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26 December, 2005

Catching up with the flow, II

In March, I joined Amazon DVD Rental.  At the end of July, I commented on those I'd seen in the first four months.  Since then, I've seen:

Romeo Is Bleeding – A film starring Gary Oldman and Lena Olin seemed promising, but didn't quite meet my expectations.
Rollerball – Visually a little dated, and the way the dystopian concepts are expressed reflects the feel of 1970s sci-fi, but it's still a very compelling film. I can understand why it was chosen as a remake project, but I'd have updated the appearence and general feel to 2002 standards without touching the underlying story or even the script. From the well-known critical response to the remake, I doubt that was done, which is a pity, as it could have been good. Whatever; I recommend this, the original.
The Day After Tomorrow – I'd already seen this in the cinema last year, and thought it ludicrous. However, I was in New York a few months later and recalled that the film features some of the locations I visited, so I watched it again. I still think it's laughably implausible (in the details, not necessarily the overall concept) and not even well-written, but to that I can add criticism for reorganising the layout of key buildings and even the very street plan of Manhattan merely for effect. Worth watching on TV if you've nothing better to do, but don't spend money on it!
New Dominion Tank Police – I've been aware of the Shirow Masamune manga for years, though I've never actually read it, so I rented the anime series as a bit of a shortcut. It was okay, but not exactly challenging, and I didn't spot any 'grand concepts'.
Closer – Excellent. A very good story and narrative structure, with characters one cared about (if not necessarily liked).
A Perfect Murder – Why did I rent this? It was nothing special, which was exactly as I'd expect of a Gwyneth Paltrow/Michael Douglas film. Maybe I confused the title with that of a different film, and really intended to add that to my rental list. I wonder which.
Troy – Reviewed here.
Ghost In The Shell – Stand Alone Complex – Disappointing. 'Ghost In The Shell' (both the original manga and the anime film) is one of my favourites, but this TV series merely borrows the same characters in a slightly simplified context, totally ignoring the back story established by the 'parent' works and omitting anything thought-provoking. The fact that the lead character, Major Kusanagi, is depicted in some sort of swimsuit throughout probably indicates the intended 'undemanding fanboy' audience.
Hana-Bi – Good, though it took me a while to settle into the slower-than-expected pacing. Very much an internalised film, and I'm not sure I fully understood important cultural references and motivations.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – Surprisingly good (I don't know why 'surprising'; maybe I'd associated Jim Carrey with vacuous manic comedies, which this wasn't) – an odd, but compelling concept, developed using excellent yet understated special effects.
Code 46 – Reviewed here.
Constantine – Reviewed here.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Somehow I missed seeing this at the cinema. I thought it was rather good; though the sheer novelty of depicting Hogwarts, quidditch, etc. was used-up in the first two of the series, there was still plenty to hold one's attention without special effects burying the plot.
Anathema – Were You There? – I don't particularly like videos of concerts, so I treated this one as if a live CD and simply listened to it, rarely glancing at the screen. In that manner, I enjoyed it.
Throne Of Blood – Not my favourite Kurosawa film. At the time, I thought my inability to engage with his relocation of 'Macbeth' from mediaeval Scotland to feudal Japan was simply due to my over-familiarity with the play. However, I also thought the film was drastically under-edited and hence even less compelling: at each stage I knew precisely what was coming, and it took too long to arrive.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – It may be unfashionable to say so, but I think this is my favourite of the prequel trilogy, despite the dodgy dialogue and acting.
Miller's Crossing – Very good, as much for the cinematography as the acting and slightly frustrating story. Good music, too.
Blood The Last Vampire – Reviewed here.
Wild Wild West – I saw this a while ago at a friend's house, and had been mildly impressed by what I could discern of it between interruptions and conversations. However, the second viewing was less rewarding; another to watch on TV if bored, perhaps, but not one to seek out.
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle – Not good. The first was insubstantial but fun; the sequel was just insubstantial. Oh, and grossly implausible.
Dolls – It's extremely rare for me to give up on a film midway, but I'm afraid this was such an occasion. The characters didn't interest me, the pace was less than compelling, and I could see where the multiple storylines were heading (I presume). I'm not saying it was a bad film, but I simply lost interest after the first hour and couldn't be bothered to invest more time in it.
Citizen Kane – critically acclaimed as the 'greatest film ever'. It was good, but not that good. I could see that the technical aspects must have been ground-breaking in 1941 and influential subsequently, but the dialogue has dated to an extent that's a little annoying. Still recommended, though.
Oldboy – Reviewed here.
The Manchurian Candidate – the 2004 remake. Good. I must see the 1962 original some time.
Elektra – Reviewed here.
Baraka – I'm afraid this caught me at the wrong time. Every few months, I'm briefly in the mood to watch 'a tour of the planet's natural wonders and humanity's encroachment upon them'. Philip Glass' music for 'Koyaanisqatsi' and 'Powaqqatsi' certainly helps. However, ordinarily I'm too cynical to be preached at, and 'Baraka's music wasn't in the same league, so I returned this to Amazon having only watched 3-4 mins. A poor choice, not to my taste.
Radiohead – 7 Television Commercials – This highlights the value of DVD rental: I was mildly interested in seeing Radiohead's promo videos, but couldn't imagine wishing to do so twice, and certainly not by buying a full-price DVD with a running time of ~30 mins.
Les Diaboliques – Good, though one character's 'feminine frailty' was annoyingly overplayed. I can certainly imagine this having an impact on 1950s cinema goers, and even by the standards of 2005, I wasn't entirely comfortable watching the climactic scenes on my own in a darkened house!
Bulletproof Monk &ndash I must have read something about this and added it to my rental queue, but by the time it actually arrived, I had no idea why I wanted to see it. It's okay, in a lightweight, unmemorable entertainment sense, but nothing special. I'll have to double-check my rental queue, in case there are more of these ill-considered choices.

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