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Great classic western filled with dynamic and moving performances
I decided to watch this film after reading a review in Empire magazine which praised it highly... I wasn't disappointed. Ed Harris has crafted a superb classic Western from Robert B. Parker's novel. I saw Pollock a few years back and both films he has directed have been filled with the kind of gentle touch that allows the actors the room necessary to turn out great performances. Even if you are not a fan of Harris, I would still give this one a try. The combination of Ed Harris as Virgil Cole and Viggo Mortensen as Everett Hitch is perfectly suited to the story, setting and era and both do a great job of stepping into their characters with convincing ease. Their dialogue is spartan and often dry, both characters preferring to let their actions speak volumes. This is not a fast paced, action packed spectacle, rather it is a careful study into the lives of two men who are obviously very close after years of unspeakable acts in the name of 'peacekeeping'. The acting of these two main characters is superb, countered brilliantly by Jeremy Irons as the seemingly unscrupulous Randall Bragg. Irons is not at his best here and seems to struggle with the accent at times but still turns out a noteworthy performance. Renee Zellweger adds an interesting dynamic as Allison French, Cole's eventual love interest, and even though she suffers from some large character flaws, isn't entirely unlikeable in the end. Overall this film has the kind of delicate hand with the camera that Dean Semler (Apocalypto, Waterworld, Dances with Wolves) is renowned for. The sweeping landscapes match the characters that populate this story: vast and unmoving but still captivating. I recommend this film for people who like to watch a film and be moved by characters rather than just excited by explosions and an escalating body-count. Harris proves his worth as a director again and I look forward to more from him.
For Good (2003)
Slow but worth a look
This film fell somewhat short of the psychological thriller it promised to be but that doesn't mean it is devoid of redeeming qualities. The cinematography was predictable, yet clean and unobtrusive but it was the editing that I enjoyed the most. Clever cutting and the overlaying of images created a pleasing visual narrative even if the acting and script writing were weak in places. Miranda Harcourt was the films outstanding performer in my opinion, her portrayal of the victim's mother was well portrayed. For Good is not the sort of film you watch to be thrilled or carried along by the sheer pace of the story. it is slow and sombre but worth watching if you are a fan of New Zealand film. Not one of the best examples of the latter but an example all the same.
The best film I have seen this decade
I had wanted to see this film for weeks since I first saw it in the local video store and finally had a chance to watch it. It is a very simple film that breaks almost every Hollywood convention. It is shot on DV cameras and the editing is simple, some shots are longer than five minutes in length, but what makes this film incredible is the passion and emotion that drives the story. A guy meets a girl and they make some songs, some really great songs, and eventually record them. It is a simple enough premise but Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova bring an enormous amount of power to the film - not with their acting ability (neither of them have ever acted before) but with their musicianship. This is a film that anybody with a dream should see. It will inspire, uplift and encourage, and it is quite simply the best film I have seen in the last ten years. I have watched it over and over and I don't want to return it to the video store because it is too good to let go of.
Hamburger Hill (1987)
The real Vietnam
Like most people who have seen this film, I wasn't born until after the Vietnam war had ended, and what I know of the war I have read in books and seen in documentaries and films. Hamburger Hill is the first war film I have seen where the reality of war is presented in an unashamed no-holds-barred manner. From life at the base to the assault on the hill the film pulls no punches, but also doesn't seek to be overly moral or preach to anyone the futility of the war, simply to present life as it was for the soldiers who served, fought, and died in "Americas most disastrous conflict." Films like this and "We Were Soldiers" should almost be compulsory viewing for history students because, even though a book can explain what happened, nothing shows it better than films like these. The editing of the film shows its age in some places and some of the dialogue seems a little contrived at times however the acting of people such as Courtney Vance (most recently known for his role as ADA Carver in Criminal Intent) is outstanding, and while Tim Quills', who plays Private Beletsky, acting begins a little fuzzy by the end of the film his role becomes clearer and his acting improves into a very believable performance. This is a must see for fans of war films and historians alike and I highly recommend it.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Multiple viewings required
This film remains one of my all time favourite's, and every time I see it I find something new that adds to the meaning of the story. I was surprised that Terry Gilliam, the man responsible for all of Monty Pythons crazy animations, directed the film, which was brilliantly written. It is a masterpiece that requires serious concentration and more than one viewing to make sense of it all. Brad Pitt's character is brilliantly acted and shows his ability as an actor in a role far from the Hollywood hunk style roles he is used to. The fact that time shifts without warning back and forward throughout the film makes events sometimes unexpected, but I prefer this type of film to the simple A to B type predictable films that Hollywood pumps out. I could watch Twelve Monkeys over and over without ever getting bored of it and highly recommend it to others.