Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - ★★★★★

Dr. Strangelove is one of the greatest films of all time. Period. I believe that it is Stanley Kubrick's best film. The story is smart, the wit is hilarious, the acting is incredible and the whole film is perfect. From start to finish I was sucked into this amazing masterpiece. When it ended I wanted more! It's pure genius.

In the beginning we are introduced to General Jack. D. Ripper of Burpelson Air Force Base. He is paranoid about his precious fluids and believes that the Soviet Union plotted to poison the U.S' water supply. In retaliation, he initiates 'Plan R' which allows him to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear warheads without General Buck Turginson (George C. Scott) or President Merkin Muffley's (Peter Sellers) permission. Only Ripper knows the code to recall the B-52 bombers and he has shut down communication in and out of Burpelson as a measure to protect this attack, but wait! There's more. The Russian's possess a doomsday device that will encircle the whole world with a nuclear cloud of gas unless the U.S. can stop the attack. This whole film is a race against time to stop the attack and save the world and is extremely fun to watch.

Peter Seller's was just magic in this movie, clearly deserving an Oscar for playing many incredible characters. These included President Merkin Muffley, Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake and of course one of the funniest roles in film history, the very German and insane Dr. Strangelove. I was in awe at his powerfully funny roles, which made the film legendary. George C. Scott was also brilliant as the General who believes that the Soviet's are always up to something fishy. The most remarkable scene in the whole film is when one of the pilots of the B-52 bombers rides the nuclear bomb down on the Soviet Union. It was an unforgettable moment in movie history.

In the end I found Dr. Strangelove addictive because of its extremely original story and humor. Peter Sellers did some of the best acting I've ever seen in this film, showing that he has more range than most dramatic actors of the time. The effects were brilliant as Kubrick always was one of the best, such is in 2001: A Space Odyssey. What can I say? It is just a perfect movie. I loved it!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ordinary People - ★★★★½

Robert Redford has created a fine cinematic masterpiece in my mind, for Ordinary People is a film about family that will forever be relevant to many western families. This is because underneath the smiles and pointless chatter with friends, there are demons inside us all that Ordinary People explored through three characters. They are the Jarret's, played unbelievably well by Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton and most surprising, Mary Tyler Moore.

It is a film about dealing with loss, in this case the loss of Buck Jarret, son and brother of the characters. He was swept away after a freak storm hit the boat he sailed on with his brother Conrad. This drastically impacted the family, in particular, Beth (Tyler-Moore) and Conrad (Hutton). Conrad attempted suicide because he felt as if he was "falling into a deep hole that kept getting bigger and bigger and you can't escape." Beth tried dealing with these problems by ignoring her sons depression and dreaming of escaping from the past. She can't talk about her feelings and refuses to get close to Conrad. The father, Calvin (Sutherland), tries his best to make everyone happy, neglecting his own feelings by not talking about the death and the suicide to anyone. All he wants is for things to turn back to normal, but Beth's inability to "love" Conrad keeps driving the family apart.

Judd Hirsch played Conrad's psychiatrist, Dr. Berger. At first Conrad is hesitant to open up to Berger. It seems impossible to help Conrad, yet somehow the doctor gets through to him. He becomes a true friend of Conrad's. One he can yell at, cry to, be himself around. It's a breath of fresh air that entails most of the laughs within the film. The chemistry between Hirsch and Hutton is remarkable. Both were up for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, which Hutton won (rightfully). Mary Tyler-Moore was just astounding as Beth. I had no idea how talented Moore was until I saw this film. She also deserved Best Actress for her role. Sutherland gave a touching, soft performance that was beautiful and emotional. I believe that this is one of the best cast films I've ever seen. Each were outstanding in the roles they played.

What makes me call this a great film is that many families can relate to their story and emotion... mine included. The acting was perfect. The story was beautiful, raw and real. The music accompanied the film wonderfully. Many believe that Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull was robbed for Best Picture, but I think the Academy made the right choice in voting for Ordinary People. It may not be the funniest movie, or the most refined piece of cinema, but it is a classic that deserves more recognition than it has.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Howl's Moving Castle (2004) - ★★★★★

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (Novel)
Voiced By: Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, Emily Mortimer

Howl's Moving Castle is one of the best movies I've seen and will always hold a place dear to my heart. Its story is admittedly complicated and sometimes hard to follow. When you watch the film and truly understand it, you will discover the genius and love behind every scene, every piece of dialogue and every character. I completely disagree with other reviewers who claim this is not one of Hayao Miyazaki's best works. Personally, I feel the strongest emotionally for Howl's Moving Castle, even more than for Spirited Away (2001).

The story follows the journey of Sophie (Simmons), who is cursed by the Wicked Witch of the Waste (Bacall) and must live out her days as an old woman until the curse is broken. Knowing that she would be pitied and looked down upon by her family, she leaves her old life at the hat shop and starts on a journey through the Wastelands to look for a new life where she can live out her days in peace as an old lady. She then comes across an enchanted scarecrow with the head of a turnip, which leads her to Howl's Moving Castle. Her story is long and filled with magic, action and emotion.

The music by Joe Hisaishi follows the tradition of Studio Ghibli masterpieces with a big and beautiful orchestra enhancing the visual creations on screen. I believe that this is also Miyazaki's most artistically beautiful film. The European like city's, incredible landscapes and the remarkable castle must be seen to be believed.

Howl's Moving Castle is meticulously detailed, right down the the corners of each scene. It's a more polished film visually than most animated features and it has a story that requires you to think. This movie made me feel elated and had me looking forward to what life would bring next. Miyazaki presents us with a world of magic and possibilities in this film, and I think he did an outstanding job.

If you need more clarification on the story, may I suggest you read the marvelous novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It should explain any queries you have with the film.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - ★★

Meryl Streep has had many memorable performances, but her role as Miranda Priestly, editor in chief for mogul fashion magazine 'Runway', is arguably her most memorable in the last decade. She really made this film entertaining with cold and subtle stares that could pierce right through a person, and hilarious snide remarks to Andy, played by Anne Hathaway. Streep was both convincing at being both powerful and cruel, yet at the same time was able to project a hint of weakness to her tough exterior. Miranda would have to be one of the most famous movie villains of the 21st century, even if she is only a person doing her job.

There were two things that bothered me about this film. I'm not a fan of one of the messages this film gives to women. Andy just wanted to survive her job and succeed as far as she could. This meant that she sometimes had to be late to dinners and at one stage she missed her boyfriends birthday. However, she would have been fired if she didn't. I understand that it hurts to have a loved one to miss a birthday, but if the boyfriend expects Andy to lose her job because he would like her to be at dinner, then he's not a good boyfriend. There are many scenes where he guilt trips her with puppy dog eyes and she succumbs to it. It leaves the audience feeling like she should've sacrificed her career for him.

This audience member believes that he should have had to compromise with her. Instead, he got everything he wanted in the end. The Devil Wears Prada did not send a message that a relationship is full of compromise. It sent the message that if the relationship was going to work, she needed to give up her career and revert back to her old self. Although she did step on a few toes to become successful, Andy was still a nice person and tried her best to make the relationship work. This would have been a 3 star movie if it ended with her leaving the boyfriend and the job and starting a fresh new life without these things dragging her down.

In saying all this, I found this film entertaining to a degree and exciting. Stanley Tucci was genius as Nigel (Andy's mentor and friend in the workplace), and Emily Blunt was marvellous as Emily, the super ambitious and bitchy first assistant of Miranda. I found the most character development in Emily, who in the end told Andy's replacement "You have BIG shoes to fill," showing that she respected Andy after all and would miss her. It's a good movie, but not great.