Saturday, 30 April 2011



I'm sure you guys love it when I ramble about subjects connected the concept of reviewing of a movie only in passing right? Well its happening. Thor is the first in the glut of Marvel movies set to hit our unsuspecting screens over the next couple of years, there's this, Captain America, The Avengers and grosses forthwith allowing, many more to follow. Marvel studios was met mostly with cheer from the fans, because it represented a by the fans, for the fans mantra that comic book die-hards had wanted from the beginning. They were tired of the co-productions, of the watering down and of Ang Lee's Hulk. And Marvel studios represented just that, the prospect of fan service. But here's the thing about fan service. It leads to some spineless, incoherent movies. Movies to where telling a good story is secondary to someone's suit of Armour looking exactly right, where compiling the Avengers universe narrative is more important then doing an individual film justice. Content becomes more valuable then execution, which is the kiss of death to any film. And Thor, which feels like someone said 'Right you've got to have this, this, this and this in it, logic be damned.' Suffers as a consequence.

Objectively, I think comic movies tend to be better when they have a 'fuck what the fans want' policy, and just concentrate on making a great movie, that if is good enough will be accepted by them anyway. Christopher Nolan mixed up a ton of official storyline shit (Two-face's origin story etc.) for his batman movies, but because they were of a high quality, nobody gave a shit. Yet I can't name a loyalist comic book movie that really blew me away. Because they're all like Thor, beautifully realized yet disjointed, segmented and soulless. The First Iron Man avoided this fate solely on the back of Robert Downey Jr's talents, but Marvel's subsequent releases The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and now Thor are the most expensive patch-quilts of movies you've ever seen, too many boxes to tick and too little time. Its a shame, because I think there's probably a great movie to be made out of the concept of Thor, but Marvel's got way too many wheels to spin.

Chris Hemsworth, no doubt cast for his bulk rather then his acting talents, is actually a goofily charming presence as Thor, in an 80's Bruce Campbell kind of way. Not necessarily the best of actors, but a winning one. His role is pretty thin, to be honest, but compared to the famous talent elsewhere in this film, you feel Hemsworth is the one doing it least for the pay-check. What's even weirder is Anthony 'doing it for the cash' Hopkins is probably the least guilty offender of this. He commits to his character, and doesn't ham it up in that predictable Hopkins way. No that prize goes to Natalie Portman, who phones it in so blatantly and passively in a year where she's set herself apart so noticeably, its close to shocking. Still her role is nothing more then 'the girl' so I guess who can blame her. Tom Hiddleston is a little hit and miss as bad guy Loki, veering between interesting and hammy. I think Idris Elba's deadpan Heimdal was probably my favorite performance, but this movie simply had way too many characters and too few that make an impact. To be honest I could have done without the Earth stuff entirely, and have it just focus on the pseudo-Shakespearean Asgard drama. It wouldn't have been great, but when this movie stops dead so Agent fucking Colson can turn up for half an hour to remind us that yes in fact, The Avengers is coming out in 2012.

There's a lot to look at in Thor, Asgard looks pretty stunning, and I guess there's a sense of fun to it at least, but it's so ultimately pointless. Particularly when it asks us to buy that Thor and Portman have fallen in undying love in about two days. Ditch half the cast and spend some time making me believe that, instead of showing me a bunch of guys no-one cares about but the die-hards. There's a reason fan-fiction isn't as good as the real thing, it lacks interest in doing anything that isn't easy or obvious, and if Marvel insist on making 200 million pieces of fan-fiction in a world where The Dark Knight exists and expect to be taken seriously, well. Its just going to feel childish.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Arthur

Death by tray it shall be.

Reviewing a movie you expect to be awful but is actually only kind of bad is always a tricky prospect. Because you have to temper your relief with the fact that the thing is still kind of shit, and its kind of easy to be overly kind to a film simply because its terribleness wasn't sufficient enough to make you scream. See Fast Five's 78% rating on rotten tomatoes. But the trailer for Arthur had me anticipating some kind of apocalyptic level of suck, in which Russell Brand would make silly faces until I want Michael Ironside to explode my head just to make it stop. But the reality is Arthur is maybe only 20% unbearable nightmare, 30% sort of sweet and 50% unfunny mediocrity. It's really not funny, much of Brand's dialogue feels like half-hearted improvisation and his comedic performance is mostly pretty irritating. But I fond his relationship with Greta Gerwig sort of sweet, so sue me.

To be honest I think its mostly Gerwig's doing, taking a thinly sketched manic pixie dream girl and does the best she can to give her an actual personality, but she's just a winning, warm presence in a mostly hollow studio comedy. I once heard a desolate man say that nothing is worse then an unfunny comedy, and I'm inclined to agree, but I think what saves Arthur from veering into the inner circles of shitness is a slight sense of sincerity at its centre, something I'm inclined to think it just sort of lucked into. Sure there's Gerwig, and an expectedly sardonic and welcome performance by Helen Mirren as Brand's womanservant, who makes her mostly shitty dialogue sound an awful lot more caustic. Jennifer Garner gives a broadly fun performance as the self-centered unwanted fiancée. She certainly has fun. Brand meanwhile is a frustrating presence, because he's just trying way too hard here. He's capable of being a very good actor, as he is here in some of the films more emotional scenes, but he just pushes for laughs with too much vigor and that becomes pretty intolerable.

The fact that Arthur manages not to be a terrible film is some sort of a miracle, but lets not let that distract from the fact that its still not a very good one. Its way too long, with far to much saddled on to what should have been a fairly simple story. But I found a couple of moments to enjoy, so I suppose so can you. Plus Luis Guzman, in one of his large roles in recent years. I've actually never seen the original Arthur, and no doubt if I had I'd probably have a more focused hatred of it, but I haven't so I found it to be a grating, unfunny film that but that had its heart in the right place. And I didn't think I was even going to get that so. Yay?

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 29 April 2011

Defend A Bad Movie: Last Action Hero


- Has to have a rating of less then 50% on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes

- You have to like it. That's pretty much it.


Ratings: 44% Metacritic, 38% Rotten Tomatoes

Plot: Kid gets transported via magic movie ticket to the world of his favorite Action hero, Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

It's easy to see why this film is hated to the extent that it is. It's a tonal clusterfuck. Painfully earnest n some parts, bluntly ironic in others, capable of surprising levels of darkness yet always feeling somehow like a kids movie. It's got that unwelcome feeling of having been drafted about 100 times by 20 different guys all trying to make a different film. And yeah, comedically the spoofing can get a bit broad. Scratch that very broad. Hey, no-one's calling it a masterpiece, but I feel compelled to defend Last Action Hero from it's pretty shitty reputation, because for all its tonal schizophrenia, there's a much smarter movie lurking around the edges, one with legitimate insights into its genre and perhaps just a little too much love for it.

I think most if not all of the films problems can be relayed back to having a 12 year old kid as a lead. It hurts the meta-commentary aspect of the movie, it hurts the believability of the movie and it means the film relies on Arnold Schwarzenegger to carry things from an acting point of view. You don't believe the kid as anything other then a wide-eyed fan, and certainly not a genre expert like we're told he is. Part of the problem too is that action films have such an 18/R rated pedigree, that's kind of the whole point of them, that a 12/PG-13 spoof of them seems highly nonsensical. How can you properly satirize a genre if your rating prohibits you from thoroughly speaking its language?

This movie owes as much if not more to The Wizard Of Oz then it does to Rambo or Eraser, such is the level of wonderment the kid takes in his action movie Oz. But in a way it forces a sense of wonder onto a satire, a genre all about breaking down convention rather then paying reverence to it. Or child-like enthusiasm has no place in metaphysical, structural piss-riffs. This is perhaps why the action movie world is so exaggerated, past that of even the most incredulous 80's film, featuring cartoon cat cops, and female officers dressed in fetish gear. Perhaps for a genre with such a laissez-faire attitude toward quality as the action movie, you have to be even smarter with how you mock it, otherwise it just looks like a bad movie, with the joke harder and harder to find. Plus the scene where he meets the real life Schwarzenegger is pretty horrible.

And yet, despite much about the film not working, there's moments and scenes which come out of a much better movie. I think once the movie leaves the world of the Jack Slater movie and comes into the real world reality, things get much better. The action movie portion was too simplistic to mine any real quality, but Charles Dance's sardonic performance as mercenary bad guy Benedict, was a welcome grounding feature, but once Benedict escapes to the real world, Dance kind of comes alive, and his delight at the universe no longer conspiring against him in a non-biased reality is probably my favorite thing about the film, but its so good it makes me wish the movie was about an action movie villain in the real world, rather then vice versa.

Any movie that could have this scene can't be all bad, right?

But similarly the little touches of the Slater character discovering he can break convention, he's allowed to like classical music, he's allowed to be interested in a woman for her personality. Small, not world-blowing insights but insights non the less, and the movie does a much better job at deconstructing the genre hilariously when not trying so hard to be hilarious. I also dug the dark turn it takes once it enters our world, where death enters the equation. Like I said, it makes no sense with what's gone before but there's enough to like all the same. I think the film could have been better with a more singular vision, and a greater knowledge and specificity regarding action movie, but there's enough meta-ideas that work here to find something to like. A mess, but a mostly charming mess, and I have no idea why It's got a lower critical reputation then say, Collateral Damage.

Last Action Hero is like a dumb guy with big dreams. It may not know how to properly say what it wants to say, or do what it wants to do, but its sense of ambition is so winning, so unrelenting that after a while, with so many movies so content to not take one risk in hell, that becomes enough.

Verdict: What can I say, I'm a sucker for movies that try to do something. There's a lot wrong with Last Action Hero, but a an outright dud and embarrassment it is not. Charles Dance's awesome performance plus some capable McTiernan direction and some interesting if rough ideas make this at least worth watching once. Collateral Damage Isn't worth shit.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Battlestar Galactica Season One: " Water" - My Mind Made Of Nuts And Bolts

Water would probably freeze in space right? Whatever, it looks awesome.

- A quick touch-base with the characters before we get going to avoid further confusion. Commander Adama, is the tough but fair, high-ranking military officer on board Galactica, His son Lee is a pilot/squadron captain dealing with issues of idealism, Starbuck is a girl pilot, only hates everyone and everything in the most awesome way, Baltar is a genius scientist who unbeknown to everyone caused the end of the world, and also hallucinates an apparition of the Cylon model (number Six) that seduced and betrayed him. The Cylons are our robot villains who look both like humans and terminator like monsters, Boomer is a pilot who is also a cylon sleeper agent, something she doesn't even know herself, Laura Roslin is the interim president of the human race, Helo, the soldier stuck on a nuclear ravaged planet, Tyrol is an engineer and Saul Tigh is Adama's right hand man. Exhale.

- OK, without further ado lets get into ' Water'. Ron Moore made the good decision to nominally have each episode to focus on a character, but not have the arc narrative and the rest of the cast disappear, like what happened in the earlier years of Lost. Instead we continue to build the world, yet give each character a turn in the spotlight to deepen and such. 'Water' was the turn of Boomer, our unknowingly villainous cylon sleeper agent.

- Now the concept of the 'mole' is something run into the ground with serialized action/adventure shows. Usually played for maximum mystery points, BSG is doing something a little different with it. It tells us Boomer is a cylon from the get go, and rather play the character as a plot point, it's exploring Boomer betraying her adopted family and friends against her will, and the effect it has on her, rather then just for a holy shit it was her moment.

- The arresting opening sequence sees Boomer in the ship's armoury, covered in water with no idea how she get there. I love the amount of visual ways Moore tells his story. We go on to find that boomer has in her sleeper cylon state, planted C4 in the ship's water tank, the subsequent explosion of which vastly minimizes the fleet's supply of water. A desperate Boomer recruits sometime boyfriend Tyrol to help her cover it up.

- I won't say Grace Park gives a good performance as Boomer, because she doesn't. Not really. She's kind of wooden in this episode, but Moore's writing of the character makes her interesting enough to watch anyway. Park isn't the worst actress in the world, but she's a little flat is all I'm saying. Aaron Douglas gets to give Tyrol a little more texture in this episode, a character perhaps the most under-developed of the regulars at this point.

- The slow opening was a nice. calming touch after the fast-paced ride that was last week's episode. It's nice to see quiet moments in any sci-fi show, but seeing characters like Tigh. Lee, Roslin and Adama alone, in moments they're not bound by military exposition is important for their characters.

- Ah, the beginnings of Lee Adama, political idealist are seen in this episode. I hate that guy.

- Enjoyed the calm way everyone dealt with the disaster, rather then resorting to hysterics. It gives the impression that life-threatening situations are a daily occurrence. Which of course they are.

- I don't know quite how I feel about the Boomer/Tyrol plot except to say that it makes Boomer more interesting and Tyrol less interesting. Doing anything for love is one thing, but helping out someone when they've clearly stolen and used explosives against your friends, and by all logic can only be a cylon agent is definitely another. Don't be such a sap, tyrol.

- Some prime Baltar in this episode, from his blase, could give less of a shit attitude in the tactical meeting to his sexually charged card game with Starbuck. Good times. Starbuck is already my second favorite character, she plays the assholeness with a creditable humor. It makes it fun and not taxing. Enjoyed that rare scene between them very much.

- Edward James Olmos' performance as Adama is easy to ignore, but its a very savvy, emotionally rooted one. As is that of Mary McDonnell as Roslin. Old people are always good actors aren't they?

- Also, the comedy stylings of Tricia Helfer anyone? The way she delivered 'you have a friend' as Gaeta followed Baltar around made me laugh out loud.

- Our Helo sideplot on Caprica doesn't really go anywhere this week, just him continuing to get closer to the other Boomer Cylon. They shall robot/human sex very soon.

- Boomer is part of the search team going out looking for H20 and of course she's the one to find it, and kind of has to fight her way through her programming to tell her flight buddy. I kind of liked that scene, but do wish Park could have brought more to it.

- I always say a show's second episode should be its worst, because it has to continue to world build yet without the novelty of the pilot. Yet for the most part 'Water' was a pretty solid outing, setting up the world, the hierarchy of the miltary and the government, the continuing saga of Baltar and Boomer's A story pretty effectively. It had a lot to get through and did it mostly effectively. It lacked a little of the flair and style of last week's episode, but that was inevitable.

- What's effective is that BSG is less at the whim of whose episode it is, and is capable of producing a compelling episode about one of the less then compelling characters. Solid if not extraordinary.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

REVIEW: Beastly

Excerpt From Alex Pettyfer 's internal monologue:

Our eyes meet. She lost in my beauty, lost in her adequacy. I think of my Veyron 16.4, it's dual clutch transmission with its seven gear ratios, its direct-shift comp. controlled automatic, It's six-speed DSG, its 150 millisecond shift-time, its four engine bi-turbochargers, my second home in London, my $2000 dollar haircut from the John Barrett Salon, Fifth Avenue, the extra's whose brain I ate on the set of Stormbreaker, Moral Objectivism, Credit Benefit swaps, The tenets of the new conservative, My hammer strength insert ramp, 200 push-ups at dawn, 100 at dusk, The fallacies of the New York Times review of I Am Number Four, the wearing effect bone has on my Bosche AKE 40 Chainsaw , the value of introspection, the mindset of the American populace, My 2nd avenue Balcony view which overlooks The Arcadian, Hilary Duff, Being an island, living and dying alone, auditioning for Spider-Man, always anger, sometimes pushing it down, sometimes letting it loose. The High School Musical bitch says something to me. Expects me to reply. Thoughts of banal conversation, thoughts of tolerating those beneath me, Thoughts of waiting in line, waiting my turn. I say my words with the conviction of real emotion, turning Barnz's lies into truths.

I sit, thinking. Thinking about thought as a ironically redundant construct, the girl in the alley, her limbs somewhere I don't remember. Recycling as the losing battle, the woman who'd rather be a monster then age, the man whose best years are behind him. The make-up girl makes a joke about waiting, I politely laugh and then shoot her in the face with my type 64 silencer. The life pours out of her. The notion of empathy, and the capacity to understand it being beyond my reach. My 8:45 reservation at The Blue Bar, Algonquin. Twihards. Robert Pattinson's head on my plain-glass decor moderne mantle, Rising above the soft stuff, being the man you always dreamed you could be, Jealousy the great mystifier; Rules Of Attraction being th best movie ever made. The decreased productivity of the man who wants to do everything. The limitations of a public school upbringing, how actions define the individual, Life as a rat-race and second place being A-OK. The High School Musical Bitch is talking to me again.

The end. My star rising in hollywood, being the bench-warmer reserve of teen girl fantasy, The grail of the 50 mil opening. The hard-work of our parents and the generational disconnect. The prophets of our times speaking in insanities, the equal expectancy making me a liar. No matter. I park my Veyron 16.4 next to last year's model, which rots like unwanted fruit. I think if irony rules the world, then how can there be a home to go to and go back to snorting $1000 an ounce snow of a dismembered prostitute's back. I think about the comparative value of saran rap from several local convenience stores, factoring in distance, hygiene and race. The triumph of man being the defeat of impulse by reason and wait to win the next tween demographic craze, the agents tell me this is important. I nod along, and massacre in the mean time. A long way to go yet.

Rating: 4/10 (Neil Patrick Harris is really good in an otherwise terrible movie)

REVIEW: Fast Five

You just went from the middle of the most wanted list, to the very top. Osama Bin Laden anyone? Nope?

I make an effort to see every film that gets a release, a policy I generally observe with two caveats. Shitty conveyor belt kids movies or sequels to films I already hated. Even that last one doesn't absolve me of seeing stuff like Twilight sequels or Transformers: The Dark Side Of The Moon, because they're too large a part of the culture. So really its only sequels to moderately successful films I hate I can justify not seeing. And I was all set to include Fast Five in this category, and happily not pollute my brain with this shit.

Yet I went and fucked up my screening schedule, so my planned Arthur and Beastly double bill went out the window, and in order not to have taken a 30 minute bus journey to Beastly being something I had done, I regrettably had to see this movie as well. And to be honest, what is there to say about it. It knows its audience, it knows its formula, and its fans (Who I have to assume is exclusively teenage boys and people who don't give a shit.) probably prefer being able to predict every moment, embrace every cliche and get exactly what they want. You can kind of forget that some people aren't passionate about movies, that some people don't want movies to be all that smart or challenging. They just want a night out, 2 hours to enjoy with friends and that's it. And there's certainly more of that guy then there are of me. So while Fast Five is pretty much abominable, the dialogue is bad, the story is bad, Vin Diesel just looks pissed off that these movies are the only career avenue left for him at this point, Paul Walker continues to do his best impression of a cinder-block and while I admire The Rock's openness to playing antagonists, this character is so hollow it's not even funny.

I could go on about the many things that don't make sense, the many things that are mind-bogglingly stupid, but if you're seeing the fourth sequel to The Fast And The Furious voluntarily I'm going to go right ahead and assume you don't care about these things. You probably care about some sweet shots of some expensive cars, some sweet shot of some chicks and some sweet action scenes. If its there, fuck if it makes sense. You are a lost cause to me my friend, just as I am to you.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The X Files Season One: " Pilot" - Should You Go Down To The Woods Today

I Want to believe. I'm sorry but grown ass Mulder wouldn't have that in his office.

This will be an interesting experiment for me, because while I've seen episodes of The X Files here and there I've seen much too little of it, and certainly nothing out of the first season. And while the show's critical reputation is holding, I'm getting the sense that nobody is watching The X-Files anymore. Buffy holds strong, yet the most successful genre series of all time, at least in terms of viewers (nobody watched Star Trek until way after), the colossus of a genre everybody complains is too often marginalized, is apparently not worth watching for the direct subsequent generation? I'm not one to point fingers, I've seen every episode of Buffy at least twice and not a single complete season of the X-Files. So I think its time to put that right, and discover whether this show for all its supposed influence, actually holds up. Without further etc.

- Its easy to understand the show's mass appeal almost instantly. Its essentially a detective show with a twist. We've still got detectives solving murder cases, only they're FBI Agents and instead of the culprits being gangsters and serial killers, we've got Aliens and monsters. Score for one for The X Files as opposed to Law And Order, is that while there's only so many variations on psychopath, aliens and monsters adds another dimension, one where you can be intrigued by the idea even if the episode itself doesn't work all that well.

- The episode's introductory scene couldn't be more alien abduction for dummies though. But that's exactly the point I suppose. Ingratiate you into the world with familiar imagery and all that. Girl in pajamas wondering through the woods, bright lights, she looks up amazed and then we cut to the morning and she's dead. The cops exchange suspicious glances and one of them implies that this isn't the first time. Cue Credits.

- Gillian Anderson has done some interesting work post Files, she was very good in Bleak House, amongst other things, but Scully looks like the worst role in the world at this point. It sucks to be the skeptic in a sci-fi show, because you're always wrong. But Anderson is making it work best she can, selling both the naivete and the intelligence of Scully.

- I love how 90's TV shows don't give a shit about delicacy, just had a 5 minutes scene which not only introduced the show's main character, but also the show's central thesis, the Scully-Mulder dynamic, Mulder's main motivation and the narrative of this week's episode. Working up to stuff is for WIMPS.

- Duchovny is maybe trying a little too hard as Mulder. I think he's capable of being a good actor, in the specifically right circumstance, because he's got an innate roguish charm/douche thing going on, but he is always asked to play intelligent characters and that i find harder to swallow. Call him TV's Keanu Reeves.

- Still as hero names go, you could do worse then Fox Mulder. That's badass.

- So a series of girls are being found with the exact same unidentifiable marks on their back, naturally Mulder thinks some nasty Aliens are afoot. Scully thinks there must be a rational explanation for all this. I think that line should be banned from TV and Movies.

- What I do like, is that its setting up the conspiracy angle nicely, the villains of this show, both alien and human, are unseen. So it has a nice us vs. The World quality, but also a sense that they're fighting a losing battle. I like this tone.

- Mulder's one-liners are having a very low rate of conversion though, When he and Scully exhumed the body of one of the victim's and the corpse looked positively Alien, cracking jokes didn't really seem appropriate. Particularly for a man on a passionate crusade for validation and answers. Still got to be that maverick cop I suppose.

- Suspects are a mysterious cop, a morgue attendant, a comatose boy and his crazy chick friend. I think we all know who its going to be. I mean beside the aliens of course.

- Very cynical Scully shower scene/fake-out. She thought she had the alien mark, but it turns out it was just mosquito bites. As long as we got her in bra and panties, says Fox studios.

- A kind of cool scene, where Mulder and Scully lose 10 minutes of time instantaneously. Something mysterious is going on. Yeah.

- Our second exposition scene is more character based, Mulder explains his 8 year old sister just disappeared one night, no warning, no trace. It's what drives him on his crusade to prove aliens exists, coz you know he hopes they took her.

- I instantly hope his sister disappeared for human reasons, instead of supernatural ones. Would be poignant. Chance of that happening equals zero though.

- Anderson grows on you as the episode progresses. It's a difficult role, but she is likable and a reasonable enough audience surrogate. This episode's plot though is kind of weak. Such is the lottery with stand-alone cop dramas. You roll the dice with that shit every week.

- So it was in fact comatose boy, under guidance from the aliens who abducted him at his graduation, with an assist from his cop dad. Guest characters all drawn pretty broadly though.

- The final confrontation scene was kind of poetic, in its own rough around the edges kind of way. The advantages of sci-fi, in a procedural series. Shit can at least be different.

- Probably a better pilot then it is a stand-alone episode. The world is well established, and I dug the conspiracy element, the final scene of a ominous man who was in a few scenes but had no lines, jacking Scully's evidence and taking it to a top secret Pentagon base was a nice, Good guys lose in this world moment. The whodunit of the week story was a little predictable and rushed but, it had a lot to get through. Potential problems? Well at the moment it seems like an exclusively two character series. Not sure about that. Duchovny and Anderson both have their merits, but I'm not sure they can engage me on their own forty minutes a week.

- I also think the strength of each episode is going to be a monster of the week lottery, but having said that there's promise here. And if it goes a more mythological route then they may be something unique. I guess we'll see. But it set up a dark tone well and right now, intrigued if not invested. But something tells me I may be soon.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 22 April 2011

TV REVIEW: Archer Season 2

Relax. It was just cancer sex.

It wouldn't be too off base to say this has been a banner year for television comedy, what with so many shows coming into their own, from Louie to Community to Parks and Recreation. The understood limitation of what television comedy can do has been moved so many times I wouldn't even know how to pin-point where it is anymore. Yet I'm going to say that Archer, this season at least, has been the best. Because while some shows have pushed boundaries and some shows have been mind-blowingly hilarious, I think Archer might be the only one to be consistently outstanding at both. Something in this season of Archer just clicked, going from what was an always amusing if scatty Season 1 to a gloriously confident, always hilarious yet much more focused second season. It managed to keep the insane amount of laughs yet layer them with smartly told character stories, and in doing so became the best season of anything thus far into 2011.

Archer's success this year is even more impressive when you consider that at its core its a black comedy. Something that traditionally doesn't work all that well on American television, I think in part because of the greater episode count, and in part because Black comedy can become tedious in long form very quickly, however funny it is. Perhaps because characters are often the one constant in sitcoms, so watching writers revel in their misfortune week in week out becomes a decidedly arduous experience you can't latch on to, let alone have any investment in and eventually it just becomes depressing. I think Two And Half Men is the darkest show on network television, devised entirely around the bad guy taking pleasure in the good guy's failings, the rich guy laughing at the poor guy, and the cynical guy laughing at the earnest guy. That's the show, and the trap black comedy always ends up falling into, becoming a platform for writers to spit shit at people who don't share their values. Archer avoids that, because while its a very dark show, its humor comes from the characters, you laugh with them more then you laugh at them, and humor is only occasionally drawn from bully-porn, which is of course the best way to sieve that particular well.

The show's ensemble is ridiculously strong. In the first season, there was very much the sense of the show figuring out what to do with its supporting cast whilst Archer himself (in a endlessly ingenious voice-over performance by H. Jon Benjamin.) carried the show. This year every character has a defined identity and is capable of being hilarious. I'd almost say every supporting character could be the lead of a show I would watch. I particularly enjoy Judy Greer's Cheryl, who makes possibly the thinnest character into one of the most hilarious, almost purely on the strength of her delivery. Its almost needless to say Jessica Walter is great as Archer's mother Mallory, because what else would you have expected. The show made a very wise decision to add season 1 recurrers Krieger and Gillette to the mix on a regular basis, both acting as all-purpose joke-hitters, both played terrificly deadpan. But it's Archer's show and boy is that character a force of awesome this season, with Benjamin nailing every line whilst staying true to character at the same time.

This was most notable in the mini-masterpiece that was 'Placebo Effect', in which a cancer ravaged Archer went on a rampage against those who had tampered with his medication. It merged so many of the elements that have really come to the fore the season. The growing confidence, the character led story, the dark comedy and an increased sense of adventurousness into one 20 minute package that exceeded even raised expectations. It was one of those episodes, not too dissimilar to Community's 'Modern Warfare', where you knew you were watching a classic as it was one and as the thing got better and better, you pretty much want to stop and applaud at the end. Some good shit. Amazing really, because I never would have thought Archer was going to top ' The Double Deuce', was filled in the back story on Archer's aged manservant Wodehouse to poignant/deeply amusing effect. But what was great about this season of archer was that it kept topping itself, but not necessarily by raising the stakes or bending the reality, but by going from a cynical show with some hilarious cyphers to a show where each episode's plot was less disposable, and contributed to a larger arc or served to layer the character. It became funnier by getting more detailed, by caring where things came from and where they went, so a seed layed in episode 6 could be paid off in episode 12. Or in other words, it built a universe, with an increasing number of characters, as the best television comedies like The Simpsons or Arrested Development do.

What I loved about this season of Archer, is it had that drive to be better every week, to try new and ever more daring things week to week, and for that enough it would be one of my favorite shows. But what's amazing is that it's managed to be fucking hilarious to a degree that one wouldn't have thought possible with all this storytelling going on. The modern '30 Rock' rule says that a sitcom has laughs in it, if it tries to tell a story in an episode. Plots are used to mine laughs and abandoned for something else to get more laughs. The best shows though manage the balance, and Archer more then any show airing right now, is doing that perfectly.


Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Battlestar Galactica Season One: " 33"- Eyes On The Clock And The Road

Maybe one day, you can have small little toasters of your own.

I watch a lot of TV, and one of the selfish benefits of being such an anal retentive viewer is that I get to pass shows on to whatever social group I may be involved with at any given moment, and look all smart and awesome. And while I've turned a lot of people onto a lot of shows, I've never successfully turned anyone on to Battlestar Galactica. I've known a couple of people who've liked it, but they came pre-affiliated. For all my nagging, screaming and crying that moment of conversion has never happened, and with consideration I've decided to take the cause to the streets, and every Thursday I'll recap a new episode of this endlessly enterprising, smart and unique show. It's going to be my first large scale re-watch too, so personally I am very much looking forward to re-immersing into this universe.

- Having said this of course, I've got a sneaking feeling that Season One may be quite a bit worse then the seasons that followed it, so I guess we'll find out if that's true.

- Maybe not though, because '33' for the most part is a crisp and well-executed episode. Ingratiating us again with the universe after the mini-series, whilst being a pretty thrilling chase movie of an episode at the same time. The downfall of so many first episodes is they get too caught up explaining to actually be engaging as their own story, but this one manages to dodge that bullet, showcasing many of the shows intentions from the get go.

- The set-up sees The remainder of the human race fleeing blindly through space, with the Cylons, a sentient AI race who just destroyed the known worlds hot on their tail. For reasons unknown to the humans, the Cylons keep finding them every 33 minutes, which means those fighting back don't get to rest, eat or sleep. We're thrown into the midst of the frontlines, from the top military brass stuck in the control room, to the pilots barely allowed to leave their jets. There's such an atmosphere of bleak despair, the sheer exhaustion on everyone's face builds up the atmosphere nicely.

- The high-concept set-up means the show can get to work on all he characters too, without wasting too much time on what's going on.

- Liked a lot how the episode intercut Baltar's fantasy scenes at his riverside mansion with the hectic main action. Elegant shit. Plus metaphor heaven.

- Early scenes of the show are not afraid to pursue grey areas can be scene in the episode's treatment of the Olympic carrier plotline, something I won't spoil in too much earnestness

- Speaking of which, the danger of BSG perhaps is its earnestness, and while its nice to these officers get pissed off, be irrational and just generally be assholes ( Saul Tigh and Starbuck in particular) there's still something innately good and noble about everyone, from the in over her head President Roslin (Played effectively by Donnie Darko's Mary McDonnell) to the gruff but fair Commander Adama. They might be subtler takes on these familiar tropes, but they still are those familiar tropes. Particularly in this episode.

- Still like the gallows humor going about. That makes watching despair much more enjoyable.

- Also like how the episode is building the smaller characters already, Roslin's aide Billy and Deck-Lt. Dualla are both small characters that get nice moments in this episode.

- Gaius Baltar in the early going at least, is the reason this show isn't just an ultra-polished version of Stargate: SG1. Baltar is by all means of measurement a coward and a traitor, and possibly the human responsible for the end of the world. On paper he's the easy villain of this show, but thanks to both the shows intentions and the funny, charming performance James Callis gives, it asks you to root for him. Its the first note of ambiguity in a show that went to grow many, but in '33', he's the audience surrogate into this militaristic world, a welcome presence of selfishness and humor in amongst the straight-faced nobility of the soldiers. Oh yeah and he also hallucinates metaphysical conversations with the Cylon chick Six he once banged. K?

- Tricia Helfer's performance as Six is awesome. I grant she's hot, but I've seen many hot actresses try to play sensual and fail, yet Helfer is encapsulating.

- I couldn't go much further without mentioning Starbuck, played fantastically by Katee Sackhoff, who is basically Humphrey Bogart as a hot chick. Delivering her limited material in this episode with an amusing hateful candidness. It gets much, much better.

- There's a great pace about this episode, that sets up the vibe of Battlestar Galactica as a road movie. A post-apocalyptic story as bleak as any, only skew sci-fi/fanboy. But I hear what your saying, its' called Battlestar Galactica and that just sounds shit and immature and yadayada. But Television is always the medium of how and not what, a terrible premise can make for great TV, and a great premise can make for shit TV. And even in this episode, ostensibly its first, the ambition and craft in Ron Moore's writing is plain, and this is not just another wish-fulfillment space fantasy, its something altogether smarter and engaging.

- My gut feeling though is this might be the best one for a while. Still bold writing, moral ambiguity and space battles make for an exciting 40 minutes of TV. Fucking solid opener.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 16 April 2011

REVIEW: Red Riding Hood

I can't wait until Amanda Seyfried is actually in a good movie. What a day that'll be.

5:55 PM: Maybe this was a bad idea. Deep in the throes of a none too small brain-fry caused by sitting in a dark room with strangers for six hours, my encore is nothing less then fucking Red Riding Hood. I don't want to be here man, I just wanted to go to the movies, I just liked films. That was all that constituted the game. But then it became a sickness, some fetishistic religion in which I subject myself to seeing every piece of crap just so I can say I did. So I can say, yes I did in fact see Red Riding Hood so I have no need to be happy. My life su...

5.58 PM: Some guy just came in wearing an askew woolen hat. Bell-end.

5.58 PM: ..cks

5:59 PM: I'm pretty sure my popcorn is sweet not salted. I paid 4.65 for this bullshit. This aggression will not stand, Shabina thou hast forsaken me.

6:00 PM: Your Highness sucked.

6.00 PM. Look I don't want to trash-talk Shabina the popcorn counter girl. Why would I? But this time the girl is failing big.

6:03 PM: Screen 9 is starting to fill, many teen girl Posse's. Some mums. Nobody with a penis.

6:05 PM: The most dejected boyfriend ever just walked into what I'm sure he believes to be his prison. His girlfriend is beaming

6:06 PM:

Whipped Boyfriend: I heard Sucker Punch was good....

Dominant Girlfriend: No that's perpetuates a negative representation of women as sex objects.

Whipped Boyfirend: But it has dragons...

Dominant Girlfriend: And a commendation of the male gaze paradigm.

Whipped Boyfriend: Robots?

Dominant girlfirend: Why are you still talking?

Whipped Boyfriend: Jon Hamm?

Dominant Girlfriend: Is he playing Don Draper?

Whipped Boyfriend: Why wou..

Dominant Girlfriend: Then no sale. I think we should see Red Riding Hood.

Whipped Boyfriend: But...

Dominant Girlfriend: It looks fun, and the boys look really fit.

Whipped Boyfriend: How is that any diff...

Dominant Girlfriend: Because it is, OK. Do you want to keep talking asshole, or do you want to queue for tickets and get me a Ben and Jerry's mint flavor.

6:11 PM: I am looking forward to seeing Amanda Seyfried though. Epic crush on her, for she makes finding Nemo eyes sexy.

6:13 PM: Two minutes motherfucker. That feeling you've got from your toenails to your fingertips is called DISINTERESTED APATHY.

6:14 PM: I sense the asshole factor is going to rise as the movie goes on. If one were to scale Cynicism, say from 1 to 20, I'd be at about a 7 now. If I don't hit the twenty by the end of the thing, I'll be surprised.

6:15 PM: Lights go down and for just the briefest of moments we can all pretend we're here to see something good.

6:16 PM: I'd like to clarify to the wonderful people at Warner Bros. That my mind is open to this being good, I would just bet the bank, the lives of family and the soul of my first born that it won't be.

6:18 PM: Pearl and Dean have gone Digital motherfucker, they can also walk on burning coals.

6:20 PM: Is it awesome or depressing that I know every one of these adverts by heart I've been to the cinema so many times. Probably depressing, but at least I can do something you can't do.

6:22 PM: Advertising for Scottish Tourism is flawed at a concept level. Why would people spend their hard earned money on going to Scotland. Why don't they just shoot themselves in the face?

6:25 PM:
Whipped Boyfriend: Can I go to the bathroom?

Dominant Girlfriend: No.

Whipped Boyfriend: Why not?

Dominant Girlfriend: Because what happens if I think of something hilarious to say about one of the trailers?

Whipped Boyfriend: You can tell it to that guy (Pointing at me.)

Dominant Girlfriend: He looks like a homeless person. Hold it.

Whipped Boyfriend: but..

Dominant Girlfriend: I said hold it. Man up and stop being a pussy.

6: 27 PM: Trailers yay. The girl with the dejected boyfriend looked at me weird.

6:28 PM: I'm sorry, but the Arthur trailer looks fucking abysmal.

6:29 PM: Yet everyone is fucking laughing.

6:29 PM: Cynicism scale: 8/20

6:31 PM: POTC 4. Yawn.


6:34 PM: Hopkins you just got served.

6:35 PM: And movie, so here we go, we've got some indie/goth guitar and some phat helicopter pan of some trees.

6:36 PM: Still on trees.

6:37 PM: Hey asshole mocking this for tree shots, its laying the lay of the land fool, showing the 17th century world from God's eye view. You see the prototype damn,the primitive village, this shit is capturing a place in time, art by means of reality.

6:38 PM: ^ ^ What a douche.

6:38 PM: OK we've got a six year old Seyfried and family....Is that Saul Tigh From Battlestar Galactica?


6:41 PM: Six year old Seyfried is hanging out with a much older woodland kid. I think they are supposed to be the the same age.

6:41 PM: " Oh My God she's like 6 and he's like 14."

6:43 PM: Don't kill the rabbit, young Seyfried!

6:44 PM: Epic adult Seyfried introduction, she comes round a tree in slow motion, complete with her amazingly engaging google eyes, and smoldering sensuality.

6:45 PM: Would totally smash it.

6:46 PM: OK adult woodland kid is apparently called Peter and is chopping wood in that niche chick-lit porn kind of way.

6:47 PM: Really fucking awful scene with Seyfried and Peter, and his hair is way too modern.

6: 48 PM: Did they have hair gel in the 17th century, because this is ridiculous.

6:48 PM: I mean seriously, I know teen girls wanting to do unspeakable things to Robert Pattinson's hair is a large part of the Twilight franchise, but this is a period piece motherfucker. Hair gel doesn'te exist for another 400 Years.


6:48 PM: Cynicism Scale: 10/20

6:48 PM: What earthly material could that be. If Peter can time travel I'm sure there are more productive things then commandeer hair gel for the pilgrims. Kill Hitler asshole.

6:53 PM: Holy shit, I just pissed away that entire scene raging about that guy's hair, I have no fucking idea what or where I am. Seyfried and Peter talked about how much they loved each other, were going to jack a couple of horses and ride off into the wilderness to get eaten by bears. Then The alarm sounded....

6:54 PM: Seyfried is hot.

6:55 PM: Seyfried's sister got K.O'd by the Wolf. And by that of course I mean killed delicately with a single scratch. Rather then devour her alive as wolves are want to do. You know, that's the only reason THEY KILL SHIT AT ALL.

6:55 PM: Dear Ms Catherine Hardwicke, Wolves are not serial killers. K THNX BYE.

6:57 PM: Seyfried and family, namely Virginia Madsen and dad Billy Burke. Burke was kind of awesome in Drive Angry. And Madsen is an awesome actress who just seems to be in shit movies all the time.

6:59 PM: So here's the sweet and lowdown. Seyfried is totes in love with Peter, but Mum Virginia Madsen wants her to marry Henry, the wealthy son of a blacksmith so Seyfried can have a better life, with more things and shit. But, Seyfried wants to follow her heart because obviously that's the thing to do.

7:00 PM: Dear Virginia Madsen, In the 17th century materialism don't mean shit.You're still going to end up getting Rickets. K THNX BYE.

7:01 PM: The two actors playing Seyfried's love interests are fucking awful by the way. I think Peter is worse then Henry, but that's the definition of a hollow victory.

7:03 PM: OK Saul Tigh is back, and so are a few fucking other randomers, And they gonna hunt the wolf. Fool of a took.

7:04 PM: Peter gets in a sly shot at Henry for being a pussy. Yeah Henry why DON'T you want to charge of into the wildernes with toothpicks and forks to kill a mythical beast. Grow some balls.

7:05 PM: Things I hate in movies - Artificial tension and antipathy between two romantic rivals. I get both of you are after the same vajayjay, but do you both have to look at each other like there's no-one more evil in the world. Pathetic.

7:07 PM: Virginia Madsen just chased off Peter, saying something to the effect of Seyfried is too pretty to be poor. Not gonna argue with that.

7:10 PM: OK we be hunting the wolf, and given how early we are in this movie. This bound to go well.

7:12 PM: They make a pit stop at Grandma Julie's Christie's, where Burke gives a reassuring pep-talk, 'I'm all gristle.'

7:13 PM: Wait Julie Christie's in this movie, that's the Dr. Zhivago, Billy Liar, Don't Look Now, McCabe and Ms Miller, Shampoo Julie Christie. Now that's embarrassing.

7:15 PM: Lukas Haas! Says Gary Oldman's coming!

7:17 PM: OH FUCK YOU MOVIE. You know that artificial tension thing I talked about, well yeah Peter just abandoned Henry and his dad for no fucking reason. Because fuck it, even in life threatening situations, this shit still HAS to happen.

7: 17: PM: Cynicism Scale: 12/20

7:19 PM: Oh shit, Henry's Dad just got merked. and by merked I mean rinsed. And by rinsed I mean killed.

7:21 PM: Then Saul Tigh killed the wolf! Ha. Much more impressive if this weren't so obviously a red herring. So Saul Tigh killed a wolf. So say we all.

7:23 PM: Gary Oldman is coming....

7:25 PM: Seyfried tries to console Henry, but he tells her to fuck off. I should imagine this is the only moment either of these guys won't be a complete Seyfried entranced Nonce, So masculine gender, take your victory.

7: 26 PM: Worse things to be then a Seyfried entranced Nonce, just saying. Her eyes are so blue, you get lost in their mystical depths.

7:27 PM: OLDMAN. Finally. He comes with a posse, many carriages. And a stone Elephant.

7:27 PM: A stone Elephant.

7:27 PM: A stone Elephant.

7:27 PM: That means Oldman hired lackeys specifically to carry his giant-ass stone Elephant. And Travel is no mean feat in that day and age, so they've probably been moving that piece of shit for like, 2 months, possibly more. I'd imagine people have died hauling that thing.


7:28 PM: So Oldman's a man of the cloth, most specifically the Vatican's division for pawning werewolves. Got him some daughters, and some African mercenary soldiers.

7:29 PM: Insert your Oldman is colonel Gaddafi joke here.

7: 30 PM: Oldman's wife was a wolf, and he killed the bitch. This scene is designed to let us know the boy is hardcore.

7: 31 PM: A message somewhat undercut by his ridiculous Purple, Jack Nicholson Joker get-up, and epic medallions.

7:32 PM: Saul Tigh gives Oldman shit about how they already killed the wolf. Doesn't believe him. Oh Saul Tigh, you are gonna die very, very soon.

7:34 PM: Ok villagers are celebrating the fake dead wolf, by having a fully clothed dance orgy.

7:35 PM: Some village boy named Claude just did a magic in front of witch-master general Oldman. Mistake, Ladies and gentleman?

7:36 PM: OK This just got awesome, Peter's dancing with another girl , so to make him jealous Seyfried is doing a traditional, medieval dance skew lesbian.

7:38 PM: A quick exchange solves the whole, I'm beneath your class so we can't fuck each other tiff, and Seyfried and Peter are in the barn. OOOH but Henry saw. Intrigue.

7:39 PM: Cynicism Scale: 14/20

7:40 PM: Wow this DOP is not afraid to go right down Seyfried's top. I'm not usually against these things, but that felt gratuitous. Gratuitous but awesome.

7:42 PM: WOLF attack. Hold on movie let me handle my shit, for the surprise you laid on me has me in ribbons. Gosh, so Saul Tigh didn't kill the wolf? Shucks thats a twist.

7:43 PM: Here lies Saul Tigh, merked for his arrogance in regards to wolf-killing, his body is to be found in pieces.

7:44 PM: Oldman's mercenaries are getting destroyed. Seyfried is running. CGI is failing.

7:45 PM: Legendary. Oldman just charged at the wolf screaming 'God is stronger' before getting laid out. How I've missed crazy Oldman. That guy is awesome.

7:46 PM: Wolf chases Seyfried and friend into barn and of she starts talking to the wolf.

SEYFRIED: Please Don't kill me.

WOLF: Bitch be cool. I just want to take you to my wolf lair, where we can be together forever. Or I'll kill you're anonymous friend.


7:49 PM: Cynicism Scale :16/20

Whipped Boyfriend: Homeless man looked pissed off.

Dominant Girlfriend: Thats because he lives in a bus station.

7:50 PM: Next Wednesday Instead would like to apologize for its reviewer's temporary loss of composure as we work to restore the status quo.

7:52 PM: Oldman just found magician boy Claude in an attic, and is hitherto putting him in the elephant which is....

7:53 PM: A torture device, not dissimilar to an oven. So begs the question why not just commandeer an oven, instead of hauling a giant-ass elephant through the jungle. Hell to pay for a cool visual.

7:54 PM: Random friend turned out to be Claude's sister and is making several offers to Oldman for her bro's freedom from his elephant prison. When Oldman rejects her sexual advances she tells him Seyfried's native american name is converses-with-wolves.

7:55 PM: I think I just won punning. I feel oddly empty.

7:58 PM: Ok, Everyone be chilling in a barn, Seyfried doesn't deny that her World of Warcraft IP is Converses-with-wolves, and they put some metal donkey-head on her and leave her for the wolf to come and fetch.

7:59 PM: Random friend finds Claude dead in a barn. Poignant. That's why you don't betray Seyfried, for the universe shall strike you down.

8:01 PM: Seyfried be seeing the wolf's eyes in everybody's eyes. this joke grows old quick.

8: 03 PM: Some bitch of a village girl is chastising Seyfried for being a witch, but mostly for being beautiful. Biiiiiitch.

8:05 PM: Henry and Peter conspire to free Seyfried, except these actors are terrible and no-one cares what they say.

8:05 PM: Plan, fire as a distraction. Henry goes in to set her free. Lukas Haas gets stabbed by Gary Oldman. Just coz Oldman has killed a kid, and left our heroine for a monster and not been quite evil enough in the last few minutes, so he commits the sin of all sins. Killing Lukas Haas. Oldman, just because he was in Inception and you weren't. No need to be a dick.

8:07 PM: Oldman's mercenaries are retarded, apparently bamboozled by smoke. They just don't know what to do with themselves.

8:08 PM: Hey they captured Peter and put him in the elephant, let's do a once around in celebration. Can I get an amen for competency.

8: 10 PM: Wolf appears, rinses a few guards, naturally and pins everyone in a church. Which is 'hallowed ground' so the wolf can't enter. Pretty sure that's vampires dickwads. FFS.

8:11 PM: Cynicism Scale: 18/20

8:13 PM: OK, Oldman just charged outside the church with a sword. and got his hand bitten off. What a muppet. This s not behavior befitting Jim Gordon.

8: 13 PM:
Nicolas Cage: I ain't no freakin' monument to justice! I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his Bride.

8:15 PM: Oldman got rinsed by his lead African mercenary, in a manner befitting Gaddaffi. A man bitten is a man cursed.

8:16 PM: A man bitten is a man cursed. You get that guys, because the movie sure wants to makesure you've got it. A man bitten is a man cursed. Right.

8:18 PM: Peter has escaped his pointless Elephant prison. Oooh,

8:20 PM: Seyfried shares a final moment with Henry, who we're to understand is a badass but not for her. And goes wandering through the woods to grandma Julie Christie's house. Smart move.

8:22 PM: Confronts Peter in the woods, stabs him because she thinks he's the wolf. His body disappears. Alright if this guy isn't the wolf then he's fucking stupid. Maybe if he spent less time on his hair, he'd know that disappearing into the woods is a bad idea if you're innocent.

8:24 PM: At house, Christie nowhere to be found. But there's Drive Angry's Billy Burke, also known as Seyfried's movie dad. Who I assume is the wolf. That's why he was so sure he wasn't going to get eaten. BECAUSE HE WAS THE WOLF ALL ALONG. Crazy.

8:26 PM: Exposition Five. Burke is explaining why he killed everyone and why he's eaten no-one. This wolf sucks.

8:28 PM: Peter appears, they fight, I don't care. Seyfried kills him with Oldman's dead hand. Call that A suitably Sigourney Weaver move.

8:30 PM: But Peter got bit. You got Bit. Ya bit. So now he's a wolf. Shiiiiiiit.

8:32 PM: After burying daddy, Seyfried and Peter stare into each other's eyes and imagine their future together.

8:33 PM:

Whipped Boyfriend: D'you know what? Fuck this. I'm leaving. This is fucking terrible and Sucker Punch would have been the best film of all time. you suck and I hate you.

Dominant Girlfriend: Stop making noise out of your mouth.

Whipped BoyFriend: OK.

8:34 PM: Montage. Time passes, Henry is a soldier, Seyfried lives alone in the woods, Peter the wolf comes to visit her in wolf form she looks happy, all set to have some inter-species sex. Terrific. You go girl.

8:35 PM: Cynicism Scale 20/20

Closing Sentiments: Just...Just.....Just....It wasn't as bad as the Human Centipede. And Seyfriend is a movie star awaiting that one great movie. So there's that.

Rating: 3/10

REVIEW: Scream 4

Also I actually kind of thought Hayden Panettiere was quite good in this movie. I'll let myself out.

I think what I love about the original Scream is that to the untrained eye, it can play as a straight horror movie. The thing about most spoofs is they often end up in a goofy, loose alternate reality innately separate from the movies they mock. They very much let you know the whole thing is a skit. Even films such as Airplane or Top Secret, you know 'the good ones' ramp up the wacky so the audience can be in no doubt they're watching a SPOOF. Scream didn't do that. Every inch of it is a commentary on the slasher genre, yet it still very much took place in that world. Perhaps because it was so in awe of the movies it paid homage to, it wanted to be one as well as a meta-comedy about genre convention. And for me it succeeded on both counts, and is simultaneously one of th best slasher films and by far the most eloquent and informed spoof of them all.

But then it made money. And so must come the inevitable. First came two, increasingly ridiculous sequels. Both had their moments but are bad more then good, and I think the thing that hurts them more then anything is writer Kevin Williamson (creator of Dawson's Creek and The Vampire Diaries, for those who like their illusions crushed) increasing meta-contempt of the material. Characters would always be commenting about how implausible a twist was, or how sequels are and always will be cash-ins inferior to the original. Of course he's right, but the level of meta became overbearing and suffocating. Which of course is the natural evolution of meta-humor, it often ends up having nowhere left to go but comment on itself, to ever diminishing returns. With Scream 4, that meta-contempt is the most prevalent thing in the movie. Everything in it exists to point how shit everything is, or to comment on people commenting on how shit things in movies within movies are. The sort of clever opening, which plays as a movie within a movie within a movie, is this in a nutshell, pointing out the higher the number of the sequel, the more pointless and arbitrary everything is.

But removed from all that increasingly wearisome shit, Scream 4 is not an embarrassment. Its certainly not great, but its probably the best Scream sequel even with its RIDICULOUS ending reveal, something that I kind of liked in theory, but the actor/actress asked to carry it was so not up to the traditional Williamson 'bad guys be monologuing' scene that it just fell flat. Really flat.And then it kept going and going. Of course the characters kept commenting about how anti-climactic it was, and how ridiculous it was, but knowing you're shit isn't an excuse to be shit, Williamson, and that mixture of insight and energy from the first film is just nowhere to be found. I kind of wish that it had just forgone its returning cast altogether, and gone all the way with its faux 'remake' premise. Because Neve Campbell looks bored, Courteney Cox is hammy and David Arquette, well he's just fucking shit. As he has always been. I think if it had just focused on a new generation of teens, it may have felt a bit more organic. From the many actors here, I think I'm supposed to say Alison Brie steals it, which she probably does from everyone but Adam Brody, who in his one scene discussing the suckiness about being the cop who guards the house in movies, adds being the MVP for another mediocre horror movie to is resume. This guy needs a TV show, because his awesomeness is being wasted.

Overall, the film is what it says it is. A relatively pointless cash-in on a great films success, one that was revolutionary and changed the game and all that shit, and has become a franchise like all the other ones in that it just continues to exist to make some money. I look forward to the reboot.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 15 April 2011

REVIEW: Your Highness

Go Fuck thyself. Funny the first time.

Your Highness feels like a bunch of smart people trying their hardest to create something really fucking stupid, almost stubbornly going after the lowest of brows time after time after time. Dick joke followed by gay-panic joke followed by tit joke followed by dick joke. I know I stopped laughing after something like 15 minutes, and it was all downhill after Justin Theroux nailed his delivery of ' Magic. Motherfuckerrrr.' Things just got increasingly repetitive, lazy and broad until the movie was over and I wanted to go home and cry into my Pineapple Express DVD. Why that worked and this doesn't is because the characters were more then just the thinnest of sketches designed for cheap punchlines, whereas here James Franco and Danny McBride grow wearisome. Both are great comedians, but its almost as if the film was more concerned with the homage then being funny or anything really, meaning they couldn't save it and its become another film that's basically an inside joke for the people that made it.

The sick joke is this film actually has a very strong cast. I don't think it will be too controversial to say Justin Theroux walks away with it, and its to the film's detriment he's not in it more. Like everything else in this movie, he's as broad as fuck but Theroux brings something to it the rest of the cast don't. Perhaps he was the only one who realized it was shit. Natalie Portman gets to kick ass, but also be dour and humorless. Not a great part really, nor Franco who looks like he's bored playing the straight man to McBride's funny-man very early. As for McBride, well he's not bad but something doesn't quite click in this role for him. He is funny, but in a muted sort of suffocated way. But he wrote it, so fault's no-one's but his. Damian Lewis shows up and is surprisingly bad-ass, making me think he should probably be in HBO'S Game Of Thrones at some point.

Your Highness reminded me a lot of Machete in many ways, so pre-occupied with being a pseudo-bad movie it eventually becomes one without the pseudo, and its just a joke no-one gets. If you have low standards for this type of thing then maybe the many anachronistic uses of the word fuck will amuse you but, jesus this shit is slender. I think its probably the most embarrassing for David Gordon Green, who I remember made the excellent Undertow. I'm glad he made Pineapple Express and it was a great movie, but I'd hate to think this is what he is now. Just a director for hire by Danny McBride, who to be honest, needs to do something different. Lazy stuff, and frustratingly disingenuous. And shit.

Rating: 4/10

REVIEW: Submarine

Amazingly enough, the music of Regina Spektor does not feature in this movie.

Given the fairly pronounced French New Wave influence on Submarine, to be honest I think fairly pronounced influence may be under-selling it, I'm going to take a moment to communicate my dislike for French Cinema, or at least French Cinema in its most stereotypically known form. You know, that star-gazing miserablism, that philosophically bent, superficially stylish that's as smart as it is a vacuum. I like A Bout De Souffle as much as the next guy, but I have a hard time being told that the French New Wave is as good as it gets. I understand its value, and the rule-breaking and the meta and the structure etc. etc. I respect its importance and in certain cases its quality. Its just that I don't like it all that much. And that's my right as a human citizen. So fuck you. And don't be like 'Oh he don't get it, he don't get it!'. Because no. A'ite?

OK, now that I've alienated any potential hipsters readers I have out there (The Warriors sucks. That ought to do it for the rest.) I'll go on to say that Submarine is a flawed, indulgent movie, but also one that's occasionally very impressive. It has a verve and an energy that few British films have, even it is a borrowed one (a lot of Jules Et Jim up in this bitch, divided by Royal Tenenbaums.) And while the exuberant first 45 minutes seems the stronger to me both in terms of tone and impact, its veering into misery porn in the latter half doesn't detract from its overall impact. Richard Ayoade shows great potential as a writer and director. And he draws some great performances out of his cast, particularly from teen lead Craig Roberts who puts in a turn way beyond his years, and there's going to have to be a lot of great performances this year for this not to be in my top ten. Similarly Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor create a brutally awkward chemistry between them and Paddy Considine chews the scenery, but to be fair the part really does call for it.

I liked a lot about Submarine, I even liked its commitment to its own dark trajectory. Its a film about neurosis and their relationship with reality, and to be fair it suck with that to the bitter end. I think Considine's character is perhaps ill-fitting, a little too broad for the rest of the film and I think the sequence focusing on his character is undoubtedly weaker. But the writing is strong, and Roberts, Hawkins, Taylor and Yasmin Paige all deliver great performances in a movie with a real sense of voice and pain, and while I might not like the French New Wave all that much, I'm not going to say that it didn't fit the material like a glove. And who am I to rag on a British film of this standard, that would be some stupid ass thing to do.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Source Code

Today's 8:35 to Chicago comes with iconographic romantic fatalism.

I think the marketing strategy for Source Code has been a stroke of genius. Here's your memo. You've got a follow-up feature from a promising director Duncan Jones, whose last film Moon is one of the cult hits of recent years. Now you want to keep the critical credibility, but you want to make some money. You know what you've got isn't as good as Moon, but is still pretty good and will probably get unfairly ripped in that comparison. So what you do is release a god-awful trailer, one that makes it look the worst kind of 00's Nic Cage B movie. People's expectations lowered, masses appealed to. Thus the sense of pleasant surprise that comes from watching Source Code and realizing its not a complete suckfest makes the critics be overly kind so taken are they with their relief, and the masses expecting a dumber, louder movie? Well they've already bought their ticket so fuck them. Genius.

So the film itself, its an intelligent sci-fi thriller, pulling elements from films as diverse as Deja Vu and Groundhog Day and blending them together in a fairly mainstream, entertaining package. The script can be a bit flat at times and boy is there some expositing to do, but this is classy film-making from a terrific director at an exciting moment in his career. Gyllenhaal is a great anchor for this too, because I reckon I wouldn't have taken too much for this film to get lost in that familiar sci-fi wasteland of movies rich in ideas and concepts but slender in humanity or relatability. He brings an earnestness and a soul to proceedings, and while he may not necessarily make the best movies, everything seems to be a six out of ten or less at the moment, he really is a great actor with enough charisma to be an attribute to any film he's in, not just the good ones. Vera Farmiga lends some solid support, as does Michelle Monaghan. Jeffrey Wright maybe gets a bit too caught up in the mad scientist of it all, delivering a performance that at times is effective, at times as if should belong in a bad 50's sci-fi movie.

While I liked what the movie did with its set-up, weaknesses sprout up, from the weakly stereotypical and predictable third act bad guy to perhaps its dallying in the opening sections, but overall Source Code is a rewarding and engaging experience. Taking some potentially alienating ideas and making them viable. Kudos to Jones for communicating the information that needed to be communicated effectively and not making that the movie. Because great sci-fi isn't the idea, its exploring the consequences of the idea, and in that regard Source Code is gruffly effective. Its very mainstream, and perhaps more things could have been done in a movie slightly less off the leash, but while its entertainment, its pleasingly mature entertainment. I'm just happy Duncan Jones second movie didn't suck and ruin his career to be honest, as I was mildly afraid it might. Everybody wins, I guess.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Surfer Girl.....Thanks you've been great.

Chris Wedge and the guys behind Ice Age, Despicable Me and now Rio are vastly becoming the adorable handmade counterpart to Pixar. In comparison to Pixar's sweeping scope and ever expanding ambition, Wedge and co's films are a less spectacular but charming, often in their own folksy way. Rio is possibly the most visually opulent film these guys have done, making Rio itself a lovingly rendered carton wonderland, as vibrant as any make-believe animated reality. And while the film itself is more just kind of OK, generally being a little saccharine and bland, its a fun enough spectacle you can kind of relax on the uninspired core.

The plot sees Blu, a domesticated macaw, get sent to Rio so restart his species with A bird voiced by Anne Hathaway, except they get hindered by some bird smugglers and some on the run hijinks ensues. Blu himself is the kind of socially awkward, nerdy hero that seems to have consumed every form of film-making, and its getting a little tired now. I'm not saying get rid of the nerds, but it would be nice to see a different kind of protagonist once in a while. I miss confidence, man. Anyways, Jesse Eisenberg does what you'd expect him to do, Hathaway is suitably winning but the film is somewhat inevitably stolen by Jermaine Clement's villainous Nigel, with the Flight Of The Concords actor giving a nice, sardonic vibe to what is otherwise a world of bright lights and optimism. And considering this is a kids movie and all, I'd like to see some cynicism bouncing around. How else will kids learn. How?

The script is kind of a mess, with some awkwardly shoehorned in songs that feel a little forced, kind of in that early nineties way where being a musical is a contract stipulation, narrative organics be damned, and all of a sudden people would just burst into song. That kind of happens here. Hey, Rio is an inoffensive, lovingly realized adventure that you could pretty much watch with the sound off and equally get your money's worth, Its the kind of film I have no particular problem with, yet have no particular engagement with either. Perhaps because I'm a grown ass man, and not some Ritalin pumped pre-teen punk. Though I was once, and back then I reckon I would have liked it, with some blatant reservations and doubts. Because I was awesome.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

REVIEW: Tommorow: When The War Began

Improvise, Adapt to the environment, Darwin, Shit Happens, I Ching

OK forgive me for my lack of humor, but this shit is ridiculous. I never want to be the 'get off my lawn' critic, but this is a movie that tries to do for guerilla warfare what Nancy Drew did to detective work. Dumb it down and euthanize it until Tim Robbins can say 'Freedom Fighters, ya know, for kids!' Ive rarely seen such a woeful mismatch of subject matter and tone. This is a film that wants to be both adult and teen, a film that can be a lark but can also have stakes and adult violence. Which one of these aspects the movie is prevalent depends on the scene concerned, and even then its rarely an easy call. At times this schizophrenia and dopeyness can be kind of winning in an utterly shite kind of way but still, not a high point for Stuart Beattie I'm sure.

The plot, such as it was, sees some kids going on a vacation to the wilderness, and in coming back discover their beloved Australia has been invaded by some anonymous Asian country, which by default has to be China. Either way it doesn't really matter, because pretty soon our photogenic kids take to the jungle with AK-47's and blow up bridges like it was the 1960's again. There are many problems with everything that goes on, but its such a stubborn fantasy it barely acknowledges anything about the modern world that gets in its way, like blanket bombing or the inability of anyone to quietly invade a major nation. This all would be fine if it were entertaining, if it were a little less self-serious, but it demands of you to take the world and the stakes seriously and for something this lazy yet block-headed, there's simply nothing doing. This isn't to mention that every single one of the kids is a catalogue model, barely capable of line-readings let alone acting. If there has been a more distancing and flat ensemble teen cast in recent history I sure as hell can't think of it. And spending time becomes pretty arduous after a while, particularly when none of them are getting killed. Seriously movie?

I suppose its ambitious in its own way, but the problem is the budget is so slender that much of the film is spent simply with our heroes talking to each other as if they were real people and not 2D stand-ins in some ill-thought Che Guevara fantasy. That sounds awesome right, but by trying to make a kids movie out of something so innately adult, shit just doesn't translate and I keep waiting for the faceless Chinese bad guys to take off their helmets and say ' I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those pesky kids!' The swerving between real threat and cartoon threat decapitates the thing before it even gets going, a pretty horrible misfire and what is not turning out to be a banner year in Australian Genre film-making

Rating: 3/10