My thoughts on film and life.

Posts tagged “review

The Truth Told in Lies

Getting back into writing when you haven’t done it in a while is actually quite hard. I promised myself a while ago that I would keep up with this blog when things in my life calmed down a bit, only to discover that things don’t calm down. That is life. There is not calm. So, I will try and accept that and do my best to do the things I enjoy and not get bogged down with the ‘important’ things that I can’t stand to do (but have to). So, thinking of life, and what you want from it, my first film in ages that I have thought about writing about is “A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman”.

Chapman at University - even the pipe sounds are his own during recording

Chapman at University – even the pipe sounds are his own during recording

A few months ago I watched “Graham Chapman: Anatomy of a Liar”. I didn’t know anything about it, but being indecisive about what to what while perusing Netflix I saw both “A Liar’s Autobiography” and “Anatomy”. I decided to watch the “Anatomy”. I have always loved Monty Python, so a behind the scenes look interested me. I found it fascinating, and decide at some point I would need to watch the actual “Autobiography”. There were distractions, but I finally watched the “Autobiography”.
Introducing Michael Palin as Chapman's Da and Terry Jones as his Mum

Introducing Michael Palin as Chapman’s Da and Terry Jones as his Mum

“A Liar’s Autobiography” is an animated interpretation of Graham Chapman’s autobiography. Before he died, Chapman had recorded an audio version of his book. The film uses this recording as narration, with additional voices by the rest of Monty Python (minus Eric Idle). Chapman is able to represent himself in his autobiography.
and represent himself he did

and represent himself he did

It’s hard to describe this film without actually watching it (as so many are). Although Chapman didn’t stick to the ‘facts’, I believe it was one of the most truthful autobiographies I have seen. The idea of this film is what makes a person isn’t necessarily the events that happen in their life, but instead the emotions and experiences of their life.
Honesty in Alcoholism

Honesty in Alcoholism

Graham Chapman is able to portray this, and the animators who did the film managed to interpret his story wonderfully. Each theme in the story is done in a different style of animation. I cannot imagine doing this any differently, now that I have seen it.
This is an autobiography that entertains and sticks with you. I plan on reading the book as soon as I can (and as soon as I remember).
Additional: I’m not sure there is a book…
Friend's to be envied

Friend’s to be envied

Film Stills © 2012 – Brainstorm Media, EPIX, Trinity Film Production



I love a good time travel movie. As a Sci-Fi fan, it’s hard to go wrong with time-travel (although I’m sure it has been done). So, when I first saw trailers for “Looper” I was excited. “Looper” is about an assassin, living in the year 2044. His targets are sent to him from 30 years in the future, where time travel exists, although it is banned. He kills them, making clean up easy since his targets don’t exist in his time, and there is nothing for the police to find in the future. When his contract is up, his last target sent to him is himself. It becomes even more complicated when Joe (Gordon-Levitt) accidentally lets his future self escape, and has to hunt him down (while also being hunted down by the mob that hired him).

When I first saw the trailer for “Looper”, I was intrigued to see more of the make-up job they did on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to make him look more like Bruce Willis. It was quite bizarre at first to see him with a totally different nose and eyebrows, but after a while I adjusted and it really does help you imagine him to be the character. It makes him look a bit harsher, and you stop seeing the softer face of Gordon-Levitt, and you see the face of a killer (not that Bruce Willis is a killer – I don’t really see Bruce Willis necessarily in the face of Gordon-Levitt, even with the make-up job).

..and I did notice that they didn’t bother matching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ears to Bruce Willis.

The movie itself has fun with the idea of time-travel, and has a couple new takes on the idea – and originality is always good when it comes to messing with the timeline. As always, I don’t like to give away too much plot. I enjoy seeing movies without knowing too much about them, so I try to stick to that when talking about it. However, there is one amazing scene in the beginning which really plays with the idea of time. Time for one “Spoiler”, even though it takes place in the beginning of the movie – or close to the beginning. After one of Joe’s friends lets his future self escape, the mob needs to hunt him down. Of course, they can’t kill him in the present (that would mess up the timeline too much), so they need to persuade his older self to come to them “willingly”. How do you do that? By chopping of pieces of his younger self of course. The audience gets to watch as this older man watches parts of himself disappear as he tries to stop the mob. By the time he makes it he is missing both legs, most of his arms, his nose…it’s disturbing. But it’s also one of the more original ideas I’ve seen – and by far my favorite part of the movie.

“Looper” does have a lot of action, most of which is gun fights. There is some telekinesis, but I’d rather leave that for those who go watch the movie. Movies like this usually need a lot of action (especially when you have Bruce Willis as one of the primary characters), because you get a larger audience with action.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) the Looper assassin.

Joe again (Willis) later in life. Still sporting his gun.

Thankfully, even with all the action, the plot does not lack. Not that it couldn’t have been better (there are many better time travel movies out there), but it was still a great story. Between the action scenes, the audiences begins to understand, pity, and sometimes even relate to, these two Joes; the same person but so very different. You have the conflict of the younger, who wants to enjoy his wealth and youth, and the older, who is wise because of the past but lost and desperately trying to hold onto it. You understand both of these men, but are torn during the movie by who you think is “right”. A great action movie, but also the potential for an even better movie underneath. “Looper” could have been a much deeper and richer plot, if filmmakers are willing to take risks and have less action.

Younger Joe (Gordon-Levitt) wants adventure and wealth.

Future Joe (Willis) embraces his comfort and love.

Although, I have to admit, the action is definetly worth it when Bruce Willis walks into a room presenting P90s, full on Teal’c style from “Stargate: SG1”.


“Looper”: All Film stills © 2012 – DMG Entertainment, Endgame Entertainment


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Film stills © 1989 – Hemdale Films

Stuck at home with a cold, I decided to peruse Netflix to see what random movies I could find to watch. Something that stood out was  “Chattahoochee”. The plot looked interesting, and with a cast of Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper, I thought it  was worth a watch. I wasn’t disappointed.

At the beginning I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going. I had read the plot (badly written on Netflix) and that was all. I was given the impression that Oldman’s character, a Korean war vet, would focus more on his wartime experiences – the beginning focus a lot on that. However, it seems like that isn’t very important to the story as a whole (a little misleading, but my only criticism).

After a shooting rampage in his peaceful neighborhood, Oldman’s character, Foley, is sent to a mental institution called Chattahoochee. It is here that the story unfolds. Oldman, who is sane, begins to take notice of the injustices done to the inmates in Chattahoochee. With the help of other sane ‘patients’ like Benson (Hopper’s character) he is able to smuggle out records of abuses to his sister.

I don’t know why I had never heard of this film before. It was amazing, and gives you hope at the end that not all injustices go unnoticed. Foley, who has no reason to care about those he is living with in Chattahoochee and has a array of issues of his own, puts his issues aside to help them. Oldman is, as usual, and amazing actor and you really want Foley to win in the end. The large number of ‘extras’ who play the other patients are equally important and amazing in their acting ability.

According to the introduction, this movie is based on a true story (as so many movies are). I don’t know how much of it is really true (the real life mental hospital was investigated on abuse charges) but to me that’s not the point. The feeling towards mental patient in many ways is true, and that seems to be the main point of the plot.

Overall, I think “Chattahoochee” is quite a good film, which has seemed to have slipped through the cracks. I hope I am wrong in this assumption (I watch a lot of movies, but that doesn’t mean I know about them all).

Hiatus. Also, “Men in Black 3”

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Film stills © 2012 – Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

OK, so I’ve been slack.

I realize I’ve been really bad and keeping up with this blog – although I do want to keep up with it. I just have a hard time reviewing a film once more than a few days has already past. How should I fix this? Obviously by writing very shortly after seeing the films instead of going home to watch another movie (or a TV show like “Monk” or “Stargate: SG1” like I have been doing recently). I tend to forget until a few days has past, and I know this wouldn’t happen if I had some sort of deadline – and deadlines set by me never seem to work.

So here I am again, attempting to write. I thought of doing this now, since last night I saw a movie sequel which had rather a long ‘hiatus’ between this one and the last one; kind of like my hiatus between this post and my last one. I saw “Men In Black 3”. And, although I had heard mixed reviews, I went into it with hope, and I wasn’t disappointed.

This latest installment of  “Men in Black” was just as funny as the previous two, while still including the heart and serious side which each of them had. With a well written villain yet again (played by Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Concords” fame) and lots of other aliens to amuse and surprise. And, although Tommy Lee Jones isn’t in this one as much as the others, Josh Brolin does a FANTASTIC portray of Jones, and the audience still gets the great chemistry between K and J.

A great movie which made me laugh. I am happy to have this franchise back in theaters again, and it seems taking a long hiatus between 2 and 3 was a good movie on the film makers part. I look forward to MIB:4, should there ever be one.

“The Woman in Black”

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Film stills © 2011 – CBS Films & the UK Film Council.

I have been looking forward to “The Woman in Black” ever since I first saw a teaser picture of Daniel Radcliffe filming last year. I had seen this on stage in Newcastle, UK in 2010 and was really excited about a film version. And, although there are times were things were changed (expected in a movie), I was not disappointed.

“The Woman in Black” was a great classic style horror movie. The type that messes with your head more than anything else – no extreme violence, gore, or mass murders. There are lots of dark passages, creaking sounds, and Daniel Radcliffe looking frightened by candle-light. This may seem like it’s boring and slow, but the filmmakers balance these suspenseful moments with scenes which surprise and shock you. (One of these moments caused a very high pitched scream from the woman sitting behind me in the theater.)

It’s always hard to write about a horror movie when you don’t want to ruin it for others. The more you know about a movie of this nature, the less you are likely to be surprised and frightened (which takes away half the point of the film). However, besides being a good horror movie, “The Woman in Black” has a thrilling plot which will keep the audience interested, even if they aren’t scared by the ‘scenes-which-make-you-jump’. The film begins with three young girls having a tea party with their dolls in their room. The next thing you know they all stand up together, and jump out a two story window – the audience is immediately curious. You are kept guessing through the whole movie.

Albeit a small cast, “The Woman in Black” has a great cast. Besides Daniel Radcliffe (who I was very excited to see as not Harry Potter), the cast includes Ciaran Hinds (most recently in “Tinker Tailor”) and Janet McTeer (from recent “Albert Nobbs” glory). Having two such wonderful actors in the film adds to an already well-done film.

Overall, “The Woman in Black” is probably not for everyone. Many who are used to today’s gory horror movies will probably find it boring. However, I found it thrilling, and it kept me interested until the end (even though I already knew the story). Although probably not as good as seeing the play on stage, “The Woman in Black” was a great movie.

“The Artist”

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Film stills © 2011 – The Weinstein Co.

I finally went to see “The Artist” this weekend. This beautiful silent film is about the rise of talkie pictures, and the subsequent fall of a silent movie star. I was first interested in this film because I love classic films, silent as well as talking, and was curious to see how a modern day filmmaker would visualize a modern silent film. It took some initial adjustment when the film started. No matter how much I am used to watching older silent films, it’s still an adjustment when you sit in a huge modern theater and only have music. However, after a few minutes I was completely immersed and it didn’t matter that there was no dialog. I realize this style is not for everyone, and if you don’t like silent films, then this is not for you. But for those who appreciate classic films, this is right up your alley.

The beginning credits were the first thing to make me smile. Done in a classic style, they made you believe you were really watching an old film. It was also shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio (so the movie was NOT widescreen), and that surprised me as a detail most filmmakers would not have done. (I was also pleasantly surprised to recognize some of the soundtrack from an Alfred Hitchcock movie!)

The beauty of this film is that it is not only an emotional story about one man’s fall from the top, but also a film that comments on the changes in perception when film changed from silent to talkie. The audience gets used to only hearing the music, and watching the actors’ expressions to understand what is going on (as well as occasional ‘subtitled’ dialog) – however, there are 2 scenes of the film where suddenly you do hear some little sound. You become hyper-aware of the sound and realize how different the film would actually be. The audience’s perceptions are changed because things may not be how they first thought. Enough said of that – I hate telling too much about a movie for those who haven’t seen it.

Jean Dujardin was fabulous. All of the actors were very good in their silent style acting, but Dujardin’s was by far the best. His facial expressions and movements perfectly emulated the emotions he was trying to portray, and he did it totally in the style of an old silent movie actor. I cannot imagine anyone else in this role. His interactions with his dog, the primary comic relief, are also very reminiscent of old movies – such as “Blondie” and “The Thin Man” – which always have an intelligent dog who saves the day.

Overall I found “The Artist” exceptional in so many ways. I do not believe a better silent movie, done in the classic style, could be done today. I loved the whole movie – and I absolutely loved feeling like I was watching an old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers movie when I was watching Dujardin and Bejo dance.