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: 50/50 (2011) by Jamie

Cancer. It’s a subject that you might not think works that well in a comedy unless it’s in something like South Park. Is there a way to do a touching yet funny film about such a serious condition? Well, it turns out that there is as demonstrated by the subject of this review, ‘50/50’.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a man who’s life is acceptable but not particularly extraordinary. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he has an attractive, if somewhat emotionally distant, girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and he works at a local radio station with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen). So, like I said, nothing special but an agreeable existence. One day his whole life is turned upside down when he goes to the doctor to get some test results to find out what’s been causing his recurring back pains and he’s informed he has a rare form of cancer with a 50% survival rate. To help him deal with this he is sent to a trainee psychologist (Anna Kendricks).

And that’s about all I can really say about the plot without giving away too much in terms of spoilers. Needless to say that Adam goes through several stages of grief, anger, acceptance etc, all whilst trying to deal with the experience of going through his ordeal with cancer in his own way, generally trying to rely on help from the people around him as little as possible despite their own efforts to try and help him in their own way. Kyle tries to get Adam to use his illness to his own advantage by using his friend to help him pick up girls whilst also encouraging Adam to do the same. The character may seem a little selfish at first but it becomes clear that he really does care about his best friend and is basically just doing what he can to keep his spirits up.

There’s also Adam’s somewhat overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) who, due to a lifetime of worrying incessantly about her son, Adam tries to push away (as kindly as he possibly can) even though this is a time in his life when he should really be seeking her care and love. This is made all the more difficult, and somewhat heartbreaking, because Adam’s father is suffering from Altzheimer’s and so, as Anna Kendrick’s character puts it “she has a husband she can’t talk to and a son who won’t.”

To sum up, ‘50/50’ is a film that manages to take a very serious subject, cancer and the way it affects the sufferer and the people around him, that manages to make it both funny and sweet. It made made me laugh and also brought a few tears to my eyes, especially the scene where Adam is talking to his parents right before he goes in for his surgery (but then again, I realise I‘m a massive pussy who cries at the drop of a hat in films. Fuck, I cried when I watched Jurassic Park in the cinema recently when the main theme played for the first time). I think it’s definitely challenging ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as my favourite film of this year. Sure, it’s a bit saccharine at times but it never really goes too over the top in the sappiness department. It also has a pretty fine soundtrack. Seriously, if you watch one comedy about cancer this year, make it ‘50/50’. Five pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Inception by Jamie

Another spoiler free review. Well, I say spoiler free but since the plot of Inception has been kept so quiet, pretty much everything is a spoiler. No endings or anything will be given away though. Also, I’m sorry if this review seems a bit weird or if there are more spelling or grammar mistakes than usual but I hit my head pretty hard on Saturday night and I’m having a hard time focusing on what I write for too long. Anyway, enjoy.

Christopher Nolan has certainly made quite a name for himself round Hollywood way. The man seems to be a master story teller with a real flair for incredible visuals. Essentially he’s a world builder, taking odd or interesting concepts which could easily seem otherworldly and bizarre and manages to ground them in some sort of plausible reality. Take ‘The Dark Knight’ for example. He managed to make a man dressed as a bat trying to stop a terrorist dressed as a clown seem perfectly rational. That takes quite a bit of genius to achieve.

So when the hype began to build around his latest film, ‘Inception’, the world began to take notice. The trailer didn’t give too much away and the plot remained fairly under wraps until the films release. In fact the secrecy surrounding the film is probably the most impressive thing given that we now live in the internet age where things are leaked or crew members accidentally give things away on Twitter to such a degree that you often know the plot of a film before you go in. Somehow Inception managed to avoid all that which must have been pretty sweet for a big summer blockbuster.

So what exactly is the film about? Well, to tell you exactly would be kind of spoiler territory so how can I do this properly. Well, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team are a bunch of extraction experts who use their special skills and equipment to head into peoples dreams and extract important information and secrets. The title Inception comes from actually implanting ideas inside peoples heads which is apparently very difficult to do.

The film looks about as stunning as you’d expect something from Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister (Hehehe, Pfister) to look. From the streets of cities to snow covered mountains, it’s all very crisp and clear. The CGI is impressive as well, particularly the scenes you’ve probably seen in the trailer of streets rising up to a 90 degree angle. The important thing and something Nolan seems to be pretty consistent with is that the CGI is used very sparingly. After all, as one of the characters says in the film, dreams are generally pretty normal and you don’t realise you’re in them until you notice something amiss or something really crazy happens.

There’s also a nice sprinkling of physical effects as well. For example there is a scene in which a fight occurs in a zero gravity environment and, as I understand it, all of that was done practically with a giant tube that span around a lot of something. I did know the technical term for that once but the smack to my noggin seems to have knocked it out of my brain box. Fuck. The point is that it’s a kick ass action scene as most of the action scenes are.

In fact there seems to be a lot of hype surrounding this film about how complex and intricate everything is but to be fair I didn’t really see it that way. I actually thought that the whole thing played fairly straightforwardly as a slightly more intelligent than average action film would. Of course I think the level of complexity that you consider the film to have all depends on how you take the final scene. That’s all I’ll say about that. If you have seen the film and you want to know my take on it then you’ll have to ask me in person, over twitter or over facebook or something.

All of the acting is fairly solid though some of the characters were the kind of stock characters you’d find in any heist film (and yes, at heart this is kind of a heist film). You’ve got you’re intelligent and cautious character who just wants to get the job, you’re comic relief who’s a bit cocky, you’re character who’s providing the money and the job in the first place who’s never done a heist before but insists on coming along anyway and you’re rookie who’s brought in because they’re skilled in a specifically specialised job that the team needs for this mission. In a lesser film this kind of thing would annoy me but here it all works fairly well and most of the characters are fleshed out a little better than what I’ve just written would suggest. Fuck feeling woozy again.

There is one major problem I did kind of have with the film though and I’m afraid that in order to address it I’m gonna have to enter some very light spoiler territory. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want anything at all revealed then perhaps you should go away now. I was going to give the film four and a half out five anyway and highly suggest you watch it so there you go.

Right, are they gone? Good. Ok, the only real problem I had was the fact that everyone keeps on going on about how difficult inception is, how hard it is to implant a fresh idea in someone’s head without them realising that it’s been planted there but to be honest it kind of seemed as though it wouldn’t have been that difficult if not for the fact that their target had had his mind trained to protect itself from extraction and one of the crew had severe problems that was infecting the targets dream state. Honestly, it looked their mission would have been pretty damned easy if not for those two elements but hey, I guess I’m kinda nitpicking here. Oh, speaking of nitpicking it did seem to me as though Joseph Gordon Levitt was kinda young to be an expert at extraction but hey, he turned in a solid performance so I guess I can let it slide.

Right, I’m sorry, I’d love to write more on this review but I’m just having trouble concentrating on words being typed on a screen without feeling really dizzy so I’m gonna have to stop. Maybe I’ll have another, fuller review written when the Blu-Ray comes out and everyone’s had a chance to see it. I’ll sum up by saying Inception is a damn fine film but I didn’t find it as complex as everyone’s been saying. In fact, I found the Joker’s plot in ‘The Dark Knight’ and the way he played everyone in Gotham City to be far more complex but again, I think it all comes down to how you take the ending. That’s it, apologies again but I have to end this now. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.




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