Movie Review #42 / 250 : ‘PEEPING TOM’

I don’t normally do this, but, Spoilers.  Seriously.  There was sod all to talk about here unless I spoil a lot of it.  A good sign, I find.

Evening, WordPress.  Remember me?  I’m not sure I do.  I digress.  Let’s just crack on with talking about films, eh?

‘Peeping Tom’ is widely revered as a killer thriller tour de force.  It’s been in the cinema mill for absolutely donkey’s years, and from what I understand, it was one of the very first to push a cold-blooded psychopath to the forefront, to almost protagonist status.  It also got banned, cut, slashed, what-have-you, in reverence of the sheer gratuituous horror it purveys.

So, this got me thinking.  A film that’s maintained notoriety for well over fifty years has to still carry some sort of shock factor these days, doesn’t it?  I mean – Psycho still gets some people.  Christopher Lee’s fanged menace still sends chills. Peeping Tom is a film that I first heard about years back, and have been so mesmerised by the almost hushed chatter about its infamy that I’ve choked back several chances to watch it.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been away all this time – maybe I’ve been stunned by either its majesty, or by its brain-freezing horror.

Sadly, it’s neither.  Before I fly into my opinions (as I am wont to do, dear reader), let’s have a look at the plot.  Mark Lewis (Carl Bohm) is a bit of a weirdo.  A repressed, reclusive chap, he’s a jobbing cameraman for his local film studio, while taking bawdy shots of willing lasses for paying pervs.  Only thing is, Mark’s camera isn’t just his work tool.  He’s obsessively attached to it.  Disturbing accounts from his childhood unveil how he has a rather unsavoury habit.  That is, he gets his jollies from filming women, killing them, and capturing their final moments of terror on celluloid.  He then catalogues it all in his gloriously over-the-top filming library in his penthouse flat.  The film surrounds an unwitting new friend, his ground-floor neighbour Helen (Anna Massey), being sucked into his previously private world, and her incredibly slow realisation that the bloke she’s showing interest in is a bit of a psycho.

It’s a great concept.  There’s some brilliant story touches throughout that help establish Mark as a troubled man, one with a bit too much investment in his whirring little moviebox, and of course, in his thrill of knifing women in the neck while recording the moment to eat popcorn over (euphemism).  It’s a classic slasher story, only this one is vaguely different in that it foregrounds the killer as a protagonist.  Most of this genre sees an unwitting innocent or future victim pushed to the front of the story, with the killer acting as a forever shadowy menace, antagonising behind the scenes.  For its time, this is daring.  Absolutely so.  It’s most definitely creepy, and to have a story stitched so tightly into its character’s frankly mental childhood is a move unseen.  Sadly,. it doesn’t hold up against absolutely monstrous pieces of cinema such as Saw, but then, sadly again, that’s going to be expected.  Very much like I’d explained in my review of the original Ladykillers, concepts of humour and horror change.  They evolve, and stuff dates.  Sometimes terribly.  Often terribly, in fact.

Peeping Tom does actually date quite badly.  The performances aren’t amazing, and the characters are beyond paper-thin (excluding Mark).  While I’m taking into account time’s hideous weathering effect upon cinema, however, there is one element in this picture that I simply cannot escape scrutiny, nor childish derision.  If you’ve seen Peeping Tom, you know where I’m going, and you may skip to the end if you wish.  Mark is meant to be British.  He has a distinctive and inexplicably German accent.  Granted, his actor is German, so that’s a given, but – there is absolutely no piece of dialogue, nor story footnote, that alludes to why Mark should be German.  His Dad was British, we assume his mother was.  He was brought up and has lived in Britain all of his life.  Why does he have a German accent?!  Don’t get me wrong – Bohm plays his part better than anyone else in the picture – but it’s jarring.  It’s like if Norman Bates in Psycho had a French accent despite a blatant American upbringing and heritage.  It’s a really weird touch that I can’t un-notice.

Despite that last point, it doesn’t really ruin things.  But I was pretty underwhelmed.  I think, taking into account the passage of time, the evolution of taste, and my expectation given its holy reverence, seeing Peeping Tom as being anything other than disappointing from the off was perhaps a massive given.  A shame, really.  It’s an absolute milestone of cinema.  And it’s pretty damn creepy.  But, here’s the thing – you won’t care.

BEST BIT : Mark unveiling his grand scheme to Helen in the last two minutes of the film.  Superb last-minute unveiling, it has to be said.

WORST BIT : Mark’s accent.  Or the awkward sequence where that bloke goes in to the newsagent’s to buy porn.  You know, the one that lasts about twenty minutes.  Still.  Has to be the accent.

RATING : 4 / 10.

UP NEXT : ‘GROSSE POINTE BLANK’.  God, I hate Minnie Driver.  But John Cusack is always worth watching.  This could be messy.  Good to be back, folks… here’s hoping I can stick with it!

Advertisements

Movie Review #41 / 250 : ‘ATTACK THE BLOCK’

Remember how I’d said Videodrome was completely off the wall in both its concept and its execution? Remember how I pretty much labelled it as the most insane screenplay I’ve ever come across? Of course you do. It was only yesterday. No offence to any of you that may or may not be goldfish, obviously.

Attack The Block is probably one of the most original films I’ve seen so far. While I’ve misled you into thinking it’s confusing, it’s far from that – but it is cheerfully mental. The movie focuses around a gang of British teenagers against the gritty urban backdrop of an inner-city tower block, roaming the streets in a pack, generally causing mayhem and chaos. So it’s a social study, right? It’s going to be a no-holds-barred depiction of urban Britain in the 10s, right?

It looks that way, at least until the gang’s mugging of a young nurse is interrupted by the explosive crash landing of a furry white alien with no eyes and lots of teeth.

Bear with me.

Rather than chaos breaking out, however, the gang hunts down and kills the creature without a second breath, and keeps the corpse as a trophy, celebrating the victory as if they’ve just won a game of FIFA. However, it’s not over. As the gang retires into the solace of their weed-growing neighbour atop the tower block, scores more bigger creatures fall from the sky, and seemingly start to hunt down the killers of their original fallen. What snowballs from here is a totally unexpected change in style and pace, as the characters in the block begin to fight for their lives in a scenario not entirely dissimilar to your archetypal zombie flick. This is an urban drama that crashes head-on with a sci-fi twist, and it works brilliantly well.

There’s an absolute bumload of stuff to talk about with Block. It’s a film that’s taken me by surprise in all honesty – and I’ll run through a handful of what I reckon are the more important points. Firstly, what I was genuinely scared of was that I’d be unable to connect to the main characters. As any law-abiding person living in Britain and over a certain age would tell you, characters like Moses’ gang are all too real (and some are nowhere near as sympathetic). Having characters initially portrayed as willing villains of polite society evolve into the protagonists of the movie (and, furthermore, the good guys) is a concept that doesn’t sound amazing on paper.

And yet, it excels on screen. As these characters are so real and believable, their skirmish against the aliens becomes far more enjoyable than if we were given a cookie-cutter set of character types (tough guy, smart guy, sarcastic guy etc), I think I seriously would’ve enjoyed the movie a lot less. The reactions, the decisions and the rationale of these characters, while they’re all flawed in one way or another, feel absolutely natural. It’s this that helps get rid of what could’ve been a heavy coating of sci-fi bumph over the top. But, no. The only information we get about the beasties is the information the characters realise, and of course, what we see. We’re also handed very little awkward character bumph.

That leads me into my favourite scene in the movie, where our perceptions of the gang are first pulled into check – as the kids decide to face the alien onslaught head-on, they choose to storm down the tower block, one by one splitting away to go into their own homes to retrieve weapons. It’s here that we get given brief, but telling snapshots of what sorts of lives each if them leads – and they’re all extremely normal, adjusted, and lacking the broken home scenarios we were all (admit it) expecting. Whether this scene was done for laughs or not, it doesn’t matter – it’s a brilliant piece of cinema, and it totally arrests you to the gang’s side for the rest of the film. The leader, Moses, has quite a different story that gets hinted at later on, though it really doesn’t kill your faith in him.

So, yeah – I’n not going to talk much longer on this. The concept is fantastic, the characters are real and deep enough to carry a story, and the sci fi elements are so low-fi that you’ll barely call this much more than a survival picture. While it’s really not everyone’s cup of tea, and one or two of the characters don’t work brilliantly (pretty much everyone bar the central kids, in all honesty, pales in comparison), this is a real gem buried amongst piles of box office dreck. If you want to see it, I wouldn’t advise hesitation, as it’s a real marvel.

PRO: Amazing concept. Brilliant visuals. Characters that grow on you. Good pacing, and as long as it needs to be. Some great little touches that show care has been taken.

CON: Some of the characters are flat. Themes and style are a bit exclusive. Little more than a survival flick wrapped up in a character study.

9/10. So far, this is the only film I would recommend at all cost. A brilliantly low-budget little film that avoided big bucks at the box office, as a debut for director Joe Cornish, it’s something on the stupendous side. Well worth an hour and a half of your life.

MOVIE REVIEW #39 / 250 : STAR WARS : RETURN OF THE JEDI

Well, strike me silly.  You wait two weeks for one review, and two come at once.  What a treat, eh?

Alright, alright.  It’s hardly been long since I last trod into the world of intergalactic Jim Henson puppets, but having been left on such a low note from my last review, I felt I needed to get myself a guaranteed kick from somewhere familiar.  I’d rated New Hope as 8, and Empire as 9.  Things can only get better, right?

So, basically, things pick up in Jedi where Empire left off, as you’d hope, really.  The main gang set off to get Han Solo out of carbonite and out of intergalactic crook Jabba the Hutt’s swinging underground lair, and this naturally leads to scenes of chaos, fighting, more chaos, more fighting and talk of the force.  Only this time, it’s final.  The stakes are higher as the dreaded (and more to the point, informed) evil empire begin building their second Death Star, and up the ante on both annihilating the rebellion, and naturally Vader still has unfinished business in wrangling his son Luke to the Dark Side.  This time around, there’s ewoks, too.  Annoying doesn’t cover it.  But, never mind.

It’s kinda sad to draw this saga to a close (before you say it, no.  Check the list.  NO.  Forgot to include them here, but, no.  NO.), but Jedi pulls everything to a suitably dramatic and, of course, explosive close.  There’s even more reliance here upon lengthy action sequences (can’t say too much of this stuff is my kind of thing, but hey, think about what we’re dealing with) than there is in the two preceding films, and it’s definitely more interesting to look at.  What Empire was missing was the weird legion of beasties that clogged up the Mos Eisley cantina in New Hope – fans of rubbery weirdos will be well at home in Jabba’s palace, and the new monsters that are introduced here are fantastic.  Not much gets added to the story nor the saga as a whole other than a climax, though – Jedi is the archetypal closing chapter, so it’s probably a bit late to be wading in with much more on the story front.

What sets this finale apart from any other, though, is that it’s not rushed.  Oh, no.  Not by halves.  The story may be thin, but every last drop is milked – everything that can blow up, does.  It’s not the shaggy dog story of Empire, and nor is it the complete story of New Hope – it’s an all-singing, all-dancing bookend, basically.  I still definitely appreciate Empire more for its contribution to the story and for its character development – Jedi takes this development and, admittedly, doesn’t do much with it – but ensures that there’s still a few tricks up the old plot sleeve.  There’s a few unexpected character twists along the way that bring everything to a really satisfying conclusion.

Ewoks are annoying.

So, yeah.  I really don’t have much left to say about Star Wars.  It’s been a long time coming for me to finally sit down and appreciate all three of the original films (even though the version of Jedi I’ve just watched had HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN show up as a hologram for ten seconds), but I’m really glad I have.  Like I’d said initially when I first sat down to watch New Hope all those weeks ago, I don’t think I’ll become one of those people that dresses up as Boba Fett and shells out £600 to go geek it up with hundreds of people that have analysed how many trees appear in the woodland chase sequence in Jedi… not yet, anyway.

PRO : Visually amazing, brilliant visual pace and variety, great acting, awesome score.

CON : Action sequences milked to high heaven.  Little plot on top of Empire.  Ewoks.

7/10.  I like to think the first two were better, but it’s a great finish.  The end of an era.  I’ve watched the original trilogy, and the end of what has probably been the dullest set of reviews on the whole of the blog.  Right then.  Now what?…

MOVIE REVIEW #38 / 250 : ‘THE VILLAGE’

Oh, God.  Deep breaths.

M Night Shyamalan!  Not his real name, obviously, but that’s beside the point.  M, as he shall be known for the rest of this review, is rather… infamous.  He’s written, produced and directed several blockbuster movies over the past decade or so, some receiving critical and audience praise (The Sixth Sense, Signs), while others have… let’s say struggled to capture people’s imaginations (Lady in the Water and The Happening came under more critical and commercial hilarity than others).  Put it this way.  Do you like suspense?  Do you like last-minute twists that make you rethink the entire film you’ve just watched?  Do you like seeing the director making a cameo in each film he makes?  Then you’ll probably love M’s stuff.  Me?  I’m undecided, or at least I was until I watched The Village.  I coped with Unbreakable (disregarding what’s probably the most abrupt ending to a movie I’ve ever seen), and laughed most of my way through Signs, so I naturally thought this’d be good for a yuk or two.

The Village, believe it or not, centers around a village.  Not any village, mind.  A moral, methodical and pure society dwells here, a town thriving on simple means and simple pleasures, without a touch of corruption or lust to be found.  You’d almost call these people religious, though curiously there’s very little mention of Biblical matters.  In any case – the characters here are innocent and fearful, and more than a little socially awkward – in what’s basically a period piece.  The main action centers around the colossal secret of ‘Those We Do Not Speak Of’, and the ‘Towns’ that apparently exits beyond the confines of the village, which is entrenched in the thickest woods I’ve seen since I last went to Epping Forest.  The village elders strive to protect their community from growing rumours and ‘warnings’ given by creatures that seem to corss the border, and the movie focuses on the fear that encapsulates each and every one of its residents.  Of course, one of its residents, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) requests to visit ‘The Towns’ to fetch necessary medicine – he is, naturally, denied.  It’s not until he is attacked and in dire need of help that the elders reluctantly allow Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), the only blind resident of the village we know of, to prepare to cross the border… and unravel the secrets of the village to us, the viewers.

It’s a very clever twist.  M, as mentioned, is the undisputed king of the swerve, building up a mountain of tension before hitting you with a resolution that will make you query your own sanity.  There is literally nothing within the movie that alludes to what the revelation may be until the final third of the film, which in a way is pretty satisfying – good mysteries, I reckon, are always buried deep.  And, unlike a lot of mystery cinema and television, Village delivers on answering all of its questions.  Well, the big ones, anyway.

I’m afraid this is the bit in the review where things stop sounding so positive.  What is a clever idea is executed to such a mind-numbingly boring extent that the shock and resolutions to the story feel more like a release than a treat.  This is not a story that fits almost two hours of screentime.  This is, at longest, an episode of The Twilight Zone.  I could be heavy-handed enough to say it’s a Goosebumps book.  An hour of slow, plodding alleged suspense-building frustrates more than it intrigues, and one half wonders if we’re actually going to get any resolution from any of it.  The characters are (perhaps necessarily) two-dimensional, and given the revelations, inexplicably awkward.  Seriously.  After watching this through, considering the implications of what the village actually is, and so forth, why are the characters so socially bereft? Timid I can understand.  But, argh.  It’s hard to express my gripes with this movie without going headlong into spoilers, which I said I’d never do – even though most of you will know the twist anyway – but I think the main facet of the problems lie in that it is a movie that consists of a plot built entirely around its final revelation.  You may argue that this is the main facet to all mystery stories.  But bear in mind, dear reader, that next to sod all actually happens throughout the film, save for people talking cautiously, or spreading vague and open-ended rumours, or simply being sodding awkward all of the time.  Not even costume drama characters are this beige.  This is a movie that paces around, bored, waiting for the climax to happen.  Unlike other mystery dramas, there is barely any external focus other than on a slow, agonising plod towards the punchline – this can be seen point-blank in the final scene of Village (and this really isn’t a spoiler, before you start yanking my chain), which looks set to resolve its main, hanging plotline with a few further minutes of action, but chooses to do it with one line of dialogue and a cut to black.  Oh, sorry, a cut to black and the words M NIGHT SHYAMALAN.  Good god.

I’m perplexed, really.  I love twists.  More than any other device.  I’ve always loved Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected.  But Village is clumsy, boring and despite its admittedly great sting in the tail, pretty unmemorable.  It’s handled and delivered with all the precision of someone doing brain surgery whilst wearing oven gloves.  I don’t even think this is a film you could feasibly watch at ‘Bad Movie Night’, for fear of it killing the mood.  And believe you me, I am by no means whatsoever tainted by critical perception of M’s work, as I’ve been exposed to it before – but regardless of who is responsible for Village, the can must be carried by the name at the top of the bill.  While Village benefits from some clever direction and dialogue in keeping its resolution an absolute secret throughout, it’s messy and blinded (no pun intended) by its desperate focus on the finale.  It’s as if you can hear the low murmur of omg the ending is amazing omg the ending is amazing chuntering below a screenplay which really doesn’t budge an inch.

PRO: The twist is good.  Some of the acting is good.  I still don’t like William “I LOVE YOU WIFE” Hurt.

CON: What is meant to be suspense exists only as tedium.  Literally no plot beyond the existence of the final twist.  Characters are (in my opinion) unnecessarily awkward and flat.  Unmemorable.

0.5/10.  Harsh?  Have you seen The Village?  Have you seen it?  No.  You really haven’t.  Worse than Network.  Let’s all agree on that.  I need to go soak my head in bleach for the next few hours…

MOVIE REVIEW #37 / 250 : ‘STAR WARS : THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK’

Aaaand we’re back!

Not just in the land of moviereviewage (for tis a plentiful and prosperous land), either.  We’re back to the saga that’s been the bastion of science fiction for the past three decades, and the reason why autograph conventions exist.  It’s Star Wars!  And this one, word of mouth tells me, is the best of the original three.  In fact, it’s also touted as the best of the entire six.  Because, you know, no Jar Jar Binks.  God.  I can’t believe I made a Jar Jar Binks reference in 2012.  I’m firing these cultural phenomenon out of the barrel quicker than greased dysentry.

But, let’s set aside our revolting similes and dive right into Empire.  ‘Episode V’, as it’s subtitled, sees the returning cast (of whom I was about to name, but really don’t need to – seriously, you can name the six main protagonists off of the bat without seeing any of these movies) leading Darth Vader’s evil Empire on a merry goose chase across the galaxy, as said majesty of almighty doom is obsessively keen to track down young Luke Skywalker following the destruction of his Death Star hub in the last flick.  There’s alterior motives for Darthy heading after Luke though – and I wonder what they might be – and while the protagonists (and indeed some of the baddies) are thickly unclear on what the husky-voiced menace is truly plotting, much of Empire is a shaggy-dog story as Han Solo et al play an epic game of space chess with renegade fleets in a bid to secure the rebel alliance’s liberation.

The story follows two strands shortly after the off, with Luke following a message from beyond the grave to go into further Jedi training guided by a diminuitive green sage with the voice of Frank Oz, and Solo’s rag-tag crew playing cat-and-mouse with hapless Empire redshirts, eventually ending up at the home city of one of Han’s old compadres – however, the game, of course, doesn’t end there.  As I’ve rattled out previously, it’s rare anyone reading this won’t know Star Wars already – but, rules are rules, and if there is anyone yet to see Empire, fear not.  The plot exposition stops here, folks.  What follows is one of the most iconic film twists of all time, and a classic cliffhanger.

In fact, that’s what strikes me most about EmpireA New Hope was a stand-alone film, and it’s obviously framed as such – there’s a clear start, middle, and conclusion – no hanging threads, although the potential universe enveloping the story could allow for a bumload of additional adventures.  Naturally, this is why Empire strides into its story and picks up momentum so well.  Sure, the obligatory gratuituous panning text at the very beginning seals the gap between this movie and its prequel, but the first movie did such a good job of painting the colourful universe these characters inhabit that we barely need to concentrate to get into this one.  And, despite how short my plot description actually is, this one is crammed full of stuff.  I’m pretty sure I could sit through Empire five times at least before I’d be comfortable with having taken it all in.  It’s a basic story of good versus evil, with an unbelievably rich context.  I believe I said similar things in my review of A New Hope.  But, it needs repeating.  Doesn’t it?  Tough.

So, yeah.  Very little I can pick apart here.  Again.  The designs and effects for the late 70s/early 80s when this was produced and released are beyond fantastic.  There’s not a single string out of place.  Sure, the whole thing is cheesy as sin nowadays, but the whole thing is just so unavoidably epic.  Forget your notions of Harry Potter being ‘epic’.  Because I know you have such notions.  Don’t you?  Well, anyway.  As I watch more of the Star Wars saga, I appreciate more and more why it’s so insanely revered and obsessed over.  Again, I’m not likely to hot-foot it to a cosplay event in a Boba Fett costume (though I am to be guilty of attending this in June), but… you know what, it’s been said. Empirebuilds on the first movie as it no longer has a backstory to build up, and despite heavy reliance on long, drawn-out action sequences, it’s one of the most visually and aesthetically interesting films I’ve ever watched.

So, yeah.  That’s another one down.  I can’t tell if this is a shorter review than my last SW recap, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is.  I think my Jedi review is probably just going to be OMG SPACE I LIKED IT, PRETTY VISUALS, EWOKS ANNOYING.  I’ll be checking into the final chapter of the big three later in the year.

PROS:Great visually, superb story world, well paced.  Well acted, even.  Frank Oz.

CONS: Ehhh… I’m gonna say I think some of the action is gratuitous.  I mean, it’s a sci-fi action thriller, so I’m missing the point here, but… well, if not, C3PO.  He did my head in.  Again.  If that’s the point of his character, well played.  I have half a mind to wager it probably is.

9/10.  An improvement on the original stand-alone, which leads in nicely to further never-ending prancing across the black void.  A great film to come back on.  Bring on some truly awful stuff, I’m ready for it!!

Movie Review #35 / 250 : ‘THE PRESTIGE’

Erm.  Abra… cadabra?  I know, I know.  I’ll get me coat.

Christopher Nolan.  If you recognise the name, he’s very quickly become quite the cult director in the past ten years, having helmed the Batman reboot Batman Begins and its sequels The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises (out July as far as I remember), and everybody’s favourite kaleidoscopic-dream-hopping-adventure Inception (it’s on the list).  He also directed The Prestige, which is full of his trademark confuddling plot twists and closed-book characters (and Michael Caine).

Nolan films aren’t everybody’s cup of tea.  They require a lot of attention, and, surprisingly, quite a bit of coherence.  If you miss one or two slight touches or turns in the entire movie, you’ve blown your chance of appreciating it to its fullest.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The Batman reboots have been lavish and multi-layered as a result, and Inception was in IMDB’s top 5 movies ever for an extended period.  But, digressing.

The Prestige is essentially the continued one-upmanship between two rival magicians (or illusionists, though ‘real magic’ as opposed to ‘illusion’ is discussed several times here – whether you like it or not), played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.  It all takes place in Victorian England, where the hats are lofty, and the accents are either plummy or missing their ‘H’s.  The dominoes start to fall when Jackman’s wife is killed in a trick where it’s unclear if Bale was responsible – but consumed by grief, Jackman chooses to make it his life’s work to outdo Bale, while Bale similarly gives as much as he receives.

That’s pretty much your plot.  There’s not much to it other than that, and that’s probably a good thing.  There is an intense amount of detail added into the tricks, the scheming and both the politics and ‘religion’ of what it means to be a practicing magician that fill up the plot, and Nolan’s trademark twisting and turning about all over the place work really well here.  Sometimes, such depth and such convolution comes off as smug or conceited – and in some places, Prestige is very conceited – but as we’re dealing with tricksters, we as the audience surely don’t mind being tricked ourselves.  Do we?  I didn’t.

This is a very angry, brooding film with very little in the way of joy for its characters, but I guess that’s not really the point here.  It’s all about the spectacle, watching the two magicians play off against each other, and wondering who will win right through to the climax.  As a movie, it’s a brilliant mental spectacle, and there’s an absolute bumload of clever surprises.  None so grand as the finale, where, if you didn’t see it coming from the clues (and they’re there, believe me – right from the beginning), you’ll either find it maddening or marvellous.

What bothers me most about Prestige is not the length, nor the persistent gloom – they’re both fine and necessary – it’s who we’re meant to be rooting for.  Even after at the film’s end, I was still behind Jackman’s increasingly obsessed character, despite the film flip-flopping between him and Bale for role of heroic protagonist all the way through.  Maybe, given both their stories (which I’m not spoiling, though this is making this particular entry a wee bit sparse), we have to take them on equal merit.  They’re both as cunning and as sleazy as each other.  Plus, I plain don’t like Christian Bale.  I don’t know why.  I think it’s the whole saga he had with that cameraman on the set of Terminator Salvation years back.  Or, it could be that I find him immensely over-rated.  I unwisely chose to publicly claim George Clooney and his nipples to be a better Batman (something I’ve since detracted for the sake of my own teeth).

For a film so amazingly over-the-top, and so desperately, gloomily serious all of the way through, I’m finding it hard to say much else.  I think it’s a good one to see once.  If you like twists and turns, it’s one to watch.  If you like Nolan’s other stuff, it’s one to watch.  If you like going away from a film content with what you’ve seen, feeling warm and fuzzy and without any further questions, avoid it.  I don’t think I’ll watch it again, purely because I know its secrets (how ironic!).

PROS : Good acting, even for Bale.  Great twists and moments of surprise.  Great visuals.  David Bowie suits a moustache.

CONS : If you lose concentration for ten seconds, you’ve lost the whole movie.  Desperately intense and poetic.  Not much joy.

OVERALL : 7/10.  Erm, see above.  I needed to cool my brain down afterwards.  How will I cope with Inception?  Find out in July.  I’m taking a seven-month break from Nolan.  I need it.

Movie Review #32 / 250 : ‘INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’

You already have the song in your head.  Don’t even deny it.  You can already see the enormous boulder running down the hill, Harrison Ford flinching at snakes, and Alfred ‘Doc Ock’ Molina being impaled by arrows.  Spoilers?  Nah.  That last one happens in the first ten minutes… and if you can’t see it coming, you need to watch more films.  And that’s coming from me.

It turns out, just about everyone bar yours truly has seen the first Indy flick, though I’m not entirely free from having witnessed the world’s most indestructible archaeologis – I saw The Last Crusade a few years back and can’t remember much about it barring Sean Connery and some dodgy goblet of some sort.  But, hey.  I didn’t care much for films back then.  Twas a different time.  Raiders of the Lost Ark is the original, and apparently best film in the quadrilogy (with the most recent offering, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, being the least popular – at least according to word of mouth and IMDB review, which, obviously, equal truth).

Harrison Ford, Han Solo, is a passionate and almost-fearless archaeologist and historian, who’s never slow to jumping off cars, running through dart-firing corridor, nor beating up a couple of Nazi sympathisers twice his size – all in the name of rescuing a precious artefact for the good of the museum trade.  I say good on him for treasuring the arts (NO PUN INTENDED).  This particular escapade sees Jonesy disposed to seek the fabled Ark of The Covenant, a long-buried artefact that is said to wield godly, immortal powers to its bearer.  However, there’s another bunch of folks after the Ark – a sleazy French treasure hunter by the name of Bellog, and… the Nazis.  It’s the 1930s, and Hitler has decided that he wants the promised immortality of the Ark for himself.  Because, you know, he’s a monster.  But I didn’t need to tell you that.

So, naturally, a chase ensues – between Jones and the ransom Nazis / Bellog, traipsing across the world trying to trip the other up along the way.  This is an adventure story at its most basic, and therefore at its most thrilling.  The plot is basic, well-paced, and full of very few diversions.  At only 140 mins long, it’s not a long slog (hey, it’s for kids too, y’know).  Fairly enough, some of the twists and turns are predictable and long-since-outdone, but this kind of high-budget-swing-about-and-kick-folk-about melee is still rare to behold.  You’ll still get half-baked stool calling itself an action flick winging direct to DVD (or XxX*), but you’ll rarely get an all-out adventure with the brains behind it – which is exactly what this first Indy is.

The acting doesn’t need to be particularly snazzy – there’s enough backstory, lavish scenery and all-out-action to shade a few dodgy lines (and by god, there’s a couple).  It struck me halfway through watching that Indy himself isn’t much of a talker, not much of a quirk – he just cares about history and he’ll fight to the death just to get his hands on a shiny nugget.  Compare Indy to Han Solo – same actor, obviously, but Solo is miles more interesting, because he’s flawed.  Jones is a perpetual hero, putting himself on the line, getting the girl and passing off a few mildly life-threatening injuries.  He’s got the presence, and the physique, and everything else – but he’s a bit boring.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  This is not a boring film.  Not in the slightest.  I just find the central protagonist needs a bit more of a personality.  Then again, when he’s busy ducking aeroplane propellers, trying to out-pummel a ransom goon that looks like Soda Popinksi, it’s hard to care about his internal machinations.

Otherwise, what can I say?  Not much, really.  It’s non-stop, high-octane, and it’s got a clever plot at its heart, which is genuinely something to treasure (PUN INTENDED).  I could go into the sheer lack of a female presence, or the fact that the only female with screen time is horribly annoying, but I’d probably never stop talking.  Are you looking for a family-friendly action flick with a great story, lots of wacky Nazis (no scalping) and one of the most iconic musical scores in cinema history?  Get on board.  Oh, wait.  You already have.

PROS: Great story, great stunts, good pacing.

CONS: Weak central character (seriously), some dodgy acting in places.

OVERALL : 8/10.
Easy to see why it’s regarded as such a classic – I think this is the sort of thing I could watch on a loop and I’d struggle to get bored.  There’s a couple of things here and there I think could’ve been done differently, buch it’s such a defiantly fun film that I’d be soulless to give Indy 1 any less than an eight.

*(XxX was awful.  I could talk about it, but I don’t want to.  So there.)