Cinepub


2012 Best Picture Round Up: Lincoln by Jamie

Spielberg’s latest historical work hits the UK shores today and it did fairly well at the nomination announcement picking up 12 in total. The question, of course, is does it deserve them?

Steven Spielberg has, to some degree, contributed a great deal to defining my childhood. I grew up watching the films he directed and the films he produced and they are responsible, at least in some way, for the person I am today. Hell, Jaws is still my favourite film and as close to a perfect film as I believe you can get. Lately, however, I have found myself becoming more and more disappointed in Spielberg’s work. I believe we all remember the terrible CGI-fest that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And the less said about that atrocious, manipulative piece of schlock called War Horse the better. Still, I was looking forward to Lincoln as I have recently started reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, upon which this film is somewhat based, and I am always a sucker for a good historical drama.

First off, I should say that this isn’t exactly a biopic and perhaps a better title for this film would have been The 13th Amendment (Or Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment in a misguided attempt to appeal to Indiana Jones fans) because that’s the era of Lincoln’s presidency that this film focuses on. The Civil War is already well underway and Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is beginning his second term as President. It is quite clear that the civil war is coming to a close and Lincoln wishes to get the 13th Amendment passed before it does because he fears that his Emancipation Proclamation, a war time measure, would be overturned by the courts when peace time resumes.

The film then focuses on all the political machinations that go on as the President attempts to get the prerequisite number of votes needed in order to ensure that the amendment passes. It also covers a few other aspects of his life such as the relationship with his wife (Sally Field) and his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as well as the relationships between members of the House of Representatives who will be voting on the amendment, in particular the largely Republican abolitionists such as Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and the largely Democratic opposition such as Fernando Wood (Lee Pace). So yes, this is not exactly a film about the civil war. The war is certainly going on and its presence is felt constantly throughout the film but make no mistake, this is a movie about the political transpirings of the time.

Political films can, of course, be great and can make for some very tense thrillers. But Lincoln isn’t a thriller and in terms of enjoyment, this film can be a little dry. Part of the problem is that Spielberg seems to be trying to make things tense anyway, particularly in the scene where the House finally votes on the amendment. Unfortunately it can be incredibly, incredibly difficult to make things tense when you already know what’s going to happen. Showing shots of people agonising over whether to vote yay or nay on a proposition falls a little flat when you know the outcome. Yes, I know these are also trying to show how difficult it can be to do what’s right in the face of opposition but cutting away from the Speaker of the House when he’s about to read the result is clearly an effort to increase tension in a situation where no tension can exist. The only people for who this scene can illicit such a reaction are those who are completely ignorant of history and believe slavery still exists in the United States. And to those people, I’d just like to say wow. This movie must have really come as a shock to you, non-existent person.

Another problem is some of the acting. Sally Field is decent enough though her weaknesses really shine through when acting against a power house such as Day-Lewis. He, of course, is brilliant bringing everything to the role that you’d expect including Lincoln’s vocal and ambulatory peculiarities mentioned in contemporary accounts. In fact, the only problem with the performance of Lincoln is that it’s Day-Lewis playing him. Honest Abe is such a reserved, quite personality who rarely raises his voice that you can’t help hope that at some point he might just fly off the handle like Bill The Butcher or Daniel Plainview but alas he never does. I suppose that’s fair given that it’s not really in the President’s character but still…

In conclusion, Lincoln is a perfectly serviceable film particularly if you have some interest in the topics and era that it discusses but I really don’t know how well it’s going to play in the UK. I’m sure part of the reason that it’s done so well in the US is not because it’s a particularly exceptional film but because it’s a competent film about a subject which is very close to the hearts of so many American, a man who is perhaps their most revered President. Outside those shores, it may just come of as a bit of an overwordy, bloated drama directed by a man who’s relying more and more on manipulative directing techniques but with a great actor in the leading role. Three pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) by Jamie

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Tintin. When it came to that kind of comic book, I was definitely more inclined to read something like Asterix but apparently a lot of people do love the beautified, adventuring journalist because all I’ve heard for a while is how much people are looking forward to the big screen adaptation of Herge’s classic comic. Apparently the people who like Tintin really like Tintin.

So knowing that, keep in mind that I can’t really compare the film’s version of the characters with their comic book counterparts or indeed the general story to how it might have played out on the page. All I can do is judge the film on it’s own merits. Also I watched the film in 2D because, seriously, I’m sick of fucking 3D. It unnecessarily decreases the quality of the film because the stupid glasses make everything quite a bit darker which can really hamper the enjoyment of a bright, vibrant CGI film say, for example, Tintin.

Anyway, the film begins in what seems to be Paris although everyone talks with an English accent and things are paid for in pounds. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense but whatever. There’s adventuring to be done and mysteries to be solved… Like maybe the mystery of why France has changed it’s currency to the pound… but no. Can’t dwell to much on that. The real mystery has to do with a model ship that Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys which immediately seems to attract the attention of a couple of other people including an American and the mysterious Sahkarine (Daniel Craig). The model ship is stolen and this leads Tintin on a globe spanning adventure that involves an ancient sunken treasure and leads to him meeting the bumbling alcoholic, Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis).

So that’s the basic gist of the film and saying too much more would give away a bit too much of the plot, what with it being a mystery and all. Overall, the film looks beautiful and really shows the leaps and bounds that CGI has come when it comes to creating human’s up on the screen. Gone are the creepy, dead-eyed days of something like ‘The Polar Express’. These characters work just as well as live action counterparts might have done and, for a film such as this, the style is completely appropriate. Motion capture technology certainly seems to have advanced quite far as well with each character managing to be just as expressive as a real person would have been. It all adds up to quite a believable world that at times reminded me of Indiana Jones. The good ones I mean, not that Crystal Skull shit.

The performances were all pretty much stellar. Serkis in particular completely nailed the part of a grizzled, drunken, down on his luck sea captain, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg bring their normal comic sensibilities to the role of the Thompson twins even though I feel they were slightly underused and Jamie Bell was completely believable as the optimistic, adventurous title character.

If there’s one criticism that I can really make about ‘Tintin’ it’s that the plot sometime moved forward a bit too quickly. It’s not a major problem but in a mystery you should perhaps take a little time to explain a few things a bit more clearly before just jumping into the next action set-piece. A prime example of this is Haddock and Sahkarine apparently both having memories of their ancestors. I never really understood quite how that worked but it’s a pretty minor problem in what is otherwise a fun little adventure movie. Overall, ‘Tintin’ gets four pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 by Jamie

Well the end is nigh for the Harry Potter series and it begins with this film, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ or Harry Potter 7 for brevity’s sake. Yes it’s been a long, strange trip with it’s ups and its down but how does this film fare as the opening of the close? Let’s find out.

So the basic story is that of Harry, Hermione and Ron roaming Britain trying to find and destroy the horcruxes that contain Voldermort’s soul and the effects that the Dark Lord’s return are having on the wizarding world in general. That’s pretty much it. It’s a pretty simple story and yet it manages to be complex in it’s simplicity. Wow, that might be the wankiest thing I’ve ever written.

Wanky or not, it’s true. The film manages to be both incredibly simple yet deep and complex at the same time. The biggest change from earlier films is that all of the action takes place outside of Hogwarts. Gone are the little whimsical touches that were littered throughout that school in general. Instead what you get is a far more realistically grounded film. Yes, you still have people using magic and that but there’s no keys with insect wings or talking portraits. It’s much more serious fare.

And with good reason. This is a very, very dark film compared to others in the series. For one thing, there’s a very fascistic overtone to Voldermort’s overtaking of the Ministry of Magic. The parallels are obvious with Nazi Germany. There’s a scene where they are actually creating propaganda entitled ‘Mudbloods And The Danger They Pose To A Perfect Pure Blood Society.’ So yeah, you don’t really need to scratch the surface too much to find the analogy.

What I am surprised by is just how far they’re willing to take everything for what is still technically a kids film. There are scenes of Hermione screaming as she’s tortured by having the word ‘mudblood’ scrawled into her skin, an opening scene where someone is killed because they promote the ideas of muggles and wizards ‘mating’ (as Voldermort puts it) and a beautifully animated sequence about three wizards and their encounters with Death himself. Beautiful but dark.

There’s been much talk about the number of scenes where the trio are just camping with some saying that the film is basically just that but I honestly didn’t feel as if that was dragged out at all. In fact the film seemed to be paced relatively well, perhaps a little slow here and there but not egregiously so. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some problems with the film. For example, one of the horcruxes they find is a locket which, when worn, turns the person wearing it into a bit of a douche bag so my question is why wear it? Hermione had a magical Mary Poppins-esque bag so why not just keep it in there?

Importantly, this is also the first film where the story of the kids was the most interesting part of the film. In earlier instalments I found myself not really caring what the youngest generation of wizards and witches got up to, caring far more about the story of the adults. In fact I really wouldn’t mind a prequel that told the story of Voldermort’s rise to power the first time around and the death of Harry’s parents/ This time round, however, it was all about kids without much input from the adults at all and I went into the film thinking I might have some problems but the story was engaging enough that I didn’t really mind at all.

Still over all, it is a highly, highly enjoyable film. Just don’t see it if you haven’t seen the films that came before it because you really do need to know the story up to this point in order to follow it. I also have to say I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, no matter how much they beg. Seriously, that scene with Hermione screaming continuously for what seemed like forever was almost too much for me and I like dark shit. Oh and thank fuck there’s no fucking Quidditch. That’s gotta make it one of the best in the series so far. Anyway, overall 4 pints out of five. Laterz.




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