In Bruges – 8.5/10

Standard

Film Title: In Bruges

 

It is so easy to say ‘the real star of In Bruges is Bruges itself’ but… you know… the real star of In Bruges IS Bruges itself. The Venice of the North is such a picturesque and eye catching place that every scene pops off the screen. The cast are also on sparkling form. Colin Farrell, thankfully not asked to put on an accent, is hilarious as the bewildered and grief stricken Ray handling both the humour and the heavier scenes with aplomb. This is the other main strength of In Bruges. Many other films struggle to shift gears from comedy to more serious fare, often losing focus but director Martin McDonagh does a great job holding things together. Brendan Gleeson is cuddly and enjoyable as ever but it is Ralph Fiennes who impresses most as menacing cockney gangster Harry (or ‘Arry to use the parlance of our times). In Bruges is another one of those films that doesn’t look anything special on paper but is a surprising gem if you give it a chance. You can’t really argue with *SPOILER* Colin Farrell karate chopping a dwarf can you?

Oculus – 8/10.

Standard

 

JE3_7854.NEF

 

Something as innocuous as a man buying a mirror leads to offensively horrible consequences that made me want to cry.

What do you actually look for when you decide to turn off the lights and watch a horror film? A few cheap scares? An overriding sense of dread? Unflinching horror seared into your brain forever? Well then Oculus is for you! Like other recent horror classics 1408, Session 9 and Grave Encounters, Oculus messes with the viewers head as much as the characters. Oculus takes lot of classic elements of the horror genre (Haunted item with a history of death and destruction, father turns against family, mirrors in general) and fuses them all together to create something fresh and really rather good. It is gorey but not gratuitously so and it plays on our biggest fears (‘I’m not safe in my own home’, ‘What if there was no way to escape’, etc). One thing Oculus is missing is a great actor. John Cusack turns a pretty naff idea into a modern horror classic in 1408 and Peter Mullan’s performance is the heart of Session 9 but the acting is a distraction in Oculus. I’m not a fan of Dr. Who but I always found Karen Gillan likeable and natural. Here her character is much more of the classic horror film mould of making ridiculous decisions and reacting to things in a completely unlikely way and just being generally unpleasant. There is also zero chemistry between the two main characters despite the fact they are supposed to be brother and sister. Could have been brilliant, ends up just being very good, but definitely genuinely frightening.

Good Will Hunting – 9/10.

Standard

51a486a70d5e790133

‘It’s not your fault.’

It is easy to understand upon watching Good Will Hunting why people thought that both director Gus Van Sant and executive producer Kevin Smith had something to do with the script writing process. Looking at Damon and Affleck in this film I will admit it is difficult to believe that two men with such terrible haircuts wrote such a wonderful script. Isolated, disenfranchised youth is nothing new but Damon and Affleck’s inspired script is more than a match to the likes of Catcher In The Rye in literature and Donnie Darko in cinema.
I like early Affleck but he had definitely not yet found his feet at this stage of his career, despite this he brings a lot of warmth to a script that obviously means a lot to both Affleck and Damon. The scene near the end where Affleck’s Chuckie tells Damon’s Will Hunting that it would be an insult to him if Hunting doesn’t use his gift to escape construction is particularly well acted and touching. So to the main event. Robin Williams tragic passing brought forth a huge outpouring of affection and it is for roles like this one that he is best loved. Film critic Barry Norman recently argued that Williams made more bad films than good but he is at the height of his powers in GWH and he rightly won an Oscar (along with the aforementioned script). He seems to be just as invested in this film as Damon and Affleck and he has a brilliant on screen presence with both Damon and Stellan Skarsgård. I personally never saw the appeal of Minnie Driver in this film but she was also Oscar nommed so someone somewhere obviously did. That is a minor gripe though. One of the best films of the nineties.

The Zero Theorem – 7/10.

Standard

article-0-1C1C2BB500000578-393_634x374

Bald man grapples with dystopia whilst staring at various women’s breasts.

Anyone who has seen any of Terry Gilliams’ previous work ( Twelve Monkeys, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus(!) etc) will know that he is a bit of an oddball. I have always felt if he was a bit more b̶o̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ serious like Terrence Malick say, he would be a lot more appreciated in high brow circles but instead he infuses his lofty ambitions with humour and colour. The dystopia featured in ZT obviously owes a debt to 1984 but to be fair it is almost impossible not to and he does bring his own visual style to the table. I quite like main player Christophe Waltz (although I feel he has never got close to equaling Inglorious Basterds). Waltz grows into the role but Matt Damon steals every scene he is in. If you are into deep and meaningful symbolic stuff and you like TG’s previous work then you should definitely give this a shot. Stick with it too, the last half an hour is much better than the opening.

A Little Princess – 7/10.

Standard

Little-Princess_l

Old crone reacts in an incredibly out of proportion way to slightly annoying goody two shoes child.

A Little Princess continues the time honored tradition of children’s films featuring unspeakable cruelty and violence in the vein of peers, The Lion King (Father is trampled to death in front of son), Bambi (Mother is shot to death in front of son) and Oliver! (Homely and caring woman is beaten to death by a drunk). ALP doesn’t quite plunge those depths of tragedy but ‘wealthy girl becomes a slave after father is killed in the war’ is right up there. Despite this A Little Princess recovers to be a genuinely heart warming tale. Not a great deal to be said for the acting, child actors are notoriously awful though. Elsewhere it really does look great, Davos Seaworth features (for any GOT aficionados out there) and I must admit it did make me smile. I would actually say essential viewing for anyone under 11 but a lot to like as a cynical, miserable old bastard as well.

The Departed – 9.5/10.

Standard

The_Departed

 

One of the best casts ever assembled punch each other whilst being cool as fuck.

Director Martin Scorsese’s long term friend and collaborator Robert De Niro was the first choice to play imposing crime boss Frank Costello but he had to to decline as he was busy directing a much more po faced and boring flick The Good Shepherd. Scorsese instead settled on Jack Nicholson and that stroke of good fortune breathes a new lease of life into The Departed. De Niro is great but we have seen him play this kind of character numerous times under Scorsese and Nicholson is on blinding form here. Snapping, shouting and snarling his way through the film like The Joker, Jack Torrance and R.P. McMurphy combined, Jacky is a revelation. Elsewhere the verbal interplay between Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberb, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin is a joy and Di Caprio even by his immaculate standards really shines. As we have come to expect from Scorsese the direction and the choice of soundtrack are absolutely impeccable. The action is breathless and ongoing in the vain of Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street rather than more considered slow burners Raging Bull and Casino, this puts The Departed right up there with Scorsese’s best work.

Goodfellas – 10/10.

Standard

goodfellas-banner

Forget The Godfather. This is the don of gangster movies.

What is possibly most startling is that almost 25 years on and following many viewings Goodfellas not only stands up but remains shocking and utterly essential viewing. Endlessly quotable, career best performances from Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta plus the excellent Paul Sorvino as imposing mob boss Paulie, and a typically outstanding turn from De Niro add up to produce not only one of the best films in this genre but quite simply one of the greatest films ever made. It is astonishing that you could quite easily argue this is not in Scorsese’s top three films such is the quality of his output but Goodfellas will always hold a special place in my heart as it served as an introduction to his work. As always with Scorsese’s work the attention to detail is overwhelming. Real life mobsters filled in as extras and several people involved in the real life of Henry Hill either play themselves or pop up elsewhere resulting in a film that it is easy to get lost in. As with The Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese doesn’t try to present Henry Hill in any particular way he just tells the story and lets you make your own mind up. It is one of the Oscars biggest travesty’s that Goodfellas lost out to Dances With Wolves but Pesci taking home a statue for Best Supporting Actor at least softens the blow somewhat.