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Quantum of Solace (2008)
Really liked it
I never let other peoples' views influence me before I see a film, and this was no exception. But after the first few minutes I thought I might have been wrong. The opening sequence was frankly annoying with excessive editing and that shaky camera, and as for the song, (and I hadn't heard it before), well I never thought I'd say this but it makes Madonna's Die Another Day sound good.
But when the film started for real, all that was soon forgiven. The action was breathtaking, the story was good and the rough edge to Bond's character was retained, Craig's Bond being the most human so far. I'm not ashamed to say that I was touched when he held the dying Mathis to his chest. He's also an irresponsible and dangerous Bond, a side which the character needed. The main villain was a little weak, but that was balanced out by a Bond girl who was as strong and as motivated as Bond without trying to surpass him as we saw with Jinx in DAD.
Judy Dench was great again, and I liked the portrayal of Leiter too. I hope that he and Bond will soon be friends as before. Interesting too, was a moment that I took as a homage to Goldfinger, though I won't reveal it here. And there were of course some good locations some glamorous, some not; a good balance. Curiously, they brought back the traditional gun barrel sequence though not until the end of the film.
Hold back your opinions until the end.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
I loved it
Contrary to a lot of other comments on this board I thought this was a great film. And having just finished the book beforehand it met all my expectations no problem. Ulliel looked very menacing as the anti-hero Lecter but charming at times as well, just as Hannibal should be and he is backed up by a strong supporting cast (Rhys Ifans in particular).
There are nice references to The Silence of the Lambs the Samurai's face mask that Hannibal tries on resembling the mask worn in SOTL and the music that he listens to in his room at the medical school which is the same as he has playing in his cell in Baltimore.
I was hooked from start to finish and would recommend this film to anyone.
La haine (1995)
Le Monde Est A Vous
"Le Monde est a Vous", ("The world is yours"). One of the most poignant moments in the film is when African French character Hubert reads this message on a billboard, and is virtually reduced to tears with the realisation of how much the world has denied him.
This is a brutal film, both shocking and amusing, that depicts life in a housing project in a Parisian suburb, and how three youths each of a different ethnic minority live there. "La Haine", (Hate), is what they all feel to the police, in particular Vinz, (Vincent Cassel), and life in general. In the aftermath of a riot which has left a friend in a coma Vinz vows to kill a policeman if the friend dies. He will do this with a gun he found, a gun dropped by one of the riot police during the riot.
His friend Hubert, (Hubert Kounde), has seen his gym destroyed in a night, after working two years to own it. Even so, he appears more level-minded than Vinz, until he assaults an officer.
Their Arab French friend, Said, seems somewhere in between. What is certain is that they all feel la haine in some way or another. This is hardly surprising, as they encounter violence at every turn, and their future looks desperately bleak, (reflected by filming in black and white).
The film is set over a single day, and shows just how quickly life can change in a rough city suburb. The social awareness raised by the film apparently had an effect on the French government who were prompted to investigate the reality of the situation.
The film employs some of the most intriguing camerawork I have seen in recent years. It has a feeling of immediacy, in an almost documentary style approach, which feels more real, and draws the audience closer to the characters. I felt real sympathy for all characters in the film, and the life such people have to endure. If there is any sign of hope for the future, i.e. Said altering the sign, "Le Monde est a Vous" to "Le Monde est a Nous", (The world is ours), it is soon extinguished at the next turn.
As an Englishman trying to learn French, I feel I would appreciate this film more if I could understand it as it is spoken, as so much is lost in translation, however "La Haine" remains effective even when subtitled.
I rate this film very highly, and as a Film Studies student studying world cinema, I was impressed by my first real look at French cinema. The acting from all three leads is excellent, (Hubert Kounde shines), and emotions run high.
I look forward to watching more French films. "La Haine" will almost inevitably be the film I measure them against, and I hope there are many more this impressive. Jusqu'ici, tout va bien!
Fantastic Japanese cinema
May contain spoilers!!!
I'll be honest, this is the first Japanese film I've ever seen, but I'm hungry for more, particularly those directed by Kurosawa.
Rashomon is set in Medieval Japan, (exactly when is not stated, and irrelevant), and revolves around the murder of a nobleman and the rape of his wife. The story is related by four separate people, and is being discussed by three men sheltering at Rashomon Gate from torrential rain. The stories are told by the suspect, (a bandit), the murdered mans wife, a woodcutter, (a witness to the murder), and the dead man himself through a medium. Each story is different and all have reasons for lying. During the court scenes the judge is never seen, and the witnesses are facing the audience. Therefore the viewers themselves are the judge.
Key differences are in the fight scenes between the bandit and the nobleman; in the bandit's story they stage a skilled, heroic battle, whilst the woodcutter describes a shambolic fight where both men are weak and untalented.
Who is the killer? You decide.
Key to this film is the cinematography which distinguishes the film from mainstream Hollywood movies. The fight scenes seem long and drawn out due to a mostly static camera, with none of the modern fast editing associated with Hollywood action films. This does appear to slow the film down, but I don't feel that this is to its detriment. Those who have described the film as 'too long' should note that the running time is only around 85 minutes.
This film put Japanese cinema on the world map, and deservedly so. Kurosawa is without doubt the greatest Japanese director, and is often credited with 'auteur' status. I would personally agree despite the fact that I have only seen this one film, but in the course of my studies I will see more of his work.
I really enjoyed this film for its open ending which leaves so much to individual interpretation. The ending is more optimistic, marked by the ceasation of the metaphorical rain that had set the mood of the film up to this point. Cultural differences must be overlooked, and it must also be remembered that this film is now over half a century old, as it should not be judged by its dated appearance.
I hope people enjoy this film, and look deeper than its surface. There is a lot to be found.
Christ You Know I Love This Show
What a fantastic production this is. The lavish sets are superb, and this is filmed as it should be - a stage production.
My love for JCS began when I first became involved in an amatuer production of the show, (as I write this there is less than two weeks to the production, 28 - 31 October), which compelled me to buy a CD of the show, see a production and finally buy this video.
I wasn't disappointed. Glenn Carter is fantastic in the title role, (how does he get that high?), and Jerome Pradon equals him as Judas. Those of you who criticise his voice should be aware that he plays Judas as it should be done. His passion and increasing torment is communicated in his emotional singing. Watch out for Tony Vincent as Simon Zealotes, Frederick B Owens as Caiaphas, and Fred Johanson as Pontius Pilate, attired in a very effective naziesque uniform, (he overacts a little but overall is great.
As for Rik Mayall. Humourous performance as Herod, but a shame about his voice.
The most memorably performed numbers are, "Simon Zealotes", "Gethsemane", "Trial By Pilate/ 39 Lashes", and of course the title song, "Superstar". My personal favourite song though is, "Could We Start Again Please".
"Crucifixion", and, "John 19:41", are well done, enough to have most viewers in tears.
Strange thing, mystifying if you don't enjoy this show.
Pole to Pole (1992)
This is a superb follow-up to "Around The World In 80 Days" in which Michael Palin travels from the North Pole to the South Pole. There is no time limit on this journey, (it lasts over 200 days), but there are still things that can very definately go wrong. Palin's sharp wit and informative nature is on show once more, and the sites ranging from Finland to South Africa are as stunning as you would expect.
I highly recommend this to fans of other travel series.
Sahara with Michael Palin (2002)
Fascinating journey across the Sahara
It's hard to imagine that there are any places Michael Palin hasn't visited yet, but this has all the interest of any of his previous travel series.
This time the intrepid adventurer sets out to tackle the Sahara desert, and meets many interesting people along the way. The scenes are bright and full of life, and Michael Palin is as enthusiastic as ever before, and his inimitable humour and informative commentary is simply irresistable.
This time Palin encounters people in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, (where he explains that he was once crucified - a referance to a filming location from "The Life of Brian") and Mauritania. He even witnesses a part of the Paris - Dakha rally.
The mixture of cultures is incredible to see, with considerable educational value, and some are almost entirely isolated from the outside world. Others follow slightly more western ways, but each is beautifully unique, and a pleasure to see.
Personally, I am eagerly anticipating a new journey for the brilliant Michael Palin. Outstanding entertainment.
Another travelling triumph
Michael Palin's travel shows are so enthralling, and this, a journey around the Pacific rim, is no exception. This time Palin travels through countries as diverse as the United States, Vietnam and New Zealand along the way, and the spectacle is as good as ever.
The witty and informative commentary remains as interesting as in Palin's previous travel series, and the mix of cultures encountered en route combined with this provides unlimited replay value. A joy to watch.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Great movie, great twist
May contain SPOILERS.
I've only just seen this film and I was blown away by its ending. The story revolves around the questioning of 'Verbal' Kint, (Kevin Spacey), who is interrogated by police in California to help with a mysterious occurrence on board a boat in port, where a vicious bloodbath had taken place. The key is the identification of one Kaiser Sosay, (I don't know if I spelt it right), who is apparently the orchestrator of these events. I won't reveal the ending, though it is amazing, see for yourself.
The story is gripping, and there are fine performances by Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro among others. As ever Spacey shines with considerable charisma. Also good is Pete Postlethwaite, (albeit speaking in an unusual accent), though his screen time is limited.
Overall this is a stunning crime thriller, which fans of films such as "LA Confidential" would certainly enjoy. I promise you, you'll love the ending.
Around the World in 80 Days (1989)
Hugely enjoyable globetrotting trip
This is my favourite of Michael Palin's irresistable travel shows, and despite the fact that I know the outcome, I revisit it over and over.
The sights from London to Cairo, Shanghai to Tokyo, and Aspen to New York are breathtaking to see, and Michael Palin's delightfully humorous and informative commentary is a joy.
The journey retains all of its excitement every time I view it, and I hope I will never grow tired of it.
I recommend that all lovers of travel see this, and anyone else for that matter, as the sights are fantastic to see from your own armchair.