How To Train Your Dragon
Such an uninviting title, and yet such a decent flick – a DreamWorks CGI animated feature about a crap young viking who ends up working with the dragons which bedevil his community rather than trying to kill them.
Whilst it may lack the whole-world polish of, say, Alien or Blade Runner, or the zip of Total Recall, this Peter Hyams SF retooling of High Noon still has a lot going for it.
For a start, Sean Connery as the space cop uncovering suspicious deaths at a moon-of-Jupiter mining station – he proper immerses himself in the role, vulnerabilities and all. Frances Sternhagen as the wry medical officer brings to mind a more cynical Doc Velie from Bad Day At Black Rock, whilst Peter Boyle as the creepy site manager more than earns his pay cheque for what amounts to not much screen time. Reliable Hyams collaborator James Sikking is, as ever, very good.
Sure, the effects may not match the standards we expect today, but in a way the in-camera look is no less ‘real’ looking than glossy CGI, and proves a far better fit for the lo-fi, grimy look and feel of the film.
Ron Howard turns NASA fubar into a stirring tale of survival through perseverance. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton all good as the astronauts lost in space; Gary Sinise and Ed Harris are excellent leading the cast of geeks on the ground trying to get them home safely.
For some reason I’d never actually seen this pre-Hollywood (and, indeed, pre-Launderette) Stephen Frears feature, though was aware of what it was about – 70s gangster Terence Stamp turns Queen’s evidence against his violent cockney confederates before disappearing to Spain into witness protection, only for his ex-boss to send out a pair of assassins to rub him out a decade later.
What I hadn’t been prepared for was just how beautifully photographed and framed it was – so many wonderful at-height shots, composition that really works with the not always picturesque Spanish vistas – or how against much the script would resist heading into the expected direction.
Stamp – excellent, obviously; John Hurt and Tim Roth as the hit men, both very good; Bill Hunter is a great surprise popping up unexpectedly; and Laura del Sol really manages to steal the movie back from the edge of testosterone gangster bollocks.
David Fincher tackles the exploits of 1970s serial killer Zodiac through the prism of both the SFPD cops on his trail, and the San Francisco journalists covering the story – predominantly Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who becomes increasingly obsessed with the case.
A very professionally put together film, with some very professional performances (Mark Ruffalo, Elias Koteas, Philip Baker Hall et al), can’t mask the truth that this is an unsolved series of murders, and so there can be no closure, and the shocks and scares along the way might well be false or true, meaning they ring hollow. That said, there is a very effective All The President’s Men vibe of low level terror throughout the film.