New York, I Love You: a collection of short stories all about New York and New Yoykers – loosely labelled under the umbrella ‘romance’. The vignette setup just doesn’t do it for me, far too many characters, and differing themes / tones / styles / storylines – all mashed together, tediously linked through the location. The second problem is the quality control, or lack of – a few of the shorts were really good; prom night, pickpockets, old couple – but the rest were all varyingly pretentious and dull stories featuring varyingly pretentious and dull artisan characters – some of whom are beyond absurd – Ethan Hawke, I’m talking to you. Despite being all about NY, and the ‘love of the city’ there’s not that much iconic scenery; it’s mostly grimy side streets, greasy spoons, apartments, bars, yellow cabs, ect, which doesn’t really capture the vibes of the big apple – although someone could probably argue that this captures ‘THE REAL NEW YORK, BRO’. Given the massive list of A-list actors (and them some) New York, I Love You is massively disappointing – parts are good, but overall it’s collectively dull. Give City Island a bash instead!
44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.
Immortals: King Hyperion will stop at nothing to obtain the Epirus Bow, but he faces an unlikely challenge from a peasant trained by Zeus himself. Directed by Tarsem – as you’d expect the clothes, masks, set designs and attention to detail is immaculate. It’s also technically impressive, well shot, and a good blend of CGI and real images that other directors would shun away from. Tarsem has some moments of intense vivid uber imagery (what he does best) however, the producers have clearly forced in as many ‘300’ similarities that the contract would support: plastic skies, million-man armies, traitors, rippling abs, oracles, boring grey colour pallets, scrolling one-on-twenty fight scenes… which everyone’s seen before, loads. The story is put to the front and played out well, although there are times when you think ‘less talk, more rock please’. It’s well cast, with Luke Evans, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto and John Hurt standing atop a mountain of decent performances; for a stylised Greek Myth! While it’s very watchable and a decent film, The Immortals and the Fall perfectly illustrate the differences between such an imaginative and unique director doing a stunning self-financed film, and a studio-backed blockbuster with some shining moments.
Melancholia: follows a group of upper-class people with first world problems as a stray planet is scheduled to do a close fly-by past earth. This film feels like Von Trier spunked most the budget in the opening and closing 5 minutes with the arty, expensive-looking, Tree-of-life-esque scenes – then worried about filling the rest as an afterthought. For being an ‘apocalyptic drama’ there’s not enough apocalypse or drama in the story for my liking. Dividing the film into two chapter-parts is ridiculous: part one is dedicated to Kirsten Dunst’s chest, at her wedding (which is brimming with pomposity) and showing us that her character is a total dickhead – this goes on for far too long. Part two is more of the same but focusing on Gainsbourg and her flaws… The film looks pretty good (cutting edge SHD Arri Alexa cameras) and is shot well barring the uber-shaky cam scenes. The acting’s also decent, but not as amazing as is being made out. The bottom line here is that it appears Mr Von Trier seems to have lost his flare for proper stories and proper storytelling. Annoyingly boring, really should have walked out.