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Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Dark Knight Rises



Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Produced by: Emma Thomas
Christopher Nolan
Charles Roven

Screenplay by: Jonathan Nolan
Christopher Nolan

Story by: Christopher Nolan
David S. Goyer

Based on: Character created by Bob Kane

Starring: Christian Bale
Tom Hardy
Anne Hathaway
Michael Caine
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Marion Cotillard
Gary Oldman
Morgan Freeman

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Editing by: Lee Smith

Studio(s): Legendary Pictures
Syncopy Films
DC Comics

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): July 16, 2012 (World Premiere)
July 19, 2012 (Australia/New Zealand/Hong Kong/Malaysia/Philippines/Singapore/Taiwan)
July 20, 2012 (United Kingdom/United States/Ireland)

Running time: 165 minutes

Country(s): United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Production budget: $250 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $286, 038, 896



Here's the thing, I'm enjoying myself greatly in Nice. The weather is fantastic and the sea water is clear, which more than I can say for the dirty wet sock that is Northern Ireland I left behind. As such, trying to fit in time for reviews is troublesome, so I'm not going to make any promises about the consistency of  my work. Also, I was stupid enough to leave my copy of Chill behind at home, so I'll be reviewing that in August. To compensate for my negligence, I'm gonna try and get something off of the Top Documentaries website to review, and I'll be going to the cinema at some point during my time in Nice, so keep your eyes posted!

So, todays movie is undoubtedly the biggest movie of the year, and certainly one of the biggest releases of all-time, The Dark Knight Rises. In case you have been living under a rock, Batman Begins, the first film in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, was an in-depth and challenging look at the origin of the Batman character, and has in many ways become the template for the 'origin story' of many franchises that have arrived in its wake. Then of course we got the overwhelmingly successful The Dark Knight, which truly is an exercise in lean filmmaking, and truly represents the major calling card for Nolan, who made his name with the excellent, low-budget thriller Memento. Certainly, the film he made following The Dark Knight, Inception, owes a debt to Memento, though its budget saw Christopher Nolan take high-concept filmmaking to the next level. With The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan (two-time Best Director winner from my good self over the years) takes his Batman saga full-circle. Eight years following the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City is in a state of relative peace, and through the Dent Act, propped up Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who feels guilty about the cover-up of the late Dent's crimes, which have been burdened by the long-gone Batman. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) during this period has become a recluse, locking himself up in Wayne Manor, despite Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a Wayne Enterprises board member's constant attempts at communication. Following the trail of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who runs off with some of Wayne's property, he discovers a plot by Bane (Tom Hardy), to overturn the established order of Gotham and plunge the city into a new reign of terror. "A new reign of terror" sounds so cliche, but I don't want to give away any plot spoilers, so I'll just shush!

To start off what is good about the film, I want to actually praise Warner Bros. here. The Dark Knight Rises is more or less a dead cert to make its money back, so I like how they have just said to Christopher Nolan, "you've made a good profit with The Dark Knight and Inception, here's $250 million, go out there and make your movie," and boy does he ever. Technically, this is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. Wally Pfister's cinematography displays all the care of someone who knows how to take a film seriously. With Pfister, as much as he great at showing the massive scale of the movie, it is the film's more low-key moments that show his expertise. No conversation is a simple talking matter, and his camera becomes (and makes us become) an active, engaging participant with the film. Also, Lee Smith's editing, which in The Dark Knight was an exercise in efficiency, is even more so the case here. There is so much going on, and Smith makes the transition so smoothly that it feels like a seamless piece, and not like you are constantly chopping and changing. Furthermore, in the action sequences, his editing is almost Eisensteinian in its jarring use of montage, but whilst it is frenetic, it never diverts from letting the audience see what is going on. Speaking of editing, the film sounds fantastic. When The Bat arrives on the scene, you genuinely feel the whole room shaking, but the most notable instance of this is in the confrontations between Batman and Bane, which are hard-hitting and brutal. You really feel every punch, forearm and elbow shot, and though it might not be too flashy, you have to appreciate the mixture of sound and choreography going in together. The whole mise-en-scene is a marvel and immerses you completely in the world of Gotham City. The costumes, as expected, are suitable reflections of their characters, but these, as well as the wonderful production design, both for the sets and the vehicles, continue the previous films' aesthetic: everything is designed around its operational efficiency and plausibility to exist in the real world. Also, although there are obviously special effects, they are used sparingly, and as such it is hard to distinguish between an effect and a hand-crafted set. The same can be said about the stunts, which are amped up to eleven, and unlike many big-budget features, are inventive, and deliver on their promises. It's nice to actually see that there is a brain behind $250 million, and that it is at least being spent in an original and intelligent way. Also, on a side note, I've been inbetweenies on Hans Zimmer's scores for the big Christopher Nolan films, but this time it definitely works. While many of the old themes return, this score is a lot more meditative and along the lines of his work on Gladiator with a lot more on emphasis on brass instruments. The 'Deshi Basara' chant that is featured as a motif is sure to become a classic hallmark of film music. Now we get to the acting front of things. In The Dark Knight, I felt that there was a slight dilution to the Batman character, and as a result, Bale's performance suffered. However, this a character study in a way, and Bale flexes his acting muscles once again. It is a shock to see Wayne at the beginning of the film looking as decrepit as he does, and Bale's physicality makes us believe in Wayne's frailty. Also, he appropriately depicts the character's inner conflict as he is pushed to the very extremes and challenged as he never has been before. Bale, who has been saddled with nothing parts (I have yet to see The Fighter though) in big films lately, is given more to do, and succeeds where others would fall. Plus, that infamous growl seems to have been modified, which can only be a good thing. Speaking of nothing parts, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role as Blake could have been one of those, but, in a film full of characters, he brings legitimacy and a level of depth to the part. Also, Anne Hathaway delivers the definitive Selina Kyle performance. Really getting through to the essence of that character, she's athletic, complex, sexy and dynamic. Fitting in nicely, Hathaway has obviously been taking notes from Bale, as she wisely gets across Kyle's Catwoman as a reflection/female counterpart to Wayne's Batman. Although her part is much smaller, Marion Cotillard is a strong, solid Miranda Tate. In a more significant part than in previous films, Michael Caine's is terrific as Alfred. The long-suffering butler to Bruce Wayne goes to the extremes with him, and Caine depicts the emotional turmoil of Alfred with real weight. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is an exchange between Wayne and Alfred, and though Bale is great, it is Caine who gets across the absurdity and madness of his master's night-prowlings as Batman, while depicting his feelings of guilt as his father figure. The final person I'd like to praise on the acting front is Tom Hardy. Now I knew that he could play an imposing part well, I mean, just look at him in Bronson. However, his performance as Bane is a lot more subtle than you might at first expect. His voice is the right blend of menacing and charming, and reminded me of a distorted version of Claude Rains' Captain Renault in Casablanca. It makes for a fascinating contrast when you see this behemoth speaking in tones of Received Pronunciation. Also, given that he's hidden behind a mask the entire film, he seems to take these impositions in his stride. He has a wonderfully expressive face, and manages to get everything across through his cheeks, brows and eyes. As the lead antagonist, he has large (clown?) shoes to fill in the wake of Heath Ledger's Joker, but I think Hardy delivers an excellent, raw, physically impressive and imposing presence, bringing in his performance weight to everything the film is trying to get across. Finally, the architect behind all of this, Christopher Nolan, must be praised. Bringing this trilogy to a satisfying conclusion must have been a challenge, but he and his brother Jonathan must have, like me, been jumping for joy when they "cracked" the story for this film. The script is beautifully structured and Christopher Nolan never once loses control over the film. Like the character, The Dark Knight Rises is a delicate piece of work that could have just came crashing down, but it doesn't, it just keeps going and going and going, and it is my opinion that Christopher Nolan has done as much for the character of Batman as anyone who has ever done anything with it. 

Well, as you can see, I liked it. There's a lot to be said about The Dark Knight Rises. My good friend at Danland Movies delivered what is to my knowledge his largest review ever, and it seems I'm going down along those lines myself. With all that good being said, The Dark Knight Rises has two niggling problems. Given how much is going on, it is admirable what they do with this story. However, I feel that with all these characters and their various arcs going on, some of them are dealt with well, while others are more or less glossed over. Miranda Tate's story has a lot more going on, as does Jim Gordon's. Frankly, I feel that they could have beefed up them arcs a bit more and I would have gladly sat with this movie past the three-hour mark, because I was with it the whole way through. 

The Dark Knight Rises has a problem or two with how certain characters and arcs are dealt with, but these don't take away too much, and it is most definitely a masterpiece. In virtually every department, it succeeds with weight and gravitas. Cinematography, editing, sound editing, musical compositions, stunts/choreography, production design, special effects, acting, writing and directing, this film has, even with those irritable parts, everything you'd want in a film. On a personal note to Christopher Nolan, I have been of the opinion for many years that you are the best working filmmaker: Chris, you still are the best working filmmaker. The Dark Knight Rises sees Nolan's ascension to the level of one of the greatest filmmakers ever. A phenomenal achievement in film-making.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Content (Nice is incredibly therapeutic!)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World



Directed by: Lorene Scafaria

Produced by: Steve Golin
Joy Gorman
Mark Roybal
Steven M. Rales

Screenplay by: Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Steve Carell
Keira Knightley

Music by: Jonathan Sadoff
Rob Simonsen

Cinematography by: Tim Orr

Editing by: Zene Baker

Studio(s): Mandate Pictures
Indian Paintbrush

Distributed by: Focus Features (United States)
StudioCanal (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): June 22, 2012 (United States)
July 13, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 101 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $10 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $7, 078, 738



Right, folks, todays review is the last one that I will be doing before I leave the country for eighteen days (eleven/twelve in Nice, a week with scout troop to the Isle Of Mann), so, with these circumstances  in account, the work rate will be less consistent and there'll be less reviews. However, while I'm on holiday, I'll be posting my reviews for The Dark Knight Rises and Chill, so I'm not going completely off the record. On a brief side note, I'll no doubt get to watch some movies I already love, and last night, I got watching Y Tu Mama Tambien last night again: what a terrific film, and any movie that has Frank Zappa's Watermelon In Easter Hay over its end credits is a plus in my book. So, if you wish to keep up with my reviews and digressions, keep your eyes posted!

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World: just ponder that wondrous mouthful of a title. This would be apt description of Dodge's (Steve Carrell) relationship status on Facebook. We begin this film at the beginning of the end, with the last-ditch attempt to stop a seventy-mile-wide asteroid named Matilda having failed. Dodge's wife has left him, and everyone around him has began engaging in raucous drug use and sexual activity, while he remains his usual self. After a chance encounter with his neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley), who is crying on his fire escape, and a failed overdose, which leads to his adopting an abandoned dog (named 'Sorry' after the note tied to it), the three set out to reunite Dodge with his high school sweetheart before the world goes up in smoke.

So, the good, eh? Well, for starters, I have to praise Lorene Scafaria for actually setting out and making a mainstream comedy about the end of the world. Also, while it contains scenes of debauchery and barminess, there is a genuine heart to the movie that means it ends up touching a few nerves past the surface level. In the acting, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley both sell this movie, and ensure that it contains a sense of legitimacy. Both are cast playing their positives, but it never crosses over into lazy acting. Carell is both humorous and endearing, while Knightley, playing a potentially annoying kooky character, is wholly charming. Also, technically it is solidly shot, and Lorene Scafaria as a director seizes the reigns of a movie that could just completely go, pardon the pun, off the plot. Finally, while the script is flawed (which I will get into), it has a poignant denouement that strikes a satisfying emotive chord, and Scafaria's best trait seems to be writing a scene that just revolves around the two leads squabbling. It is in effect an end of the world film meeting television sit-com humour in an interesting mix.

However, as I said, the script has its problems. Much of the second act comes across as padding that gets us simply from point to point, merely to string together the film's stronger moments. People turn up and disappear, and whole plot points are conjured from thin air and disposed of within a few minutes of their introduction. Considering the films positives, these scenes stand out like sore thumbs and do nothing to add anything to the proceedings. Also, while Zene Baker is obviously hired to carry out his director's artistic intent, you do feel that there is a lot of pandering going on, and more vigilance should have been shown in thinning out the film's unnecessarily long running time. Finally, the music does, on numerous occasions, enter into the territory of the Emotional Heartstring Orchestra, and I don't like being told how I should be feeling: most of the movie is strong enough for me to get the point!

It is a movie that has a flawed script, an editor lacking in vigilance and an overt score infected with a case of EHO. However, Seeking A Friend At The End Of The World is a satisfying oddity which delivers some great sit-com humour, and mixed with the whole 'end of the world' concept, it makes for an interesting blend. Furthermore, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley bring weight to the proceedings, adding legitimate humour, funny dialogue and a genuinely poignant sweet heart. It is a shame that the film doesn't deliver more on it's promises, but as it stands, it is an entertaining black comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnois - Disgruntled (reviewing with a television on and two other people in the room can be a test (especially when they are on their phones and iPads at the same time: talk about overstimulation, learn to be bored!)!

P.S. My good friend at Danland Movies was present whilst I reviewed this movie, and being his silly predictable self, laughed at a record cover with '69' featured prominently on the front of it. To his defence, I was making 'Mandate Pictures' jokes at the start of the film, so I can't play the straight man to his funny man, we're both equally retarded and juvenile!

P.P.S. The trailers are getting put back up: oversight on my part!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Cosmopolis


Directed by: David Cronenberg
Produced by: Paulo Branco
Renee Tab
David Cronenberg
Martin Katz
Screenplay by: David Cronenberg
Based on: Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
Starring: Robert Pattinson
Paul Giamatti
Samantha Morton
Sarah Gadon
Matthieu Amalric
Juliette Binoche
Music by: Howard Shore
Metric
Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzky
Editing by: Ronald Sanders
Studio(s): Alfama Films
Kinology
Prospero Pictures
Toronto Antenna
Distributed by: Entertainment One
Release date(s): May 25, 2012 (Cannes: Premiere)
June 8, 2012 (Canada)
June 15 2012 (
August 17, 2012 (United States)


Yes, I've been slow on the reviews front this month, but believe you me, I have been busy. Not only have I now seen this movie, I've also seen Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (mouthful of a title) and The Dark Knight Rises. Others will be included, and I'm gonna try to do some reviewing and so one or two movies while I'm on holiday in Nice, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

So, this review right here (I don't say today because I'm planning on doing two reviews) is for Cosmopolis. The latest film by David Cronenberg, whose back catalogue I am in great admiration of, is an adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel of the same name. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a twenty-eight year old billionaire who insists, despite heavy traffic and numerous delays, to travel in his limousine across Manhattan to get a haircut. As mentioned, I am an admirer of Cronenberg's work, particularly that run of films in the 1980's from Scanner to Dead Ringers. Lately, he has taken doing a lot more 'real world' based films or literary adaptations, and as the first major Don DeLillo adaptation, this feature was of interest to me going in. I also had the pleasure of unwittingly going to a screening with an introduction by Marcus Smith and post-film discussion after at the Queen's Film Theatre. Surprises, though this is the exception rather than the rule, can be good sometimes!

Firstoff, I want to sing the praises of Robert Pattinson in the lead role. Replacing Colin Farrell, he fills his shoes efficiently, carrying enough natural swagger and charm. If anyone can do brooding well, it's Pattinson, and this is probably his best role to date. He's a lot more controlled than I've seen him in the past, and it seems that collaborating with Cronenberg has been of benefit to him. His delivery of Packer's lines is hypnotic, and listening to him talk about boring things is paradoxically one of the most interesting things the film has to offer. Paul Giamatti offers some valuable supporting chops, and Samantha Morton executes a terrific monologue. Also, the film is beautifully shot. I'm not normally a huge fan of digital photography, but Peter Suschitzky's work here is inventive and original. We get to see the inside of Packer's limousine from every possible angle, every nook and cranny covered. At its best moments, it is reminiscent of the tracking shots Stanley Kubrick used as a trademark in his films. Also, the clarity of the image is tremendous, making for a realistic but still artistic contrasting tonal palette. As a director, Cronenberg takes a meditative position and opts for a low-key adaptation. This is not a movie with a traditional nuts-and-bolts narrative, and credit where credit is due to Cronenberg for openly challenging his audience with the directions he takes with this movie. Finally, I mentioned how well-shot the limousine is, but it is also designed well. This limo is an extension of Packer, and the cold, cool intricacies of its design is a reflection of just how removed from the world he truly is. The whole mise-en-scene of the film, with the elegance of the costumes and such, create a body politic in Cosmopolis that, while lacking in the metaphorical machinations of blood and guts, is certainly present throughout.

Cosmopolis is an interesting, but quite troublesome beast, in that for what is good about it, there are numerous problems and flaws. Cronenberg succeeds as a director, but his script is a strange misfire. Now, I haven't read the DeLillo book, which he apparently is very faithful too, but frankly I don't need to in order to judge the film. Unfortunately, the film, while having its moments, is inconsistent, and a lot of the time just feels like a lot of borderline philosophical monologues mashed together. I have no problem being challenged, I mean I sat through The Turin Horse (and loved it!), but I felt quite bored in parts by this, and near fell asleep at one stage. I understand it is meant to be cold and brooding, but I did not feel consistently engaged because there is a structural flimsiness to it that regularly threatens to collapse. It didn't feel like an organic set of ideas made flesh, but some ugly, metallic, modernist construction. Furthermore, there are severely under-utilised actors, such as Juliette Binoche, who really should be playing more than a bit part. Also, the collaboration between Howard Shore and Metric doesn't quite work, as the clash of styles doesn't contrast appropriately. They both end up ruling out each other's contributions.

It has a screenplay that comprises of lots of bits mashed together in a flimsy narrative structure, the musical collaboration doesn't quite work, and there is a lack of characterisation for severely under-utilised actors. Despite these obvious flaws, I still find myself feeling (relatively) positive about Cosmopolis. Robert Pattinson is a strong and credible lead performer, who firmly anchors the film and its tone. It is a terrifically shot film by Peter Suschitzky, the overall mise-en-scene is well-established, and David Cronenberg, to his credit, continues to challenge his audience with the output from his artistic impulses.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very well (The Dark Knight Rises was thoroughly entertaining!)

P.S. Congratulations to the keyboard warriors of Rotten Tomatoes for getting themselves and everyone else on the website barred to comment on The Dark Knight Rises for making death threats against critics who negatively reviewed the film: "You have disgraced yourselves once again." Twats!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Magic Mike



Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Produced by: Reid Carolin
Gregory Jacobs
Channing Tatum
Nick Wechsler

Screenplay by: Reid Carolin

Starring: Channing Tatum
Alex Pettyfer
Cody Horn
Matt Bomer
Olivia Munn
Joe Manganiello
Matthew McConaughey

Cinematography by: Peter Andrews

Editing by: Mary Ann Bernard

Studio: Nick Wechsler Productions

Distributed by: Warner Bros. (USA)
FilmNation Entertainment (International)

Release date: June 29, 2012 (United States)
July 11, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 110 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $7 million

Box office revenue: $91, 841, 198



Ahoy there sailors! I think it appropriate to update y'all on certain events regarding my timetable, as it does have implications on the blog. In nine days, I'll be out of the country for eighteen days, the first eleven as a holiday with my family to Nice, France, and the other seven to the Isle Of Man, which is where I'll be taking my scout troop. With these circumstances taken into account, I plan on getting a few movies reviewed before I get going. The Dark Knight Rises is the big one on the horizon, but I'll try and get to see Killer Joe, Cosmopolis, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and of course I still have that copy of Chill kicking around. So, while I'm keeping busy banging these keys, you guys keep your eyes posted!

So, Magic Mike here is the latest film from Steven Soderbergh, his third theatrical release in nine months after Contagion and Haywire. It stars Channing Tatum as Mike Lane, a roof tiler who just so happens, as revealed to us via Alex Pettyfer's Adam, who just so happens to moonlight as a stripper under the name Magic Mike at a club called Xquisite. Taken backstage, after Tarzan (Kevin Nash) takes too much GHB, unable to perform, and Mike's convinces the manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Adam ends up onstage as The Kid and, with him, we enter the world of male stripping. That's all you need to know folks!

But fortunately (or unfortunately, depending what way you slide!), that ain't all I got to say about Magic Mike. Firstly, much praise must go to Channing Tatum. Though Soderbergh directs, it is Tatum who defines this film and is in a way its auteur. As the film is based partly on his own experiences as a stripper, Tatum does what all great artists do, which is channel their personal life and translate it into an artistic medium. Also, as far as acting go's, it's a revelatory performance. He has enough sense to give this character emotional depth while understanding that acting is about showing the audience things without the need to verbalise. Furthermore, he carries himself with such a cool air of confidence and swagger that you can't help but be charmed by his magnetic onscreen presence. It reminded me of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and believe me, coming from a Brando fanatic whose idea of shopping is purchasing white t-shirts en masse, that's high praise! He was simply excellent! Also great is Alex Pettyfer's, who is really looking different from his Stormbreaker days. His performance compliments in the supporting capacity the same way Marisa Tomei's complimented Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. His character (and game acting) lets us explore other aspects of the world of male stripping, and his addiction towards the performance art is genuinely harrowing at times, but always believable. Finally on the acting front, Matthew McConaughey and Olivia Munn are entertaining as Dallas, the manager of the troup, and Joanna, Mike's on-off lover, respectively. Other aspects of Magic Mike are praiseworthy. Overall, it has a very well-established mise-en-scene. Of course, the costumes are extravagant, but the production design and look of certain locations firmly entrench it into the real world. This is important, given that the subject matter is, in many ways, quite unbelievable. Technically too it is proficient. Peter Andrews deserves a lot of credit for achieving such a strong clarity in the film's picture quality. Shooting in nightclubs, with flashing lights everywhere, must be a bitch, and so for us to be able to still decipher what's happening is commendable. Also, Mary Ann Bernard editing is used to jarring effect at various points in the movie. The inserts of the month's in the film hammer home just how fast-living these people live when you realise "Cor, blimey, we've only been with these characters for a month," etc. etc. The scenes in which the characters are intoxicated, usually on a mixture of various substances, are appropriately nauseating. Finally, Steven Soderbergh, though his influence is not as overt as some of his previous works, serves as a tactful filter to the film's material. This is one of those projects that could have gone off the rails, and I think screenwriter-producer Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum were wise to hire Soderbergh. 

Magic Mike is a great movie, but a great movie that is not without its issues. For the most part, Reid Carolin's script is solid, but there is a severe sense of character underdevelopment with regard to the rest of the Xquisite. In a world in which I am sure there must be a lot camaraderie, you never get that sense of unity. These characters obviously have stories to tell, and I'm sure that to divulge a bit of time to them would not harm the film's narrative. It's disappointing that we are only let in to know two or three of these characters, as opposed to the whole group. Also, there is a story arc in the film that is very important, and unfortunately you are not able to buy it because Cody Horn is pants. She plays Adam's sister Brooke, and when I watch her in this I feel like these are the (somewhat exaggerated) arguments that critics made against Kristen Stewart for the Twilight films made flesh. Doing a one-note scornful look, mixed in with murmuring, for much of the film, when she makes the turn into 'kind-of but not really' liking Mike, it is down in the same way and feels completely illegitimate. It's a shame really, given how many strong performances the film has.

As I say, Magic Mike has it's fault. The script I feel glances over things, particularly with characterisation, and as such we don't get to penetrate the surface as deep as we should. Also, an entire story arc is crashes against the rocks due to Cody Horn's lifeless performance. Perhaps she'll give a good performance some day, but annoyed and bored me simultaneously. Normally these things would make this a very good movie, but Magic Mike really got under my skin. It's a controlled, well-made movie with some terrific acting, particularly from Channing Tatum. His pet project should serve as a great star vehicle for his career, as I think he deserves nothing less than an Oscar nomination for his work here. Finally, it is, first and foremost, a great, fun movie.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Busy, busy (I've seen Cosmopolis and Seeking A Friend At The End Of The World)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rogue River



Directed by: Jourdan McClure

Produced by: Zachary Ty Bryan
Jo Haskin
Kevin Haskin
Torrey Loomis
Rick Matros
Adam Targun

Screenplay by: Ryan Finnerty
Kevin Haskin

Starring: Michelle Page
Bill Moseley
Lucinda Jenney
Chris Coy

Music by: Jermaine Stegell

Cinematography by: Brian Hamm

Editing by: Paul Covington

Studio(s): Vision Entertainment Group
Kejo Productions
Rogue River Productions

Distributed by: Grindstone Entertainment Group (United States)
G2 Pictures (United Kingdom - DVD release)

Release date: January 16, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 81 mins

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $2 million

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)



Alright folks, as evidenced by my lack of presence over the past week, I've been pretty busy and haven't had time to review anything. Thursday was The Stone Roses gig, which was nice and relaxed, aside from ignorant Dublin taxi drivers and a couple of idiots trying to steal a megaphone off me. On Saturday though, like Captain Willard, I was plunged into the Heart Of Darkness at the Swedish House Mafia gig. I'm not even gonna say anything, just read the news reports. Baptism of fire, to say the least. That said, it's a great job and I'm enjoying the work that I do, so I can't complain too much. Also, the neanderthals are up to their usual shindig again, so I'll be like a hermit the next few days as I'm unfortunate enough not to be on holiday this year. Batten down the hatches, it's siege mentality! In other words, keep your eyes posted!

The film up for analysis today is Rogue River. This is one I found in my local Tesco for £3, and was distributed by After Dark, who have recently made a name for themselves producing genre pictures. Marketing themselves as "A New Brand Of Fear," I have to say fair play to them for releasing these movies en masse for a cheap price. Far too long have distributors been expecting people to cough up over £10 for new releases. Granted, I've recently paid £7 and £8 for copies of Fanny And Alexander and Cannibal Holocaust, but they're great editions from Tartan (who have not been the same since going into administration and the Palisades takeover) and Shameless Entertainment. More people will see these releases if they are sold cheaply and en masse, it's the old B-movie production line routine: make it cheap, increase profitability. Anyway, post DVD-marketing digression, Rogue River follow Mara (Michelle Page), who travels to the eponymous river to scatter her father's ashes. However, go awry following the theft of her car, and after accepting a lift from Jon (Bill Moseley), he and Lea (Lucinda Jenney) refuse to let Mara leave their home, and, holding her hostage, subject her to much torture. Nothing else needs to be said, plot synopsis done!

Right, starting with the good, the film has three strong performances to its credit. Michelle Page carries the film throughout her emotional and physical assault. She handles the emotional range of her character believably, and despite this being, at heart, a nuts-and-bolts exploitation film, treats the material with respect and never overdoes anything. Bill Moseley and Lucinda Jenney give their characters a complexity that probably wasn't present on the written page. Moseley in particular is good at presenting the inherent madness rippling below the calm surface. Also, while the film is average, it is at least consistently average. I put this down to debut director Jourdan McClure, whose approach emphasises control over the material. Instead of going down the easy route, he does everything very minimalistic, and tells the story in a non-overt way. Furthermore, he gives the film a slow-burning degree of modesty, and I have to respect that, because the people involved obviously respect their audience. Also, though it ain't much, the script is a slow-burner. The build-up, playing off of the characters' public politeness and showing the audience (but not telling) little details, is well-played. Finally, I have to give the film its due for having at least one nasty set-piece, which isn't just played for gore, but is instead made grotesque by the genuinely twisted dynamic of the characters involved. It markets itself as a dark exploitation movie, and I have to say that it delivers.

However, Rogue River is nothing more than a dark exploitation movie. Unfortunately, much as there is to admire, you never really connect with the material on an emotional level. Throughout the film, which is only eighty minutes, I felt a cold separation when I know I should have been engaged. As I mentioned, the script has some good things, but it is mostly uniformly dull. The build-up is solid, but after that it does feel like the characters are merely devices to move the film from one scene to another. The best of horror/genre/exploitation cinema at its best also has something under the surface. Night Of The Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even the Sergio Leone westerns (which I love, by the way), all have a degree of underlying substance. Rogue River does not, and it does feel like a waste of effort not to have all this horrible stuff going on without saying something. I mean, even Tom Six managed it with The Human Centipede films! Also, the film's lighting is way too dark, and I understand it is a dark movie, but the night-time scenes contain some of the worst lighting I've seen since Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem. Finally, though it makes some of the early scenes quite serene, the score does play up way too much on horror-film cliches, so you know where I scene is going before it happens. Yep, the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra has struck again (bastards!)! 

Rogue River is a flawed movie, of that there is no question. It has a dull script, doesn't say anything for all the nasty stuff going on (a film doesn't have to, but it helps!), is badly lit and suffers from an E.H.O. 'give away the scary stuff' score. However, as a dark exploitation movie it's a worth one watch. Granted, it's on the wrong side of decent, but there are three good performances, there's a young director who clearly has a brain in his head and it's a slow-burning film with a genuinely twister dynamic and at least one nasty set-piece. In terms the recent borders in exploitation nastiness, it's better than A Serbian Film, but not as good as The Human Centipede pictures. Underwhelming and dull, but it does have strengths.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Dulled (how uninspiring!)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: June 2012 - The Turin Horse



Billed as the final film from Hungarian master Bela Tarr, The Turin Horse is an artistic summation/realisation of what he has been exploring his entire career. In every department, it is meticulous in its textured minimalism, which gives it an astonishing level of depth and interpretation. Never less than mesmerising, Tarr journey into the abyss of "the heaviness of human existence" is an extraordinary masterpiece of pure cinema.

The Thin White Dude's Prognois - 9.6/10

Runner-Up: Into The Abyss - Werner Herzog's tactful and tasteful documentary into the ramifications of capital punishment is an engaging and humanist piece of work.

Honorable Mentions: The Angels' Share and The Dictator - Two very fine comedies.

Second-Most Deadly Disease: Men In Black 3 - Decent, but still a dull, uninspired and lacklustre effort.

Avoid Like The Plague: Rock Of Ages - A thoroughly vile shiny, soulless metaphorical slot machine that explicitly flashes 'INSERT MONEY HERE' for it's entire running time. Beyond words...

P.S. Thanks to ma big homie at Danland Movies for flagging up a typo of my Rock Of Ages review: I reported that it made over $400 million at the Box Office, but being told (rightly) that I was wrong and it made under $50 million ($48,585,000 to be exact) is a source of great pleasure. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rock Of Ages



Directed by: Adam Shankman

Produced by: Adam Shankman
Jennifer Gibgot
Tobey Maguire
Matthew Weaver
Scott Prisand
Carl Levin
Garrett Grant

Screenplay by: Justin Theroux
Chris D'Arienzo
Allan Loeb

Based on: Rock of Ages by Chris D'Arienzo

Starring: Julianne Hough
Diego Boneta
Russell Brand
Paul Giamatti
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Mary J. Blige
Malin Akerman
Alec Baldwin
Tom Cruise

Music by: Adam Anders
Peer Astrom

Cinematography by: Bojan Bazelli

Editing by: Emma E. Hickox

Studio(s): Material Pictures
Offspring Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema

Release date(s): June 13, 2012 (United Kingdom - Ho Ho Hooray, we were the first to see this film!)
June 15, 2012 (United States)

Running time: 123 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $75 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $477, 322, 000



Right, so now I'm getting back into the thick of things with regards to reviewing this year. After this review, I will post my thoughts on the month of June and all the films that I have seen during that time period. Also, I've a few ideas on the way. Last year, I talked about a kind of 'fantasy film adaptation' idea, which I thought would be a bit of fun. On a similar note, my good friend at Danland Movies wrote an interesting article on the career of Adam Sandler (which can be found here: http://www.danlandmovies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/being-adam-sandler-guide-to-most.html), so I might do a monthly article on a person in the film industry. I tried writing one on Armond White, which I may revise as I wasn't satisfied with what I wrote. So, in light of an increasing variety of activity on the blog, keep your eyes posted!

Up for consumption is Rock Of Ages, which sees 2007's Hairspray director Adam Shankman head an adaptation of a stage musical of the same name by Chris D'Arienzo, who has a part in the film's screenplay. As a fan of classic musicals like Singin' In The Rain and The Bohemian Girl, as well as recent fare such as Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd and Repo! The Genetic Opera, I was expecting a guiltily pleasurable rock-'n-roll musical. In 1987, Sherry Christian (Julianne Hough) travels from Oklahoma and Los Angeles to live her dreams of becoming a famous singer, and after being mugged, meets Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who works at The Bourbon Room, a nightclub noted for many a popular gig. The expected plot machinations of these two aspiring young singers follows it's due course. The club's owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his right-hand man Lonny (Russell Brand), faced with the trouble of unpaid taxes, take a gamble and book legendary band Arsenal, fronted by the troublesome frontman Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). While all this is going on, Mayor Mike Whitemore's (Bryan Cranston) religious conservative wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is fronting her own band of anti-rock demonstrators. So, as can be seen, there's a lot of plot to get through, so lets get right down to it.

Kicking off with the good, undoubtedly the highlight of this is Tom Cruise. Writhing about like some snake-like creature and coming off with some really out-there dialogue, his Stacee Jaxx is a genuine larger-than-life figure. His comic timing is excellent, and his performances of Wanted Dead Or Alive and I Want To Know What Love Is (with Malin Akerman) prove that he has a powerful singing voice. Furthermore, despite being a force of nature, Cruise does get to the core of this character as a tortured isolated soul, and it actually reminded me of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Other things to like include the fact that the film is well-lit, and that it is a genuinely bizarre film. There were numerous occasions when I just sat there thinking "am I really seeing what I'm seeing?" That previously performance of I Want To Know What Love Is steams with both eroticism and humour, and really that should have been the tone for the entire film.

Unfortunately, it is not, for Rock Of Ages is, baldly, and completely without a shameful face, utter crap. I'll start off here on a slightly nitpicking note, but it must be mentioned that this is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a rock-'n-roll musical. This is 'pop-'n-roll,' the heaviest songs on the soundtrack being Wanted Dead Or Alive and Paradise City. The rest of it is plagued by some really bad eighties pop music (with the exception of Foreigner) that consists of hair bands, glam and just all-round boohick! Another note on the songs is the liberal use of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' as a sort of motif throughout the film. I'm sorry, I know no one has a claim on the use of specific songs in popular culture, but you're at least five years behind on The Sopranos and three years on Glee, who milked all the homage they could out of the track. As far as I'm concerned, I don't want to hear Don't Stop Believin' for another ten years in a feature film, for it's a great song being worn thin. There are other noteworthy issues with the film, but in particular, I did not connect with the leads. Now, I understand Julianne Hough is supposed to be cooker-cutter small-town girl, that's fine even if here voice is a bit too squeaky and irritating. The real problem in this equation is Diego Boneta. It brought to mind this fantastic video my friend sent me of Henry Rollins going off on contemporary rave and rock music, because Boneta is the epitome of what Rollins is getting at. There is no balls, energy or testosterone in his performances whatsoever. I mean, it's like watching one of the Jonas brothers sing Ronnie James 'MF-ing' Dio. Hell, if there was sing-off between Dio and Boneta, Dio's face would probably snap back like the Predator's mandibles and send this unholy-diver eunuch into another dimension because his voice doesn't belong in ours. Not to encourage slovenly and unhealthy behaviour, I have a lot respect for the straight-edge movement, but what this guy needs is two twenty-decks of Regals and a bottle of Jackie D before he gets onstage. He's so toneless that the voice is merely a perfunctory matter and they should have just got Pro Tools and mixed Autotone with a Vocoder, because that's how banal it sounds. Enough shitting on Boneta (though I'm not making any promises!), lets discuss the screenplay, because this is one of the messiest films I've seen in a long, long time. For starters, we have at least three (later four) story arcs, none of which are given enough time to legitimately develop an idea or sense of character. I feel like I'd have to make some funky spider diagram in order to figure what the hell is going, though the only conclusion that would bring me to with this level of transparency is that time is relative and there is no spoon. The whole thing is shoddy, flimsy and actually leaves you speechless and dumbfounded at how the hell this shit got passed for public consumption. Also, on a bias note, the only thing I was interested in was Tom Cruise's Bowie a la Cracked Actor schtick, which was genuine, interesting and had me thinking "Why isn't this the movie we are seeing?" Instead, we follow Hough and Banaleta's lame-ass story(s). Finally, I must address the tone that the film takes. It's a 12A certificated movie in the United Kingdom, but, at risk of sounding like a moral philanthropist, there are things clearly inappropriate for children, not that it's immoral, but they won't get it. On the one hand, you have some real dirty jokes, and then on the other you try to play towards a younger audience. I don't think you can have it both ways, because the dirtier stuff doesn't work on kids, and it doesn't go far enough for the adults. They should have just gone for the crass, R-rated rudefest it so wants to be, because it's obvious that the only reason the film was made to be a PG-13 was a bit of the extra ching. It's no secret I like my music raw, dirty and with sharp edges, but the key thing is a purity of honest emotion, and this film has none of that. It's a corporate, public image ("you never listen to a word that I said, you only seen me for the clothes that I wear"), shoe-shined, photogenic 'rock-'n-roll' that reeks of hipsterism, accessories and worst of all, there's no sense of genuine rebellion, rejection and acceptance of personal identity. I hated it!

Much as I like a good rant, this has been a painful review to write. In the interest of fairness, I have tried to recall what is good about it. Tom Cruise really is great, and I'd rather listen to perform Paradise City than Axl Rose these days, which is not saying much, but he can sing. Also, on account of that and some stuff like the I Want To Know What Love Is sequence, the film has, at a rough estimate between ten and fifteen minutes of a good movie. However, there is still the bulk of two hours that is absolutely terrible, and not even in a Passenger 57 ironic 'so bad, it's good' way, it is just awful. I'm convinced that Adam Shankman lost the plot, the producers saw a rough cut of the film, and like those guys who passed that ridiculously racist Intel advertisement, were so far removed from any degree of common-sense or humanity as a whole that they just put it out there anyway. Complete corporate crap, and that they have the gall to mention 'heavy metal' in relation to this film just makes me want to be sick! One of the guys from the Spill.com team made an excellent point in that this would be what rebellious music would sound like if the Nazis won World War II. It made a regression of my epilepsy from a controlled state into fits seem like a friend who is long overdue a welcoming hug. I just wanted to be a dribbling vegetable with The Magic Roundabout and Sesame Street themes in my head for all eternity. Quote me on this: "I'd rather have an epileptic seizure than watch Rock Of Ages again." The whole movie (not just the bad covers, I'm nitpicking), is completely soulless and full of corporate sheen and glow which serves as a metaphorical slot machine that flashes in my face "INSERT MONEY HERE!" Cue the fit!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bah! (Looking forward to purging myself of this beast with some good music. Flood by Tool is on the speakers at present!)


  

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Dictator



Directed by: Larry Charles

Produced by: Sacha Baron Cohen
Alec Berg
David Mandel
Jeff Schaffer
Scott Rudin
Dan Mazer

Screenplay by: Sacha Baron Cohen
Alec Berg
David Mandel
Jeff Schaffer

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
Anna Faris
Jason Mantzoukas
Ben Kingsley

Cinematography by: Lawrence Sher

Editing by: Greg Hayden
Eric Kissack

Studio: Four By Two Films

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date: May 16, 2012 (Worldwide Opening)

Running time: 83 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $65 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $148, 082, 000



Alright ladies and jackasses, I'm not gonna pretend I've been too busy over the past few days, though power-drinking at beer pong and feeling it at a reggae night in The Warzone Centre could be considered a taxing exercise. Anyway, I'm gonna try to get some work done in the coming week, even though I've (finally) got off the unemployment line. I'll be working security in Dublin at The Stone Roses and Swedish House Mafia gigs, so, who knows, I may see one of y'all there!

The movie stepping up to the plate today is The Dictator, the latest project of everyone's favourite dickhead Sacha Baron Cohen. As some of you may know, I've long been an admirer of his antagonistic and outrageously hilarious stunts. He always puts a great level of detail into his creations, and from what I had seen going in, The Dictator was to be no different. Saying that, I'd be lying if I didn't mention that the cynic in me was thinking that sooner or later this schtick was going to run thin. Directed by Larry Charles, 'The Eponymous Dictator' is Admiral General Hafez Aladeen, who after the United Nations Security Council threatens military intervention over his embargo of Wadiyan oil and supply of nuclear weapons, travels the United States to address the council in New York's UN Headquarters. However, shortly upon arrival, Aladeen is kidnapped by Clayton (John C. Reilly), who has been hired on behalf of his uncle and second-in-command Tamir (Ben Kingsley). After escaping (beardless and unidentifiable), he discovers that a double has replaced him, and with the 'help' of activist Zoey (Anna Faris), he sets out to regain his position as the "rightful dictator."

To start with the good, Baron Cohen and co. have bypassed my initial trepidation on the project. Aladeen is another wonderful addition to Baron Cohen's gallery of characters. Politically incorrect and utterly hysterical, he obviously all the best gags, but he's well worth it. Baron Cohen's physical embodiment of this character, with all his dialectical issues, unintentional puns and hypocrisies make for some of the funniest scenes in recent memory. Credit where credit is due, my hats off to Anna Faris, for being able to stand up to Baron Cohen's formidable Aladeen and not crack up. She plays her character completely natural, and injects with a real sense of force and personality. Also, Ben Kingsley (Baron Cohen's Hugo co-star) continues in his successful vein of generous supporting roles as Tamir. The screenplay features great comic dialogue, and genuinely out-there set-pieces, such as the helicopter scene that plays on the paranoia some people associate with foreigners in their country, speaking a language they cannot undertstand. Notwithstanding the usual outrageousness to be expected, things like the pregnant lady giving birth are just so gross-out, and the purpose it serves in terms of telling the story is inventive and original. Furthermore, it's one of those cases in which the medium/genre of comedy is used as a surface level allegory, while subtly depicting something a lot more subversive under the surface. It's a no-holds-barred savage indictment of the actions of the international political community in the wake of 2008 economic crisis, the United States governments mercenary attitude towards foreign policy, and, of course, a condemnation of political correctness' inherent absurdity. Also worth mentioning is that the film looks very well thanks Lawrence Sher's cinematography, but one of the real standout features is Erran Baron Cohen's original score/soundtrack. Contributing much to the overall atmosphere in the film, his score is lively, engaging and (granted, from my base outsider's perspective) has a soundscape appropriate to where the character of Aladeen is meant to be from. Furthermore, his choices for the soundtrack, remixing Dr. Dre's The Next Episode and in particular R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts, go way beyond the cheap gag. Overall, his contribution does a lot to generate the atmosphere everyone is trying to get at. Finally, it is obvious that Larry Charles' part in the proceedings as director is important. He knows how to keep control of potentially combustible elements, and ensure that what comes out the other end is a very fine, very funny film.

However, with all these things right about The Dictator, there is a gaping wound in it's side that is hard to get away from. No one is ever going to say that Baron Cohen and his co-screenwriters are bad writers, but at heart, with all this window dressing, I can still see a barely held together and underdeveloped plot. Frankly, if you've seen Borat and Bruno, you've seen The Dictator and can guess where everything goes. Following the basic three-act structure and going to all the places we've seen before, it adds a layer of artificiality and mechanism to what is, for the most part, a comedy with an honest and human face. It does come across as if the screenwriters are padding Baron Cohen's sketches-set-pieces with a plot, so as to justify a theatrical release. 

That said, despite the plots negative artifice and contrivance, there is enough going for The Dictator that you can kind of except and not care too much about it. Sacha Baron Cohen is in his element as writer-performer, providing some stellar dialogue for his latest comic creation. Aladeen is in no uncertain terms a self-centred, monstrous man-child, but it is this bald honesty and respect Baron Cohen has for his audiences' sense of humour that makes him all the more hysterical and endearing. Furthermore, there is a genuinely wise bit of political propaganda at work in here. Thanks to this, sharp supporting turns from Faris and Kingsley, an atmospherically amusing soundtrack, some photogenic cinematography and tact and control from director Larry Charles, The Dictator is an intelligently pleasurable comedy to behold.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good, good (despite being bowled over by the sonically vicious Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile)