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The Other Woman (2014)
This is not a movie to be set aside lightly - it should be thrown with great force. The script is a mess: if you are writing a film about a wronged wife exacting revenge on her cheating husband, don't make the wife so irritating that you'd be sympathetic if he buried her alive in the back yard. The hilarity of a character being sick in her 'bag and a large dog defecating in a pristine flat is limited to those under 6 (which seems to cover most of the positive reviews judging by the grammar and spelling). What was Cameron Diaz thinking? What was the director thinking? I can only assume (in both cases) the motivation came from the pay cheque.
I'm sorry, but this film is drivel. I can't really imagine who it's aimed at, but anyone who did enjoy this is probably not bright enough to be in charge of a blender.
We lasted half an hour before hitting the eject button. This is one I'd be ashamed to take to the charity shop (the people there know me). . .
Jack Reacher (2012)
Poor rendition of the book
Please be warned - this is not really faithful to the book, and it is certainly not faithful to the character of Reacher. As a film it's okay - formulaic, no surprises, passes two hours that would have passed anyway. Unfortunately this films comes with a ton of expectations from people who loved the books. The first problem is with Tom Cruise - he is not physically imposing enough to play Reacher (who is 6'5"). Acting well (and he does) isn't a substitute. And then there is a scene when he has the drop on the principle killer - and he throws down his gun to have a good old-fashioned fist fight. This is SO contrary to the Reacher in the books who views killing as simply a job to do - and to be done as quickly and easily as possible. He would simply have shot the guy. Putting down a perfectly good gun is something the real Jack Reacher would never do. What was Christopher McQuarrie thinking?
Very dull, very bad film
I really wanted this to be good - but it wasn't. It was gratuitous: I have no problem with nudity or sex on screen - as long there's a point to it. Here there wasn't.
For example, at the very beginning of the film we are treated to the sight of the main character (Brandon) walking around his apartment naked - with the camera at crotch height. Then we are treated to the sight of him peeing - with the camera at crotch height. Does this add to our understanding of the character? No. Does it advance the plot? No. Ergo gratuitous unless . . . well, I don't know Steve McQueen, but this seemed a tad homoerotic for my taste.
Later the main character's boss walks up to him and pinches him on the bottom. We aren't told why an aggressively heterosexual man does an act of homosexual harassment. So is this also gratuitous?
Still later - I'd walked out by then - I gather there's a full-on (and less than credible) homosexual encounter. That doesn't surprise me, but I am surprised that the depths of Brandon's addiction to sex (his 'Shame') was marked by a sexual encounter with another man. In these enlightened times it seems odd to mark a sexual nadir by a spot of consensual buggery - and not complimentary to gay men who (quite rightly) aren't in the least bit ashamed of what they do. If you want a bit of degradation, why not show Brandon in a clinch with a sheep - if, that is, you want a little 'shame'?
There will be reviews cladding this movie with a lot of pretentious statements, but at bottom this is a film made for men who like to take a sideways and surreptitious peek at the urinal. It's a film made for men who will claim it's a deep and meaningful look at sexual addiction - to patch over the fact that they are titillated by other men's body parts. It's a film made for men who can pretend it's intellectual while denying it's masturbatory. In short, 'Shame' is a film for men who haven't got the guts to rent 'Young Studs of Oslo'.
Actually, let me take one thing back: 'Shame' is not masturbatory. It's not that good. Pornography has to engage, but this film was boring. It was dull. It was tedious. And that's what's unforgivable.
One to avoid.
Of the book by Choderlos de Laclos, Baudelaire wrote "Ce livre, s'il brûle, ne peut brûler qu'à la manière de la glace" (this book, if it burns, burns like ice). The book caused a scandal when it was published and remained banned for a very long time.
This film is the toned-down, soap-opera version.
A lot has been written about how Colin Firth is much better looking and hence more believable as a womaniser than John Malkovich in "Dangerous Liaisons". They've missed the point - I did too: when I first saw DL I was disappointed with Malkovich's appearance. How could this man be a womaniser?
But what DL conveys so brilliantly is that he is not just a womaniser - he is a seducer. If you look like the young Colin Firth, women will fall into your bed. If you look like John Malkovich, you have to work at it.
And DL shows him doing exactly that: it's a fascinating master-class in seduction. "Valmont" is just about a stud who (predictably) gets the girls - because he's handsome.
The script is way better in DL: I can't remember any good lines from "Valmont". DL contains loads - "I think we might begin with the one or two Latin terms"; "I've provided him with a wife trained by me to perform services one might hesitate to request from a professional - and likely pregnant as well"; "I have no intention of breaking down her prejudices. I want her to believe in God and virtue and the sanctity of marriage, and still not be able to stop herself. I want the excitement of watching her betray everything that's most important to her"; "One does not applaud the tenor for clearing his throat".
Annete Bening's Merteuil is very one-dimensional. As Mdme de Tourvel, poor Meg Tilly plays a major role reduced to a footnote - small wonder she can't bring any bite to it. The actress playing Cecile does a competent job - but no better than Uma Thurman in DL.
This was a frothy confection of a movie: it's a non-intellectual's idea of what an intellectual film should be like. As such, it could only ever be a B.
DL, by contrast, is GREAT film - and it's the one that will be remembered.
Black Swan (2010)
If this were my Black Swan, I'd have it put down
A great cast put in great performances in a flawed and ultimately pointless film.
MINOR SPOILERS ahead.
Suspension of disbelief is a requirement of the movies, but you can't suspend your disbelief when it relates to the core of the central character. This film purports to be a descent into madness, but Nina (Natalie Portman in fine form) is clearly nuts right from the beginning, inherited from a mother (Barbara Hershey) who makes you think of the shower in the Bates Motel.
So the madness elevator has clearly hit the sub-basement sometime before the opening credits. And this is where the disbelief sets in: someone so clearly a pork pie short of a picnic simply would not get to play the prima donna role. Others have pointed out that any main role in Swan Lake will be danced by two or three dancers rather than one headlined figure, so the premise of competition driving Natalie nuts goes out of the window as well.
And the movie is, frankly, vulgar: everything is telegraphed in an obvious and clumsy way. No intellectual input is required from the audience - everything is spoonfed one morsel at a time. For example, Mia Kunis (who is the best thing in this) has black wings tattooed on her back - subtle? Maybe not. And when Nina finally gets in touch with her dark side, her eyes go yellow (like Michael Jackson in 'Thriller' - which featured more expressive dancing).
The sex scenes are unnecessary - they add nothing to the film because, although having an orgasm is supposed to give Nina a brilliance that has thus far eluded her in dancing the seductive Black Swan role, we do not see any difference.
There are horror elements which aren't scary because you know they aren't real (did I mention Nina is nuts from day one?), and visceral moments in the film that are just stomach-churningly unpleasant to anyone not raised on torture-porn.
The climax is so unlikely as to be laughable.
Overall a sad waste of talent.
Great cast . . .
. . . for the most part wasted. Bill Nighy has about 5 minutes of screen time, Robbie Coltrane maybe 10 minutes, Ralph Fiennes perhaps 15. Trailing along are Jason Isaacs, Brendan Gleeson, Rhys Ifans and Alan Rickman with perhaps 3 minutes each, David Thewlis with 2 minutes and Timothy Spall with about the same. Helena Bonham Carter probably has 10 minutes and only over-acts for 8 of them.
Instead of concentrating on this galaxy of stars we spend most of the time sitting in the mountains with Harry and Hermione suffering a lot of angst or sitting in the mountains with Harry, Hermione and Ron suffering a lot of angst. As a break from the mountains we get time sitting in the forest with Harry and Hermione suffering a lot of angst, or sitting in the forest with Harry, Hermione and Ron suffering . . . well you get the picture. There is, in fact, so much angst in this movie it should have been made in Swedish with English sub-titles.
The problem with angst is that it's . . . well . . . boring.
Then there are things that simply don't lead anywhere - Harry has a snog with Ginny Weasley, but he doesn't follow through. He has a dance with Hermione (in between spurts of angst) but he doesn't follow through on that either. OK, this is Harry Potter, so we don't expect shower scenes, but can Harry actually lift his wand? I think we should be told.
The "love" scenes may be anti-climactic - but then so are the action scenes. For example: woman inexplicably changes into a snake - snake attacks Harry but retreats after (shock! horror!) biting a chair leg. Something funny going on with Harry and the snake - is this another metaphor? There is no plot aside from . . . did I mention lots of angst? The best part of this film: the credits. I didn't think I'd see a film worse than Robin Hood this year - David Yates has directed one.
P.S. Why did Dumbledore die? - because he wanted to avoid being in this.
Au fond des bois (2010)
Dreadful - possible spoilers, but how can you spoil a film this bad?
Saw this one at the British Film Festival last night (22nd October). It seemed to me to be a film without redeeming features. The plot-line was exiguous and (such as it was) moved forward at a snail-like pace. There were no attractive characters (either physically or morally) other than perhaps the father. No explanation was proffered either for why the girl fell under the spell of the feral boy or (if she did fall under his spell), why she spent so much time screaming?
That being said, if you like films where a not-very-attractive woman with a wobbly bottom and an inadequate personality gets raped by a crafty peasant with slimy grey teeth and a moustache that looks like a furry centipede, then this is the film for you.
We just about stomached the rape, but when the crafty peasant started slurpy cunnilingus as if he was eating soup without a spoon, we walked out. I suspect the leading lady wished she could have walked out too . . .
Bad film. Avoid.
Good but obviously edited down
In the tradition of The Killing Fields, this is a very good film bringing atrocities and the silent complicity of Western governments in those atrocities to a wider audience. Students of writers such as John Pilger will be aware of what happened after the Indonesians invaded East Timor in 1975, and how after the invasion the Australian government did nothing other than to take a stake in the oil and gas reserves around the island. Anthony La Paglia plays the central role of journalist Roger East who goes to East Timor to investigate the disappearance of five journalists who have preceded him there to report on the impending Indonesian invasion. The fate of the five is pretty obvious from the start but we are drawn in to joining East in his quest to find out the 'how' and the 'when' if not 'what' befell them.
We are not given much explanation of what East has been through before to make him state halfway through the film that he cannot carry on and wants to return home to Australia nor into what makes him undergo a complete volte face in the last twenty minutes and take the insane risk of staying in the face of a brutal Indonesian invasion. This is a weak point of the film that might well be explained in a longer director's cut. That being said, there is a slow section in the middle showing how East gets through the jungle back from Balibo to Dilli that could have usefully been trimmed or cut altogether.
For all those criticisms this is an absorbing and thoughtful account of what went on in a little-known part of the world under the noses of the West (which did nothing to stop a massacre). La Paglia's performance is never less than solid, and Walter Isaacs clearly has a great future ahead of him. If it falls a little short of being a great film this is still one that is worth the price of admission.
I do not know which is more depressing: that this film represents the future of society or that it represents the state of modern film. No real script, no real plot, no characterisation. I found it intellectually numbing and completely dystopian, it's a bleak and soul-less experience. I lasted 25 minutes before my girlfriend and I walked out (someone was trying to tear his neck open and a women had just been decapitated by a shell when we left).
I didn't care about any of the characters - you couldn't. No-one has anything to say and there are no sympathetic characters. Everyone is blatantly out there for him- or herself. There is a lot of wholly-gratuitous nudity (I am a big fan of the female form but not in a way that is sexually demeaning - and all the nudity in this film is sexually-demeaning).
Frankly this film would have been better if everyone had died before the end of the first reel. It really is that bad. Avoid at all costs.