Showing posts with label willem dafoe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label willem dafoe. Show all posts

4 March 2014

Film Review - The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Comedy, Drama
Fox Searchlight
Rating: 15
Release Date:
7th March 2014 (UK)
Wes Anderson
Tony Revolori, Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe

A writer does not find their story, instead the story finds its writer. A fresh concept for Wes Anderson's new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, but ultimately his most ambitious.

The complex structure starts off with a young girl opening up a novel – in the cemetery where its author is buried- named after the eponymous hotel. Cut to 1985, where the acclaimed writer, played by Tom Wilkinson, recalls his stay within the hotel of the film/novel in 1968. Now performed by Jude Law, the nameless writer meets and dines with the establishment owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who shares his personal memories of being a lobby boy during the hotel's heyday before Communism led to its demise. Cue 1932, Moustafa's tale conjures up a pink mansion, nestled within the snow-capped hills of the fictional European country of Zubrowka. From there, a young Moustafa- known as Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori)- is trained under the efficient and titular concierge, Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). With an admiration of the very elderly and wealthy Madame D (Tilda Swinton), her sudden and curious death (murder?) and bequeathing of the priceless painting, Boy With Apple, snowballs into a caper consisting of heists, screwball set-pieces, prison breaks and shootouts.

Immense in its staging, the film packages all of Anderson's recognisable directorial flourishes on a remarkable scale. Although part of Anderson's recognition comes from the use of meticulous framing devices and distinctive colour schemes being combined with lead characters who are in some way fractured or grieving, it is obvious that the intricate design of the fictional doll-house setting of 1930s Zubrowka totally engulfs these characters and any sense of their development. With the intense pink and red colour scheme of the hotel itself, alongside layered and skilful choreography throughout, the huge cast of characters can't help but become mere paper-thin caricatures, within an extraordinarily detailed picture-book fantasy. Although many detractors of Anderson would argue this has been standard practice throughout the director's career, he actually uses this to his advantage. Unlike previous works within his writing and directing canon, Anderson abandons his particular motif of opening a book to a cast of characters, opting to focus on the process of how they are found. It's this idea which makes the moments within the hotel's decaying walls in 1968 particularly interesting and thoughtful. The dinner which the nameless writer and older Zero share injects the film with the appropriate thematic weight which could have gone un-noticed within the melee of the 30s set action. With the idea of how memories and recollections can dissolve with the passage of time, Anderson's typical use of nostalgia looms over the film. Within the walls of this once fine hotel there are now only ceiling cracks and scattered memories.

This section of the film allows Anderson to get away with being caught up in constructing lavish set-pieces, rather than actually developing his characters. Made up of a humongous cast of regulars and new faces alike, what ultimately separates them from each other is brief screen-time and an amusing mannerism. Ralph Fiennes's performance of Gustave may be entertaining with his equally eloquent and filthy world view, however, his character holds no sense of memorable depth when compared to Anderson's previous creations, such as Max Fisher (Rushmore) or Steve Zissou (The Life Aquatic). Yet, this is why the film could be Anderson's most ambitious work. Though a tad slight, the madcap qualities of the characters make for charming creations. A scene in which all concierges from adjoining Grand Hotels assemble to save Zero and Gustave is not only humorous in its presentation of hospitality being an institution, but one of the film's most memorable uses of screwball comedy with an ensemble cast (helped by Bill Murray and other Anderson veterans making an appearance). Combined with the fast pacing and tone of the overall story, the excessive quaintness and imaginative presentation does make moments of melancholy surprisingly effective. With the murmer and slight reminders of the war behind all the action, it brings a chilling sobriety into the story. Although Anderson has always created worlds which are not of our own – Zubrowka is no exception – he handles the barbaric nature of war by saying nothing about it, only showing the destruction it left behind.
Within the amusement of the re-counting of these memories, the barbaric notion of war does introduce a thoughtfully heartfelt sensibility. Like an old shoebox filled with various mementoes, Anderson uses this relic of a hotel hotel to establish how certain surprises within an individual's lifetime can go un-noticed. It's only with the recollection of conflict on a much grander scale that you understand the senseless grief and bitter life-lessons that it could bestow on somebody as apparently insignificant as a lobby-boy.

Similar to the old ruin of the Grand Budapest, Anderson's eighth feature may not be completely perfect at first glance. However, the tales buried within it unveil a timeless joy, completely enthralling you before dragging you back into reality.


David Darley

15 November 2013

Blu-Ray Review - Streets Of Fire (1984)

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Action, Crime
Second Sight
Release Date:
18th November 2013 (UK)
Walter Hill
Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Willem Dafoe
Streets of Fire [Blu-ray]

Streets of Fire is directed by Walter Hill and is one of the most absurdly 80s films ever made. It was described as “ a rock n’ roll fantasy” in it’s marketing and I guess it is. It’s kind of like The Wanderers but as a dumb 80s action film with horrible musical numbers and none of the substance of The Wanderers. It was a mega flop but has grown to have a cult fan base so much an unofficial sequel was made.

The whole thing is set in this 80s drenched future that is partly 1950s which gives it an interesting aesthetic. The plot is basically this singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) gets kidnapped by the Bombers gang lead by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and Tom Cody (Michael Paré) must rescue her. The musical numbers are wretchedly 80s that start and bookmark the film that really ruins the good comic book aesthetic of the rest of the film.

Walter Hill is a very fine director who made films like The Warriors, The Driver, Southern Comfort among others. Streets of Fire is certainly one of his lesser films and owes a lot to his previous film The Warriors. It lacks what made that film so good was your cared about the The Warriors gang and wanted them to get back to Coney Island but in this the performance by Michael Paré lacks any real humanity. The film however features a fun campy performance by Willem Dafoe as the main villain and a amusing cameo from the lead singer of seminal L.A punk band Fear Lee Ving as one of Dafoe’s main cronies.

Streets of Fire is perfectly watchable but Walter Hill has made numerous better films but it has a strange 80s charm at times which saves it from being a total disaster. It’s clear to see why it bombed though because it’s simply not that good and to off kilter at times for a mainstream audience. It was suppose to start a franchise but naturally that didn’t happen until recently with the unauthorized sequel with Paré reprising his role. Second Sight as usual has pull out all the stops with the bonus features including a feature length doc and the original EPK.


Ian Schultz

29 October 2012

The Hunter Blu-Ray Review

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When it comes to films starring Willem Dafoe his performances are nothing more but mesmeric, outstanding even when the film he stars in is truly awful. The actor is one of films great gems who delivers wonderful performances that are deserving of awards but the true professional he is he doesn't complain just gets on with the job. Past 20 years or so Willem Dafoe has been making big noises in arthouse / world cinema and his latest film The Hunter the actor excels once again as a hired hand to find one of the world's rarest commodities whilst battling his own morality.

The Hunter is based on a novel by Julia Leigh that tells the story of Martin(Willem Dafoe) a mercenary sent from Europe to Australia by mysterious Biotech company.Martin heads to Tasmanian wilderness to embark on a dramatic hunt for the so called last Tasmanian Tiger despite the creature been reported extinct since 1982. As he searches the elusive creature he discovers the mysteries hidden within the wild landscape, triggering long forgotten emotions, but can a human who has led an immoral life find connection and redemption too?

What really grabs your attention in The Hunter is the central performance of Willem Dafoe. As I mentioned earlier in the review the actor rarely disappoints, he also rarely gets a chance to a lead a film and when he gets he grabs the bull by the horns delivering something truly fantastic. Martin is a charismatic emotionless man but when he's on his own especially in the wilderness he's in his element becoming part of the land, a predator, animalistic with frightening tenacity. When there's no dialogue you really do get drawn into something rather haunting,atmospheric gving you a chance to appreciate the surroundings he's in as well as his predatory skills.

We have to also give a mention to Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock who play the children at the farm Martin stays at, they deliver a performance so naturalistic as they are given a chance to be..children. They bring out the parental side of Martin as they adopt him as a father figure with their own father lost in the wilderness, this makes Martin feel awkward. Even the children's mother Lucy (Frances O'Connor) whose in a depressive state drugged up, constantly sleeping greets Martin's presence within her home she embraces him when he sorts out the power and when he becomes more comfortable it then his morality is questioned even his loneliness.

It's Films like The Hunter that make you think twice at how small the world is becoming at a frightening pace. This is a film that doesn't just question the morality but environmental issues but the allegorical message of the film is terrifying and throughout the film thanks to the smartly written script reminders of the world changing drastically are scattered throughout the film: the desrruction of the Tasmanian rain forest (like many other forests globally), job losses that impact local towns as they loose jobs, conservation groups been harassed by multi-national companies but most of all hunting a extinct creatures. The latter sort of ask you why do you hunt these 'mythical' creatures and why should we only read about these creatures in books and for the sake of the creature and it's environment maybe they should stay 'extinct'?

The Hunter is an beautifully shot film thanks to Robert Humphrey's breath taking cinematography that captivates the desolation and beauty of the wild terrain of Tasmania. The world is getting smaller and these hidden tranquil treasures are becoming as elusive tiger asking you what can you do to make sure these lands don't disappear?

The Hunter wont be a film which will appeal to everyone as it's a slow burning psychological thriller will keep you engaged until the end.It's atmospheric, beautifully shot and masterfully performed by an underrated esteemed actor in the industry today.

Paul Devine 


DVD/BD Rating: 29th October 2012 (UK)
Directed By: Daniel Nettheim
Cast:Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill , Morgana Davies, Frances O'Connor
Buy The Hunter:Blu-ray / DVD
Win The Hunter on DVD here

6 July 2012

The Hunter Review

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The problem with The Hunter is that it is in fact two different films. One is a relationship drama, the tale of a lonely, isolated man finding a family. The other is a tense, quiet, conspiracy thriller with spiritual overtones, played out against the backdrop of an ideological dispute between environmentalism and labour. This is hardly a match made in heaven, and though there is a thematic throughline, it doesn’t manage to fully meld the two halves. As a result The Hunter comes across as confused, and is undone by that confusion.

The titular Hunter is a man named Martin David (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary, bounty-hunter-ish person suffering from Unspecified Malaise, which is the bubonic plague of independent movies. He is hired by the not-at-all-sinister military company Red Leaf to go to Tasmania. His mission: to find and capture the Tasmanian tiger, a striped, doglike marsupial thought to be extinct, whose paralysing poison would be of considerable value if reverse-engineered. In order to ensure that they remain the only ones hunting for the animal Martin is ordered undercover. As such, he ends up staying in a house of hippies under the fiction that he is a university researcher. There he encounters two children: Bike (Finn Woodlock) and Sass (Morgana Davies), and immediately the precocious bonding commences.

But these are not your everyday child actors. In fact, the performance given by these kids is easily the high point of the film. Davies manages to keep her childish talkiness the right side of irritating, her chattering instead being consistently funny and sweet, even with her slight lisp. Woodlock is also adorable, and, thinking back on the film, crazy talented. His role, as a withdrawn, silent boy, scarred by the disappearance of his father and the mental collapse of his mother, makes for an entire movie with no talking. And yet he is a good enough actor that his silence speaks volumes. In addition it is his relationship with Dafoe’s character that is the core of the film, and holding his own against such a seasoned veteran is an achievement an actor twice his age should treasure.

By comparison I don’t feel Dafoe brought his A-game to The Hunter. That’s not to say his performance is bad: such would be the ramblings of a madman. Dafoe perfectly captures the chill isolation of Martin’s life. Unfortunately, the thaw is less convincing. This feels like a film where the central character should end up transfigured, where the person he becomes at the end should be very different to the person he was at the beginning. But that is not the case. Dafoe’s performance never loses the chill, and this undermines a lot of his more emotional moments towards the end.

But really, the problem with The Hunter is with the story, not the lead. Simply put, the parts of this film where Dafoe and the kids are interacting, where John Martin is coming out of his shell and becoming part of the family; those parts are engaging, delightful and fun. The parts that concern his hunt for the Tasmanian tiger? Well they’re good from a character perspective, and show that at least one of the writers (probably Julia Leigh, who wrote the original book) really knows their stuff when it comes to trapping. But they’re also pretty freaking dull. I frequently found myself drifting off during these sequences, staring blankly at the screen and getting lost in my own thoughts. I had to make an effort to pay attention. That is less than ideal.

For my money, this lack of engagement is a result of these scenes deviating from the central theme. The Hunter is a movie about emergence from a living death. John Martin at the beginning of the film is basically a zombie. He pointedly avoids human company. He listens to classical music, but has no idea what any of it means. There’s even this visual metaphor in which Martin takes a bath, slides under the surface, and lies there for as long as possible, before erupting out of the water like a corpse from his grave. This cycle of death and forced rebirth is broken when the children invade his bath: their lively enthusiasm interrupts his Lazarus-style ritual and symbolises the return of true life.

It’s a great theme. Unfortunately, it’s not till the very end that it becomes part of his hunt for the tiger. Instead to pass the time we have a conspiracy thriller subplot that, though fairly well-constructed, feels disconnected and wasteful. What I cared about in The Hunter was Martin’s awakening, and I didn’t have many shits left to give for the outcome of a vague murder-mystery. I might have had some care for a subplot based around an ideological conflict between environmentalism and labour, which the film promises now and again. Irritatingly though, The Hunter leaves that potentially interesting avenue unexplored. Workers and environmentalists are, broadly speaking, both ‘good guys’ from a left-wing political perspective. Having such a perspective, I would love to witness an examination of a conflict between them and the social consequences. But though the film promised, it never delivered.

The Hunter then has much to recommend it. In the scenes with Dafoe and the kids bouncing off each other, there’s even a spark of greatness. But the film loses its way. It doesn’t develop where it should, and spends time where perhaps it shouldn’t. It is not a bad film. But it is confused and messy, and so ultimately devoid of lasting impact.

Adam Brodie

Rating: 15
UK Release Date: 6th July 2012
Directed By:Daniel Nettheim
Cast:Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor, Sullivan Stapleton

The Hunter UK trailer - starring Willem Dafoe, in cinemas nationwide 6 July Published via