Monday, 18 April 2011

You Have 8 Sentences to Review This Film

... Mainly out of laziness, but there you go...

Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)

- Source Code is a spectacular blend of riveting action (hero has 8 minutes to prevent a catastrophic terrorist event); mind-bending intellectual sci-fi (he has to do this through the memory of a man who has already died, possessing his body); and heartwarming human experience (he falls for a girl on the train, makes desperate attempts to save fellow passengers, and to mend a trouble relationship with his father etc.). Okay that was a long sentence.

- This is one of the few films in recent years that we actually found too short, I would have watched another half hour I reckon.

- I am a huge fan of the sort of slow, twisting reveal that Jones pulls off in this film, in many ways it's more striking than the short-sharp-shock of a twist (favoured by Shyamalan, for example).

- I can't say any more about said twist without Spoilering all over this thing, but suffice to say the slow-burning, mounting sense that you can't presume anything you see is real is really nicely done.

- Performances here are uniformly excellent, Gyllenhaal and Farmiga especially.

- That's 'uniformly excellent' apart from Jeffrey Wright, who's slightly-too-pantomime Evil Genius jarred for me against the more genuine and believable personalities on show.

- No offense to Chris Bacon, but a Clint Mansell score would have been a thousand times better... then I'd have him score every film ever made if I could!

- Overall, just excellent - this isn't quite as 'WOW' as Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009), but Mr. Jones is certainly one to watch - I am excited.

The End.

Image from (with thanks)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

In the Town, Where I was Born...

... I love that song.

Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2011)

I had high expectations for this film, and I'm pleased to say I wasn't at all disappointed. A real comfy jumper of a movie, Submarine wraps you up in mundane familiarity (mundane meaning everyday, not boring), fills you with warm fuzzy feelings, and best of all, makes you laugh out loud. Or it did me, anyway.

I think we can expect great things from Mr. Ayoade. Comparisons with Wes Anderson are certainly apt. The slow pacing, the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, awkward people comedy, slow reveals, long establishing shots that allow the scenes to play out within them (wherein lies the comedy), the idiosyncratic 'weird' characters that feel so real because they are actually individuals and not archetypes. Nobody's perfect, and no one really knows what they're doing. Classic off-kilter comedy, and Ayoade delivers with panache. It's important to view Ayoade as a filmmaker in his own right as well, a mere Anderson imitation this is not, his work stands firmly on its own feet, and is as quintessentially British as Anderson's is American.

I won't spend time (as I never do) giving a plot synopsis, there are a thousand reviews you can read that will do this, so I won't bother! Let's move straight on... Visually, this film is charming, opening with a series of lingering landscape shots, obviously Welsh, a combination of rolling hillsides and grey industrialism. The gorgeous soft lighting instills even the harshest of landscapes with a strange sort of beauty. Soundtrack-wise, this is another one of those too-cool-for-school films (think Juno, Garden State et al), and so yes, I will probably buy the CD.

Submarine has something of the student film about it, and that is not a detrimental comment in the slightest. What I mean here is that Ayoade has succeeded in making a film that I as a film-student would have wanted to make. Of course, I couldn't have done so in a million years, but this, in essence, is what we were striving for on those rainy shoots and Red Bull-fueled editing all-nighters. This film has a massive heart. It's about things that matter; people, relationships, identity, without it being some Loachian woe-is-everyone tear wringer. No showing off either... the closest Submarine gets to SFX is a the occasional shot of a bin on fire.

As a character, our hero Oliver Tate (almost an anti-hero, but not quite), is caught constantly between a sort of try-hard nihilism "I don't believe in scenery" and a try-even-harder heart-on-sleeve romanticism, in everything he does. He is in desperate pursuit of a certain kind of cool, as he points out in his own voiceover, seeking the sort of enigmatic allure achieved only by penniless bohemian artistes, who are probably French... quote "It might be something of an affectation, but I have taken to reading the dictionary."... you get the idea. And we've probably all been there. I will own up, there's a certain part of me that always wanted to be the pale interesting girl in the corner, reading something intellectual . Unfortunately, I've just got too big a mouth on me for that dream ever to be realised.

Deep down, Oliver Tate is boy who just wants everything to be right in the world. He seeks a sort of filmic perfection in everything. Raised on Hollywood guff as we all were, he sees the early days of his romance in blissful super8, almost whilst said days are still happening - a eulogy of the present almost. In the same way, he misguidedly seeks to save his parents ailing marriage by spying, falsifying love letters, and more obtusely, urinating on the possessions of the man who seeks to steal his mother's heart.

The supporting performances here are excellent. Oliver's parents, played to perfection by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor are a vision of endearing, quiet dysfunctionality. Paddy Considine is a joy as the bonkers new age neighbour (possible pervert), giving off a similar vibe to Swayze's motivational speaker in Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001), but with healthy comic twist.

To sum up, Submarine is fabulous. In many ways a love letter to cinema itself, full of reverence and references. I kept expecting a freeze frame on the beach a la 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959). There's a bit of a Cahier du Cinema vibe throughout actually, in the self-awareness, soft visuals, stark title displays and the joy the film takes in the beauty of small things and small moments. I'm slightly surprised this didn't end with a great big Godard-esque "FIN", or might that be something of an affectation?

Images from :;; and - with thanks.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Regular Programming will resume after this short announcement from our sponsor

I'm very wary of this accidentally becoming a lifestyle blog, so posts like this will be rare, but I just wanted to present my genuine excuses for watching not one film this weekend, and therefore having nothing even slightly filmic to blog about. So, instead of watching films...

I've been doing quite a lot of this:

A little bit of this:

Fair amount of this:

Visiting and planning for these guys:

And some, but nowhere near enough of this:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Smack My B*tch Up

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)

Up until this week I had studiously avoided all incarnations of this series. I have not read the books because, being the contrary mite that I am, I do not like to be seen to be reading something that everyone else is reading. Yes, I know at my age that's ridiculous, but I can't seem to shake it. I think for me the problem is, as a reader (and by that I mean someone who has ALWAYS had at least one book on the go since I was about 5 years old, someone that takes reading seriously, someone who finds refuge in books)... that if I read 'that book' that everyone is reading, whatever it may be, then somehow I become one of the non-readers... you know, people who read books once a year because R&J told them to. I know how palpably insane this is, but I'm just being honest.

So I still haven't read the books, but after seeing this film, I just might. After getting over my initial indignant rage at the option on the DVD menu to have the film dubbed instead of sub-titled with the original Swedish dialogue (the sacrilege!); I then discovered that eating gnocchi and salad whilst reading subtitles can be quite messy. Oh well. After ALL of that, I proceeded to get utterly sucked into this film. I really really enjoyed it. Well enjoyed is a difficult word for a film filled with lots of rape and murder, but enjoy it I did, nonetheless.

It's not a genre I'm well-versed in, but I think I can say with some confidence that Tattoo didn't stray too far from the key tenets of the genre, which I'm identifying as a sort of grimy thriller. Thriller is a apt word here, as thrilling is exactly what it was, this film drags you along like a roller coaster. One thing to point out, this isn't for the faint-hearted, for a non-niche film it's very dark. A lot of incredibly violent scenes that it doesn't cut away from, keeping everything visceral and up-close. It's rather curious to see how differently you respond as a viewer to these sorts of scenes, depending on who is perpetrating the crime, and who is the victim. I'd be interested to know if anyone else openly applauded the revenge-abuse scene, I didn't think I was so 'eye-for-an-eye' about things, but clearly I'm more of a psycho than I thought.

Also worthy of note are the excellent visuals in this film, the overall pallet is stark, almost chiaroscuro. The landscapes, which are so much a part of the story, are beautifully shot. A telling contrast between the grimy, grey cityscapes, all sickly unnatural light and dim corners; and then the harsher bright-white-snow and dark woods-and-water of the island scenes. The investigation at the heart of the story takes our leads to the almost-wilderness of an isolated, snow-covered island, where the stunning, primal scenery reveals the long-hidden truth of heinous, primal crimes.

I have suffered from a lifelong romanticisation of all Northern European places, all that snow and forest, I'm just in love with the landscape, and anywhere that looks like that has to be a lovely place right? WRONG - according to this film at least, this has put me off Sweden for life. Furthermore, if the 'world' of this film is to be believed, almost all men are vicious, sadistic bastards. Which is a shame, coz I used to like boys. Now I'm just scared of them.

So, this film disturbed me and I disturbed myself, but it's incredibly well made and definitely worth a watch. I'd recommend watching it on your own though, this sort of horrible stuff is harder to stomach if there's more than one of you in the room, I find!

Image from - with thanks.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Who are you wearing?

Just watched the Red Carpet Live from the Oscars, channel hoping between Sky Living (lots of people who aren't even there, talking about the nominations - boring) and E! News, which wins hands-down for interview face-time, which is surely what we're watching for!

Seeing as you can ONLY watch the actual ceremony on the Sky movie channels (and NOwhere online unless you're in the US - a conspiracy much?!), I'll have to wait for any actual news worth commenting on.

Red carpet-wise though, I can say that I LOVE Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman. Most annoying - Celine Dion and Steven Spielberg's incredibly-teenage teenage daughter!

I might have to bail and go to bed. Reading the live blog on the Empire website isn't quite going to cut it on keeping me awake. Plus Monday is meetings day at work, have to present some semblance of being awake for that!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

My New Favourite Horse

This is my new favourite horse. His name is Maximus. So, clearly we went to see Disney's new Tangled this week. Aside from the fact that I still HATE 3D (waste. of. time.), I loved this film! I'm delighted to say that the boyfriend loved it too, it was even his idea to see it, which was weird. Our mutual joy in this film was mainly based on our mutual love of this horse and the chameleon as well (his pic is at the bottom, so he doesn't feel left out).

As you can tell from the marketing, this film is essentially a re-telling of the tale of Rapunzel, still in the classic medieval-ish setting, but something of a 'modern take' if only in the dialogue and sheer amount of sarcasm and 'spunk' (oh grow up) exhibited by the characters. The plot itself is nothing profound, in fact it's profoundly simple, and therein lies its pleasure. Not being distracted by complex plotting and clever references (sorry Pixar), means one is really free to enjoy the sheer beauty of the animation here, and it's gorgeous. Not for years have I had an experience this close to the childhood joy of old-school Disney classics. We were even treated to that Disney-est of pleasures, the telling of the story through catchy songs. Oh, cheesy as hell, don't get me wrong, but brilliant all the same. A scene where a multitude of lit paper lanterns take to the sky around the fairytale castle, and reflected in the surrounding lake was so divine to watch it literally had me in tears. Which was tricky whilst wearing 3d glasses over my normal glasses.

Better than all of that visual sumptuousness was the comedy in this film. It was really REALLY funny. I mean proper laugh out loud funny, I think I had a stitch at one point. And 90% of that humor was down to good ole Maximus the Horse, and the Chameleon guy (if he had a name, I don't remember it)... they were Legends of the first order. The sheer amount of personality the animators have put into these animal characters with no dialogue is astounding. I can't say much about it without ruining it for you, but if you don't laugh at these guys until you're nearly sick, then someone stole your funny-bone. Here's a taster actually, that's probably best.

So in short, this gets a big thumbs up from me. If you're too much of a (boring) grown-up to take pleasure in traditional Disney fare, then give this one a miss. But if you're up for a dose of child-like joy, get on down to the cinema.
Images from - thanks.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

All work...

Unfortunately, this image does not mean I've been watching The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980). It's a comment on how interesting my week as been, i.e. not very. I've not watched a single film, hardly read anything, though we did cave on the money-saving and go out for a lovely dinner last night, so that's good. Hoping to rectify the lack of film-viewing asap. And OMG I just remembered I got The Shining for Christmas. Score! That's first on the list.

Image from (with thanks)