Archive for June, 2012
While a bit of a downer, it’s beautifully crafted with excellent performances, some great cinematography along with an amazingly stark and brutal landscape.
Set in Australia in the late nineteenth century (in terms of landscape and structure think about our wild west) The Proposition tells the tale of redemption and revenge. The story goes like this – a trio of brothers in a gang are wanted for brutal crimes. Now, who is guilty of what isn’t always clear, which begs the question of the issuing of the punishment which in those days wasn’t necessarily what you would call just or fair (hmmmm, sounds a little like our current court system). Anyway, to bring out the big brother who’s seen as the ringleader and ultimately the worst of the worst, the little brother is sentenced to hang unless the middle brother brings the eldest down.
Since this is frontier law, things don’t exactly work out as planned for anyone involved as the eventual breakdown occurs and chaos and conflict ensue. Perhaps that’s the lesson in here – is revenge worth the heavy price that comes with it? Is it right to want someone to be punished within an inch of life based on your own pain and perception? Who else pays the price? What about those that play innocent and turn a blind eye? Are they guilty too?
A heavy film with some heavy questions.
The screenplay for this was written by Nick Cave (yep, the musician). Well crafted, intelligent dialog flows well between the characters as the details play out. Noone seems out of place with the words that carry everyone through.
The acting is superb, each performer a great study in the craft. I’m a big Guy Pearce fan and he plays the gravity of the middle brother who’s torn between the other two with wonderful low-energy but high intensity where needed. Ray Winstone plays the policeman pitting the brothers against each other along with Emily Watson as his naive wife. Danny Huston plays the oldest brother expertly in such a way that makes you hate his guts but that you kind of might like to chat with him briefly just prior to watching him meeting his demise.
All in all a bit bleek but an excellent piece of filmmaking.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
You for damned sure know that it is going to hurt me to find this movie wanting, but, alas, I did. I found it wanting Sigourney Weaver in her underwear, Harry Dean Stanton yelling at Yaphet Koto over screaming steam pipes, I found it wanting better music, and so on.
One thing I found interesting about this film prior to its release was just how much some of the people behind the film were trying to distance themselves from the original Alien movie. They really seemed hellbent on trying avoid being tied in with the original because they wanted this movie to have its own feel and tone and to stand on it’s own. And it is original, standing out from the first film even though this is the prequel to it. What I don’t understand is why be so adamant about trying to distance yourself from what is now considered a classic.
“Why?” is a question I was asking myself quite a bit with this movie. LIke, why was Ridley Scott ok with a script that has some major holes in it? He’s usually more focused than this but the movie’s script comes off a bit scattershot as does some of the direction behind it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good film worth watching, great, at times in fact; but it has some really odd plot points that just don’t make sense.
It’s hard to go into without spoiling it so I’ll just pepper you with a couple things to keep an eye out for and ask yourself “why?”. There’s a major character that gets sort of “poisoned” by another major character but it’s never explained as to the purpose. The android character (played by Michael Fassbender) has some odd moments where he just kind of does things without accountability and even displays a strange, calm sense of malice(?) towards humans. At times he even seems to torment with subtlety but you never know what his beef with humans is.
And why cast Guy Pearce, bury him under prosthetics as an old dude and never show him young? Why not just cast an older actor instead of spending a lot of time and money on makeup that looks like makeup? From a filmmaker standpoint, that just doesn’t make sense. I’m a big fan of Guy Pearce by the way, but he’s way under-utlilized here in this role and doesn’t do anything special that any other actor couldn’t have done just as easily – act old and feeble. Seems like a waste of talent and budget.
The acting is pretty good although there aren’t any real standouts in my eyes. Noomi Rapace is ok but lacks the charisma and strength of some of her fellow actors. Charlize Theron is in here but admittedly I thought (hoped) her character would be a bit more pivotal. She’s one of those actors that’s always good (which is why I would’ve like to see her stand out more), no complaints there. But another oddity – at one point she mentions that she’s getting “suited up” to go in to the alien ship at one point, she seems like there’s a big reason for it in fact, but never does and it’s never mentioned again. Huh? What? Why? Overall, I would’ve rather seen Charlize Theron as the lead and Noomi Rapace in Theron’s character instead.
Visually, the design and effects are beautifully done. The love and skill of the craftsmanship behind the design is obvious. Some definite HR Giger influence in here but not overly so, it’s more subdued as the movie strives to create it’s own identity. Perhaps they focused on that a bit too much though and should’ve been more concerned about that big question that keeps crashing into you but never gets answered – why? Interestingly, that’s one of the reasons the crew embarks on their journey in the first place, to meet our creators and ask “why”? Perhaps they should ask the screenwriters more of that question.
Anyway, if you enjoy Ridley Scott movies and have an appreciation for the first Alien film, check this out in the theater and try not to let the “why” of it bother you too much as it’s still a pretty damn cool movie.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Based on the Clive Barker short story (it’s a good one, I read it as part of his Books of Blood in ‘84), the story follows a photographer trying to make his way professionally by shooting the city’s dirty underground heart. During his journey into the city’s depths, he discovers a serial killer that butchers people during the last train ride of the night…
Now the premise might sound familiar as there have been similar stories. But, remember this is a Clive Barker story and he does like to take the train off the tracks so-to-speak, and so he does. Suffice it to say that despite the twists, there are also some moments of foreshadowing that become a little too obvious too soon, but aside from that, it’s a pretty enjoyable ride.
Some great direction with this one as it has many visually compelling moments. It’s horror well done to the point where it’s very extreme but still very watchable, not all films in this genre can pull that off. The stylized moments work well such as the high-speed train segments and some of the more surrealistic moments with Bradley Cooper’s character. It built up some of the tension nicely. There are some pretty grotesque moments as the serial killer also happens to be a butcher by trade (natch).
Vinnie Jones is great in this, fits the role nicely to the point where while watching him, you kind of expected him in there in the first place subconsciously. Bradley Cooper puts in a compelling, intense performance, as does Leslie Bibb. Brooke Shields, Roger Bart and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson also appear and each puts in tight performances.
Not for the weak of heart but if you are a horror fan, this is definitely one to check out.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Ok, so it’s not as good as the first one, but it’s way better than the second one…
10 years have passed since we last visited J and K and while Will Smith is looking pretty much the same, Tommy Lee Jones is looking like a more exaggerated form of his curmudgeonly self. The story hasn’t changed much: saving the universe, deporting nasty aliens, blah, blah, blah. So this time, the story is more focused on J and K and their distant-yet-caring relationship as well as a secret that J is starting to learn about from K’s past.
Often a time-jump mechanic in the storyline is put in when there’s no other idea where to take the concept, in other words it’s often a crutch. So is the case here; however, it’s used effectively and even though it all plays out in a manner we’ve seen many, many times before, it’s still fun to watch and dare I say even a little heartwarming at the end.
The effects go back and forth from looking cool and genuine to looking really fake and cheesy (watch out for those digital projectors my fellow filmmakers, they show a lot more detail than the old school film chains). The alien invasion scene looks particularly CG such that I had trouble focusing (or caring) what was happening with Will Smith’s character at the time.
The performances are decent, standard as you’d expect although I have to say I found Will Smith’s performance to be a bit annoying as he played J like a real asshole for the first 30 minutes of the film, just kind of angry and arrogant, hard to like. Josh Brolin has his Tommy Lee Jones impression down, that’s for damn sure. As for Tommy Lee Jones, well, he’s Tommy Lee Jones, ’nuff said. Some other great talent in here that includes Jemaine Clement (who’s really fun to watch as Boris the Animal) as well as Emma Thompson and Bill Hader.
Fun stuff to see in the theater and makes up a little for the second one. Directed by Barry Sonnefeld.
reviewed by Sean McKnight