Posted on 12/13/11 08:41 PM
If id've been told before my viewing that this film had a forty-five minute back story, and that it would take a full hour before we see batman in full costume, I would've felt the desire to lower my expectations before seeing the film; But then, I would've been underestimating Chrisopher Nolan's storytelling abilities, and his ability to tie ideas that seem disconnected in to a greater arc.
The visuals and set pieces alone in the first 45 minutes of the story are enough to captivate, nevermind the development of Batman's origins. But in this forty-five minutes we also see the emergence of the films antagonist; Ra'z al Gul(liam neeson), leader of the mysterious League of Shadows. Initialy he plays mentor to Bruce Wayne, but as we see both the philosophy of Batman emerge, and the division in philosophy expand between Batman and Ra'z, the situation turns volatile.
Unlike the Joker in The Dark Knight, The League of Shadows, and more specifically, Ra'z Al Gul, is evil with a purpose, evil with a percieved sense of hisorical duty, to "do what must be done" for the "overall good" of man. Their idea's may be warped, but so is any form of radicalized movement which leads to murder. The sense of doing right is what makes the villain frightnening in this film, the antithesis of what makes The Joker so scary. For Ra'z, out of death comes rebirth, and eventually order-- for The Joker, out of death comes only more death, and eventually chaos.
Also similar between the two films villains (ra'z & Joker), is that they easily manipulate Gothams current crime syndicate, infiltrate them both to such degrees that they end up betraying them and moving on to "higher motives". They use the base of crime as a launchpad for their own sick and twisted visions/games; in this way both of Nolan's Batman films work as a commentary on various natures of evil, and the varying angles at which we face it. In Batman begins, it's the league of shadows using Falconi and Scarecrow. In The Dark Knight, its Joker using the entire organized mafia.
We know where the caped crusader stands in this philosophical dillema, and we never doubt that what he will do is the right thing. Yet the film does a good job at balancing what we know, with what the people of gotham think; already doubt's of Batman's character arise, and the cops set out to find him. The images near the end of Batman flying through the air, while the hallucinating citizens look up and see a terrifying vision him, is symbolic of their tendancy to mispercieve his motives, and is foreshadowing of the eventual turning against him by the public in the sequal.
Batman has always been the darkest super-hero, and my personal favorite growing up. These films(BB & TDK) are like a flip-side to Burton's versions. They work on a slightly more sophistocated level as well, yet they don't have the outright humor and irony and satire that Burton's had. I prefer Nolan's version, but admire Burton's as well.
*read my review for "The Dark Knight" from last year, posted in my review section*
Posted on 5/13/11 09:50 AM
Jean Cocteau: poet, painter, fantasy surrealist filmmaker. This 1946 film, Cocteau's take on Jean Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's Fairy tale, is gothic, languid, and lyrical, as unlike the Disney version as you could imagine.
In this version, Belle (Josette Day)has a pair of wicked sisters, and they are depicted as unrelentingly vindictive and jealous. The treat Belle like a servant, and its only the presence of her father, a business man who is having some money problems, and is about to come in to a big windfall, that keeps her sane. On his way to get his winnings he gets lost; this inevitably leads to him getting lost in the forest, where he chances upon The Beasts dark castle.
Belle's courter is her younger brother's friend Avenant (played by legendary Jean Marais, who was Cocteau's lover), and is another of the films villains; he works a plot to sign away his soon-to-be father-in-law's windfall.
Henry Alekan's Cinematography is wonderfully lit and at times in outdoor scenes so bright that it feels like they are in a forest utopia of sorts. This takes on a dual brilliance once you add in the fact that The Beast holds supernatural powers/possessions, whereby he can change the nature of his surroundings, among other things.
The Beasts castle is gothic/surrealist perfection, and the magic within the house is a play on The Beasts twisted yet curiously inviting nature. I was at first surprised at how I thought Cocteau stripped off some of the flash you would expect from this story, but soon I began to realize the philosophical essence of what this fable evokes. Cocteau doesn't use living caricatures' to create people out of objects, as in Disney's version. This feels much more like a haunted house, controlled by The Beast; The Arms stick out of walls, holding candles in place, and they open doors ominously as Belle nears them. In one of many bravura camera shots, Belle seems to glide down the hallway, which is plane grey and just sublime to behold, as The Arms slowly go by. Cocteau was inspired by painters he grew up loving, and watching this film, the painterly nature of images was just about the first thing that caught my eye.
Actor Jean Marais, who plays Avenant, also plays The Beast, and its in these scenes, as The Beast, that his acting brilliance shines. He and Jossete Day have scenes of sensual and freudian torment and seduction, and while today it may seem schematic, here it feels elemental.
The film plays to Georges Auric's magical and gothic score, and it fits the film well. I was very drawn in by this story, and while I don't think its better or worse than the Disney version, that may be because they are entirely opposite takes. Its like comparing Burton's Batman to Nolan's.
Posted on 1/26/11 05:55 PM
I could just throw this movie in for a good laugh and intriguing acting any time; it's simply a very, very easy film to enjoy, and the Coen's hit almost every comedic note perfectly, sometimes with deadly accuracy.
This film is about deteriorating and blossoming relationships taking place amidst the chaos of blackmail, murder, cosmetic surgery, infidelity, divorce, and internet dating; all of this is aligned with some information on a CD belonging to and ex-CIA agent (Malkovich), which may or may not have some compromising information on it.
The people mixed up in this tangle are smart, conniving, dim-witted, idiotic, desperate, free-wheeling, greedy, and everything in-between. The star-studded cast comprises of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, and Richard Jenkins. Nothing that the characters do is perfectly logical, but it's logical enough to be played in a straight enough way that adds to the legitimacy of the stupidity of the events occurring, without overtly falsifying them; its works a fine line between legitimacy and absurdity, for the most part very well.
Once the CIA realizes that this CD is missing, they wonder why everyone is making such a big deal out of it, and so they set their spies on various of the above listed characters, while the above listed characters do or try to do the things listed in paragraph one. In the end, some scores have been settled and some information buried, for better or worse, and everything goes on....its the conversations themselves, like the ones between the CIA upper management, is hilarious and strikingly logical in its summation of the events taking place.
More than the simple sounding film I have made Burn After Reading seem to be, it is nuanced, well-written, hilarious, shocking, improbable, and very modern. The plot dips and dives and head in weird directions that are somehow handled logically and with great humour, due to the cynical and screwball nature of the films dialogue, tone, and situations; unlike most screwballs of the past however, that poked fun at the social mores of generations past, the Coen's have updated that in to a very modern context with often insightful dialogue about this day and age . The film utilizes modern symptoms to capitalize on all the depths that the characters stereotypes can evoke. I hope our respect for this film will increase with time. The casting is superb, as is the directing and writing, and even the score and the cinematography better than average. The editing is superbly expedient, leaving very few slow moments in the 96 minutes.
I already have this listed on my Favourite films of the decade list; as well as my Favourite films of 2008 list at number ten, where I recently bumped The Visitor off my top 10 for it. I don't want to explain the story to you any further, which in this case, I think, makes perfect sense.
Posted on 12/09/10 04:06 PM
The Greatest Films
Rio Bravo is a Howard Hawks Western. As far as archetypal Westerns go, this film is pretty damn great. John Wayne plays Sheriff John t. Chance of a small western town, as he and his 3 deputies attempt to stave off a posse of bandits working for a rich rancher for six days as they hold the rancher's murderer brother in jail; the bandits would like him released. Chance intends to turn the murderer over to the marshal, who supposedly will arrive in six days.
Walter Brennan plays a cripple whose job it is to guard the cell. He does a good job of bringing a little straight humour to a sometimes overly dry film as far as dialogue (the formality is sometimes overbearing). Then there is Dean Martin who plays Dude, an extremely talented sharpshooter officer, except he has a serious vice in his alcoholism; the film basically follows Dean's character in his moral and mental struggle between upholding the law while keeping a job or falling back into alcoholic binges. Dean's character Dude is attempting to keep it together during this particularly dangerous time.
Angie Dickinson is the Sheriff's love interest, who doubles as an aid to him in some tight spots with the bandits as well. The love story is mildly interesting, and perhaps a bit risqué for a Western and it's better than most Western love stories. Thankfully though, it never gets in the way of the main plot, and invites a bit of Western style relationship humour.
The film is very deliberately paced, sometimes a bit too slow, but the pace does evoke the long haul of the six days, as they wait for the murderer's brother to arrive, and then stave him and his posse off repeatedly. A handful of tense encounters between both sides, both using dialogue and with gun slinging, add excitement to the film.
As the days wear on, a young gunslinger by the name of Colorado (Ricky Nelson) catches the eye of Chance, who feels he could use his skills to fight the bandits. Part of the plot involves the increasing trust between Chance and Colorado, and the building of their mutual respect. As the sheriff and his men speak of Colorado:
John T. Chance: [Referring to Colorado] it's nice to see a smart kid for a change.
Stumpy: Yeah, he ain't like the usual kid with a gun.
Dude: Wonder if he's as good as Wheeler said?
John T. Chance: I'd say he is.
John T. Chance: I'd say he's so good, he doesn't feel he has to prove it.
Colorado is an interesting part to the film, and pretty much represents the antithesis of Dean Martin's character, even if they both have similar qualities.
The film has a number of great sequences, including one in a bar when Chance and Dude are looking for a hiding bandit, and enter the bar looking for him. The final shootout is pretty wild and entertaining as well; its funny how all the main players show up during the climax; contrived yes, but the way they are depicted in these situations is what makes it memorable, despite any notion of implausibility.
My knowledge of Westerns is over time becoming more and more, and this is one of the better ones I have seen. With a cast like this and a Director of Hawks stature, I knew this was one I had to cross off my invisible must-see list; I was more than satisfied.
Posted on 12/09/10 04:06 PM
The Greatest Films
Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Theif (or Bicycle Theives), is widely regarded as a masterpiece, and as i watched the film, every minute that went by i came to better understand just why that is.
Filmed in the neo-realist syle of filmmaking,suprisingly the film manages to be quite sentimental at times, but never in spite of the realist aspects, rather these moments compliment the realism in unexpected and devestatingly emotional ways.
The film is about a man with a wife and young son, living in poverty, and struggling to make ends meet. When luck strikes and a job opens up, a requirment is that he have a bicycle to secure the position; and a bicycle he does get, and that's where his problems begin. The film is a series of obstacles taking place over two days, which begins when the protagonist's bike is stolen. The rest of the film is about his search for the bicycle, but more so its about his search for adequacy, in the eyes of his son, but especially within himself.
The film evokes the social conditions and attitues of a time and a place, and in that sense the film works well as a time-capsule, and add to that the realist tendencies of the camerawork, and we as viewers aren't left feeling manipulated; rather we are left pondering why men do the things they do, both to themselves, and each other. We also ask why the world is the way it is, and why in many cases we set ourselves up to fail. Its also quite easy to make modern connections beween this past society and current social conditions we face today, which also lends to the timeless feeling of the film. How the film manages to be both an evocation of a time and place as well as remaining thematically timeless is one of its major strengths.
The cinematography is quite plain, and also plainly brilliant. How such simple images evoke such beauty is one of the films real powers.
The film makes us ask serious questions, such as what is truly important, why we cannot move forward together as opposed to seperately, and hints at mental conditions that trap us in our own feelings, while being unable to register external truths.
The son of the protagonist has numerous powerful scenes, perhaps the most powerful of which happens after his father smacks him in the face after he makes his father feel stupid. What happens after this is truly masterful.
This is a heartwrenching film, from a neo-realist master.
Posted on 9/15/10 01:42 PM
Wes Anderson made the satirific Rushmore, and this film, while not as funny or insightful, is still worthy for Wes. Anderson's taste for the comic may be skewed away from the status quo, but his and owen wilson's singular gift for portraying outcasts that seem somewhat normal makes his films worth visiting.
The episodic structure of the film (complete with prologue, chapters, and epilogue) is narrated by none other that Alec Baldwin, and his straight way of relaying the strange narrative is at times highly amusing. The film perhaps relies too heavily at times on Baldwin's exposition in order to reveal the past actions and present motivations of the Tenenbaums, instead of simply showing us the Tenenbaums.
Another problem I have with the film is overbearing polarity of the characters, whom i understand are characterized as such to legitimize the extreme dysfunctionality of the Tenenbaum family, but which also at times seems too forceful and contrived to be taken totally serious.
The success of this film lies in the small details; key moments that reside between the unfolding of the main plot, as well as the directorial bravura of Anderson himself, whose visuals and composition match the offbeat dialogue and characters to a tee.
The films also maintains interest by giving us family situations that at first seem not so abnormal, but then take turns of weirdness and irony which evoke the true outcast nature of the Tenenbaum family. Anderson's success comes not from merely setting up these situations, but by making them seem (somewhat) natural to the characters personalities; things never seem too grounded in reality however, since the tone of the film is never to take itself too seriously as a character study, instead seperating the Tenenbaums from the world around them in order to focus in on the family's extreme isolation from normalcy and the status quo.
The acting all around is top notch, with Gene Hackman doing for this film what Bill Murray did for Rushmore, although Royal is never as hopeless or depressed as Murray was in Rushmore, although he is just as cunning and thoughtless of other peoples opinions and emotions.
I dont love this movie but i do respect its originality and vision, and i think it succeeds much more than it fails.
Posted on 8/19/10 11:32 AM
Animal Kingdom takes place in the suburbs of Melbourne in Australia. Crime seems to be on the rise. Someone is always on the lookout and criminals are just waiting for either glory or death, hoping only to avoid the heartache of reaching your mental breaking point when the law has you on the run. In an average house a naive, shy and reserved boy named Josh Cody (James Frecheville) waits for an ambulance to arrive and pick up his dead mother who has overdosed on heroin. Josh is like a deer in the headlights. With nothing steady to hold onto he calls his estranged grandmother .It?s time to go live with her, and her pack of criminal sons (one of whom is a drug dealer). It?s time for Josh to enter this rough, cold, survivalist animal kingdom.
Jackie Weaver plays the over-loving and yet twistingly cold matriarch, Janine ?Smurf? Cody. Her love for her sons doesn?t extend further than knowing they will come home to her at the end of the day, but she lets that love be known as often as she can. Weaver is brilliant at suggesting a thought, letting us feel that there is some thought going on behind her eyes that no light can penetrate. It?s pretty chilling, all the more because she can also exude at times a great warmth and loving spirit. Her mere presence begins to exude a kind of controlling and yet reassuring power.
The brothers? crew is headed up by oldest brother ?Pope? Cody (Andrew Mendhelsohn) and his best friend Barry Brown (Joe Edgerton). The brother and Pope are on alert because they hear on the street the cops are coming down on them, and it seems more and more apparent every minute that this is true. Pope?s extreme singularity of vision and his fixation on a purpose or goal are balanced by Barry?s level headedness and willingness to enterprise in more modern and original ways. Pope?s younger brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) deals drugs and is pretty wired and tense about the slightest things. Much like Josh, the Cody?s youngest son Darren (Luke Ford) is not so desensitized to the horror of his actions, and as tough choices about his role in this kingdom come to the fore, he has to deal with both his actions and his consequences while his conscious lies heavy on his soul.
Josh, it is obvious, isn?t really cut out for this criminal life. It simply obvious from the very first second we see him. But it?s like being in a place and knowing it?s dangerous, but staying because somehow, paradoxically, it feels like the right place to be. We all have had that in our lives to one degree or another, but there are certainly different degrees of it. The only thing he has really is his girlfriend, and it seems like that is what is likely keeping him going. As the police begin to bring the heat down on the Cody?s, we see how the actions of some people can have a ripple effect on those not even partaking in this
The scenes with the family interaction and the crew all conversing set a good atmosphere for the subsequent unravelling and tribulations that they all go through, both together and separately. Some characters we care for more than others, but Michod?s script does a good job at allowing us to find something in each character that we can identify with, and use it find the emotion as their situations reach the breaking points. The film is slow in parts but it never gets boring, and seems naturally to find the right way to twist the story in surprising ways. Weaver?s portrayal of the mother and Mendhelsohn as Pope in particular are very strong in this movie, and both do a good job as what are I guess the most important (character wise) antagonists in the story, if you discount the obvious antagonists, the police.
Guy Pierce shows up in the films second half as a seemingly experienced officer. As the walls close in around the family and the police squeeze tighter (what begin as stakeouts at the Cody residence soon escalates in to back and forth blows between the Cody?s and the Cops) Josh must decide what life he wants to live, and if he wants to live to see his next birthday. The great thing is that everyone has their own distinct problem within this scenario. Everyone is seeing things differently, reacting differently. For the film this complexity of motive and emotion is great, but it has drastic consequences for the characters in the film, tragic consequences. For Josh, our protagonist, the consequences are constantly ignored, but he increasingly finds it more and more difficult to ignore them.
The camera isn?t doing anything to fancy, mainly pointing and shooting, reaction shots when necessary and a couple short time encapsulating montages. The camera moves most when it needs to track some of the more mobile action/fight scenes. The editing impressed me, certain key moments being rightly bypassed to infer our understanding. The breaks in action seemed real and needed in order to lead to the next revelation and/or problem. Most importantly the film wasn?t obvious, I wasn?t constantly walking toward obvious answers, and even when I was the film did it in an interesting way and took it up another notch. So far this is one of the years best films I have seen, although as of now I?ve only seen about six films from 2010.
Posted on 8/09/10 04:42 PM
This film is based on a novel by John Irving, and was adapted by him as well. The Cider House Rules is too long, too shallow, and fittingly, it?s well regarded by the Academy. They nominated this film for best picture ? over Eyes Wide Shut! And Being John Malkovich! And Lasse Hallstrom got a Best Director nomination ? over Stanley Kubrick! And Paul Thomas Anderson!
The story is interesting enough on the surface, but nothing strikes hard. Everything pretty much takes place in the 1940?s during the war. It?s about a kind hearted teenage orphan named Homer Wells (Toby Maguire), who has a weak heart and so was allowed to skip the war. The film details his ordeal dealing with female patients needing abortions; a moral dilemma which is weakly handled throughout the film and wrapped up in an open ended but false feeling way.
For Homer its only a sporadically interesting life at an orphanage, where he helps his mentor and father figure Dr. Wilber Larch (Michael Caine) deliver illegal abortions for needy pregnant women that have nowhere else to go. Born, raised, and taught the physician trade by Dr. Larch, Homer longs for a life away from the doctor?s operating room and the duties Dr. Larch is slowly but surely bestowing on him. This runs contrary to Dr. Larch?s wishes, and as we see him fall ill we know because of the dialogue and periodic voiceover by Caine that he wishes for Homer to carry on his legacy at the orphanage. Caine delivers a wonderful and emotional performance here as a man struggling with his profession (and ether drug he uses on his patients). However, the script doesn?t give much to work with for most of the other actors, and a lot of the overall message is left up to bare bones montages to collect various character checkpoints.
When actors Paul Rudd and Charlize Theron show up as a couple for an abortion, Homer creates a bond with the couple and ends up leaving with them to Rudd?s fathers apple farm, where Homer starts learning the simpler, more carefree aspects of life, like picking apples and falling in love. When Rudd?s character goes off to war, Homer and Candy (Theron) hook up; this is supposed to seem deliberate and authentic, but is instead obvious and rather bland. The best part is clearly Charlize lying naked on the bed. Their relationship stems from a desire for something new, and strong mutual need. Charlize Theron is pretty great in her role. But it?s all so obvious. I knew exactly what was going to happen in this film. I knew who was going to die, who was going to cause what problem for who and why, before any of it went down.
The scenes on the apple cider farm are probably the least predictable. Here we meet the Rose family, a black family who work with Homer on the apples and cider. The family is dysfunctional in a pretty disgusting way, and problems arise here at the farm that brings Homer?s past life back to the present. The nature of ?rules? and how they are at the mercy of perception, comes out in this part of the plot, and works as mildly interesting opposing image to life at the orphanage. This part of the plot also does a better job than any explaining what the film may want to say about abortion. Delroy Lindo and Erykah Badu give great performances as a father and daughter, but the dynamics and feelings surrounding the whole relationship aren?t explored and so here we also feel short-changed by the story.
The questions of a doctors ethics and dealing with the nature of abortion are not what I would deem ?properly focused on? in this film. Nor are the matters arising from the family dynamics in the orphanage and at the cider house given anything more than the sheen of emotion (characters who will devotedly pitch one emotion through the duration of the film until they either disappear from the script or they die). Questions about what shapes our morality and our decisions, and what framework that leaves one with to govern morality moving forward, are not given enough focus but are supposed to be a major part of the story. The real meaty questions are never really asked in this film, it sidesteps them and then goes back to the start, as if no one feels any different or nothing has changed. The orphan kids are all portrayed as a group and the few that are singled out by the script are given a simple emotion to work with. Even a teenage Kieran Culkin is an orphan in this film, and he is just like the rest of the orphans, except a few years older.
The film plods along as well. It?s too slow, too messy in its message, and way too glossy. At its core are serious themes about abortion and the true essence of freedom and morality, but the film holds the ideas at an arm?s length. Sure the film has big name actors, but that won?t do. So I say skip this one. The film is too confused about its own position, its own meaning, for us to be bothered with separating all the tangles. There too much in this film, and yet it doesn?t add up to much at all.
Posted on 7/31/10 04:37 PM
I should tell you, I was looking forward to this one. Memento and those Batman films put my standards for Christopher Nolan pretty high. But I?m fair minded, and I can keep my expectations in check. Inception is one big and loud epic, blending dreams and reality in the world of corporate espionage using dream infiltration. How did the world get like this suddenly? Who created this wild technology, these gadgets they hook up to share these dreamscapes? Where the heck is the potentially way more interesting prequel to Inception? How is this stuff really learned? All we get in the film are many simple one-liners and broad philosphies that are so obviously picked and chosen from to suit the heist aspect of the plot. We don?t see meditative practices, but men freaking out or trying to hold it together while dreams shift and/or collapse everywhere. Shouldn?t it take a little more Zen to master the playground of a dream? I think so.
Inception is all mechanical, it doesn?t bath in its own sci-fi glory but tries to hold it all together while rushing for the finish line; it simply uses existing ideas about the nature of dreams and manipulates them to tell a couple of fairly ordinary relationship dramas disguised a major dream heists. The first twenty minutes is in this dream where we are being barraged with dialogue that is espousing the details of this entire world we?ve been dumped in. We get stuff about the different ?levels? of dreams (ah like the alpha, beta, theta, delta for action flicks), dreams within dreams etc. We learn that dying in a dream means you wake up in reality (OH MY GOD! That?s genius!). There?s a bunch of stuff that that will remind you of The Matrix, only that the matrix is now a dream; for instance, the fact that when you are sleeping and your body is being hit by things or you?re flying through the air, you feel that sensation in the dream as well. In an amazing visual sequence we see Levitt and a ?projection? (which is a part of the subconscious of the person dreaming) fighting in mid air, because in reality they are flying through the air in their sleep; dream time is super-slow, so the mid air sensation lasts much longer and leads to gravity defying dreaming for a minimum twenty minute stretch of the runtime.
So the cast is pretty top notch. Ellen Page is there with all of this emotional investment to help Cobb and company which I can?t quite pinpoint. Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb. Cobb works for unnamed corporations, but is now on the run because some shit went down in his past so the law is after him. The story is non-linear and stuff is filled in as the dream world goes back and forth with reality and/or we get into deeper layers of dreams. Marion Cotillard is Mal, Cobb?s deceased wife. Cobb seems normal enough at first, but there is some emotional scarring there that is brought up repeatedly as he visits and/or runs in to Mal in his dream or another?s (since she is a projection in his subconscious). As Cobb is on the run now he cannot visit his two young children, which is something that is made to seem important to Cobb in the film, though I?m not sure how successful Nolan is in evoking that need to reunite with them. Cotillard does a good job with what time she has on screen. Is Mal a femme fatale? Well if she is, she is unlike any that cinema has shown us before, especially considering the multiple contexts she is used in.
This plot between Mal and Cobb seems the most interesting to me, but it sits on the back burner for much of the show, as we are witness to the longest most pumped up heist I think I?ve ever seen. I never really bought into the corporate espionage aspect of it in the first place, and the amount of time put in to it in order to get to the conclusion seems rather strange. We got this corporate head that is dying and his son (played by Cillian Murphy) is the target of the ?Inception? (which is implanting a thought in someone?s mind, in this case to sabotage their corporate interests). The man who has hired Cobb and his team is called Saito (Ken Watanabe) a previous target of Cobb?s who may hold the key to Cobb?s salvation; but only if he can help Saito out first with this big mindfuck of a dream job.
The film is way too unbalanced, a bit too self-important and way too bloated because of it. The script is dealing with some heady material that if this world was real, would be very deep and complex in actuality; so there?s a lot of saying that things have been done and/or accomplished without actually explaining how these tasks were completed, in order to service the plot. What does Nolan want us to think is important? If all this time and effort is being devoted to planting a deceitful thought, why doesn?t he go full out into the details and chuck away all the emotional mumbo jumbo. Or on the flip side, if you want to make a film about marital problems and the psychological issues both caused and cured by this dream technology, then focus on it fully, and with some amount of subtlety. Don?t mix them together and make both lesser for doing so. In juggling all these plots Nolan is mixing oil and water, but can?t devote enough attention to the cleanup. I was expecting some kind of payoff regarding the corporate espionage that was focused on for so long, but instead the film decides that the relationships, which were mainly neglected, were actually the most important thing all along.
We must give Nolan credit for holding it all together and making it look pretty slick. But Memento was brilliant. The Batman films were great, especially The Dark Knight. Inception has all the ambition of those, but it doesn?t bring it all home the same way. There?s hardly a laugh to be had either. Everything ties together well enough, but its complexity isn?t what I dislike. It?s the execution. I dug the music; it was pretty epic and brought some awe to the proceedings. But I?d be lying if I said I loved this film, or even really liked it. I really, really like the subject of dreams and reality in cinema, and think they can be mind-bending subjects that can make for great cinema. But with the technology in Inception interfacing with the dreams so simplistically, and the simplistic human motivations both inside and outside the dreams, I have a hard time fitting the paradigm that the dream world creates in our reality with the one depicted in the film. Because of this the story loses much credibility for me, and some of the ?details? I found to be silly as well. It?s too mechanical and not lucid enough either.
Remember, this is just my opinion, so please don?t go off on me for saying how I felt about this film. I?ve noticed around the internet that this film in particular has some rabid defenders who almost seem blinded by their love of it, which I think is sad and hilarious. Like, I read people threatening to kill other people and shit because some critic said he hated it (I think it was Armond White, haha). It seems the default response to a negative review is to say the critic ?didn?t get it?, which is a ridiculous thing to say since films come both more intricate and more interpretive than this. Anyways, a decent film, highly original, but not as well done as it could have been.
Posted on 7/31/10 04:08 PM
The Great Escape accounts a true story, of the attempted escaping of allied prisoners in a German Stalag during WWII. The film begins with lengthy scene introducing a host of well known actors (playing mostly British and American soldiers) arriving at the Stalag as POW?s. Kommandant von Luger has collected all of these trouble making escape artists to keep them all under a single watch, with a ?heavy? soldier presence to make escape difficult.
Steve McQueen is a cocky American POW with a talent for escaping, and a bigger talent for getting caught; this repeatedly results in ?The Cooler?, for a few days or maybe twenty. Attenborough is the lead British POW, leading a large squadron of POWs in a massive and multi-faceted escape plan involving long term escape methods like forged identification and learning some German.
There are a lot of characters and sub-plots to keep up with, some of which get more screen time, others just one or two major moments. The most touching and memorable for me is obviously the relationship between ?the forger? (Donald Pleasence) and ?The Scrounger?(James Garner), which starts out as a purely formal relationship about stealing things to help the POW?s, but turns into a great tale of true friendship. For background info on all the other little characters (James Coburn as the Manufacturer, etc.) check out IMDB or the films page on RT. I thought Garner was probably the best part of the film, not McQueen or Attenborough. His scenes definitely provided the most interest for me, and the least redundancy. His scenes with the nervous Nazi soldier were funny and interesting to watch, and Nazi soldier is very well acted and cast.
Elmer Bernstein?s music kept me more into the film than anything else. From the first moment of the film to the last, it was the one thing that never annoyed, and the sound of the music fits even the more humorous scenes just as well as the straight action ones.
But alas, the film was way too long, especially the last hour save the final 10 minutes. Big stretches could have been conveyed in a much tighter and more coherent way. I get that director John Sturges wants to instil some depth into the story, but come on; learn how to edit. Some of the action would?ve benefited from a bit of glossing over, instead of all of this repetition which begins to get a little overbearing, and boring for the eyes. The escape felt literally like it would never end, and I started to want it to.
Overall the film is only sporadically interesting. It is engaging when we see and feel the natural ingenuity of the script, and the multiple escape tactics used to complete the daunting task of escape. But too much oftern is instead the boring filler that comprises much of the film and is made to look important. It may be my fault, but I didn?t find a lot of the characters to be very interesting. The characters were funny, a little cynical, kind of over the top sometimes. But everything felt so rigid. Billy Wilder?s Stalag 17 is a much better film I think, even if it?s not a great one either.