Sunday, 29 August 2010

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (2003)

My rating: 8.5/10.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is one of those real gems you unexpectedley find. It is amazing to watch how incredibly fantastic Leonardo Dicaprio was during his late adolescence and before his prime. There can definitely be no doubt about whether he deserved the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He truly is a demonstration of what a good actor is. Someone that starts off with amazing potential and just manages to grow and develop into the mature actor we know him as today.

The film depicts a working class family in the one-street town of Endora. The Grape's consist of two sisters Ellen and Amy, and two brothers Gilbert (Johnny Depp) and Autistic Arnie (Dicaprio). As well as trying to look after their morbidly obese mother Bonnie, they are also striving to live without a real father figure, lack of a decent wage and the highley dependable Arnie. Our hero Gilbert, being the 'man' of the house is the one that has to sacrifice any want for much of a social life or romance in order to work, whilst simultaneously look after an unpredictable Arnie. This becomes the norm until the freespirit Becky (Juliette Lewis) arrives in town for a few days allowing Gilbert to grasp onto a new direction of life.

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom really manages to effectively portray the mental claustrophobia of Gilbert's life. He heavily depends on a range of close ups of the character's as the main way of emotion. Luckily the cast is made up of very talented people and so they are able to effortlessly produce Hallstrom's desired reactions with their facial expressions - allowing the subtelty of the film to shine through.
Johnny Depp is of course fabulous. With already having cemented himself into the film world as an established actor, his performance in this really highlights the reason why he's there. His character is believable and he doesn't try too hard to make us like him. It is the reserved method of acting that we see, which allows the creation of the empathy.
I wish I could say the same for Juliette Lewis, however I'm just not a fan. She seems to be the same in everything I've seen her in (which admittedly isn't a great deal) and that 'same' is a monosyllabic, bland, emotionless bore. I just didn't warm to her character at all and felt she offered nothing more to the role than what was written on the script. When she spoke, I felt she sometimes made it sound like her character also had mental difficulties. But aside from her, the rest of the cast were great.

With the location being so small, this film risks the danger of the setting becoming boring, however this definitely does not become the case. Hallstrom efficiently uses the scenery and turns the recurring props into motif's. In doing this, it means the character's are forced to dynamically encorporate them into their portrayal. Matches for example is one thing in particular that Gilbert often uses which also becomes an integral component that drives a lot of the plot's substance forward.

The music to this deserves a lot of credit for the endearing nature the film possesses. It's not a big score, or a bizarre, unexpected arrangement of notes. In keeping with the rest of the tone, it plays with a lot of subtelty as well as providing a softener effect to the harsh realities that the film is showing. It is a beautiful charmer that completely draws you into the world and I believe without it, the film would force you into more of a downward struggle.

Overall, I think this film is a greatly underplayed piece of cinema that highley deserves to be seen - it truly is a great watch. If you don't see this for the story or the film itself, I strongly urge you to see it for Dicaprio and Depp. I think their performances alone are engaging enough to keep your attention throughout.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

My rating: 9/10

Well, I finally got round to watching Niels Arden Oplev's phenomenon and my god what an incredible phenomenon it is.

As most will probably already know, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first installment of the adapted 'Millennium' Series. The story is centred around the unresolved disappearance of Harriet Vanger some 40 years prior. Loving uncle Henrik is sure that she has been murdered by one of the Vanger family members but after so many years of investigating, has come up dry. He employs Mikael Bloomkvist to investigate further, and with help from Lisbeth Salander they begin to discover the shocking truths about the Vanger family's past.

Aside from the fantastic scripting, what I enjoyed the most about this film was Oplev's incredible use of lighting. The mood of the scene was captured so effortlessly by the way he displayed the light. He created a shadow effect on objects and character's in many of the scenes which seems like a key device to use within a mystery thriller to portray the unknown. The whole film itself had a dark tone about it that feels necessary in order for it to keep with the genre. It was interesting to see that after the mystery had been solved, everything became much brighter. This use of pathetic falacy is such a simple device but one that I feel always proves to be effective.

As mentioned, another thing I loved about the film was the screenplay and the story line we get from the novels. I particularly enjoyed seeing the development of Lisbeth's character. Her scenes at the beginning of the film with her sadistic boss initially seemed to be a bit unnecessary, however as the story unfolds it becomes quite clear why there is a need for them to be there. Her actions at the end are rectified by her past. I believe that had we not seen this past, her character would seem flat and we would lack understanding as to why she behaves in the way she does.
The actors playing the leads, Lisbeth and Mickael were both fantastic. They were believable as their characters and they provided us with the sense of wanting to go on the journey with them - which is pretty much all you need.
My only flaw with the story would be that the ending felt like a bit of an anti-climax. (SPOILER) After Mickael breaks into Harold's house, he seems far to willing to volunteer the information he knows about the previous killings and the Vanger family. It seemed to me that someone who a moment ago felt that he should keep everything between himself and Lisbeth, should not then go spilling everything to Martin Vanger...regardless of how certain he is that the killer is Harold. The fact that simultaneously, Lisbeth is discovering Martin is indeed the villain we know that Mikael has divulged information to the wrong person. For me, the way that it was Martin who the information was told to, just seemed like an easy and a slightly lazy way of getting the story from where it was to the big finish in the cellar.

I thought the use of music was great. It went against the obvious creepy, mystery thriller stereotype by opting for something that sounded more upbeat. I really liked this mechanism as it enhanced the films pace and gave it a real sense of 'thrill'. The cinematography was fantastic. Some of the Oplev's scenes were really beautiful and breathtaking at points. It all just seemed to look visually perfect on screen.

The very end of this film was very clever. It effortlessly set up it's sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' enough to inform us of what the film will be about but without giving us any idea as to what the actual content will contain.

All in all, this film is by far one of the best films I have seen this year and if the rest of the trilogy live up to the high bar that TGWTDT has set, then in my opinion, it will definitely go down as one of the greatest trilogy's made!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

My Rating: 5/10

Well...what a very strange film. I gave this a fresh rating because I think it doesn't deserve to be rotten and isn't actually ALL bad.

The Human Centipede is pretty much as the title suggests. A great German surgeon captures two lost American girls and a Japanese man holding them captive in his cellar. He then proceeds to create the first human centipede, sewing them together mouth to bum and removing their knee ligaments meaning they are unable to stand up.

As weird as it sounds, this was actually quite entertaining and in parts pretty gruesome to watch purely because the concept is such a sick idea and had me clentching my bum and covering my mouth for the most part because unlike the characters in the film....I could. There are a lot of sick moments in the film that purely are designed to incur your gag reflex. For example, because they are sewn together the two at the back are forced to feed off the excrements of the person in front. So as you can imagine, seeing that happen is pretty disgusting.

Obviously, this film has plenty of flaws and will never win any awards or ever be highly critically acclaimed however with a concept like this it's not really going to. If anything, a group of mates had this sick idea and decided to make it for their own entertainment. It follows the classic horror/gore film conventions with the characters stupidity and the seemingly invincible villain but it wouldn't be much a film if it didn't.

If you're a fan of horror/gore then I would definitely reccomend this as it is an intriguing and entertaining watch and you would certainely never have seen anything like it before.