With books I read and films I watch, if I can’t get into them in the first 10 minutes or so, I go off and do something else. I can’t think of too many films which have gone on to be great movies after a crap opening and anyway, I would be devastated if I spent 2 hours watching a movie, hoping that it was going to get better – and it didn’t! A couple of months ago J, against my better judgment, made me sit and watch Brad Pitt in the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and it was utter tosh. So, the fact that my last 3 choices were, in my opinion, all great films, restored my confidence that my judgment is alive, well and as brilliant as ever.
Firstly – ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’. Now remakes are usually rubbish (Omega Man springs to mind) but this was just brilliant. I don’t think it got a great write up when it was released but almost as soon as I started watching it I could see it was going to surpass the original which had Gene Hackman in the leading role as the New York Subway operator (that’s trains not sandwiches!) negotiating with crooks who had hijacked a train. From memory, the action in the original was better but being a bit older and cerebral, I look to screenplay (that’s dialogue) to make me appreciate a film these days and the screenplay in Pelham 123 was superb …. with Travolta making the film. He was utterly brilliant. OK – Denzel Washington was probably the leading actor but Travolta ‘stole it’. Great film. Great performance.
Next – Knowing, starring Nicolas cage. Now I can’t work out whether Cage is a great actor or a truly appalling one so I keep watching his films trying to work out the answer. Luckily, his films all seem to be quite good so it’s not too onerous a task trying to judge his performances. In Knowing, he is the main character as you would expect and is convinced that a lady from the past had known about future disasters. Of course, he’s correct and the disasters duly take place. The special effects (particularly a crashing plane) are very impressive and with some scary aliens around, it didn’t take long before the hairs on my arms were standing straight up. It also had a quite unusual ending so all in all, it was a very good film. Disasters, aliens, and an unexpected, unusual ending made sure it was right up my street.
Finally, the new Sci-Fi movie, District 9. The film features a huge alien space ship which has been hovering above Johannesburg for the last 20 years. The authorities have to house the aliens somewhere so create a new township, just for them – it’s called District 9. The film is actually shot like a documentary and has no well-known actors in it and will not be the ‘film of choice’ for quite a few people, but I thought it was brilliantly made with a very original storyline and with quite a bit of humour interspersed throughout the film. Excellent.
Can’t wait for Avatar though which is released in December. James Cameron, he of Titanic, Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator 2 fame is the director and doesn’t spare a buck when making his films. Shot in a new form of 3D, it promises to be the film sensation of the last few years and of course, it's just in time for the Oscars.
Barry Norman – eat your heart out.