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Friday, 16 March 2012

THIS WEEK: The Raven / Tyrannosaur / We Need To Talk About Kevin / Win Win


From the director of V For Vendetta, The Raven has a similar stamp, so if you didn't enjoy the prior, there is certainly no point bothering with the latter.  Likewise if you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and have been looking forward to this as some sort of honest dramatisation of the last days of his life, or any sort of exciting, analytical look at the author and his work (as the title might lead some to imagine), then you are due a disappointment.  In fact if you remove Poe as the central character and replace him with any other budding detective type, you can still keep the drive of the story, and the same subject; you really wouldn't be looking at that different a movie.

With that being said, if you can ignore some awkward moments of performance from other cast members, John Cusack is eternally watchable, and the comic book style and dashes of humour work well for the most part.  Although I did find myself feeling that the film, at just short of two hours, is a bit too long for its own good, if you're after an intriguing whodunnit, pick a Saturday night you're not going out and give this a go.  3/5

Catch it if you like: V for Vendetta, Sleepy Hollow


Paddy Considine directs a surprisingly fierce film about "redemption in the darkest of places" with Tyrannosaur.  Joseph is a seriously damaged and raging man, already well on his way down the spiral, when he walks into a Christian charity shop, run by Hannah.  It becomes clear that neither of them are what we perceive them to be, both hiding deep personal scars, and both dealing with those scars in ways that could not be more extremely different.  As unlikey a pair as they seem, they find something in each other which they didn't realise they were looking for, or had perhaps simply stopped believing could exist in another person.

This is an 18 for a reason; it has moments that are pretty tough, sexual violence and violence towards animals included, and the film deals with subject matter that some may find difficult to bear with, but if you can, Tyrannosaur turns out to be a film you are deeply moved by, and on which you can't help but reflect.  The film works as a lesson to us all on the damage we can cause with our pre-conceived notions about others, acknowledging the truth that we are never black and white, but rather ever changing shades of grey.  Despite the fact I feel no desire to sit through it again, it is a highly recommended watch, not least due to the two leads: Peter Mullan is terrific, and Olivia Colman (Green Wing, Peep Show, Hot Fuzz) took my breath away with an astonishing turn as Hannah; she delivers every line, thought, and complex emotion absolutely perfectly.  Where was her Oscar nod?  4/5 

Catch it if you like: Nil By Mouth, The War Zone


Having recently finished reading the astounding book, it was going to be tough to review this purely as a film in its own right.  Absolutey terrific performances from Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller in a film that deals with a challenging, and divisive topic: What responsibility, if any, must a mother take for her child's awfulness when there was no bond from the beginning, the parental instinct does not exist, and it seemed from the very start the child was a sociopath who hated you?

It is a shame to see Johh C Reilly in a role that never feels fully fleshed out, and their daughter reduced to little more than a footnote in the story.  It is also a shame to see Ramsey decide that art house was the way to go with such a story, as I feel this detracted from the potency at times.  There is a sense with this movie that we are getting the summary points rather than the lines that join those points and put them into proper context.  All of that said, however, they do seem to land the complex last beat rather nicely, it is engaging and provocative, and if you have not read it it is definitely a conversation starter of a film.  It is, however, so stylised, and about issues so emotive, that you will either get into it or it will leave you cold, dependant on your taste.

Any and all flaws of the film do not apply to the book, which I highly recommend; it fleshes out and makes important every character and relationship, moments in the film that feel summary are a whole chapter in the book (there are entire sections of the book dropped when I think the film really needed them), and the devastation, thought processes, comments on American culture, the loss of the nuclear family and the complex nature of redemption are all explored perfectly in the novel.  And I haven't even mentioned the brilliant framing device the novel uses, allowing the finale to blindside and devastate its reader.  Sorry to gush over the book, but it is rather incredible.

Anyhow, back to the you can see, it is hard for me to rate this one.  I do understand that often a film is based on a great book, and you cannot put a film down just because you happen to have read it and see the differences, but in most cases an adaption carries the spirit of a book well enough that only die hard fans of the original will be pedantic and pick it apart.  In this case I feel that, as good as the film is, it misses some crucial elements and that there is quite a wide space between the novel and the movie.  That said, as a whole this still stands as one of the most challenging and interesting films of last year.  Three feels too harsh, and four feels too giving, so I will do that rare thing and split it.  3.5 / 5

Catch it if you like:  The Good Son, Elephant


Paul Giamatti plays Mike, a struggling lawyer and a brilliantly nice bloke, the kind of guy you really want to see do well.  So when he thinks he sees a way of dealing with his family's financial issues by....bending the rules a little, you know it's all going to go wrong, it's just a question of when and how....and you feel really bad for him, cringing as you watch, waiting for the axe to fall.

This is one of those movies.  High spirited, funny, very smartly written, and then, unexpectedly really touching!  The middle of the film slouches slightly, but by the final act it's picked up again and I found myself really feeling good and happy to have taken a chance on a little film that got NO exposure.  I should also add it is terrific to see Burt Young (Rocky franchise) picking up character work and still delivering the goods.  If you love good indie movies, please check this out.  4/5

Catch it if you like:  Ghost World, Little Miss Sunshine, Whip It

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