I was planning on watching Django Unchained this evening but the presence of my 13 year old daughter rather rendered that impossible. So I popped onto Lovefilm instant and slapped on a Monster in Paris. A charming animated movie with heavy doses of Phantom of the Opera, King Kong and Beauty and the Beast. The animation is tidy and certainly rivals the big American studios without ever stunning the audience. I could have lived without all the song and dance numbers that give it a more traditional feel but it is set in 1910.
Having watched the dubbed version I think some of it was lost in translation.
Ahead of re-watching Django Unchained I thought I'd check out another Western that attempted to reinvigorate the genre; Lawrence Kasdan's mid 80s flick Silverado. If you think the expectation levels weren't quite the same you possibly don't recall the situation. After all Silverado is the work of a man who in the five years previous to its release written two Star Wars scripts, Raiders of the Lost Ark and finished off directing the Big Chill. Kasdan was a hot property.
The cast too were special. Kevin Kline was in his first movie since the Big Chill, reuniting director and star of that movie. Scott Glenn was hot off the Right Stuff. Kevin Costner may not have been a star at the time but he was definitely being watched by the big studios and would star in the Untouchables 2 years later. I remember seeing Silverado as a kid and being excited only to be disappointed when John Cleese departed proceedings after the opening 20 minutes. As a child I loved Monty Python's silliness and was also a fan of Fawlty Towers. Cleese's role is pretty entertaining but it is brief.
Silverado's biggest issue is trying too hard to fit into what was already acceptable for a Western. It doesn't push boundaries. It lacks excitement. Other than the final shootout (which isn't a spoiler as 99% of all Westerns end in a shootout) there's little to really get the action juices going. The performances are all so toned back. Kline is almost melancholic. This was possibly done so that Costner's flashier character would stand out but the film doesn't really work.
I hated Silverado the first time I saw it but I was about ten years old so that doesn't really count. This re-watch allows me to confirm that I'm not a fan. Kasdan is too faithful to what a Western used to be. Which is precisely why I enjoyed Django Unchained as it steps away from the Old West and makes it fresh. Tarantino made the Western his way. Kasdan's Western is the same as John Ford's or Howard Hawks' Westerns. Which is what disappoints. Casting aside, the film is nothing special.
I'd seen roughly half of this a few years ago, had to go out while it was on TV and missed the end. So I'd seen some of the fun antics that comprised the life of Clive Candy; "war begins at midnight", the beer hall scene and his recovery from a duel. But I'd not yet gotten into the meat of the film. The characters are so joyfully subtle. They don't need to slap you in the face with exposition and reading between the lines is essential for understanding. If you missed anything Powell and Pressburger wrap it up nicely at the end. The other half of midnight war.
It is a wonderful film.
WW2 espionage thriller with overtones of noir. Possibly an attempt to recreate Casablanca in another part of the world. The spy film works much better than the war film its connected to.
I can't quite put my finger on why Shanghai doesn't click. The cast is superb with both Asian, European and American actors in all the right places. And yet none of them seem comfortable in their role, bar perhaps Gong Li. Cusack tries really hard to move away from his typical performance but the lack of quirks and the attempt to play it like Bogart doesn't get the strength you'd normally expect from him.
Shanghai is still a solid film but the Weinstein's were behind it in a big way and they surely felt this was destined for greater things. The performances don't match their ambition. Chow Yun Fat still looks cool as fuck with a gun in his hand though.
I vaguely remember seeing this 4 years ago. It didn't leave much of an imprint. My friend, an even bigger comic book nerd than myself, hated it. I don't remember his exact reasons but here are mine:
1. Being a comic book enthusiast I've read Wolverine's origin story many times over. I know all about it. I didn't need another outing of the adamantium covering, Striker and so on.
2. I was eager to see what the filmmakers did with the 'unknown' years. Wolverine's participation in numerous wars alone should have provided material enough for a movie. Instead of a minutes in the prologue.
3. Gambit. Fuck Gambit.
4. The desire to please all the fanboys by including every various aspect of Wolverine's life. Do I actually care where Logan got his leather jacket from? No, I don't.
All in all the movie was a huge disappointment. There's not enough Deadpool, the only interesting new character, and way too much reliance on telling a story the audience already knows.
I originally scored this at **1/2 but I'm dropping a full star on account of a) how little of it stayed with me and b) how little I enjoyed on a re-watch. I don't blame Gavin Hood, who has proved himself as a director and storyteller beforehand but rather the studio for imposing various stupid storyline essentials on the film. I would hope the next Wolverine film is given more autonomy and less attempts at pleasing fanboys. Of which I am one. Stop making movies just for me, damn it. I'm an idiot. Make a good movie instead.
The final third of the Eagle Has Landed almost compensates for the array of terrible accents on display. There's no continuity at all with the voice work. Some actors playing without an accent and some attempting an accent like Robert Duvall or Donald Sutherland, intent on trying for an Irish accent that's just slightly out of range. It takes the edge of the proceedings until the nitty-gritty of the final third. This is where dramatic set pieces take over and the actors use their establishing work to cap off performances.
However the film is entirely stolen, lock and stock, by Larry Hagman as US base commander Colonel Clarence E. Pitts. Hagman is dazzling. Equal parts bluster and ineptitude I wish the whole movie was based on his character. It feels like he dropped out of Dr Strangelove and into a half serious war film. Good God, he's a magnificent bastard. But don't take my word for it:
Part of my campaign to watch every Arnie film. The first time I saw Eraser was years after it came out. In 1996 the 80s style action film with one-liners was out of fashion. Nobody wanted to see those films in the mid 90s. People wanted to see Pulp Fiction, Seven, Usual Suspects etc. It wasn't good for Arnie, who'd not seen the change coming and continued to attempt the same movies.
Eraser is a patchwork of scripts, re-written many times over, which makes it hugely uneven. As if each scene was penned by a different scribe. The opening scene, for example, is superb. Arnie, masked, kills of an assortment of mob goons before replacing their target with a dead body and declaring him "erased". Then the story totally shifts gears and becomes this weird FBI/espionage thriller starring Vanessa Williams. It's ok but it feels utterly disconnected to the first scene. Then Schwarzenegger returns to relocate her and they bond a bit but they both suck at acting so that doesn't work. Arnie needs someone to feed off. Whether that's Danny DeVito or Sharon Stone or the Predator. He needs that. Vanessa Williams doesn't bring it. Things improve slightly as Arnie interacts with James Caan.
And yet the action stuff in this film is so ridiculous that it is hard to enjoy. Like Arnie clinging to the outside of a plane at 30,000 feet. Or Caan ordering the plane to run him over as he parachutes to safety. My eyes couldn't take the rolling the first time around. At least this time I was prepared for the stupidity. I could live with that silly scene. And even the CGI gators and indeed the bad CGI throughout. But I still can't deal with the scene where the mob guy gets defibrillatored after accidentally pulling out his heart monitor. What doctor or nurse wouldn't check for a pulse first? Or, yanno, notice he's awake and shouting "NO" as they attempt to 'revive' him. The scene is monumentally stupid it belongs in a comedy. Eraser had finally jumped the shark.
Although in reality Arnie would never jump a shark. He'd punch it.
Also, in another reality there's a film series based on the alligator that Arnie shoots mutating and coming back for revenge ("you're luggage" being a massive insult in the gator world). The final sequel is called Eraser Vs. Megagator and is the worst film in existence, albeit not this one.