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Monthly Archives: July 2012

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Charlize Theron has never been someone that’s impressed me or blown me out of the water, but Monster is definitely her finest hour as an actress. The transformation is easy to see, but it’s a lot more to do with what’s inside and how she portrays the character. Straight away, we are welcomed to the life of a character so torn apart by how society has treated her and how badly her youth was that she went into prostitution to find a way to survive. Soon after, a relationship blossoms with a young girl played to devastating conviction by the talented Christina Ricci.

Biopics are one area of film that I’ve always had problems with. They’re either too long, too stagnated or they’re just flat-out terrible films. Monster isn’t an exception nor is it revolutionary in its ideas, but the only real problem I have with it is that Jenkins attempts to portray a character without remorse and willing tocommit murder for money and make the audience feel sympathetic. That is not what we should be feeling towards a gun-wielding prostitute, is it? No, is the plain and simple answer to the question.

This movie really could have been something extraordinary and the scenes of power are there, especially towards the end and the delivery of those sequences is very emotional, but it’s just a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t live up to that power. There’s a lot of meandering with the screenplay, unnecessary sequences looped with the same dialogue which above all make it into something totally ordinary and forgettable.

It’s a real shame in all honesty, but I still kind of dig it in a lot of ways. Oh, and I love the use of music in some of the scenes.

74/100

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Lodge Kerrigan’s debut feature Clean, Shaven deals with a lot of the same themes that Keane does in mental illness and isolation. In Clean, Shaven the analysis of the character is magnificently done, but at the same time, it’s very easy to spot that it’s a debut feature. Kerrigan was experimenting with the mind of a deranged character and trying to shock the audience, which is something that Keane does not do. It focuses entirely on the titular character’s mind and his motivation which makes the content even more disturbing when you begin to understand his feelings and past, and to that degree it feels like a more complete piece.

Damien Lewis takes on the role. Right from the off-set as Keane confronts ticket agents at a train station in apparent search of his missing daughter, the mind of the character is explored to an incredible level and Lewis’ performance is filled with just the right amount of anger, emotion and love for it to work magnificently. Later on, as the anger burn out and the real love begins to flow, we are introduced to a young 6-year old girl Kira who has similarities to the way Keane describes his ‘’daughter’’ to the agents and that’s where the ideas of the film really begin to flow.

In all truth, this miniscule piece has more power and truth in it that most romantic films and Kerrigan’s pacing of it, as slow as it seems at times, works to utter perfection. See this film.

86/100

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Winona Ryder has always been and will forever be one of my favourite people on the entire planet. An incredibly beautiful woman with a lot of charm and comedic quality, but also a damn fine actress and Heathers is just another marvellous example of the woman’s talent. In the last decade, her roles haven’t been all that special with the exception of a small, but memorable performance in the great, great Black Swan from 2010. Forgetting all her recent troubles, the 80’s and 90’s were a time when her performance were at a peak with Girl, Interrupted (one of my favourite films), Beetlejuice (to a degree), as Corky the taxi driver in the opening segment of Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth and I’m sure I can add The Crucible and Reality Bites to the list when I finally watch them. To me, she wasn’t acknowledged enough and like I mentioned previously, it’s disappointing that there’s been very little in terms of solid, fleshed-out characters for her to work with lately, but I live in hope something will come along soon enough because I love Winona Ryder.

I realise this has all but become an appreciation of Winona Ryder, but here’s some thoughts on the film in question. To be honest, I expected nothing from this film, but an hour and 40 minutes to gawk at Ryder’s beauty (there I go again).

The end result was very different indeed and I take no thought in saying that it’s probably one of the most surprising films I’ve seen. Full of charm (at least in the beginning), great chemistry between the characters and some oddball/brilliant dialogue to match. “Did you have a brain tumour for breakfast?” is a highlight.

Nothing could have prepared me for this film in all honesty. I went in knowing minor details of the plot, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a film this dark, this witty and above all; with a social message this serious.

87/100

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James Gray is one of the most underrated directors around. In his films The Yards and We Own The Night, he studies the dynamics of characters torn apart by tragedy, drugs and even greater consequence and I didn’t think the man would have been able to craft something so beautiful this early in his career and I’m still in shock that this his debut feature. For a debut feature, the circumstances that unfold and how Gray deals with our characters is something quite majestic.

First and foremost, we have Tim Roth in one of the lead roles who’s always been someone that I’ve enjoyed, but never quite blown away or shattered by one of his performances until now. In Little Odessa, he portrays a character with no remorse, no feeling and and an all-together dark persona and every line that he delivers is pitch-perfect. The character is of a very sadistic nature with all the traits that I aforementioned and Roth never overplays or underplays the enormity and magnitude of the character.

Another performance that I absolutely love is from the young Edward Furlong. Back in my early teenage years when I was obsessed with The Terminator franchise and American History X, I was always very impressed by Furlong’s capacity to play characters in a dark situation or even in a kind of ‘void’ and Little Odessa is a wonderful example of that. The character originally starts off as average teenager; moody, smokes and generally disobeys the orders of his father, but as the film progresses and his relationship expands with his older brother Josh (Tim Roth), we see a more human side to him. It’s just a shame to me that Furlong got caught up in drugs and has never really built on any of his young roles in the next decade. A real shame.

I would really love to see Gray, Furlong and Roth hook up again to try and create something as stunning as this. That would be incredible.

88/100

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Alfred Hitchcock is the clear master of suspense and there is no disputing that, but I think Roman Polanski is a suspense master in his own right. Repulsion is great, Rosemary’s Baby is a masterpiece even The Ghost Writer has enough suspenseful quality in it.

His craft of creating suspense really is exhilarating and especially in his Apartment Trilogy, which this is the concluding part of, he manages to terrify his audience with the odd and wacky people that the protagonist encounters, much like the events of Rosemary’s Baby and the themes of isolation which is exceptionally explored in the first entry Repulsion to sheer brilliance.

In saying that, some of the similarities are undoubtedly noticeable and there’s even a peephole shot towards the end reminiscent of the famous moment in Rosemary’s Baby when Minnie Castevet played by Ruth Gordon. Perhaps I’m comparing the three entries too much, but some of the similarities are too hard to miss. That’s not to say that it’s a bad idea to use similar techniques and characters in your film though. Polanski had obviously experimented with many ideas and plans and further expanding on them to create an all-together chilling film with enough strength to not undo anything.

When I think of directors playing the lead role in their films, I think of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, Takeshi Kitano in Violent Cop, Woody Allen in Annie Hall. One thing I do not think of though is Roman Polanski acting in anything. The man is a genius when he puts his mind to it, and to me it didn’t seem like he could pull of a solid performance in a film of this intensity, but I was wrong. I was very wrong. He seems to have a great capacity to play this very obscure, personal man and the film is all the better for it.

Easily the most underrated of his work that I’ve seen so far, and it’s made me very interested to rewatch Chinatown soon.

82/100

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A first-rate of examination of human conditions, deceit and its inevitable consequences with a quite remarkable final act. Audrey Hepburn is the real stand-out here, but Shirley MacLaine does some great work also.

Based on a play, the director William Wyler does a fabulous job of separating it from other character studies, and his direction makes it something very special.

I have always loved films that leave questions open to the viewers and this is no different. There’s a big scene towards the end with great implications, but it’s the small amount of time that is devoted to it that makes it seem more important and even greater increase the ambiguity of the piece.

The only real negative I can find is the little brat who has far too much dialogue and screen-time for my liking.

80/100

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The study of family dynamics have always been one of my most favoured themes in films, and Martin Ritt’s examination of his characters is quite extraordinary.

I have only seen one other Martin Ritt film; The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (also based on a novel) which although I don’t enjoy all that much, I admire a lot of its ideas. It features a lot of the same ideas that Hud does. The chemistry between the characters in both films is quite similar in retrospect and it’s easy to see how Ritt had developed his ideas in those years.

Paul Newman takes on the lead role of the largely unpleasant and selfish outcast of the family, and his performance is surely one of the most sincere and precise performances of his entire career. And that’s saying a lot, considering he’s been in some truly classic films and put on some monumental performances. The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke and The Verdict all string to mind.

All of the supporting cast do wonderful work with the screenplay, but Patricia Neal’s triumph as the caring housekeeper stands alongside Newman’s performance in sheer brilliance.

83/100