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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Oblivion

Oblivion film posterSynopsis

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) has battled aliens in the 21st century.  With partner Victoria (Andrea Risborough) he must check out what’s left of Earth before most of its people left.  He must hunt “Scavs” (scavengers) hiding on Earth.  His memory has been taken from him to prevent aliens using his knowledge.  He has visions of pre-catastrophe New York and meets Julie (Olga Krylenko) among his memories that he must recover.  He is captured by freedom fighter Morgan Freeman…

Review

A very unoriginal film, its story has bits of Philip K Dick (regarding personal identity issues), Mad Max, and any other post apocalyptic film.  Visually it’s like the recent Alien, Independence Day, and Planet of the Apes.  It copies that film’s final scene where Heston discovers the Statue of Liberty as a wreck in a future world.  Undeniably, Cruise’s dream home in the sky is quite spectacular but we know his perfect relationship with Victoria is a fraud, that she is Circe to Cruise’s Odysseus because similar films have told us so.  The clues are in the perfect penthouse blandness where the merest suspicion that things are wrong, promotes frantic techno editing by mysterious controllers (usually from an implant in the hero’s head).  The visits to a devastated Earth are the usual sci-fi treatment of ‘watch out’ for the famous (now derelict) building.  The aerial battles are from Star WarsEnemy Mine, and Star Trek.  Cruise himself, of course, always must be the hero, that facial oxymoron of the innocent smirk substitutes for variety of expressions.  He squeaks his way through reality challenges like the predictable presence only he can be.  Cruise is as sterile as his hero requires him to be, there is no development of character only action man certainties built on middle American resolution into family piety.  Morgan Freeman plays his usual role as the ironically amused patriarch on the side of integrity helped out with Mad Max gimmicks.  Nothing for the mind to work on.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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RUSH

RUSH film posterSynopsis

About the 1970s rivalry between Formula One drivers Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth).  Lauda has a terrible accident but returns to the racing track.  Hunt lives a hedonistic life and is married and divorced. They drive in all conditions but Lauda is the most cautious.  There are lots of close up views of the tracks and cars.

Review

There have been many films about sports and the obsessive arousal in sportsmen and women.  Usually they do not get below the obvious surface, motivational progress follows a sort of hallowed and well worn prolepsis in which dramatic punch is supposed to compensate for predictability.  Obsession, should be an obvious challenge to any decent actor, there is the plausible analogy between acting and sport as performances. Chris Hemsworth as Hunt is all broad brushings, he is an a unapologetically would-be Byronic man of action, cheerfully hedonistic in a way guaranteed to upset our therapy culture, and brainwashed puritans of the 21st century.  He is an old fashioned sexist who analogizes sex and cars with other metaphors.  He drinks and smokes a great deal and is cheerfully indifferent to the terrors of driving a slender metal torpedo round a race track.  Given the construction of the car and the terrifying speed it looked not so much like driving as automated  rocket control down some jokey death tunnel.  I find this sport a waste of time as TV viewing but to be there or close up on film it looks and feels like the engine drilled lunatic ride it really is.  It provided the model surely for the film Rollerball (1975) which was made at the time of this rivalry.  Anything stripped down reductively can be absurd and seem futile, and so usually does Formula One but the proximity of death in this boys-with-toys hellhole makes it compulsory watching.  The frantic speedy cross cutting of shots is like that in Simon Pegg’s comedy Hot Fuzz, only this film has few laughs.  Hunt is comedy caricatured counter poise to Niki Lauda played like a hair triggered neurotic.  The cliches should be too good to be true, Hunt is the genial upper class playboy against Lauda’s nervily pernickety and ever so meticulous Austrian, but ironically it’s the humourless Lauda who comes across as the more sympathetically human as he is not prepared to risk his life in dangerous wet conditions but Hunt just steams ahead with cheerfully macho unconcern.  Women are as decorative in this film as they are expected to be on the circuit. There is the usual stilted mention of the era’s celebrities, like Richard Burton.  Set in the 70s there is the usual pedantry about getting the period right but you could probably have fun watching out for this and other period films getting details wrong.  Exciting film.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Conjuring

The Conjuring film posterSynopsis

Horror film about Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren who are investigators of the paranormal who in the early 70s “exorcised” the home of the Perrons (Ron Livingstone and Lili Taylor) before doing the same at Amytiville.  A demon haunts the family, it takes over the mother, but is all well in the end…?

Review

The Conjuring seems as much a comment on a certain horror genre as just another film about spooks.  It wears it’s retro fascination as another horror accessory, as if the comparative flatness and austerity of 70s’ materialist aspiration should act as an effective sounding board to the horror.  At the time of the Exorcist (1973) horror stories usually concerned a no-nonsense American family moving into a house in need of decoration.  House prices were suspiciously low but this didn’t deter the new owners.  There were spook visitations in which the family divided will fall but the family united in ‘lerv’ will triumph.  The Conjuring shrewdly summons this retro nostalgia so that even the familiar horror tricks don’t seem so corny.  We get the possessed doll (scarier than Chucky), the invisible mugger, the clownish demon face, the attacks in the night.  All these are familiar but this film tries to give them a new twist.  These events are supposed to have really happened but the film is canny enough to leave the historical background as a get-out from credulity.  It wants us to take the investigations at their own self evaluation but we also know that they may be dealing simply with psychological energy, which can be just as frightening as spooks.  The ghosts themselves are nothing new or scary, it’s the corner of the eye malevolence that gets things going: like the painted toy revealing a ghost or a hand clapping game with someone who’s not supposed to be there.  The wardrobe in this film nearly gets the same starring role as it did in Narnia.  The Conjuring doesn’t present anything new or visionary, any potential effectiveness is betrayed by the usual CGI idiocies.  The Conjuring still hasn’t learnt the lesson that a real horror story is all about suggestion and ambiguity like The Others or The Innocents.  Good try but we’re waiting for a worthy successor to these films.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives film posterSynopsis

Set in Thailand in the present day.  Ryan Gosling is Julian, a macho man involved in kick boxing and in drugs.  His brother Billy (Tom Burke) is killed by a sadistic cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).  Julian’s mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from America, wanting revenge for her son’s death.  Chang ritually kills a gangster and combats Julian.  Chang intends to kill Crystal…

Review

This film appears to have a few defenders and a lot of detractors, and I’m happy to join the latter.  It’s supposed to be stylish and atmospheric (the colour red recurs like in Kubrick films).  It’s set in an almost deserted Bangkok and I wonder what the backpacking tourists there will make of it.  It makes The Beach (also partly set in Bangkok) look like Disney.  The characters, except for the acerbic Crystal are charmless and almost catatonically mute.  Crystal is cemented in scary make up, she looks like a Kabuki monster.  Her speech is measured and as deadly in its sarcastic vitriol as Chang’s execution blades.  She is a mobster bitch and she knows poisonous details about Julian whom she ridicules before his girlfriend at dinner, the relationship between these is like a slow motion nightmare set to a sadistic agenda.  Crystal is the only reason for watching this trash and she is under used in it.  Gosling, for me, is too suspiciously good at being inarticulate and expression challenged.  This film must be his easiest pay packet to date.  Chang himself is a taciturn thug who sings Karaoke, like a sinister joke performer in Britain’s Got Talent.  I could only laugh.  He is an automatic device lacking any imagination. the barely non existent script might have been written by a ten year old sociopath.  As you unwrap its would be enigmatic scenes you find there’s just a booby prize in the centre, a joke played on the audience.  One critic has praised its supposed artistic value as a stick to beat the presumed herd mentality of the Cannes Film Festival, as if one’s very loathing of it is an index of its artistic significance.  Well I’m very sorry, I didn’t enjoy watching this turd being unwrapped over very slow minutes.  Only God Forgives, indeed, because few of us will.  How apt a title.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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World War Z

World War Z film posterSynopsis

Based on Max Brook’s World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War.  Brad Pitt plays a UN action man sent in to check on a rabies outbreak which zombifies people.  Pitt takes his family to a sanctuary in the navy after fighting off zombies.  Then he’s off to Israel and to a laboratory in Wales where he must try to end this plague and of course save the planet…

Review

I have no patience with zombie films, finding them excruciatingly unimaginative and just an excuse for special effects to take a globe trotting holiday.  Brad Pitt plays the usual reluctant hero crusading against yet another threat to the cinematically sanctified nuclear family.  The threats of Cold War and Aids have been replaced by terrorism but the unquestioning need to defend the middle class white world remains paramount.  Depressingly, the audience I watch this with usually applaud all this. The zombie films do not summon script talent or the complicated drawing of character.  Emnity is reduced to the chalked in simplicity of a simply conceived human sovereignty versus mental death.  There are no controversial moral issues, and any attempt at complicated motives is brushed out by the crude requirements of wartime extremes.  The desperate need for some sort of survival excuses everything, this dovetails with the discussion-free use of terror to fight terror.  The film’s one amusing moment for me was that a plane would take Pitt to Cardiff Airport (I live in Cardiff) and this got a cheer from the audience.  In the laboratory scenes in Wales there are a couple of zombies we can observe at leisure.  You are supposed to sympathize with the individual who has been taken over.  For a certain reason they do not attack Pitt.  The film could have done more with this instead for most of the film we get absurdly energetic zombies prancing around like electrified fleas.  The sight of swarms of zombies is supposed to play into our morbid fears about war, mass immigration, and social breakdown.  The detail of a caged tunnel to keep out the zombies is a good one, but again not developed so it remains a visual gimmick.  What starts out as apocalypse ends up looking like an uninspired episode from Doctor Who or a British TV thriller.  Just more inane zombie nonsense.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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