Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little Fockers

Director: Paul Weitz

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo and Jessica Alba.

For a movie which is based on a one line joke to have made three pictures seems to stretch the point but despite not being as hilarious as the prequels, Little Fockers is low comedy but amusing for all that. Greg (Ben Stiller) and his father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (De Niro) are still at it. Now grandfather Jack, comes to visit uninvited, Greg, Pam (Teri Polo) and the twins for their birthday. Jack is starting to have heart problems and confides in Greg as a precaution. Greg is a drug rep currently promoting a new erectile dysfunction medication. So you are in for some stand-up comedy. Once again the plot involves misunderstandings and white lies that escalate and blow up in Greg's face as Jack tries to separate Greg and his wife Pam. Clever writing (screenplay is by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey) and slapstick combine to make this watchable. Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, and Dustin Hoffman give support with Jessica Alba as the manic, pill-popping pharmaceutical drug rep that takes a shine to Greg adding a bit of glamour. Rather over long but none the less watchable nonsense.

The King's Speech

Director: Tom Hooper (The Damned United)

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

Prince Albert (Colin Firth), The Duke of York had a severe speech impediment which made him the butt of family jokes. He dreaded public speaking but because he was the younger brother of the heir apparent, Prince Edward (Guy Pearce), mercifully there was little call to give them. All that changed when Edward, after assuming the crown in 1936, abdicated a few months later to marry an American divorcĂ©. ‘Bertie’ assumes the crown and as King George VI of England has to master public oration. Realizing the situation his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), goads him into seeking help from Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unconventional Australian speech therapist. Pygmalion in reverse, the speech therapist and Bertie embark on a long and arduous journey. All the more stressful when Logue adopts unorthodox methods including treating the Royal as an equal. The situation becomes more dire when Edward abdicates and threat of World War becomes a reality. Britain and the Commonwealth need a king to mobilize and inspire the populace for the impending conflagration. Can Logue work his magic in time? Well you will need to see the movie, but the acting is great, the wit excellent and the story inspirational.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Catfish

Director: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

This is a DIY documentary presented as a video diary. Yaniv Schulman (known as Nev), is a New York photographer gets involved with an on-line relationship with a middle-aged mother from Michigan, called Angela. Nev’s brother and his friend decide to capture the developing relationship on camera. The film plays out like a suspense thriller with Nev and his crew finally making a trip from New York to Michigan to confront his virtual friends. The audience is treated like voyeurs witnessing intimate, one-to-one moments and series of flirty texts and Facebook messages as the narrative unfolds. The subject is less interesting than the telling and the movie does dramatize the new era of social network sites and modern technology, relating an age old story of how vulnerable people really are. The real enigma here is, is the documentary genuine or cleverly presented construct and exemplar of cinema yet to come. Novel and worth a watch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

True Grit

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper

The Coen Brothers have fun with a remake of the John Wayne classic which was based on the Charles Portis’s novel. Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) plays Marshall Reuben ‘Rooster’ Cogburn which might not sit too well with John Wayne fans but Bridges plays a darker character in this rather verbose but comedic version. Credible performances from Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross) , Matt Damon (Texas Ranger LaBoeuf ) and Josh Brolin (Tom Chambers ) and the movie is shot brilliantly by Roger Deakins. An avenger story well told and in the classic Western genre. Worth a watch.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Year

Director: Mike Leigh

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville and Oliver Maltman

Four stories set to the four seasons; this fly on the wall movie tells a year in the lives of elderly married couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and friends. A motley crew if ever there was with mediocrity a byword and in short Mike Leigh’s kind of people. Family and friends of geologist Tom and medical counselor Gerri are all searching for what the couple has i.e. contentment honed by decades of kindness, tolerance and understanding. Together they spend their spare time pottering about in their allotment and generally loving every second of their time together. Their close circle of friends includes bruised fruits and far less well rounded. Bachelor son, Joe (Oliver Maltman) is too busy to find a partner and Mary (Lesley Manville) is a childless divorcĂ©e who feels life has passed her by and now seeks solace in the bottle. As the seasons pass hope, disappointment, love, loneliness, sadness, joy, birth, and death are all played out in this superbly acted drama. The movie is beautifully and sensitively photographed by Dick Pope and as you might expect from the director of Happy-go-lucky et al, the dialogue is quick fire witty, natural and very Mike Leigh. Savour Lesley Manville’s brilliant performance as Mary in this good movie which is well worth seeing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey.

In this erotic thriller , prima ballerina , Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the role of Odette, the Swan Queen, in a daringly "revisionist" production of "Swan Lake." She must also dance the ballet's bewitching Odile, (the Black Swan) but the artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is skeptical and brings in a rival dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), to act as both goad and back-up. This unnerves the obsessive young lead who begins to fantasize and break down. Nina lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey), a bitter ex-ballerina who gave up her career to raise Nina alone. The on stage drama is reflected offstage as the neurotic Nina comes to terms with the demands of the role. Will she metamorphose and triumph? Well you need to see the movie to find out. Not a patch on Red Shoes and overall despite some nice ballet inspired touches, very disappointing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah)

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Aidan Quinn , and Niels Arestrup

Based on Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel, Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas - I’ve Loved You So) is an American journalist living happily in Paris in 2009 with her husband and daughter. She is researching recent French history about the detainment of Pairs Jews when her investigations turn up a disturbing discovery: The apartment her family is moving into (which has been owned by her husband’s family for more than 60 years) was previously occupied by a displaced Jewish family. Julia believes the youngest daughter Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance) of the Jewish family may still be alive and feels compelled to track her down. However all this occurs when the journalists discovers she is pregnant and her architect husband (Frederic Pierrot) does not want her to keep the child. Julia slowly comes to understand her own life by researching Sarah’s plight. Sarah was 10 when her parents and younger brother were arrested and send to a Nazi prison camps during the Vel d'Hiv roundup (th infamous July 16, 1942 roundup and imprisonment of Parisian Jews byt the Vichy regime's). A poignant tale of two women confronted by the madness of history with an excellent cinematic score by Max Richter. Well worth a watch.

Lebanon

Director and Writer: Samuel Moaz

Starring: Michael Moshonov, Yoav Donat, Zohar Shtrauss, Dudu Tassa), and Ashraf Barhom.

The anti war movie tells the story of the first day of the Lebanon war in 1982 through the eyes of some soldiers in a tank. The action is set almost entirely inside the tank during the Israeli invasion. The claustrophobic setting is ideal for an unfolding drama which depicts four characters, all in their 20s, under intense pressure. Every once in a while someone drops into the tank from the outside world to add or subtract tension. The movie contains disturbing war violence, language includes sexual references, and there is some nudity which is perfect for the setting with close up photography nothing short of brilliant. The narrative is structured episodically and subtly shifts focus around each of the four main characters. The director gradually adds layers of development which place the audience firmly in each moment. Lebanon gives an insightful portrayal of men in war and is well worth your attention.