The American President is a romantic comedy set in a Democratic White house. Douglas plays Andrew Sheppard, a widowed father currently enjoying immense popularity amongst the American people. When we meet him, he has been in office for 3 years and is currently enjoying a 61% job approval rating; a rating unheard of in today’s post Financial Meltdown world. Sheppard meets Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening, an environmental lobbyist who has been hired by an environmental group to drive a bill through Congress that will reduce America carbon emissions by 20%. Not really top of the agenda in 90s America. The two share a mutual attraction and begin to see each other. But with Sheppard up for re-election soon, the situation has ramifications for his presidency, his relationship and his staff.
This movie was written by Aaron Sorkin, who has established a reputation for snappy dialogue delivered by smart, driven characters. The American President is now seen as Sorkin’s dry run for the West Wing, a superlative television programme that ranks consistently in critic’s Top 10 lists. The two are inextricably linked. However, where the American President succeeds is in its central relationship. I can’t confess to liking Michael Douglas or Annette Bening much, but their relationship and how they get together is playful, fun and importantly honest. And I quite honestly don’t hate them as these characters. You can chock that down to Sorkin’s writing.
Directed unassumingly by Rob Reiner, The American President is charming movie that entertains. It’s a romantic comedy about finding a girl, losing her and winning her back. For Presidents.
The other night I watched a dramatic reconstruction of the 1995 rugby World Cup through the eyes of Nelson Mandela. In fact I watched ‘Invictus’ – the Clint Eastwood directed mega film starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman (I’ll let you work out who played Mandela, although it probably would have made quite an interesting watch had Damon tried to pull off the role of South Africa’s great emancipator).
In this biopic of sorts we get Morgan ‘march of the penguins’ Freeman as the man himself and Matt ‘matt damon’ Damon playing Francois Pienaar, South Africa’s heroic rugby World Cup captain. The action begins with Mandela’s release from prison and his subsequent ascent to the presidency of apartheid gripped South Africa. Mandela is shown to be a figure of true class by Eastwood and he is played with complete dignity by a driven Freeman. This is an important role and one that deserves careful consideration – thankfully this film delivers respect to Mandela and his legacy – as it should. One can almost imagine Morgan Freeman standing in front of the mirror practicing his Oscar acceptance speech (the thought must have crossed his mind, ‘this is an Eastwood film, I’m playing Mandela, I’m a sure shot’). Sadly for Freeman and Damon though this film would only lead to a nomination a piece. However, if there was an Oscar for worst soundtrack ‘Invictus’ would have to be the winner. Some of the songs in this movie are so bad they risk ruining the entire experience.
Aside from feeling like I was watching a re-run of the World Cup at times I enjoyed ‘Invictus’. The research and authenticity achieved by Eastwood and co is truly amazing. In particular small details such as during the final between South Africa and New Zealand you can see glimpses of the big screen in the stadium playing replays from the real final. Rugby has never featured so prominently in a film of this scale and it is interesting to see how Eastwood handles these action scenes. As the film progresses the game scenes grow in momentum and by the end a real sense of rugby’s flow is conveyed. Early in the film I was slightly bemused by the game scenes – initially they are nothing more than random kicks, tackles and tries but by the time the final comes around you are hungry for big game action and we are duly served up some truly great Rugby moments. Both Freeman and Damon give an admirable stab at the tricky South African accent – of the two I think Damon comes closer to nailing the tone. At times Freeman is a little forced and on one occasion I felt like I was watching ‘The Shawshank Redemption – 2’. All in all though you have to give it to Clint Eastwood – the man can direct and direct ‘Invictus’ he does. As the credits role on this film we are shown a series of stills from South Africa’s journey to the final – this is poignant, simple and effective at evoking emotion – a lot like the movie itself.
I saw ‘The Invention of Lying’ a while back and frankly I was disappointed. It was too simple a story lacking any layering or depth. Maybe it was too Hollywood and Gervais had been sucked in by the desire to break America. Whatever happened ‘The Invention of Lying’ turned out to be bland and devoid of any real comedic punch.
With this feeling toward Gervais (and Merchant) at the forefront of my mind I sat through the opening credits of ‘Cemetery Junction’, the latest offering from the sometime funny team who brought us ‘The Office’. The film sees the pair return to the more familiar territory of Reading albeit in the 1970s. What we get is a funky soundtrack, hip clothes and Ralph Fiennes.
A couple things irked me while I watched this film: firstly, why does the town need to be called Cemetery Junction? Whatever happened to good old subtlety? If you find it hard to understand whats happening in ‘Cemetery Junction’ there is something wrong with your brain. Secondly, the plot is too straightforward. Here is the jist in a couple of sentences: young kid and his mates aspire to something more than their parents (old people in this film are either life insurance salesman or work in a small factory - cue Gervais in over stylized factory scenes ), young kid gets a job as life insurance salesman (in Cemetery Junction get it?), falls in love with evil boss’ (Fiennes) daughter and they run away. Happy days.
In a nutshell this film has a good heart but wears it too much on its sleeve.
Bam! PIRANHA 3D! PIRANHA 3D! PIRANHA!… 3D! The sort of film that shouts out of screens and posters near you, PIRANHA 3D doesn’t promise too much more than gratuitousness… and boy does it deliver on that front (Or should I say gratui-titty-ousness. No I probably shouldn’t.) A remake of a Joe Dante directed, Roger Corman produced, shocker from the 70’s; PIRANHA 3D has it’s tongue definitely in it’s cheek, that is until the tongue and indeed the rest of the face are gnawed off by giant prehistoric PIRANHAs. Aptly for a film, based on a film that was made to cash in on the success of Jaws it starts with a cameo from Richard Dreyfuss and contains a number of other knowing jaws references throughout, even getting away with a dolly zoom (aka “jaws shot”) without seeming ridiculous.
Otherwise PIRANHA 3D wastes no opportunity to be ridiculous and crass. First the face comes off, then a PIRANHA bursts through the skull, then it burps out some half chewed flesh at the viewer. If that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing you’re probably not reading this review of PIRANHA 3D right now. If however you get a certain joy out of the right type of terrible film then you’ll know to be so bad it’s good isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s a fine line to tread and more often then not the film ends up just being bad. PIRANHA 3D treads this line with success mostly due to some awesome casting. While the main characters, or “young people”, are the sort of pointless non entities hollywood seems to abound with, the smaller parts from more experienced actors from in particular Christopher Lloyd (as Doc Brown), Ving Rhames (as anyone Ving Rhames has ever played) and Jerry O’Connell (as himself) manage to invest the dialogue with the over the top, wild-eyed performances it truly deserves.
PIRANHA 3D is about as hard to pick holes in as a net, but being pedantic about it really isn’t the point. Sure there’s way more nudity than necessary, lots of the dialogue is clunky, in the giant PIRANHA attack (Spoiler alert: “PIRANHA 3D contains giant PIRANHA attack scene!”) the film jump-cuts wildly, and, let’s face it, 2 million year old PIRANHAS released by earthquake isn’t exactly Rashoman. But that’s so not the point…It’s PIRANHA 3D!
A classic of French cinema and one of the style setters for the New Wave. Melville was an artist who worked outside the traditional systems in French cinema at the time. He built his own studio and created his own system.
This film takes place in the Paris suburb of Montmartre and it paints a wholly dualistic vision of the place. Heaven and hell, sin and purity all in one place. It is this duality that we find in Bob. He is a good guy but also a gangster. In years to come this duality would drive the success of films like Goodfellas and TV shows such as The Sopranos. We all love a good bad guy.