Category Archives: 2004

Cold Mountain

Cold-MountainCold Mountain (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to know where to start with “Cold Mountain”. It’s basically excellent.

In this film your faced with the ever popular story of the young in love couple, who yearn for each other across distances and change as people before meeting once more. Add to this mix an array of different characters with stories of their own and you basically have an Oscar’s favourite.

The thing with “Cold Mountain” is that I do find it very hard to judge, and I’m not surprised by it’s mixed reviews. This film for me is a display of how to do something technically very well. The acting is superb, the soundtrack excellent, and the general feel of the film stunning. The problem is that whilst some reviewers will use these qualities, some will look more to if it actually makes the mark with it’s plot. Truthfully, I find myself flipping either way between whether it does or not. The problem with the plot of “Cold Mountain” is that I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit too long. For all the random people in it, some of them do provide alternative viewpoints which are necessary, but some of them feel slightly too drawn out.

If I had to choose four things about this movie, which really make it stand out as a film to watch, I’d choose Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, the occasional beautiful landscape, and Cillian Murphy. To those who are unaware of who he is, your most likely to recognise the actor as Jim in “28 Days Later”, however he is also in another of this years big films as Pieter in “Girl With A Pearl Earring”. Murphy in “Cold Mountain” plays a Yankie fighter who finds himself at the home of Natalie Portman and who is starving. As his two friends forsake their morals for food and for sexual gratification, Murphy shows a sign that for all the fighting in the war, people on both sides have moral problems with events and find themselves unable to act upon others misdemenors.

Ultimately, I’d recommend to everyone that you go watch this film. For the romantics there is a beautiful love story, for the violence enthusiasts out there, there is a lot of fake blood and violence, and for those who want to know how to create a successful, technically superb movie, there is “Cold Mountain”.

The Last Samurai

The-Last-SamuraiThe Last Samurai (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From the moment I first heard of this film, I disliked it. I felt the idea of a film like this was hideous, and I felt for it to be staring Tom Cruise, well it was blatantly going to be just a vehicle for his self esteem. Cruise, to put it bluntly, is awful. There are two over rated actors out there who appear in films and have the exact same facial expressions throughout. These actors are Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, and I think they ruin a lot of good films.

So, with my dislike for Tom Cruise and my dislike for the idea of this film, I travelled to the cinema to watch this movie, took my seat, and for not the first time, was forced to eat my own words. Truthfully, I think this film is brilliant.

In “The Last Samurai”, Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren of the United States Army. Hired to teach the Japanese how to use modern warfare technology, Algren, a man with many painful memories, is placed in a battle against the revolutionary Samurai of Japan. Eventually captured, Algren is introduced to Master Katsumoto, played wonderfully by Ken Watanabe, and is slowly shown the way of the Samurai.

Ok, why is it that I enjoyed this film? Looking at the main star, looking at the basic plot, looking at practically everything about it, I should have come out of the cinema in unsurprised disgust. The strange thing is though, that if you get all the bad parts which make up this film, and put them all together, it somehow works. It’s like trying to create Frankenstein’s monster out of a body which had been buried for two years. Ultimately all the parts are rotten, but yet still manage to function. Cruise, whilst I do hate him, performs acceptably with his three facial expressions of smile, tear in eye and grit faced determination. The plot, despite being tacky and slightly over long has depth and quality. Even the blatant cheesyness of it all comes through with flying colours. This film is ultimately, good.

I suppose put under pressure, I could say there are one or two things which are wrong with this film. Billy Connolly’s voice in it is painful to hear and I’m grateful when he leaves the screen. The same is true for Timothy Spall at the beginning, but his voice seems to improve with time. The Emperor of Japan is awkward and infuriating, but I wonder if that’s not how he’s meant to be played. Other than these three characters, and the last ten minutes, though, I really can’t think of much bad to say about this film. So it’ll never win Oscars, watch me be proved wrong here again although I find this unlikely, and most of it is easy no brainer viewing, but for what it’s meant to be, I think it holds up quite well. Definately worth viewing.

Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia (1993) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to say what I think of “Philadelphia”. I say to a lot of people that the better a film is, the less there is to say about it. The problem, as this film shows, is that simply that phrase doesn’t work. Whilst it’s true that for most films, having little to say shows that it’s been well made and there is nothing to complain about. With “Philadelphia”, it’s not accurate as all I want to do is sing the praises of Tom Hanks and Denzil Washington.

In this film, Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, an outstanding lawyer fired after the discovery that he is contaminated with the aids virus. Beckett seeks out Washington’s Joe Miller as a lawyer as he progresses to sue the company for wrongful dismissal.

First things first, lets be honest, Jonathan Demme took a huge chance directing a film about such a difficult matter, but fair play to him, he pulled it off. This film is a powerful, moving, eye-opening experience which will leave even the most unemotional person with a tear in their eye at one point or another.

Hanks, Best Actor at the Oscars for this film, is truely magnificant and worthy of his award. Washington too is superb as the homophobic lawyer being taught a thing or two about his beliefs.

Ultimately, I find very little wrong to say about this film. The last five minutes seem almost rushed, and it would have been nice to have seen the Company suffer a bit more, but ultimately, this film is worth it’s weight in gold and worthy of all the awards it picked up in it’s time. If you haven’t seen this film before, and I know for a guy who’s just watched it eleven years after it was first released this is hypocracy, but go out and rent it. “Philadelphia” is a gem.

Chicago

ChicagoChicago (2002) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For a long time, this film has been something I’ve avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an enourmous fan of musicals. “My Fair Lady”, “Les Miserables” and “Oliver Twist” are amongst my favourites, but this film just always looked awful to me. So, I hear you ask, why did I bother watching it?

Well simply put, I felt I kind of owed it to myself to see what it was like. I’ve known people avoid films for a long time expecting them to be awful, only to love them upon viewing. So today I sat down, I got myself a comfy chair, and I made the hard effort to actually watch Oscar’s beloved best picture. My final view of this film two hours later? Truthfully, I’m unsure what to make of it.

A lot of films I’ll sit and watch and I’ll either love from the start or hate from the start. In the case of “Chicago” though, something very unusual happened. For the first hour I sat, I vegetated, and I constantly pondered reaching for the remote and turning it off. For sixty minutes or so, I really do think this film is awful. Then for some unexplainable reason though, it seemed to begin to appeal to me, and the second half of it was a fully enjoyable motion picture event. Oscar winning material however? Not in the slightest. The Best Picture award is laughable, as was Catherine Zeta Jones’s award. To be brutally frank, if any award was due for this film, it was to John C Reilly who once again showed how good an actor he can be. Other than his performance though, the film seemed lacking in any markable levels.

Ultimately, I guess by the end, I must confess, to my ever lasting regret, to enjoy this film. It’s just a shame though that the first half was so abysmal. In total, hopelessly over-rated and Oscar needs to learn better.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's-Labour's-LostLove’s Labour’s Lost (2000) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All too often, Hollywood’s Shakespeare adaptations entertaining pieces of cinema. Beautifully shot they are well performed and faithful to the text. Films including Branagh’s “Henry V” and 1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing” are powerful pieces of work. Watching “Love’s Labour’s Lost” therefore, it’s such a huge disappointment for expectation to be so hideously thrown to waste. Sadly “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is awful! The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) and his friends have forsaken drink and women for three years to focus on their studies. Plans begin to fall apart however when the enigmatic Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her entourage arrive. Soon love is in the air and philosophy is off the Prince’s mind.

From the start, you realise that this film is not quite Shakespeare. Cleverly relocated into a 1930s musical by Ken Branagh, the plot is still there and the script remains, but now it has been sacrificed in favour of dire musical taste. Classics like “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Let’s Face The Music and Dance”, “I’m in Heaven” are all destroyed by weak singing and a strong feel that they just don’t belong here.

Aside from weak singing, we are also treated to an increasingly large number of awkward performances by regular stars. Ken Branagh and friends might enjoy making this film, but they provide us with a stomach turning collection of roles.

The main eight actors (four men & four women) are all equally dire, and the only positive on their behalf is a vast improvement on the truly dreadful Timothy Spall.

In fact, only one individual leaves the film worthy of any praise and that’s the consistently magnificent Nathan Lane. Lane has proved over the years that he is a comedy genius and in this feature he once again adds an air of humour to the jester Costard.

There’s little else to be said really. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” deserves mild praise for Branagh’s original take on an old tale. Unfortunately though, that’s where the positives end. Weakly acted, performed, sang and constructed, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is perhaps the weakest Shakespeare adaptation of the last forty years. It should be avoided like the plague and should never have been made. A poor, disappointing choice by Branagh and here’s hoping his next effort is better.

%d bloggers like this: