Thursday, 22 November 2012

Brave (2012) - ★★★★

Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Writers: Brenda Chapman (story), Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi (screenplay)
Stars: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters

Disney has once again created a visually astounding, nice film that stays true to the methods that make them work so well. If there's one thing that separates it from most Disney films, it would have to be the non-existant romance in the film. The film at its core is about family values, in particularly the relationship between a child and their mother. It is neither boring nor breathtaking, it's just a really good movie.

The main character is Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a beautiful red haired Scottish princess who excels at both archery and horse riding. She very much takes after her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly), as she is not just a pretty face, but more a tom-boy. All her life she has been told by her mother (Emma Thompson) to act more like a princess, and when the time comes for her marriage to be arranged, the two have a fight which breaks what little bond they had with each other. Upset, Merida turns to a witch (Julie Walters) who conjurs a spell that would change her mother forever. The change was not what Merida was hoping for, so she has to try to find a way to fix the horrible spell inflicted on her mother.

The moral of this film is to 'listen' to the feelings of others. The whole mess began because neither of them could say what they truly felt, which paved the way for a feel good (and typical) bonding journey between mother and daughter. I will admit that the "witches curse" story is a bit done to death. It didn't feel the same as the others though, which can be attributed to both the setting and the curse itself.

Brave is absolutely beautiful from start to finish. It's amazing how far animated technology has come today, especially in regards to the hair. Wow. I mean I know a lot of time and effort was spent on the hair, but it was most definitely worth it. The same goes for the scenery. Some of the scenes were so realistic that my mother said "that must be real." Pixar did an amazing job with the whole ancient Scottish world, which made the story feel different to the others.

I can definitely see Brave earning Oscar nominations for the songs that were played throughout. Each of them beautiful, as are all of the songs from Disney. I found parts  absolutely hilarious, especially the scenes with Billy Connolly. I don't think it would have been half as fun had he not provided the voice of the king. I also found the witch to be one of the highlights of Brave.

All in all, it's far from the best film from Disney, as it didn't really bring anything new to the table other than the setting and improved technology. However, I found it really entertaining, astoundingly beautiful and a great film overall. This formula, no matter how many times it's been done, is always done well by Disney.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Crimson Rivers; or Les rivières pourpres (2000) - ★★★½

Director: Matthieu Kassovitz
Writers: Jean Christoph-Grange (book and screenplay)
Stars: Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel, Nadia Fares

The Crimson Rivers is a French thriller with an intriguing story and a disturbing mystery at its core. To my surprise it was directed by Mathiew Kassovits, the male lead of the famous french film Amelie. It was engrossing and a joy to watch. Unfortunately, the frankly unconvincing and ridiculous ending almost ruined the film for me.

Murder detective commissioner Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) is called to Gueron, a mysterious and prestigious university with virtually incestuous scientists that are succeeded by their "elite-blooded" children as teachers and professors. He is there to investigate the death of one of the professors, whose corps was found on a steep mountain side after some five hours of cruel torture, including amputation of the hands and removal of the eyes. In order to solve the investigation, Pierre must work with  Inspector Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel) to dig up information from various different locations, such as in glaciers and on campus. As both investigations continue, the mystery is finally solved in an ending which did not satisfy me enough as to call it a great movie.

If you liked the film 'Seven' then you will like Crimson Rivers. It's a dark thriller, which is both entertaining and intelligent. Jean Reno was great as Pierre, who can keep calm with almost any situation, except when it comes to dogs. His partner Max provides the comic relief of the film as he occasionally bumbles around and makes a nuisance of himself. Together they had great chemistry, which made the film enjoyable.

The mystery itself became more and more disturbing as the film went on, which made it so much more interesting. As it delved further into genetic deformities and the incestuous actions of the faculty at the university, I became more invested in solving the mystery myself. I only half solved the mystery, and didn't fully understand the other half. There was little explanation during the climax of the film, which included a terrible CGI avalanche that took away the realism of the film. It truly did wreck what could have been a great movie.

All in all I was thoroughly entertained up until the disappointing ending. If you're a fan of thrillers and mysteries, then this is a film you may like.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Gangs of New York (2002) - ★★★★

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Jay Cocks
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson

Gangs of New York is a film about the 'hands that built America.' It's visually stunning and riveting from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, except for one key component. That is DiCaprio's performance as the main character Amsterdam Vallon. 

Set in 1863 and during the time of the American Civil War, Gangs of New York shows that America was born in the streets. It begins with a brutal battle between rival gangs, one side led by 'Priest' Vallon (Liam Neeson), the other Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). After Bill wins the battle and kills Vallon, his son Amsterdam returns to the Five Points seeking vengeance against the psychotic gangland kingpin. Along the way he falls for pickpocket Jenny (Cameron Diaz), who stays by his side as he creates a whole new army. With the Civil War affecting New York and thousands of Irish immigrants pouring into the streets, the fight for vengeance is much more complicated for Vallon. 

Daniel Day-Lewis absolutely shines in one of his greatest performances as Bill the Butcher. He lit up every scene with his superior skills in acting, turning this good movie into a great one. It is easy to like him, but even easier to hate him, with his racist beliefs and the blood that is on his hands. With that said, he made DiCaprio's so-so performance fade into the background.

For a film that follows his character's story, there was nothing DiCaprio could do to save him from becoming almost obsolete in the grand scheme of things. I was rooting for his character, yet put off by one major issue. I think DiCaprio is pretty good at accents, but he was very inconsistent with maintaining his Irish accent. In the voice-over scenes he sounded Irish enough, but when the time came for him to speak on screen, it faded into his usual American accent. He had the same trouble with the film Blood Diamond, which unfortunately takes away from the film.

The supporting cast however did a phenomenal job. Diaz turned out a good performance as Jenny, who was both likable and believable as an Irish woman. Brendan Gleeson commanded much screen presence as Walter McGinn, a man who hates Bill with a fiery passion. Jim Broadbent also gave a great performance as William Tweed, a politician that exchanges favors with the gang bosses of New York.

The cinematography throughout the film was truly magnificent. It was incredible to see the detail and effort that went into the making of old New York. This was one of the most important parts of the film, and Michael Ballhaus did a masterful job at reconstructing the great city. I also liked the music that accompanied many scenes in the film, albeit unorthodox for such a film as this. I say this because it is quite modern, considering the period that Gangs of New York is set it.

What truly made this film great for me was the build up towards the ending, and of course the ending itself. It was thrilling to see the backlash that conscription during the Civil War caused in New York at the time. The war that was about to happen between Vallon and Bill was almost as thrilling, but seemed secondary in comparison to the historic significance of the riots.

In the end we find that the quarrels between two men don't amount "to a hill of beans." The violent and destructive riots of the Civil War swallow up the main story of vengeance, leaving the audience with the premise that in the grand scheme of things, the grievances between Vallon and Bill are insignificant. What I truly loved about this film is that it admits that the story isn't as big as the events surrounding it at the time. This is one of Scorsese's best films.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Meaning of Life (1983) - ★★★★★

Director: Terry Jones
Writers: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Monty Pythons 'The Meaning of Life' is one of the crudest, funniest, most entertaining movies I've ever seen. It is hilarious from start to finish, using the same style of sketches that made them so famous in Flying Circus. The difference is that the sketches are created under the small premise of finding out what the meaning of life is.

There is not one sketch that falls flat in the film. Not one Monty Python member is unfunny either. Out of the four films they've made including this one; Holy Grail, Life of Brian, And Now for Something Completely Different; The Meaning of Life is arguably the funniest.

Some of the funniest sketches include Michael Palin as a Seargent Major, where he tries to get his company to "March up and down the square!" in vain. Another is John Cleese trying to teach students sexual education through practical lessons with his wife. Perhaps the most memorable would have to be Terry Jones as the enormously fat Mr. Creosote, who explodes after eating too much food.

The music and the dialogue in this film is so funny that my sides hurt from laughing too much. For me, the random humour from the Monty Python men are among the funniest I've ever seen. This is my kind of comedy, which in my opinion was done intelligently and with perfect comic timing in The Meaning of Life.

A word of warning. If you do not like nudity, vomit, blood, swearing or grotesque humour, then don't watch this film. It is not for you and I doubt you could sit through the whole thing. These things do not bother me, which is why I could subjectively watch the film and truly appreciate the comic genius that is Monty Python. I will go as far as to say that this is one of the funniest films of all time.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) - ★★★★★

Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Deborah Moggach (screenplay)
Stars: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Rosamund Pike, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Simon Woods, Judi Dench

Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice is stunning in every way imaginable. The casting is nothing short of perfection, the cinematography is breathtaking, the music is absolutely beautiful, and the story entails one of the greatest romances of all time. The romance of Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen).

Based on Jane Austen's novel of the same name, Pride and Prejudice displays love and life during the Georgian era in England. The family's future happiness and security is dependent on the five Bennet sisters making good marriages.  Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) wants nothing more than to have her five daughters be married before her husband Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) dies, for their home and belongings would pass to the male next in line to inherit them. When a rich gentleman, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) spends the summer in the country, he falls for Jane (Rosamund Pike), the beautiful Bennet sister. He brings with him his sister, and the proud yet dashing Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are very similar in personality, thus clashing in a story filled with misjudgements and love. This is a story that shows the pressure that women in the Georgian era were under to get married, with gossip, scandals and class determining the security of their future.

The characters of Pride and Prejudice immediatley capture your interest, with their many different personalities and problems clashing into a very entertaining story. Not only are the leads perfect for the roles, but the supporting cast is absolutely brilliant. I loved watching their stories unfurl, mainly due to the magnificent performances on all accounts, as well as the witty and refreshing dialogue. Knightley truly gave her greatest performance as Elizabeth, who is extremely clever and is constantly in deep thought. She really dictated how you felt during the film. When she was happy, I was happy. Her smile is infectious as well as her sadness. Credit goes to both her acting ability and the story. The same compliments go for Matthew Macfadyen, who played the abrupt, rude and anti-social Mr. Darcy so well. There was one scene in which he told Elizabeth "You have bewitched me body and soul," that literally had me swooning, for the ferocity in his eyes during that scene burned right through the screen.

The whole film flowed so effortlessly it reminded me of Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility. I could not believe the beauty in the cinematography. The stunning locations that were shot just seemed so unreal. I found all the scenes inbetween the dialogue and the story just as riveting, which is a credit to the masterful direction of cinematography by Ronin Osin. It also has one of the greatest soundtracks I've ever heard by composer Dario Marianelli, with classical music making each scene so much more beautiful. The costume design by Jacqueline Durrin, combined with the amazing dance choreography, set the mood of the era so well that it can be compared to the masterful scenes from Gone With The Wind.

I cannot praise this film enough. All I can say is that this is a classic story that I love to death. With perfect casting, story, cinematography, music, costume, and choreography, there's no doubt in my mind that Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest films of all time.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Wall Street (1987) - ★★★½

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Stanley Weiser, Oliver Stone
Stars: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah

Wall Street is a strange film. I say it's strange because even though I had little idea as to what happens or how the business works at Wall Street, I still felt comfortably involved with everything that was happening in this film. In that respect, I think this is a great film. It didn't dumb it down, or slow down for that matter, but it was easy to follow.

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is an ambitious stock trader who wants nothing more than to get into the big leagues. He has been continuously trying to work with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), one of the biggest stock speculators on Wall Street. Gekko's motto: greed is good. He believes that nothing will stand in the way of him pursuing a good deal. He takes advantage of Bud's desire to succeed, which involves making him get information from any source and using it to gain an advantage.

There are many messages that I received from this film. One was the addiction to power that the leading men on Wall Street have. Even when they have hundreds of millions of dollars, it's not enough. It's all about defeating the enemy and playing the game to win. For these men, earning money isn't what they are trying to achieve, but power is their main goal. Michael Douglas showed this greediness, this addiction, so powerfully that Wall Street actually became interesting. There was also a more sentimental message, which was that money "makes a person do things they don't want to do." This is so true, as are many other lines in this spectacularly written film.

Charlie Sheen played a great main character, and for me was still the lead of the film. He clearly showcases his brilliant acting ability in what I believe is his finest performance to date. What was also interesting to see is his scenes with his father Martin Sheen, who played his father on screen as well. You could feel the chemistry there. Overall, the best performance was from Douglas, who is so darn believable as the obsessed stock speculator. Every scene involving him was gold. I'm glad that he won an Oscar for Best Actor for Wall Street, for he portrayed a character that seemed normal on the surface yet the psychological disorders inside of him were also evident.

The film is great in many aspects, particularly in the acting. The last thirty minutes of Wall Street had me thrilled, which made up for the occasional feelings of boredom. Although I didn't understand a lot of the Wall Street 'talk' and 'trade,' the film still made sense to me and was interesting enough to keep me entertained. I think it's a great film.

Cinema Paradiso (1988) - ★★★★★

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Writers: Guiseppe Tornatore
Stars: Salvatore Cascio, Phillipe Noiret, Marco Leonardi, Antonella Attili, Pupella Maggio

I saw this film for the first time today. It is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. There were a few scenes that had me in tears, not because it was sad or joyful, but because of their sheer beauty. I loved this film for everything it was. The reason it affected me so much is because of how much the main character, Salvatore 'Toto' De Vita, reminded me of myself. His passion and sheer love for the cinema, along with many showings of classic films, swept me away in this magical film.

It is about a boy who grew up in a Sicilian Village who reminisces about his childhood and relationships with Alfredo (Phillipe Noiret), the projectionist at Cinema Paradiso. Under the fatherly influence of Alfredo, Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) fell in love with the cinema, spending many hours discussing films and being taught the skills of being a projectionist. It showcases the changes in the world of cinema through the memories of this boys life.

The music composed by Ennio Morricone is among the most astonishingly beautiful pieces that I've heard over the years. It creates such magic in the movie, bringing about so many emotions in me, and truly enhancing the emotions shown in the characters. The cinematography displayed the Sicilian Village in so many beautiful locations, which had me feeling like a local as I became more familiar with the setting. Giuseppe Tornatore really created a masterpiece of cinema with these two aspects of the film alone.

For me, the greatest part of Cinema Paradiso was the relationship between Alfredo and Toto. The father-son love between the two felt so real, mainly because of the incredible acting of both Noiret and Cascio. One of my favorite characters of all time would have to be Alfredo, who was always there with a kind word and a life lesson for Toto. The character was meticulously acted, with so much soul and warmth generated from the expressions of Philippe Noiret. I might also add that Cascio played Toto brilliantly as the young boy swept up in the magic of film. Together, these two had such great chemistry, and it's hard to imagine the film without these actors.

The reason I was in tears was a combination of things. In one scene for example, Alfredo adjusted his projector to play a film outside his window for the viewing of many people who couldn't get in to the cinema. As he was doing this, the breathtaking music played, Toto watched in wonderment, and Alfredo suddenly became a man that brought joy to many disappointed people. It was definitely one of the most beautiful movie scenes I've ever seen, and I'll never forget the emotion that it evoked inside of me.

If you're a fan of the cinema, you'll love this movie. You'll love it for the music, the cinematography, the acting, the story, and most of all, the homage it pays to the classic films that we all know and love. Never has a film ignited so much passion for cinema in me, which is why I call it one of the greatest movies of all time.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

We're No Angels (1989) - ★★

Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: David Mamet
Stars: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Demi Moore, Hoyt Axton, Ray McAnally, James Russo, John C. Reilly

This isn't a bad movie, but it's nothing special or memorable. It seems like a film that was made because De Niro was tired of doing serious roles and wanted something fun. If there is one thing you can take out of this film, it's seeing Sean Penn as a young man, finding his feet in the film industry.

The story follows two escaped convicts, Ned (Robert De Niro), and Jim (Sean Penn). On the run from the unflinchingly cruel, no-nonsense Warden of the prison (Ray McAnally), they find refuge with a church in a small town on the border of Canada. They are mistaken for two priests that did not show up to analyse the town phenomenon of the Weeping Virgin Mary statue. The two are keen to flee across the border to Canada, but one thing after another foils their plans to freedom. Along the way we meet Molly (Demi Moore), an agressive mother of a child who is 'deaf and dumb.' She plays a big role in their plans to avoid being captured.

The story itself is actually pretty funny. My problem is that it didn't come across as funny on the screen. This is supposed to be a comedy, yet I've seen De Niro have funnier performances in many of his serious roles. It has a recipe for a great film: a good story, legendary leading actors, nice cinematography, and a brilliant supporting cast. It just didn't mesh into a consistently entertaining film. For this reason, the movie as a 'comedy' fails.

The supporting cast were funnier than the leads. Particularly John C. Reilly as the young monk who idolizes Father Brown (aka Jim). It's always interesting to see a famous actor's humble beginnings in the film industry. I also thought that Ray McAnally was brilliant as the warden, who was filled with rage because three of his most hated convicts escaped on his watch. Demi Moore was really good as Molly, and also quite irritating. She was strong, stubborn and rude to the priests, but I suppose it was with good reason. These performances were part of the reason this film received two stars.

The other reason this film received two stars is because of one scene which blew me away. It was when Jim gave a speech from the heart about believing in God. "Is God good? I don't know. All I know is... something may give you comfort. And maybe you deserve it. If it comforts you to believe in God, then you do it. That's your business." Sean Penn knocked this monologue out of the park, providing a scene that was much too high a calibre for the movie itself. It really was the highlight of the film for me.

We're No Angels isn't satisfying as a comedy, however, it is satisfying as a film itself. I was never bored for a moment in this film, and never particularly interested (excluding Penn's monologue). If you're a big fan of De Niro and Penn, then you may like this film. I am a big fan of theirs, and I guess that is a part of the reason why I don't hate it. Like I've been saying, it's not a bad film, nor is it good.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Casino Royale (2006) - ★★★★

Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Stars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini

This James Bond is different to every other one I've seen by miles. He has a ruggedness to him that I like. Daniel Craig has thrown off the suave persona that has enveloped this character throughout the Brosnan and Moore era, and has breathed new life into him. He's unpredictable, he's likable, and most importantly, he is human.

After being promoted to a 00, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has been assigned his first mission, in which he faces the mysterious private banker to world terrorism and expert poker player, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). In order to recover a huge sum of his clients' money he lost, Le Chiffre sets up a high stakes poker game, believing that he will win the money back. Bond takes part also in order to prevent Le Chiffre from funding terrorism and to discover the secrets that he is hiding. He is accompanied by a stunning Treasury agent named Vespa (Eva Green) and the MI6 man in Montenegro (Giannini). 007 will not only discover the threatening oranization behind his enemy, but the worst of all truths: to not trust anyone.

You could say that Casino Royale explains the origin of James Bond. It explores how he became a 00, why he is a womanizer, and why he doesn't trust many people. It had me saying "Well that explains it" many times. This is an exceptionally well shot film. The cinematography was stunning in places such as Montenegro, where Bond would take part in the high-stakes poker game. I found the dialogue was intelligent and engaging, which makes it a cut above the Pierce Brosnan films. The film felt like it ran a little too long at just over two hours. I found myself getting disinterested in parts. That may be attributed to the lack of action this film had in comparison to previous films. I'm not saying that less action is a bad thing, I'm just saying that in this film it could have used more.

I wasn't very impressed with the opening scene. It had Bond chase an explosive-maker through a construction site, accidentally run into an embassy, then blow it up. I don't care that it's unbelievable, it just didn't bring anything new to the table. One thing that is a must for a Bond film is to not take them seriously, or else you'll be pointing out the many flaws throughout the action sequences. Unfortunately these flaws became too apparent for me, which made me lose interest during many scenes. These scenes included: Fighting African's with machetes on a hotel staircase, and Bond being poisoned then using a defibrillator in his car. I like a good laugh, but I couldn't get into it.

For me, the greatest thing about Casino Royale was Vespa. Now she was something else. She was highly entertaining, likable, vulnerable, intelligent and beautiful. I found myself liking her instantly, and grew more and more invested into her character as the film went on. Of course she has a love-affair with Bond, but this was different. It wasn't just sex between them, there was an actual connection. It was evident that this was the girl that Bond first fell in love with. Eva Green is an extremely talented actress who will hopefully have a long and bright career in acting.

I will say this for the film. It is one of the most emotional ones I have ever seen. This is mainly because of the ending, which was beautifully done. The acting was great on all parts, even if there was a stereotypical Bond villain in this film. Casino Royal was just a little too boring, and a little too ridiculous for me to really enjoy it.

Quantum of Solace (2008) - ★★★★

Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis
Stars: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini

I must be one of the only people to think that this installment of the James Bond franchise is better than its predecessor Casino Royale. I loved it. It was absolutely riveting, and whether you like it or not, Craig's bond is tough. He isn't suave, he isn't kind, but he is human. For me, he has made the character evolve into an interestingly different man. A no-nonsense man out for revenge.

This film's story picks up where Casino Royale left off, with Bond (Daniel Craig) still bitter and angry about the death of his love interest Vespa. When his boss, "M" (Judi Dench), is almost assassinated, he learns that Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is responsible. Greene is intent on securing a desert area of Bolivia in exchange for assisting a dictator overthrow the government there. Only Bond, with help from a beautiful and retired spy named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), can stop Greene. The problem is that "M" doesn't know if she can trust Bond, for the vengeance that possesses him has made him reckless.

I will admit that this is not the most original (or interesting) plot to a James Bond film. However, I love the fact that this film continues from the plot of Casino Royale. You never see a Bond film where he remembers old flames. Over the years, particularly during the Roger Moore era, James Bond made women fall in love with him, then in the next film they disappeared and you never heard from them again. It is hard to get into a story when you know that the romance means nothing, for it is almost always discarded by the time the next film comes around. That is why I loved Quantum of Solace, for the highly likable Vespa of the previous film is still remembered, not forgotten. Now every time I see Casino Royale, I will know that his feelings for Vespa were real. That is a big plus-side for me.

The action in this film kept me on the edge of my seat a number of times. I loved the opening scene. It was a huge step-up from Casino Royale's, which I found rather disinteresting. However, the opening credits didn't exactly sound right. I'm a huge fan of Jack White and Alicia Keys' music, but their song and their voices did not suit the James Bond franchise. I did like that they brought back the silhouettes of naked women, bringing back a taste of the old days.

I found the Bond girl Camille was one of the better characters from the franchise. She was strong, witty, and for the first time did not sleep with James Bond! I was shocked to say the least. Judi Dench is absolutely brilliant as "M". She really lights up the screen. I look forward to scenes with her in it, for she really is one of the most entertaining characters of the series. Mainly because she won't take crap from Bond and doesn't care much for his recklessness. Amalric played one of my favorite Bond villains in this installment as Greene, who was intelligent, sly, and evil. He was a more modern villain, not one of those typical ones with scars on the face, or patting a cat on their lap. Most importantly, I really liked Daniel Craig's vengeful Bond in this film. I guess everyone has different expectations when they come to see the character, and I expected him to be angry for the loss of his love Vespa. 

Many people didn't enjoy this film for these reasons: There is too much action, the story is weak, Bond isn't funny enough, Bond should be suave, and there's too much emotional baggage from the last film.

I liked this film much better than Casino Royale because: there were great action sequences, an interesting story, Bond was rough and serious, and he actually had human emotions. I think it's crazy that people don't like that the story followed on from the previous film. I think it's even worse that people don't like Bond being rough and ungentlemanly. This is the way the character is in Daniel Craig's series. Take Bond as he is, not as he was.

Quantum of Solace is a great film that has been subjected to unfair critiquing based on past films. This is how Bond is now. Some may not like it, but I certainly hope he doesn't change his attitude anytime soon.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Reservoir Dogs (1992) - ★★★★★

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writers: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino

A lot of people may disagree with me, but I believe that Reservoir Dogs is as good, if not better, than Pulp Fiction. This film for me is pure entertainment from start to finish. I could watch this film again and again and never get bored with it. When the film starts with thugs talking about "Madonna's big dick," which then turns into a debate about "why I don't tip waitresses," you know you're in for one hell of a movie.

This is a tale of six thugs who are hired to rob a diamond store by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). They are Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), a professional criminal; Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), a young newcomer; Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), a paranoid neurotic; Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), a psychopathic killer; Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino); and Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker). Chris Penn plays Nice Guy Eddie Cabot, son of Joe and the man who helps organize the job. Of the group of men, only four survive with one being seriously wounded. It is suspected that there is a police informant in the group, but no one is sure who it is. This star-studded ensemble cast was one half of why this is such a great movie. The other half is the magnificent screenplay by Tarantino.

It's hard to pick a standout performance in this film. Every single actor gave 100% and were perfect in the roles they played. Keitel was just magnificent, and to me was the lead. He seemed to be the center of the film. The emotions he portrayed ranged from cool and calm, to panicked and pissed-off. I loved it! Tim Roth was brilliant as Mr. Orange, who got shot in the stomach at the beginning of the film. I can tell you that I've never seen a film show such a bloody and disturbing gun shot wound. It was disturbing because of the pain that Roth projected through his acting, which sucked me right into the film. Michael Madsen was so damned entertaining as Mr. Blonde, who in my opinion was the star of one of the most unforgettable scenes in movie history; the scene where he tortured the cop. Steve Buscemi played his usual weasily, paranoid and weak character, except he was more intelligent than the rest. Chris Penn also gave an absolutely stellar performance. Any one of these men could have won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. It's just a shame that they all gave such incredible performances in the same film.

Now to the screenplay. It is done in the same fashion as Pulp Fiction, where the timeline is jumbled and it jumps from past to present to past to present. It did this to display the characters personalities and motives for doing the job, which worked really well, enabling us to get to know the character more. I love how there are tiny intermissions in the film in which a radio announcer plays "Sounds of the Seventies," where really great music is played. I have to say this film has one of the best soundtracks in movie history. Tarantino has the most incredible gift with writing dialogue. He knows what people talk about, and that's existential crap. Existential crap it may be, but it's damned entertaining and relatable.

Reservoir Dogs is a film that makes Tarantino fans salivate. It's just one of those films that are practically perfect and surprise you when you first view them. I didn't think I'd like this film at first glance, but boy was I wrong. It's one of the most enthralling films of all time, and as disturbing as it may be, it's completely unforgettable!

Chinatown (1974) - ★★★★★

Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Robert Towne,
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Jerry Lopez

This is one of the greatest mystery/thrillers I've ever seen. It hooks you from start to finish without an ounce of boredom in between. I loved this film so much, I won't even hesitate to say that it should have won Best Picture in 1974. I consider this to be Polanski's greatest film to date, and one of the all time greatest movies.

The story follows Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a private detective who specializes in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), when she suspects that her husband, the builder of the city's water supply system, is having an affair. Gittes photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, he finds out that he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city's water supply.

Let me just say that the story is absolutely enthralling. The suspence is built up superbly when we see Mr. Mulwray acting suspiciously, visiting all the water site areas and reflecting on his thoughts. Then a few days later, he's dead. The mystery was already implanted deep into my mind, and I found myself constantly trying to solve it. The most incredible thing about this film is that this is a story that I don't think anyone could have solved. There is no doubt in my mind that the twist in this film had many people flabbergasted and in disbelief. I must admit that I couldn't believe it myself. For me, the most genius part of the whole film was the ending. Now this film has an ending that left me shocked and also joyous, for it was so unexpected. I couldn't believe it. That is the greatest thing about Chinatown, it continued to surprise me until the very end.

Nicholson was amazing in this film, as he is in so many others. He plays his usual character, which is rough, cheeky, and intelligent. I found myself liking this Jake Gittes, for he wanted to solve a mystery that did not concern him, no matter how dangerous it was. There was something about Dunaway's character that had me thinking more and more about whether she was mentally stable. A lot of messed up things happened in her past, yet she came across so calm and cool for much of the film. Towards the end she began to unravel, and the secrets were coming out. It was absolutely beautiful to see Dunaway display how a person's sanity can be cracked so swiftly. Nicholson and Dunaway had great chemistry, which made this film so much more enjoyable.

So what's the verdict? I think everyone should see Chinatown. This is how a mystery film should be made! This is how a thriller film should make audience's feel! With one of the greatest story's ever on film, superb performances and unforgettable dialogue, Chinatown deserves to be known as one of the greatest films of all time.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Social Network (2010) - ★★★

Director: David Fincher
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Ben Mezrich (novel)
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara

I'm conflicted when it comes to The Social Network. It's good in practically every aspect of film making. The acting was great, the music was nice, and the story was interesting. Then why did this film irritate me so much? It irritated me to the point where I couldn't enjoy the film. Jessie Eisenberg was incredible as the founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, yet at the same time was the least enjoyable part of the movie for me.

The whole film is basically about the creation of Facebook from start to finish. It showcases the lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg, who stood on many toes to make Facebook a successful website. This film is just as much about Zuckerberg's best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who was both a cofounder and business partner from the beginning. I feel like the start of the film is all about Zuckerberg, then it becomes about Saverin, then back to Zuckerberg. This worked really well, because Garfield's character was just as interesting and complex as Eisenberg's. 

There was no clear star of the film for me. I feel that both Eisenberg and Garfield were brilliant in their performances. One thing that didn't quite get through to me was the inner conflict that Zuckerberg must have been feeling when he betrayed his friend. There were a couple of scenes where you could see Zuckerberg thinking about his actions, but I couldn't sense if there was any regret or sadness there. As good as Eisenberg was, I am confused as to whether his character was sincerely sorry for his actions.

Justin Timberlake did a great job in his role as Sean Parker, a party-boy and founder of two successful websites. His character was clearly supposed to be irritating, which he achieved splendidly. Another great performance was from Armie Hammer, who played both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. For me, these two characters were one of the most entertaining parts of the film. I could feel their frustration. I actually wished that they would win their lawsuit against Zuckerberg. 

The main problem I have with the film is that I got pretty bored by the end, and that's got to count for something. I admire the fact that they didn't portray Zuckerberg as an angel, however, it didn't make me care much for him either. I can't deny that this is a good film, but I think it's far from perfect and very overrated.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Scarlet and the Black (1983) - ★★★★

 Director: Jerry London
 Writers: David Butler (screenplay), J.P. Gallagher (novel)
  Stars: Gregory Peck, Chrisopher Plummer, Sir John Gielgud

To my astonishment, The Scarlet and the Black is a TV movie. I am astounded for many reasons, one being the brilliant quality of the cinematography. Another being the legendary actors that are cast in the film. It fully looks like a motion picture, which is an achievement in itself.