Archive | May, 2013

What Richard Did

11 May

What Richard Did

 

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writers: Malcolm Campbell (screenplay), Kevin Power (novel)

Stars: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 88 minutes

 

 

I have a 17 year old nephew who is considerate, sensible and sociable, but I worry about him. His access to almost any type of adult accoutrement is vast. He is wired into the Internet 24/7 and is seemingly bombarded with images of sex, drugs and the rock n roll lifestyle ad nauseam (if not the real things). It is incredibly different to how I entered adulthood circa 25 years ago. He is sensible enough to navigate it all, but I still worry that he will be caught out.

There are many commentators that express concerns about the over-sexualized and celebrity entranced consumer kids of today. This film review will not add much to the debate, but its subject is highly relevant. What Richard Did has been described as a ‘wake-up call for Ireland’ and as a ‘defining moment for Irish youth culture’. As such other film critics have viewed the character of 18 year old Richard, his lifestyle, ambitions, close friends and errant behaviour as symptomatic of serious social change. Those critics seemingly worry about Ireland in ways that I worry about my nephew here in England.

Richard Karlsen is 18 and this film follows him through that summer that sits intoxicatingly between finishing school and heading to university. Richard (played by Jack Reynor) is the alpha teenager of his group. He plays rugby at a high level, is a good looking lad and has plenty of friends and a fair amount of respect from them and their parents. That group is well enough off and flits between Dublin and holiday homes on the Wicklow coast. They drink and party, camp out and fool around with each other and keep away from adults. It’s that summer.

The film hinges on an unsavoury incident at an out-of-control house party in Dublin. Richard is drunk and lashes out at a lad paying too close attention to his girlfriend Lara (Roisin Murphy). Jealousy, pride and anger hinted at before pour out of him. In the blink of an eye everything changes, for the worse. The second half of the film deals with the aftermath and as such is about shame, grief, and the bonds of friendship.

This is a powerful and moving film. It is incredibly well made with excellent photography, smart editing and a wonderful score. The director Lenny Abrahamson is clearly very talented. At its centre is a rather mind-blowing performance by Reynor as Richard. He is exceptional and has to become a major star. His acting, like the film, is very natural. Richard is calm, slightly brooding, and unsettlingly confident. He, like many 18 year old boys, is difficult to fathom and Reynor nails the performance. What Richard Did may or may not define a generation, but it feels topical and it certainly carries quite an impact.

Cloud Atlas

6 May

cloud atlas

 

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski

Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 172 minutes

 

 

The novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell sold in great numbers and was said to be impossible to film. Life of Pi by Yann Martel was the same. Now both have hit the big screen and are coming to the secondary market buoyed along by advances in computer generated imagery (CGI). Without computing power it’s hard to see how either film would get made and for Cloud Atlas the challenge also required multiple directors. The Wachowskis (Andy and Lana) worked with Tom Twyker and together they produced a big movie.

Cloud Atlas is about how our actions through time are connected so that we shape others’ lives with the decisions that we make. The themes are large and the canvas larger still. Cloud Atlas spans centuries, continents, societies and more. The main actors appear in each so that the likes of Tom Hanks gets to play a post-apocalyptic hunter gatherer, a Victorian doctor, a Scottish hotel manager and a modern day Irish author. There are six inter-weaving stories in play and the film jumps between them. Multiple directors were probably the only way to make the film.

Considering its size, Cloud Atlas is not that difficult to follow. It also moves along at a fairly decent clip and both are achievements not to be underestimated. In fact, this is a better film than I expected. It is well filmed and has high production values. The core message is less than subtle – the karmic return of good citizenry – but even that recurring theme is not exactly hammered home.

There are faults in the film that prevent it reaching greatness. The acting and the casting is patchy. Ben Wishaw and Jim Broadbent are excellent in every incarnation and their storyline – the former aiding the latter in composing music in the 1930’s – is about the best thing in the movie. Elsewhere Hanks, Halle Berry, Donna Bae and Hugo Weaving are good in some roles, but poor in others and Hugh Grant is badly miscast and downright awful in every part. Watching Hugh play a cannibal warrior in post-apocalyptic Hawaii is a horrible experience.

This is an unusual type of film and should be applauded for its ambition. It is watchable and the CGI work is stunning at times. There are flaws of course, but I was happy to go with the flow and to sit back and to mostly enjoy it. Although it is by no means a masterpiece, Cloud Atlas is better than most big budget movies and proof that unwieldy novels can be re-assembled for the screen.

Hitchcock

2 May

hitchcock

 

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Writers: John J. McLaughlin (screenplay), Stephen Rebello (book)

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 98 minutes

 

 

Alfred Hitchcock was a prolific film-maker. He had hit films in the silent, black & white and colour eras. That durability was quite extraordinary, especially for a tubby chap from the east end of London. To get and to stay there he developed a tough exterior and made some enemies. That’s the Hollywood story more or less and this biographic film is set in and around the studios and sets of la-la-land in 1959. That’s the year that Hitchcock put his own money behind Psycho.

The opening of the film is smart. It is clever in a Coen brothers’ way, but then Anthony Hopkins opens his mouth and starts his Hitchcock impression. Pitching the voice somewhere between Tommy Cooper, a Hopkins’ hero, and Michael Caine, the result is distracting. Later on he adds some native Welsh tones and I spent most of the film trying to unpick the jumble. It’s a pity because opposite him Helen Mirren puts in a great performance as Hitch’s long suffering wife Alma Reville. In an average film, she is splendid.

Besides Mirren, there is not a lot to commend here. Hopkins is eager, but not convincing as the larger than life director. We get to see his famous darker side – the insecure, lecherous and domineering Hitchcock – but Hopkins never lets it rip. The overall tone is strangely muted considering how controversial the film Psycho was. That is the other big beast on display here, but perhaps the only insight on the making of the seminal horror film is Alma’s crucial influence on casting and the script.

This is a fairly quick and easy film to watch. The late ‘50’s setting is fun and the supporting cast are solid enough (Johansson, Huston and Collette). Mirren is the best thing in it and yet there is little to challenge hearts or minds in this film which is surprising as Hitch and many of his films were nothing if not provocative.

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