Friday, 29 March 2013

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

(500) Days of Summer, 2009, USA,
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel

Tom walked to her apartment, intoxicated by the promise of the evening. He believed that this time his expectations would align with reality.

After a series of in-depth conversations with my dear friend Tom, we came to the conclusion that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very cool. Although he has had a string of blockbusters flung his way, for me he will always be the squinty-eyed young dude from 50/50, Treasure Planet, A River Runs Through It & my personal favourite: 500 Days of Summer.

It's difficult to say why I love this movie so much. Maybe it's the beautifully clever cinematography, the perfect narration by Richard McGonagle, the mostly hands down incredible performance by a cleverly selected cast or just the greatness of a storyline that seems impossible yet is so relatable.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't. It's an offbeat & different kinda film that demonstrates the realities of what two different people want from the same relationship. The truth is that most guys don't wanna watch a love-movie (I'd much rather watch Fight Club) but Days of Summer is less a love film and more a story about the different perceptions of love and everything that goes with relationships; and that's what's so cool about it.

This film is visually for filling to say the least. There are some very, very cleverly shot scenes and transitions are wonderful. Music plays a big role in this film. And I love the way Webb has successfully crafted the song into the scene, which is awesome and adds to the viewing pleasure immensely. Although at times 500 Days of Summer is considered "cliché," it really works because Webb has mastered the balancing of new-school "indie" film techniques with the standard yet efficient style of popular modern movies.

The cast is amazing. Gordon-Levitt is really in his prime and the character Tom felt realistic and relatable and was really bought to life by this awesome actor. And so too is Zooey Deschanel. I don't think I really like her mush as an actress because she always seems plays the same character, and in all honesty she does annoy me multiple times in this film and feels week in sections. But this was the first film I saw her in and I think it stands as her greatest achievement as an leading actress. I was also impressed with the co-stars of this film and though all were correctly casted and had all delivered as competent actors they are.

I know everyone loves this film... but so they should! I mean, what's no to love. Everything is well polished, well balanced, well acted, well shot, well made and well, it's just really good. After watching this film several times I found minimal flaws. I is in its own simple way.. flawless.

I really do like this film but after watching it multiple times, I guess its the "flawlessness" of this film is its in turn downfall. the film isn't risk, isn't really fresh and doesn't really takle anything that hasn't already been taken on before. But when some may look at that and say it makes it borring, I like to thing it only makes the film "safe."

I laugh, think, relate and enjoy the purities of this film everytime I watch it. And who cares if it's safe and not orginal... it's still great I i will alsways like this film. Marc Web has delivered an incredibly moving yet funny conventional piece of film that's has resulted in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's best work as well as being one of my favourites and most admired.

****1/2 (4.5)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Side Effects (2013)

Side Effects, 2013, USA
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Rooney Mara, Jude Law & Catherine Zeta Jones

''Depression is the inability to construct a future.''

Steven Soderbergh's ''Final Film'' 'Side Effects' has been one I have really been wanting to see for weeks now, but having had a fair bit going on I have continued to forget about getting to the cinemas to see it. Coming to the realization that the film is on its way out, I decided to get my ass into gear and finally check out 'Side Effects'.

A manic depressive woman whose Husband has been released from prison, seeks help from a psychiatrist which leads to her taking a new medication with severe Side Effects.

Holy Shit! I really loved this film. After hearing plenty of praise for the film I was expecting a good film but this bordered on great. One of the finest and most original Psychological Thrillers I have seen in years. Soderbergh's tightly wound film unfolds beautifully during its duration with plenty of twists and turns that are sure shock audiences.

Steven Soderbergh's career has been that has honestly seemed a little under appreciated. Sure, he's had mainstream success with the likes of the 'Oceans' trilogy and 'Traffic', but for the better part of the last decade the man has gone almost completely under the radar. If this really is the man's final hour (Which I don't think it will be) its an incredible way to go out.

'Side Effects' is a film that features an immaculate attention to detail. It's plot is carefully constructed and, in my opinion, never really looses its way and is able to maintain a strong of mystery and suspense throughout. I have heard some complain about the films climax and that it doesn't fit the films tone, while this may be true to an extent it really did not bother me as I thought the film ended the exact way it should of. Scott Z Burns' script is terrific, very intelligent writing. Soderbergh's Direction is great as always and he really gives the film that psychological edge. One of my favorite aspects of this film was Thomas Newman's beautifully haunting score that complements the film perfectly.

The film also benefits from some fantastic performances. I honestly used to not enjoy the work of Jude Law but that was before I saw 'Gattaca' and 'Closer' now I love this guy! What a brilliant performer he is and what a terrific showing he gave in this film, a great and complex performance. Rooney Mara, this can't be the same girl from that horrid remake of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', I love this girl more and more every time I see her, After a great performance in 'The Social Network' and a phenomenal one in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' Mara has followed them up with another articulate and superb performance, she just keeps getting better and I can not wait to see what she does in the future. Rounding out the central cast is Channing Tatum, who continues a trend of fine performances, and Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just okay here.

I really, really liked 'Side Effects', I was constantly enthralled and in suspense throughout and features some fantastic performances from Law and Mara, as well as being a great ''goodbye'' for Steven Soderbergh, a first class psychological thriller.


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Deliverance (1972)

Deliverance, 1972, USA
Director: John Boorman
Stars: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds & Ned Beatty
''Sometimes you have to lose yourself 'fore you can find anything.''

‘Deliverance’ is a film which I consider one of my favorites of all time. I have a peculiar routine with this film though. There comes a time every year where I get the strong urge to see this film again, I then rewatch the film and its clouding mystery and mental assault consume my thoughts for several weeks before I look back upon the film with admiration before the cycle starts all over again. There are few films that can make me continuously feel like I am experiencing it for the first time but John Boorman's visceral classic is one of those films, and is one that never fails to thrill,enthrall,shock,horrify and leave me in awe.

Four friends decide to spend the weekend at the soon to be extinct Cahulawassee River, but soon become embroiled in impending danger as they meet the disgruntled locals. 

I have found that when people refer to 'Deliverance' they usually only bring up two scenes, The Dueling Banjos and the ''Squeal like a pig'', I guess this is fair enough, I mean 'Banjos' may be one of the greatest scenes in film history and the other may be the most disturbing, but what irks me is that people seem to forget that 'Deliverance' is a brilliant film. Actually, I would make the argument that it is perhaps amongst the greatest ever made.

I believe I have seen this film now around half a dozen times now and even upon this viewing there is little details that I have never picked up on before, small things and symbolism that make this film so much more complex than you would originally think. There is so much that gets lost in fray of the film, such as the old woman at the Grinder bros house tending to the invalid child, This is a scene that always escapes my mind and I really am not sure of its purpose in the narrative but is something that sets an unpredictable tone for the rest of the film. Speaking of setting a tone, The Dueling Banjos scene is every bit incredible as its made out to be, A truly iconic moment that has never lost its ability to unsettle the audience, the same can be said for the rest of the film.

This film is almost perfectly crafted, there really is not a moment that feels wasted and you will most likely be on the edge of your seat for the entire duration of the film. Its a terrifically paced that is brilliantly orchestrated by Director John Boorman, whom basically throws his audience into the journey along side the four central characters. The film is adapted by James Dickey from his novel (he also cameos as the police sheriff at the end of the film) he does a terrific job and alludes to many different concerns such as morality, the changing times and not messing with what you don't understand.

'Deliverance' is a brilliantly shot film that boasts some incredible Cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond. The only thing I can flaw this film on from a technical level, is the use of the night filter when Ed is climbing the gorge, it is incredibly hard to visually navigate what it taking place in that scene. The score of this film is phenomenal, the Banjo music that plays throughout is absolutely unforgettable and only adds to the tension.

The performances of the principal cast are great, Jon Voight gives arguably the best performance of his career as Ed, despite the under lining male crush his character seems to have Louis. Burt Reynolds is also very good in this film, and Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox are terrific. The cast really conveyed realism, all of these characters actually came off as real people and I could understand there motives behind there actions.

In my view, 'Deliverance' is a masterpiece of cinema. A beautifully crafted film that has lost none of its ability to shock and enthrall audiences. One of the best films of the 70's and arguably of all time. 


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction,1994,USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson & Uma Thurman
''The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.''

Do you know what they call Pulp Fiction in Paris ? Le Pulp Fiction. Do You know what they call Reservoir Dogs in Paris ? I dunno I didn't go to Burger King.

If you would have asked me five years ago what I thought the greatest film ever made was, I most likely would have answered with 'Pulp Fiction'. This is a film that I used to watch about five times a week and used to know like the back of my hand, but over the years I have seemingly convinced myself that maybe it isn't as great as I once thought it was, that is until I rewatch it and fall in love with the film all over again. This has been a process that I have been repeating for quite a while but after a spontaneous viewing that took place just now, I don't think I can question 'Pulp Fiction's greatness ever again.

A film that consists of Four interwoven tales centered around Two Hitman, A Gangster's wife, a Boxer and a pair of bandits.

I believe I will always stand by 'Reservoir Dogs' as being my favorite Tarantino film, but 'Pulp Fiction' is a very close second. There are few films that are more iconic and have become more embedded in pop culture like Tarantino's 1994 Gangster film, While I think it may detract from the films everlasting impact, it is still a hell of feat and a testament to Quentin Tarantino for being able to personify the 90's in his film. Due it's pop culture phenomenon status, It is possible to overlook the fact that it also a brilliant piece of cinema.

Plenty of filmmakers attempt to juggle several different story lines in there films but few pull it of like Tarantino did with this film. The film is so intricate and so thoroughly detailed that you can't help but marvel at Tarantino's dedication to creating his own unique world for his film. It's an enjoyable (and difficult) task to attempt to place the sequences in the order of which they are taking place and its for these reasons and more that 'Pulp Fiction' has proved to be such an unforgettable viewing experience for so many audience members.

This is probably the Ultimate Tarantino film, when you think about all of his trademarks,quirks and techniques and mesh them all together you would get something that resembles this film. The beautiful long tracking shots, the though provoking and enthralling dialogue. The beautifully abrupt Sally Menke editing and the terrific soundtrack, I believe this film more than any of his others personifies his trademark style. 

'Pulp Fiction' features what is probably Tarantino's most famous Screenplay, and what a masterclass it is, you may be able to fault the man for a number of things, but you can't deny his writing skills and his ability to create unforgettable characters. The film features an array of classic quotes and scenes, with my personal favorite being where Mia dances to 'Girl, You'll be a woman soon' which is an incredible scene and features the perfect music choice. 

Tarantino's has rarely ever failed in getting career best performances from his actors, and that is doubly true with this film as about 90% of the cast give the finest performances of their career in this film. A Tarantino trademark is picking a down and out Actors and giving him the role of a lifetime, the perfect example is John Travolta, whose career was down in the dumps back in 1993 and was having to resort to starring in the 'Look Who's Talking' trilogy. After Michael Madsen did not accept the role of Vincent Vega, Tarantino offered it to Travolta and the rest is history. Travolta gives the best performance of his career in this film and is perfect in his role. I have never been the biggest Samuel L Jackson fan, I honestly think he is overrated, but his performance as Jules in this film is simply incredible and deserving of its iconic status. The rest of the cast is flawless, Uma Thurman is spell binding, Bruce Willis is at his best, Christopher Walken is great, Ving Rhames is frightening, Tarantino is enjoyable and Harvey Keitel is the coolest mother fucker on the planet as Winston Wolfe.

Simply put, 'Pulp Fiction' is a modern Masterpiece. The film is full of iconic moments,scenes and quotes. It's hilarious, frightening, tense and thrilling (sometimes all at the same time). A groundbreaking cinematic achievement from Mr Tarantino.