Attack the Block – Review

Attack the Block (2011) 

Directed by Joe Cornish. With John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Nick Frost

Director Joe Cornish is obviously a boy from the 80s and his latest film “Attack the Block” was certainly inspired by the likes of the GooniesGremlins (and its Z-list of derivates Critters, Ghoulies, Troll) or other 80s Monsters-films (even the soundtrack of this film seems to be reminiscent of the early Carpenter too). Not surprisingly Spielberg himself has chosen him to write his Adventures of Tintin.
All this retro-sci-fi sensibility is mixed up with the grittier settings of a typical British gang movie, like recent Harry Brown for example, just to mention one.

I must say it did take me quite a while to settle into the film, mainly because we are expected to like a gang of scumbags who attack people in the street at knifepoint and who speak with the incomprehensible accents, only some of which I was able to fully understand.

And yet despite an early sequence where a nurse is assaulted (thus your liking for these kids reach rock bottom) director Cornish during the course of the film still manages to make these characters quite likeable and I guess that can only be considered an achievement. Obviously some of the credit has to be given to the realistic and natural performances from the gang of inexperienced actors, headed by the taciturn Moses, perfectly played by John Boyega.

The film on the whole is probably way too silly to take any of the message underneath too seriously: in fact the film tries hard to get us to understand the motivations behind these street kids and even excuse some of their behaviours as these are just unlucky kids who are not given a chance by the system.

Beyond this intellectual (and not-too-subtle) reading, “Attack the Block” is mainly a comedy  about aliens versus hoodies and that’s what people will take out of it. It is also a rather unusual mish-mash of genres and I must confess in the beginning I found it all bit jarring, but if you are willing to go with it and suspend your disbelief, I’m sure you’ll end up enjoying the ride.

In fact, just like in Gremlins, the film tries to combine comedy with horror the same way cult films like Shaun of the Dead had done years ago. However whist there are some genuinely funny bits in the film, they are never really out-loud moments, nor particularly memorable. Even Nick Frost in the film feels more a  last-minute addition to the script rather than rounded character, functional to the plot. And knowing how funny Nick Frost can be, it all seems like a bit of a waste.

As far as the scary sequences are concerned, some of them are skilfully choreographed, photographed and filmed and on the whole are quite effective. Having said that I’m sure that an audience familiar with the horror genre will find them all pretty standard and never as scary as they should actually be.

Cornish opted to use old-fashioned mechanical special effects for his weird alien/gorilla-like/furry-monsters. However the threat of these fluffy beast is never quite “real enough” and in the end the aliens are more ridiculous than menacing.

It’s hard to know what the target audience for this film is supposed to be. The Horror fans would  have seen it all before, the US kids will be put off by the accents, the snobby/arty elite will certainly find it all a bit too silly to care about its message, but  I must confess, I came to it with very few expectations and even though it took me way too long to get into it, once I was finally with it, I actually found it all rather enjoyable for the its slightly trashy fake-B-movie sensibility (but a lot more clever than it claims it is) and I was happy I saw it.

6.5/10

Trust – Review

Trust (2011) 

Directed by David Schwimmer. Starring Clive OwenCatherine KeenerLiana Liberato

Whatever you might be expecting from “Friends” star turned-director David Schwimmer, get ready for an unexpected surprise, because this is certainly not it.

Trust is in fact quite a mature and complex drama about an even more mature and complex subject and though it might not be perfect, it certainly deserves a lot of credit and respect not only for tackling such a story, but also (and mostly) for its restrained approach throughout.

The film is not preachy, nor it pretends to have all the answers: it doesn’t offer any solution to an impossible situation and for most of its length, it manages to avoid the obvious clichés from the genre and just when you think you’ve seen it all before and it takes an unexpected and clever turn.

Schwimmer is aware of the complexities of its story and carefully manages to keep his vision very well balanced. He is subtle in his style and in the staging and direction of some truly great performances.

At the centre is the amazing performance by Liana Liberato as Annie, the teenage girl who befriends a stranger online, Charlie, who she thinks he’s about her age. Once the truth comes out (don’t worry, this happens quite early on in the film, so I’m not really giving away anything), and Annie discovers that Charlie is actually a lot older than he used to claimed, she’s first taken aback, but slowly begins to feel more and more attached to him, as she thinks he’s her first love and the only one who really understand her.

Ms Liberato despite her early age seems to have a remarkable understanding for that adolescent naïveté, that awkwardness and innocence that most teenagers seem to have and she portrays Annie to perfection, with all their weaknesses and strengths.

“Trust” is certainly not an easy watch. The scene with Charlie the “predator” in a motel room sitting on a bed next to Annie, is one of the most uncomfortable I’ve seen in quite a while: but like in all the best movies scenes of this kind, the tension is created by what you know and your expectations, not by what you see. And gracefully (and thankfully) Schwimmer shows us just about enough to get the idea across without exploiting the moment.

Schwimmer is actually an activist in the field of rape awareness in real life and his understanding of the complexities of the issue is certainly apparent on the screen.

If you hear David Schwimmer talking about this film you’ll hear him saying that this is really a film “from the point of view of the father”. And undoubtedly Clive Owen takes the center stage at some point in the film (and as always he’s pretty good too), but interestingly those are the parts I thought were probably the least successful in the film, all leading up to that final scene which felt to me a bit forced and actually slightly too melodramatic.

However these are just small points in an otherwise really powerful film, which should actually be a compulsory watch in schools and among teenagers. In reality, in the UK the film is rated 15 and in the US is R rated: which once again shows the usual close-mindedness of classifications on both side of the pond. Hopefully some kids will get to watch it anyway either on DVD or thanks to mature parents.

Oh, and that end credit sequence, which seems almost tagged on as an afterthought, is one of the creepiest thing in the film and leaves you with a really uncomfortable feeling as the credits roll, which I guess is the point of the film. On that respect, it’s a success.

7.5/10

A real moviegeek or a tired old cynic?

Some of you have pointed out that in the last few months it seems like I was disappointed by most of the stuff I saw in the cinema.

This came just at the time when I was about to choose which film to review next, of the ones I’ve seen in the last couple of days: “The Roommate” (A thriller, which is usually a genre I love), “the extraordinary adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec” (By Luc Besson who made La Femme Nikita and leon, 2 of my favourites ever!), or “Hachi” (By the director of one of the film I love the most, What’s eating Gilbert Grape)… And you know what?! I really didn’t like any of them!

It made me think: when did I become such a cynic?

It is so unlike me… I’ve always been the positive one, the smiley person who tries to look for bright side…

I love going to the movies and there’s nothing I cherish more than loosing myself in a good flick.

Whenever I go and watch something, I’m always hoping this might be the one that makes me go back to being a kid, or makes me cry or laugh with tears in my eyes, or forget about my deadlines at work and my worries at home…

The fact that I have not liked a lot films recently is probably indicative of the way cinema is today. Most of these films are just products”: they are made by a committee of advertisers, or people who need to balance their books at the end of the year.

There are very few mavericks, or real storytellers out there… Most of them prefer to play it safe and give us what their recent surveys told them they should give us.

Or is it me who is just getting pickier and pickier? Why do I seem to be the only one who thought “The King’s Speech” was a pretty average film crowd pleaser?

Why didn’t I like Scream 4, when in fact it did exactly what the “tin” said?

Should I have got lost in the colours of “Rio”, forgetting about the fact that the story line was so damn predictable?

Why wasn’t I swept away by the quirkiness of “Rubber“?

Why was I so cold in front of that tragedy that was “Rabbit hole“?

Why couldn’t I just laugh watching “The Dilemma” while everybody else was in tears around me in the theatre?

Why couldn’t I just go with “The Adjustment Bureau“, instead of looking for all the plot holes?

Why wasn’t I enchanted by Submarine?

And why am I more terrorized than excited by the idea of the forthcoming Tintin movie by Spielberg (a director I love making a film about my ultimate childhood hero?) … Why am I so afraid I’ll be disappointed?

Am I growing old and just tired of movies or are there just fewer and fewer fresh good things our there?

Oscar Winners 2011

The Academy Awards ceremony is over and the statuettes have been given all away exactly to who we thought might win… Once again, Oscar disappoints in originality, courage, boldness, and predictability reigned.  But in most cases what was to be expected was also the best available choice.

If you really asked me Toy Story 3 should have won and Christopher Nolan should have been recognized at least as a screen-writer, or even better as a director for what was one of the most inventive and original film of the year: Inception. Instead the Academy opted for the most obvious Tom Hooper: his directing on “The King’s Speech” was showy, obvious, by number and lacked of any subtlety (you can see read my review, which was written long before the film even got released).

Is this guy really worthy of standing in the same league as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Roman Polanski,Oliver Stone, Milos Forman, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Wise, George Cukor, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, Vincente Minnelli, David Lean, John Ford, Michael Curtiz, just to mention a few?

And yes, of course, Colin Firth was good, but was he really better than James Franco in 127 hours, a film that was entirely dependent on him stuck in a hole? No, he wasn’t. However he deserved the Award last year for “A Single Man” and even Colin himself knows that (that’s why he thanked Tom Ford in his speech).

The Social Network, even though that too was a flawed movie, felt more like a solid piece of film-making.

Well, you can obviously tell I am a bit disappointed…. Oh well, that’s the way it is. The King’s Speech joins the list of Oscar winner crowd-pleasing films, like Shakespeare in Love or Crash, Ordinary People, Driving Miss Daisy and so on. Films that found themselves at the right time in the right place and got away with winning (Let’s face it, even the Hurt Locker last year). Not bad ones, but not that great either.

On the whole this was one of the lamest show in the last few years. James Franco was under-used and Anne Hathaway she felt stiff and was confined by a silly, bitty, and unfunny script.

There was nothing remarkable about the show itself: no glamour, no drama, no surprises… It makes me wonder whether I should have gone to bed earlier and watch the highlights tomorrow…

Few nice moments but that’s about it, just nice: Natalie Portman’s speech, Colin’s Speech (though he has been better before), Melissa Leo cursing and droppping the “F” bomb at one point (hahaha), Christian Bale showing that he has got a heart and that nerd guy who got the Oscar for the short film who said “I should have got a haircut”.

On the whole a pretty forgettable show, with very forgettable hosts.

Here’s the list of all the winners and some comments:

BEST PICTURE

The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST DIRECTOR

Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTOR

Colin Firth – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTRESS

Natalie Portman – Black Swan – WINNER

Beautiful performance and a well deserved Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale – The Fighter – WINNER

A very showy performance, but still a good one. Also Christian redeemed himself for all the bad he did, by getting moved and giving a nice speech.I just hope that beard is there for some reason!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Melissa Leo – The Fighter – WINNER

I knew it the moment I saw the fighter.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

In a Better World – Denmark – WINNER

I haven’t seen this yet, but it’s winning awards left and right… I’m getting curious.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

David Seidler – The King’s Speech – WINNER

Yawn… How predictable… Poor Nolan

BEST ANIMATION

Toy Story 3 – WINNER

Was there any other choice? This should have got the Best feature film too!!

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network – WINNER

Well, of course.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

mmm.. Not so sure, really. A tilted tree is really not enough for getting an Oscar. But then again, it was the easiest and laziest choice.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Inception – WINNER

This was a surprise, but a very welcome one. It was certainly a harder film to light that True Grit. However Rogers Deakins will have to win sooner or later.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Inception – WINNER

BEST SOUND EDITING

Inception – WINNER

Both this and the previous award are very very hard to differentiate for me, so it’s good to see them going to the same film.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) by Randy Newman – WINNER

20 nominations for Randy Newman and this is only his second win. Also it brings the Oscar count to “2” for this wonderful film, so I’m just happy for it.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – WINNER

The most original score for sure. Totally deserved!!

BEST COSTUMES

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

The only redeeming feature of that film.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Inside Job – WINNER

Pity for “Exit through the gift shop” which was an extremely entertaining doc (and it would have been good to see who would have collected the award). But this one was clearly a better one.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Strangers No More – WINNER

BEST FILM EDITING

The Social Network – WINNER

Clearly this was some of the best edited film (especially if you’ve seen the special feature on the DVD). 127 Hours was a more flashy one and slightly more interesting, but they say that the best editing is the invisible one.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Lost Thing – WINNER

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

God of Love – WINNER

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Inception – WINNER

Well, was there really anything else?

BEST MAKE-UP

The Wolfman – WINNER

A lazy Award. I’m sure voters just saw Baker’s name and voted for him. The film was rubbish and in fact it’s impossible to tell what was make-up and what was CGI (including the clip that was shown during the show)

To conclude, the only thing I am pleased about is that a little film like The King’s Speech once again follows the a trend set in the last couple of years whereby small, indie movies do better than Hollywood biggies… But hey, they could have done the same thing just by rewarding “Black Swan” or “Blue Valentine” or even “Animal Kingdom”.

OSCAR 2011 – Nominations for Best Animated Short Film

While waiting for the 2011 Oscars (tomorrow night, Sunday, February 27th) these are the five 2011 Oscar animated short nominees.

DAY AND NIGHT

Directed by Teddy Newton. Starring Wayne Dyer. US (Pixar Animation)

The personifications of daytime and nighttime learn to get along.

THE GRUFFALO

Directors: Max LangJakob Schuh. Helena Bonham CarterJames CordenTom WilkinsonJohn Hurt. BBC. UK

A cunning mouse goes for a walk in the forest and outwits a succession of predators

LET’S POLLUTE

Directed by Geefwee Boedoe. Starring Jim Thornton. USA

In the spirit of 50’s & 60’s educational films, ‘Let’s Pollute’ is a modern satire on how pollution is our heritage and keeps our economy growing strong, while instructing us how to be better polluters for a better blighted tomorrow.

THE LOST THING

Directed by Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan. Starring Tim Minchin. Australia, UK

A 15 minute animated short film based on the highly acclaimed picture book by multi award winning author and illustrator, Shaun Tan. A boy finds a strange creature on a beach, and decides to find a home for it in a world where everyone believes there are far more important things to pay attention to

(OFFICIAL WEBSITE)

MADAGASCAR, CARNET DE VOYAGE

Director: Bastien Dubois. France.

“Told in the form of a travel notebook, the story follows the steps of a Western traveler who is brought face to face with the Malagasy customs and rituals, especially the Famadihana, the ritual of the turning of the bones.”

(CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT IN FULL)

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