25th Hour (2002) Film Review


What do you do when you know your time is about to run out? When your life is about to end and you have a day to sort out your affairs, deal with your life regrets and say your goodbyes? This is where Monty (Edward Norton) is. In high school, he started selling a bit of dope and by his early thirties when the police catch up with him, he is a high flyer. Facing seven years in jail, he must say goodbye to his father (Brian Cox), his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) and his oldest friends (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Why would you have any sympathy for a drug dealer? In all honesty, I didn’t. What I think Spike Lee has done in a really interesting fashion is to show how people deal with the choices of their near and dear; how others deal with losing someone in this way. And prison is an odd way to lose someone – they are not gone, but they are away. Prison for doing something bad over and over, for profiting from the pain of others. Yet people still hurt.

I don’t think it is the best film, but I think it is the ideas that it plants about people, relationships and life that make it fascinating.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Film Review


I had held of watching this film for two reasons: firstly, I didn’t love Wes Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, and was a bit concerned I wouldn’t love this, and I have truly loved many of his previous films; second, I saw a trailer early on and thought that I had seen most of it. I was wrong on both counts. I love it and the trailer actually gave very little away.

Essentially, the film tells the story (in a somewhat convoluted fashion) of a bell boy working at The Grand Budapest Hotel. No, that is not it. There is a lot more, there is theft and betrayal, sex and love, cakes and guns, prison and trains. But to attempt to tell it could give away too much, and it is a story that it is a delight to simply watch unfold. The typical, beautiful style of Wes Anderson is apparently in every shot, and his large cast of some of the most wonderful actors is great. (Although extremely male-heavy, with no really good female roles. Wes Anderson usually does better on this count… shame)

I think that if you do not like Wes Anderson films, you won’t like this one. If you haven’t seen one, perhaps this might be the best to introduce you to him.

The Grand Budapest Hotel won Oscars for Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Alexandre Desplat) and Best Achievement in Production Design. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Wes Anderson), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness).


Birdman (2014) Film Review


Riggan (Michael Keaton) is an actor who is best known to the world as Birdman, a superhero from a series of films from the early nineties. He has now, many years later, written a play based on work by Raymond Carver, and is directing and starring in it on Broadway. But things are not going smoothly, his lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is trying to clean up the mess. When one of the other stars, Lesley (Naomi Watts) suggests famous but volatile Mike (Edward Norton), things get even crazier. Then just add in Riggan’s recovering daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), his ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan) and his current squeeze Laura (Andrew Riseborough). Mad.

I loved this film so much. I loved it like I feel like I haven’t loved a film in ages. It is absurd and strange and clever and surreal and magical. Yet… I’ve spoken to friends who hated this film. Who even walked out of the film. Friends who I have a lot in common with, who are smart and we like a lot of the same things. And I think this is what this film will do – completely polarise the audience. The amazing drum soundtrack will, I’m sure, drive people insane, but I loved it so much – it drove the action and the emotion. Go, see it, love it or hate it, but experience a different type of film.

Birdman was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Keaton), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Edward Norton), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone), Best Achievement in Directing (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo), Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achieement in Sound Editing. It won Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Michael Keaton) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo) and was nominated for Best Director (Aejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Stone), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Edward Norton), Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It was also nominated for BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), the David Lean Award for Direction (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Screenplay (Original) (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Original Music and Best Sound.

Fight Club (1999) Film Review


There is a man, played by Edward Norton, who is not given a name throughout the film, who is suffering from insomnia. He gets some sleep after attending various illness support meetings where he manages to get some relief through the grief of others, such as Bob (Meat Loaf). Then Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) starts attending, and he needs to find an alternative way to get some sleep. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and they start Fight Club, a group where men get to be men again and beat each other up a lot. But this is just where it starts.

This is one of those films that I’ve watched several times and love. I love the performances; I love the concept of eschewing societal norms and breaking free; I love the fighting. (In reality, and in most films, I find punching hard. I think it is that they get so much joy from being beaten up). And watching it this time, I still loved all of that. But then I started to wonder about the misogyny of the film. A brief scan of the internet found quite a few articles, both academic and less-so about this concept and all look at Marla. She is just about the only woman in the film (well, the only other I recall is the woman who is dying of cancer and begs for sex) who is treated poorly and blamed by the main character for everything. But. She is also not a very nice person, she hates herself and she doesn’t treat other people well, and perhaps because of this, none of that bothered me. No, it was this whole bunch of men who gang together and exclude women altogether. There is a line, let me find it online: “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” Is that misogynistic? I reckon you could find a ton of people who could argue each side. What do I think? I don’t know. It makes me uncomfortable, but then, Fight Club is not a film to make you feel comfortable. What I do like about this is that it has made me think. Even if the minutiae of the situation is a bit confusing and difficult, at least I am thinking about it. And I still think it is a truly excellent film.

Fight Club was nominated for an Oscar for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing.


Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Film Review


Suzy lives with her family in a mansion at one part of an island called New Penzance. Sam is part of the Khaki Scout summer camp that is based at another part of the island. Neither fit well into their environment, and when they meet, they find in each other a like mind. They run away together with the threat of a massive storm.

Wes Anderson polarizes audiences with his style. I fall into the side that loves his work.

The Royal Tennenbaums was a beautiful and amazing emotional journey and The Darjeeling Limited took a part of my heart. It took a second, and maybe even a third watch of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for me to grow to love it, and I think that Moonrise Kingdom is like that for me.

I will need to walk away for a while, think about it, perhaps forget about it, and watch it again in six months or so. Then, perhaps, I will love it.

As it stands at the moment, it has elements of the other films that I loved which made it feel a bit like a greatest hits. Suzy had the style and the dark eye make-up of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the Tennenbaums, and the introduction to the house was reminiscent of the introduction to the submarine in Life Aquatic.

Moonrise Kingdom has, as Anderson always does, a marvelous cast.

It is always wonderful to see Bill Murray, but this film also had the bonus of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and the always-wonderful Frances McDormand. On top of this, the new talent in the Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as the young runaways.

Ask me again when it’s come out on DVD. By then, I’ll probably love it. For the moment, however, it’s far from my favourite Wes Anderson film, but still a film well and truly worth seeing.

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola were nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Incredible Hulk (2011) Film Review


In my attempt to see all the Marvel films leading up the Avengers from last year, I’ve watched The Incredible Hulk. This one’s the one with Edward Norton and Tim Roth. Unfortunately, even such strong acting talent could not save this film for me.

Luckily, the origin of the Hulk is covered in a very impressive opening sequence, where we see Doctor Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk, causing a whole heap of damage and fleeing. We then join him in Brazil, where he is practicing a series of methods to control his anger and his pulse rate to avoid releasing the hulk. Along comes General Ross (William Hurt) an army general who has recruited Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to bring Bruce Banner in so they can use the technology to create super-soldiers. Ross gives Blonksy a treatment which causes him to start to become a monster – and eventually, a truly evil threat to humanity.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I should. Perhaps it was because Mark Ruffalo was so perfect as Bruce Banner in The Avengers, that Edward Norton didn’t cut it for me. About halfway through, I was disappointed at the lack of appearance by the Hulk. When it was clear that the film would end with a battle between the Hulk and the monster that comes from Emil Blonsky. But even this ridiculous fight didn’t do it for me. I got bored. Bring on more Iron Man and Avengers films, but don’t bother with another Hulk. Or make it better. Although it was delightful to have the briefest appearance of Robert Downey Jr at the end. That was nice.