Thursday, 23 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Infrequent And Pointless Film Reviewing

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?
Well, as you probably know by now I am an occasional visitor to the cinema: in fact last year we had a two-for-the-price-of-one ticket for our local Art House cinema, which meant that once a month myself and Herself found ourselves staring in bemusement at a series of Hungarian animations about people being chased by buildings...well, not quite: but we did get to see some films that wouldn't have graced the screens of a multiplex - some of which were very good, some...erm...weren't.

However this year we had no such luxury and, as a result, have seen a lot less movies: in fact I can only think of three that I've seen at the cinema this year - one of which, shockingly, was at the Multiplex...

#1: A Liar's Biography
Many, many years ago there was a man who was persistently interrupted from his training as a Doctor by the lure of writing and acting.  Having succeeded in being a founder member of one of the all time most influential comedy troupes he then decided that being permanently drunk and partying was much more fun.
This then was the semi-true story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman - one half of the team behind The Parrot Sketch.  Based on his autobiography of the same name the film was animated by six different animation companies and used the voices of Chapman (recorded reading his autobiography prior to his death) and four of the other living Pythons (with only Eric Idle abstaining)
Now I have to start by admitting that I started with this film based on a false assumption: I was sure that I had heard that Chapman's biography was full of apocryphal stories of things he didn't do - like be the first man to climb Mount Everest - and it wasn't that at all.
There was lots of sex of all variations and flavours, parties, drinking, flashbacks to a surreal childhood and switches in animation style.  For me it was this change of style that worked the best in the film, reflecting the madcap style of the original TV series - but it was, at the same time, quite disorienting.
At the end of the day the film was not funny, or clever, enough to qualify as true Monty Python but it did succeed in getting Herself to describe it as "the weirdest thing I've ever seen" - in short then: only a film for a die hard Python fan

#2: Les Miserables
Ever read a novel by Victor Hugo?  Don't - I read The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and the best word I can think of to describe it is "Impenetrable".  Four hundred pages of incomprehensibility it must have taken some really twisted genius at Disney to look at that book and think "what this really needs is animation and some cheery songs"

However - onto Les Mis and immediately anyone who has been following my blog in any way whatsoever will know that if there's anything that I hate more than Rugby, Football and Jazz it's musicals - as a story telling genre I find them hard to bear at best and padded out with 3-4 hummable tunes at worst.

There are, of course, exceptions - Baz Lurhman's "Moulin Rouge" was genius and I would recommend Return To The Forbidden Planet for its cheese value, but those dreadful ones where they get lots of ABBA or Spice Girl songs and attempt to tell a larger story with them and pretty much anything by Andrew Lloyd-Webber are, in my humble opinion, best avoided.

But Les Mis does actually have some pretty good tunes and the thing that appealed to me about this film was the approach to getting those songs onto the screen.  Whereas in most movies of musicals the songs are recorded months in advance, meaning that actors had already made their acting choices before meeting their fellow cast, the cast of this one had an earpiece in so they could hear an off-stage piano and react live to what was happening.

This, for me, was the big success of the film as everything felt much grittier and more realistic.  True you could argue that Russell Crow and Hugh Jackman are not the greatest vocalists in the world, but their voices more than suited the story and I was surprised to find that Sacha Baron Cohen (a person I've never had any time for in the past) was stealing the show as the tavern owner

As with anything written by Hugo this is grim writ on a big scale - but the film still managed to stir the emotions - definitely worth a look - even if you hate musicals

3: Star Trek: Into Darkness
There was a brief  battle of wills between myself and the local multiplex over this one, as I wanted to go and see it - but at the same time I was determined to stick to my policy of avoiding 3-D films for as long as I am still able to do so.  Finally the cinema did announce some 2D showings - but I suspect this will soon be a thing of the past if the attendance (admittedly at a mid-week screening) was anything to go by

So - Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the gang are back for another of JJ ABrahams's re-boots of the Trek series and this time Chris Pine (previously, for me at least, one of the weaker points of the first one) seemed to be stepping more comfortably into the huge shoes (although hopefully not huge ego) of Shatner

Supported by a strong cast, some excellent visuals, something approaching a coherent plot and an old and deadly enemy this gave me the vague hope that if the current rumours that JJ Abrahams is really attached to the next Star Wars film then it might not be as gratuitously awful as the prequels

I won't say anything more about the plot other than that central villain Bennedict Cumberbatch is a name to be reckoned with, in more ways than one, and probably made the right decision when he turned down the TV role of Doctor Who a few years back

There's some nice nods back to previous stories throughout, although the appearance of Leonard Nimoy as Old Spock is so pointless that I feel secure in telling you that he's in it because it in no way, shape or form spoils anything that happens in the movie.

I'm still not sure where I stand on the new emotional Spock, but after the truly dire Next Generation movies its nice to see Star Trek looking fresh and having something to say for itself - definitely watch this if you are a Sci-Fi fan, or even just like action films as you will still get something from it regardless.

NEXT UP: Man Of Steel - inspired rebooting or pointless sequel spinner?


Stephen Hayes said...

I'm going to see the latest Star Trek movie on Friday so I'll come back afterwards to read your review.

Helena said...

I hate Russell Crowe but put up with his miserable face for a truly moving movie! He wasn't so bad, I suppose!

Titus said...

Only seen Les Mis (see how trendy I am), and I rather enjoyed it, apart from Hugh Jackman and the blonde-y insipid girl. I though Mr Crowe was rather good, and I liked his voice. The bit on the parapet was class.

And prior to seeing the film, I was long over my 'Gladiator' adulation and far more into Wolverine. They're never the same without the right facial hair though, are they?

Ooh, ooh, ooh, I so want to see the Star Trek film and be suprised that I did not read your review.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

come back y'all when you've seen Star Trek and let me know what you thought

Lydia said...

#1 I doubt it will come here. But after reading Herself's comment I know it's not for me either!

#2 Can't bring myself to see the movie, having seen it on stage twice and I think Ann Hathaway would ruin it for me. Loved your description of The Hunchback (have not read it) and totally agree with you about Moulin Rouge (we even bought the DVD of that one).

#3 I am anxious to see Star Trek.

Great reviews, Pixie. You really have a talent for this stuff!

The Bug said...

I really enjoyed Les Mis - & I agree that Crowe & Jackman seemed right for their parts. I actually liked Anne Hathaway - very gritty.

We might have to watch Star Trek sometime. We'll see!