Sunday, 26 February 2012

NEWS: The Dictator Speaks Back (Sacha Baron Cohen)

REVIEW: War Horse

Welcome ... to the worst film of 2011. Perhaps ever.

Who actually likes this film? Who out there is saying that this is good? That it deserves an oscar? Who are these people?

War Horse is about a horse, that goes to war. The horse is the main character. A horse. One that is basically void of apparent emotion or depth. It's not a talking horse, it's just a horse, a passive pawn in war. Okay, okay, so it's a symbol for a young man's innocence, his passion etc. but really, I mean, c'mon, it's a horse.

Sick of the word horse? Well try 3 hours of it. What starts in a horribly cliche'd Lord Of The Rings Shire-esque vision of Forties England suddenly means that we are without our main human contact, instead we are left to follow the horse. Horses not known to be evocative. We see everyone keep going on about what a bloody great horse he is, characters come and go as the narrative moves on and suddenly there's a painstakingly long scene with Toby Kebbell (what are you doing man?) and a German soldier untying the horse. It so sweet and sickly, I could pour it on my pancakes. I even fell asleep for ten minutes but I couldn't have missed much. Everyone was overacting, the war scenes were boring and overall the whole thing was almost a joke. Films shouldn't be boiled down to something as simple as this, I'd like to think the moviegoing public are much more clever nowadays to fool for such melodramatic nonsense.

I cannot tell you how bad this film is, and if it wins anything at the Oscars it will be a traversty. Spielberg should be ashamed.

Rating: 1/10

REVIEW: Ides Of March

Clooney ... again .... With Gosling!!!

Ryan Gosling plays a young, idealistic campaigner for who he believes will be the next President and will actually make a difference to the world, Mr. George Clooney.

I had reservations about a Clooney political thriller, the man can be a little heavy handed and at points during this film, Clooney makes his own political stances quite clear as Govenor. However, it is quite a subtle introduction for modern mainstream audiences to embrace political thrillers that they might have thought would be too out of their depth, think All The President's Men and how it might be a bit old hat now for young cinemagoers. Though this doesn't have the appeal as that classic, it was surprisingly more entertaining than I thought it would be. The main reason for this is Gosling's ability to keep you interested in everything he is doing. His charisma knows no bounds. As he plays a young, rather naive, arrogant prodigy there is also a sense that as a person he is slightly corrupt, that his rather egotistical outlook on life is his own downfall and then, his own succession. He must, in fact, completely embrace that horrible, soiled side of him for him to succeed in what is dirty politics. It in fact shows that in a world of greys, in politics you either go all the way or you remain righteous and take the chance that you get left behind. Perhaps it is more black and white than it seems?

Gosling's character clearly looks up to Clooney and when his hero falls from grace in his eyes, in quite a dramatic turn of events, Gosling takes it upon himself to survive. However, it is in fact this sense of survival and character flaw of his that actually ends in a death. If he had been less selfish in the first place, things might have gone a little bit better.

Clooney's directing is somewhat lacking in anything substantial, it's average at best and has no excitement behind it. Just a man going through the paces. The performances are very good, but that's because of the heavyweights involved and Gosling's appeal rather than deserving directing. The plot is good, but not great, it's rather lacking in some areas and doesn't engross me like many political thrillers do, however it's definitely enjoyable and makes some good points.

Overall, Gosling's journey through the mudslinging and coming out at the end shows that no matter what ideals you have, in the world of politics, anything goes. Definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Descendants

Will Academy Golden Boy Clooney Do It Again?

A lot of people have asked me what I thought of this film and if you can't be bothered to read the below then I can sum it up in one word - "Alright".

For more greater detail on why, let's just say it's another Clooney vehicle. People might say how the focus should be on Payne and they are correct. However, I'm just not a huge fan of his. People writing reviews in magazines (the ones that get paid to write and get loads of time to do it and rarely know what they are talking about etc. - not bitter of course) have been writing love letters to Payne saying how they missed his work and it's been ages since his last film. You know why it's been ages? Because he's been spending that time working on Hung - a TV series I've neither seen or had the inclination to see.

Anyway, off the point, Sideways was a good movie - but I felt it was Giamatti who really made it. Payne's shtick of a 'journey' both literally and metaphorically is so cliched that it's tough to enjoy one film about it. Let alone three. I thought his true masterpiece was the largely undervalued Election and would gladly watch that again than watch this. However, time and time again he does seem to like the mid-life crisis of American males. It's just nothing new and Descendants is proof of this.

George Clooney plays a man whose wife is in critical condition. At the same time his large extended family have a huge deal in place with him at the centre of selling off some family plot. The painstakingly obvious idea of family is never buried within the story, it's clear as day - the land is a metaphor for his family. He won't 'give it up'. It's almost embarrassing to watch. As he delves a little deeper, he finds out his wife was cheating on him so makes it a task to find the people close to her, including the other man in her life. In a way, she has brought the family closer together than she perhaps ever could have done in life. It's a sad tale but one that is full of melancholy, a Payne favourite.

A lot of people describe this as a comedy, it's not. It's full of some weird funny awkward moments and Clooney's warmth shines through as he clearly understands the character, but Oscar worthy? Seriously? It's a completely forgettable film with some okay performances. The little girl is annoying, the teenager's boyfriend even more annoying (a male teenager from the Nineties it seems indicating Payne is quite out of touch) and the peripheral characters not really even worth mentioning. There are some touching, tender moments but with the amount of quality that was produced in the latter half of last year, this should be buried somewhat, not leading the pack.

The bit I really enjoyed the most was the end. A quiet, thoughtful, unassuming look at the family who are now sitting down and facing us, a role reversal to presume that it is now our turn to live our lives, tell our stories and get on with everything. It's simplicity is a touch of genius but something that can't save the entire film.

It's George Clooney being George Clooney (has he had work done?) in another slow, character led piece.

Good, but by no means great, or even fantastic.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Take Shelter

A storm is coming ...

This film came and went in the UK without much notice - which is a horrible shame as it is one of the best films I had seen last year.

The plot is that Michael Shannon is a manual worker with a loving family, including a deaf daughter, that starts to see things in the sky. Whether it's clouds, hurricanes, or a strange flock of birds - Shannon feels that something is coming and wants to do something about it. So to protect his family, he focuses all his attention and money into a shelter in the yard. However, he is also wondering whether he is going crazy and with a family history of mental illness, is this a true premonition or the visions of a madman?

Firstly, what really stands out are the superb performances by the cast. Shannon is a logical, loving and sympathetic character which makes his turmoil ever the more real. His self-analysis mirrors the audience's own judgement of his character, he therefore becomes the subject and the viewer at the same time. For the majority of the film, he is looking onwards at the visions - he is with us, wondering, exasperating and confused. However, as the film progresses, and the shelter takes more shape his visions become more active and violent. His dreams spill over with paranoia and helplessness whether it's the family dog, the community or his own wife and in a way, each one inevitably leaves him isolated. Shannon's gritty demeanour and strong, silent, passive type is perfectly suited. It also makes more of an impact when he blows up. His relationship with his mother is telling, the family unit he comes from having been broken up and his need to keep it all together perhaps weighing too heavily on his mind.

Jessica Chastain proves again that she is a bright star for the future and needs more heavyweight roles like this. Her patience, adoration and understanding of Shannon, even in the most unforgivable situations makes the relationship realistic and heartfelt. She doesn't over-exaggerate and quietly let's Shannon evolve as a character without disrupting the focus of the film.

My only quibble was with casting is Shea Whigham as Shannon's friend. The two are main characters from Boardwalk Empire and so closely associated with the show that you can't help but watch it and remember the show. It was annoying and, nothing against Whigham's acting, it just let the film down.

Overall, the film is another critique on post-9/11 paranoia in a new age. The fact that Mother Earth herself is waging war against us through all sorts of weather temperaments is proof that this isn't just post-Katrina blues, but a sheer fear against nature and more importantly, human nature. The fear of oneself and those around you. The shelter itself is a haven for Shannon's family not against the outside world, but against himself. He must protect his family from himself and his fear of what could happen, with this schizophrenia he has diagnosed himself with is almost as dangerous as the condition itself.

It's not just sheer chance that birds seem to be the harbingers of doom. Not only are they seemingly black crows of sorts (a classic sign of death and doom - Edgar Allen Poe for instance), but they are a community, flying in the same direction, pulled this way and that ever-changing, much like the American public mindset, the community spirit almost, following by instinct it's natural path. The fact that they fly could even be linked to 9/11 - an attack from the sky against the American people. They float like a deathly ghost, a smoke and yet it's so beautiful at the same time, this melancholia, this beauty in death and destruction paints the film's emotions with shades of grey that add a real depth to it's heart.

Shannon inevitably has to take his family down to the shelter and once trapped inside his mental anguish, it takes the love of his wife for him to open the door, to take the chance, to let go of that fear and embrace the world outside. Embrace his friends and family. However, the last scene is proof that it might be okay for a while now, but it won't be for long. That fear, that paranoia, will be with them forever and will only grow stronger. It's a lasting image that no matter where you go, how happy you are, there will always be the fear of something horrible on the horizon. This could be a statement on the general American public who love to be afraid, it could be a statement on mental health (notice how his daughter spots it first) and it's ability to be passed down, it could be a statement on the character's relationship (his wife's final understanding and acceptance), it could be a statement on environmental issues, or it could be an apocalypse. Either way it makes for a tense and entertaining movie.

Rating: 8/10