Friday, July 24, 2009

The Proposal – Fun but no Pretty Woman!

It seems like we have a rom-com every three months or so. And they range from (IMHO) brilliant – 27 Dresses – to okay (I didn’t much care for He’s Just Not That Into You).

Latest on the assembly line is The Proposal, where publishing boss from hell Sandra Bullock terrorises her office colleagues, among them her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds). Bullock’s character Margaret doesn’t exactly play to her strengths as a comedic actress, being a ruthless career woman with no people skills whatsoever. However, Margaret is very good at her job, so when her bosses discover that she is Canadian and about to be deported – having ignored letters from immigration officials – they are seriously upset. In desperation, Margaret hits on the first way out of trouble: she can marry her American assistant Andrew and get citizenship that way. Andrew gets no say in this whatsoever, but he soon sees his opportunity to get the promotion he’s been seeking for years and reluctantly agrees to play along. The scene is set for the sparring twosome to visit Andrew’s parents – in Alaska – and break the news of the engagement.

Do you think they end up falling in love? Could they, just possibly, fight a lot in the meantime? Does James Brown get down?

Despite being mucho formulaic, I enjoyed Reynold’s snarky performance and Sandra Bullock proved, yet again, that she’s the queen of rom-coms. There’s the added pleasure of veteran character actors Mary Steenburgen and Betty White as Andrew’s mother and grandmother respectively. And my female audience was highly appreciative of Ryan Reynold’s willingness to get his kit off, repeatedly….

The Proposal – Fun but no Pretty Woman!

It seems like we have a rom-com every three months or so. And they range from (IMHO) brilliant – 27 Dresses – to okay (I didn’t much care for He’s Just Not That Into You).

Latest on the assembly line is The Proposal, where publishing boss from hell Sandra Bullock terrorises her office colleagues, among them her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds). Bullock’s character Margaret doesn’t exactly play to her strengths as a comedic actress, being a ruthless career woman with no people skills whatsoever. However, Margaret is very good at her job, so when her bosses discover that she is Canadian and about to be deported – having ignored letters from immigration officials – they are seriously upset. In desperation, Margaret hits on the first way out of trouble: she can marry her American assistant Andrew and get citizenship that way. Andrew gets no say in this whatsoever, but he soon sees his opportunity to get the promotion he’s been seeking for years and reluctantly agrees to play along. The scene is set for the sparring twosome to visit Andrew’s parents – in Alaska – and break the news of the engagement.

Do you think they end up falling in love? Could they, just possibly, fight a lot in the meantime? Does James Brown get down?

Despite being mucho formulaic, I enjoyed Reynold’s snarky performance and Sandra Bullock proved, yet again, that she’s the queen of rom-coms. There’s the added pleasure of veteran character actors Mary Steenburgen and Betty White as Andrew’s mother and grandmother respectively. And my female audience was highly appreciative of Ryan Reynold’s willingness to get his kit off, repeatedly….

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Galway Film Festival – a Credit-Crunch Themed Line-up

I saw 7 films during the festival, including Atonement. They ranged from the excellent (Frozen River) to the very bad (The Race). Here’s my opinion on some upcoming films I saw:

Frozen River – Melissa Leo was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this one and I can see why. She plays broke single mother Ray, who embarks on a dangerous people-smuggling scheme across the frozen St. Lawrence River with Mohawk woman Lila. Leo gives us everything in a brave performance that shows off every line etched into her face. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for much of this one.

The Race – terrible Irish film about a girl who wants to be a go-cart racer. Less said the better – no wonder the Irish film industry is in crisis.

The September Issue – this is billed as the real Devil Wears Prada, focussing on the behind the scenes action of the September 2007 issue of American Vogue. Anna Wintour is the star of the film, showing us that Meryl Streep was barely exaggerating in her portrayal of the steely magazine editor.

Amreeka – Palestinian office-worker Amreeka gets an unexpected Green Card to the States and movies there with her teenage son. Unfortunately for them, it is right after 911 – and a bad time to be perceived as Muslims in the U.S. This is a very enjoyable film that brings us on Amreeka’s journey as she struggles to get a job, help her son navigate school and gain acceptance in their new country.

Malta Radio – an excellent documentary about what happened when Spanish trawlermen picked up a boatload of stranded African refugees – only to find that the nearest port, Malta, was refusing them entry. A thought-provoking and ultimately heartwarming story.

Sugar - from the people who brought us Half Nelson comes this unusual sports movie about a Dominican baseball player who achieves his dream to come and play for a team in the U.S. It isn't long before he starts to question the sacrifices he has been asked to make and to wonder if it is all really worth it. I have no interest in baseball but really enjoyed this brave and thoughful movie.

The Galway Film Festival – a Credit-Crunch Themed Line-up

I saw 7 films during the festival, including Atonement. They ranged from the excellent (Frozen River) to the very bad (The Race). Here’s my opinion on some upcoming films I saw:

Frozen River – Melissa Leo was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this one and I can see why. She plays broke single mother Ray, who embarks on a dangerous people-smuggling scheme across the frozen St. Lawrence River with Mohawk woman Lila. Leo gives us everything in a brave performance that shows off every line etched into her face. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for much of this one.

The Race – terrible Irish film about a girl who wants to be a go-cart racer. Less said the better – no wonder the Irish film industry is in crisis.

The September Issue – this is billed as the real Devil Wears Prada, focussing on the behind the scenes action of the September 2007 issue of American Vogue. Anna Wintour is the star of the film, showing us that Meryl Streep was barely exaggerating in her portrayal of the steely magazine editor.

Amreeka – Palestinian office-worker Amreeka gets an unexpected Green Card to the States and movies there with her teenage son. Unfortunately for them, it is right after 911 – and a bad time to be perceived as Muslims in the U.S. This is a very enjoyable film that brings us on Amreeka’s journey as she struggles to get a job, help her son navigate school and gain acceptance in their new country.

Malta Radio – an excellent documentary about what happened when Spanish trawlermen picked up a boatload of stranded African refugees – only to find that the nearest port, Malta, was refusing them entry. A thought-provoking and ultimately heartwarming story.

Sugar - from the people who brought us Half Nelson comes this unusual sports movie about a Dominican baseball player who achieves his dream to come and play for a team in the U.S. It isn't long before he starts to question the sacrifices he has been asked to make and to wonder if it is all really worth it. I have no interest in baseball but really enjoyed this brave and thoughful movie.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Masterclass with a master

I drove down to Galway today for the film festival and started with a Masterclass by successful screenwriter Christopher Hampton. He turned out to be a charming, self-deprecating man, who pointed out that while he’s had 14 films made, this represents only a third of all the scripts he’s written. There’s hope for us all!

He specialises in adapting novels into films, which was an area I didn’t know much about. So it was fascinating to hear how he turned Atonement, The Quiet American, Dangerous Liaisons (from his own play), Imagining Argentina and many, many more into movies. The class was preceded by a showing of Atonement and it struck me again while watching it that it’s one of those stone-cold classics that you knew was a classic from the first time you saw it.

Things I learned from Mr. Hampton’s talk:
· He reckons he does good dialogue but doesn’t think he’s any good at plot structure, hence all the adaptations of existing work. An excellent example of playing to your strengths!
· John Malkovich is even more cheeky than I had previously suspected but is apparently great to work with.
· The films costume designer actually directed the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons.
· David Lean used to be an editor and would spend ages (really, really ages) editing his own films.
· Christopher Hampton spends 3-9 months preparing to write his script, but then writes in a white-heat and cranks out a draft in a few weeks. I like his style.

Masterclass with a master

I drove down to Galway today for the film festival and started with a Masterclass by successful screenwriter Christopher Hampton. He turned out to be a charming, self-deprecating man, who pointed out that while he’s had 14 films made, this represents only a third of all the scripts he’s written. There’s hope for us all!

He specialises in adapting novels into films, which was an area I didn’t know much about. So it was fascinating to hear how he turned Atonement, The Quiet American, Dangerous Liaisons (from his own play), Imagining Argentina and many, many more into movies. The class was preceded by a showing of Atonement and it struck me again while watching it that it’s one of those stone-cold classics that you knew was a classic from the first time you saw it.

Things I learned from Mr. Hampton’s talk:
· He reckons he does good dialogue but doesn’t think he’s any good at plot structure, hence all the adaptations of existing work. An excellent example of playing to your strengths!
· John Malkovich is even more cheeky than I had previously suspected but is apparently great to work with.
· The films costume designer actually directed the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons.
· David Lean used to be an editor and would spend ages (really, really ages) editing his own films.
· Christopher Hampton spends 3-9 months preparing to write his script, but then writes in a white-heat and cranks out a draft in a few weeks. I like his style.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Public Enemies = Yawnsville

Public Enemies looked like a serious return to form for Michael Mann, after the clunker that was Miami Vice. I will start by saying that I really like Mann’s films. He builds tension and atmosphere like very few other directors and his attention to detail is insane. I also love the way his films blur the line between the heroes and villains – this was used to brilliant effect in Heat and this film seemed like a great opportunity to revisit that idea.

But Mann has a few annoying trademarks that are all over this film: casting a gang of men who all look a bit similar, leading to viewer confusion, muttered dialogue and weak female parts. Johnny Depp, playing Dillinger, and Stephen Dorff as gang member Homer Van Meter, have the same Thirties haircut and wear virtually identical clothes which meant that particularly in night-time scenes I couldn’t tell which was which. Depp throws away half his decent lines by speaking in a low drawl that even a cough would drown out. And the less said about Marion Cotillard’s underwritten part as Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie the better…

The main problems, however, with this film are that it’s too long and you don’t really care about any of the people in it. I remember being glued to The Untouchables when I first saw it and it’s still a gripping, entertaining film with great characters. But here I didn’t care what happened to the feckless Dillinger, let alone cold G-man Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale. I started getting bored about three quarters way through and by the time the black screen came up at the end I was thinking about which train to take home.

The impressive cast does its best with the material but the script manages to contain a lot of action and dialogue without getting under the skin of any of the people in it and ultimately lacks heart. The only person you’ll remember afterwards is the amazing Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson, who provides us with one of the only truly great set pieces when he is introduced and storms psychotically through the rest of the film. If only the rest of the film had been as memorable!

Public Enemies = Yawnsville

Public Enemies looked like a serious return to form for Michael Mann, after the clunker that was Miami Vice. I will start by saying that I really like Mann’s films. He builds tension and atmosphere like very few other directors and his attention to detail is insane. I also love the way his films blur the line between the heroes and villains – this was used to brilliant effect in Heat and this film seemed like a great opportunity to revisit that idea.

But Mann has a few annoying trademarks that are all over this film: casting a gang of men who all look a bit similar, leading to viewer confusion, muttered dialogue and weak female parts. Johnny Depp, playing Dillinger, and Stephen Dorff as gang member Homer Van Meter, have the same Thirties haircut and wear virtually identical clothes which meant that particularly in night-time scenes I couldn’t tell which was which. Depp throws away half his decent lines by speaking in a low drawl that even a cough would drown out. And the less said about Marion Cotillard’s underwritten part as Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie the better…

The main problems, however, with this film are that it’s too long and you don’t really care about any of the people in it. I remember being glued to The Untouchables when I first saw it and it’s still a gripping, entertaining film with great characters. But here I didn’t care what happened to the feckless Dillinger, let alone cold G-man Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale. I started getting bored about three quarters way through and by the time the black screen came up at the end I was thinking about which train to take home.

The impressive cast does its best with the material but the script manages to contain a lot of action and dialogue without getting under the skin of any of the people in it and ultimately lacks heart. The only person you’ll remember afterwards is the amazing Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson, who provides us with one of the only truly great set pieces when he is introduced and storms psychotically through the rest of the film. If only the rest of the film had been as memorable!

Monday, July 6, 2009

3-D - Three times the fun?

I finally lost my 3D virginity on Saturday night and saw Ice Age 3D in a flickhouse on Leicester Square. This was a surprisingly late show at 10.30pm with a liquored-up audience all sporting very fancy 3D glasses. My companion and I were not exactly sober ourselves, having just thrown a large measure of Sauvignon down our throats along with some odd food around the corner in Chinatown.

Anyway, it was a rowdy crowd and everyone laughed at every one of the jokes, which came along every few seconds. Star of the show was Simon Pegg as a weasel called Buck - overall I highly recommend this film if the weather breaks and you have some kids to entertain. Or if you're pissed and fancy seeing something funny.

The only 3D film I'd seen before (without the glasses so it didn't count) was Jaws 3D, a truly terrible film not saved by the 3D gimmick. This time the filmmakers had the sense to use the technology to enhance an already entertaining film - a much better experience all round. Would-be 3D users, watch and learn....

3-D - Three times the fun?

I finally lost my 3D virginity on Saturday night and saw Ice Age 3D in a flickhouse on Leicester Square. This was a surprisingly late show at 10.30pm with a liquored-up audience all sporting very fancy 3D glasses. My companion and I were not exactly sober ourselves, having just thrown a large measure of Sauvignon down our throats along with some odd food around the corner in Chinatown.

Anyway, it was a rowdy crowd and everyone laughed at every one of the jokes, which came along every few seconds. Star of the show was Simon Pegg as a weasel called Buck - overall I highly recommend this film if the weather breaks and you have some kids to entertain. Or if you're pissed and fancy seeing something funny.

The only 3D film I'd seen before (without the glasses so it didn't count) was Jaws 3D, a truly terrible film not saved by the 3D gimmick. This time the filmmakers had the sense to use the technology to enhance an already entertaining film - a much better experience all round. Would-be 3D users, watch and learn....