Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Fight Club

Year: 1999
Running time: 139 minutes
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Screenplay: Jim Uhls
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bohnam Carter, Meat Loaf


Coming to terms with the idea that just maybe there is
more  to life than stuff.
I am Jack's sense of utter awe. Fight Club is an exceptional film, with a mind-blowing plot line. Every element of it screams inventiveness, from the perfectly pitched music (and sound, a brilliant example of which is the surround sound mix during a scene in which the camera swoops around the inner workings of bomb, and the ticking and bleeping come from different places depending on the position of the camera), through the outstanding cast (even Meat Loaf, surprisingly), to the unexpected and original direction of David Fincher, an example of which is the inspired opening credits. Adapted from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, it's a study of how frustrated, testosterone-fuelled men find a way to express their pent up aggression while being a vicious criticism of consumer culture. Despite being such a wonder, the film flopped embarrassingly on its release, and has since found its audience on DVD.

Ed Norton is a nobody, a drone who finds a cure for his insomnia in attending support groups for the terminally ill, even though he's not dying. Disturbed to find he's not the only tourist of the groups of the dying he meets Marla Singer (Helena Bohnam Carter) and is instantly repelled. His life is changed when he meets soap salesman Tyler Durden (a never better Brad Pitt) and the two start an underground club where men, tired of the endless daily grind of their working lives, pummel the crap out of each other so they can feel alive again. Durden is everything Norton secretly wishes he could be; not tied to a job, not chained by etiquette and sexually uninhibited, embarking upon an extreme sexual relationship with Marla ("I haven't been fucked like that since grade school" providing one of many controversially memorable lines).

Durden is an incredible creation, who while onscreen demands your attention as he is preaching to Norton about why his life is pathetic and why he doesn't need any of his home comforts, spouting lines such as "The things you own end up owning you" and imagining a future where "You are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Centre." Much of what he says sounds rather sensible and you find yourself, like Norton, coming around to his way of thinking. Until he goes mental and starts 'Project Mayhem'. If, like me, you found yourself understanding a little of the anti-materialistic place Durden is coming from, what must be acknowledged is that something like 'Project Mayhem' is almost certainly the kind of thing that would result from a large group of people following Durden's 'teaching'. The plot development feels entirely organic, and is a little sobering for those nodding along at Durden's logic in the early scenes. An effective example of the 'wisdom' of Tyler Durden is the scene where he and Norton take a sales assistant to a parking lot and threaten to kill him. At the end of the ordeal, the poor soul is given a choice; start working towards realising his life's dream or be murdered. Though the method is strong, the shop assistant is no longer wasting his life, dreaming about what might have been. Talk about extreme therapy.

Then there is the moment. Oh, the moment. I'll never forget the first time I saw it unfold in front of my eyes. I won't tell you what I'm talking about, this blog's spoiler warning notwithstanding, because knowing it beforehand can genuinely ruin the film for you and rob you of an unforgettable realisation. When you see it you'll know, and then you'll understand.

Truly one of the greatest modern contributions to cinema, this still stands as Fincher's high water mark. Plus, the choice of Pixies' Where is My Mind? over the end credits is inspired.

Score: 9/10

Arguing over diseases.

Girls, if you watched Meet Joe Black wiping the drool from your lips whenever Brad Pitt was onscreen, you should watch this film. His brilliant portrayal of Tyler Durden is the ultimate proof that Pitt is not just a pretty face. In addition to Brad Pitt changing my perceptions of him as an actor, this was also my introduction to Ed Norton, who is the perfect choice for a ho-hum character who slowly loses his mind. The gasp-inducing shock ending blows other film twists (like The Sixth Sense) out the water.

If you haven't already seen Fight Club, stop reading this and go and watch it!

Score: 9/10

It seems others either strongly disagree, like Peter at the Guardian, or agree with reservations, like Adam at Empire. The people that seem to love it as much as me are, ironically considering it flopped, the audience - see the comments on the Empire review.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Total Recall

Year: 1990
Running time: 113 minutes
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Screenplay: Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Gary Goldman
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside


Mars:  Red, apparently.
Paul Verhoeven has made some truly awful films, such as Basic Instinct and Showgirls. He has however, also made some phenomenal ones, for example Robocop and Starship Troopers. Total Recall assuredly falls into the latter camp. Based on the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by oft-filmed science fiction author Phillip K. Dick, we follow construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnie) who decides to get an implanted memory of an adventure on Mars. The procedure uncovers a hidden identity buried in Quaid's subconscious ('Hauser'). Things get rather messy, plot-wise from then on, with Quaid taking on a mission to save the downtrodden mutants of Mars from radiation poisoning and evil corporate greed. Possibly.

At the time, Schwarzenegger was an unpopular choice for the cerebral sci-fi adaptation, and several changes were made to the original novel - for one, Quaid was originally an office drone not a construction worker, although, considering the big man's ridiculous physique, the reason for that change is obvious. On the surface, the fears of the anti-Arnie brigade appear fully justified, as at first glance this extreme-violence action romp lacks the intelligence of the average Dick adaptation (although other Dick themes, such as paranoia and the exploration of human identity are certainly present), and is filmed in a style that befits both Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger. Upon a closer look however, hidden depths can be found, and by the end we can't decide if it was all real or just a memory implant. The more I watch it, the more convinced I become that the whole thing happened in his head and was by design. The fact that it ends in a white light fade out suggests that it is all in his head, but it is never confirmed.

The film is full of little touches that stay with you, scenes such as Quaid pulling a huge red tracker out through his nose, the psychotic cab robot who commits hari-kari after not being paid, or the outstanding prosthetics. More memorable though is the big man's dry wit (a talent that is criminally ignored due to his distinct lack of acting skills) when delivering certain lines, particularly "Look who's talking" after being told by a disfigured mutant that he has a lot of nerve showing his face and "Consider that a divorce" after shooting his wife in the head.

With more depth than you may at first suspect, this is classic sci-fi done in Verhoeven's uniquely extreme style.

Score: 8/10

Quaid was reluctant to discuss marriage counselling.

A brilliant Saturday night film, this is classic Arnie at his best. As Dave has already mentioned, it has some great lines - my favourites being "See you at the party, Richter" and "Screw you!" as he drills into the double-crossing Benny (Mel Johnson Jr.). However, in my opinion, the film is most memorable for its distinctive special effects; explosive suffocation, Kuoto the mutant rebel leader and a prostitute with three breasts! I still think this kind of effects work, without the overuse of CGI (as is often the case in more recent films) adds a unique and, in some cases, more believable look.

Definitely worth a watch, although it's possible my high score is more a result of rose-tinted nostalgia than quality. And by the way Dave, I definitely think it was all real!

Score: 8/10

Vince agrees, but Janet at the New York Times would probably say I over-rate it a little.