Archive for May, 2010

The Road – A harsh but heart-warming tale of survival

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

theroadposterCormac McCarthy is one of the finest writers in modern literature; he has produced instant classics with Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, not to mention a certain novel titled No Country For Old Men.

The latter is a truly brilliant and breathtaking book, and many who did not appreciate the film would have done well to check out the source material first, in order to gain a better understanding of the story, its purpose and the reasons behind the opinion-splitting ending.

McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Road, a literary work that is magnificent beyond words. It is the story of a man and his son as they attempt to survive an arduous journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The film version, directed by The Proposition helmer John Hillcoat, faithfully adapts the book into a stark, vivid and harrowing piece of cinema.

The two embark on an emotionally and physically draining quest to stay alive in a barren, cold and savage environment where vicious cannibals are a constant threat, and thieves would not think twice about stealing a blanket from a sleeping child.

Man and boy are heading south, out of hope more than anything else. We do not know their names, we do not know what happened to the world and we certainly do not know if they can survive this bleak, unforgiving hell.

A moment of weakness and fatigue sees them investigate a house where they find something truly horrifying in the basement, whilst the man’s own savage survival instincts cause him to defy his son’s desperate request of leniency towards a thief they hold at gunpoint.

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This Week’s Worst – Jaws: The Revenge

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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Utterly compelling, brilliantly scripted, a masterclass of acting and direction – the original Jaws is quite simply one of the greatest films ever made…

Following up Quint’s devastating Indianapolis speech, as well as Chief Brody’s awesome toe-to-toe with the shark in the finale, was never going to be easy. Director Jeannot Szwarc had a fairly acceptable attempt with Jaws 2, which saw Roy Scheider’s Brody electrocute a bigger, badder and very annoyed underwater beastie, whilst single-handedly carrying the film on his shoulders.

The almost vertical decline in quality would follow.

Jaws 3-D was an upsetting mess with Dennis Quaid portraying Brody’s eldest son Michael, who is now working at SeaWorld. The aquatic park manages to attract a psychotic 40-foot (?) shark that can roar and swim backwards. Suffice to say, this was not a positive step, and certainly not Quaid’s finest moment. The shark death: protagonists use a very long rod to pull the pin out of a grenade that is still in the hands of a diver eaten earlier in the film (what?).

If you haven’t seen it, we assure you it makes even less sense than you think.

Surely the best thing to do at this stage is kill the franchise before anyone turns mental and goes on a mad, murderous rampage in disgusted protest. Alas, this was not to be, and a fourth instalment was given the green-light.

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Avatar – Creative recycling

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

avatarpicEarlier this year, Paranormal Activity became the most profitable film in history by making over $200 million on a budget of $15,000. Around the same time, a movie with a budget that actually eclipses Paranormal Activity’s total gross went on to become the highest grossing film of all time, raking in over $2 billion.

Whilst Paranormal Activity provides a potent reminder of how much a film can make with little or no financing, the enormous team behind James Cameron’s Avatar will have no concerns about being shown up thanks to a return on their movie that is enough to fund the purchase of an island.

Avatar is driven by a tried and tested story which has been unrelentingly rehashed beat-for-beat. However, it is likely that master storyteller Cameron has shamelessly and purposefully sought out a classically standard story framework, so as to avoid detracting from the main focal point – his groundbreaking visual extravaganza; an aesthetic masterpiece that he has been planning since he sunk the Titanic.

Paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully is given the opportunity to live vicariously through a bio-engineered alien body, whilst learning to live with a secretive forest-dwelling race known as the Na’vi. With a minimum amount of arm-twisting, he takes up the offer and works undercover, acting as a hired gun to protect the exploring scientists from the variety of colourful surprises offered up by planet Pandora’s lush eco-system. He is also acting as an informant for trigger-happy nutcase Colonel Quaritch, a soldier who wants to flatten the locals and their glorious surroundings.

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(500) Days of Summer – 90 minutes of break-up

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

500dosIt’s been almost a decade since a frantic John Lithgow and his alien family left Earth, bringing about the end of hit US sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. Since then, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Tommy, has made his name on the indie film circuit by appearing in some truly excellent, offbeat films.

His brave turn in Mysterious Skin and brilliant performance in modern noir Brick were clear signs that Gordon-Levitt is very talented actor, with a good eye for a great role.

In (500) Days of Summer, Gordon-Levitt plays Tom Hansen, an ex-architecture student who now works as a writer for a greeting card company. His generally nonchalant disposition is radically altered when Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) enters his life. Summer does not believe in true love, but finds Tom interesting enough to start dating him.

She makes it clear that she has no intention of becoming involved in a relationship; this spells disaster because Tom does believe in true love and thinks he has found it.

At the beginning, it is revealed that the couple break-up, and the nonlinear format of the narrative serves to show us sporadic moments of their time together. The relationship is deconstructed, and various days numbered between 1 and 500 are used to bookmark the film’s events.

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