Film Fest Fridays #5

Apologies are in order once again for the lateness of this post. Unfortunately my charger broke up with me on Friday, which resulted in a total loss of battery and a broken heart. Luckily chargers are marginally more replaceable than men, so I managed to source out a new one yesterday. Last week also witnessed the comeback of a dangerous addiction I thought I'd managed to kick as a tween: Pokemon Crystal on Gameboy Advance. Turns out, you don't even need the outdated consoles any more - you only have to log into and you have thousands of retro games at your disposal! NB: Not recommended for anyone who has an essay deadline in the near future.
Piss off, Rattata.

In between fighting (and defeating, I might add) the Pokemon League, and searching for an Apple shop deep in the heart of Surrey (comparable to finding the Holy Grail), I have squirrelled myself away this week as penitence for not publishing a Film Fest Fridays post last week and being late this week. To make it up to you, I've watched FIVE WHOLE FILMS and reviewed each and every one of them: Seven Psychopaths, Flight, and Warm Bodies are all currently in cinemas, joined by Chinatown and Amadeus, which were on my 'to watch' list from IMDB's Top 100. So, here's what I thought of them...

Seven Psychopaths (2012)
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
My Rating: 7.7/10

Right from the opening scene, you can tell that this film desperately wants to be a Tarantino. They've drafted in a witty scriptwriter, arranged a great cast, and rented lots of guns and vintage cars - but let's get one thing straight: it ain't got nothing on Pulp Fiction. That's not to say the film isn't highly enjoyable, because it really is. The film, which is a mise en abyme (or to be less pretentious, a play within a play), centres around Colin Farrell's character Marty, who is writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths. Oddly enough, he's writing about seven - he believes - fictional psychopaths, but it soon becomes apparent that these guys are far from imaginary. Marty is, if I'm being honest, rather a weak character; a wet fish that mopes around LA with a wining Irish accent. His 'best friend' and subsequent psychopath Billy (played by Sam Rockwell), however, has an amazing screen presence, and it's really him - with the help of the legendary Christopher Walken (Weapon of Choice...) - that makes the film so watchable. Take away these two characters and I'm afraid you're left with a rather unsatisfactory imitation of Reservoir Dogs that wouldn't really cut it. 

Chinatown (1974)
IMDB Rating: 8.4/10
My Rating: 6/10

Billed as a 'neo-Noir', and highly praised by both critics and friends, I sat down in front of Chinatown with pretty high hopes. Hopes that were unceremoniously dashed. For those who haven't seen it, it follows a pretty similar line to Michael Clayton, or Erin Brockovich - replace George Clooney/Julia Roberts with a young Jack Nicholson, instead of a lawyer, he's a Private Investigator, and the 'fat cats' of the big company he's up against is the Los Angeles Water Board of the 1930's. Nicholson's character becomes embroiled in a political scandal that centres around the covered-up diversion of water from Los Angeles to poorer, previously dry, farming areas just outside of the city. This parched land is being swiftly bought up by city bigwigs, in on the secret plans. Woven into this espionage is the daughter of the owner of Los Angeles's Water, Evelyn Mulwray - supposedly the femme fatale of the film. Well, I'm just not buying it. For a start, no offence to Faye Dunaway, but Evelyn Mulwray is just not pretty or alluring enough to really make you give a shit. Sure, she's posh and hoity-toity - the opposite to Jack Nicholson's working man character - and she smokes like a chimney, but her face is just too, well, plain. The film's also super slow, and takes hours (literally) to get to any kind of climax, which, when it finally arrives is, I have to say, pretty anticlimactic. The sole propeller of the movie is Jack Nicholson, without whom, the film would be entirely lacking in laughs or interest. I believe there is some significance of LA's Chinatown in regards to the plot, but by the time it was possibly explained I'd switched off completely and was willing the film to end. If anyone would like to let me know about this, I'd be mildly interested. Similarly, the 'shocking' element of the whole film is also brought in far too late in my opinion. In short, if you like long-winded films about the 'travesty' of rich men being tipped off about cheap property, and you have around 3 hours to spare, Chinatown may be the film for you. For those of us who prefer shorter films with a spicier subject matter, you'll probably be as bored as I was.

Amadeus (1984)
IMDB Rating: 8.4/10
My Rating: 7/10

Amadeus is a film that my parents have been raving about for years. So naturally I've postponed watching it for as long as possible. Filled with an entire cast that no-one's seen or heard from ever again, I get the feeling that Amadeus is one of those fluke cult classics; a film that didn't necessarily break any new cinematic ground, but has nevertheless stuck in the mind of those who watch it. For those who didn't get the reference from the title, the film is about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told through the eyes of his greatest rival and most envious contemporary, Antonio Salieri, in a series of flashbacks from the mental institute where he will eventually end up. Essentially, it is a story that highlights the difference between someone good and someone great - and the disparities between their characters. Salieri was a great musician and composer, who came from a similarly humble background to Mozart, but tirelessly clawed his way to the top with no help from anyone. Mozart, on the other hand, never had to work; he was born great, and his journey to the top was significantly shorter and easier. Salieri was a devout Christian, who gave up himself wholeheartedly to God - abstaining from any activities that might raise even the most prude of eyebrows; Mozart was a loud-mouthed, obstinate, rude and lecherous rascal, with no regard for any authority - heavenly or earthly ("I am a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.") Salieri just can't understand why God would give these extraordinary musical powers to such a, well, dick - and slowly begins to lose his faith in God, as well as himself. The film is quick-paced and absorbing, and the use of flashbacks is well-done rather than cheesy. The script leaves a lot to be desired, and has significantly dated since 1984, but I suppose a little artistic license is acceptable. It's not the glossy, Kiera Knightly saturated, period dramas we're used to seeing, but that doesn't make the sets or the costumes any less inspiring - in fact, the 'look' of the film is probably one of the best things about it. As well as looking great, the film also makes you contemplate the attitudes of the talented - those who are given ('by God', if you're that way inclined) an unsurpassed flair for something, rather than striving to attain it. Going beyond that, it highlights what we take for granted in life, and how often we forget that there are many who work for the 'normal' life we are used to. 

Warm Bodies (2013)
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
My Rating: 8.5/10

I pretty much knew this would become a firm favourite as soon as I saw the trailer. It combines two of my favourite genres in an epic hybrid: post-apocalyptic (think 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, The Road, etc) with a love story to rival Twilight - and an awesome soundtrack to boot. Also, for a newly single gal like me, I was not complaining at having to watch Nicholas Hoult for one and a half hours. For those of you who haven't been inclined to watch the trailer (hi, male population), the story's very loosely based on Romeo & Juliet. Nicholas Hoult, aka 'R', is a guy from the wrong side of town - the zombie side, to be precise - and 'Julie' is the daughter of the head of Camp Living. But R isn't your normal zombie. In fact, he hates what he is, and tries to do everything in his power to retain some sort of 'humanness' - decorating his home in an abandoned airplane with all sorts of human memorabilia. Julie is sent on a group patrol mission to retrieve medical supplies for base camp, which winds up with her boyfriend getting killed and eaten by none other than R (awkward turtle...). In short, R feels pretty bad for eating her BF, so he takes her back to his place and they make sweet zombie love. No, not really, that comes later. Despite Nicholas Hoult shuffling around like a depressed Emo, and occasionally eating brains, he does grow on you, and by the end of the film you are willing him to jump his blonde captive - preferably naked. Like, fully naked. Everything out. Thanks. Admittedly, it's a bit of a girl's film - but guys, I guarantee if you take any girl to this film, you'll definitely get laid. I've got a feeling 'zombie role-play' is gonna become a heard it here first.

Flight (2012)
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
My Rating: 7.3/10

Before watching this film, I actually enjoyed flying. I trusted the pilot, picturing him as a man of outstanding calibre and rock-steady morals, and never really gave a thought about what a plane crash might be like. I'm now a WHOLE lot more apprehensive about stepping on an aircraft after watching this film. Whip Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, is an alcoholic and drug-addicted pilot, who enjoys a life full of vice and shame similar to that of a rock star. Except he isn't playing electric guitar in Status Quo, he's flying people thousands of feet above the Earth in a suspended metal cylinder. Hundreds of people. Every day. This film centres around the day his luck runs out. After a particular heavy night on booze and cocaine, he powers up a plane that has a mechanical fault, and, 30,000 feet above America, takes a nose-dive. Powered on nothing but vodka orange and coke, he somehow, miraculously, manages to land the plane, in an ordeal which is about as traumatic for the viewer as for the passengers. Whip is an anti-hero; deeply flawed and wholly unlikable from the start. It's a fairly typical story: divorced, he has a volatile relationship with his wife and son, he lies through the skin of his teeth about pretty much everything, has a penchant for pretty young women, and a filthy temper and attitude. He's not exactly winning any awards for Pilot of the Year. Yet he's bizarrely watchable - almost like watching a car crash (or more appropriately, a plane crash) in slow motion; you just can't look away. Let's get one thing straight: this is not a story of redemption or resolution - and in many ways, it doesn't deserve to be; that's not the point. I'm sure you could draw many symbolic similarities between Whip's life and the plane in a nose dive - as the pilot of both the plane and his own life, he is the only one who has power to save it. But it also highlights how we believe people who are in charge of lives - whether that be doctors, pilots, politicians in some ways - to be holier than holy. When really, they're just people, and people will always be flawed. That's not to say that I condone the pilot of my next plane ride to take a bumper of coke before takeoff, but just to remember these people are...people. Just like you and me. 

Any suggestions for this week?

Belle x

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