Tiny Beam of Light

Shining a tiny beam of light on some great films you might not know existed (and the odd blockbuster too).

Avatar 3D dir: James Cameron (2009)

I’m going to be brief as this film will be everywhere.

My expectations were very high for this movie – it is after all from the man who has made some of my all time top films, Terminator 2, The Abyss, Aliens. In fact, in my opinion he hasn’t made a bad movie, and yes I did like Titanic. I went to a James Cameron interview about 6 years ago and he was talking about Avator then, apparently he mentioned it to Sigourney Weaver when they were doing Aliens – so he’s been gestating this baby for a long time. So what can I say?

Pretty bloody awesome. The film is often beautiful to watch, and thankfully avoids the usual Hollywood trip up; mixing astonishing visual fx and characters. The Na’vi are 100% believable and Pandora, the world that they inhabit, is astonishingly created.

A couple of things annoyed. I wasn’t bowled over by the 3D, I’m astigmatic so often the image was partly out of focus for me. Sam Worthington’s voice over, urgh, and James Cameron’s occasional squirm inducing dialogue. Pay a writer to tweak your dialogue James goddamnit!

However, I’d be more than delighted to see this again in 2D in a couple of weeks. James Cameron has raised the bar for blockbuster extravaganza to a new level once more. And the film is partly financed by the Brits. Hurrah!


Filed under: action, fantasy, film, sci-fi, war, , , ,

Looking For Eric (2009) dir: Ken Loach

Well here’s a film from the UK’s most undervalued director that will hopefully appeal to a wider audience giving the director some much deserved mainstream success.

Eric (Steve Evets) is suffering from depression, his life is crap and he was last happy when he saw Eric Cantona play soccer for Manchester United. As he drowns in despair, he starts seeing Eric Cantona, his hero, who begins to give him advice on how to change his life around.

Like Ken Loach’s other films, this is still a story with a social aspect at its heart but here it is wrapped in some touching comedy.

It was a pleasure to watch the interaction between the two Erics. Ken Loach (unusually for a filmmaker) shoots his films in sequence and the actors are never given a full script –  they don’t know what’s coming next. So, when Eric first sees Eric Cantona his expression and reaction is priceless. The film is really good stuff.

Apparently, Eric Cantona originally approached Ken Loach with a slightly different idea, based around a Leeds United fan who had switched allegiance to Manchester United when Eric Cantona move there. The fan lost his job, his friends and family. From there screenwriter John Laverty developed a new idea which eventually turned into the screenplay for this film.

It’s worth noting that the film is not really about football, (I’m not a big fan of it), so if you hate football/soccer – don’t let the football aspect put you off.

The French love Ken Loach, the Brits love the French Eric Cantona, hopefully this is a marriage that will play to a wider audience.  It’s been picked up by IFC for America – so even you lot in the good old US of A have no excuses.

Filed under: comedy, drama, fantasy, film, , , , , , , ,

Watchmen (2009) dir: Zack Snyder

This is (obviously) not a small movie, but I’m making an exception. It’s my blog.

First off lets put some credentials up. It was ‘2000AD’ that got me properly into comic books.  I first read ‘Watchmen’ in 1987. My favourite Alan Moore characters are ‘D.R. and Quinch’ (created with Alan Davis) and ‘John Constantine’.

My favourite comic book of all time is ‘Preacher’ (I’ve been following the development of this from a film to be directed by Rachel Talalay with Johnny Depp and Robert Carlisle 10 years ago to now, maybe a tv mini-series written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson (director of DareDevil through to Ghostrider).

I thought ‘Y: The Last Man’ was great (now maybe a movie with Shia LaBeouf) and I’m currently reading ‘DMZ’. I know everyone loves it but I was a bit disappointed by Garth Ennis’ ‘Dan Dare’. There’s more but this blogs about film not comic books.

Right then. So the movie world continues to adapt comic books to movies – hoping to mine that creative seam of gold.

This is surprisingly faithful to the comic book and loads of scenes actually match Dave Gibbons’ panels. The characters are spot on and Jackie Earle Haley is Rorschach – right off the page. In fact they’re all good, though Adrian Veidt could have done with some more screen time.  And there aren’t that many compromises either – like the comic book it’s dark, dirty and violent.  So Paramount, I think, has been pretty brave in doing this movie – you can’t take the kids to see it – which is kind of bizarre as I first read ‘Watchmen’ as a kid.

I was actually pretty amazed at how much of the original story Zack Snyder and his team managed to pack in with all the intricacies and character details. And it really works as a film –  though the ending seemed a bit rushed and there were a couple of plot points from the book that I personally think don’t quite work on the big screen (the Comedian confessing to Moloch for example). Then again the movie is already just shy of 3 hours and I could have happily sat through another hour.

The fight scenes have a nasty (in a cool filmic way) crunch to them and though I’m generally not a fan of slow-mo it actually works within the style of the film.  There’s the odd dodgy fx near the end in a film that has some fantastic visual moments but I’m not complaining.  I’m delighted. ‘Watchmen’ could have been god awful.  The best Alan Moore film adaptation so far.  All in all I’m a very satisfied customer. And the soundtrack was pretty good as well.

There’s no ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’ – apparently that will be on the DVD with a longer version of the film.

I’m going to see it again in a couple of weeks.

Filed under: action, comic book, fantasy, film, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are the strange (2007) dir: M. dot Strange

Cripes. I remember trying to watch this movie online and giving up. Seeing it on the big screen is an altogether different and pleasing experience. This is an anime movie created pretty much by one man – Mr M. dot – and its had more than 1 million views online (on YouTube) and been a minor DVD success. It’s also been subtitled into nearly 30 different languages (courtesy of M dot’s online community).

More people have seen this film than go see a really successful indie movie at the theatre.

It’s not easy to watch. I just had to let the imaginative visuals wash over me and immerse myself in it (something I couldn’t do online). Not much plot – players have to battle the evil overlord – it’s been grown from vidgame roots which it wears proudly on its sleeve.

I look forward to M dot’s anime samuraii movie coming to an ipod near you around 2010/11.


Filed under: animation, fantasy, film, Not Heard Of, youtube, , , , , ,

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