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Showing posts from August, 2012

The past is a construct of the mind.

Total Recall (2012) I wanted to like this, partly because I don't think Paul Verhoeven's 1990 film is some kind of untouchable masterpiece (it's got Arnie in it for a start, and the whole thing feels like it was shot on sets) and partly because there's enough material in the premise that it could stand a few different takes on the Dickmeister. But director Len Wiseman   and writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback do nothing interesting with this remake. What they do change is frequently so daffy you can only conclude that you're supposed to think that Quaid's dream at the beginning is real and[i] everything[/i] else is a dream. This, despite the ploddingly literal approach screaming (or dully echoing) otherwise. So we have the Earth divided (chemical warfare miraculously resulted in two English-speaking land masses surviving!) into two territories, United Federation of Britain and the poor, blue-collar Colony (Australia...). Workers from th

Do you know what a sin eater is? We take the sin and bury it down deep so the rest of the world can live pure.

The Bourne Legacy (2012) This might be a case of going in to the cinema with low expectations and having them exceeded, but I enjoyed this cash-grab attempt to continue the Bourne brand far more than I expected. Mainly because it's not obsessed with being an identikit copy of its predecessors. Indeed, the film is at its least interesting when the extended vehicular chase climax kicks in and the shaky cam takes over. I don't know what the reaction to the first hour of this has been generally, but I doubt that anyone expecting a wall-to-wall thrill ride will be happy. Since what we get is mostly talk. But engaging talk, delivered by strong actors and used to create a dramatically involving scenario. I’m not sure it was really necessary to include the tricksiness of paralleling the plot to the events of Ultimatum (particularly as that film had it’s own tricksy timeline in respect of Supermeacy) but I appreciated the old-school spy movie vein running through it. If Dupl

Ah, but you're not a psycho.

Dressed to Kill (1980) We follow ostensibly the lead female character, who embarks on an activity that she has moral qualms over. But the first act ends with her murdered by person unknown, apparently a woman. An associate of the woman is in contact with her, aware of her crime. It falls to a relative of the female character to investigate her death, leading to a dramatic revelation of the murderer’s true identity. In the denouement, a rather cod-psychology explanation of the murderer’s motives is offered up.

We’ve done it! We’ve done it! I’ve done it!

Blake's 7 2.5: Pressure Point An apt title for this episode, with Blake overreaching himself and Gan snuffing it after getting all comforting/creepy over Janet from Terror of the Vervoids . It’s a bit of a mixed bag, some very strong elements confounded by a couple of really clumsy ones.

I'm very sorry, but under certain conditions I can't resist the temptation to be a cad.

George Sanders is The Saint The Saint Strikes Back (1939) A convoluted plot for RKO's second outing for Simon Templar, and quite stagey with it (news bulletins announce the Saint's involvement in a New Year's Eve party shooting, so presumably the world knows who he is). Templar takes on the case of a woman, Valerie, whose policeman father was framed. She has resorted to stirring up trouble for the police department as a result by establishing a criminal gang. Yeah, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, but Wendy Barrie makes a fairly convincing tough-as-nails dame. Despite the difficulty in following who's doing what and why, the true mastermind behind the frame-up is quite obvious. What makes this fun despite its narrative failings is George Sanders. He's phenomenal. Smooth, debonair, witty; he's the smartest man in the room and never misses an opportunity to condescend. This was Sanders' first outing as the Saint (Lo

Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) It's a slightly depressing realisation that the Return of the Jedi special edition has been the "definitive" version of that film now for longer than the 1983 original. A whole generation has no knowledge of the actually rather good original tunes in that film, only the dreadful CGI performance piece in Jabba's palace and the sick-making uplifting tune at the end.  A New Hope 's additions remain intrusive but my reaction to them is more "Well, that was unnecessary" than being actively aggrieved. In part that's a result of obvious CGI characters (that haven't been noticeably updated since '97) not fitting at all with the most tangible environment of the series. As has been stressed by those involved in making the film, Lucas wanted a "used future" where everything is no longer shiny and new; it's falling apart and a bit grubby. The CGI additions, except where it involves spac

I am not expendable. I am not stupid. And I am not going.

Blake's 7 2.4: Horizon It couldn’t last. After a couple of innovative episodes, Allan Prior’s debut script falls back on tired material as its premise; oppressed natives and unsubtle parallels to colonial rule.

You really have got a lid on it, haven't you? What's your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?

Ave ngers Assemble   (2012)  Joss Whedon deserves enormous credit for managing to make this consistently engaging, rousing and entertaining. It's probably the best showcase Downey Jr's had as Stark/Iron Man, despite two solo vehicles. Likewise the Hulk, who finally becomes a character rather than a special effect no one is quite sure what to do with. And the chemistry between Mark Ruffalo (underplaying superbly as only he can) and Downey Jr is the highlight of the film (Hulk also gets by far the biggest laugh, and I'm sure that wasn't isolated to the screening I attended).  I did feel that Whedon's witty quipping sometimes wasn't the best fit with the actors he inherited, though (but sometimes it's simply a case of too much undiluted Whedon-speak, serving the writer rather than the character). Joss has a high hit ratio, but sometimes the forced antagonism and the mined reflective moments felt like they were being crowbarred due to the

A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.

Planet of the Apes (1968)  Still a wonderful piece of work. I'd forgotten what a bastard Chuck Heston's character is, winding up his colleagues right off the bat and brushing aside the space-side death of one of them.  The location work is eerily effective, and it's the touches of environment (gorillas on horseback) that affirm the illusion of reality. The ape make-up stands the test of time very well (it's at times less so in the sequels) and it’s downright disrespectful to suggest it's not much cop (as has been by the Rise of the Apes ’ "CGI apes are the best" buffoons). Studio boss Richard Zanuck’s crumpet Linda Harrison is rather pert. *****

Reviews Archive - E

FEATURING: Eastern Promises Easy A Edge of Darkness (2010) 8 1/2 Elizabeth: The Golden Age Enchanted The Expendables Eastern Promises (2007)  Cronenberg's back on the form he was in during the late '80s. He may have switched to the thriller genre, but his visceral obsessions are intact, and I love that he's still making economical films when everyone else seems to think you have to make a movie that's two hours plus if it's going to bear the mark of quality. Viggo Mortensen gives a tremendous performance and the bathhouse scene is rivetingly nasty. **** Easy A    (2010)  First tier teen comedy in which Emma Stone gains a (false) reputation as the school bike. The performances and dialogue are wonderful, and if it never reaches Heathers -levels of satire, this is still a rare high school flick that’s brimming with smarts. Particularly striking are the characterisations of the adults; Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as