Thursday, 25 December 2008

December Films

Not a single review since August? My apologies, film fans! I was doing my itineration in North America in October and November and I was only able to watch one film during that time (Quantum of Solace – see separate review tomorrow). However, I have tried to make up for it in December. So here are some mini-reviews of the films I watched in the past two weeks:

The Duchess
Passable period drama about a famous duchess in eighteenth-century England. Keira Knightley is quite good as the daring duchess, while Ralph Fiennes is typically excellent as her husband, the duke, who is portrayed as pathetic while not eliciting either disgust or sympathy. The direction, cinematography and screenplay are all competent but generally uninspired. While I give the film ***, I recommend it only to those who enjoy this kind of film (or are Ralph Fiennes fans, like me).

I’m not a big lover of westerns, but it was fun to watch Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons do some excellent acting in what is otherwise a fairly standard (as in old-fashioned, though somewhat revisionist) story. The relationship and witty dialogue between the two “buddies”, played by Harris (who also wrote and directed) and Mortensen, is the heart of this adventure and worth the price of admission. A solid ***, but again recommended mostly for those who enjoy westerns.

Burn After Reading
The latest offering by the Coen Brothers is a typical Coen film: quirky and funny, but also rather cold, very dark and violent. While there was a debate about whether No Country for Old Men was nihilistic, Burn After Reading leaves little doubt. This film does not really approach the quality of No Country for Old Men, but the acting is good and I’m a major fan of Coen quirkiness, so I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. Another solid *** film, but it’s not for everyone.

Sean Penn is absolutely terrific as Harvey Milk, a gay activist in 1970s San Francisco. This is my favourite performance of the year so far and it drives an incredibly well-made and inspiring political drama based on real-life events. Directed by Gus Van Sant, this film gets **** and is almost certain to make my top ten of 2008.

In Bruges
I missed this one at the cinema (unfortunately!), but just watched it on video. In Bruges is a beautiful and unusual gangster film taking place entirely in the gorgeous city of Bruges in Belgium. Colin Farrell has never been better and Brendan Gleeson is fantastic, with Ralph Fiennes once again adding his brilliance in a lesser role. This is another “buddy” film, but far more subtle and memorable than most. I love films that constantly surprise me the way this one did. It’s violent and will not appeal to everyone, but I give it a very solid ***+.

1 comment:

  1. Glad your back to business, Vic! -John Clarke