Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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If ever there was a film that demonstrated how not to adapt a book to the screen, this is it. There's a lot to be said in general for remaining faithful to the source material, but if this film is anything to go by, "Under Milk Wood" is simply not meant for the big screen. The dreamlike imagery of the text becomes a slavish literal interpretation on screen. Most of the cast ham it up to excess, with only Peter O'Toole possibly emerging unscathed (even if the younger Captain Cat looks like he stepped out of the Village People). How such a renowned cast can go so far wrong is baffling. Richard Burton's narration is of course legendary, but his appearance on the screen often jars with the spoken word. The choice to make the First and Second Voices strangers wandering through the Llareggub is not altogether convincing.
The only positive aspects of this film that I can see are the location work, which when shot in a Welsh fishing village can hardly fail to impress, Burton's narration and the original text itself. Almost everything else is either superfluous, too literal or downright wrong. This adaptation adds nothing to Thomas' work, and only serves to show how great the original recording was.
The latest instalment of Harry Potter doesn't disappoint. The book itself was by far the weakest of the seven, and with Rowling coming to grips with the continuing story that emerged in book four proper. As such it's very much a transitional work, and the same is true of the film to an extent. This plays to the film-maker's advantage; Yates wastes no time with exposition and the story hits the ground running - literally. The editing actually improves the story, as the book was a good two hundred pages too long. The film remains steady and builds up to a phenomenal climax. However, I do get the feeling that there was a good half-hour of footage lost in the final cut; certain scenes appear almost without explanation (Arthur Weasley's attack at the Ministry comes out of nowhere).
The previous films generally have self-contained storylines, but this is more like the first part of a trilogy. The frivolous magic is gone, and the film is subsequently darker as a result of it (although the same can be said of the fourth and, to an extent, the third). Whereas the first four films - and especially the first two - are almost exclusively fantasy-based, the wizarding world and the Muggle world truly begin to collide in this film. Dementors attack Harry and Dudley on their way back to Privet Drive, and in a fantastic sequence the Order of the Phoenix fly down the Thames by night on broomsticks.
The established cast continue to progress in terms of acting ability, but the latest additions truly shine. The actress who plays Luna Lovegood is pitch perfect ("Well done, Neville!"), and Imelda Staunton successfully portrays the sinister Dolores Umbridge. Tonks is barely on screen, which is practically a crime. I'm not too sure about Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange; I know she's supposed to be insane but the cackling is a little clichéd. One actor excelled in light of what's revealed in the final book.
Special effects are as up-to-scratch as ever; the aforementioned Thames broom flight, the Hall of Prophecies (which was apparently entirely computer-generated), Grawp and the Weasleys' departure from Hogwarts all stand out; plus the battle in the Department of Mysteries is probably the most impressive thing you'll see on screen this year. At least, until "Northern Lights" in December.
Pleasantly surprised by this one. Very different in tone to Bruce Almighty, this film also has more of a story to it. It's not constructed in the Jim Carrey vein and is all the better for it - Steve Carrell plays Evan as the everyman daunted by God's commandment to build an ark. There's plenty of subtle references to everything from Jaws to the Daily Show, plus the Bible and Carrell's other work. Lots of sight gags to keep the observant viewer amused, and the special effects are fantastic - especially the countless animal appearances and the amazing climax.
Admittedly it is a little short (95 minutes for a live-action film) and not exactly unpredictable, but it carries a good message regardless of faith, or lack thereof. It's not a laugh-a-minute comedy, and don't go expecting Bruce Almighty 2 - it's more than that. It's also far more satisfying than a recent film about a certain yellow family.
Oh, and stay for the credits. Thou shalt do the dance.
Well, I honestly don't know what to think about this.
First, the good points. The use of rotoscoping is revolutionary (the whole film was animated that way) and at times it succeeds. The orcs, especially, benefit from this technique. There's some nice background artwork, particularly the scenes of Bree. The prologue is nicely handled, entirely in silhouette. Some of the dialogue isn't bad and there's some talent present in the voice artists - John Hurt and Anthony Daniels, plus Peter Woodthorpe and Michael Graham Cox who would later reprise their roles for the BBC.
Now the flaws, and believe me there are many. To begin with, the script. It comes across as if someone wrote a draft based on Tolkien's book and then mislaid half the pages. Very little is successfully explained and characters do things for no reason. Saruman's name fluctuates between that and "Aruman". The Balrog ... my God, it's just bizarre. Laughably bizarre. The character design in general is baffling - the hobbits appear to be still in childhood, apart from Sam who's portrayed as a grotesque country-bumpkin Quasimodo. Aragorn and Boromir both bear more than a passing resemblance to Conan the Barbarian, the later wearing skimpy Viking garb. We also learn that Father Christmas actually lives in Isengard. And everyone has really, really big hair.
Anyone who possesses any sort of magic - wizards, elves - demonstrate it with big, flashy light shows. Sword fights in the early part of the film tend to consist of slapping the victim with the flat of the sword. And I have no idea why all of the Nazgul appear to be suffering from leprosy. The use of live-action footage is occasionally jarring, the interior of The Prancing Pony being a prime example. I also found the musical score to be incredibly unsubtle - witness the bombastic entry of the Nazgul in Bree. If no-one spotted them, they'd damned well have heard them. Oh, and the film's unfinished too - it ends with the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the second part was never made.
It's obvious that Peter Jackson saw this film before starting work on his trilogy - there's a few scenes which are almost identical (the hobbits hiding from the first Black Rider under the tree, for example). Ironically this film is probably more faithful to the original book, but as a piece of cinema it just doesn't cut it. I don't doubt that Ralph Bakshi et al. meant well, and although it's occasionally atmospheric, more often than not it's a misguided muddle of a half-film. With really big hair.
Having not seen the series upon which this film is based, I can't pass comment on it. I can, however, say that this is a great film that makes complete sense as a standalone piece. A tanker is blown up in a city, and a deadly virus is unleashed. The main suspect is Vincent, a man believed dead for ten years. The Bebop team - Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed - enter the scene when a reward of 300,000,000 woolongs is offered for the culprit.
The animation is superb, at times leaving me staring and wondering how they possibly did it. Some of it is incredibly realistic (I presume the title sequence plus a couple of instances were rotoscoped). The dubbing, something I'm not generally too fond of, was more than passable. The story moves quickly but it's not in the least incomprehensible. The whole thing works up to a fantastic finale atop an Eiffel Tower-esque structure on All Hallow's Eve. Highly recommended film.