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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.



Review: Catfish by Jamie

I thought long and hard about whether or not to make this review spoiler free or not and, in the end, I came to the conclusion that not mentioning spoilers would make this film particularly difficult to write about so yes, there will be spoilers in this review. Due to the nature of this film I would heartily suggest that you go and watch the film before reading further. To make sure that you don’t accidentally read anything that will spoil the film for you, I’ll place a video underneath this paragraph.

Hahaha, that never gets old. Yes, there’s nothing quite as funny as a chimp sexually violating a frog. It’s true what they say, they’re so like us. Anyway, on with Catfish then. I assume that we’re all finally on the same page here, all having watched the film. If you decided to read on anyway without watching the film then I guess that’s up to you. I can’t stop you.

The film begins in New York when professional photographer Nev Schulman receives a painting of one of his pictures from Abby Pierce, an eight year old from Michigan. Nev begins an online friendship with Abby and, by exension, Abby’s family including Abby’s mother, Angela, Abby’s brother Joel and Abby’s older half-sister Megan who Nev takes quite a shine to as they chat online and via phone calls.

Nev’s brother Ariel and his friend Henry Joost begin documenting Nev’s relationship with the family, in particular his developing romance with Megan. It turns out that Abby isn’t the only artiste in the family and that Megan herself is quite the proficient dancer and prolific songwriter. She sends him copies of songs she has recorded and he is quite impressed. Impressed, that is, until he finds that the songs have pretty much been taking from YouTube videos. This leads to the guys investigating some of the other claims the family have made.

For example, Megan had claimed that they had purchased a gallery in order to hold shows for Abby’s work and had sent them pictures of the building. Through some online sleuthing they discover that the building is actually an old JC Penney’s which is actually still up for sale. Determined to find out the truth behind the story of the family, the filmmakers decide to head out to Michigan to confront the family.

The first place they head to is a horse ranch which Megan supposedly owns in the middle of the night, which actually turns out to be quite a creepy scene. Upon arriving they find that find that no one is there and there is certainly no sign of any horses. Furthermore an investigation of the mailbox reveals that it’s full of postcards which Nev had sent Megan on his travels proving once and for all that the British door-based letter slot is far superior than the American mailbox system.

The next morning the three guys decide to just show up at the family’s house. There they find that Angela and her husband doesn’t look anything like their Facebook pictures, Abby isn’t an artist, Megan is no where to be found and Angela is in fact a housewife who cares for two disabled sons and is the actual person behind the paintings. The filmmakers come to the conclusion that it is Angela who has essentially fabricated an entire life on Facebook, creating fictional profiles for a large network of family and friends and that she is, in fact, in love with Nev

Nev eventually gently confronts Angela about all this and the truth finally comes out. The last half hour or so of the film is spent basically interviewing Angela and her family in order to try and get some kind of handle of just who she is. It’s revealed through these interviews that she basically carried out the lie in order to vicariously experience a life she had given up on in order to have the family she has now. During most of her interviews, Angela is seen making a sketch of Nev. When everything is all over Nev returns to New York where he finally receives Angela‘s portrait of himself.

So yeah, that’s basically the film. And it’s a well told story with many interesting turns and twists and you never really lose interest but by far the biggest question surrounding this film is it’s veracity. Are the events pictured real or is it all an elaborate hoax. It does seem as though things play out so nicely that it’s almost unbelievable but I’ve let documentaries slide for that before, the fantastic ‘King of Kong’ being a good example.

Still, there’s something else that just drives me to believe that the whole thing is fabricated and that’s the way people speak, especially the three filmmakers. It just seems to me as though they are saying things that they had planned out and trying to make it sound natural. I’ll admit this could be simply due to the presence of a camera. I’ve seen people just talking about stuff and coming off completely differently simply because they are being filmed. Still, these guys just come off so unnatural to me that I have a hard time believing that the film is a true documentary.

There’s also a scene where they’re talking about chickens and apparently none of them knew that chickens lay one egg a day. Really? Are you shitting me? Who the fuck doesn’t know that? I know that they live in New York but surely they must have learnt that at some point in their lives. The whole thing, again, comes of as something written that they thought would be a wacky little conversation because seriously, I refuse to believe that there’s anyone who has heard of chickens that doesn’t know that they lay an egg a day. I mean Jesus fucking Christ!

Ahem. Whether or not the film is real there are a couple things that just rubbed me up the wrong way. The first is the unrepentant douchebaggery of the three main characters. They just seem so smug to me that I just found them genuinely annoying and I was kinda glad that they’d been played for fools. The second thing is the style of the film. Something about how heavily it relied on the internet imagery pissed me off as well. Yes, I understand it’s a documentary about people meeting and forming relationships over the internet but do I really need to see Google Maps every time they go travelling? And I swear this film had showed Facebook more fucking times than ‘The Social Network’ did. It just seemed as though they were saying “Look! The internet exists and we’re using it a lot in our movie! Aren’t we current and up to date!” It just irritated the hell out of me and I realise that’s more my problem than the films but still.

Despite these flaws, it is a interesting story, true or not, about the perils of relationships with strangers over the internet and one which is certainly relevant right now what with the release of ‘The Social Network’ and Mark Zuckerberg being name ‘Times’ man of the year. Yes, 2010 was the year of Facebook and ‘Catfish’ is another part of that. Overall I’ll give it 3 out of 5.




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