Andrew Mobbs (mobbsy) wrote,
Andrew Mobbs

Yesterday, I saw Warriors of Heaven and Earth, Super Size Me and Callas Forever.

I'm glad I don't want to be a professional reviewer. It is hard work even getting a few words down about each.

Warriors of Heaven and Earth is a well executed martial film of the "small band against overwhelming odds" genre, done on an impressive scale. The party is guiding a camel train through central China, which contains something that the Bad Guys really want. The scenery is impressively desolate, and the contrast between the peaceful lake among forest covered mountains with the harsh Gobi desert is stark.

The film walks a characteristically Eastern edge between a fantasy and a pseudo-historical epic. The interplay between the group is good, if of a somewhat melodramatic touch, while the leader of the Turk bandits is overplayed with sheer mustache-twiddling style.

Overall, good but not great.

Super Size Me is a superb documentary. The film is a powerful combination of intelligent background research and interviews combined with the personal touch of Morgan Spurlock using himself as a lab-rat, eating nothing but McDonald's food for a month. The reaction of his girlfriend (a vegan chef) and his doctors as his physical and mental health declines over the course of the month adds to the impact.

This is an extreme demonstration of the effects of unhealthy eating which underlines the general trend. The thesis is that the ready availability of cheap food with high levels of fat and refined carbohydrates is a major contribution to rising obesity levels in the US. McDonald's are particularly blamed as the largest such company. McDonald's appear to be offered a chance to respond, Morgan Spurlock makes many phone calls to their PR department to try to arrange an interview, to no avail.

The debate is of course between individual and collective responsibility. The film counters this by building a case that the fast food companies are spending a lot of money attempting to undermine individual responsibility, in particular with the advertising targeted at children. Frequent comparisons are drawn between smoking and fast food consumption. Which led to the only point in the film which I felt strongly against was one interviewee who suggested that today it had become socially acceptable to hector smokers to change their habits for the good of their health; and wondering when it would become similar for obese people.

Callas Forever was a great introduction to the soprano Maria Callas for me, which seemed to be largely the point of Zeffirelli making this. The biopic uses the clever device of a (fictional) producer persuading Callas to produce a film years after her voice has gone, dubbing over recordings from the peak of her career. This allows us to hear Callas' wonderful voice without a disconnect seeing Fanny Ardent playing Callas miming.

Zeffirelli is obviously there mostly for the opera and Callas, the production of Carmen is glorious. The rest of the film is weaker, largely acting as a supporting structure for the focus. Off-stage most of the film is looking at clashing high-strung artistic temperaments, and the business behind the production.
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