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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Exciting and well made... but not really a Bond film, 18 November 2006

So Bond is back. Except this is Bond Year Zero. Bond Rebooted. Bond: The Beginning.

In this loose adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1953 novel - the first to feature James Bond - Daniel Craig stars as 007 just as he has gained 'Double-0' status by chalking up two kills (and we see the kills in oddly film noir style black-and-white). After a debut mission in Madagascar goes awry, Bond is assigned to play a high stakes poker game with terrorist financier Le Chiffre, knowing that winning the game will bankrupt Le Chiffre, and losing it will mean Her Majesty's government directly funding terrorism...

The bloody and breathless chase in Madagascar immediately informs us that this is not Bond as we've known him before, but a raw and uncompromising version. Craig doesn't even look remotely like any other Bond, with his dirty blonde hair, rugged features, and rippling, hairless muscles (which the film-makers' deem it necessary to show off at every opportunity). Emotionally he is completely different too. This Bond is not indestructible and cool under pressure, but volatile and vulnerable, even falling rather quickly in love with Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, who is sent to the Casino Royale with Bond to keep an eye on the money he is gambling.

The action is relentlessly exciting, with several brutal fist-fights, a truly spectacular car crash, and eventually a collapsing Venetian house. The performances are also universally very good. Judi Dench is rather incongruously brought back to play the morose M, Eva Green is an enigmatic Bond girl, and Mads Mikkelson does as much as he can with a thin role as Le Chiffre. As for Craig, he can definitely play the back-to-basics, street-fighting man this Bond is apparently supposed to be - certainly at least as well as you would have expected any other actor to have played him.

The trouble is that this film never really looks or feels like a Bond film. There is no Moneypenny, no Q, and there are no gadgets. The theme tune is entirely forgettable, and John Barry's famous Bond music is shunned until the final credits. Le Chiffre, an asthmatic banker, makes for a rather pathetic super-villain, and there are no colourful henchman for Bond to duel. Bond himself is dismissed by M as just a "thug" early in the film, and he proves her right throughout, with little charm or wit to complement his undoubted talent for beating people up without the slightest concern for civilians and innocent parties who get in the way. He doesn't even "give a damn" if his vodka martini is shaken or stirred.

In fact the film appears more closely modelled on the Jason Bourne franchise than previous Bond films. Whilst I appreciate the need to renew and reinvent 007, I question the need to rob from Bond almost every single ingredient that made him such a success in the first place. If we want a series of films about an MI6 hooligan that's fine, but why not create a new character altogether? Interestingly 007 does by the close of the film utter the famous words, "The name's Bond. James Bond." Perhaps this is to signify that this film is just an introduction to the all-new Bond, and that the panache will re-appear in future films.

In the meantime CASINO ROYALE makes for a thrilling preamble. But be warned that it doesn't have much more in common with the official 20 Bond movies that preceded it than the farcical 1967 adaptation with Peter Sellers and Woody Allen.

Ivansxtc (2000)
13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Marvellous portrayal of a death in Hollywood, 22 September 2005

Loosely based on Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilych' this searing indictment of Hollywood must be one of the most under-appreciated films of the last ten years.

Danny Huston plays Ivan Beckman, a typically sleazy, coke-snorting Tinseltown agent who is forced to confront the emptiness of his life when he learns that he is dying of cancer. Amongst the many people with whom he is surrounded but cannot confide in are hotshot director Danny McTeague (James Merendino), gun-toting homophobic mega-star Don West (Peter Weller), and Ivan's girlfriend, Charlotte (Lisa Enos), who may or may not be using him to further her own ambitions.

IVANS XTC. actually begins with the news of Ivan's death, and apart from the first 15 minutes or so the story is told in flashback. This works superbly because we immediately discover just how meaningless Ivan's life and career really were. Nobody really gave a damn about him (nor does anyone believe for a minute that he died of cancer rather than a cocaine OD), and his death merely serves as an inconvenience to those involved in the film project he was trying to get started (West and McTeague even have the insensitivity to confront each other in the middle of Ivan's funeral service!).

When Ivan learns of his cancer he tries to binge his way to redemption through drink, drugs, and women, but there is none to be found. Nothing can ease his physical or emotional pain. He can't even find an image of beauty or happiness in his head - everything he can think of is "shit". Ivan was already a victim even before the cancer took hold.

Many films have successfully attacked the excessive yet soulless Hollywood machine in recent years e.g THE PLAYER and SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, but IVAN's XTC. is perhaps even better (British writer-director Bernard Rose drew from many of his own bitter experiences). The film is shot entirely on DV (with oddly effective use of Wagner as musical accompaniment!) and this gives it a documentary-style realism (you really feel you're in the back of that limo with West as he snorts coke off Charlotte's leg). It is also to the film-makers' credit that no punches are pulled when it comes to conveying exactly what Ivan's cancer is doing to him (the visceral last reel is not for the squeamish).

The performances are first-rate all round, but Huston is especially brilliant and should have had an Oscar nomination. Although Ivan is an unpleasant individual - and Rose never dresses him up to be anything but - Huston manages to elicit the viewer's sympathy simply by demonstrating Ivan's ever more desperate need for something to fill the complete void that is his quickly fading life. As far as the 'terminal illness' genre goes this film is ultimately far more moving than blatantly manipulative stuff like TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and MY LIFE precisely because there is absolutely no on-screen sentimentality whatsoever. Ivan's one moment of true tenderness comes not with Charlotte or with any of his friends or family... but with a nurse he doesn't even know. The glorious closing shot is surely one the best in recent film-making history.

This is a disturbing film that is at times difficult to watch. Yet at the same time it is so perceptive and involving that one feels it actually deserves several viewings. Highly recommended.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Totally dreadful, 3 February 2003

I find it absolutely astonishing that anyone would regard this film as anything other than categorically abysmal.

Normally I wouldn't bother commenting on this level of celluloid excrement, but I find it rather disturbing that people make a case for it being anything other than atrocious on every level (incidentally, being "better than the first" - and I'm less than certain it is - does not constitute high praise).

I luckily managed to avoid this film until now, but having just seen it can I just assure any doubters that this is a truly pitiful movie - although I was, kind of, mesmerized by its utter awfulness.

Exciting but derivative and unpleasant post-apocalyptic thriller, 10 November 2002

28 DAYS LATER does not, as some seem to believe, herald some kind of rebirth for British cinema. This is in fact the latest entry in a very old and well-trodden genre, and the fact that it is set and made in Britain rather than the US for once doesn't mean its complete lack of originality should be conveniently overlooked. Having said that, it is slickly and stylishly done, and contains enough thrills and spills to keep you reasonably entertained throughout.

It doesn't start well. If there really are high-tech laboratories housing diseases capable of causing the mayhem 'Rage' does, I doubt very much that their security system is so lax that they can be penetrated by a few animal rights activists.

But the scenes of a deserted London are chillingly effective, and when the real action starts, as we first encounter 'the infected', the film's pattern becomes clear. Although we have seen this kind of thing many times before, the one interesting twist Boyle and Garland add to the mix is that unlike Romero's zombies, Star Trek's Borg and so on, the fearless, unrelenting stalkers here don't plod slowly and rather pathetically toward their intended prey, but sprint at top speed. This makes the action sequences considerably more tense and breathless than one might have expected.

Furthermore Boyle's directorial flair is such that even when the story moves out of London the screen is repeatedly filled with dazzling, memorable images. There's some good use - although it might be considered overuse - of music, and most, if not all, of the performances are good, thanks to the casting of solid, reliable types like Christopher Ecclestone and Brendan Gleeson in many of the key roles.

But unfortunately Boyle and Garland don't know where to stop. The unpleasantness and/or stupidity of everyone in the film is as ceaseless as the pursuit of them by the infected. Most of the scrapes Jim and co. get themselves into are entirely of their own doing, and those that aren't turn out to be because the uninfected are basically as nasty as the infected. After a while you begin to think that us Brits are all apparently so moronic or amoral that the rest of the world would probably be better off if we did all get wiped out. The likes of THE OMEGA MAN are generally not exactly a barrel of laughs either, but at least those films made you want humanity to survive.

28 DAYS LATER is worth seeing, just about, and as pure white-knuckle entertainment goes it's probably at least as good as the average star-studded Hollywood blockbuster.

Now if only we could do it with more interesting and original material...

11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Elegant, unique, and compelling, 18 May 2002

Paul Auster writes marvelous contemporary fiction, and this is a wonderful film adaptation of perhaps his finest work.

THE MUSIC OF CHANCE revolves around two very different protagonists. Jim Nash (Mandy Patinkin) is an ex-fireman, driving across America, and searching for meaning to his life. Jack Pozzi (James Spader) is a professional poker player, out of money, out of luck, and given a ride to New York by Nash. It emerges Jack has a game scheduled with two eccentric millionaires (Joel Grey and Charles Durning), so Jim puts up the capital with the last of his own money. But the poker game doesn't go quite according to plan...

Some people have described this film as "pretentious" - pretending to what exactly? Jack Pozzi and Jim Nash are two unusually clearly defined characters - one shallow, over-confident, tetchy; the other calm, reasonable, tolerant. Their eventual predicament is also disarmingly simple. That air of mystery to the film does not spring from narrative or character but from the viewer's own philosophies towards life. Does one choose one's own path or is it chosen for you? Chance or fate? Freedom or incarceration? Meaning or, in Nash's words, "just bullshit". So in fact even if you think the events onscreen have no deeper meaning, well then that *is* the meaning. For you anyway.

The acting is universally excellent, with Grey, Durning, M Emmet Walsh, and Chris Penn illuminating supporting roles. But Patinkin and Spader dominate the film, with two absolutely captivating performances. Philip Haas's direction is suitably under-stated, and there is also excellent use of music, from jazz to classical.

THE MUSIC OF CHANCE is an absorbing and intelligent piece of film-making. If only there were more films like it.

(Don't) grow up, petty critics! Enjoy this fun movie!, 26 November 2001

First of all I have to say I haven't yet read J K Rowling's books, so I am in the apparently unenlightened position of not feeling it necessary to compare this film to the books. But since this is, as I understand it, a *film* internet database, I would hope that this puts me in a better position than many of this film's critics here.

Might I make a token suggestion to those who write reviews on this site (with AMERICAN PSYCHO, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, and - no doubt - THE LORD OF THE RINGS in mind) to judge a film as a film, not as an adaptation of a book. By all means mention a film's faithfulness or overall quality in relation to its source material, but please don't define that as whether or not it is a good or bad film. Believe it or not, some people went to see HARRY POTTER who hadn't read the book. Does the quality of APOCALYPSE NOW make Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' a bad book? Does the dreadfulness of CHILDREN OF THE CORN (and its innumerable sequels) make Stephen King's original short story the greatest literary work of all time?

What I saw when I went to see this film was not a masterpiece or work of genius. But it was a fun, exciting, and immensely enjoyable family film. Although it was perhaps overlong (a good twenty minutes could probably have been snipped without any damage to narrative or characterisation), it was charming and witty and engaging all the way. The SFX were no better or worse than one might have expected, but the sets and costumes were outstanding, with a real feel for England and the public school ambience that Hogwarts seemed to represent. John Williams' score was also memorable.

The main criticism I had of the film (and, aside from the length, the *only* substantive criticism that I can see if you forget the books) is that some of the acting by the children was a bit ropey on occasion, even by young Daniel Radcliffe as Harry. But fortunately the likes of Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, and Alan Rickman keep it well above sea level.

It is certainly not a ground-breaking or life-changing film in any way, but anyone who has an open mind and open heart should enjoy this exuberant and good-natured magical adventure.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dazzling but totally empty..., 21 October 2001

It is a depressing indictment of Hollywood that a film such as MOULIN ROUGE is apparently considered to be one of the best films to emerge from Tinseltown in recent years. Visually it is certainly fantastic, and - assuming your taste is very much in the mainstream - it must have value in purely musical terms. But it is also a soulless and in my mind rather cynical film, and one that demonstrates contempt for many fundamentals of good cinema.

The cinematographer, choreographer, special effects team and so on should all be congratulated for some dazzling work. Indeed I'm sure many of these people will be nominated for Oscars. And so they should be. However the plaudits should end there.

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it customary for a fictional film drama (whether musical or otherwise) to have a story and/or some characters? MOULIN ROUGE's lame excuse for a "story" is in fact revealed in a Ewan McGregor voice-over in the first reel of the film. There are no twists, no surprises, no short it is feebly, depressingly, almost mind-numbingly predictable from first minute to last. Characterization fares no better, with no hint of personality detectable in any of the protagonists (the Duke comes closest by at least being a caricature - MacGregor, Kidman, etc don't even get that). This is truly one of the most lazily written films I have ever seen.

Of course it could be quite reasonably argued that the very same criticism could be leveled at all sorts of films, and that is true enough. However MOULIN ROUGE has the breathtaking temerity to purport to be about "truth, beauty, freedom, love". It could not have chosen grander themes, and could not have made a more pitiful attempt at exploring them. In fact the film is so wretchedly written that at absolutely no point does it ever, even once, make a sincere effort to engage the audience on an emotional or intellectual level. Of course the renditions of 'Your Song' might have brought a tear to the eye to some, but if so then the credit is due entirely to Elton John, and no more due to Baz Luhrmann than it is to a radio DJ who plays it on Heart FM or whatever. The great musicals, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, TOP HAT and so on did actually bother with an involving and emotive screenplay between numbers. CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG had more of a script than this.

MOULIN ROUGE is the product of someone being given a lot of money to make a big crowd-pleasing movie, and him making it without actually having anything whatsoever to say. To me a great cinematic spectacle comes from having an idea and building a film around it; not from hiring some big stars, spending the GDP of a small country on SFX, and then rather grudgingly putting a story and some characters in it as an afterthought.

If you are attuned to its humour then I can see how this could be a fun movie to watch, but if you expect something more than an extended MTV video for your time and money, it's a wearying and ultimately rather insulting film. MOULIN ROUGE isn't - even for one second - about truth, beauty, freedom, or love. It's about making as much money as possible for the people behind it.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Absorbing chronicle of the recording of 'Imagine', 31 May 2000

This is far superior to IMAGINE:JOHN LENNON which also used footage from Yoko Ono's personal archives. It follows the making of Lennon's classic album, 'Imagine', and we are given insight both into his impatient but passionate recording processes, and also into the man himself and his relationship with Yoko. Seeing the succession of fantastic tracks being laid down with the likes of George Harrison and Klaus Voorman is engrossing, but the most presciently ghoulish episode concerns a bedraggled and disturbed fan turning up on Lennon's doorstep and insisting that all the Beatles songs were written specifically with him in mind (Lennon tries to reason with him then invites him in for a meal). An engaging delve into popular music's past and the work of a genius.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Flawed but clever, and provokes amusing criticism, 30 May 2000

TBWP has many flaws - the implausibility of some of the characters' behaviour, the irritation factor of watching people bicker for an hour, and so on. That said, it is an interesting little film with some clever touches (the interviewee's child covering her mother's mouth; the handprints in the house etc.). Scary? Not really, but then that couldn't be more subjective could it? THE EXORCIST had some people vomiting in the aisles yet it doesn't scare me at all (but the reverse could be true of another film). Anyway I personally I give TBWP six out of ten. What I find hilarious is the nature of the criticism this film has received since its release, which is almost as OTT as the hype that preceded it.

Most of those people who insist that is the worst film ever made are as one-eyed as those who said a year ago that it was the best. I notice that the early comments on the IMDb were nearly all hysterically complimentary, and now they're nearly all hysterically savage. There's nothing like a good bandwagon to jump on is there? (Or did the film suddenly metamorphosize from a classic to a turkey sometime last autumn?) This isn't the worst film ever made; there are countless worse (see the IMDb's own "100 worst" list for some prime examples). Harbouring unfettered resentment at the film-makers because you've seen an over-hyped movie is hardly a platform for objective criticism. If anyone had seen a film of this standard on late night TV and not cared for it they'd have turned it off and forgotten about it, and certainly not worked themselves into a frenzy about how awful it was. I particularly enjoyed reading the comments of those BWP-haters on here who remarked upon the "suckers" and "idiots" who actually watched it (can you spot something of an own goal here?).

The oft-repeated refrain that this film is "cheap" and "amateurish" beggars belief. Since it was made cheaply by then-amateurs, was hyped as a cheap film made by amateurs, and purports to be a cheap documentary made by amateurs, I would have thought its cheapness and amateurishness was rather to be expected. Given that the protagonists are supposed to be making little more than a home movie, the complaint about the jerky camera movements in this context is especially absurd - or would you have Heather & Co. set up dollies, cranes, and so on as they flee through the woods? If you've automatically got it in for this style of film-making (and you'd have to have been on Mars not to have known how TBWP was shot) why go and see it?

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has actually gone up in my estimation because it's reminded me of the power of movies to provoke the audience, and the public reaction to this film has been priceless. My absolute favourite comment I keep reading is "I could have made this!" Well since it cost next to nothing and those who made it are now multi-millionaires, why the f*** didn't you?

Beautifully made exploration of nostalgia and adolescence, 30 May 2000

Numerous people seem to complain that THE VIRGIN SUICIDES fails because the reasons for the suicides are never explained. I don't know if they think this was merely an oversight on the part of the film-makers, but I would have thought it was obvious that the lack of explanation is absolutely pivotal to the thrust of the whole movie. The film is about the mystery and seductive power of beauty, and about how we are left helpless and grasping for reason when beauty dies (a theme further explored with the ruthless destruction of the tree on the Lisbons' lawn). It's about growing up and trying to reconcile love and sexuality with a world full of tragedy and injustice. It's about looking back to our childhood, when life was full of warmth and magic and mystery, and thankfully bereft of the kind of cold and logical "explanation" that we demand as adults. We never get inside the heads of the Lisbon girls because we aren't supposed to; the film is told entirely from the point of view of the local teenage boys, who are fascinated to the point of obsession with these fantastically beautiful girls who live down the street. Although set in the 1970s, the nostalgia for the period here is refreshingly gentle and beguiling. Shot with poise and grace, this film looks fantastic (and why shouldn't Sofia Coppola borrow actors and techniques from her dad - wouldn't you?) The entire cast are magnificent - for me, James Woods has never been better - and the soundtrack (a mixture of Air and '70s classics) is perfect. This is a wonderful film.

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