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I Am Legend (2007)
Butterflies and Bob Marley
I've not read the book, shamefully, but I did read an excellent review by that Guru of all left-field movies, Kim Newman. As he and some of the comments have pointed out, the original 'Legend' was the main character himself an almost mythical exterminator as seen by the 'vampire victims' of the plague. What the title didn't refer to was a reggae album by the late Bob Marley. In fact, the more I think about it, this reasoning is pretty racist. You can see the suits thinking
"Well, Will Smith is black and this Bob Marley Guy, he was black, and his favourite film would be like Shrek, because Eddie Murphy is in it and he's black too!" So all-in-all, the film leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for all the wrong reasons. Which is a shame. Will Smith gives a very believable and human performance, far better than the script deserves. The opening sequences of an abandoned New York have an eerie power, while the CGI Monsters are suitable feral, even if being 'beastly' is all that they do. I just wish the same amount of care had been put into what is a pretty moronic script. And, as for the butterflies, I'm still trying to work that one out.
The Sleeper awakes again
As this film is all about the stupidity and shallowness of a media obsessed society, I guess it's no coincidence that most comments have missed out on the origins of this thing. It dates, not from Woody Allen's 'Sleeper', but from a novel written in 1898 (and revised in 1910) called 'The Sleeper Awakes' by HG Wells. If you don't believe me, look it up in Wikipedia! Um
okay..but you get the drift. However, the real inspiration for this movie is a short sci-fi novella, 'The Marching Morons', written by CM Kornbluth in 1951. It's all there. IQ or intelligence has shrunken to stupid levels and Kornbluth presents a similar dystopian world (except it's a 50's dystopia, obviously) for the same reasons as this film. There the similarities end. The thing about Mike Judge is you always get the feeling that despite his sometimes biting criticism, he has a genuine affection for middle American 'White Trash' society not just here but in works such as 'Office Space', and 'King of the Hill'. When I initially heard how Fox had held this film back and then finally released it with no marketing whatsoever I really expected a no-holds barred attack. It doesn't deliver. The initial scenes soon soften and, in fact, it has quite a feel-good ending. If you want to experience the real thing, then check out the Novella. It differs in 3 crucial ways: There is still a tiny minority of intelligent people left in the world who are just about keeping things from total collapse. The 'Sleeper' is not some laid-back, genuinely caring soul (as played by Luke Wilson) but a ruthless and greedy ex ad-man. And, most importantly, the solution to the problem is far, far darker than what is offered here. But don't take my word for it. Read 'The Marching Morons' That is if you read books, of course.
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)
Still a Fraud?
9. That's the number of times the Apollo Programme sent rockets to the moon. If you were going to fake it, why would you fake it 9 times? This superbly constructed documentary of the whole Apollo Programme should), finally put paid to the conspiracy theory that the moon landings were all filmed in a warehouse in Arizona. It seems, as David Sington' pointed out in the Q&A, that there are still thousands of feet of film still to be examined. The film includes some of this amazing footage and complements it with intimate interviews from the people that count the most; the Astronauts. Now into their seventies they talk about their experiences with far more openness than we have ever heard from them before. Michael Collins, especially (he was the one who stayed in the command module during the first landing), has a mischievous glint in his eye throughout the film. Some new facts also come out. In order to fulfil Kennedy's famous declaration that Men would land on the moon by the end of the decade, it seems that 3 Apollo flights had been planned in1969, in case the first two didn't, uh, work out. There was even a specially written presidential address to cover the eventuality of the two astronauts not making it off the moon. But where the film succeeds more than anything else, is to recapture the unified sense of awe that briefly engulfed the whole world. And, if in these cynical days that sounds a little bit corny, so be it. Sometimes the magic works that way.
Why Don't You Just P*** Off Then!
After Atonement received almost unanimously excellent reviews a female friend who had read the book - and I went off to our local fleapit to judge it for ourselves. In a cinema which was only about one eighth full I guess it was inevitable that a couple would plonk themselves right behind us. The man immediately displayed his credentials. As a trailer for 'The Kingdom' came on, he pronounced in a very loud voice, "Well, that's a load of FXXXing propaganda!!", and then continued to denounce every other item including the adverts in a similar fashion. Rather optimistically, I hoped he might quieten down for the main feature. It was not to be. 'Atonement' is one of those rather precious British productions which wear their literary credentials on their sleeves. One can admire the beautifully realised images of a sweltering hot English summer; the restrained acting which subtlety highlights the unspoken class structure that permeated through British pre-war society; the way Madden overcomes the non-linear complexities of the novel by using such clever techniques as the clicking of the typewriter as a joining mechanism. Unfortunately this also means that the overall effect can feel rather difficult, slow and dull. Obviously our friend behind us felt this to be so. Almost from the beginning, he shifted and shuffled in his seat, punctuating it all with low grunts, groans and barely suppressed yawns. Finally, as the revered tracking shot unfolded before us, he blurted out, "God, this is boring!" In an unexpected turn of events, however, my normally very well-balanced friend had also had enough. Violently jerking round and in a venomous whisper that would have caused Gollum to take a step back, she spat out, "Well, why don't you p*** off then!" Silence. This meant that the films' rather special cinematic representation of the chaos of Dunkirk was diminished by the fact that at any time we could have been embroiled in a real life fight. Anti-climatically, the couple quietly got up and left. So, what of the film? In retrospect, although very classily made, Atonement is actually less than the parts. The first section is too reminiscent of 'The Go Between' and the War scenes, although brilliantly realised are not creating new ground. It was well acted, especially Saoirse Ronan as the 13 year old Briony. Even Kiera is fine although, as my friend pointed out, she works in the part as it calls for someone who is stilted and wooden (God, women can be far crueller than men you know). But in the end? Maybe our vocal friend had a point.
Superman Returns (2006)
Back to the 70's
Wot is it about comic-strips and the movies that are inspired by them? Although like the rest of us I can find them hugely entertaining, let's be honest this is about a guy who flies around wearing his underpants on the outside of his tights. This isn't some kind of religion. Anyway, I'm just writing a silly review on the IMDb database, so I'm not going to go into a deep philosophical debate about the displacement of pop culture. The point being that Bryan Singer has actually tried to direct the film like Richard Donner. Or rather how Richard Donner would have directed it in 1976. Ironically, the only concessions to the noughities seem to have come in the casting. Heroes can't be over 23. Poor Brandon Routh has obviously been told to play Christopher Reeve, full stop there were times when I was sure I was looking at a CGI created actor and is therefore unable to give any of his own interpretation. And how old was Kate Bosworth when she had her son? 14? As for the villains. Granted, Valerie Perrine is one hell of an act to follow (they don't make actresses that sexy these days), but the normally excellent Parker Posey is hidden under a terrible perm, while Kevin Spacey gives a very poor impression of Keyser Soze oh the irony. So what are we left with? A rather sad, po-faced (the original had far more humour in it) and extremely dated sequel. And that's it, the best recent superhero films (Spidey2, Batman Begins) have both been had their directors' signatures firmly stamped on them. Singer seems so in awe of the Superman myth that this looks like it was made by proxy.
The Outer Limits: Afterlife (1996)
One of the most Intriguing
Unfortunately I have to fill this out a bit to put it up to 10 lines. So before I start; can I just say that Clancy Brown is probably the most underrated actor working in films at the moment. He has that wonderful ability to shift from gentleness to menace without effort - as he does so well here. Right I can start the comment now.... If we ever encounter intelligent life outside our planet, who will be the real 'Monsters'? The aliens or us? Stories asking this question are few and far between. They have to creep out under the radar in series such as this. I've just watched the flawed and bloated 'Spiderman 3'. It is supposed to have cost over $200 million dollars. I wonder how much this cost to make? I wish that, just for once, Hollywood would produce something as intelligent, tight and, dare we say, subversive as this excellent episode. Fat chance.
Casino Royale (2006)
Bond and The Truman Show
Like most of the comments I have read, I found the new chunky Bond an excellent movie. Reminded me of 'From Russia with Love', where Connery and Robert Shaw's characters are basically different sides of the same sadistic coin, and 'On her Majesty's Secret Service' with someone who could act in the central role. However, no one has mentioned the absolutely appalling product placement in this film. It didn't help that in the adverts prior to the film we had the two main brands, showing whole chunks of the most exciting bits - that we hadn't seen! - as Bond strutted around displaying their wonderful products. God, when things started we even had a conversation which went something like "That's a classy watch. Rolex?" "No", replies Bond. "It's an OMEGA!" I kept being reminded of Laura Linney's character in the 'The Truman Show'. Near the end, after Bond has just e'mailed a message to M on his Laptop, I expected him to hold it up and, with a beaming expression shout, "Look! I've just sent this e'mail on my super new SONY VAIO. Efficient. Sleek, with a dual atomic processor, and more than enough memory to send even those difficult messages to your Gran. It's surprisingly good value too!" Personally, I think this cold, ruthless even psychopathic Bond's next assignment should be at the marketing departments of these two companies. I'd more than forgive him.
Shattered Glass (2003)
Journalists Behaving Badly
This true story of a successful journalist who was found to have made up nearly all his stories was a much bigger scandal in the US than over here. After all, the revelation that reporters can sometimes be economical with the truth is not exactly earth-shattering is it? It's actually only when you watch the documentary short that goes with the DVD that you realise how far this journalists' fraud went; he was paid tens of thousands of dollars for his work when it was syndicated and he would often libel perfectly innocent people, causing great distress. Yet despite the fact that these facts are missing from the film, it is still surprisingly gripping for what seems such an innocuous topic. But that's not the reason most of us watch this film. No it's because, the central character is played by Mr Darth Vader himself. Poor Hayden Christensen took a lot of criticism for his performance in the second Star Wars film. He seemed more like a Ewok trapped in the beams of a light-sabre than the incarnation of evil. Well, he's certainly a lot better in this film. As the devious and lying reporter, Mr Christensen, performs with the sort of arrogance and wickedness, used to cover up his own adolescent inadequacies, that makes you realise what George Lucas saw in the first place. Maybe this bodes well for the final instalments.
Beautiful, Beguiling, Bewitching Boring (maybe)
I suppose it is a prerequisite of Russian Cinema that all their films have to be incredibly drawn-out things where nothing happens. Someone opening a door and walking through it, for example, can take what seems like hours. This film is no exception. A father, who has been away for 12 years, turns up and takes his two adolescent sons for a fishing trip..and that virtually is it. Except maybe it's not. Don't forget that movie-making is a visual art as well as a commercial enterprise. Ideas can be interpreted by what the viewer sees and not just by what is said or what is happening
Yeuch I better stop now before I end up degenerating into film studies territory. Filmed around the vast bleak countryside of Northern Russia, this is a stunningly beautiful looking film. It features a chillingly charismatic performance from the father,and two totally naturalistic ones from the children. Also check out the excellent documentary that goes with it. This it seems was the first film by the young director, who had previously worked in commercials - Ah ha! Just like 'McQ', well, 'Charlie's Angels' it ain't. Watching the documentary you realise that the film was made on a miniscule budget where the whole crew used to just muck in. The incredible opening tracking shot of the lake was achieved by cobbling together some scrap metal and old telegraph poles by the look of it. The haunting score was actually written by 'a friend of a friend', who used to write music as a hobby on his computer. And there's a great scene where the whole crew struggle to look at the play-back monitor which must be all of 6 inches wide. I've read some of the newspaper critics, who've described this film as one of the best of the last 10 years. I wouldn't go that far, but what it does show that even with a money-obsessed industry like this one, talent can still break through.
Oh dear. You know I really enjoy Oliver Stone's work, even when he's missing the target, like in the gloriously ludicrous 'Doors' movie, but I never expected to find myself staring at my watch and thinking 'get on with it'.
The warning signs are there right from the beginning. Anthony Hopkins, playing an ancient king of Egypt who had once served under Alexandera, recounts his experiences. It isn't too long before his memoirs, instead of engaging the audience, take on the tone of a boring classics teacher.
Maybe it was Stone's belligerence in trying to make a historically accurate film that scuppered it. Maybe he worked too closely with the Academics. By not taking liberties with the truth he has made a film too confusing and complicated to follow, even with King Ptolemy's - that was Hopkins' character - droning narrative. Not being an expert on this period of history, I hadn't got a clue who most of the people were, where they had come from and where they were going. The films' attempts to cover the more political, social, religious and economic aspects of the time meant over-long rambling scenes that just didn't work.
Once you've committed the fatal movie sin of not letting your audience emphasise with the characters, it's downhill from then on. And, of course, once you loose interest you start looking for other things to entertain you.
Let's start, and how can you not, with the amazing Angelina Jolie. Not content with chewing up the whole set she has decided to play the part with Ingrid Pitt's accent from Countess Dracula. If she'd have been appearing in a typical sword and sandals epic she would have been wonderful. In a pious effort like this, however, the other cast members (and the audience as well) all shuffle nervously away from her in an attempt to put as much distance between themselves and her as possible. And as for those poor snakes
And then there is the hair. I'm pretty sure Colin Farrell wears that permanent vexed expression throughout the film to convey the immense pressures of leadership, but it could also quite easily be caused by the thought of the current wig he has upon his head.
And then there's the bisexual issue. I would have a lot more time for Oliver Stone's protest about a homophobic backlash in the States, if the film's handling of Alexander sex life wasn't so fey itself. He has no problem with showing the brutality and savagery of battle, so why couldn't he have carried this on with Alexander's relationships. Instead we have Colin Farrell and Jared Leto staring mistily into each others eyes like some star-crossed lovers in a Mills and Boom novel. Surely the whole point about these pre-Christian times was that homosexuality was not equated as some limp-wristed weakness, that's very much a modern idiom. If anything it was the opposite, a re-enforcement of their masculinity.
Enough. This isn't even a flawed masterpiece, it's basically dull. Any redeeming features are few and far between. Yet I do hope it's not too disastrous a financial failure. I recently read a review of this film in which the critic said that he always eagerly awaits a new Olive Stone movie and is always disappointed. I totally agree with that, but this is a big disappointment.
All I can suggest to Mr Stone is to have a big roar like Alexander's during his only sex scene, well 'Meow' more like and move on. We'll all be waiting.
Bridget Jones: No Reason at All
'Phew, thank goodness that is over!'
'What was wrong with it?'
'Oh come on. That was garbage'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, it was a complete regurgitation of the first film! I mean, Bridget falls on her fat bottom. Check! Bridget says something coarse and embarrassing in front of her boyfriend and stuffy colleagues. Check! Hugh Grant and Colin Firth have a stupid girly fight. Again! Bridget blah, blah..'
'All right. All right. Well, it obviously wasn't aimed for you. I wouldn't expect you to have the sensitivity to appreciate it.'
'That's nonsense. I quite liked the first film. But this one is derivative rubbish. I mean, you're always going on about me and my taste for war films and westerns, even if they're classics. I consider myself to be a fair critic regardless of the genre, and as an example of a romantic comedy, that was terrible. I mean I've seen more originality in a Chuck Norris film!'
'Well, I think you're being really boorish. It was very charming. Renee is a such a sweet comedienne, and Colin Firth is the perfect foil for her. Even Hugh Grant is good at playing the cad. It made me feel happy.'
'Yea, okay. But it's so manipulatively commercial. That Soundtrack! I kept expecting to see captions coming up on the screen saying, 'Buy the CD for your loved one now!'
'You're so cynical! If you feel that bad about it, why don't you clear off down the pub and go and do something manly like drink lots of beer and watch football?'
'In that case I will!'
'You do that! Men!'
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
For pity's sake, please end!!!
This film has a strange genesis. It seems that it was originally to be directed by Stanley Kubrick who had been intrigued by a Brian Aldiss short story. Unfortunately Kubrick died before he could begin filming and his "good" friend (aren't they all) Steven Spielberg took over the directing job. The film, probably as a result of this, breaks into 3 sections. The first, which feels very 'Spielbergy', deals with the burgeoning relationship between a mother and her new robot child. The second shoots off into very Kubrick territory as it tells of the young child's escape from what is the equivalent of a racist redneck gathering where robots are blown up in a variety of ways. He is then joined by a robot gigolo whose activities, this being a Spielberg film, are not gone into with too much detail. Then it's off to 'robot' city which is full of digital imagery of a sexual nature al la 'Clockwork Orange', but again is decidedly sanitised.
This mixture leads to a flawed but intriguing film with some vivid scenes that are filmed with the artistry one expects from Spielberg. And then..
They set off on an odyssey to find the 'Blue Fairy' so that the robot child can become a real boy..umm Not only is this saccharine coated to the level where I thought my teeth were going to rot away, but it goes on and on and on and on and on you get the idea.
In the accompanying short featurette Spielberg states that this film is his homage to the late Kubrick. Yea, it contains the most drawn out and schmaltzy conclusion in the history of cinema. I'm not quite sure this is what Spielberg had in mind.
The Filth and the Fury (2000)
My mate John
The first Julian Temple documentary on the Sex Pistols, 'The Great Rock n'Roll Swindle' was a gimmicky treatment that suggested the creation of the band was all a clever confidence trick perpetuated by Malcolm Maclaren. In his version the Pistols were a personal creation that deliberately manipulated the media and the 'suits' that ran the music industry into paying out vast amounts of cash even when the band failed to produce any material.
This second version of events is a little more honest. Maclaren is shown to be a self-deluded egotist, the real driving force being 'Johnny Rotten', and the band, far from having the upper hand, were in fact ripped off financially by the very people they were supposed to be rebelling against.
It all ended in a shambolic final concert where Rotten wails out 'No Fun' for 15 minutes and then walks off with a smirking, 'Ever felt you've been cheated?'
Trouble is; this is a lie as well. The Pistols carried on after Lydon left; sad fun and games with the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs and Sid Vicious' infamous rendering of 'My Way' being the 'highlights'. What's more, within months of Johnny Rotten's noble statement about not selling out at the end of the documentary, the Pistols reformed in the 21st century and gave progressively pathetic concerts.
It's still an interesting documentary but I guess the myth has now become so mixed up with the legend that anything approaching the truth is lost for ever.
This documentary does feature, however, an archive interview with Sid Vicious whose real name was John, Lydon affectionately remembers - which I have never seen before. It says more about the times than anything else in the film. Although dressed in his trade mark Nazi t-shirt and initially punctuated with all the predictable anarchic attitudes, this veneer gradually slips away to reveal a young naïve man, who's life along with his heroin addiction was spiraling out of control.
No fun, indeed.
All or Nothing (2002)
I know this is a bit Harry Knowles, but watching this film brought back some interesting memories
Many years ago, when I was a young sweet lad, I used to live in a squat. Why I was there is another story, but it was a pretty good example of the squats of the eighties. It was above a betting shop and in a pretty rough area of North London. It was not, however, a complete hovel; the rooms weren't covered in filth and it had a kitchen and bathroom that worked. Indeed some of the people actually decorated their rooms. Most of us worked in the video or record retail industry down the West End and despite a lack of finances we had some great times. Anyway through a connection I wont go into, one day this location scout for the latest Mike Leigh film turned up (see, I'm getting there), I think it was for 'High Hopes'.
Those of us who weren't working that morning, were scrunched up in the front room watching some children's programmes on the TV, bowls of cereal cupped in our hands; when suddenly this young, pretty, girl bounds into the room and starts taking pictures. It was if we had been suddenly transported to some human safari park where we were the exhibits. After taking a number of snaps at rather strange angles she boomed, 'Hello! I'm doing some location research for Mike Leigh's latest.' She paused, allowing us time to absorb this rather perplexing information, and then in her best patronizing manner she stated, 'Of course, you do know who Mike Leigh is, don't you?'.
I've always liked Mike Leigh's work, right from 'Bleak Moments', through his great TV work to ' Topsy Turvy', but there's always been the feeling that his approach towards the great unwashed has been a little patronizing. Watching this incredibly miserable (depressing is not the right word) film, I couldn't help feeling he was dictating to us what pathetic lives these people lead.
With the notable exception of Ruth Sheen, everything is so defeatist in this film. As usual a crisis leads to them re-examining their lives and I guess a smidgen of hope returns at the end, but it's a very small light in a dark pit of despair.
To be fair, it's brilliantly done. Leigh has now assembled a formidable cast who are used to his 'improvisational' techniques, especially, the already mentioned Ruth Sheen and Timothy Spall, as the terminally depressed mini-cab driver. It just feels dishonest. This film doesn't represent the working class, but rather, a glib middle-class view of it.
So I guess I do know who Mike Leigh is.
I thought you'd be taller
There's a smug advert for Orange mobiles doing the rounds in UK cinemas at the moment. It features an interview with a known star who is proposing his latest project to a bunch of arrogant and ignorant executives. All his initial grand concepts are reduced to a few stupid and mundane clichés by the snickering suits.
I think Mann the director gets round this problem by offering the financiers exactly the simple-minded pitches they can understand and then, when he gets the backing, goes off and does it his way. With the exceptions of 'The Insider' and 'Ali', all of his work has been based on such pulp.
This film is no exception. It has all the requisite items; it relies on ridiculous coincidences, bizarre plot twists and, as always, the police are either totally incompetent or weirdly absent.
But this is a Michael Mann film and it shows. The first Hollywood director to fully embrace the visual possibility of high definition video, his vision of Los Angeles at night allows him to colour his movie with an almost impressionistic hue. He also fills the dialogue between an excellent Jamie Foxx and a suitably (sic) menacing Tom Cruise with notions of existentialism, rather than pap conversations. And, by the way, who said this is a radical change of direction for Tom? 'Magnolia', 'Interview with a Vampire', anyone?
My only gripe is that the film really did lurch into the realms of predictable pyrotechnics in the last 15 minutes, but I'll forgive it that. This film works both as an 'art-house' film since it shows the visual capabilities of the new digital technology and as a straight forward thriller. That's a pretty difficult tightrope to walk these days.
Well, this is a Tom Cruise movie so In one scene Jamie Foxx has to pretend he is the notorious hit-man to the Drug-lord (Javier Bardem) who had hired him, but never met. 'I thought you'd be taller.' says Javier. If only you knew .
The Last Samurai (2003)
...Maybe just a little economical with the truth.
. I don't know much about this period, but surely the whole point of the story was to point out that it is wrong to abandon the cultural and spiritual ideals of the past. By embracing the modern ways you loose far more than you gain. In real life, isn't this what happened? Indeed, you could argue that Japan's move to military expansionism would eventually lead to the Second World War.
(Spoiler) Well, not according to this film it doesn't. The Emperor sees the error of his ways and halts the plans of his ruthless government minister.
Oh well. That's the trouble with historical epics; the need for accuracy is often compromised by the need to create a simplistic view that will maximize the box office potential. So, the courageous Samurai way of life was a perfect match of spirituality and discipline while the life style of the government was cowardly and empty. Ken Watanabe personified the noble leader while poor Masato Marada, who plays the venal Minister, is such a characture of evil I kept expecting him to twiddle with his waxy moustache and cackle sinisterly. (All in Japanese with subtitles, of course you have to have some authenticity).
As a film, nevertheless, it's well made and entertaining, Edward Zwick is a fine director of epic films. And despite what the critics say, I think Tom Cruise is a fine and underrated actor.
What's more No, don't go this way, Rob I sure he `fitted' in well with the Japanese cast. I mean he could quite easily wear the same clothes and armour as them, although....stop it, stop it.. they might have had to shrink them a little.. and, of course, he did keep tripping over his sword...And it must...this is not fair..it must have been nice for the Japanese women to have someone they could look down on for a change .
We love you really Tom..
Johnny English (2003)
We are not amused
After the success of the Bond films in the 1960s, there was a whole gamut of '007' copies, some serious and some spoofs. With a few notable exceptions, Michael Caine's Harry Palmer springs to mind, they were all derivative and basically rubbish. In the 1970s, the UK's output seemed to consist of unimaginative film versions of popular TV comedy. They were all rubbish. Even the decent TV shows (Dad's Army, Steptoe and Son) were pale copies of the original programmes.
So what do we have here to herald the British Film Industry's entry into the 21st century? A Bond spoof that's an adaptation of a TV advert for god's sake!
What's worse, it's so obviously geared to the US market. Well, believe it or not, my American cousins, we are not all middle class snobs and buffoons; where the only thing that is of any importance is our obsession with the monarchy. How would you like it if someone made a film about how all Americans are loud, culture-less slobs who are only interested in eating?
See, it's not funny either.
The Time Machine (2002)
Where's my Money?
The strangest thing about this film is that they dragged out the great, great, great grandson (or something) of HG Wells to direct this thing; strange, since it only bears a passing resemblance to the original book. The 1960 version was closer to the HG Wells original vision, especially in its sense of wonder and excitement. Spoilers here. This version also commits the cardinal error of making the Eloi a strong, independent and resourceful race. In both the book and, to a certain extent the original film, they are portrayed as innocent and vulnerable. This explains why they meekly allow the Moorlocks to turn them into fast food. Some religious mumbo jumbo, which is never explained, is the excuse for their lack of resistance in this film.
So there's not much to recommend it really: the CGI are okay, but no longer surprising, the plot has little momentum, Guy Pearce is workmanlike, Samantha Mumba is very pretty but can't really act, Orlando Jones is good with what little he has to do, and as for dear old Jeremy Irons you can almost imagine him exploding,' Get this awful make-up of me and give me my cheque now!'.
My own recommendation is to watch the George Pal version. It's fun and better acted. Interesting that; a film that is 40 years older than this one, yet is much more intelligent and has far more inventive special effects. Now there's a time conundrum.
The Four Feathers (2002)
through sacrifice and determination, the Empire triumphs...blah, blah, blah...
I really enjoyed Shekhar Kapur's previous film `Elizabeth'. Having suffered the dubious pleasure of studying Tudor history in 6th form, I appreciated his take on the machinations of the Elizabethan court. It looked more like a historical version of the Corleone Family' rather than the 'Duke of Buckingham' and some boring edicts. So, when I heard he was going to do a re-working of that old Imperial' chestnut, `The Four Feathers', I was mightily intrigued.
I've never quite worked out why they have to keep re-making this story. I've just checked IMDB and, with this one, they've made 6 versions of it. Now, being British, I'm all for a bit of flag waving, but there's always been a distinctly xenophobic tone to this thing. What with our lads' having to deal with the "Mad Mardi and his Fuzzy Wuzzies". And old Harry having to go out and fight, not because he was part of an imperialistic power, ruthlessly crushing any notions of independence, but because he'd upset his friends and fiancé. It's pretty close to propaganda.
If you are going to do a remake in these more globally informed' times, then a version which questions the values of the previous outings, was the obvious move. Which leads to the obvious question; why doesn't he do this? The traditional notions of Empire, honour and duty are all conscientiously reconstructed to their full effect. The insipid love triangle is gone over again, we have the father' disowning his son bit, Harry regains his dignity and, through sacrifice and determination, the Empire triumphs...blah, blah. It's also appallingly done, poor Kate Hudson appears in the worst piece miscasting since Keanu and Winona's English' turns in Dracula', and the narrative looks like it's been edited with a meat cleaver. Even though I've seen all the talkie versions, I still had problems following the narrative
And yet, it's not all bad. The battle sequence where the British are routed is very effectively done. They are defeated because, through their arrogance, they totally underestimate the military skills of the savages'. In another sequence, the British are forced to shoot a sniper, and the locals rather than congratulate, actually turn on them. This rings a few contemporary bells, to say the least. Finally, by far the most interesting character in the whole film is the slave' who befriends and rescues Harry on a number of occasions. But his character always remains peripheral to the plot, while we have all those stupid goings-on in England.
The exceptions only add to the sense of frustration. This film could have been so much better.
Touching the Void (2003)
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
The 'dramatized documentary' is nothing new (at least in the UK) for TV productions. Indeed the traditional doc is a rare beast these days. Nevertheless, this format is quite novel on film, so it was quite a surprise to observe how successful this work has been.
As a visual piece, this film really is quite stunning, and I wish I had seen this on the big screen rather than DVD it is definitely a candidate for transfer to IMAX. It's also a tale of a real superman forget 'Spiderman' and his CGI ilk. The central character pushed himself to, and way beyond, what should be physically possible.
But, of course what makes this story so gripping is the matter-of-fact way the two protagonists narrate their adventures. I notice a lot of comments initially think they are actors; such is the lack of enthusiasm from the two mountaineers. But they're British goddamit! It is the height of bad manners for us to behave in an ungentlemanly way, no matter how bad the situation is.
As a typical example (some spoilers here); one of the climbers, after badly breaking his leg, falls down a bottomless crevasse, somehow survives, thinks his partner is probably dead and realizes that the only way to survive is to somehow get out of the crevasse and crawl down the mountain unaided with no food and water. He bangs his arm against the icy walls, crying and swearing in frustration. 'I was being very childish', he admonishes himself in the narration. Of course you were
Down with Love (2003)
Down with Pants
I suppose it was inevitable that after the relative success of `Far from Heaven', Hollywood would return to that era. However, where `Far from Heaven' showed that underneath the beauty of that time hid a very ugly underbelly, this update faithfully duplicates the original movies.
So the obvious question is why? These films from the late 50's and early 60's are wide open for a lot of retrospective comments. Hollywood's idea of female emancipation was Doris Day? Rock Hudson as the ultimate lady's man?
It's seems strange that the makers spent so much time and loving effort in getting the look right(with beautifully designed sets and costumes) and yet worked with such a shallow and superficial script.
Definitely an opportunity missed.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
This doesn't make any sense..
I kid you not, but at the um..rather confusing climax of this film, those were the exact words I said to myself only for one of the cast to repeat exactly the same phrase. Scary.
Ironically this film is a lot better than the second film, simply because it has a lot less of that matrix mumbo-jumbo gobbledygook of the second film and settles down to an impressive no-holds barred CGI battle between man and machines. It just doesn't bear much scrutiny when it comes to plot development. Where did the discipline of the first movie go?
One more thing. If HugoWeaving (Agent Cooper) puts on that silly nasal voice and says, `Mr AAAAnnnnnderson .' one more time . Well, I just want to give him a big slap..All 20 trillion of him.
In the Cut (2003)
"a silk purse out of a sow"
Take away the shock of Meg Ryan playing straight and the explicit sex scenes and what you have here is a very mundane murder mystery that would have problems passing muster in an average episode of NYPD. It doesn't help that the film also falls over into pretentiousness, what with all that poetry reading. This is a shame because the film gives a very unfamiliar look to New York; at times the imagery is almost impressionistic (oops who's getting pretentious now?). But you can't make `a silk purse out of a sow', as they say
I think. Must have read that on a Tube train somewhere
As a footnote, this is the second time I've watched this movie. I first saw it at the opening of last years' London Film Festival. It was not well received. It didn't help that Meg Ryan, who had obviously seen this as her Erin Brockovich' movie - and realized it wasn't - threw a hissy fit throughout her whole visit to the UK. Poor Jane Campion, who bravely attempted to defend her film, was undermined by her fashion-sense. `Shame about the dress,' was the most common criticism to be heard. People can be cruel.
Hulk very happy when he hear man who made martial art film into beautiful and graceful movie goin' to make story about Hulk. But when Hulk see movie, Hulk very sad. Why script so stupid? Why people say stupid simple things like they in some cheap TV movie? And Man and girl, he very good in other film and she won Oscar, but why in my film they look like they can't act. Why man who play Hulk father look like he just been arrested for drunken driving, and how he get money to build very expensive lab in back shed and create giant killer dogs. Hulk thinks he must have very tolerant neighbours.
Hulk do think line about girl saved from `Mutant French Poodle', funniest line since last press conference by President, but why no more jokes? Hulk think they all take it far too serious.
Most of all Hulk very sad. Because film so rubbish, no chance of more Hulk films. Hulk stay very poor. Hulk need lots of money for clothes In fact Hulk starting to get very ANGRY!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!!
I've always enjoyed this film, even though it's dated. The Zulu warriors are shot with heavy calibre bullets and fall done clutching pristinely clean chests. Contrast this with modern films of warfare, like 'Saving Private Ryan' for instance, where huge chunks of flesh explode from bodies in an orgy of flesh, bone and blood. Also in 'Zulu', the warriors are portrayed as brave and, indeed, sophisticated opponents. Contrast this with modern films of warfare, like 'Saving Private Ryan' again, where the enemy is a faceless and one dimensional evil.
Yea, 'Zulu' is dated but I know which version I prefer.