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the day the earth stood still

Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

By Cinema, Reviews

Finally, we have a week with only one new film in it: a chance for me to stretch my legs, extem­por­ise, riff a little, get my hands dirty. Yeah, I’ve been look­ing for­ward to this, to prove I can be a real film crit­ic and write eru­dite and cul­tured prose; place a film in its wider social, polit­ic­al and cul­tur­al con­text; dis­cuss mise-en-scène and die­get­ic register, all the while provid­ing a riv­et­ing (and undeni­ably “cor­rect”) per­spect­ive on the film’s mer­its and qual­it­ies. Cool.

The Day the Earth Stood Still posterUnfortunately, the film that stands alone this week is the Keanu Reeves remake of the 1951 clas­sic The Day the Earth Stood Still and frankly its hardly worth the both­er. The ori­gin­al film was a pulp par­able play­ing on the nuc­le­ar para­noia of “duck and cov­er” America: an ali­en lands in Central Park to tell us that he’s going to des­troy the human race because we don’t deserve to live (we are war­like, bru­tal and selfish creatures you see, and the earth is too pre­cious to be left in our care). But, the stern humanoid ali­en Klaatu softens on con­tact with a human child and real­ises that our capa­city for change makes us worth per­sever­ing with. Naïve but satisfying.

The new ver­sion keeps the guts of the story intact (eco­lo­gic­al doom and home­land secur­ity make up the new para­noia) while over­blow­ing everything else to giant size. Reeves dead­pans his way through as Klaatu (sens­ibly stay­ing well with­in the lim­its of his range) and he’s joined by the mid-market star power of Jennifer Connelly, “Mad Men“ ‘s ‘Don Draper’ him­self (the unfor­tu­nately named Jon Hamm), Kathy Bates and a mis­cast John Cleese. Kid duty is done by Will Smith’s little boy Jaden who made such an impres­sion in last year’s The Pursuit of Happyness.

I had high hopes for this, based on some evoc­at­ive trail­ers, but the real­ity is a dis­ap­point­ment. The plot­ting is messy and incon­clus­ive and the effects look murky and rushed. The whole thing looks like someone lost con­fid­ence half way through shoot­ing, then decided to cut the budget in half and hope for the best.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 17 December, 2008.

The Right Stuff

By Cinema, Music

I’ve just got home from watch­ing The Day the Earth Stood Still at the Empire in Island Bay. It has sev­er­al short­com­ings (which I’ll cov­er off in the review later this week), one of which is the lack of decent theme music.

Sure, it has a score (writ­ten by Tyler Bates) but that score is like so many these days: a series of chords strung togeth­er to height­en imme­di­ate emo­tion – com­pletely unmem­or­able once they’ve passed through your head. I even stayed through to the end of the cred­its to see/hear if any­thing more inter­est­ing was going to hap­pen. It didn’t.

Compare with the film I watched last night (in hi-def via the Apple TV Store): Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff. Bill Conti’s score is legendary, an Oscar-winning fan­fare that nev­er fails to get the heart pump­ing. And, because I obvi­ously don’t have enough to do, and I want to try the Yahoo Music Player plu­gin, here’s the Cincinnati Pops ver­sion of Music from The Right Stuff” (right click to down­load in m4amp3 format or click the play but­ton to open the Yahoo Player).


Right click to Download Music from The Right Stuff

Update: I’ve gone back to the Anarchy Media Player plu­gin for back­wards (and hope­fully for­wards) com­pat­ib­il­ity reasons.

Update2: And the upgrade to WP2.7 breaks the Anarchy Player. Sigh. I don’t want to waste too much time on this. Any ideas for a work­ing altern­at­ive solution?