Friday, 19 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Thirst

As I have mentioned before, I have been intending on rounding out the year, so this is the last film review that I will be doing for at least a month. During this time I'll be working on delivering three different articles: Best and Worst Films of 2009, Best Albums Of The Decade as part my intended expansion into album reviews and Best Films Of The Decade. Each of these articles will take up a considerable amount of time and effort, and will more than make up for a lack of activity in film reviewing constantly. Quite frankly, I am zapped at playing through the monotonous routine, and this change in the routine on these three articles and a well-needed break will be exactly what I need in order to recharge my batteries and get back in action. The film that I am reviewing here is Thirst, the new film from writer-director Park Chan-wook. Now, Park Chan-wook is one of my favourite director's to emerge from Asia over the past ten years. Starting out the decade with Joint Security Area, he later went on to direct the critically-acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and I'm A Cyborg But That's OK, Park has quickly become one of the most interesting and daring film-makers in the world. Thirst is being labelled his "vampire" movie. In Thirst, Catholic priest Sang-hyun, played by Song Kang-ho, volunteers for an experimental programme to find a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus, and following a blood transfusion, recovers rapidly, in the process becoming a vampire. His recovery gets him much attention, including that from childhood friend Kang-woo, played by Shin Ha-kyun, and after coming to dinner, finds himself attracted to his friend’s wife Tae-ju, played by Kim Ok-bin. To start with what is good about the film, and there is a lot of good, the film has some very strong acting. Lead actor Song Kang-ho shines, in what is his second good film I've seen this year after The Good The Bad The Weird. Despite being a really funny and charismatic actor, it is the other side of this coin that endears us to him in this film. His acting in this film just makes Sang-hyun seem like a genuinely good person, who is trying to remain true to his human self whilst conflicted with his vampiric curse. Kang-ho endears this character to us really well, injecting both his considerable charisma and likeability with a very human poignancy in the man who struggling to maintain his humanity above of his newfound animal instincts. Also, Kim Ok-bin is excellent as Tae-ju. In contrast to the character of Sang-hyun, who remains true to himself, Tae-ju character evolves during the course of the film. In a very subtle and gradual performance, Ok-bin portrays a downtrodden human being excellently, showing little gestures and nods as to how she really feels. As the characters interact throughout the film, her performance does not show the character having instantaneously evolved: the changes are noticeable, but very subtle, with traces of her former self still there. It is only late in the film that we fully realise how far her character has come and how frightening the change in her character really is. It is only through the intelligence of her performance that this is achieved. You know, for all the slagging that women in horror movies get for more or less going topless as an acting performance, it seems that the horror movie medium paradoxically offers more opportunity for meatier performances than so-called "mainstream female-driven" movies. Hollywood really is a man's world, with either foreign language cinema, horror cinema or independent cinema offering the best opportunities. The only exception to this rule lately would have to be Angelina Jolie's performance in Changeling. With regards to Chan-wook, I think that he does a really good job of directing here. This man really knows what he is doing, having storyboarded the entire piece before shooting. This means that he has a real handle on helping the excellent cinematography by Jeong Jeong-hun. For all the murkiness and darkness of the film, it is brilliantly lit. Chan-wook really has a cinematic vision, for his films are loaded with some wonderfully cinematography and lighting. It's not like his films are just "hero" shots throughout the entire thing, but despite elements of contrast and surrealism, they are quite clearly recognisable as reality. Also, his involvement in the process of writing must be complicated. Now, the script is not fantastic, more in due time, but Chan-wook truly is a master auteur who is involved in every process of film-making, but not without letting it be the collaborative process that it needs to be. The script though really is the film's main problem. Don't get me wrong, it is quite well written, but there are a number of blip's throughout which stop the film from being as good as it could have been. At times the film does seem rather slow rather than interesting. Most of the problems with the script are structural problems. I believe that on occasion it loses direction as to where it wants to go and where it wants the audience' mood to go. I think that it tries to cover too much without weighing things up properly. Whilst the film is for the most part very nihilistic, there are elements of the romanticised view of the vampire myth as seen before. As individual scenes, particularly in the film's final scene, this works very well, with the final scene working brilliantly in the context of what has happened previously. However, the order seems messed up at different points throughout. Being a black humorist, there are elements of this in the film, and I love black humour myself, but at times they fall flat on their face. It's really like the emotional Richter scale is all over the place, for it plays some scenes wrongly in the emotional sense. Chan-wook clearly likes to play with people’s minds, but really some of Thirst is too much. At times, it seems as though he is purposely trying to play the scenes ironically or sardonically for the sake of it. Nevertheless, despite this year’s surge of vampire films, this, New Moon and Let The Right One In et al, Thirst is at least a very interesting take on vampires, with some brilliant cinematography and really strong lead performances. Yes, this is the end of the review, so toodle-oo. I would say it has been a good year, but that would be lying. At least for all the bad movies I have seen, one really good one is enough to make me feel good about reviewing movies. Gutenacht, if that's how you spell it.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Funny People

Oookay, we have our second film in my comedy double-bill Funny People, the new film by Judd Apatow. Now, Judd Apatow has been getting from critics two reactions: one, he is a hilarious, comedy genius, and two, he is a misogynistic idiot. In truth, I would side more with the former argument. I don't believe that he is an absolute genius, but he is certainly one of the best members of today's brand of American comedy. His first film, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, was a very funny movie with a great performance from Steve Carell. Also, his sophomore film, Knocked Up, is superb, completely hilarious and absurd but not without a human heart. Funny People really is the movie that could either completely solidify his reputation as a great comedic writer-director, or completely destroy his career. With a budget of $75 million, a near two-and-a-half hour running time and a large ensemble cast, this really is Apatow emergence from low-budget comedy into the big, bad world. In Funny People, Adam Sander plays George Simmons, a successful comedian, who is lonely and withdrawn from the world, and following diagnosis of a potentially-fatal disease, along with aspiring comedian Ira Wright, played by Seth Rogen, sets to right the wrongs in George's life, such as reconciling with his ex-fiancé Laura, played by Leslie Mann. To start with what is good about the film, Apatow really handles his directing job with finesse, especially considering the behemoth task he has made for himself. As the driving force and auteur behind the film, Apatow really does a solid job of making sure things do not go horribly wrong, and directs what is undoubtedly his most mature film to date. Structurally, the film is solid, and remains relatively entrenched in the central story throughout, without many distractions. The subplots in the film actually create a fuller picture as opposed to create diversions in our attention, and are handled very well. Also, the characters are really well written. Simmons is a wonderful creation, a really strongly written characterisation of the age old "Tears Of A Clown" archetype. The case is likewise with Ira, who is so fatally and obviously human that we cannot help but sympathise with him despite wronging people on his attempts to rise up in the world of comedy. Also, the supporting characters are well written, but not so to the point that they become more interesting than the lead characters. Despite these strong components, the strongest component in the film is the central performance by Adam Sandler. This is a brilliantly multi-faceted performance. As the successful comedian, Sandler clearly draws from his own experiences and puts on the sheet of illusion-face brilliantly. The public image of Simmons is something that he himself has quite clearly manipulated and Sandler handles this well. Also, as the control freak, you do feel genuinely angry at the man in various points. However, underneath it all, we see a very weak and sad man, this aspect of which Sandler portrays best-of-all. Sandler portrays Simmons as a man who is quite clearly his own worst enemy, and the tortured man underneath has become confused with his constructed public persona. This is a very wise and strong performance from Sandler, who absolutely handles both the darker, more despicable side of Simmons brilliantly hand-in-hand with the good in a man who understands his own neuroses and wants to change for the better. Also, while Rogen has less to do, he portrays the changes in his character over the course of the film really well. At the start of the film, he is a weak and battered person who idolises Simmons, but not having been blinded by fame, Rogen portrays the moral conscience of the film with great aplomb, and despite being second fiddle in the film, gives a highly worthy performance that stands strong alongside the magnificent Sandler. However, while it is certainly a very good film, there are a number of problems with the film. For starters, it does really feel like too long a movie. A number of re-writes would either be necessary in order to make some scenes more interesting, because some of them unfortunately come across as filler. It's like because of the larger-than-life nature of the film Apatow must fulfil expectations of what we have seen from big-budget ensemble movies. Furthermore, and this proves to be a real problem in trying to gauge the mood of the film, it is not editing very well, and seems very uncertain as to whether or not it is a comedy. Granted, it is a tough job, for clearly Apatow is trying to make a dramedy in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine, in terms of it being both a genuinely funny movie, but also an emotional and human story. Unfortunately, the film does not do the balancing act very well, with some scenes being quite clearly comedic scenes and some being dramatic scenes, as opposed to all of the scenes and the product as a whole being a bit of both, therefore creating a more realistic film. Despite its flaws, I quite enjoyed the film, and Adam Sandler gives what could arguably be considered his best performance.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis – A bit of both, but growling stomach beckons

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - (500) Days Of Summer

For all intents and purposes, (500) Days Of Summer is the kind of movie that typically I should absolutely hate. Romantic comedies in truth, whilst I am completely open to watching any genre of film if it is good, are among my most loathed genres of film. Every time one of these films rolls in my direction, my eyes roll up to the sky, wishing that some God will whisk the existence of these clichéd dribblesome bores of films away from my presence. However, that wish never comes true, and it is always one of those great annoyances that you just have to put up with in life. Kind of like the British monarchy, but even still, dreams can come true. All in due time, all in due time. Anyway, despite being a rom-com, (500) Days Of Summer has been getting much critical acclaim as a movie that is genuinely good and defies the expectations of the genre which it has unfortunately been entrenched in and associated with. It is the debut film by music video director Mark Webb, and using a non-linear narrative structure, depicts through the memory of Tom Hansen, played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and the tale of his failed romance with Summer Finn, played by Zooey Deschanel. Now, being a music video director, Webb does direct with a prominent music-video sensibility. The film is very stylised in its direction, chopping back and forth between the various stages in the twos relationship quite well. However, I believe that the film's real power and strength comes from the central performances of Levitt and Deschanel. Joseph-Gordon Levitt has proved himself beforehand in the likes of 2006's Brick as one of independent cinemas most interesting young actors, and his performance here only further hammers in the point. Portraying Hansen as a real charmer, his performance causes us to really warm to this character. It is this charm that makes us really overlook what could be considered idealistic complexes in his persona. If both were separate in Levitt's performance, it would be very one-note and boring to watch, but Levitt is obviously aware of the necessity to remain charming while injecting his character with some very human aspects in order for us to empathise with him and have him be endeared with the audience. These same qualities shine through with Deschanel, although Deschanel performance of her character is done differently. Deschanel portrays the outward, shining exterior persona of Summer intelligently, but also doesn't forget the obvious vulnerabilities of her character. As opposed to Levitt, who plays a character more true to himself, Deschanel intelligently plays a double-sided coin, with her actions speaking volumes about the character's true nuances, a real case of "it's as much about what you don't say that matters." A great help to the actors' strong performances is the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber. The dialogue and interactions between Tom and Summer is among the best written of the year. Containing both fantastical, dreamlike qualities which give the film a theatrical element, it also does not avoid some very human and emotional exchanges. The portrayal of love as a wild, unpredictable rollercoaster I feel is a very wise thing on the film-makers part, for love is an absolute question that no one person can pin an answer on to. As such, leaving the question open for audience interpretation is a very wise thing to do. Also, the non-linear structure is not just a fancy narrative device in order to fill in the gaps and serve as a lazy excuse to make the film more entertaining. It mirrors the unpredictability of life and human interaction, and completely adds to the emotional power of the film. In a chronological order, the film would be far less entertaining and emotional. It is absolutely terrifying that the two writers of the wonderful script also scribed The Pink Panther 2. I suppose stranger things have happened, I mean, we've seen Freddy Got Fingered, haven't we? Don't get me wrong though, Tom Green has got way too much flak for that movie, it's really quite funny. I'm really in a minority on this one though. Nevertheless, (500) Days Of Summer is certainly one of the best romance movies I have seen in a long time. However, the film does have the odd problem that stops it from being a masterpiece. Unfortunately, despite strongly portraying humanity and love, the film in itself is way too over stylised in its way of doing so. Now, I have no problem with its narrative structure in any way, it works brilliantly. However, Webb as director does not seem to have completely made the transition comfortably to feature film. There's no doubt talent here, but it does often feel like an extended music video. For starters, the narrator could be completely done away with. It's once again one of those audience retardation devices, telling us expositional details that we already know and understand. Not everything has to be explicitly said. Also, some of the montage sequences do not work very well into the plot, and just seem like the film-makers are trying to make a hip romance movie that defies genre expectations: it already has! You do not have to try and make it hip and cool. These sequences and the odd little nod of breaking the fourth wall prove to be real annoyances, disconnecting us from the reality of the situation. I just feel that they have really overdone it in the stylistic department. They are little things and annoyances that unfortunately add up. Nevertheless, it does not change the fact that it is one of my favourite films of the year and I really enjoyed it, and I personally ask any stiff upper-lipped tough guy not to enjoy this film. This is a movie that everyone can enjoy, and I really defy you not to.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnois - Charmed

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Star Trek

Alright strangers here we go with a big one on our hands. The film that I am reviewing today is only JJ Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise. JJ Abrams is currently without question one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, what with a little series called Lost under his belt, not to mention Alias, Mission Impossible III and a producer’s credit on the thrilling Cloverfield. A lifelong fan of the Star Trek series, Abrams has taken upon himself the unenviable task of not just making a new Star Trek film, but breathing new life into the franchise without bringing upon himself the annoyance of fanboys threatening to sink the film. In Star Trek, we follow both James T. Kirk and Spock, played by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively, through the origins of how they came to be the Captain and First Officer of the USS Enterprise. Now, to start with the good, of which there is a great amount, the acting in the film is certainly the year's best example of an ensemble. Each of the actors in their respective roles (John Cho as Sulu, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty) contributes to the atmosphere of team solidarity and unity aboard the USS Enterprise. This atmosphere is key and vital to the establishment of the relationships between the characters in the series. Also, Chris Pine is very good as Kirk. Establishing himself as a renegade who despite bucking procedure and having a chip off his shoulder, Pine injects Kirk with a quality that makes him instantly likeable despite his obvious flaws. The standout performance for me though is that of Quinto as Spock. Playing excellently the half-Vulcan/half-human, Quinto through his expressions and lack of them expertly portrays the conflicted persona of Spock with sublime ability. Wisely portraying Spock throughout as a mysterious and closed-off character, it is because of this that his displays of emotion are given more power and poignancy when he does shed his coated illusion of being in control. Like Pine's performance, it is this clashing of emotions (this time literally) between more human emotions and those which are recognised as non-human which drives the character, and Quinto makes Spock an instantly likeable character despite being in many respects an emotionless, insecure control freak. Contributing also to the actors' establishment of their characters is the strong script. The characters are for the most part, particularly with the characters and relationship between Kirk and Spock, expertly done: each serves a purpose in the film, no matter how small a part or how large, and without them, the texture of the film would be completely different. Also, another thing to be credited by the screenwriters is the way in which they have not forgotten the fanboys. Now, the film does not bother me in the slightest in this sense because I have never been a Trekkie, but I feel that the way in which they have established the story has been done in a way in which Trekkies would also be extremely satisfied. Put it this way, there is a really smartly used plot device which will satisfy those who have loved the franchise for years. I'll say no more. Also, cinematography in the film is excellent. I watched the making-of documentary to the making of the film, and there are a lot of interesting, budget-saving improvised ways in making shooting the film. For example, in scenes torches were shone into the camera to create interesting effects with the lighting. Also, Abrams himself would be on hand to physically "vibrate" the camera, but in a way which is really interesting and does not distort what the viewer is seeing. Furthermore, the cinematographers must be commended for choosing to use the anamorphic format to shoot on. This gives the film a unique kind of sheen to its art direction and makes the sets and lighting look so much better. Also, the film is brilliantly designed, and is certainly one of the most technically solid films of the year. Finally, Abrams' direction is strong, and as the main guy behind the film, certainly deserves high commendation. He can be compared to James Cameron, for he seems to be involved in numerous aspects of the production, but not so much to the point that the efforts of others, such as cinematographer Daniel Mindel, will not be overlooked. However, despite a great amount of good with the film, there are numerous issues with the film. Now, as mentioned earlier, the script in terms of character establishment of the USS Enterprise is done very well. In doing so, they have missed out the fact that this is purely exposition, even if it is good exposition. It is obvious that there is a villain of the piece in Eric Bana’s Nero, but in truth, they may as well have not even bothered. I think that because of the focus on the Enterprise character establishment, the screenwriters have forgotten about the establishment of a strong villain. Unfortunately, because of this misdirection in writing, they have instead made the Nero-subplot seem instead like an excuse to establish the story of the Enterprise, instead of contributing much to the film. It is rather a shame, because in the opening pre-credits scenes, Nero is introduced as a potentially interesting villain. Bana really does do his best with the limited character development that he has, but seeing as how his character is poorly written, it cannot help but be a hindrance to his performance. Furthermore, the Nero-subplot, which really shouldn’t be a subplot but clearly is, shows to us the limitations of the film as an origin story. In this sense, it is hindered even more so than the likes of Iron Man. Establishing a franchise often sees the case of first-movie syndrome, in which one of the sequels is usually the best one because all of the exposition is done away with. The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back are examples of this. Unfortunately, Star Trek does often feel like “Alright, alright that’s how that happened, let’s get on with it.” Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable film which I am sure, if Abrams stays on board for sequels, will evolve into an interesting reboot of the Star Trek franchise.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very pleased

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Trick 'R Treat

Bookya! Yeah I know, the openings of the blogs are getting increasingly random as they go along, but either way, it's an excuse not only for bucking the usual trends but also serves the purpose brilliantly of covering up my extreme laziness. Whoops! Did not say that. Just forget that you read the last few sentences. Or maybe stop reading the blog. Go. Now. Stop! No wait don't! Anyway, the scrumptious meal on the plate tonight is Trick 'R Treat. Film criticism can be compared to food tasting, hence the metaphor. All critics are the same: it’s a purely universal thing, regardless of our given medium. Trick 'R Treat is a little-seen horror oddity which has slowly been developing a cult audience. The film was in fact first screened at Harry Knowles' film festival Butt-Numb-A-Thon in 2007, and has been making appearances at various horror film festivals since, including Fangoria's 2008 Screamfest and numerous others. Despite an October 2007 original release date, distribution problems with Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures have seen the film released in the UK direct-to-DVD in October 2009. Nevertheless, the debut feature of Michael Dougherty, screenwriter of X2 and Superman, has gained near universal acclaim amongst those critics who have seen the film, many of whom have ranked the film among the best horror films of the decade. In Trick 'R Treat, not surprisingly, the film is set on Halloween night, and the film follows four interconnected tales over the course of the nights happenings. Now, the film is a brisk, tight seventy-nine minutes, and as such the film structured in a manner where it can't really go wrong. Concept wise, it is very strong. Each of the tales are maniacal and macabre, reminiscent of the likes of The Twilight Zone or the more recent Masters Of Horror. This is a case of less is more nailed in the head. I could imagine that if this was a conventional "Hollywood" horror film, it would be stretched out for about another twenty-thirty minutes, and try to add more and more exposition that is completely unnecessary and ruins the mysteriousness and subtlety of the piece. If you look at the history of horror cinema, you will quite clearly see that most of them are less than 100 minutes. Halloween runs at 91 minutes, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre runs at an even shorter 84 minutes. Longer ones, such as The Exorcist or 28 Days Later are layered with themes such as human drama and social subtexts. Never should a horror film especially, much less any film be made to be overly long, so in this department Trick 'R Treat works excellently. As mentioned, because of this the tales work really well and are strung well into each other. Trick 'R Treat has so many things going against it as a film, for one being an unconventional and original horror film, but also an episodic film, more in due time. The cast is very good, clearly very aware of people’s expectations and horror film conventions. Brian Cox hams it up as your typically mysterious and grumpy old man, Anna Paquin plays a real perversion of your average heroine and in the film’s best turn Dylan Baker plays a really genuinely warped and funny character brilliantly in Principal Wilkins. Michael Dougherty must also be congratulated not just for his well-structured script, but his direction too is very good. It hints at an interesting prospect for horror cinema, with someone who clearly knows what he is doing, and is aware of the current climate of "horror" cinema. However, whilst certainly an enjoyable film, as a b-movie concept piece, it does have its limitations. As mentioned earlier, the film is an episodic film, and creating an episodic film with quite clearly original stories with only a few recurrent strands has its limitations. I think in terms of episodic structure and delivery, Pulp Fiction is perhaps the best examples of this. An ensemble cast performing to perfection and Tarantino at his maniacal best (though presently, I am still unsure whether I prefer this to his earlier film Reservoir Dogs). In Trick 'R Treat, rather unfortunately, it does often feel like a bunch of short films shoved together. An episodic film is hard to balance, an unfortunately it does teeter more to the bad side in terms of the episodic film concept. It is particularly in the transitions between sections that the film falters, for while it is a nippy film, it does not aptly set the scenes well. Once it gets into the tale, its fine, and the endings of each are smart, but the beginnings/transitions do not work well and seem like filler. It's not too long a film, it just seems like these establishments do not work well, and they really do deter at times from your enjoyment of the overall piece. Nevertheless, despite these obvious falterings, which in truth are more the fault of the genres/structured formats of episodic films and b-movies, Trick 'R Treat is an enjoyable little film that has enough good in it to give a suitable lesson to the big-boys of today’s horror cinema in how to make a good horror film with a cheaper budget.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Satisfied

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Invention Of Lying

Ok, here we go, post-tirades and what have you, and now for a change, I've actually seen a movie that I have enjoyed over the past couple of weeks, The Invention Of Lying, about which in due course, but here's a little context. Now, The Invention Of Lying is most notable for being the theatrical debut film of English comedian Ricky Gervais. Gervais, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past decade, has only been perhaps the most notable comedian to come out of Britain for a good while. With The Office, Extras, Flanamils and a number of stand-up shows since under his belt, Gervais is unquestionably the giant in this generation's British comedy. Also, I won't lie, I'm a big fan of the guy. His style of comedy is very subtle, but also has a delicate balance between a comic situation and a real situation. In The Invention Of Lying, Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a man who is down on his luck, living in an alternate reality where mankind has not discovered how to lie. As such, after hitting numerous dead ends (flunking his date with Anna, played by Jennifer Garner, losing his job et al), he stumbles upon the concept of lying, and being the only person who knows how to do so, begins to go somewhere with his life. Ricky Gervais plays the role of Mark very well, injecting his usual brand of subtle nuances to his character, whilst also maintaining a very human character. His portrayal of the character over the course of the film as he becomes rich and famous is very well done. The evolution is not extravagant or over-the-top, instead showing someone who is still incredulous at the idea that no one else is able to grasp the concept of lying. Rob Lowe is also very good in a supporting role as Mark's rival in screenwriting, Brad Kessler. Once again, playing off of Gervais, Lowe also plays a character that is not over-the-top, and in his portrayal of someone who is really in essence a jerk, comes across as someone that any one of us could know. The script in itself is also solid. There are scenes of absolute comic brilliance, due in part to Gervais' sitcom experience. Scenes such as the confrontation between Mark and Kessler upon Mark losing his job and Mark's inadverted invention of religion come to mind. In these scenes, the religion sequence being genuinely hilariously awkward, the film is at its best, giving us some genuinely original gags while not straying away from the original concept. Once again, I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm gushing, but Gervais' efficient direction also must be complimented. While himself a notorious corpser and prankster on-set, Gervais nonetheless seems to get the job done really well and in a manner that would suggest that he has a budding feature film career. The various cameos in the film by Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the team of Stephen Merchant and Shaun Williamson (Barry from Eastenders!) are incorporated very well, bringing to mind the intelligent use of cameos in Anchorman. On a final note on the positives, composer Tim Atack delivers a very nice and lovely score. Yes, it's orchestral I know, nonetheless it is utilised really well throughout the film and is not your typical clichéd orchestral score. Furthermore, it does not interfere with the film whatsoever, but instead complements what goes on onscreen, raising the dramatic and comedic emotions. However, while certainly being a very enjoyable film, there are a number of flaws that come with it. Whilst there are moments of brilliance in the script, and Gervais is certainly an excellent dialogue writer, the romantic subplot does not come across as overly convincing to me. For a film which relies much on the strength of originality, the romance subplot comes across as clichéd and not very well thought out. Also, it does not give Jennifer Garner much room to use her acting skills, instead just serving as filler for much of her time in the film. Her character comes across as more of a plot device than a believable and human character as a result. The other main problem with the film, and I am in firm agreement with Mark Kermode on this one, is that the strength of the concept is not strong enough. Perhaps if it was re-written or done slightly differently it would come across better, but The Invention Of Lying's concept, which is key to the humour of the film, seems more appropriate for a short film, an episode of a TV series or a one-off TV special. As such, the concept seems like it has been stretched out and overly milked, coming across as dry and dull by the end of the film. This is rather unfortunate, as it undermines the original ideas of the film, and instead there are many clichéd scenes to be seen as filler and window dressing. Perhaps if the films editor Chris Gill were to piece the film together better it would work better a whole. However, it just seems as though he has patched together whatever has been shot, and as a result of a lack of cutting the film down so that it is tight and stronger, the concept comes across as bloated and unfulfilling. Nevertheless, Ricky Gervais' feature directorial debut is far better than many are giving it credit. Some people I think just don’t get Ricky Gervais’ style of comedy, and at times would probably alienate a more populist audience, but screw Empire for giving it a one out of five review. You’re entitled to your opinions, I just believe that you are seriously wrong in this case. You seem to have been expecting another comedy masterpiece, I mean, give the guy a break. I found the film to be very human, charming and quite enjoyable, Ricky Gervais serving out the auteur duties very well, and I think that this shows good signs for better films in the future of Gervais.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Quite pleased

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Land Of The Lost

Alrighty then, let's get cracking with the new Will Ferrell movie, Land Of The Lost. Now, for anyone who does follow the blog, they'll know that me and Will Ferrell have a bit of a love-hate relationship. Now, to clear this from the record, I DO NOT dislike Will Ferrell as a comic actor. The man is quite clearly talented and can be very enjoyable to watch, but he does intermittently make mistakes as an actor. Its kind of like Quentin Tarantino, although more so, in that whilst intelligence does shimmer, every now and again he goes mad. Here, in Land Of The Lost, Ferrell plays Rick Marshall, a paleontologist who is ostracised by the scientific community because of his radical theories, only to find out through an admirer Holly, played by Anna Friel, followed by Will, played by Danny McBride, that they are true, and they enter a Land Of The Lost, and we follow their attempts to get back home. Now in truth, there were a few good things about Land Of The Lost. For starters, Ferrell is playing a character which is not ridiculously over-the-top, and seems more like a real human being. That however is not to take away from the larger-than-life portrayal of Ron Burgendy in Anchorman, it's just he does over-the-top too often, and it is for a time at least refreshing to see Ferrell in a role that is not over-the-top but more psychologically insecure and egotistical. Also, some of the gags are funny, although I will say they are few and far between. Finally, the world that is created in Land Of The Lost is done very well. Suiting the type of film that it is meant to be, the world is absolute hyper-reality, with the graphics of the dinosaurs made to look obvious and the world made to look slightly hokey, in order to give the film a sort of look reminiscent of The Mighty Boosh, although through the use of graphics rather than actual props. However, it all looks very well, giving it a distinctly original art direction. The music by Michael Giachinno soots the atmosphere of the world very well, harking back to vintage television scores, as seen in the original series and projected by the films tachyon amplifier which takes them to the Land Of The Lost, at least giving the film some vestiges of originality. However, this is all that is good about the film, for Land Of The Lost is a really lacking film. Anna Friel just serves as your obligatory window dressing, and Danny McBride's role is a waste of time, serving as the films stereotypical idiot alongside the primate companion of the group. Also, the film is stuctured in a manner so that everything they do in the film is purely expositional, as opposed to actually balancing between that and advancing the characters throughout the film: its all there for the typical point A to point A. Dialogue too really suffers in this department, mixing between being purely expositional and downright stupid gags. Now as I said, there are a few gags to be found, but few and far between is the correct phrase, and in truth, the gags are the lowest and most unintelligent, unoriginal scat humour, sexual innuendo and drug references. Another problem with this type of humour in this film is that the film is quite clearly aimed at a younger audience than is typical of a Will Ferrell comedy. As such, the humour becomes like a castrated, PG-13 version of everything, so that adults can get the humour and the children will think its funny because people are acting stupid, the sequence with the men and primate drinking "narcotics" from a coconut tree being the best example. Other times, its just Will Ferrell literally pouring dinosaur piss on his head: it's that type of film. Not only that, Ferrell's character is more reminiscent of one of his sketch show creations, and so by about half-way through the film he is more annoying than funny. Also, director Brad Siberling just seems to be going with proceedings, just being there to supervise the chaos, and as a result, just seems to be doing a lazy job instead. Now I'm not saying that people can't have fun on a film set, but there has to be at least some sort of effort being put in to making a good film. They spent $100 million making this film. I will not tell people how to make movies, do it whatever way you will, but I am getting more and more disgusted every time I see considerable amounts of money spent on a movie which is so unneccessarily expensive. Hopefully the film's $64 million gross will have served as a kick up the ass for them, because I getting sick and tired of the lack of morality at spending so much money and having nothing positive to show for it. Land Of The Lazy is a very lazy, effortless film which is also very, very boring and is in my opinion the worst film starring Will Ferrell. Please don't do it again Will. I know we have criticised you for overacting, but don't address it by underacting to the point where we don't care that you are in the film. We'll even let you take your top off like you always do.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Incredibly bored

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Edge Of Darkness

Alright, I'll also use this time to make an announcement regarding my film reviews for the year of 2009/2010. In a week or two, I will be finishing up my reviews for this year round of films, for in truth, I am for once giving in to my physical exhaustion at watching too many films. I have been watching too many films which are what I call the spawn of the les enfants terrible of film criticism: bad and boring. Seeing so many films which are either awful or underwhelming really is starting to catch up on me, and I won't lie, I am going to be taking an indefinite hiatus from reviewing movies for at least a month because it is very tiring at times doing this. Force of habit I guess. Anyway, psychological digressions aside, we have on our hands here Edge Of Darkness, the new film starring Mel Gibson. Now, for those of you who don't know already and may be wondering where Mel Gibson went, well he has emerged from an indefinite hiatus. The last film he starred in was in 2002's Signs, and we all remember how long ago that was. Since then, has directed The Passion Of The Christ, one of the best films of the decade, and the action-adventure Apocalypto. Since his 2006 DUI however, Mel has been very quiet. He mentioned that he would only act in a movie if the script we truly extraordinary, and well, this is the film he chose. The film is also the first film that director Martin Campbell has made since Casino Royale, another one of the decades best films, so surely, with a combination like this, and Campbell directing an adaptation of a show which he himself made, this would be a great thriller. Well, let's wait and see. Here, Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a detective, whose daughter is murdered, and during the course of the film, goes on a quest for revenge against those who he believes to have murdered her, i.e Danny Huston's businessman Jack Bennett, assisted in part by the philosophically-minded Darius Jedburgh, played by Ray Winstone. Sounds like a revenge thriller? You better believe it. To start with what's good about it, Gibson is the best thing in the movie. Far from one-note, he gives an interesting and complex performance as Craven. The portrayal of this man's determination and funnel-vision in order to complete his mission is really well done. It is done with suitable malice, but more importantly it is not done without a human heart to the piece that helps us sympathise with Craven's plights. Also, although he is in many respects playing the villainous role that he often plays so well, Danny Huston is also really good as Bennett. Representing in many respects the typical, remorseless and morallessness of the corporate product, Huston really does this role quite well. Also, one thing that should be congratulated on the part of the film-makers is the fact that the film does not go absolutely bananas and over-the-top. We have seen a real tendency in thriller's of today to bring a story, a plot to the table, and decide that "Hey, the audience is bored, let's insert an explosion, a car chase, a gun battle et al." The Taking Of The Pelham 123 comes to mind as an example of this ludicrousosity appearing in what should be by all means a traditional thriller. With Edge Of Darkness, there is a distinct absence of this ridiculousness and deviations from form. This is a consistently paced thriller, with a decent, if traditional structure. This brings me to the problems about the film. Unfortunately, despite all of these good elements involved in the film-making process, we do not see any attempts to be groundbreaking or make a movie which really touches us on a deep, personal and human level. Whilst it is good that it is a traditional thriller which has a degree of consistency which gives the film a certain realism, the real problem with the film is that it is very unoriginal. The plot in itself is predictable and very nuts-and-bolts, with all the cliches of the genre sticking out like a bad hip. The films lack of a great story and plot also has an inconsistency with the performance of Gibson, who seems to see the film as it is in it's rawest form, and gives a better performance than is deserving of the film. As far as I am concerned, while the film is unoriginal and uninspiring, as a nuts-and-bolts thriller with more consistency than most today and a good performance from Mel Gibson, the film is still at a half-decent romp.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 5.8/10

The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis - Content

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - A Perfect Getaway

And what A Perfect Getaway it was, to have nothing better to do than sit around at home and watch this film. By the way, I do have a life outside reviewing movies; I just tend to lean much of the preoccupations of my life towards the arts culture. All in due time though of course. Anyway, here we have A Perfect Getaway, a psychological thriller written and directed by David Twohy of Pitch Black and The Chronicles Of Riddick fame. In A Perfect Getaway, mild-mannered newlyweds Cydney and Cliff, played by Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn respectively, go on their honeymoon to Hawaii. However, in the neighbouring island of Honolulu, a murder has been committed by a man and a woman, and during the course their journey, meet two different couples, who may or may not have committed the murders. Of course, being a "psychological thriller" it must play around with our minds a bit, and play with audience expectations and perceptions. To start with what is good about it, the film is shot well. The film is very crisp in the shots showing off the magisterial beauty of Hawaii, with blindingly bright colours and what have you. Also, the film is suitably grimy and gritty when it needs to be, being a thriller, there are scenes of running about, and unlike the shaky-cam syndrome, which I am glad to see I have not seen in a while, you are still able to see what is going on whilst a sense of realism is given to the scenes. David Twohy directs with a very concise style, and clearly knows how to shoot a film well. Finally, you cannot help but like Steve Zahn. A genuinely underrated actor, he plays the role of Cliff really well, providing the film with occasions of light humour and also providing the audience someone you can identify with for a time. Oh, and also, the twist is quite smart, although I do feel that what had preceded the twist would have made the twist work far better, bringing on to the problems with the film. For starters, as a film it is more or less a nuts-and-bolts thriller that doesn't try to be anything much, so it's not exactly a good start whenever you are making a film for the sake of it. Also, now I do think Milla Jovovich can act, but unfortunately, despite being what I would say is probably the emotional "heart" of the film, she hams it up so poorly. Her acting is decidedly wooden and sour, making you think why in god's name Steve Zahn's character would want to marry her. The script is also a poor work. A very half-assed and lazy effort in my opinion, the characters are poorly written and two-dimensional, even after the twist, which is obviously meant to make the characters seem more complex than they really are. I won't lie here folks, I'm not having a great time reviewing this movie. At least with an absolutely dreadful movie you have more to say, so I'm just going to be taking wee chips at this movie, so please don't accuse me of writing a rubbish review whenever I have already told you I am going to do so. With regards to Timothy Olyphant, why is he trying to play Bill Paxton? A slightly mad and manic Iraq war veteran with a Texas accent. Coincidentally, Olyphant was born in Honolulu himself, so if you wanted someone to be manic with a Texas accent, why not get Bill Paxton? So what if he is too old, it would make more sense than this movie altogether! Structurally the film is all off-kilter. The amount of genre-hopping and lack of consistency that the film has is unbelievable. Between romance, horror, thriller, psychological thriller, action-adventure, satire et al, this film does not know whether it is coming or going. Finally, the twist if anything just seems to make the film worse than it already is, changing the movie for the worse. For starters, it completely ridicules the audiences intelligence by spending about ten minutes explaining everything to us that we have already noticed as strange or startling throughout the film. Excuse my language, but its like exposition for retards. It is a stupid montage trying to explain everything, although I an over-stylised manner as though to say, "Hey, look how smart we are, fooled you there!" Hey, any audience is not that stupid to have it rubbed in our face you fools. Also, the film is ridiculously over-stylised after this. The use of drugs in the film is a big plot hole. Question? If they were using drugs throughout the film, then why did it only go all HD and shaky after the twist was revealed? Finalement, why the gratuitous use of slo-mo. I mean come on, is it really necessary? It's like you're trying to make up for all the populist nonsense that you didn't touch in the last two acts. In conclusion, while not an altogether horrible movie, it is very poor suffering from a dreadful script and one of the worst deviations of any sort of plot in the final act I have seen in years. At least when Quentin Tarantino goes mad, it's only in relatively short bursts. Here, it encompasses an entire act, taking away from the film as a whole.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 3.7/10

The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis - Cross

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Observe and Report

Alright, how are we all doing today? Are we seated comfortably? I hope you are, because this is an uncomfortable review for an uncomfortable film. What we have here is a spanking-new comedy starring Seth Rogen. Now, for a bit of background detail, Observe and Report has been overlooked over the past year because a similar film based around a "mall cop" by the name of Paul Blart, which was more family-friendly, performed very strongly at the box-office. As such, this has become known to many as the "other Mall-Cop" movie. However, this is a very different beast entirely. As you could imagine perhaps with the slightly twisted take of comedy that Seth Rogen frequently offers up, this is by no means a family friendly movie. I was probably going to end completely overlooking the film, but it was recommended to me by numerous fellow film fans (including the frequently referenced fellow film critic) as a really good comedy that appeals directly to my sense of humour. The sense of humour here being that of black comedy. I won't lie, I do have a dark sense of humour, and in truth am unfortunately at times able to see the funny in what are the worst situations possible. Life would never be the same in my opinion without being able to point out the absurdities of very serious matters. Take for example the case of Iris Robinson for example. I mean, you can't help but say that there is a humorous absurdity in the idea of a 59-year old right-wing Christian sleeping with a 19-year old, which has, for the time being, seems to have brought the Northern Ireland to a standstill. Damn you Iris, damn you! Anyway, with this offering of black comedy we have Seth Rogen as Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security at a mall, who is on task attempting to catch a flasher in order to impress Brandi, played by Anna Farris, with whom he is infatuated, however, blocking his progress is inspecting policeman Detective Harrison, played by Ray Liotta, who is also attempting to solve at the mall a number of robberies. Of course, this is all you need to know, and we follow Rogen through all number of situations throughout the film. Now, to get it off the plate to start, a lot of critics do not like Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow et al because their brand of humour is considered "unintelligent, misogynistic and smutty," which to me is a rather dry and ill-informed argument to offer up. Rogen is one of the funniest men in comedy today, not able just to play a bloke or stupid man, but also giving a warm presence onscreen which is very lacking in comedy. In this film, he plays Barnhardt as a regular American, though as mentioned by the film-makers, is obviously inspired by Travis Bickle. As the simpleton who just wants to be good, we do feel for him during his plight, and he portrays the darker, maniacal and more psychotic aspects of the character very well, but the fatal flaw is in the material offered up. Because there is a distinct weakness in the material, there cannot help but be a weakness in the performances. Now, say what you will, that I don't get this film and what is trying to do, I in fact do have an argument backing me up saying that I do get this film and know what I am talking about. As a fan of black comedy, while there are really no rules, and it's anyone’s ball game, there are certain unwritten rules which should be obeyed if one is to achieve a really dark comedy. First off, and I believe that Ricky Gervais is a brilliant practitioner of this form of black comedy, take a realistic and very serious matter, and dig the absurdity and awkwardness out of this situation. This works really well in a few scenes in the film, the scene with the taboo topic of date-rape being a prime example. However, there must a consistency, and this consistently is broken down by using smutty humour in between. There are some sequences involving this smutty humour, or not just smut humour, just the humour in general is so absurd that it disconnects from the awkward reality of the situation. It is a very hard line to walk, and unfortunately with Observe and Report it often falls on its face, because Rogen completely plays a black comedy character, but the gags are often not black-comedy gags, but absurdo-comedy gags, which just don't fit together. The real error for Observe and Report is the script. Director/screenwriter Jody Hill has I believe to be the best intentions for this film, attempting to make a unique and original comedy. The unfortunate thing about the script is that we have a well-written character and a few well-written scenes put into the context of a really off-kilter film, which with all due respect, does seem lazy and rushed. Serious re-writes would need to be done to the script in order to make it in the least memorable. There are individual moments of brilliance, and it makes you think that this might have worked well as a sketch-show character or maybe a supporting character. There is enough there from the work of Rogen to sustain a full film, but otherwise bar a few good gags, everything is filler. The other actors/characters only seem to exist to take Ronnie from Point A to Point A, the structure of the script is very muddled, the gags are often uninventive and lazy, and the director unfortunately is unaware of the film he is making. Jody Hill unfortunately seems to think he is making Scorsese's The King Of Comedy (incidentally based on Taxi Driver itself), but this film, whilst it has the best intentions and moments of brilliance, with a good and complex performance from Rogen, falls flat on its face.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Deeply disappointed