Friday, 25 January 2013

For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Tom:
For a Few Dollars More,1965, Italy/Spain/West Germany
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef & Gian Maria Volonté
Col. Douglas Mortimer: Any trouble, boy?
Monco: No, old man. Thought I was having trouble with my adding. It's all right now.

Sergio Leone's 'The Dollars Trilogy' is my personal favorite film trilogy of all time, while I love all three of the films I have always considered 'For a Few Dollars More' my least favorite. While I have seen both 'A Fistful of Dollars' and 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' dozens of times, I have never rewatched this film. Not because I think its a bad film in any way but I guess it just made the least impact on me. Yesterday I was able to pick up the Blu Ray very cheap so today I thought I would finally revisit 'For a Few Dollars More' to see If I could share the opinion of most people and call it my second favorite of the series.

The Man With No Name returns, this time with the moniker of Monco, who has taken up the life of Bounty hunter, but Monco's bounties are being taken by a new Bounty hunter known as Col. Douglas Mortimer. The two strike up a working relationship to catch the dreaded El Indio and his gang, but the two have very different agendas in mind.

After a rewatch, I believe I still consider this my least favorite of 'The Dollars Trilogy' but I can still definitely consider this a Great film in its own right. Sergio Leone is a master of cinema and 'For a Few Dollars More' is yet another shining example of that. This is an expertly crafted and incredibly atmospheric film experience and boast some of the most enthralling Cinematography in the Western genre. The film is superbly photographed by Cinematographer Massimo Dallamano who does an expert job of photographing the amazing landscapes of Spain and Italy.

Leone is absolutely brilliant at creating tension and a nail biting atmosphere, with the use of close ups, facial expressions and Ennio Morricone's amazing score, Leone can enthrall you like few other filmmakers can. Another film aspect that Leone specializes in is the climax, if film goers were to go and compile a list of the greatest climaxes in film history, I could guarantee at least four of Leone's would appear in the top 50. I may value this as the weakest film of the series, I can say that it has the second best climax. The last 15 minutes of the film is just complete cinematic greatness.

With this series, Ennio Morricone created     three uniquely terrific musical scores for all three films. His score for 'For a Few Dollars More' features his usual brilliance and only adds to the amazing experience. One of the things I love the most about this film, is the reoccurring musical motif from El Indio's stopwatch, every single time its used is just spell binding, especially during the climax.

The performances throughout this film are fantastic, Clint Eastwood is as enthralling and entertaining as ever reprising his iconic role as The Man With No Name. Lee Van Cleef is as terrific as always, its so fascinating to see him play a heroic character in this film in contrast to his villainous portrayal of Angel Eyes in the films ''sequel'' 'The God, The Bad & The Ugly', Van Cleef is just brilliant here. Gian Maria Volonté plays El Indio, the antagonist of the film, and plays the villainous role to perfection. I also got a kick out of seeing Film Legend Klaus Kinski play a small role in the film.

While I stated that I believe 'For a Few Dollars More' is the weakest of the series, I really do believe that it is still a great film and possibly one of the very best films of the Western Genre. Leone is a master of cinema and The Man With No Name is as iconic as film characters get.

****1/2

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Good,The Bad & The Ugly (1966)

Tom:
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,1966, Italy/Spain/West Germany
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef & Eli Wallach
''You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.''

The have been a number of factors this week that to a repeat viewing of one of my all time favorite films, Sergio Leone's 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly'. The obvious reason being that it is a bonafide masterpiece and worth dozens of viewings, but the others factors were that I hadn't actually hadn't seen it in quite a while, I have been playing around 12 hours of 'Red Dead Redemption' this week and that Cappie Chamberlain, who I believe to be one of the best critics on Letterboxd, watched this film for the first time the other day and gave it a terrific review. Today I thought I would revisit this classic.

The Final Chapter of the legendary 'Dollars Trilogy' sees The Man With No Name return and strike up a working relationship with a deceitful bandit named Tuco, The two travel cross country in order to retrieve $200,000 from an unmarked grave in a cemetery. But they must deal with each others mistrust, The Civil war and a ruthless gunslinger named Angel Eyes.

In this viewing, I watched the 178 minute version of the film, I believe I have seen all three versions now. This cut was the original version that played for its premiere back in 1966, Unfortunately the film was cut down to make it more acceptable for American audiences. Now I thought the film was perfect after seeing the 156 and 164 minute versions, but I can now say that this three hour version is the definitive way to watch 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. This is film at its most glorious, most grittiest, most violent and most spell binding. Watching this version on Blu-Ray may be the next best thing to seeing it in a cinema.

Sergio Leone has always been one of my favorite filmmakers, I believe he is the definitive filmmaker of the Western genre, and this is his greatest cinematic achievement, which is really saying something when the man has 'Once Upon a Time in the West' in his filmography. In every one of his Westerns, Leone is able to bring out the true spirit of the west and give the landscape a life of its own. Also in this film, Leone seem to criticize the Civil War and question its whole place in human history. By doing so Leone is able to give a deeper side to this film and make it stray from the average Spaghetti Western.

While it is indeed the Greatest Western I have ever seen, 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly may also be the greatest Adventure film I have ever seen, due to the fact that it genuinely feels like we have been on a journey. I dont believe there has been a film that given me a greater sense of transporting through locations like this one. In my opinion, some of the best films are the ones that invite a sense of audience participation and this film does it as good as any.

The films famous climax in the graveyard may be the greatest I have ever witnessed. I wont go into plot details but I will say that the 15 minutes or so may be some of the greatest ever put on film and is absolutely unforgettable. The Mexican Standoff is incredibly exciting.

The Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli is absolutely mind blowing, it may the most pristine and beautiful photography of the west I have ever seen, I highly recommend seeing this film on Blu-Ray because it does Colli's work more justice than DVD ever could. One of the greatest elements of this film is the incredible score by Ennio Morricone, this has to be my favorite film score of all time, the famous main theme is incredible but my favorite piece of music from the film has to be 'The ecstasy of gold' which I think is amazing and plays an important part in my favorite scene of the film which is when Tuco first arrives at the grave yard and runs around looking for the Grave, The camera seamlessly follows Tuco around as 'The ecstasy of Gold' blares through. Incredible!

The cast of the film is absolutely fantastic. Clint Eastwood in his third portrayal of the iconic Man With No Name and gives a great performance and its easy to see why he is one of films greatest characters and most renowned characters. It was a very ballsy decision to cast Lee Van Cleef as the villain of this film, after hes portrayal of a heroic figure in the previous film 'For A Few Dollars More', but it pays off big time, as like always Van Cleef performs brilliantly and gives a truly scary performance as the determined villain, his facial expressions (or lack thereof) are truly horrifying. Possibly the best part of the cast is Eli Wallach who gives a damn near perfect performance as Tuco. While Eastwood and Van Cleef's characters fit the mold of hero and villain, Wallach's performance is an 'Ugly' mess of both, as he is a guy full of immorality and deceit but he seems to be dealt a bad hand in life and has just tried to make the best of it, A great performance which should have won the man an Oscar.

I apologize for this incoherent and one sided review, but films like 'The Good,The Bad and The Ugly' really dont deserve criticism because they are just so damn groundbreaking and perfect. A true cinematic spectacle and Leone's greatest creation.

*****

Monday, 14 January 2013

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Tom:
Lawrence of Arabia,1962,UK/USA
Director: David Lean
Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness & Anthony Quinn
Sherif Ali: Have you no fear, English?
T.E. Lawrence: My fear is my concern.

A few years back, I attempted a first viewing of 'Lawrence of Arabia', I was ignorant in thinking my 15 year old mind could fully comprehend what I would have seen, I think I ultimately got to 18 minutes in before turning it off, not because I didn't like the film but because 227 minutes just seemed like too tall a task. Years had gone past and I had still yet to see this film, which is considered to be one of the greatest. Recently I had been inspired to finally watch this film, after seeing David Lean's other masterpiece 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' and hearing a friend of mine praise the film and the Blu-ray transfer. I went on eBay and purchased the Blu-Ray and have been preparing to watch it, Today I finally took the leap and as a result was subject to one of the most rewarding cinematic experiences of all time.

An account of T.E Lawrence, A controversial British military figure, whose loyalty comes into question when he serves amongst the Arabic people during the first World War.

The 'Epic' genre can usually be a bit hit and miss for me personally, While I can definitely appreciate films of the sorts ambitions, it sometimes doesn't make for the most compelling film. 'Lawrence of Arabia' may be ambitious film I have ever seen and its ambitions are fully rewarding as it results in one of the greatest film experiences ever.
The film is so grand in scope and so gutsy, It is a fearless effort from David Lean, who takes chances here that other filmmakers would never dream of, and they all pay off. Its one of the most remarkable things to see someones ballsy idea come to life and be greater that you could possibly imagine, but that's exactly what this film is like.

It's hard to keep any audience members full attention for almost four hours, but 'Lawrence of Arabia' achieves it, through the use of some of the most spellbinding images put on film and amazingly powerful moments. The cinematography, by Freddie Young, is some of the greatest I have ever seen, the shots of the desert are almost indescribable and are most definitely timeless, this almost looks like a film that may have been in the last decade.

I have to take a moment to just mention the Blu-Ray because it may be the greatest transfer I have ever seen. The people at Sony entertainment did an incredible job with this film, I'm not sure if it was a difficult or not due to the film being 70mm with a 4K resolution, but still this is just unbelievable stuff and has to be witnessed.

The performances in this film are fantastic, Peter O'Toole gives the performance that has defined his career, and he does a remarkable bringing T.E Lawrence back to life, Lawrence has to be one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered, I am still trying to decide weather was a hero or a villain, but I guess that we aren't supposed to really know and that's why he is one of the most interesting figures in human history. O'Toole's performance does him justice and is unforgettable. The legendary Alec Guinness co -stars, who gave in my opinion his greatest performance ever in 'The Bridge on the River Kwai', here Guinness plays the peculiar role of the Arabic Prince Feisal, its a strange casting choice that's end up paying off in a big way as Guinness gives a fantastic showing, as you would expect from the man. The rest of the cast is brilliant as well, especially from Anthony Quinn whom I thought was remarkable as Auda Abu Tayi. The film also features the likes of Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains,Omar Sharif and Anthony Quayle among many others.

I apologize that this review wasn't very in depth but it can be a daunting task to write about a film like these, which has been discussed in depth by many for over 50 years. I will say this is a cinematic masterpiece and is must see film especially on Blu-Ray. The visuals are incredible, the Direction is masterful, the performances are amazing and the film is unforgettable. It would be blasphemous to not give this film 5 stars.

*****

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Tom:
Silver Linings Playbook,2012,USA
Director: David O Russell
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence & Robert De Niro
''The only way to beat my crazy was by doing something even crazier. Thank you. I love you. I knew it from the moment I saw you. I'm sorry it took me so long to catch up.''

'Silver Linings Playbooks' represents why I love cinema so damn much. This film that I have been anticipating for a long time and have been scouring the internet almost everyday for the last 3 months (the film isn't released here till January 31st) I downloaded plenty of faulty torrents that didn't even turn out to be the film, but today was my lucky day. From the first scene I knew I was for something special, and that's exactly what 'Silver Linings' is. What a Fucking Movie!

Pat has just come out of a mental institution after witnessing the infidelity of his wife. Lost and delusional, Pat convinces himself that he will one day he will be reunited with his wife, despite his restraining order. During one of his daily runs, he meets a woman named Tiffany whom also suffers with emotional problems, the two may be the answer to each others problems.

I'm not really sure how to put my praise of this film into comprehensible writing but I will do my best. 'Silver Linings Playbook' is an absolute marvel of a film, It feels so authentic and just full of realism, grit and emotion. The main character of Pat is said to have suffered from mood swings, which is ironic because that's exactly what the film feels like as a whole, a giant mood swing, audiences are forced to see these characters go through so much pain but gradually things will start to improve and characters become slightly happier, before things crumble once again. Its a brilliant story telling tool and its executed to perfection here.

David O Russell may be a pain to work with, but the man can definitely make a great film. This is the third film of his that I have loved and in my opinion this is probably his finest achievement. The man is such an incredibly talented screenwriter as well as being a brutally honest filmmaker. Russell's work here is just remarkable, this film could be a horribly over sentimental mess but through Russell's execution, this film is so easy to relate to and just so real. Having had prior experience with mental illnesses, I can absolutely say that this films completely nails the mindset, the loneliness and the desperate search for a silver lining and a better future. Russell's direction is as terrific as usual, the film is perfectly paced and like always, Russell is able to get the most out of his actors.

The cast of the film is just complete perfection. Bradley Cooper is not really known for being the greatest of actors, actors are always looking for that One performance, one that sets them apart from everyone else and shows their complete range and potential as an actor, Cooper has achieved it with this film. He is phenomenal here, and he truly captures the emotions and mind set of a person with mental illness, he gets it! I don't think I can ever doubt Cooper as an actor again, because hes performance as Pat in 'Silver Linings' is something amazing. Speaking of amazing, Jennifer Lawrence co-stars in this film, every time I see her I just love her more and more and like Cooper, her performance in this film is phenomenal! Like her co-star, Lawrence understands mental illness and portrays it perfectly. Jennifer Lawrence may be the ultimate film star in my opinion, shes so humble and is more focused on the film more than the notoriety of being famous, she is just incredible enough said. Despite the fact that he hasn't really made anything memorable in the last decade, Robert De Niro will always be a legend of the business, and fortunately 'Silver Linings' re-establishes his legacy, A fine performance here from Mr De Niro and I'm so glad that he is apart of something worth his time. The principle cast is rounded out by the great Australian actress Jacki Weaver who gives yet another Oscar worthy performance after her work in 'Animal Kingdom' and Chris Tucker, who is someone that only seems to work in films sporadically, he does a good job in this small role.

I think I have spent an hour writing this review and still feel like I have written nothing, I will say that 'Silver Linings Playbook' is just an incredible film, I had such an emotional connection to it and I can marvel at David O Russell's complete mastery in creating the film. The performances here are all fantastic, especially from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. This has instantly become my favorite film of 2012 and the only one from the year that I have rated 5 stars. Yes, THIS is why I love the movies...

*****

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Gangster Squad (2013)

Tom:
Gangster Squad, USA
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn
''When I came here I was nothing,back home I was a gangster, now I'm GOD.''

In 2009, Director Ruben Fleischer received some acclaim for his genre bending feature film debut, the Horror comedy 'Zombieland', His second feature was a little less impressive. In 2011 he released '30 Minutes or Less' which offended damn near everyone due to the fact that it made a comedy out of a real life tragedy, I may have been one of the only people to actually like '30 Minutes' so I had hopes for Fleischer's next effort 'The Gangster Squad' a gangster film set in the 40's which features an all star cast. But the question is would 'The Gangster Squad' go the way of Zombieland', a future cult classic, or '30 Minutes or Less', condemned to the depths of hell ? Unfortunately 'The Gangster Squad' goes the way of the latter, as Fleischer presents his cartoonish version of 'The Untouchables'.

'The Gangster Squad' depicts a ruthless gangster named Mickey Cohen and his reign of terror over the city of Los Angeles. A group of misfit cops, led by a stern and dedicated Sergent attempt ruin his legacy once and for all. 

I tried my best to enjoy this film, but in the end it was no use. It also like it didn't want my enjoyment, and was perfectly contempt in watching me become increasingly pissed off. 'The Gangster Squad' is a film that seems to have no original thoughts or ideas of its own. The comedy in this film may be useless but I couldn't help but smirk watching scenes that I had seen many times before, done so much better, its honestly quite humorous. As I alluded to above, the film feels almost like a carbon copy of Brian De Palma's 'The Untouchables' except it worse in every department. Josh Brolin is like the Kevin Costner character, Robert Patrick is Sean Connery, Giovanni Ribisi is  Charles Martin Smith and Ryan Gosling is Andy Garcia. When comparing the two films, I could never take 'Gangster Squad' seriously as its bloated, over the top and just a stupid 'Untouchables'.

The screenplay by Will Beall is ridiculous, it features dialogue such as ''Don't shoot where it is, shoot were its gonna be'' yes that's incredibly profound. Also, most scenes are straight out of other films, like the fist fight near the end with a crowd of people spectating, I instantly thought of Mel Gibson and Gary Busey facing off in the climax of 'Lethal Weapon'. Also, how many fucking cop films have to feature an officer throwing his badge into the ocean, to signify that he is disgruntled with the force. I have had ENOUGH OF IT! It was cool back when Clint Eastwood did it in 1971, now its just frustrating and cliched, like the rest of this film.

Although I have more negative things to say rather than positives, I will mention that I liked the look of the film, it seemed to capture the 40's feel that I have seen depicted in films from that era. They seem to have the details downpat.

The film features a good cast, but unfortunately they are squandered away. Sean Penn is incredibly over the top here and completely chews the scenery when he is on screen, Penn obviously has the ability to make a great villain but here he was just cartoonish. Josh Brolin does a decent job playing the most stereotypical character on screen. Ryan Gosling's talents are wasted in this brooding and uninteresting role. Emma Stone is beautiful, but she really is not allowed to do anything here other than look pretty here, she reminded me of a real life Jessica Rabbit. There is not one performance in this film that manages to rise above average, which is unacceptable considering the amount of talent involved.

I didn't expect 'Gangster Squad' to be a great film, but I expected to have a good time, but it let me down and I regret spending $16 to see it. I will reiterate once again, and say that this is a bloated and cartoonish version of 'The Untouchables' and basically uses every cliche in the police film book, hell even 'Police Academy 2: The First Assignment' is more convincing than this! I cant for the life of me  recommend seeing 'Gangster Squad'.

**

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Sessions (2012)

Tom:
The Sessions,2012,USA
Director: Ben Lewin
Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt & William H Macy
''I believe in a God with a sense of humor. I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be to able blame someone for all this.''

I first discovered of 'The Sessions' back when I went to see 'Argo' in cinemas, the trailer played and I honesty thought it was some kind of raunchy teen comedy. I did not even recognize John Hawkes in the trailer, but when hes name popped up I knew his performance would be something special so it made me instantly want to see this film, today I finally got my chance.

Mark O'Brien is a man with an iron lung who wishes to loose his virginity before his ''used by date'', he meets a sex surrogate who attempts to fulfill his wish.

While I had some nitpicking issues with 'The Sessions' I will say that it definitely has its heart in the right place, its a film built on emotion and human contact and it usually does a good job dealing with those themes. I honestly didn't think I fully knew this was based on a true story until the end credits, because one of my complaints is that some of Mark's interactions with some side characters seem incredibly falsified. I just could not buy Mark's 'relationship' with Amanda for example, the pay off to that subplot just baffled me. With that being said, Mark's friendships with Father Brendan and Cheryl and very well done and realistic.

I can appreciate the effort of bringing a story like this to the screen but it really does not need overly sentimental moments piped in, its perfectly capable of creating an emotional connection with audiences on its own, this is a similar complaint I had to 'The Impossible' which did the same thing but on a much larger scale. This is a film that can be classed as a 'dramaedy' while its dramatic aspects are obvious, it also features a brilliantly funny side, usually steaming from Mark's views on life which I loved and I thought were portrayed terrifically by John Hawkes.

The performances in this film are generally pretty great, John Hawkes gives one of the finest performances of the year as Mark, a gutsy and bold showing that is definitely Oscar worthy. Hawkes has good support from the likes Helen Hunt, who does a really good job as Cheryl the sex surrogate, she brings a lot of heart to the role. William H Macy is a lot of fun as usual as the Priest, his interactions with John Hawkes' character are some of the best and most entertaining scenes in the film.

Overall, 'The Sessions' is a good film. I did have a couple of slight problems with the it but I was able to overcome them and enjoy this funny and heartfelt film. I can highly recommend this one just for the brilliant performance from John Hawkes, truly one of the years best.

***1/2

Goodfellas (1990)

OLI:
Goodfellas, 1990, USA
Director: Martian Scorsese
Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro & Joe Pesci
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.
 

Gangster films have quickly become one of my favourite movie genres since my friend Josh Pelchin lent me Pulp Fiction. Whilst Tarantino focus on the modern interpretation of 'gangsters,' I do get a real kick out of films based on the gangsters of old. Goodfellas is one of such films and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
 
Harvey Hill, Tommy DiVito and Jimmy Conway refer to themselves as the 'goodfellas.' Although they work for Italian mob boss Pauly, the three aline themselves to each other. This film reveals the gangster life these gentlemen enjoy, the bonds formed, and broken, in the mob, and ultimately the driving force behind a man in such a position and what one is willing to do to stay there.
 
 
This film has been wonderfully directed by one of my personal favourite directors, Martian Scorsese. This is and intelligent film that at times feels more like a biopic. But whatever it is, it works. Irwin Winkler is and adequate producer but Goodfellas is defiantly his finest work and I was impressed with the production if this film.
 
 
The life of a gangster displayed in Goodfellas is based upon first-and-foremost respect. If you're disrespectful, you get whacked. All characters pride themselves on being respectful to themselves and their friends. This under-flowing theme actual makes the film quite easy to watch for the main part, making the violent or aggressive parts all the more entertaining. I have no idea if this is actual gangster life, but watching this film almost made me feel involved in Pauly's little 'family.' I always admire a film that can involve the audience.
 
 
Although most of it was pretty good, elements of the film making in this film where superb. Parts, such as Harvey's breaking of the forth wall, felt amazing, unexpected yet appropriate, and simply incredible! I loved all the scenes featuring the lovely Karen (Bracco) and character development of central characters was very, very well done.
 
 
The film features some great acting roles all of the major accounts. I loved Ray Loitta as Harvey, Joe Pesci as Tommy and who can forget De Niro in any of his roles, especially as the iconic James 'Jimmy' Conway. I was also impressed with Lorraine Bracco's character Karen. This was a very well developed character who we note obvious and appropriate changes in her personality as the film goes on. She was one of the best inclusions of the film and was very well portrayed by Bracco. All other characters, bar maybe Pauly, did feel out of place and they were not strongly developed or utilised.
 
 
I have used the word favourite a lot in this review because one of my favourite directors has created one of my favourite gangster films, a genre which is one of my favourites. It isn't the best film I have ever come across and didn't leave me spellbound afterwards, but I defiantly did enjoy it and as always, I got a real good kick for a Scorsese film. This film was a lot better than what I expected and I had fun immersing myself in this film.
 
 
**** (4/5)


Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Tom:
Seven Psychopaths,2012,UK
Director: Martin McDonagh
Stars: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell & Christopher Walken

''I know you said dream sequences are for fags, but I think it could work. We all gotta dream, don't we ?... not just fags, oh by the way I don't think they like being called fags anymore, I think nowadays they prefer homo's''

I had been meaning to see 'Seven Psychopaths' for a while now. I like many had really Martin McDonagh's previous film 'In Bruges' and I had recently seen his 2005 short film 'Six Shooter' which made me even more excited for this film. I didn't really expect this film to live up to 'In Bruges' but it does have one advantage over that film and is that it features one of the greatest living actors in Sam Rockwell! So via simple mathematics I figured that If this film were to be as equally good as 'Bruges' then the presence of Rockwell would elevate it even more so and it could possibly be the greatest film ever made! (GO MATH!) Ultimately 'Seven Psychopaths' does fall short of this, but there is definitely still fun to be had.

Marty is a struggling screenwriter who is currently in the progress of writing a screenplay titled 'Seven Psychopaths' but is having trouble with ideas. Billy, Marty's best friend, is doing his best to help Marty but Billy's occupation catapults Marty into the criminal underworld, after Billy steals a gangster's Shih Tzu.

'Seven Psychopaths' is an undoubtedly entertaining film, but after watching I had to ask, what was the point ? I know there are some messages in there but they really did not have an impact on me. I enjoyed the film on a comedic level, watching all these quirky characters doing extraordinary things, I liked the fact that it was self aware and knew it was a film, but when it attempts to become profound I just wasn't buying it.

With that being said, the film is funny. Like 'In Bruges' this film has all the coarse language you could dream of, and like 'In Bruges' its all fucking hilarious. Martin McDonagh definitely has the ability to make you laugh and his showcases it here. The screenplay is good and more often thought provoking and always entertaining, but as I said above its does try to be a little too profound at times, which ruined some of my enjoyment.

Like every project he stars in, This IS Sam Rockwell's film, as he gives yet another phenomenal performance. I don't believe there is a thing this guy cant do when it comes to acting, just an incredible performer and so deserving of some awards recognition. There was a time when I did not enjoy Colin Farrell, but after seeing his great performances in films like 'In Bruges' and 'Fright Night' I can say this guy is fantastic, and he shows it once again here. The rest of the cast is great, With some of the highlights being from Christopher Walken, whom I had believed to be the villain before watching the film but was pleasantly surprised that he is playing possibly the only truly good person on screen, this is Walken's best work in years! Woody Harrelson is great as usual, as is Tom Waits.

Despite my mediocre rating, I did enjoy 'Seven Psychopaths', I just did not enjoy the piped in profoundness of it. Still this is a fun film and showcases Sam Rockwell at his permanent best.

***1/2

Monday, 7 January 2013

Lincoln (2012)

Tom:
Lincoln,2012,USA/India
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones
''No one is loved as much as you by the people. Don't waste that power.''

It's been many, many years in the making, but in late 2012 we finally saw the release of Steven Spielberg's biopic 'Lincoln'. The film has been received, as you would expect, with acclaim from critics and an array of Oscar buzz and seven Golden Globe nominations. Spielberg had reportedly been researching this film for around 12 years, so his film must be the most comprehensive portrait of the famous U.S President, right ?

During the height of the Civil War, 'Lincoln' chronicles United States President Abraham Lincoln attempts to banish slavery, despite facing Tierney, even from those closest to him.

One of the most respectable elements of 'Lincoln', is the incredible attention to detail being portrayed by Steven Spielberg. It is very clear that Spielberg has an avid interest in the history of Lincoln and it comes across beautifully. The film also remarkably captures a different era, I have obviously never lived in that time but this film transfers me right to that time period and what I perceive it to be. The sets, the costumes and the locations were all fantastic and you can tell that there had to be countless of dedication put into them.

While I can thoroughly respect the film, I can not say that I loved it or that I was completely immersed in all of its 150 minute run time. While it is a inspiring site to see Mr Lincoln attempt to banish the horrible aspect of human slavery from society, the film seems to linger on certain details just a little too long which can make the film just that little bit tedious. I know the film can be categorized as an 'Epic' but if Spielberg around 20 minutes from the running time and got rid of a few subplots, I would have appreciated it a whole lot more. But I still cant help but admire Spielberg's incredibly ambitious approach to portraying the heroism of Lincoln.

Everywhere you look in this film, you are bound to see a great actor, the cast here is incredible. First off, I have to talk about Daniel Day-Lewis because his performance demands discussion. If anyone needed any more conformation that Day-Lewis is the finest actor of his generation, they get it here. I'm not quite sure which word I can use to describe his performance, there probably isn't just one, but I will settle on 'Perfect', I may have some issues with the film but its lead performance isn't one, Day-Lewis truly deserves all the praise that he is getting and sure he deserves the Academy Award, (I have yet to see Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Master' yet, but not from a lack of trying) This is the most enthralling and powerful performance I have seen all year, Day-Lewis brings the Lincoln I have read about back to life. Honestly I am not quite sure how to put it into words, You must see this film even if its for his performance alone.

With that being said, the rest of the cast is pretty damn good as well, Tommy Lee Jones is terrific, John Hawkes is awesome, David Strathairn is fan-freaking-tastic, and Joseph Gordon Levitt continues his run of great performances. Hal Halbrook, Jackie Earle Haley and James Spader are all very good as well. The only problem I have with the casting is Sally Field playing Mary Todd Lincoln, its not that her performance is bad or anything but I just felt that she wasn't right for the role and really overacted.

Its funny to think that Spielberg's 'Lincoln', possibly the best and most comprehensive film that will be made about Lincoln, is released the same year as arguably the worst in 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter', is Lincoln back in vogue or what ? Anyway this is a finely made biopic from one of cinemas most influential artist. A good film and if you have an avid interest in the subject matter, it may be a great film. Daniel Day-Lewis' performance will be remembered forever!

***1/2

Django Unchained (2012)

Tom:
Django Unchained,2012, USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Fox, Christoph Waltz & Leonardo DiCaprio
''No one appreciates showmanship more than Messr. Calvin J. Candie.''

It is my belief that every cinema lover is bound to go through a stage of Tarantino fandom. Personally, I have been through mine, I remember watching 'Pulp Fiction' five times a week and going through the entire screenplay of 'Reservoir Dogs' in my head on a daily basis, I remember being unfathomably excited for 'Inglorious Basterds' and being absolutely thrilled when it lived up to all my wildest expectations. My admiration for Tarantino has honestly perished a little bit, maybe its because of the mainstream attention, the fact that he never seems to evolve as a filmmaker and audiences pleasuring themselves to his 'originality'. Don't get me wrong, I think Tarantino is a very good director and an even better screenwriter, but he's constant allusions to other artists just make me admire them more instead of him. At the height of my fandom, I remember rumors of Tarantino's long awaited western had fallen through and it was on its way to our screen. While I was excited for the film, my excitement was nowhere near the level of when 'Inglorious Basterds' was hitting cinemas. I live in Australia, and its a fine country but we usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to film releases, case in point being this film, which isn't in theaters until January 24th almost a full month after the states, but through the magic of awards season,DVD screeners and Piratebay I was able to see the film before most of my country people, and what I discovered was that 'Django Unchained' is one of the biggest and most triumphant cinematic experiences of 2012.

A German bounty hunter named Dr Schulz acquires the services of a slaved named Django (the D is silent), the two form a bounty hunting duo as Schulz attempts to help Django rescue his wife from the sadistic plantation owner, Calvin Candie.

For around about 10 years now, all of Tarantino's film have revolved around revenge and different areas at that, weather it be from a personal standpoint ('Kill Bill') a Gender based standpoint ('Death Proof') or a historical one ('Inglorious Basterds'), 'Django Unchained' continues this trend and follows the path of 'Basterds' as it explores a historical, this time being slavery in the 19th century. I have heard the film being criticized as being ''racist'', I can not agree with these statements. There may be many racist characters on screen but the film as a whole does not feel like it is endorsing these horrible acts at all. If anything it seems like Tarantino is mocking the absurdness of racism and slavery, and portraying those white folk who were slave leaders, as basically neglectful morons. There is some rough content aimed towards African American characters, but what would you expect out of a film centered around slavery ? and its not like Tarantino has created these events, this is a part of human history, and a terrible one at that, How can we get past it if were not willing to confront it.

The film has Tarantino's trademarks all over it, intelligent script,hilarity,intense violence, entertaining characters, incredibly brilliant villain and bucket loads of blood. Tarantino fans should all be thoroughly satisfied with what they are getting here. Tarantino has presented yet another memorable screenplay with all his usual quirks involved. There are plenty of his usual allusions to other filmmakers and with this film being a Western (or a Southern) he references some of the greatest filmmakers from the genre such as Sergio Leone and John Ford. Like myself, One of Tarantino's favorite films is Leone's 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' and its inspiration is felt here, and I loved it! the humor in this film is exceptional, especially a scene featuring the incompetent KKK (With an appearance by Jonah Hill) Hilarious stuff!

'Django Unchained' features a brilliant cast and as per usual, Tarantino is able to get the best out of them. I remember the day Jamie Fox was announced as the lead for this film, I was bitterly disappointed as I really have not enjoyed Fox in many films, but I can gladly say that he was great in the title role, a thoroughly intense and passionate performance that redeems him in my eyes. Without a shadow of a doubt, Mr Christoph Waltz stole the show in 'Inglorious Basterds' playing the brilliantly villainous character of Col. Hans Landa, so I was thrilled to know that he was re teaming with Tarantino here, and what can I say about the guy that hasn't already been said, He's Fucking brilliant! Waltz's performance here is on par with his work in 'Basterds' which is saying a Hell of a lot! another truly brilliant and Oscar worthy showing, speaking of which brings me to Leonardo DiCaprio, the days of criticizing Leo as being the Hollywood pretty boy are long gone, and if you needed any more conformation watch his performance as Calvin Candie in this film. Unbelievable! DiCaprio makes an amazing and frightening villain, I would say that he should play more villains but its going to be hard to top Candie, a fantastic performance and like Waltz, DiCaprio also deserves an Oscar for this. The rest of the cast is good as it co stars Samuel L. Jackson, in his best role in years, Kerry Washington and even QT himself. An in Tarantino tradition he gives roles to some great, forgotten actors i.e Franco Nero, John Jarratt as well as Michael Parks.

I may not be the Tarantino fan that I used to be, but I can still appreciate a great film, and 'Django Unchained' is a great film! The film is beautifully executed by Tarantino and features an array of brilliant performances. Although I do think Tarantino needs to change it up now, hopefully he puts his own spin on a adaptation or something along the lines, enough revenge for now. But this is certainly one of the best films of 2012, and I can't wait to revisit it in a cinematic venue.


****1/2

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Tom:
Zero Dark Thirty,2012, USA
Director: Katheryn Bigelow
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton & James Gandolfini
Ammar: Please help me.
Maya: You can help yourself by being truthful.

The day Osama Bin Laden died, one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was 'when will the film be released ?' just a little under two years later came that day, and who better to helm the film than Kathryn Bigelow, who reached immense success with 'The Hurt Locker' back in 2009. I honestly did not intend on seeing 'Zero Dark Thirty' so soon as I expected to get nothing out of it, fortunately I was wrong as this film gave me a swift kick in the face and one of the best experiences of 2012.

After the tragic and inhumane event of September 11th 2001, the CIA begins a munhunt for the man responsible, al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. A young CIA agent named Maya is one of the most dedicated to the cause.

To be quite honest, I fully expected 'Zero Dark Thirty' to be an overly patriotic mess that was filled with plenty of propaganda, and for the first half an hour of this film I thought I was correct, but then the film took me in its grip and never let go. I am one of the few that disliked Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker' and hated the fact received so many undeserved Oscars, so I really did not care to watch any more of her work. I am so glad I saw 'Zero Dark Thirty' though, this film is a completely rewarding experience about the pursuit for justice.

The first half an hour of this film really did not entice me though, It was a little clustered and I was quite unsure as to what Bigelow and Screenwriter Mark Boal were aiming for, but then they really found their stride and have created what will be an endearing piece of work. I will be the first to admit that, despite my dislike of the first part of this film, I do believe that Bigelow has given one of the best directorial efforts of the year. It isn't really Oscar worthy but it does deserve a nomination, Its a hard thing to create suspense when the audience is already aware of a situations outcome, but Bigelow achieves it as the last 30 minutes of this film are some of the most exciting I've seen on film all year. Boal's screenplay is good to, and is informative as well as enthralling.

Some may enter this film expecting action and full throttle suspense, but the film only features one of these aspects. The film is incredibly suspenseful, but it creates this suspense using dialogue, which is always my favorite kind of suspense. There are some beautifully executed action sequences as well though, as the climax at Bin Laden's compound is just great.

This film has gained a substantial amount of controversy for being 'pro-torture', I am not really sure how to respond to that. There are a couple of mild torture sequences towards the beginning of the film and they are conducted by the American's, but I wouldn't say that the film endorses acts of torture for the greater good. It may not portray them as being right, but it does portray them as being effective.

I only really heard of Jessica Chastain for the first time in 2011, when she was in 'The Tree of Life', I have seen her in a few films since and more often than not, she has stolen the show. But I wouldn't say that Chastain steals the show here, because she IS the show. What a performance! absolutely incredible! without a shadow of a doubt Jessica Chastain is one of the finest working actresses today and this is her crowning achievement. Such a brave and courageous performance, she brings so much believability and toughness to this role and gives a tour de force performance. If she does not receive an Oscar for this then I have lost all faith in the Academy. The supporting is also great, featuring the likes of Joel Edgerton, James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass and Mark Strong, everyone is great here but it is really the Jessica Chastain.

'Zero Dark Thirty' really is an incredible film experience. Bigelow and Boal have collaborated to create an incredible piece of work that completely eclipses 'The Hurt Locker' (For me, that wasn't hard'). Jessica Chastain gives a performance that has been ranked as one of the very best of the year. The incredible manhunt for Osama Bin Laden has been brought to the screen, and like the real life situation, it has been done justice. One of the best films of 2012

****

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Hitchcock (2012)

Tom:
Hitchcock,2012,USA
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren & Scarlett Johansson
Alfred Hitchcock: I will never find a Hitchcock blonde as beautiful as you.
Alma Reville: Oh, Hitch. I've waited thirty years to hear you say that.
Alfred Hitchcock: That, my dear, is why they call me the Master of Suspense.

I have been anticipating 'Hitchcock' for the longest of times. There is only one man I admire more than Alfred Hitchcock and there are only two films I love more than 'Psycho' so I was thrilled that there was a film being created that is dedicated to Mr Hitchcock and the creation of his Masterpiece.My excitement withstood many average reviews as I was so hopeful that this film would be something special, unfortunately I was wrong.

After the release of 'North by Northwest', the most renowned filmmaker on the planet, Alfred Hitchcock, is searching for a new project. He comes across a little book known as 'Psycho' and despite being told by everyone that the project will fail, he is dedicated to its creation, but is in desperate need of help from his devoted wife,Alma Reville.

I was bitterly disappointed in 'Hitchcock' and it pains me so much to say that. After viewing the film I have to ask the question, what was the point ? The film is too short and unfocussed to be a serious character study of a genius. It plods along and never really fully invests itself into any aspect of Hitchcock other than his marriage. The characterization of Hitch seemed all wrong and is a world away from the man I have spent countless hours studying and researching in my leisure. The film doesn't really do 'Psycho' much justice in my opinion, it never really captures what a cinematic landmark the film is, the film's creation is basically used as an allegory too divulge into the working and personal relationship of Hitch and Alma, I personally would have liked a little more focus on the film aspect.

Despite its shortcomings, there were a few things I enjoyed about 'Hitchcock' thus the 2.5 rating, which seems to honestly be overrating the film the more I think about it. Possibly my favorite aspect of the entire film, was the use of Ed Gein and the way in which he almost an imaginary friend to Hitch. When I first discovered they would actually be depicting Gein, I was curious as to how they would be doing so. Needless say I didn't expect it like this, but am very glad they went down this road as it worked wonders. I enjoyed the little nods to Hitch's other works and collaborators, especially that cute little reference to 'The Birds' at the end.

While last years HBO TV film 'The Girl' portrayed as a molesting monster, 'Hitchcock' portrays him as somewhat of a misunderstood sole. I may be an avid Hitchcock admirer but I am not completely neglectful to the rumors of his seediness. This film seems to portray him in more of a positive light and only touches on his perverted ways. I am really hoping for a definitive Hitchcock biopic that is able to strike the middle ground between the character portrayed in 'The Girl' and 'Hitchcock'.

The film features a very good cast but unfortunately under utilizes almost everyone on screen. After being a little iffy on the bits of Anthony Hopkins' performance I saw in the trailer, I can now say that I did not enjoy him in this film. His performance was so incredibly over the top and cartoonish that I never really took him seriously. Also his look is ridiculous and I never felt like I was Hitchcock on the screen, A very disappointing showing by Hopkins and I hope he doesn't receive that Oscar nomination. His onscreen companion though, Helen Mirren, is marvelous as Alma Reville, a truly great performance from Mirren who brings so much heart and wit to the role and does a perfect job portraying Alma who was such a vital part to Hitchcock's success. Nobody else really gets much screen time but they are all fine, If there is anyone that could portray the perfect Janet Leigh, it is Scarlett Johansson and she does a very fine job. I also really like Jessica Biel and she is good as Vera Miles. Toni Collette is one of the finest actresses working today, so it was another bitter disappointment to see her so under utilized here. Danny Huston is irritating as per usual and Michael Wincott is very good as Ed Gein. Possibly the stand out of the entire cast is James D'Arcy playing Athony Perkins. It was very important to me that anyone who played Perkins do a fantastic job, just like Perkins himself did in 'Psycho', D'Arcy nails it and gives the performance Vince Vaughn wishes he could.

While it featured some good aspects, 'Hitchcock' will always stand out as a disappointment to me. As I stated above I was so excited for this film and couldn't help but feel let down by the vagueness of it all. The one thing the film gets right is that it displays how vital Alma was to Hitch's success. Overall, the film is made at arms length as the creators are never willing to get to the bottom of the crazed genius that is Alfred Hitchcock.

**1/2

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

OLI:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 2012, USA & New Zealand
Director: Peter Jackson
Staring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage


Good morning.
What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it to be or not, or that that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?
 
Having read both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I know that Tolkien’s prequel to his epic fantasy trilogy was directed more towards younger readers. I distinctly remember finding The Fellowship of the Ring incredibly difficult to read, but I found The Hobbit quite easy and personally more enjoyable. Jackson's adaptation captures the same vibe that Tolkien created back in 1932 to a tee. I am very impressed.

60 years before Frodo begins his quest to destroy the “One Ring”, Bilbo (Frodo's uncle) begins a quest of his own with thirteen unlikely companions. His travels take him through beautiful and terrible Middle Earth towards the Lonely Mountain in an attempt to recapture the dwarfish kingdom of Erebor.

This is one of the most well-polished films that I have ever encountered. It is beautifully crafted containing unreal screenplay, well developed cinematography with amazing and realistic CGI. Peter Jackson's sense of direction married with Tonkin’s unmatched sense of creativity and storytelling results in one of the most successful movie/book franchises in the world. New-Zealand is made of picturesque mountains and forests and lakes and grass lands, making it the ideal setting for Middle Earth which has been beautifully harnessed by Jackson, bringing it to its full potential.

Characters have been strongly developed in this film. The classic Gandalf and Elrond need no introduction but new characters such as King Oakenshield are perfect. The book features a very different Oakenshield to the one Richard Armitage portrays, but I think I like Armitage's character better. I have always admired him as an actor but it's nice to see him finally play a major role in a feature film. Thank you Jackson!!

We have meet the character Bilbo before in The Lord of the Ring Trilogy but this time we encounter a much younger, chirpier Bilbo who is still discovering himself. It is the exact same Bilbo from the books and Martin Freeman is great. Ian Mckellen once again delivers a marvellous performance as Gandalf and you can't help but love Andy Serkis as Golum! Amazing, scary and entertaining.

Before viewing this film, I questioned why Jackson feels the need to break this relatively short book into three films, but now I see. The story of the Hobbit has only just begun by the end of this film, because Jackson has spent so much time developing a Middle Earth that is quite different to the Middle Earth we have previously encountered which he had done soooooo well. Characters, setting, plot, have all been set into place and I am excited for the next two instalments.

I can't compare The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings, because although the feature similar settings and some similar characters, they are two very different films. The Hobbit is more comedic, less intense and obviously targeted at a younger audience. But it works. I was so impressed with this extremely polished film which I have waited for since the age of 4 when my father and I would sing the songs the dwarfs sing in Bag End. I had high expectations and it certainly didn't disappoint.

****1/2 (4.5/5)



Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Seven Pounds (2008)

OLI:
Seven Pounds: 2008: USA
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper & Woody Harrelson

911 emergency...
I need an ambulance.
I have you at 9212 West Third Street in Los Angeles.
That’s room number 2.
What’s the emergency?
There’s been a suicide...
Who’s the victim?
...I am.

My brother said to me, "hey Oli, there's a movie called Seven Pounds on TV tonight. Wanna watch it?" To which I replied "um...ok." So yes, I did watch this film on commercial television with an abundance of ads, but I guess that the true test of a film is to notice if you is still able to engage with it despite the constant bombardment of voiceovers and actors telling you that you need a new... whatever. Seven Pounds has past that test.

It is difficult to explain the story line without spoiling it because it runs in several different time lines, beginning with the main character's suicide. The film later goes on to explore the final stages of Ben's life and the decisions he makes based on previous events. It's a complicated way of producing films (beginning with the end) but it has indeed been pulled off by Muccino. Similar to his inspiring and empowering Pursuit of Happyness which also features Will Smith, Gabriele Muccino has created a fine piece of footage that challenges the viewer’s perception of human limits and humanity. The under-lying message that we can make up for our mistakes is also evident in Seven Pounds.

The film is very similar to Pursuit of Happyness in terms of cinematography. It contains the same "early morning," "vibrant gold and brown" lighting effects that attempt to in force hope and inspiration. Both also feature similar writing and structure and Will Smith's character Ben is very alike Chris from the Pursuit of Happyness. Where this film separates itself from other Muccino works is the complex storyline.

The prime number seven plays a significant, reoccurring role to the storyline, not only representing the seven lives Ben must 'save,' but also the importance of origins of the film and the sacrifices Ben makes. With this, we constantly see the inclusion of more and more characters, each with an important role to play. Along with characters, we also gain a border understanding of the film as it progresses. This keeps the film interesting and unpredictable, which is what I want to see in a good movie.

Will Smith always seems to play the same character. A loner with a distort past that continues to haunt him. He's a man on a mission in all of his films, always needing to prove himself. The character Ben is just the same as Del from I-Robot, Robert from I Am Legend or even Oscar from Shark Tale. Having said that, I do like Smith as an actor and he delivers a fine performance, as always. Other characters felt very relevant and well developed. Acting from all actors were a specially good in this film.

My favourite films are the ones that make you take a step back and just think for a bit. This film is very deep, containing a lot of considerably heavy themes and is very confronting. The is a lot of reading-between-the-lines that is needed to truly enjoy this film. Elements of the film feel very unrealistic and Hollywood at times. In no way do I support suicide and I have mixed emotions about the ending, and thus beginning, of this film. But if you prepare yourself and sick it out you'll get a real good kick and hopefully take something meaningful away from it. I did.

***1/2 (3.5/5)