Monday, April 28, 2008

Butterfly On A Wheel (2007)

Directed by Mike Barker
Starring: Gerard Butler, Maria Bello, Pierce Brosnan
Grade: C -

Instead of the usual review I've chosen to show you an e-mail I sent to my friend about it. It's probably not gonna make any sense unless you've actually seen it though.
**Contains Spoilers**


After much wrestling with my BT hub (not physically - at least not yet!) I've managed to get online and write you this e-mail about 'Butterfly on a Wheel', a film that I didn't really care for - just thought I'd let you know that before I say what I didn't like about it. I'm totally in film review mode. Sorry! Lol.

Firstly, it surprised me how quickly the tone of the film changed. They hardly waited ten minutes to get the kidnap thing underway. I've been deliberating whether I liked this, but I think more intelligent films might have to tried to hint at the affair a bit more before it introduced that element. And if it did I didn't really notice. I'm not sure it's a good idea to make such a compact, energetic thriller that has a finale so dependent on the nature of the characters, and I don't like films that can't be bothered to develop its characters and then expect us to be shocked at their actions at the end.

I actually saw the whole thing coming, which is disappointing. When it became personal and not about the money there weren't really many ways the plot could have gone. It's much more engaging than I think it ever has a rite to be really, because a lot of it feels very tailored, which makes it uneven, and I've seen this kind of film done much, much better. Phone--> Empty box --> envelope --> red dress (and on that point, I'm sick of middle-class men in thrillers constantly being threatened with the murder and rape of their wife and daughter? It's so old.). And the worst of all. When he goes to the police and she's already been there. I mean, please! It seems to cover all of the "bases" but if we're going to make baseball analogies it's more a game of rounders in the park than a World Series Final. Old news.

Maria Bello, who by the way is lovely, was kinda meh. I think she just wasn't all that bothered about the film. It needed a performance like Jamie Lee Curtis' in True Lies to make it feel more raw and powerful. It felt too tame for me. Gerard Butler was slightly better... boy would I like to run into him in a dark alley! Actually, it'd be more fun if he ran into me ;-) Pierce is routine and boring - a perfect representative of the film actually (ooh, I'm catty!).

I've gotta say something about the end...

I really was SHOUTING at the screen "Don't kill that woman!". She was so much prettier than Maria Bello and surely better in bed. It would have been a shame. But yeah, when they got home I wanted to turn it off cause I knew they were gonna do that whole twist thing.

It's not a terrible film. I just think it's a bad attempt at a familiar picture, with very little incisiveness or appeal.

An Apology

Just a quick note to say that university and men are consuming most of my time at the moment, which is why I've kind of been neglecting the blog lately. I'm hoping to finish my Addict awards off shortly and get on with 2008's year in film...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Addicts 2007: Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis
There Will Be Blood

Enough has been said about Day-Lewis as the dark, ruthless Plainview. He is indeed the frightening, towering everything that people say. When I watched There Will Be Blood it shook me because you just don't see films as volatile, uneven and downright gutsy, and I can't imagine what a strange situation it must have been to be involved in the making of it. Most of the film flows through DDL's character but for me this film does not belong to him, and neither does it belong to director Paul Thomas Anderson, or original novelist Upton Sinclair. The entire film feels untamed and so, really, Day-Lewis' job stretches far beyond that of portraying a literary figure. His Jekyll and Hyde job (the self-evaluative nature if not the compassion of Jekyll) ensures that the random shifts between scheming, meditative oil-man and uncontrollable eccentric monster feel as terrifyingly huge as an 80's power ballad, and a loose and organic allusion to human nature.

Benicio Del Toro
Things We Lost In The Fire

I started to write a review for Things We Lost In The Fire the day after I saw it, but later realised I was only really writing about Benicio Del Toro. The refreshing thing about his performance as a struggling heroin addict is that he doesn't seem to want or need your sympathy. He's visibly troubled but in a way that serves as an acknowledgement of addiction and its power over him. Del Toro gets the balance perfect, sustaining Jerry's potential as a productive long-term presence in the Burke family, juggling the sadness of his best friend's death and the guilt and depression of his recovering drug habit in a way that escapes false theatricality. He's the perfect choice for a character that's perhaps painted a little too cleanly by the film at times -- ironic, I know -- it's that modest effortless charm that makes him 'special' in a way you know he'd never want to be. The biggest weapon in his armery those come-to-bed eyes, which can make me a lovesick teenager and a ponderous wannabe-reformist all at once.

Emile Hirsch
Into The Wild

In many ways Hirsch reminds me of Leonardo Di Caprio's Jack in Titanic; young, fresh-faced, plucky, bold, content to be lost in a world so much bigger than his adventurous aspirations. Perhaps this is why it's easier to accept both their mortal punishments, but Hirsch doesn't have the luxury of a romance (at least an overt one) or a sinking ship to chronicle his development as a character. He is able to imbue so much thought about identity and purpose with his comfortable, reflective temperament, his placid tone a reminder that McCandless was someone eager to shrug off judgement and labels, and even ideology itself. On the face of it it may seem as if this boy was crazy, but things are only 'crazy' if you don't understand them. Hirsch may not have to run the gamut of emotions in every scene, but at the end of it all I felt like I understood him, and for a guy that was roaming the desolate West alone for almost all of his adult life -- that's an achievement.

Shia LaBoeuf

His troubled, misunderstood badboy demeanor forming the basis for Disturbia's continual sense of injustice, Shia's Kale is a 'have-a-go' hero of the most convincing stature, driving our interest through his.
Taken from review
LaBoeuf is undoubtedly the babyface badboy of a commercially-driven, and fascinatingly self-aware project, but while the film takes a lot from Rear Window, it puts a lot more pressure on its star. He has to inhabit the film's ideas about a rebellious, misunderstood generation, while exercising his dynamic hero status to the max. While Stewart's interfering neighbourhood watch was much tamer, LaBoeuf's Kale pushes things too far on more than one occasion and yet Shia emerges as a rash victim more than an unruly teenager. The true 'performer' in this excellent bunch of men, his character, a teenage hero in an action thriller, calls for more flair than Deerfield, Sunborne, Plainview or McCandless, and his boundless energy sells every bit of Disturbia, and makes for a manic and entertaining time. Slick, smart and sexy.

Tommy Lee Jones
In The Valley Of Elah

Paul Haggis' film is one that requires Tommy Lee Jones' Hank Deerfield to become an amateur sleuth in the quest to find the murderer of his son. Elah doesn't achieve any of what it wants to say (which is itself frustratingly vague) through overt, crass symbolism, and so its up to Tommy to hammer some of it home through the grief-stricken ex-Colonel. Jones' work, which somehow manages to come across as poignant, is laden with layers, and transforms a predictable character into someone worth studying. It's all in what he doesn't say; the methodical nature of the military man at the forefront of his character Deerfield is an intent and driven animal for most of Elah, but only to mask his engulfing grief. Jones can express his loss without having to be emotionally open, exposed without knowing it, or wanting to know it. And when called upon to deliver the cracks in Hank's emotional blockade (the main purpose of which is often to further the investigative elements of the story anyway) he does so with such guilt and self-loathing that you feel as if you've done well to obtain anything from this man. A man that gives so little away.

Winner: Shia LaBoeuf - Disturbia
Runner Up: Benicio Del Toro - Things We Lost In The Fire

Sad To Exclude: James McAvoy in Atonement, who has several heartbreaking moments but overall perhaps has less to do than the five men here. Chris Cooper, for a strange but nevertheless enthralling turn in Breach. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, whose performance in The Game Plan is flat-out hilarious. Josh Brolin, Johnny Depp, Glen Hansard, I salute you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Remembrance Sunday Remembers...

The 1973 F.A. Cup Winning Squad Of Sunderland A.F.C

Or more specifically Jimmy Montgomery, for this wonder save, which in my heavily biased view I regard as the greatest ever.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Addicts 2007: Costume Design & Make Up

Costume Design

Jacqueline Durran

From aristocratic Summer splendor to rigid, grim wartime attire, there is such tailored goodness to be had here. None more so than that green dress, which will surely go down in cinematic history as possibly the most gorgeous part of a very gorgeous film.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Alexandra Byrne

This will be The Golden Age's only positive nomination from me, which kind of sums up how the elements of the film seem to work so independently from each other. It is indeed a mess but the costumes -- bold, wacky, intricate, fun --help to pass the laborious running time.

La Vie En Rose
Marit Allen

Considering the presence and power of Cotillard's Piaf Allen crafts some curiously striking designs. Their ironic touch is that they often appear to be derived from uniform, and yet are used to showcase a figure that was anything but.

Lust, Caution
Lai Pan

Even the drabness in Lee's film is flaunted before us as an unattainable casual beauty, the fun art-deco creations that mark the showier moments lushly romanticised but schematic in their exposure, much like the host of deceptive characters that strut the Shanghai street.

Sweeney Todd

Colleen Atwood

Like Byrne, Atwood's creations have that off-the-wall element of fun behind them, the beach outfits Sweeney and Lovett wear an inspired re-work of old British seaside culture, and, as a fashion parade of identity crises so-to-speak, tremendously funny to behold.

Winner: Atonement
Runner Up: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Sad To Exclude: The Assassination of Jesse James has such well-crafted costumes. The Golden Compass is one of those other fun picks. Kidman gets to wear some great (though I suspect uncomfortable) creations. And Juno gets it completely right, with quirky designs that don't draw too much attention to themselves.

Make Up


It's fair to say that things in Bug descend at least a tad too quickly but the descent itself is outlined heavily, and successfully, by the make up. The film is brave for leaving itself and its characters open to such intense close-up scrutiny, and so it's important to note that neither the gaunt declination of the characters, or the gore that comes with it, come across as risible distractions.

La Vie En Rose

It's very gimmicky, and I don't consider it a better make up job than other transformations such as Theron's in Monster (mainly because I value Cotillard's performance much more), but it is staggering at times how this girl is so authentic as a woman up to forty years her senior.

Planet Terror

This isn't just for the on-going bloodfest, or even an ode to Rose MacGowan's fantastic machine-gun leg. In fact, it's more for the general design of Planet Terror, and Cherry's meticulous facial cosmetics, which see her objectified like a model in a motorcycle magazine, and typify the movie as an oozing pocket of sex and danger.

Winner: Planet Terror

Sad To Exclude: Black Snake Moan is kind of like Bug, but more subtle and without the gore. Sweeney Todd's pale face and deep, mean, sleep-deprived eyes are more than effective. The ageless beauty of Michelle Pfeiffer is countered wickedly well in Stardust.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Actress Profiles: Geraldine Page in What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? (1969)

Geraldine Page in What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? (1969)

Following in the footsteps of camp horror classics of the time, What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? has replaced Bette Davis' Baby Jane with an even more daunting prospect (believe me) in Claire Marrable, a character brought to life by the incredible, sinister performance of Geraldine Page. Similar to Aldrich's 1962 flick, Marrable is given cause to feel bitter in the films opening moments, when it is revealed that her husband's apparent wealthiness was a facade, and he has left her in a mountain of debt. Enough cause to get pissed? Certainly. But perhaps going on to coax money out of your housekeepers on the false promise of stock market dividends, and then proceeding to systematically kill them off one by one is taking it a step or ten too far.

Yet Page's Marrable seems to have an extra edge that Baby Jane did not. Driven by necessity her character alters without appearing to: uneasing, pressing, agressing, slowly revelling in power, her cackles a pierce that underline her ecstasy at being in control. Page is the ultimate villain. A woman designed to unsettle. And with the dismissive flick of a sherry glass she can turn the tables on you so quick, delivering gestures of a false hostess and scathing insults of a masked monster (and sometimes both in the same breath) like a ruthless predator who believes herself at the head of the food chain. I daren't deny her that.

Rating: *****

Actress Profiles: Katharine Hepburn in Holiday (1938)

Katharine Hepburn in Holiday (1938)

Katherine Hepburn is an eccentrically-endearing chatterbox. While that was admittedly annoying (intentionally, though, and gloriously over-the-top) in Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby, her role in George Cukor's Holiday is of a 'tamer' (at least physically) love interest for screen partner Cary Grant, and thus probably a more convincing one. After all, would a man really fall in love with a girl who ransacked his wedding, lumbered him with a leopard, and single-handedly dismantled his relationship? Grant's weak, easily-led scientist is a product of Hepburn's ability to put you under her spell and make you forget about the consequences, but the situation is different in Holiday.

Her penchant for thinking out loud (usually rashly) is put to good use in what is a film that successfully attempts to detail social transition through the dilemna of love versus principle, a consideration afforded less room to breathe in dominant Hollywood romance. Perhaps it's Hepburn's greatest feat though that she makes us feel like her mind is such an expansive and fascinatingly forward-thinking one that you can see her struggle (often with guilt) to see things for what they really are: an internally-ingrained dilution of thought, if you will.

Rating: *****