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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: June 2011 - X-Men First Class




X-Men: First Class is a great superhero flick that contains much of what anyone would want to find in a film of this genre. Fine performances are to be found in James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin. Also, technically it contains very strong qualities in the mise-en-scene, cinematography and editing. Finally, it is a film that carries on from last year's Kick-Ass the distinct flavour of Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman as collaborative team.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.2/10

Runner-Up: Water For Elephants - Very good, old-school Hollywood drama

Avoid Like The Plague: Swinging With The Finkels - Pretentious guff disguised as comedy

Second-Most Deadly Disease: The Hangover Part II - Crass, overly excessive nonsense

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month

This a new, capsule feature that I have decided to do that will flag-up to those of you who have not read some of the best film's from an earlier date in the year. Keep your eyes posted!


Monday, 29 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Skin I Live In

Directed by: Pedro Almodovar

Produced by: Agustin Almodovar
Pedro Almodovar

Screenplay by: Pedro Almodovar

Based on: Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet

Starring: Antonio Banderas
Elena Anaya
Marisa Paredes
Jan Cornet
Roberto Alamo

Music by: Alberto Iglesias

Cinematography: Jose Luis Alcaine

Editing by: Jose Salcedo

Studio: El Deseo

Distributed by: Warners Espana
Sony Pictures Classics (United States)
20th Century Fox (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): May 19, 2011 (Cannes Film Festival)
August 26, 2011 (United Kingdom)
September 2, 2011 (Spain)
October 14, 2011 (United States)

Running time: 120 minutes

Country: Spain

Language: Spanish

Budget: €10 million

Another year gone for me. Yep, I'm a hundred and forty-nine years old, and getting myself geared up for the big one-five-o! On the topic of literature, I would really recommend John Ajvide Lindqvist's latest novel Harbour. A number of years ago, Lindqvist wrote Let The Right One In, one of my all-time favourite novels, and also wrote the screenplay for Thomas Alfredson's adaptation for the screen, for which he received a nomination for best screenplay from yours truly. Harbour exhibits the 'Lindqvist style' which has been consistent throughout his work, but multiplies the scale, making this quite the epic horror/thriller. Also, tonight I plan on embarking on what is sure to be a unique film experience in Pier Paolo Pasolini's final film Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom, based on the book by the Marquis de Sade and noted for being one of the, if not the most controversial film ever made, a label bestowed upon it by Time Out in 2006.

Speaking of thrillers, the film for review today fits right into that genre. The Skin I Live In is the latest feature film by Pedro Almodovar, internationally renowned director of films such as All About My Mother and Volver. I can't say I know much about Almodovar as a filmmaker, but from what I can tell, this represents a bit a departure, as from the work I have seen he primarily crafts comedic dramas. A work that has a distinct gothic horror/thriller/melodrama feel to it not unlike Georges Franju's wonderful Eyes Without A Face, The Skin I Live In, set in Toledo in the year 2012, follows surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), who is holding a young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), hostage, with the help of his servant Marilia (Paredes). He has developed a skin that cannot burn, which he claims has only been tested on mice, but in fact has subjected Vera to his surgical experiments. Knowledge of her existence would be scandalous to Robert, and when Zeca (Roberto Alamo), Marilia's son, arrives on the scene having committed a robbery, the wheels are set in motion for an extraordinary series of events (excuse the cliches!)

To start with the good about this film, I would have to single out the performances by the three main actors. Antonio Banderas gives a career best performance as Robert Ledgard. To watch him go through the proceedings of preparing his operations is a joy to behold, and excuse the pun, he really gets inside the skin of his character. We forget that it is Banderas playing the role, but it is simply Ledgard. Furthermore, the restraint that Banderas shows in playing Ledgard is appropriate and gives an edge to the role, especially considering the doubts the film throws up regarding his mental stability. Elena Anaya is terrific as Vera Cruz. Almodovar always writes brilliant roles for female actors, and this film is no exception. Her role is so layered that despite obvious duplicities in her personality, we believe her to be genuine in her emotions. Finally, Marisa Paredes completes this triangle, creating a strong maternal figure who acts as a sort of muse to Ledgard. Among many great things about Pedro Almodovar's films is their extraordinary mise-en-scene, and how they immerse into it's universe. Paco Delgado's costumes are wonderful, fitting the characters like a glove. A lot of people forget the importance of good costumes in expressing a character, and I feel that it is integral, particularly in the case of Vera Cruz' bodysuit, in contributing to the overall film. Also, Antxon Gomez' production design is a great achievement, in that not only is this a real world film, but that despite these features, it also has a certain eerie, gothic feel. Ledgard's home/surgery are like something out of a dream, the design having an exaggerated and surreal quality. Furthermore, I do not think that the film would have looked as good without the lighting and camerawork by cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine, so hats off to him. Finally, Pedro Almodovar himself must be praised for his work that contributes to making this a great film. His script is one of the best examples of writing I have seen this year. Dialogue-wise, the words coming from his character's mouths are believable, and bounces appropriately between the fine line of menace and humour. Almodovar never forgets that as thrilling as The Skin I Live In may be, it is also very absurd, and is a very funny film. Also, structurally, the script is very strong. It only feeds us a certain amount of information at any one time, so by the time we get the full picture, our perception of what has preceded has been completely changed. It is an example of master craftsmanship, and Almodovar should be commended for this. Also, it is his handling of a project that in anyone else's hands could have been a complete mess, considering the amount of different things going on in the film, that proves him a great director and makes The Skin I Live In one of the year's best films.

Despite The Skin I Live In excelling in many manners, there is a number of issues that stem from one central problem with the film, the problem being that it is I would say very 'chop-chop.' Now, chop-chop might not sound like great mastery of the English language, but I'm doing an English degree (not that this is a qualification for monopoly of opinion on the language) and chop-chop is the only phrase that comes to mind. I describe The Skin I Live In as chop-chop because as mentioned there are a lot of different things going on. Whenever a film, as this does, tries to cover all bases and as many different ideas as possible, the sheer mass of concepts end up dwarfing each other, and the film becomes less than the sum of it's parts. I won't explain much more, because it would involve giving away plot details, but having all these things mashed together, each of which could have been a theme to cover a single film alone, makes them seem a lot less meaningful when they have one another as a context. This chop-chop idea I have thrown up also affects the editing of the film. Many times throughout, despite showing restraint in other areas, Jose Salcedo's editing displays certain issues, such as bouncing around way too freely, that it ends up becoming quite migrainous. Also, I do not like at all the inclusion of intertitles that unveil a certain timeline of where each of the events fit in. As a thriller, it would be more 'thrilling', pardon a pardon, to have these overt explanations taken away and leave the audience in the dark. Although I am criticising Salcedo here, I still think that Almodovar must have had some input in this one, so I'm still questioning who's really at fault here.

Certain problems with the film's compendium of ideas, which goes into overdose territory, and Jose Salcedo's editing detract from an otherwise great film. The only good that has come out them perhaps (I'll be objective if I'm talking up my own boat) is the establishment of my 'chop-chop' theory. Despite these issues, The Skin I Live In is thoroughly worth your time, containing three great lead performances, a terrific mise-en-scene and writer-director who has crafted what I described to my friend during the credits as "a delightfully fucked-up film." A fine example of a strong and accessible thriller.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Zapped (I've had a long and busy day for someone who spends most of time sitting on his fat ass!)

P.S. Alberto Iglesia's does some cracking music for this film, so whoops to me for not flagging it up!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Final Destination 5

Directed by: Steven Quayle

Produced by: Craig Perry
Warren Zide

Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer

Based on: Characters by Jeffrey Reddick

Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto
Emma Bell
Miles Fisher
Arlan Escarpeta
David Koechner
Tony Todd

Music by: Brian Tyler

Cinematography by: Brian Pearson

Editing by: Eric Sears

Studio: New Line Cinema
Practical Pictures

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): August 12, 2011

Running time: 92 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $40-$45 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $41, 359, 945

Hola, me llamo Thin White Dude, and I am corresponding after having seen Pedro Almodovar's latest film, The Skin I Live In. That will be the next film to be reviewed on this blog, so expect to see that in the next three or four days. Also, last night I watched Wong Kar-Wai's Days Of Being Wild and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I have not got down to watching many of his films, despite 'In the mood for love' being one of my all-time favourite films, so I'm definitely going to have to do some catching up on this director, and from the evidence of these two films, I'd sincerely recommend that you lot (if there is indeed a 'lot) follow suit.

Today's film for review is an interesting case. Final Destination 5 is the fifth in the horror film series, following on from what was billed as 'The Final Destination.' At the best of times, I'm not fussed on excessive amounts of sequels, but when you make a statement that this is definitively the last film, starting it up again is lame. The Friday The 13th series done it as well at Chapter 4 aka 'The Final Chapter' and went on to do seven more films before the inevitable remake! Also, though of course it was a great pleasure to be in the company of my good friend and fellow film critic Daniel Kelly (Danland Movies), I groaned in displeasure when I saw those big shiny space goggles that told me that I was going to be watching the film in 3D. As I am very short-sighted, in order to see the screen correctly, I have to place the 3D glasses over my own pair, so this can be quite a nuisance in the cinema. Furthermore, though I was glad to have a free seat, another reason to grumble arose when saw the dreaded words of 'Cool FM,' they of the esteemed Pete Snodden, he who laughs at Phil Collins fans (screw you!), indicating that this was going to be a roller derby to find seats, with the ever tedious and mundane prize giveaway/introductions and containing numerous shushes, huffs, puffs, grunts and groans on my part telling a noisy audience to shut up! On another note, there is no point in getting into plot details, as it's the same ball-game in this Final Destination. Although I am grateful to Mr Kelly for inviting me as his guest to this screening, I was bracing myself for a migrainous occasion.

If you count a lot of pokey things coming out at you as migrainous, then you're in for a rough ride. That said, the 3D in this film is implemented in such a way that it is very entertaining, and caters completely to the novelty factor that comes with a 3D film. Unlike those retro-fitted 3D movies, this was shot and designed as a 3D film. Director Steven Quayle was the second unit director of Avatar, and it seems that this gave him an appropriate crash course in how to do the job. As such, Final Destination 5 has a bit of an extra 'oomph!' that a lot of other 3D films don't. Cinematographer Brian Pearson does a wonderful job of shooting the various scenarios that our characters end up in. The greatest instance of this is the scene involving one of the characters, a gymnast, practices on a horse with a small nail having fallen from the air conditioning system above, in what is a strong synthesis of fine choreography and cinematography. With this being a 3D film, one would expect so good visual effects, and Final Destination 5 certainly has them. The bridge collapse at the start of the film which sets the cogs in motion is one of the strongest effect's scene's I have seen from this year. On a final note, despite my reservations, I must say that the film is thoroughly entertaining. Although there is a confusion at times, I think this time they cater towards a more tongue-in-cheeek form of Final Destination that does work. They are still intense, but this film is a lot funnier and darkly comic than the previous instalments, which started to run dry as the same formula was played over again. This time, although at it's base the formula is the same, they do something not unlike Scream and play up the whole absurdity of the film.

Whilst Final Destination 5 is definitely a pleasant surprise of a film, there are a number of big problems with the film. The first of these is the acting in the film. Despite P.J. Byrne, David Koechner and Tony Todd giving good performances, these are only minor roles, and the primary cast members are all round terrible. I never bought Nicholas D'Agosto as the lead in this film, and Emma Bell, who I really liked in Frozen last year, delivers a cardboard cutout performance. Worst of all is Miles Fishers, though to be fair he is given what has to be this year's worst character arc. The emotional scale that he has to go through is ridiculous. Brian Tyler delivers a bad score for this film. Although he has done good work in the past, this time round he delivers a murder-by-numbers work that seems almost like it has sampled from the textbook of horror film scores. Worst of all of these problems is the script. Eric Heisserer, who wrote last year's terrible A Nightmare Of Elm Street remake, has scribed what is an unashamedly bad script. The Final Destination series has always been about the death scenes, but never is the case more so than here. Outside of these scenes, some of which are well-written, some not, we are given a shoddy excuse for a plot that does nothing to further the series and instead seems like something we have all seen before. Also, the characters in the film aren't even cliched in the best sense of the word, but seem like an exaggerated parody of the horror film scenario. Despite the tongue in cheek nature of the film, there is an obvious confusion of genres, and the film does on occasion take itself too seriously. What worries me is that Heisserer has wrote the script for Strike Entertainment's upcoming prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, arguably Carpenter's best film, and from the evidence of Nightmare and this film, I'd be cautious of having him write the phonebook.

That said, while Final Destination 5 is undoubtedly a bad film, a terrible film perhaps in the aesthetic or artistic sense of the word, with shoddy acting, a by-the-book score and a poor script, it certainly gets high marks on the entertainment value. It is comparable to the kind of experience you would get in one of those simulator machines you climb into in the fun fair, except it lasts for an hour-and-a-half. The 3D works brilliantly in the film, giving you plenty of icky 'ooh's', 'ahh's' and at least one 'holy shit' moment. Visual effects, choreography and cinematography ensure that the film has a strong, if stylised visual trademark look that is consistent throughout. Finally, from this work, even if it is nuts-and-bolts, Steven Quayle has a career in delivering efficient novelty films such as this. Final Destination 5 is a bad film, but surprisingly, it is transparent enough so that one can appreciate it for the entertaining, gimmicky flick that it is.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Content (I'd like to think so, being my birthday and all. Happy Birthday Me!)

P.S. Gag of the night to Daniel Kelly, whose theory that the series essentially proves that the world is a series of elaborate traps not unlike the game Mousetrap elicited guffaws from bottom of my stomach. Good on you Zeke!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Cars 2

Directed by: John Lasseter
Brad Lewis

Produced by: Denise Ream

Screenplay by: Ben Queen

Story by: John Lasseter
Brad Lewis
Dan Fogelman

Starring: Larry The Cable Guy
Owen Wilson
Michael Caine
Emily Mortimer
Jason Isaacs (hello!)
Thomas Kretschmann
Eddie Izzard
John Turturro
Bonnie Hunt

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by: Jeremy Lasky
Sharon Calahan

Editing by: Peter Schaffer

Studio: Pixar

Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures

Release date(s): June 18, 2011 (United States/Hollywood, California Premiere)
July 22, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 106 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $200 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $501, 351, 457


Hey there gang, hope you're all doing well. I must say that for some reason despite listening to the rather morose entrance music of Sting (1997-Crow era), I am in a rather buoyant mood and looking forward to getting down to this review. On other notes, I have still been watching some other films. As mentioned, a review for Final Destination 5 (in 3D) will be coming up, as I saw it on Monday, and I'm going to see The Skin I Live In tomorrow, and I Saw The Devil will be reviewed in the next few weeks. Also, I watched both A Bittersweet Life by Kim Ji-woon and Alexandre Aja's nasty horror Switchblade Romance recently, and I recommend both to be watched. Finally, on Monday I bought a copy of Shutter Island, so as promised (at what must be a year and a half ago), I will do review for 'Jack's complete lack of surprise' on this movie. Pinky swear! It's not going to be a running joke anymore!

Rightio, as you can see (there is a freaking title and poster after all, I'm just filling space), the film for review here is Cars 2. For those of you who don't follow the blog, I am a massive fan of Pixar, from the release of the original Toy Story, which I saw in the cinema in 1995, to Wall-E, Pixar's greatest film at it's time of release and my best science-fiction film of 2008, Up, a great film and 2009's best action-adventure film and the studio's artistic zenith, Toy Story 3, my favourite film of 2010 and perhaps the best film I have seen since I began my career as a film critic. Excuse the Jamesian sentence, but it gets the point across. Pixar are arguably the best and most artistically consistent studio in the world and they have succeeded in bringing more joy to me, both as a film critic and a pure audience member, than any other studio working. Following on from the success of Toy Story 3, Pixar have decided to make a sequel to another of their previous works, Cars, a sorely underrated flick that is one of their most entertaining and funny films. This time round, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns to Radiator Springs, reuniting with Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) and Sally (Bonnie Hunt), planning to take a sabbatical from his Four-Time Piston Cup winning career. However, former oil tycoon turned green power advocate Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) announces a World Grand Prix, to which McQueen initially refuses his invitation, but due to Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), a Formula racer who bragged his superiority to McQueen and an intervention by Mater, McQueen joins the World Grand Prix.

To start with the good, as is expected with Pixar, the animation is superb. After Toy Story 3, it seems that with Cars 2, Pixar have really decided to up the ante and fire out on gas canisters. There is a far greater scale in this film than perhaps any other Pixar film, travelling to numerous parts of the globe, and the animation studio do a nothing short of impressive job of keeping up with the pace. Also, the colour palette that they use is wide and varied, giving it a certain 'look' that distinguishes itself from other animated films. Much of the strength of this animation is captured and kept in place by some terrific editing by Stephen Schaffer. Without his adapt hands in the editing suite, the chop-chop nature of Cars 2 could have been a whole heck of a lot messier, and believe me that is saying something. At least you can see what is going on, because you'd need to with the amount of stuff going on. Nevertheless, this is some really fine work by Schaffer, and elevates Cars 2 to a certain degree.

This is the part where I address my general disbelief and ask (Pixar and John Lasseter specifically) "what the hell happened?" Why? Because Cars 2 is an absolute mess of a film. Yes, Pixar have actually made a dud. For years, I have been questioning every new release by Pixar as the dud that the studio has been waiting for, after all, they can't make great movies forever, right? They almost had me fooled after Toy Story 3, but what makes it so much more shocking is that Cars 2 is not just an ok film, it is a really bad film. The main problem here, the gaping knife wound in what should have been a good film is the terrible screenplay. Ben Queen is a writer whose work I have no context to judge against, and I also wonder how much content Lasseter contributed here, but this is without a doubt one of the biggest messes of a screenplay I have seen in a long time. At least with something like Swinging With The Finkels and Zookeeper they are consistently bad. Here, we start off well, and the first half-hour, aside from the introduction, works very well. The movie starts on a rather irritating note. As ever with Pixar, we begin with a short, this time Hawaiian Vacation, a 'Toy Story toon.' I didn't watch it as I was too busy talking with the projectionist to try and fix the film, but unfortunately it was not the best of prints, however, I think that to start off what could be the next big Pixar franchise with your previous franchise which you definitively ended last year is a bad note. The words 'let it be' come to mind, but the Toy Story toon casts an unnecessary shadow over Cars 2. Furthermore, as an alternative title, Cars 2 Many Plots is the first thing I can think of. After the short, the film actually has a decent first half-hour, but unfortunately after Mater ends up in the bathroom, the story goes off the rails. Last time I checked, Lightning McQueen was Cars' main character right? Well, the screenplay, after establishing a story with McQueen decide to follow Mater across the world with a group of English secret agents voiced by Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer. It is over half-an-hour I'd reckon before we end up back in the shoes of McQueen, and then after establishing a sort of pattern, by the time they arrive in England, chops-and-changes quicker than our Northern Ireland weather, which has been alternating between cloud, rain and sun about three or four times over today alone! It is a real struggle to keep up with so many incidental things happening alongside the main plot or rather plots. I ended up having a genuine headache trying to follow the film. The voice cast too has a number of problems. Larry The Cable Guy's role as Mater in the original was humorous and endearing, but with a significantly larger amount of screen time, Mater ends up becoming 'Grater,' this squeaking voice that sounds like it's going to leave me with permanent tinnitus being a huge thorn in my side. Also, this is perhaps the only time I can say I have ever disliked Michael Caine's presence in the film, his vocal acting indulging in his quintessential Englishness on levels like never before, though I imagine this is as much the screenplay's fault as his 'efforts.' These two left me nearly begging for Owen Wilson, a guy who I have not been the biggest fan of in the past (note: see my reviews of Marley And Me and Marmaduke). Finally, Michael Giacchino's score here, after my praise of his work in Super 8, is poor, throwing out there all the musical cliches of the world, flagging up to me that, like Alexandre Desplat, he is as likely to churn out crap as he is quality material.

I'm near enough still in disbelief, even after having delivered that 'little' soliloquy that Pixar could do something as bad as this. Despite having some of Pixar's best animation ever and some fine editing from Michael Schaffer to it's credit, Cars 2 is an absolute mess of a film with a terrible screenplay that has too many plots and incidental things going on to incite interest in the work, and the primary voice cast, aside from Owen Wilson and John Turturro, are on a mediocre level. This is hardly the fall of the Roman empire, but the Mater-bomb that has been catapulted at Pixar's walls leaves a big gaping hole. The shadow of the colossi Woody and Buzz is indeed larger than once thought.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Disappointed

P.S. Dear Pixar, if you wanted to make a spy film, why not have that be the short at the start of Cars 2, set in the Cars universe, so we can get down to the real matters at hand aka Lightning McQueen?

Your Biggest Fan

The Thin White Dude

P.P.S. Toy Story? Let it be!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Produced by: Peter Chernin
Dylan Clark
Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Based on: Premise suggested by La Planete Des Singes by Pierre Boulle

Starring:
Andy Serkis
James Franco
Frieda Pinto
John Lithgow
Brian Cox
Tom Felton

Music by: Patrick Doyle

Cinematography by: Andrew Lesnie

Editing by: Conrad Buff
Mark Goldblatt

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): August 5, 2011 (United States)
August 11, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 105 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $93 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $227, 932, 055


This is going to be one of my epic 'two reviews posted' kind of days. Also, I did see Cars 2 earlier on, so be on the lookout for the latest on that film. All round, not much has been happening apart from the reviewing. The only thing I've really been doing in the film/media spectrum is watching Sleeper Cell. Of course, my life is more than what is posted on this blog, but the reviews are obviously the point here, so instead of rambling in a rather inane manner, I'll get down to it.

The second review to be posted today is regarding Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. The latest instalment in the Planet Of The Apes media franchise, which is already fairly dense at five films, a comic book series, a live-action TV series, an animated TV series, a 2001 remake by Tim Burton, not forgetting the original 1963 source novel by Pierre Boulle, needless to say I'd be lying if I was against the idea of this 'reboot' of the 'Apes' series. I simply do not think that there are enough original ideas out there and that producers/filmmakers are today simply rehashing a lot of tried and tested formulas. Ten years have been and gone since the last Apes film, and since then state of the art motion capture special effects have been seen in films such as The Lord Of The Rings, Avatar and the recently finished Harry Potter series. In this film, Will Rodman (James Franco) is attempted to develop a cure for Alzheimer's by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus on chimpanzees. Following the death of one of his subjects, who believed her baby to be in danger, Will adopts the baby chimp, whom his father Charles (John Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia, christens Caesar (Andy Serkis). Years later, Charles' dementia returns, and he attempts to drive his neighbour's car, who berates and threatens him. Caesar, in a protective gesture, attacks the man and is forced to leave Will's home and is held in a San Bruno primate facility, where he meets other apes for the first time.

There is a strong cast of actors in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, including James Franco, John Lithgow, Frieda Pinto and Brian Cox, but the great strength of the film is the character of Caesar and his actor Andy Serkis. I flag this up for a number of reasons, the first being of course that it is the film's best performance. Although anthropomorphism is undoubtedly part of my judgement, Serkis acts Caesar, a non-human character, in such a way that we are able to relate. Of all of his motion-capture performances, this is the most daring and most effective. Also, the extraordinary special effects work in the film mean that we buy the synchronicity of 'effect and performance' and the character of Caesar written on the page is brought to life onscreen. This character is crafted in a manner of care and respect the likes of which is not often seen in an animal onscreen. As mentioned, there is a certain amount of inevitable anthropomorphism, but Caesar is clearly an ape, and as the film's main character, this is an interesting and original approach. Also to be complemented is the dark and serious approach with which Wyatt and his screenwriters handle the film. It is a surprisingly dark film, and is rather subversive in the way it portrays the majority of the human's as the antagonists, and the way in which we end up rallying for the Apes. Also, Andrew Lesnie gives us some of the year's best cinematography. Not only does he know how to shoot effects features, but he also creates some very wonderful picaresque moments in this film that are pure cinema. Despite my initial reservations about much of the production (including the use of special effects over make-up, an 'Apes' trademark), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is the most pleasantly surprising film I have seen all year.

Whilst there is so much to admire about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, there are a few problems with the film which stop it from being as good as it could have been. While the ape story of Caesar is fascinating, the human side is nowhere near as interesting. As opposed to the subversive, original manner the ape story is told with, the human story is nuts-and-bolts, seen it all before, been there, done that. The actors are good but their scenes and dialogue are riddled with the disease of cliche. Also, as an origin story/reboot, it sorely underdeveloped. I felt that there could have been more thematic content explored if the film went on for another half-an-hour, which frankly I would have no problem with. I don't normally recommend more running time, but in this case I think it would benefit the overall work. Furthermore, despite being in a many ways a highly original work, there are a number of compromises made to appeal to a mass market. I think the score by Patrick Doyle, which is one of those that highlights the emotions the audience is meant to feel, is one of those waving flags that says 'we're still mainstream in case you got a bit lost.' Finally, Frieda Pinto's character is poorly written, and unfortunately her performance in the film parallels the level at which the character was written.

Despite these issues, I found myself very moved by Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. I was emotionally gripped by the story of Caesar and near the verge of tears when he is left in the primate house. This is indicative of the power of Andy Serkis' performance and the amazing synchronicity of his efforts and contemporary special effects. It is a disgrace that many awards regulatory boards fail to recognise motion-capture performances. Serkis was already disgracefully overlooked a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for his performance as Gollum, and I fear that this may happen again in the case of Caesar in the Best Actor category. To not recognise Serkis would be equivalent to disqualifying Heath Ledger as a Best Supporting Actor candidate, the award he won at the Oscars, because he wore a lot of make-up and dyed his hair green. This will certainly not be the case with this film reviewer! Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is a wonderful looking film that is unexpectedly dark and moving, with some very strong socio-political thematic content. This, along with Super 8, are the kind of film's that people should be watching this summer, and not bilge like Transformers 3. You owe it to yourself to see this great film!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Ready (to put my feet up, metaphorically speaking, I am on a couch after all)

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Super 8

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Produced by: Steven Spielberg
J.J. Abrams
Bryan Burk

Screenplay by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney
Elle Fanning
Kyle Chandler
Ron Eldard
Noah Emmerich
David Gallagher
Riley Griffiths

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by: Larry Fong

Editing by: Maryann Brandon
Mary Jo Markey

Studio(s): Bad Robot Productions
Amblin Entertainment

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): June 9, 2011 (Australia)
June 10, 2011 (United States)
August 5, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 112 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $50 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $220, 089, 773

Outside of the movies I've been watching for review (believe me, they are still coming, despite my near/week-long absence), such as Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and tomorrow's Cars 2, I've been seeing a lot of classic films. Kurosawa's Drunken Angel and Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity would teach many filmmakers how exactly to use tension in a film. Also, on the reviewing side of things, I will be seeing for definite Final Destination 5 and I Saw The Devil, the new Kim Ji-woon film, and hopefully Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In, Cowboys And Aliens, The Smurfs, Spy Kids 4 and One Day. As you can see, I'm still pretty freaking busy!

Super 8, today's film, is the latest to come from J.J. Abrams, most famous for his work as the creative force behind Alias and Lost, producing Cloverfield and directing the latest feature-film instalment in the Star Trek universe, 2009's eponymous Star Trek, a film I like very much. Steven Spielberg produces the new Abrams film, which initially had a marketing campaign reminiscent to that Cloverfield, but later was marketed as a throwback to film's in the 1980s such as Spielberg's own E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and Robb Reiner's Stand By Me. In the summer of 1979, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) loses his mother in a factory accident. His father Jackson (Kyle Chandler) has one of the wake's attendees Louise Dainard (Ron Eldard) taken away in handcuffs. Four months later, Joe and his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) are working on a low-budget zombie film, and convince Dainard's daughter Alice (Elle Fanning) to play the protagonist's wife. When they are filming a scene at a train station, Joe witnesses a truck drive onto the tracks, which derails the train. As is the case with movies of this sort, things go amuck and the army arrive to contain their 'property' in a rather secretive and dubious manner.

To start with praise on Super 8, the young cast must be applauded. Each member is instantly likeable, and the screenplay is written as such that they are given their own personalities (on another note, one of the kid's looks the spit of a young Jaz Coleman!). Nevertheless, there are three I would like to applaud specifically. Joel Courtney is wonderful as Joe Lamb, and has a tough range of emotions to master, and does so with grace. He lends a tremendously three-dimension quality to the character and gives Henry Thomas in E.T. a run for his money. Elle Fanning is also great, taking a character that could have been fodder and giving it real depth and humanism. Finally, Riley Griffiths' Charles is the film's scene-stealer. His is the character who could have been most annoying, but instead his passion/obsession in making his film comes across as endearing and his insults of the people around him are hilarious. This is easily one of the best supporting male actor roles of the year. As is expected in a J.J. Abrams film, the film's technical wizardry shine throughout. Zack Snyder's regular collaborator Larry Fong does a great job as cinematographer and the film's co-editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey also do fine work. An important part of the film is the score by Michael Giacchino. For those of you who don't follow the blog, I often have problems with orchestral scores, but here it really works. Giacchino's score adds another layer of pathos to what is already an emotionally strong film and gives us one of the year's finest in film music. Finally, this is really a project of passion for J.J. Abrams, and this passion is the skin that keeps the film together.

That said, whilst J.J. Abrams' work as a director of this film are praiseworthy, his screenplay, though full of well-written characters and dialogue, is less praiseworthy. As a throwback film, it is inevitable perhaps to be compared to film's such as those mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, Super 8 does not stand out from the pack and despite being a great film is one of the, if not the most cliched film I have seen all year. I won't indulge heavily, as that would give away plot spoilers, though to be truthful you could see them a mile away. Our lead protagonist Joe of course has lost his mother and has a busy workaholic father, the military comes into the small town of the fictional Lillian, Ohio in a suspicious manner etc. etc. How many times we have seen this before I don't know, and for a film that is so praiseworthy, it is infuriating that it was not as original as it should be. Not just plot details, but the structure of the screenplay, seems to revel in a bath of cliches that we are expected to just accept because Abrams has delivered an already great film. Well, to be frank, I don't!

If you can overlook the serious overabundance of cliches (which I can't), Super 8 contains just about everything you'd want to see in a film. Heck, even with these cliches, it is still a great film. The young cast, specifically Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Riley Griffiths are great, and Kyle Chandler who plays Joe's dad Jackson. As is expected from a J.J. Abrams film, the technical aspects of the film are pretty solid, and the film also contains an unexpectedly powerful orchestral score from Michael Giacchino. Finally, though an auteur's work it stands pretty cliche and unoriginal, Abrams' passion for the project shines through and gives us a thoroughly entertaining film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

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

P.S. Shows my great skills as a review, but I forgot to mention the production design, the costumes and the special effects. This film has a great, naturalistic mise-en-scene that puts us firmly into the world that the character's inhabit

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Zookeeper

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Produced by: Todd Garner
Kevin James
Adam Sandler
Jack Giarraputo
Walt Becker

Screenplay by: Nick Bakay
Rock Reuben
Kevin James
Jay Scherick
David Ronn

Story by: Jay Scherick
David Ronn
Keenan Donahue

Starring: Kevin James
Leslie Bibb
Rosario Dawson
Ken Jeong
Steffiana De La Cruz
Donnie Wahlberg
Joe Rogan

Voices by: Sylvester Stallone
Cher
Nick Nolte
Adam Sandler
Maya Rudolph
Bas Rutten
Judd Apatow
Jon Favreau

Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by: Michael Barrett

Editing by: Scott Hill

Studio(s): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Happy Madison Productions

Distributed by: Colombia Pictures

Release date(s): July 8, 2011 (United States)
July 29, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 104 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $80 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $131, 997, 000


Allo, allo, allo. Me again, as per usual. I watched Pixar's Cars for the first time tonight and found myself really enjoying it. A lot of people get on top of Cars as being one of the more lackluster of Pixar's films, but I found it highly entertaining and yes it looks the anthropomorphism that one can find in their previous films, but I still empathised with the characters. Also, tractor-tipping looks pretty damn hilarious. Finally, I plan on going to see either Sarah's Key or Super 8 today, so keeps your eyes open for an upcoming review on either or both.

So, today we have Zookeeper on our hands, the new Kevin James movie. For those of you who don't follow the blog, me and Kevin James have a bit of a chequered history. He starred in 2009's hit comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a film I intensely disliked, as well as last year's hit comedy Grown Ups, one of my five candidates last year for worst film of the year. Saying that, James did star in Hitch, a film that is by no means perfect, but I did like, in which he and his character were actually funny. I'd be lying if I said I had a completely open mind going into it, as Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions always seem to saddle Kevin James with terrible projects, so I went into Zookeeper frankly bracing myself for the worst.

Say what you will about Kevin James, and I'll be the first to say it as I don't think he is particularly funny, he does have a likeable screen presence, it's just a shame that he has to play up the likeable goofball so much. Also, there are glimpses of his potential as a performer, although the film takes no time to indulge in this. Some of the voice cast do some amusing vocal acting. Sylvester Stallone's proud lion that has a lot of deep insecurities raises a few smirks, and Adam Sandler's bezerk turn as a monkey that teases a crow by sarcastically suggesting that children might say "Mommy, I want to see a crow." Don Rickles also makes an appearance, but in a far-too-short capacity. The gorilla suit in the film is done very well, as Kermode would say, and the production design for the zoo looks spot on.

That's it. At least, that would be it if I didn't have to tell you how godawfully bad Zookeeper is. To start off, the opening scene that sets us up with all the context of Griffin Keyes (trust James to play a character called Griffin) is terrible. It is neither funny or tragic, the awkwardness that is intentionally there failing to come across appropriately in either manner. Also, it is the lowest form of comedy. Ken Jeong makes his appearance's yet again doing the same old schtick and I'm getting more and more annoyed with him every time I see him. The script also doesn't help, as it is really, really poor. For starters, much of the gags are not particularly funny and have either been done a million times before and/or are the lowest form of comedy. I know he wrote part of the script, but I really am waiting for the time when Kevin James let's someone defecate on his chest for a gag, because to see him bouncing around like a bear in this film is simply embarrassingly bad, and he still seems like he is holding back some! Also, some of the animals are annoying, such as Judd Apatow's elephant that really needs to shut up, and the mouthes don't even move in sync with the voices. Furthermore, the film is unbelievably predictable. I felt like Nostradamus I was so far ahead of this movie. James receiving life lessons from the animals is silly, and his character is a terrible arc of 'learning' and that old favourite 'going on a journey.' No spoilers or anything, but I predicted the movie's ending less than ten minutes into the film, the applause of onlookers, and of course the animal's must have a terrible, terrible singalong to More Than A Feeling during the credits. Speaking of music, the soundtrack of songs selected for the film is rubbish and so goddamn populist that once again The Thin White Nostradudeus was able to predict some songs for the scenes. A full on forehead slap occurred when I saw the name Rupert Gregson-Williams as the composer for the film, as the composition was as bad the soundtrack, and I couldn't help but think of the great work of his brother Harry rather longingly. Finally, Zookeeper is a movie that is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, so it is rather annoying whenever it decides to parade around the idea that is something more to this movie than Kevin James falling on his ass. I have no problem watching a fat guy fall on his ass, I am a Laurel And Hardy fan after all, but Stan never turned to Ollie and said "Hey, Ollie, I think there's more to this than you falling over and my lack of brains." Twenty-five minutes into Zookeeper, I was thoroughly nauseated, and actually felt myself wanting walk out, something that I have never done in my time as a reviewer.

To be fair on the film, it is not as bad as Swinging With The Finkels, my current worst film of the year. It lacks the obscene pretension and pseudo-intellectual upturned attitude of that flick. However, excepting some good vocal performances, production design and a couple of glimpses of James' potential as an actor, it an all-round grotesque piece of work. Just look at the poster: now tell me, if that isn't one of the worst poster's in film history, I will eat my own shoe.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 2.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Furious (having woke up late and having so little time to do things, stuck reminiscing on Zookeeper)

P.S. This movie cost $80 million to make. What the fuck? The Hangover Part II cost the same, and while it is a bad movie, at least I can see where that money went!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Debtocracy

Directed by: Katerina Kitidi
Aris Hatzistefanou

Produced by: Kostas Efimeros

Written by: Katerina Kitidi
Aris Hatzistefanou

Music by: Giannis Aggelakas

Release date(s): April 6, 2011

Running time: 74 minutes

Country: Greece

Language: Greek


So, ladies and germs, I've finally started watching some movies online this year. I know, it is not quite the movie experience one might hope for, but sure, if the screen is close enough to your face you can pretend you're in the cinema. Just kidding, although I think that the internet can be a good source for watching films, particularly those that are harder to find. Last year, I watched Dogtooth and A Serbian Film online before they found DVD release, and the fantastic website www.topdocumentaryfilms.com was my source for Collapse and last year's winner for Best Documentary Restrepo.

It was using the Top Documentary Films source that I was able to find today's film Debtocracy. The film's focus is the ongoing national debt crisis in Greek and the potential future solutions to this ongoing issue. Funded by online donators wishes to see a documentary on this topic, what was meant to be a short subject became a feature-length film and upon it's release under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 License online has become both a Greek national and international sensation for it's depiction of debt and recession. Going into Debtocracy, I knew nothing about it, and simply let the film take me where it wanted to.

Given that it's topic does involve both national and international economics, one would expect that Debtocracy is a well-researched piece and there is no question that it is indeed just that. Revealing the history of Greek's debt issues, we find that in the 190 years of the country's existence, it has only been a lender once, during German occupation, and for the rest of the time it has been the recipient of loans. Research such as this is important in getting to the root of the country's problems and in this regard, it is successful. The filmmaker's Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou also draw parallel's of the Greek crisis in the Argentinian economic crisis at the end of the beginning of the new millenium and suggests the case of Ecuador as an example of potential solutions. This is textbook, sound documentary filmmaking that in itself parallels the three-act structure of a screenplay. It puts us in context of the Greek crisis, displays a mirror image that is a reflection of their country's current state of affairs, and suggests a solution to the issue: it is a perfectly appropriate and logical approach. Furthermore, it is well edited by Leonidas Vatikiotis, who presents to us the filmmaker's argument in a wide variety of manners. Also, the contributors who the filmmaker's have selected are from a wide variety of backgrounds and view the situation from different perspectives, yet all are in agreement that something is fundamentally wrong Finally, to put the film in an even wider context, debt is an issue that extends to all countries, not just those that live under the capitalist banner. As such, Debtocracy is a film that importantly reaches out to something universal in the world we live in. This is what a good documentary (or any type of film for that matter) should be doing, catering to a wide audience and touching upon universal real-life issues.

As admirable as Detocracy is, and I certainly do admire it for the views that it takes on the solution of national debt, there are a number of problems with the movie. Unfortunately, it is one of those movies that I think will alienate a few people because it is a case of a factual mortar attack. We are absolutely bombarded with facts and figures, and I did find myself having to really try to remember what certain sections of the film were about. At only seventy-four minutes, I still found the film occasionally troublesome and overlong. In comparison to Anvil! The Story Of Anvil, my Best Picture of 2009 and a film of roughly the same length, Debtocracy does not really cater to keeping people entertained and despite being a bit of a political creature found myself peter off to an indifferent mood of not giving a damn. The film does struggle to maintain sufficient interest in what is an important issue, which is a real problem considering it's running time. I fear that as a result less people will want to see it.

There is no doubt that Debtocracy is an admirable film for the way in which it was funded by people's demands to see these issues depicted. The filmmaker's present a strong argument that is well thought out and meticulously researched. Also, it is well-structured and a balanced film, with some strong editing by Leonidas Vatikiotis. It is a good film, but it is certainly not without it's problems. We are bombarded with facts and statistics and barely given room to breath, and despite being by all means a short feature-length film, it feels a lot longer and fails to keep me as entertained or as interested as I should be. I wish I could urge people to go and see it more than this, but I would be lying if I said it was any better than the film I have presented to you now.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Needing (for this film to be better than it is)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Captain America: The First Avenger

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeeley

Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Starring: Chris Evans
Tommy Lee Jones
Hugo Weaving
Hayley Atwell
Sebastian Stan
Dominic Cooper
Neal McDonough
Derek Luke
Stanley Tucci
Toby Jones

Music by: Alan Silvestri

Cinematography by: Shelly Johnson

Editing by: Robert Dalva
Jeffrey Ford

Studio: Marvel Studios

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): July 19, 2011 (World Premiere)
July 22, 2011 (United States)
July 29, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 124 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $140 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $262, 037, 277

Right gang, alo alo alo! Watched Videodrome last night again and thought it was awesome once again. There aren't many eighty minute movies out there that can pack as much content into to one movie and still make you want more from it. I would sincerely recommend that everyone should take a look at this great movie. Also, unfortunately today I missed the opportunity to see any new movies, but on the plus side I was off shooting some cracking scenes for my friend's birthday present/film/sequel to last year's epic Lauce, Camera, Action!, LCA2.0!. And while I'm at it, hello to Lauce, you fucking legend!

Anyway, this is not about birthday shout-outs and what have you (though that does seem to be the route of sorts for the introductory bullshit paragraph), but about the new film Captain America: The First Avenger. It is worth noting that contrary to critical opinion/memory, there has been a previous adaptation of Captain America. I too was unaware of the 1990 version starring Matt Salinger (son of J.D.) and Ronny Cox, but I think that one should really do their research before they make bold statements like '...the first film adaptation of a much-loved superhero...'. Nevertheless, this is the first major, big-budget studio adaptation of the character, and is the last in line of Marvel's superheroes to be introduced before next year's The Avengers, which is to be followed by Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, so the Marvel 'Avengers' Universe is well in motion and features at present five films. In Captain America, present-day scientists discover a circular object with a red, white and blue motif. We are then thrust back into 1942, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is rejected due to health problems in his attempts to enlist in the U.S. army. However, upon overhearing Rogers' motivation for wanting to help the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) allows Rogers' to enlist under the agreement that he become subject for a 'super-soldier' experiment, under he, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). The experiment works, and local politicians and senator's have Steve Rogers tour the U.S. as 'Captain America.'

To start off with what is good about the film, thumbs-up to Marvel for casting Chris Evans as Captain America. Evans is a terrific actor who has starred in a lot of supporting roles but hasn't quite had the big role that deserves yet. He is a fine screen presence and is completely believable and credible as Captain America/Steve Rogers. Also, well-done to the special/visual effects/make-up crews for making Chris Evans believable both as Steve Rogers, both pre and post-experiment. It is always great to see such convincing effects that do not look at all hoky. The film also has a very clean and distinct visual style that is down to the fact that the movie is both well-shot and well-lit. Production design too for the film is of a quality to be expected of a production such as this. 1940's New York is recreated in a completely believable manner and the costumes are also great. In the case of war-torn Italy, it too looks well, and the stunt team have done a very fine job. Also, it helps that the film packs some strong actors. Hugo Weaving plays a nefarious villain with a German accent in Johann Schmidt/Red Skull and Toby Jones plays Arnim Zola, Schmidt's lackey and a biochemist in the Nazi Party. The strongest of the supporting cast though is Tommy Lee Jones, who is perfectly cast as Colonel Phillips. A rough and uncouth Colonel who disapproves of a lot of things is perhaps not a stretch for Jones, but it is his damn sure entertaining. His interview scene with Toby Jones and his delivery of dialogue makes for some of the film's best moments, providing at least one big belly laugh from this critic. Finally, it is for the most part a very well structured film that, whilst by no means is challenging, does what is needed to tell the origin story of Captain America.

That said, while Captain America: The First Avenger has a lot going for it (including a Wilhelm scream), I think that equally it has as much problems that detract it from being as enjoyable a film as it should have been. As is usually the problem with a lot of films, they fail to address the problems at their basest level, the screenplay. For starters, the film is very 'chop-chop' and bounces all over the place, cutting from protagonist to villain to secondary characters to bit-parts/extras and back again in different combinations and orders. Alfred Hitchcock always used to say how it was more interesting shooting a film from one side of the story and leaving the audience in the dark as to what was happening on the other side. This also makes for some silly and pointless shots of a cutaway to a character looking pensive, nervous, angry etc. You can imagine the re-takes for these shots: "Toby, can you look a little more nervous. Action! (Looks nervous) Cut! Toby, this time would you be able to look a bit more thoughtful, as though to say 'this is interesting.' Can you do that for me? Alright, cheers. And, action!" It highlights a certain absurdity and does not make you want to believe in the acting. Also, the film is far too long and gets big for it's boots, and as a result you simply lose interest. The plot moves in directions that are rather obvious predictable and throughout the picture I seemed to be like Bobby Fischer predicting the moves of the opponent in front of me. Guys, I read your Poker Face, hello Lady Gaga. Finally, some of the dialogue is absolutely terrible. It is dialogue such as "You've gotta be somewhere in thirty minutes""Yes, I do" (with added emphasis) that makes the film seem like a bit of a joke with too much an air of self-importance. Outside of the screenplay, the film also teeters too much on the side of overt. It has a very bombastic and pushy score by Alan Silvestri, a composer whose work I like, that just doesn't work here and detracts and distracts from the film. Also, subtlety does not exist in this film's language, and it has a distinctly propagandist feel about it in the way that it pushes it's moral code down our throat, and I'm not talking about the Captain America war-propaganda, I liked that stuff. The film's moral code also reeks of hypocrisy when you have your lead character being told not to forget 'it's about heart, it's about what's on the inside that counts' by his mentor figure whenever women are throwing himself at him after his post-experiment makeover. I do think that film's can't be digested from a moral stance, but it does bother when a film changes it's moralities and philosophies with the turn of the tide, that is where the problems come. It is the hypocrisy and the back-pedelling that bothers me.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a highly admirable film. It is also an equally condemnable film. It is frankly astonishing how a movie can be nearly equally as good as it is bad, or vice verse. My ultimate feelings following the film's conclusion was that it merely exists to set up Marvel for The Avengers release in May 2012. Unlike the first Iron Man, a thoroughly entertaining film, it feels like a story of exposition and not it's own self-contained film. This is Marvel's way of spending $140 million to get movie audiences up to speed with the comic-book audience so that everyone knows the shit that's going on. Frankly, although I think The Avengers will do great box-office, I wouldn't go so far as to predict it breaks the $1 billion mark and I think it will suffer, like the X-Men film's, from having too many characters. Nevertheless, Captain America: The First Avenger is a decent blockbuster that is strides above recent offerings such as Green Lantern.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - In need (of the bog!)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Directed by: David Yates

Produced by: David Heyman
David Barron
J.K. Rowling

Screenplay by: Steve Kloves

Based on: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe
Rupert Grint
Emma Watson
Helena Bonham Carter
Jim Broadbent
Robbie Coltrane
Warwick Davis
Ralph Fiennes
John Hurt
Jason Isaacs
Alan Rickman
Maggie Smith
David Thewlis
Emma Thompson
Julie Walters

Music by: Alexandre Desplat
John Williams (Themes)
Nicholas Hooper (Themes)

Cinematography by: Eduardo Serra

Editing by: Mark Day

Studio: Heyday Films

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release dates(s): July 13, 2011 (International)
July 15, 2011 (United Kingdom and United States)
August 4, 2011 (Mainland China)

Running time: 130 minutes

Country: United Kingdom
United States

Language: English

Budget: $250 million (Shared with Part 1)

Box office revenue (as of publication): $1, 148, 401, 620

Me again, back and making the usual excuses about being away for a week and not being able to type up my review, long overdue at that, for HP7.2. In my own defence I will say that I have been away in Newcastle for a week fulfilling my duties as a Scout Leader (I do other things believe it or not than spend my free time in dark rooms). As I am not a Scanner and can't tap into computers via a payphone, this denied me the opportunity to review anything. Since coming back, I have seen Captain America: The First Avenger, and am planning to see Cars 2, Zookeeper, Super 8, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Smurfs and Cowboys And Aliens in the coming fortnight, so keep your eyes on this page.

So, without further adieu, here comes the review for the milestone Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2. It all ends 7.15 (or rather has ended, given my delayed response) reads the poster, and so with it, ends one of the most beloved of all cinematic franchises. A lot of people are getting very emotional about the end of Potter, as like me, they grew up with the books, and have also grown watching filmmakers bring pure imagination into the realm of collective reality. Furthermore, unlike some other franchises, the Potter series is universally revered and loved, by audiences and critics alike, old and young, and so we have come to expect from the series a high quality of film, so by the time HP7.2 was released in the wake of Part 1, which I feel to be the best of the whole lot, the hype could not be any larger. I went to see the film in a packed press screening which also, much to my displeasure had a Cool FM sponsorship with ticket winners to the premiere taking family and co together. Despite my grumbles, including children making noise and the 3D glasses, it had a real big event feel to it, the likes of which I haven't felt since Avatar, and I feel gave me good enough food for thought to review.

To start with the good, I can't praise the producers enough for their casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Despite the tremendous spectacle of the film's, ultimately it is their story, and the three actors tell the story of their characters with strength and conviction. As the years have went on, Radcliffe has established himself as a thoroughly legitimate screen presence who carries the weight of this behemoth of his shoulders. Like Harry, he himself is challenged as an actor in this film, and succeeds with grace. At this key stage of the series, we believe in Radcliffe as Harry, and he delivers a powerful performance, perhaps the best he has done in the series, in this film. Harry's situation pushes Radcliffe to the extremes of his abilities and he handles it with power. Although the focus here is clearly Harry, Grint and Watson are strong as ever playing Ron and Hermione. On the acting spectrum, I would also like to point out Ralph Fiennes. His villainous role as Voldemort is also given the spotlight in this film, and he run's with suitable menace in the part. Finally on the acting, I would like to point out the work of Alan Rickman. It could be a case of favourtism as I like Rickman very much and he is my number one impersonation, but his key part to the story in this film is important. As such, Rickman shows us all of his acting tools, and really gets down to the crux of the Severus Snape. One of the best written characters of the series, Rickman shows us the various layers of complexity in Snape, and delivers a great performance. Another of the great things about the Harry Potter series was the overall mise-en-scene. Say what you will about Warner Bros., as they have made some real clusterfucks with regard to where they put their, they put it to good use in the Harry Potter franchise and created a magical world that one previously could not believe existed outside the imagination. In HP7.2, the setting of Hogwarts is an extraordinary achievement in production design. I always address the main trio's return to Hogwarts, followed by Voldemort's arrival as the 'Battle Of Hogwarts,' and the mise-en-scene certainly lives up to that label. Hogwarts becomes a battlefield that looks like something lifted from Band Of Brothers as opposed to the glossy sheen we were introduced to so long ago. Also, thumbs up to the stunt/choreography teams for managing to inject this controlled madness into the film. It really benefits the battlefield atmosphere of the film. Eduardo Serra's terrific cinematography is once again in full force. His dark hues and shades gives the film a distinctive colour and signature look. Furthermore, as HP7.2 is in many ways an action film, he gives some so-called 'action cinematographers' a run for their money, proving you can create a frantic atmosphere while still being able to see what is going on. This time around, editor Mark Day is also like some of the actor's pushed to extremes, as his job here was unquestionably that of long, hard work. Like the other members, he takes the ball and run's with it. We know from State Of Play (TV series, also directed by Yates) that he can make a conversation look a whole hell lot more entertaining than it might be in reality, but the action is a big challenge. Admirably, he shows a lot of restraint in this regard, whilst also being able to keep the intensity levels on high. The best work is that of the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. The whole series has been leading up to this, and Day's editing (with help from fine sound editing and visual effects) is befitting of this monumental clash. It is rare to see such freneticism and intensely brilliant editing outside of the work of Sergei Eisenstein, and this is terrific work. Finally, a big pat on the back must be given to director David Yates. Burdens seem to be the recurring theme of this review, but as the director of this project, ultimately, it was up to Yates to deliver a satisfying end to a stellar franchise. He delivers the final product very well and should be thoroughly proud of his fine contributions to this film and the entire series.

Geez, I didn't realise I had that much to say, and there is still more to come, now that we are entering the bad about the film. I really gushed over Part 1, and I suppose I did in many ways about this film, and while unquestionably a thoroughly satisfying film, it is fundamentally flawed in it's screenplay. This is such a shame, as Steve Kloves delivered such a well-balance and well-structured screenplay in last year's film. In the fact that we spend less than an hour before we get to what I call the 'Battle Of Hogwarts', which occupies most the film's screen-time, HP7.2 ends up feeling like the third act to a movie. I know there has been a Part 1 to all this, but Part 1 can clearly be separated from the context of this follow-up and viewed in it's own self-contained universe. This unfortunately must be viewed completely in context of the series and taken apart from this, viewed organically it is like the film has had it's foot lopped off with a machete. Furthermore, the film digresses into needless sections of exposition that take up large chunks of the movie and destroy the momentum of the 'Battle Of Hogwarts.' Also, despite being the shortest of the Potter film's at 130 minutes, it feels like a three-hour film. My recommendation: add more minutes. I know that sounds crazy to a film I already feel is overlong, but trust me, if a movie is well-structured and balanced, a longer film will feel far shorter then it is, and therein lies my logic. Finally, there is a certain set of makeup and visual effects, which I am being careful of because of spoilers, that simply does not convince me. Those of you who have seen it may well know what I am talking about. And no, I'm not going to shit on Alexandre Desplat. His score for this film worked, and his work on The Tree Of Life means I can forgive him for some of his other work.

So, it has ended. Harry Potter as a film franchise is done. That said, J.K. Rowling has in the wake of both the books and the films being over has been talking of late of the possibilities of an eighth Harry Potter book. I would welcome it with an open mind, but I feel that the franchise has come to a solid conclusion and personally three words ring in my head: 'let it be.' This final film in a fine series is a very good, worthy conclusion to the franchise. It has some strong acting from the central trio, Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman, a magnificent mise-en-scene, technical proficiency and a strong level of control is exhibited by David Yates. However, ultimately it is a very flawed screenplay that is badly structured that let's it down from being the masterpiece that it really should be.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (be glad to watch Videodrome again after I finish this)