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Time to Leave (2005)
Is it just me or ...
22 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
As a side point, I was once faced with a scenario similar to that of Romain (the film's main character). Thankfully I pulled through and lived to review the tale.

I was unaware of the film's plot when I began watching (since I prefer films to come as a surprise), and so I watched with interest the beginnings of a film which marked an episode of my own story. I don't know whether this similarity (or perhaps - lack of it) led to my negative reactions, but I doubt it.

The film's plot, which focuses around what to do when one has but a few months to live, is one which has been done ... (dare I say ...) to death.

It is for this that we needed something different to make it interesting. I am unsure whether having the main character as a gay man is something which the writer chose in order to bring this twist, but - OK - maybe this brings something new. And I actually thought that this was well done - the first film for a long time where the character is gay, but that that is not the focus of the story.

But then we start to go a bit far in attempting to add more "I bet you've not seen this before". Perhaps it was for this reason also that Ozon (the director) thought it would be a nice splash of "nouveau" to show graphic man on man love making, featuring some good old solid erections from both parties(!) Maybe too it was for this that it was felt a good idea to place in the story a random café waitress who, after two minutes' dialogue with Romain decides that he is the main who should father the child of her and her sterile husband. Maybe too it was for this reason that it seemed that it would be good to show us the act of insemination, which involves Romain making love to the waitress, while her (previously sulking and bitter) husband is rubbing and kissing him in order to give him the impetus. Maybe ... maybe ... In fact, maybe not!

In order to show us things deemed to be "groundbreaking" we end up being shown things which are unnecessary, unbelievable and pointless. Romain admits himself that he is not a good man, and this is evident. Yet we have no reason for the roots of his character. We are left with an unlikeable, selfish man, but we are never sure whether he is like this due to his discovery of his imminent mortality and he is just trying to push people away so that he can be undisturbed and focus on himself, or whether he has just simply always been a nob?

Maybe this is the point. Maybe we are being challenged by these questions in a way which is meant to make us question what forces drive our behaviour when all is well, and what we would be like when we are stripped of all prospects of a reason to maintain such behaviour. Hmmmm ... maybe. Or maybe I stopped caring very soon after the film began.

While I enjoy French cinema's attempt to bring new things to film, I also dislike it's need to bring novelty for the sake of novelty. It has almost become a points scoring contest, as if simply a good story will not suffice without some realm of shock value. It's like the Emporer's new clothes, and I watch them feeling that the director is directly talking to me as he wears a polo neck jumper, sips on pastis and sneers - "Just you try and criticise me! You are not sophistiqué enough to watch erect men humping each other? You're not avant gard enough to scratch your moustache in appreciative contemplation of a lengthy gay man/unwilling straight man/waitress menage à trois? What do you know about REAL cinema!!?"

No Mr Ozon, it's not that. It's just that your film's pretty crap, it missed all of the points that would have been of interest and your attempts to wow me were simply boring or annoying.

I wouldn't recommend it.
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L'arnacoeur (2010)
Amusing but flawed
7 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The first thing to say is that I loved the concept of Arnacoeur (it's original name, which is a blend of the French for "conman" and "heart"). The film begins brilliantly, and after the first few minutes in which the concept is introduced, with quite a few giggle-worthy scenes, I was excited to have found something original which promised to be fun as well as new.

While I wouldn't say that the movie falls apart, it does however fail to develop anything further in terms of novelty, and once we are familiar with the team's methods there is little of surprise. And so the film needs to provide good, consistent humour as well as characters you like and an end goal which you support (bearing in mind that this is a rom-com, so we're not looking for dark intrigue here). OK, there are laughs, and a few out-loud moments, but not enough to label it as a scream. And it is the end goal which really lets it down.

In the film, Alex and his sister/brother in law set out to wreck the relationship between Juliette and her seemingly perfect boyfriend. They have no motive other than the cash reward from Juliette's father. So, we begin to look for faults in this boyfriend (played by the lovable Andrew Lincoln). Is he a skinflint? Is he unfaithful? Is he a control freak? ... Erm, no. He is literally the perfect man - a kind, romantic, loving, handsome millionaire, who supports and cares for Juliette in every way possible. But surely there must be a twist in the tale in order to justify the efforts of our protagonist con team? Oh, yes. We eventually learn that Juliette is a bit of a tear-away girl who wants to live a crazy free life which matches that of her irresponsible past. And when she discovers that Alex is in fact a rogue and a rubbish and unreliable lover, she suddenly decides she wants to leave Mr Perfect at the alter and run away with him. Having found absolution, the end goal is to tear her away from it and revert her to her reckless living.

I'm an English man, so maybe I'm being staid and unromantic here? Perhaps a life with a wonderful man is not what women want? Maybe my negativity comes from my country of origin? Yes, OK - it's made in a country famous for romance and flair, so perhaps it's a question of the French not wanting to be stuck in a relationship without crazy flair. I asked my French (female) friend what she thought of the film. She described Juliette as a "stupid bitch" and said that the film was "annoying". A little harsh, but it summed up my feelings - that the feel good factor had been removed, and you ended up with the "happy ending" being a lovely guy jilted at the alter, the nice girl turning out to be a silly tart, and her running off with the unreliable conman protagonist.

So, in summary, a bit of a waste of such a good premise, and a case where the "twist" at the end removed all audience support for the end goal to be attained. Funny in parts. A good idea, but ultimately spoilt.
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Martyrs (2008)
Total filth
5 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, let me say - I am a grown up, experienced person, who is able to enjoy a good horror, and can appreciate violence if it serves a purpose for the sake of the film. However, this film is not horror. It represents a classic example of the type of film that is beginning to be labelled "torture porn". So called because it is difficult for any "reasonable" human being to understand how anyone could gain enjoymment from it unless they are of the Jeffrey Dahmer ilk who actually get off on such subjects - films whose sole purpose is to gorge on graphic and deranged pain and suffering.

There is a thin plot to the film, which pretends to have some sort of deeper meaning. However, don't be fooled by this, or try to use it as an excuse to say "I enjoyed it for its depth and the way it brings spiritual meaning to the ....". No. It's filth. Simple as. The type of filth that exists for the sole purpose of being filthy.

What upsets me the most is that horrors of old used to have victims of both sexes, who may have died in gruesome ways, but the deaths were normally short and left a fair degree to the imagination, or alternatively the special effects were so over the top that it actually sanitised the film by removing all reality, such that you could enjoy the "horror" aspect, but were not left feeling like you'd watched some sort of snuff movie. However, Martyrs is of the style of recent voyeuristic dirt which involves slow, tortuous, realistic bloody scenes - all of women, all with no reprieve, all involving long, slow close ups and whimpering and wailing that goes on for ever ... and ever. The scenes that Martyrs decides to specialise in here are either involving knives being pulled deeply through flesh, or - even worse, involve long, agonising beating of a girl. One section of the film showed nothing but the methodical physical demolition of a girl. It went on for about fifteen minutes. During this time there was no dialogue. No changes to scenery. Just a large, emotionless man who throws endless punches into the face/stomach of a young girl. Even picking her up when she is unconscious, only to throw ravaging punches into her as she flops down to the ground. Occasional bit of slow mo. Occasional long gaze at her face in between each set of beatings in order to show that this is in fact quarter of an hour of montage, and to make sure we see the effect it has on her will and sanity as it all unfolds ... then back for some more savage beatings. This is a young girl. In fact all of the victims are young girls. They have done nothing to deserve their torture. They are just young, innocent girls.

What the f**k is good about this? I mean, for God's sake people!!! There is no humour, no horror, no intrigue, no mystery, no nothing of any kind other than the sort of sick filth that makes me worry about anyone who can watch this and say that they enjoyed it. One can only imagine that the title and the excuse for a reason for this torture were thought up later on in the development process, since the reasonning makes no sense, and at the one point where you think "perhaps there may be something imaginative about to happen", the hope is destroyed by a simple "You'll never know" style ending.

Not that this matters, but my reason for watching it was due to the film arriving as part of a film club package, and I did no research before sticking it into the DVD player. I fast-forwarded through most of the torture scenes, but was still left with a nasty feeling, even a long time after having watched it.

If films like this can make it past film boards and not get banned, or at least severely edited, then what the hell are those associations there for in the first place? If you have read this and still think that it sounds like a good film, then I pity you, and I pity society for having people like you who call this sort of voyeurism "entertainment"
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Wouldn't it be wonderful ... ?
20 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I am a full grown man. I view myself as being relatively tough. I watched Lars again last night. I cried.

The story concerns a 30-something man, living in a small community in Canada. Feeling isolated from the world, and unable to engage confidently with those around him he orders a sex doll. But instead of using it in the traditional way, Lars has developed a psychosis. The doll's purpose for him is as a companion, and he introduces it to his family (a loving brother and sister) who immediately take him to the local doctor/shrink Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson). Instead of sectioning Lars, or putting him on medication, she treats his doll as real, and advises others to do so too, in the belief that it was Lars who created this alternative reality for a reason, and that he should be allowed to let his "reality" do what it needs to do for him. Since Lars is a much loved, gentle man the village agree to play along, and so begins Lars and the Real Girl.

I read this summary and assumed that it would be some sort of rowdy, teen style movie, full of jokes about sex dolls, and situations involving people in compromising situations. How wrong I was. And how glad I was to have been wrong.

There are many moments of humour, but it is clever, subtle and relies on the strength of the actors, rather than in-your-face gags and stunts.

The directing is perfect: gentle and relaxed, reflecting Lars and the town's gentleness. The scenes are great, and each time I watch it I notice some extra subtle reference (like the tiny bit with Lars reading his doll "Don Quixote" - the tale of a delusional man - and pausing as he finishes it, as if in confused reflection of his own situation).

Ryan Gosling plays Lars perfectly, and is supported well by Paul Schnieder and Emily Mortimer, as well as a brilliant performance from Patricia Clarkson.

The writer explained the film as a "what if" story. What if - instead of locking away people who show signs of abnormality, or putting them on mind altering medication, we tried to empathise with them and help them in a way that allows them to cherish things which their imagination has given them.

Some reviewers have criticised the film for the lack of realism of the villagers (i.e. they should all be shunning Lars and mocking him cruelly), yet these same reviewers give high scores to films such as Star Trek and Lord of the Rings (for their reality???). These people are missing the whole point of the movie - it is an exploration into the realms of empathy, compassion and love. A true "what if?". Done so beautifully, that you cannot fail to love it, and finish the film feeling a better person for having shared in its beauty.
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L'enfant (2005)
Your view will depend on your experience
19 October 2011
Some will find this movie to be dark, moving and gritty. Others will simply find it boring. I belong to the latter group.

The film is set in Eastern Belgium, in an unromantic city, void of colour or interest, and shot during miserable weather in the crappy parts of town. There is no music, and nothing by way of art in the style of filming. The camera work is shaky and plain, and as a result, it is very much a case of - what you see is what you get.

O.k. I understand why - it's to place the viewer into the world of the underbelly of society, to remove creature comforts, and to enhance the feeling of real grittiness. A reasonable idea, and it works. You certainly feel part of it, and if this way the directors' aim then they have achieved it well.

But my main problem was that if, like me, you are accustomed to the underbelly of society (in my case it is through my job), you will be seeing nothing new, and you will most likely have seen or heard dozens of stories like this - except that they will be real, and you will have witnessed them first hand.

The plot line focuses around delinquent young lovers who have recently brought a baby into the world. For some reason (which is never fully justified to my mind), the young father attempts to sell the baby, the result of which is that he ends up getting himself into trouble, both with his girlfriend, and the potential buyers. But the "trouble" is not exactly fascinating. His methods to dig himself out of his hole are not exactly surprising (in fact, they are exactly what you would expect from someone from his background). The only element of interest that stands out is his level of love, loyalty and compassion, as well as general friendliness and manners to the people he meets. Yes, this sets him apart, but in fact it makes his character rather unbelievable. A loving, loyal, compassionate man ... who thinks it's a good idea to sell his baby? When he doesn't need to. Just to get a bit of money to have fun with. How does that work? Well, it doesn't.

So, we have a story which sounds like it should be interesting, but never does anything remarkable. We have characterisation that doesn't work. And we have a general style and feeling that could be imitated simply by going to a park or hanging around a bus stop in the slums of your own city ... in the rain. Nothing to excite. Nothing to amuse. Nothing to elicit any emotion. I sat and watched this with my arms folded and a glum, bored look on my face.

Like I say, if you've never had any real glimpse into the underbelly of society and you wish to get a feel for what it can be like, then this is not a bad recommendation. But if not, don't bother.
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Fascinating ... until you try to work what the point is.
6 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and for that reason, I wanted to give it a high score. Until I sat down and tried to digest what Mike Moore had been telling me. And then I realised - I haven't got a clue.

I have enjoyed Mike Moore films in the past, although I am fully aware that I am not being given the full picture in order to evaluate all of the points. They tend to be more "propoganda" than documentary. But hey, at least he does it in an entertaining way, and as long as you go out and research the other side, at least he has presented you with some interesting viewpoints.

That was the kind of case for this film. Except, I really don't know exactly what his viewpoints were. He explores various reasons for the high gun crime rate in America and he talks about the general situations and the reasons for it (looking at arguing against standard explanations: family breakdowns, violent past, high gun ownership etc). But then we seem to have left that subject and gone to the specifics of one particular crime ... and then another ... and we are all of a sudden spending quite some time examining the low wages paid by Dick Clark (who owns the chain of restaurants where the mother of a 6 year old gun user worked). Oh, so the reason for that crime (all crime?) is because of poverty? But hang on, he's just dismissed that reason when he compared gun crime with certain other poorer countries. So why are we trying to interview (blame) Dick Clark? ... Oh, we've moved on, and now we're talking about the negative way in which news reports stir up fear amongst the public. But we don't give any real evidence of any direct link between this and gun crime. Just examples of negative press stories from the past. And now we're back to a specific incident (the Columbine one) and we're blaming KMart because they sell bullets (not that I am defending KMart) ... oh, and we have also heard drawn out implications that America's gun crime is due to the fact that gun owners are all white, and the NRA is racist, and Americans all own guns because they are afraid of the black man. Hence the high gun crime ... erm .... pardon? We are directed all over the place, but at no point does Moore give us anything tangible that we can use in a debate. If I present an argument during a debate, I will expect the first response to my point to be "Why do you think that?". At this point you need evidence and good, strong arguments if you are to succeed. Moore doesn't really have any of these. Not only that, but he can't resist numerous, irrelevant sideswipes at the Bush government, which (valid though they often are) often have nothing to do with the overall aim of the film.

My review is not to argue with Moore or his points, but merely to say that if you are expecting an Oscar winning "documentary" to provide you with useful arguments and convincing theories, then you'll be a bit disappointed. But, if you are a fan of Moore's general style of presenting an argument, and do not mind if he is random and doesn't finish any avenue he explores, then you will enjoy this.

A shame, because I tended to agree with many of the points (not all!), but just felt that Moore didn't do them justice if he was trying to talk to intelligent people who are capable of forming their own opinions, and need solid reasoning in order to do so.
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Inside (2007)
Makes me ashamed to have watched it!
28 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
What the hell is wrong with the world!? As part of a movie club I was browsing through various French films, and came across this one. I chose it on the strength of its vote here (7.0 at the time of writing), and since I like everything that happens in a film to be a surprise, I did not read the synopsis. Just the theme (horror/thriller etc).

7.0 on IMDb. It must be good. No? I feel sickened to my very core. Not just with the film, but with the vote. I challenge anyone who watched this film to explain how they can justify this film in any way that does not show them to be twisted, sickened individuals. I am so angry writing this that my fingers are shaking. It was THAT evil!!! The basic premise is a woman who is pregnant and has a car accident which kills her husband. A few months later she is on the verge of giving birth when a strange woman arrives at the door. Here begins an hour of non stop blood. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good horror movie, and I'm not averse to violence when it enhances the movie. But this was a movie for the sake of violence. No. "Violence" doesn't even cover it. Let me give you some examples - scissors stabbed into groins (gushing blood), a young woman stabbing herself in the throat with a knitting needle (long, slow shot, gushing blood etc), a man smashing the pregnant lady's womb with his truncheon (and a special effects long, close-up shot of the baby inside wincing and struggling with the beating it's receiving), biting off a woman's lip and spitting it out, a young pregnant woman's abdomen calmly and carefully cut open with a pair of kitchen scissors by the crazy bitch stalker (which went on for minutes). And I'm sure you'll have noticed that the majority of the evil is done to a young, innocent, pregnant girl (and to her baby). How can that be called "entertainment"? "Did you have a good night last night?" - "Yeah, it was great! I watched a sweet young pregnant girl and her baby get tortured in wonderful, slow graphic violence for over an hour, for no reason, other than just to enjoy the realism and the detail of her sickening ordeal ... with no let-up. Great!" "You sick f**k!!!"

And don't even get me started on the ridiculous scenarios that emerged. Numerous people come to the house at different points in the film. The young girl is aware that they are there. She is desperate to escape, but she doesn't say a word, not even let out a peep in order to warn them, or to try to get them to come to her aid. Instead she sits there with her face all twisted into tears, staring wide eyed at a door, while the potential help wonders around shouting "Hello? Hellooo...?" before the crazy woman attacks them. This doesn't happen once. It happens multiple times. But the second she has no help whatsoever, she is brave again (at least ... until the next bit of help arrives when she goes back to being mute and motionless). The crazy bitch woman spends the whole night trying to get through a door by banging it and stabbing it with scissors. But to no avail. It's locked using a $2.99 lock. Then all of a sudden, as soon as our heroine wants to get out, she pokes the door a couple of times with a bit of glass, and suddenly there's a huge hole big enough for her to get her whole arm through! And the actions of the police take the biscuit! Two enter the house to search. The first is attacked, and despite his colleague being only a couple of metres around the corner, he (like our heroine) doesn't even make a peep to shout for help or give some sort of warning. Then, hearing the gunshot that kills the second guy, the third officer enters the house, leaving his car without calling for backup. He has a perp with him, and for some reason, thinks it's best to chain the perp to him and search around the house, knowing full well that there's a crazy mad woman inside. He finds our heroine, only for the power to go off, and instead of taking the heroine out of the bloodbath and straight to hospital, he goes downstairs (with the perp) in order to find the fusebox (which is a couple of foot from the front door) and get the electric back on, leaving our battered, stabbed, beaten, shellshocked heroine standing in the hallway upstairs, on her own.

I mean ... for God's bloody sake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone that has even the tiniest shred of dignity and decency - please, do not watch this! I watched it through to the end in the daft hope that maybe there would be something to justify all of the struggle - some bit of light at the end to make me feel that little less sickened for having seen what I had seen. Maybe the worst was over, and things would turn around and give me some justification for not having switched off after the first five minutes? No. I am a fool. I now have to go to bed and I am afraid. Not of the film itself. But of the fact that there are clearly so many people who get off on such filth.
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I wouldn't bother
25 July 2011
The simplest way to summarise this film is to say that it is the equivalent of a B-side of Bienvenu chez les Ch'tis. I found the latter film amusing, but there are many, many French films which do better at providing comedy and a sense of heart-warming, and so it is still a mystery to me how it became France's most successful film of all time. Rien à déclarer has basically taken the same idea (a comedy which focuses on the negative stereotypes of northern France/Belgium) and then repeated it - with less skill. There are amusing moments, but too few and too far between. They are strongly outweighed by overacted slapstick and jokes which are schoolyard style at best. It would possibly have worked better if it had been aimed at all of the family, so that the children could watch a film which uses such childish humour. However, they ruined this opportunity by including scenes of drugs, violence and even nudity, with plenty of swearing! A bizarre decision to exclude such an audience! If you are considering this one, but haven't yet seen Bienvenu chez les ch'tis, then I would strongly recommend you chose the latter. If you have seen the latter, and are hoping to find the same thing with this Dany Boon offering, I would suggest you will only be disappointed.
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I'm sorry to say it, but ... no.
14 June 2011
I feel awful about giving this film a low score, but I felt I had to on the merits of my levels of interest in what was happening or what was about to happen. It very much played out like the daily life of a monk - nothing was hurried, everything was calm and done in a pure and careful manner. In this way it perfectly matched the mood and the setting of the subjects of the film. But it meant that as a viewer we sat and watched while the characters would have endless prayer meetings, or silent contemplations, or long walks, or read books (to themselves - we don't even know what they were reading), or eat food, or have more prayers, or go for another walk. All done without a word spoken. This went on. And on. And on .... and on. The acting was very good from all parts, and it certainly felt realistic from all parts. But if, like me, you are not a Christian, you begin to question the depth of the story. Of course, it is a terribly sad true story. But then again, in war, there are millions of sad true stories. It almost felt like it was an attempt to glorify the religion, rather than to tell the story, since - as the film says at the end - the ultimate events were never known. In summary, it's a story which doesn't stand out from any other sad story of conflict, but we watch nearly two hours of nothing really happening, followed by film makers' guesses as to what may have happened at the end. I wouldn't advise watching this unless you strongly desire to feel closer to the world of a monk, and to feel closer to a film maker's guess at an individual story of war.
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Amusingly crap
11 May 2011
One would normally expect a review full of irritation and vitriol from someone who gives a film 1/10. But I actually found this film quite amusing.

OK, it wasn't meant to be amusing, but I was genuinely grinning at so many things during the movie that it was kind of enjoyable.

The reason for the grins comes down to the dreadful make-up of this film. They clearly began with a fixed budget, and they must have blown 90% on the wages for the stars. There are some well known actors in this film (Mark Dacascos, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo to name but a few), but there is no point in having an actor if you can't do anything with him.

So, they saved money on the following - 1) The set: Hilarious scenes which were meant to be in the middle of busy Middle Eastern towns (with cardboard buildings which would have looked cheap even in a school nativity play) or out in the Iraqi desert (which funnily enough has the exact appearance of American countryside). 2) Military advisers: I'm no military expert, but when I watch a girl (supposedly a crack commando) feebly wrestle a magazine into the gun, give it a couple of limp wristed slaps on the barrel and then fire it directly up in the air (when the target is in front of her) I know that someone's not bothered to get any training. 3) Retakes: Actors stumble over things, drop equipment and act in a way that would have had a director pulling his hair out ... but they decide to keep what was clearly a first take of every shot.

Oh, and the plot was ridiculous, the scenarios hilarious and the script was like something a 12 year old would write.

If you want to have a giggle at an incredibly cheaply made movie then this isn't a bad option. Don't get me wrong, money isn't everything ... but when you're clearly working with no ambition, no advice and no talent - this is what you get.
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Hasn't lasted
27 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Oh dear. A film that is hailed as a "classic". But I'm afraid it doesn't live up to its hype. There are plenty of problems with Nikita, and the gravity of these, in this modern day, outweighs its good points. The main problem is the story itself. The government decides to fake the death of a mentally deranged murdering drug addled junkie, in order to spend years training her to become a covert operative/assassin. Erm ... of all the people to chose from, they opted for that? Didn't they have any applicants?

O.k. We'll try and move past that and get on with the film ... only to find that the film doesn't really get on. Nikita settles down with a man, and then occasionally gets assigned jobs. However, these jobs are not particularly interesting, nor are they numerous enough to let quantity make up for quality. Then the film ends, after a "climax" which offers nothing of interest, and then leads to a bizarre end. I watched the credits arrive and I honestly thought I must have accidentally skipped the DVD forward by 10 chapters. Where's the rest of it? When's the good stuff going to start?

The film just doesn't know where it is supposed to be going. Is it an action film? Is it a film about a woman trying to change her life? Is it a film about the strengths of feminine guile? I'm not sure even Besson knows, and this shows in the fact that it seems to explore a few angles at various points in the film, but doesn't cement any of them, so you really don't get inspired by any of the options for discussion.

Perhaps 20 years ago the flaws would have been hidden somewhat by the "exciting" style of film making that Besson employed. But since many many films have copied this style since, you will be watching nothing new.
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Monsieur Hire (1989)
Classic French cinema
18 March 2011
Having read some of the negative reviews regarding this film, I think the first thing to make clear here is that there is no point in watching this film if your idea of a perfect movie is Jurassic Park or The Da Vinci Code.

This is a film that focuses not on the story itself, but more on the characters and the emotions that reside within them. The above mentioned films take an idea for a story (a dinosaur filled wildlife park or a mysterious religious secret) and then devise a plot which is by far and away beyond what would ever happen in the real world.

In contrast, Monsieur Hire takes a story in which very little happens: A man is suspected of a murder. The man is a reclusive misfit, devoid of charm or humour, but he harbours a love for a woman he has never even met: a woman he knows only through seeing her from his apartment window. Unlike the aforementioned films, the plot, from beginning to end, can be summarised within just a few sentences. But it is what is behind the plot which makes this movie incredible. It is the notion of love which drives the film.

The acting and directing show passion that is more intense and sexual than anything I have seen, yet it does so without even a hint of what you would expect from a film described as "intense" and "sexual". The intensity of the love shown by the protagonist is beyond anything that one would have seen before, and yet it is far from the purity that one would normally associate with such an emotion. Indeed, it is dark and tense, and due to the questionable character of its object, one is left in turmoil as to whether this love is to be admired, pitied or instead viewed as just desserts for a man of his nature.

Those who have scored this low on the basis that the characters do not conduct themselves in a "believable way" confound me. The whole point of a film is that it takes you away from the everyday scenario. Most movies show you fairly ordinary people involved in extraordinary stories. This one shows you extraordinary characters involved in a story which (in itself) is fairly ordinary. To score this low based on its plot is to criticise Opera for its storyline. The whole point of the opera is its music, and the whole point of this film is its incredible portrayal of emotion. Brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed, and this will haunt you for some time.

If you need your films to be Hollywood factory typecasts then don't watch this. You won't enjoy it. Go and rent out The Expendibles, and leave Monsieur Hire to those who appreciate art when they see it. I'm sorry if that sounds pretentious. I enjoy a cheesy Hollywood flick as much as the next person, but it's sad that there are people who can't see beyond Stephen Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis.
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A must!!!!!!
27 February 2011
I have been sitting here at my computer for nearly fifteen minutes, staring at a screen, wondering how to even begin to describe the effect this film had on me.

This is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. No, that is a lie - it IS the most powerful film I have ever seen! Of course, films are subjective, and not everyone can be pleased by the same film. But make no mistake, this film will "please" no-one. Having seen it, I feel it has affected me almost like the drugs that it displays. I am shocked, spaced out, paranoid and I feel the need to share it with everyone.

In a modern day society where singers trill joyfully about drugs and children deal them out in school like sweets, I feel like I need to show this film to everyone who has even listened to such a song, never mind tried such a drug.

The film shows the rapid decline over one year of four linked individuals, each driven to differing styles, but equal depths of despair and pity by their chosen drugs. While the story is strong and the acting stronger (especially Ellen Burstyn), the directing is what turns it into such a tour de force. The film begins with simple shots of drug taking, in throwaway style as if the characters were simply doing something as matter of fact as eating a biscuit, but as the effects begin to take their toll, both physically and psychologically, the camera becomes your enemy and the soundtrack feels like a torture as you begin to feel as if you are personally enduring every torture yourself. And the soundtrack is incredible - with the string ensemble summing up the movie perfectly - powerful, unforgettable, driving, intense and a thing of haunting beauty.
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The Stranger (2010 Video)
What a dreadful director!!!
24 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
My taste in films is wide and varied. I enjoy art-house and foreign dramas as much as I enjoy cheap shoot-em-ups and stoogey comedies. But in order to ENJOY them, the films have to be ENJOYABLE. This film did not fit that category.

The story itself isn't too bad - a bit in the style of Momento or the Bourne trilogy: a special agent (Steve Austin) who is robbed of his life, loses his memory and is on the run. He is being helped by his faithful psychiatrist (Erica Cerra), who risks her own safety in order to try to help Austin to remember his life and to combat the bad guys.

O.k. Nothing groundbreaking, but there was potential. Unfortunately the directing took all of this away. We have "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - one of the biggest action stars of our time, so surely this should lead to some great action and gutsy fight scenes. No, half of the time Austin is being made to look like a weakling as he winces and breaks down every time someone slaps him. When he occasionally decides to fight back he is slow, lumbering, and can pull nothing out of the bag more exciting than a punch on the nose.

And how many flashbacks did we need? There are some scenes which are repeated almost constantly throughout the film, all in cheesy slow motion, showing smiling wife and giggling daughter, combined with the sound of an explosion. Yes, I think we got the point Mr Director. And don't even get me started on the motorbike scene. Someone obviously decided it would be a brilliant idea to have Steve racing through the country tracks on a big Harley. Perhaps someone should have checked whether Steve was willing to do this before they start filming. He's going so slow I'm surprised the bike doesn't topple over, and so the director "jazzes" it up with flickering shots of wheels, Austin's face doing its best to act the emotion: "perturbed", Cerra looking like she's taking a Sunday stroll, and some heavy music to get our adrenaline up. I nearly turned the film off there and then.

I'm sorry to sound like a smart-arse, but also this film must hold the record for the number of shots fired at one individual (all from short distance) without any getting anywhere near him. It wouldn't be so bad if he were doing anything other than trundle in a straight line away from them as they fire for minutes on end directly at him. Let the set tea-boy handle the action scenes. I think we'd get more enjoyment.

What could have been an enjoyable film, is ruined by some of the worst "action" directing I have seen for a very long time.
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The worst cartoon ever
26 January 2011
Maybe as a grown-up, I am not the best qualified to rate a film that is clearly designed for children ... but this film was not designed for children, it was designed BY children - or maybe that's an insult to children. I would like to criticise the plot, except that I couldn't find any evidence of one. At no point was there any excitement and at no point was there any humour. The only piece of creativity which deserves mention is Kilowatt - probably the most irritating character whose ridiculous body, trilling, squeeking voice and general annoying script had my grinding my teeth every time she wobbled onto the screen. This showed that at least the creators were able to excel in one thing: to drive you nuts!

So, what exactly was the point of this film? I would say that the sole point was to make money, an obvious show of "Right, let's make another film about monkeys. No need to put any money, effort or imagination into it. People will watch any rubbish these days, so let's give them some crap and buy ourselves some nice cars with the profit."

The only emotion this inspired in me was irritation at how gullible I was to waste 80 minutes of my life in this way. If you want to entertain your children, I would recommend you paint their bedroom walls and allow them to watch as they dry. This would give them more fun.
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Doesn't work for me
15 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The film is close to two hours long. During that time I watched the clock and wondered if anything was going to happen.

Nothing did.

O.k. Maybe that's being harsh. The film is, without doubt, exploring a fascinating avenue: mingling the evil of the occult and death with the innocence of childhood. The occult factor takes the form of Eli - a vampire who lives her life as a twelve year old girl and who is forced to fend for herself in the rather glum suburbs of wintertime Stockholm. She befriends a young child who is bullied at school and leads a rather lonely existence. The film centres on the friendship and the struggles of adolescence, love and being a vampire.

The problem is that the movie attempts to be art-house. It indulges in long, lingering shots with very little occurring. These shots vary between close ups of the characters as they stare at various things, to wide angled shots of snow covered streets. I would like to say that the scenery is beautiful. I would like to ... but I can't. It mostly consists of red-brick cheap housing, sitting in piles of brown, slushy snow. I would like to say that the shots of the children are moving, but unfortunately they dwell for what seem like hours on a child looking gormlessly out of a window, or twitching and squirming in order to show that he is "acting" the emotion: "self reflection".

What's more, the film is unrealistic to the point that bits become irritating. I'm not talking about the vampire element. I'm talking about the people who are supposed to be "normal". A man watches a child savage his wife and drink her blood. But (for no explicable reason) he takes her home, puts a bandage on her neck and then goes round to see a friend while he leaves her to wake up in bed. No police, no doctors. No reason. A child watches his friend lick his blood off the floor like a cat, while her face morphs into that of an old lady, and yet the next time they meet, he casually asks "Are you a vampire?" with the same slow, dull countenance he uses for every other scene in the film. I could go on.

And furthermore - there are questions which go unanswered. What was the relationship between Eli and her carer? If she is capable of love then why does she do to him what she does, without even batting an eyelid? And what is going on with her groin!!!? So, to summarise, watch this if you want to see a very good concept for a story, ruined by annoying characters, daft behaviour and lots and lots and lots of grimy snow.
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Black Swan (2010)
Too good to watch
4 January 2011
This is possibly the best movie I have seen for a long, long time. It was next to flawless. I hated it. The direction is incredible, with camera angles, scene usage and lighting being used to their utmost. Portman's acting is the most Oscar worthy I think I have ever seen. I will never look at her the same again. So, why did I hate it? Because it was too good at what it intended to do - to show you the mind of a deeply psychologically disturbed person. The combination of acting and direction made me feel as if I was undergoing all of her fears, rather than just watching them on the screen. At the beginning you want to protect Portman, and feel terrible at the isolated world of bitchiness and exploitation that she is in - a world too intense and demanding for someone as delicate as her. This is perhaps the brilliance of casting Portman for this role. She is naturally a very delicate person, whose beauty owes to the innocence of her looks. This is an innocence which, as a man raised to be a gentleman, I feel obliged to protect. But in pretty much every single scene in the entire movie, her innocence is being tested, exploited, broken down and abused. By the end you are terrified of her and what she has become. There is not one single moment in the movie that did not have me wincing and tensing, and once the movie was finished it took a long time for me to relax. Had the acting and directing been less than brilliant I think I could have shrugged it off a bit more easily. If you are in any way sensitive towards the subject of female suffering in film, then under no circumstances watch this movie. If you are harder and less sensitive towards other, then under no circumstances miss it.
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Ma mère (2004)
29 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film left me in a state of shock. The film-makers may see that as a positive statement - that their film gave the desired effect of evoking extreme emotion. Unfortunately, the shock was due to how bad the film was. It goes without saying that the subject material is designed to be challenging: a teenage boy and his mother's incestuous relationship. This alone would be enough for many people to dislike the film. But let me say that I am very open when it comes to watching challenging films. I thought that "Spanking the monkey" (which focuses also on son/mother incest) was excellent, since it portrays the action in a way that blends serious emotional issues with very (black) black humour while giving good characterisation. "My mother" does none of this. It treats the incest as salacious, but with no way of allowing viewers to identify with the characters or try to understand their issues. What made this film bad is the total lack of realism. I am not talking about how unlikely it would be for people to do certain things, because although incest is rare, it does still exist. I am referring to the lack of realism regarding the characters, their actions and the script that they are forced to spill out. Throughout the whole movie I found myself saying "That's daft"/"They'd never do that"/"This is stupid" with almost every scene, to the point that it ended up being almost amusing, and yet "amusing" is the polar opposite of what this film is trying to impart.


So, what is daft? The son finds some of his father's porno magazines, and decides to strew them all over the floor and then masturbate and urinate on them. The son has a loving relationship with the live-in servants, but he decides to kick them out of the house on a "hilarious" whim when he is drunk. She servants don't question it at all. Neither does the mother (whose house it is). We never hear from them again. A pretty young girl watches the son rape his mothers friend while he gazes at his mother, and yet she then falls in love with him. A final sex scene involves the mother cutting her own abdomen with a knife while the son smears his hand in it and masturbates. The final scene of the movie involves the son visiting the dead body of his mother and quickly begins masturbating over the casket.

While none of the characters were by any means "normal", their general behaviour and backgrounds gave no reasoning for this ridiculous set of actions, which you end up watching with total disbelief. Some reviews have mentioned the good acting of Isabelle Huppert. I think she acted as well as she could have done under the circumstances. But it reminds me of the saying "You can't polish a turd!". If you want to watch a challenging movie, watch "Spanking the monkey". If you want to waste two hours of your life, watch "My Mother".
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