Saturday, 25 April 2015

Facebook film reviews - collected 6

All my film reviews under one blah blah fucking blah - Part 6
Like Marvel characters this will NEVER die

Once more unto the breach dear friends...

Pleasantville - August 2014

Ah Pleasantville! A film about the dangers of racism entirely populated by white folk! BUT for all it's naivety and nonsense waffle about art changing the world ( it rarely does folks whatever artists might say, do, and think while scrabbling for funding ) it's a genuinely lovely movie that charts two modern day teens as they are zapped into a fifties era black and white sitcom and slowly and accidentally begin to introduce colour into the world.

A gentle satire which touches mostly on racism ( as people begin to change from black and white to colour, they become referred to as "coloureds" etc ) but also art, the dangers of oppression, and - as befitting a Hollywood movie - showing your true colours, it over-eggs the pudding sometimes but still has heart and some gorgeous colour within black and white imagery. A strange cake and eat it movie, by setting it in the fifties sitcom world it allows for only white actors in it's racism allegory, while telling us that art changes the world yet setting it in a fictional television program. Is TV not art? At least some of the time? Also, by making any cinema-bound movie about the perils of TV, you risk becoming a slightly bitter afterthought when you reach DVD - and get watched on a TV. Or laptop. Or telephone. Or up my bum.

The ending makes sense but leaves FAR too many open plot holes, leaving the viewer with a slightly unsatisfied cynicism where sentiment should be.

Some strong acting from Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H Macy, and believe it or not Tobey McGuire. Reese Witherspoon is also in it.

Overall, a sweet natured if naive flick, with some striking imagery, strong FX, and an unusual take on the old skool formula of sending a contemporary teenager back in time.

Marvel Phase 1 ( part one ) - August 2014

After viewing Captain America Part Kinda sorta 2 The Depressingly Vapid Villain, Tazer decided this morning to take on an Avengers Marathon and has just finished the first three parts of "Phase One." He feels the need to needlessly share his opinions.

"Iron Man" is probably the best of the bunch; dark, adult where it needs to be, consistently fun, far less in-jokey than it could've been and let's face it Downey Jr is ridiculously good as rich bitch Iron Man creator, Tony Stark. A good set-up for the character, taking it's sweet time over the first, dark hour, and a nice trailer for things to come. Unexpectedly strong and clear-eyed direction from Jon Favreau. Jeff Bridges is genuinely menacing as the villain. Terrible battle of the bots ending though. We'll see a lot of this in the coming films.

"The Incredible Hulk" benefits from three things - strong and committed turns from Ed Norton as Bruce Banner and Tim Roth as the cruel solider who becomes his CGI nemesis; and terrifically slick direction by some french guy who did The Transporter or something. The FX are surprisingly good in the main, with some good interaction between Hulk and real folks. Nice in-jokes for those who know, but taken seriously where it needs to be. Fucks up on the Hulk Rage aspect with far too many weird emotional facial expressions, meaning that it overplays it's empathy card far too often. Surely the idea is to feel for the tortured Banner, and fear the Hydesque Hulk?

"Iron Man 2" has been unfairly played down as the runt of the "phase one" litter. It's an excellent film, slowly deepening the characters and adding a nice level of darkness and mortality without sacrificing Downey Jr's lightness of touch. He handles the emotional scenes with great punch. Don Cheadle ( here playing Stark's military buddy, Rhodes ) is never going to be bad in anything, ever, so that's a plus, and Mickey Rourke - though massively underused - is committed to his tortured and greiving laser-whip Russian villain. Nice additions to the cast from Scarlett Johanssen in her first of far too many portrayals of Black Widow, and Sam Rockwell as the sub-Stark money behind the villain character, some truly strong action scenes, great chemistry between Jr and Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and a super final set-piece. Borrows a LITTLE too much from Robocop 2, not least of which is cranking up the squeaking sounds every time the suit moves. Not good when almost everyone in the movie ends up in an Iron Man suit. Even my dad. Far better than described. The only real loss that at no point do Scarlet Johanssen and Gwyneth Paltrow share a pillow fight that ends in exploring each other for an evening. Or two.

"Thor" - great fun, nicely judged, classical direction from Branagh that allows for strong characterisation, witty dialogue, and an early group of exciting set-pieces. As with all Marvel movies, once the characters are set up there's no where to go so they throw another big robot at the superheroes which they defeat with great ease. This is the best Tom Hiddleston has been as the pained, mischievous Loki, a freshly raw and emotional performance. He will never be this well written, handled, or performed again.

"Captain America" is just a rollicking adventure of a film, set as it is during World War part two : This Shit Just Got Real. Strong, clear direction from "Jurassic Park 3's" Joe Johnston, I have a major man-crush on Chris Evans ( even when he looks like his own version of man-crush as the squidgilly fxd Steve Rogers early on. ) As it's own stand-alone movie, this works as well as Iron Man, even as it rushes towards advertising Assemble ( it doesn't even have a proper sting, preferring instead to offer a trailer for AA. ) Watching this again only serves to highlight how poorly the sequel handles the Winter Soldier aspects so deftly drawn in this ( trying not to spoiler things for people here. ) This is also where continuity begins to slide out of whack, as each new director and set of writers are beginning to lose sight of the set-ups from earlier movies.

"Avengers Assemble" is where the rot really seems to set in. It's a hard ask for anyone to draw all these characters together, so Whedon kind of has his hands bound anyway. But his is an overly jokey script with a LOT of McGuffin fudging ( how does Thor get there? What IS the Tesseract? Why are the Chitari so willing to go to war and what are they? Robots? Aliens? Robot aliens? Who the hell is the purple faced turd in the end sting? Why is the major character death so meh? And what is the point of killing anyone in this universe when no one seems to stay dead? ) It's blandly directed, and poorly graded on DVD as a result of it's 3D origins. Whedon handles the actors well enough but the characters are cipher versions of themselves, there to make appropriate witticisms or exposition based on their viewpoints, but never growing shades. In retrospect, Mark Ruffalo isn't a patch on Ed Norton's Hulk, and seems out of place here. The FX are strong but there is some surprisingly shoddy CG and editing. It is in this film where audience intelligence starts getting thrown out the window, as Whedon adopts clever-clever dialogue to paper over the gaping cracks in logic. The biggest sin, however is in Whedon's treatment of Loki - here a panto dame that everyone gets to undermine, there is no menace in him - Hiddleton seems compromised, bringing none of the raw grit he had in Thor, and none of the emotion. Too often he's a punchline. This is not a good film, but to be fair it is witty, pacy, and does what it says on the tin.

Right, before phase two It's time for a triple bill palette cleanser - "Deliverance," "Straw Dogs," and "Pulp Fiction."

Shakespeare Night – September 2014

So Shakespeare eve is coming to a close. Watched "Rosencrantz andGuildenstern are Dead." A raw, messy, amazingly written and beautifully performed film, some gorgeous visuals and genuinely impressive acting from Tim Roth and Gary Oldman in particular as the titular, Laurel and Hardy-esque characters. A treat.

Next up, an RSC filmed version of their nineties version of "A Midsummer's Night Dream." A great play and a lovely version, strong performances from the group and lovely TV-stage confined visuals. Some silly bookending involving a blank eyed grinning child to explain the dream aspect - stupid but ignorable - but a lovely reading of the text.

Then came Julie "The Lion King's Tampon Bed" Taymore's disgrace of a film, "Titus." One of Will's more violent and childish plays, this is hideously misjudged, from the ridiculously OTT music video costumes, aesthetic, and production "design" ( think Jean Paul Gautier meets Baz Luhrman but thrice gay ) to the terribly misjudged casting. Laura Fraser. Alan Cummings. Jessica Lang doing her best "acting" as the goth queen. And most abortion inducing of all, fucking Jonathon Rhyce Myers squeaking like a teenaged girl discovering her periods at the same time as discovering she's pregnant. Smothered by Taymor's insistence on weird, entirely needless theatrics, shouty, terrible acting, and wholeheartedly AWFUL direction, the film has some solid cinematography. But then, it's a film. Most films have that. Alan Cumming takes the award for most miscast villain EVER. But the absolute shock is how genuinely, terribly, hilariously dreadful Hannibal Lecter is in the title role. Awkward, loud, dead-eyed and dull, when he's not yelping weird noises like a recently ball-chopped donkey, he's butchering the dialogue like someone who's just learned the lines and can't quite fathom their meaning. Just terrible.

Guardians of the Galaxy – September 2014

So Guardians of the Galaxy - pretty good. What works about it is all down to James Gunn, who is a significantly better film-maker and writer than Joss Whedon ( TV snark-master with no visual eye who constantly seems overwhelmed by everything ) and knows how to pace and juggle wit, character, fx, genuine emotion, and story with the larger crap that Marvel continuously foists on us. Yes the end is straight out of the Marvel playbook but it's set in space, so of course we're gonna get space-battles and in this instance they're fun. It also helps that Gunn knows how to up the emotional stakes so that when we lose someone, it's not just a meh moment ( I'm looking at YOU Avengers! )

All the characters work, and all the actors fit. I have a new man-crush on Chris Pratt playing the hilarious over-ego that is "Starlord," which is offset by finding Zoe Salamander most slinky in her green makeup and PVC costuming. It's great to see Gunn's regular cast slathered throughout, with special mention for the always awesome Michael Rooker and Gunn's Troma alumni brother Sean Gunn ( I'm a fan so, you know, whatevs ) and the lovely notion of low-rent guts'n'tits Troma production company head Lloyd Kaufman's cameo rubbing shoulders with Stan Lee's increasingly stupid and continuity-busting ones.

This is the one Marvel film that stands alone outside the by-now tedious universe. I could watch this again and not give a toss where it fits in the universe.

Where it fails is where all Marvel movies fail : twelve rating blah, over-reliance of sludgy looking CG, no new story to tell ( bad guys are trying to destroy something, good guys get together to stop them, then DO stop them ) and a fear of anything different. That Gunn manages to slip in some pretty OTT Gunnisms ( the blink and you'll miss it semen-splashed everywhere Pollack reference for example ) is credit to his writing wit and directing panache. He also has quite the eye for lovely space visuals.

It's an okay movie elevated by an anarchic artist working on his best behaviour.

Marvel is boring me now. And if that sludgy purple computer baddie is the next Avenger's villain they'd better work out how to place him onscreen better, coz right now he looks like unset jelly.

Brazil - September 2014

So Brazil then – God I hate Terry Gilliam.

His style is so visually noisy, so filled with “detail” ( in other words clutter ) and so stupidly designed ( in this case : the pointless windows in front the TVs, the ridiculously garish costumes ( oh yes, I get the point about classes, the same way I would if he had his characters walking around saying “ya ya ya I'm bettah than evurryone” ), the placement of bizarre props and sound fx in EVERY shot, the stream-punk production design that simply wouldn't EVER exist etc ) the sheer VOLUME OF EVERYTHING GOING ON IN EVERY FRAME INCLUDING THE SOUNDS AND THE MUSIC AND HEY ARE YOU GETTING THE POINT YET EVERYTHING IS SATIRICALLY OVER THE TOP BECAUSE THIS IS SOME IMAGINED LEFT-WING IDEA OF WHAT THE FUTURE WOULD BE LIKE IF GIVEN OVER TO THE RIGHT WING.

It's filled with stupid, stupid quirks in every single moment of the movie distracting from the bland plot and hideous acting. The women with braces for no reason, the rubber face-lift mask and cellophane joke ( nice homophobic cliche by the way, making Jim Broadbent's beauty consultant hugely flaming, ) the completely impractical and dated “futuristic” elements ( again yes, it's supposedly a satire so everything is deliberately OTT, which would be fine if every other movie Gilliam makes didn't exhibit EXACTLY these same quirks, irrespective of the genre, to the point he has BECOME a genre in himself thus robbing Brazil of any unique power it might have, and doesn't explain why the typewriters look like they do ) that give the impression that hey, Terry Gilliam just likes this stuff and he's an auteur, so sod everyone else.

Gilliam's style is so strangely ADD that even in simple shots of someone typing he has to grotesque up the shot with strange lenses.
It's just a frustrating, frustrating style to watch. It feels like this film is quite well written under all the noise, but I can't tell because I keep noticing all the idiotic Terry Gilliam details ( and the soundtrack just continues to SCREAM at me!! ) Why does Jonathon Pryce's car look the way it does? Because Terry Gilliam, that's why. Why is there NO moment of silence, even in Pryce's dreams ( which would at least contrast the noise of the world he lives in )? Because Terry Gilliam, that's why. Why does Robert De Niro's completely hamfisted comedy performance end in him achieving a completely impossible zip-line escape down bizarrely rendered fx buildings? Because Terry Gilliam, that's why. Why does Jonathon Pryce have blue make-up on in his fantasy? Seems pretty specific. Terry Gilliam.

There doesn't actually appear to be a plot. Things just happen in this movie. It's like a series of student sketches all about exactly the same thing : isn't bureaucracy awful? As someone who has been  mired in constant battles with Social Welfare I certainly recognise the frustrations presented but it's all lost in the overwhelmingly over the top noise of the film where even the inside of a BUS has to be bizarrely steam-punked up. Because, you know, Terry Gilliam.

Gilliam does not make good movies because Gilliam spends the entirety of his shoots obsessing about ridiculous things ( see The Hamster Factor doc and laugh as everyone seems to think that his obsession with a hamster and a hamster wheel in the back of a shot is somehow indicative of his attention to detail and genius, as opposed to what it is - vastly wasteful and disturbingly psychotic. )

This is NOT a good movie. People like it, that's fair enough. I would aver the suggestion that they like it because they think they're being given something clever and liberal and that's how they like to think of themselves. It's too self-absorbed to make any lasting political comment, and too cartoonish to feel like it's even trying.

And what the hell is with that hideous shrieking panto singing telegram. It's just indicative of the complete lack of logic Gilliam exhibits in his every useless, ugly, loud, obnoxious, needless and grotesque decision.

Just terrible.

Well folks, on that bombshell I move on. Always good to leave on an angry high, no?

Next one will be up in a week, keep reading, and know that I assume that every time someone remains silent, they are complicit in the bile.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Facebook film reviews - collected 5

Al my movie reviews under one roof - part 5
Still milking this shit with reductive results with each new instalment

You're right - you should have killed me when you had the chance! But it's harder to kill than even YOU might have thought. Isn't it? So on with my angry, angry reviews!

Starship Troopers 3 - August 2014

So Starship Troopers 3 - a significant jump in quality on part 2, returning to the satirical tone of the original but without the intelligent, punkish direction ( it's directed and written by Ed Neumeier ) or clever plotting of same. The return of original grunt Johnny Rico ( Casper Van Dien ) brings about a search, rescue, and destroy plot completely at odds with the tone and themes. This time around the satirical laughs are tempered by a spectacular bitterness towards religion that takes hamfisted and generalised potshots at the cross-over of religion and the military without really taking the time to hone the satire into sharp points. It's a better film than two, still with the same budgetary restrains meaning the same three sets are recycled over and over from different angles, and adds points for silly humour while detracting them for it's mean-spirited and under-researched attacks on hot topic religion. Terrible acting and awful sound-mix means everything sounds like dirt. It's a fun retake on the monster flick but misses a lot in comparison with the original. Worth a look though for the final summation, which should be a chilling indictment on the use of religion to justify war, but personally just made me laugh at left-wing propaganda.

Coriolanus - August 2014

So watched Ralph Fiennes directorial debut, the hugely disappointing “Coriolanus” today. 

A grim, joyless, grey and blank faced film version of one of Shakespeare's lesser read, bloodier plays, Fiennes has made the decision to set the Rome-based play in some indiscriminate Gulf-War era meaning that all the war footage has the over-familiar shakey-cam quality and look of a Hurt Locker or a Green Zone, instantly feeling second hand and outmoded.

Following Fiennes' single-minded returning war-hero general Martius as he is forced into joining with his sworn enemy Tullus ( the ever-thrilling Gerard Butler ) by the rioting people and corrupt politicians of a “Rome” that closer resembles the Gaza strip than any part of Italy I've ever seen, Fiennes admirably allows his cast to deliver Shakespeare in a naturalistic, unshowy way but this quickly becomes dull as dishwater as everyone ends up speaking in a completely unnatural whisper in order to seem “real,” even in the back of cars, crowds, or battle.

Much like “Robocop,” Fiennes uses the device of television news to split the “action” with discourse and exposition, but rather than utilising Robos cartoon-satire to poke angry fun, this only serves to take away from the intensity of the play, adds a slightly patronising tone that makes the audience feel like Fiennes doesn't trust you to understand what's going on without being spoon-fed, and hands you the hilariously awful sight of Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow “acting” Shakespeare.

Yet, conversely there's a strange lack of give in the way the script presents the dialogue, especially at the beginning – traditionally the five or ten minutes it takes for an audience to get up to speed with the rhythm and poetry of the dialogue. Instead we're given splashes of dialogue interspersed with silent moments of handheld camera-shot soldiers running around film-soldier gesturing and shooting in close-up, never allowing the audience to get into the flow. Meaning it's a good twenty minutes before the viewer can get used to the dialogue and style and therefore taking another twenty to figure out who the hell everyone is.

There is the feel of the “luvvie” all through this film, and the seriousness with which Fiennes and his cast undertakes to present this excellent and angry play becomes increasingly hilarious with each squinted “acting” face and directorial touch Fiennes adds to make this Shakespearean adaptation feel relevant and documentary like. From the characters who smoke purely to show we're modern, to the reining of exploding shells that cease suddenly when the main characters have finished having their wee fight, to the babbling crowd sound ADR slapped over clearly silent rabbles listening intently to the whispering dialogue at the front.

If you think you're saying something by invoking the Gulf War then you've lost touch with reality, it's an easy catch-all that makes you look a lot less clever than you think. Why not set the movie during the Troubles? It may not be relevant but it'd be a brave move. Hell, you already have James Nesbitt in there. He played Ivan Cooper and everything.

Fiennes shoots almost everything in close or mid to favour the actors, ironically staging-up his shakey-cam movie, while the action and fight scenes feel like seen-it-all-before re-runs of far more successful war movies. But on stage. There's a hilarious moment during Martius' explosion at the people he served as they banish him for his thuggishness, when the camera – in one take - wibble wobbles, zoomy zooms, dutch angles and rights itself and ultimately defocusses all but Fiennes in case the audience doesn't get that he is vewy, vewy angwy. It completely robs the moment of power and the dialogue of meaning because as a viewer your focus is now elsewhere.

The acting is strong, but one-note ( perhaps not surprisingly given the singular drive of the play ) and Fiennes makes the classic Branagh mistake of casting internationally, meaning accents fly all over the shop ( he makes the leaders of the dissent Italian, an obvous sop to “the people” ) which often makes it difficult to understand what is being said, or what is going on. Honours go to Gerard Butler for his grit, anger and soul; to Brian Cox for being another variation of Brian Cox in a movie; and to Jessica Chastain for being completely and utterly and hilariously out of place with her shallow performance and lisping fake rada accent.

I love Shakespeare. I love when film adaptations do it right, as so few do. When done right you get Gandalf's “Richard the third” and Hamlet's “Henry V.” When done wrong you get the hideously over-wrought and disco-club camp of Baz Luhrman's “Romeo + Juliet.”

At their worst, like here, Will adaptations fail to get across to a movie audience why theatre actors and directors are so in love with him. One reason I will always stand behind and defend “Shakespeare in Love” is that it got this across, it got the joy, and sorrow, and passion of a Shakespeare play. It was intelligent and foolish, fun and melancholic. Most film adaptations singularly fail in this, preferring instead to insularly spout the dialogue in an actorly way and set it somewhere modern.

Technically, there is nothing too wrong with this film, the editing is crisp, the lensing strong if grey and repetitive, the music driving if a little mickey mouse from time to time ( I understand he's sad, movie, because by framing him at a distance on his lonesome in the one wide shot this film can afford, gets this across. ) But by shooting everything so close with a wobbling camera it feels like a student exercise, or worse like a play rehearsal being shot on camcorder. It may serve the actors but serves only to frustrate the audience, especially when the desperation of actors “doing Shakespeare justice” comes across so strongly.

To quote Gerard Butler : “thou hast a grim appearance.”

Oh yeah – and guns aren't swords. Stop thinking you're being clever and just change the word “sword” to “gun.” Shakespeare won't mind. He's already rolling in his grave.

Locke – August 2014

Locke” then – an interesting idea made slightly dull by stagey writing and a montagey directing style that never allows the image to settle, and as such robs the strong concept of tension and the claustrophobia it desperately requires.

Tom Hardy essentially gives a one-man show as a slowly unravelling Welsh cement-pumper(!) making the snap decision to travel to the birth of the illicit child of a one-night stand. The film takes place in real-time in and around his car as he travels to London.

The idea is a sound one, and Tom Hardy gives a restrained, genuinely charismatic and human performance, fielding phone-calls from his increasingly angry wife, a drunk co-worker he is talking through a big cement-pumping job(!) and the woman who is having his child. He is a compelling actor but it's a struggle to watch a film where much of the dialogue is made up of cement-pumping instructions and quandaries, and distracting that he is needlessly Welsh.

Writer and director Stephen Knight struggles to maintain tension with various contrivances, from Hardy unrealistically monologuing to himself when he's not on the phone ( why not employ silence to add tension ), to convenient problems with the birth, and far too many over the top situations all taking place over phone-calls from actors who sound like they're in a recording studio ( my favourite being the councillor in the obviously completely empty restaurant. )

Nothing feels real, partly because of Knight's editing and shooting style, all too often shooting from outside the car which robs the film of it's intended claustrophobia and employing fades to edit the film that make it feel like we're watching a montage as opposed to a real-time movie, while his writing is massively stagey and spends much of it's time justifying itself ( why does Hardy's character have to be the BEST cement-pumper(!) in the world instead of just another cement-pumper? Why do people keep telling him this is just not like him or that he runs a tight ship? WHY does the Irish guy have to be drunk on the job? Why do no one speak like real people?) There is also no actual progression, with the same four scenarios playing out like a revolving wheel, never really going anywhere except where the plot wants them to go.

It should be the anti-Gravity ( ha! ) with silences and gently winding lo-fi tensions compelling the viewer. Instead, too much is going on but with little of actual interest. Don't care about cement pumping. Don't care about a birth that is occurring off screen. Don't care about football. Don't care about the breakdown of a marriage we never see. The characters don't feel real, they feel like contrivances to compel the plot.

Tom Hardy is excellent in the movie, conveying genuine-feeling emotions even when he's being forced to deliver stupid speeches to an empty passenger seat, so watch it for him. The writing is good for a stage play ( though it would be hard to see how to do this on stage, so it's a bit of a catch 22. ) The direction and editing are too gimmicky to allow for any kind of tension ( That's not to say that it's bad, incidentally, just that it doesn't achieve what it intends - the photography, presumably digital, is gorgeous but mundane. )

And the title is just bloody pretentious. “Locke.” Why not just call the character Mr Trapped.

The Raid 2 : Raid Harder - August 2014

The Raid 2 : Raid Harder! Well, it's long. It's very, very long. One could even say, for what it is - an ambitiously plotted martial arts thriller - it's OVER long.

Befitting it's history, this is a film of two VERY different styles - writer director editor and welsh man Gareth Evans initially intended this to be his first movie, but budget constraints meant he had to produce The Raid first; when THAT was one of the most over-hyped yet successful action movies of the last five years, it meant he had the clout not only to produce his much more ambitious gangster war flick, but use the hype of his successful debut to sell it as The Raid 2, even though technically it isn't, with Evans tacking on a rather silly and underused undercover cop plot hanging over from The Raid, to his already written Asian gangster war flick.

Like The Raid, this has been massively overhyped. It's not a bad movie, not at all, but as others have pointed out a lot of the flaws, I'll try and concentrate on it's positives by way of a riposte.

First off the fights - they're excellent, and unlike The Raid don't form the entirety of the running time. They are far more organically placed within the plot, are tough, cartoonish, yet brutal - almost depressingly so. Whereas in The Raid, star Iko Uwais' sudden, completely un-introduced ability to smash everyone's face in came from nowhere, in this film it has been established and is developed into far better placed sequences which come from the circumstances of the story as opposed to The Raid's almost pornographic need to shove a fight scene in every five minutes.

I'm not convinced that fight fans will be put off by the plot - if they've sat through some of the Seagal, Van Damme, and Norris films I've sat through they'll WELCOME the storyline. Not everyone who watches fight movies fast forward through the talking scenes. Most people who watch this movie WON'T be looking for the Godfather, they'll have seen The Raid, will be aware of it's myriad narrative and plotting flaws, and will know what to expect going in. What they'll get is an unexpectedly ambitious, and relatively successful - if standard - martial arts thriller.

To decry a martial arts movie for having a plot is strange; for me, the plot was no different, or worse than ANY other Asian martial arts or two-fist-gun-fight movie and in fact was a step up by virtue of it's ambition. It was confused and confusing, and very very messy, but at least it was there and like many Asian martial arts flicks was trying to cram as much in as possible, alongside the awesome fight scenes.

The addition of new antagonists such as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man was welcome but very underused - their individual fight scenes technically excellent but somewhat devoid of emotion. They could have easily been cut, or placed anywhere in the film. 

HOWEVER - whether or not the hammer scene in Oldboy is superior, doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to do it in other movies - in fact this scene, hammer and baseball bat, is homaging the Vengeance trilogy completely, and in the same way as horror movie directors often reference their peers or masters while trying to one-up them ( see Wes Craven and Sam Raimi ) this scene is simply sending a little love-letter to Chan Wook Park. And why not?

The use of Yayan Ruhain ( Mad-dog in the first Raid ) as a new character in this presented no problems to the film, or to me. Sergio Leone was fond of reusing actors in his Dollars trilogy, and Tarantino homaged this by using Michael Parks as two characters in Kill Bill one and two, so I see no problem with Evans going ahead and doing that here. I believe he was one of the fight choreographers on these movies too. So he was already on set. Why not stick him in there?

Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It has flaws in tone and plotting, and is FAR too long but to be honest in a world where people spend entire weekends watching Breaking Bad boxsets and call that long form narrative, I'm not so sure this is a bad thing in a film. It's musical score is mimimalistic and doesn't hold the surface thrill of Mike Shinoda's hip-hop inspired original. The main character disappears for long stretches in favour of a seen-it-all before Asian warlords plot. And the two plot strands rarely come together.

However, the fight sequences are excellent, well placed, don't over-run the film, the action overall is VERY well directed and edited, the acting is pretty good given the nature of the movie. This is a very good action movie. I'm not sure what else anyone going into it might be expecting.

Sure, it's no Taken. But then what is?

The Muppets Sequel - August 2014

Wow! After the huge disappointments that were the massively over-hyped and entirely unworthy bullshit and morally confusing product placement that was "The Lego Movie," and the dull, smug, and hilariously middle aged dad that was "Calvary," of all things it is the Muppets Most Wanted that finally cracked a smile in my corpse-like face.

Silly, funny, properly The Muppets after the cop out that was the first movie, the songs don't sound like Conchords knock offs ( with a few exceptions ), the Muppets feel like Muppets, the plot compels, the cameos genuinely funny, and NOTHING will beat the sight of Henry Hill, Machete, and Jermaine Clement singing and dancing "I hope I get it" from a chorus line. Brilliantly funny. Tina Fey was as shite as ever but hell, you can't have everything. Oh and Ricky Gervais gave the straightest and most sincere performance opposite a muppet since Michael Caine. Just great.

Well friends, enemys, frenemys, and fuck-tuts, let's end this one on a high note!

Join me next time when I mock Plesantville for being a good movie, and widdle on Marvel. All on it's face.

See you next time, and thanks for reading.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Facebook film reviews - collected 4

All my movie review under one roof - part 4
for some reason this franchise just won't quit!

So it's April now. A LOT has happened since my last blog, there has been bereavement, I've seen some terrible movies, and I've realised just how angry a man can get on two bottles of red wine! These are all learning curves, and with that in mind I'll continue with my presentation and collection of last year's Tazer-written Facebook film reviews...

Starship Troopers 2 – July 2014

Starship Troopers 2 - if you like your sequels as underfunded, over-populated and poorly shot TV movies, this is the sequel for you! Despite being written by Ed Neumier - writer of the original, not to mention Robocop - this is a toothless blamanche of mixed message genres, from TV war movie to haunted house flick to body snatchers who-is-it thriller to ten little indians one-by-one slasher as a group of disposable troopers hole up in a matte painting to avoid having to spend money, and slowly tear themselves apart. That said, fuck it - it's still an enjoyable horror flick with some nice sequel twists on the original and despite it's uneven tone, obvious sound stage setting ( little bit of reverb on the voice would go a long way, yo ), poor digital-camera direction from FX wizard Phil Tippet, TV movie acting from a cast including discount Vincent D'Onofrio and discount Bradley Cooper ( is that even possible? ) and someone who died in the original movie, and an overall feeling that they did this coz someone gave them a fiver, it comes off as self aware, tongue in cheek, silly and great fun.

This Means War - July 2014

So finally sat down to watch This Means War after throwing a strop ten minutes into it last time, removing it from the DVD player and throwing it a cat. 

This is a hideous, cynical, ugly mess of a movie, centred around a prick tease played by a cameoing radiator woman from Eraserhead, deliberately cheating on two men played by Tom "I'm totally Gay for Tom Hardy" Hardy and that cardboard box-faced berk from Star Trek. This film is nasty in premise, and grotesque in execution, and has NO idea who it's audience is supposed to be. Chicks? Well the radiator lady is a chick flick stalwart when Cameron Diaz isn't available. While the casual violence and body count is obviously aimed at us idiot blokes who like splosions.

Everything in this movie is set up with no pay-off. A lame dip in and dip out Russian bad guy plot is used to allow for the violence. It's obvious from the start who the radiator lady will end up ( box face ( spoiler alert )) with because he has the most obvious arc, from complete prick to complete prick with a dog he bought to manipulate the prick tease, while Tom "I'm totally gay for Tom Hardy" Hardy has a good looking ex-wife and little child combo he can return to at the end.

The characters, shouted dialogue, over-puddinged shooting style, and miserable acting are frighteningly awful, like having your nose-cheese grated by a laughing bare-arsed baboon, while your parents watch, and then realising you paid a fiver for it.

This is cynical, horrible film making where we're supposed to find the uber violent men cute and the bitch lead adorable, and some how give a rats cock what happens to them. All through this aborted child of a movie our supposed protagonists treat people like shit, most obvious of all the audience, in whose face they consistently piss for over ninety minutes before finally giving up, squating over our shocked and open mouths and shitting into them.

Also it was direct by MCG.


Captain America 2 : American Pie The Winter Soldier's Wedding - August 2014

Aaaah! What a strange and ultimately disappointing movie Captain America 2 : American Pie The Winter Soldier's Wedding is!

Probably the strongest directed of the Marvel movies so far, with some interesting camera work and clever editing, some great, sparkling dialogue and the always dependable Chris Evans is on great form. 

The plot - Cap becomes embroiled in a conspiracy at SHIELD, goes rogue along with Scarlett Johannsen's needlessly returning Black Widow and Anthony Mackie's shoehorned in ex-marine, yet thrilling Falcon, and does some stuff where stuff explodes and he jumps around and plays frisbee - is overly complicated yet feels strangely undernourished and suffers from the same thing all the phase two Marvel movies are suffering from - a strange sense of deja-vu and inbreeding.

It starts off so strong : low-key and treating itself with a good mix of seriousness and self-reflexive humour. The action scenes are excellent; exciting, cool, different, utilising Cap's skills without feeling TOO contrived, while the dialogue is well written and feels natural. There's an attempt at sexual repartee between Cap and Black Widow that seems weird and out of place, given her relationship with Hawkeye in Avengers, and his own sense of loss. In fact, a big problem here is that - unlike Iron Man 3, which directly addresses the events of that film - Cap completely ignores them, leading to some glaring character continuity issues.

The plot just kind of lingers, a skeleton to hang the action on, but at least there IS one ( I'm looking at you, Thor 2 and Iron Man 3! )

However, the biggest problem is what should have been it's most exciting prospect - the winter soldier himself. His introduction is thrilling, and although we all know who he is, his reveal is clever and well executed. However, it does nothing to change the tone of the movie. Given his motivations - he HAS none - the winter soldier is just another big bad. Given who he IS, and his relationship with Cap, this should have been a grudge match to beat all grudge matches. Except - well, he's had his memory erased. So what's the point? If he has no more motivation than to be controlled by puppets, why bother having him? Why not some other bad guy? It's a disappointing turn of events to have the big bad feel so anaemic, and leads to a set of over the top but dull fight scenes that contain no emotional wallop. And that pretty much describes the rest of the movie.

In the same way that Thor 2 sold itself on the relationship between Thor and Loki yet thoroughly disappoints on that count, Cap 2 sells itself on exploring the idea that Captain America meets his match, only to discover that he is... well, if you don't know I won't spoil it. Suffice to say, it's a crushing disappointment and leaves a massive hole in what had started off as an exciting action flick ( it sells itself as being in the mould of a seventies conspiracy thriller, in particular casting Robert Redford ( who is increasingly resembling an Aardman Animation puppet ) but obviously it's not; it's a Marvel comic book movie called Captain 
America. )

Lots of explosions. Lots of jumping. The lift scene is grin-inducingly awesome. The stupid ending isn't. No emotion. And an ending that is becoming far too familiar to long-term Marvel viewers. Phase 2 is becoming a disappointing fudge, as Marvel rushes to capitalise on it's insular success, and the fact that none of the actors are getting any younger.

The performers are comfortable, and if newbie Mackie lacks the charisma of a Don Cheadle, he can console himself knowing that we all lack the charisma of a Don Cheadle, and his character is very, very cool.

It's a disappointing flick, more so because it starts off so strongly. In the end, it's just another Marvel movie, and tells the same story the last seventeen hundred have. The sting is good though.

Calvary - August 2014

Calvary then – I don't know. Overhyped to the point that it's hard to say a negative thing about it without backlash. It's not bad, not exactly, but it's terribly, terribly vapid. John Michael McDonagh  likes his westerns, with this and the Guard essentially being Irish Westerns in various uniform. Where The Guard was not only blackly funny, but also a deconstruction of the form Murphy was aping, this feels like a far straighter well-intentioned, wilfully “angry” piece. By making the only good man in a bad world a priest, McDonagh sets out his supposedly controversial stall for a sequence of meandering, empty discussions about very little, with a group of self-reflexively cliched characters we never spend more than a few seconds with, and who serve little more than to act as whodunnit fodder and a sounding board for McDonagh's empty-headed and uselessly angry musings on the usual hot topic subjects surrounding religion, never truly settling for long enough to make a mark.

Surrounding the ever-excellent ( though it has to be said so unbelievable as a priest they have to create a “I wasn't always a priest” backstory for him ) Gleeson with a vastly miscast set of Irish comedians and McDonagh regulars backfires horribly, with each character sounding laughably amateurish spouting Murphy's strong but extremely theatrical dialogue. Standouts of miscasting are the flat, wooden and just completely out of his depth Dylan Moran and the I-can't-believe-they-did-that stunt casting of Gleeson's own son as a tritely written “serial killer/rapist” in the most poorly shot sequence in the movie. Oddly enough, David McSavage is right at home in his cameo, underplaying admirably. Had he had the guts to cast ACTORS, even unknowns, maybe the film would have felt less self-important.

It's hard to know if McDonagh is going for irony ( given the western-mocking title ), or really believes his bullshit – I think he's aiming for profound here but most people seem to have taken it for an ironic statement on – something important. When his dialogue is witty, it's funny. When it's aiming for profundity it's just dull, like a drunken teenage discussion on theology overheard by the barman. The film also has an irritating habit of self-reflexively referencing how hackneyed it's own cliches are every fifteen or so minutes, consistently reminding you it's a movie while trying to discuss or at least reference subjects it ultimately has no interest it except as an expression of empty anger on behalf of – who? The victims? The country? Who exactly?

The basic premise – a good priest is told he will be murdered in a week's time – is ripe with potential, but the film meanders, flopping around the lazily drawn, poorly played and overly horrid townsfolk, poring over Western cliches and over-ripe and hugely over-written discussions on life, death, and religion, something that comedian Dave Allen would have fit into a half hour television special with twice the humour, profundity and sharpness.

There are clearly overtones of a more classical structure to the movie, mythology beyond religion. But so what? I don't know what they are.

The pace is all over the shop, choppy little scenes flickering along, cutting between locations without rhyme of reason, dropping Gleeson and co into one photogenic location after another without ever seguing between. There are some scenes that could be shifted to any place in the movie, and to be quite honest it wouldn't make a bit of difference to the plot.

By hanging his self-important nonsense on a good-sheriff in a bad town skeleton he's only serving to remind us of better, far more lucid, far less pretentious spiritual westerns such as High Planes Drifter, especially since absolutely NONE of the characters are in any way believable, being as they are ciphers for John Michael McDonagh's higher-self-belief.

The ending aims for a too-late profundity it simply has not earned.

By the time the guns come out it's just another dull paddy gangsta flick.

It's not a bad movie. But it's badly acted, stupidly miscast, trite, laughably blunt, and doesn't have the balls to be what it actually wants to be about – whatever that is. A film of integrity? Nah. Just another wannabe western. A disappointment.

And on that disappointment I shall end, leaving you to linger in the limbo of sadness that is current Irish Entertainment. Hope you enjoyed, laughed, angrily spat at, or just quietly read with one of your private parts out, my bile-filled little reviews. As ever, if you disagree, and can be arsed, please feel free to argue, comment, piss in my open mouth while I sleep, or tangle me up in legal proceedings until the day I die.

Talk later you beautiful princes of maine...