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Man On Wire

Man On Wire is an amazing film, much more than just watching Philippe Petit's once-in-a-lifetime high-wire act. Besides the "bank heist" plot of how they ever managed to smuggle a ton of wire-walking equipment to the top of the World Trade Center - fake IDs, sneaking past security guards, dressing as construction workers, the whole shebang - the story of the motley little group of people that somehow made it happen is much more suspenseful and affecting than you'd expect. Petit's best friend and his girlfriend (in particular) tell the story of their involvement really movingly, plus quite a few other people (I didn't work out exactly how most of them got involved in it!). There are some really funny moments too, e.g. the account of the New York cops who tried to get Petit off the high-wire...

Man On Wire poster

I definitely recommend seeing this. We had a free members' preview screening at the Phoenix Cinema this morning, and the place was as busy as I've seen it, it went down very well.

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Recommend me a DVD?

I have a gift voucher for my birthday, thinking of getting a DVD. Anyone recommend me a good film to get? Browsing around I see a few things I might like to see:

If anyone has any tips, let us know!

In other news, I notice that Hellzapoppin' - my favourite film of all time - is now out on DVD. Yay! Go see it!

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I ♥I ♥

I was sorry I missed I ♥ Huckabees when it came out in the cinema so I was really glad when it turned up on Film Four last night. It's a brilliant film: a lot like Michel Gondry's stuff, it's got a quirky absurdist concept-driven plot ("an existential comedy" the blurb says), which twists together playful visual effects and philosophical banter and the result is a load of fun.

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I saw David Cronenberg's film eXistenZ again last night. There's a lot that I didn't realise about it the first time I watched it - and I don't mean about the twists in the plot, I mean about the moral question that the film implies.

Maybe it's because I saw his more recent film A History Of Violence that I spotted a kind of connection. I remember Mark Kermode on the radio talking about A History Of Violence, describing it as a deeply moral film that considers our culture's relationship with screen violence and real violence, treating it almost philosophically by exploring a story which starts off with a realistic and respectable ordinary life, then watches as the gangsterish movie violence that we all know from films like Lock Stock starts to seep into this "real" life and destroy it. It's a fair analysis of the film, but I didn't like A History Of Violence because after a while it just degenerated into exactly that kind of movie violence. And maybe that was the point, in the director's mind, but the film climaxes with a gangster shootout which it enjoys very straightforwardly, basically forgetting to leave any questions hanging in the air.

eXistenZ actually has a very similar underpinning. The plot is about an immersive and realistic virtual-reality computer game; the main characters start to play the game and, yes, you can probably guess some of what happens - things start to get confused about whether certain things are happening inside the game or in real life. The plot plays around with that a little bit - characters use game-pods to enter a virtual world, in which they find some game-pods and use them to enter a virtual world... - but it's not really a film that tries to mess with your mental model of which bit's which and when and where. Instead, it establishes the uncertainty almost as a background, and then when things start to get exciting and (as in most films) it comes to a point where people start getting killed, it uses that uncertainty to make its point: that the liminal states we enjoy in the fantasy worlds of computer games, films, novels, etc, with their different moral criteria, are not after all that separate from our own normal states of mind, and that our behaviour in those liminal zones isn't completely consequence-free. It's a sci-fi action film more than a preachy film, so it's more posing it as a question rather than offering a pat answer, but that's my interpretation of the main point.

The ending of eXistenZ (I won't spoil it) is better than the ending of A History Of Violence because, although it does still have some violence, it makes sure that that violence is still shot through with the moral/philosophical points it's been trying to attach.

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Blimey. We went to see the Borat film at the weekend, and it was so ridiculously funny you would not believe it.

It's really worth going to see Borat at the cinema (rather than waiting for it to come out on video) because the crowd reaction is part of what makes it so good. It's a really weird mixture of fact and fiction, and blurs the distinction between the two pretty much completely, but still, the main thing to recommend it is the comedy generated when this ridiculous character gets into situations with real people. You won't believe some of the things that happen, including what happens to Pamela Anderson... I recommend you go and see the film before anyone tells you what goes on in it.

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Through A Scanner Darkly

Went to see Through A Scanner Darkly this weekend. It's OK but nothing really to shout about. The main character is a druggie who's also an undercover agent, and in a twist of bureaucracy he ends up being asked to monitor himself; while at the same time he gets less and less able to cope with his life.

The two sides of the story - the druggy banter and messing around at home, and the surreal and faceless work at the agency - do sit together well, especially since they both deterioriate (for the main character) into the same kind of paranoia and confusion.

The strange rendering of the film (it's been filmed for real and then transformed to look like a graphic novel) works in some ways but in more important ways spoils things. It adds to the specific mood somewhat, and it helps integrate the occasional special effects without them looking silly, but it can be very very distracting. If a character is standing still then the colour blocks for their hair or face often wave around like wind blowing through a field of wheat. That doesn't contribute to the atmosphere, it just means I occasionally wasn't paying attention to what the words. Plus, the filmmakers very occasionally jump off into more blatantly comic-book effects, such as a thought-bubble appearing over someone's head, and for me this added to the inconsistent feel. Most of the time the film is very real-feeling, despite the rendering.

Despite all that it's an interesting film with some good twists and turns, and some poignant moments (the moment when he laments that his house should have been for a family; that's what it was designed for).

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A History of Violence

Mark Kermode has excellent taste and some really insightful opinions about films. He has said repeatedly in his film reviews (excellent podcast) that David Kronenberg's latest film, A History of Violence, is a work of genius and is the film of the year. So I went to see it. (To …

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Hairspray is a great film - "A 'pleasantly plump' teenager teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show" says the IMDB, which is a fair enough description. There's loads of dancing, and the usual atmosphere which I really like about …

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