I'm still in the process of adding old film reviews to the Blog, just not very quickly, must try harder...


Film (70) Music (12) Photography (6) Television (1) Writing (3)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

We’re Not In Slough Any More...

'The Boss Of It All' is a wonderfully judged dry-as-a-bone comedy from Lars Von Trier, a likeably eccentric bunch of desk jockeys are led by an excellent central performance from Jens Albinus (Dancer in the Dark, The Idiots), with strong support from Peter Gantzler (Smilla’s Feeling For Snow); Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity) and Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing).

The story is nicely complex and suitably farcical, and there are touches of simple genius throughout, from nicely timed chapter headings in the form of Von Trier’s periodic sardonic narration, to the ‘careless’ editing that keeps the film grounded in ‘reality’. Albinus has a lovely comic touch, but LVT is the star, more comedy please, Herr Von Trier!

The Chilling

Unremittingly depressing Icelandic crime story, everything about it is miserable, the palette of colours, the settings, the scenery, the people, the food – definitely not sponsored by the Iceland Tourist Board. Jar City makes ‘Wallander’ (the Swedish version) look like Miami Vice – not a Faroe Island jumper in sight. The plot follows Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson’s hard-bitten cop Erlendur on a murder investigation that leads into the past. There are good performances here and solid direction by Baltasar Kormákur, who has just completed ‘Contraband’ (as of late 2011), directing Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Beckinsale.

There are some mechanical difficulties, like certain sections of flashback which are hard to pick up because there is no visual distinction between with the main action, and the subtitles are too fast in places with no obvious reason. But if you like your cops gritty, your stories grimy and your locations grey and inhospitable then you will probably enjoy this. Ultimately it is in the same territory as the likes of ‘Spiral’ and ‘The Killing’, and the story perhaps suffers a bit from not having the same amount of time as these for the viewer to become immersed in the detail, but Jar City is a good film and well worth the rental if you are looking for a gloomy thriller.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Pitt / Slater

Before there was True Blood; before there was Twilight; before Buffy, Angel and Vampire Diaries (pah!), there was 'Interview with the Vampire'. An excellent adaptation of Anne Rice’s first novel, Tom Cruise’s 'Lestat' leaps off the page in all his pomp and swagger. Pitt’s 'Louis' is the ideal foil, righteous and idealistic, their partnership melded by Kirsten Dunst’s 'Claudia' – a terrific performance at the age of twelve.

Neil Jordan has a good cast and employs them all well, brilliantly capturing the scope of the story and the essence of its characters. The soundtrack also deserves star billing, a spellbinding collection by Elliot Goldenthal that captures not only the action, but the locations and the era.

To me the cleverest layer in Rice’s story, from which she adapted the screenplay herself, is the commentary on the inability of some vampires to change with the times, ably highlighted in the closing scenes and the final moment on the Golden Gate Bridge, one of my favourite uses of popular music in film, and so very, very right for that wonderful closing line reprise. There is beauty and ugliness in equal measure, and a grand sweep of storyline that beautifully captures the span of time and the weight of years, the excitement and the enui.

Interview... is a great watch, a thrilling journey full of anguish and melancholy, glamour and guts – showing that vampires are by no means the ‘youthful’, glossy, beautiful creatures that the networks and studios now want you to believe for the purposes of primetime. So many 80’s movies do not stand the test of time, but this is one that will never grow old – a must for your list if you have never seen it.

The Girl with the Older, More Intelligent (Swedish) Sister

To start with I have to eat some words. I said in another review that I wouldn't see this film because I didn't want to tarnish my memory the superlative Swedish original and as a (very) minor protest against the crassness of Hollywood in remaking it, but I did see it after all.

It’s an excellent cast, even if there are only two Scandinavians (the superb Stellan Skarsgard, and Yorick van Wageningen as Bjurman) among the main players. Daniel Craig is, thankfully, not all action, which would have been inappropriate. Christopher Plummer is faultless as Henrik Vanger, and Steven Berkoff delightfully mysterious as his lawyer Frode. Skarsgard’s portrayal of Martin Vanger is also superb, although the character’s more subtle traits have been lost between book and script.

The inevitable question is how does it compare to the original film? The answer, pluses and minuses. Rooney Mara’s performance is excellent, but I found her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander a bit too repressed, almost dispassionate in places, compared to Noomi Rapace’s definitive original, and I was not entirely convinced by Yorick van Wageningen’s take on Bjurman, although it must be an exceedingly difficult role to play. Craig’s Blomkvsit has much to recommend it, but I think he is too dynamic compared to Michael Nykvist’s original. As a whole I think Fincher’s version is a bit too slick, diluting the sense of dogged investigation that serves the source material better.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack for Fincher’s last, ‘The Social Network’ is note perfect, here I found it invasive to begin with, and although the musical interludes settle down, the soundtrack is close to dominating in places where the drama should have centre stage.

All in all I am glad I saw it, it’s a great film, but more a remake of Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 screen version than a new adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s book, nonetheless well worth seeing if you can handle some violent scenes – but do wait 2 or 3 months then see the original Swedish films too (if you haven't), they are superb.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Moonrise Serenade

At first Moonrise Kingdom seems to try too hard to be eccentric and often has a very stagy quality, perhaps deliberately. Those aspects mark it unmistakably as the work of Wes Anderson and no worse for that. There are a couple of moments in the third act that stretch the audience's willing credulity, being on the point of clumsiness I think, but it would be a heartless viewer indeed who was not willing to forgive these facets, which give the film a fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands or The Truman Show, and are consistent with the Am-Dram sensibility of the piece.

MK's heart is pure gold, a delightful melding of the innocence and earnest enthusiasm of Arthur Ransom's 'Swallows and Amazons' with the sassy grit and knowing irreverence of Quentin Tarantino's 'True Romance'. The central relationship is delightful, his and her quirks and affectations of adulthood not in the least annoying (which is an achievement). Edward Norton is excellent (we expect no less) and Bruce Willis' turn is nicely understated. Tilda Swinton is also a standout and thankfully used sparingly otherwise her character would have overpowered the gentler souls around her.

At only 94 minutes it's tempting to think that the film would feel lightweight, but the arc of the story is well served by MK's compactness, and by the time it reaches the end there is nothing left unsaid. MK deserves to be considered among Wes Anderson's finest work. There are characters here to root for unlike those populating The Royal Tenenbaums and Steve Zissou: The Life Aquatic.

Hooray for Uncle Wes! Sandwiches and ginger beer all round!