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The Lego Movie (2014)
An Enjoyable Delight - but a little over-hyped
A very refreshing and enjoyable film with lots of clever use of animation and humour for both young and old. But I am of the generation that never built Lego - only bought it for the next two generations. It is cleverly done as a movie, and the twist twenty minutes from the end puts the rest of Hollywood's wunderkind to shame! The characters are very predictable, but put themselves down with a distinct lack of ego (but then plastic models can, can't they?). The plot is yet another riff on George Lucas with a 'Metropolis' like society needing a Chosen One to release them to freedom - only the one chosen is not really of heroic stature. But the journey takes him to his destiny - freeing everyone to build their own models and not just what the packet tells them to! It runs out of steam after an hour before the big finish kicks in - plastic model cartoons can only go so far! And the animation can only go so far before iteration (like live action Hollywood!), but the biggest product placement in movies works well enough for long enough long enough to give a great deal of pleasure.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
mixture of romcom and scifi does not work
High concept scifi meets romdrama/com - result turgid predictable movie, only saved by wanting to see what happens at the end. The acting is pretty ordinary - how does Matt Damon get all these parts when he is so mediocre?! The direction is also incredibly ordinary - no tricksy stuff or originality. The plot put simply is that Planet Earth has always had its' Gods and subsidiary helpers, called different things at different times, eh angels. And when they intervene, it is against a detailed plan for each person contained in a moving book. these 'Gods' stepped back in history, and hence The Dark Ages and two World Wars. Obviously Matt Damon is meant to be another JFK, but he will settle for less if he hooks up with Emily Blunt! Stumbling across the angels doing some 'adjustment' he learns all about this. The film then watches him struggle with his written fate and what he really wants in life. Unfortunately the audience has to suffer so much mumbo-jumbo scifi explanation that the film practically dies on its feet with a leaden script. So cue chases, romantic ups and downs, and an ending, where the so-called chief God (Zeus?) chooses a new path for the star-crossed lovers. Bu which time we have all given up - mediocre c**p!
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Worthy but very predictable and dull
The subject of this film is so worthy, it cannot be criticised. The slavery of Africans and their descendants in the USA in the years after independence is obscene and horrific. There I've said it in a sentence - this film beats you into submission in over two hours' running time by depicting the horrors and obscenity over and over again. It has nothing new to say, and with 150 years distance between the events, we can all leave the cinema feeling good about ourselves and how much more civilised we are today. I just wonder why Samuel L. Jackson questions the movie and points out today's racism!? But back to the movie - plot, free black man is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South of America, surviving by accepting his position and not fighting back despite witnessing rape and whipping and getting plenty of lashings himself. Again one sentence's worth and you have the film of over two hours. The script is relentless - some exploration of the economics of slavery might have helped point out its ridiculous and violent meaning. The direction is full of overlong imagery that is so obvious and bores the audience. The acting is perfunctory to say the least - Chitewol Edifor almost has a permanent look of bemused disbelief as he keeps his head down, Fassbender just goes over the top as a mad man so no blame to southern citizens really then, the rest just put up a cliché of the symbol they are meant to represent, eg suffering beautiful female slave lashed to smithereens, and Brad Pitt swaggers in as a symbol of liberal Hollywood coming to rescue all 'God;s chillum.' But it packs a punch and tells a tale to remind the arrogant, greatest democracy in the world of its dark past, when most Americans looked the other way for so long. It is a pity that the aftermath of Northup's release is not touched on except in a few words over the final credits - but that would have implicated the US too much like the portrayal of the Emancipation Act in the much better 'Lincoln.' Remember 'Amistad' failed at the Box Office because of such scenes as a British sailor telling the US that the UK had long abolished slavery - Oops.
Rather banal love story that needs more Hitch directing
This is a very wasted opportunity. It is supposed to be about Alfred Hitchcock giving birth to and directing 'Psycho', but instead we get a teen story of people being in love and getting their own back when they feel slighted and jealous! And the love story is very banal and uninteresting, whereas the film really picks up when we see the film getting shot. There are references to Hitch's obsession with blonde leading ladies but it gets very little depth or examination in this thin and shallow script. It even tries to tie things up neatly as if Hitch's obsessions were now over - cue the BBC's version of the shooting of 'The Birds' (his next film) and Hitch's 'torturing' of Tippi Hendren because she turns down his advances!!!!! No, some cute acting (but Helen Mirren is far too glamorous) and some good nods at the actual film - 'Psycho' - but little else to excite or interest the viewer. The best point to be made is that the film is short and does not outstay its welcome by too much!
American Hustle (2013)
Insufferable boring mess
There is a minor joke in the first 30 seconds (which goes on for another couple of minutes), then this film proceeds to bore the pants off you with some of the worst acting, direction and scriptwriting you will ever have the misfortune to experience. How the critics have fallen for this I do not know! Or perhaps, I do. Russell (Director) is seen as a mini great, so when he produces absolute rubbish of a script and film, then the critics have to back him or they will seem stupid for over-praising him in the first place. The film is very like 'Goodfellas' ( another pile of sh***) and there the critics had to praise Marty because he is a living God of US film directing. But, no, reputations are only as good as a last film, and this resides in the nether regions of totally awful. Plot - two smart conners - Bale and Adams - are caught by the FBI and turned to con corrupt politicians. Well, there is only evidence of their being mediocrities as conmen - their greatest feat being to con $5000 out of desperate people looking to borrow $50,000! Mad man Cooper plays an FBI agent on speed and falls for Adams as they try to frame Renner et al (New Jersey politicians). It all gets a bit heavy as the MOB appears ( you guessed it - Robert de Niro) and Bale has to con his way out (having spent the middle part of the film invisible!). The acting - Bale doing a bad impression of Quasimodo with back throat heehawing, bent frame, forever pushing up dark glasses, and a bad comb over (convincing no-one he is clever); Adams showing cleavage (not big) to show how men fall for her gets someway with her character, but not far; Cooper overacts and should never be allowed on set again until he has done three silent mime shows in the theatre; Renner an innocent who has too little to do; and Lawrence (seen for the first time by this reviewer) pouts and whines semi-angrily to get yet another Oscar nomination (what a totally limited actress she appears, but with this non-script I'll give her some slack). The script does not bear a nanoseond's consideration - was there a lot of improvisation?- because it simply is a mess - no proper characterisation, lines repeated, terrible voice overs for the thickest of the thick in Iowa presumably, and a plot that hardly holds any interest. Poor, poor, awful rubbish. It is a film that is about conning, and the critics and the Academy and BAFTA have all fallen for the con!!!!!!!
Boring and repetitious
A visual treat, but it has all been done and seen before. The story is overlong and forced with, apparently, scenes from LOTR dragged in as subplots. How many Orcs have to die (saw the trailer for 'Lone Survivor' in that one just substitute Taliban for Orcs!!!!!!!!!!!!) and how many ways can Legoslas cut them down? It seems he can bow and arrow them from two Feet! The acting is okay, but the actors look bored silly. The script goes on and on over the same lines - how you can kill a good quest! The dwarfs and elves are like background wallpaper instead of real frontline characters, while Stephen Fry (playing basically Charles the First) is only slightly comical. And we have three more hours to go after the hours of boredom with 'Lord of the Rings!' Oh dear, can I stay awake in anticipation - the trailer for 'The Lego Movie' looked more interesting!
The American (2010)
Sorry George, poor try at EuroArthouse!
This an attempt by George Clooney to appear in a non-Hollywood, European Art-house moody movie. But it fails. We have seen it all before, much better done, notably with Alain Delon and Jean Paul Belmondo. You can tell it is an European art-house movie because the actresses get their kit off, full frontal and plenty of breasts, without a problem with sheets and underwear! And the lead actor has little dialogue but emotes heavily - and the critics call it 'existential.' Ah well, the script has been done to death - lone oldish assassin called upon to make one last assignment, making a gun with a silencer (could have bought it off the shelf on ebay!) starts to have doubts about the probity of it all and begins to let in a woman (prostitute in this case). A lot of the tropes are here - 'Day of the Jackal' 'Le Samourai' - and some of the scenes are rip offs of other movies with nothing to say. The eroticism is the highlight, although a bit indulgent, while the visual symbolism is laid on with the subtlety of a jackhammer. All in all a mess, and it was done better in 1950s westerns that were termed 'existential - even 'Shane' comes to mind but I would not equate that masterpiece with this slow-burning waste of time.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
OK in parts but seen it all before
'Thor - the dark world' has some good moments, particularly the gags and the characters of Loki and Thor himself, but most of the rest is bloated CGIsville and ham portentousness. The plot is straight out of 'Lord of the Rings.' The dark side of life portrayed by the Black Elves (very reminiscent of The Teletubbies!) are rising (originally the Universe was dark until Thor's Grandad sent them packing and brought the Light). However, the Elves' main ultimate weapon - the Aether (cue misty red smoke) - was not destroyed but buried beneath a fifties car park in East London!!!! Where's that Ring when you need it?! Thor's girlfriend (Natalie Portman - the Elves are taller than her!)discovers it and becomes a carrier - fortunately she does not suffer Gollum's fate of disfigurement. Now that would have been a plot twist! The rest of the film is the Black Elves trying to get hold of the Aether while Thor, Loki and assorted London-based Earthlings attempt to prevent them. The best bit is the relationship between Thor and Loki with some good acting from Hemsworth and Hiddlestone, but the attack on Asgard is a copy of Michael Shannon's rebellious effort on Krypton, and from then on in the plot holes get bigger and bigger. True, the destruction of Greenwich - as Thor and Chief Baddie battle it out - does not go on as long as 'Man of Steel' in New York, but is a yawnfest. Isn't it about time that audiences started to give these Comic book adaptations the b**'s rush? They are getting so similar and boring.
OK but badly over-hyped
The technical achievement of this film is very very good, but as Dr Kermode said (and I do not very often agree with him!)'it is a popcorn movie.' The plot is a peaceful US mission in orbit round the Earth to repair the Hubble telescope becomes imperilled by a dastardly Russian endeavour to destroy one of its evil satellites, which causes a hell of a lot of metal to go at superspeed destroying anything in its orbital path. The film is about the consequences on survivors, except for visuals of Earth from 600 kilometres up - you do not see the blackness of space very often. Thus we have an Indiana Jones-type set up of jeopardy situations occurring every ten minutes or so, which everyone except Sandra Bullock seems to succumb to in deadly graphic circumstances. There are obvious holes in the plot, eg the speed with which Ms Bullock can get out and in of a spacesuit in weightless conditions would leave Gypsy Rose Lee tut tutting; the number of times Ms Bullock's suit hits hard and sharp surfaces on the outside of spacecraft without one tear or snag is absolutely unbelievable; and her ability to read Chinese and Russian from books while piloting escape pods becomes very silly. The so-called profundity in the film is very shallow - when I got home I switched on a 'B' western from the fifties on TV with the well trodden plot of a handful of people surrounded by bloodthirsty Indians, no water and no obvious means of escape except their own ingenuity. Cue dialogue about living and dying - and 'Gravity' is on the same level. In fact, the dialogue was better in the western! The acting is restrained except for George Clooney's turn as comic relief cum sudden sacrificial hero in places. The effects are very good, but cannot really sustain the bare 91 minutes. The 3D is excellent, but did we have to wait a tedious two minutes or so as Ms Bullock's tears drain out into the audience! And as for the two big visual symbols - Ms Bullock curling into the foetal position during weightlessness and her crawling out of the primordial mud for rebirth - were unwanted and too obvious. Go and see it in 3D and wonder, and then watch a movie with a middle.
Sunshine on Leith (2013)
A Musical (based on songs) that really delivers
Well, Les Mis was awful and garnered box office and awards, while Mamma Mia made a fortune had great songs by Abba but was poorly played and a bore, whereas Sunshine on Leith - based on songs by The Proclaimers - is an absolute triumph all round, but will probably only be seen by a tiny proportion of the audience those two overblown movies above generated. Ah well, the movie business! Shame on you! The feel good is great here, even though it is tempered by a real insight into Scots and scottishness - soldiers and emigration being well to the fore. The acting is joyous and heartfelt, while the singing is brash and thoughtful at the same time - why Tom Hooper made such a fuss of singing live in Les Mis when clarity and quality such as here are on offer - and it is better too! The numbers gel remarkably well with the story and break free from the singalong antics of tenth rate crooning Meryl et al gave us. The direction is chipper and well thought out, while the £500k lobbed out for a re-shoot of the final number ( '500 miles') is well worth it as Edinburgh comes alive to celebrate a very good movie. See it!