Monday, 29 September 2008
Our very own Jason Statham (yes we own the rights to him being British as we are) is Jensen Ames, a former Nascar racer who is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to the toughest prison in the world. Coincidentally, or not, they have races at this prison where you can win your freedom. All you have to do is kill everyone else and win 5 races. But when our Stath realises that I wrote 'coincidentally, or not' a couple of sentences ago he begins to question why he's been brought to this particular prison. Once the penny drops, angry Stath want revenge.
Before hurting my soul by saying that Death Race is immensely enjoyable, despite its shallow nature, I just want to return to more amazing predictions that this crystal ball film makes. First there is a riot scene at the start which looks strangely like the Republican convention footage of that fat hippy getting hit with bikes. Secondly Joan Allen (as the head of the prison) is playing a bulldog with lipstick who runs the world (well the world we inhabit). And she's evangelical. And looks quite hot in a suit. Death Race is what will happen if you silly Americans don't vote in Obama! And we can't keep loaning you Jason to save the day.
So, yeah, I enjoyed this. The stuntwork over CGI was commendable. Its funny, gory, exciting. Each actor nails their role from Jase to Lovejoy and in particular Gov Palin, sorry, Ms. Allen. As it features the four elements of a lads film (guns, violence, cars, women in skimpy clothing) it has to be dumber than a bag of hammers. The offshoot of this is no Nuts or Zoo readers head is going to explode once some plot is introduced. Which is a shame. But going back to the predictions stuff, don't worry too much about this all coming true, because it does take the dystopian element a bit too far. In one harrowing scene Stereophonics are playing on the radio. Surely by 2012 we would have put a stop to this kind of thing. For the sake of humanity.
To aid other movie fans that may not now bupkis about Appaloosa its about a couple of hired guns, Ed "Supporting role" Harris (as wannabe sheriff Virgil Cole) and his buddy Viggo "Looks like my friend Steve" Mortensen (playing his deputy Everitt Hitch). The pair are enlisted by the folk of Appaloosa to protect them from big bad Jeremy "I met a man with seven wives" Irons. Renee "No eyes in her name or face" Zellweger turns up for a bit of subplot as she tries to boff everyone in town. Its a small town but, still. Ho.
Its a bit of a shame this film is so under the radar because it ain't half bad. Not a revisionist Western like say Unforgiven or Dances With Wolves, its more of a typical old fashioned one like last years remake of 3:10 to Yuma containing that rare thing in PC times, bad injuns that wanna rapes white womens. Its got its own town whore in the shape of Renee (although she ain't a typical whore) and enough hands waverig over guns to keep any redneck happy for a couple a hours.
At times it feels a bit like everyone is having a bit of a dress up (due mainly to the flat direction) and playing at cowboys and ho's. This makes the theatrical nature of the piece far outway the cinematic experience but thanks to some great banter between the History of Violence co-stars it becomes an enjoyable hark back to the good old days, where Westerns were about the good guy with an edge kicking seven shades of shite out of the bad guy. Yee and indeeed Haw!
Saturday, 27 September 2008
Taking the lead (quite wrongly considering the above statement), DeNiro is Turk a long in the tooth detective with serious anger problems who spends most of his workday running around calling people "Mutts" as if its the most offensive term imaginable. The sober Ying to DeNiros raging Yang is Rooster (Pacino), a calm, collected detective who will do anything for his partner. When murders start edging ever closer to the two detectives door, suspicion is cast on everyone including the Heat duo.
Even sans the ridiculous character names, Righteous Kill is a very, very silly film. While for most of its running time its just a run of the mill cop movie waste of time sterotype it has a really, really stupid ending that I'm not just calling stupid because I was too stupid to get. I don't get twists ever (bar The Village which I got after three seconds, the 'no date' gave it away), I'm constantly falling for the red herring and you know what I'm happy in my ignorance. It is indeed bliss. But just because I didn't get the twist does not mean that after I left the auditorium I wasn't standing there berating the fact that it just doesn't work.
The main draw of Vito and Michael sharing more than just a coffee pays off surprisingly well for the opening third of the movie. But annoyingly soon after that you remember that while the two sure can act they couldn't tell a dud script from a hit if each page was lamenated in plastic turds. Cliche after cliche is hurled at the screen with an amazing amount of direspect for the audience even before the ridiculously unimpressive twist. Sure William Goldman once said "Nobody Knows Anything" in reference to how a film will turn out, which almost clears the two main actors but I think the words 'Directed by Jon Avnet' will, from now on, be a crystal clear clue.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
I think it best to let Liam Neeson's pissed off Daddy Bryan explain what will happen if you snatch his 17-year old daughter. Thanks to a fair few years in the field of torturing foreigners he has, "...a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you." Damn skippy he will.
The first twenty minutes feature a piss-yer-pants funny overly paranoid Liam telling his daughter not to go to Paris. Evil, evil, Paris. And when this brillaintly surreal premise that if you leave America you will get fucked, gets ino full swing the movie becomes one of the best/worst most enjoyable/most offensively ignorant fims of the year. No wonder 80% of Americans don't have passports. Justified xenophobia with lines such as "My job made me aware!" are delivered with such tongue removed from mouth that you'll either scream with laughter or scream with disgust.
Me, I was well on the side of laughter. Every time Holly Valance's singer turns up the film goes up a notch on the ludicrous-ometer. Thats either because the idea of someone wanted to assassinate her is ridiculous or her reappearance at the end in the 'look everything is okay after all' ending is so far removed from reality it might as well have UFO's flying out of her butt. The fact that sex trafficking is the theme of the film makes the laughter dy up occasionally but its not long before Johnny foreigner is being dealt a healthy dose of justice American style by Bryan. Featuring the worst kind of 'don't you dare leave the country' sensationalism Taken is a terrible, terrible movie that I implore you to watch.
8-year old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the son of a high ranking Nazi official (David Thewlis). When his family moves from Berlin to a house in the country overlooking an unnamed concentration camp, Bruno gets lonely. Banned from venturing to the back of the house where he may come into contact with the imprisoned Jews, Bruno does just that. There he makes friends with Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a boy the same age, with the same childhood interests, just sitting on the wrong side of the fence.
You can see a million films about the Holocaust and yet every shot of a malnourished, fragile body dressed in black and white stripes or chimney billowing smoke will still send a shiver down your spine. Using a childs eyes to shoot this vicious hatred is a novel approach but not without its faults. The biggest fault of all is the shifting of focus from one of histories greatest atrocities to the trials and tribulations of just one child. Yes, the ending is a kicker of the highest order but the way the film is put together makes the sympathy lie only with one instead of the millions. Young and old alike.
The 'innocence lost' strand of the film is never fully acknowledged, for Bruno doesn't get to see what his father is capable of, until he experiences it too late. Instead it is left to Vera Farmiga, as the mother, who gets to voice the horrors in a sadly underwritten role. As for the clipped British tones instead of thick badly spoken German accents its certainly preferable, but why not subtitle the dialogue if authenticity is as high on the agenda as it seems to be? Its all these things that make The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas too flawed to belong in the company of truly great, not movies, but lessons about the hatred of one group for another. And they're also the reasons I didn't well up, even once.
Monday, 22 September 2008
What The Women would like to be is a story of the deteriaration of a marriage from the female perspective. What The Women turns out to be is a cheap Sex and the City rip off that features the main associative one (Meg Ryan), the male one (Annette Benning), the hippy one (Debra Messing) and the black lesbian one (Jada Pinkett Smith) all worrying about what other people think of them and how their lives revolve around having cock. Except in the case of the black lesbian one, i.e the interesting one. But she gets no screen time so fuck her.
All these women do is look each other up and down, despising each others very souls because they may have handbags that clash with their shoes. Or maybe someone has had some bad plastic surgery (heaven forbid anyone who grows old in this land) that they can laugh at. What could be mistaken for diatribes about superficiality aren't, because each and everyone one of them is scourning the other if they so much look at a sandwich or wear sweatpants.
Another reason these jibes don't work is that Meg looks like she's had facial reconstructive surgery performed by the Joker. I'm not one for fucking about on your spouse but I think if Harry saw what they'd done to Sally even he might stray from the coup. That or hang himself with electrical tape. As for the cameos from Bette Midler and Carrie Fisher its enough to make you vote for Sarah Palin such is the weakness of the silver screen women. Carrie, I thought you were a lesbian and a feminist. And a script doctor! Hope selling your sex down the river was worth it Leia.
Sunday, 21 September 2008
In the great tradition of movies about people getting high and then shit happening (see Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar) we have Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) a process server who enjoys 'hits from the bong', and his dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) getting high before, you guessed it, shit hapens. The shit in this instance is Dale witnessing the murder of a rival drug dealer by Ted Jones (Gary Cole). When Dale drops his joint full of Pineapple Express, an easily traceable brand of herb, he and his pharmacist have to go on the run. Something easier to do when not as high as the Northern Star.
I don't say it lightly that this is one of the funniest films of the year. And it would have to be because the story blows. Straight out of a bad 80's movie the film jumps from one stupid scene to the next with absolutely no regard for plot logic or cohesion. But who the hell cares when it contains some of the best dialogue of the year and a performance in James Franco that makes me believe he could actually play the Buckley biopic. Not based on this role you understand its just he now has that wonderful actorly thing called 'range'. I don't want a thousand angry Jeff fans saying he weren't no stoner because then I'd have to counter-act by saying 'did you really mean to use a double negative' and the argument would just go on and on...Anyway, Franco is probably the most adorable drug dealer ever (certainly nicer than the ones who hang out outside my house), all puppy dog eyes and 'aw shucks' looks. That his Saul and Dale aren't actually friends at the start of the film gives a new take on the 'friends get high' genre and helps the film in its weaker moments. One thing you might not be expecting though is the high level of violence on screen. Its all funny and silly but coming on the back of a double bill of Eden Lake it did lead me to wince even at the comical Daewoo death. Thankfully the 'violence can be funny' spirit took over and as the credits rolled the closest film to compare it to seemed to be Pulp Fiction. High praise for High Times Readers.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
As any good social horror does Eden Lake starts with a lovely, perfect couple getting out of their comfort zone. Complete with Chelsea tractor and satnav, Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) travel to an abandoned quarry where Steve plans to pop the question. Plans go a little wry when half the cast of This Is England turn up and kick off. Events spiral out of control in a sometimes believable sometimes not way, but the end result is terrifying none-the-less.
In fact the believeability of it all was something I had to question just to get me to sleep at night, which means job done in horror terms. Thankfully I found some loopholes that I won't go into here (remember I only give away the ending to shit films) and managed to sleep reasonably soundly. The fact that my nocturnal nature was nearly disturbed at all is thanks to superb performances all round, with extra kudos to Jack O'Connell as the chief hood. The interplay between the main couple is also ridiculously strong and makes the fear all the more effective because of it.
Yet another bonus the film gains is that when the focus shifts from the couple on the run to the peer pressure tension within the group the film gets even better. I'm not convinced that I'd put it quite up as high as Irreversible in the 'classic I'll never watch again' category, but I would say it gets a place in the 'very, very good film I'll never watch again' section. Sadly even after watching the film I still have a bit of a problem with the title. My alternatives are Boys wiv the Hoods, The Hood, The Chavs and the Ugly, or just simply BMX Bastards. Send your titles to the usual address...
When the filming of a huge budgeted war movie looks like losing its way due to the actors bad temperament, british director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) sends his actors into the jungle. While there, the actors, including beyond his best years action star Tug Speedman (Ben Stiller), method man Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr) and flatulence comedy king Jeff Portney (Jack Black) stumble across some real life villains. Using only there Rada training to help them the boys must survive the real horror of war. By farting and playing spastics.
Tropic Thunder opens with 5 minutes of the funniest cinema of the year. 2 fake adverts and 3 fake trailers that looks set to pave the way for something inventive, clever and even boundary pushing. What follows is the same jokes repeated ad naeseum for nearly 2 hours. The main flaw is in the under-development of the characters. Stiller is just Zoolander as an actor, Black is Chris Farley or John Belushi (i.e. the person Jack would have become if we didn't live in a post modern age) which leaves Kirk as the only interesting character. And as much as Bob Jr. plays the 'not Russell Crowe' thesp superbly he's not given nearly enough screen time to help the audience get over the fact that 'hey, that Downey is playing a black guy!'.
A lenghty speech about the dangers of playing a 'full retard' is a much needed highpoint and Tom Cruises potty mouthed 'not Paramount boss' is a chuckle to begin with but once the credits roll the film resorts to said actor dancing in a moronic fashion for 5 minutes. Finally its the scene where the actors convince Tug to join them in their journey home because his shit movies changed their lives that you realise Josie and The Pussycats was more satirical. If The Player was Hollwood kicking seven shades of shit out of itself, Tropic Thunder is a really lame self inflected wedgie.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
Instead of reading this synopsis you could just go watch Leon. It is my all time most favourite bestest film ever and I really haven't praised it enough on this site. Suffice to say the plot covers many of the same routes, hitman grows a heart, takes on protege, forgets the rules he needs to live by, etc,etc. The main difference being in Bangkok Dangerous the 'love' interest and the protege are two seperate characters. The love interest being, you guessed it, a deaf, mute girl who works in a pharmacy. Well, you may not have guessed the pharmacy bit.
One of the most enjoyable things about hitmen movies is you don't know where the central characters moral compass is pointing. Yeah they go around murdering folks, usually for cash, but 9 times out of 10 they come across as pretty damn likeable people (bar that Oswald guy, he sucked). Within two seconds of Cage growing his big red fluffy heart he may have worn a big, pink, badge saying "I'm a good guy now!". John Cusack was a more morally ambiguous hitman in Grosse Pointe Blank. And he was Lloyd Dobler once. The nicest movie character ever.
Bar one pretty cool underwater assasination the film reeks of blandness and apart from the bad wig and gruff voice Cage is just going through the motions. Which seems strange when you consider if you're remaking someone elses work you should really have a vested interest in how it all turns out. Surely thats why you turn up in the first place, to make something as good if not better than before? So my theory is this. Cage is remaking good films badly so people go check out the original. A Thai film about a deaf mute assasin? I'm up for that.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
I'll attempt to explain the plot but you may have to bear with me. Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) is the top dog London gangster. He's screwed Mumbles (Stringer Bell!!!!) and One-Two (Gerard Butler) over some property to the tune of 2 million quid. They get offered a job by accountant Stella (Thandie Newton), to steal an investment from a Russian billionaire meant for Lenny Cole. Lenny has also been loaned the Russians favourite possession a painting. A lucky painting. Unfortunately Lenny's stepson Johnny Quid, a rock and roll star, has stolen the lucky painting. Nobody can find it as Johnny Quid is supposed to be dead. Oh and Superhands is Cookie. Where exactly he fits in I'm still not too sure. But its weird seeing his face 30 foot tall.
As I said the above ingredients to make your perfect Guy Ritchie film are mainly all present and correct. Its just at times they're all a little too present and correct. While it'd be a little unfair to describe this as a Lock, Stock remake, there are plenty of similarities with the film that put mockney Guy on the map. If you replace the guns with a painting, a lucky painting, Nick Morans four with Gerard Butlers Wild Bunch and the weed obsessed students with the junkie rock stars, you may at times feel like you've seen it all before. As for Tom Wilkinson's Lenny he's just a bit hairier and a few feet taller than Bob Hoskin's Harry Shand from The Long Good Friday. All London Pride, big hopes and short fuse.
Where the film starts to gain originality is in the scenes that, at first, don't seem to fit. A subplot about a gay member of The Wild Bunch starts off sticking out like a pair of tits at a Village People gig but slowly gets turned round to something warm, affecting and above all funny. A flashback to the little Johnny Quid has a similar effect come the final payoff but the bits inbetween don't have the sense of fun that made Lock, Stock and Snatch stand out. Those were films that made you grin as you left the cinema, guilty pleasures to compare with QT. All directors need to be taken seriously at some point but it might take Guy a little longer to get the tone right. Being clear where are sympathies should lie would be a good starting point. Fortuntely though Johnny Quid and The Wild Bunch will return. Which means more Stringer Bell. Which means one happy me.
Monday, 1 September 2008
1994, New York City. Luke (Josh Peck) is mad depressed yo. A teenage drug dealer, with no friends, useless parents and a chronic inability to get laid, for real. When he meets Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) a legitimate drug dealer (read pyschiatrist) his life starts to become alive a'ight. The two soon become homies as Luke falls for Squires step daughter. Word.
The truth that the only reason teenagers are so fucked up is that its the first time in your life that you question what the fuck life is about, is well played in this film. And so is the truth that if you never stop questioning what the fuck its all about you'll remain fucked up. Here is the strength of the awfully titled The Wackness. Two boys (of vastly different ages) confused by everything. As Luke, Peck conveys just the right amount of New Yawk swagger with the right level of insecurity. Sir Ben proves his versatility once again as the psyche in need of some psyche, a skipped pill away from a complete breakdown. When the two are together the film really works.
Seperated, Luke becomes whiny and obsessive, and Dr Squires the same. And as a film about a specific place and time it doesn't really hit home. The soundtack may be spot on and the references to Mayor Guiliani might have had more of a ring to it had he not faded from the media eye, but the fact is the film doesn't have enough to say. As for the already dated language so expertly ripped apart by me in the second paragraph, well, thats just dope. Or whack. I can never remember which is which.
In something of a re-teaming after the dissappointing Talladega Nights (especially dissapointing when compared to the comedy gold of Anchorman) Will and John are Brennan and Dale. A pair of loser kids who never grew up, still living with their respective parents even though they're 39 and 40. When Brennans mum marries Dales dad the two become step brothers and tease, torment and kick and punch each other like all good step brothers do. Then they become friends, then they fall out. Repeat.
In a recent review for The Love Guru a critic questioned whether you should have ever found Mike Myers funny. Sadly its a question that can be re-raised for Will Ferrell in this awful, unfunny movie. There are some laughs to be had but they're so few and far between its becomes a painful experience. Funnily enough (pun intended) the best scenes are actually when the two brothers are seperated, because when together they are exactly the same character, which means that Will or John might as well have just monologued every bit.
The main problem with the film (how many times have I used that phrase over the past 129 movie reviews) is that the characters are obnoxious, idiots suffering severe arrested development. Compare that to the loveable, naive Elf and the distinction is clear. Will's child like innocence is funny when he's nice, when he's nasty he's just a dick. What may have saved this film would have been Mr. Ferrell and Mr. Reilly playing George and Jeb Bush. Now theres two brothers, nasty dicks, that they could have really nailed.
To try and turn this around Vin suckles at the teet of the Sci-Fi genre that made his name. In the not too distant future he plays a mercenary paid to 'transport' a mysterious child from Russia to New York. Many questions about who and what the girl is are raised, Vin has a couple of fights and people get crossed, double crossed and re-crossed until I get cross that the director has pandered to the studio so much so that the film lies a mess.
Funnily enough there is potential in this film. Its all shot in a Children of Men way, gritty and thoughtful, but its marketed and put together like a dumb, action film. The aformentioned scenes of Vin fighting are crowbarred in in such a way that they feel like deleted scenes from XXX. The rest of the film has some neat ideas and the morally dubious characters make for occasional moments of unpredictability.
It all descends into confusion with some gumph about a virgin birth, a child born from a computer, neolites and religious fanatics. But none of this is given the screentime it needs to really evolve. While I was glad of the 90 minute running time the whole thing comes across as incredibly rushed and its a shame because this could have been something other than the averagely dull tosh it ended up as.
Beginning with a couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) having a bit off a fallout over whether or not they should get married (he wants to, she doesn't) the film soon descends into 'nasty people want into the house' action. So we get 10 minutes of Liv walking around the house alone investigating strange noises, then 10 minutes of the bloke telling her nothing is going on, then 10 minutes of stuff going on, then 50 minutes of people with bags on their heads kicking the shit out of both of them.
Now the bags on their heads trick is pretty damn scary, think little boy from The Orphanage or for more mainstream spooks The Scarecrow from Nolans Batman. But when its bookended by natural (meaning stilted) relationship dialogue and fake scares it all gets a little tedious. The first half hangs only on these fake scares, (meaning hand on shoulder/turn round/realise its your friend type) that get pretty fucking boring, pretty fucking quickly. If you take away the moody music and pov camera moves its just Liv walking around a room. Oooo rooms.
The unknown motivation of the strangers themselves would be intriguing if it wasn't for the far superior Funny Games having done the home invasion thing so, so, so much better. While its always unfair to compare one film to the other, I'm an unfair guy. For proof read my next sentence. All the while I was thinking the movie would have been much scarier if Liv had accepted Scotts proposal and we saw her mould into her dad, Steve, over time. Imagine waking up next to that day after day.
The Wild Child of the title is Poppy (Emma Roberts) a spoilt little brat whose life revolves around boys and parties. When she pisses off her father one time too many he sends her to Blighty and a private school that would get Ms Hilton to fly right. While there she tries to get herself chucked out by misbehaving in a 12A style way, which means copping off with the headmistresses son. Oooooh take that conventional life!
After months of watching the trailer, thinking Jesus H Christ I may take a pass on this whole watching every movie thing and chase traffic on the M25, I was swayed by the opening titles. Because for all its faults in the idea and the marketing and the plot and the idea and the plot this is after all a Working Titles picture. Which instantly means its been put together by people that know a thing or two about films. And while it takes til halfway through to break me down, it eventually does.
The inclusion of Nick Frost, some quite witty one liners and the central message that us Brits are better at raising children than the Americans, all go down incredibly well. While the film falls a little when Poppy tries to Americanise her new friends, rather than the friends Briticizing her, the crossing the pond idea works well in this context. With the Spartacus ending working better than it should I'd probably say this one of the biggest surprises of the year. In that what I was hoping would be a train wreck, instead, is a better than average teen flick.
KK is the titular Duchess of Devonshire. A girl who has enormous beehives (like the troubled singer Amy Winehouse), gets pissed and makes a twat of herself (like the troubled singer Amy Winehouse) and gets smacked about by her husband (like the troubled singer...er...Tina Turner). Trapped in a loveless marriage with King of the bastards Ralph Fiennes, she shits out some sprogs (including one called Little G!!!) and contemplates adultery. Justified adultery though considering her husband is rooting her best mate in front of her.
The first half of the movie is basically setting up the Duchess, all Bambi eyes and no tits, as 'pud upon' so that we can want her to go off and boff that Dominic Cooper chap from Mamma Mia (who is almost as drippy in this than he was in that, which is really quite something). And it works. Mainly because of how despicable the Duke's character is. Not that Ralph plays him as a boo hiss villain, instead he confuses sullen for bored to tears for fifty percent of the film. The other half he just does an impression of Rigby from Rising Damp.
All this doesn't help my main beef with movies like this. In that they usually end up being about as dramatic as someone wearing the same hat as someone else at a high society party. The whole 'trapped' in a loveless marriage thing has me screaming at the screen 'just get the fuck out!' but I found by the end of The Duchess each character managed to illicit a certain degree of sympathy. Even the bastard Duke. And here's a sentence I didn't think I'd write 9 months ago but... the costumes are really good.