Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

“I'm gonna say yes! Hell yes!”

Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds and Idris Elba
Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer

Nicolas Cage once again tackles the character of Johnny Blaze in a movie that’s more of a reset than a sequel. With the original movie I was a fan of some of the character and setting design, but overall the movie seemed to miss the mark. What makes this especially curious is the fact that Cage is a huge fan of the material. His acting choices seemed to fly in the face of what the comics were. Thanks to this movie there’s a second chance to right the wrongs, but in the hands of Neveldine and Taylor the brains behind Crank, does this actually occur?

Short answer is this movie is better than the first movie, if anything it at least manages to get somewhat the right tone for a Ghost Rider movie. Unfortunately the movie is still full of problems, and actually lacks energy as it progresses, and considering this is from Neveldine and Taylor it makes me wonder what happened. I don’t think any of their previous movies could be accused of lacking energy. Whether it was lack of funds, or maybe interference from other sources, or a lack of an overall idea, most of the scenes never really stood out. If you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve pretty much seen most of the good parts.

Visually the movie doesn’t scream of the directing pair ether, and there usual guerrilla filming style actually hurts some of the movie scenes. It’s weird but I would of thought that this pair would be perfect for a Ghost Rider movie but overall they are no creative enough and the movie suffers for this, and when they do try it’s almost a half hearted attempt and it just looks off. Never one to have a problem with their kinetic style in Crank, Gamer and Crank 2, my eyes did have some trouble adjusting to several scenes.

At least we have crazy Nicholas Cage to fall back on right? Well while he’s certainly crazy in the movie, his new take on Johnny Cage doesn’t work as well, thanks mostly to not enough time given to really explore what’s going through the characters mind. Also the change in character from being quirky but clean cut to man on the edge is a little jarring. I still enjoyed his performance but the lack of focus on what they wanted to convey with the character may disinterest the audience. While Cage failed however, Idris Elba steals the show as Moreau, the alcoholic French monk hell bent on saving the world. He injects some creative spark into the movie, and I loved every minute of it, shame he disappears for most of the middle of the movie. Johnny Whitworth is also great as the henchman of the Devil. It takes a while for his character to get interesting, but once he becomes the embodiment of rot, you can tell Whitworth is having fun. Yet again it’s a case of great idea, but not enough of it in the movie.

If you need to see every comic book movie under the sun, then at least be thankful this isn’t the worst one you could watch. There are some genuinely good ideas in this movie, but there seems to be a lack of energy throughout the running time. Cage is insane as always in this movie, and if you need to see every freak out he puts to celluloid then you do need to see this movie. In the end it’s tough to recommend this movie as it just doesn’t feel likes it’s trying very hard, and in that case I don’t really want to get people to see it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Vol 26

Yet again it’s time for me to catch up on all the movies I’ve watched. It’s what you call professional, with a capital P. Anyway other than one movie I’ve got into my time machine and watched some movies from the past. One was an old favourite that I wanted to put through the nostalgia test; the other was an apparent classic that I wanted to test for myself.

Gee so many tests I feel like a scientist, maybe I should go and put my lab coat on. You know, FOR SCIENCE!

Safe House (2012)

I kind of wanted to do a full review of this movie as I actually had a good time watching it. But when I kind of weighed up what I would talk about I didn’t come up with much. This is a competent film but it never really excels. The acting is pretty good, but with the calibre of actors used you wouldn’t expect it to be bad. Denzel Washington is great as Tobin Frost, but you get the sense he’s phoning it in. On the other hand this movie is great at showing Ryan Reynolds as an action movie leading man. I kind of wish this was released before Green Lantern.

Plot wise this movie really does stumble by the fact it’s pretty easy to guess where everything is going. Who the inevitable traitor will be? What the hero will do? Also the character arc of Tobin Frost seems a little hollow as he seems like a bad guy from the get go, and is only helping Reynolds character Matt Weston because they are in a sticky situation. I didn’t buy Frost’s more sympathetic moments. Overall I still had fun and if you like the spy action movie genre then you may find some entertainment.

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

Hearing good things about this Roman Polanski movie, I decided to finally give in and watch it. Being a vampire lover I thought I would get some satisfaction from the movie. Man was I wrong. I’m not sure it it’s because it’s dated badly, or maybe the humour just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I was really very bored through this entire movie. I will give credit to Alfie Bass as Shagal, he did manage to get a chuckle out of me, but his character never seems to actually gel with the movie and seems like he escaped from another cinematic escapade.

I think most of the trouble stems from the plot revolving really around Roman Polanski’s character. He’s not a great actor, and just doesn’t create enough momentum for the movie to generate any flow. There is an idea at the core, an idea that is only really revealed at the end of the movie, it’s interesting and could actually lead to a good movie, but there is so much slow meandering padded around the movie it fails. I can only recommend this movie to people who really love vampire movies, and don’t want to miss watching a single one.

Highway to Hell (1991)

When I was a small boy I remember renting this video on VHS a lot. That’s right I said VHS. Being on a trash movie kick I thought I would take a look at this movie and see if it survived my nostalgia tinted glasses. Amazingly not only did this movie meet my expectations, but being older I actually appreciated the humour of the movie a lot more. What was interesting were all the actors I noticed making guest appearances like Ben Stiller and Gilbert Gottfried. It just seemed from the get go this movie was trying to be subversive with its comedy.

The  story has Chad Lowe’s character Charlie venturing into hell with a magic car, shotgun loaded with a handful of holy ammo and his faithful companion, all in an effort to rescue his girlfriend from the devil and his hell cop. It’s a big, goofy, cheesy movie, which actually takes some great comedic shots at society in the back ground. Top it off with some great performances, especially from Patrick Bergen as Beezle who actually gets the most interesting character of the movie. Those who love fun genre movie I would get your butt’s out there and find this movie. It’s a hell of a ride.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

“Welcome! We salute your courage and your sacrifice and we wish you Happy Hunger Games!”

Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson
Writers: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray

Just to put it right up front and centre, I haven’t read the books and I don’t really want to. However I saw the trailers and I was intrigued. Knowing that this movie is based off a book aimed at teenagers; can The Hunger Games be anything meaningful? As of writing this review the movie has made a heap of cash and so it’s apparent that the other two books will be adapted. So is this saga destined to be the next Harry Potter or the next Twilight?

The movie explores some very interesting themes, and it can get rather dark for a movie obviously aimed at a younger audience. However I hate movies that pander to teenagers and children so it was nice to see a movie that is brave with its material. For those who don’t know the story, The Hunger Games are basically gladiatorial games where 24 kids from the ages of 12 to 18 compete to the death. These games are imposed upon twelve districts that tried to rebel against the ruling government but failed. As you can tell there is a fair amount of material that can be used in this movie, and I for one was intrigued enough by this world to gladly welcome the sequel.

Acting wise there needed to be really strong performances in order to get some of the heavier themes across. Wisely for the adult roles they crammed it with many recognizable faces. Out of the adults I really liked Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), he got to hit some great comedic beats and yet he also creates a wonderful character arc, all thanks to the subtlest of touches. Now Jennifer Lawrence had a huge weight on her shoulders trying to carry this film. She comes through very strong which is good seeming how important Katniss Everdeen is to not just this movie; but a rich tradition of strong female leads in science fiction. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark is fine, but I don’t think he really gets enough attention. Considering that he seems that his character is important for the next few movies, a little more attention on him would have been appreciated.

While I did love the world and the ideas present I was left wanting more. There were some things that weren’t explained that needed to be, and it did come across as some sloppy scripting. Also the movie was long and yet there were some things that were left in the background, which I think hurt, the overall movie. It always hard to adapt a book to a movie, as there is normally too much in a book to put into a feature length movie, so with this flaw I can forgive the film and just hope there is more detail when the second movie roles around.

Now for the biggest problem with this movie. Visually the movie’s beautiful effects and setting are all ruined by the style of Gary Ross. I honestly hope he has nothing to do with the next film because I honestly got motion sick from the constant movement. Now the action is hard to see as the camera moves around so much, but this might be acceptable as the movie is trying to hide the more violent deaths of the children. I understand this, but it’s when we get to the establishment shots of the movie, or quite dramatic scenes, I have a real problem. How am I supposed to soak in the depressing nature of the District 12 when I can’t see anything? Thankfully it doesn’t happen all the time, the camera does seem to calm down when in the main capital, but I shouldn’t be standing up after the movie and feeling nausea and unbalanced thanks to a visual style that doesn’t not feel right for a movie like this.

If you’ve read the books I’m sure you’ve already seen it, so really this review is to any science fiction fans who are wondering if it’s worth their time. Honestly I think the world is rich enough for you to warrant a watch, but I would say wait until it comes out on DVD as this might lessen the effects of the visual style. I can only hope a new director is in for the sequel and hopefully then this movie saga can be elevated from good to great.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

“I think what he means is that he will punch you so many times around the genital region that your dick will fall off.”

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Dave Franco
Writers: Michael Bacall
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

My expectations for this film were pretty low, even with the good reviews it was getting I wasn’t sure if the world really needed a new 21 Jump Street. I then heard that the head writer Michael Bacall also helped write Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and the directors of the movie were the minds behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; probably one of my favourite animated movies. So it was time to role the dice.

The story focuses on Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), two graduates of police academy being sent to the undercover unit in 21 Jump Street after a botched arrest. Being placed in high school their job is find a drug ring and shut it down. It seems like a simple plot that guarantees laughs with a fish out of water story. However it’s amazing how much heart they managed to cram into this adult comedy. As for the comedy itself I was laughing pretty consistently, the beginning has some nice Meta jokes, but there is a particular scene about a third of the way through that changes the whole ball game and the movie really starts going out of its way to subvert expectations. I started laughing more, and I wasn’t the only one as you could sense the turn in the audience. All I’ll say about the scene is that drugs are bad mmkay.

Acting wise the entire movie is stolen by Channing Tatum. This has to be one of his best roles, and not only that it shows that he’s a more than capable actor. I know I was surprised myself. Not only is he hilarious as the meathead jock, but he manages to actually add a lot of depth to the character with out negating the funny. It’s a job well done. Jonah Hill is also great but in a way he’s playing straight man to Channing’s character. That’s not to say he isn’t hilarious himself, but it’s nice that he’s backing someone else. Another highlight also has to be Dave Franco as Eric. He’s played the high school top dog before, but his comic timing seems to be really working with this script. Adding in the sly dig at high school social consciousness gives him a lot of funny dialogue to bite into. All the other actors do a fine enough job, though they might be hamming it up a little for some people’s tastes.

One thing that really surprised me about this movie was the fun the directors have with the visual style. At times this reminded me of an animated movie made real life. Phil Lord and Chris Miller not only have a talent for enhancing the comedy with some great visuals, but they also have away of making fun of genre staple clichés on the sly while also revelling in them. It’s one of the reasons why I loved Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I absolutely have faith in these two and I want them to make more.

Do I recommend this movie? Oh hell yeah. This is just one of those movies where everyone is having fun and it shows. With strong performances from the leads, and a great visual style, this was a surprise, a very pleasant surprise. As always sure this movie isn’t deep, but it still has some heart. The only thing is that this movie is an adult comedy and as such there will be people who just can’t get into the humour. But to those who are fans of the two’s previous work, and don’t mind a little adult humour then go for it. The only way this movie would be better is with the introduction of Ratbirds.

1 Tatum out of 1
Entertaining with some very sly jabs at the very movie it is.
0.5 Tatum out of 1
Simplistic, but it has heart and works really well.
1 Tatum out of 1
Jonah and Channing are a treat and work well together.
1 Tatum out of 1
Miller and Lord have a deft touch with comedy.
1 Tatum out of 1
For such a movie it's pretty slick and looks excellent.

4.5 Tatum's out of 5
A parody movie that knows how to bring the comedy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: A Dangerous Method (2011)

“Experiences like this, however painful, unnecessary and inevitable, without them, how can we know life?”

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Actors: Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen

In his later career Cronenberg has become a really interesting director. Okay that’s not true, he’s always been an interesting director and one of my favourites, but there is just something about his later career that astounds me. How he’s been able to take themes that he’s been interested in and explored in some great horror movies, and move it into films that are more accessible to general audiences. Well; a little more accessible. With A Dangerous Method he’s looking at sex, repression and telling it through two of the biggest psychologists; Freud and Jung.

Acting wise the movie is just superb. Out of the three main actors it’s Keira Knightley that really steals the show as Sabina Spielrein, the woman that caused the fracture between Jung and Freud. I can see many actresses just over playing the role as the role does lend itself to the insanity. Yet while she does have her wild moments there are touches of the subtle woven throughout. Looking back on how she played some of the scenes, there is such a genius in every movement. Fassbender as Carl Jung is also excellent as the young psychologist trying to flesh out his ideas and most importantly figure out the best way to help people. Viggo Mortensen as Sigmun Freud rounds out the awesome trio. I think he’s the weakest of the three but only because he’s not given as much time to develop as a character. Still Viggo grabs onto the role and throttles as much as he can out of it.

Story wise while interesting, it is severely hampered by the time cuts. There are some really fascinating ideas about the creation of psychological theories and how the people who study the field have their own neurosis. Also the movie touches on some body horror elements and sexual identity which are Cronenberg’s bread and butter. The fact that he’s taking these idea’s and turning them into something that audiences can watch without being turned away by the horror elements in his previous films. Yet all this never really gels into a fully satisfying film thanks to the movie not having a good enough flow. I was disappointed that I didn’t get enough time to really explore the relationship between Freud and Jung. There’s enough to make the movie work, it is noticeable.

Overall I think this movie is good, it’s just a shame that the script is too choppy to really focus in on the relationship of Jung and Freud. Honestly the story is almost too big to be contained in one movie and yet I don’t think it could ever sustain more than one. I think this is a case where the history is more interesting to go read than to watch. Still for lovers of Cronenberg, and people who want to delve into the world of Freud and Jung then this is a good beginning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Movie Series Review: Urban Legend

Sometimes I find it really enjoyable getting a horror movie franchise and watching it from beginning to end. It’s always enjoyable watching the series evolve for better or worse. Normal in those worse case scenarios it’s still bloody hilarious. Does anyone remember Leprechaun in Space?

With the success of Scream came a whole heap of like minded movies with intentions of over throwing the throne. Normally they were slashers, with teens and a healthy dose of winking to the audience and being in on the jokes of the genre. Urban Legend was an interesting attempt at really trying to distinguish itself from the others by tapping into our fears of the urban legends we’ve heard from time to time.

Insane escaped mental patient? Check. Pop rock and soda? Check. The list goes on and this series of movies tried to cover them all. But it’s not just what the movie was trying tap into with audiences, but what happens in its evolution. The jump from the second to the third movie is very weird and makes you wonder what goes through the heads of the execs behind the film companies. Anyway let’s get into the series.

Urban Legend (1998)

The first movie in the series is interesting, and while the urban legends angle of the helps the film, it is a little weak and seems more that someone had this great idea but no real way of pulling it off. Still the actors in this movie do have a certain amount of charisma and do lend the movie a better cast than you would think is deserved.  Joshua Jackson, Alicia Witt and Michael Rosenbaum are particularly strong in their roles. It was also nice to see a guest role given to Robert Englund, who is always a joy to watch on screen.

Despite the weakness of the script the plot still chugs along, and the final reveal of the killer makes sense and was actually a surprise for me. I think at least with this movie it offers a good foundation for the franchise. Breezy enough, I would definitely recommend this movie to lovers of the slasher genre if only to watch one of the better ones, if not the best.

Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)

Yet again a case of good but not great. I had fun watching this movie, and actually really liked the idea of having this movie taking place at a film school. Still delving into urban legends, it looks into some of the film like myths but not solely. Unfortunately this is a lesser product to the first. The acting isn’t as good, even though a young Eve Mendes and young Jennifer Morrison do fine. The movie also seems more intent following the standard clichés of slasher movies. That or maybe the urban legend angle is already losing some of its lustre.

What’s interesting is the approach this film takes and isn’t actually a sequel. There are some links to the first movie but they are very slight. The people involved and the killer involved are really not connected, and I like the idea that this franchise seems to be setting up a series of movies that look at various killers using urban legends. The end of this film actually did get me excited for a possible third movie; however things went a little pear shaped.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005)

Like the previous sequel, this movie attempts to separate itself from the other films and just keep the unifying theme of the urban legends. However this movie has the waft of shameless cash in as it makes one of the two biggest mistakes a franchise can make in my opinion. In my opinion you know a franchise is on shaky territory when it either goes into space, or turns a non paranormal series into a paranormal series (your day will come Boogyman series). And so we get this third slice of the legends featuring a genuine paranormal villain in the form of Bloody Mary.

The jump in tone is not helped by pretty bad acting all round, and a script that is just cluttered and confused. Unlike the jump into space of some horror franchise this is painful to watch as there is no camp value to be had. I later learned that this movie was originally just a Bloody Mary movie, and in the hopes of getting some extra money they added the Urban Legends tag. Instead of making extra money it killed the franchise.

Final Thoughts: 

There could have been a good franchise from this idea but it never really got off the blocks with a flying start. I enjoy the first two as I do believe they are okay movies despite their flaws, and considering the amount of bad slasher films out there, these two movies are worth your time. The third movie unfortunately did a great job of killing the potential. Damn you Bloody Mary, damn you to the pits of hell. 

The face of film executive tampering.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Skew (2011)

“On July 19, 2005 three friends went on a road trip. They never came back.”

Director: Sevé Schelenz
Starring: Rob Scattergood, Amber Lewis and Richard Olak
Writer: Sevé Schelenz

I know I’ve used the term before, but I’m beginning to regret it. The term found footage really gives the audience a set of expectations that really aren't fair to some movies put under this banner. Case in point is Skew, which was made before the explosion of the ‘found footage’ movies in 2005 but has found release last year. It is a shame as I can already see audience members being frustrated even though the movie is very clever in execution.

Focusing on three friends going on a road trip to a wedding, things begin on a weird tone as Simon (Scatergood) greats Richard (Olak) and Eve (Lewis) with a camera, and intent on filming everything. The opening minutes paint the movie in a more skewed psychological manner, than with a strict horror vein. What we see, gives us a voyeuristic insight into Simon’s mind and it’s a tad unsettling. I myself was thoroughly creeped out by the character, which is a brave move, seeming he is the camera operator and the centre of the story. Once we get into the more supernatural elements of the movie, the reality of the situation becomes further skewed. It’s impressive the level of unease Schelenz is able to generate from a very no thrills approach to everything. It does make me excited for future endeavours, especially those that would have a bigger budget.

Acting wise we get some decent performances with Amber Lewis being the gem of the three. Her performance is layered, and at first seems to be a little cliché, but eventually evolves into probably my favourite character of the three. She is kind and understanding even when she’s worried as all hell and has a bad feeling about the whole trip. Richard Olak is fine in some scenes, normally the mellower ones, but when he gets angry I sometimes had problems believing he was actually angry. Finally Scatergood was also fine as Simon and in his more talkative scenes he really does show a great spread of emotions, however the stronger elements of the character come through with the visuals we see and so these fascinating and creepy character traits are thanks to Schelenz more that Scartergood.

Visually the movie is very basic, which is good considering this is supposed to be a road trip and not a mammoth production. The special effects are rather simple and yet effective, and there are some genuine scares to go along with the tense atmosphere. With the conceit set up of those other than the core three that get filmed die, it does become a weird horrific waiting game as we know these people are doomed. Yet it’s not just the obvious things that make this movie, but the things that are woven into the movie that are hard to pick up the first run through with this movie. It shows an attention to detail, coupled with a plan to elevate the movie from your run of the mill horror movies.

And so we come finally the story of the movie. Its obvious Seve Schelenz as a precise idea what he wants to be shown, and yet the presentation of the story is both the movies strength and the ultimate weakness of this movie. People will watch this movie and adore everything, the reveal at the end will get them talking, and theories will be talked about days after. It may seem simple to begin with but to really delve into the richness of the story you have to do the work yourself, this movie doesn’t hold your hand and doesn’t serve up answers easily. Yet at what point does a film move from being subtle with its answers and just being frustrating? Thinking of this movie in reference to the mass audience, I can see people getting to the end and hating the movie.

The reason why I find this a shame; is there is great talent at the core of this film, Seve Schelenz is a director to watch out for, but if he creates more movies this hard to really crack open, then the general audience probably won’t take to his movies. But hey that’s not exactly a bad thing, Terrence Malick makes movies that I need to take a mental sledgehammer to, and I still love his work. Just I would love to see Seve Schelenz’s brand of horror, opening in cinemas and doing well. This is the type of horror fans really need to get behind.

So do I recommend this movie? Yes but with the warning that attention needs to be given to this film. Also if you are a horror lover and like the voyeuristic nature of found footage films (honestly can someone create a better term?), then you need to watch this movie. If only to support a more psychological type horror and an up and coming director.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: John Carter (2012)

“Good God...I'm on Mars.”

Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe

If Superman crash landed on Earth and gained all these awesome powers, then surely there is some planet out there that I human can go to and get awesome powers as well. According to the movie John Carter all we needed to do was to get our ass to Mars. Or should I say the book John Carter of Mars. Don’t want to upset any die hard fans out there. So you can probably tell I’m not familiar with the source material, with that in mind how does the movie stack up?

Really well. Maybe going in with zero expectations was a good idea as I had a blast with this movie. Sure it’s not the most original movie in the world, but I was laughing and enjoying the action set pieces. It’s a shame that the movie does come of slightly clichéd, but this is only because everyone pretty much ripped off the books before it could be adapted, or ripped off the rip offs. Yet for all the cliché’s it manages to deal with everything in a competent and entertaining manner.

Subtlety is one of the keys to this movie, and at first it may not seem like it is. But it’s the glances, the specific shots on key items, and not inundating the audience with information overload if it can be avoided. Sure there is info dump in regards to how John Carter gets his power, and how things work, but I don’t think it goes over board. In regards to some of the more scientific ideas, the movie is rather soft and this might dissuade some audience members, but then again if you can believe in half the stuff movies have these days, I’m not sure why this would be that big a stumbling block.

Actors all do decent work and at least manage to make an impression even if some of the scripting is a little off. Taylor Kitsch puts in a performance that made me think of Timothy Olyphant. Kitsch really plays up the tragic past of John Carter, and instead of being a standard cliché characteristic, it really is the driving force behind Carter. Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris is probably the highlight of the movie. As the princess of Mars she is a strong female character that doesn’t fall into the trap of being ice cold. She is intelligent, strong, caring, beautiful, basically everything you could hope in a character to be admired. Villains are a little weak, but there is a feeling that this is only the beginning, that if there is another movie, more of the villains will be explained.

I didn’t get to see this movie in 3D but I think this movie works without the 3D. The visual landscape of mars is barren, yet there are some shots that are just beautiful. And most the time when I saw John Carter bouncing about the place I believed it was him. There are a few scenes that were a little off, but I could deal with it. Andrew Stanton has a good directorial sense and tries to give information in movie exposition and visual cues, and I was more than impressed some times.

Probably the weakest element of the movie is the script but even then there a far more hits than misses. Pacing is a little weird, but I wasn’t bored once, and from how the audience was reacting I wasn’t the only one. Maybe with a tighter script we could have gotten a movie that wasn’t just fun and really entertaining, but really meant something.

This is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen this year and I think sometimes people forget that a fun movie is just as good as a thoughtful movie. People won’t learn anything new, but I’m pretty sure there will be laughter and cheers. If you want a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is fun then get your ass to Mars. 

(Woo same Total Recall reference twice in the review, I rock.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Vol 25

So it’s been a while since I’ve put anything up on the blog and for all my faithful readers I apologise for that one. The one/two combo of Meet the Spartans and feeling sick all last week, was big enough to just derail my writing. While being sick is easy enough to understand to not wanting to write, it’s weird a movie would have that big effect on me.

Since that movie I didn’t watch or didn’t feel like writing for seven or so days. Sure it gave me a rant, but it’s disheartening to be so knocked back by a movie. It shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t be affected by such things, but there you have it. It took a movie I promised to see with my girlfriend from knocking me out of my stupor. I’ll get to that movie tomorrow, for now I thought I would concentrate on getting some of my backlog of movies to review out of the way.

There’s the intro, onto the main event.

REC (2007)

This Spanish found footage zombie film is excellent, and if you are thinking of seeing the American remake Quarantine please don’t. This is a far superior film with better acting, tenser scenes, and subtleties that make the plot more coherent. It’s a simple set up with a documentary crew going on a ride along with Fire Fighters. Getting to the scene things aren’t what they seem, and soon the crew, the Fire Fighters and the tenants of the unit block are locked in under the guise of quarantine.

Not everything is spelt out in the movie, the origin of the zombie infection is hinted at, but the movie is more intent on living in the moment rather than trying to construct a back history. Characters range from annoying to likeable and do seem to represent the broad spectrum of humanity. Tip of the hat to Manuela Velasco as Angela Vidal, as the centre she is able to walk the line between annoying documentary host who smells a story, and put upon woman who wants to save people if possible while surviving herself. She represents a solid centre, of a good movie. Can’t wait to watch the sequel.

Bunraku (2010)

A cowboy in a world where guns are outlawed, and a samurai who doesn’t like using swords, find their paths are intertwined in this tale of revenge and redemption. With a set up like that, I would normal expect myself to get excited, however after the let down of Way of the Warrior, I was worried that I might be delving into a movie that puts style of substance. Thankfully thanks to a wonderful sense of simple style, and actors who really embrace the story, a world is created that has some deep themes and fun times.

There is a motif of the world being represented as a pop up story, or made of origami. It creates a visual style that is simple to create and yet effective. The film makers seem to understand that they can’t have the special effects pulling the audience out of the experience. As stated above the actors are all great in this movie and seem to be really rolling with the movie. I’m always a bit iffy on Josh Hartnett but he was great in this, as was Gackt. Woody Harrelson is the star however as The Bartender, his role is interesting as he isn’t the main character, yet manages to be the heart of the story. Those who liked Way of the Warrior would do well to watch this, it’s an excellent idea brought to reality with strong vision.

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Morgan Spurlock, director of the documentary Super Size Me comes back with a story on product placement in films solely funded by product placement in this documentary. It’s an interesting idea, and I can’t deny that I had fun watching the movie, yet in the end it felt like a hollow experience and didn’t really put light on anything we didn’t know or could find out with 3 minutes research on the internet.

It may sound cruel but I call Morgan Spurlock’s style of documentary the ‘Duhcumentary,’ because he often seems to want to deal with topics that people already know about. So while the experience of watching this is fun, it’s hard to really give it props as it fails in what I believe to be the fundamental reason of a documentaries existence. But if you enjoyed his previous works, then you’ll like this. Morgan definitely knows how to give people information in an entertaining manner.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Movies: How I Learnt To Hate Some Films and Stop Worrying About Nicholas Cage.

After watching this I didn't think it could get worse.

So I was going to start this month with four reviews covering Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie and Vampires Suck. Now everyone complains about these movies, but I thought I would give them their day in court so to speak. Well I started with Epic Movie; it confirmed what people have said about the movies, or at least this one. The moving onto Meet the Spartans an unusual reaction came over me. Pure, undiluted rage.

I don’t think I’m going over new ground by saying that this movie was really god awful, but with Meet the Spartans the humour was so insultingly bad that I stopped it about a quarter of the way through it. The thing is I don’t normally stop movies even if they are awful. Zombies of Mass Destruction was a movie that I loathed and I still managed to watch it from beginning to end. There was just a certain quality about these movies that got under my skin.

I look back at some of my favourite parody movies such as Not Another Teen Movie, Flying High (Airplane in other countries), Hot Shots and Black Dynamite, and wonder how hard it is to write even the most basic of funny scripts to mock Disaster Movies, Epic Movies etc. Flying High made fun of the silliness of old plane disaster movies; Black Dynamite successfully took shots at black exploitation movies. Epic Movie did nothing to mock epic movies; in fact it couldn’t even get the title right and mainly referenced blockbuster movies.

I was wrong. It got worse.
Now taking a step back from the movie, I think it’s only fair if we would take a look at who this movie is aimed for. It obviously not me, but I have heard that it’s focused on the young teenage boys demographic. I can understand that as a lot of the humour is focused on the lowest common denominator. Hell if I was 13 or 14 I might of thought these movies were great. The problem is while the humour is at that level, the content is a lot more adult and I would not be okay with young children watching these movies.

Finally the last thing I wanted to talk about. Meet the Spartans. I couldn’t finish this movie for one big reason. For the first quarter of the movie it’s crammed with gay jokes. Really, really clichéd gay jokes. Offensive, out right horrid gay jokes. I get there is humour to be mind for the possible homo erotic subtext of 300, but you have to actually be subtle to mine that vein in such a way as to not offend people, you also don’t use the same joke every minute. It’s not bloody funny, it wasn’t the first time and guess what it’s not funny the thirty sixth time. I try not to be offended, but the writers of this movie are just vile human pieces of filth, but then they wouldn’t care as these movies are making them money.

In all honestly Meet the Spartans derailed me for a few days. I didn’t really want to write about movies, or watch movies. I really haven’t had such a bad reaction to a movie before. Thankfully I’m back and writing this has helped me somewhat, so I thank all the readers for this indulgence. Needless to say I don’t think I have to remind people not to watch these movies. The experiment is over, time to shut it down and move on to the next films.

I felt a little like this after Meet the Spartans. Didn't think it would be
a recruitment tool for the Red Lanterns.