25 April 2014

Lost in La Mancha


Lost in La Mancha 2002
  • Directors: Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe
  • Based on book: No, well sort of. Don Quixote is by Cervantes of course
  • Involved: Johnny Depp,  Terry Gilliam, Jean Rochefort
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, The Brave, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Jean Rochefort – Mr. Bean’s Holiday, L’Homme du train, Ridicule, Le château de ma mère
    • Terry Gilliam – The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Brothers Grimm, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys, Fisher King, Brazil, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Life of Brian (writer)
  • Why? JD. 24th in JD marathon
  • Seen:  Once before. Now: April 20, 2014
Last time we watched this I wanted so much to see the finished Don Quixote film. That hasn’t happened. The film was never made.  A shame.
I often say that in my next life I’ll be a film director.  This documentary doesn’t encourage me. Film making is an awful lot of work and it can all go wrong. As we see here, it often does and can end in heartbreak.
But Lost in La Mancha is fascinating. Though the crew is well aware of the difficulties ahead of them they all start out optimistically. Soon, however, they are saying things like, “A lot of potential for chaos here”, and “I’m getting very nervous”, and “sheer panic”, and “everything that can go wrong goes wrong”.
And it does.  The first days of shooting are destroyed by NATO bombers flying over the set though they’d said they wouldn’t, and a flash flood after a hail-riddled downpour – in the desert!  Poor Jean Rochefort is in pain and is flown back to France for treatment for a prostate infection that drags on.
And everything falls apart.  It’s sad to see. JD in black hair with a white streak playing Sancho Panza and Jean Rochefort as the perfect Don Quixote – it would have been so good.
But as one of the crew says after the project is abandoned, “The most painful thing was seeing reality win over Don Quixote. Because it did.”
Poor Terry Gilliam. This one would have been a masterpiece. But the Curse of Quixote was too strong.
It’s hard to rate a documentary but this one really made me want things to work out. I felt like one of the crew.

4 ½ * of 5

Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Siths


Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Pernilla August, Ian MacDiarmid, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ewan McGregor – The Ghost Writer, The Island, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Moulin Rouge, Young Adam, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Train Spotting, Shallow Grave, Big Fish
    • Natalie Portman – Thor, Black Swan, Darjeeling Limited, V for Vendetta, Closer, Cold Mountain, Léon (The Professional), Paris je t’aime, Mars Attacks!, Anywhere but Here, Beautiful Girls, Heat
    • Hayden Christensen – Factory Girls, Virgin Suicides
    • Christopher Lee - Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow
    • Pernilla August   I don’t think I’ve actually seen her in a film but her Svinalängorna (she directed) is a masterpiece.
    • Jimmy Smits – Jane Austen Book Club, NYPD Blue, Switch
    • Samuel L. Jackson – 1408, Kill Bill, The Red Violin, The Negotiator, Jackie Brown, The Long Kiss Good-Night, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Jurassic Park, Jungle Fever, Mo’ Better Blues, Sea of Love, Do the Right Thing, Ragtime
  • Why? Part of the series
  • Seen:  April 18, 2014

       We don’t watch this because it makes a lot of sense. Or because there’s an interesting variety of bad guys and battles.  It’s all quite same-old-same-old. Padmé even has the Carrie Fisher hairdo for a few minutes. Poor Natalie Portman! It’s so ugly!
       I am curious for awhile though – how is the Chancellor going to win over Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side? Ani is so in love with pregnant Padmé and all.
       Ah but there’s a darkness in him.  Supposedly. I wish I could see it in the pretty but wooden face of Hayden Christensen.  The political intrigue, my goodness, it’s actually interesting. A little. For awhile. But it quickly becomes pretentious. 
       As before some of the special effects are cool. I like Obi-Wan’s superlizard. But Padmé has become a wimp. The Dark Force threat to her pregnancy and the distrust of the Jedi council being the cause if Anikin’s turning to the Dark Side are trite.  Darth Vader deserves to have a deeper darkness within him, a deeper cause for going bad.  His fiery fate is quite dramatic though.
       And so it ends. Am I disappointed? Yes, I’d hoped for more.  All along but especially in this last one. Oh well. I’ll pretend it’s not really bad and give the visuals and the music and Ewan McGregor and the passion of George Lucas

2 1/3 * of 5


      

18 April 2014

The Impossible


The Impossible 2012
  • Director: J.A. Bayona
  • Based on the story by Maria Belón
  • Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast. Geraldine Chaplin
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Naomi Watts  King Kong, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, 21 Grams, Ned Kelly
    • Ewan McGregor – The Ghost Writer, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Island, Star Wars Episodes I-III, Moulin Rouge, Young Adam, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Train Spotting, Shallow Grave, Big Fish
    • Geraldine Chaplin – Remember My Name, Nashville, Dr. Zhivago
  • Why? Recommended by friend MS; Ewan McGregor
  • Seen:  April 13, 2014
Ten years it’s been. Several people from the little suburb where I live died or went missing. One of them was a former student. Two of them owned and ran the pub just down the hill.  So many thousands died from so many countries that it was unfathomable.
The film focuses on one British family of five, while touching enough on individuals from many other countries to show the vastness of the disaster. The film’s weakness is that there is almost nothing to show that the Thais themselves far outnumbered the tourists among the victims.
Otherwise it’s based on a true story, though the family was Spanish, but I suppose British actors invited a wider audience.  And very fine actors they are. EMcG and NW as the parents are excellent. Tom Holland as the oldest boy is phenomenal, reminiscent of a young Jamie Bell. The other two boys are very good too.
From the moment the tidal wave crashes into the resort, ripping the family apart, to their final reunion – impossible but it happened – the suspense and drama are acute, almost painful. For me one of the most poignant scenes is when Lucas runs through the vast refugee hospital calling out the names of people he’s trying to help reunite. The first family he helps is Swedish and when he calls, “Mårten Bernström?” and a young boy says hoarsely, “Ja?” – that’s when my first tears come.
No film can convey the scale of the tsunami but this one comes close.  I don’t imagine victims would be able to endure watching it.
                     
4 * of 5

From Hell


From Hell 2001
  • Directors: Albert and Allen Hughes
  • Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
  • Cast: Johnny Depp,  Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Richardson, Katrin Cartlidge, Susan Lynch,  Leslie Sharp, Paul Rhys, Joanna Page
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, The Brave, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Heather Graham – Boogie Nights, The Ballad of Little Jo, Twin Peaks, Drugstore Cowboy
    • Ian Holm – The Aviator, Day after Tomorrow, Lord of the Rings trilogy, eXistenZ, A Life Less Ordinary, The Fifth Element, The Madness of King George, Frankenstein, Kafka, Hamlet, Henry V, Brazil, Alien, Oh What a Lovely War
    • Robbie Coltrane – Harry Potter, Henry V, Black Adder, Tutti Frutti, Absolute Beginners
    • Ian Richardson – Becoming Jane, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Brazil, Much Ado about Nothing
    • Katrin Cartlidge – Career Girls, Breaking the Waves, Naked, Hotel Splendide
    • Joanna Page – Love Actually, Very Annie Mary
    • Lesley Sharp – The Full Monty, Naked, Vera Drake
  • Why? JD
  • Seen:  Twice before. Now: April 12, 2014
From one drug addict to another but this is a completely different kind of film and much better.
It opens to the harsh, dangerous and poverty stricken lives of a group of prostitutes in Whitechapel in 1888. In these short scenes we get to know these individual women.
Cut to an opium den where inspector JD is being vigorously awakened by Sergeant Robbie Coltrane to investigate the brutal murder of one of the women.
And so it starts.  A brilliant, drug-addicted, grieving widower and possibly psychic detective tries to solve the Jack the Ripper mystery.
It’s grim and atmospheric with meticulous visual detail of Victorian London slums, barbaric (to us) medical practices, and royal chambers. Class conflict and anti-Semitism are hinted at.
The story is cleverly and plausibly concocted to include several of the theories still remaining (as far as I know) around the identity of the Ripper, focussing on the degenerate syphilitic prince, grandson of Queen Victoria, and the Free Masons.
It’s quite a sad story really. And frightening as one after another of the women we get to know is murdered.  The love angle between JD and one of the prostitutes, played by Heather Graham (generally considered a bad choice for the part but I think she’s OK), is not totally convincing but we believe it anyway.  Robbie Coltrane is good as the Shakespeare quoting sergeant.
It’s a captivating and good looking film.            
             
3 ½ * of 5