Monday, 31 May 2010

A Tale of Two Nightmares


Remakes are rife in today's hollywood. This is perfectly understandable for a number of reasons: A familiar title with an established fanbase seems less of a gamble than a brand-new product, many of the current crop of film-makers would be honoured to try their hand at re-creating a favourite film from their youth and, simply, it's HARD to come up with new ideas, so why not simply repackage old ones for the contemporary market?

Of course, the ultimate problem with a lot of these remakes is that they seem to have been achieved by somebody burying a print of the original movie in a Pet Cemetery, then going home to wait for the new version to turn up on their doorstep. They come back WRONG.

The "Nightmare on Elm St." remake is a case in point. Based, of course, on Wes Craven's 1984 New Line-founding video-nasty, concerning the trials of a group of teenagers being plagued by nightmares about a disfigured, finger-knived chap named Freddy Krueger.

Now, surely the main aim of a remake should be to iron out any perceived problems with the original whilst making a film which will satisfy old fans and yet bring new fans onboard? This creates a quandry for any film-maker. Are you simply retelling the story to a fresh crowd, or are you referencing the knowing audience's favourite parts of the old flicK? This film falls awkwardly somewhere between; playing as essentially a greatest hits reel for Craven's original, but hurrying through the standards as if there's a curfew.

The best nightmare images are re-hashes from the earlier film (friend in bodybag, glove coming out of the bath) and aside from a few slightly clever jumps and red-herrings there is little we haven't seen before.

Whereas Craven spent his film attempting to replicate dream-logic, investing the picture with a surreal and sometimes darkly absurd edge, here we have Freddy's backstory helpfully laid out in the dreams of our protagonists. Apparently he needs them to remember his origin in order to grow stronger or summat, but all the visual explanation takes away from the general unpredictablility of the nightmares when they are essentially exposition. The dreams often feel like flashbacks with one of the leads bumbling around in the background and, of course, the more we learn about Krueger, the less scary he becomes.

Freddy's past is directly linked to that of the teen-tossers and their parents, a fact which was subtly handled in the original so as to emerge a genuine surprise when the sins of the parents were revealed. In this here remake, the parents are creepily evasive right from the start, leaving no doubt that they have something to hide. Of course, the audience is presumed to already know they burned Kruger alive; so no point building suspense or wasting time actually telling a story, right?

The flaws in the writing rot the film from the very core, nowhere more so than in the stilted, on-the-nose dialogue. It is less than five minutes into the film when someone calls "Is anybody there?" into an empty room. This is swiftly followed up with exchanges like this:

"You look like..."
"Like I haven't slept for three days?"

"They're just dreams, they're not real."
"These dreams... are real".

And this is all in the first scene of the film! At least in Craven's effort, the first dialogue scene was more like "Oh, I had a nightmare last night!" "Oh, me too" "What are we doing today?". The characters in the remake are sold on the idea that Freddy is a murderer who kills them in their sleep pretty much from the outset, mostly because, again, the audience already knows what the crack is, so lets not waste time building up any convincing characterisation and behaviour when we can be hurrying towards the next kill!

It may seem churlish to complain about such problems in a slasher remake, but surely the whole point of remaking a film is to try and improve the original? Craven's "Nightmare" has certainly dated, the soundtrack, some of the dialogue and the ropey performances from its youthful cast (even Mini-Depp) betraying its lo-fi 80s origins, but it dominates this rehash in terms of invention, atmosphere and the all important memorable deaths.

Director Samuel Bayer eschews Craven's sense of the macabre in favour of typical LOUD NOISE jumps and hurried tributes to the set-piece killings from the original. Now, surely this is an area where prosthetics and effects from 1984 can be improved upon in order to deliver some seriously gut-churning grim and gruey nightmare death sequences? Nope. The deaths are all surprisingly muted and understated. The few cover-versions (the girl being dragged across the ceiling, ripped open and dumped on the bed, for instance) manage to be much less punchy and shocking than Craven's big-haired masterwork; rushing by in a relatively bloodless flash as if they were inserted perfunctorily in order to nudge fans in the ribs.

Another element which you would expect to be vastly improved from the aged counterpart is in the field of acting and, sure, the performances here are nowhere near as stagey and amateurish as Heather Langenkamp and pals, but they are still almost uniformly flat and unengaging. Langenkamp was a buck-toothed personality void on screen, but the character of Nancy still emerged as a basically likable character to root for. The new Nancy is a mopey art-school reject who spends her time drawing in shades of black, like that dude from the fast show.

The other kids turn in fittingly somnambulistic performances, apart from Kyle Gallner (in what I suppose is the Johnny Depp role), who kicks the arse out of the scene of the movie in a twitchy, pleading attempt to score wake-up pills from an uncaring pharmacist.

Which brings us to the battle of the Freddies. Can anyone step into the stripey jumper and spikey glove of Kruger without withering in the shadow of Robert Englund. Well... yes. Jackie Earle Haley actually has a lot more to work with than Englund ever did, as the movie's preoccupation with the explanation of its bogeyman allows him a great range of facets to play with: we see him being friendly and funny, playing with the kids, charming them into accompanying him to his "secret cave", we see him running like a scared animal, whimpering pathetically as the parents torch him, and we see him stalking and slashing and making occasional bad puns. This is an altogether more grizzled and low-key Freddy than we are used to, replacing Englund's iconic swagger with grim determination and sinister sleaze.

It's worth noting the decision to explicify (that's not a word) what was implicit in the original: that Freddy was a paedophile with particular interest in Nancy. This does add an extra element of ickiness, but its seems like a bit of a cheap-shot to make the bizarre and unsettling (the licking telephone?) sexual side of Freddy into something outright repugnant.

This is perhaps part of a (not entirely misguided) attempt to ground the film in some kind of reality. Freddy's burns are much more realistic, the dream-sequences are a lot more "down-to-earth" and Freddy himself displays none of the uncanny abilities (stretchy arms) or surreal self-abuse habits (chopping his fingers off) that made him ultimately degenerate into a murderous Looney Tune in the subsequent films, but this could just as easily be attributed to an overall lack of imagination.

Any attempt at heightened believability is, however, derailed by the aforementioned acting and writing problems. The characters are never more than shallow plot-prodders, hardly ever saying anything that isn't story-related and never behaving as human beings would under the circumstances.

When a bloodied-up acquaintance climbs in through Nancy's window and proclaims something along the lines of: "CHris is dead, killed in her sleep, we were dreaming about the same dude and you said you'd seen him!" Nancy pretty much responds with: "Yeah, I heard a song as well" "How did it go?" "One two, Freddy's coming for you..." Emotional and believable characterisation?

An exagerration, perhaps. but you get the idea.

The plot is also riddled with inconsistencies. If the parents wanted to hide the truth from the kids, why keep all the incriminating evidence in their own homes? Why not just burn it? And I particularly enjoyed the sepia-tinged, high-exposure flashbacks to the ancient 90s, a forgotten decade where a scabby-faced oddball like Jackie Earle Haley was allowed to live freely in the basement of a pre-school without anyone even suspecting him of being a sexual predator until their kids started turning up with suspicious marks on them. It was a different world back then.

The main problem, as mentioned before, is one faced by many movie-remakes: it is a vehicle built for people who already know the story, meaning the film-makers don't feel the need to even try to build suspense and pay off, we are simply hurried from one Freddy sequence to the next as the cast of people you don't give a shit about get offed in mundane ways.

So what's the deal with remakes? You have to ask: Why does anyone make a movie in the first place? To make money, sure, but I honestly believe that Wes Craven made the original Nightmare on Elm St. to scare people, to exorcise some personal Demons (Freddy is apparently named after a kid who used to bully him) and to get paid to do something he loved. New Line thought it'd be a sound investment to give him the money to realise his vision, and they were right. This is when the business model comes in. Every Nightmare film since then has been made to capitalise on the popularity of that first film and the character of Freddy himself.

The production-line feel of these films, and their remakes, can be quite disheartening. For instance: ANOES begins with a jittery, scratchy stock-footage montage of kids at play and expressionist shit like leaves blowing around and broken dolls and stuff, in much the same manner as the credits sequence for "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Texas Chainsaw" remakes. C'mon, kids. You can't all be "Seven".

This gets me thinking of the opening of Craven's schlocky little piece from 1984. Close shots of SOMEONE in a basement, dicking around with tools and then lovingly manufacturing a freaky metal glove with razors on the fingertips, before slashing his new claws through what looks like a bed-sheet. An icon was born. Twenty-odd years later, he's born again. But he's come back WRONG.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Radio Killed the Internet Non-Entity

Every week, someone from my cinema toddles down the quay to the headquarters of the local radio station, to promote the latest releases and announce competitions and such. This week, it was my turn.

The people who usually would do it were off or away or summat, and I was asked to step up and take one for the team. Being a raging egotist, I saw the opportunity to self-promote AND hear the sound of my own voice being transmitted un-bidden into homes, cars and workplaces all around the area, so I agreed to make my radio debut.

I was told it was a pre-record, so I didn't need to worry about saying any bad words on air, and would be brief enough to only take about ten minutes out of my working day.

I ambled down to the station, and was surprised at the rising anxiety in my chest. I can do this, right? I've done acting and singing and all that sort of stuff in front of people, so this should be easy peasy, shouldn't it?

For some reason, it felt more like a job-interview than any of the showing-off things I have done for fun.

I walked into the lobby of the radio station and introduced myself. The receptionist told me to wait and asked if I wanted a drink. I had water.

I sat on a couch and looked around the small room. The station is contained in what must be an old warehouse or mill or summat; old stone walls and low ceilings, in a terrace that looks like a bunch of drunks leaning on each other. If you took one of them out, the rest would simply fall over into the space.

The receptionist tried to make small talk : "Where's this good weather we're supposed to be having?"

All I could muster was an exaggerated laugh and "It fluctuates."

It fluctuates? Who talks like that?

I hoped I could become slightly more coherent by the time I had a microphone in my mush.

Uncomfortable silence.

The five minutes I had been told to wait was becoming more like ten.

I became acutely aware of my heart-rate. I was nervous. That shouldn't happen. It wasn't as if I had any investment in the outcome of this short interview, it was just a promotion for a cinema chain that happens to pay my wages. What do I care how it comes out?

So why was my heart pounding like a happy hardcore beat?

After about half an hour of this coronary cacophony, a bloke came into the reception and told me to follow him through to the studio. As I did so, I began to experience flashbacks to a school trip to the radio station where we recorded some advertisements or summat for our media studies class. I followed the DJ into the exact same studio I was messing about in all those years ago, and I wondered at how little the place had progressed in the interim decade. Then I wondered how that reflected on me.

I asked the DJ how this would work. He told me to just tell him a little bit about the new releases, and keep it short because the slot's only about a minute.

A minute? I had a fucking epic dissertation on the shortcomings of "Streetdance 3D" and the failed effort of "Prince of Persia" prepared! I had cue cards and flip-charts and skits planned! Not really, of course, but I expected a little more than this:

"And we've got [TheUnwashedMass] from [The Cinema] with us to tell us about this week's new releases. What's coming out this week, then?"

"Er... Prince of Persia and Streetdance 3D".

"Prince of Persia. What's that about?"

"Um... Jake Gyllenhaal waving a sword about and jumping off stuff."

"And Streetdance?"

"Uh... It's got some dancers off the telly in it."

"Thanks a lot! Bye!"

The conversation may not have been as brief as that, but it certainly felt like it. The whole ordeal was over in about thirty seconds.

I left the building, lit up a fag (incase you're American, that doesn't mean I shot a homosexual) and wandered back to work. Next time I'll try and wheedle myself an entire show. Next time.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Prince of Persia: Sand Pirates


Video games have, thus far, proven notoriously difficult for the hollywood adaptatron to transmogrify into anything resembling a satisfying movie. There have been a few guilty pleasures ("Super Mario Brothers", "Street Fighter") and some relative financial successes ("Resident Evil"), but even those can at best be described as "mildly entertaining" or - if you're feeling uncharitable - "rancid arse-puke".

Enter: Jerry Bruckeimer (steady on). The Bruck has produced movie bullion out of an Air-Force training video, Bruce Willis' unhealthy obsession with drilling, and a fricking fun-fair ride; so the piddly problem of porting a pixelly pantomime from nerd's bedrooms to the big, shiny screen should pose no challenge whatsoever.


"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" tells the tale of a Persian ragamuffin who is plucked from the streets and raised as a prince (following an opening scene that is a live-action re-enactment of the bit in "Aladdin" where he is chased down alleys and over rooftops by swarthy palace-guard types), before getting embroiled in some mystical gubbins about a time-warping McGuffin in the shape of a dagger filled with magic sand that TURNS BACK TIME.

Bruckheimer farms very similar ground to the "Pirates" cycle ; producing a light-hearted romp with tongue firmly in cheek, but director Mike Newell seems unable to imbue proceedings with the same comic sensibility mixed with flair for visual set-pieces exhibited by Gore Verbinski in the seafaring saga. Here, the action sequences are needlessly over-edited, leaving a choppy and incoherent feel which can lead to confusion as to who is doing what to whom, and the comedy often falls flat.

Aiding and abetting the occasional sabotage of the action are the generally sub-par digital effects. Gyllenhaal is often seen standing in green-screen composite shots that would've been sneered at ten years ago, seriously damaging the overall plausibility of the world.

The Gyll, as the Rodney Trotter-accented Prince Dastan, has a likable cheeky charisma but struggles to generate any serious chemistry when pitted against Gemma Arterton's Princess Tamina. Arterton delivers another "I look pretty and deliver exposition in a theatrical upper-class accent" performance, and the banter between the two leads often feels forced and annoying rather than sparky and free-wheeling. There were points where I wanted to punch both characters in the eye and simply say "Stop being a dick and get on with the film!", but they're not real, so I didn't.

The biggest crime this film commits is the waste of such a searing talent as Toby Kebbell. He is cast in a supporting role which requires little more of him than running around after Donnie Darko whilst emitting some raging Shakespearean roars. No offence to Jake, but Kebbell should've been the lead.

The plot is needlessly convoluted (taking in mysticism, time-travel, politics and sibling rivalry), often laid out in unwieldy chunks of Arterton's aforementioned expo, and builds to a borderline nonsensical climax which commits the cardinal sin of all time-travel fiction by effectively over-writing the events which you just spent two-hours watching unfold.

Also, there is a plot-point which could easily be construed as some kind of crudely topical political allegory, as the occupation of a city is carried out in order to find a "weapon forge" which may or may not exist, whilst an evil conspirator in a position of power in the invading force is secretly after the property of real value which is hidden under the city: Magic Sand. I laughed.

As for the identity of said conspirator, you'll be screaming "That's the bad guy" as soon as you see his mug, and then counting the minutes until dopey Jake works it out too.

With all this in mind, it is worth saying that PoP is not a particularly bad film. It is mostly entertaining in a similar sort of manner to the first "Mummy" film. Interest is maintained via a team of ninja assassins with cool superpowers, Alfred Molina doing a mash-up of Jack Sparrow and Del Boy (lots of "Only Fools and Horses" in this film") as a wheeler-dealer ostrich-pimp, a few funny lines here and there, some agreeably acrobatic swash-buckling, Arterton looking pretty for people with an eye for the ladies, and The Gyll's amiable presence and buffed-up emo-band look for those that way inclined.

So PoP doesn't break the curse of the video game adaptation, but it does give it a crafty kick in the shin and then escape by doing a back flip off a balcony and landing on a camel. Or summmat.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Loop

You fire up the machines.

You programme the shows.

You lift the metal halo out of the centre of the print, lock it onto a spare platter.

You place the brain into the centre of the print, like the nucleus of some giant, black cell.

You lace the leader of the film through the brain and off the platter, over and under rollers, zig-zag to the highest point.

You drag the leader over to the projector, loop it around the turret - ready to be laced and locked in a moment - and then back to the platter.

You thread the film back onto the metal halo and spin the platter, taking up the slack.

You go back to the turret, clean the rails that hold the film in place, unscrew the gate, clean and replace.

You thread the film through the projector, teeth locking into sprocket holes.

You turn the manual handle until the intermittent sprocket is still, ensure the film is in rack, each frame pausing precisely aligned on the aperture.

You make sure the loops are large enough to give enough leeway to the print, but not too large as to snag.

You press the button with the loop symbol.

You press the on button.

You return to the platter one last time and spin it again, taking up the last of the slack until the rewind arm is drawn over into position.

Then you wait.

The start-up alarm sounds, and the machine grumbles into life.

The machine pulls the film through the brain, eating the cell away from the centre out.

The rewind arm spins the platter, rebuilding the print ready for the next show.

A cue passes through the projector, read by a little light.

The show starts.

Soon, cues will tell the projector that the trailers are starting, then the feature, then the credits, and then that the show is over.

The film moves in an endless cycle from platter to projector and back again, rollers roll, wheels turn, platters revolve, the intermittent sprocket rattles it's stuttering spin.

Once the show is finished, you do this all again.

Once the day is finished, you do this all again.

I turn twenty-eight tomorrow.

Friday, 14 May 2010

StreetDance: Bag of Shit

This film sounds like a marketing commitee's dream: "You know what's hot with the kids right now? Street Dance. Y'know, like them lads who won Britain's Large Talons or whatever it's called? It's all the rage, apparently. You can't walk down the street without some young ragamuffin stepping up and busting a move all over our face, innit. And you know what else is all the rage? 3D movies. You can't go into a cinema without somebody throwing stuff out of the screen or pointing summat at your eyeballs these days. So, why don't we combine these things and make a fucking mint out of the mindless drones who'll queue up for any old tat as long as it features the latest hip gimmick? We make a 3D movie about street dance, stick a load of current pop hits on the soundtrack, and we can even get those lads from Britain's Got Tarrant to pop in for five minutes so we can stick their names on the poster. Bingo."

It's a foolproof plan. There is, however, one unforeseen potential drawback:

"StreetDance" is absolutely fucking abysmal.

It is easily the worst film I have ever reviewed on this blog. The "plot" is, of course, cliched and formulaic to a fault. A spunky young girl named Carly must whip her disparate dance crew into shape in time for the big dance-meet, but along the way they have to muck in with a bunch of ballet dancers for some inane reason. Will the kids from two worlds be able to put their differences aside and get their shit together in time? Will they perform some unprecedented dance alchemy and merge ballet and street-style into a shiny new form of movement hitherto known only to people who've seen "Save the Last Dance" or "Step Up" or maybe even "Bring It On"? Have a cocking guess.

Unintentionally hilarious from the word go, the film begins with a voice-over monologue of such dribbling banality I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. A voice with all the emotional conviction of an eight-year-old in a school assembly lays out the motivation for our lead character, and attempts to communicate the importance of the world of StreetDance. It amounts to something like: "When I was a kid, I used to dance infront of the mirror in my bedroom. Then I left home and joined a street dancing crew. I like StreetDance". Fucking hell, it's like the new "Goodfellas".

It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is a perfect introduction to our lead. Nichola Burley as Carly turns in a performance of such monumental vapidity that I began to think she was suffering from some autistic inability to understand human emotion. This is some new, undiscovered depth of bad acting, buried somewhere beneath the Hollyoaks reject pile, which consists of reciting lines as if from an autocue and occasionally slipping into abstract enunciations which seem to indicate you've never actually heard anybody speak in your entire life.

Obviously, she isn't aided any by a script as blunt as a spoon (containing such pearlers as "That's where StreetDance started: On the streets") that forces and reinforces uncomfortable exposition through its character's gobs (I lost count of the amount of times the phrase "UK championships" was used in the first 15mins), and creates gales of unintentional laughter with over-earnest exchanges ("This crew's gonna fail!") and hilariously misjudged nomenclature (The dance troupe "Flawless" show up as a villainous crew known as "The Surge", leading to such gems as "I can't stop thinking about The Surge" and "I've been trying to fit you into a Surge-shaped box").

Of course, none of this really matters to the film's target audience. You watch an action movie for the action, a porn movie for the sex and a dance movie for the fucking dancing, right? Who cares if the leading lady is a charisma void of such magnitude you can feel what little charm you possess being vaccuumed clean out of your soul every second she's on screen? She must have been cast for her ability to shake her ass, right?

I suppose. There's no denying that Burley looks good in her variety of cartoonish "street" clothing, and they make the most of her physical presence by featuring a few fleeting scenes of gratuitous underwear exposure, but when it comes to getting her funk on, she is surprisingly un-awesome. She's supposed to be the leader of this "crew", and yet she is probably the least remarkable dancer of them all, often fading into the background while some of the other folks let their groove do the talking.

This renders her almost like a supporting player in the "action" scenes and mutes any potential compensation for her laughable dramatic capabilities.

Elsewhere, the dance scenes in general are decidedly lacking in anything truly spectacular or inventive, and are largely derailed by some seriously sloppy editing. For a film about dancing, it has very poor rythm. There are awkward pauses and jarring sound-edits galore, plus; when you cajole a bunch of showmen such as Britain's Got Balance-winners "Diversity" (the ones who throw that little kid with the massive 'fro around) into being in your film, you'd better not chop up their routine so as to make it absolutely incoherent, all the while cutting away to reaction shots of your inferior-boogying cast looking amazed at what we - the fucking audience - are missing.

And, incidentally, the main dude from Diversity has a brief scene with Ms Burley which goes along the lines of "How's it going? Is this your new crew? Nice one. We should get a drink later and catch up, yeah? Bye!" and he fully blows her off the screen with an understated and naturalistic nugget of a performance. I was all like: "Bring him back! Why isn't he the main character? He's a better dancer AND actor than her!" and then the voice in my head said "But he doesn't look as good as her in a tight little tank top." So I piped down.

So what does work? Well, a couple of the set-pieces are entertaining enough, particularly an energetic nightclub battle between our heroes and Flawless' squad of funky fascist-types (only partially spoiled by some ill-conceived bullet-time effects) and a nice movie-moment when the two leads share an impromptu ballet/street romantic run-around on a rooftop, and George Sampson pretty much steals the show.

Sampson is a baby-faced goober who was on another of those talent shows, and crops up here in his acting debut. He bumbles around the peripherals of the film like Arnie Grape in a baseball hat, whilst the "crew" seem to treat him like their pet retard; never letting him join in their reindeer games. Then he busts out a showstopping solo routine in the final act which has infinitely more charisma, character, invention and impact than the subsequent "climactic" performance by the principle cast.

I never thought I would find a film that made me yearn for "Step Up 2: The Streets", but this one did. I suddenly realised the roaming creativity at work in the dance sequences in that film: Improvised percussion, undercover dancers and scary masks in a guerilla dance-attack on a subway! Barnstorming dance-off in a rain-soaked alleyway! Channing Tatum taking off his jacket using only some scaffolding!

"StreetDance"'s answer to that is a bunch of uninspired routines in rehearsal rooms, nightclubs and on a stage. This lot actually run for shelter when it starts raining, like a bunch of bloody cricketers. That's not fucking street. In fact; the grand finale negates all pretence of "street" dance, as the "crew" embrace the theatricality of ballet with a king-size bed on stage and people running around with massive strips of silk or summat. You try that shit behind the youth club and you'll get your face slit up.

All of this perhaps begs the question: Why, in this day and age, is the first British film about a growing urban phenomenon, a paean to the rythm of the street, a PG certificate film starring a blonde-haired white girl? Seems to me that this film is to Street Dance as "Camp Rock" is to... well, Rock.

Oh. and as for the 3D element: Sometimes some stuff gets thrown at the camera. Some food. A hat. A little kid with an afro. It doesn't really make a difference.

Reviews in Brief

Mainly because I have nothing to write about at the moment, and also because I am incredibly lazy, I have decided to cut and paste a load of my Facebook film reviews over here. They are mostly in no discernable order, and feature very little genuine insight into the film in question, but they sure are short!

I'll probably get 'round to writing something "proper" soon, but in the mean time; have a look:

Fantastic Four
Not funny. Not exciting. Not dramatic. Not anything. An anti-film, riddled with inconsistencies and juvenile plotting. And Jessica Alba looks like she's doing hard sums in her head whenever she has to use her wacky powers.

Ghost Rider
Lame, damp squib of a flick. Obvious CG and the inherent absudity of Ghost Rider's look render the action scenes (all surprisingly brief and action-free) ludicrous, and any time GR talks and his little jaw bone moves, it makes him look like a muppet. Throw in Emo villains, terrible dialogue, deliberately unbelievable characters and situations, and Nic Cage being upstaged by his hairpiece and you have the weakest comic-book adaptation since Daredevil.

Although, the bit with Cage watching a karate-chimp and pointing and laughing is hilarious.

Nacho Libre
Funny. The comedy is, however, strangely subtle for the ridiculous set-up, with a gentle pace and pervasive amiable quality rather than gut-busting guffaws. Great soundtrack too.

Napoleon Dynamite
A very divisive film. Personally, I find it beautiful to look at, consistently hilarious, and subtly touching.

The Usual Suspects
Solid thriller with a great ensemble and one of the most memorable twist endings you'll see. If you don't know, Chazz Palminteri's character turns out to be a MAN!

Reservoir Dogs
Still Tarantino's best film?

Boogie Nights
Funny and brilliantly constructed icarus story about the end of a "golden age". Great performances, great dialogue, great visuals, great film.

Massive achievement. Elegant, moving, funny, gritty, surreal, whimsical, warm, downbeat, hopeful and featuring lots of frogs. Classic.

Jurassic Park III
Lacklustre. Terribly muted ending as well. It does feature a dinosaur with a ringtone, though.

The Lost World - Jurassic Park
Same as the first one but with less inspiration and requiring greater suspension of disbelief as it becomes ever more ludicrous (a little kid gymnastifies a velociraptor out of a window? Fuck off).

Jurassic Park
Competent adventure which is ultimately little more than a series of (admittedly classy) set-pieces strung together on a whisp of a plot.

Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story
Amusing flick. Vaughn comes on like a young Bill Murray, and Stiller plays it big and daft with his cartoon villian. Rip Torn chucking wrenches at people and saying "You're as much use as a cock-flavoured lollipop" is good value too.

Ali G Indahouse - The Movie
Lame. The Ali G movie seems designed to appeal to those who the character was originally satirising. He gets politicians high! He has sex in the prime-minister's room! He poos on the floor! Lacking the wit and subversion that made Ali G a hit in the first place.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
As uncomfortable is it is hilarious, illiciting an air of shocked disbelief at the audacity of Cohen's sheer BALLS to pull some of this stuff off.

Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny
A good fun film. Nothing astonishing here, but consistently funny and filled with cracking songs.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Bigger and sillier than the original. Infinitely more inventive and complex than your standard blockbuster fare. Sure, the first half hour could easily have been cut down to about half the size, but once it kicks off, it doesn't let up. As for the accusations of it being half a film; it's called "Dead Man's Chest" and they find the chest at the end. It is about Jack's debt to Davey Jones, and the debt is settled by the end. Just because the film doesn't end how you expect (or want) doesn't make it any less valid. Infact I would argue it is the unpredictability of this series which lifts it above the standard summer blockbuster.

Big fun. Cinema of excess. Gerard Butler is a charismatic central presence (even if the question "why does the king of Sparta talk like Sean Connery?" is raised) and the violence is unrelenting. The whole affair is as camp as christmas, with its caricature of masculinity and endless strutting about in little pants adding up to the gayest film since Top Gun.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
Don't believe the anti-hype. The Pirates "finale" is massive and insane. Yes, it's complicated, yes it's silly, but it's more fun than throwing cabbage at the mentally challenged.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Better than Excellent Adventure; funnier, more inventive, more surreal and visually arresting. God Gave Rock N Roll to You.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Classic fun. Reeves has more chemistry with Winter than he ever did with that dominatrix from The Matrix. An inventive and lively comedy, filled with great dialogue.

Dumb and Dumber
Possibly the funniest film ever made. The best thing about it is that our dual protagonists don't learn anything through the course of the film. They finish in exactly the same position they began; aimless and stupid, with only each other to rely on. A film close to my heart.

Cracking action adventure. Throwaway plot about stone warriors, monsters and eternal life is excuse for infighting drama between Raphael and Leonardo. Easy entertainment.

Amusing horror thriller thing. Worth seeing if you like casual, brutal violence, occasionally smart dialogue, cockney geezers and naked chicks in pits.

Hot Fuzz
A brilliantly funny film packed with indelible characters and quotable dialogue. Not as good as Shaun, simply because it is more ungainly, sags a little in the middle, and the "pay-off" is slightly jarring due to the investment in the characters and their world which is sacrificed in favour of popcorn logic in the final act. The action sequences are a slight let-down too, with Wright mistaking fast-cuts and high-volume for excitement and awe-inspiration.

Feel free to post your own bite-size reviews in the comments below!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

7 Movie Questions

Sugary Cynic says I have to answer these questions and nominate two other people to do theirs. I pass the baton to Jess at A Nerd Like Me and Dave at The Wordsmith's Toilet, if they can be arsed to do it.

1. What was your first movie-going experience?
I went to see "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". Read about it here.

2. How many DVDs do you own?
About thirty. Not that many for a nerd-box, I know, but I had to cull my collection a few years back when I needed beer money at university.

3. What is your guilty pleasure movie?
Probably something with Jason Statham, like "Crank" or "The Transporter". I find the "Crank" films hugely entertaining, but can't fully justify their existence. Are they satirising the ridiculous, sadistic, macho, misogynism of high-concept action cinema, or merely dragging it down to a whole new level? Either way, they make me laugh.

4. You’ve compiled a list of your top 100 movies. Which films didn’t make the cut?
The shit ones.

5. Which movie(s) do you compulsively watch over and over again?
The good ones.

6. Classic(s) you’re ashamed to admit you haven’t seen yet?

7. What movie posters are hanging in your room?
I don't have any posters in my room. My room is stark and empty and squalid. In the projection booth, we have posters for "Rambo", "Rocky", "Indiana Jones", "Star Wars", "Tron", "Hot Fuzz", "Quantum of Solace", "The Prestige", "Smoking Aces", "The Dark Knight", "Hellboy 2", "28 Weeks Later", "Children of Men" and "D.O.A.". You know, the one with Holly Valance and her out of "My Name is Earl"?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Lost Last Song

I've lost a film.

An entire print, in its cartons, in its case. Gone.

I remember forgetting.

I remember being told it had arrived. A voice on the walkie saying it was downstairs by the film-dump. The place where you dump films. Where films go when it's just not working out between you.

I remember forgetting to go down and collect it. I remember forgetting to tell my relief that it had been delivered.

Then I was away for two days.

When I returned, I remembered.

"The Last Song" was delivered and it isn't in the stack of film cases awaiting construction. It must still be by the dump, folorn and lonely and forgotten.

But it's not.

I looked in the dump. I looked in the corridor outside. I searched the upper and lower booths. I couldn't find "The Last Song" anywhere.

I formulated a theory. The film had been left in the corridor so long that it had been collected along with the departing films. Spirited away and lost forever in the great postal cosmos of the DHL delivery network.

I began to worry.

"The Last Song" opened the following day. I imagined hundreds of weeping Miley Cyrus fans; their innocence and belief in the good in this world torn from them by a blank screen where their idol should have been shining.

I imagined the scores of followers of the modern-day Sophocles, Shakespeare's heir-apparent, Hemingway and Jane Austen's love-child; Nicholas Sparks, left directionless and unenlightened by the absence of their guru's guidance.

Most of all, I thought of that poor film. Lost and alone, never to self-actualise in the manner that all movies are made for. Never to be watched. Spending eternity as a cumbersome red box never to reach the address stamped on it.

Then I noticed a large disc of film propped against the wall in the upper booth.

The title on its edge: "The Last Song".

One of my associates had taken it in, run it on, and put away the box while I was gone. "The Last Song" was ready to meet its public, and I had just wasted half an hour running up and down stairs because I'm too much of a dick-brain to see what's right in front of me.