Archive for November 22nd, 2006

The Prestige

In 2000 Christopher Nolan released his reversed amnesia masterpiece Memento. Last year he gave us Batman Begins, possibly the best superhero movie ever. (Yeah, there was a film in between, never caught it.) So, I was quite excited to hear that he was directing Christian Bale again in a tale of rivalry between victorian magicians.

Throw in Hugh Jackman as Bale’s rival and what we have is a beautifully made and acted total mess.

Scarlett Johansson turns up in a needlessly expanded turn as a chorus line doxy. Michael Caine does himself in the Batman film, but without the charm and twinkle – and, actually quite unnecessary too. And, inexplicably, Bowie turns up as rock ‘n’ roll inventor Nikola Tesla. It’s a perfomance that’s not really going to change folks opinions of his acting (some of which I really like – but this verges on hilarious). Even Andy Serkis stealing every meager scene he’s in (but not quite as much as when he was recently playing Ian Brady – wowser) is completely superfluous.

And, this is symptomatic of where the film falls down. It’s as if the studios know they can leave a twisty windy plot in Nolan’s hands as long as he happily throws in the romantic interest, ensemble cast and ludicrous cameos. The problem here is that he’s completely taken his eye off of the ball. The man that brought us Memento shouldn’t have problems with a complex plot or narrative structure. But, this is all over the place. All the build up of intrigue gets thrown away with a horrid Reveal at the end. and, when a magician fluffs that, he doesn’t really get the Prestige. (You’ll understand when you see it on telly, or DVD. It’s at least worth that, just very disappointing.)

Interesting to note just how strange it is to watch Bale with an English accent these days.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

22 November 2006 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Film

The Host

So, the next umpteen showings of the Bond are sold out and you’ve been stood in the queue for ages and your mind is made up to see something at least. What do you choose? Why, the Korean monster movie of course!!

Park Kang-du (the excellent Kang-ho Song) is a loser. He tries to help his father out on his snack stall, but isn’t the brightest tool in the box. Widowed, he’s not really much shakes as a dad either. But, and this is what all movie conventions demands, he loves and is loved by his daughter. One summer day, the riverside park area where the stall is located is invaded by a huge lizard type creature reaping havoc and taking lives. Despite his best efforts to save here, the last view Kang has of his daughter is being carried off by said beast.

Demoralised, quarantined (by shadowy US supported military types), and belittled by his family (oh, they like to remind him how much of a loser he is) he sees his poor excuse for a life smashed to pieces. Then, he receives a phone call from his daughter. She’s in a sewer somewhere. Please come get her. And so, Scooby Doo style he, his long suffering father, his hard-nosed yuppie brother and not-quite Olympic champion archer sister (oh yes, that’s coming in useful) escape, grab a van and set out in search of the young girl – and, you know this is needed, in search of themselves and all they’ve lost as a family…

And from that fairly straight premise, is a film which had me on the edge of my seat, on the verge of tears and laughing like the featured sewer. All at the same time. And, for the entire duration. I’m not familiar with the handful of movies written and directed by Joon-ho Bong, but on the basis of this I shall be. It’s testament to the subtlety of the way the characters are handled that at no point does the complete preposterousness of the entire thing overtake your care that they should succeed in the rescue bid. Nothing is a black and white as it seems, and the layers are revealed with a deftness of treatment that is missing from, well, just about everything these days – nevermind monster movies.

I’d nearly go as far as to declare this the best family film I’ve seen in a long, long time. Were it not for the fact that being from the far east, it doesn’t rely on pat Hollywood happy resolutions, instead opting for a much more deep and satisfying ending. Oh, and were it not for the monster. Which, although very obviously done cheap-as-pomme-frite, is one of the best pieces of cgi I’ve seen in years. A prime example of less is more. It has all the nuance of the monkey in Kong while still positively reeking of the (again US military) chemicals released into the river that have caused the mutation.

I’m trying not to be too effusive about this. But, it’s hard. Just remember “It’s amazing what you can find in the trash”.

Written by Tony Kiernan

22 November 2006 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Film