Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Relaxed Walk Home

This was a mistake.

Not the walk in itself, the Sun had appeared to be shining when he’d left the house earlier, so a stroll to the store 2 miles away had seemed like a great plan.

No the walk to the store had been great. Headphones in, sun shining into the appropriately perched sun glasses, it all felt like a magical dream.

The error, upon realisation had come upon reaching the store.

Standing in this French boulangerie, shelves filled with packaged foods, baguettes, swimming pool inflatable balls, and much more, he’d looked around for anything he wanted and plumped for a soft drink from a fridge cabinet. Taking a can out and placing it on the till counter, he strolled over to the fridges to survey the wine selections.

Two stood out instantly.

A bottle of Voignier, a beautiful dry white, was an obvious call. More amusingly to him, he’d seen a bottle with a basic, badly drawn in-house label on it. Picking this up, one thought crossed the mind.

“It’ll be a laugh”.

The shop owner had been happy enough to serve, and so here he stood, a bottle in each hand, a soft drink in his pocket. The road stretched out ahead of him.

That was the mistake. Whilst the walk would be great, he wished he’d made do with only one bottle. Two was greedy, two was excessive. There was no need to now have to carry two 750ml bottles home with him.

He sighed and took it as a fact of life. He looked into the distance.

The Sun still shone briefly, and the river to his left trickled along. A black bird flew past and landed in a tree alongside the bank. He began to walk, one bottle in each hand, along the dirt track that resembled a road. The path had been developed through years of tractors, cars and lorries driving along it. Tyre indents laying out a long track along the side of a vast field, setting markers from one location to the next.

He began to walk, feet crunching on the floor, occasionally stepping over an ant, a butterfly and other insects and fauna. Despite the headphones in his ears, distancing him from this world he inhabited, he felt alive right now. Happy, content, relaxed and engulfed by a feeling of well being, he looked at the bottle on his left. Then he looked at the bottle in his right hand. Then he looked at the spralling path, leading into the distance.

“Sod it”, he thought, life could be worse.

He began to walk home.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

KillBillKill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

So here he is again. Mr Tarantino has released another movie, and as with the rest of his works, it’s a gem.

Kill Bill Volume 1 (I’ll never get used to there being two volumes, but then, it’d be enourmous if not split in two) stars Uma Thurman as “The Bride” who is attacked on her wedding day by Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and placed in a coma for four years. Awakening to the realisation that her unborn baby, and the entire wedding contingent have all been killed, she sets off in an attempt to get revenge on those five people responsible.

In this film, Tarantino pays homage to all those Bruce Lee types of films which he adores (and which the Vega’s and co from his other films would also adore, hence “I’m writing a film my characters from my other films would probably watch at the movies”), and he does it very well. The fighting is almost constant, incredibly gory and extreme, but cleverly done and without any cgi (makes a good change). The outfits are stylish and well suited to the film, the same going for the stunning soundtrack, and the acting is up to the standard required.

To be honest, the one flaw with Kill Bill which everyone will pick up on is the relatively little amount of quality substance regarding dialogue. These people would have a fair point, as I admit that for the first time, Tarantino has made a movie which doesn’t make you want to quote it every five minutes (unlike the Royal with Cheese from Pulp Fiction, the tipping scene from Reservoir Dogs, and many many others). Ultimately though, that is ok. To make Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino has been incredibly brave and I sincerly hope it pays off for him. It’s a bit of an epic film (or at least it will be once both parts are together on one video or dvd), but compared with all the other enourmous epics going around at the moment (Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix, etc), it’s a pleasant change of pace and it’s enough to make everyone smile. Well worth viewing.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

ExtraordinaryGentlemenThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

For a while now myself and a friend have really been looking forward to this film. I confess to being slightly sceptical about Sean Connery’s involvement (lets be honest, the guy had 1 average film left in him five films ago) and the introduction of Tom Sawyer. Still, we were keen and we made our way to the cinema on the opening day in Britain. My viewpoint? Certainly an Extraordinary experience, but no Gentleman would say some of the words I could use to describe this film.

I can go on for hours about the weak aspects of this film, so beforehand, I’ll quickly mention the good points.

Firstly, I thought the Invisible Man and Dr Jekyll were both excellent characters who were well used. I’ve seen Curran (Invisible Man) in other things before and for a Scot, I was rather quite fond of his attempt at an accent. Dr Jekyll’s fear of Mr Hyde was also impressive and relatively true to the book, although I admit Hyde’s occasional niceness seemed strange for a “monster”. These two were however the only really enjoyable characters.

What else did I enjoy about the film? Well I suppose I quite enjoyed the beginning scenes involving the Bank Of England and the Blimp Factory. Those were nice touches. Other than this though, I’m finding it hard to think up anything nice.

The remaining characters other than The Invisible Man and Dr Jekyll were, to put it mildly, a joke. Connery’s Quatermain was an irritating old fart who bugged me from start to finish. Dorian Gray was remarkably camp and seemed to have exactly the same expression throughout. The poor actor who played Nemo was forced to wear a ridiculous beard and Nemo’s one interesting character point (the worship of Kali) was never properly explored. Mina Harker was a nice touch, although everytime she did something vampiric I shuddered at how weakly it was portrayed. Finally, Tom Sawyer. What the hell was he doing there in the first place? Sawyer was added, obviously for the American market, and whilst this may make financial sense, it doesn’t make good film sense.

Other than the few weak characters, the special effects are at times good, but mostly awful. I confess right now that I’d have found it hard to have come up for a decent design for the Nautilus, but the version they chose was so blatantly a cgi image, that all it needed was the Pixar Lamp to be positioned at the front. It was a joke. Hyde was a saving grace for the CGI, as were the explosions at the end, and the Invisible Man was clever, although unoriginal. Ultimately though, after watching the Nautilus sailing through the sea, and watching Nemo’s ridiculous car, I’d began to loose the will to live.

So far, I’ve laid into some of the cgi and the characters a lot, but to be honest, some films (The Hulk for example) have weak moments of cgi and characterisation and yet still come shining through due to a valid and clever plot. So technically, even after my complaints, this film could have a chance of being good. Did it manage it though? Nope. The script and plot were the worst parts.

For one thing, I’ll lay aside the fact that the plot was as random and disorganised as this review is becoming, but the dialogue was so dreadful I found myself shaking my head in disgust at times. It was dire and VERY weak.

Truth be told, this review should really finish now, but then if the film’s creators can randomly add Sawyer to the equation, then I can put in one random section complaining about how unrealistic the film is, and the fault of this being placed on the word “sequel”.

If this film is successful, and for this sake I hope it isn’t, then the people in power will no doubt wish to create another. Now aside for the simple fact that thankfully (and DON’T READ THIS IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN IT YET) at least one or two of the cast die (although the ending is a blatant piece of trash), technically more of the League should have been killed. In the end battles, two major characters get bad injuries, and yet they just seem to almost shake them off. I mean, what the hell is that about? Nemo not only gets smashed hard against a wall and shakes himself off without pain, but the Invisible Man ends up with miraculously healing 3rd Degree Burns. Now I know technically people live healthy (if scarred) lives after receiving such burns nowadays, but in the Victorian Era, people tended to die. So how come Mr Invisible (as he should thus be called for pure tacky value) survives and seems back to normal at the end? My mind is a blank.

Anyway, YOU CAN READ AGAIN NOW THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET.

To summarise, I guess I was a bit fed up with how this film ended up. I’d expected a lot, I’d been delivered prospect with the opening five minutes, I received a few decent characters, but ultimately, this film is a bit of a waste of time and will probably receive a fair few Raspberry Awards come Oscar time. Could have been so much better. What a pity.

The Third Man

ThirdManThe Third Man (1949) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

For a long time I’ve wanted to view this film. Ultimately though, it was sitting in a lecture on films a week ago when the lecturer said “this is my all time favourite movie” that I ended up being determined enough to have a viewing, my opinion now that it’s finished? Good ol’ Orson made it enjoyable.

I know this film is in the top 50 films of all time according to IMDb, and compared to most films on that list, it’s definitely true. The acting is first class, cinematography worthy of it’s Oscar, and the story is a Graham Greene story, which also counts for something. The problem is that, I can’t help but feel that this film has got a bit too dated. In 1949, the vision of Vienna in ruins on the cinema screen must have been majestic, moving and a beautiful tribute to the ultimate futility of war, but now in 2003, a lot of the time I feel the beauty is lost.

As well as the dating of the film, one other thing bugs me, and that’s that truthfully, Holly Martin (played by Joseph Cotten) and Anna Schmidt (played by Alida Valli) infuriate me almost constantly. The characters are often whiny and Anna especially is a source for constant aggravation. Therefore, with the two main characters bugging me, I was left with the short amount of screen time which featured Orson.

I confess here and now that up until today, I’d never properly witnessed Orson Welles acting properly. I’d heard the name spoken with awe and amazement, but it wasn’t until the scene on the Ferris Wheel that this awe suddenly made sense. Truthfully, I’m starting to wonder just how high De Niro and Pacino (2 and 1 respectively) would have got in the top 100 actors of all time on British TV had the voters witnessed Orson’s performances. During this film, Orson seems to be able to portray a character who was described as that lecturer of mine as “Pure Evil” and yet to me he almost seemed to be sensitive and complex. Orson saves this film, just by the mention of his characters name, and by being able to show the character in a small scene. If it wasn’t for him, would this film really be as highly rated?

“The Third Man” is portrayed as being one of the best films of all time. For characterisation, cinematography and sound, it has to be in the top five, however for dating so easily, having an annoying main character and for being a bit slow at times, it suffers. Give me Orson, give me the concept, but I wish it hadn’t lost part of it’s relevance.

“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” – Orson Welles as Harry Lime

Matchstick Men

MatchstickMenMatchstick Men (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Truth be told, I think I probably summed up this film with my title. “Matchstick Men” is at times powerful, at times moving, yet at times slow and tedious. Nicolas Cage is occasionally stunning as Roy Waller, a conman with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but at times his performance is similar to the disorder itself and is incredibly inconsistent. Cage seems to switch from stunning acting one moment, to ridiculously wooden the next. His character provides the occasional laugh, but sadly too many laughs are provided by his closing of doors. When studying Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an actor should watch “As Good As It Gets” and witness Jack Nicholson’s performance to view how to treat it properly. Sadly Cage obviously didn’t.

Other than Cage, the acting is relatively upto scratch but nothing special. Sam Rockwell as Frank Mercer is playing what seems like exactly the same character as he always plays. I wouldn’t say Rockwell gets a bit type cast, simply as he isn’t, but in everything I’ve seen him in, he’s got different characters and mingled them to make the same person.

Irrelevant of acting capabilities, what else can be said about this film? The plot is up to scratch, if somewhat predictable at times (although one twist at the end is clever, if obvious looking back at it), the directing is as you’d expect for Ridley Scott & the cinematography is at times stunning. Other than this, there is relatively little to say. This film is by no means the best film of the year, but it is by no means the worst. It’s good to watch if nothing else is available and you fancy to be moved (and slightly depressed perhaps), but ultimately, don’t expect anything special.

Ghost World

GhostWorldGhost World (2001) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Ok, I admit right now that this review is fairly weak. The simple reason being that I’m not sure how personally to review this film. “Ghost World” tells the story of two girls Enid and Rebecca who have just graduated from High School and their lives are laid out in front of them.

The film progresses and the girls friendship is strained as random different obscure characters are introduced and as Thora Birch’s Enid begins to drift away and grow increasingly tired with her life. Birch gives the audience a star performance as the troubled Enid, but ultimately, the film belongs to Steve Buschemi’s “Geek” Seymour.

“Ghost World” progresses at a fairly slow pace and this is ultimately my problem with it. I’m sure fans of the comic book from which this is based will love it, and I’m sure to certain other people it might seem enjoyable, but to myself, whilst at times Birch and co deeply affect us and we’re left associating with the fear of change, ultimately I couldn’t truely appreciate it.

The ending of this film is surprisingly well delivered, although it has the problem that the film never really goes anywhere. When I witness a good film conclusion, I often find myself in an almost trance like state as I recreate in my mind the thoughts and images I’ve just received, and the same happened this time. This time however, I feel almost cheated. “Ghost World” leaves me with the feeling which is often handed out to me by complete films which have kept me hooked throughout (“American Beauty” being a perfect example), but aside for a few key scenes and images, “Ghost World” ultimately leaves me dead.

To summarise, superb acting and an occasional brilliant idea (keep an eye out for the art scenes revolving around Enid’s art exhibition) don’t make up for the inherrant feeling that this film doesn’t seem to actually go anywhere. By all means watch this film, feel sorry for the characters, enjoy the occasional joke, but afterwards, don’t be surprised if you feel slightly disappointed.

Finding Nemo

FindingNemoFinding Nemo (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

So here’s Disney’s latest animated adventure, and for those of us out there who love Disney, it’s a treat.

In “Finding Nemo” we are introduced to two clown fish (who aren’t very funny) Nemo & his dad Marlin, who have an arguement as Marlin is overprotective & Nemo is taken by some Scuba Divers. This then leads to Marlin travelling across the ocean facing numerous obstacles in an attempt to get his son back (the rest of the family already dying before the opening credits).

This film progresses in typical Disney style with bright characters (my personal favourites being the Turtles ….. dude!), imaginative scenarios and a couple of classic small sketches (the best being two seagulls sat on the surface and a small bubble appears next to Seagull A. Seagull B looks at him “nice” & flies off).

Truth be told, the thing I love about this film is that I can’t actually identify that many of the voices. If you look at “Toy Story” (still the bench mark, although personally “Shrek” is my alltime animation, but then, it isn’t Disney), whilst the story is stunning, the voices are blatantly Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and many other well known faces, which ultimately I personally think hinders it slightly. Now if you look at “Finding Nemo” whilst one or two of the early characters voices are recogniseable (Ellen DeGeneres being the most notable) for the most part, they may be famous actors, but I found it hard to recognise the voices (hence my surprise at discovering Geoffrey Rush being in it). Ultimately this benefits my enjoyment as after a while, the voices literally become the characters own.

To summarise, this is yet another quality Disney film which is both endering and satisfying. I confess to not being a big fan of recent Disney productions (found “Monsters Inc” a bit too infuriating for my tastes and not at all that funny), but with “Finding Nemo” they remind me where my heart truely belongs. A stunning film worth it’s wait in Coral.

The Italian Job

ItalianJob2003The Italian Job (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

I’ve always viewed myself as quite a patriotic Englishman who adored Wembley (although Twickenham is a better ground), knows the first verse of “God Save The Queen” (which is all you need really. It’s such a slow anthem, someone would have to be mad to even consider attempting to sing the other two verses) and loves his Chippy as often as possible. I do however have one vice with regard to this patriotism. I’m not an enourmous fan of the original Italian Job. Don’t get me wrong, there are some classic lines in it, the ending is superb, and Michael Caine is a genius, but I know people who seem to adore it, whilst simultaneously never actually watching it. The original film is a slow moving piece of cinema which is actually very weak up until the final half hour. Anyway, I’m not supposed to be talking about the original, but the American’s views on how the film could be done.

So here am I, it’s Thursday night, I’ve just seen the film (and told a friend what he missed, but then he’s still being closed minded as it isn’t Michael Caine) and I’m trying to work out how good this film really is. Well let me tell you, it isn’t half bad.

The acting by certain people is wooden (Ed Norton is possibly the greatest actor of his generation, and he just walks through this without needing much effort at all. Perhaps his fee is the real robbery of this film as he sure as hell doesn’t try hard enough to earn it), the cars scenes are good but nothing special, and the ending is the corniest ending I’ve seen in a film for quite some time. Despite these though, the plot goes along well, theres a few hilarious jokes, and it’s just a good film to sit down and watch without thinking.

Truth be told, there are only three negative things I can say about this film. Firstly, it’s so blatantly a marketing ploy as the “Italian Job” name and occasional tribute are completely unnecessary. Secondly, I wish that in Britain they’d get rid of this stupid 12a certificate as I’m fed up with parents bringing noisey brats who blatantly don’t care about the film with them to watch it. Leave the kids at home with a babysitter or wait till video you infuriating people. Thirdly and finally, my remaining gripe about this film is that the final editors must have seen all the mistakes and thought “we might not make a fortune, but at least we’ll get onto that mistakes website”. There appear during the course of this movie, millions of little errors. At one point the camera shows a side on shot of the Holywood sign and the “h” and the “o” are back to front. I mean, who misses something like that when they’re editing a film! Then, in a restaurant scene, it’s hard to focus too much on the plot or on the acting, when Ed Norton’s moustache is so bent, that a black marker pen would have been more realistic.

So yeah, ultimately, if your an enourmous fan of the original, don’t be closed minded, go see this just for the experience as ultimately, it’s not as bad as it could be, but be warned, Ed Norton’s Moustache is so terrible, you’ll be laughing at it for days to come.

Underworld

underworldUnderworld (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

I confess that so far this year, few films have really kept me interested from start to finish. “Terminator 3” was acceptable but it’s best bit was it’s end, “Matrix Reloaded” was a poor sequel obviously building up towards an ending (which will probably turn out to be disappointing as well) and “The Hulk” had a nice twist on the Superhero Genre, but ultimately was a bit slow at times. “Underworld” however, reminds us that perhaps there is life in this new stylish approach of Holywood’s. The leather is there, continuing on from so many other films, and by no means is anything to do with Vampires or Werewolves a new angle, however this film combines the two in a stunning visual experience, which, unlike other leather clad films of the year (no names mentioned) has at least some understandable well constructed plot.

In “Underworld” we’re introduced to Selene (Beckinsale in a new lease of life having shifted, at times ineffectively from the innocent British Rose) a hunter of Werewolves who spends all of her time attempting to wipe out this mongrel race for past crimes against her. Eventually we encounter different Werewolves and Vampires (incl the marvellous Sheen as Lucian and Nighy as Viktor) on our way to a typically brutal ending and an even more blatant ending. Truth be told, whilst parts of this film were obvious at times, the almost cliffhanger conclusion was a bit of a surprise to me (weird since Holywood seems obsessed with series of films nowadays), but looking back, no real alternative ending could be considered.

This film is a mindblowing piece of cinema with clever Matrix like styling, but with an element of Blade like vampires. Whilst I confess I do prefer the Vampires in “Blade” to the ones here, the Werewolves are powerful sturdy, graphically beautiful creatures with whom you can almost consider our animal instincts coming to life.

If your more of a fan of the more thought provoking, more realistic films based around the 60s or 70s, then why are you reading this review? If you are however an enourmous fan of watching vampires and werewolves cutting shreads out of each other in a modern day, leather clad, pool of violence and intrigue, watch this. Maybe not the best film of the year in Holywood’s mind come the next Oscars, but a cult movie (on the scale of Bladerunner) in the making, and definately the pick of the last few months. This is how the Holywood Blockbusters should have been made. Enjoy.

Castaway

CastawayCastaway (1986) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

So this is the film which was fronted as the late, great Oli Reed’s comeback. With Amanda Donohoe, Oli stars in a wonderful film about an Odd Couple who for certain reasons decide to live together on a desert island.

Oli is superb as the 45 year old man who just wants to be alone on his dream island with the gorgeous Amanda Donohoe, and she’s also superb as the girl who’s forced to live with the volatile Oli Reed.

The difference in viewpoint between the two central characters is stunning, and drives the film along well as whilst Oli is blatantly interested in both her, enjoying himself and fulfilling a few desires, she’s keen on being much more active and building things. The comparison of the two continues as the film progresses until eventually a boat containing two men appear. Truth be told, it is the appearance of these two men (Jason & Rod) which leads to the film going slightly downhill for the customary dip which most films experience. The psychology of Donahoe as she blatantly gets upset at a missed opportunity to sleep with one of the men is slightly infuriating for the audience as well as the characters, and it’s clever to see how the two characters behave differently amongst visitors and this is actually quite an interesting portrayal of how we change amongst guests compared with in close company.

Eventually, the two almost die of malnutrition, and yet once again some random strangers turn up, this time in the face of nuns. It becomes blatantly obvious this time however that Donahoe does actually quite like Oli at times, when he’s not being aggressive and violent, or excessively lazy. It is the upgrade in living enviroments and food provided by the nuns and their friends, that allows the two to regain their health and the film perks up now as the end of their year approaches.

Eventually the film runs through to it’s climax, via a few memorable moments, and the film is completed, as, looking back, it seemed destined to throughout.

It’s hard to sum up this film really. After a slightly weak review as the one I’ve just written, most people will probably have stopped reading by now. I guess, it’s probably just worth saying that whilst films on desert beaches are by no means in short supply, this one is more enjoyable than most other efforts and is head and shoulders above both Tom Hank’s most recent effort and the Beach with Leo Di Caprio. Enjoy one of Oli Reed’s finest roles and find yourself inspired to escape society to a beach of your own.

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