It was aight – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

From the minute I saw the first trailer to David Fincher’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, I was psyched! From the stylised camerawork and quick cuts of scenes from the film, to the use of the menacing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, I just had to see “the feel-bad movie of Christmas”. One month later, after the film was nominated for 5 Academy Awards (Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Editing and  Sound Mixing), I was more than anxious to see it for myself. I mean, it’s based off the critically-acclaimed 2009 Swedish film of the same name, and the successful novel of the same name, so it HAD to be good, right? Well….

Before I get to the review, I must mention the fact that I got into the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” craze ass-backwards i.e. I watched the American film, then the Swedish film a few days after. I still haven’t read the book or the other two books in Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium Trilogy” , and I’m not sure if I will….EVER.  So keep in mind that this review is about the 2011 film and is in no way bashing the original Swedish film and book.

Good? Yes!  Now on to the review…..

PLOT

Mikael Blomkvist, co-owner of the political magazine “Millenium”, has just lost a libel case involving allegations he published about businessman Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker extraordinaire and the aforementioned “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, does an extensive background check on Mikael for Henrik Vanger, retired CEO of Vanger Industries. With the help of his lawyer Dirch Frode, Henrik requests assistance from Mikael for an important job –  solving the disappearance (or possible murder) of his niece.  To do this job, Mikael must spend his time on Henrik’s island estate until he solves the case.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth has problems of her own to deal with. Her legal guardian has suffered a stroke, and now she must stay with Nils Bjurman, a lawyer who seizes control of her finances. If I could describe Nils in two words, they’d be “perverted-ass motherfucker” (That’s three words. I know)!  When Nils is asked for money by Lisbeth, he sexually abuses her, and pays her after the humiliating ordeals are over. But unknown to Nils, and known to the viewer by then, Lisbeth is a bad-ass motherfucker (That’s still three words. I know)! She fucks him up BAD. REALLY BAD. That’s all I have to say on that matter.

Anyhoo, Lisbeth is called on by Dirch to help Mikael in solving the case. They quickly form an unusual partnership, and relationship, with each other. Together, they will enter a dark world of corruption and crime unlike anything they’ve ever seen.

CHARACTERS

Mikael Blomkvist – Daniel Craig

Lisbeth Salander- Rooney Mara

Henrik Vanger – Christopher Plummer

Dirch Frode  – Steven Berkoff

Nils Bjurman – Yorick van Wageningen

MY THOUGHTS: Just so you know, I am a huge fan of David Fincher’s films. I mean, he directed “Se7en” and “Fight Club”, two films that changed the way I looked at movies forever! And he made “The Social Network”, one of the best films of 2010. And don’t get me wrong – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is yet another well-made David Fincher film. Fincher creates a dark, neo-noirish world in this film with brilliant cinematography (which deserved an Oscar nomination), moody characters, ominous sound design (which should WIN an Oscar – I’m just saying) and a convoluted, yet engaging, plot. It looks and feels radically different from the superior Swedish version, which this one closely follows.  The performances are great, but it’s Rooney Mara who steals the show. DURRRHHH! She’s nominated for Best Actress, for chrissake! Personally, I don’t consider her performance to be Oscar-worthy (even though it was a risky one), but if she does win the Oscar for Best Actress, I just may wind up eating my words. But what was the problem with this film, you ask? Well, simply put, it was OVER-HYPED!

From the way the trailer was done, anyone without knowledge of the plot of the original movie or book would think that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a dark, intense THRILLER From the film’s creepily dark, and admittedly AWESOME, James Bond-ish opening title sequence set to the same song from the trailer (I wonder if this sequence was Daniel Craig’s idea, since he is now James Bond), I was expecting the same thing. But while watching the film, I realized that it was less of a fast-paced thriller and more of a slow-paced MYSTERY.  Right there and then, my expectations were lowered. And I know I’m not the only one.

Ultimately, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a mixed bag for me. Just like the original film, this remake is well-made, well-shot and well-acted. And yes, the film’s intense, disturbing scenes were really fucking intense and disturbing, even more than the Swedish version. But still, I left the film expecting more. From the film’s trailers and TV spots, and the positive word-of-mouth weeks after its release, I really thought that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would have been a highly intense film experience. Matter of fact, I bet you assumed the same thing, whether you read the books or not. But over-hyping the film doesn’t change the fact that it’s just about two individuals trying to solve a case. One just happens to have a really cool dragon tattoo on her back.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? If you enjoyed (and I use this term loosely) the book and/or the Swedish film, then you should enjoy “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. If you haven’t read the book, or seen the Swedish film, and you really want to see what’s the big deal about David Fincher’s latest film, then proceed with caution. If you go into the film with lowered expectations, you’d probably appreciate it a lot more than I did. Perhaps after a couple more views, I may appreciate “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” as well.  Or maybe when the Oscar buzz dies down. It’s not the first time that I disliked a film at first, and then grew to love it. And it definitely won’t be the last. But for now, I can say that in my opinion, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was aight.

The trailer is still fucking awesome, though! I’m just saying.

MY RATING – 3 out of 5 stars (“It was aight”)

– Matthew

Definitely see this movie – The Artist (2011)

A SILENT MOVIE? “The Artist”, directed by French director Michel Hazanavicius (cool surname, huh?), starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller and Malcolm McDowell, which was nominated for a truckload of awards, won some of those awards and will eventually be nominated in the Academy Awards, is a SILENT MOVIE?!! “But it’s the 21st century! Nobody makes silent movies! To hell with “The Artist”! I ain’t watching that shit!”, you might probably be thinking.  But before you return to a film world of uninspiring movies inspired by TV shows (“21 Jump Street, anyone?), tired-ass sequels (“Underworld: Awakening”, anyone?) and unnecessary 3D re-releases (“Titanic 3D”, anyone?), please consider this.

“The Artist” is technically a silent film, but it’s much more. It’s a tribute, almost a celebration, of the silent film era. Similar to “Singin’ in the Rain” (the greatest musical film EVER – in my honest opinion), it also shows the transition of cinema from the silent film to the self-explanatory “talkie”. Ever since its release late last year, “The Artist” has received universal praise from critics and viewers. It was also in a lot of Top 10 Movies of 2011 lists. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to watch this film before the end of last year. But whatever! I finally viewed it, and here’s my review.

PLOT

Hollywood, 1929. George Valentin is a superstar in the silent film industry. One day, during the premiere of his latest film, he’s outside – all smiles – posing for pictures. Suddenly, someone accidentally pushes a woman in front of George. The woman’s name is Peppy Miller. Of course, photographs are taken of George and Peppy together, and the question everyone wants answered is: “Who’s that Girl?” (cue Eve song here). This infuriates George’s wife Doris, who is shown to be growing tired of their marriage. Anyhoo, Peppy auditions as a dancer and catches the eye of George.  He begs the studio boss Al Zimmer to put her in a role in his latest film. Al objects, but eventually agrees. During the filming of George’s new movie, sparks begin to fly between George and Peppy.

Peppy gradually becomes popular in the film industry, getting bigger and better roles in every consecutive film. However, with the onset of the sound film, Peppy becomes a superstar herself in the “talkies”. George is stubborn about conforming to talking on-screen, so he continues making silent films. While Peppy’s career becomes successful, George’s career plummets. Things go from bad to worse for George, which, of course, worries Peppy. Will George become a star again? Will he speak in front of millions or stay silent on his own? These questions and more will be answered in “The Artist” (not to be confused with Prince).

CHARACTERS

George Valentin – Jean Dujardin

Peppy Miller – Berenice Bejo

Clifton – James Cromwell

Al Zimmer  – John Goodman

Doris – Penelope Ann Miller

The Butler – Malcolm McDowell

MY THOUGHTS: To make a serious black-and-white silent film in this day and age takes guts – and an absolute passion for cinema. This is presented entirely throughout “The Artist”. Even the most novice of cinephiles can watch this film, and tell that it comes from a person who truly loves cinema. You can tell that the director carefully studied silent films before making this one. “The Artist” looks and sounds like a 1920s silent film. When I say “looks”, I mean that the film, through skillful post-production, is presented visually in film stock-like shades of black, grey and white. When I say “sounds”, I’m referring to the BRILLIANT Golden Globe-winning score by Ludovic Bource. The music is composed in the same orchestral style as a silent film, in which a specific song is played, then ends with a few seconds of silence, and then another song is played. The music is very effective in transporting the viewer into the 1920s. Interestingly enough, there is one piece of music that was actually taken from another film. A famous song from the late, great Bernard Hermann’s score to the late, great Alfred Hitchcock’s classic mystery “Vertigo” is used in the film. If you’ve seen “Vertigo”, then you know what song I’m referring to. YEAH, THAT ONE!  It has been debated by some viewers as to why this piece of music was used in the film, since it’s used in an entirely different way from “Vertigo”. I honestly admit that the use of this music threw me off slightly, but it did not prevent me from appreciating the scene, and the film in general. Clearly, it’s a nod to Bernard Hermann, since that piece of music is REALLY DAMN GOOD!  But to me, I see it as a reminder to the viewer that “The Artist” is both a pastiche (i.e. imitation) and tribute to classic movies.

Even though there are moments of melodrama in “The Artist”, the film is, as I mentioned earlier, a celebration of silent films. It takes what makes silent films so appealing to veteran movie lovers and presents it to a new generation. From the broad smile and gentlemanly attitude of George Valentin to the pretty face and dance movements of Peppy Miller, “The Artist” has visual cues from other classic silent movies. There’s even the title cards with the classy font on them as well in this film! Finally, I must mention the performances in this film. While everyone performed great in this film, it is Jean Dujardin who steals the show. He is completely convincing as George Valentin – so convincing that at some point in time, you will believe that he is, or was, an actual silent film star. Even his transition from movie superstar to a washed-up failure is amazing to watch. He truly deserved the Best Actor Golden Globe for his performance. Who knows? He just might win an Academy Award for Best Actor as well. Hmmmmm.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? If you truly love film, or if you’re interested in the history of cinema, then HELL YES – you should definitely see “The Artist”. It’s highly entertaining, it’s moving, it’s emotional and it will leave you with a smile on your face. And it’s only 96 minutes long – shorter than the major summer blockbuster. Had I seen it last year, I would have quickly added it to my Top 10 list. Yes, it’s THAT GOOD! Director Michel Hazanavicius (cool surname, huh?) took a huge risk with “The Artist” and the end result was better than I expected.

If silent films aren’t your thing, I suggest you still give this film a look.  If you need more convincing, go to YouTube and look for the video to Yolanda Be Cool’s monu-fucking-mental club song “We No Speak Americano”. Take notice at the way the video is made. Once you realize that the video is also a pastiche of silent film, you’ll begin to understand the significance of silent movies, and how they have, in some shape or form, influenced the films that we see today. Then, hopefully, you’ll watch “The Artist”. Come on! Go see the film already! I’ll wait.

MY RATING – 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Definitely see this movie”)

– Matthew

(Un)intentionally bad movies – Ninja Terminator (1985)

When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the martial arts films that were shown every Saturday afternoon on the local television station Channel 4.  These films weren’t the CLASSIC martial arts films of the 1970s, like “Enter the Dragon”, “Drunken Master”, “Five Deadly Venoms” and “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” among many others. They were the cheesy, low-budget, “fight scene every 5 minutes” films of the 1980s. Some were good and some were FUCKING AWFUL! But I didn’t care at that time in my life. I was young, and seeing guys jump and flip into the air, and kicking their opponents in slow motion was the SHIT! Those cheesy kung fu films can either be viewed online (YouTube has a lot of those old-school kung fu movies, just in case you were wondering) or bought from your friendly neighbourhood bootleg DVD provider.

A popular type of kung fu film that was shown on Channel 4 was the “ninja movie”.  This sub-genre of kung fu films were widely popular in the 1980s. This genre died when “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Power Rangers” and “3 Ninjas” (remember that shit?!) made the term “ninja” accessible for kids. This is clearly evident today with the popularity of the Japanese manga/anime “Naruto”. Hollywood tried to resurrect the ninja sub-genre with 2009’s “Ninja Assassin” with mixed results.

Which brings me to “Ninja Terminator”, a classic (for all the wrong reasons) ninja film directed by Godfrey Ho. Mind you, he’s no Steven Spielberg when it comes to his movies, but he is, and should be known, for his “cut-and-paste” technique. In a nutshell, he spliced pieces of other martial arts films into ONE movie in a ridiculous attempt to make a longer, more cohesive narrative. The end results of his experiments yielded some of the most unintentionally hilarious films ever made – according to Wikipedia….and YouTube. The names of these films (“Ninja Thunderbolt”, “Rage of a Ninja”, “The Ninja Squad” etc. etc.) aided in their hilarity. You can find the trailers for these films on YouTube – and trust me, they’re fucking ridiculous!

I stumbled upon “Ninja Terminator” a couple years back, and watched it out of curiosity. By the end, I thought it was the funniest (in a bad way) and most absurd martial arts films I’ve ever seen. I re-discovered it on YouTube last night and thought to myself “Maybe I should watch “Ninja Terminator” again with an open mind and then write a review on it”. Obviously, I was idle. But here we are, with my review of “Ninja Terminator”.

Warning: this longer-than-usual review contains spoilers, and pictures. ‘Cause what’s the use of reading lots of words if there aren’t any pictures, right?

The film begins with a blatant rip-off of the Columbia Pictures logo (you know, the one with the Statue of Liberty) as shown above. The music played starts with a musical refrain similar to a section of the “Star Wars” theme song composed by John Williams. This is the first example of Godfrey using unauthorized music and images for his films. It doesn’t stop there. You have been warned.

And then the cheesy 80s theme song for “Ninja Terminator” begins. This music is so cheesy and so 80s that it makes me want to open out a large cardboard box and attempt to do some breakdancing. And then, we see the title of the film. Apparently, the name of the show is really “A Ninja Terminator” since there’s a big “A” sticking out from the left side of the frame.

And then, the story begins. We open to a Japanese temple, where a group of Caucasian ninjas (I SHIT YOU NOT) are partaking in a bizarre ceremony. This ceremony is part of the 20th anniversary of the ninja empire (You can take a minute to let that sink in….and laugh your ass off! I’ll wait). The Caucasian ninjas proceed to open a box, after which they take out three pieces (left and right arms, and head) of a golden statue of a warrior. It is revealed that this statue is the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. I have to put it in capital letters since they STRESS on it so goddamn much! Suddenly, the “SUPREME NINJA” shows up, dressed in red with a ridiculous black cape. He does the cliched bad guy laugh, but adds a distinct “A” to it – so it sounds like “A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”.  He does some quick, Naruto-like hand gestures in front of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. This makes his ARMS, (not his body, ladies and gentlemen…..his fucking ARMS!) invulnerable to sword attacks. The scene ends when he does another “A-HAHAHAHAHAHA” laugh.

The next day, 3 ninjas (remember that shit?!) in black steal the statue. One of the ninjas is Harry, played by the superb actor (I’m being ironic, guys) Richard Harrison. It can be assumed that Richard was stoned while acting in this film.  I mean, look at his eyes!

Anyhoo, a group of RED ninjas give chase. Of course, they are killed by the black ninjas. Cut to Hong Kong, 2 years later. A red ninja catches up with one of the black ninjas and kills him. First and foremost, why in God’s name did it take the bad guys TWO YEARS to find the guys who stole their precious statue?  This is but one of many unanswered questions in “Ninja Terminator”. Later, a  Chinese man in a blonde wig (check the pic below) named Tiger is ordered by his Caucasian boss to find the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR.

The Caucasian boss believes that the sister (named Machiko) and brother of the dead ninja knows where the statue is, and so Tiger sends his goons to kill them. What they do however is kick the shit out of the brother, killing him in the process. It isn’t shown what happened to Machiko, as the next scene shows Harry in his apartment. Dressed in a green camouflage ninja outfit (Naruto, eat your heart out!), Harry is seen slicing a watermelon into neatly-cut pieces. In one scene, he even helps his wife when the crabs that she is about to cook fall onto the ground. Sitting on the couch while his wife screams for help, Harry takes a kunai and throws it onto the back of one of the crabs. WOW! Talk about being a considerate husband!

In the next scene, Harry calls a Chinese guy named Jaguar (or how they pronounce it in the film: JAG-U-AR) Wong from his (infamous) Garfield telephone. Jaguar is a friend of Harry, and is asked to find Machiko before the bad guys do.

Jaguar is presented in the film as a BAD-ASS. He actually delivers the kung fu in the film, as he beats goon after goon (who always appear in groups of three or four for some reason) sent by Tiger. Actually, everywhere Jaguar goes, someone is trying to kill him or kick his ass! In one memorable scene, he asks three guys (who are shown throwing and catching a baseball) for directions to the restaurant in which Machiko works at. All the guys had to do was simply tell Jaguar where the restaurant is. Instead, they pick a fight with him.  After he kicks the shit out of the 3 guys, he asks again for directions. One guy lying on his stomach replies in pain: “It’s over there…..”. The restaurant was just across the street. You gotta be fucking kidding me!

Anyhoo, Jaguar finally meets Machiko and offers to help her. He also follows another woman in the slowest high-speed car chase in an action movie I’ve ever seen! The woman is named Lily, who is Jaguar’s ex-girlfriend. They talk some shit about the past and then suddenly, Jaguar, being the bad-ass that he is, kisses Lily. Of course, you know what that means! OH YEAH! A TV-PG sex scene! After the sex, Lily reveals that her new boyfriend is a goon named Victor, who just so happens to be working for Tiger. PLOT TWIST!

Meanwhile, Harry has problems of his own. The ninja empire is pissed about the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR fiasco and wants his head (cue the “Imperial March” song from ‘The Empire Strikes Back”). In one scene, the empire sends a toy robot (you know those cheap, battery-operated toy robots that were made in China? Yeah, something like that!) to send a recorded message. Harry has 3 days to return the statue or else. I’m assuming that this toy robot is perhaps the “NINJA TERMINATOR” in the film’s title. I could be wrong, since there’s no fucking point to the title anyway!

Now back to Jaguar’s movie….. I mean, story. Machiko is in the restaurant celebrating her birthday. Suddenly, there’s  a power outage. The lights come back on, and Machiko disappears…. UNDERTAKER STYLE! She was actually kidnapped by Tiger’s goons, where they proceed to torture  her for info about the missing statue. Jaguar winds up in a trap set up by Lily (that BITCH!) and he is caught by Tiger’s goons also. Lily is shown in the next scene being proposed by Victor, who promises that he will quit the goon lifestyle and start a family. We all know that’s an excuse for Victor to get some nookie, which he does get…. in another TV-PG sex scene, complete with unauthorized Pink Floyd music (don’t ask).

Through sheer luck, Jaguar manages to escape his captors, and returns to ass-kicking mode. The goons then tape Machiko’s torture and send the cassette to Harry via the toy robot. Harry and his wife sit down on the couch and watch the poorly-shot video. Harry calls Jaguar and tells him to KINDAP LILY in retaliation to Machiko’s torture. Harry’s wife is probably thinking: “This is what I get for leaving my ex for a fucking ninja!”.

Jaguar does as ordered. He finds Lily and tells her that he has to kidnap her in order to save Machiko. Lily willingly agrees to help Jaguar, and fuck up Victor in the process (that BITCH!). Jaguar calls Victor and tells him that he kidnapped Lily. Machiko is revealed to be tied up in Tiger’s place, with a timebomb strapped to her. Victor, who has the remote, meets Jaguar and gets his ass kicked. Jaguar takes the remote, drives back to Tiger’s place and saves Machiko. And this would be the last time we see Machiko for the rest of the film. What happened to her at that point? I don’t know, and I don’t fucking care!

Jaguar goes back and confronts Tiger, at last!! A lengthy fight scene occurs between the two, and Jaguar emerges as the winner. WOO-HOO! We now return to Harry, who confronts a red ninja who has the headpiece of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. A fight scene occurs between the two, and Harry emerges as the winner. WOO-HOO! The red ninja, who is amazingly still alive, admits defeat and claims that he can never return to the ninja empire. Harry takes all pieces of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR and slowly walks away. Suddenly, the red ninja does a Naruto-style hand gesture and BLOWS UP! Seriously! He…fucking…..BLOWS…..UP! Look at the pic, goddammit!

Harry unwisely breaks the rule of “walking away from an explosion”. You’re not supposed to look back when the explosion takes place. But this is what Harry does, and then, after 82 minutes of waiting, we finally see the credit “THE END”.

LAST WORDS: There are movies that are so bad, they’re good and then there are movies that are so bad, they’re bad. And then there’s “Ninja Terminator”. This shit defies gravity, logic and common sense.  It’s also really fucking hilarious, depending on your sense of humour. Apart from the okayish fight scenes, everything else in this film falls flat. The story, or should I say stories of Harry and Jaguar, are poorly written and ACTED. The dialogue is laughable and the dubbing is generic and pathetic. Questions are still left unanswered in the film: for example, what happened to the Supreme “A-HAHAHAHAHAHA” Ninja? Whatever happened to Machiko? And where can I get one of those Garfield telephones? I may never know. “Ninja Terminator” has to be seen to be believed. Fortunately, this masterpiece is still on YouTube, so if you’re still curious, I suggest you watch this shit! However, I suggest that you have a bottle of alcohol nearby while watching this film. You’ll either get drunk enough to watch the entire film, or knock yourself out with the bottle instead of watching the rest of it. I could have talked about other films that’ll be talked about for the next few weeks like “The Descendants”, “The Artist” or “Hugo”. But I just HAD to talk about this shit. Besides, how are we to know what makes a good film if we don’t know what makes a bad film? Think about it.

By the way, here’s the trailer for “Ninja Terminator”. If this doesn’t motivate you to watch this timeless classic, I don’t know what will  😀

– Matthew

Worth a look – War Horse (2011)

Call it the last year on the Mayan calendar or a damn entertaining disaster film that came out 3 years ago, but 2012 is here, and has already started. I had a lot to reflect on from last year. I was even wondering  if I really was THAT harsh at “The Smurfs”, which I put at No. 10 of my Worst Films list of 2011. I mean, I only watched 15 minutes of the damn show…. but it was TERRIBLE!  I could have put something else – like the ‘horror’/action film “Priest”, but then again, I wanted to put a movie that people would have actually SEEN (audience goes “ooooooooooooo”)

Anyhoo, a new year has started and you know what that means: the Golden Globe Awards ceremony is nearby! And that is just the precursor to the MOTHER of all movie award ceremonies….. THE MTV MOVIE AWARDS! 😀   But seriously, what I’m talking about is the 84th Academy Awards. It’s a question as to which film will win the top prize (Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Picture) for the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards respectively. But I can safely say this film that I’m about to review has a HUGE chance of snagging…..I mean, winning….something in at least one of these award ceremonies.

“War Horse” is the second film released last year by the legendary director Steven Spielberg, the first one being the AWESOME 3D animated adventure “The Adventures of Tintin”. It was released on Christmas Day, along with two other films: the Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock drama “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and the last worst film of 2011 that I (and many others) fortunately didn’t have the pleasure of seeing:- the alien invasion film “The Darkest Hour”. It is based on the 1982 children’s novel of the same name, which was first adapted in 2007 into a successful (and still playing, by the way) stage play.

The film itself wasn’t hyped as much as “The Adventures of Tintin”, which was a critical and commercial success, just in case you were wondering. But coming from Steven Spielberg, the guy who made MANY great films in his career, “War Horse” is clearly intended to be an Oscar contender. I mean, it’s already nominated for 2 Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture – Drama and Best Original Score (by longtime Spielberg collaborator, John Williams). But was “War Horse” a truly great film or just another so-so effort from Steven Spielberg? Let’s see, shall we….

PLOT

Our story is set in pre-WWI England, where we are introduced to Albert Narracott. His father, Ted, purchases a colt at an auction instead of a plough horse for his farm. Albert calls the horse “Joey” and successfully trains him. However, due to financial woes, Ted is forced to sell Joey to the military as World War I breaks out. Albert, who has developed a strong bond with Joey, tries to enlist into the military. He is unsuccessful, since he is too young. Joey is sent to France to serve as a cavalry horse. This begins Joey’s extraordinary journey, as he winds up on both sides of the war between England and Germany, and is also befriended by a French girl named Emilie. But amidst the bullets, bombs and bloodshed that face him, will Joey re-unite with Albert or will he become another casualty in the war?

CHARACTERS

Albert Narracott – Jeremy Irvine

Rose Narracott (Mum) – Emily Watson

Ted Narracott (Dad) – Peter Mullan

Captain Nicholls – Tom Hiddleston

Lyons -David Thewlis

Emilie – Celine Buckens

MY THOUGHTS: Obviously, “War Horse” is more than a WAR movie about a HORSE. It is actually an affectionate tribute to classic cinema. The first act of the film, where Albert bonds with Joey, is reminiscent of “National Velvet” (1944) and “Black Beauty” (1946), two dramas which….you guessed it… are about horses. The scenes which take place inside the trenches echo the classic Stanley Kubrick anti-war film “Paths of Glory” (1957). And the VISUALLY STUNNING conclusion of the film contains elements of the epic “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and the John Ford western “The Searchers” (1956). But even if you haven’t seen these films (which you SHOULD – especially the last three I mentioned), there’s still lots to appreciate in “War Horse”. The story is well-written and well-paced, the music is emotional and powerful, and the performances are great. Amazingly enough, there are no A-list Hollywood actors in this film, which is good since “War Horse” is not about the human actors. It’s about the HORSE! And “Joey” (or whatever his ‘real’ name is) literally carries the weight (emotionally, of course) in the film. There is one scene in which Joey escapes a German tank, and runs through trenches, a muddy battlefield and even BARB WIRE, while avoiding gunfire and explosions. It is one of the best scenes in the whole film and a reason enough to watch “War Horse”. I’m just saying!

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? If you love war movies, and you’re expecting lots of bloody, brutal scenes of violence, then you’ll be disappointed with”War Horse”. If you’re the type of person that yells “HORSEEEEEEEE!!!” every time you see a horse on TV, then you should enjoy this film. You’ll probably be crying a lot more than the standard moviegoer though. If you love Steven Spielberg films, then you’ll REALLY enjoy “War Horse”. In my opinion, it is a really good show. But it’s not one of the greatest Spielberg films I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t have to be. It works as a great book-to-film adaptation, a great war drama and as a great tribute to classic cinema. And that’s good enough for me. “War Horse” is definitely worth a look.

MY RATING – 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

– Matthew