Monday, 21 March 2011

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (5 Stars)


This 1965 film might seem dated on first viewing, but it's one of the most culturally significant films ever made and a landmark in film history. It tells the tale of three strippers who leave the big city and travel into the desert in search of thrills and adventure. There they meet a rich old man and his two sons, who they proceed to use and destroy.

This was the first film to show physically strong women, which has since become commonplace in television and cinema. The sadism of the leader of the three strippers, Varla, has rarely been seen in a woman since then. Beautiful but deadly, she seduces one of the sons while not hesitating to take advantage of him. He wants her:

"You're a beautiful animal, and I'm weak, and I want you".

She wants more, saying "I want everything".


This photo shows the two male archetypes of Russ Meyer's films. The old man is a shrewd thinker, but crippled and helpless. His son is physically strong, but mentally incompetent. The women are powerful, intelligent and sexual, causing the men to desire them while at the same time fearing them.

Heathers (4 Stars)

"Heathers" is an unusual film that takes place in a school where the coolest girls are all called Heather. After a murder is disguised to look like a suicide it suddenly becomes socially acceptable to commit suicide; in fact, killing yourself is the best way to be accepted by the other teenagers. Not quite a comedy, this film is laced with thick satire.

Bulletproof Monk (4 Stars)


A monk blessed with an extended lifespan is protecting an ancient scroll that will make anyone who reads it the master of the world. A wealthy Nazi war criminal follows him all the way from China to New York. Though Chow Yun Fat is a renowned martial arts expert, the real fighting star of the film is Seann William Scott.

Leon (4½ Stars)


This unusual film breaks all the rules, but is a phenomenal success. Leon is a professional killer who has no personal life. He lives to do his job. One day he saves the life of a 12-year-old girl called Mathilda. He decides to take care of her, acting as a father figure to her, but she falls in love with him. The film is shocking, but riveting from beginning to end. No offence meant to Natalie Portman, who plays Mathilda, but this was the peak of her career and I doubt she will ever reach these heights again.

Monday, 14 March 2011

General: About this blog

Let me quote something that I wrote six months ago for new readers of my blog:

"This isn't meant to be a film review site. If you want to get details about the latest releases my blog isn't the place for you. My reviews aren't in-depth, and they will rarely be about new films. This blog is my diary, letting you know what films I've been watching and whether I like them. More than anything I want people to argue with me."

On occasions I might write a description of a film's plot, if I'm in the mood, or I might write a long essay on why I particularly like or dislike a film. Sometimes I might use a film as an excuse to make an off-topic rambling, as I did in the case of "Kick Ass". I recently quoted another blogger's review in full, which is something I might start doing more often in future. I've considered adding links to film trailers, but decided against it. Other changes may come in the future. If there's anything that you, the reader, want me to do differently, please tell me.

One thing I will NEVER do is add links to places to download films. I believe that a true film fan will be prepared to buy or rent any film that he wants to see. If I review a film that's out of print and you can't find it anywhere, write to me in a comment and I might be able to help you. Some films like "The Paperboy" have never been released in the USA or England, only in other countries.
 

Confessions Of A Sociopathic Social Climber (4 Stars)


In England the title of the film is shortened to "The Social Climber", which I prefer. Technically speaking, the character in the film isn't a sociopath, even though she puts herself first.

Jennifer Love Hewitt is a tragically underrated actress. Everything she touches turns to gold. Sure, she's successful, but she's never really been accepted as a "serious actress", has she? In this film she plays a woman who puts her social standing above all else, but comes to realise that love is more important. A charming romantic comedy.

Twilight: New Moon (3½ Stars)


The second film in the Twilight saga. To me it isn't as enthralling as the first film. The ghostly appearances of Edward seem unnatural, but I assume that it's what happens in the book. A good film, but not great.

The Tuxedo (3½ Stars)


I'm a big Jackie Chan fan, but this isn't his best film. The premise is that he isn't a fighter, but a high tech tuxedo does the fighting for him. An interesting concept, and Jackie is as convincing as always.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

TV Series: Star Trek: The Animated Series


To set the record straight, I'm a Star Trek fan. Call me a Trekkie if you will. I've loved it ever since I first saw an episode from the original series when I was about 12. It was a Wow experience that has been repeated with almost every episode I've seen of the various Star Trek series since.

However, I never saw the animated series of Star Trek until recently. I'd known about it for many years, but I had no interest in seeing it. Cartoon characters? No thanks. Then a few months ago I saw the complete series being offered on DVD for a dirt cheap price and thought "Why not?" I've watched just over half the series so far, and I'm pleasantly surprised.

Let's get the only negative aspect of the series out of the way first. The quality of the animation is poor. It's not even up to the standards of other cartoons made in the 1970's. It was made on a small budget, and it shows.

"Star Trek: The Animated Series" isn't even the series' real name. When it was first broadcast in 1973 it was simply called "Star Trek". It was a continuation of the live action series that had run from 1966 to 1969. It can almost be thought of as "Star Trek, Season 4".

The animated series stars the same characters as the original series, and the voices are spoken by the original actors. These were:

William Shatner as Captain Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock
DeForrest Kelley as Leonard McCoy
Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura
George Takei as Lieutenant Sulu
James Doohan as Scotty
Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel

Doohan and Barrett were important in the animated series, because they also did the voice roles for most of the guest characters. The new crew members Arex and M'Ress, shown in the back row of the above picture, were also voiced by Doohan and Barrett. Doohan's voice talents are remarkable; he is barely recognisable, unless you know it his him speaking. Barrett, on the other hand, is easy to recognise.

The stories were scripted by the same writers as the original series, and there are many tie-ins with both the original series and later series. The very first episode features the infamous Tribbles. There was even a backwards influence. The Vulcan city of ShiKahr was first shown in the Animated Series, but when the original series was remastered in 2006 this city was added to the background in scenes from "Amok Time", the first episode of the second season.

If you're a real Trekkie like me you'll want to watch this series. Don't put it off as long as I did. You'll enjoy it.

Confucius (4 Stars)


This is a biography of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, from the middle of his life till his death. Although the film has generally received rave reviews, I felt unsatisfied watching it, feeling that something was missing. I was missing a bridge to the real man. Having grown up in Europe I know almost nothing about who Confucius really was, and the film does little to answer my questions. He was a commoner, whose wisdom led him into a career in politics. Betrayed by rulers jealous of his influence he became an exile. In his old age he returned to his home town and became a teacher. Those are the facts behind his life. But do I know Confucius the man? I think not. The next time I watch this film I need to sit with someone from China to explain its details to me.

Hierro (4 Stars)


This film is named after the island of Hierro where most of the action takes place. Not being an expert in geography I had to look it up myself. This remote island has a population of 10,000 and its only industry is tourism. About half the population is made up of hermits who have fled from society to live in an isolated environment, particularly Germans. The only connection with the outside world is via ferry to the neighbouring island of Tenerife. There is also a small airport with flights only in the tourist season, the planes also flying only to Tenerife.

The film opens with the disappearance of two young boys, both about 6 years old. In the first scene a woman's car crashes, and when she regains consciousness her son has disappeared. In the second scene a woman is travelling to Hierro with her son, who disappears before the ferry arrives. A mystery then unfolds as we follow the second woman, who refuses to believe that her son has simply fallen overboard and searches the island for him. The film's conclusion is a shock, with a twist that would do M. Night Shyamalan justice.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fata Morgana (2 Stars)


I give up. I don't understand this film at all. Visually it has astounding beauty. The splendour of the Saharan desert is contrasted with the squalor of its inhabitants, while a woman reads the Mayan story of creation. The DVD contains a commentary by the director, Werner Herzog, but I don't have the patience to listen to it. Instead let me quote a review from a fellow blogger:

"Fata Morgana is an absolute masterpiece. It's Werner Herzog's most unconventional film. It doesn't have a plot or story. Instead of a story, we're given a collection of images, words and music that work so wonderfully together. It's not a documentary either. Some of the people in this film are directed and given lines to read. It has some of the most beautiful and haunting images. Herzog shoots real mirages and we see cars and people floating around in the middle of the desert who aren't actually there but hundreds of miles away reflected like in a mirror. The use of music in this movie is so brilliant - from Leonard Cohen, Mozart, and the Third Ear Band. Imagine Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey in the desert; that's what this movie is like. This film is so hypnotic that it has the ability to make you feel as though your spirit has left your body. A must see. It will change the way you view films. Rating: 10 out of 10."

Wow! He's obviously a dedicated Werner Herzog fan. Read the rest of his reviews at Werner Herzog Movies.