Sunday, March 16, 2008


There are two synopsis' for this film, the first: A fast moving and atrocious super-virus surfaces in Glasgow laying waste to the population in short order. The government, anticipating that no cure or treatment can be found before every human in Scotland is dead and in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus (known as the 'Reaper' virus) to England, Ireland and possibly the rest of the world, quarantines a majority of the country and encloses it within a huge steel wall populated with automated and human sentries that annihilate any of the infected that try to escape. The idea is to let the virus die out after the last human perishes and then keep the area sealed off as a no-entry hot zone just in case further exposure could be possible. There is a huge surge as the uninfected try to make it out before the final steel doors are welded shut and, in one particular case, a mother sacrifices herself so that her young daughter will survive. Thirty years later, England's economy is failing as poverty forces more and more people into streets already overcrowded with the remnants of the thousands of individuals displaced because of the Reaper virus and the closest thing to a silver lining is the fact that after three decades, the shifty Prime Minister (Alexander Siddig) and his cronies are under the assumption that they were able to contain the virus and are, at least, safe from that threat. Wrong. Thanks for playing. Unexpectedly, the Reaper virus resurfaces in London forcing the government to go into high alert because they know they don't have much time before mass exposure. The drastic turn of events prompts the Prime Minister to reveal top secret satellite imagery to one of London's top 'special-ops' police commanders, Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), imagery showing the city of Glasgow and people who actually survived the virus. The Prime Minister explains that a cure must have been discovered by a Dr. Kane (Malcolm McDowell), who was in Glasgow working to stop the virus when the country was sealed. The plan is for Nelson to recommend an operative to lead an elite team into the hot zone, find Kane and/or the cure and rendezvous with the extraction team in 48 hours, or don't come back. Nelson immediately goes to Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), who we had already briefly seen in action, knowing that not only is she tough enough for the job but, having been a child when she was evacuated from Glasgow, has her own personal reasons for wanting to return to her former home. What follows is her and her teams attempts to survive a world gone mad in an effort to prevent a similar, or worse, planet wide scenario.

Synopsis two: Normal and well armed bad-asses enter into a post-apocalyptic nether world and do battle with insane madmen (and women), who represent the vilest aspects of human retrogression, in an attempt to procure an item which will allow humanity as we know it (or as close as possible) to continue existing with some semblance of an evolved civilization.

Get it? You can follow the story..........or not - as long as you have the general idea, it doesn't matter, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Either way, Doomsday rocks! and I mean that from the bottom of my guilty pleasured heart.

Seriously, I had an absolute blast seeing this movie, but wait, this isn't a simple sit down and watch what happens movie, no way, this is a leave your doubts at the door and crank up the volume along with your suspension of disbelief, embrace the violence and the driving soundtrack and sink into the movie like you would a hot mud bath, because, like the mud bath, when the movie's over, you're going to feel surprisingly refreshed..........and a little dirty. That's what makes it so much fun.

I'll admit, I was already digging the movie before it even started because I knew I was going to enjoy it simply because of the prospect of watching Rhona Mitra look spectacular while kicking ass. I could not have been more spot on - Rhona (Hollow Man, The Practice, Boston Legal, Shooter) has ousted Angelina Jolie and now, along with Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich, completes my ultimate trifecta of smart, forces to be reckoned with femme fatales. I know, I'm such a geek but hey, at least I'm honest about it. Anyway, back to the movie. Another reason I was looking forward to the movie was because I'm a sucker for those futuristic, post-apocalyptic, fight for your life, kill or be killed as anarchy reigns kind a movies. I was not disappointed and, trust me, if you're a fan of the more simplistic sci-fi with cool over-the-top outfits, heavy action, plenty of chases and ridiculous stunts, you won't be disappointed either. Anyone who's ever seen and, I hope, enjoyed movies like Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, Death Race 2000 or No Escape will feel right at home here because aspects from all of those films, and plenty others, are included in this action fest. I also got the distinct impression that the filmmakers were doing their best to pay homage to these earlier classics (rather than rip them off) while simultaneously trying to create something new and unique for the audience, and I'm happy to say that, in my opinion, they succeeded brilliantly. The crowning moment, for me, occurred during the final, frenetic chase scene as Mitra, driving a fantastically cool Bentley sports car, is pursued relentlessly and recklessly by the evil minions, all to the pounding sounds of Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing Two Tribes. It was practically a religious experience.

As for the acting. Who cares? Alright, I know, that's not fair and to be perfectly honest, the acting is leaps and bounds better than in some of the other films I mentioned - I mean, collectively, the acting in this film destroys Escape from New York (except for Kurt, of course) and all of the players are believable in the roles they are cast. Rhona Mitra is the obvious standout because of how well she was able to convey a seriously tough physical and mental attitude while remaining entirely feminine with an underlying alluring quality (geek boy, I know) - it's no surprise that she was the original model and physical promoter (in character) for the Laura Croft Tomb Raider video games as well as being the first consideration to play the character in the movie version, only to loose out to Angelina Jolie, whom the producers felt would draw bigger revenues. Bob Hoskins (Enemy at the Gates, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is easily believable as a gritty no-nonsense police boss and it was a pleasure watching Alexander Siddig (Syriana, and Doctor Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) embrace his foul weasel-like character to the fullest extent. Malcolm McDowell is crazy in his patented calculatingly chilling way and Craig Conway (The Descent) is perfectly over the top as the leader of the cannibalistic metal-head gang, channeling Wez, from The Road Warrior, but taking the role to a completely higher level of insanity. The rest of the supporting cast is more then adequate in their respective roles, the soldiers are tough, the sick people are sick, the bad guys are bad and the gangs are off the chart with some surprisingly attractive, amazingly in shape members. I guess in the post-apocalyptic world, there's plenty of time to work out. Good to know.

Well, I've rambled on quite enough about this flick. It's obvious that I enjoyed it and it will definitely become a part of my collection on the day of it's release on disc. I realize that this type of movie doesn't appeal to everyone and I respect that, however, for those people who do enjoy this type of entertainment, Doomsday comes with my highest recommendation and for those people who do, on occasion, enjoy a mindless getaway or an action filled diversion, this film absolutely fills the order.

*Just a side note: The first image is the U.S. promo poster and the second is the French promo poster. I included the second because I thought it was cool........and it's got Rhona Mitra on it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Bank Job

Jason Statham stars as Terry, a questionable car dealer with a questionable past. Although Terry was never involved in any serious 'A-list' criminal activity, he and his mates explored their share of petty endeavors, however, now, with a wife and two young children, he's doing his best to make an 'honest' living and provide for his family even though things can be extremely difficult (as in loan sharks) at times. Which makes for a tough decision when the beautiful Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), one of the gang from the old neighborhood who went on to a successful modeling career, shows up with an interesting proposition. It seems Martine's current beau has given her information that offers a practically risk-free hit on one of London's Baker Street banks. Terry immediately sees this as his one opportunity to secure a comfortable and guaranteed future for his family where the odds of his succeeding far outweigh the odds of failing and losing his family for years, or worse. Martine's idea is to take advantage of the huge cache of safe deposit boxes which could hold much more in cash, jewels and other priceless objects than the bank alone, and also because the box owners may not want to report exactly what was taken, leaving the police to fend for themselves as the robbers go their separate ways. The only problem is that the boxes hold more than money and expensive baubles, they are packed with secrets, and to the people who these secrets belong, ranging from organized mobsters, dirty cops, and from prominent members of the British government straight up to the Royal Family, nothing, least of all the lives of the robbers, is more important than protecting their hidden knowledge.

I was surprised at just how good this flick was. The story is inspired by the infamous 1971 robbery that took place at Lloyds Bank in London at the intersection of Baker St and Marylebone Rd. While the true details of what the robbers absconded with remain steeped in mystery, it is a confirmed fact that four days after the robbery, the British authorities issued an official notice to the media requesting that they cease publishing or broadcasting news relating to the crime because of concerns regarding national security. The reasons behind the request were never publicly disclosed and the fact that such requests had been made have only recently been confirmed. The filmmakers, claiming that one of the producers has inside information about the robbery, expound on the prevailing theories and and craft an exceptionally well paced caper with a driving story that is both compelling and believable. All of the characters are well defined and fit nicely into the full arc of the film, however, the writers acknowledge that the lead female character, Martine Love, was created solely for dramatic purposes and is not based on any of their inside information. Thankfully, the writers knew what they were doing because the Love character makes for the perfect linchpin in a story that is as much about priceless intangible belongings as is it about physical objects that can be hidden in boxes.

I suppose my overall take on the film was helped by the fact that I went into the theater with only medium to medium-high expectations, and the fact that I'm a Jason Statham fan. Statham is one of those few guys that can pull off an all out action movie or a gritty realistic drama and for this outing, the drama won and, for the sake of this particular story, I'm glad it did. Despite my fondness for watching Statham kick ass, I'm never disappointed when he plays a straight non-action character, which he does remarkably well in this film. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, all of the characters are spot on and there is a particularly noteworthy chemistry between Burrows and Statham. The other amazing character that I absolutely must mention, because this is what took the film to an altogether higher level, is the character of the movie, itself. The easiest way to say it would be: This is the first new 70's movie to come out in almost thirty years. Now I'll admit, Fincher's Zodiac looked impeccable, exactly like the 70's, but this film not only looks the part, but carries all of the nuances as well. This movie could be watched between Dirty Harry and The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and no time shift would be noticed, one would just flow into the other. At least that's my opinion. My other opinion is that if you like well acted and well told capers, regardless of the year, then you'll enjoy this movie, and if you're a fan of some of the great 70's flicks, you'll enjoy The Bank Job as much as I did.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Based on the novel by Philippa Gregory and directed by Justin Chadwick (Bleak House), The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) and how they are thrust into the unstable and unforgiving world of Tudor politics by their father's desire for financial gain and their uncle's quest for power. Proceeding against the common sense and plainly thought notions of Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his brother the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) contrive to ensure that, at different times, one of the Boleyn daughters becomes the mistress to and hopefully produces an heir for King Henry VIII (Eric Bana), thus securing the Boleyn family a prominent and beneficial place in the monarchy.

This film falls comfortably between 'good' and 'very good'. Based on the stellar cast alone, I was anticipating an exceptional film but unexpected lulls, an uninspired performance and overall directorial issues effectively reduced a great movie to a good movie. The story, even when examined historically, offers enough fodder for a compelling experience and this version, based on a steamy pseudo-fictionalized account, really should have increased the account exponentially. Unfortunately, the story only remains moderately compelling and most of the steam has evaporated leaving that kind of sticky feeling. In my opinion, the fault lies completely with the director, Chadwick. I don't want to be too hard on the guy, being that this is Chadwick's first big screen gig and all (he directed Bleak House which was awesome), but I felt he never really pushed the intensity factor, in the story or with certain character interactions, that could have made this film feel like a ride in a fast car with questionable breaks. Instead, I think he tried to reach a certain level, and then keep the film hovering at that spot for the duration. Also I felt he failed to use Eric Bana as a proper Henry VIII. Everyone thinks of Henry as a boisterous guy who knew what he liked and was absolutely thrilled about it and if something displeased him, everybody knew about it, because he made sure of it. Bana's Henry is rather low key and quiet and apparently channels all of his intensity through his eyes, leaving him to stalk around the movie looking like David Copperfield after making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Now don't get me wrong, Bana had his moments, he just wasn't what I would think the average, remotely familiar with history, person would expect. My final issue with the directing, and this may just be one of my personal nit-picks, was Chadwick's habit of filming through objects. Almost all, or, at least a fair amount, of the scenes opened with a shot through something, like a fence, or a grating, or some bars, or framed in a doorway with hanging curtains or really just about anything you could conceive to look through. I remember making a similar observation about Elizabeth: The Golden Age, except in that film, it was cool - the shots were used sparingly and gave the impression that the audience was eavesdropping on the characters in the movie. In this film those types of shots serve no purpose and once they are noticed, they become kind of annoying. After a while, I tried to make the best of it by guessing what the next shot would be through, but that's just me.

Enough complaining. Johansson was great and Portman was completely off the chart. It was great to see Portman work a devious and manipulating character to the hilt, however, in my opinion, by ignoring history and allowing Anne to succumb to her emotions before becoming shorter, the filmmakers missed a marvelous opportunity for Portman to truly shine. (It's also too bad that Anne didn't have someone like Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez to guide her, but that would have been a completely different story. Cool, but different.) I should also mention that Kristin Scott Thomas was excellent, as well, only she should have had more screen time. In fact, all of the performances were more than adequate (even Bana's at certain moments) including all of the supporting players, but I do think Portman's performance made the movie worth seeing - I'm just not sure it would be a theater experience for everyone. However, if you're a fan of well dressed period pieces and don't mind having the cast far outbalance the story, then, in a few months, this will be the a perfect Sunday afternoon rental.