our film reviews: from armchair viewing to the festival front row

17 March 2008

[Reel-Comments] No cinema for old grumps...

(Subtitled: the Coens go the Odeon.)

One of the most lauded and awarded films of the decade came to the Manchester Odeon (Printworks) for a final post-Oscar farewell fling. But I bet the Coens didn't bet on people trying to watch their film whilst:

- three mouthy Irish lasses talked in the back row (who were finally ejected by staff after half an hour),
- a man ran down the stairs, answering his phone loudly on the way (during Tommy Lee Jones' last scene!!!), and
- about a third of the audience left before the end.

Hence, a refund from the teenaged duty manager at the end of the screening, and the birth of a new resolution...

No more cinema. Nope not ever. OK, unless it's the Cornerhouse/ Ritzy/ Watershed/ etc. or a festival.

I can't bear it anymore.

God, I'm middle aged now.

28 January 2008

[Reel-Reviews] Match Point (3 stars)

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Starts well and Woody makes London look gorgeous, but it becomes too “slasher”/dream sequence to be taken too seriously.

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[Reel-Reviews] Little Miss Sunshine (4 stars)

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Charming and quirky family road movie exploring beauty, community and love of life. Not as cute as the hype.

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[Reel-Reviews] Narc (3 stars)

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Twisty turny cop thriller that asks you to question truth and meaning, although it walks a fine line on cliché.

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[Reel-Reviews] Shaun of the Dead (4 stars)

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The zom-rom-com to end all zom-rom-coms. Witty and silly but wonderfully put together.

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[Reel-Reviews] Finding Neverland (4 stars)

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Magically endearing and possibly over-sentimental telling of Barrie’s Peter Pan life. Good directing by Forster, and a wonderful Johnny Depp.

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[Reel-Reviews] Goodbye Lenin! (3 stars)

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Funny take on the prevention of stress and impact on family, through deceit and stealth. Nicely conceived and well designed.

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[Reel-Reviews] Silent Light (3 stars)

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Poignant and austere take on one man’s breakdown in a Mexican Amish community. Best opening 10 minutes of 2007!

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27 November 2007

[Reel-Reviews] The Kite Runner (4 stars)

A free preview ticket to watch a best-selling book made into an Oscar-tipped film in an LA cinema? You bet we wanted to be there!

The Kite Runner is anticiapted on several fronts. As Marc Forster's newest film (he of Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball and Bond 22). As a "Hollywood" film that could make serious box office returns without a single starry name. Mostly as the long-awaited adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's book of the same name. The audience was certainly buzzing as we took our seats.

The good news is that the film delivers on all those fronts and more. I suspect this screening was a "word-of-mouth" builder to help sell it when it finally gets its release, and it earned and frankly deserves this.

Great source material in the form of the book's plot, and very faithfully adapted
Fantastic performances especially by the younger actors
A well-delivered directorial narrative and some wonderful cinematography

The subtitles - too many for a non-arthouse audience?
Maybe there is too much plot to fit into two hours

M said later (not having read it) that he thought he could it would be a better book than a film. I think it's possibly true, but mainly because the film is too easily resolved in the two-hour timeframe, whereas you have to live with the book for days... And essentially, it's also another film about writers and writing (see Atonement).

My final concern isn't likely to be one that effects too many other people - but as a Brit abroad in LA, I was very concerned that the final scenes would seem too triumpahilist, too much of a "victory" for the American character and the US in general. As it was, some sensitive humour and near perfect timing avoided any such hint of this.

Here's hoping that it gets the box office it deserves.

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[Reel-Reviews] Michael Clayton (3 stars)

The truth can be adjusted. So goes the tagline, but does that go for the actor's choice of role and performance too?

George Clooney plays law firm fixer Michael Clayton with apparent ease but hardly breaks a smile all performance. It's certainly a departure from his swish/ indulgent turn as Danny Ocean. Add to that the fact that the man's a liberal in a conservative American entertainment system, and not a bad director to boot. For those reasons alone, I gave him the benefit of the doubt with this role - and ended up unsure whether it was a 4 or 2 star film...

As I say, it would seem easy enough to play - a downbeat loser who can control everyone's life but his own. So far, so cliched. But the role's loaded against him from the start - what's not to like about a well-paid, good-looking lawyer being brought down a peg or two with his personal disasters? But Clooney brings an essential chink of unease and gravitas to a role that becomes increasingly complex through the film - and it wasn't just his Merc exploding that made me feel more sympathetic.

Again, one small quibble - act one seemed too slow, act three too fast (as M said afterwards, he wondered how they were going to wrap it all up with 10 minutes to go). Otherwise a steady and interesting choice for Clooney in balancing his other more frivolous films/ roles.

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[Reel-Reviews] Atonement (4 stars)

A wonderful adaptation of the Ian McEwan book, faithfully bringing to the screen the oppressive heat of a single summer day and its unimaginable consequences...

From the cricket chirrups to the heat haze, everything is detailed and delivered. And there are some really solid performances here, not least James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan, as the young Briony.

My only slight greivance with another-wise moving and well-shot film is actually with the concept of making this "readers' book" into a film in the first place. For me, the plot turns and twists on the fact that Briony is a writer, and so the final scenes maybe lose a little of their punch. But that's a minor niggle in a fabulous film.

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[Reel-Reviews] Earth (4 stars)

We managed to see a sneak preview of Earth last night – on a digital screen. And therein lies the difference between this and a two-hour special of the BBC TV shows Planet Earth and Blue Planet

An impressive visual and aural feast it is, but partly because of the scale of the screen and the definition of sound and visuals. Think you’ve seen a great white shark eating a seal before? Not this large you ain’t. Think you’ve seen polar bears struggling to survive in an broken-iced ocean? Not in this detail you ain’t. Think you know the noise that monkeys make wading through a flooded savannah? Not this clearly you ain’t. From the fluffy feathers on that duckling’s wing tip to the chilling crack of the Arctic ice shelf, this is a whole new experience.

Ok, so if you’re a fan of the shows, have the DVDs, or have looked through the Beeb’s extensive websites, you might have seen some of the footage before. But not like this you ain’t.

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