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Girl in 3D (2003)
Ahhh this film, it's awful... horrible. Words cannot describe how bad this utter dross is. It actually manages to make Preaching to the Perverted look like a classy piece of work. At the heart of it is some rock star called "stu" who has a record company desperate for him to produce a new album so they kidnap this moronic blond girl for him to abuse. They proceed to get emotionally attached, sort of. It does have a dark streak of humour running through, and somewhere inside is a love story struggling to get out, but the problem is this film is made by someone who has no idea what they are going on about in it. Just as gay films made by straights rarely work, so fetish films done by those of vanilla persuasion don't either and this falls slap bang into that trap. If you want to see a good BDSM film check out the Secretary and avoid this - it's just a seedy moral exploitation tale.
Preaching to the Perverted (1997)
Festering, unrealistic, rubbish.
Having caught this supposedly controversial film for the first time since about 1998 I was shocked. I was not shocked at the second rate fetish imagery and its laughable portrayal on the bdsm scene in London but just how dated this film is. Maybe it is that when it first came out the Spanner Case was still on everyone's lips, the police really were busting fetish clubs and we were all still shaking from the back to basics campaign of the Major government. It's amazing how things can change. Today watching Preaching to the Perverted is a bit like watching a 70s sex comedy where showing bottoms was considered risque. Infact the only thing missing is Leslie Phillips and his smug laugh. With the film failing to remain valid in contemporary England just about the only cause of interest in it has gone. As I've already mentioned it's a totally unrealistic image of the fetish scene, from the laughable BDSM scenes to the relationship between the pervs in the film.
Just to show how out of touch the writers were when the drew up the script they have the stupid idea of an American domme in this country when the reality is that Brittania rules the fetish scene of America thanks to the likes of Skin Two and Demask, not the other way around. To have the major pervy character in it being American is just completely divorced from reality and if she was American how come shes wearing all that latex when leather is far more 'in' there? Patriotic bitching aside the script is horrible and the acting is even worse. The supposed center of the script is the issue of censorship and the rights of the individual but sadly that's all lost in a mix of 70s style jokes and double entendres. Jokes are few and far between and each character is as well sculpted as a lump of lard. Being a 'comedy' films like this live or die on their script. If like Shaun of the Dead it's good and the actors cope with it then the film can weather the ages but if not it quickly falls over. There are some fine actors in the supporting roles who are completely wasted, we all know Keith Allen is funny, Ricky Tomlinson even better, Roger Lloyd Pack can be wonderfully dead pan, and Tom Bell is a great actor but you're left feeling dead at their performances. The two leads are particularly bad. Gwen Turner is a talented actress as well as screen writer but here she might as well be reading from a board off camera. I know shes playing a mistress but her complete failure to ever emote effectively ruins her part, maybe thats the fault of the director but either way she doesn't convey the depth her part needs.
Christien Anholt (son of 1999s Tony you trivia fans) is even worse. So made of paper does he seem that you wonder whether he was recycled from his father's rubbish bin. It's not surprising that his careers has sunk without a trace since. I'm sure his agent can still hear his drowning cries. The dated feel I've mentioned is compounded by the soundtrack of mid 90s techno, whilst some people may smile at the memory of all that pill popping it just sounds rubbish these days and really bleepy, one step up from 2 Unlimited. Even the production design which some have mentioned is just gimmicky, a pink prop in every scene being something people shout about just shows how little there is to shout about. I'm struggling to find anything to recommend about this film, okay, it does have a few funny moments but they are few in far between. I can't even recommend this film for those of you who are vanilla to get an idea of the fetish scene because it's just so laughably bad. The end result is like pouring massage oil on latex and leaving it for three months to fester - flaky, white mouldy crap.
Watership Down (1978)
Watership Down is a wonderful and yet peculiar film. Made infamous thanks to butchers urging people to buy the stew, not to mention an entire generation of traumatised children there's a lot more to this than just the recycled cliches.
What we have is a very English cartoon with lush watercolours and frollicking rabbits making their way across the picturesque countryside after one of the band of rabbits has had a vision of the warrens destruction.
Along their journey we are shown issues as ranging from the sadism of cats, to creationism and facism. The main issue though is the idea that the world is a hard place to live in, and it's this honesty that touches the audience. Despite everything bad that happens the rabbits never lose hope for building a utopian society. It's not really a kids film at all despite being a cartoon, there's plenty of graphic violence, nightmarish undertones and even bad language but it never ends up o.t.t. There's moments in it which can even bring up a lump in the throat of a grown man, which in my case is a rare thing indeed.
The animation employed is wonderful, with amazingly realistic movement and hazy water-coloured backdrops Turner would be proud of. The voice talent on offer ranging from Denholm Elliot to Richard Briers is nothing short of perfect. One of the biggest highlights is the divine music combined with the Aztec style animations as Fiver tries to find Hazel, a simulataneous mixture of uplifting and depressing which feels rather odd. I was going to write something completely different but this is such an effecting film I'm really lost for words. All I can say is watch it. It's a profound experience, and despite not being a kids film I'd show it to them, children need to learn about the world and this film is as good as any place to start teaching them.
The Living Daylights (1987)
Dalton's Solid Debut
Following the geriatric clown, Roger Moore's departure from the role the call went out for a new Bond and despite Pierce Brosnan's best attempts it ended up going to Timothy Dalton. Dalton took a radically different approach from his predecessors and actually read the books that Flemming wrote (as opposed to Brosnan who bases his portayal on the previous Bonds). The result is a much more down to earth and serious Bond, although thankfully this doesn't hit the humourless nadir of License to Kill. The plot although somewhat convulted starts with a sabotaged double-o training exercise in Gibralter and what is arguably a work of dictorial genius with Dalton's screen introduction as the camera cuts from a falling agent to Bond. I'm not going to spoilt what follows but in an egg shell we get cold war defections, spies, counter spying, drugs trafficking, arms running and even a visit to Afghanistan. Despite it's complexity it's refreshingly down to earth, so much so that jokes that were customary in Moore's era such as the "ghettoblaster" seem nothing short of lame. The problems with the film are two fold. First of all the villain or should that be villains because we never get a true sense of who exactly is the master villain are pretty badly drawn. Whittaker is just an army chair general with a 3inch tall army of death and Koskov is a blundering fool with plenty of slapstick. Saving the day for villains is Necros who gets more screentime than any henchman since Red Grant, complete with exploding milk bottles, a headphone garotte and multiple disguises - it's nice to see another henchman who is a Bond equal. The second problem is the lack of womanising on screen. Now I may sound a little chauvanist but the idea is Bond sleeps around. The love interest Kara is rather characterless, and I find it hard to believe that Bond would ever be attracted to a woman like her. In many senses though it's a return to form. Dalton's portrayal of Bond is superb, he's got an unerring sense of control and confidence. He can be charming but also cold and calculating, and as the death of his friend shows he can be downright dangerous if the need is there. His anger and then resulting shame at pulling a gun on a woman and child for carrying a balloon is one of the highlights. The Aston Martin returns once again, after a break of 17 years complete with some decently choreographed car chases and stunts although I keep wondering how a secret agent could sneak across the border in a car like that unnoticed. It's a bit more low key than some of the more OTT movies but this should be welcomed. Unfortunately when it came out the Americans didn't welcome it. Whilst the gross shot up internationally, in the USA it did the same business as the dire View to a Kill had done two years before. Sadly the Americans never "got" Dalton's Bond but thats their loss. 8.5/10
The Magic is Gone
There used to be a time when Star Wars was the best thing since sliced bread. Of course I was about 7 then but nonetheless it was the ultimate for many people of my generation, and then we grew up but perhaps it is that I have grown up that I didn't enjoy this one wanting a film for adults. I entered the cinema expecting some good old fashioned galatic action despite the let down of the Phantom Menace but instead what I got was two hours of largely tedium.
At base level all the ingredients were there but there was nothing else, this film was completely empty at heart. What the original movies had in charm, in script and in the endearing performance of their cast (even Mark Hamill pulled it off in the end) was largely lacking here. The two leads of Christensen and Portman cannot act to save their lives, sadly in this movie their lives were saved and we'll have to experience more of their slushy badly scripted romance in the third. They have all the physical chemistry onscreen of a couple of neutered dogs.
The depth of their romance which is one of the central planks of the movie is comparable to an infants swimming pool, clearly George Lucas has been reading too much Mills and Boon and spent way too long on his special effects computers to remember just how humans work.
The supporting cast headed by Macgregor are patchy too though Macgregor is head and shoulders above the two teenage leads and at times manage to act with some gusto. Much has been said about Christopher Lee and Samuel L Jackson but they are just playing themselves being competent enough actors to just turn up for work and perform regardless of what he director says. Compared to their past performances they are both underwhelming too.
I've already mentioned the love aspect of the story, this was also supposed to be a dark plot with plenty of evil and of course Anakin turning to the dark-side. For what is supposed to be the defining moment of the entire series we get a whole three minutes of screentime where he kills people. As to get a PG rating the slaughter is glossed over and barely shown on camera it's left to the actor to communicate what happened but the evil growing in him is completely skirted around with a little bit of sobby stuff that simply isn't convincing - at no time do we see someone being corrupted by power which is really a lost opportunity.
Lost opportunities is what this film is full of though, inside is a really good story struggling to get out but the issues are dumbed down to make them suitable for children to understand. The lack of invention in it is also stunning, why introduce Jango Fett at all except to cash in on the popularity of Boba Fett, why have Kenobi hide behind an asteroid like Han Solo does in Empire Strikes Back with a star destroyer? Why did we get those terrible C3PO puns and what was it with Yoda ever having a walking stick if he can fight like a whirling dervish on speed? Why does a changeling keep it's face and not get a new one then try to kill Kenobi.
The only part of the script I did appreciate was the ever annoying Jar Jar being the cause of the rise of the Empire, ooh the irony. Script aside Star Wars has always been something of an effects movie but these days it's simply not impressive enough when compared to Lord of the Rings. The saturation of the colours throughout the film make it all look cartoony, and the CGI does look like CGI although it is much improved on the previous film with Yoda at last looking real. I imagine this is where the majority of the work went on the film but it's just not good enough. I do wish that Lucas would get back to the gritty colour tones used in the first two films, they certainly added to the realism but the Disney look seems to have infected the franchise too deeply.
Not only are many of the effects lacking any believability but Lucas can't direct action, something that is a major flaw in a film that has perhaps half of it as action scenes. We get lasers zapping everywhere but there is no coherence with the editing and it all ends up a bit confusing with none of the excitement that should be there.
The problem with editing recurs throughout the film with the love story intercut with the discovery of the clone army badly done, why do we keep coming back from an interesting story to one that just turns people off, something that was obvious in the cinema as you could hear people groan everytime the teenage lovers were on.
The sound though is superb, watching at home on my Dolby 5:1 did make it a bit more of an experience but if you are relying on technical details to carry a film then you really shouldn't be making it to start with. Anyone can buy a decent sound engineer for a movie, and just be limited by budget but not anyone can get a good performance out of an actor, then the limit is talent.
Let's face it that George Lucas is nothing more than a glorified technician being way past his limits is trading on the goodwill of fans from movies he did 25 years ago. He's no great director or writer and should leave that to others, perhaps then we can get the Star Wars movies that we all want, and perhaps he can come to rival the grosses of the old films again but I fear the magic will have gone by then. score - 4/10 for sentimental reasons.