Monday, 25 November 2013




A deep in debt car salesman asks a pair of criminals to kidnap his wife in exchange for a car, what’s in it for him? The kidnappers will receive a large amount of ransom money from the woman’s wealthy father; then the crooks will keep a share and give the rest of the money to the car salesman so he can pay off his debt…simple, if everything goes to plan!

In many ways Fargo is a film that defines the Coen brothers work from the point of view of both the style, and the narrative. The plot develops in ways that are always surprising. Playfully it disorientates its viewer with unexpected, unpredictable and often shocking twists in its sinister story. As soon as you think you’ve got your bearings a character will suddenly be killed off, and you’ll be clueless as to how the story will continue to unfold. These sudden events are highly effective and work to the films advantage.

Despite the Coen’s nature to be dark and sinister there’s a lot of warmth and morality to Fargo. Whilst the two crooks are killing senselessly to solve their problems, perhaps the Coen brothers most delightful and down to earth character ever (Police Chief Marge Gunderson) is tracking them down and being pleasant and polite whilst she does it. The character Marge is brilliant and is an antidote to all the evil in this film, Frances McDormand was practically made for the part and it’s no wonder she won an Oscar for her performance, she definitely deserved it.

Fargo is one occasion where all the quirks and qualities of a Coen Brothers film, work together in perfect harmony. It’s witty, it’s gritty and it doesn’t come across as superior or pretentious in its intellect.                  

Friday, 15 November 2013

28 Weeks Later...


After the undead are apparently wiped out, the American military begin the repopulation of England. But when a survivor carrying the infection is found, London finds itself in the grip of the rage virus once again. 

The quiet eerie atmosphere of 28 Days Later has been more or less dropped for a noisy in your face feel. It’s still loyal in a lot of ways to its predecessor but this time it’s blood, guts and all out zombie carnage. Here the action sequences are noisy and disorientating much like the first, but on occasion they reach a stage where you’re effectively watching pure violence and the details of a zombie attack get lost.

As far as the narrative is concerned it felt clumsy and often like they were making it up as they went along. The story reached a stage where the actors who had not yet been killed off seemed to be being thrown into encounter after encounter, giving them little time to act. There was also a lack of exploration of characters and their emotions. Many characters weren’t around long enough to make an impression, so when they were inevitably killed off I felt little in the way of sorrow.

Despite all this criticism I have to admit 28 Weeks later looks great and is very stylish, and a lot of its concepts and ideas, such as the danger coming not just from zombies but from the panicking military, are still original and have a tremendous cinematic impact. I’m pleased to say that whilst this is one sequel that could have been better, by no means did they screw it up.        

28 Days Later...


So, a man (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in an abandoned hospital and, after walking round London for a while trying to work out where everyone went, he realises it’s a Zombie apocalypse.
 This is the first zombie movie I’ve seen that isn’t trying to parody itself (Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies) and I was genuinely impressed. There was an underlying narrative in this film that was as much about morals as it was about staying alive, there was also a strong exploration of character here too. And, when scheming army major (Christopher Eccelston) turns up you realise not everyone is a good guy. The idea that just because someone isn’t a zombie doesn’t mean they’re going to be on your side was an exciting thought, and gave you something to think about whilst the woozy action sequences of the final act took place.

Throughout the film there were a number of highly affective deaths and plot twists that created shock and surprise, and whilst there was the occasional poorly judged soundtrack, and a few small missteps in the third act there were too many qualities in other areas of the film for these issues to be problematic. Overall 28 Days Later is a bold and thrilling film that makes for very enjoyable viewing.   

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

District 9


When a large alien spaceship full of malnourished extraterrestrials hovers over Johannesburg, the South African government decides to move them to a make shift home in District 9. Soon however District 9 becomes a slum and the aliens start pissing everyone off, so, the government attempts to evict the aliens and send them somewhere else. That’s where main protagonist Wikus comes in. Wikus is in charge of the removal operation and whilst at work Wikus is exposed to some weird alien technology with dramatic results…

District 9 kicks off with a very strong beginning that is instantly engaging and creates a very tense atmosphere, which is present throughout the rest of the film. Stylistically the film is impressive throughout. The beginning is especially so, done in a mocumentary style designed to look like all the footage comes from either, a handheld camera or CCTV footage. This filming choice is highly effective and artistically stimulating so it’s a shame that it’s eventually dropped for a more conventional approach. However, this transition is necessary as what follows is a second act of plot development, and a third act of stunning action sequences where hand held camera and CCTV footage would have been hard to incorporate.

There were a couple of characters that felt out of place as they seemed outlandishly villainous: in any film you need conflict and opposition, but here I question whether the opposition needs a leader, or if it does, a leader that’s blatantly evil or sadistic. Despite these archetypal bad guys there was a very realistic quality to this film, derived from the underlying political themes that the premise and narrative is built on - themes that a film such as Avatar never properly delves into. And of course the film can also boast some brilliant looking props and solid CG. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Warm Bodies



So it’s a zombie apocalypse and John Malkovich is leading the fight. He governs an army that seems to be mostly made up of adolescents with a lot of angst and very pronounced cheekbones. He sends a group of these adolescents brandishing shotguns out into a zombie-infested area, and that’s when one of the group (who happens to be John Malkovich’s daughter) meets 'R' a zombie who, thanks to the power of love is beginning to become un-undead. And so the adventure begins

The film is shot with dark and moody lighting, which makes for a vivid apocalyptic world but doesn’t promote laughter. This is a recurring problem: when a joke is made you’re hesitant to laugh because you’re not sure if you’re meant to. If it’s a “zom-rom-com” it’s lacking in wit and fun, if it’s a sort of drama its premise is too silly to muster emotion in its audience.

And as its incoherent story took various clumsy twists and turns and attempted a number of sugary romantic scenes I began to ask the question, am I the film’s target audience? No is the answer: the film contains that youthful spirit and safely grim violence that I recognised from such films as “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight” and suddenly it hit me! Warm Bodies is a bit of a chick flick and that’s that.

Still, I can’t blame this movie for having a go and when you compare it to a film like “Shaun Of The Dead” it might not be better, but Warm Bodies is different and for that it is commendable.                               

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Blue Jasmine



After her wealthy husband is arrested over illegally obtained money, Jasmine, a lady of leisure and dinner parties, loses everything and is forced to move in with her sister.

 I’ll start off by saying that this movie was brilliant because it wasn’t in my opinion anything like any Woody Allen films that I’d seen before. It's not that I disliked other films of his, more that this film stood out for me. There were a few stylistic qualities that were essentially trademarks of the Woody Allen film, but that was to be expected.

The actors definitely deserve mention Sally Hawkins gave an excellent performance as Jasmine’s sister and Cate Blanchet was incredible as a nervous wreck. The interactions between the two characters were rich in drama and emotion and this is how Blue Jasmine differs from some of his other work. The characters challenge the viewer, the story was edgy and you got the feeling that Jasmine was always on the verge of collapse! There was humour, but this story was much more about drama and emotional complexity.

This film is a long way from movies like Sleeper or Bananas and with the exception of To Rome With Love Allen’s movies are getting slicker. The pacing of Blue Jasmine is impeccable and despite the film’s character driven nature, there is a visible three act structure. All in all Blue Jasmine is a great movie that sees the director and actors alike, on top form.             

This Critical Teen

Many of us have critical views on something and for this criticalteen it's film. On this blog I'll be posting my film reviews and casting my critical eye over movies in general, be they contemporary or classic.