Friday, 29 February 2008

Sharkwater Review

This is gonna be a slighty brief review because, well, I don't have a lot to say about a film that scrapes 75 minutes in length when most of the running time consists of sharks swimming to the strains of Portishead. Don't get me wrong I like Portishead but sharks swimming, its what they do people! Its kinda like filming people walking about for an hour and then going ooh and aah. Y'know like Cloverfield.

Sharkwater is a documentary about sharks and how they ain't as bad as people say. Cool. I'm down with that. I also agree wholeheartedly about the deplorable action of driving species to the brink of extinction for profit. What I'm not down with is the amount of love the main guy, Rob Stewart, gives to sharks. During the opening he describes them as 'the most beautiful thing in the world.' (Personally I'd go for a breathtaking sunset, a supernova exploding or Miss Natalie Portman but each to his own).

Personal taste to one side, Rob Stewart is exactly the kind of person that will put you off animal conservationists. A preppy little shit with a cool spiky haircut that probably got his film equipment and travelling expenses from his trust fund (Yes I am bitter I don't have a trust fund). Crying about how when he saw some dead sharks he felt like his family had died. In my notes (for this is the kind of film you can easily take notes) I wrote "This guy loves fucking sharks". I meant to write "This guy fucking loves sharks" but in hindsight...

On a humourous note, IMBD says that if you like Sharkwater it recommends Deep Blue Sea. Ha.

Semi Pro Review

Some people like Will Ferrell. Some people don't like Will Ferrell. Some beleive him to be a God of comedy, others want to smash his face in with a brick. I think he's stupid. I think he has a stupid face, he says stupid things and he acts stupidly. This abundunce of stupidity, in my mind makes him very funny and after a couple of misses with Talladega Nights and Blades Of Glory he is back on top form with Semi Pro.

Will is, the aburd and of course stupid, Jackie Moon. A one hit wonder with the disco anthem Love Me Sexy, he now owns, coaches and plays in the Flint Michingan Amateur Basketball team. For Jackie and his team the dream to play in the NBA is dangled in front of them under the proviso that they finish in the top 4 and raise their attendance. To help with their promotion bid they enlist the help of an NBA has-been and to raise the gate Jackie tries increasingly elaborate methods of promotion.

These last two features of the movie ably sum up where the story comes from and where the jokes come from. When Jackie is wrestling bears and jumping over cheerleaders on rollerblades the laughs are constant and big. When Woody Harrelson pops up to inspire the team and it becomes an underdog sports movie, the film grinds to a halt. His scenes with the lovely Maura Tierney seem to belong to another movie entirely. But hey, the guy is high so much he probably thought he was making another movie. God bless him.

The 70's soundtrack is at times irritatingly overfamilier, even if Jackies hit that opens the movie is worth a chuckle on the cover alone. The highlight, as always in the sports movie as comedy, is the sparring commentators. This time around its Will Arnett and Andrew Daly fulfilling their roles with perfection. They manage to scene steal in a way that makes you think they could have their own movie. Now thats not a bad idea! The Commentators. I can see it now.

Monday, 25 February 2008

I Wish I Were an Oscar Winning Weener!

The 8oth Academy Awards has come and gone and all is pretty well right in the movie world. No Forrest Gump, Driving Miss Daisy or Moonstruck to make me retch up a lung. Instead as Jon Stewart deflty put it 'Does Hollywood need a hug?'. Many of the frontrunners being violent, intense and very un-Gump like. Which is a very, very good thing.

For the first time ever I'd managed to watch all the best pic noms, so could quite comfortably give an opinion and not feel like a fraud. The problem was I didn't give an opinion, except to pick what I thought would win (13 out of 24 isn't bad), because I would have been happy if any had of taken the big prize. In the end it was No Country that took the fairest share of the spoils. And fair enough too.

When Daniel Day Lewis won there was a certain amount of 'well, yeah' about it, as everyone loves a surprise. But everyone can just fuck off because he made that film in a way no other actor could and thats the point of the awards really. Diablo Cody picked up my favourite award (the one I will one day take home) for Juno and no complaints there. Best speeches went to the actresses, Tilda's funny and Marion's just the right side of overwhelmed.

My favourite winner though (mainly because I knew my girlfriend would be jumping up and down like a 6 year old after eating a months supply of sugar cane) was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for Best Original song for Once. And the icing on the cake being Jon Stewart bringing Marketa back on when her speech was cut short. What a Guy. No one brings the relaxed nature or ribs the pomp of the academy as Jon. May he present all the ceremonies from here until the end of the Republican Party.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

There Will Be Blood Review

I know its awards season but really I'm being spoilt at the moment. From the opening shots of a pickaxe hitting the wall, accompanied by the ear piercing strings of Johnny Greenwoods score, There Will Be Blood holds you to the screen and doesn't let go. The sense of foreboding lasts for near on three hours yet clock watching is not only unneeded its almost impossible.

At the turn of the 20th century we follow the life of Daniel Plainview. He is a self proclaimed Oil Man and Family Man, and while he succeeds on all fronts on the former, the latter is his downfall. Tipped off on a small religious town by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) to tap into unprecedented new Oil fields, Plainwiew takes his adoptive son, H.W, and attempts to bleed the town dry. There he becomes locked in a battle with Paul's brother Eli (also Dano) a fervant religious man who is out to prove himself the true saviour of the town.

The one mans life ruled by power and greed evokes memories of Citizen Kane. There was a time when even to mention that movie in the same paragraph would need to be followed with 'its not nearly as good as' but this manages to actually stand up to the Grandpa of Movies. Watching Plainview push away everyone around him because as he states "There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking" is chilling but heartfelt too.

The only unsurprising thing in this film is that Daniel Day Lewis is again superb. While the old adage, given by Laurence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman, of "Dear boy, why don't you try acting?" is written all over the intensity of his performance it really doesn't matter how much he has to immerse himself in a role. If the result is as good as this, and it usually is, then method acting should be compulsory.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

Some days its hard to write anything, be it a screenplay, a review or even a long put off letter. You can't find the right words, you may be worried at the final outcome and you will do anything to put it off. Now imagine if to write a single word you had to listen to each letter of the alphabet and blink when you hear the right one. While this film has an extra level of depth for anyone who takes great care or interest in the written word, the true quality of this film is that it is important for absolutley everyone living and breathing.

A true story of the editor of Elle magazine, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who at the age of 43 had a stroke that left him trapped in his body. Initially wanting the easier option of death he soon learns to live with his condition and carry on in spite of it. Tooled with his imagination, his memory and his left eye he sets out to write his story - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

While a film can never truly capture what it must feel like to have 'locked in' syndrome, this does a fine job of illustrating Jean Do's life. Flashbacks show him before the event but the real weight is in seeing what he sees, knowing he is unable to do anything about it. From a television set being switched off mid football match to the billowing of a skirt, hinting at something he will never get to enjoy again, the choice of point of view is heartbreaking.

While it may be the worst thing that ever happened to him it gives him the chance to see the best in people, in life and in himself. And crucially a sense of humour remains. Its this sense of humour that finally released the tears that from the beginning I was sure would come. Above all this film is ridiculously inspiring. When I am king this will be first projected on the wall, shown to everyone by law. It is really that important.

Definitely, Maybe Review

When I saw the first trailer for Definitely, Maybe two things crossed my mind. Firstly that it has quite an impressive cast for a shoddy rom com and secondly the love story mystery is stolen from Broken Flowers. I'm pleased to report I am definitely wrong about this being shoddy and I may be wrong about the Broken Flowers thing. Okay I am wrong, I just wanted to do the definitely and the may be thing.

Upon finding out where babies come from, Maya (Abigail Breslin) asks her dad (Ryan Reynolds) how she came to be. She hopes that by doing so he will remember why he fell in love with her mother in the first place and not follow through with his planned divorce. To keep Little Miss Sunshine happy Van Wilder tells the story of his three big loves not letting the girl or the audience onto who is a) her mum or who is b) his number one love.

After an appaling opening in which we meet Will Hayes (film student types this is not the guy who censored Hollywood in the 30's) strutting down New York with wireless, earpiece headphones throwing information at the audeince about where his life is the film goes from strength to strength. The mystery of who will Will end up with is handled well enough to keep you guessing until the end. There must be a favourite so the payoff works, but even this fleats well between the 'fictional' Summer, April and Emily.

The so likeable he's slappable Ryan Reynolds is again so likeable that I want to slap him. The problem is I like him too much. What a quandary! All the ladies are perfectly played too. With a Nick Hornby level of knowingness to the relationship front this is superior than a vast number of romcoms and the best from the Working Title stable in quite some time.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane Review

Ah bless, its my first horror film review and I made it out unscathed. No fainting, no vomiting, no crying like a girl. But hey this isn't a website dedicated to my masculinity or lack of it, (that can be found at this is a film review website. You want to know what the story is and whether or not its worth your hour and a half.

Well the story is a simple slasher pic. Young, nubile teens drink, take drugs and get up to rather a large amount of sexual shennanigans then get offed. The heroine is the titular Mandy Lane who wasn't always loved by all the boys but as one stereotypical jock anounces at the start of the film "Hey Mandy, you got hot over the summer!" Now that she is 'hot' she is invited to a weekend away with a select group of teens, and well, you know the rest.

While there is nothing amazingly novel about Mandy, except perhaps the fact the killer is flagged from the first stages, it does tick off some boxes usually left unmarked. The characters are fucked up, of course, but their insecurities are played well. Some are even likeable so therefore not the usual knife fodder.

First time director Johnathan Levine handles the suspense to a reasonable level. Although at times some shots do feel like they are screaming for our attention more than the dying teens. The cast all do their bit too, but if any of them breakthrough it won't be on the strength of this alone. And so the second question, Is it worth your hour and a half? You could do worse but you won't love it as much as the boys seem to love Mandy.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

My Blueberry Nights Review

There are some things that make My Blueberry Nights worth a look. Firstly, and a bit surprisingly, is the colour. Every frame is saturated by the deep reds and intense blues you would expect from a painting by an artist that I don't have the knowledge to reference. Suffice to say the film looks absolutely gorgeous. Speaking of absolutely gorgeous (I can't believe I segued into that so well) its Natalie Portman. Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a soft spot for the Isreali born actress. That last sentence may be the understatment of the year but I will save my Portman praise for another time.

My Blueberry Nights follows Elizabeth/Lizzie/Beth (Norah Jones) as she journeys across Northern America hoping to forget a love gone wrong. On the way she meets another couple whose love has turned sour in the form of David Strathairn, an alcoholic cop and the wife he wants back, played by Rachel Weisz. Also included is the aforementioned lovely Natalie as a compulsive gambler who has father issues. All these parts work well, but the car don't run.

One problem with the film is the voiceover as letters sent to Jude Law, a cafe owner whose burgeoning relationship with Ms. Jones is the non-sticky glue of the movie. Its pretentious, twoddlesome and even fails as coherent in the last five minutes as its becomes unclear who she is speaking to. This arty approach is also present in the too often used slo-mo. Effective at first, it soon becomes irritating.

It seems unfair to dismiss Wong Kar-Wai's first effort in his unnative tongue. If you asked me to review this film in Czech, it too would be a mess. But, sadly, the faults of this film are universal ones. Big fat universal story ones. Crowbaring two short stories into a film that doesn't have the strength to lift the main leaves a general feeling of emptiness. The acting however is first rate, watching David Strathairn monologue about the addictiveness of compulsion is heartbreaking. While as a whole it misfires, scenes like that make me look forward to the next projects of all involved. Especially Natalie.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Juno Review

Juno can only be described as 'a gem of a film'. The kind of film that reminds you why you love films. The kind of film that makes my job so damn enjoyable. The kind of film that leaves you with a big stupid grin that returns to your face days later when you recollect a funny line. The kind of film that makes me gush embarrasingly in a way that I should probably reserve for the birth of my own child. Like I said 'a gem.'

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) gets herself up the duff. Unluckily for Juno she is only 16 and not wanting to settle down to domestic bliss with her best friend and one time lover (thats all it takes kids!) Paulie Bleeker (played by the ever reliable Michael Cera). With the help of her incredibly supportive dad and stepmom, Juno decides to give the baby up for adoption to a nice wealthy couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman).

And here is where you'd think it would all go wrong. But, and this is the strange and wonderful thing about Juno, everything kinda goes to plan. Its Juno's journey that we follow and because she is still growing up we don't need things to happen to her, rather we need things to happen around her so that we can watch how she's going to deal with them. Another wonderful thing about this girl is that she is precocious, she is at times irritatingly knowing, in other words she is a real person. When she plays the Arrested Development boys off against each other we are still guessing at how its all gonna turn out because we can't guess the actions of someone whose changing. And this is where the drama comes in.

The supporting cast is all superb but special mention has to go to J.K. Simmons as the knowing but never telling father. As an added bonus, like it really needs it, it includes the kind of soundtrack that you could discover your new five favourite bands on. Juno is just a bloody lovely film that comes around all too briefly. Seek it out.

The Bucket List Review

It was about 5 years ago after watching the episode of The Simpsons where Homer eats the blowfish and thinks he's going to die that I wrote my own list of things to do before I die (it also included skydiving and the like). A couple of years later still, I thought about writing a film about a young man who has to acheive all these things due to his imminent death. I didn't end up writing the film because, ironically, I wasted too much of my life. And now its too late... Or is it?

For here comes the tale of two elderly men who meet in hospital and become friends. One is rich and lonely (Jack Nicholson), one has never been well off yet is surrounded by loved ones (Morgan Freeman). The only thing they have in common is that they both have less than a year to live. United by this fairly grim news they decide to go out with a bang using the billionaires money to finance the holiday of a lifetime. Seeing everything they wanted to see. Doing everything they wanted to do.

In the hands of lesser talent this mawkish and sentimental film could have been unbelievably mawkish and ridiculously sentimental. Thanks to Jackie boy and The Reliable Mr.Freeman the mawk and the sentiment don't make the film unwatchable. Instead you enjoy spending an hour and a half in their company as they discuss all matters of life and death.

The story doesn't exactly keep you guessing and the effects as the pair globe hop are at times atrocious. It looks like they've been photoshopped into some scenes by a 6 year old whose just learnt to use adobe. At the end of the day you're paying for an uplifting film about what people do before they shuffle off this mortal coil and it does the job reasonably well. Now if you wait a couple of years for me to take my finger out of my arse you'll get to see my version. Thats if you don't kick the bucket first.

Jumper Review

There is great potential in Jumper. A comic book movie not actually based on a comic book (so therefore 'shock horror' an original film), a nice tidy budget, a reasonable cast and a competent director. The ability of teleportation, to go anywhere, and have anything, instantly is perfect for the medium of cinema. The problem, however, is that the film spills its load in the first 5 minutes. The rest of the movie apologises profusely but can't manage to get it up again before the credits roll.

Young, buff and squeaky voiced David Rice (Hayden Christensen) is a 'Jumper', a man who can hop from place to place just by picturing it. He lives a billionaire lifestyle by robbing banks and doing whatever he feels like. This is until Roland (Big Sammy L with crazy custard/cheescake hair) comes along to kill him because, well, only God should have the power to watch the Superbowl without buying a ticket. There is much fun to be had for geeks watching the former jedis kick the crap out of each other.

Support comes in the form of good and bad. Jamie Bell is enjoyable as the fellow jumper who takes great pleasure in dispatching Rolands 'Paladins'. As he is a slightly less smug version of the lead character, whenever he comes onscreen the film improves. The opposite can be said for Rachel Bilson who has a poor role and does nothing with it. I'm yet to be convinced that her CV should read 'actress'.

Like the first Bourne (also directed by Doug Liman) the film feels like a set up to something bigger and better. There are traces of darkness in Rice's character that would have made the film more rounded if fully embraced. The possibility of jumping time as well as space might also add to the drama department because as pretty as it is to jump from Paris to Chechnya in the space of 24 frames it doesn't add to the story one bit. Hopefully they'll get it right for the sequel and if its out around Dec25th I can make my 'nobody wants this for Christmas' gag as often as I like.

Monday, 11 February 2008

The Ugly Duckling and Me, Arctic Tale and The Water Horse Reviews

No its not the longest weirdest titled film in the world its just me being slightly lazy and compiling the three films into one review segment. In fairness to me, for we must always be fair to me, its half term holidays and these are kids films. So therefore I'm not exactly their target audience. Plus I'm still feeling bad about saying nasty things about something as lovely as Be Kind Rewind. For me to start beating up on some fairly light hearted romps whose sole design is to make the wee ones smile would push me even closer to the hell in which I'm almost certainly bound.

Saying that though Arctic Tale is fucking gash. Cashing in on March of the Penguins seemed pretty much on the cards from the moment it made a staggering $80 million. But where we had Morgan Freeman before we now have Queen Latifah, where we had a journey of incredible danger and duty we now have farting walrus (walrus's? walri?) to the pop soundtrack of We Are Family. It would have been a nice idea to show what life was like 10, or even 20, years ago and compare the effects of global warming. Instead, as an afterthought in the end credits, we get preached to by a bunch of middle class school kids telling us to plant a million trees, everywhere!! Well what about planning permission you little shits.

Next The Ugly Ducking and Me. A film so under the radar it could be a low flying swan. In fact if you Google Ugly Ducking and Me film review this lame website that nobody reads may be one of the top 10 hits. I'm looking forward to trying that in about 5 mins. First I'll tell you that this film is a pretty run of the mill take on the Hans Christian Andersen fable. Its got a little going for it with lines such as "Deep down everybodys..." "Beautiful" "...No, everybodys Ugly" but sadly the sixth rate CGI lets it down. The swans even have arms with little hands. Probably because feathery wings take a fuckload longer to animate.

Last up is The Waterhorse. Now I actually enjoyed this. Its quite dark, it doesn't shy away from themes such as sex and death (both topics are hinted at rather than shown graphically) and the camerawork seems to be inspired by Sam Raimi. The film is yet another take on The Loch Ness Monster but seems the most faithful in that its actually set in Scotland. The accents are all good too which is a rarity. The special effects hold up well in the first half but do deteriorate once the beastie starts filling the screen. And its based on a Dick King Smith book. I used to love him as a kid, I wanted to be a vet you see and help all the wittle poorwy animals. Now I'm a bitter, twisted 'critic' that rants to no-one in particular about how rubbish films with polar bears in them are.

Be Kind Rewind Review

Expectations are a tricky thing in movies. When you look forward to a film based on everything from premise and director to music and cast you can usually be setting yourself up for a fall. Sadly this is the case for Michel Gondry's latest. Not for a second would I describe it as a bad film, its way too damn cute for that, but because of a very weak plot, it is the first disappointment of the year.

The likeable Mike (Mos Def) is left in charge of the local video store as its owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), tries to raise money to keep it open. Things get worse for the store thanks to the hapless Jerry (Jack Black) erasing all the VHS. Jerry and Mike then set out to 'swede' (remake) the entire cataologue on a low to no budget with only their, sometimes poor, recollection of the original.

The 'sweding' of the films is by far and away the biggest attraction of this film. The first and longest being a perfectly muddled version of Ghostbusters complete with lines in the wrong place and an inspired alternative main song. Unfortunately there isn't enough story to grab you by the balls when the remaking stops. It almost seems like Gondry needed an excuse to play with tinsel and card again as the subplots come and go without any explaination. The central plot of 'raising money to save the store!' is a little cliche too, even in his capable hands.

It has so much heart that every negative word I write makes me cry a little inside. It does fly along quickly and the central pair of Mos and Jack make a great twosome. Also good support comes from the wonderfully eclectic townsfolk, all a little backward but lovingly naive. If only the audience could feel as much for the little store as the people in the film do. The finale is still touching considering at no point are you fully absorbed into the world. Perhaps it'll be a grower that the more you see the more you care about it. I think I'm just wishfully thinking though because I wanted so much from this little film.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Review

The saying goes 'May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil know you're dead'. So it would be nice if at least the first third of this film would be fairly easy going on the characters before the mess sets in. Sadly all we get is two minutes of a Philip Seymour Hoffman/Marisa Tomei two backed beast before we are plunged head first into some Eastenders worthy tragedy.

The less you know about the plot the better but I like my second paragraph to be filled with story details so nah, nah and indeed nah. It is about two brothers Andy (PSH) and Hank (a nerdier than usual Ethan Hawke) who set out to rob their mom and pop's jewellery store. A silly idea yes, made even sillier by the fact they don't really have a plan and kinda wing it. This 'winging it' leads to some fan and some shit colliding. From here on in its an everything that can go wrong, will go wrong affair told with a jigsaw puzzle type structure.

This structure is very effective in keeping you intrigued but once all the pieces are in place you can't help but wish you were looking at something a little less messy. One problem with the film is that it looks and feels very low budget. Lots of real lighting and lenghty takes help give the film a naturalistic quality but in Lumets choice of recognisable faces in every role this naturalism is broken. Not that the actors do a bad job, far from it. All are on top form and give a likeability to the characters that is severely lacking in the script.

It has the feel of a David Mamet film, with characters fucking each other over while their lives fall apart. And judging by the almost unanimously positive reviews from critics this is something that some people want to see. For me, it was just a little too cold to be truly tragic, the characters too unlikeable to garner any real sympathy.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Things We Lost in the Fire Review

After the car crash of Over Her Dead Body anything was going to cheer me up. Little did I know it would be a deeply dramatic drama about a junkie and a widow staring an actress I've never been a fan of and using the over-used theme, as discussed in the last review, of coping with loss.

But thankfully it isn't so much another film about coping with loss, but more a film about coping with the fact that you know you've already experienced the best thing in the world. For Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) its the loss of a perfect family. For Jerry Sunbourne (Benicio Del Toro) its the loss of enjoyment of anything since his first hit. And both of them have to cope with the loss of the wonderful David Duchovny.

If you didn't know it was a European director before you go into the theatre you're sure to know by the end. Extreme, extreme closeups, a back and forth narrative and characters over plot, are all pulled off well by Susanne Bier. And the performances she gets out of the main trio are in a word tremendousio. I don't care if its a word, they are. I've always thought David Duchovny was the ideal husband and here he proves it. Not having seen Monsters Ball I can't say whether Halle Berry has been good in more than one film, but she's definitely good in this.

Benicio Del Toro deserves the most praise. Its even enough to warrant a trip to your multiplex for him alone. While it is a very actorly performance (playing a junkie = Oscar bid) he really is remarkable. Its been a bit too long since he graced our screens. Its good to have him back. The message of the film is 'Accept the good'. This is.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Over Her Dead Body Review

The subject of Death, and how we move on from it, has raged rampant over the films that open this year. It featured heavily in Dan in Real Life, P.S. I Love You, In the Valley of Elah and the very soon to be reviewed Things We Lost in The Fire. I say very soon to be reviewed but it may take me a while to come up with lots of humourous ways to tell you how shit Over Her Dead Body is.

Its shit because its not funny. Its shit because its unoriginal. Its shit because nothing happens. Its shit because you really don't care that nothing happens. Its shit because it makes you feel really sorry for Paul Rudd being in this shit. Its shit because the storyline is shit. Its shit because the acting is shit. Its so shit that the word shit has now lost all meaning to me. Its really, really, really shit.

The abundance of cliche moments are too painful to go into in full. So here's some choice cuts. The girl who dies is a bitch who can't stop fussing and ordering people around so we're quite glad she's dead. During the finale (I'm not sorry for giving away the ending here) the guy chases the girl to the airport but y'know gets stopped and has to buy a ticket to get through. And the cliche thats pissing me off most at the moment 'the jilted third wheel also finds love!'

It didn't make me quite as angry as P.S. I Love You for at heart its only a romantic comedy not a worryingly uncomfortabe step by step guide to getting over the death of a loved one. But just because its not trying hard doesn't mean its not one of the worst put together movies I've seen in a long time. Will I go see an Eva Longoria movie again? Over Her Dead Body.

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Review

It really does make a big difference what kind of mood you are in before you watch a film like this. If you're bemoaning bills, relationships and the threat of Armageddon on our fragile little planet then you could easily take your frustration out on this sequel by numbers. If, however, everything is David Bowieingly Hunky Dory and you want to keep it that way you could do a lot worse than National Treasure 2.

With a Jamie Oliver sized tongue in its cheek we open with a hugely bombastic assasination of President Lincoln. Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nic Cage on over the top, shouty form) is forced into getting the gang back together to, well, hunt some treasure so that he can prove his Great-Great Granddaddy didn't plot to kill the aforementioned President. Ed Harris joins his The Rock co-star in a similar, 'he's the baddy, but for good reasons role' and Helen Mirren pops to show us old people can be fun too! So far, so stupid.

But, and here is where you'll either love or hate this film, it gets more ridiculous. Instead of covering this lame premise up the film makers throw themselves into it whole heartedly. Taking in Buckingham Palace, Both Statues of Liberty and, in a scene that would usually have me throwing stuff at the screen, The Oval Office. When the lead says "I have to kidnap the President" the only response I could yell out was "Of course you do Benny!".

The likeability of Nic Cage also helps. Whether he's working out the plot in a monologue that encompasses all of history or pretending to be drunk and English he's always having fun and that fun is contagious. In the year of the return of Indy, I do sincerely hope that its Mr. Jones that leaves the lasting impression. But for a fly-by 2 hours National Treasure 2 left me with a few less brain cells and a huge goofy grin.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Cloverfield Review

Something incredible has happened. Something generation defining. The kind of thing your children ask you where you were when. A film has been released that every body either loves or hates, the celluloid equivalent of marmite, and here I am with a general feeling of 'Meh'. This doesn't happen. I either feel so passionately for something that I'm willing to have its multiple offspring or I deride it so much that I open up dark corners of my mind and get a little scared.
So why has Cloverfield had this impact on me? Simply because its ... alright.

After a contradictory hype campaign in which the audience is told it'll be told nothing, we've instead been told everything we need to know in the first teaser trailer. There's this bloke, who we'll call 'bloke' who is leaving town. His friend, who we'll call 'bloke 2', is filming his going away party. Then a big monster comes to town and ruins the party. 'Bloke' then decides to run across town and tell 'Ex' that he loves her. The film itself (not including credits) lasts less than 80 minutes which is a clear indication that they have an 'idea' for a movie and thats all.

The one camera POV technique, while Anti-Nurofen, is effective in places. The subway tunnel attack is genuinely scary but, and this is a crucial, the film is never really suspenseful. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, because its all 'ATTACK, ATTACK, RUN, RUN' it quickly becomes as monotonous as a slasher pic. Secondly, the characters are just fodder. Some are bland, but in the case of 'Bloke 2' some are genuinely unlikeable. What kind of a guy videotapes his best mate grieving over the loss of his brother seconds after the event? Put the camera down and give him a hug for godsakes.

The 11/9 references seem a little close to the bone considering this is, at heart, a piece of Entertainment. The billowing dustclouds do have an effect on you but for completely the wrong reasons. You start to think that the director will do anything to get a reaction, any reaction.
All in all its nice to see something a little different even if it doesn't quite work. But for those 'film lovers' championing this as a true piece of originality when the superior The Host and The Blair Witch Project are still fresh in the mind, you should feel a little ashamed.

Friday, 1 February 2008

January Review

Well its a whole month in and I'm on track with every film released so far. So with 100% success for this first month I sit at my desk now awaiting a fanfare, a ticker tape parade and if I die prematurely a song written about me by Elton John and then re-written for someone else.

I've dealt with complaints that the reviews are not clear enough, that my punctuation and spelling rivals that of a dyslexic 6-year old and also that if I continue to be negative about every film I'll put myself out of a job. And also that I'm a second rate Charlie Brooker. This last one pleases me. I'd personally take anything above a fifth rate Paul Ross.

So January. We've had some very good films in the form of Lust Caution, I'm Not There and Sweeney Todd. Some very bad films in the form of AVPR, In The Valley of Elah and P.S. I Love You. And one boda fide classic in No Country For Old Men. Thats pretty 50/50 for Yay Vs Nay.

And for the week commencing 01/02 we have the very long titles of Things we Lost in the Fire, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Over her Dead Body and the shorter titles of Cloverfield and the already vilified Penelope. A magazine that rhymes with Blempire gave that last film 4stars. The Revolution starts here...