All 6 entries tagged Movie

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May 24, 2007

Spidey

Title:
Spiderman 3
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

The main problem with Holywood sequels is that they try to top off what has been done before. Thus, Spiderman 3 could be dubbed bigger, better, with this time not one, not two, but three villains. Quite ambitious to bring the Sandman, Venom and Goblin mark II in one single movie.
And, to be honest, it doesn’t work. Well, that is, at the beginning: too much time is spent on the Sandman’s background, without quite convincing us; and Spidey/Pete’s bliss is borderline boring. You see a new Spiderman, full of pride, which is quite a leap from the one we had seen in the first two parts.
However, this all serves a purpose, and builds up to what can be named a masterpiece. For this movie revolves around one central theme, as did the previous two; but more subtly, and with a more general scope than before. What Spidey 3 is about, ultimately, is not exploring the dark side of the superhero – because that cannot work – it is about forgiveness. And it is seen from every possible angle: forget but not forgive, at the beginning – which clearly leaves some guilt in the “culprit”; Aunt May’s “forgive yourself first”; revenge; forgiveness that brings peace of mind; rejected forgiveness… I don’t think there’s any other way to tackle the issue; and yet it does not feel hackneyed in the film; on the contrary, thanks to the long and slow-paced beginning, it just feels right.
So we’re ready to forgive some awkward scenes (such as the French maître d’), and to focus on the amazing performances given by the lead cast: Tobey Maguire is, as ever, very good – even when he becomes the baddie; Kirsten Dunst is annoying but only when she’s supposed to be, and, for this once, does not give a flat, boring pretty-face act; and finally, Harry is just great! Suspension of disbelief works in every single scene he’s in; and that was important in order to make a farfetched twist quite believable. The supporting cast is quite good as well, especially the arrogant Eddie.
So, yeah, the storylines from the previous two movies are dramatically altered (who killed whom?), and yeah it’s overcrowded with villains – but it is all for the best, and iit works!

Spiderman 3 will be shown next term in the Student Cinema – worth the 2 or 3 quid!


May 21, 2007

An ideal break from revisions: Notes on a scandal

Title:
Notes on a scandal
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

It’s time, it would seem, for another review. The very good Notes on a Scandal was on last night at the Student Cinema; and will be shown again tomorrow tuesday (21st May) at 7.30pm. In the following review, I will give out bits of the plot; but since it is not an action/suspense-led movie, they are not spoiling much.
The film is, basically, about Cate Blanchett, playing a young arts teacher, falling in love with one of her 15-year-old pupils, as seen by Judi Dench, who plays an old, upper-lip teacher believing she loves Blanchett. One could see three acts in the film: the beginning of a friendship; Dench discovers the scandal and decides to use it to her personal benefit; and the end of lies. Just like on-stage drama; which would probably suit the story a bit better.
However, all the boxes are ticked: it is an interesting, nice story; the casting couldn’t have been more accurate, at least for the leading two ladies: a manipulative, old shrew Judi Dench (the best actress in British cinema); and a young naive/candid Cate Blanchett. The story editing works perfectly, the pacing is right and conveys the feelings of the cast; directing and photography are (just) ok, and the music is awesome, even though it suffers from what I now shall call the Murray Gold syndrome: it is so good that post-producers decide to put it in the film just a tad too loud.
So, with no apparent flaw, surely, this would deserve a five star? Well, no. The story is, ultimately, about lies; and whilst the film manages to show bourgeois happiness is just a facade, it fails to go far enough in denouncing Judi’s lies – lies to herself, especially about her love and friendship with Blanchett. Hers is the quest for power over other people, and the delusion of having it, but not love. The same is true about Blanchett, who lies to herself about the state of her marriage, etc. And I resent Notes on a Scandal a bit for not focusing on this, just a tad more than it did.
Still, an all-around enjoyable film (yes, like every film that is on at the student cinema: Epic Movie was a fragment of your imagination and was never ever shown in L3!); and it also deserves praise for being only 97 minutes long, which is rather a counter-trend in post-Lord of the Rings overlong/overstretched cinema.
An ideal break from revisions!


May 19, 2007

The Perfume (the movie)

Title:
The Perfume
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The Perfume – the movie – was, at its very core, ambitious, this for many reasons. Most obviously, it is extraordinarily difficult to transpose the olfactory sense, which is at the very centre of Süskind’s novel, onto a media that is mostly graphical. Secondly, the book itself is a masterpiece and has some wonderful descriptions, which, again, inevitably would fail to be rendered on a screen. Also, the leading part (almost the only part) is that of a twisted soul, but one which has charisma and appeal: casting had to be really fitting for this role. So – quite a challenge!
It would have been easy to focus on how obsession drives Jean-Baptiste crazy- though that would have departed slightly from the book. Too easy, probably – and studies about obsession-driven people are abundant in nowadays’ cinema (The Prestige is an exampe of them, and a very good one); so this path was not chosen. Being factual is, also, not an option- because the olfactory sense is the most subjective of our senses. The film is avoiding all these clichés and focus on one (maybe the main) aspect of the book – that, ultimately, Jean-Baptiste is some sort of Devil. Which is more obvious when you think of it – hints are plotting the whole book and film, for instance Jean-Baptste’s last name, Grenouille (frog, a creature associated with the Devil as far as I can remember). Whilst this becomes progressively obvious in the book, the same is not true of the movie – and one can easily mistake such references for random elements of the script: the word weird came quite a lot when I discussed about some scenes with friends. But – think about it – the deaths that occur to Jean-Baptiste’s carers right after he leaves (malediction element), deception, crime/murder, obsession with perfection – somehow trying to better God – and, more interestingly, the orgy scene towards the end of the film – symbolising lust. Now, this scene – which is gratuitous if you don’t have the Devil interpretation in mind – is quite controversial. It leads to quite a lot of giggling from the audience, but still is pivotal for the whole film: this is the culmination of Grenouille as the Devil, with him finally deceiving everyone into lust; but also entailing the central notion of Redemption : the first tears in Jean-Baptiste’s eyes, and the acceptance of death through the arms of the father as final redemptory act. Every symbol is there, even the cross. Now, as far as I recall, there is no orgy in the book, so this scene was added. And it is a stroke of genius. For once, story alterations actually add depth to a story, instead of, say, just adding a plotline (as the Aragorn/Arwen relationship in The Lord of The Rings). The very last scene keeps on adding some depth to the fallen angel ongoing theme: as the voiceover says, all that mattered was for Jean-Baptiste to be loved.
So the adaptation is, overall, genius. There are, however, still some defaults: the story being, ultimately, centred on Jean-Baptiste, so much time should not be spent on showing that the perfumer’s business was derelict, no matter how famous the actor is. Why do producers feel they have to use famous actors? Cameo is perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned! Also, one may say that, because of this focus on the Devil side of things, the story becomes very linear, and lacks transversal dimension. Which is true, but it somehow works in this particular film! Graphically, it is superb, except from the first couple of scenes: in order to show the olfactory sense at work, the director flashes evocative pictures. Quite fortunately, he quite rapidly gives up on that – fortunately, because the movie is about smells, which you, intrinsically, cannot show. The help comes from the amazing performance of the lead actor. He manages to pull off a tormented, yet disgusting and touching performance, as well as makes us see him smell. Suspension of disbelief is really easy (well, until the orgy scene) and that is moainly thanks to him. From the orgy scene onwards, he switches to allegory mode, which – again – works perfectly well!
But the film is not all good: there are a few minor issues. The voiceover is the one that I have most difficulties with: it is clearly a wrong choice when all you’re doing is following Jean-Baptiste around. It is, really, a lazy choice. But it gets worse: it would have been fine to have some voiceover; however, to have it speak like someone telling a children’s tale just doesn’t work. Because the story is so adult, and the tale mode does not work when you’re talking about the Devil. The other thing i hold against the Perfume is the music. Except for the one bit before Jean-Baptiste’s final murder (which is, by all my standards, brilliant), the music is unoriginal at best.
But this is all I can find to say against the film. Did it achieve what it had set out to do? Only partially – it fails to show as clearly as the book that Jean-Baptiste is an incarnation of the Devil, which makes it a failure for, say, half the audience- I personally did not like it that much the first time I saw it! So to all of you my dear readers, this film deserves a strong four. Go watch it again, or buy the DVD, because it is worth it!


May 07, 2007

Dreamgirls

Movie image
Title:
Dreamgirls
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars
_Dreamgirls_ is on tomorrow at the Student Cinema. I watched it last night – and the word that comes to mind is uneven.
Weirdly enough, it’s not even a matter of “the actors are good, but the photography is not, or the writing”. No. Every role there is in movie-production is uneven in this movie.
  1. Let’s start with the story – the movie opens on a concert, sort of the début of the Dreamgirls, a trio of singing girls; and it moves on following them to their final concert (how original!). In the middle of this comes the ransom of glory, and the evolution of relationships within the diva-becoming trio and with the manager (a flirtatious man…). Without giving away more of the “plot” – at one point the movie splits between two storylines, one concerning Effie, one concerning the other Dreamgirls. The latter is, well, poorly done – hackneyed if you wish. If you want to watch a movie about the consequences of power and business-music, watch Ray. If you want to see flirt between artists, and the consequences of drugs, watch Walk the line – both of which are excellent films. The only original aspect of this storyline is that it tackles the influence on music itself of business-led music.
    The Effie storyline, however, is far more touching – and well done. And at least you can follow the change in her personality. Mind you, it is quite a simple storyline, but it is also original as it focuses on the What happens after?
  2. Cast. Every performance was uneven, generally getting better towards the end of the movie. Beyonce was particularly appalling in her moments, but also very good at times. She was, in my opinion, a controversial casting choice, considering her own history within Destiny’s Child – which echoes a bit in the film. There is an exception to those uneven performances:
    Dreamgirls won the Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role”, for Jennifer Hudson as Effie. And it was deserved – her acting was simply fabulous all the way through, and she has a great voice. Only for her, it is a movie worth watching.
  3. Photography and directing. Well. Again, uneven. There are some bits which are overdone, some that feel just fine. What they got approximately right, though, is the changing of times. Well. Approximately: you can feel a scene is in the nineties/eighties/seventies/sixties but at times they chose a scene that was reminding of the wrong period… The editing cut, however, was wrong for the middle one hour of the film. I’ll come back to it in my conclusion.
  4. Music. Now when I watched it – in the beginning of the movie, I thought “what a fantastic music!” And it is true for most of the movie. Some songs are poor, though – but nothing quite as wrong as Beauty school drop-out from Grease. So yeah, if you can’t watch the film tomorrow, at least get by any (legal) means of your choosing, the soundtrack.

The main problem of this film, is that it doesn’t belong in the drama category but still tries. It is as though the director was undecided whether he wanted to make a documentary, a TV soap, a musical, or a movie. It feels like a documentary most of the time – but just lacks the narration. It feels like a soap at times, but this never lasts. And this is not just down to the director – the acting goes on accordingly, and so does the music (!)

Conclusion? Dreamgirls is a nice movie, worth watching – at least for the music and for Jennifer Hudson’s performance; but not a masterpiece. It helped me spend a not-too-bad evening last night (see previous entry) but not enough to keep me off drinking a bit afterwards.

Upcoming movies at WSC:
  • Apocalypto on thursday
  • The Last King of Scotland on friday 6.30 and 9.30
  • Rocky Balboa on sunday and tuesday
  • Epic Movie on thursday
  • The Perfume on friday 6.30 and 9.30

April 06, 2007

300

Title:
300
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Most of you must have seen posters for 300, the new adaptation from graphic novels by Frank Miller. The latter is most famously known for Sin City, which apparently was co-produced by the producer of 300. So – same people, same result? Hardly so.
Both movies have things in common – the uberuse (?) of special effects, violence and blood, and a somewhat clichéd American hero, doing things no matter what with brute force. They are both original works, standing out from whatever you can see in cinemas.
But 300 is different. It is not about bestiality/crime/revenge. It is about defending the people of Sparta. Oh yes, in case you didn’t know, it is held in ancient Greece. It tells of the heroic battle between 300 men from Sparta and millions of Persians come to conquer Greece. And that’s it. One big battle, with a plot that, in conventional movies, would barely hold 30 minutes. But here it is, holding for just under two hours. And tell you what? You don’t get bored.
Some critics I have read (surely the Coventry Observer is not the best reference, but hey) complain about graphical attacks, and the director using every CGI effect he can find. This is, I think, unfair. Graphical effects are present throughout the movie, and make it original – make it beautiful and enjoyable. At times you wonder whether it’s a painting from the Renaissance (ok, I exaggerate, but you get the point). It is pushing the reality towards the myth (and truly it is a myth), and filming it accordingly.
Six-packs seem to much? Well, it’s mythological, heroes are perfect, traitors are ugly, semigods have weird attributes…
So well done to the director for making this a consistent movie.
But, folks, if you don’t like battle scenes, don’t go to 300, because that’s what it is!


February 13, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Title:
Pan's Labyrinth
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Last sunday, the Student Cinema showed Pan’s Labyrinth, which was the biggest success (with 465 people for both viewings combined). The movie has six Academy Awards nominations, including best foreign movie, and quite frankly, it deserves them.
The action is set in 1944, in Franco’s spain, where a little girl, Ofelia, encounters a world of magic that is dying – and has a number of tasks to accomplish to save it. In the same time, her father, capitain in Franco’s army, tracks rebels down with quite some violence; and her mother has a difficult pregnancy.
The CGI and the photography are both superb, and so is the acting. The story itself is quite interesting, but reminds of other classics – such as Narnia, via Ofelia – and the main story seems to be, by all standards, a fairy tale (there’s even fairies: there!). We have all the elements: a series of tasks, failures, monsters, mythical animals, and the capitain, the baddie, who becomes even more so when his cheek is cut.
But there’s more to it than that. A political movie about resistance (passive or active), about Spain under Franco; a tale of violence and of pain, even more than in the classic children’s tales. And in the end, there is a message (I’m talking about the “most important task” for those who have seen the movie, but not spoiling it for those who want to see it).
I have read a critic saying it was christian propaganda. Maybe the message is “propaganda” (but the term is quite strong!) that agrees with a Christian value; however, it is not as strong as, say, what happens in Narnia. More than a social and christian message, it is a moral message whose function is, in my opinion, more to set the movie in the fairy tales genre rather than in the dark genre.
Oh, and I loved the faun :-)
So as a conclusion, if you missed it, try and buy the DVD – and watch it in the original version (Spanish!) it is worth it.


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