In Bruges

Posted on January 14, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

(It’s in Belgium)

In Bruges has been on my to watch list for a really long time. I remember seeing a trailer for it when it first came out and thinking it looked good, but somehow I got put off by a couple of bad reviews and never quite managed it.  It’s stayed on my mind though, and thanks to the magic of Christmas I finally got my hands on a copy of the DVD.

Perhaps what confused the people writing those few bad reviews I read was that In Bruges was marketed (at least in part) as a comedy.  And yes, it is a comedy. But a very black one which looks at death, suicide, redemption and the nature of humanity.  Those themes don’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but the genius of Mark McDonagh’s writing leaves us with a wonderful film that flips effortlessly between moments of raw emotion and pure laughter.  It’s little wonder that it won the BAFTA for best screenplay and also got an Oscar nod.  The script is pretty much perfect.  Every time it’s at risk of getting too heavy, a quip breaks the tension, but not in such a way that it undermines the motion or the meaning in what is going on.

The idea of Bruges as a kind of purgatory for our main character, Ray, is clever and done with incredibly delicacy.  I also love how we aren’t really introduced to the characters, just thrown in with them, with everything we need to know about them  revealed through snippets of conversation.  You get to know the protagonists in much the same way you get to know people in life, which adds realism to an already earthy plot.

All the clever writing in the world can’t save bad acting, but luckily the three central characters are played by three great actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.  I’ve written before about how highly I rate Farrell as an actor, and I think this film is a huge testament to his talent.  He plays Ray with a childlike innocence which is endearing and all the more striking given what we learn about him during the film.  Like the writing, he manages to find a perfect balance between humour and pathos, creating a character who is entirely sympathetic yet in another film could easily be the villain.  Gleeson has similar qualities as Ken, taking a more fatherly role to Farrell’s child, while Fiennes manages to give humanity to a character who could easily be written off as a psychopath.  The brilliance of In Bruges is that you really care about, and like, all the characters, even though we are never deceived about the bad things they have done.  Even the supporting cast; racist dwarf Jimmy and drug dealing thief Chloe, have us rooting for them.

The plot also keeps you on your toes, so that you’re never quite sure where things are going to go next.  It’s not so much that there are lots of twists, more that like the characters, you can’t really see how they’re going to get out of the situation they are in.  It’s a fantastic film and I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it because it’s going straight on to the Movies to see before you die list.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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Quote of the Day

Posted on June 5, 2010. Filed under: Quote of the Day | Tags: , |

I know, I disappeared again. Bad me.

Back now though, and figured a quote of the day was in order.  No prizes for guessing this one, but it was my favourite line of the movie.

“I like it in the f****** booth. It’s my whole world now, this is my booth and I’m not coming out ever. You hear me? Never.”

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Underrated Actors Part 2: Colin Farrell

Posted on May 28, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings, Underrated Actors | Tags: , , |

I wrote a post about Jim Carrey being underrated a while back, but I’ve been waiting to write another one on the subject until I had  re-watched a particular movie. Did that last night so here it is.

Colin Farrell is an actor I’ve known since the BallyK days, yet he’s not often grouped together with collections of great actors,(those of you who included him in your St Paddy’s days posts excepted).  I think, like a lot of actors, he falls into the trap of being so well known as a person that people almost forget that he’s an actor too.  His wildboy persona seemed to overshadow his acting for a while back there, but now that he seems to have calmed down, we’re starting to see the talent first.

The movie that really made me sit up and take notice was Phone Booth.  It’s just an awesome movie which is so full of tension that it’s probably a good thing it only runs for 77mins.  It’s genius is in its simplicity: man answers phone, all hell breaks loose, but the entire film rests on one man and that man is Colin Farrell.

You barely notice while watching the film that it’s set entirely in that one little booth and the street around it.  The camera almost never cuts away from Farrell.  Even when he’s not part of the action the box-shot editing means he’s still on screen.  With a lesser actor that might get boring, but Farrell gives an unexpectedly powerful performance which is both sympathetic and flawed.  Difficult to pull off, especially when you have to do the whole thing in somebody else’s accent!

I’ve seen relatively few Farrell movies, and I know he’s been in some howlers, but I think Phone Booth alone proves that he is a very strong actor.  I think his inclusion in the stella Parnassus line up shows that the movie world is starting to come around to him as a great actor as well as a colourful character. I’m on the look out now for more of his films to see if he is really as good as I think he can be.  In Bruges is next on my hit list.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Faithful followers will know that I was really looking forward to this films release. No doubt they will also have noticed the lack of review on this site.  The inconvenience of having a full time job mean that I never got to see Parnassus in the cinema, but the epic rain that washed out the Bank Holiday weekend allowed me to finally get around to watching the DVD.

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. Yes, it’s weird. In fact it’s very weird.  But this is the mind of Terry Gilliam, where if you think it makes sense, you’re not getting it.  So put that aside before you start and you’ll get on a lot better.

Gilliam is essentially an artist, and it’s the visuals that make this film.  Each trip through the Doctor’s magic mirror takes us into a world beyond imagination that only Gilliam could create.  But unfortunately it has little else to offer.  I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the old-fashioned world of the Imaginarium and the modern world of it’s clientelle.  The opening credits set you up for a period piece, but then a drunk guy wanders into shot from a nightclub and you realise you’re expectations were wrong.  Just how Terry likes it.

I don’t want to call Parnassus a bad film, because it isn’t bad exactly.  But I’m not sure what it is.  The plot is as expected; convoluted and very hard to follow, but if you strip it down to the bare bones it’s actually relatively simple.  The problem is the characterisation.  I’m not really sure whose side we’re supposed to be on.  There isn’t really a protagonist story to follow, the plot just seems to meander around a group of people.

As for the actors behind the performances, Tom Waits does a great underworld Mr Nick and Verne Troyer proves he can do more than just be the funny little guy in his first proper acting role.  The focus however,  falls inevitably on Heath Ledger.  This is where it gets difficult.  Neither Ledger, nor alter egos Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, really get to stretch their acting muscles.  If anything, the only thing that caught my attention was Ledger’s wandering accent, which never seemed to get hold of a region (Farrell on the other hand carried off an impressively non-Irish dialect.)  It’s a shame to have four huge talents like that on screen and see them go to waste, but to be honest not many members of the cast get to do much.

The eponymous Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) spends most of the time asleep, and it’s hard to keep up with who bet what to who and why.  I’m still not actually sure who won.  Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield are good though as Valentina and Anton.  In fact, Garfield wins the prize for being the only character I actually cared about.

I’m so reluctant to criticise this film.  Not only because it is Heath’s last, but because it had potential to be really good.  Wishful thinking can’t rescue a film though, and I’m afraid I have to confine Dr Parnassus to the missable movies vault.  Maybe watch it once just to say you’ve seen it, but I fear that without the macabre draw of this being a film where the lead actor died during filming, few people would have given it the time of day.

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10 Days to go!

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: News, Trailers | Tags: , , , , , , |

Today is the premiere of one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year: The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.  I really hope it lives up to the hype, because with a cast like that and Terry Gilliam at the helm it’ll have to work hard to go wrong.

Of course, there’s gonna be a lot of the same cautious criticism that there was with Dark Knight, and again there will be a significant proportion of the audience who wouldn’t have bothered to turn out to the cinema in different circumstances, but I’d like to think that the movie should be able to earn praise in its own right.  It definitely looks like it’s gonna be one amazing ride.

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