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!


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