Vice (2018) Film Review

What do you know about Dick Cheney? What does anyone know about Dick Cheney? I knew a bit here and there, certainly had read a bit about his involvement, as Vice President to George W Bush, in the conflict in Iraq and in extraordinary rendition and torture in the years post 911. This film tells his story – well, it tries. It admits, both at the start and at the end, that it is a flawed telling, and anyone who knows my struggle with biopics will know how much I appreciate this. But the story it tells is of a man who initially has little motivation but, with the almost Lady MacBeth urging of his wife, rises through the White House enjoying the ability to manipulate people and situations as he sees fit. He appears to have no real moral compass and his sole drive appears to be power.

This film is told in an unusual manner, with direction narration to the camera by some unknown bloke. There are twists and turns and, honestly, at times I was wondering what was going on. I walked out wondering about it but, after talking about it with a few people I decided that I really liked it. A lot.

Vice won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Christian Bale) and was nominated for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Adam McKay), Best Director – Motion Picture (Adam McKay), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Amy Adams), Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Sam Rockwell)

Snowpiercer (2013) Film Review

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In a bid to combat global warming, a chemical was released into the air. It worked too well, killing all life on the planet except the people and animals who were on the Snowpiercer, a very long train with an eternal engine that moves non-stop. The lower class of the rear carriages are sick of being fed protein jelly, and start a revolt against the upper classes in a bid for survival.

I was very surprised to like this film as much as I did. It is extremely violent, a very ugly violence, but it is just a bit more than an action film set on a train. Perhaps it is because it is a South Korean production, or based on a French graphic novel. Some of the performances were quite good, but many were pretty average. I think if you are after a slightly depressing film with stunning shots and graphic violence, this could be the film for you. Oh, and did I mention Tilda Swinton? No? Wow. What a magnificently horrid character.

Midnight in Paris (2011) Film Review

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Watching this film makes me finally get Woody Allen. I’ve seen several of his films and have not understood why he is considered such a genius; often, I find them amusing and well made but they don’t grab me. And then, there is Midnight in Paris.

So, Gil (Own Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) are holidaying in Paris with her parents. He is a screenwriter who is working on a novel; she really likes spending money and putting him down. When he is wandering, drunk, at midnight one night, he gets picked up by an old car that takes him off to a glamorous twenties-style party – only it turns out that he has actually travelled back in time, and ends up partying with Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso – oh, and getting writing advice from Gertrude Stein. Gradually, he realises that he has little in common with his fiancé and is living a lie – but is the life he lives at night as much of a lie?

I love the absurdity of the twenties scenes, of seeing these wonderful representations of characters from the past. Owen Wilson didn’t quite work for me; I’ve gone from being a huge fan of his to really disliking him onscreen to being somewhere in the middle. But, at least it wasn’t Woody Allen himself- I really cannot stand that man onscreen.

I didn’t like that Inez and her parents were so obviously awful to Gil. I’m sure it is making a point, but I found it annoying and would have liked it if there were more subtlety to them.

Midnight in Paris won an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Woody Allen) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Woody Allen) and Best Achievement in Art Direction.

To Rome With Love (2012) Film Review

To Rome With Love

 

Ovbiously, set in Rome, To Rome With Love follows several plot lines that flow over each other and could easily be separate films.

There’s the opera plot, with Woody Allen and Judy Davis playing parents to Hayley (Alison Pill), a visiting American student who falls in love and becomes engaged to a very handsome Italian. Allen’s character discovers a talent in Hayley’s soon-to-be father-in-law that, I recall, was a plot from the Brady Bunch back in the seventies. This plotline was ridiculous and drove me nuts, but luckily I felt the rest of the film made up for it.

There’s the mysterious character plot, which covers architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) having to entertain his girlfriend’s best friend Monica (Ellen Page) who is visiting. Jack’s girlfriend is studying and has exams, so leaves the two of them alone despite the number of men who have fallen in love with Monica over the years. Alec Baldwin plays the mysterious character of John, a highly successful architect who is hanging around like an imaginary friend to Jack, pointing out how pretentious Monica is, and how inevitable the story is. Despite the fact that I have no inclination to assess and interpret this character, I liked this plotline.

Then there’s the newlyweds who are planning to move to Rome for the husband to work for his family, but through a series of misunderstandings, he ends up taking a prostitute around with his sombre relatives and she ends up in the hotel room of a famous actor.

And finally, Roberto Benigni, ah, the wonderful Roberto Benigni, who plays an average office worked who suddenly has extreme fame thrust upon him for no reason. Too wonderful, and delightful, and fabulous.

I quite like short stories, and this film was just like a collection of little short stories. It’s not a big, important piece of work. It’s just delightful, and what a beautiful and amazing setting. I’ve not yet been to Rome. Now, I really, really want to.

 

Dan in Real Life (2007) Film Review

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Dani (Steve Carell) is a widower who has three teenage daughters and a big weekend with his family, including various children and partners. In town, he bumps into a gorgeous woman, Marie (Juliette Binoche) who he has an immediate connection with despite her being in a relationship; and then he returns to the house and finds that Marie is dating his brother. He struggles to cope with the dynamic created between them and with his family.

It’s fine. It’s believable, apart from a few scenes (think the shower scene. Stupid.). I love Steve Carell, he really does play grief so well, and is able to balance it beautifully with humour. And it feels like a real family; perhaps it is because there is so many of them on-screen at any one time that there is no specific focus; even with the wonderful John Maloney and Dianne Wiest.

Pillars of the Earth – TV Review

Pillars of the Earth

Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell) is not having a good time. Winter is coming, and he and his family are struggling to find somewhere to live and work that will feed them all. After an arduous and disastrous journey, they end up in a small town in England a long time ago (the twelfth century, apparently) but the church burns down. So, Prior Phillip (Matthew MacFadyen) decides to build a cathedral with Tom Builder. However, the guy who is the next boss up, church-wise Waleran Bigod (Ian McShane) doesn’t want it to happen and will do whatever is in his power to stop it. Oh, and then there is whole heap of battling between the new king and the old king’s daughter who could not inherit the crown because she’s not male. And a boat sank, killing her brother, and there is a lot to do with that too.

I’ve been told by many that the books that this series is based on are fabulous. Certainly, it is a very good show, with a bit of a Game of Thrones feel to it, but everything gets beautifully tied up at the end.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) Film Review

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Scott Pilgrim is a 22-year-old Canadian guy who plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb, is dating a Chinese high school student called Knives Chau and is looking for success. Then he meets Ramona Flowers, a cool American girl. To be with her, he needs to defeat her seven evil exes and sort out his own life.

It’s awesome. It’s fast paced and quite absurd, cutting between scenes mid-sentence. The special effects are amazing – it’s got everything. Stylised violence, Bollywood dancing, and a giant electric gorilla fighting a giant electric two-headed dragon. Way cool.

Plus a fabulous cast – Michael Cera, Kieren Culkan, Jason Schwartzman and a whole head of others whose names are not familiar but who are fabulous in lots of things – like Arrested Development and Parks and Recreation.

I kind of feel that, at my age, I should be too mature for a film like this. But I never will be so Edgar Wright, keep bringing it. Please.