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Another in the series, as it now it, of Richard Linklater's dramatised
talking head films (based on his own European Brief Encounter of
yesteryear). Like the previous encounters, Before Midnight is a series
of 4-5 set pieces filmed in rarely broken takes. The cane-sweet
investigative and flirtatious exchanges of the 1994 original have been
replaced with a complicated, more muscular texture of tease-and-touché.
As both Ethan Hawke's Jesse and Julie Delpy's Céline say, they have
'colonised' one another.
Céline seems rather more conflicted than Jesse, whose teenage charm has been replaced with dad-jokes. This all changes as the final evening of their (6 week) stay on a Greek island curdles to a bitter point. An amiable but veiled film suddenly shows its teeth - maybe a little late for me. Still, the acting is almost beyond criticism and Linklater stays disciplined in leaving it to them. 6.5/10
At first it looks like it might be a parody of what a camper-than-you-
can-imagine showbiz romance between two men might be. Because that's
what it is, with Michael Douglas playing the fey Liberace down while
the sun-soaked lenses of Steven Soderbergh's camera ramp it up.
Quickly one becomes familiar with the film's rhythm though and a stock biopic/romance develops, just under the extraordinary circumstances of a flamboyantly gay showman taking everything from life. What's delightful about Michael Douglas' (and Richard LaGravenese's) Lee is that for all his excess and self-delusion, he is a sympathetic, likable man. Matt Damon's Scott adds to this 3-D portrait by not being a lover of extremes. Both men are unusual but not alien.
The costume design - that's to say not the exotic performance outfits! - is impressive and the detail in jewellery, furnishings, pianos and other props is part of the film's vernacular. It's a film that one can also enjoy for the trickle of small roles: Dan Aykroyd's manager (what a hair piece!); Rob Lowe's feline cosmetic surgeon; and Debbie Reynolds, an extraordinary presence whose natural charisma and beauty shines through this heavily prepped pageant to a hedonist's halcyon Hollywood like soft, sharp light. 7/10
There were no belly-laughs for me in this Alan Partridge feature,
though, line for line, the film must have a conspicuous density of
jokes. It is a funny film which, like all the Alan Partridge franchise,
pokes a great deal of fun at laughable parochialism without the
out-and- out stab of urbane snobbery. Steve Coogan's observation of his
own principal character is still right on the rails, an ego inflated
beyond the reality of his circumstance, shown in small detail: the
title sequence, Alan singing along to anonymous MOR on the way to work,
is particularly funny as he wears driving gloves.
Many familiar characters also reappear. Felicity Montagu's Lynn has a truly extraordinary moment of transformation and Sean Pertwee's station- owner is a fine turn in grist to Alan's mill of self-importance. The ensemble is great, not least as Alan's humour is in response (even to his own malapropisms). However, the sketch origins of the show are rather plain in the number of picaresque moments which seem surplus to the narrative. All in all, an amiable matinée 5/10
It's a film that's 10 years older than its spiritual time, the 1996
Europeans Football finals and the year that gave us New Labour's Cool
Britannia. This is a knees-up-mother-Brown outing for the Aardman
Animation team. The production takes the style and image of their
famous clay stop-motion but render it in computer graphics. The story
is about 2/3rds classic rescue drama with the rest chock-full of visual
gags and references and wry asides that aren't just for accompanying
adults. I lost count of the movie hat tips when I'd got past a dozen
and the singing slugs never got dull.
The voicing is superb, although Kate Winslet plucky Rita gets out charisma-ed by almost everyone else. It's not a 'real' Aardman Animation film but once you've absorbed the fact it's a good matinée romp. 6.5/10
Writer Cormac McCarthy has tried to graft some Elmore Leonard onto his
arm's-length existential character landscape. He seems to want a pulp
thriller that is a panoply of nihilist vignettes. It doesn't come
together. The small talk is stillborn; characters only really flesh out
when they have weighty things to say. The actors are given good styling
to help them develop something pointed, something potent - it tells us
something though when the small and extra roles are as impressive as
their named counterparts.
The acting occasionally flashes with the calibre one expects from reading the cast list: Fassbender is properly pummelled by the trajectory of the film; Cameron Diaz does a super job as an offbeat moll-with-nous; Penélope Cruz, Bruno Ganz and (in the only truly gold-standard scene of the film) Rubén Blades are excellent.
It is entirely likely that issues outside the production may have affected the film in the end. I was involved but disappointed that it couldn't have been better than it was. 6/10
A solid four star film in 2 dimensions, I have regularly been told that
this is a film that becomes something truly special in 3D. This is
hardly surprising: Gravity is 'filmed' as if in zero-gravity space,
predicated on perpetual movement in all directions. The movement of the
camera from within a helmet visor to its outside is the least in a
roster of well-integrated, unfussy perspective shifts. It's a classy
stylistic tour de force.
It's also a very exciting film, which unfolds (almost) in real time. The almost unimaginable scale of the locale, several miles off the surface of the earth, is carefully managed. The excitement comes from the familiar jeopardy given an extra twist, rather than totally novel situations that would be too incredible to process. There is an issue with trying to develop character in this place with limited interaction and next to no time for exposition or development but I think Sandra Bullock manages to maintain a level of intensity that manages to convince.
The end of the film is a coda that Kubrick would admire, Malick would envy and neatly ties up a thoroughly enjoyable film. 8/10
I'm waiting for the first exploitation-rescue action thriller to be set
in London Bridge as they will have to call it Die Shard. That's the
legacy of Bruce Willis' greatest hit which is the inescapable template
for this sort of ride, a ride I'm happy to take over and over again if
it's this much fun.
Well, almost. I can do without the self-consciously up-to-date language, the stock emoting (that Dad-n-daughter dribble) which is a pox in modern Hollywood. I don't believe that Jamie Foxx is the President any more than I believe that a girl with a flag can force a providentially ordered air strike (if John McCain cannot stop a 747 landing with a flaming torch then lower thresholds really are nonsense).
However, Roland Emmerich is right on board with the preposterousness of the situation from frame one. Detail is a low priority to big guns and one-liners and the film benefits from it. 6/10
I rather enjoyed the first couple of acts of this (surely unfinished)
blockbuster. Marc Foster gets right on with it. All the stuff you've
seen in the trailers seems to happen in the same span as the pre-titles
of a Christopher Nolan flick. It's quite exciting and I was even a
little spooked myself.
The film starts to get a little labored as Brad Pitt's indeterminate UN- type begins to guess a possible solution. This dawning idea seems to coincide with a truly extraordinary handbrake turn in the film; a flight out of apocalyptic Israel points Pitt towards Wales because it's cheap to film there - oh, sorry, no, because that's the nearest WHO research facility and suddenly the whole circus scales right down into a TV version of 24 Days Later. The film ends in much the same way as I Am Legend but without anything like the satisfactory arc prior to it. And credit where it's due - to the (apparently) uncredited Zombie in the WHO facility, the first to prove Gerry's theory right. 4/10
Over-earnest and determined to shoehorn in the funny despite that, this
latest instalment is a well-honed version of all the rest. Well done. I
found the 'family guys' interpolations insufferable and - typically for
all sequels, of course - the scowling seriousness is now infused with
irony. These people smug at being paid to re-hash the formula. At least
Police Academy tried to come up with jokes.
The big draw on this occasion is probably the location. We start in Moscow and then move to London for the first half of the film... in fact we start in London as well, as Lambeth Bridge seems to be doubling for an anonymous crossing of the Moskva. My favourite appropriation is when an aerial shot prepares us for the obligatory motor party & race. It seems to be heading for the Treasury... oh, it is, right in the centre of the Treasury! The consequent race spends at least four times as long on Lower Regent Street as is feasible at any speed and ends in Battersea. Loony. 4/10
It's predecessor was a celebrated hit but Monsters University (a
prequel) deserves none of the 'meh' doled out by critics, either in
comparison or on its own terms. It's a frat-boy coming of age story
with all the inventiveness of the first film intact and thriving.
There's a large and well-characterised voice cast for the ensemble with
Helen Mirren the choice name popping up as a scaly dean of studies.
As ever with these films, it's the pace of wit which is so attractive and arresting on screen and the slapstick is as violent as it can be given the raucous nature of the invented subjects. If anything I'd like to have seen the topsy-turvy 'toxicity of children' predicate of the first film more thoroughly investigated here. But no matter, it's great fun. 7/10
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