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

Three remarkable reviews

Why remarkable? You may well ask...I like most movies. Even the ones I don't enjoy, I come up with more nice things to say than nasty. I'm a bad critic because I am rarely all that critical. And the remarkable thing is that, of the three films, I actually found a whole host of nasty comments for two of them. Rare occasion! So, with no further ado...
The Prestige
This, according to Friend 3, is the best movie ever made. Though admittedly she's never seen BCSK, The Godfather or JFK...she preordered the DVD, and lent it to me the next day. To tell truth, it didn't really do much for me. Though she does love Hugh Jackman, so she's abusing fan's privelage (definition of fan's privilege - Friend 3 loves Hugh, so when she says his films are fantastic, it kinda doesn't count. Whereas if she said one of his film was terrible, you'd know she really meant it, due to a kind of anti-bias. Similarly, if I hated Michael Caine [which I certainly don't] but noted he was fantastic in this film, my view would kinda count for more than someone who loved Michael Caine. Savvy? PS, can't spell privilege...)

Watching it was a bit like I imagine other people feel when watching M. Night movies. You just know there's going to be a twist, and I was distracted by trying to spot it. Disappointingly, I hit the nail on the head very quickly indeed.
And it cheated. There are two sorts of movie twist. There's ones which show you everything, and whack you with what'll be blatantly obvious on a second viewing - which you could have worked out had you been paying enough attention. And there's the ones which come out of the blue, which the audience could never have spotted because we were lied to. The movie team deliberately mislead us by presenting false information, or missing important details. I could come up with examples for both, but in the interest of a mostly spoiler-free blog I'll assume you can think of some.

I don't know about you, but the second type always peeves me off. I always feel cheated - it's the big cousin of the "and then she woke up and it was all a dream" excuse, which everyone agrees is lame. The suprise is only a suprise because some suit wasn't brainy enough to come up with a more sophisticated way of doing it. There's a fair few shockers throughout the movie, some of them pretty cool, but they all rely on some misinformation fed to us earlier. Very frustrating.
Furthermore...the introduction of real magic further blurred things in the "no fair" stakes. They literally introduce the idea minutes from the end - the last point at which you need the entire rules of the universe changing.
Finally, if all that wasn't unfair enough, the tagline misrepresented the movie - a friendship which became a rivalry, which became an obsession. Well the second half was wonderfully done, BUT WHERE WAS THE FIRST HALF? Because it would have been a lot more painful if they'd spent a little more time on the friendship to begin with. And I didn't really sympathise with any of the characters, which is an absolute killer for me and movies. It wasn't even as brown as I'd hoped.
Other than that? There are some pretty scenes, the period feel is nice, and there are some clever touches here and there. And Empire says it's good, so I suppose I must be wrong. is very good, perhaps, I just never got into the spirit. I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoyed Memento, because although I enjoyed that vastly more, I could also find most of the same faults with it (albeit to a lesser extent, because the premise was so novel, and the colour scheme so white...)

The Island
I did not want to see this film. Period. Why is...very complicated, but my dad's negative reaction didn't help much (he now frequently complains about Michael Bay "ruining fantastic premises with awful action sequences"). I've gone out of my way to avoid it - and I would have again had the option been available (it seriously wasn't. The information hit when I was trapped on the middle seat of the car, surrounded mostly by people I didn't know properly, having been invited to the Christian youth group's movie night*. It wasn't a scenario easily weaseled out of.)
Just goes to show that, sometimes, you should put yourself through films which you're not 100% sure you're going to enjoy. With all that negative emotion, all that please-let-me-go-home-and -watch-Charlie's-Angels-Full-Throttle-insteadness, I was hooked almost instantaneously. Great opening sequence!
It comes recommended for anyone who liked Minority Report - sci fi with action (more than in MR) and moral dilemmas (less than MR)
With the exception of the most ludicrous action scene I've ever seen (balanced on the R on the side of the building?! I'm sorry, no way...), it just had so many cool touches, most of which I can't mention without spoiling the plot.
Best thing about this film: future L.A. Lots of films make their futuristic cities just too shiny. Not so The Island - a realistic mess of styles and buildings, all of which are realisticly grubby.
*I was invited by Friend 3. I spent the proceeding weeks insisting I wouldn't come unless the film was at least 50 years old, was black and white and in a foreign language (with subtitles, not dubbing). Or silent.

To Kill a King

Cromwell and Fairfax are really good buddies, and Fairfax has a sickeningly fantastic relationship with his wife (I mean really, they're what Oscar Wilde meant by washing one's clean linen in public) Anyone who's ever read their Todorov* will know that it won't stay that way for very long. All this set against the background of England's only truly turbulent bit of history, our dear old Civil War.

(*we looked at him in film studies. His theory is that stories start with a balance, which gets disrupted: all plots are a quest to restore this damaged equilibrium)

I have wanted to see this for ages. I'm an English Civil War maniac - I don't know a lot about it, but I get pretty impassioned...on the side of the king. So naturally I loathe Cromwell with a vengeance reserved for historical figures and Roger Ebert.

Thoughts? Well, you know a film's off to a bad start when the first thing that happens is physically impossible (with the obvious exception of R+GaD, of course...) Shooting a sword out of someone's hand at that distance must be tricky. Using the pistols of the period, nigh on impossible. So says my military-nut father (who also noted, by the by, that they skipped the second and third civil wars entirely).

There were a lot of rubbish things about this movie - the script was shaky and predictable, the whole subplot about Lady Fairfax' kid made me yawn and there was just a feeling of terrible averageness.

At the same time, there were a lot of nice things too. The design referenced the clothing and art of the period subtly - more "he looks like King Charles" than "LOOKIE HE'S DRESSED IN THAT OUTFIT THAT VAN DYCK PAINTED HIM IN!". There were some lovely directorly touches here and there (I liked the bit when he kept the camera on Lady Fairfax as she left the this massive hall, while having this big and important scene in the background)

The characters were drawn perfectly. Rupert Everett captured King Charles exactly as I imagined him - bit of frail, poncified gentleman, bit of truly dignified monarch, with a touch of cool scheming statesman here and there. Tim Roth made a truly fantastic Cromwell - selfish, stubborn, uncharasmatic (and that's a compliment coming from someone who, I finally admit, finds him pretty attractive) and basically a bad chap - yet also redeemable. Though not too much. I'd have been seriously peeved had they turned him into a goodie, a la Cromwell. As Friend 4 correctly pointed out, they both have their loathesome and admirable sides. Thomas Fairfax was default hero-guy, and Lady Fairfax was playing "wife-with-career-husband" cliches #1, #5 and #11, but at least she had some pretty blue dresses.

The movie had a strange, strange relationship between the audience's plot preconceptions. Because anyone with a slightest notion of English history knows how the whole king vs parliament thing will turn out, and will be looking veeery suspiciously at that quiet Cromwell chap who doesn't seem to be doing that much at the moment. Which puts a strangely doomful air on the proceedings, because you know it's all going to go horribly wrong. At the same time, I don't think someone without some prior knowledge (the clue's in the title) could follow the plot - there's very little pause for explanation.

That was the background plot. But actually, there was very little about the actual war going on at all. It was more about its effects on the relationship between Fairfax and his wife (insipid!), and Fairfax and Cromwell (wonderful!) - which creates this very strange situation. Because while on the face of it I know where the backstory's headed, I have absolutely no idea what those three characters will get up to. If you watch a fantasy movie, you're expecting a quest; detective films will showcase a bunch of twists leading up to a neat resolution; romances will feature lots of gooing, and probably end with a marriage.

Yet I was completely in the dark, so let me warn you now: the surface plot is all melodrama. It starts ok and just goes downhill cheesewise. By the investiture scene, it's about as bad as cinema gets in the faux heroic stakes. But here's where my critical powers fail. I can take a step back and say "pfeugh ridiculous twaddle", but at the same time...I like cheesy heroics. I'm a sucker for a good speech, and a friendship gone sour gets me in the gut every time. Personally, I adored the investiture sequence, and Fairfax and Cromwell's conversation at the end of the film. I'm kinda tempted to watch the last half hour again, just to savour the stilton sweetness.

Was it any good? No, not really. It achieved what it set out to achieve - no more. A solid, average film with no spark.

Did I like it? I liked lots of things about it, they just didn't come together consistantly. And while I admit to the corniness of some of the stuff at the end, I personally thought it was fantastic.

Best moment: I enjoyed watching well bred Lady Fairfax deal with simple dinner in a puritan household (you may think: Blackadder!). But seriously, all the sweet buddyish moments.

Recommended for: Anyone else who loves a good bit of heroic, stirring(ish), heartbreaking(ish) emotional turmoil;

Don't watch if you: just fell out with a close friend; have no interest or knowledge of the Civil War; alternitavely, if you have a LOT of knowlege of the Civil War, and are easily annoyed when films squelch by-the-book history


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