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We promise that we have covered at least one good film in this recording. Why not place bets on our opinions? William Hill is probably still open. On the betting slips this time round are The Lovely Bones, From Paris With Love, The Crazies, Thirst and Ponyo. Who will emerge victorious from the Thunderdome?
In The Lovely Bones, little Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) lives a relatively cosy family life with her mother Rachel Weisz, father Mark Wahlberg and siblings. This is soon shattered when she is murdered by neighbour Stanley Tucci, a crime which he appears to be getting away with. Susie's spirit isn't going to take this lying down, however. Rather than head off to heaven, she hangs around in her own personal dreamscape occasionally impinging enough on reality to inspire or bother people. It's like a tale of the effects of a tragedy on a family crossed with a particularly whacked out episode of Scooby Doo, and failed to engage me on pretty much any level. Long before the credits rolled I was bored, which is about as terrible a fate as a film can inflict on me. No recommendy, Tonto.
We last saw Pierre Morel directing Liam Neeson stomping around Paris in Taken, and From Paris With Love follows a similar gameplan. Ambassadorial aide and junior CIA teaboy James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has a hankering to move up the spy ladder, and gets his opportunity when partnered up with Charlie Wax (John Travolta),a hybrid of special agent and wrecking ball. What follows is nominally a tour through the Paris underworld destroying drug dealing gangs and terrorists in a violent 'investigation' that pretty much doubles Gay Paree's homicide rate. With completely uninspired, joyless shootouts and punch-ups that mistake innovation and fun for characterless violence and somewhere between little and no chemistry between Travolta and Rhys Meyers there's no real reason I can come up with to recommend it.
The Crazies sees a small American town, Ogden Marsh, seems like a happy enough place for Sherrif David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife Dr. Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell) to raise their impending child. That's before an unfortunate outbreak of The Crazies, as an accidental release of an experimental biological weapon into the water supply turns people into destabilised, violent shadows of their former self. Cue an overzealous Army containment response that the Duttons and the few around them still not touched in the head so their damndest to run away from. The Crazies seems to have mistaken the word 'mediocre' for a mission statement. There's not much in here that's not, taken on its own terms, competent, but there's nothing more than that on display throughout the film.
Chan Wook Park, director of such awesomeness as Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and OldBoy gives us his take on vampire films with Thirst. I'm going to have to leave the detailed plot summary to better people than I, but in a nutshell, as far as I can gather, priest Sang-hyun (Kang-ho Song) is transfused with blood during a particularly poorly explained and seemingly completely pointless medical experiment. An unintended side effect of this is that he is turned into a vampire. Going back to his old life, he's now inconvenienced with his thirst for human blood conflicting with his sense of morality and also finds that an old friend's wife is prompting an entirely different thirst that threatens his celibacy. You can pull out some thematic elements running through the film but the problem is you have to internally edit out an awful lot of things that either don't fit, don't make sense or on occasion feel as though they're from a different film entirely. It's far too messy to be successful, and too often rather dull, which is not something we typically associate with Park.
Hayao Miyazaki should need no introduction to you, having helmed Studio Ghibli's finest animations such as Laputa, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Ponyo introduces us to a 5-year old lad by the name of Sosuke, who lives On A Cliff By The Sea. Life changes for Sosuke when he catches a cute goldfish one day that turns out to be a daughter of a Sea Goddess and a human-hating wizard, Fujimoto. He calls that goldfish Ponyo, and so great is the affection shown by Sosuke for Ponyo that after Fujimoto reclaims Ponyo to his ship beneath the sea she vows to defy her father and return to Sosuke. Her quest will see her transformed into a human girl and accidentally unleashing an tide raising tsunami that wreaks havoc with the human world. I think you could make an intellectual case, at least, for this being one of Miyazaki's weakest films. On a narrative level, there's really not much happening at any point. For me, what it's lacking in driving narrative is more than made up for in absolute charm. It's so overwhelmingly positive, good-natured and innocently charming that even the cynical old wreck talking to you right now was sat grinning like an idiot throughout the film, so I can only imagine the effect it would have on normal, well adjusted people. Film of the year so far.
That is all for now. We'll be back sometime soon, so until then keep your nose clean and if you can't be good, be lucky.