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 – 30 April 2013 Blu-ray
Following her recent Oscar win at this year’s Academy Awards, actress Jennifer Lawrence has quickly become the ‘it’ girl of the movie industry with decent performances in not only the celebrated Silver Linings Play Book but also cult favorite The Hunger Games. So Hollywood’s latest offering in the spooky suburban horror cannon, has Lawrence as a young woman who moves to a neighborhood with her mother (Elizabeth Shue, now officially Hollywood’s token MILF). There, stories circulate of the house next door (and subsequently at the end of the street) where a double murder happened four years previous, involving a teenage girl stabbing to death her parents. Shudder. But wait! There is a misunderstood survivor of the tragedy, the teenage son who lives alone at the house, and guess what? Lawrence starts to take interest in him.
Lawrence delivers a plucky, likable performance with Shue doing her usual over-protective mother thing (see: Piranha) and apart from a few creepy camera-angles, some effective jump-scares and generally good production values, this for the most part was nothing special. A mildly diverting twist in the later stages woke me up out of the doldrums, and the idea here, once all is revealed is a good one … but the wait to get there is just tiresome and clichéd. Stuck-up socialites looking down on the damaged boy, the girl who wants to make a difference etc. Supporting cast look like rejects from defunct TV series The OC, and yes we have a bully and his beer-swilling jock friends … yawn. Although Lawrence’s breasts in a tight Die-Hard vest almost steal the show towards the end … even her gradually brightening star status wasn’t enough to save this from bargain basement hell.
Verdict: 2 /5
- Jennifer Lawrence’s Legs Are On Full Display While Out Shopping In L.A. (PHOTO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- House at the End of the Street (2012) (filmoanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Could Jennifer Lawrence Have Been The Next Gisele? (huffingtonpost.com)
Viewed – 20 April 2013 Blu-ray
I thought this looked ‘different’ from the trailer. A very British black comedy / drama about 30 something couple Tina and Chris (Alice Lowe & Steve Oram) who go on a caravan holiday to Yorkshire Nothing that unusual here until a fellow tourist is killed when Chris runs him over with the caravan. Seemingly an accident, it isn’t long before Tina starts to suspect that Chris may be hiding a terrible secret.
Directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List) this is very much a tongue-in-cheek comedy but not of the laugh out loud variety, more the kind of movie you find your self smirking at due to the come-day-go-day behavior and British attitude to the situations. Tina seemed a rather simple-minded but likable woman who only wanted to see the good in Chris, escaping a home life of an oppressive, needy mother and a hum drum existence Whilst Chris was obviously disturbed, with way to many issues with the world, whilst trying his best to appear ‘normal’. The script is sharp and the dialogue often very funny (‘he’s not a human being, he’s a daily mail reader’) and its all shot with a keen eye for the bizarre and absurd (Tina writing a note to Chris with a massive pencil).
I especially liked how this movie constantly surprised me. Lowe and Oram were perfect and complex, suiting their parts well. Imaginative, daring, even gory at times, and very entertaining … and the sound track was excellent too. Essential.
Verdict: 5 /5
- Sightseers (robgemmellsview.wordpress.com)
- Steve Oram, star of Sightseers: Why I dressed up as a serial killer to go on holiday (metro.co.uk)
- New Sightseers Poster Is Proud of Being Average (dreadcentral.com)