Saturday, 10 May 2008

The Heiress

Movie Review: The Heiress

Year of Release: 1949
Country of Origin: USA
Director: William Wyler
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson

Plot outline: A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter (IMDb).

After being denied her second Oscar for her impressive work in The Snake Pit (1948), Olivia de Havilland came back a year later with even stronger, finer performance ... the Academy couldn't deny or overlook her achievement anymore. The Heiress is a dramatic masterpiece, based on the literary work by Henry James - "Washington Square", with stunning performance by Ms. de Havilland. It's amazing to see, as the story progresses, how skillful and convincing she evolves from a shy, weak girl to a vengeful, strong woman. My favourite scene, the most unforgettable, is the closing scene when she leaves Mr. Clift's character locked out of the house pounding on the door, while she calmly walks up the stairs with hardened look on her face. Director's use of closeup and lamp light serve to set and accentuate the character's final emotion. This scene reminds me of Gloria Swanson's stunning performance in the closing scene in Sunset Boulevard (1950). Ralph Richardson gives superb performance as a bitter, resentful father, while Montgomery Clift - young, handsome and on the brink of stardom - gives his best as a seductive lover. The story itself is very rich ... so rich that there are no easy answers. You can think that the father is right about the young man, and he only wants to protect his daughter. But, at the same time you can see how bitter he is toward his daughter - he blames the death of his adored, beloved wife on her. The young man could be what the father thinks he is, or he could be a man who really loves her, in his own way, and would make her happy. Or maybe both? We'll never know.

My judgement: ***1/2 out of 4 stars

Monday, 5 May 2008

Spider-man (trilogy)

Movie Review: Spider-man (trilogy)

Year of Release: 2002
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco

Plot outline: When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family (IMDb).

Spider-man 2
Year of Release: 2004
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina

Plot outline: Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius, who becomes Doctor Octopus (aka Doc Ock), after an accident causes him to bond psychically with mechanical tentacles that do his bidding (IMDb).

Spider-man 3
Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church

Plot outline: A strange black entity from another world bonds with Peter Parker and causes inner turmoil as he contends with new villains, temptations, and revenge (IMDb).

The first movie, with a perfect blend of cartoon and reality, smartly and stylishly tells about Spider-man's humble beginnings. Orphaned since childhood and cared for by his uncle and auntie, Peter Parker grows up shy, weak and unassuming. Compared to other superheroes, he is the least likely to become a superhero. His modest background makes him closer to us - therefore, easier for us to relate to and sympathize with him. Tobey Maguire is a perfect fit for this role, while Kirsten Dunst is a perfect match for him. Willem Dafoe is appropriately villainous-looking. But the accolade goes to J. K. Simmons who hits the mark as comical J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher. Combination of good script and good cast make this first instalment a very pleasing surprise.

The second movie, while preserving the perfect blend of cartoon and reality from the previous instalment, vigorously and boldly delves into the psyche of the characters, the inner conflict within themselves and the outer conflict between them, giving this second instalment the atmosphere of not just another comic book movie but a very rich character driven movie. Even a bigger surprise than the previous movie.

The third movie, difficult to match or surpass the second instalment, start to lose the grip on its story. The special FX is undoubtedly invigorating, but the story feels made up and the characters seem insincere, e.g. inner conflict caused by an unknown extra-terrestrial entity- too far fetched?, outer conflict between Spider-man and M. J. - previously of great significance and lovable Miss Watson becomes rather insignificant and unlikeable. Overall, the third movie is adequate, but because the two previous instalments are above expectation, adequate is simply not good enough.

My judgement:
**1/2 out of4 stars for Spider-man (2002)
*** out of 4 stars for Spider-man 2 (2004)
** out of 4 stars for Spider-man 3 (2007)