Category Archives: Movies


“Watchmen” (2009) movie posterOoh, fantastic movie. I loved the book, and I loved the film. One of the few that I’d go to see again. It’s increadibly rich in detail and nuance.

It’s also a superhero movie—and a relatively stylised one—which is far more grounded and relevant than the supposed crop of gritty, rebooted things like The Dark Knight. Which is nice.

It ‘works’ in the way that the best fantasies work: it takes an outrageous premise (an alternate 1985 in which Nixon is president, superheros are real, including a man who has been turned into a superman by a nuclear accident), and tells an interesting story.

They have changed one thing from the book: the giant squid at the end is, er, something else in the movie. But it works. (It actually makes a little more sense than the monster in the book, I think.) And thematically, historically and in terms of character, it’s all very faithful to the novel, which is astonishing in itself.

The soundtrack is very 1980s, and rather enjoyable. (Ride of The Valkyries in the Vietnam War sequence is kinda odd—at least to me who hadn’t seen Apocalypse Now.) Richard Nixon was a little less than convincing-looking too. But there’s not much I can criticise it for.

3 thumbs up

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (2008) movie poster Ah yes. It is a truism that no man is an island. Unless his name is Madagascar.

This is a funny little film. Very funny. Rather strange. Ultimately entertaining (and a little bit exasperating).

I didn’t like the original Madagascar much. I just didn’t get whether the characters were supposed to be animals-as-metaphors-for-humans (in which case they spent too much time trying to eat each other for my liking), or ‘real’ animals with human voices (in which case why the hell did the lion not eat the zebra a lot earlier?).

This just abandons all notion of realism or actual animal behaviour. It’s all just completely bizarre. All of the characters basically exist to set up the gags. Fortunately it’s really, really funny, in a completely stupid way. Continue reading

A Matter of Loaf And Death

“A Matter of Life And Death” (2008) movie poster Ah, yes, Wallace & Grommit, possibly the best dog-and-human comedy act since… ever.

This new one (a cereal killer is slicing up bakers just when Wallace & Grommit open their bakery, Top Bun), is well done. Not quite as flawless as The Wrong Trousers or The Curse of The Ware-Rabbit, but very funny.

It’s a little rushed is the only thing. While The Wrong Trousers managed to fit an entire B-Movie into half an hour, perfectly executed, and The Curse of The Ware-Rabbit successfully filled a feature-length 90 minutes (well, 85), without feeling flabby, this one feels slightly rushed, and a little unfinished.

What would be lovely would be if Aardman extended it into a full-length feature. It doesn’t need too much more story, but with more time they could build up a bit more tension, flesh out Wallace’s infatuation with Piella, reveal her villainy more gradually, and give us a proper coda at the end.

God, I’m a moany git. It is still, a lovely, lovely film and you should watch it, forthwith.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007) movie posterBuckets of gore, Tim Burton’s finely-honed Gothic sensibilities and oceans of moody brooding by Johnny Depp make a perfect movie interpretation of the story.

Now unfortunately I don’t like Stephen Sondheim’s music much. It grates on my ear, though I think the fact that I’d seen the stage show and therefore had already heard the soundtrack before really helped.

It’s shot brilliantly. It’s a very natural fit for the screen (unlike some recent musicals adaptations, like The Producers, which feels stagey). It’s well-acted. The songs are well-integrated. It’s suitably stomach-churning.

The opening credits sequence was the only weak point for me. It is uninspired, poorly executed and not a patch on the exciting visuals in the film proper. And they could have have played something a bit more upbeat over the end credits—Attend The Tale of Sweeney Todd, say—because the ending is rather sudden and quiet.

My musical-loving friends reckoned that Helena Bonham Carter’s singing wasn’t as strong as the others’ (though, frankly, if Stephen Sondheim was ‘very impressed’ by her singing, she can’t have been that bad). I must say I’d always imagined a more rotund Mrs Lovett, but Bonham Carter does play the role very well. Also the camera spends a lot of time staring down from above, lovingly into her bosoms.

Fine performances all round. The London accents are quite acceptable. And did I mention the rivers of blood? It’s like Oliver! meets Silence of The Lambs. The camera dwells on each violent act, including the increasingly unpleasant dispatches towards the end.

Does it sound like your kind of thing? You’ll really enjoy it then.


“Enchanted” (2007) movie posterAw, heck, yes, it was enchanting.

You’ll know the story from the trailer, probably, but the gist is that Disney™ princess, Giselle, is banished from the magical animated land far away to real-world New York by the prince’s evil stepmother. She meets a cynical single-father divorce lawyer in New York and culture-clash-romantic-comedy ensues.

Bit of an odd film for me, actually. I was smiling at the end, and inexplicably happy for the next hour or so, but bits did annoy me while I was watching it.

Giselle and Prince Edward are quite… thick… when they arrive in the real world; borderline mentally subnormal thick. And the opening animated bit uneven—it doesn’t know how seriously to take itself.

In fact, the whole thing is uneven. There are some brilliant moments of comedy, and some lovely juxtapositions of the Disney and the Real, but there are also some horribly clunky lines, and some of the attempts at satire are plain lazy.

I wasn’t impressed by Susan Sarandon as the wicked witch I’m afraid. She was playing it too big to be sinister, but not big enough to be truly, impressively off-the-wall eeevil. (I’d have had her rising slowly from the magical-drain-cover-portal-to-another-world, with scary violins, and dramatic lighting, rather than have her shoot her load too early with lightening bolts and flailing arms, like Emperor Palpatine having a fit.)

Her lines at the end, once she’s transformed into the (oddly, flightless) dragon, were awful. Really, really awful. Was it the writing or the acting? Bit of both, I think.

Some of the bits with the prince were misjudged. Disney heros don’t tend to attack everything they don’t understand with a sword; that’s the role of the buffoonish henchman/villain. (Though the line, “Nobody stabs my bus.” is quite good.)

And some of the nods to the classic animated fairy tales were too literal for my taste. The witch looked too exactly like Snow White’s stepmother. The magic mirror and the poisoned apple—were too much. I think I’d have preferred if they’d found an unused old Grimm, and worked out the animated fairy-tale characters on their own terms. Or else just made them be actually the characters from Snow White, rather than Another Cartoon Which Is Very Much Like It. It’s not as if Disney have to worry about the copyright. And made them a bit smarter. Naïve, sure, optimistic, yes, but also a bit less like clunky stereotypes of Disney characters. The old Disney movies were innocent, but the characters were rarely imbeciles.

Er, anyway, animated chipmunk: brilliant. It (he) had superb physical comedy timing.

The little girl managed to walk the fine line of being cute and older than her years, without coming across saccharine or know-it-all.

The relationship between Robert the lawyer and Giselle evolved nicely.

Why am I complaining? The opening of the film didn’t convince me. Some lazy gags and piss-poor writing jarred me out of the story from time to time, though I must admit that by the end it had won me over.

It is, for its flaws, a sweet film. It’s Disney, and they’re amoral, moneymaking film-purveyors who will shamelessly pluck the heart-strings to make a quick buck or 50 million, but I fall for having my heart-strings plucked. I like the happy ever after bit. I love the comedy CG chipmunks. True love for the cynical single New Yorker (with his gap-toothed, cute-as-a-button daughter), and a fairy-tale princess? Yeaaaah… alright then.