DVD Diary – Dec 19 2007

Disaster movies have always been very successful. Back in the 1930s audiences flocked to see movies such as ‘San Francisco’, ‘In Old Chicago’, ‘The Rains Came’ and ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’, which, in turn, featured earthquakes, fires, floods and erupting volcanoes. World War II was a big enough disaster for the 1940s, but by the 1950s and 60s the genre had been successfully revived with movies like ‘Titanic, A Night to Remember’ and ‘Krakatoa, East of Java’. The formula for disaster movies was firmly set in the 1970s and 80s. Pick a natural disaster, cast some current popular actors, throw in some old Super Stars from a bygone era, and you were in business. Movies such as ‘The Towering Inferno’ and ‘Earthquake’ were typical big ‘blockbusters’ of that period. During the 1990s, and on into this century, complicated special-effects have also added considerably to the disaster movies’ appeal. Movies such as ‘Armageddon’, ‘Dante’s Peak’ and ‘Twister’ could never have been made without the ‘blue screen’ and advanced digital computer technology. The mass destruction of human lives and property, by a nasty natural disaster, has always been a top box-office attraction, and, interestingly enough, the disaster movie has always been a unique American phenomenon. Therefore, it comes as a surprise that the British are entering this particular genre, with the release of Tony Mitchell’s ‘Flood’. The British cinema basically has no history of this type of movie, and it is fascinating to see how they tackle the subject-matter. A massive storm is working its way down the British coastline, causing catastrophes in its path. Computer analysis forecasts that it will reach the Thames Estuary to coincide with a high tide. London is in peril, and the only thing that can stop a devastating disaster is a new high-tech dam, or ‘barrier’, built across the river for just such an emergency. Will the barrier hold? And will their able-bodied engineers be able to open the gates, and redirect the water, just in time? These are crucial questions, and, as a Scotland Yard ‘think-tank’ ponders evacuation plans, time is ticking away. Millions of lives are in danger. Tony Michell’s movie is a strangely cold and analytical piece of work. It doesn’t play on the emotions, like an American disaster movie would, but, instead, it tackles the intellect in a calm and rational manner. It epitomizes the British attitude of quiet fortitude and detachment while under pressure. Granted, though, there are some spell binding scenes of victims trying to escape precarious circumstances, which have their own suspense. Perhaps the most interesting moments in the movie are those when the camera pans across the many pieces of post-modern architecture that have sprung up in London over the last few years. You know instinctively these buildings are going to be underwater sometime in the next twenty minutes. A flooded London is a fantastic sight to see. As the tension builds, everyone approaches the situation with that famous British ‘stiff-upper-lip’. ‘Flood’ is not ‘glamorous’ movie making in the American style. Rather, it is typically British in its understated objectivity. Feasibly, in this era of global warming, the movie comes not so much as ‘entertainment’, but, as a timely warning.

Bee Movie
Another movie with a strong ecological message is this delightful cartoon, ‘Bee Movie’. After his long running successful television sit-com, Jerry Seinfeld disappeared from the scene for sometime. But, he is back now as the producer of this story about a bee called Barry, who decides to sue the human race for stealing all of the bees’ precious honey. Seinfeld also wrote the movie, so it is full of his typical Jewish humor and alienated slant on life. Much of the wisecracks will soar over the heads of young children, being more readily appreciated by an older age group. However, there is enough cartoon magic in the movie to keep the attention of the little ones. An aerial flight through New York’s Central Park, in particular, is a fabulous display of contemporary computer-animated cartoon techniques. Jerry Seinfeld’s message is totally sugar-coated, and it is highly unlikely to offend anybody.

I guess if there had never been the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ sagas, Matthew Vaughn’s movie ‘Stardust’ would never have been foisted onto us. Personally, I am just a little bit sick of elves and goblins and witches and warlocks. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly evil witch hunting a ‘fallen star’, who has transformed into a gorgeous girl in the shape of Claire Danes. If Michelle captures Claire, kills her, rips out her heart, and eats it, all of Michelle’s beauty and youth will be restored to her, plus, she will have increased magical powers. I think that is how the story goes. It is hard to tell. Based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book, the script is more like abbreviated chapter highlights, and the plot whizzes by at such an alarming rate it is difficult to tell what is actually going on. Over-acting outrageously seems to be Michelle Pfeiffer’s idea of performing for children. For most of the movie she carries on like a demented ‘drag queen’. By the end of the movie she is completely unbearable. Claire Danes is typically vapid. I guess your teenage daughter might find the movie interesting, but, then again, most teenage daughters these days are way too sophisticated for this kind of cod’s wallop.

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Copyright © 2007 Mr. Robet
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