angelophile: (Iron Man - Why has the rum gone)

Was working this morning, but found time this afternoon to go and catch Iron Man 2. Now, I'm not a worshiper of the original, although I think, as superhero movies go, it's up there. Reviews of the sequel haven't been kind, so my expectations weren't high. I will, say, however, that the movie was a lot more fun than my moderate expectations would have led me to believe.

A vaguely spoiler-free review under the cut. )
angelophile: (Iron Man - Why has the rum gone)
angelophile: (Withnail & I - Marwood Newspaper)

I decided, on a whim, to go to the cinema after work tonight. (Okay, it wasn't entirely a whim. I'd had to pay or car parking and decided to make the most of it.) I was contemplating going to see Kick Ass, despite myself, but for some bizarre reason there was only one showing today, in the middle of the day. So I would up going to see Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant's Cemetery Junction instead.

I have to admit, it's not a movie I'd intended to see. I think The Office and Extras are wonderful, but it's become very clear that Ricky Gervais is a one trick pony as a performer and the sight of him on the film poster in white shirt and leather jacket, trying to look all John Travolta in Grease was enough to turn me off.

However, the poster's completely misleading. Gervais is in it, but in a minor role as the father of the central character and certainly nothing like the poster portrays him as. He's rather miscast and, as usual, plays himself and is a little too sharp and snappy to convincingly portray his part of an ignorant factory worker.

However, that aside, what's the movie about?

It's the Summer of 1973 in small town England and Freddie (the impossibly handsome Christian Cooke) is just starting his new job selling life insurance for self-made, cut-throat businessman Ralph Fiennes. He still hangs out with his lifetime friends - Bruce (the impossibly handsome Tom Hughes), who's the leather jacket wearing James Dean wannabe who's out every night, chasing women, getting into fights and generally rebelling without cause, and Snork, named after the Banana Splits character and every bit as farcical and idiotic.

At which point Freddie discovers his new boss' daughter is childhood sweetheart Julie (the impossibly beautiful Felicity Jones) and she opens his eyes to the small town existence, making him reevaluate his life and friendships and yaddah yaddah yaddah. In other words, pretty much every small town, coming of age story in the history of cinema. With everyone young and startlingly attractive.

And that's the main problem with the movie. It's nicely performed by an appealing cast, is rich in period atmosphere, has some occasional decent dialogue, but it's very pedestrian, very safe and very much a case of "been there, done that" in place of any of the discomfort or originality you'd expect from Merchant and Gervais. It's far too easy to predict from the first how the individual's stories will be resolved and the movie doesn't confound any expectations. And, in addition, is an almost laugh-free zone. The bits that are meant to be funny are rendered bland by poor comic timing as they're dragged down by the sedate pace of the rest of the movie or, in the case of satirizing and pricking attitudes of the day, such as Freddie's family's casual racism, it's done lazily and badly. An episode of Love Thy Neighbour has as much to say about racism in Britain in the 1970s as this movie. Gervais is no Alf Garnett.

And then there's the idea that the Reading suburb the trio of friends is stuck in is somewhere they'd be desperate to escape from, but instead of being all grimy factories and colourless offices, they appear to have chosen to film it in an attractive village setting, all thatched cottages and village greens.

The colourful and attractive setting only detracts from occasional moments of genuine pathos, such as the gut-wrenching look on an insurance salesman’s face as he retires after 42 years and is presented with a cheap cut-glass fruit bowl and a horribly inappropriate and dismissive speech from Ralph Fiennes's boss from hell. More such unexpected bitterness and a genuine feeling of these being places and people the central characters would be desperate to escape from would have strengthened the film, as opposed to dippy Snork’s Baldrick schtick. It's all a bit too nice and the darker characteristics of Julie's slimy fiance and father and genuinely gritty and oppressive surroundings and home lives for the central characters would have made the desire to escape have seemed understandable. As it is, the characters don't really seem to have as much to complain about as they seem to think they do.

All this said, there are moments to enjoy and the whole film is inoffensive and even enjoyable. The climax is genuinely warm and life-affirming and there's some striking cinematography and some impeccable production design work. The movie looks great, sounds great and is attractively and charismatically performed by its cast of relative unknowns. It's not a bad movie, by any means, but coming from the stable it's from, it all just seems to be rather toothless.

angelophile: (BW Megatron - Jaw drop)
angelophile: (Katie Cook - Galactus)

Today I bought:

A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan 1841-42 by Lady Florentia Sale.

As may be known from The Flashman Papers, Lady Sale was a formidable memsahib living in Kabul when the First Afghan War erupted. Elphinstone, the British army's aged commander, instigated a forced retreat from the Afghan capital as hostile tribesmen pressed in on all sides, eventually resulting in the annihilation of the entire army. Only a handful of people survived and one of these was Lady Sale, who kept a diary of the entire experience. I've always wanted to read this - Lady Sale sounds like one of the truly unique characters of the Victorian era and this first-person account of both monumental stupidity and heroism has always sounded like a fascinating read.

The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid

I can't remember who was talking about this book (was it Colleen Coover?), but it's been sat in my Amazon cart for ages, so I finally got around to reading it. It's had great reviews, (see here), so I figured I'd give it a try.

The Man with Two Brains DVD

From back when Steve Martin was ball-achingly funny.

I have vaguely eclectic tastes.

In other news, apparently Ewan McGregor and Jim Carey's new gay cell-mate rom-com I Love You Phillip Morris won't be released in the USA, despite drawing some great reviews. What the heck is wrong with you, America?

It's by the writer/director team of Bad Santa, so obviously I want to see it. I love that movie. And, of course, Ewan McGregor is awesomesauce.

angelophile: (Producers Bialystock Horrified)

I know what you've all been thinking. "Where can I find insightful and cutting reviews of the Star Wars prequels as told by the bastard love-child of Steven Wright and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs?" I know, we've all been there. Well, a while ago RedLetterMedia's review of The Phantom Menace popped up. (And the Avatar review, come to think of it.)

Now the review of Attack of the Clones has finally appeared. ("The worst thing ever made by a human. Except for the bagpipes.") It's in nine parts, so it kinda weighs in almost as long as the movie itself, is nearly as offensive, but it's also sharp as hell and a damn sight more entertaining. If you're a twisted bastard like me, anyway.

Anyway, I'd watch The Phantom Menace review first, personally, but the new Attack of the Clones review's below:

ETA: The vid's been re-embedded after the first part of the review was pulled after a copyright claim by the Cartoon Network. Boo, hiss.

angelophile: (Popgun Angel)

Speaking of Up and Zombieland, it's interesting sometimes to read up on the stories behind the productions. Like the movies, two entirely different stories related to them:

"In June 2009, a 10-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, California was suffering from the final stages of terminal vascular cancer. It is reported her dying wish was to "live to see Up" despite the advanced stage of her disease. However, due to her deteriorating condition, the girl was unable to leave the family home. As a result, a family friend contacted Pixar and arranged for a private screening. A Pixar employee flew to the Huntington Beach home with various Up tie-in toys and a DVD copy of the film. The child could not open her eyes, so her mother described the film to her scene by scene. The young girl died approximately seven hours after the screening ended."

That's a story that both makes my lower lip tremble and makes me love Pixar even more than I do already. Which is quite a lot.

The Zombieland related story isn't quite so touching, but notable in another way.

"Celebrity gossip site TMZ posted a video on Thursday of Harrelson chasing one of their photographers who followed the actor and his 12-year-old daughter through LaGuardia Airport. TMZ said Harrelson broke the photographer's main camera, and the paparazzo is heard repeatedly accusing Harrelson of assault - while he continued to follow the actor, asking Harrelson whether he was wearing hemp pants, and at another point mocking the actor for his role in "White Men Can't Jump."

Harrelson defended his clash with the photographer as a case of mistaken identity — he says he mistook the cameraman for a zombie.

“I wrapped a movie called ‘Zombieland,’ in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character,” Harrelson said in a statement issued Friday by his publicist. “With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie,” he said."

You can kinda see his point.

angelophile: (Shaun - Nice cup of tea)

Had a day with family yesterday and wound up watching Up with my niece. I think, for me, it epitomizes why I dislike hearing too much hype before seeing a movie. Up was hailed as a masterpiece, the best Pixar movie, beautiful, funny, touching etc etc to the point where I could only be disappointed with it.

I suspect my expectations were knocked by the movie not being quite what I'd expected. I was expecting the story of an old man and a young boy floating off in a house propelled by balloons and meeting various people on their travels. Well, I got that, but not in quite the way I imagined as most of the time Up was tethered to one location.

I also suspect my expectations were skewed by the first 15 minutes, which were wonderful in every way - brilliant, beautiful and touching and also a demonstration on how economy of visuals and words can still tell a story - in this case a complete life story. You definitely do need to have the tissues out for that one. And it was so beautifully handled, anything that followed had to be a comedown.

Sadly, there were stretches after that where I felt a little bored and which seemed to fall flat. My major issue, however, was the introduction of a villain into a story that would have benefitted from being more about the terrific characters of curmudgeonly Carl and cute-as-a-button Russell than traditional swashbuckling heroics.

Pixar have yet to do a bad movie and Up certainly wasn't anywhere near, but I couldn't help be disappointed. Stretches of sheer brilliance, but not the strength of narrative that I felt Ratatouille had. It just wasn't the "road movie with balloons" I was expecting and not quite as magical to me as reviews would have led me to believe.

Zombieland, on the other hand, which I watched yesterday as well, didn't disappoint. Perhaps because my expectations for the movie weren't impossibly high. Entertainingly ridiculous, it's a post-apocalyptic zom-com, which starts with a gross-out, slow-mo credit sequence which sets the scene for what's to come. Jesse Eisenberg is the wimpish, shut-in, "Michael Cera wasn't available" hero of the piece, with his obsessive rules for survival, teaming up with twinkie obsessed, scenery-chewing, snakeskin cowboy Woody Harrelson ("I'm in the ass-kicking business – and business is gooooood!")

After meeting up with con-artists sisters Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, the plot kicks in and it's a standard, but infectiously ridiculous road movie from there on in. There's something about the enthusiasm of the cast, especially the crazed Harrelson, which rubs off on you. The pacing's all over the place and the plot like Swiss cheese, the sheer randomness of it all, especially what should be considered one of the funniest cameos ever committed to film, keeps it fun. The performances and the one-liners that regularly pepper the script are the highlight, making the movie far sharper than the National Lampoon's Zombie Apocalypse tone I was half-expecting. There's even time for real character moments amid the over-the-top personalities and daftness.

It's a movie where the enthusiasm is as infectious as one of those zombie's nibbles.
angelophile: (Leon Oldman)

Faced with the choice of watching Watchmen, Gran Torino or Valkyrie round at my sister's last night, I decided to plump for Gran Torino. It was a tough call, but in the end, despite what I'd heard about the racism in Gran Torino, it won out over watching anything by Alan Moore (not a fan) or starring cultist Tom Cruise as a German.

Gran Torino's the story of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), one of the few remaining Caucasians left in a Detroit neighborhood filled with gang violence. As a decorated Korean War veteran, he's the quintessential grumpy old man. A recent widower, he hates his family (perhaps justifiably), he hates his life, he even seems to hate himself. He's a curmudgeonly old bastard, his face set into a permanent scowl as he spits out racist slurs against his neighbors. But over time he forms a relationship with the Hmong family that's moved in next door.

What I'd heard about the movie was true - excellently produced and directed, nicely performed, it's hard to look past the inherent racism in the movie. It clearly has good intentions, but pretty much every character is a stereotype - in the case of the white characters, the lack of development's only mildly distracting. But when the movie's meant to be about confronting racism, having most of the non-white characters as either violent gang members or submissive Asians grateful for the assistance of the benevolent white man doesn't really cut it.

I'll give the movie credit for its apparent good intentions, but it's a privileged view of racism with the same old trope of the white man having to ride into town to save other cultures from themselves. And best not get started on the other tropes within - as usual terrible things happen to supporting characters, a female character in particular, but the only focus is on how it affects Clint Eastwood's character and reactions.

It's not all bad - I did find myself enjoying Clint Eastwood's central performance, despite his being close to being a parody of himself - chewing, scowling, spitting and growling through the movie - and the racial slurs he constantly spits throughout the movie making me uncomfortable. But it's hard not to warm to him when, with echoes of Dirty Harry, he confronts a gang harassing his young neighbor with the line "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me." And the character arc, which climaxes in a confrontation that, again echoes Clint's Man With No Name past and then turns it on its head, is compelling. And I kinda love him for getting a "GET OFF MY LAWN!" line in there. However, despite being touted as a "deep" character, Walt's just another stereotype in the movie and it's no stretch for Eastwood hammily playing a badass old bastard.

Bee Vang and Ahney Her gamely do their best with their roles as the young Hmong characters Eastwood eventually takes under his wing, both doing their best with rather slight character sketches and impressing. I personally thought Ahney Her was the best thing about the movie, bringing much humour and warmth to her role and it irritated me to see her character put on the sacrificial altar to feed the white man's angst. Both the actors newcomers to the scene, but the unprofessionalism of their performances makes them feel all the more natural.

Other actors don't fare so well - if fact, a couple of bit part actors are so bad as to take you out of the movie - but I did warm to Christopher Carley as the "27 year old virgin" Father Janovich, suitably out of his depth as the neighborhood priest trying to get through to Walt.

The movie definitely works best in its lighter moments, particularly the two-handers between Eastwood and Her, and the central conceit, which appears to be "what if Dirty Harry retired to a Detroit 'burb?" is an attractive one, but it butts up against the real core theme uncomfortably. One one hand, the sterotypes work when you're aiming for black comedy - and there are moments of that in the movie, usually of the "I can't believe he just said that" variety. They work a lot less well when trying to talk seriously about racism. It's awkward and often clumsy, but I don't know, even in a movie that fails on many levels, Eastwood is always compelling and watchable.

angelophile: (Leon Oldman)

I like the many layers of Moon. Are they literally talking about the moon, or is the title a veiled reference to Sam Rockwell's buttocks? The answer may surprise you!


To be honest, Moon is a tough movie to review. Not because it's bad, in any way, but because it's hard to talk about the movie without giving away major plot points. So, trying to be as vague as possible...

In Moon, Sam Rockwell plays astronaut Sam Bell, living in isolation in a base on the far side of the moon. Sam's nearing the end of a three-year contract to watch the base's automated systems as they mine for a newly discovered form of green energy harvested from moon rock. His only company is the base's AI, Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey, and the occasional recorded message from his wife and young daughter on Earth - his only human contact since the live satellite link was lost. With two weeks left to go before he returns home, Sam's mental state's deteriorating and starts to have disturbing hallucinations. But are they really symptoms of cabin fever or isn't he as alone as he's always believed?

With last year's Star Trek seeing a return to the big screen sci-fi, Moon also marks a return - not to the flashy, explosive sci-fi, but the quieter, more cerebral works like The Man Who Fell To Earth (not surprising, perhaps, considering it was directed by David Bowie's son), Blade Runner or Silent Running. The basic setup's not anything we haven't seen before - but the movie takes jumble of familiar elements and magics up something original. It certainly echoes Kubrick - both The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey - with a slow build which increases the skin-crawling tension and Gerty echoing HAL in more than one way - Spacey's emotionless delivery making the robot genuinely creepy and the emoticons that serve as Gerty's way of expressing him(its)self sinister rather than endearing. But it's no doppelgänger.

That's part of the movie's greatest success - it doesn't try to be all shiny otherworldliness, but familiar - the lived-in details of the moonbase, from furry dice in the endearingly clunky moon rover, the run down, industrial stylings, baked beans for breakfast, the alarm clock that wakes Sam to the strains of Chesney Hawkes each morning - all of these things make the exotic familiar. It's a theme that runs over into the characterisation too - Sam's an everyman, finding little, human ways to make his isolation more bearable.

The fact that Rockwell wasn't Oscar nominated is a matter of disappointment to me - the Academy clearly more distracted by the rich visuals of Avatar rather than a real, human performance. Rockwell carries the movie as, for most intents and purposes, the only human on-screen, delivering an affecting and credible portrayal of the loner yearning for home, with later plot developments allowing him to show different facets to the character. It's a deeply affecting one-man show and Rockwell puts a human face to the hefty themes of memory, alienation, identity and what makes a person.

It's a refreshing blast of old-school, sci-fi, at once familiar, but original, held together by a brilliant performance by Sam Rockwell, doing amazing things with its limited $5m budget and looking fantastic with its mundane, utterly convincing industrial stylings. It promises great things to come from Zowie Bowie, or rather, Duncan Jones, as he now goes by.

Oh, and bonus points for the blink-and-you-miss-it cameo by Matt Berry.

angelophile: (Hancock Meh)

Last night I settled down to watch the Coen Brothers' latest flick - A Serious Man is being touted as their most "personal" film, with its vision of a suburban Jewish community in Minnesota in the late sixties. Physics teacher Larry Gopnik teaches Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, declaring that "we can never know what's going on." That's rather how I felt throughout this movie as, after an apparently unconnected preface set in a Polish shtetl and played in subtitled Yiddish about what may or may not be a dybbuk, we entered Larry's life, where his home life immediately starts to fall apart - his wife plans to leave him for another man; someone has maligned him in anonymous messages to his school's tenure committee; a Korean student is trying to bribe him; his brother's set up permanent residence in his bathroom and his kids are too self-absorbed to care about anything but pot, TV and a nose job. And then things just start to get worse...

The trouble is, the Coens have definitely lost their heart. Burn After Reading was directionless, cynical, even smug, with no sympathetic core - in Fargo or The Big Lebowski, the characters might be losers, but they're sympathetic losers nonetheless. In their recent movies, the Coens have continued to demonstrate they're masters at the art of film making, but they're producing empty movies with empty characters - there's no emotional core to hold onto.

The central character here is not a lovable schmuck, he's just a passive schmuck, dumped on by life at every turn and, apparently, doing nothing to address it. The best scene in the movie is a meandering parable, at the end of which the central character is left wondering what the point of it was. Which was my reaction at the end of the movie. I imagine that was the Coen's intent, but there's so little to enjoy in the process, so few moments of humanity, it's all so deeply unsentimental and forgiving. There's a hole in the middle of the movie where the empathy should be.

There's also plenty to admire in Roger Deakins's camerawork, Carter Burwell's score and the Coens' editing, the smartness of the script and the performances of all the cast, but the lack of humanity both of and towards the characters makes this a bleak experience. I left too detached to care what happens to anyone, not even the central character, who never developed a character of his own. He just barely reacts and occasionally has a mild bout of controlled hysteria. It's telling that the one single scene in the movie which had an ounce of humanity or sentiment ends with a character getting shot in the back of the head. It feels nasty and pointlessly vindictive, like intellectual torture porn.

And the end of the day, it just felt like the Coens spent a lot of time thinking about their movie making craft from a technical and intellectual standpoint and satirizing their upbringing by littering the movie with nearly hateful racial (if not racist) stereotypes, but very little thinking about whether the audience would enjoy the experience as much as they did. Reception's been positive from critics, though, so maybe I'm wrong. But, you know, this one just sailed on past me and the only emotion I felt was frustration.

angelophile: (Juno - Kraken)

I managed to catch Up in the Air, the new movie from Juno and Thank You For Smoking director Jason Reitman a little early. The screenplay, also by Reitman and based (loosely) on Walter Kirn's novel, deals with Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) a man who has the rather soul-crushing job of jetting around the country firing people - a troubleshooter for companies who don't want blood on their own hands.

Bingham's frequent flyer miles are put in jeopardy when a young new addition to his company, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) develops a method of video conferencing to lay people off. Bingham is forced to educate Natalie why the personal touch is irreplacable - ironically as he relishes his life of impersonality.

Reitman's yet to make a bad movie and Up in the Air is no exception. It lacks the black comedy that the similarly fast-talking central character had in Thank You For Smoking, but Clooney's character is from a similar mold as Nick Naylor or Juno - they're all characters who would be easy to dislike. But as the movie progresses, the frailty of Bingham's existance is exposed and the pathos comes into play.

It's not, however, an easy movie to watch. Clooney doesn't play his generic affable rogue character for laughs, but instead delivers a performance that's much more layered than his gurning on recent Coen brothers efforts like Burn After Reading. He's sympathetic, but broken and as the movie progresses, Clooney's performance, and the script, take on a more thought-provoking turn. He's equally matched by Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga as the other central characters and a host of supporting actors, such as Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Melanie Lynskey, Sam Elliott, Amy Morton, Danny McBride and Zach Galifianakis ensure that the acting is top notch throughout.

What the movie lacks, somewhat surprisingly, is the black comedy of Juno or Thank You for Smoking - this is an altogether sadder and more poetic piece than either. There's moments of comedy and some neat one-liners, but they're fewer and further apart, particularly as events unfold later in the movie - it's a more downbeat and thought-provoking story. The atmosphere reminds me more of the loneliness of Lost in Translation than the snappy dialogue of Reitman's previous movies, and that's by no way a bad thing.

Technically, writing, directing and performance-wise this may well be Reitman's best movie to date - those turned off by Juno's glib, somewhat unnaturally dialogue will find a movie that has its groundings firmly in reality, but reality isn't always a happy or perfect place.

Intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully directed and performed, this is a movie to see, if not necessarily for entertainment purposes. It's not "fun", but it's certainly a movie that has gravitas, human emotion and is deserving of the multiple award nominations it's received. Highly recommended.

angelophile: (Buffy We're English)

Just back from seeing Sherlock Holmes. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. It was an enjoyable romp, in some ways pleasingly true to Arthur Conan Doyle's creations. In other ways, not, but they did pick up on elements in the script that pleased me.

To be fair to the movie, it clearly sets out from the first to reinvent Holmes and Watson for modern sensibilities, with lots of action, fight sequences and typical questionable geography, but it appears to relish how daft it all is, rather than turning a blind eye to it, so Guy Richie and the crew must be given credit for that. It's undoubtedly a spiritual sequel to Young Sherlock Holmes rather than fitting in with the standard Holmes mold.

Credit to Jude Law, though. I've never rated him, much, but thanks to a nice script which plays up on his Watson's status as a decorated Afghan soldier, retired on the grounds of a leg injury, handy with a pistol or a cane, usually exasperated at Holmes and utterly capable, he gives a performance that's much more true to the books than previous bumbling incarnations.

Robert Downey Jr can't act in anything but a pleasing manner, but, although the script served the character of Holmes well, I wouldn't in any way consider his take a definitive version. He's a lovely line in wild eyed mania, but he seemed constantly surprised by himself and circumstances, rather than the rock-hard self-belief, arrogance and unflappable nature of Holmes as he's portrayed in the novels and has been previously. Jeremy Brett is hard to top, as he poured his heard into creating the definitive and faithful performance as Holmes and it's hard not to compare Downey Jr to him. There's a clear winner in the battle for the best Holmes there, but Downey Jr's an actor I could watch acting out the phone book and still enjoy, so there was plenty to enjoy.

Rachel McAdams makes a rather limp Irene Adler, though, turned into a washed out femme fatale who's more like a "femme little bit naughty". Lacking the bite I was hoping for, there. And the main villain, is, frankly, as dull as dishwater rather than genuinely creepy or scary, but you can't have everything.

The lest said about the plot, too, the better, really. Less a solvable mystery and more wild inventions and an excuse for a number of action set pieces. It had the advantage of doing so shamelessly and the swashbuckling was all rather infectious rather than offensive. Was it Holmes-esque? Not really, but it was all rather fun.

The best thing about the movie was the look: all grainy and grimy London backstreets and docks, handled more sympathetically than the usual American take on any period British based movie. It looked the part, at least, despite the usual desire to have things unfold at every major London landmark for the virtual tourists out there.

It's not a classic movie and certainly not classic Holmes, but it is rather fun for all that.

angelophile: (Paranoia at 11)
I've recently grown to be obsessed with The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci's razor sharp political comedy, which can be, perhaps, best described for colonials as like The West Wing meets The Office. Armando Iannucci's been on the scene for a number of years, behind the brilliant news spoof The Day Today, I'm Alan Partridge, Knowing Me, Knowing You, producing The Mary Whitehouse Experience and more. In The Loop is ostensibly the big screen version of The Thick of It, with a few American characters thrown in, although, in actual fact, while the cast return for the big screen version, they play different characters, with the exception of Peter Capaldi, still in the same role as the monstrous spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.

However, a polish on the British cast aside, the trick is expanding the bumbling incompetence and ruthless back-stabbing of The Thick of It from Whitehall to include Washington and adding the over-arching plot of the lead-up to a proposed war. It's hardly a stretch to see where the writers got their inspiration - one of the standing jokes is that the group proposing war are officially known as the "Future Planning Committee".

The satire's savage, whether it's in the form of ineffectual ‘meat puppet’ British minister Simon Foster, (brilliantly played by Tom Hollander) triggering an international crisis with a poorly chosen choice of phrase and desperately trying to please both advocates for war and peace and coming off as a bungling incompetent whatever he does, or Malcolm Tucker struggling to come to terms with the fact that he might be top dog in London, but in Washington he's just another number in the meat grinder. The stand-off with James Gandolfini as a Pentagon General is one of the highlights of the movie.

Capaldi is, of course, the pulse of the film - an expletive and vitriol spitting, relentless monster - but Hollander provides as much of the comedy, clearly out of his depth throughout and ineptly assisted by his PA Toby (Chris Addison), while the US cast includes Mimi Kennedy and Anna Chlumsky in addition to Galdolfini and they make the most of the satire they're given, especially in their dealings with Enzo Cilenti, the ambitious, and youthful, aide.

So, if you like your satire subtle, razor sharp and aren't offended by cuss words, and plenty of them, this is the movie for you. In fact, let's not mince words here, this movie is probably the best political satire we're likely to see after Doctor Strangelove. Strong praise indeed.

angelophile: (Mock Turtle)
It's one of those BBC movies that pretty much went unnoticed after it was initially shown as part of the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Despite direction from Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited) and a stellar international cast (Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Lauren Bacall, John Randolph, Jeanne Morreau, Edward Herrmann, Geraldine Chaplin) I had to ship my copy of the DVD in from Canada, where it was shown as part of Masterpiece Theatre, I believe.

It's a shame, because despite the unpretentious sentimentality of the work, the actors all deliver what have to be up there with their finest performances. And when you're talking about Alec Guinness, that's praise indeed. Guinness plays Amos, the brain-damaged innocent, delivering a performance that coveys a wealth of emotion with barely a word, while McKern and Randolph play equally irascible vets from either side of the pond, both seeming to re-discover the girl they lost their hearts to 50 years before. It's sentimental, but the impeccable performances ensure it never seems schmaltzy. And without fail I tear up every... single.. time I watch the film.

angelophile: (Angel blood)
I've now seen all the Harry Potter movies.

So, now, I suppose, I shall have to get around to reading the books.

On the movies - I found them entertaining enough, nicely performed on the whole (although Emma Watson was singled out as being strong in the first couple of movies, I found her wooden and painful, but then child actors generally are), with brilliant supporting casts.

I do have a few questions about Harry Potter as a whole as well as some observations about the movies under the cut. Bear in mind that I've only seen the movies, I haven't read the final book (books?) so I don't know what happens in the end.

Questions and reviews of all the movies under the cut. )
angelophile: (Juno - Kraken)

Johnny Deep's apparently pulled out of Terry Gilliam's famously cursed version of Don Quixote. After ten years since the last attempt, a scheduling clash means that when (if) if starts shooting again, Depp's not available. Cue Terry Gilliam:

"I wanted to shoot Don Quixote next spring. He said he's not available and we have both agreed that I'm going to die soon, so it would be nice to get this film under my belt."

Curious juxtaposition of quotes about the new Sherlock Holmes movie from Guy Ritchie. Ritchie himself has stated he wanted to make a Sherlock Holmes movie for his kids to watch, whilst the News of the World, in typical subdued fashion (Queerstalker!") is reporting Downey Jr. playing up the homoerotic aspects of the characters, talking about sweaty wrestling and sharing a bed with Watson. So, a homoerotic, gay-friendly Holmes that's also good for the kids? Why not. The new Doctor Who team managed to create a kids show as bent as a nine bob note, so I don't see why Sherlock can't go the same way. I'm more turned off by the Sherlock Holmes: Action Hero route they seem to be going, personally.


"But Michael Medved, a former Post movie critic, says Downey and Law must be joking. "There's not a seething, bubbling hunger to see straight stars impersonating homosexuals," Medved told us. "I think they're just trying to generate controversy . . . They know that making Holmes and Watson homosexual will take away two-thirds of their box office. Who is going to want to see Downey Jr. and Jude Law make out? I don't think it would be appealing to women."

Um... I think Michael Medved needs to get out more, personally.

Production started yesterday on Machete, the film that Robert Rodriguez is co-directing with his protege Ethan Maniquis. Variety's reporting that Danny Trejo is playing the title character and Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson and Jeff Fahey play supporting roles. Oh, and Lindsay Lohan. What?

Whatever happened to Sin City II anyway?

Twilight meets Transformers fanfic. Weep.

Leonardo DiCaprio's production company are developing a gothic version of Little Red Riding Hood. "My, Grandma, what black nailpolish you have."

Then Movie Retriever has an article on Six Ways The GI Joe Movie Could Be Better Than Transformers 2. I'm not sure I agree with them because, well, it's going to be really really bad, but I did think this quote rung true:

This might sound ridiculous, but Michael Bay movies take themselves very, very seriously. That's right, Michael Bay movies. (And, yes, we're counting Bad Boys 2.) Even with their ridiculous premises, there is an arrogance, a pomp, a slick, pre-packaged, out-of-the-box desire to be EPIC to Bay's movies that can be entertaining, but also can occasionally suck all of the fun out of a movie theatre thanks to their painful efforts to be either cool or profound in every second of every frame. On the other side of the spectrum, there's Stephen Sommers, and let's be honest, there is NOTHING cool about Stephen Sommers. If Bay was the high school kid who spent all of his energy being cool, Sommers is the class clown, the class speed freak, the kid in your class who'd skateboard off the roof just to make his friends laugh. This doesn't mean that Sommers makes great movies - he doesn't. Deep Rising is a hysterical B-movie, The Mummy is a fairly solid popcorn flick, The Mummy Returns is bat-s*** insane, and Van Helsing is so over-the-top it's almost Kabuki. However, all four of those movies are never boring and were obviously made by a guy who was trying to make every second of every frame pure sugar-sweet FUN. 

And finally, Skottie Young Twitters about Smallville:

"Watching Superman movies as a kid I would pretend I could fly. I wonder if kids that watch Smallville pretend they can mope around & whine?"


angelophile: (Big Lebowski - Walter ...)
Here's a curiosity. The trailer for the new Coen Brothers movie, entitled A Serious Man and starring... well, a bunch of people I never heard of. In fact, I don't recognise anyone in this at all, which may be a good sign. After a glut of movies with big Hollywood names, this appears to be a very small scale production and, oddly, is only getting a limited release in October. Now, you'd think a movie by a directing team that won Best Picture a couple of years back and have a few Oscars and other awards under their belts would warrant a wide release, over, say, Hotel for Dogs, but maybe that lack of star power went against them. Or maybe it's deliberate. Who knows?

Anyway, the synopsis goes:

"The story follows an ordinary mans search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Larry's unemployable brother Arthur is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. An anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person; a mensch, a serious man?"

It all sounds a little... odd, but that's what the Coens excel at. I'm curious about this one. It'll be interesting to see if this can wash the taste of the brilliantly performed but unsatisfying duo of No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading from my mouth. It'd be nice if they produced the new Fargo about now. The trailer, however, just makes the whole enterprise seem even more peculiar. But that's Coen Brothers movies for you. If you can tell what the hell is going on after reading a synopsis and watching a trailer for one of their movies, they're doing it wrong.

angelophile: (illyana - I'm horny) has some pics from the new Iron Man movie up and some brief blurb about the script.

Which has produced this gem:

Downey believes what differentiates the franchise from other superhero series can be summarized as follows: "We're horny. Not, like, can't-bring-your-kids horny, but just…horny."

So, what do we think? Is Scarlett Johannson horny? Or did she just drop her contact lens?

Anyway, here's the Entertainment Weekly cover in question. Sadly no Sam Rockwell in sight. I might not be able to resist seeing this one in the cinema since they're going to be chucking Sam Rockwell and Downey Jr verbiage at me.

So, are Scarlett Johannson and Mickey Rouke in competition for silliest hair or something?

It just occurs to me that in addition to Tony Stark and Peter Parker once ending up in bed together, in real life, Deadpool is currently boinking the Black Widow. Funny old world.

angelophile: (Albert Steptoe Garn)
Apparently a new Harry Potter film is out today.

Those that know me well enough know that I used to harbor an almost pathological hatred of the mere mention of Harry Potter. I'm better now, but I'm still not a fan. I admit, it's simply down to so many people telling me I simply MUST read the books, that my immediate reaction is one of rage. I never like being forced to be enthusiastic. I'm more open minded to reading the bloody things now, when the time presents itself though.

Anyway, there's a poster outside our offices for the new movie with Emma Watson looking disturbingly fit and Jim Broadbent in the background looking all serious.

I lover Jim Broadbent. I really do.

And I keep thinking - man, has their ever been a series of movie that's managed to attract as cast as good as the Harry potter movies? Seriously, they have pretty much every single great British character actor in there.

Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Julie Walters, Leslie Phillips, John Cleese, Alan Rickman, Zoë Wanamaker, Ian Hart, Kenneth Branagh, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Eric Sykes, David Tennant, Robert Hardy, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Michael Gambon, Frances de la Tour, Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson, Gary Oldman, Shirley Henderson, Ralph Fiennes, Pam Ferris, David Thewlis, Dawn French, Paul Whitehouse, Emma Thompson, Julie Christie, Freddie Davies, Jessica Stevenson, Imelda Staunton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams and Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans in the next movies.

Even bloody Lenny Henry.

I mean, if they can squeeze Dame Judi in there, surely that makes a complete set?

The conclusion I've had to come to is that the casting for the Harry Potter movies is stunning. They pretty much managed to get everyone in there that I would want to see in a movie, damn them. To the point where I might actually have to watch the damn things.

On the other hand, it's slightly depressing to note that there's a great number of people on that list that a large contingent of people (mostly bloody colonials) will know only as "that person from Harry Potter".

Now why can't they get casts like that on movies I really want to see?

angelophile: (Shaun - That's just not cricket)

Post-deadline and that's usually my cue to get the hell away from my computer for a couple of days, spend time with real human beings and just chill out in general. Watched a couple of movies I've had in the stack for some time over the weekend, so i figured I'd share my thoughts.

Firstly, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a bit of a strange beast. It clearly wants to be bitingly satirical. It also clearly wants to be a romantic comedy. What it does is fall clumsily between both stools. The romance is too abrupt and contrived, the satire limp and toothless. In fact, for what could have been a biting commentary on celebrity and a sort of testosterone fuelled Devil Wears Prada, it pretty much fails to ever hit a satirical note, instead relying on pratfalls and physical comedy for its humour.

Based on Toby Young's memoir of his inglorious time at Vanity Fair magazine, where he infamously managed to upset the rich and famous, including hiring a stripper on Bring Your Daughters To Work Day. In the movie, the names have been changed to protect the innocent and a few of the incidents from the book are kept, but tagged onto a light romantic comedy of errors where Simon Pegg plays the British journalist who makes it into the "first room" of celebrity journalism, then proceeds to scupper his career with bad judgment and outrageous gaffes. The character starts the movie as a charmless jerk and it's only later we discover he's not entirely hapless, but Pegg's performance is, as always, packed full of charm. And, frankly, the main thing that keeps the movie afloat.

Apart from him it's all limp, although not entirely without merit. Miriam Margoyles is always entertaining and the quiet moments with Bill Patterson as Pegg's father are nicely handled. There's a few subtle jokes, but all too often it's the dead dogs and comic slapstick that gets pushed to centre stage and it's hard to understand why magazine boss Jeff Bridges (underused) would hire such a dick head in the first place, even when the reasons are explained. The trouble I found is simply that it just tries to be a humorous romantic comedy with a tiny touch of bite instead of having any real teeth. For what it tries to be it, like Pegg's other US movie Run, Fatboy, Run it's entertaining enough. It's just disappointing when the set up and cast leads you to expect a little more.

Likewise, Be Kind Rewind fails to live up to expectations. The basic story, based on real life events, of some video store workers who start making their own versions of movies after the tapes get accidentally erased, has enough comic potential. It's just unfortunate that, a few moderately funny spoofs of existing movies aside, the movie tries so hard to be charming it just comes across as sickly sweet and too farcical where it should be plainly funny. The script deploys whimsy like a blunt instrument, something that's at odds with Jack Black's performance where, presumably he's supposed to be like Pegg, a jerk, but a likable one. In actual fact, Black simply comes across as a jerk, like his character in High Fidelity, but perhaps even more charmless. A sulky man-child in the company of an equally dense, but less offensive, man child in the shape of Mos Def. Two characters who make the cast of Dumb and Dumber seem like intellectuals. The stupidity is no doubt meant to be charming but comes across rather as grating,

We're meant to pull for the characters as their own brand videos start to take off and become lauded in their community and further, creating a real community spirit as everyone pitches in to sav... oh, stop. And more sweetness like that and my teeth will rot. As it is, I found the characters too irritating to pull for and found the popularity of their idea inexplicable - the idea of people queuing around the block to get the tapes, the whole community gathering to help them save the store for aging Danny Glover would probably have been rejected from It's A Wonderful Life for being too schmaltzy. I mean it's funny to start with. When they're doing Ghostbusters or Rush Hour 2, it's moderately amusing. But then they go on and on and on and gets tiresome as it reaches the climax, where they're involved in a big production, and I didn't believe any of it. I didn't believe anyone would want to watch their movies. I didn't believe street thugs would suddenly turn straight to help them out. I didn't believe anyone would find them charismatc enough to give a damn about. And that's the trouble.

A lot of people seem to find the movie charming, though. I'm a cynical bastard, though, so for me it was simply grating.

angelophile: (Seventh Seal - Got to laugh)

Sometimes I'm an evil man. I mean, I know Transformers: ROTFL has had epically bad reviews, being described variously as "like being hit over the head repeatedly with a very expensive, very loud train set", "simply despicable", "repugnant", "tedious, crass and despicable", "The Worst Movie of the Decade", "a horrible experience of unbearable length", "a fundamentally shitty movie", "like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan", "a lumbering idiot of a movie", and "a dishwasher loudly shitting in your face for 2 hrs."

Then there's been the incredible video rants. Like this (so many good points there between the rage), this or this.

But it was this review in that last link which has me in stitches. If coarse language offends, I'd suggest you don't read on:

"This movie….

…..was a worthless, mindfucking, pathetic, absolutely unredeemable, assrapingly godawful waste of time film filled with NOTHING but scenes of dogs fucking each other, horribly offensive racist caricature that was mindbogglingly horrendous, padded with NOTHING but constant, rambling absurd, shoot-your-self embarrassing and nonsensical dick jokes, obnoxious, grating, boring, ridiculous garbage on an unmessurable scale, and a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE excuse of a film.

This film…. was so fucking incoherent, so pathetic, so absolutely desperate, and such a miserable, half-assed, failed, fucking piss-poor excuse for anything that could even reasonably called a “movie”, that even calling it a “movie” is an insult to ALL movies.

Calling this a “film”, or a “movie” does nothing but cheapen the term itself, and makes the art of cinema as a combined whole seem inconceivably worse because of it.

There is absolutely not one single, solitary second or conceivable moment, anywhere to be found in this film that isn’t an embarassing, shitsucking, piece of absolute gutter trash that has EVER… and I mean EVER been so fantastically puked onto a theater screen before, and most probably, since.

You cannot MAKE a movie this bad. One simply cannot MAKE something on this order of useless tripe if one TRIED to do so.

Rather, there is not ANYONE that exists in the nearest or farthest corner of god’s green and fertile earth today who can make a movie as bad as Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen if they had actually made the SPECIFIC effort to make a film this atrocious.

Even by ACCIDENT, the idea that garbage like this could be assembled in such an impossibly asinine and utterly abysmal fashion is incredibly remote and almost goddamn impossible to conceive or imagine.

Even for the incredibly, utterly, low, rock bottom standard of what could presumed typical of a Michael Bay SHITFEST can be, it is almost infinitely difficult to imagine, as to how, why or in what galaxy or entire dimension of suck that something this indescribably awful on every conceivable level as Transformers 2 is, could ever remotely come into being.

This movie is honestly, and undeniably, a goddamn, mother fucking plague of dark ages proportions.

And do you know what? Saying what you’ve said, and me saying what I’ve said as well, is actually being POLITE towards this movie. Much more so than it deserves.

This movie cannot be rated on a scale determinable by any possible number that we know of to exist, including reaching into negative numbers or even extending back to an infinite horizon of negative numbers."

So, what do you reckon, did he like the movie or not?

Sometimes I just find the outpouring of vitriol in hilariously awful reviews therapeutic.

Of course, I didn't hate the movie, but I'm finding the sheer, unrepenting hatred in the majority of the reviews to be as entertaining as the movie itself. If not more.

angelophile: (Arthur Dent - Mostly Harmless)

Ever wondered why the T-800 looked and sounded like an Austrian body builder?

Wonder no more.

I'd never seen this before. I can see why it was cut. Way too funny for T3.

July 2013


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