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Monday, November 23, 2009

Face-palm of the week

The Twilight Saga: New Moon burst into cinemas in the States last weekend, and has had the biggest opening of all time, beating last year's The Dark Knight. Now, I know box-office means nothing in terms of quality of film, but those soul-less jackals in Hollywood will see this as a green light to make more shit for the multiplexes.

Well done, you masses of teenage girls. Thanks to your obsession over a story that involves a hundred and eight year old who hangs around schools and seduces teenagers, the apocalypse is proceeding right on schedule. Let's see your shiny, glitter-skinned vampire save you when the seas boil and and the skies rain blood. You'd probably get a kick out of that last part though.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Excuses, excuses.

Okay, it’s been a hectic 2 months for me. With trips to the US, work and... general laziness, I’ve neglected updating this blog. No, wait! I’m gonna blame it on my jadedness with the extremely piss-poor year we’ve been having in terms of film. But I’ve seen a few new films, and I’m gonna do truncated reviews for each of em in one big post. Based on the order I saw the films. So, here’s REVIEWFEST 2009!

It’s just lazy reviews.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (2009) - Grant Heslov

Based on the book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare At Goats tells the true story of the US Army’s attempt to create a battalion of paranormal spies who use remote viewing to complete missions for the army. When Journalist Bob Wilton meets Lyn Cassady, he seems to have stumbled upon the story of a lifetime. Cassady was the golden child of The First Earth Battalion, an experimental battalion set up by Bill Django, a Vietnam Vet. But when a fork-bender named Larry Hooper is drafted into the battalion, he destroys it from within. Is Cassady telling the truth, or will Wilton find out he’s following a madman?

Military affairs make for savage satire. You only have to look at Dr. Strangelove to see that. The Men Who Stare At Goats seemed like the kind of film that would fully exploit this fact. And in some respects, it is a pretty good satire. But it’s a little too tame to be all that memorable. It has a great premise, and some really funny moments. The cast, which includes two actors who delivered brilliant comic performances under the Coen Brothers are all pretty solid. George Clooney (who also produces), Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey all deliver performances we’ve come to expect from these actors. And even Ewan McGreggor (apart from another dodgy American accent) is better than usual. But I expected something more. It’s entertaining, but ultimately forgettable.


THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009) - Wes Anderson

If you grew up any time in the last 30 years, you should know the story of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. But for those of you who spent your youth under a rock, three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean want to evict (and kill) Mr. Fox for stealing chickens, geese and apple cider belonging to the three farmers. They try to dig Mr. Fox out of the home he has set up underneath a tree, and in the process also disturb the other animals living there. Mr. Fox, feeling responsible for the other animals’ lives, strives to set up new lives for himself, his family and his animal friends.

This film had a winning formula. A well-loved and widely known story. The idiosyncratic style of Wes Anderson applied to stop-motion animation. And yet somewhere, something didn’t connect. There are brilliant, and truly original aspects to the film. The animation is gorgeous. The story, while transported to the US from England is close-enough to the original story with a few tweaks that can be forgiven. The voice acting (Clooney again, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) is lively when it needs to be but retains that droll nature we’ve come to expect from Anderson’s films. But something isn’t right with the film. It just didn’t do it for me for some reason. Maybe on another viewing, the film would click with me. But despite my love for Anderson’s films, I just think he missed the mark here. It’s good. It’s just not as great as it should have been.


G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (2009) - Stephen Sommers

Okay, quick plot summary. Weapons manufacturer wants to take over the world. A team of soldiers specially trained in various skills, and powered by super-suits need to stop him or else blah blah, blah blah blah blah. It took me about a minute and a half to write this paragraph. Probably a lot longer than it took Stephen Sommers to come up with the plot for G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.

Well done, Sommers, you’ve done it again. After The Mummy films, and Van Helsing, you’ve created a film of such unrelenting stupidity that every single moment of watching it made me want to tear out my eyes in merciless rage. I know the argument can be made that GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra doesn’t take itself too seriously. But to hell with that. The film is packed to the brim with clichés. Not just script clichés, but also directorial clichés. It’s like Sommers got a bunch of action films and bookmarked shots from them that he could rip off. And if you don’t see the ‘twist’ ending coming from pretty much the first half hour, then you’ve obviously nodded off and slept through the entire sorry film.

The special effects are inexcusably shoddy. The acting is at best cringe-worthy, at worst ham-fistedly pedestrian. Even from the likes of Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Eccleston. And I think the United Nations needs to put through a resolution stopping any Wayans brother from ever appearing in front or behind a camera again. For the good of humanity. Add to this that over half the running time of the film was spent in pointless flash-back and you’ve got absolutely no redeeming quality anywhere in the film. It’s insultingly dumb and unforgivably bad.



Paranormal Activity was made two years ago, but is only now seeing a release. Very little is known about it, but through word of mouth, it is already the most profitable movie of all time. Is they hype justified? I had heard about it before I headed to the States. And I was sceptical when going to see it.

Katie and Micah are a young, attractive couple with a bit of a problem. Katie’s house (which Micah recently moved into) is plagued by strange occurrences. After purchasing a video camera, the couple begin to chronicle the activity in the house. But as the nights progress, the activity escalates. Katie is convinced it’s an evil force. Micah refuses to buy into anything Katie says. What is going on in the house?

As I’ve said many times in this blog, I love horror films. I’ve seen all manner of horror, from the so-bad-it’s hilarious tripe of Zombi Holocaust to modern greats like Let The Right One In and The Mist. If it’s horror, I’ll watch it. Few films actually scare me. The first time I saw Hideo Nakata’s Ringu way back in 1999 was the last time I was generally frightened by a movie. And then along came Paranormal Activity. I’m not going to say much, but where the film excels is what it doesn’t show you. It’s all about atmosphere and sound. And for that reason, it is a tremendous success and one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. Genuinely frightening.


WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009) - Spike Jonze

Max is a lonely young boy. He lives with his mother and sister, but plays alone. He has no friends and lives and plays in his imagination. He’s also angry and disruptive. After he is sent to his room without dinner, Max runs away from home, finds a boat on a pond and sails to the world where live the Wild Things, giant beasts whom Max befriends. But Max’s nature creates tension within the group, and their relationship gradually breaks down. Especially the relationship between Max, and the group’s ‘leader,’ Carol.

Where The Wild Things Are had a troubled production. Some even questioned whether or not the film would see a release. But it was released and it’s a fascinating film. It’s brilliantly made. No other director than Spike Jonze could have created such a real world without resorting to solely computer generated imagery. The production is of the highest quality and Jonze has created yet another absolutely unique film.

However, make no mistake, this film doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at children. I’d go so far as to say it’s not in any way a kids’ movie. It deals with quite adult themes and is quite a dark film. It’s also quite sad and won’t have you skipping out of the cinema. But then not all films are happiness and joy. Sometimes you need something dark to even things out. Having said that, Where The Wild Things Are is a brilliant piece of work.


UP (2009) - Pete Docter

It feels kinda redundant to review this film now. But I love it so much, I had to say something about it. It’s been out for a while, and if you haven’t seen it yet, well then, shame on you. When his wife dies, Carl Fredricksen seeks to fulfil his, and his wife’s life-long dream. To see Paradise Falls in South America. After being threatened with eviction from his house, Fredricksen comes up with a plan. He attaches thousands of helium-filled balloons to his house and floats south. Unbeknownst to him, a young and chipper wilderness explorer named Russell has stowed-away Carl’s flying house.

Pixar are known for the quality of their films. No matter the story, the quality of the images and execution are second to none. But with Up, writer-director Pete Docter has created Pixar’s fines film in terms of story. Up is the perfect storm for Pixar. It’s absolutely stunning to watch, and almost perfect in it’s writing. It’s not the most visually inventive of Pixar’s films. But what it does do is invoke a range of emotions that most live-action films could only hope to deliver. At times it’s absolutely hilarious and at others, it’s heart-breakingly sad. And if, after the first 10 minutes, you’re not blubbing like a baby, there’s something wrong with you.

Up is the finest film Pixar have released, and is the best film of 2009. If this isn’t the film that earns Pixar it’s Best Picture Oscar, then the whole Academy should be abolished. No film in 2009 is going to come close to it.