Thursday, 30 September 2010

Next Wednesday Instead Podcast: Episode 1

The time you've all been waiting for has arrived, yes, this website you found by accident whilst trying to find out what is happening next week on Eastenders has discovered inter-activity, and produced a podcast for your listening pleasure. Bear in mind its a first time out, so awkwardness was a given. Alternatively, You can listen to it here. Sorry for doing this to you.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Next Week's Movies

Buried: Ryan Reynolds in a box for 90 minutes. There. Although would he really get cellphone reception. Really? Expectancy Level: 7/10

Made In Dagenham: The British film industry continues its war on fiction film-making with yet another pseudo-historical civil rights biopic. Yay? Expectancy Level: 6/10

Takers: This, eh, I can't think of any words to fully do justice to the mediocrity of this movie. Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen? Come on. Expectancy Level: 4/10

Sunday, 26 September 2010

REVIEW: The Hole

Don't feed it after midnight. Oh no wait.

Joe Dante in his prime was a master of that delicate art of making shit movies you can't help but fall in love with. That sounds a little patronizing I know, but its really not meant to be. With films like The Howling or The 'Burbs or Gremlins he takes what could be considered to be lesser material and he makes it enjoyable in the purest sense. He makes horror funny without losing the scary and while you're not exactly going to call him a Spielberg, he's got a good looking CV up until say, post Gremlins 2. A lot has been written about The Hole being a comeback movie for Dante, and while I wouldn't exactly say that, its very thin and can't really be considered a patch on the work he's done before. Its just great to see him making movies again.

The Hole feels a little too much like a studio back-burner project. The kind of script everyone thought was OK, but felt in no urgent rush to make until the time came a long to do it quick, do it cheap and make a little money of it. Dante brings a few moments of the blackly comic manic glee that is a stable of his previous work, but overall the film is too thin, too basic and lacks the strong characters present in past Dante films. I had the worst case of 'who's that guy' whilst watching this film I've had in a very long time. I recognized the face of The Hole's leading bland teen male, but I couldn't place him for shit. Until I went on IMDB when I got to researching this movie and I saw that Chris Massoglia was the equally bland and forgettable teen lead in Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Far out. Anyway he's kind of bland and forgettable here, as is superflous love interest character Julie, played by Haley Bennett, although its commendable given her fairly limited screen time how many times Dante gets her in a bikini. The best of the kids of probably Nathan Gamble, the kid brother of Massoglia, as he manages to be game and likable getting stalked by a killer clown toy.

The concept of the central Hole is a sort of good idea, but the answer behind it turns out to be kind of lame, and thus the film in its final third kind of loses the homemade, scary atmosphere it develops in the first two-thirds. Having said that, its kind of cool to have a kids movie be this scary, and it earns its 12A certificate with more then one excellently executed moment of creepiness, as is the way with Dante. But like I said, there's just not enough going on here to make it anything more then a mildly enjoyable diversion which you forget ten minutes after you leave the cinema. which in a way is exactly what this kind of thing is supposed to do. But Dante usually elevated his film beyond that, but not quite this time I think.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Love

No matter how good my life is, it will never be good enough for me.

Holy shit. Its rare that you see a movie that not only don't you like, but angers you on every conceivable reactionary level. I feel spiritually, philosophically, psychologically and narratively violated by this movie. I think this goes straight into the much coveted company of the top five most self-satisfied films, but somehow its a worse experience then any of them. I can't in good conscience give it the review I want to give it, because its shot quite nicely, makes good visual use of its variety of exotic locations and has a couple of good characters/performances, but for what it stands for, the message it tries to sell? Fuck this movie. Fuck it in the face.

I should say before the machete's and hacksaws come out that a lot of writing revolves around self-absorption, and in a way it has to. A person can know nothing as well as their own thoughts and experiences so that has to play a part in any creative endeavor. But a writer in a way has a responsibility to be reflective, to be analytical, to question etc. They can just sell self-obsession as gospel. Or they can, but I can say that its toxic. The lead character in this thing Elizabeth Gilbert, played bizarrely joylessly by Julia Roberts, engages in what I can only think to describe as an extreme form of social capitalism, in which people are resources to use and discard. God and spirituality exist for and at your convenience and life should be lived through endless self-indulgence. This kind of sounds like an awesome character, but Gilbert is presented as some kind of trail-blazing hero, a feminista warrior woman whom the female gender should hear roar and adore. But this movie is clearly to me about a woman who has a massive nervous breakdown because she is bored with her life. Its not that anything has gone wrong particularly, as she says, she's living the life she wanted to life, a privileged, rich, cultured existence in New York. But basically its not good enough. Her life should be a permanent fantasy, where every day is a delight and everything revolves wonderfully around her, and boredom is something she is simply to good to experience.

So you know, she leaves her perfectly lovely husband who she loves and goes around the world, where she is always the center of attention and all the people of the world seem to love her. Eat, Pray, Love is the worst kind of ' Hey, look at me. LOOK AT ME.' storytelling I have ever seen, without a whiff of self-awareness and the pretension of enlightenment. In a way I can appreciate the popularity of it because it works as a wish-fulfillment for people who've put responsibility first, but empowerment is one thing and glutinous self-indulgence is another, and why I should have to watch a film about someone getting everything they want all the time and being constantly disappointed by it is something I don't understand and object to thus. That's not enlightenment, its entitlement. And as I apologize profusely for that piece of shit assonance rhyme, one can't help but think this is a glorified self-help book, selling cheap spiritual solutions to rich white people with too much time on their hands. I'd like you to consider that this is two and a half hours of hysteric self-assurance. I hated this movie.

Thankfully, it has a couple of strong moments and performances, Richard Jenkins is as ever terrific, playing a wise Texan Gilbert meets in India, Viola Davis and Billy Crudup bring a lot to small roles and Roberts has her moments I guess, but she does seem an autopilot, and if she somehow fenagles an Oscar nomination for this its the first sign of the rapture, so make your peace with God. A golden globe nomination is a given though. This is far from the worst film this year, but I think it may be the most repellent. For me at least, a poor male twentysomething. Admittedly not the target audience. Still, I feel I make a fair effort to point out misogyny and the many instances of male wrong doing in movies, so not to acknowledge this bullshit would just be chicken shit. Unfortunately the audience I saw this with enjoyed it quite a bit, but in fairness they laughed hysterically at the Life As We Know It trailer so they can fuck off is well. And fuck Ryan Murphy, fuck this epic waste of my time and fuck you too, because fuck it.

Rating: 5/10 (fuck it)

REVIEW: The Town

If you don't tell me where the money is I will have sex with your wife.

I think the best way to describe The Town, and this is going to sound much more insulting then it should, is that its the best a run of the mill film can be. There's a lot of familiar material here, and I wouldn't say that the film has perhaps the freshest take on it, but its a confident well-acted and engaging piece that gives a lot of talented people the chance to do what they do. It's not Heat, and Ben Affleck is certainly no Michael Mann, but its nice to see a good, intelligent movie made for grow-ups you know. It's an increasingly rare thing.

I think the thing holding it back is Affleck the actor. Whilst Affleck the director looks increasingly to be a talent worth paying attention to, the same old problems remain with with the idea of him as a leading man. He's not the most engaging screen presence, and when he surrounds himself with actors of the caliber of those in this movie, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper, Jon Hamm and many more, he has to try a little too hard to keep up and that certain something that makes leading men great is just ever so slightly out of his reach. He's not a bad actor, but whenever he tries for the noble but complicated leading man bit something just doesn't click. He should have given himself more scenes with Blake Lively so he came across better. That is what I would have done. OK that was a cheap joke at Ms Lively's expense and that is something we just don't condone here at whatever my website is called. Just bad form. Actually the girl most commonly known as Serena Van Der Woodsen is kind of OK, and is only the worst performance in this movie because everyone else is so good.

Top plaudits are probably shared between Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall, Renner for bringing something more to his Psycho who takes it too far character, giving him some depth and more importantly being proper badass, and Hall who gives an excellent, quiet, in intelligent performance as Affleck's love interest. Its a disposable role on paper but Hall makes it stick and then some. I'd submit her as one of the most under-appreciated actresses around, and a real talent that people should be paying greater attention to. Pete Postelthwaite gives good cameo as an Irish kingpin/florist and Jon Hamm plays his FBI douche with as much relish and aplomb as you would expect. The writing isn't the strongest, with more then a few clunking one liners and awkward dialogue, but the action packs a punch, even if the spectre of the street set gunfight in Heat is constantly evoked, putting these scenes in their place.

But all in all, even if it can never escape the shadows of better movies to which it aspires, its confident, competent movie-making and if it is generic, its the kind of generic I'd be fine with seeing a bit more often. But I can't help but think that if it had been Casey Affleck instead of brother Ben I'd be reviewing an 8/10 movie right now, a la Gone Baby Gone. Oh well.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 24 September 2010

Something Audible This Way Comes

At the risk of near crushing blog-type embarrassment, A podcast will be finding its way on here at some point next week. Because I'm a blogger. And this is what I'm supposed to do.

This Week's Movies

The Town: Something isn't letting me be quite as excited as most people, but I've no doubt that this will be a good film, but I think it might just stop at that and go no further. Rating: 7/10

The Hole: Its great to see a Joe Dante movie get a wide release, and this looks like good solid, enjoyable family horror movie. I passively look forward to it. Rating: 6/10

Eat Pray Love: Big Julia Roberts comeback, Glee creator Ryan Murphy runs the show, subject matter looks a little iffy. Not sure if I care. Maybe I will. But probably won't. Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I got my problems, but I work them out by my hands hitting your face.

Oh films about child abuse, how I have missed you in these summer months. Its been all superhero movies, talking toys, dreams within dreams and airbenders, so it was nice to return to that early awards season flavour. The Kid is the kind of film that's hard to give a bad review, because the innate intensity of the subject matter lends a weight that even a badly executed film can't entirely rid itself of. There's a respect that has to be shown to that in a way, so you can't mention with freedom what you didn't like, or what perhaps was a little overwrought or miscalculated. But thankfully I do this for free, so fuck that. The Kid isn't a bad movie, it just feels like director Nick Moran, perhaps most famous for his role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has seen several other movies along these lines and tried to emulate, but something is missing. What felt awesome in those movies somehow felt second hand here, and the film never quite escapes that.

As with all biopics, the film is about as interesting as and when the subjects life happens to be interesting, so while the harrowing abusive childhood sequences undoubtedly pack a punch, even with his monstrous mother Natascha McElhone uglified to the point of being a Roald Dahl villain, when the kid grows up into Rupert Friend, his failing business ventures become a little less involving. I'll just say I didn't find it to be the strongest performance by Friend. He's not a bad actor, but there was something that doesn't quite click in his portrayal, and while he is good in the many scenes of awkwardness, when he has to open up a bit I was less impressed. Similarly I found McElhone to be too much of a caricature to be truly frightening. Faring better are Ioan Gruffudd as a sympathetic English teacher and Jodie Whittaker as a potential love interest. Bernard Hill also turns in reliable work as the runner of a child care centre. But all in all it had to be Friend's movie, and my problems with his performance directly effect how much I can involve myself in this movie, given that its a biopic and all.

Moran can be a little too on the nose in certain areas too and like I said too much of it feels like imitation rather then its own thing. But its undoubtedly powerful in places, and if harrowing tales of human survival are your thing then you'll have a blast. I just didn't feel this was the best iteration of this kind of movie. Far from being weak, but not the strongest either.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 20 September 2010

REVIEW: Winter's Bone

Tonight, I ain't doing anything you say.

Alright so the 9/10 prediction was probably a bit much, but for a certain kind of movie fan Winter's Bone will be the best movie you see all year. Those of you who enjoy their films painstakingly realist, starkly gritty, entirely no frills and subtly and believably acted will have found heaven with this film, and while I found it to be an excellent piece of film-making I would be lying to say it was exactly in my wheelhouse. Perhaps I like a little frills with my movies. Maybe I like them to be a little superficially stylish and more creatively inclined then driven by realism. But that's my shit to deal with and a debate for another day, because right now I want to take nothing away from Winter's Bone, which is a terrific little movie and one that is bound to get much love this awards season, if not from Oscar.

What really stays with you is the world this movie creates, the way it presents a winter-ravaged, poverty stricken Missouri, full of dead trees, rundown trailers and unforgiving people. Its a stark and grim reality for our protagonist, a 17 year old girl forced to take care of two younger siblings whilst her mother lives off in her own head and dad, well the police are after him and he's nowhere to be found. Jennifer Lawrence has done and will get many, many plaudits for her performance here and so she should, because its a performance of impressive maturity and subtlety. The culture of the movie and the place it represents doesn't subscribe to Sean Pennesque explosions of emotion, so Lawrence has to do everything on the down low, and she does it superbly. An Oscar nomination is deserved and no doubt coming. Equally deserving of acclaim though is John Hawkes, one of those journeymen actors, who you have seen in countless movies and TV shows but always in workmanlike roles, and rarely the centre of attention. But he gets his chance here and for me he's every bit as good as Lawrence, and its their two performances and characters together that make the movie so impressive. There's one particular scene, in which Hawkes faces down Sheriff Garrett Dillahunt, that's just about the most tense, strongly acted scene I can remember in anything all year. Hawkes owns, and in a way this really is his moment.

What separates Winter's Bone perhaps from say, Wendy and Lucy, a movie I liked a lot, is that rather the just be a piece of kitchen sink realism about the affects of the recession, its a strong thriller in its own right, featuring more then one scene of fantastically ratcheted up tension and a very strong, very horrifying finale. And perhaps the fact that its a thriller taking place in such a realist environment makes its moments of violence and fear all the more effective. A very strong calling card for director Debra Granik, career best work from John Hawkes, and a very promising, no doubt career making turn by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. Even if you don't traditionally like this kind of thing, its a film that's worth the effort.

Rating: 8/10


From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.

The advertising campaign was such that I didn't know that this wasn't a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan until I checked IMDB to look up some of the actors names. Incidentally nor did he write this movie, that honour going to Brian Nelson, one of the screenwriters of 30 Days Of Night. He has a sole story credit, so in other words the man who self-applied the name Night walked into a meeting and said; ' five people stuck in an elevator, one of them's the devil. Make it happen guys.' And yet his name is all over the posters, the trailers, all the pre and post movie discussion has been about Shyamalan. For a better movie then this, I might find this more objectionable, but hey perhaps precisely because of his lack of involvement, Devil has managed to avoid the maelstrom of suck that is the touch of Shyamalan and turned out a decent, watchable movie. Not high art or anything, but for a thriller it thrills, and for a horror it scares.

I don't want to get caught up in it too much, because Devil is some painfully simplistic film-making. Painting its message in broadly drawn black and white, with some year 7 Christian Union standards of sermonizing to match. God good Devil bad guys. Characters are generally thinly sketched archetypes and pretty much anything that takes place outside the elevator is a washout, with some weak slasher movie, sub-final destination kills that don't add but detract from proceedings (Maths terminology is coming back in a big way. Brace yourselves.) But despite all this, once the movie stops pretending to be the most patronizing R.E lesson you'll ever attend and we're inside the elevator and everything shuts the fuck up, its a pretty darned exciting ride. The confined space movie has been done before sure, but its a pretty solid take on it that bleeds the tension out of the situation quite impressively. It makes you very uneasy, and while perhaps making the bad guy the Devil was say an extremely unsublte, Shyamalanesque take on the idea, the execution by director John Erick Dowdle is pretty skilled in the ways of keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Of the actors the most impressive is Logan Marshall-Green, an actor who I've seen in roles on TV, but has never really made a strong mark, but he's pretty great here, maintaining your sympathy and noticeably more then anyone else bringing a real depth and relatability to his role. One hopes he should get more work on the back of this. Lead Chris Messina is good enough, but its a fairly shallow and by the numbers detective role and you know, there's only so much you can do. Elsewhere in the elevator, Bojana Novakovic is suitably hateable as the manipulative bitch per quota, and Geoffrey Arend is suitably irritating as the irritating man per quota. But if you want a movie to deliver what it promises you can do worse then Devil, I enjoyed it and is in its own right scary in places. Like I said, an enjoyable ride.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Other Guys

But that's my tie.

There are people who like the Will Ferrell/Adam Mckay team much more then me. Even Anchorman, the film which is far and a way the best film they made together, and a film that a respectable percentage of the universe will see somewhere near fifty times in their lifetime, is something I like but don't love. It just seems to me that their films feel to much like skits, sustainable and funny perhaps for something like ten minutes, but stretched to movie length just feel aimless and repetitive. One thing Anchorman has going for it though, is that at least it was imaginative and fast paced, The Other Guys just dragged, and after a promising opening just meandered until it didn't, felt random in a bad way and was just plain boring.

I'm beginning to lose interest in the Will Ferrell comedic persona. Or at least the exaggerated moronic man-child thing he does in this kind of thing. It just feels like someone telling a once funny joke again and again until it just becomes irritating. If you don't change it up then people will just become bored of you. This is a lesson learned by Jim Carrey, Jack Black and every single comedian that ever lived that became successful on the draining of one specific, larger then life schtick. Carrey survived by branching out, Black has at least tried to do this, but Ferrell, with the glaring exception of Stranger Than Fiction, just rolls out the same old thing, and I don't care anymore. Every role he plays seems to be a paler imitation of the one before and he's becoming one of those actors that makes me instantly apprehensive about a movie now, and given how good he used to be that seems a little ridiculous. The movie's potential saving grace was the inspired casting of Mark Wahlberg, who doesn't get to do comedy that often but when he does tends to ace it, in an all-out comedic role. But then it turns out, much like this movie really, Wahlberg doesn't really get anything of note to do and a couple of solid moments aside its a wasted opportunity for the guy to show a wider audience that he can do more things then be awful in Max Payne.

Faring better are the supporting characters, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne ' The Rock' Johnson make a strong impact in their very limited amount of screen time, with one particular moment of awesome lunacy springing to mind. Michael Keaton, whose had a bit of a comeback year what with this and Toy Story 3, probably steals the movie here as a police Captain with an oblivious TLC obsession. Steve Coogan is fine in a subjugated villain role, but its certainly not the funniest he's ever been, but its more the movie's fault then his because it treats his character as almost a necessary evil. Its good to see him consistently getting work in hollywood though. Ultimately, its just way too forgettable and bland for a comedy of its type. I kept willing it to be funnier but it just wasn't. Fine movie, be that way.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 17 September 2010

Mad Men - 'The Suitcase' - Fog's Rollin' In Off The East River Bank

So here's how Mad Men works for me. It's an elegant, frighteningly consistent very good show with one of the greatest leading performances in the history of television. But I find myself throwing around a lot of 7/10's, and feel it only really exceeds itself say once or twice or season. When it does it's kind of the best thing ever, but perhaps as a consequence of its unanimous and everlasting critical acclaim, I think it coasts. I don't feel like it has the vitality, the drive to always be outperforming itself , subvert expectation or do anything and everything else to be better that has characterized my favorite shows of the past.

- Like I said, this pattern breaks once or twice a season, and we see what it can be. But most of the time I always seem to catch myself thinking, yes Mad Men this is very good, but I've seen you do better, I know you can do better, so why aren't you doing better? Its not entirely the show's fault I guess, but with the entire world telling me its the best thing since the ape hit the other ape in the face with a bone, and also because my standards have been raised by the past excellence of the show itself, my expectations are just higher. Its a complacent genius of a show, that coasting is still better then 90% of the other fuckers out there but still, I wish episodes like 'The Suitcase' came around more often, you know?

- Because this was a fucking brilliant episode, one of the best the show has ever produced and pulled me back in to this season, that was beginning to have that still very good but slightly disappointing feel of season 3. I think this is a better year, and this episode, despite being mostly standalone, is a high point to make me forgive any other problems I may be having now. Like the whole Betty Draper thing. But thankfully she's barely in this one so its cool.

- It's interesting to note that this episode reached the heights that it did, by for all intents and purposes just telling a story about two people, and what they mean or do not mean to each other. While their relationship has always been on the fringes of the show's subject matter, I can't remember any episode in the past giving Peggy so much time with Don. They're so dynamic together precisely because their is no romance, because their passion for the work is where the connection lies, and each is broken or will be ultimately broken by doing what they love. She is basically Don ten years ago, blowing of family and a promising relationship with Karl from Lost because he perhaps misguidedly, tried to do something nice for here. They have the same drives but differ in their flaws. I can't think of a more impressively written rendition of two individuals finding each other, not in the physical sense, but in the forming of something more then that, a bond, in my entire TV memory bank.

- The episode featured series best work from both Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss. Moss in particular has never been this good, and to see her come to this from being arguably the weakest aspect if the show in season one is invigorating. Peggy has had the best arc perhaps, a quest of self-actualization, of finding herself and her voice. Peggy now is the most interesting and complex character on the show outside of its lead, and that is in large part to the strength of Moss' performance.

- It had an up all night quality to it, as Peggy and Don spend time long after everyone else has fucked off to watch Mohammed Ali, trying to find the idea that sticks, the spark, or the kernel as Don would say. Even in something as shallow as advertising, there's real art and grind to the process. It matters to them more then we could know. And it's for a suitcase poster.

- I would be hard pressed to talk any further without mentioning the stellar ending, a passage with enough poignancy and emotional power to put any movie to shame. The spectre of bad news hangs over Don throughout the night, as his comically elderly secretary Ms. Blankenship ( The cheapest joke ever made on Mad men?) informs him of an urgent call he's missed. Of course we all know what that means, that Anna Draper, the only person who knows and accepts him is dead, and with her Dick Whitman, leaving Don all alone without the person he loves or the person he used to be. He can now only be himself, and right now, that sucks to say much.

- The ominousness of this news hangs over everything, even the episodes lighter moments. So when Don finally returns the phone-call. Its a scene of of simultaneous heartbreak and a deeper sadness, as Don keeps up the polite post-death facade of keeping his shit together with Stephanie, all the while knowing what this means. The Don Draper cried. That shit was raw, particularly because Draper is nothing but a man who believes in the bottling up things, almost to a philosophical scale. Its a moment more complex then I can give it credit for, and just a flat-out beautiful moment of TV and Hamm surely has an Emmy all wrapped up, particularly with no Bryan Cranston in the mix. The fact that he lets Peggy in at this point, even just as comfort, was something the whole episode built toward, and perhaps the most earned emotionally earned pay-off conceivable.

- And that moment where Don sees Anna fade into the distance? Perfection on TV.

- I loved the smaller scenes with Moss and Hamm too, such as her giving him shit for taking the credit for her idea, or the cafe scene where they traded memories and family histories. Good things come to those who wait, and it was precisely because the whole episode strengthening and building their connection. Its an episode that had plot sure, but everything served to tell the stories of these two people, a pure character episode, and one of the best I've ever seen.

- We may move on next week, but that night was something special, both to the show and these characters. A truly stellar episode of television as rich as it was rewarding. Unpredictable yet satisfying, featuring abominably strong writing and two performances that stand up against the best of them. A landmark in every sense, yet wonderfully low-key, basically about two people talking and beginning to understand each other. A masterpiece that feels effortless, and I don't use that word lightly. Plus that was a pretty mean Simon and Garfunkel finish too.

- But watch how next week is a 7/10 episode. Bet a small but respectable amount of money on it.

Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

TV REVIEW: Justified

Dear Lord, before we eat this meal we ask forgiveness for our sins, especially Boyd- who blew up a church with a rocket launcher.

I watch a frightening amount of TV Shows, often even if I know in advance there is no way they can be good. Its this policy of forced open-mindedness that gets me into so much trouble at the movies. But I think deep down, however misguidedly, I must believe in giving everything its chance. Otherwise well, I'd just watch Arrested Development on a 50 year loop and die a happy man. But I never watch dramatic procedurals. Never. And I watch some truly despicable shit. I've seen one full season of Gossip Girl, the entirety of the OC, 6 or so seasons of Desperate Housewives ( That was good for about a year and a half I suppose), Every episode of Sci-Fi's Eureka, all of Reaper, every second of Accidentally On Purpose, all brain-melting 22 episodes of Mercy (google it. It sucked.) And perhaps the most embarrassingly, the fact that I've seen all of and will continue to see all of Stargate: Universe ( The world can never have enough Battlestar Galactica rip-offs I say.) But in my whole life, I've seen less then five episodes of CSI in all its incarnations, not a single second of Law And Order and a very small chunk of ER. I can make exceptions, say there's a particularly strong performance at its centre a la House, or its on a Cable network, so more adult material can be dealt with. But the core of it, no serialized story and a mystery or case of the week, where everything just hits the reset button at the end of the forty-five minutes to avoid all conceivable consequences, just leaves me with such a horrible image of disinterest I just can't be bothered. As a wise man once said, I'd rather be appalled then bored.

Justified, for its beginning at least, is pretty much this kind of show, only people can say fuck and people bleed when you shoot them. Unlike The Wire and The Shield, which both went to extreme lengths to subvert and avoid the spectre of procedural convention, Justified tries to instead re-associate them to a rawer, more violent climate. It took me a while to work up the energy to watch it though, putting many lesser shows first and only when I read somewhere that it became a more serialized show as it progressed did I get round to it. And I'm glad that I did, because while it is flawed and has its lows as well as its highs, there's a genuine sense of originality to its tone and atmosphere and more importantly, it succeeds so emphatically at being an entertaining show, presenting a classically western hero in Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens, the eternally cool, violent but just badass, and placing him in a time he doesn't belong, the present. No he doesn't have the complexity or the ambiguity of a Don Draper or a Walter White, but with Olyphant playing him the way he does, its just so wonderfully effortless and awesome to watch. Olyphant is in that weird place where he's a true A-lister on TV, with this and Deadwood now on his belt, yet a B-lister in the movies, stuck in films like Hitman and A Perfect Getaway. But he's sublime here, entailing all of the show's themes and strengths by just showing up.

Having said that, you could be headed for a House like situation where the only thing worth watching for is the lead, and even a great performance can only hold up a show for so long. But thankfully, Justified has enough going on to make it something in and of itself rather then just a vehicle in which Olyphant can be awesome. It plays like a post-modern western, which as a Firefly fan makes me very happy, and has in places some truly great writing. Better then I was expecting in places, to be honest. The serialized arc that takes center stage in the last six episodes say, was strong, but against my usual taste and judgment, my favorite hours of the first season were two self-contained ones, The fourth episode 'Long In The Tooth' was about as good as any episode of TV last year, featuring a terrific, wonderfully surprising performance from Alan Ruck aka Cameron from Ferris Bueller, whose performance in a rare dramatic role is so good that for one hour, it upstages Olyphant in his own show. I've always been a fan of Ruck, from Ferris Bueller down to his TV work in shows like Spin City, but I'd never seen any kind of indication that he was capable of this, but it was fucking awesome. Tooth, written by Mad Men veteran Chris Provenzano, was the moment I fell in love with this show and the idea of what it could grow to be. Similarly the ninth episode 'Hatless' presented a mature and interesting spin on the familiar 'my ex-wife is married to a spineless prick' arc I'd grown so bored of seeing. Its probably the most layered Olyphant gets in the course of the show, and features a great performance from William Ragsdale as the spineless prick in question and some great restrained psycho villiany from the very under-rated Jere Burns, who was so excellent on Breaking Bad last year.

Occasionally the arcing does get lost in the shuffle, although it does intensify say in the last three episodes. Given the self-contained nature of the show at its beginning though, there are weaker episodes to go with the strong ones, and only once it gives itself over to serialization does the inconsistency question truly go away. Largely thanks to Walton Goggins, the man who most will know as the southern hick serial killer from Predators, but you should really know from his awesome, almost unrivalled performance over seven years of The Shield, who starts of the show as the only cast member who can go toe to toe with Olyphant, but by its end, largely due to the character he is playing no doubt, he kind of becomes the more intriguing, darker presence. Playing a crazy/smart criminal who finds god after a near death experience, Goggins' Boyd Crowder transitions from cartoon villain to perhaps the most layered character on the show, and Goggins find some real heart in the character by the end. Goggins may never be able to get cast for any other reason then his hillbilly looks, but he's such a good actor you'd think someone would try it at least.

Its flaws though are not too dissimilar to Dexter, in which that the cast full of cops at Olyphant's back have too much feel of the no mark to them, and it would be kind to say they get lost in the shuffle. other character's such as Joelle Carter's Ava are comparatively given too much screen-time with what they can offer the show, I enjoyed Carter's character at first, but she stagnated into a kind of stubborn childishness that wasn't helped by the writing of her at all. And episodes like 'The Hammer and 'The Collection' mostly fall flat, and present the fact that the case of the weeks fallacy is not something the show could entirely exorcise itself from. But like I said, once the show moves into its final hours and it becomes more about rivaling family clans and violent genre melodrama, shit gets very Wyatt Earp and finds a way to land that ton of awesomely entertaining every week. Justified is far from a perfect show, and perhaps it is just a cop show with the ability to say fuck. But if how you do it is more important then what you're doing, then Justified can only be considered a success. A step away from realism back toward the escapist joy that the movies can bring, only for an adult audience. How can that be anything but a good thing?

Episodes To Watch:

Long In The Tooth - Hatless - Bulletville

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 13 September 2010

Next Week's Movies

Devil: Right, there is no conceivable way this can be worse then the Last Airbender, the diminishing return thing has to stop now. Even if it is shit, it simply can't be that shit. Expectancy Level:5/10

The Other Guys: I think this looks serviceable in terms of hopefully being entertaining. I can't think of a more glowing anticipatory statement then that. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Winter's Bone: Yay, a good movie. I don't really think its wise to predict anything being better then it 8/10, save being disappointed by some very good movies. Still. Expectancy Level: 9/10

The Kid: I've no doubt that this will be good, but I am not in any way excited to see it. Not at all. Expectancy Level: 7/10

I'm Still Here: The possibly joking, possibly serious Joaquin Phoenix documentary/mockumentary is certainly going to be unforgettable. I don't quite know how else to phrase it then that. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Can't be tamed.

Of all the people who have been handed movie stardom by Judd Apatow, Jonah Hill has seemed to show the least desire to do anything outside of that particular universe, outside of a couple of voice-over kids movies. And he hasn't had to, getting more then one leading role in that set-up and turning in some very strong comic performances. Cyrus is the first real example of him stepping out, and although one could argue that the material isn't a hundred miles away from his usual fare, its a sign that Hill might actually be a very strong actor in his own right, and not just a recipient of a comedic version of the cheerleader effect.

Cyrus in a way is a melding of Greenberg and Step-Brothers, in that John C Reilly plays a depressed, miserable loner who hooks up with Marisa Tomei only to find out her son is Jonah Hill (synopsis five.) And slightly twisted rivalry high-jinks ensue. I like Reilly a lot, both the PT Anderson and the Will Ferrell versions, although at times I wish I'd see the former a bit more. There's elements of him here, in that Reilly creates a believable character and gives a good, restrained performance. It was always going to be Hill's film to own, and he does so very impressively, channeling the creepiness that was always on the fringes of previous performances and allowing it to take center stage, enhanced by a more considered, deadpan delivery. He even excels in the more dramatic moments. Its both suitably funny and creepy, and it lends the film a dimension it arguably doesn't deserve, as its actually quite a simple film that tells its story and concept straight up, and while the oedipal pangs are in the subtext, that's where they stay. Tomei doesn't get too much to do, but she's a likable enough character for us not to mind.

I'll say I was expecting a final punch that didn't come, and in a way the film ended rather quietly and optimistically, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but I'd be lying if I weren't willing it to be more fucked up then it was. An interesting little movie that had a couple of strong moments, but was always lacking a little something to make it explode. Plus Jonah Hill is really fat these days.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Runaways

Dakota Fanning is young for how long she's been around. That was going to be a joke but it became a statement. I'm fine with it.

Kristen Stewart's career is a funny thing. She's simultaneously an indie darling and a vitriolic hate figure. A talented actress who unfortunately gave one of the worst performances of the decade three times over, its by far the worst she's ever been or will ever be, but its the only performance that anyone has seen. That's a tough break. But anyone whose seen Into The Wild or Adventureland knows that when she gets to play in her socially maladjusted home turf, she can make quite the impression. She can't wear her emotions on her sleeve but she can bottle them up very effectively. And I've no doubt she'll have a long and prosperous career after Twilight. She may even win an Oscar someday. And The Runaways is the first step toward regaining her mojo back, in a film that was stronger then I was expecting, a quite artful (in look at least) exploration of how fame corrupts, not the most unique topic for a biopic about musicians, but hey its a limiting subject matter.

The movie, inevitably, is more about Cherie Currie and Joan Jett then the rest of The Runaways, and Stewart gives a good, if very self-conscious, performance as Jett. More impressive in a way though was Dakota Fanning, who had an equal point to prove with this film, having been struggling to find more successful adult material to establish herself as a more grown-up actress and not just the moppet from Uptown Girls. Fanning gives the much more layered and internal performance, given a great assist by director Floria Sigismondi's numerous longing close-ups, and may have finally found her footing as a genuine actress rather then just the moppet who acts like a bitch and gets everyone killed in War Of The Worlds. Kind of unexpected but I was very impressed by her in this movie. In fact its sort of a shame then, that this film about female empowerment (sort of) directed by a woman and starring several talented young actresses (they even hired Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat to stand around in the background as the bass player. I don't remember her having a line) gets entirely stolen by a man. In the only substantial male role no less. What an anti-climax. Because while Stewart and Fanning were off giving thoughtful, strong performances, in steps the vastly under-rated Michael Shannon to effortlessly blast them off the screen as band producer Kim Fowley. Shannon gives the kind of coked-up, wild eyed performance that its very difficult to get right and have it work for the film instead of against it, but Shannon nails it. Lending the film some much needed humor too, because to be honest it did lean toward the po-faced. Cast this guy in more movies. Seriously.

The Runaways is a very richly shot, well-acted biopic, and while it does undeniably hit all the familiar beats of these things, it does so with enough style and energy to pull it off. And more evidence to show that almost the entire cast of Twilight have long and rich careers ahead of them. Well except Taylor Lautner. Dude sucks.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Tamara Drewe

I'm going up the country, don't you want to go?

If you read any kind of critic regularly, you can pick up their patterns and in a way begin to guess what they'll give things, and I knew before seeing this movie it was going to get a pass from British critics, particularly those of reported culture, such as The Independent or The Guardian. I have a theory as to why this happens, because there are so few mainstream release British films that when one comes along that tries do something new, triumph or no, they sing its praises. Like the proverbial Charlie and his one chocolate bar a year, they tend to hold on to it, savor it and elevate it to higher status then it deserves. Sometimes with films like Shaun Of The Dead this is OK, because it deserves it, but in other cases, say Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels or East Is East, blowing things out of proportion is just unfair to the film.

I'll concede to the fact that this is on a lesser scale, but for me Tamara Drewe misses more then it hits and some conceptual originality and some literary allegory doesn't make up for that. Its main problem or the one that left me the coldest to what it was trying to do, which in its defense, is something fairly new, was that it was one of those films where everybody finds a certain character fascinating, beguiling and altogether enchanting and it just doesn't make sense. I think Tamara was supposed to be one of those beautiful, brilliant yet flawed enigmas, but while Gemma Arterton can certainly pull of beautiful, I'm about ready to call time on her being a genuinely talented actress.

She's been in four films this year, and she's been terrible in two of them and outshined in the other two. Can't really blame the girl for the banality of Prince Of Persia and Clash Of The Titans, but I think that between this and The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, she was out to prove she could actually act. The problem is she's not really that great in this, I could list four or five actors with lesser parts that make a stronger impression in the film, and all I came out of Alice Creed thinking was that Eddie Marsan is awesome. I'm sure she'll come out with something in 2011 to prove me wrong, but as of this moment I'm on the waiting to be impressed side of things. I think of the performances in this film, Jessica Barden as a stifled to the point of insanity teenager, came off the best, in a performance that's both funny and a little unnerving when it had to be. Tamsin Greig and Bill Camp turn in reliable supporting performances and Dominic Cooper is some fun as the most stereotypical rock musician since last Tuesday. I don't like Roger Allam. He's always hammy and irritating and that doesn't change here. No time for this guy.

To be fair the film had a bit more about it then I was expecting after its god-awful, hideous trailer. Its intelligent, quite stylish in places and is very British. Which some people have used as a compliment and others a criticism, and to be frank I lean toward the latter camp. Its not a bad movie by any means, but its not as good as it thinks it is, nor as satirically valuable.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Going The Distance

Better then Leap Year. Something every film has the right to put on its poster.

There's something but reassuring and uninspiring about Going The Distance. Its a boring, run-of-the-mill movie caught between the Apatowian Juvenilia and the more traditional romantic comedy. An uneasy marriage of gross-out humor and sincere romanticism, its not a success by any usual method of definition. But its the first romantic comedy in 2010 that's not made me want to pull my brain out through my face, without even cutting a clear pathway. And that's something to celebrate. Its a torrid state of affairs for a genre when you rejoice at the return of the mediocre, but boy is the mediocre welcome right now.

On the face of it the film has a very talented cast, which is always the key to making these things work. Drew Barrymore, is a romantic comedy veteran with probably at least 7 on her CV at this point, most of which featuring her on cutesy, whimsical autopilot. Which ain't all that bad of a thing, she has an intrinsic likability that suits this kind of material, and while I wouldn't call her the greatest actress that ever lived, she has charm enough to compensate. She spreads her wings ever so slightly here, reveling in the swearing and adult material and keeping the cutesiness to a minimum. Justin Long is an actor I like a lot, mostly for his 5 minute turn in a film I otherwise didn't like Zack And Miri Make A Porno, but also because there aren't enough sarcastic leading men in the world, and Long has a gift for doing that very well. So even with lesser material, as he has here, he makes a unique impression. The movie probably belongs to Jason Sudeikis and Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Charlie Day, fulfilling your standard sounding-board best friend roles who both are funny enough to make these slightly more distinctive then usual. Particularly Day, who is one of those actors that everything he does is hilarious, deliberate or otherwise.

But at the end of the day the material is so bland, the jokes so familiar and the vernacular too often spoken that it simply can't sustain any attempt at being anything more then OK. It's a passable movie, simply directed by Nanette Burnstein and featuring one or two funny and one or two touching moments, but its neither funny or touching enough to succeed in any specific capacity. But a cautious step in the right direction for this eternally fucked over genre. A film you'll see on ITV2 at 2AM in 2014, and decide it marginally preferable to watching all night quizstation.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 10 September 2010

Mad Men - ' Waldorf Stories' - The Exhibitionist In The Room

A pleasing return to form with this episode, although it perhaps felt like one of those very good but not great episodes of Mad Men that there seem to be so many of.

- Jonathan! Seeing someone from the Buffy universe in a different context always feels kind of weird, but seeing Buffy's own Danny Strong in the context of Mad Men felt oddly right, but he's a good actor and good actors from Joss Whedon shows always seem to end up on Mad Men. Christina Hendricks and Vincent Kartheiser to name a couple. Playing a new hire at the agency, who got the job because of his connections rather then his talent, he's involved in a great scene with Don and Peggy, in which his pitch for the job basically comes all from one idea, placing any suffix on ' the cure for the common...'

- A couple of great touches in this episode, The seamlessness of the Don Goes on a Bender sequence was as cinematic as anything I've seen in a long while, transitioning from night to day, from conquest to conquest with nothing in between. AMC sure puts some stock in its shows looking good. Of course, Don goes on this little bent of controlled self-destruction because someone rewarded him for doing something good. Receiving a Cleo for the Glo-Coat ad, celebratory drinks evolve into losing four days of his life.

- Its hard not to note that there maybe a little meta-commentary on the worthlessness of awards, particularly because this episode went out at the same ime as the Emmy's, and that being told he is great at what he does doesn't necessarily make Don's life suck any less then it does. Being a genius is more a side-product of being broken then anything else, and this certainly seems to be relevant to Don right now, who never seems not to be at the bottom of a glass, and even though that's traditionally Roger's thing.

- Things work out quite well for Jonathan in the end, given that Don accidentally spews out his ' cure for the common' idea at a clients meeting and rather then face lawsuit has to hire the guy, who turns down the offer of freelance work and in a way proves himself to be smarter then he is talented. May not be the best Ad man, but he could scheme with the best of them.

- The sequence of Drunk Don riffing out various Ad ideas off the top of his head at the cereal company meeting, was both funny and kind of telling. It was either arrogance in that he thought himself good enough to come up with a killer ad campaign off the top of his head whilst intoxicated, or it was an indication that a man who used to be all about the work, and resentful of everything that came with. Now he doesn't even to put too much value in even that anymore. Talent is fickle, Use it or lose it Don.

- I'm not sure how I felt about the flashbacks being fitted in though. I get it tonally, because perhaps with a bit more talent Don was basically in the same position as Jonathan, under-qualified, only relying on his passion to get the job and his persistence in repeatedly ambushing Roger, who even then was a fairly respectable alcoholic. But it just seemed that there were too few, as if the device was used heavily in the first half but laxed on in the second, and in terms of scripting consistency there are smoother ways to do things.

- As for Peggy's subplot, that was bizarre. But kind of awesome. The jist of it seemed to being the putting a smug, supposedly liberated freelancer Stan in his place. Dude went all on about how he was a nudist and worked best au natural, and almost tried to intimidate Peggy with his freeness. She called his bluff though, and as the both stripped naked to work on the account, turns out Stan is much more insecure about himself then Peggy is. Score one for females.

- A perfectly fine episode, perhaps a little uneven but strong nonetheless.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Next Week's Movies

Cyrus: I am semi-excited for this movie, has the potential to be a twisted black comedy, and hopefully take Jonah Hill out of his Apatow safe zone into creepier territory. Plus Marisa Tomei and John C Reilly. Expectancy Level: 7/10

The Runaways: I wonder what fans of the punkish group The Runaways thought of this movie casting two actresses from twilight in the lead roles. Must be delighted. But cruel asides aside, both Stewart and Fanning are good actresses in theory and this might be a chance for them to show it. Plus Michael Shannon. Expectancy Level: 6/10

Going The Distance: Hmm. romantic comedy in 2010 instantly makes me jump back in fear, but this one's got Drew Barrymore and Justin Long and is supposed to be at least OK. Its got to be at least OK. I don't know what will become of me if its not. Plus Charlie Day! Fuck Yeah. Expectancy Level: 5/10

Resident Evil: Afterlife: Fuck you movie, making me double colon. That shit looks ridiculous. Colon afterlife colon indeed. Paul ' I'm not even the best director with my own name' Anderson returns to the helm, and this time its in 3D. I can't believe there's been five Resident Evil movies. Plus, erm Ali Larter? Expectancy Level: 3/10

Tamara Drewe: This film had the worst trailer of anything I've ever seen I think, so I go in with an untameable vengeance. Shit gonna get destroyed. And not just because its going to be shit, but because fuck it. Plus Stephen Frears, Expectancy Level: 3/10

REVIEW: The Secret In Their Eyes

I think that's the most quietly badass picture I've ever had on this website. If you don't know the context anyway.

It's not very often I get to use a scene involving Katie Holmes as a point of reference, but its happening. There's a scene in Wonder Boys where Holmes confronts Michael Douglas about what is wrong with his latest novel, where she says ' You always told me writers make choices, but it just seems like you haven't made any.' That is to say instead of picking the one thing that works, you do everything for the fear that it doesn't. It's a shame The Secret In Their Eyes did this in its final third, because up to that point, it was an elegant a film you were ever likely to see, complete with terrific performances, stellar visual style and enough subtlety to give Sight and Sound the ability to love again.

The film became an unlikely villain at last year's Oscars, where it beat both The White Ribbon, the latest from nihilist indie darling Michael Haneke, and A Prophet, a film that still stands as my favorite film of 2010, and judging by its reviews, quite a few other people's as well. These two were both trailblazers in a way, but The Secret In Their Eyes stands as the dignified and lets face it, elderly alternative. All those old guys with ballots must have loved this film's comparative grace with its rivals shocking brutality. But I've no doubt this is the weakest film of the three, not because it differs in tone, but because its ambitions are slighter and its successes are fewer. The film begins very strongly, with a vague whodunit plot masquerading as an excuse to explore character, moral dilemmas and the philosophy of the legal system. All things it does outstandingly. Its a visual treat, with a chase sequence at a football match standing out is pretty fucking awesome. Soledad Villamil impresses as a high-powered female DA, a role she plays with not just toughness but a welcome approachability and humor, and as it comes to the end, an impressive depth. Its a performance that will stand as one of the strongest of the year for me. Also impressive are Guillermo Francella and Pablo Rago, both lending weight to their high-concept characters, the former the drunk lawyer associate and the later a grieving lover. Ricardo Darin gives a strong lead performance by any measurement, but there's an element of protagonist by numbers to the character and that limits what can be done. He's generally very good though.

But in the final third, the movie's sense of meticulousness, the assured hand and the sense of purpose is somewhat undermined by the movie getting a bad case of the multiple endings, each counter-acting what the other has to say, almost as if the writer was floundering around for an ending, and instead chose three. Anyone of which would have been very strong on its own terms, but stuck together, not so much. As if the glorious sense of artistic control and style that pervades the first two thirds of the film was offset by an unwelcome sense of self-doubt, and a movie so previously confident becomes so neurotic by its end. The old adage goes if you start badly and end well all is forgiven, but if you start well and end badly then well, the opposite of that I suppose. And that's my feeling toward a fantastically directed, stylish, beautifully acted film that didn't quite make the tough choice when it needed to. And that cost it two grades. World is a bitch.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 4 September 2010

REVIEW: The Last Exorcism

So this can only be fun, right?

Alright, so here it is. I saw the trailer for The Last Exorcism, which was kind of uninspiring, and what with my slight weariness of the whole digi-cam horror movie thing ( Paranormal Activity 2? really guys.) I went in expecting something shitty. Probably occasionally jarring but ultimately yet another derivative entry into the most exhausted horror sub-genres around at the moment. The timelessly exploited exorcism movie, and the upstart digi-cam horror. Which they're are so fucking many of these days I lose count. But isn't it great when a movie shows up you're expectations of it? When its good when it really had no right to be? Really, really yes.

I think I liked this movie for the same reasons I liked the Last House On The Left remake last year. It doesn't necessarily cover the most original material, but it approaches it intelligently and excitingly enough to give it a fresh perspective, and contains a very strong central performance, that lends it that bit of class your standard horror movie lacks. In that film it was Garret Dillahunt, who lent his psychopath enough nuance and character it lent more horror to pretty horrific situations. In this its the performance of Patrick Fabian, a veteran journeyman actor. The kind of guy who has an IMDB page longer then the San Andreas Fault, with extended roles in Big Love and Veronica Mars. Here, he plays Cotton Marcus, a reverend and a sham exorcist, who falsifies exorcisms in the name of clearing the superstition from the superstitious. Complete with I-Pod containing 150 demon sounds and a cross modified to expel smoke, its a neat characterization, made all the more impressive by having Marcus essentially a shill, a man whose long since lost his faith and continues to preach because it pays the bills and because, well, he's good at it. Fabian never plays the guy as a joke, enriching what could have been loathsome by lending credibility and a charming likability to the character, and for a horror movie in particular paying attention to the people in this way is something I appreciated.

Similarly, the film is nowhere as conveyor belt digi-cam as I expected. The first two-thirds play as more of an edited mockumentary of sorts, only with the emphasis not being comedy but horror. Once the exorcism starts, I'll grant that things get a little more familiar, but these sequences are strongly executed, featuring a great Linda Blair impression from Ashley Bell. That's probably a bit mean, Bell is good and lends enough shade to the character to go beyond mere copycat. The resolution will have its detractors, arguably rightly so, but for me its strengths outweigh its weaknesses and director Daniel Stamm has a flair for executing the more horrific moments, and overall I think its a successful little horror movie, as intelligent as its is genuinely frightening and misguided ending or no, there's enough storytelling panache here to dispel any notions of it just being the next thing to jump on the bandwagon. This could be because I'm partial to horror and all, but this is one of the most pleasant surprises the year has offered thus far.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Dinner For Schmucks

Put the pencil to the paper, give the paper to the people and let the people read about the sello tape. Yeeeah.

This was kind of a cool day at the cinema to be honest. I spend so many hours at the cinema expecting shit and being validated or expecting goodness and being bitch-slapped that when movies exceed expectations, even a little bit, then you take it as a kindness to appreciate. And that happened twice today. I wasn't expecting the worst movie in the world with Dinner For Schmucks, but I was expecting something akin to Date Night. Average leaning to bad. And it turns out its average leaning to good, thanks to a consistent tone of enjoyable insanity and average comedy performed by some very talented people. So even when things don't make sense, or a joke bombs, or any given one-note comic creation outstays its welcome, there's enough laughs to make it OK.

And to be clear these laughs aren't exactly born of the Oscar Wilde school of comedy, things be broad and unapologetically so. But thankfully its the good kind of broad, performed by people who are actually funny and understand physical comedy. The premise itself leans towards the sadistic, with suits working for some unnamed corporation all tasked with inviting idiots to a dinner, where they make fun of them. As the poster going past your window on the 142 bus will no doubt tell you, Paul Rudd is our corporate stooge, Steve Carell the idiot in question. Rudd's character is a necessary evil in a way, he's not bad but its a fairly bland and familiar straight man role which Rudd has played in stronger material before. Carell is as good as you would expect, but in a way the movie belongs to the supporting cast. Particularly Jermaine Clement and Zach Galifianakis, both nailing the tone of the movie in their performances. The former the playing the most stereotypical bohemian artist ever, but thanks his natural comedic talent is lent a bizarre uniqueness, and Galifianakis well he pretty much steals any movie he's in these days regardless of the consequences. Similarly Brit Lucy Punch does a good job in fairly basic crazy ex/stalker role, and for a firm full of douchebags I can't think of better casting then Ron Livingston and Bruce Greenwood.

It feels refreshingly off the cuff and doesn't seem too overly calculated, which sounds like a criticism but for the kind of film that this is, its exactly the way to play it. Director Jay Roach brings his customary Austin Powers zaniness to proceedings, and for a film that solely tries to make you laugh it succeeds. So yay.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Switch

Frickin Aniston, make some good movies. I can only enjoy hating you for so long.

" Look at them. always rushing, always late. I guess that's why they call it the human race." BOOM. Boom. 1 zip to Allan Loeb, because that shit just hit the stands. When you open your movie with a line like that, you draw a line in the sand in terms of what your movie is going to be. And this isn't taken out of context, paraphrased, misquoted or otherwise exaggerated for comic effect, this is this movie's fortune cookie piece of zen handed out in both opening and closing voice-over. Repeated it is, in case its profundity was lost on you the first time around. Now believe me I could write this review entirely about this one line, and how it is an affront to both punning, half-arsed faux-insightful voice-overs and pretty much humanity itself. But I won't. Because this movie is not worth the effort.

As everyone seems to be noticing, its not exactly been the best year for romantic comedies. Too many high-concept, soulless and terribly written movies for five years yet alone one, and the subject needs a salvation, an indication that its dying is something we should care about, which I think it is, before it goes the way of the traditional action movie and just flat-lines. Nobody that springs to mind has made more of these turgid offerings then Jennifer Aniston, and with each lazy movie after the other looks more and more world-weary and disinterested , sucking the life out of the screen and any talented co-star that passes by her way. Aaron Eckhart was just off a Dark Knight high before Love Happens, Gerard Butler is usually an energetic presence, and Jason Bateman, well he was Michael Bluth for fuck's sake. You wouldn't know it from these performances where one after the other they bounce off an unresponsive Aniston and end up having to attempt to carry the movie themselves, painfully in vain. I think of the three Bateman goes down the most valiantly, bringing the odd moment of his welcome wryness to the over-simplified, unfunny and dull reality of this movie, but its not enough by long shot. Its all just so clueless and inept, not quite reaching the level of badness of the niche holiday romantic comedy that shall not be named, but pretty fucking bad.

I'm not sure quite how many chances Aniston is going to get before people realize something is not working, and her career is being maintained by her celebrity and not her movies or more specifically her performances. She seems embittered about her success, yet unwilling to do anything different. Not wanting to be thought of as just Rachel Green, yet unwilling to play a different character (maybe she can't). You can throw the Good Girl at me if you want, but even if you did it would stand as the lone exception in a 10 year plus movie career of numbing mediocrity. And its not even that good. I can't think of anyone who's got such a strong standing status in movies whose work is so undeserving. It angers me to see such complacency, when there's so many great actresses who could be up there instead. This movie would suck whoever was in it mind, but still. Point stands.

Rating: 3/10