Cinepub


Review: The Tree of Life by Jamie

Terrance Malick is truly a remarkable film maker who seems to have aimed to achieve the impossible and with ‘The Tree of Life’ has reached that goal. Terrance Malick has made dinosaurs boring. For that alone my hat goes off to him.

The Tree of Life features just about everything you could possibly want from an overblown, wanky meditation on existence. Troubled childhood and the conflict caused by being raised by two people with differing personalities? Check. Questioning of God? Check. Endless shots of a variety of things such as trees and skyscrapers at annoying angles? Check. The birth of the universe and consequent evolution of life? Check. A score largely made up of classical music? Check. Breathy, barely audible mumbling passed off as narration? Check. A narrative which may have made sense at one point until it was decided to run it through a machine that seems to edit things together almost randomly? Check. I think you get my point.

What’s the plot of The Tree of Life? Well, that’s a good fucking question. Basically Sean Penn is an architect thinking back to his childhood in 50s Waco, Texas and trying to figure out the kind of person he wants to be. Does he want to follow the path of nature like his somewhat brutish father or the path of grace like his eternally loving mother? Oh, also his brother is dead for some reason that apparently relates to the “plot” somehow. Whilst his reminiscing we are shown some shots of the universe being created for some reason and then dinosaurs happen. For about one goddamn minute dinosaurs happen. And they do nothing. A young parasaurolophus lies down by a riverbed whilst a theropod of some description comes along, treads on it’s head and walks away. And that’s it. What was the point of this? Again, good fucking question.

After the brief interlude of the entire fucking universe being created, we get back to the humans and something resembling a story starts to develop. Turns out that Sean Penn’s father, Brad Pitt, was a bit of an asshole when he was younger and expected nothing but the best from him and his two brothers. Fair enough to be honest. After all the trio do seem to be somewhat in need of a touch of discipline as they seem to enjoy spending their idyllic 50s summer days breaking windows and blowing up frogs. What a bunch of assholes. So you get random scene after random scene of these assholes doing assholey things and then Sean Penn walks through a desert for a bit where he meets a bunch of people from his memory and we’re all supposed to be happy. Or something. Oh and occasionally someone whispers a bit of dialogue which the audience strains to hear.

The film is a ponderous exercise in tedium and when it ended there was an actual audible sigh of relief from the group of people I was essentially forcing to watch it with me. I’m sure there’s a deep, important message about just what it means to be alive or some bullshit like that in there somewhere and I’m probably an uncultured dolt for not being able to find it but I’m quite happy being an uncultured dolt if it means not having to watch pretentious wankery such as this. Hell, I’d rather watch an Adam Sandler marathon than ever, ever watch this film again. Recent Sandler. I’m sure that the whole thing is incredibly personal and meaningful to Malick himself and if it is then maybe he should just edit his childhood home movies into an incomprehensible mess whilst he whispers over the top of it. Then he can watch it at home, by himself as many times as he wants. Just don’t release it for public viewing.

Yes, It’s all very pretty and the classical music is all very nice but it feels like it’s literally trying too hard to get just the right look and feel of an artsy, pretentious film which it certainly succeeds at. I’m sure there are some people out there who think that this was a work of art, a realisation of just what can be achieved through the medium of film. Hell, I’m not sure, I know. A quick glance at the internet hass essentially proven that.

If there’s one film I can really compare this to, it’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. The style and themes are similar but 2001 is a far, far superior film. 2001 may be a little slow but at least it contains a coherent plot which it can hang all of it’s metaphysics on. Also it has a homicidal computer which is just awesome.

So in summary, theirs is really no way I could recommend this to any member of the average of the movie going public or humans in general. Except for maybe Terrance Malick. I bet he’d love it. Zero pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: True Grit by Jamie

I’ve been on a real Western kick lately and I think ‘Red Dead Redemption’ is entirely to blame. Yes, I’m still playing it, although to be fair I didn’t have my Xbox for about three months after Undead Nightmare was released. And so I went through and watched a few westerns like ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and kind of Westerny things like ‘There Will Be Blood’. To be fair, I loved those two films the first time I watched them but I’d never really liked Westerns as a kid. My thing was dinosaurs. Show me a cowboy who can beat up an Ankylosaurus and I’ll call you a liar. Still, they’ve weaselled a small way into my heart of recent times (and my head because I can’t get the fucking theme to ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ out of it).

So I was really looking forward to ‘True Grit’. Was I disappointed? No sir, I was not. As such, this may be my shortest review in some time. I literally don’t wanna spoil anything in this film. I’ll say it’s very similar to the 1969 version that was based on the same book though there are some pretty big differences which I won’t get into, again, for fear of spoilers.

The story revolves around Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a headstrong fourteen year old girl who is determined to track down her father’s killer, Tim Chaney (Josh Brolin), and see him hanged. She seeks the help of a US Marshall who she hears has true grit, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and the party has an on-again, off-again third member in the form of Texas Ranger LaBouef (Matt Damon and here it’s pronounced LaBeef). They travel far and wide, dealing with nefarious outlaws from Lucky Ned Pepper’s (Barry Pepper) gang as well as growing closer together and learning a lot about each other… kinda.

That’s all I’m gonna give you synopsis wise. Seriously, go see the damn film. OK, so everyone is brilliant in this film. Jeff Bridges plays the gruff, drunken yet world-wise Cogburn perfectly. He grumbles and mutters his way through rambling stories about his past just enough that you get to learn about the character and how he came to be where he is but still manages to retain an air of legendary status… at least until a certain point in the film where you kind of get the sense of the kind of man he really is… or is he?

Hailee Steinfeld is truly incredible as Mattie. She portrays the character as someone who’s incredibly wise beyond her years, determined and willing to be just a little bit underhanded in order to get what she wants. In fact, you almost get the impression that she’s exactly what Cogburn himself would have been like at her age, before drink dulled his senses somewhat. Normally a young character who is so good at getting what she wants and goes about it in such an intelligent way would pull me out of the film a little. I’d find them a little bit unbelievable but Steinfeld managed to have me believing that such a character could exist from the beginning. I’m genuinely shocked that Natalie Portman beat her at the Baftas because, as I think I addressed in my Black Swan review, Portman’s good but the character was sometimes just a little too pathetic to the point where it stretched all reason. Steinfeld is literally just perfect. It’s also criminal that she’s been nominated as a Supporting Actress at the Oscars. As Mark Kermode said if she’s the supporting actress then that must make Matt Damon the lead actress.

Speaking of Matt Damon he’s also incredibly good as LaBeouf. He infuses the character with a kind of douchiness (and occasionally a kind of paedophilic creepiness) yet never pushes it to the point that you don’t like the character. Kind of like what Robert Downey Jr did in Iron Man (and if you wanna see what happens when it gets pushed to the point where you don’t like the character, watch Iron Man 2). He’s incredibly big headed and thinks that he deserves some kind of special respect because he’s a Texas Ranger much to the amusement of Mattie and especially Cogburn. There’s a turning point for this character as well where he kinda redeems himself though and it’s done very well.

As for the other aspects of the film, well, it looks great as we should probably all expect from the Coen Brothers by now. From big, sweeping Western vistas to close ups of characters standing silently and waiting in the snow for someone following them to catch up, it’s all shot perfectly. It looks bleak but somehow beautiful. And it all serves to tell a pretty damn interesting story of vengeance in the old west.

If I did have one problem with the film, it’s that occasionally Jeff Bridges mumbling was so severe that it could be kind of hard to understand at times. It’s just a little thing really and doesn’t take anything away from the awesome that is this film. Five pints out of five. Right, that’s all the Oscar season films I’ll probably see for now. Time to get back to reviews that aren’t gushing and terrible. Time to hopefully watch some films that I can really rip into… Oh Shyamalan, where are you when I need you most? Laterz.



Review: The Fighter by Jamie

Boxing is a sport I’ve never been that interested in. After watching this film, I think I understand why. If boxing was shown on TV in the same way it’s shown in films with great close-ups and dramatic camera angles, I would watch it every time it was on. Sadly it’s generally just watching two people punching each other. So I guess what I’m saying is I don’t really like boxing but I really enjoy films about it.

So, The Fighter is based on the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his half-brother Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) and the various other people in their life. Dicky was known as ‘The Pride of Lowell’ (Lowell, Massachusetts, the town where they both live) after he fought Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s currently having a documentary about him being made by HBO which he hopes will enable him to make a comeback. Micky on the other hand has been that successful in the boxing world. He’s managed by his mother Alice (Mellissa Leo) and trained by Dicky a combination that probably hampers his chances more than helping them.

You see, having tasted success and not really doing much with it, Dicky has slipped into using crack, something which his mother seems to ignore, at least at first, because it’s clear that Dicky is her favourite son. Because of his addiction, Dicky is regularly late for training sessions with his brother leaving him at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to fighting. Also his family don’t seem to know exactly what is best for Micky’s career, convincing him to fight an opponent who is heavier and taller when his scheduled opponent drops out due to illness. Micky loses badly which prompts him to give up on boxing altogether so he can focus on real life and a relationship with Charlene Flemming (Amy Adams).

Alice arranges another fight for Micky but he brings up an offer he’s received to be paid to be trained in Vegas. Dicky, desperate to keep his brother nearby so he can continue working with him, offers to raise the money and pay Micky instead. He goes about this in a… let’s say technically very illegal manner which leads to a brilliant chase scene where he’s pursued by the cops. Micky get’s involved when he sees his brother being brutalized by the police and the two brothers are arrested though not before a policeman breaks Micky’s hand with a truncheon. Micky is freed and Dicky is sent to jail.

That’s about where I reckon I’ll leave the synopsis since it’s pretty much where the trailer gets up to and going any further is going into spoiler territory.

So what can I say about ‘The Fighter’? Well, it’s a pretty amazing film to be honest. Yes, it’s Oscar season so you’re probably gonna see a few of these reviews around here at the moment (Although the only other one I’ve really seen is True Grit so maybe just one more). The performances are amazing and much has already been said about Christian Bale. Yes, he is brilliant in this and deserves the nominations he’s gotten but I’m quite surprised that Mark Wahlberg’s performance seems to have been overlooked somewhat in all the things I’ve read about it.

It’s Wahlberg and the relationships he has with the other characters throughout the film that provide the real depth to the film… Hmmm, that’s not fair. Bale is indeed a massive part of it, especially his addiction to crack. I suppose a better thing to say is that this is both actors doing what they do best. Wahlberg is very good at being understated and it can be hard to see how good of a job he’s doing compared to the much more frantic and bombastic character that Bale is playing.

Adams and Leo are also great, particularly when they are on screen together (along with the seemingly thousands of sisters that Dicky and Micky have). The tension between them is so thick you could cut it with some kind of cutting device. They both feel as if they know what’s best for Micky and they genuinely seem to hate each other because those ideas are in such conflict.

The plot of the film is actually pretty much secondary to the development of the characters which, to be honest, is probably a good thing. The story is interesting and all that but it plays out quite predictably. Of course, it is based on a true story so I suppose that was the way it had to play out but without the great depth giving to the characters this would have honestly been a rather standard sports film that probably wouldn’t be getting as much attention as it is.

Right, that’ll do. Man, I hate reviewing films I liked because I have to reign myself in from giving too much away and then I feel as though the reviews are short and lacklustre. Ah well, never mind. Four pints out of five. Laterz.




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