I watched the pilot episode of HBO’s The Pacific and all my fears of the same run off the mill macho war film were somehow true. As a follow up to Band of Brothers it lacks a lot of characterisation that made the 2002 10 part series a groundbreaking multi character epic. It is still a powerful piece of television with it’s visceral carnage but the characters revert to that macho American attitude that harks back to clichéd war films.
Band of Brothers on the other hand, when it came out, dealt with the war not just with bravery but also with the brutal inhumane and pointless side of combat from adrenaline rush to boredom. The characters were well rounded and multi faceted. They were stripped of all the mechanics of what Hollywood producers would insert into the cinematic American grunt and was more reminiscent of films like Platoon. What was one of the ingredients that made one great and the other manufactured cliché? One strong answer is the directors chosen. They were British and managed to bring more dimensions to the characters motivation. British directors compared to their American counterparts bring the darker cynical aspects of defeat in combat much the same as Attenborough’s Bridge too Far. Back to The Pacific.
Michael Haneke's critically-acclaimed The White Ribbon, which was released on DVD yesterday, is a chilling look behind the apparently normal façade of a small north German village in the lead-up to the First World War.
Narrated by one of the most sympathetic characters, the schoolteacher, when he has become an old man, the film shows us brutal events, some apparently perpetrated by children, but gives us very few answers as to why they have happened. The schoolteacher narrator supposes, with hindsight, that this generation of children were displaying their capability for cruelty before growing up to become the Nazi generation.
Filmed in black and white, making the setting feel even more removed in time from our own, The White Ribbon is a film that shows but rarely tells. Children are beaten by their parents, by people who are never caught, daughters are sexually abused by their fathers and women have to submit to the power of their husbands or fathers. The pastor, preaches his puritanical brand of Protestantism, as symbolised by the white ribbon he would tie around his children's arms, to remind them to be good. However, he rules his household with an iron fist, causing his children to rebel in the most extreme ways.
Last night I rewatched Tarsem's, The Fall. I first saw it at Edinburgh Film Festival in 2008 amidst a dreamy stream of great films. Starting with a bong toking Ben Kingsley going through a breakup in The Wackness, to a man named Nick discovering the delights of Swedish spiritualism through the painfully funny Three Miles North of Molkom, onto Wayne Wang's 1000 years of Good Prayers, taking its title from the ancient Chinese saying 'true love comes once in a thousand years of good prayers'. Then before the festival was done I was back in Sweden with Let the Right One In, and finally Wall*E, Pixar's first proper romance and a brutal anti-capitalist statement to boot.
And because of the strengths of all these films I never got round to writing about how much I liked The Fall. It is easy to dismiss it at first glance as the camp melodrama of a music video director, hungry to clock airmiles to shoot eye candy in the most exotic places his lucky location team could find. But beneath the lush visuals is the story of a suicidal and heartbroken man trying to find a reason to live, and how his imagination, and the encouragement of his good hearted friend, help him.
As dedications go, the one to (500) Days of Summer tells you immediately that we are definitely not in rom-com land anymore, Toto: "Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.” Wow. And although the film is fun, occasionally true and makes you feel incredibly sorry for the main character, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the underlying bitterness makes the female lead (Summer, played by Zooey Deschanel) a mysterious caricature. Why does Tom bother falling for her at all? But first, the good stuff. Watch out for the spoilers...
Now available to buy on DVD, September remains one of the most affecting and beautiful British short films of the past few years. The film beat off stiff competition from the likes Sam Taylor Wood’s passionate and impressive Love You More to walk away with the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Short Film (Live Action) to add to its numerous other awards and accolades.
The film tells the story of Marvin, a man gradually seeing his life erode as he toils away at a motorway service station. But a chance encounter means his outlook on life begins to change and a life of flipping burgers and unfulfilled dreams seems to become more remote by the second.
I did not get sent a review disc, but saw this one in Morrisons on Sunday in a two for one offer on Disney films. There weren't many classics, but picked up Ratatouille which I could watch a fair few more times yet, and Wall*E. It's not just that I like to be able to watch it on TV but I have a vague idea that if I had grandkids one day it'd be great to be able to show them the box.. 'what, you have the original cardboard box! These things used to be physical! Wow!). And box indeed it is, packed in the weirdest cardboard container I've yet seen. It was partly the checkout guy who stuffed the DVD in the case in a strange way, which took me a few minutes to figure out how to unpack so as to get the DVD out without ripping the box. But then, joy!
Kind of. A collection of further pieces of cardboard with various promotional leaflets, and some strange folds to suggest you should be able to fold this into your own Wall*e or at least a DVD case. But the main interest is the discs inside.
The first one, disc two, (i know that's the second one, but it was the first one i looked at, :) had the extras, and was packed. on my tv with dodgy dvd player missing it's remote, i couldn't do much but choose the top thing on each page, which took me to an interesting documentary on how they shot the film and tried to emulate the 70mm Panavision lenses that space epics like 2001 were shot on. As British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who alonside Star War's DP Dennis Murren, was a consultant on photography on the film, says how after decades of trying to remove the slightest flaws in the lenses, the computer guys are busting to recreate the errors in a flawless CGI environment, so as to make it feel more real. It's certainly an incredible landscape, stunningly lit and shot, and makes a stark contrast with Pixar's other human-centric film - The Incredibles, from a director, Brad Bird, whose background was in 2D animation (with the excellent Iron Man). We get to see Deakins lead a lighting workshop, and we get into a discussion on the effect of pulling focus on 70mm lense to image proportions. Certainly not family entertainment, in the best possible way!
As ever, there will be spoilers
Elite Squad has its UK DVD release tomorrow
Rio de Janeiro, 1997. The Pope is about to visit. Some doofus has put him up right next door to a notorious favela. The Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE)
have to clean it up before he gets there. So we get to take a look at a
Brazilian slum through the eyes of the supposed law enforcers.
Where City of God, despite the bloodshed and endless vendettas, is essentially a nostalgic, sometimes humorous, look back by a boy made good, Elite Squad
is an unflinching morality tale from which no one emerges unscathed,
least of all the average middle-class viewer with an "occasional use
only" attitude to drugs. Unlike City of God's Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), the narrator of Elite Squad continues to contend with the favela's problems, and is far more cynical. He has reason to be.
Wow. When Mike Leigh goes comic, he really goes for it. Happy-Go-Lucky , the tale of Poppy, a North London primary school teacher with a very un-London persistently sunny nature and a whole host of whacky quips, gets driving lessons and talks too much. That's the film. The latest Mike Leigh film. No, really.