Tag Archives: helen mirren

2010: The Year We Make Contact

2010 The Year We Make ContactWhile it has been divisive since its release and has been described as everything from plodding and wilfully obscure to visionary there’s no deny that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was and remains a unique work in the sci-fi film canon. At its conclusion however while it certainly asked more questions than it answered I wasn’t left wondering what happens next.

Arthur C. Clarke, the original film’s writer and originator, though had other ideas and several sequels have since emerged in print, one of which, 2010 Odyssey Two, was made into a sequel to the original movie in 1984 as 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

From the start it’s clear that Peter Hyams’ film is much more down to earth and straight forward than its predecessor as we arrive on earth in the titular year and meet Dr Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), the originator of the Discovery mission from the first film.

From there he joins a mission to investigate the loss of the Discovery led by a joint group of Russian and American scientists and astronauts – unfortunately at the same time the two countries stand on verge of war, the Cold War seemingly not having been resolved as occurred in the real world.

Unfortunately while 2001 is, for the most part, timeless, 2010 feels immediately dated, not just by its ongoing Cold War setting but by the production design that couldn’t look more 80s if it tried.

Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider

Usually I find this easy to look over but something here made that hard, possibly it was the rather obvious story that, while described as a thriller, never really thrilled on any level and any political intrigue that could have existed never properly manifested.

Meanwhile the mystery of the monolith felt like a side-show until the third act at which point its effect became a bit too obvious – particularly when compared to the enigmatic climax of 2001.

Despite a strong cast featuring Helen Mirren, John Lithgow and more alongside Scheider it was hard to really get more than an archetypical view of their characters and it was only the returning voice of HAL 9000 and Keir Dullea’s lost astronaut David Bowman that had any real presence.

As they only show up in the third act properly (though are hinted at throughout) this made the first part harder work than it should have been.

Leonov encounters Discovery

Leonov encounters Discovery

Though the climax came with some nice Jupiter based visuals I couldn’t escape the feeling it was all a bit too obvious, and while it left avenues for more sequels and its message of unity is an important and worthy one, compared to both its predecessor and other sci-fi of the time 2010 falls somewhat flat.

So, while it’s not a total disaster and was mildly diverting it was nothing more, which I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by.

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Hitchcock

Hitchcock posterThe story of the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is one that has been debated and retold in various forms time and time again, but one account seems to have become the definitive – Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho – and it is on this that Hitchcock is based.

I first encountered Rebello’s book while studying Psycho as part of my media studies course so when I heard it was the basis of a dramatic movie about the time in ‘the master of suspense’s’ life I thought it was an odd choice, but, it turns out there really is a great story to tell in there.

Taking us through both the personal and professional trials and tribulations of Hitch’s life, circa 1959 and ‘60, we see the relationship between the director and his wife as well as the relationship between him and his film (and its source material) and him and his leading ladies (both past and present).

We also get to find out more than I expected about Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife, almost so much that the film could have been called “The Hitchcocks”.

Anthony Hopkins in HitchcockAlong with the personal side we also get a glimpse into the making of the movie including many of the well-known little moments such as the filming of the shower scene and Mrs Bates’ surprise appearance in Janet Leigh’s dressing room.

All that comes within Hitchcock’s 98 minute run time which leads me to what I think is the main issue with the film – it tries to pack too much in to really make anyone of them deep enough to totally engage.

scarlett johansson in HitchcockWhat this left me feeling was that this is a film with a great story but really in search of a script that has a purpose. A striking aspect of Hitchcock is how it attempts to paint a duality within the director’s character, but even this feels underdeveloped, particularly when its inviting comparison to the similar motif in Psycho.

As well as being somewhat thematically imbalanced the script also features some occasionally very off dialogue, as it seems to try to fit in some of the famous quotes that were supposedly uttered on and around the set, but often to the expense of sense and at other times it seems the characters are simply talking in cliché.

Helen MirrenOk, so far, this hasn’t sounded like a good review, but, actually I did come out of the cinema with a smile on my face and I had enjoyed it and this was largely down to the performances and a few clever elements of the direction (specifically the visual links drawn between Hitch’s well known TV personality and the Ed Gein source of Psycho).

Anthony Hopkins makes an interesting caricature version of Alfred Hitchcock that seems to channel his take on Hannibal Lector through a less psychopathic filter and add in a bit more of the humour of Hitch which Hopkins nails, particularly as we watch him at the Psycho premiere.

Helen Mirren also puts in a great performance as Alma, despite some ropey dialogue, and translates 90% of her characters arc with her actions and emotions, rather than the dialogue, which really serves to show her skill as an actor – not that it was ever in doubt – but it’s really highlighted here.

James D'Arcy as Anthony PerkinsThe other characters are generally fairly lightly painted but James D’Arcy’s Anthony Perkins is an excellent imitation and similarly Scarlett Johansen seems to channel Janet Leigh, as much as we get to know of them here anyway.

In the end Hitchcock succeeds despite itself, thanks largely to its cast and, while I found it interesting, I did wonder if it would have been as interesting to someone with less of an interest in film, and specifically Psycho, and as a whole, it didn’t really seem to know what it was trying to say about either the man or the film he was making.

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