Tag Archives: B

Buried 4/5

Buried

Well, I really couldn’t on board with the ending (which I won’t spoil), but the fact the director and writer and indeed Ryan Reynolds could hold my attention so raptly is essentially a single setting involving once character onscreen shows a lot of talent in all respects. It was tense, gripping and extremely well executed. One of the best thrillers of the last 5 years, I’d say.

But the ending just made me want to punch the director. But I do acknowledge that was a very personal view of it, and others will think it’s a good ending. So don’t let my comments about it put you off.

Beauty and the Beast 1991 4/5

Beauty and the Beast

First Watch!

This was a pretty terrific and absorbing Disney, with some great songs/animation combos, and a more resonant story than you often get with Disney.

One downside is it did keep making me think of the far-superior La Belle et La Bete (and giving me an urge to watch that again), which it shares many elements of, but Disney-fied, of course. That’s not a significant fault of this movie though, it does have enough charm of its own to stand up proud.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 3.5/5

Bridget Jones

Whilst not as good as the first movie, this is still pretty entertaining. Some of the side characters who had more depth in the first, and consigned to bit-parts only. It’s helped by the great central performance by Zellwegger, who I don’t think was ever better than as Bridget Jones. Hugh Grant is also marvellous as the bad boy character, and Firth is good in a very stuffy, stiff role (the role is right, that’s what the character is).

Your enjoyment does hinge on how much you like Zellwegger as Jones though.

Barbarella – Odd One Out 053

Barbarella

The fun, possible influential, silly Barbarella with the beautiful Jane Fonda.

Barbarella 3/5

Barbarella

This is archetypally 60s goofy fun. There’s a LOT of things wrong with it, such as the constant padding of the story and the absolutely terrible special effects, but you know what? It’s fun, it’s extremely creative in its look, art design and so on, and Jane Fonda is absolutely getting it. It also helps that Fonda is achingly beautiful and sexy, and it’s pretty much her central charismatic performance that allows this movie to deliver at all.

Rather wonderful, inheriting its spirit and art from early Flash Gordon and Planet of the Vampires, and itself becoming the spiritual parent of Battle Beyond the Stars, Starcrash and the 1980 Flash Gordon.

Great theme song too. All together now…’Bar-bar-ella, psy-che-delaaaa’

Battle Beyond the Stars 3.5/5

Battle Beyond The Stars

Very fun scifi version of Seven Samurai from Roger Corman, with solid music, a decent script with witty touches (and a few laughs), and some thought and imagination showing through in the ship designs, different kinds of creatures that make up the seven, the android base, and so on.

It’s less coherent when it gets to the space battles, the effects are reasonable, but the choreography of the fighting is basic and gets a little tiresome.

Very enjoyable.

Barbarian Queen 1.5/5

Barbarian Queen

Goofy sex and sandals exploitation movie, done 80s style. Which means lots of tops getting ripped off, rapey middle-aged guys in silly outfits, and women who, no matter what hell they’ve gone through, look like they just got out of the beauty parlour.

Some nice costumes and sets, and the odd good special effect (sword through neck, anyone?), but otherwise pretty disposable.

Bad Day At Black Rock 3.5/5

Bad Day At Black Rock

Solid drama with a quite outstanding cast (noticeable as town toughnuts are Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine!). As I watched it, it seemed quite wordy, and I became convinced it was based on a stage play, though searching the intertubes doesn’t indicate that. Very short and punchy and with a whiff of John Steinbeck about it, as well as detective/noir.

– the good: superlative cast, acting and dialogue, nice story and resolution.
– the bad: While the direction was adequate, you really never felt a sense of tension around what should have been oppressive tension about the threat to Tracy’s character
– the odd: the quite old Tracy apparently standing up to the threat of the likes of Lee Marvin.

Beowulf 2/5

Beowulf

This pitches up between real-life cinema and more cartoonish styles, and feels like the worse of both. The nearly-human animation feels unreal by its very nearly-ness, giving the whole thing of watching a cast acting through thick botox-poisoning. In contrast, the animation of Grendell seems oddly dated (it felt that way when it came out), and feels like a prototype cgi-rendering of the first version of Treebeard, or like someone asked the muppet guys to built a large model of a monster for stagework, and then someone converted that to CGI. It’s a very odd feeling. Another odd section is a sub-Austin Powers part where Beowulf fights naked, but his genitals are hidden by strategically placed items/people throughout several parts of a long scene.

It really doesn’t fly, except the final fight with the dragon. But at nearly two hours, this felt a long, unentertaining slog, only lightened by the obvious yarning of Beowulf, and the final fight with the dragon, which was quite enjoyable.

The Bad Seed 4.5/5

The Bad Seed

This is a startling movie about psychopathy. The acting is stagey and melodramatic (it’s based on a Stage Play, with most, if not all, the original stage cast), and there’s a lot of monologues, but hell, does it work. Central is the little blonde girl, who psychopathy is clear – she’s charming but forcefully and oddly so, confident to a degree it feels unnatural for her age, and completely devoid of remorse. She feels trivial setups completely justify her murderous actions. Her glee is scary, but scarier still are the moments we detect a vacancy and absence of…something…behind those eyes.

And it’s not just her performance that electrifies the movie. The mother, torn by knowledge of her daughter’s evil actions, but still loving her daughter, gives a borderline hysterical performance that’s terrific, only surpassed by a grieving mother whose little son is dead…and she suspects it wasn’t an accident. Also, there’s a terrific Southern gardener who reminds you of William H. Macy, who is on to the little girl at the start, and threatens and teases her throughout…and it’s very unsettling how the little girl handles the (true) accusations with such clear confidence and offhandedness.

What I thought was the ending was extreme and shocking (I’m not going to spoil it, but you’ll know it when you see it), but there are further scenes that feel tacked on (kind of like the end of Psycho?), but that are in their own way, almost as weird as the preceding 2 hours, and in a way more dreamlike and pushing the story into archetype fairy tale.

Would make a great double bill with Night of the Hunter for a great night of fantastic black-and-white gothic-thriller-horror.

Movie: Bubba Ho-Tep – Subversive little pulp horror/action movie that is surprisingly deep 6/10

Bubba Ho-Tep

Elvis is alive! Or at least he is in this film. The premise of the film is this: Elvis swapped places with an Elvis impersonator when he got bored with the fame and restrictive lifestyle, and while the impersonator died, Elvis lived on to old age, and eventually wound up in a nursing home. In with him is an old black guy who claims to be JFK. The pair of them are feeling their age, and how everything is going to hell, until, somehow, an ancient mummy ends up creeping the hallways, sucking the life out of the residents so that it can live…

Ok, this screams pulp horror garbage, but you think that, you’d be wrong. This is a class film. Elvis is played by Bruce Campbell, of Ash/Evil Dead fame, as a down-beat, running-on-fumes old guy that suddenly finds meaning in battling the ancient mummy. Ossie Davis – a great black actor seen in countless 60s and 70s TV shows – plays JFK. They bring a dignified air to their parts, and in the lead up to the battle and while they try to battle the mummy, they bring a solomn gravitas to the proceedings. Here, buried in the pulp story, is a study in the effect of ageing on the spirit, and how the elderly are treated in modern society, done to a touching and meaningful depth that ‘serious’ films rarely reach.

This makes is sound pompous – but it isn’t. It’s fun, interesting, and engaging. All this is wrapped up in a fun and interesting 92 minutes, and I believe you miss this, you’re missing something very good.

Also, there’s been talk of a sequel where a younger karate-kicking Elvis takes on Dracula or similar in ‘Bubba Nosferatu’. This gets less and less likely the older Bruce Campbell gets, but we can only hope, huh?

OVERALL: 6/10

REWATCHABILITY: Once every year or two Okay for adults and teens above 13 or so.

Movie: The Battle of Algiers – Tense docu-style movie that remains contemporary 7/10

The Battle of Algiers

This is a film made in 1965 about the late 1950’s uprising in French-run Algeria. It has a soundtrack by Morricone, and is filmed in an interesting and gripping documentary style, in order to try and stress the realism of the events portrayed. It’s an even-handed film, showing evil acts perpetrated by both sides during the struggle, and I was quite surprised to find out that it was actually commissioned by the Algerian government. It doesn’t seem particularly biased (or as unbiased as such film can be).

There’s no flinching here from the acts committed. We are shown children and civilians being carried from collapsed buildings after some French action, and emotive, welling music rises (‘hm’, I thought, ‘so it’s gonna be anti-French’), but later similar footage is shown of the aftermath of a bombing of innocent civilians in a cafe, and a similar montage and the same music is used. More bombings – at a race course for example – presenting the approach of the Algerian Liberation Front (FLN) are shown, but again, this is balanced by unflinching footage of the torture of arab suspects by the French – electrocution, drowning, hanging in awkward positions, beating…

There’s more scary stuff here. The ease with which the women change from traditional covering clothing to Western-style clothes and make-up to get through checkpoints with bombs, the hiding of guns in the robes which are quickly pulled and used to shoot policemen going about their jobs (at the start of the agitation), and how the fighters assume (correctly!) that other arabs will willingly help them. Other striking scenes include how one of the fighters is going to be blown out of his hiding place and the French offer to allow a boy to come out – but the man keeps the boy with him. Another is the FLN (early on, before the struggle is really underway) declare they will clear the Kasbah of drink and drugs and prostitution, and a gang of small boys start taunting an old drunk. He staggers up a wide stairway, but the boys whistle and call other boys, until there’s a mass of them, pulling the drunk about, and then dragging/forcing him down the stairs on his back…

There’s a lot to be said for watching this film. I can’t recall any movie quite like it, and it is a cliche, I know, to say it’s never been more relevant. But it’s a true cliche.

It’s tense, it’s gripping, it’s thought-provoking.

This film is in French and Algerian/Arabic.

OVERALL: 7/10
REWATCHABILITY: Once a year. Suitable for middle teens up. Quite grim and bloody, but it is in black and white.

TV Review: Battlestar Galactica miniseries and Season 1: Fantastic, gritty, funny, surprising space opera that really delivers here 9/10

The 3 hour miniseries set the scene very nicely. This was total war, and total losing, the cylons won this one outright. 3 very clear and outright awesome characters were established in this series: Commander Adama, Starbuck and Roslin. There’s also a ton of potential in the ambiguous character and situation of Baltar, with the promise of him getting up to the same level as the others, and some possibility that Tigh may reach the same heights.

Two scenes in particular stood out for me, and defined the spirit of the show: Roslin, who we’ve seen as very human and compassionate being forced to make a snap-decision about leaving a lot of ships behind vs staying and risking all of civilian humanity to the cylons, and she makes it without histrionics or any show of weakness. And near the end, when Tigh is trying to make amends with Starbuck, and Starbuck flat refuses to compromise.

We know we’re not in glossy, emotionally-vacuous territory here.

 
Episode 1 of Season 1, “33”, was just excellent. Opening right in the middle of it, we don’t get time to familiarise or warm to the characters, but instead feel their disorientation, confusion, and sense of being completely strung out. I still don’t know if 33 was a cylon ploy, like an extended water torture, or it was their time to recalc the jump. They set the bar very high with this.

Episode 2, “Water” opened really well, again in disorientation and confusion, this time with the character of Sharon being absolutely soaked and obviously not knowing where she was and how she got there. It did settle into something more ordinary after that though. I too didn’t feel the Chief acted properly or realistically. Hell, they are fighting for survival, he’s in a absolutely key position, he cannot hide stuff like that, even though it’s his girlfriend. That peeved me some. I really like the Baltar/6 interactions though, and the building relationship of Adama and Roslin.

 
Episode 3 – Bastille Day: I think Richard Hatch was just excellent as Zarek, with authority, power and still confidence conveyed in all scenes except the last one. Lee was also much better as a character. This was a great return for Hatch, not some cheesy cameo that often happens in these old->new handovers. It all worked pretty well imo, except there was a couple of slips. Making Starbuck head of a anti-terrorist squad was really stupid jump from reality (I don’t care if she’s an awesome shot), and the relenting of her character on Tigh (which he rejected, thankfully).
 
Episode 4 – Act of Contrition: Yeah not bad, but too unfocussed for me for the first half. Sharpened up well when Starbuck finally revealed to Adama she passed his son even though he wasn’t ready. What fury was shown without moving a muscle! I also liked Starbuck training the nuggets, and wish there was less of the flashback stuff and more of that. I did dig Starbuck going back to face-off 8 cyclons though – very exciting prospect, and I wish we saw more of that, and her in real peril. I really liked the character of Hotdog a lot.
 
Episode 5 – You Can’t Go Home Again: Okay, lots of plot contrivances, and I just didn’t buy that Adama would so jettison his responsibilities because of, admittedly serious, unresolved issues, but the last 5 minutes made up for it. Roslin giving the guys a serious talking-to to remind them of how they need to be, the relief at finding Starbuck, and the final scene between Adama and Starbuck. It moved me greatly, that final scene, and made the reservations about the rest of the episode vaporise.

An okay episode with some really great final few scenes.

 
 
The remaining episodes were more patchy, but overall it lead to a terrific conclusion – particularly the final 2-parter episodes, and raised a number of question marks about what the hell was going on.
 
Thoroughly recommended.

Blues Brothers and favourite movie music Episode 012

Sam and Mark talk about star wars and George Lucas, The Blues Brothers, and their favourite music moments from the movies.