Reviews written by
|10 reviews in total|
Just finished watching Spike Jonze's new movie 'Her', a beautiful,
tender, melancholy film about love and loss and technology. It's that
kind of science fiction so close to science fact you can almost look
out your window and see it, so in that it's of a piece with Jonze's
first movie 'Being John Malkovich', though the cautious, bruised and
drifting heart of it reminds me most of (his ex-wife) Sofia Coppola's
'Lost In Translation'.
It's funny: just last month I was saying how 2013 was not such a good year for movies and then 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' came along, and now this, which I think is probably the best of the year.
This is an amazing, unique, magical film that I would recommend to everyone, with the caveat that it almost certainly will make you go 'ouch', at least if you're paying attention. But I'm pretty sure that you won't have seen anything quite like it before.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having just watched this film, I am stunned to find practically none of
the reviewers here pointing out what a morally reprehensible monster
the main character Justine is.
At every turn she lies, cheats, and toys with others affections, first out of simple boredom, then to desperately maintain the life she so claimed to want to escape at the beginning. Her whims are directly responsible for first toying with an unstable young man's affections, arranging for him to be falsely committed to an insane asylum when she bores of him, then betraying him to the police after arranging to run away with him. Her actions are wholly responsible for his suicide. She has sex with her husband's best friend and deceives her man into raising a child she knows for sure is not his. Her denial over that and her determination at all costs to be seen as a 'Good Girl' causes another man to be be beaten up for no reason. It just goes on and on.
Her character is a Typhoid Mary of destruction, caring for no-one but herself. THIS IS THE POINT OF THE STORY!!! and yet no-one here appears to have noticed. If her character was a man, no-one would have any trouble recognizing this, but as she is a modern, white, American woman, her story - a story of selfishness and cowardice and the enormous collateral damage to others such behaviour brings about - can only be perceived by the public as an 'Eat Pray Love' tale of a woman 'finding herself'.
Mind-boggling but true. This is one crazy world.
What marks this film out above most others is that, for all of that, it doesn't demonize Justine, or anyone else for that matter, but instead sees them through a compassionate human lens in which all human beings are just struggling along the same as everyone else. This is the position all genuine art speaks from, and indeed is what makes the film such a haunting and compelling experience, but considering the confused response here displayed I do think it could perhaps have pushed its point farther.
John C. Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson are as solid as always, and Zooey Deschanel too puts in a typically unforgettable performance, but the real praise must go to the film's screenwriter, Mike White, who also has a small part as the church-going security guard. The theme and tone of 'The Good Girl' reminded me very much of his TV show 'Enlightened' which I would recommend to anyone impressed by this.
Another reviewer here wrote A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan
was like the film Wes Anderson started to make and then gave up on when
he realized it didn't go anywhere, and that's actually a VERY good
summation, but it also reminds one of all those half-baked, shambolic
seventies 'auteur' flicks like 'The Stuntman', 'The Last Movie',
'Brewster McCloud' or 'Welcome To L.A' - something Hal Ashby or Peter
Bogdanovich bashed together when stoned and then promptly forgot about.
It feels almost like a tribute to that period of time and that kind of
film-making, which ended once the 80's rolled around and the studios
reined in the directorial chains.
So yes it IS a mess but on the other hand, Charlie Sheen gives perhaps the greatest performance of his career - I've never been much of a fan before so it's possible I've missed better but here he puts on an absolutely flawless acting workshop, with every single moment, every single line bang on the money. For me, at least, it's a revelation, and his speech near the end to his ex girlfriend rang true and was particularly moving.
In addition to this there's all the great over the top 'period detail', and some of the most gorgeous cinematography of the 21st century, plus a soundtrack that sounds like every seventies singer-songwriter you've somehow never heard.
On the minus side, it's not funny enough, and Murray and Schwartzman could have been used better. It probably deserves a 6 in reality but I'm knocking it up a star just because of all the haters.
I've been joyfully making my way through Ernst Lubitsch's work of the
thirties - Trouble In Paradise, Monte Carlo, The Love Parade,
Ninotchka, A Design For Living.. all really marvellous, magical,
inventive & sexy stuff, so I was very much looking forward to seeing
this one too, which I'd heard was one of the best. Finally got to see
it last night & now feel strikingly disappointed - so much is absent
from the film that it feels as though the censor cut out about a half
hour of vital story (& jokes!) to keep it clean.
The film itself is about a playboy who is sent to Hell because of all the women he's been with. But we don't *see* ANY of these women, even though the entire film is shot in flashback, taking the viewer through every stage of his life. So much is left out it's maddening, & one is left with the frustrating feeling that the film Lubitsch really wanted to make ended up on the cutting room floor, or perhaps just remained in his head.
It's a handsome film, for sure - the photography is nice, the colours rich & deep - but its not a classic at all, & all it does is make me pine for the Lubitsch touch of old.
Far from being Hitchcock's most underrated film, it is only Hitch's
involvement with it that marks this film out from the countless other
grimly 'realistic' films of the fifties.
The lighting is harsh, the photography cheap. The story holds no surprises whatsoever. There is no build-up of tension, no memorable lines, no memorable characters, even - all the acting, with the exception of Fonda, is wooden & about the level of the television dramas of the day. The end result feels, in fact, like a TV show, & one that could have been much better told in a half-hour 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' episode.
There are a few flashes of the Master's hand but they seem ill-fitting & out of place in this otherwise unremarkable 'Based On A True Story' TV movie.
Good Heavens, that's a lot of face-lifts. It's freaky. I mean look,
there's Steve Martin, looking a little lost & frail & with really
strange piggy eyes. And you just want to grab hold of his cheeks & hang
on them until he looks like he used to.
And Alec Baldwin, looking like a bear in a suit with HIS strange piggy eyes too.. Has he had plastic surgery or is that all just chubbiness? I realise this isn't much of a film review but i really couldn't get past all the self-mutilation. At least three peoples faces no longer able to properly register emotion. It's creepy just like a teenage-girl with an armful of scars. I guess it comes from the same place. I guess that's where we're all heading.
On the other hand, Meryl Streep looks positively radiant, much nicer now than she did 30 years ago. Whether she's been nipped & tucked I don't know. I hope not. But she's warm & soft around the edges & she gets to say "I prefer a lot of semen. I always have", which has got to be one of the finer lines in recent cinema. I hope that's the clip they show over & over again of the film at the Oscars.
Other than that it's a sweet enough little escapist fantasy for the over-50's. I actually quite liked it. It's bland & sanitized & unreal but comfy. I noted watching it how the chick-flick fantasy is set up to let women have their cake & still look like they didn't want it. It's odd to me why that is so important but it clearly is. Also, how much more important the vocal acceptance of one's friends is for a woman - there's an awful lot of women eating ice cream & saying 'i'm so happy for you' & 'you go girl' in this film. And face-lifts. Did I mention the face-lifts already? My God! What's wrong with their eyes?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a bizarre film.
First off, i have to say, i actually enjoyed the first two thirds or so of it, strange hormonal man-hating thing that it is. It has enough of a dark edge & originality to stand out from the usual production line chick-flicks. However, once the gardener character turns up the whole thing goes off the rails & becomes as unhinged as the central character. And entirely implausible, too - the idea (trying not to give too much away, here) that the characters could not get out of the situation they are forced into is visibly ridiculous.. did no-one proof-read this thing?
Also, all the motives & lines for all the male characters are by far the most unbelievable i have ever heard. Not one of them speaks like a real person. Did some fat girl run out of Mills & Boon books one afternoon & decide to knock one out herself? It's really depressing to think how many women will happily tolerate this kind of ken-doll fantasy depiction of their opposite number.
On the plus side, Meg Ryan does what she is called on to do well, & Timothy Hutton does what he can with the dialogue given him. There are some tender & insightful moments amid the plot holes & deranged logic. The twist at the end helps but doesn't redeem what has gone before, & in fact makes Ryan's manipulative character all the more disturbing.
For all of this, it's still better than the usual Hollywood detritus, an interesting & original idea run aground by a script that has no idea whatsoever of how men actually think, act, talk & feel. Which is a real pity, as this could have been something really special.
When i first heard about this, i wondered if its makers had been
checking out "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace", & now i've seen it i'm
positive - Black Dynamite even has Thornton Reed's moustache!
They have a lot in common - there's the same love here of the shonky details of bad 70's & 80's film & TV but it seems a little heavy handed in comparison, with the subtlety dumbed down for an American audience & overstated - what should be completely straight-faced gags look a little too much like mugging, & the really funny jokes are a bit thin on the ground. There are fewer levels to the humour.
Still, the good bits are good - "Sarcastically, I'm in charge", a bit player's misread line, is a great detail a lot of people probably miss - It's a pretty funny spoof & likable enough. But check out Darkplace!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
B u t i t m a k e s n o s e e n n n s e !!!! The threat of Dr Manhattan
wouldn't change anything for long - if so, the Russians wouldn't have
dared plan to attack America in the first place, hence no threat, hence
no story. The fear of an alien invasion, on the other hand - though
admittedly always the most far-fetched part of the book - is the only
thing that would achieve the world peace needed for the payoff.
This is an awful film of one of the greatest books of all time. I should have known it was going to be, I don't know why i bothered again but I hoped what with all the hype maybe this one would be different.
But no, it's senseless & awful. The acting is strictly made-for-TV, like an amateur dramatics society doing their production of Shakespeare, 'adapted for the screen' by the writers of an 80's soap.
The key role, obviously, to anyone who's read the book, is Rorschach, & the film was always going to stand or fall on his portrayal. The actor portraying him plays him as simply a generic 1940's Hollywood tough guy - the mannerisms are all wrong, & the voice too huffy & gruff (too much time spent studying Christian Bale's Batman, I think..) when it should be foggy & monotone. There was a opportunity there to create as unforgettable a screen character as Hannibal Lecter or Sherlock Holmes but they completely blew it.
And don't even get me started on what they did with 'Hallelujah'.
It's not all bad - the fight scenes are well staged & the special effects are of high quality, a lot of care & attention has been put into the look & detail of the film. Also the guy who played The Comedian I thought didn't do too bad a job. But this is, in every way - emotionally, intellectually, creatively - not even a pimple on the buttocks of the book. Why does Hollywood always have to try fix what isn't broken? (Or else remake it?) The comic-book scripts of Alan Moore ARE film scripts - you could simply place a camera where he says to place a camera & say the lines he says to say & as long as the acting wasn't appalling you would have a great film. Yet over & over again - League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, V for effing Vendetta- they mess with what makes them special in the first place & lose all that makes them great.
Moore doesn't own the rights to his early works, so he is helpless to stop them from being taken away & made into empty popculture fluff such as this, but is it any wonder he refuses to take credit, or even the money for them anymore?
Hollywood, please, please, PLEASE leave the books of our greatest living author alone.
This is, i would say, not only woody allen's greatest movie, it is also
my favourite film ever, by anyone. i've gotten more from this film
every time I've watched it, over the years - which is many times - &
i've found something different & new on each occasion.
This glowing recommendation doesn't, by the way, mean i am a rabidly undiscerning woody allen fanatic. i don't think he's made even a decent film since deconstructing harry - another great film inexplicably reviled upon its release - & the 'early, funny' films i have always found dull & juvenile.
What is great about woody allen - & this is still what the majority of the critics seem invariably to miss - is that only Chaplin before him mixed tragedy, comedy & pathos so perfectly (leading to the maxim in the movie industry that 'only woody can do woody'). It is this that is Allen's great gift, all his most perfect films are aglow with this sublime anomaly, & it is these films that people will still be watching fifty or a hundred years from now.
For the record, the films you really & truly need to see by woody allen are these:
Annie Hall. Stardust Memories. Manhattan. Hannah & Her Sisters. Crimes & Misdemeanours. Deconstructing Harry.
Zelig is good too, if a little slight, as is Broadway Danny Rose. of the earlier, "funny" films, Sleeper & Love And Death are by far the best. And of the films he directed but not appear, Sweet & Lowdown is probably the best, though Purple Rose of Cairo also deserves an honourable mention.
This film, Stardust Memories, will haunt you, enrich & nourish your life for years to come.
Check it out! And tell your friends!