A Trip to the Moon (1902)

trip-to-the-moon

Director: Georges Méliès Cast: uncredited

A group of astronomers take a trip to the moon. (Who would have guessed from the title?)

Bit of a weird one this, but bear with me. In the numerous coffee-table books on films that I’ve collected, this is pretty much always the first one on the list of ones to watch. This 1902 short film (12 minutes, and it’s on YouTube) is generally credited as being one of the first popular films. It brought special effects into the mainstream, and despite its length manages a substantial plot and even some anti-imperialist satire.

It definitely helped to watch this film with my 1902 Edwardian-era hat on, in order to appreciate the film in the way that it would have been appreciated at the time. I was actually really surprised at how good the effects were for the time. For example, the aliens that live on the moon suddenly vanish in a flash of smoke, and it doesn’t look clunky by any means. The face on the moon (which admittedly is the stuff of nightmares) is cleverly superimposed- I didn’t even know they could do that as early as then. It’s also interesting to remember that no one had actually been to the moon at that time- so it really was just science fiction for people to travel there from Earth.

This, clearly, is a film you’d watch to study and appreciate the history of film, and not for settling into the sofa with a bowl of popcorn. Definitely recommended for discussing at dinner parties to make you seem sophisticated and erudite.

Hard to rate this one… 3 stars?

Troy (2004)

troyDirector: Wolfgang Petersen Cast: Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean

Based on the classic Greek epic poem The Iliad, a large Greek army is provoked into invading the city of Troy after the Trojan prince, Paris, steals Greek King Agamemnon’s wife. Included in the invading forces are the sensible Odysseus and the famous warrior Achilles. The Greeks seem to be defeated until Odysseus comes up with a plan to get them within the Trojan city gates…

I really think that Troy gets an unfairly hard time. The story of The Iliad is probably one of the most famous stories ever told and has cultural references that still resound today despite being written thousands of years ago- everyone knows what is meant by an Achilles heel or a Trojan horse. So, for such a famous story I think the film does a pretty good job of portraying it, and I was pleased to see it put on the big screen.

The plot’s not exact, but it’s mostly on point. I remember when the film first came out it was criticised a lot for giving the story the Hollywood effect, but I struggle to think of any movie adaptation that doesn’t deviate from the original text. It features all the key characters from the original text, plus the short scene at the end where Paris gives the sword of Troy to Aeneas is subtle detail and a nod to classical literature that Ancient History nerds will appreciate (but it also brings back traumatic memories of having to study The Aeneid for my Latin GCSE…).

What did strike me about the film was how bad an actor Orlando Bloom really is. And trust me, it pains me to say it because Legolas is one of my favourite movie characters of all time, but when Orlando actually has quite a lot of dialogue to deliver he’s really quite bad. I’d much prefer him to stick to running around New Zealand and insulting Gimli.

Generally, the battle scenes are pretty standard- not too gory or over the top, and there’s not excessive use of CGI (*cough* Battle of the Five Armies *cough*). The film is long, but I don’t think it drags on and all the scenes add characterisation and are important plot points.

I think Troy is a fairly light watch, it’s not difficult to follow and is your standard action flick with a bit (but not too much) romance thrown in. Worth giving it a go- ignore the haters.

3 stars

Jumanji (1995)

jumanji

Director: Joe Johnston Cast: Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Jonathan Hyde

A young boy somehow finds himself pulled into the world of  magical board game, and ends up stuck there for 26 years, until a couple of kids start playing again and release him. But he’s not the only thing they release from the world of Jumanji…

With a sequel coming out December 2017, I thought I’d give this childhood terror another whirl. And, yes, I mean terror- this movie used to absolutely scare the pants off me, hence why I think this must be the first time I’ve watched it since I was about 8.

Fortunately for my sanity, I’ve grown up a bit since then and it’s not so scary anymore. Watching it in 2016, the graphics are unsurprisingly quite terrible, but the animatronics are still pretty good and I think actually much more effective than the CGI. It’s not as rip-roaringly hilarious or as comedically clever as some of Robin Williams’ other films (all time fave: Hook), but it’s standard family humour and is easy to watch. Let this be said though, there is still something very foreboding about those drums when the game is out to get you.

Having watched this movie as a child soon after it was originally released, I think I appreciated Jumanji for its nostalgic value. Watching it for the first time today however might not have quite the same impact, and it’s just another family film among many others. That said, there’s nothing bad about it particularly, it’s just fairly standard. It’s inoffensive and will probably be enjoyed by most audiences: solid.

3 stars

Tremors (1990)

Tremors

Director: Ron Underwood Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter

After a number of mysterious disappearances, the residents of a small town discover that there’s some strange species living underground popping up to eat them one by one. When the town is surrounded by these creatures, the residents led by the ever-heroic Kevin Bacon have no choice but to fight them off themselves.

For a B-Movie, Tremors is actually pretty good. The risk with B-Movies is that there’s a very fine line between so bad it’s good, and then just outright bad; Tremors is definitely the former. It’s funny, the plot makes sense, and at times it’s actually a bit tense. The worm-like creatures are a ridiculous concept but up close they’re actually a bit creepy, plus the added factor that they’re very difficult to kill makes the story quite compelling.

I must confess that I absolutely love Kevin Bacon so admittedly I am biased in favour of any movie he’s in. The fact that he’s a well known actor elevates this among B-Movies as he’s arguably quite good at acting, as is Fred Ward who’s also got a strong acting repertoire under his belt. Overall then, Tremors isn’t totally embarrassing to watch.

I’ve struggled with what to rate this one, since it’s actually quite good but can’t really rate it the same as some of the other films I’ve done which are considered classics… So I’ve given it a special B-Movie rating, taking into account that it’s supposed to be bad (or maybe I’m just trying to excuse myself for having terrible taste).

3 B-Movie stars