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Star Trek (2009)
Just as illogical as Star Trek has always been
I was really hoping for a major rebirth here and sadly it's pretty much "Star Trek: Nemesis" the remake (with a bit of "Enterprise" thrown in for good measure) and I haven't prejudged this film.
This film was designed to be a way of resetting the original characters so we can get new tales about them without having to worry about the huge mass on continuity (not that it bothered many Trek writers in the past anyway).
Time travel is rarely done well and here it makes no sense at all.
If this is a model of time travel where there is one universe which is changed by time travel without paradoxes the solution was simple. Instead of worrying about Earth young Spock should take his mega fast space ship from the future straight to the problematic star and sort it out before it ever becomes a problem. Romulus is saved, Nero will then never go back in time and everything will be back to normal.
If this is a model of the universe where time travel changes nothing but navigates people from one alternate universe to another, while it's a terrible shame that Spock and Kirk don't get on, they aren't the same people as the other Kirk and Spock so the Leonard Spock should be more concerned with getting the pertinent information to this version the crew so they can remove the threat to this alternate Earth than making sure his younger other self's friendship with Kirk get's back on track in the universe he now finds himself in.
Instead we seem to have a hybrid of the two. With Kirk being the Captain of the Enterprise and Spock being his friend and science officer being key to some future (so much so that Leonard's Spock is willing to gamble the fate of whole worlds on making sure this happens)but where Vulcan, Romulus (not to mention Amanda and Kirk's family) can not be saved (for reasons not explained).
Most the changes that Trek obsessives seem to be niggled by can be explained by the film but this major plot conceit can not.
The plot doesn't provide a tight enough mechanism to accomplish what it sets out to do.
The worst Star Trek stories follow a pattern, a cosmic whatnot causes a chain of events which threatens a large group of characters (usually the Earth or the Federation) which can only be solved by a fist fight and male bonding.
This is one of those stories.
The acting was great in places (terrible in others), the effects wonderful but the story makes no logical sense and that impacts on how much emotional investment you can put into it.
It's essentially the same film as "Star Trek: Nemesis" (itself a virtual remake of "The Wrath Of Khan" and seen by some as final nail in the coffin of Trek as it was).
The only thing that's seems to have changed is the general mood of the cinema going public.
So as a rebirth it's as successful and as much a failure as the rebirth of Doctor Who (the new stories are just as bad as the ones that were aired when that show was cancelled).
It's back but everything that made it go wrong before has come back with it but the bulk of the audience are so obsessed with bright colours and loud noises that they don't really notice (it will make a lot of money but that doesn't make it a great film).
Ironically the only Star Trek film to get close to exploration side of the Star Trek mission statement was "The Motion Picture" which is a vastly superior film to this one and largely dismissed by Trek fans and casual viewers as being sterile (and even that had a cosmic whatnot which was halted by a degree of male bonding, only the fisticuffs were verbal in nature in 1979).
This film is missed opportunity to do something truly radical with the Star Trek idea.
Hopefully if sequels happen the crew of this Enterprise will get back to exploring the universe and forget about trying to blow things up and jumping around and smacking people in the chops.
The Children (2008)
A Film That Shoots Itself In A Foot In The Wrong Boot.
This is a slasher film.
A group of painfully upper middle class morons go to a deserted location in the woods, split up and get picked off by a group of murderous monsters.
Yeah but the monsters are their own infected children so that makes for an interesting twist right? No, not really.
The central twist has been done to death in so many films of a higher calibre that it's not enough to justify the rather vile (in a boring way) selection of set pieces.
In reality children are more likely to be hunted and killed by adults but a film where the adult population turns on their children, where "they" have to run for their lives from the people they are conditioned to place their trust in, wouldn't get made (possibly that storyline has been done somewhere but I can't remember it. This way around has made again and again and again).
The irony being that in this film three small children are killed on screen in a violent manner to balance out the death of three adults (mostly off screen) so a film that put the shoe on the right foot wouldn't have looked that different.
It's almost as if the child monster gimmick was wheeled out to allow for scenes of children being killed.
If you want to watch this story done a bit better watch "Ils" or "Quien Puede Matar A Un Nino?".
Or better still switch on the news pick up a newspaper or read a history book. There you will see the true horror in the relationship between children and adults.
This Is One Of The Silliest Dracula Films
Before ploughing into what's so very wrong about this film certain points of near brilliance have to be mentioned.
The costume design (though frequently historically inaccurate) is amazing.
There are several sequences (particularly the shadow of The Count menacing Harker) which are so good they really should be lifted and placed in a much better film than this one.
And the score is exceptional.
But everything else needs to tucked away in the sort of concrete bunker that nuclear waste is deposited into.
For a film that has the nerve to call itself Bram Stoker's Dracula, it is less true to that, so film-able but alas yet to be faithfully adapted, novel as many of the films it apparently is trying to distance itself from.
The 'love story' element particularly, is a very wonky add on pinched off and done better in the Jack Palance version.
The accents of Reeves and Ryder are shockingly awful.
The film seems to have been edited to deliberately remove all suspense and narrative flow from the story.
The most cinematic moments of the book (The Demeter Crossing, Lucy's first sighting of the Count, the death of Lucy's mother, Lucy escaping Van Helsing etc as mist, the fight between Reinfield and the Count, the tracking down of the Counts coffins) All lost or skipped over to make way for Mina's trysts with Prince Vlad.
Where's the Golden Krone segment?
And since when has Whitby been a suburb of London?
Lucy herself is turned from being the pretty, but silly thing of the novel (who becomes shockingly sensual as a vampire) into a naughty little strumpet who giggles at Victporniana, says smutty lines which would have made the Carry On team blush (and would have got Lucy sent off to Doctor Jack's Asylum in period the story is set) and even snogging Mina in a little lesbian cut away.
Mina (a intelligent modern woman in the novel) played by Ryder channelling the ghost of Princess Diana. Is more wet than a cod-lings swimming costume. Yet still manages to get away with,walking with a stranger, watching an early porn movie (before they were invented) with a stranger and taking drugs with a stranger, activities which wouldn't be tolerated in that time period.
The scene where she drinks the Count's blood (which played as an oral rape scene in the novel and a demonstration of Dracula's ability to completely overpower her protectors) in this film plays as a tacky seduction... The Count is almost the victim here of Mina's lusts.
Van Helsing ala Hopkins is a truly bizarre creation. (surely he should have been cast as the Count not Oldman) Oldman is the saddest waste of this film. At turns camp as Christmas and then truly moving, and then barmy shouty and impossible to hear.
Only Dr Seward and Quincey Morris are close to their book counterparts.
How this film got released at all is a mystery.
Why it's still regarded so well beggars belief.
I still hope that one day someone will go back to the novel and make a film that translates it faithfully, with a cast and performances that match it's near perfection.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Tense, beautifully crafted but ultimately empty.
This film is beautifully photographed. The performances are perfect, the tension expertly mounted.It does provide that most rare of things in cinema, a genuinely palpable experience. But what it lacks is any form of resolution or point to the story.
The backpackers suffer through their stupidity. They don't make the necessary preparations for their journey. They take no money, not enough food or water, they don't know how to repair the run down vehicle they buy (because it is cheap).
When things go wrong they trust the first person they meet.
When things become nightmarish they continue to act without thought.
Pure luck is the only thing that could possibly allow any of them to survive because even when they have the opportunity to take charge of the situation, they allow the situation to take charge of them.
This would all be good if the film made a point of this but it doesn't.
What is missing is a contrast.
If the backpacker's tale was the first act of a story where another set of characters in the same situation did at least somethings differently with success. The film would have had the resolution it lacks and would have made a valid point.
As it is, all the film seems to say is the world (particularly the wilderness) is a dangerous place and that evil people exist.
Hardly a new or rewarding message.
In short it's too good a film to dismiss as sick trash but not complete enough to support itself as the masterpiece it should have been.
The skills of all involved are obvious which makes the film so much more of a disappointing experience.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
I am totally gobsmacked!
I am totally amazed by some of the negative responses to this film. Yes it is a long film; a very long film. Perhaps this is a symptom of the short attention spans of people today. But you know what? I wish it was 3 or 4 times longer. Every time this film finishes I compare it to the badly acted special effects laden rubbish that passes for 'epic' cinema these days and wish that T.E Lawrence had his motorcycle accident at 93 (rather than 47 as he did in 1935) so I could have had more of Peter O' Toole's electrifying performance.
The cinematography is acknowledged as being some of the the best in any film ever. When Mr Lean wanted to capture a sun rise, he stood in the dark (in a REAL desert) and waited for the sun to REALLY rise (No computerized nonsense in this film). As for the reviewer who thought Lawrence looked like a homosexual because he had a 'effeminate' walk, well ... I can only hope that one day he joins the 21st century; hero's aren't all musclebound apes, leaders aren't all fluffy paragons of virtue, and so what if he did turn out to be homosexual?
If you and you dad like watching a man being whipped before being violated there is, I believe, a wealth of material available to cater for your taste at your local pornography shop.
In my opinion its one of the best films ever made and certainly the best film I've seen based on real events.
Forget the length feel the quality.
Jack the Giant Killer (1962)
It scared me witless. (30 years ago)
As a child there were 4 things guaranteed to scare the pants off me. The theme tune and title sequence of Tom Baker era Doctor Who, The ride in the boat in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; The snake from the Seven Faces of Dr Lao but most of all, the one thing that would make me cry and quake for hours and hours was Jack the Giant Killer. The Giant was bad enough, but then there was the deliriously camp warlock (camp things always worried me as a child Marc Bolan gave me nightmares too); the evil version of the princess with the odd eyes and then worse of all, The witches. Particularly the one with the huge mouth that blew a gushing wind all the time and the one with the three horns. I watched it recently and I can see why it effected me so. Kids today would probably laugh at it. If I had watched Pirates of the Caribbean when I was three or four years old I might have reacted in a similar way to that. I love this film, I loved it when it scared me out of my skin as a child and I still love it now.
The Exorcist III (1990)
Intelligent and cerebral. An ideal continuation of the original.
First of all I recommend to readers that they try the original book 'Legion' by William Peter Blatty which gives a clearer picture of what the film should have been like before the studio executives got their hands on it. And also that you see 'The Ninth Configuration' also directed by Mr Blatty which confirms both his style and competence. (it's a very moving, funny and creepy film just as this would have been) George C Scott is perfect as Kinderman, his humanity laid bare by his repulsion at what is humanly possible and his love for family and friends. like Karras in the original film (and book) he challenges the existence of a God that allows death, pain, loss and suffering. The sad thing about the cut of the film available is that it creates the impression that Kinderman in the end is convinced that the devil exists but the divine is largely absent. Only a repeat of the sacrifice of Father Karras from the first story shows any victory for good. Brad Dourif is also totally convincing as the spirit of the serial killer inhabiting Karras. I would have liked to have seen more about the Gemini in the film (once again read the book for this) Nicol Williamson's Father Morning, isn't in the book nor is the flashy ending. It smells badly of studio interference again and I hope Blatty gets a chance to do a directors cut to rectify these scenes. This film is creepy enough without the need for the gore and push button shocks that most modern films fall back on way too much. It's also (and this might seem odd for a film of this type) a very funny film. Blatty started out writing comedy and it shows. Give this film a chance, it has one scene that will make you jump out of your skin (I guarantee this!) And a lot to say about the human condition.