probably go have a look. I do at least know where to start. If you mosey on over to the Irish Film Board website you’ll find their Short Film Channel. I have no idea how up to date that part of the site is but there certainly are plenty of short films to have a look at.
Umm… back to the film. Yes. It doesn’t require a whole lot more introduction other than what you have probably already read about it. His & Hers is a feature length documentary – a woman’s story of the man in her life, told through the voices of 70 Irish women in the midlands. That really is all you need to know about it, to tell you more would be to tell you the story and I think it’s best that you hear that story in the women’s own words.
To be honest when I heard what it was about I just didn’t really see how it would be done. Not that I thought it wouldn’t be possible, more that I just couldn’t imagine it. I ain’t that imaginative you see. Fortunately Wardrop is. He has used his experience in short film to create a cohesive, if somewhat loose, narrative from what was undoubtedly hours of footage. Together with his excellent cinematographers, Michael Lavelle and Kate McCullough, Wardrop has created a little window into the Irish woman’s life.
I do want to make a quick comment about the cinematography. I’m a little obsessed with that. The work in His & Hers is really outstanding and I’m happy to say that it was recognised at the Sundance festival this year.
I know I’m raving a bit here so you’re probably wonder why I’m only giving this 8/10. The fact is that, when the credits rolled, I had more that a few questions over the choices that Wardrop made in the sequences he chose to include. I found it a bit strange that, for the most part, all the experiences included were very positive. I thought it was odd that there were so few women of my age (30). Also I don’t know why there was no talk of the women’s relationships with their brothers… Dads and partners, but not brothers.
Fortunately Mr. Wardrop was on hand to answer some of those questions.
In his own words, His & Hers is an attempt to tell a happy story, one based on his mother’s life and her relationship with his father and, presumably with himself. This is not a disparate story by any means. He had one personal vision for the story he wanted to tell. To me that explains why there are no villains and few younger women – I assume he best knows the story of his mother from when he met her, so to speak… Course if could have been that younger women were less candid. He wasn’t specific but, I suspect that wasn’t particularly the case. He did say that he found the older women’s stories more interesting. Interesting to him I guess, this is an entirely personal film, not an attempt at an anthropological study.
Still I’m giving this 8/10 because, while I really found this to be a fascinating and (to my surprise) thought provoking documentary – when you watch it, it really isn’t obvious what he set out to do. It was great to hear him explain it but I’m certainly not the only reviewer who wondered about those particular points and more.
I do however recommend everyone go see this film. It’s a wonderful story, genuine, honest and beautifully shot to boot.
To find a cinema showing it have a look at their official website
* actually, words do sometimes appear on the screen by themselves – damn automatic typing fingers.
I’d be extremely surprised if you haven’t heard of Kick-Ass at this stage. It seems to be everywhere I look, online and offline. Granted I hang around movies websites and cinemas a lot but I even saw the titular Kick-Ass peering at me from the window of a French Connection store this afternoon – what’s that about?
Early reviews have been extremely positive, actually it’s currently at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes… that kind of thing always worries me. I had the good fortune to see this film at a preview, courtesy of Simply Zesty and Universal Pictures about a week and a half ago so I hadn’t heard anything about whether it was actually good or not. That’s the way I like it, expectations as low as possible.
I have to say, I thought it was a great movie. I wouldn’t say it was an amazingly fantastic movie but it was great fun, a great laugh. I’d worry slightly that people are going to go into this thinking that this is some kind of landmark in superhero movies. It’s a solid, funny, action-packed yarn but that’s it really.
But I don’t want to put it down, I just want to keep people’s expectations in check. Particularly because I did think it started a little slowly, there’s not loads of ass-kicking all the time from the start. Which is good, because they’ve actually bothered having a story. It’s not just mindless action and wonder if that might put people off a bit. Be assured that you will see a whole load of ass-kicking but that’s not all you’ll see. So don’t expect that.
That said, I’ve started to realise that I have quite low standards… when it comes to films. I’ll let film makers away with dodgy stuff all the time. As far as I’m concerned I’ll let a bit of crappiness and stupidity or whatever go by, as long as there’s some really good scenes and a half decent plot and characters. In this case, I don’t expect action films to have much of a plot, if they have one at all. So, when one comes along with even a modicum of character building or thematic structure, I think it’s great…. and with Kick Ass I’m just a bit worried that I might have fooled myself into thinking it was great.
But I don’t think so. You’ll just have to go see it and decide for yourself.
There are two things I want to mention before I send you on your merry way though.
One. Kick Ass is rated 16 for a reason. Sure, it’s about superheroes, but it’s definitely not suitable for kids. Quite apart from the language, which isn’t something that bothers me at all, the violence is significant. I watch all sorts of films, plenty horror and slasher films and the like and I was still a bit shocked by some of the violence in this. It’s not worse than anything I’ve seen and I wouldn’t even call it that excessive, but it shocked me a bit because it was more realistic that I was expecting.
Two. I didn’t find Nicolas Cage as painful to watch in this as I usually do. It’s kind of strange because he is absolutely awful in parts of it but I’m pretty sure he’s doing it on purpose in those instances… at least that’s how I rationalised it. In any case, I know there are plenty of people out there who, like me, can’t stand Nicolas Cage and I just want to assure them it’s ok. He doesn’t ruin the movie.
So… that’s all I have to say really. As always, I’m intrigued to know what you think of it. Comment and let me know…
Saw this in the beautiful Light House cinema, an 4 screen arthouse cinema in Smithfield.
I wasn’t particularly expecting to like this film. I don’t really like country music and it sounded like a story I’ve heard before. I like to see new stuff, or at least old stuff taken in a new direction or seen in a new light. Crazy Heart didn’t really sound like there was anything new about it….
…and there isn’t. But despite that I enjoyed it. More than that, I actually liked it. Ok, it did really remind me of last year’s The Wrestler… and that in turn reminded of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil… but still I didn’t mind. This is a good film.
The question everyone is asking though is “Does Jeff Bridges deserve the Oscar?” He certainly puts on a very good performance. I’m not a huge fan of Bridges, which is not to say that I don’t like him, I just haven’t seen that many of his films. Tideland is the only film I remember him in in the last 20 years – yes that’s right, I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski. He was good in Tideland alright but it doesn’t exactly make you develop a strong fondness for him.
Personally I’m not sure if he does deserve the award. I’m sure he’s going to get it… but having seen all the other performances now, I’m just not sure. I think Colin Firth is better in A Single Man. I also think Jeremy Renner is better in The Hurt Locker… well I’m not entirely sure about that one but he’s definitely as good. Either way it’s moot. He’s definitely gonna get it. When you’re a good guy and you’ve been nominated 4 times already the award threshold goes down a little for you. Actually let me be fair – he does deserve it in a general sense, I just don’t know if he deserves it for this role.
For what it’s worth, Crazy Heart is worth a watch quite apart from Jeff Bridges. It’s a good classic story well told and there’s great music in it. And like I said, I don’t even like country music. Then again these days when I think about country music I think of like… Taylor Swift. I’m sure there are those who would say that doesn’t count. The songs in Crazy Heart are the real thing, I’ll be very surprised if The Weary Kind doesn’t win the Best Song Oscar. It’s actually not my favourite song from the film but it is excellent.
I kind of feel a bit weird recommending that people go see a film that’s so unoriginal. Honestly, you’ve heard this story a hundred times. There really is nothing new in it, but I feel I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t. I’ll put it this way. If you liked The Wrestler or if you like country music then go see this film.
This is one of those situations where I can’t really review this film as an average person. Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson’s new film. I love Wes Anderson’s films. I can’t help it, there’s something about his films that just work for me. So I can only really review the film as a Wes Anderson fan, but I’ll try my best to think of how other people might see it… I can’t promise anything though!
To start. Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on a Roald Dahl novel, he of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches fame. Well, he’s more than that really he’s a true cult novelist and he really is one of those people whose stories have touched millions (he sold over 100 million books) and when he died in 1990 the world really lost a unique talent. That said, I don’t think I’ve read Fantastic Mr. Fox. I’m not sure because some parts of it did seems familiar, but I really don’t remember… Actually I haven’t read that many of his books at all but I appreciate the ones I have read and in particular the impact he’s had on our culture.
But this isn’t Roald Dahl appreciation hour… back to the film. Wes Anderson’s style is all over this, of course he wrote the screenplay (with Noah Baumbach, his collaborator on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) so it was always going to be in his voice, as it were. But they aren’t his characters or his story so it’s a bit different from his other films. It isn’t as quietly sad as some of them, but it is touching nonetheless. There are the charming, quirky characters that you’d expect and there are the beautiful set scenes that you could frame and put on your wall. Actually I wondering if I could get one framed… hmm… will have to look into that.
When I think about it, Wes Anderson was probably a great choice to direct this film. I had been sceptical as I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with a children’s story. Watching it, I remembered that Roald Dahl wasn’t really a children’s novelist in the traditional sense of the phrase. He didn’t write stories about sweetness and light, he wrote stories to scare, disguist but also delight children. They were funny but they were dark, just like Wes Anderson’s films…
So if you like Wes Anderson then you should definitely go to the film. If you don’t know his films but you like Roald Dahl then you should definitely go to, I think it’s a worthwhile adaptation.
If you’re not familiar with either then I can’t be sure… it’s an interesting story and it’s beautifully told but it’s not entirely a kids film. The palette is somewhat muted so I don’t know if it will necessarily be that engaging for younger children. It would probably be better for kids who would read Roald Dahl novels in the first place – so more for 9-14 year olds.
It’ll be interesting to hear what adults think of the film… rottentomatoes.com reviews have all been positive so far, however there have only been 5 of them so hard to draw conclusions there. One thing they have been saying is that it’s nostalgic and elegent. I find all Wes Anderson films like that but I suppose it’s worth mention if you’re not familiar with him.
Another thing worth mentioning is that it’s filmed in stop-motion animation. I’m very accepting I guess, I don’t mind if a film is full disney style animation, photorealistic animation, cel-shaded animation, live action, stop motion, combination… whatever, I just like films and the stories they tell. I have seen some comments though, from people who don’t like the animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox. I think that’s a bit sad in the sense that someone would dislike a film just because of that… but then again each to their own. I don’t like watching dubbed films, so I guess that’s a hang up I have. Fortunately I can just watch the subtitles… Personally though, I thought the animation looked great, the detail was incredible, that’s another thing you get with a Wes Anderson film
Anyway, I really liked it and I hope you will too. I’m particularly interested in hearing from anyone who’s not familiar with Wes Anderson or Roald Dahl. Let me know what you think of it.