Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Shoot 'Em Up (2 Stars)

A man known only as Mr. Smith is sitting at a bus stop when he witnesses a pregnant woman being pursued by men with guns. He rushes to her rescue and helps to deliver the baby while still in a gun fight with the men. He goes into hiding with the woman, but he is discovered and the woman is shot. He thinks this is the end of the problems, but more men come after him attempting to kill the baby. He struggles to find out why it's so important that the baby has to die.

The whole film is a series of gun fights strung together by a scanty plot. Everything is played for shock value to make the viewer gasp as he sees it. This isn't negative in itself; I can enjoy a film that has little or no plot if the action appeals to me. But if there is a plot, it has to make sense. This is the main reason why I didn't enjoy the film. The explanations which Mr. Smith finally finds for the bounty on the baby's life are very thin and difficult to believe. The film is a showcase for Clive Owen's acting talents, but the story is disappointing.

Click here to view the trailer.

Iron Sky (4 Stars)

This is a Finnish film, made in English and German. At the end of World War Two a group of Nazis escaped and flew to the Moon, where they built a secret colony on the dark side. In 2018 they decide to return to conquer the Earth.

"Iron Sky" is a fascinating film which is difficult to pin down to any one genre. The summary of the plot makes it sound like a B-Film which could have come from the pen of Roger Corman. And yet it isn't. There is raking political satire, mostly anti-American, and a multitude of subplots that make it far too complex to be a B-Film. The anti-American message is probably why the film has never been released in the USA. American audiences allow American directors to criticise the American way of life, but they don't tolerate criticism from foreigners

Although made with a relatively small budget, only $6 million, the special effects make the budget look much bigger. This is a film worth watching, though a lot of the humour might be lost on European audiences. The American president in the film is left unnamed, but she looks very much like Sarah Palin.

Despite the strange decision made by the UK distributors to only show the film in cinemas for one day, it was a huge box office success. The viewing figures on the one day were enough to make it into the top 10 films for the week.

Click here to view the trailer.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (3 Stars)

I bought this film a long time ago, February 2011, and I only just watched it. It's been lying near my computer for the last 18 months. That's unusual for me, and it might surprise my regular readers who know that I'm a big Marvel fan.

Let me explain. Yes, I'm a big Marvel fan. Yes, I'm a big X-Men fan. But for me the X-Men that I know and love are the original line-up: Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl. These were the members for the first 66 issues, from 1963 to 1970. After this the comic was cancelled for a few years, and the new group was introduced in Giant Sized X-Men #1 in 1975. Only Cyclops remained from the original team, although Marvel Girl and Angel returned later. I greatly enjoyed the stories of the new team as written by the new English author, Chris Claremont. But for me the new team had one weakness: Wolverine.

The X-Men were always young kids. Even though the ages were never explicitly stated (due to the Marvel habit of their characters hardly aging over the years) there is evidence that suggests Marvel Girl was 14 when she first joined the group. Iceman would have been slightly younger, while the rest of the group were a couple of years older. The new members in 1975 were all youngsters, probably in their late teens, except for Wolverine. Wolverine was older, seemingly in his 30's, although in later comics we found out that he's over a hundred years old.

My problem wasn't just his age though. The major problem for me is the type of power he had. Whereas the other mutants in the X-Men had powers to help them fight, Wolverine's powers were specifically geared for killing. He had razor sharp claws that could cut through flesh and bone. Wolverine wasn't like the squeaky clean heroes of the 1960's, he was an anti-hero, someone who would rather kill a villain than capture him. This sort of anti-hero slasher became popular in the independent comics of the 1980's and later. I don't know if Wolverine was the first ever hero of this type, but he was the most famous one and became a pattern used for new heroes. It probably says something about society that 1980's comic readers preferred Wolverine and those like him to the good guys of the 1960's.

So this is the reason I waited. I bought the DVD because I'm a completist, I need to have all the X-Men films. And yet it took me a long long time to bring myself to watch it. The film itself is okay. It's based on Wolverine stories that were written in 2001. Whether Chris Claremont ever intended things like this when he first developed the character 25 years earlier is doubtful. The film's screenplay is the same confusing mix of storylines written decades apart that we see in the other X-Men films, especially "X-Men: First Class". It alienated me that Cyclops met Wolverine before they both joined the X-Men. The film isn't too bad, and Hugh Jackman plays the title role admirably, but the story just doesn't excite me.

Click here to view the trailer.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Pink Floyd: The Wall (5 Stars)

It's been 10 days since my last post. I've been catching up on watching television series this week, in particular "Torchwood", "Dexter" and "La Femme Nikita". But now I'm back! It's weird that my blog's reader numbers increased while I wasn't writing though.

This is a very emotional film for me. It touches me in a way that no other film does. Every time I watch it I cry. It doesn't matter how often I watch it, it hits me every time.

The film is a semi-autobiography by Roger Waters. He tells the story of his life highlighting key incidents which he portrays in dreamlike imagery: the death of his father; his alienation in school; his prolonged childhood illness; his marriage; his wife's infidelity. The end result is a mental breakdown during a concert tour in America.

Strangely, the director Alan Parker calls this film a failure and he doesn't understand why people like it. Maybe in retrospect he doesn't feel like the film told the message that he wanted it to. Whatever the reason, "The Wall" will always be one of my favorite films. And it will always make me cry.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Alien 3 (4½ Stars)

This is the third film in the Alien Tetralogy. I've called it "Alien 3" in the title, although the correct name is actually "Alien³", ie Alien cubed. Unfortunately the little 3 is hardly visible even on my average sized computer screen, so I dread to think what it will look like on a 15" laptop monitor. Or even a mobile phone, for the mini-surfers out there.

Once more the story latches on directly to the end of the previous film. At the end of "Aliens" Ellen Ripley went into the cryo-chamber to sleep on her way back to Earth. At the beginning of this film we see her spaceship catch fire, so she is ejected in an escape pod while still asleep. The pod crashes onto a remote planet which serves as a maximum security prison for violent sex offenders, all of them men who have committed murder or rape. There are only 25 men left in the prison, and they have become deeply religious, led by the inmate Dillon.

As soon becomes clear, the fire in the spacecraft had been caused by a stowaway alien that hatched from an egg. The alien now roams the prison killing the prisoners one by one.

The film is slower moving that "Aliens", though featuring more action than the first film. It surprised me to hear that director David Fincher has since disowned the film. Supposedly it was re-edited against his wishes after completion in ways that he disapproved of. Nevertheless, the finished product is enjoyable.