Cinepub


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.



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: 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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