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Armageddon: Special Edition (2 Discs)
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I'm not into calling movies "the greatest ever made." I leave that up to the lazy marketing people who throw the term around whenever a film comes their way. Equally, I'm not one of these high-brow, jumped up wannabe critics who proclaim everything to be the "worst film ever made." That doesn't excuse Armageddon from getting a right good thrashing, as it is so full of American jingoism, plotholes and stupidity...That is, of course, if you can actually see what is happening in the movie, since the rather energetic director not only has an average shot length of roughly two seconds, but seems to enjoy employing shaky-cam to really confuse the hell out of the audience.
Some of the other reviewers seem to hail the film's plot as somehow original or amazingly new. Quite honestly, it falls into the same mould as all those other big-budget "Holy ****! Mankind is doomed!" films during the 90s like "Volcano", "Godzilla", "Dante's Peak", "Twister" and "Independence Day." It's the further thing imaginable from original, since another "space impact" movie was released just two months before "Armageddon", and whilst it's not much better, "Deep Impact" comes in just a step above this film. However, this review is for "Armageddon" so let's get back to it. The plot involves a group of deep-core oil drillers trained up by NASA to land upon the surface of an incoming asteroid, drill a hole, plant a nuke and destroy it before it hits Earth, killing everything where "not even bacteria would survive." It sounds reasonable enough on paper, but on film it's a horrendous. For a film that seems to bring up a lot of tears and heart-felt emotion from my fellow reviewers, not one second did I ever feel the Earth was in danger. Not once. Movies are supposed to make us suspend our disbelief and take us into a new world, but thanks to the over-stylised direction by Michael Bay, I felt like I was in a 2 and a half hour music video, not a gripping piece of cinema about the end of mankind.
Believe me, I honestly do want to be positive about this film, but everything in it is so ludicrously bad it amazes me how people could possibly enjoy it. It throws all logic and scientific accuracy out of the window nearly enough every minute - people can fire chain-guns in space and gravity only comes into effect whenever it'd be most dramatic. Okay, so science is not the movie's strong point.
What about its script? You've heard the saying "two's company", right? Well this movie redefines that saying, considering there is no less than 9 credited writers. Each of them seems to have written their own movie, come together at the end and stuck them together however they could, creating all manner of subplots that never go anywhere and characters who we never actually care about. To learn that people cry over their fate is hard to believe, considering how little we know of them, and even then they're no more than stock characters.
Special effects? Is that what people like? Again, thanks to the ADD direction by Michael Bay, the effects are nothing more than cut after cut after cut of blur, smoke and sparks. The only time I saw things clearly was during the meteor shower on New York. I saw things very clearly. Too clearly, in fact, as people fall screaming to their deaths from burning buildings and the World Trade Center stands ablaze.
Sadly I'm running out of word space to describe everything else that is wrong with this movie, such as Affleck's hammy performance, but that I'll leave you to decide. Do you want to watch a giant mess of a film that offends your ears, eyes and brain with a barrage of stupidity? I hope not, but please, buy the film by all means. I'm not stopping you. I just hope common sense does.
Dirty Pretty Things
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Imagine being an over-worked, under-payed and under appreciated hotel worker. It's late. The relentless, monotonous ticking of a clock nearing 2am is all that keeps you from falling asleep. Suddenly, you're startled by the appearance of flamboyant prostitute Juliette who descends from one of the rooms fresh from a client, telling you of a clogged toilet. When you arrive to remove the no doubt nasty blockage, your hand shoots to your mouth as you cry out in astonished disbelief: "Oh my God!".
Well, that was my reaction anyway as I watched this incredible little thriller directed by Stephen Frears, more recently known for his success on "The Queen." I'll leave you to find out just what Okwe, the overworked main character, discovers one night in a cheap hotel bathroom, but one thing's for certain; it'll change his life forever.
My previous comment that the film is a thriller was slightly incorrect, but the clever thing that Frears does is take the Hitchcockian plot device and sinister mystery in order to engage its audience in a subject that is never talked about in film; immigration. Okwe, an illegal immigrant from Nigeria, spends his waking hours driving cars for a backend minicab firm and serving the front desk at a hotel. He carries a weighted past that seems to prevent him from sleeping any, but not that it'd do him any good, considering his bed is a lumpy sofa in a tiny run-down flat owned by fellow hotel worker Senay (played by the delightful Audrey Tautou). Senay too is an immigrant, but even though she entered the country legally, she is still pushed and imposed upon by The System, being harassed by two thuggish immigration police officers. Also joining the cast is the incredibly slimy "Senor Sneaky", played by the well-cast Sergi López.
I just want to make it clear that this is not a start-to-finish exciting, balls-to-the-wall movie. It slows. It lingers. It's an emotional piece and sometimes we as an audience do not want to go on, but we are entwined with the fateful characters, and so must share their plunge into the dark, sinister and dirty side of London's back streets.
With a film of this sort, you're not going to get a jam-packed DVD full of little bonus goodies, but there's not even a director's commentary or trailer in sight. Big shame.
So in all, if you're looking for a film to engage your brain, "Dirty Pretty Things" will do that and more, offering you a little bit of thriller, a fair-size of heart aching drama and one hell of a thought-provoking social commentary. Definitely one of the most underrated films of the last decade and a must-buy for film buffs.
The Eagle Has Landed
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Straight off the bat, you've got John Sturges of "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven" fame behind the helm, Oscar winner Sir Michael Caine taking the lead, with the rest of the supporting cast filled in with such greats as Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. If the star-cast wasn't enough, you've got a daring plot worthy of "Where Eagles Dare" involving the audacious kidnapping attempt of Winston Churchill by German paratroopers headed by Col. Kurt Steiner (Caine).
With a great director, cast and thrilling plot, what goes wrong? Execution. The film feels and looks lazy, as if the people involved knew better but just didn't care, resulting in some of the most blandest of cinematography ever captured on film. The quality of this DVD's print isn't the best in presentation either, which only serves to work against the film.
The second problem is the screenplay. It's feels flat, not giving the actors chance to blossom to their full potential on screen, and on more than one time fails to give a satisfying climax to a scene. The actors do the best with what they're given but it doesn't spare the occasional bad line delivery.
The next problem, again, comes from the material. The movie is based on the Jack Higgin's book of the same name, released a year prior to the film, and despite being honoured close enough, a lot was scrapped and condensed down in the film for pacing and running time reasons, causing even more problems with the plot. A recent extended DVD release restores some missing scenes which should help bridge the uneasy moments in the film, such as the rather rushed love story between Donald Sutherland's character, Devlin, and a young English girl Molly, played by Jenny Agutter. The book takes it time building up the relationship, but the film being pressed for time has it happen almost instantly, rendering the subplot unfufilling and useless.
Is it a good film? Yeah. It is. It's by no means a masterpiece in the World War 2 genre, but it's not a complete wreck, either. There are some far more entertaining off-beat war films like this ("Kelly's Heroes", "The Dirty Dozen", "Where Eagles Dare", etc.) out there, but if you want a good Sunday matinee, look no further since "The Eagle has Landed" is just the thing.
I recommend getting the far more recent and much more meatier release of the film, as this offers only the barebone theatrical trailer.