Ides of March: a brief glimpse behind the cameras and curtains of American politics as an idealist media mogul and presidential candidate get dragged through the dirt on a campaign trail. This has a serious political-thriller script and so many (old and new) big actors involved – which is why it’s unfortunately one of the dampest squibs of the year. The plot is strong, and a good insight into modern politics and politicians… but they’re somewhat of an easy target these days. There’s some great acting on display… but you’re still left wanting more screen time from the likes of Hoffman, Giamatti and Clooney. The direction’s good… but it’s nowhere near as slick or smart as direction of a political film needs to be. With all of these ‘buts’ The Ides of March is definitely weaker than it should be – sorely missing that additional thump that makes good films great, and political stories engaging.
Skyline: Brain-eating bio-tech aliens invade earth, consuming anyone that looks at their blue light. This wasn’t too shy about plagiarising massive chunks from previous sci-fi blockbusters like The Matrix, Cloverfield, Independence Day etc – it could have been a re-write of any of those films. The TV actors do alright for the most part, although nobody really gets characterised beyond b-movie territory, and you’ll have heard the script a hundred times before. The only redeeming aspect of this was that some of the destruction and mayhem looked pretty sweet, however, most of it just looked plan old ridiculous. The last five minutes sucked out what little credibility the film had by the end; one of the worst endings ever. Patchwork, hackneyed Sci Fi.
Nathalie…: A woman suspects her husband is having an affair so she pays a prostitute to seduce him and tell her everything… yes, that’s how the French do it! You’ve probably noticed the biggest flaw already; why would you persevere so hard with a serial-cheater husband? At times it starts to feel like an audio-descriptive porno, and when it’s not being racy there’s plenty trivial footage of the characters with no real character development. Fade to blacks are inexplicably overused. There was one good joke, but I doubt it was intentional: Fanny Ardant plays a gynecologist. It’s been re-made by Hollywood as “Chloe” with some big names behind it – Reitman, Neeson and Julianne Moore – although why anyone wanted to re-make it is beyond me. It’s pretty boring, banal and hard to get your head around. Married people: do they all do stuff like that?
Vicky Christina Barcelona: Two girls visit Spain for the summer and get more than they bargained for. Being a Woody Allen film it’s all a bit fruity, especially once the characters become more involved with each other. The relationships and scenarios are pretty grounded and it even gets a bit heavy at times, throwing up questions regarding relationships, morals, love & adultery. The characters are the biggest part of the film and they’re all fairly memorable, either through their looks (Johansson), performance (Hall) or both (Bardem & Cruz!). With the best lines and more conviction the Spanish home team overshadow their visitors. The narrator is a nice touch – and Classic Allen – although he points out the obvious quite a lot, which is annoying… but not nearly as much as Scarlett’s character who walks around photographing everything like a total dickhead. Allen’s definitely found some form in the late naughties, I just hope it continues. Sexy, funny rom-com.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A man lives his physical life backwards, from a pensioner to a baby while his mental age increases as normal – interesting premise. This reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump: extraordinary life, laced with American history, boats, war, walking troubles and romance all told in flashback. The main difference is that BB doesn’t rely on being fluffy and funny; it tackles the topic of death from the start, and was just a more modest, and believable (!) story. It does have some humour with the lightning strikes, Irish sailor, and general growing young antics. Every possible effect must have been used to make Pitt & Blanchett look young & old, and the scary pensioner-baby and man-child are like something from a horror film. My only big problem was the thick southern accents (particularly the mumbling woman on her death bed) a lot was lost in translation for me. The heavy symbolism and long runtime were also minor nags. Fincher’s on top form here and it could arguably be his finest film to date – tough call though. It’s a great story, brilliantly acted, powerful, engrossing and tugs at the heart strings.
Burn After Reading: black comedy from the Coen brothers about a bunch of exceptionally dumb people going through their mid-life crises; adult-themed hilarity ensues. More than anything this film’s great for letting us see long established actors like Brad Pitt / George Clooney playing absolute idiots. Pitt is especially funny, playing an air-head who’s sheer idiocy ensures he commands every scene he’s in. The plot seems fairly absurd until the last half hour when it comes together nicely, and the CIA meetings between JK Simmons and David Rasche are phenomenal. It’s technically sound, but above the comedy there’s not much else on offer. Coen fans will definitely love this but unless you like or ‘get’ black comedy it will probably just seem like a failed Adam Sandler-esque film. The fantastic cast definitely keep this film watchable.