Sunday, February 26, 2012

This Must Be The Place

Impenetrably arty, or just a load of nothingness?

What is it with arty film directors?

It makes you wonder if their default way of operating consists in shooting their film first, followed by sessions with arty mates and colleagues looking for conceated ways of coating their product in a load of wierdness and randomness.

And at the end of it, do they talk to each other about things like "metaphysical hyperrealism" so that they can feel sophisticated?

Contempt for the ordinary viewer, however, is certainly something they fail to take into account.

Blatantly so in the case of This Must Be The Place, directed by Paolo Sorrentino and one of the winners, god knows how, at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The film is double frustrating for a number of reasons.

Sean Penn's amazing acting feels wasted, for starters. Perfect in his portrayal of retired (and bored) goth rockstar Cheyenne (looks modelled after The Cure's Robert Smith, one of this blog's heroes), Penn confirms his talent for versatility. Pity that he's wallowing in a sea of nothingness here.

And that's because the story plot is so weak that it comes crumbling down the moment it's apparent that the film is about very little was it not for a lot of beautiful photography, cultivated shots and intriguing landscapes.

Other than that, it's like trying to bake a cake with water being the only ingredient.

They could have expanded on Cheyenne's relationship with his estranged parents, or anything about his past, or present, or even future, or any of the side characters that are churned out every five minutes and then kicked into oblivion for no apparent reason.

Instead the plot errs from handing David Byrne a bit of self publicity, to bits and pieces about a local lady mourning her missing son, or even Cheyenne's mate going on about his sexual prowess.

Until, 50 minutes into it, an improbable stab at hunting Nazi war criminals becomes - but not too much - the purpose of the film.

And if that wasn't random enough, there's two-a-penny unconnected references to anything from wheeled suitcases, to ping pong, to blokes jumping into your car asking for a lift only to get dropped off thirty seconds later. Of course, for no apparent reason, aside from showing a stunning shot of the New Mexico desert. Camera held diagonally, of course.

Now, no doubt this blog's being ignorant. No doubt, director Paolo Sorrentino and whoever co-wrote the script had in mind some grand reference to the alienation of the globalised world or other self-aggrandizing coincidental double meaning.

And we're all up for a load of substance. But when you have to practically give yourself a brain transplant to try and grasp what a film is on about, then it's quite obvious something doesn't add up.

In short, very disappointing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Super 8

An evening you won't get back.

If you succumb to the idea of watching Super 8 on the grounds that it was directed by the same bloke behind both Lost and Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams, and that it was produced by Steven Spielberg too, remember it's an evening of your life you will never get back.

And it's a mild shame because the nostalgia theme in Super 8 is done with taste, the premises are interesting (a bunch of kids turning unwitting witnesses to a mysterious train crash) and there are also some endearing comical moments.

Until, that is, that so-very-American irresistible temptation for grand special effects done in the style of dick measuring kicks in, and it's suddenly like Spielberg and Abrams decided to do some self-parody.

Cue aliens, monsters and giant-insects-cum-octopuses building a supergalactic spaceship while everybody stares with their finger pointed and a falling star too manages to get into the picture courtesy of some good timing.

However, don't take our word for it.

You may fancy watching an unfeasible adventure consisting of ET cross with War of the Worlds for primary school kids with a sprinkle of Stand by Me or any Stephen King-inspired stuff after he got into multiple-eyed monsters turning into walking spiders disguised as the sheriff... In which case, Super 8 will be most enjoyable.

Monday, February 20, 2012


The best hypochondriac film since Cassandra Crossing.

They say that the mark of a good film is when it still affects you days after watching it.

In which case, just hope you don't sneeze, or cough, or that your legs don't itch, or that you don't get a mouth ulcer, not even one, in the week after you watch Contagion.

And that's because we're talking here Hollywood's contribution to hypochondria to a scale that not even the makers of the Daily Mail and their infamous SORE THROAT headline could possibly begin to comprehend.

Except that, unlike the ugly Mail, Contagion is beautifully done, with each of its subplots so involving that it really will pin you to your seat, kleenex in hand, from start to finish.

A combination of director Steven Soderbergh's skilfully minimalistic work as well as some top quality acting from a star-studded cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow will seriously make you believe that that dick of a bloke coughing right on your face on the bus may have just kickstarted the biggest outbreak of meningoencephalitic virus known to man. And bat.

A must see.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Descendants

George Clooney's performance of a lifetime.

One of the main contenders at the forthcoming Academy Awards is the excellent The Descendants.

In common with his former films (About Schmidt, Sideways), Alexander Payne's The Descendants shares the same reflective mood, serene pace and a contagious, almost 'old school'-like, eye for character development.

But the biggest bonus here is George Clooney's stunning performance.

Nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, Clooney smoothly impersonates Matt King, a wealthy family-trust administrator and practising laywer on a Hawaiian island.

King is grappling with a few demons, chiefly the fact that his wife Elizabeth is laying comatose in a hospital following a boat accident. He's now going to look after two daughters that he barely knows how to handle. Plus, if things weren't complicated enough, he finds out that, right before the time of her accident, his wife was having a full-blown affair.

Caught between a major family crisis and emotional turmoil, King decides to confront his wife's lover, a successful real estate broker (Matther Lillard, the murderer from Scream).

This in turn will kickstart a rollercoaster of emotions and assorted mess which will result in one of the most endearing dark comedy dramas of the year - and any further is bound to be tantamount to blatant spoilers.

Quite simply, excellent.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Are some people simply born with sociopathic tendencies?

Lynne Ramsay's adaptation of the 2003 novel of the same name is one of the most disturbing films you'll ever get a chance to see.

To put it bluntly, don't watch it if you feel you're already losing hope about the state of humanity, or if you are more than a touch puzzled by the ongoing normalisation of nastiness across all levels of society (the pathetic sociopaths behind Unilad being the latest recruits).

And that's because, pouring fresh blood (literally) in the century-long debate about nature vs nurture, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a frighteningly poignant depiction of what happens when somebody is born completely devoid of empathy and humanity.

For all the protestations that it's the environment that shapes you, that unloving or dysfunctional parents are bound to have an impact, that good education improves your chances of smoothing out deranged tendencies, and so on -and all of the above most certainly counts - some people are just born evil.

And this evil little shit, Kevin, Tilda Swinton's creepy son in one of the most compelling films that came out in 2011, is testament to that.

Yet, even more disturbing than the movie itself are some of the comments accompanying the review on IMDb.

According to some, the fact that Kevin's birth was unplanned, or that Tilda Swinton's character didn't insist on seeking medical help earlier on, or that she was a bit cold and disdainful, are all supposed to be the crucial factors behind this younger and more manipulative version of Patrick Bateman turning into a serial killer.

Except that, if you follow that line of thought, then you'll be able to justify the most heinous of crimes. Especially given that probably less than 0.01% of the world's population has the privilege of a perfect ubpringing (and what is "the perfect upbringing" anyway).

Most kids don't get enough cuddles and some get too many. Some people may have absent fathers or messed-up mothers, some the other way round, some both and some neither.

Yet, thankfully, the greatest majority of us don't live an existence solely aimed at being horrible to other people without harbouring even a shred of empathy at the most basic human level.

All of which proves what an amazingly stimulating film We Need To Talk About Kevin is. The subject-matter may explore the darkest realms of the human psyche, but a combination of fantastic acting (Swinton could easily have been nominated for an Oscar) and genius plot structure will most certainly leave you still thinking about it for days.

Which, ultimately, is always the sign of a good film.