Reviews

The Lone Ranger review.

There was much to be concerned about, prior to viewing The Lone Ranger.

Johnny Depp’s previous decade of performances dating back to the start of 2001 have been underwhelming and repetitive.
Director Gore Verbinski’s three Pirates of the Caribbean films felt more merchandise than meaning.
Armie Hamer has rarely been tested as a leading actor in his short career.
Its release in America was met with a muted box office, with critics leading the march over the film’s apparent failure.photo

But The Lone Ranger is far from flawed.
In this decade of blockbuster films,  the down-to-earth simplicity and old school Western feel, is balanced nicely against digital effects that, thankfully, do not overload the experience.

Infact, there was more originality in this film, than in any blockbuster I can recall in recent memory.   The scenes are dealt with a sharp wit, cut perfectly for length and never overstay their welcome.  Gags that are common place in early Westerns or spoof films, are introduced with ingenuity.
Bojan Bazelli’s cinematography soars across the landscapes, with gorgeous framing and hues.

And then there is Depp.
Without a doubt, his performance of Tonto is one of the finest of his career.  The solemn, longing atmosphere in the opening scene alone is one of the best of 2013.
He channels humour and sadness in his inflections and the slight changes in his face.
Despite the film’s title, it’s Tonto who leads the story. Hamer’s Lone Ranger is passable, but never gravitates to the heroic heights like early Western serials.
But Hamer’s selection is the right one.  An actor who has yet to make his own ground in cinema, who doesn’t outshine the establishment.

The Lone Ranger is the companion in this film.

It’s a movie of great adventure and humour.   Sorrowful and nostalgic. One of the better films I’ve seen in 2013.  With shades of Little Big Man, it proves that if script and performances are strong,  a blockbuster can stand on its own legs without the over-reliance of CGI.

Score:  3.5 / 5

‘A Story of Children and Film’ review.

After his epic ‘The Story of Film’ series, director Mark Cousins moved onto a shorter 100min documentary, on the role of children in film.
His structure follows videotaped footage of his nieces and nephews, acting out common traits that have been a part of children in film for decades.   I found it not entirely necessary to have that structure, but it doesn’t impede on Cousins’ observations.story-of-children-and-film-2013-001-boys-eye-title

The wealth of knowledge and films shown, places Cousins near the top of the documentary genre.   And ‘A Story of Children and Film’ is digestible in one sitting.  During the film I began to wish I had bought a notepad and pen, to document the films he was talking about.    Thankfully the film’s official website lists them all:  http://astoryofchildrenandfilm.com/

There are films known to all cinema goers (E.T ,  The Kid), but the majority are hidden gems from decades ago (An Inn in Tokyo,  Two Solutions for One Problem).

Cousins manages to unearth a shelf of films we’ve never heard of, and then teases us with gorgeous scenes.
He has started our journey.  It’s now up to us to seek out, discover and learn.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Review: ‘The Act of Killing’

Don’t look for regret in ‘The Act of Killing’.

Central to the documentary are the events of 1965, when the Indonesian Government were overthrown by military, thereby elevating small time crooks (selling black market movie tickets) to the roles of death squad leaders. Some 1 million alleged communists were killed.
The men were never tried or convicted.

The film doesn’t focus on the victims, or descendants of the victims.   The key figures are the death squad leaders themselves.  Directors Christine Cynn,  Joshua Oppenheimer (and Anonymous) allow the figures to explain their actions,  to try to help us understand their motivations and how they have continued to live with their actions after all the decades.
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One man, Anwar Congo, is unrepentant.  He has no remorse for his actions back in 1965.  So he wilfully, and meticulously re-creates how some of the killings took place.  Because of his background which was influenced by the cinema, he goes about staging the crimes again (not to the point of actually killing anyone) with elaborate sets and costumes.  He is delusional.  Grandeur runs in his veins.

This is a confronting documentary, confusing at times, always bizarre.   The executive producers are some of cinema’s finest – the documentarians in Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

The subject matter is very heavy.  And as the documentary goes on, a turning point begins to unravel.  The recreation of the killings begin to bring to the surface emotions long held back.

I’ll never forget the final ten minutes of this documentary.
Film begins to take revenge.
Unforgettable.    I can’t shake it from my mind.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Review: World War Z

World War Z is a poorly paced film.  In what is usually the strength of zombie films,  paranoia, the chase,  fear – are all diluted in the first 100 minutes by poor direction.   The viewer is rarely given a chance to focus on what has just happened, or to absorb key plot points.  Instead we jump from one scene to another.  Coherence is lost. Impact is lost.
Someone must have left scenes on the cutting room floor.

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In one scene, a character with key information is quickly dismissed from the film in a manner that was underwhelming and farcical.  At this point I did a double take, looked around the cinema to see if anyone else was as bemused, and carried on watching.  The confused frown never fully left my face.

Of the few strengths in the film, one must highlight Marco Beltrami’s score that bounds behind the opening credits. And Mireille Enos’ performance as the wife of Brad Pitt who stays with her children, while he tries to save the world.   Enos’ performance is the only one with any credibility and warmth.  Pitt barely raises any emotion on his face for the whole 116 minutes.

Plagued by production issues, including a re-write of the final act,  it was surprising to find that the final act is actually the strength of the film.   The director finally gives the viewer breathing space, heightens the tensions, slows the paces,  raises the heartbeat.

Apart from that World War Z is a mess.  A complete mess.

Score: 1 / 5

The Search for Emak Bakia

Claire Bloom once told me  ‘thank god film is a kind of memory of who you were. As long as it lasts’
In ‘The Search for Emak Bakia’, the memory one finds, is of a film we probably have never heard of. 1339497478la_casa_emak_bakia_1_full_copy-resize-375x210

In 1926, the avant-garde filmmaker Man Ray, created a surreal silent film.  Its title was Emak Bakia. (Of note it is available to view on YouTube)
The origin of the title is one of dispute.  Fast-forward 86 years and Oskar Algeria’s documentary attempts to find the answer.

I had never even heard of the name May Ray, let alone his 1926 film.   Algeria introduces us to that film through the parallel narrative of his own documented  journey.  And along the way, he quite remarkably blends images from the old silent film, with his own search for Emak Bakia.

It is truly a nostalgic atmosphere, at times haunting, always intriguing.  It’s of little concern to the viewer when Algeria’s journey goes off tangent, because, somehow, and always, it blends back to Man Ray’s 1926 film.

One could consider that this documentary title is not so much Oskar’s search for Emak Bakia,  but our own search to find the film that started his journey.

Director Oskar Alegría
Year 2012
Runtime 87 mins
Language. Basque, French, Italian, Spanish