Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Catch- Up Review Session Part 1

Again an unfortunate couple of weeks of being too busy to write reviews, but here comes the inaugural catch-up session. Let's do this.


Tagline: Kids, when you turn off light, shit's gonna try and eat you. Way of the world.

Plot: Move into an old house where people got murdered? Yeah nothing's gonna happen to your children.

Best thing about the movie: Small monsters can be as creepy as big monsters.

Worst thing about the movie: Timeless in a bad way, people making 1950's mistakes to 2010 problems.

Best In Show: Bailee Madison

In Summation: I didn't hate this movie, and it felt like a serviceable run through of all those cliches we've come to know and love but, you know, for kids. 5/10


Tagline: Imagine if you could meet all your heroes from generations past and have them tell all say you're awesome.

Plot: Dude travels back in time to 20's paris, to meet all his heroes. As you do.

Best thing about the movie: Yet another Woody Allen movie paid for and bought by a European tourist board.

Worst Thing About The Movie: For a movie about Paris, shockingly low amount of Parisians in this movie.

In Summation: The whimsy sort of powers through being irritating to being charming, and Owen Wilson is a good lead, but this is essentially a wankfest right? Woody Allen's most egotistical movie to date, secretly about how he was too good for movies and his talents should have been spent on novels, AKA, real writing. But whatever, nice to look at. 6/10


Tagline: No-one is having fun at this movie.

Plot: Domestic abuse. the PSA.

Best Thing About The Movie: People who hate dogs, you've come to the right place.

Worst Thing About The Movie: Nowhere near enough musical numbers.

Best In Show: Peter Mullan

In Summation: Films about serious issues like domestic abuse are important, its important to force into people's brains how unacceptable it is. Yet one also has to view these things as films, as stories, and Tyrannosaur, despite all the great performances here, had no nuance to its characters, no subtlety to it's story-telling and almost no understanding or care for the reasons why. The Eddie Marsan character here is a monstrous, villainous cartoon, and while I don't doubt that there are people who beat their wives for no reason, it would undoubtedly be more harrowing to have some understanding of this relationship and that character, rather than insisting on portraying it in such a black and white, simplistic way. Marsan was just a ghoul, and while that might be the most politically correct way, its sort of like when you get films where you get a cartoon racist or a cartoon sexist. Dramatically, its just not the most engaging way to discuss the point. 6/10


Tagline: Have you seen blindness? No? Great, then this movie is a one-off original, bitches.

Plot: What if you couldn't see, touch, taste smell or hear anymore?

Best Thing About The Movie: Eva Green is in it, so naturally that means Eva Green's boobs are in it too. Yea boi. (Also Ewan McGregor penis for those the other way inclined. Democracy for all)

Worst Thing about the movie: So like, its blindness with all 5 senses instead of one. But you haven't seen blindness so its cool.

Best In Show: Eva Green

In Summation: I liked this. maybe it's my fondness for post-apocalyptic fiction, but this is yet another reason why David Mackenzie is one of the most underrated British directors. Smart and haunting. 7/10


Tagline: Let the shoes cut loose.

Plot: Dancing is illegal, a premise as hilarious in the 10's as was in the 80's.

Best Thing About The Movie: Mostly sharp dancing sequences, has enough of a sense of humour to get by, Craig Brewer is a good director.

Worst Thing About The Movie: Julianna Hough. Not a good actress. Why are modern kids listening to 80's music with such frequency?

Best In Show: Miles Teller

In Summation: I actually didn't hate this, and I thin Brewer did about as a good a job as could be done. The attempts to be dramatic, including the legendary angry dance, sort of fall flat but there was fun here for the undemanding. Rating: 5/10


Tagline: See that money, you just wasted it.

Plot: Oh go fuck yourself

Best Thing About The Movie: Suck my dick.

Worst Thing About The Movie: It's existence. Find Paul W.S Anderson and kill him. Seriously. Stop reading and do it now. I'll wait..

In Summation: A violation of time and space, and all that might circle therein. A stupid, gross dumbing down of a book that was already a pretty simple piece of mass entertainment. Anderson appears to have had free reign just to make the thing into the scribblings of a 12 year old boy circa 50 million dollars. Truly, it did go full retard. Rating: 2/10


Tagline: Violence without consequence for all the family.

Plot: Hugh Jackman learns what it truly means to be a father by......ZZZZZZZZ. Oooh, robots fighting.

Best Thing In The Movie: Some pretty epic robot fighting, I feel unclean just saying that, but I was invested in which scrap of metal won. Yes I was.

Worst Thing In The Movie: Erm, phoned in Spielbergian father-son story. Nobody cares. Really.

Best In Show: Hugh Jackman. He should play Indiana Jones in the inevitable remake.

In Summation: You know what, I kind of appreciated a family film as utterly non-threatening as this. Charisma generated by Jackman and robots pounding each other will do you for a good time (low bar) Rating: 6/10


Tagline: Germs comin' to fuck you up.

Plot: See above. Haters of Gwyneth Paltrow would be well-advised to see this movie.

Best Thing About The Movie: It was certainly a well-studied movie, and enjoyed the immense detail, and the sense of realism. A number of great performances, and a cast that surely has to be up there amongst the starriest in recent memory.

Worst Thing about The Movie: It's PG-13 rating. Lacked the ferocity to explore the human impact of a virus to the extent that a better movie would have explored it.

Best In Show: Kate Winslet

In Summation: Its an internet blogging cliche, but this really needed to be darker. I liked a lot of what it was trying to do, but there simply was too much optimism in regards to the human race. I wanted to see the worst reactions, the less nobly convicted. Instead we just got one ridiculously stereotypical characterization of a soulless internet blogger that was just petty. Not quite Shyamalan killing a film critic in Lady In The Water,but still. Rating: 6/10


Tagline: We're in a recession.

Plot: Totes the same fucking movie, you all knew that. Did I mention DOLLARS ALL UP IN YOUR FACE. Gonna buy me some hookers, gonna buy me some blow, gonna have a good time, gonna last all night.

Best Thing About The Movie: Slightly more exaggerated here then in the past, but this formula works man. There's yet to be an absolutely terrible PA movie, and I challenge you to name a horror franchise that got to 3 without producing at least one piece of assaultive dogshit. (Alright George Romero. But whatcha gonna do with genius)

Worst Thing About The Movie: Things got a little too arch here, and the more like a horror movie these films get, the less effective they are. Just about made it I think.

Best In Show: Chris Smith

In Summation: Yeah its the same movie, same beats, same scares, same ending. But it's a well oiled machine, that may now lack the ability to amaze, but it sure can shock you. It's just the shocks are getting cheaper and cheaper, and I do think there's been a slight decline each time out, but not enough to stop these movies being around for a decade. Rating: 5/10


Tagline: Kids Today

Plot: What would really happen if your kid was evil, and will Ben Linus just be Ben Linus regardless of what his mother does?

Best Thing About The Movie: Lynne Ramsay, who directed the under-seen mini-masterpiece Movern Callar, is equally adept here, and I can't imagine too many more captivatingly put together films then this this year. Plus a pretty stellar performance from Tilda Swinton.

Worst Thing About The Movie: The Kevin characterization is stuff of fantasy. Can't claim to be a serious psychological drama when you have such a broad unflappable Machiavellian villain from the age of 4. More in common with The Omen then Elephant.

Best In Show: Tilda Swinton

In Summation: I liked this movie. I really did. And I've had a couple of post-match debates that have lead to fire and brimstone, but for me Kevin is almost a cartoon in conception, despite Ezra Miller's mostly terrific performance, and that affects its psychological credibility. It plays fantastically as a horror movie, but it doesn't want to be one, and in that, in spite of how much I liked it, it fails in the main thing it came here to do. Still, an excellent piece of film-making if you can accept the fundamental flaw in its premise. Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Week In TV

The Walking Dead - What Lies Ahead, A pretty lean, tense opening hour of the Walking Dead. But then that was never the problem, it's the show that exists around the zombies that concerns, but that was badass. 7/10

Homeland - Clean Skin, This show continues to shape up to be a gooden, and while this was another table-setting hour, the show continues to make the characters as interesting as the story 7/10

Hung - Mister Drecker, An interesting episode of this comedy that never seems to make me laugh, but never the less I enjoy every week. 6/10

How I Met Your Mother: Mystery vs. History 5/10, the sort of sucky, tired hour of this show that seems to be the way for every 2 out of 3 episodes. Due a good one next.

2 Broke Girls:..And the 90's horse party. 6/10 I love the world of TV criticism, where being racist is much more forgivable than being shit. Still, in spite of its racism, I am being sort of won over by it.

Bored To Death - Gumball, the ratings for this show are astoundingly low, yet fortunately for it's on the cancellation free paradise called HBO. Not really been impressed with this opening two parter though. 5/10

Enlightened - Now or Never, Hmm I was curious to see the second episode of Enlightened, mostly because the pilot really gave no indication to what kind of show it would be. I still don't really know, but ya know, its a fun half hour. 6/10


Man Up - Pilot, Try to watch the first episode of everything, and while this wasn't awful necessarily, it was pretty bland. Meh. 5/10

Workaholics- Dont' entirely know why I've watched this three weeks in a row, but I have. So there's that. I don't hate it. 6/10


Up All Night - Birth, I was getting quite close to abandoning this show, but this episode meant I'm probably in it for at least a season now. Rich and surprising 7/10

The Middle - Bad choices, Continue to like this show, even as it gets uniformly ignored. Not the best episode ever though. 6/10

Suburgatory - Don't Call Me Shirley, She won't because she's playing a kid and all, but Jane Levy's performance on this show is probably my favorite on any new show and deserves to be emmy nominated. Not quite sure about the show around it yet, but it is at least pleasingly weird. 6/10

Modern Family - Go Bullfrogs, the Emmy's favorite show is doing nothing to help the inevitable rage filled backlash against it, with a sort of awful season so far. Stop giving Julie Bowen screentime please, I like Bowen, but this is the most grating character on TV. 5/10

Happy Endings - Secrets and Limos, Happy Endings continues to be one of the funniest shows on TV for me, and this trend was not in any way rescinded this week. Great stuff. 7/10


Big Bang Theory - The Rhinitis Revelation, At this point you can pretty much trace the stronger episodes of big bang theory to the times when Sheldon is being repressed in some capacity. And seeing his mum come to town lets you see a different side of him at least. 6/10

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Storm Of The Century, there's a general sense that this season of Sunny started really strong, so it would make sense that these last couple of episodes have disappointed people somewhat, but this had its moments. 6/10

The League - The Au Pair, this aged frat-boy comedy continues to be obnoxious and funny in spells, but the more Paul Scheer and Nick Kroll appear the better it is. 6/10

Top Three:

1) The Walking Dead - What Lies Ahead
2) Happy Endings - Secrets and limos
3) Homeland - Clear Skin

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Week In TV

Breaking Bad - Face-Off, maybe its just the astronomic standard set by last year's finale, but this was a bit too much of a straight forward thriller for my taste. A frickin excellent one though, full of memorable moments and a farewell to one of the greatest characters in TV history. 8/10

Homeland - Grace, This has to be the best new show of the year, with creator Howard Gordon's smarter take on what he already did on 24. Very promising. 7/10

Hung - Take the Cake, This felt a slight reversion into the aimless hi-jinks of previous seasons, but still fun and Rebecca Creskoff's turn as Lenore is one of the most scene-stealingy performances on TV right now. Very entertaining. 6/10


How I Met Your Mother - Field Trip, for a show that feeds you so much information, it rarely seems to go anywhere these days. They clearly don't want to reveal the mother till the end of the show, but it just means that all that matters is the end of the show. 5/10

2 Broke Girls - There's been two god-awful episodes of this show to two ones that have been OK, but I was teetering very close to quitting on this. This one though was a bit more of an improvement, although the racial stereotype supporting characters are still a carcass the show is carrying around. 6/10

Bored To Death - The Blonde In The Woods, Bored to Death really is the ultimate hipster show, that puts its smarts to absolutely no use other than pointing out its smarts, and has absolutely no story to tell. Having said that, thanks to its over-qualified three leads, it ends up being infectiously enjoyable regardless. This wasn't the best episode though. 5/10

Enlightened - Pilot, This was sort of a catastrophe of a first episode, but this is a show I am none the less intrigued with, I like Laura Dern and if they can figure out what the show is then it might be great. But as for right 5/10

Tuesday -

Workaholics - Model Kombat, Tuesday became a very slender day indeed, what with raising hope and New Girl getting bumped, so this was it. Like the last episode, it was OK I guess. 5/10

Wednesday -

The Middle - The Test, Another fun and well put together episode of this show, which is probably a lot cleverer than it's given credit for. 7/10

Up All Night - Mr Bob's Toddler Kaleidoscope, this show is still working too hard to convince me its not boring, but this was probably the best one yet. 6/10

Suburgatory - The Chatterer, The show is very much becoming a two-hander, between Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy, and I think it's working quite well for the moment. Probably the weakest episode yet though 6/10

Modern Family - Hit And Run, This show had a very shaky start, but I think the last two episodes have normalized everything. Still over-rated though. 6/10

Happy Endings - Yesandwitch - This felt like one of those sitcoms where a guest star comes in and takes everything over, but it was still reliably funny and ha a rhythm like any other show on TV right now. 6/10

American Horror Story - Home Invasion, and I'm out of here. 4/10

Thursday -

Community - Remedial Chaos Theory, After a start that seemed to make everyone profoundly nervous, including me and I'm probably going to be a pretty hardcore apologist for this show always, this was what everyone was looking and hoping for. The kind of fantastically put together episode of Community that's both smart and soulful. 8/10

Big Bang Theory - The Russian Rocket Reaction, A mostly sweet but sort of pointless episode. Something that defines this show at this point. 5/10

Parks And Recreation - Pawnee Rangers, A lesser Parks and Rec I think, although I enjoyed the Ben subplot quite a bit, and the batman costume worked as a great sight gag. 6/10

It's Always Sunny In Philidelphia - Frank's Brother, Frank's origin story probably seemed funnier in concept than in practice, but there were still laughs to be had here. 6/10

The League - The Sukkah - The atmosphere of this show is really quite repulsive to spend time in, yet I think the writing and performances are strong enough to survive the extremely high douche factor here. 6/10

Friday -

Top Three Episodes:

1) Community - Remedial Chaos Theory

2) Breaking Bad - Face-Off

3) Homeland -Grace

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

REVIEW; Red State

Hell raining down etc..

In the early 90's, Harvey Weinstein and Miramax had the novel idea that maybe the directors of a movie would speak about their project with more eloquence and insight than the actors who starred in it. The likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Smith became their films, they became voices that superseded their work, and to varying degrees of measurement, all of their careers fell victim to the ego that this status created. Smith's is the most overt though, in which Kevin Smith the personality, Kevin Smith the cult seemed to overwhelm everything, from the reception of his films to his status as a film-maker.

Every film made under the Smith name left to devolve into a critics vs Kevin Smith pissing match, regardless of how good it actually was, until it became apparent that his legacy outside of his hardcore fanbase of Smodcast listeners and fans, would be as the guy who threw a hissy fit every time someone gave him a bad review. The Weinstein plan had backfired, and the platform Smith had been afforded was being used to throw poop at the meanies. To be honest I think Kevin Smith somewhat missed his calling, and probably was supposed to be a stand-up comedian as opposed to a director. He's an incredibly smart, insightful guy with a unique voice, and anyone who's seen a Smith movie knows how good he is at writing dialogue, it's just he's never really been able to tell a story, and always seemed ill at ease in any kind of narrative that didn't rely on irreverent bullshitting. Chasing Amy was maybe the closest, but as the years passed by so did Jersey Girl, Zack and Miri and Cop Out. Each in their own way more damning evidence of the fact that maybe this guy just doesn't have it in him to make a great movie.

Red State feels like the last-ditch attempt to get away from all that. To get away from the Pre-conceptions and self-destructive media patterns that Smith has gone down before. He's tried to make his voice disappear here, and let the movie speak for itself. Except he couldn't, and via a pretty smug publicity stunt at Sundance and a consequent bemusement that people were talking about him again instead of the film. But much as been said about that. Red State itself? Well it's an imperfect movie, sure, but there's a lot of ambition here, a lot of good intention and a lot of raw talent on display. It may be the closest Smith has gotten to reigning in his various abilities and applying them to making the movie as good as it could possibly be, to allowing the material to stand on its own. Equal parts religiously-themed horror movie and morally ambiguous siege movie, it's still way too ADD, but there's a lot to like here.

The first thing that comes to mind of course is the performance of Michael Parks, who as the extremely fundamentalist preacher who has taken to murdering those who in he's opinion aren't living up to the word of God quite as stringently as he would like. Parks is pretty terrific, pleasingly under-playing the role and making him as a little a cartoon as is humanly possible. I'd say his sermon scene went on way too long that the speechifying somewhat sucked the tension and the horror of the situation, but I enjoyed the performance enough that I'll forgive that. I'd say that the political dynamic is somewhat lessened by making the lead potential victims being relatively bland horny teenagers, instead of say, a gay person or someone to whom Parks and his congregation loath most profusely. Indeed the only gay victim dies without a name or a line.

I think the second half, in which the protagonist becomes John Goodman's FDA agent takes over the movie, is probably the stronger, in which difficult moral dilemmas and a violent siege replace the torture porn style executioning. Goodman is terrific in everything, but I found him to be a real stabling presence in this movie, which maybe wanted to more than it's 90 minutes would allow, and it gave the second half a real energy. Melissa Leo was pretty great, but I was pleasingly impressed by both Kerry Bishe and Kyle Gallner, playing two teens from different worlds who worked well together here.

Ultimately, I don't think Red State quite gets right all it wants to get right, but I am a sucker for films with ambition, and almost certainly Smith's most ambitious film as a director. It's the kind of horror movie that should be made more often, where the horror speaks to something as opposed to the violence being the whole point, and its certainly smarter than your average slasher or torture porn movie. Not a direct hit, but not too far off either. I do think the ending is sort of a botch though.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 8 October 2011

REVIEW: What's Your Number

Women, the 21st guy is the new Scarlet Letter. Let's make this happen.

Here's the thing. I think I've probably spent more time bashing on Romantic comedies on here then any other genre. I don't apologize for this, nor do I believe that I've targeted these films unfairly and it's just my manly agenda and desire to see manly things such as shouting and violence as opposed to girly emotions and love. I think that in theory, the romantic comedy could be my favorite genre, or at least tie with horror. Because right down their very specific DNA, Romantic comedies are about character. They are movies entirely about how two people relate to each other, and how there various problems effect that relationship. In theory that sounds awesome, that's going to have so much more depth and value than a run of the mill action movie.

The problem with this of course is that mainstream genre releases tend to be cynical, they tend to be formed out of what pitches well, what you can sell people on. It's hard to sell people on a movie about two people talking to each other and falling in love. You have to be like this....

" So there's this bitch right, and she's about to sleep with her 20th guy, and like oh my god, that would make her an S-L-U-T slut, so she totally goes through her all her old boyfriends to find the one, so she doesn't have to sleep with a 21st guy because then she'd be a Super Ho. Say What?"

And therein lies the rub. You can't approach a romantic comedy as if it were a thriller. A thriller can survive this cynical way of thinking because the point is to take you on a ride, and the characters are there to service that ride, but with a romantic comedy the characters are the ride and the movie just can't be put together on a high concept and a formula and not be excreble. It needs to be genuinely funny, and it needs to be genuinely romantic, and if you think about all the time that is wasted on explaining that premise, on setting that premise in motion and eventually dismantling that premise, well that's 30 minutes of screen-time you could have spent on getting to know these characters, instead of making them cheap, recognizable ciphers.

I actually didn't hate What's Your Number all that much. Sure, It's got the cynical poster serving premise, but it also has two likable leads and at least glimpses at an ability to be funny that navigate around the groan worthy moments. Of which there are admittedly quite a few. The film starts out pretty atrociously, with star Anna Faris over-acting pretty shamelessly and the whole thing coming across very manic and silly. I'd say once the growing pains are dispensed with, Faris and co-star Chris Evans work pretty well together, Evans has always been a slightly under-rated comedian, and I imagine the whole Captain America thing might make that disappear even more but he's a good fit for films like this.

Ultimately though the end doesn't really live up to the middle and it goes the way every single one of these films has to go and you just tune out. It's not the worst romantic comedy you've seen in recent years but rather one of the better bad ones. It has the same fundamental problems as say Leap Year, but it is not quite as gloriously consumed by them as that movie was. Instead it is just good enough to not be memorable. There are some nice supporting turns by the likes of Joel McHale, Martin Freeman and Anthony Mackie, but yeah.

Rating: 4/10

Week In TV

A new feature I've devised, and no doubt many other have devised before me, is to do a calender of the week's TV, instead of writing actual reviews which would take time and effort. Here We Go.


(Disclaimer - I don't watch Dexter anymore because ergh and I tend to marathon Boardwalk Empire)

Breaking Bad - End Times, an episode that perhaps didn't live up to previous weeks but still contained some great moments. 8/10

Homeland - Pilot, A very strong, engaging pilot. Providing a smarter, darker and altogether more suspenseful look at modern espionage than we've come to expect. 8/10

Hung - Don't give up on Detroit, I don't really know why I'm still watching this show, considering how aimless last year was, but something about it's tone amuses me. And this was a strong season premiere. 7/10


How I Met Your Mother - The Stinson Missile Crisis, A lot has been made of this shows' decline. But I do still enjoy it week to week, even if it is a pale comparison to what it used to be. 6/10


New Girl - Wedding, I liked this a lot more than previous New Girl episodes, I'm still not convinced there's a show here, stil. Fun half-hour. 6/10

Raising Hope - Kidknapped, Not as strong as the previous two episodes, but I think this is probably gonna be a great year for this show. 6/10

Workaholics - Temp-Tress. My first time checking this show out, It was OK. Might watch one more to see if I got a fair sampling. 5/10

Ringer - It's gonna kill me, but I'll do it, Done with this shit. 4 episodes was infinitely more than it deserved. 3/10


Up All Night - New Car, I tend to think when all of a show's plots are about the leads not being boring, you;re in trouble. But this was likable at least. 5/10

The Middle- Major Changes, I'd be tempted to say this is one of the most under-rated shows on TV, given that the amount of acclaim it gets is precisely zero. I liked this one. 7/10

Suburgatory - The Barbecue, The best new network show for me. Leads Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto are excellent. Not as good as the first episode, but am feeling this one. 6/10

Modern Family - Door to Door, It's not been a great year for modern family, which is going to compound the internet hate for it into stratosphere, but you know, this one was OK. 5/10

Raising Hope - Henderson, Nevada adjascent baby!, The stronger of this week's two raising hope episodes, a show everybody should be watching at this point. 7/10

Happy Endings - Baby Steps, Honestly I don't think there's a show that makes me laugh more than this one, even if it is a wafer thin show, its a fucking funny one. Not the best episode ever but still. 6/10

American Horror Story - Pilot, It's incredible ambition is only matched by its incredible failure, in that it seems not to understand what makes horror work, or what makes a functioning episode of television. Ryan Murphy writes for moments not cumulative effect, but this is a concoction of all his worst qualities. 4/10


Community - Competitive Ecology, Certainly the best episode of season 3 so far, even if the year as a whole seems to be responding to a network note to tone everything down a bit, I'm sort of worried about that direction, but I enjoyed this a lot, mostly thanks to an inspired Chang B plot. 7/10

The Big Bang Theory - The Wiggly Finger Catalyst, Worth it for the line 'Everyone knows all disabled people are good people,' even if this was a weaker half-hour. 4/10

How To Be A Gentleman - How To Have A One Night Stand, this show has been banished to Saturday's, with cancellation soon to follow so there's probably not much point in watching it. It;s not really that great either. 4/10

Parks And Recreation - Born And Raised - This spoof of the birther scandal was a little meh, as Park and Rec goes. Which is quite a bit better than most shows out there. 7/10

Whitney - Silent Treatment, Call it morbid Curiosity, but I have watched three episodes of Whitney. I shan't be watching anymore. 3/10

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - Sweet Dee gets audited, Not as funny is the stellar first three episodes, but I love this show man. 6/10

The League - The Lockout, This show is a bit obnoxious for me, but it does make me laugh intermittently. Guest-starring Seth Rogen yo. 6/10



Top Three episodes of the week:

1) Homeland, Pilot

2) Breaking Bad, End Times

3) Community, Competitive Ecology

Thursday, 6 October 2011

REVIEW: Abduction

This dude is going to vanish faster than you can say Jacob is a pussy.

I always say that films like Abduction are the hardest to write about. Watching these kind of films leaves you longing for honest to god pieces of shit, because at least there, there is an identity. Something that could conceivably leave a mark, or make an impression. I saw Abduction two days ago and I honestly don't have anything to say about it. I can barely even remember it. Ten seconds out of the cinema I couldn't remember it and in many ways, that's exactly the point. It's designed to be generic, it's designed to offend no-one and it's designed to impact no-one. Wha the fuck is there to say about that?

Sometimes in these things there can be peripheral joys, such as the supporting roles or maybe a couple of decent action sequences. But there are a couple of problems here. Firstly, this movie is largely a cheap piece of shit, with not enough money spent on it to make it even a superficial joy. Secondly, it's a star vehicle for someone who can't remotely act, so even if the script hadn't been terrible (which it is) and the direction wasn't so run of the mill (which it is) and every scene didn't feel like a pale copy of some scene you've seen in a better movie (Which it does), then you're still stuck with a complete blank slate in Taylor Lautner, an actor who seems to perennially make every scene more awkward and lame by just existing in it. In the world of Twilight, maybe Lautner's inability to carry a scene is less conspicuous, but ask him to carry a movie and it's just a no go. It doesn't help that he's paired with the equally vacuous Lily Collins, whose continued presence as a girlfriend character defied logic, and also seemed to be to make Lautner look good in comparison.

Star vehicles for an actor with no talent aren't impossible to pull off, you just need to pair him with someone who can quietly carry the thing, while he postures. But despite this movie having Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver at it's disposal, none of them are asked to do anything other than carry exposition, and Abduction just becomes even more tedious to watch. There's just nothing here for anyone who might expect more than the barest minimum from their cinema going experience. And if that's all you want, if you see it solely as a distraction then that's fine I suppose. But Abduction is the kind of experience that I find to be just the worst you can have. I'll give lower grades, sure, but this is a movie purposefully made in a vacuum of talent, and any talented people who felt like getting paid didn't bother much to change that. A truly cancerous meh.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

REVIEW: The Debt

You's about to get whacked son.

Right first thing's first. It's 2011. 2011. So if we all collectively trigger the maths-like portion of our brains and figure out that 2011 is 66 years after 1945. And lets assume that to be a high-ranking nazi official you'd need to be at least 30. To be one of the guys at the absolute top of the chain. That puts even the youngest, youthful Nazi at the he probably would be dead age. All of this to say that having a Nazi as your villain in this day and age is not only sort of hackneyed, but very soon will be completely implausible. I get the attraction. The Nazi regime is the serial killer of mass-murdering empires. Whilst others did it for such understandable reasons as money, materials and status, The Nazis were crazy, and killed for reasons of crazy. It makes them the ideal villains for movies that want villainy to be a shorthand. This guy is bad. Why? Because he's a Nazi. Next question.

I don't want to be too harsh on The Debt, it contains a number of good performances and manages to be a strong thriller, building it's suspense out of moral quandary and character. Yet a lot doesn't work about it, and it contains a flashback structure that seems to exist for the sole reason of because it's what films like this usually do, and it's worked out pretty well so far. But it's lazy, and while Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds are all great actors, I'm not convinced these scenes really added anything to the film other than something to cut to. The thrust of the narrative is the 60's stuff, in part because of the great performances by some of the lesser known talent here. Jessica Chastain, who's had somewhat of a career explosion in 2011, is the best I've ever sen her as the young Helen Mirren. Similarly Marton Csokas, who has has been at the fringes of big movies for a while now, definitely makes his mark in this film, seizing the bigger role with aplomb. Sam Worthington is predictably the weak link, but he's not distractingly bad.

But the problems with the present day scenes is that they seemed to exist to comment on what had happened in the past as opposed to any kind of resonance in and of themselves, and as a result you are just waiting to get back to Chastain and Csokas. I did like how mostly incompetent our three leads were as spies, as so much of what went on seemed to emerge out of their inexperience at their jobs. Too often films tend to lionize spies as infallible, and I liked that these ones could both be credible, and yet capable of making a mistake. The film tails off pretty terribly though, finishing about 40 minutes before it actually finishes and losing a lot of the tension and atmosphere it has built up in the process.

Ultimately though it feels like one of those films that struggles too hard to convince you it's better than it is, and that just stops it from being as good as it could be. The premise is a little hacky, but I think a tight, complex thriller could have been made here, but instead we get a flabby concoction that whilst containing elements of that better film, is just carrying too much superfluous baggage to ever really capitalize on it's strengths. Still, worse movies out there for real.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

REVIEW: Melancholia

Melancholia the planet is convicted of being drunk while orbiting.

Lars Von Trier is an asshole. Someone who has let his incomparably defined view of his awesomeness almost derail his entire career, to the point where he's almost as renowned for his antagonistic stunts and quotes than he is for his work. But this antagonism has bled into his movies too, from Antichrist, a fairly vapid and smug attempt to be controversial for controversy's sake. To setting Dogville, what almost certainly should have been his masterpiece, on a chalk-outlined sound-stage. I still love that movie, but it would be undoubtedly in the best movie of all time conversation if it's very making wasn't an act of petulant arrogance. Von Trier is an incomparable talent, but he's incomparable saboteur too, someone who seems to delight in not allowing himself to be as good as he could be, and indulging his stubbornness over creativity.

Melancholia feels like his first attempt to make a film without some extra-textual stunt worked into the mix in quite a while, and I have to say that it is nice to be reminded what an excellent film-maker Von Trier is, and to see all the things he's so good at that seem to get lost in the hysteria. For example, he always gets career-best, near revelatory performances from his leading ladies, to which this film is no exception. Kirsten Dunst has always been a very one-note actress, not a bad one necessarily, but one with a very limited range. I don't think her performance is flawless here, but it is undoubtedly her most bold attempt to challenge herself and she does show a lot of depth we've not seen before. Particularly in the film's first segment, which sees the manic depressive Dunst slowly but surely sabotage her wedding, I was very, very impressed by what she did. I still wouldn't say she's capable of all that much nuance really, but this is certainly a different shade.

Charlotte Gainsbourg meanwhile, who went through proverbial and literal hell for Von Trier's Antichrist (What a waste of a great performance that was) gets a real chance to shine here, and gives a performance as good as anything else I've seen this year. I think Dunst is the much more likely to get awards recognition for this, but it's Gainsbourg who amazed me. In the role of the person who gives a shit, incidently the role who Von Trier traditionally most likes to punish and deride, she's appropriately heartbreaking, but in such a quiet, understated way. It's difficult to say that she's not one of the best actresses around at this point, and I think how good she is really isn't acknowledged enough. The film also found room to give Kiefer Sutherland a prominent role, which I appreciated seeing. I think he's Jack Bauer for life now, but he is capable of more than that, as he proves here.

The film itself is the same kind of fatalist study of depression and the inevitably of death we've come to expect, except this time Von Trier makes things a little more literal with a giant, hitherto undiscovered planet on a collision course with Earth and there's nothing for us to do but well, wait. The film creates a great sense of powerlessness, an aura of how small, pointless and pathetic we and our worries all are. It's misery porn, to be sure, but Von Trier is a steady hand at this kind of thing and while his films can be guilty of lacking a little life on occasion, this film is punctuated by some truly beautiful imagery, from the hypnotic opening sequence to it's climactic image, which is to my mind, the most horrifying shot I've ever seen at a cinema. Wagner's Tristan and Isolde is used to terrific and devastating effect, and it gives the thing a tremendous sense of the operatic, and makes the tragedy that little bit more soaring. Best use of classical music in quite a while I'd say.

I do feel the film is perhaps a little overlong, and there is some sag in the back-half, with the message and the metaphor superceding the characters just a little bit, but regardless, Melancholia is an involving and occasionally beautiful study of despair. Not the director's best, I would still call that Dogville, but a great movie, by anyone's standards.

Rating: 8/10