Inglourious Basterds

In France during World War 2, SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is known as the “Jew Hunter” for his propensity for catching Jewish fugitives hiding from the Nazi party. Meanwhile, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has been tasked with building a team of his “Basterds,” predominantly Jewish-American soldiers sent in to kill as many Nazis as possible. Finally, Jewish cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) has caught the eye of war hero Private Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), whose exploits have been made into a film, Nation’s Pride, which Zoller aims to have premier at Shosanna’s theatre, only for her to hatch a plan to take out as many Nazi officers as possible.
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Fight Club

This review was originally written as part of my USA Road Trip series for French Toast Sunday.

At the end of the 20th Century, men have lost there sense of place in the world. With no real sociological problems to concern them, the American working class males wander through life in a daze, controlled by their jobs and their society-spawned desire for the perfect magazine lifestyle. One such man (Edward Norton) finds solace from his insomnia in support groups for people with terminal illnesses, with this contrast to his own lack of problems finally allowing him to sleep at night. However, his world is rocked by the existence of Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), a fellow group-attending faker, and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a rather bizarre fellow with a penchant for soap, explosives, splicing pornography into family films and, of course, beating the crap out of other consenting men.
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The Tree of Life

This film was nominated for me to watch by Mette Kowalski of French Toast Sunday and the Across the Universe podcast. Some day I may forgive here for this.

When I put the call out for people to recommend films for me to review this year, I did so expecting to have differing opinions with some of the people who suggested the films. I know there’s a lot of people out there who don’t necessarily think the same way I do, which is what makes the world an endlessly wonderful/frustrating place to live in. Mette suggested two films for me, and they both came with warnings. The other suggestion (2000’s In the Mood For Love) arrived in disc form today, so I’ll be covering that soon, and apparently I’ll suffer through it, whereas The Tree of Life came with the claim that I’d either love it or hate it, but that I shouldn’t dare hate it. Sorry Mette, I’m feeling rather daring today.
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12 Years A Slave

The Oscar nominations were recently announced and, as usual, I’ve seen precious few of the films that were mentioned. As in, of the nine Best Picture nominees, at the time of nomination I had only seen two (American Hustle and Gravity, neither of whom I’m particularly fussed about winning). Well, now I’ve seen four, as I saw Wolf of Wall Street recently too (potential review pending). And, not to put too big a spoiler on my opinions of this film, but as far as I’m concerned those other five pictures I’ve still yet to see will need to be pretty damn phenomenal if they’ve got a chance of beating 12 Years A Slave.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Continue reading

Troy

Regardless of whether you know the story of Homer’s Iliad, it’s a certainty that you know of the expressions Helen of Troy, Achilles’ Heel and The Trojan Horse. These plot points have become more than the legend of which they are a part, and have entered the modern lexicon as sayings and day-to-day phrases. They aren’t anything new, you know what is means and have heard them a million times before, and the same can be said for every aspect of this film.

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Seven

A buddy cop movie with a seasoned old hand so close to retirement they’re already scraping his name off the door and his hotshot, firebrand young replacement, this couldn’t be further from another Lethal Weapon. Yes, one’s a family man and the other’s a loner, one is prone to anger and the other a methodical, careful detective clearly too old for this shit, but where Richard Donner’s 80’s staple is an entertaining, action-packed romp, this is something much darker.After a disturbingly evocative opening credits sequence enriched with depth and meaning on repeated viewings, we meet Morgan Freeman’s detective Somerset, picking up his last case, a sickeningly masterful serial killer with a penchant for the seven deadly sins, the same day as Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills arrives to replace him. That’s as much setup as there is, as we follow the mismatched detectives from crime scene to crime scene, via their headquarters and areas of research, with Somerset whiling a night away poring over books in the library, whilst Mills take a brief glance at the Cliff notes.

The script is dotted with well balanced moments of humour – Somerset having dinner with Mills and his wife Tracey (Gwyneth Paltrow) – and some deep black humour: “this guy’s sat in his own piss and shit; if he wasn’t dead he’d’ve stood up by now,” plus R. Lee Ermey’s belligerent, furious Police Captain (“This is not even my desk” is one of my favourite film quotes, ever).

Crucially, we see none of the killer’s murders onscreen, merely their gruesome aftermaths. It’s not as gory as you might remember, but it evokes imagery and feelings that some may find disturbing, not least what happens to Leland Orser’s character, who probably has the worst memories of those who survive. It could be argues that this is a precursor to the Saw franchise, punishing those that seem to deserve it in creative, torturous ways, but at least here we are saved the nightmarish spectacles of witnessing the deaths.

At times the film feels a bit predictable, like a police procedural itself, but whenever this is about to happen the plot shifts direction, taking an unexpected twist to shake things up again. The colour palette of muted greys and browns, interspersed with deep reds amongst the incessant torrential downpour of the nameless city only adds to the feelings of despair.

There’s small roles for John C. McGinley and Richard Schiff in there as well, a nice surprise for me in the opening credits, but unfortunately at times the acting, especially Pitt during the final scenes, leaves something to be desired. The ending has become the stuff of legend, but I won’t reveal it just in case, save that Pitt’s gurning and crying are a bit over the top and take you out of the scene. This is another one of those films where knowing your actors may ruin the film too, as recognising a voice could cause annoyances later on, but not too badly.

Overall this is director David Fincher’s defining film (better than Fight Club in my opinion, though it’s been a while). The gritty tone is perfectly realised through every medium possible, the plot is gripping, the twists hold up and, though far from an enjoyable experience, it remains worthwhile.

Choose film 10/10

Babel

The first film to arrive from LoveFilm from the recent additions, Babel has seen my List update shoot me in the foot, as Babel is quite a long film that I’ve seen twice before, once just before starting the List, and that to be in honest doesn’t live up to its potential.
We follow the lives of four groups of people, as their existences are disrupted by a single bullet. First, there’s the poverty-stricken goat herder and his two young, competitive sons who purchase a rifle to protect their flock from jackals. We also have a wealthy American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, both excellent if trying a little too hard in largely thankless roles) as they bicker their way through a holiday in Morocco. An Hispanic maid is forced to take the two young children she cares for with her and her nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal) to Mexico for her son’s wedding, and the deaf/mute daughter of a successful Japanese businessman struggles to lose her virginity. The multicultural cast is good, especially Rinko Kikuchi as the Japanese girl, who carries most of her story arc single-handed, but there are several scenes that are very difficult to watch – the younger of the goat-herder’s sons masturbating within earshot of his brother, a disillusioned young boy witnesses the chicken he is about to eat slaughtered in front of him and a troubled teen coming on very strongly to her dentist.
The film is entirely humourless, with barely a smile to be seen either onscreen or off, and it lacks the finesse of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros. That, and the entire thing is thoroughly depressing, with only some interesting scenes – a nightclub seen from a deaf perspective – to pique the interest.
Choose life 6/10