Saturday 27 October 2012

Review: Skyfall

Year: 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: John Logan Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney

Synopsis is here:

NOTE: I do not give explicit spoilers, but this review may not be great for anyone who wants to know anything about the film (although nearly everyone has seen it by now)

Skyfall is the film which celebrates 50 years of the character, appearing in features. Starting from Dr No in 1962 to the present day, Bond has drank, shagged and shot his way through five decades and remained something of an institution of British culture despite a barrage of ever-changing constituents. Add to this that cinema itself is not even 150 years old itself, Bond's longevity is something to behold. Bond’s near rampant alcoholism and misogyny apparently meaning nothing to his stout love for country. Maybe it's just the franchise's incredible ability to make things blow up extraordinarily, that keeps many chomping at the bit.

The most recent interpretation of Bond, has held some of the most radical alterations to the character since its sixties incarnation. Daniel Craig's Bond is a subject of grief, pain and retrospect. Even the rushed, muddled shenanigans of Quantum of Solace (maybe the only person in the world who doesn't mind it) reminds us that the brash, blunt instrument is someone motivated by murky emotions. James may be "doing it for England" but it's clear that he is heavily motivated by his relationships and those that he has lost around him.

Film critic for The Independent; Anthony Quinn, doesn't have much of an affinity for this more affected, softer Bond that's been on display, and it's understandable. There's a strong feeling that the Bond of the old guard is slowly evaporating. The character's mystique ebbing away; due outside wishes to be a little bit more like the Bourne franchise. The mythos is a sacred one, just look what happened when Mutt was introduced to the Indy mold.

Yet, here with Skyfall, I found myself invested with the ideas and themes that are at play. Here we have a more traditional spy caught in an era of transparency and internal conflict. Skyfall is smart enough to move with the times and ground an iconic hero with a certain amount of "plausibility" (we'll use this term very loosely). But it also caters to other aspects of the character that has made him so durable. It doesn't all work. The lack of camp humour has made the jokes and jibes dryer than a Chardonnay in the Sahara. Also, Skyfall still has difficulty with how it wishes to place certain females in the frame, trading off a well written a solid performance of Dame Judy Dench's M, for what can almost be considered as almost Bond girls. I have no real problem with Naomie Harris or Bérénice Marlohe in terms of their acting. However, they happen to be two of the more forgettable elements of the feature. At no point are we given the same sizzling interplay that makes Eva Green's Vesper Lynd so beguiling.

Nevertheless, Skyfall, for me, is the strongest of the Craig Bond features.  Swift with its pace and high on its octane levels, the film rarely drops a gear, nor loses focus. As an action film, the film hits all the beats with a satisfying crunch. Unlike the haphazard Quantum of Solace, Sam Mendes dictates the film with an actual rhythm for the audience to follow. He also gives us set pieces that just feel right for the occasion. Commandeering a Caterpillar and taking out VW Beetles? A dazzling, silhouetted fist fight in a Shanghi high rise? Kicking ass in-front of Komodo Dragons? Moments like these fit Bond to a tee.

As many have said, the film's real star may not be the intense, brooding Craig, but actually, cinematographer Roger Deakins. Mendes and Deakins work together, not only to make Britain itself an exotic place of its own accord (with Bond travelling all over the world, the U.K should feel strange to him) but also shape Britain as a visual metaphor for Bond himself. If the damaged MI6 building in London is where James' heart lies, it's no surprise that Skyfall, located in the Scottish Highlands is where his head is at. Deakins' creates a perfect storm of murky gloom. Such ambivalence is needed in the aesthetic to help continue a through line created since the Casino Royale reboot, that this a Bond conflicted internally by hurt. Some may not want such an understanding of 007, but the idea that the ability to inflict so much damage comes from a certain form of affliction (orphans make the best spies) is a decent way to keep the character fresh.

Deakins works his magic in wondrous ways, producing one of the most memorable introductions to a Bond villain that I can remember. For all the Brit-centric elements of the film, the first appearance of Raoul Silva on his creepily deserted island makes a grand impression. As the rouge net nerd, Silva, he struts between rows of modems and servers.  We notice that his savvy for modern tech is the perfect contrast towards Bond's staunch, last Bastille of traditionalist Britain. Bardem hits the ground running, allowing his flamboyant performance to tie up with the scene. He is the antithesis of Bond. His ambiguous sexual advance towards Bond at one point only helps suggest that this new world of villainy doesn't adhere to the same straight edged rules, we've known from before.

Themes like these are what Skyfall is about at its heart. I'm fascinated with how certain roles of traditionalism play off in a world that is shedding many of those features. A good chunk of the film belongs to Dench as M, who herself is trying to figure out what place she as well as Bond has in a changing regime. A pivotal and tense court room set piece sums up her feelings eloquently.

Skyfall comes out of the box strong, delivering high impact thrills and now a fully updated Bond that many can get their teeth into. Grumblings about Connery being the best will never go, and those complaining about a Spanish agent spying in Hong Kong for the Brits during the handover, may possibly be looking a tad too deeply into things. For me, Skyfall was the type of solid summer popcorn film, which ironically, due to tradition, missed its season.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Review: John Dies at the End

Year: 2012 (Viewed at the London Film Festival)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Screenplay: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti

Synopsis is here:

I told the work colleague who put me on to the novel John Dies at the End, that the film would be way too bizarre for a large scale release of any kind. Not normally so optimistic (a Birmingham City football fan), my friend was as sure as he'd ever been that having Paul Giamatti on the cast list would do everything a film this kooky would need to get released.

It just so happens that watching this at the LFF was a stroke of luck, a short Q and A with the films director clarifies the films U.K distribution issues (unknown). Safe to say that those who got the chance to watch the film at the Hackney Picturehouse (along with the others who may have since it in other one off screenings) are lucky sons of bitches. Unless of course they didn't enjoy the (as quoted by the director himself) batshit antics of David Wong and John Cheese.

Those names should be familiar to those who enjoy cracked. The novel is a mass melding of pop culture and the supernatural, a twisted buddy adventure written in a snappy, quick witted prose that captures a similar anarchic feel that Kevin Smith slackers usually enjoy.

While light on solid plotting and true scares, John Dies at the end has the free-wheeling humour and nuttiness that makes the book such a fun distraction. Much of the films spirit is due to don casting the perfect duo to bring the spirit to life. Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes may be unknowns and their rough edges do show, but the assured chemistry that appears between them, drive the film. Paul Giamatti looks a little out of sorts with the whole thing, but then again so did some of the audience (we had two walkouts)

The film does as much as it can to keep hold of Wongs prose, but some of the more adventurous elements are missing due to budget restraints. The loss of them is unfortunate, as is some of the darker more twisted elements of the characters (David is a way more nihilistic character in the book) however the film manages to stay consistently funny throughout, while holding a claustrophobic visual style that reminiscent of  The Evil Dead. No bad thing, the film is one of the closet entries to that series, although I'm not sure the hardcore will agree or connect as strongly. It may be dependant on how much they dig juvenile web humour. Guess which camp I'm in.

Those who know Don Coscarelli from Phantasm may feel differently about the film in some of the content. However, this is pure Coscarelli territory in terms of theme. A buddy horror road movie that goes off kilter at a drop of a hat? You wouldn't be surprised if The tall man himself appeared (Angus Scrimm makes an appearance).

JDATE is a compromised vision, but an enjoyable one all the same. A web or TV series could have encompassed most of the craziness, but its cinematic journey never bores, it's far too drugged up on soy sauce to give a damn.

Review: Sleepers Wake

Year: 2012 (Viewed at the London Film Festival)
Director: Barry Berk
Screenplay: Barry Berk
Starring: Lionel Newton, Deon Lotz, Jay Anstey

Synopsis is here

Sleepers Wake is difficult to talk about as it does little to offend, but isn't strong enough to provoke. It's premise deals with a grief stricken man (Newton), who has recently lost his wife and daughter to a car crash, in which he may have been drunk at the wheel. While recuperating at his brother in laws hideaway cabin, he bonds with a rebellious seventeen year old girl, also recovering from loss. As they grow closer, they slowly become more aware of the troublesome elements surrounding them.

Sleepers Wake treads familiar territory. The idea of an older man being blindsided by such youth is one that has reverberated ever since Vladimir Nabokov penned Lolita. Here the character is terrified of the dangers but is slowly seduced by more primal urges. Lost in a waking dream, our protagonist's view is blurred by the recent events, illustrated by a liberal use of rack focusing, we view things like he does, fuzzy and unfocused. Only gaining a certain sense of clarity when Jackie (Anstey) pours into the frame.

Anstey's Jackie is the most pivotal role. A complex, full figured bundle of hormones, grief and youth. Lashing out at everything and everyone in equal measure, she is the films strongest performer. A daring performance that doesn't sit comfortably with the viewer throughout. A girl who has confused her needs of a father figure, confidant and lover due a tragic and complicated family dynamic.

It is Anstey that cements the central relationship, and we often feel the tension. However with this said, we do not feel it elsewhere. Many secondary characters and their revelations feel underwritten and the events that take place have a perfunctory feel to them. We garner what will happen very quickly and the directors visuals and storytelling leave little to the imagination.

The films performances do what they need to do, and when the film delves into primal metaphors, we gain the hint of something of a bit more more poignant. But Sleepers Wake in no way surprises or truly satisfies. It is film that fades away quickly with each passing moment.

Review: A Liar's Autobiography - The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman

Year: 2012 (Viewed at the London Film Festival)
Directors: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpsons, Ben Timlett
Screenplay: Graham Chapman, David Sherlock
Starring: Graham Chapman, Philip Bulcock, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Cameron Diaz

Synopsis is here 

Much like the abstract documentary such as Kurt Cobain: About a son, or the autobiographical American: The Bill Hicks Story, A Liars Autobiography plays old audio of its subject (Monty Pythons Graham Chapman) and sets it to new footage. In this case A Liar's Autobiography is similar to the Hicks documentary, with 17 animation teams have bounded together to create a different visual look for nearly each scene.

The outcome is rather idiosyncratic. The film irrelevantly glances over many aspects of Chapman's life; cheerfully documenting his schooling, the formation of the python name, the realisation that he was homosexual and his addiction to alcohol. The tone is light, breezy with just a touch of crassness about it, joyfully detailing Chapman's delight in indulging of the carnal pleasures. A playful hotel scene highlights Chapman's excess, as he takes a lift downstairs only to bump into a fan and stroll straight back up to have sex with them. Moments later, after heading down the lift again, he spies a younger fan (of age still) and engages with sex with them, with their mum on the telephone, seemingly none the wiser. It's hard not smirk, if not laugh out loud like I did.

The film should also be taken with a pinch of salt, as easily spotted by the title. Chapman himself declares early on that there is only a hint of truth in what he says, and it's clear that the films melding of both fact and fiction is also trying to lock down the man behind the enigma. Whether the film finds it is down to the viewer.

The films featherweight approach is welcoming but also a flaw. The moments of poignancy are quickly dealt with as not to bum the audience out and the films climax fizzles out, leaving us with nothing to gasp onto afterwards. This is clearly not an issue film, but it's final farewell to its subject lacks the emotional weight it could have had. I found myself left knowing as much about Chapman as I did in the beginning; intelligent, witty and fun loving. I could have watched Life of Brian and gained the same.

Review: Argo

Year: 2012 (Viewed at the London Film Festival)
Director: Ben Affleck
Screenplay: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin

Synopsis is here 

Ben Affleck's new crime thriller; Argo, has been racketing a large amount of positive buzz during the London Film Festival and it's more than understandable as to why. Affleck's period piece continues the solid directional work that took place in his Boston crime duo, Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Argo is adult, absorbing and features moments so packed with tension it places other thrillers of its ilk to shame. The films latter set pieces are taut, well paced and excellently handled.

The film takes a short while to find its bearings giving us a first act that highlights America at its worst. The slickly executed opening (displayed through storyboards) sets the scene swiftly detailing the messy part the U.S government had with the Iranian revolution. What's that? The U.S government doing some meddling overseas and getting itself into trouble? Seems awful timely...

Parallels to weighty current affairs aside, Argo completely disarmed me with it's screenplay toting a large amount full of witticisms and one liners. Many of the funniest quips stem from one film producer Lester Siegel (an on form and ball busting Alan Arkin), but the film as a whole, is constantly capturing the absurdity of the entire situation and throws it back at the audience as if to say "you couldn't make this up!" To which you realise you couldn't. To a point. The film fictionalises a near preposterous true story. Smuggling hostages out out a hostile country under the pretence that they are working on a movie? There's a fine line between insanity and genius.

There's also a line between a film being an expertly crafted work of tension, and wrecked nerves and a movie falling in on itself. Argo clearly wishes not to take a tumble.  The strength lies in the films final rescue of the hostages. Passport checks suck air from the room and lungs, a "location scout " outing may leave nails embedded in seats. Argo does extremely well at making you feel the stakes. If you had a day to learn a new background and career for yourself, would you be able fool armed security? At nearly every point you feel that one mistake could cost a life. What was ludicrously funny before, suddenly evaporates as real fear sets in. This hair brained scheme must work. The worry is plastered all over the sobering face of Tony Mendez. Affleck's portrayal of Mendez is possibly his best performance. His direction of the narrative, bringing this fear home with so little effort, I believe is one of the best accomplishments of the year.

We can't have everything and while Argo's execution of scenes are at times exemplary, the screenplay has more than a little trouble taking on the vast array of characters. The hostages one are depicted as mere cyphers, while some of the other characters who are integral to their safety seem a little sidelined. As does the shoehorned scenes of Mendez's family. The film also drops much of its political intrigue as it becomes more focused on the job at hand, and we're left with a climax which is a overtly sentimental and a little too self congratulatory.

The hard work however, as already been done and Argo does it's job as tightly wound thriller that many feel America just don't make enough of anymore. It's wears its period well, with a great amount of detail and moves with a swift pace that helps the viewer forget just how streamlined the film becomes. By the time I got on the train back home, Agro started to fade a little from view, but for two hours Affleck manages to land you in those crawl spaces and government offices, and does so as if it wasn't his third film.

Review: Looper

Year: 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

Synopsis is here:

I've more than enjoyed the films of Rian Johnson in the past but always felt in the back of my mind, that he was a filmmaker who was very quick to show that he has smarts. Brick had its Filmore-equse high school noir plot and jargon, The Brothers Bloom was a breezy heist movie that almost felt too light on the con itself and that may have over done the quirk. To say his movies have limited appeal is incorrect, however, as much as I've taken pleasure from Johnson's movies, I've not been surprised that the fan base has been quite niche.

Looper is Johnson's most pleasurable film, and its interesting that it takes the twists and turns of sci-fi and time travel to supply his most emotionally satisfying tale. The film holds a clear understanding of genre, a well constructed world and a hearty grip of the mechanics.  Johnson toys with the dynamic, but not enough to distance, and not lightly enough to make it feel gimmicky. All the elements of the story are utilised and it's focus on character create a thrilling and surprisingly affecting update to La jetee and 12 monkeys. Those who want all the detailed minutia to play out can watch Primer. Looper is more likened to Source Code, in that everything is built well enough to wrap the viewer up into the pace and bluster of it all.

Johnson still keeps his brow raised slightly, using a constant ticking clock motif and cyclical nature of the sci-fi at hand to create an engrossing backdrop that contrasts the three main character motivations. We have a young buck preoccupied by only his future goals, a hardened old man, blinded by the pain of his past and a juvenile right at the tipping point of his life. Johnson strategically plays these characters against age old themes of sacrifice and the ideal that our actions may help a greater good in deeper ways that we even know. 

Bruce Willis is not at all new to what's playing out (see 12 Monkeys) and gives that that credible world weariness that we now know him for. Joseph Gordon Levitt has a more burdensome role, having to play a more intolarent version of the same character and as well as mimic Willis from a physical preceptive. He doesn't fully look the part but there're moments in which Levitt is doing more than an effective impression. Emily Blunt is the emotional anchor of the film and puts in a bankable performance, although elements of her relationship with Levitt could have been stronger on the screen. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels provide solid support.

The film stumbles in it's middle act. We have quite a few characters and suddenly lumped with more background to get through and this all effects the main charge of it all. However, the film get itself in gear for a very impactful climax, which balances the scale of the implications with what we've learnt from the character during the story. Johnson's film has a great time travel hook,and a solidly believable world to place it in (I love the eye drop drugs and solar car ideas) but what makes Looper such an enjoyable watch is that Johnson keeps an eye on the human element, something that good sci-fi should nearly always do.

Cinematic Dramatic 4x14 - London Film Festival 2012

The Dramatics head to London for the 56th London Film Festival where the world's best new movies come to town. Or do they?

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic Unfortunately, you will have to copy and paste the link to listen or use the handy links on the side!

Monday 22 October 2012

Review: ill Manors

Year: 2012
Director: Ben Drew
Screenplay: Ben Drew
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein and Natalie Press

Ben Drew A.K.A Plan B is a fascinating U.K creative talent. I first heard of him on a Hip Hop Connection (Defunct in print, now online magazine) mix CD with a storytelling rap song "mama was a crackhead". A decent hip hop track, a few years later, I picked up his first and second album. The latter had as young Drew changed from more underground hip hop to a more popular modern RnB Soul sound.

The album was a hit, but also came with its own problems. Drew's new mainstream sound comes at odds with the imagery observed in his lyrics and his own persona. It's no surprise that when ill Manors appeared on radars, I read  the sniping and sneering at the very notion that a Plan B film would be any good. At no point does it help the fact that ill manors comes at a time when Brits have been fed urban youth dramas ad nauseum. The cycle starting with the likes of Kidulthood.

Annoyingly, I get the feeling that due to Drew not being taken seriously as an film maker, many will easily dismiss a deeply ambitious début feature. The film is in no way perfect, however many scenes provide provocation, that lesser movies of its ilk could only wish for. Compare this to the deeply annoying Harry Brown (which also starred Drew) and this, to this blogger, is the stronger film.

For me, one of the reasons why this worked is that ill manors is not aiming for pure shock or middle class manipulation although the film often tries hard to provoke. The acts shown are despicable ill Manors clearly wishes to illustrate the same type of alienation that lies in the likes of La Haine (1995) or Taxi Driver (1976). The latter is referenced at least three times within the film.

Ill Manors shows its isolated characters in the same way as Kidulthood (2006). Any strong adult role models are replaced by near absent social workers, drug dealers and hotheaded gangsters. It's younger generation; are living and dying in a perpetual circle of violence and nihilism, suffering from the pain lived from their elders past. Fractured; much like Short Cuts (1993) or Pulp Fiction (1994), its narrative and character motivations are scattershot and unclear. Often a death knell for many movies, this only seems to stir the boiling pot for the movie. With morals and actions swivel on a sixpence.

Drew then bolsters the film visually with an array of different techniques. Home video appears to represent flashback, low-res mobile phone video to illustrate the immediacy of "happy slapping". Timelapsing rears it's head at night as transitions to pass long periods of time ultra fast. Drew pulls many rabbits out of hats. Often; such aspects are a sign of a young first timer doing too much too soon. However, the film is deceptively more assured than one would expect. Wearing it's influences and homages on its sleeve. In addition to this, the film is also part musical with the movies soundtrack narrating events and backstory as and when needed.

There's a lot to take in, and not all of it works. Its fragmented style lends us characters who are not as interesting as you may like, portrayed by little known actors who don't all nail their scenes. Such is the hopelessness of the world, that at over 2 hours of all this gets a little tiresome as the plot becomes more convoluted, searching for reasons for characters to intermingle. Drew does well to pull all of these strings but by the time some of the later characters enter the scene, it becomes to grim for it's own good. It doesn't help that Drew's work as a Rap artist becomes more prevalent within the feature itself. Often the music playing over a sequence paints a picture which is sometimes more vivid than what we are seeing.

This doesn't distract from the fact that ill Manor's is one of the most ambitious entries of films of it's ilk. With Drew showing hints that he is far more interested in the fact that the films despicable acts happen in the first place. The visual of firearms being thrown into the Thames in clear sight of the O2 arena is a challenging one. Released a month before the 2012 Olympic games and a year after the riots that shocked much of Britain. It reminds us just how ugly things can be under the surface.

Review: Dark Shadows

Year: 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chole Moretz, Jackie Hearle Haley

Synopsis is here

I never warmed too much to Tim Burton's work before 2001. However, after his "re-imagining" of 2001's Planet of the Apes, my already below average stock of the director plummeted. My thoughts on the likes of Edward Scissorhands (1993) or Sleepy Hollow (1999) may go against the grain of popular conscious, however, while I've never been moved by any of his movies, I could always respect the flashes of creativity that were placed within them.

However, since the turn of the millennium, I've found little of his input  in any way satisfying. The much discussed (and hated) ending of Apes is the most lively aspect of that blockbuster. The drudging rehashes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland suffer from dubious characterisations and awkward turns from one Johnny Depp. The latter also happens to be one of the ugliest Burton movies of his canon. Something that most of his films can usually rely on.

Reliability also seems to be missing from his satirical soap opera Dark Shadows. The go to fundamentals that Burton usually reaches for, once again appear to be failing as we get yet another cursorily unfunny, uninviting Johnny Depp performance, up against a Gothic backdrop that seemingly looks mostly CGI. It doesn't suffer from the nasty, casino floored, colour palette that littered Alice in Wonderland but still has a detached feel that sorely distracts from the film. As a film that pokes fun at a creaky, gothic soap opera, is it just myself that feels cheated that Burton doesn't go the way of the original crossroads?

The tone of the movie is never found with the screenplay only going far enough with the filmsy soap opera structure. Dark Shadows goes all over the place, never establishing itself properly as a fish out of water comedy, a light take on the melodramatic nature of soaps or a gothic parody. It straddles over all these aspects and hurts it's privates by stretching too hard. The decent, more risqué jokes are too hard to come by. We don't spend the right amount of time with characters or their before we're subjected to silly revelation after revelation. It lacks the subversive nature of Twin Peaks and none of the scenes reach a decent peak. A shame, as the OTT Epilogue looked to be a solid starting point.

It's not as if the elements aren't all in place. The jaded, drunk doctor, the reluctant patriarch, the angsty pre-pubescent with a hormone imbalance. Everything is ripe for the plucking. Yet Burton never takes the bait. The film's comedy never reaches above sitcom level, only Eva Green and  Michelle Pfeiffer chew at the rich scenery and it's difficult not to think of other features that use the sum of its parts better. Even the likes of Death becomes Her drinks deeper from the forthy camp cup.

Dark Shadows feels very lazy in a post-twilight world. With the likes of True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and like all chomping at the supernatural soap bit. Dark Shadows does little to impress from either a melodramatic, Gothic or kitsch viewpoint. Burton does well to remind us that he created the likes Beetlejuice (Moretz = Ryder). However Dark Shadows is too clumsy in it's execution to provide any lingering effects. Much like Barnabas himself, the film is dead on arrival.

Review: American Reunion

Year: 2012
Director: Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz
Screenplay: Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddy Kay Thomas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari

Synopsis is here

So after years of dubious direct to video sequels and poor casting choices, the original cast of American Pie are back. And depending on how you feel about the franchise, you could be gleefully lost in late nineties nostalgia, or have a deep feeling of despondence at the whole affair. To me a fan of the original film, I found this return all a little obvious.  Much of this stems from the American Pie franchise having never really escaping from the jaws of its DTV bretherin. While we are thankfully spared the zany, now-out-of-canon antics of Stifler's brother/cousins, the same flat, well trodden tone of sequels past remains.

Reuinon also has to contend with the fact that the series is no longer the grossest kid on the block. Things have changed since the Apatow clan cropped up, the class of 1999 no longer shock like it they used to. Not a terrible thing as one of the stronger elements that's often forgotten about American Pie is it's warm take of male comradeship. Much of this remains as Reunion focuses on misguided bravado, former past glories and the inevitably growing old. The chemistry between the cast is still solid enough to warrant laughs even though the set pieces never reach the heights of before. Some plaudits should also go Sean William Scott who carries one of the larger arcs extremely well.

However, having such a large ensemble cast means having to keep a certain amount of balance. Where Pie stood firm, Reunion falters. Many characters are smacked to the sidelines, why? Because there wasn't that much of a need for them afterwards. Everyone is shoehorned in awkwardly with actors who were mere bit parts, get expanded to to how their status grew since (Stand up John Cho) Such is the trouble with franchises, it becomes tough to trim the fat when you know some enjoy the chewy bits.

Reunion works intermittently, with more laughs than expected for a forth entry of a 13 year old franchise. However by the end, when everyone sprouts pronounced feelings based on quite small misunderstandings, it all feels like the late franchise entry it really is. Warmer than tepid, but you miss nothing if avoided.

Review: 2 Days in New York

Year: 2012
Director: Julie Deply
Screenplay: Julie Deply, Alexia Landeau
Starring: Julie Deply, Chris Rock, Albert Deply, Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon, Dylan Baker

Synopsis is here

I wasn't surprised that my girlfriend could not get into Julie Deply's ditzy comedy. After half an hour, she gave up. It's a rom-com truly not for her tastes. A fan of the likes of Serendipity, I was not at all shocked that Deply's messy view on life, love and relationships got her. And not in a good way. Not a negative on my other half at all, but the romantic movies that she enjoys always lean towards the comfortable. Everything slotting into place, like a Disney feature. Deply, star of films such as Before Sunrise/Sunset has a far more disordered approach. All the better, says I. With so many comfortable romantic comedies languishing in the realm of diminishing returns, 2 Days in New York's disorganized yet light hearted resonance is a well needed shot in the arm.

Filmed in a very free wheeling, intimate style with its point of view is squarely set with it's bewildered lead, 2 Day's in New York has a zaniness that I did not expect. However, outlandish moments in the film that would sink other romantic comedies are invigorating here, purely because Delpy's Marion is a more in touch human being than the Heigl-types that have invested the romantic domain. Her oddball point of view is displayed in its purposely erratic editing, we connect to Marion as she tries to connect with everything else. Even when she fakes a brain tumour to try and stabilise an antagonistic encounter. We are with her because we can relate. Relationships of all kinds can be tricky.

The theme of relationships are cemented with the film main motif of art mirroring life. Marion; an artist, is selling her soul as part of an installation. Along side this, are photographs of Marion in past romantic relationships that have not worked in the past. From the start we see how her frustrations stem from making such thing try and work. What have her relationships done to her soul? Even if she doesn't believe in it enough, why is she selling it? Futhermore, who would want it?

The torment continues as Marion's father (Albert Deply) and sister (with boyfriend in tow) appear out of the blue and descend a truckload of dysfunction with them. Her sister, Rose (Landeau), brings with her a sibling rivalry that hasn't evolved since adolescence. Walking around scantly clad to warm the blood of the men around her and boil her sisters. Her father, is a kind but misplaced man, who doesn't fit well with the hectic city life he finds himself in. The less said about Rose's boyfriend (Nahon), the better.

The family's arrival, clash with relationship between Marion and her live in boyfriend, Mingus (Rock). The harmony is destroyed by a barrage of miscommunication through the language barrier, culture and New York's blurred lines of racial identity. Rose's boyfriend, Manu, with his Public Enemy t-shirts and chatter about Salt n Pepa, is bemused at Marion's ability to find the only "brother that doesn't smoke". Manu's observations are often key despite being politically incorrect. Reminding the audience of the typical established roles and traits that Afro Americans are often viewed by.

The film balances smart and insightful relationship issues, with a good humoured comedy of manners. Deply's desperate housewife tries to balance her sexuality, motherhood and bohemian lifestyle along side her quirky family, but it never talks down, or condescends, and much of its humour comes from a believable and grounded place. Such discipline continues with the casting of Chris Rock. Playing against type, Rock is a refreshing as an actual loving partner who doesn't fit into the mainstream, overtly masculine archetypes often portrayed by granite chinned mouth breathers.

The overall tone of the film; for lack of a better word, is playful. And while the final third descends into silliness with a infamous director cropping up and racking up hipster points, even then, it doesn't fully leave the general feel of the film. 2 Days in New York manages to be just as light as so many of its ilk and yet still happens to look at healthy interracial relationships with a keen eye, as well as the often troublesome role of family and how it ebbs and flows. One hopes that their girlfriend gives it another chance.

Monday 8 October 2012

Cinematic Dramatic 4x13 - Looper

The Dramatics travel back and forth through time as they inspect the sci-fi might of Looper. But they may just be talking about it in the present - since time travel can fry your brain.

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic Unfortunately, you will have to copy and paste the link to listen or use the handy links on the side!