Viewed – 12 May 2013 Pay-per-view
On hearing of the Tsunami disaster boxing day 2010 in Thailand, I think I was not alone for feeling great sorrow for all those that had suffered and died. It shook the world and put usual yuletide spirits on a major downer. So with the disaster still clear in my head, I sat down to watch this dramatization, based on the true story of one family, with much anticipation.
This stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as a couple, who along with their three boys journey to an island resort in Thailand. However their enjoyment of the holiday is cut short when an unexpected tidle wave hits the beach, and destroys everything in its path. Watts becomes separated from her husband, and we watch with anticipation as the family struggle to find each other again. This is a very powerful and emotionally draining experience. Shot with incredible detail and raw believability by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and with several excellent performances, not just from Watts (who was Oscar nominated) and McGregor but also the child actors playing the couples kids … this is a movie about survival and about a family. I found myself really caught up in their plight and even had a tear (or two) in my eye at times.
I really can’t praise this enough. It doesn’t gloss over the true horror of what happened and shows us every detail to harrowing effect. Naomi Watts really should have got the Oscar for her very human and traumatic turn, but I’d also give the nod to director Bayona, who considering this is his English language debut, has done astonishing work here … clearly a name to look out for. How some of the reenactment of the Tsunami was done, I still can’t get my head around.
Verdict: 5 /5
Viewed – 11 May 2013 Blu-ray
For some time I have been an admirer of the acting skills of Philip Seymour Hoffman, even though I haven’t seen that many of his movies. He was a great villain in Mission Impossible 3 and also very good in movies like the 25th Hour and Boogie Nights, which brings me nicely to this latest Oscar nominated offering from the same director as Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who has gained no small amount of acclaim for movies like There Will Be Blood and Magnolia.
Unmistakably inspired by the early days of Scientology, Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a man who leads a gathering of people and teaches a philosophy on life, that some would call a cult. After a chance encounter with a damaged, alcoholic drifter and former World War II navel officer (Joaquin Phoenix), Lancaster promises to turn this man’s life around, if he agrees to follow his teachings. Co-starring Amy Adams as Lancaster’s straight talking wife and with a world-weary performance from an increasingly unhinged-looking Phoenix this was at first hard to get into, not helped by Phoenix’s muffled dialogue. However once Hoffman turns up this became a lot more interesting. I have always wondered about the background of Scientology, and although this isn’t based on fact, it certainly opened my mind to an alternative to religion and could see how it might appeal to people. However the movie does show that such beliefs can be attacked or questioned, and each time this happens, Hoffman or Phoenix’s reaction is either abusive or violent, threatening to reveal the real danger behind such so-called cult followings.
Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted an intriguing story with classy direction and some eye-catching visuals, showing off the period attractively. Performances are decent, especially Hoffman, manipulative and charming as Lancaster Dodd, and although moments of explicit dialogue and nudity seemed out of place for what is otherwise a fairly gentle drama … I still enjoyed this. I suppose it could have delved a bit deeper and Phoenix’s character remained rather unlikable … but overall this was enjoyable enough for me to recommend it.
Verdict: 3.5 /5
- Review: The Master (2012) – Paul Thomas Anderson (Bluray) (fastfilmjudge.wordpress.com)
- Reviewing Oscar Nominated Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master’, starring Philip Seymor Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams (sashankkini.wordpress.com)
- The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson (hkauteur.wordpress.com)
- Review: The Master (2012) (thefilmoracle.wordpress.com)
Viewed – 07 May 2013 Blu-ray
One of the darlings of this year’s Academy Awards, based on the best selling novel by Yann Martel and scooping Best Director for Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) – I came to this with high expectations. Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrates the story of a fantastic adventure to a young writer (Rafe Spall) as the movie flashbacks of his childhood under the influence of his domineering father leading to a shipwreck following the family’s journey to move to Canada along with their Zoo. A teenage Pi soon finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal Tiger for company, and has to find a way of surviving in the pacific ocean.
Immediately this is a beautiful movie … from the stunning scenery of India to the majestic ocean and the night time wonders, I found this a real treat for the eyes. The young actor playing Pi (Suraj Sharma) is both likable and a bit goofy, but believable and the effects work here for the Tiger (and various other animals and creatures – including meerkats!) is nothing short of amazing. What does seem to let this down however is a rather pedestrian pace and a story that isn’t quite as fantastic as the opening moments lead you to believe It’s basically two hours of a boy trying not to get eaten by a tiger. Granted the gradual bond that forms is well observed and some of the more spiritual themes and cultural observations are quite captivating … with Pi’s belief in God carrying him through much of the hardships. But like many a movie that is hyped with publicity and awards – I didn’t think this lived up to such expectations The story drags in places where it should shine, such as the overlong boat sequence that makes up the heart of the movie, and when things do develop, well, it’s pretty much over.
A movie you should definitely see if you love gorgeous visuals, foreign cultures and wildlife – but maybe not one to see, if you want a totally gripping experience.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 06 May 2013 Blu-ray
I recall enjoying the British science fiction comics 2000 A.D. and Judge Dredd Magazine throughout my childhood and often wondered what a movie adaptation would be like. Over the years since I discovered that perhaps this rich universe wasn’t quite so easy to adapt after witnessing the fun but disappointing Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone, who seemed miss-cast in such an iconic role. However now we come to the second attempt to bring this character to the big screen, and rest assured, they seem to have got it (mostly) right this time.
Karl Urban stars as Dredd, one of several future cops who are basically judge, jury and executioner on the mean streets of Mega City One, America’s last surviving city in the middle of a wasteland. Teaming up with psychic rookie ‘Anderson’ (a complex Olivia Thurlby) and called out to a routine triple homicide at a large apartment complex, these two mismatched law enforcers soon find themselves trapped in the building after the mobster ruling over it, Ma-Ma (a wonderfully evil Lena Headey) locks it down. Echoes of Korean martial arts actioner The Raid immediately entered my mind along with thoughts of the first Die Hard movie, and to be honest I was shocked. The Judge Dredd comics had a huge world to pick from with many characters and locations … and the movie chooses to stick to this one, claustrophobic setting? Okay … well let me just say, it works a treat delivering a violent and intense experience that not only perfectly captures the character of Dredd (and fans rejoice - Karl Urban never removes his helmet) but also delivers a full on action-fest.
Director Pete Travis has made a very stylish and enjoyably gory movie that hits hard. Africa’s Cape Town standing in for Mega City One is stunning in it’s architecture and the subtle use of CGI helped create a believable futuristic world without overwhelming. Slow motion effects showing the use of a black market drug are also impressive, and overall I had a great time. Yes for such an iconic character and universe – there is so much more that could have been done here, but perhaps playing to it’s strengths rather than blowing the budget was the right choice.
Verdict: 4 /5
- Movie Review: Dredd (2012) (johnreviewsmovies.wordpress.com)
- Karl Urban is the law – Review of Dredd (2012) (filmdays.me)
- Get Ready to Experience the True Colors of the Law in Judge Dredd Classics! (graphicpolicy.com)