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All reviews - Movies (60) - TV Shows (2) - Games (7)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 20 December 2010 11:47 (A review of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)

I'm a man's man, and it takes something really exceptional to break my emotionless machine persona. This film ripped me apart and reminded me (and my partner) of humanity inside even the most hardened man.

Perfectly weighted film in every way, from pace to acting and all framed with a wonderful score. The subtlety of the looks passing between the actors and a finale that ensured silence until the final credit rolled, makes this one of the best films i've seen in a long time.


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The Reader review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 20 December 2010 11:42 (A review of The Reader)

The film is a series of profound moral dilemmas—while contrived by the author, they are fair questions—that resonate deeply in the 21st Century: The role of guilt in victims, perpetrators, individuals and collectively, as well as justice, forgiveness, redemption, shame and, of course, literacy and its role in Western thought.

All this is a pretty heady mix for a film, but Stephen Daldry (as with "The Hours" ) makes literary conceit play very naturally here. David Hare's screenplay and the remarkable cinematography of the always remarkable Roger Deakins together with a sensitive score by Nico Muhly, this is indeed rarefied film-making.

But the actors are what drag the audience into this story. David Kross is amazing as the young Michael who has to play a range of virginal innocent to wizened and bitter. It's the key role in the film, and we're all lucky he was found to play this role. And the ever confounding Kate Winslet. What an amazing career for this young actress! Running through a list of her credits, she has some of the best performances of the last decade: "Holy Smoke," "Eternal Sunshine…," "Iris," "Finding Neverland," "Little Children." But here she does something very different. Playing what amounts to a monster, we see that they too are human. Not many actresses could bring this off, but it may be her greatest accomplishment to date.

Ralph Fiennes brings a continuity to the work David Kross begins, and there's a brief appearance by Lena Olin who commands the dignity the role deserves.

I'm puzzled at the lukewarm reception to this film. I almost missed seeing it. And it turned out to be one of my favorite and the most heart-rending films of the year. All involved should be very proud.


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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:21 (A review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Michel Gondry, credited as the director and co-writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is only partly responsible for the success that the film achieves. He implements a awe-inspiring blend of style to a story that is perfectly non-linear. But then there is also the madman genius of the current screen writing plane- Charlie Kaufman- who has written three of the most ingenious, funny, and human of "little" Hollywood movies (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). He understands, and perhaps likely experienced to a degree, what a relationship holds to- the truth, to understanding, and then when it ends, how out memory changes the relationship. Enter in the concept that makes 'Eternal Sunshine' something of a un-official science fiction film - the Lacuna corporation, led by Tom Wilkinson's character, can erase just one person out of your memory, all of the experiences that you and the significant other had. So, when Joel (Jim Carrey) goes in to erase his memory of Clementine (Kate Winslet) after finding out she did just the same, he enters into a mind-warp. He goes through memories they had, happy ones, sad ones, some that are just what makes up what you have emotionally with the one you've loved. And sometimes, and to the behest of the assistants of Lacuna (Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo), Joel doesn't want them all to be erased.

As I mentioned, the plot is non-linear, which could've gone the wrong way if not done with skill. With a film like 21 Grams, which has a talented director and cast, the non-linear structure isn't necessary. But it's an asset that the story doesn't start from A to Z. To assist Gondry with this, he has the extraordinary Ellen Kuras as DP and Valdís Óskarsdóttir, an editor from Iceland. Their collaboration is crucial with Gondry and Kaufman (and co-writer Pierre Bismuth), as they bring all of these un-real images a real quality. Quite simply, there isn't a finer example of surrealism crossbred with realism in any other American film so far this year. The usage of lights, cuts, and with the kinds of special effects not expected (i.e. no CGI), add to the effect it has on a viewer. That the characters of Joel and Clementine are as enveloping as they are is also a credit to Kaufman.

But then there's one more part that completes the success of the film - the acting. Jim Carrey, very simply, is at his very best. He finds a balance from certain scenes in being like people we see everyday, feeling low, not much of interest, inward. And then when the memory erases begin, we get to see him act funny, but not like the kind of humor he brought with Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber. This is Carrey knowing this character just well enough to play off his counterpart, played by Winslet. She, meanwhile, is perhaps at her best. Her character is eccentric, funny, insightful, and wanting. She pulls it off. As do the supporting actors.

There's not much more I can say about this film, except to say that even after seeing it three times, I feel like I could watch it over and over and see a new shot, a new sequence, and new set of emotions tied to things. It's very likely one of the great romantic comedies of the decade.


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Gran Torino review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:19 (A review of Gran Torino)

As Clint Eastwood reaches the end of his life, he presents us with yet another performance which is nothing short of legendary. Wishing to preserve the element of surprise, I will not reveal anything by trying to analyse this great work of art.

I will say this. There are similar qualities to his previous work, but I would say that both his directing and acting have reached a level of maturity comparable to that of an excellent wine. The story was compelling and, mixed with the drama was a refined touch of humour; the perfect combination for a pleasant evening.

I would like to finish by thanking Mr. Eastwood for sharing this touching moment with his audience at a time when most of the cinematic "art" produced in Hollywood consists of stunts and bad jokes.


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Forrest Gump review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:17 (A review of Forrest Gump)

This is a powerful yet charming movie; fun for its special effects and profound in how it keeps you thinking long after it's over. Like others, I've seen this movie more than once. One comment I've never heard is that Forrest's simplicity is almost zen-like. I should read the novel to get the author's intention (I remember some people preferring the book and complaining that no one at the Academy Awards gave him any credit.) But rather than an implication that you should do what you're supposed to do and believe in God and you'll win in the end, I see it as zen-like, i.e., living in the moment and not having expectations or particular cravings (other than his loving Jenny.) So he ends up just stumbling into all the major historical events of the time. Granted, he achieves this only because he doesn't have the brains to think otherwise and actually have expectations, but so many of our problems are because we do have higher intellect and desires, which ironically makes us unhappy because we know what we are missing. We love our cats and dogs for the same simplicity and always being in the moment. There's a line in the movie wondering if everything is predestined or happens randomly or it's a combination of both. It is something to mull over for a long time.


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Star Trek review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:16 (A review of Star Trek)

So I managed to go to the world premiere at the Sydney opera house last night. While I will not ruin the film before its release by delivering a shot by shot review here I will say that JJ Abrams is quite possibly the smartest film maker on the planet. Managing to poke fun at some of the sillier aspects of the original series/movies while still being completely respectful, action scenes that easily rival anything in Transformers, and space battles that are breathtaking. Now let me just say that while I do consider myself a big fan of Trek in all its forms, i don't have a uniform hanging in my wardrobe and I cant speak Klingon, but having said that I will say the movie is F###ING AMAZING...!!! Honestly, incredible film, do yourself a favour and see it as soon as it comes out


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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:15 (A review of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

It seems ridiculous to want to add my own comments to a slew of others that are already in IMDB's records, but I feel like I cannot sleep nor cease the throbbing in my chest until I release some of what I have so recently seen.

Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is one of the bravest projects ever attempted by a filmmaker. Mr Jackson deserves every ovation he will receive, every award, every bit of the praise and adoration that will be spoken and written.

This second installment of the story is a masterpiece in every sense, forget your prejudices about the books, they are another way of looking at this beautiful story (I know this is slightly against the rules, but a I cannot resist saying that a previous writers comment - a comment that compared the Lord of the Rings Films and Books to the difference between Romeo and Juliet in screenplay and ballet formats - was entirely accurate).

Gollum was an excellent amalgam, so easily could he have been an annoying Jar-Jar-Binks-Alike. Instead the way that Jackson and Serkis (and doubtless many many others) chose to portray the CGI incarnation of "Smeagol" was incredibly emotive and powerful. Gollum is profoundly disturbing, amusing, almost lovable... Not even John Ronald Reuel himself could induce that range of emotions for Smeagol in me...

A truly skin-crawling performance by a superb Brad Douris as the evil Grima Wormtongue was just beyond words. Douris _Became_ Wormtongue in a skillful fulfillment of what was already inspired casting.

Probably the most definitive casting of this film though was Manchester born Bernard Hill as Theoden, King of Rohan. The casting for "The Two Towers" makes one shake ones head and wonder, in retrospect, whether anyone else could have filled these roles. Mr Hill's performance was truly first rate, a performance which contributed greatly to "The Battle of Helms Deep", scenes which were a spinning tornado of emotions for the viewer.

Viggo Mortensen goes from strength to strength. His performance is visceral and yet sensitive. The overriding emotion that Tolkiens vision of Aragorn induced (at least for me) was awe at his heroics. Mortensen's portrayal in Jackson's frame brings new aspects to the Aragorn character. Mortensen's Aragorn is emotionally dextrous to go with his physical dexterity, he is sensitive, seemingly empathic, warmer and more fundamentally human, and yet super-human in presence and charisma. "Definitive" is not strong enough of a word.

If you still view Jackson's epic with scepticism I implore you to put down your preconceptions and your prejudices, but most of all put down the books... This is beautiful way to see middle earth, don't pass it up - The books are the ultimate fantasy epic - the pictures you draw in your head are better than anything you can imagine, but The Lord of the Rings "The Two Towers" is one wonderful interpretation of that epic story.


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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:13 (A review of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

I am, I admit, an unlikely convert to the religion of Tolkienism. I have never read the books, having, I thought, been put off them for life by the sort of obsessive freaks who read them when I was at school. (One classmate, then aged about sixteen, told me with great pride that he had read the whole of 'The Lord of the Rings' at least fifty times). I also have never been a great admirer of the 'sword and sorcery' school of fantasy writing or film-making; indeed, some of this genre (mostly those starring the current governor of California) struck me as being among the worst films ever made. I was, however, persuaded to see the first in the trilogy, 'The Fellowship of the Ring', by its overwhelmingly positive reception from the critics, and was quickly won over by the scope of Peter Jackson's vision. I had been expecting some twee tale of elves, gnomes and fairies; what I experienced was a genuine epic (in the true sense of that overused word). Ever since December 2001, I have been waiting for parts two and three of the trilogy to be released. Neither has disappointed me. The story of 'The Lord of the Rings' is too complex to be told in a review such as this. Suffice it to say that it revolves around a magic ring which will give its possessor immense power. The power-hungry Dark Lord Sauron (a figure who is never actually seen on screen) desires to obtain the ring in order to dominate Middle Earth. His enemies, led by the wizard Gandalf, are seeking to destroy the ring, which can only be used for evil purposes, not for good. At the beginning of the final part of the trilogy, Sauron's forces are massing for an attack on the kingdom of Gondor. The film relates the story of the conflict which follows, and this leads to some of the most spectacular battle sequences I have seen, even more impressive than those in 'The Two Towers'. Inevitably, the film makes much use of computer-generated effects, but unlike many films dominated by special effects, plot and character are not neglected. The acting is uniformly good, and in some cases outstanding. Special mentions must also go to the camera-work, which made the best possible use of the magnificent New Zealand scenery, and to Howard Shore's memorable musical score. So, looking forward to the Oscar ceremony, I have no doubt that this should be the best film and that Peter Jackson, who has amply fulfilled the promise shown in the excellent 'Heavenly Creatures', should be best director. Best Actor? I would find it difficult to decide between the competing claims of Sir Ian McKellen, who brings wisdom, kindliness and the required touch of steel to his portrait of Gandalf, and of Elijah Wood, who plays the brave and resourceful hobbit Frodo to whom falls the dangerous task of ensuring the ring's destruction. Best Supporting Actor? My own nomination would be for Sean Astin, as Frodo's loyal companion Sam, but several others might have claims, notably Viggo Mortensen or Bernard Hill. Is this the best movie ever made, as some of its admirers have claimed? Possibly not- that is, after all, a very large claim to make. I have no doubt, however, that the trilogy as a whole is the first great cinematic masterpiece of the twenty-first century. It has certainly inspired me to start reading Tolkien's original novels.


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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:11 (A review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

I think it is important to remember that Peter Jackson took up this film not in order just to make a film of `The Lord of the Rings' but because he wanted to make a 'fantasy just like the `The Lord of the Rings'" as he himself put it. After repeating that phrase on a number of occasions the question popped into his mind: "Well, why not the `The Lord of the Rings' itself?". In doing this he, of course, set himself an enormous challenge: he had to make a really good `fantasy' film, one which would stand on its own and be true to what he had originally wanted to do but he would also, and here the task he had set himself was enormous, be true to the original book and to make a film which the legions of people who have loved this book would feel happy with. In the latter task he was certainly not helped by the author or the book: Tolkein, it would seem, hated cinema. The book itself is `HUGE': this was not going to be the kind of task that the James Ivory team set themselves, or Scorsese nor the kind of task facing Branagh with Hamlet; nor was it going to be like the puny task that faced Columbus with `Harry Potter' who had the bigger budget ($130 million for one film as compared with Peter Jackson with $300m for three).

I have just seen the first `volume' and can say without hesitation that he has succeeded in both his goals. It is not the book but a reading of the book which is inventive and fascinating. It is the kind of experience that makes you want to go back and reread the whole thing in the light of the emphases that Jackson has brought to the story. He focuses on the corrupting influence of the ring and, through this focus, the character of the chief protagonists of the story are revealed. Clearly those most tempted by it are mortal men (Boromir and even, in one moment, Aragorn), those who already have power (Elrond - `The ring cannot stay here'; Galadriel; Gandalf and Saruman), and, of course, those who would not normally desire it but who by accident become ring bearers - Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo. I can see why, in this reading, Jackson decided to leave out the Bombadil episode. Bombadil, like the Balrog, is beyond the ring but the latter is important to the unfolding of the story of the fates of all the characters, Bombadil isn't.

It is a miracle of this reading of the first volume of the book that one can see where Jackson is going and one can get a feel of how the reading is going to unfold. In a sense, Jackson's real trial - as far as those who know the books are concerned - will come with the second film in the series. He has lived up to our expectation by creating even bigger ones: how can he handle the story of the chase andrescue of Merry and Pippin, the storming of Isengard etc - stories which don't really add much to the core theme that is emerging. Or is he now going to add the theme of the great contest of good versus evil to the unfolding reading?

All of this points to the fact that the film, even though it is a feast of special effects, focuses on character. And this also explains why Jackson chose the actors he did for their roles: they are not `big' names - no `Sean Connery', no `Alan Rickman', no `Brad Pitt', no `Sam Neill'etc. He didn't want them getting in the way of the story of character. Ian McKellan's talents, in particular, are used to tell a large proportion of the story: an enormous amount is conveyed simply through his facial expressions and even by the language of his body. The other miracle in all of this is Elijah Wood. Like many others, when I first heard of Jackson's choice, I groaned: but Wood has been extraordinary. He brings, as one friend said, a strange kind of androgyny to the role and this is just perfect. McKellan has already been knighted: give Wood the Oscar.

And then there is Middle Earth: this is, as someone put it, another character in the story and the New Zealand landscape, digitally enhanced on occasion, lives up to its role too.

Enough. See this film! Greatest film ever made? How can one make a claim like that! Silly really; as silly as claiming that `The Lord of the Rings' is the greatest book ever written. Can't one simply love a story, enjoy reading it a number of times amd lose oneself in it. One CAN claim that it is the greatest work in its genre as is the film.


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Life Is Beautiful review

Posted : 6 years, 12 months ago on 19 December 2010 10:07 (A review of Life Is Beautiful)

This is one of those movies that have a lasting effect on you. After watching it, I found that it has less to do with the Holocaust and more to do with the human feelings and the beautiful relationship of a father and his son. The holocaust provides the ultimate context, that brings and highlights the story and adds yet another deep dimension to the movie. No such piece of art has ever before combined laughter and tears of sadness in me before and that is the miracle of the movie. The realism of the movie is not its strong point, but then again it is not supposed to be; this helps in bringing the audiences to a state of mind away from reality, focusing on the feelings generated by forgetting about all external events and developments of the war. Despite that, the movie does not fail to point out an element of the nazi psychology demonstrated by the doctor who was obsessed with riddles. This portrayed the nazi 'state of mind' (if ever such an expression existed) as a sick mentally disturbed state. Life is really beautiful as you watch Guido's relentless efforts to make a lovely exciting experience of the concentration camp to his son. You get exhausted just watching him going through his painful day and yet you smile as he speaks to his son and makes him laugh. One can go on forever describing the creativity of this movie, but one will not be able to capture all its beauty in writing.


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