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Selasa, 01 Juli 2008

Joan of Arc: The Messenger (1999) - War

Film Reviews. "Joan of Arc" is a startling film that certainly tries to be a little different. But it sadly fails in an attempt to blend fantasy with reality, becoming slightly ridiculous instead.

The finger of blame has been pointed by many at Milla Jovovich and her personal relationship with director Besson. Such sniping may happily fill the celebrity pages of film magazines, but it is hardly reasoned debate as to the structural failure of a movie.

In fact she copes rather well in her role as the teenage girl, chosen by God to lead an army against the evil English (so what's new!) to liberate France. Unfortunately Jovovich doesn't possess a strong enough voice to punch through the important war cries. Her acting suffers too, not necessarily from a lack of talent, but almost certainly from the herds of supposed thespians gathered around her with their former careers stuck up their asses.

You can't expect someone to deliver barnstorming, revolution-inciting performances when fellow actors are giving such feeble portrayals. But even though some of the assembled cast should know better, they're burdened with a ham-fisted script that's clumsy in its telling of what should be an inspiring, classic tale.

Luc Besson must take the blame for co-scripting a movie that is unable to deliver any solid foundation of credibility. He wisely throws in a couple of good battles but when you neither care who wins or loses, then the spectacular quickly loses its impact. But while this film might not have worked out for Besson, he has a raft of fine movies to counterbalance it against.

Pearl Harbor (2001) - War

Film Reviews. Is this the blockbuster to beat? With a budget of over $150 million - making it the most costly film ever financed by a single studio - Disney certainly hope so. Directed with zero subtlety by "Armageddon" 's Michael Bay, it's a great, bloated mess of a picture with a weak script and bland performances. But its saving grace is a recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that, for sheer eye-popping spectacle, makes "Titanic" look like a kiddies' bath toy.

In place of "Titanic" 's "Romeo + Juliet"-style romance, "Pearl Harbor" substitutes a ménage à trois comprising ace pilot Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck), his childhood buddy Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) and Rafe's girlfriend Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful army nurse stationed in Hawaii. After Rafe goes missing in action during the Battle of Britain, Danny falls for Evelyn and has some explaining to do when Rafe re-appears. But all differences are forgotten once the Japanese turn up to bomb the US fleet.

This 40-minute orgy of explosions, carnage, and special effects will bombard audiences into submission with the same devastating efficiency the Japanese brought to their surprise assault. But once the bombs stop falling the film returns to its mawkish central romance, and our sense of disappointment is not alleviated by a protracted and unnecessary third act set in Tokyo. By then, though, you'll have had more than your money's worth.

U-571 (2000) - War

Film Reviews. Controversy surrounds this submarine action film because Hollywood has rewritten history again. Stay around for the credits and you will see an acknowledgement to the Royal Navy's 1941 feat in capturing an Enigma decoding machine from a Nazi U-boat, a coup that made the difference to the war in the North Atlantic and Britain's survival.

You can see the reasoning. Turning it into an American exploit makes for better box office. The fact that at the time in question American submarines weren't even on active duty in the Atlantic is glossed over. It's not the first time they have grabbed British glory, but then we are not so innocent either. Take Chuck Yeager. David Lean's 1952 film "The Sound Barrier" suggested that breaking it was not his achievement, but a British aviation triumph.

If "U-571" had been good this would have been forgivable. Alas, it's a noisy, cliche-ridden, incomprehensible mess. Matthew McConaughey, shaven-headed and sunken cheeked, plays a young officer denied command until he proves himself. He is given a mission to capture a U-boat by pretending to be a German supply crew.

It's one of those silly films where massive assaults from enemy torpedoes and depth charges always miss, but only one hasty American shot can produce a mini-nuclear explosion. Good actors like Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel struggle with cardboard characters, and the action sequences are chaotic, with eardrum-bursting sound effects.

The best U-boat film was the German "Das Boot". This by comparison is a travesty.

Minggu, 29 Juni 2008

The Terminator (1984)

Film Reviews. Not only is it a landmark in the advancement of special effects, but it is also one of the most effective science fiction films of recent decades. One can add that "The Terminator" established James Cameron's name in Hollywood. (His previous film was "Piranha II: Flying Killers"; his next was "Aliens".)

Opening in a post-apocalypse wasted world where humans have become subordinate to machines, it works on the premise that a time-travelling cyborg sent back to present-day (1984) Los Angeles can, by assassinating the mother of an unborn enemy, reshape the future. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the cyborg and Linda Hamilton his innocent prey, located after he has combed the phone book and eliminated other unfortunate women who bear the same name.

At the same time as the cyborg's trip back in time, Michael Biehn, a human survivor of the nuclear holocaust, makes the same journey with the intention of terminating the terminator before it can do its worst. It becomes a battle against time itself.

Although the sequel has more spectacular computer-generated effects, produced on greatly enhanced budgets, this first film is better-paced and dramatically more satisfying. James Cameron laces the action with ironic jokes, but never lets up on hinting that the terror may strike at any moment. Schwarzengger's lines are few, but he can be heard to say once, and once only: "I'll be back!".

X-Men (2000)

Film Reviews. Fanboys the world over have been dreaming about it - the moment Wolverine grits his teeth and extends his adamantium claws. Many of you won't have the faintest idea what that means, but now's your chance. Because the X-Men are finally coming to the movies.

The film relies on one central conceit: that we live in a world where some people, called mutants, are born with genetic defects that give them superhuman powers. Unfortunately, with those powers comes loneliness, as mutants are shunned by society.

Director Singer ("The Usual Suspects") had a tough task picking from the massive pool of stories and characters that the comic provided. He has chosen to concentrate on two specific mutants - the fiery Wolverine (Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), a tragic teenager whose very touch can be fatal.

After a car accident they stumble upon Professor X's 'School For Mutants', a place where the benevolent Charles Xavier (Stewart) teaches mutants to help mankind. However, they face a difficult foe. Xavier's old friend Magneto (Ian McKellen) has lost confidence in normal humans and assembled a team of evil mutants to destroy them.

So Xavier enlists Wolverine and Rogue into his team of X-Men - which includes the telekinetic Jean Grey (Janssen), Cyclops and weather-harnessing Storm - to defeat Magneto and his henchmen.

If "X-Men" does have a fault, it's that too often it feels like a prelude to the inevitable franchise. But as a film in its own right, there is plenty to enjoy. It's snappy, snazzy, witty, non-exclusive and there are some great performances, with newcomer Jackman - an Aussie stage performer - the standout.

With "X-Men II" already in pre-production, this is the start of a beautiful friendship with the big screen.

Jumat, 27 Juni 2008

Men in Black (1997)

Film Reviews. Without a doubt "Men in Black" is the DVD release of the year. Continuing in the proud tradition of such amazing DVDs as "Ghostbusters", "The Matrix" and "The Mummy", here's a release that's even better. If you love the film you'll be staggered at how good it looks and sounds on this DVD supervised by director Barry Sonnenfeld. But this release is all about features here's a little taste of what to expect:

Character Animation
Here you can select one of three aliens and watch a scene through four layers that you work through using your angle button. As the short scene progresses you can build up from the preliminary background, then add the skin and texture, add lighting and then finish off with the final character composition.

Multi Angle Tunnel Scene
Dust off that little used multi-angle button of yours and let's go to town! With this feature you can watch the whole tunnel sequence in five separate layers. First you kick off with the storyboard which is weird to watch when you have the sound on. Then you revert to the actors and the blue screen, add in the blue screen composite effects, then lob in the animation and some lighting and then add that final veneer and hey presto you have the end result.

Conceptual Art and Storyboards
This is a huge section that can't be done justice here but highlights include a creature feature where you can select one of 5 aliens and then morph through the various layers of creation. Also included is a huge art gallery and storyboard comparisons for three key scenes.

There's More?
Yup, there's lots more but you'll have to unearth that yourself. But watch out for the teaser trailer for "Men in Black 2" buried in there. Overall though you can spend hours trawling through this all and it's surprisingly good fun, especially with the ultra cool animated menus. A full list of features is below and if that's not enough then check out the 2 disc "Limited Edition".

X-Men (2000)

Film Reviews. Fanboys the world over have been dreaming about it - the moment Wolverine grits his teeth and extends his adamantium claws. Many of you won't have the faintest idea what that means, but now's your chance. Because the X-Men are finally coming to the movies.

The film relies on one central conceit: that we live in a world where some people, called mutants, are born with genetic defects that give them superhuman powers. Unfortunately, with those powers comes loneliness, as mutants are shunned by society.

Director Singer ("The Usual Suspects") had a tough task picking from the massive pool of stories and characters that the comic provided. He has chosen to concentrate on two specific mutants - the fiery Wolverine (Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), a tragic teenager whose very touch can be fatal.

After a car accident they stumble upon Professor X's 'School For Mutants', a place where the benevolent Charles Xavier (Stewart) teaches mutants to help mankind. However, they face a difficult foe. Xavier's old friend Magneto (Ian McKellen) has lost confidence in normal humans and assembled a team of evil mutants to destroy them.

So Xavier enlists Wolverine and Rogue into his team of X-Men - which includes the telekinetic Jean Grey (Janssen), Cyclops and weather-harnessing Storm - to defeat Magneto and his henchmen.

If "X-Men" does have a fault, it's that too often it feels like a prelude to the inevitable franchise. But as a film in its own right, there is plenty to enjoy. It's snappy, snazzy, witty, non-exclusive and there are some great performances, with newcomer Jackman - an Aussie stage performer - the standout.

With "X-Men II" already in pre-production, this is the start of a beautiful friendship with the big screen.

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