Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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She has swept my heart away. Oh, with her billowing dress, and her glass slippers: her carriage, and her mighty steeds; but most of all, her gorgeous, enchanting smile. 'Tis hard not to respond heartily when she glances your way, teeth bare, eyes radiant. It's infectious.
Cinderella is brilliance. Perhaps, technically, not perfect, but narratively, an absolute joy. Lily James is sensational. Robb Sta... I mean Richard Madden, fully embodies his character. Sandy Powell delivers the best costume array possible. Haris Zambarloukos's cinematography is always moving, and captures the warm vibrance of every location. Patrick Doyle's score (as I made mention of in my review of the album) puts me in a state of wonderment. Chris Weitz has come far from The Golden Compass, and respects the original tale's morals and messages. But above all, Kenneth Branagh captures the magic of the original material, and has created an adaptation that has avoided the pitfalls of many of its contemporaries (I'm looking at you Maleficent). What a dazzling, dazzling film!
Elongated Review coming soon!
Part of a Three Film Extravaganza
Based off the first half an hour, I was anticipating a good time with this film. I was expecting a positive rating. I did not like the previous iteration into this series, and this film does not increase my patience for its idiocy, tameness and general lack of peculiarity. After the first act has completed, everything seems to grind to a halt, and the innumerable quantity of subplots begin to unravel at a disengaging and truly irritating pace. The message I got is that old people engage in a greatly underappreciated amount of infidelity, romance, perceived infidelity, intercourse and wondering about engaging in romance. And absolutely no one can be offended by anything in this movie; it's trying to appeal to everyone, and in doing so, alienates much of its audience.
In place of the character archetypes that were in play during the first installment, we have storylines which veer off into chasms of irrelevance, which is perhaps The Second Best's biggest fault. Apart from Dev Patel's overlong yet somewhat charismatic plot, the rest of the ensemble have a hard time maintaining the interest of one. There's an old guy whose wife may be engaging in infidelity, but we don't care, because it feels so random and half-assed. Judi Dench is thinking about banging the ever-underwhelming Bill Nighy, but it's just so boring.
Dev Patel is present and interesting enough to maintain one's attention throughout, and the locations, production design, costumes, cinematography and editing are as wonderful as always (though a few noticeable jarring cuts took me out of the film every once and a while). Thomas Newman is, in classic Thomas Newman fashion, predictable as all hell, but still reasonably effective within his allocated job. John Madden has tried to produce a vibrant and colourful film, and despite his visual grandeur, he can't bring forth much from the rather substance-less material. You may get half an hour of decent laughs, but after that, it feels as if it's an hour longer than it actually is, and that isn't a good sign.
What a terrible film to finish this extravaganza off with.
Part of a Three Film Extravaganza
What a surprise! Sure: Focus is uneven in its transitions; the first act is too long and the second and third acts are too short; the climax features a few too many twists for its own good, and there's a gambling scene which is slightly too long. All that said, I just couldn't resist the plain allure of the entire exploit! It's hilarious, the stars are absolutely perfect; it's intriguing and the premise is compelling enough to keep you engrossed even in its most unconvincing of moments. The soundtrack is absolutely divine for this context. The score from nick Urata is adequately composed, and incorporated well into its intended context. And the cinematography.
And the cinematography!
It's seriously out of this world. It's beautiful. It's stylish. It's clean. It's kind of like Fifty Shades of Grey in that sense, only the narrative is far better handled. And the story is fantastic, proving delightfully indulgent yet always intelligent. When the film doesn't attempt too much (as it unfortunately does in the final climax), it can achieve a great deal, and can prove to be a genuinely enticing and wonderful experience. My friend and I were having an absolute ball, so that should certainly count for something.
There shall be people who rag this for being too light and cliched, but that's where it finds its footing, much as Kingsman did: it utilises the cliches and conventions to propel itself to a point at which it transcends them, even though they occur. I was having too much fun to take any notice really, and even with the plethora of negatives, the positives are powerful enough to mostly overcome them.
Part of a Three Film Extravaganza
After the critical mutilation Chappie received upon initial release, I was perhaps prepared for something of a magnitude of bad that had not been witnessed within film since Trolls 2. But it turns out that Chappie is not all that terrible. Instead, it's something far less remarkable: average. Whilst Blomkamp injects a visual flair and intrepid charge into his work that is undeniable and utterly palpable from the beginning to the end (and leads me to provide a mixed sentiment, instead of a negative), he can't wholly rectify the abysmal and completely blatant thematic material, which spells only recurring concepts from his previous endeavors, both films of which achieved far more in terms of successful analogies on the current state of third-world poverty and discrimination. The environments are still as lively as ever, and the visual effects are virtually perfect, but these technicalities do not fully transform this into a positive experience. Match the lacking substance with an antagonist who is as boring as he is melodramatic (two concepts which don't seem to gel together on paper, but Hugh Jackman renders the comparison plausible to say the least) keeps Chappie from achieving anything more than decent. Plus, Yolandi Visser was absolutely terrible, though her fellow member of rap group Die Antwoord, Ninja, was actually pretty good.
But Hans Zimmer... Jesus. Talk about a terrible score. Predictable methodology, themes which felt cliched, an overbearing sentimentality which lacks intelligence and just provides thumping, simplistic beats, made more noticeable by their prominence in the sound mix. I knew the score was going to be terrible from the onset, but come on Blomkamp; Zimmer was never appropriate for this setting! Ryan Amon would've been a far better choice, and would have served as a great foundation to an ongoing collaboration.
All the same, Chappie is indistinct. Its commentary on racism is as blatant as any metaphor I've seen this year (when the female lead tells Chappie about the story of a Black Sheep, I genuinely laughed) and it lacks a story which proves justly compelling nor original. But hey; it's technically sufficient, Dev Patel is decent and Sharlto Copley, as was expected, kicks it out of the park.
What is most resonant within this harrowing, desperate depiction of love lost, destroyed and reserved is quite possibly its lack of remarkability. In a year where an unprecedented quantity of films released have been about the more unexceptional of moments in life (Boyhood, namely), The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, is, surprisingly, the most grounded and non-miraculous of them all. There is no melodramatic climax portraying a sentiment that was always there but never revealed, nor is there a falling out which relies solely on plot convenience. Writer and director Ned Benson is adamant in his representation of a relationship gone astray, and never fails to evoke emotion with the most mundane of dialogues. As the lead male states partway through the arduous two hour duration, "I want to go back to the same old, mundane shit!". In a film which thrives on its understatement and subtlety to compel the viewer, this line stands out as being particularly ironic. The question is this though: is this distinct lack of remarkability that Benson incorporates cumbersome for the picture as a whole?
It proves cumbersome not in the fact that it's dreadfully slow, but in the case that it's awfully meticulous. Despite the two hour picture carries on for what seems another sixty minutes. This slow nature burdens the film in a reality where it can't seem to explode into any fit of resolve. It's actually too ordinary for its own good. And that's the reason why I shan't be acclaiming the film as a masterpiece, because I feel it entirely justified to appraise it as such otherwise. Having not seen the Him and Her cuts which explore the two individual viewpoints of the individuals within the romance explored throughout this feature, I was not at all biased prior to viewing this. I possessed an open mind and was at once excited yet weary. Eleanor Rigby was another directorial debut from 2014, and considering the wide assortment of both successful achievements and dismal failures in this regard (Whiplash and Nightcrawler for the former; Unbroken and Obvious Child for the latter), it was difficult to assume which side of the equation this film would fall on. Fortunately, for myself at the very least, the deeply ingrained and heartfelt tenderness that pervades the atmosphere and being of the picture was enough to have me crying at the sheer beauty of this faulted but otherwise glorious film.
A deep tragedy has struck Eleanor Rigby and her husband Conor Ludlow. Initially, we are uncertain as to what that tragedy really is. Subtly we are given clues (perhaps too subtly), through there restrained and desperate scenes of connection. The film explores how they've fallen apart, and how they each individually seek to come back together. They want to return to what they formally perceived as normality. But that shall never happen, because in a sense, they are not meant for each other. Torn apart by destiny, one could consider it, they are inevitably to fail in their conquest for a relationship which even partially resembles the one they shared for their long and prosperous seven year relationship. Eleanor is an understated woman who hides her emotions as best she can, building walls to protect herself from any outside influence. Conor is a confident but pained man, trying to come to terms with what is wrong with his wife. Or perhaps not what is wrong with her, but what is wrong with him. Throughout this story of deceit, perversion, depression, and heartbreak, we ask whether or not they are ever to return to the bliss we hear was present prior to their falling out. Are they ever to do so?
The ambiguous ending leaves many questions present. Shall Eleanor ever return to her love? Shall Conor forgive both himself and his wife for their mistakes and disparities? We understand that there is love between them all throughout; even in their most distant of moments, they are connected by something or rather. The blue colour palette applied for Conor's sequences is often permeated by the desolate gold and red mixture that accompanies Eleanor. When they lie by themselves, reminiscing about times gone by, the blue melds with the gold, forming a rich aesthetic that is homely and welcome. We understand that this is about them, through and through. Their pain and passion; their hatred and love; their unequivocal despondency and unadulterated ardour. What is so remarkable about the lack of remarkability present is the reality of the situation. Benson's sentimentality threatens to yield distasteful results, but it does not do so due to one key ingredient.
As was aforementioned, the film does not climax in a stereotypical fashion. Rain does not pour as lips mash together in a ravenous and fiery infatuation. The characters are not perfect parallels of each other. Benson builds a realism about these people, and it's not in the locations nor the cinematography that he concocts such an atmosphere, but in the characters themselves. They aren't fallacious, fanciful representations of a relationship in motion. Eleanor and Conor are human beings whom possess in equal share an individuality that seems to rarely saturate modern romance pictures. Instead of exploring the relationship itself, Benson articulates upon the independent entities which make it up. In doing so, we understand both their infatuation and hatred of each other. Their motivations are clearly discerned, and so the screenplay does not feel required to take advantage of convenience. He brings them together naturally, and when they fail to click into place properly, he disbands them. He allows the fluidity of the characters; the motion of the turmoil; to impart upon the viewer. I cried when both Eleanor and Conor finally came together, as it was not necessarily the resolution to their conflicts nor to their arcs, but an advancement of both of their stories. Their singular stories, elaborated on in turn.
Technicalities drag the film down a number of notches, impeding the overall capacity for impact. Whilst the film's dialogue sequences aren't nearly as stagnant and lifeless as, say, those found in a Josh Boone film (shot almost entirely in close-ups, rendering a disjointed and unaffecting result), the medium angle approach seen here; one which provokes nearly no dynamic whatsoever, isn't all that flash. If it wasn't for the compelling charisma of the lead performers as well as the prowess of the writing, one could very easily become detached from any and all drama inflicted on both protagonists throughout. Minuscule lighting and sound mixing issues also hinder the quality of the picture as a whole, but the main detractor in this area is undeniably the score; composed by Son Lux, the score features a collation of derivative, lifeless synthetics which do little to express the emotion of the characters involved. Despite an encouraging finale soundtrack inclusion, Son Lux and Faux Fix's preliminary collaboration on the song 'No Fate Awaits Me', the majority of the score remains a sterile canvas that could've provided something far more gorgeous, but fails to.
All the same, these technicalities do not fully cease the goodwill and beauty in the story. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy handle their jobs perfectly, imbuing a sense of natural reflection and subtlety into their characters; Chastain especially is supreme in her role as Rigby, her ability to change the mood of an entire scene with a single movement of her eyebrow unprecedented. They harness the energy of the picture and provoke a volatile reaction. These characters who seem as real and genuine as any I've ever seen within a romance film prove utterly enchanting, and we are left to their will from the beginning of the running time to the end. Despite the issues that come with combining two individual films into a single piece of entertainment, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them manages to remain heartfelt and poignant all throughout. This is a sombre look at two beings who may be destined to always fall apart, as opposed to together. At the end of it all, are we affected by the potency of Benson's production?