Movies to miss
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.”
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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Faithful followers will know that I was really looking forward to this films release. No doubt they will also have noticed the lack of review on this site. The inconvenience of having a full time job mean that I never got to see Parnassus in the cinema, but the epic rain that washed out the Bank Holiday weekend allowed me to finally get around to watching the DVD.
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. Yes, it’s weird. In fact it’s very weird. But this is the mind of Terry Gilliam, where if you think it makes sense, you’re not getting it. So put that aside before you start and you’ll get on a lot better.
Gilliam is essentially an artist, and it’s the visuals that make this film. Each trip through the Doctor’s magic mirror takes us into a world beyond imagination that only Gilliam could create. But unfortunately it has little else to offer. I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the old-fashioned world of the Imaginarium and the modern world of it’s clientelle. The opening credits set you up for a period piece, but then a drunk guy wanders into shot from a nightclub and you realise you’re expectations were wrong. Just how Terry likes it.
I don’t want to call Parnassus a bad film, because it isn’t bad exactly. But I’m not sure what it is. The plot is as expected; convoluted and very hard to follow, but if you strip it down to the bare bones it’s actually relatively simple. The problem is the characterisation. I’m not really sure whose side we’re supposed to be on. There isn’t really a protagonist story to follow, the plot just seems to meander around a group of people.
As for the actors behind the performances, Tom Waits does a great underworld Mr Nick and Verne Troyer proves he can do more than just be the funny little guy in his first proper acting role. The focus however, falls inevitably on Heath Ledger. This is where it gets difficult. Neither Ledger, nor alter egos Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, really get to stretch their acting muscles. If anything, the only thing that caught my attention was Ledger’s wandering accent, which never seemed to get hold of a region (Farrell on the other hand carried off an impressively non-Irish dialect.) It’s a shame to have four huge talents like that on screen and see them go to waste, but to be honest not many members of the cast get to do much.
The eponymous Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) spends most of the time asleep, and it’s hard to keep up with who bet what to who and why. I’m still not actually sure who won. Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield are good though as Valentina and Anton. In fact, Garfield wins the prize for being the only character I actually cared about.
I’m so reluctant to criticise this film. Not only because it is Heath’s last, but because it had potential to be really good. Wishful thinking can’t rescue a film though, and I’m afraid I have to confine Dr Parnassus to the missable movies vault. Maybe watch it once just to say you’ve seen it, but I fear that without the macabre draw of this being a film where the lead actor died during filming, few people would have given it the time of day.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
I haven’t done a straight review in a while and caught this on late night TV so thought I’d blog it.
Reign of Fire is one of those films that confuses me, because it isn’t good, but it isn’t exactly bad either. It was made purely because we’d reached a point where really cool CGI dragons were possible, and it shows. The plot is incredibly thin, basically dragons-bad-man-scared, and there are a number of plot holes which bugged me throughout. For example, if the dragons feed on ash, why do they always wait until people are outside to start crispy frying them? Especially when they’ve planted all those tasty ready-to-cook crops outside. There were a number of times when the dragons seemed to be holding back simply to make the story work. I reckon Christian Bale had managed to avoid several toastings from a somehow benevolent dragon which chose to wait for him to attack first, and I never understood why the big bad daddy dragon only decided to attack about 20 years after he was first released.
This is starting to sound more scathing than I intended, but there are some good points. The performances by Bale and Gerard Butler are good, although Matthew McConaughey in a psycho-marine role is a bit more scary than I think he intended. The special effects really are good, and the overall design of the film captures a kind of futuristic middle ages, but for a film that is essentially a CGI showcase I’m not sure the visuals are quite good enough to justify it. Of course, I’m seeing it 7 years after its original release and the speed at which VFX move means what was state of the art then is now dated, but I’m still not sure I’m impressed.
Reign of Fire was one of those films I remember hearing about when it came out and I was intrigued, so I’m sad that it didn’t quite live up to even my low expectations. As I said, it’s not a bad film, there was nothing in it that had me shouting at the screen or looking away in anguish (except Bale’s hideous haircut) but there’s just not much to it. At only 101 minutes it’s quite short and no one has too much time to develop as a character, but I think the film would benefit from taking itself less seriously. Rather than trying to convince its audience that dragons living underground lead to a post-nuclear apocalypse and focussing on how terrible everything is, director Rob Bowman could’ve eased off on the angst and allowed a little more fun into the movie. This would probably lift the intensity of the performances, which at times felt too serious for a movie about dragons, especially in McConaughey’s case.
In the end, I’m going to have to reluctantly consign Reign of Fire to the Movies to Miss pile. It’s not a major warning against it, I did sort of enjoy it, but there are just too many plot holes and mismatched emotions for the film to work.
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I’ve not written a negative post in ages, and I’m kind of sad to be writing this one since I had high hopes for the film, but it just didn’t deliver.
When Transformers first came out in the cinema I wasn’t interested. None of the lead actors are particular favourites of mine, and while the special effects looked great I wasn’t moved to run to the nearest cinema. I kept hearing good things about it though, and started to change my mind. A trailer for the upcoming sequel before Star Trek pushed me over the edge and the DVD was purloined from a friend’s house for our weekly movie night. I was really looking forward to it, but unfortunately my orignial reservations turned out to be right.
I’ve never seen a film so tailor made for boys in my life. Normally this doesn’t bother me, as I’d choose action over chick flick most days, but Transformers seemed to be lacking in any kind of substance in order to get in enough shots of things blowing up/Megan Fox’s abs. Let’s face it, she’s not there for her acting ability.
There are some good points. The special effects are brilliant and each transformation is done flawlessly especially the high speed ones, but even the fight scenes seemed messy rather than well choreographed. Shia LeBeouf almost saves the dire script, but he can’t do it alone and acting opposite a wooden (or should that be silicon?) Fox and some laughable over acting from John Turturro is a difficult task that a rookie actor can’t overcome.
I guess the biggest problem I had with the film is I simply didn’t care about the robots (autobots, sorry). How ever much “cute” Bumblebee squeaked and whimpered (I think he has Wall-E’s voice box) I still wasn’t bothered by his missing legs. And when Megan Fox started crying about it I just gave up. As for the rest of our metal crew, the fact that they learned to speak from the internet gave them a weird turn of phrase in oddly posh accents. I get what they were going for, but it didn’t work for me.
The chemistry between Fox and LeBeouf is also noticeably absent. The supposed love story is atrociously underwritten; they barely speak to eachother and when they do its to spew something cheesy. They weren’t the only ones with rotten lines; “Listen to me, you’re a soldier now!” actually made my toes curl. The screenplay is at best cliché and at worst embarassing, which is a shame in a movie which has the potential to be good. The plot is thin (I don’t get why Optimus Prime cares so much about Earth) but I’d let that go if the writers had gone to the effort of writing something new rather than rehashing the favourite lines of every war and action movie of the 20th Century. In fairness, LeBeouf has some funny lines, but I think this is owed more to his delivery than the actual words.
Transformers is a triumph of special effects, and a great showcase for what can be achieved with CGI, but there’s litle more to it than that. It was a big disappointment. I think in future I’ll trust my insitincts, and I’ll be keeping away from the sequel.
*Note to my fellow Saturday night audience members. I truly wanted to like this film, but however much you love it, I can’t see past the bad bits. Sorry.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
Over the weekend I was reminded (via one of those E4 100 greatest countdown thingys) of a few more films that were utterly disappointing. To spare you the same fate…
- Breakfast at Tiffanys. I just don’t get what part of that film is supposed to be good.
- Love Story. Yes it gaves us that iconic piece of music, but that’s it.
- The Life Aquatic. It’s like The Royal Tennenbaums, but weirder, if that’s possible.
- The Ninth Gate. A very strange film I watched late one night. I still don’t know what it’s about.
- 2001: A space Odyssey. Why? Seriously, why? There’s a big black block, a baby in the moon and a psychadelic eyeball….what?!
- Kingdom of Heaven. It just never got going.
- Austin Powers. I know people love it, but I just didn’t think it was that great, for much the same reason that I don’t like…
- …American Pie
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Ir’s a clever concept and it has its moments, but in general its not worth the time.
- Meet Joe Black. I really liked this film, right until the cop-out Hollywood ending. It sold out for an implausible happily ever after when it was almost brilliant.
They’re the ones that come immediately to mind….I’ll do a quick list of movies not to miss soon too, but I tend to want to waffle on about them for a while…it’ll probably turn int my own 1001 list. Watch this space. *It did check out the pages*
*Update* I’ve now turned this into a Page to counter the Movies to see list.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
Another chance for me to save you from painful suffering, and this time I don’t think I’ll get much argument.
God knows why this was such a success. Well, actually, I do know, it was all about nostalgia. But if you want to reminisce about the 70s stick ABBA Gold on, don’t make a terrible movie!
There are moments of this film which almost redeem it, the plot, for example, is quite good and the script is funny at times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t notice much of this because I was watching the film through my fingers with an expression of abject horror! Why such an extreme reaction? Pierce Brosnan. Singing. Or at least he thought he was. And Colin Firth doing….well I don’t know what he was doing but it wasn’t pretty.
Now I’m not an ABBA fan, and I really dislike this wave of greatest hits albums being turned into musicals, but I decided to give this film a fair try (mostly because it was Christmas). In fact, turning ABBA hits into a musical worked more successfully than any other attempt I’ve heard, although I will never forgive whoever thought “Chiquitita” being sung in a toilet made sense. This wasn’t my main concern though, what had me diving behind the sofa was the woeful performances given by almost every member of the cast.
I’ve already mentioned Brosnan and Firth’s pathetic vocal renditions, which could almost be excused if it hadn’t caused them to forget how to act. Brosnan especially seems so caught up in becoming the next Bruce Springsteen (try Billy Mack) that he loses any (limited) credibility he ever had. It would have been easy enough to dub the actors, although I suppose this would have caused criticism, but after 10 minutes I was begging for mercy. Meryl Streep is better than I would have expected, and she does put in a good performance, but there were some seriously flat notes in “The Winner Takes It All” which could have easily been tweaked could the sound editor have been bothered enough.
Bad singing aside, there isn’t much going for this movie, (besides the ever-wonderful Julie Walters). I get that it’s supposed to be fun and light hearted, but you get the feeling that no one invilved in making this movie was really committed to the job, they were just mucking about with some cameras and a few million dollars. This film is definitely aimed nowhere near my generation. Even the young couple who the film is supposedly about get barely any screen time compared to our parenting team. This is a film for the mums, which is fine, but you’d think that Hollywood could come up with something a bit less tragic.
Everyone knows that Dads dancing at a wedding is a pathetic site. So why make a movie about it?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 12 so far )
As promised, I also want to cut through the fluff written by some critics about some movies which really have no merit whatsoever. I’m a firm believer that this is emperor’s new clothes-ism: no one wants to admit that they don’t see the wonder. Except me.
The first of my rants has to be aimed squarely at Lost In Translation. Quite possibly the most boring thing I’ve ever sat through, and I’ve been to biochemistry lectures!
Look at them. Even they’re bored and they’re being paid to be there! Essentially Lost in Translation is a film about nothing. Some misguided friends of mine have tried to argue that its an acurate depiction of real life, where nothing dramatic happens that often. This is true, but I wouldn’t pay to watch Bill Murray act that out. We have films of real life, its called reality TV and we all know that’s not going to win any Oscars.
My point is, films can be realistic without being tedious, but this film seems to delight in going for hours without any plot at all. I’m sure that even the most boring of “real” people don’t spend hours staring into space, but apparently if you’re working for Sofia Coppola that’s exactly what they do.
Billed ironically as a comedy, I’m yet to find the funny part. Even Bill Murray, who is usually so right gets it so wrong, with his next flop The Life Aquatic seeming to suggest that he’s just stopped caring.
The biggest problem with Lost in Translation however, is how self aware it is. This film came with an Oscar checklist and Coppola made sure every box was ticked. Unfortunately she forgot to add a plot.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 11 so far )