March 01, 2005 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight: February 2005

Five films in this months film fight, a little bit more interesting than last month.

Steven Soderbergh impressed a lot of people when he remade rat pack classic, Ocean’s Eleven. For some people’s tastes the script was over-polished, a hundred writers making every line zing until the words practically lit up Clooney and Pitt’s teeth. It did, however, feature an entertaining (if somewhat silly) heist. In true Hollywood fashion, a sequel was inevitable.

Ocean’s Twelve. It lacks the polish of it’s predecessor (a good film), but is also missing a plot, reasonable nudges by the director, and crucially a heist. You see, although the team desperately need to get millions of dollars, you never actually see them commit a robbery. A few glimpses are shown retrospectively but it’s not enough to satisfy. That the key heist was pulled off in such an incongruous fashion to what one would hope for (it’s not a real spoiler to say it was a simple bag switch) is disappointing. If you can’t be satisfied with looking at the mugs of Hollywood A-listers as they show off what is essentially their summer vacation mess around, don’t bother.

Another remake next, Assault On Precinct 13. Almost entirely predictable, following the standard spot the stiff rules to the letter, only verging off where a modern film must. The cast put in reasonable performances and the isolated in the city motif works well to create an urban tension. Not bad, just not original; perhaps what should be expected from a safe remake.

We’re now several days after Million Dollar Baby took home the lion’s share of this year’s Oscars. It deserved every one of them. Although the character played by Clint Eastwood is an awkward stereotype to begin with, his good natured mean streak wins out in the end. The story itself is gripping, punching you through every blow that Hilary Swank’s character (perfectly realised, I might add) had to go through to get respect, and the struggle beyond that. Fantastic film.

A documentary to get a little change. The premise of The Yes Men is solid: activists set up a satirical website for the WTO and were then mistaken as representatives. They then proceed to give atrocious talks which represent WTO policy as it really is, as opposed to how it is stated by the organisation. The pranks are amusing, and the response is gob smacking, but the film is let down in several ways.

Firstly, the Yes Men themselves come across as prima-donnas. They seem to be in it for the attention more than the issues at hand. In fact, there is one scene fairly far into the film when they are speaking to another activist and he educates them on WTO policy; the very same thing they’ve been apparently blindly protesting. The editing is also lacklustre. While their lateness for one conference (forgetting about time zones) is an amusing aside, the film is filled with, well, filler. This might have made an amusing 45 minute TV show, but there is clearly not enough material to warrant an 80 minute cinema release.

Finally, live action anime from Japan, Casshern. Now, you might be asking how a live action animated film would work. The answer: human actors in appropriately ridiculous costumes, in front of huge CGI sets. Strangely the aesthetic almost works. Almost. It’s let down by an emptiness and some poor colouring choices. Sure, the world is supposed to be a dystopian future, but a few more people (drones) in the huge streets would make it fit in with perceptions better.

Sadly, the film itself is dreadful. Truly awful. I like anime, but this is of the low quality, silly, ill-planned variety. Stupid characters, overly long monologues about vague rubbish, an overarching philosophy that has only a few scraps of meat to it; bad. The timing is off (way too long), the directing is shameful, the characterisation is woeful. After seeing it, you’ll be dumbfounded by how it could go so wrong after an almost promising first half hour. Bad.

So, without a doubt, this months winner is Million Dollar Baby. The Academy finally got something right.