Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Carrie (2013)

Carrie, 2013, USA
Director: Kimberly Pierce
Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore & Judy Greer

''They're gonna laugh at you, They're all gonna laugh at you.''

With bullying, most likely, at an all time high, Stephen King's 'Carrie' seems ripe for a remake (it's second overall). I guess I have been desensitised by the 'Psycho' remake in that I just assume that they are going to be watered down, carbon copies of their predecessor...and 'Carrie' really is no different, it's a mere shell of De Palma's original just with more blood, IPhones and Youtube. Despite that, for some strange reason I actually enjoyed this film.

Carrie White is a shy outcast who lives with her overbearing, religious mother. She posses telekinesis powers, unbeknownst to  her school bullies who are planning to play a horrific trick on her at the school prom.

I had very low expectations going in, so maybe that's why I came out of it with more positive thoughts than I expected. To be clear, this is not a film that breaks any new ground, if you've seen De Palma's original, you have seen everything except done better. 'Carrie' (2013) isn't really a film where you go in expecting a cutting edge new horror film, all I really wanted was an entertaining and it pretty much delivered in that area.

It never really feels Director, Kimberly Pierce is willing to slow it down and take time to flesh out the supporting characters, this is evident with the Sue Snell character, whom we are supposed to feel is a good natured person who regrets what she does to Carrie at the beginning of the film and is seen as almost a  protagonist of sorts, but the way she is focused on and written is so one sided and cliched that it is really hard to care about her presence on screen at any point. Everything just moves at such a fast pace and the only real objectives seems to make Carrie sympathetic and to create as many awkward situations as possible.

In terms of ''Horror'', 'Carrie' doesn't really provided many scares, sure there are some lame jumps here and there but there aren't any genuine ones. The film does do a decent effort in creating tension, and the prom scene climax is well executed but once again, it was done so much better in the original. Unfortunately 'Carrie' isn't ''Creepy Carrie''

The titular character is portrayed by Chloe Grace Moretz this time around. Going in, I was honestly a little critical at the casting choice of Moretz, a good actress no doubt but she's to cute and likable to play the weird outcast (also she seems so much younger than everyone else in this film) it's hard for me to buy the fact that people at her school would have such a strong hatred of this girl. With Sissy Spacek, who is beautiful but has something about her that makes her perfect this kind of role. As usual though, Moretz defies expectations and gives another excellent performance. Carrie White can be such a relateabe character for some (sans teleknesis), and if you aren't the type of outcast Carrie is, you surely must not someone like her. Moretz uses her immense likability perfectly in order to make Carrie as good a character as she possibly can. She does a great job with Carrie's shy, outcast side and brilliantly flips it and makes Carrie intimidating when she needs to be. It's another really good showing for a young actress with loads of potential.

Following on from Piper Laurie's excellent performance in the original film, Julianne Moore takes on the role of Margaret White. Moore is a brilliant actress and she proves it yet again here. Margaret is a god fearing character who uses the bible as an instruction manual for life. Moore's version of the character is far more visceral than Laurie's and I would go as far to say she is more intense. I don't think the two central performances from this film quite live up to the ones in the original, but that's not to take anything from Moretz and Moore, both of whom are excellent here.

'Carrie' doesn't make any new ground, if you miss it you won't be missing much, but it's far better than I expected and there is a good time to be had, Definitely check out the original over this one though.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Harvie Crumpet (2003)

Harvie Krumpet, 2003, Australia
Director: Adam Elliott
Staring: Geoffrey Rush

"Life is like a cigerret; smoke it to the butt"

(Note- Harvie Krumpet is a short Film so this is a relatively short review)

Sometimes, a film demands empathy from the audience by presenting confronting notions such as death, old age and depression in sad and sympathetic ways. Harvie Crumpet does not do that. This 22 minute film does not romanticise these ideas but merely presents them as what they are: part of life. It's an interest and different approach to film making and I was very impressed.

Harvie Crumpet is the biographical film of a fictitious character who some how always manages to find bad luck. Despite the many tragic occurrences in his life however, Harvie always attempts to "seize the day," and the film explores his many ups and downs in life.

This is a very confronting film. The use of stop animation as appose to traditional cartoon methods employed in Harvie Crumpet allows for a simplistic and raw feeling which perfectly match the unique direction of this film.
I say "unique" because of the way this film tackles some challenging real life issues in an accepting kind of way. Dramatically, film does not encourage you to feel sorry for the many tragic events Harvie encounters and the film does not try to make you feel sad. However because of our general attitudes towards these things, the audience finds that they will feel a strong sense of empathy for Harvie, making the film highly emotive to watch.

The abrupt scene changes an quick changes in characters attitudes and emotion is done in an almost childlike way. Despite that, I think it is a clever cinematic style for this film and allows for us to relate to the characters in such a short space of time.

Geoffrey Rush's narration of this film is excellent. His non-empathetic, almost monotone voice supply's and excellent parallel to the overall feel Adam Elliott attempts to create. He is perfectly casted.

I have never seen a film presented in such a way as Harvie Krumpet is... unique is defiantly the word to describe it. I don't know if these kind of techniques could be incorporated into a feature length film and I don't want to see a movie adaptation of Harvie Krumpet. This probably isn't a brilliant film but incredibly creative and singular, and deserving of all accolades. Whilst I haven't given this a really high mark, it is a really good and interesting film and I marvel in Adam Elliott's achievement.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo, 1958, USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak & Barbara Bel Geddes

"Its Difficult to put into words exactly what Vertigo means to me as both a film lover and as a filmmaker. As Is the case with all great films ,truly great films, no matter how much has been said and written about them, the dialogue about it will always continue. Because any film as great as Vertigo demands more than just a sense of admiration - it demands a personal response." - Martin Scorsese

To me, 'Vertigo' represents the work of a filmmaker who is at the absolute peak of his powers and in complete control of his medium. Alfred Hitchcock is rightly regarded as a ''master'' of cinema, and it's films like this that truly validate these claims. Every second of 'Vertigo', you get the feeling that you're in the hands of an absolute genius who is directing the audience as much as he is the actors. Hitchcock's works are never narrowed down to just one genre or theme, while he is usually regarded as purely a ''master of suspense'', which he does perfectly, but I always a lot more human elements to his films. 'Vertigo', while it is one of the finest suspense films ever devised, is also a gripping and emotive analysis of obsession and grief. Hitchcock isn't afraid to delve into the depths of the human psyche after suffering loss and agony, 'Vertigo' displays how good the man was, not only at creating suspense, but making it mean something. 'Vertigo' is as good a psychological character study as it is a thriller, which is really saying something.

Jimmy Stewart gives, in my opinion, the finest showing of his entire career as 'Scottie' Ferguson. An amazingly detailed and complex character who can never seem to escape heartache or guilt, his fear of heights(Vertigo) has cost the life of a fellow police officer and seen him forced into retirement. Scottie is hired by a former college to tail his wife who is displaying some strange behavior. Stewart sheds his ''aw shucks'' American sweetheart persona to give a gritty and edgy performance, his performance in the second half of the film is truly brilliant. Stewart is well supported by Kim Novak who is truly excellent.

I'm ashamed to say that I didn't fully appreciate 'Vertigo' the first time I saw it, I was burning my way through Hitch's filmography and loving every second of it, but when I got to 'Vertigo' it just didn't click with me, I assume now that it was probably the overwhelming sadness to it that is absent from most of Hitch's other films. When I saw the film for the second time I finally saw its greatness, and the third time around it became one of my all time favorite films. After this viewing I can say that I hold in as high regard as any film I've ever seen.

Many, many years from now when some historian is sitting around and pondering the age old question ''what is the greatest film of all time?'', many titles will be thrown around and discussed, but only a select few will be truly considered, 'Vertigo' is one of those few.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Last Of The Mohicans (1992)

Last Of The Mohicans, 1992, USA
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Danile Day Lewis, Madeline Stowe & Steven Waddington
"My father's people say that at the birth of the sun and of his brother the moon, their mother died. So the sun gave to the earth her body, from which was to spring all life. And he drew forth from her breast the stars, and the stars he threw into the night sky to remind him of her soul."

Often the notion of complication can be mixed up with sophistication. Sometimes we a presented with complicated films (such as Inception or the Matrix) and as viewers are inaccurately lead to believe the film is sophisticated, which is not necessarily the case. I hate it when this occurs because people start to say stupid things like "Inception is like the Shining because there both 'sophisticated'" Aaaahh!
This film however, is defiantly NOT one such film. This is a detailed and elaborate film which gives an in-depth insight into US history through the awing and sophisticated story that is Last Of The Mohicans.

As the American War of Independence begins to infiltrate the lives of various different Native American tribes, three men who represent the Mohicans become unwittingly involved with the war. After siding with the falling British army, the Mohicans (one of which is actually an adopted white son) become subject to the pressures of the revolution, the British command, Magua; leader of enemy Huron tribe, and love.

This is a really good film that contains a verity of different underlying concepts and plots. The film is focus around the North American Revolution during the 18th centenary and the ideas of responsibility, honour and loyalty are all thoroughly explored through the characters and scenes concerning the war. Along with this, the relationship between rival Indian tribes is also wonderfully developed during the entirety of the film and deservingly becomes the central focus at the end of the film. These two opposing plots are equally developed and the constant overlapping of the two provides for some amazing screen adaptations. The film has been extremely well written and produced and is a credit to Mann's terrific direction.

Also to the credit of the production team behind Last Of The Mohicans, this film has been wonderfully shot. Cinematically, it's wonderful. Lighting, camera angles, the use of slow motion movement, and fast camera transitions all feel appropriate and are cleverly executed. The battle scenes between France and Britain were particularly good in the way that they presented the struggles of both sides by means of correct camera placements and swaps. I felt like I was in the trenches with the French and because of the wonderful cinematography I could feel the impacts of the explosions and gun shots. When they Mohicans are stuck under the waterfall I felt wet and trapped with them because of the dull colours and slow motion moments of characters on the screen. It's a glorious feeling when the cinematography, and miss-en-scene, of a film can make you feel like you’re actually there.

Love also plays a vital role in this film. Unlike some of my friends, I actually dig on screen love relationship but only when developed in the correct way (ie- cheesy love sucks). Whilst I can't say I’m convinced that two strangers can fall in love over the space of 3 days consisting of only 2 descent conversations, I was impressed with the development and realism of Hawkeye and Cora's relationship in the film. I was equally impressed, if not more, with the Uncas-Alice affair which, whilst subtle, is very well portrayed.
It is the level of detail given to both love stories of the film, plus the way  in which they do not compromise the two major plots (the war and the Indian rivalry) in any way that has lead to the triumphant sophistication of the film which I earlier referred too. What amazes me about all this is that despite all this overlapping and detailed film developments, I never once felt confused with the film and everything always feels in place.

Finally, the supreme acting by one of my favourite actors and a Hollywood giant greatly adds the the Last of Mohican sophisticated sceptical. Daniel Day Lewis is always awesome, but especially in this film. The character of Hawkeye is greatly portrayed by Lewis, and though I didn't really enjoy his optimistic humour at times and his ability to understand everything... always, I found him a relatable character and in my opinion it is his best performance.
Having said that, all performances are good, especially the characterisation of the sisters Cora and Alice by Madeleine Stowe and Jodhi May retrospectively. Personally I found some characters under developed but all were indeed well acted. Whist I did like the inclusion of new characters towards the end such as the Suchem, some character need and deserve more then what they were given. Having said that, I really dug Steven Waddington as Duncan; he plays a great jerk come honour man.

There is a lot of implied material in Last Of The Mohican.  Whilst I would have liked to see the better development of back stories for different characters and tribes, this film invites you to create your own back stories for them. I actually don't know why the Huron hate the Mohicans, or why the reinforcements for the British don't arrive, but what's good about the film is that, similar to other great sophisticated films like a Kubrick or Scorsese film, I guess I can make it up for myself. Because of this my viewing of the film might be very different to yours, but I would hope that we could all appreciate that no matter how you see this film, it'll always be great.