Cinematic moments reviewed

Big Nothing.

David Schwimmer starts work in a call centre where he meets fellow inmate Simon Pegg. Because of his forthright assessment of one of the callers, he’s sacked and gets sucked into Pegg’s ill-considered blackmail scam. Instead, they find themselves up against and killing off some very dodgy people before being killed themselves. Schwimmer ends up drinking poison, but he’s achieved what he set out to do – ensure financial stability for his daughter.

The film is a black comedy with a tragic centre. The whole film is a catalogue of events where things get worse and worse, and some sort of catastrophic resolution is always in the offing. Both Schwimmer and Pegg end up dead, but then the Wyoming Widow encounters the Oregon Undertaker. Cue end of film.

Mimi Rogers also appeared in Big Nothing as the self-widowed wife of the vicar who was making snuff films. She got axed but somehow survived to get run over by our heroes.


The Fountain.

If I had to guess what The Fountain is really about, I’d say it’s about serious illness. Rachel Weisz has a brain tumour. Hugh Jackman is trying to find a cure. The film is fragmented, but clearly the parts are about the same thing – trying to ensure that she survives. This is one of those dream-like films which you’ll like if you’re into this sort of thing, or loathe if you prefer your cinema to have a clear and coherent narrative sequence. Jackman, in one of his incarnations, finds the Tree of Life, drinks its sap, and turns into a pot plant.

I prefer my cinema coherent.


Miss Potter.

Beatrix Potter is the wrong side of 30 in early 20th century London. Thanks to a condescending publisher, she suddenly becomes a famous author and illustrator of children’s books. She’s also stifled by her social-climbing mother (played by Barbara Flynn, who was the milk woman Granville fancied in Open All Hours). She does, however, meet a nice young man who proposes to her, and then has the effrontery to go and die on her during an enforced separation.

Overall, the film is light-weight and fluffy. Even the death of Norman Warne, which is kept offscreen, forms only scattered cloud.


Los Borgia.

Many years ago, the Beeb made a miniseries about the Borgias which was one of the first in a long line of costume dramas which fell flatter than an ironing board. It’s hard not to say of this film that we’ve seen this all before about the Borgias. Pope Alexander VI; Cesare Borgia; Lucrezia Borgia and all the rest all whacking the opposition (or, if the opposition is Caterina Sforza – played by Paz Vega; yum! – bonking it) and generally abusing power for all it was worth. It’s not a bad film, but perhaps it’s time to focus on one of the other power-hungry families of Renaissance Italy.


Smokin’ Aces.

There’s a contract out on Buddy Israel who’s a supergrass. Some very unpleasant people want to whack him for a sizeable reward. Jeremy Piven plays Buddy Israel. Perhaps you now understand why people want to kill him.

I think the only way to understand this film is to think of it as a live-action cartoon. I can even imagine the panels in the comic book. This is definitely not a comedy, though. The big secret, which you guess pretty quickly, is that the Mafia boss is actually a former undercover FBI agent who was left for dead. The other secret is that Buddy is the guy’s son.

Ben Affleck gets killed early on, which is perhaps something in the film’s favour.


Shadow of the Sword.

The bishop takes two orphaned boys from a monastery. One grows up to become the Prior, while the other becomes a soldier who falls in love with the local executioner’s hot daughter. Things go badly in war, and he returns to become the new executioner to the dismay of the former executioner’s assistant who thought the job was his (along with the hot daughter). He takes his revenge, but at the same time the Inquisition starts to take an interest in the town with the persecution of Anabaptists who are critical of the church and its rituals. The Inquisitor demands that action should be taken, and torturers find that it is a time of full employment for them.

In the sweep, the executioner’s wife is captured and condemned to be burnt as a witch. The executioner manages to save her at the cost of his own life, but not before many innocent people have been tortured and killed.

I assume that the film is meant to be an allegory on America’s current Crusade in the Middle East. One of the comments at the start of the film draws a specific parallel between the politics and religion in the film and current events. The town council, for example, is motivated more by a desire for financial gain than religious zealotry.

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