Wednesday, 28 July 2010


When you're a screenwriter with a filmography containing such naff films as Equilibrium, Ultraviolet and Law Abiding Citizen, I wouldn't really put much credit to your name. The first is dull, the second is unforgivably terrible and the third is unrightfully smug. The only half-decent film Kurt Wimmer has scribed is 2003's The Recruit, yet not even that was great.

Wimmer is fairly adequate with formulating plots, maybe even somewhat creative, but all of his films lack the spark to be truly engaging experiences. It may be a case of bad execution from directors, true, but this cannot be an excuse for each of his failures. With Salt, he had the chance to redeem himself, writing alongside Brian Helgeland (Robin Hood, Green Zone) to do a spy thriller clearly influenced by the Bourne trilogy. So has he redeemed himself? That's a no.

Although the titular role was originally meant to be played by a man, Salt is another addition in the current trend of action films with female leads. Like Kill Bill and Underworld, our femme fatale kicks ass on a regular basis, but other variables regrettably drag the film down.

Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent with a very unconvincing blonde wig. She's been called in to interrogate Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), a mysterious Russian man who has simply walked into Salt’s place of work and has claimed to be a defector with vital information.

Once being questioned, Orlov alleges that a Russian spy is going to assassinate the Russian president while he attends the American Vice President's funeral. When Salt is about to leave the room, Orlov then states that the spy's name is Evelyn Salt. Brain scans show that he is telling the truth, resulting in Salt's colleagues immediately becoming suspicious of her.

In retaliation, an agitated Salt elaborately escapes the building despite its lockdown, with the CIA hot on her tail. She soon discovers that her husband, Mike (August Diehl) has been kidnapped and goes on the run from the law to try and find him. But is she a spy or has she been set up?

For the first 40 or 50 minutes, Salt is fun and well-paced, containing inspired, if a little over-the-top, fight sequences with impressive stunt work. In these moments, Salt is a popcorn flick at its finest and is intensely exhilarating. Unfortunately, the film loses itself halfway through as the plot becomes increasingly ludicrous and the movie slowly drifts into a bit of a tired bore.

It suffers from problems which were present in Wimmer's script for Law Abiding Citizen, as in it's annoyingly determined to have as many twists and turns as humanely possible. This results in Salt's final 20 minutes becoming a confusing mess, and I'll admit that I completely lost track of what was going on. That's probably my fault but even after searching for answers on the internet, I'm still fairly puzzled. Calm down, Wimmer!

Nonetheless, the fight scenes are hella cool, thankfully not resorting to CGI and actually using practical stunts. Phillip Noyce has proven that he knows how to perfectly film an action set-piece, as I was fairly impressed by what I saw. Although a tad cartoonish, they should be enough to get your blood pumping.

From turning into MacGyver and making a bazooka using a fire extinguisher and some cleaning products, jumping off a bridge to land on the top of a truck, and gliding down an elevator shaft in the White House, Jolie certainly kicks some serious ass as her eponymous character.

The Oscar winning actress is fascinating in her role, showing that she's not the talentless tabloid star many wrongfully think she is. She's a fantastic action star, as shown in Wanted and Tomb Raider (although both movies in this franchise sucked ass), as well as an emotive performer, which this film sadly doesn't give her an opportunity to portray. Her character is fairly intriguing as we, the audience, are unsure as to whether or not she is the villain for most of the film. "Who is Salt?" the poster states. Indeed.

Liev Schreiber, a very capable actor, plays Ted Winter, one of Salt's colleagues who is forced to hunt her down. He's the one who trusts her, while the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor's character Peabody is a colleague determined to track her down and throw her in a jail cell.

Because of our initial lack of knowledge on who Salt really is, it makes it difficult to decide who we should be rooting for. Either we cheer for the ass-kicking Jolie as she tries to outrun the law and prove her innocence, or we root for the CIA as they attempt to take down a woman about to murder the Russian president. Although it could be said that this is interesting, I found it to be problematic.

All in all, I just can't bring myself to say that this is a good movie. The very promising first half is stupidly let down by the absurd plot points which come about in the second half. The film does have some inspiring action and nifty direction, but it fails on an emotional level. It's a shame because Salt was massively hyped up and there were many anticipating its release. Let's just hope that Pepper is a better sequel.


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Remember Me

I was enjoying Remember Me for the first 90 minutes, I really was. I wasn't expecting much after the generally abysmal reviews it received upon its cinematic release, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I was watching. Up until a certain point, I found it to be smart and well written with great characters and a powerful emotional impact. And then it happened. Something which partially discredited the merits the film had rightfully earned over its first hour and a half of runtime. Something which almost forced me into disliking the film as a whole. Something so unnecessarily deranged that it's practically offensive. The ending.

By this, I do not mean that I was deeply saddened that the film was over, I mean that the last five minutes are so out-of-place with the rest of the movie that they almost entirely destroy everything that preceded them. Although I understand that the climax has a deep meaning about the unexpected, it's just so shocking and out of the blue that it sadly renders everything else which happens in what is otherwise a fantastic and heartfelt film rather pointless.

As much as I want to, I won't state what this outrageous and ridiculous finale consists of for obvious reasons. You'll have to see it for yourself to fully understand why I despise it so much. But anyway, I'm not going to ruin the movie for you. The ending will do that for itself. Tee hee.

Robert Pattinson is Tyler Hawkins, a brooding 21 year old whose life isn't really going anywhere. On one drunken night with his roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington), the walking hair gel commercial gets arrested along with his buddy by Sergeant Neil Craig (the always reliable Chris Cooper) for trying to stop a nasty fight outside a bar.

The next day, Aidan spots Neil dropping off his daughter Ally (Emilie de Ravin) at their local university and dares Tyler to ask her out on a date and harshly dump her in order to get revenge for their wrongful arresting. It sounds like a 90's comedy. Tyler hesitantly goes for it and after some playful reluctance from Ally, the former's charms woo her into giving in.

The two then start dating, going to a carnival, a fancy restaurant, a bar, Tyler's apartment and eventually his bedroom. Bow chicka bow wow. Soon enough, Tyler begins to fall for this young woman, as does she for him, which of course causes complications with her overprotective father.

It's hard to watch Pattinson and not think about his bloodsucking part in the teen-favourite Twilight saga which lifted him to mega fame. I've always thought of him as the most talented actor in the popular franchise, and although I wouldn't call his performance in Remember Me a remarkable one, he is convincing enough in the rebellious role. It's pretty clear he's trying to stretch his acting legs here, which is fairly admirable and he certainly succeeds to a significant extent.

De Ravin manages to give a strong performance alongside Pattinson, with whom she shares much chemistry. Her character Ally is somewhat independent in nature, despite her domineering father, which of course makes her a very likable young woman.

The supporting cast is impressive enough with each of their characters explored in an effective manner. You can't go wrong with the ever-glorious Chris Cooper, nor can you with Pierce Brosnan who plays Tyler's business obsessed father, Charles, with whom Tyler has an estranged relationship. There's also Tate Ellington as the usually annoying, typical, highly outspoken best friend but there's something about Ellington which removes him from the obnoxious category this sort of character more often than not falls into.

Technically, the film is brilliant. Allen Coulter's direction is rather enchanting and Will Fetters' script is a secure one filled with fleshed-out characters and nicely-flowing dialogue. It's also strong on an emotional level as I found myself caring about each of these characters and, for the most part, I was interested in where the film would take them.

I also found the opening scene to be strikingly powerful, starting off my unforeseen respect for the film. It depicts the murder of Ally's mother (Martha Plimpton) at the hands of two muggers, which eleven year old Ally (Caitlyn Rund) unfortunately witnesses. With the way the sequence is arranged, it just hit me with an emotional impact which many films I've watched tend to fail at.

Aside from a few cliches, Remember Me is nothing short of well-made. It's a family drama with romance as its main fuel, and it's one which is capable of portraying emotions in a wonderfully moving fashion. It's just such a shame that the ending is so contrived and shameful because before it occurred I was going to award the film with eight points out of ten. I'd advise you to wait for the 90 minute mark and switch the DVD off, pretending that the film simply ends there. It'll be a much more satisfying conclusion than what was intended.


Sunday, 25 July 2010


When director Christopher Nolan first contributed to the world of cinema in the year 1998 with the uniquely structured Following, I don't think anyone could have possibly predicted how far he would come in just over 11 years. Sure, Following was certainly a creative flick, some may go so far as to call it an innovative work of genius, but to imagine that the main man behind the camera would end up being one of the most prestigious filmmakers in the business would be madness. Madness? This. Is. SPARTA!! Uh, yeah.

In 2008 Nolan became something of a household name with the masterful Batman magnum opus that was The Dark Knight, but what's really going to deservedly spread his name around among the public (hopefully at the Oscars too) is his newest and most ambitious project yet. "It's called Inception," Leonardo DiCaprio says. Thank you, Leonardo.

To sum up the unqualified brilliance of Inception, I want you to think of it as a dashingly handsome man who takes you out on a date to a top-notch restaurant. You eat delicious delicacies while he wittingly converses with you and teaches you all there is to know about his grand and magnificent self and you listen to every titillating word to come out of his majestic mouth. He then takes you back to his luxurious mansion and up to his lavish bedroom where he makes passionate, monumentally satisfying love to you, giving you a screaming, awe-inspiring orgasm, after which he snuggles with you, holding you close. And in the morning, after the best breakfast in bed you've ever had, you sadly must depart from this man who you have fervently fallen in love with over such a short amount of time. Soon enough, you are inevitably left begging for more of him and his fascinating splendor. Basically.

I've seen a lot of reviewers avoiding explanations of this wonderful film's plot so as to not ruin the experience, but a few simple details wouldn't hurt. After all, the trailers essentially give away a fair amount of information anyway. DiCaprio is Dominic Cobb, a fugitive with a device which allows him, along with anyone else hooked up to the case-sized gadget, to mentally enter - or invade - the dreams of any sleeping person. He's what you call an extractor, one who, once inside your head, can steal your most precious secrets and do with them as he wishes.

He's been recruited by big-time businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to enter the mind of Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy), the son of terminally ill Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), who runs Saito's rival company. However, instead of stealing a secret, Cobb has been ordered to plant an idea into Robert's head so that he will eventually destroy his father's corporation. This difficult process is called inception. In return, Cobb will stop being hunted down by the law for a reason I won't give away.

Cobb then goes about assembling a team consisting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao and newcomer Ellen Page to help him complete this inexorably difficult task. Unsurprisingly, complications arise, each increasing the hazardous nature of the dreams and aiding in the spectacular extravaganza and mind-bending puzzle this film is.

I have absolutely no hesitation in stating that Inception is a masterpiece, nor do I in comparing Nolan to other geniuses of his craft, such as Kubrick or Hitchcock. What he has done is he has created a film which will be remembered years from now as a cornerstone in the filmmaking industry and one of the utmost quality.

Right from the word go, we are thrown into a dream. We are deeply confused and unfamiliar with this physics-defying world, but make sure you stay with it as all, if not most, will be explained in the exposition-heavy first hour. Yes, exposition is usually a sign of lazy writing, but I can't discredit it here because everything we are being told is so god damn interesting.

This first hour is used to explain the many, many intricate and complicated rules which incorporate the sleep-induced fantasies our main characters root around in. We have information thrown at us at a mile a millisecond about what to do in a dream, what not to do, the subconscious of those breaking into the dreams, how time is affected, how to get out of dreams and overall just what the bloody hell is going on. It's all suitably mesmerising.

This is all setting up for the breathtaking final 90 minutes, which is jam-packed with astonishingly inventive action, including a jaw-dropping antigravity fight sequence in a hotel corridor. This scene, in and of itself, is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking and had my chin quickly flopping to the floor in awe of the sheer audacity of what I was watching.

Hans Zimmer's remarkably delightful score loudly blares out of the speakers, practically tearing through the screen, commendably standing up to the extraordinary images being displayed on-screen. It's on a par with his terrific score for Nolan's last movie, The Dark Knight, of which I am a fan.

The film has a stellar cast with every lead successfully carrying such a weighty script on their shoulders and each doing it in an exceedingly memorable fashion. Leo is a great leading man, taking us through the powerful emotional journey his character endures. He's very likable, you feel for him and the ominous situation he has found himself in. There's also the secretive element of danger he brings to the team, unbeknownst to them, due to a scarring memory which just makes the film all the more tense.

Gordon-Levitt, who you'll know from 500 Days of Summer (he's building up quite the résumé) is similarly watchable, playing Leo's right-hand man Arthur, who also helps in the training of Page's character, the young Ariadne (is that even a real name?). Page is the one the audience relies on for asking all of the questions about the laws of the dreams as she curiously explores her mind with Cobb and Arthur. Appropriately, she's a pleasant enough character with an inquisitive demeanor.

It's Tom Hardy who steals the show, however, as Eames, a character who has a special ability inside the dreams, which is another thing I won't give away. His character is the typically smart-mouthed, quick witted type you've seen in a thousand movies before, but Hardy brings a striking charisma to the role, which of course comes naturally to him. He's undoubtedly the most appealing cast member.

I wouldn't be too surprised if the film's increasingly complex ideas enormously confuse many viewers as I myself became a bit lost at some points. The thought of dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams (seriously) may be a bit too much to handle for some moviegoers unprepared for Nolan's mind-fuck of a movie, so I'd advise to pay specific attention to every word the characters are saying, as you indeed should with every film you watch actually.

I cannot praise Inception enough, I came out of my screening with the overwhelming sense that I'd just witnessed something genuinely spectacular. It's one of the most flawlessly inventive pieces of art I've ever had the extreme pleasure of watching and I can say without a doubt in my mind that there is no other film like this. If there's one movie you go see this year, just one movie, make sure it's Inception. It is gorgeous, it is beautiful, it is an epic masterpiece and it is here, waiting for you. Oblige it.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Rebound

With the current dry desert of decent romantic comedies, I would imagine that to make one which surpasses what we have recently experienced in the world of film would not be too tough a task to handle. We have had Did You Hear About The Morgans?, The Bounty Hunter, Valentine's Day, Leap Year, The Ugly Truth, and The Back-Up Plan, each of which were proven to be lifeless duds eaten alive by ferocious, sharply-fanged critics.

Yes, we have had the occasional success such as Knocked Up and 500 Days of Summer, but these are shockingly only two which I can remember off the top of my head. To be fair, originality in what is more often than not a corny genre is a tad difficult, but as shown in the highly admirable couple I just mentioned, it is achievable.

And so, writer and director Bart Freundlich, the filmmaker who brought us World Traveler, Trust The Man and Catch That Kid (please kill this man) has decided to give the rom-com wagon a ride with his new feature entitled The Rebound. His twist on the formulaic genre is that, wait for it, the two leads have a fifteen year age difference. Yes, fifteen years. That's supposed to be shocking and scandalous but, umm, it's not. It's fairly normal actually.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Sandy, a forty year old who has just found out her husband (Sam Robards) is having an affair. Bringing her son and daughter with her, she moves to New York to start anew and buys an apartment atop a coffee shop. There, she befriends one of the workers, 25 year old Aram (Justin Bartha), a guy who's uncomfortable in his own shoes and unsure of what to do with his life.

Aram ends up being the full-time babysitter of Sandy's two children (get it? He's got a twelve year old's job) while she is busy at work all day. Aram bonds well with the little youngsters and in not much time becomes attached to them while Sandy goes out on several unsuccessful dates with random guys. But soon enough, Sandy begins suspecting that she may have feelings for her male nanny and that he is undergoing the same thing.

Do I really need to explain the rest of the plot? I don’t even need to post a spoiler warning. They resist each other at first, but this doesn't last long and they have sex, they go out, they fall in love, they get made fun of for their age difference, there's some trouble in paradise, they break up and yadda yadda yadda. Formulaic.

Right, first off, Zeta Jones and Bartha have approximately zero chemistry together, which is basically the one factor a rom-com relies on. So that's a bit of an epic fail. You can see that there's meant to be this sexual tension between them, but this never comes across like it should and it almost completely slaughters the movie. It's not necessarily the age gap, it's just that their relationship and strong feelings for each other don't feel real or convincing enough for us to give a hoot. It's all fake Hollywood fluff.

The characters don't feel like they have any depth to them, they come across as cardboard cut-outs, taking away the necessary likability factor. Zeta-Jones and Bartha are alright enough, it's just the weak script that screws them over. Our two leads think they're in a much better movie than they really are, which makes it quite saddening watching them on-screen.

The two kids, played by Andrew Cherry and Kelly Gould are annoying as hell, constantly asking questions, being unspeakably intrusive and, even for little kids, say the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times. They're pretty much the two children from BBC's Outnumbered times a thousand. As a matter of fact, these two younglings are not the only inappropriately natured characters in the movie, as pretty much everyone says idiotic things which widely stretch the movie's logic and momentarily take it out of realism.

"I had sex with your mom," Aram loudly shouts in a busy bowling alley. "They're gonna give me a new asshole," Aram's father says when the children are sitting opposite him. "Nice ass, coffee boy!" Sandy's friend yells across the street. Why would they say these things? These characters aren't friggin' real!

The film also pointlessly reduces itself to vulgarity in the hopes of receiving a naughty snigger from childish viewers, but instead of this, what happened with me, myself an extraordinarily childish individual, is I groaned and rolled my eyes. When the characters just constantly curse or a homeless guy whips out his cock, it simply comes across as desperate.

It doesn't have the keen wit of Knocked Up or the imagination and creativity of 500 Days of Summer, both of which depended on intelligence and brains to gain laughs from the audience. Indeed, they had their naughty moments, but these did not seem out of place as they very much do in The Rebound.

The movie just doesn't work, almost everything about it is wrong. After a promising opening ten minutes which managed to make me giggle and convinced me that the rest would be a lot of fun, the film falls apart and becomes rather tiring by the 60 minute mark. It's not really that funny and the story is weak as hell with the characters not interesting enough to keep it going. The only interesting thing is the fact that the tables have turned for Zeta-Jones. She's usually going after pensioners, not kids straight out of college.


Monday, 19 July 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Jerry Bruckheimer. This famous name which most moviegoers have no doubt heard of pretty much sums up every single aspect of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. If you've seen any of the flicks which this guy is involved in you'll know exactly what to expect; all glamorous style and substantially miniscule substance all wrapped up in a big-budget summer blockbuster to half-concentrate on as you munch away at your salted popcorn. He specialises in flicks which have the sole purpose of quickly getting to the point, not staying with a scene for more than a couple of minutes, to keep going and going, throwing in special effect after special effect, not trying to be smart or subtle, having a few sword fights, throwing the actors around the room or off a building, marketing it with epic music and boom, money at the box-office. Or not, as audiences have surprisingly steered clear of Mr. Bruckheimer's latest effort.

With Pirates of the Caribbean, he brought us a movie based on a bloody Disneyland theme park ride, Prince of Persia on a video game and now this on the identically titled excerpt from Fantasia, the Mickey Mouse musical as well as Goethe's beloved 1797 poem. The uncontrollable, magical mop-cleaning scene from the Disney animated classic is actually re-enacted about halfway through the movie, although it's pretty much thrown in just to say, "Yeah, we, uh, we based this entire movie on this tiny bit, and made a whole plot about it, sort of, uh, yeah, that's impressive, right?" Not really, Jerry.

You might be wondering how the holy hell they managed to write a 98 minute movie about mops destructively cleaning, but they thankfully have not. We start in 740 AD, where wizard Merlin (James A. Stephens) is being betrayed by one of his three apprentices, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), who has joined forces with the evil Morgana (Alice Krige) to kill his master. Although too late to save Merlin, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) manages to imprison Morgana in a magical nesting doll called the Grimhold while Horvath escapes.

Cut to modern day Manhattan and physics nerd Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) just so happens to stumble upon Balthazar, who believes Dave to be the Prime Merlinian (sounds stupid, right?), the one chosen to gain Merlin's powers. He needs Dave to help stop Horvath from finding the Grimhold and unleashing Morgana to take over the world. Insert evil laugh here.

Ergo, Balthazar takes Dave on as his apprentice, training him in the art of magic while saying all-knowing phrases and teaching him morals and life lessons and what shoes to wear. There's also the subplot of Dave's obsessive crush on Becky (Teresa Palmer), who, you'll never see this coming, seriously, it's so shocking, oh my god, gets taken hostage at one point. Gasp, so dramatic and unexpected.

This is a pretty standard fantasy action blockbuster, one jam-packed with cliches, light humour and extreme predictability, but there is some neat writing in here too. Much of the dialogue, especially from Dave, flows quite well and is rather impressive for a film of this genre. The problem is that the story isn't involving or captivating enough to bring it to the exceptionally high entertainment value it so believes it has.

This is partly due to the Jon Turteltaub's generic direction, the distractingly bad pacing and some shockingly awful editing too. Also, there's clearly been a lot of money put into the special effects which, as dazzling as they may be, take away from the emotional impact the film could have very much advanced itself with. True, the film is a visual smorgasbord, but it's lacking in that spark it needs to lift itself up.

What the film does have though is two very strong leads. Although a little short on genuine chemistry, the two are quite likable characters who manage to hold the film together. No, this is not Cage's best performance, but come on, it's Nicolas Cage, the guy just emits fumes of extra-special awesomeness. He's playing the wise master of magic you've seen in a thousand movies before, but Cage brings something new to the table: a bad haircut. Actually, no, what he brings is his naturally quirky self that I just find so alluring and charming.

Baruchel is equally on fine form, playing a geeky, timid, awkward student (me, basically) who's suddenly thrown into a world of sorcery, wizards and dragons. He's an appealing enough character and one who provides many laughs, but Baruchel has unquestionably the most nasal voice my eardrums have ever had to deal with (and I watch Everybody Loves Raymond on a daily basis). I swear, if this guy sneezes the whole universe will implode.

Then there's Molina playing our villain, a well-spoken yet patronising Englishman. He is certainly the most talented member of the cast, bringing a touch of class to what is otherwise, well, a Jerry Bruckheimer film. His performance is fairly memorable, despite the character being a run-of-the-mill baddie and Molina does remarkably well with what he has to work with.

Some of the special effects are spectacular, particularly during the fight scenes with the sorcerers blasting balls of electricity at each other or trapping one another in mirrors. However, they all pretty much just scream, "I WAS DONE ON A COMPUTER!!" which screws up the illusion of some scenes. For instance, there's a Chinatown sequence where a dragon costume transforms into an actual living, fire breathing dragon which starts tearing up the place. The CGI looks very cheesy and it ruins what could have been a tense scene.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is the kind of film you'd expect to see being advertised during the summer holidays. It's a visual spectacle gorged with special effects and big-star names to tease kids into begging their parents to buy them a ticket. It exists purely to rake in all the cash it can get its greedy hands on, but for what it is, I couldn't help but enjoy it. Sure, it's not emotionally involving or all that tense but unlike Prince of Persia, I actually found it to be fairly entertaining. And hey, it's Jerry Bruckheimer, you can't be expecting much, right? Next thing you know, he'll be producing a movie based on a museum brochure.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Despicable Me

Gru is a supervillain. Voiced by The Office star Steve Carell, he makes a living from elegantly stealing priceless and luxurious monuments from all around the world, or so he desperately wishes. You see, Gru hasn't been too successful in this department as his most prized stolen objects are the jumbotron from Times Square, an Eiffel Tower replica and a small-scale Statue of Liberty, both of which were clutched from Las Vegas.

Gru dreams of one day stealing an object that's truly worth something, something that he'll really be remembered for. He craves to be recognised for the crime of the century, to be feared and to go up in the ranks of supervillainy. And this is what makes Gru such an interesting character for an animated family film. He's not a hero, he's a villain, a mean one, and yet he's so upbeat about everything that you can't help but fall in love with him.

He's the protagonist (or antagonist?) of Despicable Me, Universal's parody of the well-known clichéd Bondesque enemies. It's a film that pokes fun at the traits and characteristics of the typical mischief makers we see in spy movies and comic book flicks, and it's one that takes full advantage of its subject material.

Our main character goes about his daily life, using freeze guns on queues of people so that he doesn't have to stand in line for coffee, driving about in some sort of advanced rocket car thing, laughing as he pops the balloons of innocent little kids and having fun with his tiny yellow creature henchmen. He's not very subtle.

In order to outdo his equally evil competition, he has hatched a plan to go to the moon and shrink it so that it can fit in his pocket and then just, well, take it. There's a problem though, as his rival Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) has stolen his shrinking gun and has it locked it up in a super secure vault. After several ill-fated attempts to break into Vector's house, Gru decides to adopt three young girls, named Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).

He plans to use them in a not-so-elaborate scheme to intrude on Vector's seemingly impenetrable mansion, but as time goes by, Gru starts feeling affection for the three cute little toddlers. Will they make him change his nefarious ways? Will they make him rethink his moon-stealing plot? Will young viewers be influenced by his evilness? Maybe.

As you can probably tell, this movie is quite predictable, but that certainly does not stop it from being fun. Within the first ten minutes I was raising an eyebrow at the film's creativity and inventive nature. It's a step-up from Universal's other animated films such as The Land Before Time sequels, Curious George and The Tale of Despereaux.

No, this is not quite up to par with any of the Pixar films, nor Dreamworks' recent How to Train Your Dragon, but what it is is a fabulously entertaining and beautifully animated kids film. There's a lot of attention to detail in the animation and extravagantly exaggerated designs of the characters. The trio of girls are ridiculously cute with large pupils in their eyes and adorable little noses. Gru's fairly odd-looking, but not necessarily unattractive and it fits his character well. My favourite design though has to go to Gru's disgruntled mother, with her bulging, pointed nose and chin.

The film is a witty one and the script is pretty damn impressive, filled aplenty with humorous witticisms to be laughed out loud at. The comic timing of some gags, both visual and verbal, is mighty fine, perfectly tickling the ribs of kids and adults alike. Many jokes come from Gru's highly unsociable demeanour and the formidable way in which he treats those around him, which is notably mean. But what takes the chocolate cake for almost all of the funniest moments has got to be Gru's small, sunny coloured helpers. They're largely moronic and talk purely in gibberish, which just makes them all the more hilarious with the style in which they interact with each other. The youngsters will love 'em.

The voice work is spectacular for almost every member of the cast. Carell sports an Eastern European accent, one which very much reminded me of Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's one of the things I loved about his character, Carell has clearly put a lot of work into getting the voice right. Segel is virtually unrecognisable as Vector, I actually didn't realise it was him until I looked at the cast list, but he does a great job as the smug antagonist.

Then there's Russell Brand who plays Gru's eldely assistant Dr. Nefario. The stand-up comic is admirable enough, although he is just putting on a gruff voice. The supporting cast, which includes Julie Andrews and Will Arnett, is also great, each of their characters are both strong and memorable.

If there's anything I have against Despicable Me, it's that the plot is occasionally pushed aside for more laughs, and the film itself feels a tad short. Nothing too bad though, as it is a brilliantly fun and engaging cartoon which should supply laughs for all of the family. Just hope that the kids don't get any ideas from Gru's constant wrongdoing.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010


"GET TO THE CHOPPA!!" Ah, what a great movie Predator was. Made in 1987 and starring action man Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's become a cult classic and hailed as one of the best monster flicks to have ever been released in cinemas. Despite receiving mixed reviews, it helped move the bodybuilder's film career forward and made him into one of the best action stars out there. The sequel, however, was a different story, generally thought of as a big disappointment and leaving many fans thoroughly unhappy and throwing temper tantrums. Poor disgruntled fanboys!

And then there was Alien vs. Predator, a 2004 crossover with the Alien franchise. I won't go into how monumentally hated this and its 2007 sequel were, cos it'll take all day. Long story short, a lot. Because of all the negativities from the Predator sequel and the two horrid spin-offs, long-time fan Robert Rodriguez decided to produce another sequel, but this time ignoring the disappointments that were the other Predator movies.

I was excited for Predators, Rodriguez was very much hyping it up in interviews and online with featurettes on each of the characters. And after seeing the promising trailers I was expecting a well-made sci-fi action/horror and one that would do the original some justice, but I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed when the end credits finally popped up.

We start very abruptly. Royce (Adrien Brody) has just woken up to find that he is falling through the air, hurtling towards a swarm of trees. Luckily, his nose breaks his fall (actually, his parachute does) and he watches as others fall from the sky into the jungle beside him. Like him, they have no idea how they got there and the last thing they remember is seeing a bright light. Also like him, they have all killed someone. Good company then.

After wandering around the terrain for a little while, they discover that they are on another planet and have been kidnapped by a gang of cold-blooded Predators. They are part of an elaborate game where they will be hunted for sport by the alien pursuers, being chased through the jungle and desperately running for their lives, avoiding booby traps as they try to find a way back home. "We're the game," Royce says.

Rodriguez was clearly very passionate about this movie even though he is simply a producer. I think it's fair to say that Predators is a film made for the fans, they've been waiting for a decent sequel since 1987 and this is what Rodriguez set out to do. Has he succeeded? He sort of has and he sort of hasn't. The film contains many homages to the original, such as the famous machine gun firing scene and a mud-covered one-on-one topless end fight.

The fabulous music by John Debney is also very reminiscent of Alan Silvestri's score for the original. It has an odd presence, magnificently striking in each scene it's in. Personally, I adored it. However, Predators is still fairly flawed.

First off, when our protagonists all fall hundreds of feet into this unknown territory, this jungle, with no way of knowing what the hell is going on, they just seem to accept it. If that were me, I'd be shitting my pants and be suffering mass paranoia, not trusting anyone, whereas these characters seem familiar with the situation and just shrug it off. The extreme sense of confusion these characters would inevitably be undergoing is not convincing enough and I found it quite off-putting.

Also, I felt absolutely no connection or sympathy for any of our heroes for almost the entire movie. They're not very likable or relatable people, they seem very cold-blooded and the fact that they're all murderers doesn't exactly help with this problem. We're obviously meant to be rooting for the Adrien Brody character, Royce, yet the guy is just a bit of a dick. In fact, he's a lot of a dick, he's a guy who only cares about himself and it wasn't until the end that I started actually liking him.

And of course, there are characters who, right from the second they blink or open their mouths, you can just tell are gonna be Predator poop by the end of the movie. So, what exactly is the point in giving a hoot about any of them when you fully well know they're definite goners?

Then again, this is just a monster movie so these problems can be kinda overlooked. It's nice to see the Predators back again, albeit the fact that some of the designs are a little different, which will no doubt get some fan's panties in a twist. These are not the only hunters on this planet though, as there are also the Predators' pets, dog-like creatures which attack the unfortunate group of cowering humans. They're well-designed and the effects on them are rather wondrous, making for a suspenseful attack scene half an hour into the movie.

The dialogue has moments of greatness and excellence, then moments where it's a bit crap, it's pretty bipolar. The script is quite solid, filled with cheesy but catchy one-liners that I maybe smiled or chuckled at a little.

I didn't really have any problems with the cast, everyone seemed to be on top-form. They're all playing throw-away characters, but they do an admirable enough job with what they're given. Alice Braga's the only female of the group, playing the "girl who can kick ass" role and I found her performance to be fairly eye-catching. Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo is also in there as Cuchillo. You've gotta love this guy, he is such a mesmerising and lovable actor, although I'd advise to not get too attached to his character.

Best performance though has to go to Laurence Fishburne, playing Noland, a disturbed survivor from a previously captured bunch. He explains the nature of the Predators and how there's a violent feud going on between two of their species. Apparently this role was originally meant to go to Danny Glover, reprising his role from Predator 2, but I am glad he didn't. I've never liked Glover all too much, and Fishburne just makes the role his own.

With a film of this genre, clichés are no doubt going to happen and Predators helms quite a few. You can anticipate some lame jump scares and see things coming a mile off, but it still has its fair shares of surprising points. The film has many twists and turns intertwined which held my interest enough.

Personally, I feel that Predators is a film that gets better as it goes along. For what it is, it's not really that bad, it just could have been a heck of a lot better. It's a good idea that's just been executed in a mediocre way with strong predictability and unrelatable, unsympathetic characters. However, it's nice to have the real Predators back on the big screen. They're still ugly motherfuckers though.


Saturday, 10 July 2010

Grown Ups

Okay, so you've got Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade all starring in the same movie. Aside from James, who's just along for the ride, these are all Saturday Night Live veterans, all on the big-screen together for the first time ever, sort of like a little reunion. They were among the best of the best on the famous show during the early 90's and they certainly had a huge impact on how the programme turned out. So this movie they're all collaborating on should be fun, right? Well, sort of.

James is playing the clumsy fat guy, Schneider the freaky weirdo, Spade the playful, good-looking womaniser, Rock the black guy and Sandler playing...well, Adam Sandler. Not really stretching their acting legs here, I must say. Each of them are now in their mid-forties, y'know, they're maybe going through a slight mid-life crisis as most men do, and this plays into the theme that Grown Ups comedically goes into.

Sandler's production company Happy Madison produces his newest movie, which starts with our five protagonists as little kids playing and winning basketball at their local elementary school. Cut to thirty years later and they have all gone their separate ways, each now married and living happily with their families (other than lady's man Spade). However, their old coach (Blake Clark) has just passed away from a heart attack, bringing the estranged friends back together at his funeral.

After the service, the families all go to the lake house owned by Larry (Sandler), intending to spend the 4th of July together and reminisce about their pastimes. They tease, they have a few laughs, they try and get the kids to appreciate the fun they can have in the outside world, there's some competition with their old basketball rivals and they go to a water park at one point and get wet. It's all fun.

As you can see, the plot isn't very strong and it's not really important once they get to the lake house. The whole film is just about these five guys hanging out, toying with each other in mischievous ways and trying to recapture their youths. Their banter fuels the movie and moves it along quite nicely, keeping you entertained enough. They're very watchable characters, ones that you do sort of connect to due to their likability.

What holds the film back though is that the truly great jokes are few and far between. I did laugh out loud a fair number of times, but more genuinely funny gags would have vastly improved upon the film's entertainment value. If you've seen any Adam Sandler movies before, you'll know the sense of humour Grown Ups has, it's based upon many visual jokes and constant wisecracking that will appeal to some and not to others. With me, it's usually a hit and miss.

Also, there are some scenes which drag a little, affecting the film's pacing. This was most evident when all five buddies are meeting each other for the first time in years outside the church. Every character is introduced to one another once again, jesting and jibing in a sequence which just goes on for too long, it becomes tedious. Furthermore, with the barely visible plot, the length, even at just over an hour and forty minutes does feel pretty long, the story isn't strong enough to hold the film for its entire length.

The cast is all good enough, decently playing their roles and keeping my interest for the most part. The five leads are obviously naturals at comedy, they've been in the business for a long time and they know how to serve up the laughs. Salma Hayek plays Sandler's wife (how the hell he bagged her, I dunno), Roxanne and although I had a few problems with her performance, she's none too shabby. Know what am sayin'?

Most of the rest of the cast isn't too memorable, other than Shneider's wife Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), who is thirty years older than her husband. Many gags revolve around their relationship and their age difference, tis a little funny.

There's not really much else to say, it's a forgettable fluffy comedy, but for what it is it's good for a night out. I'd recommend this for those who are fans of SNL or simply familiar with the main stars' other roles and have liked what they've seen. Outside of that range, I can't really see anyone fully enjoying this as much as others would, it's all about Sandler, James, Rock, Schneider and Spade. And fat jokes.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Vampires Suck

Why? A simple question. Why? An adverb meant to express puzzlement and curiosity. Why in the holy bejesus fuck are Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg still working in the film business? How the shitting dolphin rotten bitch cunt they are able to get their "movies" financed, put into production and actually released in theatres for public consumption is beyond me. And how the decomposed dinosaur foreskin their "films" manage to actually make money at the box office is a disgrace to not only humanity, not only the universe, but everything that has ever existed in every single dimension to come out of God's tight, hairy asshole.

These two fuck-heads are not filmmakers. They're not. They're two retarded monkeys who just so happened to find a camera and then proceeded to film themselves eating each others shit and sold the footage to a movie company. They have already made Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans and Disaster Movie (the last two were actually released in the same cunting year) and now they have finally made their masterpiece. By masterpiece, I mean their biggest accomplishment, the big cheese. In other words, they have successfully created the worst movie. Ever. Made. Period.

This time, Seltzer and Friedberg sat down and watched the first two Twilight movies and decided, "Hmm, derp, we, uh, derp, should, uh, derp, copy this movie and, uh, derp, do lots of, uh, derp, stupid, derp, unfunny, derp, jokes every millisecond and the audiences, uh, derp, will eat it up." Words simply cannot express how utterly painful and brain-dead this movie is. But fuck it, I'm gonna try.

The film (I'm using that term lightly) basically steals the plot (ha, plot!) of Twilight and New Moon, with our adolescent main character Becca (Jenn Proske) moving to the city of Sporks with her father. But something is very strange about this city. That's right, it was made by Seltzer and Friedberg, so it's an unrealistic pile of cow vomit! No, actually the city is infested with vampires, one of which, a good one named Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter), Becca falls for. Cos he's so hot and sparkly.

Meanwhile, three evil vampires are killing and feeding on locals, one of which actually fights back and punches one of the vampires in the face, because that's so god damn funny. Not. Anyway, Becca and Edward come across them and Edward kills one of them with a baseball bat and then there's some gay jokes, some fart jokes and the film continues while I just sit there, staring blankly at the screen, distraught, heavily disturbed and begging for the sweet release at the bony hands of Death himself because I really, really don't give a rat's ass anymore.

Look, I like all four Scary Movies, I like The Naked Gun and I like both Airplane films. Heck, I even enjoyed Superhero Movie, as stupid and silly as it was. What I don't like is this, or anything these two testicle-brained doofuses have ever put to the big screen. Unlike the eight aforementioned spoofs, Vampires Suck does not have any wit, not one good joke, no humour or any hint of thought-process put into its production.

What we get is a series of bricks falling on top of people, burp jokes, people being thrown into pianos, never-ending pop culture references, people falling over again and again, people being hit by car doors, people getting smacked in the head with shovels and basically every throw-away visual gag that doesn't require any intelligence, mentality or use of brain cells. "Mind-numbing" is not a strong enough word.

You can practically see Seltzer and Friedberg down on their knees, pleading to you, begging for you, the audience, the viewer, their money-source to look at the film and give a tiny little implication of anything that could possibly be said to resemble something that could maybe, just maybe be called a smile. But they won't get what they want. I literally did not laugh, chortle, snigger or even smile at any of the hundreds upon thousands of so-called jokes that these couple of numbskulls lazily threw at me.

I can't even give the film credit for spoofing Twilight, a series despised and spit upon by many, because it's done in such an appalling and cringe-worthy fashion that it doesn't deserve to be called entertainment. Some of the film's jokes aren't even original, I spotted one directly robbed from The Simpsons, another from Wallace and Gromit, and there's some that are just rehashes from their previous movies and many taken from Scary Movie. It's fucking ridiculous.

In fact, the only thing in this entire torture show that I can award with respect, other than the fact that it's thankfully only 76 minutes long, is the casting of Jenn Proske. Playing the Bella copycat, she perfectly mimics the traits and glum personality of Kristen Stewart's character in the Twilight franchise to a tee. It is quite impressive. But then again, she's just impersonating someone else, so she can't get the film a single mark. Bad luck.

The rest of the cast are just sore losers of look-alike competitions without any acting ability or memorable portrayals, or maybe that's just the awful script they're reading from. Each character has the exact same personality, i.e. quirky, bizarre, weird, over-the-top, sadomasochistic. They do stupid things, say stupid things, emit gases of stupidity, all of which isn't the slightest bit funny or smart, so I just want them all to fuck off and go burn in a fire somewhere.

As an example of how lazy Vampires Suck is, I noticed that all of the music is taken from other movies. As in, the filmmakers didn't even bother to get someone to do a score for it, they just took music from other films and splattered them in the background. And no, it's not like Inglorious Basterds or Shutter Island, the music-taken-from-other-movies aspect serves no purpose whatsoever here, other than pure slothfulness.

Don't see this movie. Seriously, just don't even bother, you'll be wasting just over an hour of your life when you could be at home, drawing doodles or making your own little home movies with your camcorder, which I can pretty much guarantee will be much, much better than this unfunny, horribly made, unfathomably bad piece of shit. Seltzer and Friedberg, fuck you.


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Last Airbender

I want you to picture Stanley Kubrick. A brilliant director, considered by many to be a genius and one of the greatest filmmakers who has ever lived. You picturing him? Right, I now want you to picture Uwe Boll, a man who is heavily thought of as the epitome of bad filmmaking, a man who probably doesn't even have any comprehension as to what a good movie is. Imagine if the late, great Kubrick were to have slowly but surely turned into Boll, with each of his films continually getting worse and worse as his career goes more and more downhill. This, my friends, is what is happening to the once-admired writer, producer and director M. Night Shyamalan.

Remember The Sixth Sense? Remember Unbreakable? Remember Signs? For three years this guy was on fire, making hit after hit, wooing audiences and critics alike with his gifted talents in the art of movie-making. Then he made the bore-fest that was The Village, the self-indulgent Lady in the Water and the unbelievably horrifically atrocious and catastrophic event that was The Happening. Sigh.

He completely lost his way and became a total joke in the world of film, with his fanbase shrinking, the guy unable to get an ounce of respect from anyone, critic or moviegoer. Everyone hated him. However, word came out in 2008 that he was making a live-action film adaptation of the popular Saturday morning anime Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've seen a few episodes of this cartoon and I have to say it was pretty damn awesome, funny, well-written and filled with terrific characters, it was great stuff. There's no way Shyamalan can screw this up, right? Right? Wrong.

We start off with four kinda stupid-looking dancing silhouettes, each representing the four elements which rule the fantasy world the film is set in. These are Air, Water, Earth and Fire, and it is explained in the cliched upwards writing (lazy writing, as I like to call it) that there are four nations, each with the ability to manipulate, or "bend" one of these elements. The Air Nomads have all been wiped out by the empowering Fire colony, who are imprisoning everyone with elemental bending powers in order to take over the world. Mwahaha!

Waterbending siblings Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in the ice near their tribe. Turns out this bald-headed boy is an Avatar, the next in a long line of beings with the ability to bend all four elements and is destined to restore peace to this world. Trouble is that he has only mastered Airbending and needs to learn how to bend the other three elements to fully become the Avatar. And so, he sets out on an adventure to end the conflicts set by the evil Firebenders, evading capture from them and all the while trying to master his bending abilities.

Right, so what's good about this movie? Well, the music by James Newton Howard is something epic and is rather impressive, although I expect nothing less from such a distinguished composer. The special effects are also quite decent, if a little over-used, I would have liked more practical effects rather than continually filling the film up with CGI. And that's it. Now, the bad things.

First off, this film is quite patronising. We have every piece of complicated plot-related information jammed down our throats and re-explained as if we can't figure out things for ourselves. Cos we're thick, right? The entire script consists of exposition after exposition after exposition, and the lines that aren't meant to explain what the hell's going on are considerably shit too. "It is time to show the Fire nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs." Seriously? "Let your emotions flow like water." How poetic.

The Last Airbender also seems incredibly rushed and has a very poor pace. 20 half hour episodes have been squashed into 103 minutes of so-called entertainment which had me bored out of my skull within just two fucking scenes. I would ask for the film to be made longer to have a better pace, but actually that would mean more of it, so on second thought, make it shorter. Like, much shorter.

The film garnered a lot of controversy long before its release, receiving complaints about Shyamalan having apparently white-washed the cast unlike the animated series, which had a primarily Asian cast. Shyamalan defended the film's casting by saying that these were the perfect actors to play the roles of the beloved characters. Problem though, the cast is bloody awful. Although they're kids, the acting is just horrid. There's a scene on a Firebender's ship where all Aang has to do is look around him for an escape and Ringer can't even fucking do that. He completely screws it up, looking like a confused actor unaware of what he's supposed to be doing. Damn it Shyamalan, give the kid his fucking motivation!

Peltz and Rathbone are similarly bland, delivering their lines in monotonous tones and giving their characters no personality whatsoever. In fact, the only character in the whole film with a personality is Prince Zuko, an exiled Firebender played by Dev Patel. He's the only cast member I didn't dislike, he plays the character well, although his role is simply to be angry, cold-hearted and ambitious. Like me.

I've always said that Shyamalan is a talented director, but not a talented writer. And yet here, he's neither. His direction is not exactly what I'd call impressive in this movie, there's some crappy camera-work in some scenes. What takes the cake though is the stupid decision of having extreme close-ups on some of the character's faces when they speak. Jesus Christ, I could practically see the bland boogers up the bland nose of Aang's bland face as the bland words came out of his bland mouth. Shyamalan did this as well in The Happening with Mark Wahlberg's stupid "think, think, what to do, what to do" scene, which just goes to show that this director can't take a fucking hint.

Some of the fighting choreography is alright, apart from one particular scene which contains what I can only call one of the lamest attempts at an action scene I have ever had the displeasure of watching. Aang jumps and leaps about, turning those around him to ice, looking stupid as hell while making noises which made me think he was heavily constipated. It's just retarded.

This is me being maybe a bit nit-picky, but why in the the hell has Shyamalan decided to tell us the exact locations of where some of the scenes take place? We cut to "The Fire Nation," which, fair enough, appears on-screen, but then we are told "Fire Nation Colony Fifteen." Why do I need to know the precise setting? "The Fire Nation" was good enough, what's with the extra information? Imagine a scene in a movie in Central Park where the words "Bench 12" appear on-screen. It's not necessary. I mean, fuck.

Another thing I can't ignore is the fact that a few times in the movie the narration by Peltz tells us what's going on, yet we don't see these events taking place. "Aang flew us to his home and told us how he blah, blah, blah," we are told, but as this is said we're looking at an image of a mountain for some reason. Did the cameras explode or something and you couldn't shoot the scene for us to watch instead of being told about it? Fucking hell.

Look, this movie is bad. Like, really bad. I don't really expect much from Shyamalan anymore and how the hell he found work after The Happening is beyond me, but this is just terrible. The Last Airbender is mind-numbingly dull, the pacing's shit, the acting is horrendous, the script sucks and there have been some really, really stupid decisions put into the making of this movie. It's not quite as painful as The Happening, but it's a fair competition. And if your kids try and drag you, kicking and screaming to see this, send them to boarding school. Immediately. They deserve it.