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Thursday, 24 March 2011

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger: Review


There were two filmmakers that I’ve seen all of their works: Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen.  So when either of these giants of the cinema release a brand new film I am there.  Excitedly I rushed to see the new Woody Allen, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.  Unfortunately this wasn’t one of Woody Allen’s better films.

The film revolves around one family: Helena, newly divorced from her husband Alfie, who has been finding solace from a fraudulent clairvoyant claiming to be able to tell her future.  Then there is Sally, Helena’s daughter.  She works for an art dealer and is married to Roy, a man who studied as a Doctor but gave it all up to be a writer.  She has become infatuated with the art dealer and dreams of open her own art gallery as well as having a child.  Roy, on the other hand, has fallen in love with his neighbour from across the way as he watches her from his bedroom window.  Finally there is Alfie, who is suffering from a midlife crisis in his later years and is planning to marry a gold digging “actress” called Charmaine.

The trouble with this film is that we’ve been here many, many times before and Allen has taken us on this journey in much funnier films.  Returning once again to set his film in London, the dialogue seems very forced and unnatural.  When Allen was making his comedies in New York he had a feel for the avant Garde, slightly pretentious New Yorker.  In his London movies, however, he cannot quite get that middle class English patter.  So it comes across as being clumsy.

Surrounding himself once again with a top notch cast, even some of them failed to shine.  Naomi Watts, usually a fine actress, struggles here not only with the stilted dialogue but actually finding any real emotional depth of the character.  Antonio Banderas is the art dealer seems to have just wandered onto the set, said his lines and gone.

Josh Brolin, playing Sally’s husband is fine but his motivations a little bit dubious.  In one scene he tells Dia, played by Freida Pinto, that he found her undressing in her window slightly arousing.  If somebody were to tell you that you would run a mile but not Ms Pinto.  She finds it flattering.  Not sure about that one.

So it is left to the underrated Gemma Jones as the naive Helena, who almost carries the film.  She comes across as a woman who could be told absolutely anything and she would believe every word.  The other joy about this film is the superb double act of Anthony Hopkins and Lucy Punch.  As the complete the odd couple they light up every scene they are in.  Hopkins, playing the role that was usually played by Woody Allen, is hilarious full of subtle nuances and gestures while Ms Punch is a comic revelation, obviously creating her character around a certain model/businesswoman/publicity hound.  When they appear on screen the film lifts.

Allen will probably keep on making movies dealing with the same subject matter, love, death, sex, family disharmony, infidelity, and other neurosis.  And I will probably keep going to see them, just wishing for another Annie Hall, which are still the garden is his greatest triumph to date.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Limitless: Review


Once upon a time there was a film called Inception.  This film is very popular lot of people went to see it.  The nice people in Hollywood decided that if they went to see Inception they would go and see their film too.  And so The Adjustment Bureau was born.  This was like Inception, but had a bit of romance of thrown in.  If now we have Limitless, which is like Inception meets Wall Street.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie, a down on his luck writer, who has written a word in years even though he has an advance for book.  Unsure when he would ever get out of the rut, Eddie bumps into his ex brother in law, a drug dealer.  He persuades Eddie take a clear pill, telling him that the pill will unlock all kinds of potential in his head.  Eddie soon discovers that the pill has given him the power to not only finished writing his book that a whole host of other possibilities.  Craving for more, Eddie goes back to see his ex brother in law only to find him dead.  Discovering his stash of pills, Eddie soon finds he can control the stock market and gets the interest of businessmen Carl Van Loon while at the same time finds his world is being turned upside down.

Neil Burger’s thriller is visually very exciting.  He uses plenty of effects to capture the world in which Eddie has become accustomed to.  Plenty of zoom shots, use of light and colour and playing around with perspective for works really well.  The problem with the film is it’s far too complicated, with too much techno-babble involving the stock market.  The audience I saw the film with seemed to get a little restless.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired.  There are plenty of twists and turns throughout the movie but when it comes to the final denouement it doesn’t really go anywhere and so we’re left leaving the cinema feeling a little short changed.  It did deserved a far more demanding ending.

Bradley Cooper, given the opportunity to carry a film does have a good job.  He’s likeable enough even if on occasions he does come across as a little bit too smarmy.  But wouldn’t you be if you were the King of the world.  I can see great things for of Mr. Cooper and his ability to jump from comedy to drama proves he is more than capable to be a leading male.  Abbie Cornish, who plays Eddie’s girlfriend, isn’t really given enough to do while it is nice to see Robert De Niro back to underplaying his part.  This time he isn’t an embarrassment.

If we’re going to get a series of Inception rip offs, I hope that they’re going to have the good sense of having an intelligent, yet easy to understand script that doesn’t just end with nowhere else to go.  This could have been a four star movie if it hadn’t been for the ending. This film definitely had it's limits.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles: Review


Halfway through Battle: Los Angeles, I thought to myself, who honestly thought this was a good idea? Then I thought...why am I still sitting here? Yes, this is already in contention for worse film of 2011.

Los Angeles, and a platoon of Marines are ordered to help evacuate people from the city after a possible meteor shower is heading their way. Oh, hang on, they are not meteors but an alien attack that means the Marines must now fight to save the city. The small group, who discover civilians hiding in a police station, must get them to a safe zone but find themselves face to face with aliens...and more aliens...and...

Oh hell, why am I wasting the space to give you a plot run-down. The film doesn't have a story. It doesn't have character development. It doesn't have humour, or pathos, or irony, or anything that almost all the other alien invasion movies have. It does have every clich├ęs in the book and some that haven't even been invented yet.

It is also relentless. From the second the film starts you are in the battle and director Jonathan Liebesman must have studied Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down as it has the same style of film making. It looks like Black Hawk, and feels like Black Hawk. It even has a helicopter crashing. It doesn't have nay of Scott's cinematic touches, like tension. It is a two hour battle scene and trust me, after 30 minutes you are desperate for the battle to stop and so we can get to know the characters, or maybe have a little light relief.

Sorry, there is plenty of light relief. The script has some of the worse lines heard. My personal favourite is when top soldier Aaron Eckhart, who lost most of his last platoon and cannot live it down, is explaining to his new platoon how the memories of the dead soldiers are engraved in his head, and starts reciting their names and numbers, only to end this impassioned speech with 'But that's not important right now!'

Aaron Eckhart is a very good actor, who has been in some very good movies, but here he is far too serious, as are everyone else. I even, and this is how dull this movie is, craved for Independence Day, a film I really don't like that much. At least it was silly enough not to be taken seriously.

Sure the special effects are impressive but if you imagine sitting next to someone playing a shoot-'em-up video game and not letting you have a go, for two hours, then you will know what to experience here.

The aliens look like a cross between the Alien, Predator and a Transformer so nothing original at all. Their purpose for this invasion? To take the Earth's water. Wasn't that David Bowie's mission in The Man Who Fell To Earth? Yes, my friends, if you want to see this film, go watch a number of other alien invasion movies that have done it so much better.

One of the dullest films I have had to sit through and no matter how much they blow up another car or building, it just gets duller by the moment

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Hall Pass: Review


There was a time, and it seems like years and years ago, when The Farrelly Brothers were the kings of comedy film making. Their mix of bad taste and shock humour made movies like Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and, of course, There's Something About Mary the funniest films of the 90s. Then they started to slide downwards with films like Shallow Hal, Stuck On You and now, finally hitting rock bottom with Hall Pass.

Rick is obsessed with sex but isn't getting anything from his wife. So she is advised to give him a hall pass, meaning he can have a week off his marriage in order to do what he liked. His best friend Fred is also given the same opportunity and the two men have a week of bachelorhood while their wives head off to the woods. Only thing is, it's been a long time since they were single and old age hasn't borne well for them. They struggle, until Rick meets Leigh, an Australian beauty working in a coffee shop. Will Rick take the plunge and go for a night with a blonde, or will he stay faithful to his wife, not known that the wives have met two men from a baseball team.

This is one of those films that has a terrific idea that just doesn't work. It's hard for me to know where to start. So let's try the premise. It just wouldn't happen. If you were married to Jenna Fischer, she of The American Office, you wouldn't be looking at other women. She is far to attractive and cute and sweet that you would feel you were sinning against an angel. Owen Wilson, with the worse hair you have ever seen, is far to straight-laced to even want to stray from the nest. Jason Sudeikis, as friend Fred, is a mix of all the dorky best friends from every comedy. He also has no idea of comic timing and his one best line is mumbled (about a certain sexual act) that every time he mentions it, which is quite a bit, you wonder what he is talking about until we get a demonstration.

The script is just not funny. I say it's not funny, there are moments when some of the lines did make me chuckle, like the best place to pick up women is Appleby's but it might get lost in translation in any country that doesn't have an Appleby's. Then there are the 'Farrelly' moments, those scenes that are far too excruciatingly disgusting it is hard to describe (one scene in which a woman says she has stomach pains and then there is an explosion behind her is typical Farrell but it seems so forced that it's just disgusting and not funny).

The film does spring to life when Richard Jenkins arrives as an ageing swinger who is an expert in picking up women but by that point we have sat through over an hour of limp gags and poorly executed set pieces. Stephen Merchant, as one of the men's friends does get the best scene but it comes during the credits and by that point, you are already leaving the cinema feeling very let down.

Don't be fooled by the adverts for this film. Like last year's god-awful Vampire Sucks, this is a film that has false advertising. The clips may look funny but in the confines of a whole film, it just isn't. Farrelly Brothers, either go back to making classic like Mary, or just give up, please.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Rango: Review


A word of warning about Rango. if you are thinking of taking your younger siblings because it has a strange looking lizard and the poster has him carrying a fish so it must be for families, then look somewhere else. This is an animation for older children and adults who love nods to movie genres. It is definitely not for younger children.

A household chameleon, dressed in an Hawaiian shirt, is unceremoniously thrown out the back of a car during a near-accident and left in the desert sun. Advised by a half squashed armadillo, he ventures into a dusty town where he meets a collection of local animals, all fighting for survival in a place where the water is slowly running out. Pretending to be a ruthless killer, the locals call him Rango and he soon becomes the sheriff. When the town's own water supply is stolen from the bank, Rango leads a posse but the truth about who has the water and Rango own true self start to raise their heads.

Rango starts off quite slowly. In fact it takes its time to really kick into the main storyline but once it does, this is an absolute joy. John Logan's script is refreshingly surreal and brimming with smart lines and references abound to so many other movies. It's main source is, of course, the classic Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns but add to that Chinatown, Star Wars and even a very brief appearance of Johnny Depp's own S. Hunter Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Depp, who voices the lizard, seems to have been given free reigns by his former Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski to do whatever he wanted and his style of delivery works well in this strange land filled with the oddest looking creatures around. And yet, they are also incredibly detailed too. The animation is incredible, and without losing any of its darkness and surreal quality, the creations look almost real. Some even outshine Pixar.

The central set piece, a chase through a cavern not dissimilar to the Death Star fight scene from Star Wars is a tour-de-force, a masterpiece of computer graphics that is not only clever and inventive but will have you pushing your mouth closed in amazement.

This is a major achievement in the animation world and a film that, even if you don't like the script or the storyline, you will genuinely forget you're watching a cartoon.

As you may have guessed by now, I really liked this film and like last year's Despicable Me, I get the feeling that it will stay with me for a long time after. So leave the kids at home and go have some adult animated fun.