Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Reviews! English Patient, Alfie, Brother's Grimm and Batman Begins

So let's actually have some movie reviews, shall we? Because it's just been rants of various varitys for ages and it's been quite a while. This week's been a good, two-Michael-Caine-films sorta week.

Alfie -3.5
At a loss for what to say here, as it's not really my sort of thing and the only reason I watched it was because it starred Michael Caine. So let's talk about him. He plays this pretty unpleasant man who cheerfully dispenses his life wisdom to whoever will listen, the movie equivalent of mambo no. 5, who drifts his way in and out of several pretty distasteful situations virtually without taint. Herein lies the joy - Alfie chats knowingly to the camera, and before you know it you're absolutely on his side. This isn't just me falling for the bad guy again, cos he's not bad. Just unpleasant to some of those people on screen. Single mothers, married women, backstreet abortionists, and whatever happened to poor Annie - bad things happen to other people, Alfie slips away clean. Which is why when he breaks down half way through the movie it is so powerful. While the whole kitchen-sink aspect of it didn't appeal to me, I did feel like I was watching something important. The best scene? The nurse giving him a, er, check up while two horrified decent people watch the hospital screen. Hilarious...
English Patient - 3/5
Don't you hate moviespoilers? Well me too. Big kudos to whomever spoilt the ending of this one for me.

Last time I was on holiday I tried reading a book which the Daily Mail quote described as a "sweeping romantic triumph!" My friends ridiculed it to the extent that I couldn't pass 12 pages, but that phrase has stuck with me and I'm about to use it to describe this film. And what a sweeping romantic triumph it is - pure Oscarbait. Cast of thousands, based on a book, set in Africa, second world war nurses...need I go on?
The direction was nice, and the acting nice also. Easy to sweep away 9/10ths of a film like that, isn't it?

One criticism. I really liked William Dafoe's character, thought he was really sweet et al BUT from a purely cinematic point of view, I think he was entirely unecessary. The story would have been just as good had he been cut entirely. The flashbacks could still have been had. Though that would be a pity seeing as he was quite a nice character.

At times it reminded me very much of Out of Africa - a married woman, a passionate romance, an aeroplane...I made an equation linking them both, it's here but it's kinda spoilerish so unless you've seen both...but unlike Out of Africa, the romance got lost somewhere. I'm sorry I'm sorry I've gotta say it, and I'm gonna say it about Brokeback Mountain too. There's more to romance than a quick snog. You never get the sense that any of it means more to them, not until the veeeeery end. It's not even an intellectual friendship - at least that's not how it comes across. How could they do that to her husband, seriously how? They're friends for goodness sake! The most romantic scene in the film is by far when Kip leads Hanna from the house with a trail of lit snail shells, and that pweety bit in the church.

One note - this film is not for the sqeamish. I know, because I'm not one of them and even I winced once or twice in this. And watch it on the biggest screen you have because our pretty large TV didn't do it justice at all...
And for those who've already seen it, yes of course I sobbed. You telling me you didn't? It's when she tells him she loves him at the end which got me...

Brothers Grimm - 3/5
This is a tale of two movies, or rather a tale of two perceptions.
The first is a fantasy-comedy caper starring Heath Ledger, Matt Damon and some CGI. The second is a dark fantasy-comedy fairytale directed by Terry Gilliam. You see what I mean by perceptions? If I'd only known one of the two my opinion may have been quite different.

There are some undoubtably Gilliam touches in here, witty as only he knows how. The minute the string quartet in the torture chamber takes up its instruments I knew we were in familiar territory, and it made me grin. Love Terry Gilliam. Absolute manic genius. Shots like the witch smashing at the end have his signature all over them. The horse and the spiders, the girl in the pool, the creepy mud effect and that dinner party for the French noble elite. And perhaps this was part of the script, but I sensed the same manic giggle in the titlecard reading "French occupied Germany". And what about the violent cute kitten death?

The special effects were so-so, by which I mean half were pretty dire, and the other half not bad. The forest shots were beautiful, the tower and the mud splat disappointing. The walking trees were quite fun though.

While the plot was ok, I'm really starting to get sick of the "eclipse/planetary alignment only happens once a millenia, but there conveniently happens to be one next week" twist. The happenings that later inspired the tales themselves are clever too - the children are Hanz and Greta, for example - just different enough for memory to later turn them into the familiar Hansel and Gretl.

Really good things about this film? Well it starred Monica Belluci (one of the four most beautiful women in the world, in my not so humble opinion - just below Kate Bush, just above me and Sophie Loren) and for what little she was given she was good. Though to be fair her role was "be beautiful", so it was hardly challenging material. As goes the rest of the cast, Matt Damon was very smooth indeed as the quicktalking (was he Jake or Will?), and Heath Ledger...well I can't remember actually. Heroine Woman(TM) was, of course, irritatingly macho and sensitive by turns. Both men insist arguing in her house, presumably to rack up tension or increase sympathy - whatever, I thought it was dumb. And Cavaldi isn't funny, just predictable.

So all in all, there's a good film in here struggling to get out. A lot of clever and intriguing touches spoilt by an uninventive plot and unsympathetic characters. Terry Gilliam fans: you'll understand it better than most, you'll be able to see the occasional genuis deep buried, but don't read the imdb trivia for this. It'll just depress you. One not of caution - this is not one for the sensitive kiddies. There are some pretty disturbing images in here. I watched this with friends, and one was seriously freaked out . Like Twelve Monkeys and and Brazil, there's something in there which you can't put your finger on, something very disturbing and horrible.

Batman Begins - 3.5/5

Pretty terrific! I mean, wowie. I'd better start by informing you that I am not a batfan, so there's no comments about truth to the source material here. Sacrelidge, sorry.

This film really is pretty dark - there's a wonderful sense of corruption everywhere. Batman himself is under attack from every side - I counted 4 small bad guys at least with their own tiny agendas, varying from the nefarious to the downright insane. This is the only superhero film I've ever seen which treats the audience with intelligence. This means I lost track of the plot at several points - but unlike Constantine (a film I love, by the by) this wasn't because they overloaded us with meaningless exposition, but because it was genuinely complex.

I personally thought Bruce himself wasn't terrific, but taking a peep at the imdb user comments I think that's just me. And while the script was mostly ok, some of the lines needed a tweek to make them less sappy. It's a problem I have with films - no doubt "your father would be ashamed" is quite a stinging comment, but it's not that harsh. There's a lot of quotes in here which did make me wince, especially near the beginning.

The supporting cast were fantastic though. Michael Caine was given mostly lame bits of script but amazingly pulled it off, producing a really really sweet Alfred, and the bond between him and Bruce is lovely to watch. The recipient of the rest of the lines was The Token Heroine Girl, and she faired less well. Morgan Freeman's virtual cameo-character was fun (he got most of the nice lines) and Liam Neeson made the best of not much screen time too. My favourite character was undoubtedly Gary Oldman's delightfully nervy police chief - he is wonderful, refreshingly normal, constantly reacting to everything around him. I've come to the realisation that he is a very good actor. And that's not a conclusion I reach every week...oh, and I forgot the doc! That chap is really creepy, even before he gets his sackcloth thing out. And dyaknowwhat? I actually thought, "I wonder whether he would make a passable Dorian Grey", which is also something I don't think often...but back to the film.

The special effects are good, and the hallucenogenic stuff superb. And I have an awful lot of respect for Christopher Nolan after having read the imdb trivia - his attempts to use as little CG as possible. The production design was, as always in superhero flicks, brilliant - but for once it did not overshadow the plot in greatness. And the action? Well the downfall of many of these films is that the action sequences are too long. The blessed thing about Constantine is that they never introduce a fight or chase at the expense of intelligence. Now, Batman Begins was mostly tedium free - I thought the car chase could have been a tad smaller, but the ending was just about the right length and kept thinking. Unlike, for example, Spiderman or LXG (not to disparage LXG, mind you, I adored that film when it first came out... :p) which decended into a big fight, while there's fighting in Batman it's all plot motivated and is logical.

The Wild Bunch

Long story. A very long story. My father and I counted on my sister not wanting to watch a film last night so we decided to watch this. Foiled! Anyway, we sat to watch Batman Begins instead and then she went off so we tried the Wild Bunch video. But for some mean and obscure reason it had been rescheduled and no one had told us, and the film we actually had was Parenthood instead. Parenthood?! Know nothing at all about it, sure I'd hate it though. So we ended up watching Batman Begins after all. Damn!

PPS, very excellent rumour can be found here and most other sites on the web. Please, oh Hitchcock, let it be more than a rumour! In the name of Orson Welles, I pray thee, please!


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