22-28 June 2009

July 12 2009 at 10:54 am (The list)

Spartacus poster 1Spartacus (1960)

I love Stanley Kubrick’s films but have still yet to see all of his meagre output. I have to admit to being a little disappointed by Spartacus, perhaps because it’s not that typically Kubrickian, which could be because he was only brought in when the film’s star Kirk Douglas fell out with original director Anthony Mann. The first half is better than the second half, when the cast do more acting and less riding around on horses stabbing each other. The cast are great, although Douglas’ weird chin is far too distracting. Laurence Olivier is particularly oily as megabastard Crassus, but the best performance has to be the naturalistic cowardice of Peter Ustinov’s Lentulus Batiatus – notable for being the only actor to ever win an Oscar in a Stanley Kubrick film.

Rating: 4/5

Shame list total: 1,209

frost_nixon_posterFrost/Nixon (2008)

If he’s not careful, Michael Sheen will be typecast as the guy who always plays real people (even though lots of other actors portray real people without ever getting typecast in this way so perhaps I’m wrong). Anyway, here he plays slurry-voiced Through The Keyhole man David Frost. In the early 1970s his career was starting to take a slide so he thought it would be a good idea to interview Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) on TV to get him to fess up to being an evil bastard. Everyone thought he was mad but he did it anyway with the help of his producer and two clever so-and-so’s who knew an awful lot about Nixon and thought he was a bit naughty for what he did. The fact that all of this actually happened takes nothing away from the fact that this is pure Hollywood – two powerhouse performances in a film about the power of television. Director Ron Howard stages what is essentially an overblown popularity contest as the ‘intellectual Rocky’ that writer Peter Morgan originally set out to make.  It occasionally feels a bit too fictional but in the end it makes for great watching.

Rating: 4/5

the reader-poster1The Reader (2008)

In post-World War II Germany, fifteen-year-old Michael (David Kross) starts a relationship with tram conductor Hanna (Kate Winslet). Michael is heartbroken when she moves away without telling him, and years later as a law student he comes across her again when he attends a trial of six former guards at Auschwitz, of which Hanna was one. Conflicted, Hanna comes to realise that he may hold the key to her salvation.

When Kate Winslet appeared as a fictionalised version of herself in Ricky Gervais’ Extras, she said that starring in a Holocaust movie was a sure-fire way to win an Oscar, which turned out to be eerily prophetic. As the most nominated actress of her generation, Kate Winslet was bound to win one eventually, and she probably did deserve this one, even if her performance will likely only be as titillatingly memorable as Halle Berry’s in Monster’s Ball.

It’s a relief that the performances are good (Ralph Fiennes also impresses as an older Michael), because the film itself is meanderingly slow to the point where it occasionally loses focus. It’s not until literally halfway through that you realise that it’s about redemption, loss and love rather than a vehicle for Kate Winslet to get naked yet again. It’s a very serious and interesting film even if it does contain a twist that was screamingly obvious from the start.

Rating: 3/5

mirrors01Mirrors (2008)

Yet another Japanese horror film gets the Hollywood treatment and the sad news is they’re getting sillier. This time, Keifer Sutherland plays Ben Carson, an unconvincing alcoholic ex-cop who’s taken a job as a security guard in burnt-out department store, although quite why this job even exists is anyone’s guess unless it’s to serve as the plot of some ludicrous horror film. Anyway, weird and scary stuff starts to happen when he looks in the building’s mirrors which are creepily intact. People who look into mirrors (not just in the store, mind – this threat likes to travel) start to die and it ends up all being explained away by a kindly old nun who was once, yep, a scary schizophrenic child. Although stupid, nonsensical and frankly not that scary, it is rescued ever so slightly by a particularly gruesome death and an interesting if daft twist.

Rating: 2/5

sachiko POSTER 2The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (2003)

Something of an oddity, but I had the opportunity to attend the final night of a mini-film festival at Bristol’s kooky Cube Cinema called Behind the Pink Curtain: an Introduction to the Japanese Sex Film. Knowing nothing about the ‘pink film’ genre, I thought it might be interesting to step out of my comfort zone.

Pink film is a style of low-budget Japanese softcore porn theatrical film that exists more for artistic reasons than for mere titillation (look it up on Wikipedia if you don’t believe me) – the cinema certainly wasn’t full of sweaty men in overcoats. It actually has a plot: call girl Sachiko gets caught in the crossfire of a gunfight and is shot in the forehead. The bullet doesn’t kill her, instead making her a psychic genius. She finds herself in possession of the cloned finger of President George W Bush whose fingerprint can unleash nuclear hell. She is pursued by the man who shot her who wants the finger back, and also gradually falls in love with Sachiko. Awww. Weird, insane and hilarious, it’s still about 63% better than Mirrors.

Rating: 3/5

NightAtTheMuseum_posterNight at the Museum (2006)

It was a Sunday night and there was nothing on telly so we thought we’d pop to Blockbusters and see what there was. We’d never seen it and had always meant to so with the sequel in cinemas, we thought this was a good time for a bit of fun. And fun it was too – all the performances are great and it’s got enough action, animals, laughs and ‘respect your daddy’ messages to keep kids happy. Which is exactly why we enjoyed it.

Rating: 3/5


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