Wednesday, March 02, 2011

February Film Highlights

Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924 Russia) Yulia Solntseva, Igor Ilyinsky, Nikolai Tsereteli, Nikolai Batalov, Vera Orlova. Dir: Yakov Protazanov

A rocket engineer dreams of life on Mars while his wife is befriended by bourgeois conmen. Famous for abstract sci-fi scenes, but is largely dominated by a tedious plot involving dastardly upper class types cheating the honest workers. The ending, however, is unbelievable. Even martians can be part of the revolution...


Edge of Darkness (2010) Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston. Dir: Martin Campbell.

Revenge is suspected when a cop’s daughter is killed outside his home, but could she have been the target? A remarkable TV series becomes an unremarkable thriller. The subtly, scope and mystery of the series are stripped back to create an average conspiracy yarn that isn’t special in any way.


The Social Network (2010) Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Arnie Hammer. Dir: David Fincher.

The founding of Facebook and how it drove two friends apart. A drama about youngsters with high IQs and low emotional maturity. A surprisingly classical story of envy and ambition. Sorkin’s script is as witty and fast paced as you’d expect, though whether its fair on its subjects is debatable.


Dracula (1931) Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan. Dir:Tod Browning.

A vampire comes to England to stalk new prey. First half boasts atmospheric visuals and stylish direction, but in England, Browning seems to get bored, though the anti-climactic script doesn’t help. Nevertheless, easy to understand why it’s influence has lasted. Lugosi, Frye and Sloan define their roles to this day.


Tarantula (1955) John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll. Dir: Jack Arnold

Scientific experiments to grow large animals gets out of control, unleashing a giant tarantula on a small town. Although it’s just a giant monster B-movie, the makers have taken time to make the effects as good as possible and to provide a respectable back story. Good quality nonsense.


Death Proof (2007) Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Rose McGowan. Dir: Quentin Tarantino.

A retired stunt driver gets his thrills by stalking girls on the road and crashing his car into them. Admittedly too talky, but it does make you care about the characters, making the visceral and brutal action all the more terrifying. A tense and exciting low-fi thrill ride.


Return of the Vampire (1944) Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch, Miles Mander, Matt Willis. Dir: Lew Landers.

A vampire thought dead and buried is reawakened during an air raid and avenges himself on those who vanquished him. A fairly run of the mill Dracula retelling; the wartime setting has potential, but it isn’t realised, and the location shooting simply highlights how inadequate the sets are.


V For Vendetta (2006) Huge Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Tim Piggott-Smith. Dir: James McTeigue

A masked avenger pledges to bring down Britain’s fascist government on bonfire night. The intent was to update a story about Thatcherism, fascism and anarchism, and make it a contemporary tale of conservative extremism. Really though, just an above average superhero adventure, with some strong sequences, but some clubfooted dialogue.