Category Archives: Films – 3 stars

Glengarry Glen Ross

A small office of downtrodden real estate agents is shaken up when “downtown” decides it’s time to give them a kick up the backside. By the end of the month, the top two salesmen will get to keep their jobs, while the other two will be fired. The message is delivered as part of a brutal sales seminar by cut-throat über-slimeball Blake (Alec Baldwin). The rest of the film follows the four salesmen throughout the rest of the evening and the next morning, as they come to terms with this new hand fate has dealt them.

The film is adapted from a play by David Mamet, and director James Foley handles it with a very small-scale, theatrical touch. The story is played out mainly through dialogue in a handful of closely connected locations. The all-star cast put in tremendous, intense performances, but in the end I didn’t find myself emotionally connecting with them. It’s undoubtedly a good film, but I enjoyed it primarily in a critical sense.


Silly but fun. Off-the-wall characters, absurd plot, lots of cameos, and plenty of in-joke film references. The comic timing felt a bit off, though, and the pacing was uneven. I thought that in places the film was too eager to highlight its spoof status, and took its eye off being a good film in its own right. It never really caught its full stride, instead being satisfied with a collection of funny moments. If you like Ben Stiller (I do), you’ll probably like this.


I found this entertaining, but nothing special. In terms of story and plot, there’s no more to the film than “bad guy wants to open portal to Hell and destroy the world; hero must stop him.” So it has to rest on the characters, the effects, and the set pieces. They’re all good, just not great. It’s all drawn in broad brush strokes, but with far too little intimacy and intensity. A fun way to spend a couple of hours, but I’d been hoping for more.

Battle Royale

Being outside of my context, some of the social commentary obviously passed me by. What’s left is a stark, violent film about the violence and anger teenagers inflict upon each other–taken to extremes. Plus a lot of flirtation, crushes, and romantic angst under deadly pressure. Interesting, but not as good as it had been made out to me.

The Day After Tomorrow

If you can ignore the crap science (and nnnggghhhh, believe me, it takes some intense ignoring, but fortunately they get most of it out of the way at the start) this is a pretty good disaster movie. The story is nothing special (in the midst of a global superstorm, a father journeys to find his son, who is stuck in New York), but the special effects and cinematography more than make up for it. The imagery is breathtaking, and the city-scale effects are the best I’ve ever seen. The political backdrop is touchingly naive, but real-world political machinations don’t really make for a good summer blockbuster, do they?


Ordinary guy Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam) gets tied up in a complex web of futuristic corporate espionage involving multiple layers of double-crossing and brainwashing. The film is stark and minimalist, both in terms of its visual style (which is reminiscent of Vincenzo Natali’s previous film, Cube), and its milieu. The (near?) future world is left blank and generic, and the two rival corporations, Sunways and Digicorp, are left faceless apart from their heads of security, who bat Sullivan back and forth like an unwitting pawn. When the mysterious Rita (Lucy Liu) offers him a way out, Sullivan has to question not only who he can trust, but also who he really is. The film’s overall pacing is a bit slow and self-indulgent, leaving you too much idle time to predict the final outcome, but the last twist is executed very tidily nevertheless. (Also, watch out for a short but excellent cameo from the mighty Malcolm Xerxes!)

Intolerable Cruelty

As one-joke films go, it’s not bad: hot-shot divorce lawyer falls in love with serial fortune-hunter, and they begin a merry dance that will eventually lead them into each other’s arms. I’m sure it would have made a charming 1950s romantic comedy with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. The Coen brothers, however, have managed to turn this promising idea into a stilted, passionless slapstick. In their drive to show how crafty and scheming the two protagonists are, they fail to build any sympathy for them. There is on-screen chemistry between George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones, but I couldn’t see any reason to care about it. This is what happens when you take “quirky” and “clever” a couple of steps too far. Entertaining and funny, but lacking in warmth and wisdom.

Looney Tunes – Back In Action

Fast-paced, fun, and lightweight. Which is just what a Looney Tunes film should be, I think. The combination of live action and animation is well done. Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman are good human foils for the antics of Daffy and Bugs, and the film is stuffed to the gills with numerous amusing cameos. Seeing Timothy Dalton as a superspy whose cover is that of an actor playing a superspy was particularly good: we need to see more of him again. Steve Martin as the evil chairman of the ACME corporation struck the only sour note. He tries to out-cartoon the toons with a caricatured performance, and it just doesn’t work. If they wanted a cartoon villain, why not do a cartoon villain?


Alex and I saw this together at a Saturday morning matinee, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The plot, which centres around a mysterious series of events on the Spooky Island theme park, gives each member of the gang a chance to shine, and to show how well they’ve transferred from the original cartoon to the live action. The key is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a fair number of decent gags, too. Some will appeal to kids, and some will appeal to adults who grew up with the cartoon. (The Scrappy-Doo flashback scene is hilarious.) It’s just a good fun family film.

Finding Nemo

The animation may be jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the story felt more like a traditional Disney heart-warmer than an imaginative Pixar flight of fancy. Marlin’s Odyssey was a checklist of ocean-based set-piece encounters leading inevitably to him being reunited with Nemo. The encounters themselve are amusing, and filled with humour and surprises, but there is never any doubt about how the film as a whole will end. Pixar’s other films, Toy Story (1 and 2), A Bug’s Life, and Monsters, Inc., all created a sense of uncertainty: you knew it would turn out well, with the heroes pulling through in the end, but you didn’t know how they would do so. With Finding Nemo you can see exactly how it’s going to end; the only question is which stepping stones the writers will use on the way there.

Also, in all the other Pixar films, the protagonists themselves are comedic figures. In Nemo, it’s the supporting cast who provide all the laughs. Marlin and Nemo are the serious characters you’re supposed to empathise with, and who are designed to tug your heart strings. It felt emotionally manipulative in a classic Disney way: think of, say, Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King. Yes, it made me cry; but no, it didn’t make me happy.