I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking lately. This is in regard to a lot of things and many important. The biggest one is me trying to see the good in things and stop being so hard on myself. I’ve always been slightly critical of myself, but I’ve decided to put a stop to it. From now on, I’m going to be me. And that extends to my writing too, which I promise I’ll be back with soon. Before balance could be a problem, but I think I’ve cracked it. Now I’m all about good stuff.
- John Hurt
- Richard Briers
- Michael Graham Cox
- Harry Andrews
- Denholm Elliott
- Zero Mostel
An animated tale of survival in nature that is surprisingly mature( and many would say traumatising), Watership Down is often referred to as a film that terrified a generation of kids who thought they were seeing a film about cute bunnies. Yet while brutality is certainly not shied away from here, it’s the soul and message of Watership Down that shines the brightest.
In a warren in the English countryside, a group of rabbits live with their own beliefs on creation and how life is supposed to be. It seems so peaceful, but it is about to be shaken to the core. One rabbit by the name of Fiver has a strange vision of the destruction of their warren and warns everyone to get out. His brother Hazel believes him but they are shunned by the chief rabbit. Along with a small band of other rabbits, they stealthily leave the warren at night, joined by one of the Owsla( or in human terms, person of authority and order) Bigwig, who was originally skeptical of Fiver’s vision. They encounter all manner of danger in their search for a new home, including vicious predators, the human world and the only doe being picked off by a bird. Now without a woman among their number, they have to find some in order to continue their species. Aided by a crazed but helpful gull named Kehaar, they may just find it. It’s when the group encounters the tyrannical General Woundwort , who rules over his warren of rabbits with supreme brutality, that things turn very dark and tense for everyone. For Woundwort is a brute who will kill anything as soon as look at them, if they disobey his regime. With Hazel at the helm, he mounts an attempt to free the does from the harsh control of Woundwort. But it definitely isn’t going to be easy to create this dream paradise for them all to live in once everything is over.
Martin Rosen beautifully captures the poignant emotion and red and tooth in claw depiction of nature in the Richard Adams’s novel. Though a bit more on the running time might have been in order, Watership Down is really hard to find fault with. The animation, which boasts the feeling of landscape, watercolour painting and a naturalistic colour palette, is second to none and partnered with some unusual dreamlike sequences that stand out for their terror and vision. I mean, when we see what became of the original warren it is some skin crawling stuff. The claustrophobia of rabbits squashed on top of each other, their red eyes glowing as they are gassed is freaky and nightmare inducing. And people thought this was a movie simply for young kids? Now sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between certain rabbits, but this is a minor hitch in what is otherwise an immensely moving and startlingly honest look at how nature works. The morals of sticking together and the dangers of oppressive tyranny are well observed, with obvious parallels to the Second World War. The thematic value of Watership Down is what has made it endure for so long. It doesn’t pander to the audience or patronise, and while there are those who criticise the violence and horror, they should remember that the overall message of the film is one of finding peace, even though life is a hard journey. But as violence and shock are big parts of the movie, they can’t be ignored. I must admit to still being surprised how visceral many of the scenes are that are featured here, they still hold up on gruesome and unflinching score. The fighting, blood and bleakly brutal vision of nature is never far from view and many scenes have a lot of palpable tension. But in a way, featuring genuine violence( albeit involving anthropomorphic bunnies), it presents something different in an animated movie. Many times we go in expecting something squarely aimed at children, but I’m certain many were surprised when they discovered the bleak overtones and poignancy of Watership Down. I have massive amounts of respect for Watership Down in retaining the novel’s unflinching examination of survival and not dumbing it Down one ounce for audience satisfaction. Sometimes films try to be just a little bit too kid friendly, to the point that the film is ridiculously cheery. Believe me when I say, that is most definitely not the case when it comes to Watership Down. And I can’t review this movie without mentioning the haunting addition of ‘Bright Eyes’ sung with conviction by Art Garfunkel. It’s bound to bring a tear to the eyes.
The talented voice cast, featuring John Hurt, Richard Briers and Michael Graham Cox are exemplary at giving life to their characters and finding heart there. With such a wide breadth of voice work( also including Harry Andrews as the terrifying Woundwort, Denholm Elliott as a rabbit whose as enigmatic as he is creepy and the comedy stylings of Zero Mostel as a bird that helps the main rabbits out), it’s hard to not appreciate the ability and skill that each of them brings to the table.
Visceral yet beautifully rendered and vividly thematic, Watership Down is a film to treasure, no matter how graphic some of it is. After all, you’ll probably never forget this movie once you’ve viewed it.
I promise that more reviews will be following on my blog. Got a bit sidetracked with life but now getting Amazon Prime, I’m cluing up on my movies and television. Watch this space.
- Keira Knightley
- Alexander Skarsgård
- Jason Clarke
A melancholy and passionate story of Post-War desire and the long-lasting impacts of war itself, The Aftermath is not that original, but does she’d some light on the psyches of people learning to live after conflict. Plus, it’s complete with a handsome cast and is wonderful to look at.
It’s been five months since the Allied victory and the world is trying to move on from the destruction and darkness of the Second World War. Into the ruins of Hamburg comes Englishwoman Rachael Morgan(Keira Knightley). She is there to live with her estranged husband, Colonel Lewis Morgan(Jason Clarke) , who is closed off and reticent with emotion. He is stationed in Hamburg and is one of those charged with rebuilding the city. There is an obvious distance between the couple, which we learn is a result of the harrowing death of their young son during the War. They move into a grand house, which until recently was occupied by widowed German architect Stefan Lubert(Alexander Skarsgård) and his teenaged daughter. After losing her son, Rachael is apprehensive and hostile towards Stefan and other Germans. Lewis seems to adopt a more diplomatic position, trying to not group innocent Germans into the stereotype of all being Nazi’s. A further wedge is driven between Rachael and Lewis when he reveals that he will let Stefan and his daughter stay in the house. He thinks it is wrong to simply kick them out of the house. Rachael is vehemently against the idea of letting them stay, but Lewis insists on it. While Lewis is busy and not communicating with his wife about what’s become of their marriage, Rachael struggles to cope with life and her own feelings of hurt and anger. Around this time, the tensions between Rachael and Stefan move into an intense and unexpected affair. Rachael discovers a strength and semblance of normality again, brought out by the wounded but sensitive Stefan, who lost his wife in the war. Their love intensifies once Lewis is away on duty. But their affair isn’t meant to last and will no doubt have harsh consequences if ever revealed.
James Kent, who previously directed another war drama in Testament of Youth, once more provides his efficiency and sensitivity to this emotive story. He’s got the right hand to steer what is a familiar tale and still keep it interesting. While it isn’t as deeply felt or tragic as the aforementioned Testament of Youth, Kent acquits himself admirably here. Familiar is a word many reviewers have applied to this film and I can see why. But familiar doesn’t mean bad in any way, just a tad repetitive in some areas. Where The Aftermath most succeeds is its ruminations on the difficulty of grief and how war is not always black and white. We examine how the War did damage on both sides and that the impact of it didn’t just leave people once the fighting ended. There was a whole world of sadness, regret and hardship among millions affected by the length of World War II and what it brought with it. The three principal characters are all hurting from loss and bottling it up, setting the stage for it to come out unexpectedly. There are some moments that occasionally ring a bit hollow and sometimes events play out in predictable fashion. The subplot of Stefan’s daughter falling in with a Nazi who still wants to fight for the cause is pretty boring and not at all well handled. There’s a lingering feeling that a bit more oomph may have benefited The Aftermath. But a few unexpected moments and the way it quietly yet perceptively examines hardship and the pain of war, makes The Aftermath have a certain emotional quality that overcomes a few flaws. In regards to how The Aftermath looks, it’s gorgeously shot with snowy vistas a plenty and a certain glow, as well as passion in the love scenes between Knightley and Skarsgård. Yet it doesn’t shy away from the destruction of war and the dark remnants of conflict hang with a gloomy air alongside splendid winters. Costumes and sets are also of a high quality, matching the period with immense detail and style. And the music, which is a big highlight, has a romantic longing and sweeping angle that is just right for The Aftermath. Plus, the lovely usage of ‘Clair de Lune’ is a nice touch and always a joy to my ears.
A handsome cast fleshes out their roles with emotion and clarity. Heading the lot is Keira Knightley, who has poise, sadness and the eventual emergence of hope down to a tee. Her face expresses so much of what Rachael is trying to hide and she reveals emotion slowly but effectively. Knightley is definitely the right person to embody unresolved anger, deep melancholy and bruised hardship in a period setting. Simply put, Keira Knightley is excellent in her role. Plus her chemistry with both Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Clarke is spot on in different ways. Alexander Skarsgård has the looks and quiet dignity for his role as romantic stranger sweeping Rachael up into an affair. But he’s no wolf, simply a man who is decent and also hurting from the impact of World War II. Just like Rachael, he is searching for someone to understand his grief with and Skarsgård plays that beautifully. Jason Clarke is often the most quiet character of the peace, being the utmost definition of the stiff upper lip. He’s a man whose feelings are coiled within and that he tries to keep in check. Clarke, who possesses a sad eyed demeanour and the feeling of internal strife, riveting at playing a man dedicated to his job which allows him to bury his troubles. But once they come spilling out, all the pain and bitterness is there plain to see. The two sides of the part are telegraphed wonderfully by the often underrated Jason Clarke. These three actors do their thing with admirable skill at delving into the damaged minds of each character and how they need to unravel.
So while it gets a bit clichéd in quarters, The Aftermath is still watchable as a stylish evocation of grief and the emotions pertaining to it. Handsomely shot and nicely performed, it’s far from a masterpiece, but still a movie with enough emotion to stir.
2000's, Beth Grant, Donnie Darko, Drama, Drew Barrymore, Holmes Osborne, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Katharine Ross, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Noah Wyle, Patrick Swayze, Richard Kelly, Science Fiction, Seth Rogen
- Jake Gyllenhaal
- Jena Malone
- Mary McDonnell
- Holmes Osborne
- Katharine Ross
- Beth Grant
- Patrick Swayze
- Drew Barrymore
- Noah Wyle
- Maggie Gyllenhaal
- Seth Rogen
A genuine cult film that defies being boxed into a specific genre, Donnie Darko is a mind bending film, that’s layered with thematic material, a biting edge and eerie ambience galore.
Donnie Darko(Jake Gyllenhaal) is a suburban teenager in the 1988 who is prone to sleepwalking and disturbing thoughts. He’s a charismatic, smart but troubled young man who seems to delight in challenging authority whenever he can. His parents ( Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne) and sisters (one being Gyllenhaal’s real sister Maggie) are confused by him and don’t know how to react to him. On medication to combat his anti-social behaviour towards others and what is seen as paranoid schizophrenia , he one night starts hearing a voice telling him to come outside. Once he gets there, he discovers the voice comes from a frightening looking, six-foot tall rabbit named Frank. He is informed that in twenty-eight days, six hours, forty-two minutes and twelve seconds, the world will end. After waking up far from his house, once he returns he finds that a jet engine crashed into his bedroom. This further highlights the weirdness in Donnie’s life and functions as another indicator of potential doom for everyone. Donnie starts to attend a psychotherapist(Katharine Ross), who tries to fathom what’s going on in Donnie’s mind, but has extreme difficulty opening it up. Most adults seem to act unusually around Donnie, which aids his further alienation from life. Some however seem to understand like the rebellious English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), her boyfriend/ fellow professor of science Kenneth Monnitoff( Noah Wyle)and new girl Gretchen( Jena Malone). But then there is the over zealous and devout gym teacher Kitty Farmer(Beth Grant) who is buttoned and wants everyone to follow her lead and slimy motivational speaker Jim Cunningham( Patrick Swayze). As Donnie’s doomsday visions become more frequent and he is driven to commit violent acts by the spooky rabbit, Frank’s mention of time travel sends his mind reeling about what the visions represent. Picking up a book from his professor on the subject, Donnie dives into discovering how he fits into this apocalyptic vision. Is the world really going to end? And if so, what is Donnie supposed to do to stop it?
Richard Kelly made his debut with this film and though his output since has been mixed( though I did like the often maligned and misunderstood The Box), at least he can be remembered for creating this iconic and complex movie. Kelly transports us into the strange world of teenage years and what was going on in the 80’s, but amps it up with the theme of time travel and cause and effect. You just know from the question raising opening that you’re in store for something very unusual and far from conventional. The script, written by Kelly, is unnerving, caustically funny and highly imaginative, which is a bonus for someone who enjoys all those things when done right . It fleshes out a mystery in the film and creates a fine character in the form of the title anti-hero. He’s disturbed there’s no doubt about it, but he speaks quite a lot of sense when others won’t. And at first we aren’t sure whether what he sees are hallucinations or not, but you definitely know they point to something extremely ominous in the future for everyone. Coming of age is a big theme here and one can view the film as an analogy of puberty and adolescence, as it’s often a time associated with change and something pulling us in a specific direction. And the countdown motif telling us how many days until Armageddon is a real nerve shaker.
Believe me, you’ll find yourself thinking about Donnie Darko a lot after viewing it. The enigmatic story which has a lot of layers and ideas on its mind engages the brain, but refuses to give cheap, easy answers. It’s too smart for that and instead functions as ambiguous and challenging. Whichever angle you want to view the film from, there is something here for everyone to sink their teeth into and think of their interpretation of it all. You can see it as a biting satire in suburbia and conformity, with the disturbed Donnie being the one who fights back against it, coupled with social drama. Or as a sci-fi flick about time travel and how events play out differently because of change. I’d say the film is both of these things and that’s partly why I love it so much. It plays by its own rules and doesn’t try to be like everything else, something which I applaud. I mean you know a film is challenging and complex when there are thousands of websites dedicated to deciphering the many meanings of it. From a visual standpoint, Donnie Darko is extremely atmospheric and immersive thanks to creative camerawork such as slow zooming shots and a gloomy yet strangely majestic colour in cinematography, occasionally punctuated by brightness. Music plays a key role in Donnie Darko; exemplified by the 80’s heavy soundtrack( filled with Tears for Fears, Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division) and unusual, distorted thumping of the score that keeps going with alarming intention. One of the best uses of music is the cover of ‘Mad World’ which is stripped back and haunting as it plays over panning shots of all the people impacted by Donnie in a masterful sequence.
In the role that really announced him as a major acting talent, Jake Gyllenhaal is simply put excellent as the main protagonist. He has to go through so many changing emotions, often very quickly and he does it all without missing a beat. The sly, sardonic smile that reveals his disdain for others, the intense stare of alienation and disillusionment and a certain nuance to the mercurial mood swings are all embodied to a strangely charismatic height by the greatness of Gyllenhaal. It is the definition of a star-making role that Gyllenhaal made the most of and clearly shows him as one of the best actors of his generation. Jena Malone boasts a haunting quality as his love interest, who wrestles with her own demons during the course of the movie. Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne both make impressions as Donnie’s parents who are bewildered and bemused by his behaviour, as does Katharine Ross as his psychotherapist. A major standout is the scene-stealing Beth Grant. Playing someone whose vicious, unapologetic antagonism is disguised as righteousness is both a hoot and something alarming. She scolds, lectures but never seems to be able to understand others thanks to her bigoted ways and watching her come apart, especially as a result of Donnie, is a sight to behold. And also really standing out is Patrick Swayze; filtering his natural charm offensive into something more charlatan and far from what it first appears. It’s one of the most interesting and different roles Swayze ever took and it shows off his considerable talent. Drew Barrymore has the right rebellious but dedicated attitude for her part of a teacher, persecuted for trying to engage with her students in a way that contrasts with the conservative approach of others. Ably supporting that feeling of challenging conformity is Noah Wyle, who opens Donnie up to the idea of time travel. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her present felt, with her sparring and jabs at her brother and especially in the later half in emotional fashion. Plus, look out for an early role from Seth Rogen.
A hypnotic, unusual and engaging story of creepy certainty and eerie atmosphere, twined with fine acting and ambiguity, Donnie Darko is simply a must see.
I’ve been so busy lately, that I’ve neglected blogging. I’m sorry for this everyone and promise to be back soon. You know how life can get so busy at times. But I’ll be back from today and I’ll make sure to catch up on everything.