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The Social Network (2010)
Not quite the movie of the year, but...
This is the true story film of the year. The big problem with it is that the story is so good, it would be brilliant in any narrative medium. Personally the most cinematic elements of the film were the rowing race and the inter-cutting of the court cases. The former being superfluous to the film in many ways.
The rest of the movie only works great as a movie because of the acting, which is top class. Other than that I'd happily read the story in a book or see it as a play (probably the medium where it would seem it's most profound). There are standout scenes, but nothing struck me as anything exclusive to film. This is why I rate it a seven. The story and acting make the movie worth the watch.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
Poetic, thoughtful and moments of brilliance.
This isn't 'the Wild Bunch' it has a few similarities. Friends become reluctant foes for one. Bu it is much more melancholy and thoughtful. We are trying to understand the characters instead of watching them go through a series of events.
There are different versions. The original theatrical version, the 1988 preview version (the best version, despite Knocking on heavens door becoming an instrumental) and the 2005 special edition, which lacks all the poetry of the 1988 version.
Coburn gives the role of Garrett real weight and depth. This is the most interesting character in the film. He alone makes the movie interesting enough. but there are other aspects of the film that are great as well. Kristofferson gives Billy the Kid a real believability. He seems like he is out of his time. A dying breed aged only 21 (Kristofferson was 36 though).
A beautiful film.
Arctic Monkeys at the Apollo (2008)
A good but not great music DVD
This DVD doesn't capture the live excitement that live performance by the Arctic monkeys, accessible on youtube, do. The Glastonbury videos are way better than this. That doesn't stop the music from being great though.
The concert really focuses on Alex Turner (singer) and Mat Helders (drummer) with the other two members occasionally appearing from the shadowy sides of the stage. Alex Turner lives up to expectation as does Mat Helders, but the band as a whole seems bored and almost as uninterested as the crowd, a fact that Turner points out early in the show.
This is an enjoyable watch but only for fans. The bass is overdone and the way it is shot and edited is pretentious, it tries to be tricky without actually requiring much effort. This DVD costs around NZ$40, so if you can get a preview, unless you're a hardcore fan and will love it anyway.
Vals Im Bashir (2008)
This film is a true work of art. Some people on IMDb have complained about the animation. This is an argument which I find odd. The film is about how the memory altering what really happened. Therefore Forman went for a dream like animation at some points. The soldier floating on the naked woman still seems like a mixture of cam and safety as a boat gets blown up.
The animation may appear "clunky" to some, but its poetic. Forman's vision of the descending flares as he gets and two colleagues get out of the water is simply stunning. The dream like slowness of it, the sheer smoothness of it (suprising considering the clunky remarks) and the wonder of it all are simply incredible.
The stories themselves are a mixture of the absurd, bizarre and shocking. The story of the soldier who was the only member of his tank to survive being treated like he betrayed his the unit, which left him for dead is a strange, tense and moving anecdote. The film is filled with such stories. Occasionally Forman goes for visual symbolism over the impact of the story but it doesn't lessen the film's power.
It doesn't make judgements on Israel or Palestine, it does on the Phalangist Christians. It could be seen as neutral to Palestine while expressing the guilt some Israelis felt. But the stance is not what is important about the film. It is the psychological aspect of war that is studied and it tells it in stunning depth and power.
This movie was terrific in the detail of which it gave the story of Genghis Khan. It had beautiful scenery to go along with the dramatic journey. It also contains a wonderful and slightly tragic love story to balance out the adventure and action parts of the story. People talk of it leaving out big battle sequences and thus the film being ruined. But this is not the big action packed Genghis Khan story. That is surely to come with the subsequent films in the trilogy. This is an intimate story, in a massive landscape, of love, brotherhood and betrayal. Expect a good and original film here, don't expect a Braveheart clone. On a last note, the acting is brilliant. You get a real insight from the actors portrayals, especially that of Borte, Temudgin and Jamukha. This is a movie that you look forward to the sequel of.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This is a movie that I had heard about and was told that it was something special. To be honest I was a little skeptical. I've seen to many Robert De Niro films and can almost predict how hes gonna handle the role after seeing a few minutes of him in character. Im never exactly right but I'm usually pretty close. Ask my stepdad. But he did this in a way that I didn't expect. This performance is Immortal. And I don;t want to ruin it for anyone so I'll say no more on it.
Now the film itself is a film that could be great with the worst cast. But because each cast member gives a sublime performance, the film is all the better for it. I was especially impressed with James Hayden who I thought was the best actor during the ruthless scenes but you never thought he was overly ruthless as a character out of those scenes.
The film is like a long visual poem. Each segment is beautiful, sometimes haunting and seamless. The lighting captures the emotion perfectly, sometime appearing contradictory to the mood but that bolsters the audience's unease. Overall the camera-work is stunning.
Forget every great script you've read or heard in film. This one is terse, occasionally taciturn and highly entertaining. Words cannot describe something full of them.
This is a masterpiece. No Godfather comparisons please. Different types of gangster films which are incomparable.
What a Ride!
This movie is One of the greatest movies ever made. In my mind it's certainly Hitchcock's best. To bear that title is showing real merit. This is a director who has many of cinema's classics in his CV. The 39 Steps, Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest, Rear window and Psycho. Yet Vertigo is by far his most intricate, deep and intriguing film.
The plot appears simple. Scottie (James Stewart) is hired to follow Madeline (Kim Novak) who is supposedly insane. They fall in love after Scottie saves her from drowning and then the story turns. She appears to have killed herself, Scottie unable to save her due to his acrophobia. Yet Scottie believes he sees her in a bar and follows this look a like, eventually getting her to dress like Madeline. Then Scottie takes her to the scene of the death with one of Hitchcock's darkest scenes ever.
One of the impressive things about Vertigo is that the point of view that the film has changes three times. It starts off being told from Scottie's perspective, before moving to the Kim Novak character and back to Scottie at the end. This makes the film deep and surprisingly fluid. We see Scottie's mental and emotional state deteriorate through the eyes of someone who loves him. This makes the film deeply moving.
The film would not be what it is without Bernard Herman's score. And what a score. It emphasises each emotion Hitch is putting the audience through. The excitement of a chase scene, the curiosity while Scottie trails Madeline or the highly intimate scenes between Scottie and Madeline. This is a pure collaboration between Hitch and Herman.
Vertigo continues to amaze. It shows he audience one direction down a long highway and then BAM we're in another continent going who knows where. Then it takes audiences where they least expect. A pure example of true art.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Classy, Visual and Brilliant
This film is the kind of movie I want to win the Best Picture Oscar. It carries great acting, strong visuals, great script, excitement and above all a series of themes. I believe 2007 was a very strong year for film and this movie is the best of the lot.
Firstly the acting in this movie is spot on. Brolin, Bardem and Jones with truly phenomenal performances. Bardem is the epitome of the psychopathic killer and completely sells it. Right from the start he is great. The first kill and then the second he just has such a menace about him. Brolin also shines here. But Tommy Lee Jones is just a wee bit better than Brolin. They achieve this brilliance through under-acting. In some films over acting is required but in this they brilliantly chose to go for the under statement.
The way the film is shot captures the isolation and emptiness of the landscape but also come across as aesthetically pleasing. Shot length isn't rushed and that is important to the suspense and action aspects of the film. Overall this film had a hell of a lot more visual presence than all the films of 2007. By Presence I mean that the shots look like they could be still photos or they convey a lot of information about the characters or the world in which the film is set.
This film's script is one of true class. Each character has been thoroughly written to perfection. All, even minor characters, have their personalities conveyed through the dialogue and plot, the acting as well but this is a pretty good script. The script got me the first time with the charm that Sheriff Bell has. His lines like, "true story? I couldn't swear to every detail but it is true that it's a story" add a sense of comfort that a grandparent would give. Even if it is a disheartening confession. As it is this is a colossal script.
It's the slow yet gripping pace set by the rest of the film which give the action scenes such force. By themselves they are brilliantly captured on film and epitomised by the suspenseful yet not climactic showdown between Moss and Chigurh. The brilliance of it is down to Chigurh taking away Moss' hope of ambush then Moss taking away Chigurh's hope for execution yet it ends in stalemate. In a formulaic movie this would have been followed by an end showdown bu the Coens brilliantly chose not to let the audience see Moss' demise.
This movie has several themes. The strongest being the nature of violence. This is shown through Chigurh's persona and Bells' contemplations. Chigurh commits violent acts for no reason and doesn't understand that he could just leave the situation alone. Bell acknowledges this fact and tries to understand why someone could be like this. In the end he finds there is no reason, its just the way the world is. The second idea comes in at the end when Bell discusses his second dream. He tells of how he and his father rode into a canyon and his father covered his face with his hood with no conversation between the two. On this I have read many different views, none of which are wrong. It's very open ended. But I tied it back to the beginning and how he talks about how he thought his father was proud that he was a sheriff at the same time as Bell. Yet in the dream there is no warmth between them, this could mean that Bells' father is not proud of him or that Bell has been a better man than his father. But Bell has always compared himself to the "old timers" who died or were crippled before retirement and it could be that he feels that he is now an outcast.
Anyway you look at it this film is very entertaining and provides food for thought. A MUST SEE!
American Gangster (2007)
Entertaining and almost great
First things first. Great Movie. It had great acting from Denzel and Crowe plus all the minor roles as well. It had a decent concept,true story of an astonishing man and his astonishing downfall. But sadly this wasn't a Ridley Scott victory.
Some have said this film was better than the Departed but I disagree. The Departed is no way near as good as Goodfellas and shouldn't be compared with American Gangster. American Gangster and Goodfelas is a good comparison though, simply because they are crime biopics. Goodfellas is still better though because Scorsese did what I thought Scott would do and that is utilise the cinematography to every extent. The Departed had all round good performances from cast and crew. This didn't.
Scott was clever in some places but this was more like a Tony Scott film than a Ridley Scott film. He has once again recreated a world for the audiences but you don't notice it enough for it to be as effective as it was in Blade Runner or Gladiator. When I watched this a second time I noticed the Harlem of poverty, despair and chaos. Its run down look is meant to achieve what Los Angeles 2019 did in Blade Runner but it falls short of the high set Ridley Scott mark. The scene Detective Trupo knocks over his coffee cup before killing himself was the scene I felt spoke the most volumes visually. It's just so symbolic. Maybe the only problem I have with it is that I expect too much from Scott. I just feel that the Harlem of the 1960s and 1970s could have been made more visible without compromising the brilliant story.
Crowe acts at his best in this film but as one would expect Denzel is just superb. Brolin is good as wheel and the rest of the cast is just above able.
Unlike the Departed this crime story doesn't deserve the Best Picture Oscar simply because it could've been better and there are better films for 2007. Denzel is great but no way does he beat Day-Lewis' performance. Not a must see but a good film and worth a look at.
Spies, cars, guns and brilliance
This is undoubtedly my all time favourite film. It has everything I like in it. Great plot, characters, action, acting, script, cinematography, direction and of course the locations. This film has combined all these aspects into a monster of a movie.
The plot is great as it has narrative but only gives you what Sam (De Niro) knows about what he's doing. The audience is purposefully being kept at arms length so that they are constantly thinking about what is coming next? What does this mean? And of course the most important question, what is in the case? The plot itself is not overly complex. An Irish separatist group want a case which is being sold to the Russian Mafia and they hire spies, who no longer have jobs since the Cold War, ended to get it for them. However the relationships between characters and the plot twists make for a movie that is filled with intrigue and themes. So the plot ranks at 8/10.
The script is very solid. It is a no nonsense script which contains good lines from different cultures. It has American sayings, British phrases, Irish mannerisms, French touches and even a little bit of a German directness for the appropriate characters. It has some good interactions in it. Vincent and Sam have some of the best exchanges, as do Sam and Spence (Bean). Script gets a rating of 9/10.
The characters don't seem complex at first but they are very different and very three-dimensional. Each character seems to have am untold back story that has made them who they are. The relationship between the characters counts for a lot especially the ones between Sam, Deirdre (McElhorne) and Vincent (Reno). So the characters rate at 8/10 as well.
It has a unique cast the likes of which rivals 'Heat'. De Niro, Reno, Skarsgard, Bean, McElhorne, Price and Lonsdale are some of the best in the business and they are all on the top of their game in this picture. To give you an idea of what to expect I regard the scenes where it is just Reno and De Niro to be ten times better than Paccino and De Niro in 'Heat' (which is arguably the greatest Thriller/action movie ever made). Lonsdale is the icing on the cake of this films cast, Reno, De Niro and Skarsgard provide most of the cake ingredients, but Lonsdale is just class. So the Cast is 10/10 Frankenheimer achieved perfect acting with his cast as well as brilliantly composed shots done with Robert Fraisse and a good challenging narrative. The car chases surpass the racing scenes from his 'Grand Prix' and there is some of the best acting we have seen from one of his casts in this film. 10/10 for him as well.
Each shot in this film is a work of art. The smooth steady-cam shots, the perfect composition of the close ups when introducing the characters and the various shots achieved during the car chase scenes all look fantastic. The cinematographer Robert Fraisse did a fantastic job working with the very visual John Frankenheimer, who never received the plaudits he deserved. 10/10 for the photography.
The action is immense. The gunfights and car chases all look sublime. No CGI in the action sequences either it's either stunt men or the actors and its looks so fluid. The car chases make ever other car chase seem obsolete and the gunfights aren't half bad either. But the car chases are the high point of the action of the film and must be seen to be believed. The action gets a 10/10 rating from me. The locations in Paris, Nice and Arles add a subliminal beauty to the film. The helicopter shots give the audience a nice view of the brilliant architecture and charm of French cities. The layout of the cities also makes the car chases interesting, as the streets are very narrow and filled with sharp turns. The look of the buildings does the most for the films look though. The stone buildings give a sense of age that goes along with the retired intelligence officers. This is the first Hollywood action movie to be shot in France and special rights were given to the crew so that the film industry in France would boom. The locations collect a solid 10/10.
Due to all these factors Ronin becomes a classic espionage film that will be difficult to surpass. The car chases are truly phenomenal. This is a must see film.