16 November, 2006

Word of Mouth

Casino Royale

I thought the Daniel Craig is not Bond people were odd but, my god, they must be feeling like proper prats now. The losers.

Best Bond ever. Best Bond film ever.

I have been to see every Bond film on its release since childhood and it was only at the last one, where I thought: "Hold on, these films have been crap for ages, why am I putting myself through this immense disappointment every fracking time?" And decided not to bother again. I'm so glad I changed my mind.

Purvis and Wade are good screenwriters, no doubt, but they write their films by researching new technologies and fresh locations, writing the big action set-piecces based on them and then trying to write a story and characters around those set-pieces. That can work, if done properly, but it hasn't been done properly in my opinion. This is epitomised by Bond racing that super fast car across the ice in their last movie, Die Another Day. Great car, great location but where the frack was he going and why?

Minor consideration to most of the public I realise but I kinda need answers to those questions to enjoy any action.

Casino Royale is based on Ian Fleming's original story and the script had a re-write by the most sought after screenwriter of the moment, Paul Haggis. Also To quote the Guardian "the producers wanted to make a new 007 with interesting psychological flaws to enable him to compete with troubled modern icons such as Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne." (Are the JB initials just a co-incidence I wonder...) I'm guessing that's why it all hangs together much better than usual.

In fact Quentin Tarentino alleges that the only reason they are doing Casino Royale was because he pitched the idea to the producers when Purvis and Wade publically admitted they were struggling to write their third Bond and he's annoyed he didn't get the gig.

I'm not saying there aren't any flaws and plot-holes in this but I was enjoying it so much I didn't notice any. I'm dreading seeing it again in case I spot loads of them and yet, at the same time, I can't wait to see it again.



Breaking and Entering

I really liked this but in the interest of full disclosure, I have to acknowledge the Juliette Binoche factor. She could just stand there and read the Paris phonebook and I'd be well happy.

But fortunately Minghella gives us a lot more than that as he's trying to say something; a few things actually.

Will is torn between his partner and her daughter from a previous relationship who has behavioural problems and his tailor who has a son from a previous relationship with stealing problems. Minghella uses that dilemma to explore the rich/poor divide, immigration, crime, relationships, prostitution and new property developments.

While Minghella succeeds in engaging the brain perhaps the heart has been left out. I say 'perhaps' only because that's what most people seem to be saying. Personally I didn't notice and didn't care. Character, story and dialogue are top notch.

The screenplay's surefootedness only slips when trying to inject a bit of fake excitement in a chase scene in the last bit. There was no reason for the characters to be running away at all. It does set up the positive and optimistic ending but that could have been done in other ways, I think.

Box Office #7


The Host

This is a great film. It wreaks havoc on the emotions by making us laugh, making us cry and making us wet ourselves with fright (I jumped and spilt my coke).

It is a monster film (and what a fine monster it is too) but it shows how you can use even genre films to say something. While it doesn't ever preach, the screenwriters hit on pollution, government inadequacy and US imperialism (I'm guessing that last bit won't make the inevitable US remake).

Although the US subtitles really wound me up more than usual, especially as probably more people will see it in Birmingham than the whole of the USA. It makes just as much sense having Brummie subtitles:

"Yow look, our kid, a munster!"
"Ahr, looks bostin' ent it, mind, tot"

Box Office #19


Little Children

Todd Field's follow-up to In the Bedroom was worth waiting the five years for. It is another entertaining mature drama which makes you think.

Sarah and Brad are married to other people but are drawn together, initially out of boredom.

There's also a sub-plot of a paedophile flasher who is released back into the community to live with his mother. This takes up a surprising amount of screen-time but I can only admire the bravery and attempt to thwart audience expectations.

A potential no-no was the novelistic narration. I'm not sure if it was in the original novel but rather than the usual annoying crutch it was beautifully written and droll.

It is long but I'm not sure that it's overlong. I did briefly wonder how the third act was going to kick in but the second act didn't outstay its welcome.

Should Todd Field google his name, I've got a message for him: "Hurry up with the next one you lazy get."

Box Office #16 (Week 2)


The Prestige

This movie about rival magicians at the turn of the century is wonderfully entertaining.

The theme is about what's real, not just on stage but in the magician's private lives. The twists makes sense and aren't just twists for twists sake. Also the Nolans' usual playng with time gimmick actually works here to the benefit of the story.

What I liked most was how the two main characters clearly come from differnet worlds and have different attitudes and talents. And it is what they are like as people that progresses the story. If Magician A didn't have Flaw B then Event C would not have happened. Event C would have been crap and boring on its own but by tying it to Magician A's struggle to overcome Flaw B it makes it spectacular.

And I have learnt something very important from the Nolans': never ask them the time.

"It's 9 o'clock.. no, it's seven o'clock last night... no, it's two o'clock tommorow morning..."

Box Office #2


Starter for Ten

Even though this was quite predictable, I quite enjoyed it. Brian's dream of being on University Challenge serves as a good goal to keep us interested during the formulaic relationship stuff.

Brian is being persued by two women and has to choose the right one but because of the 80s context and interesting characters the formula is disguised well enough.

Although I say it was predictable, the one unpredictable thing was in the last act regarding the envelope. It led to a great dramatic ending but I just don't believe Brian would have done it.

What was his motivation? Especially considering anybody could have easily seen him.

Box Office #11


Step Up

I had not intention of seeing this romantic dance drama but despite the bad reviews, it's been retained at multi-plexes for a month, which suggests powerful word of mouth. Maybe it's because I had low expectations but I loved it.

I overheard a couple in conversation as they left the cinema:

Man: That was rubbish, what a waste of time.
Woman (hurt): I liked it; girls will like it.

Firstly, dude, pretend you liked it, no need to go overboard but you're never gonna get any with that attitude

Secondly, she's right. It's a popcorn picture which will appeal to women most or, for want of a less offensive term, a 'chick flick'.

But in answer to the critics, there are lots of similar films that have been released that haven't done as well. Step Up is excellent for its genre. The characters are interesting, the dialogue is excellent, the story is predictable but not too predictable, the dancing is cool and the music rocks.

But I suppose the best review is that when I came out of the cinema I wanted to dance all the way home. And so I did.

Box Office #4 (Week 3)



Optimistic_Reader said...

Do you really see all these films every week Robin? How do you get anythin else done?

Haven't seen Little Children yet but was a little surprised to read the Shooting People moderator's rant about the voice-over. Any chance of a spoiler-free response to what you thought about it?

Robin Kelly said...

Well, to be honest I don't get anything else done. But, you know, you have to prioritise. They're movies. Yay!

Regarding the Little Children voiceover, I've now read Andy's rant. I know the dude and know where he's coming from but he's just wrong. It's Todd Field, he's talking about for god's sake - but I would defend a newbie just out of film school doing it.

The only reason to be against voice overs is if they are a crutch to aid bad storytelling, the same with flashbacks. In this film they simply weren't, they were an artistic choice. And they weren't just explaining what we were seeing, it was more like adding cream to strawberries.

Sure, strawberries are fine on their own but cream gives it a different flavour. Although if you're lactose intolerant than you might not appreciate it. Although you can get non-dairy cream now so that could be an alternative. Hold on, I think I'm taking this cream analogy too far.

The narration is like the paedo sub-plot, I wasn't expecting it but that's to do with with my
own expectations and not the intentions of the film maker. I don't mind my expectations being challenged - as long as it remains in the genre advertised.

At first I said, "stop the stupid
narration!" Then I listened to it, liked it and wouldn't have minded more of it. At first I said "enough with the nonce, already!" But then I was drawn into his story and the way his behaviour affected the other characters more significantly as the film progresses.