Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Month in Review: February

I would describe February as bitter-sweet. Summer came to an end and the 'Best Picture' winner at this year's Oscars turned out to be not so great, along with the ceremony overall. However diversity reigned supreme amongst the film's I watched; further broadening my cinematic horizons. I hope you enjoy my month of February in review! 

Twins of Evil (1971) – 02/02/15 ★★★★
Elements of traditional and modern horror along with mild a very noticeable slice of erotica are combined brilliantly in this surprisingly sophisticated Hammer production. Set doing a time of religious hysteria where misguided and corrupt individuals react drastically and violently to opposing beliefs. The very gothic set design and haunting cinematography create an eerie atmosphere throughout in addition to diverse characters such a Pete Cushing who delivers a most intense and intimidating performance.

Joe (1970) – 05/02/15 ★★★1/2
Resentment and hostility towards the ideals and attitudes of modern youth are explored through a vocal and bigoted working-class individual, symbolic of the older generation. The noticeable low budget and the raw documentary style camera work creates a realistic atmosphere in addition to highlighting to the stark contrast between the social classes and America's counter culture. An ominous tone is present throughout the film while the irony and hypocrisy that exists within the generational divide is expressed through language and differences in living style.

Southern Comfort (1981) – 05/02/15 ★★★★
A simple and entertaining fight for survival in the forbidding recess of America's south which mirrors elements of the Vietnam War and the social climate of the time. The rather unrealistic scenario and mixed performances from the cast do somewhat hinder the film's sinister nature. Although the remote location with its striking landscape bring a scene of pending doom in addition to enticing fear and paranoia within the viewer.

Lenny (1974) – 07/02/15 ★★★★
This remarkable biographical drama examines the life of controversial comic Lenny Bruce in stark detail. The documentary style in which the films is shot elevates it beyond simply watching actors perform on screen, creating an overwhelming sense of realism. Dustin Hoffman's organic and raw performance portrays the anger, frustration and agonising strain of constant persecution. He was the voice that needed to be heard when censorship and hypocrisy were all too present within society

The Theory of Everything (2014) – 10/02/15 ★★★★
An overall lovely film that uses stunning visuals and a beautiful score in a most romantic display of the science behind space and time. The remarkable triumph of one individual transcends courage and love and changing forever the way in which we all look up at the heavens. Eddie Redmayne's physical transformation goes way beyond what is generally labelled Oscar-bait. It's a performance which is truly captivating and inspiring beyond words.

Cujo (1983) - 10/02/15 ★★★1/2
Beneath the surface of the film's simple premise lies a horrific thriller which explores the dynamic of a dysfunctional family in addition to childhood fears and anxieties. Distressing scenes, particularly those featuring the main child character add to the films emotional impact. The menacing performance from the canine antagonist is achieved very well through clever animal training along with precise camera and stunt work.

Hunter’s Blood (1986) – 12/02/15 ★★1/2
Nothing more than an exploitive piece, cashing in on more famous titles like 'Deliverance' and 'The Hill Have Eyes' However it still manages to entertain thought its flaws, namely bad acting and ludicrous plot. It's enough to keep you watching but overall it builds toward nothing that's makes for an eventful conclusion, it's merely satisfying. 

Ravenous (1999) - 12/02/15 ★★★★
Set in 1840s America a Texas Army officer is exiled to a remote California fort where he hears of a disturbing tale of cannibalism told by rescued man days after his arrival. This wonderfully unique war-themed horror film acts as a sinister metaphor for power and a nation's strong desire for expansion and growth. Performances are strong and consistent from the cast in their portrayal of the most odd characters, who in combined with moments of dark humour make for equally perplexing and immensely entertaining viewing. Audiences will be captivated by the stunning cinematography in addition to the very memorable main music score, in which its upbeat twang further adds to the contrast in this bizarre mix of genres.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) – 13/02/15 ★★★1/2
This underrated and mostly forgotten remake pays great homage to William Castle's original spookfest while catering to modern horror fans and film audiences in general. The use creative visual effects, graphic and disturbing contest in addition to its eerie location make for a genuinely atmospheric experience. Performances are hit and miss, however Geoffrey Rush is well suited in the role of the flamboyant and cunning millionaire made famous by Vincent Price.

Enough Said (2013) – 14/02/15 ★★★★
This genuinely warm and sweet story about a blooming relationship between two middle aged people is captured in all its splendour. Awkward and unintentionally comedic moments between the two leads further adds to the level of realism. Performances are wonderful, which perfectly embody the tone of this highly enjoyable romantic comedy about two people dealing with change, divorce and loneliness.

Nightcrawler (2014) – 17/02/15 ★★★1/2
A polarizing look into the free for all and morally devoid world of crime journalism; revolving around a misguided individual driven by the lure of success and notoriety despite honesty and common decency. The sinister ambiance of the city's night life reflects the nature of the film's protagonist and the attitudes of broadcast news regarding censorship and the relentless quest for high ratings. Jake Gyllenhaal's astounding performance is by the far the film's biggest draw card.   

1776 (1972) – 19/02/15 ★★★1/2
While I don't consider myself a fan of musicals I enjoyed this once immensely. Its historical basis of America's birth enticed my interest, in addition to the highly theatrical parody of numerous historical figures of the time. Breaking from tradition, lengthy scenes of dialogue exceed the time devoted to musical numbers which I appreciated. Set design and costumes are impressive and eye catching, further adding to the level of authenticity.

Birdman (2014) – 23/03/15 ★★★
A mildly entertaining exploration of the art behind acting; centred on a washed-up movie star desperate to recover his career and to restore his damaged ego. The unconventional approach of the film being one continuous shot is at times disorienting and the rather pretentious undertones are quite irritating. Also I must note that the film's obvious large budget seems to contradict its independent and art-house style. Despite this the acting is exceptional from the majority of the cast which is worth the price of admission.

American Sniper (2014) – 24/02/14 ★★★★
An unbiased and balanced portrayal of war; centred on a remarkable soldier compelled to embark on multiple tours by his profound sense of patriotism and rising fame due to his exceptional level of skill. The psychological impact of the protagonist's journey is shown with a degree of subtly through the constant transition from combat to family life. Which in addition to the intense action sequences and Bradley Cooper's captivating performance further adds to the film's overall emotional impact and its anti-war message. Ignore the unwarranted controversy and see it for yourself.

Gran Torino (2008) – 25/02/15 ★★★★
Beneath the torrent of racial slurs lies a bitter-sweet story of an aging veteran highly symbolic of the fading American dream and culture change within society. While writing and direction is of Eastwood's usual high standard, the film is unfortunately plagued by poor acting from most of the supporting cast. However Eastwood's performance as the decrepit protagonist combined with his strong on screen presence thankfully carries the weight of the film.

Average Rating: 3.65 out of 5

Top Five Picks

1. Ravenous (1999)
2. The Theory of Everything (2014)
3. 1776 (1972)
4. American Sniper (2014)
5. Twins of Evil (1971) 

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