Andrew Eaton

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The Emperor's New Clothes Review


Excellent

Political documentaries tend to get the blood boiling, and this is no exception, as it keeps us entertained with a lucid exploration of just how our governments have failed us economically. The central topic is income inequality, and having a riotous figure like Russell Brand front and centre brings the issues home in a clear, infuriating way. Director Michael Winterbottom does a terrific job reining Brand in, keeping him on-point and making sure the details are clearly presented.

Right from the start Brand says that there's nothing in this film we don't already know. But he's connecting the dots in ways that the media certainly isn't willing to do, because they're part of the problem. Indeed, as he works with a classroom of young students, he proves that even a child can understand that our system simply isn't fair: the rich are getting richer, but the poor are struggling more than ever as the gap between them grows out of all proportion. Instead of tackling this problem, the politicians simply deflect it, blaming something as essentially irrelevant as immigration while neglecting a fundamental human value we all teach our children: sharing.

The film goes back in history to explore how we got here. In the 1970s, the wealthy earned 10 times what their lowest-paid employees earned, but the policies of Reagan and Thatcher shifted the balance to the rich, arguing that the cash would trickle down into the rest of society. But that has never happened. Companies and banks only consolidated power and profits, as the free market system made the highest-earning 1 percent even more greedy and selfish than they were before. Now top earners get up to 300 times what their employees are paid. No wonder people are broke, small businesses are failing and towns are in bankruptcy, while the rich just get richer.

Continue reading: The Emperor's New Clothes Review

Rush Review


Excellent

Exhilarating racing action punctuates this true story, which sharply traces the rivalry between two Formula One champs. It's superbly well-shot and edited, with engaging performances from the entire cast. And with only one moment of calculated sentimentality, it's director Ron Howard's most honest movie in years.

The story begins in the early 1970s, when two rising-star F1 drivers clash over their very different styles. Britain's James Hunt (Hemsworth) is a swaggering womaniser, revelling in the rock-star lifestyle. By contrast, Austria's Niki Lauda (Bruhl) is a fiercely detailed technician who loves pushing barriers. They clearly see things they like in each other, so their different approaches on the track develop into a competitive relationship that spurs them to the front of the pack. Over the years, both meet their wives (Wilde and Lara, respectively) and move from team to team as they rise to the top of their sport. And their rivalry comes to a head at the 1976 German Grand Prix when world champion Lauda is involved in a horrific, fiery accident.

Morgan's script is essentially two biopics cleverly woven together to let us see the push and pull between these two iconic figures. Unexpectedly, Bruhl's Lauda emerges as the stronger character, with his grounded approach and sardonic wit allowing Bruhl to play effectively with submerged emotions. By contrast, Hemsworth's Hunt is little more than a gifted good-time boy who isn't worried about his lack of substance. It's a likeable, loose performance (we barely notice the wobbly British accent). Opposite them Lara and Wilde provide solid, subtle support, as do the fine actors who fill out the pit crews.

Continue reading: Rush Review

Good Vibrations Review


OK

The story of Belfast's "godfather of punk" is told with plenty of groovy style to match the 1970s setting, mixing the music with colourful locations and lively characters. But while the story is fascinating, the film itself is too cluttered and fragmented to resonate with anyone who isn't already familiar with the events.

As politics and religion rage against each other in late-1960s Northern Ireland, local DJ Terry Hooley (Dormer) rejects both sides to concentrate on the music he loves. His wife Ruth (Whittaker) loves it as well, but starts to worry when Terry catches the fire of the punk movement, which stands up boldly to society. Soon Terry is helping promote local bands through his Good Vibrations record shop, discovering the likes of Rudi, the Outcasts and, most notably, the Undertones and their mega-hit Teenage Kicks. Terry knows what he has with them, but is doing this out of passion for the music. Which means he never keeps enough cash for himself to pay his bills.

Filmmakers D'Sa and Leyburn follow Hooley closely through his rollercoaster life, from moments of high excess to more harrowing scenes as his business and marriage fall apart around him. The narrative bounces quickly through the decades, keeping the tone light while remembering the seriousness of the violent clashes in the streets and the darker emotional issues that keep coming to the surface. But Hooley is a happy-go-lucky guy, only barely aware that he is squandering his resources. And Dormer delivers a remarkably vivid performance as a funny and hugely likeable guy who prefers to help others instead of himself.

Continue reading: Good Vibrations Review

360 Review


OK
Loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde, this beautifully assembled film is easy to watch. But that's the problem: the subject matter should be much more difficult than this, as it's about having the courage to make unexpected choices.

In Vienna, British businessman Michael (Law) has arranged to meet Slovakian prostitute Blanka (Siposova) on her first night on the job. But the situation shifts, and Michael ends up thinking about his wife (Weisz) in London.

Meanwhile, she's having a fling with a Brazilian (Cazarre) whose girlfriend (Flor) is fed up with his infidelity. On her flight home, she meets a troubled British man (Hopkins) and a recovering sex-offender (Foster). Meanwhile, an Algerian dentist (Debbouze) in Paris is in love with his Russian employee (Drukarova), whose husband (Vdovichenkov) works for a hotheaded gangster (Ivanir).

Continue reading: 360 Review

Screening of 360 at BFI London Film Festival - Arrivals

Andrew Eaton Wednesday 12th October 2011 Screening of 360 at BFI London Film Festival - Arrivals London, England

Andrew Eaton

The BFI London Film Festival: '360' European film premiere held at the Odeon Leicester Square

Andrew Eaton and Odeon Leicester Square Wednesday 12th October 2011 The BFI London Film Festival: '360' European film premiere held at the Odeon Leicester Square London, England

Andrew Eaton and Odeon Leicester Square
Andrew Eaton and Odeon Leicester Square

The Killer Inside Me Review


OK
Being based on the Jim Thompson novel, this could never be a cheery romp.

Indeed, Winterbottom keeps Thompson's bleakness intact, leaving us little to engage with. But the film has an earth beauty and is a haunting look at the dark side of being human.

Lou Ford (Affleck) is a small-town deputy in 1950s West Texas, where he's still struggling with childhood demons and feelings of inadequacy. Even though he has an adoring girlfriend (Hudson), he starts a torrid fling with a prostitute (Alba) who lives on the edge of town. And as he sets in motion an elaborate revenge plot, we discover that underneath his nice guy exterior Lou is a sadistic murderer. And he's only barely staying one step ahead of the investigators (including Bower, Koteas and Baker).

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The Unloved Review


Excellent
Actress-turned-filmmaker Morton shows a remarkable confidence as director of this intensely personal drama, which is loosely based on her own experiences.

And even though the story wobbles along the way, it's a vital, involving film.

Lucy (Windsor) is an 11-year-old living with her father (Carlyle) in Nottingham. But when a schoolteacher discovers that she has been violently beaten, she's placed in a care home, sharing a room with 16-year-old tearaway Lauren (Socha). Lauren takes Lucy on several rather illicit outings, constantly landing the pair in trouble. And when Lucy wonders why she can't live with her mother (Lynch), her social worker (Stacey) only says that it's not possible.

Continue reading: The Unloved Review

Snow Cake Review


OK
Turning what might have been an "illness of the week" tragedy into an affecting, entertaining entry for arthouse patrons, director Marc Evans, working from Angela Pell's screenplay, pulls it off in a small-scale way but with emotional sensitivity and a solid cast with particular appeal to the increasing numbers of people who have personal experience with autism.

Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young hitchhiker with more spirit than fear, enters a restaurant, scans it, and picks a man sitting alone to delight with her company. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), a laconic Englishman, barely tolerates the intrusion on his quiet privacy with a gabby adolescent and, after displaying what is, for him, considerable patience, rejects her suggestion to ride with him. He leaves, as alone as when he came in, and drives off.

Continue reading: Snow Cake Review

A Mighty Heart Review


Excellent
It's a sign of filmmaking prowess, and occasionally genius, when a director can hand viewers a scenario with a foregone conclusion and make them get lost in the story anyway. In A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom shows that he is definitely that kind of director, flinging us into a panicked maelstrom of chases and false leads that all lead to the same murderous finale, one that is likely clear even to people unfamiliar with the true story the film is closely molded from. Daniel Pearl, respected and beloved journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Karachi in late January 2002 as he was researching a story on the shoe-bomber Richard Reid. His pregnant wife, journalist Mariane Pearl, marshals an ad-hoc group of his co-workers, Pakistani police, and U.S. officials to find him before it's too late. They're too late.

At the time, Pearl's kidnapping was like a tertiary aftershock to 9/11, proving that nobody was safe. The World Trade Center, international symbol of dominating Western capitalism, made sense as a target. Pearl, a universally respected journalist (evidence shows that "beloved" would actually not have been too strong a description of people's feelings about him) who wanted only to understand the terrorists and to explain them to the world, made no sense. And it's that swirling fog of frightened confusion that Winterbottom evokes so powerfully in A Mighty Heart, one of the best films yet made about modern terrorism.

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Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Review


Good
At one point during Michael Winterbottom's shambolically hilarious Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film about trying to film the legendarily unfilmmable 18th century novel, Steve Coogan says to a reporter that the wonderful thing about Laurence Sterne's book (which he obviously hasn't read) is how ahead of its time it was, that it was "a postmodern novel... before there was a modernism... to be post of." It's a throwaway line in some respects, but it's an excellent example of the layered absurdist humor that abounds within its wonderfully loose format. This is a film about ego, the fatal inability of people to plan their lives, and the delirious chaos of the creative process. It's also about what utter jerks movie stars can be, God bless 'em.

Sterne's novel is a big old mess and has never been quite accepted in the literary canon. Published in nine installments over a decade, it's a subplot-mad, diversion-crazed bildungsroman where the narrator - Shandy - can't even get past describing his own birth by the end of the book, due to his tendency to go off on tangents. Along the way it packs in satires of contemporary intellectuals like Pope and Locke and plays with the novelistic form, including even having one page printed entirely black to represent sorrow at a character's death. They try that in the film, but then realize it's not quite so interesting for audience.

Continue reading: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Review

The Road to Guantanamo Review


OK
The search-for-Al-Qaeda exposés hit a strange turn with Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' The Road to Guantanamo. A mockumentary that is supposed to be taken dead seriously, we are thrown into a small hell of assumption and horror that often reaches for, but never really matches, the sneaked Guantanamo footage or any of the thousand torture videos produced by either side in the lengthy war campaign. It's a stinger, but it has the taste and smell of plastic.

On a road trip to meet his bride, Asif (Arfan Usman) finds himself in need of a new best man and groomsmen when his best friend cops out on him. Ruhel (Farhad Harum) accepts it and their friends Monir and Shafiq take on the groomsmen positions on the road trip to meet his future (arranged) wife. On their way, they decide to take a bus to Afghanistan, for no other reason then to help spread peace. They hit the border and a bomb explodes, setting off a terrible series of events: Monir gets lost, the remaining three bump into Northern Alliance soldiers who believe they are Pakistanis (read: terrorists) and send the lot of them to Guantanamo. Winterbottom and Whitecross go all-out to show the inhumanity of the tortures and tricky games that the three men are put through before they are let out.

Continue reading: The Road to Guantanamo Review

The Claim Review


OK
In the vein of Unforgiven comes this moody western about another small town in the middle of nowhere, struggling with its place in a world quickly passing it by.

Central to the story is Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan), mayor of the town of Kingdom Come, Nevada, located on the spot of the gold claim he struck during the 1849 gold rush, some 20 years earlier. Or so we are led to believe. As it turns out, Dillon's claim was given to him in trade -- in trade for his wife and daughter, sold as if they were slaves.

Continue reading: The Claim Review

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Review


Good
At one point during Michael Winterbottom's shambolically hilarious Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film about trying to film the legendarily unfilmmable 18th century novel, Steve Coogan says to a reporter that the wonderful thing about Laurence Sterne's book (which he obviously hasn't read) is how ahead of its time it was, that it was "a postmodern novel... before there was a modernism... to be post of." It's a throwaway line in some respects, but it's an excellent example of the layered absurdist humor that abounds within its wonderfully loose format. This is a film about ego, the fatal inability of people to plan their lives, and the delirious chaos of the creative process. It's also about what utter jerks movie stars can be, God bless 'em.

Sterne's novel is a big old mess and has never been quite accepted in the literary canon. Published in nine installments over a decade, it's a subplot-mad, diversion-crazed bildungsroman where the narrator - Shandy - can't even get past describing his own birth by the end of the book, due to his tendency to go off on tangents. Along the way it packs in satires of contemporary intellectuals like Pope and Locke and plays with the novelistic form, including even having one page printed entirely black to represent sorrow at a character's death. They try that in the film, but then realize it's not quite so interesting for audience.

Continue reading: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Review

Wonderland (2000) Review


Weak
The city of London has a million stories, and Wonderland tells just one of them -- well, okay, three. No, five -- five! Six -- eight -- all right, eleven subplots competing for screen time.

At the center are three sisters lookin' for a little love and compassion. Perky Soho waitress Nadia (Gina McKee, Croupier), her hair punked out in cute rabbit ears, indulges in the lonely hearts club of personal ads for Mr. Right, or at least a decent lay. Abrasive, no-nonsense hairdresser Debbie (Shirley Henderson, Topsy-Turvy) settles into a tract of not taking shit from anyone, especially her irresponsible ex, Dan (Ian Hart, Spring Forward). He can barely be counted on for weekend visits to their teenage son (Peter Marfleet). Molly (Molly Parker, Waking the Dead) is very pregnant and needs a little support from her friends, especially when her husband (John Simm) goes through a mid-life career meltdown.

Continue reading: Wonderland (2000) Review

Andrew Eaton

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