Archive for August, 2009

More Shoddy Film Reviews

August 19, 2009

I was at Blockbusters again this weekend and I saw four more films.  Here are my half-arsed reviews!

The Good The Bad The Weird

As the name suggests this is a homage to spaghetti westerns, although surprisingly this is a Korean movie set in Manchuria in the 1930s.  Like any spaghetti western there is plenty of back stabbing, gun-fighting and intrigue.  It’s also weirdly like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  The action is frenetic, it’s very silly and really good fun.

Watchmen

I must confess I haven’t read the comic book.  Sorry… graphic novel.

This film is a whopping two and a half hours and it densely packs most of it with ideas and story.  It’s kind of like one year of soap opera episodes compressed into less than three hours.  This doesn’t leave much space for emotional involvement with the characters (of which there are many) or to astound us with jaw-dropping action.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so entirely given over to just story telling.

Thankfully the story is compelling enough to just about pull this off.

The story has some stiff competition for our attention though.  The music choices in this movie are absolutely horrible and add nothing.  Slow-mo peppers the film and I have personal bugbear about slow-mo.  The tone of the movie wobbles all over the place – which probably works beautifully in a comic book but seems a little jarring in this context.

There are a lot of problems is what I’m trying to tell you.  I’d say Watchmen is a curio: it mostly works despite itself but it is not really a good film in the classic sense.

Still, I’ve just ordered the Watchmen book so clearly the film has made an impression.  Your milage may vary.

Valkyrie

A story of the German Resistance during WWII.  Starring Tom Cruise.  Hmmmm…

Tom Cruise spends the whole movie being incongruous.  He’s a big Hollywood movie star playing a German with an American accent.  Wearing an eye patch.  And a Nazi uniform.  And has two fingers missing.  And a hand missing.  He could give the greatest performance of his career and no one would notice because FUCK ME IT’S TOM CRUISE PLAYING A GREAT BIG NAZI WHO CAN’T DO A NAZI SALUTE.  BECAUSE HIS HAND IS MISSING!  He’s just too big a star for this role, which isn’t really his fault.  In fact I think it’s admirable that Cruise has the balls to try out such a risky role.  But the film makers should have realised that expecting the audience to swallow Cruise as a two-fingered, Nazi cyclops is just too big an ask.

Other than that the script is pure Hollywood chewing gum and I can’t help but feel that the mostly British cast is there to make it seem more substantial than it is.

I think it’s a worthwhile story and a brave effort but it’s let down by some bum notes in the script and poor choice of star.  Overall an average film.

Waltz with Bashir

More War!  This time it’s about Israelis fighting in the Lebanon in 1982.  The director of this animated film goes on a journey to try to work out what memories he has suppressed from the war.  The animation is computer generated in what I would describe as 2.5D and is a great match for the unrushed, reflective tone of the film.

This film takes us through the stories of several men and their experiences of war.  The differences in their accounts and their attitudes about what happened are fascinating and should interest anyone who’s interested in psychology and memory.

I’ll warn you now that this is ultimately a depressing film.  These men find themselves caught up in atrocities that draw parallels with Nazi Germany.  Not one of the men is so crass as to say that they were only following orders but it often seems those words are on the tip of their tongue.

I was quite affected by it and if you think you can stomach such depressing discussions of the human condition then I’d highly recommend you watch it.

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More Short Film Reviews

August 9, 2009

So this weekend I had another journey to Blockbuster and saw another four films.  Since I haven’t got anything else to post this week here’s a couple of super-short and scrappy film reviews.

Step Brothers

Will Ferrell and John C Reilly reprise their Talledega Nights double act as two middle-aged men that haven’t grown up suddenly forced to live together.  There’s some great jokes in here but for me the movie is stolen by Richard Jenkins playing their increasingly weary dad and Adam Scott playing their Tom Cruise-alike over-achieving brother.  It’s pretty funny but the lack of any real story makes it entirely unmemorable – you’ll laugh, you just won’t remember why.

Franklyn

If ever there was a movie headed for cult-dom, this is it.  Essentially it’s about four different people and their separate stories (one of them in a separate dimension!) and how they inter-link.  It looks fantastic being beautifully shot and designed.  The problem is that the dialogue is bland with every character talking in clichés.  It’s as if the characters only act and speak as a means of reaching the denouement making the majority of the film a rather dry, emotionless experience.  Having said that I can definetly see this film having a long shelf life if it finds it’s audience.  Two of the main characters are artists (who just happen to be played by the two most attractive actors in the cast), the mildly pretentious storyline and appearance of this film will have endless appeal for the arty crowd.  OK, I sound a bit snide but ultimately I enjoyed it despite it’s flaws and I reckon the director, Gerald McMorrow, is worth keeping an eye on.

The Mummy: The Tomb of the Chinese Mummies who aren’t mummies

Yeah, I know: the third Mummy film, what was a I thinking?  I thought the last two were dumb fun, but fun nonetheless so this third installment might pass a couple of hours enjoyably enough.  My expectations weren’t high.  It slavishly imitates Indiana Jones and falls short.  It slavishly imitates the previous Mummy films which imitate Indiana Jones and falls short.

Ultimately it’s an entirely predictable romp with the only highlights being a couple of quirky little moments.  The live cast were largely upstaged by an animatronic yak and some CGI yetis.  Yes, yetis.

I imagine you had no plans to watch this film – I won’t try to change your mind.

Burn After Reading

Every Coen Brothers movie I’ve seen seems to be about a plan going wrong (maybe with the exception of Barton Fink – and even that’s debatable).  This is basically about a whole chain of events that gets ridiculously out of hand.  I’d explain where it all starts but to be honest that’d make it seem rather dull.  The joy of this film is watching these loathsome characters get deeper into the shit in a bizarre karmic loop.  What can I say, it’s the Coen Brothers – if you’ve liked their previous films then you should see this.

In Which I Review Four Films and an Exhibition

August 3, 2009

That sounds rather grand doesn’t it, but this weekend I went to a museum where I found a pleasant surprise and then watched four DVDs over the weekend.

So first here’s four very quick and sloppy film reviews

Bolt: The script is very derivative: a little bit from Toy Story, a little bit from the Aristocats, a little bit of the Truman Show.  Having said all of that it’s rather sweet with a few excellent jokes and makes for a solid 80 mins of entertainment.  As a side note I’ve noticed how even the most blandly designed cartoon seems to have gorgeous end credits – how does that happen?

The Young Victoria: Beautifully filmed and well acted, this film does have one major problem.  The story is pretty much about those great British (and dare I say German) attributes of stoicism, patience and “biding-your-time”.  All very admirable but these attributes are dull to watch because it takes an age for anything to actually happen.  For example, near the start of the film Victoria’s father threatens to thump her and she doesn’t get her revenge until about an hour later.  A quiet, dignified, understated revenge.  Admirable but hardly dramatic.  She should’ve got a shootah and blown ‘is fuckin’ ‘ead off.  Anyway if you like costume dramas and want a change from Jane bloody Austen then you could do much worse than watch this.

Anvil: Meet heavy metal’s least successful marriage!  These guys are lovable.  They look like Statler and Waldorf with long black hair and they know they won’t have that hair for very much longer and then the game will be up.  And see how many Spinal Tap references you can spot.

Quantum of Solace:
I don’t think Daniel Craig’s Bond can be left for five minutes in a room with another man without repeatedly thumping his face into a wall until unconcious and then stealing his wallet.  Beneath all the kung-fu and parkhour trimmings, the structure here is classic Bond: A slimy, wealthy bad guy with seemingly unlimited resources has a crazy, nefarious plan.  Bond and baddie have stand off resulting in baddie’s various attempts on Bond’s life killing almost everyone except Bond.  In the end the matter is resolved in some enormous structure (a warehouse, a warship, a space station, a volcano or in this case, weirdly enough, a hotel) where the baddie is finally dispatched in the most horrible way possible (with bonus points for irony).  So far, so predictable, except QoS has some nice little twists on the formula made possible by Bond’s new found volatility.  The time whizzes by and it’s pretty good fun.  It’s not as good as Casino Royale but that’s hardly a crime.

An Exhibition

If you’ve ever lived in a block of flats then you’ll know how fascinating it is to pop into a neighbouring flat and see what they’ve done with the same space.  The photographer Mark Cowper knows this feeling better than most as he’s photgraphed all 42 flats in his block; all from the same angle.  It’s fascinating to see the pictures and the descriptions of who lives there.

See a preview here.

The exhibition is at the Geffrye Museum which is a fantastic space, and free entry to boot.  Don’t miss it.