Cassandra’s Dream: two brothers in financial trouble turn to their wealthy uncle for help… First off, this has more simplistic teenage-level melodrama than a papa roach album. It’s also full of good actors doing terrible acting, with dodgy accents… it’s hard to tell if it’s the shit script, stock characters (forenames only – a major pet hate of mine), soap-opera story or just bad direction. The characters are established through teeth-grindingly clichéd dialogue, not to mention that the entire story can be guessed at least ten minutes ahead at all times. To top it all off, it’s yet another Woody Allen film set in a romanticised version of a city, crammed with ra-ra artisan characters who have old-timey sensibilities (like a countryside drive in the old motor to a meadow picnic). By the time that Tom Wilkinson gets to inject a bit of acting and class in to this the film is already dead. Cassandra’s Dream is a piss-poor excuse for a tragedy; the biggest example of which is that this is what Allen’s career had come to.
Sharktopus: S-11 (50% shark, 50% octopus. 100% Deadly!) is a mutant military experiment gone wrong that escapes, unleashing a killing spree down the Mexican coast. Almost every montage of establishing shots are beyond naff, and look stolen from Joe Blogg’s home video camera. Despite a wacky premise, the story never goes anywhere interesting – and more disappointingly – it contains not a single original idea; ditto the script. The deaths are soft, and get very samey after the first few – splash splash, blood blood, scream scream… it just chugs along and after an hour I was dangerously low on interest. The only thing this has over most other b-movies is an insane level of skin on show; I wouldn’t doubt if this was the biggest employer of sexy extras in 2010, and a notable boost to the bikini industry sales figures – you’ve got to applaud the cinematographer for his efforts… Sharktopus is just like the title suggests; cheap, schlocky, and scraping the barrel for ideas – it’s crammed with bad acting (even for a B-movie), a high body count, buckets of blood and a dull, shirtless hero… so it ticks all of the boxes, yet its rigid adherence to the standard B-movie formula is what kills it off.
[Below is a tiny sample of the bikini gals that get a line – or scream]
Almost forgot about Sharktopus there
Senna: documentary on Ayrton Senna – a Brazilian F1 racing driver and superstar – from the late 1980s to his career-ending bender in 1994. Director Asif Kapadia misses a massive trick putting the emphasis on the Formula One seasons and not making more of the personality, background and life story of Senna – a great, highly watchable, person with a ton of charisma and charm to spare – it’s definitely more of a racing documentary than the biopic title would suggest. As the film pans out we see the trials and tribs of several seasons – focusing on the politics of F1 and the Senna/Prost rivalry – most of which is dramatic and juicy enough to keep a non F1 fan like me interested. There’s a couple of crashes that turn your stomach and the odd interview clip of Senna. An unfortunate aspect is that the picture quality is piss poor, being mostly lifted from VHS archive footage that becomes more tolerable towards the end as TV technology improved. While it’s a decent enough picture, i walked out feeling I didn’t know much more about Senna than when I went in, which was a bummer as he seemed a fascinating person.
Triangle: having endured a freak storm, friends on a casual yachting trip are rescued by a passing ocean liner, but find themselves in a trap! As soon as they step on to the ship it’s pretty much +60 minutes of relentless tension, and edge-of-your-seat atmosphere. The old haunted cruise ship is a great setting, with deck after deck of rolling corridors and a Shining-esque eerie vibe. When the story develops and people start being picked off the murders are bloody and violent, which is great for horror fans. The storyline is complex, yet not too flashy, or in-your-face, or explanatory – just brilliantly smart and unassuming. I went back and watched the first 10 minutes again, just to check that it was as clever as I thought… After finishing it, I sat for a for a while in disbelief – asking myself: did I really just watch an intelligent, brilliantly-executed, high-brow, low-budget, well-acted, horror film that scared and impressed for most of the runtime!?!? The answer: absolutely. This film is like a beacon of hope, proving that Horror films don’t have to be moronic, dumb, cliché packed affairs. Triangle ticks all the boxes!
The Tourist: an American tourist has a bad case of mistaken identity when the police and Russian gangsters believe he’s a wanted criminal. Step back for a second and consider the following: biggest actress in Hollywood; biggest actor in Hollywood; Oscar-winning director; writer of Usual Suspects; re-make of an interesting French film; and Timothy Dalton! On paper this is cinematic gold, however, on celluloid, it’s so far off the mark. To call the casting of the mains ‘stale’ would be an insult to the word – Jolie plays a seductive siren (good English accent though!) and Depp is an eyebrow-wagging bumbling idiot. Both appear to turn up, force themselves through the motions, then laugh to the bank. What’s worse is that the stronger supporting cast all share a handful of short scenes. The slow-paced story uncomfortably meanders towards an unsurprising finale – that doesn’t make any sense in hindsight. Not unlike The American, this is more of a throwback to the classic thriller films (than their trailers would suggest), but where Clooney actually acts the part, a vacant Jolie just stares on as the lens slowly zooms in on high-fashion clad arse, legs and neck – a big indicator of how weak everything else about the film is. On the plus side it’s efficiently shot, classically lit and what you see of Venice looks nice. The final product is OK, and just watchable but if you want to see Jolie frolic with some Russians and a few plot twists, Salt was far better.