Archive for February, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

February 17, 2009

Director – Jonathan Demme

Writer – Jenny Lumet

Starring – Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin

Synopsis

When Kym (Anne Hathaway) returns to the Buchman family home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt), she brings a long history of personal crisis and family conflict along with her. The wedding party’s abundant cast of friends and relations have gathered for an idyllic weekend of feasting, music and love, but Kym with her black-comic one-liners and knack for bombshell drama is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions in the family dynamic.

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Review

Rachel Getting Married is a quaint little story of family squabbles – predominantly that of the two syblings Rachel and Kym and is set around a fairytale wedding. Jonathan Demme (the director) calls it “The most beautiful home movie ever made”, which immediately makes him the biggest cock in the world.

The reason he coins it as a home movie is most likely to do with the fact that DV cameras are used (to create the style no doubt) and it is based around a home; with the feeling that a family member could be holding the camera the whole time. Yep, sounds like a home movie to me. The first hurdle Demme faced was that noone in their right mind is going to pay to watch a home movie.

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Kym’s character has enough to her for the film to not be simply looking at some families tape of the daughters wedding day. Unfortunately she is the most hateable character of all time. She is selfish, unfunny and an all round bitch (consistantly trying to steal the spotlight from the bride-to-be) and to top it off she is forgiven numourous times before reverting back to bitch mode again. Hathaway has her moments in the film and gives a good ‘larger-than-life’ performance; its just a pity we fucking hate her character. The rest of the characters are designed to relate to your family and friends in some way, so that relating to the story can be that much easier. The cast generally does a good job in acting normal.

The plot goes something like this:

Kym comes home – Squabble – Wedding stuff – Squabble – Wedding stuff – Big Squabble – Rehersal – Squabble – Wedding (where all is forgiven and forgotten). It’s pretty fickle and, at first glance, unless you’re a wedding obsessed woman or Best man without a clue; there’s little to be gained from watching this. That being said, it is only once the film is over that you can fully appreciate it. In making the characters so relatable, the film give you an outlet to reflect upon your own family and friends. This is where it really achieves, but will obviously have differing effects for each viewer.

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Overall – The most beautiful home movie ever made… but who the fuck wants to pay to watch a home movie?

Revolutionary Road

February 17, 2009

Director – Sam Mendes

Writers – Justin Haythe (screenplay), Richard Yates (novel)

Starring – Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet

Synopsis

April (Winslet) and Frank Wheeler (Di Caprio) are a young, thriving couple living with their two children in a Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. Their self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel fulfilled in their relationships or careers. Frank is mired in a well-paying but boring office job, and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. As their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfillment are thrown into jeopardy

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Review

Anticipation – none; but the laws of physics were not on my side this night, having less than 5 minutes to get from central to Bath to central Bristol; park and walk to the cinema, there was little other option than Revolutionary Road in the Little. Of what I had heard from newspapers and word of mouth it seemed that Kate Winslet had done it again; of which I was not suprised – not of her acting being good, but that a majority of critics’ had their collective head up her ass. It seems 2009 is her year. Other than that and a vague, somewhat repulsive title (it stands as the worst of the year so far, I’m sure), I knew nothing of the film – a fresh feeling as the opening credits roll.

We are introduced to the happy couple at the inception of their relationship, with Frank’s suave and wit winning over April’s heart. All of a sudden we are around a year into their relationship and the two are at each others throats. It certainly feels fresh, but ultimately difficult to digest – like taking echinacea for the first time: its a foreign taste, but you know for sure you don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, it was necessary to have the scene where they first meet as well as swiftly moving the story to the middle years of their relationship, but the way it was carried out left me in disarray.

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Once the ugly business of the set-up is over with we get to chow down on some raw acting skills. It is a character driven plot and the actors (and director) really have to carry the film on their backs in order for it to be a success. Fortunately, Di Caprio is amazing. Predictably, Winslet gets the majority of screen time. Now that may not be matter of fact but what I do know is that the glory shots or pouty close-ups she gets remain for an extra Oscar-winning second longer. Obviously this bugged me, for loyal readers will know my views upon her; coupled with the fact that, without Di Caprio in the scene, she looks lost. I remember an early scene she shared with Kathy Bates was worthy of cringe.

The film lends itself to an appealing, if not depressing, plot: the dark side of suburban normality. However, extra characters (of whom I enjoyed the inclusion of) were slotted in at times when it seemed like something had to happen, which meant the plot struggled and it felt like it dragged out the running time too. Speaking of running time, it desperately needed the last 5 minutes sliced off at the end; a real heartbreaker as, what should have been the final 20 minutes were the strongest of the film.

Overall – A nice idea, with a great performance from Di Caprio, but ultimately the screenplay doesn’t deliver the goods.

Valkyrie

February 8, 2009

Director – Bryan Singer

Writer – Christopher Quarrie, Nathan Alexander

Starring – Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy

Synopsis

Valkyrie opens with Colonel Stauffenberg (Cruise) in Africa, penning in a journal his thoughts about World War II, and how he feels Hitler is destroying Germany. Stauffenberg states he took an oath to swear allegiance to Hitler, but feels he owes more to Germany. He joins an alliance of inside men who have had several unsuccessful attempts at the Füehres life. He hatches a fool-proof plan which, when successful, will cause them to inherit rule over Germany and bring peace to the world. However, a turn of events (brought on by a poorly timed bout of Summer Sun) thwarts Colonel Stauffenberg’s plan; but being stubborn and relentless he chooses to continue. Although the plan was altogether unsuccessful, resulting in most of the men losing their lives, Stauffenberg created an administrative shit-storm for the remaining Nazi’s. Based on a true story.

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Review

It may come as a shock to those of you who do not spend every waking moment watching war documentaries on Discovery, but most of the Nazi’s in Germany spoke in their native tongue – German. Those that could not would mask it by putting on a sneaky German accent and would generally not speak. However, Hollywood likes to think of this as a mistake in the Nazi’s judgement, and its latest improvement manages to blend the lesser German language (of which I am told is junk German anyway) into the superior English language in less than 30 seconds. Well, what the hell is wrong with that? is what you might be thinking; and the answer is plenty. It is generally considered that the English and American’s had a large role opposing the Nazi’s in WWII and despite never seeing the Allied’s; hearing the Axis speak like them is enough for you to take a step back from the entire film. When you hear an extra shout out in a Scottish accent you can do nothing but laugh and shake your head in bewilderment.

As a thriller, Valkyrie has its moments. Adolf Hitler is built up well and the meeting Colonel Stauffenberg has with him gives him a deserving presence. Ofcourse, we all know that Operation Walküre did not succeed, which does take some of the energy from the film; but it is more about how could the plan not succeed and how they handle it when it does not; these are the questions that Valkyrie attempts to answer. The three key scenes – the Adolf Hitler meet; the assasination attempt and the last stand are all executed correctly; creating the perfect mood for each one and putting the “thrill” into thriller (did I just say that?). However, the rest of the film is lacking, with director Bryan Singer probably choosing to build around the three set pieces. Most of Valkyrie will have you considering your seating position and whether bald people should be allowed in to cinemas.

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Tom Cruise is on top form as Colonel Stauffenberg; a character which he gives a commanding presence to, as well as giving him a madness in his relentlessness (which comes with the Cruise package). Noone else is particularly memorable (other than the Scottish guy!) with Bill Nighy playing the wimpy General Friedrich Olbricht and Kenneth Branagh as Major-General Henning v. Tresckow.

Overall – A few moments of inspired genius are thwarted by the average Tom Cruise fan not having the intelligence to read subtitles.

The Wrestler

February 3, 2009

Director – Darren Aronofsky

Writer – Robert D. Siegel

Starring – Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Synopsis

Back in the late ’80s, Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey.

Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans. However, a heart attack forces him into retirement. As his sense of identity starts to slip away, he begins to evaluate the state of his life — trying to reconnect with his daughter, and striking up a blossoming romance with an exotic dancer (Marisa Tomei) who is ready to start a new life. Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy “The Ram” back into his world of wrestling.

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Review

I was eager to see Darren Aronofsky’s most recent release, after enjoying his racey breakout movie: Requim for a Dream. Also, The Wreslter looked more down to earth than The Fountain; which I missed, due to logistics – “Really, really bad” – Douglas Bubbletrousers, News of the World. So I set off, in search of a contender for the new ‘Film of the Month’ section of my blog (should I choose to do it).

After struggling to get involved for the first 10 minutes, the score arrived and I finally settled down for some hardcore watching. The script was pleasing. It didn’t try to do too much; choosing entertaining dialogue to snigger at (watch the spelling Davis!) over one-liners and set pieces. Though the screenplay was solid throughout, I do think it focussed on the wrestling over, what I thought was the more interesting side of the story, Randy’s relationship with his daughter.

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We are allowed two scenes of this “broken down piece of meat” coming to terms with what his lifestyle has done to the father/daughter relationship and what the daughter has to say about it; I don’t think the film ever really knew what side of Randy’s story to focus on: broken down wrestler; broken down dad or lonely ageing single guy. Aronofsky tries to take a slice of each one, which was just a bit too much for me to stomach.

On the positive side, all the actors held their own with a plus performance from Mickey Rourke. The scandal around Rourke’s performance made me unsure of whether I was appreciating it correctly but in hindsight Rourke nailed the character and gave him the “down-but-not-out” mentality that Randy deserved. Where realism is concerned, the casting choice for Marisa Tomei was a poor one. When the extras in the film are telling her how old and disgusting she is, whilst she strips, and the entirety of the male audience is praying not to get a boner – you know something’s up.

Handheld cameras were used for a lot of the film, for realism, I guess. This lost me a little with the inevitable jitters disrupting my viewing pleasure. Other than that, the shot selection was nice; with the final shot being the masterball of all shots – capturing you without fail.

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Overall – It’s a success, but lacks the mysterious magic ingredient that would make it a film to love.