Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius

A View to a Kill (1985)

So yeah. I've missed a few of these. Maybe I will get back to fill them in but I doubt it.

Bond's Intro: Be-parkered (which thankfully hides the stuntman far more ably than later scenes manage). The skiing sequences are once again pretty good, nothing on the scale of OHMSS but decent even with the strange choice to suddenly play the Beach Boys over the soundtrack. A moment that I used to hate but on this viewing found oddly compelling, compared to a lot of the jokes the Bond films suffered in the Moore years it feels almost clever (unfortunately the silly iceberg sub is business as usual).

Theme Song and Credits: A belter of a tune from Duran Duran but the credits suffer from a dreadful fire theme and awful dancing.

The Ladies: Possibly the worst bunch ever in a Bond film. Grace Jones is a moderately interesting presence, nicely complimenting Walken's strangeness but has little depth to her character, though a last minute hero turn is played better than it is written. Tanya Roberts is fairly dull, her character mostly useless (about the only thing she does is turn on a siren) and Fiona Fullerton just awful. Jenny Flex is a name.

The Baddies: If anything works in this film it's Walken's offbeat turn as Max Zorin. With his curious vocal mannerisms he makes for a fine villain. The way he reacts to everything is so playfully psychotic. Perhaps one of my favourite death scenes, the little chuckle he gives before plummeting to a watery grave is delightful. I also enjoy the silliness of the Nazi doctor (i have no idea why he plays with the dynamite at the end but it amuses me). Scarpine has a scar. Yeah.

License to Kill: Inspired use of a flare gives an early double kill before the credits. But then it's a long stretch of the usual bad secret agent work (yes I'll stay after bungling around and being seen by guards) until his fight with Zorin. To be fair not for want of trying, he does shoot a bunch of guys with a shotgun but it's loaded with rock salt. I haven't been keeping track but 3 might be the lowest number of people he kills in any film. I'm sure Empire did a tally once of stuff like that but I'm too lazy to google it.

Bond hates foreigners: Nothing terrible here.

Bond hates women: Beyond the dire 'flirting' and hot tub fucking escapades (that is he has sex with someone in a hot tub rather than trying it on with the bathroom equipment itself) nothing too terrible here either. A joke about women's lib taking over the teamsters is too awful to count as sexist.

Bond's crazy knowledge: Seems well versed on electromagnetic pulses. Might come in useful for GoldenEye.

Bond's a big fat snob: Knows his alcohol and can impress a french detective.

00's killed: 003 off screen, though we view his corpse, after infiltrating a Soviet Siberian base. Which probably would have been a more interesting thing to see than the bizarre office day out we get to the race track (why are M, Moneypenny and fricking Q there?)

Mini overview: I like this more than a lot of people seem to. Despite Moore being off prime (huffing his way up the Eiffle towers step made even more obvious by the dreadful stunt doubling) it has a great villain (whose scheme doesn't seem to make much sense but he is clearly a fan of Auric Goldfinger or at least his ideas) and a decent soundtrack. It makes excellent use of location, getting real value from San Francisco and Paris but is rather sloppily directed. And Patrick Macnee is gold even if treated oh so shabbily.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The angels are not done with you yet!

Max Payne (2008)

Dreary thriller that spends it's first hour thinking it's Angelheart before remembering it was based  on a computer game with some shoot-outs so chucks in a couple of dumb action scenes. Also naming one of the characters B.B. may have been a mistake (when Whalberg unloads his pistol into a empty room shouting what sounds like 'baby' you can't help but bring a Freudian analysis to that little bit of sexual frustration).

Monday, 27 February 2012

And a Dutch Rudder is...?

Zack and Miri Make A Porno (2008)

Another look back at a myspace review

Much in the same vein as Clerks 2, alternating crudity and sappiness. The romance part of rom-com is once more fumbled (the guy acts like an arsehole, then calls the woman an arsehole and she, well, kind of accepts it) but the com part is fast and funny and Seth Rogen an able Kevin Smith player.

Friday, 24 February 2012

I want you to punish me.

A Dangerous Method (2011)

Rather frustrating (or am I projecting my sexual hang ups onto the movie eh Freud?). It's a solidly made, good looking film with yet another strong performance from Fassbender. 
Yet, it suffers from a couple of major flaws.
One: Keira Knightly is just awful. Full of nervous tics and accent crutches her performance never feels real and derails from the underplayed work of Mortensen and Fassbender.
Two: The whole thing is just dramatically inert. It never really comes to grips with the origins of psychoanalysis preferring to reduce things to a spattering of spanking sessions with Keira Knightly, and the clash of great minds between Freud and Jung is mostly dealt with by a couple of letters. Hardly scintillating conflict, unless you are particularly enamored of Knightley's tits I guess.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

We all agreed, celebrities aren't people

The Muppets (2011)

Not nearly as good as it should have been, that it is still a generally fun romp is down to the sheer likability of the franchise but a fatal flaw almost sinks it from the beginning.
Segal, as co-writer, is clearly in love with The Muppets. And spends a lot of the movie telling us this. Unfortunately what it forgets to do for the first half hour is actually give us the fucking Muppets he keeps saying are so cool. There's some good stuff here, a delightful musical number which involves a whole small town population but it takes too long to get to Kermit and then too long to get the group together.
Luckily when it does the movie shifts up a gear and delivers us what it promises. The flimsy plot is an excuse for some jokes and a host of cameos from culty comedians mostly simply placed for recognition value, (love seeing Donald Glover here but why have someone as brilliant as he is do almost literally nothing) though Jim Parsons personification of a human Muppet is splendid.
The songs are mostly very good, Chris Cooper just about keeps a rap number on the right side of cringe-worthy but some of the gags fall flat, a victim to the movies uneven tone and a lack of certainty over who it's target audience is. Certainly at the screening I was at one of the earliest big laughs from the kids in the audience came from a clip of the old show and not from anything new.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Now's not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!

Taken (2008)

Horribly offensive, it spends half an hour having Neeson tell his daughter she can't go abroad because she'll be raped or killed or any number of terrible things.
And of course within three seconds of getting to a foreign country she is kidnapped. 
Neeson then spends the rest of the film killing the immigrant population of Paris in slick but dull action scenes.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I guess we learned not to do it again.

Burn After Reading (2008)

Very particular, and peculiar, comedy from the Coens. The cast is superb (Pitt especially) in playing silly, very one dimensional roles. But how much you get out of it will depend on if you find the central joke funny or not.
Telling an audience something they have just watched was pointless is perhaps a mistake, but a very funny one.

Monday, 20 February 2012

My life partner, my one coquette, the answer to my love's duet.

Enchanted (2007)

Once it gets beyond the annoying tendenacy to have its' heroine fall down (an initially funny gag about the inpracticality of her dress becomes rather labored) and some of the more obvious culture clash jokes it reveals itself to be a pleasant and clever Disney take on Shrek. Though lacking the Dreamworks films cynicism it makes up for it by playing the story straight with a refreshing lack of knowing irony. The performances are very good (James Marsden continues his winning turn in Hairspray with a deliciously funny Prince Charming). There are some problems; for all its good in presenting a Disney princess who becomes independant it still falls on the tropes of a romance film and the unfortunate and unneeded New York girlfriend is arbitrarily paired off undermining the whole point of the film, I also know of one single parent who was horrified by the speech the father gives about bringing up his kid after her mother died (though I loved the fact that she is seen in a karate uniform and it's never mentioned, just a nice background detail).

Friday, 17 February 2012

The coin don't have no say. It's just you.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Not just the best film of the past year but possibly the best film of the past five years. Stunningly filmed, making full use of cinematic language to slowly unfold a taut (one sequence is probably the finest suspense scene since Hitchcock was around) and brutal crime story.
Javier Bardem's Anton Chirgurh is intensly creepy and backed up by every other actor bringing their 'A' game to the proceedings.
The film can be read on many levels and dissecting it's character's motivations just one of the myriad pleasures offered.
Almost perfect.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Give me a scotch. I'm starving.

Iron Man (2008)

Superbly cast (the baggage Robert Downey Jnr. carries with him works in the films favour) with no-one camping up their performance because it's a superhero movie, Iron Man is a strong first offering from Marvel's film division. The story is kept down to earth and always with an eye on keeping it personal (the bad guys plot has more to do with jealousy than plans for world domination) and the humour mostly character based. It is perhaps just slightly too long and the climatic fight suffers a little from not being able to see what is happening clearly but it ends with the most perfect last line since Casino Royale.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Oh my god, was that a ninja?

Speed Racer (2008)

Quite unlike anything else, an absolute blast of colour and sound. It succeeds in dazzling in it's set pieces but only Ricci can make the bubblegum nonsense dialogue work and it outstays it's welcome by about half an hour. There is also a rather disconcerting message, promoting sports achievements beyond all else especially academic. It literally attempts to whip the audience into a frenzy of blood lust (the crowd roaring, the colour, sound, the commentators are yelling for Speed to rip the other guy to shreds) which seems a liitle tasteless in a family film.
Kim Newman probably said it best when he claimed that after seeing Speed Racer he now knows what summer blockbusters would be like if the Nazis had won the war.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Any psychotic ex-boyfriends I should be aware of?

The Dark Knight

It's well shot, has generally good acting and some interesting ideas but something fails to quite mesh together in this overly long and sombre comic adaptation.
The intention to create a serious and deep crime movie is at odds with Bale's goofy funfair haunted house ride voice and cutesy Bat ears.
Oldman and Eckhart are excellent and Ledger's performance a blast but the film is severly let down by a bloated script which values plot mechanics over character. There are at least two sub-plots that could easily be removed and have no effect on the story what-so-ever, They merely reinforce that the Joker is crazy and likes to play games. It's not exactly hard to pick that up.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Suck it, "Reindeer Games"!

Role Models

A routine, by the numbers plot (aw being nice can make your life better) is thankfully, merely the back bone for some great comedic performances (everyone is essentially doing their schtick but the material is good). It spends quite some time on a LARP field (a geeky activity even geeks look down on) without being overly judgmental and this basic humanity seems earned and rather un-cynical, making this movie head and shoulders above most films of it's ilk.

Friday, 10 February 2012

They are an unholy curse from the beast we call the Desolate One.

Clerks II (2006)

Still going through my reviews from 2006 in no particular order. Will try to get some 2012 movies up next week.
Clerks II returns to the two main characters from Smith's first and funniest film in a movie that should please his fans but lacks the iconic impact of the foul mouthed original. As with Jersey Girl and Chasing Amy, Clerks II wishes to examine the personal life of his characters more than just mining them for comedic bits, but the film only really works when it's simply trying to be funny. Luckily this is quite a bit. Rosario Dawson proves more than able in making Smith's dialogue (including such thoughts on whether ass to mouth is acceptable) plausible and her character adorable but you never quite get why she likes Dante, which dramatically reduces the interest in the romance plot.
It lacks some of the sharp one liners of his previous films but coasts on a familiarity that is pleasing and a refusal to quite play by the rules (one of the sappiest scenes is beautifully undermined by the Tijuana donkey show happening concurrently).

Thursday, 9 February 2012

I love it when you demean me, Rick.

Snakes on a Plane

A poor, direct to video effort in every department, this manged to secure Samuel L. Jackson and garnered quite a following on the internet due to it's crowd pleasingly stupid title.
B movies live and breathe largely depending on two things: a genuine wit and invention (Tremors for example) or a fast enough pace so you don't have time to think about how daft it all is (say the transporter) or preferably both (e.g. the highly enjoyable time travel romp Retroactive).
Snakes on a plane has neither. It takes twenty minutes before the plane even takes off and another excrutiating ten minutes before there's any damn snakes.
And when they do finally get the meat of the film it's an incoherent mess of dull, badly acted characters and absolutely no tension at all.
It's just rotten on all conceivable levels.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

It's 99 percent water, has no brains and no anus.

Stormbreaker (2006)

Stormbreaker is possibly the first kids film i've watched since The Incredibles. I can't think of any others of the top of my head and really can't be bothered to check. Both films are heavily indebted to a personal passion of mine - James Bond movies. Both have villains whose motives stem from percieved childhood injustices. However the similarities stop there.
Stormbreaker is a terribly, terribly directed film. It really doesn't understand how a Bond film (or indeed any action film) works and seems to copy the most base and obvious Bond film motifs but tries to hide behind a dazzle of slow mo and camera jiggery pokery. Geoffrey Sax has all the lack of subtly of Michael Bay, but smaller explosions, so the inadequcies of character and structure are even more obvious.
For every neat idea (The agency our Hero Alex goes to work for start off as a right bunch of bastards) there's ten head slappingly stupid things.
Characters drift in and out of the action with no real purpose or depth beyond what they are doing to make sure the film progresses to the next scene or in some cases are completly forgotten about.
It contains a very dumb and contrived plot hook for further movies but at least that promises the return of the talented and rather good looking man, Damien Lewis.
The acting is generally acceptable though I'm not sure all of them realise they are in the same film. Bill Nighy brings his usual dependable idiosyncrasies to his perfomance, Missi Pyle seems to think she's in an Austen Powers movie and Robbie Coltrane and Stephen Fry are basically thrown away in one note roles.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

I'm here to find the man I love

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Just watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Now despite being a staunch pirate defender in the age old geek debate pirates versus ninjas (i personally like to throw cowboys in there too) i'm not a huge fan of the first film. Thought it was ok, but nothing particualry pleasing to me beyond some undead Pirates and it contained some things i really dislike (mostly Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley).
Dead Man's Chest is a messy, overblown, over complicated and generally unfunny two and a half hours.
But when the film gets it right, it really gets it. 
The performances range from the really bad (a lot of the pirate filler crew and especially Mackenzie Crooks lamentable 'comedy' relief),  charisma-less bland (Knightley and Bloom) to the neatly observed (Stellan Skarsgaard as Bootstrap Bill and Tom Hollander's smarmy bad guy) and the inspired (the Bill Nighy/CGI Davy Jones).
The film has a very bad pacing problem with most of the first hour being a dull, pointless ramble before gearing up with the appearance of Davy Jones and his accursed crew.
Indeed the whole sequence set on an cannibal inhabited island could be skipped with little effect, it adds nothing to the overly talky but stangely sketchy plot.
There is much fun to be had in the three way sword fight and the film comes truely alive whenever the kraken attacks.
The design work is all top notch and interesting visually, Davy Jones' crew being an inspired and eclectic mix of creatures and men, gruesome monstrosities sure to delight and scare children in equal measure.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Once again, the press underestimates me.

Superman Returns (2006)

Sticking with my old reviews, this one chosen as a little memorial to the passing of Chuck which had the very likable Brandon Routh as a recurring character for a while.

Well here we are.
Superman Returns is a technically proficient movie, with good performances, solid score and editing (the much under valued John Ottman on both duties there), fine directing but I don't think I've seen a movie that boring in a long time.
It constantly undermines itself dramatically with a plot that makes no sense and characters that behave like plot functions rather than humans (or Kryptonians, i guess).
The film doesn't realy have a full set piece, the early rescue of a plane with Lois Lane on (echoing the first film) comes close but fails to elicit any genuine thrills unless you like seeing Kate Bosworth bashed around. A lot.
Instead Superman saves people from falling, saves people from being crushed by something that's falling, or is in the back of a plane whilst it is falling. There's little here that hasn't been seen elsewhere, often in movies that are nowhere near as good, but also nowhere near as dull.

Friday, 3 February 2012

It mocks us with its... *house-ness*!

Monster House (2006)

Ah 2006 - three years before I would become obsessed with a teevee show called Community, we had this interesting little rascal.

Monster House is a fun throwback to the Zemeckis/Spielberg films of the 80's.
A trio of kids realise that the house across the street is haunted and has begun eating people, the adults, naturally, don't take heed.
It has the simple plot mechanics of a film for the youngsters but layers in some neat observational humour and has a darker (though not Gremlins dark, say,) edge to it than most animated movies of it's ilk. Also there are no cute/annoying anthropomorphic animals with sassy catchphrases which puts it above alot of this years cartoon feature efforts.
The animation is crisp and conveys character really well, with solid voice work from Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhall and others doing the rest.

So I liked it a fair bit, but interestingly Dan Harmon, creator of Community and co-writer of this was less enthusiastic about it. Here he writes to a young girl who was scared by the film and calls the director a hack and Steven Spielberg a moron (have I mentioned how much I really love Dan Harmon)
He later apologized for calling Spielberg a moron but he remains, along with Joss Whedon and Brian Michael Bendis, one of my favourite people to read on the subject of writing itself. Here's a great bit on characters from his blog -

Thursday, 2 February 2012

You will not enjoy this.

300 (2006)

Another myspace review (if I haven't been clear these are taken from a period when I did a small write-up for every film I saw at the cinema and posted) chosen because I liked the last line and reprinted as was despite some sloppiness to it.

In the interests of full disclosure I should point out I pretty much knew before I saw this that it was going to annoy me.
The stark (or indeed, dare I say, spartan) visuals left me cold during the trailer and reviews I read (most enthusiastically positive) led me to believe i wouldn't like this.
And I was right.
But what I wasn't prepared for was for just how boring i would find it. It seemed to take a long time to get going and when the battle finally starts its a curiously dull affair despite the limbs flying and the men shouting (a lot- have i mentioned that?), momentarily enlivened only by excrutiatingly awful fight banter.
It's political subtext is troubling to say the least (and that's ignoring any historical innacuracies as this is myth making and facts don't matter too much) and since i wasn't being engaged by the actual text i was thinking alot about this perhaps in a way to amke it more interesting than it actually is.
It also has one of the stupidest sex scenes i've seen in a while (but i do give the filmmamkers points for hiring an actress who seems to have the Frank Miller style chunky nipples - now thats faith to the source material for you).

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

It could be the end of Spider-Man

Spider-Man 3

I've really been enjoying my trawl through my old reviews. It may be big-headed but I like a lot of the things I write, I often make myself laugh. So here's another.

Despite an exceptionally lazy script and more of the irritating directorial decisions that marred the first (how many times can you cut away from the action to see some new york kid exclaim 'wicked cool' or gasp in shock?) Spider-man 3 still manages to pack a punch.
The action sequences are exciting, terrifically realised and the non action sections are mostly, when taken individually, well acted or funny or interesting.
Unfortunately taken as a whole those scenes don't seem to lead into each other. Events happen by pure coincidence, nothing seems followed up on, characters seem to have little to no memory of, or reaction to, earlier events (and that's not even including the lousy plot contrivance of an actual amnesia).
Thomas Hayden Church is excellent in the underwritten role of Sandman, and his characters 'origin' scene is one of the best of the film.
Tobey Maguire excels as a nerd (though he is hampered by the script when it comes to his scenes with M.J.), exemplified by the part when he struts down the street in a bizarre homage to Saturday Night Fever. It whimsically captures how a geek might consider himself as cool and the baffled onlookers show, that despite his confidence, he's still an outcast at core.