Sunday, 4 November 2012

Three weeks in brief (15 October - 4 November)

Well, I'm back. Since I last posted on this blog, I've been away to Japan on holiday, but I've also had the chance to watch a few movies along the way. Here's what I've been watching over the last three weeks:

The Five Year Engagement (2012): 6/10
Wanderlust (2012): 7/10
The Raven (2012): 6/10
Paper Moon (1973): 7/10
Dr. No (1962): 8/10
Room 237 (2012): 8/10
Skyfall (2012): 6/10
The Shining (1980): 10/10
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944): 8/10
The Stuff (1985): 5/10
The Howling (1981): 7/10

I'm largely going to gloss over the movies I watched on the way to and from Japan - I saw them a while ago now, so it's hard for me to remember too much about them, and I'm generally too freaked out while flying to pay much attention to whatever film I've got on the in flight entertainment system.

However, I did catch one movie in a Japanese cinema (The Raven). The picture itself wasn't particularly interesting, but even though a multiplex is largely the same the world over, there were one or two interesting nuggets to be gleaned from the experience. As Vincent tells Jules in Pulp Fiction, it's all about the little differences. For one thing, the tickets for the cinema in Japan are really expensive - it's getting pricy enough to watch a movie in the UK, but over there, you're talking around 1800 - 2000 yen to see a film in the evening, which works out at around £14 - £15. On the plus side, there are far fewer adverts for products, yet far more trailers. I think they got through about ten trailers before the film proper started - but the trailers were shown in condensed format - about one minute each. One final plus point - no annoying Orange advert just before the movie begins.

Having returned from Japan, I've done my best to catch up on my movie watching this week, packing in three trips to the cinema and three DVDs. As it's Halloween week, there was a bit of a horror theme to this week's selection; this included a trip to see the extended (American) version of The Shining, which was re-released into UK cinemas for a limited time only. The Shining is one of my favourite films of all time, and it was great to see it on the big screen for the first time. I believe the print has been restored, and it looked and sounded even better than ever. It's one of those films which you can watch time and time again - each time you see it, something new jumps out at you. This was particularly the case for me on this occasion, as I've also recently attended a screening of Room 237, a documentary which showcased a number of wild theories about Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. Although the majority of the ideas were pretty far fetched (one guy believed that The Shining is an admission that Kubrick directed faked footage of the moon landings, largely based on the fact that Danny Torrance wears an 'Apollo 11' sweatshirt in a pivotal scene in the movie), there were some also some brilliant insights into the picture, the kind of thing you wouldn't notice on your first, second or third viewing of the film, but that only occur to you when you've seen it hundreds of times.

Aside from revisiting The Overlook Hotel, I saw a two or three other horror themed movies - of these, the best was probably Arsenic and Old Lace, a knockabout farce from Frank Capra, with Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster, a recently wed dramatic critic who discovers that his family has more than a few skeletons in the closet. Although it's a little stagey, it's tremendous fun, with a sharp witty script and great comic turns from Grant, Peter Lorre (as a diffident doctor) and Raymond Massey (Mortimer's psychotic brother). The worst would have to be The Stuff, a lacklustre B movie directed by Larry Cohen. There's the seed of a brilliant concept here - the plot involves a weird, highly addictive yoghurt like substance which is marketed to every household in the US. Once you're hooked on it, it eats you up from the inside until you're nothing more than a drooling zombie. The idea of a product that actually consumes you could have made for a brilliant satire on modern day capitalist society, but unfortunately the acting, special effects and script here are all distinctly second rate. For a more effective version of this idea, I'd recommend John Carpenter's They Live.

I also saw the new James Bond picture, Skyfall. Having seen a number of gushing reviews proclaiming it to be 'the best Bond ever', I felt a little let down by the movie itself. For me, it's just a decent, unremarkable Bond film, a little better than Quantum of Solace and the last few Brosnan movies but certainly not on a par with Casino Royale or the best of the Connery pictures. Although Javier Bardem has received a great deal of praise for his performance as the exceedingly camp villain, I much preferred Tom Hollander's take on this type of character in Hanna. I remember watching Die Another Day and thinking that Bond had become too glib and flashy, with no real substance, but Skyfall goes too far the other way, with Daniel Craig's version of 007 appearing as a neutered shadow of his former self - hesitant, off colour and distinctly lacking in wit.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

"Mortimer Brewster: Look I probably should have told you this before but you see... well... insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops."

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