The Trip

Er. Ok, so this is TV, not film.

I’m going to hang back from a full review, but if you’ve not been watching it, can I whole-heartedly recommend The Trip. That’s the one with Messrs Coogan and Brydon. Superb stuff. Funny and a socking great slice of pathos thrown in. And extremely well directed. I found it comes across as a bit like an Alan Bennett duologue (did he do duologues? well, think of his monologues but with, er, another person). Anyway, there is one more left in the series I think but I’m sure you can catch up on iPlayer. Monday nights and repeated on Sunday.

Michael Stroydontbottom

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Published in: on 01/12/2010 at 12:43 am  Comments (2)  

Bronson – A review

I’ve been using Lovefilm for a while now and have had a fairly diverse range of movies to watch, some not to my taste, but there have been movies that have been pleasant surprises.

Bronson, starring Tom Hardy as the infamous “Britain’s most violent prisoner” Charles Bronson, was a film that I thought would rival the likes of Aussie crime flick Chopper. A gritty depiction of a real life criminal, livened up with bit of liberal interpretation of events. Sadly this was not the case and this was a film that was a let down.

Whilst Hardy gives a charismatic and energetic performance, it is chaotic and you get a feeling that there is a lot of stylish flourishes in the film making up for a fairly rudimentary plot. However these flourishes lean towards a feeling of fantasy and this mix of fantasy and biography make the film seem predominantly one of wish fulfillment.

Bronson is violent and probably the film’s main (and arguably only, aside from Hardy’s performance) strength is conveying how unpredictable, fearsome and explosive he was. But there have been similar performances of menace (Pesci in Goodfellas, Kingsley in Sexy Beast) in much more entertaining and engrossing movies. This menace just isn’t enough to make for the lightweight nature and dull plot of the film.

The plot suffers primarily because Bronson was an incredibly mediocre (and unsuccessful) criminal and decided that to be somebody he would be the most violent prisoner there was. This played to his main attributes, in that he was tough, very violent, and liked fights. He picks fights with everyone. Oh and he frequently does this nude. If you want to know what Tom Hardy looks like naked then this is a good film to watch.

There is a slightly interesting element of the film when he is sent to a mental institution which counters Bronson’s efforts of finding fame because he is no longer classed as a criminal and his violence is numbed by drugs.

But the rest of film feels like week padding that links together a series of violent clashes between Bronson and prison guards, other prisoners or anyone else that is a convenient target.

It is hard to warm to Bronson both as a person and a film. There isn’t much attempt to explain why he is the way he is and to try and make you understand him, root for him or really even care about what happens to him.

Whether the subject matter could have been handled any better by a different scriptwriter or director is hard to guage, but there are plenty of other crime biography films that are significantly better than this.

I was left wondering if this film would have been more enjoyable if it had been a biopic of Mr Bronson from Grange Hill.

Posted by: Matt

Published in: on 18/11/2010 at 12:41 am  Comments (1)  

Where Is The Love?

On the radio this morning they were interviewing people who were camped out waiting for the premiere of the new Harry Potter film.  Some of these people had been sleeping rough in Leicester Square for 2 nights, in the pouring rain, in potentially sub-zero temperatures.  When asked why they simply said “We really love Harry Potter”.  My initial reaction to this was “The poor fools!”, but then I started thinking and began to wonder if I was actually the sad one here.

You see, I cannot think of any thing in the world that I love enough that I would effectively become a homeless person for a couple of days in the middle of winter. What makes it even more amazing is when you consider these people are not doing this in order to be the first people to see the film or even get the new book, they are sleeping on the cold, hard, wet pavement in the vain hope that they might catch a glimpse of the stars of the film or, if they’re really lucky, get an autograph or picture with one of their idols.  I racked my brains to try and think of a film, actor, actress, director, singer, band or anything at all where I would go through the same thing and I came up blank.  And this made me a little bit sad. I feel like I am missing out somehow because I don’t have that sort of love in my life. Is my life devoid of passion?  Or is it just that I am sane and they are all crazy?

Posted by Si.

Published in: on 11/11/2010 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  
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Film Review – The Spirit

I watched this on Sky last night despite knowing it has received poor reviews when released.  If film magazines could talk back to you then I would have been subjected to a chorus of “I told you so!”s this morning.  The best way I can think of to describe it is to imagine that they had remade “Sin City” in the style of the original Batman TV series:  the visuals are almost identical to the former whilst the acting and script has been taken wholesale from the latter.  Still, if you can get over the camp performances and terrible dialogue then it’s watchable, particularly if you like seeing attractive women in very skimpy outfits (or Scarlett Johansson dressed as a Nazi SS Trooper). There’s less in it for the women, although The Spirit does get his top off a few times.

In summary, Frank Millar should stick to writing his own comics in the future rather than directing adaptations of other people’s.  2 out of 5.

Posted by: Si

Published in: on 09/11/2010 at 1:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Short but sweet

A comment below has led me to share the following.  To the less than casual interneter, none of these may be a revelation at all.  Even so, i reckon they are well worth a visit.

Here a few of my favourite short films :

The hole

Alive in Joburg by Neill Blomkamp

Alma by Rodrigo Blaas (warning : pretty creepy)

And, although possibly technically not a short film :

Smile around the face music video for a track by Four Tet

Enjoy! 🙂

DJMousefarm

Published in: on 06/11/2010 at 9:13 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ego Boosting

Last night I wasn’t feeling my usual razor-sharp self and I decided I wanted to watch something that wasn’t too taxing.  A quick scan through Sky Anytime later saw me settling in to watch “Couples Retreat”, a film which I probably wouldn’t have considered were it not for Rob and Liv’s recent review.  The movie itself was exceedingly average (2/5) but one thing that did stay with me afterwards was the couples themselves, specifically the matching of the men and women.  Now, I’m not saying the actors in the film are unattractive, but I would say that the actresses seem to be of a slightly higher calibre.  I’m not even including the severely obese 42 year old who was dating the slim 20 year old as that was part of the plot, I’m talking about the fact that both Vince Vaughan and Jason Bateman’s characters were married to very attractive women 10 years their junior.

I realise that this is not unheard of in real life but when I discovered that Vince Vaughan had both produced the film and written the screenplay I couldn’t help wondering if this was a bit of wishful thinking.  After all, for he and his onscreen wife Malin Akerman to have a 13/14 year old child, she would have been about 18 when they got pregnant.  Again, not impossible, but the way they talk about their relationship in the film suggests they were together for a while before getting married and having kids.

The one couple that are evenly matched in age are Jon Favreau and Kristen Davis, who are 44 and 45 respectively.  However even they are not beyond a bit of personal flattery as in the film they have a 18 year old daughter who they claim was conceived on their own prom night, making their characters 10 years younger than they actually are.  Oh, did i mention that Jon Favreau was the other writer of the screenplay?

Anyway, it’s not exactly a big deal but just a little observation. I suppose I can’t really blame them,  I’d probably do the same thing in their position.

Si

Published in: on 05/11/2010 at 10:15 am  Comments (3)  

What’s wrong with your faaace?!

I’ve recently become mildly addicted to a brilliant set of movie reviews that can be found on YouTube on the channel of  a yang man operating under the soubriquet of RedLetterMedia. There are quite a few on there but perhaps the most polished are the hour-long reviews of the Star Wars prequels, except the last prequel the review of which is currently in production along with a purported analysis of that fine movie “Cop Dog”. Anyway, apart from being damnably funny, Mr LetterMedia makes a series of crushingly good points about good ol’ fashioned movie making.

The thing that got me going (not in a sexy way, you understand) was his treatise into the PROTAGONIST. Not to spoil the analysis of the man himself he makes a rather compelling point about the need for someone (or someones) that we care about, follow, laugh with, cry with, suffer with, and generally experience the movie through. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But several films lack this basic character whom we associate with. A fine exercise run by Red is to think about the characters of the film and describe them like you would if you were their friend. You can’t mention their clothes or their role in the movie. For the original Star Wars you can easily describe Han (rogueish, selfish, learns to care about his friends in the end so really has a good heart, criminal, dashing, sexy…etc). From the new ones you have a bit more trouble: Jar Jar (er….cartoon rabbit), Amidala (er…cartoon rabbit?!). Once you have the characters, you can give them some adversity to overcome and you have your movie. Damn good point I thought. Got me thinking.

So we have some basic rules for good movies. Well defined characters and sensible story arcs. For me, I would add a further gem,not exclusively, but in its own place. This is the feeling that, in watching, I am dipping into but an interesting part of the characters’ lives. The feeling that they had lives before the movie started and will have lives after the movie ends (unless they die horribly of course). The feeling that you are being told but one interesting and vivid anecdote from a life of many. It is for this reason that I can rarely get on board with Tom Cruise movies. It just feels like his character hatched moments before the curtain is raised.

For me, the film which really hits the marks in this way is the directorial deboo of Mr Tommy Lee Jones: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The film did pretty well in Cannes in 2005 but otherwise was fairly unremarked (I believe) so you may have missed it. If you did, please do look it up in HMV or Love Film; it will be well worth the effort. It has characters which I can still describe to you now despite not having seen it for some three odd years. And it has a plot that you really care about. And you can really believe that the characters will go on to do something else once the flick finishes. These are all good things to me, although I know people who hate it for all that because they wanted more closure at the end (I decline to comment on this view).

I would love to describe all the neat touches and the endearing story but the whole point of the movie is in the telling of the tale (if that makes sense) so to describe it rather spoils things. I suppose that I can say that it is a very touching tale of friendship and how people can affect each others’ lives. Think Stand By Me, but a million times more subtle and multi-dimensional and entirely bereft of the nauseating cheat of having a narrator tell you what you should be thinking (although don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of SBM – it’s a diverting romp that passes an agreeable 90 minutes).

I appreciate I’ve told you little about the film. (Sorry.) But if you’ve not seen it, give it a whirl and be impressed by some good old fashioned movie making. If it’s not your cup of tea, at least check out the RedLetterMedia reviews and perhaps get a (re)fresh(ed) view of what movie-making should be about. It’d be interesting to hear what you think and what, for you, makes a good moving picture. Email me if you want a pizza roll…

High Concept

My friend Tim is spending the evening home alone tonight as his wife is out and so he’s decided to watch a film, specifically the sort of film that his wife won’t normally let him watch.  Searching through the Virgin on-demand service he discovered a made-for-TV movie by the name of  “Hammer of Gods” and immediately decided this was the film for him, despite the fact that:

(a) It stars no-one you’ve ever heard of.
(b) It’s directed by a guy whose only previous work is “Copperhead”, another TV movie about cowboys being attacked by snakes.
(c) It’s got a rating 3.5/10 on IMBD.

So, why has he decided to watch it?  Simple, because the tagline is “Vikings vs. Werewolves”.  As the man himself said, “All they’d need to do would be to add in some ninjas and it would be the best film ever!”.

So this got me thinking, is there a film concept that would intrigue you so much that you’d pay to see it even if even everyone else in the world told you it was absolute crap?  The most recent example I can think of was when I got a DVD from Lovefilm because it was a horror film where the killer was a Mexican wrestler  called “Wrestlemaniac”.  It was truly awful.

Published in: on 22/07/2009 at 1:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Harry Potter: 2 to go

Spoiler free as far as I can think………

 

So, anyone else seen HP aTHBP yet?

I’ve been meaning to write a proper review but time is not my friend.  So here come the bullet points:

Good:

  • Alan Rickman = Snape.  Best casting ever?
  • Good sense of brooding menace.
  • Funny.  Much more so than the others IIRC.
  • Emotional – again, more so than the previous films and perhaps, the books.
  • Acting.  Maybe I’m just getting old and soft but Ron in particular seemed a lot lot better.  Tom Riddle was excellent and I thought Malfoy did well given quite a tough part.

Bad

  • Lacking action.  Blame this on the book but….
  • Fumbled the finale.  Hard to go into without spoilers but this was an obvious set-piece for me – where did it go?  I thought the same about a few set pieces from the book but what was strange was they introduced other action themselves which worked well.  I’d love to know more about their thinking.
  • The word “Tosser”.  I’m no Daily Mail reader but it just seemed really jarring.  I suppose the idea was to show they are normal kids but one word (used twice) in 6 films seems a bit token!
  • It’s only setting up the next one….

Now I know that’s a cheap criticism given I’ve read the books but it really struck me as an interesting reaction.  I think on some level I gave the book some credit/leeway as setting up the Deathly Hallows but it bothered me as a film.  

I guess this could be a difference between my expectation for books and films but then there are plenty of “Empire Strikes Back” examples to counter that argument.  I think it’s more about pacing.  As the penultimate story it was fine… but its not the penultimate film and for some reason that made it irritating. 

So all in all a solid 3/5 from me.  I’m looking forward to the last one, just wish there were not two of them!

As usual, maybe I’m over-analysing – anyone else seen it?

Published in: on 21/07/2009 at 9:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

There were 2 main reasons why I wanted to add “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” to my Lovefilm list.  Firstly, I kept reading how it was a return to form for Woody Allen and realised that, despite him directing 43 films, I had only ever seen one of them which was the interesting, but not great, “Match Point”.  The second reason I wanted to see it was Scarlett Johansson who, let’s face it, is gorgeous.  I’m not surpised Woody Allen described her as “sexually overwhelming”.  Anyway, put it on my list I did and last week it turned up in time for me to watch it on my night off from exercising.

The film centers around two young women, Vicky (English actress Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett), who spend a summer in Barcelona whilst at college.  One night they encounter the mysterious painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) who, being the unashamed and rather direct Spaniard he is, asks them to fly to a small countryside town with him for the weekend so that they can eat good food, drink good wine and then have a threesome.  Vicky, who is engaged and somehat prim and proper, is appalled at his suggestion, whilst Cristina, who thinks of herself as a free spirit (and fancies the pants off Juan Antonio) reckons it’s a great idea.  Somehow Vicky is persuaded to tag along so off they all go.  There they get into all sorts of romantic entaglements, not least when Juan Antonio’s craxy ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) turns up.

First things first, Scarlett is, as hoped, extremely attractive in this film.  However, she’s also the least interesting thing in it.  I’m not saying she is bad actress, maybe it’s just that her character isn’t as complicated or intriguing as the others, but the others just blow her out of the water.  Rebecca Hall is completely convincing as the confused and conflicted Vicky and you can really feel what she’s going through all the way through the film.  But it’s the two Spaniards who really steal the show with a couple of incredible performances and amazing chemistry, possibly the result of having already made several films together. Credit must go to Woody Allen too for making both the country and their way of life incredibly appealing and, having never been to Spain, I’m certainly adding it to my list of holiday destinations.  My only real criticism is that the story is a little bit predictable in parts and the conclusion not completely satisfying, but it’s still very enjoyable and certainly more fun that “Match Point” was.

4 out of 5

Published in: on 20/07/2009 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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