Monthly Archives: November 2012

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) by David O.Russell

We all remember Jacki Weaver as Smurfette from the amazing Animal Kingdom of Sundance two years ago.

Here again she is the mother and wife very different from Smurfette. Married to Robert de Niro’s Pat Senior, Dolores is a warm kind, loving and supporting housewife trapped between two impetuous men she loves.

Pat junior played by Bradley Cooper is magnetically insane and painfully credible as a cuckold who had spent the last 8 months in seclusion, working on his behaviour, improving his physical and social fitness.

The hypnotic script and verbal games between two main characters – Pat and Tiffany bring a feast to our ears and brains. The dialogues are so incredibly well written one feels sorry for other films.

It’s a greatly written and fantastically played film which I strongly recommend for fun, for appreciation of the art of cinematography, just leave at the last dance scene. Nothing to watch after.

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Limitless by Neil Burger (2011)

I saw a great drawing depicting a film journalist sitting down at his computer to write down a review having watched “Limitless”. He just sits there. In all three pics of the comic.

I had the same problem. Here is why.

The film touches upon the creative inability/writer’s block. Initially this sets off as a story of a sad person who cannot cope with his life, is being dumped by his girlfriend and unable to produce a sensible few pages of the novel he already signed a contract for. When he is at the bottom and cannot really get any lower, he bumps into an old acquaintance in the street. There goes the breakthrough. Former brother-in-law buys our writer a drink and drops in a freebie – a pill of a supposedly licensed drug enhancing human brains.

Only the drug isn’t licensed. And the supplier gets shot the next day. And … it really works.

What sets off for Eddie Morra is a journey on the rollercoaster as he finds a fair amount stuck in Vernon’s flat. He finishes his book in no time (and it’s good), takes control over his life, and basically as long as he remembers to eat and stays away from alcohol, he is invincible.

The downsides? Well – the limited amount of the magic drug for one thing, another is definitely that once the Russian mafia finds out about it, Eddie’s in danger.

Overall impression? I want that drug! Don’t we all? Imagine, you can sit down at your computer and produce whatever you wanted to produce and it’s good. Or you can learn easily how the stock markets work and make money that way. Or you can get into politics and become the US president. You can learn as many languages as you want in no time… It is mentioned at the beginning of the film that this drug works better on smart people. Is that a drop of irony? Is that a wink at the audience strengthened by the final few scenes when Eddie openly states he no longer uses the drug? My understanding of the overall message is that if you really know what you want and focus on that, you can do miracles, hence why it works on smart people. It’s not the pill that we need, just confidence and belief in our own strengths.

I like films with a moral. And I really liked this one.

I will watch it again and again – every time I feel I am unable to move on with something I want to be reminded it is all in my head. And once I realise that, all I need to do is get my stuff together and act.

Great performance by Bradley Cooper, fantastic supporting role of Robert de Niro.

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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Peter R. Hunt (1969)

With the new Bond (Yes, Skyfall) out in the cinemas, I decided to do a tour back into the abyss of history of other Bonds.

George Lazenby was a one-time James Bond in this Swiss poem of a plot to eradicate humanity (oh, yes Telly Savalas).

This is one James Bond who falls in love (doubtfully yet conveniently) and gets married (yes, really). Lazenby did not have it easy to pick up the role well established by the seasoned Sean Connery. It surely took a lot of courage to try and fit into so much bigger shoes. (On a second thought I am not convinced that Daniel Craig had it any easier – like what? A blond Bond? – remember back in 2005?).

What I like about Lazenby’s take on Bond is he knows he has nothing to lose and therefore creates a young almost pleasant character to start with. Setting the plot aside, he was not such a bad Bond (character, not film).

OHMSS is sentimental – showing the virgin beauty of the Swiss Alps with almost no tourists, with empty pistes, with pristinely white snow. However, this is not enough to make a good Bond movie. Perhaps there isn’t enough of the intrigue, perhaps too much happens in an enclosed golden cage of a mountain-top spa, perhaps there are too few obstacles. This is not a good James Bond movie, but George Lazenby was not that bad of a James Bond.

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Layer Cake by Matthew Vaughn (2004)

Daniel Craig is an unnamed character at his most magnetic best. He plays a drug dealer on his last job before ‘retirement’. How many times have we seen this in cinema. One last bank robbery, one last deal, and then the protagonist will live happily ever after. How often does the last job go right? And how often does it go wrong? Exactly.

In agreement with the gangster movie genre, nothing goes right and everything goes wrong. As this scheme is the mainstream of the British cinema (I will hesitate to call it indie given the astronomic budget of £3m), Layer Cake gets served exceptionally fresh as compared to other films of the era.

The cinematography by Ben Davis is worth a special mention. It is not only phenomenally well put together – it is also creatively different and therefore a true feast to the eyes.

It was thanks to this role that Craig got into the competition for the next James Bond. And how accurately so. This film could work quite well as the prequel to Casino Royale, as the intro to who Bond could have been before he started to work for MI6, before he got his licence to kill.

Watching this film almost a decade after it has been made, after having seen Craig’s Bond in three episodes, it looks as if James Bond was his destiny. It is an incredibly fun thing to watch Craig as a character who hates guns, who does his first kill, who learns the tricks of outwitting his opponents. In a way he becomes a perfect gangster, who is smart enough to quit when he has mastered all there is to acquire in the business.

Costume designer (Stephanie Collie) did a huge favour to Daniel Craig. He should be grateful.

Yet again this is one more of the few (very few) films I have seen that has a voiceover I do not oppose against. I specifically like the last line of Craig’s character (XXXX – as per final credits) uttering what will later become the cult “My name’s Bond, James Bond.” At the end of the film he says: “My name? If you knew that, you’d be as clever as me.”

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Looper by Rian Johnson (2012)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Bruce Willis, Bruce Willis plays himself.

Once you have this sorted in your head you can start watching the Looper.

The Looper is a tragically confusing mix of too many genres. Take horror, science-fiction, romance and buddy movie. Too much.

As much as I love both actors plus Emily Blunt (who NB has made most unfortunate script decisions recently), this film turned out to be a disappointment.

In 2044 – before time travel has been invented, there is a dirty business going on. Contract killers called loopers shoot death sentenced sent from the future. Time and place is known where they land. The only thing is to pull the trigger without thinking. The body will be loaded with silver bars – as your dough. If the bars are gold – that means you just killed yourself and your career is finished. You get exactly 30 years ahead of you. You just closed the loop.

A futuristic setup in its vision brings to mind Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner straightaway. The future is urbanised, humans are selfish and extremely divided in a caste-like system.

Joe’s (can you think of a better name for an everyman?)  old self is late for the execution and then appears without a headscarf and looks back at him.

With the above setup many things can go wrong, can go various ways – this can be a good story.

The flaws involve too many gaps in the plot. I don’t know how Joe manages to sit in the same scene twice if time travel hasn’t been invented. As far as I get the idea and the convention of the genre, there are too many elements that just do not fit the usual logics of a futuristic vision.

There should be certain rules, right? The mere concept of being able to speak to your older self is fair enough but then this story falls over into pieces on so many levels.

As always mending the future by time travel into the past is tricky as every step does change what you end up with. But this is just unsuccessful. On the verge of boring and too many threads are unexplained, illogical and at times gory for no particular reason. Very disappointing.

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