Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Yes Man Review

It is done. I have watched and reviewed every single film released at my place of work in the year 2008. When I first said yes to this challenge I didn't really understand quite how many films I'd have to watch. Final count, 189. I didn't even think of reviewing them, that was an afterthought. And I never imagined it might be a foot in the door at a national publication. I just said yes because I'm stubborn and I love a stupid challenge. How apt then that my final film would be based on a book by Danny "King of the stupid challenge" Wallace.

Jim Carrey takes the lead role of Carl Allen, a man who says no to life. Whenever he's asked if he wants to learn something new, or help someone out, or even just hang out with his friends he always says, NO. Strong-armed by an old colleague into attending a seminar on positivity Carl's life is turned upside down as he tries saying Yes to everything instead. This means Yes to spam e-mails for penis extensions, Yes to helping the homeless, Yes to speaking Korean and playing the guitar. Most importantly it means Yes to a new life, and possibly, Yes to a new girl.

Like anyone could say no to Zooey Deschanel. She sings, she acts, she is possibly cuter than Wall-E and definitely sexier. She is the ideal women. So when she pops onto the scene in Yes Man you know that structurally at least, we're in rom-com territory. And boy does Yes Man tick off the structure boxes. There's the initial meet where boy likes girl, the fun and games, the dark night of the soul, etc, etc. In fact take along Blake Snyders 'beat sheet' with you and tick them as you go. But let's forget about unpredictability in a rom-com, you will never find it.

And who'd want it. As long as the funny is funny and the romance is romanciful I'm a happy bunny. Yes Man has both. It has the ability to make you smile throughout, giggle occasionally and belly laugh at least two or three times. I swooned at every corny chat up line and felt all giddy at the little tender moments. This is all I wanted from my final film and yet it gave me a little bit more. It gave me a sense of positivity. A sense that if you do something a little stupid, a little different then things may work out for the best.

Sadly my challenge has not changed me as a person or given me Zooey Deschanel. Fucking Movies!!!!

Australia Review

Australia is about Beef. Suprising eh? You think you know a lot about movies, buy your ticket for a classic melodrama by a well-known, romantically enclined director, you settle down with your popcorn and bam! Beef. Lots of Beef. But then I suppose, really, when you think about it, its probably not just about beef. It probably is a classic melodrama about romance and what it means to be an Aussie. The thing is stepping out of Australia I instantly forgot almost everything that had just happened. So all I have to go on is my notes. And they say, in quite big letters, BEEF.

Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, a prissy Brit, who goes to Oz to sort out her philandering husband and get him to sell his cattle ranch. When hubbie gets done-in by an aborigine she sees the beauty of Austarlia and teams up with Drover (Hugh Jackman), a dundee of crocodile proportions. They drive the cows across the convict land with the odds stacked against them. But with the help of a little 'half-cast' Nullah (who also acts as our narrator) the two succeed in their mission (selling Beef), fall in love and live happily ever after. Then some more stuff happens. Before happy ending number 2.

This double happy ending is really the films biggest downfall. Having everything the way it should be at the mid-point gives you absolutely no emotional impact when stuff goes wrong and needs to be corrected. It gives you the same ending you had halfway through. And with melodrama and big sweeping epics, emotional impact is key. There may never be anything unpredictable about any of Baz's films (for they are essentially 'big romance/boo hiss villain' movies) but the epicness can't be faulted. You won't find a more grandiose movie in all of the reviews on this site.

Spanning several years, some huge set-pieces (including Oz's own Pearl Harbour) and enough location chewing shots to make Peter Jackson blush, Australia really is epic. Kudos to Kidman for breaking her 'lame duck' period with a well crafted perormance but if anything is remembered from this film its Wolverine. When he arrived clean shaven for the first time the entire female audience inhaled and in doing so almost sucked the room dry. If that's not the effect a leading man should have then I don't know nothing bout nothing. While Australia may not clean up at the Oscars next year the host should be around for a long, long time.

Bedtime Stories Review

When I set up the admin in a few days time (oh yes, there will be admin) a startlingly awful fact will emerge. Russell Brand will have featured reasonably largely in 3 movies over the course of the year. 3 out of 189. That's almost 2% of the films I've watched this year feature this swaggering STD. He's in more cinematic releases than Sean Penn. More movies than Will Smith. More than Samuel L Jackson and he's in everything! In fact, off the top of my head, I can only think of Brendan Fraser being in an equal amount. There is no God.

Adam Sandler plays a goofy slacker... I'll let that amazing stretch of the imagination sink in for a second. You okay? Right I'll carry on. Adam Sandler plays a goofy slacker who has to look after his sisters kids (The sister is played by Courtney "starting to look worse than Love" Cox). For some reason, that I'm sure wasn't explained, whenever he reads them a bedtime story the story comes true. Or when the kids tell the story it comes true. Or... I don't fucking care anymore.

I only have three movies to go. Why did this have to come so close to the end? Its not like its just one bad movie, it's two. You have to sit through the rubbish kids story part as Sandler gurns his way through every scene, then you have to watch the whole buggering lot again in the real world as the story comes to life. I've had less predictable bowel movements than this. And the 'its a kids movie' defence ain't holding any weight this time round. Surely children aren't so dumb that even when they're told what is going to happen, and then it happens, they can't still get surprised?

There is one amusing moment when Adam Sandler purposefully sprays himself in the face with flame retardant. But I only laughed with pleasure at the thought of his own stupidity causing him pain rather than me. Speaking of pain if I ever see Brand on the silver screen again, with the same hair, same accent, same fucking everything that he sporting in both Penelope and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I will voluntarily donate my senses to be put through the most horrible torture imaginable in return for just one Roshambo on his nether regions. On a similar note I sincerely hope some of Guy Pearces family are in urgent need of expensive medical treatment. It is the single, only, reason that I will forgive him for being in this tosh.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Stone of Destiny Review

Ar the Scots. A proooood bunch they are. Nothing gets a wee kiltie pissed off more than a bit of repression from the English (or as the people north of the border call us, Shitty Fecking Cuntrags). I was going to start this review with lots of jokes about salt and shortbread and deep fried Mars bars but considering one of the only people to read these words will be a lovely Scotch person who could kick my ass from here to Hadrians Wall if I did, I'll just get on with the film.

The Stone of Destiny (or the Scone of Destiny as its sometimes called) is a big lump of rock that we stole a long time ago and put under the coronation chair to show the Jocks that we own them. This pissed them off a bit so every now and again some would venture South and try to steal it back. Attempts failed until finally some pissed up and enthusiastic students decided to break into Westminster Abbey and just carry the thing out.

Coming across like Braveheart meets Oceans Eleven, Stone of Destiny is an accomplished tale of national pride that would have Alex Salmond wetting himself with excitement. Such is the love of country on display a plethora of Scottish actors litter the film like a Rangers/Celtic match. Robert Carlyle, Billy Boyd, Peter Mullan, Stephen McCole (a bit like a fat Ewan McGregor) all queue up for their part and while the leads go to Charlie Cox and Kate Mara (English and American respectively) their accents barely slip giving the whole film a real sense of what it means to come from a place you love.

The heist part isn't quite as effective, as it lacks the drama of most 'grab the money and run' films yet in a way this just adds to the pleasant nature of everything. The gang of 'thieves' don't really have a plan so when the plan backfires and they have to wing it you can still cheer them on. That they finally just resort to a smash and grab tactic seems like the best and most justified way of dealing with things. Although why they don't use the wheelbarrow that's in shot for most of the climactic scenes to carry the huge stone out I'll never know. Dumb Scots.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Bunch of Amateurs Review

I bloody hate the theatre. I don't quite no why. It might be because most people involved in it are pretentious and dull and spout crap like 'The Show Must Go On'. Put me in a room full of thesps and I'll scream Macbeth at them until they shit themselves and fall down screaming. This like most of my thoughts and opinions is based on nothing and if I ever left the confines of my bedroom and/or cinema to watch a play I might actually enjoy it. But probably not judging by A Bunch of Amateurs.

Burt Reynolds plays Jefferson Steel, an over the hill action man, star of the brilliantly titled 'Ultimate Finality' movies. When work dries up in America his agent gets him the part of King Lear in Stratford, England. The problem being that there are quite a few Stratfords in England and Upon Avon is not the one that Jefferson is playing to. Instead he's sadled with a community theatre project somewhere in Suffolk where his Hollywood temperement won't be pandered to.

And that's the only real joke in the film. He's a bigshot actor that likes things his way, they are a group of Hicks that wouldn't know their Cappucino from their Al Pacino (where have I stolen that from?). Oh the hilarity that ensues. That last line was sarcasm yet judging by the audience I watched it with there was much hilarity ensuing. Everytime a Shakespeare gag reared its ugly head the 7 other audeince members wet themselves laughing. They also laughed at Imelda Stauntons character, the most eye/ear/nose-gaugingly awful thing on screen since Julie Walters in Mamma Mia, so I think this just reinforces my beliefs about theatre types.

The inclusion of Burt Reynolds as the lead is the only real pulling point. Look its the Bandit in an English pub! But seeing as I don't like him even this doesn't help much. Apart from Deliverance and Boogie Nights I can't think of another good Burt performance. From a man whose career has spanned four decades that's a shit batting average. He's not even good enough to play himself which seems to be what he's doing in this. With an appalling attempt at a romantic story, racial sterotypes ticked off one by one and a painfully predictable plot A Bunch of Amateurs should only be remembered as a funny line in The Big Lebowski.

Madagascar 2, Inkheart and The Tale of Despereaux Reviews

Here's a quick run-down of the Christmas family movies without the usual swearing and cynicism.Well, without the usual swearing, at least. And for the first time this year no Paul Gadd jokes!

First the sequel, Madagascar : Escape 2 Africa (not the horribly Enoch Powell espousing Back to Africa that I first thought it was called). Anyone who saw the first film will know that while the lion, the zebra, the hippo and the giraffe get most of the screen time, its the penguins that get all the laughs. From the moment they kick the fishing boy off the Dreamworks logo the film belongs to the unfeathery birds. Sadly you have to sit through a tired retread of The Lion King while you wait for them to come back and liven things up. A healthy amount of cartoon violence makes the short running time pass even quicker and I'm a little sad as this may be the last time I ever hear Bernie Mac's voice in the cinema again. One last time... KICK IT!

Inkheart is a decent family vehicle with a premise that is a little too high on the shelf of concept. The idea is that Brendan Fraser can make anything he reads come to life. A bit like Stranger than Fiction for kids. Sadly the concept asks a few too many questions such as, Do the books have to be published? What would happen if he read the Bible, would the fictional character God appear? Why does Brendan Fraser have the same haircut in every film? Most of these questions are valiantly raised in the last act but all this does is make things more complicated. Bonus points for having hubbie/wife combo Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany as a hubbie/wife combo. One of the very few Hollywood couples that aren't attention seeking and smug. I like them both, I do.

Lastly its the new animation about mices not from the House of Mouse (thats what Disney is sometimes called kids), The Tale of Despereaux. Telling the story of a little heroic mouse with big ears that wants to bring soup and rats back to the people of his village which I'm guessing is somewhere in Franceland. I don't know why I'm guessing its set in France, maybe because all the human characters look French, maybe its the name Despereaux. Anyway, this is in equal parts charming and a little dull. But I am left with the funny feeling that Dustin Hoffman doesn't like his own face anymore as he seems to be hiding from my screen this year instead choosing to voice assorted animals. The 2009 campaign to bring back Dustin's face starts here.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Twilight Review

If you were ever curious as to whether you could construct an entire film consisting only of two teenagers in heavy foundation, staring longlingly at each other, in slow motion, walking around moodily, in the dark, while electric guitar wailed in the background, well, the answer is yes. Though Twilight only contains these things and would, on the surface, just be a film that Goths can cut themselves and wank to, it still manages to raise a smile and be an entertaining couple of hours. Well, stake my heart and call me Susan I just enjoyed something meant for 14 year old girls.

In a small town in somewhere where direct sunlight isn't really an issue, Bella moves to live with her dad. Before you can say 'fresh meat' all the boys are drooling over her but she only has eyes for Edward, the tall, big eyebrowed one who looks like that guy from Busted with Michael Jackson's skin. The reason for his whiter than whiteskin, he's a Vampire living with his family of Vampires. But he's a good Vampire so its okay. But there are some bad Vampires so they have a bit of a scuffle. Mainly though its just Bella staring at Edward until his big eyebrows catch fire with teenage lust.

That this teenage lust is captured well is really the true saving grace of the movie. Its helped by the two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, being so beautiful and handsome (in that order) that to look at them for more than 12 seconds makes me go a big rubbery one and melt into a puddle of something shaped somewhat similar to a teenage girl. That the Vampires themselves have super-speed, super-strength, can read minds and have the ability to make a girls knickers moist at 50 yards makes them so unbelievably perfect you want to drown them in Chicken Kievs.

But when they start to lighten up and crack jokes they become likeable and despite my better judgement I want to spend more time in their company. Trying desperately to find something not to like about this film I'll attack the special effects. The super-speed looks like Benny Hill and the 'Diamond Glow' has the appearance of fat mans sweat. Really though I'm just stretching here and will have to admit that for the most part Twilight is enjoyable, funnier than you'd think and contains Radiohead's 15 Step over the closing credits. Can't complain.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Dean Spanley Review

Its been a while since I was sitting in a small, dark room with lots of OAP's close to the end of their lives, coughing chunks of lung into their popcorn (it beats looking like a paedo sitting in a dark room full of kids though). Thats because it takes a very special kind of film to bring the silver haired brigade out to our cinema. And, if you can say nothing else about Dean Spanley, it is a very special film. It also helps if the film is as inoffensive as possible (not a jot of violence, sex or swearing in sight) and it helps if one of their own is on the screen. If that 'one of their own' is Peter O'Toole the most consumate professional in the world it helps doubley.

Its hard to know where to begin with Dean Spanley, so I'll start at the beginning. Fisk Junior (Jeremy Northam) is a wealthy batchelor with a cranky, misanthropic father, Fisk Senior (Peter O'Toole), who has never really mourned the loss of his son and Junior's brother. At a seminar on reincarnation of the soul Junior meets Dean Spanley a strange type of priest, at times painfully boring and at other times weirdly eccentric. None more so than when the priest has had a drop of Tokay. A rare drink that has some even rarer qualities on the Dean.

I'd like to not give the game away at the effect of the Tokay but I just can't continue to write unless I address the crux of the film. The drink makes the priest transgress into his previous life as a dog. So the main gist of the film is Junior tring to get the priest as drunk as possible. As pitches go its a bloody hard one but one that is saved by some good performance and one great one. Who? Who's great? I hear you slavishly beg. Well, Peter, of course.

While Sam Neills doggie monologues are great fun and Jeremy supports ably, the film is enlivened by Sir O'Toole to such a great extent you almost forget the absurdity of it all. Whether its shouting 'Poppycock!' at everything that differs even slightly from his worldview point or spouting said worldview points to disbeleiving passers by he makes Senior come alive. By doing so the emotional wallop of the last reel is guaranteed to floor you. As for the combination of existentialism, reincarnation, canines and pissed clergy, I'll for one say its the oddest film of the year. And deserves a prize in the end of year 'Owen Oscars' just for that.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still Review

Next time a hippy do-gooder comes up to you in the street and asks you to save the planet kick him in the nuts and tell the selfish prick to 'do one'. He's only out for number one. He's not looking out for the planet, our planet is nigh on indestructable. The seas may rise, the oil may dry up, but you could drop a billion nukes onto it and it'd keep on spinning. Anybody that looks out for the interests of our Earth is only worried about the people on it. And people, well, people suck. The Earth would be much better off without us.

And this is the biggest problem with The Day The Earth Stood Still. When Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) pops down to chartered survey our little green planet he realises as any right thinking Alien would that its a very, very nice place. Shame about its inhabitants. To look after the world he decides that people must die. Every man Jack of us. Thus begins a fight between the US Military, trying and failing to blow the extraterrestrials up, and the humane scientists, lead by Jennifer Connelly, trying to reason that "Come on we can Change!"

For a film about the end of the world its a little dull. Such is the po-faced nature of Klaatu and everybody else you can't help wanting the destruction to get a bloody move on. I'm not looking for 'fish out of water' type gags where Klaatu marvels at the idea of a toaster or finds humanity in YouTube but a small amount of humour injected into the script would help us give a shit about at least some of the characters. Even the ridiculous gung ho nature of the US Government is played completely straight. There is comic gold to be mined in them thar' hills.

The central question of 'are humans worth saving?' isn't played as one-sided as my opening gambit would suggest thanks to John Cleese, some Johann Sebastian Bach and Maths putting up quite a fight for why GORT should give us another chance. But sadly this isn't what convices Klaatu to let us off the hook. No, instead its the kid and the mum showing that change can happen by actually being nice to each other for the first time in the film. Sod that, I want an apocalyptic movie where Bill Hicks and Charlie Brooker are called up as witnesses for the prosecution. No-one in any galaxy would let us humans carry on after testimony like that.

The Children Review

I'm going for 'glass half full' thoughts at the moment. With that in mind here's a spin on the distinct lack of sex in my shrink wrapped life. There is no chance of me having sired a kid. (Short of a girl breaking into my house, finding a jazz hanky and rinsing it into her cooch). Thats quite a relaxing notion (not the jazz hanky thing, thats fucked up) the idea that there is defintely not a little Owen out there. Its not that I don't like kids, or want them at some point, its just right now I can barely look after myself and the idea of another me in the world is a strangely worrying thing. Also it means I won't be killed by one of my own if they go batshit crazy like in The Children.

Its Christmas time in Britain and two lovely middle class families, complete with a busload of sprogs, rock up at each others houses to talk grown up stuff while the kids run off and play. But for some reason the kids are acting weird. It might just be a bit of a virus when the little ones start puking left, right and centre, but when they start running at their parents with scissors and not stopping it seems the kids aren't alright. Not wanting to hurt their wee bairns the parents are more or less incapacitated. Thankfully Casey (Hannah Tointon), the only teen of the group, isn't adverse to hoofing the little buggers in the face when they turn psycho.

Its refreshing to see a Brit film where the characters actually speak in an accent that is similar to the one you hear living in Britain. Its also refreshing to see a psychological horror from my homeland that actually credits the audience with a little respect, ratcheting up the tension slowly but surely building a sense of dread throughtout. Shame then that it resorts to jumpcuts and semi subliminals to put the willies up you, but thankfully these are few and far between, instead letting the little freaks do all the freaking.

When you realise that the children are as fair game for the kill as the parents the film takes on a dark, nasty edge. But its an edge that is more than welcome giving the film a scarier much greater depth. With solid acting and solid direction, plus a few nods to The Shining, The Children is one of the better horrors of the year just placing under that other Kids as Killers film, Eden Lake. One question that does trouble me though is how do the casting agents break the news to the parents that their child is perfect for the role. "Yeah, we'll take him. He's got that cold dead eyes of a killer thing going on. Perfect."

Transporter 3 Review

I can't help it. Despite my better judgement there is something hilarious, and therefore likeable, about Jason Statham. It may be his Po-tay-toe shaped head, his inability to change his accent for any role or the way he can keep a straight face when delivering some of the worst dialogue known to man. But its probably because I know he's pissing himself laughing at the fact that people pay him shit loads of cash to do things like fight with his shirt off or drive a car on top of a train. Nice work if you can get it.

Not breaking the Luc Besson formula for a second we have the indestructable, hard-man professional going on a job he doesn't really want to do. Stath - Check. The innocent, Louise Brooks coiffed girl who can't speak good English. Natalya Rudakova - Check. And the bad guy who's a bit creepy, a bit camp and looks a bit like Superhands from Peep Show. Robert Knepper - Check. Add into that some Jason on a BMX, the afformentioned Jason fighting with his shirt off and the Jason with a bracelet that will blow up if he stops moving and its almost as silly as Crank. Except Crank was actually fun.

This film could only work as a silent movie. The action is more than acceptable and at times its even inventive. But by keeping Jason stuck to his car (if he moves within 70 yards of the car the bracelet goes off) the movie grinds to an ugly, dialogue induced halt. Nowhere else this year have I seen the English language so desecrated than when the characters in this film use them to communicate. The fact that the lead actress is actually a worse thespian than The Stath may be hard to believe but its every inch the truth. That someone decided over half the film would be a road movie between the two is just plain baffling. She is easily the worst travel companion since Dodi Fayed.

Transporter 3 will definitely be remembered for two things. First it contains easily the worst scene of the year. Jason and the girl have a go at flirting with each other climaxing with 'Our Jase' doing a little strip tease for the salivating Ukranian. The second is the cinematic death of Luc Besson. He's not directing but the fact that he puts his name on both the script and production makes me seriously reconsider Leon as my mostest favourite film of all time. I know the Transporter films are tongue in cheek shit but couple this with Taken (his only other output this year) and its Sacre Bleu Luc. Sacre sodding bleu.

Scar 3-D Review

I was pooping myself so much over watching this torture porn I honestly thought I might not make it into the cinema and thus fail my challenge at the very last hurdle. Thankfully I grew a pair of, what appear to be, balls and summoned up enough courage to sit through 70 minutes of shit movie-making by a sick fuck who has nothing to say but wants to live out his fantasies on the big screen. In 3-D. Twat. In the end it didn't disturb me in the slightest. Yes it was gornography of the sickest order but when gorno is done as badly as this there really isn't any reason to worry. Its actually quite nice to bear witness to the death wails of a crap genre. RIP Torture Porn. You gave nothin gto the world.

I would still like to thank Mark for holding my hand and getting me into the screen in the first place. Sorry you had to sit through this awful attempt at filmmaking.

The Secret Life of Bees Review

Child performances are a tricky thing. Most are the kind of awful, spew inducing stuff that makes you think the NSPCC should be disbanded. But every now and again you get a Natalie Portman in Leon, the entire cast of Stand By Me or Ariana Richards in Tremors. In other words performances of such greatness you think children may indeed be our future. But to carry a film by yourself before you're of the age where you get a National Insurance number thats just crazy. Dakota Fannings agent is crazy.

Here Dakota plays Lily Owens a 14 year old white girl looking for a mother she may or may not have shot dead when she was 4. As pitches go its not exactly got 'box office hit' written on it. Regardless Lily sets out on her journey armed with a picture of her ma and a label from a jar of honey with a black Virgin Mary on it. The latter leads her to a bee farm where Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and (the only one who is actually an actress) Sophie Okonedo take in the little girl and teach her the ways of life. And bees.

Dakota does a pretty good job as the lost little girl. She acts Jennifer Hudson off the screen (but so could Jason Statham) and holds her own against the other 'actresses'. But for all her hard work The Secret Life of Bees does not work as a film. Its so obviously an adaptation that the book comes first and while there are some touching moments it never flows in any way, shape or form. The fact that it feels like an adaptation of some chic lit, 'sisters are doing it for themselves' bullshit is even harder to swallow as I'd imagine the source material is stronger than this suggests.

My biggest beef though is the non-diagetic music (get me, I've got a BA in film!). When you have a film set in 1964 you have some of the greatest soundtrack possibilities. You can choose from Aretha or Ray or Nina or any other actual artist. Yet the film makers have chosen to put some god awful Jamie Cullum type shit that takes you straight out of the movie and staring vacantly in the soul less music of today. To be fair when they stick on the radio (thats diagetic music folks!) real 60's jazz, blues and soul comes out but for the big scenes it all about contemporary singers warbling cockspit at you with utter contempt. For this alone I'd not recommend Bees to anyone other than insectophiles.

The Express Review

Its hard to believe as Michelle picks out the curtains for the White House bedroom and Malia and Sasha choose their puppy that there was a time when people would at the very least, stop, point and stare at a fellow human being because they have a different skin colour. Its nice to know that we have films like The Express which help us remember that we can actually change stupid peoples minds and achieve something a little closer to a human race.

The Express is not the story of shit newspaper obsessed with Princess Diana and other dead white girls but rather the story of Ernie Davis (played by an impressive Rob Brown) one of the first black college football stars. A man who not only achieved sporting greatness but also, with the help of his teammates and coach, set some of the first plays toward tolerance. While it seems slightly weak that he did it by running with a pigskin, he did what he did best and never gave up. Thats a pretty good goal for anyone.

Its worth noting that you don't need to know a single thing about US Football to enjoy the film. In fact even if you're not keen at all on the idea of lots of grown men 'tackling' each other for a chance to hold onto a weird shaped ball (and I am not) there is so much more to be enjoyed (but I will admit there is a certain grace in the running back skipping around the opposition like a Gazelle on speed). Instead the real drama is off the pitch and in the changing room with Dennis Quaid showing how and why he's still going after many years in the acting world.

I'd even be happy to see him nominated for some supporting awards later in the year, people have one for less. The film as a whole is also prime for Oscar Season considering it contains not only triumph over adversity, racism beaten, sporting acheivements but also 'disease of the week' too. I can't see it getting there though for there are faults, the top of which is the myriad of subplots (including doting grandfather, negro polar bears and the start of the NAACP) all fighting to get a look in. But its easily as accomplished (and cliched) a biopic as Ray or Walk The Line and if Ernie Davis was a more familiar name it might have gotten the praise they both had.

Lakeview Terrace Review

He's a mushroom cloud layin' motherfucker, motherfucker. He couldn't get Jurassic Park back online. He declared the party was over for the Clones and he doesn't take kindly to slithery bastards on aircrafts. He is Samuel L. Jackson and he's a great big bloody film legend. He stars in about 50 movies a day, including some real todge, (SWAT anyone?) but one thing is guaranteed - whatever cash you put down to see a Sam movie you always get your moneys worth from the man. Lakeview Terrace is no exception.

Here he plays Abel Turner, a P in the LAPD, so fantastically racist against honkie the mere thought of an interracial couple turns him into whatever the equivalent of a Klan member for non-Texans is. When the lovely and black Kerry Washington moves in next door with her whiter than snow husband Patrick Wilson, Abel gets angry. Slight intimidation and bullying soon turns into something much worse as the Neighbour from Hell declares all out war. Race War!

To call this film a slow burner or a pressure cooker of a film would be using two of the worst cliches in the book but I'm going to anyway. Its a pressure cooker of a film that takes a long, long time to boil the meat at the heart of the film. The meat being Chicken Versus Beef. Yet if this was a restaurant you'd be complaining after an hour that you want your food now because the appetisers aren't filling enough. In other words this film needed to be shorter or at least have gotten to the good bits earlier. (I never use enough food analogies in my reviews, now I know why).

It seems an odd choice for a Neil LaBute film yet after the disastrous remake of the Wicker Man this seems a fairly safe bet and this is a solid piece of filmmaking. But as said earlier the reason you've put your money down is for Mr. L and whether he's lecturing his kids on Shaq Vs Corby or making Patrick Wilson shite himself with an award winning stare the film belongs to him. I just wish there was a bit more shouty Sam and a bit less build up because as a thriller there aren't nearly enough thrills.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Four Christmases Review

Its coming on Christmas, they're cutting down the trees, putting up reindeers, singing songs of joy and peace. Yay! That means its time for this years 'subversive' Christmas movie. You know the type, Bad Santa, Fred Claus, Die Hard, the kind of film that says yahboosucks to all things yuletide and then crams down the holiday cheer in the last act and says 'love your family' and 'aren't kids just great'. Okay Die Hard doesn't really do that but it does have Alan Rickman saying "Ho Ho Ho, I haff a machine gun". So it deserves a mention.

The bah humbug couple in quesion are Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) who hope to get away to Fiji for the holiday season only to be caught on TV at the airport when fog delays their flight. When their 'rents see they are still in America they feel dutifully bound to visit them. The problem is both sets of parents are divorced, so one family meet-up is doubled then doubled again, hence the Four Christmases. These Hollywood writers are well clever.

Thankfully for us they've thrown most of the best comedy actors at the pretty weak premise and script. So we get Double V doing his usual 'bit of an asshole/jabbermouth' schtick, Greasy 'hit in the face with a frying pan' With a Spoon doing her cutesy, adorable thing, the mum from Elf being a bit like the mum from Elf and Robert Duvall as an even Hickier Hick than that Hick from that film with that guy who is a real Hick. *Cough*. We also get to see three members of Swingers looking really fat. So fat that if they are still 'the money' it looks like they spent it all on pies.

Of course there is no such thing as an unpredictable rom-com so to smack this child for being obvious seems to be erring a little on the side of abuse. While it ticks all the familiar festive fancies such as kids, relatives, board games and nativity plays, you can't help but wish Brad and Kate had actually gone on holiday instead. Which seems to miss the point. Christmas films are supposed to trick you into wanting to spend time with your family. This year I'm going to stick with George Bailey and Clarence. At least It's A Wonderful Life makes the homestead look like a place you want to be. Even if it might ultimately force you to commit suicide.

Changeling Review

Clint Eastwood's latest film is about a missing child so you'd be right to be prepared for quite a bleak offering. The level of bleakitude (at the end of the year I'm gonna list my favourite made up words) is something you'll only be prepared for if you know Changeling contains all of the following. Child murder, police corruption, women beatings, wrongful imprisonment, electro-shock therapy, public executions and a soundtrack courtesy of Leonard Cohen. Okay it doesn't have a soundtrack by Leonard Cohen but its still not cheery, happy, fun.

Set in the pseudo-glamorous 1920's, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mom over-working as a telephone operator. When she returns home to find her sprog missing she immediately calls the LAPD. Before you can say "Damn those Portugese police" the kid has gone missing for more time then any parent would hope for, and more importantly passed the time in which any hope may be left that he'll return. After a few months, however, Christine gets a call saying hooray to the boys in blue, they've found him. Except he's now shorter by a few inches, is circumcised and is definitely not her son.

This is just where the trouble starts. Once the mum starts to kick up a bit of a fuss that she'd kind of prefer, y'know, her own son back instead, a shitstorm of biblical proportions rain down on the funny hat wearing, big lipped MILF. And hats (funny or otherwise) off to Clint for directing the finest performance of Angie's career. While its a role most actresses would suck a donkey off to get, for the first time in her career Angelina Jolie becomes the character she's supposed to be playing. Toward the end when she cracks a smile over the fortunes of It Happened One Night it melts away a dislike I've had of her for quite some time. Enough in fact that if she takes home the little bald guy early next year I won't complain.

Ms Jolie may take the headlines as The Man With No Name's contibution to cinema has almost reached a level of expected greatness that nothing he can do can really impress too much. Well forget his ridiculously awesome back catalogue and worship at the alter of one of cinemas greatest film makers. He tells a story in a way few others do. Not one to go for the showy opening or the jaw on the floor ending prefering instead to play his second act as his best hand. We're damn lucky that at 78 he's still making cinema with no signs of stopping. And while this last line may sound like I'm trying to get on the DVD sleeve its still true. Nothing, especially not my opening paragraph, can really prepare you for the emotional highs and lows of Changeling.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

What Just Happened Review

Its not a question. What just happened is a sentence of sorts. If it were a question it would have a question mark and then I could make some comment about it being the same thing that I ask myself after watching every single DeNiro movie since Heat. How has the once Travis Bickle, Jake LaMotta and Don Corleone fucked up so coniderably of late. Well you want some good news. He's pretty damn good in this, and seeing as most Bobby films revolve around whether or not Bobby is good, by extension this film is pretty damn good.

Based on producer Art Linsons scathing attack on the business of film (What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line, wait a sec that has a question mark...fuck it) DeNiro takes on the Art-esque role of Ben a movie producer struggling with two failed marriages, a director that wants a dead dog and a company exec that doesn't and a petulent, fat, beardy Bruce Willis. Oh and his daughter may have been shagging an agent who killed himself, but thats not really important.

So how come DeNiro has made a film this decade thats not only tolerable but actually very good. Well because he's making a film about something close to his heart (and mine). Namely movies, movies, movies! But will you like it? Probably not. Unless you have an unhealthy obsession will all things celluloid, because all the jokes, all the drama, in fact every bloody thing about the film is about films. Yay!

But then again, good characters and great dialogue ("These drugs are so good you could watch your mother be gangraped and still enjoy the weather") transcend any boundaries of theme and content and What Just Happened has some of both. And while you might not get who each person is supposed to be in real life without resorting back to the source material unless you've been living under a rock you'll get a kick out of Bruce Willis as Bruce Willis with the best beard this side of the one above this review.