Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Departed

Year: 2006
Running time: 151 minutes
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Screenplay: William Monahan
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone


The cop who's a mole.
This may well be a first in the history of film - a Hollywood remake that holds its own against the foreign language original it's remaking. In fact, I might go so far as to say The Departed could probably be considered to be better than the outstanding Infernal Affairs. All it took was the pairing up of legends Martin Scorsese and Jack Nicholson (another film first, fact fans). Billy Costigan (DeCap) is a cop undercover in the mafia, led by head gangster Frank Costello (Nicholson). In a beautifully contrived juxtaposition, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a member of Frank's gang planted as a mole in the police force. It's one of those perfect set ups that simply requires you to light the blue touch paper and stand well back as the tension increases. Both the cops and the mafia get wise to the fact they've been infiltrated and set Billy the task of uncovering the criminal mole and Colin the task of finding the undercover cop. As you might imagine, it can't end well for anyone, and the escalating body count during the explosive conclusion is inevitable.

It won Scorsese his long sought-after Oscar (about damn time, you useless bunch of Academy shits), but as good as it is, it's certainly no
Goodfellas, although it can definitely measure up against Casino. Let's face it, nothing's ever gonna be Goodfellas except Goodfellas and Scorsese almost at the top of his game is better than almost any other director out there.

The mole who's a cop.
The supporting cast are uniformly without crapness, with Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and others putting in top performances. Hell, even Mark Walhberg is not only passable, but his foul-mouthed outbursts are a highlight. The two leads also do well - Billy trying not to crack under the pressure and desperate to get out and Colin wishing he could switch sides and not be working for Frank make for some of the most engaging scenes. As Scorsese's new muse, DeCap gets the biggest role and doesn't let the ball drop once - in the right role he is truly one of his generation's finest actors. However, none of that really matters, because it's big Jack who steals the show, just as one might expect. His mob boss is utterly without conscience, berating corpses for falling funny when he murders them, but he has a Nicholsonish bent to him that makes him great to watch, evilness notwithstanding. They increased the size of the mob boss role substantially compared to Infernal Affairs, and with big Jack in the role, it's one of the wisest things they could have done.

One of many great pieces of work from the master director,
The Departed looks incredible, sounds fantastic (Gimme Shelter is the perfect song for the intro), and it moves with such pace before you know it two and a half hours have gone by and you're watching all hell break loose at the finale.

Score: 8/10

This is not for the faint-hearted, but extremely entertaining. It's fast-paced and violent with a brilliant soundtrack and sharp wit. Lots of great characters well-acted and, like Dave, Jack Nicholson was my favourite. Just to warn you though - look out for the shock-factor ending. Highly recommended.

Score: 7/10

 is a bigger fan even than me, while Josh likes it except for the ending.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Shawshank Redemption

Year: 1994
Running time: 142 minutes

Certificate: 15

Language: English

Screenplay: Frank Darabont

Director: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown


A rare moment of peace at Shawshank prison.
My, oh my. One of a limited number of Stephen King adaptations that isn't complete pants, The Shawshank Redemption is a miracle and it's easy to see why it tops so many 'greatest films ever' lists, even though, like the similarly revered Fight Club, it was a flop at cinemas and found its audience on video. There's something magic about it that is impossible to recreate, even for director Frank Darabont, who tried with the massively over-rated The Green Mile. Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) is an innocent man sent to Shawshank prison for murder. Found guilty of killing his wife, Dufrense not only has to cope with the grief of a murdered wife, but has to find some way to survive a dreadful, hopeless hell on earth. Almost immediately, you are forced to the brink of tears as during Andy's first night one of the other new prisoners is beaten to death by the guards for simply being afraid.

We follow Andy as he tries to adjust to his new life of regular rape and constant abuse without the possibility of escape. Instead of being dragged down into the ugly existence many of the inmates lead, Andy's calm and unbreakable demeanor begin to partly uplift the lives of some of his fellow prisoners. When Dufrense risks his neck to secure a few beers for his new friends in the sunshine, his success is giddily euphoric. An accountant in his previous life, Andy uses his expertise to help the corrupt warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and guard captain Hadley (Clancy Brown) amass fraudu
lent fortunes, and in return, some of the more unbearable parts of prison life - the rapes, for example, - are stopped.

On and on the film pulls you, from horror to sorrow to happiness, increasing in intensity. The lowest point, when Andy's chance for freedom is ruined by murderous and corrupt officials is almost more than you can take, and when it appears as though he is considering ending his own life, you can truly understand why. The repeated phrase "Get busy living, or get busy dying" leads you to think Andy has chosen the latter.

And then, it happens. Everything turns around as you learn of Andy's escape and how he ruins the people who have kept him prisoner and murdered to serve their own greed. The moment warden Norton throws the stone at the poster and it flies right on through gives you such a sense of satisfaction, the effect is heady. Only when you have followed Andy to the brink of despair can you truly appreciate the joy of seeing him free.

Obviously, Tim Robbins is wonderful, putting in the performance of a lifetime, but it is Morgan Freeman as Red, the story's narrator and Andy's closest friend who stands out for me. The scene with the interview in which he is finally granted his release is without doubt one of the finest examples of acting I have ever seen. Unlike, say, Dustin Hoffman in
Rain Man, there is no showboating, no grandstanding, only believability. In a single glance, or a slightly lifted eyebrow, Freeman somehow manages to convey to the viewer a lifetime of regret for one stupid act as a young man.

For some, the overly happy ending may be a little too much to swallow. For me, it was entirely necessary after what these two characters have gone through; after what they have made you feel.

This is one of the greatest prison dramas of all time, with only
Papillon offering any potential competition.

Score: 9/10


Andy enjoys a short break in the sun.
What can I say? This is one of my all time favourite films. Superb acting and a gripping story of hope and unbreakable friendship; The Shawshank Redemption has it all. Along with some disturbing scenes of prison life, there is light-hearted humour and for the viewer a roller-coaster of emotions. The story is told in such a way that you forgive Red and the others for their crimes and feel overwhelming compassion for all that they go through. As Dave mentioned, I can understand why the ending could have been regarded as a bit over the top. However, I feel it gives a sense of much needed closure and if you're anything like me, a bit of a blubbery moment; oh for the blue of the Pacific Ocean!

Score: 9/10

The Shawshank Redemption is Bill's favourite film of all time (Bill is one of many), but Robbie at The Telegraph is slightly less fervent in his praise than either me, Rachel or Bill, suggesting it falls just short of greatness.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Incredibles

Year: 2004
Running time: 115 minutes
Certificate: U
Language: English
Screenplay: Brad Bird
Director: Brad Bird
Starring (voices): Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee


Bob quietly reflects while imprisoned by
With every feature they make, Pixar prove that when it comes to making films that are bright, rich in story, gorgeous to look at and funny as hell, they have a pretty much unrivalled track record. The fact that the films are computer animated is irrelevant - as has been said before, animation is a technique, not a genre. Take The Incredibles, which is certainly not the best Pixar release. Superheroes the world over are forced to go into hiding when Robert Parr ('Mr. Incredible', voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is sued for saving the life of a suicide who didn't want to be saved, which in turn opens the floodgates for lawsuit upon lawsuit. Banned from 'hero work', he is forced into keeping his powers under wraps and raising his family with wife Helen (formerly 'Elastagirl', voiced by Holly Hunter). It's hard to decide whether the people at Pixar are all lunatics or geniuses. Probably a little of both.

You're never far from another beautifully rendered scene that will put your jaw on the floor, but this being Pixar, the shiny animation while undoubtedly without peer in its field, is simply the tip of the iceberg. The characters are, despite being secret superheroes, entirely believable, and the scenes of the Incredibles just being a family are suffused with a realism that will ring true with many people who are married with children. Even the minor characters are an absolute delight (in fact, tiny and crazy Edna Mode (voiced by director Brad Bird) is probably my favourite character, despite having only a small part), and the cast as a whole nail every comedic and dramatic beat.

Covering a whole range of emotional states, there is comedy (see Sam Jackson's Lucius Best, formerly 'Frozone', arguing with his wife when she hides his supersuit) and there are moments that bring a lump to the throat (Bob, terrified at the idea of losing his family breaking down with an anguished cry of "I can't lose you!", then ducking his head, quietly stuttering "I'm not strong enough" is particularly affecting), but when the action kicks in, it truly hits its stride; certain scenes are breathless, and stand toe-to-toe with the best action cinema has to offer. Sheer brilliance.

So why only an 8? Sounds like a 9. It's an 8 because Pixar have set the bar so high, that something as fully rounded and technically accomplished as The Incredibles sits only in the middle of the pack, quality-wise. I'll probably run out of superlatives long before I finish reviewing all of Pixar's output.

Score: 8/10


Ah, Pixar. Thanks for providing another thoroughly entertaining couple of hours for adults and kids alike. The story puts a cool spin on the lives of comic book-style superheroes using their amazing trademark animation. I can't wait to share this funny and heart-warming film with my daughter Katie.

Score: 8/10

It seems others rate The Incredibles even more highly than me, if Stella at the BBC and Michelle are anything to go by.