12 Monkeys (1995) Film Review


It’s 2035. Back in 1996, a massive proportion of the world’s population have been killed by a deadly virus and those remaining have retreated underground. Here, they send ‘volunteers’ to collect samples from the surface, but have also developed time travel technology and send people back in the past to gain information about The 12 Monkeys Army who they believe caused the disaster. When prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back, he ends up in a mental institution alongside Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and being treated by psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe). Consequent visits change attitudes until there is more than one fight happening.

This is an extremely beautiful film. The future is horrible, the present not much better. (Or should it be the present is horrible and the past is not much better – it’s challenging talking about time travel). The story is typical Gilliam in that it is not typical of anything at all. Any time you think you know what is happening, things twist and turn and change. I saw this film several times back in the late nineties, but haven’t watched it for ages. Seeing it now gives me a different idea on the end, though I am still not sure on quite what happened.

12 Monkeys was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brad Pitt) and Best Costume Design.


A Beautiful Mind (2001) Film Review


Based on the life of mathematician John Nash, A Beautiful Mind follows the young mathematician through college and into a career working in cryptography. However, he has schizophrenia, and struggles to separate life from his delusions.

I think this is a wonderful film. I’m not a fan of Russell Crowe, but he was perfect for this role. Tormented, with a sneaky peak of a sense of humour behind the socially challenged personality. Years ago I heard this discussed on a medical show that was looking at the best and worst representations of mental illness and this was in the best category, and I reckon that’s about right.

A Beautiful mind won for Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Connelly), Best Director (Ron Howard) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Russell Crowe), Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Music, Original Score.


Up (2009) Film Review


Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) has always dreamed of being an adventurer. As a young child, he meets a girl who has similar aspirations, and the two build a life together. But, in a beautiful and moving montage, we see that life gets in the way, and before he knows it, Carl is an old widower with only his memories to keep him going. A construction company want his house and he does not want to go into a home. What to do? How about tie thousands to helium balloons to the house and fly it to South America to the place you’d always dreamt of living? But things get complicated when it appears that a boy scout has ended up accidentally hitching a lift, and once they arrive, they discover a plot that threatens their lives.

Kids films are often just so good these days. Storylines are strong, characters are entertaining and they can be totally beautiful. Just ask anyone seeing the first ten minutes of Up; the story of the life of Carl and Ellie is just so sensitively portrayed. It is a shame that the brief time that Ellie is in the film is the only female character for the whole flick, and she’s a pretty ace character.  (Is there a responsibility for films for kids to have good female characters? I say yes, and am so disappointed that I can think of very few kids films that have even one half-good female character)

The rest of the film is pretty good; quite ridiculous as only an animated film can be, but it is the first section that makes this great and sent many adults to the cinema to watch it.

Up won Oscars for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score and Best Animated Feature Film of the Year and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing, original Screenplay (Bob Peterson, Pete Docter and Thomas McCarthy) and Best achievement in Sound Editing.

Beginners (2010) Film Review


Beginners follows the life of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as he deals with life and love after the death of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer). Shortly after his mother’s death, his father came out as a gay man and embraced life in the gay community thoroughly before becoming ill and dying, and a lot of Oliver’s problems seem to tie in to a childhood within a marriage that was, in many ways, a platonic friendship. It is only when he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent) that Oliver is really able to recognise and address his problems with intimacy.

That previous paragraph took me many redrafts, and I’m still not happy with it. I don’t want to merely copy any other descriptions of the plot. I just think there is a lot more to Beginners than that summary covers. Mind you, it’s not as bad as the blurb on IMDB, which is totally crap.

Once I got used to McGregor’s American accent, I loved this film. I loved that it is chopped up all over the place, and that the audience is fed information piece by piece. I love that there is a strong sense of reality in it (given that it is largely biographical). The acting is almost flawless – my only complaint was the casting of Goran Visnjic as Hal’s love interest. It just seemed to me that he was playing a straight man acting like a stereotypical camp ditz, and maybe some people actually are like this, but it just felt awkward and took away from the rest of the film for me.

I loved the writing of the film – the structure and the humour and the emotions it stirred. I think some audience members will struggle with the bordering-on-quirky (alright, at times, downright quirky, but I think in a good way) female characters, but they weren’t too over the top for me. It is a good, romantic tale, and I loved it.

The Lake House (2006) Film Review


Doctor Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock)moves into the lake house – a beautiful house with a tree in the middle that is on stilts on a lake. So does architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves). Only the kicker is that he is living there two years before her. There is a weird time-travelling letterbox that allows them to communicate and, of course, fall in love.  But the path of love does not go smoothly.

It’s a pretty appalling film. The concept almost works, although there are several scenes where the two characters are sitting and having a conversation in the same place but in different times, and I don’t see how that would work. Far too many drives to that darned letterbox, methinks. Keanu Reeves is not good as a romantic lead. It seemed to me that he was trying too hard to be a damaged man (although damaged by what? That wasn’t clear to me). Give him some explosions, a gun, something to run towards or away from and let him do some kicking and punching. That’s what he is awesome at. I loved Sandra Bullock in this, but I love Sandra Bullock in almost anything – well, anything romantic and anything comic.