Skip to content

Two Weeks Notice

February 12, 2022

Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Director: Marc Lawrence
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Alicia Witt

Watch Two Weeks Notice | Netflix

Synopsis: Against her better judgement, Lucy (Sandra Bullock), an ethically-minded lawyer, is convinced to work for the same billionaire developer, George (Hugh Grant), that has just tried to knock down her hometown’s community centre. Unsurprisingly, tension and romantic sparks ensue.

Review: I’m not completely immune to the merits of even the most shameless of romantic comedies, and, certainly, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are two of the names and faces that I’m more inclined to warm to than most of the actors that populate this ilk of movie. I say all this because I simply couldn’t get on board with Two Weeks Notice. Its utter prototypicality is tiresome, and its weird plotting and characterisation preclude it from gaining the simplified ‘happy’ ending it proposes it has arrived at.

The usual rom-com confection of screwball scenes scored to incessant pop songs transmits less as crowd-pleasing alchemy and more as a desperate attempt to paper over the cracks of the mediocre scenario.

And this scenario – one with the time-worn trope of the heartless cad being won over by the principled woman (You’ve Got Mail has a loosely similar premise) – is fundamentally flawed. It is lenient on Hugh Grant’s character as an object of our ultimate admiration, when he’s been presented for the most part as intensely narcissistic, filthy rich, ideologically unattractive, and dim as hell. This makes the ending – that is predicated on our two opposite leads finding harmony and union – untenable in my book. To fast-track to some sort of equity, the film has the gall to give Grant’s buffoon a monologue where he chastises Bullock’s lawyer for being too principled and perfect. And weirdly, the film doesn’t seem to counter that awful sentiment and leaves it unreproached, as evidently it realises for its rom-com formula to work, parity has to be restored. Best not make the male character such a creep the next time. (February 2022)

The Unforgivable

December 21, 2021

The Unforgivable (2021)
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal

The Unforgivable Review: Sandra Bullock Plays Ex-Con In Netflix Drama |  IndieWire

For the full review, please follow this link to One Room With a View: https://oneroomwithaview.com/2021/12/21/the-unforgivable-review/

La Jetée

December 6, 2021

La Jetée (1962)
Director: Chris Marker
Actors: Jean Négroni, Hélène Châtelain, Davos Hanich

La Jetée - Chris Marker's Post-Apocalyptic Time Travel - WilderUtopia

Synopsis: In a future scenario, after a third world war, a man (Jean Négroni, Davos Hanich) conducts time-travel experiments so he can re-visit a woman and a scene from his youth – at the jetty at Orly airport.

Review: If cinema moves at 24 frames a second, Chris Marker’s hypnotic and inventive La Jetée essentially slows that process right down, so that we can see the narrative as an actual progression of assembled still images.

Rather than clouding or distancing the import of the narrative, Marker’s photo-roman approach actually heightens every aspect of it – and it’s a particularly effective tool for La Jetée’s nominal sci-fi theme.

Of course, it’s not simply the images that project the story, but various editing and sound techniques too. Sometimes the pace of the editing is sped up then slowed down, and sometimes Marker uses dissolves between his images; most effective of all when conjuring the idea of Paris being destroyed in a terrifying Third World War.

As the narrative proposes, the world has become uninhabitable from a spatial perspective, so the remaining humans need to experiment with time to find salvation. This idea of time travel has always been intrinsic to cinema, especially in regards to editing and overall narrative structure. When the man begins his journey back (and later, forward) in time, the amplification of a heartbeat ingeniously sensualises his simultaneous fear and awe at the boundary he is transgressing. And the images of him being experimented on in the bunker frequently loop around and repeat themselves, exemplifying this theme of temporality and the dissonance of trying to re-write time or solve a narrative puzzle – such as the film’s closing return to the jetty at Orly tantalises us with. (December 2021)

Frozen II

December 5, 2021

Frozen II (2019)
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Actors: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff

My Kids Loved 'Frozen 2,' But This Parent Is Deeply Confused | Vogue

Synopsis: The call of a siren leads Elsa to inadvertently awaken the elemental spirits. This forces a decimated Arendelle to be evacuated, so Elsa, Anna and co. embark on a mission to the nearby Enchanted Forest to rectify the situation and answer the call of the siren.

Review: I was a rare naysayer in the near universal admiration for Frozen on its release some seven years ago, so it’s a surprise to report that I find its critically maligned sequel, Frozen II, much more to my taste – save for the fact they don’t quite have the same showstopping number that the first film had in “Let it Go”.

The narrative hook is far more compelling here. It really fleshes out the mythology of the ‘Frozen’ world, and isn’t centred on such an unbelievable conceit as the first movie had of Elsa potentially not being accepted for being able to freeze things. This film’s eco-parable about a native people essentially being tricked by what we had perceived to be the ‘good guys’ (the civilised and more ‘worldly’ inhabitants of Arendelle) is lightly done and is not at all stodgy or patronising, and the emotive kick of Elsa and Anna having to investigate their own origin and the mystery about their parents’ histories and deaths is poignantly done.

As with the first film, Frozen II’s calling card is the way it uses colour and texture to drive the ideology of the film. It reminded me of an old adage by language theorist, Robin Lakoff, who opined that women have larger colour vocabularies and a greater sensibility for colour than (most) men, and that feeling certainly transmits here.

It is well documented in some of my other writings on animation that I find the contemporary convention for bulbous eyeballs extremely off-putting and incongruous – and it’s a continual personal annoyance for me when watching something as sincere as Frozen II – but, that aside, this is a beautifully rendered film and certainly deserves a greater reputation than as the inferior knock-off of the first film. (December 2021)

Mustang

November 15, 2021

Mustang (2015)
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Actors: Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu, Ayberk Pekcan

Mustang': Deniz Gamze Ergüven interview | Movie News | SBS Movies

Synopsis: Five young sisters in a provincial Turkish town find their liberties at threat from their tyrannical uncle.

Review: Though somewhat didactic in its attempt to highlight the malignancy of a certain type of Turkish patriarchy, Mustang’s sheer gusto and earnestness of spirit (as embodied in its five rebellious sisters) carries its message with unmistakable force.

It certainly doesn’t shy away from revealing the sheer brutality and hypocrisy of the repressive mechanisms embedded around these young girls’ lives – frequent virginity tests, crude arranged marriages, predatory weddings with the arrival of the groom’s family heralded by gunfire, and the prevention of women attending football matches. The girls’ forceful resistance to these structures is the central spirit of the film, and those aforementioned restrictions are challenged in ways both subtle and brazen: the wedding convention of women having to be modest and play ‘hard to get’ is a tactic used by the girls to buy time for an escape, the gun frequently fired by the uncle is co-opted by one of the sisters as a dark way of escape, and the importance of cars (traditionally a male motif of agency) comes to the fore when the youngest sister covertly learns to drive as a means of planning a symbolic journey west to a more civilised society in Istanbul.

Stylistically, the film devolves somewhat into prettified cliché. The use of natural light and a photogenic aesthetic is a familiar trope in independent cinema, and some of the girls are suspiciously glamourised and idealised. Does the filmmaker think the story would carry less import if the sisters were blander and less evocative-looking? Nevertheless, the use of handheld cameras and frequent close-up of the girls’ hair and bodies (something the repressive society is trying to hide away) does imprint the girls’ irrepressible spirit – something best exemplified in the character of the youngest sister, Lale, and her impressive incarnation by the tenacious actress, Güneş Şensoy. (November 2021)

Ammonite

November 12, 2021

Ammonite (2020)
Director: Francis Lee
Actors: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones

Ammonite': Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan on fact and fiction - Los Angeles  Times

Synopsis: Reserved and closed-off fossil hunter, Mary Anning (Kate Winslet), in 1840s Lyme Regis, finds her world slowly turned upside-down when she is tasked with caring for a middle-class woman, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), who has been left to convalesce by the sea.

Review: Francis Lee brings his fiercely naturalistic and sensitive aesthetic to bear on this tale of a bittersweet merging of two lonely souls from across the social divide in 1840s Lyme Regis.

It’s a similar narrative concept to his exceptional debut, God’s Own Country, (both films feature unlikely, same-sex affairs emerging in elemental, provincial settings), and, as with that film, Ammonite is very much a swirl of atmosphere, subtext and repressed emotions. Being able this time to call on a starrier cast, Lee isn’t let down by Saoirse Ronan, and, especially, Kate Winslet, in the lead role of renowned, reclusive palaentologist, Mary Anning. There’s no conceit here of a lustrous actor transforming themselves into an unglamorous and plain individual, Winslet plays the part absolutely straight, like one of the fossils she has just excavated: hard and drab on the exterior, but with hidden depths and treasures underneath (incidentally, Lee does continually play with these conceptual metaphors throughout the film).

As with God’s Own Country, it’s a sensorial tour de force by Lee. The picturesque landscape of the ‘Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis, is utilised for both its quintessential muted British seaside palette, but, just as the oppression lifts from Winslet and Ronan’s characters early gloom, so the canvas around them changes. And, just as the fossils play as an extended metaphor throughout the film, so does the sea. Where Ronan’s character self-sabotagingly throws herself into the hostile-looking waves at her lowest ebb post-abandonment by her husband, after her rejuvenation thanks to the care and love of Anning, they both share a bathe in calmer waters later on – the swim like a baptism to signify their regeneration. (November 2021)

No Time to Die

November 10, 2021

No Time to Die (2021)
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Actors: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek

James Bond Film 'No Time To Die' To Play At The Zurich Film Festival –  Deadline

Synopsis: James Bond (Daniel Craig) retires to Jamaica after an acrimonious break-up with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) in Italy. Some years later though, he is dragged back into action when a British bioweapon falls into the wrong hands.

Review:The much-delayed No Time to Die, the 25th film in the Bond saga, undoes some of the damage of Sam Mendes’ mediocre Spectre, and does at least find some sort of logical end-result for the personalisation of Bond that has been the thread of this quintet of films starring Daniel Craig. Not that I agree with this humanisation and sentimentality, but hopefully the film’s ending has finally put this iteration to bed, and will return Bond to the faceless, ultra-professional cipher best incarnated by Sean Connery in the finest run of the series.

Probably the strongest element to the film is its change of director. By the end of Spectre, Sam Mendes’ middlebrow, second-hand, clichéd realisation of Bond really was becoming rather stale. Cary Joji Fukunaga films the best action sequences in the recent movies (at least since as far back as Casino Royale), and the first half of the film is generally very strong – from the opening section in Matera, to Bond’s recruitment by the CIA in Jamaica and the subsequent mission in Cuba. And, of course, this also represents the swansong of Daniel Craig in the role, and though I’ve become increasingly agnostic about his Bond films’ reverence for all things origin and interconnected, there’s no questioning the gravitas and dramatic plausibility of his character. It’s a world away from the ludicrousness of the panto Bonds of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, and for that we should be grateful.

No Time to Die’s main area where it suffers is in having one of the weakest villains and conspiracies in the history of the saga. Targeted DNA by remotely controlling nanobots is farcical, and Rami Malek, as the ultimate baddie (someone who in this film’s hierarchy of dastardliness is meant to outdo Blofeld), simply isn’t a good enough actor to draw you into his character’s psychopathology. He’s not an especially convincing line-reader and he is unable to project a depth or intensity behind the eyes. There’s a possibility he was pitching for a preening, slightly effeminate tyrant à la Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator, but Malek doesn’t possess even 10% of Phoenix’s screen magnetism and ability to convey inner torment. And while we’re on about unconvincing characterisations, please, no more cod-Russian accents from non-native speakers in a Bond movie. With Malek and David Dencik’s defecting scientist, we are almost back in the hammy territory of Alan Cumming’s Boris in GoldenEye or even a Borat! (November 2021)

Halloween

November 10, 2021

Halloween (1978)
Director: John Carpenter
Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times

Synopsis: Psychopath, Michael Myers, escapes from his asylum to wreak havoc on his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois – the very place where he committed his epochal murder of his sister some 15 years before.

Review: The opening sequence of Halloween constitutes one of the finest stretches of cinema I have ever seen. It’s an absolute masterclass in crafting a chilling aesthetic as the formative sin committed by Michael Myers unnervingly unfolds.

All the best moments of Halloween take their lead from this exemplary opening: the iconically spare musical score-cum-leitmotif, the momentary shards of synthesiser, and, most impressively all, the film’s slippery command of perspective. Much of Halloween is filmed from a subjective point of view, but John Carpenter toys with this convention and sometimes throws in red herrings, leaving the audience in a continual guessing game as to whether Myers is the audience’s eyes or if the perspective is neutral.

The film devolves a touch from that greatness in its second half. The carefully crafted aesthetic is overdosed on: the music is too ubiquitous, Myers is seen too much, and some of the plot contrivances are farcical. It beggars belief that Laurie would be happy to leave Myers’s knife by his temporarily disabled body in the climactic struggle, and, just generally, Myers becomes this supernatural, indestructible, comic book bogeyman, when, in fact, the concept of his character works far better when the horrors of his distorted psychopathology are all too real. (November 2021)

Moon

November 5, 2021

Moon (2009)
Director: Duncan Jones
Actors: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott

Moon movie review & film summary (2009) | Roger Ebert

Synopsis: Sam (Sam Rockwell) is working alone on the Moon on a three-year contract for an energy corporation. When Sam becomes aware that he’s not the only one on the Moon, coupled with the specific identity of that other person, it accelerates his desire to return to Earth.

Review: Although not doing anything outstandingly original or remarkable with its classic sci-fi scenario, Moon – brilliantly imagined and directed by Duncan Jones – is still an admirable and very well-made addition to that genre.

It falls very much in the lineage of earlier sci-fi classics, especially in terms of aesthetic (2001: A Space Odyssey) and theme (Blade Runner), but still provides enough virtuosity and individuality to make it somewhat novel. It’s also a great example of how to do this sort of thing on a minimal budget. The scenario is pared-down both locationally and ideologically (the ethics about cloning and off-world colonisation), and Jones makes wise use of old-fashioned modelling – befitting the theme of authenticity – and set building, to go with some choice CGI.

Despite the simplicity, the film is surprisingly gripping and moving, especially once its central conceit is outed by the mid-point mark. And Sam Rockwell, necessarily the centre of the narrative, is on stupendous form here. He’s always been good at bemusement and irritation, but there’s an inherent seriousness and an undertow of sadness to him here, that make him the perfect bedrock of this story about retaining your dignity and soul amid such a dehumanising system. (November 2021)

Red Dragon

October 25, 2021

Red Dragon (2002)
Director: Brett Ratner
Actors: Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes

Red Dragon (2002) Movie Review from Eye for Film

Synopsis: FBI agent, Will Graham (Edward Norton), is in early retirement after a close brush with mortality when apprehending Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins). He is tempted out of retirement though, when the FBI need help with a case involving a serial killer of entire families. Graham is forced to seek help from Lector to crack the case.

Review: Red Dragon suffers by two obvious comparisons to antecedents which did far better things with the police procedural-cum-horror genre and the same characters (The Silence of the Lambs) and the very same narrative (Manhunter).

It’s an especially hackneyed homage to The Silence of the Lambs, getting wrong and flattening out into a mainstream, homogenous smudge all the distinctive elements of Jonathan Demme’s iconic 1991 work. Worst of all though, is when it has the gall to suggest itself as a direct prequel to that film with the closing sequence of Lector about to receive a visit from a certain female FBI agent; Red Dragon has done nowhere near enough to earn that association.

Firstly, the film is poorly cast. This was obviously made when Edward Norton was in his Hollywood ascendancy, but he doesn’t look world-weary enough to play the experienced Will Graham. And then there’s Ralph Fiennes thesping it up as the serial killer. The issue with his performance is that it’s very much a theatrical actor’s portrayal of scarred psychopathology and he’s not at all chilling or authentic. The less said about casting Emily Watson as the blind naïf in thrall to Fiennes’ killer, the better.

Narrative-wise and cinematographically, Red Dragon is a real cliché of CSI thrillers. Will Graham’s ‘breakthroughs’ by intuitively guessing what has happened by walking around the crime scene border on the risible. Befitting the strictly workmanlike oeuvre of its director, Brett Ratner, the film’s visual grammar is utterly undistinctive, and the musical score is far too generic and ubiquitous as well. (October 2021)