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Not really that good
31 August 2011
Wartime propaganda movie that was probably supposed to make people more kindly disposed towards Polish pilots in the RAF. I had heard about this film for years but never seen it; now however I recall that Spike Milligan in his memoirs (of a time when this was a brand new movie) describes it as something like "bloody awful." I wouldn't go that far but for a movie that is supposed to be about a fighter pilot it has a handful of minutes of flying and several hours (it feels like) of piano music + Sally Gray (who is not bad to look at I admit). Or closeups of Anton Walbrook's rabbit-like face as more orchestral music plays in the background.
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Stealth (2005)
2/10
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear
23 September 2005
Near future thriller nonsense that shamelessly rips off 2001 (right down to the lipreading sequence) and Star Wars and doughtily fails to rise above cliché' at any other point. Stealth probably rips off Top Gun as well but I can't remember that far back. Oh how surprising, the Amusing Black Man sidekick doesn't have the usual fate of Amusing Black Men. Jessica Biel looks alright but nothing else does. For my inanition in going to see it I blame whoever told me it was SF. Nope, it isn't and Near Future Thriller is stretching it a bit, if only for the suggestion that a thriller ought to thrill at least somewhat. Then there's things like the aircraft which can apparently accelerate from Mach 2 to Mach 4 in about ten seconds - splatted pilot, I suspect - and the floating refuelling station - if it's hovering as it seems to be how can a non-VTOL aircraft refuel from it? But these are minor niggles and the film was worse than that. I have never seen 'Knight Rider' but I suspect the talking plane is nicked - as well as being HAL 9000 - from KITT in that.

When Stealth wasn't being a Navy recruiting film, it was rock tracks playing from an aircraft cockpit, which to British TV viewers probably evokes 'The Stig' in 'Top Gear'.... well it did for me anyway. At least when in his series 'Speed', Jeremy Clarkson got his fat arse into a jet fighter you felt like he'd actually done so. Talking of fat arses, the crew areas of these secret stealth fighters were so big they reminded me of the old saying about the F-105 Thunderchief: that the pilot took evasive action by undoing his straps and running around the cockpit. There's a sequence in Thailand that was probably only there because the film's makers fancied a holiday. Even the 'Iron Eagle' series of films were better than this thing.
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Godsend (2004)
6/10
Cloned and Confused
23 September 2005
'Godsend' starts out encouragingly, with a couple having their dead son cloned so they can have a second go at him, and for a while the audience thinks that it's a matter of 'but you don't know what would have happened if he'd lived longer'. It's quite likely that this was the original intention of the film. However, with the increased involvement of the Robert deNiro character (apparently deNiro only wanted to do a cameo appearance but for some reason put in more scenes. It's the only explanation for his presence in this mediocre movie), the story turns confused and the cloned son starts channelling a boy called Zachary, who understandably is connected to the cloning doctor. This is when it all gets messy. Is it straight fantasy about determinism and probability, or is it a ghost story? If you were to remake 'The Omen' without the Christian bit you would end up with a story of a child possessed by a destructive entity of some kind, and that is what 'Godsend' rapidly becomes. I mention 'The Omen' because there are a few references intentional or unintentional to it in 'Godsend'. Unfortunately this film doesn't have Lee Remick or Gregory Peck in it, and it doesn't have a clear story once those plot waters get muddied either.
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Timeline (2003)
1/10
Run away! Run away!
30 May 2004
"Timeline" is allegedly based on a novel by Michael Crichton. Allegedly, because although it shares the original's storyline of modern archaeologists being dropped into 14th century France, it does away with a lot of the original - changes characters around, makes several female characters male, and removes the plot hole of the original whereby it was supposed to be a parallel world rather than time travel, but that can't work because if the marooned-in-the-past Professor leaves a note for his students in the present day then it has to be time travel. In the film it's time travel and like it.

I can't remember anyone who was in it except Billy Connolly, and I suspect that was because Sean Connery and Robbie Coltrane both turned it down with a look of disgust.

The film is also pretty much one long fight, without any of the nuances of the 14th century world that Crichton put into his book - and doesn't make sense time and again. One of the two remaining female characters, supposedly a woman with a love of that period of history, says that being alive in that time would be as bad as being killed in it.

The English soldiers are able to speak to the American and Scottish timetravellers in perfect modern English, never mind that 14th century English was a very different animal and many of the English officers and nobility would have spoken Norman French. The French very often reveal themselves able to speak English - unlikely, see previous point for reason. One French character has to have English interpreted for him and then becomes able to speak English. Funny, I didn't see him put a fish in his ear.

One scene I was looking forward to was the Green Knight (? not sure of the name), who is straight out of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail": "None shall pass!" Was he in it? Was he heck.

The English are depicted as more or less the Nazis, the basis being presumably, "The German army was in France in 1940, so another foreign army in France must have been exactly the same", thereby ignoring the whole historical background: the English rulers at this point were actually the descendants of the Norman French who'd conquered England 380 years earlier. All the English characters are bad and all the French, good. One timetraveller kills an English soldier and says what? "That's for my friends you killed!"? No, he says, "For France!". Why?

Most appropriate line in my opinion goes to the English general who says during a particularly inept French raid, "I'm getting tired of this." I can imagine an entire cinema audience replying, "So are we."
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7/10
An interesting film, worth a look
30 May 2004
Set in Cambodia a generation after a bloody revolution and civil war, this film follows the adventures of a smalltime crook, Jimmy, who is tracking down an older man responsible for an insurance scam and who has absconded with the money. He arrives in a country full of gangsters and opportunist thieves - not knowing who to trust, he is robbed and beaten up as often as any hero of a film noir movie.

Modern Cambodia is depicted as a hell on Earth - with the exception of a rickshaw driver, Suk, the locals are shown as violent and untrustworthy. Once again a foreign locale is simply a backdrop for white villains to have a shootout. But this doesn't detract too much from a film that is in many ways a homage to "The Third Man", with Phnom Penh standing in for a ruined postwar Vienna, the Harry Lime-equivalent seedy and enigmatic, and the protagonist equally unsympathetic at first. Odd camera angles and flashback shots abound.

The love interest seems tacked on - and a reason for having a female character - but gives Jimmy an incentive to abandon his life of crime and go straight.

An interesting film, worth a look.
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