Movie Review – Gone Girl

Spoilers. Sorry.

OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- GONE GIRL -

IMDB Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (62,612 votes)

Director: David Fincher

The poster for Gone Girl.

The poster for Gone Girl.

Nick Dunne is a bad husband. No matter how much he endeavours to be good, he can’t do it. Throughout his 5-year marriage with Amy Dunne, the cracks begin to appear bit by bit, culminating in her disappearance. At the beginning of their relationship, they swear not to be “that couple”. They identify other marriages as one thing, and hold themselves to an ideal which is the contrary, an ideal which conforms to what they believe is a healthy relationship. After 5 years, their marriage is far from healthy. They’re both at fault, but who really holds the blame? If Nick Dunne is a bad husband, why does ‘Gone Girl’ demand that we like him?

It’s a strange and consequential thought that the film toys with. Acclaimed director David Fincher, whose career has been made by films like ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Fight Club’, chooses to once again explore the psychological war of humans-against-humans in his new thriller. ‘Gone Girl’ is typical Fincher – it’s dark, brooding and bold. Elements of comedy are placed inconsequentially throughout the film, like a drop of water entering the ocean, because ‘Gone Girl’ is pessimistic, it’s bleak and it’s essentially depressing. Don’t go into this film if you’re just about to lose faith in humanity: ‘Gone Girl’ may just do it for you.

Straight away, Fincher, or rather the screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the bestselling novel, introduces us to this idea that humans are violent and vicious. “When I think of my wife,” Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) narrates, “I always think of her head – I picture cracking open her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.” We don’t know when he says this, or why – we can make an educated guess that it’s around the time of his wife’s disappearance – but we can only assume that he wants answers. He needs an explanation of how it all went wrong. The failed expectations of an ideal couple. He was only trying to be the best husband he could, which was his problem. His marriage was a psychological war. And in this war, there is only one rule: never let your opponent know what you’re thinking. Nick had to find this out the hard way – choosing a manipulative, evil genius of a wife didn’t help.

Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) picks him for the fool he is. Nick believes in true love. Amy knows better than that. She has the uncanny ability to spot Nick’s weaknesses, and she exploits them. Nick makes it too obvious that he only wants Amy because he believes marriage is normal. He doesn’t love her, and she doesn’t love him. This idea of image is central to the film’s ideas. It’s all about what’s on the outside. Portraying an image of happiness is why these two are together, and it’s why Nick decides to stay at the end. He wants to keep up his profile. He’s won over everybody, every single person that ever doubted him. Why ruin all that public admiration?

Fincher sends us on a rollercoaster and absolutely loves every moment of it. Ven from the opening credits, the two-second shots and disappearing names of the production team, we know that nothing in this small town is definite: everything is constantly changing. There’s such craft to the screenwriting and the suspense, the unreliable narration, which is so brilliantly misleading. There are moments of violence which are built up like a symphony, as Fincher gives us little clues here and there – a suggestive recording on a tape; a throw-away shot of someone grabbing a razor; someone sneaking into the bathroom in a seemingly meaningless moment – before he finally culminates all of these things into one violent and very disturbing act. It’s these things that Fincher does exceptionally well with ‘Gone Girl’. He leads us on. And he’s very, very good at it.

I did not having anything to do with the disappearance of my wife...

I did not having anything to do with the disappearance of my wife…

The film is so incredibly pessimistic that, at times, it’s hard to contemplate ever seeing marriage in the same way again. Nick and Amy are such a failure, down to the tiniest detail. They live in a big empty home and work average jobs. They have no kids. They are so desperately unhappy, both of them, and they each resort to their own coping mechanisms, which I would spoil if I weren’t so diplomatic. This marriage is doomed from the moment they utter the words “I do”, which we don’t see because it would show a kind of unity that Nick and Amy should never represent.

The thing that makes ‘Gone Girl’ so gripping is that it’s essentially asking us to be the detectives. We’re required to make our own mind up about Nick and Amy in order to make any part of this film work. Every other person in America has already judged the pair of them, so why not us? We need to sympathise with one character. It’s obvious whose side we’re on during the first hour. So incredibly obvious. As soon as we reveal the fate of Amy, we then realise we’ve been completely mislead and we switch sides as soon as possible. Fincher so easily twists our mind, it’s like we’re the actual caseworkers. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is second-guessing Nick the whole film. She doesn’t want to make her mind up just yet, but as each clue stacks up, she has no real choice, just like us viewers. Her partner, Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), made up his mind before the case was even opened.

And then the ending comes and it’s brilliant, because it allows us to make our own mind up. Throughout this entire film we’ve been a puppet in David Fincher’s grand show. He’s manipulated us and he’s thrown us in every which way and we’ve gone along with it because, hey, who wants to sympathise with the wife-killer? Even the people who believe he’s innocent – his sister (Carrie Coon) especially – can’t help but wonder if Nick is actually a murderer.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to think of ‘Gone Girl’. It’s like the night sky – you feel like you can look into it forever, but you never really know what the hell’s actually going on up there. It’s the same here. Trying to puzzle out the mindset of all the parties involved in this marital mess is probably not a good thing after all. The investigation could easily be solved if Nick, Boney and Tanner Bolt (aptly played by Tyler Perry) just worked a little harder to uncover Amy’s story. Because in the end, who really believes Amy? Who wants to believe her? And furthermore, who actually leaves the cinema thinking she got her comeuppance?

It’s this that frustrated me about ‘Gone Girl’: what it said about humanity. For all the craft, the amazing suspense, the tantalising clues and the gripping nature of the watch, a basic need of a story – an ending – is left lacking. The film is so firmly pessimistic, it’s hard to know if Fincher was being serious or he was just making a film about bad people. I don’t mind the pessimism, in fact I like its boldness, but the ending is flat-footed and frustrating. Maybe Fincher was just trying to say what humanity really is: a war against the sexes. Nick Dunne even knows it. He knows it from the start. “What will we do to each other?”

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Grand Budapest Hotel

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL -

IMDB Rating: 8.4 out of 10 (53,809 votes)

Director: Wes Anderson

The poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

There aren’t many filmmakers like Wes Anderson. Although I’m not overly familiar with all of his work, his 2012 film ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ was my favourite of that year; it’s a big-hearted look at teenage love, family issues and growing up. As bizarre as it is simple, completely admirable in the sense that it never takes itself too seriously but in the end it forces you to consider what it’s saying.

Perhaps it’s not as simple, but Anderson’s new film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, is absolutely true to form. Every shot is composed specifically to intrigue, to portray themes and ideas as succinctly as possible. ‘Grand Budapest’ relishes in captivating beauty, on the surface and beyond. Wes Anderson creates this fascinating, sometimes mythical character for us to indulge in; Ralph Fiennes, perfectly cast as said character, portrays all the mystery and wonderment that M. Gustave personifies. The style of the film, the construction, the ensemble and the craft of it all, it’s absolutely beautiful. A film of the highest order, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is simply delightful.

The film and its characters have this sort of gravity to them. Slowly but surely they’re sucking you in to the story. Ralph Fiennes exerts class and curiosity seamlessly. Tony Revolori, who plays the lobby boy Zero, has his belief totally suspended by Monsieur Gustave H. His whole life seems to take a 180-degree turn when he arrives at the Grand Budapest Hotel, which lies high up in the fictional European alpine state of Zubrowka, But as Zero’s life turns around, so does Gustave’s; around Zero he seems more confident, more wordy, with more of that esteemed air exerted from his sheer appearance in a scene. We are without question happier when Gustave and Zero are united in the frame – the two are a match made in heaven.

The film is much more plotted than ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, at least from what I can remember. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is a film much less concerned with moving the story along and more interested in exploring themes and visual beauty. ‘Grand Budapest’ might have worked the same way if it wanted to, but what we’re given instead is more than satisfying. We take some crazy turns here, some unexpected thrill rides – that is quite literal in one scene involving a crafty stop-motion ski descent down a snowy mountain.

We start with Gustave’s days as concierge at the Grand Budapest in 1932. The lands in and around Zubrowka are quickly becoming ravaged by war. We understand more about Gustave, including his hobby: taking old women to bed. But when a former lover, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), is murdered, suspicion falls on Gustave – she has left a very expensive painting entitled “Boy with Apple” in his name. So what does he do next? He runs, of course. But it is hopeless, and Gustave is soon arrested. What follows can only be described as a mishmash of bizarre circumstances involving an enraged son (Adrien Brody), a cold-blooded assassin (Willem Dafoe), a hardened prisoner (Harvey Keitel), and Zero’s girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

Keep your hands off my lobby boy!

Keep your hands off my lobby boy!

It’s all a little nuts, in that Wes Anderson way, but it works, again true to Anderson’s form. Not once is it predictable, nor too far-fetched. It works in the universe it’s in. Of course, that universe is unabashedly different to much else we see in modern-day cinemas. But boy, does it work. The construction and design of Zubrowka is marvellous – it’s crazy and colourful, everything about it shouts “confectionary on a screen”. Every shot packs a punch. Anderson is wonderful because, among other reasons, even his establishing shots work on another level. A good example is when Zero and Gustave stand on the edge of a mountaintop monastery. The camera starts very far away, but as we hear the two talking, we slowly zoom in until we find our two heroes, standing alone. Not only is it the kind of shot you could frame, put on a wall and call “art”, it shows how these two people live in different worlds than everyone else, how they function on another level together.

This film’s jostling between time periods, and between settings, is expertly done and wraps up beautifully at the end. I will admit, I wasn’t totally grabbed by the first 10 minutes of the film, but the way the film’s ending worked in the same universe as it’s beginning, well, it simply made me want to stand up and applaud. Sometimes it can be tricky to work in three different time periods and make it an utter success, but Anderson pulls it off. His screenplay functions within these realms masterfully.

But I guess it’s inevitable that I fall back to Monsieur Gustave H. What a very interesting character. Here we have a man who, towards the back-end of the film, has amounted incredible wealth. But from the beginning of the film, he seems out-of-place, like he comes from a time much simpler, presumably in the past. His manner is old-fashioned; his wit is something different; he prefers older women rather than those from the current generation. Wealth never seems a big priority. Instead, he’s so grateful to be named the person receiving “Boy with Apple”, because continuing the past seems important to him. Something about Gustave shouts “the past” in big, purple, centred letters. He can’t escape this dated way of life, although admittedly, he’s not really trying to.

So it’s hardly a surprise that, totally and wholeheartedly, this film is a story of how we connect between time, how our stories are passed on, about the nature of history. Wes Anderson is perhaps trying to say that stories like that of Gustave are better told, better shared, the memories better kept alive, because without care, they die, just like the hotel that was once so mighty, so beautiful, since reduced to a barren land of dated memories. It’s incredibly tragic and heart-breakingly beautiful in a way, but as I said at the start of this review, it’s the kind of film that “never takes itself too seriously, but in the end it forces you to consider what it’s saying.”

MY RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Lego Movie

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- THE LEGO MOVIE -

IMDB Rating: 8.3 out of 10 (63,513 votes)

Director: Chris Miller and Phil Lord

The poster for The Lego Movie.

The poster for The Lego Movie.

‘The Lego Movie’ is pure insanity. The idea is one of brilliance – at least it appears that way now – but it would be ignorant to think that in the beginning, it was realistic to think such an awesome film would come from the concept. The imagination required; the attention to detail needed; before it seemed like the job was too great. It turned out to be not only achievable – the film is a downright piece of magic.

The sheer audacity of directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (‘21 Jump Street’, ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’) is not to be underestimated. This film is a mammoth piece of exploratory imagination, and they must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel for some of the ideas here – a time and space portal doesn’t seem like a massive breakthrough concept, but considering what other devices are involved in this plot, the brains of these two men had surely been cleaned out.

Yet these two men manage to juggle batty concept on top of batty concept beautifully. The end of film accepts the very likely possibility that this will become a franchise – ‘Lego Movie’ number 2 is scheduled for a 2017 release – and I’m fine with that, because the pure joy and wonderment ‘The Lego Movie’ induces can only be better in higher quantities.

For background’s sake, ‘The Lego Movie’ tells the story of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a regular, everyday Lego guy in a regular, everyday Lego world. His life revolves around following instruction manuals to get through his daily routine, along with many others, making him somewhat of a nobody. But after a confrontation with a girl named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), he discovers that he may be the “chosen one” – Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman) preached a prophesy involving a chosen one saving all mankind earlier in the film.

Typical, everyday, kid’s action movie trash right? Absolutely not. As the plot develops, things take a turn towards the crazy side. All of a sudden, Emmet finds himself in multiple Lego worlds, being flown around by Batman (Will Arnett) whilst learning about the phrase “master builder”. That’s not even the end of it. I won’t spoil anything, but just to prove how mad this film is, let me give you a word:

Kragle.

If you had seen the movie, you would find THAT word – yep, Kragle – absolutely hilarious.

The beginning of the film is absolutely infectious. It is impossible not to have a smile on your face throughout the first 10 minutes of ‘The Lego Movie’. And I’m not talking about some sheepish grin. I’m talking a full-blown, ear-to-ear kind of smile, one that simply won’t go away no matter how hard you try. It’s the kind of opening that makes you happy to be alive, happy to be enjoying life. Reading that, it may come across as shallow and sentimental, but let me assure you, that’s not the case. It’s creative, beautiful to look at, and perhaps above all, absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. I saw this in a near-empty cinema with a few pairs of adults with children, and the fact that I was out-cackling the both of them throughout the film is undeniable proof that this film is 100 minutes of non-stop glee.

Everything is awesome.

Everything is awesome.

I will admit, I do have a soft spot for animated films. The three ‘Toy Story’ films rank among my favourites, animated or not. ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Monsters Inc.’ are not far off and, I will admit, there’s something endearing to me about films like ‘Frankenweenie’ and ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’. The imagination and fun involved in the creation of animated films gets me every time. Is it the most artistic genre of filmmaking? Maybe. Is it one of the best? Possibly. These questions need not be directly answered, just thought about, because there truly isn’t much like an incredibly funny, warm-hearted animated film. And ‘The Lego Movie’ fits the bill. In fact, it passes the test in flying colours. Flying, coloured blocks, actually.

The animation is truly superb in ‘The Lego Movie’, but that’s to be expected. Visuals aren’t a problem with these two directors – ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’ is one of the most distinct animated films of the past decade because of it’s massive scale and brightly-coloured, smooth animation. Here, it’s a little more difficult, because the characters have to move in choppy, quick steps, rather than smooth, realistic animation. But the execution is terrific. As soon as you see Emmett walking around his apartment, you realize there’s a new level of detail in this animation compared to other films.

So what exactly is ‘The Lego Movie’ about? There are multiple answers to this question. Sure, it’s about the importance of believing in yourself, about trust, about maturing, and about childhood. But more than that, it’s saying something important about fitting in, which is an idea more aimed towards young adults (don’t be fooled, though – this film is for absolutely every age bracket.) Yet the idea is explored fittingly, because of what the basic concept of Lego is. Lego is meant to fit together; it’s meant to work according to the manual. Emmet himself lives in a world where living by your own rules flags you as an outcast. The first thing Emmet does in the morning is greet everything in his apartment and then head straight for his instruction manual bookshelf just to know what to do next.

But Lego is very often subject to a child’s imagination, and so the tables are turned. Heads are displaced, random uniforms are assorted, and heroes in completely different stratospheres all of a sudden become allies. As is the nature of Lego, though. Imagination turns out to be an agent of change. That’s where ‘The Lego Movie’ steps up and becomes something more. The main characters, animated or human, are all forced to undergo a necessary change. It is Emmet’s real goal, obvious to viewers or not, to become independent. He wants to be his own guy, not what the instructions say he should be. And I guess that’s an idea we’re all very conscious of, child or not, and reading the film as an exploratory piece on the nature of independence, ‘The Lego Movie’ just gets better.

MY RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Movie Review – American Hustle

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- AMERICAN HUSTLE -

IMDB Rating: 7.9 out of 10 (44,068 votes)

Director: David O. Russell

The poster for American Hustle.

The poster for American Hustle.

There’s a line between clear and unclear that is very fine, very small, and very easily leads to confusion. To strike up a delicate balance between the two is a very difficult thing to do. Early on in David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle’ (hey, that rhymes), Russell does not seem to find the balance. Instead, we’re left in the dark for most of the opening 20 or 30 minutes as to just what is really going on. The narration is unreliable and keeps switching perspectives, making it a little difficult to follow, but that is hardly what makes it so hard to catch up with. It’s more that the dialogue isn’t clear enough.

Russell chooses to unravel most, if not all, of his story through what the characters are saying, and that is where this very intimidating line is drawn. To tell a story through dialogue you must truly understand where you are in relation to that line – there is a subtle art being exercised here – and Russell’s latest work seems to be on the unclear side (a good example is Alan Moore’s graphic novel ‘V For Vendetta’, which perfects this subtle art.) There’s only so much you can say on screen before we begin to wonder what is actually playing out in front of us, and to this extent, the opening half hour of ‘American Hustle’ fails. A film needs a hook, and when the clues you’re giving us are so cryptic, so little in quantity, what else are we meant to do but scratch our heads?

But to Russell’s credit, he does relieve us; the next 45 minutes or so are purely setup for what is to come, so the story slows down here a little. We settle down and begin to follow the lives of Irving Rosenfeld (an overweight Christian Bale), his partner in crime Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), his wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence), and FBI agent Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper). It’s a bit of an odd-couple thing going on; these guys don’t necessarily like each other, but they work with each other for the good of the country (although we get the sense they’re all just doing it for themselves.)

Come for the performances. Stay for the hairstyles.

Come for the performances. Stay for the hairstyles.

But those four aren’t all. As the film branches out, there are more players thrown in to the mix, including mobsters (Robert DeNiro makes an appearance), New Jersey politician Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and a fake sheikh, among other things. That’s right; it’s unbridled insanity at the hands of Russell, but he manages to pull it off. He’s a master of getting good performances out of his actors and there isn’t a weak link here, just as there wasn’t a weak link in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. He also manages to write his characters well, each giving them personalities and giving them their moment in the sun, to really flesh out their emotions. Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale are the pick of the bunch, but really there isn’t a single performance here that fails to exude an utmost sense of fun, which in essence is what a good film will do.

There is a small problem with the final scene, though. ‘American Hustle’ is a very complex movie in it’s own way, what with most of the plot being moved on by slabs of informative [and sometimes hilarious] dialogue. Not only that, but the plot itself is quite a complex one too, with very fine details. Yet Russell chooses to end his film with a shot of Irving and Sydney looking at each other. Plain and simple. I don’t understand why he ended such a complicated film with just a shot of two people looking at each other. ‘American Hustle’ would’ve benefited from an ending with more of a “wow factor”, an ending that left us thinking. Or maybe I’m just looking for blemishes where they may not be any. Because, in truth, it’s not the final scenes in which the movie shines, in which David O. Russell exercises his true genius, but rather when the film is over. And trust me, that is no taunt.

The funny thing about ‘American Hustle’ is that, for a film about the business of conning, there is very little conning of the audience until the last shot has run it’s course, and the end credits have begun. This gets a massive thumbs-up from me. It would’ve been so easy for David O. Russell to get stuck in the cliché of us being taken for a ride throughout the movie and it all would’ve been just one big game. But no, he doesn’t choose this path. He instead chooses a path where we walk out of the cinema pretty much satisfied that we hadn’t been tricked, thinking the characters had. It’s only when you truly being to process it and think about it, only then will we maybe think it was us that was conned. Because who was most like us in that film? Who was the one at the end of the day, who walked out with his tail between his legs? Once you see the film, you’ll know what I’m talking about, and you may even think to yourself, “Hey, he actually got us pretty good.”

MY  RATING: 8 out of 10.

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Movie Review – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES -

IMDB Rating: 7.1 out of 10 (22,462 votes)

Director: Adam McKay

The poster for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

The poster for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Sometimes, sequels are completely unnecessary. No, I’m not talking about films like ‘The Godfather: Part III’ and ‘Toy Story 2’, which are justified sequels (and pretty damn good films as well). I’m talking about the films like ‘Grown Ups 2’, or ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, which do not make sense in any realm except one driven by money. I get the feeling that some may consider ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ as one of these films, an unnecessary exercise, not made for any reason besides possible financial benefit.

I’m a little in between. ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ is such a great film, and was a massive success at the box office and beyond (the film nearly quadrupled it’s budget in revenue, and has since gained cult status as a modern comedy classic). So there’s that side of it. But I’m not totally convinced that it was all just to make some money. I get the feeling that co-writers Will Ferrell (who stars as the titular character) and Adam McKay (who also directed it) were genuinely trying to deliver another comedy classic for the millions of ‘Anchorman’ fans.

Unfortunately, I must report that ‘Anchorman 2’ is not the film fans of its predecessor would have been hoping for. It isn’t as clear-intentioned as the first film; the plot is a bit thin, as are the characters whom Ferrell and McKay try to give some kind of emotional depth; but most of all, it just isn’t as funny as the first film, though that would’ve been a difficult task seeing as ‘Anchorman 1’ is a side-splittingly funny film.

The opening 2 or 3 minutes are very funny, and perhaps a little hope will be raised. “Is it really gonna be better than the first one?” Then the next 10 or 15 minutes come and go, with a few chuckles here and there. And that’s pretty much how it goes for the rest of the film: there is a very funny scene, and then that’s followed up by a long stretch of small giggles. Very few times (I’m struggling to recall two) was I in a state of uncontrollable laughter, which was the case 5 or 6 times while watching ‘Anchorman 1’.

That Fantana strut.

That Fantana strut.

And more than that, basic plot elements just don’t work. It seems like the writing of it all, the organisation of the plot, is just a bit sporadic and scatterbrained. To an extent, some of it is a little amateurish. There’s a love interest sprouting up from nowhere between Burgundy and GNN’s African-American manager Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), and although there is a funny scene involving Burgundy’s introduction to Jackson’s family, it just doesn’t seem to fit. The relationship makes no sense at all; Jackson seemingly makes a 180° turn – from hating Burgundy to loving him – in no time at all. It just seems a little convenient.

There are a few subplots, one trying to establish a credible antagonist in Burgundy’s rival anchorman Jack Lime and one involving an Australian millionaire that’s… um… just there, and both don’t really lead anywhere. They don’t fit naturally into the story. In the first ‘Anchorman’ film, it was a simple tale of two enemies battling it out for the lead spot. This film tries to do that with the whole Jack Lime plot thread, but it falls flat, and doesn’t really mean anything. As for the Australian millionaire Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson), the plot subtly works it’s way into the story, very effectively actually. But looking back on it, it doesn’t really serve the film either.

You see, ‘Anchorman 2’ tries really hard to recreate the magic of the first film. It repeats a lot of the same jokes (instead of a room full of cologne, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) unveils his room full of high-priced, oddly named condoms; Ron Burgundy’s flute-playing skills), and the same plot themes and ideas (finding love in all the wrong places; two people battling it out for the same job). But it isn’t as convincing the second time around, and questions need to be asked of the film’s legitimacy. I begin to think that it may not have even needed to be made.

And then I think about Steve Carell’s performance as Brick Tamland. He features much more heavily in this film; in ‘Anchorman 1’ he delivers less lines, which makes what he does say truly priceless. But Carell’s comedic timing is perfect, his delivery is amazing, and his facial expressions are unbelievably good. Perhaps without Carell’s performance – and a hilarious bunch of cameos at the end – I would be less glad I saw the film, but he was so good here, that it’s just impossible not to remember his performance as the one that made ‘Anchorman 2’ a worthy sequel. At least, more worthy than that stupid ‘Indiana Jones 4’…

MY RATING: 6 out of 10.

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Movie Review – Man of Steel

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- MAN OF STEEL -

IMDB Rating: 7.4 out of 10 (307,708 votes)

Director: Zack Snyder

The poster for Man of Steel.

The poster for Man of Steel.

As I was watching the start of ‘Man of Steel’, I would never have imagined that by the end of the film I’d be annoyed at Zack Snyder for putting too much action in. The first scenes on Krypton are simply superb; the effects are so amazing, the sense of danger is so real, the fireballs are so hot and we feel that, that total sense of awe. But 2 hours later I had had enough. ‘Man of Steel’ is pretty much continuous action, which is annoying because at the 90-minute mark you’re pretty much sick of it all. Many lives are lost, and not accounted for, which is a huge failure of the film – you just shouldn’t be doing that with a movie such as this, with such wreckage. But the most amazing thing about ‘Man of Steel’ is that the best thing about it is actually it’s use of flashbacks, and the way those flashbacks and backstories are put together.

Early in the film we are constantly cutting between current day, and the early life of Clark Kent. These scenes are filmed with obscured views, and blurry objects blocking the sun and casting shadows, as well as all having this great sense of nostalgia – some are framed with faded colours, some aren’t, but either way they all feel the same. These are the best scenes in the film. It’s a shame that in that 90-minute gap between 00:30 and 02:00 there is not one of these flashbacks.

Instead, the film insists on abusing it’s budget for no particular reason. Yes, I understand that Zack Snyder is trying to make a visual feast for all the little kiddies to enjoy, and perhaps even get them back into Superman (the last Superman film was in 2006, and before then it was 1987). But in truth Snyder completely overdoes it. He just piles on the destruction and burning, the crashing of aeroplanes and the falling of skyscrapers, and at the end of the day a reaction of “what was it all for?” doesn’t stretch too far. He’s not a fetish filmmaker, and he’s not an idiot, so the level of carnage doesn’t really fit the bill.

Alien.

Alien.

Thinking back on it now it still bewilders me how it took such a destructive turn when in the early parts of the film, Snyder and writer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, the Blade series) are seriously concerned with creating a human story. Not one of explosions and havoc, but one of divided emotions and character development. Clark Kent and the people around him – both sets of parents – hell, even General Zod (Michael Shannon), have some kind of background that creates an emotional response from the audience. So why did Zack change it all up? Perhaps he had the budget just lying there and thought “What the hell – we’ll make the money back anyway.” If that’s the case, that’s quite disappointing.

All performers of Clark Kent do a damn respectable job. People tend to be fussy about characters they love and the jobs people do with them; just take the unveiling of Ben Affleck as Batman for an example. But Henry Cavill does a great job, playing emotion really well. He plays it very down-to-earth, not frollicking around with his super powers but rather cherishing them, and we sense with Cavill’s performance that Superman realises these powers are a gift not to be thrown around for no good reason. Even more convincing are the two boys who play Clark in his childhood: Dylan Sprayberry (Clark at 13) and Cooper Timberline (Clark at 9). But the best performance in the film is that of Kevin Costner as Johnathan Kent. It’s just beautiful, and we’re gripped whenever he comes into the shot. We constantly feel emotion for this man who loves Clark like a son, even that will never really be legitimate.

In fact, that’s one of the best questions raised by ‘Man of Steel': is the person you are today an accumulation of all factors you’ve faced, or is it who you were born to be? Zack Snyder challenges us to really consider this, using Superman as the host, the test subject. The very fact that we’re considering this hours after we’ve watched the film means that here Zack Snyder has made an intelligent action film with a big heart, even though it may not shine for the majority of the film, which is a real shame. I can’t help but feel that with the level of destruction in Metropolis in ‘Man of Steel’, the first in a probably-very-long film series, Snyder will try to do too much in ‘Man of Steel 2′ just to top himself, which may lead to errors in judgment. Still, it has Batman in it, so how bad can it really be?

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Reluctant Fundamentalist

That’s right – this baby is SPOILER-FREE!

OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

- THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST -

IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10 (5,071 votes)

Director: Mira Nair

The poster for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The poster for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

If you look up “define slow film” on Google, you will get a few examples. Had it been seen by more people and been given wider release, one of those films would be ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!, Amelia) has created here a film which holds it’s own head up, moving itself away from the most prevalent patriotic films, and really challenges the viewer to think hard about who is behind the face. Who are these so called “terrorists”? What do they want? Is it fair to assume all people who come from the Middle East hate America? Did they even want war in the first place? All of these questions, and many more, are raised by Nair’s thought-provoking and extremely intelligent post-9/11 drama.

We focus in on Changez (Riz Ahmed) – the main character in the film, and the man who’s perspective we’re seeing things from. We follow Changez as he works his way in and out of a complex relationship with Erica (Kate Hudson), as he gets a job with an evaluation firm known as Underwood Samson, as he is taken under the wing of his boss and mentor Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), and as he unravels his own thoughts about the true United States of America.

The film starts off very slowly, with a scene showing the abduction of a professor at Lahore University by unknown assailants (this plays a very key role in the film all the way up until the very end). The first scene is probably in the vicinity of 10 or so minutes long, meaning it requires a great deal of patience and understanding to get through. But once you do get through it, the film expands like a flourishing flower. That’s one of the things I really loved about the film: it was such a daring, mysterious and gripping opening sequence, and it pulled so many different story elements into the spotlight, but by the end of the film it tied together every loose strand. Mira Nair and screenwriters William Wheeler & Rutvik Oza must be praised for this.

I had a Pakistani once.

I had a Pakistani once.

The funny thing is, though, is that once you get past the opening scene, and the film settles itself into a steady groove, you realise it’s a slow film anyway. Really, the opening scene isn’t much slower than the rest of the film. The film is written with in depth discussions, set up with a “story being told in flashbacks from a current-day interview” kind of style, and featuring very personal scenes which let us in to the mind of Riz and the people around him. This all takes time (2 hours and 10 minutes to be exact), but filmmaking is sometimes a careful and deliberate art, requiring attention to detail, and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ is just one of those movies.

Mira Nair manages to squeeze some very convincing performances out of her actors, in particular Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson, who are superb in their [very key] roles. Not only do they seem to have great chemistry on screen, but in their more personal, alone moments, they shine as bright as any other scene in the film. Ahmed has a lot to do here; at times he has to be upbeat and young, at other times he has to be vulnerable, at other times he has to be stern, and at other times he has to be the leader and the one in control. This is a massive workload for an actor known mostly for his performance in the 2010 comedy ‘Four Lions’ (which I hear is quite good), but Ahmed’s performance is much more mature and sophisticated than his age and experience would suggest.

The end sequence (a very long scene indeed) is just what the rest of the film deserved; it is smart, so smart in fact it verges on one of the best written climaxes all year; it is open ended, leaving room for the viewer to think about what Mira Nair was trying to get at; it is even a tad controversial; but it is, to my absolute pleasure, an ending that brings back elements from the very first few scenes of the film, which is something I just love when it’s done right. With ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, Nair challenges us to create our own thoughts, emotions, and feelings about September 11 2001, and the days/weeks/months/years following it. How have we changed as people? Maybe what Nair was trying to say with this film was that the people of America were not the only victims of 9/11 – the flags, whom the forces responsible for 9/11 hide behind, are victims too.

MY RATING: 8.5 out of 10.

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