Wednesday, 7 May 2008

In brief

Cashback
This debut feature from photographer turned filmmaker Sean Ellis has been hanging around for some time now. I remember trying to arrange a visit to the set back when Sunshine was shooting (they were filming near to each other) but the schedule didn’t work out. I’d been keen to visit because I’d really liked Ellis’ soon to Oscar-nominated short from which this has been “expanded” — even if the central idea of its lead character stopping time (plus several others too) seems to have been lifted from Nicholson Baker’s much superior book The Fermata. But when I finally saw this, a couple of years ago now, I was not only hugely disappointed but felt strangely cheated too, because rather than take the characters and situations from his short and do something new with them, Ellis actually includes it in its entirety in the feature, bookending it with new material that doesn’t enhance or add to it in anyway. Do yourself a favour and track down the short instead.

Doomsday
I enjoyed Neil Marshall’s werewolves versus soldiers debut Dog Soldiers but, unlike many others, didn’t think it was the second coming. The Descent, however, remains one of the greatest horror films of the last decade and, for me, represented an enormous step forward in his evolution as a filmmaker. Which is why, I think, I found Doomsday so disappointing. Not that Marshall’s third film is badly directed or even boring, far from it; he’s too talented for that. Rather Doomsday simply cannibalises all the best bits from some of his (and my) favourite movies — Escape From New York, Mad Max 2, 28 Days Later, Excalibur — for a post-apocalyptic action movie that, rather unfortunately, is never as good as the films it’s paying tribute to. (I spent much of the time it mentally ticking off the references and making a note to myself to watch the originals.) Set mainly in Scotland where the Reaper virus wiped out the vast majority of the population 25 years before, the film was shot mostly in South Africa, making for one of the strangest, most dislocating viewing experiences in an age, as Rhona Mitra’s heroine travels from dusty, sunny Savannah to green, overcast Highlands and back again.

Speed Racer
I’ve been surprised by some of the sniffy reviews for the Wachowski brothers’ latest which have taken it to task for not having much depth. It’s a kid’s movie for Christ’s sake, and a terrific one at that. It’s about cars that go very very fast. It’s colourful and energetic and dazzling and exciting. For me, part of what didn’t work for me with the two Matrix sequels was that the special effects technology didn’t exist then to fully realise the Wachowskis’ seemingly limitless imagination and so parts of Reloaded looked too much like a videogame. Here, it’s meant to look like a cartoon. For little kids it might be a little long, and the whole corporate shenanigans will go over most of their heads. But for a big kid like me, it was terrific fun. As I said before, I can't wait to see it again.

9 comments:

Gerard said...

We get Speed Racer on June 12th, along with The Incredible Hulk and The Happening I'm taking the day off work :D

I was really excited but also nervous for Doomsday, as I love Marshall's first two films (The Descent in partic - what the hell's with the just-announced sequel?? For that to exist is to ignore the ACTUAL ending, not this softened hooray of an American wrap-up...) and was really hoping his first foray into bigger budget realms would be kickass. Sacrilege, however, sounds fantastic.

Gina said...

I can't believe the sniffy reviews either. I mean, who thought this WASN'T going to be a kids movie? Was it because of the creators and/or the insane special effects? Don't most kids films get this kind of treatment anyway? They need something really cool to look at most of the time, they can only do with so much normality. They're not really all that interested in the storylines. It's not as if all kids films need to be aimed at adults like they have been more recently. That's why there is a 'children/family' genre.
Anyway, I can't wait to see Speed Racer, and I'm glad that it'll be in IMAX. Can you say EYEGASM?

Mark Salisbury said...

Er, eyegasm...

J.D. said...

It's almost like critics who saw SPEED RACER have never seen (or forgotten) the original cartoon it was based on which was hardly strong on content/substance to begin with. There is a pretty enthusiastic review on The Digital Bits website which has me anticipating this all of the sudden. Sounds like a visual feast on the level of when TRON first debuted on big screens (I remember seeing that as impressible lad and being blown away by the visuals).

Mark Salisbury said...

Tron was amazing at the time but this is amazing on a whole different level.

Judging by the trailers I'd seen, I thought I was going spend the movie nursing a headache, but on a big screen (and I saw this on the biggest in London) I found it to be a glorious visual spectacular, and left with my eyes and brain intact but my jaw firmly on the floor!

Gerard said...

How on EARTH has Speed Racer tanked so terribly?!

Mark Salisbury said...

Beats me. People have been talking about the marketing being unfocused, or, rather, it having not been focused enough.

But, at the end of the day, it's a kids movie. About fast cars. That looks amazing. And colourful. What's not to like?

Gerard said...

Exactly. The thing which baffles me is reviews for the most part are awful, yet on forums and talkbacks, people seem to really love it.

Mark Salisbury said...

Did you read Anthony Lane in The New Yorker? Savage it was.