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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Wow. Just...Wow. WHAT a letdown.
What can I say about the year's most anticipated finale to an utterly exceptional trilogy (well, exceptional for two-thirds of it)? Lots of things and few of them positive. I saw this as part of a triple-billing. So I dare say that a combination of factors prevented my enjoyment perhaps the late night, the freshness in my mind of its two fantastic prequels, or simply the strain of sitting through over nine hours of ear-piercing action. Whatever it was, I'm sorry to say that TDKR has left me baffled, frustrated and completely unsatisfied. Spoilers abound herein.
I'll begin with the solitary aspect of the film that WAS done well. Bane was awesome. Outdoing the Joker was never going to be an easy feat, and no, he doesn't really outdo him, but he manages to be a scary character in his own right without ever making you think, "Man, I wish the Joker was back." Nothing will ever erase memories of the Joker, but you're able to accept Bane as a totally different character in a whole new story, rather than just a crude remodelling of his predecessor. He is a little hard to understand at times, but in my opinion that just made him even scarier. The accent, the voice, the half-covered face, the unbeatable strength, the fact that he's unclouded by remorse, conscience or delusions of morality he was a brilliant, bad-ass villain played to chilling perfection by the wonderfully changeable Tom Hardy.
Sadly, he was the only well-written feature on-show, and as the whole show is not all about him, that should tell you something about the rest of the film's writing. Christopher Nolan is one clever cookie. He wrote Inception. The Prestige. MEMENTO, for God's sake. He is normally very careful to avoid plot holes, inconsistencies and things that aren't tied up very well. All three glitches are shamelessly paraded here. The gist of the storyline goes something like this: Batman begrudgingly returns to the superhero business after retiring at the end of TDK, but soon has bigger problems on his hands than Gotham City's devious fiends; his enterprise has been hijacked, causing him to lose all of his money. He tries not to let it break his spirit, but after being beaten to a bloody pulp by Bane, is sent to a grimy prison outside the country where, after a series of nonsensical healing procedures (how does one recover from a broken back that easily?), he must learn to regain his power, agility and, most crucially, concern for humanity. Once better, he returns to Gotham to stop Bane, whose posse has taken over the town and brought quite a literal hell on Earth to its residents. So...ahem...how did he get out of the country when he's broke? How did he get back INTO the country when he's broke? Did he have a spare credit card on him that hadn't been affected by the liquidation? How'd he get back in when Bane had irrevocably closed off every perimeter of Gotham to ensure that nobody could escape or enter? There's even a scene where Alfred does something that the Alfred whom we all know and love would never, ever do gives up on Bruce and resigns from his service. He then disappears for the last half of the film and doesn't reappear until just two minutes left to go. Where...the HELL...did he go all of that time?
And oh, the endless enigmas of Catwoman. I love Anne Hathaway, but her involvement in this film didn't work for me either. She starts off exasperating as a character and ends even worse. Now I knew going into it that she'd been described as more of an anti-hero than a villain, so I prepped myself for the inescapability that she was always going to be tricky to figure out. But that, too, is spewed out at the wrong angle. It actually infuriates me that, by the end of the film, they try to convince you that she's not really a bad person per se; she's secretly a hard yet soulful person thrown into bad situations that she must use any means to escape from. What pathetic, complete and utter horses***. She chooses to do everything that she does. She slinks through the film using just about every idiotic excuse you can think of to justify her actions including the perennial favourite "A girl has to eat"; honey, you can't eat diamonds and is even the primary cause of Batman being left for dead at the hands of Bane, something over which she shows no regret later. And her reason? Something along the lines of "They were gonna kill me." This coming from the woman who shows in several previous scenes that she's capable of taking down whole roomfuls of guys. But when it comes to risking the life of Gotham's most imperative hero, there's no way that she can get out of it? And Bruce's constant forgiving of her, all because he believes that "there's more to her than what shows on the surface" or some sentimental bullcrap, just makes him look like a d***less idiot. He is never once given ANY reason to think this. Would he be asserting the same outlook if she was a guy? I ended up losing respect for him on these grounds. And there's another problem - Batman just isn't Batman in this outing. Worst of all, her scenes were predictable. Anybody with an IQ higher than their shoe size would know why she kisses Bruce after dancing with him in an early scene. This trick is like 60 years old. How could the Caped Crusader fall for it? And the kiss that they share later is equally stupid because, well..."MORONS! THERE'S A BOMB ABOUT TO ERADICATE THE ENTIRE CITY!" Ruurgh.
My two cents. Now I'm gonna go watch The Room. At least the plot holes in that film were funny.
Pegg and Frost are still no closer to getting it right for me.
Better come clean: I've never been a fan of the Pegg/Frost duo. It bugs me when I hear people raving about how hilarious they are. They are one of the most overrated acts ever to make it big. I was one of the ten people who hated Shaun of the Dead. I found Run Fatboy Run only moderately funny. I never even bothered to see Hot Fuzz. Possibly the only Pegg character whom I've liked so far was his weasel in Ice Age 3. When an actor's most likable character to date has been one in which he was only heard and not seen, you know that you've got a problem. So I was thrilled to see the trailer for Paul, which looked well above average in both its premise and its humour. I thought that this could finally be a chance for Pegg & Frost to prove me wrong in my previously indifferent, if nonplussed, verdict of them. Sadly, Paul is yet another tally which allows me to hold my stance. They are no Fry and Laurie. Or Cook and Moore. Not by a long chalk. And Paul is anything but the screaming riot that it should have been.
It's such a cool idea: a creature who's exactly like your average stoner-next-door type casual swearing, frat-boy jokes, loves Reece's pieces only he's an alien. And the creation of Paul is great; the FX which bring him to life are fantastic and Seth Rogen does a fine job as voiceman. But the rest is severely let down by bad pacing, plot turns which don't make much sense, an awful love interest, and a script which just isn't funny enough. When a film goes this nuts in terms of its story, then it better keep the laughs hearty in order to help you overcome the heavy suspension-of-belief factor and the running time which feels much longer than it was. But because they fall short even on that requirement, by running's end it's that much harder to recall anything enjoyable about the 104 minutes that you just relinquished.
So here it is: while vacationing in America, two UK lads named Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), find a real alien while cruising through backroads, and agree to help him flee because he's being tracked down by the government (at least I think that's what his problem was they don't explain it very well; just one part of the screenplay which I thought needed improvement). Although nervous initially, they soon bond with him. Then, while holing up in a place to stay, they meet Kristen Wiig's character Ruth, who lives in a trailer park with her strictly religious father and has been brought up to believe no other logic but that to which the Bible lays claim. Forced to re-evaluate her beliefs when she meets Paul, she realises that she doesn't have to live the life that she's been made to, and consequently turns into a foul-mouthed "free spirit" which is funny for about two seconds, until you just want to SHAKE her and yell, "STOP swearing! It's NOT cool anymore!" (saying a hell of a lot because, I hasten to point out, I don't normally have a problem with vulgarity). When disaster occurs at her home, they have to take Ruth with them (and I don't really get why they need to do that either) and thus begins more complications on their cross-country getaway as they now have the combined wrath of the government after them, Ruth's angry father, and a third person involved in their secret. But as you may imagine, trying to keep things under wraps gets increasingly harder and...well I won't reveal anymore spoilers, partly because you may still want to see it, and equally because the second half goes so haywire that I can't even remember how it happens exactly. That's how memorable it is.
There are perhaps a handful of lines in the movie which did incite a snigger. But sitting through an entire comedy for two or three cheap giggles is hardly worth it. It's hard to explain where exactly it all goes wrong. A large part of it happens when Ruth walks on-screen. Her character absolutely doesn't work. Why did they really need a love interest in a movie like this anyway? Being a movie about two guys who find a space invader, they should've just focused on that. It could've all been saved if they'd just kept it a film about two human fugitives and the wise-cracking alien that they're harbouring, adding at least a few more laughs in the process. Instead, we're forced to endure boring, unnecessary scenes between Graeme and Ruth, who have about as much chemistry as a giraffe and an octopus. You're left thinking "Get back to Paul." But worst of all, Paul isn't even the best character. He's cool, don't get me wrong, but ultimately the whole show was stolen by Jason Batemen. The entire movie was worth watching for him alone. His ultra-serious, tight-arse secret agent was awesome, and he was in it nowhere near enough. Every scene that goes back to the gang just leaves you missing Bateman and wondering when you'll see him again. Considering the talent that you could've squeezed out of an ensemble cast this meaty, rooting for only one character signifies another epic failure in the endeavour.
Paul isn't horrible, but on account of what went into it, could have been and should have been so much more than it was. And it's all because of a weak script written by, as I've said before, a weak partnership. Had it been funnier, I might've been more forgiving of its flaws. The premise was there, but the execution was pulled off like Pegg and Frost just couldn't be arsed making more of an effort. It will now take even more convincing for me to ever want to sit through another outing of theirs. Well done boys.
Little Ashes (2008)
Not terrible, but DEFINITELY not great,
A few people have said already that this is very much a love-or-hate movie. While I can understand what leads them to that conclusion, I can't personally agree with it because I myself don't feel either way. Oh, I'm not completely blasé about it - to its credit it's definitely one of those movies that'll leave you with some kind of opinion. This is at least one thing that it does right. It's just that your opinion is likely to be very conflicted because the movie is so uneven; it has too much merit to be hated and too many flaws to be loved. The fact that young Mr. Pattinson looks nothing like the real Salvador Dali (bar the moustache) ate away at me, but I tried to keep an open mind throughout. They're doing that with nearly every true story these days so there's not much point in letting it bug you. It can be forgiven as long as the acting is good enough to take away from the liberties. And the good news is, the lack of physical resemblance does become a non-issue - the bad news is that this is largely because the mistakes that they've made take you away from it as much as the engrossment.
So, the story. Circa 1922 a young Salvador Dali travels to a creative arts school to pursue his passion for painting. There he meets aspiring poet Federico, with whom he forges a connection, and the early scenes focus on the development of their friendship which soon shifts into a romantic nature. But Salvador, either unwilling to accept what he is or just not carrying a mutual feeling (I found that I couldn't quite tell) eventually abandons Federico after a series of mishaps, arguments and complications, and seeks fame and fortune in Paris under the advice of a tutor. It's eight years before he and Federico meet again and by that time Salvador's married a woman, garnered celebrity and developed the wide-eyed weirdness streak that become one of his trademarks. They manage to re-establish contact but old feelings still remain, at least on Federico's part.
Now the biggest problem here is that, for a movie which is supposed to be about Salvador Dali, it's hardly about him at all! He starts off being the star of the story but as things progress is becomes more about the struggles of his friend Federico! If they were trying to convey an in-depth look at the life of one of history's greatest art figures then they devoted far too much time to an entirely separate character! Don't get me wrong, Federico is likable, endearing, and the young actor who plays him is superb, but what's the point of making a movie about a famous artist if the focus is going to shift to one of his cohorts less than halfway through? Attempts to get to know Salvador and why he was the way he was are stunted for this very reason. For instance when Salvador leaves for Paris the movie is then immediately transferred to Federico's eight-year goal to try and put his poetry out there, and we don't see Salvador again until he's become famous and strange. Ideally we should have spent those eight years with Salvador to witness his descent into surrealism and why it happened; because we don't, we come away no wiser about what made him tick.
So I hate to say it, but it's definitely one of those biopics which fails to get under the skin of its subject. By no means any fault of Robert Pattinson's, he does a remarkable job, it's just that the way in which the plot unfolds (and his strangely limited screen time) means that he doesn't get quite as much chance to shine as he could have. When he does, it works, and you get a glimpse at just how amazing the movie could have been if they'd focused more on his personality and derailed mind. But because they spend so much time on Federico, it ends up coming off as his story, in which Salvador is more like a supporting character and what he did for modern art is shifted into the background. His prodigious paintings feel strangely tacked-on and end up becoming a distraction from the friendship that the two of them share. Considering that this is meant to be a real-life biopic, that's not exactly the right way to do it.
But like I said, the movie does have its merits. The acting is flawless, the dialogue is believable, the direction is near-perfect and of course the production is loaded with breathtaking shots of Europe. But this is supposed to be a movie about Salvador Dali - and because it's not, that hinders all of its good qualities to such a large degree that it's difficult to remember the positives. By running's end you realise that this movie would have been much better if they hadn't bothered to make it about Dali. It would have worked if it had been a fictional story about a young Spanish poet and his haughty, mischievous, unrequited artist muse, which they could have dubbed "Inspired by True Events". As it is, it has all of the right ingredients to present an enjoyable treatment of the same subject using its great cast, wonderful production and interesting storyline, but completely fails to work as a portrait of Dali's life.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
I have never craved a bullet in my head so much in my life
OK, my experience in seeing this movie was particularly excruciating because I was stuck in a theatre of people who kept either groaning, cooing, or yelling advice to the characters on screen at the top of their lungs. But even with that aside, what few other people will be likely to say still deserves to be said: this movie sucked big hairy werewolf balls. Unfortunately, trying to explain why would take up a lot more words than I've managed to cram in, so I can only focus on the main issues. For starters, Bella has become increasingly unlikeable since we saw her last, and as she's the central protagonist around whom all the ensuing events revolve, that's going to be a problem. Originally a great character in the first two films, her appeal here takes such a massive nosedive that, no joke, it actually becomes hard to fathom why exactly everybody around her is risking their lives for her safety. Her constant lack of consideration for certain people (particularly her long-suffering dad) is getting exceedingly grating. There were a number of moments in which I wanted to bite her neck myself just to shut her up. The scene (spoiler) in which she punches Jacob because he kissed her was the last straw for me - I hardly think that that warrants a punch considering that he can't help being in love with her, especially since, deep down, she loves him as well. The little trout deserved to get her hand sprained. But no, he still apologises, and not just for the kiss but for the fact that punching him sprained her hand. How predictable and how pathetic.
Bella's love affair with Edward - previously of the "I would die for you" calibre - is now peppered with so many inconsistencies that it's losing its enjoyment value. For example, as we've learned in movies 1 and 2, Bella is so in love with Edward that she's a) willing to overlook the fact that he's not human; b) willing to overlook the fact that he's killed people; and c) give her own life to save his as she did at the end of New Moon, but when he finally proposes marriage to her she's hesitant? And the reason? Well apparently because she's still young, being only 18. Funny, 'cause I would've thought that 18 is also a young age to contemplate relinquishing your mortality in favour of becoming a vampire for all eternity. But it's OK, because (another spoiler) she eventually accepts; and in doing so, says, "I will bind myself to you in every way humanly possible" - but when he addresses her as Mrs. Cullen she suddenly tells him that she wants to keep her own name? She'll sacrifice life and limb for him but not do THAT?
The cheesiness of this film was also a step up - everything is cheapened to the level of a corny soap opera. They ALL deserve Razzis. CONSTANT long silences, hard stares, and stupid dialogue. My sister actually turned to me at one point during the movie and said, "Shades of Wuthering Heights" because everything about this plot is so exasperating. Why doesn't Edward stay mad at Bella after she kisses Jacob? They have ONE discussion about it (actually it's not even a discussion, just a series of comments) and then by the end of the movie they're happily reunited without a single cross word. I would think that kissing Jacob would put Edward's nose out of joint just a LITTLE, considering that she's supposed to be his reason for living and future bride!
You should also be prepared for the fact that, as is typical in most of these cases, they try to shove far too much into the storyline. Simplify, guys: if you're going to take a few minutes to explain Rosalie's backstory to us to give us some more insight as to why she is the way that she is, then leave James' backstory until the next movie. The need to stop every once in a while to explain another supporting character's history is exceedingly disruptive, and doesn't really bring anything integral to the plot anyway (for example I found that I still didn't give a rat's ass about Rosalie even after finding out what happened to her). It just makes it longer, more tedious, and prone to losing your attention.
Maybe I'm just not this movie's core demographic. It IS for tweenies after all. But there's another problem: considering that this film is supposed to be for tweenies, the violence is sometimes surprisingly full-on. There's a scene involving a decapitation which I won't go into the gruesome details of, but let's just say that it could easily qualify as the "Holey s**t!" moment of the year. So even the movie itself seems to forget who it's for. The special effects are impressive of course, the visuals are creative and the direction is fine; but scratch beneath this glossy surface and there's just too much frustration at the hands of the script, the characters and their actions to make this movie tolerable to sit through. And, because the characters and their actions are the primary crux of this story, you never get a minute's peace.
Quite simply, I am so OVER Twilight man. I'm done. That's it. Up until this point I'd actually been quite enjoying the franchise, but the abomination of this third installment has soured my interest so much that...you know what? I'm going to go watch Little Ashes, because the sight of Robert Pattinson making out with a guy is just what I need to shoot dead anything that reminds me of this idiotic movie. Awful.
The A-Team (2010)
Absolute Bleeding Dynamite!
Oh critics, would you stop? Yes, it's dumb. Yes, it's predictable. Yes, its plot is all over the place. Yes, there are some scenes where you can't even hear what the characters are saying, either because of the actor's sloppy delivery or the fact that some kind of detonation is taking place in the background while he delivers it. But would you lighten up already? You're overlooking one minor detail: it's an action movie. It's a big-screen remake of an '80s TV show which probably wasn't even that good when it first graced the box (I've never seen an episode of the original series, but from what I've heard it's right up there with the original Get Smart for pure, unadulterated cheesiness). See the problem with relatively recent action films such as The Dark Knight is that they've shown that action movies can be exciting AND intelligent at the same time. Now, however, almost every action film post-Dark Knight is expected to have those qualities. Since then, any followers of the genre are not given much of a chance if they don't fit the same bill. This is perhaps one reason why critics savaged this movie when it first screened. Sure, it's always cool to see an action film that has action AND brains, but if you go into every one of these movies with those kind of prospects, then you end up forgetting why you're really meant to watch them in the first place. The A-Team reminds you with a massive sock to the jaw.
It is not Schindler's List, that goes without saying. But of course you wouldn't expect anything of that sort when you go to see it. You wouldn't expect something that's trying to set the world on fire with some deep-seated underlying message or political statement. You'd expect everything that it does deliver, which is awesome weapons, big bangs, cool cars, bloody fights, loud shootings, hot guys, hot girls, hip characters and, of course, lame but memorable one-liners. The A-Team has all of this. So I can honestly say, it's the most fun two hours that I've had recently. Let me just say right off the bat, you cannot feed too much into the logic of this movie (the tank scene when they're amongst the clouds, for instance, makes absolutely no sense). But nor are you meant to. It's not even attempting to do anything else but pack in as many deafening explosions as possible and be entertaining in the process. Is logic going to stop you from a date with this bout of mindless joy? Go into the cinema, switch off your brain and get ready to have fun. 'Cause that's exactly what the movie is. It can be summed up in that one single word: FUN. The reviews are being far too harsh. "Messy", sure. "Silly", you bet. But "boring" as one critic said? I definitely wasn't watching the same movie as them. And no, I'm not a sex-starved 17-year-old boy either, I'm a 25-year-old female who reads George Orwell and Ian McEwan.
The movie establishes its angle from the second that Liam Neeson (who I gotta say, may be looking a bit rough around the edges these days but is still HOT) appears on-screen. After narrowly escaping a nasty death at the hands of some dogs by clicking their heads together with a pair of handcuffs (which he was wearing a second ago!) and stepping out of the shadows to light up his cigar, you're immediately tipped off as to what you're in for, and receive that promise for the rest of the film. It's all to be jovial, and does it in spades; there is rarely a dull moment to be found. References and homages to the TV show are frequent, and work a treat; the nifty tattoo on BA's knuckles showcasing his most iconic quote is a delight. Who else would get chills seeing a huge vehicle crash through a screen in a mental hospital while a 3D version of the series was playing? Who else would feel their heart flip when Face falls off the canon that he's firing while the tank that it's sitting on is thousands of miles up in the air? And most importantly, who else would be thrilled to see eternal nice guy Patrick Wilson FINALLY being a bad-ass?! The whole film is like this - illogic, quirkiness for the sake of it and fun, fun, FUN!
This rocks! It'll put a smile on your face. The cast are great, the action is superb, the humour works just fine for the film that it is, you cheer for the good guys from start to finish, and as a plus, characters who aren't essential are given just the right amount of screen time that they deserve; no more no less - now THAT'S rare. If you don't care for cheesy action flicks then by all means, you'd be wise to give it a miss. But those who go to such a film expecting what it's meant to have, completely irrational escapism and nothing more, will find plenty here to interest them.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
VERY conflicted feelings about this one...
What a conundrum. It's impossible for me to give this movie one star because in many ways, it's far from a bad movie. The merits which it does have, and there are some, definitely exclude it from that general category. It is, in all fairness, visually stunning, technically brilliant, flawlessly directed, and an all-around treat for the eyes. It's loaded with a great voice cast, wicked creativity, witty dialogue, and a lot of clever ideas. Yet nor can I give it ten stars either. Because in spite of all of this, its stunning visuals and innovative imagination does not mean that I enjoyed it. I didn't. One bit.
For starters, hello? Helllooo, Road Dahl's story? Where are you? Look I understand that when you have a fairly short children's book you often need to pump it up with extra material in order to bring it up to the two-hour mark. No protests there. What I DO have protests about is when you not only add extra ideas but remove the old ones as well. Extra material can be forgiven as long as it's still entertaining and stays faithful to its inspiration. What isn't forgivable is when it's anything BUT faithful, to the point of betraying the book's spirit with its presence. Make no mistake, only a handful of references to the book manage to make it into this rendition - and even then, it almost feels like they're only there because the producers knew that they couldn't really get away with dropping ALL of the old stuff, so they added it as filler, as if to assert that they haven't forgotten what it is taht they're adapting. So woe big fans of the original story. Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of my favourite Road Dahl books when I was little but the manner in which they've twisted it here ensures that the joy which I remember is not captured. Spoilers FYI...
One of the things that made the book so heartwarming was the fact that Mr. & Mrs. Fox had such a sweet and loving relationship. In the movie, perhaps in an attempt to modernise it (and God knows why, it's a kid's story people! Why the cynicism?), Mr. & Mrs. Fox have been altered into a squabbling married couple. The sweetness of the story is almost entirely absent here. It crosses over the line into being depressing. It comes complete with a fight scene in which she hits him, making him cry, and leaving a claw mark across his face which he has for the rest of the movie (domestic violence?). Cripes, there's even a scene where she says that she shouldn't have married him; a comment which she never takes back. And by God, there's another scene where he goes on a suicide mission, agreeing to turn himself in so that the other animals can be spared, and she makes no attempt to stop him. This isn't exactly what I would call uplifting. OK, so it has happy ending, but by that stage I was so disheartened by what had happened up to then that it was impossible to feel moved. This is because the falling-out scenes were painfully drawn-out, while the make-up scenes were merely glossed over. The result, I have to say, makes the ending highly unsatisfying.
George Clooney has a sexy voice as always, and Meryl Streep is great for this kind of role because her voice is so maternal and softly-spoken that it creates the perfect Ying to George's Yang. As I mentioned earlier, the voice cast is great; Jason Schwartzman is brilliant as the son, as is Eric Anderson as the nephew, and everybody else fits their roles like a glove. But the charm of these characters has been so diluted that the actors behind them can't make up for the total lack of engagement, connection and poignancy. Even the jokes, which admittedly can be very sharp in a number of scenes, are not able to take your mind off just how uninvolving the story is. Basically, this is a movie in which they've tried to be edgy so as to appeal to older audiences. Which is fine because this CAN be done successfully; when done right you get a film which keeps adults and children ntertained in equal measure. When done wrong, you get the likes of this, which tries so hard to be watchable for adults that it ends up losing its heart.
Elsewhere, certain scenes are taken in totally unnecessary directions before they have a chance to really get interesting in order to make way for the story's new trappings. The best character in the movie, by far, is Rat, who is superbly and flawlessly voiced by William Dafoe. But what's this, Rat is in it for all of two scenes, and is then killed off. Man. There was so much more room for him, and instead they got rid of him early so that they could go into the all-new (and completely pointless) suplot of Fox's nephew being kidnapped. That's the all-around approach with this movie - bumping off things which could have been entertaining in favour of focusing on things which aren't. There's a scene involving a wolf which I asbolutely failed to see the point of; conversations which don't go anywhere; scenes which ended after two minutes without serving any integral purpose to the plot; and who knows why Owen Wilson was given fifth billing, he's in it for ONE scene!
So those who enjoyed the novel with have trouble with this. Its energy, slickness, animation and special effects are of such an astonishing standard that they're worth the five stars that I gave it alone. But due to the way in which they warped the story with only a pedestrian payoff at the end, that's all I'm giving it. Dahl virgins approach with open mind; Dahl fans beware.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
FINALLY, a smart, funny movie!
While his most recent credits don't really do this comparison much justice, this is undoubtedly Ben Stiller's best for quite some time. Quite apart from the fact that I think it says a lot about Ben Stiller as a person that he directed, co-wrote and starred in this film while still graciously giving all of the best lines to somebody else, TT gives every actor of the piece a chance to have a blast with their characters and is undoubtedly a wicked career high for everybody involved.
The three fake trailers at the beginning of the movie immediately tip you off as to what you're in for, and are a nice touch: it's cool to see a film biting the hand that feeds it and taking a dig at hackneyed Hollywood prototypes, paying no attention to the kind of backlash that it might get in response. Scorcher VI is just the kind of big-budget rubbish that Tinseltown wouldn't hesitate to produce ("Here we go again...AGAIN" lol) while Jack Black's vehicle The Fatties is particularly amusing because it looks so authentic - I think we can all agree that it's very much the kind of movie which could so easily become a real franchise, of which Jack Black could VERY easily become the real star. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.
But of course it's no secret that the whole film just belongs to Robert Downey Jnr., and not just because of his audacious decision to take part in something that could inevitably bring him controversy. His wonderful execution and priceless one-liners are so pitch-perfect that you'll be too busy laughing to worry about how un-PC it all is (and let's face it, when have PC jokes ever been funny?). Furthermore, the role is clearly not meant to be a swipe at black people; it's more of a swipe at that breed of over-confident dramatic actors who take their work so seriously that they're usually willing to do whatever it takes to become a character, even if it means absorbing themselves into the role in such a demoralising and over-the-top way. I dare say that we can all think of an actor along these lines. So hats off to Robert, who handles his part with such silliness, bravery and - dare I say it - heart that you've just got no choice but to love him. The scene in which Kirk and the others go to rescue Tugg from the POW camp ("HERE'S MY MOTHERF**KIN' FARM!!") has got to qualify as the coolest movie moment of 2008.
All of the other cast members are equally impressive and milk what they've got to offer for all that it's worth. Jay Baruchel does a great job with his role, while Brandon T. Jackson is awesome as the typically cocky rapper who actually has a brain underneath the hood ("There's no S in Viet Cong. It's already plural. You wouldn't say 'Chineses'!"). As a plus, one of the most notable things about this movie is the fact that the secondary characters are given just as much to do as the frontrunning ones - somewhat of a rarity in cinema these days, movies in general and comedies in particular.
Anybody who doesn't watch this because of its subject matter is missing out on a great time. What can I say, each to his own, but I think that TT nicely caters to all of the areas which its target audience would be hoping for; comedy, action, suspense, intrigue and good acting. Even Matthew McConaughey, somebody who I can normally take or leave in movies, manages to be appealing in his character, while Tom Cruise is wildly outstanding as the sleazy executive producer whom he probably had great fun playing.
It loses two stars for its pacing, which does suffer a little in places (occasionally scenes drag on) and I'm saving my ten-star rating for something really spectacular, but ultimately TT is a slick, fun and hilarious ride that definitely deserves multiple views. Mr. Stiller, PLEASE give the romantic comedies a rest and do more films like this.
Yes Man (2008)
Love Jim Carrey, but definitely wouldn't sit through this again,
I went into this movie trying not to expect too much from it. Lord knows, Hollywood has been pumping out so much crap recently that it's difficult to think of any movie worth getting excited about, and a movie nearly always seems to be more satisfying when you arrive knowing that it's unlikely to be more than it's advertised as. But I've always loved Jim Carrey and, with the exception of Number 23 (because I heard so much negativity about that film that I just couldn't be bothered) always make an effort to try and catch everything that he's in. And with this film getting positive reception from so many places, I crossed my fingers and went in for the grating two hours.
In three words, I was disappointed. As usual, Jim makes for an endearing and likable leading man (even if he is starting to look a little long in the tooth) and I really can't imagine anybody else pulling off this kind of role but him. And really, that goes without saying; it's hard to name any film where Jim hasn't been likable. But the script was so annoyingly stupid that it really made it hard to get into the story. Maybe I'm just bitter and cynical (all of my friends kept gushing afterward about how they found the movie "inspiring" and kept telling me to lighten up) but having to suspend this much belief in a comedy is always going to make for a prickly ride.
I ended up having so many issues with the screenplay that it's hard to know where to begin. Yes, I guess if you go through life constantly saying no to everything then you ARE going to miss out on opportunities, but to go to the opposite extreme and start saying yes to everything is not necessarily a better idea. It is, after all, what gets numerous people taking advantage of him - including his so-called friends, one of whom cons him into arranging his fiancé's bridal shower and another who even moves into his house while he's away - and ultimately taints his relationship with his love interest, when she finds out the truth behind his constant agreeing to things (and there's another problem; if you ask me her reasons for getting mad at him were really not that reasonable).
So why couldn't they just admit at the end that saying yes to everything is actually just as stupid as saying no to everything? Oh, that's right - because if you dare say no to anything then suddenly bad things will miraculously happen to you, even though that never happened to Jim when he said no to things BEFORE attending the self-help seminar. Which brings silly inconsistency into the script which it doesn't need, and makes the film that much less believable. If you're going to feature a supernatural subplot in a film, then it better have a fitting place for it. This kind of movie doesn't have that place.
And oh, how it runs out of steam towards the end. It doesn't even seem to know what it's trying to say, which was probably inevitable when you've got a concept as muddled as this, and ultimately solid proof for why they shouldn't have bothered. As a direct result, it gets so bored and desperate to wrap everything up that it finishes by resolving the ending only halfheartedly. To drag us through that kind of frustration is unforgivable in itself, but to conclude it with an ending both contrived, implausible and lacking in any decent sense is a right kick in the teeth. The part in which Jim reconciles with Zooey was so badly written that it left me wishing they HADN'T gotten back together, and the final quote from Terrance Stamp - "say yes because you have to believe that it's what you really want" - is so removed from what he was preaching before that it just makes the whole film look confused. What he really should've said was, "Find a balanced happy medium in your life - say no where necessary and yes where necessary, so that you don't pick up a manipulative homeless man and get into trouble with the FBI".
The movie is not without it's chuckles. The scene in which the withered old lady gives Jim oral pleasure was a surprising highlight. But the rest of the film was befuddled, silly, unconvincing and uneven, with an unsatisfying ending that won't admit to any of its mistakes. By all means, nice to see Jim back on top again at the box office, but definitely a case where a box office blockbuster doesn't automatically equate to a good film.
The special effects were impressive. That's about it.
You know you've got a bad movie when the best actor in it is the robot.
I admit I was looking forward to seeing this film after I found out that Martin Freeman'd be playing Arthur. Just before seeing it, I saw an interview with him where he was saying that the downside to playing his star-making role Tim Canterbury in The Office is the fact that it becomes very difficult to crawl out from underneath the shadow of a character like Tim after playing him for so long. Well Martin, if you want to crawl out from underneath that shadow, then playing Arthur Dent in this brainless excuse for a movie is not the best direction to go in. He'd showed such magical comic ability with parts in The Office, Ali G, and Hardware...Hitchhiker's, sorry to say, is a considerable step backwards.
The good news is, it's not solely Martin's fault. By no means should all of the blame be laid on him. He does his best with what he has to work with. Problem is, what he has to work with is so damn little, there's just no way that he can save it. The main issues here are the terrible script and the fact that there's so little weight to the story. Not a trace of depth anywhere. The characters are paper-thin and the plot line tries to cram so many different adventures into it that there's no time to get absorbed into anything. There's an escape subplot, a highjack subplot, some other subplot that's no more engaging than the other two - it's all so convoluted that by the end your head's spinning. We'll put it this way: I've watched the movie and don't have a clue what it's about.
And no, you won't necessarily understand it any better if you're at all familiar with the Doug Adams' kickstarter on which this drivel is based, because they didn't even have the decency to stay faithful to their source material. It's NOTHING like the show. It's quite clear that they just took the main hook of the stories and then rewrote the rest according to what THEY thought were good ideas. About the only thing that this movie has in common with its originator is the remaining of the characters' names. As such, fans of the TV series will really just be furious that the producers completely ignored everything about the show which made that work and replaced it with pointless gobble-de-gook. So the movie against the tome can be summed up quite simply: it's less funny, and it all feels slightly more forced, as if they're using a pair of pliars to wrench your mouth into a grin.
Exhibit A: the terribly developed love story between Arthur and Trillian. Memo to Hollywood morons: if you really MUST feature a love story in your remake that never took place in the original, then kindly follow the three rules of a good romance: make it sweet, make it believable, and for God's sake GIVE IT A FITTING PLACE IN THE STORYLINE. The "love story" in this film does none of these. I NEVER understand why Arthur falls for Trillian. They meet at a party where she invites him to come away with her, telling him that she just "has to get away". Now never mind the fact that no sane person would ask somebody whom they'd JUST MET to come away to another country with them; because he says no (so he's the sensible one, in other words) she decides that he's not worth it. Go figure. So when they next meet, she's ditched him to take off with Sam Rockwell because he flies a sweet spaceship that has nifty gadgets and walk-in closets. Oh SHE'S likable!! And HE'S made fun of for "blowing it" with HER? By the end of the film, after also rescuing her from a near-death situation which she shows absolutely no gratitude for, Arthur has nevertheless decided that she's "The One".
How'd THAT happen?! Man I'd hate to think what his past girlfriends were like! These two haven't even had a chance to really get to know each other. At last count, there were only about three scenes in the entire film (count 'em, three) where they're actually left alone together to share a one-on-one conversation, and the few things that they do find out about each other they don't like. The rest of the movie was spent flying around the universe trying to save it. So where exactly did they find the time to fall in love throughout all of that? Nobody finds The One THAT quickly, after ten minutes of talking and having nothing in common anyway.
Exhibit B: the story itself. Nonsense. Characters pop up for no good reason, while entire scenes are played out just to get a good stunt in. The pace is too slow in the wrong places and too fast in others. You'll get through one scene and before you have time to work out what the purpose of that scene was for, it's abandoned and no longer needed. That whole thing about "The Ultimate Question" absolutely baffled me - I'm still hard-pressed to name what exactly the point to that scene was. And about three-quarters through the film it really didn't matter anymore, because I'd lost so much interest in the story that I honestly didn't care what was going to happen.
The characters are moronic, the story sucks, the premise is atrociously executed...one of the MOST disappointing of 2005. Avoid. 2 stars out of ten for, as I mentioned earlier, the manic-depressive robot who works on board the ship, probably the only funny creature in the film and easily the most believable out of everybody else there. I swear man, it's a sign.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Sorry it just doesn't work...
When I first heard about the premise of Lars and the Real Girl and everybody involved in it, I was psyched. I'm always open to films that go against the typical Hollywood formula, and am forever on the hunt for deep, meaty, interesting films to watch. The concept in this film sounded great. There was so much potential in this. It oozes originality and has a great cast. I thought "Ryan Gosling in a non-conventional role, even looking a little pudgy, playing a guy who's so damaged and incapable of relating to people that he can only find solace in an inaminate object - an encumbrance which all of his friends come to accept by running's end? Sounds nice and juicy, I'm there."
In theory it's a heartwarming concept, and means that pointing out the resulting movie's failures makes you feel like a big ol' meanie. So much has been said already about how completely implausible it is that working that into your review probably sounds like the easiest cheap shot. But the plain fact is that this so-called "comedy" is a ludicrous, insulting and manipulative piece of dreck which doesn't so much press your buttons as shatter them with a sledgehammer. For a start, Nancy Oliver shoots herself in the foot from page one by first of all picking a subject that doesn't even make for comedy material (mental illness) and trying to add humour to it by featuring cutesiness between characters and amusing shots of a sex doll "socialising".
This just doesn't wash. The extreme unrealism of the story from start to finish means that by the end of its running, an impressive cast and inventine idea just can't save the film, or the respect of any viewer with an IQ above 50. We're meant to buy everything that it throws at us, when half the time the movie can't even make up its own mind what it is. Is it a comedy or a drama? Well as I said before, mental illness is not something that you can make jokes out of. I myself have had the misfortune of knowing people who've suffered from it. I can honestly say that it's nothing like the picture that they've tried to depict here, nor did everybody in the town that I live in go that far out of their way to help us. And if it's supposed to be a drama, then downplaying it this much and loading it with whimsical light heartedness makes the dramatic aspects of it impossible to take seriously. Go with ONE genre and STICK with it.
By no means any fault of the actors'. But the constant (dare I repeat myself) cutesiness and bubbly humour wears thin so quickly, even before the second half, that I got to a point where I failed to care about any of the characters or their motives. It almost feels like the sweetness has been thrown in to distract you from just how idiotic the plot is. It already goes without saying that there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that EVERYBODY in the town would go along with Lars' fantasy, but what a few people don't seem to have mentioned is why (or at least one reason why) this is so ridiculous: because aside from anything else not EVERYBODY in the town would know him. I'm constantly getting people telling me, "Man, it's a small town, and small towns are very self-involved." The town that I live in is very small as well. Do I know everybody who lives in it? No. And even those who I DO know - would they go THAT far out of their way for me, if they found out that I was having dillusions that caused me to fall in love with a sex doll? Look I suppose there's no harm in a little wishful thinking, but there has to be some level of credibility. And the part where the doctors take Bianca to the hospital, which would mean that they'd have to shun real-life patients who were actually sick in order to cater to her problems in the process? Really...
People are NOT that open-minded, not even in small towns. Wherever you go in the world, and whatever the size of the domain, there will always be accepting good-hearted people, and unaccepting cold-hearted people. Sweet people do exist (even if they are bloody hard to find) but they are rarely without mean people around to balance them up. I don't see why this town that Lars lives in would be an exception. If it is, then somebody tell me where I can find this place straightaway. Otherwise, feel free to come back down to Earth with the rest of us. We suffer through reality, why shouldn't you.
Suffice it to say, this is a pretty awful movie. I only gave it one extra star for the effort of the film's remarkable and very brave lead. No doubt, a fine performance from Mr. Gosling, who definitely deserves his "next big thing" tag, but beyond that, everything else about this movie is excruciatingly stupid.