Saturday, August 21, 2004

Movie Review (The Village)...

The Village

Since 1999’s ‘The Sixth Sense’, the words “written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan” have been associated with high quality storytelling, supernatural thrills and of course the, by now obligatory, twist ending. For his fourth feature film, he has not strayed too far away from the formula that made his name. The Village has had the misfortune of being marketed as a straight up horror film, when it would have perhaps been a wiser decision to promote it as what it is; a period set gothic romance with just a hint of horror.

Ivy, played magnificently by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a blind girl living within a small rural community, who falls for the quiet but curious, Lucious (Joaquin Phoenix). As a rule, the villagers must not venture past the border separating them from Covington woods, as the woods do not belong to them. In the woods lurks a race of mythical creatures, known only as “those we do not speak of” with whom the villagers have forged a truce. In exchange for not entering the woods, the people of the village will come to no harm. Of course, rules are made to be broken, and when Lucious decides to test the boundaries of this strange truce, the creatures respond accordingly.

Shyamalans direction is faultless here. A master of tension, he plays with the audiences pre-conceived notions of what to expect. Every period detail is meticulously recreated and beautifully photographed, while the performances he elicits from both the unknown newcomer Bryce Howard and experienced Oscar winner Adrien Brody, only compounds the fact that Shyamalan is truly an actor’s director. After all, this is the director who managed to coax not one, but two subtly brilliant performances from the usually one note Bruce Willis, in both ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Unbreakable’. Add to that Haley Joel Osment as the kid in ‘The Sixth Sense’ and Mel Gibson’s career best turn in ‘Signs’ and one may start to see a pattern developing.

Wiliam Hurt and Sigourney Weaver provide support, as two of the elders in charge of the self-sufficient village, and while not given a great deal to do, bring a much needed gravitas to their respective roles. All in all a hugely successful movie, masterfully executed and brilliantly performed, 'The Village' is highly recommended viewing.

4 out of 5

Sunday, August 15, 2004

DVD review…

The Bourne Identity Special Edition

Matt Damon stars as amnesiac super-spy Jason Bourne in this 2002 thriller from director Doug Liman. Adapted from the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name, The Bourne Identity is the first of a proposed movie trilogy. Left to die at sea after a planned assassination goes wrong, Bourne is discovered with two bullet holes in his back and no memory of his past, a perfectly staged introduction to a fascinating character.

Franke Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, stars as Maria. A disorganised woman, who we meet trying (unsuccessfully) to negotiate a new American visa, Maria is Bourne’s polar opposite. A fantastic supporting cast including the always entertaining Brian Cox, Adaptation’s Oscar winner Chris Cooper and King Arthur himself (Clive Owen) all lend themselves brilliantly to their roles, helping to maintain the gritty, realistic tone of the picture.

This is the anti James Bond. Although they share the same initials, the too super-spies couldn’t be more different. While Bond escapes the most ridiculous megalomaniacal foes every time without injury, while discarding each one night stand as yesterday’s news, Bourne feels pain. He gets hurt. He falls for the ladies, not vice versa. He looks ordinary (well as ordinary as Hollywood ™ will allow). But that’s the idea. Who would suspect a short-arsed regular Joe of being a thirty million dollar killing machine?

Video and Sound Quality:
- The film is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic widescreen.
- The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Special Features:
- Deleted Scenes.
- Optional ‘all-new’ beginning and alternate ending.
- Inside a fight Scene
- New interview with Matt Damon on the set of The Bourne Supremecy.
- Feature on novelist Robert Ludlum.
Overall, a very satisfying package. Although a director’s commentary would have been welcomed.

Overall Score: 4 out of 5

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Movie Review(King Arthur)...

King Arthur

'Let me sing with inspirationOf the man born of two nations,Of Rome and of Britain...... Arthur the blessedLed his assault from the Great Wall...'
by the 6th century Welsh poet, Taliesin

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), this version of the King Arthur tale claims to be “the untold true story that inspired the legend”. Starring Clive Owen (Croupier, The Bourne Identity) as the titular hero, Fuqua attempts to separate the man from the myth, with varying degrees of success. A man of Roman and British parentage, Artorious is sent on one last mission with his knights Lancelot, Galahad, Bors, Tristan, Dagonet and Gawain, in order to receive their discharge papers, and well deserved freedom. As the Saxon army is steadily progressing toward Hadrian’s Wall, the Romans decide to retreat from Britain, giving Arthur and his knights the option to return to Rome or their ancestral homeland in Sarmatia. Indigenous guerilla armies
called 'Woads' see themselves as the true rulers of Britain, devastated by generations of Roman rule.

Despite some inventive action set pieces, including a battle atop a frozen lake, King Arthur is ultimately nothing more than an exercise in mediocrity. Clive Owen sleepwalks his way through what could have been a breakout role, while Keira Knightley as Guinevere is given surprisingly little to do, despite covering most of the film’s poster. Obviously the marketing department decided to try to capitalise on her ‘next-big-thing’ status. By far, the standout character is Ray Winstone’s knight Bors, providing occasional comic relief, a welcome alternative to the gloomy tone. Stephen Dillane’s brief screen time as Merlin is effective if inconsequential.

No doubt inhibited by a 15PG certificate, the battle scenes are mostly stale and uninventive ‘Braveheart’ clones. The complete lack of crucial conviction from the actors is the films real downfall. Uninspiring locales, average performances and a lead character drowned out by plot exposition also contribute.
From the moment the heavily worded prologue appears on screen, you will most likely experience that unshakable feeling of deja vous.
Painfully Average.

2.5 out of 5