Monday, 26 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Armored

Every now and again, in between all the big blockbusters, so-called "Oscar" fare and foreign language films that I get to review in the course of a year, it is nice every now and again to get to see an enjoyable B movie, and this is what we get with Armored. This is a new film released this year by Nimrod Antal, who has already made a pretty good film in Vacancy, and also has the newest Predator film, Predators, in cinemas right now. Antal is really coming along as a director with great potential. In the case of Armored, which can be said to resemble Reservoir Dogs in many senses, this is a good little oddity to see. The story in Armored follows Ty Hackett, a former US Army veteran played by Columbus Short, who struggles to maintain his household and custody of his brother Jimmy, played by Andre Kinney, following the death of their parents. His god father and co-worker Mike Cochrane, played by Matt Dillon, has planned to include Ty in a plot to rob their own Eagle Shield security firm of the money they are transferring from Federal Reserve, alongside Quinn, his brother-in-law Baines, Palmer and Dobbs, played by Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco and Skeet Ulrich respectively. To start with the good regarding this film, there are a number of good performances. Columbus Short delivers a really solid performance as Ty. As the main character of the film, he is able gain the audience's sympathies on his side very well, but by no means through being whiny. He portrays the different aspects of Ty well, as a role model/figure of strength to his brother and as the young protégé of sorts to his godfather Mike. As Mike, Matt Dillon too gives a good performance, playing the decay of the moral conscience that Ty possesses really well. Dillon's interactions and dialogues with Short give the film some of its best moments, and the father/son relationship displayed by the two which is believable enough creates a lot of tension throughout the film. Also delivering a good performance is the ever magnificent Laurence Fishburne as Baines. As the more unhinged member of the group, Fishburne creates a powerful presence onscreen. It is a case of one of those characters that gives you Goosebumps as soon as you see them. Fishburne really sinks into this role. Also, for a first-time screenwriter James V. Simpson he has written a suitably interesting piece of work. The script is really strong from a dialogue perspective, helping create the very human feeling that the piece has. It manages to keep the film interesting and make you want to see the film through to its conclusion. From a technical standpoint, the cinematography of the film is pretty good. It is shot by Andrzej Sekula, who has a history of films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, American Psycho and Vacancy. Like Vacancy, who shoots Armored in a very dirty kind of grungy way. When I say dirty and grungy, I don't mean like those tortune-porn movies like Hostel, I mean legitimately. The film has a balance of colours and textures, even if most of them are dark. Even in the darkness too you can see what is going on. Sekula shoots in a style that would remind you, particularly in the case of Vacancy, of stuff like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here, considering the setting for much of the film, he makes the abandoned steel mill look really grimy but in a good way. Finally, Nimrod Antal seems to really keep control of the film very well. Thankfully, he decided not to got mad or anything, and with the budget he was given directs a really solid and fine bit of schlock. However, that said, the film is not without its flaws by any means. It is not lazy film-making, but Armored really does not stand out as anything special, and I think that seeing it more than two times would really be pushing it. The script, while a good first effort, is very simplistic and base. The ensemble cast is not balanced enough, with some characters being way too simplistic and two-dimensional, which means that some actors, including the very fine Jean Reno, does not get anything to bust his acting chops over. Whenever these more two-dimensional characters stand alongside the more fully-rounded characters, it does not balance out very well. Also, the film is predictable enough for the most part, due to the relatively lack of inventiveness on the plot and story structure. Furthermore, the editing in some cases was a problem for me, with the chopping and changing from the isolated location taking away from the tension and claustrophobia that is built in these scenes. Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but as far as I am concerned, once they got to the abandoned mill, the camera should never have left there to have scene from the outside. However, for the most part, they did follow due course. Also, the chase scenes were interesting enough, particularly in the lack of space and driving around in large armored trucks. Armored is an interesting enough film that is certainly worth a watch and is very admirable film-making. Furthermore, it is short and accessible at only eight-eight minutes, unlike many bloated films, and arguably has a greater balance in terms of good to bad than most of these films.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

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

P.S. I know, the tagline sucks, but hey, that's marketing. This is worth a watch.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - From Paris With Love

Ok folks, back again, this with From Paris With Love, a new actioner produced by Luc Besson. Besson has for the past twenty-odd years been on a steamroller in redefining action cinema and for a time, alongside John Woo, was the best action film-maker in the world. Having directed films such as Nikita, Leon which is one of my favourite films and The Fifth Element, Luc Besson is certainly experienced in this genre. Also, whilst having for most of the last decade resigned to the position of producer, has produced action films such as The Transporter series, District 13 and Taken. This film reunites him with Taken director Pierre Morel, so hey presto, we have a great action movie on our hands. Story goes basically that aide to the U.S Ambassador in France James Reese, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is getting engaged to his fiance, is genuinely passionate about working for the CIA. However, on the night of his engagement an assignment lands in his lap in working with new partner Charlie Wax, played by John Travolta. Reese ends up in deeper than he expects whenever he finds that Wax is in Paris on a special assignment to uncover a cocaine drugs wing in the Paris criminal underworld. Now, to start with the good about the film, one cannot help but feel slightly charmed by Travolta. No, by no means is it a great performance, and he is doing the whole "Travolta gone mad" performance that we have seen him do before, but the man has a degree of charisma and does bring out a few giggles. The scene in which we are introduced to him is the funniest scene in the film, having already irked the French customs officials over him bringing a case of his favourite energy drink into the country. Saying that, it is frightening to think of the standard of films that Travolta has been in and how he has now really sank to playing caricatures and not characters these days. The film has even reduced itself to making an "oh isn't so funny" reference to the "Royale-With-Cheese" dialogue between Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction. I'm sorry, but when a film harks back to another film in an attempt to be cool someone needs to be there with a whip to get them to stop. What must really be credited on this film is the technical aspects. The film is shot very well by Michel Abramowicz, who thankfully manages to let us see what is going on. It is a nice change every now and again to see an action sequence or car chase that isn't shot in the hyper methadrone/cokehead style that is employed by every cinematographer after Paul Greengrass' Bourne films. Yeah, the choreography isn't anything special by any means, for all of the action sequences bar the third act car chase effectively look the same, but at least we can see what is going on. It does not matter what is going on, the audience will not be interested if they cannot see what is going on. Abramowicz' work, alongside the editing by Frederic Thoraval attempt to establish some sense of what is going on. As such, even though they do for the most part look the same, at least with regards to the action sequences we have something to look at. However, bar this, there is not much else good about From Paris With Love. Rhys Meyers fails to do anything with the shoddy part that has been given to him, no thanks to a really terrible screenplay. Written by Besson and Adi Hasak, this screenplay would be a really good parody of the action genre, or even an action-comedy vehicle for Rhys Meyers and Travolta like the Lethal Weapon sequels, but unfortunately it is not meant to be an action-comedy. Even still, despite my attempts to answer it's genre, I am at times perplexed as to the overall mood of the film. The wisecracking of Wax mean it has a comedic element, but unfortunately this unbalanced by swift mood shifts in other directions. At times it seems to attempting to go for a hard edge reminiscent to Training Day, signalled of course by Reese and Wax indulging in cocaine to blend in in their job environment. Then, following the most ludicrous plot twist, which through sheer stubborness I will not spoil, it takes a turn for the worst, and we see a film on a much deeper level, in which we are meant to penetrating deep into the character's minds. Furthermore, Reese is definitely more unbalanced than Wax. Even in Travolta-gone-mad format he retains at least a consistently energy of madness, whereas the character of Reese is constantly up-and-down-up-and-down. Honest to god, the man clearly has a hormonal imbalance, which of course is justified in the film by psychological trauma. Anyway, the screenplay is really dull and packed with cliches throwing in the odd quip which is vaguely amusing by Travolta. Director Morel also really fails to do much to what is already a shoddy set of elements. It's as though he just shrank the actors and a replica of Paris, which he just let loose and shot that. This is uncontrolled madness not quite at it's worst, but certainly not on the right side of good.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.9/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Indifferent

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Inception

Not to try and give away the general direction in which this review is going, but has this past week perhaps been the best opening week for new films in the cinema since the beginning of the millenium. There hasn't been opening week for films like this since 2006, in which Juno, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood all opened within a couple of days within each other. On Monday we had the absolutely majesterial Toy Story 3 open, and the Friday before we have Inception, the new film by Christopher Nolan. I was listening to Mark Kermode's review of the film, and I agree with him in saying that this is effectively Warner Bros saying to him, "Hey, you made a billion dollars with The Dark Knight, here's $160 million to make whatever you want." The end result is thus presented before us, and not without a big $100 million marketing campaign to promote, and what I say is about freaking time. Any, more in due process. I'll try my best for a basic plot synopsis, but really, it's as Morpheus says about The Matrix, nobody tells you what The Matrix is, "you've got to see it for yourself." The film follows Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, an "extractor" who enters people's dreams in order to access information that is inaccessable otherwise. Given the opportunity to do a job that gives him the opportunity to regain his US national status and his family, his team, including Arthur, Ariadne, Eames, Yusuf and his employer Saito, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Yao and Ken Watanabe respectively, to fufil the less-familiar task of "Inception", planting an idea into one's subconcious, that of Cillan Murphy's Robert Fischer, to take over his father's business empire. To be fair, I probably shouldn't even be explaining a plot synopsis, for one of the real pleasures is seeing Inception is not knowing anything about it going in. The poster tagline of "Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime" and anything is enough for me to see any film. Nolan has an absolutely impeccible back catalog of films, and I am unmoving in my argument that he is the best director of the past ten years. Unlike many film-makers who consistently make good films but make one every four or five years, the longest gap in Nolan's filmography is three years between Insomnia and the creation of Batman Begins. Although I have yet to see his debut feature Insomnia, I have seen everything he has done since, and am suitably impressed. He is one of the few directors today whose working career I actively follow. We have seen Nolan in the past tackle perception of time and conciousness in films such as Memento, and this is very much a big-budget update of the themes that he generally challenges in his work. This time round he writes the screenplay by himself without frequent collaborater Jonathan Nolan and to be fair it is really good. The actual central concept is something very interesting to keep you thinking for the first half-an-hour, but then the actual structure and execution of the idea from its base form into something genuinely intelligent is masterful. Structurally the script is like a developing snowball rolling down a mountain, starting slowly and small, consistently building into something massive and genuinely fascinating. This is real brain juice for the mind, and really keeps you thinking and makes the film seem almost like an interactive experience, being taxing and addictive, but wholly rewarding. Often the problem with such a good idea and structured script such as this is that there is hokey dialogue and flawed characters written. I mean, as much as I really love The Matrix, a film that this certainly shares some comparisons, it had some really hokey dialogue. Here, the dialogue is very well written, and the interactions between the different characters are wholly appropriate. Furthermore, Nolan manages to take this wonderful screenplay and keep control of it. Unlike recent efforts by Tarantino, someone who does really need to control himself, Nolan does not go on trips of meglomaniacal self-indulgence and keeps suitable restraint on himself. Once again, as if it didn't need any more proving, Nolan proves that he is perhaps the best director in the world, masterfully conducting a behemoth task for any film-maker and keeping true to the central idea and the screenplay. Two years ago, Nolan won my Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Director for his direction on The Dark Knight, and I think he has probably topped his efforts on that, so he might well win again. Also, the film is brilliant from a technical standpoint. Unlike many special effects blockbusters these days, Inception uses mostly real choreograped sequences, for Nolan prefers to film this way. For example, Inception contains nearly 500 visual effects shots, and it is not uncommon for contempories to feature 1,500 or 2,000 vfx shots. As such, vfx supervisor Paul Franklin's work blends in tremendously with the real sets in the film, appropriately so for the film which is about the basis of altered reality and the question of what is reality. Also, Wally Pfister shoots a tremendous picture once again, his work only seeming to get better with each picture he does. Each scene is appropriately lit, especially considering the numerous locations spanned in the film. He seems to be as comfortable shooting static scenes with people in close-up as he is shooting action sequences. This is truly stunning work, with the scenes involving a shootout/car-chase in the rain coming to mind. Work must also be pointed towards the cast. Whilst Nolan's films are often noted for their technical brilliance, he too also knoews how to get together a great cast. This film is a prime example of strong ensemble cast acting. Alongside the cast members I have mentioned, also starring in the film are Marion Cotillard, Lukas Haas and Michael Caine. Also, it is nice to see Pete Postelwaithe and Tom Berenger, whose performance as Sgt Barnes in Platoon is one of my favourite. Leonardo DiCaprio really stands out as Dom Cobb, making the best of a very complex character. This is a fully fleshed, rounded and three-dimensional performance. DiCaprio has by all means proved himself as a great actor before, but this may well be his best. Cobb is a determined leader and DiCaprio portrays him with suitable charismatic qualities neccessary, but it is the deeper psychological aspect of Cobb that DiCaprio portrays brilliantly. As opposed to performing someone who is traumatised with manicism, DiCaprio presents Cobb with a type of madness not often seen in cinema, giving him a very unique performance. Also strong is Cillian Murphy, who although not having as much screen time as DiCaprio, delivers a suitably solid performance as Fischer. There is a whole other story going on between Fischer and his father that we are only told sparingly, but thanks Cillian Murphy's brilliance we are able to gain a great insight into this story in a really subtly great performance. Finally, Marion Cotillard delivers a really powerful performance in this film. Her performance is a bit of a niche/concept performance, which really although having gone well could have turned out terribly, but it works really well. As I said, it is a niche/concept performance, and it involves plot spoilers, so I won't get into detail, only saying that I believe that it is one of the better performances I have seen all year. Now, as you have gathered I didn't just like Inception, I loved it. However, the film is not without the smallest flaws, and they should be pointed out. It isn't a case of looking for flaws in the wake of my Toy Story 3 mania, but they were apparent to me as I was watching the film. For one, although I believe Lee Smith to be a fine editor whose work was solid for the most part in the film, I felt that the tension that was snowballing with the plot, running in paralell and almost in tandem, lost it's consistency and begain drop slightly towards the end. My problem, therefore, is that I feel that the final twenty/thirty minutes of the film needed a bit of a lookover. Saying that, this could be a screenplay problem. It is very hard for a film which is as big as it is ideas-wise to keep it's consistency throughout, but for the most part it is continued with suitable class. By the ending of the film however, it is though it has picked up a self-awareness of it's own flaws and corrects them by giving us a really solid climax. All in all, Inception is a really masterful and wonderful film, and I hope that this makes a lot of money, because it is about time that we, the people, were not looked down on by the creators of big films. Inception is a prime example of big-budget film-making at it's absolute best, fascinating, intelligent and exhilarating. On behalf of everyone, thank you Christopher Nolan, and a good luck in the quest in which we join you to force the studios give us more films like this. We demand films which demand more of it's audience and do not treat us like lobomised simpletons. We want more!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bloated at food for thought

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Toy Story 3

And now, the one that we have be waiting for, to use a cliché. Ten years in the making, here comes the arrival of Toy Story 3. I remember being a five-year-old going with my Dad to see the original Toy Story and being dazzled by a film that looked like this. It's possibly hard to imagine for anyone who wasn't in my generation who saw Toy Story for the first time, but before this it was all hand-drawn animation, and Toy Story was like nothing we had ever seen before. To think of something similar, the impact of Toy Story was similar to the release of Avatar. Furthermore, Toy Story also delivered with memorable characters and a tremendous script which made us want to continue watching. As seen by numerous cash cow films since, you won't want to watch a film unless it's good, no matter how well animated it is. Following on from this was Toy Story 2, which in the tradition of great sequels like The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens and The Godfather Part II, arguably trumps the original. Once again, to use a recurring cliché stolen from Spinal Tap, they turned the volume up to 11 that time round. In the ten years following Toy Story 2, Pixar has amazingly risen to even greater heights. Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibly, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Pixar have only gotten better and better. Now, John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar and the visionary behind Toy Story, is now Chief Creative Officer of both Disney and Pixar, making him effectively one of the kings of the animation world, has come full circle with the third film in the Toy Story franchise. This time round, Lee Unkrich, co-director of Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo is helming the franchise, and believe me, it's in ample hands. Anyway, cue word for plot synopsis, but really I will not spoil the movie by any means. This time round, Andy is now 17 and heading for college after the summer holidays and Woody, Buzz and the other toys are facing the possibility of either the attic or the trash. During this crisis, the toys end up at a day-care centre, in which they will be played with for all time. However, Woody has a case of a guilty conscience and decides to try and return to his owner. Now, by no means take this as the full and correct plot synopsis, and I probably (no, definitely) make it sound a more boring than it really is, but then again that's the thing about Pixar: they have a way of making anything seem so fantastical and amazing, telling a tale of greatness in the process. To start off with the vocal talents on display, as ever, Pixar have assembled a wonderful cast to play the characters. Returning to their famous roles are Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz, and really, they play them with suitable gravitas and play them relevantly as to how they are written on the page. One of cinema's great double acts, they exchanges between Woody and Buzz are nigh-on perfect, both hilarious and suitably poignant at points. Particularly in this film over the other two you get a real sense of the deep bond of friendship between the two. Joan Cusack is once again charming as the bouncy and enthusiastic Jessie and John Ratzenberger is also good is Hamm. I must say, after ten years and having not seen a Toy Story for years though, you do really forget how funny Don Rickles and Wallace Shawn are as the cynical Mr. Potato Head and as the simpleton Rex. Of the new cast members, the great Ned Beatty really stands out as Lotso the Lots-O'-Huggin' bear and in my opinion perhaps gives the best performance of a villain in the Toy Story canon. Also very funny though is Michael Keaton who does the voice of Ken, who is the subject of many insults and of some very funny interplay with Barbie. Let's face it though; these voice actors would not have been able to deliver their tremendous performances if it were not for a brilliant script. Writing the third Toy Story film would be a daunting task for anyone, but the gang at Pixar take this kind of thing in their stride and never fail to disappoint. The script is written by Michael Arndt, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay a few years back for the fabulous Little Miss Sunshine. Choosing a screenwriter who has written for a film such as this is highly appropriate for the approach to the story that the story-writers Lasseter, Unkrich and Andrew Stanton have taken. Arndt scribes a witty and consistently hilarious comedy which really keeps you in stitches for the majority of the film and keeps it at a constantly entertaining pace. Really, and this is the truth, I don't think I have laughed so much at a new film since I went to see Borat a few years ago, really, IT'S THAT FUNNY! However, Arndt is wise enough, along with the Pixar crew, to keep it a very human and poignant piece. With Andy growing up, from an audience perspective, this is us being forced to grow up and address the responsibilities that face us in the future. The toys, like Andy, are facing an uncertain future which may or may not be inevitable and it is whether or not the decisions they make that drive the film. It makes the emotional crux of the film very powerful. To be honest, and I probably shouldn't be saying "to be honest" because it makes me sound like I'm ashamed of something, the last fifteen minutes were a true emotional battle for me and I wept like a big baby. The ending, which I will not spoil, is truly satisfying, and is in my opinion, the greatest close to a film franchise in film history. And you know what; I am getting tears in my eyes thinking of it. Frightening, but I have got this far and have not even addressed the graphics, which are once again absolutely tremendous and have gotten even better as the years have went on, but is still recognisably familiar as the Toy Story look. However, I won't harp on, because I think I have had enough to say about this film. I will not joke, I have said this before about Wall-E, which I adore, but really, I feel that Toy Story 3 has superseded this. For the sake of argument here, and I know I may be going a bit mad over Toy Story fever, but I'm trying to think of a flaw for this movie but I can't, I simply can't. Maybe, I'll regret, maybe I won't, but I have reviewed over 100 movies over the past few years, but this might actually be the best one. For the first time in my reviewing career, I am going to give a movie a perfect 10 out 10. My brain is about to burst trying to think of a flaw, but really it is this good, and Pixar deserve this for this masterpiece so congratulations and a personal thank you for the years of wonder and joy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 10/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Astounded

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Alright everyone, I suppose this is the one that is going to inspire this summer's great debate. Regardless of the quality of the films, you've got to admit they inspire any number of good and witty exchanges. Of note also is the fact that no franchise today has such equally divided camps of people who absolutely love the franchise and who vehemently hate it. At this stage, going into the new film Eclipse, I stand on a neutral precipice, and this film is the one that will make me decide my position ultimately. I like the first Twilight, although like many first films, it is limited by the fact that it has to do all the "basil exposition" introductions to the characters in the franchise. The second film New Moon on the other hand a terribly boring film which boasts one good performance in Taylor Lautner. So here we are, another year, another Twilight film. Story follows on from the last film, in which (SPOILER ALERT) we left on a cliffhanger after Edward, played by "R-Patz" himself Robert Pattinson, asks Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, to marry him. Here, we follow on from this marriage proposal, and Bella is bottled over as how to tell her father Charlie, played by Billy Burke, and friend Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner. During this time, tensions are at a high point between the vampire and werewolf clans, and when Victoria, played by Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Rachel Lefevre of the previous films, turns local teenager Riley Biers, played by Xavier Samuel, in a vampire, she enlists him to recruit a vampire army to kill Bella. As such, the vampires and werewolves make an uneasy pact to protect Bella. So there's my basil exposition out of the way, now I'll get down to the heart of the argument, and many of you are probably reading it just to see if it is a Twilight mark or Twilight hater's review you are reading. Well, here it is: I really like Eclipse, which means on my own scale that I am no longer neutral and am now on the side of the Twilight fanboys(/girls). And you know what, so what! To start with the good about this film, this time the actors portraying each of their characters have really nailed them spot on. Kristen Stewart, as the heart of the Twilight franchise, gives her best performance as Bella here. Having been labelled as both wooden and an absolute moan in the past, you really do feel there is a flesh-and-bone three-dimensional character here, and this is through the expertise of her performance. Robert Pattinson also, who in the past has either really just had to stand around look good or be completely non-existent finally delivers a performance worthy of the character he's attempting to portray. He has always had a real presence and strong way how to carry himself as a physical actor, but here he really makes Edward seem such a more well-rounded character, as opposed to someone who occasionally squints and purses his lips. Once again though Taylor Lautner steals the film's best performance as Jacob, and like Stewart and Pattinson, delivers his character's best performance. After having been the best thing in New Moon, here he has gotten even better, and the complexity of Jacob's character is portrayed with suitable gravitas, and has really in my opinion overcome his critics who say he just has to run around in shorts and look buff. Edward makes a good joke about that about half through the film, querying Bella "does he ever wear a shirt?" This brings me to the script, which really is at least half-way responsible for the actors to be able to give a good performance. Series scribe Melissa Rosenberg delivers her best script, which is strongly written in the dialogue sense and really nails bang on the head the essence of the interactions between Bella, Edward and Jacob. It's slightly frightening though that the scripts of this series have been of such varying quality, not forgetting the fact that Melissa Rosenberg was one of my Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse in film last year. How does one manage to write scripts of this differing quality? Also, director David Slade injects this film with his sensibilities and it is much better for it. Slade has in the past directed one of the best films of the 2000's in Hard Candy, a really complex and interesting psychological thriller. Also, even though I personally disliked 30 Days Of Night, I will not deny that the film looks really good. Here, the film has a strong sense of visual style. I have criticised cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe's work on New Moon, but I feel that the influence of Slade, himself a former music-video director, has really informed the style of Aguirresarobe. However, while I really like the film, it is not without its gripes. Seeing as how as it is a franchise film, it is understandable that the film has a labyrinthine cast of characters. I don't have a problem with that, and I like any movie that respects its viewers. However, while they have nailed the central relationship between Bella, Edward and Jacob, which is really what the story is about, the film does not balance the background-foreground story aspects correctly. Background-foreground is having two simultaneous types of story being intertwined into one and influencing the directions of the other. For example, the foreground is Victoria and Riley's newborn army targeting Bella, and this is the catalyst for the actions taken in the background story of Bella, Edward and Jacob. Each influences the other. However, the foreground, which is the story that drives the story forward, is overly simplistic and poorly developed. Once again, and disappointingly so considering the three-dimensional and well-rounded feel of the film, the franchise has failed to develop the villains in any way whatsoever. They are poor caricatures of characters. As such, there are large sections, and not necessarily the action sequences by any means, where your attention just completely fails to be caught. I'm not saying devote more screen time to the characters by any means, but just give us an idea of what it is that we are meant to fear so much. 12 Angry Men devotes 90 minutes of screen time to develop 12 fully-rounded characters sitting in a room and the accompanying toilet and we feel like we know all of them by the end of it. It is this simplicity in character development, lack of balance and lapses of interest that condemn it from being a great movie. However, Eclipse is by all means a very good film which is for the most part very well-rounded and thoroughly enjoyable and interesting.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pleased

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Shrek Forever After or Shrek: The Final Chapter

This is the first (and hopefully only) film that I have reviewed which has the dubious honour of having people completely confused as to what its title is. Is it Shrek Forever After or Shrek: The Final Chapter? You tell me. Marketing seem to have gotten it wrong, with various posters having both titles. Wikipedia list Forever After as the title and The Final Chapter as the tagline.
Tell me then why Forever After is absent on many of the posters. Either way, the title is irrelevant, because the marketing geniuses at Dreamworks simply want you to know that there is a "NEW SHREK MOVIE" and want us all to flock en masse to the cinemas so they can make a lot of money. Post-rant, story goes this time round that Shrek, voiced by Mike Myers is having a sort of mid-life crisis, with a strained relationship between him and Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz, and stress involving his three children. Taking advantage of the situation is the devious Rumpelstiltskin, voiced by Walt Dohrn, who offers Shrek the opportunity to be the feared ogre he once was for a day, minus Fiona and his children, in exchange for a day in his life. As such, things go haywire, and Rumpelstiltskin rids Shrek of his existence via time paradoxes, and Shrek, lost in the past, must along with Donkey and Puss, voiced by Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas respectively, undo the wrongs of nasty Rumpel. To start with the good about the movie, of course, the animation department have once again done a really great job of making the world of Far Far Away look very lavish. Once again also, Eddie Murphy, who unfortunately has not had some great movies as of late, is as always, great as Donkey, and steals much of the film's laughs. Also, in terms of writing a new tale for Shrek, the script is a good step up from Shrek The Third, which was an incredibly boring film. Furthermore, the film was enjoyable enough to keep me watching without getting me too bored throughout. However, whilst the new Shrek movie isn't really a bad movie by any means, it is not exactly a good movie. This is one of those cases where I find it hard to review a movie because with a good movie you lavish all the praise you want, and with a bad movie there is a certain entertainment value in attempting to come up with interesting ways to say how bad it is, hence my digressions. Really, the overall problem with this film is the fact that the first Shrek for starters was a bit of a novelty film. At the time of its release all those aeons ago, it was a new and fresh movie, separate from the franchises and dribblesome vitriol that was being spewed out on a regular basis. Now, because of the advent of the film making money, the Shrek series has become as much a money-making machine with no real merit to its name as anyone who works in marketing or advertising. As Frank Zappa would title his Mothers Of Invention album, the only words your brain makes you remember from Shrek these days is "We're Only In It For The Money." Yes, I did praise the script ideas wise, but that was because for what it is, a money-making machine, it's not all that bad. However, it is like the recent Prince Of Persia, incredibly lazy film-making. Unlike Prince Of Persia though, in which case you felt they just gave up, in the case Shrek it seems as though the film-makers just don't care anymore. This is a shame because one of the things that attracted people to Shrek in the first place was that it had a heart, and there was a warmth and humanity to the series. It's not that Shrek can't deal with darker material, and it has done so well before, like most of the fairy tales it parodies/tributes, it's just that to describe Shrek in one word after seeing this film and its previous film, it would be vacuous. Vacuous in heart, vacuous in laughs (I tittered on my count two or three times, which is poor for Shrek's standards) and vacuous in anything worth caring about. The audience cannot care for these characters anymore if the film-makers don't either. My advice is simply to stop, because I am both grumpy and completely heartbroken (yes, heartbroken) by the monster that Shrek has become (please don't contradict, I know the gag, he's an ogre). Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, for after four "Shrek" movies, a number of direct-to-video releases, the Shrek The Halls Christmas TV movie, they really don't care, for the next movie in the series is a spin-off entitled Puss In Boots. I kid you not, and not only has Antonio Banderas sold his soul, but Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis have also signed up. After this, we'll be seeing The Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio And Other Assorted Tales Designed To Keep Us Making Money Now That We No Longer Care For Shrek. And no, there is no happily ever after here, just soulless machines that will continue to make these movies forever after.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - I need a hero, because Shrek won't save us any more, for I've stopped loving him

P.S. Too many movies lately with time paradoxes and plot devices rendering events in the movie completely superfluous. Time as narrative device has become an easy way out for film-makers being lazy, so viewers watch, these films aren't as smart as they make out to be. Also sorry, I know it's not much of a review, but I suppose it's a reflection of the lazy film-making at hand.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - StreetDance

The title of the film I am reviewing is a bit of a conundrum, for it is being officially marketed (i.e. force fed) to the masses as StreetDance 3D, but for a number of reasons, first being principly against the consumerist attitude with which 3D is being marketed, and two because I'm stingy and like the £3.50 matinee at the Strand, who for good prices, lack a 3D screen, so I saw the 2D version. Once again, it was another one of those cases where I got those "ha-ha" smarmy looks for buying a ticket to a girly dance movie, but thankfully there was an empty auditorium waiting for me so I could resolve myself and not have suspicious looking men inch gradually closer to me. Also, either my memories wrong or the projectionist (poor bugger) has made another mistake, for the film I saw was missing a scene described at the end of the film's plot on Wikipedia. Furthermore, DO NOT stop movies before people leave the movie unless the final credits have finished. Anyway, post rant, I'll get down to the synopsis, but really, this is a classic case of a film that could be dismissed so easily by people sneering at it, so don't overlook it because of the posters or the plot. The story goes that Carly, played by Nichola Burley takes over her streetdance crew after her boyfriend and leader Jay leaves the crew. Without money and numerous of the crew leaving with Jay, Carly manages to convince Helena to use space to practice their routine for the streetdance championships in one of her halls for free, on one condition: Carly is to include some of Helena's ballet dancers in the routine. Now, if you think you can guess roughly how the plot goes, you're probably right. There's no denying that StreetDance (minus the 3D) is pretty nuts-and-bolts on the predictability scale. However, that is not to say that the script is horrible by any means. Yeah, the plot's typical enough, but screenwriter Jane English has done a really good job, like Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, of telling an old story in a new and interesting way. By using the streetdance culture as a catalyst for a film, StreetDance feels new and exciting despite the fact it is, by all means, a relatively predictable film. Of even greater achievement is the soundtrack which really suits the style of dance and culture they are trying to achieve in the film. Personally, I was ("NOT") planning on downloading the soundtrack after having seen the film, but to my surprise thanks to trusty Wikipedia, ever great source of information, I found out that the soundtrack was composed by N-Dubz. That was a big shocker for me, for although they only perform one song on the soundtrack itself, the soundtrack as a whole was incredibly catchy, and there were moments throughout the film where I started bopping my head for periods, only to realise I was doing so well into a dance sequence. As someone who is not a fan of N-Dubz at all, I extend my hand in congratulating Dappy, Tulisa and Fazer for really doing a great job here. The acting too is good, particularly from lead Nichola Burley, who has the most to handle as Carly, what with coping with boyfriend Jay leaving and attempting to successfully lead a streetdance crew. I love how with Carly Jane English has written a thoroughly well-rounded character, for many of the others are cardboard cutout stereotypes, and Burley plays Carly as a three-dimensional human being. As opposed to being the perennial optimist that is always seen in these films, she has her doubts and anxieties, and does show emotion, which is obviously what good acting is all about. But what would StreetDance be without the dancing? The movie revolves around the streetdance culture and competition, and as such, with a script revolving around this, you'd like to think the dancing would be good, and boy, is it good. With dancing from the best of British talents such as Diversity, Flawless and George Sampson, they truly do perform the routines brilliantly. As Charlotte Rampling's Helena mentions in the film, its all about the emotion on display in the dancing. The dance routines display the emotion of the dancers/characters as they evolve and progress with grace during the course of the film, building to a grand climax which has to be one of the best dance scenes in film history. A big pat (not cow pat) on the back must go to the choreographers, who have done a marvellous job in bringing this to life, cinematographer Sam McCurdy for capturing it well, Tim Murrell for not editing it like those Bourne wannabes and also the costume department and designer Andrew Cox. The only real flaw with the film as I have said is the predictability of the piece and how the screenplay revolves around the dance routines and not the other way round. It's not a great film, but I can't complain too much. For a £4.5 million low-budget Brit-flick, it really looks fantastic and I've much rather see this 100 times than a Transformers film once. I'm so glad that a film like this has done so well against lumbering epics like Prince Of Persia and Robin Hood. If I was to compare it to a movie, it would be Purple Rain, which is not a fantastic movie, but has some amazing music and is a brilliant star vehicle for Prince. There's no more films like this by pop stars anymore, so hey, this may as well be our generation's Purple Rain, and is destined for cult classic status.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.5/10

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

PS: I think this is another of my "pink" moments as I call them, where I get really excited about things that would probably have me labelled as gay, but who care's, go see the movie! Really, I mean it!

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Tooth Fairy

See, have faith and your messiah will return. Shame about religion and all that other stuff that people use to understand a world that is indifferent to their plight. Speaking of make believe; remember Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Lies by our parents, creating mass disenfranchisement and repressed angst which traumatises us until our dying day, but hey, isn't it real if you can believe it's real? That is the principle of the understanding of the myth of the Tooth Fairy, in itself, completely nonsensical tosh. Right, basically this movie sees our Derek Thompson, played by Dwayne Johnson, a former major league hockey player, now playing in the minors, more famous now as "The Tooth Fairy" for his notoriety in smashing out people's teeth. Basically, Derek is a bit of a bitter, bad egg with a charming smile, who, after nearly exposing the "truth" regarding tooth fairies to his girlfriend’s daughter, is punished to two weeks of Tooth Fairy duty by the head of the tooth fairies. Now, to be fair, walking into this screening I was a bit grizzled and dishevelled, having gotten a horrible amount of shampoo in my eye and mouth, so this movie's chances weren't great. Then, after this, once I sit down after my long process of finding the "perfect" seat (I'm such a woman), the film plays, and NO SOUND. After complaining, the sound starts but the film doesn't. Brilliant. The film was meant to start at 14:15 but didn't start till after 14:30, which gave me fifteen minutes of twiddling my fingers and enduring the Strand Cinema's infamous zapping noise when they try to fix the sound. Ok, after this, the film starts, and to be fair, whilst I try to be the most unbiased critic I can be, we all have our preconceptions going into the film. Just looking at the poster of this movie began to twist my brain in negative ways, I mean, that is a terrible poster. And the tagline "The Tooth Hurts": are they trying not to make money, because money is the reason for its existence? As the movie continues, the sighs and groans are emerging from me like the equivalent of a human whoopee cushion or a 20-stone patron scoffing popcorns excessive wind, and to be honest, it is a bad movie. It would be a lazier script than Prince Of Persia, except that here there's nothing there to start with. The gags and one-liners that Johnson pulls early in the movie when he's a berk are nothing short of frighteningly embarrassing. This is a man who as The Rock in WWF/WWE came up with some of the funniest one-liners and gags in entertainment history, so surely he should be able to recognise the issues at hand, and Stephen Merchant, Billy Crystal and Seth McFarlane, each together some of the best living comedians, all signing up to this monstrosity of a script. It is so predictable and popcorn, you'd be forgiven for mistaking this is some post-modern satire/parody of the terribleness of this brand of movie, but it's not. So, to follow in the tradition of Roger Ebert: Lowell Ganz, SHAME, Babaloo Mandel, SHAME, Randi Mayem Singer, SHAME, Joshua Sternin, SHAME, Jeffrey Ventimilia, SHAME. Shame on writing such a horrible script. So yes, it is most certainly a bad movie and I recognise this, but you know what, I enjoyed that. Yes, that is no typo, quote me on the DVD or something I don't know, I enjoyed Tooth Fairy. What you say, I've just savaged the movie. As ever, I have a rebuttal. For some reason, despite all the terrible aspects of the film, for not only is the script horrible but it isn't a particularly well-made movie (did anyone else see the boom mike?), it was charming. Dwayne Johnson plays a berk who goes loveable in the end really well, and I'm not playing favourites here because I remember him as The Rock, but he is good in this role. The man literally sweats charm, and I feel that from the roles I have seen him in, which he generally does well, he has not been given the true vehicle that would cater to his talents. Also, it is great to see Stephen Merchant get a role where he is under the shadow of Ricky Gervais (ironic, being a "goggle-eyed freak", as the "little fat man" himself calls him), and the man is pretty loveable as Tracey, the slightly irritating fairy sidekick. Furthermore, and maybe this is a values thing, but the film is non-offensive fare. It might not change the fact that it is badly made and scribed, but for some reason director Michael Lembeck seems to milk as much charm as he can out what is effectively a dead cow. Is something wrong with me? I think there is, because I felt involved and very happy and felt good watching this film. Despite my entire being willing myself to hate this film, it was one of the transcendent moments where a film can somehow overcome its many flaws and become something much better than it is. It's certainly not in the so bad it is good territory, because it is rubbish, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't charmed by the film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Smiling

PS: Alternative poster's have the tagline as "You can't handle the tooth!" and "Magic is getting some muscle!". Just don't look at them, for your safety and sanity.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

When I said I'd be back, like our good friend Ahnuldt, I wasn't lying. And what better way for me to start this year's reviewing (yeah, I know, six months in, but hey, on my rota I have nine left) with Sir Ben Kingsley looking rather sinister minus toupee with his trademark bald head and makeup. Oooh, menacing indeed. Anyway, enough of me clawing on poor Ben's back (if he has decided to stop calling himself Sir Ben, so will I. It's not fair to use his knighthood against him. A moment of rare sympathy on my part), let's get on with the review of Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time. Realistically, this film has alot going against it, especially in the eyes of sneering upturned nose film critics, being based on a videogame, never a good start, but also being a massive blockbuster, ever the bane of snooty film critics. Also, strangely enough it is directed by Mike Newell, most famous for Four Weddings In A Funeral and Donnie Brasco, but I suppose Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire levels that out a bit. Story wise, Dastan as a young slumdog orphan is adopted by the King of Persia. Fifteen years later, Dastan, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, defies his brothers Tus and Garsif, who later praise him, for leading a successful attack on the city of Alamut. Dastan then comes into possession of a sacred dagger that can control time, and after being framed of his father's murder, goes on the run with the daggers guardian, the Princess Tamina, played by Gemma Arterton. Of course, devilishly behind all this framing and shaming is Nizam, played rather deviously by of course, the one and only, BEN KINGSLEY! To start with the good about the film, certainly the most commendable section of this film is the majestic production design. Clearly unlike the tactics on many blockbusters of late, which are overly reliant on CGI, although this does have alot of it, the design of the sets by Wolf Kroeger are very elaborate and really do give you a strong sense of the world being depicted onscreen. Gone is the greenscreen that has been used in many films such as 300 of late, and here we have a nice and pleasant welcome return to sets not dissimilar to those in Gladiator and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Also, a big hello to cinematographer John Seale, who has proven his talents before in one of my favourite films The Hitcher and the first Harry Potter film. Here, his work gives a lavish and rather crisp feel to the film, another hark back from this current obsession with digital. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against new forms like digital shooting, 3D and CGI-soundstages, but there is such a thing as too much, and to be frank, I think most exist as a poor excuse for economically mobile and "efficient" film-making at the the expense of the final piece. It must also be said that the film, while certainly no acting masterclass, does possess some enjoyable performances from its actors. Jake Gyllenhaal never fails to not be a charming maverick onscreen, and to give him his due, whilst not a complex performance, he does throw himself into every role he plays. For all the harping people are doing about Team Edward, Jacob et al in the midst of the Eclipse anticipation/intercourse/orgy going on right now, I'm willing to say I'm a member of Team Dastan, because not only do I want to be different for sake of argument, but I like Gyllenhaal and he really has worked out for this role. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Also, his interplay with Gemma Arterton does bring a few titters and giggles, more than many mainstream "comedies" can throw at us. Finally, Alfred Molina plays a rather amusing atypical "comedy" character. You know the comic relief character that's always in these films, which brings me on to my problems with this film. Now, by no means is it a bad film, so I suppose it does stand out from the Transformers/Sex and the City pile of slop, but my gripes start with the fact that it does not stand out enough. The real issues begin with of course, that dreaded bane of film, the screenplay. Don't forget this is where films begin, so if you don't nail this, you're in trouble. Now, the screenplay is credited to Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernhard, and the "screen story", which essentially means "ideas man", is credited to the game series creator Jordan Mechner. On, there is a reviewer by the name of Bucaneerfilms who has given the film a 9-star rating out of 10, which I think is a tad-bit far. He praises the involvement of Mechner as game creator, and how he wishes to see his brain child emerge on screen. Good intentions indeed by all means, I played the game myself, but really, this script was really dire. It is cliché, nay on the point where as soon as a character enters onscreen, before they have opened their mouth, you can tell "right, he's good, he's bad, he's going to turn bad, he's really bad, she's the guardian who has the power to do whatsit with the what-what:" if you can make sense of this, you know what I mean. Come on, don't be lazy, you possess an intuition. Also, predictability is up to eleven on this one, and even whenever the plot attempts to make a twist late in the third act, it leaves you disappointed and feeling that the entire film's plot was superfluous and irrelevant. This might sound unfair, considering there are efforts clearly being put into the creation of this film, however, I do consider this to be a piece of lazy film-making. Mechner is quoted as having said in pre-production that "Rather than doing a straight beat-for-beat adaptation of the new video game, we're taking some cool elements from the game and using them to craft a new story." Yep, the cool elements (i.e. jumping and fighting) are there, but the plot is non-existent. My prevailing image of the film's pre-production process is of Mechner, Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Newell sitting at a round table, smoking cigars, wearing eyeglasses, playing texas-hold-'em and sharing a pen while passing a screenplay around the room. After these "production meetings", they send the script to the script doctors to edit the script in "script meetings", which consist of the same script process as the "production meetings", except replacing cigars with cigarettes and with added coffee. Lazy, lazy, lazy. That's not my final diagnosis, for there are good elements and I did enjoy it, although I can't help feeling that something was left unfulfilled here.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - So-so.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Hello Me Again

This is probably beginning to annoy the hell out of anyone who actually reads the blog, so I'll keep it snappy and stop using these as poor excuses to continue my blog. I have finished my exams, and after having taken a rest period, I plan on getting back to the old review slot. Tomorrow, I plan on seeing Prince Of Persia and to have my review in later on. See you in a bit love.