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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Only seen Point Break once. Is that the movie in which Keanu fires his gun in the air whilst doing his 'I'm a ridiculously lousy actor'-schtick?
Yeah that's the one. And that is indeed one of the film's many awesome moments. Always got a real sexual frustration vibe from that moment, seeing him empty his clip, or blow his load if you will.

I went to one. They ask you questions about the movie and give you free stuff if you get them all right.
Sounds quite cool. Where was the one you went to?

Decent film, but not one that has me rushing out to buy.
Run Rodent run......to the shops and buy it!

reading your review it's great to see how so many people find this a 'magical film' and I know Skepsis had it high up in his top 100 too
Yeah it was on Skepsis' top 100, my top 100, Mark's, Sexy's and a few others as well I think. Don't think honeykid had it on his but I think he likes/loves Forrest Gump as well.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2013

Directed by
J.J. Abrams

Written by
Roberto Orci
Alex Kurtzman
Damon Lindelof

Starring
Chris Pine
Zachary Qunito
Benedict Cumberbatch
Simon Pegg
Karl Urban

Star Trek Into Darkness

-

Plot - After breaking the Prime Directive on a distant planet, Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) is relieved of his command of the USS Enterprise. This proves to be a short-lived development however. When a destructive force of terrorism emerges from within Starfleet itself, Kirk is reinstated and tasked with tracking down this terrorist. The terrorist in question is John Harrison (Cumberbatch); a darkly mysterious and extremely powerful force waging a one-man war against Starfleet. When the score between them becomes personal, a vengeful Kirk follows Harrison into dangerous territory, risking a war in the process. As it turns out however, things are not what they seem. With events and revelations turning the world of Kirk and his crew upside down, loyalties are going to be questioned and sacrifices demanded.

Whatever your opinion was of J.J. Abrams' first stab at the world of Star Trek, I think you're very likely to feel the exact same way about this; his return trip aboard the USS Enterprise which I found very similar. I found his 2009 reboot of the franchise to be a very fun, if flawed film. I had hoped this sequel would take the foundation laid out and realise the potential hinted at. While I would give this film the edge over its predecessor, sadly I don't feel that it quite lived up to my hopes. It was able to retain all the things I enjoyed about the first film, but unfortunately it did likewise in terms of its flaws.

Up front I feel I should admit to not being a devout follower of the Church of J.J.; I'm not one for worshipping the ground that the man walks upon. Which would be fine, I wouldn't feel strongly either way, except for the fact that so many people seem to adore and rave about the man; thus creating in me a sort of irrational contempt towards him. I think he certainly knows how to deliver on spectacle and thrills, but on the strength of his two Trek films and the underwhelming Super 8, I'm not so sure about his abilities to deliver heart and emotion. The two Star Trek films he has delivered have scored high as slices of big-ass action, but to me they don't feel like classic Trek. I imagine they're missing the adventure, the derring do, the sense of exploration, the warmth and the level of character that has made me love the franchise over the years. He's in danger of turning the franchise into nothing but a special effects bonanza.

I also have a problem with Abrams' presentation at times, though whether I can expound upon why exactly this is I'm not sure. His direction entails a frequently moving camera, numerous whips and pans and really likes to get up close and personal to his subjects. At times it is suitable and indeed successful at breeding a lively and energetic mood, however there are times (particularly on the bridge) where I wish he would just settle down for a moment, pull back and allow the moment and the characters to breathe a little. His approach creates a bit of a TV feel for me, perhaps a leftover stemming from his time working on the small screen. Oh and when it comes time to adding the visual effects in post-production, can someone please hide the 'add lens flare' button from the man!

However the one area where this film truly does improve upon Abrams' first attempt is in its villain, who this time around is given a much more fleshed-out character and interesting story. In Star Trek, Eric Bana was given very little opportunity to make an impression as Nero; his character felt like it existed merely as a plot device to get the crew involved in time travel and alternate realities. In John Harrison however, Benedict Cumberbatch is given greater scope to work with and truly makes the most of it. His terrorist foe oozes menace and charisma. It's a fantastically gripping and magnetic performance which just cements his growing reputation as one of the hottest young talents around. He absolutely dominates the screen and your attention whenever he appears, and for me is the best thing this sequel has going for it. All of which makes it rather unfortunate then that I don't feel he is really utilised to the fullest, with the script conspiring to have him off screen for more time than would have been ideal. Abrams' main focus remains the occasionally strained dynamic between Spock and Kirk, and on the action. The script flirts with some more complex issues such as morality and the rights of a terrorist, but quickly dismisses them to blow some more stuff up. It also opts for quite a rushed and clumsy conclusion which seems to ignore the consequences created. The script just feels rather lazy at times.

When it comes to the Enterprise crew the undoubted star amongst the cast remains Zachinary Quinto who continues to deliver an uncanny impersonation of Leonard Nimoy. It's actually rather eerie and unnerving just how similar they are; it's the same voice, the same face, the same mannerisms, the same nuances - everything! In fact, were it not for the small issue that the original Spock is still alive I'd be tempted to believe Quinto was actually Leonard Nimoy reincarnated! As in the first outing, Chris Pine proves to be a solid and decent Kirk but I've still to truly warm to him and the character. I just don't feel like he has truly inhabited the character and made it his own, or that he has the suitable natural star power. As a result, in the scenes where Kirk goes face to face with Harrison, I personally felt that he paled in comparison to the magnetic and over-powering gravitas of Cumberbatch. So much so that I rather found myself cheering for the villain which I don't think is a particularly good thing to feel for this type of venture. And Pine is not helped by the fact that the script often conspires to make his Kirk flawed, weak and not the sharpest tool in the shed.

I read another review which criticised the film for having supporting characters presented as little more than window dressing, and that really is the case when it comes to much of the Enterprise's crew; with the likes of Sulu, Chekov, McCoy and Uhura all suffering. Basically everyone but Spock, Kirk and Scotty. The actors are given pitifully little to work with outside of basic traits imitated after the men and women who first brought these characters to life. As McCoy, all the script allots Urban is the chance to deliver grumpy one-liners. Anton Yelchin remains an endearing presence as Chekov, but is relegated to basically mispronouncing his v's and his w's. As a result I've still to really take to any of the supporting cast in any great manner. Oh and as I've mentioned on here a few times before, I'm not a fan of Simon Pegg and take umbrage at him portraying a Scotsman. I found him annoying in the first film, and so was rather despondent to find his role had been increased this time around.

One of the main flaws in Abrams' first trip into space aboard the Enterprise was the romance between Spock and Uhura. Revealed out of the blue late on in proceedings, no development or explanation was really put forward. It came across as nothing more than a flimsy gimmick; as if Abrams & co had merely included it for a bit of controversy, just to get people talking and create some buzz. I had hoped that they would take the opportunity to expand upon it in the sequel but sadly that is not the case. Very little progress is made on that front, and they decline the chance to address issues such as how a relationship between a human and a vulcan actually works, or even why they're together. We've had two movies now and still have no real clue why these two have hooked up.

As with the first film, the one area where the film is a pretty much unreserved success is in its effects and the sheer spectacle they create. It looks spectacular and remains a great theme park ride of a movie, full of large scale space battles and thrilling set-pieces. Though the battle on Kronos suffers from the manic, quick-fire editing that hurts many modern films, making it almost incomprehensible to figure out what the hell is happening at times. One problem with so much action however is that I began to suffer peril fatigue (a term borrowed from another review). With Kirk & co in danger every five minutes it begins to wear on you a bit. Again as with its predecessor, Into Darkness features numerous nods to classic Trek, and near its conclusion this is particularly true of Wrath of Khan. This blatant callback will likely work fine for newcomers to the world, but for trekkies (well this one at least) the scene felt incredibly forced and cheesy, even verging on being cringeworthy, and completely sabotaged any potential emotion in the scene. For a film trying to breathe new life into a franchise it seems overly obsessed with the past.

And lastly, another thing that wasn't so much a flaw with the film as just a personal nitpick is the fact that I was disappointed with just how much of the running time was spent aboard the Enterprise or on Earth. That was fine on TV when you only had to wait another week for a new episode, but with a potential wait of a few years between instalments I feel its a shame not to spend more time exploring “strange new worlds” and interacting with alien races. Outside of the film's prologue our only real exposure to the wider universe is a brief visit to the Klingon homeworld of Kronos, but much of it is shrouded in darkness preventing us from really getting an idea of its aesthetic, and the Klingons themselves I found to be a disappointing creation; not really evoking their look from any previous outings.

As seems pretty typical for this type of fair these days, the film does have its share of plot holes. Quite a large share actually. But I won't get too bogged down in them right now (perhaps later ). One thing I did have an issue with however was some of the deus ex machina plot devices they came up with to get themselves out of a jam. They may work fine in the short term but I'm curious to see how they play out as we go along. For example, is it just me or did they actually just remove the threat of death from the world of Star Trek? Or at the very least greatly diluted it.

Conclusion - Given how many flaws I've pointed out it may seem strange that I've still given it such a high rating, indeed even I think it looks generous! But for all its problems, as a big summer blockbuster it remains a highly entertaining (if disposable) popcorn flick, and as a result of Benedict Cumberbatch's inclusion it is an improvement on the first film. And my inner Trekkie is pretty damn strong which is always going to help anything carrying the Trek name. However with more screentime for Cumberbatch, more attention paid to the script and better use of its supporting cast this could have been something special.

Oh and another interesting aspect, which perhaps hurt my enjoyment of this, was just how similar this was to Iron Man 3 in terms of sharing similar themes and story beats. I found IM3 to be a much smarter, wittier and overall a far more thrilling experience however.



Ill read your review saturday after I see the film. Glad to see a
, gets me a little more excited to see it.
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Letterboxd



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Ill read your review saturday after I see the film. Glad to see a
, gets me a little more excited to see it.
It's one of those where you really need to combine the score with the actual review to get the full picture of how I felt about it. While I did greatly enjoy it as a summer blockbuster, there were a heap of flaws with it. And to be honest I may have been a little bit generous with the score.

But I certainly hope you enjoy it and look forward to seeing what you've got to say.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2000

Directed by
M. Night Shyamalan

Written by
M. Night Shyamalan

Starring
Bruce Willis
Samuel L. Jackson
Robin Wright Penn
Spencer Treat Clark


Unbreakable

++

Plot – A train derails in Philadelphia. 131 people die. One man lives. And he doesn't even have a scratch on him. That man is David Dunn (Willis); a security guard and seemingly normal individual. Trying to understand how exactly he survived he is given a possible answer from Elijah Price (Jackson); a comic book enthusiast and art gallery owner specialising in comic book art. Born with a rare disease that makes his bones incredibly brittle and fragile, and earned him the nickname of Mr Glass, Elijah purposes that there must be someone at the opposite scale from him; a man stronger than everyone else, a man who cannot be hurt, a man who is unbreakable. Initially dismissing his suggestion as being ridiculous, David's way of thinking begins to change when more and more of the things Elijah says prove to be true - David has never been sick or ill in his life, he discovers that he possesses greater strength than average and that he has a special intuition which allows him to pinpoint people who have done wrong. Could David Dunn really be a true-life superhero?

It's a pretty much accepted fact that it was X-Men, released in 2000, which kick-started the revival of superhero flicks which has continued to this day. However I think that Unbreakable, released just a few months later, also deserves a slice of the credit for creating a one-two punch that brought the genre back into vogue following the disastrous reception that met Batman & Robin. After all what is this but a classic superhero origin tale, complete with various tropes of the medium. The film gives to him a backstory, powers, a weakness, a nemesis and even a costume of a sort in the form of a windbreaker/raincoat which turns him into your classic caped crusader.. And as a nice little touch he even has an alliterative name (David Dunn) in line with many of the real life identities of comic heroes - Reed Richards, Matt Murdoch, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker etc.

It's a surprisingly offbeat film for what could very easily have taken the route of being a big blockbuster. It's certainly a film in no great rush to reveal its secrets, but its slow pace allows the film to build a terrific atmosphere; it's tense, suspenseful, eerie and wonderfully moody. It may not be as flashy or attention-grabbing as the likes of The Sixth Sense or Signs but I believe it to be Shyamalan's most intelligent and mature film that he has so far delivered. Along the way the film drops several hints about what is to come in terms of its surprise ending. Elijah's mother gives him a comic book which apparently has a 'surprise ending', while throughout Elijah talks about himself and David being at opposite ends of the spectrum. Shyamalan's penchant for twists may now come in more for ridicule than praise, but I find the twist in this one very interesting, very satisfying and one that certainly holds up to repeat viewings.

I love the direction and visual design of the film, completely immersed in the world of comic books. It's very smartly done. Throughout the film there are examples of shots that feel uncommon for the medium, the camera angles and framing make them more reminiscent of the panels found in comic books. I could constantly have paused the film and the image on screen would seem like it had been lifted straight out of the pages of the latest offering from Marvel or DC. It's not the only trick used to mimic the tone of that world. Colour schemes are used throughout to differentiate between the characters. David's colour is green, while Elijah's is purple. This is reflected in numerous objects such as items of clothing and personal effects, and in the design features of their homes. Colour is also used to highlight the 'villains' he sees in his visions at the train station, making them jump out from the rest of the world. And the first villain that David tackles wears a bright orange jumpsuit, about as close to an identifiable costume as you could possibly get in the real world. Oh and there is also a lovely glass motif spread over the course of the film in relation to Elijah; alongside the obvious factor of his glass walking cane the character's image is frequently caught in reflective surfaces. And in terms specifically relating to the direction, the film is peppered with numerous fine examples of Shyamalan's eye for great shots, but the absolute epitome as far as I am concerned would be David's showdown with the man in orange. From the Orange Man appearing out of the curtains to the underwater horror, culminating in a terrific and brutal fight scene its a beautifully conceived sequence. Oh and the music that accompanies it is tremendous.

I've never quite understood the praise that Christopher Nolan receives for making his 'realistic' Batman films. No matter how grounded he tries to make them when you boil it all down what you still basically have is a guy dressing as a bat, battling guys dressed as clowns and scarecrows, and doing so in a car that can fly across rooftops. If you want a 'realistic' take on the superhero mythology then this is the film for you. It takes the classic superhero template and sets it against a real world environment. Basically its a retelling of the Superman mythos, but with the tremendous premise of 'what if Superman didn't know that he was Superman?” I also love the idea Elijah holds that comic books are actually the latest way of recording mythology, that they are merely exaggerated stories based on fact.

Film Trivia – The original script was actually a much more expansive story, in fact the completed film only covered the first third of that original script. M Night Shyamalan apparently felt no connection with the other two thirds of the story so discarded them, deciding to tackle only the origin part of the story.
In the lead role, Bruce Willis gives a very quiet and restrained performance; in fact it almost seems like he is sleep-walking through the film for spells of it. But it works for the character. There is a real sense of sadness and loneliness that he gives to the character, fitting for a man who appears to be a bit of a lost soul. He is haunted by the knowledge that something isn't right in his life, but is unable to fathom what exactly it is. It is a much more subtle showing than we have become accustomed to over his career; usually he has to do a lot of shouting just to be heard above all the explosions that are typically going off all around him. David Dunn is a very flawed hero, indeed he's pretty much the complete opposite of the classic superhero archetype. He seems completely dissatisfied with his life but has no idea how to fix it, he keeps his family at a distance but doesn't know why. Willis conveys this excellently in occasionally heartbreaking fashion.


As the counterpart to David, I find the character of Elijah to be immensely fascinating. He's a very tragic and sympathetic character who has suffered a life of pain and fear, and who found a refuge in the escapist world of comic books. And yet within the pages of these superhero tales he finds much more meaning than your normal reader. He is such a fragile, at-risk individual that he theorises there must be someone at the opposite end of the scale to him; someone to protect the vulnerable and damaged people like him. So he goes on a quest to find such an individual, and when he does it provides a purpose to his life. It gives a meaning to why he was cursed with such a traumatic condition. When he learns the truth he tells David that “now that we know who you are...I know who I am.” Being born this way was not just a cruel twist of fate, it made him an instigator in a cosmic, universal plan; to find and give birth to a hero. It's a concept I've always been very intrigued by; that sort of yin and yang balancing act. In this case that good cannot exist without evil, and that evil cannot exist without good.

And fulfilling the role we have Samuel L Jackson; and well, Samuel L is Samuel L Jackson! It's a style of performance we've seen from the man many times before, with numerous moments feeling reminiscent of a past outing for him. For example, early on in the film he berates a man who is trying to buy a piece of comic book art for his four year old child. He asks, “Do you see any toys in here? Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it? Do you see a little Asian child with a blank expression on his face sitting outside on a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put quarters in it?” It really does feel like Shyamalan stumbled across some deleted footage from Pulp Fiction, as the words seem like they are coming right out of the mouth of Jules when he confronts Frank Whaley's character in the film - “What does Marcellus Wallace look like?!” He fits the character to a tee, perfectly inhabiting the eccentric and unique aspect of the character he has been handed. I also have to give great credit to Spencer Treat Clark, who portrays Willis' son, Joseph. It's one of the most impressive and underplayed performances that I can think of from a child actor. He wonderfully portrays that feeling that all children have when they're young, that their parents are invulnerable and better than everyone else. We want to believe they are super; so when Elijah tells him a story that may in fact prove it, it breeds a desperation in him for it to be true.

Oh and I couldn't possibly end this review without mentioning the fantastic score provided to the film by James Newton Howard.

Conclusion - It's actually quite hard now to remember just how hot M. Night Shyamalan was back in the late 90s/early 00s. With The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs he had started his career off with three critical and commercial hits. Of the three, this is my favourite, At the time of its release there were rumours abounding that Unbreakable was just the first piece in a potential trilogy. While the promised sequel(s) never materialised, I certainly hope that M. Night can find his feet and once again deliver a film of this quality some day. He may have become a favourite whipping boy for many, but I certainly feel he has shown that he has a creative mind and no small amount of talent; culminating in this film, his personal masterpiece.



Agreed, Unbreakable is a hell of a film and always gets underrated.

I had it on DVD years ago but it got scratched... still haven't gotten round to buying it again, must do it at some point.

Nice review!
__________________
Originally Posted by doubledenim
Garbage bag people fighting hippy love babies.

Bots gotta be bottin'



Great review I and own Unbreakable
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Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
Buddha



I'm with everyone else here with the Unbreakable love. Easily Shyamalan''s best film.

BTW, that was an excellent review, JD.
__________________
5-time MoFo Award winner.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
BTW, that was an excellent review, JD.
Thanks everyone. I appreciate it. Especially you HK seeing as you went highest with your praise. I actually thought it was pretty good myself. In general I think my reviews are pretty decent but every so often a review just clicks and is quite easy to write. Helps when you get a quality film like Unbreakable with lots of facets to talk about.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Awesome review. One of the best I think I've read on this site, and I've read more than a few.

Love the film, love the review.
Wow thanks man. Now that is some high praise. I really appreciate it. Although I feel I should now perhaps call it a day, it will all be downhill from here. I should retire at the top.

Though despite all this praise I just realised a mistake I made. When I was pretty much done with the review I realised I hadn't wrote anything about the wonderful score, so put that little bit about not being able to end the review without talking about it as a reminder of sorts myself. I was meant to come back, see it and remember that I wanted to write a few lines about it. But I forgot.

Had a look around at some of the bits and pieces you've written about Unbreakable and we certainly seem to feel very similarly. And you pinpointed a few of the scenes I also really like - the scene in the hospital with the bleeding man in the foreground, the moment where he lets his son know what he is doing at the kitchen table etc. And you're right about the DVD and its deleted scenes being excellent.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2012

Directed by
Ben Lewin

Written by
Ben Lewin
Based on “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” by Mark O'Brien

Starring
John Hawkes
Helen Hunt
William H. Macy
Moon Bloodgood


The Sessions


Plot – After suffering from polio as a child which left him paralysed from the neck down, Mark O'Brien (Hawkes) has spent his whole life in an iron lung. Despite this he was still able to graduate from college, become a writer and a poet. At the age of 38 however he sets himself a new goal - to lose his virginity. This longing comes around as a result of two factors; he falls in love with his assistant and proposes marriage to her, a gesture which chased her away. And he takes on a writing assignment about the sex lives of disabled people. Fascinated by the prospect the devout catholic visits his priest, Father Brendan (Macy), for advice on whether it would be a sin or not. After being given the thumbs up he gets in contact with a sex surrogate named Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Hunt). The film follows the journey the two characters go on and the relationship that develops. Based on a true story

Given its subject matter this film could very easily have gone in several polar opposite directions. It could have chosen to embrace the unusual and ridiculous nature of the situation and played it up purely for laughs, a 40 Year Old Virgin In An Iron Lung if you will. Or it could have moved off into cheap and trashy territory had it chosen to sensationalise the events depicted. How refreshing it is then to find this story tackled in such an adult manner. The true life story of Mark O'Brien is treated with intelligence, respect, an honesty and a tenderness. It may not sensationalise what occurs but nor does it gloss over them. It addresses them in a forthright and mature manner.

However when you take into account that the film is basically the story of a man who spends the whole running time either in bed, on a gurney or in an iron lung, it comes as no real surprise that it's not exactly a dynamic film. It is a low key film which instead focuses itself as an acting showcase, and in that respect it is a great success. The film is basically comprised of numerous one one one conversations between Mark and the people who are drawn into his life. As a result I get the feeling that it could work just as successfully, if not even more so, were it to be transformed for the stage.

We feel great sympathy for the character of Mark O'Brien, but it does not come about as a result of Hawkes playing the role for the miserable tragedy that his life is, as the film could easily have had him do. Instead he imbues the character with wit and a dry, self-deprecating humour, making him someone who tackles life with a great strength and spirit. As a result we come to like and care for the character, and it is this that makes us wish this was not his life. It is an incredible transformation from Hawkes, so much so that I didn't actually recognise him while watching the film. It was only while watching the interviews on the DVD that I went 'oh that guy!'. He gifts Mark with such a inner strength and positive outlook that the film proves to be really quite life-affirming. Thanks to him the film also proves to be a surprisingly funny affair, with his droll delivery generating a good few laughs. My favourite line, concerning his faith, would certainly have to be “I believe in a God with a sense of humour. I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be to able blame someone for all this.” It also proved to be a physical challenge for him. In order for him to achieve the appearance of having a distorted spine, Hawkes spent the whole film with a solid cushion under one side of his back, said to be quite the uncomfortable experience.

A large part of the reason I wanted to see this film was the participation of Helen Hunt. Ever since the days of her portraying Jamie Buchman in the 90s sitcom, Mad About You, she is someone I have always liked, not just as an actress but as someone I always had a bit of a crush on. And yes I will admit that the horny 12 year old inside me wanted to see this film when I heard that she spent a good degree of it completely naked. Despite this proving to be true, as a result of the film's tasteful approach this does not come across as cheap or titillating. She is however a vision of beauty and elegance. As for her actual performance, she is terrific. She brings so much warmth and sensitivity to the character, and an amazing lack of self-consciousness. It's just such a frank and undaunted showing from her, well worthy of the Oscar nomination she received. The only real mystery is how John Hawkes didn't follow suit. Saying that someone delivers a 'brave performance' is perhaps an overused term these days but in the case of The Sessions that really is true. Hawkes and Hunt are just so completely exposed here, not just physically but emotionally.

Excellent support comes in the form of William H Macy as Father Brendan, a liberal catholic priest who is conflicted between following the bible to the letter of the law and between what he believes to be right. The conclusion that he comes to? That “I think God would say, 'Go for it'” Between them, Macy and Hawkes build a really sweet friendship. However when you consider that it's Macy, one of the most dependable actors around, it comes as no real surprise that he is such a success in the film. Something that is also true of Hunt and Hawkes. So the real surprise amongst the cast proves to be Moon Bloodgood. I have seen her numerous times, either on TV (Falling Skies, Journeyman) or in rather brainless films (Terminator Salvation, Faster) and had never taken all that much notice of her as an actress. Here however she dresses down to play a 'plain Jane' character and proves to be a genial and wryly humorous addition to the film.

Conclusion - The Sessions is a commendable and very fine film, but one that struggled to really stoke up the passion in me that I had been hoping for. I just felt it resembled a trite TV movie a little too often, though one with a much higher standard of acting on show. If however you are looking for an uplifting, grown-up film from Hollywood, or a showcase for fine acting, then I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending this sweet little film.



Good review, JD. I'm looking forward to seeing this one day. Of course, I've been saying that since last year and I may well do so for a long time to come.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
1950

Directed by
Billy Wilder

Written by
Billy Wilder
Charles Bracket
D.M. Marshman Jr.

Starring
Gloria Swanson
William Holden
Erich von Stroheim
Nancy Olson


Sunset Boulevard

+

Plot - Sunset Boulevard opens with a bullet-ridden corpse floating in a pool. The pool is located on the grounds of a large Hollywood mansion owned by Norma Desmond (Swanson), a once famous silent movie star whose career dried up with the invention of the talkies. The corpse belongs to Joe Gillis (Holden), a jaded screenwriter who falls under her control. Gillis' voice comes from beyond the grave to guide us through the film. This is the story of his demise.

A couple of years ago, The Artist won the hearts of film fans all over the world as a much loved film that covered the transition from silent films to talkies in a fairly hopeful and uplifting manner. Sunset Blvd. covers similar territory but is about as far from those sentiments as possible. That doesn't stop it from being a truly wonderful film however. It's a film considered to be one of the all time classics and it's certainly worthy of such an accolade. It is a biting, darkly funny film that rips apart the golden dream of Hollywood. It is also a truly sad, slightly haunting story as the once famous star, Norma Desmond, descends into desperation, depression and finally madness. Along the way she drags a struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis, down along with her as he becomes trapped in her web

It is a brutal, scathing assault on Hollywood and those who reside within it. It crushes Hollywood as this soulless brute that destroys creativity and heart in favour of profit and a safe bet. As this fickle entity that will milk someone dry when they are on top, but then spit them out and forgot about them when there time has passed. It is also not particularly kind to the stars that populate Hollywood's output. Norma Desmond is a complete diva, complete with outlandish behaviour and eccentricities - for example she has a pet monkey whom she demands receives a proper funeral upon his death. She is spectacularly vain and narcissistic; watching nothing but her own films and going to insane lengths to prepare herself for her return to the screen.

Sunset Boulevard is privileged with a terrifically written script, complete with both a classic opening and closing scene. It is chock-full of sharp and witty dialogue, gifting William Holden in particular with some fantastic lines to deliver, especially in his voice-over narration from beyond the grave. And he seems to revel in delivering such scathing sarcasm. Though that is not to say that Gloria Swanson is given short shrift in this department. She is given the opportunity to spout some truly classic quotes. Even before I had any knowledge of this film's existence, I already knew of lines such as “I'm ready for my close-up Mr DeMille” and “It's the pictures that got small.”

Film Trivia – Despite her legendary performance, Gloria Swanson was far from Billy Wilder's first choice for the role. He had offered the role to Mae West, who rejected it as she felt she was too young to play a silent film star. Mary Pickford also rejected it as she felt it would destroy her wholesome image. In fact Wilder and fellow writer, Charles Bracket, actually went to pitch the story to Pickford but her horrified reaction as the tale unfolded made the men stop halfway through and apologise to her. While another of Wilder's original choices was another silent star, Nora Pegri. However when he contacted her, he found her Polish accent too harsh for such a dialogue heavy film. Ironically it was her accent that had killed her career in the first place when the talkies were introduced.
The main cast are universally excellent. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond is incredible, perfectly capturing the desperation of the faded star and the unshakeable belief that she is still 'big'. It's a hammy style of performance that probably wouldn't work 99% of the time. However for this film, and this character, it is perfect. Her showing is gaudy, camp, overpowering and oh so melodramatic. In fact she is actually a rather terrifying prospect, one I imagine even the bravest of men would be likely to quiver in the presence of. Her demeanour can change in the blink of an eye; from fierce predator to a simpering and insecure weakling and back again within mere moments. And her descent down the stairs has to be one of the great scenes in film. By this point she has become completely delusional and believes that instead of being in her home she is on a film set. And that the news cameras, reporters and policemen are the cast, the crew and her adoring fans. She is just completely gone!

Swanson's expressive face and large gestures really are something to behold, completely what you would expect from a former silent movie star. And that comes as no surprise really as Gloria Swanson herself was a legendary silent film star whose career faded with the introduction of the talkies. In fact there are so many layers and context to the film, drawing directly from real life. As I said Swanson is very much the Norma Desmond character, at least in their career history if not the delusional nature. She made numerous pictures with Cecil B. DeMille, the legendary director who appears here as himself as the man Norma Desmond wants to helm her big comeback. While Eric von Stroheim actually was a director of silent films just as his butler character once was. And he actually directed Gloria Swanson in Queen Kelly; footage of which is used as one of the films Desmond is watching. There are just so many parallels and so much depth going on here.

Film Trivia Snippets – The role of Joe Gillis had originally gone to Montgomery Clift, but he dropped out before filming began for a very specific reason. At the time he was in a similar situation to the character; engaged in an affair with Libby Holman, a former actress who was 16 years his senior. At her behest he quit the production. /// Cecil B. DeMille agreed to film his cameo for a fee of $10,000 and a brand new Cadillac. When Billy Wilder returned to him later to secure a close-up, DeMille demanded a further $10,000! /// Unsurprisingly the film didn't go down too well with many people involved in the industry. After a preview screening at Paramount, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer screamed at Wilder that he sould be tarred, feathered and horse-whipped for brining his profession into such disrespute.
Norma's palatial manson is a perfect setting for her, a representation of her character in brick form. Like her it is old, past its best and surviving on its past glories. You can see its former glory still lurking in there somewhere but it is now a mere hint of what was once there. The place is like a haunted house, with the ghosts being her career and the roles she once inhabited. Her home is brought to life by some wonderful set design; the place is damn near drowning under a mountain of photos of herself. And that set design is captured by some terrifically gloomy, atmospheric lighting and gorgeous black & white photography.

Opposite her, William Holden convinces fully as the screenwriter who knows he should leave but just can't bring himself to. He is a condemned man. From the moment he turns into that driveway, hears the siren-like voice of Norma calling him and crosses the threshold of that house he is doomed. Like a little fly caught in a web, he has no chance of escaping unharmed. His Joe Gillis is the archetypal protagonist of the noir genre, a man who inhabits the murky grey area of morality. We find him willing to sell his creative soul in the search for profit, attempting to manipulate everything and everyone for his own benefit and saying goodbye to his dignity to become Norma's kept man. For the most part he's a rather pathetic, cynical and unlikable individual who is however able to salvage his character right at the film's conclusion with a selfless act. He knows that it's too late for him, his fate has already been sealed. He is however able to save Betty by getting her out of the situation before she too is caught up.

The film does also have some real heart however in the shape of Erich von Stroheim's wonderful performance as Norma's butler. While he may be a cold, grave presence who feels like he could be the grim reaper himself, he also brings a humanity to that house; everyone else may have deserted her but he has stuck with her throughout, now doing all he can to protect the diva's fragile mind; protecting her from the truth of her downfall. While Nancy Olson provides a lovely contrast as the cheery, optimistic Betty Shaefer. Significantly younger than her contemporaries in the film, she has not yet been ground down by the Hollywood machine. Give it time my dear!

Conclusion - It's a film that can be enjoyed on a few different levels; either as a pitch-black comedy/drama, a brooding noir or even as a makeshift, quasi-horror film. The script, direction, set design, photography and acting are all top notch, as are the tone and atmosphere they create. 'Masterpiece' may be an over-used term these days but I think this is a film truly deserving of such billing.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
mirror
mirror



Year of release
2008

Directed by
Andrew Stanton

Written by
Andrew Stanton
Pete Docter

Starring
Ben Burtt
Elissa Knight
Jeff Garlin
Fred Willard


WALL·E


Plot - In the distant future mankind has abandoned the Earth after it became an unsustainable place to live. Covered in trash as a result of mass consumerism, the only being still residing on Earth is WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot left to clean up the mess. Despite being all alone WALL-E still finds joys in his life, such as collecting trinkets from Earth's past or watching a tape of Hello Dolly! One day however another robot lands on the planet, a reconnaisance robot named EVE who is in search of proof that life on Earth is once again sustainable. Immediately smitten with her, WALL-E sets out to win her affections. And together they go on an incredible journey which will take them to the stars and to the new home of humanity, a mammoth spaceship named Axiom.

38:05. According to the read-out on my DVD player that is how long WALL-E runs for before the first human character is properly introduced. Up until that point WALL-E is an almost exclusively silent film. And those 38 minutes and 5 seconds may by the most magical and perfect 38 minutes and 5 seconds of cinema that I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It is a thrilling experience. After that the film may resort to a more traditional story and method for telling that story, but it's still a wonderful piece of film-making. In those 38 minutes, despite nary a word being spoken, the film is able to convey the story, establish a truly delightful and lovable character who steals our hearts and create one of the most touching and heartfelt romances I've ever witnessed on the screen. The way it does this is through smart storytelling, astounding animation and some pitch-perfect sound design.

More than any other film they've yet made, WALL-E gives Pixar the chance to truly show off their incredible genius with a number of stunning visuals and touches which illuminate the story, create this world, make us laugh and makes us truly care for this little robot. WALL-E really is a wonderful creation, a little being that I find impossible not to love. I was going to say that I fell in love with the character of WALL-E within the first two minutes of this film, but that would be a lie. I had pretty much fallen in love with that delightful robot before I even made it into the cinema. As soon as I saw the first trailer and caught my first glimpse of WALL-E's little face I was smitten. I just think that he and the film as a whole are adorable.

Despite their almost complete lack of dialogue and the fact that they are two robots in an animated movie, I find the relationship between Wall-e and Eve to be one of the most beautiful and touching romances I've ever seen on screen. In fact is it going too far to ask the question; WALL-E and Eve - the romance of a generation? With the action almost completely bereft of dialogue, it all comes down to little looks and gestures (holding hands, putting up an umbrella) and it is irresistibly sweet. His attempts at wooing Eve are utterly endearing, particularly his attempts at impressing her with the various trinkets that populate his trailer. And the fire extinguisher-aided flight/dance through space is just spellbinding. While the rare words and sounds that they do share are wonderfully judged and orchestrated by Ben Burtt and Elissa Knight respectively. Oh and the moment where it seems like WALL-E has lost his personality and lost Eve is a truly heartbreaking one which almost had me blubbering like a baby in the cinema the first time I saw it.

Film Trivia Snippets - To try and create the visual aesthetic for the scenes set on Earth, the concept artists studied images of Chernobyl, Ukraine and the city of Sofia in Bulgaria. They did so in an attempt to generate ideas for the ruined world that the Earth had become in WALL-E. Art director Anthony Christov actually hails from Bulgaria and knew only too well the problems that Sofia had in terms of storing its garbage. /// For the typical Pixar film, the average number of storyboards would be 75,000. For WALL-E however a mind-boggling 125,000 storyboards were created. /// WALL-E holds Pixar's personal record for Academy Award nominations with 6. This ties it with the only other animated film to receive so many nominations; Beauty and the Beast.
Part of the reason that WALL-E is so irresistible is that despite being a robotic machine, he really is very human in his behaviour. He is a clumsy, shy and nervous little fella who like so many of us has this grand, pure idea of love that has been developed by watching the output of Hollywood. He's even a bit of a packrat as evidenced by his trailer of knick-knacks. The scenes of him searching through the trash to find items that intrigue him are very sweet. He is able to express more emotion than any actor ever could merely through the slightest of movement, such as tilting his eyes. He has a real personality to him. This is also true of Eve. I love the moments where you see her being entertained and touched by WALL-E's actions, expressed through her eyes or her charming laugh. She also has quite a temper on her, as seen by her frustration at the lack of plant life in her search.

The visuals that Pixar were able to create for this film are probably the best I've ever seen. That opening stretch on Earth in particular is astonishing. At times the landscape and the close-ups of WALL-E are almost photo-real in their execution. While the scope and ambition of the film calls on the animators to create not one, but two intricate and detailed worlds. And they couldn't really be more disparate worlds at that. Earth is a desolate, scarred and grimy vista where we feel like we are almost choking on the dust that covers the place. While when the action moves onto the Axium spaceship it is a more traditional aesthetic for a computer animated film; bright, colourful and dynamic. In fact I just realised I'm doing the film a disservice as there are really three separate worlds. I was forgetting about the stretch that bridges these two worlds; the gorgeous and majestic scenes of outer space and the solar systrem. The moment where WALL-E travels on the back of the rocket as it heads towards the spaceship is a magical moment. Just one of many that this film has to offer the viewer.

Film Trivia Snippets - The design for Eve is very slick and modern when compared to WALL-E, very much in line with current technology. As a result it comes as no surprise that she was actually co-designed by Apple's Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonnathan Ive, the man responsible for the design of the iPod. /// To try and capture the sensibilities of classic silent films, Andrew Stanton and the Pixar team watched every single Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton movie (short films and full-length features) during lunch for about a year and a half. They wanted to inspire the possibilities of purely visual storytelling.
In amongst all the romance and the laughs the film does also have a few big messages at its core. Messages of conservation and our detrimental impact on the environment; messages of consumerism, large corporations and how our life can pass us by if we get lost in technology. I'm aware that some people felt overwhelmed by the messages, as if they were being forced down their throat. I however felt that Pixar found the perfect balance. They give the issues enough depth that they add to the film, but without suffocating the film's sense of fun. And while I understand some people may find the film just a tad hypocritical with its messages, considering the amount of merchandising the film spawned (consumerism) and that Pixar films have become the ideal babysitters for numerous parents (the abundance of technology in our lives), it's not something I feel the need to really comment on.

The film's end credits are just one final slice of brilliance; the icing on top of the already stunning cake. They show the further continuation of the story; of the reintegration of humanity on Earth, through a series of paintings and sketches which themselves mirror the evolution of mankind and the arts. Beginning with cave paintings and taking in styles as diverse as Egyptian hieroglyphics, pointilism and 8 bit computer art; with special attention given to Vincent Van Gogh, the sequence engulfs the stone age all the way through to the computer age. If you were looking for just one example of why Pixar are so highly regarded in the landscape of cinema this would be a prime candidate. It just shows them going that extra mile, creating something that isn't necessary and is all the more wonderful for it. It is a fine piece of art in its own right. I would have to say they are probably the most creative and inspired closing credits I have ever come across. And while I'm aware that there is no category for end credits at the Academy Awards, they should have made an exception and presented those responsible with an Oscar for their incredible contribution.

And lastly here are a few more random thoughts about this magnificent film. WALL-E has got to feature one of my most favourite ever minor characters in the little cleaning robot, Mo. His feud with Wall-e, his OCD personality and the vocal contribution of Ben Burtt once again make him a delightful addition to the film. The film's score, provided by Thomas Newman, is an enchanting creation. Occasionally evoking a sort of fairy tale vibe it hits numerous tones with songs that are beautiful, songs that are exciting, songs that are very touching and songs that are just downright fun. And finally as a little accompaniment to the film was the delightful short film, Presto. Pixar have delivered many wonderful shorts but this has to be my favourite. It may not be as deep as some of their other shorts, or have a message at its foundation, but man is it funny. It recalls a classic Looney Tunes short with its wild and slapstick nature, giving it a nostalgic feel. It is just teeming with imagination and humour.

Conclusion - I'm aware that no matter the film, I know it's impossible for every single person to love a film. However I have a hard time believing that anyone could possibly take an active dislike to WALL-E. And if I were ever to meet such a person I don't think I would be able to trust them! It's a funny, touching, enthralling film. A true Pixar masterpiece.



Aaaah... WALL-E...

I've rated a number of filsm at 100%, WALL-E is one of 3 that broke my into my 101% rating...

Simply excellent filmmaking, full of lots of subtle messages and as a simple film just to sit and watch, it works perfectly that way too.
It's one of only a couple of films that actually made me 'ooh and ah' when stuff was going on... just an enthralling film.

I agree with M-O too... best backup character ever.

Love the detailed review JayDee!



Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
I've rated a number of filsm at 100%, WALL-E is one of 3 that broke my into my 101% rating...
Well, F*ck Maths!

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In the strictest sense lesbians can't have sex at all period.



I've gave you rep for your last three films because of the massive effort you have put into your reviews, but I haven't read all and can't really comment on The Sessions and Sunset Boulevard yet as they are very much films I want to see, the former because it has John Hawkes and the latter because it's just mean to be great, and I saw on it on TV so I was able to record it.

I can however comment on Wall-E and your wonderful review of it, it really is a fantastic and beautiful film, and the relationship at the centre of it can also be described as such. I know it's easy to say but your review really does sum up my thoughts on the film, and I can't really expand or disagree with anything you have wrote, it's a film that I think you can struggle to find a flaw or improve on, and one of my all time favourite animations, I think it's my favourite Pixar.
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