The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

After the death of one of their partners, three cabaret performers accept a job playing at a hotel in Alice Springs, two weeks drive away from their Sydney home. Equipped with a tour bus they christen Priscilla, the trio set out across the barren wastes of Australia, dealing with prejudice and other obstacles along the way.
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Iron Man 3

Genius billionaire philanthropist with a super-powered flying metal suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is not in a good way. Despite being in a loving relationship with his former assistant and the now-CEO of his company Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and with his best friends, Colonel James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and former security guard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) both doing rather well for themselves, Tony is suffering from severe insomnia and having heavy panic attacks. This may have something to do with him recently almost dying after delivering a nuclear bomb through a portal into space, through which aliens were attempting to invade and take over the world, after which he was literally scared back to life by the Hulk screaming at his face. This isn’t helped by the arrival of two figures from Tony’s past – former one night stand Maya (Rebecca Hall) and rejected  scientist Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) – and the Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey), a terrorist unleashing multiple bombs onto the American public. When the Mandarin’s latest bomb puts Happy in a coma, Tony is forced to take matters into his own hands. Continue reading

Memento

Christopher Nolan’s first major picture (after 1998’s Following, which is interesting but a tad too confusing, and really for completists only) is at first glance nothing but a gimmick, using a reverse-narrative to tell the detective noir of Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby as he hunts for the man who raped and killed his wife whilst suffering with a rare condition that prevents him from making new memories. However it turns out that telling the story backwards, scene by scene and with an expositionary telephone conversation spliced in between, is the only way to give the story justice.
Famously, there is an easter egg on the Memento DVD that plays the film in chronological order, and I’ve discovered that in that orientation the film just doesn’t work. It’s not just because the last few seconds of every scene are replayed again moments later at the start of the next one (surely that wouldn’t have taken much to edit out?) but it’s also because the film is completely lacking in tension or pacing when that way round. Which just goes to show that Nolan was able to use a plot technique to it’s fullest advantage, which in the hands of a lesser director could have proved disastrous.
Pearce is excellent in an unforgiving role, especially given that Leonard has no character arc longer than a scene. He’s always been a brilliant actor, and often hides his Brad Pitt-esque looks behind obscuring facial furniture or heavy make-up – see Ed Exley’s glasses in L.A. Confidential, or large amounts of Play-doh in Prometheus – and here is no exception, with Shelby’s body plastered with tattoos and a shock of peroxide blonde hair to distract from those razor-sharp cheekbones. Pearce is ably supported by Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano as Natalie and Teddy, people who may or may not be out to help Leonard on his quest.We discover elements of the story as Leonard does, and the true meaning of almost every scene is altered by the one that immediately precedes/follows it. Surprisingly, a scene can hold just as many surprises, and just as much tension, if you know how it ends but not how it begins. You can’t help but feel sorry for Leonard, in a situation that would drive most of us insane – as long as we could remember the insanity long enough – and his life would be hard enough without everyone screwing with him. Even the clerk at his motel (Batman Begins‘ Mark Boone Junior) charges him for two different rooms, and doesn’t even hide it from Leonard, as there’s no chance he’ll remember.

There’s more comedic moments than you might remember, and some darkly so, for example the conversation where Leonard reveals to Natalie that the last thing he remembers is his wife. She says that’s sweet, before Leonard concludes “…dying.” I probably shouldn’t have, but this got a start of laughter from me.

I remember that my first viewing of this movie was ruined when I borrowed it from a housemate some years ago. He basically told me the ending, and that the film was crap, but I watched it anyway and remained intrigued and fascinated by how the plot would tie together – which it does nicely. Rest assured I never took that housemates movie advice again.

If Stephen Tobolowsky is in a film, then I’m legally obliged to mention him in a review, and here he crops up in grainy, black and white flashback as Sammy Jankis, a case Leonard looked into as an insurance claims investigator before his memory loss. Jankis suffered from a similar condition as Leonard, and Tobolowsky’s wonderfully big blank face is perfect for the look of someone not recognising anything new in the world around him, and his bursts of anger at annoyance – at an elctro-shock test and not understanding TV shows – is also great.

The story, written by Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan, is well thought out and takes into account the minutiae of Leonard’s predicament. Such a high concept (though scientifically possible) film could have left many annoyances at skipped over details, loose plot strands or inconsistencies, but by the end/beginning no such problems are left.

Choose film 9/10

Prometheus

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get a ticket to the Cast & Crew Premiere of Prometheus at the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square last night. Though it was disappointing not to see director Ridley Scott or the cast, who are probably saving themselves for tomorrow’s red carpet Premiere (a part of me was hoping I’d get to sit next to Charlize Theron, you can probably guess which part), the experience of going to see a film with nothing but film fans and people who respect the art, in a stunning cinema, was amazing, even if there was a bit of a post-movie crowd crushing to retrieve handed-in phones afterwards. Plus, I saw it three days before the rest of the general public, which makes me feel special. 
 In 2089 a group of scientists, led by Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient cave paintings on the Isle of Skye depicting giant humanoids reaching up to 6 orbs in the sky. The drawing matches others found all over the world, and point towards a distant planet that may hold some key to the origins of mankind. Four years later, the scientists arrive at the planet LV223 as part of a 17-man crew aboard the Peter Weyland-funded ship Prometheus. Once there, the crew find traces of alien life, but are the answers they receive the ones they were hoping for?

L.A. Confidential

In 1950s Los Angeles, mob boss Mickey Cohen has been put away, and rival crime factions are warring for his place. Against this backdrop, three very different cops are following three very different cases; brutish Bud White (Russell Crowe) despises wife beaters and is more than willing to frame a suspect in the name of justice as he works as hardman for James Cromwell’s kindly police chief. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced, ambitious son of a deceased police hero, investigating a multiple homicide at greasy spoon the Nite Owl, whilst Kevin Spacey’s smooth headline-hunting NARC Jack Vincennes traces a lead found on a drugs bust, uncovering a ring of hookers cut to look like movie stars. Throw into the mix Danny DeVito’s sleazy journo, David Straithairn’s oily businessman and Kim Basinger’s high class whore with a strong resemblance to Veronica Lake and you’ve got a top notch cast all bringing their A-game in a stunning film with tight script and direction. Spacey especially is sublime, stealing every scene in a movie full of memorable ones. The little moments are the finishing touches – Exley removing his oversized glasses and pouting for a photographer, Vincennes bumping into a man he put away on the set of TV show Badge of Honor where he acts as technical adviser, but the big scenes – the masterful interrogation of 3 suspects, several showdowns and a final act with all guns blazing are the parts best remembered. Credit of the month: Ginger Slaughter.

Choose film 10/10

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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