Archive | February, 2012

Jaws: The Revenge (1987) – or a last dip in the water for livewithfilm

21 Feb

Indulge livewithfilm once more. After working through the franchise, livewithfilm would have been disappointed in itself if it did not round off the series with a write up of this late eighties instalment. Obviously the glaring omission (shark bite?) in this blogging sequence remains Jaws 3D (1983). Whilst livewithfilm was only able to catch the latter hour of the third chapter in this shark series, it remains vivid in the memory for all the wrong reasons; the exceptionally rubber sea beasts, growling sharks and all, were only outdone by a performance from Dennis Quaid so stilted it must have been carved from the rocky sea bed itself. A truly diabolical and inadvertently hilarious film, Jaws 3D infused little optimism in livewithfilm as this blogger took the plunge for Jaws: The Revenge. Nevertheless, the surprising presence of Michael Cane (sporting a perm and thick knitwear no less) reassured this film fan: if anything, the fourth Jaws will be just as memorable as its predecessor.

When Ellen Brody’s (Lorraine Gary) son Sean is killed by a great white shark in the seas surrounding Amity, she begins to suspect that the aggressive breed of sea life is out for revenge after her family have offed so many of their kind before. To escape the supposed vendetta, Ellen is taken by her son Michael (Lance Guest) to his home in theBahamas. Meeting on the flight, Ellen and Hoagie (Michael Cane) begin to grow close in the sunny islands. However, whilst working (ominously) as a marine biologist, Michael is attacked by the same shark from Amity. Vowing to keep his mother in the dark, Michael decides to put an end to this shark with a grudge.

The central failure of Jaws: The Revenge, and there are many, is that the film seems to actively renounce it’s roots as a shark shocker. Whilst Spielberg’s original extended the compelling events outside of the water into the waiting maw of the great white, the fourth instalment rests the full weight of the film upon shallow relationships and meaningless waffle. Even the shark attacks remain surprisingly uneventful, the under water point of view shot managing to drag a slither of tension across from earlier instalments. Such frights therefore only remain in light of the earlier films, Jaws: The Revenge bringing nothing new to the blood soaked table: Jaws II held it’s own with the progressive audacity of its shark attacks (on fire, on water skis…) and even Jaws 3D was able to collapse the safety associated with dry land as its shark proved to have a face tougher than protective glass walls. It is a feat that even the ludicrous final sequence in which Ellen Brody decides to defeat her monster and suddenly realises she has no means of doing so, sits fittingly alongside this mess of a film. The less mentioned about the offensiveHollywood racial stereotyping and a pitiable Michael Cane performance the better.

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Senna (2011)

20 Feb

In a bid to escape from the (unfortunately enjoyable) clawed clutches of eighties horror sequels, livewithfilm decided to make its return to blogging with an acclaimed modern documentary. As far a cry from It’s Alive II: It Lives Again as this film-fan could envision, Senna has remained an exciting prospect for some time. Even though livewithfilm tries to steer clear of qualifying films purely on their respective nods from various awards ceremonies, Senna arrives with great stock, having recently nabbed awards for best editing and documentary at the BAFTAs. On the subject of the British awards, an event traditionally recognised as a celebration of home-grown cinema, there were some glaring omissions in this year’s nominations. That Lynne Ramsey’s We Need to Talk About Kevin has been omitted from the majority of Oscar categories is one thing, but the snubbing of Ramsey by BAFTA seems highly unfortunate. Just when the British film industry is searching for interesting directors to bridge the gap between art and commercialism, to leave Ramsay without recognition seems a poor move.

Rant over, back to Senna! Asif Kapadia’s documentary charts the rise and ultimate downfall of Brazillian F1 driver Ayrton Senna. Following him through his three world championship wins, Senna also focuses on the driver’s personal battles. Confronting the political hierarchy of the sport and fellow driver Alain Proust, Aryton Senna has become revered as a fearless and unprecedented racing talent.

From the outset, Livewithfilm will admit that it cannot abide motor racing. Therefore, perhaps the greatest strength of Kapadia’s film was that such an inhibition was lost on the first lap. That the abiding focus remained on the intriguing and charismatic figure of Ayrton Senna rather than the sport in which he competed meant that the documentary was able to rise above such associations. The collection of material is undoubtedly impressive, the dedicated editorial work of Kapadia intricately piecing together expansive reams of footage to create a definitive exploration of the period. Yet all technical fluency aside, Senna unfortunately remains somewhat of a passé piece of documentary filmmaking. Whilst the warmth exuded by Ayrton is conveyed with great passion, livewithfilm remained consistently interested rather than fascinated. Often playing rather like a television film, the documentary falters when it comes to qualifying its existence as a piece of theatrical exposé. When compared with contemporary successes such as Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Grizzly Man or Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the lack of purpose in Kapadia’s film becomes most evident. Yes Ayrton was a talented and generous individual but does this qualify a feature length investigation, especially in a media dependant age in which his life has already been played out to many million strong television audiences.

It’s Alive 2: It Lives Again (1978) – or livewithfilm becomes trapped in the horror sequels of 1978.

7 Feb

Snowed in and with a phalanx of DVDs to demolish, Livewithfilm once again gifted itself a horror sequel treat. Inadvertently discovering that the recently blogged Jaws II was released at the same time as Larry Cohen’s killer baby ‘romp’, livewithfilm found itself in a neat position to compare the pair. Both It’s Alive 2 and the return of Captain Brody set dramatically different paths for their franchises; whilst people will always run into the gaping maw of a great white shark, Cohen sees his sequel populated by characters very much ‘in the know’. Although films about killer sea beasts admittedly could never succeed if progressive instalments saw protagonists set resolutely on dry land, It’s Alive 2 remains very distinct from many other horror franchises in this respect. The many instalments of Halloween, Friday the 13th and, to a lesser extent, the Nightmare on Elm Street series pit their killers against waves of naïve nubile victims, with often little gained in franchise wide plot arches. Yet Cohen’s second offering continues an interesting story, allowing sub-textual elements to develop in a similar manner to George A. Romero’s Dead series.

Frank Davis (John Ryan), the father of the original homicidal infant, travels across the country to warn prospective parents … (Kathleen Lloyd) and … (Frederic Forrest) that their unborn child will follow in his own son’s little footsteps. Knowing that their baby will be killed on sight by a terrified police service, … and … travel with John to a safehouse, where their child will join other similar newborns. But when scientists place too must faith in the morality of these young creatures, their test subjects break free to enact the fanged destruction of all around them.

Possibly over zealously searching for a forgotten gem, livewithfilm began It’s Alive 2 in a state of positive enthrallment. The plot is neatly developed and allows for the smouldering John Ryan to return to once again expose the reactionary evil of humanity. Cohen’s film even begins to set itself up as a truly subversive piece, the horror emerging from an omnipresent threat that the forces of law exert over the infants. Yet the second act of It’s Alive 2 sees the film corrupted by it’s eagerness to conform to horrific archetypes. As killer babies chomp their way through the supporting cast, Cohen’s interesting set up begins to fail. When the formerly heartless detectives become the saviours of the human race, the infants return to their monstrous status and the film unfortunately loses its rebellious edge. Nevertheless, It’s Alive 2 remains an entertaining, if formulaic, monster follow-up.