Archive for July, 2006

Favourite Films: No. 20: Almost Famous

almostfamous.jpgCameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film is amusing and touching in equal measure. It is very much a coming of age tale telling the story of an aspiring rock journalist, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), as he goes on the road with the band Stillwater to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine. Fugit’s central performance carries the film but with supporting turns by Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee and Billy Crudup all putting in a decent effort.

As Miller travels around the US on the Stillwater tour bus he becomes expose to the excesses of the music world - the groupies, the drugs and the band arguements all combine to force Miller to break free of his mother’s (McDormand) grasp and make his own way in life.

As a director, Crowe, has yet to better Almost Famous with his following films, Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown recieving mixed critical and fan reaction. Here, he guides the story with a steady hand and the obviously more personal story gives us less flashy, but very successful results. The superb soundtrack also helps to set the film against the perfect backdrop.

Almost Famous is a heartwarming tale that brings genuine humour to the fore whilst offering plenty to bolster the coming of age genre and comes highly recommended.

Posted on 25th July 2006
Under: DVD, Music, Favourite Films | No Comments »

My current top 20

Cribbed (and updated!) from my page over at YMDB, here’s my current 20 favourite films. I’m going to try and write a mini review for one of these film each week…

    fireflies1.jpg

  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • Stand by Me (1986)
  • Spirited Away (2001)
  • Withnail and I (1987)
  • Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • North by Northwest (1959)
  • Life of Brian (1979)
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • Amelie (2001)
  • Se7en (1995)
  • Léon (1994)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Almost Famous (2000)

Posted on 17th July 2006
Under: Favourite Films | No Comments »

Underworld / Underworld Evolution

underworld-evolution1.jpgI managed to catch up with Underworld’s recent sequel, Underworld Evolution, this weekend. While the first film has a decent plot and good action, I was a little disappointed with it’s follow-up. The film starts where the last film left us - the Vampire elder, Markus is awaken by the blood of a Lycan and sets about tracking down Celine and her Lycan partner Michael.

Stylistically, both films are a winner. The CGI in the sequel was significantly better and the decision to continue the story of the first film worked well. However, while Underworld works as a decent standalone piece with a beginning, middle and end (plus the cliff-hanger that leads into Evolution), Evolution doesn’t. It’s is very much a continuation and instantly alienates anyone who hadn’t watched the first film with little exposition. I watched both films back-to-back and even then I was still confused as to what was going on for the first 45 minutes.

Kate Beckinsale was good, although Scott Speedman struggles in a lead role. Len Wiseman’s direction seems to have taken a step down since the first outing, opting for more quick cuts rather than decent choreographed action scenes.

The first film gets 7/10, the second gets either 5/10 if you’ve seen the first or 3/10 if you haven’t.

Posted on 17th July 2006
Under: DVD, Action | No Comments »

Extended Editions - enough is enough

Originally posted on DVD Times

It seems that 2006 may be the year of the ‘Extended Edition’. Not a day passes without another super-duper extended release announcement hitting the site; 5 minutes here, 20 seconds there - no matter how minor the restored footage is, there appears to be a market for it.

So who buys these discs? I guess it must be the completists and fans - but are there that many people who care about another 6 minutes of The Replacement Killers or 9 minutes of Casualties of War enough to justify spending more money on another DVD?

The main problem with most of these extended cuts is that the film’s Director usually isn’t involved - instead, it appears, more often than not that a nameless committee is involved in re-editing and tampering with the director’s intention. Most deleted footage is removed for artistic or pacing reasons - if it was supposed to be in there to start with then it would have been. These cheap and easy cash-ins are designed to extract more money from those who have too much to spend, often by means of a big ‘Unrated’ tag plastered across the cover art. Would anyone stand for an unnamed artist adding a few flowers in a nice vase to the Mona Lisa? Would we accept Penguin books writing an extended ending to Shakespeare’s Macbeth? Of course we wouldn’t, so why are films treated any differently?

Most of these extended cuts are to me just as bad as colourising a black and white film or chopping off the sides to fit a 4:3 TV.

There are some extended cuts that are of merit - Fincher’s Alien3 shows us what the film could have been before the studio got hold of it, while the upcoming Superman II release gives us a rare opportunity to see how the film would have been if Donner’s cut made it to the cinema. However in the sea of mediocre extensions, these true gems are becoming harder and harder to find.

Posted on 14th July 2006
Under: General | 2 Comments »

Films I still want on DVD: Part 1 - Flight of Dragons

Did anyone else see this animated film from the eighties? The best I’ve found is an NTSC VHS release, but given I don’t have a VHS player I don’t think it’s worth picking up!

I have no doubt that nostalgia is getting the better of me with Flight of Dragons, but I’d really like to pick up a decent DVD release of this even if it’s just to satisfy my urge to revisit the films of my childhood. Much in the same way I’d kill to get an English language DVD release of The Mysterious Cities of Gold or a widescreen DVD of Le Maitres du Temp.

Come on Warner, it may not be a classic, but even so I’m sure those of us that grew up in the 1980’s would love to pick this one up for old-time’s sake.

Posted on 14th July 2006
Under: Animation, DVD | 1 Comment »

New Doctor Who: Series 2

The second series of Doctor Who has come to an end. This year was a bit of a rollercoaster both in terms of storylines and quality - we’ve seen some of the best the show has to offer, but we’ve also seen some of the worst.

David Tennant always had a difficult task in replacing Christopher Eccleston, but he did a fine job. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty to criticise - the gurning, the overacting to name but two, but he had to be significantly different to the previous Doctor. Some of the problems were down to the way he was written, but on the whole Tennant was ‘The Doctor’ in every sense of the name.

Billie Piper on the other hand didn’t live up to her promise - after surprising everyone in her first year on the show, she’s been increasingly sidelined and it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who had been paying attention that she was going to be written out of the show. Thankfully her swansong was a strong episode and perfectly judged by Russell T Davies. Piper’s acting had left something to be desired throughout most of this year but she lived up to the challenge of the finale.

The problem is, Davies has now taken the series further into the realms of fandom than ever before. Pitting the Daleks and Cybermen against eachother should have been every fan’s dream, but it played second fiddle to Piper’s departure and was a bit of a damp squib. I can only hope that the REAL Cybermen appear next year and show us just how they’re supposed to be - none of this crying nonsense!

Series 2 was good - not as good as series 1, but then that would have been difficult. Next year will be the one to make or break the new series and if some more adventurous stories and more serious writing don’t appear soon a lot of fans are likely to start abandoning ship. So, Russell, please can we avoid the council estates of ‘London’ and concentrate on more travels in Space and Time?

Posted on 13th July 2006
Under: Television | 2 Comments »

March of the Penguins

What a great film this was - hugely touching and a fascinating insight in to the life of the Emporer penguins of the Antarctic.

Stunning cinematography combined with Morgan Freeman’s naration made this a wildlife documentary like no other.

8/10

Posted on 13th July 2006
Under: Documentary, Genres, Formats | No Comments »

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