Monthly Archives: February 2016

45 Years: A Review: An Age Old Question

A long-term marriage is a hard thing to pull off. Speaking as someone who is only 23 years old, I can only imagine how difficult it must to be to deal with the trials and tribulations that come with love and commitment. Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years doesn’t necessarily explore the concept of love, as much as it explores the concept of sudden discovery of a secret lost love. This isn’t some masterpiece, but it is a movie that builds on itself, and becomes an actors’ movie, more than a director’s movie, due to two fantastic performances.
45 Years is the story of an elderly couple, Geoff (played by Tom Courtenay) and Kate (played by Charlotte Rampling) Mercer, who have been married for a long time. Their 45th wedding anniversary has been drawing near for a while now, and Kate wants to do something special by throwing a party. However, when Kate discovers something she didn’t know about her husband, their lives are changed forever.
The first thing to note about 45 Years is how it lacks any visual flair from a directing standpoint. It is pretty clear from the long-winded shots of actors talking, and the lack of shooting locations, this is an actors’ film, first and foremost, and boy, does it deliver on that promise. This film has strong performances from both leads, not just from Charlotte Rampling (who deserves her Oscar nomination and acclaim), but also from Tom Courtney, her husband.
Both actors show their age with their performances. Rampling gets a moment where she yells “Show me the bloody photo”, but otherwise she’s very quiet, calm and the film focuses on her more than her husband. As Geoff, Courtenay gives equally good support, bringing to the film his very soft and fragile voice. Geoff is a very patient, and projects a calm, cool, and collected personality that fits well with the film’s slow paced tone.
There are a few touching moments in the film, including a great scene where the couple dances to some of their favorite songs and works to keep their relationship going. As far as films about older couples, I’d say 45 Years is a very thoughtful film on the subject.

Moonwalkers: A Review

Moonwalkers is a very, very unusual movie, especially not like any other film I’ve seen at Catamount Arts before. The film is an extremely off the wall, violent, and hilarious. It’s a black action-like comedy that features a bonkers and often ridiculous plot, intersected with moments featuring gore, nudity, and acid tripping that clearly wants to make most people, with weak stomachs, feel disoriented and a bit uncomfortable. In short, it’s a blast, and is one of the most unique films I’ve experienced all year.
Moonwalkers is based off the ridiculous theory, started in 2008, which promotes the idea Stanley Kubrick supposedly faked the moon landing for NASA. The plot involves a secret agent, named Tom Kidman (played by Ron Perlman), who, although suffering from PTSD, is sent by the CIA to the swinging sixties of London in order to hire Kubrick to film a fake moon landing. En route, we are introduced to the myriad of the film’s comedy of errors, when Tom loses important information and accidentally gives all his cash, meant for Kubrick, to two struggling rockers named Jonny (played by Rupert Grint), and Leon (played by Robert Sheehan, posing as Mr. Kubrick).
If you are in the mood for a wild ride, you might just have a great time. The psychedelic cartoony introduction, that looks like something out of Yellow Submarine, really helps set the mood for the rest of the film. What makes Moonwalkers work so well, isn’t just it’s absurd logic or premise, but it’s directing, writing, acting, and use of music. The lead performances by Ron Perlman and Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame (where he played Ron Weasley), are nothing short of miraculous. Ron Perlman plays his CIA agent in the most “Ron Perlmanish” way possible, as an absolute “I don’t give a damn” bloody strong, deadly CIA agent. He delivers his line, “you’ve got to deliver it, or they’ll will be serious consequences” with such grit and seriousness, that seeing how his character transforms later on in the film, makes it all the more hilarious. Rupert Grint, on the opposite spectrum, plays a pathetic band manager who can’t seem to catch a break. Also, Robert Sheehan, as Leon, Jonny’s sidekick, does the greatest Kubrick impression ever (sans the Bronx accent).
French director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet gives the film a very French surrealistic style with frequent use of Tom’s flashbacks to his Vietnam days which haunt his very existence, to action scenes with amazing effects, particularly the shot of heads being blown-off in a completely unrealistic way. It’s so goofy, it works. In addition to the plot, fashion and cultural style, the use of songs like Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and The Loving Spoonful’s Daydream, help to bring us back to the 1960’s.
Moonwalkers is an awesome film that entertained me in so many different ways. However, it’s also an extreme film and may turn off the average viewer. The script by Dean Craig is hilarious. Stand out lines include telling Tom (who is American) to “Go back to your hamburgers and I Love Lucy reruns” – oh, so stereotypical. Other hilarious moments include Tom wearing a mod, floral blouse, a filmmaker’s lair, and the acid tripping sequences added greatly to the overall enjoyment of watching this film.

Brooklyn (A Review)

Imagine having to leave your home and travel a long ways in order to find work. I’m sure a lot of people would feel homesick or lonely when they get to another place or country, like when you’re away for summer camp, only for way, way longer. Brooklyn follows a coming of age immigrant story we’ve seen in other films, like House of Sand and Fog and In America, but done in such a way that it seems fresh and likeable. Brooklyn is a finely made motion picture with nicely made production value, a likeable protagonist, good performances, and an overall well-told story.
Brooklyn’s main character is Ellis (played by Saoirse Ronan), an Irish woman who leaves her home country in search of work in Brooklyn, New York. Along the way, she starts up a romance and eventually gets married to a man named Tony (played by Emory Cohen). When her sister dies in Ireland, she decides to return home, and meets another guy named Jim Farrell (played Domhnall Gleeson, who’s been in nearly everything this year, including Star Wars), and gets caught between her old and new life.
Saoirse Ronan is an exceptional lead, and deserving of her Best Actress nomination. What she does with the role of Ellis is nothing short of miraculous. She adds another fairly decent layer of depth to a character who was already well-developed. In the hands of Ronan, Ellis feels like a very relatable character, and the way Nick Hornby wrote the dialogue, for example “You look after yourself” is believable and doesn’t feel at all forced. The rest of the supporting cast helps her as well. Emory Cohen is wonderful in the role of Tony and brings a sense of gentleness and absolute niceness to a character who is very supportive of his family. “There isn’t another Italian in New York like me”, Tony tells Ellis when they first meet. Cohen’s performance in that scene and the rest of the movie is just great. Domhnall Gleeson as Jim Farrell is not given a whole lot to do with this character, and like most of the films he’s been in this year, he’s very much overshadowed by the other cast members. Also of note in the cast, is Jim Broadbent as the priest who helps gets Ronan to the America, and Julie Walters as Mrs. Keogh, the head of the household that Ellis lives in while she stays in Brooklyn. Surprisingly, its Julie Waters’ character, Mrs. Keogh, who has the funnier bits of dialogue in the film, like “Looking like a tart isn’t going to be a problem”.
Nick Hornby’s script is really well-written, and delivers some pretty good comedic dialogue for a film that mostly plays itself seriously, like, “You know enough about plumbing”, and “You want kids who like the Yankees”. There are also some really tender moments in the film, including the scene where Tony and Ellis swim, and when Ellis puts flowers on the grave of her sister. Both of these scenes are very good character moments, aided by the musical score of Michael Brook. Brook’s score is very dramatic, such as in the moments when Ellis says goodbye to her mother as she leaves for the boat to America. The soundtrack naturally has a bit of an Irish-song flare in parts, particularly in the scene where Ellis opens the door and walks out into the snow. It fits the mood of the film, and works really well.
There is not much I can say against Brooklyn, except for, perhaps, its climax and resolution, which is (I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it) the weakest part of the film. It just seemed to abruptly come to an end, and although John Crowley’s direction is good, there were no particularly memorable shots in the film. Where Brooklyn really succeeds, as is the case with a lot of period pieces vying for Oscar nominations, is in its acting and production design. It is, overall, a very well-made picture.

Room: A Review: An Unpleasant but Satisfying Experience

I’m sure we’ve all wondered what really happened when people were kidnapped and held ransom for years. How did they survive? Does the kidnapper support them, or do they try and support themselves? Wouldn’t somebody eventually report them? Most of us, fortunately, do not have firsthand experiences, but we do know what the victims have told us. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, based off the book by Emma Donoghue, is the story of kidnapped victims, a young woman, and her child, who was born during her captivity, and is presented to the audience in a very grueling, gripping, unpleasant, but incredibly realistic way. With good performances, an excellent score, and a strong keen sense of direction, Room, a joint Canadian/Irish production, is one of 2015’s very best films.
In Room, the mother, named Ma, but also referred to in the film as Joy (played by Brie Larson), was kidnapped by “Old Nick” (played by Sean Bridgers), who isn’t really very old, it’s just that he’s much older than her. During her six years of captivity, Joy is confined to a small room in which she gives birth to a child, named Jack (played by newcomer Jacob Tremblay), who never had any contact or experience with the outside world.
One of the things that makes Room especially great, is how the story progresses. A film that largely uses one setting with minimal characters would have that entire film take place in that setting. Room, however, switches things up a bit, by actually having the setting change halfway the film as Jack manages to escape and get the attention of the authorities. The rest of the film shows us how Jack learns about the outside world, meets his grandparents (played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy), and comes to accept the outside world as the real world, and not some different planet.
The acting in Room is splendid. A film that spends half of its time devoted to one particular location needs to have good performances, and boy are the performances in this film good. They’re not just good, they’re great. Brie Larson as the suffering mother, gives what may be her best performance to date in her rising career. She worked wonders in Short Term 12, but here, her performance as Ma, trying to raise her son in a closed environment, is a role that is going to win her, hopefully, a well-deserved Oscar. Seeing Larson deliver lines such as, “There is no lucky, you made him up in her heads”, with such raw realism, that I felt like she was abused and kidnapped. Her performance is so good, that when she’s trying to trick Nick by acting weak and crying, I’m convinced that she’s really crying, and not faking it like her character in the film is supposed to. That’s the work of an actress with real talent.
Jacob Tremblay, a newcomer from British Columbia, plays Jack. And while a lot of child performances may have a problem of bordering on being too sweet, too naïve, and occasionally really annoying, Tremblay’s performance as Nick really goes beyond all that. For example, when Jack is supposed to weakened in the film, while talking to the cops after having escaped from Nick, I really believed he was weakened, and his slow-moving performance in that scene really worked wonderfully. Jack also narrates several times throughout the film detailing his own experiences in a very “I don’t know” sort of way. This works to his characters’ favor because he is just a kid, and we, the audience, can see things from his own young perspective. In particular, I liked when his character refers to the outside world as being “alien”, and he still refuses to call it his own home, preferring the room to be his actual home, since he was born and spent the first five years of his life there. This perspective of a young person with little experience of the outside world was really good.
The other actors also do well. Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and Sean Bridgers, even with limited screen time, but Larson and Tremblay are the two real focuses of the film.
There are other things in Room that can be appreciated. The score by Stephen Rennicks, really helps create the mood of the film and is one of the film’s highest points (which is saying a lot). For example, there’s five or so minutes where Jack is hiding in Nick’s car, and we get some real nice rock/driving music, that helps to fit the sort of chaotic nature of the scene. Another scene that really shows Rennicks’ talent as a composer, is when Jack and his mother are reunited, after having been separated for a while. The music that plays is beautiful and poignant, and really fits the scene really well. Abrahamson has received a best director Oscar nomination and there were shots that are seen from Jack’s perspective that were framed so well, they really made you look at things differently. Great direction.
Room has some pretty uncomfortable scenes, such as the one where Nick attacks Jack for touching him. It’s overall a very draining experience, but in the best way. It’s a film that makes you think, and it is full of great performances. It’s not a movie I’ll watch again and again, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

Heart of a Dog: Review – Life and Death of

Heart of a Dog is a movie that is essentially very experimental and is about the life and death of a dog, a terrier named Lolabelle, owned by director and multimedia artist, Laurie Anderson. This film is very creative, showcasing different styles throughout the course of its short 75-minute running-time. While I can’t say it’s a great film, I can certainly tell you it is a very creative movie that works well-enough in its depiction of one simple dog.
What makes this movie intriguing is its various art styles. Although I’m not very familiar with Laurie Anderson’s work, she’s a conceptional artist, going for weird and unusually varied designs in her artwork, and it shows in this film. The film opens with a shot of a moving painting of Anderson’s dog, Lolabelle, then it becomes animated, and from there, it only gets stranger. In the course of 71 minutes, we see black and white scenes of Lolabelle and Anderson walking, being attacked by hawks, scenes of the director taking footage of Lolabelle, and when you hear a camera snap, they turn into actual photos on the screen. There’s also a shot of an orange object that evolves into Lolabelle’s eyes, philosophic quotes, old fashioned pictures of Laurie as a child, and more. This film is chalked full of visually striking images and art work.
Laurie Anderson narrates the film. Her voices bring a surprisingly calm and collective feel to the film, as she really knows how to deliver dialogue. Some of her lines include, “Nobody really wanted to buy the boy” (actually a hilarious quote), “when cameras started to appear everywhere”, and “beauty got in the way of the experiment”, and are essential to the overall experience of the film.
A lot of the what makes this film interesting, can’t easily be described as it’s that much of a visual feast. It needs to be seen. Whether or not you have seen any of Laurie Anderson’s films (which I hadn’t) such as Hidden Inside Mountains, I recommend viewing this film on the big screen, as it makes the experience all the more different.