Monday, 31 December 2001

Movie Roundup, 2001

Working in traditional reverse order..

Harry Potter – This was a “take Karen to the flicks” expedition, and not one I'd've gone to see by myself. It was stunningly well cast, and well acted by a sterling cast of British character actors who probably cost between them less than Tom Cruise asks for an appearance. But boring – I was twiddling my thumbs by the time of the quidditch match (a pleasant surprise – quidditch was less boring to watch than read about – I guess they'd choreographed it off some real sports footage). After the Big V had had his come-uppance, I was silently pleading “roll credits now, please” as each scene terminated.
Nitpick – At King's Cross, platforms 9 and 10 face each other across two lines of track in a little annex (along with platform 11) off the side of the main station, and 9¾ would be approached from the railings in front of the buffers; the movie looked like they were going on to platform pi! In the real world, probably as a result of all the tourists coming to see the site, at the start of December '01, platform 9 was decorated with all the Hogwarts banners and such from the movie. I'm still surprised that nothing's been made of the fact that the platform 9/10 area is also the fabled site of Boadicea's tomb!

LotR part 1 - A joy to the eyes, but I was on to trivia scanning immediately, like I did about the 8th time I saw Star Wars, coupled this time with too much of an analysis of how they've gone about realising it within the limited confines of a 3 hour film. You know the sort of thing – “Ah yes, they'll use the birthday party to introduce the hobbit characters, then cut out the 17 years of delay.” “Is that a chunky black ring Gandalf is briefly shown wearing in the first conversation inside Orthanc?” “Spot the elf walking on the snow!” “Isn't the two arrows at once trick shot too reminiscent of some really cheesy 1980's fantasy film,” “Maize and canola are more Sharkey than Shire.” “Aren't the lines ‘They've got a cave troll with them.’ and ‘Let's hunt some orc.’ a little jarring in their delivery.”
We could have done without the crumbling stair in Moria, especially with that magnificent Balrog about to make its entrance with its cunningly ambiguous “wings”. Boromir's death had much of the “Agh, I'm hit! Cue death scene. No, wait, I'm a high level fighter and that only did a d8.” about it along the way.
They were faced with an impossible scene to film (one that so far as I can recall Bakshi wisely dropped completely), and made what I felt was a brave, but ultimately failed attempt at, in the Temptation of Galadriel. Playing it low key would have been better, I feel, as the infinitely beautiful ice queen isn't a one size fits all image.
Yes, of course I'll go see the rest. Unlike with Harry Potter, I didn't feel the time dragging.

OK, now onto the good stuff, in roughly ascending order:

Atlantis, the Lost Empire – This little steampunk/lost world gem felt like an anime scenario that ended up with the Mouse by accident, and certainly wasn't your average cute Disney cartoon – no bursting out into song, no cute slapstick supporting cast. Nothing profound, but it did at least entertain.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider – This film did exactly what it said on the tin. Well, we could have had dinosaurs, an underwater sequence and the obligatory attack by dogs while in Italy (did one of the game designers have a bad Doberman experience one holiday, we wonder), instead of the dodgy "men in her life" sub-plots, but you can't have everything. A pleasant surprise in that it underpromised and overdelivered within its premise.

Shadow of the Vampire - A secret history of the making of the original Nosferatu, with John Malkovitch as the director. Worth it just for the scene where he demands that Count Orlok feed only on the dispensable members of the film crew.

Ginger Snaps - A pretty damn definitive “werewolf in the modern day” movie, all the better for not being a big budget spectacular. A plot summary wouldn't do it justice - just go get the DVD.

Brotherhood of the Wolf (Pacte des Loups) - The film I made most effort to see all year, eventually finding it on at the late, late show at the local multiplex, presumably because it was thought to be rather recherché in its appeal. For a start it's a French film, with subtitles - And a werewolf(?) hunter movie. Set in pre-revolutionary France. Costume drama meets kick-boxing action. This film has it all, while remaining intelligent, artistic and, well, French.

And at the top of the list? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, of course. Wuxia done by a serious director. What more can I add about this one? It will be interesting to see what he does with the Hulk