Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Fantastic Four

It's a while since I saw this now, but I think it was one of those Sunday night, nothing else on kinda films. So it did exactly what it set out to do really; filled in 2 hours of scheduling time. Quite entertaining without being any good. The dynamic of the group didn't really work; though I'm not familiar with the comics so maybe they are meant to be like a dysfunctional family. Still Jessica Alba was nice to look at/not look at (see what I did there?).

Was it not obvious to the Fantastic four that a guy called Dr von Doom was going to turn out badly? I mean, come on! Oh, I just remembered; I particularly liked the way that The Thing was cured by reversing the wavelength of radiation (this kind of made sense), except that they had no idea how much radiation Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) received in space in the first place. Then, when he wants to be The Thing again, he knows precisely how to work the machine and how to dose himself with the exact same amount of radiation to produce exactly the same results as before!

Oh yes, and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Mr Elastic or whatever his name was, gave himself a higher dose of radiation which made him become extra-rubbery. But then ten minutes later he was back to regular rubberyness! No explanation! I could probably go on, but I wont bore you.

Who are you? Who Cares?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tron Legacy

Twenty Seven years ago. That's when I saw Tron, and I remember being really blown away by it. The Light Cycles (in all their right-angle turning glory!), the disc battles and all the state of the art computer graphics! My love of the film was enhanced by my possession of a ViewMaster with the Tron collection, which my Mum was able to instantly put her hand on last week (best Christmas present this year!):






So I was torn between really wanting to see Tron Legacy, and not wanting to get too excited. But I wasn't not going to see it, and I wasn't really disappointed. I did enjoy it, a very fun film which I don't think tried to take itself too seriously, but also tried to tie in nicely with the first film (if we remembered what happened!).

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), having escaped from "The Grid" at the end of the first film now has a seven-year-old son. One night while tucking him into bed, Kevin is telling the story of Tron, and promises his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) that he will take him to the arcade tomorrow. He then goes to "The Office" to work through the night, but disappears!

Not seeing his Dad for 10 years or so, Sam grows up still having a stake in his Dad's company: software company Encom, but not really having a interest in it. That is until his Dad's friend (also on the Encom board) tells Sam about his Dad's arcade. Sam discovers his Dad's "Office" below the arcade (hidden behind the Tron game), and gets zapped into The Grid.

Sam is captured and forced into the Gladiatorial arena, fighting with discs and the notorious Light Cycle chase. He is noticed by Clu (computer programme developed in his own image by Kevin Flynn in the first film) who looks like a younger version of Kevin. Clu tells Sam that he is not his father, but that he is pleased to see him. During the Light Cycle race, Sam is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who takes Sam to meet his father.

There is then some exposition where Dad Flynn explains to Sam/us that Clu looks like him because he is a programme created by him to create the perfect world, and now he wants the disc from Pa Flynn to be able to send his army into the real world. By sending the army into the real world Clu of course wants to apply his idea of a perfect civilisation to the world, which would most likely destroy us. The only way to get over this is for Sam to make his way back to the portal which will send him back to the real world, so he can shut down Clu from outside.

Essentially that is the plot. Sam trying to get back to the real world and shut Clu down. That's it, oh and if Kevin Flynn and Clu ever merge, then everything in the Grid will be destroyed. Mmmm, important plot point?! But, despite the plot being fairly thin on the ground, and Garrett Hedlund coming from the Hayden Christensen Attack of the Clones school of acting, the film is still really good fun. And I think that's how the film should be taken, simply as being fun.

Clearly the special effects are better than the 1982 Tron, and the 3D does lend itself to this kind of film (though I don't really think it added anything extra over seeing it in 2D, except perhaps the Light Cycle race). The musical score by Daft Punk was great, fitting perfectly with a digital world, and it was LOUD!

Jeff Bridges was by far the best actor, his performance seemed effortless compared to the others. I know that the Cohen Brothers wrote the character of The Dude imagining Jeff, but it's amazing how much like The Dude Jeff really is; I don't think there will be another film with Bridges in that doesn't make some nod to The Big Lebowski! Of course Bridges has to undergo youngification to appear as Clu; and the effects are brought to us by the same people responsible for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Jeff's face is great, there is no doubt that Clu is a younger version of Kevin Flynn, the only thing that let's it down is the lip sync. Sometimes it is perfect, more often it looks like his lips can't articulate properly; much like women who have had too much collagen put in their lips and consequently can't talk properly! But I guess this is only a minor gripe; far less intrusive than the crap cg cold breath in The Social Network!

I must also mention Michael Sheen who was also great. He just has the uncanny ability to bring credibility to whatever role he plays, whether he is a Werewolf, David Frost, Tony Blair, or in this case Zuse: a club owner/respectable programme with contacts in high places. And he based his performance on David Bowie!!

There was one clever little plot twist; the fact that Sam believes that the new Encom OS should be freeware and that the company should not charge for it. Nicely echoed by the fact that Clu wants his army to break out to the real world and that his perfect world would be available to all.

There are only a few niggles about this film regards plot, wooden main character (much like Christian Bale in Batman); but the chance to see Tron, on a  big screen, in 3D, with a pumping soundtrack, just like I imagine Tron should have been (I think seeing original Tron now would shatter my illusions of how good it was), is just great.

Light Cycles. Cool!

Olivia Wilde. Very Nice!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Nordwand

Spoilers! By the Way!!

Northface, is the story (based in truth) of a ill-fated attempt to climb the North face of the Eiger in 1936 by two German climbers Toni Kurz (Benno Fürmann) and Andreas Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas). They are followed up, hindered by and then perish along with two Austrian climbers. The story is also told through the eyes of Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), a photographer for a Berlin newspaper (Morgenpost?) who travels to the Swiss town at the base of the Eiger along with her boss Henry (played by the excellent but slimy Ulrich Tukur).

Luise is an old friend of Toni and Andreas, and so is far more emotionally connected with the events than Henry who is just there for the story. He only cares if there is a heroic victory for Germany "Conquering the final problem of the Alps" or a tragic accident. As she has a mountaineering background, Luise even ventures out on the mountain herself to try and make contact with Toni and Andreas as they are stuck on the mountainside. She eventually stays out all night to keep Toni company, as by this point he is the only survivor. The next morning a rescue team arrive with a rope that is too short, so there is the tragic final scene with Toni hanging in mid air, tantalisingly close, but exhaling his last breath.

I have seen this before, but had forgotten that all four of the climbers died. The film is great. The characters are all developed well, with enough backstory to explain their actions (of course it helps that the characters are based in reality), but doesn't feel thrown it for the sake of it. The dynamic between Luise and Henry works really well; Henry's story arc from father-figure to Luise; to impatient patronising boss; to an un-caring colleague that Luise wants nothing to do with is very believable.

The action on the mountain is all very well done, edge of the seat stuff that makes you cringe when they are so cold their fingers and faces are black with frostbite; and can only imagine how it must feel not to be able to use your fingers at all when your life depends on it. It is in fact very reminiscent of Touching the Void. The final climbing scene with the death of Toni is heartbreaking (Luise has always fancied Toni), he tries one last effort to get off the mountain, but it is so cold his clothes are creaking with frost, and his frostbitten fingers can't cope with the knot in the rope caused by the rope being too short (some rescue!).

I do think this is a great film. Great characters; great action; brilliant the way the freezing action on the mountain is contrasted with the decadence of the press etc in the hotel at the bottom of the mountain, and the kind of film that completely absorbs the viewer, and sticks with you for a while afterwards.

On the Face of The Ogre.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

So, one of the reasons I think I enjoyed HP and the DH part 1 is because it had been quite a while since I read the book, and so I'd forgotten a good deal of it (not that it stopped me being a bit critical of it). However, I had only finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest the day before I saw the film! "Muppet!" I hear you say; "What a colossal mistake!" Fair enough. However, I had enjoyed the first two films, my wife had read all the books, I had already read the first two books, and I wanted to read at least one without knowing how it was going to end! This didn't ruin the film for me, I still enjoyed it, it just lacked the depth of the novel (not unusual).

Noomi Rapace is still perfect as the sullen, introvert Lisbeth Salander (though her character is less upwardly mobile in this outing, as she is confined to a hospital bed for a lot of the film), and Michael Nyqvist is good as Blomqvist (though he just doesn't come across as being quite right for the part, he's meant to be a handsome ladies man!).

The story continues directly from the previous film, with Lisbeth being helicoptered into hospital having been shot, buried alive, and having whacked her Dad on the head with an axe! The ins an outs of the plot are far too detailed to go into here (for a detailed description see The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson!). Suffice to say the climax (well the first one) is a court case where all the people who have messed up Salander over the years get their comeuppance (turns out there was a government conspiracy to keep a defected Russian spy out of trouble (Lisbeth's Dad!)).

Finally, having been acquitted of attempted murder of her father, Salander confronts Niedermann (the psycho who doesn't feel pain who tried to shoot her at the end of The Girl who Played with Fire (actually Salander's half brother (seriously, read the books!))). The action is maybe a bit clumsy, but it is entertaining to see Salander shoot several nails from a nail gun to fix Niedermann to the floor!

There was some messing around with the order of events around the court case, and the spurious appearance of a character who is only ever present online in the book, but I guess this was to add to the drama of the court case, which still works well. Then there was the incident of Erika Berger (Editor in Chief of Millennium magazine, played by Lena Endre), who doesn't move to a rival newspaper, as in the book, but still receives crank offensive emails. Who from? No-one knows in the film, as it is never resolved! Sloppy.

The other mildly irritating thing are the subtitles! No, not like that. Subtitles are fine with me, I'd much rather watch a film in its original language and read, than have awful dubbing. No, in this case, as is the case with the first two films, the subtitles are white with no background or shadow. This hardly seems a crime; except that there are surprisingly numerous scenes that are white or very bright at the bottom of the screen, at which point the subtitles are illegible! Duh!

Overall, good film, great series, great books.


Monday, 20 December 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Now, I'm imagining that most people reading this will have read the book (otherwise why are you searching for blogs on Harry Potter), so my synopsis of the plot can be mercifully brief.

Harry has now come of age, and will no longer be protected from Voldemort at his muggle home. He flees this home with the help of Order of the Phoenix members, and arrives at Ron's house: The Burrow. While at The Burrow, one of the elder Weasley brothers, Bill, marries Fleur Delacour, but the wedding is plunged into chaos as a Patronus arrives from the Ministry announcing that the Death Eaters have taken over. Harry, Ron and Hermione immediately disapparate to escape.

Essentially the rest of the story involves the threesome moving around the country, camping in out of the way places to stay away from the Death Eaters, while trying to figure out a way of destroying the Horcruxes, which Dumbledore had informed them would destroy Voldemort. That doesn't sound especially interesting, but the story doesn't drag. Amidst this escaping around a damp countryside (though there are some lovely location shots) are the main exciting set pieces, ie The visit to Godric's Hollow, Breaking into the Minsitry, and being captured by "Snatchers" and the escape from Malfoy Mansion.

Being an HP fan, I did enjoy the film; I knew enough background to know what was going on, so if things were not clearly explained I wouldn't have noticed. Of course this is also a curse, because I end up fixating on the things that are left out; though I don't think this happened too much in this film. I thought David Yates did an abominable job of Order of the Phoenix, was much improved for Half-blood Prince, and also did well for this number. As well as getting a lot of the interpretation right (though of course that's completely subjective) he managed to get very mature performances out of the main cast. Particularly the scene where Harry dances with Hermione in the tent after Ron has run off. I think it could easily have been laughable/creepy or a will they/wont they moment, but I thought it was played perfectly; a very tender emotional moment between two friends. Hey, even Fred and George Weasley were alright in the few scenes they were in, and they've been really shite in the past!

I think there was only a couple of things, well maybe only one thing that I felt was missed out that was crucial. When escaping Privet drive on Hagrid's motorbike, Voldemort is alerted to the "real" Harry by the fact that he uses "Expelliarmus!". This becomes very relevant at the end of the book I thought, so to miss out this point in the film was odd. Otherwise, I was disappointed not to see Fenrir Greyback, I was sure he was one of the Snatchers who takes them to Malfoy Mansion. But overall I really enjoyed the film, very dark and moody, and I'm looking forward to the finale, whenever that is!

                                                          Isn't that on a Led Zeppelin Album?




Monday, 6 December 2010

Sucker Punch

I'm not really too sure what to expect from this film (I guess I will be unprepared), but anything that starts with "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin must be good. Given that it is reportedly very hard to get any sort of rights to reproduce a Led song (to my knowledge the only other film is School of Rock, and only then because Jack Black begged the Led; and School of Rock is ace), then Sucker Punch must be good!




Is it a kind of Matrix thing, or are they all just dreaming? No idea, but I know I'm looking forward to it! I didn't really like 300 at all (fairly poor acting, bad cg backgrounds, David Wenham as narrator!? Though the fights were good), I did think Watchmen was great, so I'm hoping Zak Snyder continues his good work. Maybe he will out do himself and the climax will be Mr T punching them all saying "Take that Suckas!"

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Science on Film


On my twitter profile I claim that I am a scientist (true), evil genius (probably not true), and part-time movie blogger (true). So it is in my capacity as a scientist (Microbiologist to be exact, though I have dabbled in Biochemistry as well), that I wanted to be critical of, and in praise of how science is shown in films. Of course due to my biological science background, a lot of what I’ll say reflects this; I’m sure a chemist or a physicist would come up with a completely different set of examples, maybe even a different conclusion.

Generally I don’t think science is portrayed well/accurately in films. Though to be honest this can probably be said of various media, and of various topics. I think for the sake of an exciting film/TV programme/newspaper article, technical accuracy isn’t always 100%, whether it is scientific, historical, or biographical. Perhaps the difference is that science is logical, experimental, and (should be) based on unbiased facts; ie things are done for a reason. Consequently, when it is obviously done wrong, at best it’s like a slap in the face, at worst it’s just laughable. This of course is a problem (should be a problem) for the filmmaker, because as soon as a punter laughs at something that is supposed to be serious (now I’m not thinking of Yoda at the end of Episode II at all!), then in their eyes the film loses all credibility.

So a slap in the face for me is my pet love/hate; Radioactivity. This is the warning sign for radioactivity:

It is so because the chemical elements that are radioactive are unstable. Due to this instability they break down and release radioactive particles. Therefore the warning symbol shows two “objects” balancing on one, an unstable design. Therefore, to show the symbol upside-down is not only meaningless, but implies the complete opposite of what is trying to be conveyed; “This substance is stable, no danger here”! Actually there are specific rules as the dimensions of the symbol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazard_symbol#Radioactive_sign

                                                         Unstoppable: All sorts of wrong

                                                              Back to the Future: Correct

While we’re on the subject of things being just plain wrong, here’s another corker. This time from The Matrix. And I quote:

Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not.

WRONG! If only the Wachowski brothers had taken 10 seconds to check Wikipedia, they would have found that mammals are so called because the female of each species possesses mammary glands! And last time I checked, humans fall into that category!

Smith then goes on to say that we are actually viruses. Well, we’re not, but viruses are very interesting. Not least in the context of this article as they possibly (though I have no evidence for this - bad scientist!) inspired Alien, at the very least. We all know the life cycle of an Alien: Queen lays eggs, eggs hatch, facehugger jumps on unsuspecting passer by and impregnates, chest-burster bursts out killing host, and Xenomorph can then grow up and lead a healthy and fulfilling life!

In many ways a bacteriophage virus is very similar. A bacteriophage is a virus than infects bacterial cells. When the virus finds a bacterium, it will attach itself, and then “impregnate” the cell with it’s own DNA. The virus then exploits the host cell processes to make many new copies of the viral DNA; new viral particles are then assembled within the host cell, until it eventually bursts releasing all of the new viruses.

As can be seen from this video, the bacteriophage even look fairly horrific.


The video may be a bit over-dramatic, but you get the idea! So we should tip our hat to H.R. Giger, and Ridley Scott for making a Sci-fi film about an alien with accuracy; because few things are scarier than nature! And as if to confirm this, watch this video of the Cordyceps fungi that infect insects and then grow out of the host body!

So some of those horrific Sci-Fi creatures may have some basis in science and nature, though it may not be intentional some times. And while we’re at it, if you thought that The Thing was a bit too far fetched, then you really don’t have to look any further than Dictyostelium (Slime Moulds):



Then from the sublime to the ridiculous. That special breed of film that contains that particular branch of science: Spacker Science! Whether it be trains of molten phenol in Unstoppable, or toxic waste melting Paul McCrane in 10 seconds in Robocop! But all pale into insignificance when compared to Deep Blue Sea! Ah yes.

“Scientists” discover the cure to Parkinson’s disease; a protein that causes neurons to fire again (which happens instantly in a petri dish!). So, shall we copy the gene for the protein into E. coli, so that it can be propagated and produce loads of protein in the lab (standard practise, even I do this in the lab)? Or shall we breed giant sharks, with giant brains, so that we can pipette the protein directly out of it’s brain?! I’m sure there was a reason for the sharks particularly, but I can’t remember what it was. Of course, giving sharks larger brains makes them super-intelligent! Of course we all know that this is true; larger brains = greater intelligence. That is why the elephant is the most intelligent mammal!?

I could sit here all day and pick holes in this film, but then that’s not it’s point is it. As I said earlier, to make something like a film more entertaining, there has to be a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to science. Let’s then be honest, who wouldn’t find Samuel L. Jackson being eaten by a giant shark, or Saffron Burrows stripping down to her knickers and bra so she can electrocute a shark, or L. L. Cool J telling us how to make an omelette entertaining?

I think science generally comes off quite badly in films; if it is not accurately done, then scientists themselves are usually portrayed as socially inept nerds who live only for their research and barely see daylight. There are a few good examples of films, but I don’t really have the time to go into Contact (written by Carl Sagan), or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Sunshine (Professor Brian Cox was scientific advisor), and I’m sure more films that escape me right now.

As I said at the beginning, there are reasons for scientific theories and ideas. Research, experiments, and drawing the most likely conclusions based on evidence (almost Occam’s Razor) is how we progress our knowledge. Perhaps the conclusions may not be completely correct at the moment, but this is the point of research, to question accepted dogma if we have reason to doubt it, or in the light of new evidence. This is why when it is done badly/wrong in films it just looks silly because it just doesn’t make sense.

I should finish by saying this doesn’t necessarily ruin films for me, despite perhaps being “pulled out of the film” by some stupid science, I still think the like of Deep Blue Sea, Robocop, Watchmen, The Thing, AVP, The Matrix are all still great/very entertaining films (I’ll let you decide which of those you think I think are great or just very entertaining!). It would just be nice if Directors/writers/producers/set designers could just do a little bit of research themselves to make sure their film was slightly less silly!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Alien3

Though I had actually watched this film recently after I had bought the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set, this time it was on Film4, and was a Film4FilmClub film. Essentially this means that as you watch, you make any comment you like to the @Film4filmclub twitter account with (in this case) the #alien3 hashtag. This at once was a good idea and certainly was amusing & great fun, but at the same time, you tend to miss half of the film as you spend so much time looking at all the tweets! So I guess this review will half be based on this viewing and half from when I watched it several months ago.


After I can't remember how long spent in cryo-sleep, Ripley's shuttle crashes on Fury 161, a prison world. The facility Ripley is taken to is home to a bunch of criminals who are all "double-Y" chromosome (presumably this means they're all particularly nasty) therefore all male, with histories of extreme violence (just the place a single white female wants to find herself). Of course she's not alone. There was a facehugger on board which impregnates not only her (as we find out later) but a dog/cow (depending on whether you're watching the theatrical/director's cut), which is the source of the Xenomorph that terrorises the inmates. Of course then the story arc is obviously going to be several plans for getting rid of the Alien (resulting in various deaths, not of the Alien-ular variety) until at the climax of the film it is killed. In this case by superheating in molten lead, and then turning the sprinklers on to it (of the fire extinguisher type, not the golf green watering type) causing the exoskeleton to contract too tight and it explodes?!!

I still think that this is a good film. Obviously it is not in the same league as the first or second instalments of this series, but David Fincher does manage to create a certain amount of isolation, desperation and downright moodyness!

For:
-The story takes no quarter. Neither Hicks or Newt survive the crash on Fury 161. Quite a shock I guess, but good that the film doesn't want to try and recreate past glories, it's moving on.

-Atmosphere. The mood of the film is very bleak, lighting and music create a very moody film, quite unlike either of it's predecessors.

-Cast. There is quite a wealth of actors on offer, mostly British. Great to see Paul McGann and Ralph Brown together after Withnail and I. Pete Postlethwaite of course. I guess they all work together well as a bunch of cons.

Against:
-The Alien. It's fine when it's a suit, as it is in the iconic shot from Alien 3:


but when it moves, the cg is awful; it just looks like it never made it out of pre-viz! Now I know this film isn't so much horror as thriller I guess (Alien was horror; Aliens was a shoot 'em up!), but the cg Alien just spoils any tension the film had.

-Accents. Despite thinking that the casting is generally pretty good, I'm not sure why they all have such plummy British accents (apart from the scousers from Brookside!) I really don't think this collection of "Double-Y" cons would speak like they do a lot of the time.

-Script. Generally it's fine. Just fine. But then when one or two characters (I guess it's often Dillon) have some quality screen time it all goes to shit.
   eg
Dillon: Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say Fuck that thing!

Dillon: I don't like losin' a fight. Not to nobody, not to nothin'. That damn thing out there's already killed half my men, got the other half scared shitless. As long as it's alive, sister, you're not gonna save any universe.


I mean, really!


I guess finally I'll mention differences between the theatrical and director's cut. For a start, the alien comes out of a dog in the theatrical and a cow in the director's. Not sure why they changed it. I did feel foolish though when I tweeted "The dog will be fine, this isn't The Thing!", just to be shown to be ignorant when clearly the dog died!


The other obvious difference is that in the director's cut, the queen does not burst out of Ripley as she falls into the molten lead. I personally feel that this is better. When the queen jumps out (perfect timing of course) as she falls, well, for one it looks cheesey, and for two; is she trying to strangle it or cuddle it? Better to not show it, she's going to die anyway.


The less obvious difference was Paul McGann's role. In the director's cut we see a lot more of him as he describes the Alien as a dragon, and almost worships it. To the extent that after the alien is captured, McGann's character "Golic" sets it free again. Now I could be wrong that this isn't in the theatrical release, but I don't think I had my head down tweeting for that long!


So, I think it is a good film, a very different Alien film from the first two, it's just that it's let down by some bad special effects and a below par script every now and then.



Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Town Called Panic

Well now...this is absolutely bonkers! That really is the best way to describe this film. Just look at the trailer!



For those who live in the UK, there's a good chance that you will be familiar with the Cravendale milk adverts. For those who don't know: a pirate, a cyclist, a cow and occasionally a chicken I think (all toy, stop motion animated) run around being generally crazy shouting "MILK! MILK!" Thus:



The creators of these adverts are Belgian duo Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar. This creative genius has now given us A Town Called Panic.

In a nutshell: A cowboy called Cowboy, an Indian called Indian live together with a horse called, yup, Horse. It all starts because of Horse's birthday. (Spoilers!) Cowboy and Indian decide to build him a barbecue, and go online to order bricks (from Briquenet)! While ordering 500 bricks one of them comes back from the kitchen with a mug of coffee and puts one mug down next to the computer; of course the handle knocks the zero key and they end up ordering, well 50,000,000 is the figure quoted (I think), but there were more zeros than that! So, all these bricks are delivered, and having built a barbecue (which horse loves) Cowboy and Indian hide all the other bricks on top of the house in a giant cube (the Allspark?).

All is well at the birthday party, but that night the cube of bricks starts to crush the house! The trio escape, but the house is just a pile of bricks! So the next day they spend hours starting to rebuild the walls. Spending the night in a neighbouring farmers barn, they awake the next day to find that the walls are gone!

To cut a long story short, Cowboy, Indian and Horse discover the walls are being stolen by some underwater-fish-creature from the black lagoon type things (of which the main one is called Claude)! The adventures then include (but are not limited to) encountering a giant robot penguin controlled by crazed scientists who seem to be super strong; a very long fall to the centre of the earth (so far that they are able to play poker on the way down (Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey?)), an underwater restaurant; and an all out assault on the neighbouring farm involving lots of pigs and cows! While all this time, Horse is trying not to let down his new girlfriend: a music teacher horse called Madame Longrée! Like I said...bonkers!

I had feared that all the craziness might be a bit too much for 90 min, but actually it was just hugely enjoyable. I've not heard an audience in the cinema laugh that much since I saw In the Loop (though that was very different humour). A great film, absolutely bonkers (have I said that already?), well worth a look if you can find a local arthouse/picturehouse cinema to see it, and a brilliant antidote to Hollywood's obsession with 3D at the moment.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at
Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Alice in Wonderland


I will be the first to admit I don’t have a clue when it come to a whole bunch of classic children's stories or nursery rhymes (my Mum and wife would be a very close equal second!). Consequently, the first time I am becoming acquainted with the story of Alice and her land of wonder at the age of 34, is courtesy of Tim Burton and Love Film, rather than a kid's book. Of course this also means that I don’t know how like the original story this film is, but then since when have film adaptations been completely faithful to the relevant book?
The film did throw up a few surprises for me, meaning I had no idea the Jabberwocky was from this story. For as long as I can remember I have been able to quote “Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe” (if I remember correctly), but had no idea it was from Alice in Wonderland. Also the various references to the story in The Matrix make a bit more sense!
As far as the film goes, all the usual suspects for a Tim Burton film are there (including music by Danny Elfman of course). It took a while to figure out why I recognised the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) but he was George McFly in Back to the Future! I think it’s also worth mentioning that Anne Hathaway looked stunning as the White Queen, though slightly silly and floaty (in a humorous not stupid way). Of course Johnny Depp is good as the Mad Hatter, but not in a “Hey look at me I’m Johnny Depp!” kind of way, which I might have expected following Pirates of the Caribbean. There is also quite an ensemble cast of voice actors as well, featuring Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, and Barbara Windsor.
Then of course there’s Alice. Played by Mia Wasikowska, Alice must be young, yet independent and strong minded, then at the end she must be brave enough to fight a monster. I feel a lot of films that have a young main role often fall foul of playing on the youth too much, and consequently end up being like an 80s Disney film (one reason I’ve never liked the Narnia stories); but I didn’t once feel that while watching this film. Mia manages to play the youthfulness of the character, but at the same time question everything around her in a logical way (I guess logical for someone continually expecting to wake up from a dream (huh, more Matrix references)), thus showing how mature Alice is, rather than just being an irritating kid.
There’s probably no point in trying to summarise the plot; most other people in the world knew before I ever did, and it’s so convoluted and non-sensible that my falling-asleep brain couldn’t cope. So I should just conclude by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed it, Tim Burton creates a zany world (wie immer!) that you become immersed in, and I should make sure any kids I have know their classic stories and nursery rhymes!

"Get outta here! Tim Burton designed this?!!"

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Skyline

Independence Day, or something more interesting?


And why does it look more interesting in Russian?

I must admit when I saw the trailer I wasn't hooked. But the Brothers Strause (despite sounding pretentious) made a hugely enjoyable AVP Requiem (I thought so anyway!). So potentially this could be quite entertaining! I'm not expecting great things, something the same, but not the same as Independence Day, probably, hopefully not a Clash of the Titans.

When Harry met Sally...

This was one of those films that we put on our Love Film list because I had never seen it, but thought that I probably should. Now I guess I’m not generally a Rom Com kinda guy (are any guys really?), but Four Wedding and a Funeral is funny, (particularly Andie MacDowell’s acting), and So I Married an Axe Murderer is hilarious. However, I just felt that there was far too much of the Rom and not enough Com in WHMS. I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, just not that often.

OK, so my impression of the film wasn’t helped by the fact that the DVD we had from Love Film was scratched somewhere near the beginning, and so after the first 10 min, the DVD then didn’t settle until about 25 min. So the film felt quite disjointed at the start. I thought it was a nice idea to intersperse the film occasionally with some couples talking about how they met, but it was, ultimately, pointless; especially when at the end it is Harry and Sally talking about how they met (giving a synopsis of the film you’ve just seen!) and they’re half the age of all the other couples.

Billy Crystal is good, he’s the kind of character that has an answer/explanation for everything (well, to do with relationships) and often goes off on a mini monologue (I suppose not too dissimilar to Jesse Eisenberg being Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, just not as geeky). This seems to be the trait that Sally hates most. Meg Ryan is mostly, well, Meg Ryan, not very interesting or outstanding. Carrie Fisher is fine as Sally’s friend, trying to convince herself that the married guy she’s seeing may one day leave his wife; but she then falls in love with the young Clemenza from The Godfather part II (Bruno Kirby). There’s not really much point dwelling on the plot, it’s a Rom Com; the only difference is that Harry and Sally naturally drift in and out of each others lives for a while before they get together a bit more regularly.

I did like the other well known bit from this film. Even though I haven’t seen this before I felt that this line was familiar:

“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Yes, it does read like a slice of ripe cheddar, but, again, Billy Crystal to the rescue, he makes it sound very genuine, and I guess maybe I did want Sally to fall into his arms (vomits quietly into a bucket)!

Overall impression: Meh. Yoda: A fake orgasm a good film does not make.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Evil Dead

Well, this must be the fastest that I have watched a film and then blogged about it!

Having watched Within the Woods last week, and on the back of finishing If Chins Could Kill, I knew I had to watch Evil Dead. It was particularly interesting as I saw several ideas that were initially in Within the Woods. The wooden bench on the porch banging against the hut; the voices saying "Join us" (Bruce Campbell says this himself in Within the Woods). Apart from being a daft Horror/Splatter/Zombie movie (not sure if I got the right genre there!), there are a few points that set it apart from others in the same ilk.

The most obvious of these is the camera work. There are many shots that are obviously thought out: Scott opening the door to the cabin, him framed in the doorway in the top right of the screen, light illuminating dust in the room, and the highlighted stuffed head on the wall; several shots that start above the character or even upside-down over the character, and the use of the camera to smash through windows (Bash-cam I believe!). Oh, and of course the camera attached to a plank of wood being run through the wood.

I guess the story itself is fairly daft (evil spirit in the wood is awakened by a recording of someone reciting verse from the Book of the Dead, spirit then possesses people who can only be dispatched by bodily dismemberment). But the whole film is still very enjoyable and not completely ridiculous. Yes there has to be a shed (cabin?) load of disbelief suspension, but it's horror right? Where in the wrong hands the film could be laughable, Sam Raimi's story telling and directing not only saves it but even makes it a good film.

I guess the only let down could be the special effects, particularly at the end. Two possessed people disintegrate (in a manner very reminiscent of the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark), but it looks like the preferred medium for these effects was plasticine. OK this wasn't a huge budget film, but considering The Thing came out the following year, the effects were far better (I guess John Carpenter did have a much bigger budget having already made Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York, whereas Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were making their first film). OK, having re-read that I think I'm being harsh on the special effects, but they do look a bit ropey!

Still, The Evil Dead is a classic, I guess one of the few times in cinema history though, when the second film perhaps out does the first!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Darthly Hallows

Indeed; nowhere is safe!


Especially when this guy is trying to find out where you are!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Within the Woods

Before there was Evil Dead, there was Within the Woods. To prove that they could make films, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel et al. set out to make a "prototype". I had only heard about this as I have recently read "If Chins could Kill" the autobiography of Bruce Campbell (well worth a read, he writes just as I assume he talks!). Then not long after I finished the book, a guy called Phil Edwards (aka @Live_for_Films) posted four YouTube videos on his Live for Films blog which show the short 30 min prototype: Within the Woods.

But what's the film like? Well the plot is simple. Young couple go for romantic picnic on haunted ancient Indian burial ground, which is fine as long as you don't defile the graves. Ooops! Trying to dig a pit for a fire and, Oh look, there's a grave! Bruce disappears as his girl falls asleep, only to be found dead and bloodied in the wood. Of course he's not really dead, just possessed and so goes on to kill the others in the party (well not quite, but I don't want to give everything away!)

Well, it's hard to make much comment because the quality of the videos is bad (it was shot on Super8 tape in 1978! It is all very dark, and fairly difficult to see what is going on, you can't even really tell that it's Bruce Campbell in the film. About the only thing that is evident is Sam Raimi's use of camera. The "Evil Spirit" is demonstrated by a shaky camera near the ground (apparently the camera was attached to a plank of wood that the cameraman could run with, not attached to a skateboard as I thought it was). This is a technique also used a lot in the Evil Dead films, and also (maybe a bit tongue in cheek) in Spider-man 2 (I wanted to say homage, but I'm not sure that's correct given that it's the same director!)

So, that's about all I can say about Within the Woods really, at least about what I've seen of it. But rest assured, I will be wanting to watch Evil Dead soon, so there'll be a review of that in the not too distant future.

Evil Dead Trailer

Friday, 22 October 2010

Up

This was on our Love Film list due to a recommendation from a friend. I might add, a usually trustworthy friend! He did say it wasn't really a child's film, that is was all about grief. That's fine, there was the underlying story of loss. But it just didn't jump out at you the way Monsters INC or Finding Nemo did. The main trouble really was Russell. Yes, that's right. Finally my name gets recognition in a film and he's a fat, irritating, incompetent kid. He's supposed to be a Wildlife Explorer, but it comes across as if he's never left the couch his fat ass was born on.

Russell

Now I know it's a cartoon, but an 80 year old man jumping around and swinging off ropes is just daft, and it wasn't done in a tongue in cheek way, just part of the plot. And though I did find the daft talking dog quite amusing (in an otherwise bland film), why was the bad guy breeding talking dogs?? And why was Alpha's voice squeaky? Because it was broken? Woop de doo. Would it not have been funnier to have seen him inhaling helium? That's what it sounded like.
Everyone agrees I think that Cars was a flop. Don't know, haven't seen it, don't want to. But I think UP was definitely a down for me.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Make it So

Last weekend (16th October) Film4 showed all 10 Star Trek films. Yeeesh that's a lot of Star Trek! Now I must point out at the outset that I am not a Trekkie! I'm firmly in the Star Wars camp. I know there have been many arguments over which series is better over the years, but to make a singular point here's mine as to why Star Wars is better: Lightsabers! There, said it!

Of course I didn't watch all ten films, that would be nuts. I saw some of the first film (The Motion Picture), but as we had friends over, it was muted. Which probably made it better as we could imagine what was being said, which was probably more interesting. Also great when subtitles say "ROAAR!"! I watched about half of Undiscovered Country (that's the one where they try to make peace with the Klingons and Kirk ends up in a gulag right?) That was fairly painful, with the usual wooden acting from Shatner et al. And Scotty is just terrible, as is his script: Bridge (could have been Spock at this point, I can't remember): "Try going to backup (reserve/auxiliary I can't remember) power!" Scot: "Shit yeah, good idea, why didn't I think of that, I mean, I'm only the fucking engineer!". Or something like that! Oh yeah, and Samantha (Kim Catrall) from Sex and the City is in it!

So the only two films I watched in their entirety were Generations and First Contact. Generations, yeesh. Shatner, bad; Patrick Stewart, alright I suppose, even Malcolm McDowell was bad. The plot was so obvious you could see it coming a mile off. Picard finds out relatives have died, and the plot revolves around the bad guy trying to get back to a different "reality" where everything is perfect, where you will never be so content. Mmmm, do you suppose Picard will end up there for a short while and his dead relatives will be there? Oh look, he wants to be in a Victorian Christmas day where his dead nephew speaks with the worst plummy English accent ever "Hello Uncle. I love you Uncle" (vomits quietly into a bucket). I think that this is another thing that routinely annoys me about Star Trek; there are often sections where the characters are not in the universe they live in. Well I guess they are, but they're not, they could be on a old sailing ship, or riding horses across a field, something that is totally incongruous to the film. I'm not denying it makes sense to use the holodeck, or that there are worlds in their universe where grassy fields and horses exist, that is fine, but it just looks dumb as part of the film. But that's just like my opinion man, perhaps I'm the only one!

Oh and as for the light comedy relief provided by Data and his emotion chip; well it's as bad as Jar Jar Binks.

On that cringeworthy note, on to First Contact, which I actually quite enjoyed. Probably mainly because Shatner isn't in it. Ah yes, now I remember, the Desperate Housewives episode! Hawk played by weird neighbour Dave Williams, and James Cromwell's sidekick played by weird neighbour Betty Applewhite. Still, this is the first film where the next generation crew made it their own, and a breath of fresh air it was. Directed by Riker (Jonathan Frakes) the script was far better than some of the old guard films, and the Borg make an interesting new enemy (to my mind; in the films; remember I'm not a Trekkie) as we were getting bored of Klingons and Romulans with dodgy make-up. Though some of the Borg outfits did remind me of an assassin cyborg escaped from a prison world in a Red Dwarf episode! Mercifully no light comedy from Data this time.
Well I've probably stirred up enough shit for a review of Star Trek, I couldn't face any more films that night, and besides, the new series of Desperate Housewives was starting on E4!

Still, I guess no blog on Star Trek would be complete without this:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Juno

If I was a flower growing wild and free, all I want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I was a tree growing tall and green, all I want is you to shade me and be my leaves.

And with these lyrics, the intro sequence of Juno begins.
Having become pregnant by Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), Juno MacGuff (Eellen Page) decides she is not ready to be a Mum and finds a family wanting to adopt. Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and her husband Mark (Jason Bateman) seem a mismatched couple and eventually Mark splits (I guess he still has some growing up to do) and so Vanessa adopts the baby by herself.

I guess that's the plot, but it doesn't do justice to how sweet and quirky the film is.  Cera is dorky, Page is dorky and nuts, Jennifer Garner is, well Jennifer Garner, and JK Simmons is great as Juno's dad (almost as good as his role as the editor of the Daily Bugle in Spiderman: Next time I see that Bleeker kid I'm going to punch him in the wiener!), and the soundtrack is great too.


It's cool that just seeing the stills from the intro I can hear the music:




Barry Louis Polisar – All I Want Is You


But don't take my word for it, go see it!



Thursday, 14 October 2010

Social Network

I suppose I'm surprised that there isn't more hype surrounding this film given its subject matter. I enjoyed the way that computer geek Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) 's techno-joy at hacking Harvard's computer network and the ensuing set up of the facebook phenomenon, was intercut with the two legal proceedings that were being brought against him. Then perhaps there hasn't been the hype, because as soon as the phrase "legal proceedings" enters a film synopsis, your average joe who doesn't want to think while watching a film, falls asleep.

I thought I was going to struggle initially, because in the first scene with Zuckerberg's girlfriend breaking up with him, they both talk at like a million miles an hour! Not to mention lots of references to I don't know clubs, fraternities whatever, which meant nothing to me and confused me more. Still it settled down and I did like the smarmy, un-flappable,  know-it-all character of Zuckerberg. Reminded me a lot of the know-it-all in the Sontaron episodes of Dr Who, who invented the ATMOS!! Zuckerberg's character is definitely of the "It's been a long time since anyone said no to you isn't it?" brands.

The one thing that was very impressive was the handling of the Winklevoss twins. Two actors, but in post production the face and speech of Armie Hammer was computer-ally added on to the unfortunate other actors (Josh Pence) head. I seriously couldn't tell the difference between the twins.
The thing that was awful was the cgi breath that was added to Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) as they discussed the beginnings of facebook outside in the cold in one scene. Truly is was terrible! Not a case of "is that cg or not?" it obviously was, instantly.

That's really my only gripe really. I guess the other very good effect was discovering that Justin Timberlake is quite a good actor!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

What are you looking at Butthead?!

Often when someone remembers a great film from their childhood, and makes you watch it for the first time as an adult, you hate the film. I've made people watch The Lost Boys & Star Wars, and at best received a shrugging of the shoulders in return. The only film I can think I've been exposed to like this is Dirty Dancing, which being more of a chick-flick isn't a fair comparison I guess. But when I watched Back to the Future in its entirety just a couple of months ago (Yes I've never seen it all before, I've seen bits over the years), I was surprised that I really enjoyed it. Maybe this should be the hallmark for a great film; if you can watch it for the first time 25 years after it was first released and still think it's great, it must be good!


Therefore, as it has just been re-released for its 25 year anniversary, I saw it for the second time. Disappointing that there was only 8 people at the Belmont cinema to see it though! That's only 2 more people than there was when I went to see AVP in Berlin!!
As far as the film goes, was there anything that could go wrong? There's humour, romance, fast cars, time travel, extremely quotable lines, The Power of Love, and executively produced by Steven Spielberg. I guess MJF could have turned out to be a total bust, but even he's great. It's hard to think of many other films that are as pure entertainment as Back to the Future, apart from Indy films (Oh, Spielberg again), and perhaps Transformers! (sorry, but I was always going to love Transformers since I was a HUGE Transformers addict when I was a kid; Oh and look, Spielberg again!). So maybe I should redefine my great film criteria to one where Steven Spielberg is a producer! Erm checking IMDB I quickly retract that, I'd forgotten about Revenge of the Fallen, Jurassic Park 3, and some other clangers!


Lost the plot a bit there! Back to the Future. Great film, even 25 years on, doesn't look too dated. Cool enough to inspire not one but two Last Exit to Nowhere shirts! Go and see it if you haven't already!

“Doc, are you telling me that it’s 8.25?!” “Precisely” “Dammit, I’m late for school!”
Back to the Future

Monday, 11 October 2010

Serenity

There used to be a time when Joss Whedon could do no wrong. Obviously many (me included) think that he was doing pretty damn good when he wrote Firefly. TV networks thought otherwise. Despite the fact that it was funny, clever, exciting, had a small number of characters who played off each other very well, had some very interesting character arcs set up, had a back story/had history, had several subtle touches that made the universe in which they lived more real/have more depth, and despite the amount of SHIT TV that runs to several seasons; Firefly was cancelled before even the first series had finished. We didn't even get to see one maybe two character arcs completed. Oh, and it had a great intro/song that Whedon wrote:



(Rant over). So to complete some arcs, give something that the fans were hankering for, Joss Whedon made Serenity.

Simon (genius doctor) and his sister River (even more of a genius, but was taken by the Alliance (intergalactic governmental body) to be studied/experimented on because she is so clever) were picked up as passengers by the crew of Serenity in the pilot episode of Firefly. Simon had recently rescued River from the Alliance, and so travelling "off the radar" with the crew of Serenity allowed them to escape their attention (mostly) for a while. This was obviously the main story arc of the first series, but due to cancellation was never finished. So the film Serenity (the name of the ship, and also the name of a battle (with horrific losses) in the fight between Alliance and Independents many years ago (told you there was back story!)) focusses on tying up this story to explain why the Alliance is so keen to hunt River down.

Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is captain of Serenity, who along with his second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) fought for the Independents (Browncoats) in the war. Mal is your all round Han Solo kinda character I guess. Rough around the edges, heart in the right place, generally does the right thing but blunders along while doing it, you know. It's mostly this attitude in Mal that makes a lot of Serenity funny, along with his relationship with Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Inara (Morena Baccarin).

The film is very nicely made, and that's no surprise as it had a bigger budget than any of the episodes. The first scene is great. The name Serenity appears on screen (looks like a screensaver, papyrus font!), but then this becomes part of the logo on the side of the ship, which we then pan around. The ship begins to land on a planet, and we see Mal through the cockpit. There is a bang, and suddenly the camera is inside the ship with Mal asking pilot Wash (Adam Tudyk) if something fell off! We follow Mal around the ship as we are introduced to the rest of the the crew, and for the first 5 minutes or so, apart from the bang when the camera is suddenly in the cockpit, the whole intro is one shot. Which looks very cool, and I always think is very impressive and takes a lot of skill. Maybe I should do a blog post in the future just about cool single shot scenes.

Anyway, back to the film. The plot of the film is explaining why the Alliance are so desperate to find River, as deep down somewhere she knows a secret that the Alliance have been keeping for many years. Of course the danger is she might suddenly remember and try to find out about this secret; and then the galaxy would know the Alliance can't be trusted, and would all come tumbling down. The suspense/danger is increased in the film by The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a very calm, calculated mercenary, employed by the Alliance to hunt River down. Of course, it makes far more sense and has more meaning if you've already watched Firefly. However, the film is still great (though I guess I could be biased because I love Firefly), but even my wife's Godmother thought Serenity was great and she hasn't seen Firefly! Of course I've lent it to her now!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Eragon

A brief synopsis of the plot:


Luke Skywalker Eragon lives on a farm on a planet furthest from the bright centre of the universe miles from anywhere, with his Uncle. When he buys 2 droids finds a dragon egg, the evil empire King Galbatorix (Malkovich) hunts him down to again destroy the Dragon Riders. Helped by ex- Jedi knight Dragon Rider Obi-Wan Kenobi Brom (Irons), Eragon evades capture, only to find his Uncle killed by the Empire Sorcerer Durza's (Carlyle) assassins (his homestead even burns!). The dragon hatches, and Eragon learns to ride it.


One day night Luke Eragon is training sleeping, and has an image of Leia Arya as a captive of Vader Durza. Then follows a shot by shot copy scene of Luke Eragon leaving Dagobah camp, with Obi-wan Brom trying to dissuade him, saying that it is he, Eragon, that the Emperor Galbatorix wants, that is why his friends have to suffer. Luke Eragon get up on his X-wing Dragon looking down on Obi-wan Brom saying he has to go. (Honestly it's shot by shot!!).


Anyway, the princess Arya is rescued, Obi-wan Brom is killed at the hands of Vader Durza during the rescue. They seek out the Rebel Alliance Varda, who are intent on bringing down the Empire King Galbatorix. There's some kind of a Helm's Deep scenario at the end and Eragon kills Durza. 


Anyway, I'm bored of this. You get the idea, no novel ideas at all!! Star Wars plot (there's even a binary sunset shot FFS!!!!), shot like Lord of the Rings. Awful film.


Oh, and Eragon has a suit of armour at the end like he should be dancing on ice! Very spangly looking, many sequins!

There Will Be Blood

If MI2 was a film that said "Look how cool Tom Cruise is!" (though nothing beats Top Gun for that!), then There Will be Blood is the film that says "See how Daniel Day Lewis is a damn fine actor". From the first dialogue-less 15 min of the film, to the final "I drink your Milkshake" scene, Day-Lewis really owns the screen. He really grabs you by the ears, and doesn't let go. Though you start to want to shake him off as you realise he's become a greedy, power hungry oil magnate.


Maybe my one criticism of the film is the soundtrack. Composed by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, it can often be as random and jarring as Radiohead can be. For example; when the oil well explodes, Jonny's music is very industrial sounding, which works; but it's very loud and goes on and on and on. I think in this instance the music really pulls the viewer out of the film, rather than just adding to the atmosphere and immersing the viewer further, which surely music should do.


Though this is only a minor gripe, and the film really is great; there's even a cameo from The Mummy's Benny!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Jumper

I enjoyed this the first time I saw it, and on a second viewing it was still quite a neat film. A fairly simple idea, tweak the rules a bit as the film goes on, don't try to be too clever or self-indulgent, and any film of this sort should do alright. Hayden Christensen proves that he can act, Samuel L Jackson is cool as usual (even with white hair), and Rachel Bilson is quite cute.
It all starts when Hayden almost drowns, and the emotional stress causes him to teleport himself (Jump) to somewhere he's been before. After a bit of practise he finds he can jump anywhere in the world he has seen (been or in a picture). All sorts of trouble ensues when Sam L Jackson (who hunts down and kills Jumpers) tracks him down. A short (just over 90 min I think) but sweet film, that doesn't try anything too fancy and is very enjoyable. The concept reminds me a bit of the Dr Who episode "Blink"; a very simple idea that is very effective, and goes to show that less can be more.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

High and Low

I had put this on our Love Film list after it being recommended by the manager of the Aberdeen Picture House cinema: The Belmont (Dallas King, http://championshipcelluloid.blogspot.com/http://twitter.com/#!/Dallas_Belmont). As he had raved about it, citing it as one of the high points while completing his Empire Top 500 films challenge, I had high expectations of it. Though it wasn't the knockout film I was expecting I did enjoy it.


The plot revolves around a case of mistaken kidnapping; the target: the son of a successful businessman, but actually his chauffeur's son is taken instead. The first half of the film is quite tense as it is shot almost exclusively in the living room of the businessman Mr Gondo. As they come to terms with the kidnapping, the arrival of the police, speaking to the kidnapper and hearing his demands the tension builds as emotions boil over. Following the handover of the money to the kidnapper, the second part of the film is concerned with the police hunt for the kidnapper. Though this is all very well shot and scripted, it just didn't sit with me so well.


The police kept saying they were really keen to catch the kidnapper in a way that made it sound like a favour. As if they felt sorry for Mr Gondo as he had lost millions because of paying the ransom. Fair enough, but it was said so often that it made me think that if he wasn't such a great guy and had so much money, that the police wouldn't have given a shit. I also kept expecting a twist at the end, expecting that the kidnapper was one of Mr Gondo's rivals who was trying buy his shares in the company; but that never materialised. However, that said, the film is very good and I enjoyed it, I think I'm probably just being over-cynical for a 1963 film; tastes and expectations change. The plot is very methodical, but I think that is also one of it's strong points; the police investigation is also very methodical and thorough, everything is explained carefully in meetings in the police station (reminds me of how methodical and realistic Bullitt is). The script is also pacey; though it is a fairly long film (2 hours 20 min), the story doesn't feel like it drags at all.


Anyway, enough rambling. If you don't believe me (chances are you don't), go and see it (chances are you haven't already!).