Sunday, July 15, 2012

at the movies

hey there

whilst on holiday one tends to get to go and do things that usually they would not. in my case, i was delighted to be able to go to the cinema not once, not four times but an excellent three times. many thanks indeed to Andrew for treating me to the first outing, and indeed Colin and Christopher too for the second visit!

so, a review of the films or a review of the cinemas in the UK? latter first? sure. the quality sure has changed, for the better, since the days of going to see Top Gun and the like at the Odeon, that much i can tell you! i raised an eyebrow at the cost of the cinema tickets and drinks and food inside, to be honest, especially when you got upwards of 30 minutes of adverts before the film trailers even began, let alone the movie itself. that said, it seems that there are some uber-cheap deals going which allow you to visit the cinema frequently for little cost, and there's no arguing with the quality of the theatres - seats, sound and picture were all excellent.

right, on to the two movies i got to go and see. the first one was one i only heard of some 60 or so minutes before going to see it. that would be Red Lights, starring as you can see Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro.

please kindly ignore the horrid "Sixth Sense" comparison in the poster above, for it truly insults this film. a synopsis for you is that Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy are lecturers and investigators who investigate unexplained phenomenons and events in the hope of finding evidence of true psychic abilities but instead just working out how such things have been faked. the return after an absence of some 30 years of an infamous pyschic called Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), believed by many to be "the real thing" for reasons i shall not mention to save spoilers, divides the two however, with one wishing to investigate him and the other wanting to steer as clear as possible.

if that sounds like "Ghostbusters for grown ups" the good, because that is what it is, which makes Sigourney Weaver's appearance a very nice touch indeed!

on that note, Sigourney Weaver is as good here as she has been in any of her widely celebrated roles. playing the part of someone who wishes to believe in the psychic (for reasons you will see in the film) but has been left with dimished hope over the years is a good deal more difficult that it looks at face value. i don't think any other actress could have pulled off the part quite as she did, measuring strength, intelligence and a big weakness plausibly and convincingly.

the star of the film for me, though, is the increasingly impressive Cillian Murphy. i suspect that he is going to be one of my all time favourite actors, as he just gets better and better in all that i see him in. Red Lights is certainly no exception to that chain.

Cillian Murphy has certainly been born lucky, for as you can see above, if it had not worked out as an actor for him, he could have had a very convincing and indeed excellent career as a Nicky Wire lookalike in a Manic Street Preachers tribute band!

a distinctly pleasant surprise was the performance of Robert De Niro. for far too many years now he has been seemingly slumming it a touch, taking parts that were not all that demanding, presumably to keep the dollars rolling in. and why not, as a certain film critic may not have said - he has given the world some of the greatest acting performances ever, there's no harm in him cashing in a bit. with Red Lights, however, he gives the kind of performance that he was celebrated for in the earlier years of his career.

i have little or no doubt that his legendary research and preparation for parts was called upon for his portrayal of Silver. if you remember De Niro's great performances and sigh when you think of his "hello it's me" cameo performances in basically all that he has done since, say, Heat or at a push that one with Edward Norton and Marlon Brando, the name of which escapes me, then do check out Red Lights and remember how good he can be when of a mind to be so.

that said, i really hope that you watch the film and say "my, that Cillian Murphy is good". because he is really, and it's well worth checking out all his other films.

Red Lights is for those who like "spooky", and indeed twists and turns in their movies. probably not a "watch with mother" film, but really well worth the time to see. alas, i believe the cinema run is over and the DVD is not out as such as yet, but all the same one to check out when available.

a big bonus of Red Lights was that it was made properly, or what has now been termed "2D". the same is not true of the other film i went to see, The Amazing Spider-Man. i suspect that no "serious" film, depending on how you define that Prometheus business, will ever be made in 3D. not that things made in this gimmick format are "silly" by default. let's move on from that one.

unlike the above, i suspect one or two things, particularly at the end of this section, will give over something akin to "secret" information, so after the film poster you should observe this *** SPOILER WARNING ***

i confess i was one of those wondering why exactly they were remaking the "origins of Spider-Man" story little more than a decade after the start of the recent trilogy. i suppose if original Spidey Tobey Maguire didn't want to do any more and director Sam Raimi wasn't interested then it was the case of either continue with new actors and hope no one notices or just start again.

overall, the film proves rather conclusively that there are only so many different ways to tell the story of a boy being bitten by a super duper spider. apologies as i know Andrew, Christopher and Colin really enjoyed the film, but for me it really was the case that this movie was The Average Spider-Man. it somehow just did not add up to the sum of its parts, which is strange as you will see from my comments with some luck.

to start with the title character, Andrew Garfield was rather good in the important role of Peter Parker. sadly comparisons to the other recent movies are inevitable, thus i have to say he was a good deal less whiny and annoying that Tobey Maguire was. which is a bit of a problem, really - the character is supposed to be whiny and annoying. with his looks, attitude and approach, it is rather difficult to accept that this Peter Parker is a social outcast or some sort of misfit.

as he only clocks to wear a Spider outfit halfway through the film, you do get to see an awful lot of him as himself happily twatting people.

as for the "love interest", Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy. i believe she is a character from the comics, and it was a wise decision to not simply have the character of Mary Jane in yet again, presumably to avoid accusations of it being a "complete remake".

is she any good? serves her purpose, i suppose. Emma Stone seems OK, but in no way is her character as well defined or as strong as how Mary Jane was in the 2002 version.she does, however, give what i believe is known as the "eye candy" factor to the film, giving some of the fan boy / comic book types going to see the film alone something to, ahem, admire.

Gwen Stacy was clearly "interested" in Peter Parker prior to him getting bitten off a spider, but that interest went into overdrive as soon as he started twatting people. and in one of a great number of happy coincidences, wouldn't it just happen to be the case that Gwen Stacy's father is the Captain in the New York Police Department tasked with catching the vigillante known as Spider-Man.

yes, that is him, ladies and gentlemen. it is the great one, the legendary Denis Leary, playing Captain Stacy. i have been a fan of him since day one, so it was excellent to see him at the cinema and, indeed, fantastic to see him in such a brilliant - but limited - role. they even find, at a dinner scene, the time to let him squeeze in a classic No Cure For Cancer / Lock N Load style rant and rave bit, although missing the usual colourful language.

equally brilliant and as limited in the film are Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May. what do i really need to say here? these two are amongst the finest artists in the history of American cinema, and they give nothing less that top level performances.

Sally Field needs no praise from me, but i do remain baffled as to why Martin Sheen is not more frequently celebrated. sure, his political and environmental activism no doubt annoys a few, and one of his sons has been rather famous for some interesting moves of late, but none of this should diminish what a great actor Martin is.

Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field for the most part show off how the film does not meet the sum of its parts. no way should it be "average" with the work those three do, but yet it is. and why? mostly, it has to be said, because of the dismal, "epic fail" nature of the "villain" of the piece, Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt Connors and, eventually, the Lizard.

Rhys Ifans is usually a terrific actor to watch. what a shame they gave him utter, utter tripe to work with here. his fabulous Welsh tones have been removed and he delivers his performance with an accent that's hard to place and just sounds distractingly out of place. as for the part itself, well, what a mess. he's supposed to be the bad guy, but he really isn't all that bad at all seems to be the message they are trying to give. the message gets quite lost. both characters he "plays" (the Lizard is mostly blatant computer) are erratic and wildly development free, making the whole experience of the film a disappointment. as and when he turns up, it is "oh yeah, that's who Spidey is supposed to be fighting". well, when Spidey isn't looking for gents with a tattoo on their left wrist at least.

those with a fine eye will note that "Oscorp" is written on Rhys Ifan's jacket, and yes indeed Norman Osbourn (but not his son Harry, oddly) does get a frequent mention, both as a plot device and you would imagine as a thread for a sequel. does Norman Osbourn actually appear? kind of. it seems pretty clear, and this next picture is where the spoiler warning comes in, that we are meant to accept that it is Norman Osbourn talking from the shadows in the scene hidden in the end credits.

Andrew, Christopher and Colin all went as far as to speculate that it sounded like Willem Dafoe was the one speaking, but i am not so sure. to me it sounded more like Michael Massee, last seen as the wonderful and manic Dyson Frost in the actually amazing FlashForward. should there be a sequel, i guess we will find out, but i really don't see Willem Dafoe returning to the world of webs.

the 3D aspect of this film? as usual, "wowee, things are sticking out at the audience". it's impressive technology, but in this film as is the case with just about all other 3D movies, it gets relegated to gimmick status, with sequences existing apparently only so things can stick out at the audience. if directors simply have to use 3D, and i refer you to Christopher Nolan's views on the format in this respect, then they should be using it to enhance depth. ho hum.

i have to say i am at something of a loss as to what exactly the target audience is for this latest variant of Spider-Man. it is way too violent and scary, both by implication and on-screen, for children, yet it also lacks both the maturity of The Dark Knight and the knowing humour of The Avengers. i have seen far, far worse films, but this one had all the ingredients of being something good and somehow mixed up the recipie. no doubt the box office is rather good for it - if it makes enough cash to see a sequel thrown at the world, then i can only hope they get the balances right for the next outing.

wow, two sort of recent films reviewed for you! i have no idea when i shall next get the chance of the cinema, to be honest, so future reviews might be of films when they have had their DVD release!

many thanks once again to Andrew, Colin and Christopher for the chance to take me to see both!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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