18 March 2006

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros., 2006)

Borrowing from the legend of Guy Fawkes, a single man known only as V (Hugo Weaving) takes a stand against Britain's totalitarian regime of the very near future in V for Vendetta, based on Alan Moore's classic graphic novel of the same name. When V meets Evey (Natalie Portman), it seems like a coincidental meeting until it becomes clear that nothing in V's world is a coincidence -- everything and everyone is connected.

The film does stray somewhat from the novel which was written at the height of Thatcher's rule in the late 1980s but it strays so that it may seem that much more universal. Vendetta is still set in England and the idea that there can be hope even in times that seem hopeless remains the central theme.

While the film benefits from a strong script, based on a strong novel, it is carried by strong performances. In addition to Portman and Weaving, gripping performances are delivered by Stephen Rae and Rupert Graves as the detectives who come to fear the worst; and by Stephen Fry as Evey's boss, Gordon, a British Television Network celebrity who has a few secrets of his own. The casting of John Hurt as the totalitarian leader is also a wry wink to dystopian film fans who may remember his turn as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty Four.

Rounding out what is good about this film are the direction (by James McTeigue), the costume design, and the set design. In fact, there is little about it that I take exception with. I wasn't sure how much whizz-bang to expect from the Wachowski Brothers (of Matrix fame) but they did not go over the top. There is some gore and there are some impressive explosions and even a few spectacular fight sequences. Overall though, V for Vendetta is more about V than his vendetta; the film's focus is on the ideas of justice and of rebellion rather than on the way those things are brought about.

Considering the subject matter -- the central character is a terrorist -- V for Vendetta is a film that fills its audience with hope. In the end, it's clear: not only can you stand up to your government and say, "Bollocks," but sometimes you should.


V for Vendetta is in theatres now.

Buy the graphic novel V for Vendetta (Canada/USA/UK)
Buy the soundtrack Music from V for Vendetta (Canada/USA/UK)

TAGS: , ,

10 March 2006

The Shaggy Dog (Disney, 2006)

It's been almost 50 years since Disney's original version of The Shaggy Dog (1958), starring Fred MacMurray, was released; long enough that even the parents of many of the kids who want to see the film will not have seen the original. Luckily, if they do remember the original, they will realize moments into the film that the only similarity between the two films is that the father hates dogs. In the original, the son transformed into a sheepdog; in the re-imagined version, the father (well-played by Tim Allen) transforms.

Tim Allen is Dave Douglas, a busy corporate lawyer aiming to be the next District Attourney. He's too busy for his kids -- political teen Carly (Zena Grey) and football-challenged Josh (Spencer Breslin) -- and even seems to have stopped listening to his wife Rebecca (Kirsten Davis), so it's only fair that a mystical dog should make him change his perspective. Allen is ideal for the role; his stand-up routine included comparisons between man and other animals; he's accomplished at both slapstick and drama; and after transforming into Santa, a sheepdog was not a big challenge. Rounding out the cast, Robert Downey Jr. puts in an over-the-top performance in the evil-scientist role and Craig Kilborn provides some punchlines as an annoying neighbour.

The comedy is classic Disney-family-style, with a few broad strokes of slapstick and some nods to other films thrown in (listen for Allen's Toy Story shoutout). The best shots in the film are those seen through Douglas' eyes as a dog and reminded me of some of the scenes from Cats and Dogs (2001). I walked into this movie with fairly low expectations but found myself laughing -- one ridiculous sequence in particular had me almost roaring -- and more or less enjoying this light little family film.


The soundtrack includes a half dozen songs about dogs; among them: Big Dog by Akon, the inevitable Who Let the Dogs Out by the Baha Men, Atomic Dog by George Clinton -- some of which didn't appear in the movie -- along with the original score by Alan Menken.

Buy The Shaggy Dog soundtrack on CD.
Buy The Shaggy Dog (1958) on DVD