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

Lieutenant, you run this station like chicken night in Turkey.

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) (SPOILERS) You can’t read a review of Assault on Precinct 13 with stumbling over references to its indebtedness – mostly to Howard Hawks – and that was a preface for me when I first caught it on Season Three of BBC2’s Moviedrome (I later picked up the 4Front VHS). In Precinct 13 ’s case, it can feel almost like an attempt to undercut it, to suggest it isn’t quite that original, actually, because: look. On the other hand, John Carpenter was entirely upfront about his influences (not least Hawks), and that he originally envisaged it as an outright siege western (rather than an, you know, urban one). There are times when influences can truly bog a movie down, if it doesn’t have enough going for it in its own right. That’s never the case with Assault on Precinct 13 . Halloween may have sparked Carpenter’s fame and maximised his opportunities, but it’s this picture that really evidences his style, his potential and his masterful facility with music.

The wolves are running. Perhaps you would do something to stop their bite?

The Box of Delights (1984) If you were at a formative age when it was first broadcast, a festive viewing of The Box of Delights  may well have become an annual ritual. The BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel is perhaps the ultimate cosy yuletide treat. On a TV screen, at any rate. To an extent, this is exactly the kind of unashamedly middle class-orientated bread-and-butter period production the corporation now thinks twice about; ever so posh kids having jolly adventures in a nostalgic netherworld of Interwar Britannia. Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. There is something genuinely evocative about Box ’s mythic landscape, a place where dream and reality and time and place are unfixed and where Christmas is guaranteed a blanket of thick snow. Key to this is the atmosphere instilled by director Renny Rye. Most BBC fantasy fare doe not age well but The Box of Delights is blessed with a sinister-yet-familiar charm, such that even the creakier production decisi

White nights getting to you?

Insomnia (2002) (SPOILERS) I’ve never been mad keen on Insomnia . It’s well made, well-acted, the screenplay is solid and it fits in neatly with Christopher Nolan’s abiding thematic interests, but it’s… There’s something entirely adequateabout it. It isn’t pushing any kind of envelope. It’s happy to be the genre-bound crime study it is and nothing more, something emphasised by Pacino’s umpteenth turn as an under-pressure cop.

We got two honkies out there dressed like Hassidic diamond merchants.

The Blues Brothers (1980) (SPOILERS) I had limited awareness of John Belushi’s immense mythos before  The Blues Brothers arrived on retail video in the UK (so 1991?) My familiarity with SNL performers really began with Ghostbusters ’ release, which meant picking up the trail of Jake and Elwood was very much a retrospective deal. I knew Animal House , knew Belushi’s impact there, knew 1941 (the Jaws parody was the best bit), knew Wired was a biopic better avoided. But the minor renaissance he, and they, underwent in the UK in the early ’90s seemed to have been initiated by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, of all things; Everybody Needs Somebody was part of their That Sounds Good to Me medley, the first of their hits not to make No.1, and Everybody ’s subsequent single release then just missed the Top Ten. Perhaps it was this that hastened CIC/Universal to putting the comedy out on video. Had the movie done the rounds on UK TV in the 80s? If so, it managed to pass me by. Even bef

How do you melt somebody’s lug wrench?

Starman (1984) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s unlikely SF romance. Unlikely, because the director has done nothing before or since suggesting an affinity for the romantic fairy tale, and yet he proves surprisingly attuned to Starman ’s general vibes. As do his stars and Jack Nitzsche, furnishing the score in a rare non-showing from the director-composer. Indeed, if there’s a bum note here, it’s the fairly ho-hum screenplay; the lustre of Starman isn’t exactly that of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but it’s very nearly stitching together something special from resolutely average source material.

He must have eaten a whole rhino horn!

Fierce Creatures (1997) (SPOILERS) “ I wouldn’t have married Alyce Faye Eicheberger and I wouldn’t have made Fierce Creatures.” So said John Cleese , when industrial-sized, now-ex gourmand Michael Winner, of Winner’s Dinners , Death Wish II and You Must Be Joking! fame (one of those is a legitimate treasure, but only one) asked him what he would do differently if he could live his life again. One of the regrets identified in the response being Cleese’s one-time wife (one-time of two other one-time wives, with the present one mercifully, for John’s sake, ongoing) and the other being the much-anticipated Death Fish II , the sequel to monster hit A Fish Called Wanda. Wanda was a movie that proved all Cleese’s meticulous, focus-group-tested honing and analysis of comedy was justified. Fierce Creatures proved the reverse.

I dreamed about a guy in a dirty red and green sweater.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) (SPOILERS) I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street a little under a decade after its release, and I was distinctly underwhelmed five or so sequels and all the hype. Not that it didn’t have its moments, but there was an “It’ll do” quality that reflects most of the Wes Craven movies I’ve seen. Aside from the postmodern tease of A New Nightmare – like Last Action Hero , unfairly maligned – I’d never bothered with the rest of the series, in part because I’m just not that big a horror buff, but also because the rule that the first is usually the best in any series, irrespective of genre, tends to hold out more often than not. So now I’m finally getting round to them, and it seemed only fair to start by giving Freddy’s first another shot. My initial reaction holds true.

Maybe he had one too many peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches.

3000 Miles to Graceland (2001) (SPOILERS) The kind of movie that makes your average Tarantino knockoff look classy, 3000 Miles to Graceland is both aggressively unpleasant and acutely absent any virtues, either as a script or a stylistic exercise. The most baffling thing about it is how it attracted Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell, particularly since both ought to have been extra choosy at this point, having toplined expensive bombs in the previous half decade that made them significantly less bankable names. And if you’re wondering how this managed to cost the $62m reported on Wiki, it didn’t; Franchise Pictures, one of the backers, was in the business of fraudulently inflating budgets .

Ours is the richest banking house in Europe, and we’re still being kicked.

The House of Rothschild (1934) (SPOILERS) Fox’s Rothschild family propaganda pic does a pretty good job presenting the clan as poor, maligned, oppressed Jews who fought back in the only way available to them: making money, lots of lovely money! Indeed, it occurred to me watching The House of Rothschild , that for all its inclusion of a rotter of a Nazi stand-in (played by Boris Karloff), Hitler must have just loved the movie, as it’s essentially paying the family the compliment of being very very good at doing their very best to make money from everyone left, right and centre. It’s thus unsurprising to learn that a scene was used in the anti-Semitic (you might guess as much from the title) The Eternal Jew .

No, I ain’t a good man. I ain’t the worst either.

A Perfect World (1993) (SPOILERS) It’s easy to assume, retrospectively, that Clint’s career renaissance continued uninterrupted from Unforgiven to, pretty much, now, with his workhorse output ensuring he was never more than a movie away from another success. The nineties weren’t such a sure thing, though. Follow-up In the Line of Fire , a (by then) very rare actor-for-hire gig, made him seem like a new-found sexagenarian box office draw, having last mustered a dependably keen audience response as far back as 1986 and Heartbreak Ridge . But at home, at least, only The Bridges of Madison County – which he took over as director at a late stage, having already agreed to star – and the not-inexpensive Space Cowboys really scored before his real feted streak began with Mystic River. However, there was another movie in there that did strong business. Just not in the US: A Perfect World .