Tim Burton and Cinematic Rehabilitation

tim burton Is this finally the end of the rocky road back to genius?

Recently I found myself with a free day to continue going through recent film purchases. This brought me to the position of rewatching the 1994 Tim Burton film Ed Wood. Now in the past I have been guilty of insulting Tim Burton’s work, I’ve never been a fan of his newer films that have been released in recent years, however it is in this act of stupidity that I neglected to talk of how much I admire Burton as a filmmaker. It is films such as Ed Wood that remind me is a very talented man with a great eye for cinema. This only leads me to ask the all important question: what happened?

When I was a child I remember so clearly watching Burton’s films and loving every second of them. Edward Scissorhands has remained with me as a film I really like, it managed to capture such beauty that stays in the mind without diminishing. Then there were films like The Nightmare Before Christmas which everyone wrongly attributes Burton to as the director when actually he was the writer, but still it proves itself as such a wonderful story with disturbingly funny characters. I think the highlight for me of his work when I was a child however was The Corpse Bride which is such a wonderfully dark film I can just keep coming back to and fall in love with it a little bit more with each viewing. Even some of his more questionable work was a part of my childhood, such as Batman Returns which was good but somewhat overlooked since the release of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and even films like Big Fish that I never really understood the big fuss about but I’m aware I need to rewatch it now that I’m older. He was just a brilliant filmmaker who made beautifully haunting films that you would rewatch countless times no matter how much they creeped you out, but it was all a terrific experience.

If I had to pick one film of his back catalogue that I would say is a favourite for me, it is a tough choice, but ultimately I do know what it would be. Ed Wood and The Corpse Bride would both fall a very close joint second place, but the top spot has to be filled by his 1988 masterpiece Beetlejuice. I am fully aware that the film is not perfect and it is looked down upon by many, but every element of the film pleases me. From the outstanding performance by an energetic Michael Keaton, right down to the makeup and the obscure creatures and locations the film offers us, I just find myself smiling every time I watch the film. I’m aware that Burton was not involved with the writing of the film but I think his directing for the film is unparalleled with the rest of his back catalogue, a truly weird and nonsensical film that stands strong in the test of time.

Considering those films previously mentioned, along with others that I have left out, it is a real shame to see that Burton has slipped off the mark with his newer films. He once stood as a director praised for his gothic visual style and obscurity, but now he seems to be someone who is trying to hard to be the weird one in Hollywood. I have to admit that with a lot of his new films I have not seen eye to eye with them at all.

Firstly if we consider Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the 2007 horror musical… thing. It was a project that seemed perfect for Burton, with the dickensian atmosphere and the unabashedly dark subject matter it looked like if anyone was going to master it then it would be Burton. However for me there is just something about the film that does not work. It is a film that feels as though it should have stayed as a stage production, it’s very theatrical. This doesn’t necessarily work when mixed with Burton’s gothic style because it feels too forced. It is as if Burton was trying to go darker, trying to make it more gothic than it already is, but we already know the story of Sweeney Todd all too well and so it just makes the whole experience unnerving. It’s not a film you can sink into as much as something like Ed Wood. With films like Ed Wood they’re a presence that settles into the room. Sweeney Todd enters the room like a bluebottle, flies around without ever settling, makes an annoying sound in your ear, before leaving two hours later and amounting to quite frankly not a lot. I admire Burton for making the film he wanted to, but ultimately it didn’t quite work for me.

Next we have to consider the 2010 annoyance that was Alice in Wonderland which really did not need to be made. It’s not just because the screenplay is hugely unamusing and the acting is resemblant of that in a primary school production, but it’s because Burton tried to make it his own. The thing with Alice in Wonderland is that the world created by Lewis Carroll is so distinctive enough as it is. If someone mentions the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat or Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee people automatically think of Alice in Wonderland because it has characters and locations that we all know so well. So having Burton come along and try to make this his own was never going to work, and I don’t think it’s Burton’s fault because no director would be able to make it their own. If anything even talented fantasy directors like Guillermo del Toro would be unsuccessful in such a venture, so I don’t think this is solely Burton’s fault. It is as if the book is a piece of material suspended between two poles. In some cases the book is like clingfilm and is easy for the director to push through it with their own style. In this case the source material is made of leather, and so no matter how far Burton tries to push through it he is never going to get through it. I admit the new narrative structure featuring a near adult version of Alice was interesting, however it was not utilised properly and so resulted in the film resembling a balloon with no air in it.

Finally, although there are others I could mention, I don’t think I could forget to mention the problematic 2012 reboot of Dark Shadows. I’m aware I have talked about this film numerous times on my blog and I have thoroughly ripped it to shreds, so basically all there is to to say is that it is rubbish. It is absolutely awful. Not only in an upsetting way but in an infuriating way too because I sat watching it thinking “this is the man that made Corpse Bride, we know you are better than this so just get it together man!”. It just feels like segments from different films that have been sewn together, and sewn together badly may I point out, so as soon as it starts walking it falls apart piece by piece like a patchwork zombie. First the nose falls off, then the ears, then by the time you reach the final act of the film you’ve got limbs falling off, before this steaming pile of shit eventually stops painfully crawling and reaches and ending that should have happened immediately after it began.

Up until this point it is evident that Burton’s new additions to cinema have not been up to scratch. His body of work up until a certain point was so impressive and it built the pathway to everyone viewing him as the auteur we all know and love. Because the standard was set so high with films like Ed Wood it is understandable that anything that falls short of our high expectations would be viewed less positively. However I have a strong feeling that this is changing. You see I have not yet seen Burton’s latest film, Big Eyes, and I have to say I have a very good feeling about it.

The main reason I am so excited is that Burton’s heart is clearly in the right place, he is making this film because the true story that inspired the film is one that means a lot to him. Burton was part of the generation that grew up with the art of Margaret Keane, featuring in houses and business all over the place, finding this unique style haunting but beautiful. At the time he was obviously unaware of what actually happened concerning her husband Walter, much like a lot of people nowadays, so it is admirable that Burton wants to spread awareness and inform people of this shocking story.

There is something about Burton making a film from a true story that makes me feel so relaxed and unworried about the project. After his triumph with Ed Wood it is clear that he can apply his style of filmmaking appropriately to make a film that is nicely balanced between artistic and informative, between style and substance. That’s what I want from Big Eyes. I want a film that has a sound and informative narrative, wrapped in the visual style that Burton masters wonderfully. I know he is capable of it and I am feeling increasingly optimistic about the film. I’m not expecting it to be as good as Ed Wood because that was a level of filmmaking that is hard to parallel, but I at least want this to be a solid piece of film that shows Burton heading back in the right direction.

What was always brilliant about Burton’s older work is that each piece meant something. Of course they were visually intriguing and created humour in the nonsensical, but then at the core they all meant something and had a beating heart. Think about it. Corpse Bride, when you take out the singing skeletons and eyeballs that pop out, the film presents a powerful message about love and how greed inevitably leads to self destruction. Edward Scissorhands delivers a wonderful message of letting in the unknown and finding beauty in it. The Nightmare Before Christmas in it’s most basic form is about respecting other people’s cultures that differ from your own, the list goes on! It is obvious they all meant something, they were rich in substance. This was lost in newer films like Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland which focused way too heavily on style. It’s a real shame when you consider how much I love Tim Burton as a filmmaker and how impressive his back catalogue is. But I think if any film were to bring him back to making good films that mean something, it’s going to be this one.

As I said before I have not seen Big Eyes yet but I intend to watch it very soon. Once I have watched it I will probably write a follow up analysis, just to see if it met my expectations and did, as I hope it will, bring Tim Burton back to top form.For such a talented filmmaker he deserves to be one that I hold as one of my favourites. For the time being he has slipped away from this, but I am hoping Big Eyes will be the film to bring him back. I know he can do it, I just need to see it happen on screen.

Fast & Furious – stop making action a stupid genre

fast-and-furious-7-2015-billboard-650

Why is modern cinema so insistent on drowning us in waves of tedious action films?

I remember when I was a lot younger (and cuter) I was always excited by the prospect of new action films. I was raised on The MatrixIndiana Jones and various superhero films, all of which still stand as good films. But what seems to have happened to action films is that they are substituting substance for style. Well I say “style”, I mean more bulk, more explosions and set pieces, and it is incredibly annoying to see the genre being ruined. One of the main culprits in this movement is the increasingly tedious Fast & Furious franchise.

It’s strange to think about what has happened with this film series because it appears to have died and then been reanimated. You see the first Fast & Furious film came out, it wasn’t particularly important but everyone just seemed to accept it as something different, fine. Then the second film was released and we see the stupid dial being turned further towards eleven but we could still abide this. By the third film it was turned fully to eleventy-stupid and it was all going to Hell in a handcart, looking like the franchise was dead in the water. Then somehow they bounced back from that, making the action louder and more stupid, yet people still flocked to see them. It just makes you ask that all important question: what the fuck is happening to the human race?

The problem I have with the films is that they have very little substance. They have set piece after set piece of badly directed action, crashes and explosions left right and centre, and it just doesn’t mean anything. It is all just stuff. Not only that but badly directed stuff. It’s like CRASH, BOOM, WHACK, KABOOM, end credits. It’s not interesting in the slightest because the plot (and I use that word loosely) is so thin. They attempt to add substance in the screenplay by overusing the word “family”, by constantly saying “we’re family, he’s family, yeah family” but this doesn’t add to the film in any way. It doesn’t aid characterisation and it certainly doesn’t make me feel more engaged. It’s a futile attempt by the screenplay writers to make it seem like it all means something when it really doesn’t. It’s a series of films where the second unit director has more input than the first unit. It’s just silly nonsense for the easily pleased, for people who go “look! Look at the cars! They’re dropping out of a plane! Oh and there’s a tank too! Tanks go boom!” as they wait for their mother to finish warming their milk.

I think one of the bigger problems with the franchise can be attributed to two separate outcomes, but the general point is the scale.

Firstly, because the franchise has continued for so long the films have grown bigger and so consequently the stunts have grown bigger. So what you have is a franchise that has advanced from half decent street races to absolutely ludicrous set pieces featuring tanks, planes and God knows what else. This results in a cinematic experience that gets even more boring with each new film, and action sequences with countless civilian deaths that we’re not meant to care about. It’s just absurdity.

Secondly the scale of the franchise has changed the purpose of the films. They used to be made for entertainment purposes, but now it is purely financial. They know they can pump out any horse shit they can manage and people will still flock to see it. It is a franchise measuring success by how much money the films earn, as opposed to the quality of the films. By this point they’re just squatting down every two years and shitting out a bad film then waiting for the millions to roll in. What you have to consider is that Box Office figures don’t equate to quality of film. Think about it, in 2009/2010 Avatar took more money at the Box Office than Inception. Which is the better film? Inception. It’s the same with Fast & Furious. Earlier this year Furious 7 took more money than films like Whiplash and The Theory of Everything. Is it a better film than either of those? Not even close.

Fans of the franchise try to defend it by saying it’s not all about the money. But as the film critic Doctor Mark Kermode pointed out, the studio aren’t evening hiding the fact it’s all about the money.

Kermode attended a press screening of Fast & Furious 6 before it was released, and as per usual being a film critic he received the press notes. Now, normally the press notes are used to say what the filmmaker’s vision was, what the film means, why it was made etcetera. In the case of Fast & Furious 6 the press notes consisted of three paragraphs about money and one small paragraph at the end attempting to persuade the reader that the film means something. So their intentions were made clear. The press notes pontificated about how much money the film cost to make, how much money the previous films took at the Box Office and how successful they feel the franchise is based on how much money it takes, and so it was clear that money was their primary focus, thus explaining why the film was so rubbish. It’s a typical case of a franchise just pumping out sequel after sequel because they know that people will pay to see them regardless of how awful they are, like Pirates of the Caribbean. The studio is well aware that each sequel will take more money than the previous film which is why they will keep watering the money tree for as long as they can.

So as the ludicrous stunts are taking place and all the gunfire and explosions are happening on screen there is one thing that works in the franchise’s favour. The only feature that works to an extent, but still needs improving, is the gender equality. It is refreshing to see an action film with strong female characters who kick arse as well as any of the men do. I like that Michelle Rodriguez is still looking to play the female action character that is a challenge for any man on screen, much like her smaller roles in older films like Resident Evil and Avatar. However this is still not enough to make up for the ill-disciplined action sequences that account for a considerable amount of the screentime.

It’s not that I’m a film snob who doesn’t like action films at all. On the contrary I really like action as a genre. I’ve grown up with Marvel films which often make very good action films, such as the recent Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m also a big fan of Matthew Vaughn who directed Kick Ass, which still remains one of the best films of recent years. The problem is that action is a genre that slips into stupidity very easily, so with films like Transformers it’s incredibly boring seeing building after building get smashed for two and a half hours. Thankfully, it is a genre that is mastered brilliantly by certain people.

If you want to watch a really good action film then I cannot recommend highly enough the Indonesian hit The Raid, directed by Gareth Evans. It is the perfect example of an unabashedly bold action film that has a beating heart and an intelligent brain. It is a brutal film about a SWAT team attempting to clear out a tower block inhabited by criminals and gang members, and for such a simple premise they managed to make a fantastic film out of it and transcend everybody’s expectations. The action sequences are directed with such pinpoint precision, and it’s shot in such a fantastic manner whereby the camera moves like liquid from floor to floor and the action looks and feels real. You can feel the weight of every hit, every kick, and because the narrative takes its time to develop you genuinely feel scared for the main character and establish an emotional connection with him. Most importantly this means that the events of the film matter to you as the audience. It is genuinely a fantastic film and proves that action does not have to be stupid.

However it’s not just the smaller action films that impress me, the big blockbusters can often be good action films. Just recently I finally got around to watching the new Godzilla project, which I thought was very good. It was a relief to see the talents of Gareth Edwards growing after his success with Monsters. I also got around to watching Robert Schwentke’s RED which I was well informed was a good film by my friend Molly and indeed it was. And of course I have to mention how some franchises are still holding their dignity, most notably Star Trek which J.J.Abrams has done wonders for, and James Bond which Sam Mendes completely mastered with Skyfall and whom has everybody’s support with the follow up project Spectre.

Unfortunately not every director thinks like Abrams or Mendes. There’s a common rule among filmmakers, particularly action filmmakers, that the way to make a film a success is to be more stupid than the audience. Fast & Furious sticks to this rule, with every film being bigger and louder and more stupid than its predecessor, and they’re more than welcome to do this. However this will never stop filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan, making films like Inception and The Dark Knight, filmmakers who treat the audience as intelligent sentient beings, and most importantly who understand that small arthouse films and big blockbusters don’t have to be exclusive. The Fast & Furious team can keep churning out sequel after sequel, but there will always be filmmakers out there proving that action films do not have to be stupid.

Interestingly Vin Diesel has been promoting Furious 7 rather ruthlessly this year, paying various tributes to Paul Walker in the process, for which he has my utmost respect. During this period Diesel revealed that there is an eighth film in the works. Which wasn’t a surprise to anyone because we all live on planet Earth and know it will take even more money than this film.

He also was quoted as saying that Furious 7 could win an Oscar. That’s the same attitude adopted by the studio that brought us Transformers: Age of Extinction, the same studio that actually gave it to the Academy for consideration in the ‘Best Picture’ category.

Check the nominations, see how well that went.

Rapid Reviews: Hugo [with slight spoilers]

Firstly I will say that I am utterly ashamed of myself for not having watched this film sooner. It is quite simply brilliant.

The story has quite a nice balance of fiction and non fiction, adding adventure around the edges of the career of Georges Méliès, who it a genius of cinema and one that I have the up most respect for. The film is centered around a young boy who lives within the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris who is searching for the mystery surrounding his dead father whilst questioning his own position in the world. Whilst being largely based around this adventure the story ties in nicely with the history of cinema and Méliès himself. It is an exciting adventure to witness but also an insightful one if like me you take an active interest in films.

The film has a brilliant cast, which it may of course be star studded with a lot of small roles for big names but I rather liked it. It helped to present one of the most important messages behind the film; the value of films and entertainment. Young Asa Butterfield is very good as the title role, showing the spark of an individual who is rather small in a large world. Ben Kingsley manages to be both quiet and magical at the same time to give a real sense that he is a genuine genius in human form. One of the most surprising roles for me personally was Sacha Baron Cohen who played the station inspector who is constantly try to find Hugo and stop his troublesome behaviour. His character reminded me somewhat of the child catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ but then had a hint of the theatricality that his character in ‘Sweeney Todd’ displayed, but overall he was very good and proved to be both a creepy and witty screen presence. In addition I must say it was quite emotional to see the film because it was one of the three last films Richard Griffiths appeared in before passing away earlier this year. A truly inspirational actor who was fantastic in every role, and the delicacy he displayed in this film in particular showed his ability once again.

In the past I have already talked of how much I admire Scorsese’s work and I do not feel that ‘Hugo’ was a let down, his directing was very good indeed. It was slightly different for Scorsese because it had a U certificate from the BBFC and is clearly aimed at a younger audience but I think it shows just how talented he is as a director to be able to make a film that is different from his other projects. It is less gritty and hard hitting and more adventurous and smooth edged which is by no means a bad thing.  I will admit that visually the film is stunning, the sequences Scorsese has shot are very impressive but I dislike the fact he shot the film in 3D. I know it’s meant to be an adventure film that is visually pleasing and exciting but I feel that this was accomplished perfectly in 2D without needing the extra element added. He is someone who understands film and has crafted himself perfectly to the industry so I feel that the sudden move towards 3D was unneeded and somewhat undermined the key message of the value of entertainment. The film tries to present the idea that film is something we can all enjoy because of how creative and imaginative it is regardless of how technically advanced it is, so shooting the film in 3D was a bit of a u-turn. Nonetheless it was fantastically directed, with the attention to detail being balanced perfectly when it comes to the shots of clockwork machinery and toys. It was artistic I really liked how Scorsese focused on certain elements.

The themes of the film also meant quite a lot to me throughout, with the main character questioning a lot about himself. His motivation to find the secrets behind his dead father were very interesting because it shows the true value of family and those we love around us. He also questions a lot about himself and how he fits in to the world, with one of his best lines showing an optimistic attitude that a young lad should have towards life. However for me the important themes were those linked to cinema and how much it means to people. The characters showed their true passion for film and how it is a source of inspiration for them, which is exactly how I feel when I watch a brilliant piece of cinema. The links to Méliès’ 1902 masterpiece ‘A Trip To The Moon’ show the value of cinema and the appreciation we have for such a complex art form. I talked in my last blog post of how much I like films that are about film, and ‘Hugo’ fits very high on the list in terms of reaching my expectations. It was brilliant to see a film that shows the true value of cinema and gives credit to one of the most influential humans to ever have lived; Georges Méliès.

Overall I would give the film a solid four stars out of five, it was a genuine pleasure to watch because of the sense of adventure and the value of cinema that is solid throughout the film. It’s not quite perfect but remains one of the best films I have seen recently, impressing me for a number of different reasons. I would recommend this film to anybody, but particularly those interested in film, you may very well learn something new from it. I’m glad I have finally watched this film but I am equally disappointed at how long it took me to do so. To end this review I feel it only fitting to leave you with my favourite line from the film (mentioned above) in which Hugo himself explains his thoughts on who he is:

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figure, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason”

Rapid Reviews – Silver Linings Playbook

I’ve been meaning to write a review of this film for quite some time now, but I wanted to wait until a second viewing. Now the reason I wanted to do this was because the first time I watched it, I was really impressed by it, and I didn’t want it to be a film that I could only appreciate the first time around. After the second viewing, it’s safe to say that my view is not changed, it is quite brilliant.

Firstly I feel as though I should praise the writing behind the film, I haven’t read the novel that inspired the film but I intend to because of what a brilliant story it presents. In terms of the film itself David O.Russell had done a spectacular job with the screenplay; it was interesting, it was funny, it had a certain charm to it. He clearly understood the depths of the characters he was dealing with, and to be honest I think he was robbed of an academy award. The award for Best Adapted Screenplay went to Argo, which if I’m honest did have a good writer and the screenplay was also good, but it wasn’t as brilliant as that of Silver Linings Playbook. The screenplay was witty but then equally successful as presenting the audience with the serious elements of the story.

Next I have to address the cast of the film; brilliant on all accounts. Bradley Cooper was superb, he dealt with the layers of his character very well and he reflected all sides of the character’s condition which really stood out for me. He was worthy of the nomination for an academy award, but with the tough competition he had this year it wasn’t going to be good news for him. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver are great in their supporting roles, their powerful portrayal of emotions worked very well on screen and they had good chemistry with the other actors involved. But, the star of the cast for me was Jennifer Lawrence. I know it is very easy to jump on the band wagon and praise the winner of the academy award, but I can’t help watching the film and realising how much she deserved it. Her personality as someone in that mind set was brilliantly accompanied by her personality as a dancer, with strong emotions and sharp delivery of lines she gave a sound performance that showed just how talented she is.

While on the subject of dancing I have to mention the directing, which I thought was superb. I’ve admired David O’Russell’s work in the past, in particular ‘The Fighter’, but once again he proved his skill as a director. His visual style is interesting because he does try to make the film very close to real life which he pulls of brilliantly, and he handles both faster paced scenes and scenes of dialogue well. I really liked the dance element of this film, his directing was very tight but flowed excellently so the dance sequences showed the nature of both characters personalities as people and their separate entities as dancers. It’s all well and good making a film romantic and funny, with punch ups in between, but the dancing added a really nice artistic element to the film. It was different from work I’ve seen of his in the past but O.Russell showed his talents to an even further extent with this film, truly terrific job.

Lastly I feel I should talk about the themes of the film, there was a lot linked to people suffering with mental health problems and how they deal with them, which are sensitive topics but were handled very well in the film. There were also themes linked to love and the importance of having an other half to support you which I thought were good. One big theme for me that stuck out was this message of how important the family is, for support and guidance through rough times and looking out for each other. These themes also linked very nicely to an overall message of having a second chance, and wanting to change your life for the better, which really made me feel uplifted and happy upon finishing the film. I really liked that message, it reflected the feeling I think we all have as humans; wanting the opportunity for a second chance and to make the most out of life.

Overall I would give the film four stars, it was a genuinely interesting and enjoyable experience to watch and I would happily watch it again. It wasn’t completely perfect, but to be honest I’m not really fussed; it was a charming film that made me feel happy throughout. An outstanding performance by the cast, and David O.Russell as the director and writer. I would recommend this film to anyone, I know some may be cynical towards it because it is in some aspects a romantic film, but I think it’s shameful to think like that. It takes a truly narrow minded person to watch this film and not look past one element of it, because in essence you are ruining it for yourself. Approach it with an open mind and you’ll leave the film feeling both entertained and uplifted.

Rapid Reviews – Killing Them Softly [DVD]

I remember a couple of years ago when I sat down to watch ‘The Assassination Of Jesse James…” for the first time and being completely knocked back by it. Andrew Dominik blew me away with both his directing and writing and it proved to be a very good film. Late last year Dominik presented us with his new film ‘Killing Them Softly’ and it left a similar impact on me.

It’s shorter than ‘Jesse James’ by over an hour which is a good thing because it moves at a slightly faster pace which suits the darker nature of the film. Dominik managed to draw me into a slightly different world to what we know and tell quite a simple story of what greed and desperation can do to humans. The plot is set in a criminal run city where mobsters have a lot of money whilst others live in poverty. When a mobster poker game is robbed a hired gun is brought in to clean up the mess caused to the economy. The story and screenplay are written very well and managed to keep me interested throughout.

In terms of acting the cast is superb, with Brad Pitt taking the main role of a killer who is hired to restore order to the criminal economy. His performance is very good showing a character with different layers and quite sharp personality with a clever mind. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelson work perfectly together as the helpless duo that rob the poker game. There are also very strong supporting performances from Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, so altogether it is a very sound cast.

For such a short film there were a lot of themes based around social inequality and what happens when people are left to the freedom of their own devices in a broken economy, also themes based on paying for your actions and justice taking its place. But what stood out for me was the themes linked to Brad Pitt’s character as the hired gun. He stood out for me because he was the man who was very much in control and could either represent salvation or damnation so it was fascinating to see how the story is influenced once he is introduced. The social inequality side was very interesting because you could see just how much is influenced the characters and their actions.

Overall I would give it three and a half stars, it works very well as a drama with some action scenes that are very well shot. It’s not perfect but Dominik has once again proved that he can shoot a gritty film that has a tight script. This was more concise than ‘Jesse James’ and was of a completely different nature, but if I’m honest that didn’t really bother me because I really enjoyed it. It’s not as good as ‘Jesse James’, which was a masterpiece, but I would still recommend it to anybody who wants to watch a good film.

Rapid Reviews – Cloud Atlas [DVD]

After buying the dvd of the film weeks ago I was heavily distracted by quite a few things before finding myself utterly bored tonight. The time had come for me to face this 165 minute film that I knew very little about. I started to watch it with an open mind, ready to be enticed in to what appeared to be quite a diverse universe for a film. I ended the film with my mind in a slightly different place. A more cynical place to be precise.

If I had to sum this film up in one sentence I think i would have to quote the good doctor Mark Kermode when he reviewed a film previously “it is really quite remarkably unremarkable”, which is exactly how I felt after watching the film. You have the source material in the form of a novel that is supposedly ‘unfilmable’ so there is quite a lot of material to use, with a lot of characters and as far as I’m aware six different stories that interweave. This doesn’t make it any more interesting and certainly doesn’t make it any more clever, and with a star studded cast it just left me feeling that after 165 minutes even they had had enough. The look in Tom Hanks’ eyes was similar to that of a postman on their duty in the winter snow simply saying over and over ‘we’re getting paid for this’.

The story bounces between the past, present and future with different stories that link together. Some link nicely and others you have to think about, which I really wasn’t willing to do because it would involve engaging myself in such a film. The characters are meant to be strong and have some form of moral and deep message behind them but to be honest it was more like a game of Guess Who for me because I was trying to spot which actor it was playing the character on screen. I’m sure other people will have found deeper meanings behind the characters and truly explored their depths, but personally I didn’t feel immersed enough to give it much thought.

The best character for me was that of Jim Broadbent in the modern day section of the story, he provided me with some entertainment through sheer good acting and sharp delivery of witty lines. As for other actors it wasn’t really a film to show off any true ability. Tom Hanks is capable of so much better as we have already seen, Ben Whishaw is still relatively young so this may end up as a film he tries not to think about once he’s older, Jim Broadbent as previously mentioned is very good, and Hugh Grant just feels like the last man on the end of a conga line at a wedding; clinging on for dear life and hoping not to go crashing in to the buffet table.

The special effects are good, but to be honest so are the effects for most sci fi bashes nowadays so it wasn’t anything bigger than your typical sci fi film. It’s just become common courtesy to put on a big flashy show if you’re going to make a sci fi film in today’s world and the same splattering of shiny technicolour whimsy that is used frequently in modern cinema was strongly present in this film. It was a sign of how unengaged I was with the film that I began questioning the designs to some of the futuristic technology and indeed the interior of some of the rooms. Some sequences look good but they all reek of other films, with the older parts looking like ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ and the futuristic sections looking like a mash up of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Irobot’ amongst others, so it was quite a cliched glimpse in to the future.

All in all I would give it two stars out of five. I really wanted the film to be good and genuinely watched it with an optimistic mind, but after nearly three hours of a film that doesn’t really find itself or get started into something bigger, I just felt quite bored. I agree with most reviews, the film’s heart is definitely in the right place and it was a good attempt at filming such a difficult book, but in the end it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. I’m not sure if I will watch it again, because to be honest I don’t have that urge that wants to watch it again.