Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Life Aquatic

Wes Anderson creates a bizarre, cerulean world in which the characters are as unrealistic as the film itself. After losing his best friend, Esteban du Plantier, to an unidentified creature conned as a "Jaguar Shark", Steve Zissou is adamant to see to the creatures destruction. Bill Murray plays the part of Steve Zissou to be two-dimensional, yet at the same time essentric, often showing him to be contraversial, or even crazy as he requests for dynamite to aid in the annihilation of the Jaguar Shark. 

It is interesting to see the characters develop through the film as Ned Plimpton, later on referred to as Kingsley (Ned) Zissou, is under the impression that Steve is his biological father and offers to finance the new film with his inheritance. This leads to Klaus Daimler, another member of the crew portrayed by Willem Dafoe having a rather humorous dispute with the said Ned Plimpton which is perhaps the only time I cracked a smile at this film. 

The plot thickens and becomes more intense after the first part and the playful nature of the film is abolished in order for the emotional and complex themes to be shown. From the perspective of someone who is perhaps younger than the target demographic for this film I thought it was too unrealistic to captivate me and for me to relate to the characters. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

House of Flying Daggers

I watched the film House of Flying Daggers not long ago and to my surprise I rather enjoyed it. I’m not sure if it was the vivid colours and patterns involved in the costumes and setting, the cleverly orchestrated fight scenes which looked like synchronised dance routines or simply the exploration into a different type of film.

This film had an air about it, right from the beginning. I felt immediately transferred to imperial China- Zhang Yimou did a great job in staging all the scenes. I was also transfixed on Mei played by Zhang Ziyi, as many others within the film were too. She took on the role a canny woman who seemed to be able to do just about anything, if she wasn’t singing like a song bird she would be effortlessly walking in mid-air or gracefully slaughtering mere enemies. I loved her character from the start however my affection for her grew thin as I saw her slowly turning into the conventional female protagonist that falls at the hands of a relationship and a happy ending. Luckily not all is what is seems and everything works out in the end, in context maybe not quite the happy ending that was hoped and indeed not the ending a viewer would predict early on in the film but for me and purely on principle it was satisfying. I thought that I could predict the ending of the film quite early on but it proved me wrong. It took a different trajectory and for that I am grateful as it allowed me to be overcome by someone else’s imagination and not just rely on mine.

Whilst watching this film I couldn’t help but to compare it with ‘The Hunger Games’. Both stories have the themes of survival, oppression, dishonesty, and combat. These similarities became more prevalent as ‘The House of Flying Daggers’ progressed and Jin played by Takeshi Kaneshiro said ‘you and me are just pawns on a chest board- no one cares if we die’ ‘part of their games’ as said by Peeta in ‘The Hunger Games’. We all know how two films can be so opposing yet, at heart; hold the same feeling and moral thought. It takes a ground breaking film to offer us something new, to spark inspiration, to tap into an undiscovered emotion and although, as far as concepts go, this film wasn’t a jump into the void of originality, I certainly enjoyed it.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Craft

The craft is a dark, supernatural teen drama. Sound familiar? Well unless you've been living in a secure transmission/Signal or media of kind proof compound for the last 5 years, you will know that in the years since The Craft was released in 1996 the whole vampire/supernatural genre has been over done, and over done some more thanks to the likes of (need I say) Twilight.

This perhaps tainted my enjoyment of to what 90s viewers would have been more fresh and original viewing.

On the plus side, unlike twilight the female leads are interesting and dynamic. The film centres around troubled Sarah, who moves to LA and falls in with a group of girls who practise witchcraft. Despite warnings, things begin to fall apart when they start to use their power for revenge. Unfortunately I found the plot basic and lacking dept, and didn't seem to flow as well towards the end as in the beginning. Despite this it tackled delicate issues such as racism, rape and domestic violence intelligently and in a way that enriched the plot. Overall the film was enjoyable, far more thoughtful than its modern successors and worth a watch.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Machinist

A quirky horror/psychological thriller, was my first thought of this film from my glance at the front cover of the box.  I may have been slightly right in my prediction but still very wrong. I wouldn’t really classify this film to any sort of hybrid genre but it is definitely psychological, whether its horror or thriller depends on the viewer. Although there are scenes of gore and slight jump scares the feel of the film has a more unknown genre basis, one which I myself am still unsure about.

Christen Bales body if anything the biggest indicator that it might be more of a horror film, no CGI just a very disturbingly grotesque skeletal form which at any topless scene will make you feel very unsettled and slightly sick. For this film Christen actually lost more than 60 pounds (27kg), and it really does show.

The narrative bases on a man called Trevor Reznik who suffers from insomnia, the slightly unrealistic idea is that he hasn’t slept in a year and is still able to work, talk and have a lot sex with a prostitute. And even though most of the other characters in the film think he’s on drugs, no one seems to think to call a Doctor. Although this film does have a massive plot whole in the basis of its storyline, you have to ignore it because as the film goes on the narrative starts to patch it up (slightly). As it gives the reason for why he can’t sleep.

The further the film goes on the more paranoid and deluded Reznik becomes, this changes the mood of the film dramatically.

Unlike other films which have a dream prospect to them; this film actually does it surprisingly well as you aren’t really ever sure of if Trevor is dreaming or not. Although it is slightly daunting as you worry about the whole film being one big disappointing dream/nightmare, ruining so many other good films and programmes previously. Spoiler alert; it isn’t. And the ending for me was really good ; it gave reason to most of the plot wholes, answered questions that had confused me but mostly the ending unusually surprised me and after watching will probably surprise you too.

I would say this film is suspense driven, depressingly horrific and conclusively magnificent. Although I wasn’t too sure about the director choice over the camera sometimes and Christine Bales acting was not quite up to scratch in my opinion; it is still a very good watch (but do expect some gore as well as spinal chords and rib cages becoming pressed out against pale skin).

Monday, 26 November 2012

Lawn Dogs - Hal

Lawn Dogs

When I first saw the box of Lawn Dogs, the film did not appeal to me. The blurb did not particularly draw me in either – “22 year old Trent Burns is a “Lawn Dog”...10 year old Devon Stockard decides to make him her best friend”. It sounded dull, and did not seem the sort of film that would appeal to me (although that was the case with one of my all-time favourite films). The film centres around a new girl on a rich housing estate and the man that mows their lawn, two outsiders that become friends, a relationship that to the other residents of the estate seems to be more than just simple friendship.
There is also a fairy-tale view to the film, with Devon’s frequent voiceovers based around the witch Baba Yaga, and for me these generally worked, but I felt the ending of the film was damaged by over-use of the idea. The film starts fairly slowly, and becomes more enjoyable as the characters are developed. Despite this, I enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would at first glance.
I don’t like using this word, but some parts of the film were so genuinely nice that I couldn’t help but like the film, for example the scene where Devon and Trent stand on top of Trent's car dancing and shouting at the local police was one of my favourites in the film. The film was also a lot funnier than I expected it to be; Devon’s mums’ affair was a personal highlight. The sub plots and main characters also really added to the film, making the housing estate community seem more believable, and also adding many of the more entertaining parts of the film.
The characters become so well defined and likeable (or in some cases, intensely dislikeable, such as Devon’s father) that towards the end of film, you start to worry for the fates of the characters, which makes the actual ending of the film more powerful, although I thought it was damaged by the aforementioned fantasy side to the film.
Overall, I would say that Lawn Dogs was definitely a pleasant surprise and despite its flaws I think it is a film that would be hard not to enjoy.

Hal Chavasse 
Graded by:
Mr. Horner

Il Postino by Laura

I did notreally know what to expect from this film. I wasn’t sure if I was going toenjoy it or not, I do not usually go for dated films but everyone I had spokento about it had only good things to say. It is one of my Mum’s favourite filmsof all time, and after watching it I can definitely see why. Not only was itfull of tantalisingly delightful imagery and sound, it was also full of deepemotion that all viewers could connect with. It was a story that truly moved meand was a complete joy to watch.
  I think that there were many layers to IlPostino; some parts made me think of all that is good in film and the world,other parts were desperately sad and some aspects were simply benignlyordinary. The basic idea of the film is simple: a poor, plain Mediterraneanfisherman’s son called Mario, (played by Massimo Troisi,) wants a more adventurousand rewarding life. He finds solace in the postcards he receives from friendstravelling to begin with, and eventually falls for the magic of poetry thanksto the communist poet Pablo Neruda, who was exiled from Chile due to hisoutspoken beliefs. Pablo Neruda was a real Chillan activist and poet, and soamidst the engaging and visionary film, Neruda’s poems are dotted about,sometimes with amusing consequences.
   Not only is this story about a man wantingto better his life, it is also a love story. Beatrice, the barmaid he instantlyfalls for, is broody and beautiful. The scene showing the lowly postman and thefeisty barmaid’s first encounter is heart warming and funny, although somewhatimprobable.  But that is one thing thatthis film manages to achieve so well; making the improbable seem easilyachievable. I love that Mario managed to win Beatrice’s heart with themetaphors Pablo taught him, and that the unlikely friendship between a humblepostman and a passionate communist poet became so strong, leading to Mariosuddenly seeing the beauty of his surrounding and also the beauty of words, andto Pablo becoming kinder and letting the situation he was put in instead ofhindering him, making him stronger and more loving.
    Of course the film isn’t all smiles andhappy endings, as although the setting and story is not one that many can fullyrelate to, it is still true to the pattern of real life, and I found myselfreally connecting with the characters, which shows it wasn’t totallyunrealistic. I have to admit that at the final scenes of the film I did shed afew tears, and felt like I’d been on a complete journey. Perhaps there wereweak points to this film but I definitely don’t want to be critical of IlPostino just yet. I will definitely be watching this magnificent film again.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Station Agent

When I first heard abut ‘the Station Agent’, directed by Tom McCarthy, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. The whole unconventional friendship genre, is one I feel a type of film that is often overdone, and just a basic plotline for directors, that end up being movies, that are often generic, laced with artificial sweeteners, fake sentiment, or worse, the main characters sleeping with each other at the end, as an apparently suitable conclusion to a story. I was concerned that I might find the whole film a little twee, definitely not suiting to my tastes. However I was a bit more than pleasantly surprised.
The film revolves around Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf who works in a toy trains store, his only real enthusiasm being for trains. Fin is withdrawn from society, wanting to avoid being scrutinised for his differences. His only real friend is the man who runs the store where he works, who, when he dies suddenly, leaves Fin an abandoned train depot, in the middle of nowhere, New Jersey. There, Fin meets Joe (Bobby Cannnavale), a Cuban American who runs his Dad’s refreshment van, and, despite Fin’s obvious desire to be left alone, is very talkative and relentless in his attempt to make friends. We also meet Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a hapless artist, trying to cope with the loss of her son and the breakdown of her marriage. All three characters have their struggles, Fin’s difficulty to be seen as just a normal person by society, Joe’s life being blighted by his Dad’s illness and Olivia’s immense loss and grief. However, only when they come together do Fin and Olivia learn that instead of pushing people away, they can have a friendship that brings them joy for the first time in a long time.
Extremely rarely do you find a film with three such likeable main characters, which is what makes this a remarkable film. Fin’s stoicism is peculiarly endearing, though even better when he lets his hard exterior crack, and he gives in to Joe’s puppy like insistence on bonding, and the pair go for walks along the tracks together. Patricia Clarkson, as Olivia plays such a real and troubled portrayal of a woman devastated by loss its heartbreaking. For me, though, my favourite character had to be Joe, his attempts to befriend the other, making his own loneliness more apparent, which really tugged at my heartstrings, as well as his willingness to treat Fin like any normal person, regardless., makes Joe especially loveable. 
I think that this was a film about loneliness, and outsiders coming together. Only when Fin meets the others, does he discover that to be forever alone isn’t what he really wants. This was demonstrated in particular part of the film, where Fin waits outside Olivia’s house, just to see her when she won’t return his calls, unimaginable at the beginning of the film, and completely touching. This film really spoke to me, as I think it would to anyone who ever feels like an outsider, or sometimes chooses to be lonely over the strains of social interaction. ‘The Station Agent’ was such a simple film, yet was absolutely wonderful. Although it didn’t get itself caught in all the hidden meanings, it still spoke really loudly.


Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2

In the days leading up to the day I went to see breaking dawn part 2 I found myself increasingly excited in anticipation of the conclusion of one of my favourite franchises , and then within 30 minutes of entering the cinema increasing perplexed at what the 13 year old version of myself had found so enthralling about this saga. I had considered the films a cinematic masterpiece. At the same time it was still enjoyable and worth my £3.75(orange Wednesdays). I wouldn’t say it was a letdown; just a realisation that Twilight isn’t actually literary gold-it spawned 50 shades of grey for god’s sake!

Despite this, it was actually rather amusing. My personal highlight was the ridiculously unconvincing, and downright creepy, CGI baby. Apart from Kirsten Steward’s still moody teenager like acting some of the acting was actually quite decent, well maybe for the wrong reasons. Michael Sheen, who I still can’t stop thinking of as the Leeds United manger in ‘The damned United’, portrayed the head Volturi in a hilariously camp fashion, which quite undermined the serious mood of the film. The multicultural vampire gathering was also quite spectacular; some sort of most stereotypical accents in one film record must have been broken. The lets rip everyone’s heads off seen was also great, although as usual Bella did next to nothing but stand there looking distressed.

All in all, it was alright. What I still find so alluring about twilight, even with its seriousness undermined, is that it’s never dull. Over the top, but never dull.