Friday, August 28, 2009

movie reviews

hey everyone, and indeed a very special hello Barrie!

i was unaware that some, in particular Barrie, were missing movie reviews featuring here. i am happy to oblige, but the truth is that i just do not get to see all that many films these days. due to a mix of being on leave and being off ill from verk whilst taking this tamiflu stuff, i am happy to add some reviews on top of the one from The Informers earlier this month. yes, Barrie, the one you asked to be reviewed features here.

now, i appreciate that (i think) these films were all released in or around late 2008; as i said i do not get to watch as much as i would like! first up is one we watched whilst away on holiday, Sir Ridley Scott's Body Of Lies

well, let's see shall we? a film directed by one of cinema's last true visionaries, starring the exceptionally talented Russel Crowe and the (ahem) ever popular Leonardo Di Caprio, with a contemporary story about American, for want of a better term, "involvement" in the Middle East. what could possibly go wrong? quite a bit, as it turns out.

i had limited if not modest expectations of this being some sort of wild cross of a thinking man's Enemy Of The State and a more accessible Syriana. i ended up watching a rather contrite and certainly implausible "American James Bond" thing, and yes i do mean implausible by James Bond standards. which is saying something.

Russell Crowe for this considered "acting" to be "a silly haircut and a wonky accent". Leonardo Di Caprio, who must be as bitter about not being cast in The Bourne Identity as we should be grateful that he was not, proves that it is impossible to take him seriously in any sort of action or violent role, even if he does try to hide behind dyed hair and a silly beard. the biggest disappointment, however, is how visually bland and stale the film was. did Ridley Scott really direct this? the whole thing seems to have been filmed in a style intended as a poor man's tribute to the TV show 24.

the basic gist of this film seems to be the statement "people of a culture which encourage torture and the odd beheading are OK as long as they are allies of America". the rather scary thing is that this seems to be promoted as a good, sound philosophy. if you haven't seen this yet, give it a miss.

right, a film that i oddly watched half of whilst away, the other half a few weeks later whilst taken ill. ladies and gentlemen, the very strange world of the film Choke.

the plot, according to the ace internet movie database site, is that of "a sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother's hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death". did you manage to follow that? well, good, but do be warned, as this is something close to less than half of the actual plot crammed into 90 minutes of utterly wonderful mayhem.

i have not read the Chuck Palahniuk novel on which this is based. as would be usual, fans of the book are complaining that the film fails to do the novel justice. going on just how much is crammed into the film, i do suspect that this is the case; however with blissful ignorance of the text i rather enjoyed this.

the increasingly impressive Sam Rockwell (i loved Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, he was well cast in the film of Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy and i can't wait to see Moon) carries the film off perfectly as the protagonist of the piece. ever self-aware of being shallow and wishing not to be, Rockwell gives an amazing performance.

the star turn in the film, however, comes from Anjelica Huston. i do not honestly recall ever seeing her as good as this in a film, quite frankly. however bizarre, odd and indeed offensive this film is at times (well, all the time), her performance alone would make worthwhile viewing for even the most skeptical viewer.

much like The Informers, by no means is this film for everyone. those who find my description or the plot summary appealing, however, shall not be disappointed.

finally, and Barrie i trust that you are paying attention, we have what is widely reported as being Clint Eastwood's final acting role, Gran Torino.

Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, an arrogant, ferociously independent war veteran who pretty much holds everyone in contempt. a family of immigrant Hmong descent moves in next door. Kowalski abhors them at first, but ultimately ends up venturing into their lives to the extent that his life journey is defined by them.

much of this film, frankly, is superb. Eastwood gives one of the fine acting performances that have been increasingly appreciated over the last 15 or so years, and as director draws out stunning performances from the supporting actors. beyond the obvious praise for the young actors who play Sue and "Toad" living next door to Eastwood, i would single out Christopher Carley for his portrayal of the Priest who in the course of trying to convince Eastwood to go to Confession finds himself drawn to an unexpected level of respect of his bleak yet practical outlook on the world.

the "problems" with this film, and i am doing my best to keep this as free of spoilers as i can, are that the ending is by and large out of step with the character developments and plot narrative, and that Eastwood has covered this ground before - considerably better, which is saying something - with Unforgiven. in regards of the ending, it seems a 50-50 split between those who think it works fine and those who are left a bit puzzled and somewhat disappointed by it. i fall somewhere between the two. in respect of the similarities to Unforgiven, this film does tend to borrow (rather heavily in one or two instances) from that magnificent film, putting it into a "modern" context. this is not necessarily a bad idea, it's just strange that effectively the same material should attract Eastwood back for another go at it.

so do you watch it or not? well, yes. i dare say that somewhere out there on the internet someone has tried to sound very clever indeed by giving a wordy, convoluted review about how all of this film, be in Eastwood's character or his neighbuorhood, are symbolic of the deconstruction of the traditional definition of America and being American, followed by the reconstruction of what it is today. that's all very well and good, but should distract one from the fact that this is Clint Eastwood doing what he does best. if this really is his last acting outing, well, the film could be seen as a fascinating rapid overview of his career, but i'll leave it at that.

so, there you go. i will try and watch one or two movies in the near future, perhaps even within a year or so of their release!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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