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Monday, 22 June 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Well, here's a first for me certainly. This the first film which I am reviewing post broken elbow, and I must say that it is rather frustrating typing an entire review with only the index finger on my right hand, so I hope anyone who reads this appreciates the fact that I am going to be in this rather uncomfortable position for quite some time. So, what I have on my hand here (well done, to the observant) is the sequel to the 2007 box-office smash. Now truthfully I didn't find a great degree of enjoyment from the original film, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the film was actually able to raise itself to an average standard, and certainly posessed a wealth of charm, certainly the film's greatest asset from the film's two stars, Shia LeBeowulf and Megan Fox, and not the poster boys Optimus Prime and Megatron. However, Ifound the film to be greatly lacking that charm. What happened to Shia LeBeowulf? A few years ago he was te next big thing, and now he serves up a one-two punch of poor films that actually surpasses the custard streak which rubs down the back of Mighty Morphing Mark Wahlberg (sorry, having fun with the nases here) with this film and the absolutely ghastly Eagle Eye. This film greatly lacks any real redeeming qualities throughout. For starters, the acting is bad throughout, with LeBeowulf as wooden as a deck chair and Fox suiting the purpose of being icing sugar, with her body and movement's being photographed in a manner to attempt to distract all the geeks from how horrifically their loving pop culture icons have been mauled. I certainly don't have a problem with this, personally a two-and-a-half hour photo reel of her would be far better than this and has more right making all the money that this film will, but surely with a budget big enough to eliminate poverty from a third world country there could be something besides Fox to garner our interest throughout. However. John Turturro is a great actor and I am glad that he is picking up what I am sure is his biggest paycheck with this film. Also infuriarating is the absolutely woeful script, which does absloutely nothing to help the actors forced to say lines such as "You'll always be my first car man, I love you," and's idea of comic humour is a bulldog and chihuahua constatly humping and a mother who accidentally eats a bag of weed, perhaps the most misjudged piece of humour in any film claiming to be family-orientated in quite some time. Also, part of the plot sees LeBeowulf and Fox's characters having to maintain a long-distance relationship. And what do they do to combat this? Gee golly, there is this new piece of technology which is so just off the shelves called a wecam, which means they can communicate 24/7!. No offense, but the film is laden with stupid things like this. Not unlikke Fast and Furious, the film also has the problem of consistently contradicting itself in an attempt to should itself in a veil that says it is not all about robots hitting each other, which it is. I mean, how are we supposed to feel sorry for the death of a main chacter and be gripped at the return of another (hint: no one ever really dies in any Transformers film, show or whatever). Also, can someone please tell me if they were able to recall a detailed outline of the plot of the film they just spent 147 minutes of their life on. It makes a David Lynch plot look as coherant and predictable as a film you have seen twenty times over (and your plot's are not bad David, but I'm sure you get what I mean). Above all, the film is dreadfully boring. Last words: while the effects are lush, the film could have passed for and may as well have been a completely cgi film. In conclusion, to use the director Michael Bay's own words to my critical advantage, "I think the climax of the last film was weak, for the audience was unable to see anything in the city streets. That is why I chose Egypt for the sequel's climax: it was a large space and the audience could see everything." Words of advice, Mr Bay, I think your problems only began at the fact that the audience just didn't care.

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - 1.2/10

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Red Cliff

And after a weekend of partying on down, I finally manage to get a trip out to that old place in which I find solace and comfort, the cinema. And I must say, what better way to do it, than be witness to a riveting action film by the master guru of the genre for a period of about ten years. John Woo is a legend in the world of action cinema, with great films such as The Killer, Hard Boiled and Face/Off, but has really had a dry period as of late, with some real bilge such as Mission Impossible II and Paycheck. However, he seems to have rediscovered himself, having create the video-game sequel to Hard Boiled, Stranglehold, and now having a new playpit to roll around in, that of the ancient history war epic. I guess this is my way is starting on the positives, but Woo clearly uses his past experiences on urban-set action films and, to use a famous quote, puts the volume up to eleven. If you thought that the action sequences in his previous films were elaborate, you should see these. While in great contrast to the classics, these too prove that John Woo is still perfectly comfortable retaining control of a solid action film. Also, I think that he shows great restraint throughout, rather than letting the film spiral out of control. To get into other strengths on the film, my last review mentions Terminator: Salvation's cinematography. Well I'm sorry McG and co, but looks like you have to go job hunting again, because this is the best cinematography I have seen quite a time. Everything look's lavish and perfectly in place, although perhaps not matching but certainly bringing to mind the power of the image's found in Christopher Doyle's work on Hero. This molds beautifully with the special effects. For a film with about three times less the budget of The Lord Of The Rings films, it certainly makes a good stab in the visual effects department, creating a scale arguably on par with those films. Music too plays a major part in the film, tying in not only with the extensive battle scenes in the film, but helping getting across the film's philosophical messages referenced throughout. These references prove to be a rather strong point in the film, bringing it above the level of what is your bog-standard silly action film. Rife throughout are references to ancient war books such as The Art Of War, keeping it in time with the period, something which must be admired, for Woo could quite easily have taken the route of eschewing the truth for actions purposes, rather than enhancing the story of the piece. With regards to the acting department, despite being surrounded by the great Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro, the standout performance in the film is that of Zhang Fengyi as the main villain of the piece, Prime Minister Cao Cao. Despite having not starred in a film for ten years, Fengyi injects a certain poignancy into a character which could have easily been a snarling villain. There is a certain theme which occurs frequently appears in Shakespeare, in showing a great man in turmoil. Fengyi performance proves as is the truth in life, that even great, reprensible men as Cao Cao is are nonetheless human. Which brings me to the criticisms regarding the film. While in the acting department we are presented with a standout performance from Fengyi, being an ensemble cast, the cast suffer the problems of not having enough screentime, or simply not being good enough at injecting a certain three-dimensiality human element to their performances. For example, in a similar manner to Christian Bale in Terminator: Salvation, Tony Leung is completely underutilised. Leung is certainly one of the best male actors in the world today, and to squander his talents on under-developed material such as this is rather a disappointment, particularly seeing as how he plays the lead character. Leung manages to do far more in more minimal screen time in Lust, Caution than he does in this film. Also, with regards to the other talented actors involved, they are merely there, a body, a physical presence, not a performance. Also, I found that the central romance in many respects was rather empty. Call me a cynic, but if I want to see romance on film, I want something deep and meaningful as a story, not something that merely ties things together and gets the action sequences from point A to B. And yes, Leung has covered the romance base too in In The Mood For Love, one of the best films of the decade. However, excuse the extremities, but sometimes one must exagerrate in order to get a point across. Despite problems in the acting department and an occassionally lacking story, the film succeeds through the direction of John Woo, some brilliant technical wizardry by the cinematography, special effects and arts department and a great performance from Zhang Fengyi. It must be taken into account that the film's original cut was 280 minutes, whereas the final product has been cut down to about 150 minutes, so the film may well be a different film completely, but nonetheless, in it's current state, it does not stop it from being the first genuinely great film of 2009.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Terminator: Salvation

Wahay, it’s the movie that everyone was asking for, a fourth Terminator film. Truthfully, we really didn’t need someone to make a fourth film, especially considering we did not need a third one. However, I will not give away my opinions of the film early on in the review, but put it this way I was not really entering the Strand Cinema with an open mind with regards to this film. For starters, the film is directed by McG, whose previous filmography consists of the majesterial Charlie’s Angels and it’s even more majesterial sequel. Now, for a man like McG to be taking the helm of what is arguably James Cameron’s finest work and some the finest work in cinema history was bound to raise a number of eyebrows, and certainly had a number, including myself, shaking fists in fury and outrage that this man could have the gall to destroy such a great franchise. However, needless to say I was pleasantly surprised whenever the film began, and needless to say I was pleasantly surprised leaving the cinema. For starters, after the opening credits roll, in which we are given an introduction to Marcus Wright, a character shrouded in mystery throughout the much-publicised production, we are blasted right into a battle sequence, which only serves to be the tip of the iceberg in a film laden with great cinematography. The film is superbly shot and looks brilliantly lavish, and one of the great achievements of the film is certainly this combination of great cinematography alongside some superb artistic direction, creating a completely credible world which the characters in the film inhabit. It is one of those great occasions in which for much of the film the computer graphics are indistinguishable from what is a physical set which has been created for the purpose of the film. Also certainly worthy of mention is the plot, which in itself is rather interesting and does distinguish itself completely from the previous films in storyline terms from the previous films in the series, which is perfect considering it seems that are attempting to reboot the series for a new trilogy catering to our Michael Bay-esque blockbuster generation. To bring the film back to its technical pros, instead of taking a page from the current trend of Paul Greengrass shooting style, which no one but Greengrass’ crew or JJ Abrams seem to be able to pull off, the film instead decides to go epic, with lavish shots of the apocalypse throughout, and action scenes in which you are actually able see everything which goes on. Finally, in terms of the acting department, Sam Worthington steals the show, delivering an intriguing, mysterious and completely tree-dimensional performance throughout, helped certainly by how well the character is written. Also, the big reveal mid-way through the film does pack quite a punch. Despite the film’s obvious praiseworthy parts, there are unfortunately some issues which in my opinion greatly hinder what could have been a genuinely great blockbuster. For starters, Christian Bale is the lead actor in the film. Not that this is a bad thing at all, the man is certainly one of the finest actors of this generation, but if you are going to enlist his talents to the project, you may as well use them to their fullest. His John Connor is completely one-note throughout, and the character is poorly written, with the producers and screenwriters obviously focusing more on the supporting role of Sam Worthington’s character. Also, Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood’s characters come across in this manner, particularly that of Howard. Another problem which did prove to be quite an annoyance throughout was the fact that the film is so self-referential and laden with ideas and bits seen from the previous film that it completely contradicts the idea of this being a reboot and stand-alone franchise from the previous series. It is like the producers have decided that the only reason people will get hooked is if there are references throughout so as to appease the angry fanboys. Granted, some of them are nice little references which work brilliantly well into the story (the scar’s Connor gains are the same as those seen in the Terminator 2 prologue) but others, such as action sequences which are effectively copied from the previous films, particularly Terminator 2, as seen with the extended final act in, you guessed it, a factory. These little things which occurred throughout failed to make it completely distinctive from the previous films, with most of my memories of the film coming from these rehashed sequences. However, to say that this is a bad film would be a great insult to the efforts here. McG makes his best film by default and delivers a thoroughly entertaining action film with brilliant cinematography and artistic direction and a great performance from Worthington, but if there is to be a sequel, there needs to be greater character expansion in order to enhance the performances, particularly that of the lead Christian Bale.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 6.2/10

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Drag Me To Hell

Don't worry, I haven't jumped ship onto the blogspots. I've just been finding it pretty hard to cram in some revision while watching and reviewing at the same time. No offense folks, call me selfish, but I kind of have to think about the rest of my life. But forget false promises, this time, I'm back, and I'm going to continue doing what I do best: review films. Anyway, post superiority-complexes, here I have the review for Sam Raimi's latest since Spider-Man 3, Drag Me To Hell. This has been marketed purely on the fact that this is his first proper horror film in twenty-two years, returning to his roots after having conquered Hollywood with the Spider-Man series. Raimi is a truly versatile director, and after having also seen works such as A Simple Plan, he has sufficiently proved himself to be one of the world's leading directors. Basically, plot goes that Alison Lohmann plays Christine Brown, a loan officer who is seeking to gain a position of assistant manager, when making a tough decision which may benefit her career, is cursed by a gypsy, with a plot ensuing involving Christine and her boyfriend, played by Justin Long, attempting to battle the curse. Originally, Ellen Page was due to play Christine, which certainly would have been an interesting outcome, but nonetheless, in my opinion Lohmann absolutely carries the film with a great performance that exceeds audience expectations of the typical horror film female lead. She injects her performance with a warmth and human familiarity that many of these roles are lacking of, reminding us that this is a human character, and thus we end up rooting for her. Even Justin Long, who is normally the subject of my inexplicable slanderings, pulls off a believable performance as her loving and supporting boyfriend. As mentioned earlier, Sam Raimi is a perfectly competent director, and really seems at home and having fun making this film, and as a result, we enjoy ourselves. This is helped by a solid script by Sam and Ivan Raimi, Sam's brother-in-crime, in which it effectively bridges the boundries between horror and comedy, although it does certainly lean more towards the comic side of horror. However, that is not neccessarily a bad thing, and the film certainly is a good, solid horror-comedy. Another thing that I certainly admired about the film was the editing process. While the script is certainly a vital contributor to creating the dual-genre effect, without the right editing and timing, the entire scripting process would be ruined and become irrelevant. Here, this is not the case, with frequent collaborating regular Bob Murawski clearly recognising what Raimi wishes to achieve with the film, and proves to a vital component in making the film enjoyable, a point which brings me to the film's next praiseworthy point. All in all, the fact of the matter is that Drag Me To Hell is enjoyable, full-stop. With regards to the horror genre, we don't get many examples nowadays in which the film-makers make it their goal to make the audience leave the cinema feeling good about having seen their film. The recent intent in horror has been to scare the living daylights out of everyone, go with a bleak ending, and simply leave them haunted and scarred with images burned into their memory until their dying day (at least that's what their intentions are. Screw you Eli Roth). With this, it is that rare thing in the cinema anymore, in which you actually feel-good watching it, with a vocal audience who are collectively enjoying the experience of watching a film. The last time I got this with a film was with Borat nearly three years ago. However (the big however), there is one particularly large quibble which really hinders it from reaching the upper echelon of enjoyment (hence the big however). The fact of the matter is that with Drag Me To Hell, as mentioned earlier, Sam Raimi and co do genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. Not that that in itself is a problem for me, but it seems that they have decided to play it lazy in their comfort zone and do nothing but make an enjoyable film. As said, I don't have a problem with that, but you certainly aren't going to make any masterpieces this way. I'm sorry, but as an audience we deserve the best. Nonetheless, I cannot help but admire the Raimi crew's relaxed attitude in making the film, which shines through in the final product, that being that we will take it easy and enjoy ourselves and make a perfectly competent film. Overall, I am on neutral grounds with Drag Me To Hell. It is a strong, solid, lean film which has great enjoyment to be offered to any patron who wishes to see it.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.9/10