Two of my favourite recent films on
one page! the last page!
Silver Lining Playbook really hit me hard because i'm diagonsed with Bipolar 2. Unlike alot of movies, it really portrayed the illness correctly and consequences perfectly. What really broke me down was a episode the main character had almost halfway through. Every little detail was spot on, from the Mental Hospital in the opening scenes, to how the police reposnded to all the incidents. If you know anyone else with an unfortunate mental ilness, please recommend this heartwarming film.
I absolutely loved SLP. I remember that I only ever watched it because it was getting pretty hyped up in Oscar season last year and being so incredibly surprised. I expected a typical, maybe slightly higher quality, rom-com and got a beautiful picture about what it means to be a bit broken and why it's perfectly fine to not be perfect.
It does tend to follow the standard rom-com beat, and the ending is so cliché I should have been disappointed. But, unlike most of the guff in the genre, Silver Linings earns the ending that it has. When put down on paper it feels contrived and forced, but when you've been on the journey with Pat and Tiffany it just works. It all hinges on Bradely Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence's performances and they're fantastic. Lawrence gets held up as some great actress because of blockbuster schlock like the Hunger Games and people forget about this jewel in her crown. Much like Bradley Cooper, whose nuanced and grounded portrayal of mental illness in this film is stellar, is often known for The Hangover series despite being in gems like SLP and...
Last notable movie I watched was The Place Beyond The Pines. I was pleasantly surprised, although I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't really follow it on release, I saw maybe one trailer for it, so went in virtually blind.
At its core, this is a film about fathers and sons. It starts with Ryan Gosling's carnival stunt man turned drifter finding out that he fathered the son of a woman (Eva Mendes) he met while traveling through Schenectady a year prior. Quitting his job, he seeks to become involved in his young son's life, resorting to some incredibly desperate measures to do so.
His story intertwines with up and comer on the police force, Bradley Cooper. An event changes their lives, and the lives of those around them, forever. It's difficult to say much more than that without giving away some major plot points, including an early twist that isn't easy to see coming.
The pacing here was almost spot on. The film started to stumble a little towards the end, but wad held together by sone solid performances, particularly from the likes of Dane Dehaan (one to watch, possibly). There's a lot going on here; three different stories, though all related, and yet, it's difficult to feel too adrift amid all the other things going on.
I also found it a surprisingly easy, yet simultaneously gripping watch. It didn't take long for me to find myself really focusing in on what was going on; again, it's no popcorn flick, but it's easy to get invested in most of the characters, to such degree that you want to follow them. And, ultimately, the characters are the driving force of this story which, without revealing too much, carries with it hints of a would-be coming of age drama.
So, all told, I was fairly impressed. I enjoyed the film, so, that's always a plus. I was able to sit through it without constantly finding myself distracted.
Also, plus points for the use of Hall & Oates in the soundtrack. (... what? Don't look ay me like that.)
The Place Beyond the Pines is one of the most understated and brilliant films of the past few years. It may be my personal experiences with my father influencing my feelings, but the ambitious take on the idea of what it means to really be a father that this film has works on a number of levels. It presents no true answers but only the grey murkiness of what can go wrong if you go too far down one road.
It is not a film will lots of bells and whistles. There's no glamour to be found here. A number of set pieces take place that would be slick action sequences or over-wrought dramatic monologues in other films, but director Derek Cianfrance just lets them play out with no fluff or extra fanfare. It's this lack of pomp and circumstance that actually makes the central event mentioned in the quoted post so effective. It's all over in a flash of sound and fury and you're instantly left just looking at the consequences to take it all in.
It kind of trails off a little in quality during the last act I think, but it's completely necessary to completely tell the story of how the sins of the father affect the son.
A truly fantastic and ambitious film that may not quite grasp the truly epic quality it reaches for, but lands in greatness all the same.
Anyway, I watched something last night
300: Rise of an Empire
A largely unnecessary prequel/parallequel/sequel (which actually happens before, during and after the events of the first film) that departs in quite a few ways from the first.
300: Rise of an Empire follow the campaigns of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), an Athenian general as he wages war against the seemingly unstoppable might of the Persian war machine's navy as King Leonidas' Spartans hold the Hot Gates against the land forces. Themistocles finds his match in Xerxes' unhinged naval commander, a traitorous Greek named Artemisia (Eva Green), as he tries to unite Greece to fight as one force against the Persian empire.
All the hallmarks of what made the first film great are present, but are either somewhat lacking or undermined by some other aspect of the film.
To give Rise of an Empire its credit though, it does look good. The stylish and slick action sequences that comprise most of the film, ducking in and out of super-slo-mo as they go, do look excellent and the same crazy excess that made the first look so good carries over. The only issue I would take with the look and visual of this installment is the colour. Where the red and gold filters of the first sat well with the visuals of the blood and glory themes, Rise of an Empire is very cold and blue. In an attempt to match the seas on which they fight for most of the film and it loses something with that. CGI blood just doesn't look as engaging when it's closer to black that red.
The biggest problem is the spot on the testosterone-fuelled blood and guts meter that the first hit so sweetly. In 300, the central characters are the Spartans: a warrior people to whom death in battle is the ultimate goal and the glory of the fight is all that matters. Led by the charismatic and ultra-masculine leader Leonidas, the ultra violence and super-glamorisation of the combat and the money shots of heads taking leave of their necks, it all makes sense then because that's what the Spartans are all about. But with Themistocles and the Athenians, everything is a little bit more political. They fight for freedom and ideals rather than just for the glory of themselves and the fight, so the gratuitousness and pleasure taken by the film makers in the violence just feels a little out of place.
So it would be fair to say that the problem is the lack of a King Leonidas. The lack of someone charismatic and crazy enough to make sense and function in the world that Zack Snyder created is the downfall. Except it's not. Because 300: Rise of an Empire has this crazy bastard at its heart:
Eva Green nails the character of Artemisia so hard you could pin a Greek skull to a ship's mast with her performance. She has that crazy, obscene and just plain terrifying quality that's just brilliantly ridiculous and could only exist in such a comic-book influenced world. She has this swaggering walk and talk that had me convinced I wanted the Persians to just steamroll the Greeks and all their moping about freedom and democracy along with them. When you put Artemisia's absurdity next to Themistocles' maudlin moaning, all of his scenes just feel like distractions from the scenes with the more fun character.
If you seek out Rise of an Empire, don't expect much. It's still stylish and fun, but not as much as the first. Eva Green stands out as a shining light of craziness in a cast that's taking itself a bit too seriously considering there's a perfectly waxed 8 foot tall guy wandering around in his pants declaring himself a god king.
Seriously though, I think I might be in love with Eva Green now.