Monday, 23 February 2015

Facebook film reviews - collected 3

All my movie reviews under one roof - part 3 where the timeline is changed and you're forced to look at the other two in a different light that is entirely unsatisfying

Okay so we're entering the longer, angrier, bileier reviews now so let's have even less preamble than before. Suffice it to say with the bullshit I was going through last year I needed some good movies. I got very few, and they were very far between. My anger translated into movie-bile.

Let's go to work.

Avatar – March 2014

So Tazer finally got clear of the hype, the hyperbole, and the immersive experience crap and sat down and watched Avatar for the first time. On his laptop.

It's shit. No point spending time in lengthily espousing the reasons that it's shit, it just is. Here's a summary - already accused of plagiarism, the biggest stealing Cameron does is from his own earlier work, from the Aliens and Terminator Drop ships and idiot grunts, the Titanic forbidden-love story, the over-reliance on CGI that's characterised all his work post Abyss, to the man in the wheelchair who wants to walk from Strange Days, it all just seems like we've been here before. And better. This film makes me hate Terminator 2.

For such a strong film maker, he makes such stupid, dull, leaden movies. His dialogue and characters are an easy target but in a movie that cost, and took in SO much money it's worth noting because its awful awful stuff. The quirky boss man playing putt around his workers; the muscled, scarred worst actor ever grunting; Sigourney Weaver in HER worst ever performance as - um - I don't know, somebody in a movie; Michelle Rodriguez awkwardly fist-bumping people and pretending she can act; and the cyborg from Terminator Salvation - spoiler alert - as the guy from Strange Days. It's like a racist game of Guess Who.

The fx. Well, what can you say? Technically they're very, very impressive, but they're not. Not really. The obvious differences between, for example, the CGI walking thing from Aliens and the physical walking thing from Aliens are glaring, and take away from what's going on instantly. The Naives are just weird. Just plain weird. We know now why Cameron opted for the empathetic Disney character stylings but they're cartoons, they're not real, they're Uncle Toms in a film very blatantly aiming at an anti-racist message. Like King Kong ( also a wonderfully racist movie - incidentally has anyone noticed that the Uruquai, the ugly baddies in LOTR are all played by coloured people? Weird hah? ) there are creatures on this planet that shouldn't exist, in evolutionary terms. But then physics doesn't exist here either.

Everything about this film is manipulative to the point of nausea. Man in wheelchair. Vietnam sucked. Angry white folk. The Smurfs. The clanging, ethnic music for the Naives and the angry drumming percussion for the baddies. The green-message. Or blue message, whatever. The hammer it home big-corporation sucks post-it notes.

This is a very, very poor movie. This is what people like. This is probably what YOU like. You're wrong. Go and watch Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me Now and cleanse yourself.

Cleanse yourself.

ps - "Unobtanium" = fuck you audience. You're morons.

Oh and motion capture isn't acting. Fact.

Les Mis / Lincoln - March 2014

So then there's Les Miserables and Lincoln, two massively ill-conceived big-budget "triumphs" that when the dust has settled, unsettle more than impress.

They both bear comparison, coming out around the same time as each other and both garnering massive praise. Both are "worthy" and "dull" and kind of annoying, yet are also well made enough to be even more annoying than they should be.

Both have hilariously unconvincing battle scenes, CGI swoops that rob them of any kind of realism, stagy performances and blocking that belies their theatrical pasts, no sense of narrative drive ( they simply plod forward through the salient points without ever really connecting or tying together their scenes ), both utilise a bizarre storytelling device, one being telling the story entirely through dull and poorly rendered singing for seven hours, the other through lengthy and equally dull monologues for what feels like forever. Both feel like worthy well-off white man movies, from men who have long since lost touch with humanity.

Each contains hermetically sealed worlds in which the performances SEEM pretty good until you compare them to actual good performances in actual good movies, often starring these cast members. Day Lewis and Jackman are just kind of awful in these movies, committed but mannered, with completely false sounding, actor-voices, ill-judged, boring and sort of desperate seeming performances. We get it, you're acting. Well done. reward yourselves while you're at it you amazing actors you.

Both films also have one truly TERRIBLE performance from an oscar nominated actor who should know better - stand up Sally Fields and Russell Crowe, both just terrible, just utterly utterly terrible - and one comedy performance each from actors who just seem completely out of place, that being James Spader and Ali G.

They both have kids who drive the plot but never actually do anything. They both have pretences toward political considerations but really only exist to pop some actors in period dress and film them doing period things with period voices and win awards.

They both completely undersell the women in their movies, the minorities in their movies, and the underused good actors in their movies ( John Gordon Levitt in particular stand forward ).

In the end, they're both war movies that spend half their time waffling about the necessity of war, then showing you the horror in completely unconvincing ways. They utilise stage conventions unconvincingly and render their worthy stories dull, slow and empty. They have their cake and shit it.

They are both very poor movies.

Rush – March 2014

So finally sat down to watch Rush. It's - well, it's a well made movie. I don't know, it's hard to judge a movie like this when it seems swamped in so much bullshit. At the heart is a very strong story, and a very strong TRUE story at that, the story of Nikki Lauder, a massively successful Formula one driver who survived a truly horrendous accident which permanently disfigured his body, inside and out, yet who went straight back into the race, and his driving rival, the by-all-accounts twattish James Hunt.

Yet the film decides to create a bizarre, hollywood styled-rivalry between the two men, one which smacks of far too much bullshit to ever ring true. It becomes Rocky vs Mr T, never rounding the characters in a believable way, instead forcing contrived tension down the viewer's throat when the natural tension at the centre of what WAS a hugely dangerous sport should be enough. The rivalry existed but its manipulated until it becomes just another stupid sports movie.

Worse, after dashing - oh go on then, RUSHING through an entire season of races in a squirt of montages, the film then stops, briefly to focus in agonising detail on that crash. Beautifully and horrifically realistic, the crash is completely at odds with the rest of the movie, almost fetishistically following the moment in agonising near real-time, truly ramming home just how disgracefully unsafe the sport was and how awful the crash itself was.

But then, the film follows Lauder into hospital, where it lingers on his suffering, on the awful state his body was left in, in minute detail on the pokings and proddings and grafts and lung vacuums and bleeding and agony to the point where I truly could not understand why I was watching it. Meanwhile, Hunt is winning all his races while an agonised Lauder gets to watch the wins on the television screens hilariously placed throughout the hospital, during each sequence of hospital-horror he endures. I call bullshit on that. I laugh at that. It goes from Hunger to The truman Show in the beat of an eyelash.

So what is the point of this movie? If this was still happening to drivers, if safety was still an issue in the way it was during that period of the seventies and earlier, if there was an ANGER to this piece about what these men endure, then maybe it would have a reason to exist, or to linger on the horror of the aftermath in the way it does.

But it's just Days of Thunder. It's flashy, thunderous, and very very stupid. There are arcs. Both men, through their shared experience become better, begin to respect each other. It's a bromance. And the end race with it's pounding soundtrack, it's misplaced sense of heroism ( after continually pointing out how ridiculous these men are for doing this in the first place ), it's stupid hollywood cutting, showing people watching and listening to the race to increase the tension, reducing the movie to noise and commentary and extreme close-ups to the point where it's impossible to know exactly WHAT we're supposed to be tense about in a film about idiots driving cars far faster than they should in conditions they should know better than to drive in. Why are we the audience expected to care about who wins a race, having had the body horror of previous scenes seared into our brains?

It's a very stupid movie about a very serious set of issues and a sport that really isn't that exciting to watch, cut down into typical hollywood tropes and then shot and edited to within an inch of it's life.

But it's also very well made and acted.

Lord of the Rings Five : The Hobbit 2 : This City just got Smoggy! - April 2014

And so on Kurt Cobain's twentieth birthday, to celebrate the patron saint of little teenagers who don't know any better and silly rabbit adults who should, I watched Lord of the Rings Five : The Hobbit 2 : This City just got Smoggy! 

Just like the back of Kurt Cobain's head straight after he put a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger like a spa, creating hilariously emo tee shirt slogans for years to come and a generation of people who believe his half-arsed band Nirvana would actually have become important, this film is all over the place.

Befitting a film made up of seventy two other movies all rolled up like ham and force-fed to a gorilla, Smoggy fires along at a helluva pace, never settling on one shot, character, or image when a thousand others will do.

I'm a fan of the original trilogy, they're flawed but magnificently well-mounted movies with great characters, strong storytelling and fx that - until the Return of the Revenge of the King of The World at least - work in tandem with the story as opposed to overwhelming it with obtrusive, noisy, and just-too-unbelievable creatures and trees.

The Hobbit's main flaw is not that it's been broken into three movies - Peter Jackson's decision makes sense not only from a monetary position but from the point of view that this is the last time this world will ever be visited. It's a world I like and want to spend time in. The problem lies in it's overwhelming desire to crash everything directly into your face - wibbly wobbly CGI fx that completely rob you of your suspension of disbelief, awful and pointless 3D, a cast of thousands in a film already focussing on eight more characters than is necessary, ugly, crowded creature scenes filled with yelping, squeaking, and squawking.

Oddly, for a three or so hour movie, Smoggy still feels rushed, far too busy. The plot is simple, yet so much extraneous noise occurs it's impossible to settle or engage. The barrel sequence is a microcosm - technically a really exciting, entertaining scene yet filled with so much going on, with thirteen barrels hurtling down a thrashing river, orcs leaping all over the place, elves shooting arrows up orc arse, dwarves leaping out of barrels then back in, gates being locked, rocks being in the way, axes flying all over the shop, and a love triangle between two elves and a dwarf, that it becomes as overwhelming as a sugar rush.

The film, and every single individual scene, simply doesn't know when to stop. Toward the end it reaches so many natural resting spots it becomes horribly frustrating to continue watching. For my money, it should have stopped at the moment when the Hobbit had to enter the cave. Save the dragon for next time.

Whereas The Return of the Revenge of The King of the World can be forgiven it's multitude of endings ( it was the last of it's kind at the time and had a helluva lot of emotions and stories to tie up ), Smoggy just keeps reaching natural cut-off points and then keeps chugging along to the point that I personally just don't care anymore what the dragon is going to do. And we still have a god damn battle to look forward to, one that has been completely sidelined and not built up to at all.

Casting-wise, generally speaking it's on the money. Freeman is excellent, if necessarily sidelined. Richard Armitage continues to impress as Thorin, and whether or not they get much characterisation, all the rest of the dwarves are well cast and entertainingly drawn. Luke Evans adds Welsh grit late on as Bard. The worst casting in fact is Stephen Fry in another hammy and dreadful performance, completely knowing ( yes we KNOW you're clever Fry, please maybe once stop showing off that you're self aware and just do some acting ) and completely out of place in the LOTR world. Why do people keep casting him in roles other, better actors could actually make something out of?

Tauriel is awesome, Legolas is fat, weird eyed, and needless. But he's still good. And the worst doctor Who ever is also the worst wizard ever.

I like it, I think it's a well made, exciting fantasy film. It was never destined to reach the heights of the original trilogy; it's a cynically made money-spinner, but it's made with a helluva lot of passion all the same.

Wolf of Wall Street - May 2014

Wolf of Wall Street then.

Over-long, self indulgent film about repugnant people doing repugnant things with little or no consequence. Scorsese chooses to populate his film with SNL comedians, Jonah Hill, and De Caprio meaning that rather than play their characters as morally bankrupt we're given long, unfunny, and most likely inaccurate scenes of improvisation. Worse, rather than openly judging his characters or their actions, Scorsese chooses to “satirically” glamourise them while leaving it up to the audience to do the majority of the moral heavy lifting. From time to time he does a Spielberg by cutting to a child to remind the audience that the actions we're witnessing are, you know, like awful, but never once does he EVER show the consequences on the people who are being ripped off by the main characters. It's enough to use a little girl in a ( metaphorical ) red coat as short-hand for the misery of many.

Scorsese seems to be judging us, rather than the characters he's describing. We're damned if we see his lifestyle and want it for ourselves ( why wouldn't we, I'd personally rather live that way than in the shithole town I'm currently residing in ), and damned if we find the film itself morally repugnant as opposed to the characters, because then we run the risk of being remonstrated for not “getting” the movie. It's very easy for a rich film-maker spending a large budget of other people's money, to judge other people for their wanton greed and desire to spend other people's money.

Once again in a mainstream movie the female characters are there to be ogled at, with little or no characterisation offered to explain them beyond “they're bitches.” We're asked to hate them while understanding the actions of the men, supposedly so we can see them from the point of view of the men. Once again used as an excuse not to bother actually rounding the female characters with anything approaching a personality. 

There's even a not-rape rape scene toward the end, rape because at first his wife says no, not-rape because it jump cuts to them already fucking without seeing her put up a struggle – she's not enjoying it but so what? It's not rape after all.

There's a hilariously racist Uncle Tom “yessir yessir missur boss sir” house maid, who just about stops short of shrieking “lawks a mercy” as she throws her hands in the air praising “jesus-ah!”

De Caprio has the easiest, most ego-driven character of his career – never called upon to actually make his character ugly ( physically or otherwise ), he coasts along alternatively shouting and being charming, while being allowed to show off his skills at comedy, slapstick, and improv in interminably drawn out scenes. One scene is a microcosm of his “characterisation” and has bizarrely been used to describe Scorsese's contempt for the character : the line “I fucked her brains out. For eleven seconds.” What isn't mentioned is that straight after this hilarious piece of self-deprecation, De Caprio is shown achieving an immediate erection straight after orgasm, and diving right back into the fray. So much for contempt, hah?

Details such as Jonah Hill's character being married to his cousin are thrown at the audience, never to be returned to again, giving the impression that these are all scenes of long-form improv rather than fact; a strange decision in a film supposedly pinpointing the horrors of real, prolonged greed.

We're asked to laugh with the characters, yet expected to laugh at them. As always, Scorsese seems more enamoured with the people he is supposedly asking the audience to dislike.

It's a fairly well made, attractive film bearing all the choppily-edited hallmarks of a lesser Scorsese, and as such is obviously being mooted as a masterpiece. It's not. It misses the mark alarmingly often.

Oh – one good scene that, sadly, is also never referred to again. During one of the many dull and overlong montage sequences of De Caprio yelling at his group of never-aging, multi-ethnic co-workers while they enthusiastically orgy at work, one of the women succumbs to the vibe of the room and allows her hair to be shaved off. Hers is the only truly strong performance in this film, as her face registers both the elation that would allow her to do this, the terrible fear that drives her to do it, and the pain at the reality she is undergoing. As she walks out of frame like one of the Polish girls in Band of Brothers, in a truly post-modern moment the film completely dismisses her to make a point, while completely dismissing her because it has no interest in consequence beyond the surface.

A microcosm for the rest of the movie. Scorcese, you can stop now.

As shall I ladies and gentlemen, at the apex of my fury!

Rest assured, next section shall have a little bit more fun to it. I had watched so much filth by this point that I needed levity. So we have some sci-fi sequels, some jolly Marvel movies, and "This Means War."

Unfortunately, we also get "Calvary..."

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