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Archive for June 2010

Jackboots on Whitehall

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Jackboots on Whitehall posterThere are (at most) three jokes in Jackboots on Whitehall. That’s a rate of one every thirty-one minutes. None of them are funny.

Any attempt at a synopsis would appear much more enticing than the film itself – to avoid responsibility for any inflated expectations, I will just direct you to the trailer (which, as usual, reveals many of the ‘best’ bits).

It’s a script that sounds like one of two things. First, the catastrophic self-conscious abortion of a writer whose concept has unexpectedly secured funding, but who discovers too late that he can deliver neither character nor humour. Second, the vanity project of spoilt pseudo-aristocratic rugger buggers suffering from brain damage (was it the scrum or the lash, lads?) whose sole inspiration comes from reruns on Dave viewed through a groggy film of chunder.

Not one quip turns on something out of history – the complete absence of satire betrays the film’s unintentional historical illiteracy. It is not an irreverent film – it’s simply an ignorant one. Even if it is an attempt to pastiche pop-culture manipulation and mythologisation of the period, it fails to do so with more than half a brain cell.

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Written by James P. Campbell

22/06/2010 at 00:16

Alamar

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Alamar still‘To The Sea’ – Alamar. An extraordinarily beautiful film. A slice-of-life drama – fictive yet with quite remarkable verisimilitude – it’s the most exotic, aesthetic and fragile life that’s sectioned. Back-story is told in pre-credit photographs. A beautiful child with his Hispanic father. Each is equally arresting, gorgeous brown, one dashing, the other miniscule. White Italian mother, whose voiceover details their romance, their separation, her return to Rome with child.

After a long, tiresome journey with little Natan – boats, trains – we discover his father Jorge’s home. He lives by a tiny, remote island to the east of Yucatan, in a wooden house on stilts. They live literally on the water. Father and son work together. Jorge teaches his boy about everything, showing him by example. Soft and hard lessons in painting, joinery, fishing, by line or by pole, diving, the sea, the sea. Always so warm, they need only wear trunks.

These are the people of Banco Chincorro, the world’s second largest coral barrier reef. Its wildlife discloses itself at once as living being and resource. Natan discovers the means of feeding oneself. The food – grilled snapper, stewed barracuda, spiny lobster tails. Caught on hand-pulled lines, with the spear gun, or captured in their coral caves.

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Written by James P. Campbell

21/06/2010 at 16:10

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High School

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High School posterHigh School is too good to pass over, to consign as a mere stoner movie. It should be discussed in the same breath as the work of Hughes and Linklater, not merely in the same paragraph. A significant part of what makes High School so entertaining is the extent to which the audience feels part of the fun. Truly likeable characters and the excellent cast who bring them to life are critical to this. A sharp, original script with its fast and hard humour keep us on side, perpetuating the snowballing feel-good effect.

The two leads, Henry Burke (Matt Bush) and Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette) particularly impress. The former played our hero’s puerile nemesis in Adventureland, but is here cast against type as the straight-laced leading man, and pulls it off with aplomb. Meanwhile, the latter gets a little limelight after years as a teen actor on television, and convinces as the stoner with a heart of gold.

Subverting the typical anti-drug narrative exploited by reactionary campaigners and educational bodies in the US, Burke is a straight-A student destined for MIT. But in an impulsive moment of bonding and rediscovered childhood kinship, he takes a puff of “the sticky green…the cannabis sativa” from former pal Breaux (aptly named, indeed). This unfortunately coincides with their principal (by God, the most remarkable transformation of Michael Chiklis), whose shoulder carries a chip the size of Michigan, instigating a war on drugs, beginning with comprehensive drug screening.

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Written by James P. Campbell

20/06/2010 at 23:29

Toy Story 3

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Toy Story 3 posterToy Story 3 opens as an explosive action spectacular. The gang recall the childhood fantasies of their owner, Andy. The quality of graphic design is immediately apparent, though the usefulness of three dimensions remains unclear. Woody and Jessie chase a runaway train full of orphan Trolls, kidnapped by the wicked Potatoheads. The train flies into a chasm, before being rescued by Buzz Lightyear. Just as the heroes catch up with the culprits, making a getaway in Barbie’s corvette, evil Dr. Porkchop arrives in his porcine spaceship, and drops a Barrel of Monkeys A-bomb.

Such set-pieces are delightful – there’s a prison-break which injects real energy to the second act. As soon as plot is required to contextualise such coups de foudre, Toy Story gets pretty dull. It seems that Arndt, Lasseter, Stanton and Unkrich can architect exciting, dynamic scene sequences, but has trouble tying them together into a consistently entertaining whole. There are plot points that stretch the suspension of disbelief (so the toys, Once Again, don’t believe Woody, and this time on the rather mundane point of whether Andy’s mother was supposed to leave them as trash on the kerb – the instigating incident for the entire film).

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Written by James P. Campbell

19/06/2010 at 17:36

Mundane History

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Mundane History stillWhat do I think about Mundane History?

I left the cinema feeling truly elated, endorphins coursing through my veins.

I sat in the cinema for 75 odd minutes, comatose with boredom.

We watch a live-in nurse, Pun, care for newly paralysed upper-middle class youth, Ake.

Ake is unhappy with his lot, and rotten to his family, though eventually reaches out to Pun.

Pun is just about satisfied with life, and epitomises the kind of recognisably human character with whom I am likely to identify – who has had dreams but rarely chased them, or had the opportunity, and makes do with what is ready to hand.

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Written by James P. Campbell

19/06/2010 at 01:31

Cherry Tree Lane

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Cherry Tree Lane posterPatrick Stewart, Mike Hodges, Britt Ekland, Rafi Pitts, Laurence Kardish and I were just forced to sit through Cherry Tree Lane. Having rocked up at the press screening, I was obliged to stay and produce some kind of coverage. As the Michael Powell award jury for the EIFF, the others were somewhat more obliged to stick it out and – to do justice to the other entrants – were probably expected not to hide behind their hands, singing nursery rhymes for sweet release.

This might not sound surprising, if you recall that Paul Andrew Williams was the writer/director responsible for acclaimed debut, London to Brighton. Then again, if you were one of the many fans of that work, you might be surprised by my apparent exaggeration. I kid you not – this was the most gruelling cinema experience I’ve yet had. I was intrigued by The Killer Inside Me, touched by Irreversible, thrilled and overwhelmed by Antichrist,; I am simply sickened by Cherry Tree Lane. Williams seems to think he has something to say about contemporary society. It’s really the most inexcusable species of exploitation. It perverts the form and is everything a film ought not to be.

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Written by James P. Campbell

18/06/2010 at 01:28

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

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“My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?”. A substitute for the pronouncement made by Mark Yavorsky’s mother as he ran her through with an antique katana. A quote both from the Bible and a Euripedes play – Herakles. Nothing could be more fitting. It is a quote ringing out of Brad’s bad dream.

My Son My Son

Catch my review from EIFF 2010 at The Ooh Tray.

Written by James P. Campbell

17/06/2010 at 11:08