Monday, 28 June 2010

Some films - catching up

I've been watching a few movies of late and it's about time I posted a few comments about them. I'll start with the more commercial stuff.

Alice in Wonderland - yeah, Tim Burton. Well, it looks good. Nice and dark, twisted in just the right Tim Burton way. The acting's pretty good, and the plot paced well - decent and quick. Only problem is the plot content. It feels like a sequel. Guess it was always going to as, in many ways, it is. The story isn't a straightforward telling of the Alice books. It features a grown up Alice (nineteen years old I think) who's dismissed her previous visits to Wonderland as the rich imaginings of a child.

So all through she's refinding all the characters and places of Wonderland. Johnny Depp is good, although a little overbearing - his role has been beefed up a little too far, kicking the film out of balance. It's okay - but I wanted it to be so much more.

Daybreakers is a cool, near future sf-flavoured vampire movie. It has a top class cast - Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe - great effects, great visuals and, unusually for such films of the last few years, a superb plot. Definitely worth a watch for any sf/horror fanatic.

The Wolfman. Best way to sum it up is - oh dear! As with Daybreakers it has a superb cast - Anthony Hopkins, Benicio de Toro amongst others - great setting (a kind of reimagined Chatsworth House), and decent effects (when they happen). But what it really lacks is any drama. It is just so ponderous. Real pity.

Sorority Row is just what you'd expect from a college horror flick set in a girl's college dorm. Basically it's a slasher flick with a rehashed plot (from I Know What You did Last Summer) and the occasional baring of nubile young breasts. It's okay, nothing more - a bit of a laugh.

Jennifer's Body is a bit of a step up. Megan Fox plays the titular Jennifer, an American high school cheerleader who gets possessed by a demon and turns into a maneater - literally. It's saving grace is the perspective. The film is played from the POV of Jennifer's nerdy best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and this slight detachment from the action makes it feel so much more real.

Onto a few less mainstream and more Indie flicks. Diary of a Bad Lad is an independent British film that centres around an out of work media studies college lecturer who believes making a documentary about the gangster scene in Northern England will help him get his status (and position) back.

It's hard hitting. There's some real nasty stuff in here, both in terms of the violence, drug-use and attitudes towards your fellow man or woman. In style it's amateurish, deliberately so. After all the film is supposed to be the making of an amateur documentary. It's also humourous, although dark and possibly in ways that will only really be appreciated by Brits. I really can't see some of the black humour on display here translating to other countries...OK, maybe Australians might get this but I don't think Americans will have enough cultural commonality for this to work.

Vampire is an early 80s straight to video horror film out of time. In every way this feels like it should be thirty years old. It has the same production values as all those films I used to watch as a kid (yeah I know, sicko at an early age) when the choice to use the new VCR was limited but your desire to use the newest gadget was high enough for you to keep watching.

Jason Carter, of Babylon 5 fame, plays the Vampire. When he is captured by the feds instead of being killed, protecting the population at large, scientists observe and experiment on him to discover more about the vampire threat.

As a film it's very insular, restricted as it is for much of the film to just the two rooms of the laboratory. And it's also slower than you might expect from such a film - this has a very deliberate pace. But it is strangely compelling. Whether or not it's for the nostalgic reason of bringing back memories of film watching from times gone by, I liked this film - despite every expectation I had going into it.

Resurrecting the Street Walker is possibly the strongest film of all my recent viewing. Another independent British flick, and again featuring an amateur film maker, RtSW sees film student James Powell working an internship at a small scale UK film distributor when he discovers an incomplete video nasty from the 1980s. He becomes obsessed with the film and its director and resolves to complete the picture - even if it takes him across the line into murder.

No comments: