Wednesday, 31 December 2008

RANT: When director's egos ruin their career

It occurs to me that James Cameron hasn't made a film in 12 years. Not since he embarrassingly declared himself the king of the world in response to Titanic's monstrous success, has he given us another movie. Granted, a man deserves to revel in his success for a while but this gap suggeststhat Cameron pretty much feels he made a movie that can't be topped. Its a shame for two reasons. Firstly, Titanic is far from the career defining masterpiece he seems to think but more pressingly because it maybe prevented Cameron from making his career defining masterpiece. His success seemingly took away his drive, and thus left us with no new Cameron film for a decade and some change, in which time he could have made two great films. It is a lesson in why directors need always be on their toes, and Cameron is certainly not the only example of a career derailed by an ever expanding head. One needs only to look at Quentin Tarantino, who not only makes film irregularly but seems to get worse with every release. His smugness, no doubt magnified by the 90's referential revolution he inspired, is most evident in Death Proof, which he seems to think can fly on his dialogue alone. It Can't. Its painful lack of direction and poor acting left any Bande a Part fanboy disappointed at what their messiah had evolved into. The problem was that he clearly wasn't all there, and as can happen when one believes entirely in one's own hype. In other words, his ego K.O'd his commitment and any sense of effort and thus we got a half-assed movie not worthy of his name.

A less renowned and no doubt less thought of example of this is Donnie Darko helmer Richard Kelly. Yes it may be jumping the gun a little to call him a great director, but his film, as any emo student will tell you, is a visually accomplished debut brimming with promise. The film becomes the shit amongst the younger population of most white, English speaking countries and thus the world is telling Kelly he is the next whizz kid on the cinematic block. And what is he to do but believe that he is in fact the next whizz kid on the cinematic block. Que Southland Tales, an overblown under-written mess. Directors of the world; the only way to stay at the top of you're game is to develop inferiority complexes, and fast. No matter what anyone tells you, always think you can do better otherwise you'll make your own version of Death Proof and the humble viewing public don't need that shit. They really don't.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Awards in 48 hours....

Well i've written my last review for 2008. So I'll be doing my much yahoo'd awarding from the 1st to the 7th, so consider this your last reminder. Because if you miss this there really will be no reason to keep on living. Not to build them up or anything

Sunday, 28 December 2008

REVIEW: Australia

Baz Luhrmann is a director I've long had a beef with. His films are always shot like music videos and are usually as substantial. He relies on trite, fantastical yin and yang love stories which never do anything but look pretty. Australia is clearly his bid to receive awards attention, but I think it is also his attempt to convince us that he has matured as a film-maker. How does he do, well there are some steps forward here, but I feel the same problems that pollute the other films are still here. Just quietly hiding behind the 100 million plus budget.

The story sees British Aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) go to Australia to sell her husband's cattle ranch, and she is escorted to her destination by a man simply known as the Drover . She then goes on an adventure that encompasses racial discrimination, mostly through the eyes of local Aborigine boy Nullah ( Brandon Jackson), herding Cattle across the outback and world war 2. The positives first. The film hs some fanatastic visuals to it, through a combination of Australia itself and what appeared to be CGI backdrops. This is a movie it is a real pleasure to see. It is clearly a throwback to epic romances of old, and to their credit the two leads Kidman and Jackman do their best in roles that could have been irritating and two-dimensional. Jackman particularly impacts here, and is a clearly charismatic leading man who many people under-rate simply because he is Wolverine. Kidman is refreshingly animated here, at times too much so, but it is nice to see her break free of the ice queen shackles that have hung over her last few performances. Jackson has a lot of screen -time, but his character struck me as a little insipid and whilst he has received some raves for his perforance. It did little for me. And his occassional voice-over grates to the extreme. Few other cast members make an impact, dipping in and out of the story. David Wenham's bad guy Neil Fletcher is painfully skimped on and is essentially written as a artoon villain. Wenham lends him some subtelty and restraint, though and was a good performance in a poorly sketched role.

The film itself, for all its posturing is in tone as naive and adolescent as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Luhrmann takes the simple view on everything, from Wenham's relentlessly evil bad guy to Jackman's salt of the earth good guy and even Kidman's English aristocrat. Every character is a simple archetype and nothing more. Similarly the film's message, racism is bad people, is handled with as much finesse as Paul Haggis' Crash. Which for the record is an insult not a compliment. In paying homage to an era of film-making that has long passed us by - the sweeping romantic epics of the thirties and forties - Luhrmann has seemingly forgot that these films showed the world as they'd like it to be, in which bad was bad, good was good and love was eternal, and not as it actually was. For the 30's this was fine, film was still young and seen only as escapism, but for now it just seems past its sell by date. these films stopped being made for a reason I guess. The only chance he had was to bring something new to the mix, but it seems he was so enamoured by the era that he can't see its detraction's. For a film that wants to be seen as quality adult entertainment, it simply can't show the world In such an adolescent way. And on a less critical note, Kidman's character kept calling Jackman's character the drover even after she was married to him. You'd think she would have learned his name.

To conclude, this is not a bad film per say, but the notion that it is Oscar worthy is ridiculous. Its a guilty pleasure for readers of romance novels. One to add to the guilty pleasure section if you loved Gone with the wind. Which I didn't for the record.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 26 December 2008

RANT: A passing thought on why Christmas movies should go shove it.

Christmas; Its the most wonderful time of the year. You get an assortment of cheap free crap that you neither need or want. You spend time with those beloved relatives with a terrific time had by all until all the screaming begins. 'That was my Cashew nut you motherf******' or something to that effect. Its a time when fake smiles and superficial cheer do they're very best to repress all your cynicism. They never win.

Granted, there's a Grinch like quality to me, I'm green and sound remarkably like Jim Carrey, but the resentment is there burning under the surface. Of course from the movies regarding christmas time you wouldn't know this. Because every year they release a movie that sounds an awful lot like this. The grumpy cynic who hates christmas, in an always awesome one-track way, has his heart of stone melted by the love that does so emanate from the season. Of course that cynic can be expanded to a married couple, or they can reverse the story and have the protagonist as a crazy eyes christmas lover who insists on spreading the christmas cheer to all around, at first to a community's annoyance. But after some delightful PG-13 antics the hearts, they are warmed. The worst thing about this is the entirely cynical way these movie suits try to make me happy. Not for the spreading of joy is this done, but for the accumulation of enough dollars to tide over a third beach house in Malibu. They also could give a damn about making a good movie, so on this oh so special boxing day, I say screw christmas movies. Screw them right in the eye. ( Hope y'all see da irony of these being posted on boxing day, and not christmas when it should so blatantly have been posted. My bad.)
To all a good night.

Monday, 22 December 2008

A TV Diversion rant: What's up with Heroes?

Anyone who's seen this show in its horrible third season knows how scatty it has become. Its painfully aimless, shooting for so many targets at once it ends up missing them all and embracing shitness that was merely hinted at in season 2. It was never that great in the first place, to be fair, but was an enjoyable enough guilty pleasure. The kind of thing that you could just kick back in front of without committing to much brain and enjoy. The fun factor is not to be under-estimated. So what has made it presently such a chore to watch, what has it lost since the beginning?

What made season 1 good?

. Simple. It was breezy and really only had the one on-going plot line, more about the characters.

. All the characters had more personal stories. Not everything was about the big picture.

. It had wonderfully to the point villainy in Sylar. He was iconic, dangerous and a terrific adversary. Never close to being matched in later seasons. Even their lame attempts to redux Sylar fell flat.

. It had a direction, and you get the sense that they actually had a long-term pan. Syke.

What made later season so horrible?

Lameass villains. Every single one was a dud, from the nightmare man to Arthur Petrelli. Adam Monroe had some mild potential, but was painfully wasted.

. Lameass new characters, The mexican twins who spent a season running around with no real point.

. Lameass recycled plotlines. The world is coming to an end, what's new. Come up with some new ideas, guys. Villains don't need to destroy the world to be threatening.

. Lameass writing. Poor episode to episode quality with writers having no real clue how to write stand-alone episodes.

. Lameass repitition. If I have to hear that dude say I did it to protect my daughter one more time I'm gonna find a way to kill Claire just to shut him up. Say a different line already.

. Lameass overuse of 'look we killed a major character...except no we didn't'. Nobody likes this device. Nobody except the smug SOB writing it. F*ck your fake cliffhangers man.

Still season 3 did give us this awesome clip. So there's that.

Sunday, 21 December 2008


It seems that Carrey falls back on these high concept broad comedies every four years or so. He makes a couple of films for himself, and then does one of the ones that made him big in the first place. The high-concept PG-13 comedy that features a lot of Carrey Mugging, a lot of Carrey falling and a climax in which he manically chases a loved one to tell them how he really feels. All these are checked off here, in what is a harmless but ultimately shallow comedy that you get the sense Ace Ventura only did to pay the bills.

The story sees Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) grow tired of his lonely and timid existence and with the help of a self-help seminar endeavours to say Yes! to life. That is to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, no matter how one might not want to. By following this philosophy, he finds his life greatly improves with a more positive outlook and a burgeoning romance with kook Allison (Zooey Deschanel). Its great to see carrey do comedy and seeing as that is becoming rarer, what with Carrey making dramatically respectable films such as Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind and The Majestic, I'll take what I can get. The film was slightly better then I expected, but not by much, it was the formulaic romantic comedy I expected it to be for sure. but the film had a few laughs in it. I enjoyed Terrence Stamp's self-help guru and Zooey Deschanel has more about her then the average disposable love interest usually does. It was also nice to see That 70's show's Danny Masterson getting work, but above all it was a great feeling to see a film in which Jim Carrey made me laugh. Its not great cinema, to be clear, but what it is is a guilty pleasure. Something to consume and then forget about without a further thought. But this film gets a pass from me unlike so many of its type purely because it was a comedy that actually made me laugh now and again and that is an increasingly rare species.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Twilight

Chick-lit continued its war against the integrity of the vampire myth with the Twilight saga, which saw them become vegetarian hippies who just want to be loved. This first film adaptation is essentially a teen love story, with some vampire stuff thrown in here and there. There's no doubt that its existing fanbase will be pleased with this, but for the non-ardant there isn't much to get excited about.

The plot, sees Bella (Kristen Stewart) relocate to a wet and windy Washington town to start a new life with her father. Upon starting her new high school, she befriends and later falls in love with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) a mysterious and solitary boy who is in fact a creature of the night, AKA vampire. And that's that. This film is essentially the Notebook for the Goth crowd, with the sickly and naive central romance bound to irk the more worldly viewer, but to the teenage girls who bought the novel in droves it will be exactly what they wanted. On the positive side, you get the impression that the actors do their best with what they had and both Stewart and Pattinson manage not to be annoying. This, considering the strength of the script and the overall mawkish sub-Buffy tone of the film, is nothing short of astounding. Given that so little screen-time is given to anything outside of the romantic thread, everything else feels shortchanged. The Vampire tracker villain James is so burdened by lack of screen time that he almost feels like an afterthought, which is a shame because he has some 2D bad guy potential. Similarly, Bella has a remarkably friendly group of friends who buzz around her all the time even though she seems to do nothing but ignore them. I guess Washington is a friendly city. The relationship between Bella and Edward seems a little forced too, with both seeming awkward around each other and although their performances were solid, their chemistry was non-existant. Given the romance is what the movie sold itself on, this must go down as a failure then. But to the hoardes of fangirls, I'm sure little things like quality don't matter a bit.

Overall, a teen romance in a horror movie's clothing. One step further in the wimpification of Vampires. Diamond skin indeed.
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes

I don't know how I feel about this. A couple of months ago I was all Guy Ritchie had better start making different films, which on the surface he has. But boy does this film look horrible. Granted its got current it-boy Robert Downey Jr in it, so fanboy bloggers with a crush will hold off on admitting that this infact a terrible, terrible idea and another huge Guy Ritchie bomb is waiting in the wings. You heard it here first.

Friday, 19 December 2008

The great comic book character face-off

It appears that every comic book has an infinate amount of lives when it comes to cinematic incarnations. So many of our beloved characters see many intepretations from various actors, and the time has come to say which ones are better. So, to conclude this comic posting trilogy, here it is. The comic book Character face-off.

Michael Keaton vs Val Kilmer vs George Clooney vs Christian Bale - Batman

Ignoring the joke Adam West Batman, these are the four guys who've taken up the mantle to play everyone's favourite masked vigilante. So in Chronological order then, Keaton nobly underplayed his Batman and in both Batman (1989) and Batman Returns allowed the respective villains to steal the show. He had his moments nonetheless. Kilmer and Clooney both dealt with this same problem, only magnified to an extreme degree. Both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin portrayed the Bat as an impossibly 2D hero, who was just simply there to fight the villain. In a way this was a partial truth in The Dark Knight also. The only time a movie has truly been about Batman is Batman Begins, in which Christian Bale puts in the only real great performance as Batman. In that film he is treated as a character, and comes across as such.

Winner: Christian Bale

Christopher Reeve vs Brandon Routh - SupermanThis is an interesting one. This maybe the only time in recasting history that the new boy was cast pretty much only for his similarity to the orignal A.K.A Christopher Reeve. This may have been why Superman Returns sucked so much ass, because its director Bryan Singer was simply to much in awe of the original and thus directed a movie that belonged in the 1970's. So given that Reeve actually created his own character rather then copy someone else's, there can only be one winner.

Winner: Christopher Reeve

Eric Bana vs Edward Norton - The Hulk

To put a too finer point on it, The Hulk is an impossible role. Any cool thing you character does, he does it as a huge green monster inevitably done out of CGI. This is perhaps why two A-list high quality actors have both at least in part failed to bring Bruce Banner convincingly to the screen. Similarly, both films had their faults, but whereas Louis Leterrier's played safe at every opportunity, Ang Lee's did something unexpected and crazy at every turn, with decidedly mixed success. In the actor battle though, I think Norton wins it by a whisker, but Ang Lee's Hulk is the better film

Winner: Edward Norton

Jack Nicholson vs Heath Ledger - The Joker

The Joker has had two astoundingly entertaining peformances in his name, and although you can probably guess which one is the winner, the race is closer than you might think. Nicholson's Joker is broader and more entertaining, without the complexity or the danger of Ledger's. But in the end Ledger edges it out for the sheer electrifying nature of his performance.

winner: Heath Ledger

Michelle Pfeiffer vs Halle Berry - Catwoman

Michelle's Catwoman may have been a supporting role in comparison to Halle's lead, but watching the two performances there is a clear and undeniable winner. Pfeiffer's is darker, more tongue in cheek and definately more entertaining. This contest definately proves that villains are much more interesting when you don't make them wuss out and become good guys. The more evil the better.

Winner: Michelle Pfeiffer

Gene Hackman vs Kevin Spacey - Lex Luther

Both Superman films portrayed Luther as somewhat of a comedy villain. Still both did some evil shit too, so all is not lost. I'd say that Hackman's Luther is more memorable, what with Spacey's being in a worse film. But both interpretations are almost irritatingly slight.

Winner: Gene Hackman

Tommy Lee Jones vs Aaron Eckhart - Two Face

Hmm. One is an over the top camp villain with no depth and gets blasted off the screen by Jim Carrey. The other is a deep, characterisation of the inevitability of corruption, feautring a career best turn by the often under-rated Aaron Eckhart. Tight, but I'm calling a winner

Winner: Aaron Eckhart

7 worst comic book movies

The coin is not without its charred side, and for every Harvey dent there is a Two-face waiting in the wings. So below Are the comic book movies that give drivel a bad name.

7) League of extraordinary gentleman
The mutch respected Alan Morre comic book involving notorious characters from classic literature, took a butchering in the hands of Blade director Steven Norrington, with the shoehorning in of an American character and the worn Sean Connery taking a paycheque to the extreme. Overblown and depressing.

6) Spider-man 3
The third Spider-man took a worrying step in the direction of soapiness, with a large part of the film devoted to a Peter Parker and Mary Jane spat. But the most unforgivable thing was the sheer wasting of Venom, given little screen-time and forced to scrren-share with piss-ant the Sandman. Uncool. Still Venom's getting his own movie now, so he wins in the end.

5) X-men: The last stand
The first two X-men movies came worryingly close to actual quality, so this was countered by hiring Brett Ratner, lamely killing central characters and increasing the dumbass factor to Ten. No film has taken the identity of being a cash-in to heart quite like this film.

4) Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage in a bad wig. This pretty much all I took from this film, which further proved that Mark Steven Johnson shouldn't be making films. Pray to god that reference means nothing to you.

3) Catwoman
Catwoman really did deserve her own movie, being clearly the most awesome female comic book character. But who'd have thought it would have gone so badly. Partly thanks to a horrible performance from Halle Berry, partly thanks to horrible OCD direction from Pitof and partly thanks to its horrible script. Its a pure disaster.

2) Superman IV
Oh this film is horrible. Nothing much more needs to be said except do not watch this film under any circumstances.

1) Batman and Robin
The granddaddy of terrible comic book films. Horribly family friendly, with a vapid George Clooney as Batman and a performance so bad its got to be high in the running for worst ever from Arnold Schwarzenegger as mr Freeze. You end up feeling as little sorry for Uma Thurman, whose Poison Ivy belongs in a mildly better movie. But its an 80's disoc lit fiasco, and lets hope nothing like it pollutes our eyes ever again.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The 10 best comic book movies

A few years ago people would have snickered in the declaring of the comic book movie a genre, but its huge financial success entwined with its ever expanding nature quiets down the naysayers. So which manage to contain quality amidst the bright colours and ridiculous costumes. SPOILERS AHEAD

10) From Hell
Actually quite critically reviled on its release, I'd say that this one is worth a second look. Less painfully self-superior then other Alan Moore adap V for Vendetta and infinitely more stylish, This affecting Victorian set horror spin on the Jack the Ripper myth packs quite a punch. Even with Johnny Depp pre-Jack Sparrow mockney accent.

9) Superman
The first and perhaps to an older generation then myself the best, this movie works on pure unadulterated family entertainment value. Charming and by the end surprisingly moving, a much better movie then is often given credit for. Features one of cinema's most unnecessary cameos from Marlon Brando.

8) Spider-man 2
Spider-man did what Superman did for the 70's for the millennium generation. Smooth, slick and joyfully slight, the Spider-man films could define popcorn movie. The 2nd is the best, with Alfred Molina's Doc Ock striking an impressive villain, whilst Tobey Maguire does his thing with slightly less nervousness.

7) Men in Black
Another terrifically entertaining movie, mostly because of its awesome buddy act between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith with the former particularly having an absolute ball. Some black humor amidst the comic book fun make this one linger beyond mere paperweight entertainment

6) Batman
Sure it may have been eclipsed by recent efforts involving the caped crusader, but Burton's Batman remains a classic. Sure the Prince soundtrack and some of the action scenes are nigh on embarrassing, but Nicholson's Joker is supremely entertaining and Burton really does put the Goth into Gotham City and the design looks a treat.

5) American Splendor
The anti-comic book movie comic book movie. Or in less convoluted phrasing, a delightfully mundane drama that takes its comic about a real guy thesis and makes it into a great movie, featuring a career defining performance from Paul Giamatti.

4) Sin City
For the record I still maintain this film is slightly over-rated and if someone were to make a point about movies putting style over substance this would be the first movie to go to. Yet it undeniably is visually breathtaking and even features a good performance or two, most notably from Mickey Rourke and Benicio Del Toro.

3) A History of Violence
A deceptively intelligent adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, a huge return to form for David Cronenberg and a career renaissance for Lord of the Rings alum Viggo Mortensen, this tight painfully tense thriller that never lets you go from the start. Not for prudes though, with plentifully graphic sex and violence.

2) The Dark Knight
Syke. You though this was going to win didn't you, well if it hadn't been for the film in first place it certainly would have. But that seems like an obvious thing to say, anyways you've seen and heard it many times and you don't need me to tell you what a masterpiece this is.

1) Oldboy
I didn't even know that this was based on a Manga graphic novel, but there you go. Its a terrifyingly beautiful, haunting, original work of genius that anyone who has seen it in no way can deny. Watch this film now.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

REVIEW: The day the earth stood still

So, another year and another big budget sci-spectacular starring Keanu Reeves. Some of them have been great, some of them have been good and most of them have been abysmal. This one lands straight into the realm of the mediocre, spending more time on spectacle and less on intelligent social commentary something the original did so well. There is a half-hearted anti-global warming message here, but it feels undercooked and more then anything else a simple excuse for the destruction.

The plot, such as it is, sees clairvoyant alien Keanu come to earth to destroy mankind, coz we're, you know polluting the atmosphere. That's pretty much it, as Reeves wonders around with Jennifer Connelly and step-son Jaden Smith ( Son of Will ), telekinetically K.Oing helicopters and acting monotonously. A few impressive visuals aside, there is little to recommend here. Its dour and seemingly purposefully so, Reeves does his wooden tried and tested shtick, Jennifer Connelly does her best in a bland role and Smith is a little insipid. Its a shame, because if this film had pursued its subject matter from a slightly more intelligent perspective, this film could have had some potential. But its only concern seems to be shoehorning in superfluous effects shots and thus we have another vapid summer movie to forget within 5 minutes, its only distinction being that for some reason it was released in winter.

Better then Jonny Mnenomic but worse then Chain reaction. Thats how average this is.

Rating 5/10

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Hugh Jackman presents the oscars

And the most ironically awesome news item of the day goes to... After years of stand up comedians who have very little to do with the film industry presenting the Oscars, the old dudes have decided to let Wolverine himself present the thing. I think this is class, because Jackman has that old school cheesy charm and it fits the inherent smugness of the academy awards to a tee. Dr Cox must be thrilled.

Producers of Twilight sequel replace Catherine Hardwicke. With a man

A couple of weeks ago, I did a bit about how Twilight was on course to be the most succesful film by a female director. It was so successful that the producers upped the budget for the sequel, and oh yeah fired the female Catherine Hardwicke and replaced her with rent-a-hack Chris Weitz. Of American Pie fame. And women thought they were finally getting their due, but it appears that the dudes in charge didnt realise how much fangirl potential this had, and now big bucks are invloved they called in the Y chromosome. This is ridiculous, about 5 men saw this film and it will be because there girlfriends made them or they're dealing with identity issues. This was a film for women with a female lead made by a woman and it was actually successful, few other films can make this claim. ( Sex and the City was directed by a man ) It appears misogyny is the hate form allowed to continually go unnoticed. The film itself is well shit, but thats clearly not the point.

The end of the year

so the year is quickly coming to a close. And the world is much changed from when 2008. We now have a democratic president, a large hydron collider that didn't suck the world into a black hole (although the would have been one badass way to apocalypse ourselves) and the richest football club in the world is now Manchester City. As far as films go, it was not the terrible year many have been calling it. There have been great films throughout, admittedly mixed in with a fair few crap capitalist cash in's that it pains me to call movies. But hey, Oscar season is now here so here come all the good films as studios chase awards that in the grand scheme of things are just window dressing. Pimped out window dressing though. Anyways in keeping with this orgy of self congratulations I too will be doing a comprehensive end of year awards, so from the 1st of January to the 7th I will be doing the creatively titled awards week. Only 18 days away. Mark your calendars...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Golden globe nominations.

And here we go..... awards season is upon us, as heralded by the golden globe nomination announcements. Now the golden globes pretty much act as Oscar's retarded cousin, and awful populist movies get recognised here. But judge yest not ye be judged so here is the skinny.
Best picture noms: Curious case of benjamin button, frost/nixon, The reader, Revolutionary road and Slumdog Millionaire
Most shocking news! Cate Blanchett got burned at an awards show, no props for the otherwise raved over button. burned.

Only 1 nom for Dark Knight, congrats to heath ledger. Ominous for oscar prospects though.

This could be David Fincher's oscar year, As his Benjamin button picked up a shitload of nominations.

Most retarded nominations, tom cruise for his 2 minute role in tropic thunder, mamma mia in best musical/comedy, and burn after reading getting nominated in the same category. It rode on its coen name.

Most unexpectedly awesome nominations? James Franco for Pineapple express, Robert downey jr for tropic thunder, Danny Boyle for slumdog millionaire. Boyle may well be up for his first oscar this year. Also In Bruges for best musical/comedy plus two actor noms for colin farrell and brendan gleeson. That film is so much better then you think it will be.

Generally as expected but the lack of respect for the dark knight is worrying. lets hope it comes around

Monday, 8 December 2008

7 average movies everyone else thinks are great

Ah, another over-rated movie list. They are like the unstoppable bug thing from Halo. They keep multiplying with no way to stop them. This is by no means all of the films I deem to be blown out of proportion, rather a selection. SPOILERS

1) Halloween
Its amazing how many defenders this film still has, because anyone watching it now can only see it as tame. Yes, the film pretty much defined the slasher movie template, but it is far from the pinnacle of the genre. It has dated horribly and only seems cheap and ineffective to me, its numerous knock-offs did it much, much better.

2) Jules et Jim
I love a pretentious self-superior french film as much as the next guy, but this mother crosses the line. A seemingly never-ending story of the most un-involving love triangle interspersed with sixth-form level philosophical points. No-one in the world will find this a rewarding experience, seeing as its neither moving, involving and definitely not enjoyable. Despite what that awesome picture might suggest.

3) Mystic River
I'd equate this film with Crash. And while that movie has received the mother of all backlashes, this one got away clean. Both are heavy-handed drama's that feel more like accomplished lifetime movies, with their generalising and simplistic take on things. These flaws are ignored because of a few good performances, and Mystic River has a couple of those but its not enough to make up for its many faults. If mystic river were in high school it would be a C student who thinks he's the smartest guy in the room.

4) The silence of the lambs
Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter is a pretty cool bad guy, but somehow that bought this film 8 Oscar nominations and I think 4 wins. Giant WTF. This is a procedural serial killer movie in its purest form. Take away the A listers and you've got a Charles Bronson movie. And while proper execution can make up for that, se7en is the only masterpiece this genre produced.

5) Finding Nemo
Pixar movies are great, but this and the newer WALL-E are most definitely not amongst the best. Yet they get nothing but ebullient praise from all corners of the earth, presumably for their mawkish unrequited love plots and self-conscious cuteness. For the more cynical of mind, majorly uncool. Give my Toy story, the incredibles or Ratatouille any day.

6) Fargo
I'm a huge Coen fan, but it boggles the mind that this was the one chosen by the critical concensus as their best movie, because Ladykillers and Intolerable cruelty aside its pretty much the worst. Its not bad, just kind of average really. And seeing as The Big Lebowski, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple and No Country for old men are so much better, the mind is boggled.

7) The seven samurai
Motherfucking three hour and forty minute action movie. That alone is inexcusable, but the rambling and inability to get to the point and a horribly OTT performance from Toshiro Mifune make it not as good as you expect. There are some good things, such as the use of the tragic greatest swordsman in Japan, or the James Coburn character for those who know this film only through The magnificent seven. Skimped on in the remake, that character certainly makes a mark here.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

REVIEW: Blindness

I remember all the pre-release Oscar buzz for this film, yet it came and went without a fuss, with politely positive reviews but nothing too extra-ordinary. As far as I can tell, this seems to be a fair assessment. There are good things about Blindness, but there's also a fair amount of triteness and cheese too. The good outweighs the bad though, and its central concept is most certainly a chilling one.

The story sees the world essentially incapacitated by an epidemic of unexplained blindness. In attempt to quell this outbreak, those amongst the infected are quarantined in a hospital, completely shut-off from the outside world. Its up to the only person who can see, billed as the doctor's wife and played by Julianne Moore, to stop the blind from ripping each other apart. First things first, the rules of fair warning state I have to say that this film is quite gross. Filth and rot everywhere, folks and most definitely not for the squeamish. Despite this, director Fernando Meireilles makes the film look unforgettably haunting, and parts of it you won't forget. Julianne Moore is suitably stoic and tough as the sighted messiah, but she is also quite closed off and the character is more lean then it should have been, making for quite a frosty heroine. Instead the most relatable character is Mark Ruffalo's gently noble Doctor, who ends up immensely over-whelmed by the situation. Ruffalo is another great actor sneaking under the radar, but seems to be getting some better roles at last. The film's best performance comes from Gael Garcia Bernal as 'The King of Ward 3' who hijacks the hospital's food supply along with a blind from birth cohort and makes increasingly monstrous demands of his fellow detainees. Anyone who wishes to keep thinking of Bernal as a sex symbol would do well to give this a miss, because he is a truly vile bastard here. Its a terrific performance though, played with a demented eagerness by Bernal. The script, written by Don mcKellar who also has a small role, is a little stifled with dialogue often sounding forced but its structured quite well, and gives ample opportunity for Meireilles to show mad visual skills.

All in all, a tough watch and hardly awards worthy but has enough good qualities to make it worth it. Its a shame Moore is short-changed by her character because you get the sense she could have been much better if given a more fleshed out role.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Lakeview Terrace

Neil LaBute may be up there with the most under-achieving directors in the history of cinema. After his darker than dark debut masterpiece In the company of men, he has either inferiorly repeated himself or sold out to almost laughable effect, as anyone who has seen his wicker man remake will testify to. Stateside, his latest Lakeview Terrace was hailed as a mild return to form. Not a complete recovery, but a definate step in the right direction. Well in fairness anything is a step in the right direction after the Wicker Man, but this film is a relatively good spin on the old neighbour from hell scenario.

The story sees a young inter-racial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move in to a nice house in a surburban neighbourhood, but their liberal lifestyle and relationship upsets a right-wing rule-abiding single-father/cop (Samuel L Jackson) and he seeks to undermine them at every turn. We've all seen this film before, but it's entertaining enough, mostly thanks to Jackson's performance. Because he makes a fair few terrible films, its easy to forget how good Jackson can be when he gets down to some serious acting. And while this film is certainly not great, its Jackson's best performance in a while. Patrick Wilson, an actor who is repeatedly burned by critics - particularly in Hard Candy, where hysteria surrounding Ellen Page's albeit terrific performance left him unfairly ignored - gets your pretty standard under-written straight man role, and thus inevitably gets blasted off the screen by Jackson. Washington fairs better, and is most definately someone to watch. But the problem is the film jumps the shark, so to speak, in its final third and what started as a reasonably realistic and slow-burn drama/thriller becomes a ridiculously overblown pseudo action thriller and a bad one at that, with Jackson's character getting more contradictory by the second. LaBute is not a great visual director, but used to distinguish himself by the quality of the written material, Not so here, with the committee written script sadly lacklustre.

So, not a return to form per say, but more a return to mediocrity which for LaBute is currently a good thing. If your a Jackson fan, check it out for some prime Jacksoning, but otherwise there isn't all that much to recommend.

Rating: 5/10

reviews up tomorrow.

hopefully reviews will be up tommorow. Keep an eye out

Friday, 5 December 2008

7 modern day movie stars

People say that the concept of the movie star has died. with starless movies like 300 and Cloverfield making enough money, it is a credible argument. Back in the day actors opened films like nobody's business, now the journalistic concensus says this is over. A true movie star has an identity that transcends the character the play, and here are a few actors who fit this bill

1) Will Smith
Who else is there to top this list. Smith's last ten films have all broken 100 million despite the majority being less then stellar, he has 2 Oscar nominations for otherwise mediocre films and he has taken one of the blandest names in the universe and made it one of the most recognisable. He is the quintessential movie star by even the strictest definitions, with the kind of charisma that is almost presidential in its ability to make you hang on every word. Is actually a good actor too. All it takes is for him to be in a great movie and his legacy is secure.

2) George Clooney
Many people refer to his matinee idol looks, but unlike any other, except perhaps Will Smith, George Clooney will always be George Clooney in the films. He never really gives a performance outside his safe zone, which is decidedly in keeping with the concept of the movie star. In which the real character is himself, and thus playing yourself in every movie isn't as easy as it seems.

3) Angelina Jolie
You can tell Angelina Jolie wants an Oscar bad. She's played grieving widow/mother now for two years in a row, yet I should imagine she'll come up empty. But she has remained hollywood A-list for a long time and for the most part without making even a semi-decent film. But she has something better than that. Movie star quality. The more cynical might translate this to mean beauty and sex appeal, but she has an engaging presence on-screen and in the last couple of years has proved herself to be more then just an object of male gaze.

4) Tom Cruise
He may be crazy, but he may be the most recognizable actor currently working in movies, and while he has shown flashes of genuine acting ability, he has coasted through many an average action movie solely on the surity of his own movie stardom. Which hasn't yet gone past its sell by date, but if he keeps on the way he is then it wont be long.

5) Keanu Reeves
Reeves has had 17 or so years at the top of the movie chain, and has done so pretty much on cool alone, because he ain't all up with the acting (although seemingly is getting better with age). He even managed to star in a fanboy phenomenon and not get dragged down into it. Few people can make that claim. Its because Reeves is Reeves and for all his faults no-one acts or looks quite like him.

6) Cameron Diaz I hear the groans already, but Diaz is viable for this list, man. She plays herself in almost every movie, has worked with several of the best directors going and is instantly recognizable to the movie going public. She's more talented then most people give her credit for too, goddamn men and their inability accept women being good at anything. humph.

7) Robert Downey Jr
This is a recent development, but after the monumental success of Iron Man, Downey Jr is now unquestionably a movie star. And quite right now, as he is as close as anyone else to being the modern day Humphrey Bogart. Even if he talks a little faster. Its well deserved considering the amount of movies he stole over the years.