Apocalypto

I’m not a big fan of Mel Gibson the director, and half an hour into Apocalypto I was shaking my head and looking for the remote control.

The movie looks good but gets initially bogged down in a load of slapstick and bodily function jokes, like a sort of Carry On Up the Jungle. Eventually the plot starts, and there’s a lot of expensive CGI, shouting, and some nasty human sacrifice, before our hero ends up in a fight to the death with the enemy soldiers.

While there’s no denying the excitement of the action scenes (and Gibson has the sense to focus on these), the movie dies on its feet when anything resembling dialogue turns up, and all the characters end up as cardboard cutouts despite the best efforts of the unknown cast. It’s not quite as simple-minded as Braveheart, and the ending is strangely graceful, so we’ll give  Mel another chance, although I can’t help thinking he should be a second-unit director.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★½☆☆

Smokin’ Aces

Joe Carnahan made a bit of a splash with Narc a few years back, and has been rewarded here with a bigger budget and cast. He’s also chosen to make a more adventurous movie  stylistically, coming across like a US Guy Ritchie at times, except not quite as annoying.

Jeremy Piven plays a gangster turned FBI witness, who becomes the target of myriad hitmen of all shapes, sizes and genders. It’s definitely a blokes movie, featuring snappy dialogue, huge guns and lots of ‘unnecessary’ sex and violence. It didn’t do that well at the box office but apparently is selling in huge numbers on DVD; I suspect it’s being watched just after closing time, when I’m sure it will appear nearly perfect.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

White Comanche

Comanche Moon

A metaphorical mirror

After Star Trek was initially cancelled in 1968, William Shatner must have fancied a Spanish holiday.

So here he is, playing halfbreed twin brothers in a Spaghetti western: Johnny Moon is a surly cowboy and Notah Moon is a savage Comanche killer with a liking for peyote (giving Shatner a chance to overact wildly, which he seizes eagerly as you would expect). Joseph Cotten  gets top billing as the local sheriff, and Rossana Yani is the love interest for both Shatners.

It’s hard to know where to start. The continuity is all over the place, you see some telegraph  poles in the background at one point, and the dialogue is awful. I loved it.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★½☆☆

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300

I finally got to see  Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300. This story was previously filmed as The 300 Spartans back in the 60s, and it was a horribly stodgy movie given the exciting  nature of the story it had to tell. Snyder doesn’t permit any risk of the  viewer being bored, throwing effects… Read more »

The Far Side of Jericho

This month’s Western is The Far Side of Jericho, directed by Tim Hunter who made a big splash with River’s Edge (sic) back in the 80s, but who has seemingly been exiled to TV ever since leaving Robocop 2 over ‘creative differences’.  One of his TV jobs was directing episodes of Deadwood, and this takes… Read more »

Cherry Crush

In the same way that Disturbia was a teen version of Rear Window, Cherry Crush is a teen version of Body Heat. Jonathan Tucker plays a privileged young photographer who falls for a girl from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’, played appropriately vacuously by Nikki Reed. Assorted plot twists ensue, most of them ridiculous,… Read more »

Premonition

I’ve always liked Sandra Bullock, despite the restraining order… I’m pleased to say that she’s recently returned to making thrillers, or at least stopped making exclusively chick movies. In Premonition, she plays a happily-married housewife who is told that her husband has died in a car crash, but wakes the next day to find him… Read more »

Tell No One

Harlan Coben has made a nice living out of writing typically American novels, stories of kidnap and murder with complex plots and mostly happy endings. Imagine my surprise when Tell No One was turned into a very French film last year. Ne le dis à personne is surprisingly successful in moving the story to Paris… Read more »

The Reaping

The Reaping manages the strange trick of being a bit dull despite containing everything you might expect in a horror movie. Hilary Swank plays a former missionary (?) whose family is massacred in Africa and unsurprisingly loses her faith, subsequently dedicating her life to disproving miracles Dawkins-style. She ends up in a small Louisiana town… Read more »

Zodiac

For those too young to remember, the Zodiac  serial killer operated in San Francisco in the late 60s and early 70s, and was never caught. This movie is based on journalist Robert Graysmith’s book, and concentrates on the effects of the case on Graysmith and his colleagues as well as the SFPD police. It comes… Read more »