Thursday, 26 May 2011

Attack The Block

A young woman is mugged by a group of hoodies. However, their world is shattered when an alien lands in a car right next to the mugging. Taking advantage of a now open car to try and nick the stereo, the leader, Moses, climbs in; but is scratched by the alien before it runs off. Taking offense at the assault, Moses gives chase and gives the alien a kicking! However, this alien seems to be a female (I guess) scout alien, and now several members of the hoodie gang (most of all Moses) are covered in alien scent. So when the really nasty male aliens land, they try to track down the female, killing everyone in their way and particularly those who smell like her.

A very enjoyable film with a novel twist on the alien invasion story (Outer Space vs Inner City!). It’s more thriller than horror; there are tense moments that make you jump and it’s not particularly gory. So I think that it was slightly mis-marketed; advertised as being "From the Producers of Shaun of the Dead", Attack the Block is definitely not a comedy. Sure there are a few funny moments in the trailer (adding to the Shaun of the Dead angle), but these are about the only funny bits in it. OK there are a few more, but not so many.

The Aliens are very cool. I don’t think that the budget was massive for this film, and instead of going for some over-the-top sci-fi creatures, the aliens are gorilla-esque, but completely matt black! There is no definition to them at all; when you see a dead one close up it’s like a hole in the screen! The only discernible feature is the teeth when the mouth is open! Very novel, very scary, very cool. The only bit that made me doubt them was a slow motion shot of several aliens chasing Moses down a corridor, and I couldn’t help but think of the old Kia-ora adverts as the crows lolloped along behind the kid with the Kia-ora!

The cast are good; John Boyega plays main character Moses very well; arrogant at the start of the film but rather more humble by the end. Nick Frost is fairly underused as Ron; a small-time marijuana dealer (but then it’s not that kind of film); and Luke Treadaway is good as the resident stoner. Jodie Whittaker is good as Sam, the poor girl at the sharp end of the mugging in the films opening scenes, but is actually a neighbour of the “hoodies” in the block. And therein lies perhaps the only problem with the film. As these hoodies are a gang whose entertainment is mugging people and generally being aggressive, it’s hard to empathise with them at all. Consequently when they are in danger I found myself not caring whether they died or not (though there is one character I definitely wanted to die; so I guess he was written well). 

Still, that is only a fairly minor niggle, and given that this is his first feature film, director Joe Cornish has made a damn fine alien thriller. Novel idea, cool aliens, some interesting camera work at times; funky film, and I think we can perhaps expect more of Mr Cornish in the future.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Knocked Up

Following a drunken one night stand, Ben (Seth Rogen) and Alison (Katherine Heigl) become pregnant. Knocked Up then follows the ups and downs of their relationship, as well as that of Alison’s sister and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd). As far as Rom Coms go, most of Knocked Up is fairly run-of-the-mill; the thing that makes it work is Seth Rogen. He works really well with both Katherine Heigl and Paul Rudd; he has most of the funny lines; and the funniest scenes involve him and Rudd. Having said that I’m struggling to remember that many scenes; the one that springs to mind is in Las Vegas where Rogen and Rudd are both high, and discussing the number of different chairs in their hotel room! The one thing I really couldn’t stand was Leslie Mann’s voice! Starring as Alison’s sister, he voice was whining and grating the whole way through. Director Judd Apatow has created a decent and funny film; not instantly forgettable, but by the same token not particularly memorable. I enjoyed watching it and laughed more than I thought I would, I just can’t remember that much about it!

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Italian Job (1969)

From the moment the cheeky face of Charlie Croker appears on the screen, this film is alive with action, banter, fast cars and, erm, this guy?! Actually, scratch that, it’s brilliant even before Michael Caine appears!

I could talk about how brilliant Michael Caine is; how he seems to have a different outfit in every scene he is in until he puts his blue overalls on; how his cocky cockney wit keeps the whole film alive; and how he even looks cool while fending off Camp Freddie’s heavies with an over-size teddy bear!
“You wouldn’t hit a man with no trousers on would you?”

I could mention how great it is that the funding for the whole heist is provided by Mr Bridger, the Queen-obsessed warden of one of Her Majesty’s prisons. The way that everyone associated with the job talks about it flagrantly in front of anyone, because:
“everyone in the world is bent!”

It could also be said how great the script is, and that it results in such an eminently quote-able film:
“You are not going to be sick. You are not going to have your migraine. And everybody is gonna sit in the back of the motor!”

“Shouldn't we synchronise our watches?”
“Nuts to your watches! You just be at the Piazza at a quarter to, and don’t get stuck in the traffic jam!”

“It's a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say.”

And of course I could go on about how cool the Mini Coopers are in their escape from Turin; how much of a superbly choreographed dance they lead around the city; and how brilliantly they are filmed (inside, outside, down below, and following them down a sewer tunnel).

But of course, I don’t need to say any of that, because we all know how good a film this is.

“Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea. Erm...erm..”

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio is Teddy Daniels, an FBI agent sent to a mental asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients: the mysterious Patient #67. Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are not exactly made to feel welcome by the warden (Ted Levine) or the prison doctor: Dr John Cawley (Ben Kingsley); but when a storm comes in they are forced to stay for a while. Having interviewed many of the patients, including one who hands him a note saying “Run!”, Teddy starts to suspect that perhaps everything isn’t what it seems.

As the story progresses and he starts to get in over his head, Teddy thinks that he has uncovered a conspiracy whereby patients are being experimented on (in a Nazi-surgical-experimentation kind of way), in a lighthouse near the prison. When he finally makes it into the lighthouse, Teddy is confronted by Dr Cawley. It turns out that Teddy has been a patient on Shutter Island for some time now (HE is actually patient #67!), and all of the FBI scenario has been a novel role-play technique used by Cawley to try and finally cure Teddy. Or is it really? The final scene shows Teddy being led off for a lobotomy.

This is a very bleak film; the ambiance of the whole movie is either very drab or very clinical. Some of the corridors reminded me of the metal institution Sarah Conner is a patient at in T2. It rains a lot on Shutter Island too, though this is mostly due to the storm that is keeping Teddy and Chuck on the island. Of course the whole feel of the film suddenly changes towards the end as it is revealed that this has all been an elaborate role-play, and Teddy really starts to break down and doubt himself. This part is left ambiguous; is it a role-play to try and cure Teddy, or have the staff at Shutter Island managed to cover up the experimentation that is going on? If the latter is true, then the film is even more depressing!

DiCaprio gives a suitably emotional performance and is very good as his character becomes more desperate as events unfold. As his character constantly thinks back to the wife that he lost in an apartment fire, he plays the desperation and confusion very well. Mark Ruffalo is fairly insignificant (that I can remember anyway) as Teddy’s partner Chuck. It would be interesting to watch him more closely on a second viewing as he is supposed to be the doctor that has always worked with Teddy as a patient. Ben Kingsley is good as Dr Cawley, on the one hand being accommodating to the FBI, on the other being quite un-approachable, but he doesn’t really get opportunity to properly explore the character.

Shutter Island is a very good film, certainly not uplifting, but good. Perhaps stylistically not the most amazing film, but Scorsese has created a story with a memorable atmosphere, and he certainly get the audience emotionally involved with the events that are driving Teddy insane (insanerer!?). Coupled with a great performance from the increasingly impressive DiCaprio this is a film that really sticks in your head for quite a while.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes is one of those films that everyone has seen; surely? Well not me! So when it was suddenly on Film4 last Sunday I thought that I’d better watch it.

George Taylor (Charlton Heston) is an astronaut, in a spaceship, whose mission is to find new planets. Having gone into hyper-sleep, he and his crew crash-land somewhere new; finally, after 2000 years. Unfortunately one of the crew (the only woman) has died of old age because there was a crack in the cover of her hyper-sleep chamber. The remaining three members of the crew search the planet for signs of life, until they encounter a village of primitive men. They are all then attacked by a more advanced race of apes, and are taken prisoner. However, Taylor is shot in the neck, so for a good while can’t talk; so he can’t prove that he is as intelligent as the apes. Eventually he speaks: “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty apes!”.

The scientists who are studying Taylor start to believe his story and help him escape. They find a cave of archaeological evidence showing that the apes actually evolved from ancient, more intelligent men. The Orangutans who seem to run this small ape culture follow Taylor and the scientists; they admit that they always knew that they had evolved from men, but have hidden it from the rest of their civilisation. They then decide to dynamite the cave, hiding the evidence for ever, but let Taylor go. He rides off on a horse around the corner and finds the Statue of Liberty half buried. He’s been on Earth all this time!

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this film. I know it’s a classic and you’re supposed to like it, but I really did. Charlton Heston is very good, his character is the epitome of human arrogance (presumably intentionally), and though I wouldn’t usually route for a character like this; because he is trying to prove that he isn’t lying, you can’t help but side with him. The other members of the cast are also very good - Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans - but it’s harder to appreciate them, because they are covered in hair the whole time!

The scenery, and the panoramas as the astronauts are exploring the planet are beautifully shot, and the inventive camerawork all adds to the enjoyment of the film. The script is also very sharp, particularly in the trial. There are also quite a few inversions of well-known sayings:

Human see, Human do;
Landon asking Taylor to get off his back (get this monkey off my back?);
The three Orangutans at the trial assuming a See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil pose at one point!

Some of these moments are a bit cheesy perhaps, but all add to the enjoyment of the film.

I think some of the things that I didn’t like about it were purely aesthetic due to it being an older film. Dozy things like the fact that the space-ship can obviously cope with the vacuum of space, but as soon as it lands in some water it starts leaking like a colander! I also thought it was very stupid (typical humans) that when they first find life on the new planet in the form of a small plant, the first thing they do is dig it up, so it’ll die! WTF? I’m not sure if this is to demonstrate how uncivilised the humans are compared to the apes (btw, I had no idea that the apes were as advanced as they were; see I really didn’t know anything about this film!), or whether the director had a sudden brain-fart! Actually, one thing I really didn’t like was Gerry Goldsmith’s score; it was all very random, kind of like orchestral jazz! But it wasn’t obtrusive enough to spoil the film, it was only really obvious at a few points.

At the start of the film I was thinking “Mmmm, amazing how much this new planet looks like Arizona!” Of course in retrospect this is perfectly acceptable, since they are on Earth anyway. I really honestly didn’t know about the twist at the end, despite the Statue of Liberty being on the movie poster! Initially I felt a bit disappointed when it was discovered that actually man had been just as evolved as the apes many years ago, almost as if it were saying that men actually were better after all; which I didn’t think was the point of the story. Then of course we discover that they are on Earth, just 2000 years in the future, so actually it makes chronological sense. Still a bit disappointed though; I thought that they could have made more of the idea of mankind losing its way, and so another species was able to evolve and overtake them.

A lot of the issues raised ring true with our society today: refusal to accept things we don’t understand; the arguments between science and religion; the idea of man taking over his environment and being a harbinger of death. This is probably one reason that the film works so well, and is still very good. Though of course, it is just a cool movie in itself anyway.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Hanna is a young girl raised by her father, Erik, in a wooden hut in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Finland, within the arctic circle. Erik has taught her to kill, fight, and generally to take care of herself. It becomes apparent after a while that she has been trained as an assassin to take out one particular target, when she finally finds herself out in the real world.

Hanna is played very capably by Saoirse Ronan; she is able to swing between action sequences and her quieter scenes of self-discovery. Obviously Joe Wright sees something good in her, as she also plays the young Bryony in Atonement. Speaking of Atonement; remembering a tremendous one-take steady-cam shot, I was on the look out for one in Hanna, and wasn’t disappointed. Eric Bana (Erik - Hanna’s father) arrives in Berlin and is shadowed by CIA guys. As we follow him through a bus station, down into the U-bahn, he is confronted by 3 or 4 CIA guys, Erik manages to take care of them all, before leaving calmly. Very slick, very cool.

The film is obviously more about Hanna and her discovery of herself; consequently we don’t learn quite so much about Bana’s character, though we find out enough to understand the animosity between him and bad-girl Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Marissa’s character is very cold and calculating; as she says: she has made certain life choices (career driven, no kids). She is very prim and proper, well dressed, slightly OCD. I didn’t doubt for a second that she would pull the trigger towards the end of the film. However, Tom Hollander’s character is very under-used. Essentially he is hit-man hired by Marissa to get rid of Hanna; along with two Neo-Nazi-looking characters he follows her from country to country. Beyond that, we don’t learn anything about him (other than he’s gay, or bisexual, or something). So why get someone as established as Tom Hollander to play this one-dimensional character we know nothing about? Not sure.

It’s probably almost inevitable that some comparisons will be made with Bourne (trained assassin-type-person, not sure who they are, goes on a journey of self-discovery); but where Bourne maintains momentum and intrigue throughout the entire trilogy, Hanna flounders slightly and doesn’t know what to do with itself. The story particularly loses its way during the middle section of the film, as Hanna makes friends with a British family on a travelling holiday in their camper-van. Hanna has a few discovery moments (being scared of electric appliances, meeting boys, trying a first kiss), but none of this contributes to the story, at least not in a worthwhile way I feel.

I did enjoy the film. Some lovely cinematography, particularly the snow-covered north of Finland at the start of the film; a great thumping soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers (very Half-Life 2 - more gaming references!) which is particularly good when Hanna escapes from the detention centre; a good story (despite it languishing in places); and a good cast.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

You Only Live Twice

The evil plans of his subordinates have been so routinely foiled by 007 (Dr No, FRWL and Thunderball), that Ernst Stavro Blofeld (SPECTRE’s #1) has obviously decided that if you want a master-plan done properly, then do it yourself...! SPECTRE have been capturing space capsules launched by both USA and Russia; of course each nation blames the other for the missing probes and it looks like a full-scale war is imminent. Her Majesty’s government (ever the voice of reason!!!), don’t think either nation is to blame as their Intel indicates that the mysterious Pacman-style-shuttle-gobbling-rocket is being launched from somewhere in Japan. So, following an elaborate plan to convince the world’s baddies that he’s dead(..!), James Bond is sent to Japan to track down the source of the rocket.

The pre-credit action starts with the capture of an American space capsule by SPECTRE, before going to Hong Kong where we see 007 killed “on the job”! I like this, as both scenes tie in with the movie as a whole; instead of some fake-widow-beating and escape by tin-foil-jet-pack. The title tune, sung by Nancy Sinatra, is perhaps as well known as Goldfinger, and is also quite unusual (I think) in terms of Bond tunes, as the theme is recurrent throughout the entire film. In fact the whole film has a terrific score by John Barry.

This has always struck me as quite an iconic Bond film; probably a combination of great title tune, Donald Pleasence being the archetypal Blofeld (helped by Austin Powers no doubt), and a secret volcano base (the only kind of secret base worth having)! The fact that it is all set in the Far East gives the film a more exotic feel; though this brings with it some of the film’s more bizarre elements. Despite Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) being a leading Japanese actress, her English accent sounded like Mrs Peignoir’s French accent from Fawlty Towers; the assassin/driver who Bond fights in Osato’s office looks more Polynesian than Japanese. At this point I was very happy to see 007’s penchant for fighting with furniture was taken to a whole new level as he fights not just using a chair, but an entire sofa (see also FRWL and Thunderball for other furniture fights!)!!

                                                        You're holding the wrong end!

Another random moment is making Bond Japanese!? I can see the point of him training to become a Jedi Ninja (in a camp as crazy as the SPECTRE training camp in FRWL; instead of flame-throwers there is ice-block-head-breaking!), but is it really necessary to have fake eyebrows/lids and a crap wig? Especially as he ditches them as soon as he puts on his Phantom disguise!


Otherwise, Sean is as good as ever, though he does seem to get a bit more sweaty than in the other films. Any thoughts that perhaps he is getting bored with the franchise seem to be dispelled during the fight with Hans (Blofeld’s bodyguard) towards the end of the film. This is quite a full-on fight that is far more dynamic than some of the more slapstick offerings that we’ve seen in the previous two films. Donald Pleasence manages to create a truly iconic villain, even though he doesn’t have much time on screen. Of course as a genius, he even has an “Erupt Volcano” lever installed in his base! I think Charles Gray is great as Dikko Henderson (yup, “Dikko”!?!), it is a shame that he is only alive for about 5 minutes... Obviously his talent didn’t go unnoticed which is why (according to my James Bond encyclopaedia) “It is rumoured that a few years after Henderson’s death, Blofeld used him as a model for his surgically-created looks”! What a wonderfully unlikely way to get Charles Gray back into the franchise! Mie Hama is pretty enough as Kissy Suzuki, but she doesn’t do much other than run up and down the volcano a few times in a bikini.
                                                                Perfect hiking gear

Overall, I think You Only Live Twice is tremendous fun (though clearly not as thrilling as doing the voice-over for the trailer). Helped along by Roald Dahl’s screenplay, direction by Lewis Gilbert which really gives the film a freshness, and a brilliant production design by Ken Adam. There are almost as many memorable moments from this as there are from Goldfinger, but I think the plot is more intriguing and the extra dimension of Bond being involved in the space-race ups the ante in terms of the Bond franchise. As a final thought; we should take a moment to remember the Russian astronauts who put on the white henchmen overalls (at Bond’s behest) who were most likely shot in the climactic battle!

Order of preference so far:

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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Great Odin's Raven! It's Thor

On the face of it, the premise of the God of Thunder fighting some Frost Giants, falling to Earth, falling for Natalie Portman, destroying some enormous robot thing and becoming an ally of humans is rather silly. Then you remember this is a MARVEL comic book, suspend all disbelief and really rather enjoy the film!

King Odin rules the Æsir in their city/world of Asgard. Many years ago there was a war between the Æsir and the Frost Giants, which spilled on to Earth where both were regarded as gods. When the Æsir finally won, the Frost Giants were defeated on their home world and Odin took the source of their power; this was kept secure in Asgard.

Years later, now Odin’s sons Thor and Loki are grown up, there is an attempt by the Frost Giants to reclaim the source of their power (a mysterious blue-glowy box). Thor (who was about to be crowned king) sees this breach of palace security as an act of war by the Frost Giants, and flies off to Frost-world to confront them, thus re-igniting an old war. On his return to Asgard, Odin punishes Thor’s hot-headedness by banishing him to Earth. He also separates Thor from his hammer, Mjölnir, until he is worthy to wield it once again.

If you’re confused by this plot synopsis, then imagine how difficult it must have been to interpret this onto film. I think that the writers do a very good job in condensing a lot of exposition from Stan Lee’s comics into a reasonably coherent introduction to the universe of Thor, Asgard, and Frost Giants. Kenneth Branagh also does very well with what can be considered his first real blockbuster. The realisation of Asgard and Frost World (don’t know it’s real name) are truly epic and stunning: Asgard is very golden, with a lot of greenery and waterways, Frost World is very stark and barren, but no less grand. Branagh’s direction also shines through in the script, as some of the lines are very pseudo-shakespearean; (he also seems to like filming at jaunty angles every now and again).

                                                             Asgard is stunning

Arguably the film really gets going upon Thor’s arrival on Earth as he is thrust into unfamiliar situations; “How dare you threaten the son of Odin!”. Obviously Chris Hemsworth was cast as Thor for his physique and Norse-ishness, but he manages to breathe enough life into his character so that he isn’t just a muscle-bound warrior, there is a little more depth to him. Natalie Portman is good enough as the love interest (particle physicist Jane Foster); though the romance between Thor and Jane is fairly shallow, and Portman doesn’t have the opportunity to shine as she does in Black Swan. Stellan Skarsgård adds a bit more history to the Earth story, and intrigue (if you wait all the way to the end of the credits). Odin is a character that Anthony Hopkins really got to grips with, he was wise, kingly, forceful and looked like he really enjoyed himself (plus he got to wear a gold eye-patch; Emilio Largo would be jealous!).

I thought the film was very enjoyable. I wasn’t expecting an amazing story, or in-depth character acting. I was looking forward to a cool cinematic experience with grand settings, a guy with a big hammer and some SHIELD intrigue; and that’s exactly what I got. But then I could have said that about Iron Man 2, and that was slightly disappointing. Thor is back to the entertainment quality of the first Iron Man or Spider-man. I saw it in glorious 2-D, and at several points I found myself thinking “What advantage would 3-D offer over this?” But that’s an argument for another day.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank Holiday Monday Double Bill: Hellboy

Professor Trevor 'Broom' Bruttenholm: What is it that makes a man a man? Is it his origins, the way things start?
The Dude: Sure, that and a pair of testicles.

This is how Hellboy starts, kind of! At a time when the Nazis are trying to gain the upper hand in World War 2, they turn to their studies of the occult in the hope that they can find an ultimate weapon. In the ruins of a castle in Scotland, a ritual to open a portal and transport some demons over from another dimension are disrupted by the Americans (Allies?). However, in the ensuing melee, the Russian dude used by the Nazis to open up the portal is sucked into the other world; in exchange for a small red thing with horns and a huge red hand: Hellboy.

Hellboy is looked after by the Allies (Americans?), particularly by Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, and when he reaches adulthood, becomes the cornerstone of The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (Hellboy is based in Area 51!). Of course, it turns out that the Russian guy (Grigori Rasputin) didn’t die when he has sucked into oblivion; he became possessed with a demon that could be resurrected (all the way over in Moldavia (which doesn’t exist anymore but is associated with Transylvania and Vampire lore). Grigori ultimately lures Hellboy to a catacomb under a mausoleum somewhere near Moscow; where it turns out that his huge right hand’s purpose is to open another portal to demon-world. Hellboy gets out of this scrape, saves the girl (Liz - a firestarter), and kills the demon that Grigori turns into.

Guillermo del Toro made a cool film in Hellboy. It has great scope and has an almost epic feel about it, as the characters travel all over the world. However, it doesn’t really do anything special. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great film; it just feels like del Toro was holding himself back, or had been told to hold back to prove that he could make an action blockbuster. Having said that he does manage to create a lovely sinister atmosphere. The opening scenes in Scotland are very moody (it very much reminds me of Return to Castle Wolfenstein - for all you gamers out there). And Kroenen (the weird Nazi robot made of sand and clockwork, with whirly-knife attachments) is particularly sinister, especially when we find out about his surgical addiction. I can’t help thinking that he was the inspiration of all the steam powered Nazis in Sucker Punch. Of course the big demon at the end of the film has lots of eyes; very del Toro.

                                                            Kroenen - Sinister

Ron Perlman was the obvious choice for Hellboy, and he is perfect; with many cigar smoking Ooooo Craps! Jeffrey Tambor is also great, very sarcastic, as Tom Manning. Doug Jones seems to be just right for the semi-aquatic Abe Sapiens (voiced by David Hyde Pierce; aka Nils Crane -Frasier’s brother). Karel Roden plays the demonic Grigori well, and of course John Hurt is as good as John Hurt usually is; he just has a wise knowledgeable voice; perfect for professor Bruttenholm.

Hellboy 2 starts with a flashback of Professor Bruttenholm telling a young Hellboy the story of the Golden Army. Many years ago the King of the Elves had a Golden Army built with the help of the goblins. The army was only for use against Men who have an insatiable desire for conquest and warfare. Controlled by a crown worn by the Elven King, the army is eventually used when men once again rise up to wage war. However, the King is ashamed by the havoc the army wreaks; so he has it entombed and breaks his crown into three pieces so that they may never be used again.

The King’s eldest son, the young Prince Nuada, believes this is the wrong course of action, and for his war-like tendencies is banished. Of course, this wasn’t just a bedtime story! Now Prince Nuada has now returned from exile and is determined to re-activate the Golden Army and defeat the world of men once and for all. Can Hellboy and the gang stop him?

Whereas the first film was relatively restrained, del Toro really goes to town in this film. The best example of this is the Troll market. It’s almost as if a lot of the more fantastical ideas from Pan’s Labyrinth were put on hold and rolled out for use in the Troll market; but not in a bad way, the whole thing looks amazing. The design of the whole film is so much more subtle, detailed, and beautiful. The animation at the start of the film telling the story of the creation of the Golden Army is really cool; giving everything a wooden effect makes it look less cartoony.

The Forest Elemental is also brilliant, I really love the way all the goo that comes out as it dies turns into grass and flowers. I usually don’t try to over-analyse these kind of films, as they are first and foremost great entertainment; but I think it’s clear that the forest elemental is a comment on environmental issues. Just before releasing it, Prince Nuada says that it is the last of its kind, and if it is killed the world will never see its like again.

The Golden Army itself is brilliantly realised; great mechanics and a very fiery core. The BPRD is a bit more involved now; walking around Area 51 near the beginning of the film is very much like Tommy Lee Jones taking Will Smith around the MIB building. Finally, to finish off the whole del Toro look of the film, the Angel of Death has loads of eyes in a weird place: on its wings!

In terms of the cast, all the usuals are back; but now we have the evil-looking Prince Nuada played by Luke Goss. Who would have thought one of the members of 80s boy-band Bros would one day be a cool evil elf in a big budget blockbuster?! Selma Blair returns as Liz, but gets to do far more with her character than she did in the first film. We also have the new BPRD member Dr. Johann Krauss; a weird sort of vapour-powered gadget-loving genius in a deep-sea-diving suit! Krauss’ voice in none other than Family Guy writer Seth MacFarlane. Random, but cool.

                                                     Steam-powered Johann Krauss

                                                           Which one is the scary elf?

                                                               Oh. That one!

I think I prefer the second film. Both are great stand alone films; but the detail and the richness of production of the The Golden Army steals it for me. There is often a danger with the second instalment of a film to try and over-complicate the plot to show what more can be done with the particular mythology (Dead Man’s Chest, Matrix Reloaded), but Golden Army doesn’t try to do anything particularly complicated. Rather than trying to be clever it shows a far more detailed universe than we were aware existed in the first film.

Overall, both films are great. Very enjoyable, with a mixture of fantasy, action, a little romance, inspired production, and characters to relate to; even if they’re huge, red, and have horns. But then Hellboy is such a flawed character he’s more human than many other superheroes.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are trying to solve a case involving some gruesome murders perpetrated by Lord Blackwood - a magician performing black magic. Lord Blackwood is caught and hung near the beginning, but is magically resurrected, thus consolidating his power. Of course, using his logical powers of deduction, and helped by the eminent Dr Watson, Holmes is able to solve the case and dispatch Lord Blackwood.

Robert Downey Jr. is good as Sherlock Holmes; he imports some of the cocky arrogance from Tony Stark into his character. This works really well as Sherlock is always so sure of himself. My only problem with Downey Jr is that when he is thinking/talking quickly - using his logical powers of reasoning - he mumbles a lot. Perhaps this is just part of him trying to do a British accent; but several times we had to put the subtitles on! Because of this I actually thought that Jude Law was better. He plays Dr Watson with understated cool. Though he is smitten by the woman in his life, Watson is pretty mean in a fight too. Mark Strong is good as the evil Lord Blackwood, but he doesn’t get the same opportunity to stand out as he does in Rock n Rolla.

"How dare you say I can't do a British accent!"
Guy Ritchie’s direction is pretty good too; perhaps not the convoluted plots of some of his gangster films, but some of the fights are very Ritchie-stylish. Victorian London also never looked so good. Hans Zimmer’s score is good without being spectacular. Overall I thought this was a pretty good film; entertaining, fun, the characters are classics, and are interpreted fairly well for a more modern audience.
Elementary my dear Watson; your hat is on too tight.