Friday, 13 June 2008

Yet more summertime movie musings...

In A Lonely Place:

I'm a fair bit of a fan of Bogart, and still consider The Maltese Falcon to be a fantastic slice of Film Noir (indeed, it was the first proper Film Noir I ever saw, back in my first semester at university).

So it was quite interesting to see him as a screenwriter with a violent streak. One minute he's charming, the next you think he might be a psychopathic murderer, the next he's charming, then he's beating up people, then he's desperate, then he's calm and so it goes. It's all rather spiffing ... although I was surprised to see the 180 degree rule broken at one point during a conversation scene. Although that's really only the sort of thing film type will see rather than the average punter, but still ... it surprised me a bit that nobody spotted that during shooting.

Regardless of that tiny technical error though, classic Bogart.


Be Kind Rewind:

I've not seen much of Michel Gondry's work to be honest, and I've only just got around to checking out Be Kind Rewind - the main attraction for me being the celebration of the VHS medium (heck, I've made two shorts related to the format). It's all rather quirky, and it's quite clear that a considerable chunk of his work comes from his dreams.

BKR champions the oddball and the out-there, the strange characters you might very well find in some run-down area like that which is in the film. Mind you, the length of time it took for one of the characters to figure out Danny Glover's writing (who must have gotten some ill-fitting veneers/false teeth lately), which was steamed onto a window, was in fact backwards ... for some reason that wound me right up, the sheer length of time it took the guy to figure it out just pissed me off ... odd.

Anyway, it's at times joyfully inventive (Jack Black's idea of camouflage is ingenious) and at least just a good slice of pretty darn original fun. Mind you, the 'little guys VS the big guys' message is occasionally strong-armed into the script, and is ultimately left dangling as the credits begin to roll.

Also, Jack Black continues to do no wrong, and Mos Def's insistent mumbling continues to grind on me (check out 16 Blocks, he pissed me off so much in that film ... but he's still rather good at this acting business when he finds the right role).


Aftermath: Population Zero:

Indeed, not a film, but a National Geographic 90 minute special that's almost identical to Life After People (which was by the Discovery Channel, if memory serves). Identical in execution (stock footage mixed with lower-budget CGI, and specially shot stuff), and identical in its flaws.

The script is similarly ham-fisted and relies on often boring and uninspired writing - you'll constantly hear sentences begin with, for example, "After two-hundred-thirty years..." (yes, no "and" between the 200 and the 30 ... that annoyed me, ha!). The CGI shots are used over and over again, often just relying on two angles for one sequence - such as the Eifel Tower collapsing - so you'll cut back and forth between two shots and get thoroughly bored.

This also brings me to the issue of how America-focussed this, and Life After People, were ... but at least LAP ventured to Chernobyl and Pripyat to look at a real-life example of what was being talked about. Globally speaking, there's not much to the world beyond the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben by the looks of things, you'll maybe get a glimpse at the Pyramids or the North Pole, but otherwise it's all focussed on America ... which is a bit cheeky, lazy and isolationist. It's not like these aren't being shown outside of America, heck, Life After People was just on Channel 4 a couple of weeks ago.

So indeed, it's all the usual stuff. Amidst the overtly dramatic, deep-voiced narration (which is a stone's throw from a movie trailer, replete with glutinous use of "in a world where..." type talk), you get battered over the head with idiot-friendly obviousness.

Really, untreated metal structures, concrete and tarmac will all crumble and collapse over time?! My God, I never knew! Really, animals can live even without mankind around?! Shocking stuff indeed ... but in reality, my sarcasm allowance for the day had swiftly gone way over the top.

Also, they seem to think that all cars are automatics ... so, when the earth's population (well, America, London, Paris and Egypt by the looks of things) literally vanishes, all the cars just keep running. Well, unlike the lazy Americans who made this 90 minute long mankind guilt-trip, who obviously drive nothing but automatics to burn as few calories as possible, there are a considerable amount of manual transmission vehicles out there. Their engines would cut out without people to control the clutch ... it was just something that annoyed me while watching.

So it's all rather grim, according to Population Zero, the entire power supply of the entire planet will conk out within hours (something I don't recall Life After People discussing, or at least not to this level of immediacy), and mankind are a bunch of bastards arrogantly holding back nature, whose existence will be wiped out almost entirely within 1000 years of our disappearance.

Like I said, a guilt-trip ... with a silly, dumb-dumb narration ... and reused CGI shots ... quite.

And yet shockingly, despite my rather negative summary of it, it's still worth seeing - much like Life After People - as long as you can trudge through all the dumbing-down, economy CGI use, and guilt-tripping, it can be quite interesting.


Batman Begins:

After watching Tim Burton's 1989 movie, I simply had to dig out Christopher Nolan's 2005 fantastic franchise life-saver. It's still bloody brilliant, gripping and even goes to great lengths to justify Batman's life. How he got so buff and good at fighting, how he ended up with all that fancy gear, how his lair under Wayne Mannor came about. Everybody involved was doing a damn fine job, and by the time it gets to the end and Batman turns over a playing card to reveal The Joker, you've got such a massive, anticipation-fuelled grin all over your face.

The Dark Knight can't come soon enough!

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