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All reviews - Movies (45) - TV Shows (4) - Books (8) - Music (1) - Games (2)

A different take

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 16 September 2012 06:31 (A review of Hannibal )

I sympathise with Julianne Moore. It would be impossible to fill Jodie Foster's shoes as Clarice Starling but she did a credible job for any viewer that had either never seen Silence else could reset their view of who Clarice Starling originally was. It takes some effort and the ability to separate these as different works with different actresses. Jodie brought a lot of vulnerable determination to the role and Julianne subsequently delivered a lot of determined vulnerability. We remember most what we see first and of course Jodie will always be the definitive Starling. That means that Moore showed considerable courage because she redefined Starling and to purists that is sheer heresy. Yet these "transgressions" take place all the time as Hollywood proves again and again - through tired remakes - that its creativity is constrained by the backers who have only one aim; to make more money. Therefore a director who can push through something innovative and disguise it as a sure bet to the gnomes with the cash is a very rare animal indeed.

Yet to judge either work in terms of the other is, I believe, to miss the point. Moore was between a rock and a hard place but somehow she found a way through. Viewers who can abandon the disappointment that Jodie turned down the second role and simply reset and re-evaluate the character can enjoy this film.

Gary Oldman was incredible, not least for the six hours he had to spend in makeup for each shoot. It's true that Moore's Starling is vastly different from Foster's but if you can look beyond the differences between the two players you might be surprised.

The suspense element was, as always, beautifully poisonous, delivered in that gentle sinister way that Hopkins has made his own:
"... yes, thrown naked, with a noose around his neck, from a window. Writhing and kicking alongside the Archbishop, against the cold stone wall."

Delicious use of language.

In the context of so much beauty (the Opera) it textured well with the old conceptions of psychopathy (however misguided) that beauty and horror sit alongside one another.

At the very least, there are scenes in this film that cut to the root of horror; the dissolution of who we are, by scalpel, within reach of garlic and a crepe pan. Few could deny that will make the skin crawl.

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Raw but rewarding

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 16 September 2012 04:37 (A review of The Descendants)

When a film echoes experiences of the viewer it can dredge up memories that are painful in the extreme without any promise of a new perspective. I found the film tough going because of that.

Yet the character of Matt King (George Clooney) was so well drawn and accessible that his handling of extremely taxing events that smaller, pettier, weaker men could have spun to feel the satisfaction of revenge but to the detriment of so many others around them, were an inspiration. With so much pain around, why multiply it out? Why thrust in a knife of righteous anger at betrayal and self-interest then give it an additional twist?

There is so much to this film that it takes time to absorb the implications. Even though the plot has few surprises, the characters though initially stereotypical eventually take the nobler path, the one less travelled and by the end they have all grown in stature. Their problems were manifold and each had a different way of working around/through them. There's no right or wrong here, just a group of paths through the forest and the film allows us to admire the view on the way.

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One day all this will change ...

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 16 September 2012 09:40 (A review of Layer Cake (2004))

This is not normally my cuppa, having seen Lock Stock ... and Snatch and thought them funny but only middling. Yet I loved this film (again for the refreshingly British cast) excellent writing, direction, visuals and soundtrack.

The surreal opening sequence, selling the trite but valid message that only legislation keeps recreational drugs in the hands of criminals and once/if that changes the pharamaceutical companies will become the new dealers, was spellbinding and brilliantly executed. It correctly set the tone for XXXX's assertion that he was simply a businessman, what he sold was merely a product for which there was demand.

And the realism is pretty well observed throughout; the clumsy ineptitude of Duke and his mob and their expectedly short foray into a world much bigger than they, Slasher's coke-fuelled erratics, the worldly wisdom of Morty and Gene and the self-assuredness and arrogance of Eddie Temple, it was a grubby gordian knot of interdepenancies and suspicions.

Although everything can be understood from the first viewing there are some excellent visuals, sounds and performances to enjoy again and again.

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Pick a Poppy

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 16 September 2012 09:21 (A review of Happy-Go-Lucky)

I saw this on the recommendation of a close friend because she found much to admire in Poppy's character. I have to say that the comedy is good though the plot is somewhat disjointed as though there were storylets glued together with few tenuous links to flow them from one to the other.

Sally Hawkins gives a fair performance as the slightly ditzy but well-meaning Poppy and she's supported well by the rest of the cast. I was interested to see her in this role because I was so impressed with her portrayal of Slasher in Layer Cake and she clearly has range. At first I found Poppy a little trying but as time went on I developed a genuine empathy and affection for her and her outlook on life.

A bit fluffy as films go but a pleasant way to while away some time.

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Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 15 September 2012 09:02 (A review of WALL·E)

Pixar is deservedly the poster-child of the rendered animation world and this is undoubtedly the best for its time. The sound, textures, lighting, character, prop and scene design are outstanding in Pixar's oeuvre.

As for the writing, there's quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek stereotyping of the human component but the majority of the film correctly focuses on the relationship between EVE and WALL·E and gives the sense that although both the product of humans they have much more to offer the satellite-clouded toxified remains of Earth than the people.

The child-like innocence of WALL·E immediately garners the audience's sympathy and support as does his demonstration of his raison d'etre to EVE concluding with the endearing "Ta-da!" The love story is incredibly moving, particularly so when EVE goes into stasis after acquiring a biological specimen. WALL·E's tenacity and determination to take her to his favourite spots in the hope of eliciting a response from her was crushingly reminiscent of when a loved one is in a coma. This quite choked me up. And this is barely 1/3 of the way through. The film is so enthralling that it seems to pack more into less time. The dance sequence between the two love-struck robots was very well executed and scored (the music throughout the film is superb) and the disturbed cloud of ice crystals gives a great hook for the very funny Pixar short BURN·E.

This film is filled to the brim with heart, perhaps just a little more than it needed but it's forgivable. To squeeze so much emotional range out of the main characters given their design showed a thoughtful process that flows into every niche of the film. The detail and quality of every aspect of this film is breathtaking. For families, for children and adult children this film is a keeper.

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Burn-E (2008) review

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 15 September 2012 08:02 (A review of Burn-E (2008))

A charming short covering the subplot of the BURN·E repair robot aboard the mothership in the film WALL·E delivering the message that small actions can yield large consequences. Without dialogue or facial expressions even the supply robot can express reluctance, exasperation and resignation and BURN·E can say F*CK! safely in front of the children. Terrific.

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Day & Night review

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 15 September 2012 07:45 (A review of Day & Night)

A very innovative Pixar short with a (slightly trite) well delivered message. For me the beauty is in the visuals within the characters which are reminiscent of cartoons of the 1940's with vivid colours and stylised forms. Outstanding.

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Jack-Jack Attack (2005) review

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 15 September 2012 07:41 (A review of Jack-Jack Attack (2005))

This excellent Pixar short is perfect for viewing after The Incredibles to fill in the background behind the increasingly frantic telephone messages left for Mrs. Incredible by Kari the babysitter. Short but sweet.

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Let's dance while the music plays

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 15 September 2012 01:53 (A review of Home for the Holidays (1995))

I think the balance of this film, for its oeuvre, was very close to perfect. It has some flaws but so do our lives. A film with heart and humour, great performances from the cast (this must have been a hoot to be a part of) and solid unshowy writing. I laughed, shed a tear, but the warmth of the film stays with me. The thanksgiving scene was splendid; I've been to a few myself when I lived in the US and I'd have the film version every time. Greener grass perhaps. A keeper.

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Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 14 September 2012 07:01 (A review of Flightplan (2005))

This film appears to have been born as a list of points to make to which a convoluted and ridiculous plot has been retrofitted. The result is a confusing film which doesn't engage me. Even when I watched it again, it seemed just as fragmented and disjointed as before.

Performances are passable though Kyle (Jodie Foster) in the opening shots appears so desolate it's hard not to (uncharitably) think that she's just been told how ludicrous the plot is going to be and she's tearfully wondering if there's still a chance that her agent can get her out of the gig.

This film could have been much better done with a proper plot, better dialogue and setting the whole thing aboard a cruise ship. So there.

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