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Arthur et les Minimoys (2006)
Arthur & The Avoidables
What a car crash.
This film almost sparks under the weight of it's own arrogance. Arthur & The Invisibles takes the impossibly high bar set by the likes of Pixar, Blue Sky and throws it into a subterranean pit of film making ineptitude.
Never before have I seen so many quotes and steals from so many other films (Star Wars, Antz, Bug's Life, The Borrowers and surprisingly Besson's own Fifth Element among others) without the film benefiting from any lessons learnt in story telling, comedy, action, and ways of engaging family audiences. One must fully look to the top for blame here, as this is where the problems start. From an absurdly confused children's tale that would have Roald Dahl mount a rotisserie in his own grave and would make even Tolkien scratch his temples (script that had enough dialogue, characters and back story to keep an audience busy for an entire trilogy). Into some remarkably absurd casting (is a 50 year old singer really the best actor available to play a romantic lead opposite a 12/13 year old boy?). Following through production design that simply stole from other features and brought nothing of its own. Coming to rest on picture and dialogue editing that was lamentable not only in it's sloppiness, but also for having presented two cumbersome reels of syrupy live "action" followed by four reels where every breath had been sheered out (and presumably a few good laughs), leaving nothing but an intoxicating maelstrom of indecipherable plot.
You will notice something I haven't mentioned so far. The animation..... and herein lies the heartache on seeing this film. So much work has gone into this aspect. There are some fantastic moments and beautifully constructed scenes. The characters work well and have motion that responds to their characterisation beautifully. The sound design is also strong, and both these factors come together to form a body of immensely hard toil. So much pity that the more traditional departments of this film let the side down with inept mistakes, and poor creative decisions. The live action aspects and performances in this film were hideously directed, with bemused looking actors who didn't seem to know what on earth was going on, and camera composition that looked rushed and shoddy compared to the CGI action. There were points in the live action where the actors had been ADR'd, but the lip sync was out. What an insult to the animation department that had managed to lip sync insects and rodents into convincing performances effectively. Shame on you.
I do hope this film goes to show the amount of incredible hard work, creative vision, and team spirit that goes into more successful CGI animations. For it's lack of these facets are plain to see on the screen in this production. I hope this film also acts as a warning to future directors considering CGI as a change in direction. It's an art form. Without study, understanding and years of real hard work you will end up with a Turkey. I just feel sorry for all those animators who must have spent months, plucking, basting and roasting this one.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sly - Talents wasted here
I recently saw a sneak preview of this film and it left me with an overwhelming sense of being cheated out of a good movie. It struck me at how good an actor Sly is, but how much he wastes his talents acting out clunky scripts of his own making, with absurd story lines directed in a cumbersome manner in which his co - stars seem fixed in an apparent state rigid confusion.
There are so many ways this film could have been better. But I feel it's main problem lies in it's absurd, and dare I say it laughable pretext. I fear the script may succeed at one level of analysis however; An exploration of how much Rocky Balboa & Sly Stallone's careers seem to echo one another perhaps? In turn, I hope this move has exorcised SS's "beast within" as well as RB's.
No amount of feeble under nourished sub plots playing out dubious story devices can get this film away from being a total pantomime by the end. Imagine a story of Rocky coming out of retirement and playing in seedy local fights inter cut with footage of the brilliantly executed fights in the first film, his new triumphs no less than what went before. Imagine Rocky fighting brain damage, or Parkinson's like Ali. How gripping that would be? We've all grown up, we can handle it.... But this one plays out a limping personal journey encumbered by an ocean of sentimental syrup coming to rest finally on a denouement that left jabs direct to the brow.... the low brow.
And herein lies a problem; I fear even the hardest core of Rocky fans will find this movie painfully slow. With no real embracing of the franchise construct occurring well into reel 4, only one fight, and oddly enough, a painfully poorly shot presentation therein. For artistic reasons understood, but badly executed in both it's lighting, edit and grade, the entire film switches to video for the final fight and instead of this coming across as edgy it just gives the whole thing a cheap, understated, and anticlimactic feel. With poor sound, and an oddly mixed score that gives nothing to the scale of the surroundings. It sadly sets a bar so low it's off the radar with fight sequences found in the likes of Raging Bull, Rocky, Fight Club and Snatch (I'm sure I'm missing many others). I saw this at arguably one of the best screens in London with a second to none sound system running DTS, and it was not good. The final shot in Las Vegas, a poorly selected video still that looks messy and plastic compared to it's predecessors. Which, for me is indicative of how this film feels compared to the first brilliant outing all those years ago.
I am left with one hope however, that a really fantastic writer and or director will see this movie and see the potential untapped font of acting talent Sly Stallone has bubbling away under his boxing belt and gets him a project that affords Sly the recognition he deserves for services to the movie trade and reverses all the damage he has done to his own career through misguided adventures in auterism.
The Secret Agent (1996)
After 32 years, the World's Worst English Accent title goes to....
The WWEA belt that has been held since 1964 by Dick Van Dyke for his WWEA triumph in "Mary Poppins" has had many challengers, Renee Zelwegger could have tried harder throughout both of her attempts with Bridget Jones, Gwyneth didn't even come back for seconds after Sliding Doors. Don Cheadle did come close in both Ocean's Eleven & Twelve and D.V.D.'s WWEA title looked very much in danger with Robert DeNiro in Frankenstein (he lost to a little known WWEA clause that forbids the use of lip stitching or any type of facial prosthetic), and there has been a surprise late entry recently by Ewan Macgregor in Star Wars episodes I & II, surprising as he is one of very few British contenders.
This recent award shock to Patricia is made even more amazing by the fact that this feat has slept unnoticed for over 8 years, simply because no one actually went to see it!
To see the WWEA rankings please go to the full post on "The Secret Agent" Message Board
Les fils du vent (2004)
Seri has triumphed here in a sweat ridden roller-coaster ride of a film. How refreshing to see a unadulterated action flick doesn't rely on the geekery of CGI, to make it's set pieces come to life, but instead depends wholly on the breath taking athletic talents and bravery of it's entire cast.
I would explain the plot, but it would immediately expose a series of seemingly contrived plot devices in order to get the Yamikasi (the young troupe of French acrobatic building jumpers) to Bangkok, and into, well a whole heap load of trouble. But this film should not be analyzed in such a manner. Whilst puncturing your cornea with highly graded, much stylized Manga - esque images, Mr Seri has evidently immersed himself in Asian contemporary comic book and film culture, and the essence of marshal arts. Brief moments of spiritual enlightenment, racial tension and a love for one of the most exotically beautiful women to grace our screens in a long while (look out for Elodie Yung) puncture blistering scenes of fights a top bamboo scaffolded buildings, grim darkened steel warehouses, and a breath taking final denouement of ridiculous scale. Without a computer generated figure in sight. This is one for DVD replay buttons as mind boggling stunts are brushed aside with yet more bone crushing jumps, spins and kicks.
I already read criticism for this film, but this is the mistaken critique of those watching it in the wrong context. This film should be held up alongside the likes of Akira, and the films of Jakie Chan. And this is where Mr Seri's success truly lies, for he is introducing an entire generation of young Europeans to this much stylized idiom. Suspension of reality for the younger generation, heroics and bravery of young people performing in this high octane circus. If you didn't like it, I suspect you were not the person this film was designed for.
Bravo Monsieur Seri, Bravo!