The Ipcress File (1965)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059319/

PG    109 min                          –  Drama  | Thriller                 –              March 1965(UK)

Director

Sidney J. Furie

Writer

W.H. Canaway; James Doran

Stars

Michael CaineNigel GreenGuy Doleman

Plot:

Scientists working for the government mysteriously quit their jobs, and some even more mysteriously, disappear. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) investigates.

Review:

The Ipcress File (1965)

The Ipcress File (1965)

The film opens like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Two, perfectly innocent men step aboard a train. One of them leaves as he remembers that the other forgot a possession of his that was left in the car. When returning, his friend mysteriously vanishes. So begins this strange and oddly unnerving little thriller.

However, unlike a Hitchcock, where we know more information than the characters, here, neither us nor the characters know much at all. When the ‘villain’ (if you can call it that) is revealed, it never really comes as a surprise – not because we already guessed – far from it – but because the film is so subtly crafted and plotted that it is hinted at that what we are seeing is a mere simplification. Villains don’t exist in the world which The Ipcress File inhabits – instead we have eluvious men in trenchcoats who use eye-contact and meetings in bandstands to communicate; quiet forty-somethings who manipulate and deceit with a smile and backstab with a quintessential stiff-upper-lip attitude. It’s all rather British and sarcastic.

The film unfolds glacially as we observe Michael Caine’s concise performance as Harry Palmer, a well-humored individual that won’t be smiling when the film reaches its inevitable climax.

The plot’s subtleties draw you in. We discover the number plate of one of the main lead’s car and where that car usually parks. Palmer then follows this lead to the library. He asks the lead questions to which there is a humorous exchange about having to be quiet when in such a public place as a Library. The lead gives palmer a leaflet – an invitation to a bandstand, where is all is revealed. It’s only around fifty minutes in when we discover why the movie is called The Ipcress File – and its important to note, that these events that I have just mentioned don’t flow like an ordinary thriller would. In an ordinary thriller, each segment of information would follow another in a smooth quickly-paced manner – due to the fact that in each and every scene, something else is uncovered.  The Ipcress File doesn’t work like this, there are ten minute sequences in between each moment where information is retrieved.

What happens within these ten minute sequences? Nothing really. So why does the film work? Well, because it unfolds like a normal investigation would: long periods of silence followed by brief bursts of clues and knowledge. If anything, this makes the film more thrilling as it is ambiguous.

Rather than there being so much information that the mystery is impossible to decode, The Ipcress file, instead, gives us merely nothing.

What’s also interesting about the film is the way it made me feel. The film withheld a chlaustophobic hold on me, and I’m still intrigued to how it did this. I got a sense – to use that tireless cliché – that ‘something wasn’t quite right’. This is rather strange. None of the characters ever seem to communicate this notion, and there are no real overt cinematic signals which would suggest that the film was driving towards something deeply sinister.

On a blunt level, I associate this feeling of chlaustrophobic unnerve with that of the horror genre – because it is a ‘negative feeling’ as opposed to a positive one. It is important to remember that horror cinema is more about style than it is about content. Thus, if I look at the film on this level, my feelings acquire a sharper clarity. The film uses obscure, jaunty, bizarre camera angles. This may not seem like much – but this motif is consistent throughout the film – and thus, it felt like it was ‘digging away’ at me.

Perhaps the only fault of the film is shown by it’s merit. I found it strangely unnerving. However, the final act, not so, even though it really should’ve been. I think this is because the final act relies more on content than it does on style – but, I might be wrong.

Every now and then comes a film which challenges me to understand my own emotions. Perhaps the majority of the interest in this film comes from the fact that I should detest it and find it utterly dull, but instead, I feel the exact opposite.

Verdict:

A strange and interesting film which works on a very psychological level. Meticulously slow in its pacing, yet never bland. However, the final Act isn’t as effective emotionally as the initial two.

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Lolita (1962)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056193/

15   135 min  –  Drama | Romance  –  September 1962 (UK)

Director

Stanley Kubrick

Writer

Vladimir Nabokov; Stanley Kubrick

Stars

James Mason; Shelley Winters; Sue Lyon

Plot:

Humbert Humbert (James Mason), intellectual, professor, middle-aged man, a paedophile lusts after 15 year old Dolores Haze (Sue Lyon), eloquently nick-named: ‘Lolita’.

Review:

Lolita (1962)

Lolita (1962)

The films of Stanley Kubrick are oft criticised for being ‘emotionally cold’. Personally, I have always found these claims to be ridiculous. Objective they certainly are, but cold? 2001 is one of the most awe-inspiring works I’ve ever seen, A Clockwork Orange twisted my emotions throughout, and Eyes Wide Shut stayed with me for a good two months after viewing. Even Barry Lyndon, which is quite clearly the most distancing of his films has emotions oozing throughout it.

Kubrick shoots films as if he were shooting stills of a crime-scene: he puts the camera at a distance so all the characters are in view amongst a meticulously lit and scrupulously composed backdrop.

Classic use of distancing being used in Barry Lyndon (1975)

Classic use of distancing being used in Barry Lyndon (1975)

More distancing methods used in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975)

More distancing methods used in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975)

We are thus forced to question the characters, but the emotion comes from the fact that we view them like ‘bugs under a microscope’ (as one critic excellently put it). The ironies, hypocrisies, stupidities, obsessions, angst, paranoia and rage of every character always seeps through. The best example of this is in that long and pivotal scene in Eyes Wide Shut where Bill is told that Alice has contemplated sleeping with another man. By being distanced, I learned more about the character of Bill, and thus, I felt emotion. Bill fails to see that it’s not just men that have an intense desire for sex lurking inside of them.

Silly Bill.

Like Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita is about male sexual obsession, and presents it with great sympathy and snide sarcasm. Though doubt, probably more sarcasm than Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick shows the lustful emotions of the humorously named, ‘Humbert Humbert’ with moments of such obvious subtlety that it borders on self-parody and mocking the religious and right-wing censors of the time – like he’s bluntly trying to get away with as much as possible without crossing the line. It’s not just suggestive, it’s very suggestive. Take the opening shot (similar to that of The Graduate), consisting only of a teenager’s soft, shining foot. A middle-aged hand delicately applies nail varnish to it, subtly rubbing its fingers against the skin as much as humanly possible. Or the shot where Humbert Humbert kisses his wife, about to make love to her, whilst all the time looking at a photograph of his wife’s daughter, Lolita, in view. The joke being that during sex, he’s not concentrating on his wife, but instead what his imagination can do. And what about the first time we see the title character? Laying in the sun, clothed in a bikini, a sun-hat, and of course, wearing those heart-shaped glasses, whilst, licking a lollipop. Oh, Kubrick you.

Sue Lyon in Lolita

Sue Lyon in Lolita

There’s a great shot in this scene, where the camera is placed behind Lolita so that Lolita’s mother and Humbert Humbert (blocked behind her) are in view. If you look closely, you can see Humbert Humbert’s eyes twitch with nervousness and sexual tension – all at a self-knowingly slutty 15 year-old girl. I think the point being that Lolita is the sexual-predator here as opposed to Humbert Humbert – who merely comes across as pathetic, and idiotically possessive. Throughout the movie, Humbert Humbert seems to care more about love and relationships, whilst Lolita seems to be driven by sex – aided by that sly allure she has.

I’m reminded of the reasons why Chris Morris made the television special of Brass Eye named ‘Paedogeddon’ – an episode mocking how paedophilia is sensationalised by the media and how children are presented as being objects of such glowing innocence and naivety, that you’d expect them to grow angel wings, a halo and make Jesus Christ look like a sinner.

Chris Morris' sharp satire on the way paedophilia was sensationalised in the media

Chris Morris’ sharp satire on the way paedophilia was sensationalised in the media

The film slowly unravels, charting Humbert Humbert’s paranoia and obsessions building. It’s surprising how throughout the film, you forget that one of the main themes of it and the book is paedophilia itself. What’s unsettling here isn’t the age gap but the power-play between the couple. Humbert Humbert wants everything his way and Lolita would gladly disagree. Is the point here being that the notion of age-gaps in relationships being something predatorial is a ludicrous idea, and what is more sexually sinister are 1950s gender-roles? I am unsure. Kubrick films have to be watched multiple times.

I think the fatal flaw of the film is the time in which it was made. Censorship is such a pointless affair. People know of paedophilia, so why prevent presenting it? Throughout, you’d probably consider Lolita to be of 18 years old, if it wasn’t for the fact that on the DVD box, the internet and the film’s taglines we are told that she is 15? Yes, the film is suggestive throughout, but implying something can only go so far. I think the film could have played out like A Clockwork Orange, simultaneously unsettling and hilarious: the film would have been more interesting if Humbert Humbert’s sexual desires appeared to be more sinister. On screen we would have had two sexual predators as opposed to one, and the question surrounding the morality of age-gaps would have been more forceful, intense and dilemma-inducing. The novel is told from first person perspective, Humbert Humbert hypnotises the reader throughout – I think the same would have worked well in the film. We never seem to understand Humbert Humbert’s motives – I think the film would have been interesting if we got inside his head via the use of voice-over. Again, A Clockwork Orange springs and leaps to mind.

Also, the film is too slow in some areas. This is typical of Kubrick: Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut are above the two-and-a-half hour mark, but this is because they have a lot of story to tell. Would the humour have been intensified if the film was more rigorously speedy in its pacing?

I feel that the film does come across as cold because it isn’t as emotionally complex for the audience as it could have been. Thus the objective direction doesn’t present us with intriguing characters to contemplate but instead ironic situations which lack the depth of Kubrick’s later work.

I think it’s also interesting to watch this, whilst knowing that some of his later films are my favourites. I can see the beginnings of a directorial style, a seed being planted, knowing throughout that something great lurks within. 37 years later, Kubrick made a masterpiece.

Kubrick's last and final film is a masterpiece: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Kubrick’s last and final film is a masterpiece: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Verdict:

Not nearly as complex as it should have been. I’m left with the thought that the film should produce a moral-dilemma, similar to that of A Clockwork Orange. However, watch this for the beginnings of a great-director’s talent slowly churning: the compositions, the choice of music, the meticulously slow-pacing (although this doesn’t always work here), and of course the great performances from James Mason, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon.

Three Colours: Blue (1993)

Trois couleurs: Bleu

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.co.uk/title/tt0108394/

15    98 min  –  Drama | Music | Mystery  –  15 October 1993 (UK)

Director

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Writer

Krzysztof Kieslowski; Krzysztof Piesiewicz;

Stars

Juliette Binoche; Zbigniew Zamachowski; Julie Delpy

Plot:

First film in Krzystof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy.

Julie and her family have a car-crash. She wakes up in hospital to discover that her husband and son have died.

Review:

Three Colours: Blue (1993)

Three Colours: Blue (1993)

Sometimes I just feel utterly rejected by art-films where nothing particularly happens, whilst everyone else is ‘deeply’, ‘profoundly’ and ‘mesmerizingly’ moved by them – such is the case with Three Colours Blue. Here we have a film perhaps influenced by Italian Neo-Realism: all of the events after the car-crash happen through chance, are random and feel slightly disconnected – like life. There is no sense – like in a Classical Hollywood Narrative – of one event leading to the next, leading to the next, then leading to an explosion and a sex scene shot with orangey mood-lighting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and one of the reasons why I liked Blue very much.

Following the car-crash, everything is mundane and horrifically normal. There are frequent amounts of moments where there are long unsettling silences. When Julie does talk, it is only ever in small sentences, sometimes inaudible mumbles. Juliette Binoche, who plays Julie is deeply and profoundly mesmirizing in this film – and I am not being sarcastic. She does that rare thing, when she is no longer ‘a character’, but a real person. She can stare into the camera, not moving any muscle on her face and seem totally real; she acts with her eyes rather than her face. In fact, she hardly ever acts in this film because we can never see her ‘act’, rather she is being this deeply complex character. Nothing in her performance ever feels ‘forced’. This is a difficult thing to do. Most actors given the chance, would plunge straight in and start externalising all of these emotions, Binoche does the opposite and internalises them – a smart move and I commend her for it.

Juliette Binoche's wonderfully understated performance in Three Colours: Blue

Juliette Binoche’s wonderfully understated performance in Three Colours: Blue

After the car-crash, Julie drifts in and out of coffee-shops, street-corners, houses and gardens, and occasionally meets someone, converses with them, and will never talk to them again in the film. Perhaps she does, but only briefly. They are insignificant to the plot in the same way that they are too her life. The film really concerns her and is about her reactions, how her views on the world change, and how she expresses this by interacting with objects and other people. It is an interesting and excellent case study. I cried three times in the opening 45 minutes.

The director, Krzystof Kieslowski is a director who understands the relevance of actors in films. Too often is it the case, that I am never moved by a performance – not necessarily because it is a bad one, but because the director shoots it in such a way, that it is never in full focus, as if the actors are just another set of cogs and wheels in the whole mechanics of the film. Kieslowski dispenses with this despicable construct, and he incorporates as many close-ups on Binoche’s face as possible to ensure that the viewer is engaged with what is occurring in her thoughts. There is one striking moment, when Binoche’s character wakes up in hospital, after the car-crash, at the beginning of the film. It is an extreme-close-up of her eye. Never has the phrase ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ been exploited as much as this since that horrifically unsettling shot in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Following this, she leaves the ward, breaks a window as a distraction and then sneaks into the medical cupboard. She finds a box of pills, unloads multiple pills into her hand, and puts them in her mouth. But she cannot swallow. This moment feels utterly real as opposed to melodramatic – the camera focuses completely on the reactions of Julie’s character, to the extent that we can almost attempt to guess at why she did not kill herself.

Woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown portrayed with sincerity and brutally honest realism

Woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown portrayed with sincerity and brutally honest realism

Julie tries to recover from what has happened in the most unexpected of ways. She calls an old friend over, they have sex. This, however, never feels out of place. It feels perfectly normal. The scene isn’t meant to shock, but rather to make a point about Julie’s character. She doesn’t enjoy sex, she has lost all feeling.

She abandons her mansion and goes to a flat in town so that nobody can find her. She wants to completely reinvent her life. However, she can’t erase the thoughts from her head. There is a moment when she is in a swimming pool, and suddenly a group of children enter – she puts her head against the sides of the pool, and the thoughts of her dead child come rushing back.

I have said all of this praise, and you would have expected that this film would have been five stars. But, I find that the film never particularly went anywhere. Not necessarily in plot, but in character. I have nothing wrong with films where its plot(s) meander into a black hole. I like Slacker. But Slacker doesn’t have such an interesting central character. Julie is so mysterious and quite clearly complex. We want to know her more and no more about her, but Kieslowski puts a hand against our shoulder so we can’t get closer towards her. It felt more of an annoyance that we are presented with such a unique and well-portrayed character, but are prevented to know more about her. We are presented with what she shows the world as opposed to what she thinks. Perhaps this is the point, but if so it’s damned irritating.

After 45 minutes, the films tone never changed and it stayed constant: all of these shots of this ambiguous character living normally, but knowing that she is unlike anybody else. The film plodded on like this constantly and constantly. I wasn’t bored, but rather I became progressively uninterested. I knew that the film would hold onto itself and never let me get closer to the inner-workings of this character’s deeply troubled mind. If anything, the fact that I knew that the film would stay the same, was more of an inconvenience.

Verdict:

Contains one of the most fascinating characters ever in cinema. Julie is up there with Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Yet, we’re never allowed to get inside her mind. Sometimes, the mystery of a character’s thoughts and personality is an advantage, but here, I don’t think it worked, and I really wanted to know and understand her more.

Prometheus (2012)

**LAST PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS**

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/

124 min  –  Action | Horror | Sci-Fi  –   1 June 2012 (UK)

Director

Ridley Scott

Writer

Jon Spaihts; Damon Lindelof

Stars

Noomi Rapace; Logan Marshall-Green; Michael Fassbender

Plot:

A team of explorers find a series of cave paintings on earth which suggest that extra-terrestrial life created mankind. They then travel to the infinite to gather more information only to discover that the people who created them, now want to destroy them…

Review:

The internet seems to be utterly baffled by what Prometheus is: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? Is it part of the Alien series? What is it? Type in: “Is Prometheus a prequel” into Google search and you get a tonne of blog pages written by obsessive cinephiles and Ridley Scott fanboys trying to decipher what this movie actually is. Ridley Scott claims that it’s in the “same world” as Alien, but not a direct prequel. Questions other than “what is this movie?” are also posed: who created the human race? Who created the people that created the human race? Is there a God? What makes us human? What’s the point in life? Is this movie as pretentious as me? Do I even care? Of course, there’s one final, and more important question: is this movie any good?

Let’s ignore the long-running debate about where this film slots into the Alien franchise, and just look at the movie itself.

The opening shots of this movie are utterly beautiful and awe-inducing. We pan past vast intimidating  landscapes which are truly breathtaking. We watch the camera smoothly glide over still lakes, mountains, snowy plains, rocks, trees, flowers. We are at awe with nature. If you are going to see Prometheus, go to see it for its sheer dazzling visuals. I’d compare them to the visuals in the mind-blowing headtrip that is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. After these opening titles, we gracefully glide towards a waterfall. At the top of the waterfall we see a blue alien, of humanoid shape (yet clearly bigger, 7 foot?). The alien picks up a small silver shaped curved cylinder, opens it, and drinks the black fluid that comes from it. The alien begins to mutate, we quickly see his back turn from blue to black, and the camera then performs a David-Fincher-esque CGI zoom which quickly yet smoothly tracks into his back; we go deeper and deeper, into skin cells, until we see the alien’s spinning DNA suspended in cell fluid, it turns from a bright orange into an electric black.

Prometheus is gorgeous to look at, and it’s clear that Scott understands how to produce an appealing image.

Poster for Prometheus (2012)...

Poster for Prometheus (2012)…

Later on, when our crew members land, they discover a cave. At the back of the cave is that huge head (which you can see on the poster designs for this film), and littered across the floor, are those silver cylindrical objects which we saw our big blue alien friend drink at the beginning of the film. These cylinders seem to ooze a black liquid, which mutate and form a creature which causes harm to one of our characters. The creature pops out from the black liquid, it has an octopus shape, and every time you cut one of its legs off, it gets angrier and simply grows a new one. These legs like to go into people’s mouths (and yes, all the way down their oesophagus as well). Do I need to say that this film has excellent body horror moments which will make some viewers squirm in their seats? (Also, there’s a brilliantly disgusting section where we watch Shaw (Noomi Rapace) go inside a machine to perform a caesarian section on herself…surprise…surprise, the octopus-like alien is inside her. Another reason, why you should never have sex when in a horror film. If anything, this operation scene, in my opinion, is the best scene in the film).

Caeserian's usually leave quite bloody results...

Caeserian’s usually leave quite bloody results…

However, what the film lacks is in the basics of narrative storytelling and being original. I know when the gotcha! moment is going to occur even before it occurs. (A gotcha! moment is a moment when tense music plays and suddenly a loud beat will occur matched with something popping up to make us jump.)

Character’s say inane and unintentionally-funny dialogue (“I like rocks!”). I don’t particularly care about any of the characters, and this is key, because this is an Alien film, so I know from the start that characters will die. The character’s don’t feel real. Of course, I appreciate the fact that this is a horror/action suspense film, so I know that Scott is more concerned with the action on-screen as opposed to back story. But none of the characters hit me or form a distinct shape. There’s one character called Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and all she does is: be miserable.  She treats her co-workers like employees, is constantly harsh and snide. We only see one side to her. She is horrible. She is merely a caricature as she essentially plays one emotion; if the script allowed her to play differing forms of emotion, then yes, she would feel real. (**SPOILERS IN NEXT PARAGRAPH**)

Also, if we dig deeper, Prometheus is quite formulaic and predictable. Horror fans will know that the cocky sexy guy always dies first and the innocent girl survives/dies last. Any action/thriller fan will now that the character we hate most dies near the end and gets the most gruesome death. Surely if I walk into a film and know who’s going to die and in what order, I might as well read the script for the film.

Verdict:

Prometheus is in the middle for me. Beautifully shot and so visually enticing you’ll want to sit at the front row, and some strong scare-moments. However, all of this is underpinned by it’s clear formulaic structure and underdeveloped characters. Sure such narrative devices mentioned are conventional and cliched, but didn’t we expect more from a movie which recieved such a hype?

The Iron Lady (2011)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/

  105 min  –  Drama | Biography   –  6 January 2012 (UK)

Director

Phyllida Lloyd

Writer

Abi Morgan

Stars

Meryl Streep; Jim Broadbent; Richard E. Grant

Plot:

Biopic about the life of one of the most controversial MPs in British Politics. The film follows the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher (aka ‘The Iron Lady’) through a series of flashbacks.

Review:

Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) is the marmite of British politics: she divided the nation, the conservative party, and clearly this film itself. With Margaret Thatcher, you either love her or hate her. Yet, this film doesn’t know which option to choose. I imagine this is a marketing decision as the producers didn’t want to aim this at just for Tories, or just at Lib-dems or at lunatics (aka: the British National Party). If this was a marketing decision, The Iron Lady manufactures this decision by being  personal film about Margaret Thatcher rather than a political film.

Its establishing shot proves my point well: Maggie (who at this point is now suffering from a form of senile dementia) is buying a pint of milk – we see her as an ordinary woman, a woman who has faced the odds of life, yet is suffering at the end of it; a woman who is battling the negative side of aging and is utterly embittered with negative feelings and emotions.

Again, this is shown throughout the entire structure of the film: Thatcher is putting her deceased husband’s (Jim Broadbent) clothes and has flashbacks about her growing up as a girl to her becoming and being prime minister of Great Britain whilst doing this. As the film progresses, we see that the older Margaret Thatcher experiences vivid hallucinations of her husband Dennis. Perhaps some audience members will sympathise with her, whilst others will think that it’s a cheap gimmick to develop her character. I thought the latter.

Either way, there is a fundamental problem with this film: the politics is somewhat ‘skim-read’. There are sections in this film, which basically attempts to ‘fill the gaps’ of her life rather than explore each avenue and scurry through the nooks and crannies of endless possibilities in the political story that potentially could have been told.

There is one whole section which literally just skims through TV footage of miner-strikes, poll tax, IRA bombings with no interest in the political subject-matter at all. It hops around from one to the other, without looking at it in depth. Nothing is explained. Why does this happen? What motivated Margaret Thatcher to be blunt about her politics and sharp with conservative opinions? We don’t know. The footage is simply used as a a cowardly ‘plot-device’ to add to the story, as if the director, Lloyd, just threw it in for the sake of it.

There is nothing wrong with a political bio-pic that doesn’t pick a political side. A biopic – or indeed any film – doesn’t have to have certain views, it doesn’t have to be right-wing, left-wing or liberal. Yet, if it doesn’t do that, it at least must pose questions, it at least must make us question our own political beliefs. And in the case of this film, it must at least make us go home, questioning and pondering our views about The Iron Lady herself.

All in all, The Iron Lady is a film which delves far too much on the personal side of Margaret Thatcher rather than her controversial politics, which is a shame to audiences, after all, isn’t the main attraction to a film about Margaret Thatcher about her opinion-dividing politics themselves?

Verdict:

Perhaps it’s a film that’s about death, coming of age or feminism; but at the end of the day it’s a bio-pic about a political leader, yet it isn’t remotely political in the slightest. Oh well, the acting was good.

Thor (2011)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246578/

12  115 min  –  Action | Adventure | Fantasy   –  27 April 2011 (UK)

Director

Kenneth Branagh

Writer

Ashley Miller; Zack Stentz; Don Payne; J. Michael Straczynski; Mark Protosevich

Stars

Chris Hemsworth; Anthony Hopkins; Natalie Portman

Plot:

After Thor (Hemsworth) angers the infamous enemies of the Asgardians: The Frost Giants – he is stripped of his Godly powers, hammer and title of being ‘Kind of Asgard’ and banished to earth, which he must later defend…

Review:

“You know, for a crazy homeless person he’s pretty cut” is what one of the characters says about Thor, the overly-hench and overly-angry hero in one of this year’s Summer blockbusters. Thor obviously goes to the gym quite a lot, however, he’s lacking in the brain department – this generally sums up his character, he’s there for the female section of the audience to look at…and that’s pretty much it. His emotions consist of anger, ‘normal mode’ and…anger (‘normal mode’ being not angry).

He’d be the kid in your class who’d take offense to anything and everything. If you called him ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’, he’d probably pin you to the floor and repeatedly bash a brick on your head, or in Thor’s case: a magical hammer. But hey, he’s a God who lives in the clouds with all of his God-friends, so, us the audience, are allowed to turn a blind-eye when he gets peed off for no real reason.

Thor is arrogant and angry: not a good mix – this is especially shown when he irritates a few Frost Giants (bad move) and as a result of this, Odin – Thor’s father – takes away Thor’s powers, his hammer and his title of being ‘King of Asgard’. Oh and for good measure, Thor is banished to earth; slight overreaction perhaps, but hey that’s Summer blockbusters for you (and a plot device which the writers cunningly use in such a way because if Thor wasn’t banished, there wouldn’t be a film meaning that there wouldn’t be a massive gazillion-pound profit).

Once he arrives on earth, he is reluctantly seen by Jane and the gang. Jane is researcher and scientist who is fascinated by Thor and his life as a God.

After a kerfuffle where Thor scrambles around half-blind half-confused saying clichéd dialogue such as: ‘where am I?…” and ‘what have you done with me?…” (etc…), there is a (clichéd) section which is craftily used: the ‘fish out of water montage’ – i.e. lots of gags about how he doesn’t understand technology, and a ridiculous, but humorous moment where he slams a coffee cup on the floor in a café , to which Jane explains to him “we don’t do that.” Humorous – even though a tad clichéd – the humour here works, and is continued throughout the film to provide the film with its energy, warmth and charm.

(Oh, and there’s some evil government people who are just there to be evil for plot device reasons which I won’t explain as not to ruin the plot. Note: In following with the cliché, they wear black suits and sunglasses.)

There are many good moments in this film: I liked the long CGI shots showing us the vast landscapes of Asgard, I liked the beginning of the film where we cut from earth to Asgard to explain how the two would collide in a culture-clash, I liked the originality of the plot, I liked how the film had charm, warmth and a sense of fun.

All in all, Thor is a good film which will bring eight year olds joy and provide older members of the audience with some escapist fun. A good film. Solid 3 stars.

Verdict:

Failing in the sense that it has a few clichés and undeveloped characters, however, it’s a Summer blockbuster, so we expected that anyway. Enjoyable, original, escapist fun which should entertain the younger members of the audience as well as the older members.

Lost In Translation (2003)

 3 STARS

General Information:

The information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/

 15 104 min  –  Drama   –  9 January 2004 (UK)

Director

Sofia Coppola

Writer

Sofia Coppola

Stars

Bill Murray; Scarlett Johansson; Giovanni Ribisi

Plot:

Two strangers, who are bored with life, meet together in Tokyo outside of their homeland, America. As the film progresses they form an intriguing bond as they realise that they have more in common than they first realised.

Review:

Despite all of the critical acclaim, the praise and all of the other hoo-hah that this film has received, it still left me wanting more. It lacked something. Something which most films have, something which makes you go to watch a film for, something that really does make or break a film:

a plot.

Okay, I’m being harsh; perhaps this film does have a plot.

A plot that’s fairly watery and lose around the edges that is.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two people who are bored with life. Harris is a film-star who has lost all of his fame and glory and is now ending up starring in drinks commercials. Whilst Charlotte is another lost soul who plays the wife of a photographer who ignores her every night, she on the other hand, is not famous, so more of an ‘everywoman’ (in contrast to the overly-used ‘everyman’).  One’s a millionaire, whilst one isn’t. One isn’t ignored, as he is famous, and the other is, as she is not famous and is constantly ignored by her soul-mate.

The film is about how two strangers can meet and form a bond. Quite an odd and intriguing bond as they both have conversations with which you’d only have with a stranger whilst waiting at a bus stop. Conversations without detail – and without detail is without any attachment, in this sense their relationship is, in a sense, fulfilling, as they can have conversations but without being judged, as after all, they don’t really know each other. Whereas, if you had a conversation with your partner, or your friend, or your boss, you are being judged, which is why their bond is so unique and which is also why they are both emotionally attached with each other (even though their conversations have some level of detachment). In this respect the film is witty, clever and original. I liked the first half of the film for this reason, the film was comical and it had undercurrent commentaries of day-to-day life. Yet, the film carries on, and this ‘plot’ got thinner and thinner because well, it isn’t even a plot. Yes, it’s original, but it leaves the second half nowhere to go on. What did I like in the first half? Well, there were various comical moments, these moments perhaps being slightly ‘racist’ to Japanese people, but hey-hoh, that’s ‘art’ for you.
I also liked the originality of how the two characters met. I liked the fact that they both had self-improvement CDs as they were both lost.

What also strikes me about this film is the fact that it has a certificate of ‘15’. What for? It’s the most watery 15 I have ever seen. It contains no violence, some references to sex (i.e. boobs and a few hookers), a few odd ‘rude words’ here and there, but 15, really? How can the BBFC award a 15 about two strangers having conversations with each other? Surely a 12. At least a PG.

Anyway, enough of the politics…Bill Murray, plays Bob, and there is no other way to describe his performance other than: superb. I do believe that this is his best performance yet. It is a very intriguing performance, and one of those performances that is very rare in a film: it feels real. He doesn’t play Bob Harris, neither is he pretending to be Bob Harris, he is Bob Harris. His performance is subtle – subtle is very difficult to play, and it is a good subtle, it is not underdone, and it is not overdone, it is just right. In this respect, I can compare his performance to Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Obviously excluding the fact the Bill isn’t a psychopath who eats people for ‘fun’ that is.

Both of their performances are subtle, so subtle that it is believable and real.

However, I have so much to criticise. Yes the acting was of the top-notch – but that is, surely, the least anyone expects from a film. Unless of course, if you like Keanu Reaves, (but that’s a different matter, a different review, a different rant).

So anyway, the acting was good, but the film lacks – as I mentioned earlier – plot. The plot is basically several random, aimless conversations that these two strangers have. This spans over the length of an entire film. I don’t like that. If it were a one-off serial drama which lasted for forty-five minutes, I would have been pleased, delighted, in fact. Yet, this is a film; this is longer, which makes these conversations drift off into a dreamscape impossible-land of ever-so-increasing-dullness. The film is like blank canvas with a miniscule dot in the middle, it’s got something in it, but not much, not much to be even be classed as ‘brilliant’. However, I must take into account that many people like this film, reviews class it as philosophical and a commentary on day-to-day life. People have claimed that this film made them think about their lives and if life is really worth living. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that. If a film wants to commentate on such philosophical questions, it needs to be impactful, not subtle. It needs to be in-your-face, not just hide behind the corner hoping not to be seen.

This is where Lost In Translation falls, it is not heavy in substance, it is like a slow feather falling to the floor. Great to look at, but not much to it. However, if you like films that are attempting to be philosophical but aren’t quite getting there, this is the film for you.

Oh well, the acting was good.

Verdict:

A thoroughly original plot, yet the film digs its own hole in the fact that the plot doesn’t give it anywhere to dig any further, as it well…goes nowhere. I like the originality of the plot – yet I don’t like the fact that this is the one and only leg the film stands on. Yet I suppose that’s what the film-makers intended: to suggest that life ends nowhere, we are all lost souls, like the characters in the film: who are, as the title suggests: Lost In Translation.