Watched Cloverfield in the cinema last night. A brilliant disaster movie which involves a mysterious monster attacking New York City, the origins nor fate of which are ever revealed. The film is shot entirely from the perspective of a small group of people who are recording events using a camcorder as they attempt to escape and survive the chaos around them.

Although sometimes very difficult to watch due to the jerky camera movements, the constraints that the film makers placed upon themselves by choosing this format have lead to a great deal of consistency with the film. There is no back story, you only get to know what the characters get to know, save perhaps for a few vague news reports from televisions in the background in a few scenes. Most disaster movies are plagued by implausible scientific and/or political back stories, plus equally implausible technology and military strategy, but there’s none of this with Cloverfield and it’s very refreshing. You’re left with many unanswered questions at the end of the film as a result, but that’s the point, you know no more than the protagonists.

I suppose you could describe it as Godzilla done right, although in all honesty I’ve never thought that Godzilla was an entirely terrible film, despite its widespread panning.


The Queen

Watched The Queen this evening, something which I’ve had in my DVD “inbox” for a few weeks now. I’ve always heard good things about it, and now I know why. It’s a totally brilliant film, describing in great detail the tragedy of Princess Diana’s death from the perspective of the royal family and the Blair family through their interactions with each other. There’s even a bit of comedy thrown in here and there with Prince Philip and the Queen Mother.

However, what I like most about it is the portrayal of reprehensible Cherie Blair and the equally dreadful Alistair Campbell. The former is made out to be a total bitch whereas the latter is made out to be a sleazy, slimy reprobate; both highly accurate character portrayals in my opinion. Blair himself was portrayed as a “good guy”, which he was (at the time at least), as indeed was the Queen herself in the end. I don’t envy the position she was put in; all she knew was establishment protocol, even if said protocol didn’t quite fit into the modern world. You can’t blame her for the actions she initially took, or rather, didn’t take. Nothing like this had ever happened in the history of the monarchy.

I’ve no problem in admitting that the film brought a few tears to my eyes, not only because of the plight of the Queen, whom I’ve always admired, but also because it reminded me of the event itself. While I didn’t think much of Diana, she didn’t deserve her fate and the nation’s reaction to it was very moving. It certainly had my Mum in floods of tears and she totally hated her.

If you’re British then you really have to watch it, whether you’re a monarchist or not. I expect the Americans quite like it too.


I Am Legend

Watched I Am Legend in the cinema last night. It’s another example of one of my favourite genres (i.e. apocalyptic and/or distopic futures) along the lines of 28 Days Later whereby a devastating plague has wiped out most of the human race and rendered the remainder inhuman in some way. It’s set in New York City in 2012 and tells the tale of a scientist who, for some reason, is immune to the plague and is attempting to find a cure.

Because it’s Hollywood, and not Danny Boyle with a DV Cam, the budget is quite a lot larger than 28 Days Later and so the sets and locations are more spectacular, creating an extremely eerie New York cityscape which was clearly abandoned very suddenly and in great panic. There are flashbacks to a back story, but they are mostly to do with the protagonist’s family rather than the disintegration of society.

As is typical with Hollywood, there’s a happy ending, but this does not mean it’s a bad film and if you love the genre as much as I do then you must go and see it. Same goes if you’re a Will Smith fan, he’s a very fine actor and this film is no exception.


Blade Runner

They’ve finally remastered and re-released Blade Runner on DVD, on which I’ve spent some of my Christmas HMV vouchers. This is long overdue and the difference between it and the original DVD release is nothing short of remarkable. They’ve remastered the film, added a full 5.1 surround sound track and recut the film itself into “The Final Cut”, adding deleted scenes and reworking some of the special effects.

The result is truly amazing and if you already have Blade Runner on DVD then I promise you that it will be £22 very well spent. The box set also contains the Director’s Cut (as seen on the original DVD release) and the abominable United States theatrical release (the one with the narration deemed necessary to spoon-feed stupid Americans through the film), not that anyone would be interested watching that.


The Simpsons Movie

Watched The Simpsons Movie in the cinema last night. I’m not a hardcore Simpsons fan although I far from dislike it and will watch it and usually find it amusing if it happens to be on the telly. I won’t make a point of turning the telly on for it though. However, I did think that this film was rather pointless. It really offered nothing more than an average Simpsons episode aside from the fact that it was three times as long. Other than that there’s really nothing to set it apart.

Part of the problem is that I really can’t stand Homer Simpson. Yes, I know he’s supposed to be a stupid, selfish oaf, but it gets too much for me and often episodes turn into All About Homer with scant attention paid to some of the other characters whom I do find genuinely funny, like Patty, Selma, Fat Tony, Apu and Mr. Burns. This movie was no different. I thought it would be a great opportunity to give most if not all the Simpsons characters an outing, but instead it just turned into another story about how stupid Homer is and how he is forced to make amends.

They tried to add a little twist at the end by killing off one of the characters, as they did with Maude Flanders, but they chose such a minor and inconsequential character to kill that it made absolutely no difference. There were some genuinely funny gags in it; indeed the first 20 minutes of the film were very funny, but after that it definitely tailed off and I remember noticing about halfway through that the audience hadn’t laughed for quite a while, and it was a full house mostly comprised of giggly teenagers high on fizzy drinks, so it’s not as if the target market was different.

By all means go and see it if you’re a die-hard Simpsons fan, but otherwise I wouldn’t even bother with the DVD, just wait for it to appear on the television and after the first 30 minutes you’ll wonder why the episode hasn’t finished yet and realise that it must be the movie.


The Last King Of Scotland

Watched The Last King Of Scotland in the cinema with Chris tonight (well, eventually at least, after we’d waited for the ticket checking monkey to finish chatting to his entourage of female friends at the expense of actually serving customers). A splendid film about the regime of General Idi Amin in Uganda in 1970s, from his rise to power up until the Entebbe airport hostage crisis in 1976. In particular it dealt with his relationship with Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who fell in and out of favour as Amin’s “closest advisor” up until the Entebbe crisis when he managed to escape the country. Forest Whitaker does a very scary Amin. I knew that the man was mad, but I didn’t know he was that mad (as portrayed by Whitaker), but I have it on good authority that this is accurate, and you only need to look as far as his official self-given title for convincing:

His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular

Having visited Uganda and heard some first-hand stories from some of the people who lived through these times (including some expelled Asians), this film fascinated me. I am going to seek out other related films, as I believe that there are a few that specifically deal with the expulsion of the Asians and the Entebbe crisis, as although these subjects were touched on in The Last King of Scotland, they weren’t explored in any great depth beyond how they affected the relationship between Amin and Garrigan.


Casino Royale

Watched Casino Royale in the cinema this evening. Another excellent Bond, if a bit unusual. I understand the thing about it being a remake and I understand the thing about it being an adaptation of the first every Bond novel, where Bond gets his 00 status, but I question the decision to set it in modern times. It was just a little confusing, especially since Judi Dench played M again; you’ve already seen her in four previous Bond films in which Bond was a seasoned and experienced 00 agent. They should have either set it in the 60s, or not bothered with the whole newly qualified 00 agent thing.

There was also a notable absence of many of the things that I look forward to in all Bond films, most notably:

  • No appearance from Q branch, and subsequently very few implausible gadgets
  • No Moneypenny or associated shenanigans
  • Hardly any one-liners
  • No secret evil lair or sinister world-conquering plan belonging to the villain, and subsequently no gruesome and ironic demise of said villain

The part where he “invents” his famous drink is interesting though, as is his introduction to Felix. Other usual elements such as the Aston Martin, the girls and M are all present and correct though.

Ignoring these little continuity issues (which are issues for me even if they are not issues for you or Bond fandom at large), it is undoubtedly a fantastic addition to the Bond series. It’s exciting, clever and tense. You’ll definitely enjoy it.

Vehicles spotted:

  • Aston Martin DBS
  • Aston Martin DB5
  • 2007 Ford Mondeo ST
  • Jaguar XJS
  • Range Rover Sport
  • Land Rover LR3 (Discovery)
  • Volvo S80
  • Ford Crown Victora
  • Ford Explorer
  • Lincoln Town Car

Each one of those cars and brands are owned by Ford, one of the three main sponsors of the film, the other two being Sony and Virgin, complete with cameo of Richard Branson being searched at Miami airport. There were a couple of other car brands there, notably Montenegran police cars, but it was definitely Ford that got to place its products throughout the film.


Children Of Men

Watched Children of Men in the cinema the other night, which is a splendid film, right up my street with its chaotic, dystopian vision of the near future. Based in 2027 Britain, in a world where the human race has been inexplicably infertile since 2009, it tells the story of a woman who, again inexplicably, has become pregnant, except unfortunately for her she is an illegal immigrant and therefore must be kept safe from the government and other factions. I’ll give nothing away, but if you like the genre you’ll love this film. It’s the sort of film you finish watching and then say “blimey”, but not because you were shocked and awed, but because it gets you thinking so much.

It joins a number of films that are based in post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian Britain which are all on my list of favourites, namely:

  • Nineteen Eighty Four – the classic that everyone knows and was probably at the very least forced to study at school. Britain is part of one of three superstates in the world and the government, modelled on extreme communism, rules using massive surveillance, propaganda and disinformation, convincing its citizens that they live in bountiful, victorious times, when in fact they live a squalid extistence in a shattered country.
  • Brazil – a semi-parody of 1984, in which Britain’s government rules using fear of terrorism and massive beaurocracy in a completely dysfunctional world. Terry Gilliam does an excellent job of taking the mick out of 1984 whilst at the same time worrying the audience to death with uncanny similarities to real life.
  • Threads – another well known production which deals with nuclear war on Britain in the 1980s, specifically the lead up to a nuclear strike on Sheffield, the strike itself and its aftermath going on for 13 years after the attack. It’s very grisly, pulls no punches and the plight of the protagonist and all around her just gets worse and worse as the film goes on. Needless to say that there is no happy ending.
  • V for Vendetta – a recent release in which mid-21st Century Britain is ruled by a tyrannical fascist government which rules its citizens using a police state, fear of terrorism and supression of arts, media and other “objectional materials”. There are many echoes of Nineteen Eighty Four with a very disturbing preface which does nothing less than smack you around the chops with the present-day “war on terrorism”. There’s a nice touch where they’ve used the actor who played the protagonist in Nineteen Eighty Four to play the tyrannical “High Chancellor” in this film.
  • 28 Days Later – zombie horror film in which 2002 Britain has been infested with a terrifying virus and has been abandoned. The story follows the attempts of a group of uninfected people to survive. There’s a sequel currently in production, but since it’s being done by a different director it remains to be seen as to how good it will be. I’ve heard that it involves Americans saving our sorry asses again, where would we be without them?
  • Reign of Fire – early/mid 21st Century Britain is a derelict wasteland after a species of fire breathing dragon takes over the world and burns it to a crisp. The story follows a group of survivors who seek to destroy the only male dragon. Another scary vision of an abandoned, shattered Britain.

There are many other films in the genre, but all based elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Noteworthy examples include Blade Runner, The Day After, Equilibrium, Escape from New York (a bit silly, but reminiscent of the Bexhill refugee camp in Children of Men) and of course the classic Soylent Green.

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