Tuesday, 28 May 2013

One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Made 2 years before Kubrick’s masterpiece, this is most definitely not A Space Odyssey.  Following two tribes of cave people (one dark-haired and dirty, the other blonde, more advanced), the movie tells the story (I’m using the word in its loosest term) of Tumak (John Richardson) who is banished from his tribe but is saved from exhaustion by the more advanced tribe.  The technological state of this new tribe seems to stretch to spears, mullets and push-up bras, modelled perfectly by Loana (Raquel Welch).

The “story” is by-the-by and the real reason for the film is to put some of Ray Harryhausen’s animated creatures on screen.  The fight between the T-rex and the Triceratops is OK, but I was most impressed by the giant sea turtle, which looks really detailed and most life-like.  Unfortunately before these animations there is some live action forced perspective nonsense.  A “giant” tarantula seems to be doing press-ups over a presumably captured bug, but worst of all is a lethargic iguana that simply shuffles along occasionally making a Rehhhh “roaring” noise (just go Rehhhh yourself and that’s exactly how it sounded!).  Did you do it?  Stupid eh?  Well it was worse.  Apparently the lights under which it was filmed made it very sleepy, so the iguana wrangler essentially had to push the lizard along!

There was the occasional nicely shot landscape and swift camera move, but for the most part One Million Years B.C. is ludicrous prehistoric nonsense.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Into the Wild (2007)

Based on the Jon Krakauer book of the same name, Into the Wild is the true story of Chris McCandless and his desire to disconnect from society and live on his own for a while in the Alaskan wilderness.  Directed by Sean Penn and lensed by Eric Gautier, this is a truly beautiful film; there are many lingering landscape shots and they all look spectacular.  I have read the book but I can’t remember how the narrative flows, however the decision to make the film non-linear mixing Chris’ childhood with his journey, his time in Alaska and his parents’ reaction to his disappearance, works very well and prevents the story from being boring or drawn out.

Emile Hirsch is very good as Chris McCandless, injecting some humanity into a character who came across as an arrogant and pretentious twat when I read the book.  I could see where he was coming from wanting to leave society behind for a while, but I got the impression that he believed that everyone else was less of a person just because they led a normal life.  This does bubble to the surface in the film occasionally when he misses opportunities right in front of him because he is so intent on being above societal conventions.  At least he finally realises when he is alone in Alaska that happiness is only real when shared.  Emile makes the journey of discovery very easy to relate to which I think is important for the film, if he came across as an arrogant twat all of the time, we wouldn't care what happened to him, no matter how beautiful the film was.

Accompanied by a great soundtrack from Eddie Vedder (here for those with Spotify) which is suitably filled with wanderlust as well as a feeling of isolation and loneliness, Into the Wild is a very watchable film due to a fine performance from Emile Hirsch and some wonderful cinematography.  Even the supporting cast are good, most notably William Hurt, and an impressive serious role for Vince Vaughn! Of course, Kristen Stewart is as bland as always.  It’s a film that inspires you to get out there and see more of this beautiful world, and that can’t be a bad thing.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Edge of Darkness (2010)

I’ve harped on before about how I think the purest way to see a film is to know nothing about it at all beforehand, to go in with a tabula rasa as it were.  In this way one takes no preconceptions or prejudices with them and so the movie is completely fresh; such was the case for me and Edge of Darkness.  Directed by Martin Campbell (better known for Goldeneye, Casino Royale and Green Lantern), Edge of Darkness is a tale of investigation and revenge based on a 1985 BBC mini-series directed by, well, actually directed by Martin Campbell!  Now, I’ve not seen the 1985 series of the same name so I can’t make unfavourable comparisons; though it does strike me as surprising that for the movie version the story was moved from Yorkshire to Boston.  Though after a little digging this is probably because despite it being a BBC film it was funded to an extent by Mel Gibson’s production company Icon Productions.

So naturally, it stars Mel Gibson in the main role: Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective, whose daughter Emma is brutally gunned down on his front porch (not a spoiler, it happens in the first 5 minutes).  The story is then about Tom finding out why Emma was killed and finding those responsible.  Gibson is good, being at the same time suitably down-beaten but also having that gritty determination that a detective would have.  I’ve not seen Payback, but I’m imagining a similar role, though the emphasis here is probably more on the investigation as to why his daughter was murdered than rather out and out revenge.  Danny Huston makes an appearance as the head of the Northwood research facility in his usual rent-a-creep way; not to belittle his performance at all, he is after all usually very good.  Completing the famous names is Ray Winstone as an enigmatic British agent whose role is intentionally ambiguous, demonstrating that Emma’s death is part of a far larger conspiracy.

Technically I didn’t think Edge of Darkness did anything fancy.  It’s not just a point and shoot movie though, it is made with enough craft to enjoy watching, but it’s not as accomplished as Casino Royale or as cumbersome as Green Lantern.  The music, composed by Howard Shore was suitably mysterious and tense, but largely atmospheric rather than bold and thematic.  Overall, I found Edge of Darkness to be very watchable with enough intrigue and acting talent on show to make it a worthwhile way to spend an evening. But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Blade: Trinity (2004)

David S Goyer wrote the first two Blades, but it has taken until the third and final instalment for him to get behind the camera as well.  Though he is better known as a writer, Goyer has directed one film before; and though it’s never going to win any awards, Blade Trinity is never-the-less quite fun.  This time around Blade discovers and teams up with some a small group of humans who are battling the vampire blight.  One of them is Whistler’s daughter, Abigail (Jessica Biel), another is Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), and together they have to defeat the ultimate vampire.  Yup you’ve guessed it, they have to defeat Dracula!

I had been warned that “Trinity” was fairly awful, but actually I thought it was quite entertaining; possibly due to my diminished expectations.  The set pieces were still more exciting and inventive than anything Stephen Norrington came up with in the first film, there was no truly awful CG, and there were no vampires wearing sunscreen!  Though I do think the key to the film was casting Ryan Reynolds as King; his script is quite funny, but Reynolds really manages to bring it alive and despite my best efforts I did laugh quite a bit.  Snipes is still fine as Blade, though I don’t know enough of Blade canon to know if anyone else could do a better job.  Reynolds provides the levity that the film needs, and Biel is fair enough. Dominic Purcell is fine as Drake (the contemporary name for Dracula!), and is physical enough to be a match for Blade.  However, Parker Posey (yes that’s someone’s actual name) is rubbish as the vampire that helps resurrect Dracula; her face is all wrong if she tries to sneer and her delivery is as wooden as one of Van Helsing’s stakes.

Like I say, it’s not a classic; but as a final instalment to a trilogy that started as a good idea with poor execution, graduated to a higher level of movie with a proper director, it’s a fairly funky finale.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Thunderpants (2002)

I can't believe that I actually watched this!  I turned on the telly as I started feeding my son, and it just so happened to take about 90 minutes, so I ended up watching it all.  Is that a valid excuse?  It's quite odd because pains have been taken to style the whole film so that everything is green: black and green T-shirt on Patrick Smash (the boy with the titular pants), green cars, all the décor in the school is green.  This is all evidence that the style has been thought about quite a lot; and not only that, but there are quite a number of high-profile actors.  The likes of Paul Giamatti, Stephen Fry, Celia Imrie, Simon Callow and Ned Beatty and all make more than a passing appearance.

Yet at the end of the day the story is that of a young boy with persistent flatulence who wants to become an astronaut!  Totally stupid, and it's not a good film; but perhaps worse is that there are plenty of "serious" films that are aren't as good as Thunderpants!