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Black Death (2010)
A good attempt
Set in the 14th century during the height of the plague, Black Death follows the story of Osmund, a young monk torn between his love for a young woman named Averill and his duty to God.
At the beginning of the film Osmund sends Averill away from the plague infested town in which his monetary is housed, and promises to meet her at a pre-arranged location in the near future. Shortly after a knight named Ulric, played by Sean Bean, arrives with a group of fellow soldiers on a special mission ordered by the bishop. Ulric tells the monks that there have been reports of a village that has escaped the ravages of the plague and that witchcraft has been suspected in its preservation. Ulric requests that one of the monks guide the soldiers to the village, so that they may investigate the situation.
Osmund, seeing his opportunity to reach Averill, volunteers to accompany the soldiers to the village, and so his journey begins. Osmund guides the soldiers to nearby the meeting place he and Averill had previously arranged, and they make camp. Osmund uses the opportunity to sneak away to meet Averill only to discover bloody rags, and a group of bandits, remaining. Osmund then makes a hasty retreat back to camp where he awakes the soldiers who then proceed to kill the bandits. Distraught with the loss of Avrill Osmund continues to guide the soldiers to the village, where not everything is as it would first appear...
The film contains strong performances from Sean Bean, Carice van Houten, Davis Warner and Tim McInnerny. McInnerny, of course famed for his roles playing upper class buffoons in televisions such as Blackadder, was highly believable in his portrayal of a very different type of character and that was gratifying.
In terms of both the visual look, and in terms of ambiance, the film was also very good. The graphic depiction of the plague, in addition to the desolated environment, set against the relatively lush scene of the un-ravaged village, really aided the haunting atmosphere the film attempted to invoke. The violence and misery of life during the period was also not a subject that the film shied away from, and in places verged towards being perhaps too brutal.
The major down point for this film was Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Osmund, a role he didn't really seem to get to grips with until the final scenes of the film. Another problem was the pace of the film, despite not being very long, consisting of only 102 minutes, the film seemed to drag and last far longer.
But those issues aside, I enjoyed the film.
In my book, a comedy has to be, first and foremost, funny. Killers was not funny. I didn't laugh once. The film was predictable, tedious and shockingly performed. The plot is also utterly incoherent.
It goes basically something like this, Katherine Heigl plays a rebounding officer worker type called Jen, who having ended her relationship with her previous partner goes on holiday with her parents played by Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara. While on holiday she meets Spencer (Ashton Kutcher) with whom she forms a romantic relationship. However, what she doesn't know if that Spencer is actually a CIA assassin and on a working 'holiday'.
Upon meeting Jen, Spencer has a clichéd change of heart regarding his work, and concludes that it is time to retire. Upon learning of Spencer's decision his CIA boss declares (again in banal clichéd style that we have all heard in this type of film) that nobody ever quits their vocation. Regardless, Spencer returns to the States with Jen, marries her and begins a life of middle-class suburban domestic bliss, with his new neighbours. In the meantime Spencer begins to form a cool relationship with his father-in-law.
However, all is not well in middle-class suburban domestic bliss, as Spencer's erstwhile boss sends him a coded message, which is noticed by a suspicious Tom Selleck. At this stage Spencer and Jen's various colleagues and neighbours suddenly turn out to be highly trained assassins out to kill Spencer, and bloody hilarity in suburbia is supposed to ensue, complete with pregnancy tests and machine guns. Unfortunately, it simply isn't funny. It lacks any charm, wit or spark, save for the presence of Tom Selleck, without whom this film would not have achieved the generous three star rating I have given it.
The plot is grafted together from films we have all already seen, and uses every cheap ploy available to increase the films attractiveness to its target audience. For the female audience it shows a topless and ripped Ashton Kutcher, and for the teenage male audience it has Katherine Heigl in her bra for no real reason other than eye candy.
I have never stormed out of a cinema in righteous anger, but this was a close call.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
A film that is fashionable to hate
This film has, on this site, attracted a negative reputation. But I'm not really suppressed by that, after all the previous two titles in the series also garnered a considerable degree of criticism. However, I'm not sure this criticism is warranted. I suspect many of the people who have written poor reviews and given the film a low score are jumping on the bandwagon. It seems that films like Twilight, and its offspring, have been branded as chick-flicks, ney, teenie-chick-flicks; and thus open to any criticism and without merit, by male viewers (or as I suspect in many cases individuals who have judged the film based on reputation as opposed to viewing).This view is not warranted, if you willing to remain open-minded and ignore that various male prejudices regarding the plot, the bulk of which are both juvenile and in many cases rather chauvinistic, the film is actually quite reasonable.
That is not to say that the film is not without genuine problems. For example, the primary female character Bella is an entirely two dimensional entity that fluctuates between bitter fluctuating reflection of her relationship with Jacob and morbid obsession with Edward. This results in pallid pouting through out the duration of the film. But then again, I have met self-obsessed teenagers that the film reminds me of, and in fairness Bella is equally vapid in the books. I also found the film rather patronising in places, providing sign post commentary for the most basic of observations and, rather than leave an explanation of various obvious plot developments to the intellect of the audience, instead chooses to excruciating to spell it out. But, again, the book does that too.
These issues aside, the film was actually rather good, aesthetically impressive and backed by an apt sound track. The film also kept a reasonable pace through for the duration despite being drawn from a novel in excess of 600 pages. Given the fact that the film is in excess of two hours, the achievement of retaining a good pace without condensing the plot into incoherence was most welcome. I was also impressed by the actors portraying the three main characters, given the rather bland characters Meyer provided them to work with, I thought they did a lot. There is also something to be said for the films gender politics. On the one hand I am not a fan of Meyer's literary attempt at an advert for 'Purity rings', but it is hard to blame the film for addressing the central underlying theme of the source material. On the other, however, it is good to see a Hollywood franchise attempting to cater for a female audience by placing male flesh on display; as opposed to the typical routine of filling films with breasts and bottoms in an attempt to add appeal for teenage boys. For too long film makers have seen the female body as a commodity, and at last they have begun to broaden their horizons. But most of all the film was, despite its various flaws and vapid characters (all of which can be placed at the door of the author), was actually entertaining and I left the cinema not feeling as if I had been cheated. While I did not have quite the same admiration for the film as many of the rapturous individuals in the packed screening I attended, both myself and my girlfriend, who is not a fan of the series I should add, both enjoyed it.
So all in all I thought this film was a flawed, if, fair effort and that much of the criticism surrounding it is simply because it is Twilight film, and that such an enterprise will always attract a negative, and unwarranted, reputation.