Monday 31 August 2009

Review: Funny People

Year: 2009
Director: Judd Apatow
Screenplay: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Seth Rogan, Johna Hill, Jason Schwartzman

The marketing for funny people is all wrong. Much like the confused all action trailer/T.V Spots of box office hit Inglourious Basterds, if your expecting a film filled to the brim with belly laughs, you may be better off with The Hangover or Bruno. Apatow however seems to be on his way to be a more juvenile John Hughes of his generation. His films as a director (and a few of the many he's produced) deal with grand themes that confront a generation of man-children with a Peter Pan complex.

The 40 Year old virgin dealt with a man whose embraced more comics and games than girlfriends. Knocked Up is about a young man who must deal with fatherhood before his time. Funny People is about morality and time lost to careless and selfish endeavours. Yes, it's wrapped around a structure of dick and fart jokes but that's what it's really about.

The most interesting thing about this for me is how personal these films are, in particular Funny People. The film starts with home footage of our main character George Simmons (Sandler) making prank calls to unsuspecting folk. This is real footage of a young Sandler who used to live with Apatow (who can be seen by eagle-eyed viewers in the video cracking up). Those who have been boning up on the writer/director/producer, can clearly see that everyone in the film have been taken from real comedians that Apatow knows and loves and Sandler takes centre stage.

Almost playing himself Sandler has never been better. Those who hate his usual sthick may find something of interest here he brings across a semi-tragic performance while raining in the dopey, rage filled characters he's well known for. Some of the performance reminds me of comedians of the past I've loved like Kenneth Williams or Peter Sellers. Comedians who could bring a crowd of people to tears of laughter, but never appeared to be happy themselves. Comedian's who are angry at themselves for being a success (or sell-outs) but never the less would sign up for the next piece of crap thrown their way. For Sandler to look so deeply inside himself for this performance is not only brave, but immensely watchable.

Other reviews I've read and heard have criticised the lack of arc by the Simmons character, stating that he doesn't learn anything. In watching the film I realise that in fact he does but his self-realisation is a small one left until the last scene of the film. I rather this then the film's characters flipping suddenly and forgetting who they were at the beginning of the movie.

The secondary characters have their moments and while they are slightly flat, they are extremely funny. A whole second film could have been created out of the roommate trio of Jonha Hill, Seth Rogan and Jason Schwartzman and all three have great chemistry with each other. Eric Bana (ex-stand up himself) almost comes in too late to give us a taste of his actual accent (I'm sure there people out there that still believe he's American). Bana actually helps pick up the films second half which is lopsided against the stronger first half. Apatow's wife Leslie Mann also hold her own in the second half of the movie as Simmons "one who got away" and her decision at the end of the film is wonderfully truthful and keeps the films integrity.

The main issue I had with Funny People is that it's way too long and a little too schizophrenic for it's own good. The characters aren't the most lovable people in the world (in fact the egos on them are huge) so when the film does a 180 half way and asks us to try and feel sorry for some of these's extremely difficult. In fact the only person I could truly sympathize with is Rogan's Ira character but even then, the reason why he starts to work for George is underhanded.

With this said, the film reminded me of The Wrestler, in which I was allowed to observe something I have an interest in (stand up comedy) from a completely different point of view. I found the film laugh out loud funny for the most part and full of quick one liners that made Apatow's earlier films so popular. The line that got me is said by rapper/producer Rza, playing a deli clerk who is working with Ira. "Seinfield's my man, that boy Kramer, he's my Nigga." If you don't see why I was rolling down the isle after he said that...this film is not for you.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

xXx 3 has a director

A quick skim on the interwebz has allowed me to find out that xXx 3 has a director. It seems that Vin Diesel is doing his best to dreg up franchises that pretty much died on their arses a while back. The first xXx was pretty forgetable for me and I didn't bother with the next level so could this return be worth myself watching?

The director Ericson Core hasn't got a big film catolgoue in terms of direction but as a cinematographer he's been in charge of such faves as Daredevil. Ok so yeah that's a bit unfair, as he was also part of another Vin franchise The Fast and the Furious, one which despite having a huge cliched story, had some great stunts captured by Core.

But with so much time past, will anyone care about this? Considering the box office of Fast and Furious, answers may point to yes.

Monday 24 August 2009

Inception Trailer up and about

I was loving Christopher Nolan way before he made his mark on the Batman mythology. In fact my favorite films of his are The Prestige and Following. So Just because he hasn't mentioned anything about what happens next to Bruce Wayne doesn't bother me too much especially when the trailer is as nutty as this:

Or go here:

The website hasn't got much to say and is just as maddening, however having seen the work done on the Batman marketing as well as the superb memento website, No doubt this site will be worth checking again in the near future.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Review: Let The Right One In

Year: 2009 (Full U.K release)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenplay: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

Vampires are big business again all of a sudden and I guess that's pretty cool. We've had Zombie films for ages so change is a good thing. Unfortunately, the most popular vampire tale being told at this moment is Twilight. A series with a soppy narrative, idiotic female characters (seriously that Bella character = Moron) and nurtured Vampires. While females from 8-30 enjoy that author's bizarre sexual fantasy (even the actors think it), it's really just not for me. Edward Cullen can stare into that dim-witted bints eyes for eternity, I like my vampires like Severen.

Which brings me to Let The Right One In, a vampire movie with balls..or not (people who know the story will get that). A film that is as ambiguous as it is beautiful, a film which believes in the idea of vampires connecting with humans but does nothing to take away their dark nature. No glittering skin here folks, it's blood on snow all the way.

But apart from the fact that a school kid begins a relationship with a vampire, LTROI doesn't share much of a connection with Twilight, in fact it has more in common with another Swedish made film; Lucas Moodysson's Lilja-4eva. Both deal with children from poor backgrounds and damaged family lives finding solace some an unexpected source. The similarities continue when both films show that the characters don't seem to be able to survive without each other, together the two halves make a complete whole. It is this emotional connection that is the strength of the movie, it's foundation is the assured direction from Tomas Alfredson, and it is built upon by two excellent display by it's child actors.

Alfredson's film is one that works best when it says nothing. It's dialogue is short and sharp and almost ineffective when compared to the movies images. Alfredson's direction of visuals is sublime, managing to put across character backgrounds and motivations quickly without having to resort to weak dialogue exposition. Alot of the images don't need dialouge to be compelling. I've never read the original novel, but in watching the film Alfredson manages to deleve into the lives of these people quickly and convincingly. After a brief skim of the novel's story you realise Alfredson's left quite a bit of the book out, but this in no way effects the film's appeal. In fact the film only make me want to read the original story more and how many adaptations do that?

Alfredson also coaxes two striking performances from the films leads. Kare Hedebrant is gives of the right air of innocence as Oskar, but it's Lina Leandersson's haunting portrayal of Eli that stands out. Ambiguous and complex, Leandersson's display is one that seems to show wisdom beyond her years while still holding an aspect of nativity about her. She's world weary and doesn't look a day over 12. The two are perfect for the film and maintain the cryptic motivations of their relationship until the end.

The film is not perfect, the music is far too obtrusive in a film that works best when quiet and certain subplots which are clearly more important in the book just don't sit comfortably with the rest of the film. But that's not the point, these are mere nitpicks of a film with a extremely raw emotional core.

The film is to be remade by Cloverfield's Matt Reeves and word has it that the U.S version will be made more "very accessible to a wider audience". This to me means spelt out to people would even bother to try and watch the original. I ask to myself whats the point (read: money) but as long as there's no glittering skin, it may be worth watching.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Review: Inglourious Basterds

Year: 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent

Don't tell any one but I liked, nay loved a movie. Yes, if your a regular reader of my poorly spelt, miserable reviews, you may see a distinct patten of apathy towards this years films. Once again we are given romantic comedies that abuse our ideals of actual romance, remakes and rehashes of slasher flicks that are still warm in their grave and a truck load of films that are only built around childhood nostalgia than any real form of creativity.

Then we get Quentin Tarantino a filmmaker whose ego is getting rapidly larger with every film that he directs (this is his 6th). A director who is equally despised as he is loved. A guy whose motormouth antics can have cinephiles whooping with joy or puking up bile. He is all these things but most of all he's a lover of cinema.

Hyperbole? Yes perhaps, but it's the best way to explain his new film. A film which clearly shows a filmmaker in love with what he does. I love films like this because when the directors having a blast then usually so am I and with Inglourious Basterds I was having the best time I've had in a cinema this year.

Sometimes it takes me a bit of time for me to be armoured with a film, Inglourious Basterds got me from the first beautiful shot. Riffing from the great westerns (Once upon a time in the west, The Searchers) Tarantino opens his film with a sequence filled to the brim with pent up tension. It is here we are introduced to two characters that will quickly be entered as favorites in the QT universe. The delectably devilish Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and the real protagonist of the film(yet the marketing says Brad Pitt), the beautiful Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent).

The scene is a brilliant mixture of discomfort and black humor as Hans "The Jew hunter" Landa interrogates a french framer who is hiding a jewish family (including Shosanna) somewhere in the house. I won't say too much as not to spoil it but it is an amazing scene, shot beautifully and setting up the pace and tone of the rest of the film perfectly. The folly of Tarantino's Deathproof is gone, this is a far more focused affair.

Broken down into 5 chapters, IB reminds me of a graphic novel. Like Watchmen, the film is set in an alternative timeline to what you and me would consider fact. This allows Tarantino to liberally play with historical events at his will. "This is not your Daddy's World War 2 film" states the director and he's not wrong here. Not content with distorting history, Tarantino uses his various trademarks (particularly in his writing) to change the audience's perspective on storytelling. Syd Field can fuck off, because the three act structure is thrown out the window. Characters come and go at will and the film comes together more like novel than a traditional movie. It's a bold move, but one that works as we then spend the right time with all these characters and I was left craving more.

With this however the story (weighing in at almost 3 hours) is quite light on plot, but unlike other films which can't justify such a long running time but have one anyway, Inglourious Basterds is never boring. The trailers make out that the film is an all out action movie, but it's not. It's very talkative, however, Tarantino's love for language and ear for dialogue is back to it's best so all the words are so delectable (and superbly lyrical) that it kept me enthralled throughout. The characters and dialogue distracted me (in a good way) from how basic the plot actually is. But lets not get it twisted, because Tarantino's direction of the story is brilliant, so even though it's not the most complex narrative ever written, the film is still unpredictable till the very end.

Speaking of direction, this is some of the man's best work, as it's unbelievably stunning visually. Many (including me) talk about the man's screenwriting constantly but here we are given an unbelievably mature (at times, he still loves being playful with the camera) visual style. As the language jumps from German, to English, to French to Italian (lol you'll see), the look of the film slips from epic to intimate to claustrophobic seamlessly with some to the shots, the best that the man has ever filmed.

Marketing has fucked up (again) and portrayed the film as not only an all out action epic but as a Brad Pitt movie. Here's the thing, it's a ensemble piece of the truest word. Everyone has their moment and all the performances are fun too watch. Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz are fantastic and I will not be surprised if we start seeing them in more American Movies. Waltz turns Hans Landa into one of QT's most memorable antagonists yet. Laurent's display is one of film noir cool and restraint emotions. She's strong, independent and clearly not the sort female character you'd see in your usual mainstream American movie.

The Basterd's themselves will be a mixed bag to most I feel. Eli Roth is clearly not an actor, but I enjoyed his OTT all American joe thing that he did. Til Schweiger is all scowls and sneers (it's great fun) while the twisted popeye-esque face of Brad Pitt is one note but hilarious throughout. Pitt's accent and performance fits Tarantino's dialogue perfectly and his (limited) screen time makes sure that you don't get sick of him too easily (there will be people who will hate him as well as Roth.)

Delibraly paced, visually striking and of course very witty, Inglourous Basterds is one of my favorite films of the year. I didn't expect it to be. After Deathproof I was worried that this would be equally as frustrating. However IB reminds me of the more assured writing and direction that was seen in Jackie Brown than in the horrid overt self-indulgence shown in Deathproof. Those who dislike QT need not apply as the film will say nothing new to you, but those seeking something a little bizarre but extremely entertaining and can't see Moon anywhere should try to check this out.

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Friday 14 August 2009

Review: A Perfect Getaway

Year: 2009
Director: David Twohy
Screenplay: David Twohy
Starring: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant

After leaving the cinema all i had to say was hummmmm. I guess I'll give A Perfect Getaway an A for effort as for the most part the film is well acted and the setting is perfect for the film. It's a shame that A Perfect Getaway has a third act that disrupts the tone far too much to be satisfying. Many will complain about the films twist (which Twohy placed a lot on) but the revel doesn't bother me, it's everything after said reveal that annoys.

When the films opening titles came up I took a shot about the films twist and because I watch too many movies I was right. This wasn't too much of an issue because David Twohy's (Pitch Black) script is snappy, and his direction does just enough to distract me from my smugness. Since Eli Roth's Hostel, horror and thriller have been doing the rounds in various tourist traps and Twohy makes sure that Hawaii is shot the best. A Perfect Getaway reminds me of films like The Decent, in which the films surroundings become part of the film. It subtly shows how easily something bad could happen in such a place and how simple it could be to disappear. Twohy balances this with playful character interaction drawing up some smart performances from the leads, with Steve Zahn in particular looking the most grateful, finally being allowed to have some range and not play the Zany sidekick.

For the most part this is all well crafted and while other reviews have claimed that the films build up is boring, I was having a blast. That is, until the films climax. Twohy's suddenly shoves the film into overdrive and once the films pulls the rug from under you, it decides that character motivations are no longer important, and contrivance is far more interesting than anything that happened before hand. It's clear that Twohy wants to play around with the "tourist torture" sub-genre, but if that's the case why does everything fall apart after the reveal? It's at this point that the film should tighten it's grip, instead the film becomes more flimsy in logic.

The film becomes more violent but not for the better because I don't buy what the characters do after the rug pull. Actions just don't ring true and the high amount of violence does nothing to distract the fact that Twohy kills the films rhythm and pace by placing an overlong flashback explaining the ins and outs of said twist. It doesn't help that more characters are introduced for no reason other then to up the body count, but by the time this happens I've already lost interest.

Twohy once again shows that he is a solid enough genre filmmaker, however A Perfect Getaway takes a wrong turn before the final hurdle and with that fails to finish satisfyingly. The holiday hell thriller still has legs in it before it gets stale, but those looking for something a little fresher may need to look elsewhere.

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Monday 10 August 2009

Review: Lesbian Vampire Killers

Year: 2009
Director: Phil Claydon
Screenplay: Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield
Starring: James Corden, Matthew Horne

In 2003 Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield (both MTV producers at the time) were challenged to think up of the dumbest and yet most commercial film title they could think of before going off and writing the script. Lesbian Vampire Killers is what they came up with. Intended to be a straight to DVD B movie with Williams intended to play one of the parts, six years on it becomes an upcoming vehicle for a comic double act (soon to be vilified due to overexposure) who have been gaining rave reviews for their BBC Three sitcom. The film is released to a shed load of piss poor critical reviews and pretty much bombing at the box office.

I feel my little history lesson helps show the wealth of problems Lesbian Vampire Killers has before I even try tackling the movie. Think of a stupid commercial title first before any sort of real idea, a straight to DVD B movie given a theatrical release because Horne and Corden are in it. MTV PRODUCERS WRITING A SCREENPLAY OF ANY KIND. The film was almost pretty much doomed to fail before it started.

Obviously, the film is clearly tongue in cheek, a spoof of the old school hammer horror/B movies that people hold dear. However, LVK fails because it seems that the filmmakers haven't even watched the films that they are trying to take the piss out of. Death Proof has it's fair share of distractors but you can't say that Tarantino doesn't love the movies he's homaging. The same goes for Planet Terror which revels in it's exploitative nature. LVK plays it safe throughout as if the BBFC had bulked on the films name and did it's best to clamp down any extreme elements during filming. A film like this should be cheeky not sanitised, however LVK does little to truly cash in on it's name. It's not very gory, nor is it that sexy and that's bad enough. It doesn't help that it's not very funny either.

Director Phil Claydon does his best to fill the large cracks by making the film visually interesting. While he should stay away from gimmicky effects, the film looks good. In fact it looks better than it should. It's a shame the script can't match up to the director's eye. The screenplay is shoddy work, with no real humor to speak of. In fact the only real reason any of the film is amusing is due to the hard work James Corden puts in. Corden gets all the "best lines" and is clearly comfortable in the film atmosphere. Matthew Horne however, clearly shows he's not ready to carry a film with a performance as awkward as it is bland. Paul McGann is roped in to give "British cinema a hand" while all the female parts are not worth talking about. Reason? They're are only here to look good. But when a film called Lesbian Vampire Killers has hardly any sex in it...what's the point?

Lesbian Vampire Killers is one of the weakest entries into the film cannon I've seen this year. A feminist view of the film would be disastrous as the film is littered with casual misogyny. Fans of the genre will be disappointed due to the films lack of spine and casual viewers may get nothing out of it either. All in all a waste of time for all involved.

Sunday 9 August 2009

RIP: John Hughes: 1950 - 2009

Voice of a generation

So many words have been spoken so I'm merely adding to the mass. People have been talking
about the man over the weekend and the words have been so tender and sweet that anything I would say would pale in comparison. The best thing I can do is show my favorite Hughes scene:

Two words: Unbridled Joy

Saturday 8 August 2009

Review: Moon

Year: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Screenplay: Nathan Parker
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

Here's the thing. I live in a medium sized town which has two cinemas. Sounds great for a guy like me yeah? Well not quite. Both are multiplexes and we're still in the summer blockbuster season. And with that, smaller films like Moon will be pushed out in order to have another screen of Harry Potter, despite the fact it's playing in the other five cinemas. So how did I get to see Moon? I got my ass off the sofa and got on a train. Pricey? Little bit. Worth it? Defiantly.

If you (read: anyone) reads this blog on somewhat of a regular basis, then you may have heard me signing the praises of Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. It was a performance I considered one of the best (if not the best) of the year. Well sorry Johnny and shut the fuck up Byron, Sam Rockwell film carrying display in Moon was quite simply stunning. Rockwell hasn't been this engaging since his remarkable performance in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), and here in this film he shows once again why he's so watchable.

It's hard to truly talk about how good Rockwell is in the role without letting out some of Moon's deeper secrets and because of that I will only say this: It's varied. This is a film that relies (almost solely) on Rockwell carrying it and he does so with ease. One plot moment is shown in the trailer but it doesn't tell you how fragmented the role Rockwell plays is. This is not the (intentionally) flat performance by Keir Dullea in 2001 (a film which Moon riffs on consantly) but a complicated, nuanced display of isolation, fear and deterioration.

Rockwell's performance helps bring about the larger arguments that Duncan Jones wishes to bring forth in the movie: what does it mean to be human? Is it our works? our memories? Jones delivers the films themes with such a sobering it hits you in the gut. Sci-fi films often deal with the ideals of spirituality, not here. Moon has been talked about as a film dealing with loneliness and this is true, but it's not just about the one man on the moon, but us as a race. This is hard sci-fi that isn't scared to remind us that we may only be an accident or a mistake and that we're doing everything to keep us occupied. It's scary thought but more which is much more interesting than the hackneyed alien god hodgepodge that lies at the end of Knowing.

It is this bold and adult look at story telling that makes Moon stand out. Jones, making his first feature length film, keeps the effects simple (and effective), while the pace and tone of the film will remind people of Alien. Jones' homages so many classic sci-fi films (Solaris, Silent Running etc) but refuses to merely ape them and brings about a film with it's own sense of being and relevance. The brilliant score from Clint Mansell (as always) only help seals the vision completely with the music managing to be both ominous and emotional at various points.

For me I found Moon to be beautiful, stunning and brilliant. It's fantastic central performance, deep themes and involving story make it one of the best I've seen this year. It's a shame that many won't get to see it until DVD next year, I however am happy to have seen it when I did.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Review: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

Year: 2009
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot
Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Randy Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

One of my problem with the Transformers movies has always been their cynicism and pompousness. Michael bay is a master of filming pyrotechnics but his toy movie adaptation have always seemed to be more about posturing and self-indulgence more than anything. "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh dear, what a crime." So he says but it's hard to tell with some of the product placement and over long running times that litter his robot saga.

While I've been fine with the director in the past, signs of his own smug self-importance have started become even more clear to me. An example of this would be the email he sent to Paramount bemoaning the "lack of promotion" of Revenge of the Fallen. His worry about a near profit proven promotion over his actors says more about him than it should.

It's probably one of the reasons why I enjoy G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra a lot more than either Transformer movies. A Bay movie thinks they're better than they are, while G.I Joe knows exactly would it is and runs with it. I may be wrong, but Revenge of the fallen takes over two hours to say nothing at all. G.I. Joe is 40 minutes shorter and is far more interesting.

The film is utterly preposterous is almost every way, but it wears it's silliness proudly. It constantly winks at the camera and has an energy that truly reminds me of an dodgy 80's cartoon, something that the other aforementioned movie could not do. This stems from Steven Sommer's sense of humour. He seems to understand the absurdity of the source material a lot more and delivers to us a film that appears to have it's tongue clearly in it's cheek. This is only way I can comprehend a film ripping off (paying homage?) to Team America: World Police.

Nothing is taken seriously and the film works because of it. Not to say that it hasn't got some of the basics right as well. For a summer blockbuster, I'm not expecting intricate, detailed screenwriting on display but the conflict within the screenplay goes much further than what's been placed than its "bigger brother". The contrivances can be spotted a mile off, but the film is still far more engaging because of what happens to the characters within the (paper thin) plot.

Whereas Revenge of the fallen as the edge when it comes to acting (top character actors + cardboard characters = some energy) G.I wins out when it comes to character development. Don't get me wrong, this is not Macbeth, yet the people here are more fleshed out than the 294 minutes of both those Robot movies combined. Also, to Sommers credit, despite having what could be considered "lesser actors" Sommers manages cox a watchable performance out of most of them...EVEN MARLON WAYNES!!!! It is said that Waynes has given decent displays in the likes of Above the Rim and Requim for a Dream. Here Sommers manages to place Waynes in a role that doesn't make you want to punch him in the face. Quaid looks slightly embarrassed to be there but takes it all on the chin, while Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ham everything up to works considering the movie is a silly one. A performance of note I may add is Sienna Miller. Usually an actress I care little about, Miller may have found her niche as an near emotionless villain....(lol). The less to say about the dull displays given to us by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Channing Tatum however the better.

Sommers directs G.I. with enough pace to stop the film from being boring and enough humour to distract us from the patchy plot. The action still suffers from the modern day hyper editing that has plagued many a action film but still manages to have fun moments. Sommers scores the most points by winking at the camera and nudges us in the ribs when the film hits the heights true heights of stupidity. The film is brainless but Sommers wants you to enjoy it for what it is. Many could say the same about some of the other blockbusters I've trashed, but Sommer keeps the tone just right. Like the rest of his back catalogue, Sommer's understands that this is nonsense, not a moment of it suffers from the portentousness that has struck other "event movies". This alone makes such a bizarre (and unbelievably violent) watchable.

The Summer of 2009 will not be the most memorable film season but at least at the end Stephen Sommers manages to bring out a guilty pleasure which brings about a sugar rush high that will help you forget the Angels and Demons of the year. But don't say I didn't warn you about the come down.

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Monday 3 August 2009

Review: Land of the Lost

Year: 2009
Director: Brad Silberling
Screenplay: Chris Henchy, Dennis McNicholas
Starring: Will Farrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride

Land of the lost is so bad I went home and tried to pour mouthwash in my ears to try and cleanse my brain and erase my mind of its existence. Here is a film so naff that it annoyed me that the filmmakers spent so much money in making the film look so cheap. I won't bad mouth the effects a such because they are meant to look hokey. However at one point a dinosaurs arm goes right through Danny McBride's head. There's cheap and then there's damn lazy.

In fact when thinking about the movie again (mouthwash didn't work) the entire enterprise screams of a definite lack of trying. It's almost as if some switched on a camera and waiting for something funny to fall out of Will Farrell's mouth. Said camera must have been on for a long time because he says hardly anything of note here.

For me the best comic improvisation stems from having a amusing moment enhanced by the actor placing something unexpected upon it. Be it a look, a small line or some other inflection, the joke was already in place, the actor (or even the director) has merely built upon it. Land of the lost doesn't have any truly comic moments of note, so when Danny McBride and Will Farrell start to improvise, it's painfully obvious, to add to this, what they come up with is unbelievably bland with nothing to back it up.

It's obvious that this film will mean a hell of a lot more to those who were fans of the show (not me personally) but similar films out there (See: Galaxy Quest) know how to balance the films tone so that it respects the cult status of what it's making light of (In GQ's case Star Trek) but doesn't lose those who "don't get it". Here we are given crude jokes within an flavourless family adventure. To make things worse the jokes aren't even written particularly well, everything seems to rely on Farrell making something up on the spot with none of the "stylish" crassness that made Anchorman and Talladega Nights so amusing to me.

Usually I feel I'm the only person who these pompous thoughts, but no. A quick glance around the cinema and hardly a titter (except for the family next to me). I won't lie to you and say I didn't laugh at all, but the fact it didn't even reach double figures and is a "comedy" certainly says something.

It's not like director Brad Silberling hasn't done right with me before. I thoroughly enjoyed what he did with Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events and I didn't mind Casper when I was younger. I think the problem I have here is source material. It seems like the idea of going "all out" with a parody these days is merely smattering the words shit and fuck into sentences. Although it is hard to fall in love with "homages" like this. Case in point I have no problem with the Brady Bunch movie but that may be because it doesn't feel like a lengthened SNL skit.

From an actors point of view, if you like Will Farrell you won't give a damn what I'm telling you but quite simply, he doesn't work in this film. In fact it seems that he has trouble figuring out on whether he's the straight man or not and his performance is uneven. Danny McBride is in a land of limbo; both with me and his state within the film, while Anna Friel is spunky but underused, however those hot pants...well played costume design.

I won't say anymore about Land of the lost because there's not much else to say about it. It's a dry, flat movie which believes that sporadic laughs are the way forward in comedy believes it can rely on only it's vague premise to succeed. Ces't la vie.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

Year: 2009
Director: Tony Scott
Screenplay:Brian Helgelhand
Starring: Denziel Washington, John Travolta,

I didn't even know there was an original Pelham film until it was mentioned by a slightly older friend of mine when we saw the trailer for the remake during a recent film screening. Because of this I have not yet seen the original film and so will not make much mention of it. However I will say that Hollywood prays on this kind of ignorance, and so a big budget remake has been made.

Was it worth the money? Maybe to the odd teenager or so. Pelham has an above average imdb rating at this moment in time and it currently has a fresher % rating than some of the larger event movies of the summer. However Pelham is so uneven it becomes frustrating, The first half of the movie is entertaining, the second, bland and uninteresting. Denziel Washington is (as always) watchable, while Travolta makes Megan Fox look like an Oscar winner. The film is constantly at odds with itself and because of this it becomes merely passable.

Compered to some of the more scathing reviews of Pelham, I did manage to take some good out of it. For one I loved the dialogue, there's some quick witted one liners that made me crack a smile or two. In fact much of the dialogue distracted me from some of the more dubious elements of the screenplay but more on that later.

To add to this, Scott's direction during the first half of the film (when the film runs of a deadline) has a taut build up which reminds me of earlier Tony Scott movies, but it is in saying this which presents one of the films main problems. The film only works when it slows down. When Scott scraps the MTV crap that he has suddenly decided to hold dear since 2004 (although it did work with Man on Fire) the movie becomes....a movie. With so many people baying for Micheal Mann's blood for the digital work on Public Enemies (many stating that it's "not a movie") They should really take a closer look at the haphazard cutting that is going on in Tony Scott's movies since Domino, because some of this shit is horrid and the second half of this movie is no exception. Mann went for realism while Scott's gone of incomprehensible......I know which one I'd pick.

So when the film allows to hold a shot for a couple of seconds on the workman-like performances John Turturro and Denziel Washington, it doesn't bore. We've seen both in better films with better roles an average performance from these two is still a million times better than a good one from say Haydren Christensen (is there one?).

However, remember what I said about uneven? Well two ok displays by Washington and Turturro are almost cancelled out by a ball breaking, jaw-clenching, downright shocking performance by John Travolta. The question isn't is it bad rather, it's how bad is it? the answer: extraordinarily. Travolta's role is nothing more than overacted, Flem spitting rants which did nothing but take me out of the film. None of what he does fits his character (although the screenplay never gets the villain right in the first place) and his interaction with Washington is piss poor. Travolta performance is so bad it sucks the tension of when he and Washington actually meet. That's right friends the hip shaker from Grease is nothing more than a charisma vacuum in this film. Sorry John but Pulp Fiction was quite a while ago now.

This finally brings me to the screenplay, which has crackling dialogue but a plot which lapses in basic common sense far too often. The plot relies on stupid coincidences to push the story on, the aforementioned antagonist is completely wrong for the film (for a man planning something like this, why does he have no composure at all?) while Scott hyper-active direction tries to hide the fact that the films climax is lackluster.

All in all, this Pelham remake is nothing more than a vanilla film. A plain Jane, whose wearing too much lipstick to make up for the fact that no ones asked her to dance. Once again I am disappointed and strangely relieved that I own a lot of Scott's better work on DVD. They're trashy alright, but a damn sight more rewatchable than this one night rental.

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