The 405- The King’s Speech Review

A great film.

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The 405- Film VS Book #9: Watchmen

Kicked off a lot of debate, please add!

127 Hours Review

This was a film I had looked forward to for a long time. When the reports fist came through of a climber who had been trapped under a rock, and was reduced to cutting off his arm to survive, it seemed like a story of such suffering and triumph that a movie seemed inevitable.

James Franco takes on the role of Arlon Ralston, an extreme sports junkie who takes one wrong move, and ends up with his arm trapped under a boulder. He spends the next five days trying to escape, and in the end it seems that only a pair of pliers and a blunt knife is the only possible solution. Franco is utterly convincing, and considering the selfish nature of his character, we really don’t want to see him hurt.  His charm really comes through in what are essentially Vlogs of the situation, recorded the actually camera Ralston himself used, and we can feel only sympathy for his plight.

127 Hours doesn’t feel like we are being told the story from Aaron’s perspective , but rather some force looking over him. The film often swoops over to other locations, and uses very obtrusive sound to scream the situation into your brain. This is the first soundtrack since Trainspotting I might consider buying.  His hallucinations are outward rather that inner looking, and this really keeps the pace going. Considering this is a movie mostly set in ten feet of rock, anything can happen next. He takes what it such a simply concept, and turns it an exploration of any human being stuck in a jam, without ever losing sight of telling the story.  The broken relationship Ralston keeps thinking back to doesn’t really have an impact on the narrative, but is something we can all relate to.

Danny Boyle is turning into the master of the intro.  From the word go the camera is swooping off all over the world, from a football stadiums to a camera lens.  It feels much more like Boyle’s early work, and has a nineties-feeling, indie edge that only adds to the grittiness.  This is more Shallow Grave than Slumdog Millionaire.

I have waited for this movie for eight years, and it has kicked off 2011 to a great start.  Those of you that can’t bear the sight of blood may want to watch half of it through your fingers, but Danny Boyle has gone back to his roots to pull off a classic, and this should have been his first Oscar.

10/10

The 405: The Next Three Days Review

Worth a look in my opinion!

Catfish Review

To confirm, I’m giving nothing away about this film’s plot. Just go see it- there will be plenty to discuss.

The most exciting part of this film is the sheer exuberance of the filmmakers. They have stumbled across an amazing story, and the freedom, kit, and technical know-how to pull it off.  This really pays off when it comes to the cinematography, and even the most impromptu filming is beautiful. There have been doubts about its authenticity, and it would seem that some scenes have been manipulated for extra drama .However, in my own experience situations like this can arise in documentary filmmaking, and though some scenes do seem a little forced, it’s worth remembering this is ninety minutes from thousands.

There are points where the filmmakers do slip into exploitation, but it is forgivable. It shows the dangers of the virtual world, not just social networking, but even emails and text messages. This is pure voyeurism, where a beautiful man is better than an ugly woman, and the latter is stalked from all angles. She may have deceived but ultimately it is her who is now a worldwide laughing stock.  This is just as much a story about them exploring as it is the consequences. The final result isn’t actually that amazing; it is much more the fact it actually happened. Catfish’s real awkwardness is that it can be hard to choose who to cheer for.

As with all good documentaries, it’s the little truths found in every scene that make it a classic. Three New York hipsters wondering round an empty farmhouse is both remarkable and chilling. Abigail’s disabled children are heart breaking. It is the film that has physically affected me most this year, and I can’t recommend it enough.

9/10

Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader Review

The Narnia trilogy have been a strange series of films. They have never received the prestige bestowed on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and have suffered from criticism of their Christian themes. With Disney pulling out of co-producing, and at the time of writing Dawn Treader is slipping down the box office, the continuation of the series seems in the balance.

The plot follows Edmund and Lucy from the first two films, and their obnoxious cousin Eustace, as they splash down in to Narnia aboard The Dawn Treader. A new evil has arrived, and it’s up to them to bring peace to the land once again.

What narrative there is sticks together, but its real problem is the lack of any true threat. The main baddie is nothing more than an evil mist, and despite claiming to make your worst nightmares come true, in reality seems to deal more with minor insecurities. The peril never gets beyond Saturday morning cartoon level, and this is the series planting its flag purely in the children’s market.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but must be judged as such.

As with Harry Potter, the franchise got lucky with its child actors. Prince Caspian is a bit of a wet blanket, but Reepicheep and the other Narnians are very strong . Eustace could so easily have just been silly, but has real moments of humour that shine through.  The best part of the Narnia films have always been the special effects and this instalment is no exception. Aslan looks better than ever, and there is a real weight and life to all the talking animals. Dawn Treader may be light, but it builds a great atmosphere. The editing seems a little choppy in places, but the whole “islands with different dangers” archetype is a strong one, and really works. If only there was little more risk to the adventures, and this could have been a top notch picture.

This is very light fare, but good special effects and  a half decent plot keep it going .This film is not a classic, and not even the best of the series. But as an enjoyable Christmas movie, it’s worth checking out.

6/10

Of Gods And Men Review

The plot of Of Gods and Men didn’t exactly enthrall me on the way to the screening. It follows a group of French Monks in Algeria, whose peaceful existence is shattered when Islamic extremists threaten their lives.

I was expecting a rather slow look at the meaning of faith, and long discussions on religion. Instead, the film look at the monks as humans, and the perfectly normal reactions that death can bring. They don’t want to leaves their friends just as much as they don’t want to abandon their God, and the long scenes of their simple life go from banal to nostalgic to upsetting as the danger increases.

What a lot of reviews have missed out on in parts Of Gods and Men is absolutely chilling. We do see the consequences of staying behind and facing the extremists, and the first meeting between the two groups is incredibly tense.  A lot has been made of the  “Swan Lake” meal scene. For me the most moving part was when an army helicopter hovered near the monastery during prayers. The men hug each other, and continue their songs, despite the rattling on the machine utterly dominating the soundtrack.  For a film where not a lot happens for large periods of time, there is absolutely no filler.

So although the plot may sound difficult, this is beautifully simple filmmaking that does have momentum. It is not just another art house film, and although challenging, is never boring. I am of a totally secular nature, but this story delves deep into the heart of humanity, and touches themes that affect us all.

9/10