Sunday 29 November 2009

Review: Anti-Christ

Year: 2009
Director: Lars Von Trier
Screenplay: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Willim Defoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Synopsis is here

"I'm the greatest director in the world!" Von Trier cried after his Cannes screening of his latest film Anti-Christ. Why would he say something like that? Because he wishes to provoke reaction and his latest flick is no different. Knee jerk reactions were abound as soon as details of the film came out, with the most memorable of course being those rational people at the Daily Mail whose Mary Whitehouse-esque statements providing the most hilarity.

What most of those responses failed to see is that they've fallen into Von Trier smug self-promotion trap. Good or Bad the director just wants you to think of him and his "high art". The problem is for all it's beautiful visuals, Anti-Christ is a boring slog of a movie with only it's "shocking" scenes as it's high point and even those I found pretty tame.

In terms of technical aspects of craft, this is Von Triers best film. The cinematography is sublime while the sound production helps establish the films desolate tone. It's a shame that the film itself is filled with dull psycho-babble spewed by the two repugnant unnamed characters. Much has been said of the performances but I didn't warm to them or the people in anyway. Their listless manner of speaking became frustrating and the characters themselves are punch in the face horrible. Defoe's "He" is an elitist, patronizing prick while Gainsbourg "She" comes off as irritating more than anything else. By the time the film reaches it's over hyped climax I found it hard to care about what's happened to them.

Likened by critics for it's "serious" approach to grand subjects such as grief, by the time the CGI fox screams "chaos reigns" in your face, my funny bone has never been tickled harder. After all the films navel gazing posturing, the film suddenly descends into insanity as Von Trier decides to end the film with a needless display of gratuitous violence which doesn't disgust as much as it show complete disregard for it's audience. These scenes are no more than a selling point for the movie because a film like this would have been mostly dismissed without them. I can't see why however, because while Von Trier thinks he pushing boundaries, he doing nothing that Eli Roth or Rob Zombie could have dreamed up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The only reason Anti-Christ isn't placed with the Hostels and the H2's of the world is merely because it's so well shot. It wants you to think that this is important film making but nothing from the film apart from it's violence is memorable and worthy of a re-watch, unless of course your studying cinematography.

Not that Von Trier cares what anyone thinks of his movie. He is a man who just wants to make sure he got your attention no matter how. It's a shame because sometimes with the right focus he's made some interesting projects but for every Dogville there's an The Idiots and Anti-christ falls insipidly into the latter category.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Review: The Informant!

Year: 2009
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Matt Damon

Synopsis is here

The Informant! (the ! is part of the title) is an odd little film, lying halfway between Steven Soderbergh's more adventurous features and his more mainstream affair. At first it struggles to find it's way. The screening I watched had three walkouts, and I could see why. I just simply wasn't getting into the characters and the predicament being set up. The build up is boring and sometimes frustratingly obscure with Soderbergh giving us a talkie set up which does little to entertain or give an entry point. When I watched a couple walkout just before we got to the middle of the film I didn't envy them.

However, that well known story about people leaving halfway through a film and suddenly the film gets better? Well this is what happened with The Informant! The film shook off it's dull first half and becomes a daft but amusing character study of a man whose naivety and inability to see the leaves through the trees puts him in a farcical heap of trouble.

The film could be more goofy and Soderbergh certainly sets the film up to be with it's day-glo titles and satirical musical score that send-ups spy films with a breezy charm. However, it's only when the shit hits the proverbial fan that the movies plot seems to fall into line with the rest of the films mechanics. As the pressure builds from the unreliable protagonist (narrated in a wonderful stream of consciousness style by Damon) the film becomes more and more intriguing, and what looked to be a sub-standard wanna be espionage, becomes darkly amusing character study.

Damon carries the film considerably well, because while all the talk of corn and price fixing does nothing to raise an eyebrow, his actual performance does. He once again reminds us that while he is now an A-list star, he is still an actor that can envelop and become a fully formed character. It's not just the manner of speaking and animated exasperation, but even the walk he walks helps bring about a desperate and deeply inadequate man. It's a good thing Sodenbergh has such faith in this man because the rest of the cast don't really raise their own game a such. In fact only Scott Bukula gives any performance of note.

While recording the podcast, my partner asked me if I considered this to be a lesser Sodenbergh film. I don't consider any of his features to be "lesser" so-called, as he always tries to bring something different to the cinematic party. The last year has had Soderbergh looking at character studies of a varied range of people and this is one of them. I do believe however, that The Informant! will require a viewers patience in order to get past the rather large hurdle of the first act.

Want to hear more talk about The Informat? Visit our podcast at GeekPlanetOnline

Monday 23 November 2009

Review: New Moon

Year: 2009
Director: Chris Weitz
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
Starring: Kirsten Strewart, Robert Patterson, Taylor Lautner and Micheal Sheen (for some reason)

Synopsis is here

Love and angst seem to go hand in hand, and some people love to see that at the movies. I don't mind either to be fair with you, in fact some of my favorite films are indeed angsty tales of love. But for love stories to work there must be something to hang on to. It is this reason that I can't see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the new tween favorite "The Twilight Saga". The star crossed lovers declare their affections constantly, but not once do I believe them.

New Moon is the next phase (sorry) in the Twilight series and as it's the second feature, it is a time for me as a viewer to get into these characters a bit more as they raise the stakes (sorry again) and build upon the foundations made within the first film. In the case of these series of films, it should be the loving relationship that was supposedly constructed by Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Patterson). The problem I have with this is quite simple; there wasn't that much of a relationship in the first place. The first film did a pretty useless job of making me believe that these guys were a couple and the second film does even worse in making me believe that they've continued one. At no point do these people ever look in love. Their relationship is cold and emotionless and while I understand that the film has a dark tone but no effort is placed within New Moon (or Twilight for that matter) to make me feel that these people were made for each other.

This couple is constantly miserable, whether they're together or not. The acting doesn't help, Stewart's incessant eye fluttering seems only to say that they laid the eyeliner a little thick, while Patterson believes that furrowing his brow means that he's displaying a wide range of complex emotions. Their talk of love is so devout of feeling, it makes the characters of Closer look like stars of a Cameron Crowe film. It doesn't help that the basis of their love is built upon the fact that, Edward wants her "desirable" blood and Bella likes shiny things (Edward is "beautiful" and also sparkles in sunlight).

It also makes New Moon's most important sub plot involving old friend/new lover Jacob (he's also a werewolf) even more frustrating because he and Bella actually HAVE a somewhat believable relationship. This love triangle is an isosceles one because where this Jacob fella is not only well built but he also has a personality, a history with Bella and has natural charm (portrayed relatively well by Taylor Lautner) while Edward...can sparkle and furrow his brow well good.

All the hard work by Jacob means nothing in the long run because A) Bella is a selfish manipulative cock tease (well everyone in the film is but Bella's actions to Jacob throughout are strangely harsh particularly her thoughts at the end) and B) The troublesome Mormon race issue arises; Jacob is a Native American, he is also considered to be a dog, a mutt and a wild animal compared to those sparkly pale faces with their wonderful restraint and ability to curb their baser urges. Yes! Jacob is a buck in the purist sense, he never had a chance with the virginal beauty that is Bella Sawn.

This is me looking far too deeply into what is a film, not targeted at myself but at tweens who like to believe in love at first bite (again sorry) and only care about smoldering good looks to make affection work. But usually I can appreciate a good romance done well; from the corny (yet structured) love story in Titanic to that moment where Di Caprio and Danes lock eyes by the fish tank in Romeo and Jullet, a love story which Twilight strives to be with it's obvious references but fails to hit the mark constantly. Despite this the film is still critic proof and has already made a killing at the box office, however, I feel its a shame that such success has come to a movie that is so bland, and so shallow and so lacking of feeling. But hey, all those boys went to Transformers 2 didn't they?

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Review: Fish Tank

Year: 2009
Director: Andrea Arnold
Screenplay: Andrea Arnold
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Micheal Fassbender

Synopsis is here

When we first meet Mia (Katie Jarvis) she is alone, breathing heavily from practicing her hip-hop dancing in an empty blue room, looking out at the window in front of her. The window is rectangular and the image confirms that the confined Fish Tank that the title speaks of, is of course the Essex estate that is the setting of the story. Within a minute we are told almost everything we need to know about the character we're about to follow. The image is simple, stark and yet effective. It's also British filmmaking at it's strongest.

Andrea Arnold is a director that is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing British directors working today. She is a filmmaker that only produces strong female characters that do need to resort to using a gun or a knife to prove their strength. When they act, it doesn't feel that the script has told them to do it, it feels like the characters actual behavior dives them do act. In modern cinema, this can be every difficult to achieve, but Arnold in only her second feature is proving not only that she is an assertive and confident British director but an important one also.

Comparisons to Loach are abound, but Fish Tank reminds me more of Luke Moodyson's Lilya 4-Ever (2004). Both deal with young women trying to find their place in a world where Role Models are scare and Innocence can be easily lost. Arnold's film brings us this in a another simple but brilliant metaphor involving an old white horse owned by a group of brothers, chained in a field. Some might find the symbolism a little obvious but the films direction is so confident it hardly matters and helps enhance Fish Tank's unsure climax.

Until then we spend two hours of subtle unease as Mia's mother brings home Connor, played by a seductive Micheal Fessbender whose turn is so far away from his part in Inglourious Basteds you may wonder if it's the same person. The unsettling sexual tension between unknown Jarvis' fiery performance and Fessbender's charm is combustible and Arnold's building of the discomfort becomes almost unbearable as she tightens the screws slowly with the camera awkwardly lingering for a moment too long. Scenes consistently keep the anxiety just creeping above the surface and by the time we reach the third act, Arnold has wound the film so tightly that even the coke I was drinking couldn't shift the massive stone that had landed in the pit of my stomach. The payoff of all this is sutble and not as explosive as one may have considered, but Fish Tanks minimal resolution stays clear of easy answers and cliche and still managed to leave me speechless.

Fish Tank also features a use of music to utilize style, tone and background (it's not only interesting but insightful to see that it's the materialistic, commerical hip-hop lifestyle that appears to inspire working class whites on the Essex estate). Arnold also makes an articulate choice of using "Life's a bitch" by Nas to heighten of the films final moments. This attention to detail that makes the film stand above many other films of the year.

Fish Tank is an unflinching coming of age story which shows a cinematic talent beginning to hit her stride. Establishing themes that are personal to herself (Voyeurism which was prominent in Arnold's Red Road rears it's head once again), it is yet another female director who has brought about one of the most gutsy films of the year (see also Kathryn Bigalow's The Hurt Locker). For British Drama, nay, cinema doesn't get any better....Well...maybe Moon, but this is up there also kay?

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Review: Harry Brown

Year: 2009
Director: Daniel Barber
Screenplay: Gary Young
Starring: Micheal Caine, Emily Mortimer, Sean Harris, Liam Cunningham, Jack O'Connell

"An eye for an eye makes everyone blind" - Gandhi

At one point within Harry Brown, one of the films teenage villains, sounds off at the police about their inability to do anything when his brother was stabbed. Because of this he has decided to "tool up" in case anyone "steps" to him. Another point, one of the police detectives is happy that a vigilante is doing the dirty business of cleaning the scum off the streets. Chavy Kids who cause violence because it has happened to them should get shot, while grieving pensioners who are fed up with violence on the estate and have decided to kill because justice hasn't been done, gets to walk through the underpass again.

Harry Brown is overcooked, rabble rousing nonsense that hides a quieter, more powerful film within it. In watching the films earlier scenes, we see a man consumed by grief and strive, wonderfully portrayed by the now ever reliable Caine who can hold an audiences attention with merely a glance. Caine's Brown says a little but conveys much, and anyone who wishes to be an actor should really look at the first act of this film. This is how it's done.

It's a shame that the louder the film gets, the duller it becomes, as Gary Young's exaggerated screenplay leads us to believe that skag addicts stoned out of their gord on speedballs can maintain a vast garden of 7 foot high ganja plants as if they were Alan Titchmarsh. It's moments like this that belay what little intelligence Harry Brown really has.

Compared by some to be a companion piece to Gran Torino, Harry Brown is merely a lazy update of death wish that wishes to be important. While Gran Torino has a glossy Hollywood sheen that can only come from a movie like that, at least it was willing to show an interesting message; redemption through education. While the film is highly unlikely at least it has a moral center to it. HB utilizes sympathy to side with a character whose doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. When we meet Brown he has lost his wife and soon loses his friend, the problem is (small spoiler) the reason he lose his friend is HIS FUCKING FRIENDS FAULT. It then became every hard for me to elicit any feeling after Brown find this nugget of information out, because while these yobs are despicable, his friend caused his own downfall. However if this was an estate kid...many would hoot and holler at the stupidity of his demise.

Of course, Micheal Caine impasses all those aspects of Britishiness that middle England would root for in a film like this and of course the idea of Brown brutalising little shits because he's giving them what for, makes his wrong justice passable.

Moral ethics and issues aside, the film fails for me due to it's inability to keep it's tone as well as it's contrived ending and sub-par sub-plots. In my opinion the film would have been stronger from a socially-economic view if the screenplay concentrated on the police (and criminal) side of affairs instead of leaving them as a handy scape goat for daily mail reading viewers. Instead what we get a silly media goading revenge movie which doesn't hold a candle to the brilliant Dead Man's Shoes, a film which effectively deals with the outcome of vigilantism.

Many will disagree and that's fine, but for me Harry Brown should have been a much more complex film than just Micheal Caine dishing out rich creamy justice. If you watch those opening scenes, you may just agree with me.

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline

R.I.P Edward Woodard 1930 - 2009

From his well loved 1984 television series The Equalizer to his recent performances in Hot Fuzz and Eastenders. Woodward was considered a professional to the very end. I wish his family well.

To me he will always be immortalized as stern, repressed Sergeant Howie in the brilliant 1973 the Wicker Man. Mr Woodard, I salute you.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Review: 2012

Year: 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Screenplay: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson

Synopsis is here

Lets say certain filmmakers are artists in more of an impressionist sense. Kubrick would be precise pencil drawings, Haneke would draw harsh pictures with black charcoal, Tarrintino would be pop art and Roland Emmerich would paint with big bright colours with a massive roller brush, such is how broad he is.

Subtly isn't one of Emmerich's strong points. Everything is in your face, obvious and blatant. What you see is what you get and if you are going into 2012 to see something high brow and classy, then you may be a little bit slow and will never get to see the next Jane Campion film because your clearly too simple. If however you wish to see the destruction of the world (read; America) then your in the right place. I have no problem with Emmerich's constant desire to fuck with the planet as Independence Day is one of my favorite memories of cinematic nostalgia. My issue with Emmerich is since then I haven't felt that any of his disaster flicks dizzying heights of enjoyment since. Godzilla was a farcical remake, and The day after tomorrow had far too much navel gazing pandering for it's own good.

Watching 2012 has realized how much I've grown since ID4. Emmerich has pretty much traced over the work he's done before. It's not so much that the motifs are the same (of course there's destruction of famous architecture) but now, Emmerich has now resigned to nabbing characters from his work and merely giving them different names and actors to play them. Two examples of this would be Woody Halerson's Charlie character is Randy Quaids Russel Casse with longer hair (swap aliens for end of the world), while Oliver Platt's Carl Anheuser should be swapping notes with Albert Nimzicki such is their shared dislike for humanity. 13 years since Will Smith K.O'd an alien with his right hook, Ol Roland is still writing the same script, with the same arcs and only slightly modified lines. It was fun when I was 12 and now it's still enjoyable to a point, but to say that it's not getting a little bland would be a lie.

It's not all bad, Emmerich is a good judge of casting and fills the film with a glut of respectable character actors to make the film watchable. Don't expect any turns that will have you blubbering in the aisles, but at least your going to watch reliable performers. If I'm going to be sat in a cinema for almost three hours I'd rather be watching John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor than say Channing Tatum and Paul Walker. Also Emmerich as a director of disaster, does a satisfactory job in building moments of tension and generally creating some arresting visuals if you were to really place any thought into them. Trouble is, in no way are you supposed to doing anything of the sort. Emmerich reminds you of this by filling the film with huge piles of Gorgonzola throughout, usually to fill in the films dubious science and plot holes.

To be honest Emmerich's lashing of cheese dose much to show that he appears to be at heart quite a bloody minded optimist and in a cinematic world that is filled with "dark" franchises and cynicism it's quite reassuring to see a director championing the human spirit (albeit with a kindergarten logic). It's a shame he shows such positivism with a plodding pace, simplified characters and three plot strands too many.

But who cares about that? In a film where the worlds gonna end, no one gives a damn about character and plot! It's all about the effects! Fair enough, however despite Emmerich doing an admirable job of upping moments of tension, the CGI payoff still isn't as strong as his previous efforts. In fact it boarders on overkill. I may have been spoilt on the superb effects work on District 9 but that's still not really a reason for sloppiness. In 2012, nothing beats any of the moments that took place in ID4 (expect for when that golden lab escapes). While the film is (rightly) relentless in it's set pieces, it's over reliance in what are quite average effects weaken the film considerably. Add this to the films simplified logic and moments of absurdity and you have a film that is quite uneven. Only a film like this could have the BBC still broadcasting so easily despite the fact that England would probably have been ravaged beyond repair. The Murdocks have no right to complain about the Beeb if the taxpayers money can produce a channel that will have news broadcast through wind, sleet, snow and of course the complete destruction of the world as we know it with such ease.

Bizarrely coming out in November (this is a summer blockbuster if ever I've seen one) 2012 is an interesting alternative to the upcoming tweeny boppingness of New Moon this week. But only if you can stand it's overlong plot, moments of ludicrousness and average at best effects. I dare not watch Independence Day again in fear of trading it in to a second hand shop.

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline

Sunday 8 November 2009

Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats

Year: 2009
Director: Grant Heslov
Screenplay: Peter Straughan
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey

Synopsis is here

The Men Who Stare At Goats is a film which reminds me of one of my favorite films of 2002: Confessions of a dangerous mind. Both deal with larger than life characters who may or may not have had self-confessed influential roles with American government agencies. Confessions dealt with Game Show host/creator Chuck Barris' run ins with the C.I.A while TMWSAG tells the story of a group of Army men with Physic abilities. The entertainment isn't in how true these stories might be but how amusing the delusions can get and while TMWSAG's gets extremely goofy with it's flashback tales of the new earth army, it doesn't have the slick direction of confessions, nor does it have the narrative structure to keep the hi jinks going.

TMWSAG's strongest aspect is it's acting. Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and George Clooney (whose on a bit of a roll with me as of late) play the films lunatics so deadpan it's impossible not to smirk at the very sight of them at times. Played completely straight, the more absurd the the tale gets, the funny the characters become. It helps that the best roles are being taken by The dude, John Doe and Danny Ocean. All three are having a great time with the bizarre nature of their roles, it is only Ewan Mcgregor and his dubious American accent that struggles as the films straight man. After a brief chat with my podcast co host, we both agreed that Jason Bateman would have been just as entertaining in that role, if not more so.

It's great to have such a cast as it allows director Grant Heslov less to worry about. Although it would have been nice if he didn't allow his debut film to run out of narrative steam at the end of the film. This mostly stems from the films screenplay but by the time the film reaches it's climax it's clear that the film has gone as far as it can go with the material, which is odd because a film as batty as this should have almost limitless potential. With this being Grant Heslov's first film however, the man shows that he has more then enough talent to not only work with an ensemble cast but managing to craft an amusing film which for the most part is very funny. Heslov also knows his genre well and makes sure his film isn't bloated. The film does lose momentum but unlike many other comedies, it doesn't outstay it's welcome.

The Men Who Stares At Goats is a quirky little film with some great laugh out loud moments and a cast that manage to keep the film going during the films dry spots (mostly occurring near the end). I may not have found it as entertaining as Clooney wonderfully dry Confessions of a dangerous mind, but for a first time director being in the same ballpark as that film is nothing but a good thing in my book.

Listen to me yell about this at Geekplanetonline

Review: Jennifer's Body

Year: 2009
Director: Karyn Kusama
Screenplay: Diablo Cody
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons

Synopsis is here

There's a shot in Jennifer's body that stayed with me for quite a while after I watched it. It's not the lesbian kiss (although that scene has more sexual energy flowing through it than most of the drab, dry screen relationships we can get during a year of cinema). It's the shot of Megan Fox (the movies titular Jennifer) looking dead on at the camera. She is battered, bruised and bleedling. She begins to grin manically at the camera and blood oozes from her mouth. To many it's a nothing moment but to me it got me. It's the moment that I realized that I didn't mind Jennifer's body. In fact by the end of the movie I found that I quite enjoyed it. It's the horror film fan in me.

Yes Jennifer's body suffers from having try hard dialogue that's "too cool for school" and of course Megan Fox will never win awards for what she considers acting. But the film is what it is, a movie in love with the 80's style horror flicks it tries to ape. It's a little undercooked, but it still has moments of intelligence which are more enjoyable to watch than many of the sequels and remakes that are taking place at the moment.

What I enjoyed about the movie is how fun Diablo Cody's screenplay actually is. Her imprint on the movie is just as strong as it was in Juno, however here she is playing around with conventions and doing the best to subvert them in a genre she clearly loves. When the dialogue isn't trying its best to be "hip" the film is actually quite funny. The films best moments stem from the screenplays skewed view of the media idolization (reminiscent of the jedward hubbub of the past few weeks or the Jade Goody manipulation of her first big brother outing). The idea of a band selling a soul to the devil in order to be as big as Maroon 5 is as absurd as it is droll.

Also Cody's positioning of females in the forefront is every refreshing. Both the characters of Jennifer and Needy are more rounded than a sub-genre like this one usually allows. In fact despite Jennifer being a demon for most of the film in the beginning, she's not a complete bitch merely a naive young girl. It's no surprise that the screenplay uses sexuality to cloud the judgment of all the young minds on screen, as Jennifer's transformation is a well used but nicely executed metaphor for hormonal changes. With that said, considering the films influences, I'm surprised that it's not as sexy as it could be, and I'm mean that in the best possible way.

It's clear that Jennifer's body is more Cody's film than that of the films director Karyn Kusama. While she manages to give the movie some well crafted moments there's a struggle to keep the balance of the films tone. The screenplay is amusing, however, Kusama's direction lacks the suspense and horror that would send the film in the big leagues of your evil deads, Shaun of the deads etc. An issue that many have had within the comedy-horror sub-genre.

Kusama however is a female director who has shown that she can get a watchable performance from Megan Fox. She ain't no Streep, but this is a film that plays to her strengths well enough and to be honest, she does get a good grip on Cody's dialogue here. Compare this turn to her risible performances in those toy movies and you do see a small jump in quality. It also helps that she is carried though the film by a steady display by Amanda Seyfried. While she's a woman whose a little bit too attractive to be a frump, she shows that she has the just as much potential and range as her Mean Girls cohort Rachel McAdams. The male performers aren't nothing to write home about bar a nice take on the douchebag lead singer by Adam Brody who gets the biggest laughs of the movie.

Jennifer's body hasn't had the great time at the box office, nor did it stand a chance with film critics who constantly do their best to show horror movies as a lesser genre. But it's a film with a nice screenplay by a strong writer whose quickly finding her voice and a director who may not be Kathryn Bigalow but still puts in a truckload of effort and succeeds more often than this review may claim. It's fluff but it's watchable fluff.

More Jennifer's body talk at Geekplanetonline

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Review: Vicky Christina Barcalona

Year: 2008 (U.K release 2009)
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall

Synopsis is here

Woody Allen is a director I admire for a few reasons, but one thing that always gets me is effort. Now, drifting into his 70's Allen is still consistently making product (still one film a year) drenched in themes that mean the most to him. However, the successful merge of critical and commercial plaudits have managed to escape him for the most part. With Vicky Christina Barcelona Allen manages to grab back some of the praise that has been missing for the most part of his latter career (not like that's what drives him of course.).

Picking up an Oscar (Penelope Cruz in a spicy supporting role), Vicky Christina Barcalona is a bright and breezy affair that once again delves into the complexities of love and logic that Allen enjoys toying with. It's a film that's relatively sharp and is in love with it's surrounding. For the most part, it's an entertaining movie. It's a pity that Allen has decided to go with the idea of having the story narrated throughout the whole movie. The narration (Voiced by Christopher Evan Welch) is one of the worst decisions considered by a filmmaker who is usually a little more savvy in his judgment.

The film's narration brings down a lot of what makes the film interesting. Instead of characters displaying their emotions, we are patronizingly told by a narrator who has no qualms about stating the obvious as well as ruining the films more delicate moments. This turns the movie into a kind of "Woody Allen for dummies" in which you don't have to use your brain to process the movie as everything is laid out on a plate. The drab statements made on the films scenes are made worse due to the fact that they're not even amusing. It's bad enough that they wreck some of the character interplay but at least be funny!

It's not all bad as Allen fills the screen not only with the gorgeous scenery but with attractive performances from the films leads. The film plays with the idea that we as human beings may not be as grounded in our monogamous lifestyles as we think. While on paper the peculiar love square comes across as ridiculous but the choice of cast and their charm make it work. Bardem's voice is full of seductive promise, while Cruz is the perfect destructive foil for their relationships gone wrong. My favorite performance comes from Rebecca Hall who manages to sneak in the "Allen" neurotic turn under the guise of an uptight culture student. Placing all the hang-ups upon her is the best move of the film. Scarlett Johansson whose been slowly picking some dubious choices as of late (He's not that into you, The fucking Spirit) picks up her game slightly but unfortunately seems to be resigned to merely being the eye candy.

Direction-wise Allen is still a solid craftsman, with the films story being an entertaining (if a little fluffy) one. It's also good to see the director branching out to different locations in his later years (I haven't seen his London excursions as of yet) as the change of scenery really does his ideas good. From a writing point of view his screenplay (narration aside) still has an ear for what sounds good in peoples mouths and while some may complain that these characters are "wordy", the actors once again make sure it doesn't sound too out of place.

Despite having the film speaking to me as if I'm some sort of child, Vicky Christina Barcelona is still a lively piece of work from a man who will never stop to take a break. Lets hope that his upcoming "whatever works" manages to keep up the trend. Lets just hope that we get show and not tell.

Monday 2 November 2009

Best Person to play Sinatra?

So the reports are flying in that Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney are fighting it out for the role of Frank Sinatra in Marty Scorsese's biopic... Right ok. I don't know about you but what I wouldn't do for a talented unknown who ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE OL' BLUE EYES to jump ahead of them and get the part..

Just a thought.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Review: My Bloody Valentine

Year: 2009
Director: Patrick Lussier
Screenplay: Todd Farmer, Zane Smith
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jamie King, Kerr Smith

Synopsis is here

If you also happen to listen to the podcast that I co-host with my movie pal Iain, you will know that I've been avoiding 3-d for quite a while. I have many reasons why I've discouraged the idea to friends, readers and listeners ranging from the inflated price to not being able to take my girlfriend due an issue with her eyes. I've never seen the point of it and even made sure I watched UP in 2-d so I could concentrate on the film and not the gimmick.

However, this Halloween I went to a cinema all-nighter with the geekplanet crew (the people who host the podcast among other things) and unfortunately one of the movies on the 4 film program was Patrick Lussier's remake of a 1981 slasher film and it was only in 3-d.

After watching this dreadful entry into the over stuffed genre of the slasher 3-d finally nailed a coffin into my thoughts of 3-d; it is a gimmick that is only being used to try and stop pirating and to get you to pay more for films. It adds nothing to the experience of the film and doesn't draw a viewer into what they're watching. Too make matters worse, Lussier's movie is a cliche ridden, poorly acted, badly realized slasher movie with nothing going for it except it's gimmick...which doesn't work.

There is no point in talking about the film's aesthetics because they only exist to push the idea of 3-d. Unfortunately this is a technology that hasn't evolved since the 50's and this third attempt at selling the idea still suffers from the same problems that stop it before. I usually sit about 5 to 6 rows up in the middle of the cinema depending on what I'm watching and this position for 3'd is nothing short of useless. I have no doubt the film would put an annoying strain on my eyes no matter where i sat, but the problem is for those people sitting anywhere other than the middle of the back row, the 3-d element is incredibly uncomfortable to watch.

Throughout the experience my eyes ached, watered and lost focus of what I was supposed to be watching. Due to most horror filmmakers being addicted to the idea of over cutting movies, the MTV-style method of editing made watching certain aspects intolerable. The glasses itched and I found myself removing them every so often in fear of an epileptic fit. This may be construed as overreacting, however I found this movie difficult to watch because of the gimmick it's pushing and there's nothing else found within the screen worth recommending to anyone.

Yes this is a poorly veiled rant at 3-d films, but unfortunately there is nothing else to say about this film. The transparent narrative makes the plots Scooby Doo appear to be masterpieces. The glazed look of all the actors communicate nothing other than the word "paycheck", the violence is uninspiring and the entire film is about as scary as sack of kittens. You will miss nothing if you avoid this movie. A naff time had by all.