Friday, 28 August 2009

Funny People - Review

I personally have never bought into the "Apatow era" generation of American comedies such as Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad etc. I can not give you an exact answer as to why, they have just never agreed with me. There are only so much obnoxious dick, fart and sex jokes one can take from Seth Rogen and co before it becomes tiresome and predictable. That said however, until recent years I have always had a soft spot for Mr. Adam Sandler, having made some of the funniest films I have seen while growing up, before being lead astray by making dull, depressing and unimaginative family films, I must admit I had totally written him off as an actor. Which brings us to Funny People, written and directed by Judd Apatow himself and starring, seemingly everyone he knows in his phone book. Going in with slight hesitation on the basis that the director's previous work does very little for me, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the resulting outcome.

Funny People tells the tale of comedian turned movie mega-star, George Simmons (Sandler) as he is diagnosed with a form of cancer. Upon hearing this devastating news, it leads George to reflect on his past achievements realising that though he has became rich and successful that he unfortunately has also lead an extremely empty, lonely and unfulfilled life. This sobering thought brings him to rediscover his original passion for performing live stand-up comedy again, where he meets young, down on his luck, amateur Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). Being impressed with the young upstart's performance, he then goes on to hire Ira to write jokes for his new string of shows and thus develops a strained yet close bond with his young protege as George finally starts to realise (as they all do...) that money and success is not what makes a person truly happy, but the better things in life such as family, friends and love.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the warmth that Apatow put into the story, and found myself sucked in with a smile on my face, as it was a refreshing break from the usual clichéd rom-coms that have it so easily could have been. However, with an engaging opening two acts, it was a dreadful shame that by the film's closing 30 minutes that it started to drag and lose its direction. This is no fault of the impressive array of actors on hand but of Apatow himself, as the film was far too long than it needed to be, at a bum-numbing two and a half hours long. The highlight for me personally was the performance of Sandler himself, as he gave personally the greatest performance of his career, though he has been funnier, I find myself truly stumped to name a movie where he has been a better actor.

Similar possibly to Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler earlier this year, you got the impression that the character of George was written especially for Sandler, mimicking the man's career as one of the heavyweights of American comedy almost a decade ago being reduced to starring in bland live action family movies (Click? Bedtime Stories? The list goes on...). Outside of Sandler's experienced heavyweight performance, Rogen performed extremely well as the heart and soul compared to the rest of the movie's ambitious, back stabbing and self congratulatory characters. However both are blown away in the comedy department from stellar support appearances of the wonderful Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill and Eric Bana who I thought were absolutely incredible and where most of the comedy came from. One aspect of the film I think most audiences will love, is the endless list of cameos that appear in this film, from all the usual suspects of the American comedy circuits such as Ray Romano, Sarah Silverman, Tom Anderson, Andy Dick, David Attell to the slightly unusual appearances from Eminem, James Taylor to even Bryan Batt (who you ask?! From the excellent Mad Men of course) as George's camp agent.

Though Funny People was one of the more absorbing comedies I have seen this year, full of life, exuberance and just a lot of good honest fun, I felt I was a little cheated by the fact that it was not actually that funny. I thought for the most part it was a wonderful, enriching experience, I just got the impression that this was more an exercise of Apatow showing off his little black book of celebrity pals, filled with inside jokes such as Rogen's room-mates poking fun at the actor's impressive weight loss (in preparation for his starring role in the Green Hornet reboot next year) to as already mentioned the state of which Adam Sandler's career has now become.

Final Thoughts
Sandler, Rogen and co have rarely been better actors, before this really touching Summer heavyweight. It could quite well be the best serious comedy you will see in a long time, but in all honesty when one goes to see a film called Funny People, you want to find yourself laughing hysterically from beginning to end, and for the considerably unnecessary length of the film there just was not enough laughs to justify it. Judd Apatow has made funnier films than this, but honestly he has made few better than this. After being on the fringes for so long, you can only hope the only way is up for Adam Sandler after this touching and miraculous performance. Not perfect, but still worth seeing...


See this if you liked...
Knocked Up, 40 year old Virgin, Anchorman, and some of Sandler's best films Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and even (slight guilty pleasure of mine possibly...) Big Daddy.

Funny People is available in all major cinemas now.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Hurt Locker - Review

Kathryn Bigelow has been keeping herself, very much, under the radar since her break out hit way back in 1991, Point Break. Since then her catalogue of releases have been modest at best ranging from the under rated and practically unnoticed Strange Days to the high budget and rather mediocre, Cold War thriller, K-19: The Widow Maker. After treading the film making wilderness for many years she finally returns to the spotlight with her latest film The Hurt Locker, set against the very current affair backdrop of the second Iraq war. The film itself centres primarily around three soldiers in one of the U.S. Army's bomb disposal units as they near completion of their year's duty of the region charting the trials and tribulations that face them on a day-to-day basis.

From the film's opening moments the audience is swept into a world that very few would ever wish to experience hands on, as the characters deal with the most uncompromisingly tense situations ranging from the standard bomb diffusing exercise, to physically trying to remove a bomb strapped to a suicide bomber. While the action itself I felt was sparingly used to a much more potent effect, the film excelled leaps and bounds compared to its contemporaries, in building up that terrifyingly uneasy tension before all hell eventually broke loose. This comes across amazingly well through the performances of Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackle and Brian Geraghty, demonstrating a vast array of emotions, though not entirely sympathetic characters initially, I came to accept them for the flawed human beings they were and because of this The Hurt Locker stands a testimony to what these people go through every single day while on the front lines. Though physically tested, their mental health is driven to the brink with every single situation they are faced in the film, this was very much evident any time they were out in the field, and their paranoia is heighten immensely when seemingly every single Iraqi citizen in the immediate area must always be treated as a suspected bomber whether it is a full grown man, woman or child.

Furthermore Bigelow demonstrates the U.S military attitude to the Iraqi people, with a sly dig at the handling of the entire invasion (invasion? Did I say that...I meant "operation"), where the soldiers themselves are very negative towards the people they are trying to "save", thus distancing themselves in the process. This is signified when one of the main characters describes that they have changed the title of the whole mission from "Operation: Liberty" to "Operation: Victory" (oh dear). Though fascinating from beginning to end, I thought the story could have been more engaging than it was, coming across as slightly dull at times, almost like watching another tiresome Sky One documentary in the Middle East, next to the frantic and captivating intensity of the situations and characters put before the audience. The production values on the other hand were completely faultless however, with the cinematography from Barry Ackroyd setting you straight into the action making each scene more overwhelming than the last, similar in many ways to his previous work on The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Another stand out for me was the score from Marco Beltrami which was sparse but slowly built up the alarming intensity of the action scenes when the scenes notched up into overdrive. What might make The Hurt Locker stand apart from similar films is in the story's more tender and philosophical moments, describing in the movie's opening quote that war is "like a drug" and then in the final act William (Jeremy Renner) realising upon returning home to his beautiful wife and baby son, that civilian life is both dull, depressing and uneventful and that the only way to live again is to be dancing on the edge of sanity in the urban jungle of Iraq once more, which I personally thought was quite evocative and realistic. Makes one ask the question of, what place do men of war have amongst the sanctuary of civilisation?

Final Thoughts
Having virtually no preconceptions of what to expect from The Hurt Locker upon sitting down to watch it, other than I thought it was going another salute to the ego of the armed forces serving in the region, I admit I was pleasantly surprised. Intense, gritty and at times overwhelming, it sets the audience at the front line of the action, which is not necessarily, all guns blazing, taking the characters to the brink each time they perform a task for their superiors. Though it stumbles from a rather incoherent plot and portrayed more as a series of events, its injection of genuine suspense and harsh realism, is what drives the film forward and what makes it stand out next to every other war film you have probably watched before this. Regardless of your own feelings on the farcical nature of the war in question, The Hurt Locker is an assertion of honest film making where the characters and not the backdrop are at the epicentre of what makes this completely captivating. Sought this gem out immediately my friends, as it could be one of the best films you will see all year.


The Hurt Locker is meant to be in cinemas from the 28th August but with the U.K's distribution, who the hell knows any more....

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Antichrist - Review

Before I begin this review I would like to make a small statement. Do not be immediately dismissed by the rating at the bottom of this review, as I sat down with my notes beside me I was genuinely at a loss at how to convey my feelings for this film and put it into words, however I will honestly try my best. Thank you. 2009 has brought the film world some truly extraordinary movies so far, The Wrestler, Let The Right One In, Synecdoche New York, Moon and just previously I saw the absolutely glorious er...Inglourious Basterds (yes I know its annoyingly mis-spelt!) to name but a few, all of the aforementioned films I have loved for differing reasons but Lars von Trier's Antichrist is an entirely different cinematic experience from anything I have witnessed before.

Made up of a Prologue, four chapters (entitled Grief, Pain (Chaos Reigns), Despair (Gynocide) and The Three Beggars), and an Epilogue, Antichrist is about a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where they encounter strange and terrifying occurrences. These strange occurrences are not demonic demons, or hockey masked murderers or a simpleton farmer in some Scooby-Doo villain costume, but within a deep exploration into the darkest depths of the human mind and, I shall not lie, it did genuinely unsettle me. Consisting of only two cast members, William Defoe (He) and Charlotte Gainsbroug (She), both of whom gave the performances of their lives (for better or worse I am still not sure...). With some mind bending nightmarish sequences, and subtle nuances like the couples surroundings becoming warped or possessed by the fragile state of their own minds, the film was very much a claustrophobic experience, locking you in this confined woodland and not letting you escape until the film's closing moments. That said, surprisingly amongst the misogyny and sexual abuse that is rife throughout the film, von Trier still manages to create some scenes, though deeply creepy, was visually absolutely stunning and made for a beautiful lush escape from the madness going on inside the minds of the disturbed couple.

I have often said the reason I am not the biggest fan of the horror genre is not because I scare easily or squirm at gore, but because I have never had films that outside of those two factors are actually any good in terms of plot or character develop, with the few exceptions such as Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth or the Swedish masterpiece Let The Right One In earlier in the year which proved that just because its scary does not mean it has to sacrifice the story in the process. Antichrist just about does the same, albeit in much more visceral circumstances, this is not so much a folk story gone astray but a camp fire legend that will be speaking of for centuries to come, and each telling a different version of it than the story they heard before them due to how they perceived what they just witnessed. Antichrist ultimately is a movie where a Man and Women pitted themselves against the unspeakable world of Nature, and the moral being that nature will beat you eventually, so hard in fact that it will reduce you to your most primitive savage self and you will never be able to look at yourself the same way ever again because of it.

Final Thoughts
Out of the forty-one films I have reviewed this year, this was by far the hardest to sum up, not because it was an obscure film to follow, I have seen way more mind bending films than this. The subject matter was something of an awkward point, what these characters performed on each other and themselves was down right unmentionable amongst this blog however like some sick train wreck I was totally drawn to it from the opening beautiful prologue to the devastating climax. Antichrist may well be the best film I have seen all year, but frankly I do not honestly think I could bring myself to watch it again, nor will I personally give it my recommendation. In a completely contradictory conclusion however, I will say this (listen carefully) Lars Von Trier has created a film that is so visually intense featuring a caustic soundtrack and two striking, visceral performances from his two leads and handles subject matters that could send people to jail in some countries, it will shock and disgrace yet may leave you in complete awe and wonder, and because of this it will divide audiences completed down the middle, and this I totally understand. If you have already seen this and think its a big pile of muck I will think no less of you but I encourage everyone to see for themselves, even if what they find is not what they originally sought. If you want to experience one thing in the cinema this year so different from anything else that will be released, Antichrist could well be it.


See this if you liked...
Anything by Lars Von Trier, 2003's Dogville is my personally favourite and another film quite similar in certain subject matters, the French film Irreversible

Antichrist is in most arthouse cinemas now.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Inglourious Basterds - Review

Thanks to my dear Father's passion and enthusiasm for the subject, I have seen a lot of World War II documentaries and films in my time on this earth. Some considered to be epic (I.e. Saving Private Ryan), some considered to be iconic (I.e. The Longest Day and the BBC documentary The World At War) and others sometimes to be considered hilarious pending on the context (i.e. Kelly's Heroes) but I am indeed stumped to find a World War II film that is entirely fictional in a historical sense (except perhaps Churchill: The Hollywood Years, but lets not speak of such nonsense). That is until Mr. Quentin Tarantino made his Inglourious Basterds (spelling mistakes aside for a second...), which as some might know, is a film that has been roughly 10 years in the making for the infamous director, involving numerous script rewrites, several changes to the lead cast and also Tarantino opting to do two other films in-between in "mental preparation" for the task that was upon him. Much to my delight and surprise it actually did not disappoint.

The story itself consists of two separate narratives converging on each other for the film's climax, the first being the tale of a Jewish girl, Shosanna Dreyfus (played by the beautiful French actress Mélanie Laurent), as she goes on the run from Hans Landa, aka The Jew Hunter, after her family were slaughtered right in front of her. After four years of running she comes to work in a cinema in Paris and through a series of events is given a chance to plot vengeance on the people who killed her family. The second narrative of the film is, of course, as the title of the movie suggests, the antics of a suicidal, homicidal band of American (Jewish) soldiers known as "The Basterds" led by 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and also featured a homicidal German in their ranks by the name of Hugo Stiglitz and Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz aka "The Bear Jew" (played by rising Horror director and directed the "film within the film", dear friend of Tarantino, Eli Roth).

Upon watching the trailer a few months previously I was a little worried the film would of been just two mindless hours of Pitt and his war buddies blowing the shit out of Nazis but I felt that Tarrentino was quite smart in how in handled the marketing of this film, portraying it as a WWII B-Movie full of unadulterated violence (and do not get me wrong there was a lot of violence), but actually shifting more focus towards the story involving Laurent's character which, felt more like the real story being told here and the one that the audience could properly engage with. Though Laurent's performance was marvellous, nothing could quite match Christoph Waltz' completely eccentric and over the top Jew Hunter, Col. Hans Landa who was equally comical and flamboyant as he was darkly sinister (deservedly picking up a Best Actor award for his performance at this year's Cannes). Combined with support slots from some of the hardest working actors in World Cinema such as Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl and even a bizarre cameo from Mike Myers, personally made Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino's most classy ensemble piece since Pulp Fiction.

Noticeably since his 1997 hit Jackie Brown there was been a more refined and distinct change in Tarantino's directorial style, comparable more to his two part epic Kill Bill than his earlier gangster films, Inglorious Basterds pays homage to the director's love for old school Western films by the likes of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel as much as it does World War II dramas, directly referencing the likes of Eastwood's Kelly's Heroes, The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare to name but a few. Shooting in Europe for the first time (if I am not mistaken?) the cinematography was absolutely beautiful from Robert Richardson (long time Scorsese and Stone collaborator as well as serving on Kill Bill 1 & 2) and in true Tarantino fashion the soundtrack was not composed but pieced together from various films within the relating genres, such as Slaughter, Zulu Dawn, Blood For A Silver Dollar, Eastern Condors as well as other films that hardly any casual film goer has most likely seen before. Faults? Strangely I am at a loss on this one to find many, I can understand if people think the climax is complete tosh on the basis of how historically inaccurate it is, but can you honestly say you were surprised based on the director's previous films? Perhaps one negative aspect of the film was that some parts felt slightly under developed such as the title characters story which, was not nearly as interesting and engaging (though still highly entertaining) as the revenge plot of Dreyfus in her gorgeous Parisian cinema. It all begs the thought that the director will most likely put out a director's cut of the feature upon its DVD/Blu-ray release later in the year which would certainly be an interesting experience.

Final Thoughts
Miles more entertaining and well imagined than both Kill Bills and Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt Tarantino's best film in years. With genuinely fantastic performances from Waltz, Laurent and Kruger as well as a solid backbone of the likes of Pitt, Fassbender, Bruhl and even Roth combined with some wonderful dialogue, typical tongue and cheek situations, ultra violent shoot-outs and an emotionally explosive climax. Lacking in epic scale it makes up for in sheer style and passion. This is not a historically accurate account of events, but when the film was directed by the man in question, did you really expect it to be? In some cases a director can be condemned for such actions but in Quentin Tarantino's case he shows time and time again how much he genuinely cares about the films he makes which I always found to be one of is most endearing qualities, and this is no different. Welcome back QT, though were you ever really away? Could very well make my top 10 by year's end. Go see now!


See this if you like...
Kelly's Heroes, Where Eagles Dare, Dirty Dozen and most Spaghetti Western films.

Inglourious Basterds is in all cinemas from Wednesday 19th August and also marks the 40th film reviewed on the blog! Woohoo!

Friday, 7 August 2009

John Hughes: A tribute to an 80s cinematic legend.

1950 - 2009

Taking a break for a moment from reviews and my latest obsession of tweeting film news, I thought it was only fitting to pay tribute to a genuine hero of cinema, who passed away yesterday at the age of 59. John Hughes began his career as an ad copywriter in Chicago. During this time, he created what became the famous (if you live in the States) Edge "Credit Card Shaving Test" ad campaign. Shortly after he would get an opportunity to live out his passion for comedy writing at the infamous National Lampoon magazine where he would then write the basis of his script for National Lampoon's Vacation, which in after several attempts by the company up until then, turned out to be their first genuine hit since the 1978 comedy, Animal House. Having, for some reason, no involvement with its sequel, he would then return to co write and produce its third instalment Christmas Vacation.

Growing up and drawing inspiration from his surroundings, John Hughes clearly had a love affair with the state of Illinois which was evident in all his films beginning in his directional debut Sixteen Candles, which starred two young leads who would go on to be stars in future productions by the man himself, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. With high critical praise for his debut Hughes continued this trend of high school based comedy-dramas with genuine classics such as The Breakfest Club, Pretty In Pink, Weird Science and one of my personal all time favourites Ferris Bueller's Day Off creating some of the most successful films of the 1980s. With a decade of cinematic hits and arguably the godfather of the "Brat Pack" era, from these movies alone John Hughes has done enough to cement his place amongst the directorial greats. Though these are perhaps considered his greatest works he would actually go on to find his biggest commericial success with the 1990 Christmas smash hit Home Alone in which he produced and wrote the screenplay. Though not considered up there with his more infamous pieces, Hughes retired from the directorial world in 1991 with the touching family comedy Curly Sue. His movies very much epitomised the original MTV generation in all its glory.

Though retiring from the director's chair on Curly Sue, through the 90s he would go on to write an array of films that children would marvel and apprecaite, even if his original followers had started to grow up by that stage. His influence though, was never forgotten. Constantly parodied in animated heavyweights such Family Guy and referenced in some of Kevin Smith's greatest work, with the director paying a touching tribute only yesterday on twitter by saying "John Hughes, the man who spoke for geeks way before anyone else did." Quite so.

Editor's Tribute
I was born in 1986 so in my short 4 years growing up in the 80s I never got a chance to fully appreciate John Hughes' "Brat Pack" classics until later on, but I remember my first experience with his films was Home Alone and thinking at the time it was the greatest thing ever next to my Transformers collection and Disney's Robin Hood. It completely captured my imagination at 4 years old, and I distinctly remember back in my infant school days drawing plans for my house in the unlikely event I would be "home alone" and up against two dodgy house bandits. My older sister however was always a fan of his work and one day, years later I decided to pillage her collection and that's where I experienced Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science (I was also a fan of the latter's TV show adaptation) on good old VHS. Everything about those movies from the iconic music that echoed the decade, to the non linear montages where characters' actions in preparing for an event are spliced together immediately before the event takes place, to and his constant use of breaking the 4th wall are aspects of his films that will be evident for decades after his unfortunate death. So tonight while I'm drinking on a Friday night in Belfast City Centre, I shall raise a glass to one of the greats of modern cinema. Still gutted there isn't really a Shermer, Illinois though...

Essentials Include....
The Breakfast Club
Sixteen Candles
Weird Science
Pretty In Pink
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Editor's choice)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra - Review

I think I may of said this once or twice this year but you should never judge a book by its cover, or in more relevant terms, you should never judge a movie by its trailer. A few months ago when I first caught glimpse of G.I. Joe every single negative emotion ran through my mind, and in a summer where the blockbusters have pretty much underwhelmed (Harry Potter and Terminator) or royally disappointed (Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen), when it came to essentially the last movie of the "big and dumb" variety for this season I admittedly was not optimistic. However, perhaps it was this sense of doom and gloom that made GI Joe the genuine surprise that it was to be. For those who are not aware G.I. Joe is (like Transformers) a toy franchise that has been around for nearly three decades appearing in various incarnations throughout that time, from essentially the first "doll" for boys to 80s action toys with its own animated series and movie. The Rise Of Cobra concentrating very much on the latter.

With a solid background in making fun action-adventure movies such as the grossly under rated Mummy and its sequel, as well as the so-so affair of Van Helsing, taking on the mantle of bringing the toy line to life was, thankfully, not Michael Bay but Mr. Stephen Sommers. Taking cues from some of the more nonsensical and outrageous plots from old James Bond films and various other action flicks of yore combined with a reasonably competent cast featuring the likes of rising star Channing Tatum, old head Dennis Quaid, Indie stalwarts Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sienna Miller amongst others. Where Transformers 2 failed, G.I. Joe succeeded in making a perfect adaptation of a toy line, where it never drifted from the basic concept of what made it appealing in the first place, which is simply the good guys vs. the bad guys, while trying to save the world in the process. The plot is arguably one of the reasons I personally enjoyed it, because Sommers manages to keep everything simple, not because the target audience is most likely young boys with an obsession for high pace action sequences, huge explosions and women in tight spandex costumes beating the spit out of each other but because it never needed to be contrived or full of pointless plot devices that would have made it needlessly complicated in an infernal attempt to make it stand out, this is not Shakespeare, nor does it need to be. It is actually that simplistic notion that makes G.I. Joe the fun experience that it turned out to be. The characters themselves mostly came across rather well, with the highlights being Tatum's character Hawk and Miller's Baroness both whom were given a bit of depth and a back story (albeit a slightly confused one) as well as the two ninjas Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, and to lighten the affair up, the on screen chemistry between Rachel Nichols (last seen green skinned and in bed with Captain Kirk in May's wonderful Star Trek reboot) and Marlon Wayans provided a point of comic relief throughout the movie, overall giving complete novices to the franchise a far better understanding and easier access to the array of characters before us, than a toy line that was essentially "All American" up until recently.

With rumours of studio execs firing Mr. Sommers and the movie receiving the lowest test ratings in film history proving to be some angry fan boy's way of stirring trouble, it was quite endearing to see that Sommers got so much right about this film, with the action sequences coming right after each other relentlessly, mixed with some light hearted moments to make me smile and lightly laugh, though never coming across as completely slapstick or borderline offensive, while making sure the film never drags or deviates from the story. Shocked?! Lets not jump the gun however and believe my taste for films has went totally to shit. I will be the first to say there were a tonne of flaws with this movie such as; the CGI was extremely poor in places, some of the dialogue was rather ham fisted and a couple of the costumes came across on the campy side, as well as Ecceleston's loud and obnoxious bad guy performance combined with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's god awful British accent. Unintentionally I am sure, in a strangely hilarious side note and comparison there was one action sequence in Paris that just conjured memories of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's pro American parody Team America. Thankfully though the film-makers manage to not make this a two hour salute to "AMERICA" (fu*k yeah!). With these obvious flaws how could one possibly like such a movie? Simple my friends, it was too much fun and not serious enough to ever actually get worked up about it.

Final Thoughts
Not a classic by any means and no one should pretend otherwise, however in a summer where big and dumb has came across as loud and painful, G.I. Joe made a potentially agonising two hour film an extremely enjoyable one. Combined with interesting characters and some awesome cameos, with enough clever and subtle nods to the original toy line to keep the die hard of fans smiling, with some back to basics direction from Sommers and his team, I for one have embraced this film with open arms in the same way I let myself with the first Transformers movie. For all its flaws the film done enough to keep me entertained and (he says with a surprised look on his face) actually looking forward to the potentially darker sequel hinted upon the film's closing moments. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra will not be the best film I will see this year, nor will it even come close to making my top 10 list by year's end but I tell you this fan boys out there, I will be buying this on DVD before I even consider buying Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen...


See this if you liked...
Well made action movies featuring the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in their glory days, as well as some of the more OTT James Bond films of years gone by.

G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is in all cinemas from today.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Coco Before Chanel - Review

Let it be said that this reviewer is not bound by genres or a certain category of film (OK I am, but only because I can not afford to see everything released during the week), but I do like to at least try and experience films that, as a casual fan, I may not have originally thought to see for the sheer hell of it. For those in the world who are not familiar with the name, Coco Chanel is one of the definitive labels of the fashion world, which in all honesty I am not going to pretend I have the slightest knowledge about, because frankly I don't. That being said I am always a sucker for a biopic which combined with the absolutely wonderful Audrey Tautou (of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement fame) suddenly sparks my interest to learn more.

Concentrating (as the title suggests) on the personal life of the woman behind the label and not so much on the actual fashion and glitz of what is now associated with her, Coco Before Chanel embarks on an emotional and captivating journey into the rise of the woman Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, from humble childhood surroundings of spending several years in an orphanage of the Roman Catholic monastery of Aubazine, to her early adult years of working at a tailoring shop where she met and soon began an affair with the French playboy and millionaire Eitienne Balsan who lavished her with the beauties of "the rich life," to of course developing her talent as a fashion designer (specialising originally in hats) and eventually falling in love with Englishman Arthur "Boy" Capel. If you are a self confessed fashion historian or general Chanel enthusiast you should surely know where it goes from there. I, on the other hand, was a complete novice going into this movie and was genuinely moved by the performances on hand.

Audrey Tautou is something of a world cinema heavyweight in my opinion, give her any role and she will take it and absolutely hold your attention from beginning to end (the only saving grace of the dull and dire Da Vinci Code adaptation) and CBC was, not surprisingly, no different. She came across confident, vibrant, fiercely independent and not bound by general conventions in which high class women were associated with back in the early 20th century. With such qualities it may be easy to forget that there were indeed other people actually in this movie besides the captivating Tautou, and the two male leads Alessandro Nivola (who for such a remarkable performance and grasp of the French language is actually American born and bizarrely his previous films include blockbusters such as Face/Off and Jurassic Park III) as well as Benoît Poelvoorde gave an excellent account of themselves with some expressive and heart warming performances as the two lovers in Coco's life Arthur Capel and Eitienne Balsan respectively. Unfortunately though outside of the three leads the rest of the support cast, though perfectly adequate, fell a bit flat with their on screen presence making them somewhat forgettable.

Sitting in the director's chair and also helping pen the screenplay, I felt Anne Fontaine produced an elegant period drama with some stunning cinematography really capturing a picturesque image of one of the most beautiful countries in the world during the early 20th Century. That being said however, it was perhaps arguably too elegant and too desirable to the point where at times it felt a bit dull, never really taking the opportunity to delve into the grittiness and hardship Miss Chanel faced or the daunting up hill struggle as she unsuspectingly embarked on a crusade to liberate women in a social context. Having a quick glance at the back story behind the woman it seems that the screenplay is for the most part an accurate representation to the real life events of the title character. On top of the beautiful cinematography two time Academy Award nominee Alexandre Desplat composed a touching score which shone particularly in the more intimate romantic moments of the film.

Final Thoughts
Having no previous knowledge of the title character other than she created a, now infamous, highly expensive, perfume and clothing line I admittedly was totally captivated by this woman's story which has involved so many tragic and uplifting moments from her humble beginnings and early adult life leading up to her international stardom, and though from a critical point of view the film itself ticks all the right boxes I felt upon leaving the cinema that there was still far more to the story than the audience was shown, which is always my criticism when it comes to biopics, and obviously for the most part an unavoidable one. Audrey Tautou once again gave a brilliant performance that has been associated with her career countless times already; unfortunately it was everything else about this film that stopped it from being the essential viewing that it perhaps should have been. Though completely competent and held my interest for its near 2 hour running time, it never felt like I was witnessing something truly special in the league of such biopics as Walk The Line, Lawrence Of Arabia, Man On The Moon or even more recently (and from the same region) the touching tale of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. An evocative, beautiful tale of the woman behind the name but it just (and only just) falls short of cinematic excellence.


See this if you liked...
Tautou's greatest acting achievement, the 2001 film, Amelie (which if you haven't seen already then shame on you!).

Coco Before Chanel is most likely not in your local multiplex right now...