Tag Archive: dvd


Babel (2006) Review

Babel is the third offering from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in his ‘Death’ trilogy, following Amores Perros and 21 Grams. Being a big fan of 21 Grams I was looking forward to watching Babel and had high expectations due to the amount of critical acclaim it received back upon its release.

Babel tells the stories of four different families in three different continents who are all connected by one tragic incident. But as much as Babel is about these families and their stories the stories take a back seat in order for Inarritu and scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga to develop and explore pivotal themes in human life such as death, communication and family. It is a good job really because I felt that none of the stories were really strong enough to stand up by themselves and all supported one another significantly. However, the story that takes place in Japan is a little less connected to the others and, despite arguably being the most interesting of the four stories, has little bearing on the film as a whole.

As well as the deep themes being explored it is also the terrific acting that makes Babel worth the watch. Brad Pitt is not a name associated with the phrase ‘terrific acting’; yes he is a bankable name and yes he is world famous but he’s never been the best actor around but Babel sees Pitt put in a really emotional performance and is definitely one of his best to date. The real stand out performance for me was, again, in the Japanese story. Rinku Kikuchi as Chieko Wataya, a deaf-mute Japanese schoolgirl, is incredible. This is genuinely one of the best performances I think that I have ever seen, it is so compelling and just layered with intrigue that it is not a performance soon forgotten. It’s a whole international effort with stellar performances coming from actors and actresses of all nationalities including Adriana Barazza, Elle Fanning, Mohamed Akhzam and Gael Garcia Bernal. But any Cate Blanchett fans thinking of watching Babel I probably wouldn’t bother. She is on the front of the DVD case and her name is one of the most well known of the cast but she is barely in it and after her first scene she barely even speaks or moves.

As you might well expect the direction from Inarritu is flawless. Babel is not one of the strongest films I have ever seen but it is up there with the most beautiful. Inarritu clearly has a talent for his craft and this is nothing less than perfection in his directing of the film. Every single shot is well thought out and every single detail is covered. It is his performance as director that makes Babel what it is.

For all of it’s good points, as I mentioned earlier none of the stories are really that strong. It is hard to gain an emotional connection to any of the characters when you are being flown across the globe and back again to get all of these different stories flying at you. And for all the good acting and brilliant directing that is something that I could not look past. The writing needed to make the characters easier to connect with for the audience.

My Rating: 6/10.

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Everything Must Go Review

As soon as I finished watching Everything Must Go I had to Youtube the trailer because on the front of the DVD case the quote “sharply funny” was embedded along with “Ferrell has never been better”. These two quotes indicated to me that I would be watching a comedy and sure enough, the trailer makes Everything Must Go out to be a comedy drama. So I got all settled down, ready to laugh my head off at Will Ferrell doing some daft things… Everything Must Go should not be called a comedy.

Everything Must Go is more of an observation of five days into Nick Halsy’s (Will Ferrell) life; a small window which is enough to see his life be ruined. After losing his job for falling back into his alcohol addiction, Halsy returns home to find the locks on the door, gate and garage changed and everything he owns thrown out onto the front yard – this is the worst day of his life. Nick does nothing to change this and instead lives on his front yard until the police are called (who knew it was a crime to drink beer and have all your stuff on a front yard you have actually paid for?). Nick’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, detective Frank Garcia (Michael Pena) informs him that the law states you can hold a yard sale for five days and so Nick decides to sell all of his belongings.

It’s a nice story and despite it not being a comedy as it is so wrongly advertised what you actually get is a real gripping character piece. Will Ferrell, one of the best comedy actors of his generation (if not all time), is successful because he can actually act and here is has to rely wholly on those skills rather than comedic actions or elements and it is a terrific performance. For the most part this is an independently Ferrell film but with a few minutes on screen from the likes of Rebecca Hall, Michael Pena and Christopher Jordan Wallace the acting is really top notch.

The film doesn’t really give you that happy ending you would hope for after the first twenty to thirty minutes pretty much force you to watch the self destruction of a human life as we know it and Everything Must Go does leave the ending open without the audience knowing if Nick is going to turn his life around for good or not. One thing is for certain though, his friendship that grows with Rebecca Hall’s character and the young boy Kenny (Wallace) are very believable and warming relationships in an otherwise low tone of a drama.

Everything Must Go is a slow burner and as I mentioned before it is very much a character study but if you give it a chance and can stick with it past the first fifteen/twenty minutes then you will enjoy the story of Nick Halsy. Ferrell’s performance is enough to keep the audience’s attention even if you would rather see him in something like Anchorman. This won’t go down as one of the best films ever and it won’t win any fans for it’s guessable plot twists but it does invoke sympathy and tells a very good story.

My Rating: 6/10.

Leonardo DiCaprio is undoubtedly one of the best and most versatile actors working today, if not one of the best of all time. He is one of my favourite actors which is obvious to anyone who knows me seeing as how I own almost all of his films on DVD and have watched them all numerous times. But ever since I first watched Blood Diamond it has been, not only my favourite performance by DiCaprio but also, one of my favourite films and I genuinely believe it is one of the greatest films ever made, despite not being received incredibly well by critics (perhaps due to the source material).

Blood Diamond is a story of three very different characters and how their lives and journeys merge together because of the illegal diamond smuggling industry coming out of countries like Sierra Leone (where the film is set) and being financed by a (fictional) company named Van de Kamp back in London, England. The movie is described as a political war thriller and features several political strands, the title itself is an obvious reference to the name given to the diamonds that are sourced from war torn African countries which are sold to finance the conflict. There is also the prominence of children being forced to become soldiers in these war torn countries too. Blood Diamond was set during the Sierra Leone Civil War between 1996-2001 and released in 2006, yet these problems still exist in some African countries which makes the film just as relevant today and the issues it brings to the forefront of your mind even more relevant because nothing has really changed. But despite being a politically fuelled film I don’t believe that Blood Diamond rams issues down your throat and force feeds you opinions because at the heart of it is a very convincing and very entertaining, in the most dramatic sense, trio of heroes.

Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely phenomenal as Danny Archer, a former mercenary turned diamond smuggler, and upon release of Blood Diamond he received a huge amount of praise for his authentic South African accent. Archer is the anti-hero, yes he helps Solomon find his family but only because of his own motives to retrieve the huge pink diamond Solomon found, steal it, sell it and get away from the conflict to live a very rich and extensive lifestyle elsewhere. DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for the film. His co-star, Djimon Hounsou who plays Solomon Vandy, a fisherman captured by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and forced to work to find diamonds while his family go on the run, his son later being captured and forced to become a deadly warrior. Hounsou got the nod at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor but I would argue that here Vandy is the main character and it is not DiCaprio’s Archer because it is Vandy we get to know first and it is his story that we care about. Hounsou’s emotionally fuelled performance is one of the best I’ve seen and he really was terrific! Finally Jennifer Connelly completes the trio and she plays Maddy Bowen, a journalist who is trying to expose the illegal conflict diamond trade and change things. Her crush on Danny Archer is mutual and they help each other out a lot throughout the film. Bowen actually helps the character development of Danny Archer; their romantic subplot does not seem forced and thankfully there isn’t a ridiculously placed kiss before Archer leaves just to keep Hollywood happy. The development that Archer goes through over the course of Blood Diamond is a really brilliant arc: in the beginning he is a man out for himself just wanting to make money, but as the film goes on he eventually turns into the guy willing to sacrifice himself so that his new friend (Vandy) can escape with his son and change his life as well as many others too. The relationship between Archer and Vandy is really interesting to watch and grabs your attention right form their first meeting.

The action is fantastic and David Harewood is brilliant as the warlord Captain Poison. For a man who spent most of his career working on British television series’ including Casualty, The Bill, Doctor Who and Hustle it really is quite an exceptional role that he got and a performance that matches those of DiCaprio and Hounsou. But the highlight of the film for me is when Solomon Vandy is reunited with his son Dia. What should be an incredibly happy and joyous moment is taken in a completely different direction by Blood Diamond and it was fantastic to watch. You’re wondering what is going to happen since Dia has been brainwashed into a cold hearted killer but the moment they reunite is beautifully written and is a masterpiece of acting.

Blood Diamond may not have been the most well received film but it is definitely one of my favourites and no doubt always will be. The storyline, the characters, the acting is perfect. I cannot recommend Blood Diamond highly enough!