Tag Archives: gary oldman

Child 44 – Review

28 Apr

There are a handful of times throughout history that I just would never want to be a part of, and Stalinist Russia could very easily be in the top 10. It was a time where no one was safe, no matter what age, sex, or creed, and everything that you said or did could potentially be used against you. These ideas are explored to great length in the film Child 44, a 205 film based off of a novel by Tom Rob Smith. I was initially intrigued by this movie after looking at the premise and the fact that it starred Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, and Noomi Rapace. To make things more interesting, I had to see how such a star studded historical drama could be such a major box office flop.

Child_44_poster

After raising the Soviet flag on the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) quickly became a hero and symbol of his country. Jump to 1953 and Demidov has found himself a beautiful wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), and has the position of Captain in the Russian intelligence agency, the MGB. After a child is found murdered by the train tracks, the government tries to cover it up and deny that there is a child murderer walking the streets. As Demidov continues his investigation, he and his wife are exiled to a small town where Leo is stripped of his rank and finds a low level job under General Neserov (Gary Oldman). After a lot of effort and more murdered children are discovered, Demidov convinces Nesterov that this is a serious problem, which leads to them both continuing the investigation behind the government’s back, a mission that could easily put them in front of a firing squad.

Something that Child 44 does better than anything else is create a sort of realism that really had to happen if they were going to create a movie that takes place in the early 1950s in the Soviet Union. The costume and set design made it feel like I was taking a glimpse at history. The black trains with the red star were so ominous and powerful looking and very memorable to look at. Of course all of this realism would be for nothing if the performances weren’t grounded in this sense of reality. Hardy, Rapace, and Oldman all give great performances and are reason enough to see this movie. One scene in particular involved a fight on a train, which was bone crunchingly real that it really stands out.

3312f45f6f8cc66d9fd0f9024ee7e4e7

I love murder mysteries of every shape and size. There’s a sense of danger and time that weave their way through the best mysteries. The hero is always racing against time to find the killer before anyone else gets hurt, which makes for some very exciting storytelling. A murder mystery that takes place in the middle of Stalin’s reign of terror just adds a whole new variable to the equation which makes for some even more intensity and suspense. Like I said before, no one was safe in this period of time and you had to be careful with whatever you said and whoever you talked to. Child 44 creates this overwhelming sense of paranoia with all of the twists and reveals. I’ve never quite seen a mystery like this before and that is definitely a compliment.

So far, everything I’ve said about this movie is pretty good. It would seem that I have no problem with it. This, however, is simply not the case. I felt like I was tripping over the pacing of this movie, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever said before… Interesting. Anyway, the layout of this movie is really, really weird. The first 45 minutes to an hour is just set up, then after that the movie picks up a lot of speed only to be jolted to a halt and then go from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. It made for some awkward moments. The first cut of this movie was over 5 hours long, which makes a lot of sense because there is an absurd amount crammed into this movie which clocks in at a little under two and a half hours. This is one of those instances where this should’ve been a mini series.

The most important part of film is being able to coherently tell a story in the best possible way, and this is where Child 44 really slips and falls on its sickle. The story, itself, is very intriguing and full of paranoia and great performances. It’s also a beautifully shot film that prides itself on the realism that it creates. Unfortunately, the pacing and amount of information jammed into its run time makes it sort of an awkward viewing experience. This movie receives a lot of unwarranted negativity. I actually quite enjoyed this movie and would recommend it, but just be sure you’re ready for pacing from hell.

Nil by Mouth – Review

3 Mar

Everyone knows about Gary Oldman’s acting career. He’s been in so many movies as great as The Dark Knight Trilogy and as awful as the 2009 “horror” film The Unborn. He’s one of those actors that seems to turn up everywhere, but he always brings an air of seriousness to all of his roles. I’ve just recently learned about his work in directing after reading about his 1997 directorial debut Nil by Mouth. I didn’t really know what it was about, but being a fan of Oldman’s, I felt it was worth checking out. That being said, this is a surprisingly gritty, disturbing, and genuinely upsetting film.

Nil_by_mouth_poster

Set in the working class environment of South London, this film examines the life of a small, but poor family. Billy (Charles Creed-Miles) is a heroine addict that struggles with both his finances and his addiction, mostly using one to help the other. Billy’s sister is Val (Kathy Burke), a relatively unhappy woman who is married to Ray (Ray Winstone). Ray is a thief, an addict, and violent, many times taking out his rage on the pregnant Val. After a vicious night between the two, the family really seems that it is finally ready to break down and leave everyone on their own.

When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, Nil by Mouth was received with much critical acclaim and Kathy Burke winning for Best Actress. This is really no surprise to me since this movie tackles subject matter in an unflinchingly realistic way. As I was watching it, my mind kept going to Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, although the main protagonist in that movie is a kid and it was released two years later in 1999. It still deals with the same ideas as poverty and the breakdown of a family. There were many times in this movie that it got so intense and real that it stunned me.

nil-by-mouth-1997-001-man-train-00n-mb6

 

Like I said before, Kathy Burke won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for this movie, but that isn’t where the excellent performances end. Everyone in this movie seems to be working their hardest to completely sell their roles to you. Burke has a lot of different levels she plays at and Ray Winstone matches her perfectly by showing an aggravating and complex character. He has become one of the most hated characters for me because Winstone makes him so real. Charles Creed-Miles also works well as the pathetic drug addicted thief who I really couldn’t help feeling sorry for.

To really make Nil by Mouth work, Oldman had to create a certain kind of uncomfortable atmosphere that isn’t really easy to do. Many of the scenes are shot in dark side streets of London, the kind of streets that you wouldn’t want to find yourself alone at night. When we’re not in some alley, we’re in cluttered, tiny apartments that seems to have a few too many people in it. That being said, certain scenes have to appear comfortable and livable since this is just the way of life for these people. It’s an odd combination where I would be disgusted one moment and then almost feel at home the next.

Nil by Mouth can definitely be classified as a film that isn’t easy to watch, nor is it particularly entertaining. It is, however, a film that seems to be a very deep and personal project of Gary Oldman’s, and that comes through in how realistic and honest everything is in the movie. This may be one of the realest movies I’ve seen and it certainly isn’t afraid to throw a rotten piece of life into your face. While it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s an intense experience nonetheless.

Lawless – Review

24 Jul

In the year 1920, the United States government thought it would be a good idea to ban alcohol in all of out fifty states. While in theory, that sounds like an awful idea, many people found way to use the Prohibition to their advantage. Bootleggers and moonshiners began cropping up all over the country, and three of the most interesting examples are the Bondurant brothers who worked out of the Virginia Piedmont. Nick Cave based his screenplay off of Matt Bondurant’s (one of their grandsons) The Wettest County in the World and director John Hillcoat collaborated to create the excellent crime drama that is Lawless.

lawless-poster-hitfix

Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) and his brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are moonshiners who provide for a small town in Virginia. Amongst the respect and gratitude they get from their friends and neighbors comes an other worldly legend that Forrest is immortal. That immortality is put to the test when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) arrives in town and demands a cut of the action for the new Virginia commonwealth attorney. Forrest and his brother whole heartedly refuse and soon become the targets of Rakes’ wrath. Meanwhile, Forrest hires and quickly falls for a Chicago dancer named Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain) and Jack meets and begins courting local girl Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska) and begins doing business with big time gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). With liquor sales sky rocketing, the Bondurant brothers really do seem invincible until Charlie Rakes brings his war far too close to the Bondurant home.

I was a huge fan of the previous collaboration between screenwriter/composer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat, The Proposition. Not only did I think it was beautifully shot, but the writing and the pacing as well as the outstanding soundtrack made for one hell of a modern western. Lawless plays out like a western but it also has roots in the gangster and crime genre as well. There’s Tommy guns and pinstripe wearing gangsters, but the Bondurant boys and the showdowns that they get into are very much like western characteristics. At one point, Rakes even asks Forrest if he is going to “draw on him” which is a western cliche through and through. I don’t want to say that this movie uses and abundance of cliches because there were a lot of things that happened in the story that were completely unexpected.

LAWLESS

What’s great about this story is how it uses tropes from the aforementioned genres, but then also manipulates the viewer into thinking we know what’s going to happen, but then ends up surprising us with the actual outcome. That’s smart screenwriting, and I respect that. Another important thing is that I care about all of the characters and I care even more about what happens to them. I was actually sort of surprised at the feelings I had towards all of them, and not all of the feelings were good. But if a characters was hurt or even killed, it really resonated throughout the rest of the film, and amongst all of the brutal violence it was good to see that I actually care about the characters and not just the action.

Lawless wouldn’t be the success that it is if it wasn’t for the incredibly talented cast of actors that makes up the ensemble. A lot of people give Shia LaBeouf shit for his acting, but you can’t just think of him as that guy from the Transformers movies. He proves in this movie that he really does have the skill to make it in dramatic movies. Tom Hardy owns every scene he’s in, even though he doesn’t have all that much to say. His screen presence alone does the job just fine. Guy Pierce is the real scene stealer though as the unbelievably creepy and psychotic Charlie Rakes. His look, his voice, and his posture was enough for me to want to go into the movie and beat him up myself. He’s definitely one of the best villains to come around in a long time.

In conclusion, I was in no way disappointed by Lawless and it has even given me some inspiration to start working on my own projects again. This film works as a western film, a gangster film, and family drama film. There’s so much to enjoy about this movie I had to watch it a second time the day after I watched it for the first time. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen a while and may be one of my new favorites. Check this movie out if you haven’t already!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

Not too long ago, I reviewed the entire Planet of the Apes franchise starting with the 1968 original and covered all of the sequels, including Tim Burton’s remake and what I would consider the “official” reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I considered the 2011 film to be the best in the series since the original film was released over 40 years ago. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and when I say it can easily be considered one of the best sequels ever made, I mean it. Not only does it build on what was presented in the first film, it completely enhances the entire experience in every way possible.

dawn_of_apes_teaser_poster

After the events of the first film, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) are living in the redwoods outside of San Francisco and the human population have mostly died off from the ALZ-113 Virus, now known as the “Simian Flu.” Not all humans are dead, however, with a prominent group of uninfected living in San Francisco and led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The group has been doing well, although the fuel power that they are living on won’t last too much longer which forces them to travel into the woods to reactivate a dam that powered part of the city in the past. The humans, led by Malcolm, soon encounter the apes who eventually decide to help them in their mission. This peace and understanding doesn’t last long when members of both sides threaten to shatter everything that has been achieved, the guiltiest party being Caesar’s right hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell).

What I love most about these movies is that they were first made in a time when the social commentary that was being discussed worked very well and had a positive impact on the way people were thinking. That’s also part of the reason why I think Tim Burton’s movie failed as much as it did. There was no real discussion to be had. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the social commentary is back and more relevant than ever. This film is one of the most intelligent summer blockbusters I have seen in a while. It may be a story about man vs ape, but it’s also a story about how prejudice and our preconceived notions and hatreds are enough to spark violence on any scale. This may not be anything new, but in light of recent events all around the world, it’s a message that needs to be heard.

DAWN PLANET APES MOV

It may not come as a surprise to most people when I say that Andy Serkis is one of the best actors in the business. It annoys me to no end that he hasn’t even been nominated for any Academy Awards for his performances. I’ve heard arguments that he isn’t “actually in the movie” which is complete bullshit and here’s why. Every movement and emotion of Caesar’s that you see is all Andy Serkis. He is acting in this movie and deserves the proper recognition. That goes for a lot of the other actors too, mainly Toby Kebbell as Koba and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes. The human cast are all fine too, but the real emotion lies with the apes. Even Gary Oldman is completely outdone by the motion capture actors.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also the best looking movie you’re going to see all summer and possibly the entire year. The special effects in this movie are absolutely perfect. One scene in particular shows Koba in a close up and it was unbelievable how real it looked. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie isn’t all about the special effects, and the way the story is written confirms that. The dialogue and narrative are so tightly written there’s not a scene out of place. Every shot of every scene has a purpose so the movie feels just as long as it needs to be. It’s a perfect combination of using special effects in order to enhance the story telling.

I wasn’t surprised by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at least not too much. I knew that this movie was going to meet and then exceed my expectations, which it did. Everything from the performances to the effects to the intelligence of the story mixed together to make the perfect summer blockbuster. This did exactly what a sequel should do: build on its predecessor and ultimately be a better film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this piece of remarkable film making, get your ass in gear and head to the theaters immediately.

Air Force One – Review

10 Oct

Air Force One, aka Sky Hard, is the story of Officer John McClane after he became president. I’m kidding of course, but it seems every time I watch this movie I find more similarities between it and the original Die Hard. Still, even though these can be distracting, Air Force One is still a pretty good action movie that kept me entertained for its running time.

President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is in Moscow at a dinner celebrating the capture of a warlord from Kazakhstan, General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow). In his speech, Marshall declares America’s zero tolerance policy on terrorism and negotiation with said terrorists. After his departure with his family, employees, and secret service on Air Force One, the plane is promptly hijacked by ultranationalist terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman). He and his team are dedicated to General Radek and will execute a hostage every half hour until Radek is freed. What these terrorists never bet on was President Marshall reverting back to his days of the military and making the terrorists get a taste of their own medicine.

This is a very pro-American action movie that reeks with patriotism. This is an easy way for a movie to become intolerable. I don’t mind a pro-national stance for a film, but not when it’s shoved down the viewer’s throat. With the sweeping music and American flags everywhere to some of the dialogue, this movie just couldn’t get enough. But, and this is a big but, there were obvious criticisms of American policy that speak some truth. When Oldman’s character begins talking about our foreign policies and how the government works, he doesn’t sound like a crazy person. This was obviously intentional both for character purposes and thematically. If he came off as a lunatic, then it would be difficult to believe the sincerity in the writing.

While we’re on the topic of Gary Oldman, he is the strongest part of this movie both in form and performance. Let’s face it, the story here is pretty weak, the bulk of the characters (including the president) are uninspired, but Oldman’s performance is something to be taken completely seriously. While all the other actors do their jobs just fine, he goes above and beyond what is called for. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Die Hard, but think of how great Alan Rickman was as Hans Gruber. This is the level of intensity that Gary Oldman gives Ivan Korshunov. He is an A+ actor.

The special effects are pretty dated in Air Force One, but I still really enjoyed the action. There are excellent gun battles that have surprisingly fine cinematography and jet planes engaging in dog fights that will put you on the edge of your seat. I wouldn’t say the action is nonstop, but a lingering feeling of suspense plays throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the film is just a bit too long and should have ended 15 minutes earlier. The effects and action couldn’t keep me interested by the end.

Air Force One is a fun movie if you are willing to check your brain at the door. It has obvious flaws in its story that makes you wish you were actually watching Die Hard at times, but the action and Gary Oldman’s performance is enough to keep you watching. It’s better than a lot of action movie, but it can’t be place in the upper-eschelons of the genre neither. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, especially if you’re with other people.