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Wadrick's Celluloid Dungeon

Frost/Nixon (2008) • Funny Games (2007) • Beowulf (2008)

Frost/Nixon (2008) Poster Art
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones and Kevin Bacon.
Written by Peter Morgan.
Directed by Ron Howard.

Following on the heels of the much-maligned Cinderella Man and the tawdry ‘suspense’ of The Da Vinci Code, director Ron Howard has fashioned his most entertaining film in years. The improbable basis for such an exciting dramatic film are the 1977 interviews conducted by playboy British TV personality David Frost with the disgraced US President Richard Nixon. When attempts to sell the idea to a major US network fails, Frost decides to raise the money himself and sell the interviews later, a decision which keeps the project on a knife-edge. Unaccustomed to the intricacies of the interview process, Frost initially flounders and the last half of the film plays out like a boxing title fight, substituting words for fists. This drama of personality is wonderfully detailed by a stellar cast, led by two towering performances from Sheen and Langella, and supported by Rockwell and Platt (as two investigators hired by Frost to prepare the interview) and the ever reliable Bacon (as Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan) to name a few. Written by Morgan (The Queen) from his play, Frost/Nixon is a rush of pure cinematic pleasure.


Funny Games (2007) Poster Art
Funny Games (2007)
Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart.
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke.

When Hollywood decides to remake a foreign film, it is inevitably of pale comparison to the original. Films such as Wings of Desire (remade as City of Angels) and even the recent flood of Asian horror films remade in America force many to ask what the point is. The obvious answer is money, of course, and an aversion to sub-titles, and Funny Games is another addition in this long line of rehashed films for an ignorant audience. Director Haneke made the original film in Austria – in 1997 it was treated as a minor classic of independent cinema and in some ways, rightfully so – it was brash and unique, and definitely not for the squeamish. The film centres on a husband and wife and their young son who travel to a lakeside getaway. They are soon taken hostage by a pair of young ne’er-do-wells, dressed in a creepy ensemble of white tennis clothes and gloves. They proceed to terrorise the family (and you in the audience) with a series of nasty mind games. None of the actors can be faulted – Watts and Roth are tremendous in difficult roles, and Pitt and Corbet are truly astounding as the young perpetrators. But this is literally a carbon copy of the original film save for the fact that the dialogue is spoken English, so I feel as though I am reviewing the original anyway. So, I guess it depends on whether you wish to ‘read’ the film or not in your decision to watch this or seek out the original version.


Beowulf (2008) Poster Art
Beowulf (2008)
Performance Capture by Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, Brendan Gleeson, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman and Crispin Glover.
Written by Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Beowulf is a hero who comes to Denmark to slay a monster. When he despatches the creature, he incurs the wrath of her sexy mother. The two create a pact which will eventually come back to bite the ‘Wulf on his ass. Director Zemeckis is a master of the cinematic medium, understanding the virtually limitless possibilities of this artform. An entertaining telling of the epic poem, this visually stunning film manages to also feel hollow at times, thanks largely to the decision to create this film on a computer. It’s tough to imagine why Zemeckis would chose to use this technology (apart from being bored and wishing to experiment), and I can’t help thinking that this a story that would have had much more power if it were filmed on location as a ‘live-action’ film, incorporating CGI. The film has momentum to spare, and at its best has many scenes that are rendered into a sort of surreal reality. Yet at its worst, it displays everything that is wrong with computer-animated films – an all-too obvious lack of realism that is in stark contrast to what this kind of animation attempts to achieve.


RATINGS CHART…

Wadrick Jones' Film Rating Chart.


(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)

Discussion

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  1. As for your review for “Frost/Nixon” you tell that some part of it has been inspired from “The Da Vinci Code” (one of my favorite books) I would really love to watch the movie.

    Reviews for the other 2 movies also seem to be intresting. I think you should add a star widget to rate the movies, so we get to know which will be a good time pass 😉

    Posted by Graphic Design Blog | January 27, 2009, 10:33 pm
  2. Cool reviews, Wadrick. I totally agree with you in regards to the self-sabotaging nature of CGI (Beowulf). It tries for realism, yet can only achieve stylisation. It kinda works against itself. Very true man.

    Side point: Also, i wasn’t aware that Manz audtioned for Funny Games, but when i saw the poster next to Manz’s Photo Collections pic, i thought: ‘Hang on?!’ Jeez…No one tells me anything here in the halls of the GritFX offices. 😉

    Posted by Decoy Spoon | January 27, 2009, 10:39 pm
  3. Hi Wadrick.
    Just wanted to say that I LOVED “Frost/Nixon”!! Good to see it got an “Awesome Shit” rating :)

    It sounds juvenile, but I found myself clapping… I haven’t been moved to do that in such a long time. I like Ron Howards work.

    I haven’t seen the other two flicks…

    Posted by Manz | January 27, 2009, 10:42 pm
  4. Hiya Decoy… we must have just posted comments at the same time – that or I’m a really slow typist… I’m not really, I just needed to make sure I had all my spelling correct – I’m a shocking speller!

    Anyway, I was only just saying to Dave that I thought Naomi was hotty, so I’ll take your comment as a compliment 😉

    Posted by Manz | January 27, 2009, 10:47 pm
  5. hey people…thanks for the comments…

    Graphic Design Blog dude – you misinterpreted what I meant. Frost/Nixon and Da Vinci Code are NOT alike in any way – just share the same director. If you liked the Da Vinci Code, you might hate Frost/Nixon (I thought Da Vinci Code sucked balls – both the film AND the book….sorry)…
    And dude – I DO rate each movie – I just use a clipboard instead of a star (check it out).

    Decoy – Manz was originally cast to appear in Funny Games, but they wanted a more recognisable name.

    Manz – babe, I was cheering in Frost/Nixon too – the power of great cinema, eh?

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | January 28, 2009, 12:36 am
  6. I watched the original Frost Nixon when t happened and it was a snooze. Your review makes me want to watch the film. But Nixon was really dull. The dullest of all time.

    Hey I gave you guys a blogger award on RK tonight hope you like it! Thanks for adding my button on Grit!

    Posted by RetroKimmer | January 28, 2009, 6:46 pm
  7. Hey Retro – thanks for the comment.
    I have seen some of the real interviews and agreed, they were the ultimate cure for insomnia.

    This is actually expressed well in the film – the moribund nature of most of the interviews left Frost and his investigators thinking that what they had undertaken was going to be a supreme disappointment, not to mention the end of their careers. It is this element that gives the film much of its excitement for I found myself cheering for Frost to make good.

    Still, it is Hollywood – so a potentially dull subject is given the full treatment, turning it into a highly entertaining piece.

    Thanks for the award, by the way – hope to see you here again.

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | January 28, 2009, 8:09 pm
  8. OK, I was on the fence about seeing Frost/Nixon, but now I am going to watch it. Cool, thanks Wadrick.

    As far as Funny Games is concerned, I watched a movie a few years back where Michael Pitt played Kurt Cobain and it was so indulgent and melodramatic that it makes me not want to watch him in another film.

    Had not thought about Beowulf, but noticed it is on sale at the local Blockbuster for 5 dollars. So I was guessing that it wasn’t the best movie, haha. I don’t care for movies made entirely from CGI, but I do like the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon I have seen on the Cartoon Network. I guess I can stand about 20 minutes of CGI before it get annoying. My wife officially boycotts all CGI films, so I don’t see any of the new cartoons in the theater.

    Posted by Bill Donovan | January 29, 2009, 9:05 pm
  9. Bill – I know that film about Cobain…think it was called Last Days. True – it sucked ass, but I think it had more to do with the film itself (ie: script, direction, dullness) than Pitt…still, if ya gonna watch Funny Games, watch the original.

    Heh, heh – Beowulf for $5…that’s a bit rich! I did enjoy this movie to some degree (as my review suggested), but I can’t condone creating an animated movie that tries to be ‘real’…what’s the point of that?

    Thanks for the comment, my man.

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | January 29, 2009, 10:08 pm
  10. In my opinion, CGI should only be used to create imagery that is not available in reality.

    I don’t like the look of Beowulf at all.

    Posted by Manz | January 30, 2009, 2:53 pm
  11. CGI is ok for video games…

    But my heart belongs to the early Nintendo games, like Super Mario Brothers, Ninja Gaiden, and Metroid…

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 3, 2009, 4:38 pm

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