Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Film Review Roundup: January-February

The King’s Speech

(Directed by Tom Hooper, running time 188 minutes)

Colin Firth is up for a string of awards the second time round after A Single Man playing King George VI, thrust into his royal duties who with the help of an unorthodox speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush attempts to treat his stutter, which as a public speaker for the entire British Empire, such an issue is hardly good for morale. Despite being hit over the head with the heavy historical background and pure drama, the most interesting exchanges come from the dialogue itself between Firth and Rush, with the latter being the more memorable performance with his wit and light approach, occasionally stepping over into the comedic spotlight and considering all the just praise Firth has received, you know you’re getting a genuine top notch character piece.

Also starring Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon and Helena Bonham Carter.

127 Hours

(Directed by Danny Boyle, running time 94 minutes)

Throwing us another curve ball in terms of premise, Danny Boyle continues the tradition of delivering new and interesting pieces of film. This time around it’s the true story of Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, a mountain climber who is trapped in an open cavern after a rock wedges his arm against the wall, left there for over 5 days before amputating his own arm. Playing most of the film solo, Franco doesn’t hold back with his performance of the real-life counter-part, going through stages of desperation, anger, sorrow and even partial insanity. The film doesn’t hold back in emphasizing the gravity of his peril, with the most unforgettable moment being the said amputation of his arm. Despite the many violent films I’ve seen, this was the most “real” in highlighting the pain. Simply put, this is high caliber acting on display.

Also starring a rock and a hard place.

The Way Back

(Directed by Peter Weir, running time 133 minutes)

A lesser known World War II historical piece, Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrel (with a decent non-Irish accent this time) and Alexander Potocean are just part of the group of escapees from a Soviet gulag located deep within the frozen Siberian woodlands. Against all the elements, the group traverses through miles upon miles of harsh terrain, all the way to the Indian sub-continent, hopefully securing their freedom. Despite quite literally being a film about traveling, the character development and interaction with some strong performances makes for a well paced tale of struggle. Coupled with great cinematography and natural locations, this is probably one of the most underrated films recently.

NOTE: Having said that, I’ve also discovered that the UK release date WAS in 2010, meaning this most likely would have made the top nine list.

Also starring Saoirse Ronan, Dragos Bucur and Gustaf Skarsgard.

The Fighter

(Directed by David O. Russell, running time 115 minutes)

With already plenty of boxing-focused dramas up for the shiny statues over the decades, The Fighter appears to still be able to hold its own and not become an also ran. Based on a true life story, Mark Wahlberg plays an amateur boxer, close to his family including his unruly brother played by Christian Bale (who hasn’t looked this malnourished since The Machinist). It may be your typical story of the low commoner reaching new heights through sport, yet being based on a true story you can’t really fault it if you feel some aspects fall apart and/or resolve themselves. Plus all the turmoil that comes with it is still fresh, along with top-notch performances that carry the entire picture... yes, Wahlberg to.

Also starring Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and Jack McGee.

The Green Hornet (3D)

(Directed by Michel Gondry, running time 119 minutes)

With DC and Marvel freshly tapped, even the lesser known crime fighters are getting the big screen makeovers. The initially odd choice Seth Rogen plays the said valiant vespa along with his significantly more interesting sidekick Kato played by Jay Chou as they attempt to clean up the mean streets made the way they are by “Chudnofsky” played by Christoph Waltz, how to pronounce his name being something of a recurring joke. Despite some decent choreography and special effects action sequences, with the 3D effects being noticeably on par (which in my book rates it as not 'entirely pointless'), this humor-laden comic adaptation only reaches half of the mark away from a true comedic showcase. While enjoyable enough, it’s also by the numbers that in turn makes it mostly forgettable.

Also starring Cameron Diaz, David Harbour and Tom Wilkinson.


(Directed by Greg Mottola, running time 104 minutes)

The always enjoyable comedy film duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back again on the big screen, this time NOT under the direction of Edgar Wright (meaning the third Blood and Ice Cream film is still in waiting) playing a pair of nerdy British tourists in America on a road tour following Comic-Con who inadvertently stumble upon an extraterrestrial Area 51 runaway named Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen (this time being a fitting choice). Even though being from an advanced alien race, Paul is more akin to party going hitchhiker, making up plenty of humor itself. The entire cast gives well-played out comedy performances and on the whole are likable characters. Despite some erratic pacing and a shoe-horned romance subplot, this above and beyond road trip will most likely reel in the laughs, not to mention are few well placed geek culture references. While far from the tier of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul is still an enjoyable and a worthy film of its cast.

Also starring Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman and Bill Hader.

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