Sunday, 24 June 2007

Tane's reviews: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Zodiac, Becoming Jane

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

There are some superhero movies that only a fan could like. Ghost Rider, Constantine and the first Fantastic Four movie spring to mind. Then there’s Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not even a comic book geek with low expectations and a fair amount of Friday night drinks in him could get many kicks out of this movie.

Rise of the Silver Surfer sees superpowered team The Fantastic Four dealing with fame, the upcoming wedding of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), the appearance of the mysterious, immensely powerful Silver Surfer, the reawakening of Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon), and the end of the world.

There are some good points to Rise of the Silver Surfer. Chris Evans again brings cheek and charm to the Human Torch, there’s some decent action sequences – particularly the Torch’s chase of the Surfer – and three funny moments. But they are buried in the welter of lame one-liners and feeble attempts at drama. It’s a movie that’s clearly aimed to be lighter than most superhero movies, but it still needs to have more substance than it does.

As in the first Fantastic Four movie, the performances of Gruffudd and Alba are flat, while McMahon strikes the wrong note. Dr Doom is sinister, not smarmy. Alba is particularly annoying. She’s beautiful, in a Barbie doll kind of way, but if she has any acting talent, her invisibility powers appear to have affected it. Even Michael Chiklis, one of the standouts of the first film, is below par as the team’s forth member, the rocky Thing.

The literally shining light in all this mediocrity is the Silver Surfer. Played by Doug Jones, voiced by Lawrence Fishburne and animated by Weta, the Surfer lives up to his iconic status. He is as elegant, beautiful and powerful as a Renaissance statue, with a tragic grandeur.

A pity he’s not in a better film. The story of Surfer and his master is one of the most famous and interesting in comics. As a fan, the worst thing about Rise of the Silver Surfer is how it wastes that potential.



As the story of a serial killer, you might dismiss Zodiac as the kind of slasher flick that most moviegoers avoid like a rabid dog. Don’t, because it’s excellent.

Zodiac is based on Robert Graysmith’s book about a series of killings in the San Francisco area in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, and the search for the murderer, a man who called himself The Zodiac.

The Zodiac crimes captured nationwide attention and influenced many fictional portrayals of serial killers. This was largely because of how The Zodiac promoted himself. He wrote very creepy letters to newspapers and the police, some of them in code, and left messages bragging about his crimes. He was brutal, disturbed and clever.

Aside from the scenes where The Zodiac kills or attempts to kill people, the film focuses on those chasing him, particularly Mark Ruffalo’s cop, an extrovert crime reporter (a brilliant Robert Downey Junior) and Graysmith himself (the reliably strong Jake Gyllenhaal), who is portrayed as an obsessive geek.

Director David Fincher is known for making films with oodles of visual flair, such as Fight Club, but, aside from a couple of scenes, he treats Zodiac with restraint. This is exactly the right approach. He does not sensationalise the killings or the investigation, which makes the film feel more realistic. I particularly liked how the killer was shown as frightening, but also vaguely pathetic. Which is what he was – a ghastly, attention-seeking, socially inept loser.

Zodiac is a long but absorbing film. There’s some white-knuckle scenes, but much of its fascination comes from watching the characters slowly gathering pieces of evidence and fitting them together, and seeing the damage the case did to their personal and professional lives. It’s nice to see a film that does not rush through its plot or feel the need to fill it with gratuitous action.


Becoming Jane

What an unexpected pleasure this film is. I went in to Becoming Jane, the fictionalised story of young Jane Austen’s dalliances with love, expecting a frothy, lightweight, clichéd romantic comedy. For the first half hour or so, that is what you get. But Becoming Jane becomes something much better, taking real events in Austen’s life and creating into a powerful story that finishes with some very touching scenes. With its combination of sadness, romance, literature and humour, it’s much like Shakespeare in Love.

As Jane, Anne Hathaway is endearing, as is James McAvoy as her rapscallion lawyer love. They’re backed by a formidable supporting cast that includes Dame Maggie Smith, James Cromwell and Ian Richardson.

Stick these actors in nice costumes and lovely rural settings, and you have a film Jane Austen fans – so long as they are not too picky about historical accuracy - should not miss.


1 comment:

Lauren Keenan said...

Lauren's two cents:

Zodiac - joins Brokeback Mountain and The Shipping News as being movies that are better than the books. A great talky thriller, lacking the self-indulgent "I am Robert Graysmith and I am Fab" theme running through the book. Am glad I wore a coat with hood so could sneakily cover eyes during scene by lake. 7.5/10

Becoming Jane - I loved this movie, especially how Jane had her own personality which was different to Elizabeth Bennet or the Dashwood girls. Take tissues. 8/10