Sunday, December 26, 2010

Complices (Accomplices) 2009

Accomplices is a movie that is deeply layered.  On the surface it's a who done it.   A murder mystery about a boy whose body is found flooding in the Seine.  On the other hand this movie is about so much more.  We meet out cast of characters first as two detectives investigating this young boys death, and then we meet the boy in flashback.  The two stories move forward until they meet at the end.  In between the story arcs we get to know the characters.  Our two investigators played by Gilbert Melki, as Hervé Cagan, and Emmanuelle Devos as Inspector Karine Mangin really bring a three dimensional feel to their characters.  Both these actors play so real that you really get to know them, and in a way care about them.  Both detectives are in their mid 40's and they have been on the job for some time.  There seems to be a bit of chemistry between the two, but the movie isn't about that, and doesn't dwell on that aspect of their relationship.  The other story arc is about the young boy who turns out to be a male prostitute (Cyril Descours) , and his young lover Rebecca (Nina Meurisse).  As both stories move forward we come closer and closer to the truth, and who killed the young man named Vincent.

What we do know is that the young man dies, and Rebecca is missing.  As the two inspectors delve deeper into the mystery we are also privy to some intimate details of the inspectors.  How similar they both are, and how each of them carry a burden that almost seems to overwhelm them.  The film is directed by Frédéric Mermoud who does a very good job at weaving the two tales together and creating characters that have depth.  The movie feels real.  It is the only way I can describe it.  There is no artificial prompting of audience's emotion through dramatic close-ups, and music swelling at times.  No your emotions for the characters are genuine, and not forced.  You care for each one, and you feel vested in seeing what the outcome can be even knowing that one character dies.  In the end when we find out the truth we also feel for the victim of the crime, and somehow Frédéric Mermoud does this masterfully.

The performances should not be also overlooked here.  Both Gilbert Melki, Emmanuelle Devos, Cyril Descours, and Nina Meurisse give exceptional performances of their characters.  I bought their characters hook, line and sinker, and maybe that's what makes this film so special.  The reality of the film.  I even want the young lovers to succeed in their relationship even though I know one is doomed if not both.  In the end

Frédéric Mermoud does a wonderful job in rapping the plot up in a very satisfying way.  That is no small credit and credit should be given to both Frédéric Mermoud, and Pascal Arnold who both wrote the film.  It is hard enough to create an engaging plot but to create characters that we are drawn to and interested in is a sign of good writing.

I would be remiss here to not list all who bring this tale to the screen and contribute in a very unsung way.  The photography by Thomas Hardmeier makes you feel that you are witnessing a glimpse in the lives of the unsung, the reflections in the Seine river are breathtaking without being distracting.  Sarah Anderson's editing does a great job in pacing the movie and making the two story lines converge.  Then there is Grégoire Hetzel score which does not intrude into the movie making us aware of it.  It instead makes you feel the emotions that run through our characters.  Each one has a loneliness that they are trying to desperately reach out of but can't.

I can go on and on about this movie, but I really think it should be seen.  The ending will make you feel satisfied even though the subject matter is a bit hard to witness, and difficult to comprehend.  What I really took away from this movie was it's story about love, and loneliness.  From the two inspectors investigating a simple murder to the relationship between Rebecca and Vincent.  All four of these characters will stay with you for awhile after watching the film, and a good movie is suppose to do that to you.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pirate Radio (2009)

Would you believe way back in the 60's jolly old England gave about 30 minutes of pop music a day due to the fact that the government saw rock and roll as immoral, and lewd.  The answer to this was pirate radio.  These were actual ships that transmitted rock and roll tunes to the English while they were in international waters.  It was legal, and the these stations had about 25 million listeners.

That's the premise of "Pirate Radio", and I have to say it's a rocking good time.  Written and directed by Richard Curtis Pirate Radio is one of those films that transports you to a time where music hadn't been monopolized by corporations yet.  It was the time of the Beatles, The Stones, Iggy Pop, and the Kinks.  The British invasion was on, and what came out of that was some great music. 

Pirate Radio is an ensemble piece, and it has a multitude of characters.  There's Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the Count.  Nick Frost  as Doctor Dave, Chris O'Dowd as Simple Dave, and of course Rhys Ifans as Gavin Canavagh.  There are others which will make you laugh and snicker.  My favorite casting choice is Bill Nighy as Quentin.   Nighy is a one man dynamo who is one of my favorite actors.  If you ever get to see a movie called The Girl in the Café, I suggest you do.  Nighy is outstanding in it as he is in Pirate Radio. 

The plot I guess is simple.  Pirate Radio is a thorn in the British governments side, and they want it gone.  The director does show how governments try and legislate things they don't want or like.  Only thing was that most Brit's listened to Pirate Radio, and it was like putting the Jeanie back in the bottle.  They couldn't, and it eventually failed, only later to be taken over by large corporate conglomerates, but hey this is a review not an opinion piece.


The film shows the day to day antics of the DJ's on board the Pirate radio ship, and we are introduced to Carl (Tom Sturridge) who spends a summer on board the ship.  It is most ironic that in an era of self expression, and sexual liberation the men on board the ship are almost prisoners.  They live to be on the air and play their music.  The film is steeped in songs from that era and it feels authentic.  Most of the action is on-board the ship, and it is funny.   As the government tries to plot the demise of the Pirate Radio, we are introduced to people listening to Pirate Radio covertly.  They are nurses, secretaries, truck drivers, students, doctors, lawyers and so on.  It's amazing to even comprehend that a government would try and stop something that the people already knew about and wanted.  Curtis does a good job showing this all in montage and split screen with the music blaring to the music of that era. 

After watching this film I felt a bit of pain for the old days.  Where radio wasn't so corporate, and it was driven by the music and the personalities of the DJ's.  Here in the states FM was rock and rolls revitalization along with high fidelity sound, and "Pirate Radio" gives off that vibe of smacking that authoritarian mindset.  I did go back after seeing this film and play some albums I haven't heard in a while, and it brought back memories of a day long gone.  That's the only sadness here.  Their seems to be no frontier.  Some say it is the digital arena now, but that's a pay site, and radio was and is free for anyone to listen to.

All in all the performances are solid and funny, the music is grand, and the message is true.  Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a moving little speech as his program is turned off, and that is "you can never silence the music". 

Give me an Amen!  And could you turn that music up a bit LOUDER please!

Here's the original Pirate Radio: Radio Caroline

Rock On!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SALT (2009)

This is one of those films that escaped me last year.  After seeing it now on DVD I have to say I was very much entertained.   The plot and the circumstances are quite ridiculous, and yet the non-stop action in this film makes it very entertaining.  From the start we are given a full roller-coaster ride of thrills, and I have to say I had fun seeing this film.  Angelina Jolie gives a very determined performance as Salt a supposedly double agent who runs from both the Russians and the Americans.   

The action scenes are really well done, and there is very little CGI work which seems to be the norm in today's films.  That's refreshing, because some of the scenes we can actually see Jolie doing her own stunts.  I must say the lady has some tenacity to do that, and it's what makes the film so enjoyable to watch.

Of course there were times where I said to myself while viewing the film that had that happened in real life the character would have a concussion and a few fractured bones, but this is the CINEMA!  Our heroine comes off with little scratches and no broken bones due to the magic of cinema.  I did hear that Jolie did injure herself slightly while filming, yet she was fine to continue.  It just shows the ladies dedication to the part.

If your looking for a fun and entertaining film to watch that is balls to the wall action then rent it, but if your not into those types of films then I guess this film would not be your cup of tea.  The only thing I have to say is that the BIG surprise in the end wasn't too much of a surprise.  I saw it coming from the beginning and was a bit disappointed by the revelation.  I mean I love spy movies, and always love the fast pace of the genre, but the film didn't have as many twists and turns as I thought it should have.  I mean that's what makes films of this genre so exciting.  SALT does not have that.  Instead it has relentless action, which I liked and thought was well done.

I heard that there were three cuts to this film.  One the theatrical release which opens the film up to a sequel.  The directors cut has somewhat of a more definitive ending, which would be more of a let down for this type of film considering the action is it's center piece.  The third ending had the character return to Russia to exact her revenge.  Guess the studio wanted a possible sequel if the film did well.  The director (Phillip Noyce) is said that the will not be involved with the sequel.  To me that's unfortunate since he's a very good action director, and this film screams action.

All in all a fun and entertaining movie, and nothing more.  Also Angelina Jolie is one hot looking lady who knows how to give a performance.  Without her the film would fall flat.  Funny thing is that this is a film that was written for Tom Cruise, and when he backed out of the film Jolie took it, after they wrote it for a female character.  I think it works, and I'd like to see more of the character down the line.  Can someone say franchise?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cloverfield (2008)

After seeing Monsters I had to go back and see Cloverfield.  A friend said that I should, so I figured why not.  First off I did not see this when it first came out.  I saw footage of it and said that it would just be too jarring on the eyes, and apparently it was for some.  The jarring camera work is enough to put me off, but a funny thing happens when it goes to video.  The screen shrinks and all that shaking of the camera becomes a little bit less annoying.  I say a little less because I swear the filmmaker in me wanted to grab the camera and film it the right way with less shake.  But the filmmakers of Cloverfield knew what they were doing, and that little imperfection added to the reality of what we were seeing.  I mean how scary is a Godzilla movie?  Now if you put a camera in one of the hands of someone running from Godzilla I would think that would be a whole lot more intense.  Not a new idea in this reality based world we now live in, but something someone hasn't done till now.  In fact it's an interesting take on the "monster movie".   Matt Reeves the director of the movie does a really good job at creating the fear and the anxiety of the film.  Drew Goddard who is the writer of the film does a remarkable job at the dialogue of the film.  I mean I actually think at some point that we are seeing "real" people in an extraordinary situation, and what I mean about "real" people is not actors.  That's a credit both to the director, the writer and the cast.

Now I know there was a lot of hype when this film came out, and apparently it did well in world wide release.  The studio did a lot of viral marketing, and it targeted a certain demographic to go see this film.  Well apparently it worked and there seems to be legions of fans out there for this movie.  I really do believe that EVERY FILMMAKER needs to take a lesson from this film, and use alternative ways to promote your film.  Take a look at the film "Monsters" which was released this year.  "Monsters" is a much smaller film then Cloverfield, and it probably doesn't have the P&A budget for a release like Cloverfield got, but I do think more attention to alternative ways in advertising could do for Monsters what the studio did for Cloverfield.  Of course these two films are totally different types of movies, but they are of the same genre, and hence already have a built in audience.  One film taps into that genre and builds on it, while the other film doesn't.  Now since this is a review of Cloverfield I'll stop here and just say that filmmakers and studios should take note and see that there is a different way to reach audiences other then the traditional way.

Michael Stahl-David , Jessica LucasOdette Yustman ,and  Lizzy Caplan do a fantastic job here considering they had no idea on what the monster looks like and were reacting to nothing on the set.  Maybe it's the camerawork that adds to the excitement, but at first I thought nothing about these characters and couldn't care less about them.  In fact they seemed annoying, but as the film goes on I really began caring for these characters.  That is no small feat for the actors, and they should really be applauded by their work.  The direction is also intense and Matt Reeves does a remarkable job on the film.  Critics have written about the film as a  post 911 reaction to the attacks on NY.  It's a good bet that the filmmakers did take a lot of what they saw that day and put it into this film.  Images of buildings crashing down and dust clouds heading towards the people are all too familiar images of 911.  The film does tap into that anxiety, and that dread of 911, and one cannot dismiss those feelings.  It seems to be part of our collective memory now, and images that look and feel like 911 can stir up those feelings in all of us.  The filmmakers do a good job in tapping into that angst while not exploiting it.  It is only fair that people compare this film to some 911 moments since the movie deals with an attack of New York city, but like all films coming out after 2001 Cloverfield deals with a fictitious attack on NY by a monster of unknown origin.  The movie humanizes the attack by concentrating on the people and not the attack itself.  It's this that makes Cloverfield so engaging. 

Because it was suppose to be a point of view story told through a camcorder there is no music in the film, yet the sound track is filled with dread.  Only in the beginning do we hear music that is from the party in the beginning of the film.  Also another great plot device is the notion of going over pre-recorded material.  Occasionally we see the two leads in better days and it is these scenes that kind of make you feel for the characters a bit more.  I have to say I thought I would hate this movie, but I really didn't.  In fact I wanted to see more.  I wanted to know more about the monster, and the events that lead up to the story.  I wanted to know the after effects and what happens to our main characters.  I guess the old saying leave them wanting more is right.  J.J. Abrams has said that a sequel is coming, but he's not rushing it, and it will take a new direction which sounds intriguing.

I really do like this film, and want to see more.  I'm a bit frustrated at not seeing it now, but hopefully real soon the filmmakers will get together and start filming a continuation of the storyline.  There are a lot of speculation that it wouldn't be a sequel or it'll be another point of view of the monster marauding through the streets of NY.  Whatever the scenario is I'm sure it'll be an interesting storyline.  If you haven't seen the film the film is available on DVD, and if your a monster movie fan all I can say is "what are you waiting for".  See it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Monsters (2010)

Just saw the movie Monsters, and was very impressed by the production and the story. This is Gareth Edwards first film of sorts. I say that because Mr. Edwards has done work some some documentaries (Perfect Disaster, Attila the Hun) and a movie called End Day.   Mr. Edwards knowledge of what he can do in the realm of special effects makes Monsters a movie a must see. 

The story in a nut shell is this:

"Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border."

The two leads in this movie make this movie what it is.  Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are actors that are of the highest caliber.  They are believable, and so convincing you think that you might just maybe be watching a documentary.  I'm sure the director did this on purpose.  I've read in articles that the director along with an associate producer/translator, a cameraman, and a sound man went to several locations in Mexico, Guatemala, Texas, and Belize and filmed his movie from an outline he had written.  He used authentic individuals at the locations to give him the performances he wanted.  It adds to the film, and makes the film completely believable.  Mr. Edwards creates a world that is turned upside down, and I bought it all.

I also have to state that every filmmaker should watch this and read some of the interviews and articles that Mr. Edwards has given about the film.  Edwards did with less, and created more on the screen. 

The film is not a Monster movie in the sense of that we expect to and that is to see these monsters pop out and cause havoc.  What it is is more about two people, and their relationship with the world, and themselves.  I know that sounds corny and a little strange coming from a movie that is called "monsters", but that is the core of the film.  What the filmmaker creates is a believable world turned inside out, and we see the aftermath of what the Monsters are doing.  There even is a hint that man may be the bad and evil one here, but I'll let you decided that on your own.

There are some great interviews here and here about the movie which ever filmmaker should read.  I have to say that I'm inspired by what Edwards does here, and it makes me re-think what is possible now in film making. 

The whole thing about leaving your audience wanting more is so true here.  Edwards does that, and in the end I really wanted more.  I know the film is one big flashback, but I really wanted to know how the characters made out.  In the end they stay with you, and for a little film like Monsters to do that the film has to have done something right to illicit that type of response in you.

I really suggest you watch it, and see it for yourself.  Ladies you will also enjoy it too since it is all about relationships.   I enjoyed it and was intrigued by it, but most of all I was inspired by it.

Note here too.  The cinematography is beautiful.  I'm sure it was the landscape the filmmakers were in, but I have to say that some of the images in Monsters are picture perfect.  Especially the scenes of the boat on the river.  The images are beyond beautiful.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Putting together an online portfolio of my photos. More to come.