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 King’s Speech by Jamie

Royalty. As a British person I spend at least twenty-three hours a day thinking about it, even whilst sleeping. My morning begins by sorting out my pound notes by denomination and saluting the picture of the Queen on each one before singing the national anthem to the government issued poster of her that comes in a variety of different versions including a tasteful swimsuit edition.

As such it was my duty to go and watch The King’s Speech, a film about our current monarch’s father, George VI (Played by Colin Firth in the film) , who took over the position of King of England after his brother (Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne to marry a twice divorced American woman. The story of the film begins long before the abdication crisis, though it certainly plays a pivotal part in the plot, at the 1925 Empire Exhibition where the then Prince Albert, Duke of York has to give a speech at exhibition’s closing. Unfortunately the speech is a bit of a failure thanks to the Prince’s severe stutter.

After several unsuccessful attempts to try and fix the problem with various different treatments, his wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter) gets him an appointment with an Australian speech therapist by the name of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The film then follows the two as they try and fix Prince Albert’s condition both through exercises and trying to get to the psychological root of the problem. It also charts the growing friendship between the two, overcoming difficulties together such as the aforementioned abdication of Edward VIII, the Prince becoming a King and just what such a position means in a time when the title doesn’t really denote any kind of real political power.

That’s pretty much all of the synopsis I really feel like going into because I honestly want to spoil as little of this film as possible. I know some will say that you can’t spoil a film based on a true story but fuck you. Not everyone knows the story. I knew elements of it like the whole abdication thing but I didn’t even know that George VI had a stammer so that was new. It’s not really the kind of thing that’s taught in history class.

So how was the film? Well, I was honestly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Everything just seemed to come together. The acting was of the highest order, though I’ll concede the fact that there were times when Colin Firth could have reigned things in a little bit better but that’s a very, very small criticism of an otherwise near perfect performance. It was certainly nice to see Helena Bonham Carter playing someone who wasn’t bats hit insane or just weird for the sake of being weird and Geoffrey Rush was insanely likeable as the Australian who started of as a simple speech therapist and became the friend of a King.

It was also shot and directed wonderfully as well. There are a lot of shots of people just talking without much else going on but that’s fine for me. I’ve always been someone who has valued good story telling over flashy visuals and this film was put together in exactly the right way for the story being told. Not that there aren’t some interesting things going on. There are two scenes in particular that stand out, one where Albert is talking to his brother about Hitler during a party and another when Logue and the Prince are walking through a park in an incredibly foggy London discussing the possibility of Albert becoming King.

Also I don’t if it’s simply because I am British but found the subject matter far, far more interesting than I thought I would. I’ve always been interested by history but when I first heard about what the film was about I’ll admit it sounded a bit boring but I was very, very wrong. It’s fascinating to see the days of Britain gone by, back when we still had the last remnants of an Empire, so-called ‘colonials’ were looked down upon somewhat and things in Europe were starting to take a turn for the worst. It was also interesting to see get a glimpse into the private lives of the Royal Family, even one from the past. Of course, some things are changed for dramatic or artistic reasons. For example I did think it was a bit odd just how involved Winston Churchill was during the films climactic scenes considering he wasn’t Prime Minister yet and, indeed, wikipedia reveals that he wouldn’t have been involved at all but he’s a historical character that the audience would recognise far better than most of the people who were actually there so I can understand his inclusion.

If I have one criticism, and to be honest it’s not really this films fault, it’s just how many good British actors have been involved with the Harry Potter franchise and therefore show up in this film as well. I suppose it’s not really a criticism but it was somewhat distracting and it just took me out of the film a bit. I mean you’ve got Dumbledore, Bellatrix and that dude who turned into a rat all in this film and yeah… I suppose it’s my problem, not the film. At one point I was half expecting a flash back to the King’s younger years where he was being played by Daniel Radcliffe or something. Again, just a thing that bugged me personally.

Oh, and one final thing before I forget, the film is very, very funny. A hell of a lot funnier then I was expecting but it also has a lot of heart and at no point is the stammer itself ever really used for a cheap laugh, though some of the techniques used to attempt to cure it certainly are. Well, not cheap laughs. Good, awesome and I assume expensive laughs or something.

So yeah, when all’s said and done, I really, really enjoyed this film and heartily recommend it to everyone. Everyone. And the Queen enjoyed it as well saying she was “touched by a moving portrayal of her father” so I am literally duty bound to give this film five pints out of five. Laterz.



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.




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