Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Blade II – Pulpy Goodness

I'm jetting off to Cuba on Thursday, so the blog's going to go cold for the next two weeks. I will be back though, and hopefully with a load of exciting stuff to talk about. 

I hope you all have a great few weeks.

Yours,
Benedict Seal


Wesley Snipes is back as vampire ass-kicker, Blade, in this sequel to 1998s ‘Blade’, one of the first of the new wave of comic book movies and one of the early successes.

This second film does a fantastic job of replicating all that was great about the first film, and, while replication isn't always a desirable trait for a movie to have, when the original was so good at knowing exactly what it was and going all out to entertain, it's far from a bad thing. Guillermo Del Toro (director of both this and the newly released ‘Pacific Rim’) adds his own twist on the source and ups the ante with moments of gloriously inventive and unpredictable direction aided by some thrilling kinetic camerawork.

He also boosts the scares with some spine-tingling body horror. But, through all this blood and gore, Del Toro somehow manages to maintain a consistently spot-on tone of joyous fun.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as talented as the director, and the story is largely uninspired, but still serviceable. The editing also left something to be desired, and at times seemed to inhibit the Del Toro’s visual style, making it feel choppy and harsh.

It’s Del Toro who provides the big draw here, perfectly matching, and elevating, the pulpy joy of the concept and delivering an exhilarating and thoroughly entertaining sequel.

★★★

Friday, 12 July 2013

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Pilot Review

This opening episode features Yoda and three clone troopers outnumbered and hunted by an army of battle droids.


Plot-wise it’s pretty threadbare and basically consists of a number of small scale skirmishes leading up to the final showdown. However, there is some room left for quieter moments, with time given to both the good guys and the bad guys. On the one hand, we have the droids interactions which are played for laughs, but don’t really work, and, on the other, the soul-searching and more complex interactions between Yoda and his troops, which proved to be far more interesting.

Also, I don’t know whether it’s standard for cartoon serials, but it seemed very much like a standalone episode, with characters given no real introduction. So, while I wasn't really sure what I was watching, it was kind of fun.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Prometheus – More questions than you can shake a stick at . . . and less answers than you can too

'Prometheus' had a strange effect on me. As I was watching it, it was as if I was trying to piece together a jigsaw; a jigsaw that I expected to fit into, and expand upon, 'Alien'. Instead, I found myself taken along with the film and, by the time it finished, I was left with a few pieces that fit onto the Alien jigsaw . . . and some left strewn across the table. But, I think I have it. The jigsaw is complete, but it’s not what I expected. I am left with something beautiful, something unexpected . . . something not quite right.


Prometheus shares "strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak", or so says Ridley Scott (who directed both films). So what we're left with is something at times so familiar, and yet so (excuse the pun) alien.

Something that Scott can be relied on to bring to all his films, pretty much without fail, are stunning visuals. He has an artist’s eye, and the huge budget gives him the chance to use it to its full effect. The opening sequence is absolutely breath-taking as soaring cameras gracefully survey majestic vistas.

In just a couple of minutes the audience has been promised answers, and not just to the questions raised by Alien or 'Blade Runner' (which also exists in the same universe), but also to the big questions that have been puzzling mankind for millennia; where do we come from and why are we here?

This is cinema on a cosmic scale; dealing with themes of evolution, deities and the significance of man. But, in the end, the contrived answers we are given just lead to more questions, some of which get answered, however many of them don’t. This is ‘2001’ territory. Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterclass manages to cover the cycle of mankind, from its inception right through to the end of life as we know it, and then on to a possible rebirth. The brilliance of 2001 is that it deals with the meaning of life and the universe, but it never lingers long enough to get bogged-down or to suddenly feel the need to justify any contrivances with even bigger contrivances. It gracefully skims across the surface of everything we know - and everything we don’t - leaving the audience to interpret it as they see fit. Prometheus is far less subtle. In a way it’s 2001 for the 21st century blockbuster crowd. Or, arguably, it’s 2001 made by people far less talented than Kubrick . . . or its 2001 made nonsensically by people who think that they are clever, but aren't.

But, whatever Prometheus is or isn't, it is not a straight-out, lowest-common-denominator popcorn flick. It does not require the audience to leave their brain at the door in order to watch two hours of explosions and car chases, and it should be praised for that. The fact that a film this big is brave enough to explore these huge topics is surely worthy of people’s time and money . . . however successful the answers may or may not be.

★★★★

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Shield Pilot Review – Hook, Line and Sinker

For my second TV pilot review I went with police drama with a twist, The Shield. A show that finished in 2008, but is considered by some to be one of the greatest shows of all time.


It’s the final moments of this pilot that really did it for me and, as far as I can see, everyone else who loves this show. That one moment threw an unexpected punch that left me confused, shocked and totally hooked. Up until that, I’d spent my time drawing unfavourable comparisons to ‘The Wire’, but there were some moments that worked really well and looked to set up some interesting ideas. I liked the spread of characters and the multiple narrative threads worked. But again, all I am really left with is those final few seconds . . .