Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones and Kevin Bacon.
Written by Peter Morgan.
Directed by Ron Howard.
Following on the heels of the much-maligned Cinderella Man and the tawdry ‘suspense’ of The Da Vinci Code, director Ron Howard has fashioned his most entertaining film in years. The improbable basis for such an exciting dramatic film are the 1977 interviews conducted by playboy British TV personality David Frost with the disgraced US President Richard Nixon. When attempts to sell the idea to a major US network fails, Frost decides to raise the money himself and sell the interviews later, a decision which keeps the project on a knife-edge. Unaccustomed to the intricacies of the interview process, Frost initially flounders and the last half of the film plays out like a boxing title fight, substituting words for fists. This drama of personality is wonderfully detailed by a stellar cast, led by two towering performances from Sheen and Langella, and supported by Rockwell and Platt (as two investigators hired by Frost to prepare the interview) and the ever reliable Bacon (as Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan) to name a few. Written by Morgan (The Queen) from his play, Frost/Nixon is a rush of pure cinematic pleasure.
Funny Games (2007)
Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart.
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke.
When Hollywood decides to remake a foreign film, it is inevitably of pale comparison to the original. Films such as Wings of Desire (remade as City of Angels) and even the recent flood of Asian horror films remade in America force many to ask what the point is. The obvious answer is money, of course, and an aversion to sub-titles, and Funny Games is another addition in this long line of rehashed films for an ignorant audience. Director Haneke made the original film in Austria – in 1997 it was treated as a minor classic of independent cinema and in some ways, rightfully so - it was brash and unique, and definitely not for the squeamish. The film centres on a husband and wife and their young son who travel to a lakeside getaway. They are soon taken hostage by a pair of young ne’er-do-wells, dressed in a creepy ensemble of white tennis clothes and gloves. They proceed to terrorise the family (and you in the audience) with a series of nasty mind games. None of the actors can be faulted – Watts and Roth are tremendous in difficult roles, and Pitt and Corbet are truly astounding as the young perpetrators. But this is literally a carbon copy of the original film save for the fact that the dialogue is spoken English, so I feel as though I am reviewing the original anyway. So, I guess it depends on whether you wish to ‘read’ the film or not in your decision to watch this or seek out the original version.
Performance Capture by Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, Brendan Gleeson, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman and Crispin Glover.
Written by Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Beowulf is a hero who comes to Denmark to slay a monster. When he despatches the creature, he incurs the wrath of her sexy mother. The two create a pact which will eventually come back to bite the ‘Wulf on his ass. Director Zemeckis is a master of the cinematic medium, understanding the virtually limitless possibilities of this artform. An entertaining telling of the epic poem, this visually stunning film manages to also feel hollow at times, thanks largely to the decision to create this film on a computer. It’s tough to imagine why Zemeckis would chose to use this technology (apart from being bored and wishing to experiment), and I can’t help thinking that this a story that would have had much more power if it were filmed on location as a ‘live-action’ film, incorporating CGI. The film has momentum to spare, and at its best has many scenes that are rendered into a sort of surreal reality. Yet at its worst, it displays everything that is wrong with computer-animated films – an all-too obvious lack of realism that is in stark contrast to what this kind of animation attempts to achieve.
(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)