Saturday, November 25, 2006 


Wow, they pull Marie Antoinette and The Prestige after a week and Pan's Labryinth won't even be showing. I'm not holding out much hope for Requiem. God bless Showcase Cinemas. My irony device just exploded.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 

RIP Robert Altman.

You may have noticed that I've been neglecting my duties recently but I felt it necessary to pay tribute to the passing of a true Hollywood great: Robert Altman. Without question, cinema has lost one of its last auteurs and mavericks (he's one of the few actually worthy of that usually peurile title). I'm in no position to comment at length on his tremendous and varied and filmography; but he is survived by his third wife, five children and a daring legacy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006 

Review: Casino Royale

Ah, is it that time again? Have we all become a little wearisome of camp debauchery? Apparently so - and when film analysts come to examine our socio-economic mindsets long after we're all dead, I'm sure the glut of the Iraq conflict and post-9/11 lethargy will be determining factors as to why these nittier, grittier origin stories like Batman Begins and latterly Casino Royale proved financially viable. The times they are a changin'. In 1995 James Bond was "a relic of the Cold War"; now his ballsier, script-doctored boss bemoans a time when conflict was a little simpler than all of this. The audience feel the same way.

It's not that the numerous psychoanalyses inflicted upon our touchy-feely hero aren't welcome (that through line has been prevalent throughout the Bond series, no matter what they tell you) they're just a tad unbridled. The unceasing pseudo-playfulness of both Bond (Daniel Craig, beefy) and the austere Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, ravishing) quickly become nullified by the extinct want to sexy up a bland narrative only satisfying dual purpose: give that sexist, mysoginist dinosaur some emotion now and -hey!- we'd better not dedicate the second act of an action movie to a few rounds of Texas Hold 'Em.

That's not to belittle Casino Royale. There's much to like. A sprinkling of Euro stars and Jeffrey Wright are certainly preferable over a cross-dressing director, an invisible car, a moot Halle Berry and Madonna.


Sunday, November 12, 2006 

Mark Kermode introduces The Exorcist.

Well, Kermode's got more charismatic over the years and perhaps he's been just too outspoken about his Exorcist love for this to be anything but dated yet, despite the awful fake breath, it's always quite nice to hear the good Doc pipe up about something. James King can go to hell.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 

The barf bag please.

Director David Meyers on his purported remake of 1986 genre classic The Hitcher:

"Well just the, I mean my main approach to the original was solving some of the logic flaws it had. You know I think it was a very good film for what it was and if you really study it like I have, I've kind of pinpointed certain things that really bothered me in... just in the believability of it all."

Excuse me, "for what it was"? What The Hitcher was, and is, amounted to unhinged, surly, pulpish psychodrama with zero pretension and completely zany compulsion, provided mostly by Rutger Hauer's chilling precision. Trying to iron out "flaws" in logic is ill-judged and stupid. If we suddenly see John Ryder barraging down the highway looking for C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh with some fudged attempt at mock profundity (believe me there'll be one, he was probably abused as a child or something) then it will seep any thrill/horror out of the blind bizarro of the original. It works so effectively because we don't know why John Ryder does what he does. The film is in no way realistic, at least not dramatically, the mustard-keen resourcefulness of Ryder is merely means to extrapolate the inadequacies of our hero, and in turn strengthen his own validity. Origin stories don't gel for serial killers. The prequel to Texas Chain Saw Massacre is proof enough of that . Alas...

"Such as, why is Ryder trying to... What is Ryder's deal? Sort of embrace the idea that he's a looking to kind of end it all for himself and trying to choose the proper opponent."

This is all eloquently done in the original, which is barely twenty years old to begin with. Meyers is clearly brown-nosing with his villain. Come 2007, and by the end of this gratuity, the new Jim Halsley will not have learnt how to be a man, will not have changed in his ways, by being accused of mass murder and having his would-be girlfriend literally torn in two. He'll simply be relieved at having defeated his moustache-twirling adversary. And there'll be zip sexuality. I'd normally be reticent pooh-poohing a director just because his past was in music videos (Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry speak for themselves, but even Francis 'I'm a Slave 4 U' Lawrence used his obvious stylistic traits to exaggerate Constantine; and for the better) yet with Meyers reeling off ditties like these...

"It has the inspiration from the original but we've reblocked it so that it hopefully plays more believable and more intelligent as far as what you would really do and I'm hoping that that subtlety upgrades it from kind of a cold TV film to something that's actually an A level thriller."

... it doesn't hold much hope for his first feature film. Believability isn't a factor with The Hitcher. It's feeling. He hastily adds:

"But it's all theoretical at the moment."

You ain't kidding.

The whole gory affair can be read at your leisure here.

Monday, November 06, 2006 

My Filmspotting mention!!

Holy cow -- wasn't expecting this. I was little behind -ok, nearly a month- on my Filmspotting fixes but oh! to my surprise when my favourite hosts Adam & Van Sam read an email from "Samuel" (that's me) in response to their Departed review. Filmspotting's one of, if not the, best film podcasts out there - though wasn't it more fun when it was called Cinecast?- so I'm a little bit chuffed to hear my amateurish criticisms broadcast.

And yeah, it sounds dumb that "good entertainment doesn't have to make sense." but I'm sticking to my guns, guys! As I feverishly type on 6th November, I lament the fact this gushy blog could've been thrust upon my non-existent readership 25th October.

The link's here and feel free to gasp in awe at around the thirtieth minute. And if you're not a regular subscriber to the Crackspotting phenomena, ask yourself: why the devil not?

Saturday, November 04, 2006 

Review: Little Children

I wanted to want to like Todd Field's Little Children. My problem lies with the Dubus family - those responsible for Field's previously Oscar nominated screenplay for In the Bedroom, and likewise the unfortunate duo of equally hemmed-in, delusional, precocious melodramas (read: House of Sand and Fog and marginally grubbier We Don't Live Here Anymore). On the surface, Little Children -which cribs instead from Tom Perotta's novel- seems no different: a bunch of holier-than-thou suburbanites decide to shake things up a little, only their self-inflicted prejudices get in the way. Tragedy ensues.

And perhaps with greater tonal clarity, the gimmick may have worked. The refreshing difference between the screen translations of Perotta vs. Dubus would be the former's nubile characterisations smack less of sexless misanthropy. Hedonistic Gen X'ers they may be, but at least their moral righteousness won't fuel rampant audience alienation. Kate Winslet's Sarah Pierce is knowingly deserving of a better life (or what she perceives to be a better life), yet without the unwelcome tang of American Beauty smugness. This is, in part, aided by an omnipotent narrator, whose dry remarks fire the much needed black humour but also highlight Children's innumerate problems: surely it's a little -get this- infantile to tell us rather than show us. It's also a little presumptuous.

Backscored by the hum of trains sans cesse, Little Children is by parts cheeky social satire and doom ridden serialised drama. From the moment stay-at-home parents Winslet and Wilson clap eyes on each other, there's an instant expectation of adultery, partly through their broody performances but also that pesky narration. Field seems more in love this device's functionality, tonality, and personality than the enviable array of talent at his disposal. This may explain why Jennifer Connelly gets lost in the mix somewhere. Moreover the apparent catalyst of the entire affair is the undesirable integration of a former sex offender (laced with an appropriate creepiness by Jackie Earle Haley) into the neighbourhood. The trouble being it doesn’t serve the film’s central conceit at all except for want of narrative cleverness. Other than that, it’s just interesting jibber-jabber. In fact our interest peaks right about the time Winslet does. From there on in, it feels like about nine months of unwanted pregnancy. One well-acted satiric skit bungles its way into another by proxy of gawky expressiveness.

Indeed, the film is largely plotless but that shouldn’t matter, it’s simply the hysterical attempt at profundity in the last ten minutes that serve to bury the entire film's mock philosophy. Falling off a skateboard just doesn’t warrant a critical re-evaluation of your dead-end existence. Similar tries to legitimise its glib disconnectivity in its final reel appear rushed and messy- an awkward contrast with the relaxed steaminess Field tries hard to maintain from the clincal opening titles. Little Children is too plimp and natty to be solely driven by dialogue, yet it lacks the booksmarts of its female protagonist to exorcise a fitting conclusion worthy of its genuine moodiness. File under interesting experiment.

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