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~ Kindest Regards
Go See Hairspray!
This is one I'd looked forward to since laughing uncontrollably at the trailer...
~Plot/Writing/Direction~ A combination of the original film, and the Broadway musical adaptation. Tracey Turnblad is obsessed with dancing, and she and her best friend love watching the Corny Collins show every day after school. When an open audition to get on the show is announced, she and her friend jump at the chance, but are scoffed at by the dismissive, self-consumed and shallow previous winner Amber Von Tussle, and her meddling mother, Velma. After some encouragement from her unusual parents, Tracey fights back and makes people notice her. She manages to get a place on the show, but she hasn't heard the last of Velma Von Tussle.
The musical numbers were written for comic effect, rather than quality. But they are all ultimately (with the exception of a few at the beginning) very catchy, and some are particularly good (such as the one performed by Queen Latifah during the march, and the duet between Walken and Travolta). The dialogue throughout is glazed with cheesiness; bad puns and corny one liners, and typical "I'll get you Gadget!"-style lines for the villainous characters.
~Cast~ Well, you have a great line-up of well-established stars here. John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, and notable smaller parts for cast members of the original such as Jerry Stiller. All of whom are used extremely well. Going into this film, I didn't expect to see much of these stars in the actual dance/song sequences, but all of them take part at some stage.
If you can adjust to the whole "I'm a man in a dress" gag and an obvious play on what sounds like Dr. Evil's voice, then John Travolta's Edna Turnblad should be a favourite. Ultimately, the fact that we found the character so hilarious is because we're aware that it's John Travolta wearing a fat suit and lots of make-up. Regardless, he's a scene-stealer and 9 people out of 10 will say that he was their favourite. Pfeiffer plays a fantastic villain, and looks incredibly good for her age, too.
Christopher Walken was again a delight to watch. I say 'again' because everyone knows he's incapable of giving a poor performance, no matter how bad everything else is around him. He plays Tracey's father, the quirky shopkeeper of a joke store. We see him do a fantastic rom-com duet with Travolta, try to fight off a smouldering Pfeiffer and even distract security guards by dressing as a woman. He's used to great effect in the film.
Still, you can't take anything away from the great new discovery, Nikki Blonsky who is nigh-on flawless as Tracey. Amanda Bynes is rather good too. I dislike Zac Efron, however, and think his casting was a corny mistake which dragged the film down a little. But he made the best of a bad job anyway. James Marsden and Elijah Kelly were also very capable in the roles they played.
~Music~ As aforementioned, while the lyrics themselves were obviously written chiefly to make audiences chuckle, the songs improve as the movie progresses. The dancing is sharp and generally spot-on, though. Every musical number is visually stunning.
~Summary~ I think this film has a very wide appeal, the average cinema-goer will enjoy it from start to finish. There are also a lot of messages in the film, for the more thoughtful and analytic viewer. I personally think that anyone who criticises Travolta for dressing as a woman is being over-dramatic, and foremost stupid. They're wrong, too. So, I think what I've been trying to say throughout this review is: "Go See Hairspray"!
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Enjoyable, but nothing special
~Plot/Writing/Direction~ Under this heading comes our first, and biggest problem: There are too many story lines going on at once. I mean, you've got 3 villains, plus each of their backgrounds, MJ's troubles, Harry's numerous changes of heart, 2 different Spidermans, competition between Parker and Eddie Brock at the newspaper, Gwen Stacy, and more. What was great about Spiderman 2, was that the plot was much more visible and focused; all you had to deal with was Parker's inner struggle, and his relationship with MJ, and his fight against the villain, Doc Ock. Additionally, I thought the writing was a tad flat and uninspired; perhaps a surprise considering it was written by veteran, Alvin Sargent (although he wrote Spiderman 2 alone, but co-wrote 3 with Sam and Ivan Raimi - so maybe that had something to do with it).
~Cast~ Really, no stand-out performances among the main cast. The character of MJ is a bit of a useless brat in this film, and I never much liked Kirsten Dunst, who doesn't make any of her feelings in the film look genuine. Tobey Maguire was competent, but was painful to watch during Peter Parker's eye-liner-clad bad boy scenes (yeah, what was that all about anyway? Talk about losing the plot!). Franco was annoying as he was in the previous two; but that's mainly due to the kind of character he had to work with. Still, he didn't make a convincing villain, and the same can be said for Topher Grace, who was irritating before he became the vastly under-written Venom. Much better were Thomas Haden Church, who succeeded in bringing us a villain for whom we had an ounce of sympathy. Bryce Dallas Howard played her part well, as did J.K Simmons (yet again). The highlight of the film, however, had to be Bruce Campbell as the Maître d'. Hilarious.
~Music~ Bit of a mish-mash score here. Danny Elfman was hired, as he was for the previous two, but had a falling out with Sam Raimi and left the project. Christopher Young was brought in to score the film, but film chiefs thought he did a poor job and replaced some of his work with snippets of music recycled from previous Spiderman/Danny Elfman films. Still, the sentimental moments worked, and Christopher Young did a decent enough job. Even so, I think Elfman's scores, while they do the trick, have never been phenomenal in any respect.
~Other~ For a film with a $260 million dollar budget, the effects didn't blow me away as I had much expected them to. The visuals in both the first two films weren't overly impressive either, so it didn't bother me all that much. The best parts (with regard to visual effects) were undoubtedly the Sandman's scenes.
~Summary~ Well it kept me entertained for its lengthy running time. Solid cast, a plot that was overcrowded but enjoyable enough, and a lot of polish, owed to it's huge-ass budget. Should certainly appeal to the masses, and is likely to go on to be one of the most financially successful films of all-time. But after the great Spiderman 2, I can't help but think Raimi has let the side down a little.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
~Plot/Writing/Direction~ Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the most outstanding officer in the Metropolitan Police Service. His arrest record is 400% higher than any of his colleagues. In fact, he's so good that his superiors (Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan and Martin Freeman) re-assign him. They send him off to Sandford, a little village in the South-West of England where nothing remotely exciting ever happens. But it isn't long before Angel has to contend with gruesome murders and strange townsfolk.
This film is mocking the typical American action film by being set in a small village in the English countryside. It is a clear cross between The Wicker Man, and all of those buddy-cop films (with a pinch of horror, too). There are numerous films which Hot Fuzz parodies, or makes (in)direct references to, including; The Munsters, Dirty Harry, Chinatown, The Omen, An American Werewolf in London, Masters of the Universe, Die Hard, Bad Boys, Point Break, Lethal Weapon, Crocodile Dundee, Jurassic Park, Judge Judy, and even the team's earlier film, Shaun of the Dead. So, as a send up of all of these big budget American thrillers, it's fantastic viewing. The comedy and dialogue between the two central characters is brilliant, and the one-liners are purposefully (but wonderfully) cheesy. The story eventually builds to one of the most unbelievable climaxes in an action film for years, and it's simply unmissable.
~Cast~ Flawless. What's great about this film, as well as everything else, is that it's full of familiar faces. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are excellent yet again, providing a good contrast to one another. Their back-up is superb in the form of screen veterans Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward, Timothy Dalton (who must be the highlight of the film for me), Billie Whitelaw, Paul Freeman, and numerous others. And they're all put to tremendously good use in the explosive final-third of the picture.
~Music~ Most of the film is full to the brim with songs from the likes of Adam Ant, the Kinks, Supergrass, Arthur Brown, the Fratellis, Dire Straits, T. Rex and the Troggs. But in-between is a good effort from Bond-composer David Arnold. He succeeds particularly in the action sequences towards the end of the film, and notably works in themes which are reminiscent of classic Westerns and cop films while maintaining a modern, techno-sound.
~Summary~ I think this film has a very wide appeal, but it is people who can spot the references and appreciate the casting of the supporting characters who will enjoy it the most. It's laugh-out-loud funny, but is far more than your run-of-the-mill action-comedy. It's witty, clever, and the final third of the film left me speechless. If you didn't/don't catch it at the cinema, it's a shame. But if you don't catch it on DVD either, you don't know what you're missing.
White Noise 2: The Light (2007)
Worth Your Money
White Noise 2: The Light. Judging by the arguably cheesy title and the simple fact that there was absolutely no need for a sequel to a somewhat below average film, I didn't go in with high expectations.
Note that this film has absolutely nothing to do (plot-wise) with the original. Abraham Dale's (Nathan Fillion) wife and son are killed right in front of him. Absolutely broken, and blaming himself - he tries to commit suicide, and has a near-death experience. When he wakes up, he finds that he can sense when someone is about to die, and eventually gets to work on saving them. But he soon makes a shocking discovery and realises that perhaps changing the course of history wasn't such a good idea.
Nathan Fillion carries the film well on his own, and is good at portraying an emotionally numb hero. His back up isn't too bad; though Sackhoff is a little annoying at the best of times - Craig Fairbrass was a good choice for his semi-villainous role.
To get straight to the problems; there are some unexpected (and completely unnecessary) shocks throughout the film. They appear to have little to do with the story and are simply there to catch the audience out. This is fair enough, but you get a sense that the filmmakers are simply trying too hard to scare you. There are a couple of sequences where Fillion's character is re-united with his family; but the way the director has chosen to show it is a little laughable (Fillion's character begins to float through a large portal towards a white light). Not very original. The film's ending could have been very strong if they'd cut off the final couple of minutes; I think you'll see what I mean.
But overall, the film is certainly worth the watch. Nathan Fillion succeeds in bringing us a character we care for, and makes the audience side with him. There is a lot of dramatic irony in the film which works very well at the climax, and there are a number of quite touching moments throughout. To put it simply, White Noise 2 has far surpassed the original and despite a few drawbacks, is worth the price of the ticket.
Casino Royale (2006)
Bond - Back in action!
I was neither for or against the casting of Daniel Craig, and went into this movie with an absolutely open mind.
I'm glad they've established Bond's brutality straight away in the pre-credits sequence (though was initially wondering where the gun-barrel was). Mind you, wasn't it rather pointless? I mean, in many previous films the pre-credits sequence has set everyone up for the rest of the film and its plot. If this was simply to prove that Bond has been re-invented, well, I don't think it was all that effective.
LOVED the titles, and the Chris Cornell song. They both blended well, and, were it not for the fact that I didn't know the words, I'd probably have sung along too. Bond songs have been rather lame of late; DAD was awful, TWINE and TND were far too slow and mellow. So it was nice for a change - as well as a male singer finally! Speaking of music, I was most impressed with the score - Arnold's best for sure.
The beginning of the film was strong overall - and the action sequences were superb. It was the middle part of the film that I really enjoyed - the poker game was so incredibly tense; I mean, I don't even know how to play it, but I felt like I was sat around that table with them. Some people have complained that the film lagged during these bits; but I think the very subtle showdown was one of the film's greatest highlights.
The torture sequence was painful to watch, but I think it was necessary to have Bond put through a real test - and also to see Le Chiffre's darker side. Vesper's betrayal and death was quite effective - one of the few effective moments in what I thought was a comparatively weak and unsatisfying ending.
I'll go through some individual characters and state my own thoughts; James Bond:- Brilliant. I must admit that I always prefer the villains in Bond movies, but here, watching the man himself was a highlight. I disagree that he is ugly, or doesn't fit the role. His lighter hair is one of the most ridiculous things anyone could complain about - because it doesn't matter one bit. Craig has the look, the physicality, the character and style of an all-new Bond down to a T. I'd like to think this man will be around for at least two or three more films.
Vesper Lynd:- Quite simply the best Bond girl for decades. I found her intriguing at first, and then, as did Bond, I warmed to her greatly as her character shone through. Eva Green was the perfect girl for the part, and she was everything you could hope for. Her death was very effective, and made me feel for Bond.
Le Chiffre:- Right, this is where I start complaining. I didn't think Le Chiffre was particularly good at all. He looked relatively menacing, and was set up to be a dangerous man - but when it came down to it - what was he? What henchmen he had (who, to be honest, I can't even remember) were completely ineffective. Second of all, he didn't look anything like he was supposed to. Throughout the film he never looked like he had any real control over anything, and he was totally underused. His death was absolutely pathetic, far too early, and at the hands of Mr White - who himself didn't look at all menacing. I firmly believe that Bond should dispatch the main villain himself, at the film's conclusion, in a tense duel. Not that the villain should be killed rather suddenly by some boring character three quarters of the way through the film. Summing up, I don't believe Le Chiffre achieved anything - he was plain, like all his henchmen. His death was just part of what made the film's conclusion weak for me.
Felix Leiter - Were he to be used in future Bond films, I could see the character - and Jeffrey Wright - being used to good effect. Here, he had no real purpose.
To sum up; Strong beginning, very strong middle, and a rather so-so ending which left me unsatisfied. The villains in general were some of the weakest I've seen for a long time - even DAD's were better - simply because of Miranda Frost. TWINE had Elektra King. Hell, even TND had a more memorable villain in Carver - and had the fantastic Dr. Kaufman. But I have to say that the rest of the film thoroughly made up for it - I'm not quite ready to rank it amongst all the others - but for now I can certainly confirm it's in my top quarter. Bond is back in action - roll on Bond 22!
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Fantastic end to a strong trilogy
I had high expectations of the final film in the X-Men trilogy.
I wasn't disappointed.
The action was not only superb, but non-stop from start to finish. There were many shocks throughout the film. This began with the death of Cyclops (in all honesty he was useless, and they had to do something with him), and followed by Mystique being cured of her abilities. Xavier's death was probably the biggest shock though, but all of this was handled very well and was great viewing. Another was the moment Magneto was cured also -- but it was better than having him die instead. There were heaps of moments I loved watching; Beast and the Juggernaught during the battle at the end. Kitty was great, and Bobby was much less annoying. McKellen's Magneto again stole the show for me; and I love his line "What have I done?!" as he retreated helplessly at the end of the battle.
As a whole the cast performed very well. There wasn't much for Famke Janssen to do - and because of the amount of action there was little room for deep, moving performances. That's why, again, McKellen shone through. The film's conclusion was perfect, as were those of the previous two films (the first in particular). This was my favourite though:- we see a sad, somewhat withered-looking Magneto (or Eric) playing chess alone, without his old friend Xavier, and he attempts to move the metal chess pieces using his powers - and one of them twitches before it cuts to the credits. EXCELLENT - wonderful end for a film.
All in all you'd be missing out if you didn't see the film in its full glory at the cinema. Go now - take a stand!
V for Vendetta (2005)
Quite a ride!
Having followed the film's production for a year, I couldn't wait to see this film earlier today.
Overall it impressed me; based on a graphic novel and a comic released during the 80's, the film is set in London, after the third world war (which we, this time, lost). Britain is now a totalitarian society, and the United States ceases to be entirely. Controlling the British government is madman Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt), who gets concerned when a rebellious anti-hero known only as V (Hugo Weaving) blows up London landmark buildings. Dressed as Guy Fawkes, V plans to destroy the houses of parliament as part of his war against the oppressive regime. He teams up with unlikely ally Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman).
This film does not, as hinted in trailers, have a great deal of action; but where there is action, it's spectacular. Instead the film focuses on characters Evey and V, and their respective backgrounds and reasons for hating the government. V systematically goes about terminating all of the leaders of the government until he feels justice has been done. The V character is intriguing; well played by Hugo Weaving, even if his real face isn't seen at all! He's very knowledgeable in all subjects, and unmatched in combat; Weaving portrays this well along with some nice comic touches here and there, as you become more familiar with the character. Portman is at her best, too; managing to convey the horror of the nightmares through which her character has suffered. The supporting cast all give solid performances, with a nod, in particular to John Hurt who's character is never seen in the flesh; only on a monitor/television screen.
I really would recommend this one; I myself will have to go and see it again. It's not watered down by needless action or CGI; everything's done for a reason and it comes together extremely well.
Mark my words; this will develop a cult following over the coming years!