Isn’t the last day of the year a fine time for beginning things?
Content Sponge! with its superfluous exclamation mark will be an ambiguously titled semi-regular feature on this ‘blog. It will be less about the happiness of sea sponges and more to do with my brief commentary on films and television seen in the last week or two. I review films for AccessReel, but I do see things that I don’t write about over there. I may even use this piece of cyberspace to talk about books read. If I ever finish reading anything, I’ll let you know.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4 (2011)
A high-octane adventure thriller with edge of the seat action that will have you begging for less. OK it was me who wanted less. Most of the folk in the cinema seemed to be having a fine time. Particularly the talky couple behind me who felt every near miss and marked it with an “ooh!” or an “aughh!” and even at one point “Run!”
Tom Cruise is playing Ethan Hunt for the fourth time. And is now surrounded by a team of more human spies, than we saw in the first two munted attempts at this franchise. Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton make an impression and Simon Pegg effortlessly pulls off the much needed comic relief role of Benjy. There was so much kinetic jumping around stuff in this flick, that by the climax I had run out of concern for the outcome. However, director Brad Bird has delivered an exciting live-action pic. (7/10)
THE THIN MAN (1934)
Nick and Nora Charles are an attractive rich couple who dabble in private investigation. William Powell and Myrna Loy play characters who trade quips and knock back an alarming amount of alcohol by modern standards.
The Thin Man of the title is the missing scientist that the Charleses are searching for. The ludicrously twisty plot is fun, the banter is amusing and the final gathering together of all the suspects is far more entertaining than when Hercule Poirot does it. There have been attempts to remake this formula, but pre-Cold War and in glittering black and white seemed to be the perfect conditions for this to work. (8/10)
Marion and George Kerby, another rich and attractive couple (played by Constance Bennett and Cary Grant) are killed in a car accident and return immediately as ghosts. They have lived quite self-centered lives so decide they need to do a good deed to travel to the next plane. They fix on the manager of the bank in which George was a major shareholder. Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is living a life of quiet desperation. The ghostly couple change his world completely by getting him into trouble and encouraging to loosen up and have fun.
This screwball-esque comedy is loosely paced but Bennet, Grant and Young are at the top of their form. Like The Thin Man it revolves upon the very out-of-fashion idea that the Idle Rich make fantastic company. (8/10)
NEW YORK: A DOCUMENTARY FILM
Ric Burns 8 part 17 hour documentary series is an amazing achievement. It covers the last 400 years of New York’s history and does so in great detail and with a dazzling array of historical opinions. The series was begun in 1999 and completed in 2003. The final episode is devoted to the World Trade Center.
I finally caught up with the last three episodes of the series. Detailing the post war years, the rise of the car, the destruction of the neighbourhoods, the de-industrialisation of the city and the financial crisis of the mid 1970s. The cross currents of political and racial tensions are brilliantly handled. David Ogden Stiers (Charles Emerson Winchester III from MASH) is an excellent narrator even when some of the prose he’s given is less than sparkling. The structure and historical vision of this series make it a gripping watch, particularly in its second half. (8/10)
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (2009)
Yeah, the Beeb’s new telly version came in two whopper parts and, from memory, seems to be a fairly accurate rendering of the plot of Emily Bronte’s groundbreaking novel. Unfortunately, the stylistic choices of this production made the emotional connection of Heathcliff and Cathy seem ludicrous.
Heathcliff comes off as a whiny emo who, as played by Tom Hardy with long flowing locks, bears an uncanny resemblance to comedian Miranda Hart. You have to partly care about Heathcliff for this story to work, but I found myself thinking, God not you again, whenever he turned up to snipe at Cathy (Charlotte Riley) or Edgar (Andrew Lincoln) and lay some manipulative bullshit on them. Burn Gorman plays Hindley and, as we saw in Torchwood, he likes to turn up the acting to 11. His performance here is hilariously over the top.
This mini-series needed less realism and more of a more dreamlike atmosphere for us to have sympathy with the towering emotions of Cathy and Heathcliff. (8/10)
And A Happy New Year To You All!
Phil Jeng Kane