Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 TOP TEN

What a combination: a well-crafted story, great acting, believable dialogue, excellent pacing and lovely cinematography. Although the subject of disease has come up before, I don’t think it has ever been handled with such insight and in such a straightforward manner.
The tremendous acting ability of both Julie Christie (who is at her very best) and Gordon Pinset allows us to gain some better understanding of what people have to go through in these situations, without having to spell it out for us with a bunch of words.
Certainly there are sad and touching moments but more importantly, this is a story of love. And it’s beautiful to see.

Crime thiller
Using a rather unusual device of each scene being played out from someone’s point of view (as noted in the on-screen label) then later seeing it again from someone else’s perspective the movie advances then retreats a bit until it catches up where we left off. In this way the story unfolds in bits and pieces, which keeps you interested in the developments. Being a crime thriller the less said about these developments the better.
What needs to be said is the acting throughout is excellent, the editing crisp, the other production values first rate. In other words, a really good movie.

It is so unusual to see a movie in black and white but it is absolutely the best choice: it feels like it was made years ago, it best depicts the dreary inner city of Manchester, it perfectly suits the languorous pace of the movie.
Complementing that is another great choice, this time of the actors. Particularly outstanding is Sam Riley. Although I’ve never seen the performance of Ian Curtis, the way he is portrayed looks and feels so authentic I have to believe it really was how he acted on stage. In addition, Morton and Lara both put in excellent performances.
One caveat though: it is long, just over two hours, so it requires a fair amount of patience. But it is well worth it.

There are few films with a running time in excess of two hours that I would recommend seeing; but this is one of them.
The fact that it is based on a true story only serves to enhance its appeal. Fabulous camerawork (unusual camera angles, sweeping vistas, tight close-ups and lingering sunsets) coupled with some really good acting by most everyone (the border guard being an exception) a great soundtrack and a story about someone who takes the unconventional route makes for compelling viewing.
Using flashbacks always results in topsy-turvy chronological references but generally these are easy to handle, in part because of titles appearing periodically indicating the point in time. One other thing: a couple of times I started to get the feeling that it is running a tad too long then something happens and I wanted to stay on. And did so right to the end.

There have been few war movies seen from the enemy’s perspective. And there have been even fewer that have the air of realism to it (Das Boot comes to mind) but this one combines that with believable acting entirely in their own language, not in poorly spoken English.
Unlike a lot of movies about international conflict, this one does not have an anti-war message about it. In fact it has no hidden agenda; simply showing us a group of people who are not all one-dimensional as the propaganda would have us believe.
The attention to detail is remarkable. For example the dimly lit caves and the muffled background noise of machines on the move recreates the situation to the point we almost can feel it ourselves. Despite the fact it is lengthy (2 hours and 20 minutes) it is compelling viewing and does not seem that long.

Great acting by people who seem to fit their roles perfectly, this is a well-written story about a strong-willed woman who has to overcome more than a few difficulties. Along the way there are plenty of humorous moments and some really gorgeous shots of the Lake District in England. The pacing is excellent and unlike most movies lately, it is not overly long.

Drama, comedy
The film begins with a play being staged before a boisterous audience and your first thought might be “Oh my heavens, what have I got myself into?” But stick around because it soon moves on from the theatre setting and the real movie begins.
Although it is not promoted as an autobiography, the combined efforts of historians have unearthed no trace of Molière between the time of the Theatre Troupe bankruptcy and his reappearance later when he formed a new group and began touring the provinces. So perhaps the movie recounts what really happened in the intervening months?
In any event, it is so refreshing to see a movie that relies on intellectual humour rather than the “in your face” variety that is so prevalent. This is a lavish production with the costumes and acting of the highest order amid sumptuous settings. Although it is two hours long, very little could be edited out and the time passes quickly.
One more thing that sets this film apart: the audience started applauding when the end credits began to roll. That in itself is quite an endorsement.

What a refreshing change: most current movies tend to be lavish expensive productions with a cast of thousands (ok, I exaggerate a bit), often are way too long with convoluted and overly complex story lines, with the incessant use of the f-word and lots of computer graphic images instead of the real thing.
Well, this one is none of the above. Instead we get to see a charming film with very little plot and acting that comes across as so real it seems like the movie is a documentary. Music is a big part of the film, not surprising given the fact the story is about a talented musician. But the music is never intrusive; it just melds in perfectly with the story. All of the songs are written and performed by the principals and some are a real joy to hear.

Animated cartoon
Just when you think it can’t get any better, Pixar comes out with the best animated cartoon ever. Combining state of the art computer generated images with a well-developed story line it is most entertaining. The main theme is one of following your dreams. The romantic comedy aspect is somewhat unexpected.
The realism is incredible (in particular the trip down the Seine) and the detail simply amazing (especially some of the food preparations). And to top it all off, the musical score is exquisite, a real delight to the ears.

Drama based on a true story
As the end credits rolled, spontaneous clapping broke out; to my mind this is the finest accolade any audience can give a movie.
But you wouldn’t figure on that right from the beginning: for the first ten minutes or so there are a variety of vignettes that do not seem to have any connection. Then gradually things come together and it all makes sense. What a wonderful start.
The balance of the movie is equally refreshing with excellent performances, superb cinematography, a great musical score and a well-written story. In fact there are several stories, that of the debating team and their efforts to succeed and some graphic examples of the racism that pervaded the times.
Despite a running time of two hours, it does not seem that long.


Although the American space program has been thoroughly covered before, somehow this movie puts a new slant on things. In part because it is the retelling from the point of view of the astronauts themselves and also because new footage from NASA files is being shown for the first time. It's riveting stuff.

Romantic comedy
This movie is just about perfect: nice pleasant people who don’t speak badly of others, witty thought-provoking smart dialogue and a nice toe-tapping musical score. All this within a very respectable hour and a half.
The casting is bang-on: each of the principals is exactly the right person for the job and several put in really great low key performances. In fact the whole thing is pretty low-key and very entertaining with the jokes more of the smile-sort rather than the right out laughter type.


Few will have the patience to sit through the 2 hours and 15 minutes of this movie unless you are a big fan (I mean really big fan) of the Beatles music. The simplistic plot serves only to provide an opportunity to fit in another song, even if it is out of place and/or inappropriate to the situation. Consequently every 10 minutes or so the story is put on hold while another song is sung, often poorly lipped synched.
The acting is only so-so: Jude in particular seems to have been selected more for his singing ability than his other thespian talents. And Maxwell’s father is almost ludicrous.
There are several rather innovative visual elements and some of the dance numbers are well done. It is also a bit of a historical overview of the Vietnam era but there are far better sources of history than this somewhat distorted view.

Drama, war
A well structured anti-war film seen from three perspectives: that of a Senator, as seen by soldiers engaged in fighting the enemy and comments from the intelligentsia. However, the latter only serves to muddy the waters (except for one brief flashback) and it really just showcases Redford’s acting abilities. But it’s not needed.

Another thing not needed is the static approach taken with the Senator and also with the professor. In both cases, two cameras are plunked down and the shots simply flip-flop back and forth so we can see the speaker. The cameras hardly move so it makes for a monotonous visual experience. The action shots in Afghanistan aren’t much better.
The acting is fine with only Meryl Streep coming across as making any real effort. Although there are a lot of words, thankfully the movie is fairly short so we’re not totally overwhelmed.

The first thing that strikes you is the desaturated colour, just shades of black and grey throughout except for a couple of minutes right at the beginning. It’s really very depressing but sets the mood oh so beautifully. This is not a fun experience unless you are enjoy watching throats being sliced and are not put off with such things as cockroaches crawling in meat pies served to unwitting customers.
This dark, humourless, gory, gruesome, creepy, icky film about a cruel, scheming, serial killer runs for almost two hours and includes too many interminable musical numbers that are not upbeat nor particularly pleasant listening. What a combination.
I like movies that are entertaining and\or informative. This is neither.

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