Film Friday 213

Unbroken (2014)

The son of Italian-American immigrants, Louie Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) starts out his life as trouble-maker, stealing, drinking and getting into fights, until his brother, Pete (Alex Russell) sees some running talent in him and convinces him to try out for the track team. Louie excels and eventually makes it into the 1936 Berlin Olympics running the 5,000m. His career is cut short though when he joins the US air force as a bombardier flying missions over Japan. It is on one of these missions that Louie’s plane crashes leaving him and two of his crew members, Mac (Finn Wittrock) and Phil (Domnhall Gleeson) stranded at sea for almost two months. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when Louie and Phil are eventually rescued it’s by the Japanese who inter them in separate prisoner of war camps. Louie finds himself under the command of Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara), a cruel and sadistic officer, known as ‘The Bird’. Watanabe immediately takes a dislike to Louie and engages him in a battle of wills of which only one of them can be victorious. Unbroken has a lot of faults. We are meant to believe that Louie’s motivation for staying strong is to get back to his family but we barely see him interact with any of his family members other than Pete, so the connection feels hollow. This isn’t helped by the fact that Louie’s pre-war character development is very limited. When it comes to war movies, I like them balanced and in this case, director Angelina Jolie, chooses to represent the Japanese as unflinchingly cruel and heartless with the allied soldiers always brave and honourable, which takes away from the integrity of the story. All of that said, Louie’s story is compelling, touching and uplifting and O’Connell does a great job of portraying him on screen even if he’s never completely believable as Italian-American. There are outstanding supporting performances from Gleeson and Garrett Hedlund but Ishihara doesn’t quite have the acting skills to keep up with the rest of the cast, which is a shame. You’d have to be stone cold not to be affected by Unbroken but whether you’d remember it in six months time is hard to tell. 3/5

Louie's swim through the sewer had been more fun than he expected

Louie’s swim through the sewer had been more fun than he expected

Big Eyes (2014)

In the late fifties, painter Margaret Hawkins (Amy Adams) takes her young daughter, Jane (Delaney Raye/Madeline Arthur) and leaves her husband, plunging herself into a life of struggling to make ends meet. On day while attempting to sell her paintings of big eyed children at an art fair, she meets a charismatic fellow artist, named Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). He sweeps her off her feet and convinces her to marry him when her first husband tries to take Jane away from her. When people start taking an interest in Margaret’s work, Walter convinces her to allow him to pass off her work as his own claiming that his charm and personality will pull in way more buyers. As Margaret’s pictures become more and more popular Walter takes every opportunity to squeeze more cash out of them spawning and empire of prints and posters, confusing the world of high art, which can’t decide if the Big Eyes paintings are pure art or pure kitsch. Meanwhile the lie starts to consume Margaret alive, preventing her from having any friends or even being honest with Jane, as Walter’s behaviour becomes ever more controlling. But what will happen when she decides to come out of the shadows? Director, Tim Burton, hasn’t had a great run of it lately and it’s been some time since his last good film, so it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I went into the theatre to see Big Eyes. Straight off the bat it’s immediately evident that Burton is at the helm. The colours pop of the screen as does the storybook American 50’s landscape that he loves and there is definitely something reminiscent of his own art in Margaret’s paintings, which is probably why he took interest in this true story. Adams plays Margaret with a wide-eyed naivete that turns to brittle rage as events unfold and Waltz is as brilliantly manic as ever (although you have to wonder if he is in danger of being typecast) and you can tell there is something off about him from his very first appearance on screen. Coming out of the film I wasn’t completely sold but the more I think about Big Eyes the more I realise it’s probably more of a grower and hopefully the start of a return to form for Burton. 3.5/5

Walter was surprised to find Margaret's portrait of him wasn't much of a likeness

Walter was surprised to find Margaret’s portrait of him wasn’t much of a likeness

Only God Forgives (2013)

When Ryan Gosling and director, Nicolas Winding Refn, paired up again after the uber-successful Drive, I think people were expecting magic. I certainly was. What we got instead was a big old pile of what the actual fuck. Only God Forgives is a relatively simple revenge story that sees Thai boxing club owner/drug dealer, Julian (Gosling) take on the people behind his brother, Billy’s (Tom Burke) death while under the thumb of his psychotic mother, Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas). With some impressive visuals and powerful lighting work under way it seems that Refn wants to tell his story more through aesthetics than narrative… which is something that can work; Baz Luhrman has made an entire career out of it but in this case style over substance doesn’t win and I got really bored, really fast. It doesn”t help that Julian is a completely unlikeable character or that there are so many scenes of prostitutes wanking themselves off. Thomas is brilliantly disturbing as Crystal but it’s not enough to save Only God Forgives from disappearing up its own arsehole. Maybe I missed something epic but I don’t feel like my life would have been any the worse if I had have just skipped this one. 1/5

Heeeere, kitty kitty kitty...

Heeeere, kitty kitty kitty…

Jingle All The Way (1996)

Arnold Schwartzenegger plays Howard Langston (who has an inexplicably Austrian accent considering his name) a man who has little time for his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) or son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd) because he spends all his time at work. Howard promises Liz that he will buy Jamie the Turbo Man action figure he desperately wants for Christmas but he forgets until Christmas Eve at which point the doll is completely sold out. Feeling guilty (apparently because you’d never tell based on Arnie’s non-existent display of emotion), Howard sets off on a series of adventures to try and find the doll and get back in time for the Christmas parade. But he’s not the only one, postal worker, Myron Larabee (Sinbad) is also on the hunt for a Turbo Man and he’s not going to give up lightly. I watched this film on Christmas eve and I haven’t been able to face reviewing it until now. The whole story line of this one is just awful. Howard is a horrible, horrible man who emotionally manipulates his family rather than showing him love. Rather than admitting to his wife and son that he has made a mistake and actually spending some time with them he goes off on a rampage that involves theft, drink driving, lying and just generally being a massive douchebag and it’s supposed to be a happy ending when he doesn’t end up miserable and alone. I won’t even get started on the utterly cartoonish turn the end takes or the Langston’s weird predatory neighbour. I was utterly miserable throughout this film, which is the exact opposite of what you want from a Christmas movie. Like finding a moldy mince pie in the toe of your stocking. 0/5

Howard's Santa acid flashback was taking its toll

Howard’s Christmas acid flashback was taking its toll

8 Comments

  1. I like your Film Fridays. You always have an eclectic mix. I agree with Eyes and Unbroken. Good films, but not fantastic.

  2. You reviewed two films I’d really like to see soon – Big Eyes and Unbroken! It looks like you fairly scored both and are in line with critics with both as well. I really am looking forward to both.

    I just had to laugh a little bit at your Jingle All the Way review. It is such a horrible movie, and yet I’m fully fine admitting that I enjoy it since it’s become a tradition to watch every Christmas with my family. We just laugh at the stupidity of the film and find it incredibly obnoxious! That, and we just make fun of Sinbad’s character claiming a semester at community college makes him totally smart.

    1. Abbi

      I think you will enjoy both.

      I don’t have any previous history with Jingle All the Way, which probably would have changed my perception but watching it cold at 34 it just seemed ridiculous.

  3. You deserve the biggest mince pie ever for getting through some of those. Jingle all the Way really was unpleasant. Only God Forgives I had to avoid. It really did sound dreadful. The other two films don’t appeal either.

    1. Abbi

      I can imagine that some people thought Only God Forgives was a masterpiece in abstract cinema but it was definitely way too abstract for me.

      1. Terence Malick can be guilty of it too.

  4. Garrett Hedlund? I suddenly have a little more interest in seeing Unbroken. 😉 Lol – I have GOT to see Only God Forgives. Everyone hates it! Jingle All The Way sucks. I’m glad you liked Big Eyes – I WAS too harsh. It was a good “Sunday afternoon” movie. 🙂

    1. Abbi

      He is very dirty (literally) for the whole film but those baby blues still shine through.

      I would love to hear your opinion on Only God Forgives because it was just too much for me.

      It took me a couple of days of reflection to realise how much I liked Big Eyes. I’m not sure it’s super memorable but it’s definitely a fascinating story with a strong performance from Amy Adams.

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