Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Every once in a while a film comes out trying to tackle the delicate and complicated history of "the struggles" in Northern Ireland. The Wind that Shakes the Barley is one such film. I have seen some stuff on the subject, but despite the whole thing being on my doorstep, and despite having grown up during a period of bombings by the IRA, my knowledge of all of this is incredibly patchy.

I figured, though, that if anyone might be able to put together a credible, intelligent, and thought-provoking movie on the subject, then Ken Loach would be the man.

By casting the versatile young actor Cillian Murphy ("You might remember me from such films as 28 Days Later, Red Eye, and Batman Begins") in the lead, Loach could have guaranteed himself a decent-sized audience, but it's still a tricky subject. The IRA -- the early days of which this film tells the tale -- is hardly a much-loved organization here in Britain, despite it having won some misguided support in certain parts of the United States.

But to be honest with you, the performances and direction are so pitch-perfect that one actually begins to see how the IRA, in its original form, was a completely justified body. The trouble with "based on true events" type of pictures, of course, is you never know how much the truth has been stretched. I don't have the time to check the historical accuracy of the storytelling of this film, but I have faith in Ken Loach, and as such he has really opened my eyes here.

In these days of wars on terror, it's fascinating to look at the "terrorists" from the other side of the fence, from the side of, y'know, perhaps they're just protecting what is rightfully theirs. A highly recommended film from one of the masters of modern British cinema.

Acting: 16
Story: 15
Direction: 16
Enjoyment: 15
Involvement: 15
Total: 77

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

I had high hopes for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The trailer looked interesting. A Hollywood movie with seemingly a lot of non-English dialogue in it. That alone must be worth the price of admission, right.

And the reviews had been good. Tommy Lee Jones was being hailed as a master of some sort. The best western since Unforgiven, we were told. I liked Unforgiven well enough back in the day, but I wouldn't bother to watch it again. I was hoping, therefore, that Three Burials would be the best western since before Unforgiven.

It's been a while since I watched it now, and I must say I was clearly not as impressed with it as Wife was. Honestly, I think it plodded. Tommy Lee Jones's Mexican friend (or would-be gay lover) is killed. By whom? We soon find out. And said inadvertent assassin accompanies Jones to bury Melquiades, for the third time, back in his home village in Mexico, hotly pursued by the po-po.

It was all right. It had some good bits. Some of the acting and photography was nice. But, I don't know, it just left me a bit "so what?", you know?

Acting: 14
Story: 12
Direction: 14
Enjoyment: 12
Involvement: 13
Total: 65

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Edukators

I was looking forward to German/Austrian film The Edukators after seeing a trailer for it. It seemed a pretty interesting premise. A small band of anti-capitalist types break into the houses of the wealthy and rearrange all their stuff, just to put the shits up them and make them feel less safe. Its original German title, Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei, translates, I believe, as "Your days of plenty are numbered", and this is what they write on a note they leave in their victims' homes.

So far, so straightforward. Until a job is planned on the basis of revenge, and the victim returns home unexpectedly, recognizing one of the perpetrators. What can they do but kidnap him? This is the plot twist that propels the rest of the story, as the three protagonists realize that perhaps this man was once not so very different from themselves.

If there is a fault with The Edukators, it is that it goes on about 20 minutes too long. I've complained previously in this blog about films being too long, but it's not that I'm unable to hold either my bladder or my concentration. Morover, it's that I see very little point in getting to the middle section and starting to meander around, filling time.

I know, filmatically, that this is exactly the place to do such a thing, but there comes a point when it has been taken too far, and this film suffers from that. You end up not really caring who "wins" or "loses" in this situation.

Otherwise, the picture is full of great performances. Lead actor Daniel Brühl had already piqued my interest in the wonderful Good Bye, Lenin!, and action fans should be able to see him in the forthcoming Bourne Ultimatum. The kidnap victim is played by Burghart Klaußner, who also appeared in Good Bye, Lenin! and was very good in the soon-to-be-reviewed-here Requiem, too. Meanwhile, Julia Jentsch also put in a credible showing, as one might expect from the actress who won not only the Bavarian Film Award for Best Young Actress for this role, but also the Best Actress gong at the Berlin International Film Festival (as well as four other wins at other festivals) for the lead role in the critically acclaimed Sophie Scholl.

All in all, I gladly endorse this movie. It has a strong story, even if it goes off track for 15 minutes; it's nicely played; and it's likely to stay with you a bit. Hey, it might even make you think. And that's surely not a bad thing...

The scores
Acting: 15
Story: 14
Direction: 13
Enjoyment: 14
Involvement: 15
Total: 71

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