Sunday, 24 February 2008

No Country For Old Men - Ethan/Joel Coen (2008)

A brutal eclipse of modern-day crime-thrillers, Ethan and Joel Coens 'No Country For Old Men' paints a disturbingly violent and beautiful image of the developing slippery slope in which society is slowly falling down.

Starting with visually stunning shots of the baron landscape which becomes a staple of the whole film, the Coen's quickly and vividly materialize 'No Country For Old Men' into one of the most tense and suspenseful films of the last ten years. It quickly advances into a vicious chase across Texas as the deviously psychotic hired-hand in Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) attempts to track down Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a back-ward country boy who happened to stumble upon a Mexican drug deal gone bad and help himself to the $2.4million left in the dying hands of the ‘last hombre standing’, which sets into motion a series of unstoppable and deadly events of which gives ageing Sherriff Tom Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) a chance to reflect upon what he's doing and who in today's modern world, he's facing.

From the moment Tommy Lee Jones mutters "I've been a Sherriff of this town for twenty-five years" to his final profound epilogue at the end of the film, the acting throughout is sustained at a very high rate. Javier Bardem in particular, is fantastic as the psychotic, no-nonsense, pure incarnation of evil; hired-hitman Anton Chigurh (however he does have principles in a very funny sort of way...). Every time Bardem is on-screen, his presence radiates throughout the whole film as you know that death is just around corner, while Brolin plays his counter-part to-a-tee, a fearless redneck living out in the desert sands of Texan outback, who is willing to fight Chigurh and the Mexicans to the last-strands of death for the drug money, and is willing to put his wife, the delectable Kelly MacDonald, in the firing line of those around him too.

Roger Deakins beautiful cinematography, of the baron wasteland which all the events of the film are laid out, supports Cormac McCarthy's adapted novel brilliantly. The Coen's decision to adapt the novel, with little-to-no tinkering allowed the full beauty of such a deep and thought-fuelled novel to come to life in only the way in which Ethan and Joel Coen could. In an age of CGI and 'green scenes', it's nice to see such an articulated film that ticks every single box for the basic fundamentals of film-making and in such a thought-provoking way too. 'No Country' throws you in at the moral and ethical deep-end and with no back-story, asks you to make a decision, and it’s the Coens finest film to date.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Juno - Dir. Jason Reitman (2008)

Jason Reitman's follow-up to 'Thank You For Smoking' is an intelligent, heart-warming, wingnut of a comedy that makes you appreciate the in-your-face and intimate cinematic occasion it lays before you.

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finds that boredom only leads to one avenue; sex. And when she ends up pregnant, with the father being close-friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), she must dig deep within herself to not only mature over-night, but find adoptive parents for her soon to-be-delivered baby. Following Juno through various stumbling block's in her rocky road of mother-hood, one which see's Juno decide whether or not to get an abortion while her school-friend Su-Chin pickets the clinic outside ("All babies deserve to be borned" she shouts as a one woman army), is awkwardly satisfying and ultimately funny for the on-edge viewer.

Ellen Page is a revelation as the book-smart, quick-tongued teenager facing adversity in the face with her impending pregnancy, and gives a performance that will either have you spilling your guts with laughter, or filling the aisles with tears - or even both. While Michael Cera (Paulie), J.K. Simmons (Mac MacGuff), Olivia Thirlby (Leah) and Jason Bateman (Mark Loring) provide adequate emotional back-up, making you genuinely feel in the heart of all their relationship's with Juno, especially Cera and Simmons. The only weak link, in a very strong chain is Jennifer Gardner as Vanessa Loring, who you never engage with her character till the penultimate scene of the film, when it's too late anyway.

One aspect which contributes drastically to Juno's success, and would be a cardinal sin to overlook, is debutant screenwriter Diablo Cody's script, which is full from the beginning to the end with engaging, entertaining and down-right witty dialogue. She creates Juno, a pretentious, naive teenager who over-time matures into an exciting and nurtured human being, while keeping her traits which we at the same time keeping the hilarious and charming moments ticking over. Despite a conventional ending which follows the genre like salt on chips, it's the chunky and delightful middle that keeps the film running and the audience happy.

Hilarious. Heart-warming. Enjoyable. Engaging. Cute. Interesting. Hip. You'll leave the cinema when it ends with a smile from ear-to-ear knowing you've just seen something special (and it wasn't the attractive young eighteen-year old girl bending down in-front). Now where did I leave my Hamburger phone...?

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem - Dir. Brothers Strause (2007)

Feeling more like 'Alien and Predator vs Typical Teenage America', this life-less action-adventure film involving two past-it Sci-Fi characters is nothing less than a dreadfully clichéd waste-of-money sequel. With a particularly heavy emphasis on the word 'clichéd'.

Instead of a 'hive' (or general nest of alien anarchy) being found by unsuspecting explorers, this time around it is the unlucky residents of Gunnison, Colorado who unfortunately find there lives turned up-side down by an infestation of Aliens and one really, really dedicated Predator who seems to be . The film's only fan, one would assume.

What follows is scene-upon-scene of human slaughtering awfulness, as the typical American Teen Boy (Johnny Lewis), gets smitten with the typical American Teen Girl (Kristen Hager), while the clichéd reformed criminal (Steven Pasquale), helps the inept Sherriff (John Ortiz) who intern ends up getting many, many people killed in a very unsatisfying way...For the viewer that is, as keeping track of what's happening will make you wish, you were there and right in the middle of Alien nest.

With a life-less, unbelievably idiotic script constantly is setting the 'AVP' ship astray ("Everybody's dead. We need guns." - Surely a line, one of many, worthy of a mention), the film's last life-line comes in the form of D-List actors who offer nothing more than laughable acting, something which I expect in 'Asylum' films, but not a 20th Century Fox production.

Finally when the credits rolled, I felt disturbed and violated for the fact that I'd just paid to see this god-awful car-crash of a so-called 'action-adventure film'. If the Brothers Strause removed the life-less acting and replace the stereotypical characters with a crate full of Aliens and Predators and let the blood flow, they may have saved this from being one of the worst films of 2008 already...