Their Finest

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Their Finest  (B+).  It doesn’t have the grabbiest title, but this picture by Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) is my favorite of the year so far.  The year is 1940, and Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) has moved from Wales to London with her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  But his dour art isn’t selling, so Catrin gets a job as a screenwriter on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk.  She clashes with the obnoxious head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), learns to massage the bruised ego of past-his-prime movie star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, I Capture the Castle), and generally gets a crash course in the trials and tribulations of moviemaking.  Jeremy Irons (Appaloosa) pops up unexpectedly as a pompous war minister.  The sexism of the era is conveyed effectively without being overdone.  On the whole, I quite enjoyed the movie.

Pirate Radio

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Pirate Radio  (C).  I kind of wanted to see this 2009 release back in the day; I just never got around to it.  Directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually), this is a shaggy comedy based on some actual events.  Back in the mid-196os, British radio stations wouldn’t play rock and roll, so these enterprising “pirates” set up ships offshore to broadcast the forbidden and diabolical music to the impressionable youths of England.  Gauging from the level of debauchery aboard the ship featured in this movie, Her Majesty’s Government was right to be concerned.  Kenneth Branagh (Rabbit-Proof Fence) plays the uptight government minister who is trying to shut the pirates down.  The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) plays a roguish American DJ who thinks his life will never be better than it is on the pirate ship.  Oh, there’s also a plot about a quiet college wash-out whose mother sends him to intern aboard the pirate ship; it kind of reminded me of Almost Famous.  Anyway, there are a few mild laughs, but it’s a mostly mediocre movie.  A lot of the fun was seeing familiar actors that I didn’t know were in the movie — there’s Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids)!  There’s January Jones (X-Men: First Class)!  There’s Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans)!  Bonus points if you recognize the nerdy guy’s mom behind her giant sunglasses.  In short, it’s a tolerable way to kill a couple of hours.  Oh, and the soundtrack is excellent.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

New from The Movie Snob.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters  (D).  I deliberately waited until this one arrived in the dollar theaters, but I still got burned because it was showing in 3D, so it wound up setting me back $3.25.  Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) star as the sibling pair of fairy-tale fame.  Now they are all grown up and hire themselves out to kill pesky witches.  It’s a grim, muddy, super-gory movie with no panache or sense of humor.  Famke Janssen (X-Men: The Last Stand) plays the main evil witch, and IMDB.com reports that she has said she took the role only to pay off her mortgage.  An attractive Finnish actress named Pihla Viitala somewhat relieves the drabness of the production in her couple of scenes.  Rated R for “strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.”  That pretty well sums it up.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Clash of the Titans (B+). I’ll begin by confessing that the 1981 original version of this movie was very important to me in my youth. I was about 13 years old and way into science fiction and fantasy, not to mention Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t see many movies back in those days, but I think I managed to get to this one at least twice. I’m sure the special effects were terrible, and the story made a hash of Greek mythology, but Perseus’s quest to find a way to save Princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the monstrous Kraken was good enough to fire my imagination, especially since it involved the snake-haired Medusa, giant scorpions, the winged horse Pegasus, and heaven knows what else that I have since forgotten. Plus, even though the film was rated PG (or else my parents never would have let me see it), there were a couple of fleeting examples of female nudity. How that got past the MPAA, I will never understand. Maybe they loved Greek mythology as much as I did.

Anyhoo, enough reminiscing. This remake departs from the old version in many ways, but I don’t think the departures bring it any closer to mythological accuracy. In this version, mankind is rebelling against the capricious Greek gods, which somehow works to the advantage of Hades (Ralph Fiennes, The Reader) in his secret plot to overthrow Zeus (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins). As in the original, the Greek city of Argus gets cursed to be destroyed by the Kraken unless Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos, The Mist) is sacrificed to the beast, and Zeus’s son Perseus (Sam Worthington, Avatar) goes on a quest to stop the curse from coming true. A sad-faced gal named Io (Gemma Arterton, Casino Royale), who’s laboring under some curse of her own, tags along with Perseus and his merry band and offers him pointers on how to slay Medusa. The movie doesn’t make any sense, but I just went along for the ride and enjoyed it just fine. I will say that I remember the original Medusa being a lot scarier than this CGI-looking version. The original one slashed her own arm open so she could poison arrows with her own blood, for crying out loud! It’s fun to pick out the many other familiar faces along the way. There was reliable old Pete Postlethwaite (The Usual Suspects), plus Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), Polly Walker (TV’s Rome), and even Nicholas Hoult, all grown up from his performance in About a Boy, as one of Perseus’s faithful followers. Go with low expectations, and you’ll be entertained.

Oh, by the way, I heard the 3D version was terrible, so I opted for the 2D version and liked it just fine.