Category Archives: Films (aka Movies)

My Name’s Not Bond

I really like the new James Bond film. I think what Daniel Craig has done with the role is excellent. I prefer the back-to-basic approach over the movies that relied on gadgets and digital effects. It’s more Jason Bourne and, for me, that can only be a good thing. This, however, isn’t a review as I am certain you can find plenty of decent ones if you Google.

I saw Casino Royale last Saturday. On the way home I mentioned – in passing – that I had always wanted to be a secret agent. I have always assumed that every kid wanted to be a secret agent at some point. Isn’t this is a perfectly normal thing to say? PY, however, couldn’t stop laughing. It was the kind of amusement that was induced as soon as he set eyes on me. His mouth would curl up and his shoulders start that laughter quiver; he had to look away. I was a little dumbstruck. I take it for granted that I don’t look like a spy but isn’t that what being undercover is all about?

Sadly, however, I have to agree that I am not very spy-like. For starters I am not sure I could, Bourne-like, blow a house up with a toaster and a rolled up newspaper. I couldn’t leap building cranes with anything approaching a Bond-like skill. The final proof that I couldn’t cut the MI6 mustard is that I’m useless in foreign restaurants.

You may have gathered from Monday’s post that I am in Finland. I am on business but I am not with any colleagues. Sometimes I must eat on my own in a foreign city. I paced Helsinki the other night looking for a restaurant. I had forgotten my book which, as any solo traveller will tell you is the key to eating alone in restaurants. Have a good book and hide behind it. You eat slower that way and can hide from the local’s stares as they wonder why you have no friends and must resort to dining alone.

Had I been a Bond/Bourne spy I would have walked into the finest dining room in the city, ordered drink in fluent Finnish, had the maître d find me a decent table and have struck up an interesting conversation before they put the olive on the stick. Whereas I sulked in a corner and tried to not to lose my scarf.

You hear that travel broadens the mind (it’s like an exercise for the brain, apparently) but I don’t agree. I am sure a certain type of travel expands horizons but my kind only serves to expand the waistline (dining alone you comfort eat for a party of five). I’ve done the airport-taxi-hotel-office-taxi-airport run enough times to make almost every European city appear identical. This week’s arrival in Finland reinforced the feeling that I want to be here on holiday but not on business; I want to see something new.

The day was damp and cold when we landed and it was already getting dark at 3.30pm. I had hoped for snow but there wasn’t any so I got taken straight to my hotel. We passed the outdoor ice-hokey game which, I guess, must be everywhere in winter. I wanted to watch but I have no idea how to get to them. I worked in my hotel room. I didn’t sleep on the first night (I never sleep well on the first night in a hotel). I went to meetings. I drank too much coffee (do secret agents rely on caffeine too?).

It is a perfectly normal business trip. Sure, I hear you. Go out, mix with the locals, live a little. That, though, is a little too Bond-like for me. I guess Bond would have had a hidden revolver to get himself out of any local difficulties. I wouldn’t have made it through the airport with one and so, I comfort myself, that I don’t look good in black and, truthfully, Judi Dench scares me a little.

On this day…

2005: From The Sky Newsdesk

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain Movie Poster
Brokeback Mountain

When other people write things better than you should you not write about them? Should you give up altogether, or should you plough on, regardless? And if this is your only dilemma very late on a Saturday night then should you worry about it at all, and shouldn’t you go to bed?

This is the position I find myself in after having returned from seeing Brokeback MountainTom wrote about it very well yesterday, and let’s face it, approximately half the known world has an opinion on it (that’s a scientific fact, honestly, it is).

Suffice to say that it’s a marvellous film and you should go and see it at once.

On this day…

2006: Gotta Go Back In Time
2005: 2004 In 100 Pictures
2004: Hello Dermot and Mark Fans
2004: Oops, She Did It
2003: Jeremy Vine
2003: Poison Find
2003: A Blog?

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

picture of the promotional film poster for charlie and the choclate factory

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Last night PY & I went to see Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Amazingly, even at the 9.30pm showing, it was surrounded by promotions for kids movies so I ended up believing that I was about to watch a children’s movie; a remake of the classic Gene Wilder movie. Fortunately, it’s not too long before you realise the 2005 version is nothing like it’s 1971 sibling. Tim Burton’s world is stylish and strange at the same time. It’s dark and yet full of life. Charlie – and all the Bucket’s (including an appearance by Liz Smith) are superb but it is Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka who is the undoubted star. Sure, all the golden ticket holders are as expected – exaggerated caricatures – but you know their stories. It’s the interpretation of Wonka in that Jacksonesque mode that steals every scene and Burton’s interpretation of the story gives him a back story that was lacking from the earlier version. Frankly, I (unexpectedly) loved the whole film (and the quirky little songs that I’d forgotten about).

On this day…

2007: The Slag Of All Updates
2006: Hello From Here
2002: The Art of the Blog

Mr and Mrs Smith

mr_smith_small.jpg Friday night is warm across London so we met some friends, had tapas and headed to the flicks to see Mr and Mrs Smith. Unusually for me, I knew what it was about before I actually sank into my lovely comfortable Clapham Picture House seat and – therefore – I wasn’t surprised in either a good or bad way with this film.

The premise: Mr and Mrs Smith are killers for hire but they don’t know that about each other. You need to gloss over the huge holes in that for they don’t matter. The on-going lies each one has to tell to cover their other life as a hit man is ruining their marriage. So, they seek counselling and somewhere along the line – again, don’t worry about the detail – they end up trying to kill each other.

The lead up to the assignation attempt(s) is essentially background filler and, thankfully, is over pretty quickly. When the penny drops – and Mr and Mrs Smith head to kill the other – is the point where the movie gets better. As you would imagine for such a blockbuster the killing spree is well covered with special effects making the gun battles comic-book in style and certainly all the more enjoyable for it.

This film, however, is made by the unexpected witty dialogue that writer Simon Kinberg has peppered the film with. For plot details and suspense then two deadly assasigns trying to kill each other is – perhaps – better left to Robert Ludlum. A husband and wife couple doing the same and you’ll laugh along to the clever use of the dialogue which moves this film. When it really gets going, it’s great.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt keep it moving well. They are a convincing couple and have the all the moves a film of this nature needs. Most importantly, they carry the dialogue convincingly as a married couple.

Don’t expect realism nor a movie that takes itself seriously. Expect a surprisingly entertaining cinema experience. The fact that some in the audience applauded at the end should suggest you give this film a chance.

On this day…

2005: links for 2005-06-17
2004: Football Crazy


Kinsey Movie Poster

What to say about Kinsey? It’s a fascinating and absorbing biopic insight into the man who many feel started the sexual revolution of the modern age. Liam Neeson’s superb, intense depiction of the biologist who studied human sexual behaviour the way he’d studied gall wasps, that’s to say he collected thousands of samples, is brilliant. Laura Linney is brilliant as his wife, and it’s the pair’s wedding-night bedroom difficulties that start the research that was to change the way the world thought about sex. Neeson is supported by a great cast including Timothy Hutton, Chris O’Donnell, and Peter Sarsgaard as the researchers who bring extra sexual ambiguity to the piece. It is, of course, very much a piece of its time. In an age where we now see every variety of sexual shenanigans paraded on our televisions, in magazines and across the web it’s harder to appreciate what impact the work had on the world.

The depiction of Kinsey’s motivations may be challenged and history condensed, but it is a great work, and some are saying it’s Neeson’s best work to date. Nonetheless, whereas biopics can be fawning and dull Kinsey is watchable and entertaining.

  • The Guardian: Condon takes a sympathetic line, though, in his absorbing cine-biography which promotes the view that however muddled he was, Kinsey was brave to try using scientific methods to explain sex in an age of unreason.
  • The Observer: What is most remarkable perhaps is the film’s mature view of sexual matters, balancing the serious side with its frequently tragic consequences, and the often comical, even absurd aspects.
  • Empire Online: A deftly directed, superbly acted and occasionally witty biopic which is not afraid to engage with the complexities of its central character.

On this day…

2004: Happy 10th Birthday Spam


closer.jpgI thought Closer was a mixed bag of a film. The performances of the four protagonists are not too bad: Jude Law as Dan is convincing as a bit of a self-obsessed wimp; Natalie Portman as Alice isn’t too bad with some interesting character quirks; Clive Owen is the most real as Dr Larry but Julia Roberts is cool (nay, cold) as Anna in a role I was least convinced with.

I haven’t seen the stage play but the sexual intrigue and adulteries of the film lose believability as the film progresses. While it’s both a simple love story told through a complex series of inter-woven relationships and coincidences I still wanted to shout out at the characters for their self-centred stupidity.

I did, however, like the film technically. You have to stay engaged to keep up with the way the story is told. The edits jump (but don’t jar) and you can’t dose. The four players are, more-or-less, the only performers on the screen and, despite what I say above, the intensity of the performances does help keep you engaged and they should all be credited for that.

A mixed film with most cringe-worthy chat room flirtation that I’ve ever seen. Sadly, not recommended.

  • The Guardian: The fizzingly talented Marber may well write a great film soon. But this isn’t it.
  • Empire: frank enough to push back the boundaries of how explicit non-porno film can be about sex but manages to be brutally funny with it
  • BBC: Nichols’ clinical approach fails to elicit deep empathy for any of these characters whose foibles are intended to reflect us all

On this day…

2004: Graffiti Shop
2004: You Can’t Hear Yourself On The Tube
2004: Love Revolution
2003: Commercial Free
2003: A Quieter Life

Garden State

So I had heard and read almost nothing about Garden State until I saw it tonight. It’s written and stars Zach Braff who is, apparently, a big hit in Scrubs (but I don’t watch it) and was in one of my favorite movies, The Broken Hearts Club (but I’d forgotten him).

The background to the plot is that Andrew Largeman (Braff) is a twenty-something actor from New Jersey who now lives in Los Angeles (which supposedly mirrors Braff’s own life). Largeman returns home for his mother’s funeral after not having been back for a decade. He has almost no relationship with his father, a bunch of slacker friends and a lot of history.

So. it’s another middle class slacker movie (as The Independent said) but it’s quite well done. It’s got elements of humour (both in dialogue and the visuals) and is well shot. Despite the slow pace of some of the film, I found myself remarkably engaged. Usually I that find films where nothing happens are hard work regardless of the abilities of the actors and directors. It simply wasn’t the case here: the opening scences of Largeman motionless in an all white bedroom listening to his father’s messgae grabbed me and I was hooked.

There are two aspects of this film that I think stand out. The first is the soundtrack. I feel a good soundtrack is usually unobtrusive and you tend not to notice it. This is one film where you have an exception to that rule. I noticed how great the soundtrack was but it didn’t take anything away from the experiennce. The imdb entry for ths film notes, “When Braff sent the script to people, he would also send them a copy of the songs which would eventually be the soundtrack (which he handpicked). That is why on the actual soundtrack album, all of the songs are in the order that they appear in the movie” [source].

The other aspect I really liked about this film is the way the depths of the Largeman character are only revealled gradually as we go through the film. Obviosuly, it’s a very common trick of any story but – sometimes – movies reveal too much too soon in a bid to hook the audience. In Garden State, that’s not the case and it works beautifully.

Certainly not the best film ever but it was a promising work for Braff and I’ll be looking our for more, particularly, if he continues blogging about his work.

On this day…

2006: links for 2006-01-12
2005: links for 2005-01-12
2004: Hiddent Stuff
2004: Make Me Write
2003: Entitlement Cards

Polar Express

One of the films I had been really interested in seeing this Christmas was Robert Zemeckis’ Polar Express, which has been selling out in all it’s 3D glory at the BFI London IMAX. So, tonight, we got tickets for the last screening (although I imagine this will be back quote a lot). It’s a shame that we didn’t make it before Christmas when London was lit up with Christmas sparkle as that would have added to the magic.

Some Reviewers of the film have criticised this film for being dark or scary but I didn’t see it. It’s basically the story of the boy who is doubting Santa Claus and is taken on a magical ride to the North Pole to find Christmas. And it’s filled with that wonder and magic that can only be found in really good Children’s films. Sure, the movie makers have used the 3D format to full-effect (the roller-coaster scenes are overdone in many IMAX presentations) but it shouldn’t detract from the wonder of this tale. Tom Hanks is great as the primary voice of the film which just added to the joy.

While the animation may not quite be on a par with The Incredibles it remains pretty stunning and, unlike The Incredibles, I see this film enduring. It’s a fantastic film.

On this day…

2004: Thoughtless, Instant, Throwaway Marriages

The Incredibles

The superheroes are having a mid-life crisis. I guess, following on from Spiderman, it’s not all the unusual for out lycra-clad action heroes to be questioning their purpose. The litigation society that forces the superheroes to, effectively, enter a witness protection-style programme was an interesting take on the world. Of course, it’s not the main point of The Incredibles but much of the enjoyment is in the detail.

What can you say that hasn’t been written elsewhere? The animation is superb; the plot seems to be able to captivate children and adults. Mark Kermode notes, with much justification, that the film lacks, “classic fairy-tale simplicity of Snow White or Finding Nemo” but my main criticism is that I just didn’t find any of the characters that endearing. The Incredible/Parr family (beautifully acted) just didn’t produce the one character that endures. If you think of it in classic Disney terms, there’s just no soft toy to last for generations.

Nonetheless, a great film to start a new year with.

On this day…

2006: Resolution
2005: Shaun Of The Dead
2004: Honoured for HTML
2004: Unexpected Movie Gems
2004: 2003 In Summary
2003: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2003: Mirror Picture

House Of Flying Daggers

House of the flying Daggers movie posterAfter yesterday’s trip to the cinema, we decided that we would do it again and PY had been wanting to see House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu) so it was decided that we’d give it a go. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of subtitled films in any language so the strangeness of Mandarin didn’t bother me too much. It’s visually stunning both in terms of photography and the settings. The fight sequences well choreographed and executed and, overall it’s very stylised. Many people will enjoy the style of the movie and equally as many will see the style as a blocker to following the plot (undercover police deputy becomes captivated with suspected revolutionary on a journey to somewhere never properly defined). I was willing to give it a go and really enjoyed the film for the presentation and visuals but I couldn’t get past the ‘style’ to become engaged in the plot. Hand-on-heart I tried. I can’t knock the film as I think my inability to connect is due to my lack of experience watching films like this and I would urge you to get to see it before it closes and let me know what you think.

On this day…

2003: Review of 2003: April
2003: Review of 2003: March
2003: Review of 2003: February
2003: Review of 2003: January
2003: Listen To Musak in Review