The Lobster (2015) Film Review

lobster2-xlarge

It’s an alternative world, where if you become single (even through death or divorce), you are taken to a hotel where you are stripped, put into identical clothes and you have forty-five days to find love or you are turned into an animal (to give you a second go at finding love). The only way you can give yourself a greater chance is if, during the hunt, you bag one or more ‘loners’ – single people who live and thrive in the woods. David (Colin Farrell) ends up at the hotel with his dog/brother, but decides to take an alternative path.

This is an insane, strange, mysterious, hilarious, fantastic, strange, wonderful, awful, amazing, strange film. I totally loved it, but there are many reasons I couldn’t see it again. The performances were all so strange and controlled but utterly perfect, and Colin Farrell in particular was amazing. I don’t know exactly who I’d recommend this to, but I’d certainly recommend watching it like I did, at an outdoor screening like Shadow Electric at the Abbottsford Convent in Melbourne, with an audience who enjoy laughing aloud.

The Lobster was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film.

 

 

Horrible Bosses (2011) Film Review

horrible-bosses.17666

Three guys are mates, and all are in jobs with bosses that are abusive and appalling. Nick’s (Jason Bateman)boss is Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a man who is relentlessly cruel, mostly verbally. Kurt (Jason Sedeikis) loved his boss, Jack (Donald Sutherland) but when he suddenly passes away, the nightmare cocaine-addicted son, Bobby (Colin Farrell) steps in, but his plans involved prostitutes and running the company into the ground. And Dale (Charlie Day) is a strange little guy who is being sexually tormented by his dentist boss Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). So, like Strangers on the Train, they decide that if they all kill each other’s boss, they can get away with it. But they are fools, so it goes wrong. But, of course, ultimately right.

It’s such a nod to The Hangover – three guys, one kind of cool, one sensible and straight-laced and the other a bit odd and irresponsible. I kind of liked it – well, I didn’t hate it. I liked bits… I did like that they had one of the bosses be a woman, and the idea of her doing the sexual harassment, and that it is clearly a power thing, which a lot of people forget in relation to sexual harassment. But, I felt that it was kind of too much story for a 98-minute film, but not quality enough for a longer film.

 

Saving Mr Banks (2013) Film Review

Unknown

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) wrote Mary Poppins, and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) wanted to make a film of it. But she hates films and she hates animation and she won’t bear it. However, she is convinced to visit Hollywood and work with a fabulous team (Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) to turn it into a film. Travers hates every moment of it, from the small talk of her driver, Paul Giamatti, to the food delivered to their workspace. But the experience takes her back to her childhood in rural Australia with her alcoholic father.

Most of the film I loved. I didn’t love the structure all of the time – sometimes the flashbacks were a bit clunky and annoying, but they were so important to the film as a whole. Emma Thompson is always a delight to watch on-screen and I especially loved seeing her interactions with the Hollywood types – especially with Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak trying to impress her. There was some heavy-handed make-up on Tom Hanks to make him look more like Walt Disney, and I felt that wasn’t necessary, however it didn’t bother me as much as it has in other films. And cry? Oh, so much so. And I so do enjoy a cry at a movie!

Saving Mr Banks was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Emma Thompson) and for BAFTAs for the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer (Kelly Marcel), Best Leading Actress (Emma Thompson) and Best Costume Design (Daniel Orlandi).

 

In Bruges (2008) Film Review

In Bruges

Things on a hit have gone wrong, and Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) have been sent to lay low in Bruges, Belgium by their boss, the psychopathic Harry (Ralph Fiennes).

I could see this film a hundred times and not get bored with it. I love the characters, the absurdity, the pathos and even the horrific violence. It is beautifully made and really fabulous. Plus, it contains one of my favourite ever lines in a movie: “You’re an inanimate f***ing object.” I nearly choked with laughter when that popped up. Geez, I love Ralph Fiennes.

In Bruges was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Martin McDonagh)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) Film Review

imaginarium

Knowing that this was Heath Ledger’s last film, and indeed, that he passed away during shooting, I’ve been hesitant to watch it. Even knowing it’s a Terry Gilliam film and that filming was resumed with Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp, I still couldn’t bear it. I suspected (very wrongly) that it would feel unfinished, or, at best, half-arsed. As is often proven, I’m an idiot. Of course the perfectionist Terry Gilliam wouldn’t release a poor product.

There is a travelling theatre stage on the back of an old-fashioned horse-drawn caravan that appears in random locations. The feature act is Doctor Parnassus; the thousand-year-old man who provides a unique experience to anyone who enters. But it is running into the ground in the modern age as it has not updated – until the appearance of the hanging man, Tony (Heath Ledger).

There is so much more to the plot, but I think you should just watch and enjoy. Be aware, though; it’s crazy and nuts, with unreal worlds hidden from view, and you really need to suspend your disbelief to enjoy it.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Art Direction.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) Film Review

home-bg

Don’t ya just love going in to a film not knowing anything about it or anything to do with it? It is a total hit or miss, although I find that even a really bad film is better if it is unexpected. Seven Psychopaths was totally a hit.

From Martin McDonagh, writer and director of In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths is just that – a film about seven psychopathic people. Or more specifically, a film about Marty (Colin Farrell), an alcoholic screenplay writer who is trying to write his new film, titled Seven Psychopaths. As he does this, the relationship with his Australian lover, Kaya (Abbie Cornish) is struggling as he spends too much time with his actor friend Billy (Sam Rockwell). Then things get complex.

There is so going on in the plot of this film that it is really difficult not to mention anything further without major spoilers. It is very violent, but very funny. Really and truly laugh out loud funny. The dialogue is extremely amusing (comparable to the wit of Reservoir Dogs, only less like a stand-up comedy routine, and more like conversations that real, witty people might have.

For me, the film was carried by Sam Rockwell, although I have to mention the performances of Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. Harrelson is so strong and funny, and Walken is magnificently understated.  Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Waits and I’m pretty happy. As long as you don’t mind a bit of violence (including some very hilarious violence), get out and see this film.

London Boulevard (2010) Film Review

images

With a plot vaguely reminiscent of The Bodyguard (1992), London Boulevard has Colin Farrell playing Mitchel, an ex-con hired to protect celebrity actress Charlotte (Keira Knightley). They fall in love to the backdrop of foul-mouthed paparazzi, foul-mouthed criminals and foul-mouthed police.

There is a lot of swearing in this film. It all felt natural for the world that they are occupying, but gee, there is an awful lot of it. What didn’t feel natural was the relationship between Mitchel and Charlotte. No chemistry at all. I don’t know if it was simply the acting or if it was poorly scripted, or bad direction. All I know is that I didn’t see any spark between them, which is fairly crucial to the plot. It kind of felt as though it was a romance/drama that should have been aimed at a female audience, but then there was so much bad language and drama that it was actually aimed at a male audience. Hmm, I’m not overly happy with saying that in general, women prefer the romance and men prefer the violence, but I’m not sure that I’m being sexist so much as gender stereotyping. What do you think?

Incidentally, this trailer makes it look quirky and funny. It’s not.

 

Total Recall vs Total Recall vs We Can Remember it for you Wholesale (1990) (2012)

I recently wanted to see a film that would not stretch my brain. I wanted to shut off and simply enjoy some explosions and fights and the like. So, I went to the recent remake of Total Recall – and kind of liked it. I know that the popular view is to hate it, and to hate the fact that Hollywood seems to be only remaking old ideas and not coming up with something new, so I guess I just ain’t so popular.

   

Rather than just assuming that the remake had to be worse than the original, I had to re-watch the original which I recall kind of liking a fair bit, and wanted to see how the two compared. Of course, once I got started, my interest was awakened, so I found the short story that it was based on. Here’s what I reckon about all three.

 

***MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS*** I’m not even going to try to hide the spoilers here.

Here are the plots of each:

Total Recall 2012

 

Earth in the future. It’s dark, overcrowded and filthy, and most of the world has been destroyed by nuclear war. Only two parts remain – the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony (that’s us, Australia). There is massive overcrowding, and people in the Colony are forced to travel through the world on a giant (and I’m talking the size of a city block of skyscrapers) elevator called ‘The Fall’ to work in factories. The world is run by a dictator, Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (played by the wonderful Bryan Cranston) who is planning to wage war on the colony with an army of robots, kill the whole population of the Colony, replace them at their manual jobs with robots and repopulate the Colony with people from Greater Britain. There is an underground movement, led by Matthias (Bill Nighy) and his unidentified second-in-command, Carl Hauser.

 

Dennis Quaid(Colin Farrell) is dissatisfied with his life and so, despite warning from his workmate, Harry, visits a company called Rekall. Rekall manipulate the chemicals in his mind so that he will have the memories of an adventure where he is a double agent spy. Only, the process reveals that he is actually in real life a double agent who has had his memory erased and placed in a false marriage. He then spends the film trying to figure out what is real and what is false. His wife (Kate Bekinsale) is chasing and trying to kill him, and Harry turns up to try to convince him that he is having a delusion.

An old colleague calls him on a phone implant in his hand (which he needs to remove in a gory manner as it is also a tracking device) and directs him to a bank security deposit box. He then makes it to his apartment where he plays the piano that reveals a recording of himself explaining that he is Carl Hauser and was a double agent. He then goes with Jessica Biel, the girl he remembers from his dream, to defeat the evil dictator and free the Colony and nearly fails but eventually manages to destroy The Fall in a spectacular fashion.

 

Total Recall 1990
I remember this being a great film loved by many of my generation. I hate to say it, but it really didn’t hold up for me. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s go the rundown.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Dennis Quaid, a construction worker who dreams of visiting Mars. His wife, Sharon Stone, tries to convince him that Earth is best, or they can go and visit Saturn, but he is adamant that he wants to go to Mars. Despite warning from his workmate, Harry, he goes to Rekall to get the memories of a trip to Mars implanted, and has the add-on of being a spy. But, when he is put under, he freaks out and rants about his cover being blown. Rekall cover this memory up and release him back into the world with a full refund, but on the way home he is attacked by and has to fight off (and kill) Harry and a gang. At home, he tells his wife, who then tries to kill him. Quaid is contacted by a mysterious man who leaves him a suitcase with a recorded message from himself in the past telling him he needs to get to Mars to meet Kuato. Mars is run by dictators Cohaagen who controls the planet by controlling the supply of air and the domes in which the population live, protected from the Mars atmosphere.

Quaid sneaks himself into Mars, with a few spectacular fights involving lots of celery sound effects and very, very red blood. A note in a safety deposit box at the hotel directs him to a bar in a sleazy neighbourhood full of mutants (who have been made mutant by poor quality domes) and to Melina who rejects him, but turns up at the hotel in time to save his life shortly after he kills his wife. She and the quirky African-American taxi driver Quaid has befriended along the way, Benny, get into the secret hiding place to meet Kuato, who is a mutant man living in the chest of another.

One thing leads to another, and Quaid discovers that he is actually a triple crosser, an agent of Cohaagen who claims to be on the side of the mutant rebels, but he is actually still working for Cohaagen.  Quaid cannot accept this, and changes sides, killing Cohaagen and Benny (who is a traitor) and starting the ancient alien machinery that produces oxygen, rendering the planet livable to humans and the domes unnecessary.

 

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Phillip K. Dick

 

Sometime in the future, Douglas Quail (not sure why this was changed to Quaid in both films. Bit confusing) dreams of going to Mars, but his wife tries to convince him to take a deep sea holiday instead. Against her wishes, he goes to Rekall to have the memory of a trip to Mars implanted, along with the spy add-on. But when they put him under, he recalls an actual trip to Mars. Rekall attempt to cover it up and shove him in a cab, and return half his fee. Coming to, Quaid’s memories are confused, and he thinks that Rekall have ripped him off and implanted the Mars memory, but with none of the physical souvenirs promised. He directs the cab back to Rekall, and they refund the remaining amount of the fee. Back at his house, he discovers some relics from Mars that make him realise that his memory is real, not false. He tells his wife who leaves him.

It transpires that he was an agent for a mysterious agency, who then chase him to kill him, and he gets away but is being traced by a device in his brain. Through the device, the agency can read his  mind and respond to him telepathically. Quail

Requests them to erase his memory again and place a new, grander memory in his head so he doesn’t become restless again. Reluctantly, they agree to try this, and if it doesn’t work, they will kill him. The agency remove his memory and discover a fantasy from when he was a child – a tiny alien race arrived on Earth to take over the planet, and because Quaid showed such humanity to them and didn’t kill them, they agreed to stay away as long as Quaid is alive. Laughing at how arrogant the fantasy of saving the entire human race is, the scientists are surprised to discover that this too is a truth from Quaid’s past, and that they cannot kill him or the world will end.

 

Heaps different, eh? What’s more, I was really disappointed with it. I found it really poorly written with lots of redundant sentences yet not enough detail. I have heard for so long that Phillip K. Dick is an amazing sci fi author, and I was just so, so disappointed with the quality. However, reading the other stories in the collection Minority Report, I can see why he is so popular. I may not appreciate his style so much, but I got totally and utterly caught up in the action that it didn’t mater. Not that it mattered much for We Can Remember it for you Wholesale – even re-reading it, it didn’t grab me. But to provide the seed for two pretty cool action films, well, it obviously had something.

 

 

That’s an awful lot of viewing and reading, isn’t it?

 

Yup. I had to let my thoughts simmer for a while to let everything sink in and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Here goes!

 

What I really liked about the 1990 version is the ambiguity of the end- there was a real sense that perhaps the entire thing was just the memory from Rekall and that Quaid was stuck in a psychotic coma of some kind. There was the slightest hint of this in the remake, but really not very well done at all. And throughout the remake, I kept thinking ‘ah, it’s all part of the package from Rekall’ but it just wasn’t balanced out.

 

The fight sequences in both films were cool in their own way. In the original there was the cheesy 80s schmaltziness, the litres of red paint and the crazy sound effects-  never has breaking bones sounded so much like celery crunching. In the remake, the fighting was fast, hard and involved lots of battle barriers which were heaps of fun.

 

The acting in the remake was a lot better than in the original – seriously, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It took a long time for him to get to the level of True Lies (which I loved), and especially when he smiles and enjoys himself – well, he is seriously scary looking. It wasn’t just Arnie, though. I get the feeling that the director was a lot more concerned with the special effects and fights than with the performances. Or perhaps it was the era. Or maybe people just couldn’t act with that much hair product? Even the swearing in the original sounded forced, as though people didn’t really swear. It can’t have been just the era – Demolition Man is from around the same time and the acting was a lot better in that. And that’s saying a lot given it was Stallone.

 

 

A major flaw in both films is that Quaid is so unhappy in his life that he wants a fake life, yet neither film sets that up well. There really seemed to be little reason for Quaid to go to Rekall, yet he does. There are a lot of really major differences between the two films, and that was when I decided to read the short story that it was based on, to see which was closer to the original. Neither, as it happens.

 

My verdict?

I preferred the new. I think it may essentially come down to expectations. When I went to see the new version, I wanted a good, face paced action film and that’s exactly what I got. When I watched the old film, I wanted to relive what I remembered as, and had been repeatedly told, was a classic. What I got was a good story wrapped up with poor acting and direction, and nowhere near the excitement or action that I wanted. I’m going to watch it again with other people around and see if that changes my opinion at all, but I suspect that I’m just not a fan.

Oh, but yes, the three-breasted prostitute is in both! Phew!