05 October, 2006

Word of Mouth

World Trade Center

For about half the picture this is quite compelling. I got a sense of what it was like in those towers as they collapsed and I, rather wimpily, squirmed and jumped in my seat as debris fell down. But once that’s over the movie fails to be cinematic or very interesting. It doesn’t even count as a compelling character study really. Although it’s been called “non-political” and about human courage, it is, to all intents and purposes, a Christian Right film. That’s not a complaint as the characters are Christian or Christian Right and they have a right to tell their stories but why pretend otherwise in the publicity?

Box Office #3

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Life and Lyrics

It wasn’t a good start. In the first minute the look-out on the roof of the tower block sees a police van arriving and hurtles down several flights of stairs before eventually bursting into a flat to warn the DJ and MCs. I mean, why didn’t he just phone them? All that running’s certainly visually exciting but not so much when it’s false and the character had a more obvious simple option. You just need an equally exciting scene which is more psychologically true.

Actually, the screenwriter could have had his cake and ate it: look-out sees police van, reaches for mobile and it needs charging/has run out of credit, so he HAS NO CHOICE but to rush down the stairs.

Surprisingly, there were very few further logic flaws and the movie was enjoyable enough. It’s been called the "British 8 Mile" which gives the impression that it’s a typical inferior copy but I wasn't really reminded of 8 Mile during this and it stands on its own. The characters are well drawn although a bit too simplistically, the dialogue is good with some nice humour. The music is very good and even the lyrics are well written.

It is, however, let down considerably by the ending which is especially annoying because it needed such a minor tweak to work well - simply give a motivation for characters to do what they did. Waving guns about isn’t inherently dramatic it has to be made so through characterisation.

Box Office (outside top ten)


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Nina’s Heavenly Delights

This film was six years in the making and was said to be refused funding because of the lesbian element. So while I feel a bit guilty slagging it off I’m fairly convinced not more than six weeks of those years was spent on the script.

Andrea Gibb wrote the excellent Dear Frankie but here she collaborates on someone else’s story - the director’s - and the results aren’t quite as excellent. Part of the problem is the genre choice, the dad’s ghost appears and there’s some rather silly nonsense regarding a model of the Taj Mahal. I assumed it was the director’s decision but it was actually Andrea’s idea. It is of course a subjective decision to have that fantasy element which other people might love.

What’s less subjective is the choices regarding the story. I think the idea was to keep it light and frothy but the effect was that it was insubstantial and you were craving something more filling. There was too much emphasis on the food and not enough on the relationships.

The central relationship is meant to be the epitome of true love but it could not be more passionless. I simply didn’t believe they were in love and I didn’t believe the obstacle to their being together.

When the couple met in real life they knew each other and spent hours talking before getting it on. Here we’re meant to get the same information about their fictional counterparts from a few looks here and there. There was virtually no back-story given to those characters, no real sense of what they are like as people, no reason why their love was so important and why we should care.

Strangely some of the supporting characters were better drawn and have more interesting stories but that central relationship is semi-autobiographical which is always difficult for writers as we are reluctant to have the character who is based on us (or someone we love) to have flaws or reveal anything too personal.

Box Office (outside top ten)

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Hoodwinked

This entertaining animated feature is Little Red Riding Hood meets Rashômon stopping by Shrek and The Usual Suspects, then ending up in Charlie’s Angels country.

While the funny gags and character interaction is always amusing and occasionally laugh out loud funny, the second half of the picture becomes an action flick which, proves less interesting and provides less opportunity for gags.

It ends with the most blatant set up for a sequel I have ever seen but I actually would welcome the follow-up.

As a note to aspiring animationists the writer-director believes that, with the Pixar developed software now available for anyone to buy, more independently produced films like this will be possible.

I did have an issue with the odd-looking character/animation design but apparently this was deliberate to avoid it looking like Shrek. I’m not so sure and think it’s just cheaper doing it that way but because the script is so good you soon get used to the style. Anyway, why should only the big studios with access to budgets of billions get to tell animated stories?

Box Office #2


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Click

I guessed Click wouldn’t be great but I didn’t expect it to be so bad. The set-up is classic Christmas Carol where a man neglects the things that really matter - in this case his family – and is shown the consequences it if continues. The Ghost of Christmas Future in this case does it via the gift of a magic remote control that allows him to skip time and freeze time.

The dialogue is ordinary and the jokes are rarely amusing - never mind funny – which doesn’t help but the main problem is that the man who is neglecting his family wants to change but the Ghost of Christmas Future won’t let him until he really really really really has learnt his lesson several tedious years later in an overly sentimental way.

We can relate to the family at the beginning of the story but then who cares once they start ageing and changing and become different characters?

Box Office #1

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