Sunday, June 03, 2007

Recent Films

The last three Saturday evenings have been rare opportunities when I have been at home to catch up on DVD's that I've bought. Hence, I've finished season five of the West Wing, started Firefly and caught three films - Mean Creek, The Remains of the Day and Casino Royale (2006).

Mean Creek
Normally if I see a DVD cover which is emblazoned with praise for a film it will immediately put me off. After all if a film is that good why does it need to sell itself so heavily? Mean Creek though was a bargain at £3 and what I'd remembered from the trailer around the time of its release, it looked as it if might be quite good. I wasn't disappointed.

This is a clever film, with an excellent young cast and a powerful message. Rory Culkin is ostensibly the lead, Sam, who is being bullied by the at first very unlikeable but tragically misunderstood George (Josh Peck). Sam's brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) decides that enough is enough and together with the troubled Marty, a strikingly good Scott Mechlowicz, they decide to teach George a lesson. So, the three boys along with Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) convince George to come with them on a boat trip to celebrate Sam's birthday. Once out on the boat they have planned a cruel and humiliating revenge on George however the plans rapidly spin out of control with terrible consequences. The boys then have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this is where the film takes an ugly and tragic turn. Its a downbeat ending, one where there is no easy answers or immediate moral redemption. All these young actors are exceptional and the story is well written and provides much food for thought.

The Remains of the Day
Another film with a downbeat ending and one that left me sobbing into my tissues by the end, the hopeless sentimentalist that I am. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, a butler in a gorgeous looking mansion, servant to Lord Darlington (James Fox) who falls inexorably in love with Emma Thompson's housekeeper (Miss Kenton). But this being a very British film with stiff upper lips all round, not least from Hopkins, it is all about repressed and unrequited love. Not a lot happens but it is a sumptuous study of power and the aristocracy with some political intrigue thrown in for good measure. At its heart though is the restrained relationship between Hopkins and Thompson, which is told in flashback and is probably the most tragic love affair since Brief Encounter. The final farewell is heartbreaking and what adds extraordinary potency and pathos to this moment, is the repressed emotions, the throwing away of happiness to maintain a very English commitment to doing what is 'right and proper.'

Casino Royale (2006)
I could not have a chosen a film more opposite in emotional terms to The Remains of the Day. This is a film that left me feeling as emotionally detached as Daniel Craig's Bond, which makes the frankly bizarre after-thought falling in love with Vesper Lynde at the end of the film implausible. But then I thought the whole film was implausible unless considered only as a slice of escapist fantasy. Alternatively, was it just one long commercial? At times I felt so as yet again another close up shot of that Sony Ericsson mobile or Virgin (was that a strange cameo from Richard Branson I saw?), Google, Sony (TV's and DVD's this time), Ford, Airbus etc. It was a like a gorgeously shot advert with bits of excitement and action in between. The dialogue was not as clever as it thought it was and while I smiled a couple of times, more often than not it was at the crassness of it all rather than irony. And what was it all about? The plot was convoluted and didn't seem to join up in the middle and there was some heavy handed exposition from Judi Dench's M along the way, which tried to make sense of it all. Probably I was expecting too much and I guess I should have disengaged brain before watching. One thing I did notice was some of the Italian locations - parts were filmed around Lake Como and looked remarkably similar to the place where Anakin & Padme stumbled into love on Naboo in Attack of the Clones!


Carla said...

I haven't seen 'Mean Street', but 'Remains of the Day' is one of my favourite films ever. You must read the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read the book after seeing the movie, and in my head I could hear the voice of Anthony Hopkins' Mr. Stevens as clear as a bell. Marvelous.

jamie said...

casino royale was in my opinion a beautiful car crash of a movie... the producers so desperate to announce the rebirth of the 'tired' bond franchise with an exciting new fresh reboot,whilst keeping the great dame in gainful employment as M,a move which seems to completely contradict the whole scheme... where do they go from here...presumably we are to get remakes of all the bond films keeping with the vague history of bond.
a terrible mess.

Derek said...


I have to say I absolutely *LOVED* "Casino Royale", as did Carla. In fact, she said it was the best "Bond" film she had ever seen - most of them put her to sleep! I have to say, I really liked what the producers did with re-invigorating the series by attempting to get it back to a more serious and grittier tone. After the complete failure (for us at least) that was "Die Another Day" (do we really need a magic invisible car?) it was a great cinema experience on opening weekend. Daniel Craig was brilliant casting, but hey, I liked him in films before he was 007. Good stunts as well.

I haven't got the DVD yet because I'm waiting for a special edition with director commentary.