Tag Archives: film

FILM REVIEW: Julieta

I don’t imagine there could be anything more grief-inducing or soul-destroying for a parent than having the child that they’ve painstakingly brought into, and brought up in the world, completely wash their hands of them, potentially never to make contact again.

This is the distressing scenario that Pedro Almodovar tackles in his latest, thought-provoking piece, Julieta.

Julieta (played by both Adriana Ugarte (younger Julieta) and Emma Suarez (older Julieta)), is a beautiful, middle-aged woman on the verge of relocating to Portugal with her boyfriend. It’s all been agreed, yet, without explanation, at the eleventh hour, Julieta develops cold feet, turning her back on both boyfriend and relocation plans.

Instead, without a word, she heads to a part of town that she’s familiar with and rents an apartment for herself in a block in which she once lived, many years before.

It’s unclear at this stage exactly what her motives were to have done such a thing, but she’s clearly running from something.

Director Almodovar, uses the narrative device of a long letter that Julieta then pens to her estranged daughter, Antía (played by both Priscilla Delgado (child Antía) and Blanca Parés (18 year old Antía)), to gradually reveal a tale of great sorrow and regret; how a chance encounter with a rugged fisherman on a train, named Xoan (Daniel Grao), led to an impulsive and passionate affair, and how the daughter that they would subsequently bring into the world, would come to shape and influence their respective lives, to such a life-shattering extent.

There’s an awful lot of detailed storyline covered in Julieta, chronicling the life of the film’s lead from an intelligent, courageous and impetuous young lady, to the world-weary ‘broken’ woman that resignedly composes her mournful plea to her daughter. Almodovar’s courageous direction, unafraid as he is to skip quickly and purposely over copious amounts of weighty subject matter, is thus particularly impressive; never over-indulging, yet successfully retaining both tremendous impact and integrity throughout.

And there’s a lovely sense of fate and symmetry about Julieta, exploring elements of chance and opportunity, hope and forgiveness, and the coming to terms – that we all must do – with our own faults and frailties.

Enveloped by Alberto Iglesias’s luscious score that embraces both jazz and classical sensibilities in a manner not unreminiscent of Film-Noir, Julieta is a very beautiful, poignant bit of film-making.

No less than we’d expect from such a master of his craft.

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: Bad Neighbours

I’m sure I read a favourable review somewhere about ‘Bad Neighbours’ recently or I may have dreamt it? More likely is that I simply willed a good review from my subconscious, such is the paucity of genuinely, laugh-out-loud films, that truly sustain their comic intensity from start to finish.

I wasn’t expecting much from this Nicholas Stoller offering… and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.

Bad Neighbours is pure Hollywood, bums-on-seats, comedy-by-numbers kind of stuff. It sticks to the same, tired old formula, namely; everything in the garden’s rosy – along comes a big problem – what are we going to do? Cue conflict, followed by solution and soul searching. Ultimately everything works out in the end and most importantly of all, we all learn a good moral lesson from it as good prevails, hurrah!

It is of course unfair to judge a formulaic Hollywood comedy by its form and structure alone. These films are more often than not simply cobbled together as some kind of feature-length vehicle for the day’s latest comedian / comedic actor, but it is fair to judge it on whether it makes us laugh throughout and although that’s a subjective kind of thing, I have to say, Bad Neighbours falls badly wide of the mark on that front.

But why?

It could be the fact that the characters seemed at best two dimensional, lacklustre and are never really ‘examined’ or allowed to be truly comedic in their own right. How often do we watch a film purely for the comedy gold, ludicrous / slapstick acting of one key character, conveniently overlooking the fact that the film itself is essentially rubbish? Perhaps the fact that the madcap antics of a college fraternity house have been lampooned so much more convincingly in other films or maybe the script was just plain poor and actors that otherwise might have made a good fist of things are left to struggle through, manfully?

That said, there’s probably still just enough nonsense in this film to keep the target audience happy – just – but essentially Bad Neighbours is simply not convincing on any level at all, be it comedic acting, ‘gross-out’ gags or genuinely funny one-liners. It struggles on all fronts and not even the lovely Rose Byrne or the sight of a ‘ripped’ Zac Efron can save this one.

In the film’s defence, there were, admittedly, a couple of laugh out loud moments for me, but they were  few and far between and certainly not enough to sustain it.

It’s not completely without positives and it’s certainly not the worst film I’ve ever seen.

Errr… I think I’ll just leave it at that.

FILM REVIEW: Vi är bäst! (We are the best)

Well, well, well. Some of life’s little treats sometimes come from the most unexpected of sources and a Sunday morning, free viewing of this Swedish offering, thanks to the ever excellent Greenwich Picture House Cinema, was just precisely that.

Aside from testing my poor Swedish language skills, it was an opportunity to reminisce a little following my relatively recent time spent in the wonderful land of Sweden.

‘Vi är bäst’ is a delightful, gem of a film, acted out by a young, ever so naturally talented cast that had me hooked from start to finish.

On a personal note, a particular highlight was the amusing Västerås lampooning. Västerås is a Swedish town in the province of Dalarna that I’m rather familiar with (and have absolutely no problem or axe to grind with at all, I should add).

The all girl, punk outfit improvise on the night of ‘Tomta Rock’ and re-write their ‘Hate the Sport’ anthem to instead ‘Hate the Västerås’ thus getting under the skin of some irate locals and earning the unenviable moniker of ‘Communist Cunts’ in the process! Only a dutiful Santa Claus is on hand to avert much ensuing carnage.

It’s all most amusing, but I suspect it will be lost on those unfamiliar with the territory.

“They say that punk rock is dead, well it isn’t” – and that’s the premise of this innocent, coming of age tale that’s touching, charming and amusing in equal measure.

Highly enjoyable, early 80s, Swedish fun.

Mycket bra!

 

 

FILM REVIEW: UNKNOWN KNOWN

“An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – the words of Donald Rumsfeld, then Defence Secretary to the George W Bush administration in his party’s defence of the WMD issue.

‘Unknown Known’ is an all attention and focus, Errol Morris documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most influential figures in shaping the last 40 or 50 years of U.S and indeed world politics.

I know I certainly had my own personal opinions of the man going into this film and to be honest, nothing has really changed having seen it except perhaps a little grudging respect that this most slippery of super-sharp, career politicians is and has been a master of what he has always done, putting a positive or at least palatable spin on the unpalatable; or should that be, making excuses for the inexcusable?

My own opinions aside (formed as much outside of Rumsfeld’s days as the Secretary of Defence  as within), how well does this ‘spotlight on one man’ documentary work as a film?

Well,  it’s cleverly put together in a mostly nonlinear fashion, using interview techniques that probe for answers without ever demanding them, instead attempting to allow Rumsfeld to fall into his own webs of spin, backed up by substantial film and television footage and indeed vast archives of memos and documents that Rumsfeld himself dictated over the entirety of his career. It’s an intriguing spectacle.

One shouldn’t fall into the trap of seeing this film as an attempt at one up-man-ship for the left over the right or Democrat over Republican in this case, for as Rumsfeld himself says (and I found myself in a rare moment of agreement), to loosely quote, “Barack Obama opposed every national security measure that George W Bush put in place in the wake of the Iraqi conflict, yet, to this day, not one of those policies has been overturned, so we must have been doing something right…”

Perhaps, or more likely it’s a prime example of both political sides being driven by one agenda politics, irrespective of what their illusory political leanings may appear to be.

That, I feel is far a far more likely scenario and maybe a lesson in there for those that choose to nit-pick at the minutiae of political policies ignoring the bigger and more obvious political picture.

Personally, I’d like to have seen some focus on the man’s heavy corporate, political leanings and affiliations; potentially as damning in many ways as the military-related subject matter, but maybe that’s for another day.

Not one to break any box office records this, but a fascinating glimpse nonetheless at a man who’s been up to his neck in the cloak and dagger, shady dealings of U.S and world politics for many a decade.

Draw your own conclusions. I have mine…

FILM REVIEW: ALL IS LOST

I, like many others, have always felt drawn to the ocean and perhaps that sways my opinion somewhat, but I doubt there will be a more engaging film this year.

‘Our man’ is the sole cast member, yet the end credits roll on forever which just goes to show you how difficult and involving it must have been to pull the intricacies of this film off convincingly, yet, Robert Redford plays his lone part imperiously throughout in this tale of nautical survival against the odds.

2013 was a fantastic year for film and 2014 is off to a cracking start*

*Yes I’m aware this was released on Boxing Day 2013. Details, details…!

FILM REVIEW: THE RAILWAY MAN

With 12 years a slave sold out and American Hussle just somehow not fitting the bill, ‘The Railway Man’ it was.

It’s decent. Strong performances across the board in a true story of war and redemption. It did feel somewhat swamped by an incessant film score and the plot did at times feel a little contrived and so I did have to remind myself that it was in fact based upon a true story (although clearly affected by A little bit of Hollywood licence, naturally!)

It certainly has its moments though, particularly a very emotionally charged ending.

All in all? Well worth a watch.

FILM REVIEW: BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR

Utterly, utterly magnificent.

It was a 2013 film and that makes it retrospectively my film of the year for 2013 displacing the truly amazing ‘The Act Of Killing’, but I saw it this year and that means I very much doubt anything will come close to it in 2014.

Lea Seydoux and particularly Adele Exarchopoulos are incredible in this, Abdellatif Kechiche’s masterpiece.

I have umpteen superlatives to gush, but I’ll spare you my ramblings, suffice as to say; this really is quite simply stunning ladies and gents.

FILM REVIEW: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Oh yes! Classic Scorcese. Fantastically entertaining, The Wolf of Wall Street really took me back to the evergreen ‘Goodfellas’ in its style and super slick direction. A fast paced, frenetic, white knuckle ride which never loses momentum and an anti-hero that you just can’t help siding with. Again, like Goodfellas, this is a film that won’t only stand up to repeat viewing but that positively demands it and I bet it won’t lose any of its appeal in doing so! Di Caprio is of course immense, as ever.

What more can you say?

Miss this, miss out!

FILM REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club

 

“That’s some toxic shit to put into your body… What a surprise, FDA approved”

I still remember vividly, as a kid, listening to the radio Luxembourg signal weave in and out, on a little transistor radio under my pillow and the very earliest news reports of ‘another man being diagnosed with AIDS,’ back when no one was truly aware of the widespread devastation it was going to cause. That and adverts for Cuticura, mildly medicated soap.

Seems a life time ago now, but the Dallas Buyers Club takes us back to those late 70s / early 80s days when HIV was a quick death sentence and the public’s media-fed fear was hysterical to say the least; anything but sympathetic and understanding.

Although not exactly loveable, McConnaughey’s character is a resilient and somewhat inspiring one in his battle to save both himself and others albeit helping himself, financially in the process. All this in spite of the ever politically motivated FDA. Some things never change there.

It’s excellently done and McConnaughey turns in another superb, star performance.

Quite a nostalgic one for me this and really highly recommended.

FILM REVIEW: HER

There were times whilst watching ‘Her’ that I was neither convinced by concept nor execution, but it’s a film which has been slowly evolving in my brain ever since and convincing me more and more that it’s actually a really clever piece of poignant film making. Perhaps it’s the subject matter, perhaps it’s the futuristic, contemporary backdrop; I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Then again, perhaps it’s the sincerity of the relationship played out, no matter how unbelievable at times, resonating on a deep level. ‘Her’ when you really sit down and think about it though, is a very excellent tale of true love and loss. Some will dismiss it out of hand and I can actually understand that, but it’s one which continues to live with me long after the final credits have rolled.