Movies reviews

  • Solaris

    Watched on

    6

    A troubled psychologist is sent to investigate the crew of an isolated research station orbiting a bizarre planet.

    Solaris

    Review

    Solaris, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem which was originally brought to the screen by famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky back in 1972.

    The story revolves around a psychologist who is sent to investigate the crew of an isolated research station, which is orbiting a distant planet, who have been behaving strangely. Upon arrival he wanders aimlessly around the ship looking for the crew – but instead is confronted with blood and two people in the mortuary. After meeting with the two remaining crew members, one nervous and uncommunicative and the other reclusive and frightened, the protagonist learns the true frightening presence of the other-worldly planet they are orbiting.

    All the crew members have been visited by apparitions of deceased friends or family members. These “vistors” take physical form, replicating a person from the crew's life, but only have memories and feelings which are projected on to them.

    The movie is slow-paced and is definitely not the typical science-fiction movie which has come out of America in the last decade or more. It has a psychological story with numerous interpretations and an ambiguous ending, both of which lead to great conversations with others who have watched it.

    The movie's themes are based heavily around the conflict in relationships and how are deal with the grief of loved ones. The planet Solaris gives the characters disturbing "what if?" scenarios and the story follows the characters ways of dealing with them. There is rationality, denial, acceptance and remorse, culminating in a morally and ethical conclusion.

    The movie pays homage to the original movie as well as other classic science-fiction movies. The corridor set design on the space station is very similar to that of the 1972 version. The costume design of the space suits and the exterior shots of the space station – set against the beautifully rendered Solaris and classical music – is very reminiscent of the great Stanley Kubrick's science-fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Finally, the fifties-esque apartment design and the bus scene set against a bustling rainy street are strangely familiar to anyone who has watched Blade Runner.

    Overall, I felt that neither the original 1972 version nor the 2002 re-imagining are classic science-fiction movies (although, a lot of people would disagree with me about the first version). I would say – from an entertainment point of view – that the newer version is better. Tarkovsky's version is over an hour longer, making it feel incredibly slow. I also thought it was more confusing, but this may have been due to cultural and language barrier of the original. However, it did explore more complex themes and had better character development for more of the crew.

  • My Blueberry Nights

    Watched on

    7

    A young woman takes a soul-searching journey across America to resolve her questions about love while encountering a series of offbeat characters along the way.

    My Blueberry Nights

    Review

    Beautiful in places, frustrating in others, Won Kar Wai's first feature length English-language film “My Blueberry Nights” is a story divided in to three segments, each following the same young and naïve woman as she explores America trying to find her place in the world.

    The movie has some vibrant and colourful photography, especially in the “casino” segment, but it also suffers from being over stylised in places – especially with the extremely slow motion photography – a trademark of the directory – which appears in numerous shots.

    Similarly, the acting of the lead character, Elizabeth – played by singer Norah Jones – is poor in place, but overall she is average and I've certainly seen a lot worse. Jude Law's accent is little too strong my liking, and it isn't helped that he had some very cheesy dialogue. Contrasting these two complaints, there was some great acting, notably by the three main characters in the second two segments; Natalie Portman as Leslie, the care-free gambling rich-girl – a character who is such a great contrast to Elizabeth, and David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz who appear in the depressing second segment – their performances are summed up perfectly below:

    David Strathairn gives a memorable, finely crafted performance as Arnie, who is a cop by day and an alcoholic barfly by night. Rachel Weisz as Sue Lynne his beautiful, wild, estranged wife makes full use of her short time on screen to create a wayward, tumultuous character at once sensuous, and sensitive. Between them they steal the show.

    IMDB review by mjsinclair

    The final positive note, which stood out for me the first time I watched the movie, was the soundtrack. A beautiful blend of downbeat melodies by artists such as Otis Redding, Cat Power and the lead character Norah Jones.

    The movie, as a whole, is above average. There are some disappointing pieces, but the movie is successfully held together by the experienced director, the characters, some of the acting and stunning cinematography.

  • The Joneses

    Watched on

    7

    A seemingly perfect family moves into a suburban neighborhood, but when it comes to the truth as to why they're living there, they don't exactly come clean with their neighbors.

    The Joneses

    Review

    I thought The Joneses was a good movie and, although the message was rather blunt, it was something that many people in the modern, Western world, should be able to relate to.

    Each of the four family members showed their ability to sell products as well as their more sensitive and vulnerable sides. But it was the parents who were given the most screen time. Demi Moore played her ruthless character very well, but it was David Duchcovny, in the role of the husband, who shone in his character. I was a fan of The X-Files, but it was more recently in the brilliant Californication that I have started to appreciate Duchcovny's talents, and he definitely plays the cool, laid back guy who enthuses charisma very well.

    Amber Heard was given the most to work with out of the two 'children' and I felt that her brother was under utilised.

    Overall, the movie was well cast, well acted, looked good and had a decent story & message, albeit a little in your face - much like a lot of the advertising you're subjected to daily.

  • Cemetery Junction

    Watched on

    8

    A 1970s-set comedy centered on three young working class friends in a dreary suburb of Reading.

    Cemetery Junction

    Review

    Cemetery Junction is the latest movie written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Both men rose to fame for their hit TV sitcom The Office, a satirical pseudodocumentary set to typical nine-to-five office job. Although both wrote, directed and produced the hugely successful series, it was Ricky Gervais who received the most attention as he starred as the shows main protagonist David Brent.

    They both continued to work together on numerous projects, however, Ricky Gervais tried his hand at Hollywood. He starred Ghost Town, which was quite well received overall, and most recently he wrote, directed and starred in The Invention of Lying a movie which I thought had great potential but unfortunately fell flat in the final act.

    However, Cemetery Junction goes back to Ricky Gervais' and Stephen Merchant's roots, teaming up again in both the directorial and writing departments. Set in 1970s England the story follows three friends as they waste their lives away in a small rural town. The movie is very much a "coming of age" story as each of the main three characters deal with their families, their current situation of dead-end jobs and ultimately the decisions which'll shape their future.

    Cemetery Junction is not only based on my memories of my most formative years but it feeds on the most fundamental things in the making of a man: family, economics, the time and place you happened to be plonked in. Even though the movie is a fiction, the values, themes and characters are based on my memory of growing up in Reading in the early 70's.

    Ricky Gervais on the Cemetery Junction soundtrack by Ricky Gervais

    The movie oozes cool, from two of the three main characters to the great soundtrack – even though the movie is set in a depressingly upper-class picture-postcode English town. All three of the main characters were extremely well written, each having their charm and flaws, each given enough space to develop their own paths as well as working well together – these were best friends and the movie showed this really well.

    The acting was top notch, I didn't have a problem with any of the characters. There were some smaller parts which injected comedy in to the story but were not overly used – this movie is a drama, not a comedy. The movie itself was well filmed and gave a great view of the 70s lifestyle and the troubles families faced during the time.

    This is an extremely strong British movie, something which when Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pair up together seems like a certainty. It was great to see such a strong movie set in English suburbia.

  • Tokyo!

    Watched on

    7

    Three of the world's greatest filmmakers come together for an omnibus triptych examining the nature of one unforgettable city as it's shaped by the disparate people who live, work (and even run amok!) inside one enormous, constantly evolving, densely populated Japanese megalopolis - the ravishing and inimitable Tokyo.

    Review

    Tokyo! is a strange movie. Very strange. Like Paris, je t'aime before it, Tokyo! is a complication movie, with numerous disconnected stories by different directors, set in a major city. However, unlike Paris, je t'aime, which has twenty directors telling twenty different stories, Tokyo! only has three segments. Each story in Tokyo! is almost 40 minutes long, compared to 10 minutes in the stories set around Paris.

    The movie opens with French director Michel Gondry — who directed one of my favourite movies; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — in a segment named "Interior Design". The story features a young couple who, having just arrived in Tokyo, are lodging with a friend in a tiny apartment while they find jobs and accommodation of their own. The segment is well shot, but the story is quite slow as it follows the couple as their relationship appears to break down. Then comes the Gondry touch and the final five minutes of the segment go a little strange.

    And strange they stay throughout the rest of the movie.

    The second segment is directed by Leos Carax, another French director, although one I didn't know. He directed probably the strangest piece of cinema I've seen in a long while, called "Merde". The opening features an disgusting looking subterranean human as he runs down a busy Tokyo street attacking unsuspecting locals, stealing their cash and cigarettes. This energetic and bizarre introduction is just the start. After a murderous rampage, killing innocent people by hurling hand grenades, he is locked up. He communicates in complete gibberish, ticks and hand gestures. A lawyer, a dead ringer for the creature, is able to communicate and represents him in a court where he on trial for the death penalty. This story has some interesting ideas and characters but had some trouble with pacing. I also felt the story wasn't as well rounded as the other segments.

    Korean director Joon-ho Bong directs the final segment. Bong is probably critically known for Memories of Murder, a crime thriller based on the true story of South Korea's first known serial murders. But he rose to international spotlight with his fun monster movie The Host. His segment, titled "Shaking Tokyo", features a man who is called a "Hikikomori", a hermit. We are told he hasn't left his house in ten years and follow his mundane existence in his house. He talks about his books and orders pizza until one day a woman delivers a pizza has he is broken from his spell, making eye contact and talking to the young woman. Woken from his dream state he dares to find the woman, who herself has decided to become a recluse.

    "Shaking Tokyo" was probably my favourite segment of the three. It was wonderfully shot and the protagonists acting was very good, especially considering he had to carry the segment himself. The story was simple but quirky, touching and optimistic. I liked the main character in "Merde" and I would like to see more about him, especially his origins. He was crazy but very interesting and I applaud the script writing and direction which showed depth in the character, yet was able to maintain his mystery – especially in such a short movie. Gondry's "Interior Design" was a little boring, except for the surprise last five minutes which I absolutely loved.

    There is clearly a lot of symbolism in each segment and each no doubt touch on something very specific within the Japanese culture. However, I was unable to extract any specifics except there seems to be an overarching theme of loneliness or isolation throughout the entire movie.

    All three segments are beautifully filmed. The cinematography is great and each segment has it's own style without detracting from the overall feel. I think the movie worth a watch, especially if you're a fan of strange, Japanese culture or any of the directors and I definitely feel impelled to re-watch the segments again, although probably individually.