Archive for February 2010

Shutter Island Review by Sam

February 28, 2010

It’s been over a week since I have actually seen the film, and due to moving and more moving, this review has been quite delayed. Nonetheless, here it is, in all its glory.

Shutter Island

First off, let’s have a look at the potential of this film. It is directed by Martin Scorsese (Director of the greats such as Goodfellas, The Aviator and The Departed) who is renown as one of the greatest directors of our time. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and what an actor Leo has proved himself to be, especially over the last decade, starring in films such as The Aviator and Blood Diamond, (both which have garnered him with Oscar nominations). Finally, it is based off the best selling novel of the same name by author Dennis Lehane, who also penned the novel version of the classic film, Mystic River.

So, Shutter Island had a great potential. And did it prevail? Heck yes it did!

When I heard of another Scorsese/DiCaprio vehicle was underway, I was extremely excited, and I could not wait to buy myself a ticket and watch this movie as soon as it hit the screens. But, days before I saw this film, I was told that it was extremely lacking, and a disappointment. So I walked into the cinemas, still excited, yet not expecting the greatness I was about to witness.

I was a massive fan of this movie and almost every single element about it. The direction was great, the acting was solid, the cinematography was outstanding, and the soundtrack was one of great suspense.

In a nutshell, Shutter Island is about two U.S. Marshalls who come to “Shutter Island” in order to investigate the disappearance of a patient. It is revealed that, for various personal reasons, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) has been trying to get an assignment on the island for quite some time, and through a series of quite startling events, a shocking and twisted ending is revealed, of which I will leave you in suspense.

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio

This “confused” experience I went through allowed me to understand the poor feedback I had heard from people prior to me watching the film. I now know that if they watch the movie again, they would appreciate it as much as I do.

I must confess that, initially, when the film was in its final 10 minutes, I was quite confused, not knowing what was going to happen next. Even when the film ended, I found myself staring blankly at the screen trying to figure out what had just happened. After an extreme thought process occurred in my mind, and a helping hand from some of my friends who had understood more so than me, I finally understood everything, and I knew that this film was a masterpiece.

Let me make a comment on the direction and some of the decisions Scorsese made. I found it interesting that a lot of the scenes had quite a lot visually, but minimal audio elements. This served as a real unique type of filmmaking, as you could see, for example, rain pelting down, although you could barely hear a few drips and some footsteps. This actually served the atmosphere brilliantly and allowed for a great sense of suspense.

As stated before, the actors did a great job portraying their characters in a way that beautifully supported the story.

Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio

(From left to right) Ben Kingsley, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo

Aside from the brilliance of Leo, Mark Ruffalo did exceptional as Teddy’s sidekick, Chuck Aule, and Ben Kingsley did a great job of portraying the mysterious “boss” of the mental asylum. These performances further enhanced the greatness that Shutter Island was.

I would also like to make a further comment to the cinematography. Robert Richardson, who has worked on films such as Platoon, JFK and The Aviator (the latter two he won Oscars for), did an amazing job at both capturing the sinister dark tone of the interior buildings, and also displaying the beauty (in a strange way) of the Island the film was set.

All of the aforementioned elements added together give me an easy task of rating this film 4.5 film reels.

District 9 Review by Dave

February 16, 2010

Before I get to work reflecting on Blomkamp’s District 9 I must admit my naïvity regarding the film. As often happens I had precategorised this film into a mould that I had no intention of viewing- ever. The process was not complicated. It sounded a little bit like the film Ladder 49 so I envisioned some mildly dramatic plot involving police officers or firefighters doing something just important enough to warrant a $50 million Hollywood budget. To my pleasant surprise I was wrong. It involves aliens, and it’s not even set in the US.

It is a funny thing that comfort is such an integral foundation in films. Whilst many will agree that particular accents, be they Australian, Eastern European or even Scandinavian, are either pleasant, sexy or otherwise endearing- none can create the same platform of comfort that the American accent offers for film.

Although it provided a unique backdrop for District 9 the South African accent took a little to get used to. Maybe we have been somewhat broken in by the likes of Blood Diamond but it must be said that the American accent still offers the greatest pillow for familiarity.

The beginning of the film saw us immediately in the thick of District 9 which, as it turns out, is an area that has been colonised and dominated by 9ft tall aliens- known commonly by the white population as “prawns”. The urban landscape  has semblance to an Indian slum, dilapidated to a seemingly untenable state of disrepair. Yet it is thriving with aliens.

The premise is a satirical masterpiece. Eviction of the aliens to a new district uncovers the dark and dehumanising nature of urban clean-up and treatment of the impoverished and powerless. Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copely, is the main protagonist who, as a manager of the MNU, leads the eviction until he is infected with an unknown virus. This infection sees his progressive morphing into an alien whereupon his new perspective digs further into a necessary empathy for the powerless and afflicted- represented by the aliens.

The film style is unique. In part it is a mockumentary: involving a lot of hand hend cameras- and one mounted on the end of a rifle offering a unique shot, until the soldier begins to fire. This disjointed reporting on the progress of the eviction adds to the xenophobic comment and creates a wider scope for the dehumanising corporate perspective that is represented by the MNU Department for Relations with Extraterrestrial Civilizations- originally lead by Wikus.

Economically speaking, District 9 performed well. With a production budget of approximately $30 million and a viral campaign following, returning a revenue of over $200 million was not unforeseeable but equally welcomed. Competing against the likes of Inglourious Basterds- it is safe to suggest District 9 was nothing like Ladder 49, and in my opinion, offered a real, potent comment on life and the perils of xenophobia. Despite the comedy, it offered a palatable sadness causing the audience to leave thinking.

I give it 4 film reels.

Daybreakers Review by Sam

February 15, 2010

Well the Saturday just passed, I hopped into the car in the pouring rain, and headed to Nowra cinemas in New South Wales. My companions and I decided Daybreakers could be an interesting watch, and so we bought our tickets and rudely overpriced treats, and commenced to our seats.

In a sentence; Daybreakers was a good concept with some poor execution. Let me explain what I mean.

Daybreakers Poster

Daybreakers

On the plus side, Daybreakers had a good cast (primarily filled by Australians, except for the likes of Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe) and was reasonably performed. It also had interesting, not to mention original elements of story thrown in, which makes it one of the first Vampire movies I have somewhat enjoyed. On the other hand, some of the dialogue was a little corny, especially the ending and the gore levels were extremely unnecessary and over the top. Additionally, the way it was filmed had the potential to be brilliant, but to no prevail.

The film actually had an intriguing first half, although the opening scene of a girl allowing the sun to burn her to death seemed somewhat out of place. But the first 40 or so minutes were intriguing, suspenseful and well timed. The audience depicts a world populated primarily by vampires with only 5% of the human race remaining. We are introduced to our protagonist Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) who is a somewhat depressed vampire working for a company that provides blood supply to the population, the lack of which is slowly diminishing the vampire race.

Ethan Hawke, Claudia Karvan and Willem Dafoe

From left to right: Ethan Hawke, Claudia Karvan and Willem Dafoe.

From there onwards, it slowly progresses to Dalton meeting up with humans, Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe), who is a recently cured vampire. They approach Dalton asking for his help in re-creating this cure that Elvis undertook. This involves being briefly exposed to sunlight, causing severe pain, and then having the fire put out (by means of water or lack of oxygen) before the burn kills the vampire.

After this point in the movie, it begins to get a bit tiring. Pointless deaths repeatedly occur, and the corny dialogue begins to make a show. Some of the cinematography and music becomes a bit corny at this point too. It is all topped off with a brutal fight between the [small amount of] humans and the [large amounts of] vampires, which unleashes an incredible amount of blood and guts, none of which serves any real meaning to the plot.

Whilst it does have its downsides, I didn’t find myself complaining throughout the duration of the movie, essentially meaning it was an “alright” movie.

I give it 2 film reels out of 5.

Oscar Predictions by Sam

February 11, 2010

Well, it’s that time of year, and naturally, Oscar predictions are flying about all over the net. Some people have decided to go with the flow, and are picking the most obvious choices, whilst others are going a bit more left of field, and picking some surprise winners.

It’s Sam of FilmStank here, a Film/Television Student studying in Australia, and here are my predictions for what are regarded as the top eight awards:

Best Picture: Avatar
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges – A Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz – Inglorious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Best Writing, Directly for the Screen: Quentin Tarantino – Inglorious Basterds
Best Writing, Based on Previous Material: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell – District 9

Firstly with the big one,

Best Motion Picture:

I think there are only three real contenders in this category, Avatar, Inglorious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. The winner is not so easy to pick. Avatar is everyones favourite pick, and understandably too. Over the years, Members of the Academy usually love the epics, they love a happy ending, and if some great drama is tied in, it’s usually the pick for Best Picture. Avatar has all three of these elements, as well as the great visual imagery it provides, the massive budget, and simplistic story line. Although, there is a chance that The Hurt Locker may pull a Slumdog Millionaire. It is the under-dog favourite to win, it has the low budget, similar to that of Slumdog, so it could also be the winner. And Inglorious Basterds, well, what can I say, it is a great piece of filmmaking and it has that unique element of script writing that Members of the Academy either love or hate.
But I think I would have to say my vote goes with Avatar. That’s not to say it was my favourite film of all the contenders, but I think it is the best fit for what Members of the Academy are voting for.

Best Actor:

Performance-wise; everyone in this category has a fair chance. But, as everyone knows, there’s more to it than that. George Clooney and Morgan Freeman have both previously picked up there Oscars for Best Supporting actor, and it’s Jeremy Renner’s and Colin Firth’s first nomination, so naturally I’m looking at Jeff Bridges for the win. What’s been praised as a stellar performance from the veteran actor, is also his fifth nomination without ever previously bagging a win. Members of the Academy usually look favourably towards these sort of nominees. Additionally, Bridges has won every other award so far, with the BAFTAs and The Spirit Awards still in waiting. If Bridges takes home the Spirit Award, I think we could be looking at another Mickey Rourke moment. Last year Rourke, like Bridges, took home almost every award preceding the Oscars, including, what most people call the runner-up Oscar award, The Spirit Award. He then lost out to Sean Penn at the Oscars. If Bridges does take the Spirit Award, my vote it either with Jeremy Renner or Colin Firth.

Best Actress:

This year there has been no clear-cut winner from the ladies in leading roles. Sure, there has been some great performances, there’s just no one that you instantly say, “yeah, she’ll win it hands down.” In saying that, I think the Lead Actress Oscar will be going to either Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock. Now Meryl Streep has had 16 nominations with 2 wins, so Members of the Academy may think, at least for now, she has had enough recognition, as it appears she is not slowing down on the nominations. This leaves Sandra Bullock. Some say her performance in The Blind Side is the best of her career and this is not only her first nomination, but I think it could be her first win.

Best Supporting Actor:

I think this category is the easiest of them all. Christopher Waltz’s performance in Inglorious Basterds was his first appearance in an English film, and wasn’t it a brilliant one at that. He stole every scene he was in, making you laugh, angry, sad, happy and everything else. I say he is the most deserving of this award, and he has won every other award. The only real contender is Christopher Plummer who has a lifetime of a career behind him and this is his first nomination, and it could be potentially his last. Members of the Academy can look favourably to older actors, but looking at Peter O’Toole who has been nominated 8 times without a single win, I think Christopher Waltz can feel pretty confident he’ll be holding the Oscar in a months time.

Best Supporting Actress:

I don’t have much to say on this award, The buzz has been circulating of Mo’Nique’s excellent performance, and so my vote is that she will take home her first Oscar this coming March.

Best Director:

This one, again, is going to be a tight competition between James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino. For some strange reason, I have a feeling the Award is not going to match up with the Best Picture winner, which eliminates Cameron and leaves me with Bigelow and Tarantino. I think Tarantino will take home the Screenplay award, and I felt the Academy wants to finally award a female with the Best Director award, which she does deserve. So my vote is with Bigelow.

Best Writing, Directly for the Screen:

As I stated previously, my vote is that Tarantino will take this award home. I think the only real contender is The Hurt Locker and even possibly Up, but I think the Academy likes Tarantino and his writing, so I’m going to say Tarantino.

Best Writing, Based on Previous Material:

This one is another tough one to decide a winner. I would put it between Up in the Air and District 9, and even perhaps Precious, but for some odd reason I think the Academy may look favourably to the underdogs Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for their writing on District 9.

So there you have it. Who knows, I could be way off, but I guess we will just have to wait til March 7th to find out.

So… What’s up with the Academy Awards?

February 9, 2010

It’s that time of year again, and the Academy Award nominations have been announced and it’s just short of a month til the winners are given their prizes.

Here at FilmStank, we thought we could provide an “introduction to the Academy Awards,” if you will. So take a seat in that oh so comfortable chair, and enjoy!

So, what is the ‘Academy Awards?’

Well, it’s an annual event put in place in order to celebrate the “greatest” achievements of the year in the Film World. For example, if an Actor does a superb job at acting in a particular performance of theirs throughout the year, then they may be awarded with a nomination, or even the honour of winning the award.

The rules?

There aren’t as many rules as one would have thought, yet, like all “competitions” there are rules, here they are:

1. A nominated film must have opened in the previous year, from anywhere between midnight January 1st – midnight December 31st. For example, at the 2010 Oscars, any nominated film must have opened in anytime in the year 2009.

AND

2. A nominated film must run over 40 minutes long to be categorised as a “feature-length film,” and any film running under 40 minutes is classified as a short film and therefore a part of the “short subjects awards.”

Yes there a few extra rules about ratio and the type of film used, but they are the main ones. Pretty fair if you ask me.

What awards are the best awards to win?

Some argue that there are some awards that are more prestigious than other awards. These are known as “The Big 5,” although this title is only really used when a film conquers all five of these categories, a feat only three films in history have ever achieved.

But first, “The Big 5” are as follows:
Best Picture
Best Lead Actor
Best Lead Actress
Best Director
Best Writing (Adapted or Original)

As stated before, only three films in the history of film have every come home with “The Big 5” awards in its pocket. They are:
1. It Happened One Night (1934)
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975)
3. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

What do I do now?

We sit… We wait… We watch…

Keep checking FilmStank over the next couple of days, and you can have a look at our own predictions of who we think will take home the awards.

On March 7th the winners will be announced, so why not grab a seat for the night and enjoy the ceremony.