127 Hours was not what I had hoped it would be

When an avid climber and canyon wanderer gets trapped by a rock, he quite literally has to cut himself loose.
Back in April 2003, climber and canyoneer Aron Rolston (James Franco) headed off down the Blue John Canyon without telling anyone. The trip was going well, and he got himself invited to a party, but when a huge rock fell on him, trapping his right arm, things took a rough turn. As the hours turned into days, and the rock didn’t budge, Aron’s mind began to play games with him. In a moment of clarity, however, he realised what he had to do, and after seeing his tale of survival, we can all learn something.

127 Hours is one of the many films that I have wanted to see for a long time, and is now another that I can cross off my list. I have to be honest and say that unlike some of my other long-awaited watches I have seen recently, this one wasn’t as worth the build-up. Yes, it is an amazing story it has to tell, but it had some serious pacing issues that stopped me enjoying it as much as I potentially could have done.

The film was nominated for six Oscars, and one of the people included in these nominations was James Franco for his portrayal of Aron throughout this journey. I don’t know whether this will be an unpopular opinion or not, but I didn’t think his performance was all that special. That’s not saying it was bad, not at all, but it just didn’t grab me in the way I’d have liked it to. He had some stand out moments though, mainly during the scenes where he recorded the video messages that the real Aron did throughout the ordeal. These moments were spread too thinly for my liking however – had there have been more of them I may have stayed more in touch with the film. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the case.

There is no denying that this is an extraordinary story, but again, it wasn’t told in a way that really took hold of me and refused to let go until it was over. I struggled with the sequences where Aron’s insanity took over. They made the film feel very choppy if you ask me, making it hard for me to focus on the main part of the narrative.

On the whole, while I appreciate what everyone was trying to do when making 127 Hours, their efforts were kind of lost on me. I just really struggled sticking with it, evident in the number of times I kept checking how long was left to run. Perhaps the film’s chances were plighted by the troubles I had with Netflix whilst trying to watch the film – maybe this played some part in it, but somehow I think not all the issues I had with 127 Hours could be put down to this. I watched it to the end, but it’s not something I could personally recommend. 


Catch Me If You Can is a film I shall be catching up with again in future

The true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who had managed to conned his way to being a millionaire as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a legal prosecutor, all before his nineteenth birthday.

Growing up, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) had always looked up to his father (Christopher Walken), who had constantly blagged his way through whatever situation he had found himself in until he got into too much trouble with the IRS. When financial strains got too much for the Abagnale family however, Frank’s parents split up, and when faced with the tough decision of choosing who he would live with, he ran. On his own in the world with not much of a life to go back to, Frank thought on his feet and dealt with the situation the only way he knew how. He did what his father had taught him, only he turned it up a notch and before long he is flying planes for Pan American Airlines, taking charge of junior doctors and nurses on hospital graveyard shifts, and putting away small time criminals in court – all the while making hundreds upon thousands of dollars. One man, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is hot on his tail, and what unfolds is one of the greatest cat and mouse chases that ever took place. And yep, this actually happened!

Catch Me If You Can is a film I started watching a couple of months ago, but never managed to finish it due to a fault the copy that I had. I was gutted because I was really enjoying it as well. However, as luck would have it, I managed to find it on the TV a couple of weeks ago, so I was able to finish watching it. At least I can say it was a film worth waiting for – this turned out to be a really fun watch, made even better by the fact that it was a true story.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance was one of the highlights of this film. In Catch Me If You Can, he is an actor playing another great pretender, and he made Abagnale really captivating to watch. Not to do DiCaprio any discredit though, but I do think he would have been an interesting character regardless of who played him. I do think DiCaprio elevated the character to even greater heights however, and I would absolutely list this as one of my favourite performances of his.

Tom Hanks is always wonderful regardless of what he’s in, but he was every part DiCaprio’s equal here as Carl Hanratty. There was real grit and determination apparent in Hanks’ performance, and you could also sense an element of desperation as he fought to convince his co-workers that fraud was a real crime. He needed the Abagnale case to prove this to people, and so you felt quite invested in his character’s story.

What I loved so much about this film was it’s story, and particularly the way it was told. The story itself was one you couldn’t make up, nor would you try to for fear of the slating it would receive for it’s implausibility. It is so amazing to think that this case actually happened all those years ago! This is exactly the kind of history I love as well, because it tells us about people you wouldn’t necessarily read about in a school textbook, yet the world wouldn’t be the way it is today without them having been. As for the way the narrative is delivered to us in this film, I found it to be quite effective how with each year that passed in the film, we were brought back to base with the Christmas phone calls. It meant that you never worried about losing your place with the plot, so you could sit back and enjoy it all the more.

All in all, this is definitely a film for you to see if you haven’t yet. Catch Me If You Can is just such a fun watch that also carries with it a little bit of history that actually really aids the film with it’s credibility. Both lead performances work to complement each other and a story that is truly riveting to watch, and also never shows any sign of where it might go with each scene that takes place. This is a film that I will be watching again in future.

Michael Collins is essential Paddy’s Day viewing for me

The story of the man who led a guerrilla war against the U.K, aided negotiations in the creation of the Irish Free State, and led the National Army in the Irish Civil War.
Following the massive defeat of Irish rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising, Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) decides new strategies are needed in order to gain Irish independence. He first begins to use what is now recognised as guerrilla tactics and the organised killings of Irish informants for the U.K. government, and then later on members of British intelligence. By 1921, the Brits are willing to negotiate a settlement, and Collins is reluctantly sent over for the talks by Sinn Fein president Eamonn DeValera (Alan Rickman), who knows full well that the agreement reached will disappoint some. He condemns Collins when he returns with a Treaty declaring an Irish Free State and not a Republic, and Collins’ longest friend Harry Borland (Aidan Quinn) rejects him following the emergence of his relationship with Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts). What unfolds following this landmark settlement is a civil war as Collins struggles against those who want complete and unconditional independence for the whole country.

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, so it seemed only right to take a look back on an Irish film, and what better than to watch a film that focuses on the fight for independence for the country. Now, of course this is a film that is a product of Hollywood, so with regard to historical accuracy there may be some discretions, however this a wonderful study of the man who I guess could be considered the Braveheart of Ireland and is a fine watch for anyone who would maybe like to get more of a feel for what actually went on in the build up to the declaration of the Irish Free State, and the the fall out that came from that.

Liam Neeson did a wonderful job of encapsulating all the different aspects of Collins in this film, however one thing that I feel was most important was the fact that he really managed to show that Collins didn’t want to cause so much violence, but that it was the only way. Collins was a very conflicted man with regards to both the methods he chose to deploy as a leader of the rebels, but he was also torn over the personal relationships he had with those who initially worked with him, but then went their separate ways and began to turn against him. This was something else that I believe to have been portrayed very well by Neeson.

This is quite a star-studded cast, however there is one member of the line-up that I can’t help but feel didn’t quite belong there, as much as I love her work. Julia Roberts really does seem quite out of place as Collins’ love interest, Kitty Kiernan. I also am unsure as to whether she was a real figure in this story, or whether she was introduced purely just for romantic interest. Either way, she just didn’t fit in there, and it pains me to say that about Roberts, but it is kind of true.

Now, I mentioned at the beginning that some of what is shown in the film may need to be taken with a pinch of salt. I can only assume this to be the case due the fact that when I was first shown the film by my parents a few years ago, key moments would often pass by only to be followed with, ‘…and that’s a load a shite,’ or, ‘…that never happened,’ from my dad, as if he was the fact checker for the film. It is common knowledge however that the Hollywood machine can twist things slightly for it’s own benefit, so if you do watch the film, or have watched it, expect only a feel for the period to come from it.

Overall, Michael Collins was a grand addition to my St. Patrick’s Day viewing this year. It is always a good film to watch, whoever watching it yesterday meant it had a greater sense of occasion for me. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I would recommend it, and those of you who haven’t viewed it in a while might just fancy revisiting it again after reading this I hope.

Jackie is made great by one special performance

During the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, America’s First Lady battles through grief and trauma in order to prevent losing herself and maintain her husband’s legacy following his death.
After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world falls apart. Grieving and traumatised, she must tell her children that their daddy isn’t coming home, leave the White House and begin to plan his funeral, whilst also trying to ensure her husband’s legacy will be remembered, and leave her own mark in the history books.

So, I decided to watch Jackie, and going into the film, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to feel about it. A lover of historical events, the subject matter wasn’t really going to be the issue. But I just didn’t really know that much about the film – there weren’t really any stars that were a huge draw for me here. I watched this film purely because of what people had said about Natalie Portman’s performance, and for what it’s worth, I’m glad I listened to them.

We’ll get down to business and start straightaway with Portman’s portrayal of Jackie. She is easily the greatest thing about this film, elevating it from something that would otherwise have been possibly average at best. She completely embodied the real Jacqueline Kennedy, making it easy to believe that that was who you were really watching. I loved how she got to show the whole range of emotions experienced by this woman on that day and in the days after it. We got to see that initial shock and hysteria, and then the strength that she had to take forwards from those moments for her family. There was terrific range displayed by Portman in this role, and deep down, I think I would love it if she won the Best Actress Oscar for her work here.

I can’t really pass comment on many of the other performances in here as it really was Portman’s film. There were a few surprise cast members however, although they had very minor roles. It actually amazed me how many stars from British TV made an appearance. The biggest shock was David Caves from Silent Witness as Clint Hill – I’ve never seen him in anything else before, and so I had to proceed to tell everyone that he had just showed up in the film I was watching. Needless to say his is a name I shall be storing in the memory banks for any future episodes of Pointless.

I really liked the way Jackie Kennedy was portrayed in the film, and I think she is a woman history should never be allowed to forget. She got bit of a rough deal when her husband was killed, and the way she was shown to deal with all of this in the film was sometimes upsetting to see, but showed all of her strength and character, and that she was her own woman, even without her husband.

Overall, I found Jackie to be a very enjoyable watch that I would recommend to people. Portman gives a masterclass in acting, and from what I’ve heard from a few of my U.S. counterparts, she absolutely nails the part she plays. She lifts the film to great heights and makes it a very compelling watch. I think it is a project that was very well made, and well worth seeing by everyone. 

The Long Riders (my Genre Grandeur entry)

The tale of the Jesse James gang members, their numerous exploits and their individual fates.
The Long Riders is a sympathetic portrayal of the story of the James-Younger gang that undertook a number of legendary bank robberies as way of revenge. The group, headed up by none other than Jesse James (James Keach), had their share of excitement during their time together, and went down in a blaze of glory when some plucky townspeople call time on their raids.

I’ve always been a fan of westerns – I kind of have to be given that my dad is too. I think it’s fair to say that for an 18-year-old girl, I’ve seen quite a few new and old, traditional and contemporary westerns and have enjoyed most of them. When this month’s Genre Grandeur came up, I thought it was right up my street. I had initially thought about watching something with John Wayne or Robert Mitchum in, but decided to venture a little further out in the end. The Long Riders was a decent western, but not one of my favourites, and here’s why.

The cast of this film is quite an ensemble. You have the two Keach brothers, both Quaids and three of the Carradine clan – more than fitting for a film about a gang that is made up of brothers wouldn’t you say? This benefitted the performances so much as there was a lot of real family ties that already existed. The bonds portrayed on screen just felt so genuine, and I think this made the telling of the story so much more enjoyable to watch.

There was plenty of action in this film, especially in the last half an hour or so. While I am a fan of both slow burners and fast paced movies, I perhaps edge slightly further towards the more high-octane westerns. It was really fun to watch when all the shots were being fired, and it let you see the Jesse James gang in all their glory. One of my favourite scenes in the film was when the men were trapped in a cabin by the Pinkertons chasing them, and they had to break their way through the panelling in the back and take a back route to escape. For me, it’s scenes like that that encapsulate the old west – big shoot-outs and the heroes escaping by the skin of their teeth.

I do have one big issue with the film, however, and while it may seem like a minor detail, it was a big issue for me. Some of the transitions from scene to scene were a bit rushed. the biggest example I can give you of this is at the end of the film when Jesse meets his maker. The big moment happens, and then straightaway the shot cut to the scene of Frank James, played by Stacy Keach, handing himself over to the authorities. This took away so much of the impact of what was one of the biggest blows the film dealt in my opinion, and I really wish that more time had been spent of making the change more meaningful.

All in all, as much as I enjoyed The Long Riders, it didn’t make enough of an impression on me to be amongst my favourite westerns. There were some rip-roaring shoot-outs and I loved the family dynamic that was made so wonderful by the fact that the cast consisted of so many brothers. What damaged the film so much in my eyes was some of the dodgy transitions between scenes. It really impacted some of the biggest moments in the film for me, which is why I cannot place it amongst the ranks of El Dorado or The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Nonetheless, it was worth seeing, and was an hour and a half of my time well spent.

You Don’t Know Jack provides plenty to think about 

A look at the lives and deaths of assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian.

Throughout the 1990s, Dr Jack Kevorkian’s (Al Pacino) mission in life was to bring peace to those who needed it most. After seeing his mother die a slow, drawn out death, and after hearing endless stories of what she and his father had bore witness to during the Armenian genocide, Jack decided that those who faced death without dignity should have the right to euthanasia. He would interview candidates to determine their suitability and have these taped by his sister, Margot (Ronda Vaccaro). When he finds his first candidate, Jack turns to the Hemlock Society president (Susan Sarandon) for help. Between the three of them and their lawyer, they keep a pretty tidy operation and for years, Jack manages to evade the law via loophole after loophole. However, eventually he goes a step that the law deems too far and it’s a fight he cannot win. Was it heroism or hubris that was Jack’s downfall?

You Don’t Know Jack is the 2010 HBO-produced TV movie that tells the story of Dr Death himself, Jack Kevorkian. It is a fairly in-depth look at what the man did and also the reactions he got across America for his work. I, for one, rather enjoyed the film – it was darkly funny, had Al in it and centred around a very volatile subject I think just about everyone has an opinion on, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it would something for everyone…

Pacino is on top form in a role I doubt too many people would associate him with considering he rose to fame as infamous gangster Michael Corleone, and stayed at the top for a long time with roles in similar genres. The best way i can describe him as Jack is that you should just probably just imagine Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler in retirement. Jack was an odd-ball with few friends and a real obsession. I don’t know if i should have done, but there were many times when i had a good old giggle to myself at some of the things he did. In a way, it’s a good job he only dealt with the dying the man’s social skills were awful. Nonetheless, Pacino was terrific – his mannerisms truly fitted the character of Jack and there was still a scene where one of those rants crept in.

You Don’t Know Jack also sees a reunion between Pacino and his Sea Of Love co-star John Goodman who plays Neal Nicol, Jack’s longtime friend who gets him all the supplies he needs. I really liked the pairing in the 1989 film and so I looked forward to seeing them both again here, as I knew despite some of the fairly heavy subject matter, there could very well have been some hilarious exchanges between Goodman and Pacino. I wasn’t wrong, and actually nearly cried at one point near the start when Neal paid Jack a visit to congratulate him on making the cover of a magazine and Jack suggested they both had a glass of water to celebrate. That alone was funny for me, but Goodman’s facial expressions at that point set the standard for the rest of the film and I loved it.

Now. Whilst I found the film to be very comical in places, we mustn’t forget that the real point of the film is to ask audiences whether or not assisted suicide should be legalised. It is a sensitive subject, and the film is based on real events which or course means that the people who go to see Jack in the film represent real people who went to see Jack in real life. It is this reason why I think the film may not quite be for everyone.

I found You Don’t Know Jack to be a decent film that perhaps was worthy of a cinema release but unfortunately didn’t quite make it. It makes bit of a statement that certainly made me think a little bit about the way things are, and whether it would be better or worse if they changed, and revolves around an issue that so many people have views on for so many reasons. I highly recommend you see it if you can, but it covers a serious moral issue, and I think it’s your stance on this issue that could make or break the film for you.

Why Serpico is the reason Pacino stayed famous

To celebrate his 76th birthday, I’ve reviewed Serpico – one of my favourite films of his, although I find it very hard to choose!

The true story of a New York policeman who discovers that honesty is not a job requirement.

Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) joined the NYPD a fresh-faced beat cop straight out of the academy. He never really liked the way things worked whilst he was out on the streets and so asked to be transferred to a department that working in identifying criminals. When it turns out Frank’s boss doesn’t like him much, he asks again to be moved elsewhere. Frank soon finds himself to be working undercover, taking down some very unsuspecting criminals, however he discovers that some of his colleagues are struggling to stay on the right side of the law themselves. What’s worse is the fact that Frank is also expected to join in on the corruption that has riddled the force for so long, but Frank is a man of integrity and refuses to take the bribes. He goes to higher powers, wanting to expose the situation but knows that he’s a dead man walking if he gets found out. However, as clever and as careful as he is, someone sees Frank for what he really is – an honest man – and his life is placed in jeopardy at the hands of his colleagues.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve fallen slightly in love with Al Pacino and his work over the last year, so it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on Serpico. I really enjoyed this one, and apparently good ol’ Al did as well. He has said many a time that he loved playing Frank Serpico as he was a real person and he could embody him. Serpico is a wonderful character study, plus it has quite a statement to make about the way the government forces work, despite what they may want us to think.

Obviously the whole reason Serpico is such an awe-inspiring film is solely thanks to Pacino’s powerhouse performance as Frank himself. After watching this, I read somewhere that The Godfather made Pacino a star, but Serpico made sure he stayed one. Well, I can’t argue with that. He is quite simply astonishing, although I’ve come to expect nothing less from him. You could really understand the way that Frank must have felt, and you couldn’t help but admire the courage the man showed despite the tight corner he was in. There was, of course, that part of the performance where Pacino just suddenly flew off the handle – the thing that drew my attention to him when watching him as Michael Corleone; the unpredictability that meant no other characters or the audience could ever feel too comfortable in his presence. In everything I’ve seen him in, that wildness has appeared, and I think that is what I love most about his work.

The story follows Frank from when he first joins the police force up until he finally gets the court case he pushed so hard for and nearly died fighting for. It is a very thought-provoking chain of real events that questions the ethics behind law enforcement. Yes, this was from a long time ago, but it is still an issue that I don’t think has been fully dealt with anywhere.

Now, it was always a dead certainty that I was going to say that Serpico is a fantastic film due to the fact that Pacino is in it. After watching it a couple or three times, I strongly believe it is a must-see due to the heavy but very real issues it deals with, and the light in which it portrays government institutions.