Monthly Archives: August 2013


Elysium film posterSynopsis

Sci-fi film set in the 22nd century. Earth is poor and overpopulated.  Rich people live on a space station called Elysium which is a materialist paradise that keeps the poor out.  Matt Damon plays Max, a worker who sickens with radiation (having only five days to live) and is implanted with the exoskeleton mind of John Carlyle (William Fichtner) who runs the factory where Max works.  Max is up against Delacourt (Jodie Foster) who plans a coup on Elysium with Carlyle. Max is asked to help his girlfriend Frey (Alice Boya) and her sick daughter by gaining access to Elysium’s medical cures.  Max battles with Kruger (Sharlto Copley) who is Delacourt’s thug and he must infiltrate Elysium.  Will there be a happy ending?


Damon plays the lead character, and the role could have gone to Tom Cruise or Will Smith, so it’s sci-fi business as usual.  There is the beautiful mother with the sick child, there is slow motion lyricism, an Eastern European choir.  We also get the usual futurist dystopia, which looks like a vast slum, back dropping hi-tech fights.  The film is directed by Neill Blomkemp who made District 9, the Kruger character is from that film and his South African accent is almost incomprehensible.  In the contrast between earth slums and Elysium, one feels that the poverty is romanticized because it is more vital and humane.  There are bits of Oblivion, Zardoz, Iron ManIsland and other sci-fi films in this, so there is little that’s original though it looks great.  The space station surpasses the crude plastic kits of 2001, it’s a stepforward in space.  The corporate smoothies in Elysium are sleek, bland, and vile.  Their main concerns are their jealously guarded privileges vis a vis the starving and oppressed masses on Earth.  This makes us feel uneasy because our own attitude to immigrants can be just as selfish and xenophobic. Carlyle is a smugly arrogant and etiolated swine, he will not tolerate his employees talking directly to him because of germs.  Employees are expendable and do not rate as humans.  Delacourt is the super bitch who runs this gated paradise with an exhorbitant sense of entitlement where humaneness is eccentric or subversive.  They are much like today’s finance capitalists.  Frey is the usual Spanish-Mexican Madonna with an adorable child that we’ve seen many times since the 80s.  The rugged hero is really the right man for her but he has a world to save and must die a beautiful death.  This leads me to a criticism made about this film, that it assumes the world will be not much different in the future.  Surely it’s understood by now that sci-fi is more an extrapolation from present social problems.  Given the hectic pace of technological change, how can we envisage even the next few decades?  Such criticism is facile but it does make the point that we should get away from predictable things. Elysium is District 9 with Ideal Home improvements in space.  One expects more debate and ideas but it’s mostly the usual macho brutality. It could have been an effective satire on consumer capitalism, still it’s visually entrancing

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa film posterSynopsis

Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is a music presenter or “disc jockey” in a north Norfolk radio station.  He plays the character from his hit TV comedy series I’m Alan Partridge.  Colm Meany plays an embittered DJ who has been sacked and he feels that the radio station has lost out to corporate suits.  Meany holds the station hostage with his shot gun, Partridge must go in and mediate.  Partridge only has to be himself and the results are disastrous.


I’m Alan Partridge works as a comedy of observation.  Partridge is a small town social climber trying to be sophisticated, he only reveals his own pathetic lack of self awareness.  His jokes are leaden and mistimed, his dress sense is eccentric and tasteless, his appearance is that of a lower middle class ‘Wally’, (a British term for a socially inadequate person).  He is a sort of latter day Malvolio, someone who sets himself up without meaning to.  His anxieties are social class driven and he inhabits the world so ably satirized by the comedian Victoria Wood.  He is not clever enough to be effectively nasty but he is sordidly venal: he will stab a colleague in the back in order to derive some imagined advantage from doing so.  He is status anxious without being able to advance his prospects.  He crawls to his boss, and is cruel to those he cannot exploit to his own advantage.  We laugh at but never with him.  The details of this provincialism are microscopically observed to the point of cruelty.  It’s like poison poured on the film’s nerves, we can hear the acid crackle.  I think that Steve Coogan does a better job of this than Ricky Gervais in The Office.  Gervais wants to be cool, never can be, and is easily wounded but Partridge blunders on in his Pooterish way, leaving faux pas all over the place.  He isn’t even comparable with fantasists like Billy Liar who at least has the imagination to take life vicariously.  The problem for Coogan is being compared to his creation Alan Partridge.  One hopes he is secure enough to keep his critically observant distance.  It’s very funny.

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger film posterSynopsis

Based on the TV cowboy series of The Lone Ranger and Tonto and how they start out in 1870 Texas.  Tonto rescues John Reid from bandits and they battle with corrupt army and railroad crooks and Comanches.  Helena Bonham Carter helps out with an ivory leg.  The film is a story that the ancient Tonto tells to a child in the San Francisco of 1933.


It’s appropriate that this film starts in 1933 San Francisco since The Lone Ranger started out as a radio show in that decade.  Then it became a 50s TV show starring a masked cowboy in tights, his Comanche friend Tonto called him Kimo Sabe.  The masked cowboy rides a white stallion called Silver.  This western is a fantasy for children about the Wild West, as opposed to other western films which are fantasies for adults about the west.  This film succumbs to an over elaborate foundation myth for the TV series, Johnny Depp as Tonto delivers his narrative like Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man who also told quirky stories about the old days, happily mixing myth and history.  Depp tries on another comic performance, in Pirates of the Caribbean he is drunkenly flamboyant, whereas in  Lone Ranger he pokes fun at the stereotype of the stolid frowning Indian.  Depp’s got a dead crow stuck on his head and he also wears white face paint, a fashion which no other “Indian” feels inclined to follow.  How could you make even a slightly serious film about this subject.

Special effects are nicely blended with Monument Valley shots like at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  This Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) starts out as a naive lawyer who wants to ‘tame’ the west (like Jimmy Stewart liked to play), and he ends up as an improbable hero on a white horse which is made to gallop on top of railway cars whilst being immune to all bullets.  The Lone Ranger is similar to the reluctant heroes of Shane and High Noon.  The mask and the hat are silly enough so there’s no attempt to put him into tights.  The villains led by Tom Wilkinson are like those of Heaven’s Gate, corrupt capitalist barons who use outlaws to destroy native Americans and rape the land of its minerals.  We get a sort of re-enactment of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 (shown in the film Soldier Blue) so it can be a bit serious as it entertains.  We also get a fantasy encyclopaedia of oddities like a Barnum circus:  flesh eating rabbits and H Bonham Carter’s ivory leg which shoots bullets.  The classical Western backdrops make the film feel like a moving diorama of Charles Russell paintings.  Buffalo Bill’s wild west circus originated this vision of the west. The rail chases, gunfights, mining camps, and wild west towns all invite us to think of other western films we’ve seen.  The realistic ‘wild West’ was of course a radically different world, perhaps McCabe and Mrs Miller approximates to the real thing.  Lone Ranger is a child’s fantasy realized in CGI and it works as a good entertaining film.


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