Monthly Archives: December 2013

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

mastercommanderMaster and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Every so often, a few friends of mine will read the 40 or so reviews I’ve done over the months on this website, and will make some comical opinion regarding them. Truth be told, I don’t care anymore. What I hate is when I go to see a film with someone and come out in admiration of the creators and awe at the film itself, yet someone else comes out and instantly condemns part of it. This happened with “Master and Commander”.

In this film, we’re introduced to Captain Jack “Lucky” Aubrey (played with an almost Maximus type persona by Russell Crowe who could possibly win the oscar for this). Aubrey is the captain of the HMS Surprise (yes, I know it’s not the best of ship names, but I don’t need someone in the cinema mentioning this the second the name is mentioned!), a British ship during the Napoleonic Wars which has been stationed to the seas around Brazil with the mission to stop a French ship from stealing british Whaler’s goods. Aubrey is joined by a crew of varied types, including Billy Boyd in his first performance since playing Pippin in “Lord Of The Rings”, and most importantly his best friend and ship’s Medic Dr Stephen Maturin, played majestically by Paul Bettany (who ironically is playing Crowe’s best friend for not the first time, having appeared as his imaginery friend in “A Beautiful Mind”). The film continues along the similar sort of path as for two hours, Crowe almost constantly chases the French ship, stopping only partially at the Galapagos Islands, and involves a fair few battles against the French and against nature.

What can be said about this film? Well, theres limited cgi in this film, meaning that everything which takes place revolves around a real life boat created from scratch and actually taken out onto the sea’s for shooting. The acting is spot on, and the realism is accurate, showing us just how gritty it was aboard boats in the old days. This film reminds us just how lucky we should feel about being alive in this era rather than centuries before. Whilst I do confess at times, the characterisation drags a bit and some of the characters don’t really connect to us on a higher level, attempts are made for some of them. Bettany in particular is easy to associate with, and if the guy doesn’t get Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars then there really is something wrong with the world, and also an unfortunate officer is developed for us to pity and bond with.

I guess really, there isn’t too much to be said about this film. This could possibly be one of it’s flaws. When it is released on DVD & VHS, I look forward to reading the blurb on the back of the box, simply because I’m sceptical it could be anything more than three lines. Crowe & Company chase a French ship around the Far Side of the World for two and a half hours. That’s all that can really be said to be honest. As far as twists and turns go, there aren’t any. The plot is straightforward, VERY simple, and ultimately this doesn’t matter one bit. This film is something you can’t really do justice to when describing it. Some of the best films of the last few years (this, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Adaptation”, etc) were beautiful, not because they were crammed with events, but because with the few minor events they did contain, they developed grit filled beauty on a high scale.

Will this film win any Oscars? Currently it’s a lot of people’s favourite to scoop at least one of the big ones, I’m unsure though. I think it was amazing, but it doesn’t seem like something Oscar would really plump for. Then again though, I never thought Gladiator would scoop many awards and that proved me wrong. Watch this film, but if you get sea sick, take a bag in with you.

Adaptation

adaptationAdaptation (2002) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Once in a while, a film is made which affects you in a way that hours afterwards, your still sat, obsessed almost, by the shear magnitude of what you’ve witnessed. For the vast majority of it, this film is one of this rare breed.

“Adaptation” is about that very word. It concentrates on the lives of the Kaufman twins (real life Charlie and his fictional brother Donald), played with genius by Nicolas Cage. Charlie is a balding, fat “loser”, who manages to make practically every situation awkward. Donald on the other hand is a flirtatious layed back kind of person who enjoys life and seems to represent both what Charlie hates and what he wishes he could be. Both brothers are writing screenplays during this film, Donald a thriller called “the 3” and Charlie an adaptation of a real life book called “The Orchid Thief”.

It’s hard to know what to say about this film really. It’s a moving story of Charlie’s pathetic existance as he feels more and more useless. His first lines in the entire film are a voice-over stating how awful his life is and how he’s a complete mess. His emotions don’t improve much until the very end of the film. It’s strange attempting to analyse the character really. In a way, it feels incredibly subjective, as a lot of the time, most of us feel this hopeless and I know personally I feel sympathetic connections to Charlie.

This film is something which deserves genuine praise and it deserves an enourmous review about how wonderful it is. The problem is that no matter what I could write, I could never do the majority of this film justice. I say majority because I do confess that for a short period, it does seem to go off on a completely different angle, before returning to pattern for a beautiful finale. For this small section, it is questionable why it went this way, but even in a moment of almost action film type activity, it still fits in truely moving moments which touch the heart.

I’m not going to say anything more about this movie. It’s easily one of (if not the) best films of the last five years, and if you haven’t seen it, make it your top priority. Pure beauty in film is something rare, so embrace this example. Superb.

The Matrix Revolutions

matrix-revolutionsThe Matrix Revolutions (2003) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Ok, so I confess, I wasn’t an enourmous fan of the 2nd film, but then I fail to see the fuss about the first (yeah it was original, but just because something is original doesn’t necessarily make it good), so if your an enourmous fan of the films, perhaps i’m not the best person to read. Anyway, I went into this third installment expecting relatively little. Whilst I enjoyed “Matrix Reloaded” the 2nd time I watched it (maybe the same will be true of this one), I found it tedious the 1st time. With this film I’ve kinda expected the same. So, after the negative expectations, was I surprised? In ways yes.

At this point I’d normally write a brief summary of what happens in this film, but lets be honest, most of you will have watched the first two and could quite possibly have seen the trailer for this, and that’s all that is really needed. So I’m going to quickly flick forward to what I liked and what I hated.

Firstly, I do confess, for a lot of this film the graphics were well made, if slightly fast at times, and the fight scenes involving technology never failed to impress me. The almost “Aliens” like contraptions which the men at Zion used were quality and I almost wish i had one.

To be honest with you, this could quite easily be the only thing I really enjoyed about this film. There are a few key reasons for this.

“The Matrix Revolutions” feels ridiculously action packed. Whilst the 2nd was at times slow and painstaking, this film was so fast and paced that it feels almost like the Wachowski (spelling?) Brothers had told their stories and just wanted to cause fights. So ultimately, that’s what they’ve done. During the ultimate final load of battles, whilst the machine battles are taking place, the incredibly tacky fighting between Neo and Agent Smith is almost legendarily bad. I went to see this film with my friend Alex and he’d been told before hand that the fighting felt like something out of “Dragonball Z”. Well whoever told him that, they weren’t far wrong. The two men seemed to zip across the screen in almost depressingly fast shots which were blurred and all in all, relatively weak.

So, other than the fighting, what else can I complain about? Well theres the almost satirical nature of the religious implications. This film feels at times almost like the Brothers got so fed up with the religion comments in regard to the first film that they thought they’d get revenge by putting as many Christian links in as possible. I won’t say much on this, but basically, towards the end of the film, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Also, there were times where I felt a bucket was almost compulsory to someones cinema going experience. Your reading something here by someone who rates “When Harry Met Sally” as one of his favourite films, and if forced to watch a well-scripted romantic comedy, can tend to stomach it (“Notting Hill” being an ok example), but there were scenes in this film (most involving Trinity, but not all) which were so ridiculously sickening, that I’m sure I heard someone throwing up on one of the front rows.

To summarise then, I know the Wachowski Brothers faced a lot of problems in their filming (actors getting injured or dying… the Oracle’s Death was cleverly delt with by the way), but ultimately I can’t help but feeling that they should have left these films after the original (having said that, the ending to the original was pretty weak too), and saved themselves all that unnecessary cost and stress. Go watch this film for the experience (I recommend watching any truely awful film for the cinema experience …… except “Crocodile Hunter”), but don’t expect too much. Go in, try to shut your brain out to enjoy the action, but most of all, remember your sickbag.

Falling Down

FallingDownFalling Down (1993) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

It’s a rare thing to encounter a film which is so powerful and revealing about life as this film is at times. It is an absolute gem.

In “Falling Down”, Michael Douglas (in possibly his finest performance) plays William Foster (or D-Fens), a slightly aggresive, but ultimately relatively ordinary guy who one day simply cracks. Foster decides he needs to visit his ex-wife and his daughter (it’s his daughters birthday), and sets off on a route of rampage on the way, taking out anyone who stands in his way in this crazy world.

As well as the fine performance by Douglas, Robert Duvall as a policeman on his final day is superb, as are the remainder of the cast. Ultimately though, without Douglas, this film would quite possibly fall flat. The way he manages to show a man who obviously has tinkered on the edge for some time, who finally snaps at the truely insane things in life (not being able to get a fastfood breakfast because they stopped 3 minutes ago for example) is stunning & for him to not even be nominated for an Oscar (was it going to be in the running for the 1993 or 1994 Oscars? Not sure) is a travesty.

Whilst the acting is obviously worthy of mention, what we need to remember about films like this is that ultimately, even good acting is worthless without such an outstanding plot and script.

“Falling Down” is clever in the way that, and I find it strange that out of the 10 or so reviews I’ve read on imdb, not one person has mentioned this, but the film is clever in the way that it regularly refers to London Bridge being located in America.

In a world where capitalism, and an increasing obsession with the superficiality of life are taking over at an alarming rate, the title of this film reminds us of one of the biggest travesties of this capitalist history, this being the purchase of London Bridge. The title of this film “Falling Down” is taken from that age old nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”, and for vast stages of the film, there are subtle, and not so subtle, links also made to the bridge. As well as Duvall’s Prendergast, being forced by his domineering wife to move away, close to where the London Bridge now stands, there are the occasional clever lines which link Douglas to the Bridge and the Rhyme. The perfect example of these being when he is with the fascist and the fascist (Nick) tells him to spread his legs further. At this moment, Douglas replies with something along the lines of “I can’t move my arm because without it, I’ll fall down.” The writers of this film are clever clever men.

Truth be told, I have but one complaint with this film. During his wave of distruction, Douglas arrives at the home of a Plastic Surgeon, and whilst there, he talks to a family who’re having a BBQ. At this point, Douglas bursts into tears and seems almost like his mind has gone beyond that breaking point. At this moment though, the film switches across to Duvall and, when we return to Douglas (our “anti-hero” perhaps?) he is back on his feet and close to his ex-wife’s home. What happened to him between these points? It appears almost as if the writers reached a blockage and didn’t know where to go next, so they just skipped what could have been an amazing extra five minutes. A small shame, but ultimately it doesn’t detract from this film too much.

So to summarise. In “Falling Down” we are presented with a cleverly written piece of cinema with Michael Douglas putting on possibly the best performance of his career as he presents us with an ordinary man, who one day got so angry with the hideously flawed system in which we live, that he simply snapped. We all can associate with this man, this almost justice based psycho, who simply wants to be with his family & be happy. A modern masterpiece of cinema. Well worth a watch.

Igby Goes Down

igby1Igby Goes Down (2002) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Truth be told, before even reviewing Igby, it’s probably worth mentioning, that no matter how I feel or describe this film, this review will never be as detailed as some of the reviews I’ve already read on this website. Since beginning writing reviews on imdb, I’ve never seen a film produce so many detailed, yet slightly obscure reviews. Ultimately, this is a sign of how good this film really is.

In “Igby Goes Down”, Kieran Culkin proves once and for all that he’s the more talented of the Culkin family with a powerful performance as Igby Slocumb, the youngest of two brothers to the hideously dysfunctional Slocumb family. Igby’s mother (played with passion by Susan Sarandon) is a bit of a cruel, heartless drug addict who has been diagnosed with cancer. Igby’s father (played by Bill Pullman) has by the time of this film slowly gone insane (as shown by cleverly placed flashbacks) and is now in a mental ward in what seems like an almost comatose state. With these parents, it is little wonder then that as well as the disruptive Igby, the family has produced his elder brother Ollie (played by Ryan Phillippe in a way reminicent of his performance in “Cruel Intentions”) who is a success obsessed college student, who unlike Igby has at least some small link to his mother. With a family like this, it is no surprise really that Igby spends a vast majority of his time attempting to escape from the family, aiming eventually to make it to California (where he can finally see some sun).

“Igby Goes Down” is a very cleverly written film, with a stunning soundtrack and quality cinematography. It reminds us that it doesn’t always matter how rich or poor the family is, sometimes we just need to escape them.

As well as the main family, the acting is superb. Claire Danes as Sookie the love interest is excellent, as is Jeff Goldbloom as D.H. Igby’s rich Godfather (or is he more to Igby perhaps than meets the eye? Queue a surprising throw away line towards the end). Other actors in the film also excel, but ultimately the film belongs to Kieran Culkin.

“Igby Goes Down” is a thought provoking work of genius with all round excellence in all departments. It might not win any awards (possibly the wrong time of year to really be in with an Oscars chance?), but this film provokes us to think in a way that not many films seem to do in recent years. Well worthy of watching, and well worthy of any praise it might receive.

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