Monday, 23 April 2012

Catwoman (2004) - ★

This is one of those movies that you hear nothing but bad things about, thus making it irresistible to watch. I was hoping for one of those 'It's so bad it's good' films, but instead I sat through 100 minutes of pure garbage. This could've been a great superhero movie such as Spiderman or The Dark Night Batman series. Unfortunately plain old bad acting, special effects that look like they belong in a TV-movie, an unconvincing screenplay of hazy plots and ridiculous dialogue made this one of the most downright awful pile of cinema I've seen in a long time.

Halle Berry attempts to play a shy and plain looking artist for a beauty company that constantly makes mistakes but pulls off a brave smile afterwards. This is director Pitof's lazy attempt to make her a relatable friend of the viewer. Even when they made Berry up to look 'normal' she was still beautiful which made Patience's transition to Catwoman that much less exciting. It was impossible to root for this girl because she had hardly any redeeming qualities such as intelligence, self-respect and class. We were quickly introduced to the bad guys, her bosses Laurel and George Hedare. Simply put, I guessed who the evil mastermind was the second I saw them. After that, the rest of the film was horribly predictable.

About twenty minutes into the movie we are left waiting for Patience to become Catwoman, fight crime, encounter a problem, fix the problem and then live happily ever after. That is what happened exactly in that order, except the ending left us waiting for a sequel that never happened (Thank God). One could go on forever about what was wrong with the story, but the acting was just as bad. Berry used her womanly assets and wore a leather catsuit. That was the highlight of her performance. The hilarious Alex Borstein had no good dialogue to work with. She played the cliché best friend that made up for her average looks with a great personality. As if she had no life of her own, she just sat and listened to Patience's problems the whole movie which was frustrating.

I'm sure back in 2004 the effects seemed much better to the viewer in terms of utilizing new technology to create something different from any other movie. There were whole scenes where Catwoman and her mysterious cat were completely CG. It was extremely unnecessary and added to the further detachment to the storyline by being so unbelievable. This is usually the part where I would name one good quality of the film, but I just can't this time. Time was taken from me that I will never get back after seeing this film. Don't be fooled into watching Catwoman just to see how bad it is. I did that and regret it deeply.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Saving Private Ryan (1998) - ★★★★

There's nothing I can say that will do justice for how well made this movie was. Steven Spielberg is a genius. Once again he has been able to direct a movie so powerful, moving and beautiful yet at the same time horrifying. How this lost Best Picture to Shakespeare In Love I do not know.

Tom Hanks marvelously plays Captain John Miller, a former english teacher and leader of a small troop of eight.  Their mission is to find and bring home a soldier whose three brothers were killed in action. Through going through such an arduous journey to find him and also losing friends along the way, I raised the question, why risk many lives for the sake of one?  The answer came with a touching and subtle ending that I will never forget, for not only did it show that what they did was brave and selfless, but it ended up being worth more than they imagined.

The cinematography throughout is just breathtaking. You can tell how much attention to detail Spielberg put in to making the film. The bombed towns, the colorful and dangerous fields, the blood stained beaches, all locations and sets were perfect and created a realistic setting. There was a great amount of emotions shown through every character and each had a moment to show their personality which made losing them that much harder. Perhaps the best thing about this movie is the realism of it all. It is such a raw and truthful piece of cinema that shows how ruthless war truly is better than any other movie I can think of.

This movie does bring the appreciation for the help at the end of WWII from the Americans out of me by showing that their soldiers went through an extremely difficult time as well as the English, French and Australians. Above all the fantastic cinematography, acting and story, it was the death and destruction  that truly took my breath away. Sure, we all know war is full of death and pain, but to actually see it put to film in such a realistic fashion is what separates this film from most. One of the best war movies I have ever seen, I highly recommend it.

Fatal Instinct (1993) - ★★★

What do you get when you cross the films Basic Instinct, Sleeping With the Enemy and Cape Fear? A hilarious spoof of the suspense thrillers from the late 80's early 90's era. For me it was a laugh a minute movie with great comedic timing from all actors. It stayed true to the movies it was making fun of by incorporating some of the great scenes within and made them look ridiculously funny, which is not an easy feat to create.

Armande Assante plays a cop and a lawyer by the name of Ned Ravine. His profession is balanced through fighting crime and ridding the streets of criminals by night and defending them in court the next day. While this doesn't sound funny, Assante makes it comical with his constant poker face of serious expressions and leveled voice. His wife Lana has a hare-brained plot to kill him to attain his life insurance, which pays out triple if he's shot on a train and drowns in a river. It would be childish humour to many, but the absurdity of it all is what makes this story so darn entertaining. Ned's assistant Laura is a perfectionist and freaks out through flashbacks of her abusive past when something is out of place. She has a small rivalry with a woman that Ned had an affair with, Lola Cain, who has a habit of getting things stuck to her shoe. All the while a man is on a mission to kill ned after he arrested then unsuccessfully defended him in court, ending in him serving ten years in prison.

With all these different side-stories, it is easy for a movie to look and feel cluttered. This film is more than just slapstick humour because it pulls so many serious movies into the one story and manages to make it funny throughout. Although at times the skits seemed repetitive and I lost interest toward the end, I have to say that it is one of the few movies that can have me laughing to the point of getting light headed. This sort of humour generally does not appeal to the masses, but this movie was something different. I believe it is the funniest spoof comedy since Airplane! In 1980.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

City Of God (2002) - ★★★★

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund
Writers: Braulio Mantovani (screenplay), Paulo Lins (novel)
Stars: Alexandre Rodriguez, Leandro Firmino, Seu Jorge

City of God, or Cidade de Deus, is the marvelous telling of a true story about the crime syndicate in Rio de Janeiro through the eyes of Rocket, an aspiring photographer. It is a Brazilian film from Fernando Meirelles that chronicles the crime in the Rio de Janeiro slums through introducing many different characters and showing us where life took them.

Rocket starts the story by recounting his knowledge of the simple street gangs where theft and corruption were spearheaded by three young men and a boy. When one of their hotel robberies ended in a bloody massacre, only the young boy escaped death. He was the most sadistic sociopath of them all. His name L'il Ze, played by Leandro Firmino. When the kickin' seventies began and the illegal drugs industry boomed, crime evolved from being small gangs and private drug dealers into a large organized industry led by Li'l Ze. From following Rocket's own personal struggles, we see Li'l Ze's immorality through his use of killing people for fun and to expand his business. The acting was brilliant from Firmino. The twisted looks he'd express on his face were spine-chilling.

The cinematography throughout the film was beautifully effective through the amazing reconstruction and shots of what the old Rio de Janeiro looked like. I was instantly drawn to hate Li'l Ze, even when he was a child. Meirelles did a great job at defining each character and creating their personalities. I came to like many, and mourn the loss of them too. If you are a fan of crime, murder or a good foreign film, City of God is a marvelous film to see. I believe it should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, because it is miles better than many of the other nominees and even the winner.

Inception (2010) - ★★★★½

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine

Inception is a film that one has to see more than once to fully understand and appreciate the genius behind the plot. It has some of the best and most challenging visual effects in cinematic history and world class actors playing difficult roles well. Although the story was admittedly hard to follow for me at first, there was more than enough happening on screen to keep me entertained. Dialogue was necessary to keep me in the loop of the story, however this film is one of the few that can be enjoyed simply by watching the screen.

Christopher Nolan's Inception is set in a world where technology is available to invade the minds of people and extract information from their dreams. It beautifully visualises what a sub-conscious world looks like to a person dreaming and how they can manipulate it to change according to their vision. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Cobb, the best dream invader in the world and outlaw in America due to the suspicious death of his wife Mal, played by the wonderful Marion Cotillard. 

In order to see his kids again, he must perform a job for Saito, an intelligent and powerful businessman that promises Cobb that he can clear his name back in the USA. The proposition they have arranged with each other involves the process of planting an idea deep into someone's mind, and making them think that it is their own. This is called inception. What Saito asks of Cobb is to plant a thought in his big business rival's mind, one which would destroy their empire. In order to do this, Cobb assembles a crack team consisting of a creative student, a master thief, an experienced chemist, his best friend and Saito. Together they attempt inception on the mind of the businessmen through creating dreams within his dream.

Inception is a film that I believe will be remembered for many years. It's effects are mind-boggling and breath-taking. They will still be incredible even next to the technology of the future. The acting on all accounts is believable and the stellar cast really completes the film. The ending leaves the viewer to make a choice. Whether the hero made it home and got to see his kids, or whether he is stuck in limbo. It doesn't specify where he ended up, but leaves us hopeful that he made it through all the adversity. From start to finish, I was sucked into this movie. I highly recommend this to anyone, but I warn you. This is not the kind of movie you can leave for 5 minutes and come back to pick it up. You have to watch carefully, or else you may miss a vital piece of information. Remember, this movie is best watched the second time.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Fight Club (1999) - ★★★★

Director: David Fincher
Writers: Jim Uhls (screenplay, Chuck Palahniuk (novel)
Stars: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meatloaf, Jared Leto

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything" is one of the many entertaining lessons we learn from Fight Club. This film is marvelous! The twists and turns, the dry humour, the spectacular acting and an amazing original story from director David Fincher makes this one of the greatest movies I have seen. 

Edward Norton plays an insomniac office worker 'everyman' that takes comfort in going to self-help groups for various illnesses by faking being sick. Through doing this he is born again by crying out all the pain in his life and leaving a happier person through the experience. When a chain smoking woman starts faking illnesses and showing up to all of his support groups, he can't cry anymore because she reflects the lie he is living. Her name is Marla (Helena Bonham Carter). 'The Narrator' unaffectionately refers to her as "the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it, but you can't." Although neither are attractive or likable characters, there is beautiful chemistry between the two. She was the catalyst that launched him into the crazy world of Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. 

'The Narrator' is sucked into Tyler's world of self-confidence, self-dependence and manhood. Together they create mayhem and start an underground Fight Club franchise where every day men come to release their frustrations by beating the living daylights out of each other, resulting in catastrophic consequences for the Narrator. The way this film describes human nature is presented in an unsettling and raw way. The special effects and directing technique to this movie is masterful. I believe this is one of the best screenplays in film history and has one of the most memorable endings. Just a riveting watch. I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Wrath of the Titans (2012) - ★★

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: Dan Mazeu, David Johnson
Stars: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy

I had high hopes for Wrath of the Titans. It promised to be a visually amazing, action-packed superior film to its prequel Clash of the Titans, however it fell flat due to Sam Worthington's laughable performance as Perseus, bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson). I had major problems with his acting in the first film, but he was far worse in this installment.

The story was very Hollywood. Ares, God of War and son of Zeus is jealous of Perseus because his father paid more attention to him. He sides with Hades, Ralph Fiennes, in a plot to drain Zeus' powers and awaken the titan Kronos, the father of Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. Perseus must save the world once again on his black Pegasus in order to give his son a future and save humanity. He also has a small romance with Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), a character that is supposed to be strong and smart yet is small and feeble. She was insignificant to the whole movie.

It made me sick that Dan Mazeau made the God of War seem so childish, stupid and weak. According to this film, Gods are not beyond being complete idiots. None of the gods showed real power. They are the same size as humans and use peoples prayers as their source of power. There was no background on the story between Zeus and Kronos. In my opinion, they should have scrapped making a sequel to Clash of the Titans, and instead have made a prequel. This would have involved a mighty war between Titans and Gods, where we could have seen some truly stunning scenes and be rid of Sam Worthington's lamentable acting.

The reason I have not rated this movie lower is because the visual effects and fights throughout the movie were actually entertaining. We see brilliant cyclops', two headed monsters, a minotaur, and the greatest part of the movie; Kronos emerging from a volcano. While these were remarkable, I couldn't shake my annoyance at how bad the story and acting was from all accounts. Wrath of the Titans is a movie that had a huge amount of potential, yet will fail to be remembered by anyone.

14th May, 2013: Hi everyone. I completely forgot that I reviewed this movie. Upon revising what I'd written, it just goes to show that I wasn't kidding about how forgettable it was!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - ★★★★★

Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry
Stars: Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo

This is without a doubt my favorite movie of the decade. The story, the acting, the music! Everything about this movie was pure bliss to see and hear. With a masterful cast including Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was literally breathtaking for me to watch. It sealed Winslet's status as one of the greatest actresses today showing her versatility in playing Clementine, a neurotic but likable person that changes her hair color in accordance with her mood. Carrey delivered the greatest performance of his career playing Joel, a nerdy, shy and good man that leads a boring life. Together, these opposites meet on a train (or so I thought) and click like Yin and Yang. Their chemistry was so natural, it instantly sucked me into their relationship.

After their relationship turned hateful, Clementine had Joel erased from her memory by a clinic that provides permanent amnesia services. When Joel learns of this, he has her erased from his mind so that he won't feel the pain of the bad break-up. The whole movie revolves around Joel dreaming about his memories, which in turn has them erased as he's hooked up to a machine that tracks and wipes them. It starts from his most recent memories which are all bad, showing that they had grown apart and displaying the events that led to their split. Further on we see the love and connection that they have with each other, bringing life and comfort into their lives. When Joel reaches his good memories with her he realizes that these memories are too good to erase and tries whatever he can to delve into other memories to save the ones with Clementine; but to no avail.

The movie is heart-breaking as we see Joel fall in love with Clementine all over again, yet he won't remember her at all once he wakes up. Carrey's acting was moving and real, which is why it was such a sin of omission by the Academy to not nominate him for Best Actor. Eventually, after many tender and bittersweet memories Joel has erased, we get to the first memory he ever had with Clementine. When they first met. Except according to his memory they met at a beach party, which contradicts what the beginning of the movie had us believe was their first ever meeting. Through reliving how they first fell in love, she whispers 'Meet me in Montauk.' I will not spoil the ending for my readers, however it is a delightful twist that had me speechless with a radiant smile.

Kate Winslet deserved the oscar for Best Actress for this role because she played a character with ever changing feelings and moods. She made me hate her for being so hurtful, but love her for being so honest. The music completed this movie, being one of the best soundtracks I've heard. Although this movie is hard to follow, anyone who manages to find meaning in their words and understand what is happening will find this film remarkable. I can not praise this film enough. I will leave you all with a quote from the movie that was masterfully read by Dunst.

"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd." This poem symbolized that their fate is a happy one and that everlasting happiness exists on their pure and clean minds.