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A Number (2008)
I must say I really only watched this programme for Tom Wilkinson, although the premise was intriguing, with the idea that a man finds out he is a clone & that there are other copies of him walking around, & the confrontation with his father about what happened. And despite a decent storyline, right from the start it was clear it was originally for the stage, with the dialogue very much in the style of a David Mamet play (Oleanna springs to mind), with the progression & dialogue unclear in many places.
The performances however can't be faulted, with excellent performances from Rhys Ifans & Tom Wilkinson, however perhaps the script would've been better adapted for television than taken directly from the play.
HG Wells: War with the World (2006)
War of the Worlds
Much like the battle that takes place in arguably Wells' most famous novel, this made for TV film seems to have a battle of it's own in the attempt to fully round the character of one of the most contentious authors of the twentieth century. And it almost works.
The first half of the film deals ostensibly with Wells' many flaws - his dream of a Utopian society (with an island for the discarded 'weak' population, to be hidden away), his war-mongering during the First World War, and his wandering eye around the ladies. However, the film is at pains to show that, rather than the hate-filled fantasies of an evil man, all his controversial ponderings come from his over-logical brain, and it is only when confronted with the actualities of the Great War that he sees the error of his ways on so many issues.
The film itself does show HG Wells as a human being, and has no problems showing his flaws and his attempts to rectify himself and the world. However, there are flashes of his predictions for the future (he coined the phrase Atom Bomb 30 years before it's invention), complete with scenes of the Vietnam & Iraqi conflicts, giving the film more of a Nostradamus feel, as if he had visions, rather than educated guesses! Michael Sheen as ever gives a wonderful performance in a slightly above average film, and shows how imperfect, but well meaning, HG Wells was.
Once It Got Going...
Went to see this at the Dublin International Film Festival this afternoon, & I was having my doubts for the first half an hour, but I must say, once I stuck it out, I really enjoyed it.
The film concerns a hard-nosed debt collector, Lucek, who mercilessly repossesses anything from difib machines from hospitals to a statue of the Virgin Mary, without remorse. But things invariably start to unravel for Lucek & an 'epiphany' turns him into a human being, despite everyone's doubts.
The film's turning point is heart-wrenching and the characters develop into rounded people, it just takes them a while! One area I had trouble with though was the soundtrack, which although was really good, didn't really suit the piece.
The Trouble With The Troubles!
I saw this film during the Dublin Film Festival, with both director and writer sitting behind me, and it had been billed as an Academy Award nominee, so the feeling of pressure on me to like it was substantial! Not surprisingly though, it left me cold, as films that's subject matter is Northern Ireland usually do! Now I was a little biased into not liking it as the plot line - a girl who has to choose between her Catholic father or the British soldier who saves her horse's life - didn't captivate me. Almost instantly it is obvious it is based on a short story, the narration is wordy and unnatural-sounding. Then we get the identikit characters - the British Army soldiers, comprised of the geezer, the quiet one & the embittered old pro; and the father, a Brit-hating Catholic man. Even for a short film there is no character development, the girl is two dimensional at best & the father is poorly written. Even the finale left me cold, instead of being dramatic it was slightly silly.
The look of the film is excellent however, it is a stylish piece. However, there is no originality here, and the fact that this has been nominated for an Oscar just shows that America are lapping up the stereotypical Troubles stories as much as ever.
Tim Burton take a bow!
Children's films of late have been getting a bit of renaissance treatment, which is more than a good thing. The Incredibles, the biggest film at the moment, plays like an adult-humour (not adult-rated mind!) comedy which just so happened to be animated. Shrek and Shrek 2 have enough pop-culture references to blow up Disneyland. Therefore, if the pattern continues past Lemony Snicket, we may be seeing a dark, intelligent brand of children's entertainment not dreamed of since the Jim Henson fantasy films!
When reviewing Snicket, you cannot get beyond Jim Carrey, who's finally got his Alec Guinness (or Lon Chaney as a reference in the film shows) role. He is superb playing the evil Count Olaf & transforms brilliantly into his alter egos. The children themselves are certainly less annoying than most child actors, and the amusing cameos work well (for the most part!)
However, despite the Tim Burton-esque locations, we are still watching children's entertainment, and however the director tried to cover it up slushy messages are thrown in all too often to wrap the film up, leaving the bad taste left by other inferior kids films burning in the mouth. But you gotta accept that two thirds of an enjoyable film snagged by a slushy end a good film makes!
Nostradamus and Me (2004)
Can you say Donnie Darko???
Before watching this film (at a screening attended by the director herself) we were informed this had won the short film prize at the Galway Film Fleadh. Surely this result will give filmmakers hope, anyone can do better than this!
How anyone cannot notice the flagrant rip-off of Donnie Darko in this I'll never know. The film is pure drivel, the acting cardboard, the dialogue ridiculous & the ending just flat! The only crumb of comfort we enjoyed after seeing this rubbish was to loudly comment on how dreadful it was, in front of the director! Yes that was mean, but liberating!
At least Irish film-making can't sink any lower!
Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (2003)
It's a sad fact that in modern Ireland, our own language is a virtual non-entity, kept alive by the government, with it's status as the nation's official language, and in pockets of the west of Ireland. This situation is satirized brilliantly with this film, about a young Chinese boy who, wishing to escape his humdrum life in China, decides to go to Ireland, so studies the Irish language in the mistaken belief that we speak it! When he gets over no-one understands him, thinking he's speaking Chinese. Unfortunately this would be a realistic conclusion. This is certainly a fantastic short & is so simple in it's storytelling that you could be forgiven for not noticing the subplot, that as a nation we must get a little of our culture back before our language dies completely. A must for short film fans.
Oh what could have been...
Bloom (or Bl.,m if you're to go by the opening credits) had the potential to follow in the footsteps of what is regarded as the greatest written novel of the 20th century, the Joyce classic Ulysses, an epic ramble around Dublin. What we have here though is merely a supplement to the novel, an illustrated guide to the main parts of the book. Anyone wishing to enjoy this purely as a cinematic event will be disappointed, as the film seems to be almost completely inaccessible to someone not versed in the book. The major plot points (and there are numerous) are lightly touched on (eg Bloom's 'Jewishness') and then we get a plethora of narration taken verbatum from the book over scene after scene on beaches! Obviously the size of the budget limited this film greatly, but it seems the one crucial element missing from the book was the actual walking itself. Since the book focuses on the main characters walking around Dublin, you would expect some in the film, but given the changing face of Dublin 100 years in the future, the film was severely restricted, much to it's detriment. The film had potential yes, but perhaps too much was bitten off, & the pretentious ending, coupled with manipulative a score ruins even the ideas trying to be expressed by this too-faithful adaptation.
Celebrity Deathmatch (2003)
Worst game EVER!!!
I rented this game purely on the basis of loving the show. What I found was that, unlike the show, this was appalling! The range of characters is very limited and it is much too easy to win fights. Plus, once you've completed the Deathmatch option (which should take you less than half an hour!) that's it, nothing left to play for. I was in shock when I played this, & turned it off an hour after beginning. All in all a complete waste of my time.
Upwardly Mobile (1996)
This "comedy" just brought to the attention of the country that RTE cannot do comedy (they rejected Father Ted for god's sake). The premise is simple, a working class family win the lotto & move into a nice area, & it then turns into The Beverly Hillibillies! The writing was dire & I for one was glad when it ended!