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Recent viewings

July 25, 2010

Inception – For those who have yet to see it – prepare for a long two hours of derivitive pseudointellectual nonsense. 

4/10

Splice – Species anyone? An unconventional take on a conventional topic. Perhaps needed a bit more courage, but solid enough

7/10

The A Team – was the director battling the clock? Everything is at 100 mph – slow down and enjoy things or crash. This film crashed

3/10

Predators…sigh

July 8, 2010

Our lead, (Adrien Brody), seems like a sophisticated black ops operative – quickly taking charge of a situation, he knows how to fight and how to kill.

He doesn’t know that if the sky is full of large planets then your probably not on Earth anymore. Guess the CIA don’t teach that.

So, Predators grab humans to hunt. Humans that sometimes arent even armed – some of them aren’t even soldiers. Seems like an odd ”challenge”. When your predator friends get chalked off faster than a teen in a slasher film then it starts to make sense – if you cant handle the weak, your not going to pick on the strong

Zero characterisation (we dont even get names), DVD quality effects and plot holes galore Predators was a total waste of my time – 3/10

Should I stay or should I go…

June 26, 2010

MacGruber was so bad got me thinking of all the other films I should have walked out on and saved myself…lets take a look

King Arthur

Historical epic on a budget = 2004’s King Arthur. I’ve seen BBC dramas more lavish than this! Without a single memorable scene, character or event King Arthur is just pointless and forgetable. Apparently the aim was to make a historically accurate film. Evidently King Arthur lived a life no more interesting than you or I.

Oh and Ms Knightley’s figure needed to be ”enhanced” for the US poster. Whole thing fell…flat….it seems

Serenity

Joss Whedon should perhaps recieve credit for temporarily relaunching mainstream sci fi in a way free of Star Trek’s taint. Instead I’m going to slate his hapless attempt to make a western sci fi. Boring characters, a baffling solar system that featured dozens of habitable planets (despite some of those planets being a fair distance from the sun?) and some really tame fight sequences was all that was needed to derail this. Danjo got out before the end, should have followed his lead.

Bad Lieutenant

Curiously two hours wasn’t enough time for me to realise this film was going nowhere. One random scene after another with a total lack of humour. I just kept watching believing it had to raise its game. More fool me! Why was it played so straight up?

The Gift

I didn’t really get into film serioulsy untill Uni. Up untill then I’d just dabbled in cinema, picking carefully. Not the ‘anything goes’ approach I have now. Sam Raimi’s ‘The Gift’ was one of the first awful films I saw at the cinema. Saw this during a spell in which Keanu Reeves seemed to appear in everything. As with every film I saw in 2000, this was cheap and tacky. 2000 was a really bad year for film. Anyway, Sam Raimi involved in a bad film? Thank god that never happened again….hmmm

Street Kings

Ohh, renegade cops doing ‘what needed to be done’. How original! Well, if it had stuck to that it would have atleast been cool. Film resolves with a guy living in a house literally made of money. Of money. For cripes sake! This was a straight to dvd film released at the cinema soley to screw with me. How I was tricked into seeing it….I blame you!

V for Vendetta

Ranks among the worst films I’ve ever endured. Thinks its ever so clever but doesn’t actually realise what ”totalitarian” means. To be fair it is the only film I’ve seen where a man in a mask is able to order thousands of costumes of a wanted criminal and then post thousands of boxes containing said costumes. Just how would you manage such a feat in a free and fair democracy – let alone a regime that was actively looking for this type of shenanigan? Truly terrible.

MacGruber – the film that broke me

June 23, 2010

Never walked out on a film…god how I’ve wanted to over the years. The crapfest of 2010 Hollywood finally broke me and I walked out of this.

Is it a comedy? Action film? Buddy pic? Hadn’t a clue. No one was laughing and without a plot I saw no reason to continue.

Apparently this is based on a genuinely good series of SNL skits, oh well.

1/10 – totally pointless

Review: The Losers

June 15, 2010

It happens from time to time. Two films appear that are about the same thing but otherwise totally unconnected.

Deep Impact/Armageddon, A Bugs Life/Antz – I’m sure you can think of more.

Here it’s The Losers and The A Team. 

5 guys (not 4!) led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan are framed (I think they were?) for a crime they didn’t commit. Again, not clear what ‘’crime’’ this was. Anyway, they want revenge. Trouble is ‘’Max’’ (Jason Patric as ‘’the villain’’) is in America and they are in Bolivia. Little known fact – it’s impossible to get to America from this mythical country without doing some ultra risky high paying job. Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek) just so happens to have such a job, and a bottomless pit of money. And looks. Some girls have all the luck. If they take out Max they’ll get a trip back to America (are you kidding me?). Meanwhile Max has a handful of nukes and works for the CIA in their ‘world domination’ department. Suffice to say via every city on earth they get from Bolivia to Florida, shoot bad guys and save the day.

The Losers is very much trying to be, okay yes – The A Team, but what I want to say is amusing and light-hearted. It is. Score! This isn’t a film that’s trying to be clever – bullets always miss good guys and a rocket launcher has virtually no recoil. Plot is pretty much a luxury here. When the film is focussing on our characters it’s doing well. Chris Evans plays – well, think Chandler from Friends. He’s very funny and every scene he’s in immediately succeeds. In one, with a sniper covering him, he pretends to be telekinetic ‘shooting’ bad guys with his bar hands – ‘momma didn’t raise no foo’’.  Just about everyone gives a likeable enough performance with their paper thin characters. Zoe Saldana never seems to wear much more than her underwear so another plus – she is very, ahem, attractive.

The Losers is pretty much your run of the mill comedy action hybrid, you’ve seen it before, you’ve seen it better but its entertaining, it’s not dull and Chris Evans is great. It doesn’t try to be particularly dynamic and it certainly doesn’t achieve anything in particular. For throwaway cinema this is perfectly acceptable.

Oh, it has Journey’s ‘Don’t stop believing’ three times in the soundtrack. How come that song is everywhere? So, yet another +1.

It’s mindless, I won’t even remember seeing it come tomorrow and it cost me £5, but The Losers is a great starter act for The A Team,

6/10

Transformers 3 – Bay promises it won’t suck

June 12, 2010

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen wasn’t quite as bad as it seems – but it did seem pretty bad. Shia LaBoeuf rounded on the film some months back, Megan Fox walked out on TF3 and now even Michael Bay owns up that even he wasn’t proud of it…

With shooting underway on a third movie and plans to debut next summer, Michael Bay and Co. acknowledge missteps with the last one and aim to upgrade the shape-shifting robot franchise with a more coherent story, less goofball humor and a pledge that characters who die will stay dead. It will also be in 3-D.

Revenge of the Fallen was the No. 2 movie of 2009 (behind only Avatar), earning $836 million worldwide — clearly very popular, though complaints from some moviegoers and a negative fusillade from critics made the filmmakers take notice.

“I’ll take some of the criticism,” says Bay, standing at a set built to resemble a dilapidated nuclear reactor. “It was very hard to put (the sequel) together that quickly after the writers’ strike (of 2007-08).”

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says the rush strained the plot: “We tried to do too many things in the second movie, which didn’t give enough time in any one of them. We were constantly jumping to the next piece of information, the next place.”

Bay is not one for mea culpas, but he says he can do better. “This one really builds to a final crescendo. It’s not three multiple endings,” the director says.

Bay calls the second film’s villain, The Fallen, “kind of a (expletive) character.” The new movie’s foe is certain to make fans of the original ’80s incarnation smile: Shockwave, the robot cyclops-turned-laser-cannon, who became dictator of their home world of Cybertron after the other Autobots and Decepticons journeyed to Earth.

“One thing we’re getting rid of is what I call the dorky comedy,” Bay adds. So the twins, the two bumbling, slang-spewing robots? “They’re basically gone,” he says, though John Turturro returns for comic relief.

The new film features Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) taking his first tenuous steps into adulthood while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime. “Shia has this great line: ‘You know, I’ve saved the world twice, but I can’t get a job,’ ” di Bonaventura says.

Megan Fox, who played Mikaela, was dropped just before shooting, so LaBeouf’s character also has a new love interest, played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

“I love Megan and I miss the girl,” LaBeouf says, flecked with fake blood and dirt during a break between shooting. “But Sam and Mikaela became one character, and here … you have discovery again from a new perspective.”

Plot details are under wraps, but it delves into the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the USA, suggesting there was a hidden Transformers role in it all that remains one of the planet’s most dangerous secrets. “The movie is more of a mystery,” Bay says. “It ties in what we know as history growing up as kids with what really happened.”

While Optimus Prime, Megatron and even Sam all have died and been resurrected, di Bonaventura says this film will have no do-overs: Die, and that’s it.

Bay hints that there may be a lot of that. “As a trilogy, it really ends,” he says. “It could be rebooted again, but I think it has a really killer ending.”

http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2010-06-11-Transformers11_ST_N.htm?csp=usat.me

They’ve hired a model with no acting experience. Guess they really do want to make a good film…

Reviews: Bad Lieutenant and Prince of Persia

May 28, 2010

Bad Lieutenant

Quirky, stylistic, funny, insane.

That’s what the myriad of reviewers think of Bad Lieutenant (Directed by Werner Herzog, starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendez).

Cop injures his back and turns to drugs to cope with the pain. Addiction spirals out of control and he abuses his power to get his fix. Ultimately everything works out for him.

When you can summarise a film so easily you know it’s not got much of a story to tell. Bad Lieutenant doesn’t try to be a story but a style.

Trouble is – I didn’t notice any style. Occasionally the camera zooms in on a reptile’s eye and a dead body dances, once. Apparently that’s the ‘drugs’, every now and again Cage will go all Castor Troy from Face/Off and shout a bit. Where reviewers have seen this as a descent into drug fuelled madness it basically comes across as a fairly toned down performance. If anything Cage is remarkably calm for a man heavily in debt, being investigated by IA and pursued by gangsters – oh, and addicted to heroin and in constant, agonising pain. This conservative showing keeps you off balance throughout – if it’s about dug fuelled excess – why is there so little? If it’s not about drug fuelled excess – why is there so much?

It’s open to conjecture whether we’re supposed to care about the characters or the story or just get lost in the style. Certainly we are given no reason to care whether the murder Cage is investigating gets resolved. When it ultimately is you struggle to remember what was even being investigated.

Cage gives a workmanlike performance – complete with ever changing accent. He’s not a likeable character and learns nothing throughout; actually he’s the one who doesn’t change. I found his performance far too understated.

All told Bad Lieutenant is played fairly straight up as a cliché tale of a bent cop – and why would anyone want to see that again?

(A generous) 4/10

Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time

Jerry Bruckheimer’s name doesn’t appear in the opening credits of Prince of Persia. Perhaps his infamous lightning strike graphic is all that’s required – maybe he’s too famous to need to be named.

Or maybe he didn’t want his name up there.

Prince of Persia would support either or both of those conclusions.

Yes, the man who produced everything from 80’s camp classic Top Gun to Pirates of the Caribbean, Pearl Harbour and those awful, awful Bad Boys films is back. Jerry has made a lot of money making a certain type of film – simple plot, big name lead, unconvincing love angle and SFX everywhere. Mr Bruckheimer has done more for the negative view of blockbusters than any man alive.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the big name lead, Gemma Arterton the unconvincing love angle and director x provided the deluge of SFX. The formula doesn’t change.

A magic dagger can turn back time and evil Ben Kingsley is after it for some reason (does it matter?). Prince Daston must battle the Persian army to ensure – again, who cares? You know it will end with a couple in love, world saved and a glorious summers day. The dagger can reverse time – but this plot device is rarely used which is inexplicable because it could clearly have provided some excellent sequences. The highlight of the film is Ms Arterton’s midriff which is far more effective against men than the infamous Sands of Time!

All told this is a serviceable offering. Acting is solid throughout and Alfred Molina’s rebel leader is always amusing. Ben Kingsley plays…well, Ben Kingsley. If there is an actor more typecast please let me know. Mr Gylenhal’s attempt at an English accent isn’t poor – but it is bewildering (they are in Persia and no one else bothers with an accent…). Where the film really struggles is some horrendous CGI, it’s overused and of a very poor quality. Perhaps there were budget constraints, maybe it was rushed or maybe no one actually cared. Certainly the film suffers as a result.

The script is poor but the endless exposition seems more a homage to the computer game style than a genuine attempt to insult the audience. Most of what happens is suitably baffling that I for one was grateful for some explanation – but just how did the King cross his empire so quickly by camel? The film is littered with absurdities (sleeping in the middle of the desert? Tracking people’s footprints across a desert?) but this isn’t a film that cares about such things and just wants to see a guy jump about on buildings while brandishing swords.

Probably intended for a younger audience it’s about as average as a film can be.

5/10

Review: Four Lions

May 18, 2010

A comedy about bombers killing people at the London marathon. We are on shaky ground aren’t we?

I was apprehensive of seeing Four Lions and, as the credits roll, I had every reason to be.

Film starts well, four young men disillusioned with the West plot their way to the afterlife with a suicide bombing.  Straight away my fears seemed allayed – our four protagonists are utter morons, spouting preposterous slogans and utterly detached from reality. We laugh at their nonsense and their clownish ineptitude – in true parody fashion the audience is asked to look at these people with contempt. ‘Don’t go to the capitalist McDonalds! Go get the bargain bucket from the Halal restaurant – only £6.99!’’ We watch them edit their video messages where they squabble and fight, ‘these are the bloopers’ one says to his puzzled wife, ‘’infact they are all bloopers’’. Whether they are dancing along to campy pop tunes or scuttling along the ground to ‘evade’ the police everything is played for laughs. In one superb scene they attempt to train crows to attack a toy house – with predictable results.

Its not just terrorism that is parodied.  Fundamentalism takes some swipes, a friend refuses to enter a room because a woman is there, the Lion King is reworked as a Holy War tale. Islam itself however, is never sullied. The film is conscious to show Muslims are British citizens and as vulnerable as anyone to the extremism. To hammer this point home our group plots an attack on a mosque – in the name of Islam.

Three quarters through and we have an intelligent and daring film breaking down the ‘us’ and ‘them’, Britain is faced by wicked men devoid of justification – there is no glamour to their cause. I believed I could relax – this was not in bad taste, if anything it was as vociferous in its condemnation as any film could be.

Our film concludes with an attack on the London Marathon – bombers dressed in hilarious fancy dress costumes plan. It’s all going so well.

Then people start dying.  Passers by, shop keepers. Our clownish group launch a successful bombing in the capital. Yet the ‘’comedy’ doesn’t stop – as people are dying we have the Honey Monster running about while a teenage mutant ninja turtle runs from police. Our leading man tries to sort out a new phone contract to coordinate his strike while the shop keeper tries to sell him free minutes. A film that has tried so hard to demonstrate that suicide bombing is an abomination now uses their strikes as visual gags – ‘oh look Honey Monster just blew up a restaurant, while dressed as Honey Monster, isn’t that funny?’

It’s rare that I have been so disappointed by a film, it has such comedy for so much of its running time. Then we have scenes of the police killing the wrong people but then joking about the difference between a Star Wars Wookie costume and a bear costume. Imagine if the Jews started breakdancing at the end of Schindler’s List, the danger of taking your eye off the ball.

Looking past the story we can safely say the scrupt and acting are superb throughout – delivery is spot on and we ‘’like’’ the characters despite their motivations. Young actors, I imagine successful careers await them all.

Cinematography is another highlight. Many sequences are filmed as if they are the video messages while other scenes are shot ‘shaky cam’ style – in the style of a police surveillance tape. This lends a realism to offset the absurdity of the scenes themselves and gave the film a distinctive style.

So much of this film was so very amusing – perhaps not side splitting – but intelligent nod’s to real world situations and past events. It was so very sad to watch it all unravel. I do not want to get carried away here – but after such intelligent writing it was depressing to watch it all just melt away.

Four Lions was perhaps a bit like an Arsenal game – great entertainment for 89 mins then a clumsy penalty and they lose 1-0. I expected little only for it to give me much – and then snatch it away. 

Go and see, make up your own mind, but for me this gets 4/10.

Review: Robin Hood

May 15, 2010

What was Ridley Scott’s last ‘classic’? Let’s make that question a bit more interesting – how old were you when his last ‘classic’ was in cinemas? Maybe you thought Gladiator was a classic? Scott certainly did and he’s paired up again with Russell Crowe for another historical epic.

Robin Hood is an origin story of a fictitious character from Nottingham, or Yorkshire, or, judging by the accents – Dublin. Robin is an archer in the army of King Richard who swears an oath to transport a sword back to Nottingham. He didn’t have anything else to do. What follows is Robin pretending to be a Knight, joining the household of a Nottingham baron and fighting the French alongside King John. I’m not sure that’s historically accurate. Wait, I know that’s not accurate.

Storywise, Robin Hood isn’t going to impress. Loosely drapped across the screen is some sort of allegory for…modern bankrupt Britain? The joy of communism? It’s difficult to follow and your left thinking you’ve missed a key scene. People want to see Robin Hood ambushing the Sheriff’s men in Sherwood Forrest, instead we get a history of the Magna Carta. Many people will be left feeling a bit cheated; I left feeling there was a more interesting tale to tell about Robin Hood.

Thankfully this isn’t a film where we need to care too much about the story. I don’t think Ridley Scott makes good films – I’ll level with you now. What he does do is make visually impressive films. Alien, Blade Runner and now Robin Hood, films that just look great. There must have been CGI in this film – but it’s used so sparingly, it’s used so well that the film looks uncannily realistic. A cavalry charge is surely CGI wizardry – but it honestly looks like hundreds of knights in action. James Cameron are you watching? Let’s not get carried away – the battle scenes aren’t particularly well directed but they do look authentic. Medieval towns and cities also come to life, there is a lot of care and attention here.

Russell Crowe’s Irish Robin Hood is adequate. Hollywood Male Warrior 101 really. He’s tough, he’s emotionally guarded, he’s probably an unavoidable movie stereotype. Cate Blanchett is much better as Marion – in true warrior queen style. Her scenes with Russell Crowe are the films best though I didn’t need to see her actually become the literal warrior queen.

The last big screen outing for Mr Hood was Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. It was pure Hollywood nonsense, but it was a lot of fun. A bit of ‘fun’ would have helped this film a long nicely – trimming both the story and running time might have been all that was required. Personally I’d have liked a bit more swashbuckling bravdo, after all if your not ‘cool’ your not an outlaw – your just a malcontent. The film tries hard to not be your typical action flick – to the extent it deliberately avoid avoids some easy wins. A moustache twirling villain and the sexy young heroine are cliché – but if you haven’t the story to compensate with you suffer more from their absence.

Despite the effort to the contrary Robin Hood is all style and little substance – but what style it has works just well enough, though I would have liked some of the sunning shots Prince of Thieves had (remember Robin’s slow mo arrow shot as the background explodes?). Overall impressive visuals, adequate performances and simply not being as dull as Iron Man 2 get’s this a ‘pass’ in my book.

7/10

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

May 9, 2010

Star Wars just doesn’t work. Welcome to a new series of articles where we shine a light on Lucas’s nonsense!

Darth Vader, believing Luke won’t come quietly, feels the need to freeze him in carbonite for his ‘trip to the Emperor’

Why this doesn’t work:

  • Well, for a start – travel across the universe is instantaneous – thus Luke’s trip would take about 20 mins door to door. Turning someone into space concrete for a the equiv of a round trip to the cornershops is bizarre.
  • Carbon freezing is not for people transport – did Vader just pick a method at random. Perhaps it was that or storing him in a blender.
  • Luke could have been subdued with something as simple as an anesthetic. I presume they have those. Or how about a pair of handcuffs. Or one of those stun guns (remember those, they zapped Leia with one?). Was Luke really so dangerous a padded cell wasn’t enough?
  • The Emperor could have come to them (remember travel is instantaneous) and didn’t they have a 19,000 km base parked in orbit anyway?
  • Vader could have just used Han and Leia as hostages to ensure Luke behaves himself
  • Vader could have used the ray shields from Revenge of the Sith or the ‘spinning blue energy’ from Attack of the Clones to keep Luke quiet

Is there a counter argument? Go on, tell me why Star Wars works!