Category Archives: C

Cloud Atlas (2012) – Just a Load of Hot Air…


Cloud-Atlas

I was reading about clouds today, because I was trying to come up with a facetious analogy to start off my Cloud Atlas review, and to my embarrassment, I realised that I wasn’t sure how clouds form.

One type of cloud, I learned, is a convection cloud (Cumulus and Cumulonimbus clouds are brilliant examples of these – check this out –

cumulus

– formed by water vapour in rising columns of hot air condensing into droplets, and ganging together to create what most people imagine when they hear the word “cloud”. )

It is also the type of cloud some people like to look at when laying around in the park, trying to spot clouds which resemble familiar shapes – an elephant, a whale, a giraffe, or perhaps Lady Gaga receiving a Grammy award.

Which brings us to Cloud Atlas, an ambitious and mercurial era-hopping sci-fi drama directed by the Wachowski siblings and Run Lola Run helmer Tom Tykwer.  Adapted from David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, the film presents itself as a high-minded epic, although like our friends the Cumulus and Cumulonimbus, is formed by lots of hot air.  Weaving six stories spanning hundreds of years, it occasionally appears to take the shape of meaningful things we recognise, buts turns out vaporous and lacking any real substance.

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Crowd-pleasing Monster Mash, with Brains…


Horror has been in a dark place for the last decade.  When Scream 4 crawled out of the gate last year, with the tagline promise of “New Rules”, I hoped the writer-director team of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven would apply the intelligence so freshly applied to the cliched stalk n’ slash sub-genre in the original movie to the depressing, sadistic trend of torture porn prevalent in the 2000’s.

While Scream 4 acknowledged the presence of grungy, industrial strength reboots of classic horror franchises and video nasties, and incorporated streaming live blogs and iPhones, the movie bottled out & played safe.  Instead, it came across as deeply anachronistic and twee – in the era of Hostel, Human Centipede and The Devil’s Rejects, there was something nostalgic and almost comforting about seeing good-looking, middle class kids disemboweled by a nutter in a mask.

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Casablanca (1942) – Everyone comes to Rick’s…


Casablanca, shit.  It’s always a daunting prospect reviewing an established classic, a movie so globally loved and revered.  Written about countless times before, do you attempt to approach it from a fresh angle, or just soldier on and attempt to do it justice?

The British Film Institute (BFI) recently made headlines with the announcement that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo had finally usurped Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane as the number one film of all time.  Casablanca didn’t make the top Fifty.

The key word here is Film.  Film suggests something set in celluloid, an art form to examine and revere from a scholarly distance, whereas the term Movie suggests a cinematic experience we get up close and personal to, something that Moves us.

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Guest Review: Mr Holly on Clue (1985)


 

If Clue was a hot beverage, it would be Bovril. Enjoyed by a certain generation; forgotten about by others. Based on the Hasbro board game, this ninety four-minute murder mystery, set in New England, 1954, centers around the popular family favorite, Cluedo.

Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) plays stereotypical British butler, Wadsworth, tending to a selection of unacquainted guests at a dinner party. Each guest arrives under a pre-allocated pseudonym, corresponding to characters from the game. As the plot unfolds, a mysterious character with more hair grease than an acne-ridden teenager – Mr. Body – is introduced.  True to the game, all the traditional weapons are presented as Body’s plan seemingly unfolds, entwining the characters in a web of blackmail and murder where everyone is a potential suspect.

The picture  unfortunately descends  in to a ‘whogivesas**t” rather than a ‘whodunnit’ movie, with more substandard gags than a ‘Carry On’ box-set that overpower the well-written story. As the body count rose, so too did my eyebrows.  Both sexist and homophobic remarks between characters cause the film to appear as out-of-date as Grandma’s flowery cardigan.

This clever concept is let down by a scatty ending. With more turns than a Peruvian mountain road, it becomes extremely hard to follow late on. On the plus side however – set in the 50’s, some clever touches include a reference to contemporary U.S. domestic policy (Macarthyism/Cold War etc.) and multiple ending options on the DVD release.

Performance of the film – With a young, energetic display that does not compare to the rest of his filmography, this is by phaal a substandard performance by Curry. Nonetheless, it beats the rest.

Quote of the film – “I…am…your singing telegram…”

Fact of the film – Cluedo was created in Birmingham, England by a solicitor’s clerk in 1949. The only discrepancy’s between the film and the game  is that Mr. Green  was actually a reverend in the UK version.  Mrs White was also the cook.

Score/Soundtrack – Some nice songs from the era, such as James Keyes’ Sh-Boom, and C. Calhoun’s Shake, Rattle and Roll. Nothing to write home about.

Summary:

Cluedo or Cluedon’t, take it or leave it. 49/100

(Last watched 7 hours ago. Review by Mr Holly and Fuzzy.)

 

Guest Review: Mr Holly on Carlito’s Way (1993)


 

If Carlito’s Way was an automobile, it would be an Oldsmobile 442. A hardcore, edge-of-your-seat ride which no-one knows about; always in the shadow of its mainstream counterpart (the Mustang and Heat (1995) respectively). Despite being a nose-picking, bum-numbing 138 mins the picture delivers an intelligent, well-delivered portrayal of the Big Apple’s 1970’s underworld.

With more twists than a gimp’s nipple, the film tells the story of Carlito ‘Charlie’ Brigante’s ploy to become clean after a five-year stint behind bars. In debt to the lawyer who saw his sentence reduced, the main  theme focusses on Carlito’s loyalty to his on-edge, on-drugs brief. Staying on a straight but VERY narrow path, Carlito attempts to escape his past life, despite staying true to his old-skool morals.

With more drink consumed than Oliver Reed on a chat show and more drugs than a night out at a hippy festival, this well acted bundle of joy is more in-your-face than an eye-watering egg fart in a packed lift.

While watching this gem I briefly tried to figure out where Carlito  resides, before settling for a hard drink over ice instead. By the end, this film left me with mixed emotions, reaching for the rest of the bottle,  satisfied.

Performance of the film – Al Pacino completely overshadows Penn with a brilliant display of tension-building facial expressions.

Quote of the film – Viggo Mortensen “Go ahead and kill me, you c********r.”

Fact of the film – This is the second epic Brian De Palma shootout in an inner-city train station.

Score/Soundtrack – Contemporary soundtrack perfect for the context of this film. The score emerges strongest during action scenes, peaking late on during the final chase.

Summary:

Carlito’s Way is a hidden classic; watch it.  87/100

(Last watched 2 hours ago. Review by Mr Holly and Fuzzy.)

 

Chariots of Fire (1981) – Bring me my bow of burning gold…


…Bring me my arrows of desire,

Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire.

– William Blake

What must the World be thinking, I wondered, watching Danny Boyle’s extravagant, silly, spectacular, self-referential, nostalgic, ultra-modern opening ceremony for the London Olympics.  After China’s daunting display of might in Beijing 2008, what would it say to the viewer in Bolivia or Burkina Faso about British culture?

Living in the Czech Republic, I found that one segment translated.  Mr Bean still gets air time on Czech TV, so Rowan Atkinson’s skit involving the London Symphony Orchestra and Vangelis’ iconic Chariots of Fire theme was one reassuring light amidst the general bafflement for many viewers round my way.

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Peter Falk Double Bill: Murder By Death (1976) & The Cheap Detective (1978)…


 

“The last time that I trusted a dame was in Paris in 1940.  She said she was going out to get a bottle of wine.  Two hours later, the Germans marched into France…”

Peter Falk’s film career spanned five decades, and was universally loved for his most famous role, the shabby, nicotine-stained detective Columbo.  In the Seventies, he starred in two comedies by prolific playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon, spoofing Hammett’s Sam Spade, and Humphrey Bogart.

Murder By Death sends up the traditional Cluedo style whodunnit, as mysterious millionaire Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) invites five of the world’s greatest criminologists to his manor for dinner and a murder.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)


Thoroughly square and appealingly unironic, “Captain America” is a reasonably watchable origins movie, focussed on another of Marvel’s B-Listers ahead of next year’s “Avengers” flick.

If, like me, you thought “The Avengers” was a 60’s spy caper TV show featuring bowler hats and leather catsuits, then you’ll probably be underwhelmed at the prospect of spending two hours watching a movie about Captain America, only to find out it’s only really a prologue to the main event next year.

However, if the prospect of Captain America + The Hulk + Nick Fury + Thor + Iron Man floats your boat, then you should be in a pretty happy place during this film.

Aside from modern day bookends, “Captain America” is set during WWII. Nazi officer Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), like all the best dastardly Nazi officers, is hellbent on harnessing the occult to help win the war; not for his Fuhrer, you understand, but for himself and his army of gimp-suited stormtroopers.

Meanwhile, back in the States, titchy Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is dying to sign up for Uncle Sam and blow away some Nazis, but keeps getting rejected for the Army because he’s approximately the same size as Hitler’s one ball.

However, Roger’s indomitable spirit catches the attention of scientist Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci), and is allowed to enlist under a super soldier programme, overseen by grouchy Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and sultry British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

Erskine’s working along similar lines to the evil Schmidt, and with the help of Iron Man’s Dad, Howard Stark, Rogers is injected with some glowing blue stuff which pumps up his diminutive frame, and hones his speed and reflexes.

Unfortunately, there’s a Nazi spy in their midst, and Erskine is killed and the equipment destroyed before the super soldier scheme can be put into full production, leaving Rogers the only one of his kind. Humiliatingly, instead of fighting the Hun, Rogers ends up singing and dancing in a chorus line to boost morale in a ridiculous Stars-and-Stripes outfit…until, while performing at one USO show, he learns his old friend is missing behind enemy lines.

The film takes it’s time to build some form of character arc, and hopefully that will pay dividends when “The Avengers” rolls round next year. Evans is a likeable actor, although disconcertingly resembles Martin Short when he’s shrunk down to a weakling; perhaps, instead of blowing Rogers up, they could have gone the other way – he could fit inside a regular GI’s ration kit, sneak behind enemy lines, tie Hitler’s shoelaces together, that type of stuff.

Hugo Weaving does his usual bad guy thing as Schmidt/The Red Skull – entertaining as he always is, he’s pretty much phoning it in these days. Tommy Lee Jones perhaps enjoys himself the most as the gruff Colonel, and gives plenty of value, always a pleasure when he’s on the screen.

The film’s look is muted, with ruddy colours and understated effects. I’ve read comparisons to Indiana Jones, but of course the film it resembles most is Director Joe Johnston’s own “Rocketeer”, an excellent homage to the golden era of cliffhanger serials, with it’s own distinct period flourishes.

The action is fairly standard – perhaps in a conscious effort to get the family friendly certificate, Captain America has to resort to clubbing, clobbering, bludgeoning, twatting and frisbee-ing bad guys with his shield, while his comrades get to disintegrate villains with laser guns. The only bit of gore of note is an unfortunate, fragile human body/propeller interface which seems to be a direct nod to “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Entertaining enough, but nothing to stand out in particular in this era’s bumper crop of superhero movies; certainly not as humorous or visually exciting as “Hellboy” 1 & 2, nor as interestingly basketcase as “Watchmen”. It’s enjoyable enough to maybe swing some casual viewers towards “The Avengers” next year.

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