Monthly Archives: January 2013

Film Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on HudsonSometimes a combination of different genres and styles can be a good thing for a film. Not being pigeonholed can increase intrigue and stave off disinterest. Django Unchained is a perfect recent example. However, Django knows exactly what it wants to be and sticks to it throughout. The problem with Hyde Park on Hudson (a world away from Tarantino’s film, I know) is that it never really knows what it wants to be and ends up meandering around without committing to one style or the other.

The story focuses on US President Franklin D Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his love affair with distant cousin Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), referred to as Daisy, during a visit by the King and Queen of England to his country estate in Hyde Park, New York.

The synopsis puts the film firmly in the ‘drama’ category as does its opening. However, when Daisy suddenly gives FDR a handjob in the front seat of his car, things take somewhat of a bizarre turn. Prepare for many an odd sideways glance. All of a sudden, it wants to throw in some comedy. But then it’ll take it away again. Continue ad infinitum. The fact that it never settles for either prevents you from ever really investing in the story and is little more than confusing. It’s never dramatic enough for a drama nor funny enough for a comedy.

Another of the film’s issues is that its main story arc isn’t even the most interesting one. FDR and Daisy’s relationship is never explored in a meaningful enough way to care about and there is little to no development of either character. Instead, the royal visit of King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) is much more interesting and makes for an infinitely more engaging storyline. Both West and Coleman are very good in their roles, providing some of the more humorous moments on offer. However, both Linney and Murray don’t bring enough to the role match their British counterparts, although this is as much the fault of the largely poor script that too often champions adultery and subservient female roles.

HPoH is all about ‘special relationships’ but the one between Britain and America may stick in the throat of some Brits. Whilst healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, there seems to be none of that here and both British monarchs are frequently undermined and belittled. King George (or Bertie as he’s known) is presented as a bumbling, childish fool due to his stammer and inexperience as King and is often patronised by FDR. The (less than subtle) suggestion that the helpless British came grovelling for help from Uncle Sam to help them in World War II is also presented in rather a demeaning fashion.

With some films, it’s easy to say that they could have been so much more and how they could have been improved. However, to do that with HPoH would take almost an entire deconstruction of almost every element of the film. It’s an uninteresting story, many of the characters are unlikable and some of the directorial and script choices are lamentable. The film is based upon journals and diaries of Suckley’s that were discovered under a bed after her death, and perhaps some things should remain hidden.

1 and a half pigeons

1.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Django Unchained

Django UnchainedWhilst Lincoln examines the subject of slavery from a historical point of view, Django Unchained comes at it with a much more bombastic, satirical approach. But would you expect anything less from Quentin Tarantino, the man who has a penchant for the elaborate and whose last film, the superb Inglorious Basterds, rewrote World War II with Adolf Hitler being machine-gunned down in a movie theatre?

Django Unchained has a linear, single-story narrative, which is somewhat of a departure for Tarantino, and tells the tale of freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to free his wife from the clutches of vile plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

It’s difficult to pigeon hole any of Tarantino’s movies and this one is no exception. At face value it seems like a western, but even Tarantino himself doesn’t refer to it as that, instead calling it a “southern”. Despite that, there’s plenty more at play here, as is Tarantino’s inclination to beg, borrow and steal from just about every corner of the movie world; at the heart of the film is part buddy movie, part love story.

The staple Tarantino elements are all there: over the top violence, contemporary soundtrack, and oodles of witty dialogue. However, none of that dialogue would mean anything without some stellar performances to pull it off, and there are plenty of those here.

Christoph Waltz is, once again, imperious, his knack for making the grittiest of dialogue sound like beautiful poetry is a real joy to behold. Samuel L Jackson also shows that given the right material he can own a part unlike any other as the equally hilarious and abhorrent slave Steven. It’s Leo Dicaprio, however, who really stands out. Calvin Candie marks the first time DiCaprio has played the bad guy and he does it with true menace and complete and utter conviction. Jamie Foxx on the other hand as the titular Django doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his co-stars. Too often he’s overshadowed and doesn’t have the conviction and bite the role requires.

One thing that the film does suffer from is a running time that’s about 30 minutes too long. There simply isn’t enough story there to warrant such length and there are a number of scenes which wouldn’t have been missed if they’d been left on the cutting room floor. There is a much neater, more succinct film in there somewhere but Tarantino seems to allow a little too much self-indulgence at times.

The theme of slavery getting the Tarantino treatment may not sit right with some and this is indeed thin ice the director is walking at times (casual use of the ‘N-word’ is rife throughout), but he never falls through it. Above all things, Django Unchained is a hell of a lot of fun and shows a further willingness to explore serious subject matter but in the only way he knows how.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Lincoln

LincolnSteven Spielberg needed a big hit. He’s directed some decent pictures – Munich, The Terminal and Catch Me If You Can spring to mind, but he’s arguably not had a critically-acclaimed smash since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. That’s a long time. He’s also had a couple of duds – hello War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Pointless MacGuffin - so it was about time he showed us that he still has some of the old magic. By taking on Lincoln he’s tackling one of the most important periods of American history, one of their most revered political figures and the subject of racial inequality. Surely, that’s a recipe for success?

Lincoln, in some form, has been knocking around for a while (since 1999, in fact) and has undergone a fair few changes. It is adapted from a small section of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of the 16th President of the United States and focuses on his efforts during January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the House of Representatives, the Amendment that would effectively abolish slavery. Don’t go expecting any of Abe’s early life or anything regarding The Gettysburg Address; this is no biopic, but a snapshot of just a few weeks.

As you would expect of a film covering such subject matter, it is heavily political and many of the scenes are confined to within four walls and are primarily dialogue driven. Fortunately, playwright Tony Kushner (with whom Spielberg worked with on Munich) has produced a script that is detailed and thorough but also accessible, charming and full of wit. It requires you to pay attention throughout; a missed sideways glance or off-the-cuff remark can result in missing important information, but for those fully immersed in the story (and it’s very easy to be so), it’s incredibly rewarding. Some knowledge of the history of the time and of the American judicial system, however, would be beneficial. Although it the film never excludes those without such knowledge, those that do may get a little more out of it.

Throughout the film, we see Abe in his many guises: family man, raconteur, politician, all of which are as intriguing and beguiling as the next, and much of the credit for that must go to Daniel Day-Lewis. The role of Abraham Lincoln originally belonged to Liam Neeson, but when he pulled out Day-Lewis stepped in to fill his beard. Day-Lewis plays Lincoln with a weariness you would expect of someone in his mid-fifties running the most powerful country in the world, his lanky frame and sunken shoulders heavy with countless burdens, both personal and political. From the opening titles, through the inevitable climax to the rather unnecessary denouement, Day-Lewis gives a masterful portrayal of Honest Abe, and without it the film would simply not be as effective as it is.

An equally impressive performance is that of Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, although the overacting Sally Fields and the tacked on Joseph Gordon-Levitt are a little light on character development.

Lincoln is Spielberg at his restrained best. Flanked by impressive cinematography (courtesy of DP Janusz Kaminsky) and a tight script (aside from the odd moment that descends a little too much into slapstick), Spielberg has put together a more personable film that it could otherwise have been and one that should ensure he remains one of Hollywood’s top properties.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Les Miserables

Les Miserables

I love the stage production of Les Miserables. Maybe not the most fashionable thing for a male in his mid-twenties to say, but that’s how it is. I was in a (school) production of it a while back playing various small parts, as is my inability to sing very well, and pretty much instantly grew very fond of it. I then saw the stage show in London and was blown away by it. I have, therefore, been really rather looking forward to a full musical version finally hitting the big screen.

The plot is a little complicated but I’ll do my best to explain. It’s revolutionary France and Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison on parole. However, he breaks his parole and goes on the run, pursued by the fiercely law-abiding Javert (Russell Crowe). Years later, Valjean, now a town mayor, comes across the dieing Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who turned to prostitution after Valjean failed to stop her getting sacked from her job in a factory. Wracked with guilt, Valjean agrees to take custody of Fantine’s daughter Cosette who is living with corrupt innkeepers The Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonam Carter). Fastforward eight or nine years and French students are planning a revolution. Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) is still living with Valjean and falls in love with student rebel Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who is also the apple of the Thenardiers’ daughter Eponine (Samantha Barks). Javert continues to pursue Valjean as the students’ uprising begins.

And breathe. A bit longwinded, that, but a short synopsis simply wouldn’t do the story’s scale justice. It’s a story of epic proportion and quite the undertaking for The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper. Les Mis has been brought to the big screen a couple of times but never as a faithful adaptation of the long running stage show, and Hooper wants to hammer home the message that this is pretty new ground for the musical.

Anne HathawayFor example, when you’re in the theatre, depending on where you’re sitting, everything is somewhere around medium/medium long shot distance, but here Hooper gives us shots and angles you simply don’t get in the theatre – namely long shots and close ups. So many close ups. Most solos are accompanied by a personal space-invading close up, allowing us to get more from the facial expressions that you perhaps would from viewing a stage show. This is a clever tactic but one that becomes a little weary when it’s been done for the 43rd time.

Same goes for the long shot, whether it be static, sweeping, soaring, tracking, etc; we’re constantly being reminded that this is something that film offers us that the stage cannot. However, this is completely at odds with many of the locations which don’t disguise the fact that they’re filmed on a sound stage. There’s actually a claustrophobic feel to many of the locations, giving the impression that there’s nothing beyond what’s not on screen. Whether this is intended as some sort of homage to the stage show is anyone’s guess. This also leads the film to feel like a series of set pieces, rather than one continuous story. On stage, sets and characters come and go seamlessly, but the film-exclusive feature of editing eliminates this, which doesn’t help the fluidity of the story.

Onto the performances. Hugh Jackman is excellent as Valjean, flexing his rather impressive vocal chords and further establishing himself as one of the most depressingly perfect men in the world. Eddie Redmayne is also impressive in his breakthrough role as Marius, whilst Samantha Barks does admirably in the role of Eponine she reprises from the West End show. Much credit also, as has been said many times already, must go to Anna Hathaway. As Fantine she gives a performance so heart-achingly affecting that, although she’s only on screen for a short time, she steals the entire show, her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, sure to go down as a career-defining moment.

Les Mis - at the barricadeSo there’s the good; how about the not so good? Probably best start with Mr Crowe. In short, Russell Crowe can’t really sing, which is pretty important in a musical. Javert should be intimidating, but Crowe’s faux rock star gravelly rasp just doesn’t sit right. He’s trying to hit notes his voice just wasn’t meant to hit. That said, it’s not a complete abomination that many have suggested. Amanda Seyfried must also come under fire in the vocal department. She’s another name to add to the poster but her voice is so shrill at times that only dogs and bats can actually hear her.

Les Miserables isn’t a short film and the second half of the film doesn’t quite grab the attention as consistently as the first, although this issue is rooted in the stage show rather than limited to the film. It does feel ever so slightly on the long side but when you consider you would normally have a 15 minute interval half way through, this is hardly surprising. The majority of the music in the second half doesn’t carry quite as much energy as what’s come before, with many of the key songs being slow, downbeat affairs. The main storyline also shifts dramatically from that of Valjean to the revolution, which feels a little jarring considering we have spent no time invested in this storyline up until then. It’s a long way into the film to introduce such a major story arc.

The good in Les Miserables vastly outweighs the bad and I’m perfectly happy with the way it has been adapted for the screen. Indeed, some of the problems it does have come from the source (by source, I mean the musical, not the Victor Hugo book). It may take some a little time to get used to characters singing literally almost every single line, but that only adds to the experience. It was a directorial masterstroke by Tom Hooper to have all the actors sing live rather than dub them in post production as it really helps convey the emotions of the characters and give it a more realistic feel. Not all works transfer effectively from stage to screen but this is one that was long overdue and, baring the odd falter, has done so with bags of emotion and raw power.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Chris

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Film Review: The Impossible

The ImpossibleJuan Antonio Bayona’s first full-length feature was 2007’s excellent ghost/horror story The Orphanage. With The Impossible, Bayona has created a film that has no ghosts, no monsters, no real jumps, but is a more effective horror film than many others lumped into the genre.

It’s the true story of a family holidaying in Thailand caught up in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over a quarter of a million people. Mother of the family Maria (Naomi Watts) is badly injured when the wave hits their beach resort and must rely on her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) to help her reach safety. Meanwhile, father Henry (Ewan McGregor) must take care of his two youngest sons, unaware as to whether his wife and other son are still alive.

With the tsunami still fresh in the minds of many, some may argue, eight years on, that it’s still too early to make a film about such a tragic event. The Impossible doesn’t hold back, either; it’s hard-hitting and rather uncomfortable to watch as you see death and destruction that tore so many lives and families apart reconstructed for your viewing ‘pleasure’. The effects are fantastic and the filmmakers have done an excellent job of conveying the panic, helplessness and horror as people, trees, houses get washed away in the blink of an eye. It’s brutal and makes no apology for it. The sound plays a huge part in this and is truly disturbing (although superb) at times, ranging from complete silence to horrifying rushing, gargling, ripping – an immensely stimulating aural experience.

However, whilst the film is gripping for the first half, it does lose its way in the second half and there are too many scenes that kill the pacing. It seems to meander around with some scenes feeling completely redundant. There’s even a dream sequence recalling the start of the film when the wave struck, as if to inject a bit of life back into the narrative. There are also times when things become a little too dramatised and are clearly added for emotional effect, which could lead to an awareness that your emotions are being manipulated just a tad, although this doesn’t stop the emotional punches being just as heavy when they do arrive.

Naomi WattsMuch of the film’s effectiveness comes from the performances of the actors and in particular Naomi Watts. From the outset, Watts is brilliant; you feel every one of her injuries and it’s exhausting seeing her struggle, wince, scream and cry for a large chunk of the film. An equally impressive showing is that from 16-year-old Tom Holland who plays his role with a maturity far beyond his years and, for the most part, outshines his more experienced co-star Mr McGregor. To be fair, McGregor does little wrong here, although aside from one heartbreaking scene, emotions are very much invested in the other characters.

A lot has been made of changing the nationality of the family from Spanish to English for the sake of the film and it is clearly profit-orientated. Had the film had been a Spanish-language film or hadn’t had the big names attached to it, it simply wouldn’t have made as big an impact. Sad but that’s the way Hollywood works much of the time. There is also a salient argument regarding the rather one-sided angle from which the film views the disaster, focusing on one family rather than the wider effects the tsunami had. However, it’s a largely ridiculous argument. This is a film about that family’s plight and has every right to be told. Just because they aren’t native to that country doesn’t make their story any less important or astonishing. Where there is a valid argument, however, is that  the film may well have had a more emotional impact if some of the more devastating effects had been shown. This would have presented a more balanced picture of the disaster as well as giving the family’s story more context and even more emotional weight.

Disaster movies often get a bit of a bad rep for being mindless – heavy on style, light on substance. The Impossible, however, proves that there is room in that genre for films that buck that trend. This is no Day After Tomorrow eye porn that leaves you feeling soulless and guilty afterwards (just like regular porn, really); The Impossible is visceral, hard-hitting and emotive from start to finish.

4 pigeons

    4/5 pigeons

Chris

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Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop:

Tim over at Not Now I’m Watching a Movie and Drinking a Beer is running a Jack Black showcase, A Week at Bernie’s, of which I am a part of with my look back at School of Rock and why I love it. He’s also offering the chance to win Black’s Bernie on DVD. Head on over and check it out.

Originally posted on Beermovie.net:

School of Rock was the film that first put Jack Black on the radar of many people (myself included). In this guest post, Chris from the fantastic Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop sees how it holds up.

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Say what you want about Jack Black but when he finds a role that fits, he can give some pretty entertaining performances. School of Rock (2003) doesn’t just fit with him; it’s the perfect fit. When it came out in 2003, Black was at the height of his Tenacious D fame and so the combination of film and over the top music was a match made in heaven.

Granted, if you really can’t stand Jack Black then this film is probably not the one that’s going to change your mind. Black is his usual brash, in-your-face self which many (including myself if not in moderation) can find grating. Yet here it all seems appropriate.

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What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen… Unforgiven?

Unforgiven In the latest ‘What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen…?’ post, where I finally get round to watching films people are incredulous I haven’t already seen, I am going to be taking a look at the 1993 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Unforgiven. Spoilers, naturally.

Plot: In the little town of Big Whiskey, the local prostitutes are just trying to earn a living doing what they do. However, one of the girls rubs a customer up the wrong way (not like that) and ends up getting herself cut up and left with severe facial disfigurements. When lawman Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) fails to take the appropriate action over the offence, the other prostitutes decide to take matters into their own hands and offer a bounty on the offenders’ heads. This attracts the attention of cowboy  The Schofield Kid who approaches retired badass William Munny (Clint Eastwood) to help him with the hit. Munny begrudgingly accepts and enlists his former partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to help.

Unforgiven was the first western Clint Eastwood had made in seven years, since 1985’s Pale Rider, and would mark the last one he would make (to this point). Immediately this draws parallels with Unforgiven’s plot. Eastwood hadn’t retired from making westerns but had left the film until he felt he was old enough to play the character of William Munny. In the same way Munny shows that he still has what it takes, Eastwood also proves that he can still gunsling with the best of them. Is this a bit of self-glorification on Eastwood’s part? Possibly, but it really doesn’t matter. There is also a more gentle side of Munny, as suggested at in the film’s brief prologue text, which allows this to be a more rounded performance from Eastwood and one that would earn him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Whilst Eastwood is the cold hard killer with a softer side, Morgan Freeman’s Ned Logan shows absolutely no sign of ever being capable of taking someone out and is a rather odd character. He’s the other side of Munny, the one who can’t go through with the bounty and has fully changed his ways, but Freeman just doesn’t give the impression he could ever have been a killer and is not wholly believable. What is also little unsettling is the scene in which Logan is whipped by Little Bill. The symbolism of this scene is fairly obvious (whether intended or not) and coupled with the almost KKK-style display of the body illuminated by torches, it seems a little jarring.

Moral compass

Logan & MunnyA major theme running right through the heart of Unforgiven is that of morality. We are constantly being challenged to question the morality of pretty much all the characters. Who is wrong and who is right? Are any of them wrong or right or are the lines blurred? The prostitutes feel rightly aggrieved at the lack of justice but is it right for them to offer up a bounty on the offenders’ heads, especially when the victim seems happy enough to accept their apologies. Similarly, is Munny justified in taking on the hit? He wants to right a wrong (as well as earn some money) but killing someone who technically has already been sentenced, could well be seen as a morally wrong act. Logan decides not to go through with the job but was technically conspiring to murder and supplied a murder weapon. He seems to be doing the right thing but still has plenty of blood on his hands.

Little Bill is a prime example of the moral ambiguity present in the film. He stands for law and order and is trying to protect his town from violence. He’s building himself a nice little house. He seems like the epitome of all that is good. Yet for some reason he’s just as hateable as likable. He doesn’t dish out adequate punishment for the man who cut up the girl, yet kills Logan. For someone who apparently stands against violence, he’s quick to dish it out. He’s just a flawed individual, just like everybody else in the film. Maybe there is no wrong or right and the moral compass is one that never settles no matter which way it’s pointed.

Don’t believe everything you hear

As well as morality, Unforgiven also brings up the themes of lying and the way reputations can be built on little more than hearsay. Munny is apparently a hardened killer of women and children yet we know that he was married, has children and seemed to have changed his ways. Did he really kill women and children or are those merely tales spun that have been accepted as fact. Furthermore, the girl who is attacked apparently, according to The Schofield Kid, had her eyes but out and her breasts cut off. We know this not to be true yet that’s the story that has been told. An entire character, English Bob (Richard Harris), is based around the idea that the truth has been contorted and manipulated for one’s own ends, and The Schofield Kid is another who has lied to make people believe a certain version of events. Pretty much everyone in the film twists the truth at some juncture to serve their own purposes.

Unforgiven

So who are the ‘unforgiven’? Well, again, it’s pretty much everyone. Despite doing the right thing, Logan is unforgiven for his past crimes, as is Munny (although he pretty much gets away with his aside from losing his friend). The girl’s attackers are unforgiven despite offering to give her their best horse as recompense. Little Bill is unforgiven for not properly sentencing the attackers, whilst The Schofield Kid will never forgive himself for his crime. Every single character in the film has a rich story to tell which makes it one of the deepest westerns you could hope to see.

The cinematography is beautiful throughout, particularly the plains and landscapes. The snow-covered scenery is perhaps the most eye-catching (even if it does make the timeline of events rather confusing, suggesting more time has passed than it really has) and is especially remarkable considering it was not at all scripted and was a merely a freak snowstorm.

If this really is Eastwood’s last ever western, then what a high note to go out on. It might be a little bit of fan service and an ego trip for him but there’s also a lot to it than that. Cowboys have always been about bringing justice to the Wild West but Unforgiven, in a similar way to John Ford’s The Searchers, makes it difficult to always distinguish between right and wrong.

Chris

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Looking Back/Looking Forward – My Janus Post

Odd title that, I know. Not if you’re a fan of the James Bond flick Goldeneye though. Or if you have a knowledge of Roman mythology. You see, Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transition. He has two heads: one looking backwards and one forwards and is how the month of January got its name.

Janus

This is my post looking back over 2012 and looking forward to 2013. Anyway, enough of that essentially pointless information. Let’s crack on.

Looking Back – 2012

I didn’t start this blog until March, so I can’t comment on anything before then but plenty has happened since. When I first started, I was posting all sorts of things like trailers and previews of the films out that week but it wasn’t long before I couldn’t keep up with all of that and decided to just post what I wanted when I wanted. Much easier. So what are my film highlights of 2012?

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Film Review: Life of Pi

Life of PiMaybe it’s time we stopped calling certain movies ‘unfilmable’. Lord of the Rings was apparently unfilmable and looked how that turned out. It was impossible to turn Jack Kerouac’s On The Road into a film they said, yet they managed it. Life of Pi was yet another film supposedly unfilmable, yet director Ang Lee has made a complete mockery of that claim and has produced something that proves said term is surely now obsolete.

Based on the 2001 Man Booker Prize winner of the same name, Life of Pi is the story of Pi Patel whose family must relocate their zoo from India to Canada. However, during a terrible storm their ship sinks and Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Well, not quite alone; he has a huge Bengal tiger called Richard Parker (animals with human names are the best) for company. Pi has to somehow survive being in such close quarters with the tiger, as well as battle the elements and overcome his hunger, thirst and loneliness.

In that short synopsis it’s pretty easy to see why the film was considered unfilmable – Pi has to be on a lifeboat next to a freakin’ great tiger. No insurance company is going to cover that. Therefore it would have to be done with CGI, and up until reasonably recently the technology wasn’t available to pull it off. Now, however, it very much is and it’s been done with aplomb. The visuals are simply astounding from start to finish. The animation of all the animals, particularly Richard Parker, is breathtaking and it doesn’t take long to forget entirely that they aren’t real. It’s a real reminder of some of the amazing animals there are out there on the planet, even if, in this case, most of them are made on a computer.

The cinematography only adds to the film’s splendour. Almost every shot looks like a work of art, whether it’s gigantic waves crashing against the boat, a whale gobbling up millions of bioluminescent sea creatures or an ocean of calm and serenity with nothing but open water as far as the eye can see. This is where the 3D must also get a mention. Even for 3D dissenters, of which there are many, Life of Pi shows that it can work and there is a place for it if done correctly. Whilst many 3D films are lazily put together, Ang Lee has clearly taken the time to think how it would be best used and the effects are very satisfying. It’s not gratuitous and doesn’t feel like a gimmick, which is about as much as you can ask for. You’ll likely not miss out on much by seeing it in old fashioned tood but the 3D certainly won’t spoil the film as is often the case.

Pi & Richard Parker

In terms of performances, there isn’t really a huge amount going on other than that of the various actors portraying Pi at different ages. Suraj Sharma, who is the Pi we see on the lifeboat, does an admirable job, especially considering he’s acting to nothing for the most part. Having to pretend you’re in a certain place or certain things are there when you’re acting is something that more and more actors are having to deal with thanks to CGI, but at no point is Sharma anything other than completely believable and committed to the role. Irrfan Kahn as the adult Pi also does well despite having limited screen time. The other major character is, of course, Richard Parker, and by the end of the film it’s easy to become just as invested in him as it is Pi.

Life of Pi is a film about storytelling. It is told in flashbacks narrated by adult Pi to a writer (Raff Spall in the world’s easiest paycheck) and is incredibly simple in its construction. It’s an incredibly pure form of storytelling leading to an conclusion which has the ability to beguile and astound and is ripe for interpretation and analysis. The film does take its time in getting going, with some details and scenes feeling a little unnecessary in the first 20 minutes or so, but after that everything is paced perfectly. Just one scene featuring an island of meerkats feels slightly odd.

Another major theme of the film is that of religion and the existence of God. This may attract some and may put others off, but if you are one thinking of giving it a miss on that basis, then you should reconsider. At no point does the film preach or ram pro-religious messages down your throat (believe me, as an atheist I would be the first to mention if it did). Instead, it simply lets you make up your own mind, treating the audience with a huge amount of respect. Almost everything in the film can be taken at face value or as metaphor, allowing you to take as much or as little from it as you like. Some have said that Life of Pi will make you believe in God, but that’s missing the entire point of the film. It’s much more intelligent than that.

So let’s do away with the term ‘unfilmable’, shall we? Life of Pi proves that this is an antiquated term nowadays, and if there are any other texts considered ‘unfilmable’, perhaps we should just give them to Ang Lee.

5 pigeons

5/5 pigeons

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 33,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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