Tuesday, 27 November 2012


I'm very behind on my reviews, I know. I've been insanely busy with work recently, and then I had to deal with the amazing Breaking Dawn week, so I've had hardly any time to do anything. But, I did see three five-star films within the space of five days last month and I feel the need to write about them, so I'm squishing them all into one post. I may expand these reviews some time, but I can't promise anything.

On The Road

Firstly, I saw the much-anticipated On The Road. I've been waiting a ridiculously long time to see this, because for some reason they released it two years after filming. After hearing mixed/average reviews from Cannes, I had to lower my previously very high expectations of this film, but as a result, I was very pleasantly surprised.

This film has been a hell of a long time in the making, over three decades, and a lot of people, including myself, were a bit skeptical about how anyone could adapt an almost plotless 120 foot scroll of narrative onto the screen, and yes, in some ways it fails. But it's bloody difficult to transfer this writing to the screen and still maintain that Beat vibe. Yes, it could have been more wild, more extreme, but really, if it had to be adapted, at least they did a really good job of it.

The acting is amazing. Just looking at the cast you can understand that statement. The three main stars are perfect in their roles. Sam Riley surprised me, since the last thing I saw him in was the appalling Brighton Rock, and it was very nice to see him in something that actually showcased his ability and didn't make me want to kick the tv at the end of the film. He plays Sal with the perfect naivety, vulnerable with a rebellious streak within, and is someone I think the audience will see themselves in. Kristen Stewart also proves again that she is judged far too harshly just because of her association with the Twilight films; here, she relishes in the character of Marylou, someone who could not be more different from Bella Swan, playing her with wild abandon that really shows her talent. After watching this, and knowing about her absolute commitment to the role, I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job of it. And, for the record, she was cast in this when she was sixteen, before she did Twilight, so shush please haters. It's also great news to hear that they're going to be lobbying for her to get nominated in awards season next year, and she fully deserves that recognition. But really, the real star of this film is Dean, played perfectly by Garrett Hedlund. He is probably the best thing about the film, encapsulating the rebellious and charming character, which I think the film probably hinged on. An actor has to be seriously charismatic and almost overwhelmingly charming to pull this role off, and Hedlund absolutely succeeds, constantly drawing our attention to him whenever he's on screen. The "Beat Camp" that the cast went on for three weeks before the shoot really pays off as well, as the three have great chemistry together and every interaction between them feels very natural.

The cinematography is amazing - visually, the film is stunning and absolutely transports the audience to an array of locations; you actually feel like you're there, writhing and sweating at a New Year's party, or cold and wet during a stop by the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. I didn't really know of Eric Gautier before this film, but I have massive amounts of respect for him as a cinematographer for what he achieves here.

The supporting cast are excellent. In some ways, the film reminded me of Cosmopolis with its conveyer-belt of cameos and bit parts - however, like Cosmopolis, everyone here manages to make their mark, whether it's Amy Adams' struggling mother or Steve Buscemi's salesman-with-a-secret-interest - they all stand out. It's lovely to see Tom Sturridge in this, I think he has real potential as an actor and I want to see him do more than just being Sienna Miller's babydaddy. But the biggest highlight was probably Viggo Mortensen, who steals the few small scenes he's in and absolutely dominates the screen when he's actually on it. Kirsten Dunst is another highlight; she brings Camille's character to the audience's attention and underlines the detrimental effects Dean has on himself and others, whereas we might otherwise be too charmed by him to notice. I'd like to see her in more serious roles, she's been a bit absent recently and this proves that she really shouldn't be.

In terms of sexuality... well, there's a lot. It was a litle disappointing that it didn't bring the undertones of homosexuality up a little more, but therein lies the problems of an adaptation - you just can't fit everything in. I'd also recommend buying the French dvd of this and turning the subtitles off, because the English version was cut (who knows why) and therefore there's more in the French version.

The question that remains is why Hedlund, Riley and Sturridge haven't been getting acting offers left, right and centre. They all give brilliant performances and I think they're being wasted at the moment.

Verdict: It's not going to be for everyone, but if you "get" this type of film, you'll absolutely love it. Watch it just for the acting and the beauty of the film itself if nothing else.


The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

After seeing the film, this book is now at the top of my "to-read-for-pleasure" list. This film absolutely blew me away and I wasn't expecting to be touched by it as much as I was, since I didn't really know much about it and it hadn't been that widely publicised. It's probably the best coming-of-age film I've ever seen, and although there isn't a huge amount of plot and nothing much is resolved at the end, the journey is definitely worth taking.

The primary trio of actors were amazing. The film received quite a lot of attention because it was the first film Emma Watson did post-Potter, and she could not have picked a better film to break away from that franchise. She sheds Hermione within the first minute of being on screen, being able to let go in a way that was always restricted before, being flirtatious and wild but also showing tenderness and vulnerability perfectly. And also, I got so sucked into her performance that I forgot she wasn't actually American, though in hindsight it probably wasn't the best accent in the world. Ezra Miller, previously known as the titular psychopath in We Need To Talk About Kevin, plays basically the complete opposite character and does it just as well. As the giddy and camp Patrick, he steals every scene he's in and I want a best friend like him. And also Logan Lerman, previously of Percy Jackson fame, was wonderfully sweet and naive, likeable and vulnerable. And I checked, he's 20, it's okay to have a little thing for him. And all three are just the right amount of understated - they could have been ridiculously cliched and over the top, but they play their roles with just the correct level of charm and, in Patrick's case especially, flamboyancy. I think a special mention also needs to go out to Paul Rudd, who is refreshingly good in a dramatic role, deviating from comedy but proving that he can do both well. He's gives a likeable and thoughtful performance and I'd love to see him do more dramatic work in the future. And I'd also like it on record how much I think Joan Cusack is an underrated actress. She completely shines through in her two minutes of screen time and she's just wonderful. Hollywood, why are you not employing her more? Get on that.

I think what makes it so special is the fact that the screenplay was written and the film directed by Stephen Chbosky, the author of the book. You can tell it's been created with such care and precision and every facet is just right. Apparently it's a brilliant adaptation, which I don't doubt, but I'll let you know for sure after I finally get around to reading the book.

Someday, somewhere, somehow, I'm doing this.

In the time it's set, it's completely up my street. The film references are great, the multiple performances of The Rocky Horror Show throughout are really entertaining and the soundtrack is amazing; I had it on repeat for days. If you like that late-80s/early-90s feel about a film, I can't recommend this enough.

Verdict: Yes, it will probably only connect with a certain audience, but that's purely because of the plot and themes it deals with, not because of the quality of the film. It could have been completely cliche, and appeared to be a product of the overworked imagination of an angsty fifteen-year-old girl because of it's subject matter and themes including social isolation, bulimia, sexual and domestic abuse, homophobia and unrequited love, to name a few, but it gets the tone just right so that it's emotionally raw rather than emotionally overdone. And also, be infinite.



Bond's 26th outing was hyped up from the word "go", with the world and it's mother touting it as the "best one yet" before it even went into production. The secrecy and mystery surrounding the plot and what the title meant and who the new cast were playing and all the rest of it didn't help, with speculation rife about every aspect of the film. I was so worried that it was going to be overhyped for me and that I'd just end up being slightly let down, but I can safely say that it not only met those expectations, but exceeded them beyond belief.

I'll try not to spoil it for any of you who have been living in a cave and have yet to see it, but there are some truly epic moments in it.

The cast are exceptional: Daniel Craig, returning for his third stint as 007, gives his best performance so far. There isn't really a lot else to say about it; if you've seen his other two outings, it's more of the same, in a good way. He's charming, debonair, deadly, and every other trait you've come to expect from Bond. What's really great in this one is the interaction he has with Dame Judi Dench's M, and we see a lot more of their relationship. Their closeness is really touching. She's the real Bond girl of this film, and I'm so happy she got a really dense part to get her teeth into, and of course she delivers with perfection, as you would expect. Again, I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say much else, but their performances are very special. The best new addition has to be Javier Bardem's villain, Silva, a creepy, camp, obsessive maniac (sounds like me) with terrible hair (not like me at all). There hasn't ever been a Bond villain like him, but he's one of the best yet. Not hellbent on world domination or anything like we've seen in the past, his vendetta is a personal grudge against M, exposing a lot of her secrets and drawing worrying parallels to Bond. I think the best scene in the whole film is Silva's interrogation of Bond, where both men showcase their fantastic acting talent. The chemistry between the three of them (and no, it's not sexual, that would be wrong - though Silva... well, you'll see) is electric, and though it is approaching two and a half hours, they make it go by so quickly that you don't even notice time passing.

One complaint I do have is about Bérénice Marlohe. I have nothing against her, I just don't understand why her part was advertised so much when she's only in the film for a total of about five minutes. Other additions aren't as disappointing, and include Naomi Harris' field agent Eve, Ralph Fiennes' government pen pusher Mallory and Ben Whishaw's new, young Q, who are particular highlights. What I think will excite true Bond fans is the fact that, without giving too much away, they'll all be back in the future, and that this is going back to classic Bond films, but with a cool, modern-day edge. There are even jokes about it between Bond and Q.

And that's the other thing - though it's very serious for a lot of the film, it's also very funny, mostly because of the one-liners and conversations between Bond and the bumbling Q. One other stand-out moment is Bond's reaction to (VERY MILD SPOILER) the destruction of his precious Aston Martin DB5 (also a hilarious moment when you see it in a screen full of die-hard male Bond fans - their gasps of horror and outrage made me laugh for about ten minutes). And also there's a bit of sexual tension between Bond and Eve, though I can't see anything ever coming of that if they stick to Bond canon.

Plot-wise, I understand now why Craig said he was even more excited after reading this script than he was about Casino Royale, which was previously my favourite. It's tense, and captivating, and most importantly, it doesn't feel like there are any redundant parts to it (well, maybe the whole fight with Ola Rapace which feels only very very slightly unnecessary). The whole film is very polished but it's still raw, especially when they get up to Scotland and there's none of this usual technology to help them out.

Verdict: I wish I could think of more to say but it's now been a month since I saw it and I've forgotten most of the points I had to make about it. But essentially, all you need to know is that it's amazing and even if you aren't a Bond fan you should see it. It's brilliant, and I hope Sam Mendes does come back to direct the next installment because he did such a fantastic job of it. Anyone who knows my film tastes well enough knows that it's a big deal for me to say that I prefer this to Casino Royale, and it's even more emotional, but it truly does deserve all the hype it got. Go see it now or I'll set Silva on you (some of you might not mind that wink wink). Seriously, go.


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