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‘Frost/Nixon’ 25/01/2009

Frost/Nixon seems to be entirely populated by underrated character actors. Sam Rockwell, Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon….the list goes on. Full credit to Ron Howard for climbing out of his oscar-baiting slump (I’m looking at you ‘A Beautiful Mind’) and picking some decent material again.

It’s a terrifically entertaining film; lean, polished and with great performances from its two leads. Despite breezing along quite happily for a couple of hours, I can’t see it as a realistic contender for the big awards as its biggest strengths stem exclusively from those two wonderful actors tearing up the screen together. It’s a travesty that Michael Sheen, yet again, has been passed over for major nominations.

4/5

‘My Bloody Valentine 3D’ 21/01/2009

3D can be good fun, but it remains a gimmick. Anyone who seriously thinks it’s going to play a significant part in the future of the art form is full of shit. Jim Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ and the odd Zemeckis mo-cap picture excite, but I can’t see it ever being considered a standard feature.

That aside, this is a fun little slasher flick with some inventive kills and entertaining performances. I had the fortune to watch it with a packed audience and a good time was had by all.

3/5

‘El Laberinto del Fauno’ (Pan’s Labryinth) DVD 18/01/2009

2 years on and it’s still fascinating and wonderful.

Guillermo del Toro is the shit.

5/5

‘Snakes on a Plane’ 17/01/2009

Apocalypse Now
Schindler’s List
There Will Be Blood
Casablanca

Fuck ‘em all.

This is probably the greatest film of all time.

6/5

‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ DVD 17/01/2009

Note – This is a slightly edited reposting of a May 27th 2008 review. I have just watched the film on DVD for the first time and largely my feelings remain the same.

I love Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m borderline obsessed with it. I likely love it more then anyone has ever loved anything in the history of love. I love it more then anyone reading these words has ever loved any album, movie, book, person or food type. Despite living in the same house for twenty years, I’ve probably seen the movie more times then I’ve seen my own mother. Those first few months, in which my mouth was clenched around her nipple, I’m fairly sure my eyes were primarily focused on the nearest TV set pumping out a grainy VHS copy.

Now I’m going to avoid going on some epic, sprawling quest into the heart of fandom mania, as I lack in restraint. When it comes to this series, I’m the consummate fanboy, and the ranting, boyish enthusiasm of all those similarly minded should negate the need for most of us to bother writing reviews. A level-headed critique is impossible anyway when you’re this far from objectivity. It’s too nostalgic, too tied in with my childhood for me to even dream of sticking a number/5 at the end of this text. For that reason, this might be the ‘impossible’ review, as any attempt to rack the film up next to the original trilogy is destined to fail…but I’ll try.

I liked it a lot. Loved parts. Had reservations about other parts. I’m going to try not to be a nitpicker as I enjoyed the movie greatly and (as stated) I prefer to avoid ranting, but there are things that need to be discussed.

The effects were superb. I found myself strangely at ease with the abundance of CG, Kaminski’s tendency to over light everything proving far more irritating. The opening scene is the worst offender, the silly bastard saturating every frame with more light then any casual retina can handle. Thankfully, purely by accident, the change in visual style kinda fits the 50s timeframe. On the related subject, I liked the 50s cultural references and all the ‘cold war’ paranoia stuff was interesting, but could have been explored in more depth.

The big set pieces were superb. Special mention to the jungle chase, which is glorious. The ‘silly’ stuff worked fine. It’s all in line with the other Raiders sequels. The vine swinging, the waterfalls etc all fine and good. Conceptually, the whole ‘aliens’ angle works nicely too, and I had no real issues with the core plot.

Certain sequences were poorly executed. Not necessarily flawed conceptually, but poorly filmed/edited. Everything between Mutt/Indy leaving America and the return of Marion is some of the worst material Steven Spielberg has ever shot. The asylum, the graveyard, the discovery of the skull, the interrogation of Indy by Blanchett; It’s not great. I’m sure it read fine, but these scenes lack any intrigue or tension. They’re flat, insipid, confusing, and feel like the work of a lesser talent or even a second unit.

Thankfully the return of Karen Allen saves the day. Every scene she is on screen is a joy. The bickering and revelations; it’s solid gold. Everything relating to Marion was the equivalent of a great extended universe fan fiction. I’m not entirely sure if it’s good drama, but there’s a heart beating under the surface, something entirely absent from the attempts to prequelise Star Wars. The final scene of the movie is sublime, and probably my favourite of the film.

The John Williams score, though basically a Raiders re-hash, is of course wonderful.

A tagged on ‘happy ending’ to the original trilogy, it doesn’t really feel like a proper entry in the series simply due to the elapsed time period, but KOTCS is by no means an unwelcome addition. As a third sequel, flaws are to be expected, and on the whole it made me happy enough to justify its existence and the prior excitement. The true miracle is that it even exists after so much time and speculation. Thank God it’s great, silly, spectacular summer nonsense of the highest order.

It isn’t Raiders, but it is Indiana Jones.

4/5

PS – And yes, I like the magic fridge….

‘The Wrestler’ 17/01/2009

Off the back of the ‘The Fountain’ (a film so astonishingly good it should probably be made illegal), Darren Aronofsky manages to slip back to the planet Earth with ease. He imbues the world of Randy ‘The Ram’ with every bit the realism of ‘Requiem for a Dream’, helped in no small part by an excellent cast, script and Bruce Springsteen’s best song in years. There’s been a lot said about Mickey Rourke’s performance in the media. All of it is true.

4.5/5

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ 12/01/2009

Danny Boyle might be about as versatile a filmmaker as exists on the planet. He jumps genre with such effortless ease as to make even the biggest cynic turn their head. His projects don’t always work, but such an unabashed risk taker is worthy of respect even when his films aren’t particularly deserving of praise.

Though I’m hesitant when any film starts’ picking up absurd levels of hype in the run-up to awards season, the colourful and energetic ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is mostly deserving of the adoration being thrown in its direction.

This is Boyle’s best film since ‘Trainspotting’.

4/5

‘Batman Returns’ DVD 11/01/2009

‘Batman Returns’ is a film of great personal significance to me, so I have no shame in admitting I’m insufferably biased.

This might be my favourite comic-book film; a blackly comic journey of schizophrenic man-animals set in a snowy, gothic fantasyland. It has more in common with ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ than the other franchise instalments, Tim Burton using the clout earned by the first films commercial success to pilot a head-trip into his most depraved and disturbing fantasies.

I love it.

5/5

‘Blade Runner: Final Cut’ DVD 10/01/2009

I’ve had a tempestuous relationship with ‘Blade Runner’ over the last ten years, but for the first time here I feel as though I’m making progress with the film. Ridley Scott creates such a beautiful world that my (significant) problems with the Deckard character and his journey are rendered almost irrelevant. Every time I’m given a chance to linger on how frustratingly little screentime it uses to explore its most interesting theme (specifically; the preciousness and importance of life), my concerns are quickly swept away by another gorgeous image.

I feel I’m slowly working towards cracking it. Maybe next time.

4/5

‘Role Models’ 08/01/2009

I took some Co-Codamol this evening to alleviate my back pain. At some point, I think around 9’o clock, I started to get high and decided to go and see ‘Role Models’.

I liked it.

4/5

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