The Piano

First off, an apology for the forthcoming review. I watched the film three months ago, and have gotten so far behind on my post writing that I’ve not had any real desire to review it, as to be honest it wasn’t that inspirational of a film. Nonetheless, I shall do my best, but I’m relying almost solely on the notes I made during the movie, as I can’t for the life of me remember very much of it. As you can probably guess, this isn’t going to be much of a recommendation to watch the film.
Holly Hunter plays Ada McGrath, a woman who, aged six, willed herself mute, and has since never spoken a word. She moves from Scotland to New Zealand for an arranged marriage with Sam Neill’s landowner/writer Alisdair, and brings her young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin in her first live action picture) and their piano, Ada’s pride and joy. Neill is less than impressed with his new bride-to-be (“You’re small, I never thought you’d be small”), and refuses to cart her piano across the difficult swampland between the beach and his home, so they abandon it on the sand, much to Ada’s discontent. Fortunately local plantation worker George Baines (Harvey Keitel) takes a shine to Ada, and trades some land with Alisdair for the piano, and agrees to trade it back to Ada in return for ‘piano lessons,’ during which George will get to know Ada far more intimately than she’d like.

Hunter and Paquin both won Oscars for this film, and Hunter at least thoroughly deserved hers (Paquin is excellent for an 11 year old, but though I haven’t seen any of the performances she was nominated against I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the actresses, including Emma Thompson and the aforementioned Hunter, performed more capably). Hunter’s Ada is utterly repressed, yet still emotive and expressive, all pursed lips and passive eyes, her skin a deathly pale against the stark black of her dresses and bonnet. Keitel is also good, though his proclivity for whipping his pecker out is always a distraction, and is for the most part unnecessary.
I got the feeling that the film was made to prove the point that a lead character doesn’t need to speak (see also: Dumbo). There isn’t too much of a story here, with the events built entirely around the character and her very existence rather than the exciting or emotional events in her life. Her character is well realised, especially the bond with her daughter, and her slowly breaking down walls against Baines’ advances. Communicating only through sign language, facial expression and a small chalk-board locket, she says more than any other character, and with far less.
Despite the poetry of the film, such as Keitel’s Baines being willing to just sit and watch the piano hammers dancing gaily along the strings, I didn’t take much away from this film, and it has had little to no lasting impact on me. It’s very slow, and the message is muddled, though I think it has something to do with choosing the correct way to woo someone. Alisdair goes about things in entirely the wrong way with Ada. If only he’d coerced her into, essentially, prostitution, he’d have been much better off. Oh, and the best part about the film? It features an actress called Geneviève Lemon.
Choose life 6/10

Scream 4

I wrote in one of my first posts aaaaaaaaaaages ago that I was really looking forward to this film, as I loved Scream and Scream 2, and enjoyed Scream 3 enough to justify owning it, but when the reviews came out and Scream 4 was deemed something of a failure I became lukewarm to the idea, and have put off watching it until recently. I went in with fairly low expectations, which is probably the best approach to take if you want to enjoy this film.

The problem with the Scream franchise, and indeed with pretty much every horror series, is that it tells the same story every time. Yes, a new batch of barely-characterised nubile young hotties is brought in to be creatively slaughtered, and at least with these films the killer changes each time, but the motive always seems to be the same and it’s always someone you’re not supposed to expect, meaning you work out who the killer couldn’t possibly be, and then you’ve solved the mystery.
It’s not difficult to see why the surviving leads from the series, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, have returned, seeing as none of them has had a very successful venture since the last movie, and the likes of Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin and Adam Brody were probably only too willing to work with Wes Craven, the legend behind the original trilogy as well as A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House On The Left.
The plot sees Sidney Prescott (Campbell), the key surviving victim from the series, as she returns back to her home town of Woodsboro 15 years after the original murders to promote her new book, where Dewey (Arquette) is now sheriff and married to Gale Weathers (Cox). At times it’s more than a little awkward to see Cox and Arquette working together after their divorce, as they’ve lost that spark of chemistry present in the earlier films. Coinciding with Sidney’s return, a new killer is murdering random victims, and seems to be doing so by following the rules set by modern horror multi-sequels. This time amongst the knife-fodder is Sidney’s niece Jill (Roberts) and her friends, as well as movie nerds and audience cyphers Charlie and Robbie (Culkin and Erik Knudsen).
Seeing as the antagonists murder weapon is a big knife, the kills here can never be all that inventive. It’s more a case of where the killer jumps out from and who is behind the mask more than how will everyone die (hint: by being stabbed). The film has now surpassed it’s previous level of satire and whip-smart semi-parody by becoming overly self-deprecating, with the multi-layered opening being a prime example of how silly it has become, and how little the film cares about the kind of emotional attachment the audience is willing to put into the characters and plot. The ending makes sense within the film’s universe, but only because it’s frightfully similar to that of the three films before it.
If you enjoyed the previous films, and heaven knows I did, then chances are you know what you’re getting yourself in for here, and won’t necessarily be disappointed. If, however, you’re looking for the series to get a kick start and head off in a new direction, you’ll find it sadly lacking. This was intended to start another trilogy, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Choose life 4/10