Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Best and Worst Of 2007 In Film

A couple of years ago, this was my first (official) film article. This was before I decided to review every film possible, and so it shows the early stages of my film critique. As an oddity it can be enjoyed, but certainly the opinions expressed in it are very much the same today. Kudos.

The title pretty much says it all for you. Another year of films, yakity yak, you know the drill. None the less, I believe that 2007 saw the release of many fantastic films and, inevitably, some real stinkers. What follows is my opinions on the best and the worst of 2007. Enjoy or not. Also, feel free to bombard this blog with comments, as I am interested to hear other peoples opinions on the recent batch of films in discussion.

Hot Fuzz

Black Sheep

Knocked Up

And the winner is- Black Sheep

Personally, I found Black Sheep to be easily one of the funniest films to be released in the past decade, on par with the now classic comedy of the decade, Borat. While Hot Fuzz delivers the kicks for real film smarks (the more you have seen, the better) and Knocked Up was a great laugh with a genuinely touching story, making it a non-spineless "dirty joke ha-ha" comedy, it is Black Sheep's non-commercialism that makes it such a good film. Granted, it would certainly not be for everyones tastes (this was one of my all-time favourite cinema attendances, the Oddyssey with about twelve people in the screening, including myself and my dad, and at least four or five walk-outs), but anyone who appreciates great Black humour (excuse the pun) at the expense of about a couple hundred sheep and New Zealanders, treat yourself to a rare treat. Be warned, this film contains an excess of gore, violence and flatulence.



The Host


And the winner is- The Host

The Host this year definitely proved to make an impact on the international film spectrum, being known as the "giant tadpole" monster movie. But the film in the end is not about the giant tadpole. It acts as a catylst to the true story of the film, the bonding of an estranged family for a mutual cause. Beautifully acted by some of the best Korea has to offer, including star of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance Song Kang-ho, The Host acts not only as an effective monster movie which is appealing to commercial audience, a study on a family in turmoil, but a thinly hidden criticism of American politics (note Agent Yellow) in the vein of the class Dead series by George Romero. Two thumbs up.


The Simpsons Movie


I Am Legend

And the winner is- I Am Legend

I Am Legend is the winner of this award for a number of reasons as it has the honour(?) of being the reason behind my newly-founded I Am Legend theory. Every one of these films nominated suffered from this, where it was a case of I genuinely wanted to say that this was a fantastic film. The Simpsons Movie suffered from this to a lesser extent because I wasn't expecting much, suprised in some ways which harked back to the older seasons, but essentially it was an amalganation of the best and the worst of The Simpsons. I genuinely enjoyed Sunshine, and it was a film which was reserved on the calender for me. Well-acted, claustrophobic tension, well-directed, but two flaws which really bothered me. One, should have left (SPOILER ALERT) the former Icarus I crew member an unseen mystery and two, the drastic change of tone in the ending. The ending is too upbeat in my opinion and simply does not fit in with what has preceded (SPOILER END). I guess my high expectations killed it. The feeling is mutual, albeit more strongly to I Am Legend. Like the previous, well-acted, well-made, blah, blah. What I simply could not stand was the fact that both the gunned up, tanked Will Smith and the audience were supposed to be terrified of the mutants, which were essentially badly-done CGI slabs of meat. Also, like the previous, but once again even worse, the changed ending from what was intended, in order to make it more upbeat, in the end, destroys the film for me. The I Am Legend theory is explained thus: I Am Legend was a film which had many great merits and I wanted to enjoy, but could not because of the abundance of flaws that effectively render the film annoying. And so, in honour of this most dubious honour, the award from next year on is known as THE I AM LEGEND CERTIFICATE OF DISSAPOINTMENT AWARD.



Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

28 Weeks Later

And the winner is- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Hands down on this one in terms of overall quality. While Vacancy was a great claustrophobic slasher in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 28 Weeks Later a perfectly good sequel to the original, Sweeney Todd was easily thr best horror film of the year. Overlooked at the Oscars, this film has all the makings of a film that will lauded as a classic in the future. Part traditional Hollywood musical, part Grand Guignol gorefest and part Burton, this adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's classic play is the perfect adaptation in every sense of the word. Burton (with the help of Sondheim) effectively rid the film of the subplots that riddle the play, stripping the film to it's bare neccessities and in the process avoding to lose focus on the true story, Sweeney's revenge. Wonderfully acted (and sung) by all involved, including the newcomers. Perhaps Tim Burton's most mature film, an infinite original and compelling character driven journey into madness, laden with tragic poignancy, yet remaining infinitely Burton-esque. Appealing to all, from fans of the vintage Hollywood musicals and the modern gorno fans.


28 Weeks Later

Die Hard 4.0

The Bourne Ultimatum

And the winner is- The Bourne Ultimatum

As mentioned previously, 28 Weeks Later was a perfectly satisfying sequel to the original 28 Days Later, upping the ante and optic for all out gorefest instead of the originals air of underlying tension. Die Hard 4.0 proved to a great film, with action-packed thrills, albeit in the most ludicrous way possible. The Bourne Ultimatum is my winner because not only did it match the originals, it surpassed both of them, creating perhaps the best closure of a film series in history. Whereas most other sequels were sticking to the format of "more is better," Paul Greengrass stuck the format that brought him to the dance. After Doug Liman's orginal Bourne Identity, Greengrass had a tough act to follow, and more than lived up to expectations, with each film better than the one that preceded before. Greengrass has proven to be one of the most interesting, docu-realist film-makers in cinema today, and after finishing the Bourne trilogy, will surely have a long and illustrious career. The case is the same with the driving force behind the trilogy, Matt Damon. Now established as one of Hollywood's main players, the subtle touches of human nature that he brings to Jason Bourne make him stand out from modern cinema tough guys in recent memory. For example, in the scene in which Nicky is dying her hair brings to mind the scene from the first film with Marie, and it is little things like this that make the Bourne series stand out from the crowd. In conclusion, a fantastic sequel that lives up to and surpasses expectations.


Knocked Up

Die Hard 4.0

Mr Bean's Holiday

And the winner is- Knocked Up

This one was a tough choice. Mr. Bean's Holiday qualified for the pure fact that contained a number of stereotypes towards the French which could be deemed as offensive. Which of course I have no problem with because the majority of them are true. For the latter half of Die Hard 4.0, we have John McClane taking a slightly over-the-top approach in angering the big bad villain, in which he consistenly refers to his dead girlfriend as the "smokin' hot asian bitch" while manically laughing. But Knocked Up definitely takes the buscuit. While I am personally not offended by none of these films, Knocked Up portrays the responsible, Katharine Heigl character in a very negative light in which she would be viewed as a bad parent, whereas the irresponsible, pot-smoking father is portrayed as a sympathetic figure. Not that any of this is wrong (after all, it is just a film), these stererotypes of men and in particular women could indeed offend alot of people, and it is for this reason that Knocked Up shall take the gold.



No Country For Old Men

The Bourne Ultimatum

And the winner is- No Country For Old Men

I know, ironic Fincher not taking the award that already has his name written all over it (the reason being that Fincher created the masterpiece Seven over a decade ago, which stands as one of the best examples of the modern thriller). Zodiac was a phenomenally well-researched chronicle of the infamous serious killer, which remained intensely interesting from start to finish, and I cannot sing my praises anymore regarding The Bourne Ultimatum. But I will start off by saying that No Country For Old Men was easily deserving in its winning of the Oscar for Best Picture. It is a fantastically well-crafted chase movie, which is one the most effective thrillers of recent years. I know this has become cliche for reviews regarding this film, but in order to have a good thriller, you need a good bad guy, and Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh is perhaps one of the best examples. Instantly immortalised in cinema history, Chigurh is created in the film as a character of mystery: He could from any country, between 30 and 50, his motives are of a nature which seem to lack moral fibre, but seem to be regimented in his own moral code and way of life. The character is such a mystery that by the end of the film we come to question the nature of his existence, forever moving from place to place in the way that a ghost effectively glides its way around. Besides Bardem, the rest of the cast, in particular Josh Brolin as Llewleyn Moss flourish in what is most definately the most mature film created by the Coen Brothers, acting as a great contrast to their usual brand of surreal humour. An instant classic.


Carice Van Houten (Black Book)


Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up)

And the winner is- Carice Van Houten (Black Book)

Each of the three actresses gave fine performances this year. As you could probably guess from earlier, I did indeed prefer Katharine Heigl's character in Knocked Up than others who may have found her annoying. But it is an annoying character because it is a realistic character. People found her annoying because in the midst of a laugh-out loud comedy, she seems to be plonk in the middle spoiling the fun. However, I genuinely enjoyed the performance and character, so kudos to Heigl. Also, she did have perhaps the best line of the year. I mean, would your girlfriend tell you to "fuck your bong." In INLAND EMPIRE, Laura Dern carries what is effectively a convulated mess, albeit a very interesting and disturbing mess, into the world that David Lynch has created. Under his masterful direction, she pulls off a multi-faceted performance that was robbed of a deserved Oscar nomination. However, the best female performance of the year was undoubtedly that of Carice Van Houten, who helps create what could have been a Paul Verhoeven Nazi titty flick into one the year's best, in what turns out to be a surprisingly restrained film, despite some old tastes of Verhoeven. Undoubtedly his most mature (I know, but it's a recurring thing this year) film to date, chronicling Nazi Germany in a way which it has never been seen before. A pet project of Verhoeven's for over twenty years, arguably the long development process paid off. But Van Houten is the real revelation, who as a relative newcomer to the international scene, carries the film alongside so of the world's best such as Sebastian Koch of The Lives of Other fame. Her performance as Jew who acts as a spy for a resistance group, her allignment is ambiguous, stuck between her religion and the man she loves.


Die Hard 4.0

28 Weeks Later


And the winner is- Die Hard 4.0

To be honest in terms of surprisingly good film in terms of quality, it should probably go to Transformers, a film which I was merely expecting to be a giant robot feitsh fest. I wasn't expecting great things of 28 Weeks Later, but I was certainly surprised by the quality of the film and the change of directing style from the original, giving director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo brings his own cards to the table, turning the original's extended drama in the horror environment to an ultraviolent rollercoaster of a film, which does take some interesting directions i.e. (SPOILER ALERT) Robert Carlyle, the film's "name" star spends half the movie as one of the infected, everyone who you expect not to die does (SPOILER END). However, in terms of the film that surpassed my expectations, the award must go to Die Hard 4.0. There has become a new trend in reviving franchises as of late since the release of Rocky Balboa. While we all do enjoy the nostalgia from watching our old heroes go onto the big screen one more time, was there really a need for a fourth Die Hard. Nonetheless, despite expecting to enjoy the movie to a certain extent (after it is Bruce Willis doing deadpan John McClane again), I didn't expect to enjoy it to the extent that I did. Yes, I know, it is stupid, over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, but if I enjoy a stupid, over-the-top blockbuster, so be it. I'm not going to lie. The film also contains adequate performances by the leads and supporting cast, in particular Bruce Willis as ever carrying the film. However, as I mentioned previously, it is stupid over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, I believe that the strong plot and villains justify such near insanity. I mean where else would you see a man walk on a jet plane and still not find it in the least annoying. Like 28 Weeks Later, Len Wiseman takes over the reins of the franchise and lends his own style to the playing field. The film that comes most to mind whenever watching this is Bad Boys II, another over-the-top blockbuster which I enjoyed and is criticised too harshly. Die Hard 4.0 is a non-stop rollercoaster from start to finish, laden with injokes and references to originals, Bruce Willis up to his usual and easily the best out of the "bigger is better" blockbuster trend.


Thomas Turgoose (This Is England)

Sam Riley (Control)

Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)

And the winner is- Sam Riley (Control)

This was a particularly hard category to judge for, but certainly not on par to the (heaven forfold) Best Film category. Other notable performances of the year include Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, among others. Thomas Turgoose, in his first film performance, is the centerpiece of Shane Meadows' one-hour-and-fourty minute masterpiece. He carries the film from the beginning to its conclusion, one of the best pointers in a film which is full of them. As mentioned earlier, Javier Bardem creates the iconic Anton Chigurh with gusto, making him perhaps the most memorable villain since Hannibal Lecter, a reason which gives me justice to give him the award. But this year, I believe that Sam Riley in the role of Ian Curtis was the best performance of 2007. I was mesmerised by the performance, easily the biggest merit of a great film, by which by the end of the film I was unable to seperate fact from fiction, as though we were in a time capsule, following Anton Corbijn's camera into the life and death of Ian Curtis. Riley effectively became Ian Curtis in this film, to the point where when now thinking of the face of Ian Curtis, I sometimes think of Sam Riley, and it is for this reason, in which he has penetrated my subconcious, that he gets my gong for Best Actor. Man, I need supporting categories next year.


David Fincher (Zodiac)

Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)

Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford)

And the winner is- David Fincher (Zodiac)

Each of the directors this year created great films, but their direction in particular stood out among the rest. Paul Greengrass stuck to his usual docu-realist style, giving an effective closure to the Bourne series, while Andrew Dominik's Jesse James was an amazing well-crafted double character study of Brad Pitt's Jesse James and Casey Affleck's Robert Ford. But David Fincher has to get the deuce for his meticulously researched and created three decade epic on the Zodiac killings and how they affect the lives of various people in the San Franciso Bay area. Taking five years to reach the screen, every little detail is in it's correct place, causing the film to almost be like a thirty-year documentary in style. Demanding the best of his actors, shooting at times over fifty takes, Fincher's epic journey certainly paid off in the end result. Many involved in the original Zodiac killings have praised Fincher's investigative style, for during filming he himself discovered things about the killings which were not previously known or thought of. Fincher's meticulousness and dedication to his craft gets him the award for me. That and not giving him the award with his name written all over it


White Noise: The Light (Patrick Lussier)

Deja Vu (Tony Scott)

Alien Versus Predator: Requiem (The Strause Brothers)

And the winner is- Deja Vu (Tony Scott)

I guess Tony Scott just got unlucky this year. Likewise with Knockey Up. The Strause Brothers would have been walking away from me with their awards (metaphorical or not) shoved up their ass for the hideous monstrosity that was Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem. White Noise: The Light did not win the award for the fact that, while it was a terrible film, it was too unintentionally funny to win the award (I guess in that sense, Ed Wood is the wrong name on the award. Oh well, go figure). Deja Vu wins the award for being the worst film of the year because it was one of the most annoying films of the past few years. This film attempts to be something new and original, yet remains over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, while also retaining every cliche possible for a single film, from the way the story unfolds to every the little things (okay, the fairly uninspired name for the ginger cat was funny). The actors, as good as some of them are, cannot save what is a ludicrously terrible mess of a film from itself. So bad until I did my research recently I forgot that Val Kilmer was I the film. That tells you as it is, it was so annoying that even Val Kilmer seems unannoying and forgettable. Also, tell Bruce Greenwood to quit disgracing my family name, which created a rather apparent annoyance on my part, having the most annoying bastard in the film have my name. I mean, at least Mayor McCready in Slither was a funny asshole.


And the winner is- Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem That is it done and dusted. I guarantee that I will not have changed my mind on this one by the time 2009 comes rolling along. It is a terribly shot film in which you cannot see what is going on whatsoever, terribly cliche driven, characters we are meant to care about but who end up terribly annoying and want to die and finally being the most morally repugnent film of recent memory. Come to think of it, I might have the trophy made and accept the award myself on behalf of the Strause Brothers, since clearly they will not have the decency to take criticism like men and pick up the trophy. Finished rant.


This years winners are the inagural inductees into the McCready Hall of Fame.Each of the five inductees is chosen from a different field in the film-making process.

Inductee Number One- Composer- Ennio Morricone

Contributing an extensive body of original scores to the films of Sergio Leone, Roland Joffe's The Mission and John Carpenter's The Thing, Morricone's work speaks for itself, contributing to the world some of the most memorable sounds of cinema.

Inductee Number Two- Cinematographer- Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle has created some of the most memorable images to the screen in many films in various countries. One of the only truly international cinematographers, his body of work includes that of Zhang Yimou's Hero, Wong Kar Wai's In the mood for love, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs and Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence

Inductee Number Three- Screewriter- Paul Schrader

One of the leading screenwriters of the 1970's New Hollywood, Schrader's bare knuckles realistic scripts would be brought to life in the form films such as Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Obsession by Brian De Palma and The Yakuza by Sydney Pollack, co-written with his brother Leonard. He also went onto to have a succesful directing career, including American Gigalo, Cat People and the recent Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist.

Inductee Number Four- Actor- Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey was by far the best actor of the ninties, and remains to be a powerful in Hollywood, as actor and producer, and in the theatre world, recently starring alongside Jeff Goldblum in Speed-The-Plow. Delivering masterful supporting performances as John Doe in Seven and Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, he topped of the nineties in his Oscar winning performance as Lester Burnham in American Beauty.

Inductee Number Five- Director- David Lynch

A true master of the surreal, Lynch is rightfully known as the "Salvador Dali of film." Directing at the same pace he did thirty years ago, his body of work, influenced by his Transcendental Meditation process, includes, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the recent INLAND EMPIRE. Meticulous craftsman, writing his own screenplays, experimenting with soun design and creating a surrealistic nightmarish atmosphere that has become trademark of his films.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton)

No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)

This Is England (Shane Meadows)

And the winner is- No Country For Old Men

I know, I know, No Country For Old Men won the Oscar yak, yak. Nonetheless, it is deserving in all the critical acclaim that the film receives. Each of the other three were horrendously misjudged at the Oscar ceremony (three nominations for Sweeney Todd, Jesse James two, and This Is England with none). Despite these injustices, No Country For Old Men is the winner for me. It is a wonderfully well made film. It is lean, crisp, no flab around the edges, with a well crafted character driven chase film, with great performances all round. This will be remembered as Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece. In a year in which all the nominated directors and some non-nominated directors tended their pet projects and matured with grace, The Coen Brothers No Country For Old Men stood out above the rest as the best of the year.

IN CONCLUSIONI would like to point out one film in particular worthy of mention which did not get any nominations. Ten Canoes, the first film ever shot in the Aborigine language was one the year's best, so if you get the opportunity, watch something truly original.There's another year of films done. We saw many recurring trends which saw the maturity and long-tended pet projects of many directors come to fruition, the bigger-is-better trend coming back, sequels being good, and a taste for absurd humour. 2007 will have many films to remember it by, for better or worse. BLOG OUT!

The Thin White Dude's Review's - Five Minutes Of Heaven

And once again the pattern continues for each new movie I see being better than the last this year. Its kind of funny how these kind of things keep popping up every now and again. Anyway, what we have here on our hand's is Five Minutes Of Heaven, a drama based around a true event which occurred during the Troubles. The films first act shows a reconstruction of the murder of Jim Griffin by Alisdair Little, to which his younger brother Joe was witness to. The film then revolves the two agreeing to meet after Little reforming to film a television documentary. Now, one of the most interesting things about the film is the fact that it is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, an internationally acclaimed German director of film's such as Das Experiment and the Oscar-nominated Der Untergang. Despite being in what is quite clearly unfamiliar territory, this seems to be a return to form for Hirschbiegel after 2007's The Invasion flopped and was re-shot on request by Warner Bros by James McTiegue, most famous for V For Vendetta. The BBC have clearly understood that is a man of talent who is almost better left to his own devices and have as little interference as possible from studios. He keeps the direction tight and firmly grounded throughout and generally keeps the pacing going rather well. Also, he is quite clearly from this and Der Untergang an actor's director who knows how to conjure great performances from his actors and cater to their characters. Liam Neeson plays Little rather well, portraying a very much three-dimensional character with the neccessary human qualities. Despite being a former murderer, emotions of which Neeson successfully transplants and damn near makes one attempt to justify, he is a sad and lonely man on the path of redemption, as emphasised by the subtle movements made as Nesbitt's Joe Griffin is about to make his way into the room: he is quite clearly nervous and concerned as to how Griffin feels. And with regards to Nesbitt, while he certainly plays a more two-dimensional character who is more schitsophrenic than sane, he injects emotion into the character, making him seem as though he has extreme psychological complexes, and is still quite clearly a child, haunted by the witnessing of his elder brother's murder. As far as I am concerned, Five Minutes of Heaven is a strongly plotted drama which is tight and solid throughout, with great consistency. While not telling us anything new about the Troubles, I think that the best it does it create a great and very human drama. However, it is certainly not without it's flaws. My main issue, which really, really bothered me, was the fact that despite being quite obviously a human drama, it did not seem to be edited or shot with a proper balancing act in mind. They should have taken into account that the end product would end up being eighty-five minutes. They spend the first half-an-hour without the leads being involved. Not that it was much of a problem, I felt the young actor playing Little, Mark Davision, gave a solid performance. But later on as it progressed, seeing as how we spent about forty minutes in the house with the documentary crew leading up to their meeting, it was rather uneven. Tension was built up rather well, so we were on edge. However, I just felt with only fifteen minutes being left for the last act, it was rather uneven and rushed, and personally, it's one of the few cases that really could have benefitted from an extra ten-twenty minutes to create a legitimately believable character progression. Unfortunately, with this annoyance of a problem, it just seemed like a made-for-TV film, and yes, I did see it on TV, but it is being theatrically released in the same form, yet it just seems like a really rushed and poorly chopped piece so that it can fit inside a nine-o-clock time slot. Also, Anamaria Marinca's character was poorly written, underdeveloped and wholly underutilised dramatically, whenever this could quite clearly have been the neutral flare amongst the two leads, and it could have been a character utilised to a far greater extent, seeing as how Marinca is a perfectly competent actress in her own right. However, I must say that that is the end of my problem's with the film, because personally it did not stop me from enjoying it. Despite an obviously uneven story and an under-utilised and poorly developed character, the film is well directed by Hirschbiegel, hopefully setting him back on the right tracks, and there are two strong performances, particularly from Liam Neeson, which make this a very enjoyable film. Certainly the best thing that I have seen all year.

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - 7.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - JCVD

The Thin White Dude’s Reviews - JCVD
Is it just me, or does it seem fate that if a movie seems to have a bit of edge to it or something interesting factor, that there seems to be another movie lined up round the corner which is very similar to it. Last year's trend was the old shaky cam technique employed in Cloverfield et al, but starting near the end of last year, what we have been getting is quite a few movies which has been hyped as "comeback" movies for their lead stars. The Wrestler truly is the definition of that, and I stand defiant that Mickey Rourke was robbed as Best Actor at the Oscars and that it was the best movie of last year. The Wrestler was slightly autobiographical from the standpoint of Rourke being the same down-and-outer that Randy "The Ram" Robinson was. Here, with the "Jean-Claude Van Damme comeback movie," JCVD, the idea of autobiographical film is taken to a new level. In a vein not dissimilar to that of Being John Malkovich, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Jean-Claude Van Damme, a down and out actor, out of money, losing a custody battle for his child, returns home to Brussels and gets stuck in a hostage situation inside a post office. Yes, it does sound ridiculous doesn't it. To understand the film and review, there must be a bit of context here. Basically, Jean-Claude Van Damme was a big action film star for a period of around ten years from the mid-80's to the mid-90's. Then all of a sudden his career started going downhill. People just seemed sick of watching Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger et al beating everyone up. Van Damme himself became addicting to cocaine, entering a month-long rehab program but only lasting a week. Also, in terms of keeping himself prolific, all films since 1999's Universal Soldier: The Return have been straight-to-video releases, so for many, including myself, it has been a while since seeing a new Van Damme film. To start off what is good about the film, the best thing about really is the performance of Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself. While he is playing himself, he successfully transplants this onto the screen in a number of different manners, portraying the superstar, the damaged father and the man of action we are all familiar with. There is a real intelligence in this role. Also, the cinematography and editing are done rather well, particularly in the sequences in which Van Damme is starring in fictionalised movies starring the fictional-cum-autobiographical Van Damme (trust me, it get's confusing). The film's visuals work really well in the sense that the colour scheme seems to match the darkness of the piece and the darkness of Van Damme/Van Damme (sorry, I'm having too much fun). I think that the film is interesting and will bring itself up to a cult movie status much like that of Being John Malkovich. However, this is definitely a far more flawed film than that other "actor playing fictional/autobiographical version of himself" film (just get a dictionary, seriously). The main problem about JCVD really is the fact that the film itself really does hang on the shoulders of Van Damme. To use a metaphor, (real) Van Damme is effectively forced to hold the weight of world on his shoulders, because bar the film's obvious visual flair, it doesn't have much else going for it. The screenplay is rather dire, creating a story that is actually rather more focused on intelligence and wit over story itself. The film-makers do genuinely seem to be thinking that they can just let everything else go and let Van Damme as himself work his magic, because "we know he can't act, here, he doesn't have to act, he can be himself." No, stop. Van Damme was never an Oscar-winning actor, but he was a very charismatic and enjoyable action film star. Here, actually flexing both acting muscles as well as his own, it seems rather an insult that he signs on to such a personal project and that the rest of the crew cannot back him up. Once again, the screenplay is poor, but not only that, the director of the film Mabrouk El Mechri has gained much of the acclaim for the film. I personally do not feel he is worthy of the acclaim for this film. Granted, there is pace and style, but with regards to the "art-house" material, he shows a great degree of incompetence. To write in conclusion, JCVD is not as bad I make it sound with the negatives. It's just the fact that there are so many negatives which Van Damme has to battle through to make his performance work. There are times in which the film does escape mediocrity and there is genuine emotion involved, particularly in the scenes involving Van Damme and his "daughter" and his six-minute "confession" scene. And so for this, granted, the direction is incompetent and the script is rather poor, but it must said that the strong visual style and top performance by Jean-Claude Van Damme in blurring the lines between reality and fiction in this rather personal performance elevate this film from potential mediocrity and make it an oddity which will surely become a cult classic.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Fifty Dead Men Walking

Here I come with the second of my Troubles film reviews with Fifty Dead Men Walking. This time, instead of being a fictional story, what we have here is the true story of Martin McGartland, who joined the IRA and played off as a double agent, saving the lives of a number of people. Eventually he was found out by the IRA, and is still on the run from dissident republican terrorists. It is the kind of the story that surprises you that it hasn't already been made, for it is quite clearly material which would make for a good film. To start off with whats good about it, is that I believe that we have found a new film star in Jim Sturgess. In this film, his portrayal of McGartland is mesmerising, and it shows a great degree of maturity for such a young actor. He portrays the various aspects of the onscreen McGartland rather well, showing the different layers in each scene brilliantly. There are moments in the film which he acts well in which he is with the IRA, supposedly supporting their cause, and he inflects his performance with the subtle hints at what's underneath. The entire film, the onscreen McGartland is playing up an image, be it that with his wife, friends or the IRA. In each these scenes, the underlying guilt, sorrow and angst is consistently hinted at, and in my opinion I think that this is the first truly great performance of 2009. Also, Kari Skogland directs the film well, portraying Northern Ireland in the realistic fashion in which it deserves, coming off from her experiences of directing films such as Liberty Stands Still. It must be said also that this is a film with a rather solid script. It manages to get across the story of McGartland well, telling it with drama, humour and poignancy. Dialogue too for each of the characters is solidly written, particularly for Sturgess who makes the most of the meaty dialogue. Personally, I was quite impressed by the film, with it's portrayal of Northern Ireland spot on, Sturgess playing McGartland brilliantly, nailing the accent and mannerisms, with a solid script and strong direction. However, unfortunately, while being a good film, it is a rather flawed film nonetheless. To start, I don't mean to leech on, but I must say a few things about "Sir" Ben Kingsley. I know, a slight bias at the title, but "Sir" Ben is a good actor. His Don Logan is one of my favourite acting performances of the past ten years, and was recently ripped off by Ralph Fiennes for In Bruges. In this film, I believe that they could have gotten any veteran actor to fill the role of Fergus. I'm sorry, it's not that he's bad in this film. I just feel that if you are going to have a genuinely great actor be a part of your film, you should not waste their talents. The best thing that "Sir" Ben does is not acting in this film, letting Sturgess take the spotlight in his great performance, but it is still in my opinion a dissappointing and lacking performance. Also, now I did mention earlier that the portrayal of Northern Ireland is done well in this film, but it continues in that trend of "gritty, realistic, urban" manner of shooting which has essentially been ripped ever since Paul Greengrass used it for Bloody Sunday, the first proper "Troubles" film. Anyway, the point is if you are going to do it, use it well so that everything that is so "realistic" can be appreciated by the audience watching the film. With Fifty Dead Men Walking, you can barely see what's going on with the old shaky cam syndrome. I genuinely felt disorientated at a number of different stages in the film. Another problem that comes with this type of cinematography is that the editor's seem to go a bit crazy and start editing the film with what seems like a meat cleaver. It's like they've hired Michael Myers, starved him for a week, shown him a picture of Laurie Strode, and unleashed him on the footage of the film. Finally, despite all the positives regarding the film, the Hollywood presentation of Northern Ireland, while Skogland does her best, ends up being exaggerated and rather underwhelming, particularly for someone who lives here. No offence folks, but if you are going to do a location film, do your research. In conclusion, Fifty Dead Men Walking is a good film, with a superb lead performance by Jim Sturgess, a solid script and good direction, but proves to be undone by disappointing work by "Sir" Ben Kingsley, poor editing, disorientating cinematography and a rather underwhelming Hollywood cliche of a film, which makes the story seem much more basic than it is.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Wolverine

The Thin White Dude’s Reviews - X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Also known to most simply as Wolverine, to get past the overly long and overly punctuated title. Jesus, already I'm off to the griming before starting the review properly. Anyway, basically after Brett Ratner successfully murdered the X-Men franchise with X-Men: The Last Stand (which was in actuality the origin of my reviews blog some two or three years back. Have a look in the archive, it's a pretty good one), 20th Century Fox are looking for a Gambit (notice the pun) which will bring back the X-Men franchise, so what do they do, they make an origin story. Now really truthfully, we really didn't need a Wolverine origin story, but hey, its the role that made us realise the great talents of Hugh Jackman for the first time, and now look where he is. He was an unknown when making the first film and this year hosting the Oscars if that gives you an idea of his status in Hollywood. But anyway, basically the plot goes that Wolverine, born in 1800's British-occupied Canada, and has battled alongside his brother, played by Liev Schrieber, through every major war in modern American history, including Vietnam, is out for revenge, after his brother murder's his beloved Kayla. However, in order to achieve revenge, he must undergo a horrible experiment under the supervision of William Stryker, which sees him have his skeleton reinforced with adamantium, that infamous steel which he is made from. To start with what's good about the film, Hugh Jackman is familiar with this role and character, and knows how to play it. Granted, the script is bilge and the character is underdeveloped even in his own origin story, but Jackman plays Logan/Wolverine/James Howlett/et al competently. Same can be said about Danny Huston, who seriously lacks screen time in what could have been a better role for a fine actor. The best performance in the movie however is ironically found in the most two-dimensional character of all, that of Liev Schrieber's Victor Creed. The character is one of those one's that will probably inevitably end up as the spawn of some YouTube parody video, I mean for God sake, even the name "Victor Creed" sounds menacing. However, despite being lambasted with the oft-cliche "evil brother" syndrome (again! Same as Defiance), Schrieber manages to transform this character into what is the interesting character. It is like the writer's have created some sick post-modern joke on the audience, in that we generally criticise underdeveloped characters in film for having bad acting performances, now realising, have subverted the rules of acting performance and character development to confuse millions around the world. What have we got next, an origin story for The Riddler from Batman? (who is essentially Joker-lite, but don't get me started on my hatred for that character). Another good thing about the film is the action sequences. Unlike many films which have to insert the old shaky-cam thing for the purpose of "uh, it looks like Bourne," Wolverine abandons that and takes the Michael Bay route for action directing. The sequences are certainly lavish, with some great special effects, choreography and cinematography to boot. Personally, while OTT, they are some of the best action sequences as of late in film, and their ridiculousness is excuseable because it is X-Men, they are superheroes, and this one gave me a smile, it's not claiming to be something it's not. It's a straight-up, no-nonsense, balls-to-the-wall action film with no rubbish. It really could have been so much worse, take Fast and Furious for an example. It must be said that Gavin Hood is perhaps the most unlikely person to direct the film, considering his filmography. He won an Oscar for Tsotsi, a critically acclaimed South-African drama, and directed a the 2007 film Rendition, an Iraq-War based drama. Now he as action movie of Die Hard 4.0 proportions on the credentials. Doesn't really seem an even balance, does it? However, while the movie is certainly not a horrible mess and remains enjoyable enough, it is inevitably just another forgettable blockbuster action movie. For starters, as mentioned earlier, the script is rather naff, but in a rather, cornball 80's action flick sense, without the warmth and "so bad, it's good" feel. The characters are underdeveloped and this clearly impacts on the performance of all members involved. Also, the script has some really clunky and cringeworthy dialogue such as "Nobody gets to kill you buy me." Even the action sequences start to dwarf even Transformers for catastrophe and destruction by the end of the film. Finally, Gavin Hood seems to be a fine director, but truthfully, he has lost control of this film. It is clearly not his own, but that of Fox. All in all really, Wolverine has some solid acting considering the poor material from which the actors have to reference, but is inevitably just another one to the pile of discarded, unwanted children in the action blockbuster phenomenon. But currently the best superhero movie of the year (smoke that Zack Snyder!).

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Watchmen

Here it is, the review for what is considered to be one of the most anticipated films of the decade, Watchmen. Adapted from the classic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel mini-series, the project has lingered in development hell since the late 1980's when it was first saught after by Joel Silver, who envisaged Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Doctor Manhattan. It has passed through the gaze of many prospective directors, including Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass, so the fact that we even have the privelage of seeing a Watchmen adaptation is something special. Okay, for those of you who don't know the plot of Watchmen, and I'll try to do this in under one hundred words, it's that Watchmen is a complex ensemble story, in which after the death of one of their colleagues, a group of former superheroes uncover a conspiracy to move humanity to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Nice, I done it in thirty-three words, eat that Warner Bros and their one-thirty words synopsis. The reason I did not spend long on the synopsis is because a lot must be said about this movie. Also, a quick reminder to all is that I am a massive fan of the original source material and that I will try to be as unbiased as possible and avoid the old "the comic's better" argument, and instead focus on how the film stands on it's on two feet. Alright, to open on the positives, I must give kudos to Zack Snyder, who has produced a rather faithful adaptation of the comic, and the fact that it has even arrived on the screen without any directorial issues speaks very highly of Snyder. Also, it is pretty clear that Snyder has a visual eye for every one of his film's has a real stylistically interesting visual flair. He has certainly hired the correct cinematographer for the job in Larry Fong, who previously worked on Snyder's earlier work 300 and Zhang Yimou's masterpiece Hero. So here we have a crew who have clearly shot a good looking film. There are times when Watchmen is impossible to distinguish between a graphic and a genuine visual, and it goes well in saying so, proving how technically advanced the film is. Also, there are a number of solid performances amongst the ensemble cast of the film. As the second Nite Owl, Patrick Wilson is the real heart of the film, the everyman of whom the audience really bases their judgement, and in this role Wilson is aptly cast. Gaining thirty pounds to play the role, he portrays the subtleties and little nuances involved in portraying this character finely. Also, Jackie Earle Haley portrays Rorschach with all the necessities involved without creating the parody that the character could have become. After having been unmasked, he manages both anger and desperation as he screams to his psychologist "Where's my face?" Finally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan shines as The Comedian, carefully disarming the audience by unveiling the audience his character's many layers in the flashback sequences, in scenes which together seem like performances from many different actor's portraying different characters. So far so good, eh? I hope you're enjoying the film, because truth be told I'm not particularly. With regards to the afformented ensemble cast, the actors portraying three of the six main superheroes give good performances, but the other three, truth be told, talk mysteriously and wave their penis, look good and pout and are just plain bland respectively. Billy Crudup fails to pull off the character of Doctor Manhattan, who truth be told, is a really hard character to nail. Malin Akerman really does not add any depth whatsoever to her character, and really just looks good in her costume. She really suits no other purpose in the film than to justify the fact that this character is meant to be good looking. Finally, is it just me or is Matthew Goode horribly bland as Ozymandias? For starters, he speaks so timidly that you can never hear him speak (and no that's not my hearing, I was in an empty cinema), and the fact that later some stuff happens involving his character and we are supposed to get what he is trying to say. Not only is he pitch-free, he seems to be unable to distinguish emotional acting besides the bare basics of shock, smile, angry etc. It truly is a horrible performance. Also, the film's pacing is rather poor, probably due to the editing process, but it just seems like we are racing through time as Doctor Manhattan. If that was their achievement, they have created a masterpiece. I mean, it would be perfect. I'm not criticising the flashback format, I mean that's the whole point, but at times the film seems as though it is rather slow and ponderous, and others it seems rather rushed, as though they are trying to say as much and do as much with the film as possible in as little time possible. There is a script problem involved in this. David Hayter, who is actually most famous for voice work as Solid Snake in the iconic Metal Gear Solid videogame series, and has previously scribed the first two X-Men movies, really seems to have given a script of which the studios find friendly, as in "we'll do something amazing as long as it's not challenging." No doubt this will help advance his career, and I am glad for that, but the fact is it is rather rushed and completely simplistic. And with regards to director Snyder, simplistic is exactly the arguement I am going to make here. Personally, I feel that it is hard to get across the point of harsh reality with these rather pithy and poorly choreographed fight scenes. Also, as a fan of the comic, while certainly nailing the visual aspect of the film, Snyder fails to get across intellectualism of the source material, the main problem being that it is trying to be two different things. What we have is a bit of the old Snyder we saw with 300, and a bit of the intellectual stuff in the comic. As far as I am concerned, I would like to see a bit of consistency, and have Snyder have the film stay true to it's plot rather than masquedering as though it is interspersed with boredom and fight scenes. I personally prefer 300, because for what it is, it is simplistic and does the job correctly, remaining true to itself and not claiming to be smart. I absoultely hate smarmy films and this has smarmy all over it. In conclusion, I feel that while Watchmen is an admirable film, it certainly has a number of issues which stop it from being the masterpiece that the original source could have made it.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 5.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The International

Yeah, folks, The Thin White Dude has actually decided to not be lazy (was going to say get off my ass, but I'm still doing that) and actually kick off once again The Thin White Dude's Reviews, after a month's leave. Hey, I spent a good bit on the Best and Worst, and I have been working alot, but that's another story for another time. Digressions aside, the story/topic of this review is the newly released conspiracy thriller The International. Directed by internationally acclaimed director Tom Tykwer and starring Clive Owen, this is the kind of film which inevitably draws comparisons of Bond and Bourne. Which truthfully, is a statement which effectively damns the movie, but we'll get there. Anyway, the story goes that Clive Owen's character and Naomi Watts are British and American investigators respectively, investigating the corruption on the inside of a banking firm. To take with the usual procedure and open up with the good things about the film, as usual per each of his films, Clive Owen is great in his performance as Louis Salinger. This is the kind of brassed-off edgy kind of character of which we have seen Owen play before, and it is pretty clear from this film, if not others that he is rather adept at doing this. Also, the cinematography is rather good in the film. Really, the film would not be fathomable by a Hollywood studio if it did not show off some rather picturesque visuals in a film which is supposed to be about an agent travelling around the world. Also, the film is edited rather well, so that from a technical standpoint, alongside the cinematography, the film looks rather slick and unlike the Bourne and Bond films, has not been lambasted with the old shaky-camera syndrome. However, there are a few other little trademark syndromes of which this film has unfortunately inherited. For example, Naomi Watts and Armin-Mueller Stahl are both perfectly capable actors who are essentially lambasted with poor cliched excuses of characters. Also, it must be mentioned that the script is a rather unfortunate work. Clearly, the film is trying to be intelligent and in the vein of Bourne and Bond, perhaps even spur off a franchise, but the problem with this is that while simultaneously attempting to be intelligent, it tries to appeal to action film fanatics by chucking in a couple of action scenes every now and again (marquee poster shows Clive Owen wielding an Uzi). The main problem with this film is that unfortunately the film-makers are attempting to tick all the boxes neccessary, but fail in pulling off a task which many find terribly hard to pull off. Conspiracy: check. Action: check. Brassed-off lead: check. In trying to be the jack of all trades, the film fails to elaborate on any of them, forever effectively condemning it to forgotten cinema history. Which is also a shame for Tom Tykwer. This is quite obviously his attempt to break out from the art-house and head into the international market. This is rather hard for foreign directors to do, I mean Ang Lee didn't exactly do well with his attempt with Hulk. Arguably, his best work has come after his failure. Perhaps after directing this mess of a film which truth be told was quite boring amd underwhelming, Tykwer will learn from his mistakes and go back to making good films. Really, I do deem it completely neccessary, because this is a film that really could have had all the right ingredients to a very good conspiracy thriller, actioner or even character study. It fails in all these categories because, one, we have seen all of this plot in other films, it doesn't have enough action to be called a straight action film and finally Clive Owen's character is not elaborated enough in the script so as to give him some internal depth. Granted, there is a rather funny moment in the film, but even that has been taken from another film. This is one of my shorter reviews for the simple reason that all this film has to prove is that Tykwer needs to go back to directing inventive films, that Clive Owen needs a film to prove his obvious talents and that every now and again, Hollywood churns out films which aren't of any noteworthy praise or criticism whatsoever and just plain underwhelming.

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - 4.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Fast and Furious

Truth be told, it's about time I got off my ass and actually got down to reviewing a movie (all right, just remembered I'm still sitting on it at present, great start with the contradiction). Also, no more promises, but hey, even if it is late, it's the review that I said that I was going to do. So, here it as it lies on the dinner table, Fast and Furious, ready for me to dissect and perhaps munch to pieces. The movie is the first time in ten years that all of the original cast get back together in a movie, so it has been hyped as a big thing, ever since fanboys shed tears of joy upon Vin Diesel's cameo at the end of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Truth be told, I really did enjoy the original, but haven't got down to seeing the other sequels, so going into this movie is akin to going into a direct sequel. I thought as well that for the first twenty minutes that I was rather enjoying it. I felt that if the film remained consistent with this direction, then I would be able to give it a good review. For starters, each of the leads, Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster essentially pick up from where they left off, and granted, there are no acting masterclasses here, but these are characters we have gotten to know and love. Also, the movie is being marketed as an all-out, balls-to-the-wall action film, and for a good bit, it was delivering nothing less than just that. It stood up on its own two feet and said, "Here I am." However, there is a major turn for the worst not far round the corner, and I will not spoil the film because I know that there are a good few people who are going to go out and flock to this movie and lap it up even if it is processed garbage. Help me here because I am going to start sounding like Mark Kermode trying to explain the problems of the film while not spoiling it. Basically, we get to the plot point about twenty minutes in, and it completely changes the tone of the film. Whereas it was delivering on what it is, a boom-boom action film, it then goes on to parade and masquerade as a human drama, and how emotional it is when old friends get together. Interspersed in these scenes of "human drama" are ridiculous explosions and chase sequences. Granted, I could put up with these chases if the film was not so bloody hypocritical and contradictory of itself. Also, there are a few things to get off my chest. Isn't The Fast and The Furious as a whole meant to be about the cars and chases, rather than action sequences with explosions, guns and a ridiculous death toll? Also, why in gods name does every action film now have to have at least one foot chase with the old shaky-cam coming in again? Well, we have Paul Greengrass to thank for that. Thank you Paul, you're one of the best directors in the world, but these foot chases, which are poorly shot by people who can't do it properly without you, make me and the audience feel like we are going through some mass joint lobotomy. Finally, why in hell have we got this recurring metaphorical reference to Christianity throughout the film, with Vin Diesel going all born-again, whenever seconds he's crushing a man with his giant Mustang or whatever muscle car it is? It completely rules out the idea of being born-again whenever you are going out and committing acts of mass murder for the audience. To add what else you say about how annoying the film is, the direction is poor by Justin Lin, who is directing this film like a drunk man attempting to take a piss, the script is so dire, particularly in moments in which it attempts to use comedy, with the jokes coming off as unnecessary, unwanted, poorly timed and completely offensive. I think that I probably could survive another go at Fast and Furious, but I was incredibly bored from the twenty-minute mark, so much so that I started looking through old bus, train and plane tickets in my pocket. I know that it seems like I have absolutely slaughtered the film, and granted have to a degree and have enjoyed doing so, but the film is not as horrible as some films which I have given a lesser final verdict. It is brain candy and the action sequences (the good ones) are enjoyable to watch. However, many of the action sequences, which with the lead acting performances are really the film's only saving grace, are poorly shot, including the afformented shaky-cam foot chase and another chase in which the scene is very dimly lit and the cars seem like they are black, meaning I am unable to differentiate who is driving what car, and clearly throughout the film-makers try to emphasise who drives what car. Call me blind, but how am I supposed to know who is driving what car if I can't see who is driving what car? There we go. It's over. I'm sure many people will lap this up, and quite clearly many do considering it has already made god knows how much money, but I really found it an awful bore and at times just plain annoying.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 3.6/10


All of my film reviews for 2008 are now up, ready to view and archived. 2009 reviews will be coming up

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Wrestler

I hope to god that there is no degree of favouritism at hand while I review this film, seeing as how I have been (and still am) a wrestling fan. I keep up with the going ons of the business and gain insiders knowledge on the behind-the-scenes stuff that no one sees through books, videos and of course, the internet. So to see a wrestling movie, never mind a damn good one, is a feeling which is completely unique to my experience with this film. So, story goes is that Mickey Rourke plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a down-and-out, past his prime wrestler, who has failed to keep connected to his daughter, and seeks solace on occasion with Cassidy, a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. Now, I just wrote that this was a damn good film. Personally, "damn good" would not be giving this marvellous piece of work much justice. For starters, the lead performance by Mickey Rourke is the best lead acting performance that I have seen over the past couple of years. Whereas most recent Best Actor winners have received their awards in very extravagant and domineering roles, Rourke's performance in this, of which is certainly Oscar worthy, is that of a poetic minimalism. His performance, grand as it is, is rather more based on the fine little nuances of realism, which lend greatly to his performance and the overall film itself. I would love to see him win the Oscar, because of most of the great performances of recent memory; they have come from supporting roles. Think of Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, Heath Ledger as The Joker, and even Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, all are great performances, but they really are not the centre of the film. Rourke's performance in the film, of which he is in virtually every scene, carries the film, and thus in that sense deserves great recognition. This is a character that thanks to Rourke we can believe exists. He is as flawed and as contradictory as every one of us, attempting to reconnect with his daughter, while at the same time indulging himself with drugs and alcohol. I am not even going to give away spoilers, but Rourke's performance grabs our sympathy through the use of infinite charm, humour and kindness. Also acting as a great counterpart to the role of Rourke is the performance by Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. She too has reached the same stage as Randy, past her prime, but unlike Randy, she has the smarts for realising that at some stage, she will have to finish. Tomei injects so much likability into her character that we come to know her as well as Randy, and thus with her realistic performance we come to see her as the perfect counterpart to Rourke. We realise that she is rather intelligent, whereas Randy does not really seem that way, more of an animal, doing what he must to survive. Thus Tomei too must be credited because her performance is so good in the supporting role of Cassidy that it in fact helps enhance the performance of Rourke. This is one of the best "acting" movies that I have seen in years, with Rourke, Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in her minimal role contributing to the real human drama at heart here, not just some wrestling movie. That said, Darren Aronofsky must be acknowledged, for this is his directorial movie, and as good as he is, is forever bound to be overlooked by the film's advertising moniker of "Mickey Rourke's comeback film." Personally, I have not seen Pi or The Fountain, but I love Requiem For A Dream. Both that and The Wrestler are both similar in style, and while Aronofsky may not seem the logical choice to direct this film, if you look outside the box, it is easy to believe he is the only person to direct this film. His hyper-realistic style, of which was also beautifully on display in Requiem, is perfect for this film, which while being a wrestling movie, is essentially a drama at heart. The poeticism in the non-wrestling scenes are masterfully counterbalanced with the brutality of the wrestling scenes, of which are certainly not for the squeamish. There are also a number of other elements of which this film deserves to credited. For example, there is a wonderful script here by Robert Siegel, catering both to the actors performing the dialogue and the overall film itself. It is structured brilliantly, and every little plot detail becomes a great revelation. Also, the cinematography is superb, catering well to the directing style of Aronofsky. Maryse Alberti, who has recently worked on Taxi To The Dark Side and Gonzo, two documentaries, lends her obvious experience to the film, making sure that even bleak, grungy and dirty can be beautiful. Finally, the music of the film is by Aronofsky's regular composer Clint Mansell, who clearly collaborated brilliantly with Aronofsky, composing one of the great scores of the year. Do I have even a solitary gripe about this film? Unfortunately, yes. Personally, I feel that Evan Rachel Wood's performance pales in comparison to the other two leads, Rourke and Tomei. She does not get enough time to create a plausible character, thus indicating a script structure problem, and her performance seems erratic as a result. Nonetheless, she does her best with what she’s got to deal with, as do everyone in the film. If this were the metaphorical golden cow, it probably would have been milked dry by now. Despite one little flaw, it is evened out by all the good it has to offer, giving us a heart-breaking, humorous, depressing and uplifting movie which is as contradictory and ironic (in a good way) as The Ram himself. An absolute masterpiece.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Changeling

You know what? For once I am actually not going to criticise a straightforward, bog-standard conventional film for being unoriginal. This is a perhaps one in a lifetime. Why you ask? Were you expecting a rant? Sorry not today (got a few left in me for the end of the year). This film is damn good. Damn good is an understatement. It is absolutely fantastic. Just whenever you thought that this was going to be the year of The Dark Knight, the old dog Clint Eastwood has come along and raid on Bats' party. Now, setting is very simple, mother goes to work one day and leaves her child at home and the child is kidnapped, and the child is found and returned by the police, except it is not her child. Now, with regards to me saying that setting/plot is simple is a lie, just like the film-makers have lied to draw you into this plot of epic proportions. It is such a superbly well written story, reminiscent of the Chandler mystery novels, in which once you think you know the full story, another layer is added to the mystery, which completely changes your previous perceptions. Also, the script appeals greatly to the actors, who greatly exploit the material that is given to them to their own advantage, with a strong script drawing out some note-perfect performances from the cast. Of course, the big talking point of the film is Angelina Jolie. Word around the film community is that she will be getting an Oscar nomination for this role. Well, to be perfectly honest, from my own perspective, she should be a shoe-in for the Oscar after such a behemoth of a role. This is one of those rare occasions in cinema even today whenever an actress under forty gets the opportunity to carry a two-and-a-half hour movie. And boy does she carry it. In a performance that is the perfect balance of emotional and reactional in her role as Christine Collins, she shows the level of maturity the likes of which have not been seen in a long time from an actress. Every time she stars in the film, Jolie has to get past the public's preconceptions of "Bradgelina" and his sex symbol status. Gone are all preconceptions. She moulds into this role, one reminiscent of the first golden age of Hollywood (1930s-1940s). Also, the supporting cast in it are brilliant. John Malkovich puts great restraint in his role as Father Gustav Briegleb, pulling off a good supporting role, while not being his usual extravagent self, graciously letting Jolie take center stage. Also, Jeffrey Donovan as Captain Jones is a great villain. Playing a role which like Malkovich's, could have been all-out extravagant, he finds a fine balance too, and creates a villain that the audience can truly hate. Even minor characters, particularly each of the young cast members, are completely believable in their roles, be it Walter Collins at the beginning, or the Changeling of the title. As mentioned, the film has a great script which caters to the actors. In my opinion, this is a film which is a composite, as in one element breaks down, the whole movie collapses. Clint Eastwood's direction certainly does not break down. He directs with such great flair for a man who is pushing eighty. For example, Clint is always mentioned about how economic and quick at directing a film he is. He directs like a man three times younger than him. He manages to find enough of a balance between the drama genre and thriller genre, not spending too much time on either. Also, Eastwood too composed his own score for this film, which shows how much of himself he contributes to each of his directorial projects. Now primarily a director, he acts in many of his film, composes the score and frequently writes the script. I'm surprised he does not pace himself. For example, this year he has directed two films, this and Gran Torino, the second of which he plays the lead. Two years ago, he directed two war films back-to-back, one of which was a Japanese language film. Once again Eastwood proves himself in my opinion as one of the world's greatest directors, living or deceased. That the film is so deep is a testament to everyone involved. This is one of my many mentioned "theme" films, in which you can gather so much. For example, on one end, you could interpret it as a critique on the disempowerment of women in society, for the authorities attempt to manipulate Collins into thinking she may well be insane. Also, as mentioned there, it could be interpreted as a commentary on police and political corruption in 1920's Los Angeles. Another interpretation could be as a study on the position of children in that society. Or simply, as many will probably get from it, it is the story of a mother's struggle. As mentioned, it is a two-and-a-half hour movie, and despite it's length I would urge people to see it because unlike The Dark Knight, which at times does seem quite drawn out, this movie sinks in very quickly. My only real dissatisfaction is that I found the ending schmaltzy and quite traditional for such a story, but nonetheless, it did not bother me to the point of anger or disappointment. So then, without further adue, I think Changeling is a fine piece of work, with superb performances, particularly that of Jolie, which make all characters three-dimensional (even the most despicable), a fantastic script and Clint Eastwood doing what he does best: make movies full-stop.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Dark Knight

Finally, after having seen the film 9 days ago, I have got down to reviewing the most anticipated film of the summer. And well, does it live up to it's hype? It certainly does. This and Wall-E are the films that everyone has been raving about, and clearly for obvious reasons. After the recent slew of less than adequate epic sequels such as Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Christopher Nolan delivers us a film which shows us why he is one of the world's most talented film directors. After delivering solid, snappy films for the last decade, Nolan again supersedes himself at filming, challenging himself further and successfully paying off with a crime epic that could be easily compared with Heat. There are so many plot strands and sub-plots that link the main storyline together, and only under Nolan's restrained direction and ability to keep the correct focus could this work successfully. It is fitting that this is Heath Ledger's final film. Fans cried in despair at the idea that a comic book movie may well be his last. If anything, it is the towering height of all of his great performances. Yes, I know, his performance is the one everyone is talking about, but that is because already Ledger has succeeded in creating such an iconic villain, the best since Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. His performance bounces out from the screen, being psychopathic, schizophrenic, sociopathic and sadistic all at once and at the same time, highly charismatic and genuinely terrifying. This monumental performance is deserving of an Oscar nomination and to avoid recognising this would be near enough equivalent to spitting on Heath Ledger's grave. Not to say that the film doesn't have any other great performances, even if Ledger's is the one everyone remembers. Christian Bale's Batman/Bruce Wayne becomes a haunted, tortured soul who is fighting a battle not only with The Joker, but himself, wanting to rid himself of the cape and suit, in a character transformation that is reminiscent of that of Michael Corleone between the first two Godfather films, which Bale, perhaps the most talented actor of today, pulls off successfully. Gary Oldman too shines as Commissioner Gordon, in a role greatly expanded from the original, as does Aaron Eckhart, in a three-dimensional role, whose character transforms much in the that Batman/Bruce Wayne's character does, although far quicker and with more violent repurcussions. As an ensemble cast goes, this is about as successful as it gets. The acting is further complemented by the special effects, which is completely non-intrusive throughout the entire film, but is not faded into background, and creates in the halfway point in the film one of the best chase sequences in modern cinema history. In this chase, everything feels real, and delivers some moments of genuine wonder and awe. Also, in the film the special effects helps deliver some the film's most iconic shots. The musical composition by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard is, like the special effects, completely non-intrusive and only serving to further complement the actions on screen. The example that I think of involves a spoiler, but put it this way, it involves the atmospheric and moody music after having playing a game with two of the characters in the film. It serves not only to complement the action on screen, but to heighten it to a further level of emotion. Finally, there is a good, strong screenplay that helps this film be as damn good as it is, creating very multi-faceted characters whose actors make the most of their given screen-time. Also, I must complement the screenplay's sporadic use of The Joker. This performance could have been exploited and forced everyone to take a back seat, but with this screenplay, The Joker becomes an almost exisentential villian, causing as much destruction and mayhem, only to further taunt his opponents and vanish once again, very much in the way that John Ryder out of The Hitcher does so. Also, for much of the time the screenplay fails to lose focus and direction in its goal, and for that it should be complemented. However, there is one flaw in my opinion that cannot be shined over. Call me a grump if you will, it may be the best film of the year so far, but it has one eeeny weeny flaw in its screenplay, and that is its handling of the Dent/Wayne/Dawes storyline. I believe that a little more screen time should have been spent on this, and could have also served to expand the character of Rachel Dawes, whose character is by far the weakest in a film which has many strong characters. There done. Now, to finish. I believe that The Dark Knight is a sprawling crime epic in the vein of Heat, has some phenomenal performances and visuals, and is perhaps the best superhero movie of all time. Go see this movie now. I'm going again.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.4/10

On The Topic Of The Dark Knight - How much did Cillian Murphy get paid for less than five minutes screen time?

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Wall-E

Gee, this is gettin pretty crazy, I mean, first I'm blogging in from Galway, now at the back of the Castlecourt Food Court due to the father's negligence to update the computer's anti-virus software. So, the film up for review today is the new Pixar movie, Wall-E. Essentially, the premise is that the world has been abandoned due to pollution and the only living thing (synthetic or natural) is a waste disposal robot by the name of Wall-E, who for an unknown amount of years has been spending his time watching Hello Dolly and making Skyscrapers out of waste. During his travels, Wall-E encounters Eve, a newer robot who has been sent from Axiom, the giant spaceship in which the humans have escaped the earth, to find out if the world has become habitable. Now, for those expecting another rant, you will be surprised. In my opinion, it is such a shame that Kung Fu Panda, a film I reviewed less than a week ago, is released alongside a monumental animation film like Wall-E. I noted that the animation in that film was superb, but to be perfectly honest, just pales out in comparison to the work that has been done in this film. The desolate landscape in this film is as beautiful (or bleak, depending on your opinion) as any seen in great dystopian science fiction films, such as Blade Runner. Also, further on in the film, when Wall-E finds his way onto the Axiom, the detail and the bright colours on the ship act as a stark and welcome contrast to the deserts of waste seen earlier. Also, unlike many films, the music does not act as an intrusion, but instead heightens the emotion and tension of the piece, contrasting from extracts from Hello Dolly to the films musical score, striking a great balance between score and pop culture, unlike the recent In Bruges. Also, Andrew Stanton direction, in his first film since Finding Nemo, shows true potential, and the fact that he has been able to create a truly adult film out of what is essentially a child's world in animation as of late is something for which he should be credited. The only problem with his direction in my opinion is the fact that once the humans become involved, he occasionally loses direction, but nonetheless creates a degree of interest out of the more boring sections in the film. Another commendation to this great film is the voice acting, particularly in the scenes between Eve and Wall-E. In these scenes the animation and voice acting work hand in hand, conjuring a great deal more emotion from voices reminiscent of C3PO and R2D2, than a Hollywood film with a screenplay laden with dialogue. The screenplay remains consistent and restrained in these sections of the film, and in the human sections too fails to skip a beat, bringing as many laughs as the slapstick seen earlier with Wall-E. Finally, there is a huge degree of emotional value in this film, with at least two different sections when the waterworks indeed seemed to on the horizon. The fact that an animation can draw out so much emotion, for they are essentially creations of computer animators, is something that speaks very highly of the film. Not only is there emotional value, but the film contains many themes and is in a way a sort of social commentary. It is not preachy in its delivery, but what it is saying is that we are a consumerist society that uses and disposes in excess (Buy N' Large) and that if we do not do something to change this, we will destroy our home. Overall, this is a very strong film, perhaps Pixar's best (Yes, including Toy Story), which despite being a powerful, adult animation with a good social commentary, the kid's too can revel and enjoy in the gags that are laden throughout Wall-E. The second masterpiece of 2008.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Mist

Yep, still knocking back more films for the year, though I will say that the next review I will make will certainly be the last of the year. However, the next review will, well, be dealt with in the next review (duh). Anyway, what we have on our hand's is a horror film which in my opinion, has been horribly overlooked in the past year, The Mist. Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, has not done a lot lately, so it is nice to see him dabble in a genre with which he is only familiar in the world of screenwriting. While this is unfamiliar territory to Darabont, he is once again adapting a Stephen King story, so in many respects he is still in his comfort zone. So, the of The Mist goes that a number of people are trapped in a local supermarket, due to unknown reasons concealed by The Mist which has descended upon the town. That is all that I will reveal about the plot, for this is one of those stories which will grip you from start to finish, and you will not be able to predict the next scene by any means. This is primarily due to the masterful screenplay that has been written by Darabont. Taking upon himself this film's screenwriting duties, Darabont uses his experience in screen-writing to great effort, transforming what was a rather limited novella plot-wise. Structure-wise, the script is more or less impregnable, with the story spoon-fed to us, bit by bit, never giving us enough to know the whole story, so that we are virtually left in the dark until the last minute. The solid structure is also backed up by the well-written dialogue, which does indeed provoke the desired reactions from the audience. Also, the dialogue does not come across as too big for these actor's shoes. Thomas Jane heads up the ensemble cast, and for a man who is best known to many as The Punisher and the guy with bleached blond hair in Deep Blue Sea, he does not seem out of place in this film. Jane portrays the everyman character of David Drayton very well, and his playing of the part of a suffering man who must be strong for his son comes across rather strongly also. However, the acting performance of the film must go to that of Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs Carmody. As an evangelical religious fanatic, she creates a believable and rather terrifying villain. Consisently quoting Revelations from the bible, her "premonitions" come true, creating a following inside the supermarket for Carmody. Harden gives a rather showy performance, however does not conceal the human underneath the tough fundamentalist vessel, creating a neat balancing act. There are moments when she looks horrified by the following she has created, but nonetheless goes along with the act. Mrs Carmody comes across as the true monster of the film, and that idea of the true monsters being the humans on the inside, living in their boxes, is one of the many themes which comes across well in this film. The themes that also exist in this film include that of religion and the criticisms of the military. All of these things are presided under by the direction of Darabont with great skill, not losing control of what could have been a raging beast to direct. However, as always when encountered by great films, The Thin White Dude usually ends up waving his fist or tossing his keyboard through the window. While I will say that the above statement was a rather great exaggeration, what I will say is that while The Mist certainly has a lot to offer, it is a tad bit predictable. In these type of siege location movies, the same things always happen, and the same people always seem to die. In terms of personal enjoyment though, this predictability, while blantantly obvious at times, was nonetheless quenched by some real labrinthine twists in the tail, some of which are genuinely shocking and unexpected. Also, as the old saying goes, it's what's onscreen that counts. Predictable at times or not, Darabont has the film made in such a way that most of the time it is non-intrusive. This is my only real gripe, for the film is otherwise suitable, and I would go so far as to call it a masterpiece. The film has some fine acting, particularly from Marcia Gay Hayden in a behemoth of a performance. However, it is Frank Darabont who deserves most credit. He directs what I'm sure must have been an extremely hard film to make very well, and has written a wonderful script, creating one of the best scripts of the entire year. I would also go so far as to say that The Mist is the best horror film that we have seen since 28 Days Later, and that the film has the best twist since The Sixth Sense. Don't even bother going on the internet and spoiling the movie for yourself, just go and watch the best horror film in years, full-stop.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Gone Baby Gone

I must say that despite the fact that Ben Affleck ain't exactly a good actor, that judging from this material he certainly has a promising career ahead of him as a director. Gone Baby Gone is the first masterpiece movie that I have seen since the end of July with The Dark Knight. I was thoroughly impressed by this movie. I am glad that the movie was released over here after the disappearance of Madeline McCann and not during as previously scheduled. If it was released then, it would certainly have faced a massive amount of controversy, what with the cases being very similar, with even a great resemblance between the fictional and real case being astonishingly coincidental. The premise is that Amanda McCready (yes I know, ha ha, ba boom boom) has disappeared and Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro hired to find the missing child. At the same time, two detectives and the Chief of Police are running their own investigation into the disappearance. This is essentially a movie that belongs to the brothers Affleck, despite its other obvious strengths. Ben Affleck directs a masterpiece which any veteran director could be extremely proud of, taking the auteur role of also producing and adapting the film into a script based on the original novel. He does a great job of not losing track of what his focus should be in the film, keeping great restrain in letting the story slowly unfold, without letting other distractions getting in the way of the story. For example, there is a scene in the film that could have easily turned itself into a ridiculous shootout, but instead he restrains himself and builds great tension in a scene that is totally believable. Also a revelation in the film is Casey Affleck, being directed by older brother Ben. Affleck, after his superb supporting role alongside Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, steps up to the podium of lead actor and is able to credibly hold his own as the lead against veterans such as Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. This is a performance by Affleck which should have been Oscar bait. Also, it is ironic that Michelle Monaghan starred in Eagle Eye, perhaps the worst film of the year, yet gives a compelling performance as Angie in this film. Also, the rest of the supporting cast as a whole, including the afformented, each give great performances. One of the great achievements of this film is the morality tale that it serves as. This is a masterful morality tale, for in its climax we are given perhaps one of the strongest examples of a film that makes us question ourselves in recent years. Coupling this with the twisting and turning of the plot itself, and the grim depiction of Boston, give us one of the darkest films of the year. And that's saying something, considering the current rate of dark films. This is a great neo-noir thriller, while at the same time having the terror of Gothic horror and its morality tale on offer, along with a labrinthyne social commentary on class corruption. This is one of the films from which you can dig so much from. I think personally that despite it's great critical acclaim, that it was terribly overlooked at the Oscars, and should have at least earned a win in the best adapted screenplay category. Maybe they are saving to next year's Oscars, seeing as how it was only released worldwide in July, due to the afformented Madeline McCann case. Nonetheless, despite it's very obvious strengths, which no doubt make it one of the best of the year, like many masterpieces, it certainly is not without it's flaws. One of my main problems with the film was the fact that the film avoided much about the relationship between Kenzie and Gennero. To be honest, I do believe that they avoided to enhance the main plot, but they are they key central characters in the film, and I believe that Affleck (Ben) should have been able to counterbalance the two. Also, despite the fact that the twisting and turning plot was no doubt inventive, personally I felt that it had the problem of that whole "false ending" syndrome. I feel that for a movie to truly work, it should not keep making us feel that the movie is over whenever it is not. At times, as much as it pains me to say it, the film did seem dragged out. However, do not take these flaws as me saying don't see this film. I believe that it should be seen by everyone. It offers us a great amount to play with. It is a film that makes us think and gives us a morality tale, a social commentary and neo-noir thriller all rolled up in one package. I think it is a masterpiece and deserves to be greatly commended.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Orphanage

Well, well, well, for a change, I think we will have a film which is completely praiseworthy. By far and out, so far the best film I have seen all year. For starters, the acting in the film is note perfect, from Belen Rueda in the lead role to even the most minor of roles (Montserrat Carulla as Benigna). Belen Rueda delivers one of the best performances from an actress in a horror film in many years. Also, Fernando Cayo, who plays Carlos in the film, keeps a great of degree of sustained rationale in his performance throughout. Finally, in a breakthrough role as the young Simon, Roger Princep manages to be charismatic, humorous and mysterious all at once in one of the best performances by a child actor over the past decade. I could go on and on about the acting, but frankly I need to deal with the rest of the film. Worthy of mention is Sergio Sanchez's wonderful screenplay, which is one of the best structured screenplay's in many years. The characters are beautifully developed, with a fantastic unravelling of the plot, slowly giving us little pieces of the large jigsaw that makes up the mystery of The Orphanage. Normally a screenplay this good can fall folly of having a director who was not right for the project. Director Juan Antonio Bayona was not just right for the project, but damn near perfect. His restrained direction and respect for the script avoids the cheap pops and scares that normally come with a horror film. In my opinion, any other director would have exploited the story in a way that appeals to the horror side of the story. Bayona sticks to his guns in a very wise move, creating a story with multiple layers and in doing so creates a horror film that is overall, more accessible to a mainstream audience. I mean this in a good way, and not in the way that most "mainstream" horror movies appeal to the afformented "cheap pops and scares." The scares in this movie are genuinely unexpected and very terrifying indeed. However, the "big scares" are few and far between, enabling the tension to be sustained and what is truly the main story of the piece, which is the unconditional love of a mother for her son. Bayona displays a veteran instinct that reflects through in the finished film. And it is the man's first feature length film. This film is easily the best horror film debut since that of Richard Kelly with Donnie Darko. As mentioned earlier, the scares are truly unexpected, and the musical composition helps this. Not composed in the way that many horror films have music which, while attempting to develop tension for an upcoming scare, inevitably remind the more informed audience of today that a scare is coming along. This score is unique in its creation, done in a very unfamiliar way which does indeed take us off-guard. Also, for the scenes of genuine emotion (and this film has many) the music helps enhance the scene, rather than bringing it down to the usual level of Hollywood corniness. Also, the cinematography is superb, varying from the harsh, beaming colours of the daylight, to the barely visible blacks and greys of the night. This is particularly exploited in the orphanage itself, with the nooks and crannies of the building being enveloped in shadow, not revealing what is really there. Finally, the film is a movie of genuine emotion, and not just some cheap attempt to exploit spooky children and ghosts. The best horror film in my opinion since 28 Days Later. However, in many ways it is better than 28 Days Later, for this is a genuinely emotional film which does make the audience feel and empathize with the lead characters. The first movie that this actually reminds me of is The Exorcist, another masterfully structured, genuinely scary, but nonetheless emotional film. I am very happy that this received alot of press attention and a wide cinema release, because should genuinely see this and deserve to see this after the recent drought of films. Do not be put off by the fact that it is subtitled and is in Spanish. Please seek it out. You will enjoy it. If you want a genuinely scary ghost story with an emotional storyline, this is the movie for you. The first true masterpiece of 2008.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9/10

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Hellboy II: The Golden Army

It is a crying shame to see that after a great first film to kick off the franchise, that the second Hellboy has, like it's predecessor, underperformed at the box-office. In a summer in which the top box-office performers are the overwhelmingly bleak The Dark Knight and The Mummy : Tomb of The Dragon Emperor (albeit the latter for worse of a reason), it is refreshing to see a film like this, in which action, romance, emotion and humour are combined in such a satisfying manner. The last film I reviewed was Get Smart, which I must confess I seemed to enjoy more than everyone else, but as far as I'm concerned this is by far and out the better film. I mean, this does it's moments of humour on par, the emotion of the film is far more engaging and the action scenes are suitably fantastic. I was introduced to the franchise due to the help of an invaluable source (who shall remain anonymous for humility's sake. Yes, you just got credited by The Thin White Dude) and as an admirer of the work of Guillermo Del Toro's work (aside from the atrocious Blade II), and was charmed by the genius of the fact that he had managed to remain true to the comics while retain his single-minded visionary talents. In this film, given a little more leeway and a bigger budget, you can feel the enjoyment and pleasure that Del Toro has taken in making this film seep through every single frame. His love of the Hellboy character and his talents of a film-maker shine in this film, putting this work on level with work such as The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labrinyth and indeed, the first Hellboy. Speaking of enjoyment of the film-making process, the actor's themselves seem to be enjoying portraying their characters in the film. Doug Jones, as Abe Sapien, gets more screen time this time around, with an integral part in the overall storyline and showing his great talent in acting through hours of make-up, the likes of which is only matched today by Andy Serkis. Selma Blair, who in my opinion delivered a good performance, but nonetheless lacking performance in the first film, embodies the character of Liz Sherman with suitable fire and energy. Even new character Johann Krauss, voiced by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane, is suitably satisfying and enjoyable to watch onscreen. The film's villain too, Prince Nuada, played by Luke Goss, is injected with humanity due to the passion for his cause (which is noble, even if it involves the destruction of humanity). And last, but certainly not least, is Ron Perlman as the eponymous Hellboy. Last time around, as Hellboy, he played the character as a young man growing up, and learning to cope with his inner frustrations. This time around, he is in a relationship with Liz Sherman, and must once again face his fears at growing up, albeit in a different manner. If you thought that Perlman was perfect as Hellboy last time, watch this and you will think that was a teaser. Perlman literally is Hellboy in this film, embodying him with the right degrees of emotion, deadpan humour and just being an outright badass. I cannot praise his performance enough, as Perlman in this film shows everyone why he will be remembered as Hellboy. As mentioned earlier, he is an outright badass, no doubt, but he no doubt human, and he and the rest of the cast members inject the appropriate amount of emotion when necessary, even making Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You" seem appropriate in a scene, much less in any situation whatsoever. The emotion and humour portrayed by the film's strong characters is most certainly helped by the film's strong script. While Hellboy himself was suitably humourous in the last film, this time the rest get at least one good one-liner from the film. Also, the film makes the audience able to empathise with every one of the character's onscreen, even Prince Nuada's giant henchman Mr. Wink. However, it speaks greatly of the script that it does not lose focus on the fact that this is indeed Hellboy's story, and so each character gets the appropriate amount of screen time depending on their character. Also, it must be mentioned that the cinematography and CGI in this film are excellent, with a perfect blend of what is real and computer generated, to the point where you cannot tell the difference with what is a make-up creature and what is a digital animation. However, my one true criticism of the film in my opinion is the score by Danny Elfman. Now, as much as I admire Danny Elfman as a composer, this is not one of his better ones. It is not a terrible score, quite the contrary in fact, particularly in the scenes with dialogue which contained background score, but otherwise, particularly in the action sequences, with two notable exceptions, one at the midpoint and one at the climax, it is your bog-standard blockbuster score. However, criticisms aside (and few there are), I feel the Hellboy II : The Golden Army will be one of the year's best films, and like The Dark Knight, which will inevitably overshadow this film, both suits its purpose as a superhero film and a very human drama with great emotional depth.

TTWD's Note: Kudos Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman for making another great Hellboy film

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis – 8.8/10

On The Topic Of Hellboy II - The Golden Army


Wasn't Manning left to die at the end of the first movie? Bringing him back in the sequel is very reminiscent of how The Futtermans returned for Gremlins II after clearly being crushed by a bulldozer in the first film. Someone please explain?

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

As those of you who have read this know, I have been adamant on giving the most honest and the correct ratings for each of the new films that I see each year. It is for this reason that I am scrapping my flawed ratings system, which had been played about with from the start of the year. Also, it might hypocritical of me to give this film such a good review to a new film. However, I believe that The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is very deserving in all of the plaudits that it receives. For those of you who haven't read the book, the story goes that Bruno and his family move out of World War II Berlin, in order to facilitate his father's job, later to be revealed as the Commondante of a concentration camp located nearby. Upon discovering this camp, Bruno, not fully understanding the horrors behind the "Striped Pyjamas," befriends Schmul, a young Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence. The first thing I must say that is positive about this film is the acting, in which all involved are at the top of their game. Supporting actors David Thelwis and Vera Farmiga give humanistic performances as the two parents, with Thelwis in particular showing great acting prowess, divided between his loyalty to his family and his loyalty to the Fuhrer. These supporting performances, however good, certainly do not overshadow that of Asa Butterfield as Bruno, delivering a phenomenal performance in his role of a child struggling to understand the world of Nazi Germany, and Jack Scanlon as Schmul, who genuinely looks like a child on the edge of life and death, garners genuinely sympathy from the audience. Also, worthy of mention is that the director of the film, Mark Herman, has created what is in my opinion, the best portrayal of life from a child's perspective since Pan's Labrinyth. Working in close collaboration with cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, they beautifully create some very picaresque moments throughout the film, despite the tough subject matter. The cinematography is all very bright and the colours seem to be all the more accentuated, as though entering the world of a fairy tale. Also, this style of cinematography perfectly portrays the sense of childhood awe and wonder. However, my one major criticism of the film lies not in the acting, direction or cinematography, but the script itself. Granted, there is nothing wrong with the dialogue, but there seems to be a lack of structural depth towards the relationship between Bruno and Schmul. At most, I would say, they meet together in the film around four or five times. For me, I believe that seeing as how they spend so little time together, in my eyes this to me is an unrealistic friendship. And yes, I do know both are isolated from all others their own age group, but for legitimate friendships in which those involved genuinely rely upon, there comes a degree of time before this degree of a friendship is established. Saying that however, despite other criticisms from various sources questioning about how children would not have existed in concentration camps and all that kind of nonsense, it doesn’t really matter because it merely adds to the fable-esque atmosphere throughout the film. The fairy-tale atmosphere is added to by a very stirring score, which while sounding like your bog-standard emotional drama score, somehow seems appropriate and unobtrusive when put into context alongside the action onscreen. Instead of acting as a deterrent, the score proves conjure the correct emotions that the film-makers are looking from the audience at the appropriate moments. Granted, it is not the best score in the world, but it certainly doesn’t bother me. Also, as has been widely publicised and commented on, is the level of violence and intensity throughout the film. The film is violent, but not violent in the way the recent Saw series and Hostel’s Part I and II have been, but what the film lacks in blood and guts it makes up for in tension. Throughout the film, a degree of tension always seems to be lurking in the immediate vicinity, waiting to explode. It is like that of a volcano, laying dormant in wait, occasionally blowing off some steam in minor eruptions, saving the best to last, with an explosion so volatile that the tension/emotional scale just goes completely out the window and you become one with the film. In summary, I believe that this film is one of the better efforts of 2008, with some great performances, a director who clearly knows what he is doing, some dazzlingly beautiful cinematography and a degree of emotional realism which does not pull any punches despite being a 12A. However, I must say that the one large flaw that I mentioned earlier holds the film back from being a genuine masterpiece, but otherwise a highly commendable film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10