Rob Watches Movies

Reviews of every film I watch. The Good, The Bad and The Mothman Prophecies.

Tag: 2006

Rocky Balboa – 7/10

‘But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…’

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Book Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

‘Sitting around miserable all day won’t make you any happier…’

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The Prestige – 9/10

‘Are you watching closely?’

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This Is England – 8.5/10

If Shane Meadows directorial breakthrough Dead Man’s Shoes was about loss of innocence, the follow up This Is England portrays what comes next…

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Set against the backdrop of the Falklands War during Thatcher’s Britain, This Is England is a coming of age tale of both a troubled boy named Shaun and the country as a whole. Meadows perfectly captures life as a 12 year old boy in a Northern town. No matter what the era or the place, there are always similarities to be drawn and recognized which is why films like Kes still resonant so strongly.

Meadows’ great strength as a director and story teller is to search for a certain romance in the terraced houses of Northern England. However, romance and beauty often go hand in hand with pain and anger and to show one without the other would be doing a great injustice to the Northern soul that Meadows so prides himself in portraying. Unlike the irrepressibly bleak Dead Man’s Shoes, This Is England is actually a warm and light hearted film for long stretches but it builds to a powerful and jarring conclusion that is uncomfortable to watch. This stark ending is in no way gratuitous though. In much the same way as the Star Wars films are revealed to be about Darth Vadar and not Luke Skywalker, This Is England is actually more about charismatic and violent gang leader Combo than main protagonist Shaun.

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Stephen Graham as evil but vulnerable Combo

Meadows not only has an eye for authenticity when choosing often inexperienced actors for his films, he also has a knack for getting the best out of his more established cast members. Paddy Considine’s performance in Dead Man’s Shoes was worthy of an Oscar nomination that of course never came. Surpassing even Considine’s master class though is Stephen Graham as the aforementioned Combo. It is a terrifying and visceral performance from Graham who perfectly captures the manipulative bully we have all encountered at some point in our life. His central speech about immigration is a thing of beauty and it is a brave move from Meadows to have such an articulate and on the face of it fairly logical argument about race coming out of the mouth of such a vile character.

It is so easy to make a film about racism and have the antagonist be an ignorant straw man who it is easy to hate. As shown with Ed Norton’s Derek Vinyard from American History X however an eloquent racist makes for a much more compelling story than a stupid one.

This Is England is an unflinching look into the life of millions of people across Great Britain. It is a love letter to the British Isles but also a warning sticker. Ultimately it is a film that hopes we can all do better.

Lake of Fire – 8/10

Harrowing and extremely graphic abortion documentary from the director of American History X

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Notoriously difficult British director Tony Kaye spent 18 years putting this astonishing documentary together so it is no surprise it is a compelling and polarizing piece of work. Both sides of the abortion debate would probably claim this mammoth two and a half hour documentary is biased against them but in truth Lake of Fire is as impartial as a film could be on a subject that inspires such strong feeling. Fundamentalist pro lifers may claim it portrays them in a bad light with extensive coverage of the death and destruction these people have caused to others working in abortion clinics but at the other end of the scale the pro choice campaigners would no doubt call the graphic images and videos of the abortion procedure and aborted foetuses gratuitous and unnecessary. The truth is the only way to try and put forward an unbiased view is to present all the information – no matter how inflammatory and gruesome – so people can make up their own minds.

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I went into this film staunchly pro choice and whilst I totally stand by that view point, I can now emphasize with the pro life crowd a lot more than before I saw this film and if a piece of art can make you question something you care deeply about then it is definitely doing its job. On that subject this is a very arty documentary. There is no narration, it is filmed in striking black and white and constantly scored with dramatic strings and with such a long running time it might be a bit much for some people.
Enjoyed is the wrong word but I thought this was a really well put together and thought provoking documentary and I would say if this is a subject you already feel strongly about you should watch Lake of Fire.

The Departed – 9.5/10

One of the best casts ever assembled, punch each other, whilst being cool as fuck.

 

Billy Costigan (LEONARDO DiCAPRIO) grimaces in pain when Costello (JACK NICHOLSON) orders French (RAY WINSTONE) to smash his cast to make sure he’s not wearing a wire in Warner Bros. Pictures’ crime drama “The Departed.”  PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION.

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Running With Scissors – 7.5/10.

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The story of Augustine, his alcoholic father, his crazy mother and an enigmatic psychiatrist.

Running With Scissors has its touching moments, is really funny but most of all I would describe it as ‘quirky’. While this can be an annoying and pretentious quality in some films (I Heart Huckabees), RWS is closer to Garden State or even the wonderful work of director Wes Anderson. Whilst not as poignant as Garden State or as layered as Anderson, RWS is as funny as either and is full of interesting characters. I am not familiar with Joseph Cross but he is brilliant as the main character. Annette Benning plays another crazy lady with a bit too much gusto at times but is mostly pretty strong. Brian Cox has a great time and is hilarious as madcap patriarch Dr. Finch. Elsewhere, whilst it isn’t much of a stretch for Gwyneth Paltrow to play a pious, goody two shoes, she does bring a subtle darkness and sadness to the role. I am surprised that RWS doesn’t seem to be particularly critically lauded or popular with audiences as I found loads to enjoy here.

The Lives of Others – 8/10.

Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) bei seiner Arbeit.

 

Germany. 1984. A fastidious and committed member of the secret police begins surveillance of a writer and an actress.

Strong themes of betrayal, guilt but mostly sacrifice run through The Lives of Others and make it a powerful and compelling masterpiece. The story and the controlled performance of Ulrich Muhe reminded me of Equilibrium and Christian Bale. Both actors masterfully portray the sight of a man feeling for the first time. Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck would probably not appreciate the comparison to such low brow Hollywood fare but I found both movies to be excellent in their own way. Another message to be found here is that, as with The Pianist, art conquers all. Definitely not a popcorn flick but as an Oscar for Best Foreign film and a high position in the IMDB top 250 (#52) will attest to, The Lives of Others is well worth watching if you are looking for classic film making.

Silent Hill – 7.5/10

Mother and daughter have a road accident and find themselves in the hellish ghost town of Silent Hill.

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This must be the fifth or sixth time I have seen Silent Hill and my enjoyment of it has not lessened at all. It had to overcome some significant disadvantages, people get a bit sniffy about Hollywood horror, particularly one that is a video game adaptation (read the critics reviews of the Resident Evil series for example). Silent Hill also had to survive Sean Bean wandering around, confused, speaking in a thousand accents.

Despite these setbacks, Silent Hill is a modern horror gem. The scenes where ‘the darkness’ comes are some of the most nightmarish and imaginative stuff in recent years and whilst the ending toes the line between ingenuity and just plain daft it just about pulls it off. If this had been done for a lesser budget and was South Korean, people would be raving over it. Shame about the sequel though.

Glastonbury – 4/10.

Distinctly average documentary reinforces all negative stereotypes about Glastonbury…
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Renowned music documentary maker Julien Temple (Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle) brings us this floating turd about the legendary music festival.
What a missed opportunity Glastonbury is. Anyone who thinks that Glastonbury festival is populated by hippy cunts and 40 year old Levellers fans will feel totally vindicated at watching this documentary. We get extensive and mostly pretty boring interviews with festival organizer Michael Eavis but no interviews with any of the artists who have played there.
Some decent performances from Faithless, David Bowie, and Pulp but other bands are massively overlooked (Radiohead get about the same amount of screen time as Stereo fucking MC’s). There is no real narrative to this sprawling, messy 138 minute documentary, it doesn’t tell the story of Glastonbury as such, it is mostly raw footage of drunken tossers trying to be funny for the camera. Not worth anyone’s time, download a band you likes set from Glasto and watch that instead.

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