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Mission Impossible / Matrix Thriller That Doesn't Quite Work
A pity. A fine idea. Just not quite pulled off with enough cinematic craft and expertise. The script probably needed another draft to transform the talkative explanations into a more cinematic form.
A Mission Impossible IMF mixed with a Matrix-like world is a stunning idea. Unfortunately, Inception doesn't quite know whether it wants to be a human drama, a tragedy, a high-concept sci-fi flick or just a plain old thriller. It end up falling short of all of them.
And DiCaprio is miscast. Personally, I think he is an empty-shirt of an actor. All surface and no projection of any depth or enough intelligence for this role.
Inception runs over 2 hours, but feels heavily edited at the beginning and the end. Despite this, it takes its time wordily explaining the concept of 'inception', fails to develop any of the characters for the audience, relies on the bombastic Hans Zimmer soundtrack too much and utterly fails to build dramatic tension in the slow, too-drawn-out conclusion.
A great opportunity missed.
Going Postal (2010)
Abysmal, truly abysmal.
In the director's commentary for Superman (1978) the director Richard Donner says that his watchword for making a fantasy film was 'verisimilitude' - the appearance of realism.
Whatever the opposite of verisimilitude is, Going Postal has it in spades.
The script is bad. The directing is poor. The editing is all over the place. The mise-en-scène(and if you don't know what that is - don't worry, neither does the director or the producer) is laughably chaotic. And the acting...
Was this made for 10 year olds ?
...First of all, the actors stand around looking embarrassed and undirected. Secondly, the characterisations they use are straight out of a panto. But it is the actors speech delivery which is completely weird. It's unreal. It's unnatural. It's cartoony. It's forced. It's misdirected. It's inappropriate. It's inert. IT'S RUBBISH.
This director has a tin ear and no idea about proper acting. In a fantasy film, where the need to make the characters real in a strange but realistic setting, this spells disaster.
Do the film-makers see Discworld as some kind of live-action cartoon ?
Big budget amateur hour for a sub-teen audience. A crying shame.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
It may have been a breakthrough in film-making, but this was not the breakthrough in film watching I was expecting. The CGI effects are no more convincing at mixing humans and animation than Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Mary Poppins. Closeup motion-capture for acting and some action is good, but obviously pure CGI animation for jumping, running and climbing still fails to convince. James Horner's over-familiar music covers this film like a really bad case of psoriasis. And Sam Worthington's leading performance is not only weak, I would go as far as calling it inept. A strong, distinctive voice and expressive face are waaaaay beyond this limited actor. Zoe Saldana saves the movie in acting terms.
Everyone else is risible including Giovanni Ribisi whose character is possibly set up for the sequel.
Body of Lies (2008)
Dumb and simplistic almost to the point of being insulting.
Is there a special word processor for American movies which churns out dialogue for American movie stars with F*ck and Sh*t inserted at moments of supposed tension ? Is this what plays to American audiences on the East and West coasts and in Middle America ? Is this what Americans and a global audience expects from American mainstream movies ? Is it impossible for the average 15-35 year-old moviegoer to be sympathetic to a character unless they are swearing ? Even the Arabic sidekicks get to speak this swearing Americanese of 'are they sh*ting me' and 'yada yada f*cking yada'.
Even without the swearing this film is still a load of rubbish. Where was the complexity, believable characters, an intelligent script ? With the swearing, it's just insulting.
State of Play (2003)
Good start - bogged down in the middle - so so finish
First two episodes were excellent. Pacey, dramatic, great interaction between journalism, politics and police investigation. What happened in episodes 3,4,5 ? The Police and their ongoing investigation were dropped from the show. The affair between the politician's wife and the journalist took up (seemingly) hours of time. You never learned anything about any of the characters inner life or emotional state. And the most ludicrous character Dominic Foy wasted everybody's time with a pathetic accent, overacting and irrational behaviour. This should have been an excellent 3 or 4 part series, not 6. Episode 6 was too talky and unrealistic. The only saving grace of the final part was the excellent comedy turn of Bill Nighy. Even then, none of the behaviour rang true of real life journalists, politicians or police.
And then there's the way it was shot. If you want to know why the latest Harry Potter movies are not very good, look at the uninventive directing of David Yates in State of Play. No idea how to frame a widescreen frame. No idea how to edit for drama, action, tension or speech. The only idea for edginess seemed to be using a hand-held camera with resulting shaky-cam effect.
And in the end, the political games turned out to be weak, the oil company revelations were less than sinister, the politician's wife had no impact on the outcome and the big revelation was inconsistent with the two big plot turns at the beginning. 1. Who changed and classified the autopsy report ? 2. Why did the police recklessly shoot dead the assassin ?
Watch The Wire for comparison of a better TV series, better drama, more real characters, better writing, better directing, better editing.
Watch All the President's Men for filming in an open plan newspaper office. Watch Parallax View for journalism, company and political tension.
David Yates is no Alan J Pakula.
The Colour of Magic (2008)
Abysmal directing, abysmal editing, abysmal cinematography, abysmal screenplay, abysmal acting, abysmal incidental music, and I could go on. In fact I will.
Mugging faces and silly voices. Pratfalls and Buster Keaton clowning music. Relying on a narrator because the director is not talented enough to convey ideas and story using acting and words.
A successful fantasy film need to make the world seem real. Verisimilitude. This has a totally false feel about it. Everything seems cardboard. It's like a really bad pantomime.
And the lighting, the sets, the way the camera frames the actors, the lighting, the character of Death, the lighting, the editing of the action. Hopeless. Totally amateur. Did I mention the lighting ?
Go back and see the terrible disjointed effort the director Vadim Jean made of his debut film Leon the Pig Farmer and you'll see this is a director with no talent for film making or actors.
There are directors who get jobs because of their connections in the incestuous London TV/Broadcast industry.
Hands down the best sci-fi on TV
How do you take a $100m-$200m two-hour chase/fight movie concept and extend it into more than 20 hours of TV drama ?
This is how. Intelligent TV for intelligent Terminator fans.
Compelling programmes with non-linear and convoluted story lines. The producers, directors, production designers and writers use their imagination and creativity to remain faithful to the original movies whilst providing a consistent weekly diet of quality science fiction, multiple layered characters, mystery upon mystery and time paradox twists.
This show has great editing, direction, special effects, acting, writing and production. And no really bad Cal-Austrian actors in sight.
It looks right. It feels right. It sounds right. It is all right.
I believe those looking for either a constant diet of terminator chases/fights and John Connor military training would soon tire of such straightforward fare.
I'm a longtime science fiction and movie fan, but I have no idea how all the various characters, mysteries and story lines will be resolved.
Long may the quality and intrigue continue. Long may Fox bear with this show. I can't wait to see how all the mysteries come together in the end.
Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
two stars for being in colour.
This may be the worst film ever made per $million. Where to start. The director is a hack ! There's no two ways about it - the direction is all over the place and atrocious. There's no framing of actor or scenes. The film is a complete mess and no amount of quick jump editing can disguise the fact that this director didn't know what he was doing. The cinematography just look incompetent. The film is cut like a really bad music video. The use of 60s songs and Massive Attack to add tone is clichéd, lazy and inappropriate. The script must have been written by a 15 year-old autistic illiterate whilst sitting on the bog straining with constipation. There's no other explanation. And the acting. Oh...my...god. I've seen better amateur dramatics. Let's see - there's the stuck-up Englishman who speaks nomadic Mongolian like a native, the educated black man, the street black man, the Mexican, the spiritual Arab of indeterminate origin, the every woman, the weirdo, the broad-accented Scotsman and cliché after cliché after cliché.
I give it two stars for being in colour.
I am here to kill your MONSTA !
Go see this superior, spectacular cartoon at the cinema. If you're waiting for the DVD forget it - you're missing a treat. This is a beautifully judged dramatic legend, with just the right amount of character, violence, conversation and pathos. I'm not exactly sure what pathos is, but this movie has it. Don't be put off because someone tells you the CGI is not up to human-realistic standard. It doesn't matter. For what is essentially a cartoon, the acting is excellent and CGI is the only way to tell this fantasy. Despite their wooden body movement, some of these avatars act more animated, more human-like than the lead actor(s) in Harry Potter. Marvelous also to have a gruff-voiced, working-class, Norf-London hero voiced by Ray Winstone. I am here to kill your MONSTA ! And as for Angelina Jolie, she's not bad - she's just drawn bad (J Rabbit).
Costumes and Melodrama
There is not an ounce of verisimilitude in this entire film. Instead of dialogue between characters, everybody pontificates. Secondary characters don't act, they just stand around staring blankly in the background. Cardboard cutout blatantly CGI Rome. Disembodied fake cheering crowds in the arena. Bombastic music masking dramatic vacuum. Ridley editing like his tourette-suffering brother Tony Scott. Everything is fake, the story has no message. Killer kills as soldier. Killer kills as gladiator. Killer kills Emperor. That's it ! Art direction triumphs over realism.
Spartacus is not just twice as good a film, or even ten times better. It's simply a different class of movie in every single aspect of film making.