‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ 12/12/2008

There’s a short, unexpected scene towards the end of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ where the film briefly threatens to be more then an achingly pedestrian (and wholly unnecessary) blockbuster remake. Keanu Reeves’ monotone alien and John Cleese (?) find themselves caught in a philosophical battle of wits, debating the future of the planet. It’s thought provoking stuff; until thirty seconds later when the discussion is halted by some exploding helicopters and a CGI cloud.

Here’s hoping the similar dialogue in next years adaptation of Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’ is treated with reverence. If it’s filtered down to a measly two minutes and sandwiched between badly choreographed set pieces, I just might kill myself.


‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ 08/05/2008

Tonight was the first time I have been to one of the ‘Monday Classic’ events at my Cineworld. It will not be the last.

This might be the perfect film.


‘What Just Happened’ 04/12/2008

It was an amusing diversion, and certainly watchable, but the material could have been taken a great deal further. As it is, this plays more like a middling episode of ‘Entourage’ then the next ‘The Player’.

Humorous asides like the Bruce Willis beard play as major plot points instead of background jokes, and apart from Robert De Niro’s performance (which is probably his best this decade), I can only offer a muted recommendation.


‘Pet Semetary’ DVD 02/12/2008

I endured my annual torture of the 80s adaptation of ‘Pet Semetary’ last night. As always, I’m astonished by how consistently awful it is. To turn such a frightening, pulpy book into something so tame takes some effort. I am still shocked everytime I see Stephen King’s name in the credits as screenwriter. It’s largely inoffensive stuff, and Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall is quite good fun, but this reeks of low budget and missed opportunity. Maybe someone will do it right next time?


‘Hitman’ DVD 01/12/2008

Timothy Olyphant’s character in ‘The Girl Next Door’ is one of my favourite comic performances of recent years. He’s a decent actor but this is a stunning and bizarre piece of miscasting. When we required a Statham or Diesel we were presented with an Olyphant. The former two, especially the Stath, might have brought something to this dodgy material, but Olyphant is hopelessly out of his depth in a genre he doesn’t understand.

The film itself is, of course, completely bereft of logic. If there weren’t so many moments of unintended hilarity and a couple of slick action scenes, I’d have stopped watching after half an hour.

My favourite moment occurs when Olyphant swings through a window and into an unsuspecting couple’s apartment. He gives them a quick look and exits. They both look shocked and turn back to….a video game of ‘Hitman’.



‘Changeling’ 30/11/2008

Some films seem to exist solely to win awards; others are made because they actually have a good story to tell. I suspect ‘Changeling’ is both.

I feel a little sorry for Universal Studios. They think they’ve got the Oscar front-runner on their hands here, but it’s going to struggle to be a serious competitor in anything other then acting and technical categories.

The first 100 minutes are indisputably excellent, but an unwieldy, extraneous and strung-out final act derails it somewhat. That’s not to say the final section is by any means bad, but the film casts its net too far. A tighter focus on the immediate story instead of failed attempts to flesh out the Gordon Northcott murders would have resulted in a superior film. Every scene featuring Northcott after his conviction exists solely to give Angelina Jolie some more academy award meat to chew. The performance is good but there’s enough in the previous couple of hours to justify her nomination. I’m fine with the epilogue itself, but the prior thirty minutes could have done with the chop.

It’s a good film but it doesn’t feel effortless enough to be anything more. I can sense the cynical hand of a studio executive insisting that the project ticked the requiste oscar-bait boxes before greenlighting. This isn’t an endearing quality.


‘Sunshine’ DVD 29/11/2008

“…the velocity of the payload will become so great space and time will become smeared together. Everything will distort, everything will be unquantifiable.”

Danny Boyle is an unusual filmmaker and this is an extremely unusual film.

I enjoyed the interactions between the cast, the Alex Garland script and the extraordinary effects work. I’m not in a position to judge the scientific validity of its premise (I assume its all rubbish), but I was pleased to see it taken with absolute humourless sincerity. The magnitude of the Earth’s predicament was expressed without the inadvertent laughs that can derail this sort of film. It was dark, it was cinematic and the creative talent involved had complete respect for the material.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker this could have been a disaster. In the hands of Danny Boyle it’s almost excellent.


‘Body of Lies’ 25/11/2008

Speaking of Ridley Scott (see last post), ‘Body of Lies’ was actually pretty good. The cast were as solid as their status suggests (especially Mark Strong), and it played tight and fast.


‘AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem’ DVD 24/11/2008

The Strause Brothers make Paul WS Anderson look like Ridley Scott.


‘The Descent’ DVD 23/11/2008

‘The Descent’ is an interesting horror film. It’s expertly shot, paced and edited for starters, which is always welcome, the primary ‘threat’ not being so much as mentioned for almost an hour. We contend with different elements of fear. There are the tight, claustrophobic passageways in the cave network, protagonist Sarah’s deteriorating mental state following the death of her family (shown in the pre-credit sequence), and the crawlers themselves; vile, cannibalistic cave-dwellers that scuttle about in the darkness intermittently picking off cast members.

The greatest criticisms I can offer are that some of the characters feel a tad extraneous and underdeveloped, present only to allow for a larger body count. It also lacks the humour of Neil Marshall’s previous picture, the wonderful ‘Dog Soldiers’. That aside this is gripping, scary and endless watchable stuff. I hope Part 2 doesn’t disappoint.


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