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Round-up

JJ Abrams’ Super 8 carries a well-played ‘cusp of adulthood’ feel throughout: stirrings that can neither be ignored nor quite reconciled plague these teen protagonists as a manifestly metaphorical giant crab-like alien foe snaffles various unfortunate local residents. These kids have to grow up quickly; though the zombie movie they’re clandestinely patching together after hours has them playing adults, many of whom are expendable zombies (geddit?). Playing adult is no fun in Super 8, unless it’s in the realm of such blood-spatteringly gleeful make-believe, and even then train wrecks and rampaging aliens tend to spoil such late night escapist film-making tomfoolery. The parents of these kids are not unsympathetic, but they’re manic, beleaguered and embattled at every moment, rattling exertion much preferable to slowing things down and realising they’re not particularly good parents. Abrams intermittently bleeds careful sincerity into his burbling absent-parent issue throughout, but such is the compelling and exceptionally well-crafted Spielbergland otherwise (the kid performances are uniformly perfect; awkward, funny, complexly inter-connected, believable) that you don’t have time to register or dwell upon shortcomings, which are, you might say, an inevitable by-product of all the good, frivolously engaging stuff. It’s a sweeping blur of well-marshalled chaos, impatiently on to the next set-piece, crane shot or soon-to-be curtailed dialogue exchange (mirrored by the tyro film crew’s scramble for footage). Enjoyable but ever-more cloying the nearer the self-congratulatory ending you get.

Jane Eyre is a highly accomplished, gloomy version of the Bronte classic, and dispenses with that final line, which would probably be inadmissible here anyway, adding, as it would, an at-odds tinge of spry positivity. This is a circumspect, careful version of the famous novel, perhaps over-deliberate and fusty at times, but with a brilliant sense of place and time, and some fine turns, Mia Wasikowski offering as good as any take on the titular heroine, Michael Fassbender an icily vigorous, lugubriously lovelorn Rochester. Jamie Bell wears mutton chops with aplomb, which is more than you could hope to expect, and Judi Dench disappears amidst the mise en scene, no mean feat for such an iconic figure. And at 140+ minutes, the film is no more than 5 minutes too long, though suffering a rather terse final movement post such pained, involving tranquility.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn’t the queasiest example of CGI out there, but possesses very little in the way of heart, and in what should be a significantly emotive affair (does heavy-CGI consistency bleed the emotional affect out of every film?), the blue screen is never far from your thoughts. James Franco seems a little too wry to buy into all this, but goes through the motions believably enough, until the whole thing becomes a bit of a calamity in the final stretch. And there’s less chemistry between Franco and the fragrantly dull Freida Pinto than there is between any of the fake chimps.

Attack The Block is far and away the worst thing in this round-up, a late-night CITV disaster. Clunky, rubbish camerawork, ridiculously uningratiating and laughable scally patois, woefully contrived set-pieces, terrible yoof performances and titter-heavy ‘serious’ moments. It’s an unmitigated, shameful travesty. Even the aliens, which have pretty decent glow-in-the-dark gnashers, are hilariously distracting, kind of orang-utan/dog amalgamations of shaggily innocuous mirth, bounding about like simian stormtrooper fodder. They’re the most likeable thing in it. Bruv.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I loved ‘Jayne Eyre’, and was a little surprised that it wasn’t a bigger hit.
    However, I know it’s ‘period’, but I firmly believe that mutton chops should just be excluded from all such things, forever. Jamie Bell looked like a kid playing dress-up, to me – I think his stick-on mutton chops bathetically undermined his otherwise strong performance.

    I’d never normally say this, but the most interesting aspects of the film were the deviations from the novel – especially the ‘in medias res’ opening. I really liked the non-linear interpretation of the book’s timeline. I think if we’d had to suffer ALL the family scenes at once, followed by all her schoolday scenes, followed by etc. it would have been much poorer as a result.

    Similarly, I was impressed by how understated and fragile the whole thing was – not just the score and performances, but the scene order and the fact that the viewer isn’t shown the apocalyptic fire – I can’t think of a single TV/film adaptation of JE that has actual resisted the urge to include a dramatic mansion-burning sequence, and that this version plays the novel’s most dramatic high-point off-screen actually makes it stronger and adds to the sense of played-down intimacy and fragility… I think.

    Also, I loved the visual obsession with lighting – candles/storms/lamps/fireplaces/moonlight etc. which is kinda a prophetic nod-of-the-head to the blazing inferno that was all know is coming – but then are not actually shown!

    Sorry… rant, rant, rant.

    Btw: have you seen ‘Melancholia’ yet? I loved it, would be very interested to know your thoughts.

    Tomcat.

    • October 19, 2011 at 7:55 am

      It is a surprise that it didn’t do an awful lot better but then, you have to ask yourself: what do people want? And the answer seems to be: sequels and Gerard Butler sans attire. Yes, and I should’ve spent longer on the Jane Eyre review to be honest…it deserved more than a kind of daubed precis. But my initial point brings me on nicely to Melancholia. I have seen it – will hopefully post a review this afternoon – and I’ll save what I thought until then if that’s OK – but my friend also went to see it and told me that he overheard comments such as ‘What a load of shit!’ and ‘God, I’m off if this doesn’t pick up’, and suchlike. Notice they had paid to see a Von Trier film and were then harumphing about what is surely the archetypal Von Trier film…didn’t they have an inkling before they handed over their money?!?!

  2. November 5, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I should pop in here more often…

    I totally agree with you re The return of the planet of the apes. It was enjoyable ad believable enough until the end when it turned into something else and lost me.

    As for Jane Eyre, another interesting one that I enjoyed but it did leave me wanting — and it some ways I think it had to do with the nonlinear narrative. It worked technically and logically – in other words the story flowed and it made sense – but I think that by starting with the crisis it lost its emotional punch a little. The build up just didn’t quite work for me, and most of my party. Still a more than worthy addition to the book’s adaptations.

    • November 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Yes, please do! Good to have you on here…

      Yes, it’s a fair point about Jane Eyre. With overtly familiar tales such as that, there’s often a little bit of a disconnect due to the elephant in the room of a director trying to innovate. And you’re right: it loses something. Still, an interesting effort nonetheless.

      • November 8, 2011 at 4:27 am

        Always a challenge … and I don’t mind a bit of innovation. After all, I’m the Jane Austen fan who liked Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park! It was an interesting and perfectly watchable effort as you say.

  3. November 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Hey you’ve got to be looking forward to the new Wuthering Heights then….

    • November 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      Yes, always, interested in the Brontes … though perhaps Emily less so than Charlotte (despite Charlotte’s unkind comments on my Jane!!)

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