Category Archives: Films – 3 stars

Deja Vu

Yet more proof, if any was needed, that it’s really hard to make a good time travel film. This one is better than most, but it still has plot holes large enough to drive a medium-sized family car through. And they just distract from everything else going on. Still, it’s good to see Val Kilmer getting good work again.

Aeon Flux

Not nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. Beneath the polished surface of outrĂ© costumes, stark futuristic architecture, and gratuitous solemnity, there is actually a half-decent plot. There are enough cool sci-fi gadgets to keep the novelty value going all the way through, and although the conflict between the various factions isn’t particularly sophisticated (the twisty betrayals only go one level deep), they were certainly enough to keep my attention from wandering.

Plus, you get to see Charlize Theron in a variety of skintight outfits. Which is nice, I suppose, if that’s your kind of thing.


Good, stupid fun, full of unnecessary action and implausible stunts. I felt that Alex Pettyfer (who plays Alex Rider) was too bland to be sufficiently heart-throbby, but maybe that’s because I’m a) straight and b) old enough to be his father. Alicia Silverstone is still hot, even though she plays a housekeeper whose main role seems to be to shout “Alex!” repeatedly in a variety of exasperated tones. Bill Nighy is the best thing in the film, though. Worth watching just for the way he munches a biscuit.

The Machinist

For the first ten minutes or so I found it hard to see past Christian Bale’s radical physical transformation into a horrifyingly emaciated stick figure. I had heard about him losing an enormous amount of weight for this role, but I didn’t realize just how far he had gone.

In the film, he plays Trevor Reznik, a factory machinist who is losing his mind. This is the cause of his weight loss. He hasn’t slept in a year, and has developed obsessive-compulsive cleaning behaviours. At work, his concentration is shot, and he is starting to see things. Or is he?

The story follows Reznik as he struggles to come to terms with a reality that is fragmenting around him, and lies squarely in the territory covered before by films like Jacob’s Ladder, Memento and Fight Club. It deals with the layers of (un)reality in a much more “arty” way, though: the direction and cinematography is beautifully sparse, but quite self-consciously so. The twist at the end is predictable, but still satisfying. It’s a movie for the mind, rather than for the heart.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I haven’t been keeping up with my film news, so I walked into this film not realizing that it pulls a Matrix Reloaded at the end, i.e. it doesn’t end. It’s two-and-a-half hours of lead-up to a big cliffhanger. They don’t actually roll “To Be Continued” ahead of the end credits, but they might as well have done.

I DON’T LIKE THIS STYLE OF FILM MAKING. If you’re going to tell a story in that way, make it into a big-budget mini-series for TV, or string it out for a whole season. A week between episodes, I can just about handle (although I’m much more likely to watch it on DVD). But don’t make me wait a whole fucking year to find out how it ends. I don’t have that kind of patience. I’m happy to come back to the cinema again and again for more stories about the same characters (e.g. Bond, Mission Impossible, Harry Potter), but give me a nice self-contained story with a beginning, middle, and an end.

That said, the film is amusing enough for its duration. The word I couldn’t get out of my head while I was watching it was “spectacle”. The production values are astounding. The action sequences are brilliantly staged, combining thrills and laughs in equal measure. The make-up and effects for Davy Jones and his crew are grotesque and seamless. This is what a big-budget film should look like: absolutely fantastic.

But to counterbalance that, the script is lacklustre, and the characters are weak. The separated lovers are bland and devoid of on-screen chemistry, and even Captain Jack Sparrow with all his swagger isn’t as engaging the second time round. The themes driving the story are greed and desire, and it’s only towards the end that other elements such as honour, duty, and an emotionally significant betrayal start to creep in around the edges. It’s a good thing that is such a spectacle, because otherwise it would be a pretty soulless affair.

I only hope that the next episode (Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End, due in 2007) will somehow justify having used all of this one as an extended opening sequence.