37 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Ghost World (2001)
A faithful but overly long adaptation
1 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched Ghost World again, after a gap of about 5 years. This time around I'd just read the complete Ghost World which collected all the strips, and also had additional stuff including the original script of the film. And I found it a very difficult film to watch.

The pacing seemed extremely slow and with it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion (especially the version I watched which was 137 minutes over the theatrical release of 111 minutes). Rebecca gets demoted to a supporting character (and seems very dull) and Seymour, I think perhaps Seymour (who was barely in the comic) should have been a main character, but in a different film. Of course the comic was episodic in nature rather than a continuous story, so they did well to adapt this at all. Perhaps though that's why Josh was demoted to a minor character and Seymour replaces him and Rebecca in many scenes.

The film (much more than the comics) is about that period between being a teenager and becoming an adult. It's funny thinking about where the two main actors after the film. Scarlett Johansson's (Rebecca) career took off after this with over 30 films to her credit (think Black Widow) but Thora Birch (Enid) has only done 12 films since. Steve Buscemi (Seymour) being a character actor has done 50+ films. Not that the number of films counts for everything, but to me it shows an interesting balance and a period of transition for them, much like the characters in the film.
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Minions (2015)
Cute but very American
21 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Well I saw Minions, and only for $6. It was the first and only session of the day and there were only a dozen people in the cinema. The person at the box office said it was a "promotion" of some sort. I enjoyed the film overall, but it came across as as a film about Britain made by people who never visited there, or got their ideas about the place from old 60s shows. I mean "Queen's Crown"? The "Crown Jewels" surely! Also there seemed an absence of Brit accents which I thought was odd, and the clothing looked 70s/80s rather than 60s.

But it was a bit of fun, a piece of fluff, and was pretty good as then, especially with all the retro references in it (including yet another moon landing hoax trope). One way to spend Saturday morning. I was the only one who stayed for the extra encore at the end.
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An Australian Classic that will make you laugh and cry
15 August 2015
I saw this film yesterday, choosing it over both "Fantastic Four" and "The Man from UNCLE" and it was a good choice. The trailer - which I saw on tube - only gives you the basic scenario of the film, but NOT what it's about. I have to admit I chose it because it featured Michael Caton, who was also in another classic Aussie film *The Castle*. He, and the other actors in this film have been cast really well. I particularly like Ningali Lawford-Wolf as Polly, and Mark Coles Smith as Tilley.

The film made me laugh and cry, partly because it tapped into my own family history, But I loved the background to this story - the red and greens of the outback, the houses with tin roofs and rock fences - they remind me of Kalgoorlie where I lived at an early age . Also the film, which is based on a play by Reg Cribb, doesn't shy away from social issues that won't go away, but is ultimately uplifting in what it says.
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Ripper Crime Drama
1 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
GEM was showing this early Saturday morning, and I just finished AKA Known as "Four Desperate Men" in the States, but as "The Siege of Pinchgut" here in Australia, this was shown on local TV yesterday. It was rather unusual seeing Sydney in 1959, with double decker buses, trams, and police vans with "POLICE E&R FORCE" on the side of them, and the lowish skyline of Northern Sydney.

The film follows the pattern of the period which would have one or two overseas stars to help sell the film elsewhere. This time it's Aldo Ray and Carlo Giustini. It also has a solid performance by Gerry Duggan (whom I saw in a Skippy repeat last week) and Alan Tilvern as the hard-headed Superintendent Hanna. Like many films of the time, accents are either well known dialects (like Irish), "educated" (like Hanna's) or "larrikin" like the main characters brother Joey.

Very much a drama of who will and won't survive, including a good portion of Sydney, with a live naval gun trained on a boat full of explosives! There's a number of sly digs on Australian society in the film, like a two-up game running in the middle of an evacuation. I also liked the reference to "the old tram depot, about to be demolished for our new Opera House" - little did they know where that'd lead! Good stuff and a look at the past.
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Man of Steel (2013)
A good effort that reflects changes in the comic
29 June 2013
Yesterday I saw Man of Steel in 3D. Overall I liked the film, though I can well understand why a lot of people didn't. It seems needlessly loud and noisy in places, and there are plenty of spectacular special effects and lots of explosions that might lead some (who hasn't read a lot of Superman stuff) to assume that there's almost no plot. But there is, and it seems to reflect the changes in the comic since the 1978 film (which this looks a remake of, because it has Zod in it). I guessed what the final scene would be midway through the film and I was right! Things I like: Lois Lane is not portrayed as a sap; showing Clark developing his powers (and his grounding in morality) over a period of time; Perry White; the superhero battles; the Cinéma vérité style used for the home life scenes. Russell Crowe also seemed slightly less pompous than Marlon Brando. Things I didn't like: the Cinéma vérité for the fast action scenes (reminded me a LOT of Battle of Los Angeles which I'd seen the day before); the "moulded plastic" looks of the new version of the superman suit; the writing out of Lois's father (who could easily have been in this film).

But then, the tone of this film is much like Batman Begins and Amazing Spiderman - a slightly more "realistic look". There's some clever reinventions in this film, like what the "Fortress of Solitude" really was; a way of having Jor-El in the first film but written out of the next; hints at the next film (I predict Lex Luthor and/or Brainiac). In tone though it resembled more ID4 or a 9/11 documentary than anything else.

And the problem with that is, where does the sequel go? There are huge spectacles and stunts in this film, and for me it did have a decent plot. The way it was presented though, inverted expectations of anyone who saw the 1978 film and its sequel. But it also dropped the "cuteness" that peppered those films that seemed to come from nowhere (like OTIS who seemed more Woosy Winks - Plastic Man's sidekick - than anything else) except for the fact it was based on a comic. The big thing I liked about this film is that the main character is believable. His motivations come from his upbringing and the predicament of being who he is. If that's kept up, then the sequels might actually be OK.
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Dredd (2012)
True to the Comics
9 November 2012
Saw DREDD yesterday. Glad I did. Been a DREDD fan since the early 80s. Am so glad this film got made.

This film got so much right - not in exact looks of the comics, but in a "Batman Begins" style of character and effect. Unlike the Stallone film (which borrowed the plot from Demolition Man) Dredd doesn't talk too much, and doesn't remove his helmet (the only times he did in the strips you either couldn't see his face clearly of he had a disguise on). The plot seems right, having Anderson as a Rookie means that we get to see how the Judges reason and how they behave.

If there's anything missing from the film it's any sense of humour. Don't expect to see any "Ugly Clinics" or "Unk's Candy Bars", or Dredd's robotic butler Walter, but you will see LOTS of violence with people being shot in numerous ways, skinned, defenestrated, stabbed, and otherwise killed in messy ways. Although the 3D effects are a bit gimmicky they're used well, with droplets on intervening window panes, or spraying out into your lap as people get thrown places.

I loved Dredd's understatements and reactions throughout the film - he doesn't lose his cool at all. I hope they make lots of $$$ and make a couple of sequels. I've read somewhere that if they do #2 will be THE CURSED EARTH (a 2000AD take on Damnation Alley) and #3 would be JUDGE DEATH (which was likely to have been the plot of a 2nd Stallone film). I wanna see 'em.
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Perfect retelling of the Comic
28 August 2011
I'm highly impressed with this film. Like Thor, the writers have done their research and I think the film captures the character of WWII Cap almost perfectly. Of course some changes have been made to the origin story, but it is essentially intact. The point of a film like this is not to mimic the original comics exactly, but to get across the basic idea and flavour of the stories. What I quite liked about this film was how deftly it wove several Marvel characters and groups together. Not only do we have the Captain fighting the Red Skull (Weaving is perfectly cast) but with the appearance of the Howling Commandos, Agent Carter, and HYDRA. (and their uniform now actually makes sense in a WWII setting).

The look of the film seems just right, and the Nazi hi-tech kit is either based on real designs (in the case of the aircraft) or has the feel of the period. I also liked how we see the Kirby-Simon costume (including patriotic poses which could have been lifted straight off the covers of the comics of the period), and later the Ultimates costume versions. Not only that that but there's at least one scene featuring tricks and hi-jinx on a motorcycle, which is a tip to the otherwise terrible TV show! I loved it.
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True Grit (2010)
Authentic Feel
29 January 2011
Saw True Grit on Wednesday. I was surprised with just how good the film was.

Haven't read the book that both this film and the 1969 version were based on, but this film version seems to be a fuller, more believable account. I absolutely did not recognize Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf! Of course many scenes are shared with the 1969 version and the film includes the classic "Fill your hands you son of a bitch!" line from Rooster Cogburn.

I read somewhere, and I think it's true, that a big difference between this and the earlier version is that the focus on the story is firmly on Matty Ross, not Cogburn, who though a major character, is a supporting one. Some elements are entirely different. For example, in the 1969 version, after threatening everyone and sundry with her lawyer, we finally get to see him and discover him to be a short weedy man with a high pitched voice! There's a good reason that never happens in this version, but I won't spoil this for you. Suffice it to say that scenes towards the end of the film reminded me of certain French films, and are better for that. More like "Dead Man" and "The Grey Fox" than the previous film, which is a GOOD THING.
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Anonymous Rex (2004 TV Movie)
Interesting if silly TV movie
1 January 2011
Woke up at 12:25am ans couldn't get back to sleep. Flipped through the channels on TV and though there was a Trek episode on I saw most of something called Anonymous Rex.

The premise is that dinosaurs didn't die out, they just got smaller and evolved, and have been hiding in human society for a long long time. I like the idea because the execution is very silly. Apparently "hiding" means in disguise as in make-up and then latex outfits and finally advanced holograms, but really it's a lot like the original and remake of "V" - people pretending to be aliens / reptiles in rubber suits pretending to be human.

In a way it reminds me of the one season run of Moonlight in which Vampires hide in human society. Both have "clean-up crews" and agents strategically placed in positions where the truth can be concealed. And like that series it's a bit low budget and you only see the main character use their powers in subtle (i.e. cost effective) ways. But, I did enjoy the detective/gumshoe elements of the story, even though the world posited is pretty superficial (we never see any Dino specific culture other than in a "cult" setting). I did also like the way that Vincent - the main character - uses his heightened sense of smell in his work and how its show visually.

Apparently there are a series of books as well, but I suspect they may be less fun than the TV movie
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Could have been much much worse
31 December 2010
The film turned out to be funnier than expected. I thought it was well cast, and loved the steam-punk elements (the small folk are clearly early-mid 19th century in dress and style, but much more advanced mechanically). And it actually had three or four scenes that matched the original story (including on how to put out a fire).

I saw this in a different sort of 3D system than I've experienced before. I had to collect the specs from an attendant going in and he said "Just be aware that if you break or damage them there will be a $75 fee" - What!!!! The specs seemed to be silver lined and I found them hard to rest properly, and there tended to be lots of spurious reflections throughout the film. If I have a choice in the future, I'll use the "Real 3D" cinema showings. Have no trouble with those other than my eyes watering by the end of the film (not a problem here).

The end credits suggested more to the story and a possible sequel (maybe featuring Laputa and the Yahoos?), but I doubt that'll happen.
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Hit and miss screwball comedy
12 December 2010
Saw a really bizarre film yesterday, called One, Two, Three.

Now considering it was written by I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder what would we expect of this? It is a total farce, and 49 years later much of the contemporary references and humour seem as funny as a slap in the face with a wet fish. I was watching the film on a Saturday afternoon while doing something else, and it followed The Three Stooges Meet Hercules made the following year and at times it was hard to tell the difference, The film appears to treat all sides with the same vicious satire. East German Police are rude and suspicious and frame their own citizens as spies. The trade delegation from the Soviet Union are more interested in acquiring the main character's secretary than anything else. The main character - MacNamara as played by James Cagney - is a blatant capitalist who employs ex-Nazis and is willing to use deception to get what he wants. In fact when I was watching this, I kept thinking that it should have stared Cary Grant in this screwball comedy. Almost every character in the film is a caricature : MacNamara is the company man who who do anything to save his job; Otto Piffl (played by Horst Bucholz) is the arch communist spouting propaganda that gets transformed into a fake aristocrat.

But does it work? A lot of the film seems awfully flat, whereas some scenes are still funny. I thought the chase scene (in the video segment above) was an overdone comment on East German Cars. Very hit and miss, this film
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What were they thinking?
7 September 2010
This is a Western that ought to have everything: amazing vistas; larger than life characters; Indians; the Cavalry; a US Marshall and a Mexican bandit; and a treasure worth dying for. It looks as if it should have been a Spaghetti Western and probably would have made more sense had it been. Unfortunately the nearest comparison is more like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

The huge cast seems to exist just to give most of the actors cameos in the film. No sooner are most introduced (and some with extended explanations of who they are and why they're here) than they are killed one way or another. Omar Sharif is utterly unconvincing as a Mexican, and Gregory Peck seems to have phoned in his performance (which puts his performance as General MacArthur in the 1977 film in a good light).

Also, the plot doesn't make a great deal of sense. The ending is contrived and not really explained well - the special effects have aged horribly over the 40 years since this was made. Also, any films that requires a voice over to explain the plot or the characters motives all the time, can't be that good at telling and explaining things naturally.

A pity. because as a "Saturday/Sunday Afternoon film" on TV (to be watched while you're doing something else) it's not bad! In fact, so bad it's good.
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Inception (2010)
Down the Rabbit Hole
23 July 2010
Having decided I needed to see a film to relax, I saw Inception today. I think it was a good choice because it totally relaxed me as I was immersed in the story.

The shorts for this got me in, and it seemed vaguely like a "Matrix" type film (i.e. virtual reality) but also this is the second film I've seen with Leonardo DiCaprio in it. The last one, Shutter Island was a predictable but effective and moody film which I also enjoyed and appreciated. Coincidentally DiCaprio's character in each has issues with his wife and children, and in both things are not quite what they seem. Both are in their own ways very dark films.

And yes, this is a film about the nature of reality, similar to the inferior Vanilla Sky but closer to Total Recall. No doubt there are enormous plot-holes in the film (I spotted a huge one myself) but if you accept the series of premises that make the film possible, they are internally consistent.

I thought that there were several different ways that this could have ended, and even waited through the credits to see if there was an extra teaser at the end, but it's not that sort of film.
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Avatar (2009)
Top Film if a little predictable
17 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Saw this in 3D today - has my thumbs up! The 3D works (even with my vision) and the story, although predictable (I'd figured out the ending by about 20 minutes into the film) was nonetheless very enjoyable and touched me deeply in several scenes.

Actually, the film reminded me a lot of two SF stories: Call me Joe by Poul Anderson, and Hothouse by Brian Aldiss. Anyway, the themes are not new, but what is new is the totality of the treatment. Almost all of the action takes place in an alien environment with the Narvi - all of which is computer generated. There is live action footage and characters spliced into this as well, and it is absolutely seamless. Within 10 minutes I was immersed into the environment, and wishing it really existed!

With a lot of films of this ilk the plot is a bit simplistic. We don't know much about the corporation exploiting the planet, but we can guess that this is either the same one seen in the Aliens films, or one very similar in operation. Really though the situation mirrors a number of colonial and post-colonial situations in recent history, where local and indigenous populations lost out to overseas interest in their resources.

No doubt about who the "bad guys" are and this is pretty clear from the trailer. It takes time but you learn about the Narvi over the course of the film and come to understand their culture and religion - a religion that seems to be based on a "real goddess" as well. But it's also clear that ultimately the good guys will win, and that the main character will, well you'll see. Suffice it to say that what happens is telegraphed well before it occurs.

But even with its predictability, I loved this film. I shall have to see it again, without the 3D,to see if that makes a difference.
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Hair (1979)
Strange Musical
14 November 2009
I remembered seeing this film in the cinemas in 1979 (I was 22 at the time) but I can't remember much about my reactions to it, except that the ending was very down. When I watched it again a few days ago on DVD I was surprised how good the camera work and the singing voices in the film were. But all the same there's a strange quality to this musical.

The plot doesn't quite hold together, which is not surprising considering that the original musical had a different plot and omits several songs. There are similarities, but the main characters are viewed now with the benefit of hindsight and while the film seems sympathetic, many of the characters seem shallow.

And it does have a very down ending.
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Good film but not for everyone
6 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on the way home after a trip to Sydney. I was run-down, slightly feverish and head-achy, but none of that interfered with my enjoyment of the film.

I'd actually forgotten that the film'd been released but when I saw the choices available it was the logical choice. I missed 1 minute of the opening credits but for once that wasn't a crucial thing. This being a Terry Gilliam film, you know it's going to be a) fantastic in a classic sense, b) complicated with many red herrings and original characters, and c) something you can watch more than once.

I was not disappointed. It took a while before I followed what was happening and that's part of the charm of this film. The story (really a parable or allegory) is built up in layers and seemed to me perfectly cast (even allowing for Ledger's "ring-ins" after his untimely death). I particularly like the play between Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and Mr Nick (Tom Waits). I found it interesting to see the visual influences in this film as well. The fantasy segments all have the mark of the director's animation days with Monty Python. There's also a Harry Potter influence in that Parnassus's wagon/theater looks like something from one of those films, and Parnassus himself reminded me strongly of a drunk Dumbledore.

But this is NOT a film for everyone. The ending is NOT a Hollywood style "happy ending" by any means, but one that reflects on the nature of life. Anyone expecting this film to be a bit of "holiday entertainment" will be sorely disappointed, as the plot is not as predictable and the clichés used in the film aren't the sort you usually see.

A top film that makes one think.
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A strange obsessive film
31 October 2009
I watched this film on DVD while lying in bed late at night - I mention this as it might have influenced how I feel about it. I found the film to have an obsessive, haunting, but authentic quality about it.

Regardless of personal performances I felt that overall the film gave a very good look at a certain period in American history. Unlike films like "Young Guns" very little is glamorized here. People are not thrown back by gunfire - they drop from the trauma - and gunfights are a haphazard affair. All that was much like what "The West" was like, rather than how it was portrayed in novels and films. The length of the film, with its long conversation driven sequences with little background music also emphasize the period nature of the topic. Before radio, records and TV, folk found slower ways to pass the time.

The "facts" of the story are revealed in the title and "known" to many. But this film deals with the interior emotional landscape of the main characters rather than a straight forward plot driven set of scenes that we might expect. For some that will made it tedious to watch, but I found that I couldn't tear myself away from watching it - perhaps a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion - you know what's coming but have to watch anyway.

I also found the narration to be a peculiar, but effective addition. The narrator has to represent the author of the original book that the film's based on, because more than once he describes things that no character in the film would know. And yet this too helps set the scene in a manner counter to the usual, and I like that.

An enjoyable watch.
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Star Trek (2009)
A long term StarTrek Fan's review
8 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I have been anticipating this film more than any other in the last year and a half. A film about Kirk, Spock and the rest during their academy days? This was mooted ages ago but instead we got Nemesis which while very well produced, was less than satisfactory. In fact it looked like that film almost "killed the franchise". That being the case, and the fact that J.J. Abrams was producer on Lost and Cloverfield made me a little uncertain as to what I'd see.  I've been a fan of Trek ever since I watched it in the 60s, so I'm hard to please.

What makes or breaks a Star Trek film is the script, always - how it treats the characters, how it hangs together in the Star Trek universe both in background details and also in continuity. This is why The Wrath of Khan  and The Voyage Home are overall good films, and The Final Frontier and Insurrection are not. The former seem to fit well in the Star Trek universe, the latter don't. This film however is well written, even if the plot does depend upon apparent chance and coincidence to a huge degree.

When they started making more than one series of Star Trek, there was a tradition of including a character from the previous series, or a recent film. They've done that in this too, and for me that helped make it "Trek". I also loved the inclusion of green women and Captain Pike, who were both in the pilot to the original series. :) A real test of whether or not Star Trek is a "modern mythology" like comics is whether or not it survives a change of actors. There was a long tradition in the TV series and films that original actors always played their characters whenever possible. In this film however (with one exception) that isn't the case. How much were the character of Kirk, Spock and McCoy derived from the character of Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley? It'd be tempting as a fan to believe that all of it was. The actors of the new film however do such a good job that the characters are still recognizable.

When McCoy says "I'm a Doctor, not a physicist!" (as you know he will) it's right rather than parody or pastiche. I found myself guessing how the characters would react or talk (based on my experience of the series and films) and most times I was right, so I'm satisfied with their portrayal in the film (even if Checkov was left with "the comm" more than once - gasp).

The problem that Abrams had of course was how to do a "prequel" without running into all manner of problems with continuity? Enterprise faced the same problem and the solution there was to introduce a "time war" in which future agents interfered in past events and thus changed the time line to various alternate presents. While that sounds like a cop-out it actually had many precedents in the TV shows, including the original series.  Most of the time however, the result was use of the "reset button" in which the original time-line is restored. Well, without going into spoilers too much for this film, time travel is involved, but this time the "reset button" isn't used.  What we end up with is actually predictable - pretty much the same line-up of the original series of characters in the original series (nurse Chapel is mentioned but not seen), but not exactly the same temperaments of history (which can be blamed on the root event of the film). And because this is an alternate time-line we're now in, future writers are free to write whatever adventures and developments they like.

This is a "reboot" rather than a "reset" button, and this is quite clear in the credits with one character having "prime" appended to their name. There's already a sequel in the works, though I could even believe a new TV series could be launched by the film too - otherwise why use the original theme at the end (a very nice touch)? Wishful thinking perhaps. :) So for me, a very long term fan, they got this film right, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it does make my complete collection of "Star Trek fact files" obsolete.
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The Spirit (2008)
Not a good adaptation
31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I think we should be thankful for small mercies - namely that the creator of the Spirit, Will Eisner, didn't live to see this adaptation of his comic series. This is one of the few films I've seen where I considered walking out or demanding my money back. I didn't though and saw the whole thing through.

The problem is that I'm a big fan of Eisner and his work, but also especially of the Spirit and the qualities it possessed. And I didn't see much evidence of Eisner or those qualities in the film.

Instead what we seem to have is Frank Miller's "remake" of the strip. Almost nothing is untouched or unchanged. The film has the look of Sin City which was an adaptation of Miller's own work. I was able read that work via the local library and found that the high-contrast sparing use of colour look of the film was true to the comic originals. But this time the original isn't Miller's work - it's Eisner's and the contrast in styles is very jarring (this becomes very apparent if you stay to watch the credits - see who's artwork is up there). To a certain degree a lot of my uneasiness about the film is based on this.

In the original series (set in the 1940s), the Spirit is just "an average guy" which gets knifed, shot and knocked about a lot. In his origin story he becomes a crime fighter after being mistaken for dead when he had in fact gone into suspended animation caused by a villain's experiments. In this film it's the Octopus that experiments on him, and the result is extreme regenerative powers that seem to rival Wolverine's! This is going down a road traveled by recent Batman and Spiderman films - combine a major villain with an origin story and make that villain the cause. But just like the Batman and Spiderman comics, that isn't the case in the Spirit comic originals.

About the only thing the movie Octopus has in common with the comic version is the style of gloves he wears. Samuel Jackson's role is particularly silly but nowadays he seems to play a parody of himself and his earlier roles. In the comics, you never see the Octopus's face but here you do! The scene within the Nazi style torture chamber is particularly dumb and obnoxious - I kept on expecting Mel Brooks to walk in from behind the curtain. The other characters are slightly better.

Denny Colt / The Spirit seems like a larger than life boy scout sometimes and totally clueless the next. The opening fight scene between the Spirit and the Octopus, where they assault each other with trees, iron bars and toilet seats, sets the tone for the rest of the film. I was particularly upset with the scene were the Spirit is hanging by his coat (with his trousers down) off the side of as building. I had the feeling that rather than like The Spirit, that the director really hated the character and had made every effort to ridicule the whole concept.

Ellen - the Spirit's main squeeze - and Commissioner Dolan (her father) are done better though in this film she's also the Spirit's treating doctor. The other female characters vary in quality. Sand Serif is much like the original character though she seems to have a lot of P'Gell in her as well. Plaster of Paris, Silken Floss and Morgenstern all seem much less developed. Lorelei is presented as a supernatural aspect of Death whereas in the comics she was a one-shot character. There's a running gag all the way through about how the Spirit is irresistible to women. Fair enough and femme fatales with colourful names were the mainstay of the comics. Notably absent is Ebony White - the Spirit's long term sidekick, This is probably because in the 40s he was presented as a racial stereotype with funny speech and so on.

Despite all the differences, some things do seem the same. Apart from the over the top physical violence slapstick, the rambling plot is vaguely like a Spirit story. Also, some scenes seem to be taken directly from the original stories, like the Spirit rising up out of the water, or talking to the audience and saying that he has to bring in Sand Serif, or the dissolving cat! But all this effort seems wasted in the rest of the film with its jarring differences and failed humour.

In fact there's a number of pop culture references in the film (to Batman and Star Trek, and Crime SuspenStories) that just seem out of place. Central City is presented as an "anywhere town" of the middle 20th century and yet these references are specific and date it - to different times (the same with the young Denny and Sand being interviewed for TV).

This isn't the first film done about the Spirit - there was a TV pilot made in 1987 staring Sam Jones. I've seen that film and it seemed much truer to the original, Not surprising considering that Eisner was credited as co-script writer. There's a quote (if I remember correctly) that sums up this film: Octopus "There's shot to hell, and shot to hell, but this's ridiculous!"
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Nice Kid's Film
18 August 2008
I saw The Clone Wars yesterday.

Not bad for a kid's film (and this is very much a kid's film, especially the plot) - much better than Caravan of Courage (mind you, anything would be)! However, something that did grate for the first 30 minutes was the fact that the voice actors for Anakin and Obi-Wan aren't the actors from the live action films. I sometimes have trouble with faces, but am pretty good with voices. In fact the only voice actors that carry over are Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels and Christopher Lee.

The other thing that got to me was that at least two important characters are clones - Captain Rex and Commander Cody (who turns up Revenge of the Sith) but all they seem to be (like the rest of the clones) are cannon fodder. Unlike others, I wasn't annoyed at Ahsoka Tano who is obviously there as a character the kids can identify with.

The opening is slightly different in that they've dispensed with the scrolling text, and replaced it with a voice over. Otherwise, it has a standard format for a Star Wars film - an extended intro with a battle or situation that isn't really connected with the rest of the plot, followed by plot and double plot-twist as things develop.

I still had the sense of watching an extended promo for a video game, and the level of plot and character development matched that found in the comics, rather than the other films. However, I enjoyed it for what it was, rather than what it could have been.
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Gerry (2002)
An annoying yet intriguing film
4 August 2008
I went to bed last light but watched most of a film on SBS called Gerry. This was directed by Gus Van Sant who also directed Elephant (which I saw on DVD a little while ago).

Uh, although it seemed like perhaps the most "boring" film I've seen in a long long time (in that there are incredibly long scenes in which either very little seems to happen or the same repetitive action does) it was also strangely hypnotic in that I had to see what happened.

The basic plot is about two friends both called Gerry who get lost on the way to a tourist spot. Can't say much more than that because, well apart from ruining the film, there really just isn't much more to talk about (so no spoilers here)! Not that the film doesn't have impact - it does. After watching this I had the most incredible sense of isolation and futility about the locations it was shot in (somewhere in Argentina?). The cinematography is awesome, but the subject matter seems simple and and plain to the point of befuddling any expectations of "plot". Expect any movie clichés and they might not be there.

Even so, at the end of the film I was really angry at the characters - being brought up in Western Australia where one regular hears about people who break down in the middle of nowhere, the golden rule is DON'T WANDER OFF! Much as I liked the concept, I don't think I'd watch this film twice, and am somehow oddly reminded of Cloverfield. Very strange.
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Long and ponderous with some action
30 May 2008
I watched The Curse of the Golden Flower on DVD this afternoon.

A couple of days ago I watched House of the Flying Daggers by the same director and liked it a lot, so my expectations were high for this film. It wasn't quite what I expected, that's for sure! The film concerns the intrigues of the Chinese imperial family, at a distant point in the past. There are few battle/fight scenes, and many scenes of grandeur and decadence. They actually built a set of the forbidden city! The plot resembles something a cross between The Lion in Winter and Kagemusha. But even so, the action is rather stilted. It all comes to a head in the last third, but I felt like I was watching opera more than anything else. And the final battle scene and massacre resembled something from a Lord of the Rings film, rather than anything particularly realistic.

Not that I minded, and unlike Kagemusha there is some form of drama here. You just have to wait for it.
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A good Romp as much fun as the first three
22 May 2008
I think it was rather suspicious that the teachers in this state chose today to go on strike. Why? Because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened today as well, that's why.

I've been looking forward to this film every since I heard about it, and I was not disappointed. Lucas and Spielberg can make a decent adventure when they put their talents to it. I made sure to sit somewhere surrounded by kids who had the day off from school. They loved it, even if they didn't get all the "in jokes" in the film.

The action takes place in 1957 (I think, since it's 10 years after Roswell) which I liked since I was born that year. The action takes place about 20 years after the original film, which seems to match the passage in real time since the last film.

I loved the weaving of history, myth and fantasy in this film, which matches the previous three quite well (and also the references to earlier films that are key to the plot). It has plenty of "knees up, running around" type action and enough stunts and spectaculars to make it visually appealing (especially the denouement).

Will there be a final 5th film? It'd be nice, but I think like a 4th Mad Max film, that's unlikely to happen.
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The Prestige (2006)
Superb exploration of its subject matter
15 April 2008
I've just watched The Prestige and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've always had a fascination for stage and street magic - not so much to "figure out the tricks", but with an appreciation of the combination, of stagecraft, misdirection, and sleight of hand. The great magicians aren't remembered for "clever tricks" - rather, for the overall entertainment, for the illusion.

And this film is perfect for all that. There is a mystery to it (in fact, at least two mysteries), but the clues to each are telegraphed all throughout the film, in plain sight. You have to watch and be alert.

I figured out one of the mysteries in the middle of the film, but was still fascinated by how it was done. I think this is the same thrill I get when I'm watching a film about con artists (or a good episode of the old Mission Impossible), because what is shown is not always what is.

And as this film explains, it's not how such things are done that matters (because once it's explained, no one cares any more), rather, it's that creation of illusion so that we have "mystery", that does.
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Elephant (2003)
Good Technique, Sad Film
10 March 2008
I watched Gus Van Sant's Elephant yesterday. It was a strange experience.

The film follows the lives of several high school students. The blurb on the back of the DVD describes it as: "Elephant unfolds on an ordinary day, filled with class work, football, gossip and socializing. The film observes the comings and goings of its characters from a gentle remove, allowing us to see them as they are. For each of the students we meet, high school is a different experience: stimulating, friendly, traumatic, lonely, hard." Um, er yes - accurate, as far as it goes.

In fact the filming technique used has the camera tracking behind featured characters in an "over the shoulder" shots (some of which last over minutes and reminded me of playing Second Life). This is both intense and boring at the same time, because it's not like "standard" film practice, where you have an expected story, focused characters and supporting musical score just to set your emotions up for what comes next. There was a score, but it wasn't orchestrated in the same way that say, a typical horror film tends to be.

Oh, and the last 1/3 of this film scared me totally. That's all I'll say about it.
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