Archive for the 'Movie Review' Category

Feb 02 2009

I’m Not There…And Neither Is Anyone Else

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

I'm Not ThereSo disinterested in this film, I find myself drawn to the laptop instead to surf the Internets. Trouble is, I have no internet connection, so what to do? I am doing the unprecedented – I am writing a negative review for my blog. I see a lot of films and I attend many events, I go out a lot and I have an active social life. Generally speaking, I only put the positives up on my blog with a few exceptions.


Tonight (Saturday 31st January), after watching a couple of excellent episodes of the new series of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we (in truth, it’s less ‘we’ more ‘I’) decide to watch the Bob Dylan semi-biopic, I’m Not There. I was disappointed to miss it in the cinema and I just never got around to watching it until now. Ruminating on the story of Dylan’s life, the man’s emotional tale is told through six characters representing different stages of Dylan’s existence, including Richard Gere as Billy the Kid and Cate Blanchett as the drug addicted recording artist.



Oftentimes it’s been said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – in this case the whole is pretty poor when compared with what is ploughed into it. The acting is quite superb – in that Cate Blanchett plays a heartbreaking ‘Dylan’; the supporting cast give it their all, including a small but good turn from Dawson’s Creek and Brokeback Mountain‘s Michelle Williams and surprisingly striking performance from Bruce Greenwood as both Mr. Jones and a sympathetic Pat Garrett (the man who killed Billy the Kid). The cinematography is good – we are presented with some great shots from stark angles. The music is understandably perfect. The whole film is based upon the life of the most mysterious and fascinating of all singer-songwriters of the last century. And yet, despite all that is going for it, this film ends up as a too long, pretentious muddle. As I said to Lottie before she fell asleep from boredom, the film makers spent so much time making a clever movie, they forgot to make a good one.


Never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life.


I'm Not There

 

Playing the many faces of Dylan the film includes a dull performance which I’m thankful Heath Ledger will not be remembered for; I’ve mentioned Blanchett‘s understandably Oscar nominated role, but the two standout performances for me are from the young black ‘Dylan’ played by Marcus Carl Franklin and the underused Ben Whishaw as the poetic ‘Dylan’ who doesn’t get enough screen time at all. Richard Gere‘s performance is solid but heavily let down by the director’s attempt at making a western style Sam Peckinpah movie…minus the grit. Lastly, Christian Bale‘s performance in the film is largely pointless apart from the fact that he does a fine ‘political Dylan’ impression. Although this good performance is counteracted by the dismal take on the ‘born-again Dylan’.


It’s like you’ve got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room. There’s no telling what can happen.


The film closes with this line, as if it is offering some kind of explanation or even apology for all that has gone before. All I can say is exactly the same thing I say to anyone who apologises to me: Don’t say sorry, just don’t do it again.



3 responses so far

Jan 31 2009

Van Damme Day Afternoon

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Over the Christmas break, I saw Dog Day Afternoon for the first time and loved it. Pacino was at his finest with his usual powerful energy, but with more control than he exerted later in his career. The film, which was more about celebrity culture than a botched bank heist, captured an era, captured a mindset and captured the imagination of its audience.

 

33 years later, the mussels from Brussels, Jean Claude Van Damme stars in his own twist on the classic heist scenario……and it’s actually pretty damme good.

 

JCVDOn B’dum‘s recommendation I picked up JCVD in HMV yesterday and, much to Lottie‘s initial chagrin, we sat down to watch it yesterday evening. Strangely, the first thing about the movie that stood out was the impressive, all in one shot, opening action scene finishing on a funny interplay between Van Damme and the Director. It was clear this was not going to be a regular action film, nor a regular Van Damme throwaway flick.

 

In Belgium having lost custody of his daughter, a penniless Jean Claude pops into a post office to receive a money transfer to pay for his legal fees and becomes the main protagonist in a heist. While Dog Day Afternoon focuses on picking apart the media and America’s obsession with ‘celebrity’ in the 70’s, JCVD is more interested in deconstructing the actual ‘movie star’. This post-modern thriller, writen and directed by Mabrouk El Mechri goes further than simply poking fun at the twilight years of a once massive Hollywood star – it bores deep and pulls apart his life, culminating in a soon-to-be-classic scene where Van Damme literally ascends out of his life to gave a truly emotional discourse on the nature of his current existence. Yes, Jean Claude Van Damme is philosophical, thoughtful, emotive and most of all, proves he can act.

 

JCVDThis film is no masterpiece but it does deserve some recognition. The ending doesn’t fit perfectly. It’s incongruent with the rest of the film and doesn’t give the final satisfaction I hoped for. That said, it does not take from the rest of the movie and as the credits rolled I found myself looking back over Van Damme’s impressive performance.

 

So, is this the start of Van Damme’s comeback? Perhaps! 2010 sees the teaming up of some of Hollywood’s biggest action stars, both former and present. Fan boys may be disappointed by the lack of violence and heavy action in JCVD, but The Expendables with Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham, among others, looks like a crowd pleaser. It ill be iteresting to see the impact that movie makes.

 

To conclude the comparison between JCVD and Dog Day Afternoon, I’m not sure JCVD will stand the test of time as well as its 70’s counterpart, but at the moment, I’d rather sit down and watch Van Damme again first. This pacy, clever and very funny film is worth a look. I have it on DVD if anyone wants a loan. 🙂

 

 


9 responses so far

Jan 29 2009

Upcoming Movies In 2009

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

2009 is going to be a big year for movies. After a lacklustre 2008 (which saw only a handful of decent films grace the big screen), surely this year will see some more risks being taken and we may get to see some great original content churned out by the Hollywood machine.


The Dark KnightAm I aiming too high? I don’t mean to be overly critical of Hollywood, but with the exception of some epic blockbusters (most notably The Dark Knight), they played it safe and threw up far too many crowd pleasing RomComs and the record breaking (but somewhat shameful) Mamma Mia! – the exclamation mark is not my idea.


I’ll acknowledge that there’s a few movies out towards the end of 2008 (vying for the Oscars), such as Milk, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, Vicki Christina Barcelona and others, but seeing as we don’t generally get around to seeing them until January 2009 or later, I’m not including them.


But…looking forward…here’s my list of the potentially good, probably bad and likely to be ugly films we can expect this year. There’s also a few that I’m just hopeful about.


The Good


  • Nine is a musical in which a middle-aged film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is trying to complete his next film. His only problem is that he has too many women in his life, including his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his sexy mistress Carla (Penélope Cruz), and his muse and protege Claudia (Nicole Kidman).
  • Them – From Edgar Wright of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Need I say more?
  • Fanboys is the story of a group of friends who, anxious for the premiere of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – and because one of them is suffering from cancer and wishes to see the film before his death – decide to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal an early print of the film. A road trip begins as the friends encounter William Shatner, obsessed Trekkies, and bikers who make them undress for water.
  • Surrogates – In the near future, humans live in isolation and only interact through robotic bodies that serve as surrogates. When several surrogates are murdered, a cop (Bruce Willis) investigates the crimes through his own surrogate. The investigation forces the cop to bring his human form out of isolation and unravel a conspiracy behind the crimes. In today’s online world where Second Life and other ‘worlds’ are so popular, this could prove to be an actioner with depth.
  • The International may be the most timely high paced thriller out in 2009. Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) are determined to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks, the International Bank of Business and Credit. Uncovering illegal activities including money laundering, arms trading, and the destabilisation of governments, Salinger and Whitman’s investigation takes them from Berlin to Milan to New York City to Istanbul. Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, the bank will stop at nothing to stop them.
  • The Wolf Man may have made and remade so many times, but going by the publicity shots I’ve seen so far on this version, Benicio del Toro looks set to make the ultimate werewolf movie.The Wolfman
  • In Dorian Gray Narnia‘s Ben Barnes doesn’t want to grow old. With support from Colin Firth and Ben Chaplin, this should be interesting.
  • Sherlock HolmesGuy Ritchie brings the master detective to the big screen with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. What could go wrong?
  • Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – the first Ice Age movie was fantastic. If this is a fraction of that, it’ll still be great.
  • The Lovely Bones is probably the book I’ve heard most about in recent years without actually reading. It seems, as long as it avoids falling into its own arse, this could be huge. Saoirse Ronan stars.
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has to be good. It just has to be. Gilliam has devoted his life to fixing it since the death of Heath Ledger, the film’s main star, and has enlisted the help of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to pick up where Ledger left off.
  • Coraline is a stop-motion horror fantasy based on Neil Gaiman’s modern Alice in Wonderland-like tale.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is following 2007’s awesome blockbuster about the robots in disguise. Bigger, faster, louder – possibly better.
  • Inglourious Basterds – I have misspelled nothing. Tarantino makes a WWII war movie. No more detail required – this will be epic.
  • With Terminator Salvation so much could go wrong, but I’m optimistic.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens does exactly what it says on the tin…by Dreamworks Animation. Oh, and it’s voiced by Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon, among others.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine – I loved all three X-Men movies and Wolverine has such a brilliant untouched backstory. With Liev Schreiber, the most underated actor of his generation, as Sabretooth, this could be great.
  • Watchmen is likely to be one of the biggest films of 2009. Based on the epic comic series, Watchmen will be attacked by fanboys regardless how good or bad it is, so I just say sit back and enjoy.
  • Star Trek will be big, regardless if it’s good or not. I’m hopeful. The cast looks good and in the hands of J.J. Abrams it should be safe.
  • Public Enemies is a prohibition era ganster movie with a solid cast. Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotilliard, Billy Crudup and a huge bunch more. I smell Oscars.
  • Toy Story in 3-D – Ok, so it’s just a re-release in a new format. Tell me you’re not excited though…
  • Orphan is a basic horror movie about a husband and wife who adopt a creepy kid. So far, so average. But when I heard Peter Sarsgaard was in it, I thought it worth keeping an eye on.


The Bad


  • G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra – GI Joe? Really? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my little action man when I was young. But a movie? With Dennis Quaid? Still, Christopher Eccleston might make a decent bad guy.
  • Red Sonja is Conan the Barbarian’s female counterpart. Even Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan can’t make this work. Can they?
  • Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian – Did you see the first one? You did? Then you know why this is in the Bad section.
  • Fast & Furious, the seventh or eight follow up to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, reunites the original’s Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in an effort to reignite both their flailing careers.
  • The Proposal is just one of the many awful RomComs due out in 2009. I single out this one because it has the once cool Ryan Reynolds and the never-cool-but-gaining-some-credibility-in-recent-years Sandra Bullock. I guess they meet and don’t like each other and things happen and they have a big crisis moment and they fall in love and everyone laughs heartily at the end. Actually, now that I read a bit more about it, it seems to be a remake of Green Card. Still belongs on the Bad pile.
  • The Birds was Hitchcock’s strangest horror and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. As with Psycho, this does not need to be remade. Why can’t they just give the original a re-release in the cinemas? Why? Naomi Watts stars, seemingly.S. Darko
  • S. Darko – when I first heard they were making a sequel to Donnie Darko I laughed it off. What a ridiculous notion. Then, in the distance, I heard the faint ringing of Hollywood’s cash register and it all began to make sense. Oh, Daveigh Chase, the freaky girl from The Ring, plays Samantha, the ‘S’ of the title.
  • Nottingham, another Robin Hood movie with the awful Russell Crowe playing both Robin Hood and The Sherrif of Nottingham – presumably one character wouldn’t be able to contain his massive ego.
  • In The Informant the U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre. Sound like an intriguing courtroom drama? Nope – it’s a Matt Damon comedy. I’m very sceptical.
  • Avatar is James Cameron‘s newest obsession after finally getting over his Titanic fetish. Frankly, I expect the sci-fi epic to fall down under the weight of it’s own sense of self-importance.
  • Angels & Demons is the sequel prequel followup thing to The DaVinci Code. The plus side – Tom Hanks has got a haircut. Here, check out this truly terrible trailer:




The Ugly (I could add more but I might be ill)



The Ones I Am Hopeful About


  • Friday the 13th – it’s a remake of the classic horror. It’ll probably be awful, but I’m interested.
  • The Box reads like a horror version of Jumanji and has so much going against it – mainly its cast of James Marsden and Cameron Diaz. But this is the latest film from Donnie Darko creator Richard Kelly. There is promise.
  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – I was a huge fan of the first underworld with Kate Beckinsale (luvly!) and the sequel was decent too. This film harks back to the origins of the tale and has no Beckinsale, but does have Rhona Mitra, who looks an awful lot like Beckinsale in the posters. Michael Sheen is reprising his role though and that could make for something interesting.The Spirit
  • 2012 is another ‘world is going to end’ type films. It follows the survivors post-apocalypse. It is written and directed by Roland Emmerich of Independence Day and the slightly preachy Day After Tomorrow and I am hopeful about it because, despite the premise, it has drawn an amazing cast in John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson and others.
  • The Spirit – This may be a 2008 movie, I’m not sure, but I have yet to see it. It’s received a number of scathing reviews, but I am still keeping my fingers crossed because it looks so damn cool.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the latest edition of the Neverending Story. I think maybe I’ve just gotten too old and tired to be excited about a new Harry Potter movie and I suspect much of the films cast are the same. I’ll undoubtedly go see it and I hope for good things. We’ll see.


And this is surely going to be shit but I can’t wait to see it:



Needless to say, there are hundreds of more movies due out this year. This is my first glance across the list with higher budgets. I haven’t had a look at any Indie’s yet or delved too deeply into IMDb’s 8,937 titles released in 2009. Give me time…

 

So, are there any movies you lot are looking forward to, or is there anything you’d change on my list?

23 responses so far

Jan 28 2009

Frost/Nixon

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies,Politics

In recovery mode on Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to the cinema to see Frost/Nixon. In truth, I didn’t know much about the story prior to seeing it and I had only ever seen short clips of the interview between Sir David Frost and former US President Richard Nixon, upon which the film is based. I was wide eyed and open to the film. But I had not expected to be bowled over by it – from the opening scenes, I was gripped. Ron Howard, in his first great film since Apollo 13 in 1995, lets the story play out like Rocky without the boxing ring.

 

Frost/Nixon

 

In one corner, we have David Frost, trying to salvage what’s left of his flagging career, while in the other corner we see Nixon believing that this interview is an opportunity to get the American people back on side.

 

Michael Sheen, who in previous roles has imitated both Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams, manages to capture Frost’s mannerisms and, in particular, his vocal inflections while avoiding parody (this is where I felt he fell down in his portrayal of Blair).

 

Frank Langella‘s Nixon is careful, calculating and unnerving, clearly enjoying how uncomfortable he makes his sparring partner. To unhinge Frost, Nixon throws inappropriate questions (Did you fornicate last night?) and off-the-cuff comments at him and for the most part his ploy works. I believe Langella has secured himself an Oscar for Best Actor for this role, where he does more than simply imitate Nixon, he embodies the man. From very early in the film I ceased to see Langella on screen, but instead was immersed in what Nixon would do and say next. In possibly the pivotal part of the film, the camera lingers on Nixon’s face and Langella, without saying a word, speaks volumes with his weatherbeaten features, desperate expression and lost, defeated eyes – a scene that will become a classic.

 

Matthew MacFadyen as John Birt, stuck in the impossible position of Frost’s producer, Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick and Kevin Bacon, as Nixon’s aide, Jack Brennan, offer strong support, but its Sam Rockwell, as James Reston Jr., author and expert on Nixon and the Watergate controversy, who shines, not allowing us to forget for a single second how badly Nixon let down the American people.

 

Frost/Nixon

 

Frost/Nixon is as much about television and its part in modern politics as it is about the infamous interview. Howard examines the role of pop journalism in shaping political views and this is perhaps the thing that lifts the movie out of the trap of being a wordy stage play, but instead produces a layered drama with plenty to bring the viewer back for a second sitting.

 

Although we know exactly how it will end, the build up to the final interview is actually exciting, the tension produced between the desperation of both men is unrelenting and as the credits role you may even feel a twinge of sympathy or the fallen President.

 

The negatives? Well, strangely, I only found negatives when I went about researching this post. It seems the story is a somewhat polished version of the truth. Stripped from the script is any mention of Nixon’s 20% stake in any profits from the interviews (surely a great incentive for him to have a dramatic revelation in the final parts of the interview). Indeed the historical, political and social impacts of the revelations are heavily overplayed in the film.

 

However, Howard is not making a documentary here and as an exciting piece of fiction, as a dramatic interplay between two great forces, this film is one of the finest ‘Based on a True Story’ films I have ever seen. I am reminded of Shattered Glass, Serpico and Quizshow as films that dramatise real events without dehumanising the characters. Frost/Nixon can sit proudly amongst these.

 

Frost/Nixon

 

 


2 responses so far

Sep 24 2008

Is Jason Statham The Last Action Hero?

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Death RaceThanks again to Movies.ie, we went to a preview of Death Race last night in Dundrum. This action movie with Jason Statham falls into the guilty pleasures category of my film tastes. Director, Paul W.S. Anderson, has also helmed the brilliant Event Horizon, along with the action packed Resident Evil and Alien vs Predator. I went into this movie with the full intention of switching my brain into autopilot and just enjoying the ride.

In the eighties, we had Schwarzenegger, Stalone, Van Damme, Seagal, John McClane, even Lethal Weapon brought out a great action star in Mel Gibson. Nowadays however, short of the occasional Bourne movie, the brief return of Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4 and the plethora of comic book movies, the action movie genre has become a bit watered down. Wonderful as the Dark Knight was, a man in tights just doesn’t inspire the same raw, instinctive growl deep down in the male psyche than seeing some reluctant cop in a vest crawl across broken glass while being shot at by German terrorists. Even Bond is a bit watery these days. So, I ask, is the action hero dead and gone, with Charles Bronson in his grave?

Death RaceJason Statham says no. To action fans Statham is already a star. Lock Stock, Snatch, The Transporter, Mean Machine and last years plotless but high octane adrenaline fest Crank secured him a cult following. He is a no-apologies, blunt, brutal action man, who cares little for plot or emotional drama and prefers to pump muscles and drive cars.

There is a loose plot to Death Race, which is a remake of the 1975 movie Death Race 2000. Essentially, Jensen Ames (Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife and is sentenced to prison. In a few years time, when the world economy is gone to shit and crime is an epidemic; the prisons have become the new Big Brother, where the inmates fight to the death to gain their freedom. The most popular ‘sport’ is the Death Race, where the drivers must bash, smash and crash their way across the finish line. If they kill a few opponents along the way, all the better. But this plot matters not. It’s an excuse to fill the screen with gratuitous violence, hot women and fast cars. The trick that this movie pulls, however, is that it makes no apologies for it. The Coach (played by a brilliant Ian McShane) even explains away the big breasted beauties as being good for ratings.

Death RaceThe movie is further improved by some solid supporting roles. McShane is flawless and even Tyrese Gibson presents a formidable foe for Ames. Joan Allen, in the role of prison warden Hennessy, is a stroke of genius though. I don’t know why this Oscar Nominated actress agreed to do this movie, but I’m glad she did. Her script shows that the film makers had their tongues firmly in cheek when making Death Race. With gusto and sheer joy she delivers the best (and worst) line of the movie –

Okay cocksucker. Fuck with me, and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk.

Death RaceIt’s camp, over the top, fueled with energy from the explosive start right to the, well, explosive finish. Maybe it’s a bad movie but I loved it. A bad comedy can be saved by making the audiences laugh enough. A bad horror movie can be saved by scaring the bejaysus out of people. So, perhaps a bad action movie can be saved by being so fuel injected, so hyper, so insanely visual that it has the audiences pumping with adrenaline and joy. A grown man, sitting behind us in the cinema, actually screamed at one point. Surely that’s reason enough to go see this movie.

8 responses so far

Sep 06 2008

All About Eve

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

In recent times I’ve been delving into the past for my movie watching pleasures. Lottie and I have been working our way through the Alfred Hitchcock boxset, with some pleasant surprises. We’ve caught the wonderful RomCom When Harry Met Sally, we compared the new Sleuth with the old Lawrence Olivier version and saw good and bad in both.

Bette DavisLast year I watched Whatever Happened to Baby Jane for the first time and I loved it. Bette Davis showed what a true movie great could do, twisting the character she portrayed in real life into a deranged and sad fading starlet on screen. Since seeing it I have many times meant to return to her back catalogue and only recently I got hold of All About Eve, a tense tale about an up-and-coming ingénue who befriends Davis’s aging Broadway star and slowly climbs her way to the top.

Anne BaxterThe young woman who ingratiates herself into the celebrity lives of Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and her friends is Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter. Though both Baxter and Davis were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar in 1951 (which neither won), for me the film belongs to Davis. Through her, we watch Eve finagle her way into Margo’s life and home and ultimately her career as a Broadway star. While most of those around her are oblivious to the devious Eve until it is too late, Margo is seen as paranoid and crazy until she is finally driven truly mad by Eve.

Of course, the movie is All About Eve and Baxter is brilliant in the role. She slides so easily between overly sweet, goodie-two-shoes to duplicitous schemer without effort. A scene where she attempts to win over one of Margo’s friends in a bathroom towards the film’s end had me shouting at the screen in anger.

Anne Baxter and Bette Davis

The film is a touch too long and, if made today, would be tightened up a bit. But, if made today, I wonder if it would lose some of it’s subtlety. There is something so wonderful about watching the oldstyle Hollywood send itself up in such a clever way. Margo, Eve and Lloyd Richards (played by Hugh Marlowe) make many flippant and derogatory references to the soul destroying Hollywood.

When writing and directing this movie, it’s clear that Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who, coincidentally, later went on to direct Sleuth) was telling more than a simple story – this was an age when celebrity was new and fanatics were only beginning to emerge. It is more an allegory of the state of 1950’s Celebrity Culture than a simple story about a young girl trying to make it big. It is perhaps the subtext that has made the story and the film a classic. While times, styles and Broadway’s buildings have changed, this Broadway story is still as relevant today as it was in 1950.

All About Eve

With some great supporting roles, including a small but perfectly suited role for a then relatively unknown and extremely young Marilyn Monroe, this movie deserves all the praise that has been lauded upon it over the years. Davis is a true star and I look forward to exploring more of her back catalogue.

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill

Anne Baxter

5 responses so far

Sep 05 2008

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Published by under Movie Review,Movies

John BoyneJohn Boyne‘s novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, was a sensation when first published in 2006. It spent 66 weeks at the top of the Irish Book Charts and, while written by a man from Dublin, it has been a success globally, reaching the New York Times bestsellers list.

It is not surprising then that there should be some trepidation from fans of the book over Brassed Off and Little Voice‘s direct Mark Herman‘s adaptation to film. There was understandable concern that he may brush over certain more unpleasant aspect of the novel, or worst of all that he might give it a ‘Hollywood ending’.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Poster

Last night, At the World Premiere in Dublin’s Savoy Cinema, all trepidation was laid to rest and a classic movie was born.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tells the story of 8 year old Bruno, son of the Commandant of a concentration camp during World War II, Asa Butterfield as Brunoand how he befriends an incarcerated Jewish boy named Schmuel. Bruno has had to leave his home and friends in Berlin to live with his family in what is essentially an army barracks. Through boredom he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and meets Schmuel at the fence of the camp. Behind the barbed wire, Bruno’s innocent eyes sees Schmuel in his striped clothes with a number on it (which he believes is part of a game) and wishes he too could play with friends all day in the camp, instead of being bored alone in the house.

Without his parents’ knowledge, Bruno develops a strong bond with the boy in the striped pyjamas, even though he learns from his family and his Nazi tutor, Herr Liszt, that they should not be friends. Vera Farmiga, John Boyne and David ThewlisAs the story of friendship unfolds, Bruno’s initially happy family unit begins to unravel. The Commandant, played by Harry Potter’s David Thewlis, does not seem like a bad man at first. He is merely a good soldier following orders dutifully. Through his wife, however, we learn that he is deeply entwined in Hitler’s Holocaust. His wife, played superbly by Vera Farmiga, gives an Oscar worthy peformance as she tries to come to terms with what her husband has been doing to the Jews. Her final scenes in the film are nothing short of heartbreaking.

But it is the two boys, Bruno and Schmuel, played by Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon respectively, who carry the film. The shattering of Bruno’s innocence and his belief in his father’s goodness is played out perfectly by Butterfield, as he searches for answers. At the same time, the expressions of incredulity and then resignation on the face of Scanlon’s Schmuel show that the two boys are separated by far more than a barbed wire fence. Their lives are utterly opposite and it is this stark difference between the two boy’s lives that makes the climax of the movie all the more poignant.

Bruno and Schmuel

Despite my positive review, I have a hesitation in recommending this movie. It’s tough going. Even for those who may not have read the book, the finale seems to present itself a good 20 minutes before the end of the film. It is harrowing to know the inevitable fate of the boys and being unable to stop it. The far too believable performances are what makes this film so brilliant, but equally so difficult to watch. As the credits rolled and silence descended upon the Savoy, the only sound that could be heard was the sobbing of men and women. My chest was knotted at the end. It is not a pleasant feeling. This film will stay with me. There is a part of me that wishes I hadn’t seen it for the simple fact that there are some things that I am happy not to think about. The individual lives of the Holocaust victims is frightening to ponder and this film forces the point by being so believable.

It truly is an instant classic. It will be watched time and time again for years to come. The actors were remarkable, the direction flawless and the music was painfully wonderful when accompanied with some of the movie’s more startling moments. With your tissue in hand, do see this movie. It will make you emote, it will change your perception and it will stay with you for a long time.

Notes: Thank you, once again, to Movies.ie for the tickets to a remarkable event. Check out what other people thought here. There is also an interview with author John Boyne here.

6 responses so far

Aug 25 2008

The Wackness

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Recovering from a hangover, sitting in the trendy new Lighthouse Cinema, watching an off the wall coming of age movie, I feel as lost as the film’s main character. I knew I should have stopped about three or four Jamesons earlier last night.

The Wackness PosterHowever, I’m glad I made the effort to get out of bed and go see The Wackness. Like many coming of age films before it, it is more of a character study than a plot or action driven piece. We meet Luke Shapiro, just finished high school in New York’s pre-mobile-phone 1994 and about to have his final Summer before college. Some kids work in supermarkets to get some money together, Luke does not. He sells drugs.

Luke, played by Josh Peck, is an awkward, shy, apathetic youth who has no real friends and his only human contact seems to be when he is dealing drugs. His parents constantly fight and have serious money problems, leaving him essentially ignored by them. He, at 18, is still a virgin and feeling lost, alone and depressed. Luke, in exchange for drugs, gets psychiatric advice from Ben Kingsley‘s Dr. Jeffrey Squires, and develops a crush on Squires’ daughter, Stephanie, played by the best friend from Juno, Olivia Thirlby.

Thanks to Movies.ie, Anthony and I got to see this movie and it was well worth it for Kingsley alone. It is taken for granted that Ben Kingsley is a great actor, but this film highlights it better than the bigger Ghandi or Schindler’s List. Ben Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen in The WacknessHis natural charisma, his simple honesty, his brutal wounds-open portrayal of a psychiatrist in a dead end marriage with no friends and no future, is incredibly moving, particularly towards the end of the film. While Luke is coming to terms with his own adolescent immaturity, so too is Dr. Squires. He seems to be reliving his empty youth through the character of Luke, wanting him to have fun, while also wanting the best for him and his life. The relationship between the teen and the aging doctor is worrying at times but always magnetic to watch. And of course, there’s the incredible, never-to-be-removed-from-my-retina moment where Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen make out in a phone booth. It’s ok – he only made it to second base!!!

Olsen is surprisingly effective as the silly but cute druggy, and this role may point to a decent acting career in her future. Other supporting roles from Jane Adams, Famke Janssen and Method Man are equally engaging. Peck, in the lead role, is good. Just good. He won’t be wowing the Oscars and he is unlikely to land the lead in the next Hollywood blockbuster, but his likable drug dealer straddles the line between touching naivety and street smart hardness. Yes, he learns the moral lesson; yes, he moves from childhood to manhood; yes, he finds friendship through adversity; but the clichéd coming-of-age schtick plays out in a surprising and funny way.

The WacknessThe era in which this film is set (mid nineties) is apparently pivotal to the film. A lot of emphasis is placed on the nineties slang, the clothes, the technology and most notably the music. But I am struggling to see why the era is important. It could just as easily be set today. There is a minor sub-plot where they discuss New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani‘s zero tolerance to crime initiatives, but that is never followed through to any climactic conclusion. The music is undoubtedly important. It is like another character in the movie, showing the differences between young and old, ‘street’ and establishment, but…well, I just don’t like rap music. It does nothing for me and musically, my favourite moment was hearing Bowie as the credits rolled.

As bad points go, this doesn’t drag down the movie much. The fine performances and the very funny plot make this a film an essential addition to my indie collection. There is a twang of Lost in Translation‘s isolation and a refreshing breath of Juno‘s comic air. It may not gain the cult following of those two movies, but it will be watched again and again for years to come.

The Wackness

Notes: Once again Movies.ie has taken me to a great movie free of charge. Check out the site for news, reviews and free previews and thank you to the whole team at Movies.ie.

7 responses so far

Jul 23 2008

Dark Knight: Dissecting The Film

Published by under Movie Review,Movies

After The Dark Knight last night everyone was on a high (admittedly I was the only one jumping around the place like a jackrabbit on drugs) and a group of us gathered outside the Savoy first of all to give out overwhelmingly positive post mortems. The buzz and the vibes outside the cinema were a great experience.

The Joker

Mr Rick ran off (apparently he has to get into work a little earlier than usual for the next few weeks) as did the Mulley (Sir, it was a pleasure finally meeting you properly, if ever so briefly), but a group of us headed for Grand Central to further autopsy the film. Anto, Maybury and his far better half Debs, Doyle, Niamh, Lady Anon and myself spent the next hour pouring over our favourite moments, our favourite lines, our shock moments and our best bits.

David then asked the irritating question “So, who’s better – Nicholson or Ledger?” Why would you ask such a question, Sir?

I don’t know. Nicholson’s Joker was perfect for Burton’s Batman. In the late eighties his OTT mania was considered frightening while today, as Lady Anon suggested, it is almost parodic. I think Ledger’s performance was better but I’ll have to watch The Dark Knight a few more times before I can call him better than Nicholson.

Darragh seemed to find the finale and the Joker’s ending all too easy, but I don’t think many agreed. Without going down the route of spoilers, it’s clear there was so much mystery, madness and violence prior to his ultimate downfall. To me, it didn’t seem too simple at all.

The Dark KnightOne thing that definitely divided the group was the character of Rachel Dawes, played by the adequate Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, but by a far more rounded Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. One issue that came up was that, though Gyllenhaal was a better actress, the character departed so much from the Dawes of the first movie that it was difficult to buy into her role. I personally loved her as the torn love interest, but I can see the point.

One thing I definitely differed with some on was my adoration for Aaron Eckhart. As Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent, he stole the screen whenever he was on it, even earlier in the movie. He was the truest heart of the movie and to watch his downfall was the most riveting dramatic plot point. Any fans of the franchise will know that Dent is destined to ruin, to be disfigured and driven mad to become Two Face. Interestingly he begins the movie as the White Knight, the perfect symbol of truth and justice, a man who believes in order and does not leave anything to chance. The symbolic use of his perfect coin, with the same image on either side, which later becomes disfigured at the same moment Dent goes through his most traumatic experience, is one of my favourite moments in the film.

Speaking of favourite moments – when the Joker blew up the hospital, but it didn’t go according to plan, his reaction, the childish disappointment, was brilliant. It was that very moment that showed how truly incredible Ledger was in the role. It was both hilarious and frighteningly monstrous in the same moment – and that is the Joker.

Anyone else have any favourite moments? Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet might want to avoid reading the comments.


9 responses so far

Jul 23 2008

The Dark Knight

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

11.45pm Tuesday 22nd July 2008

The Dark KnightThis is going to be my least considered, least thought out, least clinical review of a movie ever and I may come back with a second more critical review next week. This is all emotion and gut reaction as I write off the cuff having just seen the movie mere hours ago. And damn my guts are reacting like crazy right now.

It’s years since I’ve come out of a movie on such a buzzing high. The Dark Knight, follow on to 2006’s Batman Begins, lived up to all the extensive hype and then surpassed it. I am ridiculously happy right now and it’s all because of a movie. I literally came bounding out of the Savoy on O’Connell Street, propelled by the pure adrenalin The Dark Knight pumped into my veins.

The Dark KnightFrom the opening scenes when a group of the Joker‘s hoodlums rob a mob bank we are immediately sucked back into the world created by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins. And it is a world far more real, far darker and far more exciting than the previous Gotham incarnations by Joel Schumacher in particular, but also by Tim Burton. The reveal of the Joker in the opening few minutes will be remembered as one of the greatest entrances of a movie character ever. His utterance, “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you……stranger. ” is probably the most memorable line from the movie.

Ledger

It is, of course, Heath Ledger playing the role which was seemingly impossible to follow after Jack Nicholson‘s interpretation in Burton’s Batman. But we do not see Ledger on the screen – we only see the Joker. The Joker doesn’t look like Ledger, doesn’t sound like Ledger, doesn’t even move like him. We’ll never know but I suspect had he not died, he still would be gaining an Oscar nod for the frightening role. As it is, it’s almost guaranteed.

As crazy and out of control as he is a the start of the movie, he descends further into a startling madness as the film progresses towards a brilliant stand off near the end when he almost pleads with Batman to hit him, to hurt him. Ledger nailed this part. There is a lot of humour in the role but at many points it’s difficult to know whether to laugh for fear of how far the Joker will take the crazy. It’s the unpredictability that makes the character so menacing and amazing to watch.

Unpredictable

The JokerIn fact, the unpredictability is one of the strongest themes throughout the movie and it is probably the unpredictable nature of the film that makes it so tense and magnetic. Everyone I spoke with after the movie said they wanted to see it again, some wanted to go right back in and watch it again – I was one of those.

Throughout, the chaotic Joker is unpredictable, and so too is Wayne/Batman, as he learns what he must become in order to defeat his nemesis, but even moreso, we witness this unpredictable leave-it-to-fate side of Harvey Dent (I won’t reveal anymore about his storyline just yet).

Aaron Eckhart, as the incorruptible District Attorney Harvey Dent is, for me, the single best piece of casting in the film, and I include Ledger’s Joker in this. He is a pivotal part of the Good versus Evil theme of the film, where the Joker represents the darkest evils of human nature and Dent stands for the truest good, the hope and beacon of humanity. Far more epic in scale than the cataclysmic action scenes is the drama that unfolds between Dent’s seemingly unfailing goodness and the Joker’s desperate desire to corrupt all. The dark tragedy that presents itself is shocking and gives pause for thought. The question of whether the White Knight of Gotham will turn dark is as important to the film’s title as the reference to Batman is.

The Dark Knight

While the theme of good versus evil plays out with Dent and the Joker, the strong theme of order versus chaos plays out both in the hearts and minds of Gotham’s citizens (most notably where the citizens are presented with some monstrously difficult choices), but also in the mind of Bruce Wayne. The Joker has no moral code, he has no rules and seems to act without rhyme or reason except to corrupt and destroy the moral fibres of everyone he touches. Bruce Wayne learns how far into chaos Batman must descend to maintain order. In one of the darkest moments in the movie, Batman breaks the legs of a mob boss to get information. At one point he beats up the Joker while in custody, revealing to the joker how far he is prepared to go.

Hype

The Dark KnightThere are a number of shocks along the way relating to many of the main characters and that’s where this movie excels. I was on the edge of my seat from very early on, right up to the incredible closing monologue. There was so much hype surrounding the build up to this movie, aided in part by the untimely death of Heath Ledger by accidental overdose. The many movie posters, the ‘leaked’ viral clips, the piece-of-a-puzzle advertising websites. All of this lead to an anticipation that could not meet expectations…and yet The Dark Knight has met expectations and exceeded them. I will be going to see this movie again next week, maybe more than once. I suspect a large proportion of the preview audience will do the same.

Does it deserve to be number one on the IMDb top movies list? Maybe! I’ll get back to you with my answer.

Well Deserved Pimping:

I have to say a massive thank you to Anthony for giving me his spare ticket to the Movies.ie preview (I doubt I could bare to wait another few days to see this film) and I, of course, would like to thank Movies.ie for supplying the preview tickets in the first place. In recent times I’ve been lucky enough to get ticktes to Wall•E, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Wanted and I am very grateful to the guys at Movies.ie for this.

 

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Jul 17 2008

Where’s Wall•E

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Where’s Wall•E? Well, he showed up in Cineworld on Monday evening and I was lucky enough to get to see him, thanks to movies.ie and their preview screenings.

I’ve enjoyed most of what Pixar have had to offer over the years. I’ve watched the company grow as I have gone from being a child to an adult and I remember seeing the cute Pixar shorts with Luxo Jnr in the late 80’s with the bouncing lamp (they still use this lamp in their logo).

Over the years they have teamed with Disney and have produced cartoon instant classics, such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille, but though I enjoyed them and laughed along and though I was highly impressed with their style and cartooning, none of them ever managed to reach the heights of Disney‘s The Lion King (and other earlier Disney cartoons), in my opinion, in creating a movie that truly crossed all the divides and made you forget that you were watching a ‘silly cartoon’ and just appreciate the great story, the strong emotion and characterisation that gave life to the blobs of colour on screen. Until now.

I was nervous about seeing Wall•E. The premise isn’t particularly easy to swallow. Essentially, the humans have destroyed Earth through pollution and overconsumption and in an effort to save humanity they have gone on a space voyage, leaving robots behind to clean thing up. Many years later, the humans have not returned and there is only one little robot left, Wall•E, who goes about his day tidying up and collecting trinkets and listening to show tunes from early Hollywood musicals.

An obvious set up for a movie, yes?

Wall EWell, I didn’t think so, and was dubious as to how they could make good story out of it. There’s minimal dialogue throughout as Wall•E can only make a few limited sounds and the only other main characters in it are another more modern ‘female’ robot (presumably Wall•E is a male ‘robot’) and a cockroach Wall•E keeps as a pet.

It turns out that this odd premise lends itself to some hilarious slapstick and visual comedy, it raises some very current issues such as the global warming crisis, the problems of consumerism and the dehumanisation of the masses, and it also allows for some truly moving, beautiful scenes that had this grown man, at least, wiping a bit of dust out of his eye more than once.

Notably this movie does not pump the ‘humans are ruining the world’ vibe down our throats. Unlike 2006’s Happy Feet that seemed to batter the viewer over the head with the guilt stick, Wall•E is more interested in the prospect of hope for reversing the situation. It was refreshingly light on selling the moral message, but still had a fable-like ending all the same.

Wall EFrom the start the comedy does not let up and this is the movie’s strongest suit. Right through to the predictable love story and onwards to the crisis points of the film the comedy is relentless and it is mostly down to the expressions of the main character. Indeed, these expressions are what make the movie so great.

With minimal dialogue every emotion, every quizzical look, every exasperated glance must be timed to perfection on the ‘faces’ of the robots and Pixar nails it. Even the more minimalist styled robot, Eve, the love interest, shows rage, frustration, love, laughter and sadness through a few subtle changed in her ‘eyes’. Wall EThere is a truth in the unspoken dialogue between the two main characters that could not be revealed through words. That is the genius of the movie.

I went to see this with three other blokes and no kids. If we can do it, so can you – don’t worry about it being a cartoon, don’t worry about people looking at you oddly. This brilliant movie is well worth a few stares.

Thakns again to movies.ie for tickets to the screeneing. My movies.ie account can be viewed here.

Wall•E Trailer

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Jul 09 2008

Overlooked Classics: Shattered Glass

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Stephen GlassTen years ago, The New Republic magazine, reportedly the inflight magazine of Air Force One, published an issue which contained the now infamous Stephen Glass article, Hack Heaven. The article, a clever coup for such a young journalist (aged 26), told the story of a young hacker who, instead of being sued, is hired by Jukt Micronics after he successfully hacked their system. The kid becomes wealthy overnight and even has his own agent. The story is a sensation and Glass confirmed his status as a great journalist within the close-knit group at The New Republic.

It was then that he began to gain attention from his rivals at Forbes Digital, a technology webzine. Annoyed at being scooped by The New Republic, and in an effort to do a follow up story, Adam Penenberg of Forbes began fact checking Glass‘s article and immediately began to see holes. He could find no existence of Jukt Micronics, nor the wealthy hacker or his manager. Thinking he had discovered that the great New Republic had been duped, he got very excited about this new story and went about contacting Charles ‘Chuck’ Lane, editor of New Republic. From this point on things begin to unravel for Glass as he is unable to sufficiently answer any of the questions posed to him about the origins and veracity of his article. In a very short space of time Lane confronts Glass over this story and others he has written both during Lane‘s tenure and during the tenure of Michael Kelly, the previous editor. It becomes apparent that many of the facts in Glass‘s articles have been fabricated and in even more cases the entire stories were fiction. The acclaimed New Republic had been publishing fictitious articles and the scandal was about to break.

True Story

The true story of the events of Stephen Glass and The New Republic magazine are now legendary and is a cautionary tale for modern news publishers everywhere. Director and writer Billy Ray did an incredible job of bringing this incendiary story to the big screen. His first foray into directing will guarantee him a bright and strong future in the field.

Looking at the story, firstly: it is a tale that is well known and though the final moment, where the full extent of Glass‘s lies is revealed, is completely inevitable, Billy Ray managed to tell the story with nail-biting suspense, wringing every bit of juice from the story without dragging it out. From the hopeful open scenes, where Glass, in ‘flashback’, is lecturing to a class of student journalists, through to his first errors where he uses his amiable boylike charm to squirm out of difficulty, on to his final admissions of guilt, harangued from him by Lane, a man in a highly unenviable position, the story plays out with pace and style reminiscent of All The Presidents Men, a film which is seen by many as the quintessential movie about journalistic integrity.

Hayden ChristensenRay‘s direction is impeccable as he draws us into the story in such a way that we truly care for every character in it. His sparse use of music and the ease at which he allows scenes to unravel without forcing the point, particularly when showing us Penenberg and Forbe‘s side of the story, makes this movie artistically beautiful, without losing any of the entertainment value and pace needed to keep us on the edge of our seats.

But it is his casting that his genius shines: in the hands of George Lucas, Hayden Christensen is a wooden puppet, but as Stephen Glass he is sensational, balancing upon the high wire act of maintaining his golden boy image while the fraudulent weasel hides beneath. Remarkably, though surrounded by some very likeable characters who Glass lies to and manipulates, the true genius of this movie lies in the fact that we are rooting for Glass right the way to the end. It’s impossible not to like Christensen‘s heavily flawed anti-hero.

And his co-stars are equally impressive. Chloë Sevigny, as Caitlin Avery, is almost a big sister to Glass, protecting him from criticism, while criticising him herself for being so modest and not demanding more respect from those around him. She has been completely taken in by his charm and her eventual let down is beautifully emotional.

Steve Zahn as Penenberg and Rosario Dawson as his cut-throat colleague, Andy Fox, are the movie’s examples of ‘real’ journalists, who chase stories, demand credit and dispense with the niceties when a story is breaking. They not only further the plot, but also provide an excellent contrast to Glass‘s goody-two-shoes attitude. One suspects that if he had been working at Forbes Digital, they would have seen through him far sooner.

Peter SarsgaardBut huge credit must be given to Peter Sarsgaard for his role as Chuck Lane, who takes over from his predecessor (Michael Kelly, played by a very solid Hank Azaria) at a time when the magazine is resenting the hierarchy who are demanding big changes from its writers. Where Kelly was willing to lose his job to defend his staff, Lane is seen as a backstabber, walking over Kelly‘s still warm grave. Throughout the film, we are presented with his story, as much as Glass‘s, as we are shown his emotional turmoil, the pressure he is receiving from above as well as the disdain he receives from his staffers. As he is being tugged from all sides, he must then uncover the truth behind Glass‘s lies and save the magazine’s reputation. He has a number of wonderful scenes in the latter half of the movie, including one particularly moving moment in the closing minutes of the film. An Oscar worthy performance.

Christensen/Glass

The negatives in this movie are not numerous. Glass‘s good boy image is perhaps a little fake and the narrative structure based around his lecture to journalism students is not required. It seems to take us away from the story rather than further it. Although, the irony of Stephen Glass lecturing students on journalistic integrity is clever – it is a joke that quickly wears thin.

Additionally, it might have been interesting to see some of his other faked articles explored onscreen, but this is not a real negative – it is more a testament to how well the stories Hack Heaven and Spring Breakdown play out.

Released in 2004 (2003 in the US), Shattered Glass went mostly overlooked by the public though received wide critical praise. If it’s only success was to show that Hayden Christensen was hiding some great acting talent, then this film should be heralded. But it did so much more – it is a dramatic piece about integrity without ever becoming preachy; it is emotional without falling into the love story trap or slipping down the slopes of sop; it tells a well known story with such tension and pace that I found myself on the edge of my seat, even though I knew how it would end. Director Billy Ray has created a classic movie that will be watched by film students and potential journalists for years to come.

Previous Posts:

Overlooked Classics: The Hudsucker Proxy

Overlooked Classics: Dolores Claiborne

9 responses so far

Jun 11 2008

The Credible Hulk

Published by under Blog,Movie Review

A huge thank you to Movies.ie for tickets to see The Incredible Hulk last night in the Savoy. Darragh and I grabbed a pint before hand and chatted about a variety of things – the last version of the Hulk being one of them. I was apprehensive about seeing this movie, the newest incarnation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s Not So Jolly Green Giant, after Ang Lee’s dire Hulk in 2003. I wondered if Louis Letterier‘s direction could do for the Hulk franchise what Batman Begins did for Gotham’s Caped Crusader.

Step One: Eric Bana has been replaced by the far superior actor, Edward Norton, in a role that surprised me. Norton, famous for his dramatic turns in 25th Hour and American History X and the more commercial Fight Club, seems to have shunned the spotlight in recent years. It was refreshing to see someone of his callibre take on a role that was inevitably 50% CG (seemingly Norton gave the movie a complete rewrite before taking on the role). Someone at Marvel has a massive ingenious plan in the works with the casting of Norton as Bruce Banner and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. One can only wonder who will be playing Captain America – my money is on Ryan Gosling.

Step Two: Assume the viewer has some concept of the origins of the Hulk. Ang Lee’s Hulk went 40 minutes before revealing ‘the big guy’. The script by Zac Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four) and Norton, gives the audience a brief re-run of the back story during the opening credits before getting straight into the story of the on-the-run Bruce Banner.

Step Three: Hulk Smash! The Incredible Hulk should not be an arthouse exercise, it should not have audiences questioning their existence or pondering the injustices committed by man to man. It should have plenty of car-throwing, building-smashing, tank-totaling action and this movie has this in abundance. The action sequences are what define the Hulk – he is, after all, a giant green monster. The dramatic pauses and difficult moral decisions are left to Bruce Banner and Norton can do that in his sleep. Getting the character of the Hulk right was the most important part of this film and for the most part, they pull it off.

In interviews, Letterier claimed he wanted to recreate the realism of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, using similar techniques to achieve it. For much of the movie, where the Hulk is in the dark or we catch fleeting glances of him, Letterier has got it perfect, but this is not Gollum. Much of the creature effects left me feeling a little disappointed. I wanted to feel something for the character of the Hulk, but I was left pondering the level of detail in the the skin, the impact of the bullets, the cartoonish raindrops on his body. Much of it was excellent (the huge fight scenes with ‘the Abomination’ were visually brilliant), but most of the time the character was a little like graffiti on an otherwise beautiful landscape. And while the two CG monsters fighting at the end of a movie is getting a bit tired at this stage (Iron Man proved it could still be done with style), this is a movie about the Hulk – it could not go any other way.

Step Four: Get the supporting cast right. In recent years, William Hurt has proven himself to be one of the great actors of our time. Since his showstopping turn in David Cronenberg‘s History of Violence, he has really shone. As General Ross, he will not win any Oscars, but he brings a gravitas and respect to the role which may not otherwise be there.

Tim Roth, as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, was perfect. Roth was one of my favourite actors from the nineties, but after Million Dollar Hotel and Planet of the Apes, I lost interest in his increasingly obscure roles. It was a treat to see him take on a role like this. In interview he claimed he was convinced by his kids to do this more mainstream, comic-book role. Maybe he should listen to them a little more. Tim Blake Nelson, remembered for his role as the hilarious dimwit, Delmar, in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, steals the screen when he’s there. His energy and excitement do not fit with the small role he has in The Incredible Hulk and it’s clear he has been set up to return (as the new bad guy, The Leader, perhaps) in the potential sequel.

The casting of Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Banner’s long time love interest, was a bit of a damp squib. Played by Jennifer Connelly in Ang Lee’s Hulk, perhaps Connelly should have been given the opportunity to reprise her role. Tyler isn’t bad, but she certainly doesn’t add anything to the movie and when she is placed in peril, I don’t think anyone really cares.

Step Five: Give the Fanboys something to enjoy. I am not a big comic-book eek and I don’t know the many back-stories, sideline plots and various crossovers the Hulk has seen and been through over the past 46 years, but I did spot a number of nods and there was a wonderful moment where Banner fluffs his iconic “You won’t like me when I’m angry” line. This movie will please the fans and the hints towards a forthcoming Avengers movie must be whetting many a geek’s appetite. I can’t wait. Spoiler (highlight to view): Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark appearing at the end of the movie was the greatest moment in the whole movie.

Louis Letterier, Zac Penn and Edward Norton have managed to make a movie that more than makes up for the abomination that was 2003’s Hulk. This is not the greatest comic book movie ever made and definitely falls short of last month’s Iron Man, but it has given a renewed vigour to a faded story and I already welcome a sequel. The Incredible Hulk is credible again. Go see it and enjoy the action packed fun.

Update: Rick reviews it further here and is less positive than I am about it.

8 responses so far

May 02 2008

Iron Man

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

As the Cinemagic Festival draws to a close, the organisers reflect on six months work, sponsorship deals, input from children, the organisation of each event and the patting on the backs of those who deserve to be patted on the back.

And in screen 17 of Cineworld Cinema on Parnell Street at 7.20, as all of this celebratory oration ensued, I patiently bit my nails waiting for the closing movie, Iron Man to begin. Credit where it’s due. This past week has seen workshops, classes and events designed immerse young people in the world of film and screen and to nurture talents of other young up-and-coming filmmakers of the future.

But…IRON MAN!!!

The silver screen outing of the iconic Iron Man is the perfect mix of comedy, drama and superhero campness and mayhem. Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark is a solid role. It is not a simple lock-and-load action hero. It requires some gritty acting to pull off a character that sees a story arc begin with a millionaire playboy lifestyle, move into tortured kidnap victim, emerge into a born again humanitarian only to be driven by a sense of guilt and revenge to become a potential hero to the world. Downey is perfect in this role. Drawing upon his own life, he plays a man who possesses incredible talent but is wasting it on a lifestyle of alcohol and loose women.

Seen again in the upcoming Edward Norton take on the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk, Marvel seem to have realised that high octane action and massive explosions cannot cut it anymore. Perhaps being burned by Bana’s Hulk, they now see that quality acting and intelligent writing is required to bring the often decades of comic book complexities to the big screen.

Iron Man surpasses expectations. The excellent script did not miss a beat and the direction made sure that each character (including the excellent support act of Terrence Howard in the role of Stark’s friend, Jim Rhodes) were explored beyond a 2D stereotype. On top of acting and script prowess, this movie does not fail to deliver on heavy duty action and huge landscapes. As we travel from the deserts of Afghanistan to the cities of California to the beautiful home of Tony Stark, we are greeted by destruction and mayhem at very turn. Even the lighthearted comic elements of the movie are infused with action (the scenes in which Stark tests his burgeoning technology are fantastic).

This film is also a perfect example of good use of CG. Needless to say the big flying machine and the robot battle scenes are epic in their use of computer generated imagery, but it is the more sybtle use of CG (notably when Gwyneth Paltow’s Pepper Potts must reach her hand into Tony Starks chest cavity) that prove that Hollywood is finally learning to utilise the available technologies rather than simply pump a load of CG action in and hope for profits (see the aforementioned Hulk or the last of the Matrix movies, Revolutions).

The first blockbuster of 2008, Iron Man sufficiently whets the appetite in preparation for Indiana Jones return, the tentative big screen version of Speed Racer, Shyamalan’s The Happening, the updated Incredible Hulk, and of course the huge Dark Knight. I can’t wait!

Once again, a huge thank you to Darragh and to all those involved in the Cinemagic Festival. Congratulations on a very successful week and I look forward to next year’s events.

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