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Apocalypse Now (1979)
Excellent Vietnam War film
The film's opening scene alone is worth the price of the DVD - the haunting image of helicopters flying low over a jungle that is suddenly engulfed by an explosion of napalm is not easily forgotten, but Coppola's real genius lies in the the overlaying of a soundtrack that immediately evokes the time and place of these events - The Door's The End (surely the epitome of 60's psychedelia) providing a drugged-up anaesthetic to the violence of the images on the screen.
Based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now follows an American soldier travelling upriver into the depths of a Vietnamese tribal culture which seems to become more and more savage. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a confidential mission by the US army to eliminate Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz, once one of the finest officers the army had seen, has apparently lost all sense of reality and has gathered his own private Vietnamese army deep in the jungle.
Early in Willard's mission we witness one of film's most powerful scenes; an attack by US helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village. We see the simple way of life in the village as the helicopters appear on the horizon, with their on-board loudspeakers blasting out Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Robert Duvall's psychopathic US officer gives remorseless orders to gun down the women and blow up the bridges. This scene is starkly real yet magnificent to watch, and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Few films have portrayed the chaos and randomness of war so clearly or so shockingly.
As Willard progresses further up the river the film becomes more and more surreal and foreboding, and we begin to realise that Kurtz has experienced something which has led to his 'madness'. This all becomes apparent in the philosophical, spaced-out ending in which Willard finally finds Kurtz's jungle sanctuary.
Apocalypse Now should not be seen as an overview of the Vietnam War; it is instead a film about one man's journey into darkness, and about the people he meets and the events he witnesses on the way. There are no heroes in this film just ordinary (and not so ordinary) people trying to survive the best way they can. It recognises that each soldier is different and that each has a story: one young soldier is shown dying while a letter from his mother is read aloud, another soldier screams hysterically as he forced to get off a helicopter and go into war, while Robert Duvall's character famously describes his love of 'the smell of napalm in the morning'. While the viewer is left in no doubt as to the horrors of war, Coppola does not set out to create a sentimental account of 'war being hell'.
While immersed in the breathtaking sound and visuals I have to pinch myself to remember that this film was made in the 70s. It is still as technically spectacular as any film I have ever seen. Ignore the hype surrounding the gimmick of 3D; the realness of the visuals in Apocalypse Now has a far stronger effect. The film is one of the most important and pioneering in history; without it the modern war film would be very different.
It seems a pity that every film more than a few months old is confined to the small screen. Is cinema not the ultimate way to view a film? Imagine only being able to read books or listen to songs released in 2011. There are dozens of forgotten films screaming out for a re-release, from Once Upon a Time in the West to Blade Runner. The magic of acting legends and veteran directors should be seen the way it was meant to be seen. Do not miss the re-release of Apocalypse Now for the world.
A violent, stylish film with a real heart; Refn is a director to keep an eye out for.
'Drive', a film by Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson), has the makings of a cult classic. Ryan Gosling plays a man who simply 'drives'. He performs stunts in vehicles for Hollywood films, but he makes his real money as a getaway driver. 'Drive' is a film of two acts; the first, in which the driver becomes involved with a married woman, Irene, and her son, sets up the second, in which he must protect her from chillingly ruthless mobsters.
'Drive' is one of those cinematic experiences that you pray will never end. So great is the atmosphere created in the film that it invades your thoughts for days after having watched it. Something about the slow pace, sleek visuals and electronic soundtrack transport you into this glossy yet dangerous LA underworld. The film is clearly influenced by classic such as 'Bullitt', 'Goodfellas', and 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly'. Despite this, 'Drive' is an absolutely unique piece of cinema which is certainly no less than the sum of its parts. Unlike many recent Hollywood offerings, 'Drive' is a film that is directorially bold. Nicolas Winding Refn seeks both clarity and originality in the film's key moments. The opening scene is a getaway chase, but instead of fast cuts and meaningless explosions, Refn treats his audience with more respect, creating a slow, tense escape scene which is vastly more satisfying than a simple display of technology. The reason this works is because the film carries genuine emotional suspense, and we care about what happens to the characters, something that is actually rather rare.
Gosling's character, known only as 'Driver', is a superhero of sorts. Much like Spiderman or Batman, he has two personas: the quiet, caring stunt driver by day, and, when he dons his scorpion jacket, the cold, calculated getaway driver by night. As a character he is easy to admire. He is often silent, always thinking, and handles danger with calmness and skill. Despite the fact that he is on the wrong side of the law, towards the end of the film we see the driver as a victim of his own nature and sympathise. Irene's husband gets into serious trouble on release from prison, and the driver offers his assistance only to become tangled up in a seemingly never-ending web of organised crime. Be warned; the story darkens, yet of course continues to enthral.
The Village (2004)
Not Perfect, But Nonetheless A Good Film
Obviously, there was a lot of hype surrounding this film. The trailer made it out to be some kind of terrifying film, more like the Sixth Sense than anything else. Many people expecting a horror were disappointed, and for good reason. The film is not a horror film. It's more like a period drama with elements of horror.
I had already heard about how horror fans were disappointed with it, and how the twist let some people down. I tried to watch it with an eye for what it's really about, but, in some ways, the fact that it never really had any climax of sorts to do with the horror aspect of it, or the relationship aspect of it, kind of let me down. That was the film's one problem: It didn't really make it's mind up about whether it wanted to turn scary or stick with it's original story.
Other than that, there are many redeeming qualities to it. The story is, on the whole, well written, and the acting is brilliant, just look at the cast list and see why. The cinematography is superb, plus the lighting, which will make you fear the colour red throughout the whole film. But I won't say any more about that. Plus, James Newton Howard's score was incredible, perhaps one of his best.
So, on the whole, it was a good film, but towards the end, it seems to go down the wrong path, and is a little disappointing. But still, 7 stars for a well captured and slightly spooky atmosphere, despite everything that I have said.
OK Film Despite Lacking A Good Ending
Well, this film has been strongly anticipated, what with the death of Heath Ledger, and his replacements (Depp, Farrell and Law). Like most Gilliam films i've heard of, it received mixed reviews, but i still did want to see this.
When i did see this... well... i thought it was pretty on-and-off.
The first act was just an introduction to the story: Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is part of a travelling magic show, which consists of a slight of hand expert (Andrew Garfield) and a dwarf (Verne Troyer), plus, his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), who, as we find out, will become the property of the devil, Mr Nick (a brilliant performance from Tom Waits), after she turns 16, which will be any time soon. It's an OK start to the film, but it's quite slow paced, and has no real feeling to it that Ledger gives to it in the second act, which ultimately saves the film.
Tony (Ledger, Depp, Law, Farrel), a stranger, is rescued from death by the group. Meanwhile, Parnassus makes a deal with Mr Nick: the first to claim five souls will gain ownership over Valentina. Parnassus claims the souls through sending them inside his imaginarium. This is where Ledger's character comes in: he joins the stage group, and successfully begins to take people into the imaginarium. This was the kind of thing i expected from the film. A witty performance from Ledger and Johnny Depp, plus nice CGI visuals of the dream world inside the Imaginarium, which have obviously come straight from the mind of Gilliam.
Unfortunately, however, the third act just didn't quite work for me. The film takes a twist, as Tony and Valentina escape through the Imaginarium to get away from her fate. Suddenly, the whole film gets really serious and complicated as the devil tries to claim her, and we just lose interest in the characters.
All in all, i rate the film 7 out of 10, for some good acting by Heath Ledger (plus Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law), Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, despite some weak scripting and conclusion.
A Quick Review - Disturbia
I first saw Disturbia 2 years ago when i was quite young. Ever since it has been one of my favourite films.
The film has Shia LaBeouf playing a teenager named Kale Brecht. He is put under house arrest after punching his Spanish teacher because he made a comment about his deceased father. So, to pass the time, he teams up with his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo)and begins spying on the neighbours. Eventually he becomes convinced that his next door neighbour (David Morse) is a serial killer.
The acting is terrific. Shia LaBeouf plays Kale flawlessly, adding both comedy and suspense. Aaron Yoo adds a hilarious comic aspect to the film, while David Morse is genuinely terrifying. Those who have seen him in other films will know so.
The directing from DJ Caruso was also spot on. The tense moments were genuinely scary without having to be violent, and the film itself was well paced, adding a mix of comedy and horror.
In short, the film as a whole is very well executed. It may not be the most respected film, but it is the perfect film to watch on entertainment value.
Batman Begins (2005)
An Incredible Twist on A Classic Batman.
I first saw this film not at the cinema (unfortunately), but on DVD with a friend. I'd just like to say that i was AMAZED. In some ways, the fact that i'd seen The Dark Knight before this made it even better, for reasons that will come clear in the review.
The film is directed by Christopher Nolan, and stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, when he first becomes Batman. Bale's Batman was perfect: He played a dark and almost misguided person seeking revenge for his parents murder at the hands of a small time criminal, and along the way, he learns the true meaning of justice. The one thing The Dark Knight had which this didn't have was a villain who we see frequently. However, this, in some ways, is a positive factor, as it makes the film more 'classic' Batman. His inability to give up on his stand against crime, as well as an array of high-tech gadgets makes the action scenes more entertaining, as well as adding a little bit of depth to them.
Along with Bale stars Michael Caine as his butler, Alfred, Gary Oldman as Gordon, Cillian Murphy as Dr Crane, Katie Holmes as Rachel, Liam Neeson as Ras Al Ghul and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. All these roles are played well, and their actors fit in to their roles.
All in all, what i enjoyed most about this film was Batman. Bale adds everything into Batmans personality, and Director Chrisopher Nolan creates the action scenes with a mix of peril and great stunts that we would expect to see in a Batman film, such as the train scene. The one bad point, as i have already described, was the fact that there was no truly terrifying villain, though i thought Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson were still good as villains in this film nonetheless.