Recent Movie Round-Up

Having now had a chance to catch the latest brace of blockbusters I feel it necessary to say that I enjoyed them all. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest delivered a good yarn full of weird and wonderful characters – Bill Nighy and his crew were so grisly and entertaining that you couldn’t help find them riveting (especially Nighy’s accent which sounded French at first). Orlando and Keira are still positively inert in comparison but perhaps necessary to the story, which I read somewhere managed to create an equivalent character for each persona in Star Wars even down to Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg as R2-D2 and C-3PO who just seem to haplessly turn up in the right place at the wrong time. Depp is obviously great but I was also delighted to find that Geoffrey Rush will be in the third one as he’s such good value. Great fun!

After the opening few seconds of Superman Returns I was able to relax the hugely tensed muscles that were causing my face to contort with trepidation and start to really enjoy myself (a bit like when you’re dreading an embarrassing relative making a speech at your wedding and them turning out to say generous, warm and funny things). This epic, trapped in development hell for ages which had more directors attached to it than probably anything else has ever (even Batman Begins) managed to be really very good. Apparently we’re meant to disregard a few of the latter Superman films but since I couldn’t remember them anyway that didn’t matter. The story with the crystals was very watchable and Spacey was superb as Luther. Most surprising of all was Brandon Routh who made a really good Clarke Kent and Superman respectively. What I found refreshing was that the producers didn’t cop out and go back to do a roots story which is what is done with every superhero movie, largely because they can’t seem to find a way to develope a good story once the hero has become established and triumphed over their first big nemesis (and it’s easy to see how attempts at these developments fail when you see something like Spiderman 2 which apart from the great action sequences was like watching an expensive soap opera). Kelvin might be able to help me out with why, or more likely find me a dozen examples of why I’m talking tosh 🙂

Last night I popped along to see Michael Mann’s latest, Miami Vice which duly kicked ass. I think I enjoyed it so much because there is actually nothing like it around at the moment and hasn’t been for quite some time. All recent action movies are aimed at kids like Stormbreaker or for prepubescent teens like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or else they’ve felt that they have to be more than they actually are in the case of M:I:3 and other so called event movies (and usually end up being much less than the sum of their parts). Miami Vice was a no nonsense, stylish and fast paced cop picture that managed to be both authentic and visceral whilst at the same time having its heroes pulling ridiculously ostentatious heroics with speedboats, ludicrously powerful guns, and surveillance technology. Because of the beautiful locations and consistently intriguing array of characters, even two hander conversations were suspenseful and establishing shots were an event in themselves. The final shoot out was very reminiscent of the superb gun battle in Heat except here the stakes were higher with a more traditional good guys versus bad guys. So good! Even if Colin Farrell looked a bit like one of the village people.

In other news, Film Four, true to their word of showing great movies, are showing a season of Hayao Miyazaki films all this week. On Tuesday I caught “My Neighbor Totoro” which managed to be both utterly daft and a really affecting story of two young girls moving to a remote rural location with their well-meaning father whilst they worry about whether or not their hospitalised mother is ever going to recover. They make friends with a huge cuddly tree spirit who might not be able to make everything alright but does introduce them to a flying cat-bus. Yesterday I saw the epic “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds” which was a very involved parable about mankind’s struggles to utilise early 20th century technology (and space age sleds) and harness the winds whilst surviving threats like toxic forests and huge insect armies in the wake of a nuclear holocaust. Tonight’s film is Porco Rosso (about a dashing pilot who seems to have had his face altered to resemble a pigs) and tomorrow is Princess Mononoke which I’ve seen before and loved. Catch them if you can!

4 thoughts on “Recent Movie Round-Up”

  1. Firstly, it’s Lex Luthor, Clark (no ‘e’) Kent, and SpiderMan. 😉

    I’m not sure why so many superhero films fall back to the origin. Part of it is because of what they are; you don’t need to establish how and why Dirty Harry became a cop, but there is a feeling that you need to show how Spidey got his powers. I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary myself; you had a little “Stan Lee presents…” text box in each and every Marvel comic that would briefly explain the premise in about eighty words, so I don’t see why they can’t adapt that format to the films, especially for the well-known characters. To be fair, the X-Men franchise and both Spider-Man 2 (much better than you give it credit for, by the by) and Superman II do excellent jobs of recapping the premise in the opening credits. True, no one’s yet done it in the first film, thus doing away with thirty minutes of origin stuff, but the tools are there.

    I think it may come down to the weird episodic nature of comics; the story structure doesn’t translate especially well to self-contained films, even in a series.

    I’m not sure what Film Four are playing at with the Miyazaki movies. They made no indication at all that they’d be showing both the subs and dubs, a bunch of their advertised films haven’t shown up (where’s Whisper of the Heart, for example?) and ther preliminary advrtising said all this was going to be happening in April! Still, bits and pieces of Miyazaki is better than none at all.

    Oh, and you may be interested to know that Nausicaä as filmed takes in about the middle fifth of the manga, so it’s a bit more involved and epic still!

  2. I suppose most films, especially cops films, deal with the issue of the protagonists’ motivation even if it’s just a few lines. I like it in LA Confidential where Spacey has to admit that he doesn’t remeber why he became a cop. I think you’re absolutely right about structure being the problem and at least if we do get an origin story it does spare us a wretched prequel (don’t even get me started).

    Yeah, I was looking forward to more Miyazaki like “Whisper…”, “Pom Poko” and “The Cat Returns”. I liked the fact that they got some great people in to do the dubbed versions – Michael Keaton as Porco Rosso was particularly inspired.

  3. Keaton’s always good.

    I was very disappointed with the new dub of Totoro. Most Ghibli fans welcomed the new version with open arms, but I reckon it’s a lot worse than the original, and not only because of my fear and loathing of the Fanning creature.

  4. I have to confess that I haven’t seen the original. I’d love to. From a first watch I thought it was superb and is probably one of my favourites despite it being dubbed.

    I’m glad that Project Fanning scares you aswell! I didn’t know that there was a younger sibling and was alarmed to discover the 100% increase in the ammount of Fanning that we are likely to be exposed to in the future. Down with this sort of thing!

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