My Top Ten Natalie Portman Movies

Happy 37th Birthday (tomorrow!) to Natalie Portman.

I’ve always liked Portman but probably wouldn’t think to include her in a list of favorite actresses. And after doing this list, I see she’s really not been in any favorite films of mine. I mean, even number one on my list isn’t exactly one that I love. That’s a shame. She’s a very good actress – she just seems to not be in many movies that are my type of thing.

As always, I’ve ranked these according to how much I like the movie instead of by Portman’s performance. Here are My Top Ten Natalie Portman Movies (counting down & including all I’ve seen):

The Rest I’ve Seen:

17. No Strings Attached
16. Jackie
15. Cold Mountain
14. Where The Heart Is
13. Anywhere But Here
12. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
11. Garden State

Top Ten:

10. Closer

9. Beautiful Girls

8. Annihilation

7. Mars Attacks!

6. Black Swan

5. The Thor Movies

4. V For Vendetta

3. The Star Wars Prequels (Well, they kind of suck but I’m being nice since it’s Star Wars)

2. Heat

1. Leon

Some I’ve Not Seen:

Zoolander, The Darjeeling Limited, My Blueberry Nights, The Other Boelyn Girl, Brothers, I’m Still Here, Your Highness, Knight Of Cups, Jane Got A Gun, Song To Song

Advertisements

Annihilation (2018) Review

Annihilation (2018)

Directed by Alex Garland

Based on Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Annihilation follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.

My Opinion:

I’m really glad this got rave reviews. I love a good sci-fi film. It’s great that there seems to have been a resurgence of hard sci-fi in the past few years with things such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina. However, I seem to be one of the very few who found Annihilation a bit of a disappointment.

I’m definitely a Garland fan. Besides Ex Machina, which I thought was absolutely brilliant, he wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later…., Sunshine, and Dredd. I love all those, so maybe that’s why Annihilation was disappointing? That may be part of it but I think the biggest problem was that I read the book first (by Jeff VanderMeer) and I liked it a lot.

The movie follows the book quite closely to begin with but then goes off the rails. I do wonder how I’d feel if I’d not read the book? I’d probably have loved how utterly bizarre the film becomes at the end (I love weird shit). But you know what? The book is even more crazy. I really wanted to review the book as I enjoyed it so much but never did as I had no clue how to describe it. The novel perfectly conveyed this overall eerie feeling that stayed with me long after reading it. Unfortunately, my favorite parts (and the creepiest) were completely left out of the film. I can kind of understand why as it would’ve been hard to translate to film without it looking cheesy, but… Shit. I was so looking forward to seeing how those parts would be handled. In the book, there was a mysterious underground structure that seemed somehow linked to the lighthouse but was far more disturbing. The film kind of combined the two places a little bit but I still feel cheated.

Okay, I’ll try to focus on the positive now because I do still think this is a good sci-fi movie even though it doesn’t quite live up to the novel. I loved the look of this film and the gorgeous “Shimmer” they enter. The world inside The Shimmer looked as strange & beautful as how I’d imagined it. The ending involving the lighthouse was enjoyable even though it was completely different to what I was expecting. And, yes, I liked it being a group of women but this is the same as in the book anyway. To be honest, I’m giving less and less of a shit about who stars in a film as long as the story is good and the acting doesn’t totally suck.


The characters aren’t that well developed but I can’t complain as that’s the same in the book as well. We actually get far more backstory involving Portman’s hubby, played by Oscar Isaac, and the rest of the women than we did in the book. The book is truly only about its story, which was fine since it’s a strong one. Adding more to the characters for the film was a smart move as I think connecting with the characters is more necessary when it comes to film. I didn’t think any of the acting really stood out, though. Tessa Thompson was possibly the strongest but it’s not a huge role. I love Jennifer Jason Leigh but she’s not much different from usual in this. Sadly, I’d probably say the same of Portman. This was another thing a little disappointing as I thought the acting was so strong in Ex Machina (especially Vikander). I’m not saying anyone did a bad job, though. They’re all good actors but are just a bit MEH in this. And I found the final predictable scene in this a little too cheesy and “Hollywood” after watching this great bizarre story that can’t be easily explained.

So. I dunno. Maybe I should stop trying to read every single book before its film adaptation! My true love is film and I know this is a case where I definitely liked the film less than I would’ve if I hadn’t read the novel. However, it’s a damn good book so I’m still glad I read it and I highly recommend it to hard sci-fi fans. I guess I better read the rest of the Southern Reach Trilogy now (Annihilation is Book 1). I was waiting to see the film before continuing but now I wish I’d finished all three first. I can say I’m still an Alex Garland fan, though. I eagerly await his next project and hope he continues in this genre.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Black Swan (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Jia Wei of Film & Nuance. Thanks for the review, Jia Wei! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Black Swan, IMDB rank 177 out of 250 on 01/01/13…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Black Swan: Reveries and desires

Ask me to name a list of movies that have profoundly disturbed me for the longest time and you will find Black Swan gracing the very top; Oh you know because swans are graceful and all. Did you find that funny? Because that’s the only funny thing you’ll see from this review and from the movie. Darren Aronofsky’s dark reverie of a film proliferates ideas of duality, the yin-yang of human nature and it’s inherent dichotomies between good and evil. An opening shot of Black Swan is a memorable dance sequence involving Natalie Portman’ as she performs the Swan Lake where the princess Odette is cursed and transfigured into a swan by the devilish Rothbart. It is hauntingly choreographed by Aronofsky whose brilliance we see throughout the film. What’s particularly symbolic here is how the ‘swan’ persona, which becomes the crucial metaphor throughout the film, is at once both graceful and cursed; A little something to note when interpreting the film. Black Swan is like art that slowly unwraps itself with every deliberate attempt to shock and traumatize, revealing the tragic poise it so gracefully holds.

Aronofsky is definitely the artist who isn’t afraid to show. In fact, his philosophy here is that if he could expose everything, he would. Psychological elements flood the film till the point where truth and reality are bent to fit the style. Potraits would come alive (think sinister version of Harry Potter talking paintings) and mock Nina’s increasingly blurry perception. Hallucinations allow Aronofsky to feed the emotional conflict and mental delusions. Black Swan is not for the faint of heart because around every dark corner lie monsters of the mind.

Black Swan’s methods may be extremely explicit but it’s themes are cuttingly profound. Some call it a passionate melodrama which I think doesn’t do the film justice. Melodrama connotates dragging…the kind of dragging that irritates but sure perhaps it’s also artistic. I beg to differ. For as much as Black Swan has deliberated it’s hypnotic sequences and emotional conflicts, it has also haunted my senses and heightened my anticipation for the tension that would ensure. That alone is enough to dispel the idea that it’s a tedious and melodramatic affair. Yes, it’s hyperactive and yes it’s visually unrestrained but damn, it’s one hell of a movie.

In my view, Friedrich Nietzche’s book on philosophy titled ‘The Birth Of A Tragedy’ is somewhat linked to the film in the sense that Black Swan’s interpretation lie in the way that nature and tragedy are set up to be. To be fair, there will be endless interpretations of the film and mine is just one out of many. But I think that in order to fully appreciate the beauty in what Natalie Portman has portrayed in Nina is essential. It is only through her flaws that I also see her complete beauty and only through the film’s depressing moments do I appreciate the fixed balance dichotomy between light and darkness, desire and repression, id and ego. Black Swan’s entrancing dance sequences relates somewhat to Nietzsche’s notes on greek tragedy and music; Notice how the ballads in the film rise and fall periodically, with crescendos and dimineundos that mirror Nina’s oscillating state of mind. Natalie Portman and her double do well to convey the the polar opposites of effeminate grace and unbridled release that torment Nina during her performances. She battles not her inner demons but her conflicted nature. I read that Aronofsky had many takes and rehearsals for his dance sequences. It’s no wonder that he was able to surface the raging tempest of the mind so well. Everything from flawless acting to musical lyricism to contrasting imageries of black and white pour out in perfect yet painful harmony. As each dance progressively becomes more challenging and demanding, so too do the lines between the black and white swan.

What is more powerful than pleasing the audience? Shocking them. I’m inclined to name a few more films like Under the skin and Mulholland Drive. It might just be my taste but there’s no point shocking someone without telling them why. Though the abovementioned films have got me jumping right out of my seat, Black Swan does it with brutal simplicity. It’s not abstract which is why I like it so so much. You don’t spend time wrecking your head thinking why Nina did this or that and instead are left to mull over the lasting consequences of the character’s actions. Black Swan’s may range from being a psycho-sexual study to a director’s symphonic masterpiece, but in the end, it’s destructive melancholy is a psychedelic look at our unresolved natures.

P.S. This was my second best movie of 2010 behind Inception. The Social Network is third. And The King’s Speech is nowhere to be seen 😉

V For Vendetta (2005) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

20140617-110028 am-39628507.jpg

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mike of Screenkicker!. Thanks for joining in on this, Mike! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about V For Vendetta, IMDB rank 164 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

20140617-105753 am-39473894.jpg

Ever since Blade was released in 1998 we’ve seen a huge resurgence in the number and quality of comic book movie adaptations.  Despite all the great attempts at bringing the world of comics to life one respected author’s creations seemed destined to be mishandled completely.  Alan Moore is the mastermind behind classic graphic novels like Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen however the transition from page to screen of his work had been mediocre at best.  The film version of League is almost a lesson in how not to adapt the medium and From Hell isn’t much better.  So does V for Vendetta break the curse?  Yes and no.

20140618-100926 pm-79766923.jpg

V tells the story of Evie played by Natalie Portman a young woman living in a near future fascist Britain who through a series of events comes to be associated with a masked anarchist named V whose goal is to overthrow the government.  With V’s help Evie finds the strength to confront almost impossible odds.  Fans of the source material won’t find much to grumble about apart from some changes to the main character.  He’s less of a straight-up terrorist and more of a righteous revolutionary.  One of the best things about Moore’s comic was the vision of the UK he created.  It was written in the 1980s and was massively influenced by Britain governed by Margaret Thatcher, making its near future version of London believable and not too far from our own world.  V director James McTeigue’s adaptation on the other hand portrays a very strange city which never feels real, its recreation of London looks old fashioned and seems more quaint than dystopic.

The movie starts by setting the scene and at first is jarring when we first meet V.  This is one of those common situations where comic book dialogue sounds silly when spoken aloud with V’s introduction eliciting childish sniggers from me the first time I saw it.  He’s seems far from the dangerous, determined force of nature from the book and later when he has emotional scenes it can pull you out of the action.  Basically the first half of the film jerks along at an uneven pace leaving you ambivalent to what’s actually happening.

20140618-101116 pm-79876849.jpg

I know what you’re thinking – this armchair critic hated the film.  Well you’re wrong!  There is a lot to like about it and it really is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a good performance from John Hurt and despite a slightly dodgy English accent, Natalie Portman gives it her all.  And once the plot kicks into gear properly the film finds its feet. Stephen Rea plays a policeman investigating V’s attacks and how his snooping unfolds is expertly told with a brilliant montage towards the end showing all the parts of V’s plans falling into place.  The crowning moment though is the entire section where Evie is captured, imprisoned, and finds a letter from a previous inmate.  Acting, editing, music, and visuals all come together to produce an extremely emotionally affecting and memorable scene which will stay with you and is worth watching the movie for.  From this part to the end of the film it’s worthy of the title and you forget about the slightly dull first half.

Intriguingly V is the first Alan Moore adaptation that he wouldn’t let producers put his name on and it turned out to be the best at least until Watchmen was released.  It’s a good story, well told with good acting, action and a couple of absolutely brilliant sections so it’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve always dreamt of sticking it to the man.  It really is V good.

7/10

20140618-101206 pm-79926436.jpg

Thor: The Dark World (2013) Review

20131106-091247 pm.jpg
Thor: The Dark World (2013)

***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Alan Taylor

Starring:
Chris Hemsworth
Natalie Portman
Tom Hiddleston
Anthony Hopkins
Stellan Skarsgård
Idris Elba
Christopher Eccleston
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Kat Dennings
Ray Stevenson
Zachary Levi
Tadanobu Asano
Jaimie Alexander
Rene Russo

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Yada yada Odin. Yada yada Asgard. Yada yada something called Aether. Yada yada Malekith. Yada yada Rene Russo. Yada yada not much Loki. Yada yada Nine Realms. Hubba hubba CHRIS HEMSWORTH!

20131106-092931 pm.jpg
My Opinion:

Chris Hemsworth is rather attractive. Like, almost annoyingly attractive. Like, “it should be illegal to be that attractive” attractive. If I was a man, I’d probably want to punch that pretty face. But I’m a girl so I just want to kiss that pretty face. And those eyes! I don’t normally like blue eyes but his are so lovely! You know someone is too attractive when Natalie Portman looks really plain standing next to them. And there’s a shirtless scene close to the start of this movie where they maybe linger a bit too long on the lovely half-naked Thor (which supposedly really annoyed Hemsworth?). I had no problem with this scene….

20131106-091433 pm.jpg
Okay okay – That’s not from Thor. I can’t find an image from the shirtless scene but, trust me, I’ll post it when I do. You know I came through for you all in finding his bum scene from the wonderful Rush. 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah – Thor review! I got distracted. Well, it’s like my above plot synopsis. Blah blah weird names I’ll never remember blah blah Natalie Portman blah blah the necessary quick mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrown in there blah blah THOR! Okay – I know this all sounds like I didn’t enjoy this but I’m just exhausted and not in the right mood to do some serious review. I really liked The Dark World! I actually preferred it to the first Thor movie and it was, luckily, FAR better than this year’s other superhero films which I found extremely disappointing (Iron Man 3 & especially that OTT Man Of Steel).

20131106-092151 pm.jpg
I’ve said it before with other films like this but I better say it again: I know nothing about comic books. I’ve never read any so, when I watch superhero movies, I know pretty much nothing about the characters and the stories. This is nice, though, because I don’t have to worry about all that fanboy (err… fangirl) stuff where they always end up pissed off about something. I can just enjoy the movie. Or not enjoy the movie. When Man Of Steel came out, I did a list of My Top Ten Superhero Movies HERE. I may have to update the list, actually, as I think Thor: The Dark World may now be at number nine or ten. 🙂

20131106-092258 pm.jpg
With the first film… I dunno. I liked it but obviously they had to set up the characters and I really knew nothing about Thor and it all seemed a little weird. But now we know Thor, Loki, and Dr. Erik Selvig a bit better (especially after The Avengers) and it was easier to just sit back & enjoy the film without worrying too much about all the “blah blah Asgard yada yada” stuff. Actually, I liked seeing quite a lot of Asgard this time – I thought that would get boring. It’s lovely – especially that cool bridge thing (Um, the Bifröst? Thank god for Wikipedia!). I do love that funky bridge. And Heimdall is a cool dude.

20131106-093804 pm.jpg
Rene Russo was good in this and I especially liked all the bits with her but I can’t say much more without spoilers. I like the Kat Dennings character and the comic relief she provides but that might not be for everyone. Loki is underused in this one which some probably won’t appreciate but I don’t care – it’s all about Thor for me! The bad guys looked kind of cool and I liked their masks – they looked like something out of Doctor Who. And speaking of Doctor Who, I didn’t even know that was Christopher Eccleston until the credits rolled.

20131106-092353 pm.jpgAll in all, I just really enjoyed all the “blah blah Asgard Aether Odin Nine Realms yada yada” stuff this time! Its only flaw (for me) is Natalie Portman. Not that I don’t like her – I do! But I’ve always felt it was an odd role for her and she just doesn’t seem to “fit” plus I feel NO chemistry between her & Thor. But this is really my only complaint – I like everything else about this. Oh, and the “final battle” was much better than in the first film – the end of the first film was a bit weak. To think some of this was filmed not that terribly far away from me in England! Chris Hemsworth was so close to me. So close yet… so far… *sigh*

20131106-092423 pm.jpg
Summary:

Thor: The Dark World improves on the original film and I enjoyed it much more this time around now that I know all the characters a bit better. It’s a worthy addition to the superhero universe. I’m now once again looking forward to further superhero films – I’d lost hope after Iron Man 3 & especially Man Of Steel. The Dark World is funny when it needs to be, serious when it needs to be, and action-packed when it needs to be. I liked it a lot!

My Rating: 7/10

20131106-093105 pm.jpg
Scene After The Credits? – Of course! It’s a superhero movie! And there’s not only one but TWO. One is halfway through the credits and the other one is at the very end. So stick around and try to hold in your pee.

Reviews Of Movies I’ve Seen In 2013