About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: Emmanuelle 6


Professor Jean-Rene Gossart is treating an amnesiac named Emmanuelle (Natalie Uher), who due to her illness, no longer possesses her trademark sexuality. Through his treatment (using sexual arousal to trigger memories, I shit you not), the film slowly unravels in flashbacks, just how she came to be in this state. We find out that Emmanuelle was leading several fashion models on a cruise bound for Caracas. Meanwhile, a native stowaway (the singularly monikered Tamira) is hiding inside some luggage in Emmanuelle’s sleeping quarters. Unscrupulous ship captain Gustavo Rodrigues conspires to have the girls into slavery, and steal the jewels Emmanuelle and her models have on board for a fashion shoot. He is working in conjunction with a stereotypical evil rich dude, of course.

 

Although uber-producer/occasional director Roger Corman is actually listed as EP here in this 1988 “Emmanuelle” film, this film from director Bruno Zincone is a slight step in the direction of the better “Emmanuelle” films in terms of plot/atmosphere, if not quality. Although elements of “Emmanuelle 5” are still somewhat evident (it’s not a lame boobs and guns film, though), the film more closely resembles “Emmanuelle IV”, with that film’s bizarro, pretentious plastic surgery storyline replaced by a pretentious amnesia framework here by screenwriter Jean Rollin. Yes, that Jean Rollin, director of some of the most boring and pretentious Sapphic vampire films you’ve ever seen. The stupid psycho-babble is pure Rollin, and if I didn’t know Zincone was the director, I’d have assumed it was Rollin from the oh-so late 80s washed-out blue filtered look of the opener. Which is funny, because I sure don’t remember seeing any naked chicks in The New Kids on the Block’s ‘The Right Stuff’ video. Thank you, I’m here all week. Apparently Rollin did indeed do uncredited work as co-director, but how much, I cannot say. Despite that pretentious opener, it’s the best-looking film of the series (if shot a tad too much like a fashion show), and it has clearly been shot by a visual stylist (Otto Weisser, a former fashion photographer, was apparently on board here). The interiors, exteriors, the girls- all really nice to look at.

 

It also fits in better with the other films than the previous one did plot-wise, but it’s also by far the slowest film in the series. In fact, it’s one of the slowest films I’ve ever seen. Bald weirdo Jean-Rene Gossart is pretentious and absolutely awful as the professor (he seems to be under the impression that his character has been overtaken by an alien), and the title song played over images of star Natalie Uher is appalling, too. You’d think of all the “Emmanuelle” plots, this one featuring models stranded in the Amazon would be the most promising. Unfortunately, the film never really gets out of first gear, spending way too much time on board the ship. This would be forgivable if the sex were off the charts, but although it’s sexier several of the other films (“Emmanuelle”, “Goodbye, Emmanuelle”, and “Emmanuelle 5”), it’s not explicit enough for my liking, and it’s not a censorship thing this time, seemingly. The early striptease on a bus is pretty silly, but what disappointed me most was the appalling way the lesbian content was handled. You knew Emmanuelle and her Pocahontas-looking girl with the spankable arse (Tamira) were likely to get it on at some point, but when it does, it’s the worst sex scene of all-time. Yes, even worse than Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe in a moving jeep in Tony Scott’s appalling “Revenge”. Yes, even worse than Glory Annen and her Thai gal pal fumbling about aimlessly in “Felicity”. In fact, it’s quite similarly choreographed to that scene in “Felicity”, they just touch each other slowly, and move around in such a dopey way that we can’t damn well see much, and then it just ends. Completely infuriating, unsexy, and just really badly choreographed. Later, rather than watch a beautiful display of Sapphic lust, the director would seemingly rather put most of the attention on the androgynous and frightening snake dance performed for Emmanuelle, and even that doesn’t last long. Stupid! Much more interesting is the interracial doggystyle scene in a stable, with both horses and Emmanuelle watching the action. It’s weird, pretty amusing…and kinda weirdly hot, too. Voyeurism, by the way, seems prevalent throughout the film, which is annoying. Don’t watch, join in the party for cryin’ out loud, watching is my job! Meanwhile, credit where it’s due, a sex scene in the ship’s boiler room is a clever idea. Unfortunately, coitus interruptus and a partially-clothed participant drag it down a bit. Some will love the masturbation scene at the end. It’s pretty insane and a bit silly, but I’m not really into watching someone else play with themselves, and Uher’s partially clothed for it. Still, it’s definitely ‘out there’.

 

It’s not the most explicit film in the series, and the sex scenes are uneven, but it’s certainly sexier than the original “Emmanuelle”, or “Goodbye, Emmanuelle”, and certainly sexier than the previous entry. But it’s still not nearly sexy enough. Austrian actress Natalie Uher (in her third and strangely last film) deserves credit for going bottomless, I’ll give her that. The only other actress I can recall doing bottomless nudity was the frumpy and butchy Susie Porter in 2000’s pretentious “The Monkey’s Mask”. She’s got a nice body, but a generic 80s era face and hair, though still much more attractive than the original Emmanuelle, Sylvia Kristel.

 

Although good-looking, it’s appallingly slow, and the sex is pretty uneven. A big improvement over the previous film, and slightly better than the deadly “Goodbye, Emmanuelle”, this is still a poor and disappointing one. Another waste of hot chicks.

 

Rating: C-

Review: Emmanuelle 5


Emmanuelle (Monique Gabrielle) is in Cannes promoting a pretentious sex film, which is causing quite the stir. Emmanuelle herself causes quite the stir when slightly ‘handsy’ fans cause her clothes to be entirely torn off. She ends up on the boat of an unwitting and frankly nerdy-looking rich dude named Charles D. Foster, who is initially annoyed, but when he realises she has great tits, they fall in love. Hey, I’m just calling it as I see it, OK? It’s not like the script is any help. Anyway, after this sexcapade on the seas, Emmanuelle finds herself in some fictional country of a vaguely Arab, vaguely Bengladeshi nature, and arousing the interest of a local Prince (Yaseen Khan). He claims to be a big admirer of her, and wants to premiere the film locally. In reality, he’s a cruel and creepy bastard who wants to add Emmanuelle to his harem. Aside from a nosy but well-intentioned tabloid photographer, Emmanuelle’s only hope of escape/rescue may lie with the unshaven adventurer Eddie (Crofton Hardester), but Emmanuelle wants to free all of the other women too. And mow down lots of foreigners with a machine gun to boot.

 

I’m not sure what it’s like in any other version, but the version I saw of this 1987 flick from Polish-French director/co-writer Walerian Borowczyk (known for both live-action films and animated shorts) is a total dud, the worst film in the official “Emmanuelle” series I’ve seen to date. The version I saw was the New Horizons one (i.e. Producer Roger Corman), and as such it plays out much more like one of Corman’s Filipino-set ‘chicks and guns’ flicks than an “Emmanuelle” film. The difference is startling, obvious, and not appreciated. I have a lot of respect for Corman, but this is just woefully cobbled together, cheap-looking, and as a softcore sex film, practically useless.

 

The most interesting thing about the film are the end credits, which feature such notable names as Janusz Kaminski (Steven Spielberg’s go-to cinematographer) as a 2nd Unit Camera Operator, Mauro Fiore (Cinematographer on “Avatar” and “Tears of the Sun”) as a key grip, and perhaps most tellingly, prolific schlock filmmaker (and Corman crony) Jim Wynorski as ‘Assistant to Ms. Gabrielle’ (He has directed films like “Piranhaconda”, “Ghoulies IV”, “The Haunting of Morella”, “Chopping Mall” and the upcoming “Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre”). That, and a ‘Thank You’ credit to Penthouse Magazine say it all, really. It’s a cheap Americanised (despite a Polish director) T&A imitator of a French softcore product, and apparently the Corman cut is nothing like the original cut of the film.

 

Monique Gabrielle, an American, takes over the title role this time around and the T&A flick actress is easily the most beautiful Emmanuelle up until Krista Allen in the later “Emmanuelle” TV-movie series. She may have a generic Vanna White blonde vibe about her, but next to Allen, she’s the closest to my idea of beauty, certainly more so than the rather plain-looking, short-haired Sylvia Kristel. She lets it all hang out here, but unfortunately, that’s pretty much all she does. This really is a mid-80s titties and guns flick, Mr. Corman (who is strangely uncredited here) seems to think sexual relations are a bit icky. And since I, and presumably anyone reading this review, want on-screen sex and not just chicks firing machine guns, it’s a crushing disappointment.

 

The film gets off to a really rough start, with an appalling title song that is a wannabe 80s-era Bond theme gone wrong, and some really bad dubbing of Ms. Gabrielle for God knows what reason. The rest of the film isn’t dubbed, but the opening set piece in Cannes certainly is, and horribly done. The music is awful too, sounding like something out of a mediocre 80s sitcom. With all the boating and 80s soft rock music, I half expected Bertie Higgins to turn up. Look him up, kids. Emmanuelle isn’t even remotely the same person here, and I’m not talking some crazy plastic surgery thing, ala “Emmanuelle 4”. She’s more generic. However, at least she’s not moping about her marriage, ala “Goodbye, Emmanuelle”. Abysmally slow for such a short film, and Gabrielle’s frequent disrobing just isn’t enough compensation for a film that doesn’t really have that much sex, at least in this version. I mean, there’s one scene involving a makeshift dildo that has been so poorly butchered in this version that what was originally likely a Sapphically-inclined scene, now plays more like a masturbation scene.

 

There’s not much plot, really, it’s your standard harem story that eventually turns into, an action-oriented piece with a heavy dose of racism. I spent the entire film wishing Emmanuelle would get back home to her clearly sexually interested, lycra-wearing dancer girlfriend/roommate. Instead we have “Jewel of the Nile” with big tits. But even then, with such a large harem of stunningly beautiful women, we could’ve had a jolly good time here, but someone (be it the director, Corman, or whoever) decided that we didn’t deserve to have any fun, and so most of the women just stand around topless, and occasionally swimming nude. The sex, when it comes, is robotic and generic, and the whole damn thing is a rip-off.

 

Special mention must be made of the ludicrously named Crofton Hardester as the film’s low-rent Jack Burton/Indiana Jones. Seemingly an American actor, he’s one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen in my life, acting like he learned English phonetically. What the hell?

 

“The Pitiful Perils of Emmanuelle” is what the film really ought to have been called, it all adds up to a whole lot of nothing, and it certainly doesn’t have nearly enough sex, let alone feel like a real “Emmanuelle” film. The screenplay is by the director, Corman employee Howard R. Cohen (“Barbarian Queen”, “Deathstalker”, “Lords of the Deep” and several eps of “The Care Bears”!), and Alex Cunningham (his only screenplay), but who the hell knows how much of it was in the version I saw. I’ve read that Corman commissioned Steve Barnett to direct new scenes for his cut of the film, too.

 

Rating: D

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Independence Day


Aliens have arrived, hovering over various cities on Earth. But they aren’t friendly, blasting away without warning. Techno whiz Jeff Goldblum thinks he has decoded their transmissions, and tries to get his ex-wife and White House press secretary Margaret Colin to arrange a meeting with the President (Bill Pullman), a man he once got into a physical altercation with. They manage to evacuate the White House, as Goldblum tries to figure out a way to get past the aliens’ seemingly impenetrable shields. Meanwhile, Will Smith plays a marine fly boy called upon to join the fight to, as he puts it ‘kick ET’s ass’, alongside good buddy Harry Connick Jr. Randy Quaid turns up as a deadbeat dad and drunken crop-duster who claims to have had a ‘close encounter’ years back, Mary McDonnell is the First Lady, Vivica A. Fox is Smith’s stripper wife, Lisa Jakub is Quaid’s sulky daughter, Judd Hirsch is Goldblum’s very Jewish father, and Robert Loggia and James Rebhorn play military men of differing dispositions.

 

I can remember seeing the trailer for this 1996 blockbuster from director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin (who combined to make “Universal Soldier” and “Stargate”). I thought it was going to be a sure-fire classic. Sure I was 16 at the time, but I wasn’t easily impressed by blockbusters (“Jurassic Park” and “Batman Forever” underwhelmed me). This just looked awesome, and everyone was pumped at the time thanks mostly to one of the best marketing campaigns/hype of any film I’ve seen. And then I saw the film and thought it was…kinda OK. Seeing it again in 2014, I’ve not changed my mind much (“Stargate” was similarly disappointing, but a bit better), though the only thing that has dated the film in the last 15 or so years is the use of green screen, which hasn’t held up at all. It helps to lessen even the best special FX scenes in the film, like the otherwise excellent first shot of the alien mothership. That and the regrettable contributions from Will Smith and Vivica A. Fox are the weakest elements in an otherwise very watchable film.

 

But first, let’s look at the good. Almost no piece of American iconography goes without being destroyed in this film, and although it’s pretty standard now, in 1996 it proved quite an awesome sight. Meanwhile, the film gets off to a fun start immediately earning points for using a particular REM song we all know and love. Yes, that one. We also have perfect casting in the form of Jeff Goldblum, and especially Randy Quaid, who basically plays this role in real-life now. Seriously, have you heard about Star Whackers? Quaid is a versatile talent, but playing white trash goofs is kinda his specialty, and this time he gets to add a touch of heart too. Goldblum always comes across as a guy with a million thoughts racing in his head at once, who then takes a brief moment of pause to find amusement in those thoughts. That makes him absolutely perfect for the role of the nerdy computer whiz who is humanity’s best hope in coming up with a way to beat the aliens, from a technological standpoint. He’s also believable as a guy who might not play well with others, having gotten into a fight with the President previously. And although I’d argue that Mary McDonnell seems too old to play Bill Pullman’s wife, they are both nonetheless perfectly chosen individually as the US President and First Lady, respectively. And a little research informs me they are only a year apart from one another anyway. How ‘bout that? I also appreciated the efforts of Judd Hirsch and the underrated Margaret Colin in support (Hirsch in particular is quite touching in his devotion towards his son), whilst Harry Connick Jr. brought the funny as essentially this film’s Goose from “Top Gun”, and Robert Loggia is a sturdy presence among the military figures in the film. I also think the design of the alien ships is awesome, and Emmerich earns big points for the hilarious scene with a sublime Brent Spiner as the film confirms the existence of Area 51. I enjoyed the music score by the eclectic David Arnold (“Stargate”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “Quantum of Solace”).

 

There’s no getting around the fact that the African-American contingent in this film don’t fare well. Vivica A. Fox, playing perhaps the first in an unfortunate trend of strippers who don’t actually strip, surely mustn’t reflect on this role fondly. It’s neither a strong role for African-Americans, nor women in general. But the bigger problem is Will Smith hippin’ and hoppin’ and acting all flippant and jokey in a crucial heroic role. Emmerich gives the actor (who was terrific on TV’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) too much room to do his shtick, to an unnecessary and unhelpful degree. Even the dogfights are sullied by Smith getting all Muhammad Ali and smack talkin’, though at least this Ali is much more lively than when Smith really did play “Ali”. The film’s lowest point is Will punching an alien and yelling inarticulately: ‘Welcome to Erf’. Yes, our most jiggy Fresh Prince pronounces the planet Earth as ‘Erf’. Every line from Smith is a corny, inarticulate hippity hop catch phrase, and I just wanted him to shut the hell up. There is no need to get jiggy in this film, Mr. Smith, thank you very much.

 

I also think there was a couple of instances of really poor screenwriting. While Robert Loggia provides an interestingly measured balance to James Rebhorn’s more hawkish military character, I didn’t quite understand why Rebhorn was treated so harshly towards the end. Is merely being an arsehole justification for what happens to him? I don’t believe so. I also thought it was really poor to save one character only to have them die anyway immediately after. What the hell was that for?

 

It’s not original, it’s not the film it could’ve and should’ve been, but it ain’t “Pearl Harbour”, “Titanic”, or “Battlefield Earth”, either. There’s some undeniably striking imagery, and the dogfights are laser-beamed fun. It’s closer to the 1953 “War of the Worlds” than the superior 2005 Spielberg remake, and so long as you know you’re getting a mixture of that and “Top Gun”, it’s an easy watch. If it weren’t for Will Smith, it’d be even better than that. Not all dumb B-movies are bad, and this one is proof of that.

 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Ghost Team One


Carlos Santos and horndog roommate J.R. Villarreal (but you can call them Harold and Kumar) are told by the beautiful Fernanda (Fernanda Romero) that a ghostly spirit is haunting their house. A crazy, slutty Asian ghostly spirit. The trio decide to set up video cameras everywhere to try and capture some ghostly goings on, whilst Santos and Villarreal also try to get into Fernanda’s pants. Tony Cavalero plays their mean-spirited, racist, recovering drug addict roommate who is currently going through a phase of hating…well, everyone and everything.

 

If it weren’t for the charming and sexy Fernanda Romero, this 2013 horror comedy from directors Ben Peyser and Scott Rutherford would be truly unbearable. I’m not going to claim that Romero is the next big thing, but she’s interesting enough and hot enough to be remembered in this otherwise utterly forgettable film.

 

There’s something potentially amusing about the ineptitude of these characters, but not enough to make the grade. Scripted by Andrew Knauer and Arthur Pielli there just isn’t enough material here for a full-length film. It should’ve been a fake trailer in another movie or a sketch/segment. Or better yet, one and all should’ve realised “A Haunted House” already did this and just pack up and go home.

 

None of the performances are bad, although I would’ve gotten rid of Tony Cavalero’s drug addict character, who really only serves a purpose at the climax. How it took two people to direct this film and two separate people to write it is beyond me. This just isn’t much of anything and most of it is like a wedding video shot by your drunken uncle (Just because you’re going for pseudo doco, doesn’t give you licence to shoot things appallingly badly). The camerawork is so bad early on that you don’t even really know that something paranormal is supposed to be going on.

 

But that Fernanda Romero, boy she’s got something. My heart for starters. Seriously, I think I’m in love and she needs to be in every movie ever made from this day forward. I won’t let this one little career mistake come between us.

 

Rating: D

Review: Igor


Set in the kingdom of Malaria, the title character (voiced by John Cusack) is servant to evil scientist Dr. Glickenstein (voiced by John Cleese). It’s Igor’s dream, however, to be a scientist himself and submitting his own creation for the annual Evil Science Fair. When the evil doctor finds himself permanently void from this mortal coil, Igor sees this as his chance to prove himself. Along with sidekicks Scamper (a terminally depressed rabbit voiced by Steve Buscemi) and Brian (a brain in a jar voiced by Sean Hayes, so stupid that he got the spelling on the label wrong), Igor sets about creating evil…or as it turns out, Eva (voiced by Molly Shannon). However, the hulking female turns out somewhat defective…she’s too nice and placid! Igor tries to rectify this with a ‘brainwash’ procedure that just makes Eva annoying, now. Meanwhile, rival evil scientist Dr. Schadenfreude (voiced by Eddie Izzard) gets wind of what Igor is doing, and hopes to pilfer his ideas (which one suspects is how he wins the fair every year), with the aid of his assistant/girlfriend Jaclyn (voiced by the inimitable Jennifer Coolidge). Christian Slater voices one of the other ‘Igors’ (all servants here are named Igor).

 

This offbeat animated film from director Anthony Leondis (“Lilo & Stitch 2”) and writer Chris McKenna (writer-producer of TV’s “American Dad” and “Community”) is the kind of film you end up wanting to like more than you actually do like it. It’s likeable, watchable, and all-round OK, but you keep waiting for it to get really good, and it never does. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some fun here, undoubtedly. The premise itself of an ‘Igor’ dreaming of being a mad scientist himself is an excellent idea. The film’s funniest and most inspired sequence involves a ‘brainwash’ that is kinda like the exact opposite of what happened to Alex in “A Clockwork Orange”. Even funnier is when the brainwash procedure is interrupted (via a channel change) by “Inside the Actors Studio” so the ‘monster’ turns into a wannabe actress. Brilliant. The voice casting is particularly excellent here. John Cleese provides the voice to mad scientist Dr Glickenstein, and hearing Cleese yell at people never gets old in my opinion. Eddie Izzard is also a standout (as surprising to you as it is to me, believe me) as the voice of the megalomaniacal Dr. Schadenfreude, with Steve Buscemi ideal as a suicidal rabbit who can’t seem to die, no matter how hard he tries. Did I mention that this is a family movie? Amazingly the character works, though I’m no expert on what kids reactions will be like. It’s pretty morbid stuff. John Cusack proves an unusual but effective bit of casting as the title character, who isn’t as comedic as the other characters in the film. Although it’s not nearly as successful as the later “Frankenweenie”, the film still has a nice Universal horror bent that I appreciated.

 

But overall, the film just never quite makes the grade. Part of the problem is the animation. The warped character designs themselves are fine in conception (almost, but not quite Burton-esque), but the animation (by an animation studio called Sparx, who you might know their work on the cheap-arse kids show “Rolie Polie and Olie”, which I’m unfortunately all-too familiar with) is lacking in quality. CGI animation is so incredible these days (just look at the almost photo realistic “Rango”) that when you see a film with lesser quality animation from around the same period or just a few years earlier, boy does it show. Just look at the difference in animation quality throughout the “Toy Story” trilogy, for instance. The first one (from 1995- feeling old now?) is actually a bit hard to look at these days if you ask me. It’s not terrible animation or anything here, just not quite up to snuff, and that small dip in quality is enough to detract somewhat from one’s enjoyment.

 

The other issue is that although the film has moments and a cute premise (that could’ve and should’ve led to a genuinely good film), that’s all it really has. It works in fits and starts and you won’t remember anything except that “Inside the Actor’s Studio” gag in the days after you’ve watched it. Like I said, it’s amiable enough and initially promising enough that you want it to be better than it is. There are inspired moments here, but getting rid of the most entertaining character early on was a big mistake and the animation just isn’t quite up to the standard one expects over the last decade or so. It’s a harmless enough film, but not entirely satisfying and you can see why audiences were resistant to flock to it on release.

 

Rating: C+

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Catch Me If You Can


Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale Jr., who lived a remarkable life as a con man from ages 16-21. During this time he posed as a pilot, a doctor, and even a lawyer, getting away with millions through charm and phony cheques. In pursuit of Frank for all these years is humourless FBI man Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), whilst Christopher Walken plays Frank’s ne’er do well father, who loves his son and will try to protect him, no matter what he does, perhaps because he sees his own dealings with the IRS may have in some way influenced his son’s life of trickery and deceit. Amy Adams turns up as a na├»ve nurse who falls for Frank (posing as a doctor), with Martin Sheen as her loving father who becomes fond of Frank. We know this can’t last, though, as the spectre of Hanratty is never too far away.

 

He doesn’t always hit the bullseye, but I regard Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Minority Report”, “War of the Worlds”) as one of the best and most important filmmakers of the last 40 years. So it seems bizarre that he and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (the unfairly maligned “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, the mediocre “Tower Heist”) fail to adopt the right tone to the real-life story of Frank Abagnale Jr. in this 2005 film. I like the film well enough, but it’s not everything that it could be, because the filmmakers don’t seem to realise what a sad and tragic film this is, in many ways. They seem to think it’s a Cary Grant caper or something. Spielberg goes for light and breezy, which just doesn’t feel right for the most part, and you wish he’d do more with the father-son relationships here. Given Spielberg’s fondness for dealing with fractured families in his films (“ET: The Extra Terrestrial” for instance), it comes as quite a surprise, really. It’s the most Spielbergian aspect to an otherwise not terribly Spielbergian film. This might be because Spielberg was originally only meant to produce the film, and was late to the director’s chair. I wouldn’t call him a director-for-hire here, exactly, but it’s not one of his more substantial directorial jobs (I’d argue that both “Minority Report” and “War of the Worlds” are much better Spielberg films from around this period in his career).

 

It’s undoubtedly an entertaining story (a remarkably true one) and Leonardo DiCaprio is so right as Abagnale here, you wonder how he could be so wrong as Jay Gatsby, given the characters are both poseurs. He’s perfect as the cocky charmer and fraud with a lot of unresolved emotional issues underneath. Christopher Walken is also excellent as his loving but hopeless father who you wish the filmmakers found more time for. Some of the details of Abagnale’s cons are fun- it’s certainly an entertaining film. You almost want this cocky little bastard to get away with it, right or wrong. Part of the reason for that is because the man pursuing him is a humourless, dour FBI man played with an extremely uncharacteristic lack of charm or personality by Tom Hanks. Although he never quite makes his (New England? Bah-stan?) accent convincing, Hanks is fine, it’s just that playing the most boring man on the face of the Earth isn’t exactly to the actor’s great advantage (I would’ve cast Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, or William H. Macy). It’s actually rather annoying that Spielberg and Nathanson make Hanks’ character so humourless and unlikeable, because his is the one character taking any of this as seriously as it should be (Well, maybe a little too seriously). That’s unfair. He’s the good guy here, quite clearly. Things finally get interesting between the two characters when their dynamic changes somewhat, but by then the film is almost over! One bright spark in the film is the absolutely adorable Amy Adams, who steals her every scene. Boy is she cute as a button in this.

 

However, there’s two scenes here that show just how much better and more substantial this film could’ve been if Spielberg wanted it to be. The first is a happy family moment with DiCaprio, Adams, and her family that shows just what DiCaprio yearns for. The second is a scene with DiCaprio and Walken where he’s seemingly begging his parents to get back together. This kid is searching for something he lost all too young: His happy parental unit. It’s also in this second scene that we realise that DiCaprio’s Abagnale can’t stop lying. Mind you, alarm bells should’ve gone off that this kid is full of it when he suddenly changes from being a pilot to being a doctor. So there’s some good dramatic stuff in here, you just have to forage through the light and breezy con man caper stuff. Don’t worry, though, because you’ll have fun with all that stuff anyway. It’s a good film, it really is. It’s just not a great one.

 

I found the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (“Schindler’s List”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “War Horse”) a little distracting, as streams of light shine through windows, giving a hazy vibe that made me want to take my glasses off and rub my eyes. However, the production design and costuming are first-rate. I also loved the Saul Bass-esque title design, and the John Williams (“Jaws”, “Star Wars”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) music score gave off a similarly 60s vibe, somewhat Bernard Herrmann-ish, actually (think “To Catch a Thief”), or maybe Henry Mancini (“The Pink Panther”).

 

It’s a solid and interesting film in spite of the rather superficial and fluffy treatment the filmmakers have taken to the story as written in the book by Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding. There’s a lot to like here, I just think it could’ve been even better if Spielberg treated the rather dark subject matter more appropriately. As is, it feels oddly light and somewhat insubstantial for a film that is ultimately about a very lonely young man from a broken home made by a director whose parents also divorced at a young age.

 

Rating: B-