Saturday, September 16, 2006

Trailer: Stick It

It's not called Gymnicetics! This new US film from the makers of Bring It On seems to be a mix of said cheerleading phenomenon and that other cult teen girl classic of the 00s, Mean Girls. I can't wait to see if it lives up to its predecessors.

Review: The Squid and the Whale

After reading several positive reviews of this film I was really looking forward to watching it, so I am very sad to say that it turned out to be quite a disappointment. There were similarities in plot to Me And You And Everyone We Know (teenage boys whose parents split up and the boys involving themselves in some bizarre sexual experiments) but where that film was wonderfully brilliant, this one was tragically crap. OK, so maybe that's an exaggeration - the first half of the film sped by as I was intrigued by the characters and plot, but I soon found myself not caring about what happened and severely disliking both parents, with the children faring little better.

You can usually bet on geeky teenage characters getting my approval but here the older one (I actually can't even remember their names) was an insensitive brat and the younger one just didn't have the sweetness or humour of the adorable Robby in Me And You. The film was short, which I usually would be pleased at because I dislike it when they go on too long, but in this case I would have liked more depth and explanation to go into some of the events which just didn't really have the effects I presume they were meant to.

Maybe it was trying to be more realistic, but I feel that a few clichés would have added a bit more drama and fun to this strangely pointless film - maybe a bust up between the dad and the sports instructor the mum has an affair with, or at least some resolution about what happens to the poor cat! They even failed at being realistic as the older son manages to win a talent contest by pretending to have written a Pink Floyd song, and no-one finds out until days later - surely someone in the seemingly large audience would have noticed and heckled or something? It was just stupid, and so is this film.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Review: A Home At The End Of The World

I never thought I'd be praising a Colin Farrell movie but the day has come and I didn't just like this film, I loved it. It is a simple (and surprisingly short at around 85 mins) romantic movie but it breaks all the conventions of such a film. There is polygamy but with no moral message against it and homosexuality with no reference to people getting offended or the partakers being afraid or regretful of their actions - it is treated as a completely natural kind of love and this is very refreshing.

The story is of two boys who become extremely close friends as kids and the path their lives take as they grow up. Bobby (Colin Farrell), during his 1970s childhood loses his brother (in an accident that made me gasp rather loudly, not unlike the actor Ryan Donowho's later character, Johnny from The OC) and both parents, and Jonathan's (Dallas Roberts) loving family take him in as their own, with Bobby creating a close bond particularly with Jonathan's mother, Alice (Sissy Spacek). The film then skips to 1982 when Bobby goes to join Jonathan in New York, where he lives with a girl called Clare (Robin Wright Penn). Although Jonathan is gay and has several one night stands (also both he and Bobby seem to have strong feelings for each other and attempt some sexual experimentation early in the film), he and Clare have a very close relationship, so when Clare gets together with Bobby, Jonathan finds it too upsetting and returns home.

However, a few months later Jonathan's father dies and Bobby and Clare go to visit him and Alice in their Arizona home. It is then that Clare announces she is pregnant and proposes that the three of them become what she terms a "funny family". So, the rest of the film shows how these three people manage to create a family that suits their situation. They don't even care that what they're doing is abnormal and neither do the people around them. It shows that any number of people who genuinely love each other can have a happy relationship which functions just as well as a conventional monogamous heterosexual relationship. Of course you'll have to watch the film to see if it lasts.

Another thing I have to praise is the acting in this delightful film. Colin Farrell is a surprisingly convincing American and creates Bobby as a sweet, slightly naive character who seems to accept everyone and everything, with a very positive attitude to life despite the way it treated him in his early years. I was also very pleased to see Robin Wright Penn turn up in the film as she stars in one of my all time favourites, White Oleander, and she made Clare a very likeable character, which was important if she was to come between the 2 main male characters and not cause the viewers to dislike her. The film is actually based on a book by Michael Cunningham, so next time I am free of English course books, I will definitely be tracking down a copy of this amazingly heartwarming story.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Trailer: The Science of Sleep

I was a bit disappointed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but this film by the same director looks much more promising with some really lovely scenes and the gorgeous Gael García Bernal pretending to be French.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Review: All About Lily Chou-Chou

On hearing that this film was about a group of Japanese teenagers obsessed with a pop star named Lily Chou-Chou, you will not be surprised to learn that I ordered it straight away and many of you may be tempted to do the same. However, I must warn you to keep your mouse away from Amazon, at least until you've read my review, because all is not as it seems. Lily herself makes no appearance in the film, except for on some big screens near the end, and her music is not what I'd call poptastic - it's way too serious for that. This is not the Japanese version of Josie and the Pussycats, in fact it couldn't be much more different.

The film focuses mostly on two boys, Hasumi (later being known by his second name, Yuichi) and Hoshino, who become friends at school and share a love of Lily. The film is mostly about the boys and their other classmates, particularly the objects of their respective attraction, Kuno and Tsuda. It's a rather confusing film and I had to read the plotline on Wikipedia and IMDB before I fully understood what I'd seen. However, it is an interesting and unusual film which was never boring, but if you are looking for an insight into Japanese teen culture you may want to look elsewhere as this film creates a pretty negative and depressing picture and includes scenes of rape and suicide. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted and I am quite surprised in retrospect that it only has a 15 certificate as I certainly wouldn't want my impressionable 15 year old sister watching this!

Despite the shocking scenes, the film is clearly not just aiming to make waves - it also really makes you think and empathise with the characters as there are some incredibly heart-wrenching moments. The characters all just seem to be so terribly unhappy, and this is either taken out on others with horrific bullying, even of former close friends, or shown in the other characters' passive acceptance of the bullies' orders. This is not a film that will leave you with a big grin on your face, but what it will do is intrigue your mind so you are thinking over what was going on in those teenagers' minds for a long while after the film has ended.

All About Lily Chou-Chou is a lengthy film with a jigsaw narrative and many characters with similar looks and names, so it can get pretty confusing but if you're willing to do the work you will be rewarded for your time and effort. If you're not used to foreign language cinema then you should definitely not start with this one, but if you're feeling a bit 'emo' and want something to dwell on then this is perfect.

Review: Run Lola Run

Having just recently been on holiday to Berlin, and being a huge fan of German films such as Goodbye Lenin (as recently reviewed on this blog), I thought it was time to finally watch this critically acclaimed German cult hit. The film, first released in 1998, stars flamen-haired (at least for this movie) Franke Potente who has since gone on to be quite a well-known actress in both German and English language films, such as The Bourne Supremacy and Blow, not that I've actually seen either of those, but her role in Run Lola Run (or 'Lola rennt' as it was originally titled) has certainly made her name in Hollywood.

When I started watching the film I was extremely confused as the characters were all speaking English in painful London accents, then I noticed the words were out of synch with their mouths and luckily found a way to turn the very distracting dubbed English off so I could just have subtitles. The film itself is quite confusing to begin with as Lola sets off on her task (finding 100,000 Deutschmarks to save her drug-dealing boyfriend from being killed by the man he owes it to) which is supposed to take 20 minutes but after about 10 minutes in real time the 20 minutes in film time are up and I can't help but wonder what the hour or so left of the film is going to be about, especially since the main character is now dead! However, my confusion is soon quelled as we are taken back to the beginning of the story for an alternate version, and this is repeated a few more times until we finally learn of Lola and her boyfriend's fate.

I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by this film, after hearing so many recommendations for it and having loved most of the German films I'd seen previously. It wasn't a bad film exactly, but I didn't really find it very exciting and with the constant returns to the beginning I found myself not particularly caring about the ending. I didn't find Lola a particularly likeable character and her boyfriend didn't really seem worth all her trouble. I'm glad I saw the film just to have seen it, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it or bother to watch it again.