Category Archives: Movies

Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 comedy film written and directed by Wes Anderson, from a story by Anderson and Hugo Guinness, inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig. It stars Ralph Fiennes as a concierge who teams up with one of his employees (Tony Revolori) to prove his innocence after he is framed for murder. The narrative takes the form of a story within a story within a story within a story.

The film is an American-German-British co-production that was financed by German financial companies and film-funding organizations. It was filmed in Germany. The Grand Budapest Hotel was released to widespread acclaim from film critics, and many included it in their year-end top 10 lists. The film led the BAFTA nominations, with 11 nominations, more than any other film, including Best Film and Best Director for Anderson, and Best Actor for Fiennes. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and garnered three more Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Director for Anderson. It also garnered nine Academy Award nominations, the joint most (with Birdman) for the ceremony, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won the Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design and Best Original Score.

 

A very strange and stylish historical comedy. Not as funny as promised , but a good ripping yarn in the British style. Ralph Fiennes is great as the main character and there a surprising number of well-known actors in minor roles, including:

F. Murray Abraham
Adrien Brody
Willem Dafoe
Jeff Goldblum
Harvey Keitel
Jude Law
Bill Murray
Edward Norton
Jason Schwartzman
Tilda Swinton
Tom Wilkinson
Owen Wilson

(3/5)

 

Made in Dagenham

Made_in_dagenham_poster
Made in Dagenham is a 2010 British film directed by Nigel Cole. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Geraldine James, Rosamund Pike, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone, Daniel Mays and Richard Schiff. It dramatises the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 that aimed for equal pay for women. The film’s theme song, with lyrics by Billy Bragg, is performed by Sandie Shaw, herself a native of the area and a former Ford Dagenham clerk.
A stage musical version of the film opened at London’s Adelphi theatre in 2014.

A straight forward telling of the story of the strike. Not much in the way of the unexpected, and it comes to a predictable conclusion.
(3/5)

 

Changing Mary Poppins

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 period drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting performances by Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, and Colin Farrell.
Named after the father in Travers’ story, Saving Mr. Banks depicts the author’s fortnight-long meetings during 1961 in Los Angeles, during which Disney attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels.

The film merges two narratives. One showing Travers’ childhood in Australia and her relationship with her alcoholic father. The other covers the negotiations  and development of the songs and story for Mary Poppins.

Emma Thompson is great and Tom Hanks captures the essence of Walt Disney. After seeing the stage production by the Court Theatre last year, the film changes the focus of the story, showing that Mr Banks is the central character of the story, not Mary Poppins.

 

Zootopia

Zootopia is a 3D computer-animated crime comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 55th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The film is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, co-directed by Jared Bush, and features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, and Shakira.

The film details the unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist as they uncover a conspiracy that involves the disappearance of predator civilians within a mammalian utopia.

Five minutes in and I’m grinning and laughing at the jokes and visual humour. About halfway through there is a great action sequence. Then the movie takes a turn for the dark and dramatic.
The characters have to dig themselves out of their problems and solve the mystery. The tone rises to the end and the upbeat conclusion.
Great movie that is an allegory for racism, intolerance and prejudice.

(Rating 5/5)

Best line:
He’s not reliable, he’s …. unreliable

The King Returns

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
It’s a really a BIG sad film that will have you in tears.

I cried for the big spider, she was reduced to eating orcs.
Then when a nice fat hobbit comes along she can’t even eat him.

I sobbed uncontrollably for the cool dude in the black suit.
First this blonde nymphomaniac cuts off the head of his pet flying dragon. Then a bloody hobbit stabs him in the back, it’s just not sporting.

I was sad for the dead army, who obviously hadn’t got a film role since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

But most of all, I cried for Smeagol. I can understand anyone killing because the friend hooked a bigger fish than him. But he was happy with his ring for 500 years until that nasty hobbit stole it from him. Then, in the moment of triumph when it came back to him he slipped and fell to his death. It was just too much for me.

I felt sad for Elrond, who gave his daughter Arwen everything; nice house, servants, even immortality. Then she wants to throw it all away by running off with a long-haired git who thinks he is king. She might as well be dating a musician.

And the little people, like those that spent all their lives at the top of a mountain just for that one moment when they were called on to light the beacons between Minas Tirith and Edoras.

Or the builders of Edoras, with not a forest in sight it must have been a back-breaking job lugging all that timber to the top of a hill just because the King wants an un-fortified house with a view.

I feared for the crippled of Minas Tirith. With all those steps in the hillside city and no wheelchair access.

And what about Treebeard, doomed to spend the rest of eternity baby sitting Sauramon at Isengard.

And what about Rose. She bears Sam three fine children and he still wants to go on “adventures” with his mates.

Sad, Very, Very Sad……

On the Letterman Show last night he had a Top 10 list of
“Dumb Guy Questions about in The Return of the King”
It was a rather pathetic list, here now is my (better) Top 10 list……

Top Ten Plot Surprises in “The Return of the King”

10. Sauron found at the bottom of a spider hole.
9. Merrin and Pippin return to the Shire, voted top comedy act of middle earth
8. The ring, it’s only gold PLATED.
7. Frodo marries Sam, they live happily ever after
6. Eowyn kills Arwen in a jealous rage.
5. Rivendell gets a queer guy make-over.
4. Gimli makes boots for all the Hobbits
3. Legolas gets a haircut and dies his hair black
2. Gandalf replaces his staff with a light-sabre

and finally, Number One……..

1. Gollum gets the ring and return in triumph to Mordor.
He is attacked and killed but Orcs, who fight over the ring for 100 years.

(written 2003)

 

 

Get Smart

Get Smart is a 2008 American adventure and action comedy film which was directed by Peter Segal, written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember and produced by Leonard B. Stern, who is also the original series’ producer. The film is based on Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s 1960s spy parody television series of the same name.

The film stars Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin, and co-stars Terence Stamp, Terry Crews, David Koechner and James Caan. Bernie Kopell, who played Siegfried in the original series, also appeared in the film. The film centers on an analyst named Maxwell “Max” Smart (Carell) who dreams of becoming a real field agent and a better spy. The film was theatrically released on June 20, 2008 by Warner Bros. Pictures.

For a ‘comedy’ it’s not that funny. Carell’s playing it as a straight man just doesn’t work. The best part-laughs are the pratfalls and visual humour. Towards the end there is some decent action and stunts. Very Average (3/5).

Goat Staring

The Men Who Stare at Goats (film)

A 2009 British-American war parody comedy film directed by Grant Heslov. It is a fictionalized version of Jon Ronson’s 2004 book of an investigation into attempts by the U.S. military to employ psychic powers as a weapon. The film stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey, and was produced by Clooney’s and Heslov’s production company Smokehouse Pictures.

Based on the book by Jon Ronson.

Very strange film about a duo (Clooney & McGregor) who go on an Iraq war road trip. During the trip McGregor narrates, telling the story of the US army’s attempts to use psychic powers in warfare since the 1960’s. Very strange and a commentary on the weird things done in the military.
(3/5)

2004 Film Reviews

Film Reviews from Film Appreciation Course Feb/Mar 2004

As a result of these classes I have moved from being un-informed and ignorant to informed and stupid. So here it is…..
For my records and your reading, a quick review of the films viewed and, as is the convention, a rating for each.

Nobody’s Business
Before seeing this film, I always regarded the documentary style as being more suited to TV. However this film prompted me to see “The Fog of War”. This film only succeeds due to Alan Berliner’s mix of cinematic styles, all gel to form a compelling narrative of his cranky father. An enjoyable movie with a old man in a starring role you are not likely to forget quickly.

Rating 7/10

The Man with a Movie Camera
This was a surprise for me. I didn’t believe that any film from 1929 could be so inventive and “modern”. Even now it has relevance in a western post-industrial society. It just shows how little most of our lives have changed. It’s just a great kaleidoscope of shapes and movement.

But most of all, I liked the music. The film shown had a soundtrack by “The Alloy Orchestra”, I have since found another by “The Cinematic Orchestra” which I own. And recently found another by the group “Biosphere”, it’s the second disk on their “Substrata V.2” album. This one is described as ambient and all I can find is a reference at www.amazon.com to the CD.

Rating 9/10

Amelie
I had never heard of this film before seeing it. It’s mix of day-glow colours and computer animations form a wonderful stylistic whole.

One scene that remains in my memory is when Amelie is skimming stones. The camera starts behind her, arcs over and after almost 180 degrees ends in front of her. The camera movement is similar to Peter Jackson’s films, both often have the viewpoint up high, with the camera sweeping down to the subject in detail.

Best of all is it’s witty and often dark humour. I didn’t think I would enjoy a film where I had to _read_ all the dialogue. This one goes on my list of “Best Films Ever”. Perfectly formed.

Rating 10/10

Heavenly Creatures
I had seen this film when it was first released and later when it was screened on TV. This is the film where you can see Peter Jackson for the first time as a world class director. He manages to keep the pace of the film going at the right speed, varying where necessary and reaching a slow build-up of tension towards the end. This despite knowing what the end will be from the very beginning.

His mastery of the medium displayed in this film I’m sure is what gave New Line the confidence to spend 200-300 million and 8 years on the biggest film trilogy of all time.

It would be a mistake to make direct comparisons to the other Jackson films. I have read a biography of Peter Jackson and it is clear that his partner Fran Walsh was a big influence in Peter making this film and in it’s execution. I think this is better than his later film “The Frighteners”.

Rating 10/10
(Jacksons second best film to LoTR)

400 Blows
Grey, bleak, dull and boring sum up this movie for me. I can’t believe this could be enjoyed by anyone except for the directors friends and family (including his parents).

This film starts off slowly and gradually progresses to something even slower and duller. I was not impressed, I couldn’t even keep awake and missed 10-20 minutes near the end due to falling asleep. Did anything happen ?

Rating 0/10 (recommended for insomniacs)

Dancer in the Dark
I’m sure that one of the first things they teach in film school is…… hold the camera steady to get a good shot. Avoid sudden movements, quick panning and excessive zooming. In the first five minutes of this film, all the above “rules” were broken. There is a photo in the biography of Peter Jackson, it shows him with a custom made rig to hold the camera steady. Peter went to a lot of trouble to get a steady camera, something Lars von Trier hasn’t bothered with in this film. At first I thought it was some sort of cheap introduction, I can understand using a hand-held camera to enhance movement and intensity. Jackson does this at the end of “Heavenly Creatures” and it works. In this film it doesn’t, if this is “experimental” then the experiment failed. If it’s part of the “style” then it completely undermines the telling of the story. And what is worse is that after 20 minutes I was starting to get a headache.

I actually like Bjork’s music (I have most of her albums), but as an actor she is not very engaging. There were no characters I could relate to and story of minimal interest. I liked the musical numbers (here the cameras were nailed down !) as they added a lightness and diversion to an otherwise below average movie.

I hope that next time, the director employs a better camera operator.

Rating 0/10 (for the headache)

Casablanca
I saw Casablanca for the first time on TV several years ago. So I was a bit surprised to find the film in black and white. I presume this is one of the films given a dash of colour at a later date. When I first saw the film, I thought it was about a “femme fatale” who manipulates men to her own advantage. Seeing the film again my opinion is unchanged.

Ingrid Bergman is, as usual, stunningly beautiful and succeeds in her escape mission; have you ever seen a beautiful woman ask a favour of a man and not get one ?
She does manage to string two seemingly intelligent men along for most of the film, putting on the charm when necessary.

I may also be that I just can’t relate to Bogart as the “Hero”. He doesn’t look or act like one, he looks more suited to a Hollywood gangster movie (and as the bad guy). The best character was the French policeman.

There is no doubt that the film succeeds in atmospherics and style.

I do find it amusing that critics think the film makes a lot of references to other cultural references like Huck Finn, Washington etc and see it as propaganda. I think the general public would not see anything beyond the story. Or perhaps it’s just that I am not American.

Still, a good story and enjoyable. Even if it just perpetuates the myth that the Pretty Women always get what they want.

Rating 6/10

Goldiggers of 1935
The musical numbers have a great style and panache, mixing conventional and experimental film making techniques. The remaining story was a bit of a cliche of goof-ball comedies of the period. It did have wit and a dry humour that kept the story going. But ultimately it’s the musical numbers (especially those pianos) that remain as memories of the film.

Rating 6/10

Citizen Kane
I can see why this film is appreciated by those in the film industry. It sets a lot of standards for others to follow. I don’t know what all the fuss is about “Rosebud”, it’s clear to me that the sled represents the memories of Kane as a child, of a simpler and innocent time he is trying to recapture.

A good and intriguing film that keeps you interested until the end (and isn’t that what it’s all about?).

Rating 7/10

Bowling for Columbine
After a considerable amount of publicity, I saw this film in the theatre when it first came out.
Michael Moore is unashamedly the centrepiece of the movie. This is what gives all the interviews and stunts their cohesion and focuses the film. It would be a mistake to see this as Moore’s ego in flight. He has a self-depreciating sense of humour that may be more obvious in his TV show. I think Moore understands the medium as well (if not better) than his critics and deliberately puts himself forwards as Satan’s little helper, prodding and needling people into saying (and doing) things they would not do if he was located behind the camera.

Ultimately is success as a great social commentary on America, even it it reaches no conclusion.

Rating 8/10

 

So, overall I enjoyed the course; 8 out of 10 (better than usual) evenings I enjoyed. And there were only three films I had seen before.

Nigel Baker 13/4/2004

American Hustle

American Hustle is a 2013 American black comedy crime film directed by David O. Russell.
It stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as two con artists who are forced by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). Jennifer Lawrence plays the unpredictable wife of Bale’s character.


Review

Great film about American politics, con artists and the lengths everyone will go to to get what they want. Based on actual operations undertaken by the FBI starting in 1978. (5/5)

 

Matilda (Film 1996)

Matilda is a sweet and smart six year old with the worst of parents. Dany DeVito and Rhea Perlman ham it up to the max as her parents and are clearly having fun. Danny DeVito directs, and successfully keeps Raol Dahl’s dark humour. Children get tortured, thrown and abused in way only Dahl can do.

It’s a funny, sweet and very entertaining film (5/5)

Mara Elizabeth Wilson, (Matilda) now 28 has been in ‘Gilmore Girls’.

Embeth Davidtz, who plays Matilda’s teacher was in Mad Men (2009-2012).

Pam Ferris plays the Agatha Trunchbull, the tyrannical principal. She starred on television as Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May and Aunt Marge in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’.