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them00ch´s Reviews

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16 in total

  • Written by them00ch on 29.05.2009

    "Sir, you can't let him in here. He'll see everything. He'll see the big board! "

    Stanley Kubrick's DSOHILTSWALTB aside from being one of longest acronyms ever (!) is arguably one of the greatest black comedies ever written. Satirising the cold war, the story kicks off when a mentally unstable Air Force General, "Jack D Ripper" sends bombers to destroy the USSR. The president and his advisors frantically figure out how to bypass strict and ludicrous military protocol to recall the bombers and prevent global warfare.

    Supporting Kubricks undeniable directorial and incredible script-writing skills are some of the greatest comic performances ever committed to celluloid, most notably George C Scott as General Buck Turgidson, and Peter Sellers playing 3 completely seperate and diverse characters.

    George C Scott reportedly fell out with Kubrick onset, due to the director forcing him to ham his performance up, and always using the most over-the-top take. However it is exactly the combination of Scott's great "straight" acting, and Kubrick's twist which makes the gum-chewing, patriotic Turgidson so perfect and memorable.

    Peter Sellers also ups the ante with his portrayal of 3 of the story's main protagonists. The morally driven English Captain Mandrake, the well meaning but seemingly powerless President of the USA Merkin Muffley, and the exaggerated ex-Nazi Dr Stranglove, complete with "alien hand syndrome". Sellers takes each character and makes them his own in a chameleon-like way, masterfully fleshing out the characters with perfect accents and mannerisms, ruining any notion that the 3-way was just a movie marketing gimmick. You would be forgiven for not realising it was the same actor on first viewing.

    Also keep an eye out for a very young James Earl-Jones in his big-screen debut, as part of the crew of the ill-fated bomber.

    While some (including myself) would argue that 2001 was Kubrick's 'Magnum Opus', Dr Strangelove almost certainly contains his best dialogue, and you really get the sense that he had a lot of fun making it. While lighthearted and incredibly quotable, the themes contained are still very relevant in today's political climate. Anyone who enjoys dark comedy, larger than life characters, military and political satire, and comedies in general HAS to see this movie.

  • Written by them00ch on 30.05.2009

    Brazil is arguably the finest work from auteur and ex-python Terry Gilliam. The story bears more than a passing resemblance to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, with classic Giliam visuals and a deep, dark comedy twist.

    The film follows beurocrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) as he attempts to correct a rare administrative error which results an innocent man getting captured and killed during interrogation. On the way he meets the girl of his dreams (literally) and follows her until he finds himself fighting against the fascist beurocratic governmental policies he has so long upheld, and finding out that terrorists are not the people his government would have him believe they are....

    The cast is extremely solid, and every performance is outstanding, with the exception of Kim Greist, who plays the leading lady and Sam's love interest in the movie. She didn't seem to buy into the role as other cast members did, and this makes her character seem a little out of place and cold, and unfortunately is the only reason I cannot award a perfect 10 to this film. Allegedly Terry Gilliam was also not too impressed with her performance and cut many of her scenes.

    As stated though, the same criticism cannot be put to the remaining cast members. Pryce is made for the main role, and captures the character perfectly. Gilliam's fellow Python Michael Palin is also excellent in probably the straightest role he has ever played. Ian Holme owns the inept beurocrat manager role, and even Bob Hoskins manages to deliver. The top award goes to Robert Deniro however, in possibly the greatest cameo role in cinema history.

    What really makes Brazil stand out (other than its social commentary) its trademark Gilliam visual and artistic style. The movie is set in a retro-futuristic noir fantasy world that oozes life. From the propaganda posters that adorn every duct ridden wall, to the 30s music and government broadcasts, not a second goes by where you are removed from this perfectly realised, surreal but at the same time believable world. Dream sequences allow Gilliams creative flair to really let loose and provide some of the more memorable images, however every frame of the film is practically a work of art.

    Gilliam has created a dark and disturbing (some might say prophetic!) world, and I encourage anyone who hasn't seen this movie to watch it as soon as possible.

    As a side note I would also encourage fans and anyone interested in the movie business to read the book, "The Battle of "Brazil": Terry Gilliam V Universal Pictures". Its a fascinating read and shows the lengths Terry Gilliam had to go to, to get HIS version of the film released. If the movie studios had their way, this movie would have never been released as it is today.

  • Written by them00ch on 31.05.2009

    When you mix a screenplay written by ex-Python Terry Jones, a plethora of characters by visionary Jim Henson, the music and screen presence of David Bowie, and the production values of George Lucas, you expect nothing short of brilliance, and Labyrinth is a movie that delivers. While Labyrinth is a children's movie at its heart, any adult with an ounce of imagination can appreciate it.

    The movie starts with Sarah (a very young Jennifer Connelly) baby-sitting her little stepbrother. Not particularly enamoured with this task, she recites verses from a book 'the labyrinth' summoning the goblins to come and take her brother away. When little Toby actually does disappear, Sarah is invited to try and win him back by the Goblin king Jareth (David Bowie), by finding her way to the center of his twisted Labyrinth in less than 13 hours. And so begins her journey.

    They just dont make fantasy kids movies like this any more. Think Dark Crystal meets The Neverending Story meets Mirrormask and you might have some idea of the feeling of the film, but for me, as a child of the 80s, Labyrinth was the king of the genre.

    For starters the characters are rich and unique. A Fox with a Napoleon complex who rides an Old English Sheepdog. A 1o foot tall horned behemoth who is friends with rocks. A scarf-wearing worm. Firey creatures who love to sing and swap limbs. All animated exquisitely with Henson's unique puppetry style.

    The music is also great, with all songs for the movie written by David Bowie. Highlights include the goblin king's "magic dance" and the Firey's song "chilly down". These songs will be stuck in your head for days after watching the film.

    The film's final act is incredible. Set in a palace of impossible stairways and doors (see Escher's work "Relativity"), the effects still look impressive today and is a very satisfying end to the journey.

    Other than its undeniable 80s campness, if I had to pick one single flaw with the film, it would be the sequence between the 2nd and 3rd acts in which Sarah eats an cursed apple and falls into a deep sleep. The dream sequence, while relevant and necessary to develop the relationship between Sarah and her tormentor / admirer Jareth, spoilt the pacing of the movie and felt a little out of place. A minor point though.

    All in all, Labyrinth is a fantastical, magical film that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Highly recommended.

  • Written by them00ch on 31.12.2009

    OK, feet up, sit comfortably, get yourself a drink, this is going to be a long one!

    I will preface this review with a bold statement. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is in my opinion, the greatest sci-fi work ever commited to celluloid. These words may very well ruffle a few feathers out there, but I will try to explain in the following (completely inadequate) sentences exactly why I feel this way. If this statement already has you sweaty and red-faced, I suggest you stop reading now, as this review may very well come across as no more than passionate ramblings of a rabid fanboy.

    How exactly do you begin to review a movie which is still causing debate 40 years on? A movie which leaves so much open to personal interpretation? A movie which encompasses such themes as Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Consciousness, human evolution, alien life and the relationship between Man and his technological tools? A movie which draws parallels to Nietzsche's incredibly deep and complex "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"? A movie which has been endlesly parodied, referenced and studied? It is for this reason I believe that there are not yet any reviews for 2001 on WTM, it is a challenging movie to write about. I say this humbly and without arrogance, as I have no doubt in my mind that this review will not even begin to touch on many of the things that people love or hate about the quintessential sci-fi movie. It is also for this reason that this review will certainly be very long :)

    I will not try to explain the plot, as to not spoil anything for the few people that have not yet experienced this movie. I am sure a more gifted writer than myself can tackle an additional plot synopsis, this review is long enough already :)

    To review the movie itself, I guess it is easiest to start on the tactile, easily observed cinematic elements, such as the visuals and sound. This is especially important when considering this film as Kubrick sought to tell a story in purely visual terms, something which his masterful touch seemed to handle effortlessly.

    The models of the spacecraft still look incredibly realistic, stylistic, and detailed, far surpassing the digital fakery of today's standard computer models. The sets on Earth at the start of the Dawn of Man Act - while technically crude - are still extremely beautiful, and the recent BluRay release shows the 70mm print can still impress with sublime colours and incredible projected vistas. The set built for the Discovery One is, in a word, flawless. A giant rotating centrifuge was built enabling the crew to appear to traverse the entire circumference, upside down to a static camera. In this environment, Kubrick's mix of static shots and his trademark dolly tracking do a perfect job in fully realising the scenario, and look totally believable, you fully believe this is a world of false gravity caused by centrifugal force.

    Glimpses of other craft reveal Kubrick's flair for interior design, with retro 60's chic chairs and tables, and bright colours. The world of 2001 appears sterile while managing to remain stylistic and avoid being cliche sci-fi - no mean feat in itself. The incredible vista's of space are also jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the zero-g flight of initial protagonist Dr Heywood Floyd is entirely believable.

    The science behind the film is very plausible too, and while much of this can be attributed to Arthur C Clarke's intellect, directorial choices made show that Kubrick was more than capable of understanding the consequences and situtions of space travel. Take for example a now famous scene, where astronaut Dave Bowman blows the pod bay doors. A lesser director may have been tempted to include a dramatic explosive noise to accompany the gaseous blast on screen. Kubrick wisely opted for a completely silent explosion, in contrast to the violent thrashings you are seeing, aware of the consequences of the vacuum of space. The entirely plausible and believable science is another factor that raises this above most sci-fi.

    Next up is the sound and music of the movie, which given the minimal-dialogue approach Kubrick took, is incredibly important in a film of such epic proportions. The music, subtly applied, is suitably grandiose, using to great effect classical pieces such as Johann Strauss' Blue Danube (in a balletic zero G environment) and Also Sprach Zarathustra, another reference to Nietzsche's works. The unsettling choral chants will make you squirm in your seats every time "The Monoloith" is revealed. In terms of ambience, much of the film is very subtly enveloped in a gentle hum of the Discovery One, perforated by the gentle voices of Keir Dullea (Dave Bowman) and Douglas Rain (the now iconic voice of the HAL9000 computer). Spacewalk and vacuum scenes are kept deliberately claustrophic with only the sounds of Dr Bowman's breathing apparatus. In my opinion the minimal approach to sound, music and dialogue is another mood-affecting example of the artistic genius of this movie.

    To review the movie, I also feel it is prudent to mention Arthur C Clarke's novel, written simultaneously. While the book is an excellent sci-f novel, it approaches the subject matter in a completely different way. As is fairly typical for Clarke and other excellent sci-fi authors, he offers up explanations for the reader, while Kubrick opts to works with the thematic elements of the story in a purely visual way, leaving the main plot and themes open for discussion and interpretation. If another director took a hold of the book, I am sure it would have been an average movie, in much the same way as the *ahem* sequel 2010 was, however Kubrick took it to another level and made it his own. To flagrantly steal one of Kubrick's own quotes:

    "You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film — and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level — but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point"

    It is this air of enigma, of thought provocation and uncertainty that Kubrick handles so deftly, and further raises the sci-fi bar (or should I say h-bar? - joke for fellow physics nerds included gratis :) ) . Handled badly, the movie could have been a confusing mess, but in Kubrick's expert hands the film is delicately balanced between the known and the unknown, and the strong themes suggest more and more to you with every viewing.

    Arguably the most significant and apparent theme is one of mankind's evolution. At key stages of the film, a matte black monolith appears, and in some way coincides with a step forward in evolution. When the primitive apes in the Dawn Of Man act see the monolith, an ape learns how to use a bone as a weapon/tool, giving him an advantage over rival primates. Did the monolith trigger the step forward? Or was it there to signal to an alien intelligence that life had made a step forward on Earth? As the bone is thrown upwards to the sky, one of the most famous match-cuts in history shows a leap forward thousands of years to a nuclear weapons launcher orbiting the Earth, another "tool" of mankind. Again, another monolith appears on the moon, apparently buried thousands of years earlier by an unknown force. Mankind touches the monolith and is painfully deafened. Was this a way of showing mankind was not ready for the next step in evolution? Or was the evolution now in Man's tools - the now intelligent, conscious HAL9000 computer? The monolith is next revealed to Dr David Bowman in the final act. Dave symbolically sheds the use of his tools by shutting down HAL, and is thrown into the huge monolith, and begins his famous psychadelic evolutionary transformation into the starchild. Was the monolith ready to reveal the next step to Mankind now he had shed his use for technology? Were intelligent lifeforms showing us the way or were they merely observing through the monolith our self-provoked evolution to children of the stars?

    It is not explained, merely left up to you to decide, which is the stunning beauty of this movie. The film is an experience like no other, and it's magic lies in its unexplained philosophy. If a new memoir of Stanley Kubrick's were found tomorrow, which totally explained every point in the film, I would try my utmost not to read it, and I would urge all of you to approach this movie in the same way. Watch it, experience it, think about it, talk about it with others, and watch it again.

    If you have read this far I would like to thank you for your patience and perseverance. Please leave a shout below or on my profile if you agree or disagree with anything I have said, I love to discuss this movie and would appreciate your opinions.

    I feel I have touched but 1/1000000th of the scale and ideas of this movie, and would love to hear other's reviews. Now, go rest your eyes and take a break from the screen, sorry to take up so much of your time :)

  • Written by them00ch on 15.07.2010

    There are a few tunes in English culture that make every old soul stir, every cataract-ridden eye flood with saltwater, and every mind over a certain age ache for an England long-since headbutted to death by hoodie wearing benefit frauds. Right at the top of the pile, (only narrowly beating raps about cups of tea) is the Dam Busters march. It’s not just the OAPs either. Unleash Eric Coates’ devastating tune amongst a group of 30-something Brits, and the room will be filled with cries of “Tally Ho!” and “Chocs away old boy!”. It is a tune so inseperable from British culture that it may as well be our National Anthem, and to be honest, if the film didn’t have a dog called “N*gger” in it, it probably would be.

    Yes, N*gger. RAF Wing Cmdr. Guy Gibson’s dog is called N*gger. Before I offend anyone who may be reading this, bear in mind this film was made in 1955, and I am told by many people over 60 that this was quite an acceptable name for a dog back then. English people were weird in the 50s, my Gran used to have a cat called “Bastard”. As the film is based on a true story, I can only assume sweet little N*gger was indeed real, and his bones can still be found outside Guy Gibson’s old quarters.

    So, now the elephant in the room has been soundly addressed, onto the film.

    The film is a near historically accurate portrayal of the RAF’s dam buster campaign in WWII, a plot to slow the German war machine by destroying 3 dams supplying the millions of tons of water required to build their weapons. Presumably it would also have a devastating effect on the amount of ice they could put in their Martinis. The dams could not be destroyed by conventional weapons and explosives, so it is up to the will and self-belief of Dr Barnes Wallis to create the famous “bouncing bomb”; a bomb dropped by Lancasters at low altitude, which skims and skips across the vast German reservoirs to hit the dam at the perfect spot.

    Michael Redgrave convincingly plays Dr Wallis, a man whose intellect is thankfully light years ahead of his taste in knitted cardigans. Wallis, who is really the film’s main protagonist and the only fleshed out character, admirably carries the weight of the entire first half of the film on his knit-clad shoulders. This first section of the film is devoted to the trials and tribulations of the scientist, as he struggles to get the military to take his outlandish idea seriously. Interest is maintained thanks to Redgrave’s performance, as he plays the socially awkward but brilliant man with veracious determinism, yet bumbling charm and humility.

    The film steps up a gear as we meet the RAF flyboys destined to drop Wallis’ invention. Although we are introduced to too many one-dimensional characters at this point (N*gger the dog has more screentime than most), the real focus shifts onto Wing Cmdr. Guy Gibson, played by Richard Todd. Todd is solid, and fits the stereotypical English flyboy nicely. Surprisingly, despite Guy Gibson being the real life wing commander, and author of the book the film is based on, you quickly realise that the individuals aren’t really as important as the overall accomplishments of a once-great, bristly-moustached, tea swilling nation.

    As the film leads to its inevitable conclusion, we are treated to some fantastic shots of Lancaster bomber wings flying to stunning sunsets, along with slightly ropey miniature work, and poorly animated tracer fire as the boys fly to their mission’s objective. The actual mission itself is action packed, paced well, and there is a very real sense of satisfaction when it is all over, elevated further by the iconic score.

    On the whole the film is paced very well, with little filler, and the story skips along quite merrily to its inevitable conclusion. Aside from the good Doctor Wallis and Wing Cmdr. Guy Gibson, the rest of the cast exist purely to move the plot along, and are all fairly flat and under-developed, but this does not seem to harm the film, which is at its essence, a patriotic recounting of true events. A little reading will show you that the film uses a moderate dose of creative license with certain situations, but nothing which really changes the outcome or the main historical facts, and only in the interest of building suspense and entertaniment value. The film is shot beautifully in black and white to match the stock footage of the actual bouncing bomb tests, and is full of enough well shot fly-bys to fulfill most aviation buffs needs. The dialogue is handled with all the patriotic camaraderie and back-slapping you would expect from this era and genre, and while slightly stilted at times it thankfully avoids becoming too cliché.

    Overall, The Dam Busters manages to be greater than the sum of its parts, helped in no small part by Michael Redgrave’s performance, an uplifting theme, some beautiful photography and the drama of the real-life story. Buy it, watch it, enjoy it, and if you aren’t that keen you can always give it to your Gran on her birthday. Just be prepared for her to start belting out the old war songs.

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