Friday 30 September 2011

Week in Review for Women's Wrestling #15

So it's that time of year again where we rush storylines going into the silly Hell In A Cell PPV. What's surprising is that the divas have never been left off the card of this considering how little build up it gets. TNA meanwhile are edging even closer to Bound For Glory and we're putting the finishing touches on the big Fatal 4 Way that could possibly end in a DQ finish since this is TNA. Let's get going:

Raw - Divas of Doom vs Kelly Kelly & Eve Torres:
I'll give WWE credit they did only release one girl but two injured and another walking out has really left the division very shallow if we're getting this match the very next week. I liked the video package they made for Kelly and more importantly I liked that they actually showcased her wrestling talents in it as well. Stuff like that is really helpful to make Kelly's title reign seem important. Another little thing I liked is the announcers saying we were having this rematch because Beth and Natalya requested it. The match was loads better than last week and not just because of timing. The DoD were great with their double teams and I'm loving Nattie's new submission hold. I'm going to draw attention to something that really stuck out to me - when Kelly screams during a submission hold most of the time it sounds like she's having an orgasm but when Eve screams she sounds like she's in real pain. Eve and Natalya have excellent chemistry which we've seen from these tag matches and their awesome match on Raw back in February so hopefully there's more to come from the two second stringers. The closing moments of this match were excellent especially with Natalya being Genre Savvy enough to dodge Eve's charge. To the Kelly haters Beth giving her the Glam Slam happens now because it makes it all the more poignant. Kelly has been the top girl since July and so far in storyline we've been thinking maybe she can keep her title but now Beth makes an impact by pinning the champion clean. 8/10

Impact - Madison Rayne vs Tara (Queen's Qualifier Match):
The video package was impressive but I'm still pissed that the grudge match between these two never happened on PPV. The in-ring work wasn't that mind blowing but Madison's antics were brilliant. She truly is a gem in the Knockouts division and while she's certainly had her run with the belt, I'm hopeful she'll get her push sometime in the late future. Involving the referee was a great touch and Earl must have been proper chuffed to have Madison fawning all over him like that. I felt this could have done with more time since these two have never really had an opportunity to have a full length hard hitting match. Even their one at Sacrifice was pretty short if you ask me. Anyway I'm happy Madison got included in the F4W as now we have our good set up of two heels and two faces. I want Winter to retain and feud with Velvet but a good idea would be to have her face each of the participants in a singles title match after Bound For Glory, saving Velvet for last. Hopefully keeping Tara out of the match means that she and Brooke might get a match of their own at the PPV though lord knows we don't need to see another match against Sarita and Rosita. 6/10

Superstars - The Bella Twins vs The Chick Busters:
I think right now Alicia, Rosa and Tamina are the only divas who aren't in a tag team which is ironic considering they were a stable several months ago. And what an outfit for the Bellas though I distinctly remember Dawn Marie and Victoria doing something like that first. Kaitlyn's new gear is pretty hot as well. I enjoyed this one and I'm happy AJ and Kaitlyn have been working on TV regularly and finally being given more time to hone their skills. Kaitlyn is improving every time she steps into the ring while divas like Rosa and Tamina seem stuck in a holding pattern. The double teams were pretty fun to watch and Nikki Bella continues to outshine her sister especially with that whole routine mocking Kaitlyn trying to make a tag. The match breakdown at the end was usual stuff and done well though I wish they'd stop making AJ take these pins. Give Kaitlyn a loss to make AJ seem less like their new Kelly-jobber. 7/10

Smackdown - Kelly Kelly vs Natalya:
Now these two had an excellent match a few weeks ago but this week's was much too short. And you know what, I'm fine with that since we can't really have Kelly/Natalya given away so easily. They showed some of that good chemistry we saw in the last match and the few moves in this were done well at least. It seems that Natalya especially is the go-to girl for making two minute matches worth taking a look at like her singles match with AJ months ago. The after match segment made things a lot better and I feel like the DoD have finally arrived as dominant heels. I suspect Kelly may drop the title to Beth on Sunday but WWE have still kept us guessing so maybe Kelly will walk away with another win. This time around I'm pulling for Beth because it's the right time to have a heel dominating the division and hopefully Beth is the one to do it. Overall rating: 7/10 (5 for the match)

I've never watched Hell In A Cell before and I'm likely not to do it again since none of the matches interest me that much considering they've only had two weeks to build them all up but of course I will be interested in seeing the outcomes. Hopefully TNA can also deliver some good build up towards Bound For Glory by hopefully putting their Knockouts Champion back on TV.

Thursday 29 September 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 97 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

#4 - The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button:
It always seems to happen that whenever the Oscars roll by and the Best Film nominees are announced that there’s always the big buzz over whether or not we’ll ever see them in the cinema. Usually where I live the nominees get announced weeks before the films actually come out here. As far as I can remember I have only seen one Best Film nominee in the cinema and that was Avatar. We already know which film claimed the spot in 2008 since I reviewed Slumdog Millionaire quite a few weeks ago but here is another candidate that was up for the same award and, in my opinion, it was a lot more enjoyable. That’s not to take anything away from the brilliance that is Danny Boyle’s film but I was literally blown away when I caught this on the TV for the first time...and I didn’t even see the full thing.

We begin with two women in a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a young woman Caroline and her elderly mother Daisy who is on her deathbed. Daisy gets Caroline to open a special chest of items which includes a diary written by a man named Benjamin Button. As Caroline reads the diary we see the life of the man called Benjamin who was unusually born as an old man and instead grew younger as the years passed. His mother died giving birth to him and his father left him on the steps of a New Orleans retirement home way back in 1918. The film shows his life story; how he grew up in the retirement home, how he became a sailor on a tugboat, took part in World War II, fell in love in Russia and eventually found his way home. We also discover that Daisy knew him very well and grew up alongside him as we take a few journeys through her life and learn the exact nature of Benjamin’s relationship to both her and Caroline.

It is always interesting for me anyway to see an epic movie that doesn’t involve war or some kind of adventure. While I love those movies and hold midnight vigils for the people that make them, there was something so captivating to just watch a movie about one man’s whole life. Yes I saw Forrest Gump as well and there are quite a few similarities between the two films though all they really have in common is a man narrating his life story and of course Forrest still has a lot more of his life to cover while he’s telling his story and Benjamin’s life is already over by the time Caroline reads his. It is amazing how very few of the different people Benjamin meets during his lifetime actually interact with the important people like Queenie and Daisy, showing how widespread and diverse his life was. We literally do get a human tapestry with all the quirky characters such as Captain Mike the tattoo artist/tugboat captain, Elizabeth the dowdy housewife who dreams of swimming the English Channel, Ngunda Oti the flaky explorer and Thomas who happens to be Benjamin’s real life father. Each character feels properly developed and important, with their own special role in the story. It is a whopping two and a half hours in length but there really would have been no way to make it shorter without ruining the beauty of it.

Brad Pitt plays the titular Benjamin and I was honestly surprised to see him get an Oscar nomination for his role. True he was good but I wouldn’t call his performance award-worthy. His southern accent was pretty good and he does well with all the different CGI effects to change his age. In fact I think there’s only a couple of scenes about ¾ of the way through the film where he isn’t in makeup or special effects to change his age. Cate Blanchett appears again on my list once again as a hot young redhead and this time with a sexy southern accent covering her up. She is excellent as always and does quite well during her character’s dancing scenes. The makeup effects done on her to change her age are also pretty well done but she obviously doesn’t have them on her as much as Brad Pitt does. Taraji P Henson is fantastic in this, playing Queenie the woman who takes Benjamin in and raises him as her own. She has this brilliant sassy no nonsense attitude that made her a likeable character. She did deserve her Oscar nomination and it is a shame she didn’t win but that really was Kate Winslett’s year. I almost didn’t recognise Primeval’s Jason Flemyng as Benjamin’s father doing a very convincing American accent. Another nailed American accent comes from Julia Ormond who plays Caroline which (when a plot point is revealed) is a little curious considering she played Brad Pitt’s lover in Legends of the Fall. We also have a small role from Tilda Switon as one of Benjamin’s earlier girlfriends and providing a nice contrast to Daisy early on.

This film has a pretty good mix of artistic scenes that are there to look visually impressive and dramatic scenes that sell you the moments on the strengths of the performances so that should please both ends of the spectrum – the people who like the art and the big flashy stuff and the people who want to see good performances. Starting with the former, there’s a brilliantly done scene where Benjamin takes Daisy out for dinner when he arrives back in New Orleans and she dances by a fountain for him in the moonlight. There’s also a pretty little moment where we see a humming bird fly all the way across the sea after the war is over. One of my favourites comes when Benjamin’s father is nearly dying and Benjamin takes him up to the edge of the shore to watch the sun rise in one of the most charming and beautiful film moments to come out in recent years.
For the latter scenes it’s hard to pick just one but there is a really drawn out and well though up sequence where Benjamin describes a series of events that lead up to a traffic accident in Paris which has potential to be a whole other film all on its own so keep your eyes peeled. The final scenes will probably leave a few people with misty eyes but as for me I just love the very final sequence with Benjamin’s narration and the montage of the various people he met in his life with that nice piano piece playing over it.

I noticed that the film straight away doesn’t seem to live up to its title as there is no investigation really into why Benjamin ages backwards and the rest of the characters just seem to accept it with no problem though I guess since Benjamin is narrating his story he leaves out certain insignificant parts like that. So you can imagine there was something like that if you want to. I actually remember thinking once that wouldn’t it be a lot better if you started out old and then grew younger as time went on? Well from watching this film you will understand (as I did) that the perception of aging doesn’t change at all, no matter what way you end up experiencing it. Nothing lasts at all and sooner or later time takes everything away. Whether you’re growing older or younger you won’t live forever so it’s best to just enjoy what time you have. I realise I must have watched about a dozen films spouting that message already but I can guarantee you that this will be the last time I end an entry with that particular line. I imagined in the spirit of going backwards that I could suggest for you all to un-follow me on Twitter but then I realised what a silly idea that would be.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 96 - Elizabeth

#5 - Elizabeth:
Now being the proud Brit that I am of course any time I actually review a British film you’ve expected me to go wild and crazy over the fact that it’s British. This film in particular is no different but it has the distinction of being the final British film on my list. Well I say it is set in Britain and revolves around a very British topic so of course there is no better way than to close that little chapter than with a film about the greatest monarch England ever had. This actually differs from the typical British period piece since it was directed by an Indian with a lot more dramatic style of storytelling as well as showing plenty of grit of the time such as poverty, torture and dirt. Now I present to you: Elizabeth!

The film opens in the year 1558 during the reign of Mary Tudor, better known as Bloody Mary. Just to emphasize the state the country is in we open with a graphic scene of three Protestants, deemed “heretics” by her Majesty, being burned at the stake. It turns out they had been part of a rebellion to overthrow Mary and place her popular half-sister on the throne. Convinced that her sister had some part in the rebellion, Mary sends Elizabeth to the Tower of London for questioning. Elizabeth denies any participation in the rebellion and is reluctantly let go. She soon receives word that Mary has died and she has been named the successor. Elizabeth is triumphantly crowned Queen of England but her reign isn’t secure. Her councillors urge her to marry and produce an heir to secure it but she is more interested in her affair with childhood friend Lord Robert Dudley. In addition to the endless suitors that try to court her, Elizabeth must also deal with a conspiracy to have her murdered and place someone Catholic on the throne. The film shows her evolve into the famous Virgin Queen that she is now remembered as.

The filmmakers have admitted that they didn’t start making the film to be a biopic of Queen Elizabeth but rather a film about a conspiracy in her court and it eventually evolved into the film we got. As always you can’t expect complete historical accuracy in a film like this and it gets thrown out the window in the first ten minutes when Elizabeth is addressed as “princess” (she was declared illegitimate at age 3 and only called “Lady Elizabeth” from then on) and characters such as Sir William Cecil and Francis Walsingham were much younger in real life than the age they are in this. Obviously you can guess from those little titbits that I know my English history, which actually stems from when my brother brought home the Horrible Histories book about the Tudor family and I of course was the one who got the full blast of his new historical knowledge. Honestly Elizabeth wasn’t my favourite out of them since I was much more interested in Henry VIII and his six wives as well as Mary and her five year reign of terror. I’ve actually never watched The Tudors though it is on my to-do list and I haven’t seen that many films about either of them though I watched The Other Boleyn Girl and the historical liberties were a little too much to take seriously. The early parts of this film were based on the period I was interested in but I was still so fascinated by Elizabeth’s growth as a character that I kept on watching.

We have Cate Blanchett in the title role which could be considered ironic since you have an Australian giving the best performance as England’s greatest Queen. Yep, I said it. Sorry Helen Mirren and Judi Dench as well as up yours little red-haired actress at the end of The Other Boleyn Girl. Cate Blanchett did have her work cut out for her since all the historical accounts have Elizabeth as this fearsome monarch which is the face she presented to the world while Cate had to show Elizabeth’s real face as well that she wore in private, or at least the one the filmmakers imagined she had. One scene that works really well is one where Elizabeth is rehearsing what she will say in parliament that day to the bishops and is getting all flustered but then it cuts to her in court speaking easily. I knew of her very well before I saw this film so it was easy for me to just think of her as Cate Blanchett at the start but she was Elizabeth the whole way through the film. She wasn’t Cate Blanchett in period costume, she was Elizabeth. And yes she did deserve that Oscar and no Gwyneth Paltrow most certainly did not.

Now her male co-stars are first Geoffrey Rush who sounds wrong without the pirate voice as Francis Walshingham, the chief advisor in Elizabeth’s court. He pretty much seems like the guy most likely to switch sides at some point but he doesn’t and remains loyal to Elizabeth the whole way through. Joseph Fiennes plays Lord Robert and he is someone whom I have never seen in anything other than some kind of period drama. There’s this, Shakespeare In Love, The Merchant of Venice and most recently Camelot so I don’t know if he even owns any modern clothes. Richard Attenborough gives a great performance as Sir William Cecil and reminds us all that he did something other than unleash Jurassic Park on the unsuspecting American heroes. Christopher Eccleston once again hides his northern accent to play the shady and calculating Duke of Norfolk in one of his more interesting roles. I’d also like to applaud Kathy Burke for her portrayal of Queen Mary whom I wish could have been in the film more but of course there’s always possibilities for a Mary Tudor biopic isn’t there? Daniel Craig also has a very small role as a bishop plotting against Elizabeth but I’m not sure if he even has any lines in the film. Man United fans will applaud at the sight of Eric Cantona in an epic moustache playing the French Ambassador.

I mentioned earlier about the graphic burning scene at the beginning and it really sets the tone as the film has actually been described as a horror film pretending to be a historical pageant. We get some hard-to-watch shots of the prisoners being scalped and then burned. It really puts across how terrifying it is to be a Protestant in England at the time and you can hear people screaming to help the martyrs but of course no one can or else they’ll be thrown on the fire as well.
My favourite scene is the coronation which has so much effort put into it as you can see that the costumes are based on Elizabeth’s actual coronation portrait and Cate Blanchett looks near identical to that painting in the shot where she finally sits down on the throne. The big scene towards the end where Elizabeth makes herself into The Virgin Queen is excellent and so dramatic with how she has her long red locks cut off and white paint rubbed over her skin before finally appearing in the wig, the white gown and the makeup. She’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, I’m glad I wasn’t on set for that scene as I don’t think I’d be able to take her walking by me in that costume.

Now this is indeed the film that kickstarted Cate Blanchett’s career and introduced her to Hollywood. It is one of many films made about the Tudor period and obviously I consider it to be the best though admittedly I haven’t seen that many. It isn’t that historically accurate as I think the last properly factual scene is about half an hour before the film’s ending but we don’t see films for accuracy do we? It deserved all the nominations and it did win the Oscar for Best Makeup and at least Cate bagged the Best Actress Golden Globe. I did watch the second film and it was quite good as well but I didn’t include it on the list because it obviously wasn’t as well done as this one and I really just wasn’t that into the particular time period it was showing though I will say again it is worth watching if you loved this film. Now if this was a video blog I could end this entry with a rousing rendition of God Save The Queen but I sometimes think that patriotism can go a little too far so I’ll use my common sense (a most English virtue this film tells us) and remind you all to follow me on Twitter and if you’re dressing up as Elizabeth for Halloween don’t use historically accurate face paint as you’ll likely end up looking more like King Baldwin from Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday 26 September 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 95 - Kingdom of Heaven

#6 - Kingdom of Heaven:
It must be funny that the first medieval epic film on my list was Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and that the next one is also by Ridley Scott. It seems that these two along with Gladiator as well are his three big companion pieces, almost taking place in the same universe as each other though of course Gladiator is much earlier. In fact Richard the Lionheart appears at the end of this when he has a bigger role in Robin Hood. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too wild when this came out since I was only about thirteen and Orlando Bloom was meant to be avoided like the plague and I don’t think I had even heard of Ridley Scott back then or at least become a fan of his yet. I will stress early on that there are two versions of this film and they are both very different. If you have to see only one you should watch the Director’s Cut because it is easily a superior film. Now without further ado...

It is the time of the crusades in Europe and armies are continually marching East towards the Holy Land in the war against the Muslims. However one blacksmith Balian has returned home to his small town in France, haunted by his wife’s recent suicide when her baby was stillborn. A group of Crusaders arrive in town and their leader Godfrey, Baron of Ibelin, introduces himself as Balian’s father. Reluctantly Balian travels with the group to Messina in hopes of reaching Jerusalem. Godfrey dies along the way and makes Balian the new baron, knighting him as well. Balian reaches Jerusalem and is introduced to King Baldwin IV, a rather young leader who suffers from leprosy and wears an iron mask to hide his deformed features. He is also introduced to the king’s sister Sibylla and you can guess how that ends up. Balian doesn’t have time to enjoy the peace of Jerusalem as tensions with the Saracen army increases, not helped by the reckless exploits of Raynald de Chatillon and Sibylla’s husband Guy de Lusignan who massacre several Muslim caravans. Jerusalem prepares for a siege and Balian finds himself as the leader of the resistance after King Baldwin dies. The plot is a lot more detailed than that but, including the scenes in the Director’s Cut, the film is over three hours long and split across two DVD discs.

Now this Director’s Cut isn’t one of those re-edits that has an alternate opening, ending and a few extra shots in between. There is approximately 45 minutes of footage added on here and a whole lot of story that does get lost in the theatrical cut. Probably the biggest bonus of the DC is that the character of Sibylla gets much more screen time and is a fully fleshed out person. In the theatrical cut she is in many scenes but a lot of her lines are whittled down and she feels almost wasted, just there as Balian’s token love interest. The DC gives her an entire plot of her own outside her relationship with Balian where her son becomes king after Baldwin IV’s death but he ends up contracting leprosy so Sibylla is confronted with the option of allowing him to live a life of pain, or euthanizing him. There are a handful of other scenes in there, giving minor characters more screen time such as the Hospitaller, the Gravedigger from the beginning and Guy as well. There was one annoying scene I didn’t like where Guy and Balian have a bit of a duel and it seemed to clog up the ending but it’s over fairly soon and I suppose it’s necessary since we never find out actually what happens to Guy in the theatrical cut. There’s also a bit more gore that was cut from the theatrical release such as a messenger getting beheaded as opposed to having his throat cut. In short both Ridley Scott and the film’s crew have stated that they consider this Director’s Cut to be the true version of the film and I think I’m inclined to agree with them.

I’ve been vocal about my dislike for Orlando Bloom in the past but speaking in an unbiased way, he was brilliant in this film. I never thought he could pull off an action hero role that wasn’t some kind of pretty boy like Will, Paris or Legolas but I was able to think of him as Balian and his performance is certainly the best of his career. There is a whole crop of fine veteran actors in the film and Bloom falls into line with them and holds his own no problem at all. The veterans I’m talking about include Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson and Michael Sheen though these have very small roles despite being prominent characters. The Director’s Cut gives them all a decent amount of screen time. David Thewlis also makes up for his appalling performance in the third Harry Potter movie in his role as The Hospitaller, an ambiguous character who is hinted that he might be some kind of divine figure on Earth, likely an angel though of course it’s left open and never actually stated out loud. I also want to give a round of applause to Edward Norton who hides under the mask that enters the Uncanny Valley and does a passable English accent. I enjoyed all of Norton’s scenes and it wasn’t until years after I saw the film that I actually made the connection between this guy and the films such as Fight Club, American History X, Saving Private Ryan etc. Kevin McKidd also has a rather small role as a sergeant who abruptly disappears about forty minutes in. He does feel a bit wasted to be fair. Now then I’ve been ignoring someone so far and it’s now time to bring attention to the lovely and dynamic Eva Green playing Sibylla. With the scenes and storyline re-inserted in the DC her performance is nothing short of amazing. That’s all I can say. I can’t go into detail except I was blown away and she is definitely one of Ridley Scott’s best written female characters.

I’m going to draw attention to the visuals once again since they do deserve special attention in this film. The filmmakers went with dark horse Morocco when choosing locations to construct a medieval replica of the city of Jerusalem. The set is quite impressive and has that perfect exotic feel to it especially in the scenes where Balian first arrives and when Saladin leads his armies through the streets. We have impressive cinematography in every scene with many large and sweeping landscapes almost overwhelming us when we watch the film. The battle sequences are also a little different from the ones you normally see in this type of film as they are done a bit more choppy and expressive, not really focusing on what the characters are doing but on how it affects everything around them. The final climactic siege on Jerusalem is spectacular and the entire film builds up to that moment which is well worth the wait. The battle at Kerak is the other big action scene and I especially like the effect of the sand flying up around the knights as they fight, creating a bit of a surreal atmosphere.

Quieter and more sombre scenes include a beautiful one between Baldwin IV and Sibylla when the former is on his deathbed. Thankfully it’s left in its entirety in the theatrical cut as well. I also enjoy the love scene between Balian and Sibylla set to the haunting “Saa Magni” by Oumou Sangare. Really it’s too hard just to pick one favourite scene in this film since every scene is so stunning visually. It’s just a treat to watch this film unfold.

Now I know that a lot of people were rubbed the wrong way by the portrayal of religion in the film. Now by that I mean people were pissed that the Muslims weren’t depicted as baby-eating barbarians with no redeeming qualities. I enjoyed the positive depiction of the Muslim armies and I wasn’t offended by the negative depiction of a lot of the Christian characters. I feel that quite a few Christian characters were portrayed positively such as the Hospitaller with his line “I place no stock in religion”. Either way the religious moral isn’t heavy-handed in my opinion. I dare you to watch the entire Director’s Cut in one go as it is nearly impossible when you have already seen it before. I see it as like a brilliant two-part movie that actually doesn’t suffer when it gets split. Though of course I wasn’t going to cheat and include the two parts as two separate films on my list, though I did consider that with Deathly Hallows. Anyway that’s enough of my rambling unless you want to hear more then by all means follow me on Twitter to get your fill.

Saturday 24 September 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 94 - American Beauty

#7 - American Beauty:
Do you think a drama can’t be funny?
Do you think a comedy can’t be moving?
Do you think that a drug dealer can’t be an amazing person?
Do you think life can’t begin at 40 years old?
Do you think success and happiness are the same thing?
Do you think that the beautiful goddess isn’t a person as well?
Do you think that this film didn’t deserve its praise?
Well…look closer…

Right from the start we have a posthumous narrator in a man called Lester Burnham, who says that he will die less than a year from when the film starts. He has a fairly predictable and mundane life, working a drab cubicle job and living in a neat and tidy suburban neighbourhood. His wife Carolyn is a real estate agent and was once happy and free but has now become overly ambitious and materialistic, keeping everything in the house under her control. His daughter Jane is moody and withdrawn, sensitive about her appearance and resentful to her father for pulling away from her earlier in life. The week the film starts has a few major things happen that heavily influence the direction Lester, Carolyn and Jane’s lives take them in. Firstly Carolyn starts to see her rival real estate agent Buddy Kane which leads to her entering an affair with him. Secondly a new family move in next door to them and the only son Ricky is fascinated with Jane. She too is drawn to him, not used to be admired by boys. Finally at one of Jane’s cheerleading recitals, Lester spies one of her friends Angela Hayes, an incredibly pretty and seductive girl who hopes to be a model. He is immediately attracted to her and it’s this attraction that prompts him to take control of his life, improving his health and even quitting his job. But of course we know that it’s a foregone conclusion that Lester will eventually die.

It seems that fans and critics alike have been divided on the issues about this film. It doesn’t really seem to have just one analysis. Even the director Sam Mendes isn’t quite sure about it since according to him whenever he read the script it seemed to be about a different thing. There’s definitely a bit of mystery, a few love stories, maybe a commentary on American suburbia, a life lesson and even a cautionary tale. Since I’m writing this I’ll just give you what I got from this film. For me, Lester and Carolyn represent the loss of youth. I don’t just mean growing old but losing your inner self.
 It happens so often that adults grow up and their hearts die, as Ally Sheady famously said. With Carolyn, Lester said she was once happy and has now become joyless. She presents an image of this successful business lady who has everything under control when she’s deeply fragile and controlling underneath. Lester on the other hand has become a robot going through the motions. He gets up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, goes to bed and the cycle goes on again the next day. But of  course, as Humphrey Bogart famously said (yes I’m dropping two quotes in one paragraph) “life can begin at forty” and we see Lester seize the day and find himself once again. In short he and Carolyn represent everything that us younger people are most afraid of turning into and what we should take steps to avoid becoming.

The characters in this film are really brought to live by the cast. There are so many of them being juggled, each with their own story, and the film handles it perfectly unlike so many others. Kevin Spacey plays Lester and talks in a slow drawling monotone for most of the film, reflecting his character’s personality. Then slowly he seizes the day and gives himself an actual personality, being fun and witty for a change. One of the most telling scenes is the second dinner where he and Carolyn are arguing and Jane gets up to leave but Lester shouts “sit down!” at her. She and Carolyn are stunned that Lester has actually raised his voice and given her an order. Annette Bening plays Carolyn and is amazing as the obvious phony bitch we see in her attitude to the public but how she is deeply fragile whenever she’s alone such as when she nearly has a nervous breakdown when she can’t sell a house. Thora Birch returns to my screen as Jane and nearly steals the show. Jane is different from the typical fight with your parents “wah you’re ruining my life” teen we see in these types of movies. She doesn’t have any relationship with her parents, good or bad. Mena Suvari plays the complete opposite of her character in American Pie, instead playing this outgoing sexpot. An interesting thing was done with the two actresses in production where Thora wears gradually less makeup as the film goes on while Mena wears more to show how we notice the changes between them. Wes Bentley plays the eccentric Ricky Fitts and, aside from the paper bag scene which was a little too much, completely nails the role. Chris Cooper isn’t used that much as Ricky’s father but he nearly commands every scene he’s in, especially the big one towards the end.

I’d like to mention the film’s visual style because it’s pretty noticeable here. They use a flower motif a lot throughout the film and I’m going to offer up my own take on the symbolism here. The roses represent the love and relationships between Lester and the women in his life. We see full roses in bloom at the start and Carolyn cutting them, symbolising how she has cut away at their marriage and taken away the passion and romance to leave it as something almost dead. Whenever Lester fantasizes about Angela we see rose petals, representing his fresh new passion towards her. The fact that it’s petals is because the relationship hasn’t formed yet. In the big scene with Lester and Angela towards the end we see a vase of roses on the table in between them in frame, showing how that relationship is finally becoming real. Though of course the roses aren’t growing in the wild, showing why it isn’t such a good idea. The roses are notable for being the only red thing in the scene which also ties in with other scenes where white is the predominant colour, only to have a splash of red in there to stick out. The front of the house is all white with only a red front door, for example.

There’s so many brilliant scenes in this film but I’ll first describe the one where Jane “shows herself” to Ricky through the window. It’s interesting that at the beginning and end of the scene Jane and Ricky both get hit by their parents, with the other watching (Jane gets slapped by Carolyn and Ricky’s father bursts into his room and attacks him). Thora Birch was sixteen at the time and bares her breasts fully on screen, making us all wonder why her character wanted to get a boob job in the first place. For me, I saw that as a way of rebelling against Carolyn for hitting her and wanting to do something passionate so she shows Ricky her breasts through the window. The big thing I noticed is that when we see Ricky filming it, the camera is focused on Jane’s face and it’s her expression that’s compelling him. The love scene between them later is also quite tender and nicely shot with the use of the TV monitor showing one filming the other when they’re not on screen. I love the scene between Lester and Angela near the end where (spoiler warning!!) they kiss and everything else. We’ve seen Lester imagining this happening before and we’ve seen Angela as a goddess but in that scene we see how wrong this attraction is. In that moment when Angela drops her bombshell Lester realises that she isn’t a goddess, she’s still just a child. The scene after that with the two of them in the kitchen is so sweet that it does make you want to go “awww”.

It seems 1999 was a great year for films when you take into account that this, Fight Club, The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project and Boys Don’t Cry all came from that year in particular. These days of course you will get people calling it overrated but that expression is so overdone and doesn’t mean anything in my opinion. To me, overrated translates as “it’s popular and I want to be different so I’ll say I don’t like it” and that’s pretty much my attitude towards a lot of the films on my list that have their haters purely because they’re popular. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of the paper bag scene, especially when the filmmakers admitted it took a lot of work with leaf blowers to get it to move that way. Aside from that, it’s a great film and of course it’s in my top ten. It would probably also be one of the films that I would stand up and applaud at in the cinema after it was over though strangely I haven’t actually gotten that opportunity yet with any film. Anyway let’s all take a life lesson from this film and appreciate the finer things in life, like what my Twitter account looks like.

Friday 23 September 2011

Week in Review for Women's Wrestling #14

So this week we had a WWE PPV that was highly anticipated by many fans, especially since it was taking place in a certain diva's hometown and of course the accompanying fall-out from that while TNA developed their Knockouts Championship storyline headed towards Bound For Glory. Should be good...

Night of Champions - Kelly Kelly* vs Beth Phoenix (Divas' Championship):
I have to say this but this match felt epic. The build up itself wasn't that epic but it certainly felt that way with how vocal the crowd were. I loved that they actually cared about the outcome and who won which shows WWE must be doing something right though it's too bad we can't have all the title matches in a diva's hometown. They took what was wrong with their (already good) SummerSlam match and improved on it here. Beth was a bit shaky with her moves there but here she was solid and injected plenty of personality while Kelly continues to impress with how much improvement she's made since her first PPV singles match last year. Also Eve and Natalya finally got to do something other than clapping at ringside and they both played their managers roles very well. I especially loved that hurricanrana Kelly did at the start as well as Beth's six superplex. While Beth's I Quit match was better, this is definitely the best match of Kelly's career and it's going on my MOTY candidates list. The ending was controversial but the way it happened was so the feud could go on without burying either competitor. Kelly is the underdog, just catching Beth off guard and we're obviously going to get another match, maybe against Natalya or a third against Beth. I'm not fussed since Kelly's recently put on solid matches with both of them so I say bring it on. 8/10

Raw - Divas of Doom vs Kelly Kelly & Eve:
Two big annoyances about this: first of all they couldn't have given this a bit more hype considering a lot of us have been waiting for these two teams to finally be facing off. Secondly with the amount of time they got why the hell did they show the two entrances? Put both teams in the ring and they have enough time to have a better match. That being said the match wasn't half bad and Eve gets to work with Beth again. They worked well as always and I can't wait to see a full-fledged feud between those two if/when Beth or Natalya gets the title. From the looks of it, the focus is still on Beth and they're booking both teams to be equal in terms of strength. Curious though that Natalya and Eve were in the decision but I guess they needed to build Eve up after losing to Beth. Again more time would have been better but I think we're gonna see these two teams square off a lot more in the future. 5/10

NXT - AJ vs Maxine:
I didn't expect to get a third match again so soon after the last one but it was solid and on-par with the last one and much better than the first one. I remember how awkward both of these girls were on NXT, AJ improved as the season went on but those few extra months in FCW really helped both of them out. I'm very impressed with how Maxine has grown as a wrestler and she's already looking better in the ring than the likes of Maryse, Rosa and Tamina. AJ got in a lot more offence last week though it's curious she's using the Shining Wizard as a finisher now since she used it as a regular move in her matches with Tamina on Smackdown. I suppose anything is better than the school girl of doom (are you listening Eve?). So this storyline isn't over? I guess we'll be seeing things moving out of the ring for the divas next week since having an AJ/Maxine match every episode will get boring even if the matches themselves are solid. 7/10

Impact - Mickie James vs Miss Tessmacher:
I loved the backstage segment since Karen is hilarious though I don't like Traci's hair. The bob will never be attractive on any woman. This one was short but still good to look at. These two share a chemistry that Mickie hasn't really shown in her matches with Madison and Tara. Their title match months ago was better but this was still entertaining. I wish Brooke would stop using the stink face though since she's in a company that can't seem to find the balance between T&A and actual wrestling despite having a strong women's division. I was honestly expecting a Mickie heel turn after the match given how she was acting after the stink face. The finish was abrupt but the favourite advances into the F4W. Hopefully the Tag Team titles get defended on PPV as well. 7/10

Xplosion - Madison Rayne vs Mickie James:
Why is Mickie working two matches this week? How about giving the spot to Tara who hasn't been featured much lately? This one was pretty good, the opening exchanges were fun as Madison is just hilarious. Her offence was nice and I liked that facecrusher she used. Mickie's offence on the other hand was much slower and predictable, pretty much what we've come to expect from her. This was a little better than their last PPV match and maybe on par with the rest but nothing special really. The ending parts were nicely done though the counter into the DDT looked a little sloppy. 6/10

Smackdown - Divas Of Doom vs Chick Busters:
I repeat the statement I made in the Raw entry about the entrances. This got the same amount of time as Raw, maybe less actually, but nixing one of the entrances helped it be a better match. Although it was a short one I enjoyed it a lot more than the Raw match. Holy hell, Kaitlyn, what an outfit but she's got the body to pull it off. The interaction between her and Natalya was nice to look at, as was the stuff between her and Beth. The double vertical suplex did look a bit shaky but still good. AJ and Beth show great chemistry though I'm a little annoyed that AJ got fed to her again this week when Kaitlyn could do with getting Glam Slammed though maybe they don't want her taking such a big bump when she's so green? The DoD and Eve/Kelly remain equal with the heels winning here on Smackdown though hopefully on Raw we can start building towards the next title match. 7/10

So a decent week for both parties where we had a MOTY on PPV as well as some solid action all around. Hopefully next week can deliver as well especially on Raw.

Thursday 22 September 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 93 - The Prestige

#8 - The Prestige
Are you watching closely? Now every one of Bobby’s entries about this challenge consist of three acts; the first act is the intro. He figures out some witty remark to open the entry with, sometimes using a quote or a reference to the film of the day. He will sometimes drop his opinion on the film but often he leaves that for later. The second act is called the body; he explains the plot before going into his opinions on various things such as the cast, character development, visuals, production values and eventually rounding it off with a discussion of his favourite scenes. But you wouldn’t stop reading yet as there is a third act; this is the conclusion where he always starts to type random junk hoping it will sound witty. And he always ends things asking you to follow him on Twitter. And now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at today’s film.

We are in Victorian England at a time when the performing industry is very different and also quite similar to how it is today. We have two magicians Alfred Borden and Robert Angier who are probably the bitterest of rivals. At the start of the film Angier drowns while performing one of his stage acts and Borden is found at the scene of the crime, thrown in prison and tried for murdering him. When a solicitor delivers Angier’s notebook to Borden, the film flashes back to show exactly how these two became rivals. It started back when they were both working together with their manager Cutter. Angier’s wife Julia drowned once on stage during a performance due to something that may or may not have been Borden’s fault. Over the years both magicians began to rise up on the London stage performing scene on their own and each of them kept getting revenge on the other, at the cost of anything else good in their lives. Angier eventually became so obsessed with finding out the secret to one of Borden’s tricks that he journeyed all the way to Colorado to see Nikola Tesla. As the film goes on, we see exactly how far both of these men were willing to go in order to be the best at what they did.

Of course I am a big fan of the films of Christopher Nolan which is why the only two of his films to make my list got into the top ten (spoiler warning) and this was actually the first of his films that I saw. I was going to the cinema with my brother and cousins and we just searched what was on and picked this only because of the word “magicians”, not really caring whether or not we got in to see it. By the end of it we were all blown away. Four teenagers who were used to seeing popcorn action, comedy and horror flicks for fun were blown away at watching such a dramatic and well directed thriller that kept us interested and guessing the whole way through. The film isn’t really so much a mystery story in that there’s one big thing that you’re waiting to get revealed at the end, but rather there are plot twists but you almost forget about them because you’re so absorbed in what’s happening to the characters. In some ways it doesn’t even feel like a period film because if you placed Borden and Angier in the entertainment industry of today and made them musicians or something else like that then the story could still work. All the themes of obsession, sacrifice, secrecy and dedication could easily apply to any pair of rivals in the industry today.

We do have an all star cast here (as we always seem to do these days) with Hugh Jackman playing Angier and Christian Bale as Borden. Neither of them is the lead because both of them are the main character and both of them have equal development and screen time. It is interesting to watch the characters progress as we firstly sympathise with Angier when his wife is killed due to Borden’s carelessness though he himself doesn’t know whether or not it was his fault. We see Angier as the rightful hero trying to make a life for himself against the cocky and douchey Borden. However we do eventually slip into a lot of grey morality since Borden has a wife and daughter whom he loves dearly though his dedication to being a great magician takes a toll on those relationships. Really neither of them is good or evil, but they are both two men who became great magicians and lousy human beings at the same time. Michael Caine is featured as Cutter, the stage engineer who acts as a special teacher to the two men. He almost acts as the voice of reason and a bit of a father figure, slowly becoming the heart of the film. The role seems like it was written for him and only him, which of course is fine with me.
The ladies in the cast include Scarlett Johansson playing Angier’s assistant Olivia. She was definitely born in the wrong century because she looks so fitting in Victorian clothes and hairstyles as well as a sexy English accent. It slips up in places but still sounds good enough. Rebecca Hall and Piper Perabo (also doing a good English accent) also have smaller roles as the wives of Borden and Angier respectively. Hall is very impressive in particular. Andy “Gollum” Serkis dons a fun-sounding New York accent to play Alley, an assistant to Nikola Tesla who is in turn played by David Bowie, who is nearly unrecognisable. Needless to say, this impressive cast all go well together to create an interesting collection of characters to watch.

I really enjoyed all the scenes where we actually see the magicians performing their illusions as there really are quite a few. Even someone who isn’t that interested in the craft of stage illusions would find these scenes worth watching. The list of tricks include guessing whatever items people in the audience has in their pockets, a woman with her hands bound escaping from a water tank in less than twenty seconds, making a bird disappear and reappear (we see two versions of this trick being done actually), a bullet catch and the big one is the Transported Man which has to be seen as my explanations really can’t do it justice. It’s interesting to see the tricks being developed backstage as the magicians practice them and then cutting straight to them performing on stage. I guess it’s no secret that a budding young filmmaker like myself enjoys watching other films about people performing because you always get that nice seamless transition between what happens backstage and what happens when the performers go out on stage.

So Christopher Nolan makes his unofficial debut on my list despite being one of my favourite filmmakers, though I suppose that’s an achievement to not make an appearance until the top ten. This film’s plot is a little overbearing and can get confusing at times but the beauty of it is that the film can be re-watched just so you can figure out all the twists and turns as well as picking up subtle foreshadowing for what’s to come later on. I’m not going to spoil the ending but I will draw attention to the fact that some people considered it a cheat or a cop-out especially when they weren’t expecting it. I can understand that but of course as I keep saying in my reviews for films that get criticised for these kinds of details, take it with a grain of salt. Unfortunately I can’t think up a witty follow-on to the big intro I came up with so I’ll just leave you now and of course remind you all to follow me on Twitter. You can start clapping now.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 92 - Sunshine

#9 - Sunshine:

I said that today’s film would be different in terms of genre and I don’t think you can get a bigger contrast than by putting a World War II film beside a futuristic sci-fi drama piece. I’m actually amazed this came out three years ago and I never even noticed it. I never saw a single ad or trailer for it which is a shame because I think if I had then I would have gone to see it. Of course it turns out the film didn’t do so well at the Box Office so that’s probably why nobody has really heard of it. And did I mention that it’s good old Danny Boyle again?

It is the year 2057 and something has happened to the Sun (the star, not the newspaper thankfully). For some reason it is now failing and life on Earth is almost non-existent. We follow a crew of eight scientists/astronauts on the spaceship Icarus II who are tasked with the job of flying towards the Sun and dropping a stellar bomb payload into it, hopefully reigniting it. When the ship starts to pass into the Dead Zone (where they won’t be able to send any messages back home to Earth anymore) and approaches Mercury, the computer picks up a signal from the original Icarus spacecraft that was sent seven years ago for the same mission, but never reached the Sun. The crew is now faced with a risky decision – either they ignore the signal and continue on to the Sun, or they make a detour to the ship and investigate as well as picking up a second payload to double their mission’s chances. What follows is a psychological journey where each of the crew must make choices at the expense of their humanity.

One of the most striking things about this film is indeed its visual effects. Being a sci-fi film set in the future of course it’s going to have a pretty high budget and its own unique interpretation of the future. The design of the Icarus II spacecraft is interestingly done and I can definitely sense some inspiration coming from Alien as well as other films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. The way the filmmakers imagined how the ship would protect itself against the Sun’s rays was pretty innovative; it has a huge heat shield at the front, designed with hundreds of small mirrors that can be moved to any angle. There’s also another heat shield and solar sail positioned at the other end of the ship. Also the ship has a special garden of plants meant to keep the supply of oxygen coming in regularly, which is a pretty intelligent idea. I can’t believe I never thought of that. Borrowing from what I’m assuming is Star Trek they have a special room called the “Earth Room” where they have holographic projections of various things from Earth to remind them of their homes. The way the payload is designed is pretty imaginative too though it’s a little hard to describe in detail, so I’m going to let the pictures do that for me.

We have an ensemble cast of several international actors, the best known of whom would obviously be Cillian Murphy who plays the physicist Capa. He uses his flawless American accent and portrays Capa as a bit of a loner and an outsider among the crew which probably ties in with how he’s the only crew member to be shown interacting with family back on Earth. Chris Evans who is probably recognised from some of those random perfume ads plays Mace, a more level-headed and straight up take charge type of guy. Mace is the guy who gets things done and he’s pretty much a soldier amongst scientists though he avoids being trigger happy which would make this into an entirely different movie. 
One of my favourites Rose Byrne also dons an American accent to play Cassie, the heart of the group. She’s also the pilot and the most emotionally stable of the group which obviously helps her last the journey. Our other female is Michelle Yeoh as Corazon, the ship’s biologist who takes care of the oxygen garden. She’s more spiritual than the other characters and definitely has a deep emotional connection to nature and the like. We also have Mark Strong in a small role which I will not spoil too much. 
You will notice from the pictures and of course the names of the actors that we have a pretty diverse cast with three Asians in it. That’s pretty impressive when in Hollywood we’re used to a cast of white people with a token black guy thrown in. This comes from Danny Boyle imagining that 50 years in the future that American and Chinese space programs would be the most developed. Hmm, maybe he should compare notes with Joss Whedon over coffee?

All of my favourite scenes in the film come when Searle, the ship’s doctor, is sitting there trying to look at the Sun. He wears a set of strong sunglasses and has the ship’s shield filtering the sunlight to as much as it will let through. There’s an obvious religious parallel in there and that makes Searle one of the more interesting characters such as when Kaneda is trying to fix the shield while exposed to the sunlight and Searle is desperately asking him “what do you see?”. We get the idea he himself is desperate to see what the Sun looks like when looking through it unfiltered. All those scenes are beautifully designed and acted. 
Speaking of a beautifully-designed scene, the final climactic moment when the payload is set off is one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen and I can’t even imagine how the filmmakers thought it up. It manages to be both intense and calming at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. There’s also a nice little scene between Capa and Cassie where she tells him about how every night she has dreams that she’s standing on the surface of the sun.

There you have it – Danny Boyle’s Magnum Opus if you will. I don’t know if he considers this to be his best film but I think it’s definitely well made and should be up there on many other “best of” lists. As for the Box Office, well the film was just unlucky and it didn’t make back its budget but at least it wasn’t as big a bomb as Waterworld or Cutthroat Island. And if we’re taking scientific accuracy into account then just forget about that as well. I don’t watch films to poke holes in the laws of science or whatever, unless it’s really that obvious to the average person, so just take it as Rule of Cool and be thankful that we have a beautiful film that actually embodies the sci-fi genre as it was originally defined: “the human spirit meeting the challenges of nature by embracing technology and reason”. Now that’s definitely profound. Anyway let’s all take a few minutes today to go out and appreciate the fact that we have sun...and then let’s go inside and spend the rest of the day at the computer where we all follow Bobby on Twitter.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 91 - Inglorious Basterds

#10 - Inglorious Basterds

Now what better way to kick off the top ten than with one final visit to Mr Quentin Tarantino? Back when I reviewed Empire of the Sun, I drew attention to the fact that Steven Spielberg considers that film to be his best project or “Magnum Opus” if you want to get fancy. Well as it happens, Tarantino considers this film to be his Magnum Opus. I know that Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are his most well known projects and have gotten the most critical acclaim but I’m inclined to agree with Tarantino on this one. Indeed the film’s success gives us a good example and I think that in a few years it will have gained the same iconic status that Pulp Fiction has. I mean, when I watched it in the cinema I thought it was a great film but there was no way I thought it would sweep the Oscars like it did. But hey the Academy can surprise us every now and then.

The setting is Nazi-occupied France in the middle of World War II. We follow three distinct plot lines that will all eventually intersect. The first revolves around an infamous officer in the SS called Colonel Hans Landa, who has been given the nickname “The Jew Hunter” for obvious reasons...except he’s freakishly good at his job because he prides himself on being able to think like a Jew and therefore find out where they are in hiding. Landa is introduced early on but he doesn’t come into play until much later in the story so let’s move on. The titular Basterds are a group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine who has them ambush Nazi soldiers and scalp them all. The Basterds always leave one soldier alive from each group to spread the word...carving a swastika into their forehead for good measure to mark them as a Nazi forever. The Basterds in this particular mission join forces with the British and seek the help of an informant – the German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark who is helping them prepare a plan called Operation Kino. This ties in with the third plot line: a Jewish woman named Shoshanna Dreyfus escaped from Landa’s clutches many years ago and is now living under a false identity in Paris as a cinema owner. A German actor takes a fancy to her and convinces Joseph Goebbels (yes that one) to have his prestigious film premiere at Shoshanna’s cinema. When this is arranged, Shoshanna realises that with a cinema full of Nazi officials, it will be the perfect opportunity to burn the building to the ground. Oh and Hitler himself will be at the premiere.

The film follows the traditional Tarantino structure in that it’s completely different from the typical three or five act structure. We open with a lengthy scene introducing Hans Landa to us, and Shoshanna of course, and then we switch to the segment with the Basterds where we see them and their motivation in great detail. Thirdly we see Shoshanna again and then we end up cutting back and forth with everything eventually coming together on the night of the film premiere where all three stories intersect. As soon as we hear about Operation Kino then half the film becomes dramatic irony since we see the Americans and the British planning this huge detailed scheme when they really don’t have to since Shoshanna’s plan is pretty much fool-proof. What’s probably the most curious and interesting part to me anyway is that the Basterds and Shoshanna never actually interact in the film which is a shame in that world since any plan they would come up with would be nigh-unstoppable. Oh and I do feel I should mention the length since it is exactly two-and-a-half hours long, for those who care. But the film itself doesn’t feel long at first since you solidly go from one part of the story to the next without cutting in between, so here the length is necessary.

Brad Pitt is billed as the main star in this film for obvious reasons though sadly he didn’t do it for me in this film. I found him and his Southern accent annoying and he seemed like he was just half-assing the whole film like he was playing it up to be along the so bad it’s good lines like it was Planet Terror or something like that, while the other actors were giving it their best performances. The only time Pitt actually made me laugh in this was with his (intentionally) atrocious Italian so he’s not completely worthless in this. Another bad part of the cast goes to Michael Fassbender who plays a British soldier, and he tries to posh himself up to hide his natural Irish accent. The result is a cringe from the audience whenever he speaks as the Queen herself isn’t that British. I’m aware that some people were that posh back then but it’s very hard to pull that specific accent off and Fassbender fails epically. Thankfully his German is flawless and he spends most of his screen time talking in that language so it’s really just a couple of short scenes where we have to put up with the pip-pip and cheerio dialogue. The delicious Diane Kruger plays Bridget von Hammersmark and is just charming as this bubbly and entertaining character. She moves so easily between English and German that she deserves some kind of Golden Tongue Award for languages. 
I don’t know if they give those out but they really should. Another recipient for the Golden Tongue Award is no doubt Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa. I was thrilled when I heard he got all the nominations and I wasn’t expecting him to win most of them since I never thought the Academy would give the Oscar to someone for playing a Nazi (I was of course forgetting Kate Winslet) but it was well deserved. He plays that role so well and is so brilliant as a villain that he’ll likely go the same way as Anthony Perkins and end up typecast. Melanie Laurent plays Shoshanna and her performance is right up there with the best of them. I do give Tarantino props for featuring two prominent female characters in the film whose main roles aren’t as the girlfriends of the main characters. Eli Roth makes an appearance as a man called The Bear Jew, known for beating Nazis to death with a baseball bat. He is a little over the top in some places but he’s not as overdone as Brad Pitt so I enjoyed him. I also noticed two actors who also appeared in Robin Hood have small roles in the first scene. The guy playing the French man Landa interrogates had one scene in Robin Hood with Godfrey while one of his daughters in this played Isabella. Samuel L Jackson also provides a voice-over in a couple of scenes as well. 

My favourite scene comes when the Basterds are meeting up with Bridget in a tavern. At first it’s just a fun little conversation scene until a Nazi officer shows up and hears the British soldier speaking German with an unusual accent (possibly a bit of irony there considering Michael Fassbender is a fluent German speaker while it’s his English accent that needs work) and sits down with them. They even play a little card game and all the while the tension is building over whether or not they can get rid of this soldier and get out of there easily. The scene is entirely in German and it’s done so simply that it stands out as one of the most enjoyable sequences in the film. Michael Fassbender makes up for his appalling English accent earlier by being quite entertaining with his German, and paired with Diane Kruger and her enthusiasm makes for a fun little dialogue scene. The opening scene on the French farm between Hans Landa and the farmer is also brilliantly built up and drawn out as the tension slowly starts to mount. We slowly go from thinking everything’s going to be alright to a big collective “oh crap” as we find out just how good at his job Landa is. The entire sequence at the premiere is pure gold for Brad Pitt and his deliberately bad Italian accent and of course Hitler and Goebbels acting like a couple. 

Well that’s the first of the top ten out of the way and of course my final stop to Quentin Tarantino. He has provided us with some great films and made me into a fan at the rather late age of sixteen, so of course he deserves to be in my top ten. I remember back when I reviewed Casablanca I wondered how many war films were actually on my list. So I guess a war film not only beat out that but made it into my top ten as well. I like to pride myself on getting plenty of varied genres into this whole list so stay tuned for some even more different genres in the following nine films. I would suggest preparing yourself for a futuristic story for the next entry. Adieu, Au Revoir, Auf Weidersein and goodbye, Bobby-verse. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.