Film Reviews by None

Welcome to None's film reviews page. None has written 11 reviews and rated 11 films.

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A Good Year

A Good Year

(Edit) 20/11/2006

A Good Year reunites director Ridley Scott with lead actor Russell Crowe in their first collaboration since Gladiator. And could it be more different? Hardly; Rome is replaced by rural France and swords are replaced by tennis racquets.

Max Skinner is a highly successful investment banker living a financially rewarding life. But when his uncle Henry dies and bequeaths Max his entire estate including a chateau and vineyard called La Siroque in Provence he takes his first holiday from work in years and visits his boyhood summer vacationing spot, with the mercenary intention of selling it to the highest bidder.

But numerous flashbacks to his younger days (step in Freddie Highmore) when he played tennis with Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) and an interest in the local café owner (Marion Cotillard) awakens his softer side.

He’s not all bad but Russell Crowe is still far from the perfect choice to play the role of Max. He’s simply too heavyweight. After lead roles in films like Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man he’s just not suited to this sort of film, if indeed he ever was, despite what he might say about previous comedy roles. And most fatally he’s not English.

Freddie Highmore and Albert Finney are good together and add a little heart to the proceedings whilst both Marion Cotillard and Abbie Cornish are watchable if not only for their ability to add a little sexy sizzle to the otherwise rather flat proceedings.

And of course Scott makes sure that at the very least the whole thing looks fabulous. If Crowe’s performance doesn’t make you want to take a trip to France (and it most probably won’t) Scott’s cinematography will have you packing your bags and booking your flights as soon as you get home.

A Good Year is a good film, with good intentions and good performances, but it won’t be the toast of the town.

2 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Little Fish

Little Fish

(Edit) 20/11/2006

When you consider the material that Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving have worked with in their careers, it is difficult to imagine that this film was a stretch for them artistically.

Yet it's great to see actors that are willing to make themselves undesirable in front of the camera, to get gritty and real and raw for the sake of telling a story.

Weaving plays a heroin addict, turned to a life of drug abuse after his pro-football career was tragically cut short. Blanchett plays a video store clerk, who could be so much more, but can't seem to get her life on track after a series of bad mistakes and bad relationships with anyone but the right guy.

Unfortunately, Little Fish is not a good story. In fact, it made me wonder why much of Australian cinema (think Somersault, for instance) seems to be so gloomy and slow paced. It's not that it has nothing to say; it's just that it takes so long not saying it.

Until the final third, when it finally boots things up a couple of gears, this is so slow and lumbering.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Shaun of the Dead

Shaun

(Edit) 20/11/2006

You'd be forgiven for approaching this film with caution. One often does when a new British comedy comes along, hoping for the best but secretly fearing the worst. But with Shaun Of The Dead we needn't have worried.

Described as a rom-zom-com, or in everyday language, a comedy with zombies, it stars co-writer Simon Pegg and is directed by Edgar Wright. And they've done a tremendous job with both script and direction.

It's a comedy but it's also quite horror film to boot. And it's clear that whilst Pegg and Wright have comedy in the forefront of their minds that they have also set out to take us on a journey that involves a range of emotions. Most interesting is the surprisingly well timed pathos as the characters are forced to kill or be killed.

The characters are all believable, the most distinctive being Shaun who makes a personal journey of self-discovery, from general layabout, to unlikely leader and ultimately a heroic figure.

Nick Frost and Lucy Davis contribute with good performances although Davis' character fails to feel unique as it's very similar to her character from The Office. In fact when Andrew Lincoln cameos, you almost expect her to run off with him.

Hopefully this year's Hot Fuzz will be just as brilliant.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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The Village

Try Not To Scream

(Edit) 20/11/2006

M. Night Shyamalan's tale The Village is played out in the small Pennsylvanian homestead of Covington at the turn of the last century. The story revolves around the uneasy truce that the townsfolk share with the creatures that inhabit the bordering woods.

Bryce Dallas Howard stars as Ivy Walker and Joaquin Phoenix takes the role of Lucius Hunt. They produce similarly stoical performances, proving that in this instance less is more. Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt round out the cast with satisfactory contributions in what are fairly minor roles.

Cinematographer Richard Deakins creates a fiercely stylish backdrop that he gives real life to, imbuing his villagescape with eerie lighting and the dull autumnal hues of pre-technicolor clothing. Oppressive mist hangs as though dead in the air whilst leafless trees sway in the wind.

James Newton Howard's atmospheric score completes the portentous and eldritch ambience that is in the very fiber of the film. The horn and string arrangements keep hearts fluttering through the quieter moments until the pounding drums and thundering bass almost induce cardiac arrest in the more terrifying scenes.

That writer/director Shyamalan is savvy enough to allow his audience only the briefest peripheral glances of his demons naturally attenuates our fear of them. He demonstrates an apparently innate predilection for horror, an effortless ability to create tension and knowledge of his viewer's expectations. He only disappoints slightly with poor pacing midway through.

Shyamalan fans will expect an epochal twist and won't feel let down when it hits, as it has considerable impact. Overall, The Village isn't perfect, but certain sections are simply masterclass standard examples of how horror should be done.

Just remember, do your very best not to scream.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Open Water

All At Sea

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) jet off for a stress-busting holiday in the Bahamas. However on a scuba diving excursion they're left behind in the open water of the ocean. Naturally it's not long before they are blaming each other for their predicament, whilst the audience are left to ponder just what sort of dreadful tour company these people booked their trip with. Please… do they not provide safety equipment? No compass, no torch, no whistle?

The exposition is painfully progressed by 'man with clipboard', which includes numerous shots of him tallying up the number of passengers (wrongly) and of the two empty spaces on the boat. Still whether this piece of risible direction is more annoying or not than Susan and Daniel's agonisingly slow realisation that they have indeed been left stranded is debatable. And that the film is presented in such a forced and unnatural fashion made me question whether director Chris Kentis was ever awake at film school.

Open Water is filmed on hand-held digital cameras and one might assume that this would give it an edgy, gritty feel and at times it does. But watching the first half-hour it's so shoddy that you'll feel as though you're simply watching a home video of the couple's, mundane, holiday.

Ryan and Travis are convincing throughout and this is Travis' debut, but considering that the most demanding part of the film for them was pretending to be scared of, what were in fact real, sharks their performances can hardly be considered Oscar-worthy.

Kentis must have realised that Open Water had amazing potential to be a tension-filled thriller. Yet up until the point where the sharks finally arrive for dinner he wastes this excellent, if slight, premise. Even when a curious shark does take it's first bite Kentis senselessly cuts away to an entirely unnecessary scene and completely destroys any tension and fear that he'd been building up. That he never really manages to sustain any real tension is a real shame, although the conclusion is shockingly good.

Nevertheless, for sixty minutes Open Water is all at sea.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Charlie Kaufman has to be the quirkiest mainstream screenwriter Hollywood has ever tolerated. His films are often completely insane, but always startlingly original, and that's what makes them such compulsive viewing.

The trailer suggests a film that will envelop the viewer in a whirlwind of emotions. And for the first 20 minutes at least, it does, so captivating is Joel and Clementine's first meeting.

Only in the second act does the film begin to falter slightly, but it's back up to speed quickly.

Jim Carrey gives another excellent performance and he's matched every step of the way by Kate Winslett. She's irresistible here and, without doubt, more watchable than we've ever seen her.

Kaufman assures that his leads are real and complex - Joel likeable and goodhearted, but also pathetic, Clementine enticing and exotic, yet impetuous and cruel. Carrey and Winslett must have delighted in these nuances of character, as their performances alone are worth the price of admission.

Director Peter Gondry mixes the real and surreal with an ease and regularity that impresses. His confidence and editing skills were gained in the music industry and these skills must be prerequisite when collaborating with Kaufman one assumes.

Kaufman's detractors will, no doubt, state that his screenplays are precocious and self-congratulatory harboring delusions of profundity. But quite simply, whatever you think, his work attracts some of the finest actors in Hollywood - John Cusack, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Jim Carrey.

You can't argue with that.

3 out of 5 members found this review helpful.

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Lost in Translation

Lost in Scarlett's Eyes

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Unlike many of her contemporaries Sofia Coppola writer and director of both The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation appears focused upon making films that are honest, acutely observational and believable.

It's testimony to her apparent refusal to indulge viewers' expectations or resort to Hollywood contrivances that Lost In Translation is immeasurably more genuine and charming than the majority of thoughtless films that Hollywood churns out.

Coppola also makes sure to give her actors freedom to perform, unlike many heavy-handed Hollywood directors. And it pays off brilliantly as Bill Murray gives what is the most reserved and understated performance of his career, which is also his absolute finest.

Scarlett Johansson.Scarlett Johansson is an actress who is also currently on top form. She has a truly intoxicating screen presence and produces a complex yet delightfully genuine performance.

The central characters, Bob and Charlotte, find that they themselves are lost in translation, lost in a foreign country, unable to sleep and bewildered by Japanese customs.

The cinematography is certainly inventive too. The flash cuts between scenes (which in isolation would appear to be of little importance) highlight this unstable dreamlike state that they find themselves in.

Only when they find each other and become soul mates of a sort do they begin to re-evaluate their lives and start to find new perspective through their relationship.

Ultimately they share more with each other over whiskey and cigarettes than they ever could in bed.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Cold Mountain

There's a Warm Centre at the Heart of this Cold Mountain

(Edit) 20/11/2006

I suspect that viewers who are not particularly fans of Nicole Kidman or Jude Law will approach this American Civil war drama cautiously, I certainly did.

Quite honestly had I realised that it was directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) I might have dismissed it instantly so bored was I by that, 9 times Academy Award winning, abomination.

However, despite some minor complaints such as Minghella's perpetual habit of allowing his films to run overlong and the occasionally unnecessarily gory depiction of war, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a warm heart at the centre of Cold Mountain.

Having been won over, I'm now more than prepared to see the merits of this film. Indeed whilst the love story between Kidman and Law struggles, the Odyssey style journey that Law finds himself on entertains.

In the lead roles Kidman and Law produce fine performances.

But it's the delightful supporting performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Brendon Glesson, Giovanni Ribisi and Reneé Zellweger that audiences will find most appealing. In truth they each steal almost every scene that they appear in.

Cold Mountain is currently showing in cinemas nationwide, and although it's strange to watch a film where the subplot is the most entertaining element I nevertheless hope that you'll find it to be, much as I did, well worth the journey.

3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Closer

Real Life on the Big Screen

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Dan (Jude Law) a lazily dressed failed novelist who can’t find his “voice” writes the obituary column of a London newspaper. He meets young and sexy, exotic dancer Alice (Natalie Portman) after she’s knocked down by a car. There’s an instant attraction and a relationship begins. Still it’s not long before Dan becomes interested in another pretty woman.

Law following up his fine turn in Alfie produces an excellent performance as a man with a mixed character who’s addicted to the truth yet takes delight in deception. Natalie Portman, such a natural performer also impresses, seducing the viewer as the impulsive and voracious Alice.

Clive Owen plays Larry a dermatologist. Working class lad made, good he’s nouveau upper-middle class with some dangerously rough edges. His character arc is broad but there’s nothing that Owen can’t pull off in this role. From pathetic and obsessive to petulant and sexually aggressive, his performance is near perfect as he hits a career high.

Julia Roberts rounds out the quartet of lead stars and shows us a few new tricks.

Brutal at times, it’s also tender and touching, Closer is a wonderful effort from director Mike Nichols. Totally uncompromising in its delivery, script and portrayal of couples in love, and hate, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Yet it’s distinctive, compelling, the characters are believable and there’s not a join-the-dots romance in sight. I personally thought it was brilliant.

Closer is the closest I’ve seen to real life at the cinema for a long time.

5 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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Collateral

Cruise Hits All The Right Notes In This Jazz Infused Blockbuster

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Take a cab ride with Max. Garrulous in good company, yet discreet, he's self-effacing, compassionate, intuitive and adaptable.

Silver-haired and silver-suited Vincent's visibly focussed, driven, sharp and articulate. Yet look more closely and you might notice something slightly different about him. Spitting out words laced with venom and acting in a fashion that only a man in total control can, he's not the average businessman that you might have initially mistaken him for.

Director Michael Mann allows us quality time with his characters in what is an intentionally unhurried and sensual opening sequence. And they're characters that writer Stuart Beattie has successfully painted in full colour.

Mann's pacing, of what is a 120-minute film, is superb. Never getting bogged down in unnecessary back-story the sense of tension, which is well maintained throughout, constantly builds with the growing momentum. It's also to the veteran director's credit that he doesn't allow any sense of Hollywood-movie-contrivance to creep in.

The cinematography is awesome too. The City of Angels, shrouded in night brought to life by vibrant neon-technicolour, looks fantastic. James Newton Howard's score is also particularly effective.

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx both produce bravura performances. Cruise as comfortable with darkly comic scenes as with the nuances of a remorseless killer. Foxx, meanwhile, expertly emphasising Max's personal and emotional arc.

Michael Mann's films continue to be a real draw. Just like a good jazz player he improvises, plays unexpected off-notes and keeps his audience guessing.

Collateral is one of his finest.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Alfie

Alfie

(Edit) 20/11/2006

Well-dressed self-confessed fashion-whore Alfie, slips on a Gucci shirt, ties his lace-up Pradas and splashes on expensive cologne. He’s light on his feet and light on commitment. A natural charmer, a London-born scoundrel; living in Manhattan where all woman are available and conveyor-belt perfect.

Alfie’s as happy as a puppy with two tails and more romantic relationships than most men can remember. He’s Mr Full Service, a limo-driver and a love-machine. And although audiences could have easily felt that Alfie was all too familiar, Jude Law takes ownership of the role infusing his character with real life and verve.

It’s a performance made even more impressive not only by Law’s feature-length deliverance of first-person, straight to the camera, stream of consciousness narration but by the fact that he appears in virtually every frame. Convincing with admirable assurance from happy carefree philanderer, to distraught and tortured loser, Law’s central performance is magnificent.

And they are feelings that director of photography Ashley Pope effectively mirrors with his cinematic palette. Warm reds, oranges and yellows fade to washed-out blues and muted greens as Alfie’s mood and situation change. Whilst a soulful jazz score underscores both moments of levity and pain.

Charles Shyer’s snappy direction keeps the tone fairly light whilst standout moments include Law’s Singing in the Rain-esque puddle-splash and Alfie’s divine meeting mid-movie; delightfully represented by a stroll along a quiet beach with a wise old friend.

By the end, whilst the subtle placement of the words such as search, wish and desire into the subtext of the film have highlighted key plot elements the introspective tagline of “what’s it all about?” remains, at least partially, unanswered. Shyer flirts with a downbeat ending but when Jude Law flashes that perfect smile we know he’ll always bounce back.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.