Friday 24 August 2012

Cinematic Dramatic 4x10 - The Expendables 2

Lock and Load! The Dramatics are throwing themselves into fantasy with Brave, spy games with The Bourne Legacy and more explosions as Sly's Expendables are back for another adventure. Byron's thrilled.

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic

Sunday 19 August 2012

Review: The Bourne Legacy

Year: 2012
Director: Tony Gilroy
Screenplay: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

Synopsis is here

My problem with The Bourne Legacy is that it's so interested in it's lofty themes, it completely forgets about getting the basics down. There's a kernel of a decent film which is lost amid a pool of lacklustre motivation, uninteresting characters and bland story. All that isn't supposed to matter because GUNFIGHTS AND CHASES. Unfortunately; we've seen all that before, with the first three Bourne films. Those films also had the decency to give you something tangible to hold on to while you rode the roller-coaster.

As I said before there are a few points of interest within The Bourne Legacy. One of them is the idea of soldiers being created with less remorse, making them more efficient killers in the field while losing the compassion that compasses their humanity. The film references this twice. Firstly; when a our new Jason Bourne, Alex Cross (Renner) meets another agent at a remote outpost, sent there because he "fell in love". Secondly in a admittedly impressive motorcycle chase sequence, an enemy agent grunt who is "tradestone with none of the inconsistency, appears and goes Terminator on our heroes. The idea that the genetic science that may have created Jason Bourne is now being used to zone out emotional capacities is something I would find fascinating in a movie, particularly in one like this in which does show some promise with dialogue that doesn't feel like it's been processed for teenagers. Placing a pharmaceutical company the way the film does as the antagonist also gives the film a 70's thriller vibe and maturity that you may not get with your vampire hunters or even Avengers.

Problems arises however, when you realise that Alex Cross is just not Jason Bourne and the so called legacy looms large over the entire project. We are told every early on by an uninterested Edward Norton, to forget about Jason Bourne. But Bourne's search for his identity (as well as his humanity) give him a clear purpose. Here; we're given a bland goal of having to get "chems" or else. This wouldn't be a problem if Cross was a character worth following. The same goes for the antagonists chasing him down. There seems to be little at stake for everyone involved. Whatever stake that is negated, doesn't feel worth bothering about.

The film doesn't make good on its terms, starting very slowly, almost to the point of tedium, before wandering aimlessly (the middle being punctuated with well structured but ultimately meaningless action set pieces) and finishing abruptly, with the main narrative being nowhere as interesting as the subtext the film mentioned. Renner and Weisz sell their roles well but I found myself constantly arguing the point of the whole thing with myself. When you do that, your not enjoying the movie.

Friday 17 August 2012

Review: The Expendables 2

Year: 2012
Director: Simon West
Screenplay: Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nan Yu

Synopsis is here

NOTE: I go into some spoiler territory here, but if you turn up to this for the plot, you surprise even me.

In a brave new post modern world; where action heroes are now more likely to be character actors (Bale, Damon, Downley Jr et all), The Expendables came across as a distressing plea for relevance at the hands of it's director and lead, Sylvester Stallone. Rambo himself may have jogged audience members memories to remember heap of near forgotten action stars. However, the misty eyed nostalgia of seeing these screen heroes was quickly obscured by the real reason for the films existence: ego fuel.

Sly's film was less about showing the young pretenders how it's done and more about exclaiming that he was till around. Drunk of the response of Rocky Balboa and Rambo, The Expendables' constant extreme close ups of an elderly Stallone mumbling naff gags was unfortunately more memorable than the hastily hacked action.

Empire writer Helen O'Hara rightfully lambasted the net nerds and lugheads on twitter by quoting the following:
"It's ironic, a movie that wears masculinity like a badge has fans who read 1 bad review & cry like little girls"
I couldn't agree more. The Expendables is less about delivering a decent action feature as opposed to stroking the egos of those who star in it. Stallone, Arnie and Willis have all make their mark in action films that were way more effective in story and set pieces. High pitched screeches of how "old school" it is, can ring from here to Albuquerque. The whining falls on deaf ears when the likes of films like The Raid are only a rental away. That film also has issues, but when it comes to action, the scenes put forth could be watched over and over.

That said, The Expendables 2 will probably quench the thirst of those who lust for the wrinkly muscle of it's meat headed cast. The film starts out with a set piece that could have easily been the climax of any other action movie. As oddly composited the sequence is (considering the film, and the money put in place, it doesn't look great) this sequel clearly wishes to expand on what came before. Bullets fire, bones crack and faceless soldiers of a far away country are set on fire. Director Simon West sorts out some of the geography of the on screen action although still it feels like characters drop in and out with no real sense of place or time.

It is good that a director like West has taken over directing duties from Stallone. The film is a little more assured of itself this time round. The film trundles along at a decent enough pace and hits it's action beats better than it's predecessor. Most of the dialogue and gags are still pretty awful, but Stallone and his band of writers at least feel a bit more accurate with the ironic aspect of the franchise. I've got to believe that the confusing and cliched monologue that Liam Hemsworth spouts is for the "lolz" because his character goes so far past tongue in cheek that it skips past sad and ends up right back where it came from. Honestly, the moment Hemsworth utters his first line of dialogue, his trajectory becomes more than a little predictable.

But then that's what films like this are about. Stating the obvious and things that go boom. Things don't have to make sense as long as a famous action start pops up from nowhere, makes a pop culture reference to themselves and shoots a gun. There is little to no reason for Chuck Norris within this movie, other than to mention a Chuck Norris joke from the internet and distract you from the fact that Jet Li was only in the first 10 mins of the the movie.

It's not completely tragic. I really enjoyed the casting of Jean Claude Van Damme, who milks his villainous character for as much as he can get, while there's no denying that there's a certain chemistry between Stallone and chums, although it still feels like him Bruce and Arnie didn't shoot their scenes together. The inclusion of Nan Yu as an intelligent (for this kind of movie) female character also means well. Unlike a Micheal Bay movie, Yu doesn't feel as sexualised as so many Hollywood startlets, and yet remains attractive in her own right.

For all it's obviousness, The Expendables 2 does at times strive for something earnest. One "dramatic" moment has Sly's Barney Ross lament at why some are chosen to die, while others do not. The scene is badly played out (almost laughable) and yet touches on something I wished both this and the original film leaned on more. However, it's not meant to be. The Expendabless 2 stayed in my memories longer than the first film, but still faded quicker than watery mist on a hot July day. That negative response may have more grown men weeping and raging, but at least they'll have the large arms of The Expendables to keep them safe.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Cinematic Dramatic 4x09 - Ted

The Dramatics take in Seth MacFarlane's first full length feature where cute and cuddly teddy bears can be really foul mouthed and not suitable for kids. It can only be Ted.

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic

Monday 13 August 2012

Review: Ted

Year: 2012
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Screenplay: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring; Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale,

Synopsis is here

If you have ever taken any major issue with any of Seth MacFarlane's animated television work (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show), I see little to no reason for you to watch Ted. It is the film equivalent. Playing on the same tropes that have done him so well since his Larry and Steve shorts, Ted deals with a naive male who has an anthropomorphic toy bear as his best friend. It is a loaded truck of pop culture references and absurd physical slapstick, with a loose plot line to hang everything together. It is a format that has made him a multimillionaire. Like so many trends that empties greenbacks out of pockets, it appears to me that if Seth doesn't think the situation is broken, why should he fix it?

Much like those Star Wars films; MacFarlane routinely parodies, Ted wrings as much out of a premise as its creator can. You are told to "write what you know" and Seth knows this relationship very well, as Ted (MacFarlane) and John (Wahlberg) launch into a series of loosely connected vignettes about them smoking joints, partying and causing grief for the long suffering Lori (Kunis in the Lois role). It's hard not to notice that we've seen this before. Especially as someone who has their late night insomnia fuelled by the exploits of Stan Smith and his wacky family on BBC3. Despite the faint feeling of staleness, the switch from animated to "proper" film making has not lessened MacFarlane's timing and gags. The trails and tribulations of a once happy minor celebrity bear now battered by the harsh realities of life (with added crass humour) works exceedingly well in the hands of a guy like Seth. There's dick and fart jokes at their premium.

It would be easy to attack the films lack of a decent narrative, however, MacFarlane preempts this with an early homage to Airplane (a scene which in itself parodies Saturday Night Fever), reminding us that so much humour at its heart runs on a certain type of illogicality to function. With this said, all jokes have a target and while I'm holding my sides with laughter at some of the films precise crassness and throwback humour (a major set piece and cameo had me in fits), many in the audience found laughs in the "easiest" jokes. The sexually suggestive bear brings amusement, the references to 80's films and T.V did not. MacFarlane's fixation with taking the piss out of Top Gun and Octopussy are fine for late 20 somethings (and over) in a state of arrested development (see me raise my hand) but were clearly lost on those born after 1991. Some references are so neatly odd, that it helps date the movie its own way.

A minor quibble, however, for a film that is in my opinion, a very funny and warm film. The relationship between John and Ted is the film's heart, and the chemistry between Wahlberg and MacFarlane is the thumping man-child heart of the movie. A naive, child-like Wahlberg is always a great Wahlberg and much like Boogie Nights and The Other Guys, he once more, puts in the work. MacFarlane's Boston bear is little more than a more outlandish Peter Griffin voiceover, although once again, Ted recognises this with a throwaway gag. Kunis is fine with a bland role, which does nothing but remind you that she could have been given a funnier role in something like this. Such is life.

Ted will not win over those who already abstain from those who hate MacFarlane. While those whose pop culture starts and ends with TOWIE may find some references fly over their heads. In addition to this, MacFarlane's button pushing sometimes feels a little trite. His jokes on race aren't so much offensive, rather than forced. For me Ted brings laughs when we're given the stupid pop culture and the lead relationship takes centre stage. The chemistry is so strong between a man and his talking toy bear that when a television lands on the character's penis (pop culture crushing manhood metaphor ahoy) I had to laugh. 

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Review: Iron Sky

Year: 2012
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Screenplay: Michael Kalesniko, Timo Vuorensola
Starring: Julia Dietze, Gotz Otto, Christopher Kibry, Peta Sergeant, Udo Kier

When the film you're watching; begins with a group of school children explaining that a segment of the Nazi army, escaped to the Moon in 1945, and have lived there plotting a vengeful come back, you are clearly not watching for any emotional weight. In fact there is a good chance that you're watching this with the likes of Hobo with a shotgun in your cinematic collection.

Iron Sky's premise promises to be hit some fantastic B level heights. We start with a lunar expedition to promote re-election of a Sarah Palin type president. The tongue is embedded deep within the cheek here and for the most part it works. A plot strand which involves the films hero; a black model, being "whitefaced" to please the Aryan race is a button pusher, but the absurdity of the very notion and the context manages to coax a certain amount of humour out of the situation. When the film gets the tone right, laughs can be gained. And for me there were one or two loud ones.

Unfortunately the film seems to rely heavily on it's main conceit. Moon nazis are fine and all but the film needs more to be truly satisfying. I love the idea that Moon Nazis were given a shortened version of Chaplin's Great Dictator that coincides with their why of thinking. There's also the idea that the U.S president is willing to utilise nazis for speech making because quite simply, they are that damn good. But the film doesn't do enough with the ideas to keep the entertainment levels up.

I'm not too bothered about the films dubious plotting or hammy performances. As a B movie, that's part of the fun. The film also neatly references the likes of Dr Stranglelove for good measure. However, the likes of Black Dynamite and Hobo with a shotgun were happy to go in all guns blazing with their material and came up better. Iron Sky loses its edge by the second half and we are treated to dull space fights and weak conclusions. Iron Sky is mildly distracting, but far to often there is is the nagging feeling that more could be done with this. Moon Nazis coming back to reek havoc on the earth? I'm shocked they mined the well so shallow.