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The Silver Chair (1990)
"The other Marshwiggles say I'm too flighty"
The Silver Chair is perhaps the most consistent of the commendable trilogy of BBC Narnia adaptations of the late 80's, back in those dim distant days when the BBC was committed to quality children's drama. Revisiting the production Ten years after first viewing I found myself warmed anew by the charm of Narnia, which the trilogy more than adequately conveys, and am quite frankly saddened by some of the cynicism of some reviewers towards the economical budgeting. The acting is excellent throughout, Tom Baker much deserving of praise for is simply superb performance as the perennial pessimist 'Puddleglum'; a truly crafted and nuanced portrayal of one C.S Lewis' most endearing characters. Equally the respective child actors put in commendable performances, I much liked the slightly more forceful interpretation of the character of Jill, and Ronald Pickup's Aslan remains resplendent. Perhaps Kellerman's Green Lady is a little OTT for any mature viewer, but the younger viewer will revel in her pantominesque acting.
The atmosphere of the TSC is altogether more dark than some of the earlier outings, Richard Henders manic performance as the crazed Rillian as his the child actors almost visibly reeling in horror, and the scene where Kellerman's Green Lady bewitches the children, "There never was a Narnia", is seditiously sinister. What a shame the tension of the scene was somewhat dispelled when Kellerman transforms into a very unthreatening rubber snake which, despite my defence of the budgeting, really was palpably absurd.
The Chronicles of Narnia really are crying for a modern adaption, to captivate a whole new generation of children bored into catalepsy by inane 'S-Club 7' type melodrama. Indeed, I'm heard whisperings of a Movie production of 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe', inspired perhaps by the movie success of Tolkien. A Hollywood Narnia would indeed by very interesting, perhaps at last Aslan will bound across the screen to remedy my memories of the all to static Aslan of the BBC productions, and the Green Lady will actually turn into a serpent! I only hope the casting and acting is as good as is in these BBC classics!
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Adequate historical romp, but far from a cinematic feast.
I entered the theatre very much a blank canvas, having never read the Dumas classic, willing and very much hoping to be impressed. The opening scenes however very much set the tone, slipshod directing which generated little tension or drama, and somewhat hapless acting from Caviezel and Pearce alike. Indeed, Caviezel had the glare of headlights almost visible in his eyes for the first half of the film. Pearce proved he could hamm it up with the best, and was a more than adequate villain of the piece, but then the role could hardly be described as demanding. Harris' performance was undoubtedly the highlight of the piece, imbued with lashings of dark humour; a brilliantly nuanced piece of acting that truely put his co-stars to shame.
The plot moved apace, in parts at an almost nauseating speed, and despite becoming increasingly convoluted just about managed to keep my interest. The climax was however... dull and seemingly inexplicable, if anyone who has read the book can tell me how Albert was able to follow his father, whose destination was unknown to him, and similtaneously leave a note to his mother telling her where he was going so that she could turn up at the duel scene, I should very much like to know. Perhaps most disappointing was the failure to generate any sense of period, this was very much 19th century France of pantomine drop in scenary even the prison was remarkably clean? Still this was an affable enough piece and far from genuinely dislikable or offensive.
**1/2 out of *****
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Lame and the Ludicrous
Where does one begin, coincidentally a dilemma which the director also faced, with considerably less success. I entered this movie with low expectations hoping, vainly, to be surprised. Needless to say it failed to meet even these low expectations. I actually left the cinema, feeling personally insulted that a director could show such contempt for the audience. The acting was uniformally appalling, not in the least part aided by a script that was, quite frankly laughable; 'and if I win, I win the respect.' The actors handled the complexity of human emotions like warring neanderthals; I would be tempted to read into this a brutal misanthropic polemic, though this of course would be crediting the director with far more than he deserves. The very fact that the first hour escaped the cutting room floor is an act of escapology comparable to exploits of Houdini himself. Admittedly, it improved marginally as it progressed, though by this time I was numb, feeling drained, overwhelmed and violated, not least by the almost constant grating noise of screeching engines. Oh yes, and the attempt to get away from crude ethnic stereotypes was... well er absent.
In conclusion if the thought of fast cars, vacuous 'ladies' and at least 10 minutes of fascinating dialogue about car engines has you salivating, then this may, I repeat may, be the film for you. If on the other hand you value the more conventional customs of the film industry; plot, characterization, drama, suspense and intrigue, then please, please avoid.
*/***** (this is the first film I've ever reviewed as a *!, it really was that bad!)
Far from brilliant- though, throughly watchable.
Far from brilliant, lets make no mistake on that point, but a watch-able and 'interesting' re-interpretation. A somewhat ecletic mix of acting styles, which was most particularly noticeable in the complete lack of affinity Costner displayed with the wider cast. On this point, it was not Costner's accent which upset, but rather the overt arrogance and nauseating moralism which were accentuated in his otherwise fairly bland reading of the character. The character of 'Azeem', effectively portrayed by Freeman, represents a brave interpolation of the 'myth.' However, the inclusion of Azeem tended to underplay the Robin-Little John relationship, which only served to widen the almost tangible gulf, that was ever present, between Costner and his 'Merry Men'/Social Inferiors. Secondly, Freeman's superior subtlety and nuance, had the unwanted side affect of eclipsing Costner's Robin Hood, who by contrast seemed a somewhat hapless figure. Otherwise credible performances by the rest of the cast, was somewhat marred by the the lamentably poor performances on show from Slater and Wincott 'respectively'. Wincott in particular was quite frankly absurd with his unique blend of Machievellian/Disney-esque villainy. Similarly, I could not help but feel that Rickman was OTT and the character Mortianna was a superfluous (and tedious)venture into the occult. Otherwise, I actually enjoyed this 'Medieval romp', the music was atmospherically used, the settings were glorious and the battle sequences were suitably fulfilling if somewhat shallow. Perhaps the pacing, was, at times lethargic, and the plot somewhat predictable; the 'epic sword fight conclusion', a cliche in itself, was ultimately a somewhat bathetic affair. But these are minor criticisms in what is a genuinely watchable, (and if you can wince/cringe through Connery's all too predictable cameo), and thoroughly enjoyable film.
Outside Edge (1994)
'Outside Edge' must stand as one of the best, if not one of the most overlooked, comedies of the 90's. The casting was absolutely superb, Daws, Spall and Lawrence were each brilliant, but it was the 'dowdy down-trodden' 'Mim' played by Brenda Blethyn that stole the show. It's crafted blend of subtle satire and drama rarely fail to hit the right notes, it has the power to both amuse and deeply move, all within the space of thirty minutes. Admittedly the last series never truly recaptured the glory of the first, but then the whole of the first series is an absolute gem. In short an a must see for both cricket and non cricket enthusiasts.
Carry on at Your Convenience (1971)
After watching 'Carry on Camping', which I found surprisingly enjoyable, I decided to watch another of the 'Carry On' series. Sadly 'at Your Convenience' left me with no further desire to watch any more from the series. Perhaps I was unfortunate in my choice, as I have heard better things of other Carry On's such as 'Up the Khyber' etc, but this goes no way to excuse the appalling 'at Your Convenience.' The humour never rose beyond the scatological and puerile, perhaps, bearing in mind the title, I should have anticipated this. Even the unique bawdy humour of 'Camping' was grotesquely overplayed. Characters were characatures and the plot was banal. Overall a sad disappointment. *1/2 /*****
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
The annals of mediocrity awaits.
From the moment Jude Law utters his first words, in a distinctly upper class English accent, the illusion of a Russian setting is destroyed. With the notable exceptions of Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins, none of the 'major characters' attempted the relevant accent, and Hoskins slipped from Russian to 'cockney' with alarming frequency. Jude Law neither looked nor sounded Uralic. I know this shouldn't matter, black actors have played Henry V and Olivier played Othello, but somehow it does. The irritating young boy, irritating by his very omnipresence, sounded and looked like a Dickensian urchin transported into mid 20th century Russia. Please Directors take note, we really do not mind subtitles! The film evidently bears the scars of serious 'cutting'. The connection between the opening opening battle scene, probably the highlight of the film, and the following scene is never fully explained. Fiennes' character, and infact the entire pseudo political slant, is never fully developed.
Ed Harris' performance saved the film, restricted to only a handful of memorable lines, the depth and dignity he was able to bring out of his character manage to spare the blushes of director, if not managing to spare the film from the indignity of it's place in the annals of mediocrity.