The French couldn’t be bothered to translate it to English. Typical.

The Intouchables (2012)

 Writer/Director

Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

 The translator at the distributor working on the film ‘Les Intouchables’ was either very drunk or simply failed to show up to work on the day because The Intouchables is simply not English. A more accurate translation would be ‘Untouchable’. But perhaps the French filmmakers decided to screw the rest of the world over and leave us all wondering how the heck to pronounce the name of their film. I wouldn’t rule that out too quickly.  

Regardless of the naming fiasco, The Intouchables was a smash hit in France, where the general population were spared the debacle of having to figure how to pronounce the darn thing and could simply enjoy the slightly cheesy yet remarkably charming story. For many reasons the film should never have been a smash hit. The story is largely predictable, skirts dangerously close to racial stereotypes, no scratch that – it does racially stereotype and on top of all this, it lacks a punchy climax to pull it out of its bumbling pace. Whilst everything about this film points to it being another forgettable ‘dramedy’, its quirky nature and phenomenal performances help it crawl under your skin and lodge itself in your heart before you’ve even realised. 

The film is based on true events, telling the story of a rich, aristocratic quadriplegic, Phillippe who is in search of a new full-time care-taker. Despite interviewing a host of qualified applicants, Phillippe chooses the least likely, an African immigrant named Driss, who’s merely applying for the job in order to apply for welfare. It didn’t take long for the racial stereotyping get underway with the rich, uptight white man, who is thrust together (by his own choosing) with a black, unmotivated, immigrant who appears to be more interested in drugs and women than anything else. And so begins a ‘clash of cultures’, ‘buddy film’ where ultimately both individuals are positively influenced by their counterpart, despite coming from other ends of the city. As I’ve said before, on paper, there’s nothing new to be seen but that is the magic of cinema. The simplest, most cliche’d and uninteresting premise can be given a new lease of life through one of many avenues available to a director. In this particular case, Intouchables owe’s all its charm and success – in my opinion – to the casting and performances.

Driss played by Omar Sy is without doubt the start of the film. From his somewhat bombastic entrance he wins you over with his unpolished and refreshingly honest candour. Even his offside comments to the female personnel of Philippe’s estate come across with as harmless chirping than offensive harassment. 

Driss, like the film itself has a knack for getting under your skin and causing you to laugh at him as well as with him. As one might expect, Driss is taught the notions of discipline, etiquette and refinement as he’s transported from his world of poverty, unemployment and trouble with the police. Whilst Philippe offers Driss a lesson in living life respectably as well as a means of reputable income, he in return is offered the chance to live life fully, despite his obvious physical restrictions. 

The Intouchables is a feel-good, light hearted and memorable film that speaks to the heart far more than the head. Though it never strives to be the poster boy for cinematic mastery, it finds itself as an unexpected masterpiece in simple, engaging and memorable storytelling.  

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Disconnect (2012)

Directed by: Henry Alex Rubin

Written: Andrew Stern

Stars:  Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Haley Ramm

 

 

This week for date night we went to watch Henry Rubin’s latest film, Disconnect. We were deciding between The Company You Keep, Disconnect or Now You See Me, but the generally poor reviews and appearance of superpowers in the other two steered us away. Whilst probably not your typical date night movie, it was powerful and deeply impacting in a way that I wish more films were. 

 

The subject matter of the film was what drew me to the film in the first place – the increasingly destructive presence of digital connections in our lives which leave us further apart from one another and disconnected from the present. Whilst I love my iPhone and 3G connection, I’m trying to take steps to curb my addiction to social media. The constant need for a ‘like’ on a new Instagram picture or the instinctual act of refreshing my twitter feed seconds after I’ve already done so are areas that need addressing. But I digress.

 

To sum up briefly, the film follows three separate but slightly interconnected stories. The catalyst in each story is the use of digital communication and central role it plays in the disaster that ensues. Cindy and Derek, a young married couple grieving the loss of their infant son, have their marriage placed under fire when their identities are stolen via an online grievers support chat room. Robbed of everything and barely looking at one another anymore, they have their dark habits revealed by private investigator Mike Dixon (Frank Grillo) as he tries to uncover the source of the fraud. 

 

Whilst probably the weakest of the three narratives, Cindy and Derek’s story paints an eyeopening and heartbreaking picture of a marriage that has been hollowed out by a tragedy and the growing coldness of two lives. As Derek decides in a moment of determination, to take matters in his own hands and confront the suspected fraudster, we’re presented with a vivid account of the lengths someone would go to when they’re at a point of desperation. Everything in me screamed at him to allow the police and due process to take its course. It’s in these desperate situations that people are driven by frustration to do emotional and irrational decisions they could live to regret for the rest of their lives. Cindy and Derek’s trial did have the positive outcome of drawing them closer together again, but it could easily have gone the other way and ended up in another tragedy. 

 

The second story is that of ambitious reporter Nina Dunham and Internet ‘sex model’ Kyle who can’t be a day older than 18. If you are uncertain as to what a sex model is, let me save you from the potential mine field you’ll land in should you try Google it. Essentially, Kyle is one of a number of underage youths who are pimped out to paying customers to interact with via chat and Skype-like forums. Nina makes contact with Kyle eventually resulting in a CNN interview, exposing the exploitation that is taking place. Kyle is a good looking and seemingly confident kid who knows how to please his pimp and clientele, but beneath the shallow surface he’s a lonely and insecure youngster, caught up in a horrible world of drugs and exploitation. 

 

By far the most gripping, wrenching and cautionary of tales told in the film is that of Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo) and teenage bullies Jason (Colin Ford) and Frye (Aviad Bernstein). Son of hotshot lawyer Rich played superbly by Jason Bateman, Ben is an awkward, ‘emo’ looking teenager who loves his music – and appears to be pretty darn good at it. His father is forever connected to his Blackberry and their relationship is all but nonexistent. I don’t doubt there’ll be a new generation of absent fathers and husbands (as well as wives and mothers) lost not to business trips and long work hours necessarily but to their devices and constant connection to everyone else but those closest to them. 

 

Disconnect does some things very well, in my opinion. Firstly, the performances are superb. Jason Bateman and Frank Grillo produce some tragically realistic performances as fathers radically detached from their sons. Likewise, Colin Ford and Max Thieret who plays Kyle, are also very impressive. Kyle as mentioned above does well to mask the insecurity of his lonely character with the false bravado and confidence that he struts so well. 

Ultimately I think the direction by Rubin deserves praising. Disconnect provides a spine-chilling window into the potential harsh realities of middle class life. Personally I always thought bullying was something that was inevitable and par of the course for kids. But having watched this, I now have a far greater understanding of the seriousness of the issue. 

Every now and then I do enjoy a great heist drama, spy thriller or genuinely funny comedy, but its films like Disconnect that I always enjoy watching and believe should be produced more often – not because they entertain me for a mere 90 odd minutes, but because they have a lasting impact on my thoughts and actions long afterwards.

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Winter in Wartime (2008)

 Directed By: Martin Koolhoven

Cinematography: Guido van Gennep

Writers: Mieke de Jong (screenplay), Martin Koolhoven(screenplay)

Starring: Martijn Lakemeier, Yorick van Wageningen, Jamie Campbell Bower

 Winter in Wartime is an understated film that is best summed up as ‘hit and miss’. In some regards it does well in offering a delicately told story – albeit not remarkably original – that is refreshing to consume in comparison to the hallmark glitz and gloss of the Hollywood wartime dramas. However, where the film starts to make encouraging strides to a war drama that is truly dramatic instead of pure action, it fails to go the distance. The end result is that you leave the film thinking more about what you missed rather than what you enjoyed.

Essentially Winter in Wartime is a coming of age tale of the young Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) living in a small Dutch town in the closing months of Second World War. The 13 year old hero of the story finds himself on the precipice of adulthood, dangling his toes over the edge, desperate to be a part of the greater drama that is circling around him. When an RAF pilot is downed in the forests outside the village, Michiel finds himself caught up in tending to the pilot’s injuries and ultimately assisting him in evading the Nazi’s and attempting to escape back towards home.

 

Michiel is the son of the town Mayor Johan, a conservative and pragmatic man willing to appease the Nazi’s in return for peace for his townsfolk. But young Michiel cannot sense the fragility of the situation and views his father with disdain for cooperating with the Nazi’s. Despite this friction, Michiel and his father share a close bond, best demonstrated in a gentle scene where Johan teaches him how to shave with a straight razor, despite being completely beardless and probably a few years shy of his first stubble. 

 

Michiel’s Uncle Ben arrives to stay with the family, much to the delight of young Michiel who adore’s his uncle, even asking his mom if Uncle Ben can stay in his room. Ben is a resistance fighter, smuggling in contraband such as tinned sardines and a radio. In the eyes of Michiel, Ben is a hero resisting the Nazi’s and living a life full of adventure. Ben stands as the antithesis of Michiel’s own father, Johan. 

 

Winter in Wartime does flourish in a few areas. Firstly, without any big name actors (from a Hollywood perspective) the performances are great – particularly of young Michiel himself. Many times I find a great story is let down by less than convincing performances from unknown actors. But it seems that with European cinema this not often the case. The characters – whilst not all developed brilliantly come across as believable and genuine as opposed to being stereotypical and forced.

The cinematography and look of the film has a far more art house feel than the typical hues and feel from Hollywood. When watching Valkyrie – a big budget Nazi war story with Tom Cruise – one is very conscious of the fact that it’s a Hollywood production. There’s a rawness to the look and feel of Winter in Wartime that captures the harshness of the time. Everything has a blue-grey look with very little bright colour shown in the snow-covered landscape. This visual direction has an effect on the viewers sub-conscience, starving them of colour and reinforcing the overall themes of repression and struggle.

 

I loved how Winter in Wartime is a war time drama that steers away from the big action and explosions we’ve come to expect. The story focuses on Michiel and his internal struggle to play a part in the world around him, whilst at the same time having to confront the realities of personal betrayal. 

 

Having said this, one leaves the film feeling it could have been far more gripping and emotional. I felt there wasn’t enough attention given to Michiel’s father, we neither love him nor hate him, but rather just view him for the appendage character he is. There were other areas where the potential for the suspense of the moment to be capitalised were missed. It felt that the key moments of the film came and went without leaving too much of a lasting impression. Ultimately where there wasn’t action there needed to be more interpersonal drama and tension. Unfortunately Winter in Wartime misses the chance it had to be a truly great film, instead settling for visually beautiful but ultimately forgettable. 

 

Silver Linings Playbook

Directed By: David O. Russell                                                                                  Image

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Nominated for Best Picture and scooping up the Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) prize at this year’s Oscars, Silver Linings Playbook is one romantic comedy I felt I needed to muster up the courage and attempt to sit through. Although I didn’t quite manage one sitting, over two sessions I completed the film leaving with some mixed emotions, much like the film itself.

 

Set in middle class suburban Philadelphia Silver Linings Playbook (SLP) tells the story of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a lovable character battling with a bi-polar disorder as he tries to win back the affections of his estranged wife. The film starts with Pat being released from a psychiatric hospital and moving back in with his parents. After meeting recently widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) the two strike up an unlikely friendship with Pat agreeing to enter into a dance competition with Tiffany if she agrees to help him send letters to his wife. As the story progresses, the two become closer with each helping the other deal with their own internal insecurities and disorders.

 

I think it’s safe to say that without the performances of Cooper, Lawrence and De Niro, SLP would not be the film that it is. For me, Cooper was the star of the show. Director David Russell and Bradley Cooper created an undeniably lovable character despite his obvious flaws and sometimes violent outbursts. In a scene that is bound to win the hearts of even the most cynical viewers Pat is up reading his wife’s set works at 4am when he suddenly launches the book through the window in an outrage. He then storms into his parents room to share his anger at the treatment of Ernst Hemmingway’s character. The scene is poignant insight into the mind of a bi-polar sufferer and instantly creates a connection between the audience and Pat. 

Whilst ultimately the film is a love story with a predictable ending, it punches far above it’s weight as it deals with the fragile state of the human heart (and mind), the pain of rejection and the desperate search for renewal. Every character in the film is broken in some respect. Pat’s dad is a superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan, willing to gamble his life’s savings on a single game in the belief that Pat is essentially a good luck charm. Like his son, he is prone to the occasional violent outburst. Pat’s friend Ronnie faces his own marriage problems whilst Tiffany struggles with sexual addiction in the wake of her husbands death. As is true in life, all the film’s characters are broken in their own unique way and rely on one another to overcome their own personal obstacles.

 It’s never easy making a film around subject matter as sensitive as mental illness but Russell manages to convey the tragedy of the disorder whilst still injecting light hearted moments to keep you from slumping into the valley of despair and depression. Ultimately everyone is dealing with the own issues and obstacles. Ultimately Silver Linings Playbook is less about a particular disorder than it is about shedding light on our own personal disorders and the need for collaboration and community in dealing with them.

 

Performances: 8/10

Plot/Development 6/10

Direction 7/10

Overall 7/10

Trailer

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The Impossible (2012)

Sripted by Sergio G Sánchez Image

Directed by JA Bayona

Cinematography by Oscar Faura 

 

The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts is quite possibly one of the best films I have seen and I don’t say that flippantly. Whilst there have been other films I have enjoyed more from a pure entertainment perspective, The Impossible stretches far beyond the typical Hollywood entertainment and tells a story so masterfully it stays with you long after the credits have rolled by.  JA Bayona has directed the film a delicacy that serves to bring all the film’s elements together to serve the story and deliver it with a force that is unrivaled.

 

The Impossible tells the true story of a family on their Christmas holiday in Thailand who are literally swept up and away in the Tsunami that claimed the lives of over 200,000 people. Separated in the chaos, the film narrates their struggle for survival and the search to find each other amidst the debris, chaos and uncertainty that has descended upon the once idyllic landscape. Watts’ character, Maria is swept away with her oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) whilst Henry (McGregor) is swept away in a seemingly different direction with his two youngest sons. Thus ensues the fight for survival amidst serious injury as well as the greater fight to reunite with lost loved ones. It is this story of survival and determination which is told in such an impressive way.

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When you begin watching a film like The Impossible, you already have a pretty strong inclination as to how it’s going to end – the family are going to be reunited after all the title does a decent job of hinting that much. But I think this is what makes the film so amazing; that despite one already knowing the conclusion to a degree the film takes you on an emotional roller coaster unlike any other from the moment that first palm trees are toppled by the wave, to the final scene of the family running into each others arms and being reunited. Whilst watching, I wasn’t so much focused on whether they will find one another but rather completely absorbed into the present moments of struggle, despair and courage. 

 

Praise must be given to the performances given by Watts and young Holland in his cinematic debut. As the two main characters the success of the story rests on their ability to convincingly bring out their character’s emotions and struggles. The tsunami wave not only uprooted an entire landscape but it also uprooted the roles of the family members, completely turning them on their head. Maria is transformed from a qualified doctor and mother of three young boys to being a severely injured and dependent on her oldest son. Lucas who starts off as a disinterested twelve year old struggling to relate to his mother is forced to grow up far quicker than he otherwise would have to and take the responsibility of a man in not only caring for his mother but leading her through the trauma to a place of safety and stability. His performance is remarkable as he encourages and provides for his mother. He even takes on a fatherly role briefly as the pair of them ‘adopt’ an abandoned child and helps him to safety. Whilst his mother is being cared for in the local hospital Lucas does not wallow in his own pity but takes the active role of helping family members reunite with their loved ones. Whilst in the parallel sequences, his own father carries out a search for him and his mother, he has developed into a surrogate father to those needing reunification. 

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Unless Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson are sitting in the directors seat, there’s always the chance that the special effects will be a little cheesy, especially when it has to be a tsunami wave of this magnitude. However Bayona manages to create a wave that is harrowingly realistic. The sequence of the initial wave plays out for a few minutes, allowing the gravity of the situation to take stock as Maria and Lucas are tossed about like rag dolls. Debris hurtles through the water, and I couldn’t help but flinch and grimace as Maria is flung into a branch and severely stabbed. The special effects serve the story rather than distract from it, which is something to commend Bayona and his team for. Too often an audience is left jarred by unconvincing special effects that detracts from the story and reminds everyone that this is just a film. 


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I loved the way in which the two unfolding tales of the family were told. Maria and Lucas’ story occupies the first twenty minutes or so. Once they have reached safety (a milestone in itself) we rejoin Henry (McGreggor) as he is reunited with his youngest boys and then sets out in search of his wife and eldest. We witness the heart wrenching dilemma Henry has to make; does he go with his children to safety, or does he stay behind in the debris strewn landscape and carry out a lonely search for his wife. His decision to stay was somewhat surprising to me, but reinforced the theme of courage and determination to reunite that which is separated.

 

There are some issues with the film which are worth raising but in my view do not detract from the overall experience. Firstly the introduction feels a little forced. Everyone knows the Tsunami is coming and in some ways I think it would be better to bring that in sooner rather than set the scene and the characters. There is very little introduction to the characters themselves in the first ten minutes with all the development really taking place after the wave has struck. Either the characters need to be portrayed in a certain manner which will then be rearranged completely, or the wave should have come earlier and the story can begin to unfold. 

Secondly, the ending was a little coincidental. This is my biggest problem with the film. A general storytelling rule is not to resolve your story with coincidences as it feels like you’re cheating. Unfortunately this is what happens in The Impossible. The family all happen to be at the same place, at the same time and find each-other. I would have preferred more of an resolving finale that was a result of their efforts. But perhaps this is a one in a million story where coincidences collide to produce a positive result.

Finally, a worry that I had from the outset was unfortunately realized during the film. The story is very Euro-centric with very little attention paid to the local population and their suffering. The story goes against the grain of the event with the five surviving, whilst 200,000 lives were lost. Those families have a very different story. The Impossible fails to connect to those stories. For those who had lost a loved one in the tragedy, The Impossible won’t ring true.

Despite these little irks, The Impossible is a remarkable story told superbly well. The cinematography is incredible, the score haunting and the performances uncanny. All of these are brought together skillfully by Bayona to create a truly must-see film.

 

 

Performances: 8/10

Cinematography 9/10

Direction: 9/10

 

Rating: 86%

 

Safe House (2012)

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa 220px-Safe_House_Poster

Written By: David Guggenhiem

Edited by: Richard Pearson

Starring: Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds

This weekend I finally got round to watching the Cape Town based spy-thriller Safe House, more out of love for my city than any great excitement for the film itself as I had heard mixed reviews. My overall impression of the film was that it was desperately trying to be a Bourne-esque thriller with the look and feel of Tony Scott’s direction. However despite these legitimate aspirations they are no substitute for the basics which were lacking – solid and original story coupled with dynamic and engaging characters and performances. In a nutshell, it was Cape Town that was the star of the show for me.

The film starts off in a flurry of undercover meetings and spying glances from hidden observers with little being revealed as to what is happening.  Denzel Washington’s character Tobin Frost is a CIA agent who’s ‘gone rogue’ and is now being hunted by some comically typical looking villains through the streets of Cape Town. In his attempt to flee Frost makes his way to the US Embassy in Cape Town where his name is picked up by the CIA in Langley. My mind immediately flashed back to Bourne Identity where Jason Bourne walks into the Zurich embassy after years of being off the grid. Similarity number one, check.This weekend I finally got round to watching the Cape Town based spy-thriller Safe House, more out of love for my city than any great excitement for the film itself as I had heard mixed reviews. My overall impression of the film was that it was desperately trying to be a Bourne-esque thriller with the look and feel of Tony Scott’s direction. However despite these legitimate aspirations they are no substitute for the basics which were lacking – solid and original story coupled with dynamic and engaging characters and performances. In a nutshell, it was Cape Town that was the star of the show for me.

Unfortunately the story line boasts little originality. Ryan Reynolds plays the role of low-level CIA officer Matt Weston stationed in Cape Town desperately in search of a better posting elsewhere. The attempt at this backstory in the opening frames of the film is appreciated but it’s all pretty obvious what’s happening; ‘CIA agent dying for more action doesn’t realize the biggest day of his career is just around the corner…’ You can see it unravel before its begun.

Towards the end of the car chase and broken window saturated narrative there is a slight twist and reveal of who the real villain is and thus an attempts to vindicate Tobin Frost. But once again if you’ve seen the Bourne series, it’s nothing new. They may as well have cast Brian Cox from Bourne Supremacy and asked him to just repeat his performance for Safe House – a high level CIA officer who’s actually the villain!

Another problem with Safe House is that attention is divided between the two main characters Weston (Reynolds) and Frost (Washington). Tobin has all the potential but can’t deliver whereas Weston has all the attention and doesn’t deliver. Matt Weston is the focal point of the narrative given his backstory and love interests but I found my attention constantly drawn to the A-list Washington hoping there’d be more to him than a cold deadly face. I felt that more effort should have been dedicated to making Frost more of a villain. Give me reason to not like him so that when the twist comes towards the end I’m genuinely surprised and  emotionally invested. Instead I never really invested into his character which left me pretty unfazed when the twists are revealed. It wasn’t the emotional roller coaster it could have been. As for Reynolds – he looks like Damon but can’t act like Damon. Enough said.

From a technical point of view I quite enjoyed the look and feel. Critics have complained about the overly saturated look of film but I didn’t mind that. The editing had a Bourne feel which is understandable as the films shared the same editor. I enjoyed the cut and thrust of chases and the close quarter fight scenes except for the initial siege on the safe house. However one major problem I had was the lighting continuity during some of the fights scenes at night. This is not only limited to Safe House but it was noticeable enough to comment. There will be an exterior shot at night followed by a fight scene indoors but for some reason all the windows are white as though the sun is streaming through. Most people may not notice but I think it warrants a mention. I’m always left wondering how the director explains these blatantly obvious lights in their sets.

So where does that leave us? Well Safe House is not the worst movie you could watch (see Thor review below) and it does offer some fun action sequences. But overall it doesn’t offer anything new. Reynolds fails to convince and Washington isn’t given the scope to flourish. There is enough story to keep you hanging around waiting for more but it never really gets out of second gear. Overall it was the Mother City that impressed me more than anything else.

Plot and Development: 6/10

Characters and Performance – 5.5

Directing and Edit – 6.10

Quality Rating 58%

Entertainment Rating 60%

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A Beautiful Mind (2002)

Directed by: Ron Howard 

Written by: Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Russel Crowe

A Beautiful Mind tells the  story of the schizophrenic Professor John Nash, mathematical genius and Economics Nobel laureate. The film is a prime example of the problem with the biopic genre; they fail to break free from a very “and then, and then” structure. The problem with the film is not in the performances or nature of the story but in its actual writing.

A Beautiful Mind is a good film, but it’s one of those film which deserves to be so much better than it actually is. Except for a stellar performance by Crowe, everything else in the film seemed to fall short of the potential that the story was calling for. A Beautiful Mind is one of those films which benefits from the viewer knowing what they are watching before hand. As a first time viewer I knew nothing about the plot, film or story of John Nash. This made the slight twist (it’s more of a reveal if you know Nash is schizophrenic) quite surprising and thus enjoyable. But once this turn was made in the plot, there was very little excitement or intrigue. The plot bumbles along until the final resolution, which is admittedly heart warming and satisfying.

Russel Crowe plays the role of the socially awkward and mathematically obsessed  Princeton scholar. His performance is a brilliant display of sincerity and believability. Crowe’s performance captured my attention and drew me in to the character. I quickly became intrigued by the awkward young Nash. However as the film progressed I moved from feeling curious to feeling genuinely sympathetic and concerned for him. Such a performances was necessary if there was to be any degree of success to the film. The viewer is plunged into a pit of frustration and disappointment each time Nash begins to lapse into his schizophrenic moments. This ability to control an audience and take them on an emotional journey is testament to the skill of the actor.

A Beautiful Mind does a great job of putting the viewer in the perspective of someone suffering with schizophrenia, but fails to hold ones attention to the end. The first half of the film is filled with promise. Once the revelation of Nash’s schizophrenia is made, there is little reason not to fast forward to end and watch the ‘happy ending’ that unfolds.

Plot/Development = 6/10

Performances/Characters = 8.5/1

Screenplay 6/10

Quality Rating = 68%

Entertainment Rating = 70%

 

 

 

 

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Collateral

Directed by: Michael Mann

Starring: Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx

Cinematography by: Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron

 

Collateral is a grungy thriller, which centers around the collision of two characters, Vincent (Tom Cruise) a hired killer for the mob and Max (Jammie Foxx) , a dedicated and diligent taxi driver. Upon hailing Max’s cab one night in LA, Vincent commences a 5 stop tour of city, heartlessly executing his targets that are due to testify against his employers. Max is caught up in the nightmare as the unwilling getaway driver for Vincent’s duties. Max gets personally involved when he learns that Vincent’s final target for the night is Max’s client directly before Vincent, the prosecutor of the case who exchanged business cards with Max with the hope of a future encounter.

The story of Collateral is fairly straightforward. There’s not really any backstory to the characters as most of the drama takes place within the taxi itself as Max drives Vincent around the streets LA – trying to understand who he is and why he does what he does. However despite the simplicity and somewhat ‘2D’ approach to the plot and characters, the script and direction by Michael Mann carry the film and keep the viewer intrigued throughout. The film captures the nightmarish reality of the saga for Max. He’s a cab driver who wants to get home at the end of his long nightshift and finds himself aiding and abetting a violent and dangerous criminal – under duress.

The performances and characters in Collateral are the real highlights. Personally I don’t enjoy Tom Cruise. I find him to be a product of the Hollywood movie star factory that has created a star with very little depth. However, in Collateral he does play the role of a heartless, cold and detached hit man that markets his abilities to the highest bidder. Cruise’s character is a bit of an anomaly which adds interest to the interaction between Vincent and Max. Although he’s detached and brutal in his violence, he’s interested and intrigued with Max. Their conversations revolve around how long Max has been driving, what his dreams are and whether he’ll call the lady who left her business card (the prosecutor). However, Cruise does seem to click into cheesy action star during the chase scenes towards the end. In these moments it became quite apparent that we are watching the ‘great Tom Cruise’ chase a man through the streets. Personally I feel that he loses his believability in these moments.

Whilst Tom Cruise may be the headlining star in the film, the headliner performance comes from Jamie Foxx. Max is a tired taxi driver, hoping to one day fulfill his dreams of owning his own luxury limo service. On this particular night he just happens to be the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Foxx’s performance draws the audience in and creates a feeling of empathy and frustration on his behalf. The uncertainty and unpredictability with which Vincent acts leaves one feeling nervous for Max’s safety. Foxx performs the role with such ease and sincerity whilst creating a character that is likable for the audience.

An interesting fact about the film is that it was one of the first Hollywood blockbusters to be filmed in digital format as opposed to film. This has a distinct effect on the film, coupled with the style and cinematography that Michael Mann as director has chosen to adopt. The film feels very ‘handheld’ and voyeuristic. You feel as though you are in the cab with the two men, witnessing first hand what’s unfolding. There’s a gritty, grungy characteristic to the film which isn’t seen on other Hollywood blockbusters. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it, I do appreciate it. I like it when a director utilizes the tools of filmmaking to help tell the story. Though not my preferred style, Collateral does have a distinct look and feel which carries the story and emotion of the film nicely. Collateral is a film worth watching – not because it’s brilliant – it’s far from that, but because it is somewhat fresh and interesting. Would I watch it again? Perhaps, but not very quickly. Despite the somewhat lackluster plot line and at times dubious performance by Cruise, Collateral does have something to offer in the tension and interpersonal conflict between two great characters.

Plot/Development 6/10

Characters/Performances 7.5/10

Cinematography 7/10

Quality Rating 68%

Entertainment 6.5/10

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Moonrise Kingdom Review

Written and Directed by Wes Anderson

Cinematography by: Robert D. Yeoman

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the latest Wes Anderson feature for quite some time now. Having never seen an Anderson film I decided to watch Darjeeling Limited a few nights before Moonrise and couldn’t stand it. I found it to be a very much ‘style over substance’ film with little to draw me in.

Moonrise however was a completely different ball game. I loved it from the get go. Anderson has a remarkable style with bright colours, quirky characters, dry humour sprinkled with hints of dark comedy. In Moonrise Kingdom all of these ingredients come together in just the right proportions, coupled with a great storyline that keeps one intrigued and charmed throughout.

The magic of Moonrise lies in the character performances and the stylised, nostalgic world of 1965 they find themselves in. Jared Gilman, plays 12 year old Sam, who escapes from Camp Ivanhoe scout camp where Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) is in charge. Sam has arranged with Suzy (Kara Hayward) to meet him in the meadow near her house to runaway together. What transpires is a story of charming love and sincere devotion as the pair make a desperate attempt to evade the pursuing forces of Scout Master Ward, Law enforcement officer Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) as well as Suzy’s parents Walt and Laura Bishop.

Jared Gilman for me is the star of the show. His delivery of lines, body language and facial expressions are outstanding. He performs with brilliant subtlety and with the sincerity of a twelve year old that reasons far beyond his years. Ed Norton is another character that stands out with a   performance that is far from what is normally seen of him. As Scout Master he is ultimately responsible for the disappearance of Sam under his watch and enlists the help of the other scouts to retrieve Sam before any harm befalls him.

Moonrise is typical Wes Anderson whereby the entire film is pieced together to create a desired emotion and feeling for the audience. The colours are warm and bright, reminiscent of a children’s storybook. The music is prominent and playful, enhancing the mood that nostalgic visuals create. I love how Anderson uses all aspects of the film to tell the story and create a mood. From the styling of the sets, the wardrobe of the characters, the script, colours, music and even the way the film is shot are all thought through and work together to create that typical Wes Anderson feel.

 

For what it is, Moonrise Kingdom is a great film that transports you into a nostalgic, playful and whimsical world of charm and childhood innocence. Even those that haven’t caught onto the cultish love for Wes Anderson will find Moonrise to be an delightfully charming film.

 

Plot/Development 7.5/10

Characters and performances 8.5/10

Directing and Cinematography 8/10

 

Quality Rating 8/10

Entertainment Rating 8.5/10

How to Ruin a Good (Bourne) Legacy

Directed by:  Tony Gilroy

Written by: Tony Gilroy

Cinematography by: Robert Elswit

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
When I heard there was going to be a sequel to the brilliantly entertaining Ultimatum I was thrilled. Then I discovered that Matt Damon (the heart and soul behind the franchise) and Bourne himself would not be the focal point of the story. From that moment on there was an uncomfortable inkling that this would be a hopeless disaster. And what a hopeless disaster it was.Humanity has a few distinguishing features that seem to stand out. One of which is not knowing when to stop a good thing. The latest example of this characteristic flaw is the fourth installment of the once great Bourne franchise – The Bourne Legacy. Why could they not simply leave Bourne to be remembered as one of the great trilogies of our time, a milestone in filmmaking and in particular the action genre? They (the producers/studio executives/ Tony Gilroy) had to milk the cash cow one more time – only to produce a tall glass of sour milk that will unfortunately  bring in millions and leave them feeling justified.

For starters Jeremy Renner doesn’t carry the same charm as Matt Damon. How can you not admire the innocent and sincere looking Damon? He is in a class of his own when it comes to performances (I’m thinking of Oceans 11 and 13 in particular). Renner definitely is tougher and more rugged but who cares? Bourne could charm you with his smile and break your neck with his hands all before you could blink twice.

However the biggest flaw in Legacy was the painfully simple yet deceptively cryptic plot-line. For the first 45 minutes (of 2 hours) I couldn’t work out what was going on – which had me intrigued. However as we waded through more and more code words and CIA departments the plot-line began to clear up. Aaron Cross (Renner) is a super soldier that needs an incomprehensible combination of childish pills in order to….who knows, keep from imploding? The whole film can be summed up in this line: Aaron Cross is a junkie in search of his fix whilst running from the government who wants him dead. Once I had worked this out my heart dropped at it’s lack of ambition. Where were the government programs of Identity and Ultimatum? Where was the intrigue, the mystery? There was none – it was that simple. They had strung me along with code names but once that murky cloud had cleared up, there was nothing more to see.

Finally for an action film there was very little action. I can think of two scenes in particular which hinted at the classic action that Jason Bourne found himself in but a part from that there was a lot of car driving, running around and conversation that went nowhere.

Overall the Bourne Legacy was a complete disappointment. Yes it had the same ‘Bourne-esque’ look as the previous three which is one thing that I did enjoy but there wasn’t the class or finesse that we’d come to appreciate. Oh for that classic train station scene in Ultimatum where Bourne guides the reporter step by step, or the Moscow car at the end of Supremacy or the embassy scene in Identity that really established Bourne as a trained killer. The magic was completely missing in Legacy. Tony Gilroy who wrote the screenplays for the first three films took the role of director and writer for Legacy. It would have been perhaps better if he had called it a day after Ultimatum and left the legacy of Jason Bourne live on unscathed.

Plot/Development: 5/10

Performances 6/10

Cinematography 7/10

Entertainment Rating 5/10

Quality Rating 6/10

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