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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Real Steel

Posted on October 21, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |


First of all, a big thank you to the couple of hundred of you who’ve carried on visiting this site despite my appalling lack of updates. I won’t whine about my degree anymore.
Today I went to see Real Steel at the IMAX. This was a doubly exciting experience because a) It involves Hugh Jackman teaching robots how to punch each other and b) I’ve never been to the IMAX before.

When I first saw the trailer for Real Steel, my first thought was this looks like the one cool bit of Transformers but with very little chance of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, which can only be a good thing.

Having just returned from the cinema all I have to say is this: YYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Real Steel is the cinematic equivalent of drinking 8 cans of Red Bull.  I am on such a buzz right now that I’ve completely forgotten about how earlier today I basically fell asleep trying to write-up my lecture notes.  A significant proportion of the film is given over to people yelling/cheering/screaming and one epic moment of Hugh Jackman shouting “BRING IT!” that it’s almost impossible to resist joining in. If I hadn’t been scared that I would be thrown out I probably would have been on my feet on numerous occasions.

It’s just the perfect adrenaline junkie movie. It opens with a robot fighting a bull. Seriously. Bot vs Bull. Who get’s away with that?! But it’s amazing. And every fight is so ramped up and energy fuelled that you can’t help but get sucked in. I think the IMAX’s epic screen definitely helped with that, and I strongly recommend you see this movie in a cinema on the biggest screen you can, but on top of that the camera angles put you right in there with the baying crowd so that you feel the full force of every mighty hydraulic assisted punch.

Scratch the surface of this film and you wont find much, but that’s exactly what makes it so good. I was a bit worried at first when Hollywood staple plot padding the good ol’ Daddy Issues were brought in to add some drive, but thanks to perhaps my favourite on screen kid ever (Dakota Goyo, who looks so much like baby Anakin Jake Lloyd I almost don’t believe he’s a different person) it never gets in the way of the steel crunching action that we all came to see.

At times the dialogue is so cheesy it’s practically painful.  But you don’t care. This is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously. Even Hugh Jackman plays most of it with a wry smile on his face that says, “Yes, I’m boxing with robots, but don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather be watching this than some deep and meaningful awards chaser.”  He’s not exactly stretching his acting muscles, but given how ripped the rest of him is in this movie I think we’ll let him off.  When it does get it right though, there are some really nice moments, my particular favourite being the exchange between father and son at the door, which has all the right sign posts for the classic redemption arc but with none of the saccharine.

Evangeline Lily is basically there to cry, cheer and wear shorts. She does all these things very well.  But this movie isn’t about her. Strip it down and you’ve got your basic underdog fighter claws his way to the top. The  twist being that our junkyard dog is literally a heap of scrap metal.  Huge kudos though for doing what Transformers never could and getting me to care about a lump of iron. I don’t know whether it was the blue doe eyes or the fact that he was serving as the personification of our estranged family, but I really wanted that little robot to keep swinging punches.

The plot is predictable as expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t engaging. The big final showdown fits pretty much to formula, but I was still holding my breath every time things took a turn for the worse and equally thrilled when Jackman step up for the big finish.  The one thing that did surprise me I don’t want to spoil, but for those who have seen it, the way they capture Atom’s “flair” is definitely the best thing to happen on a big screen in a long time. 😉

The look of the film is also impeccable. The CGI is seamless and interacts beautifully with the surrounding environment. The setting in the not-too-distant future is also good, with references to historic fights in the late 20-teens, allowing the super advanced tech to seem that little bit more plausible.

As you can probably tell from this stream of consciousness set of superlatives, I’m still on a pretty big high from this film, but I wanted to write this as soon as possible to try to get that feeling across to you. What we have in Real Steel is a flawlessly uplifting popcorn movie that I could happily watch on repeat without ever getting bored. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s Hugh Jackman punching robots. And it’s fricking awesome.

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Movies I Need to See

Posted on September 12, 2011. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , |

For the long suffering readers out there; you’ve probably been frustrated more than once at leaving me a lovely in depth comment about how something I’ve written relates to an amazing movie which I then admit I’ve never seen.  This is for you.  To go with my two Movies to See/Miss pages I’m adding a new third page to the site: Movies I Need to See.

I’ll start the list myself with a collection of films that are on my current “to-do” list, but I want some input from you too, so leave me a comment either here or on the new snazzy page (links at the top) and I’ll add them to the pile.  Like the other two, the page will be continually updated and I’ll let you know as I cross things off.

obviously I’m not including really recent releases on the list, ‘cos, you know, give me a chance!

My Need to See list so far:

  1. The Godfather Parts II and III. Everyone tells me the 2nd one is the best one but I’ve still only seen the first one.
  2. Beetlejuice. Shocking from such a die hard Burton fan
  3. The Incredibly Hulk (Norton, not Bana) I know, I call myself a Marvel fan but I’ve actually seen neither of the recent Hulk movies. I have seen the original though.
  4. The Big Lebowski
  5. Dr Strangelove
  6. Young Frankenstein
  7. Chaplin
  8. Memento
  9. Requiem for a Dream
  10. Being John Malkovich
  11. Good Will Hunting
  12. A Beautiful Mind
  13. Schindler’s List
  14. Slumdog Millionaire. I know. I think I’m the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen it.
  15. Top Gun. As soon as I get over Tom Cruise being in it
  16. Jerry Maguire. Likewise.
  17. A Fish Called Wanda
  18. Crash

That’s all I’ve got for now. More suggestions in the comments or here please.

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