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A Round Up #2 17 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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Shamefully I have done it again and after my previous vow to not leave it so long next time I managed to make the gap even longer. But that doesn’t matter now I’m back. It’s been a pretty exciting week this week with Kate Winslet winning two acting awards at the Golden Globes on Sunday and Slumdog Millionaire picking up nominations for best film and best director among many others. The BAFTA noms were also announced this week with Slumdog and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leading the pack with 11 nominations each. I have yet to see Benjamin Button but seeing as I love everything David Fincher has touched so far (yes even Alien3) I have high hopes for this Oscar contender.
But onto the important stuff, my round up of the past couple of months movie releases which I managed to catch in between chipping away at my mountainous workload. So without further ado here goes:

23/11/08 Body of Lies Dir. Ridley Scott

Ridley might be one of the best directors working in the business today but he fell a little short with this terrorist thriller starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Russel Crowe and Mark Strong. All the ingredients are there, the performances are spot on (particularly Strong) and Scott’s direction is up to his usual high standards, but there is precious little to find interesting in the plot. It all seems strangely familiar and unoriginal. The film takes us down no unexpected paths and the romantic sub-plot involving DiCaprio’s character and a Jordanian nurse feels crow-barred in. Ridley should really ease off the gas and he might once again return to the form he showed in Blade Runner, Alien and American Gangster.

25/11/08 Choke Dir. Clark Gregg
Finally a lead role for Hollywood’s most underrated actor Sam Rockwell worthy of his talents. Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a sex addict who pretends to choke on food in restaurants so that he can exploit those people who ‘save’ his life. The film has almost too many sub-plots to speak of but needless to say the, shall we say, alternative humour of Chuck Palahniuk’s source novel are present and proper. Rockwell is brilliant as the damaged anti hero and while the story ultimately fails to satisfy it is laugh out loud funny in places and contains enough quality set pieces to leave you with a good impression.

3/12/08 Waltz With Bashir Dir. Ari Folman
Amazing animated pseudo documentary about director Folman’s quest to remember the forgotten atrocities of the war in Lebanon in the early 1980s. The Visuals and the soundtrack leave and undoubted impact but it is the harrowing story which deserves the greatest praise. It’s strange to see one on one interviews in such a stylised form of animation but it works beautifully. My only gripe echoed by many a film critic is the slight cop out ending which abandons the beautiful animation in favour of real images of the war, an admittance that the real horror of the conflict could not be conveyed by the animation? Folman should have put greater trust in his genre.

7/12/08 Lakeview Terrace Dir. Neil Labute
Return to form for Labute after the horrible Wicker Man remake and Sam Jackson who seems to be ringing it in more and more these days. The relatively simple plot involves young mixed race couple Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington moving into the titular terrace and next to the home of widowed father of two and LAPD officer Able Turner (Jackson). Jackson doesn’t take kindly to his mixed race neighbours for reasons that are pointlessly revealed near the films conclusion and a game of one upmanship soon develops between the two men. The plot feels like a rehash of early 90s home invasion thrillers Pacific Heights and Unlawful Entry and like those films completely falls apart in the final act when the plot takes its inevitable leap off the cliff and into overblown action territory, but for the bulk of the films run time Lakeview Terrace proves to be a surprisingly tense thriller, albeit an entirely predictable one.

14/12/08 The Day the Earth Stood Still Dir. Scott Derrickson
Pointless remake of a genuine sci-fi classic about an alien landing in Central Park and providing the world with an ultimatum, change your ways or face destruction. Whereas the original brilliantly played on the fears of nuclear holocaust the update quite cleverly transfers the threat to the planet itself in the form of the environmental damage its human habitants are causing. Keanu Reeves is a bad actor I like a lot (much like Mark Wahlberg) but with Klaatu he manages to give a performance even worse than Sweet November, though not quite as bad as Dracula. Jennifer Connolly is wasted, as are Kathy Bates and John Cleese in what amounts to little more than a cameo. The new Gort is awful but his method of destroying the Earth is brilliant. Only consider if you refuse to watch black and white films otherwise the choice is a no brainer.

16/12/08 Transporter 3 Dir. Olivier Megaton
Unremarkable threequel to Jason Statham’s action franchise. The driver with the sharpest suit in the business is brought back from retirement by the villainous Robert Knepper who forces him to transport a young lady across Europe, the catch, he or she cannot step more than 20ft away from the car or the wrist straps attached to their arms will detonate. I love Jason Statham, I’ll watch him in almost anything and I like the first two Transporter installments but the third left me oddly unsatisfied. There are a few good setpieces (like the foot chase where Statham has to catch up with his carjacked vehicle) but there is little original it what once felt like quite a refreshingly overblown franchise. Newcomer Natalya Rudakova is awful as the female lead, she clearly cannot act and is perhaps the worst ADR mime in history. The film does have two saving graces though, a director with the best name in the industry and the single greatest line in movie history, “I am not the gay!” Indeed.

18/12/08 Changeling Dir. Clint Eastwood
Angelina Jolie gives the performance of her career in the true life story of Christin Collins, a woman who has her child go missing only for the LAPD to claim they have found him six months later, but there’s a catch, it’s not Christine’s son. To reveal any more of the plot would be a disservice to this almost unbelievable story. The film feels an odd one jumping from thriller, to psych-ward horror, to murder mystery and finally court room drama. You wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t true. Jolie is brilliant as Collins but honourable mention must also go to John Malkovich as Rev. Gustav Briegleb (his best performance in a long time) and Jason Butler Harner’s creepy turn as Gordon Northcott. Eastwood’s direction in efficient and unflashy, as one would expect but the film’s strengths lie in its startling story and magnetic performances. Easily one of the best films of the year.

21/12/08 Yes Man Dir. Peyton Reed
Jim Carrey vehicle with the pretty weak gimmick that he has to say yes to everything and finds, shock of shocks, his life take unexpected turns for the better. Carrey is pretty good in the lead, suitably zany where appropriate but restrained enough most of the time. I expected little from Yes Man but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of times I found myself chuckling at the film. Terrence Stamp has a brilliant cameo as the leader of the cult like ‘say yes’ movement and there is a wonderful scene in which Carrey has to sing to a suicidal Luiz Guzman on the balcony of a building. Maybe a rental rather than a must see.

8/1/09 The Spirit Dir Frank Miller
Now this is an odd one, an adaptation of Will Eisner’s classic comic strip which plays more like a cross between Tom and Jerry and Sin City with the formers slapstick violence sitting uncomfortably alongside the visual style of the latter. Gabriel Macht stars as the seemingly invincible hero out to take down the likewise invincible Octopus (Samuel L Jackson) the plot is so ridiculous I’m not even going to bother regurgitating it here, needless to say Millar manages to squeeze not one, not two but three sexy lady roles in for Scarlett Johanssen, Eva Mendes and Paz Vega. The main problem with the film is that slapstick comic book movies, particular ones so stylised just do not work. There is no denying the film looks beautiful but the awful hammy dialogue and overblown performances (particularly from Jackson) just serve to annoy rather than entertain. The worst comic book adaptation for a long time.

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