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Angels & Demons
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The plot line for this Hollywood screen version of Dan Browns novel 'Angels and Demons' sticks fairly close to the book, although this is only in terms of plot.
A brotherhood thought to have been extinct named the illuminati have returned and have stolen from a nuclear research facility named CERN, a substance named anti-matter. A poweful substance that has explosive properties.
The illuminati have hidden this substance somewhere in Vactican City, and will explode it. This is taking place after the current Pope has passed away and conclave has been called, but the four leading men for the role of becoming Pope have been kidnapped and must be found. The church call on the help of symbologist Robert Langdon to help them find the kidnapped men and find the anti-matter.
This all has the promise to be a good yarn for a Hollywood film, Unfortunately this film fails at every step.
The film takes place at such a break neck speed there is little time for characterisation and the characters are just not intersting enough to hold your attention, the worst offenders here are Ewan McGregor as the Carmelengo and Ayelet Zurer, there characters are literally thrown at the screen and feel forced and instantly become unlikable thanks to the ham fisted delivery and handleing of them.
Another low point is the fact that everything takes place quickly, there little time for anything really resembling a plot, the main theme of the narrative is explained in a 5 minute scene early on in the film then its as if that will do and they'll abandon the narrative in place of bombarding the audience with poor characterisation and badly exectuted action scenes. The location of Rome is wasted aswell and not used to its full potential at all.
Leading man Tom Hanks, usually a sturdy lead and watchable in most films he appears in is just terrible here, at times he just looks lost in all the hum drum of the absurd execution of the proceedings.
Written here by 'Da Vinci Code' screen writer Akiva Goldsmen and this time writing partner David Koepp the script holds no weight and takes liberties on the novel it is based on, Goldsmen and Koepp has brushed any kind of story to one side in place of fast paced action sequances and because of this the film really suffers.
Director Ron Howard returns after the 'Da Vinci Code' but whilst that film was atleast watchable, this just plain and simpley isnt. Comparing this to its prequal is unfair, this is just a mess compared to it, Howard is a more than capable director but he just doesnt seem botherd to tell a story and would rather alienate the audience by setting everything at such a speed things just seem incoherant and contrived.
Another low point of the film was the character of the Assasin, in Browns novel this character was interesting and utterly ruthless, here in the film the charcter is reduced to being your average Hollywood card board cut out villian and is truely aweful.
All in all 'Angels and Demons' is a very ham fisted affair, with terrible characters and poor handling of a plot which could have been intersting it just isnt watchable. Hollywood has proved in the past that addaptations of novels can work take 'Jurassic Park' and 'Blade Runner' and to a lesser degree even 'The Da Vinci Code' as examples. 'Angels and Demons' just isnt is a good film, a very hollow cinematic experiance.
Bringing Up Baby
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Howard Hawks comedy 'Bringing up baby' really is a great screwball comedy, having all the ingrediants of a great watch, the cast, script, direction and acting are all near perfect.
Cary Grant plays Dr. David Huxley, a palaeontologist waiting for a bone so he can finish off his Dinosaur skeleton in his museum. Kathrine Hepburn is Susan Vance, an heiress who by chance meets Huxley whilst playing golf, Susan there for leisure, Huxley there to charm a man who represents a wealthy investor who wants to put 1 million dollars into his museum.
Susan takes a shine to Huxley and makes it her personal goal to snare him. So begins a mad cap charade with some hilarious moments and genuine laughs throughout. The films main theme is obvioulsy Susans plan to get with Dr Huxley, even though he is due to be married, when she recieves a pet leopard named Baby however, all out madness ensues.
The cast all fit well into the madcap humour, Cary Grant is a genuine treat here, almost unrecognisable as the hapless David Huxley, he is hilarious to watch at times. Kathrine Hepburn as Susan Vance is great too, throwing her self into her role and giving it her all to great comic effect. Whilst the script is littered with great lines its hard to picture any two people besides Grant and Hepburn uttering them, their on screen chemistry is brilliant.
Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde's script is full of snappy diologue which you'd expect from a Howard Hawks comedy, having some memorable comedic moments throughout.
Hawks really has an eye for comedy, more than proving that here. The film goes from one set piece to the next and takes place at great speed, theres little time for reprieve.
'Bringing Up Baby' is a great screwball comedy, Grant and Hepburn are Brilliant, even though the films final comic set piece may fell like an "I saw that coming" moment its still a funny way to close things. A great addition to the Hawks filmography and a comedy well worth your time.
Stagecoach (John Wayne Collection)
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Director John Ford hadnt made a western for 13 years before filming 'Stagecoach' in 1939. This is not just one his best westerns, but also one of the best in the genre.
A Stagecoach is travelling from the frontier town of Tonto in Arizona, to the New Mexico town of Lordsburg. Amoungst the travellers aboard are a young prostitute who has been thrown out of the town, a drunken Doctor, a woman who is on her way to meet her husband who is in the army, a banker, a salesman, a gambler and a young man who has broken from prison to avenge his familys deaths. Rounding up the group are the coach driver and a sheriff who is riding shotgun.
They are to be escorted on the journey by the US Cavalry due to the fact that apache chief Geronimo is in the area and is on the war path, the Cavalry leader tells the sheriff they are really riding at their own risk.
The strengths of this film are in the characters and location of Monument Valley, a location Ford loved that much he would return to shoot the likes of 'My Darling Clementine' and 'The Searchers' there.
The characters are all great to watch, the film is most notably a tightly scripted character study. All the stagecoach travellers are very diffrent people and have to get along with the threat of an Apache attack more than likely to take place. At best here is Thomas Mitchell as the drunken doctor Boone and Claire Trevor as the disgraced prostitute Dallas, John Carradine is also watchable as the gentleman gambler Hatfield. John Wayne is ok here, in his first collabaration of many with director Ford, he doesn't really come into his own as dominant screen force as he would later in other films with Ford at the helm, but his character Ringo Kid is atleast intresting and Wayne does his best.
The is underneath the thin layer of this film an insight into characters who are in a way dissmisive of one an other, but who must come to some kind of understaning if they are to make it through Monument Valley alive with the Apaches crawling the area.
Whilst the film has many highlights the finale is a great piece of action with great stunt work from the legendry stunt man Yakima Canutt, one of these really does defy belief and is so well staged.
John Fords first western since the silent era of cinema is a great piece of work and one of the best fims to emerge from a year which saw such releases as 'Gone With the Wind'. This certainly is up there with Fords best westerns, a genre in which he had a deft touch.
Only Angels Have Wings
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Director Howard Hawks was certainly an autuer in the world of cinema, turning his hand to a number of genres from westerns (Rio Bravo) comedys (His Girl Friday) sci-fi (The Thing From Another World) crime (Scarface) Noir (The Big Sleep). This 'Only Angels Have Wings' is a worthy entry in the Hawks cannon and certainly amongst his best films.
A story focusing on male relationships, the role females play in their lifes with some great characters set against the back drop of the shipping town of Barranca in Columbia.
Cary Grant plays Geoff Carter, a pilot and manager of an airfield whose job it is to fly goods that have come in from the port over the Andes Mountains. His rag tag crew are an interesting bunch of characters, their lifes barley stop for a second and are completely devoted to their jobs, when a Brooklyn lady Bonnie Lee played by Jean Arthur arrives on the scene she has her eye set firmly on Geoff, even though he shows little intrest toward her and is seemingly committed to his co-workers and job.
This film is entertaining in many ways, the characters are all brilliant, Cary Grant is great as the leading man Geoff, also of note are Sig Ruman and "Duchy" and Thomas Mitchell as "Kid", they are fun to watch with some great snappy diologue, Jean Arthur also fits her role too, a woman who Geoff has only a fleeting bit of affection for but sticks around to vie for his affections, shes on the outside looking in on the male dominated world of piloting. Richard Barthelmess as the man with a past Bat Killgallon is watchable, as is Rita Hayworth as his wife, although her role is a small one, her character is important to the plot, only in a small way though to take the story forward.
The photography from Joseph Walker is great, but what is of note though is the aerial cinematography by Elmer Dyer, some great shots and camera work make the flying sections very watchable, particually toward the films climax.
The screen play by Jules Furthman is also really well written stuff, with great pacing and enless word play for the characters to barrage one another with, its certainly entertaining stuff.
All of this is handled with sheer brilliance by director Howard Hawks, scenes play out at a great pace and are endlessly watchable.
'Only Angels Have Wings' is a great watch, encompassing drama, romance and adventure centred around a world where the pilots no little of danger, but are commited to one another, whilst the females try to get into this world, they no it is a dangerous one.
The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Edition
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John Ford, one of the great directors of the western genre, has crafted one of the greatest westerns ever made.
The story follows Ethan Edwards, a former Cival war officer, as he returns to his brother and his family. The set up is fairly simple, Comanche's in the area attack a local ranch hands cattle and Ethan joins up with a crew of local's to find out the motives behinde the attack. Realising this was just a ploy to lead them away from their respective homes they go back. Ethan returns to find his brothers house burnt down and family killed. The Comanche's have also taken his two nieces captive.
Along with his nephew, who is part native American himself, he sets out to find his nieces and take revenge on the Comanche's who massacred his family.
This film is brilliant for many diffrent reasons, firstly the acting from John Wayne is exellent to watch, a man who has a hatred for the Comanche's and has little intrest in his nephew who has offerd to help him in a journey that spans 5 years of their lives. Wayne is truly a joy to watch, his journey is one of self realisation and how one comes to terms with his own previously unfound humanity.
The scope of the film also holds no boundries, it takes place on an impressively epic scale, with Ethan and nephew Martin traversing some fantastic locales which are so well realised by cinematographer Winton C. Hoch, the photography is outstanding, utilising the back drop of Monument Valley to great effect. Also of note are the scenes set in the snow, beutifully shot.
The direction from John Ford is fantastic, handling Frank S. Nugents script with remarkable ease, he gets the best from his cast and certainly brings the best out of John Wayne, who is working with Ford for the 12th time in his career here. Ford really has an eye for bringing the best out of a locaction with fantastic panaramas for the charaters to play against.
The supporting cast are great here also, Ward Bond is great as Reverand/Captain Samuel Clayton, he has some great dialogue in the film, also of note is Harry Brandon as the Comanche leader Scar. His presence alone is great, a ruthless Leader who collects the scalps of his victims.
There is also a good dose of wry humour throughout the proceedings, with some memorable scenes, particually one where Martin who believes he has brought a rug from a tribe, has unwittingly brought himself a wife. Whilst that is the biggest comedic set piece on offer here the subtler humour comes from the characters in the lesser roles.
The ending to the film is memorable, with Waynes character Ethan realsing his humanity, a man who at the start of his journey had little time for anyone and showed little compasion, only climpses of it toward his search for his nieces, comes full circle. Not only a man on a relentless search, but a man battling against the elements and against himself, finding who he truly is along the way.
The Searchers really is a film to revel in, endlessly watchable, with a fantastic performance from John Wayne with great support from the rest of the cast on offer. With great photography and epic direction, this film stands as one of director John Fords finest moments.
The Killers (1946)
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Back in the 1940's American cinema was producing some classic pieces of film noir, this 'The Killers' is truely a classic of it's genre, great script, great plot and a great ansemble cast make this a joy to watch.
The story centres around insurance investagator Jim Reardon, who is investigating the death of a former boxer 'Swede' Anderson. He goes from place to place and comes across an assortment of low lifes and intersting characters as he tries to piece together why he was murdered. Upon his confrontations the films back story is told in flash backs from the characters perspective's of what had happened and what kind of man Swede was.
This film has many strengths, one of these being the script, written by Anthony Veiller, its so well constucted and well plotted its hard not to get caught up in the characters, the dialogue is classic noir, the best example of this is the scene in the diner at the start of the movie, which serves as a prologue of sorts, its so well written it immediatly draws you in and the actors on show here are nothing short of brilliant.
It's other strength is it's performances, in his screen debut Burt Lancaster is exellent as Swede, his screen presence just cant be ingnored. Edmond O'Brien also exelleces in his role as the insurance investigator trying to piece together the intracate moments leading up to the murder of Swede. And Ava Gardner as the mysterious femme fatal Kitty Collins is a real revalation, she is the classic film noir actress, with immense beauty she holds her own against Lancaster and O'Brien.
The direction though is what holds it all together hear, Robert Siodmak handles the snappy dialogue with ease and stages the scenes in a very stylish manner, a manner which one would come to expect from a genre which oozes style, this film being one of the best examples of usage of dialogue and settings, Siodmak has created a classic piece of movie story telling and used it to great affect hear.
Wether it's the characters who were linked to Swede's past, or the well paced scenes with their slick direction, it's hard not enjoy this film, everything fits where it should and is near perfect Noir, the music is also one of the many highlights this film has, composed by Miklos Rozsa it's a great addition to the scenes, especially the main theme.
There is no doubting 'The Killers' is a classic of it's genre, it's classic Amercan cinema and one the best film noirs to experiance, a true delight.
Inglorious Bastards (1978)
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'Inglorious Bastards' is definatly a product of it's time, delivering on over the top thrills and explosive action. Here in lies the charm of this Italian war film.
The plot line is simple enough, a group of American P.O.W's are to be transported across the French countryside in a convoy to be tried for the various crimes they have commited. Whilst they are on the road the convoy taking them is attacked and a five of the men seize the opportunity and make their escape.
The group play out as a depeleted version of the Dirty Dozen, among them are cult cinema legends Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, also Peter Hooten and Michael Pergolani. The cast are entertaining to watch, especially Svenson and Williamson respectively as the leader and tough guy of the group. Pergolani's character is here to add comic relief but doen't really shine, although does have a couple of funny moments. Hooten is watchable as the dark horse of the bunch with a dodgy past back in Chicago, he has little respect for his fellow man and has a running back and to with Williamson character throughout the film.
This certainly has it's moments, whilst the characters are on the run they must stay out of the way of both the army they fought for and the opposing opposition, getting into shoot outs along the way, many of these highly entertaining with some watchable action and well staged stunt work.
Although one shoot out leads the group to make a disastrous mistake they are inexplicably thrown into undertaking a dangerous mission for the US army, to get aboard a train and steal a V2 bomb from the enemy, altough the mission had been trained for for months in order to be pulled off the group have only to do the mission with no such training.
Here the film's action turns up a notch, with the mission underway the action comes thick and fast, with shoot outs, explosions and stunt men being thrown from one side of the screen to the other both in full and slow motion with explosions trailing infront and behinde them.
At the helm of all this is Italian director Enzo Castellari, who is clearly having immense fun with the characters and action secene's here, staging them all on an explosive scale.
Whilst this does have a romatic sub plot that has no place whatsoever in this film it's still an enjoyable watch with that being the only draw back, the cast, especially Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson are great to watch. Whilst the story and characters have been done in one form or another in various other men on a mission movies, this still stands as one of the most entertaining.
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Michael Clayton is the debut directorial feature from long time Hollywood screen writer Tony Gilroy, the writer behinde the 'Bourne' series and the writer of this film also. He has without a doubt created a film worthy of the 'thriller' tag.
The film centres around a law firm in New York city and it's main 'Fixer' Michael Clayton, a man who takes care of the firms dirty work outside of the court room. When a fellow attorney Arthur Edens finds some damning evidence against a huge company named U-north things begins to spiral out of control. Edens has the evidence and is seemingly going to release it to the public, something the companys own lead attorney Karen Crowder has to prevent at any cost, but with Edens seemingly losing his mind things go from bad to worse for the central characters.
This film relies heavily on the performances of its main players and to a certain degree they deliver, especially George Clooney as the title character, a burnt out man with a failed marriage and failed business behinde him with his drug addicted brother, he is at rock bottom, struggling with money issues and his own job. Clooney really is on form here. Tilda Swinton as Karen Crowder is also watchable, a seemingly callous individual who will stop at nothing to put a lid on the evidence that could ruin U-north. But the surprise here is certainly Tom Wilkinson as Arthur Eden, he really puts his all into his characters and has some great scenes, one with Clooney that takes place in an alleway is a definate highlight.
All this plays out relatively well, first time director Gilroy handles his script with relative ease and has crafted a thriller which is watchable for is entire run time, keeping you guessing and leaving you in the hands of the characters to keep your interest up. All of this plays out against a dull dank back drop, reminding us that this is a world where under handed tactics are ones that will get you ahead and the characters world is a very bleak a cold one.
This is helped by the cinematography of Robert Elswit, who is no stranger to working with Clooney having directed photography of his directorial feature 'Good Night and Good Luck' and also the Clooney starrer 'Syriana'. He has crafted a lighting technique that causes things at times to play out in soft focus, a nod toward the characters lack of clarity in this unscrupulous world they inhabit.
The supporting cast are also great, especially Sydney Pollock as Michael's long time co-worker Marty Bach, who knows that Clayton is the best at what he does in the legal world. This is a worthy thriller with some genuine moments, whilst it is a slow burner and doesn't force feed the audience with explanation after explantion of the proceedings (one of this films strongest points) it is still a good piece and Clooney really is on form here.
Hell (aka: L'Enfer)
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Hell, the second part of a planned trilogy taking in Heaven/Hell/Purgatory from the great Krzysztof Kieslowski and writing partner Krzysztof Piesiewicz is a ammiable piece of film making.
Set in Paris, it centres around three sisters, Sophie, Celine and the youngest Anne, all of whom have no contact with one another. Each seem to be living there own private hell. Celine lives a quiet life, caring for the sisters mother, Celine is married with two young children and has suspicions her husband his having an affair and Anne the youngest is seemingly having an affair with her married tutor.
A young man appears on the scene and begins to try and talk to Celine, little does she know of his true intentions and how what he has to say will bring the sisters back together to face an age old question and understand what happened to their farther, whom in the 1980's was sent to prison for apparent child molestation and after returning from pison in one the films more dramatic scenes has a violent confrontation with their mother, ultimatly leading to his suicide, witnessed by the girls.
The cast are all good in their respective roles, especially Emmanuelle Beart as Sophie, portraying a women who must come to terms with the fact her husband is cheating on her, this portrayal is at times more than utterly believeable and the scene with her and her husband in the kitchen is one of the films highlights. Karin Viard's Celine is a difficult character, her performance is that of a person who has clearly not experianced the joy's of life to there full degree, spending alot of time with there apparent vapid mother. Marie Gillain brings sensetivity to her love lorn character, who's affair with her tutor is all but over even though she still pines for his attention, the scene where she goes to her friends house to talk of her feelings is another of this films highlights and brings about a minor twist in the story.
Writtens solely here by Krzysztof Piesiewicz, from a 30 page treatment from the late Kieslowski the film seems more of a homage to the late writer/director. Whilst this once again in keeps with the usual Kieslowski themes, the film even takes a sequance from one of Kieslowski's own Dekalog's.
Whilst theres not alot of happiness on offer here the film does have a way of showing true emotion and how to dramatise it an an unsuperficial way. Directed here by Danis Tanovic he knows how to get the best from his actors and set the scene's at times in an uncomprimising fashion, the film is at it's best when the characters are in confronatation and confliction and Tanovic makes this look so natural and honest.
Director of photography Laurend Dailland brings a visual style to the film that is stark and at times lonely, helping to portray the characters emotions on a more visual level, he also uses the back drop of Paris to good affect also.
The only thing that affects the film is unfortunatly the musical score, composed by Dusko Segvic and Tanovic himself it seems too bombastic and over the top at times, one particular piece of music really does detract from the story at one point of the film, but this is only a minor gripe.
Hell is a good watch, encompassing everything that is great about the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski, with fine performances from the main cast, although the ending may leave you feeling flat this is still another great snap shot of the short comings of life and how it can ultimately be manipulated by others and changed by chance.
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Heaven is a compelling film from the get go, with a fantastic setting and a great performance from Cate Banchett. The Films story is very simple, Blanchett as Philippa is an English teacher working in Turin, she is widowed as her husband has died of an overdose. This leads her to exact revenge on the man responsible, the citys top drug dealer, whom her husband was a business partner of. She goes to his office and plants a small bomb in his bin hoping to kill him. Although this unfornunatly doesn't go to plan as the cleaner emptys his bin and takes the bomb out unaware that it is in there. This leads to the deaths of 4 people, the cleaner, a father and his two daughters.
This all takes place in the opening sequance of the movie and is executed in such a manner it almost plays out as a thriller, with great cuts and smooth cinematography, this a great way to start proceedings. And with little diologue this is the perfect example of how to shoot an opening to a film by using just images.
Philippa is arrested and held on counts of terrorism and murder, when she realises her main target isn't dead and she has killed 4 innocent people she falls to pieces, Blanchett here is superb and this is where the film really shines, this is cleary one her best portrayals in any of her films, the parts shot in the interogation room are more than watchable and every actor delivers and great performance.
Geovanni Ribisi also handles his role really well, whilst not being the most obvious of film hero's he does a great job of making his role a more human one. He helps Phillipa escape after falling in love with her as he is the interpreter in her interagations. As Philippa pleas and tries to tell the police she has tried to alert them to her husbands death and the drug dealer who she hold responsible, Ribisi as Filippo begins to understand her plight and begins to hatch a plan to help her escape.
All of this is so well done and never does the film turn into self parody or use under lying humour, these charaters are grounded in the real world and portray the human condition in the most brutal and honest of lights.
Written by the great Krzysztof Kieslowski and his usual writing partner Krzysztof Piesiewicz, both responsible for Kieslowski's famed Dekalog cycle and the fantastic Three Colours Trilogy have written a well paced film, dealing with the many facets of humanity, with the usual Kieslowski themes of love, redemption and retribution.
German director Tom Tykwer most famed for the Franke Potente starrer 'Run Lola Run' really has crafted a great piece, he brings slickness and great pacing to the film, which works on many levels after the great opening section. The film is so polished and well directed it never strays far from the main protaganists plight.
The final half hour of the film is well shot and the country sides of Italy have never looked so striking and are a great back drop for the story, Blanchett and Ribisi work so well together here that you have genuine sympathy for them even though their love will be ultimatly doomed.
Whilst the film asks little, it does pose a great snap shot of human nature and the pit falls and weaknesses we all posess, whilst this is not unfamiliar for a Kieslowski script it still has a fresh and unique appeal which is more than helped by Blanchetts performance.
With a great script and a believable portrayal by the main players this is a joy to watch, director Tykwer proves himself to be able to handle the script in a great fashion, never letting this feel like anything but a look into the human condition, with great photography and brilliant musical score.