JT Film Review

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas Review
Review #167

4.5/5 stars

Director –  Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer

Cast – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon

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This is a helluva ambitious movie. Helluva.

Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, it is an adaptation on the 2004 novel of the same name. It consists of six intertwined stories, ranging from the 1800’s to a post apocalyptic future. There are physical links between the stories… letters written in one time period are read by a character in another, a character in one story is worshiped as a deity in another, that sort of thing. The lead actors also all appear in several stories as characters with different ethnicities and even genders.

But the real link between the stories is thematic. The point of the movie is that people’s actions have consequences, and choices we make “reverberate through time”, etc. It’s not a new theme. It could easily be quite corny too, but success is all in the execution.  Cloud Atlas avoids being cheesy,  (more or less), and I would even describe it as inspiring. It easily avoids being boring, too, which seems odd as it’s almost three hours long.

It is definitely what I would call a “lie down movie”, though; one of those long films you can go to in a near-empty theatre, lie down on the seats, and let the movie wash over you. (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was another one.) The movie intrigues us, draws us in, and gets to the point in due time. It drags a bit in the middle, to be sure, but not for long. It’s six stories are all interesting in one way or another. They weave together well, despite the occasional jarring transition, and the actors all commit to their roles one hundred percent.  If you don’t like any of the stories, there’s a new one coming along in a couple of minutes!

I would like to touch on the ridiculous accusations of racism that have surrounded the movie. Many white members of the cast appear in a couple of stories as ethnicities other than their own. This is done with prosthetics and makeup, and has drawn comparisons to black-face. Some people are asking why actors of the ethnicity portrayed were not hired to play those parts, and normally they would have a point. But in a movie like this, where actors of all colours play different parts, the accusation fall flat. You can not say putting Hugh Grant in vaguely Oriental makeup is racist when the next scene features Halle Berry as a white British woman. Context is key here, and there is no racism here. No chance.

OVERALL

Cloud Atlas is huge, audacious, and effective. It’s six stories complement each other wonderfully, and the actors are obviously into the spirit of the thing. It sounds so flippant to say it, but Cloud Atlas is inspiring. It might confuse some and alienate others, but it is much more approachable than some are saying. Highly recommended.

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‘Cloud Atlas’ on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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November 21, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Troll Hunter (2010)

The Troll Hunter (Trolljergen) Review
Review # 151

4.5/5 stars

Director – André Øvredal

Cast – Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Otto Jespersen, Urmila Berg-Domaas, Hans Morten Hansen, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg

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“Found footage” movies are an interesting little sub-genre, in my opinion, and one that has birthed several notable films lately. Of course there was The Blair Witch Project, but more recently the Paranormal Activity series, [REC], Chronicle, and Cloverfield. This shaky, “documentary” technique give the viewer a great sense of immersion in a world. The world becomes one that we seem to live in, rather than one we are just presented with. You feel it more. It immerses you, and I like that. The Troll Hunter is not as shaky in its camea work as Cloverfield, and I like that too.

Is it just me, or do most “found footage” movies follow a similar basic premise? They all feature a monster or alien being, the effects of which a young person/group of young people have to deal with. [REC] had zombies, Cloverfield had that big alien crab/spider thing. There’s the Blair Witch, of course.

The Troll Hunter has trolls. Big old trolls, the design of which is inspired by old Norwegian and European fairy tale illustrations. The story is not new… An small student film crew are investigating a man suspected of illegally killing bears, but once the talk to him they realize the truth is more sinister. It’s fun too; even the students have a bit of wonder on their faces (mixed in with the fear, to be sure), when they stumble upon a skinny troll as tall as a tree, and looking like a woodcut brought to life. Though the kids are more stumbled upon than stumbling; those trolls are huge. And as they stumble around northern Norway, there are more to be seen. Are there ever… The striking poster image(see above) comes from the final sequence of the movie, and it’s just beautiful.

The trolls themselves are the highlight of the movie, I think. They are of ingenius design, purposefully made to look a bit unreal. They would look out of place in Middle-Earth, for example, with bulbous noses and shocking hair. They look a cross between the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are and the dwarves from Snow White. The special effects work is mostly seamless, though there may be a strange bit of physics work at play from time to time. With a small budget though, what else can you expect?

I do not mean to just compare this movie to others, that would do the film a disservice because it is quite unique in many ways. It is scary when it needs to be, but quite fun in general. It plays with our expectations, and goes farther some times than perhaps it should, but it is all in good fun. See the scene where the students talk to a man in charge of power lines in the north of Norway; power lines that in the film’s universe also act as fences to control trolls. “Doesn’t it surprise you that the power lines just go in circle?”, a student deadpans. “No, not really…” The student nods to the camera, and we gues the line must have been improvised, and we grin.

OVERALL

The Troll Hunter is a fun and spooky little movie, that takes itself just the perfect amount of seriously. I plan on rewatching this movie very soon, it’s one of the best movies I have seen in a while. A real diamond in the rough, it will please found footage fans and the average viewer just as much. Highly recommended.

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“The Troll Hunter” on other websites:

IMDB —– Roten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 13, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

136 – In the Loop (2009)

In the Loop REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Armando Iannucci

Cast – Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Chris Addison, Peter Capaldi, Gina McKee, Steve Coogan, David Rasche

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In the Loop is a pitch black political satire, partially based on the TV show The Thick of It (and starring most of the same actors, playing the same or similar characters). There is not a particular lead character, as it is more of an ensemble nature, but the plot follows Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) as he blusters his way through the political mire of British-US relations. A comment about war with Iraq being “unforeseeable” starts a chain reaction of events, involving the discovery of an American secret war committee, the destruction/alteration of a paper advising against war, and all sorts of political shenanigans. And swearing. Lots and lots of very creative swearing.

There could not be a bleaker view of politics, this ain’t The West Wing. There are only two people in this movie who are in politics to make positive change, and one of them (Simon) is a bumbling near-incompetent. Neither one achieve their goals; I think that is a main theme of the movie. You can’t win, and you don’t want to end up “in the loop.” The less you know, the less you will get caught up in it all.

The characters in the movie are rich, despite the proportionally small screen time they get. James Gandolfini, probably the best known actor to American audiences, shows up half way through as an American general, and is very funny. Everyone here is, really. In the Loop gives us shocking things to laugh at, and we do end up laughing. This is the kind of movie optimists call pessimistic, and everyone else calls realist.

I plan on re-watching this soon, and I think it will hold up to many repeat viewings. It also makes me want to look up the TV series to which this is a spiritual sequel, The Thick of It. There have been many comparisons between that and the 80’s series Yes, Minister, of  which I am a big fan. Bring it on!

OVERALL

In the Loop is fast-moving, smart, and devastatingly funny. This isn’t a movie for everyone, but anyone who likes dark humour and their politics in satire form will love this. This is a political satire Ricky Gervais would make. (That should tell you right away whether you’d be able to tune in to this movies sense of humour.)

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“In the Loop” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 9, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Comedy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

131 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – David Fincher

Cast – Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christophe Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright

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Well, I’m on the Fincher bandwagon I guess.

The Girl with the Dragan Tattoo is based on the first of the Millenium trilogy of novels, written by Steve Zaillian. It stars Daniel Craig as investigative reporter, and Rooney Mara as the titular character, the iconic Lisbeth Salander, whose many skills include investigation and various form of computer wizardry. Christopher Plummer is an elderly man who wants Craig, fresh off of a devastating libel suit, to seek out his daughter’s murderer. Oh, and the murder happened 50 years ago…

The list of suspects is composed of all the people who were on the family island at the time, mainly family. This adds a disturbing layer. Plummer seems to have a nonchalant hatred for most of his clan, of whom he seems to be the oldest surviving member. One of his brothers drowned years ago, and another lives in a house up on an old hill. He is called a recluse, but isn’t too fond of the term. Interestingly, both brothers are/were Nazis.

The investigation starts with names and pictures on papers spread over a wall. To aid in his investigation, Craig calls in the help of Salander. They both dig through documents, interview people, all that jazz. Frankly, we’ve seen all that before, but never with a character so intriguing as Salander. That is not to discount the other characters in the movie, who for the most part are fleshed out fairly well (and acted even better), but this movie is about Salander, there can be no doubt about it.

And Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander is wonderful. Comparisons are sure to be made between her performance and Noomi Rapace’s performance in the Swedish original; as I haven’t seen it I am not the one to make them, but I loved her in the role. She is withdrawn and angry, but knows exactly how to play the subtext of the character, her desire for friendship and understanding. It is a fairly complex character, I think too many people pigeonhole her as just some kick ass punk chick. Craig and Plummer are certainly well cast in their roles as well, though Craig always has a calm coolness about him that maybe works against him here.

The movie is slowly paced, and has a moody richness to it that is almost addicting. The plot is dense and always moving, and if I had any complaint it would be that it is perhaps a bit too confusing. At least a couple times throughout the movie there are moments where Craig zooms in on a photograph, raises his eyebrows, and has a moment of realization. Both times I didn`t know what the heck he saw that was so important, and once I actually asked the person with whom I was seeing the movie what was going on. However, both times they do reiterate what he saw, so that was good. But a bit more clarity would have been great. It is a 2 hour and 38 minute long movie, surely they could have taken a beat longer to explain.

Actually, perhaps an even bigger complaint would be the rushed way in which they explain the main mystery of the film. We understand who did what, but we never even briefly are told why the crimes are committed. There is a family connection to the crimes, and an almost Chinatown element emerges. But no motives are ever explained. I would have liked them to be.

But, all-in-all I think the best way to describe my feelings about this movie is to mention this; I remember thinking at the climax that I wouldn`t mind there being another 2 hours to go. I can`t remember another recent movie about which I could say that, and several that I would have said the opposite.

OVERALL

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a wonderfully moody thriller/mystery, with excellent cast. I hope Fincher does do the sequels, this is a world I would love to visit again.

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“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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December 24, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Thriller, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

130 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Brad Bird

Cast – Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Anil Kapoor, Josh Holloway, Ving Rhames

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– follows Mission Impssible 3

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Ethan Hunt is back, in the fourth movie in the Mission Impossible series. The IMF organization has been framed in a bombing of the Kremlin, and Hunt and team (Pegg, Patton, and Renner) must track down the real culprit to clear their names. It sounds a bit generic, but this is my personal favourite of the franchise.

In fact, this movie is essentially everything you could ask of an action movie. It is fun, exhilarating, and even smart. Who would have thought it, eh? My favourite thing is that most of the set pieces are not just exercises in action, but smarts. You can see the characters thinking “What can I do here?” My favourite moment is a tension-ratcheting one where Pegg and Cruise use a screen and a video camera to make a hallway appear deserted. It was a quiet but gut-tightening sequence. And funny, to boot.

The Mission Impossible series is a bit of an oddity when it comes to franchises. First off is the irregularity of  their releases. The first one was released in 1996, and it has taken 15 years for us to get to the fourth. But mainly there is the difference in style of the films. The first film was definitely a thriller, directed by Brian De Palma. It was sleek, featuring mainly European locations, and its most interesting scene was not one of i’s shootouts, but a neat and quiet moment where Tom Cruise realizes he has been double crossed. MI 2 ramps up to the bombastic, and its stunts come to a near ridiculous level. It was, of course, directed by John Woo. Despite its craziness, it still had a touch of intrigue, and I did enjoy it, though I think it is the worst of the series. Then came the third, (and best to date) movie, directed by JJ Abrams. This one managed to both shrink and expand the Mission Impossible world. We saw much more of the IMF organization and the set pieces were wonderfully executed, but had many more quiet moments between the adventure.  Up to this point, each movie had a distinct style.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol does not try to stake out its own ground, however, instead following the template of the third movie. This was a great decision. It does perhaps lighten up the tone a bit, and is not as dark in places, but it does not feel as near as distinct as the others. In fact, you might almost regard MI 3 and Ghost Protocol as a new series. Tom is a bit older, and the movies are frankly, better.

Another great thing about the series is it’s inconsistent use of actors for the head IMF men. We’ve seen Jon Voight, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, and now Tom Wilkinson as Hunt’s superiors. This means they can use them in interesting ways, without having to worry about continuity, past or future. They can turn traitor, die, etc.

If I had a problem with this movie it would be with the general uselessness of Renner’s character. He doesn’t do anything particularly noteworthy until the end, and even that doesn’t blow us away. But this is a point I thought of after the movie, so it mustn’t have been that bad. There is a neat continuity tie at the end for those who have seen MI 3 as well, and that was nice to see. Though surely we coul have seen more of Ving Rhames?

OVERALL

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a fast-moving and witty adventure, with exciting set pieces and adrenaline to spare. In an age of repeating sequels and remakes, this is one series that I would love to see continue as long as Mr. Cruise wants to keep doing them. Whatever your opinion of Tom Cruise, you have to admit that he is excellent at what he does.

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“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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December 24, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

125 – The War of the Roses (1989)

The War of the Roses

 4.5/5 stars

Director – Danny DeVito

Cast – Michael Douglas, Katherine Turner, Danny DeVito, Dan Castalenetta

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There hasn’t been a darker comedy made about marriage than 1989’s The War of the Roses. It is deliciously evil in its view of love; it would make an awful date-movie (or, to a discerning couple, perhaps a great one). This is essentially the anti-When Harry Met Sally.

Danny DeVito’s brilliantly twisted movie follows the Roses, a married couple whose relationship, for one reason or another, falls apart in dramatic and spectacular fashion. Turner’s character finds herself bored with her status as housewife to a rich business man, while Douglas feels shackled by a wife who doesn’t understand the financial game. When she admits to feeling relieved when he goes to the hospital after suffering a serious heart attack, the tension comes to a head. She files divorce papers, but he digs up an obscure law with the help of his lawyer friend (DeVito), that says he may stay in the house if he wants. They divide the house in half, and start to make each others life hell. It is here that the movie really takes off.

The back and forth between the two slowly builds up, until they are doing absolutely awful things to each other; she locks him in the sauna, so he urinates in a soup she is serving to distinguished friends… he (accidentally) runs over her cat, so she crushes his small foreign car with her truck… and so on and so on. It is a testament to the gradual crescendo brought about by careful direction that we don’t question the increasingly absurd lengths the couple goes through.

The movie is told through the eyes of Danny DeVito’s lawyer character, who tells this story to a client (a silent role played by Dan Castalenetta) who is contemplating divorce. This framing device helps greatly with the tone of the story. If we were shown the “war” after getting to know the Roses we might feel more attached to them. Having the story recited keeps the whole affair at a comfortable arms length. If we were too close to them we would cry, not laugh. Not that there are a huge amount of laughs here, the humour is too dry for that. Like the best of British comedy, it’s really too good laugh at.

OVERALL

The War of the Roses is a darkly comic movie, well acted and directed. It may come across as bitter toward the concept of marriage, but it really is against couples who don’t fight to keep their marriage, and instead fight to get the better deal after the relationship. It does this in an endearingly twisted way.

Douglas and Turner’s third outing together (after the Romancing the Stone movies) is a great way to end their on-screen pairing. I definitely recommend this to anyone who can enjoy a bit of dark comedy.

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 “The War of the Roses” on other websites:

 IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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August 24, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Comedy, Year - 1980-1989 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

123 – A Single Man (2009)

A Single Man REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Tom Ford

Cast – Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult

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A Single Man, is, if anything, too good. If only every movie had this problem…

Colin Firth stars as George, a man whose long time boyfriend (played admirably by Matthew Goode) dies. He decides to end his life, and sets his mind to the task. The film follows him as he goes about his final day, and it turns out he may not have made up his mind as much as he thought he had.

Of course, Colin Firth’s performance is extraordinary. This is a given, we expect this. The surprising performance here is given by Matthew Goode. His mannerisms are subtle and sweet, and we have no choice but to fall in love with him just as much as George had. This is vital, of course, for us to understand George’s heartbreak. Julianne Moore also appears, as George`s friend and past lover. She is a flighty character, but her flightiness is just a cover for her inner turmoil and pain. She is really a tragic figure, and I think this is actually the first performance I have liked her in.

A Single Man looks great; it is restrained and classy, and a little desaturated. It’s look changes a few times, whether going into flashback, to show the beauty of random moments throughout his last day, or even for random dramatic effect. This movie is certainly beyond reproach in that regard. It’s gorgeous. I suspect this may have something to do with director Tom Ford’s “day-job”, as a fashion designer.

In fact one of the main points of the film is the beauty of everyday life. Throughout his day he has chance encounters with a young girl, a young man who wants to pick him up (or be picked up I suppose), a young student etc. Each time he has one of these beautiful moments the film loses most of its de-saturation. The color floods back into the film momentarily, and we really get a sense of George’s feeling. Now this is a bit unsubtle; I wouldn’t say ham-fisted, but it’s damn close. It happens a few times, as well. Perhaps less would be better in that direction.

Despite that, A Single Man certainly makes its point. One of its little points seems to be that gay relationships are just the same as straight ones, and we definitely get that. It is never even mentioned that George is really gay, they just show him with his boyfriend. It’s simple. It doesn’t turn itself into an “issue movie”; it just gets over it so that we can follow the story. We get right to Firth’s heartbreak, and then on to his process of life re-building. It is a very human story. You don’t have to be either gay or straight to get this movie, it’s something we can all feel.

OVERALL

A Single Man is beautiful, both in emotional content and in its look. The acting is note perfect, and while we may get confused as to a particular or tow now or then, it comes together in a wonderful package. Let’s hope Tom Ford continues this other career. Recommended!

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“A Single Man” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 17, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

122 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 2

4.5/5 stars

Director – David Yates

Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Cirian Hinds, John Hurt, Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton

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– follows Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

– followed by fan dejection

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Let’s take a moment to review the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the concluding chapter to the series, and as such we can not help but take into account what has come before.

The Potter series was launched in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending which side of the pond you are on.) It continued throughout the decade, attracting more amazing actors (the call sheet reads like a role call of important British actors of the last two decades), and increasing critical acclaim. There are precious few other franchises that can boast such great respect, such box office numbers, such a great cast, and such a large fan base. There are no others that can do that with EIGHT movies. There is certainly a case to be made that Harry Potter is the greatest film franchise of its sort. The characters have becoming pop icons, and, more importantly, have grown significantly throughout the series. After a decade of films, with which many of us have grown up, the final movie is upon us…

…which brings us back to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which of course is the grand finale. It is a very good movie, and one that certainly ends the series on a good note. (It is also the best reviewed movie of the series so far according to Rotten Tomatoes.) In fact it might be my favorite of the series as well, although I do enjoy the underplayed and muted quality of the fifth one, The Order of the Phoenix.

Story-wise, Harry Potter and friends have collected and destroyed half of the “Horcruxes”, items into which ultimate bad guy Voldermort has deposited parts of his soul. They narrow their search to Hogwarts Castle, during which Voldermort essentially lays siege to it. While the walls are crumbling down the Order of the Phoenix, the school’s staff, and students try desperately to mount an adequate defense.

People die here, completing the 180 degree turn the series has made since the first, ever-so-innocent Chris Columbus films. Actually, to do it justice I should say people  drop left, right, and centre. One of the movie’s biggest successes is how it deals with these deaths. We are not shown most of them dying, but only realize they have fallen when we see a lineup of bodies in a makeshift morgue. This under-dramatizes it all wonderfully, and it packs a greater punch because of that. When we are shown a death it surprises us, coming utterly out of the blue (at least to those of us who haven’t read all of the books.) Again, this packs a great punch.

One thing which I will criticize the movie for (and really any of David Yate’s Potter movies) is its random lack of attention to detail in some places. Seemingly important plot points are sometimes rushed over, and it feels like we are being pushed at top speed through the pre-Hogwarts scenes so that we can see the big battle and big revelations that come from it. In fact the first third of the movie feels like that. One sequence in particular, where our heroes break into the vaults of Gringott’s Bank, feels tacked on, rushed, and absolutely inconsequential. It might fit in better if we view Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 as one move, but still, more needed to be explained. They end up stealing a dragon from the bank (as you do) and riding it to Hogwarts, only to randomly abandon it and jump into a lake. Why they do this is never really explained, though it felt like it was because to arrive at Hogwarts with a dragon would present story problems. (Though who among us wouldn’t want to see a Vodlemort vs. Dragon fight, eh?)

The previous films have taken such good care of the characters that I was surprised that the ending felt so rushed as well. The example that is often quoted is that they didn’t want an ending like Return of the King, which is often criticized by other for having “too many endings”. Personally, I would have wanted more resolution. Instead of the movie ending a couple minutes after the big climax, I wanted to see what happens after in the characters lives (and I don’t mean a short “19 years later” epilogue”.) Maybe we could have been shown a glimpse of Hogwarts School being rebuilt? Of the mourning the characters surely must have to go through, what with so many deaths of important characters? It was all over much too quickly.

However most of the movie hits the nail right on the head, especially when the battle starts (which takes up most of the final two thirds of the movie). In Deathly Hallows Part 1 the action was cut much too quickly and was over too quickly to understand what happened half of the time. Here though it is carried out well, not cut too fast, but not too slowly either. (In fact we even see in a few of the dialogue scenes that director David Yates has figured out how to move his camera for good effect, something which he annoyingly seemed to resist in the last two Potter movies.)

When it comes to standout scenes I of course have to mention the “Snape flashback” scene, which fully explains many secrets about our favorite love-to-hate-him character, and does it to great effect. He really becomes, in hindsight, one of the great tragic figures of the series. Another scene I would mention is the “Resurection Stone” scene, in which Potter asks the ghostly figures of his parents and dead friends to stay with him as he goes off to what is surely certain death. It is probably one of the best scenes in the whole series; it is played with real delicacy and a deft touch.

So, Harry Potter has run its course. It has all ended, as the posters have been teasing us. That seems such a strange thing to write. It must feel for most of us who grew up with Harry and his story that a favorite TV show has been cancelled.  I know that’s how it is for me.

And now… we wait for the DVD…

OVERALL

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a great ending to one of the great movie franchises. It is emotionally rich, has very involving action set pieces, and by the end is very satisfying. The cast and crew who have stuck with this series is to be commended; they have created a series that is good in an artisitic sense and in a crowd-pleasing sense. Definitely highly recommended.

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“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 16, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

121 – Brazil (1985)

Brazil REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Terry Gilliam

Cast – Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Robert de Niro, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holms, Jim Broadbent

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I had always heard of Brazil as one of Terry Gilliam’s better films and a definite cult movie. I love dystopian sci-fi like Children of Men and 1984, and while I didn’t know Gilliam very well, I recently purchased a box set of his movies and I look forward to exploring even more of this divisive film-makers work. Brazil was, I think, my first Gilliam movie to watch all the way through, and boy was I off to a good start.

Brazil is a dystopian movie, but it has a wonderful dose of charm and quirk that I understand is Gilliam’s trademark. While it is dark and gloomy from a visual standpoint, it clips along at a lovely pace, and has a great set piece or two sprinkled in there as well, interspersed with some wonderful acting from Jonathan Pryce, the ever reliable Ian Holms, and specifically Michael Palin.

We follow Sam Lowry, played by Jonathan Pryce (a great actor who also appears in movies as varied Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series) as he maneuvers his way through life in a dystopian future. He dreams often of a specific girl, and he finally finds her only to realize she may be associated with a terrorist group. The movie mainly concerns itself with Lowry’s journey towards and with this fantasy woman, as he fights the ridiculous, suppressive, and ineffective bureaucracy that turns its citizens into soulless machines.

Having since watched a few of his other movies, I think I have found that Gilliam often has a problem with keeping a story coherent and focused, and frankly there is a bit of that here. However it is not as prominent in, say, The Brothers Grimm or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And really there is a lot of charm (damn I’m overusing that word, sorry) in Gilliam’s helter skelter method. It comes across much like your grandfather when he rambles on and on with some story. Except, how cool would it be to have your grandpa talk about dystopian societies with vivid dream sequences and on-the-nose social satire? Brazil cool, that’s how cool.

OVERALL

Brazil is Gilliam at his best. The satire of the movie is great, and the imagination on display greatly rewards repeat viewings. This is the kind of movie that isn’t for everyone, but should be. Highly recommended. Oh! And this movie is where that Wall-E music comes from!

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“Brazil” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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February 10, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 1980-1989 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

117 – The King’s Speech (2011)

The King’s Speech REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Tom Harper

Cast – Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi

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The King’s Speech is about the relationship between future King of England George VI, or “Bertie” (played by Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Numerous excellent British actors appear, including Helene Bonham Carter as Bertie’s wife, the future Queen Mother, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.

This is one of those movies that I would like to metaphorically curl up in front of the fire with. It is a warm-hearted movie with a well told story and excellent portrayals of well written characters. Much of the inevitable backlash directed toward this movie will probably focuses around its fairly simple and fully predictable story. This is definitely true, but it couldn’t matter less. We all know that by the end of the movie “Bertie” will be on the way to controlling his stuttering. Sure the movie ends on a note reminiscent of a sports flick. We don’t watch it for that.

Actually, the sports movie reference is rather apt, as this is a classic example of the good ol’ underdog story used so much in that genre. A person has a huge obstacle to overcome, and, through numerous trials and tribulations, said obstacle is overcome just in time for The Big Game. This movie has all that to be sure, but here we are watching the movie for the journey, not what twists or inventive story telling is used. It’s not supposed to be Pulp Fiction, just roll with it.

Not that this is exactly a cookie cutter movie, far from it. There are some interesting techniques used throughout. One of my favorite is the quite imaginative shots used throughout, both to comment on and deepen the impact of the story. My particular favorite is used whenever Bertie has to speak in public. The camera follows him from the small, quiet waiting rooms to the large halls or stadiums where he must speak. Seeing the large or imposing crowd appear in front of us shows us how it feels to talk in public, especially when one doesn’t particularly want to. In fact the cinematography in general is a very strong element of the movie.

The script is very strong as well, though I do find that for a movie that carries itself mainly on the relationship between Bertie and Logue, it veered away from that quite a bit. This was, of course, to further set up Bertie’s relationship to his brother, his new station, and royalty in general, but I still found myself yearning to get back to Logue. Part of that is because Geoffrey Rush’s characterization is so amusing in contrast to Firth’s straight and true, upper crust manner. I don’t mean to take away from Firth’s excellent acting, but Logue is probably the guy you’d want to have a beer with. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Firth got an Oscar for this (at the very least a nomination), and deservedly so.

OVERALL

The King’s Speech is a straight forward movie that relies on an excellent script to take you through its journey. The acting is wonderful, and the direction both wonderfully low-key and involving. While the cast may not exactly look like their counterparts too much (I must admit I found it hard to accept 43-year-old Guy Pierce as the older brother to 50-year-old Colin Firth), but that is fairly easy to look past. While it is not particularly ground breaking (nor should it be) The King’s Speech is involving and rewarding. It is a great experience, recommended to all.

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“The King’s Speech” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 19, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment