Friday, 13 August 2010

Square eyes

It's been like old times over the past three weeks, where I've actually had the chance to read and watch films. I'm nowhere near my target of watching all of the DVDs that I own which I haven't yet watched, but I have at least made a good start. It's not my fault that I'm an addict.

The reading side has not been so good, but I have re-read The Great Gatbsy in preparation for school. The other three books on the reading list haven't been opened yet, but I thought I could do that on holiday. In my defence, I have been reading French literature.

So, here are the mini film reviews:

Die Welle (The Wave) (2008)

I find it odd that several French films (Amélie (2000) is a really good example of this) are fairly well known in Britain, but it is rare that you ever notice films in other languages, other than English (or should we say American English) in the mainstream, pop culture world. Anyway, it really surprised me that Die Welle is not more well known in England.

The film was an almost perfect look at the affects of a dictatorship, examining how different pupils reacted when a teacher decided to create his own mini-dictatorship in a classroom. In the same way that it is done so well in The History Boys (2006), each of the individual pupils that the story focuses on were developped enough to make it not feel rushed, and that there was even a point to them being in the film. I really enjoyed all of the performances, and was engaged throughout.


Toy Story 3 (2010)

See previous post about this, although I would like to add that the audience in the cinema reminded me of one of the reasons why I don't normally go and see blockbusters.

This rating is really difficult to decide, maybe 62/100?

Venus (2006)

I always love it when I find a British film with big stars (in this case, Peter O'Toole) attatched, because it usually means it's going to be a worthwhile project which has a special uniqueness rarely found in Hollywood. With Venus, this was definitely the case. A quirky, true to life account of a friendship between an old man and a girl in her late teens, across class divide and age. It was humourous in places, yet so poignant in others. A really pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours, without using too many brain cells, but at the same time, not losing any.


Nowhere Boy (2009)

I had been looking forward to seeing this for so long, and I wasn't disapointed. This is fast becoming one of my favourite films of 2009. I am also becoming scandalised at the lack of attention the film received at the Academy Awards, but that post will come later.

Nowhere Boy tells the story of John Lennon's teenage years, and how the Beatles formed. I had never seen Aaron Johnson act before - I was only familiar with him due to his well documented (by the media) relationship with Sam Taylor-Wood, who is, of course, the director of this film. I was pleasantly surprised by his performance, and thought he managed to convey a range of emotions well.

Anne-Marie Duff's performance was also really good, but for me, the standout performance came from Kristin Scott-Thomas, who is one of my favourite actresses. The main reason for her performance being so great was that she managed to convey so many emotions through a character which was, shall we say, economical with speech. I truly felt for her, even though the audience were probably suppoosed to empathise with the protagonist the most.

I loved the way the film was shot, and even though I've never been a paticular fan of The Beatles I really did enjoy the story. My Mum liked it too, which is good because often she doesn't appreciate my choice of film...

Rating: 82/100

Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003)

I've been trying to watch as many French films as possible to help improve my French, but this film really didn't help. I watched it for forty five minutes before giving up! It's an animated film, but the only speech seemed to be on the radio, and even this was only for around three minutes.

The style of animation was lovely, but I didn't understand what was going on, thus couldn't find the overall point/message that the film was trying to convey. So, I gave up. Considering that the total run time was just over eighty minutes, I had watched over half of it, so thought that was justified.

Rating: 39/100

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982)

I believe this is the original production of the musical, filmed live in Los Angeles on tour. All I can say!

I have now been able to forgive Hal Prince for the disaster that was Paradise Found. I loved the way he directed this, because despite the huge stage he managed to make the piece feel intimate. Narrative based musicals are my favourite, and Sondheim is my favourite composer, so this was heaven for me. The ending moved me to tears, and I'm now really looking forward to the Chichester production next year, which will hopefully star Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

What wasn't to love about it? Now, there is no way I want to see the Tim Burton film, at least not until I've seen a stage production. I fell in love with (even though I didn't know it at the time) Angela Lansbury's voice when I was about five, courtesy of Beauty and the Beast. I thought she owned the role of Mrs. Lovett, making her so loveable it was hard to believe what she was doing! George Hearn was a brilliant Sweeney, complementing Lansbury and showing true emotion. I didn't really like the character of Anthony, just an annoying pretty boy with no personality really, but Cris Groenendaal, who played him, did very well with what little he had. The rest of the supporting cast were also good, as were the ensemble. Something which made the musical work was definitely The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, reprised at various points throughout the show.

Now, I'm just excited about Chichester. I may buy the DVD of the concert version in the interim, because I've heard that Neil Patrick Harris is the best Tobias ever? Plus, I am partial to a bit of Patti LuPone!

Rating: 91/100

Sideways (2004)

Typical, male orientated comedy. It was actually quite funny in places, and quite a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Dennis Quaid's not the best actor, but he was actually quite amusing, if a little irritating, in this. Paul Giamitti was great as usual. Unfortunately, the ending was so clichéd, but I suppose people need that sometimes.

Rating: 54/100

Moon (2009)

Yet another British film from last year. Yet again another fantastic British film from last year. Moon is an incredibly simple, but incredibly significant, film. I don't normally watch sci-fi films, but I was tempted by this, which I was given fro Christmas, but only just got round to watching.

The story centres on Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) who is alone and isolated on a space craft, save for GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), who Sam depends on, despite it being merely a machine. The film shows the effects of extreme isolation, and also the danger of cloning, when a clone of Sam is produced. Overall, the action is quite slow, but the characters are engaging enough that this is not really a problem.

Rating: 73/100

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)

One review claimed that the film "resonates with every woman". Obviously, I'm not yet a woman, but I could definitely find a lot in the characters to empathise with. The film centres around Pippa (played splendidly by Robin Wright) and her life story. The film could be considered an ensemble drama, because it is mainly about how others in her life have been the predominant factor in deciding its course, showing how we cannot go through life alone, and much of what happens to us is determined by other people.

I was pleasantly surprised by Blake Lively's performance as the younger version of Pippa, however it seems to me that Alan Arkin always plays the same type of character with exactly the same mannerisms, which is starting to irritate me just a little bit. I wouldn't say the film was amazing, but it was definitely well made, well acted and thought provoking.

Rating: 75/100

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (2008)

It may be a cliché, but Rent is still my favourite musical. Watching this just reiterated to me the truly amazing feeling that Rent can create in you, as well as the captivating characters. It reminded me of that amazing night in Eastbourne, and how annoying it is that I never got to see the original production on Broadway.

Rating: 98/100 (But it's not really a film, so this doesn't really count!)

The Princess and the Warrior (2000)

Tom Tykwer is fast becoming one of my favourite directors. I think The Princess and the Warrior is my favourite of all the German films that I've seen so far. Sissi (Franka Potente - my favourite German actress, who is brilliant both as Sissi and in the title role of Lola Rennt (1998)) is a nurse, living a secluded life in the home where she works. This is until she becomes involved in a road accident, caused by Bodo (Benno Fuermann). From then on, she is determined to be with him. Along the way, we find out more about both of the characters. The film is a modern fairytale, made in Tykwer's unique way.

Rating: 88/100

Up in the Air (2009)

Entertaining? Yes. Worthy of an Oscar nomination for best picture? I'm inclined to say yes, so it was lucky that there were ten slots this year, else it probbaly wouldn't have got the honour it deserved.

I loved the cast of the film. Vera Farmiga is on my list of awesome actresses that mainly do independent films, or only have supporting roles in mainstream films, who I always try to look out for. Here, she was brilliant, although I feel that her performance in Orphan (2009) was a bit better. Or maybe it was just a different type of performance? I'll have to think about that one.

Anyway, the film follows George Clooney, playing a man who is in the business of firing people for a living. On one sphere, he is lucky because he gets to fly all over America to do so, but on another sphere he is dreadfully unlucky, because he has no real relationships in his life. That's where Alex (Vera's character) comes in, for she is in a similar job and they arrange to meet when they can. Add into the equation Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who comes up with the idea of substuting travel with webcams. This is where Ryan begins to fall apart, for he faces losing his former life and must find another way to satisfy himself.

Much like Juno (2007), the ending of Reitman's film is abrupt, yet realistic, and leaves many questions in the viewer's mind about what happens next. Just like Juno, it's a quirkym original film which could so easily have blended into the background, were it not for his magic touch.

Rating: 84/100

Fish Tank (2009)

Another matter of fact film documenting a life which could be considered normal and unremarkable. Katie Jarvis, who was plucked from obscurity by director Andrea Arnold for this role, plays Mia, a tough Essex girl (I think that was the accent, anyway) who lives with an unsupportive mother and younger sister. The film documents her at the age of fifteen, with seemingly no way out of the downward spiral she is trapped in. The film is worth a look because it really shows that there is still quite a difference between richer people and poorer people in England.

Rating: 77/100

The Blind Side (2009)

The Blind Side could probably be considered as Sandra Bullock's Erin Brokovich. Admittedly, it's the only of of her films that I've seen that I've actually liked! Based on a true story, the film tells the story of Leigh Ann (Sandra), a middle class lady from Memphis, who decides, on a whim, to Big Mike (Quinton Aaron) a bed for the night, when it's clear that he has no other home to go to. Overtime, Big Mike becomes a part of their family. He becomes Michael as he builds a relationship with Leigh Ann and the rest of the family. They realise how remarkable he is at football, so the family do everything in their power to aid him in getting a college scholarhsip.

The Blind Side is a great film for showing how the class/family you are born into goes a long way into deciding your destiny. It's truly heartwarming the way Leigh Ann makes Michael a part of their family. What's even more special is that it's a true story.

I really loved Sandra's performance. Her "look" in the film was different to her usual look, and she nailed the accent perfectly. I think she really deseved to win the Oscar, and am hoping that she might choose more serious roles in the future, because she really is quite a good actress.

Rating: 72/100

Gosh, that was such a long post. I'm sorry if the comments seem vapid/pointless/generic towards the end - I've been typing this for almost two hours now. Pretty soon I should have finally finished my 2009 Oscars line up. I am fully aware that it's almost time to start 2010's, but just remember how long 2008 took!

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