Monday, February 15, 2010

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Three. G to I

Welcome to Part Three of my entirely subjective reflection on a decade in cinematic expoits. Click here to see Parts One & Two. Please do chip in with any obvious omissions or disagreements.

G is for Guinea Pig
G got off to a good start in 2000 with Ridley Scott's epic Gladiator. We were definitely entertained, but the legion of inferior cash-ins on the sword'n'sandal revival were underwhelming (Alexander or Troy anyone? Thought not). In 2001 Robert Altman visited Gosford Park to explore the class system with a great ensenmble cast and a Cluedo setup.
Is there anything that George Clooney can do wrong when it comes the movies? He's a movie star, an accomplished actor and on the evidence of Good Night & Good Luck (2005) an excellent director. One of the most unsettling and extraordinary films of 2005 was Werner Herzog's documentary following the life of utterly bonkers self-styled wildlife champion Timothy Treadwell. Grizzly Man showcases Herzog at his very best, he shows Treadwell warts and all yet never judges leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions.

H is for Hod

2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon opened the door for Zhang Yimou to dazzle our eyes with his wushu antics. 2002's Hero used a Rashomon setup, gorgeous visuals and spectacular fight scenes to tell the story of a would be assassin. House of Flying Daggers (2004) was an equally beautiful, if slightly inferior tale. Also in 2004, Guillermo del Toro finally brought one of his most beloved characters to the screen. Mike Mignola's Hellboy as portrayed as by Ron Perlman was a reassuringly blue collar hero in a very enjoyable film. However, it wasn't till 2008 that del Toro truly did Hellboy justice. Hellboy 2:The Golden Army was a stunning spectacle dripping with creativity and fun. The Troll Market and the death of the elemental are among the best scenes of the decade. Two much loved books were brought to life in Howl's Moving Castle (2004) and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005). Hotel Rwanda (2004) and The Hurt Locker (2009) approached two very different conflicts in two very different ways. The Spaced collective brought us 2007's Hot Fuzz which had style and laughs in spades and concluded with an epic punch up between James Bond and Tim from Spaced in a model village. Priceless.I is for Igloo
Robin Williams is superb and creepy as the main protagonist in Christopher Nolan's Alaskan set Insomnia (2002). Also notable as Al Pacino's last decent performance in a movie. In 2004, Pixar wowed us yet again with their first film featuring people (albeit super-people) - The Incredibles. In 2006 we were treated to not one, but two period dramas about stage magicians. The Illusionist saw Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti starring in the superior of the two. Robert Downey Jr continued his movie rehabilitation in the ridiculously fun Iron Man (2008). Indiana Jones came out of retirement and looked for a crystal skull, however all he reminded us of was how good he used to be. The man behind some of the best swearing on the small screen took his character to the movies in 2009. Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker ate up all the scenery and most of his co-stars as the awesomely foul-mouthed spin doctor in In the Loop. 2009 was also notable for the last screen appearance of Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fear Travolta's massive weapon

OK - simple maths:

John Travolta with comedy beard+big gun+terrifically bad tagline = must see.

"Two Agents. One City. No Merci"

See what they did there? That's clever that is...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dance Fever

We've had Strictly Come Dancing, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing on Ice, Got to Dance and the barrel-scraping Dancing on Wheels. Now that this moment of zeitgeist has been well and truly wrung out, what we really need is a needle sharp satire of the whole dance show phenomenon.

Sky 1 has leapt manfully into the breach with the wonderfully ironic Pineapple Dance Studios. Watch this hilarious trailer featuring just about every dance related cliche imaginable.

Wait.... Talk amongst yourselves for a minute.....
For the love of all that is holy - its not a spoof.

Or is it?

A quick google check would suggest that Pineapple is actually a real dance studio and this programme is not a satirical skewering of TV's obsession with all forms of feet twirling nonsense.

I need to lie down for a while.

Monday, February 08, 2010

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Two. D to F

Welcome back to my entirely subjective reflection on a decade in cinematic expoits. Click here to see Part Two. Please do chip in with any obvious omissions or disagreements.

D is for Daffodil
Richard Kelly is a unusual director who makes unusual and on occasion totally incomprehensible movies. He kicked the decade off with the wonderfully weird Donnie Darko in 2001 which was notable for it's combination of twisted time travel/teenage angst and great performances particularly Patrick Swayze's dodgy motivational speaker. Robin Williams is guilty of many cinematic crimes, however, he did redeem himself slightly by taking on some very dark straight roles in the Noughties. One of which was the underrated black comedy Death to Smoochy in 2002. Horror slunk into the Ds in the genuinely terrifying The Descent(2006) and the surprisingly decent remake of Dawn of the Dead in 04. While we're on the topic of horror in 2004, Bruno Ganz gave a stunning performance in Downfall's portrayal of Hitler's last days. Forget the zombies, Ganz's Hitler was a genuine human monster, flipping between kindly old man and raving hateful killer. 2006 saw Da Vinci Code madness sweep the globe. Sadly, the movie of the hopeless book was possibly the most ludicrously boring film of the decade. On the upside, Martin Scorsese finally won his richly deserved Oscar with The Departed. Science fiction boggled our eyes and brains with the gravelly Dark Knight (2008) and the gooey District 9 (2009) rounding the decade off quite nicely.

E is for Elephant
In 2000 Julia Roberts showed that she could still act quite well thank you very much as the crusading Erin Brockovich. The following year, two very contrasting war movies jostled for space in the multiplexes. The achingly British Enigma provided a who's who of UK actors while Enemy at the Gates featured a brilliantly tense duel between two top WW2 snipers in the ruins of Eastern Europe. In 2004 we fell hopelessly in love with Kate Winslet after her marvellous performance in the really quite weird Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If our politicians had listened to the impassioned voices behind Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room in 2005, perhaps we may have avoided sinking into the financial catastrophes we currently wallow in. Viggo Mortensen made us forget the noblility of Aragorn as the brutal Russian mob enforcer in David Cronenbourg's savage Eastern Promises (2007). Speaking of brutal, Brian Cox took time out from playing crooked CIA agents to make the criminally underviewed prison break drama The Escapist in 2008. Watch out for the twist, its a real kick in the guts...

F is for Flan
It's hard to remember now, but before 2001 the best adaptation of JRR Tolkien's works was an odd and unfinished Ralph Bakshi cartoon from 1978. It's easy to forget how much of a risk New Line took in giving Peter Jackson (best known for very gory low budget horror movies) millions of dollars and a free creative hand. Luckily for them (and us) Jackson created something rather special and it all started 2001 with The Fellowship of the Ring. In 2003 Pixar continued their unfeasibly long hot streak and took the story of a lost fish and made us all laugh like drains and cry like babies in Finding Nemo. Forget pesky things like facts, documentary maker Michael Moore knows exactly how to pitch righteous rage. Fahrenheit 9/11 released in 2004 savaged George Bush and the policies that led to the Iraq war. While Bush won the next election many people think that Fahrenheit 9/11 helped start laying the groundworks for Barack Obama's massive landslide victory in 2008. On an altogether lower key note, Johnny Depp cast aside his eye patch and pirate swagger to play JM Barrie in the beautifully crafted Finding Neverland (2004). And finally, the award for most confusing and bizarre mainstream film of the decade goes to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain (2006). Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz searched for the Tree of Life and mused on death, life, religion, time and many other things in a gorgeously shot piece of sci-fi.

Tune in soon for G to I!