Sunday, September 15, 2013

12 Years A Slave

There have been a number of films revolving around slavery and many of them have one thing in common, They're always told from a white man's perspective whether it be the film's protagonist, the film's director or both. There has yet to be a film about slavery told from the eyes of a black person.

Now we have Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, which tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. And boy, it's vastly different from any other slavery films. (And, while I'm at it, McQueen's other films.)

How so? Other films about slavery have an empathetic air to them. (This is where I more or less side eye Spielberg.) McQueen, however, forgoes all forms of empathy (as he did with Hunger and Shame) to further the story. (As if empathy would've made this story any rosier.)

And how is this different from McQueen's previous two films? Apart from a different leading man (regular Michael Fassbender got bumped down to supporting), 12 Years A Slave is more of an ensemble piece than a one-man film. I won't mention every actor that appeared, but I do want to highlight the supporting work from Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and Lupita Nyong'o. Along with Ejiofor, you won't forget their performances.

Though I adored Shame more, 12 Years A Slave is a very fine piece of filmmaking from McQueen. Thanks to a combination of McQueen's direction, the ensemble cast led by a brilliant Ejiofor, Sean Bobbitt's cinematography and Hans Zimmer's score, this is a film that will be talked about in the decades to come.

My Rating: *****

Labor Day

The lead characters in Jason Reitman's earlier films (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult) are outspoken people who usually go by their own rules. These films are also usually told from their point of view.

So that's what makes Reitman's new film Labor Day feel so different from his other four. The story is told through the eyes of Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith) as he and his mother Adele (Kate Winslet) hide escaped convict Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin) during the Labor Day weekend. A strange premise, sure, but Reitman knows how to keep it interesting.

There's something about the moroseness in Adele's face that has you hoping that something (or someone) will come along and take her sadness away. And whenever she looks happy, the world seems a bit brighter. That's something of Winslet's acting I've always admired. Dour one minute, radiant the next.

Like he did with the stars of his other films, Reitman gets great work out of his actors. Brolin shows a soft nature underneath his tough guy image. Winslet adds another layer to the unfulfilled stay-at-home mother role she's been playing for the past few years. (See also Little Children and Revolutionary Road.) But I feel it's Griffith who's the star of Labor Day. Apart from holding his own against Winslet and Brolin, he provides most of the emotional heft of the film.

Labor Day, although somewhat darker than Reitman's other films, is still a welcoming entry. Bolstered by the three leads' performances, the film provides a mature portrait of nostalgia. Mr. Reitman, I anticipate your next film.

My Rating: ****1/2

Dom Hemingway

In the very first scene of Richard Shepard's Dom Hemingway, it's very clear that this is a role like no other for leading man Jude Law. He's not the charming leading man that he usually plays nor is he the lighthearted comedic part. Here, he's a bawdy, foul-mouthed ex-convict who's not afraid to speak his mind. (And that's when he's sober.)

In a way, Dom Hemingway feels like the kind of film Guy Ritchie would normally make but better. (That says a lot right there.) It doesn't rely on crazy shoot outs or even crazier heists (though there is a sort of heist near the end). It focuses more on Dom's life once he gets out of prison.

Also different from the standard Guy Ritchie movie is the fact Shepard wants to show Dom is in fact a human being (albeit a very screwed up one) rather than just someone with absolutely no fucks to give. It's these quieter scenes that continue to make me realize that Law is one of the most underappreciated actors working today.

Dom Hemingway also has a few other notable actors amongst its cast. There's Richard E. Grant who most certainly has his fair share of one liners. There's also Demian Bichir who radiates smugness throughout his screentime. And then there's Emilia Clarke who captures anger and neglect perfectly. But this show is owned by Law.

Dom Hemingway is one hell of a riot. It has the right balance of inappropriate behavior without getting too crass. And even though he was the last person I'd imagine in a role like this, Law just nails it.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

It's easy awards bait, isn't it? Actor agrees to play a person whose name was splashed all over the headlines a number of years ago. (In fact, that could be applied to most of the Best Actor hopefuls for this year.) And many times, the film relies more on the strength of the performance more than the script's.

Thankfully, Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom strays from the expected biopic standards. It doesn't rely solely on Idris Elba's performance (or Naomie Harris') to make the film work. It's all thanks mainly to William Nicholson's script.

None of the facts shown are sensationalized for the sake of Hollywood nor does the film at any point feel like a history lesson. It's Chadwick's intention to make a film that told the whole story truthfully from beginning to end.

Chadwick also enlisted the right actors for his film as well. He chose Elba and Harris to play Nelson and Winnie Mandela. And man, they are just dynamic in this. I won't say that awards will be coming their way (though they might), but I think it's suffice to say they'll be actors nobody forgets.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is everything the standard biopic should be. Chadwick's direction, Nicholson's script, the performances from Elba and Harris, Ales Heffes' music, Lol Crawley's cinematography...everything about the film works beautifully. Safe to say you need to see it.

My Rating: *****


There is no worse feeling than losing a child. It doesn't matter whether death took them or a kidnapper, the loss of your own flesh and blood is devastating.

Just imagine the heartache the Dovers (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello) and the Birches (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis) feel throughout Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners. Both couples lost their daughters to the hands of a kidnapper, and they're frantic to find where they are. One of them is willing to break the law.

A film of this nature relies on the right actors to make the film. Villeneuve wisely chose the ideal actors for his film. (Other actors in the film include Jake Gyllenhaal, an unrecognizable Melissa Leo and Paul Dano.) They're all great, but the best work came from Jackman. Seeing the hope slowly drain out of him is heartbreaking. (And he gets to levels of intensity that Sean Penn didn't even reach in Mystic River.)

Oh, and that cinematography by Roger Deakins is gorgeous. (Seriously, he doesn't have an Oscar yet because...?) His work here is rather reminiscent of how Harris Savides shot Zodiac, all of the dark, mysterious shadows shown prominently throughout. (Honestly, can he get an Oscar soon or something?)

Prisoners is a very well-acted drama though it does meander a bit. Several scenes are hard to watch (if you've seen it, you'll know which ones) and I wasn't that fond of the ending. Still, it has a few clever twists here and there, so that alone (well, and the performances too) warrants praise out of me.

My Rating: ****1/2

The Love Punch

Comedy isn't usually targeted at an older audience. It's usually towards high school and college-aged people at best. It's not very often you see a comedy aimed at a much older audience.

That is what Joel Hopkins' The Love Punch is. Starring Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan, the film is a fun little romp for anyone looking for such a thing.

I was amused at the premise because it just sounded like all sorts of silly. But when you have charismatic actors like Thompson and Brosnan headlining it, you can't help but see it. And boy, was it worth it.

I think what also amused me was what Thompson and Brosnan's roles were like. After all, you have a serious actress doing comedy and a former James Bond being an uncool Agent 007. (Yes, the James Bond allusions throughout the film were intentional.) And it works. (I now want to see Thompson do more comedy now.)

Anyway, The Love Punch is a very charming and funny film. Thompson and Brosnan have great chemistry together as they do with co-stars Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie. If you're looking for a comedy with a balance of everything just right, then The Love Punch is for you.

My Rating: *****

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Promise

Patrice Leconte's A Promise boasts a cast featuring the likes of Rebecca Hall, Alan Rickman and Richard Madden, and chronicles a love story that spins over the years. And that is where all of the good points end.

Leconte tries too hard with his first film in the English language. It feels as if Leconte was trying to make something along the lines of Doctor Zhivago and ended up with one of those flimsy romance paperbacks you see at the airport gift shop. And boy, do I mean flimsy.

The whole focus of the film is the relationship between Friedrich (Madden) and Charlotte (Hall), and it falls flat on its face almost immediately. There isn't a proper build up between them and their supposed scenes of longing are laughable at best. For a romance film, it's pretty much dead in that department.

And there's the fact the film's set in Germany and you have English actors not even attempting the accent. (I mean, English actors have been cast as Germans before, but come on.) I kept forgetting the film was set there until someone mentioned Germany. (It felt more English than anything else.) Ugh, misusing good actors. I can't stand that.

If it wasn't clear enough, A Promise is just abysmal. Sure, the actors have a few good moments here and there but they weren't given a hell of a lot to do. I did, however, like the last shot of the film (not just because that meant the film was finally over) but it felt too little, too late. Suffice to say A Promise isn't very promising at all. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

My Rating: ***

The Stag

It's hard to do comedy with heart while still being funny. Most of the time it just gets soppy and stays that way. But every now and again, you stumble across one that hits the right notes.

This is what John Butler's The Stag is exactly. The premise for it is a simple one: a group of friends throw a stag party for their soon-to-be-married friend, but things don't go according to plan...

Yes, a premise like that makes it sounds like The Hangover if it was made in Ireland. (It sort of is to be honest.) But it's so much more than that. There's a certain element in the many male bonding scenes here that's lacking in other films of this nature, and it's that these scenes don't rely on lewd jokes. (Man, no wonder I like productions from across the pond. They're classier.)

I'll admit the main reason for wanting to see The Stag was because Andrew Scott (a recognizable name to anyone familiar with Sherlock) was in it. And he certainly left an impression on this viewer, though the absolute scene stealer of this film was Peter McDonald (who also co-wrote the film). Believe me, you won't forget any aspect of his performance once the credits start rolling.

Anyway, I was really surprised by The Stag. I went in expecting just a light comedy and instead got a very charming gem of a film. Be sure to seek this one out.

My Rating: ****1/2

The Railway Man

Physical wounds are temporary but emotional wounds are forever. This is what Patti Lomax (Nicole Kidman) learns after marrying Eric (Colin Firth) in Jonathan Leptizky's The Railway Man. She knows something in Eric's past changed who he is, but what exactly?

The Railway Man certainly isn't like any other film revolving around a character with post-traumatic stress disorder. Rather than have every scene feature said character and their anxieties, the film takes its time to focus on those around the affected character. (Also normally uncommon in films of this nature is they show what caused the trauma.)

Also worthy of a mention is David Hirschfelder's absolutely stunning cinematography. Take a single shot from the film and it's guaranteed that it's a piece of art in of itself. The framing for a majority of the shots are just gorgeous.

And the actors are just fantastic. Jeremy Irvine (he plays Eric in the flashbacks) forms the mold of whom Eric will become. Stellan Skarsgard (he plays a friend of Eric's) also holds his own amongst the likes of Kidman and Firth. Kidman in turn gives a strong performance. But, in my eyes, the best work came from Firth. Such a lost look on his face...

The Railway Man is a spectacular film. From the performances to the story to the direction, everything about it just worked. Whenever this gets a proper distribution, I hope you'll go and see it.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kill Your Darlings

This happens every now and again with actors. One gets recognized for a certain role and they spend a majority of their career trying to escape said role. (This is apparently more common amongst actors from the United Kingdom.)

One such actor is Daniel Radcliffe, who as of late is trying to shed his image of Harry Potter. (Well, it would be hard to get away from a role you did for ten years.) In John Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings, he's as far from Hogwarts that can be allowed. Here, Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg during the early days of the Beat Generation. And boy, is he great in the role.

What makes Kill Your Darlings so compelling is its depiction of society back in the early 1940s. This was an era where everyone was expected to behave exactly the same. (It's fascinating to see them when their "masks" fall off.) Breaking convention was a daring thing to do back then, and these young writers weren't afraid to do that.

Radcliffe isn't the only great actor in this film. His co-stars include the likes of Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster (whom I barely even recognized), Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyra Sedgwick. Radcliffe is clearly the star of the film, but DeHaan, Foster and Hall certainly hold their own when onscreen.

Kill Your Darlings is a really great film. There's great work from everyone involved, especially Radcliffe and Krokidas. Hopefully when a certain season rolls around, this is one film that will be remembered by then.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

August: Osage County

In the aftermath of a death, there are many questions and emotions swirling inside everyone close to the departed. Anger at the departed being gone, sadness over the sudden loss and fretting over what will happen now are common reactions to a passing.

This is what the Weston family feels following the death of patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard) in John Wells' August: Osage County. In the days following his funeral, tensions and secrets boil over between the family, especially between his widow Violet (Meryl Streep) and daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts).

Being familiar with Tracy Letts' other work (Killer Joe, Bug), I was curious on whether he could do something with a domestic setting. Boy, could he ever. The dialogue itself is so many levels of uncomfortable hilarity that's practically worthy of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. (Fitting since Letts recently won a Tony for his work in Edward Albee's play.)

And with any good film (particularly an adaptation), you need the right actors. Sharing the screen alongside Streep, Roberts and Shepard are Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney. Shepard, Nicholson, Martindale, Cooper and Cumberbatch gave the most lasting of the supporting performances, but this show is dominated by Streep and Roberts.

August: Osage County is a wickedly funny film interspersed with well-acted dramatic scenes. Wells, whose last film The Company Men was good but stiff in parts, certainly proves he's a director to keep an eye on. Hopefully people will be seeing and talking about this dynamic film.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer is one of those filmmakers whose work tends to grab a hold of its viewers and never lets go. His first two films Sexy Beast and Birth enthralled audiences during the last decade, and then Glazer just vanished following the release of the latter.

Now ten years after the release of Birth, Glazer returns with Under the Skin. Loosely based on Michel Faber's novel, the film is a surreal portrait in every sense of the term. (I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.)

Starring in Under the Skin is Scarlett Johansson, who is very much showcasing her abilities as an actress here. She barely speaks, her face rarely alters...and all of this has you wondering what makes her character tick. What is the story behind her? It's a performance that simply does not leave your memory.

Likewise with the other aspects of the film. Whether it be Dan Landin's cinematography or the unbelievably chilling score from Mica Levi, they're guaranteed to stay ingrained in your mind for better or for worse. It's certainly one of the most aesthetic films I've seen in recent memory.

Under the Skin is both extremely bizarre and absolutely hypnotic. You're not sure what's happening and yet you can't help but watch. Thanks to Glazer's keen eye and Johansson's transfixing performance, Under the Skin is one of those films that people will be talking about in the years to come.

My Rating: *****

The Invisible Woman

I admire Ralph Fiennes' work as an actor whether it be his sinister work in Schindler's List or something more charismatic like Quiz Show. His first directorial effort Coriolanus, although leaving me distant, had me curious as to what else Fiennes had to offer behind the camera.

His new film The Invisible Woman left me absolutely spellbound. Based on a novel by Claire Tomalin (and adapted by the brilliant Abi Morgan), it's a quiet film about the budding secret relationship between famed author Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones).

It may feel as an odd film for Fiennes to be following Coriolanus with to some, but he makes a very beautiful film. It's also surprising to see Fiennes, usually in heavy dramas or more mainstream movies, in something relatively light.

And in many ways, The Invisible Woman is very reminiscent of Jane Campion's Bright Star. Not just because they revolve around a famed writer's love affair but also because of the restrained depictions of said affairs. No thrashing limbs, no bare flesh, just the physical and emotional closeness between the two lovers. It's something I think the truly skilled can depict, and Fiennes and Jones are two such people.

The Invisible Woman is a very gorgeous film. From Fiennes and Jones' performances to Morgan's script to Rob Hardy's cinematography, everything about it just equates to visual poetry. It's one of those films that I really hope people will seek out and watch.

My Rating: *****


Whenever Ron Howard makes a film based on real life events, the results can vary. Sometimes it's great (Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon), sometimes it's mixed (A Beautiful Mind). So where does his new film Rush rank?

Yes, it is written by Peter Morgan and like the last film he wrote for Howard, it focuses on the lives of its two subjects. But the subjects this time around aren't a disgraced former US President and a British talk show host. No, this time it's about two Formula One drivers: one British (Chris Hemsworth), one Austrian (Daniel Bruhl). And like the leads of Frost/Nixon, they're very different people.

James Hunt (the Brit) is very much a reckless figure. He drinks and sleep around, but he's incredibly fast on the race track. Adopting a British accent for the role, Hemsworth displays an air of charisma throughout the film. It's also an ideal part to prove he's more than just the God of Thunder, don't you think?

Niki Lauda (the Austrian), meanwhile, is very much a determined figure when it comes to racing. (No surprise he makes a few enemies.) In a way reminiscent of Vincent Karthesier's work on Mad Men, Bruhl plays Lauda as someone you can't entirely hate (especially not after a crash that nearly kills him). It's a very distinct piece of acting.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, where Rush ranks among Howard's other "based on a true story" films. Well, the performances from Hemsworth and Bruhl were solid. If only I could say the same for most of Morgan's dialogue, which was flimsy for the most part. This is basically a film that's more "show, don't tell" than anything else though it has its moments.

My Rating: ****

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club

When we first see Matthew McConaughey (and, to an extent, Jared Leto later on) in Jean-Marc Vallee's Dallas Buyers Club, it comes as a shock to see what his condition is. This isn't a measly ten or fifteen pounds lost. I'm talking Christian Bale in The Machinist kind of material.

And this is before Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) finds out he has AIDS. Bear in mind this film is set during the 1980s, the height of the AIDS epidemic (and not long after Rock Hudson was diagnosed). Suffice to say that Ron (who in his first scene is having sex with two women) doesn't take his own diagnosis very well.

What makes Dallas Buyers Club so captivating is how McConaughey plays Ron. Ron is depicted initially as a man who drinks like a fish, abuses various drugs (even after his diagnosis), willing to fuck anyone with breasts, and isn't afraid to speak his mind. (Fortunately he wises up.) And yet McConaughey has us feel sorry for Ron as we watch the disease eat away at him. It's an absolutely transfixing performance from him.

Likewise with the work from Leto and Jennifer Garner. Leto is nearly unrecognizable in his role, both physically and emotionally. (Many of his later scenes are absolutely heartbreaking.) Meanwhile, Garner shows her depths as an actress, proving she's more than just the wife of an Oscar-winning director. (She also has the most perfectly timed F-strike I've heard in a long time.)

Dallas Buyers Club is, quite simply put, a brilliant film. Everything about it just flows wonderfully: the pacing, the performances, the music, everything. This is a film that won't be forgotten for a long time.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In Secret

Infidelity. It's been around for as long as anyone can remember. In a number of cases, one or both halves of the affair divorce their respective spouses in order to get married. In more instances, divorce is the last thing on their minds.

This is what Charlie Stratton presents with his film In Secret. This isn't your standard infidelity drama. For starters, this is set during the 1860s rather than present day. And to set an apt frame of mind for the film, think of it as if Raymond Chandler was alive during the era of Jane Austen. (Yes, I know I'm off by half a century. Bear with me.)

I think what makes In Secret so fascinating to watch is what happens in the aftermath of the big moment. (I might have spoiled it in the introduction though.) Usually remorse from such an act is absent, but it starts to seep through in a particular character. (I might add they more or less agreed for it to happen.)

The actors are quite good. Oscar Isaac displays a devious charisma in his role. Tom Felton, meanwhile, is in a part very far from Draco Malfoy, showing a rather pathetic nature in his role. Jessica Lange at first embodies the mother-in-law from hell persona then slowly adapts into a broken shell of her former self. But this show belongs to Elizabeth Olsen. Her face just says everything.

In Secret starts off a simple costume drama then morphs into something more common for the present day. That is not a bad thing in the slightest. It's provocative. It's thrilling. And quite simply put, it's great...albeit a few small details. But either way, be sure to seek it out.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, September 6, 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive

In the aftermath of the Twilight craze, it's hard to take vampires seriously. Now Hollywood will only depict them as pale, moody figures that would make even Bryon cringe. When will the vampires be cool again?

Fortunately, the answer can be found in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. Gone is the angst found in other supernatural romances. Jarmusch enforces a sleek take on vampires, which is practically expected when said vampires are played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. (Seriously, they're the coolest vampires since Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie.)

As well as veering away from the brooding bloodsucker image, Jarmusch also shies away from the ravenous vampire image as well. (You know, where they spend every other scene trying to get their fill.) Instead, Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) simply depicted as normal people...who are only active at night and survive on blood.

I admire the contrast between Adam and Eve. She is shown in white clothing while he's always in black. She's often in harsh lighting while he's lurking in the shadows. She's adapted to the times while he's rather...out of date with some things. (Half of the technology in his house is from the 70s or 80s alone.) They're not kidding when they say opposites attract.

Only Lovers Left Alive is most definitely the film that'll make vampires cool again. There's some pretty solid supporting work from Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt, but this show belongs to Swinton and Hiddleston (the latter I hope will get more roles of this nature). So be sure to see this when you get the chance.

My Rating: ****1/2

The Big Chill

There's always that one film that sums up an entire generation. The Graduate focused on the baby boomers as they join the real life. (Likewise with Frances Ha for this generation.) It could be the story that makes it relatable, other times the characters.

In the case of Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill, it's the latter. Following the suicide of a friend, a group of friends get together to remember and mourn their friend. And then there are personal secrets that get revealed during that weekend.

I'll admit there were parts in the film that manage to hit close to home for, particularly a scene very early on in the film. The rest of The Big Chill was also a bit reminiscent of the following months after that particular event. So this was a far more relatable film than I initially thought.

As I stated above, it's the characters that make The Big Chill work. And for that, you need the right actors and Kasdan got the best ones for it. The actors were so great, I simply can't pick a favorite. (Though I was rather fond of William Hurt's work.)

Anyway, The Big Chill was simply a great film. Everything about it just works beautifully. It's not just a film for and about baby boomers. It's a film that handles coping with death very maturely with a nice mix of handling with other personal issues. It's great.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

MY TIFF Schedule

So guess who's in Toronto for a chunk of this month because they begged to go to a certain film festival?

This gal.

This is both my first time at a major film festival (hell, a film festival in general) and being out of the United States, so naturally I'm a bit excited. Anyway, to show how excited I am, I will now post which movies I will be seeing at the Toronto International Film Festival.

September 5
  • The Big Chill
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
September 7
  • Therese
September 8
  • Dallas Buyers Club
September 9
  • Rush
  • Under the Skin
September 10
  • August: Osage County
  • Rome, Open City
September 11 (my birthday!)
  • Kill Your Darlings
September 12
  • The Railway Man
  • The Stag
  • A Promise
September 13
  • The Love Punch
  • Prisoners
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
September 14
  • Dom Hemingway
  • Labor Day
  • 12 Years A Slave
So I'm basically seeing a good majority of my anticipated list for the rest of the year. I'm a little bummed out that I couldn't get tickets for The Fifth Estate and Gravity but they'll be in theaters in next month, so it's no skin off my nose.

Any of you jealous?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The World's End

It's that time of year again. The summer movie season is coming to an end, and this is when studios just basically dump certain releases. Often times, there are a few hidden gems amid the low-brow comedies and over-blown action movies.

What's one such movie from this year's roster? Edgar Wright's The World's End certainly qualifies. The third entry in his unofficial trilogy with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (the other two movies, for those not in the know, are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), it's a fitting finale for a funny franchise. (Try saying that three times fast.)

I liked the small call backs to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz throughout The World's End. (They're easy to catch if you've seen the other two.) In fact, the elements from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz seem to have merged to make The World's End. (That's not a bad thing in the slightest.)

But there are a few distinct differences in The World's End that slightly separate it from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. For starters, there are the roles Pegg and Frost are in. Usually it's Pegg as the straight man with Frost providing most of the movie's humor. Here, it's the four other leads (Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan) as the straight men while Pegg is practically bouncing off the walls. I like it.

Anyway, I really enjoyed The World's End though Shaun of the Dead is my favorite of the three. The ending may not work for some people I liked it. If you want to be a real sport, go and see this. You'll have a lot of fun with this one.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, September 1, 2013

BOOK VS MOVIE: The House of Mirth

In a drastic situation, one's true nature has the tendency to emerge. Whether a bitter person is actually quite sad or a meek person is more calculating than they appear, it can be a nice twist to the story.

Look at Lily Bart from The House of Mirth. Here is a woman that was raised to embrace wealth to the fullest and sabotages any chance of her leading a happy life. Then she becomes a target of a scandal in her social circle, and she realizes how self-centered New York high society really is.

Edith Wharton's novel has Lily speak with an air of arrogant grandiose from time to time. Alas, this is also present throughout the novel's general narration. You could view it as Wharton's way of conveying high society's true nature but all I saw was merely Wharton trying to sound impressive. (Then again, the novel is more or less from Lily's perspective, but still.)

Terence Davies' film captures both the opulence and flaws of Wharton's novel. And yet Davies manages to overcome Wharton's exuberant descriptions to make a mostly solid film. (The main selling point is Gillian Anderson in a role as far from The X-Files as possible.)

I wasn't won over by either the novel or the film very much but I will admit I was more fond of one than the other. The pluses and the negatives for both are relatively the same but it's not as severe in one. (Though I essentially stated which one it is.)

What's worth checking out?: The movie.