Cinema Movie: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

the-first-movie-posters-for-star-wars-the-force-awakens-might-have-leakedWhy return of Star Wars means US cinema is still in the trailer park

Unless you have been living on a distant planet (presumably one in a galaxy far, far away), you couldn’t have failed to notice that a new addition to the Star Wars franchise will soon be upon us. It’s called Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), and the latest trailer was reportedly viewed online 112 million times in the first 24 hours of its release. Furthermore, despite it having a December release, opening day tickets have already sold out across the globe.

All this should come as no surprise, of course. Since the first movie was released in 1977, the Star Wars franchise has become something of a cultural (read: marketing) phenomenon.

Without delving to deeply into the backstory, known to fanboys the world over, let’s jut say that from relatively small beginnings, the Star Wars franchise has developed into a behemoth of Empire proportions, changing cinema as it went. But not for the good. Star Wars destroyed cinema; a scorched-earth policy that sowed salt into fields of creativity.

It all began in the 1970s, which, as any cineast will no doubt tell you, was cinema’s second golden age. The seventies (more accurately, roughly from 1967-1980) was the period when filmmakers, such as Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Paul Schrader and others flourished, armed with a education in cinema and a desire to make challenging, adult films, often with personal or political themes, and employing actors that would never have swashbuckled in the 1930s or partnered Doris Day 20 years later. The seventies opened-up many a career.

George Lucas was one such filmmaker of this period, along with his Indiana Jones buddy Steven Spielberg.

For Lucas, ejected form his role on developing Apocalypse Now (1979), Star Wars started off as a personal project. His hero is called Luke, after all, while his mentor Francis Ford Coppola habitually referred to him as “kid”, an epithet Han Solo reserves for Luke in the first movie. But more than that, the original trilogy (actually parts 4-6) has its roots in the counterculture, and the ecologically-minded southern California of the 1960s (witness Princess Leia’s renaissance fair get-up or Yoda’s zen-like musings).

Lucas has said that in his original movies the Emperor was modelled on Richard Nixon. If this is true, then the climax of the Return of the Jedi, which sees the might of the technologically-advanced, defoliating Empire brought down by a guerrilla army of jungle-dwelling Ewoks armed with makeshift weapons, is equated with the American defeat in Vietnam. Or, looking at it another way, according to Dale Pollock in his book Skywalking, the Empire stands in to the studio system that sought to thwart Lucas wherever it could, with the likes of the Emperor and Darth Vader standing-in for impassive studio executives.

It is the personal, then, that forms the germ of Star Wars. But, like the chap in the song that got the foreman’s job at last, George Lucas is calling the Hollywood shots these days. He has become the Emperor. But back when the original movie went into production in 1976, the year America tried to lift itself after the psychological blow of Watergate, Lucas (Luke) was on a different path; to pass on those pre-Vietnam values to audiences and to put the awe back into cinema.

In the first instance, he failed, and the unease with which the original trilogy accommodates both its suspicion and admiration for whizz-bang technology sees it hark back to an older era of the cold war (“Where were you in ’62?” asked the tagline of Lucas’s 1973 breakthrough, American Graffiti), and anticipate the its heating-up in the 1980s (it was no surprise that Ronald Regan’s Strategic Defence Initiative was nicknamed ‘Star Wars’, while his small-guy heart-over-head heroes are nothing if not proto-Reganites).

As for the second ambition, American cinema has never recovered from the initial impact of Lucas’ vision of filmmaking. Lucas, and he had an ally in Steven Spielberg, wanted to put the wonder back into movies, jettison complexity. Films were to be immersive, all about feeling. One thing about US cinema in the 1970s was that it exploded genre. Cowboys, gumshoes and gangsters were all killed-off by deconstruction. None of that for Lucas, who wanted no hint of irony in his work. The child-like wonder envisioned for audiences instead made them infantile. Very soon, Ronald Reagan, a child of the movies, would be in the White House. Complexity wasn’t an issue any more, in films or foreign policy.

Robert Altman, a cinematic maverick whose directorial career stalled in the wake of Star Wars and the era of the event movie, rudely called such films “trailer park cinema”. As stories became simpler, and studios no longer investing in potentially risky talent and projects, franchises and sequels became the norm, with producer Lucas and director Spielberg at the vanguard of big-budget spectacles that asked nothing of the audience except to sit back and enjoy the ride. Likewise, by casting WASP-y actors in key roles, Lucas turned-back to a former era. The matinee idol was back in fashion. All this was writ large in the Lucas-Spielberg Indiana Jones collaborations.

When Lucas returned to directing after a 22-year gap to direct the charmless Phantom Menace (1999), the first of a bloodless trilogy of prequels, his return was compared with those of Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick, two lauded filmmakers with similar absences from the big screen. But, an awful lot of pixilated water had flown under many a CGI bridge by then, and Lucas was best equipped for the new age. Maybe he prepared the ground too well; the special effects were now in control, with actors, little more than props. At least, with The Force Awakens, director JJ Abrams seems to have taken his actors away from the green screen.

Star Wars looms large over the blockbuster, in every special effect and subordinate leading actor. Every corporate shill who moves form the arthouse to the multiplex still claims they have smuggled a personal vision into the slam-bang action, just as Lucas did.

The original Star Wars trilogy contained enough quality (and merchandising potential) to entice studios to follow their lead. But those qualities died long ago, just as Lucas-the-idealist has been replaced by Lucas-the-mogul. The wheels of marketing tell us that these films are still a big deal (never underestimate the power of marketing to create a kind of collective amnesia – Back to the Future 2 (1989), anyone?), and in the internet age we continue to feel that they are still a vital part of our lives.

When the original Star Wars emerged in 1977, it seemed to come from nowhere, and it touched millions. The latter-day additions to the franchise are just one of the countless millions. Just another action flick. They are their own imitator.

DVD Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

***SUNDAY CALENDAR  STORY FOR MAY 11, 2014. DO NOT USE PRIOR TO PUBLICATION********** A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' sci-fi action adventure movie "GODZILLA," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. _Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

After witnessing what appeared to be nothing short of a cracking trailer, promoting an exhilarating action/disaster movie, I finally got time to watch Godzilla (2014) this weekend. What was previewed to be a major Hollywood blockbuster, actually turns out to be a Godzilla-sized waste of time.

Godzilla wasn’t designed with an all-star cast in mind. Emmerich had kind of made that mistake, with his 1998 flop of the same name. Even a star-studded line-up wouldn’t have saved this picture, though. Englishman Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a rather unconvincing job as Ford Brody, a Lieutenant in the US military, and the central human star of the film. The usually solid Ken Watanabe performed his role well, though, he wasn’t given enough screen time to really shine. Even if Watanabe’s role was reduced, it still lasted longer than Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston’s, who gives a mediocre performance as Brody’s father, a conspiracy-obsessed, former nuclear plant engineer who has lost it all.

After a fairly adrenaline pumping introduction, the movie falls into something of a lull as it tries to catch up with events taking place 15 years after the opening scenes. There’s some woeful, cheap dialogue concerning bones exploding from the inside (referencing the Space Jockey scene in Alien (1979)) to boot. From there on out, Godzilla simply falls apart.

The plot was designed to be simple – it ends up flat. It is designed to be realistic, but it falls very short of the mark. It does ask questions, but then answers them almost simultaneously, leaving you wondering a great deal about how everything in the plot came to be.

In short, Godzilla wishes to help the human race rid themselves of a pesky species of electro-magnetic pulse firing insects, known as the MUTOS. Don’t laugh, I’m being serious. I’m not sure Max Borenstein was, when he wrote the script. Anyhow, we are told by Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) that Godzilla has been around since before the dinosaurs, and so have the MUTOS (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), who feed on radiation. Okay, sure. As usual, the humans don’t know what to do, so they attempt to blow both species to Hell, only for Godzilla to save the day, and just in the nick of time. It’s a good thing, too, otherwise an overly predictable nuke would have wiped out San Francisco. Yes, that old chestnut.

Like the plot, the characters are also poorly developed. Nobody has any clue what role Dr Serizawa plays in Operation Monarch, how he knows what he knows about Godzilla. More mysterious is his partner, Dr Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins). All in all, they both have a good day at the office, but it’s pretty hard to cock up in what amounts to 30 minutes on the screen, n’est-ce pas? After 45 minutes of main character intros, you kind of feel short-changed that nobody really has anything more than a bit-part role in this film, some even less. The first 45 minutes – as it turns out – is way too long for a meet and greet, especially for characters who have names you don’t (and won’t) need to remember. Godzilla has a way of introducing characters, cutting them out of the film in the second act, then bringing them back for the obligatory hugs and cuddles when the coast is clear at the end.

On the plus side, Gareth Edwards’ direction is good, Alexandre Desplat’s score is below-par but fitting, and the special effects are superb. They’d have to be, though, wouldn’t they? These things are Godzilla’s only saving grace, really.

When the baddies are defeated, and all the smoke and rubble is cleared, what you are left with is a half-arsed, more expensive version of Cloverfield. I felt as though I was watching a very costly Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers episode, and that’s not what you want from Godzilla. I expected so much more. I want my money back.

The most surprising aspect of Godzilla is that it has received critical acclaim. I can’t imagine how. Having pocketed up more than $500 million at the box office, sequels are being planned. Perhaps the critics watched a different film from me?

As bad as Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) was, that cringe-worthy flick and this film have a lot in common. They both excel in smashing up buildings, they both see the army fire off countless rounds of ammo to no avail, they both emphasize the dangers of nuclear testing, and they both fail spectacularly to deliver anything that I would consider a positive waste of two hours’ worth of celluloid.

Neither film does Godzilla justice on the big screen. But, if you’re going to be settling down to watch a monster film, then to be perfectly honest – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – you’d be better off watching Emmerich’s again.

123 mins.

Online Movie Review: Star Wars Downunder (2003)

98a823d4ea25b7b6b28c211deb697fd1_Star_Wars_Downunder_Fan_Film_Home_00-920-470-cNow this, is fun. Director Michael Cox and co-writer Bryan Meakin made the fan film Star Wars Downunder (2003) ten years ago, but it has only just seen the light of day online, which is more than a little surprising, as it is a spoof/pastiche/tribute of near-perfect comedy pitch of Star Wars (1977), a little-seen avant garde flick that some of Picturenose’s readers may be aware of.
Anyway, Picturenose’s very good friend David Nicoll (who in fact first made us aware of the film) plays one Merve Bushwacker (ie, Luke Skywalker), a ‘Jedi Knight’ who is horrified to discover that his favourite Outback watering hole has been destroyed and raided of all its ‘amber liquid’ by one Darth Drongo. And it’s not just a one-off crime, either – Drongo is draining the land of all the golden good stuff, and Merve has got a serious thirst on him. What’s a boy to do? I should imagine that you can probably see where this is going from the description above, but worry not a jot – it’s rib-ticklingly funny, made with great attention to detail, truly excellent S/FX and a barnstorming central performance from Nicoll. Some of the silliness on display may well go over the heads of those not, ahem, ‘attuned’ to Aussie/Star Wars culture, but what the hell, it’s about time you learned, isn’t it?

Check it out here, you’ll love it, mate. 🙂

30 mins.

Dream Seekers Productions Movie Review: Little Reaper (2013)

69639_457572387641212_1390652825_nSee it and reap

Dream Seekers Productions’ latest short film, Little Reaper (2013), is a quirky comedy/horror about how even the Grim Reaper cannot control his teenage daughter. Instead of being interested in the family business, Little Reaper (Athena Baumeister) spends her time chatting with friends, text messaging about boys, and doing all normal things you’d expect of a teenage girl. Her father, the Grim Reaper (John Paul Ouvrier), has had enough of her passive ways and has decided to watch soap operas for a day while leaving his duties to the Little Reaper. Papa Reaper gives her careful instructions and a pager that warms her when someone has kicked the bucket.

Naturally, Little Reaper begins to slack at her work and instead of taking people’s souls to the after-life, she engages in pubescent chit-chat with her gal-pals. Deciding to focus her attentions on boys and finding new, cooler friends, it all seems innocent enough. However, there are dire consequences when there is no one to take people’s souls to the beyond. To say that the Grim Reaper is going to have a mess to clean up, is an understatement.

The short film was written and directed by Peter Dukes, who is building a nice repertoire under his belt. The Little Reaper is another installment that introduces new and engaging characters to his long list of unique horror characters. If you have a couple of hours, I recommend sitting down and watching each of Dream Seekers’ short films. You won’t be disappointed.

11 mins.

Cinema Movie Review: The Brass Teapot (2012)

image_167998_6Strange brew

Ramaa Mosley’s first feature film The Brass Teapot (2012) is a genius idea, but does not seem able find its own identity. The basic concept of the film is that a young married couple, Alice and John (Juno Temple and Michael Angaraino) are down on their luck – Alice is unable to find a job as her student debt piles up and John manages to be the first person to be laid off at his company. They are a couple in love, but are beginning to feel life’s pressure to keep up with the Joneses. Alice finds herself in an unusual antique store one day and steals, unbeknownst to her, a magical teapot.

Soon after the theft, Alice realizes the teapot magically materializes money whenever she hurts herself, or others. She lets John in on the little secret and soon a merry-go-round of black eyes, S&M sessions and sucker punches parade throughout the household. With each kick and poke, hundreds of dollars fly out of the teapot’s top. Before long, a stack of cash as high as the ceiling is burning a hole in their pockets. The young couple now has no worry in the world, until the money begins to dwindle and the original owners come knocking on their newly purchased mansion door.

The two young actors are both established in Hollywood and are regularly discussed about their future potential in cinema. The idea definitely sold them on the film and the studio probably gave them a shot to see what would materialize. However, it wasn’t their fault as to why the film fell flat, but the lack in direction. During certain aspects of the film, it played like a slapstick comedy and the next the film is trying to be a serious coming-of-age drama with moral meaning. The film would’ve been better off had they chosen one genre. The way it currently plays, the morals of the story are lost and the ripe idea for life lessons is wasted.

Overall, the acting was easily the highlight of the film, but there are just too many holes in the story for the premise to fall through. If there were ever a chance to give a film a mulligan and remake, I’d give it to this one. Otherwise, FORRRREEE! Stay away.

101 mins.

Cinema Movie Review: Blancanieves (2012)

BlancanievesBull fight? Snow White

The Artist (2011) showed that if done properly there remains an audience for the silent film genre. Blancanieves (2012), by Pablo Berger, grabs that audience and re-tells a creative Spanish version of the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Blancanieves tells the story of a young girl, Carmencita (Sofía Oria), who was set to be born under the best of circumstances. Her father was the most famous Spanish bullfighter in Seville during the 1920s, while her mother was deeply in love and pregnant with their first child. Everything was set for Carmencita, but how quickly things can change.

Due to bad luck, the new-born Carmencita is looked after by her eccentric grandmother. Her life begins normally enough – dancing in the garden with her grandma, passing the days playing with her pet chicken. But then tragedy strikes, and she has no one left in her life. Thinking she has no family or friends, she is forced to live with her evil stepmother. After a long trial, the young girl grows up and breaks free of her stepmother’s grasp. I won’t give away too many details about the re-told fairy tale, because that is half the fun of watching this film, but I will say that Maribel Verdu plays the stepmother role brilliantly. Her charm and beauty blinds everyone around her, but her actions are meaner than words. Most appropriate, for a silent film.

With any silent film, it takes a few minutes to allow your brain to prepare for this format. You have to allow the music to become the film’s voice and prepare for the breaks in scenery for the dialogue. Once you tolerate the tempo, the film begins to flow and you are able to appreciate the intricacies included within the film. For me, it took about ten minutes into the film before I lost the sense that I was watching a silent film.

For a lot of people, they refuse to watch foreign films due to the fact that they’ll need to read subtitles. Then again, there is the moviegoer that won’t see a silent film because it’ll take effort to watch it as well. Put the two together, and there’s the potential for grumbling. Therefore, if I recommend a Spanish silent film about a bull fighting Snow White, I’ll get a response to the effect of: ‘Are you seriously recommending this?’ Hear me out for a second – there are bull-fighting dwarfs, crazy dancing grandmas, evil stepmothers, and even S&M scenes. What else could you possibly want?

So, am I seriously recommending a silent foreign film about a bullfighting Snow White? Absolutely!

104 mins. In Spanish.

DVD Movie Review: Tron: Legacy (2010)

tron_legacy01Really not very good

It’s a competition, sometimes. James and I have a bit of an ongoing battle to see who can come up with the wittiest or most knowing title for a review. Sometimes, if pressed, we’ll just use something generic and get on with the business of writing. With Tron: Legacy (2010), I really couldn’t be bothered to waste my time racking my brains to come up with something creative, as it’s evident the production crew and writers couldn’t be bothered to come up with an entertaining and worthwhile sequel. The 19-year-old me (work it out for yourselves, if you’re interested) watched in awe as the original Tron (1982) unfolded, my head full of the possibilities of a cyber future filled with Tron-like cyberscapes that would make life so hyper-real real as to make William Gibson look like a Luddite.

Let me first address what I considered to be the good bits. The way in which Bridges’ face was de-aged and digitally enhanced was near-perfect. There were a couple of truly dodgy lip-sync moments but overall the SFX guys and gals did a stand-up job of making it believable. Some hated it, I personally thought it was acceptable. The soundtrack. A score exclusively containing arrangements by the French synthpop/house/electro (OK, they’re hard to pigeonhole) band Daft Punk. Accomplished musicians as they are, they brought several musical elements together to provide a coherent, intelligent and, above all, texturally fitting score to the piece. Better yet, it stands alone very well and was immediately shown the respect of being remixed and spent some time at the top of the UK dance chart in its original format.

So, on to the bad stuff. First and foremost, I would apply the word “insipid” to the whole thing – soundtrack excepted, of course. When I found out that shooting time was around sixty days and that over a year was spent in post-production, I realized what the problem was. They had metaphorically sucked the very soul out of it. The entire piece looked surprisingly washed-out compared to the lurid Super Mario colours of the original. As a side note, I’d better explain that as I feel that as this is supposed to be a sequel, it should be at least something a little bit like it. It isn’t, not really.

The script is clunky and irritating. While the story was linear enough, concessions seem to have been made in order to work in some old characters and pay at least a little homage to the old Tron. Quite honestly, it would have been better if they hadn’t bothered. It would have been better to introduce different characters but to keep the same feel of the universe, a little like Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) (but not Alien³ (1992), oh no). For a huge-budget film that’s supposed to be accessible to all ages and audiences, it was a terribly muddy affair in places – a thing that stuck out like a sore thumb when you have to watch stars like Jeff Bridges and Michael Sheen struggle to deliver a frankly piss-poor script that apparently took six different people to bring to life. Awful.

The other thing to watch out for is normality. Things are so normal it’s wrong. The mechanics and metrics of the light bikes are like those of the real world, they make noises and turn and skid. Light bikes make sharp, angular turns and frighten the bejeesus out of you. There’s water, tramps, unheard-of tribes, wind, rain, blood – this is all utterly wrong. The world of Tron was electric, stark, angular, neon and just, well, other. Trying to make it more like the real world is an exercise in futility. Why would you want to suspend disbelief and immerse yourself in a new world when you can look out of the window and see the same thing?

The whole thing is a concept that was designed by a committee and had a shitload of cash thrown at it to make it work. That the investors got paid and the studio turned a few shekels does not make a film a success. As it stands, it appears that the whole shebang was an excuse to foist more crappy 3D nonsense onto us, the ticket-buying public, while at the same time shoehorning some glaringly obvious product placement into a sow’s ear very much made up to be a silk purse. If all that sounded a little garbled, imagine how I felt after watching it. I made some popcorn and opened a beer while watching this, and that was easily the best part of the evening.

127 mins.

Cinema Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Hansel-and-Gretel-Witch-Hunters-HD-Movie-Wallpapers-620x350Wicked

It may be the state of mind I’m currently in, but despite the crushing critique coming from all directions, I actually really enjoyed watching Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013). I first saw the trailer without knowing anything about the movie, and I was quite amused by the simple idea of it – namely, the later story of the above-mentioned characters after they managed to kill the bad witch in her candy hut in the middle of the forest.

Well, let’s see. According to the director, Hansel (Jeremy Renner), and Gretel (Gemma Arterton), having realised that witch magic doesn’t work on them and having killed the children-eating monster from the candy cottage, decide to use their skills in a good fight against all the witches of the world. They are very good in what they do, they’re real pros, in fact. They have guns, knives and sparrows, they have leather clothes and they seem to know all kinds of martial arts. They have a reputation that proceeds them wherever they go, but they also have diabetes (Hansel) and hearts broken by their parents, who decided to leave them in the woods, alone (both). Now, 15 years after their first kill, they have a problem. In a (supposedly German) village, kids are being kidnapped by a witch. But not just any witch – a seemingly unconquerable one, whose evil plan is to make all the other witches immortal. Hansel and Gretel have to gather all their strength and get help from anyone who’s willing to offer it (even if these are white witches and sympathetic trolls) and deal with their mortal but brutal and unscrupulous enemy, the town sheriff (Peter Stormare).

And that’s it – that’s the whole plot, filled with fight scenes and shootings, gore, blood and heads smashed to the walls and ground. Pure entertainment (although it’s very bloody). None of the smart in-depth analysis of the Grimms’ story was touched upon, no special innovations, just a few funny exchanges and, apart from that a light, it’s not very original. Some films are made just for fun, however, and this is one of them.

88 mins.

DVD Movie Review: Le ballon rouge (The Red Balloon) (1956)

img_current_613_fg1The balloon goes up

‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ L.P. Hartley’s observation is one of the most over- and ill-used in literature. Your reviewer hopes this critique of Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 fantasy featurette will be an exception.

The little Parisian boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director’s son) and his gambol through a postwar monochrome Paris of bomb sites, poverty and austerity in pursuit of a toy red balloon with apparently a whimsical mind of its own, is one of the defining images of cinema; certainly of French and European cinema. It is perhaps the first great picture about childhood; perhaps the finest kids’ movie ever made; selling the pitch these days is almost beyond conception; even in the 1960s in a cinematically-creative country like France it must have been a trial; yet the result, which won Lamorisse a Palme d’Or for best short at Cannes in 1956 is a tour-de-force of atmosphere and innocence, an essay of just what the medium of cinema is capable; how many readers of this site, one wonders, fell in love with the movies thanks to The Red Balloon?

The DVD cover of this masterpiece shows the boy wagging an admonitory finger at his colourful, capricious ami. This embodies the (very childlike) anthropomorphism at the movie’s centre; we know balloons do not have feelings or memories, but we do. It is to Lamorisse that this anthropomorphism never spills over into schmaltz or sentiment; no mean feat.

The boy is not exactly raggedy, but neither is he rich; doubtless a child of inky fingers, a cartoon urchin of many grazes and clipped ears, he kicks balls against walls, dodges flics, scampers among derelict masonry (all that’s missing is a fat cleric or orotund nun or bushy-bearded grandee taking a prtfall; But it is neither he nor the balloon that lives longest in the memory; it is Paris, and the boundless freedoms that the balloon’s careering flight leads him through and/or toward, forever just out of reach and refusing to be tethered; not for nothing does Lamorisse make the balloon’s redness particularly vivid and the streets particularly grimy.

The street furniture looks eerily authentic because it’s real; only the splendid old open-platform, olive-green-and-cream Renault bus which boy and balloon catch is a restored museum-piece.

These are touches, along with many others, which gives the film a true soul of Francophile nostalgia in a way that, say, Amélie – inhabiting the same pre-Pompidou Paris – signally lacks. The charm is enhanced for us, at a distance, that this is a France we know little of; not the France of cars like the DS, of fast electric trains and the most modern of manners, but something altogether older, more…well, childlike. Both movies try and capture that Parisianiana that is as evanescent as the smell of the métro, but only Lamorisse truly succeeds. The French, of course, are past masters at this, as Proust and his madeleines attest. There are corny moments (given the above details, how could there not be?) such as when the red balloon is halted mid-flight by a peacock-blue balloon, held by, yes, a little girl, towards whom the boy turns and smiles bashfully.

Yes, of course it’s permissible; it will nonetheless confirm the prejudices of many about this film. Nonetheless, all movie buffs, no matter their degree of cynicism, should see The Red Balloon at least once, just to remind them what’s possible for a man with a movie camera. Enjoy it here.

35 mins. In French.

DVD Movie Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Was the force with it?

The first animated Star Wars feature hit cinemas back in 2008, and paved the way for a television series that began in the same year, which featured 30-minute ‘mini-movies’ from Lucasfilm Animation. Picturenose takes a look back, to hopefully open discussion and debate.

Truth be told, while this reviewer was a great fan of the first three Star Wars movies, with Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) the clear champ, I feel that Star Wars creator George Lucas was distinctly ill-advised to have made parts one and two, even though he finally got it right with Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). So, was the advent of TV series a worrying sign at the time, and how well has it slotted in to the overall mythos?

And, also for the first time, Frank Oz did not provide the voice of Yoda – Tom Kane it was.

Of course, the defensive gushing began very quickly – Lucas led the field. “I felt there were a lot more Star Wars stories left to tell,” he explained to StarWars.com. “I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of animation forward.”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars showcased an entirely new look and feel to the galaxy far, far away, on the front lines of the intergalactic struggle between good and evil, with favorite characters as Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) along with new heroes such as Anakin’s padawan learner, Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein). The villains, led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and General Grievous (Matthew Wood) are poised to rule the galaxy. The stakes are high, and the fate of the Star Wars universe rests in the hands of the daring Jedi Knights.

Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution Pictures President Dan Fellman told StarWars.com: “This is a breakthrough project – returning Star Wars to the big screen in a completely new way while beginning an exciting new chapter in George Lucas’s legendary saga. We immediately felt that it would be a fantastic theatrical event and are thrilled to be bringing it to moviegoers.”

“Nothing like this has ever been produced for television,” added Turner Animation Young Adults & Kids Media President/CEO Stuart Snyder. “For 30 years, Star Wars has shown that it appeals to a huge breadth of fans. The Clone Wars…will be appointment television for everyone in the family. We’re thrilled to be working with Lucasfilm again and very excited to be playing a role in bringing this remarkable adventure to viewers.”

So, how was it? Any one who wishes to put Picturenose in the picture would be very warmly welcomed – do drop us a line.

DVD Movie Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

The Mummy - The Tomb of the Dragon EmperorOh no, here comes The Mummy – let’s all walk away a bit faster…

With yet another rejuvenation now threatened for The Mummy (with Total Recall (2012) director Len Wiseman set to helm for a summer 2014 release) a quick look back at the final installment of the previous sand-shifting shenanigans franchise.

With its original director Stephen Sommers being quickly replaced by Rob Cohen (XXX (2002), The Fast and the Furious (2001)), and Rachel Weisz not returning to reprise her Evelyn O’Connell role from the first two Mummy films, it was fair to say that the omens did not look too good for the third installment, particularly as it was released in the US on the back of Spielberg’s latest Indy flick, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) which, while bloody awful, had obviously already taken mega-millions.

Brendon Fraser was back as Rick O’Connell and Maria Bello took on Weisz’s role, and had trained hard for the part (to make her “a bad-ass action chick”, in the star’s words), learning wushu (a martial-art), some kick-boxing, sword-fighting and rifle training.

Our hero is forced into mortal combat against the resurrected Han Emperor (Jet Li) in a story that moves from the catacombs of ancient China high into the Himalayas. Rick and Evelyn are also joined by son Alex (Luke Ford) and Evelyn’s brother, Jonathan (John Hannah) – the O’Connells must stop Han Emperor’s mummy, awoken from a 2,000-year-old curse, who threatens to plunge the world into his merciless, unending service…

It did feature much action, special effects and beautiful scenery, thanks to its on-location China shoot, but it really wasn’t any good, with bad writing, poor acting and plot holes. But hey! The next franchise might be better, right? Hmmm.

114 mins.