Snowden (2016) Film Review

Most people who live in the world with news services and the like will have heard of Edward Snowden. He’s the guy who worked for the US government and blew the whistle on the mass surveillance in place of all Americans – and indeed, kind of the whole world. This is the biopic of him. And it’s quite beautiful.

Snowden is played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt and Shailene Woodley plays Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. I know that every film has to choose what they put in and what they leave out, but when the role of the girlfriend is to be sweet when falling in love and then to nag, nag, nag, it’s just not a great role. What’s more, the concept of the film is that Snowden creates and/or discovers the way different technology is being used against ‘the people’. But, in real life, I doubt things would have been explained in such simple terms. It made me think that this film is a very polite and nice version of what happened – and I don’t feel much closer to the truth. If I ever will be.

 

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Film Review

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Like many, many cinemagoers, I was ridiculously excited about this film. Although, having said that, I haven’t re-watched Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, I didn’t participate in a movie marathon of these three films and I didn’t go to a midnight screening, or even a screening over the first weekend.  I guess I am not a truly dedicated, passionate, obsessed fan. But I was still ridiculously excited.

I don’t want to recount the plot at all. If you haven’t seen the first two, get them out and watch them, then go see it. If you don’t want to, then there may be some things you don’t understand. Deal with it. All I’ll say is that the film is set several years after the last film and Gotham is a safe city. A lot of the characters are back – Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), Alfred (Michael Caine), Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner Gordan (Gary Oldman). And we’ve got some new ones – Bain (Tom Hardy), Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Selina/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Miranda (Marion Cotillard) and the delightful surprise of seeing Ben Mendelsohn, albeit totally underused, as Daggart.

The film had much of the stuff that we’ve come to expect over the previous two films; some gruesome violence, authority figures not trusting each other and lots and lots of explosions. If it’s sounding boring or formulaic, it’s not. Yes, it is long – almost three hours, but time passes quickly in the film. Lives and the whole of Gotham city are transformed. And, in the true nature of cinema, everything rests on the final few seconds. Having said that, I picked several of the twists, which annoyed me. For me to pick up on them, there must have been too many hints. Either that, or I’m getting smarter.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the film symbolizes. Is it anti-The Occupy movement? Is it more about anti-capitalist terrorism? I’m not sure what Christopher Nolan intends from the film, how he intends it to be read. For me, it’s an awesome action film with a bit more depth than many, a fabulous cast and is well and truly worth the wait.

See it in the cinema. See it on a big screen with good sound. See it with a big audience. Just see it.

This review first appeared at www.melbournegeek.com on August 27, 2012

 

 

Looper (2012) Film Review

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The concept is way cool. In the future (2074) time travel has been invented. Murder is no problem, and so when the bad guys want someone dead, they send them back in time to where a ‘looper’ is waiting. A looper is an assassin. They set up a sheet in a field, then the victim shows up bound and wearing a hood, and the assassin blows them away. With a really big gun. The looper then collects the payment, silver bars, from the victim’s back, and burns the body. Job done, everyone’s happy. Only the looper is not happy if the bars on the body’s back are gold, because that means he has just closed the loop – he has shot himself.

That’s all really cool. Then, one of the loopers, played by Paul Dano, does not close his loop, and things go horribly and horrifically wrong for him. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) understands this, and is thrown into a panic when his older self (Bruce Willis) is sent back and escapes. The remainder of the film has the two men in a battle of survival.

It’s definitely a good film. There is no doubt about that. But I didn’t really enjoy it. That’s not strictly true. I didn’t mind it. But, I really didn’t like the task that the older Joe had to undertake (I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll just say that I found it quite distasteful, although it was certainly totally logical to the story). I possibly wouldn’t have minded it that much if I wasn’t totally distracted by the awful make-up on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I get that he needed to be the younger Bruce Willis for the storyline. However, I think that I am smart enough to make that connection through the plot and acting without requiring a distracting amount of make-up – especially given what a fabulous job Gordon-Levitt did matching the mannerisms of Willis. If only the producers/director/whoever could have just trusted in the acting, perhaps I would have enjoyed it.

Inception (2010) Film Review

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It’s the future. Highly trained people can infiltrate your dreams and steal secrets. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has been doing this for years, and his own mental stability is questionable. He had a wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) who passed away, but her image is now sneaking into the scenarios and sabotaging his work. He and his business partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are hired by Saito(Ken Watanabe) to go one step further. They are to penetrate the dreams of businessman Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and plant an idea – the concept known as inception. They gather together a team consisting of Cobb, Arthur, chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao), forger Eames (Tom Hardy) and architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and take the challenge.

I loved this film so much. It’s got heaps of running, fighting, shooting and explosions that I love in an action film, but then there is plot. Heaps of plot. Confusing and challenging, but ultimately there was a cool logic that made sense – provided you buy into the world of the film. Which I totally did. What’s more, it’s a film with an ambiguous end. I love an ambiguous end. Thanks, Christopher Nolan.

Inception won Oscars for Best Achievement in Cinematography (Wally Pfister) Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Richard King)and Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb and Paul J. Franklin) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures Original Score and Best Achievement in Art Direction.

3rd Rock From The Sun – TV Review

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Four aliens come to earth in earth bodies to study people. They are a family; Commander Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) is the father to Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the teenage son, who is also the research officer and the oldest alien on the mission. His aunt, the stunning, gorgeous Sally (Kristen Johnston), is the head of security and then there is Harry (French Stewart), who is essentially the radio. They answer to The Big Giant Head, an entity back on the home planet (played for a few episodes in one of the later series by William Shatner). Over the course of six seasons, Dick falls in and out of love with Mary (Jane Curtain) a professor of anthropology at the second-rate university where he lectures in physics. Sally falls in love with Don (Wayne Knight), a pudgy, cowardly cop.

Lots of stuff happens over the seasons, there are fabulous guest stars (including John Cleese, Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski) and the characters develop and change beautifully.

I’ve watched this series many, many times. There is fabulous slapstick and brilliantly over-the-top performances throughout. It’s been wonderful to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt go on to a stunning film career; watching him as a teenager holding his own with this awesome cast shows what a strong performer he is. John Lithgow continues to appear and delight me in many things, from 30 Rock to Dexter.

Lincoln (2012) Film Review

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The American Civil War was a war to end slavery. That was the key issue, as was my understanding. The thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution made slavery in the United States illegal. These things happened around the same time; they were related to each other, but not actually connected. Who knew? Not me.

To be fair, I have very little knowledge of US history. There are some things I know, but a lot I don’t

The film Lincoln follows US President Abraham Lincoln in his second term as President as he and his colleagues work to get the amendment passed. It’s not a rip-roaring action flick – if you want to see a film relating to slavery that is, see Django Unchained. This is a political drama, and for that reason, it’s pretty slow-paced and borders on boring. What stops it from being boring? I think for me it was the fact this was such an important moment in the world, deciding on the level of humanity to be shown to a group of people. Yet, it was all decided in such a political way, with votes being bought with jobs and political promises. Politics – such a dirty business.

Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor notorious for his research into his roles, so I believe that he did a lot of work to bring Lincoln to life as much as possible. Still, I find it hard to believe that he walked with such an unusual gait – it made him look like some kind of a puppet, and really distracted me from the importance of the story at hand.

I felt as though the story structure was a bit misguided at times; for me, the story was the politics. There were other parts that were connected in some way, but not totally crucial that the story would not have suffered if they had been left out of the film. For me, the whole storyline involving Lincoln’s son, Robert, was not all that relevant. Of course, that would mean losing Joseph Gordon-Levitt from the cast, but it wasn’t the most exciting role anyhow. He’s done lots better.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I don’t think it was necessarily worthy of the many nominations it has received. I sometimes wonder if you get a cast like this with a story of such great importance to the US directed by Steven Spielberg and it would be considered wrong for it to not be nominated. Is this how awards work?

Daniel Day-Lewis has been nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, won the a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama and won the BAFTA for Leading Actor

Tommy Lee Jones has been nominated for a Best Actor Supporting in a Supporting Role Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Performance of an Actor in a Supporting Role, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting Actress

Sally Field has been nominated for a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting Actress

Janusz Kaminski has been nominated for an Oscar for Cinematography, was nominated for a BAFTA for Cinematography

Joanna Johnston has been nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design and was nominated for a BAFTA for Costume Design

Steven Spielberg has been nominated for an Oscar for Directing, a Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture

Michael Kahn has been nominated for an Oscar for Editing

John Williams has been nominated for an Oscar for Music (Original Score), a Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Orginal Music

Lincoln has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, an Oscar for Best Production Design, a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, was nominated for a BAFTA for Production Design

Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins have been nominated for an Oscar for Sound Mixing, was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film

Tony Kushner has been nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay), a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay

500 Days of Summer (2009) Film Review

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Ah, a hipster romance. How delightful. I know there are a lot of people who hate hipsters, with their skinny jeans, vests, pretty frocks and quirky habits. But I want to be hip enough to be a hipster. I just don’t have the commitment, but if I could move to Brooklyn seven years ago, there would have been no stopping me.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is trained as an architect but working in a greeting card company. He believes in true love, and then along comes Summer (Zooey Deschanel). She doesn’t believe in love. They have a relationship.

The story is fragmented and told through scenes scattered across the 500 days from their meeting. We have scenes after a fight, with his sassy younger sister counseling him through the break-up, to their first romantic visit to Ikea. I really liked the way the story was told, even with the kooky dance sequence. I’ve admitted to being a fan of both of the main actors (The New Girl, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises), so I guess it is hardly a surprise that I enjoyed this film. Plus, it has a fantastic soundtrack that I regularly listen to on longs drives.

It’s not for everyone. If you hate hipsters, you’ll hate this film. Summer is one of the characters considered by many to be a manic pixie dream girl (I think she needs a quirky hobby or habit to truly fall into this category for me), so that may put people off.

 

50/50 (2011) Film Review

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50/50 is the chance of survival that Adam(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is given when his back pain is diagnosed as a cancerous tumour. Yes indeed, this is a cancer film. And a really good one. It covers the awful moments of diagnosis, and telling friends and family, and all of the times that people try awkwardly to help or relate in some way.

Adam is a pretty restrained character – he’s never learnt to drive because there is such a high risk of dying in a car accident. He has a love/hate relationship with his best mate, Kyle(Seth Rogan), a man who seems oblivious to almost everything and everyone around him. On top of this, he is in the relatively early days of a relationship with a beautiful photographer, and having to deal with an overbearing mother who wants to care for him despite having her hands full with his father who has Alzheimer’s.

There is a lot in there, but essentially, what you have is a strong and entertaining film with lots of black comedy and a few tears. Good times.