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Film Review #7



The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


Everyone has those ‘great films’ that everyone seems to love and go on about yet they have not seen them themselves, top of the IMDB ratings list and talked about by many of my friends – for me ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ was one of those films. The film follows the tale of two men together in Shawshank Prison, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and ‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman). The film is a narrative of Andy’s life in prison, told through the eyes of Red, a man who has spent almost his whole life there.

The tale that is told is as the film’s title suggests, one of redemption as well as the development of friendship between Andy and Red. The film’s tale of redemption is a relatively simple one to follow although it is how this tale is told that makes the film so powerful to the viewer. Each scene feels compelling and powerful, each treated with the same respect, with great detail and emotional depth with almost every sub-plot explored, the acting is brilliant and the viewer feels exactly what Andy has to suffer.


Throughout the film we become accustomed to prison life, the brutal treatment from the warden and the officers, the harsh life that becomes inevitable to Andy who accepts he will be beaten and taken advantage of. Despite the harsh realities of prison life Andy seems to take battle on, living a happy life at terms with what he now accepts despite insisting his innocence, he makes the most of life happily helping out those around him and willingly taking on board huge projects for himself such as the warden’s (Bob Gunton) financial work, the prison library and the education of a young prisoner Tommy (Gil Bellows).


The film is shown powerfully through emotional development through the characters and the great attention paid to its scenes, and unlike others which you see filled with fast-paced scenes and computer effects, the focus is not on that but instead the message that is displayed through the great work of Frank Darabont. It’s the touching effect that the film has on the viewer that sees it held in such high regard by the majority and see it top film lists such as ‘IMDB’s Top 250’. The adaptation is brilliant and Darabont gives us a great portrayal of the harsh prison life that is shown accurately through well-paced scenes and perfect acting.


The film’s ‘twist’ is great, and acts as an explanation as to Andy’s behaviour inside the prison, how he has come to accept and is willing to live the harsh prison life despite protesting his innocence knowing that he’ll have to endure the torture if he wants to come out as planned. But the film is not just your typical fairytale or happy prison escape, although redemptions are completed it is shown that life outside is not everything you may expect and that itself can be harsh, uncertain and challenging. This is shown through James Whitmore’s fantastic performance as Brooks Hatlen, a man who has become so accustomed to prison life that he finds himself unable to cope with the outside world.


The Shawshank Redemption failed to win a single Oscar after being nominated for seven, with it being in competition to other great films such as Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. I personally regard Pulp Fiction as one of my favourite films and almost everyone loves Forest Gump like many others but The Shawshank Redemption is different, it has been more successful after release following initial failure at box office and I think that’s because the story appeals to everyone, like I’ve said it’s powerful, compelling and it has seems to effect everyone with its warm and heart-touching story, it has grown based on its affect on people who will discuss and recommend it to others.


Is The Shawshank Redemption the best film of all time? Probably not, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of the high praise it receives. A masterpiece for what it intends to be, an emotional and compelling tale that is told in a beautiful way that you’ll struggle to find in many other films. This film is one that appeals to many for good reason and if you’re one of those people who haven’t seen the film yet, then I certainly recommend you do.

RATING:



Film Review #8 (got a few more reviews to get to current time but thought I'd post this anyway as I've just seen it)



The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


The Dark Knight Rises is a solid ending to a great trilogy from Christopher Nolan. Whilst by no means bad, I just didn’t feel the film was a strong as its predecessors for a number of reasons, in this film Nolan has stretched out a story in to almost three hours, the first is largely focussed on getting us up to speed after an eight year jump, looking at the hurt of such characters as Bruce Wayne, the second is largely one of pain as we as the viewers feel through Bane’s success and Wayne’s exile, the final part of the film is its strongest and brings a fitting end to one of the best trilogies there has been.

Starting with the films’ positives I feel that we saw a much better performance from Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne as the film focussed much more on the emotional side of the character than it had in The Dark Knight. If you watch Batman Begins and miss out the second part of the trilogy then the two seem more of a pair in my opinion in terms of the development of Batman himself.

The film also saw a very strong supporting cast as Michael Caine gave another great performance as Wayne’s butler Alfred with many emotional scenes shared with the actor. We also saw Anne Hathaway silence her critics with a good performance as Catwoman, I was initially concerned with how this character would work in conjunction with the main plot and thankfully I feel Nolan got this character spot on like he has with many others. The star of the show for me though was Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a very strong performance as the young police officer Blake, his character becomes increasingly involved as the film progresses.

Following the Oscar winning performance by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight people were always going to pay close attention to the villain in this film. Tom Hardy plays the brutal Bane, a character whose figure is similar to that portrayed by Hardy in Bronson. Bane is what you’d expect from a scary looking masked villain, his character is cold-hearted and pure evil. Although the character’s past is explained his emotional side seems to be left largely unexplored, he brings little character or personality, his motives are also somewhat odd – he targets the upper classes of society with attacks on a football game as well as the stock market but then he also claims that his goal is to complete the work of Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins which seems strange considering that his plan was to destroy a city he saw was beyond saving yet Gotham City has seen 8 years of peace.

Elaborating on some of my original points, I think Nolan’s tried to too hard with his final piece, he’s tried to make it a well-paced emotional study of Batman, he’s tried to focus on his suffering and then on his rise using almost three hours of screen time to create a epic conclusion. The length of the film means it takes a while to get in to the action (although it is probably worth it) and that when we are watching scenes of suffering we feel the pain as viewers, although this is probably the idea. I won’t speak about the ending at all, that’s not fair for those who haven’t seen it.

RATING:





Drive (2011)


Drive is one of my favourite films post-2000, a film that in my opinion was definitely worthy of more than 1 Oscar nomination. The film is focussed around the mysterious life of a Hollywood stuntman who is also a getaway driver as he gets mixed up in the brutal criminal world. The feel of the film is brilliant with Nicolas Widning Refn’s cinematography creating a wonderful neo-noir style film with a fantastic 80’s atmosphere that is aided by Frank Martinez’ wonderful score.

The plot revolves around the life of Ryan Gosling who is excellent in his mysterious role; he befriends a young mother Irene (Carey Mulligan) whose husband returns home from jail. After watching the first part of the film you’ll probably have expected it to pan out as a romance story between the Driver and Irene as he saves her from her abusive husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), instead we get something quite different with Standard proving a rather charming and likeable father who seriously looks to have left his criminal lifestyle, the Driver agrees to help him carry out one final task for men he owes money – but not everything goes to plan.

A line I often see mentioned with the film is its tag line ‘There are no clean getaways’ and that is certainly the most appropriate description of what unfolds as the Driver sees himself become head-hunted by criminal bosses Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), the film is ultra-violent and very brutal so it is understandable why some may be uncomfortable watching it.

Elaborating on an earlier point about Ryan Gosling’s excellent performance, some may criticise the character’s lack of emotion because he rarely speaks but this only adds to the mystery of just who he is. Gosling creates a calm and charismatic character whose past we know nothing of and he simply does what he needs to now, what we see are strong outbursts of violence from the character as a result of the plot that unfolds with him trying to protect his friend Irene, he carries the burden of her husband’s death with him throughout the film and feels he has a degree of responsibility to protect her.

Nicolas Winding Refn is one of my favourite directors and one that should certainly be watched in the future, in Drive he has taken classic neo-noir style and has put his own print on it, he reminds me of Quentin Tarantino whose works are often inspired by classic films/styles (Samurai, Westerns etc.) yet he finds a way to make them his own.

RATING:



Great review,
I agree, this was a fantastic film and really kept you thinking as the story unfolded. Ryan Gosling did a good job. To be honest, he frustrated me a little at the beginning of the film because I like to get to know my characters but he wasn't giving anything away. However, as the film progresses I think we do get to know him as we see his good nature shine through.

I highly recommend this one.
__________________
“Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” The Road

My Top 10's
Thrillers / Comedy / Horror





Rear Window (1954)


Considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, ‘Rear Window’ follows the life L. B. Jeffries, portrayed brilliantly by James Stewart as a man trapped inside his own apartment following a leg injury. Temporarily in a wheelchair, the frustrated photographer spends his days staring outside of his rear window, observing the events of those around him, finding himself the witness of what he believes to be a murder.

Grace Kelly plays the part of Jeffries’ partner, Lisa Fremont as Hitchcock introduces us initially to the lives of the film’s main characters for which we spend the majority of the first part of the film getting to know. It’s through an incredibly detailed set, natural sound and great, natural shots that the viewer becomes involved in the film. Disabled, unable to move and only being able to see, from a distance, the actions of his neighbours, Jeffries’ feels trapped and frustrated and his emotions can be felt in the way the film is displayed.

Hitchcock, known as the master of suspense certainly lives up to this title in the film. Throughout we see the characters left in worrying and potentially dangerous situations, the viewer feels exactly like Jeffries on looking from a distance at situations developing beyond any type of control, wanting to intervene but ultimately being prevented to do so, frustratingly.

The set and camera-work is utilised to the best it can be by Hitchcock who uses Jeffries’ position ‘spying’ on others to explore a number of interesting sub-plots such as Miss Lonelyhearts lonely life, in one great scene she is scene acting out a dinner with herself, raising a glass to herself, an action mirrored by Jeffries who is watching.

‘Rear Window’ combines a mysterious thriller with romance, with a slight humorous and ironic feel as well. But the film is far from being violent; it’s not a film in which the crime is a spectacle for the viewer but instead one that crime creates an eerie and worrying atmosphere through the mysterious and unknown possibilities. Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald gives a chilling performance, he is not needed to display himself emotionally for the majority which only builds up our expectations of the mysterious character before the film’s final scenes occur, and the truth is revealed.

Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ is a great film and an extremely entertaining one to watch for so many reasons with great acting, brilliantly efficient use of a seemingly limiting set/location through excellent camera work and shots which help generate a mysterious and worrying atmosphere, creating suspense that builds up for the film’s final scenes.

RATING:





The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)


Part of the ‘Man with no name’ Trilogy, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ is the third film produced by Sergio Leone in which Blondie (The Good, portrayed by Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (The Ugly, portrayed by Eli Wallach) form an uncomfortable alliance in the hunt for gold in a race against Sentenza/Angel Eyes (The Bad, portrayed by Lee Van Cleef).

The film is set around the time of the American Civil war, and despite being the third instalment of what has become known as a trilogy, it is the first chronologically. The three films are not connected in any way other than the mysterious man with no name and can be watched in any order without spoiling each other although many will recommend them in the order of ‘Fistful of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars more’ and then finally ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ simply for the reason that we can view Sergio Leone’s progression as a director, each film arguably outdoing each other, with ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ often regarded as his best ever film.

Throughout the film such an atmosphere is created that the viewer can feel the uncomfortable tension generated from the uneasy relationship of the characters, although some scenes feel tough and possibly slow, Leone uses his environment to maximise such feelings such as the scene where Tuco drags Blondie through the desert, close to death.

Having viewed the extended version of the film, I am yet to view the cut version and with some great scenes being cut such as the alcoholic union officer I find it hard to understand why such scenes would be. The film can possibly be divided in to two halves; the first is a more longwinded insight in to each three of the characters as Leone introduces us in to the lives of each, the second sees more fast paced action as the chase for gold accelerates, with the unpredictable characters competing against each other for a $200,000 dollar reward.

Although Clint Eastwood is often regarded as the main character and the face of the film, Tuco finds himself having far more dialogue than his partner in what is a fantastic performance by a criminal who as the film title suggests, shows many ugly characteristics, however we perhaps find ourselves feeling sorry for a man who seems to show genuine emotions in certain scenes such as when he meets his brother, the head of a church.

No review of ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ would be complete without a mention for Ennio Morricone who adds magical and often haunting music that creates some fantastic and dramatic scenes. The film features probably one of the best musical scores ever for a film and Morricone’s music is regarded as one of best features of Sergio Leone’s Westerns.

The final, inevitable scene emerges as the result of all these fantastic ingredients, fantastic acting and each character’s attitude can be seen, Leone uses his close-up and dramatic style and Morricone compliments it brilliantly with his fantastic music. The film is in my opinion Leone’s greatest ever film and possibly the greatest Western created.

RATING:





12 Angry Men (1957)


“12 Angry Men” follows the trail of a young man whose life lies in the hands of the jury, 12 men who each have their own prejudices and preconceptions that influence their voting throughout the process.

Directed by Sidney Lumet and set in his favourite New York City, the film takes place entirely in the court room on what is the hottest day of the year. We do not see the trial take place but it soon becomes clear how the earlier events unfolded.

At the start of the film it appears that from the trial and the facts given the young man is almost certainly guilty. With 11 men willing to immediately vote guilty it is Henry Fonda who goes against the majority, voting not guilty as he is not willing to accept the verdict so easily, convinced that a much better job could have been done by the incompetent lawyer, with many questions that he wants answered.

When questioned over his decision to vote not guilty and whether he actually thinks that the young man did not kill his father, Fonda explains how although it is very likely he did kill his father it is also possible that he did not as he attempts to change the votes of his fellow jurors, explaining that the decision should not be taken lightly and that to vote guilty they must have no reasonable doubt.

Each Juror takes their turn to explain their own view of what happened as it soon becomes clear that the evidence provided in the trial has left many holes, resulting in many questions being asked and causing doubt over the plausibility of much of it.

After watching the film by brother said to me how he would have preferred to know what actually happened and whether or not the young man did murder his father. I disagreed with him, this film is not a murder mystery where there is a given conclusion gained from piecing together pieces of the puzzle. Guilty or Not Guilty, it is still incredibly likely that the young boy did kill his father however this is not the point, as Fonda reiterates throughout the film ‘it is possiblethat he did not and due to the poor work of the young man’s lawyer there is enough room for reasonable doubt.

Although Fonda is the only ‘big name’ star to appear in the film, each juror is portrayed superbly, all as very different characters. We see the very brave old man, Juror #9 who is willing to support Fonda in the possibility of the young man being not guilty. We see Juror #3 who is adamant of the young man’s guilt throughout with is own personal relationship with his son resulting in an emotional scene towards the film’s end. Then we have Juror #7, a man whom from the start of the film is more concerned over a baseball game than the case itself and is willing to switch his vote that could result in the life and death of a man simply because he wants to speed up the process. A lot of the opinions throughout are based on racist preconceptions as the young man is constantly referred to as ‘one of them’ as his tough upbringing is criticised, we see Juror #10 unleash a racist attack as he votes guilty towards the end of the film, this is to the disgust to the rest of the table who leave the table and turn their backs on the man.

As the film is set entirely in one room, it relies heavily on the visual work of Lumet who uses a variety of camera and lens techniques to attribute to the feel and increase the tension in the room. We see the camera close in on the Jurors as the film goes on, and different level shots used effectively such as the close up view of Juror #9 at the beginning of the film as he tries to express his point to the other men. The film continues many memorable scenes in addition to the breakdown of Juror #3 and the racist rant of Juror #10, perhaps my favourite of the film is the switch-knife scene with Henry Fonda.

The film is unlike many modern films that rely on fast paced, action filled scenes. An extremely intelligent plot with great use of various shooting techniques makes this a very clever and enjoyable film – a masterpiece that is seen by many as one of the best of all time.

RATING:



I just want to say I have read through this thread and I really enjoyed it. The reviews are all great, and it helps that I love most of the movies you have reviewed, apart from Drive, which I really want to see, may buy it when I get paid. Your review has definately swung me to buying it actually.

In regards to keeping blogs I have all my reviews backed up on a site called Movie-Blogger.com, this site allows you to post all your reviews, if you looking to back up your reviews or get them to a wider audience it may be worth checking out. Here is my profile

http://www.movie-blogger.com/users/grahamb



I just want to say I have read through this thread and I really enjoyed it. The reviews are all great, and it helps that I love most of the movies you have reviewed, apart from Drive, which I really want to see, may buy it when I get paid. Your review has definately swung me to buying it actually.

In regards to keeping blogs I have all my reviews backed up on a site called Movie-Blogger.com, this site allows you to post all your reviews, if you looking to back up your reviews or get them to a wider audience it may be worth checking out. Here is my profile

http://www.movie-blogger.com/users/grahamb
Thanks for the kind words and will give that site a look at
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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

“3:10 to Yuma” follows the story of a rancher Dan Evans, portrayed by Christian Bale who agrees to escort a brutal wanted criminal Ben Wade, portrayed Russell Crowe to the Contention train station so he can board the 3:10 train to Yuma, to be trialled for his multiple murders and other crimes in court.

Being a big fan of classic Westerns, particularly those of Sergio Leone, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing James Mangold’s more modern effort at a Western film. Unlike the classics, this film is generally set as a faster pace as the group of men who agree to escort Ben Wade find themselves facing many obstacles on their way to Contention, more specifically the threat from Wade’s men who he himself describes as ‘animals’ as they attempt to rescue their leader.

Key to the film are the performances by its actors. Christian Bale performs extremely well in his role as a small-time rancher, a man who lost his leg in the civil war and is trying is best, although struggling, to support his family. The film starts by making these difficulties clear with Evans’ barn being burnt down following a missed payment to the local landowner. Although Wade is seen as a brutal criminal he appears to respect Dan whom he even corporate with at times as he attempts to gain a reward that would result in financial security for his family who appear to be losing faith with him.

Wade’s character is certainly the most interesting in the film; he attempts to psych out the rest of the group, having seemingly normal conversations with them at times such as his discussion with Evans’ wife Alice. Although Wade is supposed to be a monster, at times he seems far from it. Unlike the rest of his group he is organised and intelligent; he is willing to spare the life of Dan Evans on many occasions and even appears to have his own set of principles that become apparent throughout the film.

Minor spoilers in upcoming paragraph

The final scenes between the two main characters in which Evans and Wade are the last two men left as Evans attempts to complete his journey to the train station sees a fantastic ending to the film. We see the contrast between the cold-hearted animals that work under Wade, and Ben Wade himself who’s respect for Evans reaches its highest point as the two share conversation and Wade allows Evans to complete his task.

For a film like this to be successful, along with its leading roles it also needs equally good supporting roles. The supporting actors in this film are superb with one of the best performances coming from Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, Ben Wade’s right hand man who fulfils the role of pack leader in Wade’s absence. There are strong suggestions throughout the film that Charlie Prince, or Charlie ‘Princess’ as McElroy refers to him, may be gay. His passion towards saving Wade is extremely strong as he convinces the group to rescue him after ‘all he’s done for them’, his role in the final scene is extremely powerful as we once again see the divide between in character of Wade and the rest of his gang. Peter Fonda (whose father starred in the great Western “Once Upon a Time in the West”) is also brilliant in his portrayal of the greedy Byron McElroy, a man who seems to have no problem with the killing of innocent people, as long as he receives his pay.

The film is a fantastic effort at a modern Western with superb performances from both its leading and supporting actors. The psychological study of Ben Wade, a character who although is a brutal murder can connect on a normal level with many and holds Evans in high respect is particularly interesting – I wont spoil the ending but I find it fitting following the relationship and portrayal of the individual characters throughout as the paths of Wade, Evans and Prince inevitably cross.

Note: At time of writing, I had not seen the original film hence no comparisons

RATING:





A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

To start I should say that I haven’t seen the Japanese film “Yojimbo”, the film that Sergio Leone has transformed in to a Western with this film so this review is based solely on this film and not the comparisons and parallels to it’s ‘original’.

“A Fistful of Dollars” is the first film in the now famous dollars trilogy of Sergio Leone. The film sees the introduction of the famous ‘Man with No Name” portrayed by Clint Eastwood as he stumbles upon a town that appears to be constantly in a power struggle between two rival families.

Acting as the opportunist, ‘Joe’ (as he is referred to by the undertaker, although this is due to it being a common name) decides to cleverly pit the two families against each other. Upon entering the town he quickly shows the rest of the town, and us viewers what he is all about, unhappy at the actions of one of the families who shot at to scare his Mule he responds by using his gun shooting skills to kill those responsible. It becomes clear that he is to become a hero and end the feud between the families.

Although Leone’s trilogy can be viewed in any order the viewer wishes to it is almost always suggested by film fans that they be watched in the order they were created for the purpose of seeing Leone’s improvement as a director. Although this film is not held in such high regard as Leone’s more recent works such as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” it is a fantastic Western in which we are introduced to what we now know as some of Leone’s famous techniques, style and themes that can be seen throughout his works. The film is referred to as the beginning of the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, a nickname given to mock the attempts of a low budget director who attempted to enter the American Western Genre with low budget films shot in the Italian and Spanish deserts.

This film sees the introduction of many Leone Trademarks that have made him one of the most celebrated directors and synonymous with the ‘Spaghetti Western’ genre. We see the trademark long shots and close up of the character’s faces. We get to hear the sound of Ennio Morricone’s wonderful music that he has become famous for in Leone’s films. Like it’s sequel “For a few Dollars more” we also see a similar style plot in which the story is not so straightforward and the hero runs in to many obstacles along the way with the situation constantly changing for him.

The main focus of the film is undoubtedly the character of Clint Eastwood who works well as the hero, with the film inevitably ending in confrontation between him and the infamous local leader Ramón Rojo as we get our first taste of Leone’s widescreen duels between the hero and his enemy. Ramón is portrayed by Gian Maria Volonté, an Italian actor who also portrays the main villain in “For a Few Dollars More”. Aside from Eastwood and Volonté the film sees little of any other characters in what is quite a simple plot, the introduction of Lee Van Cleef for the final two films of the trilogy shows improvement from Leone as a director as he offers stronger support to the leading actor Clint Eastwood.

For any fans of Westerns, I am guessing you have already seen “A Fistful of Dollars”, if you haven’t then I strongly recommend you do, followed by the other two films in Leone’s fantastic trilogy. Although not remembered as a masterpiece, the film is remembered as the beginning of Sergio Leone who is now often labelled as not only the pioneer of ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, but one of the best directors of all time.

RATING:





American Beauty (1999)


Released in 1999, “American Beauty” was the winner of 5 Oscars including ‘Best Picture’. One of the awards that most will associate with the film is the ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ that was won by Kevin Spacey for his portrayal of Lester Burnham.

Lester Burnham is a man whose life is riddled with problems. Married for many years, he is constantly arguing with his wife who has grown tired of her husband and his attitude, he is unloved by his rebellious daughter and he is fed up with his job. He fears the rest of his miserable life.

After seeing his daughter perform as a cheerleader, Burnham finally finds something to be happy about in his life as he becomes infatuated by his daughter’s beautiful teenage friend. Although this may sound wrong, the film is not about a perverted man in his 40s who is attempting to sleep with a young teenage girl; it is about the beauty that he sees in her, something that he has not been able to experience recently in his life. This results in a change in lifestyle for Burnham who decides to on a careless search for happiness and freedom that involves quitting his job, working out, and splashing out on luxuries such as a brand new car.

Many scenes involving Burnham are very funny, although ultimately we are laughing at the life of this sad man who faces many problems in a crisis period of his life. In particular the “Smile! You’re at Mr. Smiley’s” is a great scene that shows the problems Burnham is facing and how they have created a new, crazy character who seeks a new life.

Lester Burnham is not the only character that appears to be suffering in their life. Ricky Fitts, portrayed by Wes Bentley is a character that is laughed at in school and bullied at home by his strict and homophobic father, a war colonel who has implemented his strict disciplinary techniques at home for his son. Ricky is incredible lonely and leads a depressing life, like Lester he seeks his own freedom, gaining happiness from his video recordings of the world’s beauty that many overlook.

The film cleverly interlinks its plots, resulting in a final scene that occurs as a result of the lives of all its characters. The ending is perhaps inevitable from the start, we begin find out the truth about many of the characters, Angela (Mena Suvari), the teenage girl that Lester has fallen for is not who she seems, hiding behind an alter ego she has created to fit in with society. The same hidden character is shown by Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) who reveals his true self after misinterpreting the relationship of Lester Burnham and his son Ricky Fitts.

American Beauty is a powerful film that takes a realistic look at the lives of people who are sad, lonely and not what they appear on the outside. All round there are many great performances in the film but none better than Kevin Spacey in perhaps his best performance as an actor who portrays Lester Burnham perfectly as a man who seeks happiness once again in his life.

RATING:





Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The last time I had seen a film starring Johnny Depp before this one I was watching “Donnie Brasco” where the young actor portrays an informant within the Italian-American mafia, “Edward Scissorhands” sees him in a role he has become more famous for portraying, an eccentric and strange character like many of his other works with Tim Burton.

I was expecting something slightly different here, a plot that would involve the secretive discover of Edward by a young woman where he would have to eventually gain the acceptance of the local town that view him with disgust. The film’s plot is quite the opposite from my expectations, Burton starts the film by immediately throwing Edward in to an ordinary home where the locals happily accept him, there are no questions asked over his bizarre appearance such as why he doesn’t have hands, but this is okay for the purpose of the film.

The locals are initially curious and appreciative of Edward and they are more than happy to allow him to do jobs for them such as hedge cutting and hairdressing. The mood soon changes for the worse after Edward is involved in a robbery, then his character takes a turn for the worse as a downward spiral of events lead to the town turning against him.

Edward is an almost silent being, he rarely speaks, and he seems gentle and isolated, a strange character that doesn’t seem to have any emotional feelings towards the rest of the world. It is only towards the end of the film when Edward is treated as a monster that we start to sympathise with this ‘monster’ who has been unfairly made out to be the victim, only loved by one young girl, Kim (Winona Ryder).

The ending is inevitable, and to be honest it’s not that good. Despite the towns best efforts of accepting Edward, when things turn bad there is only one way things can end for Edward.

Edward Scissorhands is certainly not a bad film by Tim Burton, but in my opinion it could have been much better, once we begin with Edward’s easy acceptance from the locals we know things can only get worse and the ending is both inevitable and ‘easy’. Edward like many of Burton’s lead characters is an empty one, Depp plays the role well but there is little needed in terms of personality, and it is only at the end that we really feel sorry for him following the rapid change in opinion towards him.

RATING:



Thats a great review of American Beauty. I havn't seen that in ages but I really enjoyed it. I really like the music on it. It is a unique twist on the typical teen movies of the time and a real breath of fresh of fresh air.

Keep up the reviews, they are great.





2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


When watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” it is hard to imagine that the film was made in 1968. The film is incredibly scientifically accurate, and the sets and props used seem perfect, the world in which Stanley Kubrick has created for this film is simply brilliant.

Before watching the film I really didn’t know what to expect, everyone I had asked about the film had found it difficult to explain the basic plot. After watching the film I now understand why, the film itself is very ambiguous, something that Kubrick admits to, a film that is open to the individual theories of the viewers after watching.

The reason for the exploration first to the moon and then to Jupiter is the discovery of mysterious black ‘Monoliths’, objects which act as MacGuffins for the majority of the film. I have read that in the original book that the objects are explained more in detail and we know what they are, in the film we do not know what they are, how the exist and what they do, they are simply markers that appear at different points in the story of evolution.

The film begins with the dawn of man, a group of apes that discover the first Monolith, an object which they are fascinated by. However the most important discovery for them is that of the bone as a useful tool as one ape uses it as a weapon against each other. At the end of the ape scene we see the ape through his tool up in the air after using it to his advantage, we then cut to another scene of a gigantic spaceship floating in space that immediately shows the huge advance in evolution from the human race that started off at apes and now includes astronauts.

It is not until about the hour mark that the plot really kicks in, with the introduction of the human like “H. A. L. 9000” robotic system that controls the spaceship for the Jupiter mission. We see the introduction of this human-like system through an interview for a news broadcast when the real astronauts involved in the mission are asked whether the think that HAL has emotions or not, the answer is likely that it does not but it is programmed to seem like it does to improve interaction with humans. Immediately after this question we know that HAL will be more than a simple computer system.

The scenes involving HAL and the astronauts seem short in comparison with the rest of the film that focuses largely on the images we see rather than the characters involved. The films ending is quite bizarre as the Jupiter Monolith is approached and has provoked much controversy over the meaning of the entire film, I prefer the theory that the scene is showing the story of evolution. At the beginning of the film we saw the first Monolith at the same time Apes discovered the use of a bone as their tool as they began their evolution in to man, now we are seeing the old man of one generation become the infant of another, marked by yet another Monolith.

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