The Avengers – Film Review by Strider

The superhero movie to end all superhero movies, The Avengers has at the time of writing Hulk-smashed its way to gross over one billion dollars worldwide so most ROTFN readers have probably seen it, discussed it and seen it again, but I’ll offer my take on the film for those familiar and for, what surely must be a minority, the uninitiated.

The Avengers is the culmination of a plan by Marvel Entertainment to create a multi-film universe with each film contributing to the marvel tapestry and just as Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is the right man to assemble the Avengers, writer/director Joss Whedon is the perfect man to assemble the film.

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A Dangerous Method – Film Review by Strider

 

David Cronenberg’s latest film explores how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gave birth to psychoanalysis.

It’s not surprising that Cronenberg the director of such violent, gory and mind-warping classics such as Videodrome and Dead Ringers would be interested in the dark complex world of psychoanalysis. What is surprising is that the film itself isn’t as violent or sexually explicit as fans of Cronenberg would expect.

A Dangerous Method opens in the year 1904 as a manic, troubled young Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) is being forcibly institutionalised into a clinic in Zurich. She is placed into the care of a psychiatrist named Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) who applies the methods of his mentor, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) to treat his new patient. Although Jung and Freud have not met at this time Jung is familiar with Freud’s work in this field and will soon be invited to Vienna to meet him.

As Sabina recovers and actually begins to study psychology Jung is slowly drawn to her and they begin an affair. The affair and differing views on psychoanalysis leads to a rift between Jung and Freud.

Screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapting his own 2002 stage play ‘The Talking Cure’ (itself an adaptation of a novel by John Kerr called ‘A Most Dangerous Method’) gives plenty for the actors to chew on and thankfully the actors are more than up to the task. Mortensen, on his third collaboration with Cronenberg, is smooth and calculated as Freud but hints at more beneath the calm logical facade. Fassbender continues his incredible run of roles. Following on from his mesmerizing performance in Shame, here he plays Jung as man torn between his intellect and his sexual desires. In the hands of a less experienced actor we may have seen a more sympathetic Jung character but Fassbender doesn’t feel the need to invoke such characteristics.

Knightly’s physical performance, especially early on, may be very off-putting for some but others must shoulder some of the blame. From all accounts her performance is an accurate display of Spielrein’s physical ailments however Cronenberg places the camera so close to Knightly every physical tick or jutting jaw she makes is amplified ten-fold. Also the script doesn’t allow enough transition time for Spielrein to go from patient of Jung to student. However once that transition is complete, Knightly proves she is equal to her more experienced co-stars.

Vincent Cassell has a small, comical but pivotal role as a sex crazed patient of Jung’s who turns the tables on his psychiatrist and convinces Jung to give in to his primal urges.

Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender; left) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) engaged in thoughtful discussion.

Where the film really shines though is when Jung and Freud are on screen together. Their conversations inside Freud’s smoke filled apartment are humorous, engaging and thought provoking. There is a mutual respect between the two characters as well as a professional rivalry. The actors are very comfortable in their roles and the dialogue never feels like we are attending a lecture on psychoanalysis. It is a shame there are not more of these scenes between Freud and Jung. Perhaps that would have made a good film great.

There are many themes running through the film including anti-semitism and class systems and Cronenberg does well to subtly infuse his film with them. The film certainly looks and feels like early twentieth century Europe and credit must go to the production team and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky for bringing the era to life so vividly.

For those expecting a sordid, mind-bending erotic piece on psychoanalysis from Cronenberg (aside from a few Keira Knightly spanking scenes) you will be disappointed. But if it is a well acted and thoughtful adult drama you seek, then look no further.

Marvel’s The Avengers – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom, Hiddlestone, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Lou Ferrigno

Synopsis: Really?   I need to give a synopsis for one of the two most anticipated comic book films of the year??   What rock could people be living under?   Okay, okay, I’ll be serious.   When a major super-powered being and his army threaten Earth, no one hero alone can face it.   So Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles a team of super powered good guys, along with some highly skilled assassins, to defend Earth.   In short, he assembles THE AVENGERS!

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Battleship – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Hamish Linklater

Synopsis: Loosely based on the Hasbro game of the same name, this film sees aliens come to Earth in response to a signal that we sent, and they are not here to swap recipes for chilli con carne!   Oh yeah, and the attack happens on water so there are ships that, you know, go into battle.

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American Pie: Reunion – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

Cast: Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Lyonne, Katrina Bowden, Dania Ramirez, Ali Cobrin

Synopsis: Jim is back, as are the rest of the American Pie gang.   Pretty much everyone that has had a significant role in the series has come back for this true reunion, which can be considered a true American Pie chapter after two direct-to-DVD mistakes of films.   The problems faced by the gang have changed, but in the end it is very clear that as people, they have not changed.

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This Means War – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: McG

Cast: Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris

Synopsis: FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are two best friends whom also happen to be agents for the CIA.   Tuck is seeking love, and contacts Lauren on an online dating site with the hopes of sparking a romance.   On their first meeting, FDR waits in a nearby video store ready for a rescue should it be needed, and meets a girl there himself, not realising that it is the very same woman Tuck just had a fantastic date with.

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The Muppets (2011) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo the Great, Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis

Synopsis: Walter is the world’s biggest remaining muppet fan, having felt a connection with them since childhood.   With his brother (Segel) and his brother’s girlfriend (Adams), they travel to the now run-down muppet studios.   They stumble upon a plan of Tex Richman (Cooper) to knock the studio down to drill for oil, and so set on a mission to reunite the Muppets to save the home of their famous show.

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist

Synopsis: As a result of Ethan Hunt’s team being framed for the bombing of the Kremlin, Ghost Protocol has been initiated, resulting in the IMF being disavowed.   Hunt must go on an unsanctioned mission to prevent a terrorist codenamed Cobalt (Nyqvist) obtaining nuclear missile launch codes, and clear the reputation of the IMF in the process.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic

Synopsis: The U.S. version of the popular Swedish novel by Stieg Larrson, Fincher puts his own styling to the mysterious history of the Vanger family and the investigators called in to solve a 40-year-old mystery.   One investigator is disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig), the other a young girl named Lisbeth Salander (Mara) whom is incredibly capable despite being declared a ward of the state.

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly

Synopsis: Ritchie’s unique take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular sleuth continues with this sequel to the 2009 original.   Moriarty (Harris) emerges as the true threat and intellectual counterpart to Sherlock.   No longer just a man pulling strings he now has a face, and he seeks Sherlock’s demise such that nothing can interfere with his plans.

The key to a successful sequel is often very elusive, with few franchises getting the balance just right between what worked with the first film, and what should be added to the next to prevent the film treading familiar ground.   Even those that are successful rarely better the freshness of the original.   Unfortunately for A Game of Shadows, improvements to the original premise are made, and yet some of what made the first film original and fun was lost in the process.

One of the elements that worked really well in the original was the moments that the film went inside Sherlock’s head as he sleuthed a problem.   This is still present and correct, and at times delightfully altered, such as one fight scene having the unpredictable element of Rapace’s gypsy set the original plan off-balance.   However, it often feels as if Ritchie is rushing through these sleuthing moments, almost afraid to bog the audience down in the detail of an overly convoluted mystery.   Indeed, some of these sleuthing moments are constructed of flashes of images leading to a scene re-creation with no quiding dialogue.   This can indeed prove effective, however I did find towards the end of the film that one significant detail that was key to the overall unravelling of the mystery had escaped my notice entirely.

So in trying to avoid repeating themselves, the film instead has become a more convoluted affair, and though some of the humour from the first film is still definitely present, it could have used a lot more of that too.   Thankfully, the off-kilter relationship between Holmes and Watson does remain, with Law particularly delightful as a newly wed in this chapter.   Many of the major new characters also do not disappoint, in screen time or performance quality.   Fry is well utilised as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, a much more comic representation than in the source novels.   Harris is also a fantastic Moriarty, often under-playing his own menace, but seeming all the more menacing for doing so.   He is a fine actor, not surprising giving his father was the wonderful Richard Harris.   However, another crime of this very involved plot is that an actress of Rapace’s quality is not given nearly enough to do, and I would have loved to have seen her do a lot more.

The film does redeem itself with the final act.   Given that the final act in the last film was actually a let down, I am delighted to say that this was an area that they successfully prevented from repeating themselves.   Anyone familiar with Doyle’s source novels will also get a thrill that the film is indeed faithful to a degree to the proper Holmes/Moriarty story arc.

This is overall an enjoyable film, mostly due to how well it ends.   The journey to this ending, though containing many fun moments, is not quite as spectacular however, making this more a fun film to pass the time than anything else.

3 stars out of 5

 

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on IMDB

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU0SEeQJy0c}