"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
April 7, 2008

Feburary-March Film Reviews

A long bout of illness, school closure and holidays and exam preparation have meant the number of films viewed recently has been lower than normal. Here’s the list for the past two months. Across The Universe – My hopes were not high; a musical based on The t felt like a recipe for disaster. But, […]

A long bout of illness, school closure and holidays and exam preparation have meant the number of films viewed recently has been lower than normal. Here’s the list for the past two months.

Across The Universe – My hopes were not high; a musical based on The t felt like a recipe for disaster. But, despite a less than promising start, this film turned out to be rather satisfying. If you are like me and you didn’t “live” through the 60s, it’s hard to imagine how radical The Beatles’ music was. This film manages to make those songs seem fresh and challenging and that alone makes it a worthwhile viewing.

Bug – It’s hard for a film to hint at one genre and then turn out to be something else. Bug almost pulls it off, but in the end comes out slightly farcical. The best scenes are really compelling, but after a while the editing becomes tiresome and it starts to feel the audience is sitting in on an acting class.

Decoding Ferran Adria – Short but rewarding documentary film about the star Chef of El Bulli, presented by Anthony Bourdain. This is not a how-to-cook programme, but rather a journey into the heart and philosophy of good cooking and good eating.

Cassandra’s Dream – I grew up as a huge fan of Woody Allen, which has made to hard to give such negative reviews to his last two films (Matchpoint and Scoop). There’s nothing else to say than to admit they really were horrible. It would be over-stating things to say this film is a return to form, but it is clearly the best thing Allen has made in a while and in its best moments has real depth. This is a dark, brooding and ultimately hope-less tale, remarkably well shot and benefits from a stunning (if slightly overpowering) Philip Glass score. However, the stilted dialogue and contrived plot devices that plagued Allen’s last two films rears themselves again to cripple this film and rob it of what should have been a more powerful and moving ending.

Enchanted – Simply beautiful. Manages to simultaneously deconstruct the Disney?Princess mythology whilst remaining at heart a magical kid’s film. Amy Adams performance deserves all the credit it has received and the score deserves some accolades as well. Lovely stuff.

Forbidden Planet – Still a benchmarks of Sci-Fi film-making and one of the most apt and enduring film scored ever written.

Helvetica – The last few years has seen a true renaissance in documentary film making and this is one of the best. Outstandingly well edited, funny, and revealing. This film doesn’t just explore type and design, it examines the way text and context work to create meaning. A must for anyone interested in the intellectual history of modernity and post-modernity.

Horton Hears a Who – The best Children’s films are witty, visually stimulating, have a plot (rather than a contrivance of events) and a clear moral. This has all four of these features in ample quantities. The bar has been set very high for best children’s film of the year!

Juno – It’s tempting to call this a “sweet” film, but it’s really a lot more than that. Juno is a clever and interesting look not just at relationships or growing up, but also at the way we look at ourselves and how we interpret the ways other people look at us.

Love In The Time Of Cholera – How do you manage to take one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, a strong cast and an inventive score (together with some marketable popular numbers) and turn out a sub-soap-operatic piece of melodrivel? It’s a question I hope Mike Newell as director of this disastrous adaption, can answer, if for no other reason than to act as a warning beacon to other filmmakers embarking on a big budget literary adaptation.

No Country For Old Men – Outstanding in every way and on every level. This is a bold and confident film adaptation that really says something – morally, socially and cinematically. Fabulous cast, bold lack of score and rich yet barren cinematography. Easily one of the great films of this decade.

P.S. I Love You – This sweet, funny and in a way slightly creepy film could easily have been a terribly smaltzy disaster. What saves it (well, almost saves it) is a really strong cast, solid art direction and a script with genuine wit and humour.

Shoot ‘Em Up – I love Clive Owen. I love Paul Giacometti. I love Monica Belluci. I hated this film. Nasty, silly and irredeemable in every way.

Sweeney Todd – Everything feels right here: the cast, the direction, the adaptation. If anything lets this film down it is the over-use of CGI, which almost borders on the Beowulf/300 school of graphic-novel-as-film look. The Brighton Pier scene is a classic piece of film-making.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly – Julian Schnabel can’t seem to put a foot wrong; Basquiat and Before Night Falls are two of my favourite films. This film did not disappoint and in a lot of ways turned out to be one of the most richly satisfying movies I’ve seen this year. Solidly acted, wonderfully shot and directed with an almost relentless sense of the moral ambiguities of life. This is a great film from a great filmmaker.

The Orphanage – At times this film plays like a homage to Gullermo Del Toro’s best work, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. Brooding, creepy, tragic and moving; this is a thoroughly worthwhile film.

3 Months Three Weeks 2 Days – Bleak, grimy and unnerving. It isn’t just the subject matter (abortion in Caucescu’s Romania), but the whole way relationships are infected with a kind of knowing dis-ease. Riveting stuff.

3.10 To Yuma – If you can stay focussed on Christian Bale’s fine performance you might be able to look past the contrived and often inchoate plot devices. Sadly, I wasn’t able to manage it.

Roy Donkin 16 years ago


comments on two of the films… I agree about both. Enchanted is absolutely wonderful. And Love in the Time of Cholera is hossible. I hate to admit that I haven’t read the book but came away from the film thinking it must be a Harlequin Romance. All I can say is that there went two hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

Let me highly recommend two little films – The Amatures with Jeff Bridges and King of California with Michael Douglas. Both provide wonderful glimpses into the human heart.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Thanks Roy. I’ve seen both those films on the shelves, but not on the screen. I know see them on my shopping list!

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