Monday, 30 November 2009

TV REVIEW: Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7

Seinfeld: " Explain to me again why isn't this lame? "

Larry David: " We'll find a way to do it that won't be lame"

To be honest, when I heard that the story arc of season 7 was going to be a Seinfeld Reunion, I had the same reaction as the fictional Jerry Seinfeld. I feared that Curb, a show that has never to this point been less then mostly awesome, might become a joke within a joke within a joke, with the audience increasingly left out. But I was wrong, and fantastically so. Pretty much every second of the Seinfeld reunion-related screen-time was hilarious or at least the final three episodes of it anyway. Its perhaps not the strongest year the show has ever had, at this point season's 4 and 5 are looking like the pinnacle, but it has re-energized Curb into becoming more then an amusing distraction again.

The season itself, while not being perfect in terms of its structure, with a particularly weak and almost irrelevant set of episodes around the middle, was always funny and there wasn't a laughless episode to be found, even with the disposable ones. Perhaps because at this point, Larry David the character has become almost as strong as any of his Seinfeld characters. For all his faults he's never not engaging or unfunny, and while at times his actions may stretch the realms of even sitcom credibility, he's such a unique creation that at times it doesn't matter if the show is being a bit iffy. Larry david doesn't even have to be a brilliant actor to pull this off, with just the force of his personality making him an engaging screen presence. And in a bizarre way, he's become one of televsion's most iconic and singular characters of the decade. This could be what makes Curb such a long lasting show too, because on average by the time shows reach their seventh season an involuntary winding down process has begun. But there's still a vitalness here that there probably shouldn't be, with David still doing enough interesting and original stuff to justify this show's contuining existence.

The year actually begins quite strongly, with a hilarious two-parter wrapping up last season's holdover storyline of Larry being intwined with Vivica A Fox and her extended family, this of course being great because its given us lots of Leon (J.B Smoove), who makes everything about 100 times better with his presence. Even despite him being a raging stereotype, he's such a hilarious one that it really doesn't matter. Anyway Vivica has cancer, and Larry, who is still in love with his ex wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) is doing all he can to get her to dump him, from racing home to dump her before she gets her final diagnosis, from taking her to a therapist to show what a huge dick he is, its great stuff. I was almost disappointed when the Seinfeld arc had to begin because I enjoyed these first two so much, but that anguish was pleasingly short lived.

The Seinfeld stuff at first was hit and miss. The stuff with Larry and Jason Alexander and the resentment between them is golden. This is in part because of how well Alexander plays it, just as a good Seinfeld episode pretty much coincided with it focusing on George, because George was Larry and Mr Larry David seems to write best for himself. The two share a hilarious animosity that is really the biggest comic success of the arc. Hearing Alexander relentlessly rag on George's character, which is of course a surrogate Larry, much to Larry's anger is an awesome running gag. And while Jerry Seinfeld is given nothing much to do except react to Larry, the two share a rapport that carries through to the screen, and its pleasing to see Larry have a friendship without the undertone of hostility. As was the problem on Seinfeld at times, the show has no idea what to do with Julia Louis Dreyfus and as a consequence she does kind of get lost in the shuffle of things, I would say the same for Michael Richards if it wasn't for his awesome plot with Leon in 'The Table Read' probably the best episode of the season, in which Larry David wisely acknowledged Richards infamous viral video racist tirade of a couple of years ago. And plus, Leon's impression of the deeply Jewish Danny Duberstein was pretty much the funniest thing on this show in years. As far as the other regulars go, Jeff Garlin got to do his fat straight man thing, Susie Essman as Jeff's fierce wife says 'Fuck You' better then anyone else in history and Cheryl Hines rarely gets a chance to be funny, but when she does she is clearly very good at it. My main complaint about this show over the years would probably be the underuse of Cheryl, who plays too minor a role in things.

The main weakness of the year is probably its sporadicity of the mid-section, probably episodes 4 to 7, go too long without being involved in the overall arc, and aren't quite strong enough on their own to jusitfy it. Don't get me wrong, they all have funny moments, 'Denise handicapped' (a moniker for how Larry labels his disabled girlfriend in his mobile phone) in particular was quite hilarious despite quite a few contrivances. Which at times can be a problem with Curb, with things at times seeming too comically convienient and perhaps an over-reliance on coincidence to land at the end of the episode. But that could be levelled at Seinfeld too, so I guess that's just how Larry David does it. Its this mid-section that stops this perhaps being the best year of Curb, which it could have been if it had been a slight more consistent. But given how much better this show is then the scores of obvious, factory line sitcoms there are out there, it seems almost silly to harp on in this way, given that this is the show that finally confronted the issue of ridiculously hard to open packaging head on, as well as the show that finally got to give us Larry David impersonating Jason Alexander impersonating him.

Season seven, if it should be the final year of Curb, which is certainly a possibility, is also a fitting end I would think, given how dependent Larry David is on meta-writing, and with this he has kind of come full circle in regards to self-referentialism and from here you wonder where he has left to go with it. Aside from this, this was a mostly great season of television from one of the funniest writers the medium has ever had.

Best Episode: The Table Read

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Next Week's Movies

The Box - After Southland Tales, Richard Kelly needs this one to land. Considering the source material and Richard Kelly's talent, which is great when he is given focus, I'm calling cautiously optimistic. Expectancy Level: 7/10

The Descent Part 2 - This is some bullshit. Expectancy level: 3/10

Me and Orson Welles - Zac Efron tries to be credible. Richard Linklater, of Scanner Darkly and Dazed and Confused fame, slums it for the money. Passable movie probably but not exactly tingling with anticipation. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Cracks - Eva Green stars in this semi-pretentious looking film from a relative of Ridley Scott. I do love me some pretentious films, but unsold. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Planet 51: The rock plays an animated white man. Is that racist? The movie will be shit either way. Expectancy Level: 4/10

REVIEW: Paranormal Activity

Judged by ability to render a viewer a wholly shit-scared wreck, this movie is genius. Everything it touches in regards to bringing the fright turns to gold, and I would have no problem saying this is the scariest film in some time, at least since The Descent. What I would have a problem with is saying that its a truly great horror movie however, because as paradoxical as it may seem to say, there is more to making a great horror movie than simply scaring the audience. I don't want to criticize it too much because it takes you on a genuinely nerve shredding ride, but a five star masterpiece it is not. Sorry guys (particularly Total Film and Empire).

But being the sunny minded individual that I am, I'll address the good first, and to be fair there is a lot of it. The movie handled the now well-oiled gimmick of the real footage horror movie with aplomb, even bringing out new aspects of it that the rag-tag collection of movies that have previously trodden this territory hadn't been ingenuous enough to come up with. In particular the tripoded static night shot, which always in the same place throughout the movie becomes almost an announcer of 'scary shit is about to happen now' and as a consequence just returning to that shot ratchets up a near unbearable amount of tension, even before anything actually happens. Never before in the history of cinema has an audience been so effectively scared and been at the mercy of a camera angle. Like Blair Witch, the movie wisely keeps the villain unseen, or seen only in suggestion. Its just so much better that way. And the handling of the pace of our paranormal's escalating malevolence is also masterfully done. Its not just the gimmick that makes this movie so terrifying, its director Oren Peli's near perfect handling of the slow-burn. The dude is someone to watch.

The actors, who are notoriously the weakest aspect of this kind of thing, are mostly competent, sometimes more so. Also like Blair Witch, Micah Sloat and Katie Featherstone play themselves, with her faring better, but him not being a total waste. Featherstone plays the victim and voice of reason very well, and gets to display an impressive range later in the movie, whilst Sloat is pretty one-note, but hits it well. Which actually brings me to the movie's main weakness which perhaps has been overlooked because of its form, but its far too dependant on Micah's intense idiocy in order to progress. I can handle a little stupidity from my horror movie heroes, but Micah's abysmal decision making does grate after a while, in spite of repeatedly being told not to, and it feels very much like the movie is forcing his character to act this way in order to progress, and its a cheap way out and belongs to a lesser movie. Similarly there's plenty of logical grievances to make with the movie too, in terms of the characters decision to stay so isolated.

But given how well the scary stuff is done I am quite happy to let these complaints go and call this a great movie of its genre, and a masterclass in actually scaring people rather then just grossing them out, which is the path of most modern horrors. Its not as Good as Blair Witch, which made a real effort to make its characters more then ciphers for the experience, but it may be scarier. Because above all that's what this movie is for. Its rough around the edges, but what it came here to do, it does gloriously.

It will shit you up. No question.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: Law Abiding Citizen

Gerard Butler is the best thing about this movie. A phrase that I was sure my fingers would never type but there you go. He not only isn't terrible, but even has a couple of moments of being OK. And in comparison to every other aspect of this movie, he even rises above the material. Of course that would require a very low standard of material, and Law Abiding Citizen is happy to oblige. You get the sense that perhaps there's a watchable thriller in here somewhere, but that glimmer of optimism is crushed by this movie's relentless quest to be an overblown game of revenge cat and mouse, which gets more generic and derivative with the film's progression and by the end you feel positively weighed down by the monotonousness of it all.

The movie's point, such as it is, is that the legal system has become more about self-sustaining then punishing bad guys. And this wrong. There should be less bureaucracy and more execution damn it. And while I can hardly say that I agree with this, at least its an ethos (big up Walter Sobchak) and up until the half way point I was prepared to cut it some slack, but then things got ridiculous, and the less said about the weak, weak ending the better. The movie's determination to turn Butler in to some kind of super-villain just removes any kind of credibility it had, and rather then the scathing criticism of the legal system/death wish wannabe it began as, it became like a shit version of the Dark Knight, with Butler's city official assassinating driving the city, and the wooden and disinterested Jamie Foxx, into a very dull and unwatchable panic. Foxx, who is a great actor on his day, doesn't exactly have the best batting average in the world and to be sure this is the Jamie Foxx from The Kingdom rather then the one from the Soloist. As far as the supporting cast goes, no-one stood out to me to mention for good or bad, all blending into this movie's painfully dull big picture. F Gary Gray, is on the whole a reasonably solid hired hand, having made a couple of watchable movies, but this falls into the backend of his output.

Only the scenes with Butler are worth anything really, and they belong to a 6/10 movie at best, while the rest of this shit, slot-filling time waster hits about a 4, so we'll do the mature thing and call a compromise.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Bunny and The Bull

Yes! After years of close calls, dashed hopes and near misses, it finally happened. I saw a film at the cinema entirely in my own screen. Yes, there was not a single person to be found but me at the 11:00 screening of Bunny and the Bull, and while this may speak volumes as far as this film's money making potential goes, it was nonetheless beyond awesome to me. A private screening by default. Like the screensaver icon that never seems to hit the corner, I have been perilously close to this before. There's been four people in a screening; there's been three people in a screening. I was beginning to think it was impossible dream, but I finally got my rewards for attending films at ridiculously uncommercial hours.

Of course this has fuck all to do with the film in question, so allow me to get to that now. The cinematic debut of long time director of The Mighty Boosh, a british sitcom that I have little time for. And as a consequence of that I was expecting to be completely alienated by this film, but I was pleasantly suprised. Its far from perfect, but there's enough creativity, visual style and OK to good comedy to make me think that King could do this for a living. The main hook of the film will no doubt be the DIY visuals, a la Science of Sleep, in which snow is made of newspaper and sets are made of cardboard. And for the most part it works, giving the movies heightened reality a co-operating backdrop. It is filmed with an eagerness and love that one would expect from a labor of love such as this and it is of no doubt this movies calling card. Slightly less effective however is the slightly run of the mill buddy road trip aspect, which while occassionally funny and subvertive, hits too many of the usual cues.

Similarly Edward Hogg struggles in the lead, landing the awkwardness but hasn't the presence to make the character worth paying attention to. Its a potentially interesting arc, but Hogg isnt good enough to draw us in. Simon Farnaby fares better as his best friend, but his character is quite stock for this kind of thing, and while he gets the best lines ( " Don't go into another rant about the decline of the semi-colon please") there's certainly an element of having seen it before. Only Farnaby's performance gives the character any pop. Veronica Echegui takes the free-spirited spanish stereotype and does some suprisingly good comedy work, even if the movie has little interest in the character. As much as they get on my nerves on the Mighty Boosh, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt's cameos are probably the best thing in this movie acting wise. But its rare to see a British film with this kind of visual creativity and that combined with a script that is suprisingly adept, its the kind of film you wish the British Film Industry would make more often. Even if its not exactly to my taste, its a film that has a reason to exist artistically as well as commercially, and thats hardly something to sneer at.

An interesting little movie, not so much for what happens in it, but for its sense of enthusiasm and visual energy.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Is The Road In Trouble?

A couple of reviews of the Road I have scoured whilst surfing movie sites in between bouts of stealing their ideas, have been decidedly or at least gingerly negative. 6 months ago, I would have called this a lock to be my favorite film of 2010 (love those British release dates) in part because if the terrific source novel from No Country For old Men writer Cormac McCarthy; in part because of my love for post-apocalyptic fiction, in all forms of media, but particularly film; and in part because it comes from John Hillcoat, the director of the distinctly under-rated Aussie western The Proposition which was the kind of film to make you an instant lifelong fan of anything the director puts out. But. Bad reviews are seemingly easy to ignore for the majority of humanity, but being the dangerously obssessive consumer of film criticism that I am, its left me concerned. Not in a I'm going to rip the shit out of you, your mother and your cat in the comments section kind of way, but perhaps in the way viewers felt about half way through Godfather part three, that sense of docile disappointment and sense of loss. Almost as if we were denied the movie we felt we deserved and rather then make us angry it just makes us resign in depressing acceptance.

Now this is merely speculation and the movie is sitting at an OK but not great 70% on rotten tomatoes, and if I find the movie amazing, and I can't tell you how much I hope I do, this is all moot. But hype, being the son of a bitch that it is, is hard to ignore. Be it good or bad you go in with it ever present in your mind and just as we'll all take our seats next month expecting Avatar to once and for all deck to the face James Cameron's career, I'll go into this film whenever that might be expecting disappointment, which in many ways ruins it before its begun.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Humanity Proves That It Is In Fact Ridiculous As Twilight Takes 140 Million.

Yes Twilight is the third highest opening ever, behind only Spider-man 3 and The Dark Knight. I'd like to think this will do a slightly higher scale version of what Sex and the City did, which is to open massively and then canon-ball once the fans have had their fill. But I get the sense that most Twilight fans are up for seeing this two or three times, so expecting this to take at least 350 million by the end of it. Supposedly its going to land Iron Man numbers, just shy of 400 million. Americans, man. But I suppose I come from a country where Mamma Mia out grossed the Dark Knight, so I should STFU. Plus Twilight is owning over here too so.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Next Week's Movies

Paranormal Activity: Thanks to some legendary crushing of the US Box Office, we in the UK are getting Paranormal Activity slightly earlier, and this is something to be happy about. This is a scary movie with unanimously good reviews ( 5 stars in Total film) and the genuine promise of shitting you up. Its on. Expectancy Level: 8/10

Law Abiding Citizen: This movie has been pretty over-exposed already, with trailers littering the cinema solidly for about 2 months. Looks at least semi-shit, and as of yet I'm not feeling it. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Bunny and The Bull: I don't know. This looks like an interesting movie, if a little base, and I want to be excited for it, but my sheer hatred for the Mighty Boosh prevents me from being excited about the team's cinematic outing. Maybe it'll be good, but even if it is it won't be to my taste, that I know. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Nativity: Like hell no. British Christmas film set at a Primary school nativity play. I was too cynical for this movie at the age of 4. Expectancy Level: 3/10

REVIEW: The Informant!

Its difficult to know how to take this film, because on first glance there's a lot to like here. A darkly comic look at corporate America at its most ridiculous, a relatively awesome true story with which to base itself on, a great central performance from Matt Damon, who may be the most famous movie star with the most under-appreciated amount of talent and a fantastic supporting cast of comedians both known and unknown. Plus, like, Steven Soderbergh.

So how did it not end up a legendary black comedy? It's hard to say, but it isn't. The Informant might not be the mediocre all out letdown of a movie that some have labeled it as, but its certainly disappointing in an it could have been so much better kind of way. The story follows Mark Whitacre (Damon, who is fattened up good here), high-ranking corporate man, who one day decides to turn against his employers and turn rat to the FBI. Supposedly because he just wants to do the right thing, but unsurprisingly there's more to it then that. First things first, Damon is awesome. Its one of those unfortunate times where there's an Oscar worthy performance in a less then Oscar worthy film, and that inevitably means he'll get passed over. Its kind of like Josh Brolin in W, last year, who unfortunately gave a career best performance in a 6/10 movie. Damon will top this I'm sure, but he gets so much right here, from his perfectly delivered wandering voice-over, to Whitacre's sheer ignorance of the fact that he is capable of doing anything wrong. Not to mention his big actorly moment where Whitacre finally reaches self-realization, which Damon is frighteningly good in.

No he isn't the problem. The problem is almost everything else. Soderbergh is mostly to blame I think, having almost mis-conceived the movie. I'm not saying it shouldn't have been a comedy, but the kind of comedy Soderbergh thinks it is is of use to no-one. Over the top ironic music cues repeatedly intrude over scenes of people simply walking through the office, which as the movie progresses really begins to grate, and the non-Damon sect of the cast is pretty much unanimously wasted. I guess Melanie Lynskey as the long-suffering wife and Scott Bakula as Whitacre's FBI contact are ok, but otherwise great comedians such as Community's Joel McHale, Arrested Development's Tony Hale and Geek comedian and now credible actor Patton Oswalt just turn up in suits in straight man roles, with nothing really to do but react to Damon. There's nothing more curse-worthy in movies or in life then wasted talent and in that regard this movie is hateable in spades. There's humor to be found here, but not the kind Soderbergh thought there was and its a film that should have been a drama with streaks of black humor rather then a black comedy with streaks of drama. The script is geared toward the former, but Soderbergh is determined to play it as the latter, and this confusion KO's the film's chances of being great in the process. He's a fantastic director on the whole, don't get me wrong, but he dropped the ball here.

Still, Damon's performance and skills at both being hilarious and a strong dramatic actor save the day, and prevent the movie caving in on itself. He allows it to be an enjoyable mess rather then a complete disaster.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: A Serious Man

The Book of Job is where various religious texts answer the question of 'Well if God exists, why does so much bad stuff happen to me?'. And its answer is basically you should just shut up and take it, because God has a plan for everything. You don't need to understand it, you just need to know that its there. A Serious Man relocates the story of Job to a 60's Jewish suburb, and sees Physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) lose everything he holds dear, but rather then the grand Guignol bloodbath of the Biblical version, here Larry loses all of his societal comforts. The break-up of his marriage, the separation from him and his kids, his loser brother who he is powerless to save from himself, the loss of financial security, of career expectation, of moral assuredness and so many more things. Its almost that everything that allows him to exist comfortably in his time and place is removed, leaving him existentially and ideologically lost.

This by and large is quite heavy shit for a Coen brothers movie, with the two being primarily known for their skewed take on the thriller genre. But this is a very philosophical movie, and you get the sense its also a very personal one. The closest they've got to this kind of territory before is probably Barton Fink, and in a way these movies are siblings. Whereas Barton Fink revolves around a crisis of creativity, this is a crisis of faith and ideology. Its not that he loses his belief, but rather works endlessly to understand his predicament through his belief. He wants to find answers and solace in it, but its simply not their to find. To paraphrase the quote at the beginning of the film, If you don't take what happens to you with simplicity, then you will destroy yourself with curiosity. Its intriguing stuff, and one of the most intellectually rich films I've seen in a while, dealing with the ramifications of God's place in a profoundly rational mind. I'm an atheist myself, but its pleasing to see the issue religion dealt with in a way that supersedes simple black and white understanding.

This film also contains a terrific and hopefully career making performance from Michael Stuhlbarg, who gives such a sublime performance of frustration and disillusionment I can't praise it enough. It must be quite difficult to go from being a relative unknown to the lead in a Coen brothers movie, but Stuhlbarg is so good you'd never know it, all well-meaning politeness that life keeps slamming into a brick wall. He also provides a way into the film, which otherwise could have been quite impenetrable in its severe uniqueness. Incidentally, this may be the single most Jewish film of the year, and while some have said that it relies on ethnic caricatures, I don't think that's quite true. Well at least not enough to detract from the film anyway. The rest of the obscure cast all do their job well, with Richard Kind and Fred Melamed being particularly successful as the loser brother and wife-stealing serene Jerk-off respectively.

The Coens voice and world view have in many ways never been better expressed then in this film, and while they may have made better films, I would say they've made probably none as meaningful. Its a testament to their talent that they kind make a low-key film as good as this, and with a central performance to match the quality of the writing, this is almost destined to be this year's forgotten gem. Sure, the ending will frustrate and I'm not going to apologize for it, it annoyed me too, but its a film that succeeds in tackling philosophic and theological issues without being a coma-inducing bore is going to do well in my book, and this is a film that I won't forget in a long time. Proof to show that No Country For Old Men wasn't just a blip in the Coen brothers decline, and now lets hope their next film isnt another Burn After Reading.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 21 November 2009

REVIEW: Twilight: New Moon

Wow. That was quite possibly one of the most memorable movie going experiences I'll have. And it wasn't because of the movie which was tepid to the point of aspiring to mediocrity, it was because being in that screen was almost an inter-active experience. Every time Robert Pattinson came on screen he was met with a harmonized shriek of teen girls that came close to terrifying (The scene where he takes off his shirt I'm pretty sure the place shook). One particular parent got literally screamed at by a girl who could have been no more then 14 for having the audacity to cough; a ten year old boy got his chair violently kicked by the girl behind him when he shared an under his breath joke with his friend, and the closing credits were met with roughly a thirty second period of applause and cheering. I wish I was exaggerating for comic effect here but all this shit really happened. And all I can take from it is that Twilight fans, they be crazy.

And what makes this all so hilarious is that Twilight is such an undeserving franchise for this kind of hysteria. And in a way I think all the adolescent girls who contribute to its success know this, or at the very least half know this, but it doesn't matter. They've made they're fangirl choice and they're going to stick with it, damn it. And in a way I get that. I remember the wave of apologetics and vicious defenses that accompanied the Star Wars prequels, and I dare someone to make the argument that they were good films. I suppose when regular fandom reaches this kind of blind-eyed adoration there isn't a lot of logic to it. Its just this could be the first time when its been a successful, genre-set series of films such as this has belonged to the girls, and the girls alone. We don't get it, and so rarely do boys have to work hard to get a movie franchise, because usually their aimed at us. And in this sense Twilight has broken new ground, allowing girls to finally butt in on that prized power-nerd fan mentality that has belonged solely to dude's for so long.

That doesn't mean that its good though. And its really not. By and large its humorless, awkward and stifled. With its two leads having absolutely no chemistry together, which is the kiss of death for a film that is essentially a played straight romantic drama with a bit of supernatural thrown in. You can allude to Romeo and Juliet all you want, but not for one second in the previous movie or this one to Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson play well together. I think Stewart is a good actress in theory and I've definitely seen good performances from her in the past, but when the script doesn't help her she kind of crashes and burns, playing the role in quite an introverted manner and for a character so led by her heart this is at odds, and thus the idea that she attracts two supernatural alpha-beings just seems a bit silly. Similarly she doesn't seem comfortable with all the script's romantic gushing, and the fifth time she has to either say or hear 'You're everything to me' you can tell her heart isnt really in it. Pattinson on the other hand is just a plank. The next Orlando Bloom. Driven to fame by objectification and having no real talent to justify it. I'd love for him to prove me wrong in later performances but there's nothing here to convince me he's not just a flavor of the month. Taylor Lautner, who plays the third part in this movie's painfully obvious romantic triangle, probably is the best of the three here, in that he's kind of blandly OK, but he also won't be winning any Oscars any time soon. I almost cheered when Michael Sheen turned up, because he owns this film in pretty much one scene, and is a great actor to watch in almost anything, even cack like this. I guess I have to give props to Dakota Fanning too, who in a role that barely adds up to a cameo makes a much more memorable impression then most of this franchise's increasingly expanding cast. Her delivery of the word 'pain' before psychically torturing Edward is pretty legendary.

But this film is essentially mediocre stock product that has somehow become a fan phenomenon. I guess it just lucked into it. I could go on about the subtext of repressed religious sexuality, which is in nigh on every frame, and the amount of time Lautner had his shirt off lead to roughly an hour of screen-time, but there is no need. You know this kind of stuff already. This movie is going to be gigantic regardless of what I, or many more established critics say. You can't stop a stampede, even if they are running of a cliff. The cliff here is a stand in for quality I guess, although its a pretty weak metaphor. Whatever.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Top 7: When Ideas Make The Movie

Ideas are a wonderful thing. They inform life itself, and where would we be without capitalism, human rights or the I-pod. Applied to a more insular field of discussion, such as movies, its seems a painful statement of the obvious to say they are very important, but what's interesting is almost how unimportant they've become. Over the years we've built up genres, conventions, stock emotional journeys and cliche's for all areas of film-making. In many ways the idea, at least in its uncompromisable original form which is to come up with something that nobody's done before, seems to matter less and less. Its almost as if they way you tell it matters more then what your telling. Because I guess they're are so many more voices then stories, and that's where you find your originality. But this list is a celebration of spiting this rule, the movies that have good ideas and truly nothing else. Bad acting, bad writing, the works. Except at their core, they has a very good idea, and it carried them bulldozing through all their pitfalls to be a good movie regardless. SPOILER WARNING. BE WARNED ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.

7) Dark City

The Big Idea: So What actually happens when Aliens abduct you?

Alex Proyas has one ability as a film-maker. To make Gothic production design look the shit. If you take this away from him he's got nothing, as evidenced by Knowing and I Robot. I know The Crow has its fans, but this is probably the best thing he'll ever do because it works on such a good concept. Suffice to say it props up some bad acting, shocking dialogue and general suckage in all areas exempting cinematography and production design. It also allowed a great visual film-maker with no story-telling sense whatsoever to make a good movie.

6) Evil Dead 2

The Big Idea: Right, so you've got The Evil Dead and you've got Airplane...

This is a kind of horror comedy we'd never seen before at the time, Which is the enthusiastic piss-take. The pitch of this movie basically Airplane with gore, and because this idea worked so wonderfully. One can't help but get swept up in the Giddiness, and be entertained to the point of such incapacitation that you almost doesn't notice there's absolutely nothing substantial here at all. Its Candy floss if it were a movie, but the concept of tone is so strong that this movie recently rinsed Citizen Kane and The Seventh Seal in Empire's 1000 greatest movies. Who needs those movies when you have Bruce Campbell being attacked by has own hand right. But seriously I love this movie.

5) Assault on Precinct 13

The Big Idea: An inner city siege. Like Rio Bravo with street punks.

You could substitute this with any John Carpenter movie really, because he was the master of executing awesome high-concepts in a manner of mediocrity, but the idea was so invariably good people ate that shit up. After all this dude re-invented the siege movie and pretty much created the stalk and slash genre, such is the extent at his genius of the simple but awesome concept. 13 is a surprisingly effective movie because of its premise, even if it is shot and written like a straight to video movie almost, with a standard of acting to match. But no-one had thought of a 'hey wouldn't an inner city siege movie be awesome!' movie before and thus Carpenter's legend was assured.

4) Cube

The Big Idea: So what if we were the rats in the maze?

This is an interesting one, because you can tell this movie is written by a very smart man, with a deep knowledge of Physics, Mathematics, Psychology and Philosophy. But what Vincenzo Natali is not is a great film-maker, really. Or a great writer for that matter. But Cube is such a barnstormer of a movie in terms of subject matter it really doesn't matter that the dialogue feels like it belongs in Heroes and the acting in As the world turns. Despite this, Its the quintessential Rats in a Maze movie, with people having to solve the puzzle of an unfathomably large and ever shifting Cube in order to avoid the fate of a lab rat. The Saw franchise owes it a lot, which stole the ideas and ditched the intelligence.

3) El Mariachi

The Big Idea: Its a Mariachi vigilante. Hell yeah.

The western meets an 80's action movie, but set in Mexico. The concept of having a gun-toting mariachi coming to town to clean shit up is so awesome in itself, its no wonder that this movie not only launched a trilogy but also the career of Robert Rodriguez. And this despite it looking like it was made for absolutely no money (it was made for less) and there being nothing that amazing about the film at all really. It just that 'gun-slinging mariachi' looks so awesome on paper it became a cult hit. Its maybe The snakes on a plane orgy of irony thing, but to a lesser extent. Desperado is the shit though, and without this there's not that so. Thank god for fans of cheap action movies.

2) Mad Max

The Big Idea: Its a revenge/road movie set in the future. With Mel Gibson.

Mad Max made for more money and with a better cast ( i.e its sequel the Road Warrior) would have been one sick-ass film, but as it is there's just a clever little revenge movie with a charismatic star and an exploitative down and dirty feel. Which works and doesn't work at selected intervals. But the combination of the semi-dystopian future and pedal to the metal road movie of it as well as the revenge story works as a very clever and at the time original crossing of genre's. Its rough around the edges feel doesn't matter as much as it would say if this movie starred Charles Bronson and been envisioned with less verve.

1) Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Big Idea: Southern hicks kill nice city folk with chainsaws. Thats right I said Chainsaws.

Introduced the Chainsaw as a killing tool for cinema. End of. That's such a legendary contribution that the rest of this movie could pretty much be the twiddling of thumbs and it would still have a legitimate place in history. There's more to it then that, but there's some quite blatant flaws here too. Acting goes without saying in a movie of this kind, and also some of the pacing and OTT of it fails some times. But like I said, Chainsaw.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Next Week

Twilight: New Moon: Has it been a year already? Well that just flew by. This movie will suck to be sure, but I guess I can tolerate a depressed Kristen Stewart giving off an I'm too good for this vibe, Robert Pattinson not being in it very much and it has Michael Sheen in it, so. You know. Expectancy level: 5/10

A Serious Man: From what I've read about this, I'm going to humbly predict this as my favorite movie of this year so far, obviously ignoring all the late Oscar releases we got in Jan and Feb. Its a Coen brothers movie that went totally under the radar, with a cast of unknowns and a supposedly awesome script, I'm there. Expectancy level: 9/10

The Informant!: This Soderbergh movie didn't do well as he no doubt wanted with critics in the US, and to be honest the trailers have left me slightly unimpressed, but we'll see. I like Damon when he does comedy so I hasten to write it off entirely. Expectancy level: 6/10

REVIEW: Amelia

I'm going to go on record saying that Hilary Swank is the most obscure two-time Oscar winner there ever was. Except when she's winning the golden guy, she seems to be kind of OK in kind of OK movies. Amelia is no exception to this rule, and it is so very bland and unimpressive. Its another one of those biopics that just shows you meaningful events in its subjects life and expects you to be amazed, but given that most of the characters are contrived to fit the Amelia Earhart best of time-line, most are misfires struggling with painfully stilted dialogue that certainly does sound like it was written by a couple of biographers. And that's the problem, its a movie for historians who expect us to be as so fascinated by the history that we won't notice their complete lack of nuance and story-telling skills. But we aren't and we did.

For the plot wikipedia search Amelia Earhart, but for those who feel physically unable to do that, she was a trailblazing female pilot in the early 20th century, who broke through the glass ceiling for both feminism and aviation. In theory its quite an interesting story to tell, and it certainly should have one hell of an ending, but this movie even slightly flubs that. (SPOILER ALERT) Where it should have been heart-breaking one couldn't help but think when will she die already so I can go home (END OF SPOILER ALERT). Hilary Swank's performance nicely summarizes most of this movies faults too, with it being an intensely detailed surface imitation with no real depth to it, like Swank went great lengths to grasp Earhart's physical demeanor but completely ignored the content of her character. Which is only like the most important part. In that sense, it a very shallow performance she gives, all surface no depth, which like I said could pretty much define this movie. Richard Gere, playing her husband and PR man, is a little lost, giving another wooden performance to add to his collection. He can be good, but probably averages a 1 in 5 good performance rate, which quite frankly is not great. Ewan McGregor's role as Earhart's mistress (Is there a masculine term for that word?) is damn near irrelevant because this movie is so much more interested in Earhart's exploits then her person, which could have been fine if her exploits has been filmed in a slightly more interesting way, but director Mira Nair is quite pedestrian in her pace and style, reeking of average. Also there were just way too many swirling newspaper headlines Mira, and that got old in about 1949, so what its doing here in so much prominence is beyond me. If there is one good performance I guess it would be Christopher Ecclestone's alcoholic navigator, who despite having only a couple of scenes with which to work manages to make a bigger impression then many more featured characters.

This is the worst kind of winter movie. Delusions of winning Oscars cut short when they realize what a run of the mill and ultimately dull movie they have made. Its not terrible, but if it was it would have been more memorable. This is some boring shit.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Harry Brown

When does a movie cross from right-wing social commentary into simple revenge fantasy. There are plenty of '80's action films to answer that question, so I'll leave it to them. But Daniel Barber's film clearly wants to say something about the nature of underclass youth in the UK, but goes to such extremes with their portrayal its of no use to anyone. If this film is to be believed, all kids with a regional accent are demons hiding their horns under hoodie jackets, waiting to beat old guys and single mothers to death for their own amusement. Darn kids. As a revenge movie, its OK I guess, but not anywhere near the Get Carter touchstone it was so clearly aiming for.

The plot sees OAP Harry Brown (Michael Caine) take on the neighborhood ASBO's after they kill his best friend of some years Leonard Atwell (David Bradley). And he kills them one by one, The Bride style, although to infinitely less entertaining effect. You get the impression that the film doesn't quite realize how ridiculous it is, and thus plays its fairly contrived carnage with a rigidly straight face. Its a very dour film, which was inevitable considering it firmly believes it has something to say, but unless a film by Nick Love is in your top ten list you shouldn't be sold here. But the British movie media does have the habit of over-rating our own product when it comes along, most likely because there is so little of it, so I wouldn't be surprised to see many more glowing reviews then this one. Because in my mind, this is a straight to video movie that somehow how managed to bag Michael Caine and that bagged it credibility. Barber makes an effort visually I guess, and a few scenes are well shot, but the writing and characterization across the board is just way too broad, from Ben Drew's Alpha-thug to Emily Mortimer's rent-a-female cop. The only thing of value here is Caine, and he does nothing we haven't seen in much better movies. Of course he has a couple of moments of transcending the script and landing unexpected empathy, but you put a great actor in a bad movie its still a bad movie, it just has a great actor in it.

Fairly workaday entry for the month of November for the British Film industry, better luck next time I guess.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Taking Woodstock

Ang Lee is one of the few directors to actually pull off versatility. In his career he's made a very good western, a very good kung fu movie, a very good Jane Austen adaptation, a very good movie about repressed sexuality in 60's America, a very good Gay cowboy love story, a very good pseudo erotic period romance and at least a half-decent comic book movie, although I know Hulk has its haters. But clearly my point is that arguably no director in history has pulled this off to quite the same successful extent with the possible exception of Stanley Kubrick. Lee is clearly a just a great story teller, and more pressingly one you can't put a label on. That being said, Taking Woodstock is probably one of his weaker efforts, standing only above Hulk in his repertoire. Its not a bad movie, and its by far the best movie of this week, but compared to the very high standard Lee has set himself it falls slightly short.

That's not to say there isn't stuff to enjoy here. There's plenty of good performances, the coming of age story works well and to be honest its a been a while since there was a good film about hippies. (Excluding last week's The Men who stare at goats of course, because it fucks over my argument) The story follows Elliot (Demetri Martin), a relatively bookish young man living with his parents at their run down motel, who inadvertently sets in motion Woodstock '69 the music festival of the ages it seems. There's not really a plot here and its more about the rising atmosphere of the event itself and Elliot's journey into being self-assured, via the mind-freeing powers of the hippies. Its pleasing to see a film take such an unapologetically loving view of hippie culture, given the epic amount of mockery they take on film. Sure they're hop-heads, but they're hop-heads who preach acceptance, peace, tolerance and love, they just want good things to happen. Which is more then can be said for many other counter-cultures or even mainstream ones. What the film does well is effectively convey the the aura of the moment and the place, playing up the mythos of the summer of '69 very well.

Demetri Martin, who was a practical unknown prior to this, is a good protagonist with whom to take this journey because he plays the stuffed shirt so well the proverbial opening of his eyes works so much better. Its a straight man role to be sure, but he allows all the craziness to bounce off his grounding influence and that allows for it to work for the better. There's some very good supporting performances too, particularly Imelda Staunton as a dragonish Russian matriarch and Liev Schreiber as a transvestite security guard. Schreiber in particular lands a role that could have been a one note joke and gives it some depth and relatability. Its always good to see a transvestite role underplayed, given the sheer amount of Brian De Palma inspired stigma of OTT that surrounds them. Also hell must have frozen over, because Dan Fogler, of Good luck Chuck, Balls of Fury and Love Happens fame actually gives a good performance here and when someone you've written off as shit turns good its faith-inducing in the world. There a plenty of cameos, from Emile Hirsch as a Vietnam vet, to Paul Dano as some random hippie to American Pie's Eugene Levy and all of them are good value.

Love letters to the flower power generation are in too short a supply, but the thing thats stops this from being great is that it is slightly hit and miss at times, and the nature of the story means we are on the outside looking in, so while the mystique of the event is effectively created, we only briefly get to see the magic of it, and that prevents the film from being all it could be in a way. But its a fun and intriguing film that is sure to be under-seen.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 14 November 2009

REVIEW: 2012

This movie exhausted me in every way possible excepting those with a positive connotation. Granted, there's more destruction in this then all of Emmerich's previous disaster movies put together, and the visuals are impressive with even the odd moment of morbid beauty, with nature at its most fierce. The landmark bashing feels a little familiar at this point though, so maybe skipping that next time might be a good idea, Roland. But as far as everything else that doesn't involve Super-Volcanoes or 1500 foot Tidal Waves, it sucks across the board.

The film is about the world being destroyed, sure, but its really about John Cusack's family surviving. See if they survive then its OK that this movie killed literally billions of people on screen. Its some weak pro-nuclear family propaganda, and one just has to look at this movies treatment of the family interloper, who nice guy or not, must suffer for having the gall to break up the cereal box American family. If I ever had any kind words to say about John Cusack, they are vanishing from my mind with a hastened speed, because if there is a bigger paycheck driven in anything else all year I'd be surprised. Cusack has almost a permanent look of disinterest and almost an undertone of depression, like he was fully aware that this was bollocks as he was doing it. Which makes him worse then no marks like Amanda Peet or Danny Glover, because they're in this movie because their career gives them no other option. Cusack chose this, and more importantly didn't even try to be good in it, so screw him.

Chiwitel Ejiofor does slightly better, in what for the most part is a highly sanctimonious role, but Ejiofor has enough about him to prevent the character merely being a source of exposition. I guess I enjoyed Oliver Platt's bureaucratic douche too, even if it was a placeholder of a role. But that might just be because Platt is another one of those highly talented actors with god-awful films consuming his CV. Thandie Newton continues to show that top honors from Cambridge can't buy you good taste in movies, as this is about the 600th shit movie she has made in 5 years. In one of the strangest casting decisions ever, Cusack's rival for his family's love is played by Thomas McCarthy, otherwise known as the highly credible director of Indie movies such as The Station Agent or The Visitor. Granted he is some kind of actor, he was in the fifth season of The Wire, but I guess his talent may be more behind the camera then in-front of it. Woody Harrelson shows up for ten minutes in an obviously pre-Zombieland role and gives an epically OTT performance that despite being ridiculous probably steals the movie.

But this ain't no actors movie. This is a look how awesome it is when shit gets destroyed movie, and if that is literally the ONLY thing you care about when you go to the movies then you may get something out of 2012, but its combination of joyous carnage with broad, unearned and cheaply manipulative moments of emotional outpour and for what it is its just crude and moronic, even more so then Independence Day or Day After Tomorrow. And that's saying something.

Rating: 4/10

Top 5: Apocalypse movies

In the spirit of Roland Emmerich's latest orgy of destruction, I decided to look back at the best end of the world hypotheticals that came before. And to be honest a large percentage of them are quite shite. Unlike the Post-apocalyptic movie, which has a far better track record because it runs through themes of isolation that many of us in our pre-destroyed world can relate to, The present tense apocalypse movie is nine out of ten times about blowing shit up. Full stop. Its a disaster movie with excess. But hey there are some exceptions to the general rule of banality and here they are.

5) Akira
This is one of those movies where you have no idea what the fuck is going on, but the ride is so good you really don't care. Apocalyptic themes run throughout though, in what might be the best non-Miyazaki Anime movie. An ADD ridden, truly insane film, but one you'll remember for a long time.

4)Children Of Men
A particularly clever high concept end of the world movie, in which rather then asteroids or aliens that bring us to our end, its infertility. And for the most part the film works a treat, with a genuinely terrifying and mystifyingly plausible hook at its core. Its fantastically put together too, with one of the most memorable action sequences we've seen in a long time.

3) Dr Strangelove
Given the general reaction to this movie by my generation on blogs and in word of mouth, it appears to have dated quite badly, with many younger people left amiss. But for me it still works, and possibly the only movie to draw such humor from nuclear war and its reasoning. Features one of legendary comedian Peter Sellers best performances too.

2) Dawn of the Dead
I feel like I feature George Romero movies just way too often on these countdowns, but whatever because they seem to fit a lot of parameters of list-making. Where as the first movie, although devastatingly effective, is relatively insular and its only in Dawn do we expand our focus to see the true meaning of zombie apocalypse. Similarly terrifying and exhilarating. And a particularly charming selection of picture on my part, no?

1) Twelve Monkeys
OK, so this is a slight cheat, what with there being some Post-apocalyptic bits, but thanks to the wonders of time travel the movie primarily takes place in the present where Bruce Willis struggles to prevent the seemingly inevitable with painfully effective consequences.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Next Week

Harry Brown - A pensioners revenge fantasy against the ASBO generation. With Michael Caine, to add credibility. Hmm. A little like a daily mirror reader's wet dream, but I'll give it a shot. Expectancy level: 6/10

2012- The latest apocalypse porn from Roland Emmerich. Landmarks get KO'd, landscapes get obliterated and weak, obligatory melodrama makes you want things to explode again. I choose to be underwhelmed. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Amelia - Amelia Earhart biopic starring two time Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank. Been pretty much roasted stateside so it seems doubtful this will be anything but mawkish. Expectancy level: 6/10

Taking Woodstock - Versatile and great director Ang Lee takes on hippies, in this Woodstock set comedy. I have no reason not to expect at least good things. Expectancy level: 7/10

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol

Robert Zemeckis' third film in his ongoing love affair with motion capture CGI. The first, Polar Express, was for the most part an embarrassment, albeit a profitable one. Beowulf was definitely more interesting, exploring darker, more adult territory but still had some issues. A Christmas Carol is in between the two in terms of tone, and probably in terms of quality too. It wisely doesn't anesthetize the darker elements of Dickens' story, and keeps things reasonably scary throughout. On the other hand, as was the case in the previous two films, Zemeckis' love of the technology also detracts from the films as an overall.

The story, famous to the point of common knowledge, sees Scrooge (Jim Carrey), hater of all things Christmas and its accompanying values dismisses family members, charities and basic humanity until three ghosts show him the true meaning of Christmas via incessant shaming of his chosen way of life. As I said before, Zemeckis doesn't shy away from the darker stuff, which is always good to see in kids movies and Jim Carrey, or at least the CGI equivalent gives a good performance as Scrooge, adding a sympathy to him even when the character is yet unredeemed. But this film exists as a platform to test what can be done with the technology, and its visible in every frame. Several unnecessary and forced sequences of action come and go and do nothing but interrupt and intercede the flow of the movie, and while this is OK once or twice, at a certain point you just want him tell the damn story. But Zemeckis is operating under the assumption that everyone has the same die hard crush on the technology as he does, and while the sweeping shots through London are undeniably impressive, as is the visual creation of Scrooge's character, its not enough without more then a passing interest in the narrative and more importantly the content of Scrooge's character. We keep getting glimpses of a more complex approach to Scrooge, but it repeatedly passes too quickly.

The animation looks a treat and kids will love it I would think, but for the most part it felt like wasted potential to me. I'll give it 6/10 because I think its about right for its target audience, but for all its surface sheen it feels a very incomplete film.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Men Who Stare At Goats

This is the kind of movie there was a lot of about 5 or 6 years ago. Featuring an ever present voice-over, quirky larger then life black comedy with the material dealt with in a mostly restrained and deadpan way and stars taking subtle shots at their image. It's a sub-genre which is like a bastard child of the Royal Tenenbaums and Fight Club. For the most part though, I enjoy these movies, even if they are looking a little worn these days.

Journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) on the rebound from the break-up of his marriage, hightails to Iraq in hopes of regaining a sense of self. Whilst there, he runs into Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) an ex-soldier who was enlisted in something called the new earth army, in which hippie ideals were taken and militarized with the US army trying to create a squad of Psychic soldiers, who could manipulate the forces of the supernatural to their own ends. Lyn was the best of them, and together he and Bob travel across Iraq in lieu of a secret mission that only Cassady knows about. The film incorporates the New Earth Army via flashback, where as Wilton and Cassady enjoy kind of a buddy road movie in the present. There is fun to be had here, as McGregor and Clooney bounce well of each other, with Clooney giving his funniest performance in a while, whether musing on how a seemingly innocuous piece of plastic can be a multi-faceted weapon, or the Psychic power of suggestion, he is good value. I think I like Clooney best when he's not trying to win an Oscar, be it this, O brother Where art Thou or Out of Sight he seems to give his best performances when awards aren't at stake. McGregor, who can be very wooden when he wants to be, is pleasingly vital here and its a step towards erasing three Star Wars movies and Down With Love from my memory. Jeff Bridges is also terrific, playing on his Lebowski image, whilst giving a very different performance at the same time. He's a hippie, but one who wants to change things rather then sit around and get high. Its also nice to see Kevin Spacey give a good performance in a film and the last time we saw this was just too long ago.

The movie mocks its protagonists ideals, but does so lovingly in a 'they meant well' kind of way, which is certainly better then just pointing and laughing. But the film leans too heavily on its voice-over, which is neither funny or insightful enough to justify it, similarly the latter half of the movie is slightly more aimless and while what we're seeing might be true, the film doesn't sell itself well enough, particularly toward the climax which feels rushed and messy. But good performances allow for the movie's occasional structural woes.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Jennifer's Body

When you review stuff on a regular basis, you begin to notice patterns in your own bias. Personally, I've found that I'm much likely to be kinder to a film that tries to be different and fails, rather then a film that plays safe ground and half-succeeds. Strictly speaking this is probably bad form, given that these latter films may be better executed, more coherent and more accomplished as films, but for me ambition is something you never can get enough of in movies even if its in a less then polished body. Such is the case with Jennifer's Body, which on the face of it had a relatively interesting dynamic, with women both in the roles of hero and monster, while all the no mark dying was done by the boys. Exploring the high school horror movie from an entirely female perspective, a viewpoint shockingly under-seen in cinema on the whole, with a little Heathers-lite teenage black comedy thrown in could have been a great little movie. But under the weight of often misguided direction, way too many lapses in logic and a vacant leading lady, it becomes a 'What if' kind of movie, in which you can sort of enjoy what it is but infinitely prefer what it could have been.

The plot, sees the since pre-school best friends, reluctant every girl Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and super-hot Jennifer (Megan Fox) who kind of defines herself by her looks, allowing us men to feel a lot less misogynistic by for doing the same. Anyways, once Jennifer gets turned into a demon following some hijinks involving an evil indie rock band, its up to Needy to stop Jennifer from decimating her town's teen male population. So the whole Megan Fox thing. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call this her best performance ever, but in comparison to two Transformers movies and a cameo in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People this is less of a compliment then it would seem. Its not a total crash and burn for her, and she has maybe one or two moments that except from what is a largely awkward performance. But she needed to really nail this role, if she wanted to be something more then stratospheric sex-object to fans of Michael Bay movies. She certainly looks the part though, and at least one of her kills was semi-affecting. As far as acting goes, Amanda Seyfried does quite well in the straight girl role, better then expected to be honest given how ineffectual she is on Big Love. But the film kind of gets stolen by Adam Brody, or Seth Cohen from the OC as he's known to most of the world. His character is basically an evil Brandon Flowers, and he has a lot of fun with it and so do we. Johnny Simmons as Seyfried's boyfriend is a bit of a misfire, as is the usually stellar J.K Simmons as a broadly drawn teacher. Diablo Cody's script is not perfect though, and although it has flourishes here and there its quite erratic and unfocused. And to be honest, there a few less zingers this time too. Although the exchange ' What Van did he leave in? - 'I don't know, an '89 Rapist.' did make me laugh.

This goes down as an interesting failure then, but in comparison to most conveyor belt horror movies that get released its looks slightly less so.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 6 November 2009

TOP 5: Jeff Bridges

I'm a very big Big Lebowski fan. Aside from having seen it a number of times that left the lower double digits in the dust quite some time ago. It's arguably the greatest work from two very important directors and its endlessly quotable to the point where you're friends irritation at hearing 'nobody fucks with the Jesus' for the thousandth time will take physical form. Which will likely connect with your face. But it doesn't seem to matter to us because the movie's world is one you can wonderfully lose yourself in. So it is much to my delight to see Jeff Bridges pay homage to the Dude by slightly retooling him for The Men Who Stare at Goats, the review of which will be up this weekend. In celebration of this, here's the four-time Oscar nominee Bridges five best roles in film according to me and yes there is no Starman here because that film blows. Also I may have given the number one spot away in this prattle though. Just maybe.

5) Lightfoot, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

It seems like an off the wall choice, given the fact that the film is a fairly run of the mill Clint Eastwood 70's action/thriller type deal, even if it is by Michael Cimino. But Bridges rises above the material and gives a deservedly Oscar nominated performance as a headstrong and erratic young criminal. Its a hard sell given the movie's title and all but he really is very good.

4) Ted Cole, The Door in The Floor

BoldBridges most successful stepping into Indie movie territory, or at least the indie movie as we've come to know it. He plays a self-absorbed, borderline misogynist writer (is there any other kind) to great effect, and while the movie certainly mines familiar territory, good performances from Bridges and co-star Kim Basinger make it worth it in the end.

3) Jack Lucas, The Fisher King

He has always played assholes to great effect, possibly due to the subversion of his naturally affable screen presence (I have vocab), but this is probably my favorite of them. He provides a very credible, pleasingly cynical presence in a movie that might otherwise have been crushed by its own unleashed whimsy.

2) Jackson Evans, The Contender

Not to be confused with the Sly Stallone produced boxing reality series of the same name. This is one of those underplayed movies centering around political intrigue and scandal. Bridges terrific performance as the charmingly seeming, but deftly manipulative President Jackson Evans won him his most recent Oscar nomination, but is so good it still feels under-valued.

1) The Dude, The Big Lebowski

I think I've blown my below picture blurb for this already. So just watch this instead.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Now a LAMB

Well after a dutiful year spent talking to myself, semi curious facebook friends and a few randomers who for whatever reason decided to Google 'Next Wednesday', I now belong to an internet association fools. Anyway, visit the link and have access to 384 other sites that do this better then me, but then come back. Out of pity or something.