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30 January, 2006

A week in film

I'm not a fan of TV in general, but I do watch quite a few films.  Last week (Mon-Saturday) I saw five: one at the cinema, two on DVD, one on TV and one on video, recorded from TV.

The Brothers Grimm
Disappointing. In pretty much every respect except the script (which was weak), the whole production was overdone: too 'busy', too dramatically acted (I don't quite mean 'over-acted' – I think the actors performed as they were requested, odd accents and all) and generally too visually intense. Even a huge cinema screen felt cluttered with inconsequential details, which masked important ones and detracted from the overall feel. In a way it was interesting to see the conflict between Terry Gilliam's Python-era 'mediaeval squalor' visual style and Bob & Harvey Weinsteins' mainstream Hollywood urge to sanitise.
'Brazil' and 'Twelve Monkeys' were Gilliam films. 'The Brothers Grimm' is a film which happens to have been directed by Gilliam. There's a difference.

Taxi Driver
It's one of those 'must see' classics of modern cinema, but I couldn't really see the attraction – at the time. By the apparent end, I'd pretty much written it off as a depressing, well-acted but ultimately inconclusive social commentary. Yet that wasn't the end, and the final few minutes totally changed my opinion.
It is indeed a 'must-see', and very thought-provoking. I've been discussing it with J. in the office and friends online all week, and the multiple interpretations (was it partly hallucinatory? If so, at what point in the narrative did reality give way to fantasy?) have added to my appreciation, though not, it has to be said, enjoyment. It's not easy entertainment.

Johnny English
At two points, this was hilarious, and laughing impeded my breathing. However, that accounted for 2-3 minutes of a ~90-min film, which can't be regarded as a success. The rest was pretty dire, really.
As is ITV's annoying habit, the film was interrupted for half an hour for the 22:30 news bulletin, then resumed for the final 20 mins. I didn't bother watching the second segment; I doubt I missed much.

Bubba Ho-Tep
An antiquated Elvis and a black JFK combat an ancient Egyptian mummy preying on a rural Texan retirement home. It's a wild comedy, right? Well, no. I didn't find it remotely funny, and the dominant topic of 'life' in rest homes, where inhabitants are abandoned to die by uncaring relatives, was deeply depressing. It was an affecting film, but I can't say I enjoyed it.
It's worth seeing, but don't expect the obvious, as the comedic setting is merely a frame for a much darker, serious film.

I've been interested in the idea of 'virtual people' for at least a decade, so the theme of this film intrigued me. The approach wasn't quite what I expected, and I nearly dismissed the first hour as an insubstantial farce. However, it gradually started to say something at least passably meaningful about the nature of celebrity, Hollywood marketing and people's need for social acceptance, so in retrospect I rate it fairly highly, except for one point.
I don't regard myself as some geeky nit-picker, but my suspension of disbelief did take a serious knock when a cutting-edge CGI editing desk was trashed by a virus inserted on a 5¼" floppy disk....


"my suspension of disbelief did take a serious knock when a cutting-edge CGI editing desk was trashed by a virus inserted on a 5" floppy disk...."

Where did they even FIND that?

Posted by Jeff Rollin at January 31, 2006 08:53 AM
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