Saving Mr Banks (2013) Film Review

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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).

 

Captain Phillips (2013) Film Review

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I’d been very hesitant to watch this film after seeing the Danish film A Hijacking at last year’s MIFF – that was such an amazing film. I just thought it would be a bit average, a bit Hollywood, a bit… not great. So wrong.

The story: Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is a commercial ship captain who sails tankers around the globe (note my total lack of knowledge on sailing terms. My apologies to all sailing types). He is taking a boat offshore Africa past Somalia when Somalian pirates attack, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

Initially, I thought the captain’s concern about security was overly foreshadowing the events to come, however it does make sense that, going into an area with report of pirates, you’d want to be cautious. Then, from the moment the skiffs were seen approaching the boat, things got tense. And remained tense throughout.

I liked that they gave a bit of background to the pirates, some information about their life in Somalia, however it was really only a tiny glimpse. Enough to give the audience the option of understanding that they are not necessarily evil, but being forced into a violent life, but not enough to have a deeper understanding. As the story progressed, there certainly an element of the Americans coming in to save the day that made me feel like it was all a bit yay yay USA, but apparently it was based on a true story, so apparently maybe I shouldn’t be quite so judgmental. Now that I’ve finally seen all of the nominations for Best Film Oscar 2013, I reckon this was my pick to win. Plus, Tom Hanks – this film really proves what a great screen actor he is.

Captain Phillips was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray). It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Tom Hanks), Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Barkhad Abdi) and Best Director – Motion Picture (Paul Greengrass). It also won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi) and was nominated for the Anthony Asuith Award for Film Music and BAFTAs for Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray), Best Film, Fest Leading Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound and the David Lean Award for Direction (Paul Greengrass).

Apollo 13 (1995) Film Review

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Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) are astronauts on the Apollo 13 trip which is meant to land on the moon, only things go wrong. Back on Earth, fellow astronaut (Gary Sinese) who was supposed to be on the flight works with mission controller Gene Krantz (Ed Harris) and the whole team to find ways to bring the men in the broken ship back home to his family.

Ron Howard usually gets it exactly right. This is an amazing story, told with magnificent tension and torment. It’s a melodrama, a real melodrama, along with all of the swelling music and tight close-ups, and gee, that is wonderful. I loved it when I watched it in the cinema back in 1995 and I loved watching it on DVD just recently.

Apollo 13 won Oscars for Best Sound and Best Film Editing and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Harris), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kathleen Quinlan), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Best Art Direction – Set Direction, Best Effects, Visual Effects and Best Music Original Score.

The Ladykillers (2004) Film Review

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For me, I think this was one of the few Coen brothers films that I have never heard of (there are a few, but they have made just so many). It’s one of my less favourites.

There is an elderly black woman, Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), highly religious, who lives in a large house with a ‘root cellar’ (a cellar with dirt walls). A very odd man, “Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, takes a room upstairs and uses the root cellar for rehearsals of his medieval music ensemble. Without the knowledge of Munson, they are not rehearsing but planning to rob a nearby casino, tunneling in from the root cellar. Things do not go well.

It’s an excellent cast, and some excellent, over-the-top character acting from Hanks and many of the others. The story is alright, although it really only kicks in for me in the last half an hour or so. I learned that this is actually a remake of a 1955 film featuring Peter Sellers – I want to check that one out.

 

 

Big (1988) Film Review

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It’s not a new idea – something magical occurs to cause a body swap, or some kind of crazy change. Josh wants to be big, and makes a wish on a machine at a fun fair. The next morning, he wakes up as a thirty year old, played by Tom Hanks. Remember, though, that it is the era before the internet, computers were new and therefore it takes two weeks for him and his best mate to track down the machine to return him to normal. Meanwhile, Josh needs to find a way to make money and live. Of course, he ends up working in a toy company and he has special skills, still thinking like a child.

It’s a classic and it really holds up. I mean, there are still daggy shoulder pads and many of the other aspects that are totally eighties, but it’s funny and fun. If you’ve got kids, watch it. Hell, if you don’t have kids but have a sense of humour, watch it.

Big was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Lead Role (Tom Hanks) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg)

Cloud Atlas (2012) Film Review

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Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Ben Wishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. For many, this list alone would be enough to make it worth seeing Cloud Atlas. For others, it is having read the novel by David Mitchell (I believe it is not that David Mitchell). Still others would have seen the trailer and been amazed at the sheer scale of the project.

I think it is impossible to summarise the plot in any simple fashion. It covers a multitude of characters over time, place, even on different planets. The characters are linked, although it is not always clear how or why. It’s pretty fascinating to see how the story has been created.

I must admit, I started watching expecting that I would hate this film, and hate it a lot. That’s certainly where I started. There were snippets of plot introducing characters but then flitting away before I had the chance to find out much about them. The amount of prosthetic work and make-up was annoying, and I’m not really a massive fan of fantasy as a genre. Once I had committed to disliking the film, a strange thing happened. I started to really like it. A lot. I let go my previous convictions and just enjoyed it for what it was. And it was good. Not brilliant, but a good, solid fantasy film. Though I did wonder about the Hugo Weaving character that was an awful lot like Old Gregg from The Mighty Boosh… anyone who can explain that to me, I’d be greatly appreciative.

As has often happened for me, this has inspired me to read the book, although I think I need some time between watching the film and reading the book.

The Green Mile (1999) Film Review

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Jeez, that Stephen King can really write-up a storm, can’t he? He’s known for his horrors, like The Shining and It, but then you get the truly amazing, like Stand By Men, Shawshank Redemption and this, The Green Mile. These are his books and short stories; they make for great stories to be made into films.

The Green Mile is told as a flashback from a man in a nursing home, telling the story of his time as a guard on death row during the depression. In particular, of the time during which John Coffey, a large African-American man was brought in. Everyone was fearful of this giant, but there was a magic to the man, a magic that is gradually revealed to the guards.

I’ve recently been contemplating the old man/old woman flashback as a structure. Often, it doesn’t work. Halfway through The Green Mile, I wondered about this as a choice of structure, but it truly does pay off at the end. The film is slow-paced and long – over three hours long. But every minute counts.

The excellent plot is held together by strong performances;  Tom Hanks, David Morse and several others as the prison guards; the late Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey; James Cromwell as the Warden; and Graham Greene and Sam Rockwell as fellow prisoners.

I think this is a truly excellent film. Truly.

The Green Mile was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Clarke Duncan), Pest Picture, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Film Review

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This review originally appeared on www.melbournegeek.com in March 2012.

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite authors. His two fictions Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are two of my favourite ever books. I love the humour and absurdity and heart of his writing. At the cinema recently, I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  and my heart sank. It looked awful. The problem is the marketing.

This is not a film about September 11.

But this is how it is being marketed, and I think that’s really wrong. Yes, (spoiler alert) the father died in one of the towers. This film is not about that – it’s about his son and how he deals (and cannot deal) with his grief. This is why I cried for two hours watching it.

At first, I was not happy with the choice of Thomas Horn as Oskar – he just wasn’t my Oskar, my little, nervous, weird, precocious Oskar. Plus he seems more like eleven or twelve than nine. As the film went on, he grew on me, and apart from a couple of overly schmaltzy, emotional moments, he was great. Especially the way he wields that tambourine! The casting of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock was a mistake, I reckon. I mean, they are both so recognisable that it is hard to see them as anything other than who they are, and I found it hard to separate that. Mind you, they both made me cry, so I guess they had their acting chops on.

I wonder if the reviewers who are hating this film have read the book.

I wonder if it is my absolute love of this book that has lead me to love the film – I don’t need to try to understand it. I’ve been through all the disbelief and incredulousness as I read (how can anyone let a nine-year-old wander around New York on his own like that?) and was able to just enjoy the ride. This is a clear example of when a trailer ruins a film; don’t watch the trailer. And when you see this film, take lots of tissues.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Max Von Sydow)