The final installment of the Bourne franchise sees Matt Damon finally… MoreThe final installment of the Bourne franchise sees Matt Damon finally discovering who he is and who's behind this fine mess he's in. I must admit, I found this film an odd one. The usual formula of a thriller involves the story being set up for the first two thirds of the film, and the last half hour climaxes with a frenetic action set piece. In The Bourne Ultimatum, it's the other way round! The first hour and a half is more of Greengrass' wobbly cam following an earnest looking Damon as he runs through interchangeable corridors, chases down generic bad guys and speeds through traffic. There is literally no plot til the last half hour. It reminded me of The Matrix trilogy in that the second film seemed irrelevant, and the two sequels could easily have been compressed into one superior film. But as it stands, it's an entertaining enough thriller which ties up the story satisfactorily (if unsurprisingly) and at least the direction contained more drama and less seasickness than the second (the climactic car chase is actually very impressive indeed.) Still not as good as the first but it will please fans of the series.
Former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich's examination of the growing… MoreFormer US Labour Secretary Robert Reich's examination of the growing economic gap between the rich and poor makes for very sobering viewing in a kind of financial version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. If anything, Reich's reputation and employment history makes him an even more credible figure and he clearly and concisely explains how this massive inequality in the distribution of wealth occurred and how it will affect the workers of his country. Of course the entitled right will dismiss everything he says as "propaganda" and "socialism" but anyone with any sense of impartiality will see it as mere common sense; if the super rich continue extracting all the wealth from an economy and fail to inject anything back as they consistently do through tax evasion, investment in the financial sector instead of job creation and manufacture, and the use of offshore accounts and tax havens then the system becomes unsustainable. Reich himself makes an likeable and straight talking front man and although the film, like An Inconvenient Truth, is based upon a lecture, his affability and use of attractive and informative infographics means it never fails to entertain, despite the rather worrying message. Fascinating stuff and I'd have to say that anyone who still thinks that unfettered capitalism is a good thing after viewing this film must be the economic equivalent of a Creationist!
A future society that subdues its populace with an emotionally… MoreA future society that subdues its populace with an emotionally inhibiting drug is enforced by a police force of "clerics" who execute all those accused of "sense crime". Dismissed by most upon its release as just another Matrix clone, there are superficial similarities; stylistically the action choreography and costume design are very similar. There's a lot more going on under the surface however, as it takes cues from the likes of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 in its depiction of a totalitarian, book burning society and message of individuality and what it means to be human. But by far the biggest difference is in its star; Christian Bale's far superior range makes for a performance that's both emotionally engaging and believable in its depiction of a man suddenly in conflict with everything he had been taught and dealing with emotions he has no experience with. Equilibrium is a very under-rated film in my opinion and is everything a sci-fi movie should be about; style, action, strong concepts and a message about the human condition. More V For Vendetta than The Matrix and definitely worth seeking out if you like sci-fi with a political slant.
A disgraced journalist and a young researcher who has been the victim… MoreA disgraced journalist and a young researcher who has been the victim of serial abuse throughout her life join forces to discover the fate of a girl who disappeared from a small Swedish town 40 years earlier. I was nowhere near as enamoured with the Swedish original as many others seemed to be, but this big budget American reinvention achieves something very rare; a Hollywood remake that is better than the original. Daniel Craig is a much more charismatic protagonist, Rooney Mara's Lisbeth seems like much less of a caricature and the supporting cast that includes Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard provides much more dramatic depth. But it is Fincher's dark, brooding visuals that give the necessary texture and the result is a film that feels more adult and less sensationalist than the Swedish version. Like The Departed and Insomnia before it, TGWTDT is proof that a Hollywood remake CAN work in the right hands if the bigger budget is spent on talent rather than superfluous special effects.
A worker drone for a stiflingly bureaucratic corporation is astonished… MoreA worker drone for a stiflingly bureaucratic corporation is astonished to find that a new employee is the spitting image of himself but with the drive and self-confidence to achieve all the goals he seems unable to himself. Richard Ayoade's follow up to the critically acclaimed Submarine is an adaptation of Dostoevsky's novella and is a strange fish indeed. The talent involved may attract an audience expecting knockabout comedy in a similar vein to their TV projects but The Double is more a kind of dark grey tragi-comedy that reminded me a lot stylistically of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. It's not as surreal or outrageous as the ex-Python's dystopian fantasy, being a far more po-faced and gnawingly angst-ridden affair and it has shades of both Fight Club and some of David Lynch's projects in that the same character seems to inhabit different bodies. This is no doubt because these films themselves owe a debt to the original work but it does leave the film feeling strangely familiar but not necessarily in a bad way. It's a very off-beat film and despite its similarities to other projects feels strangely unique in this age of 3D CGI infested blockbusters and Ayoade has a nice sense of visual style. It's certainly not for those looking for a bright and breezy sit com and I occasionally felt a little baffled in the same way some of David Lynch's films left me but it's an interesting, oddball experience that leaves a lasting impression.
The prim sister of a missionary who is killed when the German army… MoreThe prim sister of a missionary who is killed when the German army come to their small corner of Africa convinces a pragmatic boat's captain to help her sink the German's nearby destroyer. The story is a simple one, but this film is all about the characters, who are wonderfully written and perfectly played by two of the very best actors who ever graced the silver screen. Hepburn and Bogart bring a tangible sense of warmth and affection as their feelings grow for each other, Bogie displaying his rarely seen but keen sense for comedy. The visual effects have obviously dated rather badly, but it has more depth and romance than a hundred Hugh Grant or Andie McDowell films. Another classic from John Huston.
Two astronauts are cast adrift when an accident in orbit destroys… MoreTwo astronauts are cast adrift when an accident in orbit destroys their space shuttle and leaves them stranded. I saw Gravity in 3D to experience the full effect and I must admit, the space walk scenes are visually spectacular and surely the closest the vast majority of us will ever come to experiencing space travel. Having said that, once you look past the surface Gravity is little more than a formulaic disaster flick with a plot that can be described as flimsy at best. George Clooney's character is a space cowboy stereotype and Sandra Bullock's Dr. Rhinestone (Rian Stone...seriously?!) is a typical Hollywood hero who is totally defined by one tragic experience in her past and just floats around in her undies looking scared while various bits of zero G flotsam drifts conspicuously around. In fact when she started sniffling that nobody had taught her "how to pray" while her tears floated into camera (again...seriously?!) I began to lose patience. There's probably an eco subtext about our planet being precious in there somewhere and as a technical exercise in ground breaking effects Gravity is worth seeing, but as a piece of drama it just does not stand up.
Two small time ex-cons stick up a card game frequented by organized… MoreTwo small time ex-cons stick up a card game frequented by organized criminals and find themselves targeted by a mob enforcer who is brought in to investigate the robbery. Judging by the constant and heavy-handed news sound-bites centring around the recent economic crisis, Killing Them Softly is clearly making making an analogy with the US economy as these mobsters are also feeling the financial pinch. It's a very cynical and cold-hearted film that forces you to spend time with some very unlikeable and unpleasant characters, particularly James Gandolfini's burnt out hit man who makes Tony Soprano look like a loveable teddy bear. There are some nice visual flourishes and the plotting is tight and economical, being very reminiscent of a hard boiled crime thriller of the 1970s, but at the same time it's very wordy and without any engaging characters rather hard going. The star of the show is most certainly Brad Pitt; his pragmatic enforcer is easily the best character and I wish I'd spent more time with him. His final speech is powerful and right on the money but it just served to make me wish that this theme was actually explored rather more during the rest of the film. Killing Them Softly is certainly an interesting film, but the moral bankruptcy of corporate America was highlighted with more subtlety and wit in the superior Michael Clayton.