Friday, 30 September 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rango

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Produced by: Gore Verbinski
Graham King
John B. Carls

Screenplay by: John Logan

Story by: Gore Verbinski
John Logan
James Ward Byrkit

Starring: Johnny Depp
Isla Fisher
Abigail Breslin
Alfred Molina
Bill Nighy
Harry Dean Stanton
Ray Winstone
Timothy Olyphant
Ned Beatty

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Editing by: Craig Wood

Studio(s): Nickelodeon Movies
Blind Wink
GK Films

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): February 14, 2011 (United States Premiere)
March 4, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 107 minutes
111 minutes (extended version)

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $135 million

Box office revenue: $242, 605, 737

Well, as you can see, once again I have been fucking around with the various Blogger templates in my undoubtedly pointless attempts to master web design. I did a GCSE in I.C.T., but for some reason over the past few years my friends have described me as a bit of a luddite for my lack of patience for all things technology. Case in point, one of my good friends (and one of my few subscribers!) gave me free downloads for Grand Theft Auto 4 and Fallout 3. Four months later, they are still sitting there until he installs them himself because I get cross at long installation periods. This is perhaps a luddite's way of looking at things, but I think that one of the great 'contributions' of computers and video games is a severe decrease in the average human being's temperament.

Well, after blogging about this for about a month, I have finally got down to watching Rango. I did miss this one because, even though I didn't see the Pirates Of The Caribbean films, years of being spoon-fed criticism by Mark Kermode gave me a rather cynical perspective on any film involving Gore Verbinski, even if it did feature Johnny Depp. However, my good friend and fellow film critic Daniel Kelly got me this for my birthday, recommending as one of the best of the year, so I figured I would get a good review out of it. Also, from the wise words of this man, it sounded like the kind of movie I would salivate over. Pet chameleon Rango (Johnny Depp), who were are introduced to as essentially a delusional loon from years of living inside his terrarium, ends up stranded in the Mojave Desert after falling out the back of his owner's car, and ends up the proverbial fish out of water when he arrives in Dirt, an Old West town populated by an assortment of animals.

Rango is an interesting case of a mainstream animation that exists outside of those studios that dominate the animated film market, such as DreamWorks, Disney/Pixar and Studio Ghibli. As such, this film, produced by Nickelodeon Films, despite being a computer-animated film, has a very distinct visual style and art direction. While having a lower budget than films such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2, films which also look the part, I would say that stylistically I would rather look at stills from Rango than these films. It is a stunning looking film, with wonderfully imagined characters, each of whom are designed with the utmost of detail. Furthermore, unlike a lot of animated films, Rango has the cinematic look of a non-animated film. Roger Deakins was a visual consultant for the film, and this, along with Tonino Delli Colli's work on Sergio Leone's film are some obvious influences. The film is full of really iconic shots. Craig Wood's editing is part of the reason for this, making some wonderful adjustments in focus, filling in the gaps of animation's limitations. Also highly praiseworthy is the film's vocal cast. Johnny Depp is really amazing as Rango. The way in which he constructs this character, who is in his own way a man with no name, with all his neuroses and insecurities, is a marvel. The animation lends itself well to the character, but without Depp this character would have been less endearing and come across as annoying. In many ways, this is one of Depp's best performances of his career. All round, the cast is terrific, but I would specifically like to flag up Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty (in another great turn after Toy Story 3), Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy and Timothy Olyphant. Another praiseworthy part of this film is the score by Hans Zimmer. One of my favourite composers, I was pleasantly surprised to discover as the credits rolled that he had a major part in what made this such an enjoyable film. Ennio Morricone is put through the blender by Zimmer and in turn we are given a wholly unique sound palette. With the creation of a four-bird mariachi troop as minor characters, similar to the mice in Babe, Zimmer is given the opportunity to put his own unique stamp on the spaghetti western, a genre which the film clearly pays tribute to, but also fits in nicely to the genre itself. Rango has made me think differently of Gore Verbinski, a man who I previously thought of as a minor director on the map of the film world. To deliver a work that touches as many different bases as it does is no easy feat, and I feel that for the most part Rango achieves this.

Now, while I think that Rango is a great movie, there are the odd problems that emerge from the script. I feel that this is a pretty good script which John Logan should be proud of, it is anarchic and wildly funny, so it is a shame whenever I ended up encountering the problems that it did. Despite it's inventiveness, the movie is incredibly predictable. Structurally, the film goes all the places that you expect it to go and by about half-way through the film, nothing surprised me anymore. It was simply a case of "well, I knew that was going to happen." For a movie of such originality, this predictability flays layers off of it's skin, and disappoints me whenever I know fine rightly that this could have been a masterpiece, as I was really into the film's sense of humour and genuinely felt for the really three-dimensional character of Rango.

The predictability of the film's script does really detract from it, but not enough to say that I didn't enjoy it. Rango was easily one of the most enjoyable film's I had the pleasure of watching this year. While I liked the animation in Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2, stylistically and aesthetically (maybe it's because I'm a spaghetti western freak, I'm trying to be unbiased!) Rango looks far better, due in part to Craig Wood's editing. I may have criticised John Logan for his script's predictability, but I would like to thank him for all the laughs that this film gave me and for the character of Rango. Speaking of Rango, this is one of Johnny Depp's best performances ever, animated or not. Also, Hans Zimmer's score adds a nice layer that ensures the film exists as both a tribute and part of the spaghetti western genre. Finally, I tip my hat to Gore Verbinski, for going out there and making the most bizarre, far-out and bonkers mainstream film possible. Trust me, it's up there in Black Swan territory. This is the spaghetti western on acid and is a really great movie I couldn't recommend more.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Rather pleased (by Rango)

P.S. Although it is the end of September and will be October by the time I post them, my upcoming reviews for Blitz, Killer Elite and Friends With Benefits will be posted as movies from September and will be followed by my movie of the month for September

P.P.S. This film contains what I would say is the best action sequence in a film this year. Also, although I'm not sure if they will, I really hope that kids dig this film, as it has a very different sense of humour than the standard that you expect from an animated comedy

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - One Day

Directed by: Lone Scherfig

Produced by: Nina Jacobson

Screenplay by: David Nicholls

Starring: Anne Hathaway
Jim Sturgess

Cinematography by: Benoit Delhomme

Editing by: Barney Pilling

Music by: Rachel Portman

Studio(s): Random House Films
Film4 Productions
Color Force
Distributed by: Focus Features

Release date(s): August 19, 2011

Running time: 107 minutes

Country(s): United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Budget: $15 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $37, 087, 485

Guess who's back? Back again? Well, of course you know who's back. After all, you are reading the blog of this nincompoop who managed to lose his glasses whilst inebriated, so kudos to you from me for actually reading this blog. I don't know whether to fear or sympathise in your seeking advice from one such as I. Anyway, I will have a number of reviews coming in, i.e. the usuals such as Rango, I Saw The Devil, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy yadda yadda yadda. Also, I think I will try to get down to seeing Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur, so keep thous eyes posted on this motherfucking blog!

After that somewhat slapdash introduction, methinks I will get down to reviewing the movie One Day. I was looking forward to this film as it features Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathway, both of whom I like very much, as the film's leads. On a side note, after reviewing Fifty Dead Men Walking, I found I was quoted on on his role as Martin McGartland. I am happy for this, as I have viewed the site, as a fan of Sturgess, and consider this a big plus for the blog. Anyway, post sucking up, here's a synopsis. One Day, based on David Nicholls' novel, follows Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) over the course of a number of years on the day July 15th in an episodic form. When I went to see the film in the Strand Cinema (great cinema), the print was a bit screwy, black lines and jumping fuzzes at the bottom of the screen. After complaining, the folks went in there to try and fix the movie, and about thirty mins in, one of the employees came in and apologised for the cut and offered a complimentary ticket for another screening (bless them), which was very nice. Unfortunately, that is just digital projection for you, and this screening stands as a strong argument to bring back full-time projectionists.

Anywho, here comes your (excuse me, my) pros regarding One Day. As the film is completely written around Hathaway and Sturgess, it would only make sense that their performances should be good, and they most certainly are. Both of the leads give the film a sense of great acting prowess, nailing both the emotional and comic sides of the spectrum, touching the right points that the film is aiming for. Also, there is an interesting dynamic in which at the beginning one of the two is more dominant and later on the other becomes the more confident. It serves the purpose of the story very well, and both Hathaway and Sturgess portray this transition diligently. In the technical department, Barney Pilling's editing enables us to legitimately buy the idea of all this important stuff happening coincidentally (or not, as the screenwriter) on the same day over the course of the number of the years. It is solid and efficient work in the cutting room. Finally, for a film that is very nuts-and-bolts under it's surface, it handles itself rather well and has a genuine sense of charm.

On my final note on the pros, it brings me appropriately to what is wrong about One Day. As I said, it is very nuts-and-bolts. David Nicholls, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, has wrote a rather base, predictable and frankly dull screenplay. I don't know if the book has the same problem, but I find that the screenplay here goes in all the places I expected it to. As the years were going by, I was able to guess the way the next year was going to go before it actually happened. I felt like I was a prophet of some sort while watching this film. Also, it really reeks of cliche. I have seen this kind of romantic dramedy done so many times before and One Day does not add anything original to the plate. This is reflected in the score by Rachel Portman. I know this is personal opinion, but it is one of those very overt orchestral scores with an excess of strings that says 'this is where you cry, this where you laugh, yadda yadda yadda.' If there is one thing I don't like in a film, and I don't think it serves any film well, it's a score that tells people how they feel. If the score from One Day was removed, this would easily become a very good film. Unfortunately, it indulges severely in this department, and as a result, ends up feeling like a very faulty film.

One Day certainly has it's problems, in that the script is nuts-and-bolts, has been done so many times before and is incredibly predictable. I don't know if David Nicholls' book is any different than his adaptation, but this is dull stuff. Also, Rachel Portman's score gives it a real smell of atypical romanic dramedy and does nothing to set this film apart from the rest of the mould. That said, I must compliment the fine work of Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess for really elevating what could have been a dreadfully nauseating work into something very watchable. Hathaway deliver a really great performance that ekes out Sturgess, but then again, Sturgess is saddled with the worse role. Also, Barney Pilling's editing is a fine bit of work, in that we end up actually buying the idea of these different things happening on the same day, and it gives the film a pace and a sense of urgency. All in all, One Day is not the film it could be, but as a night out stands as a decent watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good (to be back)

P.S. Fastest review ever! Done this (edited and all) in less than an hour! Boo yeah (R.I.P. Macho Man Randy Savage) Is it Jacques Brel, alcohol, the Oldboy soundtrack by Yeong-Wook Jo or all three that has given me this speed? You, my friends decide! Toodles!

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Thin White Dude And A Complete Case Of Utter Stupidity

It is with great regret that I have to inform you with the reasons as to my serious lack of reviewing this month. Recently, in an attempt to emulate the great Oliver Reed in the drinking department, I fell over (at least I think I did) and unfortunately my glasses lost one of their lenses and ended up in much the same state as the man who was wearing them. Being half-blind without them, I have been unable to review any movies. As such, I have missed Project Nim and Film Socialisme, though I promise a review for both at a later date. Reviews for Rango and I Saw The Devil will come in soon. Also, as I will hopefully have a fully-functioning and repaired pair of glasses in the next few days, I will be planning on seeing Friends With Benefits, Fright Night, I Don't Know How She Does It, One Day and there will be a guaranteed review coming in for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so keep your eyes posted if you haven't lost faith in my reviewing capability's (or lack thereof!).

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Neds

Directed by: Peter Mullan

Produced by: Rebecca O'Brien

Screenplay by: Peter Mullan

Starring: Conor McCarron
Martin Bell
Grant Wray
Marcus Nash
Linda Cuthbert
John Joe Hay
Peter Mullan

Music by: Craig Armstrong

Cinematography by: Roman Osin

Editing by: Colin Monie

Distributed by: New Video Group

Release date(s): October 9, 2010 (Dinard Festival
January 21, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 124 minutes

Country: Scotland
United Kingdom

Language: English

Box office revenue (as of publication): £632, 204

To say the least, once again I've taken one of my ten-day week breaks from reviewing. This is the only new film that I have seen recently, but I am planning on getting to see Film Socialisme, the new film Jean-Luc Godard, Project Nim from James Marsh, director of Man On Wire and least one other new film in next few days. Also, there will at some point be reviews for Rango and I Saw The Devil, so keep your eyes posted.

The film for review today is Neds, the latest film by Peter Mullan, whose work as an actor with Ken Loach and Danny Boyle among others has made him a formidable figure in British and Scottish cinema over the past twenty years. His third feature as a director, Neds follows John McGill (Conor McCarron), a young boy who plans on growing up to go to university and become a journalist, unlike his brother Benny (Joe Szula), who has become a figure of notoriety in his local community for violence and delinquency. However, John's curiosity into the culture of 'Neds' that his brother is a part of get the better of him, and we walk alongside John as he becomes engrossed in this culture and descends on a seemingly inevitable downward spiral.

Neds is undoubtedly a very strong movie, but in the same way that This Is England relied on the performance of Thomas Turgoose, equally this film revolves around the pivotal performance of Conor McCarron. Gifted with an amazing expressive range, McCarron is nothing than mesmerising throughout the entire film. His character's arc and variety of emotional states must have been challenging, but he manages to maintain a great degree of control, which makes every scene he is in (more or less the entire film) all the more powerful for it. Also, it is important that despite the fact we see him do some things you wouldn't expect from his demeanour early in the film, we never once lose sympathy for John McGill. I've been of the opinion that Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was the best of the year so far, but Conor McCarron's work here has certainly entered another good horse into the race. Also worth of praise is the terrific cinematography by Roman Osin. Neds is a film with a very distinctive and unique look. The film is shot in a guerilla style which brings the film down to earth and gives it an element of realism. On the other hand, the way in which it is lit and the various lens' used on the camera give a wonderful contrast of colour in the film. Despite the cinematography contributing to the film's unflinching brutality, the term that comes to mind with this work is 'savage grace', because there is a real beauty to the film's visual sense. Although a small contribution in terms of actual running time, Craig Armstrong's score is vital to giving the audience the emotional heartstring that the film needs, the ending theme one of the most powerful pieces of film music I have heard for some time. Finally, writer-director Peter Mullan's part in making Neds a great film is certainly without question. Certainly a very personal film for Mullan, the film reeks of autobiography and Mullan constructs Neds as a ballad of sorts for these directionless young men whom the education system and the older generations have abandoned. Despite the film going to some far-out places, it never loses it's sense of realism and believability. The strength and subtlety of Mullan's script lends itself to the story behind Neds. While the 'Neds' are violent thugs, the film is wordy and is firmly entrenched in the sociological/familial drama category, so it also avoids the pitfalls of some these movies, as the 'hoods movie' is now more or less a form of exploitation film. His direction too is nothing less than terrific, as this most dark of films could have been a nightmare to shoot and turned out to be nothing more than dreary nonsense. Mullan's skills as a director have managed to keep the film interesting.

Neds does not have many problems with it, as it is an all-round strong film. However, there are one or two wee things that would detract from it being considered a better film. The film is definitely too long. The scenes themselves taken out of this context would probably work, but when you have all these other parts, the final product adds to less than the sum of its parts. In particular, I think that the scene with Gary Lewis' teacher character attempting to piggyback John McGill does not work. There small things like this that do get to me and deny it from being an even greater film.

Despite these issues, Neds is an extraordinary film. I would urge everyone to see it, regardless of its strong brutality, as it is just wonderful. It feels like a dark fairy tale, helped of course by Roman Osin's cinematography and Craig Armstrong's minimal score, delivering to the audience pure cinematic poetry. Mullan's ballad to the lost boys of Scotland is harrowing, and it boasts a magnificent performance from Conor McCarron. McCarron has the air of a young Ray Winstone about him, and Neds is a masterpiece to be considered alongside movies such as Scum in the depiction of angry young men who have been abandoned or mistreated by those who fail to cater for them correctly. Mullan's message is clear, and I find Neds to be an amazing work. It had me from the opening minute, in which John is played very well by Greg Forrest, and is so far the best film of the year.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hungry (for Pringles!)

P.S. Really do see this movie. Thanks to Shane McCarron (not related to Conor!) for lending me the DVD to this flick

P.P.S. To those in America who run cinemas and distribute films, please get Neds a theatrical release. I do not want to see another great film from the British Isles go straight-to-dvd like Cemetery Junction with little or no marketing machines behind it

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: August 2011 - The Skin I Live In

A great and delightfully twisted film from Pedro Almodovar. Well-developed mise-en-scene completely throws you into the film's universe, a darkly sexual and humorous experience with a gothic touch. Wonderful central performances from Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes give the film a Shakespearian tragedy kind of feeling. Only Almodovar could make a film as twisted as this so damn entertaining!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

Runner(s) Up: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Super 8 - Both films represent in different manners the upper-crust of blockbuster entertainment.

Avoid Like The Plague: Zookeeper - Waiting for the moment Kevin James lets someone defecate on his chest for a gag

Second-Most Deadly Disease: Cars 2 - Pixar drops the ball with 'Cars 2 Many Plots'

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: July 2011 - The Tree Of Life

A singular vision from director Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life goes to the greatest possible scale, and yet has great grounding in simplicity of 1950s suburbia. One of the best-looking film's I have ever seen, with some terrific cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and special visual effects by Douglas Trumbull and Dan Glass. Finally, with some stunning performances by Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Hunter McCracken, this truly is a fine cinematic experience.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.1/10

Runner-Up: Bridesmaids - Very funny and wholly endearing comedy-drama

Avoid Like The Plague: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon - Mind-numbingly dull and boring

Second-Most Deadly Disease: Bad Teacher - Not a bad film, but not a particularly good one either