Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted on July 18, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

I tried so hard to stay in denial about this movie. I avoided the production photos. I didn’t watch the trailer until I had no choice at the cinema. I put my fingers in my ears and went “la la la” when people talked about how good it looked. Why? Because I am a big fan of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire movies, and the continual stream of reboots was starting to grate. Particularly as the dearly departed Spiderman franchise was barely even cold yet. So I went in to denial.

Unfortunately, I gave over to the geek side a long time ago, and if you dangle a Marvel movie in front of me for long enough, sooner or later I’m going to cave. And I did. And I’m not even sorry.

The only criticism I can think of for The Amazing Spider-Man is its dated sounding title. And we can’t really blame them for that since the obvious choice was taken.  In fact, disloyal though it may feel to say it, I think I like it better…Sorry Tobey.

Before I talk about the movie, I want to say a couple of  words about the cinema I saw it in. We went to The Everyman in Baker Street, and I wanted to give it a quick plug for all my fellow Londoners looking for a slightly different cinematic experience.  It’s a cute little theatre (one of 9 in London) with two cosy screens and a basement bar.  It was a big contrast to my last movie outing to the Imax, but it was a really friendly and exclusive feeling atmosphere, particularly on a Monday night when there were only a few of us there. Definitely a recommend if you happen to be a Londoner. Check out the website here.

Seeing the film in such a small theatre also meant I saw it in 2D rather than post production 3D. And I can say with 99% certainty that I don’t think I missed out on anything. I can think of one moment that was put in to make the 3D seem worthwhile. And it would have been gimmicky. There’s no need for this film to be in 3D, so if you have the choice save yourself the extra ticket price.

Right, on with the review.

The big question with any reboot is always can the new guy do it better than the old guy?  In this case, I’m happy to say that Andrew Garfield makes an amazing Spiderman (lol geddit?)  Perhaps slightly too pretty for Peter Parker, but he is so fantastically socially awkward that his geek chic feels plausible.  The characterisation of Spiderman also felt a lot more like the comics (or the cartooons that I grew up with) giving him more cheesy wise cracks and finally managing to make him feel young. One thing that the previous films never quite captured was that Parker was only supposed to be a kid, and that while “with great power comes great responsibility” he also had fun with it. Particularly in the 2nd and 3rd films (AKA Spidey: the EMO years) he was a little bit too serious and strung out all the time. Garfield manages to balance a sense of fun with the gravity of suddenly being depended on, without becoming too dogged by it.  I also liked that fact that this film plays more in to the vigilante idea, in a kind of Daredevil/Batman way; letting us see Peter develop his webshooting tech and making his suit. It gives a grounding and a sense of realism so often missing in comic book movies which, despite their fantastical plot lines, need that anchor in order for the audience to relate.

As far as the plot goes, the basic origin story is the same, but with some added dark past to Peter’s parents and slight re jigging of the facts (more hard core geeks can explain which of the many comic incarnations we’re following here).  There’s no MJ though.  Instead we’re given Gwen Stacey, who is a fairly similar character if we’re honest, but just so happens to work in the lab of the guy who you can tell from the first second you see him is going to turn evil. Rhys Ifans plays a great Curt Connors, fulfilling all the standards of slightly tortured scientist trying to do good and cocking it up most spectacularly and the design for The Lizard was good, managing to stop him looking too much like Godzilla (but still giving them the opportunity to throw in a joke about it.)

The action sequences are well choreographed, and while we’ve seen Spidey swinging through rooftops before it still looks pretty cool, especially in the first person view shots which I suspect were put in for 3D but look just as good without the poppy out bits.  I’ve got to give a nod to the ever fantastic James Horner too, for a score which compliments the story arc perfectly, particularly in the opening prologue.

The Amazing Spider-Man is simply a really good comic book movie. In the Age of the Geek when all things nerd are on the rise, we are being treated (or subjected, depending on how you look at it) to a cornucopia of graphic novel adaptations, which don’t all manage to pull off their leap to the bandwagon, but this one does.  You might not be a Marvel fan, or you might think you’ve seen Spiderman before, but even if comics aren’t your thing, I can recommend Amazing Spider-Man simply as a solid blockbuster. A great way to spend a couple of hours in what has turned out to be a hideously soggy Summer.

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Cloverfield

Posted on June 18, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |

In my last post I had a big rant about open endings and leaving questions unanswered. A couple of days after that I watched Cloverfield, a film notorious for leaving its audience guessing and one which I remember very much dividing opinion at the time of its release. I went in to it expecting to come out  much the same as I did with Prometheus, but actually I was pleasantly surprised.

Cloverfield manages to do what Prometheus failed at: keep a sense of mystery and intrigue without being entirely frustrating.  We may never be explicitly told where the monster came from, but we’re given enough hints during the film to be able to come up with our own ideas, just like the characters in the film itself have to. It’s this factor which is so crucially missing from Prometheus. It’s fine to leave questions open for your audience to answer, but you need to give them something to work with.  Cloverfield famously had the viral campaign which took place months before it’s release, setting up a variety of fake websites, companies and advertisements to give clues as to what was behind the film.  I missed all of that, and yet I was still able to piece together what I think was supposed to be going on.  Just like with Prometheus, I also hit the blogs and message boards to find out stuff I might have missed, but while with the former I mainly found rants of confusion and half guessed theories, for Cloverfield there were obvious clues within the film and virals that gave the answers I was looking for.

Enough comparing it to Prometheus.  The film itself is so much better than I had given it credit for that I feel the need to talk it up a bit.  The Blair Witch style hand held camera work is often an issue for a lot of filmgoers, but I really liked it in Cloverfield. It put the audience right in there with the action, including us in the group and making everything more real. It’s the realism of Cloverfield that is its greatest strength.  No mean feat for a film about a giant monster from who-knows-where going on a rampage through New York.  It’s basically Godzilla from ground level, and while that means the plot is hardly something new, the story is told in a very new way.  We’re so used to seeing how America saves the world in these situations that it was really intriguing to see it from a much smaller perspective for once.  While Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum were uploading Mac compatible viruses in Independence Day, it’s very unlikely that your average Joe on the street had a clue what was going on. They were just scared, confused and trying to survive, which is the story that Matt Reeves is telling.

The cast of relative unknowns are all strong. I liked that our hero Rob didn’t suddenly become excessively strong/emotionally stable/develop superpowers as is often the case with Average Joe heroes in disaster movies. And while the female characters did fulfill the industry standard of crying a lot, they weren’t just sobbing eye candy.  I also likes the odd interjections of black humour from camera man Hud, who is perhaps the most real character of them all. While we rarely see his face, his continual monologue reflects how  most of us (if we’re honest)would react if a giant lizard thing suddenly started picking off our friends and throwing bits of the Statue of Liberty at us.

aA for the monster itself, it’s a well known fact that as soon as you reveal the Big Bad you’ve lost your tension.  The mechanical Jaws was nowhere near as scary as the one we were picturing in our heads; so I was surprised that we got to see what the internet affectionately call “Clover” so early on in the film.  And yeah, she does look like Godzilla, but no matter how much they worked on that design, it was always going to be compared to Godzilla, so we can’t really blame them for that.  There’s only so many half-believable giant lizard things you can come up with.  Anyway, this film isn’t really about the Big Bad, it’s about the people, and that’s what it does so well. It’s a small band of friends just trying to get through this with no attempts to take it on single handedly and save the universe, the same simple idea that made Shaun of the Dead so successful.

There is a wodnerful attention to detail in Cloverfield too. The film runs at 80 minutes, the length of a standard video tape, andis littered with subliminal imagery from other monster films and the aforementioned viral campaign.  It’ll definitely take a couple of watches to catch them all.

If like me, you ignored Cloverfield due to the backlash it received, maybe now is the time to check it out.  Especially if you’re feeling let down by Prometheus, because as far as I’m concerned, this is a much better thriller, with both a sense of scale and claustrophobia, and capturing ambiguity in a way that Ridley Scott failed so spectacularly at.

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Prometheus…What Went Wrong?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

I’m not going to add anything to the interwebs by writing a review of Prometheus saying it was disappointing. There is an overwhelming feeling of “meh” from pretty much every direction.  So instead I figured I’d share some thoughts (not all of them are mine) on why its turning into one of the biggest let down movies of the year. (There are spoilers so this is your warning.)

I think the biggest problem is it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be.  Is it a straight up Sci-Fi/Action movie? Or a more deep evaluation of the origins of humanity? Or a prequel to Alien?  Apparently Ridley Scott thought he could pull off all three at once. Turns out he can’t.  In fact, of the many unfinished parallel plotlines, the only one which felt like it had any sense of completeness was the brief hints to being an Alien precursor, which for some reason was repeatedly denied during the films early promo…

There are a lot of characters in Prometheus. A lot. Standard set up for a film where you need a lot of Red Coats to kill off, but the only characters with any kind of development were Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s much hyped David.  Having said that though, Shaw is nothing more than Ripley with a different name, and while Fassbender makes a very convincing slightly sinister robot, there’s nothing new there, and his motives were entirely confusing.  We were left trying to work out if he was infecting people with toxic alien sludge (‘cos that’s a thing) for some higher purpose, following orders from above or just a randomly evil robot…

As for the other characters, Charlize Theron is completely wasted, and the plot “twist” involving her and her not-so-dead Dad is just thrown away, leaving me wondering why they bothered to have it in the first place. The rest of the characters are disposed of with little ceremony, and are fairly indistinguishable so there isn’t much impact; it’s all just  a bit formulaic.

Enough moaning about character development, on to my other pet peeve: bad Science.

Dear God there is some bad Science in this film! I’m fairly sure Ridley Scott has no basic understanding of Biology. Obviously, I’m not expecting perfect theses from films, but there’s a “Sci” in front of the “Fi” for a reason and genetic disease doesn’t suddenly manifest and make you act like you caught the Rage Virus. Just Saying.

Also, how does the black slime that went into Charlie’s Mouth end up with a worm in his eye and a squid in his wife? And DNA doesn’t just float about in the middle of cells. And you can’t point at someone who is acutely ill and say “it’s not contagious, this is genetic.”

End Rant.

No, wait a minute, one more thing: you poke a dead brain in the locus coeruleus and it comes back to life?!? Seriously?!

All of the above could potentially be forgiven though if the film had some good set piece action sequences and a coherent plot. But it doesn’t. The plot is so full of holes it makes a more convincing Swiss cheese than a movie.  It’s one of those films where the more you think about it, the more things you find that just don’t make sense.  Most frustrating of all though is the lack of resolution. I have a big problem with open-ended movies which leave questions just for the sake of it.  It’s what me and my sister refer to as a “Ninth Gate” in reference to one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen which as far as I can tell just stops for no reason.  Probably because it was just getting embarrassing and the production crew thought they might as well quit while they were behind..  Films like Inception use their open endings to keep the audience thinking, but Prometheus keeps lining up big questions and then not answering them.  I’ve already said that Charlize Theron’s relationship with her father is wasted, and there are other little plot lines that are opened and then never closed, but the most frustrating of all is the reveal that the “Engineers” decided to wipe out the human race but never letting us know why. I know he’s left that open deliberately but why? What does it add to the film?

It starts out with the crew trying to understand their origins and wanting to literally meet their makers. OK, with you so far. Turns out the aliens all got wiped out by some mysterious thing which they handily captured on holographic candid camera so that people could find it and think it was a good idea to go into the room full of dead guys…right I can just about buy that. But when the humans work out that the aliens were killed by their own biological weapon which was meant for them it all gets a bit vague. The one surviving alien is woken up and decided to go on a one man killing spree to take out all the humans before setting off to complete his mission of destroying every living thing on Earth. Cos he can. The fact that his entire crew have been killed by the toxic sludge/wormy guys doesn’t at all make him think twice about setting off in a spaceship filled with the stuff. Sure that will work out just fine.  And while we’re at it, if you want to wipe out a race that you created, why would you choose to do it by creating another race which is equally capable of wiping you out? These alien dudes did not think it through….

And all of that is before you start asking yourself why the guy at the beginning drank the black stuff to kill himself….and why when he had it he just dissolved, whereas Charlie looked like his veins were trying to explode out of his face and Fifield went all 28 days later….And are the snakey things that came out of the black water different to whatever is in that black sludge….And…???

See what I’m getting at? The more you think about it the less makes sense.  It feels like an unfinished film because there are just so many questions, but it’s a long film, so it’s not like they don’t have time to answer them. I wonder if maybe he was holding out for a sequel (there are about a bajillion Alien films, so I wouldn’t put it past him) but I have no idea where he’d go with it, other than to just have someone stand there for two hours and explain all the bits that made no sense.

So that’s what went wrong with Prometheus. It was massively hyped up but it doesn’t deliver. It’s trying too hard to be everything at once when all we really wanted (if we’re honest) was another Alien. A Sci-Fi thriller with some scary looking creatures and a girl running around in her pants. We actually get all of that in Prometheus but it’s so buried under all the extra fluff that’s trying to make it not look like Alien that it doesn’t work.  Ridley Scott should have stuck to what he knew.

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Avengers Assemble (3D)

Posted on May 3, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This has taken me a couple of days to sit down and write for two reasons: 1) revision sucks. 2) I needed to calm down a bit so that the whole review wasn’t just the word “awesome” in 72 pt font.

We all know I’m a Marvel geek. And that I’ve been looking forward to this film pretty much since the dawn of time. I first wrote about it back in 2010 when it was just a glint in a studio execs eye, but since then we’ve had a pretty much relentless build up in Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America.

Despite my undying love for Stan Lee and all that springs from his page, I did start to lose the faith a bit as the much awaited climax drew closer. Captain America suffered with a slightly ploddy script, (although it’s not a bad film and benefits from a second watch) and although I seem to anger everyone I know when I say this, I found Thor undeveloped and was a bit skeptical about the central role Loki had to play in the final film.

I needn’t have worried. Not even the 3D could put me off this film. In fact, it was a rare case of non gimmicky use that wasn’t too distracting (or maybe I’m getting tolerant in my old age).  Avengers is simply a brilliant bit of comic book fantasy that gets everything just right.  As I’d hoped, mixing the characters together allowed the shortcomings of some to be made up by others. Thor didn’t seem so two dimensional when they played his fish out of water against Captain America’s child of the wrong time.  And the budding bromance between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner was a thing of beauty.

There were so many fantastic geek out moments (I was about one “glaiven” short of a full Professor Frink).  Joss Whedon plays to his strengths and delivers just what the fans want to see. The big montage of all our heroes “suiting up” for their first proper battle scored a whole load of nerd points.  As did each new moment of our collection of demigods, suped up mortals, ginormous green rage monsters and billionaire genius playboy philanthropists meeting for the first time. The crossing over of characters, themes and even tech from the individual movies is really well handled, managing to amalgamate the work of several different writers and directors in an impressively seamless way.

Alongside the big four, we also have some important supporting characters. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been given ever increasing amounts of screen time with each new movie, and his dry wit and dead pan demeanour have turned him in to one of my favourite characters. Samuel L Jackson finally got to make it out of the stingers too and get some real work, making a suitably shifty Nick Fury.  In Iron Man 2, I found Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) little more than some black PVC doing an inexplicable amount of lunging, but she found some depth in Avengers and became not only an interesting character but one who could hold her own against the more developed favourites. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye also managed to fit in nicely, without falling in to the X Men pit of too many heroes. The chemistry between him and Black Widow was well cultivated and  understated enough that it set up for future inevitable plotlines without shoving it down your throat.

The story is everything you want, fast paced, full of action and equipped with witty one liners to keep things moving. It’s about as close as I think anyone has come to making a film that watches like reading a comic book feels. The final showdown is just fantastic, and I loved the way we swung through the action to focus on different characters and individual battles. It’s kind of like a cross between the sentinels fight in Matrix Revs and Pelennor fields from ROTK. Which is just as cool as it sounds. And has someone who has (shamefully) still not actually seen any of the Hulk films, it was pretty fantastic to see the big guy up on screen doing what he does best.

Even if you’re not a Marvel geek you need to see this film. You just do.  It’s definitely one of the big events of the cinematic year, and Whedon has turned out a proper Blockbuster which has just about everything you could want in a movie. And Robert Downey Jr. 😉

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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

HELLO!

Told you I wasn’t dead.
I’m still in the deep dark hole of revision for exams, but I escaped for just long enough to make it to a cinema and thought it was about time I actually wrote something on here that wasn’t an apology about not posting.  So what did I go and see with my precious few hours off? The Pirates! of course!

I’ve wanted to see this film ever since I heard it’s utterly brilliant title. (In full, it’s actually: The Pirates: band of misfits, in an adventure with Scientists!) I just love the brazen way they’ve gone, this is slightly silly film about pirates and scientists. Let’s just call it that.  When I then realised this was an Aardman film and had voice talent from pretty much every British actor who happened to walk past the microphone I knew that this was probably going to be something worth venturing to the cinema for.

As we’ve come to expect from Aardman, Pirates! captures a brand of British humour that is kind of hard to define. It’s the attention to detail that makes it work so well, such as the Blue Peter badge in the hat of one of the pirates, and leaves you wanting to see it again to pick up all the other little in jokes. The humour is deadpan and silly, which is a winning combination in a film like this, and manages to tap in to that elusive level that works for both kids and slightly bigger kids.  I particularly liked the generic character names, including  Pirate with Scarf and my personal favourite; Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, a little nod to the fact that in these big ensemble movies, no one ever remembers the names anyway! (How many POTC crew members can you name?)

The voice cast reads like a who’s who. Hugh Grant is well placed as the slightly too nice for his own good Pirate Captain and Martin Freeman (who can basically do no wrong at the moment) is perfect as the second in command who’s clearly the brains of the outfit.  Imelda Staunton does what she does best, and David Tennant makes a surprisingly good Darwin. Throw in Brendan Gleeson, AshelyJensen, Lenny Henry and even Salma Hayak and you’ve got one of the most eclectic cast lists I’ve ever read, but one that somehow comes together (and lets you play a fun game of name the voice while you’re watching).

Seeing as this is essentially a kids film, you can be forgiven for thinking the plot will be a bit thin, but it actually didn’t feel predictable or generic.  I decided I wanted to see it knowing fairly little about it, and was genuinely surprised by some of the turns the plot took.  I never thought I’d see a British film with a slightly psychotic Queen Victoria  and a snivelly Charles Darwin as it’s villains, and a Pirate Captain (albeit with a luxuriant beard) as the hero you’re rooting for, but there you go. It works!

I shouldn’t really need to convince you to go and see this film. It’s a great bit of fun if, like me, you need to escape for a couple of hours.

And in case you’re worried I’m going to tease you with a post and then disappear again, The Avengers comes out on the 26th April. Guess where I’m going on the 29th… 😉

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In Bruges

Posted on January 14, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

(It’s in Belgium)

In Bruges has been on my to watch list for a really long time. I remember seeing a trailer for it when it first came out and thinking it looked good, but somehow I got put off by a couple of bad reviews and never quite managed it.  It’s stayed on my mind though, and thanks to the magic of Christmas I finally got my hands on a copy of the DVD.

Perhaps what confused the people writing those few bad reviews I read was that In Bruges was marketed (at least in part) as a comedy.  And yes, it is a comedy. But a very black one which looks at death, suicide, redemption and the nature of humanity.  Those themes don’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but the genius of Mark McDonagh’s writing leaves us with a wonderful film that flips effortlessly between moments of raw emotion and pure laughter.  It’s little wonder that it won the BAFTA for best screenplay and also got an Oscar nod.  The script is pretty much perfect.  Every time it’s at risk of getting too heavy, a quip breaks the tension, but not in such a way that it undermines the motion or the meaning in what is going on.

The idea of Bruges as a kind of purgatory for our main character, Ray, is clever and done with incredibly delicacy.  I also love how we aren’t really introduced to the characters, just thrown in with them, with everything we need to know about them  revealed through snippets of conversation.  You get to know the protagonists in much the same way you get to know people in life, which adds realism to an already earthy plot.

All the clever writing in the world can’t save bad acting, but luckily the three central characters are played by three great actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.  I’ve written before about how highly I rate Farrell as an actor, and I think this film is a huge testament to his talent.  He plays Ray with a childlike innocence which is endearing and all the more striking given what we learn about him during the film.  Like the writing, he manages to find a perfect balance between humour and pathos, creating a character who is entirely sympathetic yet in another film could easily be the villain.  Gleeson has similar qualities as Ken, taking a more fatherly role to Farrell’s child, while Fiennes manages to give humanity to a character who could easily be written off as a psychopath.  The brilliance of In Bruges is that you really care about, and like, all the characters, even though we are never deceived about the bad things they have done.  Even the supporting cast; racist dwarf Jimmy and drug dealing thief Chloe, have us rooting for them.

The plot also keeps you on your toes, so that you’re never quite sure where things are going to go next.  It’s not so much that there are lots of twists, more that like the characters, you can’t really see how they’re going to get out of the situation they are in.  It’s a fantastic film and I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it because it’s going straight on to the Movies to see before you die list.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |

Hooray for Christmas holidays! My long absence from the cinema has finally come to an end, and what a film to do it with.

It’s no secret that I loved the last Sherlock film, In fact, I was so emphatic about it that Ross suggested I might be working for their promo department.  So I’ve been excited about the sequel ever since I discovered they were filming it down the road from my flat.  With all the positive feedback from the first film, it had a lot to live up to, and as RDJ said himself “sequels usually suck,” so this film really needed to deliver. Luckily it does.

Game of Shadows has everything we want from this franchise.  Great one liner humour combined with some more slapstick comedy, a convoluted plot with enough clues for the audience to think they’re on the brink of solving it before we realise we’re nowhere near as clever as Holmes, and a fantastic Victorian bromance between Holmes and Watson.

The chemistry between Jude Law and RDJ was what made the first film so wonderful, and in this film they’ve managed to build on it without overplaying it. There are some lovely moments, both humourous and more serious, which add heart to the storyline.

As for the supporting cast; Noomi Rapace is good as Sim and Stephen Fry does a good turn as Mycroft, although it’s hard to see him as anything other than Stephen Fry.   After all the furore over who would play Moriarty following the first film, and the melodramatic secrecy with which they hid the actors face both in the first film and during initial work on the second, it could almost be a let down that Jared Harris is revealed with fairly little ceremony (and that he isn’t a big name Hollywood superstar).  I’ll admit when I heard who was playing the infamous Napoleon of crime I was a little disappointed because I was expecting something different, but Harris earns his place in the movie and is a good foil for Holmes.

On to the story.  The plot is at times hard to follow, and about three quarters of the way through I did find myself trying to make sense of which diplomat did what to whom and why this was a bad thing.  Pretty much everything is explained by the end though, and a second watch coupled with a bit more post game dissection with my sister should tie up any loose ends.  The action comes thick and fast, as we would expect from Guy Richie, and there are some awesome set pieces.  Anyone who has seen the trailer has seen most of the train scene, but for me the chase through the woods is a fantastic piece of cinema.  The use of slow motion is clever and adds just the right emphasis to certain moments, making it a real edge of the seat sequence.  The final showdown between Holmes and Moriarty is brilliantly executed too, playing with the Holmes voiceover device to turn the fight in to a proper meeting of minds.

The story is basically the same as LXG (for those who’ve seen it, and no, I’m not going to start that debate again) but obviously with a bit more work gone in to it, and based on one of Conan Doyle’s more notorious books.  Despite not having read the book (surprise surprise) I did know where we were heading and so I was really happy with how the ending was handled.  I’m not going to spoil anything, but the last scene definitely drew a gasp from me and those around me, and was the perfect way to bring as neat a close as possible to a necessarily open ending.

Finally a few words on music. I love the score to Holmes; it conjures up Victorian London brilliantly.  Hans Zimmer can basically do no wrong, but he manages to get a great balance between a period feel and a punchy accompaniment to the on screen energy.  The nods to Don Giovanni are also a nice little in joke for musos.

I probably don’t need to do much work to convince you to go out and see this film.  It’s a great pre-Christmas movie and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again.  Roll on Sherlock 3.

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I don’t actually want to write this review…..

Posted on November 14, 2011. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Those of you unfortunate enough to read this blog on a  regular basis will know that I have been a failure of a so-called Marvel geek and taken far too long to see Thor. I finally got around to it last night.  I hadn’t originally planned to write a review seeing as most of you got over it way back in Summer when it came out. Unfortunately though, I find myself compelled to say some things. (There will be **SPOILERS** throughout as I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen this movie by now)

I never thought I’d find myself writing this, but I didn’t love Thor.

I’m a firm believer in the second time theory, and I’m hoping that watching it again when I’m not so tired (double weekend on duty with St John) will change my opinion, but for a film I had been looking forward to for so long and heard so many great things about, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

For me, Thor basically fell into the same trap as Daredevil for feeling underdeveloped. None of the characters seemed to really have much depth or motive to what they were doing, and much as I wanted to I couldn’t find myself getting behind any of them that much.  Even Loki, a character I couldn’t wait to see on the big screen didn’t really live up to my expectations.  If you’re going to use the Daddy Issue plot device, you’ve got to give us something to work with, but from what I could see there really wasn’t much for Loki to be complaining about, and the fact hat he said he never wanted to be King  just made his role in the plot even more confusing. I never really got what he was trying to achieve, especially as he was letting the frost giants in all along. I know he’s supposed to be all “mischievous” but selling out your whole world to the monsters from another dimension just for the craic doesn’t really seem to make sense.

As for Thor, yes Chris Hemsworth has pretty hair, but other than that there wasn’t much too him.  The whole point of Thor (brought to my attention by the awesome and far more knowledgeable about these things Jackie) is that unlike other superheroes, he starts out super and loses his power, so instead of having to learn to deal with his strength, he has to learn humility.  Yes, this happens in the movie, but it all seemed a bit too….well, easy.  One little moment of selflessness (and all in the name of a pretty girl) and suddenly all his sins are forgiven.

Speaking of pretty ladies, I’m a big fan of Natalie Portman, and she does well with what she has in the film, but the relationship between her character and Thor just felt forced to me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to fall head over heels for a guy with questionable mental status who I’ve known for about 48 hours. They just didn’t  have any believable chemistry.

Not wanting to keep listing things I didn’t like, but the script felt clunky in places too. I know that some of the lines were cheesy in a deliberate way, but some of the lines that were supposed to be funny fell a bit flat. Maybe that’s a consequence of watching it by myself, I don’t know.

I don’t want to sound massively negative; I definitely didn’t hate the film. I thought the score was great, and the design of Asgard really was beautiful, especially the disco dancefloor bridge. I’ve got to get me one of those.

It’s the age-old problem of a hyped up movie not living up to high expectations. The only thing I’m a little bit worried about is having had a similarly mediocre reaction to Captain America, The Avengers might not be the cinematic event I want it to be. But then Avengers will have one thing these two films didn’t: Iron Man.

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Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

Another quickie review for you, this time a movie which as been sitting on my to watch list for a while.  I’m going to apologise in advance for how badly written this is. I’m sort of ill, tired and hoping that you’ll have the energy to turn my words into something resembling a coherent thought.

Scott Pilgrim is in danger of falling into the Juno trap or trying to be that little bit too indie.  However, I reckon it just about gets away with it.  The script is funny and off beat with quotable lines for the cult fans, and it features a selection of “alternative” characters with ironic clothes. For me the best thing was the use of animation though.  The video game sequences are a lot of fun, with each opponent bringing a new style (my favourite being Vegan superpowers), but I also liked that the surrealist kind of world carried over into the “normal” lives of the characters as well.  The pop up bits of information about each of the characters as we’re introduced to them is a good example of little video game quirks working their way in.  The overall effect is that of watching a comic strip, with clever editing making you feel like you’re moving from panel to panel and quips from Evil Exes that definitely belong in big white bubbles.  Why exactly the Evil Exes have it in for Scott is never explained, nor do we know if this is Scott’s imagination or real, but we accept it because of the dreamlike world we have come to inhabit.

Having never read the books, I can’t compare, but I’m reliably informed that it manages to stay pretty true and the use of original artwork no doubt helps with that.  Although this is a movie for gamers, you don’t need to be  hardcore  to get the jokes. I’m sure there were references that went over my head, but at the same time there were other little gamer tropes that raised a smile.

The characters themselves are fairly two-dimensional, but the whole film is a 2D world brought to life so it actually enhances the fantasy feel. Michael Cera play s the same character he always does, managing to stay hopelessly awkward on the right side of annoying.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is well cast as the quirky Ramona; a character who is not that original but who she manages to keep fresh.  For me the star of the show though is Kieran Culkin as Scott’s roommate Wallace.  I haven’t really seen anything with him in before (I’m told I need to see Igby Goes Down) but he was undoubtedly my favourite character.  Again, dry-witted gay roommate isn’t necessarily original, but the film relies on familiar characters in an unfamiliar setting and Wallace is a good proxy for the audience.  Chris Evans, who I have been vaguely unimpressed with in the past, surprised me with some good comedic moments, as well as making me geek out at the idea of Scott fighting both Captain America and Superman (Brandon Routh) during the movie.

Scott Pilgrim is always compared to Kick Ass and there seems to be a bit of a consensus that the latter is the better movie.  When I see it, I’ll let you know where I stand, but for now I’ll say that Scott Pilgrim is a brilliantly different movie which I can definitely recommend, whether you’re a gamer geek or are just looking for a twist on the traditional rom-com format.

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The A Team

Posted on October 31, 2011. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

This one has been sitting unwatched on my shelf since Christmas, but the planets aligned and that not so weekly anymore get together required a film none of us had seen. So down it came.

There’s not much I can say about The A Team.  I remember when it first arrived in cinemas much wailing and gnashing of teeth, alongside accusations of it being the worst destruction of childhood memories since The Phantom Menace. Luckily for me, I never watched The A Team growing up, and have only seen the first two or three episodes of the old TV show, so I didn’t really have anything to get upset about.

Lots of things are wrong with the movie. The plot is weirdly hard to follow, mainly because most of the cast mumble and deaf people like me can’t  make out a word they’re saying. Liam Neeson’s accent seems to be wandering around some weird Irish-American hybrid and despite giving himself the cool middle name “Rampage,” Quinton Jackson just isn’t Mr T.  But there is also some good. Sharlto Copley (last seen in District 9) provides some laughs as Howling Mad Murdoch and the dual timeline set pieces where Smith explains the plan to the team as we see it unfold are a good way to keep the pace up.  Bradley Cooper was doing what he does best (being himself) which was fine until they tried to add a romantic storyline in the form of might-as-well-be-a-cardboard-cut-out Jessica Biel.  The action scenes (of which there are many) are fun to watch, but do contain some hilariously implausibilities, including some nifty work with a helicopter that doesn’t end in someone getting minced and a sinking tanker that is apparently filled with nothing but rocket fuel and dynamite given just how long it carries on exploding for.

The A Team was never really going to be one of the greats. But it’s fun. It’s fluff. Not to be taken seriously. Give me a mindless blow ’em up film over something trying to be worthy any day.

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