Monday, 26 March 2012

There's 24 of us Gale, only one comes out.

The Hunger Games (2012)

A solid, good looking film with a personable lead. 
The movie suffers a little from it's second hand nature (yes the game itself is similar to Battle Royale but only on a superficial level) but makes up for it in small details. One of it's strengths is it's general lack of exposition, it expects you to pick on on things mentioned off hand and grants a measure of intelligence to it's audience (or it could just be expecting the sizeable following of the book to fill in the blanks themselves).
This strength comes at a price though. It is not clear how everything works in this film (not least why the hell it is called the hunger games in the first place) so when the rules are changed it lacks impact and unfortunately makes the ending a touch inert.

Likewise it spends a commendable time setting up the world (if slightly vaguely) and Jennifer Lawrence's place in it but when it comes to the others in the game it's hard to work up any interest beyond 'oh she's angelic looking and helps someone for some reason'. A character who survives most of the game by not being seen in the film suggest an interesting underdog backstory (she ranks poorly in the trials but makes it to top four) but she like most others is a wisp ( i only recall her because of her striking red hair not sure if she was even named in the film) of nothing.

It plays the drama all too coyly, there is no sense of great betrayal when a character hooks up with the 'nasty gang' because it's hard to see what makes them any worse than anybody else. A sympathetic character's death barely registers (to me - at least the film reacts as if it's an important event just doesn't justify it being so) because it dances around the idea that Lawrence would eventually have to kill her anyway.

Gary Ross brings a real tangible, tactile feel to the film that greatly helps smooth over the vagueness. Doubled with Lawrence's terrific performance it makes for an interesting, decent kids story with just enough hints at depth to satisfy.

Also every time I saw Wes Bently:

I hoped to see:
But alas, no Starburns for me.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

This is a unique and dramatic situation!

The Descendants (2011)

Right this isn't a review of the film, though in some ways it is. But really it's just a cheap mother's day present.

I'm not sure my Nan found this very funny

This is my Nan and Grandad at their 60th wedding anniversary. My sister and I spent a lot of time at theirs as kids and, as grandparents are want to do, were spoiled rotten. They had a great place to be young at. There was a big quarry with an abandoned car at the bottom and some empty sheds that were fun to play around. Nan would make superb trifles amongst other things. Grandad had ferrets and greenhouses and made wine, things that are still bafflingly alien to me even (or especially) now.

The had two children, one of whom grew up and became

Dad with Jack the most recent descendant of this line, though not for long.
My Dad. I have written of this before, but certainly not on here, my Dad apparently worried that as he worked a lot when I was younger he didn't spend as much time with his kids as he would have liked. I have no memory of a lack. Dad was always a presence, I recall vividly playing between his legs when very small, him lifting his legs up so I rested on the shins and pretended to fly. Even now my Dad is always there for me. If my bath leaks he will make the 2 hour journey to fix it.

My Grandad (though not by blood) and Grannie. As they lived in Germany for much of my life I saw them less than my Dad's parents, though my memories are no less warm. Grandad always seemed to be reading something interesting, I think some of my love for books comes from seeing him read so much. I remember a gift he gave me that was a box that could make a pound coin disappear. He sadly passed away some years ago and I was grateful to receive some of his Graham Greene books, an author I came to by myself a few years before but like to feel there was some connection to an intelligent and interesting man.
Grannie is one of those people who seems to know everyone. She had many children of her own and a large number of grandchildren. We often went on walks to pick blackberries or some such but a large abiding part of the memory is that we would stop by every person we passed for her to chat with. She too instilled a great sense of discovery in books and storytelling in me, creating tales of Bertie the Gnome (i'm going to be terribly embarrassed if that wasn't his name but I have an awful memory for details) to entertain us youngsters.

They raised many children one of whom grew up to give birth to me

I don't know anyone stronger than my Mother (not in the Superman sense, though I'm pretty sure she could beat him up if she wanted). She has been through so much, put up with so much, sacrificed so much and asks for nothing in return. I am awful for forgetting birthdays, special occasions but she doesn't hold that against me. She brought me up to have a sense of what is right in the world (I don't think she is particularly left wing but her sense of decency led me, amongst other things, to being very socially leftist), that someone will always love me no matter how much of an arse I can be. She deserves better but would never say so. I may not have inherited her taste (I'm not sure I can forgive her for liking the Transformers movie) but she allowed me to nurture my own (even if she wouldn't on a summers day let me read in my room - so I would go outside and read sat on my skateboard instead) and always supports my endeavours. 

These are the amazing people I am descended from.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

You've had your eight, now I have my eighty.

The Living Daylights (1987)

Bond's Intro: Another new actor, Dalton gets some thrilling heroics here (also we get to see the 00 section operating as complete idiots which at least gives Bond's terrible performance in many of the movies some context - he's bossed around by a guy that thinks having an office in the back of a troop carrier plane is a good idea) on top a speeding jeep before casually dismissing any thoughts to being a secret agent at all by spilling his name and code number in front of his next fuck. Not to mention the fact that a 00 agent and a bunch of soldiers have just been murdered, but god forbid he gets his report in promptly. So, different face but business as usual. Also Bond is surprised by a monkey.

Theme Song and Credits: Not one of Binder's best efforts. Gone are the perky nips and suggestions of brazillian waxing, in come pasties (at least I assume so unless the gymnastic lady had no nipples) and merkins. It has a vague liquid theme and ends with a sleepy looking woman in a wine glass (she's probably bored by the dreary Ah-Ha song)

The Ladies: Maryam D'abo is stunning but her character too naive to be truly sexy. 

The Baddies: Not a very inspiring lot. A wet Russian , an annoying American 'General' and a henchmen who has a talent for mimicry and using silly weapons (headphones and exploding milk bottles)

License to Kill: Man, this would be my favourite Bond film of all time  if he killed that monkey at the beginning. But alas. Let's a man plummet to his death (well he gets blown up before hitting the ground anyway) at the start and towards the end of the film, bashes another with a bust, not a great showing.

Bond hates foreigners: Clearly frustrated with the Morrocan street performers but pays them off rather than, say, shooting them. "Don't worry, they'll save you for the harem" 

Bond hates women: He's rather callous in using Milovy (im not sure posing as her boyfriends pal and then seducing her was the best plan). Tears off the clothes of Pushkin's mistress to serve as distraction. Knocks over some old ladies laundry. Of course having one of the Mujarhedin exclaim 'women!' is troubling for all sorts of reasons.

Bond's crazy knowledge: death to spies minister (well not so crazy for him to know about assassins of his work colleagues i guess even if a programme ended 20 years earlier). Pickett's charge was up Cemetary Ridge, not Little Round Top.

Bond's a big fat snob: the brand in the list was questionable sir, so I took the liberty of choosing something else

00's killed: 004 who looks a little like John Oliver. And it doesn't really count but an unnumbered 00 (listed in credits as 002 and played by Herne the Hunter from The Box of Delights) is shot by paintgun after getting tangled in a tree. Poor, pathetic, obsequious Saunders shows why I never use automatic doors.

Mini overview: It sits uncomfortably between Roger Moore silliness and a more gritty take on Bond. It features some decent set pieces (the dangling out the back of the plane is still cool as seen by it's appropriation in the recent third game of the Uncharted series) but lacks anything terribly interesting and skirts close to being rather dull. Dalton is pretty damn good though. And John Rhys Davies brings more menace to his role than the actual bad guys do.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Well, that is a sucker punch to the gonads.

Get Smart (2008)

There is an unfortunate reliance on modish toilet humour and it can't seem to make up it's mind whether Maxwell Smart is rubbish at being a spy or genuinely canny and adept.
Luckily a number of the jokes do hit home and the cast are mostly game with Dwayne Johnson once again sending up his image quite well even if a last act reveal will surprise no-one. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Disobey, and you die.

Eagle Eye (2008)

Astoundingly bad, along with Wanted probably the stupidest film of the year.
Dull, nonsensical action scenes punctuate pointless exposition and a less than thrilling mystery. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I used to have fun

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Abba unfortunately just don't have the range of songs and styles as, say, the Beatles so a film using only their music finds itself severley limited in its' storytelling abilities. As such Mamma Mia just goes round in circles both plot wise and musically. The female members of the cast basically just screech their dialogue at each other as if acting to the back seats though Streep does exude some sexiness as a free spirited independent woman (even if she is let down by the films desire to have a wedding, any old wedding no matter what). 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

He has a bomb... and puppies!

You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)

Absolutely awful. Aiming squarely to gross you out rather than make you laugh ('oh look he's fucking old ladies how horrid' or not, it wasn't even that shocking when the Producers did it) it fails on every level. Broad performances drown out the occasional clever line ('you should stay in the army, where it's safe') and genuine, well constructed gags are few and far between.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Can't Smile Without You

Hellboy 2 (2008)

The plotting is a complete mess, a string of set pieces with little rhyme nor reason between them and poorly written characterisation especially for Selma Blair and Doug Jones.
However Del Toro has a great visual eye and coupled with strong performances from everybody the film is a slight but enjoyable romp.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

tra la la

Bumper pack of 2008 movies.

To make up for lost time last year and lack of weekends this year I give a bonus 8 films today. Enjoy. Or, you know, not. Whatever.

Pineapple Express
Personable and fun due to a good cast but has few actual jokes to keep it going rather coasting on it's charm until a silly action film ending.

Tropic Thunder
Pretty much a Ben Stiller Show sketch writ large including a carry over character.
It is loud and silly but has some great gags and zips along just fine.

Death Race
Not even interesting enough to be offensive, it completely misses the fun of the oringinal and fails to compensate on it's own terms. Also navigators on a circular track?

How to lose Friends and Influence People.
This lacks the balls to be a great black comedy (it neuters itself at every turn and changes names 'to protect the innocent - or litigious maybe) but canny casting, Anderson and Bridges are great in small roles, makes it amusing enough but little lasts in the memory.

It suffers from being second hand Burton or Johnenn Vasquez and has irritating sidekick syndrome but has a good sense of style none-the-less and some neat and quite dark humour.

City of Ember
Excellent children's fantasy which a splendid design sense and good performances. It doesn't all quite make sense (why the giant insects and moles?) but moves along briskly and doesn't talk down to it's target audience.

Bangkok dangerous
Trite seen it all before Hitman nonsense. A couple of moments of style do little to liven it up but it never bad enough to be laughable either.

More of the same from number one 'mockney' Guy Ritchie. Another good cast are given his dreary dialogue and plot motions which he tries to hide beneath a surfeit of style. It's watchable enough but has a worrying homophobic strain running through it.