Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Oliver Stone, 2010)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is Oliver Stone's sequel to his 1987 film Wall Street, starring the great Michael Douglas in his Oscar winning performance as Gordon Gekko. Reprising this role for the sequel he is joined by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers), Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men).

Set in 2008, 23 years after the events of the first film, revolving around the 2008 financial crisis, we are revealed that Gekko has been released from his lengthy prison sentence in 2002 for illegal insider trading. He has since completed and released a novel outlining his career and providing stock expertise for Wall Street executives as they plummet into a pending financial ruin. But, as a big business trader, his status has all but evaporated. Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) works for Keller Zabel Investments, and has high hopes of promoting a Fusion project which will ultimately provide an alternative energy source to fossil fuels. His potential runs ignored by his colleagues, with the exception of the company's managing director, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), who works as his mentor and has become disillusioned by the recent trends in investment banking and fears for the future of the company. World weary, he gives Jake a huge bonus and urges him to marry his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan), estranged daughter to Gordon Gekko, and a collaborator for a popular online political magazine.

When Keller Zabel's stocks plummet in value, likely through rumors spread by rival, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), Louis kills himself in disgrace. At a Gekko lecture, Jake seeks out his future father-in-law, requesting his business advice to try and collaborate with whoever benefited from the losses of Keller Zabel, likely Bretton James, and exert revenge. Gekko believes that James provided statements that resulted in his lengthy jail time, so he has his own personal interests in bringing him down. Growing older, Gordon wishes to get closer to Winnie, who blames Gordon for the death of her brother, and he asks Jake to provide recent photographs of her and set up dinners so the two can meet and talk.

Gordon makes Jake aware that Winnie has a Swiss trust fund containing $100 Million, and Jake manipulates her into signing off the money to him to use to fund Fusion research, embezzling the money through Gordon's contacts to avoid tax evasion. But ultimately the money never reaches Fusion. Gordon absconds to London with the money and begins trading once again. After Winnie breaks off the engagement, Jake tracks down Gordon in a desperate attempt to get the money back. Gordon rejects his request, stating that it was never about the money, but his love for the game. Gordon ultimately turns the $100 Million into over $1 Billion dollars, proving that he still has the genius to make money, and the film concludes with him paying back Winnie the $100 Million to fund her website, which has just supplied the groundbreaking story about the demise of James. Gordon, Jake and Winnie all reconcile, and Winnie has a son named Louie, after the deceased Lou Zabel.


Money Never Sleeps is bursting with period references to place the events in the 21st Century, just in case we didn't notice, and plenty of odd cultural in-jokes. The most obvious and notable is the inclusion of Eli Wallach as a colleague of Bretton James, and the use of the famous score for The Good the Bad and the Ugly as Jake's ring tone. Eli Wallach is one of the film's trio of stars. The brief cameo by Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) was fun but unnecessary, as was the use of Sylvia Miles as a real estate rival to Susan Sarandon. I'm really not convinced that Oliver Stone was taking himself seriously here. While most of the subject matter is actually quite depressing (the estrangement between Gordon and Winnie, his manipulation of Jake that threatens his future with Winnie, and the corrupt dealings that force the end of Keller Zabel), and the drama still somewhat absorbing, Stone's film is too tongue-in-cheek. In it's defence, it can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those familiar with big business corporate lingo.

The madness of the Wall Street brokerage firms is briefly shown early but all of this is forgotten once the business starts outside the office, at apartments and estates. Jake forms an alliance with Bretton James, who originally spread the rumors that dismantled Zabel's empire and forced him into suicide. With the help of Gordon, Jake attempts and ultimately succeeds in revealing his actions to the media out of revenge. But it is the Gordon/Winnie relationship that causes the most heartbreak, but also leads to Gekko's return to form. Michael Douglas is once again dynamic as Gekko, but his performance lacks the fire that made him so memorable in the first film. But this good-looking old guy still has the skills. In the best role I have seen him in, Shia LaBeouf is also quite impressive, as is the beautiful Carey Mulligan. But Josh Brolin, and Susan Sarandon (as Jake's mother) really didn't have a lot to do. Eli Wallach, who looked old back in The Godfather Part III (1990), had such a minimal amount of dialogue for a man with so much screen time.

To be honest, all of the characters were really lacking any depth. Jake wasn't struggling to rise the ranks or looking for the deal of a lifetime, he was given a $1.5 Million dollar bonus early in the film. So, it was unclear what Jake was really seeking beyond reconciling Winnie with her father and bring down James out of revenge. I guess, he was less about the material rewards and more for worldwide energy improvements. This opposing mentality to Gordon's money-hungry desires was clunky and ineffective. Winnie didn't care about money at all, she just didn't want Jake to turn into a greedy Wall Street executive like her father. Essentially, the biggest drama was Gekko's manipulation of Jake to gain access to Winnie's fund. There were no hints that he was after this money and it was a shock to see him go back to his scumbag days, when he was set to win her back into his life. But he eventually made so much money from this, and then just gave the $100 Million like it was nothing. He managed to push her as far away as he ever had, only to have her closer than ever by the silly conclusion.

The score featuring David Byrne and Brian Eno was excellent, but the film still seemed stuck in the 80's when Talking Heads were at their peak. Even the font used in the opening credits seemed to reference the 80's. But with so many periodical references, some as blatant as referencing Ridley Scott in Gladiator, this seems odd. Sure the city is stunning, but using the stock charts to trace around the cityscape was dumb. Most of the shots completely lacked imagination and even to add some dynamism, we really can't forgive the tacky technical additions. As Jake is explaining the complicated process of energy production to the investors, we are provided with a cheap looking powerpoint diagram of this process taking place. The explanation itself is unintelligible, and if this was being explained with the aid of a projection of this diagram, it would make some sense. But it is really not required at all and does nothing than to question the intelligence of the audience.


Money Never Sleeps will be a hit at the box office. The corporate business fantasy is alive in the 21st Century, and it is great to see Gordon Gekko back. I was often amused by this film, and I'm really not sure that Oliver Stone has really taken himself seriously here. Really cutting back the corporate lingo and lacking the attention to detail of the original, this is a more accessible film for a wider audience, but it's sure set to disappoint a lot of people. The flaws are everywhere, and while I certainly enjoyed myself, I can't help but think a better film existed somewhere amongst all the pieces.

My Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

10 Best Films I have seen in September

I saw a total of 22 films in September, one of my more productive viewing months of the year. Here are the 10 best I can recommend:


Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)


Det Sjunde Inseglet [The Seventh Seal] (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)


Masculin Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966)


Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994)


The Insider (Michael Man, 1999)


Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)


The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)


A Serious Man (Joel Coen, 2009)


Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010)


Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Short Review: 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)

This is Terry Gilliam's best work next to Brazil (1985). 12 Monkeys is an intriguing post-apocalyptic mystery that sees James Cole (Bruce Willis) sent from the year 2035 into the past to collect evidence of the origins of a virus outbreak that all but ended the world's human population, who are forced to live in underground colonies. His mission is to collect a pure sample so that a cure can be developed. Having first been sent back to 1990, six years before the believed release of the virus, Cole is arrested and quarantined, finally meeting and befriending Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) in a psychiatric hospital. Goines has outspoken anti-consumerist politics and is the inevitable leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, the terrorist organization believed to have released the virus. Cole is under the care of and draws sympathy from Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), who he abducts once he is returned to the past for the second time, this time in 1996. After initially diagnosing him as crazy, Railly discovers that Cole is in fact telling the truth about the release of the virus and decides to aid him in his quest. They become the subject of a police hunt, as they scramble to stop the release of the virus at an airport. Battling the dual dimensions, Cole begins to question his sanity, the importance of his mission and what he perceives as his reality. The plot is often frustratingly complex and doesn't all collate concisely by the thrilling conclusion, but true to all Gilliam's work, it is witty, visually vibrant and stimulating and always engaging. Willis and Pitt give excellent performances and this is one of the better science-fiction releases of the 1990's.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Short Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2010)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an intelligent, complex, engaging and stylish investigative mystery is strengthened by a pair of well-developed central characters. Conforming well to the whodunit genre with refreshing elements of the classic cosy school murder story, the pair unlock a disturbing past to the powerful Vanger family with ties to the Nazi regime and a series of grizzly murders of young women. Recently disgraced in the media, prominent investigative journalist for Millennium Magazine, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is approached by the uncle of Harriet Vanger, a young girl who had disappeared 40 years prior, to re-pursue an investigation into her disappearance and likely murder. With six months until his sentence, Blomqvist moves to the Vanger estate and begins to recount Harriet's past, using police reports and photographs to piece together evidence. At the same time, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), an elite computer hacker, is transfixed by the accusations against Blomqvist's, believing him to be set up. With access to his documents, she assists him with the case secretly by linking a diary entry to a series of bible verses, before he discovers her skills, and brings her in to assist. The pair form a reluctant romance, and find themselves in danger as they get closer to discovering which member of the family was involved in Harriet's disappearance. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more than a whodunit, it is also a dark exploration into the mind of a troubled young woman, who had dealt with years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. At 24 she is has become a brilliant digital technician and thinker but a mentally tormented and violent misandrist. Requiring parole guardianship, she is assigned to a different guardian when her previous one passed away, who immediately claims control of all her funds and refuses to allow her access unless she grants him violent sexual favors. She sure teaches him who he is messing with.
The plot is quite involved and takes some time to really take shape, but there are some quite stunning twists and some skillful detection on display. Blomqvist is a likable guy you really urge to find the truth and Lisbeth is immediately memorable. Both leads give excellent performances. I didn't find it to be particularly outstanding in any way though, and I thought the final act, apart from tying up every single loose end, was unnecessarily long. The dual individual stories during the first hour were also oddly edited and assembled, almost void of connection. The direction, while successfully conforming to a popular genre, lacked some imagination. It is also puzzling to hear that there is an American re-make in production. With the exception of the Swedish spoken language, the landscape and the icy atmosphere of the estate, it felt somewhat like a Hollywood film. Overall, the first film adaptation of the hugely popular Stieg Larsson 'Millennium' trilogy was an exciting and watchable thriller, and I'm certainly intrigued by what lies in store for the characters in the soon-to-be-released sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

My Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Recent Viewing: The Insider (1999), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)

The Insider is a powerful drama about the lengths two men are willing to go to expose the sinister truths about the illegal marketing practices of a major tobacco company, ultimately risking their lives, their reputation and career and the future of the CBS network to air the story on Sixty Minutes. Recently fired as a scientific consultant for major tobacco company, Brown and Williamson, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), is referred to Sixty Minutes producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) and asked to interpret scientific documents about Phillip Morris, another tobacco company. But, aware of perjury by the seven CEO's of 'Big Tobacco' to the U.S Congress about their false testimony about the addictiveness of nicotine, Wigand decides to blow the whistle on his former company. Battling confidentiality agreements and potential prosecution for testifying, death threats, and billion dollar lawsuits, Wigand and Bergman risk all they have to run the story. It is a gripping and emotionally draining tale. Also featuring a fantastic score and beautifully haunting cinematography by Dante Spinotti, this is one of Michael Mann's best and most important films. Examining, in almost encroaching detail, the insider struggles of both Wigand's household and Bergman's beloved network, as they crumble beyond their control at the hands of a billion dollar corporation desperate to keep its name clear. Amongst an all-star cast, Russell Crowe and Al Pacino deliver outstanding performances.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars


Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)

Bad Lieutenant was not at all what I expected, but I was really not a fan of the most recent film by Werner Herzog, the crazy genius behind Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). Re-treading a very familiar formula, albeit with an odd maniacal twist from Herzog himself, this is an outrageously messy film that is barely accessible to even the most twisted of viewers. Nicholas Cage, as Terrence McDonagh, is completely out of his mind as a corrupt New Orleans detective investigating the brutal slaying of five Senegalese immigrants in a drug rivalry. To fuel his heavy drug and gambling addictions, McDonagh tiptoes around the law, using his badge-wielding power to score drugs and money off minor perpetrators. His methods are abhorrent and painfully gratuitous at times, but often oddly comic. Seemingly always intoxicated, his wide-eyed hyperactive investigating is often too confronting, leading him on a search for, and ultimate collaboration with the city's most notorious drug kingpins. Other shocking sequences include the antagonism of a sick elderly lady about the whereabouts of her carers' son, and the shocking robbery of two young clubbers of their drug stash and the subsequent forced sex with the woman in the parking lot. Idle chatter between him and his partner (Val Kilmer) is often bitingly hilarious, and his relationship with a prostitute, Frankie (Eva Mendes), has some heart. The complex interweaving of story arcs are really convoluted, and what is essentially a pretty simple plot, is unnecessarily mind-numbing. Brad Dourif has a great, but limited cameo, and there are iguanas. Cage really is quite brilliant, and this is more of an experiment from Herzog than a serious work of art, but I doubt I will watch it again.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Short Review: Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)

A beautifully told tale of one man's extraordinary adventure into the unknown. Fueled by a thirst for the raw, immaterial and natural and a total rejection of capitalism and the traditional urban lifestyle, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), fresh from his graduation from Emory University, abandons his wealthy suburban existence and journeys with only a backpack of essentials through the U.S wilderness on an epic quest. Despising his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) for their hypocritical, fake marriage and an entrapment within their misery, he donates all the money from his student fund to charity, destroys all of his identification and escapes one day without a trace, failing to even tell his sister Carine (Jena Malone) of his plans to travel or provide any word throughout his journey. He first encounters and befriends a hippie couple, Jan and Rainey (Catherine Keener and Brian H. Deirker), before finding work with a harvesting company run by Wayne Westerberg (Vince Vaughn). He battles extreme rapids and kayaks into Mexico, crosses into Los Angeles aboard freight trains, stops at a hippie commune where he forms a friendship with a young girl (Kristen Stewart), befriends an elderly gentleman (Hal Holbrook in a fantastic performance) in Salton City, California, before finally arriving in Alaska, his dream destination. Isolated, lonely and holed up in a bus shelter he discovers his life becomes seriously threatened and he dies from poisoning and starvation.
Featuring extraordinary natural visuals, exceptional editing and astute direction from Sean Penn, this is a very personal film and was a shamefully overlooked masterpiece from 2007. Based on the 1996 non-fiction book by John Krakauer following the adventures of Christopher McCandless, it can be interpreted almost as a documentary. Researched and written posthumously, Chris' body and journal was discovered two weeks after his death by moose hunters. The narrative is non-linear, first jumping back to his college graduation and revealing his estrangement from his parents and his familial values and then cutting together the scenes of him sheltering in the magic bus in Alaska with those of his previous two years of adventure. A series of chapters divide the events and Carine provides voice-over commentary about his shock disappearance and the hunt for his whereabouts. In what would be for many actors, a career role, this is a staggering performance from the still young Emile Hirsch. Completely living this role and pushing his body through serious adversity, many of his emotions embody a passion and dedication beyond the craft of acting. He should have received an Oscar nomination. The score featuring lyrics and vocals from Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder also resonates strongly. Into the Wild is a powerful and inspiring tale and one of my most memorable recent film experiences.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Recent Viewing (Short Reviews)

Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987)

Wall Street is an iconic 1980's portrait of the American Dream and the world of Wall Street entrepreneurs and big business moguls. The story follows the rise and fall of visionary young stock broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as he forms an illegal business relationship with unscrupulous billionaire trader, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Made during the golden era of Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and JFK) and is an exhilarating experience and one of his finest films. Charlie Sheen is quite convincing in the lead role, but it is Michael Douglas who steals every scene. He is fantastic! Daryl Hannah is absolutely awful, however. Now considered a classic, I decided to re-visit it on the eve of the release of the sequel in Australian cinemas. I have heard some positive things but naturally I'm skeptical that Stone can recapture the form here.

My Rating: 4 Stars


The Other Guys (Adam Mckay, 2010)

Surprisingly, I didn't find this as funny as expected, and some of the best jokes appear early before drying up altogether for the second half. Actually, following the faults of most recent comedies, the best moments all appear in the trailer. I found this buddy-cop/action spoof to be more of a typical action film than a comedy, and there are some pretty spectacular stunts throughout. Ferrell and Wahlberg are quite a good pair, but they spend most of the film yelling at one another and this is far from either of their best works. Overlong, the plot is strangely convoluted and confusing at times and the stabs are obvious, inconsistently successful and lack real inventiveness. Ferrell is only really bearable when he collaborates with Mckay but this is certainly no Anchorman. Disappointing and not recommended.

My Rating: 2 Stars


Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin, 2010)

Cute and mildly amusing animation with quite an obscure and eccentric central character and some very interesting human representations. Living amidst a happy neighborhood, Mr Gru and his army of minions are plotting to steal the moon and complete the greatest heist in history. But when he adopts three young girls to assist his plan, his world of mischief is forever altered. Overly ridiculous, much of the plot will appeal to youngsters, but unlike Pixar, not much is there for the adults. The climax was quite exciting and some of the 3D effects (notably a trip to the theme park) are pretty impressive but I was never really engaged. Steve Carrell's bizarre accent was a head-scratcher too.

My Rating: 2 Stars


The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (Seth Gordon, 2007)

A brilliant documentary following one man's attempt to break the world record for the highest score in the Donkey Kong arcade game. Steve Weibe, a likable family man and self-taught gamer tried to beat the longtime high score set by Billy Mitchell in the mid 1980's. After overcoming a string of bad luck and some corrupt tactics from rivals, Steve challenges Billy to a head-to-head game to decide the worthy successor. Often quite hilarious, this is surprisingly exciting, and makes you really engage with Steve's quest. His emotions are heartfelt and you feel like you live the pressure of each of his attempts at the record. As a very real villain, Billy Mitchell is one of the most despicable pricks around.

My Rating: 4 Stars

My 50 Favorite Bands and Artists

Here is a list of my 50 favorite bands/artists and their most notable album releases. I urge everyone to check out as much of this music as you can. Some of it will seriously change your life. I have been obsessed with Sufjan Stevens recently, and his 2005 album Illinois is my current favorite album of 2010.

50. Blur (1994: Parklife)

49. Beck (1996: Odelay, 2002: Seachange)

48. Captain Beefheart (1967: Safe as Milk, 1969:Trout Mask Replica)

47. Minutemen (1984: Double Nickels on the Dime)

46. Massive Attack (1998: Mezzanine)

45. Queens of the Stone Age (2000: Rated R, 2002: Songs for the Deaf)

44. Iron Maiden (1982: Number of the Beast, 1983: Piece of Mind, 1984: Powerslave)

43. Franz Ferdinand (2004: Franz Ferdinand)

42. Soundgarden (1994: Superunknown)

41. Karate (2000: Unsolved, 2004: Pockets)

40. Nirvana (1991: Nevermind)

39. Beach House (2010: Teen Dream)

38. Jimi Hendrix (1967: Are you Experienced?)

37. Led Zeppellin (1969: Led Zeppellin I and II, 1971: Led Zeppellin IV)

36. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (1999: I See a Darkness)

35. Neutral Milk Hotel (1997: In the Airplane Over the Sea)

34. Built to Spill (1997: Perfect From Now On, 1999: Keep it Like a Secret)

33. Interpol (2002: Turn on the Bright Lights, 2004: Antics)

32. Grizzly Bear (2009: Veckatimest)

31. Gang of Four (1979: Entertainment!)

30. Leonard Cohen (1967: Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1988: I'm You're Man)

29. Pavement (1992: Slanted and Enchanted, 1994: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain)

28. The Pixies (1989: Doolittle, 1990: Bossanova)

27. Nick Drake (1969: Five Leaves Left, 1970: Bryter Layter, 1972: Pink Moon)

26. Pearl Jam (1991: Ten, 1993: Vs.)

25. Godspeed You Black Emperor! (1997: F#A#, 2000:Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven)

24. The Flaming Lips (1999: The Soft Bulletin, 2002: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots)

23. King Crimson (1969: In the Court of the Crimson King, 1974: Red, 1981: Discipline)

22. Sonic Youth (1988: Daydream Nation, 1990: Goo)

21. The Clash (1979: The Clash)

20. Tom Waits (1983: Swordfishtrombones, 1985: Rain Dogs)

19. Tool (1996: Aenima, 2001: Lateralus)

18. Love (1967: Forever Changes)

17. Brian Eno (1974: Here come the warm jets, 1975: Another Green World)

16. Black Sabbath (1970: Black Sabbath, 1970: Paranoid, 1971: Master of Reality)

15. Talking Heads (1979: Fear of Music, 1980: Remain in Light)

14. David Bowie (1972: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1973: Aladdin Sane, 1977: Low)

13. The Cure (1980: Seventeen Seconds, 1981: Faith, 1982: Pornography, 1989: Disintegration)

12. Radiohead (1997: OK Computer, 2000: Kid A, 2001: Amnesiac, 2007: In Rainbows)

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991: Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1999: Californication)

10. Sufjan Stevens (2003: Michigan, 2004: Seven Swans, 2005: Illinois)

9. Metallica (1984: Ride the Lightning, 1986: Master of Puppets, 1988: ...And Justice for All, 1991: Metallica)

8. Joy Division (1979: Unknown Pleasures, 1980: Closer)

7. Modest Mouse (1997: The Lonesome Crowded West, 2000: The Moon and Antarctica, 2004: Good News for People Who Love Bad News)

6. Frank Zappa (1969: Hot Rats, 1973: Over-nite Sensation)

5. Pink Floyd (1973: Dark Side of the Moon, 1975: Wish you were Here, 1977: Animals, 1979: The Wall)

4. The Beatles (1965: Rubber Soul, 1966: Revolver, 1967: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1968: The Beatles (White Album), 1969: Abbey Road)

3. The Arcade Fire (2004: Funeral, 2007: Neon Bible, 2010: The Suburbs)

2. The Smiths (1984: The Smiths, 1985: Meat is Murder, 1986: The Queen is Dead, 1987: Strangeways, Here we Come)

1. The Doors (1967: The Doors, 1967: Strange Days, 1968: Waiting for the Sun, 1970: Morrison Hotel, 1971: L.A Woman)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Film Ratings (U-Z)

U571 (***1/2)
Unbreakable (****)
Uncle Buck (****)
Unfaithful (***)
Unforgiven (***)
United 93 (****1/2)
Untouchables, The (****)
Up (****1/2)
Up in the Air (****1/2)
Usual Suspects, The (*****)

Valkyrie (**)
Vanilla Sky (**)
Vanishing, The (****1/2)
Vantage Point (*1/2)
Vertical Limit (***)
Vertigo (*****)
V for Vendetta (***)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (****)
Village, The (**1/2)
Viridiana (****)

Waking Ned Devine (****)
Walk the Line (****)
Wall E (****1/2)
Wall Street (****)
Wanted (**1/2)
War of the Worlds (2005) (**)
Warriors, The (****)
Watchmen (****)
Waterboy, The (*)
Wedding Crashers, The (***)
We Were Soldiers (**)
Whatever Works (****)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (***1/2)
Where the Wild Things Are (****)
White Ribbon, The (****1/2)
Whole Nine Yards, The (**1/2)
Wicker Man, The (*****)
Wild at Heart (*)
Wild Strawberries (*****)
Wild Things (***)
Wild Wild West (*)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (****1/2)
Windtalkers (**)
Winter Light (***1/2)
Witches, The (***)
Wizard of Oz (*****)
Wolf Creek (***)
Wonderland (***)
Woodsman, The (****)
World is Not Enough, The (**1/2)
Wrestler, The (*****)

X-Men (****)
X2 (***1/2)
X-Men: The Last Stand (**)
X Men Origins: Wolverine (1/2)

Yes Man (*)
You've Got Mail (***)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (****1/2)

Zodiac (****1/2)
Zombieland (***)
Zoolander (****)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Short Review: Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)

Gone Baby Gone is a truly powerful drama from debut director Ben Affleck. It brilliantly captures the seedy underbelly of the city of Boston; most notably the horrific existence of such irresponsible parenting, the lurking pedophiles and the corrupt police department. Caught up in the mess are private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), who agree to investigate the kidnapping of a young girl after being hired by her aunt and uncle. They seek out the most destructive regions of the city in search of clues to her disappearance and eventually unravel a shocking conspiracy that will forever alter the lives of all involved. I think that this is Casey Affleck's finest performance (and he is always excellent) and Amy Ryan is outstanding as the young girls, drug-riddled mother. Michelle Monaghan (who i thought was well-suited to the role) and Ed Harris also gave fine performances. There were some brilliantly executed shootout sequences that were genuinely edge-of-your seat worthy and some mighty fine twists. The early sequence where Kenzie and Gennaro question some locals in the pub about Helene McCready's drug practices was especially good. What I thought let the film down was that it did feel a lot like a series of climaxes, with twist after twist revealing new developments, almost too incredible to match the gritty representation of the city and the shocking reality of their existence. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It's edgy, tense and exciting and it has been rightly claimed as one of the finest films of 2007. To miss out on consideration for the major awards though was not unjustified. Affleck showed a lot of potential with this project and I am really looking forward to his next film, The Town, scheduled for a release later in the year.


My Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, September 10, 2010

Best Films of 2010 (Updated)

I have been very impressed by most of the films I have seen in the past month. Having missed most of their releases at the Sydney Film Festival back in June, I have now managed to see The Kids are All Right, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Four Lions, Boy and The Ghost Writer. Here are my current Top 10 of 2010.

Honorable Mentions: The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright)

10. I am Love (Luca Guadagnino)

9. Boy (Taika Waititi)

8. Four Lions (Chris Morris)

7. Animal Kingdom (David Michod)

6. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella)

5. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)

4. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)

3. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy)

2. The Kids are All Right (Linda Cholodenko)

1. Inception (Christopher Nolan)

Short Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)

Exit through the Gift Shop is an exciting and exhilarating experience! I still don't know how I feel about the outrageous turn of events in the latter half of this documentary. As introduced in the opening moments by a hooded and concealed Banksy, this is a film about an ordinary but obsessive Frenchman (Thierry Guetta) who becomes intrigued by the world of street art and, through pure luck, becomes a collaborator with the leading genius' in the rapidly expanding industry. Having sought out the elusive Banksy (the anonymous world phenomenon) and becoming a close friend and accomplice, he offers to take Guetta's hours of captured footage of artists at work and a failed documentary attempt and transform it into his own work of art. On Banksy's instructions, Guetta decides to become an artist himself, opening an enormous exhibition under the name of Mr Brainwash, and meeting even more cultural acclaim and wealth than his far more renowned and inventive friends. There has been an abundance of discussion that most of the latter half of the film is an elaborate hoax from Banksy as a satirical comment on consumerism and excess, celebrity and the nature of art in general. I'm not too familiar with Banksy, but if the fine examples of his work in the film are any indication, I can see why this is likely the case. Wildly inventive and entertaining and very often hilarious, this is a massive achievement and a film I could enjoy countless times.


My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Short Review: Boy (2010)

Boy is wonderful! Effortlessly hilarious but also warmly moving. Boy is a startlingly honest dual coming-of-age film about two brothers, Boy (James Rolleston) and Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu) trying to understand and deal with the death of their mother and their estrangement from their unstable and irresponsible father, who's surprise visit home wildly alters their young lives and threatens their innocence. Writer/director Taika Waititi gives a strong performance as the boys' incompetent father, but it is the young performers who really shine. Each give great individual performances but they also share a beautiful chemistry. Winner of the audience award at the Sydney Film Festival, Boy is a real crowd-pleaser and sleeper hit. It's reserved, quirky, unflinchingly honest and full of memorable moments.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, September 3, 2010

Film Ratings (Q-T)

Quantum of Solace (**)
Quarantine (**1/2)
Quicksand (**1/2)
Quiet American, The (****)

Rabbit Proof Fence (***1/2)
Rachel Getting Married (****1/2)
Raging Bull (****1/2)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (*****)
Rainmaker, The (1997) (****)
Ran (****)
Rashomon (*****)
Rat Race (***)
Reader, The (***1/2)
Real Cancun (*)
Rear Window (****1/2)
Rebel Without a Cause (****)
Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994) (****1/2)
Red Dragon (***)
Remember the Titans (***1/2)
Rendition (*1/2)
Repulsion (***)
Requiem for a Dream (****1/2)
Rescue Dawn (****)
Reservoir Dogs (****1/2)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (*)
Return of the Jedi (****1/2)
Revolutionary Road (****)
Richard III (***)
Road, The (****)
Road to Perdition (****)
Road Trip (**)
Road Warrior, The (*1/2)
Robin Hood (**1/2)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (****)
Rock, The (**)
RocknRolla (**)
Rocky (****1/2)
Romeo and Juliet (1996) (***1/2)
Romper Stomper (****)
Ronin (****)
Rope (****)
Rosemary's Baby (****1/2)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (****)
Rosetta (***)
Rounders (***)
Royal Tenenbaums, The (****1/2)
Runaway Jury (***)
Run Fatboy Run (**1/2)
Rush Hour (***)
Rush Hour 2 (**1/2)
Rush Hour 3 (**)
Rushmore (****)
Russian Ark (****)

Santa Claus, The (***)
Saturday Night Fever (***)
Saving Private Ryan (****1/2)
Saw (****)
Saw II (**1/2)
Saw III (**)
Scarface (1983) (****)
Scary Movie (***)
Scary Movie 3 (**)
Scary Movie 4 (*1/2)
Scent of a Woman (1992) (****)
Schindler's List (*****)
Science of Sleep, The (****1/2)
Scooby Doo (**)
Score, The (***)
Scorpion King, The (**1/2)
Seabiscuit (***)
Secret in their Eyes, The (****1/2)
Semi-Pro (*)
Sentinel, The (***1/2)
Serenity (****)
Session 9 (***1/2)
Se7en (*****)
Seven Samurai, The (*****)
Seventh Seal, The (*****)
Sexy Beast (***)
Shane (***1/2)
Shark Tale (***)
Shaun of the Dead (****1/2)
Shawshank Redemption, The (*****)
Sherlock Holmes (***1/2)
Shining, The (*****)
Shipping News, The (**1/2)
Shooter (***)
Showgirls (*)
Shrek (****)
Shrek 2 (***)
Shutter Island (****1/2)
Sideways (*****)
Siege, The (***)
Signs (***1/2)
Silence of the Lambs, The (****1/2)
Simpsons Movie, The (*)
Sin City (****)
Singin' in the Rain (****1/2)
Six Days Seven Nights (**)
Sixth Sense, The (****1/2)
Sleepers (****)
Sleepy Hollow (****)
Sleuth (****1/2)
Slumdog Millionaire (****1/2)
Small Soldiers (**)
Smart People (**1/2)
Smokin' Aces (**)
Snakes on a Plane (**)
Snatch (****)
Sneakers (***1/2)
Snow Dogs (**)
Snow Falling on Cedars (***1/2)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (****)
Some Like it Hot (*****)
Sound of Music, The (****)
Space Jam (****)
Spartacus (****1/2)
Species (**1/2)
Species II (1/2)
Speed (****)
Speed Racer (***)
Spiderman (****)
Spiderman 2 (***1/2)
Spiderman 3 (*)
Spiderwick Chronicles, The (**)
Spirited Away (****1/2)
Spy Game (****)
Stand by Me (****)
Starship Troopers (**)
Starsky and Hutch (***)
Star Trek (2009) (***1/2)
Star Wars (*****)
Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace (**1/2)
Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (***)
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (**1/2)
State of Play (**)
Sting, The (****)
Strangers on a Train (****1/2)
Stripes (***1/2)
Sum of all Fears, The (***)
Sunshine (2007) (****)
Superbad (***)
Superfly (****)
Super Mario Bros. (**)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) (****)
Swordfish (***)
Sylvia (***)
Synechdoche New York (****)

Taken (*)
Taking Lives (***)
Taxi Driver (*****)
Team America: World Police (***)
10,000B.C (1/2)
Terminator, The (****)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (****1/2)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (**)
Terminator Salvation (***)
There's Something About Mary (***1/2)
There will be Blood (*****)
Thin Red Line, The (*****)
Third Man, The (*****)
This is England (****)
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The (****)
300 (**)
300 Spartans , The (**)
Three Kings (****)
3:10 to Yuma (***1/2)
Through a Glass Darkly (****)
Tigerland (**)
Time Machine, The (2002) (**1/2)
Time of the Wolf (***1/2)
Time to Kill, A (****)
Titanic (****)
To Kill a Mockingbird (****1/2)
Tomorrow Never Dies (****)
Toy Story (*****)
Toy Story 2 (****)
Toy Story 3 (****1/2)
Traffic (****)
Training Day (****)
Trainspotting (****)
Transformers (***)
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (1/2)
Transporter, The (**)
Tropic Thunder (***)
Troy (**)
True Romance (****)
Truman Show, The (*****)
Twelve Monkeys (****)
28 Days Later (****1/2)
28 Weeks Later (***1/2)
21 (**1/2)
Twister (***)
2 Fast 2 Furious (*)
2001: A Space Odyssey (*****)