Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Hall’

Please Give

Posted 06 Aug 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Please Give, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt - and, subsequently, what it does to a person.When Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), the novelist main character in As Good as It Gets (1997) is asked “How do you write such great women?” he responds, “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” Nicole Holofcener didn’t take that advice, and she’s probably the best writer of women in Hollywood, behind the indelible Woody Allen, that is; I don’t think anyone can top him, but, as he’s in a class of his own (it can be said that Woody writes Woody’s women well, and that’s it), Holofcener might be the best in the game. For a further example, seek out Lovely & Amazing, her first feature from 2001, also starring Catherine Keener. Please Give and Lovely & Amazing aren’t too similar in content, but the aftertaste is the same; you’ve just witnessed something daring and tangible, something more exciting than most things studios push out these days. Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt and, subsequently, what it does to a person. Or, rather, a group of people.

Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) live an interesting life; they’re essentially ambulance chasers, but in the antique business. They run a local furniture shop and get their goods collecting from the children of the recently dead. Kate is a woman with a warped sense of guilt; she gives seemingly large amounts of money to the homeless and does her best to volunteer for charities. Nothing seems to help, especially because she’s married to the charmingly goofy Alex, who treats her like a partner in everything. Nothing seems to be enough for her. They live next door to a cantankerous old woman named Andra (Ann Guilbert) who is pushing 90 and who hates just about everything in everything she sees. She’s cared for by her two granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), who have their own reservations, either because of prior plans or their own dispositions. Mary can’t stand the old woman, and Rebecca wouldn’t know who to care for without her. Sarah Steele plays Kate and Alex’s teenage witch, Abby. Read More

Starter For 10 – Revenge Of The Nerd

Posted 23 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Starter for 10, UK / USA, 2006

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Starter for 10 is a British/American film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The oddest thing about a film like Starter for 10 is that it seems to be almost completely pointless until the last thirty minutes or so, and the most unfortunate thing about the project is that the first hour is almost completely alienating. This isn’t the type of film where the audience is required to root for anyone in particular, nor are we given much of a climax to look forward to. We follow a young college student in England in 1985 as he enters Bristol University and attempts to find his place and enter a quiz show club, in which one does their best to win championships on television. We follow him through bum friends, a failed and unrealistic attempt at a relationship, and a conventional attempt at knowing everything.

The good news is that James McAvoy is watchable enough to excuse most of that. The bad news is that even though McAvoy is a watchable actor, of some considerable skill, the film itself is hollow and flatter than paper. It’s peppered with calm and collected performances, but that and a bad screenplay don’t make a good movie. Make no mistake, Starter for 10 is enjoyable, albeit conventional and formulaic. However, it’s great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, and McAvoy himself that magically make the film worth watching more than once, even if you just want to catch all the reaction shots from Cumberbatch that you might have missed the first time; as with everything else in which he appears, he’s a complete joy. Read More

Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Three’s Company

Posted 21 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Spain / USA, 2008

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

The interweaving relationships of this film are classic Woody Allen, and it's fair to say this is his strongest notation on human neurosis of the 2000's.My favorite thing about Woody Allen movies is hearing the actors speak the words; it’s always with a sense of adoration, and there are usually shades of performers who have spoken these words in the past. Allen’s scripts are performed, no matter the quality, with gratitude. Such is most definitely the case with this film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. If you’re intrigued by the title, it’s simple enough, about as simple as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in that there’s a massacre committed with a chain saw in Texas; in this, Vicky and Cristina go to Barcelona. However, there is a bit of a deeper meaning. Read More

Frost/Nixon – The Reductive Power Of The Close-Up

Posted 16 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews

By Scott Martin

Frost/Nixon, USA / UK / France, 2008

Directed by Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon is a 2008 historical drama film based on the 2006 play by Peter Morgan which dramatizes the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. By now, we’re all familiar with the story. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see the original interviews that inspired the Broadway play by Peter Morgan, which in turn served to inspire Ron Howard’s film, which plays itself out like a boxing match, so much so that Nixon is shown jogging in place in a track suit before the final interview. The underdog of the match is David Frost, a once famed but at that time practically defunct English talk show host, relegated to the kind of fare you might see on E! on a Saturday morning, in Australia. Richard Nixon, the man, was out of office and essentially hiding in his home in San Clemente at the time; Richard Nixon, the President, was no more – resigned, pardoned, and reviled by the majority of the American public.

I’ve always been a big fan of films that pit two intelligent men against one another. Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes (2002) is a personal favorite, as is Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Five Minutes of Heaven (2009), a terribly underseen film starring Liam Neeson. Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006) is worth a mention as well. You can’t technically call this a cat-and-mouse film, as there’s no physical chase, but the mentality of the film might suggest otherwise. Nixon is set up as a heavyweight taking down a featherweight, David Frost, for a $600,000 prize bag. Read More

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974

Posted 14 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Most Confusing Films of All time, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Red Riding: In The Year of Our Lord 1974, UK, 2009

Directed by Julian Jarrold

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 is the first of three films, tracking a serial killer through Yorkshire between 1974-1983Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 is the first of three films tracking a serial killer through Yorkshire between 1974 and 1983. The films mirror the actual Yorkshire Ripper and the police cover-ups and scams that took place at the time. The Yorkshire Ripper, thought at the time to be a mentally challenged man who had been caught (and forced to confess), had killed thirteen girls (perhaps more) and continued to run free for years, despite the public demand to have him caught. Consider the Zodiac killer, around the same time, here stateside. Also consider the David Fincher film Zodiac (2007) when watching this installment of the trilogy; they’re practically identical. Read More

Dorian Gray – The Portrait Has Aged Better

Posted 12 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Dorian Gray, UK, 2009

Directed by Oliver Parker

Gray is all about the atmosphere in this version, not so much about the preservation of Wilde's wit nor the story itself. You would think that turning an Oscar Wilde novel into a sensationalized, nearly exploitative camp piece of pulp fiction might prove impossible, but Oliver Parker would prove you wrong; shamefully so, seeing as how his adaptations of other Wilde works, like An Ideal Husband (1999) or The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), have been rightly lauded. Even more amazing, Dorian Gray failed to find a distributor in the United States, and was doomed to a direct-to-DVD release here, after a theatrical release in the United Kingdom. As it stands, though, Dorian Gray is all about the atmosphere in this version, rather than the preservation of Wilde’s wit or the story itself. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we’re left with at the end of the film; lots of pomp, but very little circumstance.

Honestly, it might be more accurate to consider this as a prequel to Stephen Norrington’s 2003 Alan Moore adaptation¬†The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Of course, this is an adaptation of the 1891 Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but so little is done to honor the work that it seems cruel to connect the two. The ideas behind the two frames remain the same, but the results are entirely different. Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes), a youthful man of twenty or so, inherits a fortune after his father passes away. With that fortune comes the posh lifestyle of the early 20th century and a slew of new friends, the most important of which proves to be a man named Henry Wotton (an excellent Colin Firth), who teaches young Dorian to not be afraid of pleasure in all its forms, and another named Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), who paints a wonderful portrait of Dorian and wishes to put it on display. Of course, he can’t. Why? Because the Dorian in the picture ages, rather than Dorian himself, and the life Dorian is leading – a life bitter with corruption and decadence – isn’t to kind to him. Read More

The Prestige – Not That Exciting When You Know How It’s Done

Posted 09 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Prestige, USA / UK, 2006

Directed by Christopher Nolan

The Prestige, we live in the turn, while the pledge is revealed to us in flashbacks, and then the prestige isn't what the prestige is supposed to be, but rather something that cheats and gives an easy out. The prestige is only the third act. At least that’s what we’re told by Cutter (Michael Caine) in his opening monologue. It’s more a set of instructions for the film, we’ll discover, but that’s a later point. Every magic trick comes in three parts: one – the pledge, in which you give the audience something real to hold onto; two – the turn, in which you take that something and turn into something impossible, the part where the magic lies; three – the prestige, in which everything comes back to normal, and the audience (hopefully) cheers. Usually, magic is all about sleight of hand and misdirection. Christopher Nolan is great at that; recall the difficult but astonishing Memento (2000). There’s a pledge, a turn, and a prestige in that, but here, in The Prestige, we live in the turn, while the pledge is revealed to us in flashbacks, and then the prestige isn’t what it’s supposed to be, but rather something that cheats and gives an easy out.

Still, though, the pledge and the turn make the film exciting and the thriller it should be. Don’t be fooled – this film isn’t strictly about magicians. It’s a cat-and-mouse game about two men obsessed with one-upping each other, and who both end up destroying themselves in the process. Read More