Monday, March 29, 2010

Review - Cop Out (2010)

“I was in the moment and the moment said smack ya.”

Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan
Screenplay: Robb Cullen, Mark Cullen

Plot: Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and Paul Hodges (Morgan) are two New York Cops which are considered a joke by most of the department. During a suspension they get caught up in an underworld power play when one of them has an expensive baseball card stolen from him.

Okay people lets all jump aboard the hate train and really rant and rave about this movie. Oh hang on a minute I laughed when I was watching this, I left feeling pretty good, I heard the audience laugh as well. Maybe just maybe this is a funny movie that doesn’t really attempt to be anything else. By the powers of Greyskull we might be on to something.

Now we’ve got that out of the way let me say that in my mind this is the worst movie in Kevin Smith’s catalogue but that doesn’t mean it’s an atrocious film. It has its flaws but I can’t really trash a movie that made me laugh and made me feel chipper on a bad day. There has to be something merit worthy.

Acting wise Bruce Willis does his normal thing acting all tough and sarcastic. This is basically John Mcclaine but on a smaller scale, no terrorists to fight this time. Tracy Morgan is where the movie really hinges. Either you will really like what he does or you’ll be so annoyed that you want to rip your hair out. I as you can tell actually liked him in the role but then again I’m a fan of 30 Rock. Oh and I will say the Juan Carlos Hernandez who plays Raul is so over the top it really annoyed me. Consider that for a minute. In a movie that has Tracy Morgan doing his over the top thing another actor actually in my mind out did Morgan for ham acting.

I have to give one thing to Kevin Smith and that is it looks pretty good and he does move the camera about. If you know Smith movies then you know that any camera movement must be encouraged as he loves the static shot. But there is no real style that stands out and here comes the huge problem I have with this movie. They got Kevin Smiths role arse backwards. I watch a Kevin Smith movie for the script he writes not for his directorial style which is pretty much designed just to get the job down. While it’s great to see Smith stretch himself a little I do miss the dialogue he creates.

The plot has some funny moments but its not continuous laughter and is really something that you watch once and then discard. I would of liked a bit more on Morgan’s character and how the hell he is a cop. There just seems to be a lot missing from the movie, it’s more a gag machine than anything else, and something like that works in sitcoms but doesn’t for a full run movie.

Watch the movie and you may get a few laughs just don’t expect an incredible film. I really hope Smith gets back to his own scripts as that’s what I’m really here for. Don’t believe the negativity of the movie. Sure there are flaws but it could be worse, so much worse.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shut If Down!

Due to some personal stuff I will be taking a week or so off from writing reviews. I really blame a glitch in the matrix. Anyway with yesterdays Green Zone review I wasn't all there so the best is to go away and come back fresh even if it's just a week of me doing nothing. I thought seeming that I have followers (thanks for reading by the way) I should give a heads up.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review - Green Zone (2010)

Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Brendon Gleeson, Greg Kinnear, Jason Issac
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland

Plot: US Army Officer Miller hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in the early stages of the Iraq War. However after a few missions which fail to yield any WMD’s he starts to ask questions about the Intel source. It leads Miller to hunt down a general of Sadam Hussain’s by the name of Al Rawi.

This was a good movie, the acting was on par and I was very interested in what was happening. Shame I could hardly concentrate on the screen thanks to the horrid camera work. It just frustrates me to no end that this shaky camera work is used when it doesn’t need to be. I’ll except the argument that the camera adds to the action as it makes the audiences’ feel the dizziness of the fight, the not being able to comprehend everything but do we need a shaky cam for a press conference? At the end of the day it comes down to Paul Greengrass and the look that he is after. For one I want to really know what he was trying to accomplish as maybe I’m missing something.

Acting wise we have some pretty solid performances but nothing that the actors haven’t accomplished before. Now Bourne has been used as the reference point mainly thanks to the marketers of the movie. I really wish they didn’t as Matt Damon as Miller is very different. It’s unfair to lump this in with the other Bourne movies. I’ve also got a soft spot for Brendon Gleeson as Martin Brown, his character offers the audience a reasonable approach to the Iraq situation yet at the same time it as a tinge of reality that many people may not want to except. Greg Kinnear is also good as the Washington stooge Clark Poundstone and while being extreme with his beliefs you can’t fully boo the man. Every character added to the message of the movie and I’m glad they got capable actors so they could make the most of what they had.

Green Zones greatest strength is it gives a measured message. What would seem right has strings attached, and what is wrong might be the most effective. Also there is a strong voice from the Iraq people which was very nice to see represented in the form of complicated characters. Unlike that other recent Iraq War movie Hurt Locker this movie is about the message.

I wish I could recommend this movie but everything that is done well is just wrecked by the camera work. Of course people might get a lot out of the movie so consider this due warning. Next time I hope Greengrass tries to do something different visually because there is so much right in his films it’s disappointing to see it get ruined.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HBA: Top Ten Supernatural List

Horror Blogger Allliance has just released it's first Top Ten films and I was part of the process. Woot me for being part of the solution and not the problem. Anyway I thought as a way to keep tabs on my stuff etc that everytime this happens I will post the overall results from HBA and then throw up my list. One thing to note my top ten is not in any order and the HBA list is.

If people want my reasons for my choices they can call me out on the films. I'll defend them as much as I can. As for the HBA list there is only one movie that I have a problem with on the list and it's more a personal preference. That movie The Shining. It all has to do with Jack Nicholsons acting. He is a great madman, problem is there is no decent into madness he's just mad in this movie and gets madder. Don't worry though sport fans if it came down to this movie and the mini series i'm picking this movie. Sorry Mr King.

HBA List
1. The Shining
2. The Haunting
3. Poltergeist
4. The Exorcist
5. The Changeling
6. The Fog
7. Suspiria
8. The Others
9. Rosemary's Baby
10. The Legend of Hell House

My List
Silent Hill
The Exorcist
The Ninth Gate
The Frightners
Lord of Illusion
Event Horizon
In The Mouth Of Madness
Drag Me To Hell

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review - Pontypool (2008)

“Now, in our top story of today, a big, cold, dull, dark, white, empty, never-ending blow my brains out, seasonal affective disorder freaking kill me now weather-front, that'll last all day - or maybe - when the wind shifts later on, we'll get a little greenhouse gas relief from the industrial south. HAIL MARY, yea though I walk - we go to Ken Loney - in the Sunshine chopper.”

Director: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly
Screenplay: Tony Burgess

Plot: A deadly virus infects the small town of Pontypool and while there is horror on the streets, Grant Mazzy and his radio team are trying to get a clear picture of what’s happening and warn any listeners not yet infected. However their radio broadcast might be causing more problems than it solves.

I heard about Pontypool a while back and was pretty interested in the idea of a zombie movie that doesn’t concentrate on the zombies and more on individuals trapped in a radio station. In a horror movie where the horror element isn’t even present for most the film the question has to be asked where does the fear come from?

Sound is very important to this film, the call ins, the news reports and the sounds that can be heard in the background, this is were the tension and fear comes from. We are as in the dark as the main characters and every scrap of info just adds and adds to the horror. In some ways it would be a relief to see a descending horde of zombies but the unknown is always scarier. It gives the movie a unique spin and really makes it stand out of the mass of recent zombie movies.

Speaking of sound, Stephen McHattie has an awesome voice and I can really buy him as Grant Mazzy. He is the core of the movie and in the hands of a lesser actor the movie would of never of worked. When he gets going on his rants I just become mesmerized. Other actors were pretty solid except for Hrant Alianak as Dr Mendez. I won’t say he was the worst actor in the world but he didn’t really mesh with others but it wasn’t the most distracting thing.

Bruce McDonald keeps the shots pretty tight to increase the tension. The fact that he can get the most out of expressions, gestures and the one location to generate fear without throwing a boo scare at us is a major feather in his cap. If I have to nit pick the one thing that might throw people off is the origin of the infection. While I myself had no problem with it and thought it was unique, people may scoff and be thrown out of the movie because of it.

I really dug this movie and I’m so glad I managed to finally watch it. For those who are looking for something a little different in the zombie genre then go and watch this movie now. I would also recommend this movie to people who want a horror movie that doesn’t resort to gore and boo scares. Good stuff.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review - Alice In Wonderland (2010)

“I love a warm pig belly for my aching feet.”

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Fry
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton

Plot: Alice flees her engagement party and thanks to an accident falls down the rabbit hole and returns to Wonderland. There she finds out that about the Red Queens despotic rule over Wonderland and that she might just be the key to returning the White Queen back to power.

Normally I review on a Friday pretty much after I’ve come home from the cinemas, but this movie has got me so confused about how I feel that I’ve had to take a few extra days. There were many things that I liked about this movie and yet the entire overall feeling about it was one of massive disappointment. So I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to say.

Acting wise everyone is pretty solid. It would be easy to have a go at Burton bringing back Depp and Carter but you know what? They are good actors so shut the hell up. Depp in particular was good and actually made me care about the Mad Hatter. Mia Waikowska as Alice gives a very low key performance and I liked it, sure it meant that she was sometimes lost in the background thanks to the weirder elements but this wasn’t really her fault. What she provided was a heroine who was realistic in an unrealistic world. Probably stronger than those portraying the human characters are those who lend their voices to the more shall we say animalistic characters. Stephen Fry is a god amongst us and his Cheshire Cat would have to be my favourite thing about the entire movie. Paul Whitehouse is also awesome and did get many laughs out of the audience I was with thanks to the Scottish March Hare.

Visually we are in the hands of a director who knows his stuff. Wonderland is beautiful and creepy at the same time, the creatures are disturbing, and there are also little touches which add character depth, changing eye colours to denote emotion being one of these details. Probably one of my biggest disappointments is the 3d aspect of the movie. This of course was filmed in 2d and thanks to the success of Avatar was put through the 3d process to make more money. As such it is a waste of time and you can’t feel cheated as the 3d gives us nothing. In fact scenes seem to be put into the movie to lend some 3d moments and they distract more than anything else. This of course isn’t the director’s fault as I’m sure Burton got pressure from the studio but when a ticket goes from $8.50 to $19.00 you can’t help but feel angry at poor 3d.

But now we get to probably the greatest negative about this movie and the blame can only be attributed to Burton. This movie really has no soul. There is a plot but it’s not given the care that Depp’s acting or the visuals gets, and this is where people start saying that Burton just keeps on doing the same thing. My disappointment isn’t that he keeps on using the same people or using the same visual style etc but that he seems to forfeit a deeper emotional connection for these things. Mia Waikowska gives a very nuanced performance and yet she fades away because Tim Burton wants to wow us with quirk, the resolution of Alice just left me cold because there was really no build up to her characters inner resolution. There should have been another ten minutes given to the real world stuff so the audience members could care. Cut away the Mad Hatters origin story; as much as I liked Depp in this it wasn’t needed; put the spotlight on Alice cause that's why we are here. She is the viewers surrogate going through this story and I want to care about the main character.

At the end of the day I liked several characters and dug the visuals, but none of these positives make up for the hollow experience that is in this movie. Tim Burton has a tremendous amount of talent but he really needs to focus on the story he is telling. If you want to see this movie for the visuals then go ahead and steer clear of the 3D as it won’t make any difference. This is movie eye candy, see and discard the wrapping in bin once done.

Monday, March 1, 2010

You Can't Win

You go into the horror movie with the expectation that even though there will be dead bodies along the way, heroes will win the day. A lot of the by the numbers horror movies will make sure to give people that nice send off. However my tastes skew for the down right depressing. I’m talking about those horror stories where the main characters can’t win no matter how hard they try. Sure they can get that false victory where they hold off the evil for a little bit but at the end of the day they will never truly get rid of the evil.

I sometimes joke that this is just my English pessimism coming through, but truth be told every culture has a little bit of this mentality in some of their stories. Whether this is a cautionary tale, or a story that is just trying to take us down a peg or two, I find them fascinating. For me while I gravitated towards the ‘you can’t win’ scenario (Kirk be damned), it wasn’t until I started reading a certain author that I really got to grips with what really interested me. That author was none other that Howard Phillip Lovcraft.

If you’re a friend, family member, associate, work colleague, university professor, doctor or the person who sells me comics you would have heard me mutter the word Cthulu at one point. I love the mythos that Lovecraft created and others continued. To me the greatest horror that comes from that particular fictional world is what position humans have in the universe. Humans are nothing more than ants and the monsters that they come across regard humans as just a blip. The scary thing is while from time to time a certain hero will have some success, another hundred have been killed. One more great idea that surfaces in the Cthulu Mythos is Cthulu itself. Cthulu is seen as a god that can send mortals into madness by merely waking up, yet Cthulu has its own gods. These gods represent time, matter, life and while to a mortal’s eye they seem evil they are forces of nature that can never be truly defeated. Being insignificant in the grand scheme of things is a lot scarier to me than being stalked by any masked killer. Don’t worry though if I ever meet a killer in real life I’m still going to piss my self in fear, it’s just all about scale.

But it’s not all about Lovecraft and there have been plenty of other fictional works that have made it clear that no matter what we do we can’t win. Movie wise The Grudge is very interesting; I’m not going to weigh up the American and Japanese version of this movie because at the core they are both the same. The core is the curse and the raw emotion that drives it. Honestly while we are talking about curses fuelled by emotion we can also add The Ring into this discussion. What we have is a malevolent force the main characters can’t reason with and at the end of the movie the heroes haven’t really saved the day they just got out of the way. There is no way we can defeat emotion so in the end we have to pass it on to the next person. It’s funnily enough something we can see mirroring the real world. It’s human nature that we don’t want to get hurt or die and when it comes down to the big decision most people will let another person take the hit rather than themselves; it’s survival. Personally I think The Grudge and The Ring take this idea and just add the supernatural element. The curse is a virus and if those who caught it just let it claim them it wouldn’t spread, but we will fight our fate and while the individual might win humanity as a whole can’t.

Speaking of humans being a downer that brings me to The Mist a movie directed by Frank Darabont, yet again an interesting look at the horror genre and the ‘you can’t win’ mentality. It has slimy beasts from god knows where that are hankering for a hunk of human back side, yet the real horror comes from what happens inside the grocery shop refuge. At the beginning of the movie you have most people who are holed up in the shop trying to come up with plans to help, but as time moves on and the fear becomes unbearable you have people turning to religion to save them, not only that but they are turning to a twisted version of religion that leads to more problems. But it’s not religion that’s the bad guy in this movie, its humans and the organisations they create. What can be beneficial is turned into something evil because humans tend to take things too far when fear is involved. Moving away from The Mist and heading over to Romero land. When the zombies attack it’s a threat that we should be able to handle yet the resistance that we organise often falls to hell thanks to people. Scientists go to far in their search for an answer, the military just wants to shoot it all to hell cause that’s all they know, and that’s just a few examples. Horror stories can be very effective when they show the dark mirror of our organisations. Sometimes it can be scarier than the stuff they are trying to fight.

Now I’ve talked about things as a group but what about the individual? Surely there are some works of horror fiction that have the ‘you can’t win’ feel without having to involve the whole universe or an organisation? Well I’m sure there are plenty but the one that keeps coming to mind is the horror comic Hellblazer. The back story of John Constantine the main character of Hellblazer is epic, he’s dealt with nearly every type of demon, deranged human and god you can think of. But his personal story is a very sad one and no matter the victories he has, he seems to get screwed from every corner. John has lost many people, friends, family and lovers and even though he tries to drive people away his charm works against him. Just when he feels safe with being solo, someone comes into his life and often will die thanks to the current supernatural threat John is dealing with. Sometimes it’s John’s own fault but seriously he can’t catch a break. How would you feel constantly saving the world yet never being able to save those you actually love?

Anyway that’s a look at the depressive side of horror, and I know I’ve really only scratched the surface. I think that the reason why the no win scenario intrigues me more in horror movies, is that it sadly closely resembles the real world. Sure it’s often used in situations that will never happen but I think that failure is sometimes more realistic. If you think about how we iconize heroes because they are a symbol of succeeding where others have failed we are not that far from the truth.