Monday, January 10, 2005

Holiday Viewing

A quick run-through of all the films I saw on my recent travels. I'll cover off I,Robot in my next posting. Shark Tale was on offer on the same Continental flight. This was actually more amusing in Spanish than in English. In the latter version Will Smith was a bit too...well, himself, and the alternative cast made more of the possibility of using different accents to shade their caricatures. The Godfather shark Don Lino (De Niro's part in the original) was inevitably played by an Argentine. Godzilla was shown on the ADO bus from Playa to Chetumal. Unwatchable; the bus arrived before it ended anyway.

On the same ride I caught the trailer for The Forgotten, a movie that is in fact best appreciated as a trailer. When I actually got to see the full movie on the flight back from Houston I quickly realised that the plot is based on a premise that the producers should have had the good sense to keep as a premise. My neighbour quite accurately described it as "well-acted, unintentional comedy". Another piece of Americana on the same flight was First Daughter starring Katie Holmes as the freshman offspring of the US commander in chief - an unlikely character played by Michael Keaton. It takes the American fairytale formula to the same absurd and predictable lengths that The Forgotten takes the American paranoid nightmare. Having said that, both films were fairly entertaining. Much the same can be said of Spiderman 2, which I eventually saw all of after three separate partial sittings with a collection of V's nephews and nieces gathered around the DVD player over Christmas. The scenes where Spiderman is doing his signature swinging between the skyscrapers are especially well realised, unlike the CGI-enhanced feline leapings of Catwoman, which played on the flight from Guatemala to Houston. You wouldn't need extraterrestrial assistance to forget that one.

Then there's Troy. I was actually expecting this to be worse than it ended up being. It was certainly quite hard work and I'm still not sure exactly how ridiculous Brad Pritt was as Achilles, but at the end I felt I had been just a little bit thrilled and moved. Eric Bana's Hector is certainly the heart of this. Perhaps the biggest deviation from Homer was the secularisation - which made the prospect of bulked up Brad dying from a single arrow to the heel a bit tricky, so Paris had to finish him off by pumping him with almost as many arrows as Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring. Apparently there were a bunch of condom gags (Trojans!) that went completely over my head.

Last week's movie on FilmFour Weekly was the superb Infernal Affairs. Possibly the best Hong Kong crime movie I've ever seen. I immediately decided to watch it through again the following night. There's so much detail and depth to revel in. My only quibble would be that the writers could have made the two alternative worlds of policeman and Triad brother more vivid by showing us a bit more of the other social exchanges and rituals in their lives, but maybe that it what Infernal Affairs 2 & 3 set out to do. We shall see.

Over the weekend I watched Zatoichi meets Yojimbo, one of the original series starring Shintaro Katsu from 1970. Toshiro Mifune reprises his Yojimbo role from Kurosawa's films. The build-up is fairly slow and uneven and the blind masseur-swordsman much less uncomplicatedly cool than Takeshi's updated version. The mood is relentlessly grim - High Plains Drifter is jolly in comparison. Director Okamoto Kihachi participated in some of the worst fighting in the Pacific as the second world war reached its conclusion and it is said that this profoundly influenced his later career and general outlook on the violence within mankind.

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