27th Sep2015

Life (Film)

by timbaros

HZF_uexF8QrZYnDZcSa-WdNUBu8pYTVlXM5HAij5in4,VniSXrFWzOgU9j_7VfteG73hh4ITPq7KEpC0V1WykJI,qER7NTxGLmoqLqUSs4RE-Xo_xYRjRiw08xfVDNmQOJwThere’s a famous photograph of James Dean in Times Square taken by Dennis Stock. It is now a movie called ‘Life.’

The photo, taken in 1955, shows James Dean, cigarette in his mouth, head tilted towards the ground, the billboards of Times Square in the background, dark clouds overhead, made the cover of Life Magazine. It also made Stock’s career.

So ‘Life’ the movie is all about that photograph, and the events leading up to, and after, that photograph was taken. It’s also a buddy movie: one man on the cusp of celebrity, another man trying to capture him while struggling make it as a photographer and to also spend time with his young son, with an un-cooperative ex-wife. Stock (Robert Pattison) is tasked with an assignment: to do a photo essay on an unknown actor. So he’s introduced to James Dean (Dane DeHaan) at a party, where he’s also introduced to a young Natalie Wood (Lauren Gallagher). Dean in on the cusp of fame – his first film – East of Eden – was yet to be released. So Dean agrees to have Stock follow him around to get some shots. The first are rejected by his editor – who wants to see hazy shots of an unknown actor boozing it up in a club with Eartha Kitt (Kelly McCreary)? Stock thinks about taking another job, this one in Japan, but he decides to stay in New York and gets back together again with Dean, and on the spur of the moment that famous Times Square photograph is taken. Not to end there, ‘Life’ takes us with Dean and Stock to Dean’s hometown in Indiana. There is where Dean feels most at home, and comfortable; with family, aunt and uncle and Grandma and nephew (his mother died when he was nine and his father sent him to Indiana to live with them). More famous photographs are taken there; Dean with his nephew, Dean on the farm, Dean in the kitchen; these photos would become part of the Life Magazine photo essay. And that’s the movie.

As you can second guess, there’s not much of a story to build on. ‘Life’ is not only about the photographs, it’s also about the relationship between these two men and especially the trust Stock builds with Dean. But ‘Life’ is boring, with stale dialogue, and with acting that is quite lifeless. Pattison is fine as Stock, but DeHaan, even though he has hair that looks identical to Dean’s, just doesn’t bring the right energy and sparkle that we can presume Dean had. Ben Kingsley, however, is excellent as Jack Warner – the man who guided Dean’s career. And while the period details (clothes, cars, hairstyles) are fine, it’s the story that is not a very exciting one and is not enough to warrant a 110-minute film. Director Anton Corbijn just doesn’t bring any ‘Life’ to this movie.

11th Sep2014

The Boxtrolls – Film

by timbaros

The-Boxtrolls-Trailer-4-5The Boxtrolls is being billed as a family event movie from the makers of 2009’s Coraline, a stop-motion 3D dark fantasy film. And The Boxtrolls is also dark, one of the darkest animated films to be released, since perhaps Coraline.

It’s a story of a different type of animated character. The audience is introduced to a family of Boxtrolls, a community of creatures who have raised a human boy. These creatures come in all shapes and sizes, however, the commonality amongst them is that they wear recycled cardboard boxes the way turtles wear their shells. So it’s easy for them to hide when they face danger, and even when they go to sleep – all they have to do is scrunch themselves into their boxes.

Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) was accidentally thrown out of his house when he was a baby and was picked up by one of the Boxtrolls and taken to their community – a cavernous home the Boxtrolls have built beneath the cobblestoned streets of a town called Cheesebridge, where it’s citizens call them monsters. Their underground home is their oasis, as dirty and smelly as it is, with bugs and insects all over the place, literally climbing all over them all the time. Their home is dark, polluted, and probably an unsafe place to raise a baby boy. They spend their days happily underground but their nights foraging the streets for anything to take back home with them, combing the cities streets for garbage to take home with them – the human’s trash becomes The Boxtrolls treasure. And it’s really strange that an animated movie is set in such a location.

The Mayor of Cheesebridge, Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) is not a fan of the Boxtrolls – he believes the scary stories about them that has been spread by the villainous Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley). Snatcher is determined to be accepted into Lord Portley-Rind’s elite group of crony men, so he has imprisoned genius inventor and a friend of Boxtrolls Herbert Trubshaw (Simon Pegg) and is leading a gang to capture all of the Boxtrolls – they call themselves the exterminators of justice. So one by one the Boxtrolls are picked up at night while they are on the cities streets.

Eggs befriends a local girl, Winnie (Elle Fanning) – who happens to be Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter. She helps him integrate back into normal society and together they devise a scheme to save the Boxtrolls from Snatcher – they do whatever it takes to find the captured Boxtrolls and take them back to their dumpy home.

The Boxtrolls, just like Coraline, is a stop-motion animated film, which is shot frame by frame. What sets The Boxtroll apart from previous stop-motion animated films is that it is a period piece, and a mash-up of comedy, detective story, and adventure with a unique perspective as an animated film. Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters was the source material for the screenplay of The Boxtrolls – a tale of a boy adopted by a group of kind creatures. They are kind, but they are ugly as well. And the environment in which they live is not a very hospitable one to humans, much less to a human baby boy. But Eggs grows up with them, and gets used to the vile conditions. The film is like a Charles Dicken book – there is not a joyful resolution if there is not a dark side. It’s also fearful as we get the mean Snatcher who manipulates the residents of Cheesebridge into fearing and hunting The Boxtrolls – and when some are captured the scenes are not particularly joyful. The imagery and feel of the film is dark, and I’m not too sure that younger children will appreciate the story of how a community of monsters living underground is a fun thing. The Boxtrolls is perhaps a film for older children and their parents, but please leave the younger ones home with a babysitter.