Friday, 30 January 2009

Frost/Nixon - Review

Frost/Nixon


In a nutshell...
I gotta admit being 22 and born into the world 9 years after the actual event, up until now it has probably sparked little interest for me, however with all the who-ha of the election last year and the drama that came from it, the whole arena has suddenly sparked my attention. Starring two under rated actors of modern cinema, Michael Sheen (you know, the guy who played Tony Blair in The Queen) and Frank Langella (he probably doesn't want you to remember, but I do, the guy who played Skelator in the original live action He-Man movie but besides that was excellent in Goodnight and Goodluck) from the stage adaptation by Peter Morgan (who also penned the screenplay) and, one of my least favourite directors the happy go lucky Ron Howard. Set after the events of the historic Watergate scandal which ruined Nixon's presidency, David Frost having made it big as a chat show host in various parts of the world, London, New York and now Australia sees this as an opportunity to really hit the big time with the interview of his career and subsequently Richard Nixon now forced (against his own will, some might say) into retirement sees Frost as a lightweight presenter who he can take complete advantage of to take him back into the public eye and set the record straight as a way of redeeming himself.

The sides are taken for this battle of wits between the two men, with an excellent supporting cast that gives both 'fighters' the chance to really excel: in Frost's corner you have producer John Birt (played by Matthew MacFadyen), Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr (played with much drive and intensity by Sam Rockwell) and in Nixon's corner you have Jack Brennen (Kevin Bacon) and to a somewhat lesser extent Swifty Lazar (Toby Jones). One of the aspects of this film I enjoyed was the transformation of Frost as a light hearted playboy/chat show host into the determined political interviewer that I have grown up to know him as today, as well as Langella's performance as Nixon who played the role with a human touch so to not completely demonise the man and actually towards the end of the film nearly having sympathy for him summed up in Reston's quote in the film's closing moments "Richard Nixon's face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat." Throughout the film you never have a sense that Nixon was evil and out to screw over the American people, everything he did he tried to do for the good of his nation, which is a somewhat endearing quality that was brought to the role unlike previous portrayals like Anthony Hopkins' in the 1995 Oscar nominated film Nixon.

Everything about this film was right on the money for me, possibly my only criticism is that there could have been more focus on the first two interviews like there was in the final one, but then having watched the original thereafter you can probably see why for dramatization purposes why this might of been the case. Think the greatest injustice of this film is within the award nominations, yes it full deserves its place within the Best Picture contenders but Im extremely disappointed not to see Michael Sheen nominated in the Best Actor category along with his co-star, who is nominated, Frank Langella. Overall though Frost/Nixon is an extremely pleasant watch which faithfully reinacts the events leading up to the interviews that took place in 1977 and is held together by outstanding performances from its leading men and without a doubt it's supporting cast. Why the hell wasn't Sam Rockwell nominated for Best Supporting Actor? Go see. Now.

Stand Out Scene...
The scene with the stand out quote possibly. The final moments of the interview where David Frost throws down his notes and seeing Richard Nixon reduced to a broken fragile man who has finally acceapted defeat and subsequently concedes he has let the American people down.

Stand Out Quote...
From the previous aforementioned scene,
David Frost: "Are you really saying the President can do something illegal?"
Richard Nixon: "I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's *not* illegal!"
David Frost: "...I'm Sorry?"

If you like this movie watch...
Michael Sheen take on another pivitol historical moment as Tony Blair in The Queen, or Oliver Stone's 1995 film starring Anthony Hopkins entitled Nixon.

Next week: Double header review of Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire - Review

Slumdog Millionaire

In a nutshell...
Well what do we have here? A film set in India, based around the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and stars one of the kids from Skins, lets be honest for a minute if I had heard that before knowing anything else about it I probably would have dismissed the film right there. However when told who was the director it was then worth a closer look. Brought to you by the fantastic Danny Boyle who is never one to reside in one genre of film for longer than about 5 minutes bringing you an eclectic array of films such as last year's Sci-fi thriller Sunshine and (one of my personal favourites) the unnerving horror epic of 28 Days Later and if you haven't seen or heard of any of those then you've bound to have come across his film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's Trainstopping starring (a then unknown) Ewan McGregor.

Slumdog Millionaire centres around the life story, in flashback form, of the young Jamal Malik (played by Skins' actor Dev Patel) and his progression through the slums of various parts of India with his headstrong erratic brother Salim while converging with the real time events of Jamal's lucky appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and how convinently the questions he gets asked on the show relate to key moments in his life up to this point. The other plot point is obvious the evolving relationship between Patel's Jamal and his soul mate Latika played by Freida Pinto (it's ok I can't name any other film she's been in either...) which results in one of the most touching and endearing love stories in a film I've came across in some time. One of the things that really struck me while watching this movie was the gritty and realistic portrayal Boyle gives of life in the slums and what people living in this environment have to do to survive on a daily basis, be this through lying, cheating or stealing then so be it. The cast pull off a brilliant collective performance in this film, however (and I don't mean this in a bad way) there wasn't any actor that really stood out for me and took away from the rest of the film, the real star however was probably India itself, and the beautiful job the lads in cinematography did to capture the epic landscapes and the gritty run-down slums that had a continuing presence over the film from beginning to end.

So is it the "Feel good movie of 2009"? Quite frankly no. However, is it one of the best films of the year overall? Well yes actually. Don't let the marketing fool you though, this isn't the happy uplifting film that some people claim it to be, it has violence, torture, lies, deceit, betrayal, child abuse and a game show host with a dodgy beard. If you want an uplifting film with a similar kinda theme by Danny Boyle, go watch 2004's Millions. If you want a film about one young man's quest to be with the one he loves and the one chance to escape a world of poverty and corruption then, you know what, this might just be the film for you. Slumdog Millionaire is a fantastic film, and deserves its recent success at the Golden Globes and the guaranteed awards it is bound to get from its 10 Oscar nominations.

Stand out scene...
There are various beautiful scenes throughout the movie but the climax is the scene everyone will talk about where Jamal uses his phone a friend on the final question which starts the unravelling of the film's endnote. Watch it and you'll see what I mean...

Stand out quote...
To be honest it won't be a film that you'll be quoting in the pub with your mates for years to come but for sheer emotional value "If it wasn't for Ram or Allah, we'd still have a mother." watch out for that quote and you'll understand...

If you like this movie watch...
Personally I consider this to be more Danny Boyle's film than the actors' so by all means check out his 2004 under rated flick Millions and if you haven't seen them by now (quite frankly shame on you if you haven't) Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. But if you liked Patel's performance (I did..) then by all means catch him in the original series of Skins, but frankly bigger and much better things await this lad. Watch out...

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I would like to thank the Academy for listening...

Apologies for no film review this week, but while I'm here I just want to prove a point, who says the Academy don't have any sense...

Friday 16th January this blog says in regards to The Wrestler...

"...on again, off again stripper girlfriend Pam played by Marisa Tomei (if Rourke deserves an Oscar for his role, then this woman deserves a nod for best supporting actress)..."

Thursday 22nd January, nominations for best supporting actress at the 2009 Oscars...

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Don't doubt me. However due to the politics of the Oscars I reckon Amy Adams is probably going to win for Doubt. Join me in about a month for my supreme divine opinion who I think will win all the big ones.

AM.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Wrestler - Review

The Wrestler


In a nutshell...
Before I start into this review I just want to make clear that I haven't seen a big lot of movies staring Mickey Rourke from his career in the 1980s. The films I tend to associate with Mr Rourke would be modern cult movies such as Sin City, Domino, Man On Fire, Once Upon A Time In Mexico etc so to say this is his comeback role is a bit of a null point from where I am sitting as you can see from looking as his career he has consistently worked for the past 20 years. However, either way I've always enjoyed his work. To sell this movie for me, it appeals to the child in me who would stay up to the wee hours to watch professional wrestling live from America and the teenager who did backyard wrestling with his mates. Don't regret a single bit of it...

The Wrestler is the fourth film by the ever brilliant Darren Aronofsky, and upon watching the film is by far his most straightforward and probably his most intimate work as oppose to mind boggling situations like communicating with God in Pi or a man trying to save the woman he loves over 3 separate lives through time and space in The Fountain, no this is simply about a man. A wrestler (believe it or not...). Rourke plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson a wrestler harking back to the glory days when pro wrestling was at its highest in the 80s, winning titles, selling out stadiums, selling the American dream and over the course of his career he has sacrificed everything for his passion, including his loved ones creating an extremely strained relationship with his daughter Stephanie (played excellently by Evan Rachel Wood). Fast forward to 2008 and time has simply passed Randy by, instead of selling out Madison Square Garden he's playing to a couple of hundred people in a high school hall, what's quite endearing about it is he's not bothered because of his love for the industry and interacting with the remarkable men behind the scenes and even more bizarrely he seemingly acts as if its still the 80s (he still has an original Nintendo, and is one of the few men left on earth who uses a pay phone, says it all really...). However with old age catching up with him he's now gotta start to consider his health, his retirement and future plans, and a life without wrestling. So he starts to rebuild bridges with loved ones and create a new relationship with his on again, off again stripper girlfriend Pam played by Marisa Tomei (if Rourke deserves an Oscar for his role, then this woman deserves a nod for best supporting actress) albeit with a few cock ups along the way.

One of the things I loved about this movie is that it did not try to be any more than what it was, its by no means original, we've seen this kinda movie before but the quality of the story telling and the actors was flawless and Rourke does indeed deliver one of great performances of modern cinema and what's even more wonderful about it, isn't an intensity that is often associated with these kinda hyped roles, but his honesty, his warmth and that he can display a character so likeable and so relating to the point it makes your heart melt. Applause should also go to the director who has deliver his first film that does not alienate any of the audience, The Wrestler will probably not be the most original film I'll watch this year but its without a doubt a contender for one of the best, and the final scene on top of a wonderful song created specifically for this movie alone by Bruce Springsteen is simply beautiful and in typical Aronofsky style leaves you guessing and wondering til the end.

Stand out scene...
The second deli counter scene or (for the geek in me) Randy playing the Nintendo with a local neighbourhood kid and the kid trying to explain to him what Call of Duty 4 is...

Stand out quote...
"I'm an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be all alone, I just don't want you to hate me." or "The eighties fucking ruled, man, until that pussy Cobain came and fucked it all up." (damn straight...)

If you liked this movie watch...
Beyond The Mat (film documentary about the pro wrestling industry, the piece about Jake "The Snake" Roberts mimics this movie amazingly)

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New year, new format. Hello film guide!

Hello all, apologies for not posting on this in a while. Christmas and other business took a priority over the wonders of internet blogging. First of all happy new year to all! And secondly over the course of my Christmas break I decided to deliver a more focused approach to the blog for 2009 and attempt to give you all definitive reviews and opinions of films you may or may not already know on pretty much a daily basis.

So in that respect I thought I would start off with the one, the only, the blantly obvious, the 3 film masterpiece (well two outta three at least), Mr Coppolla's esteemed Godfather Trilogy.

The Godfather



In a nutshell....
Cast, story and the overall making of the film was perfect. Some people will say its a "Critic's movie" and doesn't appeal to the general movie goer. Frankly that's bollocks. From witnessing the twilight period of Brando's Vito Corleone to the rise of Pacino's Michael is frankly fascinating viewing, topped with brilliant turns from James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and John Cazale. It has everything, drama, action, violence, suspense and even a bit of genuine love thrown in for the craic. Taking into account the movie was released in 1972 it hasn't aged one bit and captures a period of cinema that I as a movie goer am cursing I never got to witness first hand, back when it was all about the quality of the cinematography as oppose to the modern day "who-ha" of special effects and post editing. Its quite terrifying to think that Coppolla wasn't even Paramount's first choice for the director's seat, that said (and I'll probably get lynched for this) Sergio Leone would have done a top job had he not opted to do Once Upon A Time In America (another must-see) instead, and probably would of spared the world of Sofia Coppolla's god awful performance in Part III, that all said he probably would not have been able to assemble the cast we have today.

Stand out scene: All of it, but personal favourites of mine are James Caan's Sonny Corleone getting the shit blown outta him at the tollbooth, the climax coinciding with the christening and the scene in the restaurant (don't wanna give it away for people who haven't seen it but its simply great).

Stand out performance: Could say all the cast members but for me it was Robert Duvall's Tom Hagan, brilliant character.

Stand out quote: Hmm...this will get easier with lesser films...could go with all the clich├ęs such as "Make him an offer you can't refuse" but one that I always liked was Brando's Corleone saying "Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

See this if you liked: Pretty much any Mafia film ever made.

So is it actually worth the bother? Even if you don't like it you might as well watch it to at least shut up the tits like me who never stop talking about it. But if you want the better movie I suggest you watch.....

The Godfather Part II


In a nutshell...
Released two years after the first instalment, it was possibly the first movie to be (in my opinion) better than the original. Set in two parallel time periods, the first charting Vito Corleone's rise to the godfather he had established by the beginning of the first movie and the second charting the events that follow 6 years on from the previous movie which ended with Pacino's Michael now the head of the Corleone family. One of the reasons I think this movie works better than the first movie is the almost Shakespearian journey (which is really mapped out over the whole trilogy) of Pacino's character from the calm and collected supreme mob boss to the completely delusional, paranoid man we see by the end of the movie who within moments loses all that was dear to him. For the second installment pretty much all of the original cast (that didn't die) returns with some notable additions such as the now legendary Robert De Niro replacing Marlon Brando is the flashback sequences for the younger years of Vito Corleone and Lee Starzburg as the .... antagonist (wasn't everyone a bad guy in this movie!?) of the piece Hyman Roth. Also worth mentioning is John Cazale's Fredo Corleno in this movie, which for all who has not seen it yet is worth seeing along with Diane Keaton's character who grows in stature and presence compared to the first film.

Stand out scene: This is my favourite of the trilogy and actually possibly my favourite film of all time, so I'd recommend all of it, more so than the first movie, but my favourite would have to be De Niro's Vito murdering Don Fanucci during a neighbourhood 'festa'.

Stand out performance: Like the original, everyone has their part and plays it to perfection but I'd go with Al Pacino.

Stand out quote: The obvious one would be this "There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." but purely for the class and brilliance of the scene I'd go with "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!" (if you ain't seen it, do and you'll know what I'm talking about...).

See this if you liked: ....what do you mean you haven't seen it!?

So is it actually worth the bother? Yes. Yes it is. If you see only one Godfather movie in your lifetime make it this one. Of course if you want to understand this one, I'd suggest watch both after each other, and if you're really hardcore and just want more more more then watch this too....

The Godfather Part III


In a nutshell...
Well it was a good run while it lasted. That said I will be honest when I say, I enjoyed it as a stand alone movie as it was the first of the Godfather movies I saw back when I was about 12, when my dad was watching it on TV one night, granted it isn't without its criticisms such as mentioned earlier Sofia Coppola's god awful performance as Michael's daughter Mary Corleone along with about 80% of the original cast from the previous movie (again who didn't die...) failing to return, oh and George Hamilton. Set roughly 20 years after the last film, Michael Corleone now 59 has became quite philosophical and wise reaching (like his father in the first movie) the autumn period of his Mafia life, with the intention of getting out of the nasty business that has effectively destroyed his life and reduced him to no more than a cold heartless monster, as well as taking on a young protege to his empire in the form of Vincent Mancini. New (stand out) additions to the cast this time round besides Sofia and George is the brilliant Andy Garcia and Joe Mantegna (yeah that guy from Joan of Arcadia...). Unlike the previous films we start to witness a slightly gentler side to Michael personality, that sense of regret and guilt that has plagued him over the years where all the ones around him have simply been killed, died or been driven away through his own personal conflicts. Overall it's an extremely enjoyable movie, but it is always going to be the black smudge next to the brilliance of the previous two. Probably its main problem is it was made too late in comparison to the first two, which were made within quick succession of each other, oh that and the fact the quality of acting in the majority of the cast compared to the first two was simply colossal.

Stand out scene: The meeting in the casino of all the Mafia heads resulting in a swift nasty ending.

Stand out performance: Pacino and Keaton are this movie's saving grace but Garcia's Vincent Mancini is definitely worth a mention.

Stand out quote: The memorable one is probably "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in. " but my personal favourite was "I swear on the lives of my children, give me one last chance to redeem myself and I will sin no more. "

Is it actually worth the bother? If you seen the first two then yeah, the ending will give you complete closure, besides you don't buy a box set and not watch all the films, right?

That's it for today people, we've got the painfully obvious one out of the way first, so go out and watch these 3 movies right now!!!! Next time I will be reviewing...whatever DVD I pick up out of my collection first....

A.M