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I'm not sure how I came to be watching this film; I had heard of it
some time ago and added it to the queue without knowing too much about
it other than it was successful in its home market. Supposedly based on
a true story, the plot sees a rich quadriplegic employ a rather
colorful young man to be his new live-in caretaker. We open the film
with a flash-forward but quickly go back to the start of the
relationship and quickly are let in on the ground floor regarding how
this film will be. Basically Philippe is uptight and locked within
himself mentally almost as much as physically, while Driss is carefree
and very different from those in Philippe's world. Will the odd-couple
become friends and perhaps benefit one another's lives somehow? Well,
only time (and the genre) will tell.
Of course this is pretty much what happens but you know this from the odd-couple comedy/drama feel that it has from the getgo and it is fairly shameless about doing it. There isn't really a depth to the film but rather a superficial but entertaining pace and plot. It feels cynical for the most part but yet somehow it works if you can get through some cringe-inducing "heart-warming" moments. A big part of it working is plain and simply the two actors in the lead roles. Neither gives a brilliant performance individually but together they have real chemistry and their banter and shared moments do have a certain genuine and intimate feel that is all down to the delivery. By themselves Cluzet is solid and Sy clowns it up for all he is worth, but yet both are quite charming and likable all the way to the end.
Ultimately it is fairly shameless crowd-pleasing fare which airbrushes life into a series of fun set-pieces. It really never touches a real nerve but it is still enjoyable thanks to the warm tone and strong chemistry between the two leads.
The Grandmaster is another film which tells a snapshot of the life of
Ip Man and as such perhaps doesn't stand out as something worth seeing
on this basis alone, however the director and the cast both attracted
me to the film. The plot follows Ip Man as he rises in status thanks to
an interaction with Master Gong Yutian. Man and Yutian's daughter Er
start a relationship based on their martial arts although Man is
married and Er is driven by other forces and cannot be together. Things
take other turns when the Japanese occupy China and Man and Er's lives
take different paths.
I have written about the plot here but really this is not a part of the film where it is at its best. There is an engaging tone of tragic restraint which is generated from the themes of honor, respect, love and loss but generally the film doesn't make the most of these. The biggest problem is the way the film is structured it feels very freeflowing and not focused on delivering a narrative so much as a flow or feel. In some ways I liked this a lot but in others it did leave me outside looking in too often. Characters strike poses and expressions that show their pain and their challenges but the material doesn't bring that out as well as I would have liked. Fortunately the performances of the main cast show that they have understood this even if the film's structure doesn't help them. Tony Leung gives us a lot with very little; he has a very expressive face and this he uses well. Ziyi Zhang deserves credit too as she delivers a strong performance one that really would have benefited from more structure in the overall delivery. The supporting cast features several engaging turns (Qingxiang Wang, Chen Chang and others) but the real star of the film is Kar Wai Wong and his cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd.
I say this because the film is at its best in the stylish visual packaging. The martial arts action is well choreographed and enjoyably and skillfully delivered, but around this there is a great deal to enjoy as the camera captures so many beautiful scenes and beautiful shots, whether they be a fight in the pouring rain or a great shot of a static character. Visually the film really captivated me and the only downside of this was that it made me realize that the story didn't do this as well. The film is still worth seeing but the fragmented structure means it will feel like it is delivering bits of the story and expecting us to be really engaged in the characters even though it very much jumps into key points without a great deal of a link.
I recently watched the 1950 film Night and the City and was so taken by
it that I looked up more of the director Jules Dassin. Although I tend
to watch quite a lot of films, I am not that well read in cinema and so
had not seen several of his other films but it was clear that I was
missing out. I decided to watch Du rififi chez les hommes (1955) simply
on the basis that on IMDb it shows up first in his "known for" section.
This turned out to be a good choice and what I found was a simple but
very effective crime thriller with tough edges, Gallic coolness and
The plot is straightforward enough in terms of a group of criminals try to pull off a robbery from a jewelry store; but there are edges to all the characters and ultimately it works well by building this up in the first half before then delivering a stylish (and silent) robbery section and then raising the stakes in the final third. I found the tough noir- esque tone to be very satisfying and I liked that the film doesn't even have to pretend that Tony is someone that we should like or respect he is driven by bitterness and anger and I liked this. This tough edge is complimented by a stylish mix of American noir standards, with sufficient French style to make it feel different but yet familiar. The film does this visually but also in the feel of everything it has an effortless cool toughness that is consistent and never superficial.
This is most memorable in the heist scene itself, which is part of a long sequence where not a word is spoken but yet tension is high and well maintained. This sounds like a very simple thing to do but it is pulled off very well and is impressive for how well it does this just from expressions and atmosphere. It will be no surprise to anyone familiar with heist films to say that ultimately things do not totally work out and this aspect is also done in a satisfying and engaging manner. I'll be checking out more from Dassin soon.
Although I enjoyed the second season of this show, I did feel that far
too often it appeared to have sly jokes and references that
deliberately were aimed at a more adult viewer. My issue with this was
not that such things would corrupt younger viewers, but more that the
thing I enjoyed most about the first season was that it was a show that
adults and older children could watch together and enjoy the same
thing, not different threads of the same episode. Fortunately aside
from one or two things, the third season returns with a much more
stable approach and one that hones in on its core audience first, but
still delivers plenty for those older viewers.
So gone are the rather obvious adult references on the second season and in comes a core of juvenility which I do not mean as a criticism. So adventures are based on childlike innocence, battles are generally rough-n-tumble and anything to do with romance is treated with an awkwardness that is realistic (even for the older viewers to be honest). What I liked most about this season though is that it appears to have been written with the understanding of the sort of issues and topics that the core audience will just be starting to try and process. I know this has always been something it did regarding romance and general life-lessons but this third season impressed me by how well it did it and what it was willing to cover. In particular the subject of death being covered with Jake's "croak dream" a brave episode which entertains but introduces themes really well. Likewise the Halloween specials are good as they borrow from horror themes but tone it down enough to be accessible but not enough to be totally without impact.
The characters remain very good. Bubblegum seems a bit different once she returns to being an adult but the core characters are strong and well used. Looking again to the season's good balance, I liked that the Ice King became more nuanced and given some backstory he is allowed to be tragic but still retain his "baddie" role to an extent. Jake and Finn are great throughout. The voicework is also very good whether it be Shada's enthusiasm or Yang's awesomeness with Beemo and Lady Rainicorn. The animation remains very good throughout with creativity which is inspired by Ghibli, video games and other sources but yet never feels like it is just ripping other things off.
The second season may have very slightly veered off course for me, but this third one is right back in its sweet spot, pleasing viewers of all ages and really doing a good job of engaging the core audience on topics that they are processing in real life.
The first thing to do with this film is to dump the memory of the
gushing but rather non-specific praise from critics, the perfect 10 out
of 10 scores and the banner "film of the year", because having all of
that on the head of the film will really not help it or you. I say this
because although it was for critics, the casual viewer will certainly
not make this film of the year in the traditional sense, because it is
very much an experience. People have said that it is a film that you
love or hate (as can be seen in the extreme gushing or spitting in some
comments) but for me it is both and neither at once.
The plot (although it is also worth putting that notion out of your head too) is that a man is transported around in a limousine in Paris, being dropped off at different locations to fulfill a series of appointments. If you can get over the ridiculous sight of traffic moving freely in Paris, you will still need to work with the fact that these appointments range from acting like a tramp in the middle of busy street, acting out a weird alien love scene in a mo-cap suit, killing someone and taking their identity, being a frustrated father to a teenage girl and other such random things. These events range hugely in what they did to me. Between different episodes and indeed within different episodes I went from amusement to bemusement; from engaged to bored; from interested to frustrated and for all of these I also went back the other way in some cases. It is a film that is frustrating and quite good at the same time. It is a total art film and it really has no interest in anyone who expects it to do anything to help the viewer. Personally I dislike this approach although I recognize that some love difference and uniqueness for just those qualities it working or being good is a distant second.
I really tried to find the meaning in the film but it was too obscured for me and I was too remote for it to get to me. I have read quite a few reviews from those that love the film but they have been generally vague and non-specific in their praise, almost as if they really want to love it for how diverse and unique it is, but aren't able to put their finger on its good qualities despite this. This is not to say that I did not appreciate these qualities as well just that for me they are not enough. So yes I quite enjoyed creative aspects to it, or some of the events and situations, but generally it just seemed too fragmented, too lacking in anything tangible and ultimately it just felt like it was being difficult and surreal for the sake of it, not as the path to a goal. I'm sure some were thrilled watching the character stand shaking a tin at passing strangers, or exhilarated by two people in mo-cap suits dry humping each other, or entertained by the sight of a silent Eva Mendes abducted by a naked crazy guy with an erection but such things did not work for me. There is something in there I am sure about cinema as we do get reference to cameras and other films, but as I say, it was too little, too obscured for me.
Visually the film has imagination and style, while the performance of Lavant is enthusiastic and committed, but these are not the content. I'm sure Mendes and Minogue both get a little career benefit from being on the inside of such a project, but for Mendes it was a waste although Minogue's section was nicely done. This is not a film for performances though and, outside of Lavant, there really isn't much to talk about. If you enjoy wildly weird and odd films on the basis that they are weird and odd, then you'll like this and will maybe even pat yourself on the back for being clever enough to enjoy it (even if you struggle to put that enjoyment into specific words). However those looking for more will be disappointed and many may hate the film; personally I found aspects to like and much to engage, but ultimately it didn't work for me as a whole and too much worked against it at the same time.
Shame to see on a film site that this is put into the genre of "film-
noir"; it is a label I also find myself applying to stuff to which it
doesn't fit, but for this film there is almost nothing about it that
would make it this genre. What it actually is, is a melodrama with a
nicely dark edge as our main character goes on a journey of self which
doesn't go well for him. He starts the film as a simple grifter in a
carnival but working with one of the acts (Zeena) puts him on the road
to being a mentalist, a path that offers him more than his lot thus
From this point the film treads a fairly worn path in terms of being a morality tale. Had I not just spent the last few years watching a really great show take its main character on a journey too high, pushing moral boundaries and ultimately paying the price (Breaking Bad) then perhaps I would have been more impressed by this, but for what it was this film did a good job, just not a great job. Part of the problem is that, although we know that the act is all a con, it still stretches credibility that Stan is able to pull off what he does and at times it would have been easier for the film just to say that it wasn't a trick! This aside, when you do go with it, the ideas are simple and the narrative rise and fall is reasonably satisfying. The direction and cinematography help it by adding visual darkness and shading and generally the tone of the film adds to the material.
Many people have made a lot of Power's performance here, which leads me to assume that he must have been very tightly type-cast because aside from playing a character that makes this journey, there really isn't much to his performance. He clicks between stages and does each stage well, but his character needed shading and detail for him to really work with; suffice to say that this is not Walter White. Blondell is good in her key but comparatively minor role; Gray is beautifully fresh and innocent as required, while Walker is interesting but not as well used as she should have been.
Overall Nightmare Alley is a solidly dark melodrama but its period limits how complex Stan can be and keeps it on the level of melodrama, albeit it an enjoyably dark melodrama.
This film offers a lot of potential. The cast features Robinson and
Ladd, the city in the background is a great one and the plot offers us
murder, conspiracy, betrayal, infidelity and revenge. So why is it so
very pedestrian from start to finish? I'm not totally sure as to the
why but I have little doubt this is the case since the film really
crawled across my screen, offering very little to make me sit up and
take notice at any point. The problems for me are several but they are
mostly intertwined to create one central problem which is that the film
really lacks atmosphere and tension.
The most obvious cause of this is the setting and the delivery. San Francisco is a beautiful city and one filled with coolness; it isn't the best backdrop for a tough noir-esque film. The film delivers the city in full color with lots of space and vibrancy and this doesn't help the tone of the film. This isn't to say that such a film can't be set in such a place, but if it does then it needs to create an atmosphere another way setting it in gritty urban decay would have helped but it isn't necessary if ou deliver with plot, performances and other ways to make atmosphere. Sadly this film doesn't. In terms of characters they are flat and the performances match this. Ladd is supposed to be bitter and driven by rage but never looks more annoyed than someone who has misplaced their car keys. He really sleeps through this and even in the "dramatic" conclusion, his face is more emotionless than Steven Seagal. Robinson does his thing but without anything much to work with, so he is only his usual style, nothing special. The rest of the cast have some good turns but generally the pace is set by the leads and the pace is slow.
This really hurts the atmosphere and I never felt anything other than a general plod through a plot which didn't have anything to it. The bright color and space of the film doesn't help, but the lackluster performances and lack of general tension or atmosphere do more damage again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And so with this serial the third season of Doctor Who draws to a close
a season more notable for what wasn't in it as opposed to what was,
since this seasons seems to have so few episode actually still
surviving. It has been an odd season considering that the first two
seasons were fairly consistent in terms of cast whereas this one has
gone through companions like most of us go through a change of socks.
Anyway, this final serial is complete, which makes it noteworthy in
itself in this season. The plot sees a computer thinking for itself
and, despite the assurances that it will act logically and make no
wrong decisions, it actually decides it knows better than mankind and
decides to enslave and destroy it (which, one could argue, was what was
said on the tin).
This plot interested me immediately because it is a sci-fi concept that only became more and more common from this period onwards, whether it was on a small scale (Demon Seed) or on a global blockbuster stage (Terminator films). The creation of WOTAN is interesting but unfortunately it too quickly moves to the more traditional ideas of robots on wheels with Dalek-esque weapons poking out the front. WOTAN gradually becomes less of a specific threat compared to its drones as the serial goes on and I thought this was a shame since the bigger idea is better than the war machines of the title. It still has merit and relevance but these machines add clunkiness and also make the idea tangible in a way that reduces its value. It doesn't help that the Doctor moves through scenes whether it makes sense or not he is not presented as "known" in this context, he just inserts himself without reason and it stuck out a bit. Generally the ideas make it work but one cannot help but feel it could have done more with such a good and ahead of its time) idea.
In terms of casting the most notable thing is that Dodo is dropped without any fuss whatsoever essentially the dead goldfish that parents would say to their kids had gone on holiday, would be given more of a sendoff that her. In the serial she is sent to the country to rest and then isn't seen for a few episodes. I presumed this was her taking a vacation as other actors had done, but in the final episode we get a note saying "see ya Doc" which is an odd exit. Whether Lane deserved more or not I don't know since so few of her episodes remain, but it really did feel badly done. Hartnell works well during the serial though and I liked him yet again as a presence the upside of the companions being less distinctive is that he is very much the focus. With Purves also leaving at some point in a lost episode, Wills and Craze move in to, I assume, be the new companions. They were both a little too obviously "swinging London youth" for my taste (I guess done for the audience) but in this serial both were good in particular Craze convinced when he was in danger.
So this serial does have good aspects but the focus on the war machines rather than the less tangible supercomputer detracts from this somewhat and I was looking for more along the lines it started on; still good to have a complete serial at least.
Another plane journey another film that never appealed to me before but
seemed good enough to fill some hours with not much else to do. Based
on a true story this film sees a working man getting drawn into a drug
sting operation in return for reduced time for his son, who was also
innocently drawn into a drug dealing charge. In terms of narrative what
we get is fairly events-driven and obvious; characters get put in
danger, drug dealers are only marginally less trustworthy than the
authorities, families are under stress and so on.
As a story it does the job but doesn't deliver anything other than what you expect even without knowing the story you probably already know the story since it does more or less what you think it will. In terms of what happens there are not too many opportunities for set-pieces but the film should be able to really hatchet up the tension given what is at stake. Unfortunately it doesn't ever really do this moments of intense danger seem staged and although there are manly confrontations there isn't too much sustained pressure that translated across to the viewer. This failing leaves the film feeling a bit pedestrian even if it does enough to engage to a certain degree.
The cast help it, in particular the presence of Johnson. He is not a great actor but he is more than enough of a presence to make a difference; I've always found he has an easy charisma and this is another example of that working in the favor of the project. Supporting cast is less reliable even if there are some big names and faces in there such as Sarandon, Bernthal, Pepper, Williams, Velazquez and others. Bratt stars as the main threat but beyond looking a bit sinister he really does do anything of note.
Snitch is a decent enough story told in a workmanlike fashion. It benefits from some good performances but it is still only a so-so watch and nothing more than that.
Hard to really complain about this film because coming into it you're
going to know what you're getting just from the title and poster. I
guess the cast may have made you think it was a much bigger better
film, but even then the first five minutes of banter and cool,
consequence- free violence should tell you what you're watching. Yes
this is another action movie with two mismatched leads who trade quips
and bullets with everyone in their path and each other. The details of
the plot don't matter too much but it is reasonably twisty and I liked
it for that even if very little of it holds any water if you examine it
with more than a passing glance. Of course the job of the film is to
stop you lingering on the detail and in this regard it works pretty
The action is overblown and the dialogue is typical corny macho fare but it is delivered with energy and good timing so it is easy to enjoy it for what it is. Although you do get the sense that Washington and Wahlberg are both slumming it a little bit, they both deliver even when not in top gear. So yes Washington appears to be channeling a watered down version of his Training Day performance while Wahlberg dos his usual cute delivery and running stuff, but it works well and they spark off each other nicely. I also liked that I never felt they took it seriously and they helped me relax into it, which is useful. The supporting cast features plenty of faces but they don't get to enjoy themselves quite as much as the lead two. Patton is stunning and the film knows it, Paxton is hammy but not quite to the level of being memorable as a villain, Olmos is generic while Marsden does what is asked of him.
This is not a great film by any means but it works within its own genre well enough and delivers what is important for that type of film. The playing of the lead two breaks no moulds but they take the genre standards and add their own star-power and charm to it, enjoying themselves while they do, which in turn makes the film easier to enjoy. If you're looking for something memorable then go elsewhere but if you want silly banter and unrealistic gunplay then this is worth a look.
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