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|18 reviews in total|
This was a nice surprise, a sequel probably even funnier than its predecessor. Steve Martin again delivers his fresh, funny, different-from-Sellers Clouseau with good support from familiar faces from the first film such as Jean Reno and Emily Mortimer. A big bonus here was John Cleese, much funnier as Dreyfus than Kevin Kline in the original. The movie also looks great with top-notch sets, costumes and photography. Clouseau posing as a flamenco dancer, the CCTV sequence and Clouseau interrogating and dressing up as the Pope were all great laughs. The reviews, predictably and depressingly, have been as bad, if not worse, as those of the first film. I think most of the reviewers and negative commentators simply don't like this kind of bumbling, slapstick comedy. From Chaplin & Keaton, through Laurel & Hardy and the original Panthers right up to Mr Bean in the present day, it's been done successfully for years. If you don't like this genre then don't go and see the film. If you are a fan, then you'll have a good time at this film.
Audiences expecting a traditional biopic of the life and times of Goya will be disappointed by this film; rather than a portrait of Goya the movie is really the story of the times in which he lived, turbulent and very changeable times at that. The character of Goya is really just a hook around which is hung the film's main plots: the initial power of the royal family and Church maintained through the fearsome practices of the Inquisition, the toppling of the status quo by Napoleon's invading forces and then the restoration of the Church by way of the British invasion of Spain. Examination of Goya's artistic process and inspiration is pretty minimal. Renowned director Milos Forman delivers a lavish, eminently watchable film of epic scope yet small-scale and intimate at the same time with its predominant focus on just three characters, Lorenzo, Goya and Ines and the dramatic changes made to their lives by the turbulent historical events of the time. The film's ending was its weakest aspect for me; I found it abrupt, inconclusive and anti-climactic - it certainly makes no effort to tie up various loose ends. But perhaps a period in history like the one the film shows doesn't make for neat and tidy conclusions. A good indication of this comes much earlier in the film when King Carlos IV begins to deliver a reprimand to Goya for his unflattering portrait of the Queen, using a badly played violin to presumably illustrate his point. The King's lecture is interrupted by news of the French Revolution and we never get to hear the King finish his speech or explain the meaning of the badly-played violin. Although not in the same class as the director's previous period dramas, Amadeus and Valmont, this is still ambitious, high-quality film-making.
What you think of this film probably largely depends on whether you've read the book beforehand. As a fan of Patrick Suskind's highly original and imaginative novel, the film was a must-see for me and it certainly didn't disappoint; it's a very faithful and beautifully rendered adaptation. Tom Tykwer adapts and directs with such confidence and skill that he instantly dispels the myth that the story was unfilmable. It genuinely made me wonder why it took around 20 years for the book to reach the big screen. The film has predictably been criticised for failing to convey the sense of smell to viewers; it is of course an impossible task but I'm not aware of the book being subject to the same criticism. Tykwer's visceral visuals, like Suskind's highly descriptive prose, come as close as it's possible to to conjuring up all sorts of scents, both pleasant and otherwise, for the viewer. Ben Whishaw is impressive as the antihero Grenouille. He's better looking than Grenouille is described in the novel as well as less robotic. Tykwer also makes a bold move near the film's end to show Grenouille experiencing feelings of tenderness and longing towards the girl who was his first murder victim, something completely absent in the book but which I felt worked well as an attempt to inject some humanity into Grenouille. Grenouille's first murder is also intriguingly shot to make it seem almost accidental unlike the very deliberate act which it was in the book. Making a film of Perfume, Tykwer probably felt he had no choice but to make Grenouille more empathetic as a two and a half hour film about a hideously ugly misanthrope with no redeeming features whatsoever would have been hard for most audiences to take. Tykwer is also good on tension, slotting in some nerve-shredding moments particularly in the scenes set in Grasse. Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman provide predictably excellent support while John Hurt's literate narration helps set the scene for viewers unfamiliar with the book. The film, like the book, is clearly not for everyone but it's definitely as good an adaptation as I could have expected.
I didn't know too much about Gustav Klimt before watching this film and I didn't leave the cinema all that enlightened either. This pretentious and baffling movie informs us of the following: that Klimt painted lots of pictures of naked women, he swore quite a lot, he wasn't religious, he had lots of illegitimate children and his mother and sister were mentally unstable. Fascinating. We're also treated to scenes in which Klimt takes part in unexplained bouts of boxing in the middle of the street and in which he repeatedly talks to an Austrian government official who, it turns out is actually invisible and just a figment of the artist's imagination. Oh, and Klimt also visits a brothel where he dresses up as a monkey and where the prostitutes wear fake moustaches. If Klimt's story isn't worth telling, then why bother? And if a film had to be made, couldn't the filmmakers have produced something at the very least coherent? This is the kind of movie which gives biopics a bad name. Definitely one to avoid unless you enjoy being confused and bored.
A Good Year is a perfectly enjoyable Sunday afternoon-type movie and an interesting departure for Hollywood heavyweights Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. Crowe is Max, an arrogant, workaholic London stockbroker who inherits a vineyard in the south of France from his recently deceased uncle whom he hasn't seen in years but with whom he used to spend summers at the vineyard as a child. Max hurries down to Provence intending to sell the property as soon as possible and then resume his fast-track life in London several million pounds richer. Things however don't work out quite so simply. Will Max grow to love the vineyard and decide to stay there instead? Will he also fall in love with a local waitress? Will he become a nicer person in the process? No prizes for guessing the answers to these questions. To its credit, A Good Year pretty much wears its unoriginality on its sleeve and makes no effort to be anything that it isn't. It's certainly as far removed from Crowe and Scott's previous collaboration, Gladiator, as it's possible to be. It's simply a straightforward, fairly sentimental romantic comedy, nicely scripted and acted with some beautifully photographed French locations. It's nice to see Crowe attempting to broaden his range; he's by no means a natural comic but I did enjoy his performance which recalls both Cary and Hugh Grant at times. He's also helped by the script giving him some very funny one-liners. The film makes full use of its lush Provencal locations with plenty of golden, sun-dappled cinematography, all the more beautiful for being set alongside the steely blues and greys of London. No reinvention of the cinematic wheel then, and far from either Crowe or Scott's best work but there are a lot worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
Hollywoodland uses a Citizen Kane-style structure to tell the story of George Reeves, superbly portrayed here by Ben Affleck, the actor who found fame playing Superman on TV in the 1950s. The film begins with Reeves' apparent suicide in 1959 and the involvement of a sleazy private detective played by Adrien Brody, hired by Reeves' mother who's convinced that her son would never have taken his own life and that he was murdered. Through a series of flashbacks we see Reeves' rise to fame via the Superman show and his entanglement with the wife of a high-ranking studio executive, well played by Diane Lane. We learn that Reeves, as cheesy and hammy away from the camera as he was in front of it, always regarded the Superman series as an embarrassment and hankered in vain after fame as a proper movie star. Intercut with the flashbacks of Reeves's life are scenes depicting Brody's character Louis Simo's present day life, showing not only his investigations in to Reeves' death but also his strained relationship with his estranged wife and son, his involvement with a work colleague and his dealings with a mentally unstable client who's convinced his wife is cheating on him. Brody's performance is fine but his character is not particularly likable and many of his scenes should probably have been left on the cutting room floor. The equal emphasis and screen time given to Simo takes the focus away from Reeves and to me was an admission on the part of the filmmakers that Reeves' story is too flimsy to fill out a whole movie. As for Reeves himself, the film suggests alternative scenarios pointing to his murder before apparently deciding that suicide was the most likely explanation after all. The film shows plenty of evidence of the charming, sociable and outgoing side to Reeves but the tragic side is just not realised. Reeves' parents' marital breakdown and his fractured relationship with his mother is hinted at rather than properly developed and his suicide comes across as a massive over-reaction to his feelings of despondency over his declining career. Hollywoodland ultimately is a movie which promises much but in the event comes out as pretty half-baked.
Is The Avengers a good film? No. Is it the worst film ever made? No. I first saw the movie at the cinema upon its release and, at that time, I did think that it was one of the worst films I'd seen up to that point. I've watched it 2 or 3 times since then and my opinion of it has improved, well, very slightly at any rate. Apart from a pervading incoherence, I think the film's major problem is its slightness; it's only an hour and a half long and the plot is very simplistic to say the least. It's not hard to imagine audiences feeling a bit short-changed when it first came out, especially as the film was a big-budget, would-be summer blockbuster. Another big problem is the casting of Uma Thurman as Emma Peel. Thurman has shown herself to be a fine actress in movies such as Pulp Fiction but she just looks out of her depth here (I never believed in her as a top-level scientist for a second) and her English accent doesn't sound natural. Nicole Kidman, to whom the role was first offered, would surely have been better, in particular, she's displayed flawless English accents in films such as The Others and The Hours. An English actress I also think would have made a great Peel is Joely Richardson but the studio would probably have vetoed such a choice on the grounds of her not being a big enough name. Ralph Fiennes was a real enigma in this film - there was nothing wrong in principle in casting him as Steed but he looks ill at ease throughout the movie as if he'd rather be elsewhere. I can only assume he'd already twigged that the film was going to be a turkey. What's worse, Fiennes and Thurman have absolutely no chemistry between them, which wastes the snappy dialogue they have with each other throughout the film. The supporting cast fare a bit better with seasoned pros such as Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent and Fiona Shaw making the most of their underdeveloped parts. The retro-chic world of the original TV series is nicely recreated and there's no shortage of nice cars, costumes and locations but what's good about the film is easily drowned out by what's bad; The Avengers is ultimately a shallow, rushed and messy affair, severely hampered by the performances of its two leads. Handled properly, the film could have been a wonderful success for all concerned, the first chapter of an entertaining and lucrative franchise, stretching well beyond the 1990s; instead it's one of the most embarrassing flops of that decade. The original cut of the film was apparently two and a half hours long but, following negative reactions from audiences at test screenings, the studio hacked the film down to its present one and a half hour length. This doesn't actually come as much of a surprise as there is a lack of proper narrative flow to the film suggestive of chunks of explanatory scenes having been cut out. Just one example: towards the end of the film, just before they enter Sir August's underwater lair, Steed and Peel enter a phone box and Peel says "how now brown cow?" down the phone. The phrase seems to be a password to enter the premises but how does Peel know it? There's been talk here and there of the possibility of Warners releasing a director's cut or special edition DVD, restoring the original two and a half hour version. I think this would be a good idea and I'd definitely be interested in watching the full version of the film. It's highly unlikely to be any kind of masterpiece but it's difficult to imagine that it wouldn't improve upon the movie as it stands. At the very least you'd have to assume that it would be more coherent. Sadly I don't think the chances of Warners going down this line are high; I have the feeling that this is a movie the studio would rather forget about than draw attention to.
I was looking forward to the release of this new Pink Panther film from the moment it was announced and it certainly didn't disappoint me. I'm a big fan of the old Blake Edwards-Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies and Sellers' premature death in 1980 was a great shame not least because the Panther franchise was set to continue on with United Artists having already green-lit Romance of the Pink Panther. That said, I've never taken the view that only one actor can play Clouseau; I thought Roger Moore's impersonation of Clouseau in Curse of the Pink Panther was quite amusing for instance. Blake Edwards was nothing if not brave in his attempts to carry on the franchise after Sellers' death but by the time of Son of the Pink Panther in 1993 there were signs that he'd really run out of steam - I thought it was a very poor film, sorely lacking in comic imagination. This new version of the Pink Panther is clearly presented as a fresh start with the film firmly set in the 21st century with Clouseau grappling with modern-day phenomena such as the internet and mobile phones and driving a Smart car. Also, so often in franchise revivals cameos are set aside for stars of the originals but the likes of Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk are nowhere to be seen. There are however a few nods to the original films all of which are welcome such as animated opening credits, Clouseau retaining his cream-coloured overcoat, Clouseau practicing karate on his new sidekick, Ponton, a disguise sequence and a visual gag involving a globe, recalling the very first film. At an hour and a half the film is fairly short but makes up for this by being fairly fast-paced and crammed with humour throughout; I wasn't aware of the film sagging at any point. Most of the humour (even more than in the original films) centres on Clouseau's bad French accent and although Martin's accent wavers awkwardly at times I thought the film delivered very well on this score throughout. The rest of the film's laughs come from well-executed visual gags and pratfalls in the classic Panther tradition with Martin proving himself to be a worthy successor to Sellers along the way. The casting of Jean Reno as Clouseau's companion, Ponton, is great, Reno's very straight, deadpan performance contrasting nicely with Clouseau's clownish antics. I wasn't so sure about Kevin Kline as Dreyfus; I like Kline as an actor but he somehow seemed too young and straightlaced for the part of Dreyfus and his French accent was more stilted than in French Kiss. The female trio of Beyonce, Emily Mortimer and Kristin Chenoweth don't really have all that much to do but were all fine nonetheless. Clive Owen has a nice tongue-in-cheek cameo as a secret agent 006; it's funny enough as it is but would have been even more amusing had Owen been chosen as the new Bond. The poor critical reception for the film has been disappointing although I can't help but think that a lot of critics had already made up their minds before seeing the movie. Unfortunately I think this has been one of the most pre-judged movies of recent years. It's nice to see that it did well at the box office however.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are moments when watching the best Woody Allen films when I feel that they're so good that Woody seems to be operating on a completely different level to any other filmmaker alive. I had that feeling again when watching Match Point. It's a serious film, Woody's first in quite a while and opens intriguingly with a shot of a tennis ball hitting the top of the net and getting suspended in mid-air, leaving viewers wondering whether the ball will drop in front of or behind the net. This nicely sets the tone for a film dealing with luck and making the most of lucky breaks which fall your way as well as the age old question of love vs money. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is Chris, a young working class tennis instructor who, after landing a job at a posh London tennis club, befriends Tom, an upper class pupil, who introduces Chris to his family. Chris starts seeing Tom's sister, Chloe, who quickly falls in love with him. Chloe's father secures a plum job for Chris within his company and the couple proceed to marry. It's really a marriage of convenience for Chris who recklessly starts an affair with Nola, Tom's fiancée, a poor but sultry young actress from America and this intensifies after Tom and Nola split up. Chris seems happy enough juggling both women until Nola drops the bombshell that she is pregnant and Chris is suddenly forced to choose between the two. Nola urges Chris to leave Chloe. Chris' relationship with Nola seemed to be primarily sex-driven but it's now clear that they have feelings for each other which run deep. Chis does want to leave Chloe, who he has never really loved, but can't bring himself to tell her. There's a brilliant and very tense scene when Chloe actually asks Chris if he's having an affair; it's the ideal moment for Chris to confess to Chloe and he almost does, but backs out at the last moment. With matters threatening to spiral out of control, Chris resorts to murder to eliminate Nola and their unborn child. Why does he do this? The simple reason is money. As Chris reveals in a heart-to-heart with a close friend, he's gotten used to a certain lifestyle. Ultimately, Chris chooses his glamorous job, chauffeur-driven car and penthouse flat overlooking the Thames over a financially uncertain future with the woman he loves. There's an interesting scene towards the end of the film where Chris throws a ring linked to one of the murders he's committed towards the Thames in order to dispose of the evidence; his throw isn't good enough and the ring strikes the top of a barrier and floats in the air above in a mirror-image of the opening tennis ball scene. When it lands on the ground instead of in the river this seems to be a bad omen for Chris but luck intervenes and it actually ends up helping him considerably. By the end of the film Chris has literally gotten away with murder and his marriage and lifestyle are intact. It's definitely not a crowd-pleasing ending but it's entirely in keeping with the film's message which is that bad people can and do profit from luck just as much as good people. I thought the film's ending was both different and refreshing given that the murderer predictably gets caught in 99% of movies/TV/books. The film's faults are pretty minor - the dialogue sounds occasionally stilted (probably due to Woody being more used to writing for American characters) and the speed and intensity with which Tom's wealthy family embrace a nobody like Chris is somewhat unrealistic. That aside, this is an outstanding film, totally gripping from beginning to end and a reminder of what a truly great filmmaker Woody Allen is.
To say that there's not a lot to this film is a bit of an understatement. The filmmakers have taken Ira Levin's fairly unsettling original novel and made a conscious decision to make a pretty light-hearted, comedic version. There's nothing wrong with this in theory but the problem is that they seem to have overstepped the mark on this score and have delivered a movie so insubstantial and lacking in tension/darkness that it's highly unlikely to linger at all in your mind after seeing it and little wonder that audiences and critics were severely underwhelmed at the time of the film's release. The starry cast all perform well enough with Roger Bart in particular delivering an engaging comic turn as one of Stepford's gay couple (a feature which, unsurprisingly, did not feature in the novel or the first film version but which actually works quite well here) but the actors are really taking part in something here which is beneath them. That said, the film is never less than watchable and it certainly looks good throughout. The problem is, it's ultimately a rather silly and forgettable affair which, for a big budget, big studio summer event movie, is disappointing to say the least.
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