Sunday, 28 February 2010

REVIEW: Extraordinary Measures

Ah the cancer kid movie, how well we love them. They allow us to exorcise our guilt about being all healthy in a privileged western world because if we truly empathize with a hypothetical version of those who suffer for two hours, then damn isn't our luck redeemed. But uninformed psycho-analysis aside, I have very little affection for the entire concept of the weepie. Its particular brand of sickly saccharine emotional patronization leaves me cold. Yet this was the first prominent Harrison Ford release in a long time ( Because Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull DID NOT HAPPEN) and of course there's Brendan Fraser, otherwise known as B fRaze.

The plot follows B fRaze as he tries to find a cure for his two kids, who have a rare muscular disorder through the genius of the curmudgeonly scientist Harrison Ford and the wonders of capitalism. Thankfully the film focuses more on the slightly hostile working relationship of Ford and B fRaze rather then excessive and exploitative scenes of kiddie suffering. Which is usually the kind of thing a movie like this will do, so fair play to it for that. Ford plays what perhaps his most recurring role, the asshole with a heart of gold. He does it well and his grumbling and complaining comes across almost as much more kiddie-friendly version of Dr House. I wish he was as funny though. B fRaze does surprisingly well. He has been good in the past, Gods and Monsters and The Quiet American spring to mind, but he is certainly bad more times then he is good. He handles the corporate aspect well, and I bought him as the business man. Perhaps some of the more sentimental scenes he struggled in, but B fRaze was good value here. The problem is this felt like a TV movie more then any film that I've seen in the cinema for a long time, and I should imagine it only made the multiplexes on the back of Ford's clout. It looked perhaps cheaper then it should have been, and the structure felt horribly like a lifetime movie of the week. Two respected actors (although given this new monicker for Fraser, which I shall use until I die, he doesn't earn that much respect.) can only make so much difference to something so entirely run of the mill.

Avoid unless you have a craving for mediocrity. I'll leave it to B fRaze to clap us out.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Leap Year

So you walk into a screening of Leap Year as a solitary male. You try to look confident as you walk to your seat and every one looks at you like you were carrying a concentrated dose of swine flu. You take your seat, and as the first of three Orange adverts you've seen enough times to collectively cover the entire length of the Lord Of The Rings Extended editions and you think why am I doing this. Leap Year is clearly going to suck diseased balls. Its going to be embarrassing, awkward and last a comparative eternity, and I have to feel like a killjoy being creatively repulsed whilst females of all ages get a fix of sugary guilty pleasure, laughing at every bad joke and every time two time Oscar nominee Amy Adams falls over.

I comfort myself with a medium Coke that contains more liquid then an average African village would see in a month and the thought that I'll get to go all Anton Ego on this shit in a couple of hours, and oh how sweet that will be.

Sitting here now, with hindsight, I realize how wrong I was. There's no joy in ragging on this film, because its such a corporate concoction, in which every moment is written by the methodology of the flowchart that insulting it is a mute point. Its like trying to say McDonald's is bad for you. You're going to be met with a barrage of people saying well obviously as they dig into their Avatar happy meal ( where the fuck is my Stephen Lang toy god damn it). People know already, it just doesn't matter and if you try to explain it to them. Well...

Why doesn't it matter?

Because it doesn't.

But surely you care about substance, about quality, about being intellectually engaged?

Where does this pinko college boy get off. Next you're going to be telling me that the Ugly Truth isn't the funniest film of 2009. can't?

Oh know when you've been owned. Now be quiet, two-time Oscar Nominee Amy Adams is learning you can only love when you stop trying to control everything.

But didn't Sandra Bullock learn that in the Proposal, and Helen Hunt learn that in What Women Want and Katherine Heigl learn that in 27 Dresses and/or The Ugly Truth?

Don't make me hurt you.

Sorry. I'll let you enjoy two-time Oscar Nominee Amy Adams and Ozymandias plastically try to riff. Oh for god's sake I can't take this anymore. This aggression will not stand. People of this cinema, we can stop this. We have to rise up and say we will not be fed recycled garbage anymore. Romantic comedy doesn't have to be this way. It can be genuinely funny, genuinely moving and not just be a series of cliched set-pieces in which every single second feels false, a genetically modified mush created in a lab to make you delude yourselves into superficial happiness. We are mad as hell! and we are not going to take it anymore!

At this point this reviewer was mobbed, kidnapped and forced to watch leap year on endless loop for all eternity. He was last seen trying to eat his own face.

Rating: 2/10

REVIEW: Micmacs

It seems Jean Pierre Jeunet did not appreciate the middling reception that A Very Long Engagement received back in 2004, because it took him six years to release another. And rather then the triumphant comeback we were hoping for, he's delivered a film very similar to that in quality if not in ambition. Its by no means bad. Its got his trademark creative visuals and quirky humor, but the problem is it feels like a slight regression for the man who made Amelie. This is perhaps Jeunet's Tideland. A film that suffers slightly because of too much of the director's personality, rather then the traditional not enough.

The plot sees Bazil (Dany Boon) and his makeshift family of misfits try to take revenge on the CEO'S of the armoury companies responsible for making the stray bullet he caught in the head. If that sounds cluttered, incomprehensible and crazy, well that's because it is. Micmacs doesn't bear much favor for explaining itself, because it is so enjoying its own madcap adventure. We occassionally get to join in the fun, but the entirely uncensored onslaught of quirk does wear on one's patience slightly. Particularly when its given no base or explanation, as in the first half hour, in which Bazil's induction into his new family is handled with the nuance as your average episode of Pushng Daisies. Its just basically rinsed in about forty-five seconds. Once the revenge plot kicks in, and the movie switches from aimless indiefest to a con-man movie, it picks itself up. In large part due to the performances of Andre Dussollier and Nicolas Marie as the dastardly capitalist arms dealers in question. They lend the film a bit more bite and personality, and feel far more credible then any of heroes, all played to Ace Ventura levels of mugging. And since no-one here was Jim Carrey, it was not OK. Boon, who I've seen actually display acting talent in the past I was a slight disappointed by, although his gift for Physical comedy made up for an otherwise absent performance.

Its very creative in design and in photography, few directors do more with the camera then Jeunet, but its such a rambling, incoherent mess that the enjoyable homeless Oceans Eleven quality of the last half hour can't quite make up for it's previous discretions. I still hold out the hope that Amelie isn't going to be the only truly great film this very talented director ever makes, but I say it with less conviction the I used to, most definately.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 27 February 2010

REVIEW: From Paris With Love

Luc Besson is someone I had a lot more time for then other directors who specialized in the action genre. In part because he cared about character amidst the carnage, and while it could be trite at times, it was always genuine, he meant it, and as a consequence he had a distinctive voice. Something that is very fucking rare in the action genre. But while his directorial career ended somewhat unceremoniously ( casting Milla Jovovich as Joan Of Arc and all that), his reformed identity as the Jerry Bruckheimer of the euro-action movie seems to be going quite well. After Taken's unexpected box-office haul, this follow up offers more of the nostalgic same.

And do you know what. In a very simplistic, basic way, I had fun. Its a solid, entertaining action movie. Its not Shakespeare or anything, but viewed as 90 minutes of something that exists solely to give you a superficial and disposable good time, the film works. Sure, its very stupid, often hackneyed and if there's a more wooden and awkward performance then the one Jonathan Rhys Meyers ( who I have liked on occasion) gives here, then the world is very much a frightening place. The movie, much like Taken, pitches its chances on the charisma and draw of its star. And to my immense surprise, Travolta comes through for this movie. Now I've seen Broken Arrow and Wild Hogs, and know how bad this guy can be. And that's very, very bad, ladies and gentleman. We don't see Pulp Fiction Travolta here though, but we do get Face/Off Travolta, and that's so much better then what could have been. He goes over the top without being irritating and mostly does it only when its appropriate (Although I could have done without seeing Travolta saying 'Yeah Boi!'. That was certainly embarrassing) and kicks severe amounts of ass convincingly (Maybe the editing gave him a fair assist on this one, because he remains a little on the heavy side). Maybe its the Stone Cold Steve Austen look shrewdly deceiving, but this is probably the best he's been this particular millennium, which is a poignant insult I suppose. But yeah, he entertained me and shot a hell of a lot of people, which is what I want from my action stars. The plot of this movie was a pretty irrelevant to itself, a by the numbers terrorist thing that could have been rejected off 24. It makes absolutely sense, but the action is swiftly handled by director Pierre Morel, who does have some aptitude at this kind of thing and doesn't give you enough time to realize how retarded everything is.

For all its faults, and there are many, it can be enjoyed, which is something that can't be said about many a bigger budget action movie. And also John Travolta literally eats a Royale with Cheese in this film, so, you know. That happens.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 26 February 2010

REVIEW: The Crazies

George Romero's The Crazies is almost the perfect film to remake. Its a film with a good concept but bad execution, and combine that with the Romero remaking brand, in which every thing notable he ever made has been remade at least once. With the glaring exception of Martin, which I'd submit high in the list of the most under-rated films of all time.

But to business. I had higher hopes for the Crazies then one usually does for conveyor belt horror remakes. Its trailer promised something a bit darker and a bit more interesting, and knowing the source material I thought there could be an alright movie here. Well, this one's on me I suppose, because the Crazies is basically what every cynic incapable of the will to dream thought it would be. Generic and disposable. Not awful, but almost depressingly forgettable. And this is almost more frustrating then if it had full sucked, because then it would at least have an identity. But here it's all a copy of a copy of a copy. For example, this movie pretty much holds Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead as it near biblical framework. We even begin with Johnny Cash again, just like that film did.

Once Cash is done singing a pretty poor cover of the song at the end of Dr Strangelove, the movie begins, with an ounce of promise. Sure the characters are all hastily assembled from archetypes 101. You've got the dogged cop ( Timothy Olyphant), the girl doctor ( Radha Mitchell), the teen (Danielle Panabaker) etc. But the insanity as a virus thing works better when the characters were human, and the scene where a husband locks his family in a closet and whistled 'Old McDonald' while they burn alive, was bluntly effective. But around a half hour in director Breck Eisner can't resist the Snyder effect and just turns the film into another zombie movie, and to be honest not a particularly good one. From then on I had checked out of the thing, watching with an angered disappointment as Olyphant and Mitchell went through a few stock survival horror scenes and then we're done. I like both these actors, but they were unable to make either of their thin characters land. Only Brit Joe Anderson, excellent in Ian Curtis biopic Control, does anything of note, playing his increasingly unhinged deputy with a menacing glee.

Objectively it seems ridiculous to be disappointed be a remake of a mediocre 70's horror movie, but I am nonetheless. The idea offered something better then this.

Rating: 5/10

Lost: Lighthouse - Where We Reference Virginia Woolf In A Less Subtle Way Then The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Season 6 seems to have followed season 1 in its episode order. We've gone from Kate to Locke and now to Jack. Of Course this has to break because next in line would be Charlie and that dude be dead. But yeah the Jack episode. There's been some clunkers and some successes, but this one was enjoyably relaxed and nostalgic, Slow in a good way, if you will.


- Jack has a kid. That was the plot of this one. These flash-sideways are low in mythology, which is perhaps why they've gotten on some people's nerves. Including mine. But with the Locke stuff last week and Jack this week, they represent a return to the character driven flashbacks of the first season. And I have to say this tact is growing on me, as it seems what began as a character driven show is going to end as one.

- Sideways Jack I enjoyed a lot. Matthew Fox played him a lot less intense and controlling then his island namesake.

- As to the quality of it, its OK. Not as good as last week, but a hell of a lot better then Kate's, which wasn't about her character at all. She just ran, because Lost doesn't know how to write women that aren't played by Elizabeth Mitchell.

- Not much else to say about this time line really. Solid but not spectacular Lost drama.

- Our timeline cameo this week came from Dogen, who was at Jack's Kid Piano Recital.


- The calm before the storm it seems. Given Jacob's immense ' something is coming to the temple (clearly Evil Locke BTW) to fuck dudes up. Next week to be awesome

- Like I said, this was a slow episode, but in a good way. It reminisced about the caves, Adam and Eve and all sorts of memorable Lost moments. I enjoyed that, because its nice to see them acknowledge the complete journey.

- Mark Pellegrino, A.K.A Jacob has massive ears. A thought for y'all.

- Hurley is almost the island alpha-dog these days. He's Jacob's go to guy.

- So, To The Lighthouse. Is it just me or did the whole journey feel almost pointless. He went there accomplished nothing and fucked up Jacob's neat gizmo. I'm loving the ride though.

- Jack's gearing up to go all heroic again. Its happening.

- Subplot time: Psycho Claire. Emilie De Ravin is really finding something to play in that role and promises to really contribute something to this year. She got to exhibit some long overdue range.

- Claire be crazy now, and possibly evil too. Her axing of Justin was pretty cold.

- Episode body Count:

- Justin, who amazingly pulled through Psycho Claire's first attack. Went down in the second wave, with an axe to the stomach. RIP

- Evi Locke was the 'friend' Claire kept going on about. Least surprising twist ever. But still, love some Evil Locke. Who almost stole the episode with no lines, but in the interest of fairness I'll give it to De Ravin.

- Incidentally the most pointless regular ever = Ilana. She's had about four lines and we're 5 episodes in. Well worth it guys.

- But yeah Locke's coming to fuck up the temple. Goings to be legen..wait for it.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Next Week's Movies

Capitalism: A Love Story - The Michael Moore backlash has come pretty close to consuming him now. Every film he releases gets slighter lesser profile and slightly more derogatory reviews. None more so then this. Expectancy Level: 6/10

The Crazies: I don't want to come out and commit to saying this will be good, because that's a path fraught with trouble in regards to a horror remake. But still, I liked the trailer and this film appears to have more balls then its siblings. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Extraordinary Measures: Kids with cancer, Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford who's old guy career has trainwrecked a little. This just looks the definition of disposable. Expectancy Level: 5/10

From Paris With Love: From the director of Taken comes another clearly just above mediocre action movie, in which Travolta is clearly going to be about 27 rungs over the top and Rhys Meyers will be his usual ineffectual self. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Leap Year: Clearly horrible romantic comedy starring two time Oscar nominee Amy Adams. Somehow these chick flicks keep drawing in credible actresses, also see Anne Hathaway who as well as Rachel Getting Married was seen in Bride Wars and Valentine's day. No. Expectancy Level: 2/10

Micmacs: The new Jeunet film, which seems to be coming after quite a lengthy hiatus looks interesting if not wowing. Expectancy Level: 7/10

Everybody's Fine: Boy is this week a dumpsite. This badly reviewed family drama manages to make a film starring Robert De Niro, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore seem utterly unappetising: Expectancy Level: 4/10

Well fuck this shit. 7 films in one week means that at the very least three are getting passed over. Leap Year seems a safe bet. Ditto Everybody's Fine. Regardless this is sure to be a busy week for me.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

REVIEW: The Last Station

Period costume drama's. Can I get a hell yeah. Probably not, because usually they manage to be good, but in a way that miraculously manages to gave the viewer no satisfaction at all. Its all about admiring rather then immersing with these things and as a consequence you are not going to fall in love with a movie like The Last Station in the same way you are going to with, say X-Men 2, quality be damned. But this is a good if a little unspectacular example of awards baiting period fare.

Its the story of the twilight times of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), or more specifically of his volatile but passionate relationship with his wife (Helen Mirren), told from the vantage point of professional audience surrogate James McAvoy. I make this joke because, just as he did in The Last King Of Scotland, McAvoy's character exists solely to provide an eye into this world and although he has his own subplot, we all know who this story is really about. Both Mirren and Plummer scored Oscar nominations for this movie, and while I have little to argue regarding Mirren, who delivers an impressively impulsive, passionate performance that's stuff of Oscar heaven. Mirren is a great actress who seems only now (and by that I mean the last five years or so) to be getting the kind of credit she deserves. Plummer is good without being extra-ordinary, which is more in tune with the rest of the film to be honest. But his is a nomination I can understand, even if it is a little safe. McAvoy is always an engaging screen presence, and I think now just needs that one great role to set himself apart. This isn't it, although he is as dependable as you'd expect him to be. I loved Paul Giamatti, who is one of the greatest working actors in my book. And his delivery of the line " If I had a wife like you, I would have blown my brains out...Or moved to America." Is perhaps the only laugh in the entire movie. Giamatti continues to rule, even in a sublimated villain role. Anne Marie-Duff continues to slowly but surely make her name, delivering another solid performance to go with her recent Bafta Nomination. She's doing solid work, film by film. The movie itself is solid enough, perhaps stronger ideologically then emotionally, although Mirren's powerhouse performance more then makes up for that.

The Last Station is essentially what you'd expect it to be. Good, well written, factually correct and well acted. But after saying so many times that Tolstoy wasn't a messiah, it then proceeded to treat him like one and that did detract from the movie a little bit. Solid stuff, but it won't pry you away from you're Alien Quadrilogy.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Solomon Kane

To be clear, this film is as naff as hell. I can't recall seeing a movie with such forceful dedication to being cheesy in quite the while. But I guess it knew what it was and never tried to be anything more. This thought seems to allow critics to give things a pass. In that sense, films like Taken or 27 Dresses get more amiable reviews then say The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus or Stop-Loss. Because its apparently better to be knowingly shit then it is to shoot for the stars and miss. Its a rule I disagree with in theory, but its hard not to be a hypocrite about this shit. Because you just know I'm not going to trash Solomon Kane with the same ferocity I just tore into the Lovely Bones with. Even though the latter is clearly the better of the two, without any question. I think it has something to do with expectation, and having your optimism dashed is far more galling then having you're pessimism confirmed. Its bullshit and unfair reactionary critical thinking, but everyone does and will continue to do it.

So back to Solomon Kane. It kind of plays like a movie you might see at midnight on the sci-fi channel, only with a bigger effects budget and the living genius that is James Purefoy. Oh Purefoy. How you're attempts at alpha-male badassery make me smile. Purefoy is cheesy as hell more then incompetent I suppose, and its not an awful performance, but it sure as hell isn't a good one either. It seems kinder not to mention the other actors in this movie, because its not like anyone else does anything worth doing. Its a swords and sorcery fest, that hopes viewers will crank the irony up to eleven and get in the spirit of things. Which some will, if they are inclined to do such ( I should say that Jonathan Ross loved this movie) but its bad guys. Come on. Its all so cliched and dated, and a movie that clearly should have been made in the eighties. The dialogue is awful, characters come and go with little regard and its simplistic enough to put Avatar to shame. But you don't care right. Magic and monsters= awesome. I expect five star reviews for Nic Cage's The Sorcerer's apprentice from all of you motherfuckers. Especially you Ross.

Oh and one more thing, the reveal of the unseen villain in the final reel was awesome. They built it up like it was going to be Gary Oldman or someone equally awesome or something and then its Jason Flemyng. Lolz. You can's stunt cast Jason Flemyng guys, its an antithetical concept.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: The Lovely Bones

I suppose the lesson to learn from The Lovely Bones is that Peter Jackson may be heading prematurely to the way of Oliver Stone. That is to say that a promising film-maker, whose work gets ever more askew because they can't just ever tell the story. The visuals are so intrusive that the film becomes about them, instead of the characters and the story which it should be about. His ever roving camera and blunt, to the point visuals, which were so wonderfully complimentary to the world of the Lord Of the Rings franchise, do not recontextualise well for this film. At all. His insistence of stylising everything within an inch of its life means the real human horror of thing, the emotional nuance is just gone. Everything is exaggerated to the point of suffocation from the world of the 'in-between', which is so crudely put together that for every moment of beauty there are ten more moments of garishness. To his representation of the characters, all ciphers with no emotional depth because Jackson had no time for that. But the problem is this is a human story, and if you don't understand that then both the horror and the wonder are less effective.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Soarsie Ronan), a ten year old girl murdered and stuck in the limbo of the in-between, where she keeps watch on her family and her killer as they cope with both the loss and the thrill of her death. I feel awfully sorry for the actors in this movie, because Jackson seems to represent each one in broad caricature. The worst of it is for George Harvey, the child molester/killer in question. Every shot of him seems intent on making him a grotesque, pans over fingernails, over his thinning hair, over glasses etc, that he never gets to be the more complex monster he should have been. Which is all the more frustrating because Stanley Tucci gives a good performance in spite of all this, and if Jackson had just pointed the damn camera at him and let him act a bit it could have been something more interesting. But no, he tries to give the performance for him through visual exaggeration. This simplistic take translates to all areas of the movie really and makes it a much dumber, blunter movie then it should have been. Only the acting and the occasional impressive piece of CGI prevent it from being an out and out disaster. Ronan, perhaps is the biggest victim in all of this, because in other hands she could have done something extra-ordinary here. As it stands she is still very good, but the character is a mess whose motivations shift on a dime, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't that way in the book. Mark Wahlberg flatlines a little as the grieving father, and as much as I like Wahlberg, to be honest it needed a smarter actor then he to do what needed to be done here. Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon are flat out wasted.

This is what happens, and I doubt this happens too often, when a subtle, emotionally nuanced and powerful story is told with obnoxiousness to the hilt and the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The funny thing is Jackson can tell human stories, he did it fantastically in Heavenly Creatures. But he Oliver Stoned this movie to its grave, which is sad because there are glimpses of the movie it should have been (mostly through Ronan and Tucci) but the predominance is film-making it its most misguided. Through all of this its not terrible, simply half the movie it should have been.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 18 February 2010

OMFA Awards: The Ten Best Movie Consolation Prizes In 2009

That picture really has nothing to do with anything here, but hey. When you're watching a bad movie, and as far as new releases go that seems to be about 60% of the time, you look for the little olive branches to justify what you know in your heart is two hours you're never getting back. The choicest of these critical apologetics seems to be the special effects were good, or the action scenes were good. For me this doesn't quite work. These days special effects are such a mainstay that I really don't care if they are good anymore. I just expect it. My attitude to action could be considered similar, or at least studio movie action, which is so stilted and lifeless.

So in bad movies I'm pretty much looking for actors, or the odd left field moment of actual talent, to save the day. Sometimes they don't, in which case fuck that shit. But sometimes they provide much needed rest bite from the disillusioning abyss of awfulness which certain movies can become. Here are the ten most prescient examples of it this year.

10) Deadpool: Before The zombie, X-Men Origins

This I think, was the kind of movie that allows the readers of the sight and sound to justify their elitist movie view. It was overblown, moronic, badly acted, bloated and every slight the devil can provide. Literally the only bearable thing in the film was Ryan Reynolds cameo as Deadpool. Sure it was basically just a badass version of the same smart-alec douche he always plays, but he wisecracked and kicked ass like a hero is supposed to and for those two minutes the movie was marginally enjoyable. Then he disappeared and came back as a wordless, ultimate warrior zombie. Fuck you David Benioff.

9) Buck, AKA Simon Pegg, Ice Age 3

The first half hour of Ice Age 3 felt tired, basically retreading old steps and journeys. The problem being that every returning character is a little less funny and a little less interesting. But then Buck turns up, and he is basically Jack Sparrow if you replace the Black Pearl with a giant dinosaur and Johnny Depp with Simon Pegg. Now Pegg's movie choices and performances have been less then stellar of late, but he nailed this one. He saved the movie from its overly sentimental self to a certain extent, inserting some much needed vitality and insanity.

8) Sammy Davis Jr, Gamer

Gamer was a a high-concept action movie that should have been much more interesting then it was. Which was bizarrely fucking boring. Michael C Hall was certainly the best thing about the movie, but the only moment of real creative flair, or at least awesome acknowledgment of the camp, was when Hall, accompanied by a few mind-controlled death-row inmates, Does a dance number to Sammy Davis Jr's ' I've Got You Under My Skin'. Its random and ridiculous, but somehow when it was over you find yourself upset that the whole movie couldn't be this way.

7) Pain, Twilight: New Moon

Make no mistake, no-one hates the worldwide succumbing to sickly irony in the adoration of this franchise more then me, and boy was New Moon shit. But as the only movie in history, in the past or future tense I'm sure, that gets stolen by Dakota Fanning, it's something of an artifact. Fanning, in her one and solitary scene, causes RPattz to fall to the ground in torturous pain by just uttering the word pain. Fanning's awesomely deadpan delivery is legendary and in a movie as otherwise as terrible as Twilight New Moon, it felt like Milton by comparison.

6) Scream Queen Actressing, Triangle

Triangle is one of those horror movies that hides under shallow layer of false complexity to compensate for how shit it is. And while the infinite loop doctrine of this movie has been handled better elsewhere, lead actress Melissa George managed to make it OK. Now I can't say I was a particularly huge George fan in advance of this movie, why would I be, but for my money she delivered a strong, considered performance in a ridiculous, overwrought movie. And that seems a lot harder then being good in a film that's already good don't it.

5) Olyphant And Zahn, A Perfect Getaway

Timothy Olyphant has never really made the successful transition from TV to Movies. He's got Deadwood credibility to last a lifetime, but his movie CV leaves a lot to be desired. Steve Zahn is a good actor who makes a lot of bad films, with a good performance every three years or so to keep you hopeful. A Perfect Getaway, which is exactly the kind of middle of the road movie that haunts both of their careers. But amidst terrible David Twohy dialogue and generally unimpressive goings on they manage to occasionally rise above the material, forming a rapport with each other that's fun to watch. And this tale of movie badness even has a happy ending. Olyphant now has his own FX show 'Justified', which looks fucking awesome by the way, and Zahn has booked the lead in 'Treme' the new' HBO show by The Wire creator David Simon. So there.

4) Talent Against Indie Cliche, Sunshine Cleaning

Now I'll admit I gave this movie a pass in my review, but I think I was having a bad hair/beard day or something because, like the similarly insipid Gigantic, Sunshine Cleaning was cliched, indie movie hell. Every beat feeling worn out long ago. Never the less, I think both Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, Blunt in particular I think managed to some good work in face of a movie that seemed to be put together by indie checklist.

3) Seth Cohen Will Kill Your Family, Jennifer's Body

I didn't hate Jennifer's Body quite as much as the rest of the world. There was a lot wrong with it, mostly in the Megan Fox area of the game, but there is one thing in the film that I found to be flat out awesome. And not even in the best of a bad bunch kind of way. Adam Brody's Nikolai Wolf essentially plays Brandon Flowers if he was a Psychopathic killer. Its due to Brody that the film's most hilarious scene features the brutal, uncompromising murder of the film's title character. This performance has me hoping Brody find some kind of career salvation and soon.

2) Dillahunt, Last House On The Left

Of all the horror remakes of recent years, I think Last House On The Left was my favorite. Its hardly a competitive category, granted. But thanks to some interesting casting and the movie sticking to its violent guns, I kind of liked it. Having said that, I am not delusional and recognize that something is rotten in Denver. But Garrett Dillahunt, the character actor who has popped up in small roles in No Country For Old Men, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Breath) and The Road, takes full advantage of a rare leading role. Rather then going the full on wide eyed screaming killer, Dillahunt creates a character and makes his performance all the more frightening for it. This guy is well under-rated.

1) JGL, GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra

Joseph Gordon Levitt, whose kind of had a breakout year in 2009, what with the huge success of 500 days of summer and Golden Globe nomination etc, was also quietly in one of the worst movies of the year. In a fairly prominent role. And it didn't hurt him one bit. Why? I'm gonna go for that with a voice Synthesizer and excessive make-up, no-one knew who the fuck he was. Or maybe Levitt retained his indie credibility because he approached the thing almost like a piece of performance art, to quote James Franco ( currently on the US soap General Hospital for the same reason) with several bizarre mannerisms and ticks, this truly weird performance eventually became something kind of awesome. So fair play JGL, enjoy being in Christopher Nolan's Inception.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lost: The Substitute - Will The Real John Locke Please Stand Up.

Yes. The Locke episode, who probably has the best track record for episodes including goodness. Even his misfires are pretty good. So much, much more excited for this one. Incidentally there were three different versions of John Locke in all realities here. Hence the hilarious title.


- Although this stuff was considerably better than last week's Kate centered outing, I think that was mostly down to John Locke being a more interesting character then it suddenly being a better idea. There's still an ominous sense of the 'so what's' about the flash-sideways. Do they matter at the end of the day? I hope so, but what worked in a single 2 hour episode so well is going to be a bit less impressive over the course of a season.

- Having said that, I did enjoy seeing the real John Locke again. He deserves a happy ending in some reality, so let's hope its this one. And this was a step in the right direction.

- Michael Emerson as a mild-mannered european history teacher. Best thing ever.

" When you finish the coffee. Please throw. The filter. Away." Awesome.

- Helen! We've not seen her since season 2, since which Katey Sagal has earned some proper respect over on Sons of Anarchy.

- I think these Flash-sideways are only gonna be worth it with the stronger actors on the show. Terry O Quinn and Michael Emerson make it work, but trust me this isn't going to be the case for everyone


- Much better then last week. I think there is no real way to prevent Evil Locke from owning this season. Not only is he stock full of mythology and those long lusted after answers, but O Quinn is having such a riot in playing him.

- Some more prime actorly moments from O quinn here, from the smoke monster AKA evil Locke lamenting his long lost humanity to the speech where Locke sells Sawyer on joining the side of evil. Well-written and well sold.

- Josh Holloway is finding a cynical groove as the dead in every way but literally Sawyer.

- The explanation for the numbers seems to be imminent. Something to do with Jacob it seems.

- Another trek across the jungle though. at least it was to the point.

- Evil Locke put Richard in a sack and hung him from a tree. You don't see that on Grey's Anatomy.

- Nobody died in this episode. Crazy.

- Not a spellbinding episode really, but pleasingly to the point. The time for tantalizing is over Lost. You have to start paying up. And it did so in this episode, largely thanks to a hefty does of answers and plenty of evil Locke. But watch next week be pure filler.

Episode Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Next Week's Movies

The Lovely Bones: Early word seems to suggest its heavy on the garish imagery, low on nuance. But we'll see. Peter Jackson is too good a film-maker to preemptively doubt. Never the less. Expectancy Level: 7/10

The Last Station: Oh hell yeah. A film about an aged Tolstoy and his wife, played by the dually Oscar nominated Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. OK I can't say I'm burning with excitement but it will be good I'm sure. Expectancy Level: 7/10

Solomon Kane: Ha. I saw the trailer for this not too long ago. I want to see it just to see how truly awful James Purefoy is going to be. I'm expecting the world. Expectancy Level: 3/10

Friday, 12 February 2010

REVIEW: Valentine's Day

And so it went on and on. Put it this way, if you found He's Just Not That Into You to be a misunderstood masterpiece then this will be right up your alley. This basically remakes that film, but relocates it to Valentine's Day and throws in a little less cynicism (if that is possible) and a little more Ashton Kutcher. Speaking of which, when you've got Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway and countless others in your cast. Why is Ashton Kutcher the god damn lead. Why? I will stop typing while somebody explains it to me. Seriously. Jesting aside, this is a horrible, horrible film. So falsely twee it hurts sometimes, and the portmanteau of it basically leaves you watching ten bad romantic comedies for the price of one. Score.

Fuck describing the plot. I don't care, mostly because they don't care either. Its just a series of weak ass cutesy cliches. Old couple still love each other. Pre-pubescent lovestruck kid. Best friends who really belong with each other. Julia Roberts playing a marine. The usual romantic comedy stuff. There are some good actors here, so in spite of the cack put in front of them they manage to maintain dignity. I'd say Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx and Topher Grace get a pass. Grace is increasingly becoming one of those actors I kind of like with no real grounding and as I'm sat here I can't name you a great Topher Grace performance. But I guess I like the dude anyway. How generous am I? Also, I won't go so far as to say she has acting ability, but teen country pop singer had an amiable lack of precociousness. She made light of herself and even did a pretty solid pratfall. The worst of it is Kutcher obviously, Garner who can be a good actress, as she drastically proved in Juno, but not here. And pretty much everyone else.

If you want to see a movie to justify your hatred for the world, this is it. Its exactly what it said it was going to be, a hallmark gift card of a movie. So superficial and falsely sweet it actually makes you angry. Plus it literally goes on forever. I have no definitive timing but I'd say this film is a safe two and a half hours. Enjoy.

Rating: 4/10


I'll admit I was going into this film with an agenda. I was hoping for my first major scalp of the year, a film that everyone else loved that I could tear to pieces. But I can't, because in cinematic expressions of pure, innocent and unadulterated joy, I doubt Hiyao Miyazaki has a match. The credits are even in comic-sans font for god's sake.

That's not to say Ponyo doesn't have its problems because it certainly does. Its English language dialogue sounds awkward, often painfully so. Structurally its a mess, with a little too much stretching of reality. Not so much in the ocean scenes, in fact that's what you want from them. But in its human world, and I think Miyazaki spend more time there then he has ever done, it becomes a little ridiculous. My personal favorite being Our boy hero's mother trying to outright a tsunami in a smart car for n discernible reason, with her kid in the car. That bitch is crazy. But believe this is writerly nit-picking, because I did love the experience of this movie. Which kind of felt like the world view of a 6 year old on an acid trip, if that image wasn't absolutely horrifying.

The film seems to be a slightly tweaked version of The Little Mermaid, in which Ponyo, a lowly fish, who gets accidentally washed up in the backyard of Sosuke, a young boy. Together they form a boy to fish bond, so much so that by the power of her love, Ponyo turns herself into a human so they can be together. Unfortunately, the price of this seems to be all the seas in the world going crazy, and doing all sorts of freaky but awesome shit. Ponyo looks so stunning, particularly when underwater that honestly I have no description of how beautiful it is. You just have to see it. So it comes not to matter that the story is a bit scatty, because visually its just so spellbindingly enthusiastic and joyful. That one crazy but wonderful image of Ponyo sending the whole ocean into a fritz as shes runs atop the water to get to Sosuke, left my with a huge, unconscious grin on my face. It expressed such pure happiness. And that's an emotion that is so rarely earned or truly explored in cinema anymore. This film is no Spirited Away, its way too much of a mess, but a glorious mess all the same.

A charming, involving kids film that no film fan should mind seeing.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief

Look, Medusa has an I-phone! This picture is so much better then anything in the movie. Even the scene where this took place wasn't all that good. But just the look on Uma Thurman's face. Even I, mythical demon from the underworld, am truly taken aback by the wonder that is the I-phone. It's majesty is untold even to the Gods.

So yeah Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief. Well first off there's the whole Harry Potter thing, and how this is a pretty close cash-in. We've got the team of two boys one girl, and believe me they are in the same archetypal arena. There's the whole title similarity with Harry Potter and... almost being a trademark of it. There's the casting of famous Brits as the adults of the piece, even though none have more then two minutes a piece and yes, there's the fact that Chris Columbus, he who gave us two Harry Potter movies, directs the thing. With Marshall Erikson's permission; lawyered.

Having said that, despite it being kind of shit and certain aspects of the film being downright risible, its fun in an assuming way and its a good kids film. A rip-off and a cash-in, but a serviceable one. The film's story, which is going to sound rightly ridiculous when described in print, sees Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman, who kind of fluctuates between irritatingly smug and tolerable), teenager slash demigod who discovers, as kids always seem to these days, he has a bunch of Godly powers, mostly involving water. Awesome. But no, a plot mechanic insists that there be trouble so when he is accused of being a lightning thief, he goes off with black best friend for hire and hot chick to save the day. The film rushes the revelation stage pretty badly, but once we get to the clear quest stage, things pick up a little as a heroes ace Greek mythology's greatest villainous hits one by one, and from there it goes the way it must go. Uma Thurman's Medusa was a pretty neat two-minute cameo, and she clearly relished the OTT of it all. But the best of the villainous casting was undoubtedly Steve Coogan as Hades. He had about 6 lines or so, but I enjoyed him quite a bit. Rosario Dawson looked absolutely stunning as Persephone, but my compliments for her can't honestly extend out of the male gaze, as much as I'd like them too. Who else we got, oh yeah Sean Bean made for a pretty boring Zeus, matched by Kevin McKidd's Poseidon.

Greek mythology is up there with the best of them, so if you are going to mine something, you could do worse and even if this is just another useless kid discovers amazing powers movie, at least its got Uma Thurman so wonderfully entranced by an I-Phone. Which is incidentally available from all good retailers now.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: A Single Man

I think Colin Firth has always been a more interesting actor the his successes (mostly in the Jane Austen/Bridget Jones ballpark) have allowed for. I can think of few who convey intelligence with more poignancy, as if he is just barely can contain his bitterness at all times. He deserved a defining role separate from Mr Darcy, and with A Single Man I think he found it. Its a tour de force performance in what otherwise can't be called more then an intriguing film. Director Tom Ford clearly worked very hard on his visual style and at times it can be breathtaking, and the film had some promise, with a very strong first forty minutes or so, but it doesn't quite keep up with the quality in its latter stages.

The film follows a day in the life of George Falconer (Firth) an English professor, stuck in a figurative paralysis of grief after the death of his long time partner Jim (Matthew Goode). Finding almost every movement and thought a struggle. I think in the first half-hour of the film, Firth has very little on screen dialogue, the film relying basically on voice-over and his reactionary silence to carry the film. And Firth is simply amazing in these scenes, communicating his huge sense of loss in every move he makes, doing so much by doing so little. The visuals of the film are most impressive here too, with Ford confidently displaying a clear an often astounding visual style. But the problem with a film being so suffocatingly stylized is that by a half hour of a similar thing, it has lost its impact to wow you yet the film doesn't redirect its focus to the story, instead bombarding you with more visuals, which in themselves seemed to get increasingly throwaway. It would have been nigh on a classic if Ford had allowed the second half of the movie to shift away from the camera department and onto Firth where it surely belonged. I think Ford did want to tell a character story and he did succeed in some ways, but its clear where his film-making priorities lie. On a more textual note, the movie took a couple of unwelcome diversions in its latter half which seemed to detract from the strength of the film. There was a particularly disposable scene with a male prostitute, while not bad on its own, just seemed to be there to hold up the narrative and it showed. Whilst I found Julianne Moore's lush to be a bit of an under-developed caricature. I love Moore, but I find myself a little disappointed by her here. Matthew Goode does good work as the messianic dead boyfriend, and is an actor that is more at home in this kind of thing then in say, Watchmen.

But all this is irrelevant and because of how good Firth is in it, it becomes something to see. If Ford can perhaps be less oppressive with his visual style, he is a director with some promise and this is a smart, impressively intelligent debut.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 11 February 2010

REVIEW: The Wolfman

This movie was exactly what I expected it to be. Re-edited and re-shot to be a miracle of inoffensiveness, its a bland, shell of a movie merely hinting at what could have been. Just in case you don't know the spiel that goes with the making of this movie, a talented and innovative director named Mark Romanek was hired to give a brand new take on the age old Universal horror property, The Wolfman. The movie world gets excited. Universal however get some cold feet, and try to reign in Romanek's supposedly darker, more intense vision to the point where he up and quits, leaving them no choice but to hire professional yes man Joe Johnstone. The rest is soon to be forgettable history.

Benico Del Toro stars as the titular lycan, bitten by a fellow wolf when he comes home to tend to his recently consumed brother's affairs. relatively tame carnage ensues. The frustrating thing is there's a better movie here. The twisted, monstrous family dynamic is far the large part sidelined in favor of action and cool trailer shots. The movie tells no story, we just go aimlessly from scene to scene. And this would even be OK for an action movie, if that's the way you have to tell it, if the sodding action was any good. But ladies and gentleman it is lame. Very tame, an over-reliance on ironic deaths, which is trying of the best of times, but when someone says ' and if I'm wrong I'll fly out that window' and is promptly thrown out the window, a line has been crossed guys. Its forced, funny in a bad way and just generally shitty really. The movie also pulled that age old PG-13 horror movie trick of all the victims being middle-aged men, because focus groups find their deaths the least horrifying see. Then there's the amateurish opening, which felt like something of Supernatural, of a guy wondering around in the woods shouting 'Who's there' and 'show yourself'. Then there's an onslaught of shitty dream sequences, one of which makes an allusion t American Werewolf In London. Well done guys, you just reminded me how shit your movie really is. But all these criticisms, I think, amount to directorial hackery, of which Johnstone is certainly guilty. The performances, while not great, were at least not groan inducing to watch.

I did feel a little sorry for Del Toro, not acting in the movie he signed up to act in, and he comes across a little distant, with moments hinting at something more. Anthony Hopkins however, knows how to act in this kind of movie. Unlike most actors, I actually enjoy Hopkins more when he clearly doesn't give a shit, because he has almost made an art out of disinterested hamming. Just as he was the best thing in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula by being entirely batshit whilst everyone else took it seriously, he is similarly good value here. Despite some awful dialogue. Emily Blunt is an actress I like a lot, but it is a horribly thin role, ditto Hugo Weaving, although he made the best of it.

To conclude, a very disappointing movie. Painfully compromised and timid. Avoid.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

OMFA Awards: Best Cinematography

I would be an understatement to say I have questionable authority to discuss cinematography. I'm a story guy. I go the the movies primarily for the writing and the acting and while I can appreciate when something looks good, its the failing I'm most likely to forgive if things don't go quite right. So believe me, if you disagree with this list you're probably right. I am basing my decisions here on the memory of " Wow, that looks awesome!"

10) Gary Shaw, Moon

I did love this movie, But its calm, almost quiet visual style certainly added to it. I think its pretty difficult not to make space look awesome, but I think this movie was shot a little more interestingly then the usual space-set crowd.

9) Trent Opaloch, District 9

I think it went for this film because of the way it shot its action sequences. It would have been easy for this movie to shroud them in shaky-cam impenetrability, given its occasional faux-documentary format but it didn't and I thank it for that. Plus the whole thing looked pretty awesome anyway.

8) Mauro Fiore, Avatar

Yes, this movie is immature, silly and very badly written but credit where credit is due. It looks amazing. That's what this is all about right. Its gazillion Oscars will be pretty much down to this guy.

7) Roger Deakins, A Serious Man

Deakins, whose made more Coen Brothers movies the John Goodman has kind of become the world's premier cinematographer and rightly so. His visuals are part of what makes the Coen brothers off-kilter worlds work. A Serious Man is no exception, and this film looks unmistakably beautiful.

6) Rodrigo Prieto, Broken Embraces

Despite this being a slightly below par Almodovar movie, like nearly all of his work. Its looks fantastic. I doubt anyone had furthered the cause of great production design and cinematography in recent years more then this guy and Broken Embraces has enough visual pazazz to allow a fair amount of people to ignore the weaker writing.

5) Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker

Because he gave us the above scene, the conclusion to which is one of the most unforgettable images of cinema. Full stop. But the rest of the movie feels brutally real, largely thanks to the verite style in which it is shit. We are there in the moment, and while that is a description to fit many movies, it rarely has felt more truthful.

4) Roger Deakins, Revolutionary Road

Deakins again. It's kind of ridiculous this guy hasn't won an oscar yet isn't it. I think he has eight nominations and zilch going, which is pretty impressive in itself. Anyway, he does excellent work in this film, maybe more so then A Serious Man because the style so perfectly fits the mood and the point of the film.

3) Lance Acord, Where The Wild Things Are

Acord's work in this film is pretty textual, so I'm gona love it. The setting made to look so wondrous and lively at first, seems to be short with a state of increasing coldness and disparity as the movie progresses. Love it.

2) Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

To be honest I didn't much care for this film either, but I believe this category should be for the best, and not just the best of the films I like. Because Benjamin Button did look astounding. At times truly beautiful and its a shame that the rest of the film couldn't keep up with the work being done by this particular department, but it sure didn't.

1) Robbie Ryan, Fish Tank

Which brings me to one, and I'm going to be all radical with my choice. Rather then capture imaginary worlds or nature at its most beautiful, this film captures a particularly dank part of London. But part of what makes Andrea Arnold such a great director is her and her DOP's ability to find such beauty in what is superficially so ugly. So much is done with so little. Its near genius it is.

Lost: What Kate Does

Ah, the Kate episode. From Born To Run to Left Behind to Eggtown they all suck, traditionally shitty, boring place-fillers even when they are supposed to be important. And while this episode did have some interesting stuff, none of it involved the main storyline which was as dry as hell.



- Continuing the super-exciting (sarcasm, all droll like) adventures of fugitive Kate. She does a bit of running and then runs into Claire who has a birthing fake out.

- Ethan! Now a domesticated, super-friendly doctor. That was a nice touch I'll give them that.

- See, Kate is a good person really, because she gave the pregnant woman she hijacked her toy dolphin back.

- Guys don't just tell the same old story in a different reality, there a more exciting things to be done here. Disappointing.

- Jeff Kober! AKA Krilik from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, gave a solid two minute performance.

- I'll write it down to the Kate episode curse, but this has killed some of my buzz from the premiere. This off island stuff was so useless and if it stays like that this neat new trick is going to grow old quickly


- No Evil Locke, no Ben, no Alpert and no Desmond. Daring guys. Daring.

- The episodes best stuff involved our mysterious new others, Hiroyuki Sanada and John Hawkes and their interactions with Sayid and Jack. That torture scene was strong, even for this show.

- Again, liking season 6 Jack, totally rumbling the machinations of the Japanese medicine man.

- Josh Holloway has redeemed himself, and he sold his farewell Juliet speech, even with some trite writing.

- Evangeline Lilly was a particularly close book in this episode, making her character ever more unknowable. Subtlety is one thing, but not communicating what you are supposed to communicate is another. One of the weaker leading performances of the show I think.

- Aldo! AKA Mac from Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia. What a whiny bitch. Despite me liking this guy a lot in his show, I felt good when he got wasted.

- Episode body Count:
Aldo (Shot by psycho Claire)
random other (same fate)

- So they are finally getting to the sickness. Sayid has it, and its already got Claire who made quite the dramatic re-entrance into island goings on.

- A filler episode really. A modest step-back after the premiere. I hope its my most hated of the season

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 7 February 2010

OMFA Awards: The Ten Worst Performances Of 2009

In what has been a slightly unspectacular year for the movies, it seems only fitting that I begin my mammoth awards countdown with something so negative and derogatory. I am a blogger after all. So, the Ten Worst Performances of 2009 goes something like this.

10) John Cusack, 2012

Fuck you John Cusack. For whatever amount of millions you got paid to feature in what might be the ultimate apocalypse fetish movie, you could have a least phoned a performance in. But no, he is fine with appearing visibly bored with his own movie and Cusack makes no apologies for clearly thinking about his golf stroke whilst escaping super volcanoes. If there was ever a performance so cynically half-arsed it is an embarrassment to the profession, it is this.

9) Paul Rust, I Love You Beth Cooper

A movie that tried to capitalize on the geek-chic that's been floating around for the last couple of years, but through a sheer misunderstanding of why that culture his risen, is just pure shit. Geek culture rose because they were tired of being laughed at and humiliated, which this movie takes to mean they enjoy being laughed at and humiliated. Rust's performance is perhaps the epitome of this. He is unlikable and repulsive both in appearance and personality and is the kind of person who should deservedly die alone. Rust is a large contributor to the character taking this turn, as the guy over sells the dweeb of it horribly, leaving the audiences of the world no choice but to not see this movie, and the ones who did lament them their wisdom.

8) John Turturro, Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen

Turturro. How could you do this to me. You were Jesus fucking Quintana for fuck's sake. It's hard to be appear obnoxious in a Transformers movie, since nearly everything is so inadequate. But Turturro manages it, joining the movie half way through and proceeds to be over the top in a way that nobody enjoys but him. It doesn't help that he has Michael Bay worthy dialogue to spout, but nonetheless this is shockingly bad form Turturro. You best make another Coen brothers film soon, to redeem yourself and those that watch you.

7) Vince Vaughn, Couples Retreat

Vince Vaughn has gone from an actor I liked, to an actor that disappointed me to an actor that now angers me with his presence. The sarcastic asshole bit that once seemed so vital and hilarious now seems so douchey and resigned. This guy doesn't give performances anymore, he reads half-baked one-liners off cue-cards. And in couples retreat, a movie that didn't really need his help to be depressing, he gives a performances so utterly run of the mill and invisible, I'd mark him down as a no talent has been if I hadn't seen what he can actually do. But Swingers seems like it came from another dimension now.

6) Rachel Nichols, GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra

The fact that ten minutes after I left GI Joe, I couldn't remember what Rachel Nichols face looked like tells you all you need to know about Rachel Nichols in GI Joe. Just look a the picture for fuck's sake. Military fetishware. Its the kind of submissive, charisma-less, willfully objectified performance that gets feminists all riled up. I don't think the makers of GI Joe planned for this, but by casting such a talentless 'actress' like Nichols instead of someone who looked as good but could at least act a little bit, you know to keep us critics happy, they did themselves no misogynistic favors. Nichols is the worst kind of bland and forgettable.

5) Everyone, The Spirit

Just because this movie came out on January 3rd doesn't mean its awfulness should be forgotten. Frank Miller may be a great graphic novelist, but as far as the movies go he's got nothing. Clearly more concerned with the ridiculously overcooked look of this movie, he clearly just let the male actors do their thing and was too busy leering at his actresses with his camera to pay much attention to them. There's the criminally OTT Samuel L Jackson and horribly ineffectual Gabriel Macht, and then we've got Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson who get ogled to the point where even as a red-blooded teenage male I was offended by it. Some-sub TJ Hooker acting here.

4) Christopher Eccleston, GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra

Well that was unfortunate. I want to like Christopher Eccleston, he has done some interesting work. But he can be fucking terrible. His villain in gone in sixty seconds springs to mind. Well that Manc tosser gets toppled by James McCullen, a villain for the embarrassing villain hall of fame. First off Eccleston struggles with the Scottish accent. So, dodgy accent, check. He spouts things like 'I've finally taken my place in the long line of McCullens!" when his face turns silver. I know that family lineage would be my first thought if my face turned silver. Then we've got Eccleston's manic/dweeb shtick, which can work in certain circumstances, but not when you are supposed to be a badass arms dealer. Just no.

3) Megan Fox, Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen

I didn't hate Jennifer's Body quite as much as the rest of the world, although I will concede its hardly a great movie, but there's no defending Megan in this really. Even if I'd like to. If you muted all of her lines I really don't think it would matter that much, to the viewer or to Michael Bay. He just points the camera six degrees south of her face and thinks of Los Angeles. Fox though, was at least a semi tough chick in the first movie, here all the bite and feisty is gone, leaving just submissive disinterest. Fox isn't a great actress, but Fox not trying all that hard is something to see in its awesome terribleness.

2) Eli Roth, Inglourious Basterds

The only performance here from a good movie, but there really is no excuse for this. Tarantino should have learned from the times he cast himself in movies. He didn't, and casting his friend didn't go much better. Roth has no idea what he is doing and calling him amateur would be an insult to the word. He just doesn't get it. My favorite scene of Roth awfulness is when he's opposite Christoph Waltz' Landa, surely one of the best performances of the year, and Waltz only just contains his laughter at someone so shit being allowed in the movie. " Excusi." No. Shut the fuck up Eli.

1) Kristen Stewart, Twilight: New Moon

So to number one, and it breaks my heart to do this because I do like Kristen Stewart as an actress, and she was excellent in this year's Adventureland. But fair is fair, she was a horror show in New Moon, full of unintentionally hilarious moments of badness. From getting distracted from her lines by her co-stars six-pac abs to her ever-present awkwardness at having to express emotion. She is not meant for gushing, openly gooey romantic material like this. I don't think the worse of her and am sure she'll do great work in the future once Twilight is all done and dusted. But her sheer level of badness in these movies well, while it lasts, its one for the books.

Next Week's Movies

The Wolfman: This movie has been delayed more times then is hilarious, and for that I am curious to see exactly how much of a disaster it ends up being. Maybe it will actually be good. Lol. Expectancy Level: 5/10

A Single Man: Directorial debuts of fashion designers rarely does cinematic gold make, but given the hype around this one and in particular Colin Firth, I go in with optimism. It will at least look good I'm sure. Expectancy Level: 7/10

Valentine's Day: Man does this look like balls. If I don't O.D on portmanteau schmaltz, there's always Ashton Kutcher to see me through. Good actors in this movie be ashamed. Expectancy Level: 4/10

Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief: Kids don't you be stealing no lightning. Don't you do it. Oh and by the way this movie clearly sucks. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Ponyo: The New Miyazaki. Looks quite a lot like old Miyazaki to be honest. After Howl's Moving castle it looks very much like this guy has a case of the diminishing returns. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Food Inc: Documentary about the farming industry and how corporations are such assholes. Expetancy Level: 7/10

That is a humbling amount of movies.

REVIEW: The Princess And The Frog

Returning to practical animation was pretty much the only thing for Disney to do at this point. Pixar has so monopolized CGI film-making both financially and more importantly in terms of quality. Other entries into the sub-genre are either awful or kids films that don't pretend to be anything else. But the Princess And The Frog almost recaptures that marvelous sense of wonder that pervades most if not all of Disney's intimidating archive. The nostalgia is operating an all cylinders here, from the songs to the storyline, it all seems to be Disney saying ' hey remember the time when we were awesome ', but in a good way.

The plot follows Tiana a waitress in what I assume is 1920's New Orleans, working long hours to save money to buy her own restaurant a dream she's held since childhood. Then there's Prince Naveen, a broke royal from a faraway land who has come to America to marry money. Naturally, dude gets turned into a frog by magic man Dr. Facilier and accidentally turns Tiana into one too when trying to restore his humanity. Swamp-set hijinks ensue. The film is hardly original, and I'm pretty sure every single narrative and emotional beat on display here has been in a disney film of some sort. But like I said, the plot itself is so generic it almost doesn't matter. This is an animated statement crying out for a simpler time. No heart-breaking emotional journeys here. But the vibrancy of the film is its saving grace. Jazz age New Orleans is a great setting for a disney movie, and all the energy and music work well for the atmosphere, even if the movie shows the same exaggerated attitude to it as Live And Let Die. Facilier, also known as the shadow man, is a great 2-D villain, brilliantly voiced by cult movie living legend Keith David, is admittedly a black voodoo stereotype, but a well executed one and that's all you want from a disney villain isn't it? The lead female is pleasingly empowered too, and not the whiny little pushover we've come to expect from this kind of thing.

For me once we left the city for the swamps, the whole thing became slightly less interesting. With some unfortunate hillbilly stereotypes and grating dialogue, it lacked the visual wonder and adventure of the human orientated action and for me the movie kind of derailed there. But look, its a kids movie. It looks great. Its very saccharine and allows you to leave with a big artificial grin on your face. But it doesn't reach the level of artistry in say Snow White or The Jungle book. It just reminds you of it.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Lost: LA X

I'm not going to write a full review of each Lost episode, otherwise this place will be consumed by all things Lost. So I'll just bullet-point some reactionary thoughts to what I made of it all.


- Flash-sideways seems to be the name of the game, and we've got two realities progressing simultaneously. On island (where they didnt change anything) and off island (where the plane never crashed)

- A pretty awesome season opener. Plenty of twisty shit and a lot happened, but they kept the focus mostly on the long-term characters. Jack, Locke, Sawyer and Kate are who its been about since the beginning and each had a major part in this episode.

- Still think the black smoke is crappy CGI, but liked the scene anyway. Kind of guessed it, but New Locke being smoke monster is quite cool.

- Speaking of which, am loving evil Locke and Terry O Quinn brought his game to this episode. The scene he shared with Jack at the airport and even more his Evil-Locke giving dead Locke a eulogy to the humbled Ben were some of the best pieces of acting this show has ever seen. Plus the dropping of Richard via ethereal kung-fu. I mean come on.

- I liked Jack in these episodes a bit more then I used to, particularly in the off island time line. I haven't been Matthew Fox's biggest fan through the years but he's maturing in the role.

- The 'You got it blondie' line totally ruined Juliet's death. What a shocking clunker. And as much as I like Josh Holloway, that was fucking awful man.

- Speaking of which, notable deaths in this episode:
Sayid (for about ten minutes)
Bram ( That dude got fucked up. Impaled by bad CGI is a hell of a way to go)

- Loved the scenes on the plane. Nostalgic heaven. Boone! Arzt! Charlie etc.

- The new others are quite cool too, although a little one dimensional. But that's necessary with so little time left. Hiroyuki Sanada and John Hawkes are both actors I enjoy and are good additions to the show.

- I like that this season is setting up to be a straight up good vs evil thing. I think the final year should and has to be simpler then previous in order to cram everything in.

- Glad Sayid got resurrected. Dude is awesome.

- Very good set-up episode, well written, set out the structure of this new year clearly and promises to take this show to some interesting places.

REVIEW: Youth In Revolt

This movie kind of charmed me and got on my nerves at the same time. But while the ratio was tipped toward the latter at first, as the movie progressed it got steadily more creative, energetic and interesting, and as a consequence I think I have more good things to say about it then bad. There are a lot of usings of the word pretentious in regards to this movie and I'm not really going to argue with that. Teenage characters idolize the French New Wave, animated sequences appear entirely superfluously and it uses long, thesaurus worthy words in casual conversation and not in a relatable Tarantino kind of way. But maybe its because I can make peace with pretentious above many other failings, or maybe because this its a confidently executed, often hilarious movie that is a teen comedy with almost an overflow of ideas, I don't think I've ever said that before, that for me was good enough to overcome indie familiarity.

The film follows virginal teen Michael Cera attempting to woo the awesomely named actress Portia Doubleday in increasingly unhinged and sociopathic ways. That's pretty much all the plot on offer, and there's some solid support from a variety of famous names and strong character actors. Zach Galifinakis, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart and Fred Willard turn in nice supporting performances. Justin Long is OK playing a stoner brother, but the character feels a little stock for this kind of thing and serves no real purpose to it. Doubleday, as much as this movie wouldn't like you to think, is pretty much your stock manic pixie dream girl (A movie blogger term to mean ridiculously perfect and rut-busting object of desire). That's all the movie tells us about her and almost all that matters.

So, to the Cera issue. There has been a backlash against him, saying that he's a little one-note and plays the same character in everything. I wasn't disagreeing. He created a schtick far too specific and over-used, but he has worn some of my cynicism away in this movie. The kid can act, and at times here, delivers a really excellent performance. Only at times mind you. The central Nick character is Cera stock and trade, and for the first half hour he was just doing what he always did, but once the alter-ego Francois was introduced (don't ask) Cera did something he'd never done before. He played confidence! It was crazy. Even crazier, he found a new lease of life as Francois, showing range and even talent beyond what we are familiar with, and if all's fair his work in Youth and Revolt should buy him back a fair amount of support. After this I've gone from believing him to be a flavor of the month to someone I could see being around for a while.

I enjoyed the writing, but I can see why people would not. Is very written, and there's an elitism amongst the creativity, but the very fact that its central point that young love is in fact ridiculous in its very nature is for me a subtly cynical approach to romance. Its not a masterpiece, but it is constantly trying to be something and the energy more then compensates for the occasional cheap joke or misfiring logic. Director Miguel Arteta also gives a great account of himself and despite mediocre work prior to this film, he's found a verve of some sort here. A flawed but funny in its design, a relatively unique teen movie worth seeing.

Rating: 7/10