Friday, 16 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Review

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Year: 2011
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth
Country: UK and Hungary
Language: English
Runtime: 127 minutes

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
For most people, this was one of the most anticipated films of the year, and I can hardly blame you for your anticipation. It has one of the most exciting casts assembled in recent years, featuring names such as Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy. It is also an espionage movie, a sub genre that people seem to adore. Sadly though, I maybe got a little bit too excited, and started expecting a masterpiece. This was also influenced by the brilliant feedback from Rotten Tomatoes, currently holding a 97% rating, and the first ever 5-star review from my local newspaper that they have ever published. So, you Americans can anticipate November however much you want, I just expected a little bit more. It is still, however, a good film.

One thing in this film that certainly does live up to its expectation is the cast. Every performance is unique and nothing short of award worthy. Gary Oldman is as subtle and versatile as ever, and although he doesn't get as much screen time as I initially thought, Colin Firth is also a joy to watch. A standout however, for me, quite surprisingly, was Benedict Cumberbatch. This is not because he has a reputation as a bad actor, it's because I've never really heard of him or seen him in anything else. His performance fits in perfectly with the narrative and he deftly blends in with the rest of the cast. The conflict between some of the characters is fascinating and gripping, and the chemistry between all of the characters is brilliant, considering how well developed each of them are. 

For me, this film went through long stretches of tedious scenes that although were indeed necessary, could have had a little bit more flare or taken a bit more of an impact. Some of the scenery in this film was really, really dry, which quite honestly put me off the scene as a whole, so the dialog between the characters didn't have as big an effect as I had hoped it would. The dialog is good and coincides well with the genre, and whilst the dialog isn't anything revolutionary, it's perfectly suitable for the film. Despite the fact that he was working from a novel and a TV show, I felt that Alfredson could have tried a little bit harder to pack some punch into the film, to get the audience going and exhilarated, which is an aspect that I felt was a little bit lacking. 

The filming in this movie is as close to perfect as you can get. Each shot is perfectly placed, positioned and the characters are fitted very well into each shot. This was one of the best aspects of the film as a whole. Unfortunately, the film never really decides what pace that it's trying to go at, which really deteriorates the emotion that is supposed to be displayed within the film. Although the narrative is extremely interesting, it is slowed down by this constant confusion of what the film is trying to do - whether it's trying to garner emotion throughout, whether it's trying to be a thriller, or whether it's just trying to be interesting. All of these conflicting attempts at making a good film really left a bad taste in my mouth as I walked out of the theater.

Although I have pointed out a few flaws here, this is by no means a bad film by any stretch of imagination. It really does have more good aspects than bad, as I have pointed out - superb acting by an already superb cast, wonderful filming, peculiar yet interesting narrative, and these all bond together to make for a pretty darn good movie. I just felt that it could have been a little more thrilling, a little more captivating, it just felt as though it jumbled its paces a little bit too much. I think a steady, edging towards fast pace would have benefited this film, but it went in all guns blazing, and for that, I give it credit, I just expected a little bit more. This review is in no way supposed to put you off, because I will tell you this for nothing, America - you still have a hell of a lot to look forward to.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Art of Getting By Review

Director: Gavin Wiesen
Year: 2011
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 84 minutes

The Art of Getting By
"The Art of Getting By". It's a real shame that such a smooth, flexible title has been wasted on such an obnoxious, pathetic load of drivel. It sounds like a film that you would go to see to get a realistic, effective outlook on teen angst and life in general. However, if you go and see the film for these reasons, you will be sorely disappointed. I am seriously struggling to find a speck of social relevance in this film, or absolutely anything that I even enjoyed in the slightest about it. Even if there was redeeming factors, they have probably been overshadowed by the other aspects of this horrid piece of cinema.

Friday, 9 September 2011

La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) Review

Director: Pedro Almodovar
Year: 2011
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish
Runtime: 117 minutes

The Skin I Live In
This is really a one of a kind movie. It deals with a topic that has never really been dealt with with great effect before. I'm sure one of the reasons you're reading this review is to find out whether is succeeds in dealing with this topic effectively? Well, in a quick two word answer: hell yes. In case anyone doesn't know what the topic is, it's skin transplants, for people who have had horrific burns to their face or body, to restore their body to its original format, or at least to look normal again. The actors in this film portray their characters absolutely perfectly to suit the topic and the atmosphere of the film - tense, yet in a strange way calm. The chemistry between Banderas and Anaya really is brilliant, and both actors give fine performances throughout.

The plot of this film often felt slightly disjointed to me. This doesn't, however, stop it from being incredibly gripping and fascinating. The cinematography in this film adds to the absolute sublimity of the picture as a whole, and really enhances the plot past its disjointed areas. Before I go on to analyse the rest of the film, I must point out that this is truly one of the most beautifully made films that I have ever seen. It is filmed with such effort and it really shows in the picture. Never have I been so engrossed by the way a film looks. Even if the other parts of the film don't blow you away, the way it looks certainly will. The direction from Almodovar in this film is almost perfect in the way that it completely suits the content of the film.

This film has a few hugely disturbing scenes that the viewer will most likely not expect. They will have you in your seat thinking, "what the fuck just happened and why?" These scenes are hugely effective, though, and they actually make the film a lot more memorable. This film went places that a lot of films are scared to go, and the result has a huge impact and stays with the viewer. But it has to be said, this film might not be for the faint of heart. Almost every scene in this film is made completely by its wonderful actors and actresses, who give a rather melancholic yet extremely exciting performance. 

The huge twist in this film, for me, was a little predictable, but that doesn't stop it being truly amazing when it arrives. The scenes where the twist is revealed are some of the best scenes in the entire film, they are stunningly shot and the atmosphere of them will have you falling in love with the film. Although the trailer for this film made it look quite timid, the film is really quite gritty. It really doesn't hesitate to throw everything it has at you, and honestly, this is a good thing. You will feel completely satisfied after the credits start rolling, and the main reason for that is that because the film doesn't pull any punches. The dialog in this film is wonderful as well, and thank god they didn't dub it in English, because the Spanish language truly defines this film.

The only other real complaint I would have about this film is that some of the side characters are disgustingly undeveloped, so much that they feel pointless to the film, even if they are an essential part of the narrative. For someone who can't look past things like this, it might disrupt their overall enjoyment of the film. Luckily, I don't let one aspect of a film destroy my experience of a film. Some may not even think that some of the characters are undeveloped, but if you do, please try and look past it - because if you do, you will realize what a truly wonderful film it is as a whole. The Skin I Live In is my favorite film of the year so far, and is an essential viewing experience, with wonderful camerawork, stellar performances on the most part, and beautiful dialogue. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ghost Town Review

Director: David Koepp
Year: 2008
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 102 minutes

Ghost Town
To be quite honest, when I first went to see this when it was released in theaters, I didn't expect much at all. It looked like your typical formulaic comedy with a goofy premise that might or might not work. And whilst it is indeed formulaic in its narrative, the other aspects of the film are so well executed that it overshadows the overdone plot line. A sharp performance from one of my favorite comedians from my home country, Ricky Gervais, and the charming side performances of Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear really bring this film above most of its negative aspects. 

Watching the character of Gervais trying to come over his arrogant personality is amusing throughout the film, yet Gervais manages to give this character his own little tweak of charm, which really resonated with me. Being a bit of an arrogant asshole myself, I managed to relate thoroughly with his character. The film takes on the often debated topic of ghosts and turns it into an amusing tale that truly entertains the audience whilst also giving them something to think about. Though the film doesn't delve too deeply into the topic of whether ghosts exist or whether they have unfinished business, you still find yourself questioning your own beliefs on the matter. 

Gervais' sharp humor and witty acting accompanied by the surprisingly charming Kinnear keep this film from sliding down the path of its formulaic plot. The charm of both characters relates to its target audience perfectly and the chemistry between the two is brilliant. You will struggle not to laugh at the quick dialog from Gervais and the simple minded yet witty delivery from Kinnear and even Leoni at certain points. The casting in this film overall is great, there was no one that really looked out of place in their roles at all.

For some reason, sadly, the writers decided that this film needed some cheesy/emotional scenes, and although they aren't awful at all, some of them feel a little bit unnecessary. Any viewer of this film will probably often find themselves a little bit surprised, as the film slants from verging on dark comedy to a sappy heart to heart scene. Whilst this isn't necessarily bad, it feels a little too rushed and out of place. The film needed emotional scenes for sure, but they managed to slide some of them into the wrong slots. This doesn't stop the film from being entertaining, however, and it doesn't stop the healthy flow of laughs and entertainment that any viewer was probably already experiencing.

As a conclusion, this is definitely worth a watch. Even if you don't find it to be a comedy masterpiece, it's still hugely enjoyable and it fills its purpose, unlike most of the formulaic, putrid, misfire comedies that get spewed into our theaters and terrorize our weak, human existence every other week. Despite its worn out plot, it will still feel fresh in its own little way, and Gervais will entertain as usual with his dark, yet charming sense of humour, accompanied with some great dialog and decent side characters.