This is that rarest of creature; a heavily female-pitched film – a musical, no less – that appeals to guys just as much as the gals. The main problem Moulin Rouge faces though is that not many men have actually seen it, immediately being put off by the idea of watching a soppy romance in France for 2 hours, where the closest thing to a bit of totty is a vapid Nicole Kidman, face set to simper, and that goddamned Lady Marmalade song is likely to be played every 10 minutes. But put aside the prejudice and you’ll find a film positively brimming with style and creativity.
300thmovie! Yes! Nailed it! This has been a plan from the outset, that the 300thfilm just had to be 300, and lo it has been done. Finally I can stop checking the count every day of how many films I’ve watched and just get on with watching more and writing posts (I won’t).
Based on the incredibly stylish graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City), it could be argued that this two-hour fight scene suffers from a severe case of style over substance, with a small squadron of 300 Spartan warriors heading out to take on the thousands-strong army of Persians out to conquer their land, but whilst there is some accuracy to this, there is quite enough story behind the oceans of cool.
The Spartans, led by Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas in a role that remains his calling card after six years of mostly forgettable romcoms and mindless shooters, have been trained since birth to feel no pain or mercy – or cold, judging by how little they wear – and all live to fight, and die, honourably in battle. One soldier, when questioned as to why he has brought his adult son along to fight, replies that he has others to replace him.
It’s impossible for a man not to watch this and feel inferior. Some may see it as a rabble-rousing celebration of what it truly means to be a man – fighting and killing, safe in the knowledge your son will carry on your name – but personally I see it as a reminder of the garage-worth of spare tyres congregating about my torso, and how I’ve managed to survive almost 25 years without so much as throwing a punch. I can almost feel my ovaries forming.
The combat, and believe me there’s an awful lot of it, is wonderfully choreographed, and director Zack Snyder utilises a deft blend of colour, lighting, slow motion, shadows and speeding up to showcase its full glory. At times it feels more like a videogame, as the quantity and skill level of the foes to be vanquished steadily increases.
The occasionally flits back to Sparta, where Leonidas’ Queen (Lena Headey) tries to convince their council to send reinforcements, do a good job of breaking away from the otherwise incessant violence, but some touches – the giant troll, a bizarre goat-creature – take away from the experience, and overly-pierced big bad guy Xerxes has a voice comically mismatched to his appearance.
Look out too for an early appearance from LifeVsFilm favourite Michael Fassbender as one of
Choose film 8/10
Embracing its stage show inspirations we open on a curtain, a conductor commanding the orchestra to play the 20th Century Fox theme. Abandon any buttoned-up fustiness here, for what follows is a tale of bohemian values, elephant-shaped boudoirs, mistaken identity, forbidden love and some of the most gloriously hammed-up performances since the days of silent pictures, especially Jim Broadbent as red faced showman Harold Zidler and Richard Roxburgh’s snivelling Duke. The songs – mostly rejigged versions of classics from Nirvana to Queen via Shirley Bassey – are worthy of owning the soundtrack, as long as you don’t mind skipping track 2 every time, and far as I can tell the choreography isn’t bad either. The Roxanne Tango, Broadbent’s hilarious Like a Virgin and the showstopping central Elephant Medley are easily the highlights, though some of Kidman’s slower numbers do begin to drag.
Whilst Kidman and Ewan McGregor are usually far from being my favourite performers, here she is adorable and sexy, he is charming and sweet, and it is refreshing to see a cast clearly having a great time, being given the opportunity to overact to their hearts content whilst still giving tremendous performances.
Choose film 8/10
Michael Mann likes the central plot of Heat – expert cop and master thief and their teams on a destructive path towards one another with disregard for their personal lives – that this is the third time he’s made it, after the TV-movie L.A. Takedown, the DeNiro/Pacino classic and now this depression-era take, pitting Johnny Depp’s public enemy number one John Dillinger against Christian Bale’s FBI man Melvin Purvis (whose name is almost an anagram of Mr Evil Penis, but is one for vermin pelvis). (For all I know this is also the plot of Miami Vice and the Last of the Mohicans, I haven’t got round to watching them yet but it seems unlikely.)
The parallels with Heat run deep – the first criminal act, an opening prison break, is almost botched by a trigger happy accomplice soon removed from the group – but the key difference is the pivotal central scene where our two leads meet. In Heat, DeNiro’s thief McCauley and Pacino’s cop Hanna share a mutual respect, that they are dealing here with the other side of their own coin, a talented man with opposite morals. Here, Dillinger and Pervis despise one another, disgusted that they are within the other’s presence or mentioned in the same breath. This complex central relationship was key to the layered texture of Heat, and its absence is felt.
Depp has always been better at characters (Scissorhands, Sparrow) than he has emotions, and Dillinger is bland and lifeless in his hands, yet still more likeable than Bale’s cold, business-like Pervis. DiCaprio would probably have been a better fit for Dillinger, but as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover appears here as Billy Crudup this would have made DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood’s current biopic of the man problematic.
All this in account, this is still an entertaining action/crime movie, with plenty of period gun porn for those that way inclined. Mann’s attention to detail is perfect, and there is some of the best comedy ever seen in a 1930s set cop movie – see Dillinger wondering around the offices of the FBI department out to catch him, casually asking the score of a sports game. Smarter and more thought provoking than most gun-happy movies, this is definitely worth a watch.
Choose film 7/10