January 08, 2010

2009 review - Films

I saw 86 films in 2009. Here is the list, with approximate marks out of 10. The ordering is a fairly good chronological one. I have a feeling I've missed a few though.

The Princess Bride 10
Stardust 7
Hellboy 8
Alien vs Predator 7
The Karate Kid 9
The Katate Kid 2 6
The Karate Kid 3 6
The Karate Kid 4 6
The Librarian 2 6
The Spiderwick Chronicles 8
The Hitch-Hikers Guide to The Galaxy 7
Next 7
Night at the Museum 8
Hot Fuzz 7
AvP 7
Watchmen 10
AvP 2 - Requiem 5
Cube 2 6
Cube 0 6
The Pirates Of The Caribbean 6
Coraline 3D 8
Night of the Living Dead 8
Dawn of the Dead (new) 7
Dawn of the Dead (original) 8
Day of the Dead 6
Ghost Town 7
The Butterfly Effect 8
Quantum Of Solace 6
I-Robot 6
Star Trek 8
The Little Vampire 7
Silent Running 7
Predator 8
Predator 2 8
Bedtime Stories 7
A Fistful Of Dollars 10
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 7
The Ring 8
Arsenic & Old Lace 7
My Neighbour Totoro 8
Land of the Dead 8
Zoom 4
The Grudge 8
For a Few Dollars More 10
GI Joe 7
Stargate 8
First Blood 8
Guess Who 5
Tarzan 9
The Goonies 6
Race To Witch Mountain 7
12 Monkeys 8
Enigma 6
Bride Wars 4
Maverick 7
District 13 8
Adaptation 8
Rocky 7
When Worlds Collide 6
A History Of Violence 9
Twilight 8
The Accidental Hero 8
Transporter 3 8
The Witches of Waverley Place Movie 6
PS, I Love You 5
The Vampires Assistant 8
Mr Magorium's Wonder Emportium 7
Ruthless People 7
Wolverine 7
The Haunting Hour 4
The Haunted Mansion 5
Pirates of the Caribbean 2 5
Moon 7
City of Ember 7
Pocahontas 5
This Island Earth 7
Elf 8
Home Alone 10
The Santa Claus 6
Christmas with the Kranks 5
Avatar 9
Underworld - Rise of the Lycans 7

I'm willing to defend most of those ratings, but could be swayed slightly on a few of them.

I love watching films more than other TV, and if I had the chance, would watch one every day. However, a lot of my TV time was taken up with some pretty good US TV series. I watched the whole of "The Wire", Lost, Heroes, Flashforward, SGU, 24 Season 7, amongst others. These have the advantage of being about 1 hour long per episode - ideal just before going to bed.

You can see I've tried to revisit some classic movies, as well as watching the latest 3D efforts in the cinema. I've also mixed up family friendly stuff with scary gorefests.

Pretty good year, but I want to watch more this year.

Posted by se71 at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2009

Watchable Films

I watch quite a lot of films, and have restricted my TV viewing now to mostly just crime/SF TV series like "The Wire" or "Lost", and movies.

Realising that I write here much less than I used to (blame Twitter/Facebook), I thought I'd do a quick post about films that I've watched several times, and always seem to watch again if they turn up on TV late at night. These are not necessarily the best films in the world, just ones that can stand repeat viewings, and never seem to get boring.

Most watched is probably The Fifth Element

Closely followed by The Matrix

Anything with Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis is likely to stop me switching off/over - Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever made.

The Princess Bride is so full of great dialogue that you can step in and out at any section and really enjoy it.

Well, that's my short list. Notable mentions to any Zucker brothers' films, (Airplane etc) as well.

Posted by se71 at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2009


Watchmen - The Movie Review


The short version - it's excellent, but is definitely for adults only unfortunately.

I'm not going to review the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, even though one of my copies is signed by the artist. Scandalously, I don't consider myself properly qualified, having only read it for the first time last year. I picked it up so many times in Forbidden Planet over the preceding two decades, but the price tag always made me hesitate, and say to myself "I'll just wait and get it in the sales". The sales did finally arrive, and I ended up with two copies - one signed one for the shelf, one to read.

Why all the preamble then? This is a movie review, not a comic review. The reason is so that you understand that I don't actually have a lot of the emotional investment that many other reviewers have. Comic fans 'love' this book, have been waiting a very long time, for something that the author has said was unfilmable, to reach the screen. They will tell you that the ending is different, maybe they won't like the omission of the comic within the comic story "Tales of the Black Freighter". Maybe they've lived with the characters so long that the actors will never live up to their expectations. I have none of those misgivings, and yet, unlike the majority of cinema goers, I have actually read it, so I think I'm in quite a small category of people who only quite liked the comic.

With the story fairly fresh in my mind, I went into the first day screening with some trepidation that inevitable changes would have been made to fit such a dense work into only two and three quarter hours. But Watchmen is uncompromising, and in my opinion, included everything important - everything I remember anyway.

So - to the movie. Imagine if there really were a group of masked heroes, fighting crime on the streets of New york. Heroes like Batman, not Spiderman. These people use their fists to beat up the bad guys, with a few handy tools and a flying ship, but mostly just their fists. Then imagine further that they were driven underground by an anti-vigilante movement, and most of them have retired. The action takes place in an alternate universe where this has already happened, and it's 1985, and the world is in the middle of the cold war. Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as President, and his finger is hovvering over the armageddon button.

Once masked man, Rorschach, discovers that someone is killing off his ex-colleagues, and starts to investigate. He gets a pretty poor reception along the way from his old gang, but we get a chance to see each of them with flashbacks filling in the backstory. These shifts in time, along with the alternate universe setting, and Dr Manhattan's concept of knowing the past and the future as one time, make it a pretty challenging experience, but every scene is so full of interest that even if you don't fully understand it, it's still enjoyable to watch. I've done some reading around this, and I missed a ton of references I'll only fully discover with a DVD and director's commentaries; I'm looking forward to that. (One example is a tiny scene, where a masked hero saves Batman's parents from murder at the back of an opera theatre - so this universe has no Batman).

Dr Manhattan, I mentioned him above, is the only real superhero in the film. He is a man turned superman, with massive powers over time and space. He has lost most of his humanity and is so apart from it that he doesn't seem to understand right from wrong any more. He is also blue, and naked most of the time.

Jackie Earle Haley is a revelation as Rorschach - the prison scenes are my most memorable, and his line "I'm not locked in here with you, YOU'RE locked in here with ME" summed up his anger, persecution complex, and egotistical personality so well. In the book we don't get to see him say this directly, it's much better in the film. I also loved The Comedian - a great character, must have been so much fun to play. I was a little disappointed with a couple of the others - Night Owl II was a bit too wishy-washy at times, so that when it came time for him to be hard it was less believable. And Carla Gugino I felt was wasted, all that old person makeup.

I was completely surprised by how much music there was in the film. Quite a few scenes dispensed with any dialogue and just ran a full 3-4 minute song - from Dylan's "The Times they are a changing" for the opening titles, to Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable", from Phillip Glass to Wagner. In most cases, I really liked the songs, and it was great to hear them loud in a cinema, but they didn't work as soundtracks to the film. They jarred me out of the scenes, out of the action, and made me think about the song. This isn't a soundtrack's job, you should hardly notice the music unless it's wrong.

If you've seen '300' you'll already be familiar with the ultraviolence of his fighting scenes - we get them here too.
We also get sex, and some hints at violent sex as well. And of course a huge blue naked man walking around. Was this necessary, or gratuitous? Tough call, but I would have cut a bit, and left more to the imagination. I would have made the film a '15' certificate - the '18' is going to kill the audience figures, and even the DVD rentals, and wasn't necessary. It's a shame that so many people who would have loved this film are not going to be allowed to see it, and it would not have hurt artistically I think. If a film is definitely horror, or definitely soft porn, then include everything you need and give it an '18', but maximise your audience unless there is an overwhelming need not to.

Phew, nearly finished. Conclusion - Zack Snyder has made a remarkable film, that looks fantastic. He has taken the comic, and had storyboarding help from the original artist in crafting the scenes, and it all works. It looks authentic, and I can't see any fan of the original, or anyone else, knocking it for this. It's fairly long, but I wanted more, as it's fascinating from beginning to end. I loved it, and would encourage everyone to go and see it - we need more of this kind of cinema, so we should support the people who make it.

Posted by se71 at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2009

Fictionalised Movies I Will Never See


I started commenting on Cowfish's blog post about this, but it turned into a bit of a rant, so I extracted it to put here. He doesn't deserve my righteous anger against all things 'factual'.

He feels he has wasted his weekend watching bad films, and so is redeeming himself with a double-bill of "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk".

The problem I have with this is that I have issues with films based on real events - fictionalised. I will not willingly watch either of those films, I will actively avoid them in fact, and hope I never, ever see them.

Sure, they may be great dramas, they may have astonishing Oscar winning acting. But when I watch a film, my top reason for doing it is entertainment. Milk and Frost/Nixon are not primarily entertainment, they are documentaries that have been jazzed up a bit. So anyone watching is expecting to learn something about the people in the film, and are hoping it's an entertaining ride for a couple of hours. This is a Bad Thing. I saw David Frost on TV the other day talking about the play the film is based on, and on how he had pointed out to the writer at the time inaccuracies. He had been convinced by the writer that it was necessary to add some things to make it a more interesting story. (they completely downplay Frost's interviewing experience at the time, to make it look like he was more of an underdog than he really was). You might not think this very important, as long as they get the main points correct. Maybe you are right, but how do you know they got the main points right? How do you know they didn't embellish a few more things here and there to make a more exciting story?

If I want to learn about Frost/Nixon, and I think I would actually, I'd much prefer to watch a documentary made by serious broadcasters who attempted to tell the truth as far as they could find it. I don't want my memories polluted by half truths and fabrications in the name of entertainment. I've no real idea who "Harvey Milk" was, but if I want to find out, I'll try Wikipedia.

Films I have avoided due to dubious fictionalised historical aspects:

Pearl Harbour
that one about Tina Turner, and the one about Johnny Cash
the one about Larry Flint

err, anything really with a real person's name in the title, including all the recent Elizabeth ones.

I used to be capable sometimes of turning off this switch in my head and enjoying a biopic movie - Amadeus and Schindler's List come to mind - but I didn't take either completely seriously, and mostly enjoyed the former for the wonderful soundtrack. and sometime after Schindler's List I realised that I actually felt bad about having watched something purporting to be true, but with quite probably huge amounts of fiction in (all the dialogue for example is almost certain to be invented in these kinds of films). So much so, that I was forced to go and do some backgound reading to make sure I hadn't been mislead completely. So, why not just do the reading if you are interested.

"Let me entertain you" is what I want to hear from a film maker, not "Let me educate you with a half true story about a person's life that hightlights some issues I want you to be aware of".
Life is too short to watch things you don't trust - at least with Barb Wire, you know what you're getting isn't real :-)

Posted by se71 at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

February 23, 2009

Movies I Haven't Seen

Movies I haven't seen that you might expect I have:

The Dark Knight
Pirates of the Caribbean
Army of Darkness
I, Robot

If you know me, then there are some obvious films that you'd expect me to have watched. I even can't quite believe some of the massive gaps in my viewing. In the last six months I've watched the complete Karate Kid Quadrilogy (did you even know there were four of them :-) and yet, the billion dollar movie "The Dark knight" remains unseen. What on earth is wrong with me?

[I will add more here as I think of them, and hopefully make an effort to remove some, as I really do want to see them. I even have some of these on disc at home.]

Posted by se71 at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)



This is a tremendous film, easily my favourite of the year so far. [1]
I know you'll find this hard to believe - it has quite a few things going against it. Jean-claude Van Damme isn't known for great art, or great acting and it's almost completely in French with English subtitles. But what makes it work, and why I loved it, is how it mixes real life with fiction, messes about with time lines to reveal itself to us in different ways, and, of course, has the very excellent Mr. JCVD himself giving the best performance of his life.

Did you see "Being John Malkovich"? There are very valid comparisons to that movie, where the lead actor plays a fictionalised version of himself. This one doesn't have any of the weird science fictional aspects though, it's all played completely straight.

Very briefly, the plot. A fading action movie star returns to his native country to try and recover from a divorce and custody battle for his daughter. He is short on money, short on good movies to act in. We see him enter a Post Office, and soon after, there are shots - it's a robbery.

From this opening we are constantly kept guessing - first about what is happening inside, and then how it will all play out in the end. It is a fantastic, funny, tragic and exciting ride. It is also shot in a sepia tinged way that make it look moody and rough, and looks great on Blu-Ray on a big screen TV.

I urge you to see it - there will not be a film it again. The six minute monologue straight to camera is unbelievable, and yet, it exists.

[1] though there isn't that much competition to be honest in the department.

Posted by se71 at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2008

Mamma Mia

The review of the film, not the stage musical.

I got dragged (though not kicking and screaming, I like Abba a lot) to the cinema to see this last night. I was quite interested to see what this would be like, quite apprehensive about it, and was pleased and disappointed in equal measure.

Lets start with the positive. The singing was really pretty good. It is first and foremost a musical, so if you do not get the music right, you're in real trouble. The only fly in that particular ointment was Pierce Brosnan - listening to him was tough going. The musical numbers themselves were well coreographed, hardly ever boring, and worth watching. The premise of the story, of a young woman inviting three men to her wedding to try and discover which one is her father is also interesting, and the Greek island setting is also beautiful and well used. Also, the three main actresses are very good.


The songs are shoehorned into this story like a size 10 foot into a size 4 sandle. They have only managed to get a few toes of meaning to poke through the strap of plot. Err, hmm, that analogy doesn't really work does it. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the plot progresses a little, and then it's time for a song, and in many cases, the one chosen is hardly anything to do with the plot at all. "The winner takes it all" was the worst - no idea at all why Meryl Streep would want to sing that to Brosnan at that point. Some almost work, and some have had a few words changed to make them a little more appropriate, but all in all, I found it very jarring. A musical normally has songs written especially for a story, and move that story along. Here, the story just stops, they sing a song, and then it goes on again. I did laugh though at how they named Harry after a line in "Our Last Summer", even though they got flower power about 20 years too late.

I know every Abba song very well indeed - maybe if you know them less well you can let some of this detail wash over you? Maybe I should just lighten up a bit?

My other objection is just that this is completely a girls film. There are no guns or aliens, only a very perfunctory car chase, but plenty of bumbling males, sisters doing it for themselves, tissues and issues, and hearts on sleeves. You get the picture.

Verdict: women will like it, fans of Abba will like it if they just listen to the excellent music, and women fans of Abba will love it.

Posted by se71 at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2008

I Am Legend

I Am Legend

First of all, I want to say that I really enjoyed watching this. It's the first real grown-up movie I've seen on the cinema screen for years, so maybe it's impact on me was greater than it might be for a more frequent multiplex visitor. I came out feeling I'd seen something quite special, and thinking Will Smith was a much better actor than I'd ever expected.

Having said all that though, and looking back with a more level head, I do have some reservations. I want to know what that Bob Marley stuff was doing in there. I want to know what god had to do with it; those butterflies bother me. And I want to know what the zombies ate when they couldn't get a bit of Will Smith.

Yes, it's a zombie film. And like 28 Days/Weeks Later, they are fast zombies - really fast. Will Smith plays Robert Neville, the last human survivor in New York of a plague that killed nearly everyone worldwide. He shares the city with his dog, some wild animals that have ventured back from the countryside, and zombies, which are infected humans who didn't die but lost their sanity and are frenzied killers. Luckily, they cannot come out during the day, and hide in the dark, so Neville is free to roam the city.

A series of flashbacks fills in the story for us on how the disaster happened, as Neville tries to find a cure and only just manages to retain his sanity in the empty city.

The film looks very good, obviously far surpassing the 1970's version with Charlton Heston called "The Omega Man". In the main it stays true to that story, and to the novel on which it is based, though
I was a little disappointed with the ending. This doesn't stop it being a very watchable and enjoyable film.

Posted by se71 at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2007

The Golden Compass

This is a review of the movie, not the book, though as my title isn't "Northern Lights", UK based people could probably work that one out. Unusually for me, I think the Americans were right to rename this for their market. The Golden Compass makes a lot more sense, and fits into the naming schema of the other two volumes (The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass).

There is a lot to commend this film. The effects are marvellous, with more CGI animals morphing from rats to birds or fighting each other than you can shake a stick at. And there are armoured fighting polar bears of course. The pace never lets up and the tension is high throughout so it never gets boring. The acting is on the whole very good, though Lyra's accent is all over the place, and Mrs Coulter whispers menacingly a bit too much for my liking. Nicole Kidman is perfect as Coulter though.

I won't reveal much of the story, except to say it's a fairly standard fantasy quest, but with some serious religious overtones that you can in fact choose to completely ignore, which the kids will do. A likable pre-teen girl (Lyra) travels to the frozen north to search for her friend, and other children who have gone missing, presumed kidnapped. This takes place in a parallel world to ours, which is similar in many ways, but subtly different. One main difference, is that everyone's soul lives outside their body in the form of an animal, called a daemon. These daemons are a marvellous creation, giving the story much of it's narrative, and the film a lot of its eye candy.

Fun for all the family.

Posted by se71 at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2007



As silly family Christmas films go, this is a rather good one. Will Ferrell (Buddy) is completely inoffensive as a human who accidently gets adopted by Elfs, and works in Santa's grotto at the North Pole. When he grows up, he finds out the truth that he is adopted, and heads off to New York to find his father.

Even though he isn't a very skilled Elf, in human terms his skills are prodigious such as throwing snowballs with complete accuracy, making christmas decorations out of anything. These get him out of, and into, a lot of scrapes. But it is his inexhaustable good cheer and enthuasism (perhaps caused by the mountains of sugary food he eats) that is infectious and makes this feel-good movie feel good

The supporting cast are all good, Zooey Deschanel as love interest pays it just right as a cynical girl won over by the Christmas spirit at the end. And the ending (spoiler alert) where Buddy saves Santa, and everyone sings carols, is not cloyingly sentimental, just really happy.

Add in some knockabout slapstick comedy, one of the funniest lines I've heard this year "He's an angry elf" and you've got a film with just about nothing wrong with it.

Posted by se71 at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise
Amazon link

This was highly recommended to me, and that would usually be enough. However, because I knew something of the plot, and know there is a recent sequel, Before Sunset this piqued my curiousity even more. So I watched this basically just so I can watch the sequel.

Julie Delpie and Ethan Hawke play Celine and Jesse, a young couple who meet on a train and decide to spend just one magical evening together in Vienna. Apart from a few very brief walk-on parts, theirs is the only dialog, as they talk about life and love whilst walking around the city by day and through the night until morning.

That's it - this is not a plot driven film, the only thing to wonder is will they or won't they consummate their relationship, and will they actually just split up in the end. I'm not giving either of those away.

It't very romantic, very slow, the actors are charming, even if their performances are a little amateur at times. I liked it, though I wouldn't rave about it, and I am a little disappointed that some strong language took it to a certificate 15, otherwise it could easily be a family film.

Looking forward to seeing what happens in the sequel though - it should be very interesting to see whether the acting is better, and to see how their lives turned out. And I hope Hawke has gotten rid of his ridiculous goatee beard.

Posted by se71 at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2007



I think I've mentioned before my aversion to watching The Farrelly brothers films. The always look so tastless from the previews. I'm not always averse to a bit of tastelessness, but seldom seek it out.

Feeling sore and tired from a long day that started with me falling off my bike, I settled down alone to watch TV and this film came on. I've just been bowling coincidentally, so a bowling film didn't seem like a bad idea.

This is a story of a promising young bowler Roy Munson (Harrelson), who naively gets betrayed by a more experienced professional Ernie McCracken (Murray) and loses his bowling hand in a revenge attack by some bowlers they hustled. Sounds amusing yet? Years later he is a seedy drunken salesman and comes across an Amish man Ishmael (Randy Quaid) who is a great bowler. He decides to teach this man to win, and they set off to Reno for a £1 million competition. On the road trip they hook up with gangster's moll Claudia (Vanessa Angel).

There is quite a bit of grossout humour, but it's all fairly censor friendly and only merits the movie getting a 12 rating. It really is very funny, like the running gag where Roy holds out his false hand to show people the prize bowling ring which he wears, and they misinterpret and say "It's a rubber hand". Hmm, honestly, it's funnier in the film. The Amish people are stereotypical cutouts - and of course they build a barn which is a movie certainty. Bill Muray is fantastic as the folically challenged Ernie - his bizarre comb-over hairstyle should get it's own billing in the credits.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The humour is good natured, the story surprisingly touching in many ways, and I was really quite surprised to like it quite so much.

Posted by se71 at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

The Karate Kid

I saw this movie when it first came out in 1984 - it's a great coming of age story about the underdog taking on a big challenge. I seemed to remember it was fairly family friendly, so when my kids started pestering me to see it (the "Wax On/Wax Off" motto is famous still!) I popped into the local HMV to see if I could pick up a copy on DVD. To my surprise it's rated a '15'. I wracked my brains, and still couldn't think why this might be, so bought it anyway. I needn't have worried. This film definitely needs a reclassification - I can only think of the one occurrence of a fairly mild swear word as a reason it might conceivably miss out on a PG rating.

Ralph Maccio plays New York teenager Daniel who is uprooted by his single mother to California. As he tries to make friends, he falls for a girl called Ali (a very early role for Elizabeth Shue). She is an ex-girlfriend of the leader of a group of kids who attend the local karate school. This guy doesn't like Daniel muscling in on his girl, and soon Daniel is bullied, beaten up, and depressed with his new life.

In steps Mr Miyagi, the caretaker of his apartment block. Miyagi, played by the late Pat Morita in a career defining performance, turns out to be a karate expert. He says he will teach Daniel how to beat the bullies in a karate competition. His unorthodox tutoring methods are priceless and the centerpiece of the film.

This is classic '80s fodder, not to be missed. Did I mention it's pretty funny too.

Notes: Checking on IMDB I find that in 2005 this film was reclassified as a 12 in the UK. This is still too much.

I also see that Ralph Macchio was born in 1961 - this makes him probably aged 22 when the movie was shot - he definitely doesn't look that old.

Posted by se71 at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2006

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

This is a cold hearted thriller in the Hitchcock vein, Highsmith also penned "Strangers on a Train". It has a few twists that shouldn't be given away before reading, as Ripley's talents gradually get uncovered. It starts with a tense scene that reveals Ripley as a petty crook, a bit of a loser, in 1950s America. He is made an offer to go to Europe to try and persuade a young man called Dickie Greenleaf to come back to New York to visit his family. Dickie's father pays Ripley's passage and expenses.

Ripley finds Greenleaf, and insinuates himself into his life. He loves the lifestyle, the easy going Italian riviera; the trips to Rome and other towns; drinking wine and not worrying about money. He decides that this is the life for him, and that he will do anything to keep it.

The whole story is told through Ripleys point of view. We know how he thinks, what he feels, and we empathise with him. He has had a hard life, and wants better things. Then as events turn nasty, and we see his sociopathic side, we find it harder to like him, and yet still somehow hope he succeeds. It's very skillfully written, and the tension is unbearable at times.

Very highly recommended.

I saw the film of this a few years ago, and never really believed in Matt Damon in the part of Tom Ripley. Now I've read the book and have gotten a much better feel for the character, and I'm a bit more happy that he actually did quite a good job. Jude Law as Dickie is excellent, completely perfect as the rather lazy playboy.

Posted by se71 at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006

The Sixth Sense

Writing a review of a film you've seen at least three times is actually more difficult than you'd think. Writing any review of this film is difficult anyway due to the chances of spoiling the story. So I'm going to skip most of the plot and stick to other things I can tell you about.

Bruce Willis gives a very measured performance as a child psychologist. He is very understated, and always believable. Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment on the other hand get to act their hearts out, crying and screaming and being totally convincing as a single parent family that is falling apart.

This is a ghost story, and is chilling and scary in places. The music and cinematography are skillfully handled to create shocks in the right places.

The director Shyamalan kick-started his career here with what is still his best film, and one you'll want to watch again and again.

Posted by se71 at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

Just Like Heaven

Reese Witherspoon is a very versatile and talented actress, and I really think it's time she stopped making films like this. This is a slightly above average romantic comedy, with only two, or maybe three real laughs. It will mostly be enjoyed by teenagers and younger children, who, of course, it is aimed at anyway.

Witherspoon plays a hard working doctor at a hospital. She has an accident, and turns up a few months later as a ghost in her own apartment. A man is living there now, and he is the only person who can see and hear her. Due to temporary memory loss, Witherspoon doesn't know who she is, and so they set out together to try and find out.

Of course, they fall in love.

It's likable enough, but too short on the comedy.

Posted by se71 at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2006

School Of Rock

Jack Black has had the role of his life written for him in this feel good movie. In fact, you almost feel he isn't acting at all, and that everything he says and does is really just him. Perhaps that's the power of a good actor, but knowing that Black is in a rock band, and has made music very much like the character here, makes me hesitate to praise him too much.

One of the major movie templates is the one where an unconventional coach takes an underdog and trains them to be a winner. This is such a movie. Failed musucian Black gets kicked out of his rock band. To pay the rent he tricks his way into a job as a substitute teacher for uptight ten year old kids at a posh private school. He realises they can play music, and he needs a new band to help him win a big rock contest. And so 'School Of Rock' is born, as Black secretly educates the kids in the ways of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Rush and other great rock acts. We know they will get to the competition, we know they will be great, we know Black will get caught.

But knowing the plot and probable ending of a film doesn't mean it can't be a fun journey. And this is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. It's a virtuoso performance from Black, who is in practically every scene giving us every ounce of his enthuasism for ROCK MUSIC! And they managed to make it a PG certificate too, so that the whole family can watch. It's also of course really very funny.

Posted by se71 at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2006


This is really a pretty terrible film. It is glossy, and has the big star names of Julianne Moore and David Duchovny, and the pace doesn't falter. This might lead you to think you've had an enjoyable experience, but really, when you think about it, you've just wasted your time on rubbish.

It's main problem is that it is trying to be an alien disaster movie, and also trying to be a goofy comedy. In some rare cases, this actually works, think of Mars Attacks, and The Fifth Element. But here, both styles sabotage each other.

The story is actually pretty good. It's about a discovery of a meteor which contains an alien life form that starts evolving very quickly. From single celled organisms, it reaches much larger creatures in a matter of days. Duchovny is a scientist who makes the discovery, but the military take over, and he has to struggle to remain involved, and eventually to try and stop the destruction of the human race. It's predictable hokum, and if handled properly it could have been a big hit. Think Independence Day.

But when Duchovny is turned away from the meteor by the military, what does he do? He moons them from his car. When his partner is breaking back in disguised in a biohazard suit, what does he do? He breakdances in the elevator giving them away as imposters. This stupidity, and the way Julianne Moore's scientist is always tripping and falling over, just isn't funny, and spoils what could be an interesting story.

If you want to make a goofy comedy, then put some actual good jokes in there, or some proper slapstick situation, not this halfhearted imitation of it. If you want to make a thriller that's also amusing, then make your characters real, and make funny things happen around them, and to them. Don't make them dopey idiots too.

I was really disappointed, as I wanted to like this film. I liked the creatures I guess, but that's about it.

Posted by se71 at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Sin City

This is primarily a review of the movie, though some references to the graphic novels is inevitable. Why? Well, becasue they are practically identical. Never before has a live action film crossed over from the printed page with such complete accuracy. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that if you've seen/read one of them, you can honestly claim to have read/seen the other too. My previous short review of "The Hard Goodbye" is here.

This movie is based on three separate graphic novels, with short, interconnected introduction and conclusion sections. Unfortunately the lack of continuity shows. There is an attempt to get all the characters together near the end, to make it look like one story, but it doesn't really fool anyone. And one of the stories starts and ends the film - well, actually, it sort of goes A B C D B A. (B - That Yellow Bastard, C - The Hard Goodbye, D - The Big Fat Kill, A - bookend sections). I guess as director I'd have done the same thing, rather than just show the stories consecutively.

However everything does take place in one city, Sin City, where the laws of physics don't seem to work the same way. People can survive falling from tall buildings, and live through appalling gunshot wounds, and even biology is different, with one character turning a luminous yellow after drug treatments. Each of the stories has a main hard man, nothing stops him getting justice, that is, his personal brand of justice. He doesn't mind a bit of maiming, torture and killing, to get revenge. Each of the stories has a tough woman too, though not so tough she doesn't need rescuing by the hard man. Oh, and she is always very attractive, and quite often wears very little or no clothing.

So we are safely in 18 certificate territory. You have been warned.

What we get are detective stories in the Philip Marlow vein, but with a lot more oomph to appeal to a jaded generation that has seen it all and can take it. Bruce Willis is a cop nearing retirement who saves a young girl from a violent rapist, but gets sent to prison becasuse the man he catches is actually the son of the corrupt governer. Mickey Rourke is an ugly man with mental problems, and he scours the city trying to avenge the murder of a prostitute who was kind to him. Finally, Clive Owen is the third tough guy, protecting a group of prostitutes from the corrupt police force. Owen doesn't quite have the meanness of the other two, he doesn't quite convince us that he could take the punishment Willis and Rourke take and keep going, but he comes very close.

The women, as secondary characters, are all the whore with a heart of gold type. They trust their man to help them, but are tough when needed. The film has been branded as sexist, as the women all appeal to male fantasies and need protection from the men. To a large extent this is true, but it's not the whole story. Jessica Alba plays a smart, tough woman, who is self reliant and resourceful. Carla Gugino as Rourke's parole officer only really has one flaw, she believes that the cops are the good guys.

I loved this film - it's fast and furious, violent but darkly funny. It has a magnificent 'look', black and white computer generated backgrounds, with only some bright splashes of colour, maybe in someone's eyes, or their red lipstick. It's not for the faint-hearted, but if you like this kind of thing, then it's one for the DVD collection, as you can easily enjoy it again and again.

Posted by se71 at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2002

Snow Falling On Cedars

Courtroom Drama in US postwar American/Japanese community

Ethan Hawke plays a newspaperman in small town America just after WW2. The town has a large Japanese community, and we discover that before the war he had had a japanese girl as his first love. The war broke them up, and afterwards she married a Japanese man. Hawke is still obsessively in love with her, and when her husband is accused of murder his detective work uncovers information that could save him. At the eleventh hour, Hawke does finally divulge the information, earning the girls gratitude, and perhaps releasing his demons.

So this is a story about lost love, but there are two other main plot themes. It's also a story about prejudice, and a murder mystery. When Japan entered the Second World War by bombing Pearl Harbour, all Japanese people living in the US came under suspicion. Many thousands were relocated to concentration camps, but some Japanese men entisted in the army and fought on the side of the Allies. Even before the war Japanese people were not allowed to own land, and this is what initiates the murder case. The japanese man tries to buy some land that had been promised to his father but taken back and sold to someone else for a higher price when he was sent to a camp during the war. He feels betrayed, and when one night the land owner is drowned in his own fishing net with his head bashed in, the japanese is suspected of the murder. As he had been at the scene and left incriminating evidence there, things don't look too good for him. The community are still suspicious of Japanese people, and so in their prejudice want him to be guilty. Hawkes information reveals that it was just a tragic accident all along

It's a very slow, atmospheric film, told mostly in flashback. Like the book on which it is closely based, this is a lot more about feelings than story, but this isn't a bad thing. That's not to say the story isn't good, it unravels organically up to the satisfying climax. The scenery is fantastic, and the music, though slightly overpowering in places, blends in well.


Posted by se71 at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)