Monday, January 21, 2008


Juno has already featured on the 'top 10 movies on 2007' lists of nearly every reviewer. Ever. It's been given 5 stars, Golden Globe nominations and hailed as a brilliant comedy.

Despite all this, I saw it simply because it stars Michael Cera. And I am smitten.

However, the movie does feature some other significant reasons to see it.

Juno is the story of a 16 year old girl, Juno MacGuff, who discovers she is pregnant with her friend Bleekers child after an encounter in a chair. Sharp-tongued Juno decides to keep the baby - opting to adopt it out to a loving set of parents instead, the Lorings (brilliantly portrayed by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner).

I suspect the word 'quirky' has been thrown around a lot in relation to this film, particularly following the success of similar low-budget films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Thankyou for Smoking. Of course, quirky is a word you could use - but this is one movie that hardly fits into a mould.

Juno is brilliantly portrayed by Ellen Page, who garnered similar rave-reviews after featuring in Hard Candy. In Juno, she demonstrates her all-mighty ability to bring a character to life with true charisma and charm. Her softness is perfectly timed to off-set any cringe-worthy moments throughout the film - a quality that is equally matched by the ever brilliant Michael Cera who plays her friend Bleeker. Both Page and Cera light up the screen whenever they walk on and the raport between the two sent both myself and my friend in to moments of true sighing.

The supporting cast are equally as strong, aided by a brilliant script from the exceptionally talented Cody Diablo (who is famous for her blog, I might add!) The flow of the movie is perfectly aided by an outstanding soundtrack which twists and winds throughout this off-beat comedy

It's not exactly your most traditional premise for a movie, and the comedy throughout will not appeal to everyones tastes, but the strong cast, superb acting and amazing script will draw you in and suck you dry.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bobby (2006)

Written by Emilio Estevez, Bobby tells the story of the lives of 22 people who were in and around the Ambassador Hotel at the time of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. In its form, the film is similar to Crash or Babel, it tells a series of interconnected stories which draw together a particular American experience. It’s not a film about Robert Kennedy. It’s not a film about the political motivations of Sirhan Sirhan, nor even a campaign story.

Readers of the other blog I write (oh ho ho, one of many, etc) will know that I am slightly taken with Bobby Kennedy. To me, he embodied the potential of American politics during the 1960s, and was able to create a vision of the future which far surpassed that of his brother, JFK. Kennedy was a reluctant politician, committed to fulfilling the promise of his brother’s presidency, while holding progressive views which outstripped his more pragmatic sibling.

The vignettes within Bobby are real and full of pathos. Lindsay Lohan plays a teenage girl marrying a boy from her high school class so that he can avoid the draft. In conversation with her hair-stylist for the day (played by an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone), Lohan’s character observes that she would marry any boy she could, if it would stop them from going to Vietnam. William H. Macy plays a philandering hotel manager who sacks his racist employee (Christian Slater) after discovering that Latino workers had been prevented from leaving the workplace to vote. Anthony Hopkins plays a retired doorman who continues to return to the hotel he worked at, his life defined by his persona there. The characters here find themselves at a cross-roads, making decisions which transcend the political process, but which are informed by the spirit of the times, while reminding us that a public optimism cannot change each and every life.

More practically, there are some things about this film that might bother some people. For a start, it’s not narrative driven. It seeks to create a sense of what it was like to be American (from a range of experiences) at that time in history. This makes some people crazy. Secondly, it’s highly political. There is no doubt that Estevez’s own activist background and that of his father, Martin Sheen, have played a strong role in both what this movie portrays but also how it looks and feels. Estevez met Kennedy when he was four years old and was just six when Kennedy was assassinated, and those with a more critical eye than me may argue that the picture he presents of Kennedy is uncritical and rose-coloured.

News reel footage is woven into the stories, showing Kennedy’s commitment to reversing environmental damage, improving the lives of poverty-stricken Americans, and advancing the cause of civil rights in the United States. Even as a long-time admirer of Kennedy’s political activism (I actually have a book of his interviews that I bought when I was 15…yes, I am that kind of nerd) I was surprised by the depth of his vision and the extent of his progressive views. One can only wonder how the world might have been….

This film scores one whole tissue box from me. I am not joking when I say that I sobbed almost uncontrollably for about twenty minutes after it finished. It may not have this effect on everyone, but for those who are passionate about the difference that principle, optimism and inclusion can make to our society – at the political level and well beyond, this is a moving and provocative film.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Repentance is pointless

Atonement is a hotly tipped to be an award winning movie which has been adapted from the Booker Prize short listed novel of the same name.

It tells a story of a frustrated love affair that is separated by lies, war, class and time. Keira Knightly stars in several slinky slips of silk that mostly show off her hot back and her lack of boobs. But she looks gorgeous and is made for the role. The starring man, who's name I can't remember, was also amazing. But even though most of the movie focuses on him and his trials and tribulations Keira holds centre stage with her expressive eyes and her amazing costumes.

I always find film adaptations of novels seem to lack something, and this one is no exception. While the scene is set through lavish sets and delightful costumes I didn't get the same sense of claustrophobic aristocracy and the unbearable torment of separation. But this doesn't' detract from the film which was fabulous and made me cry three times.

Definitely go and see the film at the big screen as I can't imagine that you would get the same sense of place and time on a tv at home. No matter how big your wide screen LCD is. But maybe I am wrong. I just want an widescreen LCD myself but I am holding out for the environment and the exorbitant cost.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

This movie is a remake of Sondheim's musical about a murderous barber who gets revenge for a long imprisonment by cutting people’s throats while they sit in his barber chair. They then get sent down to Mrs Lovett in the shop below, who makes them into tasty meat pies. For someone (like myself) who can't stand musicals because usually the narrative is ruined when someone gets up and starts tap dancing on top of a table and belting out a schmaltzy tune, in this case the songs actually work, adding a sinister aspect and in some instances, dramatic tension.

Johnny Depp, as usual, puts in a stellar performance, so capturing your sympathies that you want him to murder almost all of his victims, especially the judge who sentenced him unjustly to prison. Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter) adds much comic relief to an already coal black comedy. This is simply a five star film, pure and simple, and is so incredibly evocative of 19th Century London you can almost smell the rotting sewage in the street, not to mention the dead bodies being made into pies in the basement!

The character of Sweeney Todd first appeared in a British penny dreadful called The People's Periodical, in issue 7, dated November 21, 1846. The story in which he appeared was titled "The String of Pearls: A Romance," and was written by Thomas Prest, who based his horror stories partly on truth, sometimes gaining inspiration from real crime reports in The Times.

Whether the character of Sweeney Todd ever existed in reality is open to fierce debate, but what is true is that in nineteenth century London, there was an urban legend that people were turned into meat pies. In 1843, Tom Pinch is "particularly anxious ... to have those streets pointed out to him which were appropriated to the slaughter of countrymen" in Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.

Five Stars

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spin (2005)

This is a fabulous short film, and at 8 minutes long, it is indeed short. Watch it, listen to the killer sound and be glad.

Information on the film-makers can be found at

(Cross-posted here.)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mystery, Alaska

There were any number of reasons why I should have hated this movie. These include:

It’s about hockey. Ice hockey. A sport that I neither watch nor understand.

It stars Russell Crowe. This guy was awesome in “A Beautiful Mind” and likeable in the much under-rated “A Good Year”, but when, as in this film, he plays a strong silent type, he can be gratingly one dimensional, and if you don’t believe me, take a second look at “Gladiator”. Or, if you’re feeling brave, “Proof of Life”.

It also stars Burt Reynolds. And for some reason I just wish he would stop making movies.

It was written by David E Kelley. Admittedly, this man has created some pretty decent television shows. Picket Fences, Boston Public and The Practice were all excellent in their pre-shark-jumping days. Even Ally McBeal had its entertaining moments. But his past attempts at writing movies include the stunningly bad “Lake Placid”, a movie that could not be saved even by the considerable comic talents of Oliver Platt.*

Finally, it was directed by Jay Roach. This man directed more than one Austin Powers film AND “Meet the Parents”, and if that is not reason enough to treat everything he ever does with suspicion, I don’t know what is.

Knowing all that, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this movie is good.

Russell Crowe, despite a limited amount of dialogue and screen time, manages to turn in the sort of subtle and nuanced performance that makes me keep liking his work no matter how much of a phone tosser he may be in real life.

David E Kelley remains unable to write a film without at least a few quirky old people and no less than two Court room scenes, but in each case they actually work and advance the plot rather than just being there for the sake of it. Those minor gripes aside, the dialogue is entertaining, the overtly sexual banter is as funny as it is graphic, and the emotion is genuine. Also, anyone who enjoys a true “bad sex” scene will relish the novelty of seeing one of these that takes place in a snow plough.

The ensemble cast all rise to the challenge and make the most of their small roles. In particular, Lolita Davidovich proves my theory that she should have been a much bigger star than she is (and anyone who saw “Leap of Faith” will surely agree with me), Hank Azaria, who has in the past been described as an ‘almost unfairly gifted’ comic actor, demonstrates that this is true, and Mike McKean, as always, effortless steals every scene he is in.

Even the soundtrack making person has exceeded expectation, partly by managing to find a song about a zamboni, and partly by using The Pogues’ “Love you till the end” as the backdrop for the closing scenes. It is remarkably effective.

In the end, this film, flawed though it may be, achieves the near impossible by making me actually care about the outcome of an ice hockey game.

For that alone, this film deserves to get four stars.

*Although this is on no way relevant to the movie I’m actually reviewing, it’s hard to avoid noting that Oliver Platt was also in “Three to Tango” and that version of the Three Musketeers that also starred Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland, so clearly his agent is out to wreck his life. It’s sad, really.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thomas and the tragic attempt to appeal to American audiences

I thought it might be a good idea to review a movie that I have actually seen recently. And that pretty much limited me to one. Unfortunately, that one is "Thomas and the Magic Railway".

I could reproduce the entire script here from memory just to show off, but that wouldn't be all that impressive since anyone could do that after watching this film 17 billion times like I have.

Instead, let's get straight to the central, vitally important thing about this movie.

It is a complete disaster from beginning to end. Everything about it is bad. I hated it the first time I saw it, I have hated it every time since. And I will continue to hate it for all time.

I realise that I have a bit of a purist streak and that, having grown up reading the Thomas the Tank Engine books, pretty much any attempt to adapt these pleasant little tales of very British steam trains for an American audience was probably going to annoy me, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it would also make me want to slap the director in the head with a Very Large Mackerel.

I save that reaction for only the very worst in tragically stupid wasted opportunities like this movie.

I will spare you the tedious details of what is apparently meant to be a story, and I will skip over most of the crimes against acting from people who should have known better (Did the director keep telling Peter Fonda "Once more with a truckload of valium"?), pausing merely to wonder what exactly Alec Baldwin did with all his money and why, if he needed to pay off the mob quickly (which is the only explanation I can come up with) he didn't do something less embarassing and degrading, like starring in "The Funny Looking Guy Who Kept Forgetting His Pants".

I suppose I should include something positive somewhere in this review (which is not easy given that I even hate the soundtrack, which sounds like they gave a professional soundtrack writer twenty minutes and said come up with something that sounds exactly like every single note in it has no purpose in the universe other than to form part of a soundtrack), so I went searching on the internet movie database for any positive comment I could find.

Sure enough, one person wrote:

"For all those who have slammed this film as being the worst of 2000 I can only imagine that they have no sense of wonder and either don't have kids or don't read to their kids. Take your little ones, leave your synicism at the door and be a kid again."
I have kids. I read to them every night. And every morning before breakfast. And it is almost always a Thomas story. And the closest this movie came to inspiring a sense of wonder was making me wonder what is so damn child friendly about a diesel trying to incinerate James the Red Engine and some random idiot with a Scottish accent in a giant furnace.

And I think the word they are looking for is 'cynicism'.

A rather more perceptive reviewer wrote:

"Your kids may enjoy the railroad scenes, but don't watch this movie unless you want your brains to leak out of your head and turn to mush. The models are great, but the acting and writing are ridiculous. Avoid at all costs!!!"

The only thing wrong with this statement is that the reviewer did not use nearly enough exclamation marks.

Yes, my sons do enjoy the railroad scenes, and they appear completely unconcerned by the evil diesel (the older one keeps asking for this diesel for Christmas) and so I continue to let them watch the film. However, all parents looking to retain their own sanity are advised to start collecting copies of this film and throwing them into the deepest part of the deepest ocean in the world.

While you're there, please catch me a mackerel so I can get on with slapping the director.

Rating: hellishly painful (and no stars)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

High Fidelity (2000)

High Fidelity is the story of Rob Gordon, a disenchanted thirty-something who has owned his own record store for four years, scratching out a living through his deep love of music. Self-absorbed and moody, Rob covets a life he doesn’t have and lacks the confidence and drive to step outside of himself. His girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), leaves him for another man, and Rob gets to thinking about the women he has dated. Ranking his “top five breakups”, he tracks down the women he believes have made the biggest impact on his life.
I must admit, I came to High Fidelity with mixed feelings. I had read Nick Hornby’s excellent book and adored it. It seemed unlikely that the film could live up to Hornby’s wry tone and black cynicism.
I should have known better. The film is tightly scripted, the relocation to Chicago is totally acceptable, and the cinematography makes great use of the locations. Cusack himself, as Rob Gordon, is charismatic and endearing, and easily lifts this film beyond introspection. Gordon’s self-loathing is both real and comical, the supporting cast is excellent and the music references a-plenty make this a deeply enjoyable film.
The back and forward flips in time, which had the potential to undo the rhythm of the film, are well-observed, and the matching of music to time-period is straight and unforgiving.
Jack Black’s casting as the moody wannabe musician Barry, one half of the “Musical Moron Twins” (“I can't fire them. I hired these guys for three days a week and they just started showing up every day. That was four years ago”) is perfect.
Barry’s band is just like every band I’ve ever had the pleasure to be around. In fact, Barry reminds me a little too much of a particular friend, who was, shall we say, a little obsessed.
Interestingly, Black almost turned down the role of Barry, despite the writers (including Cusack) writing the role with him in mind. It’s the interaction between Rob, Barry and Dick (played by Todd Luiso) which I love the most.
Catherine Zeta Jones is perfect in the role of the self-obsessed Charlie, and Cusack’s sister Joan (one of the most under-rated women in comedy) is stunning as Laura’s best friend Liz.
Cameos by Bruce Springsteen, Tim Robbins and Lisa Bonet are subtle and work well within the film, which, while clearly a vehicle for Cusack’s charisma, is a brilliant ensemble piece.

Monday, October 29, 2007

GRINDHOUSE - Planet Terror (2007)

How many movies have a one-legged pole dancer with a high powered weapon attached to her stump? Welcome to the Grindhouse.

Grindhouse is Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City) and Quentin Tarantino’s (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) loving tribute to the Grindhouse cinemas of the 1970s that played back-to-back exploitation flicks. There two feature length films under the Grindhouse banner, Planet Terror (Rodriguez) and Deathproof (Tarantino), along with several “previews” for fictional films, created by guest directors.

Complete with scratched film and unscheduled projector outages, Grindhouse screams B-grade, with a modern edge in terms of special effects and it’s toungue-in-cheek tone. These films are not for the faint hearted though, and the graphic violence, big budget action sequences and considerable gore are taken to new heights from the 70’s films it sends up. It’s retro cool is quite appealing too.

Originally released as a double feature, Grindhouse bombed at the US box office, and so the two films were separated for the international release. Deathproof will be in Australian cinemas in November, followed by Planet Terror.


An outbreak of toxic gas as a military base unleashes a wave of flesh eating zombies that spread the infection with contact of blood and other unidentified bodily fluids. However, a small percentage of the population are immune to the virus. Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), a “gogo” dancer down on her luck meets up with her recent ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and they soon realise that something is going wrong when their car is attacked and Cherry loses her leg, ruining her intentions to become a standup comedian.

Down at the hospital, Dr Block (Josh Brolin) and his anaesthetist wife Dakota (Marley Shelton) have some relationship “issues” as the hospital becomes over run by zombies. Along with some bumbling law enforcement personnel, a local diner owner, the crazy babysitter twins and other randoms, the ramshackle posse make a last stand against the zombie doom sweeping the town. Cherry Darling finds her true calling with help from a series of interesting prosthetic legs. The result is quite devastating.

Ok it sounds very silly and it has been done before, many, many times. But that is the whole point, and it has never been done this sexy, extreme or deliberately amusing. Random sub plots sprout throughout the film, but never go far, leaving you laughing and wondering “Why?”. The larger than life characters in the film are quickly developed and explored, though the reason for most is this is not apparent. It is senseless to explore this film in any great detail, because the plot is purely incidental. Don’t expect any intellectual stimulation from this movie, it has been deliberately omitted. Like me, you will probably find yourself just shaking your head in disbelief, which is the only real response to a true exploitation flick. In short, this could be the most stupid movie ever made, but they have done it brilliantly. It is the darkest of comedy.

Planet Terror will appeal to fans of Tarantino, Rodriguez and B-grade splatter films. If you liked SinCity, Kill Bill and From Dusk till Dawn, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Planet Terror. If you aren’t too squeamish, and have a black sense of humour, you’ll probably enjoy this film too. Everyone else should stay well clear.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Third Man

Some movies are worth your time only for one particular performance. A recent example would have been seeing Johnny Depp in Pirates Of The Caribbean. An earlier one that comes to mind was Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: Jack had a couple of scenes early on and the courtroom scene at the end (“you can't handle the truth…”) and utterly filled the screen. The rest of that plodding film was just padding until Jack came back.

An even earlier example was way back in 1949. In the movie The Third Man, Orson Welles had, maybe, a total of fifteen minutes on screen, it's a solid hour into the movie before you meet him and yet his part dominates the film.

The Third Man follows an American, Holly Martins — played as a bit of a naïve optimist by Joseph Cotton, on his arrival in Vienna shortly after the war to find a friend of his, Harry Lime, but finds when he gets there that Lime has died in a motor accident. As Martins starts talking to Lime's associates and his girlfriend he gets suspicious about the death and keeps pressing to find the true story.

The screenplay is all noir thriller with questions of loyalty and morality and blah blah — written by Graham Greene no less — full of plenty of wit and speed. Oddly enough, though, I find the screenplay the least successful part of the movie. The plot is a little silly and some of the dialogue is dated and affected (“You were in love with him weren't you?” “I don't know. How can you know a thing like that afterwards? I don't know anything anymore except I want to be dead too”)

However, in one scene Welles and Cotton are on a ferris wheel, comparing the people below to tiny dots (“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?”). They get to the bottom and Orson Welles, who wrote the speech himself, pulls out this cracker:

“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly.”

It doesn't sound to me like a convincing justification for running a black-market penicillin racket but jeez it makes great cinema.

A more successful part of the movie was the black & white cinematography — Oscar-winning, in fact. There were crazy angles, harsh lighting, big shadows. It looks great.

The first time you see Orson Welles's character — as I say, a good hour into the movie — is a genuine, cinema-popcorn-choctops-curtain-raising moment: a cat meows and rubs against a pair of shoes, Martins yells, a light from a window hits the face of the figure across the road. Orson Welles is perfectly framed by the light and grins charmingly, teasingly at his old friend. It is a spectacular introduction to a character.

Certainly, another standout performance is that of Anton Karas, the musician who provided the unforgettable score to the movie. Played entirely on zither the music is utterly perfect. The jaunty and yet souless main theme — The ‘Harry Lime Theme’ which all of us have certainly heard before — seems to evoke the post-war Vienna the way nothing else could have. It was a stroke of genius to us it. Apparently, Karas was simply playing in a local restaurant for tips when Carol Reed — the director — came in for a meal during the Viennese unit photography. Reed was transfixed by the music and urged Karas to join him in London (staying in Reed's hotel room the whole time) to record the music for the film.

The music is delightful, the photography magnificent but all you remember after watching this film is just Welles's cuckoo clock speech and his glorious introduction in the doorway. His was that one particular performance.

The copyright on the movie has lapsed and you can watch the whole thing on Google Video.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

I recall seeing a Seinfeld episode that ended the same way as Midnight Cowboy, with Jerry cradling Kramer in his arms on a bus travelling to Florida, with ‘that’ music playing in the background. It’s such a famous movie, that references to it still form a part of popular culture, as it’s assumed that most adults have seen it. But is this a safe assumption to make? There are so many movies to choose from these days, why would a young thang pick up a dusty DVD of a movie that is nearly 40 years old? It may have won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Director for John Schlesinger and remain the only X-rated film to win Best Movie, but surely it must be dated by now.

I first saw Midnight Cowboy when I was a very impressionable 17-year-old, and really just a jangled mess of hormones and emotions encased in human form. The film hit me like a blow to the solar plexus. I was incredibly affected by this movie, as witnessed by the mascara streaming southward and ending up dripping off my chin. I watched it again recently, now that I’m all grown-up and settled. No makeup this time, either. Did this film still hold its power? Let’s see.
Midnight Cowboy tells the tale of two down and out characters in New York. Jon Voigt is excellent as country boy Joe Buck (handsome but more hick than chic in cowboy hat, boots and jacket) who heads to the big city to make his fortune as a hustler. Dustin Hoffman, too, nails the character of Ratso, a lame, sickly outcast who is barely surviving living in a condemned building. The story line is based around the relationship that develops between these two as they live in the poverty, the filth and the decay that permeates the existence of those who fall between the cracks in society. Their unlikely friendship takes place as winter approaches, Joe finds (barely) making a living out of sex is not the cheerful romp he expected and Ratso becomes increasingly ill.
The settings, the characters and the storyline could have been as sordid, depressing and repulsive as a bare-bones précis of the plot would seem to indicate, but the subtle direction of Schlesinger, and the fine performances of the two main actors make this film anything but sordid. Neither Joe Buck nor Ratso are ever portrayed as anything less than entirely (and occasionally nobly) human. We see their inner lives, and we know their dreams and regrets. They may be caught in the ugliness and degradation of poverty, but they are not part of that ugliness.
Of course, nearly any film that is so much a part of an era will show its age at times. There are some scenes that seem a little unsophisticated now, and are definitely too long. The party scene in which handsome and hokey Joe Buck makes quite a splash, with its attendant drug taking, must have seemed very avant garde and daring in 1969. Now it’s just tame and a little lame. Ultimately, though, this is a minor and easily forgiven quibble.
Overall, the film stands up well. In fact, Midnight Cowboy stands up very well, indeed. It is a truly moving film, and one that I would heartily recommend. If INC had left any stars to give after his review of Before Sunrise, I would give them to this film. And, if it were mine to give, the moon as well. It remains a firm favourite of mine.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Before Sunrise

This is not a movie review. This is a declaration of love.

Richard Linklater’s much underrated 1995 feature, Before Sunrise, is the best romantic comedy ever.

Yes, ever.

The plot is simple enough. Ethan Hawke is Jesse, a 20 something American about to end his European holiday and fly to his home town in Texas. Julie Delpy is Celine, a young woman of a similar age from France. They meet on a train, and form a connection that is sufficiently interesting to Celine to cause her to get off the train in Vienna and spend the night walking around and talking to Jesse.

A year earlier, Ethan Hawke made me want to never watch movies again with his awful role in Reality Bites. Don’t even get me started on what the hell Janeane Garufalo thought she was doing being in that stinker, or we’ll be here all day, but the point is that Ethan’s character in that particularly bad movie seemed designed to embody all the absolute worst clichés about young people at the time (otherwise known as ‘people my age’). The character was educated but dumb in every way that mattered, shallow, annoying, self centred and utterly unlikeable.

I was greatly relieved to discover that Ethan’s character in Before Sunrise was everything his Reality Bites character was not: sensitive, articulate, emotionally intelligent, and insecure but in an endearing way. And Julie Delpy as Celine was, without wishing to overstate the case, freaking awesome, portraying a character who was naïve on many levels and yet wise beyond her years in every way that mattered, not to mention being more than a match for Jesse intellectually and emotionally.

I first saw this movie some time in 1996, when it came out on video. I have no idea, given how much I hated romantic comedies at the time, how on earth I came to hire this film, but I did.

I was 23 years old, I had never been in a relationship that was anything other than very short and very bad, I hadn’t even been on a date in, quite literally, five years, and I had pretty well given up on the whole notion that romance could ever happen to me. I had grave doubts as to whether a relationship could ever be anything other than a series of battles for control leading inevitably to dissatisfaction at best and painful separation at worst.

It is not surprising that I was utterly blown away by the scene where Jesse and Celine share their first kiss, in the pretty close to perfect setting of Vienna’s giant ferris wheel at sunset. This was not just because I really wanted to be Ethan Hawke at that moment, but because it was such an honest portrayal of two people finding and expressing a deep and true connection.

Eleven years later, and after six happy years of marriage, those post adolescent insecurities are a distant memory, but I still love this film. Partly it’s because of the dialogue and the fine acting. Partly it’s because the managed to fit a poem in without it seeming out of place, which is pretty impressive when the poem went like this:

Daydream delusion, limousine eyelash / Oh baby with your pretty face / Drop a tear in my wineglass / Look at those big eyes / See what you mean to me / Sweet-cakes and milkshakes / I'm a delusion angel / I'm a fantasy parade / I want you to know what I think / Don't want you to guess anymore / You have no idea where I came from / We have no idea where we're going / Lodged in life / Like branches in a river/ Flowing downstream / Caught in the current / I carry you / You'll carry me / That's how it could be / Don't you know me? / Don't you know me by now?

But, more than anything, it’s for a scene where Jesse and Celine get to discussing what really matters to them, and Celine says this:

I believe if there's any kind of god it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.

Sure, Celine and I have a few theological differences that we would have to work through if I was single and she wasn’t a fictional character, but the idea that what really matters is found in the connections we form with each other has never been better stated in any film, or anywhere else really. If a good film is one that inspires, that challenges, that pushes us to be better than we are, rather than one where lots of stuff blows up, then this is, I maintain, the best film ever made.

Rating: Every star that has ever graced the heavens, plus a few more.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Action action we want action

His name is Bourne, Jason Bourne. Well it isn't actually but you know what I mean. There have been two previous movies in which Matt Damon plays an amnesiac who is remarkably good at fighting, killing, and driving various cars. We know that he is some kind of special project of the CIA and that it is a really bad idea to piss him off. Which of course the American government does every chance it can get.

So the movie opens where the last one (Bourne Supremacy) left off. Bourne is killing something, or driving something, I actually can't remember. The next hour and a half goes by with Bourne fighting people, killing people and driving things. All while avoiding many international police forces, who all seem to know exactly what he looks like.

I often wonder about that. If you were a police person and there were large numbers of wanted people that it is your job to catch, and then the CIA issues another one, would you really remember? Or would you be more interested in catching speeding motorists than recognising a fairly unremarkable looking man who is walking down the street as an internationally wanted criminal?

Bourne receives some help from another CIA agent, which was a very weak point in the plot. She explains why she is helping him, endangering her job and life in the process, by saying that she once did something to him and feels guilty. But they never explain what she did to Bourne and she really only exists as something for him to protect. They just don't make female CIA agents as tough as the men do they?

The movie is interesting in showing that the US government can be its own worst enemy. I am pleased that they didn't suddenly decide to make the bad guy a terrorist as that has of course been done much better by Die Hard. And you just can't compete with the brilliance that is the Die Hard franchise.

Overall verdict: Great fighting, stoic faces and car chases. It is what it is and does it well. 2 fighting fists

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Ain't she gorgeous?!?

I was peachy keen excited to watch this movie. How did the CIA actually start? And a love story as well? Wow! This'll be GREAT!

But not even Angelina Jolie could kick start this slow and boring piece of complete drivel. Maybe I shouldn't have been drunk when I started this particular DVD, but I certainly couldn't have lasted as long I did while sober. Oh. My. God. Could Robert de Niro have directed a more boring movie? Is it 1961? Is it 1939? What darn year is it, matey? Matt Damon, as a supposedly cold personality who doesn't mind (eventually) being pissed on during a College initiation ceremony, just comes across as wooden. Bring back Jason Bourne, I say! And despite the warm, honeyed tones of William Hurt (I could listen to him all. night. long. Mmm! Mmm!) I switched this movie off after 30 minutes to watch a rerun of War of the Worlds.

Watch out for Xenu, Tom!

Friday, October 12, 2007

2 Days In Paris

A well established couple, made up of a French woman (Julie Deply) and an American man (Adam Goldberg), live in New York and are travelling around Europe. They end up in Paris, where the woman is originally from, and much to the boyfriend's horror, every male friend the woman bumps into is an ex-lover. Well, he had no idea she had so many ex-lovers, and she hadn't even mentioned most of them, and well, the trip mainly makes the boyfriend realize that he doesn't really know anything much about his girlfriend at all.

This is one of those films that is uneven. Sometimes it drags, like the actors are simply doing acting exercises. But in some ways it makes the film just totally real, and you really do feel you are the characters. No one plays a lunatic American neurotic as well as Adam Goldberg, who is obsessed with the mold spores on the wall of his girlfriend's apartment and gets furious when he cannot get his plethora of allergy medications over the counter like you can in the US. The film also underlines the differences between Americans and the French. For the French, love is really the most important thing there is. Delpy's character is still in touch with all her lovers, whereas Goldberg is in touch with none of them, having severed them from his life like a cancerous growth, the moment they split up. Much of the humor comes from the way these two characters do not seem to understand each other, yet are compelled to keep trying. In the end you realize there is a real connection between them, despite having been through two of the most unerotic sex yet realistic sex scenes ever seen on celluloid:

Sex Scene 1:

Scene: the couple is under the covers. The guy says:

"This condom is too fucking small for my dick."

Girl: "You said that in Italy too. In Italy the condom was too small too."

"I can't help it if in Europe they make condoms for gnomes."

They don't manage to laugh it off. Sex aborted.

Sex Scene 2:

The couple are having sex, the girl gets on top.

Guy: "Why do you always have to go on top?"

Girl: "Because I like to go on top. It's how I can come the easiest."

Guy: "Yeah, it's how you like it. But what about me? Maybe I don't get that much out of it. For all the talk about men see women as objects and and use their bodies for their own gratification, what I'd like to say is, fuck that. It's crap. The only emphasis these days is on the penis and how the woman can use it in any way she likes to get off. All that matters is the female orgasm!"

Girl gets off him: "Okay, I don't want to have sex any more. You've rejected me. I feel rejected. Do you know how it feels when a guy rejects you?"

Overall I would give this film a 7 out of 10.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Stardust (2007)

I went to see this movie with high hopes. I love love love The Princess Bride and was in the mood for another rollicking, amusing, fantastical adventure. Stardust seemed to be just the ticket to brighten my day.

The film is based on a novella by Neil Gaiman (which I haven’t read) and with one notable exception, has a knockout cast ably directed by Matthew Vaughn. In a nutshell, the tale tells the story of young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), the now-grown result of one stolen night of passion in the magical kingdom of Stormhold (conveniently located next to his village of Wall), who is very smitten with the comely, vain and shallow Victoria (Sienna Miller). To win her love, he vows to bring to her a fallen star which they had seen fall into Stormhold. Unfortunately the star is also spotted by three old crones, who also want to retrieve it as it will restore their full witchly powers and the lost beauty of their radiant youth. So, at the same time as Tristan bravely scales the boundary wall into Stormhold, Larnia (Michelle Pfeiffer) also sets forth, both of them hoping to secure the celestial prize. Tristan finds the site of the fallen star, and finds there a young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes), who (surprise!!) is the star that fell from heaven.

This is where the film fell thuddingly to earth for me, I’m afraid. It might just be my own perverse and, frankly baseless, prejudice but I just can’t stand Claire Danes. Oh, how she irritates me! Why oh why would I go to see a movie with Claire Danes in it? Why? Aaaaarggggh! She chokes me up with irrational spite. The woman can’t act. She’s plain. Plus, she’s got this really weird super-long-waisted, short-limbed thing going on, kind of like Matthew McConaughy. But not as pretty. Or as orange. Why is she in this film? Why? It needed an ethereal beauty. It needed acting. It needed sly humour. Claire Danes has none of these things. It needed… dare I say it?...It needed Gwyneth.

But if you ignore the Danes problem, it is a bit of enjoyable fluff. Our hero and his star encounter adventure, misadventure, oddball characters and true love. The film rollicks along, but not with breathless pace, and not with as much charm as I would have liked. Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, Rupert Everett, Peter O’Toole, Ricky Gervais (did I mention the knockout cast?) are all terrific, though, and appear to have a lot of fun hamming it up. It’s no Princess Bride, but it’s not totally rubbish, either.

If I was going to award it a score out 10, I'd give it 6.5.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Top Ten Billion Movies!

I love moving picture shows!

I've invited a few bloggers to join me in my frenzy of adoration for the flickering reflection of our lives, our loves, our mistakes and our yearnings. Kids films, chick films, high dramas, documentaries, comedies, fantasies and horror films are all waiting to be discovered or revisited.

If I've missed you out, it's not because I meant to, it's because I'm extremely short on little grey cells. If you'd like to join, email me at .