July movies

Genova

Quite a disappointment. I was keen to see a place I know so well (and which has featured in so few movies) on the big screen, and I was surprised at how much time they spent introducing and describing the location (some of the early scenes almost felt like a commercial aimed at tourists), but once I’d got over the excitement of recognising where scenes were shot I tried to pay attention to the plot and characters and oh my god I’m so bored. I haven’t looked at my watch so much during a film since Benjamin Button. A succession of interchangeable and limp scenes drift across the screen, never cohering or building up to any kind of climax. The premise is promising, the theme clear (people’s different ways of dealing with grief) and the spooky elements could have made this a Genoese equivalent of Don’t Look Now, but plot strands are abandoned, characters go nowhere and there’s a stupid “Everyone has a big hug and lives happily ever after” ending. To add insult to injury, the digital cinematography is murky and the sound mixing is awful, leaving half the mumbled dialogue incomprehensible.

Coraline

I read the book when it first came out some years ago, so plot-wise I knew what to expect. It’s a bit more colourful and wacky than I remember the book being, but the design and photography are wonderful, and the characters well animated. This was the 2D version, by the way. The 3D version wasn’t available at the cinema I went to, and besides, I remain unconvinced that 3D is anything more than a gimmick. Also, I saw this in Italy, where it was titled “Coraline and the Magic Door”. Italians seem to prefer movie titles to give a clearer idea of what the film’s about. A few examples off the top of my head: Jaws was called “The Shark”, Home Alone was called “Mum, I missed the plane!”, Airplane! was called “The craziest aeroplane in the world!”, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was called “If you leave me, I’ll erase you!”

Sunshine Cleaning

So-so. Basically an amiable enough family drama with the “twist” being that the protagonist goes into the crime scene clean-up business. There are a few amusing moments and the cast is good, but it could have been pushed more in one direction or the other – either go really dark, or play up the black comedy aspects. Worth a look if it’s on TV one evening and you’re at a loose end, but not especially memorable.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The series seems to be split in half: while the first four books (and films) were exciting and packed with incident, the last three books (and four films, as the last book will be split into two films, which I think is a bad move) are full of interminable teen moodiness and sulking, enlivened only by suddenly action-packed climaxes. So here we have a lot of adolescent romance, prowling around darkened corridors and filling in of back story, and precious little plot or action. It’s beautifully shot and the effects are seamless, but it’s not exactly gripping. As we came out I noticed several quite small children in the audience. I couldn’t help wondering what they’d made of it all, and whether they were bored.

Let The Right One In

I’m not that big a horror fan, but then this isn’t that big a horror film. It helps, on the other hand, to have some familiarity with Scandinavian film style – it’s chilly and slow and rather muted, but that makes the big moments all the more effective. There are a few irritating plot contrivances, but the direction is confident and inventive with plenty of memorable sequences and images, and it features probably the best “cats attack a vampire” scene ever filmed. Apparently the original novel fills in some of the gaps regarding the characters’ relationships and background, but not sure I want those gaps filled – the ellipses and mysteries are half the fun. I’ll be interested to see how the inevitable American remake turns out.

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

This one was a rainy afternoon treat for my two daughters, although I’d seen the first one on my own, but skipped the second one. Some amusing moments although the girls found the scenes of “dinosaur peril” a little intense.

Drag Me To Hell

Quite fun, if you don’t think about it too much. Characterisation is minimal and dialogue is functional, but it’s just a frame on which to hang a series of well-orchestrated scares. As usual with Sam Raimi the tone is all over the place, but it’s mostly cartoonish horror (one scene featuring an anvil is like something straight out of Road Runner) with plenty of “Ewww!” and “Boo!” moments. For some reason many of the icky scenes involve matter being forced either into or out of people’s mouths. Maybe Sam has oral “issues”?