Monday, 31 January 2011

The Fighter

Oh cinema, you really are spoiling us. First 127 Hours, then Tangled, then The King's Speech, then Black Swan, and now this!? I've lost all concept of what makes films bad anymore, because they all seem to be flippin' masterpieces!

Apart from it's title, there's nothing bland about The Fighter. The film depicts the true story of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), and his struggle to make something out of his dwindling career. His brother and trainer, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) is both Micky's best friend and worst enemy. Whilst having all the boxing know-how of an ex-pro (he's The Pride of Lowell, don't ya know), he also has the habits of teenage crack addict. The pull from Micky's family ties and his desire to have a real shot at the title is the main focus point of the movie, and makes for a very satisfying family drama.

From the very first shot it's obvious that Bale is here to steal the show once again as the eccentric and semi-masochistic trainer/brother. His mannerism and speech just scream authenticity, especially when we compare him to the real Dicky seen in the end credits. Wahlberg does a fine job, although you can't help but feel he's playing the same quiet but nice guy he always plays.

God knows how they got some of these shots.

But it is David O. Russel who should be commended for showing us something truly rare: unique boxing scenes. Skipping from audience reaction, to television footage, to close-ups of knock-out blows, I found myself flinching everytime Micky took a punch to the stomach. The final fight in particular makes you forgive its overly long running time and become an uncontrollable nervous wreck. Seriously, it was like seeing Rocky for the first time. And I do not say that lightly.

In any other year it would have won Best Picture at the Oscars. Shame it's got such tough competition this year.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Black Swan

All of Aronofsky's films could be described as 'beautifully bleak'. There's nothing quite like sitting down on a sunny Sunday afternoon to watch Requiem for a Dream and have your soul ripped apart. And Black Swan is no different. Despite being his most commercial film to date, it still retains his depressive signature, as he throws viewers into a mind-bending journey of jealousy, lust, and other such watchable pyshcoses.

The Body Horror is a little more subtle than The Human Centipede

It might have a few too many 'does that girl look like me?' moments, but I must say it is one of the best horror films of recent years. Portman is utterly convincing as the mentally troubled lead ballet dancer, and Vincent Cassell is ingeniously cast as the morally questionable stage director. Arronofsky delicately blurs the line between reality and nightmare, until the final act where the two are indistinguishable from one another. But what makes it so good is how beautifully monochrome it looks. There is a shot in particular (you'll know if you've seen the film) that I want to frame and hang on my wall, because it is a piece of fucking art.

Enough brown nosing: see it.

The King's Bloody Good Speech

Looking for good, wholesome, British family fun? Well pop down to your local Picturehouse (or Vue, if you're that so inclined) and catch a stupidly busy screening of The King's Speech. It's full of posh Royal people looking worried, swearing, having fun, and generally acting like normal human beings like you and I (who'd have thought!?).

Whilst being very good, don't be conned into becoming all patriotic at the end when they play some particularly rousing music like I was. I had to take several showers afterwards.

N.B. Golden Globes, Colin Firth stole his performance from a certain British sitcom character:

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The one where I swallow my pride and watch a Disney movie

Like almost every child ever born I LOVED Disney. I couldn't tell you how many times I've watched this scene, much to my parents dismay and slow acceptance that I'd never read a book again. However, I then grew up and realised these films were for kids, and therefore no longer 'cool' (do kids still say 'cool'?). Since then I have only watched Disney films on the rare occasion: Christmas and the odd drunken night. But I couldn't tell you the last time I willingly went to the cinema to watch silly animated creatures running around and making faces (Pixar doesn't count).

It is then with great surprise and joy that I announce Tangled is exactly how you remember Disney. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but somehow it's composed all the best elements of Disney films (classic story, wit, catchy songs, annoying sidekick) into one cohesive narrative, and it works! So forget all your Disney hang-ups and just go. And if you're a Disney freak, you've probably seen it several times and memorised the words already.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Different Kettle of Fish

If you've all stopped gushing over the first shot of Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, I'd like to bring you all back to reality. Well, kind of.

Catfish seems to be one of the most hyped indie film in recent years, with a similar marketing strategy that of The Blair With Project or Donnie Darko, i.e. strong word of mouth. It came particularly to my attention when UltraCulture named it their Number 1 movie of 2010, meaning not only was The Social Network the 2nd best film of the year, but the 2nd best movie about Facebook of the year. I had to see this for myself.

To review Catfish in any such depth would probably ruin a lot of the surprises waiting in store for its unsuspecting viewers. Therefore I will simply bullet point the things I liked about it:

  • It doesn't have a genre. There are certainly components of different genres (romance, mystery, drama, horror), but the film keeps you guessing about its purpose right up until the final frame.
  • It has something to say about online communication. I would say the majority of people at one point or another have had an online friendship with someone they've never met, or even spoken to - so this film feels like its been a long time coming.
  • The film doesn't have a single pay off. It's a slow burner, but it's such a compelling and rewarding experience.
  • The acting is frickin' incredible. I'm 98% sure this is not a real documentary, but I found myself questioning that a lot.
  • The main character's voice sounds EXACTLY like Josh Schwartzman's. Seriously, it's freaky.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Future's Bright, the Future's Bullshit

The Baftas/Orange (are they one of the same now?) are currently shouting about their Orange Wednesday Rising Star Award. Despite being a shameless way to plug discounted cinema tickets, it also boasts the most bullshit selection of nominations possible: Gemma Arterton (famous since 2007), Tom Hardy (been in Hollywood movies for 10 years), Emma Stone (apparently Easy A was a classic), Aaron Johnson (famous for sleeping with a 40 year old), and Andrew Garfield (I'll give them this one).

So who should they have given recognition to?

Scoot McNairy

Whilst most people's eyes were firmly fixed on the blonde chick in Monsters, I had my firm attention on the male protagonist. This wasn't some latent homo-erotic curiosity (well, maybe a little), just pure adoration for the character and his undeniable charisma. And to prove his performance wasn't a fluke, I watched In a Search of a Midnight Kiss where, once again, he was the best thing in it.

Chloe Moretz

Whilst Aaron Johnson did a decent job in Kick Ass, the real star of the show was undoubtedly Hit Girl. And with the surprisingly good remake Let Me In, Chloe cemented herself as the Dakota Fanning of 2010. Lets just hope she doesn't start thinking she's all punk and star alongside Kristen Stewart in a rock chick biopic (read as: The Runaways was awful).

Robert Sheehan

Whilst he hasn't exactly starred in any Hollywood Blockbusters yet, Robert has proven in Misfits and Red Riding that he definitely has what it takes to make it in the big leagues. Once he's shaken off the quirky/annoying Irish E4 character status, he's bound to land some meaty roles.

Jennifer Lawrence

I haven't actually seen Winter's Bone, but from what I hear it's earth shatteringly good. Most attention seemed to be focused on the young lead actress, with rumblings of an Oscar win. Not bad for a 19 year old.

Andrew Garfield

He was in the Social Network. GIVE THIS MAN THE AWARD.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

94 Minutes

It was way back in November when I first mentioned my excitement for Danny Boyle's upcoming project. 2 months later and it has finally landed, and with it numerous office debates about whether you'd cut your own arm off.

The good news is that it's just as brilliant as I thought it'd be. An imaginative cross between Into the Wild and Buried (FYI I haven't seen Buried so this comparison may be bullshit), it perfectly balances tension, humour, and sentimentality. Whilst some might focus on the (unglorified) amputation, the story hinges much more on Aaron's spiritual awakening and acceptance of his situation. It is a slow and arduous journey, meaning it's not an exactly easy watch; and consequently one viewing might be enough for some viewers.

One thing remains uncertain.. did he ever go for a Number 2?

However, everything in the film falls into place and nothing is in there to falsely manufacture an emotional response (take note Love and Other Drugs). I was even inspired to go to the gym afterwards, in a feeble attempt to make the most of my working limbs.

And I salute any film that motivates me enough to exercise.