Friday, 20 June 2008

The Ruins Review

I swear sometimes the film industry is trying to keep me in the country. Everytime I get this sense of freedom where I'm gonna go travel the world back pack style I watch a horror film that warns of the dangers of doing just that. I feel like Truman Burbank in the travel agents staring at the poster of an airplane with lightning hitting it, underneath the caption reads - IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! It could happen to me couldn't it?

The IT of that question in this case is what happens when you go off to see an ancient Mayan temple with a guy who looks like a young Robert Patrick, that chick from Donnie Darko, Iceman from X-Men and some random blonde. The answer is you get forced to camp on the temple by some pretty pissed off Mayans for days on end. Then your mobiles stop working. Then trees start to eat you. No seriously. The trees start to eat you. It could happen to me!

In fact this last bit seems to be the most likely. Pissed off trees are every bloody where at the moment. I know movies are usually a 'sign of the times' and its a nice message that we should all stop masturbating by the light of the fridge (it really zaps the energy) I don't know how much more 'angry foliage as metaphor for global warming' I can take. In the last week The Happening, Prince Caspian and now The Ruins have all had some furious forests. I live next to a wood, could it happen to me?

Whats a little striking about this film is that it actually works in spite of its crazy premise. What should be a B-movie hoot a minute is quite unnerving and as creepy as the vines wrapping the temple. It could do with a bit more shock and a bit less gore but the cast are capable and their characters are not your usual 'please die now' fodder. To be honest as I near the 100 films for the year tally I'd even go so far as to say I enjoyed The Ruins. Well, you try watching every movie released and see if your tolerance level for shit drops. It could happen to you.

The Escapist Review

If you believe the Daily Mail, you're an idiot and should be shot through the brain, but you'll also think that modern day jails are the epitome of high class living. Cavier for breakfast, twice weekly holidays to the Seychelles and Sky Plus in every cell. When it comes to movie jails though its all nonce bashing and arse watching. Even the fairly sanitized Shawshank Redemption wouldn't beat around the bush when it came to a bit of 'man do bad thing in shower'. Now we have a British prison movie that doesn't skimp on the harsh reality of being locked up and instead portrays a cell as exactly that.

Coming off a bit like Porridge The Movie remade without the laughs. Brian Cox is Norman Stanley Fletcher, the wisened old crook and Dominic Cooper is Godber, the fresh faced new inmate. Except in this version Fletchers daughter is a smackhead and he needs to break out in order to help her. Oh yeah, and Godber is being raped in the shower but can't do anything about it because the rapist is brothers with the kingpin of the jail played by a really quite mean Damien Lewis. So not really like Porridge The Movie. There is no football match against the screws in this.

Taking a similar structure to Memento, but without the flashbacks, so not that similar, but it is because it runs two bits of the same story parellel... so there. Firstly we have the before they break out, then the while they are breaking out. And it works really well. Leaving you with the sweatiest palms since No Country For Old Men. This clever-clever style adds to the tension of will they make it out, for at times you may be screaming 'how the bloody hell are they gonna get out of this one?' even though you know they do.

Never is this clearer than when the finale comes. And my initial feeling was that it had soured what had come before. The hard work put in by the flawless cast, the atmospheric soundtrack of metal on metal, the showy but not over the top direction all seems to have been lost by a cheap parlour trick. That is, until the next day when it dawns on you that the plan has come together. And in the words of Face, I love it when that happens.

Prince Caspian Review

I'm struggling with finding a witty take on this film. I was going to talk about how much darker it is than its predecessor (it is), how much better it is than Harry Potter (it definitely is), how it is still for children not adults (even if you loved the books as a youngster) or how the Christian anologies are not easy enough to ignore (annoyingly so). But instead I think I'm just going to go for a simple this was good, this was bad review.

So the plot. We open with Prince Caspain (Ben Barnes) running for his life as his dastardly uncle weants to kill him and take the throne for himself. Meanwhile the Pevensie kids are settling back in to life in London despite being 1300 years old. Being thirteen centuries older than most people in your class is probably as sucky as swapping a land of lovely horses and dwarves for air raids and London Vaudeville. No fear though because Prince Capsian needs a hand sorting out the 'savage' Narnia. So Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edward get another chance to dress up and play fighting, the lucky buggers.

Either 1300 years have made the children of the first film really likeable or the scriptwriters needed two films to get them onside. Either way the turnaround is remarkable with each one being fully fledged (as fully fledged as is possible in a SFX heavy film containing Warwick Davis) and nowhere near as tiresome as the first movie. The other possibility though, is that they just look miles better by standing next to Prince "Twatsack" Caspain, the wettest, most feeble character since Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon. His accent is ridiculous, coming across a mixture of 'Welcome to Polaris world' and 'I vant to drink your blooood'.

Speaking of blood harshest line in a kids film of the week goes to "I can drink a river of blood and still not burst". I'm all for switching off the lights on children once in a while but ouch. That scene is gonna wet many a bed. Thankfully there's my favourite little Reepicheep to lighten the mood. A blood thirsty assasin whose killed more men than Courtney Love (I mean via sexually transmitted disease not by fake suicide so don't sue me). Reepicheep is actually a fun little mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard, but he is a killing machine too. And that's the balance that puts Caspain up there with likeminded PG fodder Bridge to Terrabithia and Spiderwick. Bit of a shame then that the ending is the dictionary definition of Deus ex Machina. But kids aren't taught Latin anymore so they won't cotton on.

Adulthood Review

I confessed to my housemates last week that I suffer from 'White Man Guilt'. Its a condition first named by Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm where a priveleged white person nods to anyone he passes in the street with darker skin than himself. I tried to convince my friends that this was a positive discrimination thing and that I only do it because I feel lousy that for years and years my ancestors screwed over every single race, creed and colour in the world, and I'm just trying to put something good into the world. They weren't convinced. Instead I was dubbed a closed minded quasi racist. I only tell you this because my 'close minded quasi racistness' also stops me from relating in any way to a good film like Adulthood.

Set 6 years after Kidulthood (which I hadn't seen, sorry) Adulthood tells the story of Sam (writer/director Noel Clarke) and his redemption on the streets of London. After serving time for the killing of his one time friend,Trife, Sam is released to a world just as bad, if not worse, than the life he remembers. Here he tries to make amends for his actions while simultaneously trying to stay alive from all those that want revenge for Trife's death. It appears Leon was right when he told Mathilda that "life was always this tough, not just when you're a kid".

First up I think it would help immeasuarably for you to watch the first film (BBCiplayer are showing it for free now) if you intend to see this. While its easy enough to follow there is more to be had by being clued up on the characters and their motivations. Secondly, back to the race thing, I think there is more to be had if you share a similar background and can see yourself in these struggles. Being a white boy from Norfolk who went to Univeristy at Canterbury there were times when I couldn't understand what characters were saying let alone where they were coming from. Comedy subtitles may have helped but probably would have detracted from the experience. That or a translation from the jive talking granny off Airplane.

But as much as my nodding to people with tans better than mine is a problem so is the idea addressed by this movie that all token whities are either idiots, weak or (worst of all in this world) deeply un-cool. Except Danny Fucking Dyer. He manages to get away with it, but in my opinion he's managed to get away with being alive for a lot longer than he should have. None of these reasons are enough to not recommend this film though. It was surprisingly well written, more intelligent than I would have thought and at times incredibly tense. I know if I ever see Noel Clarke walking down the street I'll give him a little nod. And it won't be anything to do with his ethnicity but more to do with the fact he's made a damn fine movie.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Incredible Hulk Review

Come on Comic-book geeks! Lets petition Hollywood for a Supervillain movie. They are always the more interesting character, usually played by the better actor and most of all they want to achieve their goals so much more than the heroes do. I'm so sick and tired of awesome bad guys being stopped by 'super'heroes that don't even want their powers. Yeah reluctant heroes in the John McClane/Indy Jones mould are cool but given the option those two guys wouldn't seek an antidote to their wisecracking/escape from death at the last minute ways. So why are the comic book heroes always looking for a 'cure'?

This time round its Bruce Banner V2.0 (Edward Norton) being the big wet fish that wants his powers to go away. Just because when he gets angry he kills everyone around him. Boo and indeed Hoo. Playing his nemesis, the fantastically named Emil Blonsky is Tim Roth who wants the power for himself. Yay go Emil! Firstly he sounds like someone you'd find in Euro 2008, possibly playing for Russia, and secondly he's well 'ard. The kind of scray 'ard that makes him instantly brilliant. THATS WHO I WANT TO WIN. HIM! I'm cheering for that guy.

Well people aren't going to listen to me on these things so I'll just get on with the reviewing of the film then. And its all a little by the books. In fact such is the 'we don't want people thinking its as girlie as the first film' attitude we never really settle on any scene for more than a minute. I suppose this makes it feel very comic booky. Its almost as if a page is all we get before we have to turn to something new. Take a stopwatch in with you and see for yourself. No more than a minute before you're moved on to some new setting with different characters I guarantee you.

This also leads to the dialogue being incredibly sparse which when you compare it to the recent Iron Man (getting some lovely nerdy nods) seems a shame, because Downey Jr's banter is what set that apart from some of its po-faced cousins. If you're a bit of a geek who likes this sort of movie you certainly won't be tearing up your laminated copy of the Marvel Annual (because its hard to tear something thats laminated) but you may be shrugging your shoulders a little, in the vain hope that the third time they might get it right.

This isn't part of the review but it must be said. All those who get paid to write about films and used the term "You will like him now he's angry" or any variation of, you should die. Please, Please Die. And soon. Like in the next couple of days. Because if i ever find you I will spitroast you with your press badge up your arse and the pay cheques that you don't deserve rammed down your throat. Thank you for listening.

The Happening Review

Ooh its the new M Night film which means get your twist hats on people. You can dissipate your enjoyment ten fold if you guess the ending first. I'm guessing the main character is a dead superhero from the future with alien tendancies who loves small talking mice and in the end you find out it was all a dream about a one trick pony film director whose ideas are much better than the end result and who should really try doing something a little different. Either that or its about global warming.

But before we get to the end lets do the setup thing so that when you watch the film you'll have more time to try and ruin the fun for yourself. Marky Mark plays Elliot Moore the gayest high school teacher in the world. The kind of teacher that would have zero control over his class considering how wet he is. Inexplicably he is married to the lovely Zooey Deschanel who seems a little distant (probably because her husband is a tool). Anyway, everyone in New York starts topping themselves and Mark and Zooey run around tyring to figure out why.

When people compare M Night (do you like how I'm not putting his last name because it would take too long to type out and make sure I spell correctly? Thats good journalism that is) to Alfred Hitchcock its surprising that I actually agree. To a point. He's a great craftsmen and his films are always vaguely interesting in some way. He can master a jumpshock like no other and his ratio of hit to shit (whatever the film students tell you, Hitchcock made some, well, cock) is easily comparable.

He also can't direct actors for Werthers Originals and thinks dialogue is there to get his characters from A to B. One contendor for worst line of the year goes to "Mother of God what kind of terrorists are they?" I dunno, the cuddly cute kind? The kind that hand out lollipops on street corners? Lines such as this might have you rolling in the aisles but once the film starts to develop a little bit of intentional humour it starts to raise its game. Whether or not you'll make it that far though is a different matter. Because before that point you have to deal with the fact that it might, it just might be all about angry trees.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Superhero Movie Review

See Meet the Spartans Review. 22/03/08.

Actually thats not fair. For there are some actual jokes in here. Not many, but, still. Its kinda like watching Spider-man and guffing in an old ladies face every fifteen minutes. Which isn't nice but its better than watching 300 and having an old lady guff in your face every five minutes.

Gone, Baby, Gone Review

Hats off to Ben Affleck. Not only has he made an intelligent, thought provoking movie, but its one that contains the least amount of good looking people in the world. Cross off the incredibly beautiful Michelle Monaghan and most of the cast, including extras and walk ons, could be nominated for the ugliest bunch of people since Mr. Leatherface started a family. One such bit part actress is so horrendous to look at she reminds me of that fat chick off of Eastenders if you beat her in a sack containing chicken grease and nails then left her in the sun for 17 hours. Now that is ugly.

Thankfully the ugliness of the actors is enhanced by the ugliness of the story. If you're British and watched any news last summer you already know the gist. Little girl goes missing thanks to careless parenting. Media storm swings into town. Not much hope for the little girl. While any similarities to those living or dead are entirely coincidental (the film wrapped way before the name McCann was part of the lexicon) and unless you're suggesting Ben and Casey were drunk in a Boston bar thinking up crazy publiclity stunts you just have to let it go.

But don't miss the film for the same reason some will go seek it out. The tale is similar but the telling is its strength. Focusing on Patrick Kenzie (Casey "Mum, Why Isn't my head the same as my brothers?" Affleck) the story has an entry point of a likeable private eye, whose face is known but whose teeth are fairly clean. As he gets in over his head Patrick takes us on a journey into some truly hellish places. The plot becomes increasingly complex yet its handled well. A minor flaw is the often used 'flashbacks to earlier in the movie'. For those not paying attention, go watch something else like Superhero Movie for the rest of us, there's really no need to tell us of events we witnessed only minutes earlier.

Like many others Ben Affleck's directorial debut is a love letter to his hometown. But instead of a Manhattan style ode to all the beauty and idiosyncrasies, ("He adored Boston he romanticized it out of all proportion") Affleck has gone for a deep, down and dirty look at the grime on his streets. And by keeping his gargatuan cranium the right side of the camera he's made the most morally complex film since Hard Candy. Even if I did spend most of the movie looking for the inevitable shadow of Afflecks forehead. Blockhead.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Prom Night Review

I've recently become obsessed with Idris Elba. 'That's okay Owen, I'm sure she's lovely' I hear you cry. Unfortunately Idris Elba is a pretty huge, mid thirties black man from Hackney in London. And I don't think he's gay. And for that matter neither am I (too much cleanliness and all that dancing). Herein lies the problem. As Stringer Bell in The Wire, Idris cut quite an impossibly manly figure so the homoerotic feeling I had for him seemed rooted in something pyschological yet in Prom Night he's possibly the worst police officer ever, directly responsible for the deaths of a host of annoying teens. This could be why my obsession is growing.

Taking place on, well, Prom Night, Prom Night is this months horror remake. Why horror is becoming the least original of all the genre pics is a little baffling. One look at Garth Marenghis Darkplace and you can see that there are an infinite amount of possibilities waiting for Hollywood to embrace. I want to see a bigscreen Skippy the Eyechild not more schoolkids get attacked by psycho in hotel. Tame enough to be a 15 certificate (thus no pant wetting) and cliche enough to make me furious.

And its not just cliches of horror but also teenflicks that are thrown at the screen willy and indeed nilly. An opening attack to keep the viewer from nodding off, a startled wake from a dream, the ol' spook in the mirror, a token black couple, an escaped mental patient, Se7en style journals, cliche after sodding cliche spat at the screen with such contempt for the paying public. And this is all in the first reel! Plus for no extra cost the viewer is treated to 'the room silenced by the entrance of the girl in her Prom dress'. Put simply. Cock off! Cock right Off!

Every character is as vacuous as the leads in My Super Sweet Sixteen with absolutely nothing of interest to say. Then itts probably designed for people who think that show is both Super and Sweet. i.e. Idiots. Idiots that I want to die painfully, quickly, and gruesomely. So here it is another film where I'm praying for death. Death for the characters, death for the film makers, death for the paying public and death for myself. But not for Idris Elba though. Cos I love him.