Amélie & The Italian Job

One unexpected disappointment and one unexpected joy of a film.

We’re in a hotel in West London for the New Year celebrations and we watched two movies before heading down for dinner across midnight.

We started with the original Italian Job which was shown on the television. It’s one of those classic films that you are supposed to have seen but neither of us had and so we watched it. I don’t think it mattered to either of us how much we knew (or didn’t know) about the film (‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’) as I think we both came away with a disappointed feeling. It’s considered a classic British film but it didn’t come across that way. Michael Caine is excellent, Noel Coward was interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen Benny Hill act away from his TV show before.Don’t get me wrong, it is a good film, and I enjoyed it but this was certainly a case where the preceding reputation heightened expectations too much.

On the other hand, I knew nothing about Amélie except it would be the second subtitled film in as many days and I am not a big fan of them. Yet again, however, I was surprised by the film and the interesting side of Paris you see through Amélie’s eyes. And again, it’s a well shot, colourful and stylised film and I only wish I had been a little more awake to appreciate it fully: it’s full of wonderful moments as Amélie decides to help her friends in her own quiet, special way.

You have to see The Italian Job but you should see Amélie.

Shrek and Johnny English

Two Christmas Eve movies: one was great the other wasn’t.

When I was in Florida earlier in the year I went on the Shrek-themed ride at Universal but really didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t been remotely interested in seeing the film. The Shrek experience was OK but I didn’t tush out to rent the DVD. Earlier today, however, Shrek was one of the Christmas Eve movies on the TV and I thought I would give it ago.

I have to say that I am very pleased that I did. It’s a thoroughly engaging movie of the classic fairy-tale variety that’s well animated, well-voiced and – most importantly – it’s a well-told story: a Prince called Farquaad (who’s not very nice) despatched a green ogre (are Ogre’s all green?) and a donkey to rescue a princess from a tower. See, it’s a classic fairy tale already!

If I must add Shrek 2 to the DVD rental list then you must certainly make sure you see this – it’s sure to become a classic piece of animation.

So while we were in the mood for a film we flicked to one of the movie channels to enjoy the delights of Rowan Atkinson in the James Bond spoof, Johnny English. It’s full of predictable – but well executed – jokes where English’s able assistant saves the day. Of course there are mistaken identity jokes, falling-down jokes and poo jokes. It may have been a great idea before the Austin Powers franchise but this is all a bit too weak, too late. But you might find something funny in it if you are an Atkinson fan but it didn’t really work for me.


Surprisingly enjoyable.

Paycheck film poster

Essentially the plot runs like this: Ben Affleck reverse engineers technology and then has his brain wiped so that he can’t remember doing it. Of course, something happens and he has to remember. Luckily, he sent himself clues and we all get to play along and workout what the twenty items all mean and how he will (more-or-less) save the world.

Surprisingly enjoyable.

Kill Bill (Volume 2)

Rent Volumes 1 and 2 and unplug the ‘phone. You won’t regret it.

Continuing her quest for revenge, Uma Thurman is back as the unnamed bride in Kill Bill (Volume II). If you’d read my take on the first one then you would realise that I was destined to see this as quickly as Love Film would send it to me. The bride has several members of Bill’s gang of assassins (Deadly Viper Assassination Squad) to remove and she hits the ground running. This time, however, we learn a little more of the background to the trail of blood and we get to meet Bill himself. There is, perhaps, more emotion to this film (particularly in Uma Thurman’s part) than the first and the violence is, perhaps, less stylised and more realistic. I am truly amazed how much I have enjoyed both the Kill Bill movies and I will have to reassess my opinions of Tarantino’s work.

Rent Volumes 1 and 2 and unplug the ‘phone. You won’t regret it.

Down With Love

Down With Love is my Saturday night in movie.

Down with Love Cinema poster
Down with Love

Supposedly, the Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger romantic comedy Down With Love is an attempt to recreate the new York City of 1963 (some say to recreate Doris Day/Rock Hudson’s ‘Pillow Talk‘). As I haven’t actually seen Pillow Talk it’s hard to compare the two but most reviewers suggest the Doris Day comedy is considerably more sophisticated.

Still, for a Saturday night on the sofa this wasn’t so bad. It had amusing moments. Zellweger is Barbara Novak, in town promoting her smash-hit book that carries the same title as the film and they’ve tried to make her look the part of a 1960s New York girl – I am not sure if they were that successful. McGregor is Catcher Block, the cad-about-town investigative magazine journalist who has a string of lovely ladies after him. Inevitably he is to interview her for a magazine article and the chase is on. Both performances are confident but certainly not great. David Hyde Pierce, as Block’s publisher, seems to repeat his role as Frasier’s Niles but that’s no bad thing as he puts in a solid, amusing supporting performance.

There’s a great pay-off (which I shan’t spoil) but suffice to say Zellweger’s long monologue is impressive and, apparently, took six takes to get right. It’s one of those films where you need to watch the credits as there’s a musical scene (apparently shot at the request of the actors) over the end titles which is well done.

Down With Love is amusing for the most part but it’s kind of predicable in many places but it was a good Saturday night sofa film. See it and smile.

A Mighty Wind

IMDB Says, “Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.

A Mighty WindSo the set-up of the DVD we watched last night was a television reunion of a few old folk singers who had hits in the sixties. Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind isn’t as good as Best In Show or This Is Spinal Tap but it’s a passable and amusing way to spend an evening. It seemed less realistic than other spoof-documentaries and I found some of the deleted scenes on the DVD to be funnier than the movie itself. However, there are some good performances and interesting soundtrack and it does make you smile.

Worth taking a chance on.


Fun DVD with a cute hunk as lead.

daniel letterle in campTo be honest, the reason I put Camp on the DVD list from LoveFilm is because Jase’s review last year sent me to the official site which made me think it looked cool. It was, I guess, a typical teenage rites of passage movie with an interesting twist as it is based at a summer camp based on mescal theatre. It’s fun and interesting – some great performances and some fantastic singing. It’ll not blow you away but it will make you laugh (and it may make you cry). Daniel Letterle as Vlad is, of course the heartthrob that we’d all love.

Oh, just go watch it. Laugh and sign then order the soundtrack (I just did!)

Kill Bill (Volume 1)

I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I loved it.

When you finally start to understand the plot of Kill Bill (Volume I) you will see that Uma Thurman wakes from a coma and is determined to seek revenge on those (namely Bill and his crew) who put her there. For me, Quentin Tarantino usually means more violence than I am prepared to stomach but in Kill Bill (Volume I) it’s almost comic book (the blood spewing from the severed arms will – sadly – amuse me for quite a while). The acting is excellent (Uma is brilliant and was Lucy Liu). The staging of the fight sequences is unlike anything I have ever seen before and, although I am still trying to figure some of it out, I am pleased I rented it and not a little disappointed that I didn’t see it in the cinema.

I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I loved it.

Nicholas Nickleby

A good adaption of the Dickens Novel

I am not sure if it was all the time spent wandering the streets of London earlier, but PY and I decided to rent a movie this evening and, given that it was already in the house thanks to (formerly dvdsontap) we watched Douglas McGrath’s adaptation of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.

I didn’t know the story and really didn’t know what to expect. I imagined a period drama and, in truth, I only added it to our rental list to see how Charlie Hunnam performed in a role that was so different from some of his previous work. I was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

The story may – or may not – be faithful to the book but as a story of a young man who must look after his family following his father’s death it was very well done. Hunnam was better than I expected, Christopher Plummer as the Uncle was fantastic and Jim Broadbent was wonderful as Squeers the schoolmaster. Juliet Stevenson was also brilliant as his wife, Mrs. Squeers.

What surprised me most was how well the comedy worked. Parts of the story are very bleak but Dickens used comedy as well as tragedy to make his points and it comes out very well. It’s not belly-laugh humour but the wit is straight to the point.

And, being a DVD, I always try and look at the extras. Douglas McGrath’s Director’s commentary shows how much thought goes into the parts of the film that pass you by.

Recommended as a great period drama that plays well today.