Thursday, 27 May 2010

REVIEW: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

Because critics won't hit a movie with glasses in the face.

Jerry Bruckheimer has a great method for pre-empting a franchise. It's called the cunning use of the colon in titles, or the paradigm of the Black Pearl if you will. See Prince of Persia is the brand name, and Sands Of Time is what this particular movie is concerned with. With the colon suggesting that this is one of many adventures to be had with everyone's favorite turn of the AD Arabian time-traveler. Coming out of Prince of Persia, you're not angered, disappointed, surprised, satisfied, irritated, pleased, upset or anything really. Its just two hours of pure ambivalence, something you can see, maybe mildly enjoy and then cleanse from your memory. Its so light and superficial with everything that it does that's its a hard movie to hate. I can't get angry about this the same way I got angry with Iron Man 2, because what would be the point. It knows it already.

Yet with hindsight, maybe I should work real hard and force myself to be angry, because Prince Of Persia is so afraid of any alienating anybody that it literally does nothing. Coasting on a timid familiarity that feasts on the the mindset of the casual viewer, whilst cowering in the corner from critics, making the argument that because it didn't even try to be a good movie, it shouldn't be criticized for being a bad one. And for lots of us, this reasoning plays. Particularly for the sniffier critics, who usually appreciate mainstream movies pleading innocence by stupidity. It keeps everything so wonderfully in its place, doesn't it? I mean leave the good stuff to fucking Tarkovsky, and let the riff-riff eat cake, so to speak. But its an argument I tire of hearing, because in any genre, I want to see movies do gutsy things, do ambitious things and for the love of god at least try to be as good as they can be. So fuck Prince Of Persia and its inoffensiveness, because I know I'd rather see a movie that pissed me off then one not worth talking about at all, which this movie really is. To its core.

I guess I should talk about some stuff that happened in the movie, because after all that is what we do here. I was thoroughly disappointed by how adequate Jake Gyllenhaal's accent was. The trailer promised something notorious and this was part of the reason I was going. This is some Bullshit. He didn't sound like Don Cheadle at all. Far more painful, I think, was his and Gemma Arterton's attempts at banter, which was clearly after some kind of Han Solo/Princess Leia fireworks, but to say that it fell short would be to make a gross understatement. People keep telling me how great Arterton is, but I'm still firmly in the believe it when I see it camp, because right now she's being bad in a lot of bad movies. Ben Kingsley plays a villain slightly more memorable then the Hood in Thunderbirds ( Boy was that a travesty) and Alfred Molina kindly channels Del Boy as an Arabian outlaw. Which is a lot less awesome then it sounds.

Incidentally, I think every single Arabian character, big or small, was played by a white guy, so there's that. Which some might deem to be uncool. Anyway I have better things to do then continue about this penny sweet of a movie, so fuck Jerry Bruckheimer, and fuck the continual curse against video game to movie adaptations. Someone try Metal Gear Solid for fuck's sake.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 21 May 2010

Lost: What They Died For - Locke Will Cut A Bitch

Straight back into it then, as I continue a mental rinse and repeat to wash last week's horror-show from my memory. I don't think I'll ever be able to. Golden glowing caves? I didn't realize I was watching The Legend Of the Seeker. Anyways, What They Died For returns things to where they should be for the most part and a few mythological crossovers aside continues as if last week had never existed.


- Desmond continues to do his Morpheus thing, freeing the minds of those stuck in a world where they don't belong.

- Great scene with Locke and Jack, in which Locke is rediscovering the man of faith within. That was awesome, and perhaps what has felt so lacking about season 6 is the lack of the real John Locke. As much as I enjoy seeing Evil Locke walking around being badass and killing people, actual Locke was such a crucial ingredient to the success of the show that his absence is felt.

- The scene in the police vehicle was kind of hilarious, as Desmond informs fellows prisoners Kate and Sayid that he's got a plan to free them. Sayid actually made a joke, and that hasn't happened in the longest time.

- I'm glad Sawyer didn't let Kate go just because she batted her eyes at him. That would have been lame and something this show is certainly capable of.

- Played again like the flash-sideways of The Last Recruit, just kind of shifting things into position. No standout moments per say but everything zipped along nicely.


- Same as the flash-sideways really, but with more intensity. What happened here really did happen to make next week's finale more awesome, but due to its sheer dynamism and lack of baggage it was one of the more enjoyable, shit gets done episodes of Lost.

- After being in the cooler for three episodes, Ben makes a vital return. Settling a long-held island grudge and refinding his evil ways after his temporary redemption in Dr Linus. I'm pleased they did this however, because frankly I didn't want to see Ben redeemed he's done too much evil stuff and as much as I have enjoyed these things, I look forward the the cathartic feeling his death will bring too, and I'm not going to enjoy it if he's all redeemed and shit. Speaking of which...

- Body Count

RIP Zoe - Yeaaah! That was awesome. I love when Lost realizes when character's are both reviled and pointless and kills them in awesomely self-referential ways. This week, Zoe gets her throat slit by evil Locke, culminating in the line.

" You told her not to talk to me and that made her pointless."

Well yes she was evil Locke, yes she was.

RIP Charles Widmore - Widmore was essentially a stand-in for the mythology. He had little identity of his own and was a fairly generic rich douchebag. Still at least he died in a way that meant something, getting repeatedly capped by Benjamin because ' he doesn't get the chance to save his daughter.' Ben the iceman is back, ladies and gentleman.

I'm not even going to pretend to write an obituary for Richard, because this is just Desmond falls down a well over again, this guy simply isn't dead. Watch. He may be dying, but there's more of Richard to come I'm sure.

- What's worth noting is that Miles is still around, long since he had anything resembling relevance. Part of me kind of hopes he makes it, just because I kind of the guy and if a glorified extra is going to surivive, I hope its Miles.

- Ben has officially subbed for Sayid as Evil Locke's sidekick.

- Meanwhile, over at the alpha-team. Jack, Hurley, Kate and Sawyer mourn Sayid, Jin and Sun in about thirty seconds, before running into ghost Jacob, whom after a forced Q&A session says that one of these guys has to be the new island guardian, because he's all dead and stuff. Anyone want to guess who volunteered? My man Jack.

- To quote Sawyer. ' I thought he already had a God complex.'

- So Jack drinks from the magical river stream, back in Xena territory, and is told that now the golden glowy cave of fuck you will be revealed to him.

- And of our heroes go to kill Evil Locke, whilst off Evil Locke goes to destroy the island. I think this will happen.

- Despite the sarcasm at the lame mystical stuff, I generally enjoyed this episode. Particularly the Ben and Locke stuff. Next week's the finale. What can I say?

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Breaking Bad: Kafkaesque - Respecting The Strategy

I will be interested what the reaction will be when this season of spectacular television ends. Right now, the consensus view seems to be its an occasionally mesmerizing but slightly inconsistent year, with lots of viewers particularly objecting to the opening four episodes focusing on dark family drama as opposed to the gangster super-arc. I understand this objection I guess, and one could make the argument that this season has been a little tonally inconsistent. But the reason I don't care is that its also been so fucking good.

- Always subverting expectation in character and plot, and providing us with several of the best character arcs TV has ever known. Just look at what season 3 has done with both Hank and Skylar, turning both from relatively inconsequential characters of necessity, and its all done with such elegance and skill. I love this show.

- This week began with a fairly mind-blowing cold-open, which did two unique things awesomely. It began as a commercial for Pollos Chicken and then sublimely morphed into a God's eye view of the Meth assembly line, going from Walt and Jesse's lab to the Pollos Chicken delivery trucks. A great idea wonderfully executed.

- Kafkaesque seems to be in many ways a set things in motion episode, and yet still managed to be one of the strongest hours of the year, which speaks well for the final four. The show seems to run in cycles of four episodes, with the first 4 dealing with Skylar and Walt, he second four dealing in the spellbinding tension of the Hank storyline, and the final five I would imagine, will deal with the erosion of the Walt and Gus partnership, no doubt largely thanks to Jesse. Who true to form, may have begun the inevitable fucking shit up train in motion this week.

- Not content with the measly 1.5 million he gets whilst fat cat Gus takes in 96 a year, he gives Walt some shit, complaining that he doesn't appreciate things being so messed up ' fairness-wise'.

- " Let me get this straight. You're a millionaire, and you're complaining?"

- Apparently he is, and sets to restarting his own side-operation, by skimming of the top of Gus' batch. I'm sure that will end well. Digging his strategy of spreading the word via his NA support group though, even after his particularly soulful and moving story about his woodshop box.

- One of the best scenes of exposition in history happened here, and while these scenes are usually a chore to watch, their use of it here, having Walt lay out Gus plan executed in the last episode for the benefit of the slower members of the audience did double duty as a great Walter moment, showcasing the awesome intellect that some viewers may have forgot he possessed, and earning him more respect from Gus. Cranston owned that shit.

- Another great skylar moment this week, in which she volunteered Walt to pay for Hank's treatment, and then span a fairly awesome yarn about how Walt had won his millions gambling, rather then meth-dealing. It's kind of ridiculous but Anna Gunn is the fourth actor on this show deserving of an emmy nomination, behind Norris, Paul and Cranston. Breaking Bad is the best acted show on television. Full stop. Screw you Mad Men fans.

- The Table leg. Awesome

- Another strong, confident episode which showed in immense understanding of character whilst still being engaging and exciting. Bring on the Rian Johnson episode.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 17 May 2010

REVIEW: Robin Hood

I was about ready to write a passively antagonistic review, all about how this Robin Hood is kinda OK, but lacking in any kind of discernible magic or sense of fun. Gritty and grimy is OK, but not for a movie otherwise as dopey and unappetizing as this. The shit could have at least been a 2 hour 27 minute ride, but instead its just Gladiator meets Sherwood Forest, with all the intrigue, excitement and pathos of that movie taken away. Leaving anything that's just middling.

At least that's what I was going to say, before I had the misfortune of discovering that this Robin Hood cost 225 million dollars. Now there is and for certain will be more expensive movies, but at least they have the decency to put that money up on the screen. Robin Hood doesn't look fraction of that, and given that this is a movie with a budget only 60 million behind Avatar, shit really should have looked better then this. I guess its a minor complaint in the context of the movie, but in the context of sanity, it seems like a big deal, no?

No? Well How about this the. The grave, self-worth that Robin Hood constantly bestows on itself, as if wanted to be a movie legitimately worth thinking about and listening to, just doesn't justify when compared to the finished product, a half-baked, kind of dull action movie saved by a cast it doesn't deserve and perhaps the ultimate director for hire, Ridley Scott. But even he looks a little Lost here, with styles looking a little too familiar and, to put it simply, tired. This movie looks like it was made by a man whose soul is not really in it, and this rings a little too broadly of the great director of late. The battle scenes in particular were just boring, free of any vibrancy or viscera. Or an encyclopedia of the letter V, possessed by only Joey and me. Crowe, who as people have said, is a little too old and out of shape for the role, is entirely charmless. As he always has been really. What he does bring though, is the same quiet intensity that made him such a big deal in the first place. He's on autopilot, sure, but it passes. Blanchett does her English Scarlet O hara thing, even though she's Australian, and is good but has played this role before in more engaging films then this one. Agora's Oscar Isaac is pretty much ridiculous as Prince John and Mark Strong, in what must be his 6th villain of the year already, is for better or worse the same as he always is. Occasionally forgettable, occasionally cutting and deadpan.

This Robin Hood passes the time, but for who and what was involved, it's a smug, clunky misfire of portentousness. Yeah. It seems ridiculous that a movie making 100 million can be considered a flop, but that's surely what will happen. And since Robin Hood is such a thoroughly unenjoyable experience by design, even people who like it won't want to see it again. Man this looks to be a depressing summer.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Lost: Across The Sea - Dead Man Smoking

In some ways, the bottom just fell of Lost forever. The show may still have awesome finale and end its characters stories all well and good, but Lost the enigma, Lost the chasm of mystery; well that turns out to be bullshit. Because if Across The Sea tells us anything, its that yes, after all this, these guys were essentially making it up as they went along. This 'mythology' episode, which exists solely to give us answers essentially, is so hackneyed, so labored and so dense, it just reeks of writerly frustration, forced by popular demand into giving answers they never really wanted to give and doing it pettily.

- And in doing so, an episode that is vitally important to the overall architecture of the show entirely misses the mark and ends up harming more then helping. So the mysteries of the island boils down to shitty CGI golden light? That you don't even explain? Fuck you.

- The explanation of the frozen donkey wheel was also a complete washout, 'me and my friends have built a device that channels the energy' er, how does it do that again?

- The writing for this episode was outright awful. The archaic dialogue was worthy of Shyamalan's The Village, and there was so many bad lines it was difficult to count. All in all it just felt like a trite, inconsiderate way to explain away the show's magical elements, something that post season 1, it has never been comfortable with. Everything is just a Macguffin in place of a Macguffin, and its just demoralizing.

- Then there's the whole Anakin Skywalker paradigm, in which the show takes two shrouded god-like characters, both kinda awesome and turns them into sulky teenagers. Epically flooring their legacy forever. Some things we don't want to see guys, seriously no back-story is better then half-assed shite back-story. Jacob in particular, the man who so many have died for and seemingly meant so much to everything, is in fact a bitch who does everything he does for love of his mommy. In spite of her murderous insanity.

- She told him to his face that she murdered his real mum, and what does he do? Not care. Because he's a drone for his mummy.

- Speaking of which Allison Janney's mother character was surefire miscasting wasn't it? Feeling awkward and out of place, Janney seems uncomfortable with the Lost dialogue, to which there is an art in delivering without sounding like a total douche. Similarly the character is rushed and inconsistent, is she mother earth, or just an early 1st century version of Rousseau? They don't really decide, and I have no idea what story they were trying to tell with her.

- If anything, the slight saving grace of the episode would be the Man In Black bits, and I did like Titus Welliver's performance, in spite of the bad dialogue and scenarios. He at least brought something to his character, which I certainly appreciated in an episode as otherwise clunky as this.

" If I answer you're questions it will just lead to more questions." Fuck you show.

- And as for the intercut Adam and Eve sequence, words do not describe the patronization. Awful.

- This feels like a lot of whining, which it is. Because Lost's mystery baiting was only ever going to be worth it with a satisfying final chapter, a great fucking payoff. But after this, which for me would be one of the worst, most obnoxious episodes in its entire run, I'm far from convinced that this is something we're going to get.

- Golden light is the new midichlorians.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

7 Question Movie Meme - But My Critical Anonymity!

Nicholas at the righteous blog Cinema Romantico tagged me for this internet meme, in which internet movie bloggers cast aside their respective veils of facelessness and answer seven questions about how the movie fan in them came to be. And continued to be I guess, since some of the questions are in the present tense. Way to muck up my open, tenses. Screw it, let's do this confessional style.

1) What Was Your First Movie Going Experience?To the best of my recollection, it would have been The Lion King, when I was four. I remember enjoying myself, eating Pic and Mix and thinking Timon and Pumba were awesome. It was very passive though, since I my first love was football. I got seriously into movies around the age of 10 or 11.

2) How Many DVD's Do You Own?
I believe at last count it was 427, which is I gather is somewhere in the middle for movie bloggers. I should point out that I am only 20 though, and hopefully by my death (or DVD's becoming irrelevant) I hope for something in the level of several million. A modest guess.

3) What Is Your Favorite Guilty Pleasure Movie?
Well I've seen Face/Off an alarming amount of times, but that couldn't be a guilty pleasure because it's clearly so awesome. Maybe Dog Soldiers? Soldiers vs Werewolves and Sean Pertwee= Magic.

4) You Have Complied a list of Your Top 100 movies, Which Movies didn't Make The Cut?

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. That seemed to be roundly considered mind-blowingly awesome, topping about a zillion bet of the decade lists and stuff, but meh. I love Charlie Kaufman but this film presents to me the least interesting thing he's done. The Apartment. Granted I need to re-watch I think, but I was roundly underwhelmed the first time. Jules Et Jim, The Maltese Falcon, American Beauty probably (like it a lot, but would likely miss top 100.)

5) Which Movies Do You Compulsively Watch Over And Over Again?

Fight Club, which might be the biggest single reason I fell in love with movies and I've seen at least 40 times. The Big Lebowski, because is this you're homework, Larry? I Heart Huckabees is a film I've seen countless times and I can't really explain why I love it so much but I do. How I do. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly for sure. I'd be happy to watch that forever.

6) Classic You've embarrassed not to have seen yet?

Actually I'm doing pretty well for this, as in the last couple of years I've made a real effort to catch upon movie omissions. I guess the biggest remaining one which sends shivers down my spine is Sunset Boulevard. But I'm like totally on it.

7) What Movie Posters Hang On You're Wall?

Oh Yikes, this isn't going to look good. A big fat zero, for the reason that a movie poster on my wall would consume pretty much my entire living space, such is the grandiose nature of the place I currently call home. I had a Kill Bill, A Dark Knight and A Blade Runner in my previous place of residence though.

And we're done, and I go back to being the unknowable enigma that y'all depend on for pithy yet hilarious movie advice.

REVIEW: Nightmare On Elm Street

Michael Bay, in this life or the next, I will find a way to stop you. Not content with being possibly the most obnoxious movie director who ever lived (although I do like The Rock.), Michael Bay the producer takes pretty much every single great, generation defining horror movie from the 70's or 80's and remakes into a slick, vacuous gore fests. Which would be a dandy policy if Nightmare On Elm Street were say, a were say a Porsche Cayenne, but for a movie, a piece of storytelling this kind of pragmatic business model thinking is just a way to make a cheap 50 million on the back of the brand name, and fuck everything else. They remove the imagination, the ingenuity and everything that made it a genre defining movie and replace it with a black hole of meaningless slick.

I guess we're supposed to be grateful that this Nightmare On Elm Street still has an 18 rating, that there's still gore in it and stuff. But that is a small victory for those of us who actually love this genre and want to see what it can do. I'm not even opposed to a remake of Nightmare On Elm Street in theory. It's a film that isn't perfect, as inventive as it is, but the idea and its villain are so timeless that bringing it to another generation is something I would understand. Or even embrace. But not like this. Not like this. Because everything here is just so, lifeless. It's become just another slasher movie going through the motions, with a disposable teen cast and a forgettable grotesque villain. Because somehow, I don't even know how, they fucked up Freddy Krueger. Fucked him up good.

What separated Freddy from the army of franchised slasher villains is that he was hilarious. Far beyond the glorified zombies of Michael Myers and Jason and clan, Krueger, in large part due to Robert Englund's excellent performance, was the kind of scene stealing villain that you entirely route for, whether you should or not. Yet here, I don't know what the fuck is going on. There's been a lot of buzz about how Jackie Earle Haley's Freddy would be more serious, darker and more threatening. Well that's fine, if they'd gone all through with that, but its as if the writer and the director worked at cross purposes, because the zingers are all still here. Nearly throughout. Yet Haley plays them straight, which creates a bizarre tonal imbalance in the character. Haley has the occasional moment, but by and large he plays the whole thing Rorschach style, complete with growling Batman voice and combined with make-up that limits the character's expressiveness, it didn't sell me. To say nothing of the immense deal the film makes of the Krueger origin story, only to make it something so cliched and lame. The movie played around with an innocent man killed in such a horrific way it set his soul ablaze with vengeance for a bit, which I would have preferred, but then it cops out and says he was a creep already so its OK. So the guy came back from the afterlife and conquered conventional reality for what, because his molestation victims were ungrateful? Weak stuff.

So much so, that in the film's climax I found myself actually routing for the teenagers, against this giant of horror mythology. That really shouldn't happen. Not ever. Speaking of the teenagers, lead Rooney Mara, is blank-faced and generally kind of wooden. John Connor himself, Thomas Dekker, does a bit better but for those who loathed his whiny messiah on that ill-fated show, there's some cathartics here for you. The Shield's Kyle Gallner probably fares the best, creating a likable, intelligent character that you kind of root for. There's a cameos from the Awesome Clancy Brown, Carnivale's Brother Justin Crowe, and Connie Britton. But this was never going to be an actor's movie right?

I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, but an effective clever little shocker should have been within grasp here, but no just gore and jump scares, and I wasn't freaked out or scared to be honest in the slightest, the thing was just way too generic. Fucking Michael Bay.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Breaking Bad: I See You - The Smile Of The Chicken Man Is Telling

Perhaps by necessity, Breaking Bad took a bit of a chill pill this week. After three magnificently tense episodes, climaxing in the instant classic of One Minute, this is a contemplation episode, and frankly I'm happy to see it. It's what makes Breaking Bad the show that it is that its equally interested in complex drama, and quiet contemplation as it is its tension explosions. And while I See You will be nobodies favorite episode, it kept things ticking along nicely and allowed as to recover and re-assess after last week.

- I doubt any show, with the possible exception of The Wire, does the season like Breaking Bad does. Each yeah feels like a coherent story, with rises and falls in exactly the right places. People yak on about the possibilities of serialized television, but this show takes to its medium like a glove.

- So, after Hank's EPIC confrontation with the cousins last week, he's of course hospital bound. There was a sweet little scene with Jesse leaving as he arrived, and upon discovering the universe had taken its revenge on his behalf, his cold smile was fairly revealing as to the current status of his character. He may still make us laugh, as he does with his lab antics this week, but make no mistake there's a darkness to Jesse these days.

- I liked how we spent the entire episode in the hospital, because this show is all about consequences, and just as we spent an entire episode recuperating after the awesome 'Grilled', we do so here too in which the dramatic showdown comes not at the end but in the middle, and we see in great detail what happens after. It may frustrate a few people, but if you want a show to constantly rise until nothing means anything then go and watch Heroes.

- Some great small character moments tonight, from Walt adjusting the table leg to the bemusement of his family. And Skylar's knowing response to Walt's mystery phone call, as he made a feeble attempt to pretend it wasn't something gangstery, While the Marie fork thing was a bit forced, Cranston saved the scene with his follow up monologue about his operation, and the rather telling anecdote.

- " I survived this hospital, and I'm not half the man you're husband is."

- RIP The Cousins I guess, you're presence was short-lived but impactful. After one of them got rinsed by hank last week, the other lost his legs as a consequence of the confrontation. He didn't go without one more awesome scene of badassery however. After seeing Walt in his hospital doorway, he crawled across the room, his stumps leaving blood as they went until he was dragged away by the cops. Then he got killed by Mike The Cleaner, that great plot device of a character.

- I think the thing I liked the most about this week was the stuff orientated around Gus, in part because the character his thus far been orchestrating thinks from the sidelines, but we got a glimpse at the monster behind the politeness tonight, and he was an ice-cold mother-fucker. Esposito continues to own, and while expressing so little, communicates so much. It seems the chicken man set-up the cousins in the hope that he would free himself from his ties south of the border and go forth on his own. And he took care of the remaining loose end of the cartel boss who had Danny Trejo whacked, in a fairly Godfatherish way.

- And in regards to Walt, he let him know his bullshit won't fly here, as he saw through his lies in regards to why he wasn't cooking. And let him no how easily he could get to him and his family. This is a guy not to be messed with it seems. I wonder when Walt will realize what he's got himself into.

- All in all though, a quiet episode, and necessarily so after last week, that still managed to keep things moving , whilst providing more layers to its various characters. I'm pleased to see a couple of consecutive episodes of a calmer Walt too, letting the other people do the freaking out.

- Jesse blew up his chemical suit like a helium balloon.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 8 May 2010

REVIEW: Four Lions

Clearly not content with already being Daily mail enemy number one after his infamous (and hilarious) Brass Eye pedophile mockumentary. Now Chris Morris, entirely true to character, makes his movie directorial debut with a nice, breezy comedy about jihadist suicide bombers. Obviously. But Morris doesn't just seek out controversy for it's sake. There's a method in his assassination-baiting, and he always has something to say, and does so intricately, intelligently and most importantly, hilariously.

I'll say I was more then a little apprehensive about this movie's potential for xenophobia, in that it was going to be a film that ostensibly mocked Islam written by a bunch of western white guys. But thankfully, it's not just an ignorant free for all against Islam. It's knowledgeable enough about the culture to mock it with credulity and value. But with the inevitable political correctness panic all met with and addressed, I'll go on to say that Four Lions is one of the best British films I've seen in the last couple of years, probably since Fish Tank. ( Moon may be made with British Money etc, but since every character big and small is American, I wouldn't really say that it counts) Perhaps because it's main target is the culture and the delusions of the suicide bomber, and the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of the notion of martyrdom. These are suckers, and in all but one case - Nigel Lindsay's odious and ego-maniacal caucasian convert Barry, who is basically The Big Lebowski's Walter Sobchak if he were a Jihadi - well meaning and good human beings, most notably Omar (played terrifically by Riz Ahmed) who when not planning his own glorious martyrdom is being a loving husband and father and otherwise admirable human being. As funny as the film is, its the humanity of these characters that lends it the weight it needed to become something more then an off-color joke.

The film's climax amplifies all of this, in an ending so perfect and on point, in which they come to realize how ultimately pointless and ridiculous suicide their moment of supposed glory actually is. This is most notable in the character of Waj, who spends the most of the film being hilarious in a kind of peer-pressure cheerful delirium, but Kayvan Novak (E4's Fonejacker) lends the character such a tragic innocence in these final scenes that is moving in a way I had no expectation for it to be, and there are few more rewarding cinema experiences then that. Four Lions is very funny, but by blending its humor with its dark message and sense of humanity, it all worked so much better. It leaves you regretting that Morris hasn't been doing this kind of thing for the last ten years really.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: The Back- Up Plan

How to best verbalize the despair. It's better then Leap Year? Whereas that film left you wanting to massacre everyone in the Western world sequentially with a spoon, The Back-Up Plan left me only wanting to kill anyone directly associated with this particular piece of cinematic scum. Which I find to be life-affirming no? How the world can surprise you.

The film plays as if someone watched Knocked Up, removed anything that might make it conceivably funny, cast a female lead who's celebrity is based on a body part and a male lead who was on Moonlight. Moonlight people. Yeah. Jennifer Lopez, who before her fame really took off made some good movies, U-Turn and Out Of Sight come to mind, but since becoming an inverted commas movie star, she's been pretty ruthless in regards to churning out shite. But hey, I'm all about second chances, but Lopez, based on this at least doesn't really deserve one. Watching her trying to play neurotic is about as convincing as watching Schwarzenegger trying to play pensive. It's just unquantifiable. For a woman, who clearly hasn't experienced a moment of self-doubt in her existence, all the scattiness, all the shrill control-freak romantic comedy mainstays are somehow even more painful, and the performance condescending in its terribleness. Alex O Laughlin serves as the bland man-candy well enough I suppose, but fuck if I'm going to watch his remake of Hawaii 5-0 based on this shit, Jin from Lost or no Jin From Lost.

The studio romantic comedy is circling the drain. Every single one is contemptible and unfunny, and I don't know why this has to be. Sure there are genres I care about more, but for the last five years or so this entire genre is marginalizing itself into extremely degenerative guilty pleasure for women who's favorite movie of the year will be Sex And The City 2 (Compared to The Boys who look forward to taking in the subtleties of Prince Of Persia). And they think this kind of thing is crappy. Women are not stupid, so why does every Hollywood movie aimed at them act as if they were. It truly beguiles me.

Rating: 3/10

REVIEW: Hot Tub Time Machine

John Cusack's career is a frustrating thing, say post High Fidelity. To no-one more then him no doubt. But from my infinite well of wisdom I believe I have the solution. Cusack needs to play himself more in movies. As it is, when not apathetically collecting paychecks (2012), Cusack is forced into playing aged version's of his much beloved Say Anything persona. A kind of charming douchebag, who's outward assholism masks a wider faith in the world, be it either romantic or optimistic streak. Films like Serendipity, Must Love Dogs and America's Sweethearts fulfill the former, whilst 1408, Identity and now Hot Tub Time Machine the latter.

It's got to the point where Cusack is a more interesting presence on youtube then movies, in which every promotional interview he fuses with contempt, reluctance and prickly temper. Cusack does not suffer fools gladly, calling anyone on anything he deems to irritate him and he comes across as a very cynical man, who would love nothing more then to shove moviefone's inane questions up their ass. And in a world of sycophant movie star insincerity, this is kind of awesome. I say let Cusack the romantic hero die, and let this version of Cusack see some screen time. Maybe as a villain or in just some more complex stuff then he does of late, but I would definitely be more invested in this Cusack.

To be fair, Hot Tub Time Machine hints at this, but the movie basically begins by telling us he's a self-serving asshole and then goes on to redeem him, without us witnessing the crime. So whatever. Ironically Cusack is fairly invisible in this movie, in which he's the lead just because there had to be a lead. Enjoyment of this ultra-broad, ultra-silly comedy depends mostly on how you view the comedy stylings of David Koechner. Hitting every line, mannerism and inter-change at 200 miles an hour, there's almost an aggressive desperation in how he tries to be funny. But he lends the movie a bit more personality then it would have had otherwise, and he does kind of beat you into submission. Craig Robinson, so excellent in so many things but perhaps most so in Pineapple Express, does get a bit lost in the broadness here, and his usual deadpanning style is somewhat wasted. Still even B-grade Robinson is enjoyable and his presence in any and all movies he's in can only be a good thing. Clark Duke continues his rise to most employable fat sarcastic teen, and after his awesome but so very low-key turn in Kick-Ass, he's doing some good work.

But this is a stupid-ass movie, and was always going to be. The whole thing is a cheap overdone 80's reference. Right down to the casting of Crispin Glover, who in and of himself is an 8o's reference. Still I kind of liked the guy in this. You may have fun, in part because the title Hot Tub Time Machine sends you in with such low standards that anything that is not straight out awful you are grateful for.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Next Week's Movies

The Back-Up Plan: The Romantic comedy grostesquery continues, as the genre plunges further into the depths of hell with this J-Lo lead, sub Knocked Up movie. Co-starring Alex O'Laughlin people. Alex O' Fucking Laughlin. Expectancy Level: 2/10

Four Lions: It's seems almost cliched to call Chris Morris controversial at this point, but his latest comedy about hapless group of islamic extremists does nothing to buck that reputation. Looks amusing. Expectancy Level: 7/10

Furry Vengeance: FUCK YEAH. B-Fraze gets repeatedly hit in the balls by a bunch of raccoons. What else could you possibly want from a movie going experience. Expectancy Level: 3/10

Hot Tub Time Machine: With the whole Snakes On A Plane title thing going on, it may do OK, and it contains a number of actors I like, but seriously come on. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Nightmare On Elm Street: Clearly gonna suck. Insult memory of original. Waste two hours of my life. Balls. Expectancy Level: 4/10

Lost: The Candidate - Motherf***a's Be Dead


Wow, well that was some serious slate cleaning wasn't it? I count four series regulars biting it in a single episode, three of which were arund since the pilot. Well I asked for more deaths right?


- This week it was confined to Jack and Locke, after the free for all of last week. Although more specifically, it was kind of Locke's story told from Jack's POV.

- Of course I would rather have had Locke's story from Locke's POV, but watevs. Besides season 6 Jack has been much more tolerable then say, season 2/3 Jack. Sure he's just John Locke mark 2# the slightly less engaging version, but its my favorite version of this character.

- Two weeks with no Ben or Richard, and also no Desmond this week. I find it hilarious that miles is still alive.

- So Jack wanted to operate on Locke, and allow him to walk in this universe. But Locke was like thanks but no thanks. But Jack couldn't handle this because he's Jack, obvs. So he goes about investigating Locke's past.

- It wasn't a total waste of time. I enjoyed the Jack and Claire scene, Emilie De Ravin has always been ill-served by this show, and also the final Locke Jack scene, mostly for TOQ awesomeness.

- But not one of the most coherent flash-sideways. But it was OK


- In many ways it was another table-setter of an episode, but to the max. In many ways it went for action scene to action scene, which might it exciting, but not particularly emotionally resonant or anything, even with all these fucking deaths. Still I hollowly enjoyed proceedings

- So shall we get to the Obituaries then :)

- RIP Sayid, who went down somewhat suddenly, and with a mini-redemption. It seems that his encounter with Desmond (Who he didn't kill) somewhat resuscitated him out of his psycho zombie stupor. But let's take a moment for a great character and a great performance, often over-looked but always awesome. His stand-alone will in all probability be the best of the year. Naveen Andrews rules.

- RIP Sun and Jin. I know, right? It seems Lost decided that its finale will just contain white people, thus killed all of its asians in one fell swoop. (Jokes Miles is still about) Having now seen the conclusion to their on-island storyline, I see no reason Jin didn't die in the boat explosion back in season 4. It was more poignant and powerful then anything that followed. And definately a stronger way to go then this. season 6 hasn't known what to do with either of them to be honest, particularly Sun. Who's just basically stood around and occasionally asked about Jin. Waste of a great actress. Anyways they be dead now, so.

- RIP Lapidus. Like anyone really cares in comparison right? Still, he stood around, made one-liners and had no real reason to be on this show apart from looking at Jeff Fahey is funny. Still he's a regular and he's dead so, I guess I should say something.

- The episode which begin with the 815ers in the season3 cages, held by Widmore who is still alive and kicking by the way, but pretty much fucked as far as his battle with Evil Locke goes, losing lots of his men this week, to the invincible evil mofo. Still I did enjoy him walking up to them, entirely impervious to gunfire and killing about 10 guys like some 80's action hero.

- Anyway, evil Locke freed them, and they run to Widmore's sub, with which Sawyer's plan was to shut evil Locke and escape with all his friends. If I had one complaint prior to this episode, its that Sawyer has been putting them over on Evil Locke a bit too easily, but that was met this week, but Evil Locke knowing that's exactly what he was going to do, and thus plant a bomb on Jack, which he accommodatingly took down to the submarine. What a nice guy.

- Oh, right, Kate was shot and Sawyer was pretty much incapacitated. So the only fully operational candidate's are Jack and Hurley.

- I should say the submarine sequence was fairly thrilling, but the flippant way it handled all these important characters deaths perhaps killed my buzz a little bit. Although Lapidus' death was kind of hilarious.

- Zoe watch: still going. not in this episode though, so that was good for everyone.

- So yeah, an exciting episode, but for what happened in it remarkably low key. Next week is supposedly the exposition episode flashback to the beginnings of the island. So lets respect our fallen comrades and look forward to that.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 3 May 2010

Breaking Bad: One Minute - The Best Episode Of Television in 2010, No Exceptions

OMFG that was good. Like, I'm watching one of the best episodes of television ever good. Fuck. I've had a whole day to dwell on it, and I still don't really know how to say what I want to say and still do this justice. You know you're watching a great show when the best episode of the season has been the one you've just watched for three weeks in a row, and One Minute may have been close to Breaking Bad's most sublime hour in its existence. Fuck Yeah.

- I'll try to cover it relatively linearly, but fuck was the last sequence fantastic. Tense, thrilling and gloriously cinematic. Few films have done that kind of thing better.

- But more to that later, The cold open returned to being awesome, after last week's relatively bland one. It worked mostly on the back of the fearsome awesomeness of Mark Margolis, a.k.a Tio. The Darren Aronofsky regular has brought a real ferociousness to Tio, even before he got to say any lines. This bit felt like a reward for him being such a good sport. Anyways it was dark and generally terrific.

- That was a fierce pounding Hank gave Jesse. Usually when characters beat each other up like that on TV it feels iffy, but that shit was raw.

- I think Aaron Paul had this episode down for his Emmy submission episode, and he gets two speeches, perhaps amplified by his disfigured face, in which he both demonstrated a darker incarnation of his character whilst keeping him recognizably Jesse. Perhaps the dialogue was a bit too on point, but Paul sold it and no doubt secured his second consecutive emmy nomination. I did like that Walt finally relented and gave Jesse his due. Its been a long time coming for these guys.

- To be honest though, I've been more impressed with Dean Norris this season. Hank has come on leaps and bounds in season three, and he's gone from a fairly disposable character to someone who is as much part of this show as its two leads. I'd say Anna Gunn established herself in the same way in the early part of season three, but she's been on the back-burner of late, as the show has plunged head-first back into gangster territory in the last couple of weeks. And boy has it been good.

- Anyway, this week was largely Hank-centric in which his initial rager against Jesse, landed him in the shit with his job and in many ways what he's been building up to ever since he shot Tuco. He's not the impenetrable tough guy he thought he was, and both his fear and vulnerability means he can never shut down an be the cold logical hunter/bad guy. That somewhat ironically, Walt has become.

- But the show did something really interesting with him this week. Stubbornness is a feature of maybe every character on Breaking Bad, people always make their decisions selfishly and do things their way. But for the first time, someone put their own pride aside and did the right thing. Hank didn't lie his way out of his situation, he took responsibility for what he did and accepted the consequences. I don't think anyone has ever done that on this show, and it was a strong moment, and solidified the fact that Hank is now the most likable character on the show.

- Of course, TV muscle memory tells me that this happens when somebody is about to die, and given last week's revelation that the cousins are after him, I really thought that he was about to bite it, because as strong as his character has become, the show doesn't need him to continue and thus his dying felt like a real possibility. It wasn't a ' Jack in peril' moment on Lost. It felt like it was going to happen.

- and so when we reached the final sequence, surely one of the best in TV history, the tension was unbearable, as the cousins approached Hank in his SUV. Whereas other shows may do violence or gore, BB does tension like no other show, and knows exactly how to approach this kind of thing. It was the little touches. The passers by. The clock in Hank's car. And then shit went the fuck down.

- I won't spoil it in too much detail, in case you've yet to see it, but the scene worked so perfectly because you literally thought it could go either way, and when what happened, happened, it blew your fucking mind. Man was that a great episode of TV. As was last week. And the week before, and what makes this all the more amazing is that this is mid-season, the achillies heel of television where nothing ever happens. Not on this show.

- I don't think I've ever given anything 10/10 in this blog, as I think its a rating that should only be given to something that is as flawless as it is possible for it to be, but I think that happened here. Watching this was like watching the Buffy episode 'passion' or The Wire episode 'Final Grades'. You know that it really doesn't get much better then this.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Room: Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love The Wiseau

I have never been a subscriber to the ever-expanding so bad it's good movie cult. ( Wow, total moment of revelation. That's where the word Cult comes from. Culture! Fucking rad man, and also how embarrassing that I never realized that before.) I may laugh, but its a cheap knee-jerk laugh, one that is unclean and I'll bemoan my conceding to it days after. I tell myself this is someone's ultimate contribution to the universe, what their entire life has built up to, a culmination of a life-long dream in many places and here everyone is, from their ivory tower of critical distance, ripping the shit out of it for the sake of LOLZ. To use a particularly crude simile, if seeing a truly great, mind-blowing movie is like having sex with the love of your life, then seeing a renowned shit movie for the purposes of your own amusement is going to a regent street prostitute. You may enjoy it in the ignorance of the moment and it'll get you where you need to go, but as soon as your done cometh the guilt and rightful self-loathing. That's the experience I usually have with these kinds of movies anyway.

But not with The Room. I enjoyed every fucking minute of it. Nowhere to be found was the leftover catholic guilt or spoil sport rationalization. I just flat-out enjoyed laughing at this guy's hideous, incomprehensible incompetence without one moment of hesitation. Why could I do this? Well I think it has a lot to do with Mr Tommy Wiseau himself. Wiseau is like a hideous version of Vincent Gallo, in which all the same features are there, but somehow distorted into their most visually repulsive formation. Wiseau shares some character traits with Gallo too. The deluded, near stratospheric arrogance, the ever intruding ego, in which all of their creations and anything that might emanate therefrom exist solely to show the world how truly awesome they are. But whereas Gallo made Buffalo 66, Wiseau's arrogance seems to perpetuate itself through what must be at this point an unbreakable delusion of his own genius. The thing is, Wiseau doesn't care about film-making, he doesn't care about writing. He used this medium for its exposure, so people would finally acknowledge him for the tortured artiste he truly is, so people would stop and fucking take notice. And do you know what? They did.

Because, in some bitter twist of irony, the Room has become a film that brings happiness to all that see it, just not in a single way it intended. It makes you stop and take solace in your own life and say, well at least I'm not this guy. But in a funny way, its become even more then that. The screening that I went to was almost delirious ritual, in which people dress up as characters, bring spoons to hurl at the screen ( Because spoons are totally in the film for no reason repeatedly, guys. For like no reason at all.) scream along to the film's most atrocious moments - mostly involving Wiseau's attempts at acting, often involving him not knowing when to enunciate in the English language, or when he tries to steal any given scene by shouting for no reason at all. In fairness though, Al Pacino did the same thing in Heat - and just generally shouting diatribes and insults at the screen whenever they feel like it. It's like some kind of movie going roast, which I just found to be near nirvanic in its awesomeness. As someone who makes cheap jokes about film's shitness in much of his spare time, it was an anarchic Oz to my usual sedentary Kansas.

I can scream ' THIS IS SHIT' and nobody cares, I can make half-baked asides to my friends and nobody cares ( I played around with shouting out ' Get a room' during one of the film's numerous sex scenes, but totally chickened the fuck out. Plus the pun was terrible.) isn't this empowering. Not having to sit silently through what ever shit I'm watching this week. Oh audience inter-activity, heaven doesn't deserve to speak thy name. And the film itself was everything I'd thought it would be and more. There was a technical error roughly every 11 seconds of screen-time, the acting was awful, the script nonsensical to the point of near insanity ( A character named Denny, would just appear randomly from fucking anywhere, and yet from fucking nowhere) and all in all, it reflects Wiseau the man more accurately then meeting with him ever could, as I genuinely believe he thinks that with the Room, He wrote A Streetcar Named Desire for the new millennium. Hell, wikipedia says that he compared himself to Tennessee Williams. What a Douche.

There is a telling scene near the end of the film, in which Wiseau's body lies dead and three people pine over him as if he were Jesus or something ( SPOILER ALE...Oh fuck it.) I think this was supposed to be the film's most poignant moment, in which Wiseau tries to present that the loss of him, his vision and his personality would be some crippling blow to humanity. I am a martyr for my art, guys. Seriously. But, thanks to his sheer inadequacy, he frames the shot so it looks like all his mourners are giving his deceased corpse fellatio. So this is why I don't mind finding humor at this guy's artistic expense, because Wiseau isn't a human being, he's an ego wanting people to bow down. So fuck him. And see this film, preferably with as many people as possible, and you'll get perhaps what might be the ultimate point and laugh movie-going experience.

You're tearing me apart, Lisa.

REVIEW: The Disappearance Of Alice Creed

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is the kind of lo-fi, high concept thriller that great British directors always seem to start their career with. And while this doesn't bear the calculated smarts of Following or the stylish (but empty) charm of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, there's a lot to like here. The visuals are strong, the acting is engaging and the twists keep coming. Its patchy, and there are moments that clunk, but all in all a promising calling card for the Director credited as J Blakeson.

The set-up is a simple one. There are few locations and only three characters, two kidnappers and their hostage, and you know thriller hijinks ensues. I think its fair to say that the writing isn't exactly the film's strong suit, with a few too many incredulous situations that stretch a viewer's compliance to breaking point. Perhaps the long view works, but there are some bumps in the road to get there and even only at 100 minutes it felt stretched out. But, there was enough elsewhere to like in this movie to forgive its structural dilemma's and fairly obvious stalling tactics. The acting is good, and while Gemma Arterton will get most of the raves as the titular kidnap victim, I found Eddie Marsan's work to be far more interesting.

Sure Arterton is good, and goes through some harrowing shit convincingly, and that is to be praised. But to use a particularly obscure comparison, I'd liken it to a Mighty Heart, in which everyone rushed to praise Ms Jolie for all the primal screaming and stuff, but coming out of that movie I had no idea who that woman was, and only knew her as a fairly generic representation of suffering. Whilst Irfan Khan' detective was a much more layered character, who I found much more compelling. Its kind of the same thing here, in which Arterton's character is only the atrocities commited against her, and both Blakeson and Arterton don't really break beyond that. Marsan meanwhile, does something much more interesting, really creating a character and lending the film a humanity that perhaps wasn't there on the page. Switching between dark ruthlessness and real human being convincingly, its a great performance and the kind of thing this film needed to make it more then the some of its parts. Martin Compston does less well as Marsan's laddish sidekick, and is frequently the weakest thing about the film, in part due to the writing as his character is idiotic beyond belief but also because Compston doesn't really bring much to it.

The film is an effective enough thriller, a bit too slow in places and could have been twenty minutes shorter to be honest, but for everything that didn't work there was something else that did, and the film acts as a great addition to the CV of Arterton and further evidence of how Eddie Marsan is awesome. And it presents the possibility of another strong British director in Blakeson. Yet again this guy does have a scripting credit on The Descent Part 2, so I'll curb my enthusiasm for now.

Rating: 6/10