Thursday, 26 November 2009
Seeing as how I have received numerous comments from very kind and intelligent folks, I thought that I would make the time and effort to make a shout out to a few people and try to include each of them as a shout out at the start of each review. This is kind of similar to what Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo do on their radio show so here goes. "A Shout Out" to Jack's complete lack of surprise. I think Frost/Nixon is one of the better films of last year, I just missed it in time for review, but the acting is superb. It is like a clash of the titans, a boxing match between the old heavyweight champion and his younger contender. I really like Ghost Dog: Way of The Samurai, and Forest Whitaker is brilliant in it, proving he is one the best living actors once again, and it is an overally solid film. I absolutely love Waltz With Bashir. I truly think it is an important film, with amazing style and a story and plot that really packs an emotional punch, not so much as a tear-jerking punch, but one that leaves you in a state of semi-comatose and I am currently toying with whether I think this or The Wrestler is the best film of last year. Once again, I did not unfortunately get down to reviewing it. The second "Shout Out" is for Danland - Movies. Thank you very much for the comment and I am intending to getting down to reading your reviews. My third "Shout Out" is to Dimedude, you know what I think of you anyway: cracking guitarist, solid intellectual and all-round righteous dude: and no, I still have yet to see whether or not The Boat Did Indeed Rock. Finally, a "Shout Out" to HB Steenekamp, please get back to me, you are following my blog and I am unable to access your own and have not heard from you. Incidentally, while I am here, I have got over a grand-hundred posts now, something I only noticed after posting Bad Grammar, so this celebration can never quite be the same. Nevertheless, this is The Thin White Dude signing out to y'all. Peace.
Apologies to those who read the blogs and notice the bad grammar. I try my best considering I cannot copy and paste the posts without actually posting them in their simplified manner, so just so you know I can spell and it is a mere issue of speed-typing in paralell with the thoughts in my head.
Time to be digest on (or be digested by) the new horror film which has "taken the United States by storm." Now, don't let that quote get to your head, because the last time a sleeper hit "took the United States by storm" it was Paul Blart: Mall Cop, so don't forget that this quote is not neccessarily a recipe for a great film, never mind one of the worst films of the year. In a manner, reminiscent to The Blair Witch Project, which did something very similar except it was set in the woods, here we have a very low-budget, short, snappy horror film shot on digital video, creating what is deemed to be a realistic atmosphere. Basically, to cut the story short and get down to throughly dissecting this film, the film is set entirely in one house inhabited by a young boyfriend and girlfriend, with the girlfriend being followed by what she feels is a haunting precence, and the boyfriend attempts to document this precence on camera. Right, that's all you need to know. To get down to the big question on everyone's mind and the tips of their lips, is it scary. Well, yes it is indeed quite scary. For starters, and this is one of the best things about it, the acting, if you could call it that, is thoroughly convincing. First and foremost, this is completely neccessary with the fact that these two characters dominate the film and bar few appearances from minor characters, are the only people who appear onscreen in the film. Both play their parts realistically, with very human reactions emerging from the actions of both the eponymous Paranormal Activity and the way in which the couple interact with one another and their solutions towards the Paranormal Activity. Sorry for the vagueness here, but it would be a real shame to spoil the film, for it is great watching it the first time. Also, while it is clear that there is no real script in place with regards to character development and dialogue, leaving room for improvisation, there is a clearly solid structure to the film. Incidentally, to those who intend to see it, please be patient on it, because the tension and exposition is done brilliantly at the start, and don't walk out like the angry couple a few rows in front of me and my fellow esteemed critic (you know who you are). It really is a movie that rewards ones patience with some heart-pounding tension. It builds slowly and slowly, knowing when to offer us some scares, pull itself back, give us some more, but even scares this time, and so on until by the end there is literally all tension and the balance between safety and (audience) vulnerability become broken down. This is a genuinely smart, intelligent film that knows it's audience. I am very happy to see a horror movie like this come out in the midst of slew like Saw VI, which it incidentally beat out at the box office, showing that if a decent film has been given exposure, then they will flock to it, rather than being forced to eat the superfluous bilge that is dished out as a consumer product every single day. To talk about the techical aspects of the film, the cinematography is solid, showing some the best and most simplistically subtle uses of DV I have seen in a long time. It is a technique often used without skill simply to cut costs or look "realistic," but here it works so well as to add to the believability of the film. Kudos must be given to director and editor Oren Peli, who created this film in order to channel his lifelong fear of ghosts into something positive. Well, good on you I say. You have done something really good, proving that anyone can make a good movie if they channel themselves psychologically into sensing what is good and what isn't. Adressing yourself from me Mr Peli, you are certainly on my shortlists for editing and direction at the year-end awards, because this is some really good solid work. Finally on the good about the film, the "Paranormal Activity" of the film is a really interesting idea, which is perfect for a high-concept film such as this, and is a genuinely sound and unique idea that is suitably scary. Now, to say on what was bad about the film, and there wasn't a lot that was wrong about the film, for starters, the film makes no attempts to be a genuine terror masterpiece, and I feel that there was a lot of potential here for it to be just that. There is a strong underlying creepiness that permeates throughout despite there not being many "screamer-scares," a creepiness found in really solid, intelligent horror classics such as The Wicker Man, The Shining and Hellraiser. However, they do not really capitalise on this I feel, and I really do worry that the scares themselves are not particularly memorable rather than the experience. Unfortunately, this film is quite clearly an experience horror film, and probably with experience films, it is all about how you feel about it the first time you see it. I fear that I probably will not like the film as much second time round, much like Cloverfield after you see it multiple times. I will remain to admire the technical brilliance of the film, but it just is an experience film without any moments that stand out bar one scene which is not exactly capitalised on well. This is it's real outstanding problem. I feel that it will be remembered for about five to ten years max as a genuinely great horror film and after that it will be remembered as a good horror film. Realistically, all films must be looked upon with the power of time and how they test. I think the best example of this is The Battleship Potemkin, the classic Russian film by Sergei Eisenstein. Despite being nearly ninety years old, a silent film in black-and-white and a propaganda film, one cannot deny the power of the images that the film projects despite the change of time. Other examples could be included but the point is made: whilst Paranormal Activity is one of the best horror films of the year, with good acting, characerisation, solid structure and superb techincal simplicity, proving that indeed less is more in this case, the film is not distinct enough to last the test of time and will prove to be a completely different film second time, and while maybe a very good film, is not a masterpiece in my eyes.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.5/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Quite happy
Sunday, 22 November 2009
And without further adieu adieu, the new, much-hyped new movie from the new Quentin Tarantino of screenwriting as some critics would have themselves think, Diablo Cody. Oh, and did I mention the new MEGAN FOX movie. Apologies already, but it was neccessary and will be continually neccessary for me to refer to MEGAN FOX in caps, because let's face it, it is the big talking point of the movie. Hey, maybe if I say MEGAN FOX in caps, it will come up more on Google and I can get more hits on the blog. MEGAN FOX. Sorry. Compulsion setting in. Anyway plot here goes is that the eponymous cheerleader, played by MEGAN FOX, is possessed by a demon, and starts killing her male classmates and her best friend "Needy" is on the trial to stop her. The reason that Jennifer's Body has been getting such hype is as a result of the precence of the two femmes diabolique of Hollywood are collaborating on a film, the culmination of these forces being that the resulting film is to be some edgy, grungy and dirty cult classic. Quite clearly, this is the reputation that the film is attempting to gain for itself, so that it can in future years be seen in the vein of the likes of The Evil Dead series and the films of Quentin Taratino. For starters, to break tradition on a negative, you can tell this because the film is clearly no masterpiece in any shape or form whatsoever. So basically, that is perhaps my largest problem with the film, because it simply tries too hard, saying "this is a cult classic" rather than let the audience think for themselves and formulate that in their head. This has become a real annoyance for me, and telling the audience what they are supposed to think is a terrible but nonetheless true example of the dumbing down of American cinema, which cannot help but permeate through the whole industry in itself. Anyway, excuse the negative for a moment, because to open on a negative is usually the cue for a bad review, and this is not altogether bad film. To deal with the good here, the two lead acting performances are solid. Amanda Seyfried manages to do the most she can with the least bravado of the two characters, at least keeping her character interesting, even if she is limited in terms of character development, but that is more the fault of the script than anything, especially considering I believe her to be more of a lead actor than MEGAN FOX in this film. And to get onto that topic, MEGAN FOX is probably the best thing about this film. As per proof from the Transformers series, in which she is just window dressing, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, she has proven her abilities to use her body and comedic wit before. In this film she delivers her best performance thus far in her career, in her first leading role of note. All the neccessary laughs are pulled off perfectly at the right parts, and she has a terrific sense of precence in the film. Mixing up between a genuinely funny, alluring and altogether scary performance, if there is any reason the film is destined to become a cult film, it is because of this performance. So far this year, it is one of the best female performances, and is a real stab in the heart to screenwriters who write Academy Award winning performances for females who portray stereotypical characters. This is a really twisted subversion of the stereotypical ditzy cheerleader role, and without question the best thing about this film. Incidentally, can I just flag up the ever watchable J.K Simmons for giving me a few laughs for all your few minutes onscreen. Needless to say I was disappointed when your character did not take a Donald Pleasance in Halloween-turn. Also, to flag up our other member of the dynamic duo, Diablo Cody writes some damn good dialogue in this film, following up excellently from her brilliant work in Juno. However, unlike Juno, and I'm not going to make silly comparisons like ugh, it has no heart because it doesn't and it's not meant to, but where both films have excellent dialogue and wit, the story and structure of Cody's script here is really at fault. The story and plot is more or less subsidiary here to dialogue and FOX's performance, and story should never, never be subsidiary unless with really darn good reason, which here they don't. Everything is revolved around the next kill, the next scream, the next laugh and so on, progressing us as quickly as possible from point A to point A. Blah blah blah. I have been comparing this to Inglorious Basterds (yes I can say that, so screw you, naysayers) and initially my argument was that this was better because it was shorter. Well, can I say that for all the boring bits in Inglorious Basterds, there was a hell of a lot of good about, and at least QT does take into account that his audience aren't stupid, even if it is a bloated mess and his worst film. Jennifer's Body some good qualities in it, such as sharp dialogue, solid performances from Amanda Seyfriend and particularly MEGAN FOX, the best thing in the movie. However, it tries so hard to be hip and cool and cult that it ultimately falls flat on it's own ass in doing so, for the audience do not appreciate being patronised thank you very much!
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Chastised (for a clearly feminist movie it is so patronising. Double standards or what?)
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Okay, folks if anyone by now does not know the background context behind this film, you have been officially living under a rock for the past year or there is really, really something deeply wrong with you. For those of the, eh, how should I put this, the less informed manner, this film is a documentary film built from footage originally intended for Michael Jackson's archives, covering the production and the run-up to his This Is It tour, which as everyone knows never happened, as a result of the death of Michael Jackson. Yes, he is dead, in case you didn't know. Anyway, excuse me, sorry, it's just it has been rammed down my throat so much over the past few months, and it can't not be annoying to some extent, despite my great respect for him and the fact that his music was among the first I ever enjoyed. It's just that everyone has jumped the bandwagon like never before. You know, you thought Heath Ledger's death had necro-clingers, this is like that up to 11. Alright, post-rant, let's see, to start with the good about the film, Kenny Ortega, director of the High School Musical trilogy, which is a lot better than people give it credit, who was directing the concerts, is on board here and does a really solid job of balancing between documenting the process behind the concerts and making a tribute to the singer. Once again, Ortega proves that he is a master for grand spectacles, taking upon his shoulders a behemoth task and performing it with gusto. Also, for what is essentially a bunch of bits intended for the ever-perfectionist Jackson's archive to study, it certainly is a well-done job, all things considered. What I am so glad that the film-makers and all involved did was that they did not let the movie run too long into overtime. They keep it snappy, easy to digest, and fill in the gaps where appropriate and neccessary. Granted, it does get repetitive through it's structure, which continues in the same pattern throughout (people talking about Jackson, set-up of song, song etc), but at least they decide not to let it go on to the point of extreme boredom, overexploiting the whole thing and not sticking to the grand old principle of less is more. Also, seeing as how he is the subject of the film, mention must be made of Michael Jackson himself. Watching him in this film, whilst he has slowed down a pace or two, he makes up for it for his creativity in the overall dance choreography. His voice however, despite his age, seems as youthful and powerful as ever, as though these literally were his last breathes. The power of the songs in this film cannot help but permeate as they always have, and whilst Jackson may be dead, the songs are infinite and drive the film. Also, the production quality of the concerts that never happened were stellar, proving indeed that these concerts would have been the grandest spectacle on stage over the past decade. However, and this where things will get controversial considering the sensitivity felt towards Michael Jackson at present, there are a number of criticisms that must be flagged up. Like many films which are very good, the film-makers do not seem to make the effort to go that extra bit further and make them masterpieces. Granted, this is a good tribute to Jackson, but it certainly is no masterpiece, and will forever be remembered as the Michael Jackson movie, which is not fair by any means. Also, one thing I have a real problem with is the limitations that have been imposed on the film-makers and that this footage has in itself. In the contract between Columbia Picture and AEG Live, the distributors of the film and the concert promoters respectively, it states not only that the film must attain a PG rating, be under 150 mins long, but that "Under the terms of the proposed contract, the film will have to be screened for Jackson's estate and cannot include any footage that puts the superstar in the bad light." Now, I'm sorry, but if that does not sound like limitations and restrictions laid out for the sake of making a family-friendly, non-controversial, non-lengthy film for the sake of earning a bit of extra money, I don't know what it is. Also, notice that Man In The Mirror is the final song in the movie, considering the song was never one of his "classic" songs, good song or not, but quite simply capitalising on it's recent recognition. Finally, the footage itself has it's limitations. Whilst it is refreshing and nice to see this footage, truthfully I feel a YouTube Channel would have been sufficient and, if you want to put it in financial terms, more successful. Considering the popularity of the Internet these days, releasing a new song every week would have been a master viral marketing campaign, and truthfully, a more fitting tribute to Jackson in my opinion. In all honesty, I found some of the footage in the film to be too gushy and cheesy, and felt that it was not truthful representation, but merely filler, and at certain points I was quite bored, garnering one of my rare film toilet breaks. Nonetheless, despite the flaws in the limitations, causing occasional boredom, for what it is it's an enjoyable, touching tribute to Jackson, despite my resignations.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.8/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Iffy