Flushed Away

flushed-away-3_1162513793Pampered pet rat Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) may appear to live the life of luxury with his lavish Kensington home, gargantuan television and high class lifestyle, but his existence is lonely, and he craves companionship. When his owners leave him for a few days, his world is rocked by the arrival of loutish hooligan sewer rat Sid (Shane Richie), who takes over the house and ridicules Roddy’s way of life. Roddy’s plan to evict Sid – via the toilet bubble bath – goes awry, and results in Roddy being flushed instead, leaving him lost in the vast underworld of London’s sewage system, where he becomes intricated with Kate Winslet’s tomboyish Rita and a plot involving a royal ruby, a computer cable belt and a mysterious plot concocted by sewer mafia boss The Toad (Ian McKellen).

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Topsy-Turvy

Mike Leigh’s depiction of acclaimed stage show writer and composer Gilbert & Sullivan (Jim Broadbent & Allan Corduner) creating their most famous production, the Mikado, is extremely well performed by all involved, especially the two leads and Timothy Spall as one of several preening thespians. The background is littered with know-the-face British actors (Andy Serkis, Dexter Fletcher, Mark Benton etc.) and the costumes and set design are spectacular. Unfortunately, the film is far too long, and too much time has been given over to the musical numbers, with at least ten being shown throughout the film. A much tighter script, focusing more on the backstage goings-on and less on the show itself, could have led to a bona-fide British classic about two of our most notable showmen.

Choose life 7/10

King Kong (2005)

 A lot of people dislike Peter Jackson’s remake of 1933’s King Kong, made simply because the original is one of Jackson’s own favourite films, but once you get past the overlong New York-set character establishing and the woeful miscasting of Jack Black as movie producer Carl Denham, what’s left is an entertaining and well realised modern retelling of a well known story with a renowned ending known to all, whether they’ve seen the films or not. Aside from Black, it is this sense of inevitability that lets the film down. We all know going in that at some point a giant gorilla is going to capture, then fall for aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, doing the best she can as essentially a scream on legs), before being captured himself, shipped to New York and thrown on stage as the latest attraction, ultimately forcing him to escape and take a fateful climb atop the Empire State Building, ultimately being killed not by machine gun-toting bi-planes, but by the bright, bloody blade of beauty. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the ending should have been changed, maybe with Kong swimming back to Skull Island with Ann perched on his head, or perhaps the NY locals gradually accepting Kong for who he is, eventually electing him mayor, paving the way for a comedy-heavy sequel, seeing Ann escorting Kong to various prestigious events, climaxing in an unveiling at the Smithsonian, where confronting a T-Rex skeleton brings back too many memories for the now refined ape, causing him to rip off his custom made tuxedo (with comically oversized and troublesome bowtie), break the skeletons jaw and finally settle down in an overgrown corner of Central Park, or in an enclosure at San Diego Zoo. No, the story was rightfully left intact, if a little extended in places, and mercifully the 1930s setting was also maintained, moving it all to the modern day could have ruined this movie.
As for Black, I’m not sure who could have replaced him as the egotistical, deceitful, driven moviemaker, but I think an older actor could have lent a little gravitas to the role, and since watching Midnight Run I’ve wanted to recast everyone with Charles Grodin, so I’m going to go with him.
The film doesn’t really get going until the approach to the island, with Jackson using some innovative effects and camerawork (the screaming rocks and the shot of Jamie Bell being flung around in the crow’s nest are particular highlights), but the best parts, in my opinion, involve the creatures of the island. Populated with dinosaurs, creepy-crawlies the size of caravans and creatures that are essentially giant penises with teeth and a penchant for human limbs, it’s not exactly an ideal holiday destination, but the respective battles and chases involving these beasties are the most entertaining and thrilling sequences in the film, the CGI is impeccable if a little soulless at times. Kong’s fight against three Tyrannosaurs over Ann is beautifully choreographed, and worth the three hour runtime alone.
There’s also some nice in-jokes (Denham can’t cast Fay Wray in his picture, as she’s shooting a rival film at RKO with Merian C. Cooper, that’ll be the original Kong then), and the interpretation of Kong is astounding, with Andy Serkis using his motion capture skills seen as Gollum to great effect, soon to be used again in Jackson and Spielberg’s Tintin, and the absurdly named Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Choose film 7/10

The Prestige

Fittingly, The Prestige is a trick of a movie, a plaything, director Chris Nolan toying with the audience like a cat with a ball of string. Everything, from character motivation to the narrative timeline is entangled for the audience to figure out, as the tale of two rival magicians, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, unfolds. Jackman’s Robert Angier is a showman, but lacks the skill of Bale’s Alfred Borden, himself too concerned with the technicalities of the illusions to be entertaining. Hell, even the film’s genre, seemingly a period drama, reveals itself to be more science fiction who-dunnit (not to mention what-dun-and-how). Nothing is as it seems, but on a repeat viewing you pick up the clues, noticing that Nolan did indeed signpost the way, but the plot, characters, setting and acting was too mesmerising, too engrossing for us to notice.

Choose film 8/10