Review: Four Lions

May 18, 2010 by

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 by

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 by

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.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

May 9, 2010 by

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!

Nobody does it better – 007 of the best

May 5, 2010 by

Bond 23 is shelved indefinitely due to ”studio issues” – to fill that void lets take a look at one of the most uneven series of films going…

7.  The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore’s had featured in 2 Bond films already, but they were fairly turgid affairs. 1977’s TSWLM was going all out – Bond was getting an adrenaline shot. Story wise it’s identical to ‘You only live twice’ with subs being stolen instead of shuttles and we have an underwater base instead of a volcano. OTT would describe this film pretty well as OO7 parachutes of a mountain, fights a private army and battles a 7ft chap with no regard for HIV. With a massively increased budget this was the most technically impressive Bond to date and its aged very well. Barbara Bach is one of the best Bond girls playing a sophisticated and deadly Agent XXX.

Best moment: The Lotus literally becomes a submarine. One of the definitive Bond moments

Rating 8/10

6. Goldfinger

Sean Connery’s third outing is the series most influential. Dr No and From Russia with Love were your typical Cold War spy escapade but Bond as we now think of him was born with Goldfinger: the larger than life villain with the larger than life plan, suggestive character names, a car with a few surprises and a devious henchman – the Bond formula.

The film oozes style and swaggering confidence. Sean Connery is the agent every guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. Bond is now the callous womaniser and actually uses a young lady as a shield at one point. The one liner’s are here too with a particularly effective ‘shocking’ following an electrocution.

Best moment: Anything with the Aston Martin – pure genius.

Rating 8/10

5. For Your Eyes Only

Roger Moore was back for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. 1979’s Moonraker had literally gone out of this world in pursuit of the Star Wars craze but many felt it was a step to far and it was time to return to a Cold War spy tale. What makes this film stand out is its succession of stunning set pieces – Bond evades thugs in a Citroen Dolly in the most extensive chase sequence to date, he then battles underwater enemies in no fewer than two great sequences, before escaping sharks and launching a daring mountain top raid on the enemy HQ. Director John Glen would helm this and the next 4 entries – the most consistent period in Bond history which produces three entries in our list.

Best moment: Guy attempts to steal Bond’s car. It explodes. Pwnd

Rating 8.5/10

4. The Living Daylights

1987’s The Living Daylights was the series first reboot. John Glen was back but Roger Moore was not. Timothy Dalton would be a Bond far closer to the Bond of Ian Flemming. A reboot was badly need and the gamble paid off.

Timothy Dalton plays a darker Bond, ruthless, conflicted and with a more restrained libido. The story attempts to be the best of both worlds with a down to earth tale based on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan but still featuring an incredible array of gadgetry with an actual ‘ghetto blaster’. Bond had become a bit too daft with Moore – The Living Daylights gives us the remedy.

Best moment: Bond fights a foe while hanging from a net trailing from a cargo plane. Tense!

Rating 8.5/10

3. Licence to Kill

The Living Daylights had attempted to fuse the old with the new – a down to earth Bond still aided by some out of this world situations and equipment. Licence to Kill was the brave attempt to break the formula and send Bond in a new direction.

Licence to Kill attempts to be gritty and realistic throughout – our villain is an all too plausible drug baron, played by the excellent Robert Davi. Bond is out for revenge, quitting M16 on his way to a bloody showdown in South America.

License to Kill is harrowing in its violence to the extent it was only released unedited in the last 2 years. Guys are torn to bits by sharks, exploded and shredded. This is brutal and for many – very un-Bond. That of course was the point. License to Kill was bold, daring and brilliant.

Best moment: an incredible chase sequence with oil tankers ranks as among the series very best sequences

Rating 9/10

2. Casino Royale

2006 saw Bond rebooted for the second time. Pierce Brosnan was out and Daniel Craig was in. For the second time Bond was going to be toned down – gadgets and world domination were out and, just as Timothy Dalton had tried in his two offerings, Bond was going to be a ruthless killer again.

A Bond film had never seen higher production values – Casino Royale looks breathtaking throughout. Craig brings something new to a very familiar character – he’s more brutal than ever, but falls hopelessly in love for only the second time in Bond history. Craig’s Bond is human.

Best moment: a chase through a building site in Madagascar set against the back drop of the Indian Ocean is exhilarating and demonstrates some stunning cinematography and editing.

Rating 9/10

1. Goldenye

1995’s Goldeneye brings so much of what is good about Bond together that it goes in at no.1. Pierce Brosnan fused Connery’s swagger with Dalton’s psychology and delivered a superb Bond. Goldeneye was the most lavish Bond offering to date and really marked a step up from the cash strapped 80’s offerings. Goldeneye manages to reconcile the timeline, keeping Bond’s roots in the Cold War but ensuring he’s a modern assassin ready for today’s challenges. The plot, involving wayward tech from the former USSR, serves to underscore this transition.  Sean Bean gives us an excellent villain as a rogue MI6 agent and I wish he’d had just a bit more time to play on his former M16 credentials. It’s hard to find any fault with this film, it’s just about the perfect Bond offering.

Best Moment: Bond chases a Russian general through the streets of St Petersburg in a tank. (Yet none of the sequence is even filmed in Russia…)

 Rating 9.5/10

So far, so good, so what? Jan – April in review

May 4, 2010 by

A better way to fill 2 hours? We haven’t found it…here’s the first 4 months of 2010 in review…

*My comments (Danjo Kazooe) appear in italics underneath James comments.

Daybreakers – frankly nonsensical vampire farce, highlights include blood rations controlled by Starbucks employees and, mid interrogation, letting the chump go outside to make a phone call unescorted. 3/10

A great premise, and some interesting concepts get forgotten as the movies plot holes and lack of scope take centre stage. 5/10

The Road – majestic and haunting visuals follow you long after the credits have rolled. A beautifully depressing film. An absolute must see. 8/10

So bleak, its hard to say you actually enjoyed it – but still, The Road is an incredibly tense, and moving cinematic experience. A movie that will haunt you for some time. 8/10

Edge of Darkness – Mel Gibson isn’t just angry at religious groups but also ”the government” predictably up to nefarious things again. How this got a theatrical release is really a tale of ‘the little story that could’. Avoid! 4/10

When your movies big heroic showdown ends with the bad guy being forced to drink a bottle of milk, you know something has gone wrong – that said, this movie has gained additional points for simply not being as bad The Ghost. Dull, but at least stuff actually happens in this political thriller. 4/10

Sherlock Holmes – Guy Ritchie makes grimey London look…grimey. Entertaining if unspectacular. 5/10

A surprisingly good take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, and hopefully the slightly awkward beginning of a potentially fantastic franchise. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law work brilliantly together . 6.5/10

The Crazies – odd the film title was based on the writers and not the events of the film. The Crazies features government quarantine zones over thrown by yokels and some dubious understanding of how water, pipes and bacteria interact…Anyway, solid enough.6/10

Neither good, nor bad, just very meh! A half decent way of spending 90 minutes or so. Just dont expect to see anything you havent seen a thousand times before. 5/10

The Book of Eli – Denzel Washington must take a Bible to Alcatraz where it can be archived safely. Thrilling! 5/10 

This movie tricks you into thinking that you`ll going to be seeing a kickass, post-apocalyptic action movie. Instead, you get a 2 hour bible class. Denzils a prophet, I get it! Dull, Dull, Dull! 2/10

The Wolfman – blighted by backstage malarky, The Wolfman is a film bored of itself. Throw in a werewolf wrestling match! Just what the film needed. 5/10

A cool beastie and  OTT gore do not make up for its terrible script and dull performances. That said, you do get to see a hairy Anthony Hopkins and a hairier than usual Benicio del Toro come to blows in a wonderfully camp  fight scene. 6/10

Alice in Wonderland – read our reviews to see just why this film must be avoided like a Mike Tyson whisper. 1/10

Tim Burton by the numbers. The lead actress is more wooden than a match, and Johnny Depp does his usual man child, weirdo thing. Oh, and the 3D effect looks horrible. Alice in Wonder Pants! 4\10

The Ghost Writer AKA The Ghost – The Prime Minister knows the CIA! Guess its time to revert to a feudal system! Boring! 3/10

Even more boring than Edge of Darkness. The movies failed attempts at being mature and thought-provoking  made me honestly wish I had of re-watched Ghost Rider instead; a movie more grueling than a colonoscopy.  3/10

Repo Men – if it weren’t so dumb it would have just been dull, just what were the writers thinking? 3/10

Pure torture – which is quite fitting considering its premise. Horribly pretentious, stupid and sadistic. 2/10

Clash of the Titans – gods fighting gods should be incredibly epic right? Wrong – 5/10

A completely forgettable experience. Some interesting sets and character design work aside, this movie is as lifeless as Sam Worthington’s performance. 5/10

How To Train Your Dragon – surprisingly intelligent animation with real heart. And a dragon. 7/10

Kick Ass – It’s violent, we agreed on that much – little else.  5/10 (James)

My favourite movie of the year so far. Yes it is violent, but it also funny, exciting and a well observed satire of the on-gong comic book movie boom! 8.5/10

I Love Your Phillip Morris – entertaining, interesting and well acted, now there’s a change, 6/10

Green Zone – leaves to another film the task of making the definitive Iraq commentary, 6/10

Shutter Island – cinema is very subjective, that said – I adored this, 9.5/10

This movie is certainly well crafted; but its predictable and logic defying plot left me a little cold. 7/10

Iron Man 2 – a two-hour preview of either the Avengers movie or Ms Johanssen’s body – I wasn’t sure, 5/10

You get the impression that this movie was plotted by a group of kids with Iron Man action figures. Some exciting moments and a good cast just about make-up for its complete lack of actual story. 6.5/10

Scre4m…

May 2, 2010 by

No, I didn’t photoshop this. Scream 4 is coming.

What’s more unbelievable is Neve Cambell, Courtney Cox, Wes Craven (directing) and former WCW World Champion David Arquette are all signed on.

Wes Craven has said that Scream 4 will lampoon the state of the horror film genre today and will take shots at the Saw franchise.

The movie’s director told Entertainment Weekly that the fourth Scream instalment will continue the tradition of exposing the conventions of the slasher plot started by the first three films.

“It feels like the end of an era of a certain type of film. There are series of films, a lot of sequels, and a lot of remakes, and part of the humour of Scream 4 is when characters comment on that. ‘Enough of Saw 25 and all’. A lot of films, directors, and studios are the butts of some of the jokes.”

He continued by saying that just like in the trilogy, knowing the horror formula will help them beat the Ghostface murderer.

“In order to figure out what’s happening around them, the characters have to figure out where the genre of horror is. So this is a look at horror after ten years of a lot of sequels rather than original films coming up year after year. One film is successful, and then they make 25 of them.”

The creator also promised a reinvention of horror itself.

“I think it’s time for something new. I’ve done remakes of my own films too, with, The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but we feel it’s time for something new and different, and that’s what this film is going to be.”

Scream was great. Let’s face it – it was cool, it was sexy, it was insightful. Scream was postmodern – understanding the genres cliches it reworked them into something new. Now Scream 2 was just lazy and Scream 3 was some sort of self parody – possibly the first example of a film setting out to make fun of itself.

Wes Craven seems to have some ideas and he’s got a likeable enough cast to make it work (Neve Campell was (is?) such a babe. One wonders how someone like Wes Craven, who is very much the ”problem” with modern horror films, can be its saviour…it will be interesting to see how this works out.

Scream 4 hits screens April 15th 2011.

Another sort of film rating…

May 2, 2010 by

 

Where would we be without film ratings? As a kid a high rating kept me from so many films and while my 18th birthday is now just a distant memory it still feels like a ‘big’ event each time I can see an 18 certificate film.

The BBFC censors have an odd attitude to sex, drugs and rock n’roll – lets take a look at a few films they rated but never actually seem to have watched…

Beowulf (2007) – its CGI so it must be for kids, right? Beowulf featured graphic violence and dismemberment, our hero fighting while naked, a deformed monster, an elderly man’s suicide and full frontal nudity from Angelina Jolie. The BBFC decided it was all good fun and gave the film a 12A.

Our rating:

Beowulf is a hard 15 certificate.

Jaws (1975) – Spielberg made one of the most definitive horror films ever made. An entire generation grew up fearing shark attacks (though more die from bee stings each year). Jaws is a masterpiece in film making with relentless tension, graphic violence and pure terror. The BBFC must have thought this was a film about James Bond’s nemesis and gave this a PG. Utterly baffling.

Our rating:

Jaws is terrifying. Dodgy effects keep this from an 18, so we settle on a 15 certificate.

Star Wars (1977) – everyone loves Star Wars, children, adults – everyone. The BBFC gave it a U rating – suitable for all. Let’s take a closer look. Star Wars features Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru being burnt to death, a guys arm being severed, Jawa massacre, intergalactic genocide and Greedo being fried. Not to mention anti-droid racism. Star Wars is surprisingly violent.

Our rating:

Star Wars is a PG film through and through.

The Terminator (1984) – released with an 18 certificate (now downgraded) Terminator looks positively tame these days – and probably fairly team by 80’s standards too. Sure a punk has his heart removed and we see the sweet, sweet act of love but Terminator is just a lot of fun.

Our rating:

Terminator is the quintessential 15 certificate film.

Goldeneye (1995) – the BBFC seemed unsure about Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond. Its theatrical release was cut and awarded a 12A, but the DVD has gained a 15 certificate. It features fully clothed sex and Sean Bean but I really struggle to find anything that compares with Licence to Kill’s multiple shark attack scenes (which earned that film a 15). No swearing, little blood and a nice tale of good vs bad – 15 is harsh.

Our rating:

This needs to go back to the original 12A rating.

Transformers (2007) and Transformers Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – in America only Spielbergs direct appeal to the US censors got this downgraded from an ‘R’ to a PG-13. In the UK it earned a 12A – despite every shot of Megan Fox being soft core porn. Sexual innuendos and relentless swearing – (in a giant toy commercial) where totally inappropriate. Oh, we have plenty of drug references too.

Our rating:

Transformers just gets a 12A but Revenge of the Fallen is a 15.

Kick Ass (2010) – a coming of age comic book film sounds friendly enough. Kick Ass features children beaten about the head, enemies being cooked, sliced, crushed and exploded and relentless swearing. Oh and Nicolas Cage burnt to death. This was nasty violence – but a 15 certificate was seen as adequate. Kick Ass is among the most disturbing films I have ever seen at the cinema.

Our rating:

Kick Ass is a cast iron 18 certificate.

Any films ratings that had you scratching your head? Post a comment, lets hear your views!

Review: Iron Man 2

May 1, 2010 by

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

Iron Man 2 – what I remember

May 1, 2010 by

There are two types of sequel.

1. The Alien 3 style sequel – films that actually damage what came before

2. Revenge of the Fallen style sequel – films that make what came before look positively inspired.

Iron Man 2 is a Fallen sequel. 2008’s Iron Man was okay, had its moments, had a likeable cast, had Gwenyth Paltrow wearing tight clothing. It wasn’t a classic. Well, that’s what I’d have said a week ago. After Iron Man 2 – hell, Iron Man looks like something else.

Iron Man was simple, focussed and inoffensive. Iron Man 2 is bloated, dull and annoying. Perhaps answering calls it was weak on story director John Favreau piles in angle after angle and a seemingly limitless cast of characters to tell it. Let’s have a quick recap – we have Tony Stark dealing with blood poisoning, an uncaring father, a company that doesn’t seem to make anything but Iron Man costumes and a PA that thinks she runs the show. We have a Russian drunk with father issues and a love of whips. We have a one eyed Nick Fury trying to…I dunno actually. Plus there is a Scarlett Johanssen looking hot some nerdy other billionaire, the military, the senate and probably the cast of The Wizard of Oz too.

Yes, you’re right. This is Batman and Robin and Spiderman 3 – overbooked and overcooked. There is so much going on to so many people that even Iron Man himself rarely appears. Iron Man went with one basic storyline – here we have dozens, and only one – Tony’s medical probs – has any real depth. Perhaps none of this would matter if there were as many action set pieces. Sadly we are left with only 2. Thankfully both are pretty good. In the first ‘whip man’ or ‘angry Ivan’ or whatever he was called fights Tony in Monaco in an impressive sequence. At the conclusion of the film Iron Man and ‘War Machine’ fight the cast of the Metal Gear games. Trouble is, effects are poor. War Machine starts out looking like the Silver Surfer and the final fight at the Stark Expo never looks like a real sequence and I was left wondering when the ‘GAME OVER’ screen would pop up. It’s 2 hours between sequences and the pacing is where Iron Man 2 really falls down. We have plenty of yakking on about our uninteresting storylines but no body actually shoots anything.

Marvel has high hopes for 2012’s ‘Avengers’ film – too much of Iron Man 2 plays out like a trailer. Did we really need this? It’s somewhat disrespectful to both he ‘Iron Man’ character and also the audience who didn’t pay for a trailer, no matter how lavish it is.

Moving on, Iron Man manages to use both of my least favourite villain clichés. The first being enemies are rubbish but numerous – thus rather than one rubbish villain we get dozens. Yey. The other is that the villain will be bigger than our hero. First War Machine and then ‘Angry Russian’ feature larger robot suits – we can’t create tension so we’ll go with a visual thing instead.

I could go on about the odd lack of AC/DC in the soundtrack (or the presence of AC/DC at all) or the strange ease with which you can create new elements, instead I’m going to rap this up. Iron Man 2 is bloated, dull and a total waste of the Iron Man character 5/10