Oscars Throwback: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Movies_Movies_N__006313_Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Llewelyn Moss is a Vietnam veteran living in the desolate lands of Texas. One day during a hunting session, he finds what would be a drug deal gone wrong. Along with dead corpses and a wounded man begging for water, he finds a black satchel with 2 million dollars inside. He takes the money and hides it in his house knowing people are going to be looking for it. His conscious gets the better of him as he wakes up in the middle of the night to bring water to the wounded man, a mistake as he gives vital clues to the one man with no morals when it comes to getting what he wants.

No Country For Old Men is an absolute gem of a film. For me, it ticks all the boxes for a perfect thriller with a wild west edge. As a shallow viewer it has enough suspense, violence and action to enthrall for the full viewing time. Even with its quiet, barren land demeanor. But for the sometimes sophisticated side of my brain, the narrative has enough substance for me to have come out with a much richer experience of the film.

As the title and opening monologue from old timer Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) would suggest, it’s a film about the changing times. How a land which was once relatively safe has now become a harsh environment. Whenever we see the older generation on screen, they seem to be bogged down by unusual information or just odd behavior. A sign which says, times are more complicated and not as straight forward as before. Even for Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, he fails to put the pieces together quick enough to solve the drug deal gone wrong case. This isn’t to say he’s incompetent, he is the opposite, but it says that crime in the modern times are a lot more overwhelming.

The characters are also a great part of this film, the three main characters signify something different. We have the Sheriff who is an obviously good man. He has a loving wife and is also good at his job. Just like the old time’s, he’s laid back and composed but nothing less than a good person. There is the antagonist Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who is a total psychopath, from the worst hair cut ever in film to his lack of remorse when killing people, he is the bad of the film. Since we are unaware of where he’s from and it’s apparent that he isn’t local, he seems to signify the unpredictability of modern evil and crime, sometimes referred to as a ghost. This may refer to the how the future is and what makes it so unsettling. He has no moral compass but believes in the power of fate, apparent from his coin toss game. As for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), he is right bang in the middle, as Uncle Ellis refers to some of his cats as half wild or outlaws. Moss is your every man, he’s been through a lot and understands the harshness of life. I like how he looks at the money with no expression and sighs “yeah” as if he already knows what he’s getting into but can’t protest against it. There’s some form of inevitability to it.

This film really is a cat and mouse thriller. Except the mouse is a cat too. Predator vs predator. It’s refreshing because we have characters who aren’t stupid. They’re all intelligent and know how to cover their tracks, they know how to defend themselves and when it comes to doing the deed, they can do it. Just as you think a character is missing something they respond with intelligence. It’s awesome to watch a film where you find it hard to criticize characters decisions but instead be left wondering “why didn’t I think of that”.

As for performances, well you have Javier Bardem in one of his first major English roles and will probably stand as his best for awhile. Think Silva from Skyfall but even crazier. I like that opening scene of him where he’s strangling that cop, just from his facial expressions you can tell that he’s a heartless bastard and it’s not the first time he’s attempted to kill someone. As good as Bardem is, Brolin totally knocks it out of the park for me. There’s something about his portrayal of the character. He’s just so slick and such a guy, a guy we all wish we could be. If I could pull off boots and a cowboy hat, I would, wouldn’t have to think about it, I’d be walking around looking like a total badass. (Brolin) “you got socks”, (Shopkeeper) “We only have white”. (Brolin) “That’s ok, whites all I wear”, that’s what it means to be a man right there. Tommy Lee Jones is business as usual and it was nice seeing some Woody Harrelson as well to make up a really great cast.

This was totally deserving of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem) Oscars. A film back in the day that I wouldn’t have wanted to watch, purely because it’s absent of music. Thanks to more appreciation for films, that lack of music only adds to the film, putting us in the west with the characters and surprisingly adding suspense to the films more thrilling scenes. No Country For Old Men is truly a great film.

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Oldboy (2004) vs Oldboy (2013)

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I chose to watch the remake before the original and immediately regretted that decision after realizing that this isn’t your average revenge flick. It’s a lot darker and filled with more surprises than I first anticipated. Going into the original knowing the general storyline and plot diminished the effect of the first half of the film, luckily due to changes in the remake there were still a few pleasant surprises and twists that I didn’t see coming. I think if I would have been a bit smarter and chose to watch the original first I would have instantly loved it.

The initial reasoning behind watching the remake first was to give it a fair chance so that I wouldn’t be comparing the two constantly, but this is just one of those films where this can’t be prevented. Firstly the story is unique providing plenty of plot twists to keep us guessing. Once knowing these twists, it’s hard to stop waiting for them to happen in the original. Luckily the remake didn’t stay completely true to the original and made a few plot changes but those were the only changes made. That’s what makes the remake incredibly pointless in my opinion. It didn’t offer anything new, apart from a western cast and a neo-noir tone. Why remake a film and change virtually nothing about it. Usually what you’d like to see in a remake is perhaps a unique style true to the director or something different creatively but the 2013 version felt lackluster and ultimately not worth filming especially when you have a pretty perfect counterpart.

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Oldboy (2013) –
Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

We’re introduced to Joe Doucett leaving a lunch meeting drunk, what first seems acceptable turns unacceptable as he urinates in public and adds more booze into a soda cup before returning to work. He later shouts at his wife for nagging him to attend his daughters 3rd birthday party and hits on his clients wife who has no interest in him. It’s safe to say that he isn’t a pleasant man at all. We’re not meant to like him but we can tell that not even he likes himself as he spits at a mirror while staring at his reflection. He seems to have given up on himself. After a booze filled night he’s snatched off the street and awakens in an unfamiliar room which he’s trapped in.

We don’t really get a sense of that revenge until he is released from the room. Whilst in the room it’s more about his self improvement and redemption in order to be worthy of his daughters forgiveness when he is let out. I suppose that is what prevents him from going insane.

Without giving anything away this film tackles some dark themes which would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, but this film lacked grit and an appropriate tone to support it. It felt too mainstream and lacked style, the cinematography, characters and locations felt generic which ruined what was supposed to be an eerie film about revenge. Instead it came off as your average blockbuster film.

What I liked about this film was the added noir tone. It felt appropriate during the scenes where Brolin and Olsen are trying to figure out who trapped him in that room. But then there would be an abrupt change in tone during Brolin’s hammer to skull combat scenes. Sometimes it would feel out of place especially the iconic hallway tracking shot. It was always going to be a hard scene to pull off and unfortunately it looked awkward. Having not seen the original before this, I can say that was my first reaction. Brolin was awesome but the extra’s made the scene feel gimmicky with over the top reactions and unrealistic movements, some moments were cool but others were off. Talking about extra’s, they seemed to burden the film with below par acting. Not only the iconic fight scene but a couple of flashbacks too. If someone points a shotgun at you, I’m pretty sure you’d flinch, at least a little bit.

Josh Brolin proves to be one of the few positives coming out of this film , showing that he can be a strong lead and carry a film. Another positive is Sharlto Copley, now cementing his status as king of accents. It may be slightly off in this film but his stiff interpretation of Brolin’s mysterious enemy makes him an intriguing character. It was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen for the first time, it gave me the chance to see if she’s Avengers worthy. She was solid but maybe due to the script she felt monotone. We don’t really sense her troubled past or any hardship, the only time we sense it is when it’s spoon fed to us or the first scene we see her with Brolin where she’s wearing a scruffy torn T-shirt, then minutes later we see her wearing a nice blazer. The only thing that signified to me was whether she was homeless or not, not every druggie has a torn up shirt!

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Oldboy (2004) – Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Oh Dae Su is an obvious alcoholic as we’re introduced to him at a police station being a nuisance. He says all he does is try to get through the day, which suggests he struggles in life and in a way might have already given up. He may be unhappy but he shares a sweet spot for his daughter despite continually being absent from her life. From the opening we know he’s done some bad things and may not be a pleasant person. Before we know it he’s been picked up from the side of the street and trapped in a room.

Compared with the newer version, the transition to his entrapment is a lot quicker, you could say the remake spoon feeds the audience the plot and also gives us a more direct interpretation of the character. With Oh Dae Su we can understand him the way we want to. There’s more emphasis on his growing insanity within the room which the remake didn’t touch on, to put the cherry on the top there’s an explanation to why he never gave in to the insanity which is what I was wondering the whole time. When he’s released he saves a man from committing suicide but it becomes apparent that he hasn’t completely changed, he still lacks compassion but he’s fitter and driven with only revenge on his mind. In that respect there is more emphasis on revenge which the remake didn’t have.

Themes of vengeance are relevant throughout the film, when we learn more about the person who trapped Dae Su. We learn the extent to which revenge can go and what holding a grudge can do to a man. For Dae Su, remorse slowly creeps in on him once he figures out who the mystery man is.

Performances are great from everyone in the cast. The lead Min-sik Choi is phenomenal, a character which will stay with me for a long time. He finds the perfect mix of grit, anger and insanity. Gang Hye-Jeong plays the female supporting role convincingly, we buy into her loneliness and hurt, making her a character we believe in. Playing the mystery man is Ji-tae Yu who is portrayed as this charismatic, suave, insane, evil man. In terms of antagonists, this is as good as it gets.

The blend of violence and dark humour is emphasized by the films overall offbeat tone. It gives the film consistency and style which the remake lacked. The screenplay is also better with narration, memorable quotes and metaphoric messages that move the narrative along nicely. There’s no question to why this is a cult classic, I’ve not seen a film as interesting, fast paced and intense as this in a long time.

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Verdict

The original is miles better than Spike Lee’s remake. I’m all for a remake, but only if it’s justified. Foreign films have been adapted before, it’s not uncommon, but usually there’s a unique spin on them. For instance Prince Avalanche and The Departed. What makes the original so much better is the script, it has all the plot holes filled which the remake had. I don’t understand why you would take a film with a perfect story line and change little things like making the protagonists imprisonment 20 years instead of 15. Little things that create plot holes. As for the characters, as good as Josh Brolin is, he doesn’t come close to beating Min-sik Choi and his awesome hair. But even overall the characters are richer in the original. I didn’t like Elizabeth Olsen’s take on the female role at all. I didn’t buy into her vulnerability as much as Gang Hye-Jeong’s Mido. As for the antagonist, Sharlto Copley was absolute gold but it didn’t feel appropriate for a film like Oldboy, he felt gimmicky. Ji-tae Yu was just as suave as Copley but his anger and desire for vengeance felt real, you almost feel for the character. Overall Chan Wook Park’s film smashes the remake… in the skull… with a hammer.


Rush (2013)

130910155412-rush-movie-poster-horizontal-galleryRoze-Rating: 5 / 5

Rush is based on the true rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the racing season of 1976. It’s a story about two sportsmen with different outlooks on life and racing. Despite their seeming hatred of each other, there’s one thing that set’s them apart from other rivalry’s, they respect the effect it has on their lives.

What makes this film great is the attention to detail given to make this true story as real as possible on the big screen. If you are unaware of this rivalry and Formula 1 in general then I wouldn’t advise to go looking up the story. For me, not knowing anything about these two guys made it a much more thrilling watch. Your constantly wondering how far these drivers will push themselves to win, and whether or not they will go too far. It definitely makes that last race an edge of the seat moment. After the film though, having done some research and youtube-ing, it’s quite remarkable how much detail went into this film. From the costumes to the accents, almost everything about this film is spot on. Of course parts of the film are dramatized but it’s essential to telling this story as effectively as possible.

The casting is great, as a result of this we get two of the best performances of 2013. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl don’t only look like the famous drivers they are portraying but sound like them too. Hemsworth captures the bad boy persona of James Hunt perfectly, with a you-only-live-once swagger. You buy into his character because he doesn’t race because of the lifestyle it brings, he races because it supports the lifestyle he lives. He respects the dangers of F1, therefore sympathizing for the men that get into accidents every season. Niki Lauda of course is the complete opposite. Bruhl presents Lauda as a cold, calculated racing driver, always acting on statistics and not emotion. If a fellow driver spins out or crashes, he shows no compassion but criticize their technique. He may sound like an antagonist but his conflicting behavior between winning and actual happiness gives us a reason to care for this character.

The cinematography is brilliant throughout the film, giving us the perspective of the driver during these relentless races. It makes the racing scenes more of an adrenaline inducing experience. As for it’s overall look, the shiny shades of orange and colour filtering make it great to look at. It feels as if we are in the 1970s as well as watching a documentary about it. Everything from the camera angles and the colours used to the back commentary and interviews.

It’s definitely one of the best rivalry stories I’ve seen on film. I like how the story doesn’t make the rivalry dirty or unpleasant but rather inspiring for both drivers. They use it as a way to push each other harder, a way to learn from each other and ultimately a way to feel alive. During the journey of the season, we realize that there’s a lot more respect within the rivalry than we think. That’s what makes the final scene quite a compelling moment.

Filth (2013)

Filth 1Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

As the title would suggest this film is drenched in filth. Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a corrupt Scottish detective with an addiction to sex, drugs and alcohol. With a possible promotion on the horizon we see him parade about partaking in what he calls “games” in order to undermine and manipulate his competition, instead of solving a recent murder which could actually get him the promotion. What follows is a darkly comedic series of events which bring out Robertson’s deeper problems which could explain why he acts the way he does.

Filth is one of those films that only the British could execute with perfection. Mostly because I can’t think of a nation which could make talking about the statistics of fellatio as hilarious as the Scottish. This is a film that takes dark humor to the brink of acceptable as we see Robertson blackmail a minor for oral then comparing her to a cheese grater seconds into it. Despite everything wrong about this character, we’re still intrigued by him. He may be a disgusting man but all we need as an audience to not be completely repelled by a character is a glimmer of human emotion. This gives us enough hope to root for a character, and for Robertson there’s enough hurt there for us to at least suspect a chance for this character to change.

That glimmer of hope comes from small subtle hints that he was once a family man, but due to certain circumstances they are no longer around. He uses the drugs, sex and alcohol to repress those hurt feelings. Once this becomes more evident about half way into the film, we start to understand Robertson and why he’s become addicted to all these substances. Props to James McAvoy for a committed performance executing Robertson’s development from mad to completely mad with conviction. A performance which is weirdly familiar to Trance, although that character develops in the opposite way. We see him as a normal person until the end where his fragility is exposed. What is similar between these characters is that we change our opinions on them right at the end. That’s what makes this film so great, it’s one of the better character pieces of recent years.

On top of the engaging narrative, we’re presented with a film that looks great and has an awesome soundtrack which gives Robertson a rock star persona. It also doesn’t fail to continually shock and surprise us with gross out humor and a deep look into a broken character. It’s larger than life and never slows down. Where it wont disappoint, is how much fun you’ll have watching it.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor the dark worldRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Set after the attack on New York, Thor is busy restoring order within the Nine Realms whilst the Bifrost is being reconstructed. Having not seen Thor for two years, Jane Foster strives to find scientific anomalies which are similar to the time they found Thor in New Mexico. As a result of the convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, Foster is sucked into a portal which links these Realms together. She is teleported to a new world and gets infected by the Aether. A group of Dark elves awake once they feel the Aether’s release, the same dark elves who attempted to take over the Nine Realms using the same weapon.

There’s a moment during the film’s opening where we first see Thor appear, and that’s the moment where Chris Hemsworth truly feels like Thor. In the past two films he’s been in, he never really became anything more than an actor playing this character, but after this film it feels as if no one else could play this role but him. From that moment onward’s I felt pumped to be watching a Thor film.

This sequel is better than the first in many ways but it doesn’t feel as whole as it could have been. Firstly the improved CGI makes this film visually stunning as we get to see Asgard in more detail. It’s colourfully glossy which gives it that genuine comic book aesthetic. There’s a lot more emphasis on costume and set design. Thor’s costume looks polished and pristine, which no longer feels gimmicky. Asgard and the Nine Realms actually feel real now which reflects Jane Foster’s feelings as she follows Thor to Asgard for the first time.

It also feels a lot more like a Thor film, even though the Aether is a part of something Avengers related. The first film was an origin story but it was also as much an Avengers prequel. Thor: The Dark World has a much more interesting story driven by fantasy stories and fairy tale inspired characters. What I like about these Marvel films is that they all offer something different. Iron Man is pure comic book action, Captain America is a lot more political and Thor feels like Lord of The Rings in terms of the fantasy elements.

In terms of the film not feeling whole, I think what tarnished its potential is the fact that there’s too many characters which get such small screen time. Thor has an awesome group of warriors he fights with yet we hardly see them. I don’t know if the comics are the same way, if so fair enough, but I wanna see more of them. Maybe their teasing us for whats to come in the third Thor film, but there is definitely going to be some love triangle forming soon. It might have been hard incorporating it in this film but it was disappointing not seeing just a little bit of it. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sif and Jane Foster face off.

The theme that felt evident is inconsistency. When intended to be funny it was, but the jokes either come at inappropriate times (Thor getting on the tube) or don’t happen for long periods of time during more mellow scenes. Same goes for the tone, once scenes transition between Earth and Asgard there’s definitely a tonal change. Once at earth, the music is more comedic and light hearted which contrasts the dramatic orchestral music when in Asgard. It makes sense as it gives these locations different identities but the film was either funny at one point then dramatic in others.

The major highlight though is Loki, who Tom Hiddleston continues to play to perfection. It’s different seeing a villain stick around for once, and a villain that most people like, even if he is completely evil. Once Thor and Loki eventually team up, the film kicks into gear and it starts feeling like a Marvel film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

katniss-peeta-the-hunger-games-catching-fire-wallpaperRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Seems like ages ago since I saw The Hunger Games in the cinema, because of that I can’t say that the film stuck with me. It was definitely an entertaining watch because of an awesome protagonist with lethal bow and arrow skills, but it lacked some grit. I’m not saying that it never had any but the fact that we never really get to see blade and flesh make contact diminished the affect of the Hunger Games concept implemented by the Capitol. Maybe that’s just me having watched too many Nicolas Winding Refn films. As for the sequel, it has to be one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for me. I did not expect much with this sequel having not read the books, I thought it would be the same formula (which it kinda was) but did not expect such an explosive ending and cliffhanger. Because of that, it was one of my favourite films of 2013.

This film is everything I wanted the last film to be. It had mind games, thrilling obstacles, conspiracy, likable characters and most importantly an arrow to the knee. What I liked about the beginning of this film is that we’re instantly thinking about the last film. How it ended and why Katniss is suddenly kissing some other dude who we haven’t actually seen much of. Once we learn that her berry antics were all for survival, we subconsciously think more about the decisions these characters make.

The tone remains consistent with the first film except it’s more intense and gritty aided by the story’s progression as we learn more about Snow and the Capitol. Katniss is obviously affected from her experiences in the Hunger Games which makes her a lot more stubborn than I remember. She can’t really trust anyone nor can she trust her decisions. Jennifer Lawrence make’s this role her’s, in a franchise I really didn’t expect to take off as well as it has, luckily it feels like it’s going to get even better.

If you thought the first film looked great then get ready for another film with innovative costumes, diverse set designs and beautiful cinematography. This film truly looks great with it’s crisp visuals especially when we get to the exotic Hunger Games dome and the CGI kicks in.

It may annoy some people but the cliff hanger we’re left with felt weirdly satisfying for me. I’ve never felt so intrigued and surprised and annoyed at the same time. But what tied these feelings off perfectly was that last close up on Lawrence’s face. For this franchise that moment will be the most iconic, when Katniss turns into more than a Hunger Games contestant but a symbol for all existing districts to look to for hope. As a result of that I never would have thought I’d be so desperate to see a Hunger Games sequel.