Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tamburlaine stays in

I tend to buy DVDs (with a few exceptions) only when on a special offer, and I've been meaning to review the latest acquisitions for a while. So here are my thoughts on four.

Friday Night Lights
This is an American football movie, set in a small Texas town, and tells the true story (albeit with bits changed for dramatic licence) of the Permian High football team during a single season in the late 1980s. The hopes and dreams of the entire town rest on the shoulders of the players, boys of seventeen and eighteen whose only hopes of getting out of their town is to play well and get spotted. Players feel the pressure, and their coach (Billy Bob Thornton) is subtly and not so subtly threatened by townsfolk who take the word "fan" to new extremes.

This is an excellent film. It's underplayed by the actors (some of whom have a spooky likeness to their real-life counterparts), and the season's ups and downs, and its more ridiculous moments (such as the evening when a coin toss determines which of three teams will go into the play-offs for the state championship) are very sharply conveyed. You don't need to know anything about the game to enjoy this film - it's superb.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I put off buying and viewing this because I'm such a fan of the radio series - despite the plethora of other media, I consider it the best version Adams wrote. So I approached it with a degree of trepidation. And, well, it's a good film, with some stand-out bits, but still not as good as the radio version.

The cast was generally good: Sam Rockwell made a fantastically vain and self-obsessed Zaphod, and Stephen Fry was a perfect choice for the Book; Martin Freeman was occasionally excellent as Arthur, Bill Nighy wasn't quite world-weary enough for Slartibartfast, and Alan Rickman sounded more exasperated than depressed as Marvin. And why Arthur would have even thought Mos Def, as Ford Prefect, would be from Guildford, with an American accent, is beyond me!

The main problems with the film were that things were not quite the same as I'd imagined. Quirky, yes, and imaginative. But not quite as I had envisaged. So it won't be one I'll watch again.

My Summer of Love
The plot of this British film can be summed up fairly quickly: girls are bored, make friends, make love, fall out. It's something of an enigmatic film, with none of the characters' motives ever really being explained. Mona feels abandoned by her brother, Phil, (Paddy Considine, who never really convinces until the end of the film), who's found God. She meets Tamsin, who's rich and pampered and different, and the two find a friendship that deepens into something more. Mona is a very appealing character, and you warm to her: she's sincere, whereas I never felt that Tamsin, despite her protestations, was.

It's a beautifully photographed film, and the two young actresses are very good as Tamsin and Mona. The story is unusual, and affecting. Recommended.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
This is an interesting film. It was shot almost entirely on greenscreen, with the backgrounds being (lovingly) digitally rendered in full 1930s Art Deco smudginess. You need to disengage your sense of reality, because it's more like a 1930s comic in the vein of Dan Dare than anything else. Giant mechanised robots are attacking cities around the world and removing power supplies, oil refineries and metal stocks. Scientists are going missing. Intrepid reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) will do anything to follow the story; New York is saved from complete destruction by Sky Captain Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), whose array of robot-fighting gadgets are dreamed up by his sidekick Dex (an excellent Giovanni Ribisi).

The plot carries Polly and Joe across the world to the Himalayas in search of Dr Totenkopf (a name of ill-omen if ever there was one), to a rendez-vous with Joe's former fling, Commander Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie, who appeared to be having a good time producing a very spiffing English accent). There are holes galore in the plot, however, and there are moments when the actors have obviously no idea what they're meant to be looking at and reacting to. Law and Paltrow convince in their scrapping together more than you believe that they were ever involved. It's an interesting experiment in film-making, but ultimately the threat doesn't feel real or urgent enough, nor the acting solid enough to convince me that it really works better than a live background film.



At Fri Jun 16, 07:59:00 am, Blogger Who is this Dave? said...

I refused to watch Hitch Hiker's at the cinema, because my mental image (from radio, books etc) was so strong. Eventually I borrowed my son's DVD - very much as I thought it would be (ie not as I'd imagined). I agree entirely with your critique.


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