Rock of Ages (2012)… this must be just like living in paradise!

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Rock of Ages

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 5.9

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1336608/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I want to start by saying that I am aware of all the bad reviews that this movie got, therefore I want to quote one of my favourite critics Peter Travers from Rolling Stone:

The hugely enjoyable Rock of Ages is saved by its music, a tasty brew drawn from Def Leppard, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison and Whitesnake. It’s near impossible not to rock along.

The first and foremost thing that I love about this film, is its music. This music, which is the music that my parents listened to, is the music that I grew up with. The fact that this is a musical, and some a-list actors make up the cast, for me, reinforces the idea of ‘Broadway’ (and for us South Africans it’s the closest to Broadway that some of us are going to get).

I am not saying that this movie is flawless, in fact, there is a lot to be said of some of these actors’ performances, but for me re-watching this now after its initial release, just again emphasise what an enjoyable film this really is.

I have to admit that I am no Tom Cruise fan, but in this performance as Stacee Jaxx, he literally just kills it! Paired with the beautiful Malin Akerman, their sexual chemistry is just explosive…

-A while back, in the review of Only Lovers Left Alive, I talked about how the memorability of the opening sequence can cause a movie to stick with you for long after you have finished watching it. In this movie it is the ‘opening sequence’ of Stacee Jaxx that will just stick with you as he emerges from this sea of women passed out in his bed, classic!-

Another thing that really struck me this time around was how much this movie had influenced the recent fashion trends. People always talk about The Great Gatsby‘s influence, but if I look around me now, it is certainly these fashions that are ‘happening’ right now.

Maybe, I am just a hopeless musical junkie, but I love people breaking out in song; especially duets. Also, seeing these songs that you know and love in new contexts, opens up a whole new connotative field.

Just in terms of a period-piece, I would say that this highly sexed, luscious, bad-ass rock musical is a must for everyone that grew up listening to JourneyDeff Leopard and Bon Jovi.

Want to read more on Rock of Ages? Try these…

Rock of Ages (Review)

Rock of Ages Review.

‘Rock of Ages’ review: Becoming jukebox heroes.

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Apologies…

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Dearest reader,

The inevitable happened, due to an overwhelming workload both at university and at my job, I did not do a review yesterday…

Never fear, today I will be doing two reviews, one on a classic musical that gives it to you ‘any way you want it’…

The second on a recent Clooney take on World War II…

Thanks for all the love and support!

Side Effects (2013)… it all started with a little disapointment

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Side Effects

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.1

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2053463/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

What started out as an intense mixture of drama and romance, turned out to be the exact opposite… It will be very difficult to talk about this film without giving some spoilers, but I am going to try…

The most prominent theme in this movie, to me, is disappointment and blame. Although, we can most of the time easily convey our feelings of anger or even love; disappointment and blame is a whole other ball game.

Most of the time we blame in silence and we bury our disappointments deeper and deeper until they someday return from their repressed state, manifesting in some horrible action or a infamous ‘Freudian slip’.

Rooney Mara is the perfect actress for this part, she portrays both sides of the multifaceted Emily with a convincing grace. I think that I can be unnecessarily hard on Jude Law, especially after his fiasco with playing Karenin in Anna Karenina, but in the end he really did surprise in this film as the focus turned away from Emily to him. Both Tatum and Zeta-Jones take the backseat for this movie, which to me is a refreshing twist.

—SPOILER AHEAD—

Just a small note on the LGBT-twist in this movie… To me, this is a very good example of queer cinema being integrated into mainstream Hollywood. Although this lesbian relationship is a huge part of the story line, it becomes almost normative in the sense that the performances of Mara and Zeta-Jones, to me, will not be remembered for their queerness, but rather for their mischievous betrayals.

Want to read more on Side Effects? Try these…

“Side Effects” review (Soderbergh, 2013).

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SODERBERGH WEEK*** Side Effects (2013).

Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013).

Movies – Side Effects Review (or ‘A Hitchcock Film in 2013’).

Far From Heaven (2002)… Haynes’ explicit exposition of Sirkian ignorances

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Far from Heaven

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0297884/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

For me, the best way to analyse and understand this film is by reading it as an answer to Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows. Because of this use of different mediums, there is a difference in the topics that are being used as well.

This does not mean that this film is an incoherent mumble-jumble, it just has a very specific structuring thread, especially with regards to:

  • the politics of visibility,
  • legibility and
  • legitimation.

These alternative images challenge the heteronormative or cisnormative assumption that there is a straightforward relationship between sex and gender and, gender and desire.

All of these elements therefore really place some emphasis on Queer Cinema. A part of this rewriting by Haynes of Sirk’s classical masterpiece involves the asking of questions that one would rather not. If these issues make you a bit squirmish today, just imagine what the 1950’s suburban set would have thought.

-It is interesting to note that censorship was only lifted in the 1960’s and thereafter Hollywood started adapting the rating system.-

Unravelling the 1950’s melodrama, as Haynes so cleverly does, raises a few issues: the first of which is that the ‘scandalous’ nature of a gay-relationship is compared to that of a cross-racial relationship. It is up to the viewer to decide which is more ‘scandalous’ than the other. There is this physical distance on both a physical and emotional level. In this film these elements are hyper-satirised.

Want to read more on Far from Heaven? Try these…

RE: Far from Heaven

NYT: Far from Heaven

Talk Talk: Far from Heaven

All that Heaven Allows (1955)… re-viewing ignorances in the Sirkian melodrama

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All that Heaven Allows

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 7.6

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047811/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

“Put so much bombast into your filmmaking that inattentive viewers won’t pay attention to the underlying message, but clever viewers will hear what you want to say… nobody did this better than Douglas Sirk” Matthew Dessem

This is the third time that I watched this film and I promise you not the last. After I watched it the first time in film class, I showed it to my mother- and oh boy did she enjoy it! So, to me, this film is extra special.

Douglas Sirk is certainly one of the most famously brilliant directors that Hollywood has ever seen. He was born a Germany, but fled to America in 1937. Although he produced several films (43 in total) across several genres, he is most famous for his melodramas that formed part of the Classic Hollywood Cinema movement. Sirk, who influenced both Hitchcock and Tarantino, was critical of social conventions and he himself was heavily influenced by Brecht. He is also famous for his use of symbolism, colour, lighting and props.

Although this film is staged, it is very historically specific. The following issues also feature in this film specifically:

  • Class difference, presented as a critique of American society. This division between society is definitely not physical, but psychological. It is certainly more a state of mind, than it is about the equal access to wealth. Ron is not poor, but because of several reasons that exist solely in the mind of society, he is from a lower class.
  • There is some feminist critique here as well as it is Cary that has to change to fit to Ron. It is also Ron and Ned that makes the decisions and not Cary. Cary is also constantly policed, by her children and her peers, this leads to a type of desexualisation. Cary’s agency is never considered and choices are constantly being made for her by Ron and Ned. In Freudian terms, one can easily see these headaches of Cary as a certain conversion hysteria and the return of the repressed. The ending of the film leaves her completely desexualised as she becomes Ron’s carer and not his lover, in other words it is an a-sexual relationship.

There are so many aspects of this film that can be discussed, but today and tomorrow I will specifically focus on this film and Haynes’ reaction on it, Far From Heaven, that explores these ignorances (such as these listed above) even further.

One of the best examples of Sirk’s brilliance, is the use of mirrors in this film, so what out for those specific moments of artistic brilliance!

To read more on All that Heaven Allows, try these:

#95: All that Heaven Allows

All that Heaven Allows

EL: All that Heaven Allows

The Immigrant (2013)… 1920’s, prostitution, magic and murder

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The Immigrant

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.6

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1951181/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

What a gorgeous film! Contrasted to the depressing state of Ewa’s dire living circumstances, is the 1920’s American Dream-type of discourse that can be so luxuriously portrayed- and oh, does this film do exactly that!

The love-triangle in this film is anything but ordinary and the interaction between the three characters is superb! Bruno, whose character is so deliciously complicated (he struggles with his own love for Ewa, his love for money, and his self-obsession, which puts him right in the middle of another triangle), the charmingly uncomplicated daredevil and magician Emile and the weathered, abused and determined Ewa, make for such an interesting interaction that it overshadows the other cast members.

As much as you want to hate Bruno, you cannot help but identify with him. Seemingly heroic and caring, he smothers and abuses that which he cares most about, because that is the only way he knows how. Emile, on the other hand, you want to believe, but given his history, charming personality and the fact that he is a magician, makes it very difficult to decide whether his intentions are pure or not.

The setting and cinematography of this film is just amazing, you are transported to their world 100%. Every time that the police are chasing them, you feel like running yourself. You are completely transported into Ewa’s world and her cause becomes your cause. That does not mean that you do not get frustrated at her self-sacrificial nature, you just find yourself also justifying this pursuit of hers.

Again, the horrors of the World Wars are exposed in this film, but like with Haneke’s Caché, the value of telling versus a visual misinterpretation is explored. In an emotional moment in the confessional, Ewa reveals what the soldiers did to her. By only telling this, without trying to visually capture something which no one that does not suffer such an atrocity can understand, the director achieves, I think, a greater understanding. In this moment, one has become such a part of Ewa’s life that it would feel like a breach of confidence to witness her pain like that. It keeps the audience at a ‘Brechtian’ distance, which is very effective in this case.

James Gray is said to have written this role especially for Cotillard. Her off-hand manner, accent and melancholic portrayal certainly proves this statement. Phoenix, is like always an amazing actor with a range as far as the heaven would allow. Jeremy Renner is so charming and perfect for the role, that I wonder if Gray did not have him in mind as well? As previously mentioned the rest of the cast just kind of fades away against these three…

Want to read more on The Immigrant? Try these…

138 – The Immigrant (2013).

The Immigrant (2014) MOVIE REVIEW.

Film Review: The Immigrant (2013).

Movie Review: “The Immigrant”.

Charlie Countryman (2013)… love, violence, violence, violence, love….?!

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Charlie Countryman

My rating: 6

IMDB rating: 6.4

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1196948/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I usually try my best not to read any reviews on a movie before watching it, but when I got this film I could not understand why I have not heard anything about it. It has some big (mostly upcoming) names playing the leads and the extended title, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, is quite intriguing. But what I saw was that critics were tearing this movie apart, for different reasons, so it could be that I went into this film not as objectively as I maybe should have…

The problem with this movie, is the fact that it just can’t seem to pick a genre. I have no idea if this was meant to be a love story, coming-of-age film, crime drama, or a coming-to-terms-with-the-death-of-a-loved-one type of drama… And it did not breach the confines of these genres in a way that makes you want to explore this newly formed genre. It just leaves you irritated with the director or writer for not picking something and sticking to it.

In this sense the film is so over-crowded with sub-plots, that together with the over-crowded setting of Bucharest, that it just leaves you feeling disconnected to both the space and the plot. The shots of Bucharest is amazing, don’t get me wrong, and there is a certain amount of romanticism applied to the filming of the city, its vibe and its people, but together with the over-stuffed storyline, it just is a disaster!

In previous posts I have talked a lot about violence; its necessity, our desensitization to it and its modern romantic portrayal. Instances, like this movie, where extreme violence is romanticized, truly disgusts me. The plot had no need for this extent of violence, and oddly enough the intimate scenes are cut short while these violent scenes are emphasised- again, it just shows the absolute chaos that prevents this film from sticking to a genre.

What saved this film, for me, is Mads Mikkelsen. I love this guy, in my eyes he can do no wrong. He is the perfect mix between violent oppressor and the obsessed lover. And, of course, he is devastatingly handsome! If you have not yet seen him in Hannibal, the series, do yourself a favour and see what happens when brilliant actors and even more brilliant writers decide to make a series.

Want to read more on Charlie Countryman? Try these:

A story of drugs, love and crime: Charlie Countryman.

Film Review: The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013) ★★.

Bad deathbed advice, indeed!

Charlie Countryman Movie Review, Roger Ebert

Ebiri on Charlie Countryman