Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2012

Reviews Archive - B

FEATURING:
The Bank Job Batman Begins Battle: Los Angeles The Battle of the River Plate Bee Movie Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Be Kind Rewind Black Dynamite Black Narcissus The Black Sheep of Whitehall Black Swan Blood Diamond Blue Valentine Bridge to Terebithia A Bug's Life
The Bank Job (2008)
There's some rather lacklustre dialogue and acting on display here, but the plot holds the interested. I knew nothing about the robbery it's based on, but the murky machinations involved made me think that a much better film could have been made based on this story (Clement & Le Frenais wrote the screenplay).
***1/2
Batman Begins (2005)
An uninspired storyline isn't helped by Neeson's somnambulant turn, nor Katie Holmes’ miscasting. Nevertheless, the film ends up in the positive due to some strong individual elements. 

Bale is outstanding as Batman and adequate as Wayne, while Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine merit the other performance honours. Nolan really seems to kick into gear …

He shall recognise deliverance and speak its name.

Blake's 7 1.12: Deliverance

Deliverance sets the groundwork for the season finale, and the main plotline is likably quirky if unremarkable. We start off thinking the story will be Servalan-centric with her up to no good in the Federation Space Command wheel (the Spacemaster ship she remotely detonates a charge on is an admirable effort, but a not-so-successful piece of effects work). This episode is a veritable feast for fans of Nation’s space prefixes. Servalan cancels her meeting with the “Space Administrators”.

I came here to take President Sarkoff back to his people.

Blake's 7 1.11: Bounty

It was inevitable that the series would trot out a retro-planet budget-saver at some point, and it’s a shame that it comes attached to a story as unimaginative as this one. Blake and Cally teleport down to a Federation planet with the intention of returning the exiled President Sarkoff (T.P. McKenna, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) to his people on Lindor.

They are destroying the greatest force of order in the known universe.

Blake's 7 1.10: Breakdown

So, a Gan-centric episode. Just what everyone has been waiting for! I’m rather grateful that Nation’s original premise for this never came to pass (an alien duplicate of Gan fights the mental giant, trying to take over the Liberator) as two roles for David Jackson is more than any episode could bear.

A good body with a dull brain is as cheap as life itself.

Spartacus (1960)
Kubrick as gun-for-hire, and unfortunately his lack of control over the script shows. This was Kirk Douglas’ baby, and he brought in Stanley after firing Anthony Mann a week into the shoot (apparently the salt mine sequence is the only section of the film where Mann called the shots). Douglas was displeased that he didn’t get win the lead in Ben Hur (an all-round better film than this, even if it is filled with the same kind of simplistic moralising that Kubrick so disliked here) and originated Spartacus as an “I’ll show you” response.

I think they wanted us to escape.

Blake's 7 1.9: Project Avalon

As far as polished-looking episodes go, this is one of the first season’s shinier baubles. Michael E Briant, back in Wooky Hole following Revenge of the Cybermen, makes the most of his locations and gives us a few convincing snowy exteriors. The script isn’t quite up to what he brings to the table however, despite a few half-decent twists along the way. Blake’s mission this week if he’s prepared to accept it Jim is to make contact with and evacuate resistance leader Avalon from a planet (I must have missed the name.) But, of course, Travis gets there first and sets his own trap for Blake.

Reviews Archive - A

FEATURING:
The Adventures of Gerard All About Eve The American The Anderson Tapes Angels & Demons Apocalypse Now Appaloosa Ask a Policeman The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Adventures of Gerard (1970)
Polish director Jerzy Skolomowski seems like a strange fit for adapting Conan Doyle's vain but likeable French Colonel to the screen. It's a very peculiar film, beautifully shot but with a cartoonish eye; like someone's seen Tony Richardson's Tom Jones or a couple of Richard Lester films and then decided to follow suite, but with the style of an art movie. 

Peter McEnery is magnificent as Gerard, and his exaggerated mannerisms and fourth wall breaking fit perfectly with the visual tone. Also turning up is Jack Hawkins as a mad English renegade and John Neville as Wellington (Eli Wallach is Napoleon). There's a fair bit of bad dubbing, as befits a Napoleonic spaghetti western, and a gorgeous score by Riz Ortolani (I'd love to get hold of it, but…

We are ready, the warriors can be released.

Blake's 7 1.8: Duel

This seems to be one of the most renowned season one episodes, although I’m not sure how much of that is to do with its similarity to Star Trek’s Arena and how much is due to the series doing a miniature action movie, courtesy of old hand Douglas Camfield. It’s undeniably well-directed, although the premise and content is fairly slender. Perhaps surprisingly, the most meat on its bones is found with Travis’ interaction with his Mutoid subordinate (although we have already seen a previous episode, Seek-Locate-Destroy, where the best bits were all Federation).

I don't like an unsolved mystery.

Blake's 7 1.7: Mission to Destiny

An exercise in format-testing/stretching, Mission to Destiny ditches Blake’s beef with the Federation for a week and replaces it with a good old-fashioned murder mystery. One in which Avon gets to call the shots. For the most part the proceedings are handled reliably if unshowily by Pennant Roberts. Although, he seems to have taken an arbitrary approach to shooting some scenes on film and others on video. If the mystery itself is a fairly standard set-up, it succeeds by revelling in the trappings rather than paying lip service to them.

That Freud stuff’s a bunch of hooey.

Spellbound (1945)
Spellbound is something of a stumbling follow-up to Rebecca, producer David O Selznick’s previous collaboration with Hitchcock. Selznick was a devotee of psychoanalysis, and the idea of basing a film on the subject was already in the mind of the director. To that end, the producer’s own therapist, May Romm, was brought in as a technical advisor (resulting in Hitchcock’s famous response when she pointed out an inaccuracy, “My dear, it’s only a movie”).

Run, Blake. Run.

Blake's 7 1.6: Seek-Locate-Destroy

There’s a considerable amount of talk in this episode, partly due to the introduction of two new regular characters and partly due to the amount of exposition focusing on Blake’s background and the mechanics of the Federation. Fortunately, it’s almost all interesting and certainly all of it is delivered by commanding performers.

Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?

Rebecca  (1940)
(There are spoilers in this review, so you may wish to avoid it if you have not seen the film.)
Hitchcock's first Hollywood foray wasn't an altogether happy experience, with the director prevented from exercising his accustomed autonomy by authorially-minded producer David O Selznick. The finished film bears few signs of those problems (some ill-fitting synching of dialogue is a telltale of Selznick’s late-hour rewrites), but displays all the added polish that studio dollars could bring. (Not that funds were running freely from a tap; Selznick International Pictures had a distribution deal with United Artists, but had seriously over-stretched itself funding Gone with the Wind, released the year before.) The final film is possibly more loved by fans of classical Hollywood cinema than Hitchcock devotees, but it remains a compelling piece of work. The great director is somewhat constricted by his producer’s desire to adhere closely to the source material but emerges …

They must come to us.

Blake's 7 1.5: The Web

My understanding is that The Web has never had such a great reputation. Certainly, its effectiveness is hampered by elements of make-up/design that don’t quite work (the Decimas, Saymon). Balancing that we have Michael E Briant pulling out all the stops to direct an atmospheric and inventively shot episode. His work highlights that while Pennant Roberts and Vere Lorrimer have been competent thus far, that’s all they have been.

May you die alone and silent.

Blake's 7 1.4: Time Squad

Oh dear, unfortunate that we kick off with a cut-out animated Liberator against a starry backdrop. Captain Zep would approve. I don’t know why they couldn’t just keep reusing the same model shot.

In a moment World War III... but first a word from our sponsor.

Wrong is Right aka The Man With the Deadly Lens
(1982)
For two of the last three decades, Richard Brooks’ media satire Wrong is Right was mostly forgotten. Then, in the wake of 9/11 and the wave of fear that followed, very gradually, a re-discovery began. Perhaps not on the level of a genuine cult following (although, hit and miss in tone and ramshackle in production, it is ideal fare for such protective endorsements) but certainly sufficient that multiple and audible gasps of amazement have been uttered at its  prescience and topicality. The extent of one’s cynicism over the West’s current decade-long foray(s) into the Middle East, and the ways and means whereby we ended up there (including the much ridiculed – by our mainstream media – conspiracy end of the spectrum), may colour just how “on the nose” one considers the film to be. But it would take an extremely blasé viewer not to reach a point where their jaw occasionally drops in recognition of how accurate aspects of it have proved.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012)
Post-Gladiator, Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

What do you want to be? Rich or dead?

Blake's 7 1.3: Cygnus Alpha

Well, the quality couldn’t last. Vere Lorrimer does a solid job directing this one, and the night shooting adds atmosphere in spades. Unfortunately the religious cult on a prison planet just isn’t that interesting (notably, big Brian Blessed was about the only well-known British thesp who wasn’t cast in the similarly themed Alien 3).