Posts Tagged ‘Bi-Polar Reviews’

Bi Polar Reviews: Shutter Island

March 18, 2010

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There’s certainly a purpose to all this madness—though to discuss how the film achieves this would be giving the game away. Rest assured dear reader, there are no spoilers in this review.

This week’s Bi-Polar Review: Shutter Island

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Martin Scorsese is from the New Hollywood school of thought. A title given to aspiring directors in the sixties and seventies; the generation of “movie brats” who had grown up with the cinema, studied the visual image and begun breaking down the studio contrivances in a (then) predominantly conservative industry. A self confessed film nerd, able to pluck inspiration from films ranging from Italian neo-realism to (in Shutter Islands case) concrete Hitchcock thrillers. Scorsese’s films have always played homage to films of past, but have also been coupled with his trademark stamp of death and onanism.

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Scorsese’s latest effort Shutter Island is no different, offering a structured gothic noir exhumed from a more than capable novelist. Mr. Lehane’s work is merely a framework with which Scorsese could etch, sculpt and mould from a lifetime as a movie admirer and decades as an esteemed director and auteur.

No surprises who takes the lead this time round. Leonardo DiCaprio, collaborates with Scorsese for the third successive time. Bringing with him that understated Bostonian drawl in the shape of U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, summoned to the Island after a patient mysteriously disappears in Jonathon Creek fashion. As DiCaprio and his partner (a suitably restrained Mark Ruffalo) make inquiries of the patients and staff, they’re flummoxed by the seemingly implausible escape of a woman evaporating from a secure cell with around the clock surveillance, and second by how a patient could leave an island that makes Alcatraz look like the Isle of Wight. All theories point to Sir Ben of Kingsley, both Jekyll and Hyde of the hospital, a shrink who treats the prisoners as patients rather than criminals, but seems to be hiding something from poor Teddy. For his part, DiCaprio brings his own share of personal baggage: Still plagued by harrowing visions of Dachau, and his wife’s death in an apartment fire.

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What starts off as crime procedural slowly transforms into psychological thriller, as more torrid conclusions arrive, the pressure and claustrophobic atmosphere gradually start to eat away at Daniels’ nerves. Scorsese relishes in his protagonists nightmarish dream sequences and flashbacks that engulf his situation while heavily clouding his judgment. Shutter Island may initially seem like a nervy genre piece à la Cape Fear, but I would contend it lends itself more to a Hitchcockian tale, a carnival show where it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between the troubled and troublesome. Imagine walking into your neighbour’s house after there has been a less than cosy confrontation. You are unsure as to why the atmosphere in the room is so bloody tense, but if you had any sense – you wouldn’t bother asking.

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Teddy’s problems are never too much for Scorsese and DiCaprio to handle, who in their third collaboration in a row have developed a definite rhythm that is evident in every scene. It is almost effortless how Teddy’s anxieties begin to creep into our own, the director makes the most of this, by choosing claustrophobic close ups, moving the camera in a little too close for comfort so we can see and more poignantly feel the characters every last nuance. All in all, it won’t be a beloved film to most, inspiring more dissertations and smug berets than popcorn fanatics and box office receipts. While this may not bring many happy faces around conference tables in Hollywood, they should take comfort in the fact that Shutter Island has not only a clear sense of self and purpose, but demonstrates a director (and production team for that matter) on the top of their game. Put simply, this is Scorsese at its best and noir at its darkest.

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Part Two

If Shutter Island were a blog it would be a page dedicated to 9/11 ‘truthers’, awash with theories on Bush speeches and Dan Brown numerology, tales of secret establishments and handshakes. The kind of site that hosts stock gifs and secondary colour schemes – all-caps and Bill Hicks prophecies. Don’t trust The Man yeah?

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As soon as US marshal Teddy Daniels steps onto the docks of Shutter Island. We’re thrown into a world of storms, loonies, liquids, Sir Ben Kingsley and surprisingly lucid dreams. Oh yeah, there’s a musical score that would make the Queen Mary blush. Conspiracies arise in droves as a Nazi, a murderer, and some diabolical experiments are thrown into the mix – add a touch of British weather for good measure and you have yourselves one confused looking Teddy.

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Teddy’s running out of time, and for a while we don’t know exactly why. Once we do, Scorsese sets about wrapping things up a bit too fast, like a lecturer who spends two hours talking about student indulgence and apathy before realising he has ten minutes left to actually get to the point. This tendency to overindulge in Teddy’s mind state leaves us lingering in the mind of a clearly confused protagonist cocooned in his own anxieties and as such – confused and cocooned ourselves.

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At this point you are not quite sure whether it is you or Scorsese who are beginning to lose their marbles. Has DiCaprio stepped into a nightmarish noir thriller or a Scooby Doo episode? He’s not sure, we’re not sure, but Scorsese, the ever present conductor, quickly prepares for the next act – audience, I present to you – some rats!

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Running in at just under two and a half hours, there is a lot of food for thought for what is essentially a revitalised gothic B-movie. The narrative and pacing is completely at odds with the director’s presentation; disproportionate handling of both the technique and homage’s to the works of Hitchcock and Kubrick. When the secrets of Shutter Island are finally presented to the audience in such quick succession – you are with little time to digest. Imagine Paula Radcliffe running the first three legs of a 4×100 relay, she plods along in earnest bounds, gracious and dignified, while others piss past her (sorry, couldn’t resist). She isn’t going to be drawn into the sprint; she’s in it for the long haul after all. It’s taken two hours to get three hundred metres but she enjoyed the journey and for the most part, it was nice seeing her get through it. But wait, who is this on the horizon?

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‘Take ya Tena Lady Radders, Usain got this!’

Dré

Bi Polar Reviews: Ninja Assassin

January 26, 2010

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Long overdue and suffering from the recession (damn you Cyclops). I present the revitalised Bi-Polar Reviews for 2010. I say revitalised, basically part one and two will be posted together. I’ve had thousands of emails asking how to use that elusive left click. Pingbacks are our bread and butter after all. So I thought i’d save you the trouble and put one and two in a post.

If you missed how this works. Part One good, Part Two bad. Its early years as the Manic Depressive reviews didn’t catch on for some reason.

This week we have Ninja Assassin. Here is Part One.

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Ninja Assassin is the latest offering from James McTeigue. You know, the man who directed V for Vendetta. Still nothing? I only say this because in the advertising spots he has become the creator of The Matrix trilogy. They said that for V for Vendetta and they are pitching it again with Ninja Assassin. Marketing this as a film by the creators of the Matrix trilogy implies the Wachowski’s are in control of said project. Quick question, what is more appealing:

The man who directed V for Vendetta?
Or
The duo who directed the Matrix and inexorably fudged the next two?

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Ergo, they sucked. So why taint a promising sequence director with a good eye for the fantabulous?

So, plot…we’ll get to that in the second half. Let focus on where Ninja Assassin excels, those fight sequences. If you were going to be honest with yourself, you didn’t pay to see a film titled Ninja Assassin for its eloquence. A blade in the gizzards, put simply, says more than words ever could.

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Put a knife on a chain in any movie and I think you’ll find an audience. Add some throwing stars into the mix and you got yourself Citizen Kane minus a sledge. This is an unashamed B movie, looking at it from any other angle will leave you squirming for its 99 minutes. Watching the film with this in mind and I promise, you will have an enjoyable time. Killing is this films business, and business is certainly thriving. If you think of blood as its plot, this is the War and Peace we have been waiting for. All in all, you should have a bloody good time (sorry).

Ninja Gaiden The Movie, the film you have all been waiting for.

“Looks like another empty room”
Bam, ninja!

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Part Two

So there’s these assassinations occurring but nobody knows whose doing it. This one Interpol agent gets the idea that it might be ninja’s. But nobody believes her because there’s no such thing as ninja’s. Except there is such a thing as ninja’s and now the ninja’s want to kill her. So she teams up with the good ninja, played by Korean pop sensation Rain, who helps her seek revenge on the evil ninja’s, who happen to be his former clan. There’s some pretty nifty fight scenes along the way, and that wispy CGI that makes everything appear slightly supernatural. It also has its fair share of ninja blood. Ultimately, whether or not you will like it will largely depend on how fond of ninja’s you are to begin with.

The End

raizo

Erm.

Oh. Did you ever notice how ninja’s get less powerful the more of them you put together? One ninja is usually this unstoppable force, their always the baddest ass in the room, secret weapon, secret style, secret hat. But put more than three of them in a room together and they suddenly get performance anxiety. Rule of thumb, if a movie has an army of ninjas, then you can be pretty sure our protagonist is going to breeze through them like [insert loathed chubby] and a hammock of profiteroles. Now since there is not a ninja cliché that Ninja Assassin doesn’t indulge in, you can bet that this one made it into the final edit.

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On the one hand part of me loves seeing cheesy martial arts clichés like this still kicking around. On the other hand they lose a lot of their charm when the authenticity is completely removed. When Bruce or Jackie flicked, twisted, kicked and screamed we had a static camera and the proof of physical exertion. Ninja Assassin simply looks too expensive for its own good. Believe me when I say I am not trying to sound like a Chinese proverb, but most of the films strengths are also its biggest weaknesses. From the cool, stoic delivery of our protagonist Raizo, to the legend that is Sho Kosugi and his earnest recital of every ninja villain stock line in the book. Both are acceptable traits within this genre, but could quite easily grunt throughout the movie and provide more weight to their roles.

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Speaking of stock lines, let’s see how many pretentious critical clichés I can fit into one paragraph. Story formulaic, the dialogue wooden, almost Ikea (slot ninja B into ninja B), acting woeful, even for a movie with the word ninja in the title. I would say that the film appeared to work on several levels without actually addressing six of them. Some have suggested 36, but The Abbott has been slipping recently so we forgive him for that last effort.

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Dré