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The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Good old Wallace and Gromit are back again
A very solid and enjoyable feature film for the British pair. I do think that the feature format is a bit too long for this type of film - I could feel some slight struggles in terms of holding the audience's attention, and do we really need a five-minute long session with the vicar? But when all is said and done, this is Wallace and Gromit, and every frame is filled with care and attention to detail - a joy to watch, and such a relief that Jeff Katzenberg hasn't tweaked our lovable British pair out of all recognition - he has understood that the humour needs to stem from the Britishness of it all. Gromit provides the most comedy, as usual, but the story of the rabbits works fairly well, although just how far can they stretch the Wallace-as-an-inventor element - particularly with the ridiculous "brain-altering" invention. But these weaknesses can be easily forgiven as we settle back and let the familiar theme wash over us as we enjoy the well-thumbed Plasticine master and his dog - preferably with a nice hot cup of tea and some Wendsleydale cheese on a Jacobs cream cracker. Ahhhh.
I loved this film - painful and sad but uplifting
I loved this film. Despite, or maybe because of, the basicness of the film - simple sets, black and white photography, mostly interior shots, we are drawn in to the character's lives and become fascinated with them. It is a simple story - a young girl doesn't wan't to leave her father and get married - but because in that society, it is what is expected of her, her family worries about her. Bu the acting is such that we really feel the pain and sadness of the characters, despite little dialogue - a glance of a nod says it all. This film proves that you can be completely absorbed in a film without the need for elaborate effects or colours.
The Devil's Advocate (1997)
An incredible moral tale, powerful, engaging
This is an amazing films for many reasons. Fistly the amazing performance from Pacino. He brings an unashamed, manic, crazed, chain-smoking quality to the Devil, and his portrayal is completely believable. Surprisingly, I found Keanu Reeves' performance fine, despite having disliked him in other films - he does the job that needs to be done - an ambitious lawyer, who for some reason (is it just because of his skill?) has never lost a case. Within the first few minutes, he comes across a moral dilemma (whether to continue fending a maths teacher who he knows is guilty of harassing a teenage girl), and he basically says to himself (without speaking, he checks his teeth in the mirror, as if to tell himself, "look, I'm a layer, this is what I do - I'm going to defend him as best I can"). And wins the case. The story is an incredible moral tale, because in the end he does do the right thing, and defies the devil (although the closing shot is of Pacino and we know he might get to him again). Thoroughly enjoyable, striking, original film.
Music Box (1989)
An incredible piece of film-making by Costa-Gavras
An amazing film. I found myself hoping against hope that the accusations of murder against the Hungarian immigrant was false, and the slow realisation that he was actually a cold-blooded murderer (or had been) was devastating. The story unfolds in a satisfying and well narrated way, and we identify with Lange's character as wanting to believe (in the face of all evidence) her father is innocent. We go with her on the roller-coaster ride of the courtroom trial, and as each sobbing victim comes to the pedestal, her confidence fades and fades. The film features amazing performances by Lange and Mueller-Stahl, and the bitter resolution of the daughter disowning her father, and having to explain to her little boy (who loves his grandfather) is heart-wrenching but never sentimental. Costa-Gavras at his best.
A Close Shave (1995)
Brilliant third outing for the British animated pair.
This is a brilliant piece of film-making. Just like The Wrong Trousers before it, Nick Park uses Hitchcockian devices to compel the viewer and to raise suspense. I love the fact that as an audience we are put through a series of emotions like any "regular" film would - joy at the romance between Wallace and Wendelene, pity for poor Gromit, the dog who goes through so much and it is rewarded by being put in prison, etc. - the examples are endless, and we really feel for these characters - yet they are just photographs of specially shaped lumps of clay, put together in such a way as to fake movement. And I genuinely feel a lump in my throat when dear Gromit is stuck in prison reading "Crime and Punishment". Thoroughly recommended for anyone aged 5 to 100.
The Wrong Trousers (1993)
Charming, brilliant - for kids and adults alike.
In order to help make ends meet Wallace decides to rent out their spare room. However the new lodger takes Gromit's room and puts him out in the doghouse. Meanwhile Wallace continues work on a pair of remote controlled trousers. But is the new lodger as innocent a chicken as he appears? Wallace finds himself part of a major jewel robbery can Gromit return in time to save him? The second of the adventures of Wallace & Gromit sees the animation greatly improve from the brilliant but very amateurish 'A grand day out' and the comedy extremely sharp and funny. The basic plot is a little silly but very well crafted considering this is a short film I wish that all those other 'proper' films that have been a complete waste of time to watch had plots this clever and imaginative. It is also absolutely a wonder to watch even when I wasn't laughing I was easily charmed by the wit and imagination of the whole thing. The animation is superb, Wallace is as good as ever and Gromit is much more fully developed and is easily the star. His physical comedy is brilliant, with the slightest twitch animated so well that we fall about laughing. The penguin however threatens to steal the show as well as the jewel. How can a Plasticine penguin with a glove on its head that likes listening to organ music be threatening? Well it can here he snaps his head round and stares with such menace that it's actually frightening! They all work well together but Gromit takes the film by a nose. With all those brain dead kids cartoons around on TV this should be treasured. Adults will love it as there is plenty of detail for them to enjoy and kids will totally fall for the rich comedy and well-animated characters. A wonderful little gem, and something that all animators should look to as a reference for what really good animation is like.
American History X (1998)
I'm afraid I really did not enjoy this - and not for the reason you might think.
I'm afraid I really did not enjoy this - and not for the reason you might think (I wasn't disturbed by the racism or the violence portrayed by the film). I am afraid that contrary to the seemingly endless praise given to this film and its director, Tony Kaye, and indeed recommendations from my friend that I should see this film, when I did I felt cheated and annoyed. There's no denying that what the film portrays is shocking and powerful, and that Edward Norton's performance is equally powerful, almost coming close in intensity to De Niro's Bickle, and the set-pieces are well made, but the inability for the filmmakers' to create a convincing story spoilt the whole film for me - the way we see in endless flashbacks (often the sign of a weak storyteller), Norton's firstly ordinary, sane, likable character's seemingly easy conversion to a Nazi maniac just by his dad uttering a few racist sentences at the dinner table is frankly ridiculous. Plus his seemingly easy conversion back from a Nazi maniac while in prison, just through speaking to a nice black guy. I'm sorry, but it just negates the whole film's power. Not to mention the endless flashy camera techniques used by former ad director Kaye, NOTE: slow motion close ups of a running shower tap does not a good film make. The film opens on a black and white shot of the ocean, for no apparent reason, leading to the conclusion that Kaye thought he could appear as a 'clever' and 'sophisticated' filmmaker by showing us an 'arty' opening sequence. This kind of pretencion is as irritating as the lack of convincing back story. Nope, sorry Mr Kaye, wasn't for me.