Thursday, 27 August 2009
Dir: Bruno Podalydès
Starring: Denis Podalydès
Apparently this little known French film is based on a Gaston Leroux novel. While the story seems solid, it's let down by the fact that this film is a sequel - I haven't seen the first film, so the plot remained, to me at least, a real mystery.
It's really poorly edited. First time viewers are left unaware of the background to the characters, and many assumptions are made about the audience's knowledge.
Ignoring the gaping flaws in the plot, some of which are explained at the end, the settings are amazing. This is classic French scenery - wide open seascapes, craggy cliffs, and mysterious islands. Wine, food and philosophy is served in abundance.
Michale Lonsdale (you've seen him in Moonraker, if nothing else) steals the show as the professor who takes forever to start his painting, and precedes every major scene with an ominous prophecy ("The atmosphere is tense, isn't it!").
A shoddily produced work that has some minor merits.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Dir: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters
Narry B's gonna 'fess up: I like this film. I made fun of it for years, but when I actually got around to watching it I was rather impressed. Instead of unlikable, depressing characters that I had imagined the cast was deep. Deep!
Set against the story of mining strikes in northern England, Billy E is about a boy who can dance. He'd prefer it if he could be a boxer, but he was born with woefully weak arms, so he becomes a dancer instead. A ballet dancer (puffter).
A lot of this film is bleak ("you ain't been right since mum died!"... lighten up, mon!) but powerful. Billy learns to dance on the sly and learns how to put his heart and soul into something at the same time.
One of my English students recommended this film to me. She had been so inspired by it that she went out and took up a French ballet class. I wasn't that inspired by it so don't expect to see Narry B in Swan Lake just yet, but Billy Elliot was an entertaining film.
Smaltz could learn a thing or two from Billy E. Mainly how about how to look good in a tutu.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Dir: Takashi Miike
There's a massive difference between the superhero films of America and those of Japan. American superheroes are either the incredibly rich (Batman, Iron Man) or those gifted with ridiculously superhuman powers making them almost invulnerable (Superman, Wolverine).
Zebraman, on the other hand, has all the powers of a... zebra. In fact, now I think about it, he doesn't even have the powers of a zebra. He just has a zebra uniform. Beyond that, his non-super persona is pitiful. Not Clark Kent pitiful but likable. Just pitiful.
This is the superhero creation of infamous/famous Japanese director Takashi Miike. Unlike most other Miike films, this is intended for a wider audience (an audience who doesn't appreciate only violence and excess) and has nice touches of humour, action and human drama.
The story is peculiar, and I won't bother to recite it here cos you should all go and see this film. Download it, buy it, go to Japan and rent it... do anything. It's worth watching.
*Narry B apologies for the image, but it was the only one available at the time of publishing. It's also a great example of Engrish.
Monday, 17 August 2009
Dir: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Andre Benjamin
Oh, people, is this bad! How many more sports can Ferrell and his comedy buddies go through before they run out of ideas? Ah! I see they ran out of ideas ages ago.
Shock: it's another "kitsch" 70's setting about a failing team. Throw in some afros and a disco party, loose morals and a slack tongue, and you pretty much get the idea.
The few moments of brilliance, which there inevitably are, are dimmed by an otherwise awful script and obvious gags. Andre Benjamin (he's the guy from Outkast, as you all know) is a nice touch - the dude has a good sense of comedy timing and seems to be able to play basketball rather well.
How they got away with 12 (UK) rating I'll never know. Foul play!
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Dir: Howard Deutch
Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Lea Thompson (BTTF), Eric Stoltz et al.
What's going on with Narry B lately? He's reviewing all sorts of 80's classics, and with the help of Smaltz he hopes to one day to have the CFBW - Cheesiest Film Blog in the World.
What's the deal with John Hughes? He makes classics like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and stinkers such as The Breakfast Club. In fact, I heard he even worked Narry's MHFL5Y (Most Hated Film of the Last 5 Years) Drillbit Taylor. You can't deny he's one of the most successful writer/directors of the last 30 years.
I rather liked Some Kind of Wonderful. It was, unlike custard, sweet without being sloppy. Some wonderful teen cliches are mixed in with an otherwise decent coming-of-age tale, that has a rather sudden but predictable ending.
When Stolts falls in love with High School Jock Craig Sheffer's girl, things get complicated for him, his best friend and pretty much everyone else. The climactic fight between Stoltz and Sheffer comes to an excellent conclusion thanks to some street punks. Remember, kids, you can always rely on street punks to back you up in a fight.
Sometimes funny, sometimes moving, sometimes cheesy (Dodge E. take note), always entertaining.
Rating: Top Work!
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Dir: Michael Cimino
Starring: Bob DeNiro, John Cazale
Running Time: 412 minutes
I'm never a fan of film-related trivia, but The Deer Hunter has one interesting fact: John Cazale was dying of cancer as he made the film and died shortly after. Plus he was engaged to Meryl Streep, who also stars in this film, at the time.
Anyway, about the film. The Deer Hunter is another psychological war drama. Well, that's not strictly true. A whole heap of it is set before the characters go to war, just showing them in their daily lives. The war section is surprisingly short, but is rather well put together aside from the horrible use of stock footage - what is this, a Marx brothers film?
You can't argue with the cast. This is probably the best role I've seen DeNiro in. The same for Walken. Cazale is good/annoying as ever. The film itself, however, is overlong and rather dull. There is a whole one-hour section, when DeNiro returns to the US only to go back to Nam again, which really shouldn't be in there.
Even if you condensed it to 90 minutes, I still think you would have a fairly dull film. It offers a powerful statement about the effects of war, and how much more important friends are than your country.
It's just not entertaining, though.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Dir: 4 Blokes
I’m sure we were all shocked by his death but thankfully there is this little gem of bizarrity to remind us how popular Michael Jackson was around the globe. So big in fact as to have had (pretty much complete) control over a film and get it a mainstream release. To Smaltz’s mind this hadn’t been done since the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour flopped, and no one looks like being able to do it again any time soon.
I must be honest, when my darling wife Helga told me this was a corner stone of her childhood and it is brilliant I was somewhat skeptical. However when someone told me MJ turns into a car, I was sold.
There’s little point describing the plot suffice to say it’s a lot of fun featuring everything from plasticine rabbits riding a Harley-Davidson to Mr Jackson turning into a spaceship. The film is split into two parts. Part one is Anthology and is a compilation of music and fame including one amusing snipe at sensationalist press with the song ‘Stop dogging me around’, the video showing ridiculous headlines, ‘Jackson weds Alien’ being a favourite of Roger P Smaltz.
Part 2: Smooth Criminal is the cinematic side of things with Jackson and two children being chased by the evil Joe Pesci for no real reason. There are lots of Batman/Dick Tracey style shadows with nice cinematography and a great Smooth Criminal dance routine.
This film divides opinions but overall Smaltz was impressed and I suspect Narry would be too, and that ought to be good enough for you, plebs!
Monday, 10 August 2009
Dir: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson
I've got to tell ye, I did not like this film. Visually, it's beautiful and it had a few moments of greatness, with cat and mouse style chases, and a build up of tension that led to a cascade of action... but overall I found it too intense and disturbing.
Word up to Brian May for his crappy soundtrack.
By today's standards the car chases are still respectable but not spectacular. Mel G is pretty ace as the star man, although he is outshined somewhat in Narry B's opinion by the leader of the law enforcers, whose name I have forgotten.
Anywho, the whole things a bit too serious and so I didn't really enjoy it.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Greg Peck
I was expecting a sloppy, sweeping romantic drama from Roman Holiday. What I got was quite different.
Roman Holiday is actually about three people who have a great time together for one day in Rome. The characters and their relationships are built up in a very constructive way. If you didn't feel that the characters had become so close and so understanding of each others situation, the ending would be unsatisfying. As it stands, this was one of the best and most surprising endings I've seen since 1952.
The same can't be said for Notting Hill, which clearly based itself on Roman Holiday. The thing I hate about Notting Hill, apart from the cheerful ending, is... well... Julia Roberts, for one. Her character has no appeal and no class wahtsoever. Also, Notting Hill seems to think that the physical act of making love is the key point - the grand, orchestral strings kick in, like their night together defines the relationship. That's lust, not love.
Roman Holiday, on the other hand, gets it all right. The two characters just want to use each other at first, but eventually find there's a lot more to it. It defines everything good about being in love, having friends, and, er, being a princess.
Hazzah for Audrey Hepburn, humanitarian, modern beauty, and great actress. Hazzah for Rome, city of history, grandeur, and romance. Hazzah for the immpecable cast and powerful script. Again, hazzah!
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Dir: Leonard Nimoy
Starring: Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, That Girl from So I Married an Axe Murderer
Ah eighties family films…don’t you just love them. They really don’t make them like they used to. This ticks just about every box, although it is perhaps a little bit more grown up than say Karate Kid or Mighty Ducks but you get the idea.
Here’s the premise: A cartoonist, an architect and an actor live in a big house enjoying there bachelor lives. Here’s the punch line, hunky actor Danson has fathered a child unknowingly and is filming abroad. His two friends wake up one morning to find a baby on their door step. They are of course completely inept and have no idea what to do with a baby, which generates most of the film's laughs.
To make things worse, when Danson comes home he has been asked to carry over a package which turns out to be drugs. This leads to some comic run-ins with the police, namely Tom Selleck hiding the packet in the babies nappy, and puts our protagonists in danger.
This is the films McGuffin as it creates a false ending. The real drama involves the baby mother coming back as she regrets giving up her baby.
It’s an enjoyable romp with Pi Selleck arguably stealing the film. It never gets too mushy and the real ending is quite tense and moving.
This 1985 animation is rated very highly by many western sources. Midnight Eye, for example, included it in their top 5 animated films. In Japan, however, it is not very well known. I had enough difficulty finding it.
It's steep reputation is deserved. The story is riveting, although by no means original. Ken is an orphaned ninja with a mysterious past and even more mysterious future. As he travels the world picking up clues about his life and what happened to his parents, he becomes more aware of the massive conspiracy surrounding his own fate and that of Japan.
It's the 'travelling' the world element that is particularly enjoyable. Jiro, the main character, traverses Japan, the seven seas and America on his quest. Wandering throughout the world in the 1800's has always been a dream of Narry B's. Alas, he spent most of the 1800's with a cold.
It's the exploration and fairytale like setting of this film that is really enthralling. In fact, the whole thing is put together exceptionally well, with a nice mix of emotional charge, storytelling, action and comedy (an African slave crying out 'Jiro, My Benefactor!' is a laugh out loud moment).
Rintaro later went on to direct Metropolis, which is probably where you schmoes have heard of him.
Dir: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs
This is how it should go. Mr Emmerich make’s a new film, we all sit down and get a (slightly too long) couple of hours of spectacle and come out feeling a little deflated.
What we actually have is his best film that deserves to be seen as a very good war film. It shows the struggle for American independence from us pesky Brits. It’s surprisingly poignant helped along by its very good cast. Mel is rugged and has a past filled with war which he wants to get over. Heath is fresh faced and eager to server his country much to his father’s displeasure and Mr Issacs is smarmy and hated as he fills the role of customary English villain very well.
Smaltz is still surprised at how much restraint is shown. The battles are seen from a far except of course the epic ending with much screen time given to dialogue and character building. Also enjoyable is when Mel’s band of merry men goes a bit Robin Hood and peacefully sabotages the English army.
What really makes the film work, and is perhaps the most surprising element, is how well the central family work. Where as in other Emmerich films, The Day after Tomorrow say, the character arc is contrived and they are uncared for by the audience, where as here it is painful to watch as the family gets ripped apart.
Indeed the stupidity of civil war (perhaps more so than others) is wrapped up nicely in the films best line “Why swap one dictator three thousand miles away for three thousand dictators one mile away”.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Welcome to my first review, citizens! Dodge E. Camembert used to be something of a revolutionary. He marched on Washington in 1962, you know – would you believe they tried to ban Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs? Philistines.
The very same revolutionary spirit pumped through one Ernesto “Che” Guevara from 1928 to 1967. Steven Soderbergh’s Che covers the extraordinary exploits of the man, from his part in the Cuban Revolution to his failed attempt to initiate a similar uprising in Bolivia.
Split into two films, Part One deals with the glory years. We see Che growing from a timid asthmatic academic to a fierce military leader, which is beautifully and subtly handled by Benicio “mumbly Usual Suspect” Del Toro in the lead role.
There’s a little too much jumping around in time - seemingly for the sake of it - and the opening geography lesson is a bit of a bore. But Part One was certainly my favourite of the two, with a stunning climax as Che’s forces take Santa Clara street by street.
After that peak, it’s all downhill for comrade Che in Part Two. Having sneaked into Bolivia in a hilarious middle-aged man disguise, he has to contend with a stronger (US-backed) government, weak-willed subordinates and an indifferent public. It’s almost painful to watch as both the man and the myth crumble before our eyes. Like a drunk and tired Dodge at the Oscars, though, he never loses his dignity.
If Che as a whole lacks one thing, it’s a little soul. As required reading, Dodge would recommend Motorcycle Diaries before settling down with this heavy two-course meal. It provides a welcome dose of context and helps you sympathise with the quiet doctor from Argentina as he fights the good fight.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
Dir: John Madden
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench
I rarely get bored during films, mainly cos I'm quite selective about what I watch. How, then, did this slip past my radar and into my dvd tray? Narry B is furious.
I refuse to credit Gwyneth Paltrow on the 'starring' list cos she's so bad in this. It's hard to even hear what she's saying when she's reading Shakespeare. She just seems to read it fast with occasional long pauses, hoping it will go away. Bad form, Mrs. Martin, bad form.
Aside from that, I've never heard such contrived drivel pretending as 'love'. The dialog is hair-tearingly annoying when it comes to Shakespeare's and Viola's relationship. I also found the whole film overlong. It was after one hour that I was getting really bored, and so I checked, to my horror, that there was an entire hour still to go.
Now for the good things: Ben Affleck played the over-confident actor perfectly ("We will show you how we turn Genius... into Legend"), and even Prince-lookalike Joseph Fiennes pulled off a cheeky Shakespeare quite well. Geoffrey Rush, despite having some clunky lines, was likable as ever. In fact, the supporting cast was excellent (Judi Dench, Colin Firth etc).
On top of that, there were at least two laugh out loud moments - there should be far more for something that purports to be a comedy, but they're still worth mentioning.