Monday, 16 April 2012

Film Roundup - Turbo Edition!

It’s been too long since I last did a Film Roundup – its got to the point where the titles have piled up so high you could probably drown in them.

So we will rush through these for the sake of completion but have some fun whilst doing it – through loose word association. Enjoy!

First up we have the conclusion to the boy wizard’s saga in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Suitably epic in climax, fans will love this – non-fans too – although they will probably forget about all the pizzazz soon after. Looks like Harry Potter has finally graduated… Into a young father in the Edwardian era, haunted by visions of the menacing Woman in Black. Delivering genuine old school period chills and plenty of disturbing scenes involving spooky children, this one comes recommended for those into their horror but bored of the myriad of slasher/torture porn flicks that are ubiquitous in the genre today.

Spanish film Julia’s Eyes also tries for traditional scares with the intriguing premise of a woman gradually losing her eyesight just as she is being stalked by a mysterious assailant. While this does make for the occasional hair-raising tense set piece – it’s mostly a muddied mess of storytelling with an uneven tone. Similarly, a film heavy on tone is Never Let Me Go, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro book with the script adapted by Alex Garland. Its well cast and finely acted but wayyyy too depressing for just a casual viewing. Equally depressing (and also featuring Carey Mulligan) is Shame, which has Michael Fassbender portraying a sex addict in New York coming to terms with his addiction, everything building to an (ahem) climax as the arrival of his equally dysfunctional sister both exacerbates and illuminates his problem. Still it's a well-acted piece with brave performances – Fassbender beats off a fair few times during the course of the movie.

What’s also a load of wank is Priest – a futuristic, adapted from a comic, tale of kung fu priests fighting vampires in the wasteland of the future. All style over substance, this is a horrible mess which wastes Karl Urban and makes Paul Bettany look a wee bit silly by having him sport a massive cross tattooed on his face for the duration of the entire film. Also silly looking (but this time in a thoroughly good way) is seeing Humpty Dumpty wearing a gold one-piece complete with drawstring in the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots. He is awesome and totally steals the show in this film, which is both an absurd and thoroughly enjoyable ride. Now just give Humpty his own spin-off! That would be awesome-sauce!

What’s also awesome is Cameron Diaz playing against type as a Bad Teacher. Which is an understatement – not only is she lacking in overall scholastic ability she plays a pretty awful person all-round – which is actually what makes this film hilarious. Justin Timberlake is also on hand to goof it up, as is Jason Segel. …Who also stars in (and wrote) The Muppets, a sort of reboot/update to the popular Muppet series. Both relevant (the muppets ponder their place and relevance in the modern world of entertainment) and charming (plenty of song and dance numbers) – you’ll probably enjoy it if you like a bit of muppetry – although the film has come under fire from some die-hard Muppet fans for straying too far from the Muppet movies of old.

Also starring a pair of ‘Muppets’ is The Change-Up, a more raunchy take on the old ‘body swap’ comedy (yep – quite a few of these types of films do exist). Although I love both Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, they are stuck here saddled with trying to make the best of poor material. When a film pretty much opens with a baby projectile-pooping into Bateman’s mouth – it kinda sets the tone for the rest of the film.

A film that can also be described as flying turd is the latest take on Japanese Ero Guro comic series Tomie, with Tomie Unlimited. Whilst I have in the past enjoyed discovering the horrific works of artist Junji Ito and even the occasional Japanese splatter film such as The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police – this one is just plain bad. Avoid! Also to be avoided is The Warrior’s Way. Something that sounds good – a master swordsman escapes his troubled past to live in the Wild West where he has to fight some cowboys as well as rival ninjas who have tracked him all the way there – but again is largely style over substance. How they got Kate Bosworth and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush to be in it is mindboggling. Actually, Geoffrey Rush is pretty much up for anything (ref: Mystery Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, House on Haunted Hill) so scratch that last bit.

Another film with ‘Warrior’ in the title is… Warrior, a story of two estranged brothers who both enter an MMA contest for different reasons – basically a ‘Rocky’ type sports movie, except you are kind of rooting for both sides. If you can work around some of the against-the-odds movie logic plot points in the story this one is an effective drama. Tom Hardy plays one of the tough brothers in the film – and he also has a role in Brit-thesp fest Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This film has an amazing cast (just look it up) but is likely to divide audiences down the middle. Some will love its very British reserved and stoic pacing – others will hate it for that very reason and complain not much happens throughout. Approach with care.

Also guaranteed to split audiences down the middle is anything by Lars Von Trier. His latest, Melancholia focuses on two sisters and their differing breakdowns preceding the imminent destruction of earth by the collision of a rogue planet. Sounds wacky and it is – much like all of Von Trier’s work. Achingly beautifully shots and heavy on symbolism but slow and ponderous pace with characters just being arseholes to each other – yep that sums it up. You will either love it or hate it. Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg put in great performances as the two sisters.

Strong female leads also feature prominently in the wonderfully titled British film Sket, a story of a girl gang in gritty London town. Personally, I found it refreshing to see so many strong female characters in the film – special mention going to Emma Hartley-Miller who utterly convinces as sweary violent gang leader Danielle despite actually being a quiet polite Scottish lady in real life. You would never have guessed.

You also would probably never have guessed that the TV series The Inbetweeners would be so popular as to get its on theatrically released movie that has gone on to become one of the highest grossing British comedies ever, imaginatively titled The Inbetweeners Movie. Meh, its alright. More of the same really, just with the guys on holiday. Also slightly ‘meh’ is the much hyped The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Don't get me wrong, the performances are great (especially Noomi Rapace in a career defining role) but the overarching story is just kind of dull. Maybe I’m missing something by not reading the original series of books – but I’ll probably still end up checking out the David Fincher American remake just to see how it compares.

Also a remake is the Coen Brothers version of True Grit, with Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role. Usually I like the Coens. I like Jeff Bridges. But the film was slightly underwhelming for me. All round good performances from everyone involved but you will probably forget about it all soon after. Less easy to forget is the David Schwimmer (yes, Ross off of Friends) directed film Trust which warns of the dangers of paedophiles grooming children using the internet. Although it feels largely played like an US TV movie the performances are strong and story affecting. Also watch out for the particularly shocking ending.

Speaking of endings, when will the human race experience its own ending? What if one day, humans just vanished off of the face of the earth? What would happen to the cities we leave behind, left to be reclaimed by nature? This exact pondering is addressed in the documentary After People, which theorizes about what might happen 1 year, 10 years and even 100 years after people have been wiped out. All in all fairly interesting but two things bothered me. Firstly, is the fact that the idea is based on ALL humans in the entire world disappearing overnight for no real reason. No cataclysmic event, no piles of dead people, nothing. Not exactly something that is likely to happen. Secondly, the CG used in this doc is starting to show its age. It somewhat detracts from the experience when you've seen more realistic effects elsewhere on TV.

Immortals is also very CG heavy, wouldn't surprise me if most if not all of this film was filmed in front of a green screen. While it looks great and features a few awesome action scenes the story leave a little to be desired. Mickey Rourke is memorable as the villainous King Hyperion, who despite sporting a helmet that makes him look like Cutman proves to be a total bastard.

There are also total bastards that we actually quite like – case in point Batman in Justice League: Doom. Discovering that Batman (due to his bastard ways) has secretly compiled weaknesses of his fellow JLA members as a failsafe, some villains hack into his batcomputer and steal the info needed to bring down the JLA. Stubborn as ever, Batman refuses to admit he was wrong in his decision. That's why we love Batman I guess. He has no problem in telling Superman to go stuff it. …which he nearly does in Superman: Brainiac Attacks, where like the title says, the villainous Brainiac does indeed… er… attack. Watch Justice League: Doom - It’s better.

What’s better than both is the animation in The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. This one is great on all levels – the mocap performances are astounding and the action set pieces are awesome. The film is surprisingly faithful to the source material both in tone and characterisation and there are plenty of references to catch for fans of the Tintin books. You cant really go wrong when you've got Steven Spielberg AND Peter Jackson at the helm can you?

Speaking of heavyweight directors, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was also watched. Some bits good, a lot a little too saccharine for my liking – think I fell asleep at the end so cant give a complete judgement I’m afraid.

So that's it – 26 films done in one go! Boom! Links between them were somewhat tenuous but hey… who cares.

Until next time!

16 April 2012

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