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

Monsters Review

Two American get stuck behind the Mexican border, and have to take an extended to get back to their home country. This would be simple enough, were it not for a large section of the US being under quarantine thanks to an alien invasion several years earlier. This is a love story by the way.

The strangest part of Monsters is that it works, both as an idea and as a completed film.  Director Gareth Edwards took a small crew and two actors to Mexico, with a basic plot and storyboard, and let them get on with it. He then took the resultant 100 hours of footage, cut it down to ninety, and then added in the aliens in his bedroom.

What has emerged is a film with a great atmosphere. This is a world that has moved on from the invasion, and Mexico has ended up somewhere between nonchalance and decay. Signs of destruction are everywhere, be it a crashed plane or a mural of an alien attack.  It might be slow-paced, but the movie draws you in, which considering the intrinsically silly premise is all you can ask.

Yet there is more to it than pretty special effects. Monsters might look like a film about immigration, but for me the main theme is the beauty and danger of nature.  Footage of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Tsunami could easily be slotted into the destroyed American town Mexican “jungle”, and the parallel between the creatures from the sky and the ones at the bottom of our ocean are clearly made. Edwards makes us very aware of us a beings surrounded by and a part of nature, and as much as we try to control it, all we can do is look on in wonder.

There are a few duff lines, and the ending is a little underwhelming, if beautiful. Some of the more romantic moments border on cliché, and what actions scenes there are borrow heavily. But if you are looking for something really different, it’s worth a look.

8/10

The Way Back Review

The Way Back follows seven Gulag escapees and a Polish woman as they trek from Siberia to India to escape communist oppression. It is a film of human beings getting swallowed up by nature, with no way to beat it except to struggle on.

And my goodness does nature look beautiful. An easy mistake to make with a film like this is to assume that you can just point a camera at the natural world, and create instant cinematography. This is not the case, and Director of Photography. Russell Boyd must be commended for capturing the wonder and danger of planet Earth. Kudos must go to the location manager for finding such incredible spots across the continents. For a film about walking, there are plenty of little moments that keep it alive. Be it a deer stuck in mud, eating snakes, or snow masks made of hastily cut wood, what could be so monotonous is always fascinating.

And yet what is strange about the film is despite the subject matter, it isn’t actually that harrowing. There is the odd image of rotten teeth and septic feet that are wince inducing, but it never quite gets as awful as it could be. The start is horrific, and after the first few nights in the Gulag I was expecting something much stronger. Instead the journey is arduous, but seemingly bearable for most of its participants.  Some of the moments by the lake are actually rather pleasant, and it’s only when things get to the desert that their trek really gets nasty.  There iso doubt these people suffer, but perhaps they get swallowed a little too much by the landscape; their pain becomes a little oblivious.

This would ruin the film utterly, were it not for the strength of the actors, who are fantastic across the board.  Jim Sturgess provides a solid role as Janusz, and is an actor to keep your eye on for the future. Ed Harris as strange American Mister Smith has grown into a grizzled old man that we always knew we would. Colin Farrell as the psychotic Russian prisoner Valka is wonderful, both terrifying and vulnerable at the same time. The others are a little mix and match, but all have at least one great scene.  You really care about the characters, and the fact they don’t go through the blender as much as potentially possible isn’t boring but a relief.

If judged as a gripping movie about the Russian Gulags, or the horror of war, then after the first twenty minutes you might be solely disappointed. Strangely, The Way Back celebrates beauty and friendship, not suffering, and despite lacking realism, is a wonderful piece of fiction.

8/10

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