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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

For My Viewing Pleasure - Ha Ha

I have ranted previously about the dearth of attractive new movies each week on the satellite Premiere Channel. Most weeks Sky offers its subscribers five films new to television, although some weeks it is only four if they are premiering a 'big' attraction like one of the Harry Potter flicks (which of course most viewers have seen previously in one form or another). Sky's myriad other film channels seldom offer any premieres, although this has not always been the case; they tend to schedule the same old selections, jokingly lumped into into Indie, Modern Classics, Adventure, Horror etc. etc. I suppose I should be thankful for the chance to add some relatively recent releases to my ongoing cinema knowledge, even if some of these are instantly forgettable.

This week I had not previously seen any of the premieres and have now lapped up four of the five -- I can not yet bring myself to watch "Amelia" (2009), another worthy and Oscar-chasing peformance from Hilary Swank. As for the other four, while the selection was better than usual, they were on balance underwhelming:

Death Warrior (2009): To deal with the worst of the lot first, this clunker is something of a vanity project from a 40ish Argentinian martial arts lunk called Hector Echavarria (no, nor me!). When not making slo-mo naked love to his adoring wife, he is brutally knocking off a selection of opponents (played by real MMA fighters), all of whom are supposedly in thrall to a Russian mobster and who must fight to the death as millionaire punters around the world place their bets. I nearly switched off before Ivan the Terrible came on the scene, but he is so wonderfully overplayed by Nick Mancuso that this character nearly made the movie watchable. Nearly!

New Moon (2009): This second film in the Twilight series, beloved of the so-called Twi-Hards, was hardly my cup of tea. While I actually find Kristen Stewart's Bella rather fetching as she is torn between the dubious charms of pasty-faced Robert Pattinson's Edward (when did vampires begin functioning in daylight?) and muscle-bound Taylor Lautner's werewolf Jacob, it all became rather yawnful, especially with the film's not very crafty CGI beasties. Of course mind always wins out over matter and Edward is indeed her own true love. Only two more parts of the saga to go I'm told! Neither Michael Sheen's Tony Blairish vampire lord nor a red-eyed Dakota Fanning added much to this two-hour drag.

Paranormal Activity (2007): I believe this low budget docudrama from writer-director Oren Reli made a packet, as some not very discerning audiences apparently succumbed to its low-rent scares. Filmed in his own house and featuring two inexperienced actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Stoat (playing Katie and Micah of course), we were meant to be enthralled by the dubious charms of these slightly obnoxious yuppies as they try to track the possible demon that may or may not have been stalking her since childhood. If video footage of a couple tossing and turning in their double bed night after night, with the occasional bang or thud, rocks your boat -- great. However the shocks, such as they were, were too slow coming and the so-called scary moments were too few and far-between. Of course a sequel has just opened by popular demand!

Julie and Julia (2009): This was the most enjoyable film of the four, but not quite as winning as I hoped it would be. As I have admitted previously, I have finally been won over by Meryl Streep having resisted her early 'let's talk in a funny accent' roles; however her embodiment here of the classic cook Julia Child, with her overbearing and screechy voice turned out a little hard to stomach (if one sticks to food metaphors). I also like Amy Adams; here she plays a dead-end government office worker and would be writer who blogs about mastering the 524 recipes from Child's first volume in 365 days. The film leaps between their two lives without completely immersing the viewer in either. Julia turned to cooking as a pastime while living in Paris with her beloved State Department hubby, a sweet turn from the versatile Stanley Tucci, and we watch her ongoing efforts to bring French gourmandism to the American kitchen. Julie, on the other hand, has a whiny underachieving husband and is hoping to use her blog as a stepping stone to greater things for herself. In short she is not a completely likeable character, although it is hard not to fall for this winning actress. One hoped that the two stories might have intertwined by the film's end, but we are only told in passing that Mrs. Child was not taken with the younger woman's efforts (which Julie interprets as 'she hates me'). I researched this; apparently the truth of the matter is that the venerable Julia decided that Julie could not be much of a cook if she had so much trouble with recipes that she had tested and re-tested for any would-be gourmet chef.
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