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‘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’.

What.
The.
Fuck.

2/5

‘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.

3.5/5

‘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.

4/5

‘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.

3.5/5

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

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

1.5/5

‘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.

4/5

‘Return of the Jedi’ DVD 23/11/2008

Still a total joy. Nothing more to say. Completely magical.

5/5

‘There Will Be Blood’ DVD 22/11/2008

‘There Will Be Blood’ is remarkable. As I said in my original review back in February, there are only a small handful of movies each decade that transcend the art form like this. It’s this year’s masterpiece and the best film of Paul Thomas Anderson’s flawless career.

PTA and Daniel Day-Lewis have crafted the perfect performance. It’s iconic. It’s hilarious. It’s terrifying. Daniel Plainview is to this new century of film what Hannibal Lecter and Michael Corleone were to the last.

5/5

‘Quantum of Solace’ 20/11/2008

It came as little surprise that ‘Quantum of Solace’ improved greatly on second viewing. The opening two action sequences still irk me as overly derivative of another recent action franchise, but the story played out better. Knowing the beats that were to follow made it an all together more pleasurable experience. It’s still no ‘Casino Royale’, but it’s a league ahead of ¾ of Pierce Brosnan’s output.

3.5/5

‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ 19/11/2008

‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ is beautifully written and performed, but so unremittingly devastating as it draws to its conclusion that few will wish to view it again.

It has been suggested in the past that this sort of material warrants a bleak outlook and that to tone it down would do it a disservice. Though I don’t disagree, the sheer horror of the films final moments render it more an exercise in torture than a form of entertainment.

It’s both wonderful and awful.

4/5

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