Friday, 27 April 2012

Film Review: "A Dangerous Method" (2011)

The film’s tagline reads "Based on the true story of Jung, Freud and the patient who came between them." This is the premise of A Dangerous Method. This Canadian historical film directed by David Cronenberg and adapted by writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, which was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. The film is based on a true story, Set on the eve of World War I, A Dangerous Method describes the turbulent relationships between Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, Sigmund Freud, founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, and Sabina Spielrein, initially a patient of Jung and later a physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.

Hampton's earliest version of the screenplay, dating back to the 1990s, was written for Julia Roberts in the role of Sabina Spielrein, but the film was never realized. Hampton re-wrote the screenplay for the stage, before producer Jeremy Thomas acquired the rights for both the earlier script and the stage version. Christoph Waltz was initially cast as Sigmund Freud, but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen due to a scheduling conflict. Christian Bale had been in talks to play Carl Jung, but he too had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Filming began on 26 May and ended on 24 July 2010. The film made extensive use of the musical score of leitmotifs from Wagner's third Ring opera Siegfried, mostly in piano transcription. In fact the composer Howard Shore has said that the structure of the film is based on the structure of the Siegfried opera.

The film stars Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassel. The cast gave superb performances and provided complex psychology to the real life figures. Viggo Mortensen gave a mesmerizing performance as the great founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. I felt as if I had seen the man himself on the screen. Along with Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. Fassbender gave a compelling performance in every single one of his scenes, especially during the scenes when he was with Knightley. Knightley, like Fassbender, also gave a compelling performance as the psychologically disturbed female masochist. She receives the highest praise amongst the cast, due to the fact that it must have been a difficult role to play. I did not believe an actress such as her could play a role like Spielrein. But she pulled it off magnificently.

A Dangerous Method may have explosive power, striking performances and subversive wit. But it fails to live up to Cronenberg’s legacy as a world-class filmmaker and can not be counted as a film that is at the top of his startlingly creative form. To conclude, it is lifeless, stagey and lacking a palpable subversive pulse despite the ready opportunities offered by the material, this stillborn adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play initially will attract some Cronenberg fans but will be widely met with audience indifference.

Simon says A Dangerous Method receives:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Film Review: "The Lady" (2011).

The film's tagline reads: "Wife. Mother. Prisoner. Hero." This is the story of The Lady. This French-British biographical film directed by Luc Besson and written by Rebecca Frayn. The film tells the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her late husband, Michael Aris' devotion and love, and how it endured amongst the distance, long separations, a dangerously hostile regime and political turmoil, which continues today. It is also the story of the Aung San Suu Kyi's quest for democracy in Burma, who is at the core of Burma's democracy movement.

Writer Rebecca Frayn and her husband, producer Andy Harries had visited Burma in the early 1990s, and afterwards began working on the project. Harries' production company Left Bank Pictures began development of the script in 2008. During the period of three years, Frayn was able to assemble interviews with key figures in Aung San Suu Kyi's entourage enabled her to reconstruct for the first time the true story of Burma's national heroine. Director Giuseppe Tornatore, at one point, was considered to direct the movie. Harries wanted Michelle Yeoh as the lead and had the script sent to her. The actress was thrilled because she had always wanted to play Suu Kyi. She visited London to meet the couple. The script was as British as its origin, telling the story solely from Michael Aris' perspective but Michelle Yeoh claimed she brought an Asian insight to it. Her husband Jean Todt (who later on also accompanied the project as accredited producer) encouraged her to contact his country fellowman and friend Luc Besson. Besson accepted the script immediately as an opportunity for him to finally present a real life heroine, a female fighter who wields no other weapons than her human virtues. Filming took place in Bangkok under the working title Dans la Lumiere (Into the Light). It was during filming that news broke that Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest had been lifted. Besson hesitated to believe what he saw on TV because it looked so much like his recent footage. Yeoh visited Suu Kyi soon afterwards. She would say later it had been like visiting a dear family member. On 22 June 2011 Yeoh wanted to visit Suu Kyi a second time but was deported from Burma, reportedly over her portrayal of Aung San Suu Kyi. This time Besson was allowed to meet Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi said she would hesitate to watch the film because she wasn't too sure to be up to it already, although she asked for a copy.

The film stars Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett and Jonathan Woodhouse. The cast gave strong performances, especially Yeoh gave the strongest, not only with her physical presence but also with her sheer humanity.

It might be questionable to truly soar, but there's no denying Michelle Yeoh's impressive work in The Lady, or the inspirational power of the life it depicts. The film never opts for a light touch when a sledgehammer will do.

Simon says The Lady receives:

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Film Review: "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" (2012)

"Behind every captain, there's a crew. Sure, some of you are as ugly as a sea cucumber, some of you are closer to being a chair or coat rack than a pirate, and some of you are fish I've just dressed up in a hat..." This is what Aardman nrings to the big screen with The Pirates! Band of Misfits. This stop-motion animated film produced by Aardman Animations, in partnership with Sony Pictures Animation, and directed by Peter Lord. The film is based on the first two books from Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series, The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists and The Pirates! in an Adventure with Whaling. The film centers on the Pirate Captain who sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.

Despite being a stop-motion film, Aardman extensively used computer graphics to complement and enrich the film with visual elements such as sea and scenery. Peter Lord commented, "With Pirates!, I must say that the new technology has made Pirates! really liberating to make, easy to make because the fact that you can shoot a lot of green screen stuff, the fact that you can easily extend the sets with CG, the fact that you can put the sea in there and a beautiful wooden boat that, frankly, would never sail in a million years, you can take that and put it into a beautiful CG scene and believe it."

The Pirates! features the voices of Hugh Grant as The Pirate Captain, Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz, Jeremy Piven as Black Bellamy, Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria, David Tennant as Charles Darwin, Martin Freeman as The Pirate with a Scarf, Brendan Gleeson as The Pirate with Gout and Brian Blessed as The Pirate King. Hugh Grant gives great voice to the mild-mannered pirate captain. I also enjoyed Salma Hayek's Cutlass Liz, and Jeremy Piven's scenery-chewing Black Bellamy, even though they were small roles. I also loved how historical figures like Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria, and even The Elephant Man have all made their way across the screen and were gleefully portrayed. It has been a while since I heard talents such as David Tennant, playing the ill confident scientist Charles Darwin, since the Dr. Who series, and Brian Blessed, as the Pirate King, since The Blackadder series and Flash Gordon (1980).

The Pirates! Band of Misfits has all the charm of Peter Lord’s Chicken Run (2000), and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular. Apart from looking like Aardman’s other films, the film stands alone in its unwavering determination not to play down to the kiddies. To conclude, indeed, it's one of the best movie comedy to come out of England since Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).

Simon says The Pirates! Band of Misfits receives:

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Film Review: "21 Jump Street" (2012)

"We're reviving a canceled undercover police program from the '80s and revamping it for modern times. You see the guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity and are completely out of ideas, so all they do now is recycle shit from the past and expect us all not to notice." This is exactly what 21 Jump Street brings to the big screen. This action comedy film directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. It serves as a loose sequel to the 1987 television series 21 Jump Street by Stephen J. Cannell. The film is about a pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.

In May 2008, Columbia Pictures confirmed that a film adaptation of the series was under development. Jonah Hill rewrote an existing script by screenwriter Joe Gazzam and executive produced the film, as well as starred in the film. Hill has said he wanted horror director Rob Zombie to direct the picture. In May 2009, Hill described the film adaptation as being a "R-rated, insane, Bad Boys-meets-John Hughes-type movie". On December 21, 2009, it was announced that Columbia Pictures were in talks with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2010) directing duo, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, to direct the film. The film follows the same continuity as the TV series; Lord said, "So, all of those events of the original happened. And now here we are 20 years later, and we’re watching it happen to different people." However, the film features a highly comedic tone, departing radically from the more dramatic and earnest tone of the series.

The film stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The performances in the film were all held together by the two main lead actors Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko. Their performances were surprisingly funny, ridiculous, different and yet familiar to the original characters from the original TV series. Jonah Hill plays the nerdy, self concious cop while Channing Tatum plays the "dumb jock." There were also some familiar faces such as Brie Larson, Ice Cube, and most of all Johnny Depp, Richard Grieco and Peter DeLuise as their characters from the original TV series in cameo appearances.

21 Jump Street is hugely funny, but it`s also liberating-precisely because it centers its aim on the vital relationship between two guys and blows it apart. The straight lines are shattered; the empty spaces in the images are packed full until they burst. To conclude, it gave me about 10 big laughs and 20 small laughs and as many smiles. That`s value for time and money spent. For those who savor silliness, this movie is humor heaven. The determinedly juvenile gags never stop flowing. It is destined to become a cult comedy classic. If the holiday run doesn`t make a bundle, the returns on DVDs will.

Simon says 21 Jump Street receives:

Monday, 9 April 2012

Film Review: "American Reunion" (2012).

"Save the best piece for last", which is what American Reunion brings 13 years later. This comedy film written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. It is the fourth installment in the American Pie theatrical series and eighth and final installment in the American Pie franchise overall. Over a decade has passed, Michelle, Jim, Heather, Oz, Kevin, Vicky, Finch and Stifler return to East Great Falls, Michigan, for the weekend. They will discover how their lives have developed as they gather for their high school reunion.

In October 2008, Universal Pictures announced it was planning to produce a third theatrically released sequel to the first film. In April 2010, the film entered pre-production, with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg signing on to write and direct with plans to reunite the whole cast of the primary series. In March 2011, it was announced that Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy had signed on to reprise their roles. Biggs and Scott convinced the other previous cast members to return. In April 2011, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, and Mena Suvari signed on. The following month, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Shannon Elizabeth and Jennifer Coolidge signed on. In June and July 2011, John Cho and Natasha Lyonne were the last returning cast to sign on. On a budget of $50 million, principal photography took place from early June to August 2011 in metro Atlanta, Georgia. In late June, filming took place at Conyers, Monroe and Woodruff Park. Production filmed at Newton High School in Covington from July 11 to July 15. Scenes were filmed at the school's gym for a reunion prom set, football field, commons area and hallways. During the last week of July, production moved to Cumming to film at Mary Alice Park on Lake Lanier and included about 100 extras.

The film stars Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Seann William Scott, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Dania Ramirez, Ali Cobrin, John Cho, Katrina Bowden, Jay Harrington, Chuck Hittinger, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Owen, Justin Isfeld and Rebecca De Mornay. The cast all gave the same hilarious performances that we have come to know and love throughout the four films and it was as though they never lost the touch after all these years. To the point where I felt that Scott was more than ready for the spotlight, turning out one of the best comedic performances of recent movies.

Raunchier and even more gross than the first three American Pies, American Reunion ought to please fans of the series. It is a strong finish for the franchise. A times, it struggles so hard to be tasteful that it's almost quaint. It's not as good as the previous films, but there's a subversive sweetness that runs just beneath the surface of this film and the other American Pie movies that makes them nearly impossible to resist.

Simon says American Reunion receives: