Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Proposition

What most intrigued me about The Proposition from the outset was that it was scripted by songwriter/musician Nick Cave. I have a certain fascination with Renaissance men, possibly because I quite fancy myself as one. Or is that jack of all trades, master of none? Yeah, maybe that's what I am.

The film also had an interesting cast, including Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, and Emily Watson (whom Wife loathes, incidentally). So it was that it ended up on our viewing schedule over the Christmas period. Yes, yes, that's how far behind I have fallen with some of my reviews.

Set in the founding days of Australia, the film tells of the titular deal struck between policeman Winstone and criminal Pearce. Winstone, on arresting Pearce's younger (and retarded?) brother for his role in the rape and murder of a woman and her husband, tells Pearce that he will release the boy and not charge Pearce if Pearce will hand over the elder brother, who is the mastermind of the outlaw family. And so it is that Pearce sets off to locate and take in his big bro.

If I'm honest, The Proposition is something of a storm in a teacup. Very little happens, and the dialogue is so low in the mix that you have to keep whacking the volume up, lowering it again when the loud music and gunshots come into play. That always pisses me off. I guess it's a mood piece, and that comes across well. But it's a mood piece with very little by way of a story. What I told you above? That's about all I can tell you without ruining the ending. Well, not quite, but not far from it.

Acting: 12
Story: 8
Direction: 10
Enjoyment: 10
Cerebral pleasure: 11
Total: 51

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


It's quite a while now since I actually watched Syriana, and I had intended to see it again before reviewing it. But when it came down to a second viewing I realized I couldn't actually be bothered. And although that seems like a pretty damning statement, it's not intended to be as bad as it sounds.

Before seeing this movie, I'd heard and read that it was complex and intelligent. These are both words that I like to see used in conjunction with films, but oh so often they are overused. Furthermore, the truth is that what mainstream Hollywood considers an intelligent, complex piece of work is not necessarily the same as the consideration of someone accustomed to watching the work of some of the European masters.

For my money, Syriana sort of falls between two stools: it's neither Hollywood pap, nor quite the intelligent movie-making it wants to be. That's not to say huge efforts have not been made. Nor is it to say that they "tried too hard" and have fallen flat. It's a film with a good story, perhaps made more convoluted than entirely necessary at times. It's a film with good performances. It's a film that has been well directed (if rather in a style stolen from the likes of David O Russell's Three Kings and Steven Soderbergh's Traffic). Overall, it's a good film. But it's not great. It's not awesome.

Sure, it'll make you think for a while afterwards. It'll make you ponder on how fucked up the oil industry is, and how much you'd like to opt out and get solar panels on your roof, and not be part of the problem. You'll do all of that. For about two hours. And then you'll get on with your life and forget about it almost entirely. And occasionally you'll think to yourself, "Y'know, maybe I'll watch that again sometime. It was pretty good." And that, dear reader, is about the most you'll likely get from Syriana.

Acting: 14
Story: 15
Direction: 13
Enjoyment: 13
Cerebral pleasure: 15
Total: 70

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Christmas Story

Every Christmas I try to find time to watch A Christmas Story, for no other reason than it is probably the overall best Christmas film in the known universe. Sure, we likely are all in agreement that It's A Wonderful Life is really the best Christmas film in terms of message and film-making and performances, and it rightly deserves its long-held crown, but for out-and-out fun A Christmas Story just takes the cake.

The story, if you've never seen it (and if you've never seen it, you're probably not an American, since it seems to be a national institution over there), is set in the 1940s and revolves around young schoolboy Ralphie and his desire for a particular brand of BB airgun as a Christmas gift. "You'll shoot your eye out," is the mantra repeated to him by sensible adults throughout the film, but still he wants it, and still we want him to get it.

Other key characters are Ralphie's younger brother Randy and their parents, all of whom are wholly believable in their roles. And there's a raft of wonderful scenes. Who can forget the "your tongue won't stick to a frozen telegraph pole" bet (pictured above)? Or the bunny suit? Or the fight between Ralphie and nemesis Scut Farkus? If you've never seen it, go rent it now, while you're still feeling almost festive.

Acting: 13
Story: 15
Direction: 13
Enjoyment: 17
Cerebral pleasure: 13
Total: 71

Monday, January 08, 2007

Lucky Number Slevin

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I'm a sucker for a Bruce Willis movie. Sure, even before his legendary "serious" acting in films such as Pulp Fiction and 12 Monkeys, I was already something of a fan. Of course, those two films made me feel all the more justified. I think he's a good actor, and sometimes he happens to be in a good film.

Lucky Number Slevin is one such film. It's also one of those films with a pretty stellar cast, so you never really know how it's going to fare. All-star movies have a habit of letting me down. And here we have Willis ably assisted by the likes of Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman... Need I go on? Well, I won't, cos I think that's about the lot.

The plot plays like a case of mistaken identity, in the mould of so many classic films, and the characters really draw you in. Sure, at times it perhaps tries a teeny bit too hard and gets a tad too contrived, but such instance are few and should not detract from the overall experience. As things move along -- at a pretty swift pace, I must say -- you will start asking yourself what the fuck is going on. And then you'll start coming up with possible scenarios.

I guess that's the film's weakness, because once the audience susses that everything may not be quite what it seem, they will start guessing outcomes, and then there's the possibility that they'll correctly guess the outcome, lessening the enjoyment at the end. It is the same problem that sort of befell The Usual Suspects.

Enough already. I had a blast watching this film. It made me laugh quite a lot. All the actors are very appealing. There are twists and turns aplenty. I defy you not to enjoy it!

Acting: 15
Story: 15
Direction: 15
Enjoyment: 16
Cerebral pleasure: 13
Total: 73


The Choir (aka Les Choristes)

I have never watched Mr Holland's Opus, nor do I intend to, but I have seen other teacher-changes-pupils'-lives flicks, such as Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, etc. Wasn't 187 one of those films, too?

Anyways, it's not my most favouritest genre in the world of cinema, so it was with more than a little reluctance that I was persuaded to watch The Choir. I figured a bunch of teenage French boys squeaking out classical music was just not going to be my bag.

How wrong can a guy be? I should, by now, trust Wife's judgment, since she so often has a good nose for a good film.

The plot is simple: new music teacher-cum-supervisor arrives at a school for unruly, unteachable, antisocial boys (kind of like a borstal). He discovers they have a few good voices among them and that they like to sing (albeit dirty ditties and songs insulting the teachers), and this sows the seed to turn around their lives with music.

Of course, the path to the kids' enlightenment is blocked along the way by a cunt of a principal, who is intent on keeping the boys scared and stupid.

This movie is a great journey, and nothing like the films named above. It feels genuine, and it may even bring a tear to your eye. And you know when a movie is genuine? When you know that someone in the cast -- in this case the guy who plays the new teacher -- thought the idea strong enough to invest his own money to get it made. The result of his gamble? He became the highest-paid French actor of the year. Good for him.

Acting: 13
Story: 12
Direction: 15
Enjoyment: 16
Cerebral pleasure: 13
Total: 69