The Revenant (2015) Film Review * Major Spoilers *

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Based on a story that was based on true events, The Revenant is a violent, gory and pretty difficult to watch film set in the early 1800s in the wilds of what is now the United States. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) is working with a crew of trappers to get skins when they are attacked by a group of Native Americans who kill most of their group. Hugh is to lead them out to safety, but unfortunately (depicted in a most graphic manner) he is attacked by a bear. Eventually, the man in charge, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) decides that he needs to leave Glass behind – and asks for volunteers to stay. Glass is protected by his son as well as another young trapper, Bridger (Will Poulter) and the bad guy in the flick, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Sure enough, Fitzgerald (FIRST SPOILER) kills Hawk and convinces Bridger to leave Glass for dead. But he’s not, and over an increasingly unbelievably insane series of events, he returns to seek revenge on Fitzgerald.

First up – it is stunning and extremely graphic. In fact, I would have not been surprised if I ended up with bruises on my face from hiding from the screen. Intense and ugly, which is exactly what those times were probably like. To go cold, or even freezing, for months and months at a time, and never properly dry, and the stench of these men! Phew! (MEGA SPOILERS COMING) What I could believe was that it was possible for a man to survive this attack – he would not be well, but such a freaky thing, yeah, ok. Perhaps the film just tried to pack too much in – I could believe surviving the attack by the Native tribe, I could believe surviving the bear attack (just). I was a bit suss about the fact that he had not had anything to eat or drink (apart from the odd sip of snow) for days yet his body was managing to heal and get stronger by the minute. I could even believe his trip down the river and over some fairly intense white water rapids. But when he outrode an attacking tribe on a tired horse, jumped it off a cliff, fell into a massive tree and came out unscathed… that was where the film lost me. That was my bullshit meter pushed to the limit. And from there, I didn’t care what happened, and I was really saddened by that, because it was so close to being what I thought could be a decent representation of the times and the horror. It was also ruined for me by the whole cheesey revenge story. I know that they wanted to give him a strong reason to fight for survival, but really? Seeking revenge for a dead son. How incredibly clichéd.

DiCaprio is up for an Oscar, and I say cool. Despite hating the film by the end and being annoyed by the plot, I thought he was extremely impressive in this. Oh, and if you want a laugh, read this review from Jezebel – it’s written by a bear. Hilair.

The Revenant won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Director – Motion Picture (Alejandro Inarritu) and was nominated for Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It was also nominated for BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Best Original Music.

Mad Max : Fury Road (2015) Film Review

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Imperator Furiosa (Charlieze Theron) is on a mission; to get a group of women being used as breeders away from the evil control of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Taking a tanker for refueling across the stark desert from the compound run by Immortan Joe is the perfect chance, and she gets a hell of a way before he is on her tail – with his crew of followers, including the War Boys – men who are ill with some kind of perhaps radiation poisoning and live to give their lives for Immortan Joe. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is one of these, and Max (Tom Hardy), who has been captured, is being used as his ‘blood bag’ – his blood is being transfused from him. Max gets free and ends up reluctantly helping/being dragged along for the ride with Furiosa.

It’s awesome. It most certainly fills all my love for explosions and chases and all of that. Plus, it has a kick-arse female character – actually, it has quite a lot of kick-arse female characters. Max is almost an after thought in the film, it is so much the journey of Furiosa. However, Hardy is perfect as Max – he has the humour and toughness that Mel Gibson had back in his heyday – and there is very much the feel of a man beyond desperation. I think the breeders possibly could have been a bit more clothed, though I understand the arguments for their near-naked state. Charlize Theron has shown again and again how amazing she can be, and here a lengthy close up on just her eyes can tell you so, so much. It’s so refreshing to have a woman being strong without a man puppet mastering her from afar. More kick arse women like this, please. We all love them.

Oh, and the guy on a bunji cord playing a guitar that shoots fire? Yeah, him too.

This Means War (2012) Film Review

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FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are spies. FDR is a womaniser who has no inclination to get attached. Tuck has a son with his ex-wife and doesn’t trust women anymore. Then there is Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a woman who moved following her heart, but the relationship ended and now she sees him with his perfect finance everywhere. Somehow, she ends up dating both, however for them, it is a competition.

Surprisingly enough, I hated this film. Why on earth did I think that names like Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon would be enough to save this dog of an idea? Firstly, am I really watching (another) film where the woman is the ‘prize’? Secondly, I’ve been taught from watching films that spies are professionals who save us from the bad guys (okay, that’s clearly my issue) and yet these two are using all their resources to get laid. Thirdly, rooms of men creepily watching the dates… really creepily… Oh, for crying out loud. What was I thinking watching this? People… MAKE BETTER FILMS!

Not surprisingly, Reese Witherspoon won a special mention award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists for Actress Most in Need of a New Agent for this film.

 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Film Review

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Based on a John Le Carr novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follows retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) as he attempts to discover which top ranking of MI6 is a Soviet Spy.

It’s an amazing cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Kathy Burke and Benedict Cumberbatch just to mention a few. I just wish I’d seen it in the cinema. It is relatively slow-moving, with not a lot of action, and I found at home that my attention kept drifting and I didn’t really follow it all. None the less, it was clearly an extremely good film that should have kept my attention. I blame me on this one.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Bridget O’Connot and Peter Straughan) and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.

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

 

 

Lawless (2012) Film Review

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The Bondurant brothers are bootleggers working in rural Virginia, managing stills in the hills and running spirits into towns. Legend is that the brothers are indestructible, which seems likely during several of the particularly violent and gory scenes in this exceptionally violent and gory film. Things are going well for the Bondurant brothers, with young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) finally stepping up into the business. Then there is a new lawman in town – the ever-creepy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and things getting rapidly worse.

I am currently addicted to Boardwalk Empire and have been enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the prohibition that’s been playing on SBS. It was great to see the other side of the prohibition, especially tied in with aspects of the depression. But it wasn’t the plot that made the film for me. It was the characters. In many ways, Jack was the weak link of the characters. I didn’t want him to get cocky. He spent his life not living up to his brothers, and I just wanted him to do what he needed to and not be an idiot. But, without him being an idiot, it would have been a different story. It just seemed a bit clichéd to have one character’s arrogance bring down the whole story. The annoyingness of Jack was by far outweighed by the other marvelous characters, most notably for me, Charlie Rakes. Guy Pearce looks incredibly creepy in this role, with his shaved parting and his foppish suits, but it was the coldness behind his camp behaviour that made him the evil character that he was. In direct contrast was Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Forrest Bondurant. Straight talking, when he talked. A man with no airs, no graces and certainly no bullshit. Yet he was the criminal that the audience sided with and loved.

Lawless looks into a time in the world where people were struggling and the line between legal and moral was blurred.  It’s a great yarn. Enjoy 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.