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Beowulf (2007)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The technology and the magic (Contains Major Spoilers), 30 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A few of my friends recommended I go and see Beowulf. They all said that the story wasn't much but that visually it was amazing and to make sure I see it in 3-D.

The story is almost frighteningly small. Beowulf turns up to a kingdom (and a small kingdom at that, it seems to be one hall big sometimes) to rid the king of a monster (WARNING SPOILERS from here on in) and does so only to find out the king was actually the father of the monster as he'd slept with the monsters mother who's also a monster but being played by Angelina Jolie helps make bestiality understandable.

Beowulf then becomes King, sleeps with the Monster Jolie and then a monster son comes after him. Only this time the monster is a dragon!

Sounds great doesn't it. Full of action! We'll to a degree it is full of action but the way producer/director Robert Zemekis was chosen to do it (entirely in 3-D CGI graphics) ends up destroying most of the excitement to be had from this story. The whole film being done as 3-D CGI graphics element stopped me from really getting into the film and the end result was a film that felt like an extremely overlong cut-scene from a video game.

I think this problem with relating to the characters isn't just because they're not real, anime and Fleischer Brothers cartoons have given us numerous characters that we've been able to relate to strongly. I found the original FIST OF THE NORTH incredibly moving when I first saw it. Same with PRINCESS MONONOKE and the original TRANSFORMERS movie

The problem is that BEOWULFS 3-D creations more resemble video game characters then actual animated characters. My 3-D animation teacher told me never to copy directly from real life as the actual animation ends up looking "dead". The key to a great animator is knowing the best way to over-emphasize.

In BEOWULF they used a special software that enabled them to capture the actors performances pretty much exactly but in the conversion to 3-D animation they have for the most part come out dead. The only two actors who escape this are John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie. These actors quirks are so strong that vestiges of their humanity still manage to come across in there on-screen avatars/characters. I never thought they're would be a way of stopping Ray Winstone (star of so many great films such as LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE AMAZING STAINS, SCUM, NIL BY MOUTH and SEXY BEAST) or Brendan Gleeson from giving magnetic performances but Robert Zemekis found a way. Poor Robin Wright Penn fairs the worst in this process. Such a great subtle actor, her performance is totally lost in the translation to 3D.

Which leads me to the finale of BEOWULF. In the end Beowulf must confront and single- handedly destroy the dragon. In the course of this he is thrown about, shot at with arrows, rides the dragon and nearly falls to his death. We'll in a live action film this would be completely riveting. The 1980's movie DRAGONSLAYER proved how incredible dragons could be in movies. That whole film was based on what an incredibly frightening sight they are. But unfortunately since you know that you don't have control over the video game looking and that all the things you are seeing are being controlled by artists via a computer program there's no reason to become to involved in what's happening on-screen.

The enjoyable things about BEOWULF are all technical. Seeing how detailed computer graphics have become and the new visual fluidity a camera is allowed in a 3-D environment. How realistic water and fire effects can be rendered.

The first 14mins (about the length of a He-man cartoon) are the best. The close ups of objects are great too, such as a shot of pebbles on the beach just before a horse comes crashing over the camera and scatters them.

The worst shots are the wide shots as they show just how cheap and fake 3D can be. One particular shot of Beowulf running on one side of a chasm with his troops on the other firing arrows at the dragon looked like a bad D & D video game.

What makes this sad rather then just a novelty is that Robert Zemeckis used to be such a great director and one of the things he was best with was memorable characters. Remember how many great characters there were in the Back To The Future series? Marty Mcfly, Biff, Doc Brown? All great!

Do you remember Forrest Gump? For all the anti-American sentiment of it in Australia I know plenty of people who found it incredibly emotionally moving and a large part of that was director and the actors attention to performance. It's telling that the most emotional shot in the whole film is a wide shot of Forrest telling his wife that despite his mental handicap he does understand love.

But in his last two outings something has gone terribly wrong. The technology has taken over the film. The vital human element has been lost under a plethora of pixels.

I can't think of anything about the Polar Express that would make me want to see it in the form it is or even show it to my younger relatives (those who are of the age to appreciate that sort of film). Same with BEOWULF! Nothing about the technical approach added to the film. If I had really gotten to see the real Ray Winstone playing Beowulf then maybe the small plot would have been less of a concern because I could have related to him. What's so baffling is that there already exists a successful formula for making ancient stories into great cinematic entertainment. It's called JIM HENSONS STORYTELLER and 90mins of that flies by.

16 Blocks (2006)
4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
An excruciating excursion into the vocal deficiencies of Mos Def and Bruce Willis fake Moustache, 3 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unlike the other reviews listed here, I am not an employee of any of the companies that should be ashamed to be wasting precious materials such as silver to produce such a turgid waste viewers time.

I would like to start by saying that we are not attempting to defame this film. We are trying to save you 97mins of your valuable time.

Who would have thought that Bruce Willis was unable to travel 16 blocks (WARNING: This may count a spoiler...but not more spoiled then the films script) without ruining large portions of the cities infrastructure when he could have simply got a taxi. Maybe he shouldn't have purchased that wine bottle at the beginning, that way he would have had enough money for the fare.

The premise of this film is good but the execution has more problems Bruce Willis's fake moustache. One of the chief problems is that the person Willis is protecting has one of the most annoying voices since the dawn of sound recording. It's hard to engender sympathy for the hero when the person he's protecting is providing an aural irritant worthy of assassination (the only mystery is why Bruce Willis consistently prevents this).

Richard Donner might have developed in his old age, short term memory problems. This would explain the continually repetitive coverage of every scene. But it doesn't explain why they didn't overdub Mostly Def (Mos Def) with Barry White. Maybe he has gone deaf as well.

David Morse looks extremely upset throughout the movie. By the end of the film his career is 16 blocks further back from where it was before he signed on.

I have avoided discussing too many details about the plot because I don't want to show up how awful the script is (Think about what would happen if you added an er onto the writers last name....Thats right, it's Richard Wenker!) and there is very little script or plot development in the film.

Maybe this is Bruce Willis revenge for nobody watching Hudson Hawke!

Oh, and the alternate ending is much better.


1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Insipid direction lets The Rock down, 14 January 2005

Having seen the great original "Walking Tall" and thought to myself "Imagine what they could have done if they had a budget". I was really keen to see this remake with "The Rock". Especially after an interview with him where he talked about no CGI and making an old style action film.

Pity someone didn't tell the director of this one. His use of angles and dissolves does everything to destroy the movie's strength. That is it's simple yet believable (Something similar actually happened) story and the realism that made the original so striking.

The best thing about the movie is The Rock. He has a terrific presence on screen and although he falls flat during a courtroom scene, I am willing to attribute that mostly to the director. Johnny Knocksville also puts in a decent turn.

All in All. Hire out Phil Karlsons original. Watching the remake is like listening to someone tell a joke they heard...only they can't quite remember the opening....and they end up missing the punchline!!!


Cage (1989)
6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Truly Original Action Gem. For true surrealists and those "Movie Moments", 27 January 2002

Cage was a movie that I have wanted to see for many years. Since I was 10 I have seen it at the video shop with its brutal looking cover. Last night I took the plunge back into the world of low budget video violent nastys.

Cage, however must rank as one of the most original movies I have ever seen. Film Snobs and pretentious Surrealists would never see it. Drama Buffs would avoid it like the plague and it will probably never be screened anywhere but the cheapest cable channel. That, however is the shame of the film world. This film has movie moments equal to any film (save Tarkovsky), It has some moments of totally original drama, brutal violence, extreme surrealism and a performance by Lou Ferrigno that renders him completely unrecognisable from all his other films and from himself in particular.

How is a film like this made. Who knows, who really knows. The only thing that I could think of is that the director and writer were trying to say certain things for themselves through a film genre which is completely alien to those types of sentiments.

The plot is a relatively simple one to pitch. Two friends are seperated by gangsters and one is forced to fight in an underground human cockfighting type of tournament. The other friend penetrates the underground world of gangs and violence to rescue him. Sounds familiar doesnt it, SOUNDS VERY FAMILIAR in fact. However from conception to filming a miracle of independent vision has taken place. From the use of music and lighting, to the acting and story devices and emphasis given to different motives in certain scenes. Cage has all the conviction of independent filmaking woithout any of the posturing and pretensions that "Label" independent movies have.

If you have any interest in where films can go. Watch "Cage". It is a sad, sad thought that in this age of independent filmaking we have become less imginative in where we go with the filsm we make. The more inventive the editing techniques, the more sophisticated the lighting and post production, the less original and full on films are becoming.

For not being like any movie I've seen before and taking me completely by suprise. I give Cage a 10.

Underground Idealism has another champion.

Hollow Man (2000)
Hollow, What a great description, 22 January 2002

Paul Verhoeven finally bombed out on this one. He became a joke on himself. Once again we have a film which includes sex and violence, immorality, leering at women and lots of attitiude talk between the characters and dollying pans.

Its all for nothing. Because their is no action at all in this film. It fudges all its set pieces. All the actors give the kind of performances form a Verhoeven film. In other words rampant over acting on almost every level. Starship Troopers got away with it because it was such a macho world the characters inhabited. In this scientists are acting the same way. Sorry Paul but Soldiers and scientist are not really made of the same mindset.

One major flaw in the plot was that after escaping for that one night to do evil things Kevin Bacons character then returns back to the science lab where we have already spent more then enough time watching these animated manniquens (Elizabeth Shue excepted) walk and talk. Why not show the extent of what the character could do in the outside world. How could they possibly track him if he could be anywhere at all??? Think os all the different things that could have been done with this concept, both in terms of story and characterisation. Then look at what this film does and you really how badly done and concieved the whole project really was.

More insulting is the Doco on the DVD where everyone is claiming that Verhoeven is some kind of MAd Genius. Well one out of two isnt that bad.

This film has nothing of note in it. Just like the title says.


1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Delivers on every count!!!, 18 January 2002

I went to see Fellowship of the Ring expecting not a great adaption of the book, but a great movie. I got it. This films success was sealed when Peter Jackson went for High Drama rather then post-modern hipness and nudge, nudge, winkm wink knowingness.

All the casting was fantastic. You really knew every characters motivations and relationships to all the other characters. The casting of Christopher Lee and Sean Bean was particularly good.

Cinematography and camerawork were perfectly suited to the epic nature of the story. Finally the pace of the film meant that when the big events came they felt like big events. Unlike so many modern films, when the finale comes in this film it feels like the finale rather then just another super edited sequence.

All in all Its not the book. But its a terrific film adaption of the book.

Go see it, so much better then the movies we are used too today.

Marie (1985)
18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Strong Production saves the script., 18 January 2002

Its fuuny how time changes how you see a movie. If this film came out in the cinemas today it would look terrific compared to the current rubbish around.

The premise for Marie is a god one for a thriller and although the script bottoms out, great acting in almost all areas and powerful direction from Roger Donaldson save it from mediocrity and turn it into a really effective, attention grabbing, suspensful and emotionally involving film.

Apart from Roger Donaldson and Chris Menges moody atmosphereic lighting. The film is served best by Sissy Spaceks lead performance, if any actress had greater ability to allow you to feel how their character is feeling I'd like to know who it is. Sissy makes a great protagonist with a mixture of vunerability and strong resolve. She's not so headstrong as too seem a bitchy self-interested character, yet she has enough strength and integrity to make Marie the hero of the story.

I thought the whole production was great. And the fact that this film wasnt one of the best ones whe it came out just goes to show how far behind hollywood has gotten.

On a last note. Jeff Daniels played a great role in this. He really made you see him in a completely different light to normal.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The most existential Slasher to have been made. Warning *Spoilers, 18 January 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Back in the 80's when horror films where everywhere. One film series was (financially anyway) running all over the others. That was Friday the 13th.

The best of them was Friday the 13th Part 4. So good because the emphasis of the film was not on teenagers and sex and pointless sub-plots. But on death and the fear of death coming out into the world unrestricted by anything at all.

The next best of these was Friday the 13th Part 5, A new beggining. Why??? When so many other people have bagged it. Because, when it comes down to it, its really alot darker and more disturbed then any other slashers that are made (bar non-slasher specific horror films). The lead character is violent and mentally disturbed. He is the begginings of a psychopathic personality. His name is Tommy and he isnt going camping or meeting friends at school. He is in a mental home isolated in a small country town which could never exist in the real world. Only in a horror world could this town exist.

There are no normal characters in this film. The murders are bloody and agressively violent. The directing is much better then the films that came after it and for the most part the films that came before it. The photography and camerawork in Part 5 are excellent and really give Friday the 13th its definitive look. Faded browns and dusty greens.

The murders are not so seperate from the rest of the film in this one. They are not the only point of interest. And when the finale happens it is not just a protracted chase sequence, it really is a massacre. Finally when Jason is killed it isnt simply the invincible monster being stopped for good. It is another murder of another person. Shot really effectively in terms of effect beyond just a "good wins over evil climax".

In terms of slasher films it has more deaths by far than most slashers offer. The situations the murders occur in are sleazy and demented, Really alot of this film displays a terror of the outside world and the danger it can pose.

The acting in this film is also alot better then most of the Friday the 13ths (and most slashers in general and I am including all the Scream,I know what you did last summer movies.

I think anyone with an interest in psychology and films should watch this. The script doesnt have it but the feelings raised within the film by the film and its makers (possibly subconciously) do.

Second best Friday the 13th


4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
The Images tell no Story. Bava's first unengaging movie, 24 December 2001

About two years ago I got into the movies of Mario Bava. I had first seen Beyond the Door 2 and really liked the filming in it. The fact that the story ended up having resonance was impressive as well. I later found out that Mario Bava was one of the best Cinematographers to have come from Italy. Being a training Cinematographer and loving visual movies I decided to check out the rest of his films (not easy in Australia). I saw Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Baron Blood, Blood and Black Lace (On SBS), Five Dolls for an August Moon (I liked it!!) and Lisa and the Devil.

They were all terrific (especially Lisa and The Devil and Hatchet For the Honeymoon). So when I came upon the widescreen, uncut version of The Whip and The Body, I thought I was in luck. Supposedly his best film.

Well its not. Finally in The Whip and The Body, Bava does what he always threatened to do. Make a film of images and nothing else. The music seems disconnected from the rest of the movie. The lighting doesnt motivate the movie as it did in his other films, It just made for great colour and shadow design. The camerawork was exceptional and none of the character or situations were engaging. In all the other films I've seen of his, the music always seemed to be against the grain of the movies premise to being with, but after a few minutes seemed integral to every point of the film. The images carried the film in a surreal way and the story always ended up coming together. Not in Whip and the Body.

The good things to say are that the Cinematography is fantastic and the camerawork and compositions are great. But none of this seems to be at the service of the story, it seems to be battling the story for thematic importance and audience attention. Christopher Lee (where's the voice) looks AMAZING. His screen Presense in this movie is so magnetic that he is the only hope for you getting into it in any way.

The Bad things are the rest of the other actors are totally without conviction. The aforementioned clash of the visuals with the story and performances (direction is to blame for this somewhere). The music is so irrelevant to what is going on that it becomes a completely shallow device (you can see what Bava was trying to do with this, but he just didnt pull it off this time and it is a thin line between success and failure). The themes are not pulled off or delved into. Everything about the movie is so on the surface that its no wonder that everyone marvels about the cinematography.

I think the only way people could enjoy this is if they invested their interests in its ideas. Reguardless of how well these ideas were pulled off. Finally, this is the first Mario Bava film I have seen without any of his tragic romantic feeling. In this you never buy the romance as being anything other than a plot device. This is the first film of his I've seen that feels like it was directed by a cinematographer and not a director.

I wish I had liked this as much as all his other fans seemed to. But its just not as good as its billed. Its no wonder that Bava hid under another name. I think that it wasnt until later in his career as a director that he really got hold of how to direct a film. Rather then just visually presenting it, as he does here.

3/10 for me

Not Impressed.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Genius on every Frame. An unbeatable display of movie directing, 16 December 2001

I am normally quite analytical about movies. I can usually see everything coming off a mile away. I can tell what angles are going to be used each scene after I see how the director did the first six scenes and blah, blah, blah.

Not with this film. It is nothing short of Brilliant. Nothing about it could be better. George Miller directs this film as if no other film in history had ever been made. Every image is magic and the final 1/2hr of this film has to be seen to be believed. Everyone in the film is well cast and all the production design, music, editing (Oh Yes!) and finally the Cinematography from Dean Semler is simply incredible.

Mad Max 2 is the best action film ever made. Go see it. Its on at the Cremorne Orpheum now and its great. Hollywood should be ashamed of itself that a film twenty years old is still the benchmark by a long way.

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