Kinsey

Whereas biopics can be fawning and dull Kinsey is watchable and entertaining.

What to say about Kinsey? It’s a fascinating and absorbing biopic insight into the man who many feel started the sexual revolution of the modern age. Liam Neeson’s superb, intense depiction of the biologist who studied human sexual behaviour the way he’d studied gall wasps, that’s to say he collected thousands of samples, is brilliant. Laura Linney is brilliant as his wife and it’s the pair’s wedding-night bedroom difficulties that start the research that was to change the way a world thought about sex. Neeson is supported by a great cast including Timothy Hutton, Chris O’Donnell, and Peter Sarsgaard as the researchers who bring extra sexual ambiguity to the piece. It is of course, very much a piece of it’s time. In an age where we now see every variety of sexual shenanigans paraded on our televisions, in magazines and across the web it’s harder to appreciate what impact the work had on the world.

The depiction of Kinsey’s motivations may be challenged and history condensed but it is a great work and some are saying it’s Neeson’s best work to date. Nonetheless, whereas biopics can be fawning and dull Kinsey is watchable and entertaining.

  • The Guardian: Condon takes a sympathetic line, though, in his absorbing cine-biography which promotes the view that however muddled he was, Kinsey was brave to try using scientific methods to explain sex in an age of unreason.
  • The Observer: What is most remarkable perhaps is the film’s mature view of sexual matters, balancing the serious side with its frequently tragic consequences, and the often comical, even absurd aspects.
  • Empire Online: A deftly directed, superbly acted and occasionally witty biopic which is not afraid to engage with the complexities of its central character.

Closer

A mixed film with most cringe-worthy chat room flirtation that I’ve ever seen. Sadly, not recommended.

closer.jpgI thought Closer was a mixed bag of a film. The performances of the four protagonists are not too bad: Jude Law as Dan is convincing as a bit of a self-obsessed wimp; Natalie Portman as Alice isn’t too bad with some interesting character quirks; Clive Owen is the most real as Dr Larry but Julia Roberts is cool (nay, cold) as Anna in a role I was least convinced with.

I haven’t seen the stage play but the sexual intrigue and adulteries of the film lose believability as the film progresses. While it’s both a simple love story told through a complex series of inter-woven relationships and coincidences I still wanted to shout out at the characters for their self-centred stupidity.

I did, however, like the film technically. You have to stay engaged to keep up with the way the story is told. The edits jump (but don’t jar) and you can’t dose. The four players are, more-or-less, the only performers on the screen and, despite what I say above, the intensity of the performances does help keep you engaged and they should all be credited for that.

A mixed film with most cringe-worthy chat room flirtation that I’ve ever seen. Sadly, not recommended.

  • The Guardian: The fizzingly talented Marber may well write a great film soon. But this isn’t it.
  • Empire: frank enough to push back the boundaries of how explicit non-porno film can be about sex but manages to be brutally funny with it
  • BBC: Nichols’ clinical approach fails to elicit deep empathy for any of these characters whose foibles are intended to reflect us all

House Of Flying Daggers

Visually stunning both in terms of photography and the settings. The fight sequences well choreographed and executed and, overall it’s very stylised.

After yesterday’s trip to the cinema, we decided that we would do it again and PY had been wanting to see House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu) so it was decided that we’d give it a go. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of subtitled films in any language so the strangeness of Mandarin didn’t bother me too much. It’s visually stunning both in terms of photography and the settings. The fight sequences well choreographed and executed and, overall it’s very stylised. Many people will enjoy the style of the movie and equally as many will see the style as a blocker to following the plot (undercover police deputy becomes captivated with suspected revolutionary on a journey to somewhere never properly defined). I was willing to give it a go and really enjoyed the film for the presentation and visuals but I couldn’t get past the ‘style’ to become engaged in the plot. Hand-on-heart I tried. I can’t knock the film as I think my inability to connect is due to my lack of experience watching films like this and I would urge you to get to see it before it closes and let me know what you think.

Napoleon Dynamite

I like films with a plot and Napoleon Dynamite is missing much of one but somehow the offbeat comedy works in a subtle – not laugh out loud – way.

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite

If Napoleon Dynamite is to be believed, Idaho (or at the very least a place called Preston) is stuck back in the mid-Eighties and everybody is slightly odd. Napoleon is a school misfit with a misfit brother (who cruises Internet chat rooms), a misfit uncle (who is trying to recreate his high school football days) and a misfit friend Pedro who is trying to become Class President and is up against the all-American cheerleader, Summer. Add to that some milk-tasting contest and eating raw egg yolks in a chicken farm and I’m happy to admit it was a very strange experience.

Usually, I like films with a plot and Napoleon Dynamite is missing much of one but somehow the offbeat comedy works in a subtle – not laugh out loud – way. Add to that the massive Idaho landscapes and somehow you have an enjoyable way to spend a few of December’s final hours in a cinema. Just thank goodness for LaFawnduh.

The Day After Tomorrow

The message to all of Planet Earth is, of course, corrupted to work for the film and lost after the first third. But that doesn’t make any difference.

Jake Gyllenhaal in The day After TomorrowSo I’ve just got back from a nice – but rushed – meal and a visit to Clapham Picture House to see Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s a vision of what will happen if we don’t all take up cycling, ditch the cars and stop throwing out refrigerators with the trash (or some such thing).

Actually, it’s a disaster movie with a message and it certainly makes the grade as the first, although the message is somewhat lost along the way and the plot is, like all movies in this genre, ridiculously enjoyable. Basically, it starts to rain and then gets very cold and the only place where you seem to be able to survive is in the New York is the public library (and that’s because you can burn the books). Gyllenhaal’s dad, is of course, the only person on the whole of the American continent who can save him so he tries to. Marvelous, stupid and thoroughly entertaining.

Ian Holm puts in a notable performance from a remote Scottish weather station where – at the moment of disaster – they decide to toast England, Manchester United and Mankind (so not very convincingly Scottish – although they, of course, drink a decent malt to ward off the end).

It’s a mankind-in-peril, gripping disaster movie and I found it immensely entertaining. It’s stunning when it’s building and the effects are at their best (and who cares if the ice at the start looks computer generated)? Sadly, it does fade a little towards the end – especially as any last elements of believability fly out the window – but as a couple of hours entertainment you must go and see this film.

The message to all of Planet Earth is, of course, corrupted to work for the film and lost after the first third. But that doesn’t make any difference.

Troy

Sadly, not as great as I had hoped for a movie on such a big scale.

film poster for the movie troySo why did I go and see this film? Perhaps it was for the epic nature of the story or perhaps it was to see the battle scenes in all their cinematic glory. Of course it could have been just to see Orlando Bloom and Brad Pitt buffed up and clad only in armour for a couple of hours on the screen.

The film was a huge let down. The epic, cinematic battles looked old-hat when compared to The Lord of the Rings. The story seemed disjointed and unfulfilling. There was nobody to side with, nobody to support and precious little humour to lighten the feel. It may be based on real-life events but if you are going to take licence you may as well bring some feeling into it.

Trojan champion Prince Hector (Eric Bana) is the most likable but – while not wanting to spoil anything for you – his fate entirely predictable even if you didn’t know the story. Pitt had all the moves, looks and swagger but was an unsympathetic mercenary and Orlando Bloom came across as a wishy-washy waste of space. Sadly, Achilles’ end (the heel, if you will) is entirely lost despite the best efforts of the film makers.

I’d wait until it’s on television if I were you.

50 First Dates

A second good movie in two days!

Not sure what has happened, but weeks have passed since we went to the cinema and now I have done two films two nights in a row.

50 First Dates had a preview last night (I think it opens today) and it was showing at the right time for us in Wimbledon so we thought that we would give it a go. I expected an Adam Sandler gag-fest and, really, it wasn’t. I am not a fan of many of the movies Adam Sandler has been in but this is heart-warming (and humorous) and was a big surprise.

Sandler’s character (Henry Roth) meets Drew Barrymore‘s Lucy in a breakfast diner and tries to pull all his best lines on her. None of them really work but he falls for her and so begins a touching story (if somewhat unbelievable) and a thoroughly entertaining evening out. You may, or may not, really be suspending your disbelief as the woman with no memory seems to fall for Roth but I think you’ll get over that.

Surprisingly Good.

The Station Agent

The Station Agent was a superb film given that very little happens.

A quick review of The Station Agent, a film a saw on the spur of the moment last night.

It’s a well-written, superbly acted film where – almost – nothing happens. And, unlike many films of it’s type it’s well-worth watching because the characters are both fascinating and endearing. Fin is, as they say, vertically challenged and moves into a parochial American backwater town where a Cuban hot dog man sells his wares to (more-or-less) nobody and Olivia, a artist going through a messy divorce who almost drives over our hero (twice). They are an odd set of warm characters performed brilliantly by the cast.

It’s also a comedy and succeeds in not turning farcical with lots of slapstick about shorter people. The comedy is tender, clever and entertaining but it’s not a belly-laugh-a-minute film.

The Station Agent turned out to be one of the best films I have seen so far this year.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was something of a hit and miss film. You learned much about the Greek (lead) character, Toula, and her inter-family relationships. But you learned very little about her love interest, Ian. If the point of the film was to show the development of Toula from the shy woman living life for her father by waiting tables (“seating hostess”) in his restaurant to the confident, beautiful self-styled woman that Ian Miller falls in love with, then, I guess, it succeeded. Sadly, because you know so little about him and his one-dimensional parents, this film feels empty and fails to pull you in.

Reviews will tell how My Big Fat Greek Wedding makes you laugh, cry and feel. I, however, was left wanting more. The large Greek family, played with love and humour, finally come to accept non-Greek Ian into the family. Ian, however, never challenges that their acceptance requires him to turn into them. Far from celebrating diversity, the film fails to show both sides of the tale and we are forced to believe that Ian will do anything, unquestioningly for Toula. I suspect that I am trying to read too much into, what should be, a light Saturday night romantic comedy but as the film played out its story I found myself less and less engaged.

Having said all this, there were some laugh-out-loud moments and some top-class performances. Andrea Martin (Aunt Voula), Michael Constantine (Gus) and Lainie Kazan (Maria) all stood out. The performance of Nia Vardalos (Toula), who also wrote the story, is also worth mentioning as she certainly conveyed Toula’s side of the story. Unfortunately, that’s all I felt I got (Toula’s side) and it could have been so much more.