Contagion (2011)

Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Sanaa Lathan, Elliott Gould, Anna Jacoby-Heron

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High, I have a good feeling about this one.

I’m not a huge Steven Soderbergh fan, but I respect him immensely. Where most Oscar-winning directors are happy to stay sheltered within the studio system once they receive their acclaim, Soderbergh is not one to be shackled to any one genre or tied to any specific type of film. He consistently makes the films he wants to make, casting unknown actors in one film and then following it up with a slickly produced Ocean’s Eleven film. If there’s one style that has become synonymous with his name though, it’s the ensemble cast drama, even if he hasn’t really made too many of them. Traffic was clearly his defining film for most people (and me as well), so going into Contagion I had an idea that it would be “Traffic with germs”.

That’s pretty much what I got, but that’s far too simple of a way to put it. It both sells the film short and fails to convey the triumph that Soderbergh has achieved with Contagion. There have been lots of viral epidemic movies throughout the years, but never have they been as hyper-realistic as this. Contagion methodically moves from day-to-day, tracking the course of the outbreak across the world. It focuses on a number of people in various locations around the world, and together their stories weave into an overall picture of the epidemic story that is Contagion. It’s like a disease procedural, so if you zoned out or got bored during this paragraph, then perhaps this film is not for you. If, on the other hand, this sounds interesting and up your alley, then definitely give Contagion a shot.

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Mini-Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech (2010)

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Andrews, Eve Best, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez, Claire Bloom, Tim Downie

Directed by Tom Hooper

Expectations: Low. I have no interest.

When a film that you have no interest in seeing wins Best Picture, what’s a film blogger to do? I probably should have just moved along, but my obsessive nature wouldn’t stop nagging me to see it, so I decided to check it out. I’ve seen most of the other big movies of last year, I might as well see the “best” one. The King’s Speech is a perfect example of why one should never blindly accept what the Academy deems the Best Picture, because while it is pretty good, it’s just so not for me.

The King’s Speech tells the tale of how the Duke of York tries to overcome his speech problem amidst the Royal drama surrounding the death of his father and the rise of World War II. Most of the film is comprised of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush shooting lots of dialogue back and forth (what did you expect from a film titled The King’s Speech, explosions?), with Firth doing his best to stay within his shell and Rush doing his best to coax out Firth’s inner demons. The acting is excellent from everyone involved and Tom Hooper shoots the film interestingly for such a boring story, so that adds an extra layer of enjoyment for someone like myself. The set design and art direction is second to none as well, with rich colorful sets that pop off the screen beautifully. I wouldn’t necessarily call it realistic, but that’s beside the point because it looks great. The music, on the other hand, is some of the most boring and generic orchestral film music I’ve heard in a while… and, of course, it received an Oscar nomination. Great by association, I guess, but I thought it was rubbish.

Lots of people have mentioned that this film is quite funny, or even a laugh-out-loud film. It didn’t hit in that way for me at all, instead I found it caught between being too serious to truly be funny and too light-hearted to be truly serious. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to realize before people’s recommendations get you going in expecting a laugh riot. Overall, The King’s Speech is a good film, but not one that I would ever really go nuts over. It’s skillfully crafted and very well put together, but it’s fairly boring, predictable and the dramatic climax lacked the punch it should have had.

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