Twilight Saga: New Moon
I am not going to be converting anyone with my comments on this film: chances are if you love it or hate it (and there is no middle ground), me telling you that it is a steaming pile of faeces aint gonna change your mind. I have no problems with REALLY bad films like this becoming massively popular, I like Taken, the Scooby Doo movies and have probably seen Dude, Where’s my Car around 15-20 times. We all have our guilty pleasures. My problem with this series of films is that there seems to be a complete lack of love for this film by the people who made it. Both films seem rushed, with bits missing and what is possibly the biggest lack of chemistry in cinema. Two(or in this case, three) leads having little chemistry is annoying but forgivable in, say, Transformers 2 (another film I absolutely can’t stand) because it’s an action film, but in a romantic film it’s an abomination. That says, it comes just above the Transformers series for me for the simple fact that it cost a hell of a lot less. This will probably break records for DVD sales and although completely undeserving, I am willing to consider in the same way as the topic of old people sex. I realise that it exists, just don’t talk to me about it otherwise I may vomit.
If this wasn’t such a quiet weeks I would have just reviewed this with the words ” Michael Caine’s in it, therefore it’s a must see”. Caine has got to have been one of the most consistent actors of modern times and if it’s true that this will be his last film as said in press interviews during release, it will be a massive loss not only to British cinema, but to Hollywood too. This revenge tale is intelligent and relevant in ways that a lot of modern revenge tales avoid. While it is enjoyable to see Caine’s transformation from accidental killer to ruthless murderer, the film is no slouch in it’s re-enacting of modern Britain. Young gangs controlling areas, pensioners left to fend for themselves and the feeling that the police are unable to help are all issues in Britain that have been happening for years. An impeccable performance by Caine and great supporting cast made this a big hit at the film festivals last year, but it deserved more than the limited release that it got. Catch in on DVD.
It’s easy to compare Paranormal Activity to the Blair Witch Project. While it seems lazy journalism to make the connection, there’s no shaking the similarities, and not just the amateur footage style. Paranormal Activity followed tips on market from Blair Witch and it paid dividends. Also, like Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity is a very important horror film. These small films that make a huge return (and they are horrors in the majority) serve a purpose to show the studios that you don’t need to remake a successful movie or throw heaps of money to get a blockbuster on your hands. Both films try to concentrate on the FEAR itself, rather than the events, but Paranormal is definitely not as intelligent a film as the first Blair Witch and this is probably it’s failing. The Blair Witch Project didn’t need jump scares, loud noises or even something to be scared of. It was essentially a character study in the arising of fear and how when it becomes conscious, how it can envelop you. Granted, there was something to be scared of in the Blair Witch, but we didn’t see if, just the outcomes of it’s actions. It was about a small group being isolated, growing in fear and reducing in hope and then a stark realisation that their fear was rational, that they were in danger.
So while Paranormal Activity was an important horror film, I think it doesn’t need a sequel and that repeat viewings of the film are not favourable. Maybe rent the DVD, then buy The Blair Witch Project, Rec, or Lake Mungo (which probably sell for less than a fiver now).
Watch the trailer and you will pretty much immediately know what to expect from this film. Fantastic CGI, a wafer thin plot and poor characterisation. I always have time for films like 2012 because they don’t intend to be anything else. You get characters that wise crack despite it being the end of the world and limousines doing handbrake turns. This is a film I would love to be made into a theme park ride, because essentially the film is a ride – big, dumb fun. From a film critic’s point of view, it’s a bad film, but it’s one of those films where you can just switch your brain off and get a few friends around and just have a really good laugh.
Bunny and the Bull
Here is another film I saw at Leeds Film Festival (surely we must be near the end of them now?!). Right from the off, this film is inventive. Reminiscent of Gondry in style with a lot of guerrilla special effects (a theme park made from clock mechanisms), but able to be it’s own style, those expecting a Mighty Boosh movie will be SLIGHTLY disappointed. The humour is to some degree the same as Mighty Boosh, but is not as laugh out loud funny as the tv series. In fact, it’s quite short on real laughs to be honest, but in some ways that is to it’s benefit because it adds emotion into the mix. The film is bleak for the most part and is essence a story about someone who is not mentally sound. But there are out and out MAGICAL cinema moments (especially the scene with the titular bull).
This is a film which will follow suit with the Mighty Boosh in that it will gain cult status and it is definitely deserving. It may miss the mark a lot of the time, but when it delivers, it does so in such an original way that it’s hard not to be impressed.
Also out this week: Glorious 39 – Caprica (Pilot Episode) – Dread
Good fun and definitely rewatchable zombie comedy. I am still unsure whether I find this or Shaun of the dead a better zom-com (although I still would take Dr S Battles The Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies over both of them).
An absolutely blinding title sequence and a fair hit count of good laughs helped me to enjoy this film a lot at the cinema and at times, it does look gorgeous, but I found it hard to escape the feeling that Jesse Eisenberg was essentially playing Michael Cera. While he did a decent job of this it felt a bit strange given that I was already getting a feeling of overkill with Michael Cera playing Michael Cera in his films.
By now everyone should know about the cameo, but I have to admit – I found it a massive disappointment. It is so forced and the only laugh it gave me (which was probably the biggest laugh to be fair) was in the character’s eventual death. The film is the perfect length so that it doesn’t feel too long and it’s great to see that a director can show restraint and knows when to finish a film before it gets too stale.
Overall, this film is definitely in my top 3 comedy films of 2009 and I highly recommend it, although at times the gags can be hit and miss possibly due to the high gag count. It looks really good for a comedy film and shows some moments of ingenuity, but may be guilty of trying to many tricks to gain it’s own style.
Michael Haneke’s Palme D’Or 2009 winner also came very high in a large number of film critics films of the decade. The plot of the film involves a school teacher recalling memories of the year that he met his fiancee, where a number of strange occurrences take place in a German village during the twelve months between July 1913 and 1914..
As seems to be the case with Haneke’s films, White Ribbon can be described as both ‘violent’, but also ‘subtle’. I recently decided to rewatch Cache, another Haneke film starring my favourite foreign actor and actress, Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. On first watch I didn’t enjoy the film but I decided to rewatch because I realised I had missed a hell of a lot of the plot because a lot of things happen in the background, and unlike a Hollywood film, isn’t telegraphed. I expect White Ribbon to be similar to Cache in that respect and Haneke is definitely a director that commands attention.
I managed to catch this at the fantastic Hyde Park Picture House (my favourite UK cinema ever) late last year and while the movie is watchable, it is far from a great film. Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti preparing for the Chekhov play “Uncle Vanya”. To deal with his growing anxiety regarding the role, he decides to follow up an advert in a newspaper to store his soul in a storage facility until the play is over. The plot is amazingly high concept, but it just doesn’t seem to work. It tries to be subtle, but then hammers home some comedy elements (as though the writer was questioning the audiences’ intelligence). Also, rare for a Paul Giamatti film, he is guilty of some horrific overacting.
In summary, despite a great concept, the film never lives up to its premise. Cold Souls tries to be intelligent, but doesn’t have the brains that it thinks it has.
Also out this week: A Serious Man – Survival of the Dead – Paranormal Entity
This Oscar-nominated film tells the tale of Jenny, a 16-year-old girl who is seduced by a 35-year-old man. If you are reading this after the Oscar results have come in, then you will already know that Sandra Bullock has robbed Carey Mulligan of a deserved Best Actress Oscar (my prediction of events anyway – (ed. well played, sir)). Carey’s turn is without doubt completely deserving of an Oscar win and even with a strong supporting cast, she manages to totally steal the show. The film contains a great story, is completely involving and as mentioned features without doubt the best actress performance of 2009. I cannot recommend An Education enough.
Julie and Julia
Another Best Actress Oscar-nominated, this time for the most consistently amazing actresses in Hollywood. Which makes me feel bad to say – I don’t think she necessarily deserves an Oscar for this performance. Whether it’s because I didn’t enjoy Julie and Julia as much as I was hoping or whether it is because Meryl Streep has acted better in other movies and has set the bar so high I am unsure. This film has had a LOT of great reviews and that Streep has received a nomination for Best Actress probably indicates that this is a good movie, I didn’t find it outstanding and at times found it a little annoying. This opinion is probably not shared by a hell of a lot of people, but I think for this year Carey Mulligan has out-acted Meryl Streep and An Education I found to be a better film.
As this is another quiet week for DVDs, I have decided to mention a couple of horrors due for release that sound quite similar in plot to other horror films
Starting with CUT, a slasher that stars (and I use the term as loosely as possible) Danielle Lloyd! The plot follows 5 friends who are returning from a party. They discuss how urban legends are a load of rubbish before the night takes a horrible turn (Urban Legends anyone?). What interests me in this one is that the entire movie is one continuous shot!! Now the presence of Danielle Lloyd makes me feel like this will be godawful, but the one continuous shot sounds fantastic. I will be getting round to watching this movie soon (being a british horror, I wasn’t able to get my hands on an early import) and will possibly do a mini review in the near future. Next up is THE GRIND, the tale of a man heavily in debt to a mexican mob who sets up a voyeuristic Big Brother style website to generate revenue, which sounds not too dissimilar to BigBrother.com and My Little Eye. Inevitably for a horror/slasher, things don’t go to plan. Finally IMURDERS (probably not an Apple inc official product!). This stars Tony Todd and Billy Dee Williams, which can’t be a good sign. Members of an online website are murdered one by one. While I am not aware of a niche social network based horror, but for examples of killer websites look no further than tv series Killer net or the absolutely terrible Untraceable (or Unbearable as it should be known).
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
A watchable but not great film adapted from Darren Shan’s series of books. Starring John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights and Step Brothers) and the relatively unknown Chris Massaglia. There is a shortage of quality laughs, but possibly redeemable just by seeing Salma Hayek as a bearded woman. Maybe more of a rental watch more than one to buy on release day.
A fantastic film directed by Christopher Smith (Severance and Creep, 2 cracking films). It works because it veers towards cliche at times then sidesteps them at the last second. While the twist at the end is very predictable, the acting is solid (especially Melissa George) and the multi-layered story is excellent. I thoroughly recommend it and look forward to Smith’s next film, Black Death.
Ghosthunting with McFly
I had to put this up as a featured release just because how I imagine this in my head is a hundred times better than the reality of this pile of trash. While not having watched this if it is anything like how I imagine it it will be the story of Ghostbusters 2 with McFly with Dr Poha played by Chris De Burgh.
I managed to catch this movie last year at the Leeds Film Festival. I looked forward to it based on the premise alone – a korean movie about a town being attacked by a giant wild boar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the premise as it is a Sci-Fi Channel-quality style of film, but there quite a lot of people who will like this film simply because it is Asian cinema and give it a bit of leeway in it’s rubbishness. I am a fan of a lot of Asian cinema, but I would like to think I know a bad film when I see one. The film is all over the place in terms of tone, has no real characters to connect with and has a terrible CGI monster . Once again it was possibly a greater idea in theory than in practice.
This is another film I managed to see at the Leeds Film Festival at a horror movie night. Now from these two reviews of DVDs I don’t want you to think the festival was only full of rubbish movies, I had some fantastic films – Dr S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies, Cold Souls, A Thousand Oceans, The Bunny and the Bull and loads more), unfortunately Seventh Moon isn’t one of those. This was one of my weirdest cinema experiences ever. First up the film is bad, and I don’t mean watchable bad, or “some good performances but just fails in some parts” bad, I mean “a film devoid of anything good at all” bad. It was made by the one of the directors of the Blair Witch Project, who has now decided that a horror film doesn’t need tension, good acting, a decent script or good framing. In some parts the film is so dark that you can’t see ANYTHING and just have to depend on the sound to get some idea of what is going on. But that wasn’t where the strangeness started. After the film, there was a Q&A session with the producer of the movie. It was like car crash entertainment, this man had no idea of the onslaught he was about to get. Some of the genuine questions asked to him were “What was the point of that film?” and “Did you think about hiring lead characters who had some hint of chemistry?”. It got so bad that the organisers of the event had to offer a prize to a person asking a genuine question and not criticism.
Also out this week: Survivors: Series 1 & 2 box set – When Comedy Was King – Cash – Zombeak – Miss March
Michael Jackson’s This Is It
While I am a fan of MJ’s music and do think he was the greatest solo artist of all time, I am in somewhat of a quandry with this release. While I could easily watch him perform rehearsals on a constant loop for the rest of time, I have to question the morals of this documentary. The man was a great performer, but mentally and physically unwell for a long time before his death and had been accused of quite a large number of horrific acts. Also, a lot of people came out of this film on release saying how it showed how MJ was manipulated by those around him – surely buying this DVD would just fund these people? I think a different type of documentary would have still raised the same concerns but surely a more appropriate documentary could have been created with a little more insight into the man? This is still going to shift a massive stack of DVDs, because a lot of people idolised the man and some of the songs are phenomenal.
Listen to Episode 45 for more on this film. I have to say NOTHING could get me to see this movie. I really dislike Diablo Cody and my disdain for Megan Fox (less an actress, more of a prop) knows no bounds and the two of them together sounds like my idea of hell.
Really enjoyable but very flawed ‘stitchpunk’ movie which while being entertaining, is never challenging Pixar or Disney. The visuals are fantastic and the voice cast is a nice mix of well known actors , but the story is a little disjointed and it tries to appeal to the masses a little too much. It ends up being a little too creepy for small children and too childish in plot to fully work for adults. So while it is more than watchable, you can’t shake off the feeling that it could have been a lot better.
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
I thought the original Cabin Fever wasn’t a bad little horror/thriller. It was a mix of traditional and teen horror and was well received after being made for only $1.5 million, and a great example of how to use a low budget well. Which is why it is such a shame that this terrible film shares it’s name. I think it was made for at least the same amount of money as the original, but boy, does it show! There were rumours that the Director Ti West (the director of the fantastic House of the Devil) disowned the film after claiming that the film was edited in such a way as to dwell on the gory elements of the film. Although without seeing his original version, I couldn’t tell whether studio intervention hurt the film, the fact that House of the Devil was so good does make me question it.
The Crazies (1973)
The George Romero original set in Evan’s City, Pennsylvania where a biological virus turns the townfolk insane. This is a classic, but under appreciated horror which hopefully will become more popular with the soon-to-be released remake starring Timothy Olyphant (which looks like it could also be very good, if the trailer is anything to go by)
Also out this week: Shinjuku Incident – The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard – Katalin Varga
It is a really slow week for DVD releases this week. As the featured DVDs I was close to having to review a horror/comedy starring porn stars about a possesed penis where the tagline was: if you see it coming, you’re already dead. Fortunately, I managed to sidestep that natural disaster and instead opted for these four below:
Pixar’s latest offering arrives on DVD after receiving massive critical and commercial acclaim. Having received five Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), expect to hear much more about this movie. While whether this film is better than previous Pixar films is purely down to personal preference (general online consensus seems to be that it is not as good as Wall-E, I am more of a fan of Monsters Inc), the global phenomenon that is Pixar has made this film a complete success. I would also be slightly disappointed if it won Picture – I think Up in the Air and District 9 are more deserving movies – but wouldn’t take anything away from it getting Best Animated.
Up also benefits from the fact that it will lose nothing on DVD by being in 2D, the only other film 3D film I know that does this is Coraline. This DVD will sell by the absolute shedload.
From a multi-award-nominated and critically-acclaimed movie to a big steaming pile of crap. This sci-fi/thriller is set on a spaceship where the crew awaken with no memory of past events. Note: I actually watched this film on a recommendation from a friend, the recommendations from whom I will now ignore. It has drawn comparisons with Event Horizon but comes nowhere near. While the CGI isn’t terrible (the film was made for $40 million and it definitely gets its money’s worth), the story is predictable and the acting is terrible. Probably one for a drunken night’s rental at best.
Horror film starring Elisha Dushku where a tale of a group of friends who play a mysterious game where the losers lose their life in the way the lose in the game.
Ong Bak: The Beginning
Tony Jaa-starring martial arts movie. This is an enjoyable film if you know what to expect. It is never going to win acclaim for storytelling or plot progression; it is simply all about the fighting. Tony Jaa is probably the greatest martial artist since Bruce Lee, and as always Jaa does all his own stunts. And the stunts are ridiculous: a crocodile get punched out, there are backflips off elephants and there are flying knees that are on fire. Turn your brain off, get a few friends and enjoy an entertaining but effectively stupid martial arts masterclass.
Also out this week: Kurbaan – George Carlin: Life is Worth Losing – Borderland – One-Eyed Monster
Harper’s Island Season 1
A fantastic whodunit set on the titular island. This series starts as quite a light, almost predictable entertainment, but later on shifts to a much darker animal. The show manages to pull off a movie feel and although the main conceit is quite gimmicky (essentially the story is just finding out who the killer is over 13 weeks; each episode name is onomatopoeic of the method of death of the character) it manages to establish itself as a very made and very dark thriller. Give me this over Heroes or Lost any day.
The Time Traveller’s Wife
Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) manages to create a solid romantic drama that convinces as a standalone movie, but doesn’t quite cut it as an adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel. Whilst its shortcomings are staples of adaptations – omits too much of the nuances, doesn’t manage to recreate the tone – the chemistry between Erica Bana and Rachel McAdams still allows this film to illuminate at times.
The Ugly Truth
This rom-com stars Gerard Butler. I am out. That is all.
An inventive, unsettling British thriller with a fantastic turn by Peter Ferdinando. This has already been compared to Taxi Driver in some circles and whilst I definitely wouldn’t go that far, I advise people to check this out.
Run Bitch! Run
A ’70’s exploitation style film that, from the trailer, appears to have no redeeming features other than a comedy title and one of the most batshit mental trailers since Robogeisha (Check out both these trailers).
Also released this week: Adventureland – Couples Retreat – Love Happens – Paper Heart – I Love You Beth Cooper