Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Film Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014).

"So here we are: a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac. But we're not going to stand by as evil wipes out the galaxy." This line, from the trailer, is basically what Marvel’s surprisingly unique film, Guardians of the Galaxy, is all about. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the tenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is directed by James Gunn, who wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman. In the film, Light years from Earth and 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser and forms an uneasy alliance with a group of extraterrestrial misfits who are on the run as well.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige first mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential film at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International. Feige announced that the film was in active development at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International during the Marvel Studios panel, with an intended release date of August 1, 2014. He stated that the film's titular team would consist of the characters Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon. Nicole Perlman, who was enrolled in Marvel's screenwriting program in 2009, was offered several of their lesser known properties to base a screenplay on. Out of those, Perlman chose Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy, due to her interest in space and science fiction. In early 2012, James Gunn was brought in to contribute to the script. Gunn eventually rewrote the script entirely because "it didn’t work" for him; he would use the film The Dirty Dozen as a reference to convey his ideas of the film to Marvel.

The film features an ensemble cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro. The performances in this film were all superbly performed. Chris Pratt gives a winning performance as Star-Lord. Saldana gave her best performance in a Science-Fiction film yet! Bautista gave a terrific first performance as Drax. Diesel and Copper gave the best performance of the entire film as Cooper stole the show as Rocket and Diesel was the heart and soul of the film. Pace gave a menacing performance as Ronan. As well as Gillan as Nebula. Reilly gave the films comical touch.

It is an out-of-body experience. Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that's going to entertain a lot of contemporary folk who have a soft spot for the virtually ritualized manners of Marvel comic-book adventure and it is Marvel’s most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie ever made! Gunn has succeeded in his attempt to create the biggest possible adventure fantasy based on Marvel’s most unknown property and films from his childhood. A legendary expansive and ambitious effort to the sci-fi genre, Gunn opens our eyes to the possibilities of that kind of blockbuster film-making and things may never be the same. In conclusion, it is a grandiose and unique epic with a simple and whimsical heart.

Simon says Guardians of the Galaxy receives:

Also, see my review for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Film Review: "And So It Goes" (2014).

"There Are A Million Reasons Not To Like Oren Little. Just Ask Everyone" in And So It Goes. This romantic comedy drama film directed by Rob Reiner, and written by Mark Andrus. Oren is deliberately mean to the people around him. However, he is forced to change his attitude and take help from his neighbour Leah when he is asked to look after his nine-year-old granddaughter.

By early June 2013, Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, and Annie Parisse were cast in a romantic comedy drama with Reiner as director, and written by Andrus. Sissy Spacek was offered the female lead role, but turned it down. Reiner cast himself as Artie because he needed an actor who would work for scale pay on short notice. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place throughout California and Connecticut. In late December, it was announced that Marc Shaiman was hired to score the film.

The film stars Douglas, Keaton, Jerins, Parisse, and Reiner. As Reiner should know better and Douglas should know better and Keaton should know better, what you have here is a film which has to make you ask: how come they did? When actors as great as Douglas and Keaton can't make dialogue sound natural, you know the script is a stinkeroo. Even the stellar pairing of Douglas and Keaton yields few sparks.

Not even the earnest performances of the two leads can rescue And So It Goes from its schmaltzy script. Whilst this remains reasonably captivating for its first hour, it kinda runs out of steam after that. It is contrived and forced, almost begging the audience to pull out the hankie. Additionally, it is sentimental, simplistic, and almost shamefully manipulative, I found it absolutely anything but charming. The film plays like Much Ado About Nothing, reimagined as an uninspired sitcom. Considering Reiner's output lately, it's tempting to call the film a triumph, if only on the grounds that it's not awful. The problem is that it isn't any good either. The film doesn't a by-the-numbers Reiner comedy movie about an odd couple of opposites just about say it all? Once more, Reiner defines himself as the schlock artist who knows, as do his stars, that coots with familiar faces can walk through this garden of schmaltz with their eyes closed. This film has the same level of false, mediocre level of entertainment as Something's Gotta Give (2003). If you liked that one, then you might like this. But I despise both. The film is far from a good movie, but it is a great opportunity to watch a pair of great actors at the top of their game. It pales in comparison to the talents of its stars. A lazy and condescending package from top to bottom. Despite its scripted shortcomings, the film is poignantly filled with heart, guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings and tear ducts as we each face our own mortality, hopefully with the same love and compassion as Leah and Sarah, like Oren.

Simon says And So It Goes receives:

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

NZIFF Classic Film Review: "Miss Europe" ("Prix de beauté") (1930).

From Italian film pioneer, Augusto Genina, and American flapper icon and sex symbol, Louise Brooks, comes Miss Europe (Prix de beauté). This 1930 French film directed by Genina, and written by René Clair and G. W. Pabst. A beautiful typist enters the Miss Europe beauty contest, much to the disapproval of her jealous beau.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Mary Louise Brooks, professionally known as Louise Brooks, was one of noted actress, dancer, flapper icon and sex symbol. Her bob hairstyle that she helped popularize during the prime of her career. Prior to Miss Europe, Brooks is best known as the lead in Europe: Pandora's Box (1929), and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929); both made by G. W. Pabst. She starred in seventeen silent films and eight sound films before retiring in 1938, and began dancing in nightclubs and working as sales girl at Saks Fifth Avenueto earn a living. Brooks went on to write many witty and intelligent essays on the film industry. In 1982, Brooks published her memoir, Lulu in Hollywood; three years later she died of a heart attack at age seventy-eight. The film is notable for being Brooks' first sound film, even though all of her dialogue and singing were ultimately dubbed. According to Brooks biographer Barry Paris, the film was made from late August 1929 to late September 1929. The film was released on August 20, 1930; making it Brooks' third and final European film of her career. This film is an early example of sound film in France, along with L'Age d'Or and Under the Roofs of Paris, both released in 1930.

The film stars Brooks, Georges Charlia, Augusto Bandini, Andre Nicolle, Marc Ziboulsky, Yves Glad, Alex Bernard, Gaston Jacquet, and Jean Bradin. The cast gave spectacular performances. But it's the brilliant performance by the radiantly beautiful Brooks that makes this otherwise forgettable soap opera story memorable. What prevents all of this from teetering over into burlesque is Brooks, who delivers what is surely one of the greatest examples of naturalist acting on film. There is something hypnotically unbridled about Brooks's performance. Brooks overwhelms the lens with her magnetic eyes. Brooks, who, just like her character, conveys both a seductive and tragic beauty to be admired and sympathised with. Even though Brooks is attractive and she moves her head and eyes at the proper moment, but whether she is endeavoring to express joy, woe, anger or satisfaction it is often difficult to decide. Nonetheless, Brooks offers a brilliantly guileless performance. There would never be another Brooks - nor will there ever be. Charlia portrayed the archetype of the over-protective man (or the "jealous type") who can't keep his emotions in check just as he can't keep the woman he loves in the most obsessive and possessive way.

A masterpiece of the silent era, and a showcase for one of the silver screen's greatest stars. A deliciously sordid soap opera. What rescues the movie from quaint anonymity is the nausea-inducing darkness that permeates its every frame. The tragic beauty tormented by the deleterious effects of the jealous and possessive man remains one of the most haunting synergies, especially in this silent classic. It's lightning in a bottle - remarkable, and endlessly fascinating. Full of striking imagery which, once seen, will stay with you forever, this is a highly accomplished piece of work which brings together some of the greatest talents of the era. With Miss Europe you forget that it's black and white. You forget that the internet has yet to happen. You forget that more than two hours have gone by. You forget because it's completely one hundred per cent gripping and involving in a modern sense. The movie's horrifying and beautiful conclusion becomes more poignant and powerful with each passing year. There is so much of modern movie life here that the picture, like Brooks' beauty, defies the ravages of time. If ever an actor was born to be seen in black-and-white it was Louise Brooks, who is as luminous as ever in this new restoration of Augusto Genina's silent nightmare-melodrama. One of the classic films of the French silent era. The film is more interested in the waywardness of almost everyone's longings and in their failures of self-preservation than it is about Lulu's particular immorality or recklessness. Miss Europe is a French silent film that any radiant women could relate to. They wouldn't like the way it ends, though. Give all due credit to Genina, but Brooks pretty much single-handedly raises the film above being just another doomed-girl melodrama. She makes Lucienne unfathomable, a well that always has more to give. Therefore, so is the film. Bold for its time, this restored, uncut version is a touch slow at some points, but its star glows throughout. If you've never seen Brooks - or Miss Europe - you've missed one of the most extraordinary personalities and films of the silent movie era. Genina was a psychologically astute filmmaker, but it's the shockingly sensual, charismatic Brooks that makes the picture. The movie remains one of the most insightful depictions of the elemental incongruity between man's nature and woman's. It's something that should not be missed. More than a little overbaked and frequently veering from the artistic to the artsy. But Brooks is, herself, every inch a classic. Neither an exposé of social conditions nor a psychological case study and certainly not a moral parable Miss Europe is a tour de force of tragic cinematic feminism. This is a stirring vision of the world gripped by a sinister moral vice - a nosedive into a carnal abyss of despair lined with visionary chiaroscuro sights and thorny mythological references. One of the great films about the mysterious allure of the female form and the destructive power of the male gaze that's inflicted upon it. It's a stunning film, no question, with sexuality that is quite frank for its day, effective atmosphere and, of course, Brooks' stunning performance.

Simon says Miss Europe (Prix de beauté) receives:

Also, see my NZIFF review for Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête).