Review: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

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Nine years after the release of Sin City, directors Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller (who also wrote the script) reunite for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, a sequel that visually intoxicating, yet dimly vacant on the inside. Unraveling over four vignettes (two that have been ripped from Miller’s source material, and two that have been written specifically), the film adopts the same template as its predecessor, but fails to fix any of the problems. Continue reading “Review: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)”

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Review: Labor Day (2014)

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Praised for his sharp comedy work that made the likes of Juno and Up In The Air such successes, director Jason Reitman makes an awkward shift to darker, solemn material with Labor Day, a respectable, but not quite there adaptation of Joyce Maynard. Left despondent by the breakdown of her marriage, single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) has become trapped by her own unwillingness, leaving son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) to pick up the slack. Continue reading “Review: Labor Day (2014)”

Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

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Taking a break from zombies and delivery boys, director Ruben Fleischer fashions a stylised and star-studded, yet vacuous entry into the cops vs. mob genre with Gangster Squad. Disappointingly, the American director tries far too hard to recreate 1987’s The Untouchables for the modern day audience, instead of making an engaging, moody and powerful film that can stand on its own two feet as a bold statement. Set in 1940s Los Angeles, crook and mob boss Mickey Continue reading “Review: Gangster Squad (2013)”

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.

The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.

Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.

Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.

The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.

The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.

Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.

While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.

It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.

Review: True Grit (2010)

True Grit, the second adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name, is the latest film from writer/director duo Joel and Ethan Coen, and a robust one at that.

The film centres on Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), 14-year-old farm girl, who, when her father is murdered, sets out to capture the killer, hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, Reuben J. Cogburn (Jeff Bridges).

Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney.

They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey.

The Coen brothers have masterfully constructed a sombre, funny, elegiac and steadfastly if unconventional film, one peppered with sharp, witty one liners and surreal character interactions to lighten the mood.

The unconventional relationship between the unlikely trio is surreal, yet oddly captivating and sentimental. The testing environment and the harsh journey from which they are brought together forces them to establish a life-long, truth-worthy bond.

With the help of their trusty cinematographer Roger Deakins, the Coens use the barron landscape beautifully, capturing the grandeur of ripply rivers, craggy trees and desolate Indian Nations. Each and every visually minimalistic, yet suitably informative shot feels vital and imperative to the films overall tone and semblance.

The real heart of the film, however, lies in the performances. The casting is inspired and exact, and each actor thrives in the rich landscape so delicately constructed by the Coens.

Bridges and 14-year-old newcomer Steinfeld, in particular, give noteworthy and convicted turns as Reuben and Mattie, respectively.

Bridges is outstanding yet again; funny yet meaningful, truly just a juggernaut at the peak of his career. Steinfeld, on the other hand, emerges from obscurity and delivers a blow-away, fearless turn as Mattie, a girl with a vengeance that won’t quit.

Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper all have value and tonality in their respective supporting roles, but unfortunately never match the giddy heights of the two leads.

True Grit – while it may not match the perfection of No Country for Old Men – is a masterfully written, beautifully directed and unforgettably acted Western by the masters of modern-day cinema.