Monday, 31 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Chronicle

Directed by: Josh Trank

Produced by: John Davis
Adam Schroeder

Screenplay by: Max Landis

Story: Max Landis
Josh Trank

Starring: Dane DeHaan
Alex Russel
Michael B. Jordan
Michael Kelly
Ashley Hinshaw

Cinematography by: Matthew Jensen

Editing by: Elliot Greenberg

Studio: Davis Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): February 1, 2012 (United Kingdom)
February 3, 2012 (United States)

Running time: 83 minutes

Country(s): United Kingdom
United States

Language: English

Production budget: $12 million

Box office revenue: $126, 636, 097

Hey there folks, me again (duh, you're reading the blog, aren't you?), just being my usual self, procrastinating and putting of my university work, nursing a hangover and shooting the ahem! Yesterday, I finished Kafka's wonderful Metamorphosis again, and I'm thinking that somewhere down the line, our paths will cross once more, as I would love to adapt that and In The Penal Colony in the future. Kafka is one of the very few writers who is a genuine original lacking anything that could connect his work with someone else. The only writer similar is Albert Camus, who is far more philosophically inclined and channels his readers in a certain direction, as opposed to Kafka's blank canvas. So, in between my digressions which lead to forget this is a film reviewing blog, you might just get the odd review, so keep your eyes posted!

Right, so today's (and possibly tomorrow's)(now today's!) film for review is Chronicle, the debut feature film of Josh Trank, whose most notable work in the past was as an editor, writer and director of the Spike television series The Kill Point. Written by Max Landis, Chronicle follows teenager Andrew (Dane DeHaan), who starts videotaping his life, which we see involves a trouble domestic situation, and his being bullied regularly in school. Invited to a party by his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), they are persuaded by popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan) to climb down a hole in the ground that he finds in the woods. They discover a large object, and after a disturbance find themselves bonded together on account of the fact that they develop telekinetic abilities. Frankly, I must say that the last thing I (and the film industry) needed was another found footage film, especially after last month's wretched The Devil Inside, but I've heard nothing but good things about this, so I was certainly willing to give Chronicle a chance. Shall we dance?

To start with the good, I have to mention the found footage gimmick, because this is the third found footage movie I have seen in as many months, and I have for a number of years been quite tired of it. However, while this year's Project X and The Devil Inside were real stinkers, Chronicle actually does something new and interesting with a central format that I thought had long run its course. Trank and Landis in their respective positions as director and writer work in such a way that the found footage concept is central to the story, as all the information we get is through Andrew's camera, but in conjunction with the telekinetic powers the three get new avenues are opened for it. Matthew Jensen's cinematography is terrific, appropriately sticking to the concept but also opening new doors and possibilities as to how this type of a movie is shot. This is a movie in which all the various elements add up, the sum of which is greater than the separate parts, and the cinematography could not be as good without the flawless editing by Elliot Greenberg. It must have been a hard job to pull off, but it was obviously well worth it, because the transitions between Andrew physically holding the camera and using his telekinesis to wield it are seamless. There are obviously cuts being made, but the fact that you can't tell where and when is quite a credit to the fluidity of the editing. Also, when Andrew's camera is eschewed for the climax of the film, the editing is done in such an ingenious way that it doesn't feel like the filmmakers are cheating, and as we are hopping from various cameras, we stay with the picture, as opposed to getting lost in the shuffle. Furthermore, as mentioned, it elevates the cinematography, meaning that we are able to appreciate the found footage format in a different perspective to what we have been granted before. Ultimately, it comes down to the inventiveness of the script, which is mostly solid. It's an interesting idea to have three teenagers get these powers and just use them to do silly stuff. Not one mention of the word 'superhero,' they are doing what anyone would do with superpowers, and that is to goof around and wind people up. As such, although not designed that way, this is one of the funniest films of the year. Landis is no slouch, and his script has lots of interesting ideas, but above and beyond the 'gimmicks,' he knows that plot and characters are what makes a film work at it's basest level. The three main characters are all well-written, in as much that we all get a sense of who they are and their respective personality's, and unlike the three in Project X, none of them are annoying because they feel like legitimately real people. Also, Andrew's arc in the film is fascinating to watch, as this bullied kid gets powers beyond his wildest dreams. As such, while Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan are believable and engaging in their respective supporting parts, it's Dane DeHaan who is most fascinating in the lead role. Quiet and reserved at the start of the film, you can see quite literally before your eyes the growth of confidence and the various different emotions that DeHaan has to take Andrew  though. Also, his acting has given the character a fascinating collection of facial expression, in that while Andrew is a teenager, he looks at times like a weather-beaten old man who's been to hell and back and is just about to explode. DeHaan hits every note that his character has to go through just right, and you never once start scoffing, because Andrew is developed from the outset, both in script and acting terms as a wholly three-dimensional and sympathetic character. At risk of sounding poxy, I see a tremendous potential future for DeHaan. Finally, this a very strong directorial debut from Josh Trank. As I've said about many other movies, Chronicle is one of those ones that really could have been handled differently, and not in a good way, because there are so many little gimmicks that could have overwhelmed the audience. However, Trank maintains control over the proceedings, and has not only managed to make a great film, but also place his own directorial stamp on the movie, which I think is prevalent in the pacing of the movie. It's only eighty-three minutes long, but it flies in and leaves you wanting more, and I think that Chronicle, which at it's best moments invokes Akira (which I feel is one of the ten greatest films ever made) yet manages to be distinct and unique, is a very strong powerhouse of a movie.

So, yeah, I liked Chronicle, put it that way. However, while it may indeed be a great movie, it's unfortunately not a masterpiece, and I put it down to a collection of minor problems, as opposed to one big gaping hole. The first of these problems, but by no means the worst, is the flying effects. Now, it looks fine during the night shoots, where the darkness can hide some of the hokiness, but when the three are flying through the clouds, it has a look reminiscent to the old car sets and back projection, with the crane rigs and green screen effects making it look really dodgy at times. Also, while it's a powerhouse of a movie that sinks in quickly, I think that Max Landis' denouement, particularly the epilogue, is both misjudged and rushed. It's misjudged in that although it ties in with the rest of the movie, it's too sudden a departure and rushed because the audience is not given enough time to register what has happened. Furthermore, there is no genuine sense of conclusiveness, which is really a disappointment given how solid the rest of the movie is. Finally, Ashley Hinshaw's character Casey suffers from a severe lack of development. Given how her character is also a filmmaker (she shoots videos for her online blog), there is so much more that could have been done, particularly with the way her dynamic fits with Matt and Andrew, and I feel that not only did they not give this character enough screen time, but she wasn't developed enough to get past being two-dimensional. Minor problems, but enough to be a couple o' 'la thorns in my side.

These issues with character, ending and special effects aside, Chronicle is a great movie. Bringing new life to a well-trodden, borderline redundant format, the invention that Landis and Trank bring to the table ensures that the found footage gimmick never hampers the narrative, but in fact elevates it. It's very well shot and excellently edited, Landis' script is solid enough, features a star-making turn from Dane DeHaan and proves that Josh Trank is a director with pace and energy that should bring something interesting to the plate in the movie industry. Chronicle is a low-budget powerhouse of a film that at it's best moments brings to mind Katsuhiro Otomo's landmark Akira, and contain enough inventiveness and wit to keep the viewer engaged throughout.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Amped (New Year's party's: booyakasha!)

Chronicle Trailer          

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Seven Psychopaths

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Produced by: Martin McDonagh
Graham Broadbent
Peter Czernin

Screenplay by: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell
Sam Rockwell
Woody Harrelson
Christopher Walken
Tom Waits
Abbie Cornish
Olga Kurylenko

Music by: Carter Burwell

Cinematography by: Ben Davis

Editing by: Lisa Gunning

Studio(s): Film4
British Film Institute
Blueprint Pictures

Distributed by: CBS Films (United States)
Momentum Pictures (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): September 7, 2012 (TIFF Premiere)
October 12, 2012 (United States)
December 5, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 110 minutes

Country: United Kingdom

Language: English

Production budget: $15 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $15, 024, 049

Rightio, folks, in the process of putting off my revision for an exam (it's Film Studies, so I count this as revision, frankly!) and two essays (which will be easy enough, anyway), I've been keeping busy on the film reviewing front. As you can tell, there've been many posts this month, and that's because with Christmas near it's end, Oscar season is just around the corner. So, I can guarantee reviews for the following films: Chronicle, Rampart, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Argo, A Dangerous Method, Cockneys Vs Zombies, John Carter, Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai, Jack Reacher and Life Of Pi. Realistically, there'll probably be more where that came from, seeing as how I've been low on the documentary, foreign-language and animation front this year, so, for the more frequent posts of film reviewing in the near future, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film stepping up to the plate is Seven Psychopaths, the sophomore feature film from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, who found success with 2008's In Bruges, whose reputation continues to grow as one of the finest contemporary comedy films. I liked the film, but personally thought McDonagh lacked the control needed to make the film truly great (incidentally, I'm as guilty: in my review for the film, I ended it with a recommendation to listen to Joy Division's Transmission. I don't get the point I'm trying to make with that statement!), especially in relation to Shane Black's similar and frightfully overlooked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. But this is about Seven Psychopaths! Marty (Colin Farrell) is a writer who is struggling to complete his screenplay 'Seven Psychopaths,' while his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is an unemployed actor and dog-thief, who with his partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken), steal gangster and dangerously protective Charlie's (Woody Harrelson) dog Bonny. Lo and behold, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all of those loose ends and strands are all part of the one story and come together. Sorry to sound potentially patronising about the film, but that's the way it is. Plot synopsis done, let's get right down to this!

Starting with the good, McDonagh has gathered a strong ensemble cast. Colin Farrell, who in recent years has settled comfortably into a reliable, go-to leading man, plays the slightly neurotic Jimmy Stewart to McDonagh's Hitchcock, in a part that is not without it's twists, but always feels natural. Walken is very good as Hans, and brings humour and philosophical gravitas to the proceedings. Tom Waits is funny, gravelling in his Waits-way through his small role, while Harrelson is great fun as Charlie. Given that the part was written for Mickey Rourke (famous for loving his small-breed dogs), he fits in well, playing well off of the dichotomy that he is so dedicated towards his dog and a complete misanthrope where humanity is regarded. However, Sam Rockwell is the actor who steals the show in the ensemble. Part of the brilliance of Rockwell's role is that although he is terrific in terms of his line delivery, you're never quite sure (and I don't think his character is either) if he's an utter fool or a genius. Animated, lively and entertaining, even though I'm most like Harrelson's Charlie (I detest humans, but love dogs!), my attention gravitated towards Rockwell every time he was onscreen. In that regard, Rockwell is a perfect fit for Martin McDonagh's sharp dialogue. Even if this wasn't a particularly good film, you'd get a few good kicks out of a dialogue. McDonagh is just one of those writers who is able to make a mundane conversation seem both natural and hilarious, without feeling like a gag is being forced out of them. Many of the film's best scenes involve a few of these talented performers just sitting around, not doing much at all plot-wise, but talking complete nonsense that happens to be riveting. Also, some of the more 'set-piece' type of laughs are legitimately funny in how they can take you by surprise, the first scene of the film really setting the standard for what follows. Ben Davis' cinematography has some good moments, particularly a long-take that relevantly brings to mind the manically brilliant Gun Crazy, and Carter Burwell's score takes an interesting route, challenging the conventions of a 'comedic score,' instead giving the film the pulp feel of something akin to his work in the Coen Brothers' Fargo. Seven Psychopaths is a very funny offbeat comedy in the vein of Tarantino that I think trumps anything he's done for quite a whole (granted, I've yet to see Django Unchained), and should be given a good look in.

That being said, much as I liked Seven Psychopaths, which I actually preferred to In Bruges, which I will look at again in the future, it's not without problems. McDonagh's script, while not lacking in laughs or strong dialogue, has a number of issues. It's structurally disjointed, lacking the fluidity between the various layers that it's attempting to aim for, and it also, certainly more so than The Cabin In The Woods, has an element of being too smart for it's own good. While it is at times surprising, too many means you're expecting the unexpected. Not spacing them out and constantly trying to trip the audience means that, like a pain reflex, they are ready for it the next it comes around, and as such a number of the twists, especially the big one involving the eponymous Seven Psychopaths, come across as anticlimactic and underwhelming. Also, while I think this is an improvement for McDonagh as a director, especially given all the tangibles involved here, I think he still lacks the genuine authorial control necessary for him to become a great cinema auteur. Finally, I think that Lisa Gunning's editing is saggy, in that there is a good bit that could be chopped out of this, and she unfortunately keeps all the long tassels which could have been trimmed a bit. This movie is 110 minutes, and really should been between the ninety-hundred minute mark in order for it be a far more consistent and efficiently picture.

Despite the fact I don't think Martin McDonagh has yet to quite find his sea legs in cinema (which I'm sure he will at some point; there's a great movie somewhere down the line) and saggy editing, Seven Psychopaths is a very good film. The ensemble cast, most especially Rockwell, is terrific, Carter Burwell's score is interesting, I liked Ben Davis' cinematography, and saying what I will about McDonagh, I do think the man has a sharp ear and is natural when it comes to dialogue. Seven Psychopaths is the kind of film Q.T. wishes he was making, because it is a real pulp thriller wrapped up in a deliciously twisted black comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relaxed (though I'll be either lethargic or a jitterbug soon with the caffeine in my veins, blasted cheap energy drinks!)

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Impossible

Directed by: J.A. Bayona

Produced by: Alvaro Augustin
Belen Atienza
Enrique Lopez Lavigne

Screenplay by: Sergio G. Sanchez

Starring: Naomi Watts
Ewan McGregor
Tom Holland
Samuel Joslin
Oaklee Pendergast

Music by: Fernando Velasquez

Cinematography by: Oscar Faura

Editing by: Elena Ruiz

Studio(s): Apaches Entertainment
Telecinco Cinema

Distributed by: Warner Bros. (Spain)
Summit Entertainment (United States)
Entertainment One (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): September 9, 2012 (TIFF)
October 11, 2012 (Spain)
December 21, 2012 (United States)
January 1, 2013 (United Kingdom: certain regions)

Running time: 113 minutes

Country: Spain

Language: English

Production budget: $45 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $60, 429, 747

Alright there, folks, at risk of sounding poxy, I hope you all are enjoying your Christmas holidays, as I can assure you I have. I'm banging this review out before I head to work today lounging in my exquisite new dressing gown bought for me by my Mum and Dad, who I spent Christmas with, and, along with another section of the McCready contingency had a raucous time. Put it this way, when you start watching Videodrome at three or four in the morning (give or take), you know that you've been having a good night. So, for more updates on the details of my private life (many of which are fabricated: that is a lie in itself!) and the occasional review, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for digestion is The Impossible, an English-language disaster drama made by Spanish companies Apaches Entertainment and Telecinco Cinema, with much of the same crew that worked together on 2007's The Orphanage, including writer Sergio G. Sanchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona. For those of you who don't know, it has been five years after all, I loved The Orphanage, and I consider it and The Mist (also from that year) two of the best horror films since the start of the twenty-first century. The Impossible is a different kettle of fish then for this crew. Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor (2010 winner of a Thin White Dude award as Best Male Supporting Actor for the eponymous part in I Love You, Philip Morris) as a husband and wife, who take their three children on holiday for Christmas to Thailand. However, this is unfortunately Christmas 2004, and their idyllic vacation is disturbed on Boxing Day when a tsunami (the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) destroys the coastal zone. The family are separated, and what follows in the film is their struggles and attempts to reunite in the midst of such chaos. Get the drift? (My goodness, that's a horrible pun!)

Starting with the good, I must address the acting. As you can tell from my parentheses up there, I'm a fan of Ewan McGregor, and I think he's terrific here again. He has such a natural quality to him that you can't help but look at his characters not as something constructed on the page but as real people. Playing it restrained, his weather-beaten determination says more than any melodramatic histrionics could, and going down this route makes it all the more devastating when he does show emotion. There's a wonderful scene when he and various other people are discussing their families, trading war stories, that's one of the best parts of the movie. Naomi Watts too gives a strong lead performance. Pushed to the very limit, both emotionally and physically, Watts takes us through her character to hell and back. While she is undeniably a strong mother, it is obvious that her Maria is subject to the same vulnerabilities of human beings and never once is there an air of contrivance. The same likewise can be said of the three young actors Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast and particularly Tom Holland, who really shines as the eldest son Lucas. As strong and forceful a screen presence as either of his onscreen parents, Holland succeeds in the hard task of making a child seem a legitimate equal to an adult, and it's something that could have went either way, but Holland is excellent. Right, acting front done, let's get to the other aspects of the film. One of the best aspects of the technical side is that it's a fantastically-shot film. Oscar Faura's cinematography is among the year's best, seeming to hit every note appropriately. The location is majestic in it's beauty and Faura's camerawork in the tsunami almost seems to actively work in destroying the images he has conjured. Also, I can't recall a disaster film or action film (I'm including The Raid!) whose cinematography made me feel so much an active participant/observer in what is happening to the characters. Furthermore, not only does he avoid shaky-cam nonsense, Faura's crisp clarity and quality of image is a marvel to behold, with every bit of grime, sweat, tears, blood and pain coming up on the actors' faces, doing a great job in further highlighting their performances, which frankly could be threatened with being dwarfed by the anarchy. Also, from a production design and overall mise-en-scene standpoint it's quite an accomplished film. The film has a $45 million budget, but for all the ingeniousness, detail and craft that has went in the design, it could be a film with twice the budget. I've been doing my research, and I still can't tell if they shot that scene with Watts and Holland in the raging rapids in a large studio bathtub or went out and did it! These actors, though all of them have what you would call attractive faces, are not glamorous whatsoever, and you do believe that they have been battered within an inch of their lives, and I'd put that to some great work from the costume and make-up departments. Also, the hospital which some of the characters are holed up in is completely believable, with such care and detail going into making the audience buy this, and extras filling up the place to breaking point. Finally, The Impossible is proof of the worth and weight of the film's director J.A. Bayona. Like his work on The Orphanage, he exemplifies a control and respect for the material. The Impossible is something that really could have been run of the mill Oscar-bait or something you'd find made-for-TV around the Holiday season, but Bayona is not afraid to depict an unflinching look at the horror of such disasters. Furthermore, I've said this before and I'll say it again, he is just an instinctively natural storyteller. Finally, he digs deep to the crux of this thing and ultimately finds and accentuates what really makes an audience connect with this kind of material. 

While what is good about The Impossible is very good indeed, there are a number of issues that deny it an ascent into the pantheon of the greats. The script was mostly fine, but there were a couple of little things that took away from the seriousness of the proceedings. I went to see the film on account of free tickets from Virgin Media with my good friend at Danland Movies (who also has a review up for the film), and with this presumably rich family on holiday in Thailand, as the children are opening their presents, my partner-in-crime let out the most almighty of guffaws. I turned to my left and asked him "what the hell's going on?", and he said back to me with incredulity "the kid got a ball for Christmas!", and sure enough, the youngest son had gotten the kind of red ball you pay about €2 at the beach in Enniscrone. As we were wetting ourselves with laughter, I quipped back "it'd have to be a symbol or plot device in order for a child to get a ball as a present for Christmas!", and sure enough, it was. I mean, you can't take things too seriously, but when a movie like this is producing guffaws from two resident critics, it's not a good thing! Definitely the most unintentionally funny moment in a film of the year! Also, I'd be lying if I didn't think that the final act of the film could have done with a bit more fine-tuning on the editing side of things, which is a shame really given how good the sound design/editing is. At certain points, which I don't want to say because I would be giving away plot points, it does lag considerably. Also, and I know this is familiar territory for those of you who follow the blog, I hated the music in this film. I like Fernando Velasquez's work in The Orphanage, which features an orchestral score that is both at odds and adds significantly to the gothic atmosphere of the film. Here, the music is like a horrible underscore that degrades and in fact debases a lot of the legitimacy of what is occurring onscreen. It's very hard to buy the emotion of a quieter scene whenever you have this ridiculous swelling and dribblesome crooning that says "This is a friendly reminder: YOU'RE MEANT TO CRY HERE! CRY, BITCH, CRY!" When this happens, I'm just going "No, not happening!" I mean, I'm listening presently to Howard Shore's wonderful work on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and that is how you orchestral music without seeming saccharine. Velasquez's score is the aural equivalent to the massive gouge that poor Naomi Watts gets in the back of her leg! Awful, awful work.

Despite the odd scriptural contrivance, problematic editing and one of the single worst scores I have heard this year, The Impossible still manages to be a very good film. It features excellent acting, particularly from McGregor, Watts and Holland, terrific cinematography from Oscar Faura, and from an overall design and mise-en-scene standpoint, there is a great attention to detail and an obvious care and craft going into this. Finally, following on from his fantastic debut, it marks out J.A. Bayona as a naturally instinctive storyteller who brings out the best in the material that he is working upon. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - In stasis (two essays to do, slowly working myself towards them)

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: November 2012 - The Cabin In The Woods

A genuinely original and inventive horror movie that works on many different levels, from thematic, aesthetic, genre and artistic standpoints. Thought out with purpose by co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, it's also well-designed and a terrifically edited piece of work. 
Quite possibly the best horror since Let The Right One In and a highly entertaining genre flick that does much for horror cinema, and is indicative of the potential there's to be found there.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

Runner-Up: Skyfall - James Bond by way of psychological thriller delivers one of the most ingenious and engaging in the fifty-year-old film franchise. 

Honorable Mention: The Raid - Frenetic pace maintained throughout, featuring the best martial-arts stunts/choreography since Prachya Pinkaew's 2003 Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior.

The Right Hon. Honorable Mention: Iron Sky - A film that has a lot of gonads, not afraid to do something different, and is right good funny for it.

Second-Most Deadly Disease: Dead Heads - Has it's heart in the right place, but ultimately falls flat on it's face.

Avoid Like The Plague: The Devil Inside - Will someone please tell me how such a bad movie was able to gain a theatrical release? (My own answer: M$N$Y)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Wrath Of The Titans

Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman

Produced by: Basil Iwanyk
Polly Cohen Johnson

Screenplay by: Dan Mazeau
David Leslie Johnson

Story by: Greg Berlanti
David Leslie Johnson
Dan Mazeau

Based on: Characters by Beverley Cross

Starring: Sam Worthington
Rosamund Pike
Bill Nighy
Edgar Ramirez
Toby Kebbell
Danny Huston
Ralph Fiennes
Liam Neeson

Music by: Javier Navarrete

Cinematography by: Ben Davis

Editing by: Martin Walsh

Studio(s): Legendary Pictures
Thunder Road Films
Cott Productions
Furia de Titanes II A.I.E.

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date: March 30, 2012 (Worldwide)

Running time: 99 minutes

Country(s): United States

Language: English

Production budget: $150 million

Box office revenue: $301, 970, 083

Preamble once again here! I've actually taken a couple of days off from watching movies full-stop, much less reviewing them. I watched The Stendhal Syndrome again, and although that is noted as the point at which Dario Argento's films turned for the worst, I find it to be a terrific psychological examination of trauma, capped with a magnificent lead performance by Asia Argento. Furthermore, I put this week's relaxation down to both my vociferous reading of Clive Barker's Books Of Blood Vol. 1-3 and re-watching Toy Story 3 (which I think is the benchmark of contemporary cinema since the start of the 21st century) again, being as emotional and entertaining an experience of a film as it is. So, for more preamble and a rare review, keep your eyes posted.

Diversionary tactics as a lazy way to get started aside, this is indeed (assuming you haven't read the title. If you haven't, you're an idiot!) a review for Wrath Of The Titans. The second in this franchise to 2010's Clash, itself a remake of the 1981 film, picks up ten years after the previous film, with Sam Worthington's Perseus living as a fisherman with his ten-year-old son, minus his now-deceased wife, presumably because they couldn't get Gemma Arterton back on the project. There's tension amongst the Gods, with Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) attempting to come to an agreement with Hades (Ralph Fiennes). However, Hades and Poseidon's son Ares (Edgar Ramirez) have made a pact to capture Zeus, so as to drain his power and revive Kronos, and of course, the reluctant Perseus is brought back into the mix of things, hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to war we go, you get the picture! I won't lie, even though I seemed to prefer the mediocre 2010 first film more than most, I was really dreading watching this one.

So, Wrath Of The Titans, eh? To start with the good, I've always had a thing for mythology, so anything with tales of cyclops' and battling gods just ticks a box to start with. Also, it's a technically astute movie that's very well shot by Ben Davis, and from a special effects standpoint it also looks distinctive. Like the previous film, the effects do look realistic, in that despite your awareness of the illusion, you still buy them. From another standpoint, also like Mad Mikkelsen in the original, while there is some decent but hammy acting, Wrath features a really good performance from Toby Kebbell. It seems every time Kebbell pops up onscreen, it takes a while for me to register that's him, and I put that down to his versatility. An always charismatic onscreen presence, Kebbell does the comic fodder role in this rather well, and gives some life and energy to the proceedings. I think there's a star just waiting to break out in Toby Kebbell. Finally, it's ninety-nine minutes long, and while it was a double-edged sword for Clash, in the case of Wrath it was rather welcome. I like some epic blockbusters, but it baffles me why studios see the need to make everyone big $200 million a two-and-a-half-hour deal (in 3D!). Here, we're over and done with before the hundred-minute mark, and as such, regardless of whether you enjoy it, the fact is that you will be able to find time to watch it. 

That's the good done with, and I type that with a degree of trepidation, because I have a bit of a begrudging respect for the pulpy attitude of these Clash movies. However, there's a good lot of tripe where Wrath Of The Titans is regarded, and these faults must be acknowledged. I'll start, as ever, at the root of all this, because this is one terrible script. If ever there was an 'artistic' definition of a whole lot of nothing, this would be it, given that a lot is apparently happening, but I frankly for the life of me could not tell you the plot details if I wasn't using Wikipedia for the synopsis. I'm not going to bang on too much, because it's boring me thinking about it, but this script is just such a shoddy and lazy piece of workman's handwriting that it makes me think that this was an experiment in automatic writing that just happened to make it to the screen. The idea that people are paid a lot of money to write these things, words... bah! This lazy workman mentality passes over to much of everything else involved in the movie. Sam Worthington, who's increasingly passing for Michael Rooker with every new movie, is completely lacking in any animation and looks bored to tears. Rosamund Pike, replacing Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, who I can give or take, is rubbish in this film, but I would put it down to poor characterisation in the script more than her acting, although that is a part of it, while Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes thesp it up with some heavyweight acting jousts, pick up their pay-checks and leave. Javier Navarrete bangs out a murder-by-numbers score that, while not actively making me want to blow up someone's head a la Darryl Revok of Scanners, but does conjure up the ghost of that long dead horse corpse that continues to get flogged, said it before, saying it again, the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra. Blah blah! Finally, Jonathan Liebesman, a director who's unwittingly beginning to rustle my feathers (I try not to take it personally, but he makes these movies; I on the other hand have to watch them!), effectively fills out the hack-for-hire role. I'm trying not pick on him, but this guy is being pimped out by his usual owner Michael Bay, who in between pre-production for 'Ninja Turtles,' a project I detest already, has been pawned temporarily to Warner Bros. Clash was a flawed movie, but at least Louis Leterrier gave the first film personality, whereas here Liebesman just does not care, does only what is necessary of him on account of the studio, and contributes to the all-engulfing vacuum of nothingness that represents just how many ahems! I give about Wrath Of The Titans.

Don't get me wrong, there are certain individually good things about Wrath Of The Titans, in particular a strong supporting role from Toby Kebbell, who once again proves his weight in gold, and there is something vaguely enjoyable in a big blockbuster that doesn't take itself too seriously, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a bad movie. Suffering from a workman's script that could have been produced on an industrial assembly line, it's a mostly uninteresting movie, the indifference of those involved on the film being reciprocated in my general feeling about the film. Dead Heads was a bad movie, marginally worse than Wrath, but at least they were trying! Incidentally, Dead Heads cost under $1million, so you'd get approximately two-hundred Dead Heads for one Wrath Of The Titans. Out of that two-hundred, they might mostly be stinkers, but there's bound to be a few diamonds in the rough, and it would give young filmmakers to get their foot in the door.  It's one thing making a bad movie, but to not even make an effort is another, and when you have $150 million, it's inexcusable to waste that much money which could be put towards so many better things, and if you want my suggestion about something that sums up this film better than any review, my own included, go and check out Ian Dury & The Blockheads' What A Waste. Says it all really!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (not stopping me watching Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer before I go to bed. Hello to Michael Rooker!)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Cabin In The Woods

Directed by: Drew Goddard

Produced by: Joss Whedon

Screenplay by: Drew Goddard
Joss Whedon

Starring: Kristen Connolly
Chris Hemsworth
Anna Hutchison
Fran Kranz
Jesse Williams

Music by: David Julyan

Cinematography by: Peter Deming

Editing by: Lisa Lassek

Studio: Mutant Enemy Productions

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Release date(s): March 9, 2012 (South By Southwest Film Festival)
April 1, 2012 (Dead By Dawn Horror Film Festival)
April 13, 2012 (Worldwide)

Running time: 95 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $30 million

Box office revenue: $66, 486, 080

Ahoy there, my sickness thankfully seems to be a short-term thing, because in the less than twenty-four hours since my last review, I am feeling much better and recovery seems to be well on the way, which can only be a good thing given that I'll be allowed to the cinema again. That hasn't stopped from keeping up with movies: this week, before my flu, I saw The Impossible and Seven Psychopaths, and earlier on today I watched Chronicle. So, for all the latest in films from 2012, check out this blog, and keep your eyes posted!

As those of you following the blog will know, I haven't got to review that many horror films this year, and so this film, The Cabin In The Woods, is part of my attempt to catch up with what has come in the past year. It was interesting finding out in my research that this was shot and completed between March and May 2009, and was originally meant to be released in February 2010. However, an attempted conversion to 3D and the difficulties of MGM, who later that year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which say this film get lost in the shuffle. Since then, it had producer-writer Joss Whedon had went on to do The Avengers, and the project had a ready-made star in Chris Hemsworth, who starred as Thor in the eponymous film and Whedon's Avengers. So, unlike most projects put on the shelf, the wait seems to have benefitted the project. The Cabin In The Woods stars Hemworth amongst Kristen Connolly and others as a group of young people who decide to go on a road trip to star in the proverbial horror film 'Cabin In The Woods.' However, unbeknownst to them they are part of a 'plot' moderated by technicians Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), who are manipulating them into a scenario that's being filmed for the benefit of viewers and audiences around the world. I've tried my best to explain, both in a logical way and without giving away much of the film's plot spoilers, which I think I've done relatively enough, so let's get cracking!

To start with the good about The Cabin In The Woods, I must say that this is one of the most intelligently written horror film's that has come out in the past few years. Structurally, it is quite masterful the way in which it works on a lot of different levels, without any one of them feeling worse than the other. It manages to be on the one hand a parody of the tropes and cliches of the horror film genre, but also a loving tribute that's a throwback to them, that manages to be seamless in terms of it both being a horror and a satire. Quite clearly there are things being said about an inherent voyeuristic quality to horror cinema, and also the kind of crassness that can come with torture porn, snuff cinema and it's links to surveillance society. Furthermore, it is done in such a way, for which both writer-director Drew Goddard and Whedon must be praised, that you feel like you are watching a piece of popcorn entertainment as opposed to being lectured about all these things. Audiences are intelligent and they know when they're being patronised. Goddard and Whedon clearly have their finger(s) on the pulse right here. Also, while you should not expect any acting masterclasses from this film, there are a couple of very good performances. Kristen Connolly plays a strong lead, and Fran Kranz is endearing and humorous in a role that could have just as easily been pure comic fodder. On the veteran side of things, Richard Jenkins gives solid legitimacy to the project, and not to spoil anything, there is a terrific cameo by a certain actor who I'm a big fan of and who proves, once again, they can just walk in, deliver a two-three minute spiel, but still be completely engaging. Also, it's a pretty well designed film. Being very much a film that exists with two different identities, it's appropriate that not only are the sets of both these worlds well-designed, but that they manage the trick of existing both in conjunction with and as separate to one another. The proverbial 'Cabin In The Woods' is quite clearly a nice little homage to The Evil Dead, and the excellent industrial-control rooms are almost Kubrickian in their symmetry. More good; I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pleased to hear Iggy Pop's She's A Business from his underrated 2009 album Preliminaires, and not to spoil the surprise, the song selected for the end credits is aurally the perfect way to close the film. In closing on the good, this is an excellently edited movie in more ways than one. Sound wise, it's terrific, highlighting both a realism and absurdity as to the chaos that is going on around us, and as such, we are (appropriately) unsure whether we should laughing or cowering. Also, the special effects editing works in this way, particularly in conjunction with the design. Some of it looks realistic, but some of the more ridiculous special effects clash rather well with the clean, symmetrical designs of the sets/locations. Finally, Lisa Lassek has done a stellar job in the editing suite, chopping the film where appropriate, but also playing a pro-active and wise part in ensuring the overall seamlessness of the finished product.

These nice things being said about The Cabin In The Woods, quite easily one of my favourite films of 2012, there are a couple of little issues that deny it from being an outright masterpiece. David Julyan's score, while at times being very good, is also troublesome. I understand that it's part of the overall construction of the film, but the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra inflections still feel tacky without the irony it's trying to get across. Also, I'd be lying if I thought that the movie wasn't occasionally too smart for it's own good. The intelligence that makes a lot of the film strong can also have the converse effect. For instance, (no spoilers!) the thing with the seagull (or whatever bird it is!) near the start does end up taking away from a scene that occurs later in the film. Little things like this do take away from the film and work like at it like a goat slowly gnawing it's way through a nice sweater. 

Little things are the issue with The Cabin In The Woods, chipping away too much from the masterpiece, but leaving in it's place a nevertheless great movie. It's a well-designed film that is terrifically edited, and contains some strong performances. Furthermore, and first and foremost, it is a genuinely intelligent horror movie that works in a lot of different ways and manages to be about something without being patronising or making one feel like they're being lectured too. A highly entertaining genre flick!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Getting better (another day of contagion with this flu and I'm getting back into the real world!)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Devil Inside

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Produced by: Matthew Peterman
Morris Paulson 
Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Steven Schneider

Screenplay by: William Brent Bell
Matthew Peterman

Starring: Fernanda Andrade
Simon Quarterman
Evan Helmuth
Suzan Crowley

Music by: Brett Deter
Ben Romans

Cinematography by: Gonzalo Amat

Editing by: Timothy Mirkovich
William Brent Bell

Studio(s): Insurge Pictures

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): January 6, 2012 (United States)
March 16, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 80 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $1 million

Box office revenue: $101, 386, 096

Rightio, folks. I've taken a couple of days off there, and low and behold, am now debilitated with the flu. Maybe it's karma for some misdeeds perpetrated in my past life (I found out in a ouija board session I was once a child-eating witch by the name of Madam Cycle Curl)(note: don't believe everything you read), or that's my body's way of telling me to keep at my film reviews. So, for updates on the machinations of the activities of my ritualism, and the odd film reviews, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie up for digestion (or perhaps regurgitation) is The Devil Inside. This film, which came out at the very start of 2012, has developed quite a bit of a reputation. No preview screening was held for the press (which is usually an indication that the movie is terrible), and after one week at the top of the US box-office, it fell sharply and ended up outside of the box-office top ten. Since then, reception has been nearly universally negative, and as such, being a horror movie fan, felt this would be a movie that would at least provoke some engaging discussion. Being of the found footage genre of horror films, a tradition that goes all the way back to Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, to more recent contemporary's such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and the financially successful Paranormal Activity films, The Devil Inside is shot in a documentary film style. The niche of this, over the slew of found footage films we get every year, is demonic possession. Brief plot synopsis, Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) decides to film her endeavours in trying to discover what happened to her mother, who murdered three people as a result of being purportedly possessed by a demon. End of, that's all you need, that's all you're gonna get, 'kay? Right, let's dance (put on the red shoes and dance the blues)!

So the good about The Devil Inside? Well, I've got to compliment a couple of things. Demonic possession and things of the macabre are of interest to me, and some of the early scenes of the priests discussing religion and studying exorcism are interesting. Also, there's one scene that did horrify me later on in the film. It's all done in one long take, and I personally thought it was the one part of the movie that worked properly well. That said, it does tick my easy check-box in terms of things that repulse me by default: anything with eyes, teeth, animal cruelty and babies in peril will be guaranteed get a rise out of me. Furthermore, as A Serbian Film proved, one really scary scene does not make a really scary film. 

That's all I can say in favour of The Devil Inside, because, frankly, it's one of those cases that makes me question how the hell such an abominable film was ever to get a theatrical release. There are so many things wrong with this film, and while I may go off on a bit of a tirade, I'll try my earnest to keep focused on the task at hand. At the centre of this mess is a script that manages to be incredibly uninventive, badly structured and features dialogue that sounds like it was taken from a phonebook. I am genuinely dumbfounded that a movie like this was released. Around this script, we get our actors hamming up their lines with this sense of self-importance that just makes an utter monkey out of everyone involved. Technically, it is badly shot, with that troublesome digital video look that seems to negate the lighting and shroud the set in a sickly green/grey tone that makes everything look like a splurging blob. Also, what the film needed was a vigilant editor who locked himself in the suite and chopped this down to a three-to-five minute short film. I guarantee if that one scene I mentioned made it to YouTube it would an overnight Internet sensation of more legitimacy and worth than this monstrously bad film. There's absolutely no sense of quality control here. Predictably, I thought the music was crap, but I don't want to linger on that and want to get to the main culprit, writer-director-producers William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman. There is such a thing as a difference of opinion, but I find it hard to believe that these two would have thought in their right minds that this was a good film. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is the executive on hand here, but we can't blame him because we known that di Bonaventura would probably release videos on bestiality if it made a quick buck. No, Brent Bell and Peterman have been with this film every step of the way, and I wonder at what point (if there was a point) did the lightbulb go off and they both realise how bad this film was. It didn't stop them releasing the movie, and it certainly didn't stop it from making money, which is another one of cinema's great anomaly's whenever great pictures like Dredd fail to make back their budget. 

The Devil Inside has one particularly good scene, which I guarantee if uploaded to YouTube without all the padding would be an Internet sensation. However, the only thing sensational about The Devil Inside is just how sensationally bad and heartless the film is. I am sick at present, so that may account for how dull this review is, but I am lost for words as to just how this wretched swine got released. I like to have a faith in humanity, but this is one of those cases in which your faith in challenged by just how everyone involved compromised their pride. How no one involved ended up doing to the press show tour bemoaning how bad the film is is beyond me. I try not to use obscenity's in my reviews, but the only thing that comes to mind with something like this is Bill Hick's 'Sucker's Of Satan's Cock' sketch. It has no dignity whatsoever; I mean this is eighty minutes long in total and has a ten-minute credit sequence. Twilight can get away with it, but this has the most slow-dragging credits I have ever seen, and along with the ridiculous plug for a website that begins it, goes to show that the filmmakers could not be bothered to give the movie an ending. It's not the worst movie of the year, but I really hated The Devil Inside!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - In a wretched state (I feel almost as bad as this movie with this bloody bug I've got!)

P.S. Any time you see a 'Inspired By True Events,' you can near enough assume it's complete balderdash! 

P.P.S. Did anyone who saw this movie actually like it?

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Raid

Directed by: Gareth Evans

Produced by: Ario Sangantoro

Screenplay by: Gareth Evans

Starring: Iko Uwais
Joe Taslim
Donny Alamsyah
Yayan Ruhian
Pierre Gruno
Tegar Setrya
Ray Sahetapy

Music by: Fajar Yuskemal/Aria Prayogi (Celluloid Nightmares release)
Mike Shinoda/Joseph Trapanese (Sony Pictures Classics release)

Cinematography by: Matt Flannery

Editing by: Gareth Evans

Studio(s): PT. Merentau Films
XYZ Films

Distributed by: Celluloid Nightmares (Worldwide)
Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6 Films (North America)

Release date(s): September 8, 2011 (TIFF)
January 20, 2012 (Sundance)
March 23, 2012 (United States & Indonesia)
May 18, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 101 minutes

Country: Indonesia

Language: Indonesian

Production budget: $1.8 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $4, 105, 187

Keepin' busy, folks, keepin' busy. Not much has happened in the couple of hours since I've uploaded my review for the sci-fi 'Nazis In Space' comedy, Iron Sky, which I must say I thought was very good. I've watched the terrific Laurel and Hardy silent short The Finishing Touch and started reading the Son Of Celluloid short story in Clive Barker's Books Of Blood Volumes 1-3. As I said at the end of my last review, it's nice to be able to take a couple of days of being incredibly lazy after a combination of university work and paid employment, especially when you're sitting in a nice warm house. Not to get all soppy (I am a horrendous Scrooge, after all!), but it's times like this with the perennially gloomy Northern Ireland weather I'm glad of a roof over my head. So, for more diatribes about how grateful I am, occasional posts on what albums I am listening to (Iron Maiden: Somewhere In Time) and the odd review, keep your eyes posted!

Rightio, today's (other!) film is the Indonesian martial arts action film The Raid. This film has become something of an international sensation, in that it is being described as having a fresh approach to the martial arts film genre with its choreography and pacing, but also being compared, certainly in terms of it's apartment-block setting, to the likes of actions classics such as Die Hard. As such, this was one of the few foreign-language films to be released this year that made it to several multiplexes across the United Kingdom. I remember seeing it advertised in The Movie House on the Dublin Road and thinking that's a good sign when they're deciding to screen foreign-language films. Incidentally, there has been some confusion regarding the title. Over here in the United Kingdom, it was released as The Raid, and in the United States as The Raid: Redemption. This is because the Sony Pictures Classics (the production company) could not secure the rights to the title The Raid. Either title is applicable, but The Raid, without the additional Redemption, is the intended title of the picture. Directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, it's his second collaboration (after 2009's Merentau) with Iko Uwais, who impressed Evans, at the time filming a documentary on his pencak silat school, due to his martial arts skills and natural screen presence. Uwais plays Rama, an expectant father and young rookie officer, who as part of a twenty-man Detachment 88 special police squad, led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), head to an apartment block in Jakarta. Their mission is to remove, dead or alive, Tama Riyada (Ray Sahetapy), the crime lord and drug-runner who's essentially the self-appointed dictator that runs the block. Get the point? I hope you did, 'cause this plot synopsis is done.

All the fuss is being made about the martial arts in the film, and lets face it, it's a showcase designed to display the pencak silat style. This fuss is worth being made though, because this is as high-impact and hard-hitting as a contemporary martial-arts movie gets. Uwais, along with Yayan Ruhian (who plays the character of Mad Dog) have constructed a masterclass in the various versions of pencak silat. Uwais utilises the betawi style, while Ruhian seems to add a less crisp, more savage grappling version to the film, which is manifested in a lot of his character. Obviously, this is no dojo, so traditional pencak silat weapons are unavailable (it would be stupid given the plot), but the choreography works well with the production design and stunt team, in that like any smart action film, they make use of the scenery and props. As such, the film's action resembles at it's best the kind of balletic violence that you would see in John Woo films, and I think in particular a debt is owed to the final movement of Hard Boiled. It is astonishing to look at, but appropriately, it's not supposed to be pretty, and it also heads up on the brutality. On a final note on the action side, there are some individual fight scenes that are so brilliantly done that you forget about everything else in the film, and are genuinely amazed. By far and out the best fight scenes since Prachya Pinkaew's Thai films Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior and Chocolate. The film is also technically astute. Matt Flannery's cinematography captures the frenetic pace and near impossibility of what these guys are going through, but does it in such a way that compliments the action, displaying it as opposed to simply going nuts with the camera. Furthermore, it is shot in such a stylistic fascinating way, in that we are not just observing this action, but are ourselves in the thick of it, and I think this adds greatly to the power of the action sequences. In that regard, Gareth Evans must also be praised, for his capacities as both the film's editor and director. He cuts the film to compliment the cinematography, and he's wise enough to find that happy medium of showing us the action but not feeling too much like a pitch for pencak silat. Also, his editing in conjunction with the sound is strong, so not only are we getting the visual side of the action, but we are hearing thump and crunch of bones breaking. The foley sounds used are not your typical sounds, but more brutal and concerned with an aural presentation of just how nasty some of what's happening really is. Finally, Evans' direction is solid. I mean, this is, in it's own way, an exploitation piece, with a simple pitch. The thing about simple pitches is that in execution they can be done very badly, but in the case it's done very well, and the whole thing has a level of consistency lacking in many action films, and I think for that Evans should rightly be complimented.

The Raid is a great movie and a marvel to behold among some of the banality of the action film genre. I mean, Dragon Eyes had some terrific choreography from Cung Le (who I think has the potential to be a breakout star), but among the film's numerous problems was that it was shoddily lit and poorly scripted. The Raid is not shoddily lit, but unlike the very best of the genre, it does suffer from a deeply flawed script. I'm going to be incredibly patronising and ask anyone who's reading this a question, then tell you my answer. What makes the best action films deserving of the label 'best?' Answer: character. Roger Ebert, in his less than favourable review, bemoaned the lack of character development, and any attempts of it as "a cheap fakeout." While I don't share his low opinion of the film as a whole, the character issue is a problem. This is a squad of twenty men, of whom frankly I found hard to tell apart because they (mostly) seemed to have no defining mannerisms, and as such I wasn't moved in any shape or form when any died, because I was trying to figure just who had died. Also, I agree with Ebert in that the 'attempts' at character development come across as incredibly contrived, and also open up proverbial plot holes of predictability than ensure you can see what's coming a mile away. Critically, Dredd has been unfavourably compared to this film, but I find Dredd superior in that it didn't have much traditional 'character development' and kept steamrolling on, and as a result paradoxically ended up having much more subtle level of character development. The Raid does that, but then says, "Oh, we've got to have a minute or two Basil Exposition," and I'm going, very much in the fashion of Lou Reed, "I just don't care." Incidentally, I am going to nitpick on the score (again), but this film has half of a good score: on the one hand we have this momentous ambient industrial stuff a la Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV instrumentals, but on the other we have the classical orchestral croonings (or, if directed towards me, aural moonings!) of the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra that says "Moody moment here, sad moment there, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!"

Here's the thing: The Raid suffers from an incredibly problematic script, which is severely lacking in legitimate character development, any attempt of which comes across as utterly contrived. Also, it has a score that wants to be on the one hand ambient industrial, appealing to one audience, and on the other the terrible saccharine nonsense that one can find most Hollywood films. However, despite these problems, the film is able to overcome them. In most other films, they would be seriously degrading to the final product, but in this case, there is enough to go on to ensure it's success and our enjoyment. Gareth Evans has succeeded as a director and editor, creating in a controlled manner this technically astute movie, shot well by Matt Flannery, and engages the audience. Furthermore, this film contains some of the most hard-hitting and high-impact action that has been put to film, the best fight scenes since Prachya Pinkaew's Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior and Chocolate, and is, even though it's not up there at the top tier of the likes of Fist Of Fury, Die Hard, Hard Boiled or The Matrix, it's still a highly entertaining, great action film. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Diagnosis - On -. Hint: I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you - 

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Iron Sky

Directed by: Timo Vuorensola

Produced by: Tero Kaukomaa
Oliver Damian
Cathy Overett
Sam Horton
James Wenban
Mark Overett
Samuli Torssonen

Screenplay by: Michael Kalesniko
Timo Vuorensola

Story by: Johanna Sinisalo
Jarmo Puskala (concept)

Starring: Julia Dietze
Christopher Kirby
Gotz Otto
Peta Sergeant
Stephanie Paul
Udo Kier

Music by: Laibach

Cinematography by: Mika Orasmaa

Editing by: Suresh Ayyar

Studio(s): Energia Productions
New Holland Pictures

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures Finland (Finland)
Polyband (Germany)
Entertainment One (United States)
Revolver Entertainment (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): February 11, 2012 (Berlinale)
April 4, 2012 (Finland)
April 5, 2012 (Germany)
April 18, 2012 (Sweden)
April 19, 2012 (Denmark)
May 23, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 89 minutes

Country(s): Finland

Language(s): English

Production budget: €7.5million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $8, 135, 031

I said I was back, didn't I? That little comment was my way of confirming with you guys once again my running joke about being back. I always seem to be coming back don't I, which is kind of stupid considering I haven't went anywhere but just away from the laptop and been a lazy mothercanucker. Anywho, as you know from the previous two reviews (if you read them anyway), I'm catching up on a few films from November, publishing a review of the month, then getting to work on the month of December. I've got a head start in that regard, having (through Virgin Media) got two free tickets to see The Impossible, Juan Antonio Bayona's new disaster drama starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. So, for all the latest (albeit slightly belated) in films, stick to this blog, and keep your eyes posted.

Today's film is a rather unique picture in the annals of film, before we even get down to looking at the finished product itself. Beginning production in 2006, Iron Sky is one of a number of recent productions which have experimented with the idea of participatory cinema, in which, similar (though not the same) to crowdsourcing, the viewing public are a part of the creative process. The creators of the film actively encouraged people to pitch their ideas, sticking to the topic of "In 1945, the Nazis went to the moon. In 20--, they came back!" So, after gaining some additional financial backers at the 2008 and 2010 Cannes Film Festival, a lead actress in Julia Dietze, composers in the Slovenian avant-garde musical group Laibach, and cult film legend Udo Kier, Iron Sky was finally released here earlier on this year. Notwithstanding the ludicrous one day cinema release by Revolver (overwhelming anger and fan demand later forced them into giving it a limited-release in UK cinemas), which saw the filmmaker's publicly condemn their UK distributors, the DVD release for the film over here has been pretty good. This is where I personally think Revolver excel, as they are able to get stores to put their DVD's in shops at an affordable but not too-low of a price. They might not be great at cinema distribution, but the fact that I was able to procure a copy of Iron Sky (marketed, perhaps ironically, as "The Worldwide Box Office Phenomenon") in my local Tesco tells you something. So, brief plot synopsis, an American landing mission returns, in 2018, to the Moon, and one of them, James Washington (Christopher Kirby), a black male model chosen to the US President in her re-election 'Black To The Moon!' campaign, discovers on the far side of the moon that Nazis have been hidden there since 1945. To get rid of the exposition (and a lot of the gags), the Nazis' plan is to eventually initiate Blitzkrieg on the Planet Earth. Right, get the point, catch the drift? Right, boom, let's boogie!

So, if you kept your eyes peeled (not posted) on my little preamble there, I did mention that there are gags in Iron Sky. The script isn't chopped liver (more of which later), but it certainly has a solid level of set-gags to keep me going. I laughed rather heartily at certain gags in the film, which work on a number of different levels, in that some are political, some are blackly comic, some are absurd, about little things about how the Nazis' technology has remained stagnant and are dumbfounded by the 'SuperComputer' that is a mobile phone. Also, it's a wonderfully well-designed film that has an artistic direction and aesthetic quality that's unique to the film. Clearly, in the sets and the special effects there is an homage to how hokey some of the 1950s B-movies/1970s exploitation-films looked, and it plays up to that, but nevertheless, for a low-budget movie, it looks good and the detail in the art design is terrific. As you may perhaps expect, this is no acting masterclass, but Julia Dietze is a solid female protagonist who keeps you engaged and despite her relative level of naivety, is endearing. Also, Christopher Kirby is very funny as James Washington, in that has the hard job of having to try and portray the whole absurdity of the situation without going over-the-top. His part in this film is similar to that of the black protagonists in George A. Romero's first two Dead films, in that his presence and rationality help commentate on race-war politics. In another department, Iron Sky actually has a score that I like. Laibach have created a hybrid sound for the film that abides to B-movie way of using instruments not normally associated with the classical Hollywood styles, but add their own twist to the scheme of things. Their avant-garde style sees the influence of musique concrete and martial industrial come in, and as such we get something both familiar and different to the musical scores we expect. Furthermore, Under The Iron Sky is up with one of the best theme songs written for a film in quite some time. I've only one category for music in my year-end awards, so if I introduce one for theme songs this year, this one has a good chance of winning. Finally, director Timo Vuorensola, keeps a good degree of control over the proceedings. This is one movie that could have went off the rails and been an absolute stinker, given all the elements at play, but Vuorensola makes sure that they all come together appropriately.

Now, as you can guess, I rather liked Iron Sky. Mark Kermode makes an interesting point in his review of the film, in that many reviewers have negatively received this (it sits at 37% on Rotten Tomatoes off of 35 reviews), but that in comparison to other trash/exploitation/concept movies, it works quite well. I don't claim to be an expert on those films (although thanks to affordable prices in Head, I'm putting myself through a crash course in them), but Iron Sky is nowhere near down somewhere like New York Ripper, which I am reliably informed is not even anywhere near the bottom of the barrel itself! That said, Iron Sky does have some of it's flaws. Regardless of how funny some of it is, the transparency in the structural issues of the script are clearly obvious. It follows the three-act structure, but in such a way that's easy for one to be able to predict the machinations of the film from near enough ten-fifteen minutes in. Also, while it's a pretty funny movie, there are sections which have many gags, but then parts, sometimes long parts of the film which lag and are dull by comparison to the rest of the picture. I'm not as negative as most reviewers have been towards the film, but I think that the script was definitely in need of one of two runs through the rewriting grinder.

It has a dodgy script that does lag in parts, and really could have done with a serious rewrite, but otherwise I think that Iron Sky is a very good film. There's some very funny, and I must say, original gags, which are quite hard to do today. The acting, while no masterclass, is good from Dietze and Kirby, it's a terrifically well-designed film, both from a production and special-effects standpoint. Laibach have done one of the best musical scores of the year (including the great Under The Iron Sky), and director Timo Vuorensola does a good job, considering all the elements and how off the rails the film could have went, on keeping control over the proceedings and delivering a not especially great but certainly unique comedy that deserves to be seen.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Sweet! (lazing about for a few days is a most pleasant feeling...)

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - DeadHeads

Directed by: Brett Pierce

Produced by: Andy Drummond
Brett Pierce
Drew T. Pierce
Kevin Van Hagen

Screenplay by: Brett Pierce
Drew T. Pierce

Starring: Michael McKiddy
Ross Kidder
Markus Taylor
Thomas Galasso
Natalie Victoria

Music by: Devin Burrows

Cinematography by: Robert Toth

Editing by: Kevin O'Brien

Studio: FroBro Films

Distributed by: Splendid Film
Eagle Entertainment

Release date(s): April 2, 2011 (United States)
2012 (United Kingdom - Straight-To-DVD)

Running time: 96 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: (Unavailable)

Box office revenue: (Likewise)

"Free from fucking bondage," as the great John Hurt would say in 44-Inch Chest! My Nietzsche essay has now been submitted, so it's out of my hands, and thus the bane of my present existence is gone. Hallujuah (I did that on purpose, you spelling-bee bellends!)! So, even though I have other essays to be getting on with, I'm through the toughest part, and I imagine that given the current climate in films, what with awards season round the corner, I've got some reviewing to be catching up with. I've got reviews for six more movies (including this one) for November, which will be followed by a review of the month, and I imagine I'll be flying through this, so, follow me on an unexpected journey through the good, the bad, and the ugly, as I try my earnest to give you the latest reviews: something to keep your eyes posted methinks! (Incidentally, I'll be getting through this quick enough: I've got a packet of Domestead Homebakes Butter Shortbread beside me: win!)

Today's movie for review is Dead Heads, which is one of the numerous takes (Cockneys Vs Zombies, Juan Of The Dead, Osombie) on the zombie-comedy genre to be released this year. The niche that this movie has is that the central characters of the film are themselves zombies. Discovering an engagement ring due for his girlfriend in his pocket, the recently-undead Mike (Michael McKiddy) enlists the help of a fellow zombie, Brent (Ross Kidder), and Brent's pet zombie friend Cheese (Markus Taylor), so he can go on a road trip across the country and reunite with his lost love. Some decent reviews from Screen Jammer, Alan Jones (who I think must have been misquoted, because I can't imagine someone righting such a poxy line as "DeadHeads is dead good!") and a ringing endorsement from the mighty Bruce Campbell, who said "In a world of putrid zombie movies, DeadHeads is a breath of fresh air," would lead one to believe they were in for a decent time. Shall we take a look?

Right, so we'll (as ever!) start with the good. The film is written and directed by the Pierce brothers, whose father Bart Pierce was the SFX guy on The Evil Dead, so not only do they have the experience of growing up around horror films, they also have a wealth of knowledge that they have developed on the genre over the years. As such, from the directing standpoint they get through the movie pretty efficiently, and keep a relative sense of pace to the movie. Also, the script has some great dialogue that is full of wit and those little references that horror geeks and myself will eat up. Many of the best lines come from McDinkle, one of the two government guys chasing him, whose delivery of the dialogue, mixed in with his Lemmy facial hair, makes for some amusing scenes. Also, the character of Cheese, who is essentially the pet/infant-child of the odd couple that Mike and Brent make, is pretty good. I'd be lying if I said the film didn't give me a few laughs.

Equally, I'd be lying if I said that DeadHeads was a good movie, but it most certainly isn't! For starters, aside from the dialogue, which is at times very funny, it's a shoddy script. Structurally, it's so murder-by-numbers that you could literally lift the template and apply it to ten other dull movies, which may, incidentally, still be better than DeadHeads. It defies logic just how lazy the screenplay is. I mean, c'mon, did they really think they could get away with this hogwash? I'll deal with the usual scapegoat while I'm at it, okay, the film has a rubbish score that tells the audience "Hey, look, funny, funny, ha ha, ha ha," no, end of, zzzzzzzz! Also, like the film from earlier on in the year Dragon Eyes (a decent martial arts/exploitation flick), it has that really terrible grimy look that happens with digital video. It looks okay during the day with high lighting, but much of the stuff in the film occurs at night or in shadows, and so it has a strangely ridiculous (and not in a good way) of looking on the one hand like the set of Edward Scissorhands while on the other it looks like sewer scenes from Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which still stands to this day as one of the worst shot films of all time! The acting too was not anything of real worth. Michael McKiddy has all the look of an Ed Helms, but with none of the animation, stonewalling his way through the movie, being an incredibly boring dullard of a protagonist. Also, I don't think Ross Kidder funny guy Brent works as a fail to McKiddy's straight guy, and there is a distinct lack of chemistry between the two. Just because the guys might get on well on set doesn't necessarily mean they're good at pretending they are buddies in a movie! A final related point to mention, I do not drive, and so my grandmother was giving me a lift to the bank the day I was reviewing this movie, which is ninety-six minutes long. Nine minutes from the climax, my grandmother arrived early, and I left the movie for an hour-and-a-half. Normally, I'm a purist who will sit through a movie in one sitting, but I was just so disinterested by the movie that I didn't care about anything that was going to happen.

Perhaps I'm going to be a bit too generous about DeadHeads here. I'm a guy who loves horror films, exploitation flicks and zombie movies. The high watermark for this zombie-comedy subgenre is Shaun Of The Dead, but you can even find it's origins in George Romero's timeless classic Dawn Of The Dead, which was itself a dark satire that has far more humour in it than much of his oeuvre, which if comic is often of the black variety. While I think the Pierce brothers have their hearts in the right place, and clearly love and respect the history of the zombie film, DeadHeads has none of the ingenuity of either of those two films. Unfortunately, it's a dullard of a movie that comes across as low-rent Zombieland, which wasn't a great movie in itself. Disappointing and tiresome.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Mulled (beer, crisps and movies: man I love Friday nights!)