Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Not-even-a-paragraph reviews 2

These reviews are for films that I saw earlier this year, but never got round to reviewing at the time. In general, I can't recall them clearly enough to do a long review, so I've just picked out the main points as I remember them:

The Darjeeling Ltd.
Great characters, and some brilliant combinations of scenery and set design. All that's really missing is a more coherent story. There are a number of excellent scenes, and a short film that works very nicely as a prequel, but by the end of the story it doesn't quite hang together.

Seems unsure as to whether it wants to be a deeper look at the superhero psyche, or a CGI-heavy blockbuster. Would almost have worked better without the special effects, which always felt a bit unnecessary, and could certainly do with a re-working of the antagonists, whose role in the film is laughably superficial. Looked like it might redeem itself with a dark ending, that has flashes of Unbreakable about it, but ultimately left me disappointed.

Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Olivia Williams are great, but I felt the whole thing was a little too clean cut. I also found the character of the protagonist thoroughly annoying and unlikeable, which didn't help. It's not unenjoyable, but I wouldn't hold it up as a Wes Anderson classic.

The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of this film (yep, it took me this long to finally get round to seeing it) was that I'd seen so many pop-culture references to it, that it felt really quite disconcertingly familiar throughout. Absolutely rock solid piece of film-making, though, with a great script, and fantastic performances. If I had to pick some out, I'd say Frances McDormand and William H. Macy, but everyone pulls their weight and more.

Dead Man's Shoes
There is a massively threatening atmosphere present throughout this thriller - the tension is wound up mercilessly all the way through, and never lets up. Feels a little more rough-and-ready than the subsequent 'This is England', but shares that film's strong central performances. Paddy Considine and Tony Kebbell are brilliant as the brothers at the centre of the story, and there is a massive amount of their relationship that goes unsaid, only available through interpretation of their few words to one another. Well worth a look.

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Marvellous make up, and great physical performances can't save this film from a sluggish script and predictable plot. There's rather too much action, given that there's no real violence or visceral threat going on, and not enough investigation of the reversed human-ape society. The apes feel very convincing, particularly Roth and Giamatti, and a lot of work has gone into their presentation, so it's a pity that the humans in the film seem to have been largely ignored. Estella Warren, in particular, has absolutely nothing to do except look pretty. Interesting ending, but by that point it's too late.

The X-Files: I want to believe
Really disappointing. Feels like an extended television episode, rather than a cinematic experience (which was where the first one succeeded), and is packed full of so many references to the series that they start to feel like clichés. The script really doesn't get any tension going at all, and the only interesting character is Billy Connolly's disgraced priest. It feels too low key - like a Sunday night crime drama, and manages to make every conversation and chase feel clunky and awkward.

Somers Town
Far less dark and punchy than other Shane Meadows films I've seen, Somers Town is a coming-of-age buddy comedy that manages to remain respectable through some excellent and believable characters. Turgoose and Jagiello are great as the two young protagonists, and Czop does well as Marek's father, providing a more serious perspective. In general, though, the tone is light, and there are certainly more than a few laughs. There are a couple of clunky scenes as well, and bits of diologue here and there don't work, but it shouldn't overshadow a solid comedic effort.

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