Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rain and Snow

Elysium: Allegorical tale set in a future where The 99% live in slums on Earth, and The 1% in a sort of astral gated community on a space station overhead. The whole thing is nicely realised, but some of the performances are surprisingly bad (Jodie Foster plays the film's I-can't-believe-she's-not-Servalan character as if she's reading form an autocue), and likewise some of the characterisation (e.g. the badass South African mercenary who carries on fighting on behalf of Elysium even after they've screwed him over and he really should, if consistently characterised, go over to the rebels' side; the main reason he doesn't seems only to be to provide the film with a dramatic climax). Not bad, but I'd expected more from the writer/producer of District 9.

The Abominable Snowman: Beautifully crisp and austere 1950s horror, which rings a nice twist on the well-worn idea that the Yeti are some kind of evolutionary blind alley, while condemning romanticised attitudes to Tibet and unscrupulous exploitation of science. Script by Nigel Kneale, and I want a pair of those cool dieselpunk snow goggles that Peter Cushing wears.

The Masque of the Red Death: Roger Corman is the sort of guy who can produce Sharktopus one minute and something this beautiful the next. A lovely, postmodern and pop-art take on Gothic horror, with a theological debate woven into the subtext; it loses a couple of Cool Points for some Coarse Swordfighting, but gains them for having Nic Roeg as a cinematographer.

Animal Farm: CIA-funded (no, really) 1950s take on the Orwell novel. Mostly a pretty good rendition with an appropriately Soviet animation style, and the fact that it cut out some of the novel's subplots wasn't a problem, as it made the film more streamlined. However, the ending is where it really goes into Cold War propaganda overdrive; where Orwell ended on the downbeat note of having the animals looking from the pigs to the humans, and not being able to tell which was which, the film has the animals, led by Benjamin the donkey, staging a second revolution and driving out the pigs. OK, but what then? A donkey-led dictatorship? A nominal animal democracy under the secret control of the human farmers? Answers, please, CIA.

Movie count for 2014: 4