Un Prophete: a petty criminal makes big waves in jail as he climbs up the criminal ranks inside the prison. This is the very epitome of a very, very broody-moody slow burner. In saying that, the direction’s absolutely solid, with key scenes being well handled and delivered – it’s just that at 155 minutes it could have just done with more brutal editing though – there’s lots of filler scenes that seem to just ramp up the runtime, and too many slow shots of the main guy looking contemplative for my liking. It’s very French, with what’s clearly some big French, socio-political issues and a French focus on race, identity and . Acting-wise, prison leader Cesar wipes the floor with everyone else; such a fantastic range. The story’s as grim, downtrodden, depressing, gritty, worst-case-scenario non-glamorised crime drama as you can get. It’s strange because I remember being blown away by ‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’, however despite their similarities, ‘Un Ptophéte’ (and ‘Rust and Bone‘) feel like they’re handicapped by the pace.
Django Unchained: a German bounty hunter frees a slave, then partners up with him to make some cash and rescue his girl from a flamboyant plantation owner. As expected, Waltz absolutely steals the show with what’s essentially a re-write/reprise of his intelligent, oddly-humorous ‘Jew-hunter‘. Everyone else turns up and does their thing entertainingly enough. While the film pokes a lot of fun at the stupidity of racism (KKK mask scene & Sam Jacksons rant about Foxx sleeping in the house), for me the ‘N-Bomb’ is dropped far, far too often: which may have been accurate of the period, but it’s such a loaded word that drags the tone down – taking it way beyond any ‘light-hearted’ Blazing Saddles similarities. Clocking in at 2hr 45, it’s also far, far too drawn out, for such a simple revenge tale, especially once Dicaprio pops up: some scenes seem to go on forever with rambling, empty, dialogue and plodding shot after shot. While they’re all quintessential Tarantino scenes, it also suffers from his trademark lack of self-censorship. Finally, although, stylistically, most scenes are undeniably QT -and this isn’t really his fault – his style’s been ripped off so many times (funky music, uber-gore and back-and-forth dialogue) that it no longer packs the punch it once did. As a stand-alone film, Django Unchained is a decent film dragged down by its ‘epic’ runtime and the difficult task of balancing racism and comedy. It’s only when you step back and hold it up against a film like Inglorious – equally long, but crammed with great, tense and cinematic moments – that you realise how ordinary Django Unchained is.
50/50: a healthy 27-year-old is diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer, and we follow him through the ordeal. This is a difficult film to fairly review because it was pitched through the trailers / posters as a Rogen-esque comedy; however, it’s actually pretty intense, and the serious stuff far, far outweighs the lolz. I guess there’s a zaror to walk between giving cancer enough gravitas and trivialising it, but at least sell it as a drama – like Adam. With this in mind the film puts you through half a dozen or so ridiculously emotional beatings through the various stages of the illness. The cast are very strong; J.G.L. is a powerhouse – arguably his best performance, Rogen reels in his comedy schtick; BDH puts in a respectable short shift as the girlfriend, and although Kendrick can’t quite keep up, my mind was full of dirty thoughts when she was on screen anyway. 50/50 is serious, it’s dramatic, it’s touching, and it’s nothing short of an emotional smackdown. It also has a little bit of funny, but had I known what I was in for I’d have waited for DVD (and cried like a bitch in private).
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.
Amores Perros: three separate stories brought together through a nasty car crash, with love being the common theme. Gritty doesn’t come close to describing this; with dog fighting, robbery, murder, abortion, and crazy hobbos all brought up in the first 20 minutes… definitely not for kids. The three stories of a wayward youth, fashion model and homeless guy are all fantastic, and the acting couldn’t be any better. Even though he’s the hardest to like, the hobbo‘s story is still my favourite as it’s nothing short of a dramatic roller coaster. The filming style further intensifies each story making it even more raw, and visceral. Although dogs play a large role in all three stories this definitely not a film for dog-lovers… particularly in the last act, heartbreaking. What Amores Perros boils down to is simply pure storytelling with no tricks, low blows or grand budget. Inarritu creates an extraordinary set of circumstances woven through a cast of fleshed out, realistic characters. Dramatic, moving, powerhouse.