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The Best And The Worst Of 2009: Part 2 by Jamie
31/12/2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Lists, Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, as I write this I’m sitting at work in a hotel. It has probably been the worst night I’ve had all year. There was an altercation between some customers, blood was spilt. Fun times. So it’s appropriate that I write this, my top 5 worst films of the year on this very night. I apologise that it wasn’t up sooner but I had a banging headache yesterday and the thought of writing anything made my mind capsule angry. With that said, I’d like to add a little disclaimer. I haven’t seen every film that was released this year, obviously. Hell, I didn’t even get to see many of the films I did want to see so all I can do is list my opinion of films I did see, hence no New Moon or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Let’s begin.

5. Terminator Salvation

The biggest crime a Terminator film can commit is to be boring. Now Salvation was certainly a better film than Terminator 3 but it was no where near as entertaining. That may seem odd but keep in mind I’m one of these people who gains a certain kind of pleasure from watching films that are bad, just as long as there’s something there that can be enjoyed.
Salvation provided me very little entertainment overall. There was the odd special effects sequence which was nice to see and it was nice to see a Terminator film that took place after Judgement Day but there was nothing really new here. For me, the film just plodded along from predictable scene to predictable scene. Some of it didn’t make even make sense. Now I know that can be said for many of the Terminator films. The timeline alone has confused the fuck out of me for years with it’s paradoxes and such but it was really obvious things. Why would the machines build robot motorbikes designed so that people could sit on them? Why did they have USB ports? Overall, this was just a massively disappointment.

4. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

I’ll give G.I. Joe one thing, it knew exactly what the hell it was and it didn’t try to be anything else and I have to respect it or that on some level. It didn’t try and take itself seriously like certain other films based on 80s toy-lines I could, and probably will, be mentioning. Also, G.I. Joe was never really that popular here in the UK as I remember so I wasn’t as offended by the whole experience as I’m sure some of my North American counter-parts probably were.
Still, this movie was all kinds of ridiculous, pretty much to the point where it stopped being enjoyable, and trust me, there were points when I did enjoy this film due to it’s balls out ridiculousness but there’s only so much that even I can take before I say ‘I’m sorry, that’s quite enough. I’m afraid you’ve lost me.’ And it’s hard to say exactly where that point in the movie came. Was it when The Eiffel Tower got eaten up by some kind of super weapon? Was it Dr. Who’s terrible Scottish accent? Or was it having to accept that a Wayans would somehow be considered the best of the best of the best? I just couldn’t tell you.

3. Dragonball Evolution

Another film that I have very little connection with the source material. I think I tried to watch an episode of Dragonball once and was pretty bored by the whole thing. There just seem to be a lot of fighting and shouting. I can’t exactly see what all the fuss is about.
So I went into this blind and was pretty much treated to the same experience I got with G.I. Joe, ridiculousness beyond my comfort zone but even worse than G.I. Joe because it was incomprehensible ridiculousness. I reached a point where I couldn’t fully figure out what the hell was going on, nor did I care. Something to do with the guy in the orange becoming a WereMonkey and destroying the world for the grey guy if they didn’t get all the glowy balls or something. I don’t know. It was just odd and thankfully a pretty forgettable experience.

2. Friday The 13th

Now this is where this list gets a bit more personal. Yes, Terminator Salvation was a major disappointment but I can’t say I’m a die hard Terminator fan. I love the first two films but I’m not really invested in the series. Friday the 13th is a different barrel of bananas. I love these fucking films. Sure, there are some in the series that really piss me off like part five where it wasn’t even Jason and Jason Goes to Hell which just confused the hell out of me, but there’s enough there to keep me entertained.
I’m also quite comfortable in the knowledge that the Friday the 13th films aren’t great or in some cases even good films but that doesn’t matter. They hold a special place in my heart as does that loveable be-hockey masked serial killer, Jason Voorhes. So I went into this quite looking forward to it. After all, what could they do to the series that could make it any worse than it was? How can you be the straw that breaks the camels back if the camel has a long standing series of breaking it’s back? Well, I’m not sure how but they found a way.
The worst part is, I can’t even tell you how. I don’t know why I hate this movie. I actually quite enjoyed the first half hour which were essentially quick remakes of parts one and two. The film had all the right ingredients. It had Jason in his hockey mask. It had a bunch of stereotypical teenagers and it had some pretty sweet kills but somehow it just managed to be awful and it was definitely the second angriest I’ve walked out of a cinema this year.

1. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

GAH! For fucks sake, don’t make me relive this again. Please, I’m begging you… Fine. This “film” was just fucking awful. I spent every fucking frame of it hating the fact that I was even there. I have never walked out of a film but I came damn fucking close during this piece of shit. I apologise for the langue but… FUCK! Seriously, this thing was actually filmed? It was actually written? Someone watched this and said “This is gold. Release it.”
It’s an incomprehensible mess. No character in this film is in anyway likeable, even Optimus Prime was a massive douche. This movie made me dislike Optimus fucking Prime. When the death of a character has more emotional resonance in an animated toy commercial posing as a film then you have big fucking problems. Fuck you movie. Fuck you. If you wanna know more about my feelings on this film, there is a video review and a written accompaniment elsewhere on this site. I honestly can’t continue writing about it again and keep my sanity. Gah… Fucking… Shit… See you in 2010. Laterz.

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The Best and The Worst of 2009: Part 1 by Jamie
28/12/2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Lists, Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally I was going to finish this year with my top 50 of the past decade with maybe my top 10 worst, but I seem to have accidentally not saved my shortlist and so I’ve decided to just do this instead. Maybe I’ll try and sort out that decade list in January. Who knows? Not I… Anyway, In my opinion, 2009 was a pretty mediocre year for film. Of course this is skewed slightly by the fact that I didn’t get to see quite a lot of the films that I wanted to see and was left less than impressed by others.

Yes, this was a year for unnecessary sequels (Terminator: Salvation, Fast & Furious, The Final Destination), unnecessary remakes (Friday The 13th, Race To Witch Mountain) and terrible adaptations of popular things from other media (Dragonball Evolution, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li) but there were a few diamonds that shone through the rough… And since I can’t think of a better way to segue into the list, here are the top five of the ones that I saw (Probable spoilers ahead. You have been warned.):

5. Avatar

If you’ve seen Ferngully, you’ve basically seen Avatar. You just have to replace fairies with 11 foot tall blue people and Tim Curry’s oily dude with a cartoonish army general. Oh, and replace that Lizard that’s voiced by Tone Lōc with a giant Pterodactyl thing. Now, this film just barely made the top five because, well, I honestly wasn’t as impressed with it as most of the world seems to have been. Yeah, the CGI was pretty impressive but the way this film was hyped up you’d think the special effects cured AIDs or something. Did they cure AIDs? Well, I don’t know, I don’t have AIDs but I’m guessing they probably don’t. All I know is that I didn’t get the same sense of awe as I did when I saw living, breathing dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park or when I saw that giant mother-ship hovering over Johannesburg in District 9.
I think it’s the CGI which actually brings this film down a little. Not because it looks bad but it’s because whole scenes of this film are completely dedicated to showing it off. In fact that seems to be the main point of the entire middle of them film. It just doesn’t make for good pacing in a movie. If they’d wanted t show of the world so much then I personally think that Avatar would have worked much better as a television series where they could have layered it in throughout episodes and had a lot more time available to just show off.
Still, it has to be said that I did enjoy this film, particularly the last part which is basically one long, awesome battle. Good times. As I’ve stated before the plot is cheesy and clichéd but it’s a James Cameron movie so I was kind of expecting that and James Cameron can take the clichés and make them work.

4. Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

What? I can’t put a Nicolas Cage film in my top five list of the year? Well, fuck you buddy. It’s my list and if I loved a Nicolas Cage film then I loved a Nicolas Cage film. You know what? I fucking loved a Nicolas Cage film. Bad Lieutenant pretty much takes all of the things that makes Nic Cage bad in all the films he’s been in recently and makes it fucking work.
Does he overact? Hell yes, he overacts! Is it to his benefit? Hell yes, it’s to his benefit! Seriously, I’ve never seen overacting work so well in a movie. It’s like the reverse of The Wicker Man or something. If I ever meet Werner Herzog I want to shake his hand for casting Nic in this film. And if you’ve been in a room with me and I’ve decided to talk about this film then you already know what my favourite scene in this film is. If you haven’t seen it and I haven’t told you about it then I’ll just say this. It involves an old lady and her carer, a breathing tube and the use of the word cunt. It’s a glorious thing to behold.

3. Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is very obviously a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, it could almost be considered another part of Grindhouse, although I suppose that most of his films could be, some are just more obvious than others.
I know there was a lot of criticism when this film came out because there were a lot of scenes with people just talking punctuated throughout with sudden, short bursts of violence. The problem being of course that people walked into the film expecting a World War 2 film like Saving Private Ryan and what they got was a Quentin Tarantino film. I suppose there’s nothing you can really do about this kind of thing really, except for maybe hand out pamphlets explaining what the film is and what the film isn’t before they go in and see it but that seems impractical at best and stupid at worst.
One thing I really loved about this film was that most of it was in German and French with subtitles except for when it obviously benefited the characters to speak in English. I hate it when films have characters speak in English for apparently no reason except so that the audience can understand them. For example, I was watching Scarface the other night, an otherwise brilliant film, but there’s a scene where Tony is talking to his sister and mother and they are all talking in English. Why? Wouldn’t it be more natural for them to speak in Spanish? Whatever. I suppose it’s that suspension of disbelief thing that I have problems with from time to time.
Perhaps my biggest problem with the film, and to be fair it’s fairly minor, is Mike Myers as the British General. His performance was fine but his accent just seemed to slip one to many times for me to buy it,
Ooh, before I move on, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome finale in the French cinema. It’s probably one of the most awesome scenes in any film I’ve seen not just this year but in the past decade. Watching two Jewish men spray bullets from boxes into the highest echelons of Nazi society below them who are in turn trying to escape from a fire, whilst the visage of a women speaking about Jewish vengeance is being projected onto the screen and then the smoke, is a truly, truly incredible thing to watch.

2. Star Trek

I would by no means consider myself a Trekkie, though I have enjoyed many a Star Trek thing over the years, in particular the original series. It’s certainly a much better series than Next Generation, with barely any of the techno-babble that haunted the later series. It was basically about three best friends in space discovering new peoples whilst one of them tried to have sex with them. Good times.
So I was a little bit wary of this film when I heard about it. Still, it turns out I had no reason to be. This film was fucking awesome on so many levels. If you’ve never seen anything Star Trek before, then you can appreciate it as a great Sci-Fi film. If you’ve seen the original series then you can appreciate it on a whole different level. There are so many little references thrown in through out the film then you’ll be a thousand times more entertained.
I really have to commend the cast of this film, in particular Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine who I thought got Spock and Kirk down perfectly. Quinto did an excellent job portraying a character who had the problem of being both part Human and part Vulcan and Pine managed to pull off that likeable cockiness that made Kirk such an enjoyable character to watch.
Now, I’m as usual I’m not afraid to admit when I’ve cried during a film and I was surprised that I got a little teary eyed on more than one occasion watching this film. Perhaps most surprising was when I welled up a little at the end when Leonard Nimoy is quoting the famous ‘Space, The Final Frontier’ speech. It’s truly a wonderful thing that completely sums up what Star Trek, nay, the human spirit is all about, the yearning to explore and discover and I had no idea that it had it ingrained itself on my psyche and affected me so much until I heard it booming from the speakers in a cinema. Still, I will agree with my mother, who’s complaining that William Shatner wasn’t in the film drove me to near insanity. It would have been nice if JJ Abrahms had gotten Shatner in to read that speech, maybe just have Spock listening to some old Captain’s Log or something. Ah well, maybe in the sequel.

1. District 9

What can I say about this film that I haven’t already said? Well, as I said earlier, I felt more awe from the special effects in this film then I did from Avatar, except the mecha-prawn which on occasion looked a little ropey. I think, in all honesty, I’m just more impressed when you can take something completely CGI and blend it with the real world, like the mothership and the prawns in this film. I don’t get too excited by a world which is pretty much totally computer-generated. That and I really, really like insectoid aliens.
This film also inspired a last minute costume change for the Saturday of Bestival, my original plan being to go as Krang’s Robot Body from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead I spent an entire night building a prawn arm out of bin bags, paper and a glove and went and Wikus Van De Merwe. Good times.
There is so much in this film and it can be enjoyed on so many different levels. You can enjoy it on an action and sci-fi level or on a political level or even on a comedic level, the film manages to balance all these different elements exquisitely without ever feeling bloated or boring. Ever frame of this film had me on the edge of my seat and if it isn’t recognised at the Oscars then, well, fuck the Oscars.

So that’s it. That’s my top 5 films of 2009. But I know the internet. I know what the internet likes. The internet thrives on negativity, a raw powerful anger and hatred that the anonymity the internet provides and is generally just more entertaining for all concerned. So with that in mind come back tomorrow for my Worst 5 films of 2009 and I certainly do have a large buffet of shit to choose from. Laterz.



Last Year In Film: The Visitor by Jamie

Well I managed to survive the first round of Razzie nominations and it certainly feels good to get back to films with a certain touch of class about them after the likes of ‘Disaster Movie’ and ‘The Love Guru’ and it turns out that ‘The Visitor’ is a very fine film to come back to quality cinema with.

Now I must admit that I had heard about this film some time ago but then I completely forgot about it and, when I came to seeing this I had absolutely no idea what it was. I’d kinda hoped it might have been some kind of sci-fi alien film kinda thing. Or maybe something about a time traveller from a dystopian future. That’d be cool. But as the film went on I remembered what I’d heard about it and realised what it was and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I haven’t seen a good sci-fi film since District 9 and that was just over a week ago now. Still I pressed on and watched the film. And wow, was my disappointment completely unfounded.

The story is that of a lonely widowed college economics professor, Walter, who travels to his old apartment in New York in order to present a co-authored paper at a conference only to discover a an immigrant couple living there. Now in the beginning of the film Walter is a, well he’s not exactly a mean man, more an indifferent man, a man who views other human beings in the same way he might view an unfamiliar dog or perhaps a shifty eyed cat. Damn unfamiliar dogs and shifty eyed cats. Unfamiliar dogs and shifty eyed cats killed my parents. True story. Except it isn’t.

Anyway Walter’s life is pretty much turned upside down for the better through the influence of these immigrants, in particular Tarek who begins to teach Walter how to play an African drum, invites him to watch him play at  a Jazz club and takes him to play in a drum circle at what I can only assume is Central Park because I don’t know the name of any other parks in New York.

Walter’s new friendship is threatened all of a sudden when Tarek is arrested at a subway station and taken to a detention centre as an illegal immigrant. Soon Mouna, Tarek’s mother, shows up at Walter’s apartment when she becomes worried that her son hasn’t contacted her in some time. Walter soon begins a friendship with her as well as he tries as hard as he can to get Tarek freed.

The film is steeped with messages regarding the changes in attitude towards illegal immigrants, particularly those of Middle Eastern descent since the events of the 11th of September, 2001. It portrays a rather aggressive Department of Immigration Control treating their detainees as little more than cattle, keeping them locked in a building with no outside area, the closest being a room with no roof. They also randomly move their prisoners to other facilities throughout the country or even have them deported seemingly on a whim without alerting their lawyers.

Despite this definitely being a message film it also has a great story which the message really serves as background for. At the end of the day the tale is about Walter and how his experience with Tarek, his girlfriend Zainab and his mother Mouna all affect his life and, in a way, teach him how to view other people as human beings again.

There are a number of times when the movie strayed dangerously close to being a feel good, mushy story and about an hour through I thought I’d pretty much figured out exactly what was going to happen only to be surprised when the story took a different route, one I certainly wasn’t expecting and that’s definitely a good thing.

The acting is superb with Richard Jenkins as Walter truly making the character and his development absolutely believable and Hiam Abbass is awesome as Mouna, portraying a strong woman who’s absolutely heartbroken at the fact that she can’t even visit her son for fear of being arrested herself and the fact that her sons situation reminds her of her husband’s own predicament as a journalist in Syria, arrested for an article he wrote.

Overall I give this film four pints out of five and I heartily, heartily recommend it. Watch it damn it! Laterz.



Last Year In Film: Slumdog Millionaire by Jamie

As always, spoilers follow.

So this is it then. The big one. The winner of the best picture last year, Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a movie which has a hell of a lot packed into it over the course of two hours. There’s torture, romance, murder, poverty, gangsters, dancing and the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? So did it deserve the awards, the hype, the praise? Let’s find out, won’t we?

The movie’s set in India, specifically Mumbai for the most part and tell the tale of Jamal Malik, his brother Salim and the girl of Jamal’s dreams, Latika, children born in the slums of the city who are all orphaned by a Hindu attack on their Muslim slums. The film follows their journeys over the years, joined at times, separated at others and all told by an older Jamal during an interview with the police. Why is he being interviewed by the police? Well, he’s currently on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? And he’s doing so well that he’s arrested after his first night on the programme after getting the penultimate question correct, accused of fraud because, honestly, how could someone who grew up on the streets and is currently working as a tea boy possibly know the answers to so many questions? He’s tortured by the police at first and when that doesn’t shed any light on the subject they decided to interview him and he relays that he knows the answers to the questions due to various events throughout his life.

And that’s a bit of a problem I have with this film. It’s a bit damn convenient that the questions are asked in a sequence that would allow his flashbacks to have a coherent narrative. Still, it’s a bit of a minor point especially if you buy into the underlying point of the film that everything that happened was destined to turn out that way.

Now, one of the phrases that got thrown about after this film blew up massively was that it was a feel good hit, a really uplifting experience and I have to call bullshit on that. Every time something good happens, something terrible happens either at the same time or a short time afterwards, Even the moment where Jamal is about to answer the final question is counterbalanced by his brother Salim, who has finally redeemed himself to some extent, being shot the shit out of. As for Salim there are times when he is so unrelentingly cuntish that he’s almost unbelievable as a character but again, it’s kind of a minor point and it’s kinda necessary to push the plot forward.

Still, that’s not to say it’s a depressing film, though many, many depressing things happen during it, such as a young boy being blinded by acid in order to make him a more effective beggar. I just feel as though the uplifting nature of the film has been a little overplayed.

There’s also a general sense throughout the film that India is a horrible, horrible place filled with slums, children living in dumps and being blinded by bastard orphanage owners and I guess I can’t say that it isn’t and it is genuinely rewarding when you see Jamal doing everything he can to get himself out of that world whilst trying to take Latika with him.

Damn, there’s so much going on in this film that I’m finding it hard to write a coherent review so fuck it, I’ll finish here. So, did Slumdog Millionaire deserve the Oscar? Well, it’s a very, very good film. It’s shot beautifully, excellently paced and the actors are all pretty damn good, except for some tourists who seem to have some very dubious accents. Still, personally I’d have given the award to Frost/Nixon which was definitely the film I enjoyed out of the crop of the Best Picture nominees. I‘d probably give Milk an award over this as well. Still, if I had to rate Slumdog Millionaire I’d give it four out of five pints and I still highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t.

So, that’s the Academy Awards Best Pictures nominees covered. Next I’ll be taking a look at the Worst Picture nominees from the Razzies so look forward to reviews of classics such as Disaster Movie and The Love Guru. If blog pages could be stained with tears then these would be…



Last Year In Film: Milk by Jamie

As a straight, white male I don’t think I can claim that I have ever been oppressed. In fact in the entire history of my people you might have to go all the way back to the Roman invasion of Britain to even attempt to make a claim of oppression and a fairly flimsy claim it would be too. What hardships our people faced when the Romans brought us roads, sanitation and mosaics. To be fair though, they did call us wild savages and laughed when we painted our faces blue. That had to sting. Bastards.

So it’s with some trepidation that I come to Milk, the story of 70s gay rights activist and politician. It’s the same problem with films about black civil rights. I can empathise with the people in these films, be disgusted by the actions of the oppressors and I certainly believe that every one is entitled to the same rights as everyone else, regardless of race or sexual orientation but as a member of the group who’s never really had to deal with fighting for our rights, I find it kind of hard to relate to these films sometimes. Not the fault of the films of course, just a circumstance of birth.

With Milk it was even more challenging because, in general, the history of the gay civil rights movement isn’t as extensively covered as that of the black civil rights movement. I could probably name you quite an extensive list of films covering that topic but for films about the gay fight for equality, I could name two and they are both about the same person, this film and the documentary that preceded it, The Times of Harvey Milk, and I’ve only seen one of them.

Anyway, on with the film. It opens with archive footage showing the police raiding several gay bars during the 50s and 60s before going onto the story of Harvey Milk, a gay man living in New York during the early 70s on the day before his 40th birthday. A chance encounter with Scott (James Franco), a younger gay man, leads them both to move to San Francisco for a change of scene. It’s here that Harvey first develops an interest in politics and a hope for the improvement of the lives of gay people in America.

After several unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the position of city supervisor for his district, Harvey finally achieves his goal and becomes the first openly gay man elected to public office. It’s at this point that he meets Dan White (Josh Brolin) a man who he seems to get on fairly well with at first and the men come to an agreement to back each other during votes, in particular White asks Milk to support him on preventing a mental health institute from being built in his district. Harvey changes his mind after finding out more details about the proposition and White becomes determined to oppose him at every turn, leading to his own political downfall. Meanwhile Harvey goes on to greater and greater things, successfully leading the opposition to Prop 6 which would have banned gay people and those who support them from becoming teachers which further deepens Dan White’s feelings of failure. I won’t spoil the ending but if you know the true story at all, and chances are you probably do, then you know what’s coming anyway.

So what is there to say about this film? Well, the performances for one were all brilliant. From Sean Penn to Josh Brolin (who I think I’ve liked in everything I’ve seen him in since The Goonies) to every supporting character. Each actor brings something great to their role, no matter how small it is. The big question is, of course, should Sean Penn have won the Oscar for best actor? Well, I’m still not to sure about that. I’m kinda torn between him and Frank Langella as Nixon at the minute. Penn definitely deserved to be recognised for his portrayal of Harvey Milk but there’s just something that Langella brings to the former President that I feel would have been equally justified had he won the award.

Perhaps the most important thing about the film is the impact it had on me. Well, it certainly made me appreciate the struggle of the American gay community during those tumultuous times and provided me with enough history to help me understand just why the world is the way it is today and the part Harvey Milk played in that. And the ending is incredibly touching, particularly when mixed in with the archive footage. Which brings me to another good point. Throughout the film the action is interspersed with archive footage from the time and it’s far, far less jarring than the faux documentary interviews in Frost/Nixon. That being said I still think Frost/Nixon just beats Milk by a tiny margin as a slightly more enjoyable film. All in all, I certainly recommend Milk and I’ll give it four pints out of five.



Last Year In Film: Frost/Nixon by Jamie

I am an all round geek. A jack of all geek trades and a master of none and one of the facets that makes up that geek whole is political geekery. I first started to become interested in politics around the time that George W. Bush came to power as the president of the United States and so my interest has always been with American politics, which is far, far more interesting than our rather underwhelming British system, and in particular the dark, shadier side of the political scene.

It should be no surprise then that Richard M. Nixon is a particularly fascinating figure to me. His name has become synonymous with political corruption, scandal and abuse of power. There are many who blame him for thousands, even millions, losing faith in the democratic establishment and the political process. The Watergate scandal shook the American system to it’s very core and even today it’s ramifications are felt, so much so that the suffix -gate is attached to almost every political scandal.

Three years after Nixon resigned from the presidency, Nixon agreed to be interviewed by British talk show host David Frost, for the sum of $60,000 and 20% of the profit. The film Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard and starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, tells the story of those interviews. Now, I’ll admit it doesn’t sound like the most exciting subject matter for a film but bear with me.

This film is fucking awesome. I cannot impress upon you just how good it is. I remember seeing the trailer at the cinema, possibly before Oliver Stone’s W and I was instantly interested but the trailer did give me the impression that it was heavily, heavily overly dramatised and I’ll admit that having seen the film it most certainly is but to be fair what do you want? It’s a movie, it has to have heightened drama.

The performances are incredible. Michael Sheen is perfect as portraying the young David Frost, a cocky playboy type filled with confidence who you should probably find annoying but he remains insanely likeable. Sheen also has Frost’s voice down perfectly and, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve grown up knowing Frost as the older gentleman he is today, I’d probably forget I was watching someone else portray him.

Frank Langella delivers a powerhouse performance as Richard Nixon. Ugh, I feel disgusted with myself having read that sentence. Let me try again. Frank Langella fucking rules as Richard Nixon. There much better. He manages to convey a strange mixture of devious intelligence, ignorance and genuine sadness to create a Nixon who is so more compelling than the one-dimensional prick who people are generally thinking of when they talk about the former president.

Rounding out the cast are Matthew Macfadyen as Frost’s producer John Brit, Oliver Platt as journalist Bob Zelnick, Sam Rockwell as journalist James Reston Jr, Rebecca Hall as Frost’s love interest Caroline Cushing and Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s Chief of Staff Jack Brennan. The cast is all pretty good but Rockwell and Bacon really stand out. Rockwell plays Reston as a man who clearly feels as though Nixon has twisted the very concept of Democracy and must be made to confess and Bacon is great playing a man who’s dedicated to Nixon until the end and seems to genuinely believe that the former president is a great, great man that the American people never appreciated as he deserved.

The film runs to about two hours but it never loses it’s pace, even during some of the long pauses during the interviews themselves. In fact these pauses are integral to the interviews, particularly during the last one and manage to rack up the tension as if you were watching a kind of Mexican stand-off and in a way you are. Several times throughout the characters refer to the interviews as battles and that’s the way they seem especially, once more, that final interview about the Watergate scandal. The only difference is that instead of guns they are using words.

Now, if there’s one complaint I have about the film it’s the occasional intrusion of the main storyline by short little, pseudo-documentary interviews. It features the actors portraying the characters discussing the events that have just happened in the film and at times it can really take you out of the film. It’s certainly an interesting idea and at times, it can work by giving a sense of the story going on around the main storyline without intruding on it with unnecessary sub-plots but at times it can come off as superfluous and some of these scenes feel almost like they were just used as padding to build up the running time.

Ooh, now I think of it, there is one complaint I’ve heard and that’s the historical accuracy of the film, in particular the Watergate interview. I can’t really speak to that, I’m afraid as although I have the interviews on DVD I haven’t watched them in a good few months and I have the recall of a goldfish who has repressed most of it’s memories. Probably should have watched them again before I watched this. Nevermind. I’ll probably watch them again later and if it turns out that the Watergate interview is radically different from the way it’s portrayed in the film then those intrusive interviews will probably take me out of the film even more than they did before.

All that having been said though, I really do recommend this film particularly if you have even a passing interest in politics. It really does manage to give you a sense of how people felt about Nixon at the time and just why distrust towards the system, particularly in America, is so rampant today. I can’t wait for the sequel Frost/Skeletor in which Frank Langella reprises his role as the The Evil Lord Of Destruction and answers tough questions on whether or not he let down the people of Eternia during his ill-fated invasion of Castle Greyskull. Until then I give Frost/Nixon four and a half pints out of five.

Laterz.



Last Year In Film: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. by Jamie

Today sees the beginning of a new recurring segment on Cinepub, Last Year In Film. The concept is fairly simple, watching and reviewing all the Oscar and Razzie nominated films of 2008. And I do mean all of them. It’s going to be a massive undertaking and I hope that I can manage to pull it off before the end of the year. With that in mind let’s begin with the backwards-aging, Gumpesque saga known as The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Benjamin Button tells the strange tell of the titular character who is born with what appear to be the signs of old age. His father, horrified by the baby’s appearance and the fact that it caused him to lose his wife during childbirth, abandons the baby on the steps of a New Orleans old folks home.

It soon becomes clear that Benjamin isn’t just one of those children with that extreme aging illness. Rather it seems as though he is actually aging backwards. Throughout his backwards life he has encounters with many interesting character’s and experiences the odd important historical event. He also experiences loss from a slightly different perspective and seems to gain a unique outlook on death, told as he was how he would die when he was a very young child.

The first thing you notice about this film is just how much it’s like Forrest Gump because that’s pretty much what it is but instead of being a little slow, the protagonist ages backwards. The similarities are striking. There’s a love interest who’s a free spirit who just wants to enjoy youth and not be tied down by their stodgier male counterpart until the good times have to come to an end (In Jenny’s case a son and terminal illness, in Daisy’s a severe leg breakage that ends her dancing career.), There’s the kindly mother figure who will try and do anything for their son and there’s the gruff alcoholic who he goes to war with whilst also being a boat captain and who seems to truly treasure his friendship. Fuck, there’s even a scene where Benjamin declares how he managed to get paid doing something he’d gladly do for free.

Despite all that, however, I really, really enjoyed this film and I think most of it is down to Brad Pitt and the character of Benjamin himself. In Forrest Gump, the character seems to stay exactly the same, almost oblivious to the changing world around him. Benjamin, on the other hand, seems to change quite a bit over the course of the film and, probably due to his odd condition, seems to adapt better to the changing world around him than anyone else. As Benjamin gets younger, he retains the knowledge that he has accumulated over the years and so, when he finally ends up looking like he’s in his twenties, there’s a wisdom in him that his appearance belies. Just like Benjamin himself says when he replies to Daisy’s comment about how young he is: “Only on the outside,”

There is, however, one major problem with this film that I cannot let go of. If you knew a dude who aged backwards is that the kind of thing you’d keep to yourself until you were on your deathbed? Hell no! You’d tell everyone you goddamn knew or at least I would. It’s like surviving the Titanic and never telling anyone about it until some treasure hunters decided to look for some precious stone that nobody knew you owned. Seriously.

Anyway, the special effects are great, the story’s pretty good if somewhat recycled and the acting is pretty much awesome all round and you’ve always gotta love a film that lets you hear the Louisiana accent for prolonged periods of time. I had a little trouble following it at first, unaccustomed as my ears are to it and the fact that my laptop speakers are shit, over the course of the film I got to grips with it. So there you have it. I’m sure some people will find the film a bit slow, maybe even tedious but it kept me pretty much hooked all the way through and the ending where Benjamin is finally going through childhood is truly, truly bittersweet. I’ll give it four pints out of five.

Laterz.




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