Prompted by Film4's "50 films to see before you die", spaceman and work colleagues/friends crespie, d2h3 and farahpants set about discussing the list of 50 and how many of those we had seen, especially given d2h3's relative film naivety.
In fact, of the list (of, to be fair, occasionally obscure films), farahpants propped up the bottom of the heap with 6/50 viewings, although d2h3 wasn't much further ahead with 7/50. Crespie had managed 13 (but with 4 maybes); meanwhile spaceman cynically changed a couple of "mostly" entries to "yes" in order to make it up to 14.
Click here to see the full list.
And this is the webpage inspired by the film goings of the intrepid quartet. Enjoy.
Monday 31st July 2006
This is a good example of the cutting edge film conversations that we have:
crespie: "I haven't seen it. When are we seeing Superman Returns?"
The answer to that question is, in fact, tomorrow night. Spaceman watched The Truman Show (on Channel 4) the evening before. Unsurprisingly, only d2h3 had not seen this film. This is a theme which will run and run, mainly because it is painfully true.
Spaceman had already seen it, however, and nodded at farahpants' comment that it is quite a moving film. "It's like he's in a prison all his life" said spacemen, before adding sagely that the main crew on the show seem to be as imprisoned as Truman himself.
Stay tuned for more nonsense. (Not to mention the answer to the question: "Was it worth remaking Superman?")
Well, after going to the local AMC cinema, also known as the Great Northern, which is situated just off Deansgate, we are still a little undecided (in answer to the question previously posed).
We met up for a quick pre-meal beer in Cask before taking our first trip ever to Evuna, a pleasant, stylish tapas bar on Deansgate. This took a little longer than usual, meaning that we arrived at the screening at the latest possible time (the film was just starting). Part of this was caused by d2h3's desire for some ice cream and crespie's need for drainage.
The only thing they missed, however, was the initial on-screen wordy scene-setter, which informed the audience that Superman had gone a 5-year jolly to try and find Krypton after scientists thought they might have spotted it (yeah, right - did they not watch Superman I?).
More or less two and a half hours later, when the film was over, the intrepid trio ventured to The Britons Protection for a post-match review and bevvie.
Superman Returns was directed by Bryan Singer, who chose to direct this rather than X-Men 3 (having done the first two). There was a general consensus that the film was good, without being outstanding. Whereas d2h3 went for a positive 7/10, crespie throttled back with a cautious 6/10, while spaceman hedged with a halfway house 6.5/10. This gave the film an average of 6.5/10.
The positives were the special effects (obviously a big improvement on the original movies and extremely visceral on the big screen), the refreshingly not-entirely-predictable way they had fast-forwarded things five years (well, Lois's new beau is as heroic as the Man of Steel himself, rather than being depicted as a nasty piece of work) and the casting/acting of Brandon Routh as the unknown lead.
The main drawback of the film was its length. Whilst it seemed to pass fairly quickly (the pre-film drinks may have helped in this regard), the ending was drawn out and a relative anti-climax. The film lacked the punchy impact of the other superhero rebirth film, Batman Begins. As in the Batman film, it was set up for a sequel (or three), but to not follow up these rehashes with further films would perhaps be a waste.
Peter Bradshaw, his Guardian review, as questioned the point of remaking the film in such a way (i.e. by continuing the saga rather than going back to the beginning and starting again as Batman Begins does). It's a valid point but the film at least evaporates some of the memories of the universally-accepted-as-poor Superman IV. Maybe the sequels (with the first scheduled for 2009) will add something more.
Saturday 12th August 2006
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited film of the summer, by spaceman anyway, is Snakes On A Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role. SOAP, as it has come to be known, has become a cult thanks to the internet. The film itself could be awful or it could be fantastic - either way it will be brilliant. One of the classic lines uttered by SLJ - "I've had it with these mother fucking snakes on this mother fucking plane!" - is destined to become an all-time classic. The best moment has been SLJ's comments while presenting the Best Film award for the MTV Movie Awards:
"I'm here tonight to present the award everyone's been waiting for: best movie. Now, this award holds a special place in my heart because next year I'll be winning it for Snakes on a Plane. Now I know, I know that sounds cocky, but I don't give a damn. I am guaranteeing that Snakes on a Plane will win best movie next year. Does not matter what else is coming out. The new James Bond... no snakes in that! Ocean's 13... where my snakes at? Shrek the Third... green, but not a snake. No movie shall triumph over Snakes on a Plane. Unless I happen to feel like making a movie called Mo' Motha-fuckin' Snakes on Mo' Motha-fuckin' Planes."
It can't come soon enough. Read the review here first. Well, not first - probably a couple of weeks after the release date (as spacemen hates crowded cinemas).
Ok, so it's been a while. Filmcorner has been just a little bit quiet over the past six weeks (sorry about that). The main reasons for this stem from dear old crespie, what with studying, exams, getting married, honeymooning (er, sort of) and being plain ill. But now that is all over and films are back in the programme. Both farahpants and d2h3 are not so keen on seeing SOAP (come on, Snakes On A Plane - keep up) for reasons it is not entirely clear. They just don't fancy it, or even get it. Spaceman and crespie are not sure either, but sod it, eh.
So the aforementioned filmies, crespie and spaceman, dial up their other halves (mrs crespie, or vespie perhaps, and spacegirl) to bump up the numbers. After a burger fest in Walkabout on Quay Street, we easily avoid the massive ticket queue at the Great Northern by buying the tickets from a ticket machine. Not sure why no-one else does this (bloody students!).
So, the film. Best way is to explain everyone's reaction to the film. Mrs crespie shook her head after the film and wondered aloud about the waste of two hours' precious life, while crespie proclaimed it "the greatest film ever" (it was not all that easy to tell whether crespie was joking). Spacegirl, despite watching the majority of the snake-related parts of the film through strategically placed hands, loved it and sported a large grin in the cinema afterwards.
And spaceman's view? Well, the film is outrageously outlandish in places, but wilfully, gleefully so, with SLJ is perfect in the lead role (the famous line was eagerly awaited and joyfully celebrated). The middle part of the film, where the snakes exert their psychotic control has several "surely they can't... can they?" moments, but the joy of the film is in the fact that they can do anything at any time and get away with it. The film even goes for Predator-style snake point-of-views for extra tension. There are few stones left unturned.
It's basically a whole bunch of fun.
A week or so later, with spaceman returned from Venice, crespie and spacemen debate their updated feelings on SOAP. "It's kinda brilliantly bad and badly brilliant" offers spaceman, and crespie agrees with the suitably mixed sentiments. It's tempting to use the 'so bad it's good' line, but it's not quite like that. It's a well-made film, for what it is.
Anyway, we need a new film to go see.
Another yawning gap before we visit the cinema once more. Crespie and spaceman tried for a while to find a date suitable for d2h3 but to no avail. There were a couple of dates booked but illness of all of our intrepid film-goers scuppered them somewhat.
We had originally planned to go to see The Departed, Martin Scorcese's latest flick, but we dilly-dallied for so long that it was soon removed from the cinema screens. Our next target was the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, the trailers for which had rendered crespie very excited (and it wasn't just the sight of new Bond actor Daniel Craig emerging from the sea in tight trunks).
But finally we found a Saturday to suit all (except farahpants who is temporarily relocated to London at the moment, although cinematic enthusiasm from farahpants had appeared to dwindle before the Big Smoke secondment). Spaceman tried to book both Dimitri's and El Rincon, but failed (same day booking for such busy places was always bound to end unsuccesful), and instead settled for d2h3's original request, Evuna, the Spanish restaurant we visited back in early August.
Things did not entirely go to plan as crespie, on a shopping spree with vespie, got caught up in Ikea and proclaimed to be an expected hour late (tch, the rudeness, the carelessness). Spaceman and d2h3 weren't so tardy and they met on time at the tapas bar, which didn't disappoint.
The film itself was a dark, action-packed affair, set in early years of Bond (starting before he became a 007 even). During the post-film discussion in The Deansgate (next to the Hilton tower, formerly Galvin's Bar), the triumvirate all agreed it was an enjoyable film. In the obligatory ratings session, d2h3 was clearly rapt by the whole affair went for 9/10, crespie 7/10, while spaceman wavered between 7.5/10 and 8/10 (ok, 7.75/10 if you must). Overall, then, 7.9/10.
The plus points were plain to see: dark, gritty and more realistic than the typical bond, an elongated poker scene (although perhaps not as enjoyable for non-poker players), a twisting plot, an sophisticated and attractive Bond girl, a and a great early chase scene. Filmcorner unanimously felt the new Bond was a step in the right direction.
However, the film lost momentum in the last third (although admittedly there was a point to it), and it still suffered from some of the cheesiness inherent (and, it seems, obligatory) in the Bond series. Spaceman's main bugbear, though, was the ridiculous amount of product placement, and this was the reason behind the wavering between 7.5 and 8.
Before the film, we had to witness a watch advert which effectively ran as a trailer (and there was also a ridiculously mundane watch conversation squeezed sickeningly into the screenplay later on), there were clearly visible makes of car and laptop (probably amongst other things). An advert for the latter spaceman saw on TV later in the week - "as used by James Bond" - neglected to mention that they were talking about a fictional character.
But, overall, very much worth watching, and it will be interesting to see where the next film takes things.
Sunday 10th December 2006
A quick update on some recent films which spaceman, along with spacegirl, went to see.
Borat (or, to give the film its full title, Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan), the spoof documentary about the fictional character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, was one of those films, a little like Team America: World Police, that was potentially offensive but done with such glee (and, hopefully, knowing) as to be enjoyable. And, like TA:WP, it will probably benefit more from repeat viewing as the shock value will be dampened.
The film is what the word 'furore' was invented for, with SBC having offended or being sued by numerous people - the nation of Kazakhstan, the Romanians who were portrayed as Kazakhstanis, the frat kids who got drunk on their road trip and talked in offensive terms. It was, in the same way as the brainchilds of Chris Morris, Brass Eye and The Day Today, Trigger Happy TV, etc., accused of misleading and exploiting people. No matter - it was still hilarious.
Yesterday it was the turn of Stranger Than Fiction, an Adaption-style twist of normality, which starred Will Ferrell (playing a virtually straight role with suitable wide-eyed innocence) as the IRS auditor whose head becomes filled with the narration of a story about him, a story written by Emma Thompson.
Whilst not laugh out loud, the film is nevertheless endearing and amusing, with a good performance by Dustin Hoffman as the literature teacher that Ferrell goes to see.
Sunday 17th December 2006
The largest filmcorner party to date assembled last night, with spaceman, d2h3 and crespie joined by vespie, spacegirl and privatedancer (a friend of spacegirl's). We had chosen to see Deja Vu starring the always dependable Denzel Washington (the film had been trailered heavily both on TV and in the cinemas).
Because of fairly awkward timings, we decided to go to the Odeon cinema (formerly the Filmworks) in the Printworks. Because of the proximity of the Great Northern and the AMC cinema within, it had been a long time since spaceman had been to the Odeon/Filmworks.
The main bugbear, apart from the distance, was the system of premier and standard seats. When buying adult tickets, we were not offered the chance of buying "premier" tickets for a pound extra, although spaceman had noticed them (but not known what they were). We got to the cinema halfway through the adverts (which run longer than at the AMC) after a sweet-buying spree took hold of some of the film-goers.
The obvious seats to sit in were those in the middle (both vertically and horizontally), but an Odeon employee, hamstrung it seems by orders from above, requested to see our tickets, and he patrolled right up to the start of the film. We had sat in premier seats and therefore had to move. To right at the back of the cinema (there was nowhere else to seat six).
The premier seats were fairly empty then and indeed during the movie. The standard tickets were expensive enough as it was (£7 vs £5.50 in the AMC) and so the general feeling that the whole system was (a) pointless and (b) a rip-off. We don't plan to go back.
Anyway, back to the film. It is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, and so got the inevitably cheesily slow motion scenes to music (see the CSIs). The opening scene was intended to shock, and did, but the surprise was spoiled a little by the trailer. The plot required a little belief suspension but they at least had a go at explaining away the time-movement bits.
But enough of the negatives. Denzel Washington was, as you would expect, excellent and very believable, if a little obsessed with the lead female character. The film was slickly made, as you come to expect these days really, and the plot was very clever and one of those that has you thinking for a few days afterwards.
In fact, d2h3 was so bewildered by the whole thing that he delved into straight into some old physics book upon reaching home.
Overall, the film received good marks from the core filmcorner chaps, with d2h3 going high again with 8/10 (and noting that we had seen some cracking films recently, with Casino Royale), and both crespie and spaceman opting for 7/10. Average rating: 7.3/10.
Up next, Flags Of Our Fathers is planned.
And so it came to pass. After a Christmas break to recharge our batteries, we head to the Great Northern to watch Clint Eastwood's Second World War flick, Flags Of Our Fathers. Set predominantly in 1945, it follows the battle on the small island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific, where, early in the battle, a flag is raised on top of Mount Suribachi, the photograph of the hoisting of which is photographed. This famous photograph becomes symbolic and is swiftly published throughout America.
Farahpants again ducks out (due to an ulcerous girlfriend), but crespie, d2h3 and spaceman march relentlessly on, somehow managing to escape out of work before 6pm. In fact, we get there with a little time to kill while the adverts bore the audience senseless and so crespie and d2h3 purchase an industrial-sized box of popcorn (d2h3 having particular trouble with the gormless, forgetful member of staff), much to spaceman's disgust (the white arm of crespie was visible from the corner of spaceman's eye, metronomically going from bottomless box to mouth and back again).
Spaceman enjoyed this movie, in the sense that it was morally satisfying because it did not pander to the glorification of war. The main action scene, the landing on the aforementioned island, was jaw-dropping and brutally visceral, recalling the similar landing in Saving Private Ryan, although it has crespie reach for the popcorn box (twice!), clearly desensitised to the screened massacre of soldiers (on both sides). It always brings home to spaceman just how helpless each and every fighter was under the hail of bullets and mortars.
The volcanic landscape gave the film an almost surreal feel. But significant portions of the movie took place back in America, as the flag-planters (those who survived) were hailed as heroes and sent on a tour, encouraging the American public to buy bonds (the government were running out of money) and to generally raise morale. The hollowness in the three soldiers gifted a return home was plain to see, as they felt they did not deserve to be singled out as heroes. The fact that the narrative return to the island was to find out how the non-surviving members of the elite flag group was chilling.
And, as the credits rolled, photos of the the original soldiers were shown, which brought home the futility but occasional necessity of war. Spaceman found the film moving, but crespie and d2h3 less so, with the latter's comment being that it was nothing new. We hopped across to the bar side of Dimitri's for some food and discussed the film, including the ritual giving of ratings. Spaceman chose 7/10 again (which prompted accusations of unoriginality), while d2h3 went for 4/10 and crespie 5/10. Spaceman was a little taken aback by the low ratings and protested, but there was no backing down. An average of 5.3/10 was therefore achieved.
Crespie, with popcorn inside him and tea ready at home, could not resist tucking into the excellent tapas, all the while banging on about the new Rocky film, Rocky Balboa, surely his last in the series, in which he does the senior boxing tour, fighting Frank Bruno and the like. We chatted and watched Liverpool vs Arsenal in the Carling Cup on teletext, as you do (6-3 to Arsenal!), noting the upcoming releases in 2007 of Spider-Man 3, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Simpsons Movie, Transformers and the next Die Hard film, Live Free or Die Hard (not to mention Alan Partridge: The Movie). And then we went our separate ways.
Wednesday 24th January 2007
Finally, six months since its inception, filmcorner gets a quorum as farahpants fails to think of any last minute excuses not to see Rocky Balboa, the sixth (and hopefully final) Rocky film. Spaceman, crespie and d2h3 head to Walkabout straight after work for a quick snack - farahpants is studying and meets up a bit later.
Satiated with food and a couple of beers, and with farahpants joining up, the intrepid foursome head for the Great Northern once more, a home from home these days. Spaceman has been extremely reticent at seeing this film, especially having seen some of Rocky III at the weekend, the soft-focus, homoerotic training montage and cartoon mid-ring bludgeoning enough for anyone. Crespie, meanwhile, couldn't be more excited if he was a virginal teenage boy in a girl's changing room.
It's not long since released and the cinema was fairly busy with eager Sylvester Stallone fans. The first half of the film was slow and poignant, a moving study of growing old and clinging to the past, a look at nostalgia without being too nostalgic. Whilst the dialogue was at times clunky ("I dance better than the average bear... I don't know where that came from" - clue: Yogi, but we don't recall him dancing), the loneliness of Rocky in his old age (well, he's meant to be in his late 50s), as he goes through the same day-long routine on each anniversary of his wife's death, accompanied by the faithful but bitter Paulie, did ring true.
As part of this routine, he heads to an old bar and gets talking to a barmaid, who he treats like a lady without ever making a move. As part of this, he offers her a job at the thriving (they all want to hear his stories) Italian restaurant he runs, takes her son under his wing and, er, fixes her lightbulb. He also attempts to meet up with his own son, who at first makes it difficult (he's moved on, you see), but, after a stirring life lecture from Rocky, quits his job and becomes ringside towel boy and chief motivator.
But there needs to be an excuse for a big fight scene, and its arrival was almost inevitable. The set-up was obvious - the new heavyweight champion, Mason 'The Line' Dixon had no significant rivals and was therefore struggling to attract crowds and sponsors. A computer graphics simulation of a Rocky vs Mason fight, old vs new, prompted frenzied debate and forecast a Rocky win.
Rocky, fresh from an appearance on Match Of The Day, persuaded some panel or other to give him a fighting license with an impassioned plea. Originally, this was to be for small-time fighting, the only thing that gave him purpose, but the public's appetite for a cross-generational match-up was whetted and money does talk after all. So Rocky got his creaking frame into gear with a power-based training regime, after they figured that a hammer blow was the only way Rocky could win (an amusing jolt of realism was provided with his list of weaknesses: "you're too slow, you have arthritis..."). And then came the final fight...
The camerawork throughout the film, but in particular during the fight at the end, and the post-glory melancholy, gave the film a very modern edge, and the film did not try too much for the ending. Rocky wasn't after a glorious victory, instead seeking an exorcism of his inner demons, the beast within which dogged his thoughts and threatened his long-term peace of mind.
After the credits, during which members of the public (including an amply built girl) ran up the famous steps of Philadelphia that Rocky ascended on numerous workouts, filmcorner headed to the Deansgate for a post-match analysis and some amber nectar. It was clear that crespie was disappointed having expected too much, and spaceman thought it fairly enjoyable given low expectations, although the respective ratings given were 5/10 and 5.5/10.
Farahpants, ever enthusiastic and positive, gave the film 6/10, but d2h3 spent a tortuous amount of time, first refusing to give a rating, before finally settling on a low 3/10. Whilst d2h3 enjoyed the film, the mere fact that the film was disjointed and the latter part told too quickly cost it dear in d2h3's eyes. Thus the overall rating was 4.9/10.
D2h3 provided the moment of the night with a virtuoso imitation sequence, mixing Rocky's unintelligible Italian-American ramblings with crespie's unintelligible Scottish mumblings. A film starring the two would be incomprehensible but, on the evidence of d2h3's display, extremely enjoyable, although his impressions slowly turned into Yogi Bear, bizarrely enough. While crespie and spaceman rolled around giggling, farahpants looked on, bemused, seemingly not assimilated with the surrealist nature of the trio's humour.
More film reviews soon.
Time for a quick recap on the films seen by filmcorner (all ratings averaged and out of 10):
Superman Returns: 6.5 (August 2006)
Snakes On A Plane: not quorum (September 2006)
Casino Royale: 7.9 (December 2006)
Deja Vu: 7.3 (December 2006)
Flags Of Our Fathers: 5.3 (January 2007)
Rocky Balboa: 4.9 (January 2007)
Released on Valentine's Day, Hot Fuzz is the latest collaboration of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, following the zombie flick Shaun Of The Dead and top-notch sitcom Spaced (which was co-written by Jessica Stevenson). And we decided to damn well go and see it.
The crew comprised spaceman and spacegirl, crespie and vespie, and also doylieboy (aka manuel), a newbie to filmcorner and a friend of spaceman. The film was evidently popular (it had received good write-ups) as we were forced to sit on the second row, although it wasn't so bad. Worse was missing the Simpsons trailer (amongst others) due to the girls' sweet tooth.
Never mind, we made it for the film and, despite vespie's mischievous rustling of the sweets bag to annoy spaceman (never fails, that one), we settled back and enjoyed the comedy. As in the SOTD and Spaced, Simon Pegg brought in pal Nick Frost for a comedic pairing that always works brilliantly. Add in a tight, gag-filled script, multiple film and TV references, a whole host of UK TV stars (Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Bill Bailey, etc) and proper actors (Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward, etc) and inventive direction from Edgar Wright (although borrowing heavily in places from Darren Aronofsky's ground-breaking-if-a-bit-disturbing Requiem For A Dream), and you have yourself a cracking film.
Spaceman enjoyed it (rating it 7.50/10), although this may have been tempered a little by the hope that the rest of the clan would like it (although spacegirl was a given, awarding it 8/10). But crespie and vespie loved it, helped my low expectations, giving it 7.5/10 and 8/10 respectively. Lordy, even doylieboy liked it. And, it inspired barney to go out and buy the two series of Spaced, which were watched in two sittings. Good work.
The horizon did cometh (eventually), although filmcorner failed in its attempts to go and see Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. It never really held the attention of the other elements of filmcorner, despite spaceman insisting it had received “decent reviews”. But without any headline actors or actresses, with the prospect of the film spending the vast majority of its time in the nothingness of space, and with d2h3 having a cornucopia (such a good word) of social events in the guise of quiche-fuelled racquetball (tennis), prawn sandwich-fuelled United supporting, Mars Bar-fuelled handicap-faking golf and, um, the odd pub quiz, … we didn’t make it.
We waited for the crowds to die down for Spider-Man 3 (incidentally, why does the name of the film require a hyphen and double capital letter situation? The same is not required for Superman or Batman, for example) before heading off to our friendly neighbourhood cinema (the Great Northern, of course). Crespie slavered generously in fervent anticipation of the third instalment of our web-spraying, acrobatic hero (the difficult second sequel), but spaceman proffered more balanced views gleaned from scouring sections of the broadsheet press and warned at potential disappointment. Crespie, in the words of the great Shakespeare, was ‘avin’ none of it. D2h3, meanwhile, purred inconsequentially.
We went straight from work (annoyingly, they had a 6.30pm showing and an 8.30pm showing, but nothing in between – although there was discrepancy in the timings even then). Well, by “straight”, what is meant is “via Walkabout for a strangely low-key non-alcoholic convening between crespie and d2h3, with spaceman arriving a few minutes later, leaving shortly afterwards with said drinks far from finished”. But that’s by-the-by and almost completely mundane – onto the film itself. Well, once crespie and d2h3 have satisfied their appetitive cravings with an obscenely large box of popcorn (and spaceman has indulged in a little better-safe-than-sorry bladder emptying) that is.
But finally we made it, in time for most of the trailers and everything (details of which now escape filmcorner for the time being). And spaceman does not think that crespie has been so crushingly disappointed since Patsy Kensit became a vegetarian (sorry, that’s a Frank Skinner gag – since Rangers finished third in the Scottish Premier, perhaps). There were times, during the long, drawn-out climax to the film, that crespie resorted to the head-in-hands pose. It was a sad sight. Like a kid being told that there is no Father Christmas (sorry, kids, it’s true).
In places, it was an okay film, but there were too many things dragging it down. Firstly, too many enemies were present (three!), although it did set-up a semi-entertaining tag-team superhero match-up (potential for a new programme, there, surely) towards the end.
Let’s recall the enemies: the New Goblin (son of the Green Goblin, or something), whose failure to get over his dad’s death at the hands of Spidey fuel a crazy desire to kill the red-and-blue costumed arachno-person takes over the first part of the film; Sandman (played by the guy from Sideways), who, having wandered into some weird sand experiment (which we all did as kids), manages to turn into a flowing, er, bit (technical term) of sand, which can just fly anywhere and go huge and all sorts – all very believable in other words; and Venom, an almost belatedly introduced freaky-looking version of Spiderman, formed as a result of the combination of an embittered colleague and an inexplicable bit of black stuff which lands from outer space. As so often happens.
The latter event first enables the crazy liquorice-with-a-mind-of-its-own infiltrate our intrepid, lovelorn scamp, resulting in Spiderman going goth, although he prances around the streets of New York in a rather more disco fashion. It’s just silly. (He eventually sheds the black layer by banging into a big bell, which the black stuff does not like at all.)
Um, what other bad bits. They have a big celebration of Spiderman’s existence in true American fashion, with Spidey even swinging in front of an over-sized Stars & Stripes, much to the chagrin of just about anyone not American (and probably some of those who are). What is it with these people?!? It gets docked a mark just for that. (Ok, ok, so the colours of Spiderman and Superman have always been based on the American flag, but there’s no need to go overboard.)
The early fight scenes with the New Goblin occur mostly in near-darkness, rendering the high speed CGI frustratingly difficult to follow, and the vast use of special effects just desensitises you to such things anyway; it goes on for ages (clocking in at a good 140 minutes), sagging in the middle and being ridiculously over-the-top at the end; and the Neighbours-esque “I’ll be your friend, no I’ll be yours” crap between Spiderman and the New Goblin (who “goes good”) in the finalé is cringe-worthy in the extreme.
Sam Raimi directed the other two films, so he is aware of the word “subtle”, but it was not in evidence here - the key difference is that he wrote this one. Crespie has since banned himself from suggesting films for the next three filmcorner visits, something which spaceman seconds.
What’s good about it? Well, it’s less painful than having nails hammered into your knees on a cold day. And Kirsten Dunst’s hair looks good. And that’s about it. In the immortal words of crespie: “even if on acid, that film would still be shit”. So disenchanted were filmcorner that we went our own ways (well, d2h3 drove crespie home) rather than go sifting through the wreckage of the film with a pint for company. Ratings were put forth before we split, however, with crespie opting for 4/10 (putting it as marginally worse than Superman Returns, which, in hindsight, crespie rather generously gave 6/10), d2h3 pulling no punches with 3/10 and spaceman, with low expectations, 5/10. Overall, a poor 4/10 average, and comfortably the worst film we have seen so far in our filmcorner guise (at least Rocky Balboa had genuine poignancy).
And it did indeed turn out to be Zodiac, although for the first time filmcorner was reduced to two, with farahpants long-term absent (we didn’t even bother) and d2h3 making a near-unprecedented decision to spend the evening engaging in the futile exercise of tennis practice. But given that spaceman sensed that Zodiac would not be running for too much longer, with a cacophony of summer blockbusters round the corner (as was drummed into us in the trailers), we decided to go anyway.
And it was a good decision. It’s a long film, but no less satisfying for it, especially with the ring-true tone of being based on the case files for the real life Zodiac serial killer of the late 60s and early 70s in San Fransisco (and, in fact, the book entitled ‘Zodiac’ by Robert Graysmith, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, he of Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain fame).
In fact, a running theme is the fact that the film is very ‘real life’. Whilst there are suspenseful scenes, the outcome is rarely as predictable as we have become used to from our lifetimes of cinematic experiences – nothing goes entirely to plan, not everything has a purpose, and there is a general element of randomness which is refreshing. Just like real life, in fact.
Couple with that the authentic period detail (we would guess), the strong cast and acting, and a fascinating story, and the two-and-a-half hours flew by. The film arc follows Robert Graysmith from a junior cartoonist at one of the newspapers which is sent letters by the Zodiac killer himself, to a man fighting a lone crusade (a little like Knight Rider, but with better hair and no car) to, primarily, find out who it is, with justice, it seems, a secondary issue.
Graysmith main allies become a drinking, smoking, generally-losing-it journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) and one of the cops first put on the case (Mark Ruffalo). Resourcefully, he exchanges evidence between the various police jurisdictions, something which wasn't achieved when the case was actually open. Spaceman won't spoil the ending here, though.
On leaving the cinema, spaceman and crespie headed for late night meze (Greek-style tapas, food fans) at Dimitri’s to discuss and cogitate over the evening’s entertainment (although the late night eating played havoc with spaceman’s tummy the next day). And how we laughed over how d2h3 had missed one of the best films of filmcorner so far.
The next day, we had a rare moment of agreement, with both spaceman and crespie going for 7.5/10. Crespie wanted to revisit some earlier review scores in order to recalibrate, wanting a top ten so far. Well, when we have seen 10 films in the filmcorner guise, perhaps we can do this. We have currently seen 9, so that is not far away.
The first time in a busy social period that filmcorner can meet and even then without the ill farahpants, this was the first of a quickfire film extravaganza. Having waited so long since the release of Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free Or Die Hard, these being the US and UK names respectively, or so says the mighty IMDb), we inevitably ran into trouble with screening times. In the end, we were forced to hightail it to the Trafford Centre to catch the 6.15pm showing, with d2h3 providing transport, otherwise we faced a long wait in town for the 9pm-plus showings that the Odeon and Great Northern were only prepared to offer us.
Whilst the film itself was, inevitably, to some extent more of the same (you generally know what you’re getting with the Die Hard series – well, except d2h3, who had managed not to see any of the previous three movies, certainly not in their entirety, despite them being on almost weekly on ITV for the last two decades or so), the prelim to the big event turned out to be far more entertaining the film itself. In fact, it inspired a screenplay thusly.
Anyway, silliness aside, the fourth in the series dragged itself firmly into the 21st century, with a plot focussing on Internet-based crime. Replacing the traditional European baddie of the first three films (played by Alan Rickman, um, Franco Nero, and Jeremy Irons respectively) is a slighted Pentagon computer programmer originating firmly from the US of A (oh no - one of them has turned against themselves).
Countering this is Bruce Willis' weary old and old-fashioned detective. Clearly he has no knowledge of modern e-technology and so he is lumbered with the task of first picking up, then rescuing, before finally becoming a crime-fighting duo with, a young hacker Matt Farrell (played by Justin Long). This combination works reasonably well. The other main character on the 'good' side, apart from the FBI suits, is Mclean's daughter, whose no-nonsense, fearless attitude as reminiscent of, well, her father.
The typically well-oiled Really Bad Crime Plot soon has the country in chaos. For example, they hack into the traffic computer, in a school kid-like prank, turn all the lights to green. Predictably enough, a lot of car crashes result and, before long, there is complete gridlock, which renders the emergency services rather useless. With access to police airwaves, the cyber-criminals track Farrell and Mclean as they weave their way through the city.
The contrast between old-fashioned detective work and the age of technology makes this a reasonably enjoyable flick, bolstered by dry, witty lines delivered in typically laconic style by Bruce Willis and quite astounding special effects. One of the highlights of the latter is the depiction of the bedlam caused by letting traffic into both ends of a tunnel and, er, turning off the lights.
Towards the end of the film, the plot gets a bit silly, which had crespie distractingly raising palms upward in semi-disbelief. A particularly bizarre scene has Mclean in a juggernaut playing hide and seek with a jet plane amongst some upward-spiralling highway that seems to have no destination. Spaceman tried to tell crespie that the film-makers were having a bit of fun, this being perhaps the last of the series, but physics is physics.
In the bar afterwards, as we sucked on cool bottles of beer, we selected our ratings, with d2h3 and crespie (despite the constant hand-waving) going for a slightly-impressed 7 and spaceman having been put off a little by crespie and the slightly silly finalé, went initially for 6, before upgrading it to 6.5. So, overall, 6.8.
During the drive back from the Trafford Centre, we were forced to listen to some bizarre music (which d2h3 claimed to know nothing of) after spaceman had been laughing too much to cope with Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge.
Saturday 18th August 2007
And so, a mere 48 hours later, spaceman and crespie descended on the Great Northern to watch Transformers. Both farahpants and d2h3 had cried off, for whatever reasons, so it was just the ever-present duo who had the pleasure of tackling the battle of the giant robots, accompanied by vespie and doylieboy, previous filmcorner guests.
To set the scene, it is worth noting that spaceman is a big fan of Transformers anyway, having watched it a fair bit is a child (the best childhood cartoon ever) on ITV. Crespie was aware of the Transformers, but did not share quite the same devotion or knowledge of the various robots involved.
The original series was first broadcast in 1984, running to four series in the end (although the fourth series was short and sweet). Spaceman only recalls the first series, i.e. the one featuring the classic characters. Then, in 1986, Transformers: The Movie was released, which introduced (to spaceman) a whole raft of new characters. Sadly, this was the great Orson Welles' last film (as the planet-eating Unicron), which also featured the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle amongst others.
In preparation for the modern Transformers flick, spaceman watched the original movie on DVD. Incidentally, and it's a view spaceman held for a while, the 1986 film is a blatant copy of the plot of the original Star Wars trilogy (the scrolling opening wording, Optimus Prime = Obi-Wan Kenobi, Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime = Luke Skywalker, Unicron = Death Star/The Emperor, Junkions = Ewoks, Megatron/Galvatron = Darth Vader, etc, etc).
Anyway, enough prelim, for the uninitiated, there are Autobots (the good ones) and Decepticons (the bad ones). Spaceman was a little nervous that film would not live up to expectations, but early indications from friends and friends of friends were good, and this was backed up by the appalling reviews given to the film by The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, The Observer's Philip French and The Independent's Anthony Quinn. Essentially, they thought it was a bit noisy. A good sign. (Besides, they're too old to have been affected by the transforming robots as a kid, and so aren't remotely the target audience. And spaceman rejects the notion that the film has purely been made to sell toys.)
Onto the film: the opening scenes focus on an army base in the desert which is approached by a mysterious helicopter which fails to answer any radioed requests or demands, ominously continuing unabated, despite the escort of hastily scrambled fighter jets. What is more unnerving for the military watching this unfold is the fact that the helicopter in question had been shot down six months earlier.
The helicopter lands, the army surround it with weapons armed, and then... and then it transforms, with far more complexity than ever was the case, it's probably a good ten or twenty seconds before it stands tall as a robot, armed to the teeth. In what is a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping few minutes, the robot (a Decepticon it later turns out, although it's fairly obvious that one of the "good ones" would not do this) wrecks the base with an arsenal that would impress the USA's "Shock And Awe" inventors.
There are several converging plot strands in operation: the high school comedy-style getting together of the geeky kid and the hot chick, complicated by the presence of Bumblebee, a sports car that's really an Autobot spy; the young hackers trying to figure out what is stealing all the Pentagon's secrets; the arrival of the Autobot cavalry; the mysterious, underground appearances of the Decepticons.
The key link is a pair of the geeky kid's grandfather's spectacles which hold the secret to the All Spark, which is some sort of life-generating cube (don't ask) that, it turns out, the Government has been keeping quiet for many decades, as well as a frozen Megatron (the Decepticon's evil leader), which the grandfather stumbled across on an Arctic adventure.
The action is frenetic, explosive and sometimes hard to follow during the fight sequences (a criticism voiced by both crespie and vespie afterwards). The special effects are the best spaceman has ever seen - they are fantastic. Interspersed with the action are more lighthearted scenes - the bit where the Autobots try to keep quiet whilst outside the geeky kid's house are a little silly, but they do give the audience a breather.
The film reaches a cacophonous (i.e. brilliant) finalé, with the inevitable battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime. Rather than take the easy option of fighting in somewhere remote, Michael Bay (he of Bad Boys, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor (oh dear) fame) chooses to set it in amongst the streets of a busy US city - absolute carnage ensues.
Apart from the special effects, there are a number of differences from the original series and film. Firstly, while the Autobots retain their original names (albeit with Bumblebee in a different form, despite a nod towards the VW original), the Decepticons, apart from Megatron and Starscream (who exchange pleasingly consistent jibes), the rest bear no resemblance to the original (Devastator was an aggregate robot formed from the Constructicons, not a tank), with even Megatron changing to a jet plane rather than a gun (to be fair, being a gun is a little bit useless given the weapons already available to them).
Secondly, and more importantly, the Transformers are more vulnerable - they are represented more as robotic organisms than pure robots - and the humans discover that armour piercing rounds can inflict damage - something that never happened in the original cartoons. It certainly gives it a different flavour, with the US army uniting with the Autobots to prevent the destruction of the Earth. Which is fair enough.
The film was certainly a sensory assault - the filmcorner faithful were somewhat shell-shocked on exit, and we eased ourselves into The Deansgate pub to recover and discuss. All the while, spaceman remained wide-eyed and in possession of a big, stupid grin. Plus, there will be an inevitable sequel (and there was much rejoicing).
As noted earlier, the crespie-and-vespie duo's main gripe was that the camera angles were such that it wasn't always possible to see what was going on - but this, for spaceman, was somewhat part of the film-makers' desire to be grittily realistic and representative of the chaos of war. Spaceman opted for an 8/10 rating - it had exceeded expectations, leaving spaceman dizzy with joy - whilst doylieboy was also impressed, mirroring the 8/10 rating. Crespie and vespie dragged the average down with 6/10 and 6.5/10 respectively, giving an overall rating of 7.1/10.
Tuesday 21st August 2007
Relentlessly, with barely a breath in between, spaceman and crespie find themselves at the Great Northern once more, this time to watch The Simpson Movie, with farahpants again crying off due to thumb-related pressure and d2h3 uttering the bizarre argument that a 90 minute cartoon is rather too much (despite presumably watching several episodes of Family Guy in one go for example - oh and to set the record straight, Family Guy is good, but The Simpsons at its best is far better).
In order to keep vespie sweet (last night in Blighty), we headed out of work a smidgeon early to catch the 5.15pm showing. However, no-one else did. That's right - spaceman and crespie found themselves alone in the cinema, joined only by one person somewhere near the end for about two minutes. It was a slightly bizarre experience.
The Simpsons has been around for 18 years now, clocking up around 400 episodes over 19 series (to date), and netting countless awards. Spaceman's view, shared by crespie and many other people, is that the early series (particularly two and three) are the best and that the series has been in steady decline for quite some time (with the odd exception). This is inevitable since there can only be so many plot devices available to make the audience laugh. Thus, the writers have recently resorted to gags and topical pot-shots rather than the stronger, character-driven plots of the early days.
All this makes it perhaps a strange and difficult time to be releasing a film - how can they make it unique? Well, one step was apparently to draft in some of the original writers. The film started promisingly, with young Ralph Wiggum piping up in the 20th Century Fox intro (crespie made vocal approval). The intro was inevitably and amusingly doctored to reflect the cinematic version, and was slowly apparent was that they had spruced up the graphics somewhat.
The film's plot panned out like expected, really, i.e. like an extended episode, which wasn't a bad thing. It incorporated both the break-up of the Simpsons family and a number of political jokes, and was principally about pollution and the environment. There were plenty of laughs, but there were no real surprises.
Spaceman and crespie had no time for a post-match beer, with crespie heading home. It was still bizarrely light (being not even 7pm) which was slightly disconcerting. Crespie stuck with the pre-film forecast of 7/10, which spaceman agreed with (a possible first). So, 7/10 overall.
Friday 31st August 2007
One film that d2h3 and farahpants were sure to attend, however, was The Bourne Ultimatum, the third in the Bourne series featuring Matt Damon (following on from The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy). They had both seen the first two and very much enjoyed them (in fact, they represent two of the seven post-1980 films d2h3 has seen, excluding those via the self-focussed medium that is filmcorner). Farahpants resorted to counting down the hours during the working day, with almost disturbing regularity. Spaceman had long since warned of getting expectations up too high (expectations vs actuality basically deciding whether crespie likes a film or not).
Anyway, this being a Friday, there was a greater attendance in evidence; in fact the best that filmcorner has seen. As well as the fairweather film-goers d2h3 and farahpants, the usual suspects spaceman and crespie were joined by spacegirl, freshly back from Luton, j-no, a friend and former colleague, johnboy, d2h3's silent but deadly assassin, sorry, friend, and farahpants2, farahpants' young brother. Quite a collection.
We had debated whether to go to the 6.30pm or 8pm showings, but with spaceman worrying about getting all work done on the last day before an extended break (for overseas excursions), and the crew coming in from all angles at different times, we decided to procrastinate further in Walkabout, on the suggestion of crespie. In the end, the plan that formed was to get burgers and beer before heading to the 8pm slot, but the lack of a table meant that we just had beer. Oh and some freely-handed around onion rings (which farahpants complained tasted of doughnuts, with spacegirl agreeing) and chicken wings.
As the night went on thus the quality of the clientele in Walkabout dropped markedly to the extent that we fled to Pitcher & Piano for our last pre-film beverage, with the side task of meeting up with farahpants2. Leaving about his late as possible, we half-dashed half-staggered to the Great Northern, succumbing to bladder pressure, grade-A munchies or a combination of both. Thus we shuffled into the screening at almost the latest possible moment, leaving us the first or second rows as choice (a contrast to the previous film crespie and spaceman had seen). This meant that we were a little close to the action, but it wasn't so bad.
The third film starts where the second film left off (more or less), with Jason Bourne on the run in Moscow. He is still gunning for the people responsible for who he was and what they turned him on for, and a lead discovered by a Guardian journalist sends him to London and a dramatic stand-off in Waterloo station (which apparently the film-makers were not able to close for the scenes).
Carried over from the previous film(s) are Pamela Landy (played by Joan Allen), part of the CIA, and Nicky Parsons (played by Julia Stiles), who was in on the original Operation Treadstone, which is quickly superseded by Operation Blackbriar. Both these characters show sympathetic tendencies towards Bourne - indeed the latter hints at a pre-amnesia relationship between the two, but pleasingly this doesn't get past an awkward exchange of words, and their time together is as empty as Bourne's memory of his past.
Other locations include Paris, Madrid, Tangier and New York, as Bourne hunts down the person who conditioned him to be the cold-hearted killer he was and still occasionally have the tendencies of (although he notably offers mercy to his enemies on numerous occasions). The action scenes are not done justice by the word frenetic, with one fight scene (which went on too long for spacegirl) being almost a complete blur due to the close-range, deliberately imprecise camera action. Paul Greengrass has basically taken the dizzying pace of the Supremacy and raised it a few notches (he didn't direct the Identity) - it makes Transformers seem still-frame.
One of the more amusing side-plots was the whereabouts of j-no, who first excused himself for toilet duty with d2h3 (pronouncing "I'm not gay"), before eventually disappearing entirely about an hour in. D2h3 later called j-no to find him, bizarrely, at home (he lives nearby). When he joined us later in Evuna (our regular post-film, tapas favourite), he said he had got bored of the film ("it's not his thing"). However, when pressed on what he had done instead of watching the Ultimatum's finalé, he said simply that he had been "doing some washing"...
Collating the post-film ratings, farahpants and farahpants2 enthusiastically echoed a 9/10 rating, while d2h3 also gushed forth a 9/10 (rating it equal with the Identity but 1/10 better than the Supremacy - spaceman would disagree, preferring the Supremacy over the other two). Spaceman went for a more sedate 7.5/10, um, johnboy went for something or other (maybe 8/10), while crespie, disappointed (see the expectations comment above), opted for 6.10 and finally spacegirl rated it 6.5/10. The overall rating was therefore 7.9/10.
Potential films to view in the next few weeks are Death Sentence (revenge thriller) and Breach (fact-based US security breach), both trailered before Die Hard 4.0, impressing crespie, and Knocked Up, which spaceman has read good things about but which is yet to impress crespie and d2h3 sufficiently to warrant a visit.
And so it came to pass. September went by, during which spaceman ventured on holiday twice, and in which d2h3 and crespie went to see Michael Clayton, having expressly requested it be saved for a filmcorner visit. (There was a misunderstanding slash miscommunication in the ticket-buying. Ah well.) Then did October, with the news that crespie would be leaving town and heading abroad, permanently.
With the stuffing taken out of spaceman's long-term filmcorner plans, and with a barrage of pre-Christmas social activity occupying any real cinematic thoughts anyway, the decision was taken to wrap up filmcorner. It could not continue without crespie.
And so it comes to pass. The end of filmcorner. It's been a somewhat aimless affair, and we take that as a compliment. But it's time to finish. Cheers and goodnight.
[Those still interested in following the always-amusing exploits of crespie can check out the Scribblings From A Far Away Place.]