Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Case for Ghosts

The potentially last Daniel Craig James Bond movie, Spectre, starts off with an amazing screen set in Mexico City, where the music is pumping and the action is pounding and there is a definite hint of the old cheesy 70s Bond humour in there as well.  It’s a great way to start the film.

And then the theme song comes on.  And it is long.  And boring.  And tedious.  And uninspiring.  And long.  And then it carries on for a bit longer.

And for me, the film never really fully recovers.  It does rebound somewhat, with action and humourous touches and Bond uncovering a big conspiracy and internal team strife and everything you would expect from a Bond film.  However, there are small individual elements that conspire against it becoming a great Bond film.

For example, there is a long and slow “Council of Elrond” scene where the baddies get together in an insanely dark room to discuss wildly boring conversations in preposterously reverential tones and then the head bad honcho arrives and is hidden in well orchestrated shadows and then makes minor meaningless movies that show power and evil and all sorts of nonsense that I think are meant to provide sinister atmosphere but which are actually just plunging the film into Austin Powers territory.  And then, when they finally make it to the bad guy’s evil lair and his minions snap to drone-like attention… are these meant to be real people?  If so, where do they sleep and eat?

While the chase scenes and fighting scenes are very well put together and executed, the convenience of the plot and some of the “twists” were, for me, a bit ridiculous, and these too detracted from the otherwise really well constructed story and rather great performances.

However, I know not everyone feels the same way.  Some people adore this film; other people really hate it.  I fit more in the middle, and from the looks on the faces of my fellow film goers, there are other people who were also feeling rather ambivalent about Spectre.  So a fairly divisive film really, and, in my opinion, not really a great one either.

Verdict:  Spectre has amazing action, nefarious plots, lots of humour and exotic locations, but fails to fire when it comes to bringing these all together in a story that feels complete and fulfilling.  A good collection of great pieces of a film that for some reason just fail to come together as a whole.  6 licenses to kill out of 10.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Case for a Martian Manhunt

The Martian pits Matt Damon against the inhospitable atmosphere and elements of the fourth planet, Mars.  Left behind after a highly improbable storm forces his team to leave the planet, Damon’s character must learn to adapt and use what has been left behind to help him survive until people come back to the red planet and he can be rescued.  He has his wits, his poo, and a collection of 70s disco music.  Will it work?

And considering Ridley Scott’s recent efforts, does the film work?

The answer to the second question (as I don’t want to give spoilers for the first) is a resounding yes. 

With Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, Sean Bean and a whole raft of other people with familiar faces on board, he has the cast to help him pull this off.  The effects are likewise extraordinary, and the script and story are both compelling.

Most important of these of course is Damon, carrying the bulk of the film on his broad shoulders.  He has played a man marooned on a distant planet before in Interstellar, but this time he is not a dick.  His character, Watney, is engaging, funny, and competent and completely empathetic to the audience.  Likewise, those in Mission Control and various other locations are serious and seem totally plausible, the odd moment of levity just adding to making the film feel plausible for science fiction.  

There’s not too much more to say about it really.  The film looks amazing on the big screen and while some of the actions taken to try and get The Martian back and home don’t really seem to make a huge amount of sense (what was that with the directional glove again?), there are enough scenes and sections based on quasi-fact to make the film mostly believable.  And through it all, Damon keeps things on track and enjoyable, even if he does not have a volleyball (a la Castaway) to keep him company.

Verdict: The Martian is a great, entertaining and engrossing movie, full of fine performances, great effects, and a superior script.  Totally enjoyable and totally worth seeing on the big screen.  Yes, I liked t!  9.5 Mars Bars out of 10.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Case for Wining

Amy showed at the International FilmFest but was a sure thing to come back on a general release, so I was super keen to go and see it when it came out in the Lighthouse Cuba.

I was never the biggest Amy Winehouse fan, not buying any of her albums or following her that much, but her voice was incredibly soulful, her songs seemed wilfully self destructive and her end seemed totally tragic, so this film, documenting her lightning fast rise and fall, grabbed my attention as a must see.

And it was hypnotic.  Interviewing friends and family, the film showed how success came hard and fast for her, and how those around her sometimes either abused their association with her for their own personal gain, or failed to fully see the effect it all had on her.  Her father comes off particularly badly, and he has since criticised the film for being inaccurate, but while you can see why he tries to claim he had no part in Amy’s demise, the actions shown in the film seem to prove otherwise.

Winehouse comes across as an incredibly driven and talented entertainer, a huge fan of jazz in all its forms, and a vey public woman who used her private life to fill her songs with soul and meaning.  She also loved with all her heart, though from the looks of it, her big loves – her husband and her father – both let her down.

I was completely engrossed in the movie, but I was distracted by a couple near me who seemed anything but.  They played in a cell phone, showing each other messages and the glare of the screen lighting up the room, talking in a loud whisper (so basically just talking) and then hopping out for a wine stop.  And I wasn’t the poor person sitting right next to them either.  Sigh.

Still, the music and Winehouse’s voice were completely distracting, and putting the songs in context and seeing how they told her story were amazingly engaging and engrossing.  While I didn’t hang around to see how long the distracted couple hung around so that people could pelt them with tomatoes, I left with a sense of sadness, but some incredible tunes in my head.

Verdict: Amy was an incredible documentary that deserves the accolades, especially when it has so much to teach us as those who all contributed to the type of society that helped cause Amy’s death.  8 rehab clinics out of 10.