Tiny Beam of Light

Shining a tiny beam of light on some great films you might not know existed (and the odd blockbuster too).

The Monuments Men (2014) dir: George Clooney

Well I wasn’t expecting Ocean’s Eleven meets the Dirty Dozen, but I was expecting to be entertained. With such star wattage on the screen (Blanchett, Bonneville, Clooney, Damon, Dujardin, Goodman, Murray) and having such a talented guy in George Clooney behind the camera and a crack writer/producer team (including Grant Heslov – look him up!) – what the hell went wrong?

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It’s 1944 and the Nazi’s are looting Europe’s finest artwork, so Frank Stokes (Clooney) assembles a team of crack art experts to go to war torn Europe to try and rescue mankind’s heritage. Unfortunately as well as the Nazi’s these guys (based on real people who risked their lives to do this) also have to face limp dialogue, zip chemistry, lack of tension, and a death scene that looked like it came out of a 3rd rate school play.

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The whole thing was just….well flat. All that effort to re-create the backdrop of WWII totally wasted.

I was so disappointed!!

Filed under: drama, film, war, , , , , , , , ,

Avatar 3D dir: James Cameron (2009)

I’m going to be brief as this film will be everywhere.

My expectations were very high for this movie – it is after all from the man who has made some of my all time top films, Terminator 2, The Abyss, Aliens. In fact, in my opinion he hasn’t made a bad movie, and yes I did like Titanic. I went to a James Cameron interview about 6 years ago and he was talking about Avator then, apparently he mentioned it to Sigourney Weaver when they were doing Aliens – so he’s been gestating this baby for a long time. So what can I say?

Pretty bloody awesome. The film is often beautiful to watch, and thankfully avoids the usual Hollywood trip up; mixing astonishing visual fx and characters. The Na’vi are 100% believable and Pandora, the world that they inhabit, is astonishingly created.

A couple of things annoyed. I wasn’t bowled over by the 3D, I’m astigmatic so often the image was partly out of focus for me. Sam Worthington’s voice over, urgh, and James Cameron’s occasional squirm inducing dialogue. Pay a writer to tweak your dialogue James goddamnit!

However, I’d be more than delighted to see this again in 2D in a couple of weeks. James Cameron has raised the bar for blockbuster extravaganza to a new level once more. And the film is partly financed by the Brits. Hurrah!

Filed under: action, fantasy, film, sci-fi, war, , , ,

The Hurt Locker (2008) dir: Kathryn Bigelow

Sorry for the long delay between posts but I’m working on my own movie at the moment (my first as director!) so I haven’t seen as much as I’d like.

Been a long while since Kathryn Bigelow’s last movie, ‘K-19: The Widowmaker’, and like that film and much of her other work ‘The Hurt Locker’ centers around a male group.  This story is based on writer/producer Mark Boal’s experiences when he was working as a journalist in Iraq circa 2004 and concerns a US bomb disposal team in Iraq – a volunteer team that work in and around Baghdad disarming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). They do this every day knowing that they can be blown to kingdom come at any moment.

This is very much an independent film where both Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have full creative control and it shows. Shot on super 16mm in 44 days this is a film with some incredibly tense sequences and well choreographed action. Surprisingly, one of them is the slowest gunfight I’ve ever seen which takes place between a sniper and the US soldiers over a distance of 1 km as the combatants watch each other through high powered telescopic sights. You wouldn’t think such a slow sequence could be so intense and suspenseful and is a masterclass in film making on its own.

As the team go from one disposal mission to the next I had a quick look around the audience and people actually were leaning forward and sitting on the edge of their seats. And I thought that was just an ad man’s phrase!

Shot primarily in Jordan, the director teamed up with Ken Loach’s regular director of photography Barry Ackroyd. They shot with 4 cameras simultaneously, then after each take all the camera positions would change so that the actors had no idea where the cameras would be, so the actors had to stay focused at all times. This has given the film a documentary style immediacy which generates excellent performances especially from Jeremy Renner as the team’s new bomb specialist.

It’s been out on limited release already in the USA and is definitely a film worth seeing. It doesn’t take sides or go into the politics behind the war, but follows the experience and personal trauma of a small group of soldiers.

Filed under: action, drama, film, war, , , , , , ,

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