Quills

The Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) has been imprisoned by Napoleon for writing sexually explicit novels Justine and Juliette. Whilst in prisoned at the Charenton Insane Asylum, de Sade uses a laundry maid (Kate Winslet) to smuggle out his scripts. The Abbe de Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), who runs the asylum, battles constantly with the rebellious de Sade, until eventually Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a conditioning expert, is brought in to ‘cure’ the man.
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Shine

Though onscreen for less than half the film, Geoffrey Rush won the 1997 best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the adult David Helfgott, a real life pianist barely known outside of his native Australia.
As a child, the young Helfgott (Noah Taylor) suffered an overbearing, paradoxical father who could never be proud of his son until he was a renowned concert pianist, yet refused to allow him the tutoring to achieve it. This pressure strains David’s personal life – a promising young romance is quashed at its initial meeting by his father’s interruption – eventually causing David to develop mental illness, not helped by trying to learn a particularly tricky Rachmaninoff.
All the performances are exceptional, particularly Rush mumbling and stuttering at lightning speed, occasionally unintelligible, revelling in the small moments of joy, be they from the discovery of a vacant piano in a restaurant or trampolining wearing nothing but sunblock and a billowing overcoat. The great John Gielgud crops up as the encouraging, kindly, cravat wearing tutor David so rightly deserves, but the tale cannot escape the cliché of the tormented artist, becoming better at his craft the greater the trauma he endures. Also the ending is too uplifting and fairytale, regardless of whether it is based on fact or not.
Choose Life 5/10

Finding Nemo

Taking a simple story, a father searches for his kidnapped son, and although transposing it to tropical fish sounds insane, the concept works, with Albert Brooks overprotective clown fish Marlin travelling to Sydney to rescue his son, who in turn is doing his best to escape the dentist’s fish tank within which he recently became imprisoned. As ever with Pixar, it is the myriad of supporting characters that make the film truly great, here ranging from the cabin fever crazed fish tank gang (voiced by, among others, Willem Dafoe, Stephen Root, Alison Janney and semi-regular collaborator Brad Garrett) to Ellen DeGeneres’ short term memory loss suffering regal tang Dory, probably the most popular and oft-quoted characters from the film.
Pixar rightfully uses the films running time to show off their immense design skills, displaying as many watery environments as possible (sewers, wide open oceans, docks, puddles) and a cornucopia of every widely recognisable aquatic lifeform, including sea turtles, jellyfish, sharks, pelicans, Aardman-inspired seagulls, stingrays, swordfish (fencing with upper class English accents), angler fish, whales and Bostonian lobsters.
It says something of the animating skill of Pixar that they had to degrade the quality of the water in this film, as initial feedback showed it was too realistic. Given enough time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to make a seemingly live action film without anyone noticing.
Choose film 8/10

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The second pirates film is not as good as the first, but is still thoroughly entertaining, and features several enjoyable set pieces, not least of which is the three-way swordfight between Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Jack Davenport (who really should be in more films). This is probably my highlight of the trilogy, especially once the giant wheel comes into play.
The special effects are stepped up from the first film, with Davy Jones and his crew looking exceptional, with the many hours of work involved being well worth the effort. Still, the cliffhanger endings do make this seem more of a set-up for the trilogy closer.Choose life 6/10

Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl

The original Pirates of the Caribbean film, the greatest ever made best on a theme park ride, is tremendous family-friendly fun, especially in its first half. It loses its way towards the end of the second reel, as the plot becomes inundated with various bluffs and double crosses, although in a film about pirates this is only to be expected. The CGI is excellent and well used, as is the comic relief, mainly provided by Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook, surely the closest any human being can get to being a scarecrow without an awful lot of hay. Geoffrey Rush could well have been cast as villain Barbossa on the strength of his piratical laugh alone, and for that deserves at least a mention.Choose film 7/10

The King’s Speech/12 Angry Men

I’m still working on the full list, its quite long so may take a while to sort through any duplications, but suffice to say I’m thinking I’ve bitten off slightly more than I can chew, as I haven’t heard of many of the 1001 Films to See Before You Die, let alone seen.

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