Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Nothing Bad Happens In Hawaii... Right?

Best Picture nomination number two. A film that constantly makes me say, ‘What else have they been in?’ A film hailed as essential viewing and nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and, obviously, Best Picture. A film set in the beautifully idealistic islands of Hawaii. A film known as The Descendants. 

The film tells the story of Matt King (George Clooney), whose wife, Elizabeth, has been left in a coma after a motorboat accident, and his two daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alex (Shailene Woodley), as they come to terms with their mother's condition. Alex is 17, a bit of a rebel and is at boarding school. Scottie is ten and is taking her mother's accident pretty badly. Matt, who hasn't had to look after Scottie alone since she was three, is suddenly thrust into the world of single parenting with two daughters that he has not spent enough time with and no longer understands. There is added complications thrown in as Matt is the head trustee of a large area of land that his family have passed down over generations and it is entirely his decision as to how the family sell it. On top of this, Alex refuses to be civil without her best friend Sid (Nick Krause) at her side, Matt's father-in-law, Scott (Robert Forster), is extremely critical of how he is handling the situation, and Matt's surrounded by the guilt his shambles of a marriage. As Elizabeth edges closer to death, we are drawn into Matt's life to see how he copes.

Family in trouble? Call the A-team
(Plus, look at Shailene Woodley... Need more reson to see the movie?

 George Clooney is nominated yet again for Best Actor and, once again, he deserves it. I've been slightly angered by people's judgements of George Clooney after reading the IMDb forums but I tell you now, he is superb. But this film is about one man coping with pain. With suffering. With losing control. In reality, this doesn't happen with large, heartfelt, speeches in the rain. It happens with shock, confusion, desperation. Clooney shows every deep emotion with every part of his body. The contrast of a smile with his sad eyes. Personally, I found it a very moving performance. Definitely worth an Oscar nomination. Also pulling out some awesome acting chops is Shailene Woodley. Not only is she absolutely stunning, she's also a very good actress. She balances the line between angry teenager and broken hearted daughter perfectly. Her performance is gripping and I'm half surprised she didn't get a Best Supporting Actress nod. Also worth a mention is the very brief apperance from both Shaggy, Sorry, Matthew Lillard, and Judy Greer as Brian and Julie Speer. While their screen time is small, their effect is huge. 

George decided to grow a bushy beard for the role

I thought this was a very well constructed script. Having said that, there were moments that seemed unneeded. There is an overwhelming sense of realism throughout the movie. People don't announce their problems to the world, they keep them close. Because of this, the dramatic irony throughout the movie is absolutely heart breaking. As Elizabeth comes closer to death, Matt is constantly told, 'She's a fighter. She'll be fine in no time,' and he responds with a smile that shows all the pain and suffering that we know is there but the other characters would never recognise. As well as a sturdy script and great acting, the Hawaii based score is a pleasure to listen to and, when combined with the idealistic setting of Hawaii's gorgeous cliffs and beaches, causes a heart-rendering juxtaposition from the events of the film.

A really, really good film. Certainly one of George Clooney's strongest performances despite what amateur reviews on IMDb say. A captivating, passionate, and emotional story. It reaches into the depths of your heart and tugs strings that you didn't know existed. Even with the comedy input, this film is extremely touching. If you've experienced losing someone close to you or had to deal with someone you loved being in hospital for a long time, some moments may ring all to true. It is a sensitive subject and it is treated as exactly that, sensitive. A must see.

Best Bit? This is hard. I love the confrontation between Matt and Brian Speer. Some quality acting from all involved as well as an important message for all. Be the better person.

Friday, 27 January 2012


The temptation to not write a single word for this review is nigh unbearable. Just place a star rating and some photos and leave it at that. However, I know I'm hilarious, but just won't do from a professional point of view will it? The golden age of silent movies returns this Oscar season with a new film that has racked in 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director. With next to no sound, (apart from the score) The Artist makes it's way into contemporary cinema. Is it really worth the fuss?

So what's it about? It's 1927 in Hollywoodland. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a star actor of the silent movies. The camera loves him and the ladies love him. Along with his dog, Jack, he makes hit films and is always greeted by the press and a swarm of screaming ladies. One woman ends up being pushed past a policeman and into George Valentin just outside the theatre. He laughs it off and poses for the camera with his fan. The next day, the papers are covered with the question 'Who is this girl?' That girl is Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), aspiring actress. She auditions as a dancer soon after her encounter with Valentin and ends up on set with the man himself. A spark develops between the two but they end up going separate ways. Then the 'talkies' are introduced. Peppy Miller works her way up the silent trail and into talking movies. Valentin, however, claims that it's a gimmick and fights to preserve his silent films. But what do the audience want?

'You're right, this page 3 model does look like you.'
The acting in this movie is some of the best I've seen for a long time. Both main characters are up for Oscar nominations and both are very worthy. While it could be argued that Bérénice Bejo deserves a Best Actress nomination rather than a Best Supporting Actress nomination, she has a far higher chance of winning in that category and she truly deserves high recognition. But Jean Dujardin really steals the show. Without any form of vocal expression, he shows every emotion and thought going through Valentin's mind. his use of facial expression borders perfectly on exaggerated and realistic; it makes everything stand out more without seeming odd. He definitely has a very realistic chance of winning the Oscar. I can't remember the last time I was so absorbed by a performance. Certainly one of the most likeable characters in recent cinema with a brilliant character progression. Also, the dogs, Uggie, Dash, and Dude (mainly Uggie) were better performers than any of the cast of a Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer movie. In fact, they were the best animal performers I've ever seen.

Why Didn't Peppy go to the dance?
She had no body to go with.

This movie should seem completely alien to contemporary cinema. Black and white, no sound, these sort of things evolved and became the cinema today. However, here we are with one of the most captivating films of recent years. Some part of this is due to the incredible score that acts adds character to the entire movie. It tells you how to feel. It tells you how to respond. It touches your soul... (Too much?) Whether it uses cues from Vertigo's soundtrack or not, it literally makes the movie, as, I suppose, all silent movies' scores should. The delicate silence in certain moments when there is no tinkering piano are made all the more effective. Strangely enough, the rare use of sound in the movie, seem like the largest and most empty silences. It's almost deafening. The camera work, at points, is absolutely incredible. From grand shots of theatres or stairways, to close, intimate shots of one the protagonists. It is also edited together wonderfully and includes some of the most surreal moments of film around.

A completely absorbing piece of cinema. From hilarious to heartbreaking, this film has it all. Some of the most talented actors, one of the most compelling scores, and one of the most well structured plots of recent years. I take my hat off to director Michel Hazanavicius. Well done, sir.

Best bit? The noisy, nightmarish dream sequence. We are thrown into Valentin's mind and experience what he fears.

I would also like to point out that I think I have fallen in love with Bérénice Bejo. She's just stunning.

On another added note, the bloopers are as classic as the film. Check them out here: http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=86348

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Aren't Weddings Lovely? NO!

Just before we get into all the Oscar nominated films, let's take a moment out and talk about a movie that will make you laugh till your sides hurt. Had their been 10 nominations for Best Picture, there's always a chance that this could've been nominated. (Along with other snubbed movies like Drive, Shame, Tinker Tailor, Tintin... What are the Academy thinking this year?) Today, we look at Bridesmaids.

The concept for the film is not necessarily something you'd expect from a comedy. It's one lady's life turning to misery and disappointment. It's a fairly simply concept. Annie (Kristen Wiig) is asked to be the Maid of Honour at her childhood best friend, Lillian's (Maya Rudolph) wedding. However, the rest of the bridesmaids are not the most most compatible lot. Firstly, there's lad-ish sister in law, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), then pretentious and charitable Helen Harris III, who is slowly stealing Lillian away from Annie. There is also Becca (Ellie Kemper) and Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Due to her jealousy and declining personal life, Annie starts to over stress and cause a lot of issues over the wedding. Though their may be a ray of hope in the form of good cop, Nathan (Chris O'Dowd).

Karaoke did not go down so well at the bridal shower. 

First of all, all the performances in the movie are brilliant with a special mention to Kristen Wiig (Who is nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar) and Melissa McCarthy (nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.) It's not often that comedy roles go so well noticed, but McCarthy in particular deserves the recognition that she is receiving. She is absolutely brilliant as the brutish Megan. Highlights of her performance include taking a dump in a sink while wearing a very expensive dress and wrestling Annie on a bed and claiming to be 'her life.' Kristen Wiig, as Annie, is also superb. Not only is she hilarious when she needs to be, she portrays her more negative emotions with as much conviction. Chris O'Dowd, in his first big Hollywood movie after his humble origins in the I.T. Crowd, is also fantastic. While his accent is hit and miss (an immigrant perhaps) he is funny, witty, but also the most soulful character in the film; honest and well natured.

'Did you hear something?'
'I don't know, I covered my ears.'
The film was incredibly well written and the comic timing was spot on. Some of the editing, as well, was brilliant. Nothing particularly special in the way of technical elements such as score, soundtrack, or camera shots, nor was there anything  bad. It was simply very generic in these terms. Definite;y director Paul Feig's best film to date. The film is a bundle of laughs that doesn't try to hard. It doesn't focus on the one liners or fart jokes (while they are included), it does what all the best comedies should do. It turns daily things into hilarious moments as well as exaggerating every last detail.

A really fun movie. Not one for all the family, mind you. The opening scene is a sex scene (a very awkward one) and the c word is yelled into a teenagers face. Keep it away from the children. A must see of 2011 and, while I don't thing Melissa McCarthy will get the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, it still fills me with joy that people can recognise great comedic performances.

Best Bit? The montage of different crimes committed to get Chris O'Dowd's attention. I couldn't stop laughing.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Gang Fight.

Today we delve into the gritty, grimy world of the gang land. It's a movie that, I assume, not many of you have seen or even heard of. I hadn't until a few days ago when it was recommended to me by a friend (@JLHoyte on Twitter if you want to follow him, he's very funny) The movie was made in 1979 and is the very definition of a Cult Movie. This is The Warriors.

The premise is an extremely simple one. All the gangs of New York send nine representatives to a huge gang gathering in The Bronx hosted by Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the largest gang in New York. Cyrus proposes that all the gangs unite and take over the city as they outnumber the cops. However, despite most of the gangs seeming to 'dig it', Luther (David Patrick Kelley), leader of the Rogues, assassinates Cyrus while no one is looking. Unfortunately for him, Fox (Thomas G. Waites), the scout for The Warriors, witnesses the whole thing. Luther tries to kill him too but the police have secretly surrounded the gathering and blind the gangs with spotlights. Chaos erupts and the gangs flee. Luther realises that he'll have to stop The Warriors before they reveal who shot Cyrus and so he frames Cleon (Dorsey Wright), leader of The Warriors. Cyrus' gang then want all of The Warriors in their grasp. This leaves The Warriors in the very difficult situation of getting back to their territory in Coney Island from The Bronx without getting killed by every gang and cop on the way.

There's a moment you know you're fucked.

There is something extremely lovable about this movie. There are some glimpses of great acting, particularly from Roger Hill as Cyrus and James Remar as Ajax, one of The Warriors. Hill is wonderful. His spell binding speech is some of the first dialogue in the movie and it pulls you in with every word. It also invites you to use his catch phrase, CAN YOU DIG IT. Remar is the slightly sociopathic member of The Warriors. Violence, rape, these are his games. He plays the part with such conviction that you really would not want to meet him down a dark alley at night. The final mention for acting, and the best acting in the movie, goes to David Patrick Kelley, who plays Luther. Luther is a rare type of character. Similar to the likes of The Joker or Alex DeLarge, he simply does things that he feels like. Kelley puts a raw, unsettled nature into his character which makes him generally disturbing. Especially his part in the climatic scene. Is really creepy and really well acted.

'Stop being such a whiny beach.'

The best thing about this movie is by far its style. It is slightly surreal in its portrayal of gangs. Rather than the low trouser wearing, gun wielding, ghetto raised gangsters or Italian mob families that we are so accustomed to, these gangs all have a distinctive, and often quirky, 'mark.' Something that distinguishes them as a gang. This goes from vests, all the way to clown baseball players. The location, style and way of shooting looks like it may well be inspired by A Clockwork Orange but it does work to great effect. My main issue with this movie is it does seem very dated now. While it is constantly tense, the language, clothing and general attitudes are things of the past. It is definitely from the 'funk' era. It also contains plenty of mediocre acting as well as the good acting. A very generic score and way too often I found myself unable to tell characters apart. 

This does not bring the movie down as a whole. The fight seems, while sometimes are a bit messy, are really fun to watch and you really feel for The Warriors in all this bad luck. It is a fun film that is full of twists and turned that will keep you entertained for 90 minutes. You will hold your breath and you will be shocked. Can you dig it?

Best bit? Personally, I really enjoyed the fight scenes in the field with baseball clowns (The Baseball Furies) and in the bathroom with roller skaters (The Punks). 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Quick update.

I haven't been watching a lot of movies recently. I know, shock horror. I plan to start cracking my DVDs open and also heading down to the cinema more often this year. As we all know, 2012 looks to be the best year for movies for a long time. I have a whole list of movies I must see.

However, last year, if you read my blog back then, you'll remember I reviewed all of the Oscar Best Picture nominated movies. This year I will try to the same thing. I'm waiting for the nominations in the hope that I've seen at least two or three of the movies. I will have just over a month to get through all of the ten nominations. To prepare, I've been looking at the BAFTA and Golden Globes nominations to get an idea of what I must see.

So basically prepare for a lot of, probably very sleep deprived, reviews of the Oscar nominated movies from the 26th onwards.

See you soon.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Sexiest Female Characters in Film?

So Empire Magazine are currently holding a poll for the Sexiest Movie Characters. Now, as a film blog, I thought it was important that I raised some thoughts on the matter. I'll stick to female characters since my love of Brad Pitt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will over run my male choices. I've added links to any reviews I've done of the movies and I've included some favourite scenes. Do read older reviews, they're rather funny. But here's the thing: I can only pick 5. My short list is open to change but here's my current short list and reasoning IN NO ORDER:

 #1: Alison Lohman as Christine Brown in Drag Me To Hell.

Why Christine Brown? In the movie, all sorts of disgusting things happen to her. Things that should be (and are) very un-sexy. However, that being said, when nobody is being sick on her or something similar, she has a cracking dress sense and always looks very attractive. 'So do most actresses!' I hear you cry. Here's where Christine Brown differs from other, typical horror movie pretty girls: The grave scene. As shown above, Christine digs up a grave and hops on in. Cue pouring rain, wet t shirt, angry shouting, and getting dirty. How could one not find that sexy? Especially considering I kinda like a girl with a bit of a bad attitude. You'll hear me say that a few times. One of my favourite scenes in a horror movie... Ever.

2# Cameron Diaz as Tina Carlyle in The Mask

When she first walks in the door, all the characters on camera turn and stare at her. She just has that effect. This is young Cameron Diaz. Before she was extremely skinny, back when she was hot. Why is Tina Carlyle so sexy? All sorts of reasons: She's trouble, she sings, she dances, she looks like that. She's brilliant in every way and she was the first time I felt the urge to wolf whistle the screen. And when she sings, I have the same reaction as Jim Carrey in this scene. 

3# Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan in Sin City

I suppose Nancy Callahan is a bit of a cheat considering she's an exotic dancer/stripper. Her job is to be sexy. Good thing is, she succeeds. But what makes Nancy even better? She's got a heart of gold. She's a complete sweetheart. A beautiful, sexy stripper who would do anything to help her friend. Now that is sexy. Plus, when she dances like this, not much else matters.

#4 Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond in V For Vendetta

If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll know Natalie Portman is one of my favourite actresses and I find her extremely attractive. So attractive in fact, that I almost just posted five different roles of hers as the five sexiest characters. But I decided that's not fair, so instead I narrowed my options down. I found it hard to choose between three of her roles: Evey, Nina (Black Swan), and Sam (Garden State). I decided that Sam's innocence made her less sexy, as did Nina's insanity. Evey on the other hand, is incredible. She is very attractive but not only that. She's loyal, strong, independent, beautiful, and very, very cool. Plus, she is the only women to look just as attractive with hair and without. I think she's extremely sexy. 



#5 Emma Stone as Wichita in Zombieland 

Oh, what about her isn't sexy? Hot brunette girl with a gun. Who is also a complete badass. And also a sweetheart. And also super hot. And has a bad attitude, and we've already said that I like that. She just looks so cool all the time and whether she's flirting or being a complete bitch, the words just roll off her tongue. Admittedly, Emma Stone is another actress I find beautiful all the time (See her as Olive in Easy A) but there's something especially sexy about Wichita. Maybe it's the mystery surrounding her or the fact that she could kick your ass and you'd still think she's perfect. And she comes with just a hint of danger... She doesn't even have to speak... Just look at her.


Below, I've included a load of others that just didn't make the list. In order of how close they came to being in the top five.

Mila Kunis as Lily in Black Swan
Zooey Deschanel as Summer in [500] Days of Summer
Ellen Page as Bliss in Whip It!
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in
 Pirates of The  Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!
Lyndsy Fonseca as Katie in Kick Ass
Brie Larson as Envy Adams
in Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers
in Scott Pilgrim vs The World