What If (2013)… “Look, one thing I like about getting married, is that you can stand up in front of everyone you care about and stay it for the record that you believe in the best case scenario.”

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What-If-Movie-Poster

My rating: 6

IMDB rating: 6.9

IMDB link: What If

Dearest reader,

While finding the image for this review, I think I finally realised what irritates me the most about this film… The fact that it claims to be “The best Rom-Com since 500 Days of Summer”. Not only will I not necessarily classify 500 Days of Summer as a romantic-comedy, this film is nothing like the seminal, heartfelt stroke of genius that is most often termed a romantic comedy-drama.

Now I am just ranting, apologies…

This film stars post-Potter Daniel Radcliffe and the quirky Zoe Kazan. Seemingly everyone’s best friend Adam Driver plays the supporting role and is of course the source of quite a few laughs.

The premise of the film is not something new… You meet someone, they are involved, you become friends while you wait it out… Still, as far as RomComs go nowadays this film definitely provides about an hour and a half of fun.

There are a few plot holes or maybe we should call it desperately grasping for action… For example when Chantry gets upset that Wallace respected her relationship and just remained her friend (not sure why she was mad, but she was!).

To me, there seems to be this trend among filmmakers nowadays to just feed the ending to the viewers. In other words, the much needed “open places” in a narrative are becoming fewer and fewer. This film could have ended with them meeting at the airport, but no! We have to physically show their wedding etc. just to be sure everyone got it. Are we reverting back to the melodrama, where everything is spelled out?

This movie is a good laugh, but definitely not for serious consideration.

Want to read more on What If? Try these…

Film Review – What If.

Movie Review – What if**.

Film Review: What If.

Regeneration/Behind the Lines (1997)… A 100 years since WWI

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Regeneration

My rating: 7.1

IMDB rating: 8

IMDB link: Regeneration/Behind the Lines

Dearest reader,

At the University where I work we have at least two successful cinema clubs. The first of which is based in the art history department and the second which is based in the French department. The very fortunate thing about being a humanities scholar is that interdisciplinary research is encouraged. This year, our French cinema club actively commemorated the First World War that took place a hundred years ago. This film concluded the events- and what a film it was!

It seems to me that the First World War is often overshadowed by the Second World War. WWII certainly had more genocide and mass killings, but in terms of WWI, it was also a more technological war. WWI, on the other hand, had much more physical man to man violence without the “benefit” of technology. In that sense it was more cruel and calculated, but it also left the soldiers with a lot more scars.

This film is about those scars. The scars left on the psyche of a young man (some as young as 16) as a result of traumatic events such as these. Trauma is therefore dealt with very directly in this film. There is no way around the effects and the aftermath of the war and as is the case with trauma, the trauma cannot be processed without the creation of a logical narrative.

As one sees with the character of Lt. Prior, trauma is not necessarily one specific life altering event. Trauma is in most cases the accumulation of several traumatically tainted events which leads to one intense experience of trauma. In the film, the doctor explains these events in terms of erosion- the events erode and erode the mind until the subject experiences a break.

Beside the fact that the film also charts the history of two famous poets, one who would survive the war and another who won’t, it shows WWI as indeed a ‘class war’. What is meant by this is that this war still makes a distinction between those who are foot soldiers and the generals.

In a very disturbing scene electroshock therapy is applied to one of the foot soldiers. Upon returning, the doctor describes this method as merely the repairing of a machine, where foot soldiers with bomb shock is given this therapy until they are “cured” only to be able to return to the field.

This film serves as a interesting adaptation of Pat Baker’s novel of the same name. Most definitely worth the watch!

Want to read more on Regeneration/Behind the Lines? Try these…

NYTimes: Regeneration

A.V. Club: Regeneration

ReelViews: Regeneration

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)… “I’d fix Ted up with Helen Dubin, but they’d probably get into an argument over penis envy; the poor guy suffers from it so.”

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Manhattan-Murder-Mystery

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Dearest reader,

Being a huge Woody Allen fan, it kills me to find one of his films that I do not want to give 10 out of 10. Not that this is not a good film, it is just that it is my least favourite film of my favourite director…

Every time Woody Allen and Diane Keaton star in a film where they are lovers or in some way involved (I am now specifically referring to Annie Hall, Manhattan and this film, in chronological order) it feels as if Woody Allen is exploring the different ways the original relationship between Alvy and Annie (in Annie Hall) could have taken. Allen is therefore constantly referring to himself and his previous films; his whole oeuvre (or his first “Manhattan cycle”) seem to be an intertext.

-I haven’t done any research on this, but it would be interesting to see in which ways these films are connected-

As always, this film is about the city. It is about New York, and the way it has a complex love-hate relationship with its inhabitants. More than that, this film is based on the classic murder-mystery narrative.

If you ever read a Nancy Drew, or just watched a Scooby Doo you will recognise the characteristics; the murder takes place, something suggests foul play, the clumsy protagonists investigates, nothing is as it seems and just when they are ready to give up they solve the mystery and apprehend the villains.

The film is filled with Allen’s customary wit and cynicism. Diane, on the other hand, displays her usual charm and together the form a perfect yin and yang. Their relationship is simple in some ways and complicated in other- the perfect combination!

There is one particular scene which shows so much artistic genius that I just have to mention it. Hitchcock and Sirk is known for their extraordinary work with mirrors. In this film, Allen pays homage to that by adding a scene (the one where Larry confronts the “killer”) in the theater that uses multiple mirrors and different lightning- a perfect scene!

Want to read more on Manhattan Murder Mystery? Try these…

Review: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) Woody Allen.

Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)… Or we have shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd on top. And I’ve just begun. Here’s the politician, so oily it’s served on a doily, have one.

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Sweeney Todd

IMDB rating: 7.5

My rating: 8

IMDB link: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Dearest Reader,

Much has been said over the years about the Burton-Depp-Bonham Carter trio that it feels almost redundant making any mention of it again… But the magic that they create together cannot be understated and, to me, it reaches a climax with this dark musical.

The character Sweeney Todd first appeared in a penny dreadful circa 1846. The equally intriguing character of Mrs Lovett also originates from the same penny dreadful. According to Wikipedia “[T]he tale became a staple of Victorian melodrama”. This Burton adaption is, of course, a musical.

Not only does one get to see Johnny Depp play another of his caricatures (and this time round the grotesquely bloodthirsty Sweeney Todd does not disappoint), he is supported (and in some ways overshadowed) by the talented Helena Bonham Carter. Watching this film in 2014, one realizes that Sacha Baron Cohen plays his role just as brilliantly, and that this film is most likely the reason he and Helena was cast as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables.

Although the setting and the feel of the film is distinctly Burtonesque, to me, the Gothic Victorian world that Burton creates for these characters is truly seminal in his oeuvre; as far as his non-animated films go. Somewhat reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow this film adds a decadence to the highlighted dark Victorian that adds another dimension to the film altogether.

I always get a lot of criticism when I mention this at dinner parties, but although Johnny Depp is extremely talented in playing caricatures, I prefer him playing more ‘realistic’ characters (I believe that his best role is Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow) as I believe that requires more talent. But this is most definitely the only way in which I criticize the film, and it is not even true criticism, only a personal opinion.

Want to read more on Sweeney Todd? Try these…

rogerebert.com: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

To the Wonder (2012)… “You shall love, whether you like it or not.”

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To the Wonder

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.0

IMDB link: To the Wonder

Dearest reader,

I believe that you will find only a few movies throughout the course of your life which are as difficult to watch as the film. And it is not because it is explicit or gory or violence filled- it is because it shows a dimension of reality which is uncomfortably close to your own.

Terrence Malick, the director of the film, is able to connect the characters and the viewer that is quite touching. One feels Neil’s inability to love and connect to both Marina and Jane, but more than that the viewer is able to justify his actions without him ever having to defend himself. In other words, the viewer feels what Neil feels; the way he can love, but not commit or be present in the relationship.

There is a very unique voyeuristic quality to this. As the viewer, being able to connect with the characters on this level, it adds another dimension to one’s understanding, but in another sense one is still morally bound to reject Neil’s actions- mainly because one also connects with both Jane and Marina.

The two woman are quite different and the fact that he ‘chooses’ both of them is therefore very significant. It is, in other words, not the person in the relationship which he cannot commit to or fully love, it is the relationships themselves. In a psychoanalytic sense it is most probably himself that he is disconnected from, and that in turn causes the failure in the relationships.

Both the direction and cinematography in this film is quite expertly done. Lovely landscape scenes with soft hues, is contrasted to the more dull looking Paris cityscape (which seems impossible, but is quite well done). Empty rooms and houses are often shown, especially Neil’s house, which could also be a direct metaphor for his investment/place within the relationship.

It is certainly worth while to watch the “making of” documentary of this film, which can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mYCDuxl3tU

Not everything in the film I liked. I could, for example, not really grasp the purpose of Javier Bardem’s character in the film. Some people also find Malick’s type of filmmaking quite pretentious and overdone.

This film is definitely for the serious arthouse lover. The progress is slow, the film is quite long and nothing truly happens.

Want to read more on To the Wonder? Try these…

To the Wonder.

To the Wonder Review.

To the Wonder.

Roger Ebert: To the Wonder (Fun Fact: This was the last movie review Roger Ebert filed)

The Longest Week (2014)… How am I supposed to care about a group of over-privileged, affluent types who go gallivanting around without any sort of a moral compass?

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My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 5.4

IMDB link: The Longest Week

Dearest reader,

My one friend texted me after watching this movie saying that she is seriously developing a Jason Bateman crush… And I totally agree! He understand something about comedy that, to me, not a lot of people do and that is that there lies a certain amount of disconnection in the comedic.

First of all, this movie is director Peter Glanz’s first film, that had a limited release in 2012, followed by a more official release in 2014. As soon as you start the film, it becomes clear that Glanz is influenced by the “droll narration” (as the rogerebert.com review puts it) of Wes Anderson and the spectacular love for New York á la Woody Allen. Does this sound pretentious to you? Well, it is! And that is one of the films biggest charms…

Make no mistake, this film is extremely pretentious- but it never tries to be anything other than that. In fact, the film comments and reminds the viewer again and again that it is, well… pompous!

What saves the film, though, is the fact that it never, at any stage, takes itself seriously. The characters are overblown and their actions tend to be absurd, but to me the message in the film was still crystal clear…

Don’t take this film seriously, don’t take yourself seriously!

Of course, not all critics were as favorable to this showy way of film making. The aforementioned rogerebert.com review gave the film one star out of five saying: “Not even the able actors that Glanz somehow managed to rope into his project can do much with the draggy story and the vapid characters that they have been given to play.”

The A.V Club on the other hand describes the film as “clearly the work not of a lazy thief, but of a raw talent who’s still struggling to find his own voice. In the meantime, his impressions are pretty darn impressive.”

Therefore, I feel it is important to let this film talk to you as a comedy and not necessarily a comedy-drama, as it is often described.

Want to read more on The Longest Week? Try these…

Film Review: The Longest Week (2014).

Movie Review: “The Longest Week”.

Movie Review: The Longest Week (2014).

The Prestige (2006)… We both had half of a full life, which was somehow enough for us. But not for them.

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The Prestige

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 8.5

IMDB link: The Prestige

Dearest reader,

In celebration of brothers, Christopher and Johnathan Nolan’s Interstellar hitting the big screen early this month, I watched this film as an example of one of their early collaborations. (Also, I watched it because my brother threatened to disown me if I didn’t!)

After watching Houdini earlier this year, I have been quite amazed at the world of “magic” and its place within the theatrical society before the emergence of television. For entertainment, people literally showed up by the hundreds to view these optical illusions, performed by “magicians”.

Success in this industry was intrinsically linked to the charismatic presence of the magician and his assistant. The characters in this film, one charismatic and the other brilliantly gifted in the art of trickery, opposes each other perfectly. As does the actors chosen to portray these characters; in this sense the biggest surprise most definitely is Christian Bale who plays the talented an fiery Alfred Borden.

The surprise element in this film, is what keeps the viewer interested throughout the entire 130 minutes. Just when you think you know who has the upper hand, the other reveals a trick so grand that it leaves the viewer stunned. Through the course of this complicated struggle for power, the themes of revenge (and its consequences), loyalty and family are explored.

Neither these characters can truly be regarded as protagonists, as the one is as treacherous as the other. Of course, in such an intricate game of changed loyalties there are always some collateral damage and therefore the two main female characters (played by Scarlet Johannsen and Piper Perabo) does invoke some sympathy with the viewer.

Another quite touching thing about this film is the very unique father-daughter relationship that is portrayed through the course of the film. In spite of all the treachery, the family aspect is constantly explored.

Nominated for best achievement in cinematography at the 2007 Oscars, this film is definitely worth the watch.

Want to read more on The Prestige? Try these…

The Prestige: You want, to get…fooled..

WEEKEND LOOKBACK MOVIE REVIEW: THE PRESTIGE.

The Prestige (2006).