Sunday 29 March 2009


So the "Where the wild things are" trailer has finally been released and it's looking sweet. I don't review kids films for a few reasons but here are the main ones:

  • Childrens films are review proof: Say anything bad about a kids film and adults don't care....that poor bastard is gonna watch the secret of creampie or matter how boring it is.
  • Pixar are the only person who seem to give a damn: Although Dreamworks are doing ok, they still believe getting stars in for the voice overs is the right way to go....and thats why Finding Nemo is beautiful movie that panders to childs sense of adventure and keep adults interested and A shark's tale is....well bollocks.
  • Kids don't know what's fucking good for them: Your kids are fat for a reason and that reason is sweets and television. Period.
Then something like this comes along and I shut my mouth. The choice of music, the visuals, the themes...yes all that in two and a bit minutes:

Spike Jonez imagination + best selling children's book = film worth seeing.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Review: Duplicity

Year: 2009
Director: Tony Gilroy
Screenplay: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts

Synopsis is here

Let me praise the performances of the two leads in this film. Let me praise them to high heaven. I applaud the work on display here as throughout Duplicity. While Clive Owen is no Cary Grant, he shows he's almost in the same ballpark and Julia Robert comes out of her semi retirement cocoon to bring about an assured performance which despite her never leaving her comfort zone, shows her clearly in her element having fun. Let me praise these performances as they are engaging to watch! let me praise them as they made me titter, Let me praise these performances....because the rest of the film is shite.

I hate walkouts because you don't see the full movie and while I still young and naive, I still believe you should watch the movie till the end credits just to judge a movie as a whole. We had one walk out during when I saw the film, and while i found that annoying...I could clearly see why they did. Tony Gilroy's film is dull. It shouldn't be, it should be light, frothy and fun, especially after Gilroy's first film; the relatively heavy Micheal Clayton. Everything in the movie points towards this film being a very breezy little flick. From the slickly placed dialogue that rolls off the tounge of the leads, to the many different exotic locations (expect for maybe London lol).

However the film wrongfoots itself by forgeting how light it should be while giving the viewer a plot so basic, that it's not fun to figure out. Within half an hour we know pretty much exactly how the shit is going to go down and except for the last moments of the film; Duplicity does nothing to freshen up it's tired plot points and relies too much on the performances to try and distract you from it's blandness. Problem is when you see right through the plot it's hard to root for these game players no matter how much fun they're having.

When the film finally pulls the rug from under you at the end of the film, it's not clever in anyway because all the plot points before hand have been guessed. from Mcguffin to Patsy, your way ahead of everyone your watching and waiting impatiently to catch up. When the obligatory explanation comes at the end of the scene I could imgine many people merely rolling their eyes and stating in their head "knew that, saw that coming etc" I know I did.

What makes things worse is how transparent it makes the relationship between Clive Owen's Ray and Julia Robert's Claire, the film lays out their character's pathway clearer than the yellow brick road. Dothery had obstacles, Duplicity does not. It's all a bad shallow act. I'm not ruining anything because the directors already told you far too early. I'm not a man who thrives on catching films out with plotholes and the like because once you find them you don't enjoy the film as much. It's no fun when you get too far ahead of the story before the characters but here Gilroy has given you enough shortcuts to allow you a quick sprint to the finish line. As for Roberts and Owen and their watchable displays? They're not even halfway finished the first lap.

Review: Gran Torino

Year: 2008

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay: Nick Schenk

Starring: Clint Eastwood

Synopsis is here

At first I really wasn't sure I wanted see an elderly Clint Eastwood kicking minority ass up and down his front garden. Being black...I was thinking it's not really my cup of tea. At first glance the film almost comes across as ridiculous, with nearly every other word coming Clint's character (Walt) being an racial slur. A miserable old man who dislikes his own family almost as much than his new "gook" neighbours. He growls at everything he disproves of like DMX on an album remix.

After halfway through the first act....I was beginning to worry that this was some sort of piss take. Clint plays the role as an over the top embodiment of his earlier dirty harry roles and at first the display is amusing bordering on corny, but then something happens, everything clicks in and Eastwood's film becomes an entertaining metaphor for the grand changes happening in America. Walt becomes a representative of the U.S of old, almost reminiscent of John Wayne in The Searchers.

The environment is changing and Walt's not ready to fall in line with it just because a younger generation says so and although Walt is vile bigot, his willingness to stick to his principals is "admirable". But what made Gran Torino so appealing to me was the relationship Walt strikes up with his Eastern neighbours, it's one of compromise. A relationship that isn't perfect and never tries to be, but is pivotal to the enjoyment of the film. Eastwood directs the piece with a message that hits harder than the overt racist lines coming from it's lead. Eastwood's isn't about a shock change of views for anybody but a film about understanding. One that shows that looking at people from a different perspective, can bring about great things within each other.

Gran Torino is shadowed by one performance (we'll get to that) but don't let the messages within the film fly past you. One of the reasons I loved the film is that while the racist is the person we need to get behind, the film is never afraid to show the ignorance that can flow through people, including (and especially) those with youth behind them. Once that ignorance fades, then hope and change can begin.

Clint Eastwood has stated that this will be is last film and he will retire from acting. But two things make this difficult to believe 1: he said it after Million Dollar Baby, 2: His performance is a splendid one. Like I said at first the film almost comes across as a bit too much, sometimes it's a bit too comical, as if the film wants us to "laugh with the racist". But once the awkwardness subsides Eastwood's performance is captivating. It's an grand performance from an iconic actor. Whether he's threatening minorities or contemplating he own morality, Eastwood holds the attention in almost every scene.

Eastwood's performance carries the film and it has to as the other displays are largely forgettable. Maybe Eastwood the director wanted more of a "natural" performance from his unknown cast but it doesn't quite stick. In fact, the reason why I remember Ahner Her as Sue in the film is because she was quite pretty and being the geek I am, I'd rather see the acting first.

Another little niggle? The script feel a little forced. It helps that Eastwood can direct a story as well as he can as the screenplay would feel even worse if placed in lesser hands. The dialogue is amusing but is it because it's funny to laugh at such a man or because most of us is just not like that anymore? Are the plot points a little blatant? Maybe, but the story holds it's own, handles one of the western worlds most taboo subject with enough maturity to keep the viewer's attention and make it entertaining.

I'm still waiting for a film that deals with race relations as brutally as Do the right thing, however, Gran Torino is a solid little drama with a grand performance from one of cinemas hardest working directors and one of the our most memorable icons still living today.

Friday 6 March 2009

Review: Watchmen

Year: 2009
Director: Zack Sndyer
Screenplay: David Hayter
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson

Film Synopsis here

So my first "big" film of the year. I couldn't wait. I will try not to mention too much about the creators (Alan Moore) dislike for Hollywood and what he feels about making a flick out of his baby (if he was that bothered I sure he could have found a way of stopping the film). I am going do my best to keep away the comparisons to last years The Dark Knight as it's too easy. However, it's interesting to see that Batman's comic return to his dark roots happens in 1986 (Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns) around the same time that Alan Moore's dense work arrives. To add to this Moore's graphic novel is considered the moment when people REALLY looked at "comic books" as serious literature. So it's quite amusing to see that both The Dark Knight and Watchmen show up around the same time to make the comic book movie "serious".

Want to make it more ludicrous? The film studios decided to get the most pop art inclined working director this side of Micheal Bay ( Zack Snyder) to make the movie. Snyder came to prominence with the flashy Dawn of the Dead remake, a film I despised on first viewing (tried again and still hated), Before making a Box Office Smash with the comic book adaptation 300 (Frank Miller again, interesting). His heavily stylized (ALOT of slow motion), testosterone fueled movie gave him the chance to helm what appears to be his dream project.

Well well well Mr Snyder, despite a box office showing better than most R rated movies, a mostly positive critical praise and quick entry into the imdb's top 25o movies, everyone I spoke to (bar two) disliked your movie! Should we blame PR and Marketing for promoting this as "the next Dark Knight"? Should we blame an ignorant audience who haven't read the book it's based on? (most of the hate came from people who haven't a clue about the book) Or should we blame you Mr Snyder for making this movie "Watchmen-lite"?


I blame Alan Moore. Why? For raising the bar. Watchmen is an exceptional piece of literature which is unlike anything I've read. The way the book is put together makes an exact adaptation almost impossible. The quotes, the case files, it's odd episodic nature, the comic within a comic...Moore (and Artist Dave Gibbons) created something that goes beyond mainstream cinema. As Moore has stated many a time before this was not meant to be filmed.

But instead of praising what Snyder did right, many are quick to bemoan whats missing or "wrong". That unfortunate because Snyder give the audience a film which is likely to be most intelligent commercial film this year (it ain't gonna be G.I Joe is it?!). From it's brilliant opening credits to it's flawed but solid ending. Snyder delivers the closet adaptation to Moores opus anyone would be able to get. The fact that Terry Gilliam could put Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to screen and put could not get this near the big screen is a credit to the young director (and technological advances). While many complain about the omissions, the film still features some of the subtext that made the book such an intriguing read. The fact that Synder crammed as much as he did in 2 and a half hours deserves praise.

The biggest problem I found with the film however is the novels episodic structure and slow burn reveals makes the film oddly paced to say the least. Also Watchmen does not have one main character it has six and Snyder does his best to give them all the credit they deserve. To cut any of their well rounded development would be a cheat, so while many were probably sick of Dr Manhattan pondering the nature of life, to cut it out would make the end of the film convoluted.

Despite being hyped up as The Dark Knight 2, Watchmen is a methodically paced detective feature. Not to say that it hasn't got action. Snyder directs his set pieces with verve and flair and to add to this YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE WHATS HAPPENING!!!! Unlike other so called action directors Snyder makes sure every punch could be seen and felt. Not one to shy away from violence (see 300 and Dawn of the Dead) Watchmen takes blood to another level. This film is an 18 and it fucking means it. Yeah I've seen worse but the Arm Snap is almost as cringe inducing as the "magic pencil".

Watchmen also cox out pitch perfect performances from most of the cast. With Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup and Jeffery Dean Morgan nailing Rorschach, Dr Manhattan and The Comedian. Morgan's Comedian is a strong achievement being an presence throughout the film despite his death being the kick off point of the movie. The other performances in the film are good but are more functional than showy.

Watchmen is a solid adaptation of an extremely difficult task. Fans of the book should get rid of any pre-notions before going in, while non-readers should not get caught up in the hype and brace yourself for a dense "neo noir" (even that doesn't describe it well enough) which is miles away from your Superman's, Ironman's, etc.

So while I still found myself making the easy comparisons (Haley as Rorschach is as good as Ledger as The Joker and I have no qualms in saying that.), and found myself agreeing with Terry Gilliam in thinking that Watchmen is a mini series and not a film; Zack Snyder produces a fantastically ambitious love letter to a unique graphic novel, its fans and it's creator. Those who lambaste it should do themselves a favor and check out the League of extraordinary gentlemen and see the difference.