Category: films

All you need is love and to believe in yourself.

One of the advantages of having Sky is that I get to see a lot of films I’d like to have seen but never got around to viewing. The range of films is wide and varied.

Last night I watched Monster, which I’d heard about and had an interest in seeing, but as with so many other things, never got around to doing. I must admit, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to see. The film is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a girl in the United States who had a bad start in life, put her trust in the wrong ideas and people, and eventually became a serial killer.

When I started watching, I couldn’t believe it was Charlize Theron playing Aileen, and Christina Ricci looked remarkably cute and adorable as Selby. The film puts down enough groundwork to be able to begin to appreciate the childhood which made Aileen what she became, and Theron’s portrayal is remarkable. I had thought she was just another pretty face until now, but this film demonstrates her significant talent. I look forward to seeing more of her more serious work in the future. Ricci as always puts on a good performance.

As the film develops, the complexities of life unfold. From Aileen’s rather tumultuous upbringing, going from pillar to post, making bad judgements and contacts, through to her meeting Selby. The challenges of life confront the couple, from their underlying belief systems, through to the consequences of the actions they make based on those beliefs.

The few really disturbing scenes really were very disturbing, yet put forward in a very necessary way, leaving an indelible mark and showing their significance in Aileen’s life. Without these scenes it would be difficult to truly understand the events which made Aileen.

A very good film, in the same vein as American Beauty. Not something you’d show children, but would give any adult a very thought provoking insight into life.

I am Beowulf…

I finally got to see Beowulf, and I’m not really sure what to make of the whole package. It’s based on an old English epic poem, and so is suitably dark and foreboding.

The techniques used in the production of the film are an unusual mixture of live action and computer graphics. I say unusual, as most films are predominantly live action with computer graphics layered on top, whereas Beowulf is computer graphics with live action layered in. The result is slightly unreal, and I couldn’t help feeling that something wasn’t right.

I also read up on the original story, and the screen play differs in a few significant points. I shan’t explain them for fear of spoiling the film, but have a look a the Wikipedia entry and make your own mind up.

Saying that, the film is still worth watching, although I’m surprised it was only a 12A!! There is much gore and sexual references!

A peasant’s dish

Went to the Slough Empire this evening to watch Rataouille with some of the usual suspects. Whilst Cars was a good film in its own right, I thought it wasn’t as good as what we’d come to expect from Pixar, so I had a sense of both excitement and apprehension when I wandered into the cinema.

In true Pixar tradition, there was a very amusing short film prior to the main feature. I shan’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film yet, but needless to say, it set the mood brilliantly.

Every time I watch a Pixar film, I’m amazed by what they’ve managed to achieve technically.This was no exception, I spent a good amount of time watching the fur on the rats, the water effects and all manner of other computer generated wonders.

The story itself is great, with plenty of twists and turns, with the characters having all manner of difficult choices to make. The characters are very much alive, with some great voices and animation. There is plenty of humour, both of the slapstick kind, and of the more subtle variety.

Even though this film has a U certificate, it has plenty to keep both adults and children entertained. Pixar have done it again and produced a film which is well worth seeing.

Déjà Vu

Saw Déjà Vu this evening. I must admit, I was a little sceptical about seeing this film, as the blurb on the back cover sounded cheesey. It all looked like a serious version of Back to the Future, except I couldn’t see how that would work! Saying that, Denzel Washington doesn’t usually appear in bad films, although Val Kilmer has contributed to some shockers in the past! Denzel was the lead though, so there was hope.

It starts off with an investigation into an apparent terrorist bombing, with ATF agent Doug Carlin (played by Denzel) who is investigating. The story seems fairly predictable to start with, but takes a slight turn when Carlin is invited to use a device which can see past events. The device is used to see the steps of the bomber and others involved in order to aide evidence gathering. There isn’t any real explanation of how the device works, suffice to say, Carlin is a little suspicious.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the film. The story had been executed skilfully, with expert direction, and good acting. Philosophical questions on the nature of time, predestination and causality were raised, with more than a passing nod to God.

For a film of this nature, the portrayal of events was balanced and necessary, instead of needless gratuitousness.

All in all, a good film.

Dilly dilly

There was nothing in my diary for this morning, so I stayed in bed for as long as I could. 🙂 After a busy Friday evening at church helping with the final holiday bible club event of the week, I figured I could do with a good sleep. Finally got out of bed some time around 11am, had a bath, hung out the washing, planted my lavender bushes in the garden and cooked some breakfast. Once I’d done all that, it was time to wander down to Feltham Evangelical Church for a baptism. Afterwards caught up with Daniella over dinner, and then on to Dave’s to watch a DVD.

Dave had chosen Children of Men, which looked interesting from the sleeve. The whole scenario, of a world where mankind is no longer able to procreate is an interesting one and one which the film portrays in a very believable and stark way. It’s a shame the story which we told which takes place in this scenario isn’t quite so interesting, with some not so subtle half-baked political commentary thrown in. Worth seeing if only for the world portrayed, despite the story.

Bourne again

I saw The Bourne Ultimatum, the latest of the Bourne series of films, this evening. I’d enjoyed the previous two films, and I’d also been tipped off about the plot when I read a pseudo-review of the film by David Wayne, so I entered the cinema with a small amount of expectation of this third film.

I exited the cinema with a grin. The film had lived up to my expectations.

The biblical themes of redemption were there, with a man trying to find his origins, who he really is, seeking to atone for his wrong-doing, finding both what he is and why he is, and ultimately being set free from what he is, to be restored to what he was and being set free from his former life.

The action moved along at a swift pace. The use of technology was mostly reasonable, as far as spy-films go, with only a few sillies in the use of technology marring the story (this was not Bond!) The effects were seamless, believable and superb. All the main characters were portrayed by actors who were not out of their depth, but who could add more to the film than the script alone would tell us.

Only one thought lingered in my mind.  Early on, a journalist from a well-known left-wing English broadsheet, panicked, thought he knew better and ended up dead. Was this a veiled comment about left-wing politics?

All in all, well-worth seeing, and if you enjoyed the first two then pretty much essential viewing!

More than meets the eye

I saw Transformers this evening with my brother at the Slough Empire. It’s been quite a few years since the toys first appeared, only slightly shorter since the cartoons last aired on the telly and the animated movie graced the silver screen. I must admit, it’s been so long, I wasn’t really sure what to expect!

I guessed because I wasn’t expecting anything, I found the film very enjoyable. The story was basic, it’s good vs. evil, with a good deal of reality blunders all over – ok, sentient transforming robots doesn’t give you a good starting point for reality, that and geeks getting the leading ladies. The jokes were usually simple, sometimes slapstick, sometimes adolescent verging on puerile (Did I say verging – some of it was cringe-worthy!) The characters are pretty basic, with very development. The dialogue was cheesy!

To an extent, that didn’t matter though, as the action was almost none stop and the effects were nothing short of amazing. This was cinema doing its magic.

If you’re not expecting a great film but are a fan of Transformers and effects rollercoasters, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for anything else, you might want to avoid!

A Fancy Feasting second-rate sidekick…

Saw Shrek the Third this evening. After the very original first and even better second films in the Shrek series, I had high expectations for the third. As far as films go, it was entertaining, with funny moments liberally scattered throughout. There were plenty of in-jokes, be it hat tips to other films, or references to other characters the actors have played.

Alas, compared to one and two, number three was disappointing. One and two were original and had something to say. Number three was more run of the mill, with a story as generic as they come. This isn’t to say that as a film on its own it isn’t a good film. Just as part of the Shrek trilogy, it was disappointing. I hope they don’t continue this trend and make a fourth!

He was quite charming, wasn’t he?

It must be just me, but I’ve just been to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and I just don’t get it. At the end of the film, I walked out with the same feeling of underwhelming as I did when I saw the first one. Maybe the hype had led me to expect too much.

Sure, the special effects were impressive and the action scenes were imaginative and spectacular. However, the story line was remarkably one-dimensional, being rather predictable and clichéd.

Was I expecting too much from a film derived from an amusement park ride? Possibly. After all, the film was like a good fireworks display, continuously moving along. However, a good fireworks display doesn’t go on for almost three hours!

A fun film, but don’t believe the hype.

I like being bad. It makes me happy.

It’s not every day an action film seen on a busy day gets it’s own review page, but I think Spiderman III is different from the usual action film. I’d gone into the cinema expecting great things, as I’d enjoyed the previous two films in the series.

Unlike most action films, whilst trying not to give too much away, the story isn’t a simple case of the good guys versus the bad guys. Instead, there is some depth to the characters, as each battles within themselves, battling with their own humanity. The struggles of how to treat others, how to treat oneself. How to deal with the highs and lows of popularity and obscurity. How the characters interrelate, their friendships and their relationships, are complex and intriguing. The film even philosophically explores the reasons why we do what we do.

It’s refreshing to see a ‘hero’ dealing with not just the baddies, but with his own desires – both good and bad. Even the baddies have issues, dealing with various issues and in so doing, showing they’re not as bad as they could be in some cases. Both goodies and baddies battle with selfishness which, if left unchecked, has the power to destroy them.

The story is ever so slightly more complex as a result of the internal tussles, and you’re never quite sure how things are going to turn out. Themes such as reconciliation, sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness and salvation loom large throughout.

Of course, being an action film, the special effects and action scenes are superb, with a great sense of pace. Above it all though stands a story which is compelling and, even though in a fantasy world of superheroes, full of very real, very human characters.

A great film which is well worth seeing!

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

Goodbye Bafana is yet another film whose subject is Africa. It bears similar resemblance to Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland in that it tells us a story in Africa through the eyes of a white man. This film differs in that, unlike the other two films, and more like Hotel Rwanda, the man actually existed and is based on a true story.

The story starts with a prison warder setting off from Cape Town to Robben Island prison. Of course, the prison warder, played by James Gregory, isn’t a well-known character, but the man he is sent to guard personally is Nelson Mandela, of the ANC, and a significant player in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

The film shows South Africa under apartheid, through the eyes of an average white African family struggling to make a living. It shows their ignorances and their prejudices. It also shows how Gregory’s history, his interaction with Mandela and his quest for truth slowly changes his life, for both good and bad.

Compared with the other African themed films, this film doesn’t go to great lengths to portray the violence carried out by all parties, but concentrates on the relatively mundane existence of the Gregory family. Whilst it’s view of South African life is from a certain perspective, it is fairly even handed in its dealings. I’ve never lived in South Africa, so I have no idea how realistic the setting is, and I’m fairly sure that if I did, my experience wouldn’t be the same as that of the Gregory’s!

The situation is a complex one, and any attempt to make it appear simple, with any one party being good and any one being bad, would’ve been very misleading. One slight niggle is that the film only really shows the parties to be white and black, whereas there were several differing black factions.

The only other niggle is that there isn’t as much about Mandela, but it does provide you just enough information to want to know more.

As with all the recent African related films – well worth seeing. However, don’t go in expecting light entertainment – You’ll need to keep your brain plugged in to fully appreciate this film and be prepared to come out with more questions than answers. Whilst the object the the struggles was a noble one – equality for all, regardless of colour. You do wonder about the methods employed.

May God bless Africa!

All the world’s a stage

I think my knee is almost back to normal now! This evening I managed to run around the football pitch for the usual time rather than hobbling. We won and I even managed to score a few goals.

The rest of the evening was spent round Sarah’s watching The Truman Show on DVD. Alas, this is one of those films which has been eclipsed by events, both in filmmaking and in reality. The whole idea of determining whether we’re living in a make-believe world has always been a philosophical question. Questioning the very nature of reality. The Truman Show is a modern day take on Shakespeare’s famous scene from As you Like It, and places the main character Truman Burbank in a reality TV show, except he doesn’t realise he’s in the show but accepts the show as reality. In 1998, the idea of presenting such a TV show as reality was a novelty. However a year later, The Matrix would soon show a darker, more intricate take on the ‘fiction presented as reality’ film, and television has almost fulfilled the prophetic message of The Truman Show in such ghastly programmes as Big Brother and the plethora of other reality TV shows. Saying that, The Truman Show is still a good film, and raises a lot of questions. The conversation after the film was interesting, with some differing philosophical views expressed. Will the truth really set you free?

God made men equal

Amazing Grace is one of those films that, when you first hear about it you wonder if it’ll do its subject matter any justice but, once you’ve seen it…well, what can you say?

The film recreates the Britain of William Wilberforce in a very vivid and real way. From the opening scenes of a damp, wet, day travelling to Bath, through to the House of Commons pre-WWII bomb damage, from the setting of John Newton’s church within the crowded streets of London, to the recreation of the East-India dock in the east end. Not only is the physical backdrop set wonderfully, but also the political, with mentions of George III’s mental issues, the independence of the United States and the rise of revolution in France.

Taking the stage amongst this backdrop is an abominable trade in men and women which was taking place not only in the British Empire, but across the whole world. Whilst the British were highly significant in the transatlantic slave trade, this was more because they were the super-power of the day. Every power up to the day, major and minor, engaged in this trade.

Yet, a small group of men and women, driven by their evangelical Christian faith sought to abolish the trade within the British Empire. With Wilberforce as their leader and their voice in parliament, they tirelessly sought to change the way the Empire traded. Whether they knew it or not, in changing the attitudes of the super-power of the day, they would slowly change the whole world’s attitude to slavery.

With such a great story, the film’s only mission was to keep it compelling and real. With a slew of British actors, the main characters of the story came to life. William Pitt, Charles Fox, Thomas Clarkson, Oloudaqh Equiano, John Newton, amongst many others, as well as William and Barbara Wilberforce, were wonderfully presented, and one had a glimpse of their lives and what they went through, and ultimately what they achieved.

The only minor quibble I have with the film is the way Wilberforce’s conversion was portayed. Gone was the long trip around Europe, instead replaced with a slightly briefer and quirkier spell in the garden. I guess the problem is that the film has to compress such a remarkable life in such a short time. That said, Wilberforce’s faith shone throughout the whole film, showing how God can use even a politician for his glory. Even though Wilberforce himself had trouble reconciling serving God with politics, eventually, he was persuaded that he might be able to do both without compromising his faith. Far from separating religion and politics, Wilberforce combined the two, eventually changing the world for the better. Maybe not perfect, but certainly better.

A superb film, well worth watching, telling an even greater story of a man serving the God whom he loved and obeyed.

But we aren’t a game.

I saw The Last King of Scotland not so long ago, and thought this film is worth more words than many films I’ve seen. It weaves fiction with the very real horror inflicted on Uganda in the dictatorship of Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker.

Unlike Hotel Rwanda where the main character is taken from real life, the main character in this film is a fictional brash young man, Dr Garrigan played by James McAvoy, recently graduated as a medical doctor. He goes to Uganda in search of excitement and adventure, maybe sow some oats and make his mark. He’s quite sure of himself, but knows very little about what he’s getting himself in for.

This can be seen quite early on as he gets overly intimate with the natives even before he’s started working, and as he settles in he doesn’t take any of the hints from his coworkers concerning the culture of Uganda, or even his own culture.

Before he know’s it, he’s the personal physician of Idi Amin, and is slowly drawn into Amin’s bosom as a confidante and advisor. Initially he sees this as a good thing, as Amin is an amiable, charming, likable man with plenty of character. As Garrigan’s knowledge of Amin grows, he begins to realise he’s in the presence of a very dangerous and evil man. Even before he realises this, Amin has made it virtually impossible for him to leave Uganda. It’s only during the hijacking of a plane bound for Paris from Tel Aviv at Entebbe that Garrigan, with the help of a Ugandan doctor who sacrifices himself, is able to leave.

It’s interesting to see how the film uses the fictional character of Garrigan to tell the snippet of Ugandan history under Amin. To see a coup d’etat take place under Amin’s command, with the stated aim of improving the life for every Ugandan, to see Amin’s aims compromised by Amin himself as his taste for power increases, triggering fears for his own personal safety. The film, albeit rather indelicately and without too much depth, also shows how Europeans have treated Africa and are, in part, to blame for the situation most Africans are in today. If it were not for the British, Amin might not even have seized power, in fact Amin might not have even made a mark on African history. As Amin, Whitaker gives a remarkable performance of a man who, from the outside, appears to be a good thing for Uganda, but as more is revealed of him, is ultimately shown to be delusional and even worse than the man he replaced.

A good film giving a small, but focused, glimpse into the history of Uganda and its people. Well worth seeing.

I’m a cynical man

One of those crazy Saturdays! It was another very tiring afternoon playing football on a pitch with long grass. It’s amazing how a few inches extra causes so much more effort to be required. I guess the positive side is that I got a good amount of exercise!

In the evening, I went to a talk on how God justifiably demonstrates his wrath, a subject which deserves its own entry. Watch this space. 🙂

Finally saw The Illusionist, which tells the story of an illusionist who uses his talents to get the girl he loves. The story is based in Vienna during the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and tells most of its story through suggestion. Of course, this leaves you to try and piece together what is actually happening, as well as trying to sift out correct and incorrect conclusions. The film is very cleverly put together and not only shows the techniques of an illusionist being used on its characters, but uses those techniques on the audience. At the end, you go away with the idea that the good guy has won, but after a little thought you wonder if he really was the good guy. Worth watching if you’re looking for a piece of light entertainment, with plenty of impressively crafted scenes, both in terms of effects and in cinematography.