193. Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007)
Blazing a trail across the American box-office and costing a paltry $15,000 (estimated) this is a story about a little film that could. Similarly to the 1999 smash hit The Blair Witch Project it will divide opinion with relative ease. There are a few cues from The Entity in that Katie is a haunted woman and the haunting is vaguely sexualised, thankfully the similarities end there. The haunting takes place in the house where she lives with her boyfriend Micah and it is focused on her whilst he attempts to document the process with his video camera. Using the same found and edited footage format as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield the plot unfolds slowly. I thought the pace was appropriate but younger audiences might be put off by the relative lack of scare action. You have to want to be scared for a film like this to work, you have to suspend disbelief over the video camera usage or it won’t function as a story. If you can manage this and buy into the experience then Paranormal Activity is great scary fun. If you suspect you can’t do this then don’t bother, you won’t enjoy it.
I’m just working through some reviews that I’ve had backing up for a while but in the midst of all this I’d like to share a review that I’ve read recently that I’ve really enjoyed reading. Tim Lee writes the Bilge Pump blog and sifts through the worst that modern culture has to offer us. Tim’s also got an admirable fixation with the work of Nicholas Cage and here’s his review of Cage’s recent unholy alliance with Werner Herzog to re-make/re-imagine Bad Lieutenant…
So here we stand at the end of another DeCage In Film. An era which started so spectacularly with Gone In 60 Seconds ends with Nic teaming up with Werner Herzog for a re-imagining, if you will, of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. Could The Wicker Man really be only his second most inconsequential remake? Expectations were low, but nowhere near as low as those of Ferrara himself: “I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up.”
We open with a shot of a lone snake in the water. Film students may recognise this as some kind of metaphor achat viagra livraison rapide. Pull back and it’s revealed we’re in a flooded jail cell and a prisoner is drowning. Of course Nic isn’t just going to rescue the prisoner straight away, he’s got to call said prisoner a “shit-turd” before launching into a tortuous monologue about not wanting to ruin his $55 Swiss cotton undies. Then finally he makes the two foot leap down to rescue the prisoner – don’t do it Nic!
Such an act of bravery is rewarded when he gets the Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of “extreme valour in the line of duty”… by jumping down a twofoot sheer drop. But hang on, the film isn’t called Good Lieutenant, is it? Cut to the doctor’s surgery and the first of many dramatic bombshells is dropped: Nic will suffer “moderate to severe back pain,” possibly for the rest of his life. This news pushes Nic over the edge, the switch in his brain marked ACTING is flipped, and all of a sudden he’s Good Nic Gone Bad. At this juncture I should point out his character’s name is Terence – even the name exudes pure evil.
To finish reading Tim’s excellent review go Here.
191. A Class Divided (William Peters, 1985)
In 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, a primary teacher in a small all-white Iowa town did something special, something daring. Jane Elliott took a class of third grade students and gave them a lesson in discrimination. She divided the class by eye colour and made one group superior to the other, the following day she reversed the lesson. The results were shocking. Blistering even. Jane Elliott had done something quite incredible on a very small scale. It’s staggering to watch just how quickly the power shifts in the classroom as the children start to play up to their new roles. I can’t recommend this film highly enough, I’d advise everyone to take the time to watch it. The producing company, PBS, have made it freely available Here.
190. The Hobart Shakespeareans (Mel Stuart, 2005)
An inspirational little hour long documentary about a school teacher, Rafe Esquith, working in an inner city school in Los Angeles. Affectionately and honestly the students refer to him as Rafe, as he takes a class of mixed ability and through an impressive well of kindness, deference and gentle discipline he forms an able acting troupe from a disparate group of 5th grade students. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rafe Esquith is doing something great for these children, engaging them with the works of Shakespeare in a way that will have positive effects on their lives. It is tremendously disappointing to hear of the hints that his work colleagues seem to resent his success. But when Sir Ian McKellan turns up for his yearly visit to Rafe’s class the sight of these children bursting with excitement is something to behold. There’s a lot to think about in this documentary but the overall feeling I left it with was one of quiet and inspired happiness that there are people in this world who will work and make sacrifices to make a difference in the lives of the young and disadvantaged. In the words of Ian McKellan “You can’t watch the little actors without wanting to cry. Why do you cry? I suppose it’s happiness, really, and a regret that not all the children in the world could have a Rafe Esquith for a teacher.”
Here is Rafe Esquith’s website.
189. Micro Men (Saul Metzstein, 2009)
The story of the competition between two rival computing entrepreneurs in the 80s, Micro Men is a TV Movie of the kind of quality that we rarely see in British TV schedules. Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman are Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry, one time colleagues until Curry leaves to go his own way. The home computing market is the battleground and these two very different characters go at each other. The whole show is stolen by Armstrong’s phenomenal representation of the oddball genius Sinclair, the balding ginger and awkward looking man who was (external sources verify this) a huge hit with the ladies and possibly the last of the great British inventors. A joy from start to finish I only wish there were more films like this made for TV in this country.