Welcome to my blog. Here you will find details of my progress towards watching all films in the IMDB Top 250 List along with other random film musings. Enjoy!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

IMDB Review #33: Leon

When Leon was originally released in cinemas back in 1994, most reviews commented on the fact that it was morally dubious for a film to portray the training of a 12 year old girl as a hitman. It can’t be denied that Leon is amoral by nature - this is a graphically violent film, which also hints at a sexual relationship between a 12 year old girl and a much older hitman – however, what also can’t be denied is that this is a wonderfully entertaining film which breaks many conventions of the modern day thriller.
When 12 year old Mathilda’s family are killed by a drug infused maniac (Gary Oldman) over a drug deal gone wrong, Mathilda (a young Natalie Portman) is adopted by Leon (Jean Reno), the hitman next door. In return for cleaning the apartment and reading lessons, Leon agrees to teach Mathilda some of the secrets of his craft. With an impending sense of dread, the film slowly builds up the tension until a final confrontation between Leon and the man who killed Mathilda’s family.
Everything about this film is over-emphasized, from Gary Oldman’s drug crunching (and completely over the top) manic bad guy to the explosive final confrontation. I must admit that this didn’t really bother me too much as it added to the overall interest and intrigue of the film and resulted in a stylised urban thriller which is clearly devolved from reality (unsurprising given this is a Jean Luc Besson film). Everything in the film is overly stylised, from the character’s clothes and dialogue to the soundtrack and set design. This is an approach which I think works superbly and gives the film a sense of originality and freshness which very few films manage to achieve (although it is doubtful whether any film can claim to be truly original in the modern era).
For me, it was the performance of the two central characters which really drives the film. Many would think that a graphically violent thriller would be strongly driven by story and action, but I think this is one of the few exceptions whereby the strong characterisation is the reason that this film is so highly rated on IMDB. The interaction between Leon and Mathilda is quite frankly captivating and deals with some interesting concepts, most importantly being the appropriateness of the relationship between the two. For me, I think that whilst Mathilda and Leonboth love each other, they are two very different kinds of love. Mathilda clearly logves leon like a lover (even though she is 12), however Leon reciprocates that love as a father figure and clearly demonstrates in the final scene that his only desire is to protect Mathilda from harm.
Overall, I thought Leon was a superb film. It is entertaining, feels fresh and original (or at least I imagine it would have done at the time of release) and has characters which are fundamentally interesting. Sure there may be some plot holes and the whole thing may be entirely over the top and removed from reality but it is that wackiness which captivates. This is one I will watch again.

Rating 9/10

Monday, 29 August 2011

Me and my blog

Well, it has been a long time since I last updated this blog, far far too long. First up, apologies to anyone who has been stopping by to see if I have updated the blog. Firstly, I was on holiday for a couple of weeks and I was then in self imposed exile as I tried to get through a set of professional exams (which I am pleased to say I passed, albeit marginally). Despite this it, I feel I have neglected my blog and my challenge and for that I apologise.

But I am not a defeated man, I am still comitted to my challenge and will be striving to complete it, however long it may take me. Over the past six weeks or so I am afraid to say that I have not watched many films at all. The little free time I have had has been spent watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (I may be about four years out of date but that TV program was awesome! - more on that later). Going forward the focus will once again be on my Top 250 challenge (in fact, as I type I am watching Leon) but I will no longer committ to watching the films in order. As long as they are on the list, they will be fair game.

Until my next post, and may it come quicker than the last...


Thursday, 7 July 2011

IMDB Review#244: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring

After a short hiatus (I really don’t know where  the time has gone the past two weeks!) my IMDB challenge continues with Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (let’s call it Spring for short).

Spring is a South Korean film which follows a young boy who is being taught how to be a monk by a wise old master. The film is split into four main vignettes, each one named after a different season, which represent the different stages in the boy’s life. Each vignette deals with a different theme of humanity, including cruelty, love and redemption, and we are shown how each of these impact on the boy as he progresses through life.

I must admit that Spring was a film which I was not particularly looking forward to. I made the classic error of prejudging a film based on its DVD cover and I had decided straight away that this film was not for me. As I started watching the film, all I wanted to do was to get this one out of the way so that I could continue with my challenge but as the film progressed, I found myself slowly falling for its meditative charm and by the end of the film I was taken in by its scope and by the statement it was trying to make about life in general. However, it was only after the credits had rolled and I was reflecting on the film that I started to realise how good a film this is.

I must also admit that I am not entirely sure I fully understood the film after just the one viewing which creates a little bit of a dilemma for me in trying to review the film. Part of me (the emotive part) thinks this film was great – truly original and fresh. However, another part of me (the rational part) cannot find the reason why I thought that this film was great. Perhaps that is not a bad thing, as Spring is a film which I will definitely watch again (therefore it has the potential for repeat viewings), however, for me, a truly great film is one which has impact the first time you watch it and stays with you long after the credits roll. Therefore Spring is only partly successful in that respect.

Credit must also go to the fantastic cinematography and score which really add to the atmosphere of the film. The location of the film (set on a floating monastery in the middle of a lake) is such a calming location that it really adds to the meditative nature of the film – an important concept in Buddhist life.

Overall, this is a film which I would recommend to those who enjoy slow paced films which grow on you as time passes. However, if you are looking for a film with impact which you can fully appreciate and enjoy as you watch it, then this one might not be for you.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 19 June 2011

IMDB Review #245: The Philadelphia Story

James Stewart is by far my favourite actor. He gives such an amazing amount of energy to each and every character he portrays and can turn his hand to such a variety of different genres that I can honestly say I have never enjoyed watching an actor as much as I have enjoyed watching James Stewart. This all bodes well for The Philadelphia Story – the only film that James Stewart won an Oscar for – and when you through in the wonderful Katherine Hepburn and the smooth Cary Grant, this really was a film which had me salivating.

Tracy (Katherine Hepburn), is a wealthy Philadelphian socialite who is about to get married for the second time. On the eve of her wedding, her ex-husband (Cary Grant) turns up along with an undercover reporter (James Stewart) and as Tracy gets to know these two men further through the course of the night she begins to learn the truth about who she really is and what she really wants from life.

Adapted from the 1939 stage play of the same, The Philadelphia story is a romantic comedy (almost farcical in nature) which features some outstanding dialogue. In every scene the witty dialogue flows at such a pace that it is worth the price of admission alone just to allow it to grace your ears. Credit for that has to go in part to the Broadway play from which this film was adapted but also to screenwriter Donald Stewart, who deserving walked away with that year’s academy award for best screenplay.

Likewise, the acting in the film is superb. James Stewart gives what is a contender for his career best performance and Katherine Hepburn is also outstanding in a seductive lead female role. Making up the leading trio, Cary Grant is fine as the role of the ex-husband, however in almost every scene he is overshadowed by Stewart and Hepburn. That is more a compliment to the two leads as opposed to a criticism of Cary Grant, who I personally think gives his best performances in his collaborations with Hitchcock.

With all good things comes the bad and in this case the predictable storyline lets the film down a little. However, it is a testament to the great cast that they keep the film enjoyable, witty and entertaining despite the obvious plot points and I really did enjoy this piece of golden cinema. 

Perhaps it is too generous to call this a classic, but a finer romantic comedy I have yet to see.

Rating: 8/10