27 July 2014

American Violet


American Violet 2008
  • Director: Tim Disney
  • Based on a book: No
  • Cast: Nicole Beharie, Alfre Woodard,Tim Blake Nelson, Will Patton,  Michael O’Keefe, Xzibit, Malcolm Barrett, Charles S. Dutton.
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Nicole Beharie – nothing yet
    • Alfre Woodard – Bopha!, Passion Fish, Hill Street Blues, Remember My Name
    • Tim Blake Nelson –  The Darwin Awards, Holes, The Good Girl, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Hamlet, The Thin Red Line, Donnie Brasco
    • Charles S. Dutton - Honeydripper, Secret Window, Homicide Life on the Street, Alien 3
  • Why? It sounded good
  • Seen: July 20, 2014.
The racism is real enough and Bush’s war on drugs is well documented. The case in this film is real or at least “based on a true story”.  We know things like this happen all the time.
Dee Roberts, a young divorcee with four small daughters, is caught up in a drug raid of white policemen against a working class black neighbourhood in a small town in Texas.  Raids like this are happening all over the country in Bush’s USA.  95% of cases like this end up with the accused taking “plea bargains” which means that they plead guilty, whether guilty or not, to get a shorter sentence.  Dee refuses and is chosen by the ACLU to sue the main villain in the case, the district attorney who is infamous for his racism and hard line militancy in the war against drugs.
We follow the domestic complications, the drama, the reasoning of the white men who have pledged themselves to changing the system.
In many ways it is a formula film of American justice winning in the end against American racism and sexism and corruption, proving that the system is basically good after all because the feisty sexy good looking young woman stands up against impossible odds. Like Norma Rae and Erin Brockovich.  Like these two films, this one is often too Hollywood pretty to be believable.
But it’s well acted and dramatic.  And just as I’m wondering about all the individuals who don’t win, the film ends with: “The United States has the world’s largest prison population. Of the 2.3 million people currently in prison, more than 90% accepted plea bargains.”

3 ½ * of 5

Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End 2007
  • Directors: Gore Verbinski
  • Based on book: No.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp,  Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Keith Richards
  • 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
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Orlando Bloom – Extras, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, Lord of the Rings et al, Ned Kelly
    • Kiera Knightly – Never Let Me Go, Atonement, Pirates of the Caribbean (the others), Love Actually
    • Jack Davenport – the other Pirates, The Boat that Rocked, The Libertine
    • Jonathan Pryce – Cranford, The Brothers Grimm, Very Annie Mary, Evita, Glengarry  Glen Ross, Brazil, Timon of Athens, Voyage of the Damned
    • Mackenzie Crook – Merlin (Cedric, Season 2:1), The Brothers Grimm, Finding Neverland, The Merchant of Venice
    • Bill Nighy - Hotel Marigold, Love Actually, Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part One, The Girl in the Café, The Boat that Rocked, Shaun of the Dead
    • Stellan Skarsgård - Thor, Mamma Mia, The Glass House, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Amistad, Breaking the Waves, Den enfaldige mördaren
    • Tom Hollander - Hanna, The Soloist, In the Loop, Valkyrie, The Libertine, Elizabeth the Golden Age, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, A Mother’s Son
    • Naomie Harris – Tristram Shandy, Twenty-Eight Days Later, White Teeth
  • Why? JD. 33nd in JD marathon
  • Seen:  Once before. Now: July 18, 2014
Double-crossing and triple crossing. I think this is going to be a film in which we don’t know who to trust.  It seems we can’t even trust Will Turner! And Will can’t trust Elizabeth.  And Captain Jack Sparrow can’t trust his sanity.
There’s a bit of grandeur and sadness in this one. Jack is brought back from the dead to a world where he no longer belongs. The British army and the East India Company are in the process of wiping out pirates, piracy and the freedom of the seas. Will and Elizabeth are having relationship problems and we discover that Davy Jones’s beloved is Calypso the goddess, who is none other than Tia Dalma.
The excitement is in the summoning of the Brethren Court of Pirates, in the chase to get there, and the many twists and turns along the way.  There’s more story here but that entails more confusion. But as before, what does it matter? There are some good laughs, actual drama, development of character and relationships and wonderful visual effects.  And the music is still great.
Could it be? A Pirates with a bit of substance? Most critics, it seems, would disagree, but I believe so. I do believe so.

4 * of 5

17 July 2014

Prometheus


Prometheus 2012
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Based on a novel: no
  • Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Kate Dickie
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Noomi Rapace  Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, Svinalängorna, Män som hatar kvinnor, Flickan som lekte med elden, Luftslottet som sprängdes (the last three are based on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, Swedish version) and a lot of Swedish TV programs
    • Michael Fassbender – Inglourious Basterds, Jane Eyre, Fish Tank, Hunger
    • Charlize Theron  The Road, Battle in Seattle, North Country, Monster, Sweet November, The Cider House Rules, The Devil’s Advocate, The Astronaut’s Wife
    • Idris Elba   Thor, The No. One Ladies’ Detective Agency, Twenty-Eight Weeks Later, Crocodile Shoes, Absolutely Fabulous
    • Logan Marshall-Green – Across the Universe
    • Kate Dickie – Red Road
  • Why? Ridley Scott, Noomi Rapace, the Alien films
  • Seen:  July 13, 2014
A lot was said about this film when it came out; opinions were mixed.  What concerns me is the religious tone some have claimed for it.  Hm. We’ll see, won’t we?
2089. The Isle of Skye. Cave paintings of figures pointing to the stars. “They want us to find them.”
2093. The space ship Prometheus. The myth of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans which made Zeus angry so he chained Prometheus to a rock and his liver was eaten by an eagle forever. I wouldn’t name my spaceship after Prometheus, would you?  But it has to do with gods and humans wanting to be gods etc, and the film is about Engineers, who made us, and humans who want to find out who they were and why they made us and why they abandoned us.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is, for sentimental childhood reasons, a Christian believer. She wears a cross and chooses to believe. She is one of the driving forces in the search on this far off planet for the Engineers. She and her companions find an enormous temple, thousands of dead beings with the same DNA as we have, a monster and a living Engineer who tries to take off to complete his destruction mission to Earth.
It doesn’t exactly go as planned for anybody and in the end SPOILER ALERT Dr. Shaw is the lone survivor with the talking head, ripped off from the amiable but sneaky robot David. When he says he can take her back to Earth she doesn’t want to go. She wants to go find the Engineers and ask them why.  Being a robot he doesn’t think why matters. Being human, she does.
It’s exciting, it’s visual, it’s as yucky as the Alien films, and Noomi Rapace is every bit as good as Sigourney Weaver. And I’m not just saying that because she’s Swedish. The whole cast is good.
So is it religious? It asks the where and why and who questions and that’s always interesting. The cross is silly if only because the whole concept of the film makes the Christian myth seem quite insignificant and Shaw’s choosing to cling to it is silly.  But we humans have long been and still are silly, even when we’re probing the deepest questions. Maybe especially then.
The film is worth seeing. It’s a worthy prequel to the Alien films.  And yes, another Prometheus film is on its way. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender will be back. I’m looking forward to it.                

3 ½ * of 5

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest 2006
  • Directors: Gore Verbinski
  • Based on book: No.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp,  Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris
  • 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
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Orlando Bloom – Extras, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, Lord of the Rings et al, Ned Kelly
    • Kiera Knightly – Never Let Me Go, Atonement, Pirates of the Caribbean (the others), Love Actually
    • Jack Davenport – the other Pirates, The Boat that Rocked, The Libertine
    • Jonathan Pryce – Cranford, The Brothers Grimm, Very Annie Mary, Evita, Glengarry  Glen Ross, Brazil, Timon of Athens, Voyage of the Damned
    • Mackenzie Crook – Merlin (Cedric, Season 2:1), The Brothers Grimm, Finding Neverland, The Merchant of Venice
    • Bill Nighy - Hotel Marigold, Love Actually, Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part One, The Girl in the Café, The Boat that Rocked, Shaun of the Dead
    • Stellan Skarsgård - Thor, Mamma Mia, The Glass House, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Amistad, Breaking the Waves, Den enfaldige mördaren
    • Tom Hollander - Hanna, The Soloist, In the Loop, Valkyrie, The Libertine, Elizabeth the Golden Age, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, A Mother’s Son
    • Naomie Harris – Tristram Shandy, Twenty-Eight Days Later, White Teeth
  • Why? JD. 32nd in JD marathon
  • Seen:  Twice before. Now: July 11, 2014
Dire straights indeed. Elizabeth and Will arrested. On their wedding day. Condemned to death. For aiding and abetting a criminal.  Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow.  Who we then see shooting his way out of a floating coffin.
After that it gets silly with Jack the god-king-captive of a gang of savages in the very worst of stereotype parody – but it’s funny and rollicking and exciting.
There’s not enough story to disturb the action or the laughs. It seems to be about Davy Jones’s locker and the heart locked into it because of unrequited love and Jack has to find it because...well, I’m not really sure why.  Even watching it the third time I don’t quite get it.  But that’s OK. It’s not for the intellectual profoundness that one watches The Pirates of the Caribbean, now is it?
Come to think of it though, a bit more story wouldn’t hurt.  And it does rather go on a bit.
So not the completely on-target hit of the first one but it still has laughs and nail-biting. Like much of the rest of the world I simply love Jack Sparrow.  I love Bill Nighy as well even if he has evil writhing yucky suction tentacles all over his face.
And the ending lifts the film to

3 ½ * of 5