Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

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

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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

Prince of Persia: A Response

June 8, 2010

My word, James was very easy-going on this one…

You know a movie is as mediocre as they come when you walk out thinking – “Man! I actually enjoyed Clash of the Titans more than that!!?”

I personally find a mediocre movie far more offensive than a bad one. Nothing screams laziness and soulless filmmaking more to me than mediocrity. I therefore found Prince of Persia to be – lets just say – awkward viewing.

The action was incoherent and badly edited, the characters were dull and unconvincing (just like the CGI) and it`s lead Jake Gyllenhaal was just bloody awful!

Jake, obviously concentrating more on keeping-up his stiff-as-a board British accent than actually emoting, has the persona of a slightly dim 10 year boy. A 10-year-old mind in a $2000 a month, gym-sculpted body. Jakes acting is terrible and projects only two identifiable emotions through out – confused and smiley.

Yes, it appears the world has found its first mentally challenged super hero with Prince of Perisa; what an open-minded world we live in!

His co-star, and generic love interest Gemma Arterton is a little more spunky, but looks as though she has mistakenly wandered from the set Clash of the Titans and just decided to stay there and make a go of it, seeing as she already dressed for the occasion. Is it just me? Or was Gemma playing EXACTLY the same character that she played in Titans!?

Hell, she even ends up being given away as a prize to her leading man at the end of both movies! Talk about type casting, not to mention sexist!

As for the plot; again, like its lead – simple sums it up quite nicely. But simple in that annoyingly whimsical and floaty way that gets so silly I just couldn’t summarise it even at gun point!

From what I can remember, it basically consists of our rag tag team of chemistry-free protagonists darting from one set to other, searching for a mystical dagger (and yes, it is referred to as mystical in the movie too) A dagger that rarely gets used, and whose true potential and origin is never clarified.

One of the most suprising (by which I mean weird) aspects of Prince of Persia, is that it is attempts to be an odd satire on the Iraqi war. The main thrust of the movie concerns the Persian army being tricked into invading a peaceful city under the false pretense of there being concealed weapons of mass destruction hidden there. Hum, that sounds very familiar.

The movie even ends with Jake essentially apologizing to the entire town for his army’s actions. If Avatar was subconsciously a white-guilt movie; it appears Prince of Persia is an invasion-guilt movie.

How very on the nose – not to mention inappropriate for a Disney/Bruckheimer summer fun extravaganza!

A very odd, and very un-exciting adventure movie that is more The Mummy Returns than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A very generous – 5/10

Review: REC 2

June 2, 2010

I really wanted to like this one…

Being a huge fan of the original movie, I strided into REC 2 with my head and expectations held high – only to shuffle out with my head slumped low and feeling more soulless than the zombies of the picture.

Such a shame, because the first REC movie did something truly special. It managed to not only use the already tired shaky-cam gimmick to great effect, but also made the  equally tired zombie genre frightening again!

REC`s expertly staged set pieces and pure ferocious energy grabbed you by the balls so hard that it actually tore them off and then ate them in front of you. Truly intense, creatively shot and filled with images and moments that chilled me to the bone.

A modern horror masterpiece some might say. 

The sequel? …meh… not so much.  

Some sequels have the annoying habit of diminishing your affection for its predecessor. Unfortunately, this is one of them.

The movie picks up the second the first movie ends. Before I go on, if you havent seen the original, don’t bother reading anymore of this review. Just go out, rent it, buy it – hell, even bloody steal it if you have to. Its great, and makes this movie entirely redundant. Now, if you have seen it (and presumably liked it) continue reading and heed my warning.

Adopting the same fly-on-the-wall directorial style of the first, we are introduced to our (surprisingly) small SWAT team of protagonist’s – lead by a mysterious government official (aren’t they always)- as they prepare to enter the zombie-infested apartment building in which the events of the first movie took place.

The teams naturalistic dialogue and blase attitude to the job at hand helps establish a real world feel to the events we are seeing. This is important because the authenticity and believability of its characters was a key part of the first movies success. I was therefore pleased to see that REC2`s opening moments successfully recapture that tone.

Sadly, as soon as our team steps foot inside the dreaded house of horror, the movies quality drastically diminishes.

There is no point outlining too much of the movies paper-thin plot because even a single sentence could spoil entire sections of the movie. All I will say is that realism (and therefore investment in the fate of our heros) goes completely out of the window, very quickly.

The combination of Rec 2`s ridiculasly stupid plotting, logic defying character decisions and some horribly hammy and OTT performances leave you cringing rather than cowering. From start to finish, not one moment in this film makes any real sense, and at no point do you buy that you are watching real people, reacting in a realistic way. A major problem for a movie like this.

On top of that, REC 2 completely lacks any sense of narrative  focus. It just clumsily stumbles from one moment to the next without any sense of drive or  purpose. Stuff just happens, only ever coming to life during its fleeting moments of action. Not that there is much of that either. It did dawn on me quite quickly that movie was not going to win me over with its lame characters and clunky staging. My only hope was that movie was really going to blow me away with its heart pounding action sequences. Let me tell you now, it didn’t. Never exciting, frequent or coherent – the action fails to deliver.

Sadly, that isn’t even my biggest problem with the film. No that honour goes to the simple fact it just isn’t scary!

One thing I loved about the first REC was its creative and frightening set pieces. Here, we get nothing more than the same shot of a zombie/demon quickly lunging at the camera over and over again. Very disappointing. The movie lacks the creeps and Oh shit were in trouble moments the first one revelled in. There is nothing on show here that wasnt done more effectively in the first.

The only original aspect the sequels throws into the mix is that it whacks the supernatural aspects of its premise up a few thousand notches. The ambiguous nature of the cause of the outbreak is (wisely) only hinted at in the first – here it thrust into your face so hard that it actually gave me a black eye! You see the zombies here aren’t just infected with a virus, they have been infected by evil itself! Que a lot of Exorcist-lite religious mumbo jumbo, bog standard exorcism scenes and an incredibly silly climax involving the magical properties of a infra-red camera. I’m not kidding either – the climax of the movie does involve a mystical infa-red camera!

To be fair, I was more than willing to go with the whole religious angle – but I couldn’t help but feel that the ghost and ghoulies aspects of the sequel clashed with its real-world setting, and ultimately worked against the movie as a whole.

Oh, I forgot to mention that midway through, a new cast of expendable (and down-right irritating) younger characters get awkwardly shoe-horned into mix. Their inclusion adds nothing more to the movie than an extension on its body count, and forcing us to re-tread moments we have already seen. 

If I had to say one good thing about REC2, I would say that I appreciated the work that went into pulling-off almost all of its special effects practically and in-camera. The odd use of CGI doest jar – and if nothing else – the movie does look visually impressive; if not a little too similar to your average first person shooter. Video games have clearly been a strong influence on directors  Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza
visual pallet. So much so that you often find yourself recollecting more effective moments from your computer game library.

To summarise, REC 2 is basically just the first movie with guns – minus the scares, realism and intensity. Never boring, but never engaging – there are far worse ways for zombie fans to get their fix this summer, but a re-watch of the original is certainly be more advisable.

4/10

Retro Reviews: Where the Wild Things Are, The Incredible Hulk and A New Nightmare

May 23, 2010

A brief look at some of the random movies that hit my radar this week.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are (based on the popular children’s book of the same name) tells that tale of Max, a troubled and lonely single child who escapes into his own personal fantasy world when real life because a little too much for him.

While absolutely gorgeous to look at, I personally found this movie a real chore to get through.

This is a movie about being a  child, and is told entirely from our young leads point of view. The movie abandons conventional storytelling to concentrate on visualizing the random and scatter-brain thoughts and ideas of a child at play in his own mind. Unfortunately, this intriguing concept is actually my biggest problem with the movie. With a child’s mind being the instigator of the events of the movie, things like logic and narrative simply do not have a place here. Events just happen because our protagonist wills them too. There is no actual story arch to follow – just one random moment after the other.

One minute Max and his furry friends (who each symbolize a different aspect of his character, which sounds cleverer than it actually is) decide to build a giant fort – just for the hell of it! Then they decide to run around the forest for a bit, then they stop to talk non-sense for a few scenes then some more running around the forest! In fact, there is so much running through the woods in this movie that it gives The Blair Witch Project a run for its money.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Max makes some new friends, does stuff then decides he wants to go home – and so does. End of movie. We have not been taken on an imaginative and mystical journey, the character hasnt learnt anything about himself and the entire middle act of the movie has no pay-off. To make matters worse, the fact that this is all taking place in Max`s mind means that there is never truly any sense of danger or concern for the characters because it is literally impossible for anything bad to really happen to them. This fact alone makes it difficult to really invest in what is going on because the reality of what we are seeing is of no consequence.

On top of that, the movies lead (played by the incredibly named Max Records) is impressive from an acting perspective but also horribly unlikable. This bratty boys life is a hell of a lot better than some poor kids upbringing and so his anger and poor me mentality gets very annoying, very quickly – leaving me with the overwhelming desire to ship him off to Gary Glitters house for a reality check. 

Dont get me wrong, the creature effects and the cinematography are a real joy to behold and the almost experimental approach to its storytelling is nobel. It just didn’t really work for me.

To summarize, I was sadly completely un-engaged by anything that happened in this movie. I didn’t connect with it emotionally and found it be about as coherent and entertaining as the sugar-fueled ramblings of a toddler. Oh, and the less said about its mildly pleasant, yet massively pretentious indie pop soundtrack the better.

4\10 

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The 2008 sequel\reboot to Ang Lee`s overly long, overly cerebral take on the Hulk character improves on its predecessor in almost every way. Although the action in this movie never quite reaches the all-out badassery of the desert sequence of the first, the action here is impressive and the character development of its lead Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is thorough and well handled without ever bogging the movie down.

The movie looks fantastic. Director Louis Leterrier has a great eye for colour and composition, making this a very attractive super hero movie. Almost every choice Louis made works – from the darker, scarier look of the Hulk himself, to his casting choices. I still can’t believe Edward Norton of American History X fame agreed to be in this, but I am glad he is because Banners character is well-rounded and multi layered thanks to Norton’s portrayal. William Hurt and Liv Tyler also do a great job with the material and Edward and Liv have a lot of chemistry together.

Tim Roth lets the team down a little by never truly committing to his role. Roth seems a little embarrassed to be there and appears to be phoning his part in throughout most of its run time. These big budget super hero movies don’t appear to be quite his cup of tea. It’s just a shame he appears to have had this epiphany during the shooting of the actual movie. 

All-in-all, the movie has a good script, moves at a comfortable pace and managers to be a mature take on the material without ever being pretentious or dull. A little more action wouldn’t have hurt but as it stand this is certainly a better than average entry into Marvel`s movie universe.

Best of all, this Hulk movie ends with its hero battling an actual monster, instead of the poorly rendered CGI cloud he had to face in the first.

7\10

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

The seventh(!) sequel in the increasingly poor Nightmare on Elm Street series is easily the best of a bad bunch and a return to form for director Wes Craven. 

The movie is almost a test run for Craven’s popular Scream series by being both self-referential and by playing on the clichés of the horror movie genre.

The movie takes place in the “real world” where Freddy Kruger is played by actor Robert Englund and is nothing more than the forgotten icon of the aging horror series. The film follows Heather Langenkamp (star of the first Nightmare) playing herself.  Heather is both bored and a little embarrassed of her horror legacy and is keen to forget the Nightmare series entirely. Unfortunately, news of a new movie being in the works sparks a series of threatening phone calls, disturbing nightmares and mysterious deaths in Heathers life, leading her to fear that Freddy Kruger has somehow managed to escaped the confines of the silver screen.

Director Wes Craven clearly knew that his baby (Freddy Kruger) had lost his mojo and so goes all-out to make his character frightening again – which he does very successfully. The silly sounding premise works surprisingly well and is an extremely clever way of both acknowledging the diminishing quality of the series, while at the same time being solid and original entry to it, in of itself.

The movie is a slow burner, taking its time setting up the slightly confusing premise it is based around. The movie effectively sets up the real world it takes place in by including most of the original cast and crew from the original playing themselves. Everyone from producer Bob Shaye, to Robert Englund to Wes Craven are here and their reactions to the supernatural elements of the movie are both realistic and believable.  Heather Langenkamp is especially convincing as the movies main protagonist and her mental and physical change through the movie is impressive.

This movie is similar to the original in terms of its serious tone and approach to tension building. The scares are also realised in a similar fashion the first. There is no OTT CGI assisted nightmares sequences on show here, just practical and subtile moments of horror that remind you of just how frightening the concept of Freddy Kruger can be when done properly.

In retrospect, the movie could be viewed as an indulgent and masturbatory love letter to Craven himself. The original nightmare is extremely highly revered by the cast in the movie and the Freddy character appears to be considered the scariest thing ever created since Michael Jackson’s face. There is even a scene where Heather meets Wes at his apartment, where he delivers a long prose about how his creation was so scary that it actually managed to cross over into “our” reality. His dialogue spoken with the stern intensity of a money-drenched sorcerer. Admittedly a little much – but believe it or not – the idea does actually work!

A very original and clever entry into the Nightmare series and one that never quite received the praise and respect it deserved.

7.5/10

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

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

May 9, 2010

I had a horrible dream last night. I dreamt that the 80`s slasher classic A Nightmare on Elm Street had been remade by talentless hacks…wait a minute – it was just a dream right?

Sadly not.

Nightmare for the noughties has reared its hideous head, and boy is it ugly!

This modern re-telling takes the terrifying concept of the serial killer stalking his victims in the one place they can’t hide, and does absolutely NOTHING with it! This is a movie that has been brought into existence with the sole purpose of cashing-in on its name – leaving us with a shallow and un-inspired re-tred of the original.

Plot wise, the movie doesn’t stray too far from its source material. A group of sexy teens (all looking at least 5-10 years older than they should) are being massacred in their nightmares by the supernatural, child-molester from beyond the grave – Freddy Kruger!  The group, led by our heroine Nancy, must work together if they are to stand any chance of stopping the diabolical dream demon before it’s too late!

So far, so familiar right? Not so – one way in which the remake does stray from the original is by neglecting to include any actual scares, suspense or character.

The remakes plot is as simple as they come, filled with non-sensical character motivations and dialogue consisting of nothing more than exposition. No time is devoted to setting up its world or its protagonists, and simply rushes from scene to scene without ever stopping to breathe. 

The contrast of the supernatural with reality works so effectively in the 1984 movie because of the time that went into setting up the believable world in which its other-worldly tale takes place. The slow burn approach of the original allowed its audience to spend time with its characters, and immerse themselves in the recognisable reality of their day-to-day lives. The characters are at first only unsettled by their nightmares, as Kruger is kept in the shadows until later on in the movie. Logically, the characters attempt to continue their lives as normal, dismissing their dreams as nothing more that what they are – dreams.

Part of the fun of the original is watching the characters slowly having to accept the extraordinary circumstances of their situation as their friends start mysteriously dying around them. The characters soon realise that that they are only truly safe while conscious, and must fend off the threat of sleep just as fiercely as Kruger himself. Finding nothing but scepticism from their parents, the characters exchange personal experiences, and study the science of nightmares in an attempt to better understand, and ultimately combat their demonic foe themselves. 

None of this setup and organic exploration is aparent in the remake, and the movie feels like it has just skipped the first few acts, and  jumped straight into the middle of the story. Right from the get go, Freddy publically claims a victim within the very first scene, thus destroying any sense of mystery the character may have had. In the original, Freddy spent the majority of the film in the shadows, and simply toyed with his victims first, before going in for the actual kill. All of the fun of the build-up is gone in a single stroke, and to make matters worse our protagonists always seem to miraculously figure everything out with any prompting. They accept their supernatural circumstance far to readily to be believable. No one in this movie earns their knowledge. Much like a porno, the remake is only interested in the money shots; which in horror movie terms of course means the scares.

Speaking of which, the scares themselves are generally terrible! The remake jettisons the disturbing and nightmarish imagery of the original, in favor of lame, and visually bland, jump scares. Evey scare goes something like this; a character will wander around a mildly spooky enviroment for 30 seconds or so, the score will drop and Freddy will suddenly dart into view and attack. Thats it.

No skill or artistry has gone into anything that occurs on-screen. In fact the scares become so repetitive, that they almost become tragically comical after a while.

Even the iconic moments regurgitated from the original fall flat. Director Samuel Bayer can not resist the urge to add his own OTT spin on everything. A good example of this is in the creepy moment of Kruger emerging from the wall over Nancy’s bed. In the original, this simple, yet effective practical effect is played out quietly and in one simple shot; its subtlety making it all the more menacing. In the remake a poorly rendered CG Kruger bursts from the wall behind Nancy as Jackie Earls face takes form, and begins to scream as CG claws tear from underneath the poorly rendered background. Lame, lame, lame! A perfectly creepy moment, ruined but being completely over blown. There is not one moment in this version that comes anywhere near to being as imaginative, or as frightening as anything from the original.

Which sadly leads me on to the biggest surprise of all – Jackie Earle Haley sucks as Freddy Kruger!

Jackie is an awesome actor – as anyone who has seen his portrayal as Roshak (Watchmen) or his minor, but memorable role in Shutter Island will testify. He seemed the perfect choice, and many nightmare fans rejoiced at the announcement of his casting.

Incredibly, Jackies Freddy is just not scary!

A lot of this comes down to his look. The film makers have gone for a realistic take on Kruger’s burns (which admittedly sounds like the way the go) but it just doesn’t work!  Original actor, Robert Englunds makeup may not have been realistic, but man was it more intimidating than this. Jackies makeup looks more reptilian than man, and I personally found it incredibly under whelming.

On top of that, Jackies take on the character lacks the menace and the diabolical humor of Englunds portrayal.  Robert Englunds Freddy was a truly devilish creation. His monster took sadistic pleasure from terrorizing his victims and the actor chewed the scenery in the role. None of which comes across here. Early’s take is just plain boring; lacking presence and personality, his character does nothing but spout weak one liners and clunky exposition.  

Also, his decision to voice the character as a mumbled, slightly retarded version of his Roshak character from Watchmen was a real misfire.

Come to think of it, then only new trait the actor brings to the character is that he says the word “Fuck” a lot. Great…?

I also couldn’t help but notice that Krugers razor glove (the most iconic part of Kruger character) barely registers in the movie at all. This unique weapon of choice is used to great effect by Englund in the original series, and is a truly frightening symbol of terror. Here, its origin and construction isn’t even shown. Kruger is not shown building it, and the protagonists barely even mention him having it through out the entire picture. To me this, is yet another example of the film makers simply not getting what made their character so scary to begin with.

To be completely fair, I don’t blame the actor entirely for this forgettable Freddy. To be honest, excluding the slightly bland actress playing Nancy, the cast in general is fine, and do the best with what they had to work with.  It’s just the terrible script the actors had to go on is atrocious, leaving very little room for character to be built upon. 

One thing I will give the movie credit for is attempting to deliver a little more back story to Krugers character; specifically the reason why he is targeting this particular group of kids. There was even a moment when I thought the movie was going to attempt something interesting, and challenge our preconceived notions of who Freddy is. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD – The movie plays on the idea that Freddy Kruger was in fact innocent, and that the parents of Springwood murdered an innocent man on the grounds of their children’s lies – hence why Kruger is so pissed and returning from beyond the grave for vengeance.

I really liked this concept, adding a new layer of depth to the almost pantomine-esque evilness of its villan. An interesting (and new) idea, that in more capable hands could have led to some fascinating moments of internal conflict amongst its cast. Possibly even leading to a more satisfying and thought-provoking ending than the by-the-numbers resolve we get. Here was a chance for the remake to shine, and stamp its own unique mark onto the series…

But of course this idea gets lost amongst all of the nonsense, and vanishes as quickly as it appears. I imagine the producers feared that making Kruger an almost tragic figure was too much of a gamble –  and so one clunky exposition scene later – everything is reset. Kruger is back to being the creepy super-nonce he always was. What a shame.

Oh, and it should be noted that as the movie progresses, any sense of logic and believability gets thrown completely out the window as it draws to its conclusion. NEOS 2010 has some wild ideas about the biological effects of sleep deprivation on the human body, and the back story of Kruger makes not a lick of sense if you stop to think about it. So if you have managed to endure the movie up until this point in hope of a satisfying conclusion – its not coming! – I therefore suggest you leave now and beat the traffic.

Anyway, to summarize I really have nothing good to say about this movie. I admit that the original Nightmare (while still a classic) hasnt aged that well, and is terminally trapped in the 1980s. Some fresh blood and modern production values could have really brought this aging series back to life!

Unfortunately, this is just not the case. NOES 2010 and is more of a re-hash than a re-boot.

This new nightmare is just plain pointless, and NO thought or craft has gone into a single frame of it. It pains me to think that this Nightmare on Elm Street will be a lot of younger viewers first taste of the series. In some ways, if this was simply a modern sequel to the existing series, I would have found it far less offensive. The fact that this terrible movie is essentially replacing the original really bothers me!

This is NOT the iconic Freddy Kruger the world embraced. This is the frat boy, high school dramatization of A Nightmare on Elm Street; brought to you by people with no understanding of why it source material worked in the first place. I would happily take any of the original series lack luster sequels over this garbage any day of the week.

A truly nightmarish experience in all the wrong ways.

1.5/10

…and just to wash the awful taste out of my mouth – here is the original 1984 trailer for good measures.

Review: Iron Man 2

May 1, 2010

Iron Man 2 is the movie equivalent of a fast food meal – tasty, but certainly not good for you.

I am not going to spend too much time reviewing this movie because it simply doesn’t warrant it. All I will say is that if you liked the first one, you’ll like the sequel.

Everything from the first is here, only on a bigger scale. But remember bigger does not always equal better.

The pace is terrible. Scenes that only needed to be a minute long are stretched-out way past their welcome, while important plot information zips by before you have time to acknowledge it. Not that there is much of a plot to follow mind.  About 90% of the movie feels like it was ad-libbed and made-up on the spot. This approach miraculously seemed to work for the original – only here it feels lazy.

Director John Favreau knew that no matter what he did – this movie was going to make millions – and so obviously didn’t worry too much about the quality of its content. Iron man 2 suffers from Transformers 2 syndrome – by which I mean the director has been given full reign to indulge his every whim because of the first movies success. Scenes are slapped into the film because Favreau and Co obviously had a blast filming them – not because they are well executed cinema. On top of that – the director even has the kahunas to give himself a heroic fight scene near the end of the movie! Get over yourself sir!

Cast wise, the movie is hot and cold. Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark) once again plays-up on his self-assured, play boy persona – only this time it is without charm. This is the sequels biggest problem – the first movie worked because of the charisma of its lead. Sadly Stark comes across as nothing more than an annoying and arrogant dick here, and his barrage of constant quips and puns get old fast.  There is even a line during the movies finale where a character refers to him as being an annoying prick – a line that works on more levels than was probably intended.

As expected, Mickey Rourke gives it his all as Whiplash – but sadly his character is so one-note that his efforts go completely wasted. The same can be said for Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Johansson double-agent character looks hot and has one pretty cool action scene – but that’s it. Her character has no personality, and looking back on it, little to no actual dialogue.

Gwyneth Paltrow comes off far worse. Pepper Pots is even more boring than she was in the first movie – meaning her troubled plight as the CEO of Stark Industries falls flatter than her attempts at being funny. Also her relationship with Stark is so poorly setup that I couldn’t even tell  whether or not they were ment to be a couple until the very last scene of the film.

Woodenness aside – supporting actors Sam Rockwell, and Don Cheadle are the real stars here. Rockwell in particular almost steals the show as slime ball stark wannabe Justin Hammer. Almost every scene Rockwell is in didn’t need to be there – but the actor is so damn funny that I`ll give this indulgence a pass.

For the 2 or 3 of you out there who don’t know – Don Cheadle plays the part of Lt.Col James Rhodes, who later adopts the super hero persona of War Machine. Say what you like about the movies flaws, but there is no denying that War Machine is f*cking awesome! Picture Iron Man – only less gay looking – with machine guns and cannons strapped to his body and you`ll get the idea.

War Machine only really comes into play during the movies final scenes, but the action set pieces that he partakes in are almost worth the admission price alone. My biggest complaint about the first movie was its work man like action scenes – the same can not be said here. Although there isnt much action to speak of (Iron Man himself is only present in 3 or 4 major scenes) what is here is exciting and well shot, and just about saves the movie from being atrocious.

In summary Iron Man 2 is inoffensive and perfectly entertaining. But it is also indulgent and sloppily made.  This is a sequel you wont necessarily regret seeing, but one that will leave you with little desire to see the upcoming Avengers movie. The constant winks and nods to this superhero wankfest are painfully shoe horned into every other scene, and do nothing but get in the way of the non-sensical plot we are desperately trying to follow. Tone it down Marvel!

Iron Man 2 is a fun, but rusty movie…

6-5/10