Thursday, 23 October 2014

Love, Rosie - review

Love, Rosie might be one of the most grammatically confusing film titles of the year but there is nothing confusing about the film. It is just a tired, predictable rom com which is neither terribly romantic and not very comedic.

Unless you find a sequence where a woman loses a condom in her vagina and has to go to hospital hilarious.

It feels more at home in an American Pie film than a story about two friends who should be together but never seem to get together.

Wait, it is a Richard Curtis-esque British version of When Harry Met Sally. Only without the wit, warmth, charm and jokes of the original.

Cue dodgy wigs to signify younger versions of themselves, romantic near-misses, the snarky comedic relief best friend, trips to airports, public declarations of love, etc, etc, etc, yada yada yada, yawn yawn yawn.

Love Rosie? I couldn't even muster up the energy to hate Rosie. Instead the only feeling I have towards her is apathy.

1 star

Fury - review

War is hell. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.

The crew of the tank Fury look like they've been to hell and back by the time Logan Lerman's fresh faced new recruit is ordered to serve as their new assistant driver and gunner and the film follows Lerman's character's descent into his own personal hell as his innocence is slowly eroded away by the horrors of war (much of it at the hands of Brad: Tank Commander.

The battle sequences are some of the best captured since Saving Private Ryan culminating on a 300-style last stand albeit it 300 German troops descending upon one busted tank and five soldiers.

Within the tank you get a real sense of the grit, grim, blood, sweat and tears shed by these men and with the constant reloading of shells and firing it feels like Das Tank. It's just a shame that the crew didn't get much chance to develop their characters beyond the one note "Leader", "Newbie", Bible Basher", "Redneck" and "Mexican" as there would have been more emotional investment in these In-Fury-ous Basterds come the finale.

War. What is it good for? Making movies. And Fury is a good movie but we'll have to wait and see if it tanks at the box office.

3 stars

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Night Will Fall - review

In 1945, towards the end of World War II, Allied troops began to liberate the Nazi concentration camps. What they found there was so shocking that they filmed it with cameras in order to document the horror so that those responsible could be held to account.

Producer Sidney Bernstein was tasked with making a documentary using the footage that could be used as a tool to hold a mirror up to those who took part in the atrocities and to those who stood by and let it happen.

He even brought Alfred Hitchcock in as a supervising director but before the film could be finished it was abandoned due to political pressure as it was felt that shaming the Germans would be counter productive as they were also needing their help to rebuild the country following the collapse of the Third Reich.

For years this film remained unfinished but don't go into Night Will Fall expecting to see the completed film because it is actually more of a documentary about the making of a documentary.

Interviews with some of the soldiers who were among the first to see the camps, survivors and those involved in processing the footage are intercut with some of the most horrific images that have ever emerged from the Holocaust.

Many films have shown the pits of bodies upon bodies of the dead but this film shows the soldiers moving them and tossing them in as if they were sacks of rubbish.
One soldier even commented that if they had seen them as people then they would have gone mad, so large was the scale of the task.

There are reactions shots of Germans being brought in to witness what their country had done and you can see the shock in their faces to the sights and smells of the camp.

In particular, there is one final reel of footage that will stay with you forever, unable to be wiped from your memory, as a voiceover says "Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall".

Yes, the film is a harrowing, disturbing, sobering viewing experience but as the quote intones, it is also an essential one as it is important to learn the lessons from the past in order to prevent anything like this from happening again.

4 stars

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Judge - review

On paper, The Judge is a slam dunk of a case for any vicious film critic. "Judge not, less ye be judged!" would have made for a much better tagline!

The story of a flash, self-centred city lawyer returning to his home town for the funeral of his mother, visit his family he hasn't seen in years including his Judge father who despise each other only to end up representing him in a murder case and at the same time exorcise old family demons sounds like a cliched, cloying courtroom drama. Think Elizabethtown meets John Grisham.

It certainly starts off with a strong case for the prosecution with one of the worst CGI shots in recent memory, a series of "returning home" beats straight out of Grosse Pointe Blank, Elizabethtown and Young Adult, a mentally disabled brother character who's only reason for his disability seems to be to provide humour at his expense and Downey Jr's performance seemingly set on cruise control.

However it is not an open and shut case.

For the defence there is good support from Billy Bob Thornton as the rival lawyer and a sassy spark from Vera Farmiga as the one that got away (but now has a daughter who he may have got to know a bit too well) but the film rests on the strong on screen relationship between Downey Jr and Duvall. It starts of frosty but as the walls between them come down there are many touching moments that are well played by both actors that lead to an emotional catharsis in the courtroom as Downey's lawyer makes a desperate last roll of the dice and secrets from both sides are revealed.

The jury might be out on this one but there is enough goodwill to Downey Jr and Duvall to give this a stay of execution.

3 stars

The Best Of Me - review

There is a famous saying about writing which is "write what you know". If that is true then Nicholas Sparks must know a LOT of boys from the wrong side of the tracks fall in love with rich girls in the Deep South.

Sparks has written seventeen romantic novels, nine of which have been adapted by Hollywood into the same film... don't believe me? Just look at the posters...

Filmgoers could play their own "Choose Your Own Nicholas Sparks Adventure" based on what they think will happen at various points in the film. For example:

The male lead is invited for a private chat with the girl's father. Will he -
A) Give his blessing to their union?
B) Invite him to watch the big local sports game?
C) Tell him to stay away from his daughter?

Or

The male lead bumps into some bad characters from his based during Act 2. Will they -
A) Meet up for a beer and let bygones be bygones?
B) Break out into a West Side Story song and dance number?
C) Return late in Act 3 to serve as the required obstacle to the couple getting together which has so far been non-existent?

Yes there are three choices but there is only one real outcome here.

Sadly, as with all the Hollywood adaptations of Sparks' novels there is only the illusion of free will as the ending has been determined before the end of the first reel.

However the biggest problem with the film isn't its predictability but trying to believe that the young version of Dawson Cole played by Luke Bracey would grow up to look like James Marsden in 20 years.

Bracey looks like he is over 30 years old in the film but would have been convincing if the older version of Dawson had been played by Stephen Moyer instead.

Ultimately The Best Of Me is a far cry from being the "best" of cinema and is more like a case of being up Dawson's Creek without a paddle.

1 star

Out Of Print: A Documentary - review

I wish the release of Out Of Print online this week came under better circumstances but on October 15th Julia Marchese (director of the film and long-time New Beverly Cinema employee) announced that she had left the New Beverly in Los Angeles due to recent managerial changes at the cinema.

It might be too early to tell, and just to be clear I don't know the whole story, but I hope that what started out as a love letter to the New Beverly Cinema doesn't become a eulogy.

One the one hand Out Of Print is a documentary about a repertory cinema in Los Angeles called the New Beverly which became world famous for its eclectic range of programming, Grindhouse feel and celebrity patrons (many of whom appear as talking heads).

On the other hand, it is much bigger than that and looks at the importance of small independent cinemas like this, and the Prince Charles Cinema in London, are in keeping "film" alive in the form of 35mm when all the multiplexes have switched to digital.

Not only are they doing their best to keep the medium of celluloid alive but they also are bringing new audiences to old films that they might never have seen before or on the big screen.

The film reminds us that there is no better way to enjoy a movie than in a darkened cinema auditorium packed out with likeminded people who are there for the same reason that you are.

I have worked at the Belmont Filmhouse (formally The Belmont Picturehouse) for over eleven years now and some of my fondest memories include screening an original print of Predator to a sold-out audience or the many, many screening of The Room with all the crowd participation and flying spoons.

We've seen the transition to digital cinema, and while it certainly does have its advantages, there is nothing quite like the look, sound and feel of a reel print so it is very exciting that we'll be one of the few sites in the UK screening Christopher Nolan's Interstellar from a 35mm print.

But I digress, what is clear throughout every frame of Out Of Print is that it is a movie made by people who love movies about places that love movies screened by people who love movies, and that is something that should be supported.

It is a rallying cry to people to stop watching movies on their phones, turn them off and head to their local cinema and experience the film as the filmmakers intended.

Julia Marchese's enthusiasm for cinema shines through in the documentary and her future might lie in the box office counter at the New Beverly but Out Of Print demonstrates she might lie within the industry she has spent so much of her time fighting for and personally I hope that another repertory cinema takes advantage of her skills soon.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Rewrite - review

For a movie about screenwriting and teaching its rules and conventions, The Rewrite is so cliched and conventional that it desperately needed a few rewrites of its own to help it break away and stand out from of the dozens of Hugh Grant starring rom-coms already out there.

Indeed it could be seen as a reflection of Grant's own career.

A man striving to recapture the highs of the beginning of his career (Four Weddings And Funeral) but finds that an unexpected career change (fighting the tabloids) brings him the peace and happiness he has been searching for.

Recently his film roles have been few and far between, seeming like Grant had almost given up and at the beginning of the film he appears to be sleepwalking through the first act as he reproduces his About A Boy-schtick; behaving like a petulant child, sleeping with young women and doing as little as possible to coast through life but once he has his Dead Poet's Society moment of inspiration, Grant threatens to look like he might be enjoying himself on screen again.

Grant's Keith Michaels at one point claims screenwriting can't be taught and its certainly true with The Rewrite as anyone who has ever watched a movie could write the ending to this movie after reading a 30 page draft which takes its star for Granted,

2 stars