Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Hurt Locker

Okay, here we go, continuing the reviews bonanza with the most critically-acclaimed movie of 2009, The Hurt Locker. Much hype has been surrounding this film, most of which has been gained purely through word-of-mouth and not the powers-that-be behind marketing. In fact, the movie was originally given a limited release, but because screenings were so successful it was given wider release schedules worldwide. Also, in a change from the usual format of "Oscar-season" films was released during the summer of last year. So strong was the critical acclaim that The Hurt Locker seems to have defied the set rule, and with the recent changes made in the format of the Academy Award voting system, is a sure-fire front-runner for the Best Picture award come March 7. However, whilst critical acclaim may have been great all round, for me, if it is still a bad movie, it is a bad movie, and the big question is whether or not The Hurt Locker will live up to its critical plaudits or defy them. The story goes that Staff Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner, is the head of an EOD bomb-disposal unit in Iraq, alongside Sergeant JT Sanborn, played by Anthony Mackie, and Corporal Owen Eldridge, played by Brian Geraghty, and the film follows the final weeks of their tour together, as the tensions develop amongst them during their tasks of bomb disposal. The film opens with a quote from New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges: "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug." In a world of film where film-makers quote famous commentators in order to make their film look cool or reputable, this is perhaps the most poignant and completely relevant quote to open any film of the past few years. It is not only also a summary of the film, but also in many respects a teaser for an argument which is to be further elaborated on during the course of the film. The three leads in the film are absolutely vital in the depiction of this central and very topical theme. Jeremy Renner gives a unique performance as Sergeant James, as we slowly watch his character evolve over the course of the film. While the character is very much a dark and unhinged character from the start, it is only as the film progresses and through Renner's underplayed intelligence do we find out how far gone he is as a character. It is the perfectly display of underplaying from Renner, and is completely appropriate for the character. Any other actor could have made the mistake of having their portrayal of the character being a behemoth and extravagant performance. Renner's portrayal of James is a real subversion of the typical unhinged solider, lacking in screaming and cackling manically at wanton destruction, making up for it in a deep injection of humanity which makes the character all the more terrifying. It is the different aspects to this character that we can all relate to so well, and Renner's portrayal of him is so good that it could quite easily be overlooked. When judging great acting performances, people tend to judge performances on a theatrical context without taking into account that all theatre cannot help but be influence by the real world. Also complemented the performance of Renner are Mackie and Geraghty in the respective roles of Sanborn and Eldridge. Mackie gives a very nuanced performance as Sanborn, played as the polar opposite of James, playing Sanborn as a regimented and very machismo character, who does not let his emotions get in the way of the work he has ahead of him. However, Mackie's prowess in this role suggests as the film goes along feelings of desperation and self-loathing being prominent in the character, providing the perfect counterpart to James. Geraghty too gives a good performance as Eldridge, completing the unit. Whilst in many respects the character relationships do not give Geraghty as meaty a character to play with in the acting terms, his role in the film is absolutely necessary to the dynamic of the piece, and Geraghty plays this role very well. This brings to the script by Mark Boal. As mentioned, Boal has written an excellent piece that revolves around the three main characters, each of whom are written very well to not only create unique personas for each, but also to complement one another. Also, the dialogue in the film is really well written. Throughout the film, there is a real cutting edge of realism and humanity to the dialogue, making the film so easily relatable. In the context of the setting of the Iraq war, which to many of us who cannot know the reality of war itself is very theatrical, so to inject these characters who are very human and are spewing human dialogue enables us to be brought as a sort of participating observer into the characters' situation. Also, the film is brilliantly structured. With regards to character development across the course of the film, this is about as good as we are going to get this year. Naturally, as we follow the characters on a journey, they change as human beings, although each in different manners due to their interactions with one another. Also, working out what scenes go where in a story is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle: its only going to work if you put the right pieces in the right places. Here, all the pieces of this particularly complex puzzle are in the right places. Also highly deserving of commendation are those involved in the technical aspects of the film, Barry Ackroyd as cinematographer, and Chris Innis and Bob Murawski as editors respectively. Ackroyd paints the world of Iraq during the conflict as something absolute horrible, brutal and chaotic, but also creates a surrealistic sort of majestic beauty out of the madness of the world, particularly in the night scenes of the film. However, this does not take away from the daylight scenes for the entire film is excellently photographed. The work of Innis and Murawski in the editing suite only makes this work seem all the greater. Cutting at the right points, this is the work an intelligent group of editors who are getting rid of all of the films excess flak. Also, the minimalist score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders is utilised at the right points, both to develop tension and heighten the depth of character study in a scene. Avoiding the more orchestral works that have characterised his career thus far, Beltrami and Sanders really have composed a score which is a case of less is more. However, much of the films success must go down to the efforts of Kathryn Bigelow. Her translation of Boal's wonderful script to the screen is masterful. Also, throughout the piece, there is displays of the work of an experienced director who knows what she is doing, giving leverage to her cast and crew to create the best possible working atmosphere, but also knowing when to apply herself. The Hurt Locker is only as airtight as it is due to Bigelow's efforts, and every shard of excess flab has been completely stripped away. After having gained a great degree of experience in the action genre with films such as Point Break, this really is her magnum opus. The Hurt Locker is undoubtedly in my opinion one of the best films of the year. Does that answer your question?

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 9.6/10

The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis – Pleased to see a genuine masterpiece

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Pandorum

The poster's probably cooler than the film itself.

The rate is pretty fast here folks. So it turns out, I'll be reviewing a lot more movies than I previously expected. I'll have reviews for The Hurt Locker, Star Trek, Observe And Report and A Perfect Getaway, with more being quite the possibility in the race towards the Oscars. Okay, so Pandorum is a little-seen sci-fi movie from Autumn 2009, starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster as Lieutenant Payton and Corporal Bower respectively. The two awaken from hypersleep on their spaceship, with partial memory loss that begins to return over time, and find out during the course of the film that some humanoid creatures which feasting upon people who are aboard the ship. Now, to start with the good about the film, there are some very interesting aspects to the film. The concept behind Pandorum and the hypersleep-induced memory loss is very interesting, particularly in the context of the slowly revealing plot. These moments really are the highlights of the film. The twists and turns of the plot are so interesting that you wonder why they aren't in a better movie, all in due time. With regards to the acting Dennis Quaid really does his best with a character that could have really been written far better. His character of Payton could have been written as a far more three-dimensional character and would have served the character and Quaid, who is a better actor than people give him credit, more justice. Poor Dennis just sometimes seems to pick the wrong films to star in. Also, Ben Foster seems like he is a purely expositional character whose sheer purpose in existing is moving the plot forward, and as such he cannot do much with the role. The best thing about the film in its execution is perhaps its art direction. The Elysium ship where the action takes place in the film is suitably grimy and well-crafted, bringing to mind the famous sets of Alien. In this film however, it comes across as a sort of quasi-cyberpunk kind of set, with very shiny looking technological designs being contrasted fiercely with the grime of deterioration. Also, the cinematography by Widego von Schultzendorff is very good, using interesting and concise cinematic techniques in order to capture the action. Also, the use of lighting works very well in conjunction with the sets, highlighting just how well they have been made. Now, time to bring out the scalpel and saw, because this film is about to get a thorough butchering. For starters on the desecration, the script is really woeful. This is one of those films that may as well be a silent film, in that all of the dialogue in the film is purely expositional, and does nothing to help develop the characters in the film whatsoever. It's all a case of "that's why this plot point is linked to this plot point and we've got to do this next or else we won't get to the next plot point." No effort is made to develop these characters, which is a real shame particularly in the case of Dennis Quaid's Payton, which really could have made this at least a better than average film alone considering the strength of the concept. Also, while structurally the plot turns come in at the right points, they only seem like they come in at the right point because everything in between is so bad. The action sequences completely silly and unmemorable and the scenes which are meant to develop tension as the characters run from Point A to Point A are completely irrelevant and have no place being in a film with such strong ideas. Travis Milloy and Christian Alvart have really written a poor script and really should have re-written it, because a movie will never work off the power of its concept alone. I mean, look at Avatar, it had everything going against it, being a non-franchise film, with none of the modern box-office "names," yet it has become the highest-grossing film of all time. Why? Because first and foremost it is a solid and damn good film. If you are going to go to the effort of putting a fair amount of money into a film, which could be enough to give aid to the homeless, educate the poor et al, at least have a good script to make it worth the while and an artistic statement, and give sizable portions of the proceeds to charities. I'm sorry, call me a hypocrite if you want, but sometimes I feel that the film business is a disgusting business. I mean, film-makers are complaining about file-sharing: the film business has earned more in this decade than it has in the preceding three decades put together. It is just because their profit margin has decreased slightly over the course of the past few years. Stop being greedy bastards! Also, if you are going to have your film earn as much money as the bloated blockbusters do, at least give some back to society, rather than further increasing the gap between the middle class and the working class. The B-movies have become the A-movies, with films purely driven on an idea and nothing else, and the only reason we end up going to see them is because we are more or less forced to or obliged to through the horror that is the advertising industry, the most destructive force in the sabotage of art culture by capitalism and consumerism. I can see through the lies, I just go to see the films out of both a sense of self-loathing obsession (LOL) and the fact that I see this as a public service to you, the people, so you don't have to see the films under any coated over illusion of lies. Sorry, that was a mad digression, but I really get angry at the selfishness of the film business sometimes. If you are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, at least do it to be the ambassador for something of great importance to the world. Anyway, sorry, I'll get back to Pandorum. The film is also poorly directed. Christian Alvart seems to have no sense of direction whatsoever with Pandorum. Also, it seems as if, being a writer of the script as well, he is either unaware of how bad the film he is making, or if he is, he just doesn't care. It's real Catch-22 for the poor guy. In truth though, if you are to play the auteur role, you should be completely aware of what you have on your words. Here, we have what could have been a genuine cult classic ruined by a really bad script and half-assed direction. Sorry for those who have been insulted by my use of foul language, but whenever you are exposing the folly of capitalism, you've got to sharpen your nails and bit down with venom. Quit beating around the bush and expose them for what they are!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - On fire!

Also, if you wish to stop reading because of my anti-capitalist opinions, you are a bigot officially certified by The Thin White Dude. If you do not share my opinions on capitalism and continue to read the blog, all the more to you. We all have our opinions and are completely entitled to them, regardless of my opinions on others opinions, it does not change people and human nature. Peace out!

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Looking For Eric

Alrighty folks, here we have on our hands the new Ken Loach film Looking For Eric. For starters, Ken Loach is a good film-maker. His tales of social realism and humanity such as Kes and The Wind That Shakes The Barley are a breath of fresh air in the midst of ludicrously massive blockbusters which attempt to dominate our filmgoing habits. I'm going to lie, I do find his message to be true and righteous and I feel that he one of the great commentators on the condition of the working class. So, being a new Ken Loach film, it has its obvious hype. However, the real hype of the film is coming from the presence of one Eric Cantona, playing himself. Eric Bishop, played former The Fall bassist Steve Evets, is a postman facing a mid-life crisis. Juggling the caring for his grand-daughter, his job as a postman, and his two stepsons, Eric no longer has time for his only method of escapism, football. However, following numerous attempts by his friends to help motivate him, he begins to receive advice to change his life for the better in none other than his footballing hero Eric Cantona. Now, to start with the good about the film, the acting is excellent. Steve Evets really holds the film together in an absolutely wonderful performance as Eric Bishop. He is able to portray the three-dimensional nature of the character with all his positives and flaws with adept ability. Also, he adds a very human face to this tale, which is in many respects a fairy tale set in the grime of working-class England. Throughout the course of the film, Eric Bishop goes through numerous changes as a human being, and as such Evets must portray this change. Like any human that goes through life-changing events, Evets portrays Bishop as a changed person for the better, but remaining fundamentally the same person. I thought that this was an absolutely wonderful performance from Evets, and he is certainly on my shortlist for Best Actor at the year-end awards. Eric Cantona, although he is in a way playing an exaggerated version of his philosophically-minded self, portrays the conscience of Eric Bishop brilliantly. Being a figment of Eric Bishop's imagination, he reflects the superhero persona that Bishop has created of him. He is an inspirational figure who brings good words and advice to Bishop. Cantona portrays this character with suitable gusto, moving from moments of inspiration to down-to-earth humour often within short spaces of time. This also brings me to the script. Ken Loach's recent screenwriting muse, Paul Laverty, has a clear understanding of the human mind and the working class. The dialogue in the film is fast, edgy, very witty and humorous, but also at the right moments it can be very poignant. Also, structurally the film holds well together, showing the progression of Eric Bishop's character, and as he discovers (as do we) more about his life, we come to find out just how much in need of advice and how disconnected from those closest to him he really was. The best thing about the script of Looking For Eric is the fact that it is so concise. All of the excess flab is cut away, leaving all that is necessary for it to be a good film. Loach directs the film in a similar manner. Having collaborated on numerous occasions before, Loach films the script excellently. Also, he is also very used to directing films, particularly those about the working class. He has a style that is comparable with Clint Eastwood, in that he is so good at directing in his comfort zone that it seems as though it is effortless. Finally, the real enjoyment of Looking For Eric is the fact that the film has a beating heart. This really is a wonderfully human tale, speaking brilliantly not just on the working class condition, although that is where the message would resonate most, but to all people, that everyone can change their life for the better. Also, it is not too preachy a message; it is one of a universal nature, and makes Looking For Eric a very relatable and understandable film. Now, the only thing about the film is that I do not think that it is on a masterpiece level, but certainly it is a very great film, and really is the judging stick this year on the borderline between masterpiece and really great film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Overjoyed

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Soloist

And finally, without further adew, I am about to review and thoroughly dissect The Soloist. The story behind the review for this film sounds like a film synopsis in itself: once again, the unnamed source, good friend and fellow critic, lent me a copy of the film. However, the film was a Region 1 DVD and as such, required a bit of work done to a DVD player in order to watch. Then I became slightly disinterested in the idea of watching the film until I decided "sod it!" and so I finally watched The Soloist. Excuse my own plot synopsis, and let's get down to the plot synopsis of The Soloist. Journalist Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jr, is looking for a story, and finds it in a homeless and schizophrenic former musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers, played by Jamie Foxx. During the course of the film, the two develop a friendship, and life-changing events occur for both as a result of this friendship. Yes, it's one of those, "dry your tears with your hankie" movies. Originally, the film was considered an Oscar front-runner, but its release date was pushed back to April of 2009. As a result, it just seems to have been and gone without people really noticing that it ever hit the screens. I mean, a $60 million budget with two Hollywood stars in Downey Jr and Foxx would have made this appropriate in the midst of the usual Oscar season films, but because of the delays and release date in April, it recouped just over $31 million, and as such is a box-office flop. Also, the film is directed by Joe Wright, hot off of the success both critically and commercially with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, so this was his first Hollywood film. To start with the good, the acting in the film is very good. Foxx plays the role of Ayers with suitable layered complexity, giving the film an interesting edge. Downey Jr has the harder job of playing Steve Lopez, for the film's centrepiece is the character of Nanthaniel Ayers, but Downey Jr, although not having a great role, does his best, proving himself once again as one of the hardest working actors in the world. In a minimal role, Catherine Keener does her best, but unfortunately is not given enough screen time to establish a memorable performance. To the film's credit, the central story is genuinely captivating. The story, itself a true story, is one which is genuinely emotionally harrowing, and really does pull on our emotional strings. However, the emotion and power of the story itself is in many respects the only reason why I would want to continue watching as the actors try bravely to improve the standards of the film. The script for The Soloist is very poorly written by Susannah Grant. Structurally, the script is very basic. There really does not seem to have been much effort put towards this. For starters, while most of the film is told chronologically, which I personally have no problem with if it’s done correctly, they add in flashback scenes to various points of Ayers' life, and they do not seem to serve any dramatic purpose whatsoever. Case in point, if you are to add extra scenes of expositional material which may ridicule the audience’s intelligence, they should be there to add to the emotional power of the tale. Here, it just seems to be a case of "we know already, now let's get on with it." I personally cannot stand whenever films see the need to spell out to you how you should feel or what exactly is going on in the story. Any human can naturally empathise with the emotion of a harrowing tale, regardless of whether or not they have experienced a similar situation themselves: it's a thing called human nature. Also, very much like Marley and Me, the dialogue for all intents and purposes is purely expositional and does not come across as dialogue between human beings, therefore completely disconnecting us from the emotion of the story. Also, it seems as if director Joe Wright is completely disconnected from the entire filmmaking process as a whole. Unaware of the film's emotional vacancy, Wright seems to have floated through the proceedings as though in a Valium-induced haze: I'm sure he had the best intentions with the film, but he unfortunately seems unaware of the poor script, a fatal flaw for any director. Note to all: the script must be perfect before filming begins full-stop! What I will say though is that the score by Dario Marianelli is very well done and utilized. Yes, it is one of those "this is where you cry" scores I normally hate in movies (unoriginal orchestral scores are becoming a real pain in my ass), but the way that it is utilized in the movie is brilliant. Absent from the opening scenes of the film, the score is introduced upon the meeting between Lopez and Ayers, as though the power of music brings emotion to people’s lives. Also, from here on it used expertly throughout. I don't think it is a brilliant score, but for dramatic intents and purposes, it is used very well throughout. All round, I believe that The Soloist has some really good acting and a solid score, but unfortunately Joe Wright seems unaware of the poor script that he has on his hands, condemning the film to the depths of forgettable fare, which is dreadful considering the fascinating story behind the film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very disappointed

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Marley and Me

Once again, an apology to Blogger for my words there. I stand corrected, as it figures I was pressing the wrong button to paste my word document onto the site. Also, despite my argument I am typing this directly into Blogger. H and I, Hypocrisy and Irony, I know. Alright, second movie here in my Reviews Bonanza, Marley and Me. It's funny, I review two "kids" movies, and they turn out to be completely different. One, an original and overlooked film which is wonderful, and another, a very stereotypical kids movie. However, can the stereotype kid's movie beat out the original kid's movie? You tell me, and depending on the answer, I may or may not tell otherwise. Anyway, the story, based on the bestselling memoirs of journalist John Grogan of the same name, goes that John and Jenny Grogan, portrayed by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston respectively, are newlyweds, and as a sort stepping stone towards parenthood, they get a dog, Marley, who just so happens to be the world's worst dog. However, despite the dog’s issues, to use words not dissimilar to that on the films blurb, "the world’s worst dog brings out the best in them." Shall we get started? Critics have been giving Marley and Me a number of different reactions. At best, Todd McCarthy of Variety says "Fox has a winner here" and Roger Ebert of the Chicago-Sun Times says "A cheerful family movie." At worst, Peter Bradshaw calls the film "Relentless gooey yuckiness and fatuous stereotyping" and Mark Kermode of The Culture Show simply says "Get a dog." Now don't get me wrong, Marley and Me is a lovely film with an absolutely brilliant cute dog, but I am definitely on the side of the latter two critics. It's funny that most of the critics who liked the film are American, not to be stereotypical, but does speak to the kind of audience who might eat this up. For starters, Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, who have proven that they can be good, are completely lost in the midst of all this. Despite the fact that this is a human tail, their performances come across as completely vacuous and absent-minded. Half the time in the film rather unfortunately I found myself wanting to touch Owen Wilson's nose to see if it would hurt him. This is not to slander his nose, I just sometimes find that in poor films with him, the only way I can keep myself entertained is to look at his nose. Its shape is absolutely fascinating. I guarantee, if anyone excavates Owen Wilson's grave in a few thousand years, if humans of the 21st Century are to be studied, Owen Wilson's nose would be revered as a holy relic and societies would be founded on the basis of Owen Wilson's nose as a totem. However, I would not say that the performances of Wilson and Aniston are their own fault but rather that of the screenwriters. Scott Frank and Don Roos deserve to thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I mean, Frank is the Academy-Award nominated screenwriter of Out Of Sight and Minority Report, so he should at least have some concept of good script, bad script. With Marley and Me, it does at least have a structure, although the montage sequences are not well structured. The dialogue is a completely different matter. The dialogue is so bad and unrealistic that it made me often want to smash my TV. The film does have scenes which are clearly meant to be emotional and harrowing, which are moving by the nature of their situations, however, with such rubbish dialogue. You can get away with being overly theatrical if you are trying to be, but this is the kind of movie that could quite easily be a parody of family movies with the dialogue that spews out of the characters mouths if it wasn't hammed up to the point where you have completely gnawed down your nails. The final person on the list of Marley and Me I-Hates is the director David Frankel. He really directs this film in a way that would suggest he simply isn't trying at all. It seems as though he trusts the actors to deliver the lines perfectly without any directorial input. Clearly Frankel out of all involved are completely unaware of the horribleness and stupidity of the films script. He simply was too trusting of the screenwriters, believing that the power of the source material would bring people in their throngs to cinemas, which it did, I won't lie. If I did, I think $242 million would disagree with me. Nonetheless, it doesn't change the fact that Marley and Me is a horrible movie. Despite having conjured my first audible sigh at three minutes in, the film, for all intents and purpose, is inoffensive fare. It does not claim to be a family movie under the guise of misogyny or corporate suits attempting to make money by using a certain “accessible” image. While I did not like the film, I think this is the films saving grace, and it is simply my opinion that the film is bad, and as such, the friendliness and lack of confrontation from the film stops it from being absolutely dreadful. Nonetheless, I believe it to be a really bad film, for which David Frankel, Don Roos and Scott Frank should be ashamed. It might be inoffensive, but a bad film is still a bad film.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 2.2/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cross but could be worse

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Coraline

Excuse the screw-ups, and excuse me Blogger, I managed to get the thing working. Here's the review for Coraline

Okay, back from my break. God, I hate exams. I mean, they schedule these things so that they can find out if you have been working all year. Well, I revised about two days worth for History, and hey, I think that I have done pretty damn well, so touché to you bozos! Anyway, digressions aside, what we have on our platters here is Coraline, the new film from Henry Selznick, adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. Now, the name Henry Selznick may not be familiar to you, but he is the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and is his long-awaited return to the stop-motion animated format. Oh, and by the way, Neil Gaiman is only one of the most prominent writers in Britain, famous for the Sandman comics and Stardust, amongst others. So, yeah, we have big players involved in this one. Can I say as well, before we get into the film, in the wake of animated films such Up by Pixar and Madagascar 2 by Dreamworks, this is the kind of movie that would be oft-overlooked, so even if you are not particularly interested, just do yourself a favour and rent this out. Alright, the story is that Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning, has just moved from Michigan to a converted mansion, also housed by retired actresses Spink and Forsible, voiced by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and a retired Russian circus performer, Mr Bobinsky, voiced by Ian McShane. Also living in the area is Wybie, voiced by Robert Bailey Jr, and his cat. Coraline's parents are often busy working, and as such she feels disconnected from them, and finds in the mansion a door into an alternative universe where her parents are perfect. However, when does not wish to say, this irks her Other Mother, voiced by Teri Hatcher, and it becomes a battle to escape the alternate universe. With that done and dusted, hopefully without revealing too much about the film, word of course must be brought to the animation of the film, being an animated film of course. In a world of cinema that is inhabited by computer-generated 3D animated films, watched Coraline truly is a breath of fresh air. Not to slander 3D CG animation, but there really is so much of it that your eyes have become so used to it that the novelty wears off. Here, in the context of the 3D CG animated world, is where Coraline revels. It is rare to see stop-motion animation in films, and as such it is a real treat to witness. However, because stop-motion animation is all created by hand, some films done in this style have the tendency to be lazy. With this however, lazy would be a fierce insult. The film is lavish and majestic in its colour pallet, with contrasting colours between the dark and grime and the bright and wondrous of the separate worlds are done superbly. Furthermore, the animation is astonishingly inventive in the film. Certain sequences in the film stand out for me as some of the best animated sequences in film due to sheer inventiveness in the context of the story. Also, the emotion of the story is portrayed excellently. Instead of being a rigid, dry film completely vacant of emotion, it brilliantly complements the world of the film, as it does complement brilliantly the great voice acting. Dakota Fanning portrays Coraline in a very finely handled vocal performance, capturing the various emotions of the character. French and Saunders, in many respects playing up their television roles, provide the film with a really zany and manic humour. Also, The Cat, who in the alternative universe can speak, is portrayed with suitable gusto by Keith David, in what is very a personification of the old cliché of the sly Cheshire cat. The standout vocal performance is however that of Teri Hatcher, played both Coraline's Mother and her Other Mother. Because of the story, her role as Coraline's Mother very much takes a backseat, but it is her performance as The Other Mother which really is remarkable. The character is portrayed excellently, not hindered of course by a well-written, multi-faceted character. There is a real seductiveness to the character, but she is also absolutely terrifying. Although the character would be more frightening to a child, I still found the character to be very frightening. Deep down inside all of us, there is a real subconsciously embedded fear of a mother like the Other Mother. She is too perfect and as a result lacks the human flaws that all mothers, no matter how good they are possess. Also, there is a real interesting psychological complex in the idea of an evil mother who only wants to love their child. All of these great aspects of the film would not have been achievable without the talents of Henry Selznick. His adaptation of the text, a very short one at that, is well done, with the structure being very solid, and the dialogue being well written, delivering both the surrealism and absurdity of the story alongside what is a very relatable and ultimately human fairy tale. In many respects, Selznick role with this film is similar to that of James Cameron with Avatar. As a director, Selznick is involved in every part of the process of the film-making. In doing so, Selznick is able to get a grasp of the fuller picture, not only making a collaborative work as film is but delivering a work that is also completely his own. Now, I did not believe Coraline to be a masterpiece, but I think that it is the best animated film of the year, brimming with inventiveness and wonder, with solid voice acting and an all-round tour de force from Henry Selznick.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Adoration would be the word

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Coraline

Sorry folks, the posting on this has really screwed up and REALLY pissed me off. In short, the film is a solid 8.7/10. Really seek it out, its a great film. Sorry about lack of elaboration, I'm really not being lazy, its just either I'm too stupid to figure out the Blogger posting thing, or Blogger needs to let people copy and paste their documents onto the website, rather than typing directly onto the bloody site. Harumph!

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Coraline

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Thin White Dude Apologises... Again!

In all sincerity, trying to review movies would be chaotic in the midst of exams, so if you don't mind I'll be off until next Friday. However, this time I have a bona fide certain list of five movies to review, presently in their cases by my bedside: Coraline, Marley and Me, The Soloist (again), Looking For Eric and The Hurt Locker. And no, I did not buy Marley and Me. Also, I am determined that I am going to review Star Trek sooner or later. Not to mention, hey, after the exams, I'm off for the rest of the month, and the Strand cinema is beckoning my presence, so there's some catching up to be done in that department. See you next week!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Thin White Dude Apologises - Yes Man and Gran Torino

I am terribly sorry. I cannot give a review for Yes Man in because it came out on December 26 2008 and not January of 2009. Put it this way, in short, I thought that it was a good and enjoyable, if very cliched comedy: 6.0/10. Also, I can't review Gran Torino due to it's Oscar season entry last year. However, I really loved the film: great, effortless direction and acting on Clint Eastwood's part (not that he doesn't make an effort, he's just so good he makes it look like he isn't trying: Kermode you were right), and a really strong and poetic film which if it is to be, a fine swansong to our man Clint's acting career. A genuine masterpiece.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Damned United

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new year and a new decade, the times are indeed a-changin', but I tell you this much, whilst some things change, we get older, some die, some are born, one thing remains the same: the resident grumpy film critic is still on his high horse. Anyway, riff-raff aside, here is The Damned United, a film "depicting" English football manager Brian Clough's short time with Leeds United and the story that brought him to the club. Now, to get this off my chest, and to ensure that there will be no quibbles with regards to historical accuracy, the film is a depiction of Clough's time with Leeds, whilst not without inaccuracies. Look, for those of you who are sports fans and jumping on the film historical inaccuracies, a film is a film, and everything here is done for dramatic purposes. If you are telling a story, you don’t have to stick to your history books: it doesn't make a difference; the point is whether or not you make a damn good film. Peter Morgan, who scribed this film, is known for writing films such as The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon, which whilst certainly not capturing historical accuracies brilliantly, certainly are films that are about real people in certain situations. His script once again shines, capturing the character and plight of Clough excellently in a script adapted from David Peace' novel, in a tremendous blend of fiction and fact. The alterations are done for the sake of dramatic purpose, and I applaud him for doing so. Structurally, without these alterations, the dramatic intent of the film would have been completely different and probably not have worked as well. So yes, you can question the accuracy, but take into account the film would not work any other way. Also, dialogue is solid, capturing a realism and conversational nature that makes the Brian Clough character seem so much larger than life as opposed to the supporting characters. Which brings us to the man himself. Brian Clough was himself a charismatic, intelligent and often controversial character in real life, and Michael Sheen portrays him excellently. Michael Sheen has proved himself to me before with his chameleonic abilities, having played Tony Blair and David Frost before, and excellently at that. Michael Sheen reminds in many respects of another great English actor, Gary Oldman: both play a wide and varied range of roles, and almost always consistently good (sorry Michael, I did not like New Moon). Nailing the Northern accent, Sheen slides into the skin of Clough in a role he clearly relishes being a lifelong football fan. Despite being a thin man, Sheen's Clough has a massive, magnetic presence that defies his size. He really is larger than life, and this is certainly one of the best lead performances of 2009. Also excellent is Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, who in the supporting role and playing second fiddle to Sheen, shines also, as his other half and assistant manager. A strong actor giving a strong performance, whilst having played villainous roles, comes across as a warm fatherly figure in this film that we genuinely care about. This is the kind of role that would unfortunately go unnoticed in light of the behemoth performance by Sheen, but in the supporting category, Spall is equally commendable as Taylor. Also, Tom Hooper delivers strong direction, all things considered, seeing as how he was not the original director of choice of the film. Originally, Stephen Frears was to direct the film, but pulled out the last minute. Hooper takes advantage of the opportunity given to him and does a fine and commendable job. Also, director of photography, Ben Smithard, does a fine job of shooting the film. Mixing it up between digital video and high-definition, he makes the film very tidy, despite the often dark colours of England in the film. Nonetheless, the film is not without its criticisms. Now, as with the likes of The Queen, I have to wonder whether or not this would have been better as a television movie on the BBC, however, as it is, I am perfectly satisfied with the final product. However, it is no masterpiece. I would like to have seen more elaboration on the conflict between Clough and the Leeds United players. Yes, as said in the film, there was no relationship there, but I feel that in order to depict that properly, there needed to be more elaboration. That said, the relationship between Clough and Taylor is given a brilliant depiction by all involved. In a sense, the film is in many respects a love story between the two. Whilst there are criticisms for the film, there are not many, and I certainly think that this is a strong, very enjoyable film, with a strong script and two genuinely great performances from Sheen and Spall.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pleased (better than Michael Sheen's last movie: see New Moon review for more details)

The Thin White Dude's Latest

Happy New Year to everyone. The blog continues as usual with upcoming reviews for (finally) The Soloist, Marley and Me, Yes Man, Coraline and today's post, The Damned United. Next month in February, I will reveal my own personal opinions of The Albums Of The Decade, and hope to see this introduce a new subsection of the blog for music reviews. Then in March, I will continue with the usual routine of the Third Annual Films Of The Year. Then, in April, a buffer edition of the blog will emerge with The Films Of The Decade. While I'm at it, of course, I'll do my best to keep with the times and catch up with some stuff on the way. Peace out!