Excluding the few odds and ends that I'm yet to see of Spielberg's, I'd say that this is probably his worst film. It's certainly worse than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
. In fact, it's probably Richard Curtis' worst film too.
It's a film that the more I think about it, the more I hate it. I mean, why the fuck did
those Germans have machine guns pointed at their own camp?
It makes literally no sense.
And the horse is the protagonist despite having next to zero in the way of characterisation. But it does, bizarrely, seem to have human-level intelligence to the point that at times I felt as if they should have called the film Rise of the Planet of the Equine
There's a scene where some nasty soldier bad-guys are about to put this horse with a bad leg to work pulling a big, heavy bit of artillery and the 'war horse' runs up and basically says "No! Take me instead!" by rearing and neighing in front of everyone.
It's ridiculous. Horses aren't smart. They're fucking stupid animals. They're scared of shadows. Hell, they're scared of leaves. And I say this as someone who has quite a lot of experience with them.
The film treats the horse much in the same way that a kids' film might. In fact, the first half hour is basically a kids' film which was quite bizarre to watch. I have no idea who the film was made for because whenever it could, it behaved like a family film - complete with a comedy goose. But then, when it got the chance, it went all Saving Private Ryan
(albeit on a 12 certificate). Perhaps they intended for a contrast between the two to highlight the horrors of war. If they did, they failed.
I also hated the way the Germans all spoke English with a German accent. Fair enough, they're obviously intended to be speaking German and we're just having it translated for us through the magic of cinema. That's fine in a film like Captain America
, but it removes all of the gravitas from a film like this that's trying to be harrowing, grounded and to say something.
The film doesn't really have a story. It's just a meandering series of episodes with the horse running from story to story. At least two of these segments could have been lifted out of the film without making any real difference to anything except the running time.
I don't really know what the film was trying to say. At times, it felt like it was trying to make points about war but it was all undermined because who the fuck cares about a horse when there are people dying?
And as I've already said, the writing was shit, too. The dialogue was all really forced and I mean... put it this way. At one point, a girl is talking to her grandfather about her dead parents - he says some bollocks about courage and then it cuts to her face. She cries one perfect tear and that's that. Because that's what people do when they're sad, they cry one single tear down their face and move on. Not a cliche in the slightest.
Even from a directorial stand-point, it wasn't great. A lot of the shots were gorgeous, but I often found myself wondering why on Earth Spielberg had chosen to use them. Some shots looked like they should be in a horror film - and this wasn't during the war sequences, but the mundane, home-before-the-war stuff.
Tom Hiddleston was great but he only had 5 minutes of screentime. I honestly don't think this film would be getting any attention at all if Spielberg's name wasn't on it. Lord knows how it's managed to pull the wool over so many eyes, but rest assured, it's terrible.5/10The Iron Lady
One of the strangest films I've ever seen. It felt like it was written by someone who loves Thatcher and then handed to a director who hates her and wanted nothing more than to take the piss by subverting everything. It was really funny, but I'm pretty sure it was all unintentional. I know she has Alzheimer's and everything but they portrayed it in the most hilariously, Norman Bates-esque way imaginable. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be touching or what but it was just plain, bloody weird.
It didn't really portray a character or tell a story, it just felt like a series of bizarre sketches and moments thrown together, like a collage of Thatcher-bites. One moment she'd be going all Thelma & Louise
and nearly killing a cyclist whilst in the car with Sophie from Peep Show
, the next she'd be serving up phallic, but inadequate ice-creams and then she'd jump back to the present to have another chat with her husband's ghost.
Ultimately, it felt more akin to what Futurama
is to Richard Nixon than, you know... a biopic or a legitimate character-study.4/10The DescendantsThe Descendants
is a film that pretty much just exists. It feels like Oscar bait and essentially just goes through the motions. Nothing about it is bad, but nothing about it is particularly noteworthy either. I'm a big fan of George Clooney and whilst he's one of this film's biggest assets, his performance is somewhat bland. It's certainly one of the least interesting that I've seen.
Now... the thing that makes this annoying is that the film is full of flashes of absolute genius. Moments feel torn from the pages of dementedly dark scripts I've been writing in my head for years. A handful of one-liners and a point where two characters kiss are things of cinematic beauty... but overall it's lost in a sea of blandness.
But then, it's bland in the same way that mayonaise or milk is bland. Just because it's bland doesn't mean it's not nice.7/10We Need to Talk About Kevin
A fantastic little character piece that explores some very interesting and unique places with a cast made up of the ever-brilliant John C. Reilly and more importantly in this one, Tilda Swinton - a woman whose acting ability is so good that you soon forget how much she looks like a terminally ill 80s-era David Bowie.
Whilst the film is cartoonishly under-developed in areas, none of these are really part of the film's focus so it's all forgivable in the grand scheme of things. What matters, works. And Tilda Swinton is bloody excellent. It's a crime that she wasn't nominated for this year's Oscars.
7/10A Dangerous Method
I adore David Cronenberg. I also rather like Michael Fassbender. I'm interested in the work of Freud. And it's incredibly obvious from his body of sexually-driven work that David Cronenberg is very interested in the work of Freud.
This film somewhat distills what happened down into a series of facts that don't really resemble a story, but with a soap-opera romance on top of it. But its biggest folly is without doubt Keira Knightley. Her performance in this film is just incredible in the most negative sense. She completely Nicolas Cages everything she does, but this isn't a film where you can sit back and enjoy Nicolas being hilariously over-the-top. The "chewing the scenery" acting style just doesn't work within a film of this context. Plus, Cage actually has some talent. And the less said about Knightley's abysmal Russian accent, the better.
Overall, it's not a bad film by any means but it is a messy film that serves as a gigantic waste of what was a brilliant opportunity to make a great film. Hopefully Cronenberg will be back to form on his next job.6/10The ArtistThe Artist
is a frustrating film in that there's not really any point or purpose to it being silent beyond gimmickry. There is a lot of dialogue throughout the film (using dialogue-cards as silent films of the 20s often did) and they basically just serve to make the entire film feel like something of a waste of time. I've been a fan of the neo-silent film for a while and I've been wanting to see one in its purest form for a while too. I thought this might be that film, but to me that'd mean no dialogue as opposed to a film full ot talking that uses dialogue-cards and happens to be in black & white and 4:3.
I want something like Mr. Bean
but with the same degree of intelligence and choreography as silent Chaplin but The Artist is more of an elaborate spoof than a legitimate use of the silent area of film.
The problem with this shallow use of the "genre" is that it is essentially just a gimmick and after 20 minutes, the gimmick gets old. That all said, it's a decent enough film with a likable cast of characters (and some surprisingly big-name actors including the tragic waste of Malcolm McDowell's voice) as well as a handful of moments that were absolutely beautiful (and rather surprisingly so). The direction is certainly the film's strong-point with many scenes showcasing film-making at its absolute best.
Whilst the story is nice-enough, it feels a bit too simplistic to fill 100 minutes. The film felt like it should have been about 60 minutes which would have been more in-tune with silent films from that era, anyway.
It's undeniably a good film but it's not a hugely special one and I don't understand why it's this year's frontrunner at the Oscars. But I suppose that's logical seeing as I didn't understand why The King's Speech
or The Hurt Locker
were so beloved, either.7/10Take Shelter
This is far from a perfect film but it's a brave and ambitious film and that alone is worthy of praise. Not to mention its remarkable performance from Michael Shannon and the inclusion of Jessica Chastain who I fell in love with based on her output this last year, alone.
The film is powerful and hits quite hard at times as well as being constantly gripping from the opening shot despite very little actually happening.
The one major complaint that I have with the film is its ending. Whilst I think that the basic concept behind the ending - or at least how I think we're supposed to read it is wonderful and quite beautiful in its own way, the way that it plays on-screen heavily suggests something else is happening and, like I said, I'm pretty sure this is unintentional - especially based on comments I've read from the director since watching it.
So yes, a good effort and a cut above average certainly, but also far from perfect.8/10Carnage
Something of a disappointment for people like myself who were hoping for a film in the vein of 12 Angry Men
. I suppose that this film plays like something of a weak sibling of theirs - one that plays like something of a failed abortion.
The cast are all on good form, but then how can you watch people like John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet and not enjoy what you see? It's just a shame that the film goes nowhere. There's nothing in the way of an ending or closure and it's not like this contributes to an artistic purpose or anything of that nature. The film just plays as a real-time incident where four people argue for a bit. No character changes happen, nothing resembling a story unfolds... at its most basic level it's a total failiure of a film. It just gets by somewhat on its wonderful cast and the fun in seeing them interact.
So yes, a disappointment and a wasted opportunity but there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half.6/10Chronicle
After seeing the trailer, I expected to hate this film. First and foremost, I expected to hate it because I hated the characters... or at least what you see of them in the trailers.
Now, having seen the film, I've changed my mind about the two friend-characters, but I maintain that I hate the protagonist. He is a stupid little douche and he annoys me. BUT... the film is more of a supervillain origin story than a superhero origin story and it's because of this that if anything, hating the main character still allows the film to work.
Nothing about the storyline is new or innovative but the found-footage gimmick works well here for some reason. It helps to ground the fantastical events in reality which gives everything about it a sense of awe - as if these tired old feats of special-effects that you've seen a million times before in other films are genuinely happening before your eyes. And this combined with how it put quite a dark-spin on the usual proceedings as well as a spectacular final sequence in which the found-footage is made up from countless different camera-sources (CCTV, onlookers' phones, police-car-cameras, etc) helps to keep things lively. It plays like something of a deconstruction of the superhero genre - similarly to Unbreakable
All in all, it's a pleasant surprise. It's not an incredible film but it's one that's far better than it had any real right to be. It's certainly good fun and one of the best found-footage films going (pretty much only coming behind The Blair Witch Project
and the [Rec]
The concept of a film about a fairly abhorrent person trying to do something as despicable as steal a newly married father from his wife just screams out to me. It's the sort of thing I could very easily love. In fact, it's the sort of thing I'd write, myself. It's a shame, then, that Young Adult never comes close to reaching its full potential but at the same time, it has some very funny moments, some wonderful observations and a fairly powerful emotional core. And as much as I know I shouldn't, I saw a great deal of both my life in the events portrayed and even worse, myself in the character portrayed.
As it stands, it's quite easily my favourite Diablo Cody and my favourite Ivan Reitman film, but objectively, it's probably not as good as Juno. But then, Juno didn't want to go to anywhere near to this interesting with its content. I respect a film like this that dares to be different.8/10Grown Ups
My friend made me watch this, insisting that it was enjoyable because it was essentially a bunch of likable actors just having fun together and you got a real sense of their friendship. He's wrong. It's just a piece of shit like all the other reviews would suggest.
There's nothing resembling a plot. The film is just a series of sketches... well, less than that even because sketches implies that there's a degree of structure and humour to it all.
But even worse, there's nothing resembling humour. Kevin James falls over a couple of times, I suppose. Steve Buscemi shows up for a cameo and he looks funny. But that really is about it.
It's an abysmal film, but I'm sure you already knew that and I'm preaching to the choir.2/10Moneyball
I couldn't give less of a shit about baseball so I suppose that it's impressive that even I can't deny that this is a decent film that's very well put together. It's far from incredible, but it's a strong all-rounder, featuring good writing, direction and acting. It even manages to tell a real-life story without pandering to people or being horribly structured. It's basically a very solid film and there's little more to be said about it than that.7/10Midnight in Paris
You should probably go into this review knowing that I'm not one of Woody Allen's legion of arse-lickers that worships the ground that he walks on. Prior to this, I'd only seen Manhattan
and it was okay-ish, I guess. Nothing special.
This film is mediocre at best. I don't understand the love for it or for Woody. It's incredibly self-indulgent and I suppose if you share Woody's taste, that probably does it for you.
What I found bizarre is that the acting is so off, throughout the film. Owen Wilson is the only actor who turns in a good performance (Owen Wilson?!) whereas usually fantastic actors such as Michael Sheen, Rachel McAdams and Tom Hiddleston are actually somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Everybody performs in a very strange, stilted way that can only be down to Woody Allen's direction. It felt as if things were highly improvised and Woody didn't like doing more than one-take. And this isn't helped by how Owen Wilson is the only character with any semblance of depth.
Still, it has some nice ideas and themes - even if they are structured as the ramblings of an old man close to death - which I suppose is what the film essentially is at the end of the day. It's just let down by the lack of any real feeling of purpose and the ending so bad that it's genuinely quite incredible. Oh and the constant awful accents from anybody not speaking in their usual voice.
The film is very watchable but... well, it's not great. I feel that this score is a bit overly generous in all honesty, but like I said, it was easy to sit through:6/10