Thursday, 24 November 2011

REVIEW: The Rum Diary

What is seen can not be unseen.

I'm not quite sure how The Rum Diary ended up as tame as it did. It's formed from the brain of Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most unique voices of the 20th century, directed by Bruce Robinson, he behind the most cult of cult films, Withnail and I, and it stars Johnny Depp, never more alive then when in Thompson's material. Yet what we got in the end was an intermittently amusing, dully shot and all too undistinctive film that just isn't all what it should have been. To be clear Rum Diary is still a good movie, and contains a couple of great supporting performances. But the next Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas it's not.

Having said that, it hardly seems fair to compare such is that films excellence, and taken on it's own terms a lot works within The Rum Diary. Naturally there's some great dialogue, and the film never works better then it simply parrots the prose of Thompson, and there's at least one performance that will go down as one of my favorite comedic performances of the year, from our boy Giovanni Ribisi. Ribisi, who has been on the fringes of being the number one 'That guy' for a long time now, the face everyone recognizes but no-one can identify. He sort of gets his moment here, playing the Swedish Nazi reporter Moburg, who when not listening to Hitler's speeches on vinyl, is wasted out of his mind. Actors like Michael Rispoli and Richard Jenkins lend dependable support, but Frankly what doesn't really work here is the leads.

Depp just doesn't show up in the way you hoped he would, giving that same unenthused performance we seem to be seeing on a much more regular basis these days. I think he's great actor, but perhaps too many easy roles with Tim Burton has pacified the mad run he was on in the early 00's. Similarly, Aaron Eckhart's antagonist doesn't really cut any ice either, not really getting beyond a corporate douche stereotype. I don't think Robinson does enough with his Puerto Rican scenery either, and the film falls flat many more times then it should. Still, even if you're only a passive fan of Thompson's, there's enough of his talent on display to make this worthwhile.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

Semper fi, motherfucker.

Right, a little edifier to start. This movie will be over-rated, probably drastically so. Animated movies often have to do less to be called a landmark, and this movie's combination of mostly genuine sentiment, wonder and the fact that it's not a soulless Shrek-alike pop-culture clone will encourage people to be overly kind and get caught up in its sweep. This isn't really anything special, but it certainly is refreshing, thanks to a healthy dose of cleverness, dry humour and earnestness. It's not a perfect mix, and sometimes these qualities get in each other's way, but it's a good time.

Now a revisionist take on Christmas is pretty common ground for kids movies, and the obvious reference point here is Nightmare Before Christmas, even with all of that films dark and gothic sensibilities far removed, both are interested in the practicalities of putting Christmas together, and in answering some of the burning questions regarding the feasibility of the whole Santa Claus mythology, and doing so to amusing effect. in fact the most enjoyable sequence be far sees the military operation it essentially takes to deliver all the millions of presents that need to be delivered. Best in show here is certainly Ashley Jensen's hyper-competent Gift-wrapping Elf, who doesn't really need to be in the movie at all. I'd say that the most problematic aspect of the film is Arthur Christmas himself, a doe-eyed Christmas fanatic who's perhaps too simplistic to be an engaging lead.

Reliable folks like Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie and James McAvoy turn up and do good voice work and the film is mostly a joy to look at, and while not quite as good as I hoped it would be, is a serviceable sugar-rush of a kids movie that will give your kids an undemanding good time and also not completely rot their brain and turn them into dead-eyed children of the corn in the way, say the way Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked would. The script is sort of a mess, but it's a good time.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Awakening

The Fuck did I do?

People always think I'm joking when I say horror is my favorite genre, I think because of the lower than normal tolerance for enjoying 'bad' movies. It's not necessarily that I'm the guy who only likes the very best and tells everything else to go fuck itself, I've enjoyed some OK movies very much on their own terms, I think it's more that I don't enjoy 'badness' in and of itself, and I think that's mostly how the world views the horror genre, perhaps fairly given how 90% of its output is abysmal, but having said that the most electrifying movie experiences I've ever had tend to be watching a horror film where everything works, they're rare but when they come along there's nothing else like them.

Somewhat anti-climatically, The Awakening isn't that. But it is an enjoyable, mostly well-executed example of a solid Ghost story that has all the right pieces in their place. It won't blow your mind or anything, but it will take you on an effectively creepy ride without feeling too derisive or enslaved to cheap scares and shocks. It helps that it's built on a solid foundation of two great performances from Dominic West, but primarily Rebecca Hall, who is maybe one great role away from being the next Kate Winslet. Every performance she gives seems to improve on the last, and she played her early 20th century Dana Scully role well here, taking a potentially infuriating character and giving her enough dimension to not solely function as the plot-driven centre piece of the film. West too, who has a far from 100% strike rate at the movies of late, impressed me too.

I suppose my problems then mostly aim toward the script, which while impressive in it's attempts to form some genuine three dimensional characters, also fell into that twist upon twist upon twist thing modern horror films are wont to do, not to mention it pretty much gave in to the nonsensical in the final act and relying on previously unmentioned amnesia is always the sign of bad writing. But I enjoyed the first hour and the performances enough that I think I can forgive a mostly botched ending. The goal here is to scare people, not surprise them and if you sacrifice atmosphere and tone for the sake of a surprise then all you do is betray your own movie, and it was sad to see that happen here.

In every review of every British film I ever write I always seem to say that whatever it's faults, it's pleasing to see something with some ambition, and while this is essentially our version of a reigned in studio horror film, it's the kind of mainstream thing we don't nearly enough of, so to here this kind of thing in my accent is gratifying and for all it's cliches, is contextually refreshing. Such is the state of things.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Catch- Up Review Session Part 2

Abandon all hope ye who enter here etc...


Tagline: Isn't 3D animation just grand and sparkly

Plot: Some artifact, some adventure, some ginger.

Best Thing About The Movie: Well, everything looked pretty crisp and colorfully realized. The occasional action scene is pretty the technically impressive.

Worst Thing About The Movie: I don't think Mo-cap technology is quite there yet, particularly with human characters, who persist in being creepy as fuck. They've taken poor old cartoon institution Tintin and made him look like the sickest fucking murderer you ever did see. Tintin and the adventures of the dismembered corpse.

Best In Show: Andy Serkis

In Summation: Tintin is truly a movie for no-one. Too violent and adult centre for young kids, to cotton candy clean for adults or even older teenagers. Stuck in a vacuum of perfectly polished, perfectly stylized visuals that just plays utterly lifeless, utterly synthetic universe. Everything in Tintin is just too planned, too by the book and everything just feels fake as a consequence. I kept feeling like I was supposed to be having a better time then I was. Plus the script is kind of stupid, so there. Rating: 4/10


Tagline: White people, rewritin' history daily.

Plot: Black women empower themselves, courtesy of a fearless white woman who cares not what society expects of her. This is of course exactly who you would have been in the situation, right fellow white people?

Best Thing About The Movie: I appreciate it's intention and I do think this film is a fairly sincere attempt to decry past crimes. A couple of interesting characterizations and terrific performances

Worst Thing About The Movie: Isn't everyone going to see themselves as Emma Stone and not as everyone else. Movie accidentally allows each and every white person to be absolved of their sins.

Best In Show: Viola Davis

In Summation: Look I didn't hate this movie. It's well meaning and the performances are mostly terrific, in particular Viola Davis, whose Oscar nomination and possible win is deserved and inevitable. But it's not a helpful discussion of racism. It's too simplistic, not exploring the issue with any kind of complexity or honesty. And instead serving to be a cleansing where all white people can be on the side of the righteous in regards to their own crime because isn't that Bryce Dallas Howard a bitch. Still, not necessarily a bad movie. Rating: 6/10


Tagline: Genius from the middle class? Clearly a conspiracy.

Plot: Gosh, this whole Shakespeare being a povo sure does render my Oxford degree meaningless doesn't it?

Best Thing About The Movie: OK, this being Roland Emmerich there are some sumptuous visuals, and the film does make for the occasional solid twist.

Worst Thing About The Movie: Everyone's acting. You can stop exploding stuff Roland, but you still can't really direct actors for shit. A lot of stiff performances from talented people on display here.

Best In Show: Rafe Spall

In Summation: Offensive in it's very conception. If one can stomach the outrage, it's not necessarily terrible, and I liked a couple of the twists nearer the end. Also Rafe Spall's performance as the laughably demonized Shakespeare ends up being the least dour part of the movie. Ultimately it felt like a fiction film made by someone who always is talking down to what makes fiction important. Shakespeare isn't a genius for his political allegories or his referencing, but for the majesty of his imagination. Something that class and privilege can't give you. Rating 5/10


Tagline: Clooney. Gosling. Eye candy for women of all ages.

Plot: Something about a what now?

Best Thing About The Movie: A lot of big name actors earning their paycheques in this movie. Great performances pretty much across the board.

Worst Thing About Movie: This is what's wrong with political movies. They always end up so utterly toothless and afraid of saying anything that they become Ides Of March. Which I guess is a thriller. And depressingly fucking boring.

Best in Show: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

In Summation: Incredibly frustrating. I want nothing more than for there to be political movies. Talking about and examining issues in fiction is something an entire generation has been deprived of, but this isn't it. It's gloomy and unimpressive, and despite great work from a mostly great cast. I liked Hoffman and Giamatti in particular, it's just an empty, pointless movie. Politics corrupts? STOP SPEAKING IN PLATITUDES ASSHOLES AND ACTUALLY SAY SOMETHING. Rating: 5/10


Tagline: Amanda Seyfried is now my title picture. Because that happened.

Plot: Imagine a future where the currency was not money, but time. Sounds awesome right?

Best Thing About The Movie: The concept.

Worst Thing About The Movie: The execution.

Best In Show: Cillian Murphy

In Summation: I think conceptually speaking, Andrew Niccol is perhaps the most incisive, impressive and occasionally prophetic science fiction film-maker of our times. He;s just not really a very good writer. Or at least one that hits and misses. Gattaca did this kind of thing right, but In Time is too much of a pseudo-blockbuster to really do what it wants to do. Some of the ideas still impress and intrigue, but mostly this is a pretty horrible misfire for Niccol, even if it is his most successful movie date. Rating: 4/10


Tagline: Guns, God and Righteousness etc..

Plot: Gerard Butler kills black people. Reductive, but technically true.

Best Thing About The Movie: Some earnest shit, but it didn't feel false necessarily. Good performances.

Worst Thing About The Movie: I think there's a serious case to be made that the recent Rambo reboot is a subtler reboot than this. Fans of nuance will not be pleased.

Best In Show: Gerard Butler

In Summation: I liked Butler in this movie. I think there's a charisma and power about Butler that is pretty consistent, almost as consistent as the terrible movies he chooses to star in. Maybe an interesting character part supporting role, or a villain would be a good move. The movie around him? Well it's a well-meaning movie, but if the Oscar Movie was a genre, which I'm increasingly inclined to think it has, this would be the B movie version of it. Righteous outrage all present and correct. Eloquent way of expressing it? Not so much. 5/10


Tagline: Brett Ratner, voice of the American Suppressed.

Plot: So some guy who's not but really is Bernie Madoff steals everyone's money, REGULAR GUYS, decide to steal it back.

Best Thing About The Movie: It's a good cast, with the likes of Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena backing up big guns Stiller and Murphy, is enjoyable in places.

Worst Thing About The Movie: It's sort of a lazy script, as you'd expect with Ratner. The heist itself is lame, and there's not nearly enough Eddie Murphy.

Best In Show: Eddie Murphy

In Summation: Oh Ratner. How you confound me so. The thing about Ratner is, no-one can really call him bad, as every film he makes seems to hit the 5/6 out of ten range, but what's so odious is something tells me that this isn't an accident because he's motivated by what sells not what works, so as a storyteller he's just feeding the audience what he thinks they want, trying not to be daring or forceful as to alienate anybody. And it just means all of his films become anonymous, disposable pieces of mediocrity. Tower Heist was working with something here, entertainment sure, but formed out of righteous indignation. But Ratner who prizes the material as an artist and as a man above all things, is just the wrong man for the job, and consequently it all comes out in a muddle. Rating: 5/10


Tagline: The most iconic Rape movie in the history of cinema...IS BACK.

Plot: Yada Yada Farmhouse, yada yada Eric from True Blood.

Best Thing About The Movie: A functional, mostly efficient thriller, A couple of tense sequences.

Worst Thing About The Movie: Doesn't really get/feel Comfortable with the intellectual material, so the movie is all over the shop as far as what it's saying, and ends up trying to say that a woman would be more disappointed if her rapist was killed by her husband, then vice versa. Maybe think this shit through.

In Summation: Straw Dogs is caught between a rock and a hard place really. It's remaking a film that's such an unabashed expression of the male ID, but doing it for commerce. So it wants to reflect the 'Brand Name' so to speak, which essentially all comes together to mean it's uncomfortable with it's own existence. I liked a couple of the performances, James Marsden and Alexander Skarsgaard bounced of each other well. But you just feel that this is a film that no-one involved wants to be making. Rating: 5/10


Tagline: 300, except this time there are Gods. Ah yeah.

Plot: Mickey Rourke is coming to kill everyone, Theseus and Stephen Dorff apparently don't much appreciate this. Freida Pinto can see the future.

Best Thing About The Movie: If you have a really low investment rate in actual story, the visuals are on occasion spectacular, in that entirely synthetic CGI way.

Worst Thing About The Movie: Right so apparently there's thing called acting, where people pretend to be people in a believable way. This movie, this movie does not care about this principle. Accents range from American to English to Indian, and it's Tarsem Singh saying clear as day, 'I don't care about the human side of my movies' his fans wouldn't like it, but he and Zack Snyder are a pair made in heaven.

Best In Show: Stephen Dorff (I guess)

In Summation: This is a film where you keep thinking 'why is that in the movie', or 'why is he in the movie' or 'Why are their gods in this film when they don;t matter a jot to the story' It's just a terrible script across the board really, and I think the question is how highly you rate visuals in your movie going experience. If they're the reason you love movies, then you'll probably enjoy this in spite of eveything. If like me you're a writing and acting guy, this stuff was pretty intolerable. Rating: 4/10


Tagline: Two Oscar winners slumming it for a paycheck

Plot: Guys want Money that's in the house, but Cage and Kidman don't want to give it to them

Best Thing About The Boy: Oh boy. Erm, I didn't see a reflection of the camera at any point during this movie.

Worst Thing About The Movie: A complete failure on almost every level, yet in a way that's somehow forgettable and unremarkable. One of those movies where it's like yep, I've wasted my life.

Best In Show: My liquefying brain.

In Summation: Nic Cage needs to pay the IRS, I get that but what's Kidman doing here? And of course they give the role of the wildcard psycho to Cam Gigandet, also known as the greatest actor alive. Legitimately one of the worst performances of the year. This movie is just, there are no words for it's inadequacy. Joel Schumacher's name was not a surprise. Rating: 2/10