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‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ 18/11/2008

The supporting cast are superb across the board. The dialogue is as sharp and observant as any Kevin Smith has written in the last ten years.

It’s his best film since ‘Chasing Amy’

3.5/5

‘Max Payne’ 17/11/2008

The highpoint of ‘Max Payne’ was listening to a middle aged couple argue in the queue. The gentleman in question was insisting to his wife that Mark Wahlberg had played Jason Bourne. This amused me.

I feel sorry for director John Moore. He has turned his hand to several genres, but every film he has directed has been a failure. They aren’t spectacular failures worthy of discussion and mockery, but forgotten mediocrities content to slip off into HMV bargain bins within months of release.

For some reason it is always snowing in ‘Max Payne’. This is never explained.

Mark Wahlberg looks slightly constipated in ‘Max Payne’. This is also never explained.

Supporting characters (including Ludacris as a detective and a fat Chris O’Donnell) illogically float in and around scenes. The purpose of most is never explained.

The film is bad. Quite bad.

2/5

Ps – Nice production design though….

‘W.’ 09/11/2008

I quite liked ‘W.’

I liked that Oliver Stone has finally escaped the habit of making unwatchable films, I liked Josh Brolin’s performance and I liked that it wasn’t a liberal polemic.

I’m not sure how accurate it is as a biopic, but it was enjoyable enough to warrant repeat viewings.

3/5

‘AI: Artificial Intelligence’ DVD 08/11/2008

AI is an interesting career juncture for Steven Spielberg. Visually astonishing and carrying a familiar fairytale narrative (for all those who have seen Pinocchio, at least), it is most memorable for balancing the strengths for which Spielberg is known with far bleaker thematic material.

The Berg machine is in full force. Every cast and crew member does their job to perfection, special mention going to John Williams and Janusz Kaminski. As the film is set in the future, Kaminski’s annoying habit of over lighting to a metallic shine actually works for once.

The film is split into three distinct acts. Much could be written about each but this is no editorial. Each has something significant to offer, but it is the emotionally devastating finale that resonates.

Depending on your perspective, the infamous final 20 minutes act either as a saccharine reminder of Spielberg’s worst indulgences, or a cold and fascinating adventure into human (or should that be mecha?) misery.

As AI was finishing up production, Spielberg was already prepping ‘Minority Report’; another science-fiction picture. The two work well as a couplet (as do the also back-to-back ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Munich’). In both cases one is the more esoteric and thought provoking, the other the more conventional and audience friendly.

5/5

PS – I love Teddy.

‘Thir13en Ghosts’ DVD 02/11/2008

‘Thir13en Ghosts’ is garbage. It’s mildly entertaining as an exercise in how to squander capable actors and a solid idea, but aside from some nice makeup and nifty set design it drifts between tedious and embarrassing. Only for genre fans.

1/5

‘Quantum of Solace’ 02/11/2008

‘Quantum of Solace’ is more interesting in concept then in execution. I’m all for the idea of a direct sequel to ‘Casino Royale’ that probes Bond’s despair and desire for revenge, but not when done so scrappily and frenetically.

I like the idea that the Daniel Craig Bond actually has drive and motivation (unlike the preening Bond’s of yesteryear), and I’m all for these motivations being the primary concern of the film, but the problem is that ‘Quantum of Solace’ exists solely as a vehicle for a half dozen action sequences held together by a skeleton plot. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem if the action sequences in question were exciting and well choreographed, but Marc Forster and gang ape the Bournesque shakycam style with none of the assurance and editing finesse of that franchise. Consequently these scenes, most especially the opening car chase, are a disappointment.

Daniel Craig continues to be the best actor to have played the character but I fear for him falling into the Pierce Brosnan trap in which the performance is far better then the film that surrounds it. Here’s hoping the next film ditches some of the less desirable stylistic flourishes of this sequel and returns to a classical style, complete with standalone narrative.

It’s a good film but it’s not as good as it should have been.

3/5

‘Casino Royale’ DVD 30/10/2008

I’m a fan of the franchise and I think even the worst editions (Die Another Day/Moonraker) have at least something to offer but none are as gripping, exciting and refreshing as the first Daniel Craig outing. The action is spectacular and the poker games themselves are intense. Special mentions go to the opening parkour chase and the final set piece at Venice Grand Canal. The dialogue is crisp and snappy and the supporting cast fill out nicely with good performances from Eva Green and Judi Dench. Lacking the humour of the Brosnan era, the film has a distinctly old-fashioned feel and an ending that leads neatly into the next (and likely bleaker) chapter. It’s both a good film and a good James Bond film.

4.5/5

‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ DVD 26/10/2008

I was quite tired when I started watching ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford’, but by the half-way point I was absorbed enough to stop caring.

The simple score and landscapes are dreamy and ethereal, tying in nicely with the mythos surrounding the character. The entire supporting cast of characters are well performed and distinct. Each member of the James gang is worthy of mention with special mention to Casey Affleck as the titular Robert Ford. Affleck’s performance is fascinating. He’s twitchy, obsessive and there’s complete unease brimming under the surface. It’s the lead role really and he thoroughly deserved his Academy Award nomination. Pitt is also the most manic and brilliant he’s been this decade. I have slight qualms regarding the (mis)use of Mary-Louise Parker as James’ wife. She’s too good an actress to be relegated to such a thankless supporting role, but I’m aware the film had a tough edit and likely the bulk of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

All in all, very impressed. I think I might be developing a taste for westerns, no doubt aided by how unusually strong the recent crop have been. The pedigree talent attracted to the genre of late is astounding. This is one of the best films of 2007.

4.5/5

‘I’m Not There’ DVD 25/10/2008

‘I’m Not There’ is a toughie. I felt it was impressive in some ways, not impressive in other ways and I was left, most prominently, with an urge to go and listen to Bob Dylan. If that was the intent, it succeeded in its purpose. I like Dylan, but this film felt like a love letter to the fandom. It’s too esoteric for general consumption. I can forgive this as it’s a deeply idiosyncratic art-house movie, but it frustrated to an extent. For me to truly appreciate and begin to understand the movie I feel like I need to go away for a few months and better study Dylan’s life and work. I can’t be overly critical as my problems stem mostly from my own lack of knowledge, and there is a lot to admire even for only moderate BD fans. The photography is beautiful, each segment having its only distinct appearance and texture. The performances are strong across the board, Cate Blanchett in particular being every bit as bizarre and captivating as I’d heard. The soundtrack is predictably fantastic. I struggled to connect with the attempts to explain Dylan’s proximity and relationship with social and political events, my favourite sections being those that existed as contained music videos for individual tracks.
I would expect to add a star to this review within five years.

3/5

‘American Psycho’ DVD 25/10/2008

Not much to say. I love ‘American Psycho’. Christian Bale gives the performance of a career and the film is absolutely hilarious. I love the Bateman character in all his forms.
This adaptation offers different pleasures to the novel so I’m not going to directly compare, but it remains one of my favourite movies.

4.5/5

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