Author Topic: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon  (Read 21356 times)

Najemikon

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Third Star ***
« Reply #45 on: October 08, 2011, 02:37:55 AM »
Third Star ***

Year: 2010
Director: Hattie Dalton
Rating: 15
Length: 92 Min.

Join James, Miles, Davy and Bill on a raucous roadtrip with a serious purpose: giving James the time of his life however little time that may be.

Third Star is a story of a dying man’s camping trip with his friends, probably his last opportunity to return to Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire, his favourite place in the world. While it immediately sounds self-important and you think you’ve probably seen this sort of film one too many times already, it is so brilliantly written with an easy charm that it effortlessly draws you in. For a while, it is a wonderful ode to life and an optimistic yet realistic tale about male friendship. It can’t maintain the standard, but nevertheless, it’s an easy recommendation.

The first star of this film is the cast. Benedict Cumberbatch is possibly the finest actor of his generation (Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and he is superb here as the terminally ill James. His is a genuine character, with melancholy humour and no self-pity to speak of, which is good news for the audience as this kind of emotional role can easily feel manipulative. In the rare moments when he is alone, you see his fear and regret written in his face, while with his friends he can be unpredictable, ranging from noble to arrogant “prick”, as they call him at one point! The relationship between the men is absolutely convincing and the film hinges on both their banter and bickering, because like any good solid friendship, they occasionally hate one another! There’s a refreshing lack of exposition at the start and the film is at its best when merely free-wheeling. Literally so, in the strange buggy-cum-wheelchair, with a tree strapped to the back. Yes, I did say ‘a tree’. They intend to plant it as a tribute to James. Tom Burke, JJ Feild and Adam Robertson are inspiring as the loyal friends and with Cumberbatch, they easily hold the focus during the most random scenes (a bar brawl is fantastic fun in particular). We could all do with a group of mates like this, whether we were terminally ill or not.

The key to them being so convincing is in the dialogue. It’s very natural so the banter never feels forced, yet you’ll laugh out loud as if they were telling finely tuned gags and the whimsical script has a neat habit of diffusing itself before it gets too serious at several points. A discussion about what happens when you die, the notion of faith and religion, etc, is ended with one of the friends protesting, “don’t piss on my Nirvana”! Possibly the best scene is merely a conversation with an odd beachcomber, looking for washed up “brown Darth Vaders”! Hattie Dalton’s clever direction means the film never drags or feels episodic. And she works at it too. Maybe she could have got away with just making sure the camera was always pointing at the brilliant cast, but there are some great scenes making the most of the landscape. A stand-out moment for me was wild ponies being startled by the guys, or a nerve shredding attempt to get the fragile James down a steep slope.

How I wish the film was like this all the way through. The loose, rather random nature of the plot could have been pursued to become something profound, something that looks at how terrible and cruel cancer is, without being maudlin; but instead it’s as if the narrative loses nerve about halfway. Clues were there from the start, if I’m honest. The background to each friend is so convenient that only the most optimistic viewer will believe it was always going to be ignored. And then there are the awkward moments that are clearly setting up The Big Finale. The last act especially feels contrived and false, playing safe by turning into a soap opera, complete with needlessly sensational twists. Worst of all, the purity of the friends’ relationship is undermined by a need for drama and conflict to expedite a story none of us actually wanted; the characters, including James, don’t feel so real anymore, but merely designed for a purpose. A jarring agenda to the story becomes unavoidably clear and suddenly a film that seemed to understand the quiet, awful nobility of cancer seems to understand nothing at all, wasting the incredible build-up on an immature denouement with no sense of consequence. The fact it is still so powerful and moving is testament to the cast, but I can’t avoid the sense I was now being manipulated.

It’s a great shame that Third Star couldn’t quite deliver, but when it’s at its best in the first hour or so, it’s a fantastic gem. Cynics will have the story figured out early on and it pains me to say they will be absolutely proved right despite the superb first half avoiding the very conventions it eventually gives in to. While the ending is undoubtedly moving, it leaves you with a nagging sense that there was a sudden lack of thought for the consequences. You might rightly feel short-changed by a production that ultimately fails to have the courage of its early convictions and becomes selfish. Yet I still implore you to see it! Those characters, the dialogue and those performances deserve to be seen and for a while at least, it's sublime.

The DVD is also worth getting for Hattie Dalton’s two marvellous short films (both under 15 minutes): Banker won a BAFTA and stars Michael Sheen as an attendant at a sperm bank. It’s funny, grotty and slightly disturbing! Highly recommended, as is the very funny One of Those Days with Derek Jacobi. It imagines Judgement Day has arrived and how the administration would work! Jacobi is great as a reasonable chap who has nevertheless had his paperwork mixed up with an infamous figure from history. Can he and his wife negotiate their way out of a bureaucratic nightmare and make it to heaven? Great stuff with a superb ending and you might never consider Derek Jacobi in quite the same way again.

Hattie’s considerable talent in these shorts demonstrates that the main feature would have been a more satisfying experience if it wasn’t weighed down by the last half hour of nonsense.


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Offline goodguy

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Re: Island ***
« Reply #46 on: October 08, 2011, 02:40:08 AM »
Thanks for drawing my attention to Island. I think I vaguely noticed it before but dismissed it for the revenge story, without knowing about the fairytale aspects or Natalie Press. And if I recall correctly, you didn't care for My Summer of Love, so you being ambivalent about this one and calling it meandering gives it extra points in my book.  ;)
« Last Edit: October 08, 2011, 02:45:29 AM by goodguy »
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: Island ***
« Reply #47 on: October 08, 2011, 02:51:36 AM »
Thanks for drawing my attention to Island. I think I vaguely noticed it before but dismissed it for the revenge story, without knowing about the fairytale aspects or Natalie Press. And if I recall correctly, you didn't care for My Summer of Love, so you being ambivalent about this one and calling it meandering gives it extra points in my book.  ;)

 :laugh: My pleasure! We should always be passionate in our reviews, but I always try to portray the subject in a way that will help others decide if it's for them, regardless of my rating or conclusion. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if we both came away with similar reservations in the end.

I know it seems like I'm trying to run a DNS attack on the site with the amount of reviews I'm catching up with, so you might have missed another one I think is definitely up your street. See Praise, an Australian drama, in my other thread... http://www.dvdcollectorsonline.com/index.php/topic,5216.msg147091.html#msg147091

samuelrichardscott

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #48 on: October 08, 2011, 01:26:34 PM »
I watched Island before sending you the review disc and I think you summed it up perfectly. :clap:

Offline goodguy

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Re: Island ***
« Reply #49 on: October 12, 2011, 08:29:46 AM »
re: Island

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if we both came away with similar reservations in the end.

 :( If anything, your review is too generous. The location is great, the actors do a fine job, but direction and cinematography are serviceable at best, with quite a few annoying distractions, such as the horror film gimmicks and flashback flashes. The opening has indeed some intrigue, but even there the film already feels a bit too neat and schematic to be of interest. As so often, mediocre films are far more disappointing than bad ones.
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #50 on: October 12, 2011, 11:38:27 AM »
Well, you know me, ever the optimist! I always give extra credit for effort, especially in such a low budget and the two ladies directing seemed to have a good sense of what they wanted. Apparently the project took several years to complete.

Unfortunately that does make you question why they didn't spot the problems which are quite fundamental. The narrative was shaping up to be quite clever, but it turned out to be disappointingly obvious and even now I can't fathom what the hell they were doing with the Nikki character.
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