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.

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27th Sep2014

Maps to the Stars – Film

by timbaros

images-261Maps to the Stars can be described as a take off on Hollywood and celebrity and the people who inhabit this world, and boy what a world it is.

It’s a world created by David Cronenberg, who also directed. He’s the man who last brought us 2012’s Cosmopolis but he is more well known for the much better received A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Maps to the Stars is not a normal movie, in other words, it’s not what it says on the tin. It’s surreal, dark, black, and intense. It’s a movie that is desperately trying to show us the inhabitants of Hollywood, and their dreams, and their need for fame and validation.

There are several lead characters in the film, but it mostly belongs to Julianne Moore. She plays ageing actress Havana Segrand. While she’s not that old, she can’t get the parts she used to get, but one part that she really wants is to play a part her late mother once played. Segrand seems to live in the shadow of her more legendary mother, who died in a mysterious fire. And Segrand is not a stable woman – though she lives in a huge house that befits a famous film star. And even though Segrand is surrounded by people all the time, including her agent, her personal assistant Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikoska), and her visits to self help guru Dr. Sanford Weiss (John Cusack), she sees the ghost of he mother as a young girl around the house, and she doesn’t know why. And Segrand is just one of the many strange characters in the film.

There’s also the already-mentioned Agatha Weiss. Her story is even more bizarre. She’s been kept in a psychiatric asylum in Jupiter, Florida since she was a young girl after a horrible fire that left her with scars on her hand (she wears gloves) and face. It was a fire that appears to be one that she started, as she has been ostracized and totally rejected by her family. And this includes her father,who happens to be Dr. Sanford Weiss. And she’s obsessed with trying to re-enter the family circle, which she does. And on top of all this, there’s something really strange about her.

Dr. Sanford Weiss is a famous television psychologist who offers New Age advice to his followers, as well as performing intimate bodywork on his celebrity clients, the rich and famous. He stars in his own television program that is constantly on in his household; he’s a strange egotistical man. He is also the author of best-selling self-help books with analysis for the troubled, which doesn’t help his 13-year old teenage son, Benjie Weiss (a very good Evan Bird).

Benjie Weiss is a teen sensation, a Beiberesque movie star who is making way to much money. He’s spoiled and screwed up (just like Justin Beiber?). He’s a teen heartthrob (having starred in the big hit ‘Bad Babysitter’ and fresh from rehab – at the tender age of 13. He visits a sick girl in a hospital to boost his reputation and told by his agent that this girl in dying of AIDS, but actually she tells him that she’s got Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He’s pissed off and tells his agent off for providing him the wrong information. The girl eventually dies and Benjie is haunted by her ghost – a ghost that he sees almost everywhere he goes. It’s a metaphor for his stardom, an attempt to bring him back down to earth perhaps? But it doesn’t, it makes him a lunatic to the point where he thinks he’s strangling her but he actually strangles the co-star of a new film that’s he’s doing, and he’s jealous that this co-star is stealing scenes from him. The strangulation is a chilling scene, and all to surreal by the reaction of his mother, Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams). She’s not your typical celebrity mother; she’s a bit spastic and emotionally unstable, paranoid if you will, who is more concerned about her son’s ability to make more money than for his personal well-being. The Weiss family is one screwed up family.

Robert Pattison shows up as perhaps the only sane person in the movie. He’s Jerome, a limo driver who happens to pick up Agatha when she arrives in Los Angeles. He’s not just a limo driver, he’s also a part-time actor. And he falls for Agatha, but also gets seduced by Havana. After their sexual romp all hell breaks lose and Agatha goes on a rampage.

Maps to the Stars is an exaggerated take off on Hollywood and it’s denizens. It’s a film that is a distorted view on celebrity culture, but to the extreme, with highs and the very lows, with ghosts from their past thrown in for scary effect. And it’s a film where the characters are all very unlikeable, so unlikeable that you sort of wish they would all kill themselves. Maps to the Stars uses Los Angeles and Hollywood as the backdrop, with parts of the film shot on the Hollywood walk of fame and under the famous Hollywood sign, to give it a realistic look. Most people say that Hollywood is fake and artificial, and it’s a bit like this film, it’s fake, dark, make believe, artificial and over the top, with celebrities swallowed up by their obsessions with success, celebrity and money, and perhaps this is what Hollywood is all about?

17th Aug2014

The Rover – Film

by timbaros
images-226The Rover takes place in Australia ten years after a massive economic collapse, while two men travel together on a journey that takes them through dangerous territory, only to meet uncertain fate at the end.
Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in the new film by director David Michod (Animal Kingdom). Pearce is Eric, a former farmer. He’s murdered his wife and all he’s got to his name is his car. When a gang of thieves steals his car, he does whatever he needs to do to get his car back. In his frantic journey to find his car, he encounters one of the brothers of the thieves – Rey (Pattinson), young and not so bright. Eric is the only person who knows where to find his brother so off the two men go, on a journey where they encounter all types of people who barely survive Australia’s harsh and brutal landscape. This include carnival performers, Asian refugees, aboriginals, cautious shopkeepers, and the military, who try to maintain peace in the region – unsuccessfully.
Their journey to retrieve Eric’s car is a dangerous one – they get into all sorts of shoot outs, and when Eric is captured by the military, Rey comes to his rescue and ambushes the soldiers in their compound. And at the end of their journey, what’s in Eric’s car that he desperately wanted to retrieve will surprise you.
The Rover is similar in story and in plot to the Mad Max films, where bandits roam the countryside and kill anyone and anything for food. The Rover is also very similar to the fantastic The Road, where a father and his son roam around trying to survive after an unknown catastrophe hits the earth. But The Rover is not quite as good as these two films. At 108 minutes, it’s a bit lengthy and gets a bit boring, with characters who come and go. And during intense shootouts, Pearce and Pattinson’s characters somehow survive where they were outnumbered. Director Michod’s Animal Kingdom was an excellent study of a crime family and it’s stone-cold matriarch (which was played by Jacki Weaver), but in The Rover we really don’t know much of Eric and Rey’s characters, and who they are or any of their background. So when the final shootout in the film takes place, we really don’t care who lives or dies, we just want the film to get to some kind of conclusion.