Saturday, 31 July 2010

REVIEW: Gainsbourg

There's a skeleton in the room. Assonance high five.

A while back I was cruising YouTube looking for interviews with film directors, you know in between budding Crystal Meth hits and trawling for bitches, and I came across something that validated a feeling that I had but was way too cowardly to express. It was an interview with Quentin Tarantino talking about from all the movie genres, his least favorite was the biopic. The interviewer seemed pretty bemused and the debate went on for about ten minutes, but I relate to the idea very much. On the surface it seems silly, because biopics are the ones that win all the big actors their Oscars and reap joyous reviews from a bevy of intellectual publications, perhaps because a lot of their respect is earned by our exterior knowledge of whoever or whatever their subject matter is, so because of that they don't stand on their own. They demand respect, they demand politeness, but I doubt I'll be ever be able to fall in love with a biopic because as works of cinema, there's just something missing. Too bound by reality to succeed like a drama can, yet too bound by dramatic convention to be as fascinating as a documentary can, and just instead seem to focus on giving actors showreel moments.

Which brings me to Gainsbourg, and the fact that the problem hasn't gone away. The film showed some desire to mix things up a bit perhaps, but as always with these things, a famous subject doesn't always translate to an interesting subject and through the fault of reality ends up following that weary musician's biopic template, where they go from discovering their art, to succeeding in their art, to being with women to using some kind of intoxicant which drives everyone away until they somehow redeem themselves at the end. It could be Ray, it could be Walk The Line, just with a bit of throwback to the french new wave thrown in there for good measure. In the first half this is more blatant, with the film trying to focus a bit more on Gainsbourg's character then his accomplishments, and a intermittently interesting voice in his character played by awesome mime artist Doug Jones, who so terrifically played Pan in Pan's Labyrinth. But then it degenerated into a checklist of the famous songs he wrote and women he banged, and the film stopped being about the character of Gainsbourg and more about his music the lifestyle of the times. I get that's what people want but when its made up of impressions rather then performances and ciphers rather then characters then the world they exist in is such a plastic fabrication I just don't give a shit anymore.

The film's 'frenchness', so to speak, got increasingly intolerable. I don't wish to sound like I'm hear to dent Anglo-French relations, but there's an arrogance to french cinema sometimes, both from a storytelling point of view and an intellectual one. This is certainly the case here, in which characters speak in half-baked existentialism's and everything is so irritatingly self-satisfied. A polar opposite would be La Vie En Rose, which covered not too dissimilar material and made it so much more engaging and fascinating then this. Its a shame, because the first half hour showed the promise of something unique and I want to praise it for trying to be something different, but the less Jones and the accompanying style that came with, was in it the more it degenerated. And by the end I was just flat-out bored. Don't see unless you care passionately about either the French New Wave or the music of Serge Gainsbourg. Then there's probably a lot for you here.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

TV REVIEW: Glee Season 1

Spot the missing minority.

Any regular reader will know I'm not above small-mindedness, so when I say I marathoned 22 episodes of Glee for the expressed intention of ripping it to shit, you know I'm telling the truth. True, this may not be the most inspiring act of critical integrity, but neither is giving this show 19 Emmy nominations. In fact in comparison to that, an article driven from ignorant, petty revenge ( In a year where Community, which for me is the best new comedy in some time got exactly jackshit) is an act of the highest moral standing. I've seen Ryan Murphy shows before, so I had all my pre-conceptions ready to go. Murphy is a kind of rarity for me, in that I think he's a great, cutting writer, whose work I almost unanimously despise. He's got a great ear for dialogue and a leaning toward dark comedy I enjoy, but his talent is always suffocated in glutenous excess. With Nip/Tuck, excess was very much the watchword and restraint was very much a dirty word. Of course this was very popular at the start, until you realized you were watching soulless camp caricatures doing increasingly ridiculous things in an increasingly ridiculous universe and you bail.

Glee, amazingly enough for fans of the show, is actually a toning down for Murphy and for me probably the best thing he's ever done, in that it's OK. He goes too far on fewer occasions then in the past and I think attempts sort of to write legitimate characters. Its kind of composite melding of its obvious influence High School Musical and its less obvious influence Election. But its borrows from that movie quite liberally, from its frequent use of slightly satirical voice-over montage sequences to even its characters. Rachel Berry is pretty much Tracey Flick with a singing voice, and a tad less venom, and the actor who plays Finn ( Cory Monteith, I'm told by IMDB) is pretty much a dead ringer for Chris Klein in that movie, both in their creepily similar visual appearance and identical characters. Depending on which one of these influences its currently being tapped is how much I like the show really, and I deeply prefer it when its trying to be funny then when it indulges in its high school soap opera.

Something about its fundamental ideology kind of ticked me off a bit though. In the pilot there's a lot of talk about acceptance, and allowing people to be who they are and that kind of thing. But this seems to be a glee club only policy in regards to the show, because its seems that otherwise it seems to enjoy laughing at its freaks. From Jacob, the nerd it runs out every couple of weeks to remind us that nerds are ridiculous and laughing at them is OK. To football coach Ken, whose entire storyline in pretty much an exercise in meanness, I know I was supposed to root for Mr Schuester and the cute ginger lady who so adorably mispronounces her L's, but all I could think about was poor Ken, particularly when ginger lady details exactly how loveless and empty their relationship will be to the guy and while in a different context this might have been an awesome scene of black comedy, in a show like Glee, which wants us so desperately to fall in love with it, it just felt out of place and plain vindictive. As if to say a certain kind of outcast deserves unlimited tolerance but another deserved to be chastised. Glee isn't a plea for acceptance then, but a repeal that The Glee clubbers are solitary diamonds in the rough and should be treated as such, and that every other demographic on the show is laughed at or mocked in someway. Particularly people who enjoyed sports.

Still, its easy to ignore sub-textual spitefulness when you get choreographed cover versions of 'Bust a Move' and 'Dream On' all about the place. It's a hard show not to enjoy at times, with the music making a little bit of an effort to be varied, sure show-tunes and Diva anthems are more present then say Metallica, because the show knows its audience and shockingly enough is quite gay. But everyone can sing and when you get the occasional wild-card like a song by The Doors or by Beck, you appreciate it a little more. The performances are a mixed bag really, Matthew Morrison's Schuester is functional at best, dude can sing but his acting and character are one-note and may be known in years to come as the silliest Emmy Nomination of 2010. Lea Michele I think gives a good performance as Rachel and is probably the shows best voice, it may not be terribly naturalistic but it is amusing. But I think like many viewers, my favorite characters are the supporting ones, perhaps because they remain untainted by the shows painfully melodramatic moments of 'sincerity'. Puck comes off quite well, and his 'find a hot Jew' montage is one of the funniest moments the show's had. Ditto moronic cheerleader Brittany, who is an extra for the first ten episodes or so and then quickly became my favorite thing about the show, delivering her lines kind of like a stoned 12 year old girl, only more awesome. Obviously Jane Lynch enjoys herself as Sue Sylvester, but I can feel her acting a bit too much sometimes. She's funny but not as funny as the show thinks she is.

The soapier stuff does suck the life out of the show though, and its still very excessive, sometimes to the point of offense, most notably when they bring teenager paralyzed from the neck down after a football accident to hit home an emotional moment. That was a flashback to Murphy shows of yore that leaves you wanting to throw stuff at the screen, so cheaply crass and manipulative is what's going on in front of you.

Like I said I enjoyed Glee when it tried to be funny, Murphy and crew throw out some surprisingly articulate one-liners and I like Election so much that when something rips it off I like that thing too, but Murphy simply can't write smart drama without going too far with the emotional grandstanding, which means every episode ends in a big, often unearned moment of soul-baring, and these mean nothing when you do them every week. An unless that problem is solved, Glee doesn't have the longest shelf life in the world. To be fair I came in hoping to annihilate it, and as much as I still want to because pettiness disquiets my soul, I'm not going to do that. Glee is an OK show. Does it deserve more nominations then Mad Men and Breaking Bad, no. Not even close to being a question a normal person would consider. But its not High School Musical either, so there's that. Hell I'll probably even keep watching. Tentatively.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 26 July 2010

Mad Men - 'Public Relations' - Put It On The Expense Account So We Can Charge It As Whores

At times I have an adversarial relationship with Mad Men. No-one in their right mind can call it anything but a great show, but for me it has the tendency to sit on its laurels a little bit, and the third season in particular wasn't enough of a step forward for me and I don't think for many other viewers either. I think it was this that started the rumblings of the great usurper Breaking Bad being called the better show, whereas in the past to pose the question in regards to anything being better then Mad Men would be in itself ridiculous. Thankfully though, this stellar premiere suggests a sense of the re-vitalized, a new status quo suggesting a new energy.

- Somewhat tellingly, the first line of season 4 is ' Who is Don Draper?'An encouraging tack for the show to take, because the mystery surrounding Draper, so fascinating in the early years had began to feel like a bit of a crutch. And Don, despite consistently great work from Jon Hamm, becomes a bit of a cipher for all the sociological points the show is making, putting its philosophies over its characters and that has always hacked me off a bit. So I was very, very happy to see the show get into this a little bit, and many ways acknowledging that, with Don essentially being the public face of the new agency, the veil has to come down a bit.

- This was brilliantly portrayed in the opening and closing scenes of the episode, the first seeing the 'my ideas speak so I don't have to' Don in full effect, conducting an interview with a reporter, shall we say reluctantly. Dodging questions and presenting himself as enigma, or a cipher depending on your point of view. To use a particularly hilarious metaphor, pulling a Kristen Stewart, enjoying and reveling in the work his success allows him, but affronted by the exposure that comes with. But the one-legged journalist called him on this, even using the word cipher in his article. Thus putting an end the good grace earned by Don's Glo-Coat commercial.

- That commercial was awesome by the way.

- The bookend saw Don in the same situation, only this time he has to talk himself up, doing justice to the mythic mutiny in the finale of season three, and like any great storyteller, building up his own myth in the process. A great piece of acting by Jon Hamm and just a great fucking scene. And I'm even more in love with the implications it has for the rest of the season.

- What is worrying, is where Betty Draper seems to be heading. Betty was never the warmest person, always kind of bullied her kids, but married to colossal dealhole Don always had her maintaining our sympathy. Because with the possible exception of Henry VIII, there's no one less suited to marriage then Don. However, with that taken away the woman is coming across pretty loathsome, humiliating her child at thanksgiving and not allowing her daughter to call Don on thanksgiving. Right now she's a cruel entity, and while that can last for a while, too much of this is going to take the character to a place that perhaps it wouldn't be wise to go. Still Jones is still putting in some good actressing.

- I loved how Henry's mother called Betty a silly woman. I get the feeling that the ex-Ms Draper might be the Don to Henry's Betty.

- I love Elisabeth Moss on this show these days. She and Vincent Kartheiser (who will always be Conor from Angel to me damn it.) made her caper like subplot almost the most enjoyable thing about the episode. I do it love it when the show allows me to enjoy it as much I appreciate it, it doesn't happen too often but it worked here.

- " It was going great...Until it wasn't."

- Another hall of famer for great client confrontations, and it tied well into the themes of the episode. A swimwear company wants to somehow sell bikini's without selling sex, yet complain that their competition is making more money then them. Like Don wanting to sell everything else yet complaining when asked to sell himself. You can't have your cake and eat it I guess. Anyways whilst Don comes to grips with this, the company doesn't and Don awesomely kicks them out on their ass.

- Not nearly enough Joan Holloway in this episode. Can you say glorified extra?

- I liked the scene with Don's date with Bethany, but didn't love it. I liked there being a woman not falling for Don's aging tricks, but I didn't think it was the best performance or the most fascinating character. Still loved the opera story.

- Overall, I think this was a very solid reboot episode. Mad Men did need to re-vitalize its universe, and while the 'moving house' trick seems a little thin on paper, it worked a treat. New dynamics present new opportunities and this episode fills me with confidence that Mad Men is going to be good to itself.

Rating: 8/10

Next Week's Movies

The A-Team: Underwhelming box-office and poor reviews in the US have killed our collective buzz, but still its got Sharlto Copley in it. So I'll just stay here! In this shack! Expectancy Level: 5/10

Gainsbourg: Erm, yeah. love my docu-drama's about famous french 1960's singers. Holler at the man. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mid-Term Report Card 2010

I'm planning to a fairly hefty awards feature come January, so this is more for a frame of reference. But hey, I love my statistics, even if they are a work in progress.

Movies Reviewed: 84

Percentage of movies graded 1-4: 25%

Percentage of Movies graded 5-7: 63%

Percentage of Movies graded 8-10: 12%

Current Top 7 Movies:
1) A Prophet
2) Toy Story 3
3) Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans
4) Ponyo
5) The Road
6) Inception
7) The Killer Inside Me

Current Lowest 7 Movies:
1) It's A Wonderful Afterlife
2) Leap Year
3) The Bounty Hunter
4) Case 39
5) Dear John
6) The Rebound
7) Sex And The City 2

Current Top 5 Male Performances:
1) Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans
2) Casey Affleck, The Killer Inside Me
3) Tahar Rahim, A Prophet
4) Viggo Mortensen, The Road
5) Kayvan Novak, Four Lions

Current Top 5 Female Performances:
1) M'Onique, Precious
2) Kate Hudson, The Killer Inside Me
3) Helen Mirren, The Last Station
4) Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
5) Rachel Weisz, Agora

By Grade:
10's: 0
9's: 2
8's: 8
7's: 12
6's: 20
5's: 21
4's: 13
3's: 6
2's: 1
1's: 1

Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency

Because TV recapping is a drug to sweet to detox from, I'll be recapping the upcoming Mad Men Season 4 all up through here. To be honest Mad Men has always been I show I appreciate more then enjoy, but is great television and I'll be paying its due respects every Monday in the form of free-form recapping. The only way we do it here.

REVIEW: The Rebound

This is a great moment of self-referential acting by anonymous blond biker.

Romantic comedy is a phrase to strike fear in any movie goers heart in the last couple of years. Bride Wars, The Proposal, The Ugly Truth, Did You Hear About The Morgans, Leap Year, Valentine's Day, When In Rome and The Bounty Hunter but to name a few. It seems there's some endless studio conveyor belt pumping out one cynical, dead-eyed movie after another, all unfunny and somehow depressing in their endless and insincere gleefulness. For a genre essentially about how human beings relate to each other and without any kind of genuine humanity, films just lay down and die. And then we're forced to watch them decompose on screen, a never ending abyss of awkwardness, mawkishness and soullessness.

The Rebound is certainly no exception, and wonderfully takes on all those negatives and adds douchiness and self-satisfaction to the mix. Great. Catherine Zeta Jones picked a bizarre film to try to resuscitate her career with, which since her semi-ridiculous Oscar-win with Chicago has come to quite a severe intermission, thanks to a few bad choices and possibly some kids (I don't follow Us weekly as fervently as one might) she's found herself in the position where making a movie like this is viable, it raises her profile and blindsides the cinema going public for about 30 million or so but ultimately its a ninja decision, get in, get paid and get out. Or at least I hope it is. Jones floats through, fairly invisible in her own movie whilst co-star Justin Bartha, who frankly just seems happy to have a lead role in a movie, comes across quite badly. The most horrific thing about it though is the way the movie kind of congratulates itself as it goes along, believing its dull, self-righteous leads to be entirely trailblazing and leaning on some artificially cute kids how just make you re-evaluate your opinions on infanticide.

In its hypothetical defence, Leap Year set the bar so unbelievably low that The Rebound doesn't quite make you want to commit acts of annihilation in quite the same way. Instead it just leaves you painfully and thoroughly bored. Almost numbingly so, until the boredom somehow consumes you and all you can think about is that when Zeta Jones does her wide-eyed exasperation thing, she looks like Dory from Finding Nemo. This film sucks.

Rating: 3/10

REVIEW: The Karate Kid

Jacket on, Jacket off is no Wax on, Wax off. As much as I wish it could be.

The most jarring thing I take out of this movie is that a 12 year old Jaden Smith could probably beat the shit out of me. Sure I could say that I didn't try my hardest because he's a kid and I didn't want to crush his little kid face, but that would be folderol. Judging by some of the moves he displays here, such as ending a 180 flip by kicking someone in the face or beating his way through the chinese school system. My face would like something like Harvey Dent's when he was done with me.

To be honest, I was expecting the Karate Kid to be a lot more tedious then it was. Granted its hideously overlong (2 hours 20 mins), as cliched as a film could possibly be and more then a little po-faced, but its got a handmade, fairly low-key kids movie with next to CGI and some suprisingly brutal ass-kicking. Perhaps because I'm so used to seeing less then organic fight sequences, that seeing these kids smack the crap out of each other felt somehow refreshing (not in a kind of creepy way at all) and you can't help but get into the tournament showdown, even as you recognize every familiar beat and everything happens exactly the way you think it will happen, but even with knowing these things, its a harmless and earnest enough movie for me not to mind a great deal. Smith seems to have inherented some of hid dad's screen-presence, and is good value here. Jackie Chan makes a good 2D mentor and Zhenwei Wang makes a suitably evil with a capital E villain.

Its not high art, or any kind of art for that matter, but its nice to see a kids movie less cynically put together then the usual fare. Plus people get kicked in the face pretty hard, so that's like way awesome.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 23 July 2010

REVIEW: Splice

I guess its lucky I look like this then.

It's been far too long since there's been a decent film about genetic engineering. Its not just for zombie movie exposition anymore. Splice is for the most part, the kind of science-fiction film that is depressingly rare these days, given that it centers around the exploration of an idea, rather then the exploitation of an idea to allow it to contain kick-ass action sequences. It's pleasingly cerebral, or at least has enough ambition to be cerebral that it is pleasing, and explores science-fiction through the impact it has on character. Like with Natali's previous cult hit Cube, not everything works as well as everything else. But also like Cube, the ideas seen on-screen are unique and intriguing enough for you to forgive the movie its flaws.

Splice follows Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), two genetic scientists who rather intelligently decide to create themselves a human-animal composite embryo, Dren, in a decision that the trailers tell you can clearly come to no good. Of course these are movie scientists and an extension of that label is that they're going to do some erratic and borderline psychotic shit for the plot to further itself, the film ends after twenty minutes if they do the logical thing and gas the freak. But I didn't mind this segment as much as I usually do, in part because of the strength of Sarah Polley's performance, which is simultaneously likable and subtly unhinged. It makes you believe in some of the more irrational things the character does yet not lose sympathy for her. It's a very impressive performance from the Oscar nominated screen-writer and heroine of Dawn Of The Dead. It kind of leaves co-star Adrien Brody in the dust a little bit, and while he is good, things are almost always better when Polley is on screen. Particularly in a scene where she plays sweet and doting mother to Dren as she tries to get her to recognize her name.

Its a shame the film felt compelled to be a horror movie, because it was working much better for me as an occasionally gruesome allegory for parenthood, in which Brody and Polley raise their little monster complete with all the surprises and horror's that come with being responsible for a child, like feeling powerless when they're sick or the heartbreak when they show the first pinings for independence. Of course in this case that means humanoid monster on the loose, and somewhat inevitably the last half hour of the movie turns into chase scenes in the woods and cheap shocks, which for me kind of betrayed what the first hour was about. Oh well.

Natali's the kind of director whose ideas perhaps outpace the living, breathing worlds he creates so while that means his films can be a little wooden at times, the value he places in approaching ideas intelligently as possible means I have time for him. Splice is an interesting little film, because it tries to tell a sci-fi story from how it affects human beings and that is so rare in this genre I'm more then willing to cut it some slack, particularly in regards to its ending and somewhat ridiculous incestuous/inter-species sex scene. All though in fairness I have never seen one of those before.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Resolution Ten: No#2 - The Searchers

Cinematic aging is both a difficult and fascinating thing to discuss, because when you watch a film celebrated in its day and don't get it, the first instinct is to blame yourself. To think there's some aspect that passes by the comprehension of you undetected, to think you're simply not clever, cultured or smart enough to get what makes it so great, I mean if all those dudes who fought the Nazis liked it, surely this is on me. But if a film ages with its critical generation, growing rusty, outdated and surpassed then I think it is not only critically dishonest but downright redundant to continue to preach its gospel. Don't get me wrong, I find a large part of criticizing things is defending your position left, right and center, and that can lead somewhat inevitably to stubbornness.

But if its there, it will out. As is seen by a younger generation of critics muscling out there predecessors in regards to replacing the 'Greatest Film Of All Time' Citizen Kane with the masterpiece of their own adolescence, The Godfather. Or why Nosferatu can stand up, yet the Bela Lugosi Dracula feels like a post-modern spoof of itself. I think the key to understanding why some films age better then others is probably the tone of the execution. Methods, styles and technologies are going to date but if the quality of the material has a kind of timelessness to it, it might just be OK. What that timelessness is I have no idea, but you know it when you see it and I didn't see it this time.

Having said this, I would begin by saying The Searchers was a masterpiece for its time and place, perhaps, but because of this it means it has lost some of its value. It seems so specifically dependent on subverting the tropes of its genre, introducing a great deal of darkness, violence and stiff upper lip to the landscape - and John Wayne's image - that to a viewer half a century later not brought up on a culture where the western reigns as the escapist supreme, I can't instinctively recognize its qualities as a game-changer, which I'm told by many different websites and lecturers that it was, and nor can anyone else born later then 1970 for that matter, and thus it ages badly. And this is why I'm not surprised when people call it a masterpiece of its time, but because its so dependent on its time and what came before it that by its very nature, of its time is all it can be.

I don't wish to give the impression that I disliked The Searchers, it has a lot to recommend and certain aspects of it remain impressive to this day. From John Wayne's character Ethan Edwards being an absolute, unrelenting douche without the movie ever having to apologize for it. Which works as somehow refreshing given how much time movies of all genres and ages spend telling me how heroic their heroes. Edwards works almost as a comment against that traditional sense of American masculinity, in which toughness is confused with virtue and being able to beat seven shades of shit out of a guy makes you morally superior to him. But here Edwards is, unforgiving, uncompromising, kind of racist and full of hate toward everyone, a note of derision in every word he ever says. Granted this could be a consequence of John Wayne's limitations as an actor but if so its a happy accident, because The Searchers arguably gave birth to the modern Western anti-hero, and for that we have a lot to thank it for. Having a protagonist so refreshingly detestable is a huge feather in its cap. Being a John Ford film, the fact that it looks as good as it does isn't surprising, and some of the imagery stands up, with Ford and his DOP Winton Hoch making the deserts and the plains more striking then many that came after.

Similarly worthy of appraisal is the aforementioned darkness present in the searchers, where the violence is felt and ever-present even if it occurs off-screen. Its consequences are felt almost in subtext, due to the censor limitations of the time no doubt, but there are times during the Searchers that one could mistake it for a post-apocalyptic movie, so bleak is the atmosphere and endless is the empty road. Perhaps it feels like this because The Searchers represents in many ways the last great chapter of that golden age western, and all that's left is a near nihilistic resentment. The violence is worth mentioning also because it gives me a fairly smooth transition into the worst aspect of the film, which for me was the acting. I don't mind the occasional bad performance, particularly in a genre film, but it ends up undermining much of The Searchers impact. Most notably is a scene near the beginning of the film where Wayne ingenue Jeffery Hunter discovers his surrogate family murdered, in what in theory is a horrifying moment, becomes entirely undermined by Hunter, whose entire performance is kind of an over-zealous cartoon and not in a good way, more in the way that he doesn't know how to nuance emotion and so bigger is better, the moment lost a great deal of impact for me because of how unconvincing Hunter was and this happened more then once throughout the film.

Sadly it doesn't stop there, with many of the supporting characters, most notably Mose Harper and Charlie, coming across like refugees from a bad horror movie about inbred southerners, so broad are these characters. In fact the acting landscape a whole disappoints and dilutes much of the visual and tonal strengths that the film works so hard to achieve. I refuse to blame the time for this, because I've seen movies of this time period that don't do this at all. I'll give Vera Miles a pass I guess, but I'm tempted to say that John Wayne is the best performance in the movie, and if that's the case then, well...

At times the framework of the film, much of the dialogue and characterizations, feel dated. I word I hate to use but is undoubtedly the most appropriate description. the one-note depiction of the Indians is something I want to criticize too but I guess I'll forgive that one, as this movie was born before the politically correct hordes descended, but it means that the final battle has less stakes then it might. I guess it makes sense for a movie, that for all intents and purposes is about searching for something and hanging onto something that doesn't exist anymore. Debbie the kidnapped girl has been raised as an Indian, so the red, white and blue pink tailed Debbie is dead regardless of whether they recover who she is now or not, something the younger Hunter accepts and the elder Wayne can't. Which leads to what in hindsight is a twisted finale, in which the happy ending (SPOILER) is that Wayne doesn't kill his teenage niece for representing a race he hates. This action is worthy of a soundtrack swell and triumphant beat. Some dark shit.

Ultimately, I think The Searchers is the kind of film that when analyzed, looks a lot more progressive and better then it actually is. Its agendas, beautiful look and that tone of frustrated hatred are very admirable, and give the film a unique feeling, but too much of it creaks under inspection and I would say it doesn't quite have the weight to be what it wants to be, pulled back by poor acting and a few too many moments of atmosphere destroying cheapness or caricatured characters. It has moments that implied the film I was told about, but something was lost slightly in cross-generational translation.

Rating: 7/10

What The Emmy's Should Have Been According To Me

In my fairly labyrinthine reaction post to the emmy's, I covered pretty much every conceivable thought I could have had on the subject, except to a clear and referable ballot of my own. So I'll do that now, free of words and any other such distractions.

Best Drama:
Breaking Bad
Mad Men
Sons Of Anarchy
Friday Night Lights
The Good Wife

Best Comedy:
Parks And Recreation
Modern Family
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Party Down

Best Dramatic Actor:
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Hugh Laurie, House
Michael C Hall, Dexter
Wendell Pierce, Treme

Best Dramatic Actress:
Katey Sagal, Sons Of Anarchy
January Jones, Mad Men
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Melissa Leo, Treme

Best Supporting Actor In A Drama:
Terry O Quinn, Lost
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Dean Norris, Breaking Bad
John Slattery, Mad Men
John Goodman, Treme
Clarke Peters, Treme

Best Supporting Actress In A Drama:
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Khandi Alexander, Treme
Kim Dickens, Treme
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Best Comedic Actor:
Joel McHale, Community
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Adam Scott, Party Down
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Steve Carell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Best Comedic Actress:
Lea Michele, Glee
Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation
Toni Collete, The United States Of Tara
Portia De Rossi, Better Off Ted
Lizzy Caplan, Party Down
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Best Supporting Actor In A Comedy:
Danny Pudi, Community
Nick Offerman, Parks And Recreation
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Martin Starr, Party Down
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother

Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy:
Alison Brie, Community
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Jane Lynch, Glee
Gillian Jacobs, Community
Aubrey Plaza, Parks And Recreation
Merrit Weaver, Nurse Jackie

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Next Week's Movies

Splice: I'm probably more excited for this then would be wise, and my official prediction is that I'll like it despite it not being very good, but I have a soft spot for smart sci-fi, and given that director Vincenzo Natali also gave us Cube, who knows? Expectancy Level: 6/10

The Karate Kid: The people want what they want, and clearly that was a remake of a kind of shitty 80s cult classic, but whatever, seeing Jackie Chan in a film that's not straight to video makes my day. Wax on wax off. Expectancy Level: 5/10

The Rebound: Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones stars in a film to give Leap Year a run for its money as the most obnoxiously awful movie of the year. I don't fancy it's chances. Expectancy Level: 3/10

REVIEW: Toy Story 3

Whatever bad things I said about the attic, I take them all back now

Cinema has generally spat in the face of the saying great things come in three's. We've got The Godfather Part 3, Superman 3, Batman Forever, Army Of Darkness, Spider-man 3, X-Men 3, The Matrix Revolutions, Return Of The Jedi, Alien 3, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and of course Bring it On: All or nothing. Perhaps by a third movie it becomes impossible not to repeat yourself and all the ground to be covered has simply been covered and the trusty corporate mantra if you can't do it better, do it bigger comes into play. And when this happens, it's over before its begun.

But this is Pixar we're talking about, and the biggest game changers in cinema since Walt Disney aren't about to be bound by any cinematic ghost stories or supposed curses. They are near ridiculous in their flawlessness of late, making films of such rich quality that you'd submit them up against anything Disney ever did and frankly against almost anything anyone ever did. And Toy Story 3 is certainly no exception to that, in fact its one of the best films they've ever made. Combining they're trusty immense emotional punch with fierce excitement and a dark, dark tone (that repeatedly took my by surprise and will you to, particularly if you see it with any kind of kids) to make it not only outstanding, but something we haven't seen before even within the Toy Story franchise. Sure we've seen it do scary, we've seen it do searing heartbreak, but somehow this one melds all the best things about previous installments and brings all together gloriously, so while the parts that make the whole are pieces we've seen before, the whole itself ends up being an entirely new, wonderful experience and a very fitting conclusion to what just might be the best trilogy hollywood has ever produced.

But most importantly they toned Joan Cusack down as Jessie, who to put it politely could be quite ear-wrenchingly irritating in the past, but emerges here a semi-likable presence, which as far as I'm concerned is a big win. The new additions work a treat, with antagonist Lotso (Ned Beatty) being the darkest character the franchise has yet to produce, but in that true Pixar method, he's given the sufficient material to be more then just a rent-a-villain, and is a sympathetic and fully rounded even in his evil ways. Some excellent work from Ned Beatty there. Ditto from Michael Keaton as a Ken Doll, who just short of steals the entire movie as the metro-sexual Barbie accessory. Everyone else is as reliable and effective as they have been before, and do well to create a world of rich, believable and thoroughly supportable characters.

But I think its how well Pixar handles the emotional material that makes them such great film-makers. It never feels trite, or manipulative. It earns its your investment and works it in the richest way possible, and so when bad stuff happens to these characters we care, and a scene in the final act of Toy Story 3, which I don't want to spoil because, which is simultaneously darker and more heart-breaking then anything I can remember seeing in a good long while, works so well precisely because of that earned emotional investment. Toy Story 3 is pretty much the perfect adventure movie, precisely because its not afraid to have loss and sadness as such an integral part of its dialogue. It explores the wonders and innocence of childhood, yet acknowledges that it must be lost. In a funny way it puts the toys in the position of the parents, watching frozen in time whilst their kids outgrow them. This film is in many ways about accepting this rather then fighting it, which is an admirable position to take.

Yet again, Pixar outdoes itself, creating yet another film that deserves the heaps of praise it has received.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 19 July 2010

REVIEW: Twilight: Eclipse

Hey is that Oscar Nominee Anna Kendrick with two minutes of screen-time? It sure is.

This is my third Twilight review on this website, which means I have officially devoted more words and time to this particular franchise then any other. While I think on the ramifications of that for a while (clicks the safety off, and the time for purification is at hand) the rest of you can wisely deduce that the venom hasn't really been out for Eclipse the way it went out for New Moon. What's the point. Everything wrong with those two films is still wrong with this one, the critics have said their piece twice over and the numerous clinks of cash registers and the ever lightening hordes of tween purses have delivered their retort. Whatever bitches. So it gets to the point you don't even have any hate left to spew at this movie, much like the Harry Potter franchise, its become immune to all that.

I guess Eclipse is the best of the Twilight movies, in large part thanks to David Slade, the very promising director of Hard Candy and 30 Days Of Night, slumming it good here but brings some of his inherent darkness and love of violence with him. With him behind it its just kind of unassumingly functional rather then flat and dull like number one, and overcooked, overlong and embarrassing like New Moon. Still, it still has that unmistakable Twilightian gormlessness in that it fills its cast with vampires and werewolves and have them all talk about their sissy feelings for two and a half hours in the most simplistic terms possible.

I Love you.

No you don't.

Yes You do. And I'm going to prove it to you.

There's nothing to prove.

Yes there is.

No there isn't.

Why won't you let yourself love me?

Dude you are an abbed-out supernatural being who can turn into a wolf and pound the shit out of vampires, take your pick of every female on the planet and let the skinny bitch be. An elegant segway to the Bella Swan anomaly I feel. Yet again, one spends the whole movie wandering what two alpha-beings are doing fighting over Kristen Stewart, who is an actress I like but is so horribly miscast here, at odds with all the 2D soul-baring and empty sentiment. These two should clearly be doing a Scarlett Johansson each, and to have them frothing at the mouth for such a plank of a human being just diminishes their badassness. And so on and so forth. But that's a given when you buy the ticket I suppose.

On the plus side there's a bit more killing in it, it spends more time with the vampires and at least attempts to give some of those wallflower characters some shading. I liked the Jasper flashback the best, despite it being as badly written as the rest of the film, simply because it seemed I appreciated seeing a bad movie that looked more interesting then this, and there's a semblance off a plot line this time, despite new blood villain Riley just being basically sap for Victoria and going out like a COMPLETE bitch (erm, spoiler). From the trailer I thought we were actually have a badass vampire in the Twilight universe, but wouldn't that be ridiculous.

Let me submit this to you. Edward is over 100 years old, he's lived over a lifetime and must have seen more then anyone can imagine, yet I've spent three movies with this guy now and I know nothing about him apart from that he loves Bella and will do anything to protect her. The films kindly tell me this every ten minutes in case I forget. But who is he, how did he come to be here, why is he endlessly repeating high school like some kind of huge nerd. There are so many potentially interesting things about him that I don't even know where to begin, but he's there to be a lust object, a creature to be looked at and panted over. I give more of a shit about who he is then Stephanie Meyer does and I truly don't give a shit about Twilight. Therein lies you're problem, and tied with the fact that in order for romance to succeed on screen, it has to be more then just pretty to look at, it has to make love fascinating and engaging. Twilight's version of love is is as thin as the notion that these films can be anything more then slightly tamer vampire fetishism then True Blood.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 17 July 2010

REVIEW: Inception

Protecting your sub-conscious with a steam train. 24 hours a day.

No-one does better press for control freaks then Christopher Nolan. Not only is he a prime example of why sometimes it can be a good thing to trust no-one else, because they just don't do it quite like you do. But its right down deep to the core of his films, what motivates them almost, is an almost innate fear of the loss of control and order. In each film he makes, Nolan throws a brutal spanner in the works of the ritual of meticulousness and sees how it can function as chaos closes around it. The most literal of these anarchic forces is obviously The Joker, irrationality incarnate, out to destroy the sense of order established by Batman in Gotham City. But it runs deeper then that for Nolan. There's Leonard Shelby's short-term memory deficiency in Memento, thrusting him into almost everlasting anarchy, never allowed to be coherent or rational, the poor man living Nolan's worst nightmare so he doesn't have to. There's Al Pacino's insomnia in Insomnia, The Magician's rivalry in The Prestige, both stop otherwise meticulous characters living out their respective lives in glorious organization.

Inception sees Nolan deal with anarchy on its home turf, the dream state, in which whatever happens happens, not allowing you to prepare or control, simply to vulnerably experience. Particularly to student of psycho-analysis, which Nolan most certainly is, its powerlessness pure and simple. So of course Nolan makes a film of characters attempting to process and install order to the dream state, what else would he do. Its a film that is fleetingly outstanding, but on a more consistent basis just very good. Graded against Nolan's previous work like The Dark Knight or Memento it falls short, but stopping and bailing at that is to do a disservice to a fascinating, involving and deeply intelligent movie with a deceptive amount of humanity.

What it does so fantastically well is that conversion of intellectualism that nothing in recent memory has achieved to such a high standard, short of The Matrix. Its a specific compliment, but there's a part of this film that I personally think is the best 10 minute sequence in a film I've seen since Up. To try and explain it is to be ridiculous, but in the interest of blanket labeling, we'll call it the zero gravity fight scene. The elegance of the execution, with a three dream narrative all impacting on each other just worked so fucking awesomely that it leaves with you with the kind of pure, fuck yeah joy you get to experience so rarely at the movies. Unfortunately these moments of cinematic ascension came a tad too rarely, and a slow-build start that was perhaps a little too slow, and generally you just have to settle with a very good movie, that's strengths severely outweigh its weaknesses.

Sure its supporting cast is full to the brim with heist movie stock characters (which this movie is at its core, with the idea of breaking into someone's meticulously protected sub-conscious.) and Nolan's analytical approach to emotions and character can be a little distancing at times. But I think that Leonardo Di Caprio and Marion Cotillard between them made me invest in this movie, with performances that superseded Nolan's difficulty with emotional nuance. Particularly the former, who gives a star's performance here with more difficult material. Cotillard too, playing a character that may as well be a hypothesis on a blackboard. I also enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance as no nonsense badass, and deeply resent a fellow viewer's assertion that he gave a Keanu Reeves performance in this film. It was smart and simple, rather then vacuous and dull a la Reeves. Crazy. I think Ellen Page deserves a lot of praise for doing a lot in a difficult role. I can think of few actresses who come across as intelligently as she does on screen. Credit to goes to Cillian Murphy, who demonstrates an impressive amount of range in comparison to what we've seen him do before.

Perhaps you could throw at the film that Nolan doesn't have the pure sense of creation that say, a Guillermo Del Toro or a David Lynch would have had making the same film, but fuck it, neither of those guys can make a film about ideas as well as Nolan can. He's brought intelligence to the masses and they love him for it, and more importantly Inception is as classy, original and personal as summer movies can be and has the quality to match. Not quite a masterpiece then, but I refuse to be negative about a film this good. My expectations were and are my own problem and are, frankly, irrelevant.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Next Week's Movies

Inception: It seems everything is staying well clear of Nolan's latest and quite possibly greatest opus, as fuck all comes out to compete (until Toy Story 3 on Monday). I'm trying to stay reserved but the buzz is infectious and I find it hard to believe I'm not about to see one of the best movies of the year. Expectancy Level: 8/10

Toy Story 3: I don't know who to believe in regards to how good this film is going to be, there are some tepid reviews amidst the ecstactic so like with Inception, I'm choosing not to pre-emptively blow my critical load. Expectancy level: 8/10

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Resolution Ten: No# 1 - The Exorcist

In the new year, I came up with a concept to annihilate movie classics I hadn't yet seen in a feature called the resolution ten. Because it was the season and all. Anyways, due to other pursued avenues, masses of movies and unfortunate things like me having to exist in the real world doing stuff, it got benched till the summer, which in a wonderful sweep of convenience is right now. So let's do this.

Rather then do it in order, which would show the kind of organisation and discipline I have no interest in seeing or doing, I'll pick each film from list on a whim, because that's how I do. First up is The Exorcist, chosen perhaps because its the most notorious of my selection and a film that any film fan doesn't really have to see to see. I think part of the reason I hadn't seen it up to this point was because of that sense of premature familiarity. All of its most iconic moments I had consumed already in some variety of documentaries, features or articles. The subject of endless discussion and analysis, backlashes and defences, it is simply impossible at my age to come into this in that idyllic tabula rasa state of mind. The head-spinning, the vomiting and the letting the power of Christ compel you just surely couldn't have the same impact on a viewer who'd in his own own mind had already seen this movie without seeing it. Could they?

Yeah and then some, because it takes about 25 minutes of watching The Exorcist to know you're watching a masterpiece. And I don't use that word lightly, like all this Kick-Ass is a masterpiece nonsense. I mean it in the sense that The Exorcist is one of the best films I've ever seen or ever will see. It's a masterpiece of its genre, yet somehow transcends it into something to stay with you forever, in equal parts haunting and sublime. I want to compliment so much that it leaves me at a loss of what to say, although I do know that from all the film's from cinema's second golden age of the 70's, none have affected me quite so profoundly as this. Aside from all that though, what the film did, which is deeply heartening for me, is show that knowing what's going to happen and how it's going to happen are two thoroughly different things. All those scenes and moments I thought I already knew still worked wonderfully because the tone of a film is not something you can prepare yourself for. It's enough to want the discovery of great old films all over again.

Perhaps more then anything, the film is a triumph of atmosphere. Moving past jump scares and jolts into a place of unrelenting intellectual and physical terror. You're not just scared by this movie, it affects you and to use a particularly crude metaphor, gets under your skin and never lets up. I would imagine that in many respects that's due to the build. Director William Friedkin wisely creates a realistic a reality as was humanly possible for all the horror to take place in, largely complimented by the performance of Ellen Burstyn as the unfortunate child's mother, who plays it admirably restrained and straight and thus grounding the film to stakes we can invest in, and the relatable nightmare of seeing a loved one being devoured by something inside of them is wonderfully communicated in the film. There's the literal case of Regan's possession of course, but also as scarring are the scenes of her intrusive medical examinations, poked and prodded and cut up in a way that thoroughly degrades her humanity, just as the demon does. To say nothing of Father Karras' mother whose ailment is old age, that great devourer of life and innocence itself, imprisoned in her home by her own frailty. In this respect, The Exorcist is about the sheer lack of control we have over are own being. Passengers in an unstable vessel we can't protect from time, disease and the malice of others.

Another aspect of the film that worked for me somewhat unexpectedly and fantastically was the level of soulfulness the film possesses. It breaks horror convention by existing not to cause people pain and take pleasure in it but rather to truly share in its despair. Characters are crafted so thoroughly, so realistically that they don't merely act as cyphers for the experience. We care about them because they are true human beings, something generally quite rare in cinema let alone horror. In this respect I'd like to pay due to Jason Miller's performance as Father Karras, and in many ways its his character that particularly allows the film to succeed in this way. Miller, in his first cinematic acting role believe it or not, so underplays his character's sense of existential despair that it becomes deeply affecting, because he is as lost as any other character in the film. That the film can spend the time making Karras such a credible character speaks to its qualities, not interested in merely scaring but instead in crafting a tale of characters who experience loss and consequence realistically.

It would be bad form to wait much longer before mentioning Linda Blair, who's performance as Regan is astounding, even with the voice assist of Mercedes McCambridge once things turned really demonic. But one only has to look in her eyes in these scenes, and for some scale the wonderul way she plays her early scenes, which could have been a little one-note in that 'look how innocent she is' kind of way, but thanks to Blair are thoroughly endearing. For all its noteriety, its interesting to see that The Exorcist is a film with three Oscar nominations for acting, all of which are thoroughly deserved. Miller, Burstyn and Blair all received fair accolades for their performances. Blair in particular gives what I would submit to be the best child performance I've ever seen in anything.

The film still hasn't lost its power to shock either, and scenes such as Regan masturbating with a crucifix or on a more cerebral level, the scene where she mimics Karras' deceased mother in a desperate plea to save herself both remain very affecting, and aside from being heart-breaking, this scene is also horrifying, which is what all horror should aim for really. The Exorcist is a masterpiece not just because it is truly haunting, which it is, but because every aspect of it excels to the point that few films can match. From its look to its tone, to the fact that it might be the ultimate human horror story. Its a film that you very much want to call perfect. A very good start to this feature, although I highly doubt that any other film in my list will manage to be as good as this.

Rating 10/10

REVIEW: Predators

Way back when, when Predators was nothing but a buzz-inducing credit on IMDB, I made a bizarre wager with a fellow film student. I said that if Predators killed Alice Braga's character I'd raise its rating by one, and if it didn't then I'd lower it it by one. Rather then an act of impotent misogynistic rage or a veiled attack on the Brazilian people, who continue to astound the world with their charm year to year, it was a more a test of cinematic unpredictability and the faith that Predators wouldn't be a generic reboot of what we've seen before, and that maybe those fanboys on the IMDB comments section were right, and this would be a sleeper hit both in terms of finance and quality.

Well at least one of those parameters made good. Predators isn't a bad film, and as a lifelong fan of movies where characters get killed off one by one, there's fun to be had here if you're predisposed to this kind of thing. But its generic, a little lifeless and most crucially devoid of any kind of atmosphere of tension or dread. The thing that made the first film work a little better then it had any right to, and even in spite of featuring a cast of muscle-men who couldn't really act (and SHANE BLACK!) . Predators just goes through the motions really, and in spite of a couple of interesting performances there's no investment in what goes on here, and unfortunately a movie like this lives or dies on its atmosphere.

Despite what Brodygate 2010 may have told you, Brody is more interesting then you're average action hero and is arguably the film's greatest asset, even with Christian Bale growling. In a role that would have disappeared into the woodwork with someone like Gerard Butler or Jason Statham, he gives a performance that goes beyond flat action hero line-readings. I liked him here. The Shield's Walton Goggins is clearly having a good time and after his astounding work on The Shield and Justified, appears to enjoy playing a wafer thin southern hick rapist stereotype immensely. He's having the most fun out of anyone in the cast and that is a little infectious. Laurence Fishbourne seemed to have popped acid before the cameras rolled here, in a role that's as cynical as fuck. Deliver your exposition and then fuck off back to CSI please Morpheus. Topher Grace seems to have polarized reviewers of this film, some appreciating the comic relief and some saying that he takes you out of the movie. I think a bit of both perhaps, although I liked the performance and Grace arguably gets the most memorable and effective scene in Predators. As for everyone else, its a game of choose your ineffectual continental stereotype really.

So to the issue of Braga. SPOILER ALERT for the gullible. The reason I wanted her to die frankly was so the movie would have something more vital to call its own. Any other sort of break from generality would have done too I guess. Call it the Pitch Black paradigm, that movie was strong in its own right, but by simply allowing a few people to survive who you didn't expect and killing someone you'd never expect it kind of made itself a mini genre classic, whereas Predators lacks the balls. Braga makes it out after a couple of fake outs, which makes it even more irritating to be honest, and any chance of Predators being more then a pub quiz afterthought vanish with its own spinelessness (no pun intended). So yeah a fun two hours for the unassuming, but for me a cowardly and frankly kind of boring disappointment.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Emmy Nomination Reaction: Big Ass Post

And so the awards ceremony that will live in infamy for nominating Boston Legal and Grey's Anatomy a combined 56 times whilst nominating The Wire for 2 awards in its entire run returns. What irritates me about the Emmy's is how the always try to cluelessly try to stay in touch with popularity fads, which it has done hideously this year. Still some good nominations amidst the hideousness.

Outstanding Drama Series:
Breaking Bad
The Good Wife
Mad Men
True Blood

The Nominees:
We've got the good, the bad and the ugly here. Breaking Bad and Mad Men, obviously. The two best shows by a country mile and either one deserves to win. I hope its Breaking Bad, but it will be Mad Men. I guess if you're gonna nominate Dexter, do it this year although frankly this award belongs to John Lithgow if it wins (which it won't). The Good Wife is an efficient, intelligent procedural that does its job, and it wouldn't be the Emmy's without at least one procedural. At least its not Grey's Anatomy. Lost is silly. There's a place in my heart for the show, but this was its weakest year and considering what was ignored here, a sentimental goodbye cost some great shows the recognition they deserved. True Blood can go fuck itself. Mad Men to win.

What should be here:
Treme and Sons Of Anarchy. The best moment of True Blood season 2 wasn't a scratch on the worst moment from these two seasons, particularly SOA, which gave us one of the most ferociously uncompromising season of TV in recent memory. Treme's pilot exhumed class and elegance and was one of the most joyous episodes of TV I can recall ever seeing. I'd see these two above anything in that nomination list that isn't made by AMC.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie
The Office
30 Rock

The Nominees:
A deserved nomination for Curb, that didn't have its best year but had a very strong one, I'm happy with Modern Family, a deservedly popular show that is genuinely funny. The Office is a Dinosaur at this point but probably just about deserved it. 30 Rock's wildly inconsistent fourth year left me watching only sporadically, but what I saw didn't impress me. I hope Modern Family wins just to break 30 Rock's undeserved monopoly of this ceremony. Nurse Jackie is a bit of a WTF, its certainly not a great show and Merrit Weaver aside isn't that funny either. Fucking Glee. This would be Emmy desperately trying to be hip again wouldn't it, its not a terrible show but its doesn't deserve the windfall of nominations it got here. Balls. Glee to win.

What isn't Here:
Only the two funniest and best comedies on TV. Emmy you a clueless motherfucker. No Community or Parks And Recreation, and this is a travesty. Nurse Jackie? Come on. I get that these shows don't have the biggest following, but they're both morphing into something that might be amazing, as Community's sweeping of numerous best episode of the years lists, with its sublime 'Modern Warfare'. Amy Poehler got a throwaway nom, but Community got entirely jackshit. This is perhaps the most irritating thing about this year's Emmy's for me. Arrrgh.

Lead Actor In A Comedy Series:
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Steve Carell, The Office
Matthew Morrison, Glee
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Tony Shalhoub, Monk

The Nominees:
Baldwin is great in 30 Rock, whatever the show's current fortunes. So I'm fine with him. Larry David is my favorite of this list to be honest and I hope he wins. Respect Wood. Steve Carell is a movie star on a TV show, so no matter what he does, you know. Matthew Morrison. For What? Even if you like Glee, Morrison does nothing on this show. A placeholder for the narrative at best, but he has ridden the Glee wave at this Emmy's that has led it to get more nominations then Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Bitter much. Jim Parsons gives a great performance on The Big Bang Theory, and even if the show can be a bit generic, he deserves to be here. Shalhoub got a farewell sympathy nom for Monk. OK. Alec Baldwin to win.

Who Isn't Here:
Well Joel McHale from Community for one, who does the best Jason Bateman since Jason Bateman. Adam Scott of Party Down, gave such a great tragi-comic performance on a show that nobody watched. I'd even prefer James Roday from Psych over Morrison and Shalhoub. Charlie Sheen from Two and A Half Men! for all of the other ridiculous shit here, this makes it a beautiful day.

Lead Actor In A Drama Series:
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Matthew Fox, Lost
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House

The Nominees:
Two-time winner Bryan Cranston continues to be a thorn in Jon Hamm's side at the Emmy's. He's won it two years in a row deservedly and the only reason I can see that changing is if Emmy decide it's someone else's turn. Like Hamm's for instance. I'm very happy to see Chandler here, because aside from anything else Friday Night Lights is another great show that never gets a look in. Matthew Fox rode the Lost nostalgia to his first nomination, which frankly I'm much more OK with then I thought I would be. Michael C Hall and Hugh Laurie will be both here until they choose not to be. This is a category I'm perhaps the most happy with. Jon Hamm to win.

Who isn't here:
Charlie Hunnam of SOA, Steve Zahn of Treme, who I liked much more then everybody else. Simon Baker got dissed pretty severely, but I don't really mind too much.

Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Toni Collette, The United States Of Tara
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis Dreyfus, The New Adventures Of old Christine
Lea Michele, Glee
Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation

The Nominees:
Collette certainly does a lot on the United States Of Tara, so I'm OK with the nomination. Its not the best how but she is good in it. Tina Fey. Edie Falco was very good in The Sopranos, so..Julia Louis Dreyfus is a big name. Lea Michele is a glee nomination I'm fine with, as I thought she played the musical version of Tracey Flick quite well. I intensely hope Poehler wins, because otherwise this is a disparaging category. Toni Collette to win.

Who isn't here:
Having said that, its a man's world and there are so few comedies with female leads that, well, you pick from a bad bunch I guess. I don't like Weeds anymore, but Mary Louise Parker will always be great on that show. Portia De Rossi from Better Off Ted for realz. Another great show nobody has seen. I would tentatively suggest Gillian Jacobs from Community too.

Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit
January Jones, Mad Men
Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife
Kyra Sedgewick, The Closer

The Nominees:
Yay for Britton, maybe that cameo in Nightmare On Elm Street raised her profile. Glenn Close is like way too famous not to get nominated, even if Damages is a pompous ultimately empty show. The only rationale I can imagine for Hargitay being here is she has a memorable name, and was mentioned repeatedly in The Love Guru. January Jones is deserving and fine, same with Marguiles who gives a great anchor to that show. Kyra Sedgewick? Whatever this post is too long for me to care anymore. Julianna Marguiles to win.

Who's not Here:
Katey Sagal for Sons Of Anarchy. This is a big one. I don't think any female in any category did better work then Sagal this season, and even if you want to entirely shut out SOA, you had to at least give it this. Nope. What makes it extra hilarious is that with the possible exception of Ms Jones, the next best female lead performance was also ignored. Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad, who took her character to the next level this season, a truly great performance ignored. Bad, bad category for Emmy credibility.

Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series:
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men
Chris Colfer, Glee
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Eric Stonestreet, Modern family

The Nominees:
Modern Family annihilation. I agree with two out of three. I think Burrell and Stonestreet are definitely worth their presence here, but Ferguson rode the show's coat tails. Same with Colfer from Glee, who is simply here because Emmy has a massive and inexplicable Glee boner. Patrick Harris is a deserving mainstay, but this is a bad year for How I Met Your Mother otherwise. Jon Cryer is invincible, and could literally just stare at the camera for twenty minutes each Monday and he'd still be here. Fuck Two and A Half Men in the face. That's got to get me a few accidental gay fetish site hits. Ty Burrell to win.

Who isn't here:
Many people from Community, the utmost of which is Danny Pudi, who gave one of the most original comic performances in some time. I'd also put Donald Glover from Community up here. Martin Starr from Party Down. But the most hideous oversight is without a doubt Nick Offerman from Parks And Recreation, who should win this category let alone be nominated. Horrifying.

Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Andre Braugher, Men Of A Certain Age
Terry O Quinn, Lost
Michael Emerson, Lost
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Martin Short, Damages
John Slattery, Mad Men

The Nominees:
I did think Lost would get some love in this category partly because it always has done, and maybe because it should do. If anything has kept Lost a good show through all these years its the performances of O' Quinn and Emerson, who lend the show a maturity and subtlety it wouldn't have otherwise. Whatever you think about Lost these are two great performances that deserve the kudos they get. Aaron Paul! Loving it, and given the work he did this year he should probably win this, but Slattery or one of the Losties are more likely. But its great to see a younger actor in this category. Braugher's given several great performances on TV in the last ten years, and this year has been banner, combining Men Of A certain Age with his work and House. I think his nomination is perhaps a double team. Martin Short is an interesting choice, but there are better performances. Slattery is always awesome. Terry O Quinn to win.

Who's Not Here:
Gee, Wendell Pierce from Treme, Clarke Peters from Treme, John Goodman from Treme. Dean Norris From Breaking Bad, who was the anchor of the year's best episode of TV, and really should be here. Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad, Ryan Hurst and Ron Perlman from Sons Of Anarchy, John Noble From Fringe. Maybe Alexander Skaarsgaard from True Blood.

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Jane Lynch, Glee
Holland Taylor, Two And A Half Men
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

The Nominees:
Jane Lynch is another thing from Glee I can live with, and is comfortably the best thing about that show. Krakowski is here because Emmy loves it some 30 Rock. Bowen rode the Modern Family train, Vergara is more deserving and Kristen Wiig is becoming famous so, you know. Fucking Two and A Half Men. Holland Taylor is only in about half the episodes any given season. What the fuck. Jane Lynch to win.

Who's Not Here:
Alison Brie from Community, because watching her on Mad Men and then on this is literally like TV acid tripping, Merrit Weaver from Nurse Jackie, the only thing from that show that should get nominated isn't, yet it got a bunch of other stuff. Cheryl Hines or Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm anyone. Lizzy Caplan from Party Down also.

Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Rose Byrne, Damages
Sharon Gless, Burn Notice
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

The Nominees:
That Sharon Gless nomination is ridiculous, yet awesome at the same time. Burn Notice is a flimsy yet entertaining spy/action series where shit get solved by tapping into evil spy software with you're motorola bluetooth. Its MacGyver. Yet its smallest, most irrelevent character who gets about 5 lines an episode is up here with an emmy nomination. Love those Emmy's. Ecstatic about the Hendricks nomination, who doesn't always get recognized but deservingly did this year. Moss is a mainstay. Two Good Wife nominations is farely batshit, I could live with one or the other but hey. Rose Byrne, I guess if you have to. Elisabeth Moss to win.

Who's not Here:
Roll out those Treme actors yet again. Emmy hates that David Simon. Khandi Alexander, Melissa Leo and Kim Dickens both should have been here, but I guess I can't be too angry because of the wholesale Grey's Anatomy shutout.

Final Thoughts:
Too much Glee, 19 nominations guys, not enough for Breaking Bad ( No writing nominations. Really?) zero for Sons Of Anarchy and Community and a very small amount for Treme is silly. Love the backdoor nomination for Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost via guest actress. Not a horrific year I guess, but not a great one. But TV's biggest awards ceremony isn't moving forward at the same speed as the medium itself, as too much great stuff is getting ignored and functionality is rewarded too often. Rewarding the right things is very important for future great shows getting made, as very often great shows live off critical acclaim rather then viewership, yet here is TV greatest awards body giving 19 nominations to Glee. Trepidation.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Next Week's Movies

Predators: People who believe that the loss of the 80's form action movie was a deep violation of the cosmos are going pretty nutso for this, and while it has a cast that intruiges me, I see thoroughly no evidence to suggest anything more the entertaining diversion. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Twilight Saga: Eclipse: At this point, you know the drill. See it, make a few jokes about twihards, Twimoms and Kristen Stewart's acting and then go home. Rinse and repeat come the next one. Expectancy Level: 4/10

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

REVIEW: Heartbreaker

What Do You Call 100,000 Frenchmen With Their Arms Up? The Army. (Count it.)

There's always the worry when watching foreign cinema, that things are getting Lost In Translation. Tone can't be affected in subtitles, and when something reads slightly wooden its more then likely the problem of the translator then the film-maker. Having said that, I can only criticize the film that I see and frankly, the because you don't get it argument is feeble at the best of times.

So Heartbreaker. Its a French high-concept romantic comedy (of sorts) that's kind of stupid, kind of charming and thoroughly French. If that last description is a blessing or a curse then that kind of answers whether or not you'll like this film, because without that preference or deference it doesn't really stand on its own. Its premise is kind of ridiculous, and if you give it more then a nanosecond's thought, what seemed like a fairly neat little concept devolves into incredulity. It sees Superdouche Romain Duris and crack team free girls from unhappy or unsatisfactory relationships. How. By Romain Duris' awesomeness and attractiveness. With that a viable plan is an afterthought dude. Because no girl could possibly resist the sheer attractive force of Duris. Come on. I'll buy this I guess, in part because I'd watch Duris in anything after The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and he was slightly funnier then I was expecting him to be. But the film leans on his charm way too much, and at times feels horribly reminiscent like a generic Hollywood romantic comedy for its own good. It doesn't help much that Vanessa Paradis, perhaps most famous for beating out 3 billion women to Johnny Depp, is kind of awkward, dull and unknowable. Its not a bad performance per say its just its tonally wrong and she's a hard character to fall in love with, or more importantly understand why Duris does either.

What the film does do however is allow smart women the chance to enjoy a dumb romantic comedy, its dull brain carefully concealed beneath its French accent, but make no mistake many genre cliches from the worst Katherine Heigl movies are here. You just don't notice them so easily. Having said that its a romantic comedy that does these familiar things with large amounts of charm and panache, mostly down to Duris, and for that I'm willing to cut it some slack, because Romantic comedy is a genre with cancer right now and any entry that doesn't entirely suck is a welcome refresher.

See it if you're favorite movie of the last decade was Amelie, if you've ever written a Facebook status in French or if you've long-awaited that slightly more hip and credible version of Hitch that you can watch without cultural embarrassment.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Killers

My favorite Ashton Kutcher movie ever. Could this be the most backhanded compliment of all time?

I felt the tremble in my fingers. The involuntary jerk of my leg. The Sweat creeping down my forehead. They all came together to tell me one thing. That it was over. All I'd worked for, all that I'd slaved for, all the life I'd pissed away at a hundred bad movies was for nothing. Because I was watching Killers. And I wasn't hating it. Which means you may as well stop reading now whoever you are, because put me out to pasture, put a bullet in my brain and take a chainsaw to my face. I'm done. I embrace my own irrelevancy and suggest you do to.

OK Jokes. I'm still awesome. But for a while there I thought I was in trouble, because I would say there's about thirty to thirty-five minutes of Killers that I actually enjoyed, even with the words of a thousand movie critics ringing in my ears. Here's the thing. Killers begins as you would expect it to, a laughless, charmless wooden action/romantic comedy with two stars who can't really act all that well and a director who seems to have learned his skills at directing action from re-runs of the A-Team. In other words. Shit sucked. And sucked comfortingly. But the film's premise of the out of the spy game Kutcher being the subject of a bounty, and all his friends and neighbours sleeper agents in a mad rush to kill him. It's not Christopher Nolan or anything, but the film was enjoyably violent and occasionally grisly in its deaths, and frankly I was not expecting a teenage girl to get impaled with a decapitated deer's antlers, but it happened and the movie went a lot closer to semi-darkness then I was expected. Even Kutcher and Heigl were OK, or at least not actively making me seek my own death. Thankfully the film saved me from having to bestow it the heady heights of 5/10 by having a crap and ridiculous ending, which was implausible as it was entirely retarded. That's the film I came to see I said, as the world was set straight again.

I'm not defending this film. It's a bad film. But its not an awful one, as much as my critical integrity prayed it would be, and fuck I can't lie can I, that would be bad critiquing. So yes, for 30 to 35 minutes I was having a good time, for the other hour or so it was balls. But when you're expectations were as low as mine, you appreciate anything you can and this film is no Leap Year. So there's that. It's still a 4/10 movie, but those expecting a 2/10, I truly apologise. Please don't stop coming here, I usually like good films I promise.

Rating: 4/10

REVIEW: Wild Target

I kill people. And I'm English. Reality melts.

This is the kind of film that gives British Cinema a bad name, or the name that it currently has if you feel like being particularly cynical. That sense of trying way too hard yet not trying hard enough at the same time, and what is certainly the case for this film, trying to shake free of that long-lasting British curse of unescapable naffness and inadvertantly embracing it entirely. To the point where pretty much all of Wild Target is a cringe-worthy experience. Nothing works like it wants to and after a while even the most hateful amongst you will stop taking pleasure in its inadequecy and begin willing it to get better, just out of pity. But it won't work folks. Not at all.

Let the vitriolics begin then I guess. The most naueseatingly irritating thing about this movie is that it's balls deep in that trend of English movies that dully subvert hollywood Englishness as a punchline and think its hilarious. As an English person I hate this trend. Whether it be Maggie Smith is a serial killer despite her englishness, or Judi Dench owning a strip-club despite her Englishness Or Hugh Grant marrying into the mafia despite his Englishness, its never not embarrassing and Wild Target thinks that the uptight, thoroughly English Bill Nighy killing people is just so hilarious a concept that it doesn't really have to do anything else. Throw in Emily Blunt as a paper thin Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Rupert Grint who just seems delighted not to be playing Ron Weasley and you're made. But to be frank, Nighy isn't very good in this movie. He's an actor that is rarely criticized, and rightly so, but the character he tries to create here is a way too uneven a being, with many line deliveries that should never have made it past the editing suite. Blunt doesn't fare much better, stretching her innate likability to breaking point trying to substantiate the material. Grint I perhaps enjoyed the most, which is pretty crazy really but hey Uruguay got to the world cup semi-finals so fuck conventional expectations.

But the biggest and ugliest criminal of Wild Target is the script. A painfully under-developed, inconsistent thing of unadulterated incompetence that I just wanted the movie to end, so I could go home and forget it ever existed. As will you if you somehow see this movie. I wish it on nobody. What Kangeroo Jack is to Australia, Wild Target is to England, with the real indignity being that we made this one.

Rating: 3/10