Archive for June, 2010

Shutter Island – Things are not always what they seem

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

shutterislandposterModern cinematic heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for the fourth time in this eerie and brooding mystery thriller, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane.

Set in the fifties, Shutter Island sees Leo’s U.S. Marshall Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels investigating the apparent disappearance of a mental patient from a totally locked and guarded room. The patient, Rachel Solando, is a resident at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, located on the otherwise desolate Shutter Island.

Daniels is accompanied by his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), as they attempt to solve the unusual case. Their hospital ‘guide’ is head psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley, who makes no bones about coming across as rather sinister and creepy.

It does not take long to establish that there is a lot more going on that a crazy woman with a talent for matter displacement. Daniels believes from the offset that the island and its inhabitants, including Cawley, have some dark and desperate secrets buried within those not-so-solid hospital walls.

Secrets from Teddy’s own past, a few suspect twitches from various characters, a cameo from Max von Sydow, a visit to the ‘off-limits’ prison/hospital on the hill, a secluded and mysterious lighthouse and some weirdness on a cliff all help to create a bizarre, baffling and intriguing mystery shot by a master of cinema.

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The Lovely Bones – Knockin’ on heaven’s door

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

the-lovely-bones-posterIn 2002, relatively unknown author Alice Sebold saw her first fiction novel, The Lovely Bones, become a bestseller, garnering almost universal critical acclaim from the literary world, and owing many of its sales to word of mouth.

Such surprise success would almost certainly result in talk of a film adaptation, and Peter Jackson, the man behind the glorious Lord of the Rings adaptations, was the man eventually handed director’s duties by producer Steven Spielberg.

The film adaptation of The Lovely Bones sees 14 year-old photographer-wannabe Susie Salmon lulled into an underground trap by a neighbour named George Harvey. It appears at first that, after a brief struggle, she manages to escape and run to freedom, but it quickly becomes clear that she has been murdered and is watching the subsequent events that occur after her death.

She watches from a heaven-like place; a world that is only limited by her own imagination, and one which serves as a precursor to her spirit’s final resting place. She remains in this limbo until such time that she chooses to move on; something which she is regularly encouraged to do by a mysterious little girl who accompanies her.

She observes her family and friends, and their respective responses to her untimely, grotesque demise. Her attempts to contact her loved ones have minimal success and only serve to aggravate the situation, as her father, Jack, starts to lose his mind in his relentless quest for justice. Meanwhile, her murderer attempts to cover up any evidence of his sickening act, although it is clear he has other secrets to hide.

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The Book of Eli – A walk through the valley of the shadow of death

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

the-book-of-eli-posterThe last time that the Hughes Brothers ventured into moviemaking was 2001, when Johnny Depp played a cockney opium enthusiast in the underrated From Hell. They kept a low profile afterwards, until a script titled The Book of Eli showed up and attracted studio interest.

The twins were brought on board, and their ability to tackle the visual and the emotional would be key to the film’s successful transition from script to screen.

Denzel Washington plays Eli, a man heading west through a post-apocalyptic wasteland; he has nothing more than a backpack, a mysterious book and some Matrix-style combat skills. When a gang attempt to trap him, he dispatches them in an extraordinary fashion. One assailant is warned by Eli, “If that hand touches me again, you will lose it”. Needless to say the man calls Eli’s bluff, and does not fare too well.

Eli’s travels bring him to a town that is operating as a primitive society, with an aggressive but educated man called Carnegie (Gary Oldman) running the show. Eli’s dogged persistence to travel west with his book is matched by Carnegie’s desire to find the exact same item. Carnegie, unaware of Eli’s possession, bears witness to his incredible combat skills, and attempts to recruit him, offering a luxury lifestyle and constant clean water. But Eli is unflinching and resolute in his mission, and he declines, although agreeing to a single night’s stay.

Carnegie offers his step-daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) as a further temptation for the skilled fighter to remain in the town, but Eli is not forthcoming. However, during their meeting Eli reads from the book and Solara picks up a few words. The following day, she unwittingly recites them back in Carnegie’s presence and he realises that the book he seeks is in the town, and in the possession of Eli.

Aware of a potentially precarious situation, Eli escapes the town and continues his quest, with a hot-headed Carnegie on his trail.

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Where The Wild Things Are – King for a day

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

where-the-wild-things-are-poster21963 saw the release of a controversial children’s picture book called Where The Wild Things Are. It was written and illustrated by American Maurice Sendak, and contained little more than ten sentences. It was, arguably, an allegorical piece, cleverly portraying the difficulties and strains on parent and child. It was a huge hit with children, and has gained legendary status as a groundbreaking piece of children’s literature.

It is hard to believe that something so short, aimed at kids, could metaphorically encompass the complexities of childhood, aggression, loneliness and love; but a picture paints a thousand words.

Almost 50 years later, quasi-loon and creative genius Spike Jonze has brought the story to the big screen with a lavish adaptation. You may remember him as the lead street dancer in the video for Praise You, by Fatboy Slim. He directed this video, as well as countless others including Weapon of Choice (Slim, again), Buddy Holly (Weezer) and surreal Kaufman movies Adaptation and Being John Malkovic.

Where The Wild Things Are would be a new challenge, but he certainly possesses the imagination to bring it to life.

Eight-year-old Max is a lonely boy with an active imagination, and once he becomes frustrated with his perceived lack of attention from his sister Claire and divorcee mother Connie, he decides to do a runner dressed as a wolf.

Max keeps running until he finds a small unattended boat at a nearby riverbank, and sets off into unknown territory. The seas take him to a strange land of sand and forest, and the home of 7 large surprises.

He meets the ‘Wild Things’; a collection of 7-foot creatures with a penchant for eating new arrivals. Max stares them down and tells them that he has great powers from another land – he can ‘explode heads’. He tells them that he is a great king, and will punish them if they try to devour him.

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