Top 10 Scenes of 2011

18 Mar

Sure, there has been a lot of absolute rubbish from this year, but 2011 still churned out some really great films.  Recently, I added up all the films I have seen this year which came to about 150.  Rather than name the Top 10, I thought it might be nice to look at those moments that really defined the year, the ones that made us laugh, tear up, sit in shock, retreat in fright or just appreciate a damn fine moment.

1. Caesar says NOOOOOOOOO – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The real surprise hit of the summer and deservedly so, the Apes rose and had our full support.  With a heightened intelligence and living life like a human, Caesar is imprisoned following an attack on a neighbour while protecting his guardian. During his incarceration, he begins his rebellion with this defining moment,  a nod to the old Apes series and a guaranteed take notice moment.

2. THAT Elevator Scene – Drive

Did that just happen? A scene of complete opposites. Enough said.

3. I AM the context – We Need to Talk about Kevin

Everything worked about this film, but this?  This is probably one of the greatest lines ever.  Floored me, literally floored me.

4. The Fitting Scene – Black Swan

I saw Black Swan at 10am the morning after a staff party… that had a free bar… without having had a day off for nearly 3 weeks. This moment ensured Black Swan crossed from serious drama to all-out horror.

5. He’s back on the wagon – Warrior

Near to impossible to find clips online but Warrior, probably the greatest fight film since Rocky gave us some of the most tender and emotional scenes of this year.  There is only a glimpse of it in the trailer but when Hardy’s character comes home during the tournament he finds his Dad back on the wagon and more than a little upset.  If you don’t sob, you have a heart of stone. Stone! Here’s what happens before the event…

6. “I thought only black lads were drug dealers…” – The Guard

If you don’t know this clip, clearly you have been in the jungle for the last year. GALWAY.

7. No no really, that planet is still REALLY close…  – Melancholia

Ah, the calm before the actual storm. That earth-ending storm. Take your pick, Melancholia was filled with noteworthy movie moments.  This was one…

8. THAT kitchen scene – The Ides of March

If you have seen it, you will know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, I refuse to ruin the entire film by showing it to you.  Meyers (Gosling) and Morris (Clooney) face off in a deserted kitchen… With two Hollywood heavyweights, this is probably one of the most intense scenes to hit the big screen.  They sizzle.  Watch it…

9.  An apple a day… – Fright Night

The Farreller makes a good vampire eh?

10. “I’m not even confident which end that came out of” – Bridesmaids

Everyone’s seen it… Genius.

Cinema Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

7 Jan

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Robert Downey Jnr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Noomi Rapace.

 Image

Guy Ritchie is probably one of the most successful British directors working at the moment, Snatch has become a cult hit, not least for that Brad Pitt performance and RocknRolla, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated films from the last ten years.  His films aim to be British in tone and yet he still manages to appeal to a mass audience, despite his involvement with a certain 80’s icon who is now convinced she can direct.  Fight scenes and shoot outs are shot beautifully, his characters are intriguing and the script moves at rapid pace demanding your full attention.  In fact, it’s beyond my understanding how he has not made that one great film yet.  The problem seems to be that Ritchie can never get it completely right.  Someone lately described him to me as the “ruination of British cinema.”  Recently when the success of the first instalment of Sherlock Holmes demanded a sequel, his approach to filmmaking appeared to change.  For me, this could have been anyone’s project.  The raw edge and grittiness displayed in his previous work, although not fine tuned, was all but lost within Sherlock, but there are hints of the old director within the fight scenes that astonishingly involve Holmes (did he not sit beside a fire mostly, no?)  What did work in his favour was his casting, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law work amazingly well together and McAdams was reasonably infuriating.  Unfortunately, that’s where my interest in Sherlock ended.

 

     Then along came A Game of Shadows, the sequel to the 2008 success.  We rejoin Holmes prior to Watson’s impending marriage nuptials, attempting to solve another case, displaying a similar type a fanaticism we have become accustomed to since his first outing.  Holmes has become convinced that there is more to a series of bombings that have created heightened tension across Europe than what meets the eye.  However, he is temporarily distracted by his duties as best man and a rendezvous with his brother, played by the wonderful Stephen Fry.  At the party, a brief encounter with a fortune teller named Simza (Rapace) forces his further examination of his case.  Holmes believes his infamous enemy Moriarty is somehow responsible.  Following Watson’s wedding, he confronts the learned college Professor only to discover that Watson’s life is in danger.  Holmes follows Watson who promises he will help him on one last mission, find Moriarty’s involvement and prevent the world from war.  As Holmes himself would say, “No pressure.”

 

 Recognising the fact that they have clearly been on to a good formula with the Watson/Holmes over and back, Ritchie and his scriptwriters have turned this tension up to 11.  One particular scene involves Holmes dressed as a woman where he asks Watson casually to lie down beside him, and yet this is always presented tongue in cheek.  Law is not nearly as offensive as he usually is and Downy Jr., as per usual, plays off the witty hero exquisitely.  Unfortunately, Holmes seems to have become some sort of a superhero and not the revered Scotland Yard detective portrayal we have become accustomed to; he only seems to be missing a cape.  These two concepts never marry well for a character that is particularly well known to several different audiences.  On top of that, the entire piece is far too long, so much so that you would tempted to throw a few more “A”’s into the word far.  There is at least twenty minutes of the plot that could have been easily shaved off and perhaps even some of the plot twists.  If these intend on throwing you off, they merely succeed on throwing you into a nap.  There is literally no explanation for a film being over 100 minutes unless it is some sort of epic on a grand scale, say like Gone with the Wind.  The sets are even more magnificent than in the first film, as are the costumes and the crew have done a marvellous job of recreating London of a bygone era.

 

Will audiences still enjoy it?  Most certainly.  Plan on a bit of a wander about 40 minutes in and you should be delighted with the finished product.

 

On another note, I was forced to re-watch the first film as I had forgotten most of it.  This is never a good sign.

Anonymous

16 Nov

 

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall, Joely Richardson

 

The Elizabethan era has always held a certain sway with the viewing public and over the years we have seen dramatisations of not only the great Queen’s life but those of her courtiers.  Elizabeth’s life has always presented mysteries.  Why did she not marry?  Why not name an heir?  Who were her lovers?  Most particularly, was she really the “Virgin Queen”?  Noted historians like David Starkey have argued that Elizabeth was in fact the Virgin Queen while others present theories that Elizabeth may have even had children.  Another of the mysteries of the era involves William Shakespeare.  Despite being one of the most recognisable names in literature worldwide, little is known of Shakespeare’s private life, it has even proved difficult to date some of his plays.

 

With this in mind, John Orloff brought a script to the attention of Roland Emmerich concerning both of the mysteries above.  The script had been in existence since just before the time of Shakespeare in Love but was shelved shortly after the project became successful.  Orloff and Emmerich sought to argue that Shakespeare had become a front-man for a nobleman within Elizabeth’s court, who had in fact penned all of the infamous plays.  Although the theory exists concerning others in the court, here they suggest that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was actually responsible for them but due to his position was unable to sign his name to the texts, instead employing Ben Johnson to stage the plays under “Anonymous.”  Shakespeare is proposed as an opportunist actor with very little going on upstairs who reaps the benefits of being associated with the greatest plays ever written.  De Vere, on the other hand, despite being banned from court, has much more of an involvement with the Queen than is initially realised, which comes as a shock to both him and the “Virgin Queen.”

 

That is my very best attempt to summarise what is a very long and meandering plot and this is the main problem with Anonymous, it is far too long.  There was a point during this screening where not only did the audience not care who Shakespeare was, they didn’t care what happened to him either.  An initial outline of a concentrated plot split off in several directions with too many characters involved and in fact, too many characters.  Emmerich really needed to decide here whether he was in fact making a Shakespeare film or an Elizabethan film.  Of course, the two become intertwined, as does de Vere and Elizabeth’s relationship but Emmerich includes too much over 130 minutes, yes ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY MINUTES of screen time.  This is an issue with me and has been for a very long time, unless you can keep the audience engaged for over two hours with enough plot turns and amazing performances, 120 minutes is far too long for ANY film.  The performances are good; Ifans is pleasantly surprising and almost unrecognisable as de Vere.  Casting Richardson and Redgrave as mother and daughter was a genius notion and both give wonderful turns as the younger and older Elizabeth but it was upsetting to see one of the most influential females of all time being led astray by love and her advisors.  This was most certainly not the case.  However, Rafe Spall stole the show.  Although there was something jarring about Shakespeare being presented as an idiot, Spall was involving and entertaining, even if he did disappear off-screen for about thirty minutes.

 

An interesting theory, despite being wildly historically inaccurate, but far, far too long…

 

The Ides of March

16 Nov

Director: George Clooney

Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei

 

“Beware, the Ides of March…”

 

Everyone wrote George Clooney off.  He was the pretty boy doctor from E.R. who attempted to make a transition from the small screen to the big screen, which is no mean feat.  Dozens of other actors have failed at this, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, Neve Campbell etc etc.  Sure, they have made money, some have even starred in box office hits, but have they made significant contributions to the silver screen? Hardly.  It seemed for a time that Clooney could have fallen into this bracket; One Fine Day is a nice film, but does anyone want their film described as nice? Then came the slew of consistent and strong films like Three Kings, The Perfect Storm but none were exactly life altering.  Then Clooney directed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and suddenly people sat up and thought “he directed that?” Is he not just a pretty face?

 

Clooney really is not just a pretty face, over the years he has managed to churn out some of the more finely crafted dramas to the big screen, in particular Good Night and Good Luck.  The Ides of March follows the same vein of not just a political examination but human reaction to events.  Based on the play by Farragut North by Willimon (who also takes a script credit here), The Ides of March follows a young Junior Campaign Manager, Stephen Myers (Gosling), who works for Mike Morris, the new shining hopeful for the Presidency.  Stephen has dedicated his entire existence to the campaign, believing that Morris is not just a client, but will make a difference to people’s lives.  However, the world of politics is never as straight-laced as it may seem and following a chain of events, Stephen makes a series of plays and decisions that will change the course of not only his career, but his life and others around him.

 

This may seem like a really short synopsis but part of the beauty of The Ides of March is that they do not give away the entire plot in the trailer!  Some critics have commented that Ides has become almost an antidote to the 2012 election but the point is it exists, and it’s not a sweet, endearing tale.  It is down and dirty, questioning morals, motivations and an innocence that is almost devoured by all that encounter it.  Stephen goes through a fundamental change.  He becomes less about the public, more about the personal and unfortunately, at the expense of nearly everyone he encounters.  Gosling is tremendous as per usual; you can almost witness the light go out in his eyes.  Clooney is note perfect as Morris, exuding a charm, confidence and control that most would require from a Presidential candidate.  It helps that his principles are for the most part intact, at least what we witness initially and he doesn’t look so bad on a poster.  The pair are backed up by a noteworthy support cast, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood, some of the finest actors working at the moment.  What is most important about Ides is that it is hugely enjoyable; it moves fast, leaves you second-guessing constantly and will confirm the notion that nothing is pure in this world.  What I mean by the importance of it existing is that all a tale like this has to do is make you question the norm.  It does not need to reveal some hidden truth, it simply needs to make you question the way things operate, which is probably the reason it will be eaten alive by the Academy.  Gosling’s character confirms that in order for him to do something, he must believe in it, the question Ides presents is: can you truly believe in anything…or anyone?

The Rum Diary

16 Nov

Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard

Director: Bruce Robinson

 

You would be forgiven for thinking that you considered Johnny Depp a great actor and that you really liked his volume of work.  Let us leave out Pirates of the Caribbean here, except perhaps the first, and reflect on his career.  Women love him, men don’t hate him and so far he has managed to get away with the quirky Tim Burton-esque type of insanity.  However, scrape away at that surface and you will notice that Depp has not really delivered a serious or challenging performance in years.  Even those that you may consider wonderful films like Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have never really required him to do anything more than act like he may need counselling.  GQ recently named Depp as, and I quote, “the finest cinema actor of his era – or any other” which basically just suggests to me that they have not watched one single other film.  Depp is almost like an American version of Hugh Grant – charming, awkward, delivers what is expected but a great actor?  Questionable.

 

This brings us to the matter of The Rum Diary.  Based on the Hunter S. Thompson book of the same name, the film follows Paul Kemp (Depp) through the highs and lows of his life in Puerto Rico where he has settled after his departure from New York.  Kemp secures a job at The San Juan Star but is entirely unable to give up his bad habits, namely rum and a beautiful woman named Chenault (Heard).  Chenault is conveniently residing with Sanderson, a businessman who approaches Kemp and requests him to write about certain areas of the island in order that he and his associates may invest, pave paradise and put up a parking lot.  Kemp has a crisis of conscience and takes stock of his life in the midst of those who are determined to destroy theirs.

 

The last Thompson project Depp was involved in was the wonderful Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Regardless of whether you have done drugs or not, Fear gave you the sense that you were in fact, out of your mind watching the film.  This worked purely because of the subject matter and although Thompson’s books are known to ramble off, meandering plot points are the massive downfall of The Rum Diary.  Usually a reviewer will attempt to be as objective as possible, however this was nearly impossible in this case.  Not only was it difficult to identify or even like any of the characters, at times you are unable to follow the train of thought.  Depp is not engaging enough to hold the attention of the audience and Eckhart, one of the finest actors working at the moment, was clearly not finding it easy to play his evil businessman stereotype to Depp’s less Captain Jack Sparrow drunk.  Heard is stunning as Chenault but she does not have much to do either and the only scene which will gather a giggle is the stolen car.

 

We understand what you were trying to do here, Johnny.  There clearly needed to be as much distance as possible between Pirates of the Caribbean and any role, but this?  Only for true diehard Thompson and Depp fans.  You have been warned!

 

The Awakening

16 Nov

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

Director: Nick Murphy

Horror is going through a crisis.  Critics can say what they like and I have known some of the finest to say that there is always something interesting happening in horror but interesting is never enough.  Imagine being in the audience at some of the first screenings of The Exorcist!  There was terror like you had never witnessed it before.  Now people are all too accustomed to the jumps.  Wait, she’s going to look through a keyhole when you KNOW that she’s not going to just look through the keyhole and think, wow nothing there, back to bed.  Horrors don’t work like that.  The suspense is almost built on knowing what is on the other side of that keyhole.  It can almost be likened to watching toast in a toaster; you know that the bread is going to be spit out but if you stare at it for long enough you will still jump out of your skin when it finishes.  Some decided gore was an option, others remakes, then there were sequels and then a complete 360 to old school horror.  People still attend and buy tickets in their droves, but are horrors scary enough anymore?

The Awakening attempts in some ways to address the problems of the genre.  Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a ghost hunter in the 1920’s whose career overshadows the personal losses in her life.  Florence is approached by Robert Mallory, a teacher at a boarding school outside London who is concerned about some of the children who claim they have seen a child ghost.  Florence agrees to come to the boarding school under her own pretence that she is to prove the children wrong.  However, Mallory believes the genuine fear in the school and aims to convince Florence that ghosts really do exists.  Following a couple of nights in the school and beginning to doubt some of her own beliefs, she remains there in the hope that she may solve what is going on, not only for the children but for herself.

Although Murphy seems to be addressing some of the problems with horror, this was in fact, never his intention.  He has claimed on more than one occasion that he sees The Awakening as a thriller, at times even a drama and there is certainly more in the back story than most of the studio horrors being churned out of Hollywood recently.  The locations are truly beautiful and the house is both eerie and austere while set on stunning grounds only lending to the intensity of the film.  The performances are passionate, particularly from Hall who lends her heart and soul to this film, and Staunton, who as always is completely dependable.  Besides this, The Awakening will make you jump on a couple of occasions but unfortunately, is nothing we have not really seen before, almost becoming a mash up of The Others and the wonderfully amazing The Orphanage.

The Oscar Predictions 2012…. Best Film.

20 Oct

The Oscars: Best Film Prediction*

Each and every year for as long as I can remember, I have sat up to ungodly hours of the morning watching the Oscar ceremony.  I can’t explain what this means to a film reviewer, it’s basically like our Christmas.  As you are no doubt aware, Christmas gave you that warm, fuzzy feeling for weeks in advance and a lack of sleep, with a minor development of exhaustion, waiting for Santa.  However, also like Christmas, you will eventually realise it is a massive fraud where you have been lied to consistently for years in order to keep you blind to the reality that nothing in this world is pure.  You will continue to play along because there is always younger people concerned and you are so desperate to hold on to those nostalgic feelings, you will try convince yourself of anything, including a deer with a fucking red nose.   Slightly dramatic you may say, but a film reviewer’s attitude to the Oscars will dramatically alter when you realise it’s not the best performance or the best script or the best direction.  It is, in fact, who has slept with who, who has paid who and inevitably, how many years have you been labouring away in the nomination playground.  Alright Scorsese, you have only produced masterpieces, none that are akin to anything Kevin Costner would direct, but since you’ve been bloody annoying us for so long, we’ll give you a push on the swings.  (Goodfellas not winning the Oscar was a defining moment in my relationship with the Academy Awards).

Anyway, with all this in mind, I give you my 2012 Oscar predictions over a series of blogs.  Now, I more than realise this is months in advance of the night but this is to prove how predictable the whole fiasco has become in recent years.  Will Ryan Gosling get the Oscar? Nope.  He will get a nomination but it’s not in their interests to have someone like Gosling swanning around with an Academy Award under his belt, or blood-stained white jacket.  He’s far too GOOD for all that.

 

Best Film

The Tree of Life (arty Malick, check nomination)

The Help (Atonement for a lot of shit things America has been responsible for)

War Horse (It’s Spielberg, he probably rang to say he would win the category)

Moneyball (did you not get that memo 3 years ago? We’re taking Pitt seriously now)

The Ides of March (Other memo, as of 2002, we worship at the altar of Clooney)

The Iron Lady (OH MY GOD, did we not nominate Meryl this year?????)

Hugo Cabret (Dear Mr. Scorsese, we are sorry for our sins)

My Week with Marilyn (We have been really unkind to Michelle Williams…..and Marilyn Monroe)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher: What the fuck do I have to do to get an Oscar?)

Token Indie Flick that has not got a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this round.

I’ve left out Tinker Tailor (they’ll lap it up in performances), The Artist (is Meryl in it?) The Descendants (sure, we’ll throw George a bone somewhere) Drive, (did he just kick that guy’s head in?????) and Midnight in Paris (who the FUCK does Allen think he is, writing a good film???)

 

And the Oscar goes to….

Actually a tough call, but one thing is for sure, Fincher could do a strip tease on stage with the words “I LOVE THE ACADEMY” tattooed on his ass and they still wouldn’t give it to him.  Maybe, just maybe, they may feel shamed enough to actually hand it over, but I still think this is doubtful.

Clooney’s Ides would be an obvious pick, but there’s nothing the American public hate more than an attack on the Presidency.  Clooney’s Ides may be fantastic, but guaranteed it will hit a nerve.

The Help will pull a lot of Oscar nominations on performances and it is the sort of film that the Academy will lap up, but it won’t pick up the Best Picture.

Rule out My Week with Marilyn, Iron Lady, War Horse, Moneyball, Hugo Cabret and the random indie flick lottery.  They won’t have the UMPH associated with that Oscar winner.  The King’s Speech triumphed last year and although the performances were excellent, as was the script, The Social Network was an infinitely better film, for thousands of reasons…

And that leaves The Tree of Life……. And they do love Malick….

* If you lose a lot of money in Paddy Power because of this article, remember sarcasm has got me this far…..