Monday, July 30, 2007

The Da Vinci Code

Well I've seen worse films, Da Code got pretty slated when it came out and it's no masterpiece to be sure, but it's watchable fare, helped obviously by the casting of Audrey Tatou, although a little weird hearing her English (haven't seen Dirty Pretty Things).

The thing kicks off with a murder in The Louvre, then a good old fashioned Grail quest begins, throwing in a lot of Da Vinci theories and stuff, all of which is pretty by the by and all this stuff happens with priests and monks and French police, blah blah blah, inspiring? No. Controversial? Probably if you're a Jesus fanboy, if not, then no, mildly interesting idea, but that's it.

Tom Hanks does a pretty good job of playing a boring academic with a mild case of mullet, Paul Bettany is pretty creepy and Ian McKellan plays himself again but with a walking issue.
So.. Watchable but, yeah whatever.

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Don't watch a CGI (digimation or whatver you want to call it) film thinking it's going to be as good as a classic Pixar, it's not. Not even the recent Pixars are as good.

IA: TMD has only a vague narrative (Mark Kermode described it as "the death of narrative cinema"), but at the end of the day, it's some pre-historic animals making their way down a valley to escape an impending flood. That's it, does it need anything else? No. It's got some basic character development for some of the main protagonists and some actually quite dark moments and some comic genius at times.

What it's not is Toy Story, what Ice Age: The Meltdown is, is a heartwarming and very entertaining flick.

"I think I coughed up my spleen"

(Next up The Da Vinci Code, cheers mum's Sky Movies premier, cos that means I don't have to pay for it.)



When Michael Bay was announced as director Transformers fanboys around the world wept into their Optimus Prime pillow cases, I was reasonably indifferent, although some reservations were held, mainly 'cos I saw The Island and am still bitter. (However The Rock rules, despite shredding a Ferrari F355)

Then the main trailers came out and everyone was moist in the pant area.

The Transformers are awesome, simply fucking awesome, the action is awesome, Michael Bay is renowned for his massive action sequences, and the action in this is MASSIVE. Most of the action set pieces have been seen in the trailers, but it makes a hell of a difference being on a big screen (why oh why didn't they release IMAX version!).

The film was surprisingly funny, Shia LaBeouf is REALLY good, that boy is going far (depending on his ability to do full on serious dramatic stuff), Megan Fox will end up in some shite American Pie esque stuff cos she's as vacuous as you'd expect.

The level of comedy was totally unexpected, but it fits. The action scenes are top notch, but as a whole I didn't walk out feeling re-born and like I'd experienced a cinematic reveloution, why?

Two things, 1) It's directed by Michael Bay and 2)The script is mostly bloody awful.

Michael Bay does overblown action and chopper porn, which is ok in itself, but you can't help thinking there's something missing, like soul.
He tries to put in some soul, by using the Transformers and some nauseating dialogue ("Were we so different? They're a young species. They have much to learn. But I've seen goodness in them. Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."), he fails.

This is of course also down to the script and you'd think two writers nurtured somewhat by J.J. Abrams could come up with something a little more meaty. I think they probably could, but fell into the trap of writing for Michael Bay again and also not really knowing where to pitch the film. It's a family film, it's aimed at kids, but they want to make it a bit edgier, I get the impression that Hasbro weren't too keen on that and got them to tone the Autobots back a bit, making them much more like they were in the original series/film, which they are, crappy dialogue, overly righteous and worthy. Can we not have a little bit of inner conflict??

I don't have a problem with the new designs for them, I think they're better in fact, mainly as I'm not a Transformers fanboy. Bumblebee is amazing (until the post climax), Prime is a wuss, like a proper bullied at work wuss and someone tell me the point in Jazz?? (who in exception to my previous statement probably would've looked better as a Porsche)

The film also suffers from King-Kong-itis to a degree at least. The best bits of Kong were the bits (funnily enough) with Kong in, all the rest was toss. In much the same way I went to see a Transformers movie, so if you're gonna make it 144 minutes long (that's over 2 hours people), that best be 144 mins of giant robots kicking the crap out of each other and everything around them. It's not, and while some of the Witwicky stuff is funny, there's a whole load of other crap that is dull, excessive and not massive robots! Basically cut out all the rubbish where they're 'cracking the signal' and stuff and you'll have a much better film.

Most people have complained about the lack of plot. Um. You do know what this film is about don't you? Yes, toys that are supposed to be massive transforming robot beings from space, how much plot do you want?

The plot is of no consequence, but some substance would have been nice, there's plot holes and loose ends and like other Yank films at the moment, too political, but at the end of the day all you need to do is look at the first line of this post, that's why I'll go again on Wednesday to see it with my girlfriend (thanks Orange Wednesdays) and why I'll get the DVD.

Transformers - 7/10

Transformers: The Movie

Oh good lord was this rubbish. It's been sat in my DVD collection for a couple of years, un-watched, mainly as we used it in the display DVD player at Gadgetshop, I think it was left there by someone and I swiped it when the whole business went kaput, I'm not really a fan so I've never really watched it, until now.

Why? Because last night I went and saw the new Michael Bay version (next review) of Transformers, so this morning I thought I'd watch the old cartoon movie to compare (I'll mention that in the other article).

It's around 85 about 60 mins or so I started typing up my thoughts on The Proposition, that's how engaging it is. I tried, I really did, but it was just too shite for me to keep a full eye on, I watched it all the way through, with MacBook on lap (eyes up, eyes down.. etc). It's rubbish, really bad, dated, crappy writing, none to special animation and plot wise, just a whole bunch of stuff, involving Galactus...sorry Unicron eating planets and most of the original G1 Transformers getting killed or changed.

I vaguely remember watching Transformers the series when I was younger, I had a couple of toys (Blitzwing for example) but none of the really major ones, so it's not really a big part of my life and the movie certainly didn't stir any fond memories that's for sure!

The Proposition

The first surprise was that only the Aborigines sound Australian, this obviously makes sense as it's set way back in the day when Oz was first colonised, so we have predominantly a mix of English and Irish.

We kick off with a bit of a gunfight, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is pinned down and eventually captured with his younger brother Mikey, Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) pops up and we find that there's an older brother, his proposition (of the title) is if Charlie goes and kills his elder brother, then Mikey won't be executed.

The only bad performance in this, and to be fair it's not really a bad performance, just a really dodgy accent is that of David Wenham, who is a brilliant actor, but just didn't nail the classic 'Brief Encounter' English accent, his native Aussie slipping through.

The Proposition is a nice 99mins long, but at times dragged a little, the sort of film you watch all the way through, enjoy, but every now and again your eyes and mind wander off briefly, not totally gripping, mainly due to the pace I feel. Also although the soundtrack was generally pretty good Mr Cave should've held back on a couple of the songs that seemed a little modern and out of place given the visuals.

All in all tho, a top film, well written, well acted, bring on the next one.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I, Robot

If you want to make a "bustin' ass" sci-fi blockbuster, add Will Smith... pour example:

Independence Day
Men In Black
Men In Black II
I, Robot
I Am Legend (hopefully)

Whatever your personal thoughts are on each of these movies, you cannot deny that they are indeed "bustin' ass"

I really like I,Robot, this is a rewatch (picked the 2 disc up for THREE POUNDS), which means it can't be all bad! ;)

I don't know how it compares to the original story (or any of the others it was amalgamated from), but as far as a film in it's own right, it's pretty good.

Smith plays the ridiculously named Del Spooner (although not as ridiculous as John Matrix ) a technophobic cop who believes that a robot is responsible for the death of Dr Alfred Lanning and indeed much more odd goings on.

Smith's character does have some interesting depth in this one, unlike the previous sci-fi's of his and his introductory scene hints at a fair bit of subtle acting ability within the Fresh Prince exterior, then we run, shout and shoot things, which is cool.

The CG robots are a bit iffy in places, but they did pretty well and the main thing is it's a highly watchable film, although anyone know the point in Shia LaBeouf in this??


I, Robot - 8/10

The Simpsons Movie

I won't start this with the almost obligatory 'DOH!', I won't sink to that level...DOH! (damn.)

The Simpsons are massive, one of the longest running series on telly, Homer's probably of at least equal fame to Jesus or even Michael Jackson!

A big screen outing for them has been a long time coming ,talked about, rumored, now done. At 87 minutes they keep it at a sensible length...if only it felt like it.
I don't recall any film where I've nearly nodded off in the cinema, not even 102 Dalmations, The Simpsons Movie is just plain boring.

If you've seen the trailers, you've seen nearly all the funny bits, there are a couple more but really only a couple, some of the jokes are, as expected as it happens with all TV-to-movie formats, are directly lifted from the TV show.

The plot is suitably Simpsons-esque, no real deviation from their usual formulas, just making it longer, Homer's mis-judgement results in Springfield being practically destroyed and he needs to rectify it whilst restoring his family's faith in him, you've seen this sort of thing before, but not on this scale.

The animation seems much more Futurama like, lots more use of computers to help with the parallax and faux 3D, but that's just the natural progression of things, however on the subject of Futurama, I got about 3/4 of the way through the film and started wondering how much better a Futurama movie would be, at least they could go full on space epic with it.

The Simpsons has always been one to satirise, that's the point in the programme, and boy to the do it in this, taking, not-so-subtle swipes at the US government every few sentences and a bit of a jab here and there at Al Gore and the environmentalists (band name anyone). And there seems also to be a rather homo-phobic side to the movie, the racism in there is played off, Apu everyone accepts, Lenny makes a comment, Carl retorts and the racism is satirised, however any gay references are just inserted as is and that feels distinctly out of place.
The language in the film also goes up a bit at times, not to South Park levels, but enough for me to reel slightly.

So, I guess then to summarise, The Simpsons Movie was boring and unsettling. Yay. :/

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Man on Fire (2004)

140mins.... TOO LONG! Top Gun was 105, that felt ok, after all it is Top Gun.

This is a remake of a 1987 film, both of which based on a book of the same name. I haven't seen the other or read the book, but I do want to see the original film, partly as it's only 92mins and i want to see how it compares (there are significant differences between the two, the 1987 one being closer to the book).

What was good about this one? Denzel Washington wasn't as annoying as he usually is, he was reasonably good (although please do look out for the trademark lip smacking and tongue in bottom lip), Dakota Fanning wasn't that annoying, although in the special features she comes across as a mature yet smarmy shit of child, stuff blows up in a pretty good way, it's a revenge film, they can be pretty good as it deals with darker issues.

What was bad about it? Radha Mitchell, it's faaar to stylised (watch the extras to see just how over the top they went, whilst still feeling it justified, although I think the DP had his doubts), it's a bit weak, not entirely gripping, one of those films that fall into the category of "it's not quite boring enough to turn off", I think that's down to the length....I feel the need, the... well you know.

NB: and Denzel's not on fire.

Man on Fire (2004) - 6/10

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

V for Vendetta

Hmm, bit dull this, picked it up for £4 (I heartily suggest visiting your local CEX if you have one), which to be fair is about the most I'd pay for it (maybe £5 for a 2 disc edition).
The graphic novel is set in the 90's with the back story in the 80's, the film, back story in the 90's and current time, main story set slightly in the future.
Britain is now a fascist state, ruled over by the High Chancellor and is all very Nazi-esque. V has a lot of pent up aggression and apparently don't look to good, thus dresses in a cape and mask but still feels like something needs to be done about the state of the country.
Script/Story wise, various boxes are ticked to ensure that the government is suitably hateable and that certain points ("MUSLIMS!" "AMERICA'S WAR!") resonate with the viewers.
Well, okay I guess that these and similar things are top of the political agenda at the moment, but in the context of the film it all felt a bit forced and heavy handed. 10/10 for effort on Warner's part in going ahead with a heavily political film (maybe because it's set in Britain is why they let it through their net), but subtlety is clearly not the maker's strong point.
What we're left with is a bit of a mish mash of a political drama and a Warchowski event, all of which is well meaning, but just a bit dull.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Fifth Element

Another re-watch and how can you not like this film, full on camp sci-fi + camp Gary Oldman + Bruce Willis + VERY camp Chris Tucker (ok skip that one) + Milla Jovovich in a vest and plastic straps...when she does get dressed that is.

There's evil on the way and the only way to stop it is to get these 4 stones that represent the elements to a temple where they can be combined with the aforementioned Fifth Element to create the evil killing light. On the way Future-Texas-Gary Oldman will try to stop you and so will some heavily armed space cows.

It's ok we have Bruce Willis. "Fuck" say Future-Texas-Gary Oldman and the space cows in unison.

All this with bells on, I love it, it's a great sci-fi, is distinctly European (specifically French) thanks to Luc Besson and cohorts (Leon felt more American for example) but it loses a few points on it not being totally sure whether it wants to be all out camp or not, which confuses the tone a little, that and Chris Tucker, which even Leeloo can't redeem!

The Fifth Element - 7/10

Agitator (Araburu tamashii-tachi)

Had this one sitting in my DVD rack for a while, waiting for me to be in the right mood to watch it, as it's a Japanese yakuza (gangster) movie which I thought was going to be pretty hard going.

It's another from Miike Takashi, who I'm a big fan of and am gradually building up my collection of his works.

It's a twisty twisty crime flick, lots of double crossing mixed with traditional yakuza loyalty and is surprisingly easy to follow. The acting is top notch, with well placed comedic turns to avoid taking itself too seriously.

The only downside really is it's a bit of a slow burn at 150 min (apparently there's a 200 min version!), which was a little testing at times, but the story and characters were strong enough to keep me engaged all the way through.

A solid gangster flick.

Agitator (Araburu tamashii-tachi) - 7/10

Monday, July 09, 2007


FINALLY! This completes my Guillermo del Toro feature film education, his debut feature and apparently widely regarded as "One of the finest chillers of the decade. A masterpiece - Mark Kermode", thankyou Dr Kermode and thankyou the DVD's cover sleeve.

The first film of his I saw was Mimic, (which I need to re-watch as it's been a while), then came Blade II - CHEERS! - followed by Hellboy, which after the second viewing.. CHEERS!! So i started thinking, who is this guy?!?

Cue, The Devil's Backbone, followed a bit later by Pan's Labyrinth, and now finally Cronos.

It's the story of Jesús Gris, an elderly antique dealer, and his grand-daughter Aurora. It's also, I think, the most original vampire story I've seen. Most of it's in Spanish, although he chooses not to push Ron Pearlman too much! (I'm wondering now what American or English actor has done the most foreign language films.) Not that this is an issue as i was expecting that, like foreign films and can read.

It's a little slow to start, well it kinda gets into the story reasonably quickly after the initial prologue, but feels slow. (Why am I having to wait for my damn browser to catch up with my typing?!?!?), but apart from that it's along the same sort of pace as both Backbone and Labyrinth, and with a similar tone, although Cronos is essentially a contemporary film by the looks of it (albeit made a few years ago now), i could be wrong about that tho, it could be set a little earlier.)

Anyway, it's a brilliant film, not up to his more recent ones, but that only goes to show how much he's grown and also how good he was to begin with.

Well worth a!

Cronos - 8/10

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Illusionist

This has been described as "a poor man's Prestige", I happen to agree.

Like The Prestige, it's a period piece about magic, specifically in this case Eisenheim The Illusionist (Edward Norton), also the name of the short story on which this was based.

It is presented in the manner of Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) giving his report to the Crown Prince (a suitably type-cast Rufus Sewell), thus flashing back in the story, it's essentially a standard plot structure though, eventually catching up with itself. It's a love story at it's heart, using magic as a way to move things forward.

The problem is, it's pretty dull, the tension that should've been there seems absent and an ongoing investigation is neglected in favour of a big reveal (quite easily spotted beforehand). Edward Norton can do better and I'd really like to see a really good vehicle for Paul Giamatti, as it felt like he was being held back throughout this.

The Illusionist - 4/10

Stranger Than Fiction


Yes, you heard, he can actually act, to be fair he does a bit of shouting in this, but that's not the staple as it is with most of his stuff, let's put it this way; to get choked up at the end of a Will Ferrell film, there's gotta be something going for it!

At first you think maybe the constant narration is going to be more than a little annoying, but that's not the case, not for me at least, mainly I think because it blends seamlessly with what Harold Crick is doing on screen, rather than the usual VO over montage or non-specific shots that usually crop up when VO is employed.

The "GUI" effects that adorn Harold (Will) throught the first part of the film are well done, lending to the character rather than distracting (and incidentally reminded me of Jack's apartment in Fight Club), Emma Thompson is Emma Thompson, but she's not bad, Dustin Hoffman doesn't even attempt to play an Italian in this one ;) and does a better job.

All in all i really enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction and would heartily recommend it to, well pretty much anyone that's covered by the 12 certificate.

Stranger Than Fiction - 8/10