Thursday, 8 April 2010

Cinema Review Roundup

I've watched a few cinema releases recently that I didn't get round to reviewing here or at Row Three, so I thought I'd do some brief write-ups on everything I saw to bulk up my database. Plus I had another home alone movie marathon last weekend (not the Home Alone movies, I mean in the literal sense), so look out for a write-up on that over the next few days.

Alice in Wonderland

Year: 2010
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Linda Woolverton
Based on the Books by: Lewis Carroll
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover

I'm going to be really lazy for this one and just paste chunks of what I wrote on Row Three's Alice R3view comments page:

The film just didn’t engage with me at all, it was all so flat (no 3D related pun intended) and lifeless. It looked nice, but even then it didn’t feel like a particularly new vision, just Tim Burton-lite. The overuse of not particularly impressive CGI didn’t help, giving it a glossy, uncanny sheen. I much prefer to see Burton’s gothic imagery in the flesh so to speak. On a positive note I liked Helena Bonham Carter and the Cheshire Cat, they always gave the film a boost when they came on screen, but no one else grabbed me as such. I thought Alice herself was a little bland and uninteresting, she was supposed to be this quirky woman who defies convention, but she never sold it to me, just coming across as dull half the time. Plotwise it felt too much like a retread of the original story, which made the idea of having Alice older a little pointless although on a whole that worked. The second half just gets into textbook fantasy adventure territory too, but without enough weight behind it to make it exciting.

On Avatar vs. Alice: Personally I much preferred Avatar. They’re both all about the spectacle of course, but Avatar’s narrative, however clich├ęd and cheesy, was actually quite engaging and I was caught up in the fight for Pandora. Alice on the other hand just seemed so uneventful, things just happened one after another and characters just drift in and out without really adding anything to the story. Not that it felt random or messy, it just had no drive or drama. I disagree that it had to be funny, but there were moments that were clearly supposed to be and failed. Johnny Depp’s dance at the end for instance was painful. What the film should have been though was exciting or at least captivating, but instead it was a load of scenes we’ve seen before in other Alice incarnations strung along a feeble story with an overabundance of uncanny-looking CGI.


Shutter Island

Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Laeta Kalogridis
Based on the Novel by: Dennis Lehane
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams

Scorsese's latest is a retro B-movie throwback using films like Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor as a clear inspiration. Everything from the music to the stunning cinematography is bombastically done, in my mind for the better. It seems rough around the edges at times (Scorcese and editor Thelma Shoonmaker give continuity error spotters a field day), but this feels at least partially purposeful as the director pays homage to a style of filmmaking long gone as well as using some jarring techniques to mess with the audience's minds. The film is an impressively visceral experience, not in the fast-cutting, shaky-cam way that the Bourne films are, but in bombarding the audience with big sounds and visuals that create a cinematic feel rather than a realistic one.

Content wise it's pretty solid too with an absorbing mystery that turns into a nightmarish thriller. Revelations towards the end of the film feel a little obvious and unsettle the ride the film has taken you on, but a nice touch right at the end makes up for it. This is Scorcese's best for a while.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Year: 2009
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writers: Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg
Based on the Novel by: Stieg Larsson
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube

The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo is a consistently engrossing thriller which starts off feeling like something fairly conventional, but draws you in incredibly deeply and adds layers of darkness and character development often lost in general Hollywood fare. The side story (if you can call it that) involving Lisbeth Salander (brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace) is especially shocking and fascinating. The filmmakers don't put a foot wrong for the most part, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat despite a fairly leisurely pace. The only place that I felt they stumbled was in the last 15 or 20 minutes when the film ties up all the loose ends. It's clearly important to do so, but the preceding 2 hours are so slow burning and dark it makes the rapid and straightforward coda seem out of place, especially since it's stretched out for a fairly long time after the dramatic climax of the film. For the most part this is excellent stuff though and is highly recommended.


1 comment:

  1. Looks like we're more or less on the same page there Dave. Though I liked the visual prowess (and voice acting) of Alice enough to make it a bit more than a 4 star film for me.

    But Shutter Island and Dragon Tattoo are the first two "must see" films of 2010 to be sure!