Skip to main content

Archive - M



FEATURING:

Man on Wire
The Matrix
A Matter of Life and Death
Max Payne
McCabe and Mrs Miller
Megamind
Mimic
Mission: Impossible
M:I-2
M:I-3
Modesty Blaise
Mr Brooks
Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
The Mummy: The Curse of the Dragon Emperor
Murder by Decree
The Mutant Chronicles

Man on Wire
(2008)

Reviews would have you believe this is the bestest documentary evah. It's not, and the theatricality of it is, in places, quite irritating. But the story can’t help but be fascinating and compelling (although I wanted more about these people, both in terms of who they were before and who they are since) while Michael Nyman's score does the piece enormous favours in terms of polish.

****

The Matrix
(1999)

Undiminished by the shortfall in quality of the sequels, what stands out here is how precise and of-a-piece everything is. The FX work, in particular, is stylised so as to make you more involved in the action, not remove you from it.

*****

A Matter of Life and Death
(1946)

Powell and Pressburger perfection. David Niven is the lead, but Roger Livesey and Marius Goring manage to steal the show. It's a while since I last saw this, but I'd forgotten how confidently it plays with the ambiguity of its premise (the is it/isn't it a fantasy).

*****

Max Payne
(2008)

Crappy computer game adaptation has somnambulant Mark Wahlberg investigating his wife's death, which seems to have drug connections. The cityscapes are like every other CGI-enhanced movie but nothing aside from a Matrix-style slow motion shoot-out in in a lobby sticks in the mind.


*

McCabe and Mrs Miller
(1971)

Altman's anti-Western. His indifference to plot is up there for all to see, but it's also what makes his genre dabblings the most interesting of his films. Beatty's McCabe ends up in hot water because he's isn't really that smart, and Vilmos Zsigmond's photography is stunning.

****

Megamind
(2010)

Not especially hilarious but decently plotted Dreamworks ‘toon. There's not a lot new for anyone familiar with Austin Powers and The Incredibles, but it's far superior to Despicable Me.

***

Mimic
(1997)

This looks great, and Rob Bottin's creatures are superb. But the storyline is very-run-of-the-mill, only enlivened by F Murray Abraham's cameo (an actor who should never have slipped from view) and a few surviving Guillermo Del Toro signatures, mainly because those Weinsteins screwed him over (as they inevitably do everyone, Tarantino aside).

**1/2


Mission: Impossible
(1996)

 De Palma the gives the first film some dazzling flourishes that at times make it an unlikely blockbuster. The script is appropriately convoluted and the whole only really falls down when Cruise does the Cruise charming cheese act.

****

M:I-2

The second is something of a train wreck (like most of John Woo's Hollywood sojourn); there are a couple of neat identity tricks but it's overblown and incoherent.

**

M:I-3

The third is the best of the trio. Abrams is no stylist but he knows how to put together something that's visually coherent and the script piles on the tension. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful. There should have been more Maggie Q, though.

****

Modesty Blaise
(1966)

Joseph Losey wasn't a very good fit for this, as he fumbles the requisite humour, breezy charm and quirkiness. The result is all rather heavy-handed and strained. 

Monica Vitti's okay but nothing special in the lead, while Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde play up their cockney and aristo roles respectively. The only person who completely seems to nail the tone is Clive Revill, who steals every scene he's in as McWhirter. He also dons a fake nose to play a Sheik, however.

**

Mr Brooks
(2007)

A pleasant surprise; okay, the premise is hokey, but William Hurt and Kevin Costner turn in such strong performances as the serial killer and his "conscience" you end up forgiving it a multitude of sins, not least Demi Moore's redundant sub-plot as a millionaire cop. Hurt seems to be in every other film of late, and that's fine by me; he's one of the most entertaining actors around.

***1/2


Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
(2007)

Extremely saccharine, and Hoffman's OTT affected performance is irritating rather than charming. But Natalie Portman is gorgeous, the kid manages to essay what should be a really annoying role adequately and Jason Bateman steals the film, somehow making the proceedings feel sincere and heartfelt - when so much else on display screams cynical manipulation.

**1/2

The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor
(2008)

It's not horrible the way the second one was, but it's utterly inert dramatically and a labour to get through. In it's favour, the cinematography and integration of effects is generally vastly superior to that of Indy 4.

*1/2


Murder By Decree
(1978)

Holmes and Watson chase Jack the Ripper Redux. This is far less Holmesian and far more Ripper conspiracy than A Study in Terror, and while it's always entertaining Bob Clark directs in a rather TV-movieish fashion. 

Great cast, especially Mason as Watson. Plummer's Holmes is very likeable, but he's hampered by a fancy dress party Holmes outfit, wearing his deerstalker everywhere and sporting a rather non-period coiffeur.

***1/2


The Mutant Chronicles
(2008)
Zero budget dreck with a great B/C-list cast including Ron Perlman, Thomas Jane and John Malkovich. Sean Pertwee features and goes the way Sean Pertwee goes in all features. I'd like to be charitable and say that the director has a certain flair, but I'd have to qualify it by saying that he must also be a moron to try something like this with no funds.


*

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

There are times when I miss the darkness. It is hard to live always in the light.

Blake's 7 4.12: Warlord

The penultimate episode, and Chris Boucher seems to have suddenly remembered that the original premise for the series was a crew of rebels fighting against a totalitarian regime. The detour from this, or at least the haphazard servicing of it, during seasons Three and Four has brought many of my favourite moments in the series. So it comes as a bit of a jolt to suddenly find Avon making Blake-like advances towards the leaders of planets to unite in opposition against the Federation. 

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I had that Christopher Marlowe in my boat once.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
(SPOILERS) You see? Sometimes Oscar can get it right. Not that the backlash post-announcement would have you crediting any such. No, Saving Private Ryan had the rug unscrupulously pulled from under it by Harvey Weinstein essentially buying Shakespeare in Love’s Best Picture through a lavish promotional campaign. So unfair! It is, of course, nothing of the sort. If the rest of Private Ryan were of the same quality as its opening sequence, the Spielberg camp might have had a reasonable beef, but Shakespeare in Love was simply in another league, quality wise, first and foremost thanks to a screenplay that sang like no other in recent memory. And secondly thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, so good and pure, before she showered us with goop.

The Statue of Liberty is kaput.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
(SPOILERS) William Goldman said of Saving Private Ryan, referencing the film’s titular objective in Which Lie Did I Tell? that it “becomes, once he is found, a disgrace”. “Hollywood horseshit” he emphasised, lest you were in doubt as to his feelings. While I had my misgivings about the picture on first viewing, I was mostly, as many were, impacted by its visceral prowess (which is really what it is, brandishing it like only a director who’s just seen Starship Troopers but took away none of its intent could). So I thought, yeah Goldman’s onto something here, if possibly slightly exaggerating for effect. But no, he’s actually spot-on. If Saving Private Ryan had been a twenty-minute short, it would rightly muster all due praise for its war-porn aesthetic, but unfortunately there’s a phoney, sentimental, hokey tale attached to that opening, replete with clichéd characters, horribly earnest, honorific music and “exciting!” action to engage your interest. There are…

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

I’m the spoiled toff who lives in the manor.

Robin Hood (2018)
(SPOILERS) Good grief. I took the disdain that greeted Otto Bathurst’s big screen debut with a pinch of salt, on the basis that Guy Ritchie’s similarly-inclined lads-in-duds retelling of King Arthur was also lambasted, and that one turned out to be pretty good fun for the most part. But a passing resemblance is as close as these two would-be franchises get (that, and both singularly failed to start their respective franchises). Robin Hood could, but it definitely didn’t.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

Have you always lived here, Mother?

I Am Mother (2019)
(SPOILERS) This Netflix science-fiction offering arrived with very solid reviews, always a surprise for a Netflix movie, even one they picked up at Sundance. For about two-thirds of the running time, I Am Mother seems to justify the (modest) raves. It boasts assured direction from Grant Sputore (making his feature debut), polished production values and strong performances from a very small cast (basically Hilary Swank and Clare Rugaard, with Luke Hawker in a Weta robot body suit and Rose Byrne providing the voice). It operates intriguing turns of plot and switches in sympathies. Ultimately, however, I Am Mother heads towards a faintly underwhelming and unremarkable, standard-issue conclusion.

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…