Sunday, November 13, 2011

New blog, guys!

If you still wanna read my ramblings about animation, film and TV, head to my new movie blog and follow me if you have a Tumblr. I will be updating from there only from now on, so consider this blog just an archive of previous reviews.

Hope to see you there,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cowboys And Aliens And Blockheads

Let's do a little Q&A, for those who haven't seen this movie yet and are curious about it.

Is this movie about 'Cowboys' fighting 'Aliens'? Yes.

Did they make it silly or play it straight? They played it straight.

Does it have good special effects? Yes.

Does it have a good story? Hardly.

Is it fun to watch? Yes.

Is it a good movie? No.

Those last two sound like a contradiction in terms. Well, they are. I found myself immensely enjoying this film while it played. The only parts I really, REALLY couldn't stand were Olivia Wilde's character and the scenes that contained her, but we'll get to that.

As you have no doubt gleaned from the posters and trailers, the film features an old, grumpy Harrison Ford and a badass Daniel Craig. These characters are very entertaining and steal their scenes wholesale. Watching Daniel Craig beat the shit out of a whole bunch of guys at once never gets old and he makes a great hero. Harrison Ford shows a side of himself we have not really seen before, a grumpy old bastard not wholly unlike Jeff Bridges' character from the True Grit remake. Not as growly and washed up, but every bit as mean and brazen.

The actual 'western' scenes are very well done, and the 'science fiction' scenes are also very well done. The problem is that they don't really gel - they seem incompatible, at least in the form they have been put together in this film. Arch, whom I saw the film with, is a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns, particularly those by Sergio Leone such as The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. What characterises these movies, and the movies that draw from them such as Inglourious Basterds, is that there is a sense of slowly rising tension that builds, and builds, and builds until it cannot build any more, then it explodes into a maelstrom of violence that barely lasts a few seconds and leaves you thinking, "what the hell was that?!"

These tricks have not been utilised in C&A, the film opting instead on a series of 'setpiece battles' more in line with your average brainless Hollywood attempt at a scifi blast-em-up. Don't expect this film to be very intense at all, the intensity is in fact quite monotone throughout right up to the big final confrontation at the end.

I won't go on too much about Plot - because frankly, there's not much to go over. It's a very straightforward film, and if you actually sat down and attempted to write a synopsis of it, you'd find that the summary of the third act would be shorter than the other two by a magnitude. They know what they have to do, and they do it, for something like half an hour. Still, there are a couple of things that really bother me about the film's approximation of a story.

I found myself totally irritated at Olivia Wilde's presence. Daniel Craig is initially very surly toward her character and I found myself sympathising with his cries of "who are you?" and "what are you doing here?" I found myself asking those questions a lot too.

I joked with Arch upon seeing a shirtless Daniel Craig scrubbing up that this was a scene for the ladies. I was wondering, does this scene actually need him to be shirtless? Or is it a Twilight werewolf excuse to show off pecs and abs for the women in the audience? Suddenly, out of nowhere, Olivia Wilde comes in and they share a 'tender moment'. I felt defeated. Oh, so that's why he's suddenly shirtless, I thought. Every shot she is in, she is only there because the eight-or-so scriptwriters needed her to be. She's a walking, living, breathing plot device, and oh, did I mention she is a BLOCKHEAD?

It turns out Arch was much more tolerant of her role in the film because he thinks she's good looking. He would allow himself to be distracted by her prettiness, but personally, I don't see it. I see the currently and totally bewildering Hollywood vogue for women who have jaws substantially squarer and firmer-set than Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford combined. Maybe it's the Celt-Scand hardwiring of my brain to think that "pretty" girls ought to have round faces, but obviously it's a taste thing. Unfortunately, because she wasn't to my taste, I found myself constantly trying to justify her character in the plot.

Which brings me to...

>>> SPOILERS <<<




Before Olivia Wilde reveals she is an alien, she feels like a forced, wedged-in love interest. There is no other explanation for her constant sudden appearances and cryptic bullshit. Then when we find out what she is, she is suddenly the bottomless pit of exposition, spewing forth loads of background on the aliens for us at a time.

I found myself so against her character that I was actually relieved when she died. 'Great', I thought, 'now we can get on with the movie'. Then she suddenly COMES BACK TO LIFE and tells us that she is an alien too, and had to take her current human form in order to walk among us.
When she said this, a guy in front of me in the cinema actually facepalmed. Slapped his face in horror, and dragged his hand down, staring in horror at what the scriptwriters had dared force down our throat. I wanted to say, badly, "yeah I'm with ya, buddy". There were murmurs around the theatre. I do not think I was alone in thinking the revelation was trite and ruinous to the movie.

From then on she is suddenly a Keira Knightley-style 'action babe', and when she sacrifices herself (very slowly - why did that super-fast alien take so frigging long to catch her scampering through those claustrophobic tunnels?), I at least had the satisfaction of seeing her stupid character die twice. This time she was gone for good but it was too little too late.


Arch and I were a little annoyed at how cold and heartless the aliens had been. They weren't even that alien in their psychology. They were just mean assholes. Why did they attempt to experiment on the humans and cut them up? Apparently it's because they want to know human weaknesses. Even though they can slaughter humans with relative ease and the inferior human guns seem to be pissweak against them. But hey, let's just keep loading up this massive crowd of brainwashed experiments because, you know, we just want to cut them up in lots of different ways.

Near the beginning of the film, when the alien exposes its delicate arms in the boat and strokes the boy's face, I thought, "oh sweet, these things might actually be slightly sympathetic. It seems they are curious about the human race to a degree". Then Harrison Ford scared it away and I thought "no, don't do that man, you're just pissing them off". By the final confrontation, with everyone killing everything and the boy knifing one of them in the chest, all such thoughts at a complex relationship with the aliens was completely gone. They went from curious aliens with a dangerous mean streak, to debased villains with no shot at redemption. Independence Day, The Prequel: I felt cheated.

The final fight started out cool but protracted very quickly into a tiresome confrontation that seemed to tide, according to narrative convenience, between the monstrous aliens being INVINCIBLE and relatively easy to kill, even with a cudgel or spear.

The movie seemed to revel just a tad in its own brainlessness so I suppose I will have to ignore the implausibility that a bracelet-gun designed for a totally alien pathology and psychology, would be able to work through a human being's empathic commands. I'll put that one down to Hollywood scifi silliness.

But whatever. At the end of the day, I still thought this was a fun movie, I enjoyed it at the time. It just doesn't stand up to the simplest scrutiny once you put it under the scalpel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sucker Punch

This has got to be the most difficult post I've ever written. This is literally the third time I've started this article, having trashed what I had written twice because it was too charged. Reviewing this film is actually hard work. I just hate it so much.

Okay, third time's a charm. Wish me luck, guys. Forgive me if I cut right to the chase and get to the heart of the matter here.

Sucker Punch is a movie about a girl who gets sent to a Home For The Criminally Insane And Criminally Sexy where she is surrounded by hilarious caricatures of chauvinist pigheadedness and impossibly beautiful porn stars who are introduced to the audience with that most tasteful of girl-on-girl action, the Catfight.
But wait, it gets better. For no fucking reason (I mean literally, for no motherfucking reason whatsoever, no relevance to plot, particular metaphor, anything) it shifts to an imaginary setting where instead of a nuthouse it's a brothel and they are all burlesque dancers and the creepy warden is suddenly a greasy moustachioed pimp.

Babydoll (our heroine) is told that she has to dance to entertain guests and when she dances, she does this dance that is so mindblowingly sexy that the audience is never actually shown. Instead it cuts away to these dumb fucking filmclips from Zack Snyder's Personal Playlist while Babydoll and her fellow inmates are transported to some hackneyed ripoff of every anime ever made where they are suddenly gunslinging samurai babes who have to kill everything ranging from giant robot samurai to steam-powered clockwork nazi soldiers to robot gunmen from outer space to pirate ninja vampire klu klux klan jester mimes. Okay I made that last one up. But I didn't make up the others.

There are going to be two schools of thought here, the first one thinking "OH MY GOD, NOW I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!" and the other half thinking "How the hell would that work as a movie?" I'm obviously in the second camp and I'm trying to answer the question days later. Hint: Zack Snyder does not have the answer.

There are so many things wrong with this it isn't funny. First of all, the fantasies-within-fantasies that Babydoll has when she is dancing serve even less purpose to the main story than the burlesque thing. At least the Burlesque side story apparently mimics what is happening in real life; but in Babydoll's fantasies, she is kind of "imagining" what it must be like to achieve the very simple objectives her friends are performing (looking at a map, stealing a lighter) by turning them into high-flying, actionpacked adventures that might appeal to a mentally deficient and extremely immature twelve year old boy, but I don't understand how these are her fantasies and not Zack Snyder's.

It's virtually impossible to ascertain what period the film is set in; it could be modern day but some of what the characters are wearing would suggest a few decades earlier. In any case I guess it's just naturally assumed that throughout her childhood, Babydoll has had access to an incredible library of action movies, video games and over-the-top anime series because that appears to be all she dreams about. In some cases the rip-offs are all but shameless; two that come immediately to mind are the fact that the robot nazis look EXACTLY like the Helghast from Killzone 2 and another being that the ENTIRE SCENE with the dragon has been lifted right the fuck out of Lord Of The Rings: The Twin Towers. The effects aren't even that good; I mean, they're okay, but considering that's what this film is all about, those brainless segments, they really aren't the effects powerhouse I was expecting. There are a couple of particularly tragic shots where Zack insisted on a ridiculous closeup of something like a Samurai Sword or whatever and you can actually tell that the girl is a CG model; or the scene in the train where the blue lens flare is actually so strong and omnipresent that it distracts the viewer from the action.

They even pull KOOL POZEZ whenever they land on the ground because they know Zack Snyder is watching.

The dialogue in this movie is average at the best of times, but I found much of Babydoll's to be fatuous. Of particular note is her first meeting with the creepy old guy who tells her what to do where half her lines are mumbled "what?"s, "huh?"s and a few "uhhhh, what?"s, while her slack face is drained of any acting talent; I am half convinced these are simply shots the cameraman took by accident when Zack Snyder was trying to explain the plot to her that wound up getting used in editing.

The worst sin of this movie, in my opinion, is something that has become a very, very bad habit of Zack Snyder's, and that's including everything he can from Zack Snyder's Personal Playlist. Imagine you are on a bus or a train. Someone is right next to you with an iPod and they have your most hated song playing at full blast, to the point where you can actually hear the lyrics, but they're all distorted. You really want to tell this guy to fuck off, to take his shitty music elsewhere, you want to take his iPod and stomp it into the fucking ground. That is exactly what watching any film by Zack Snyder is like.

If your idea of a good movie is one where a blonde teen flips sideways through a storm of gatling gun bullets being fired by a ten foot samurai mech warrior while a loud, screaming guitar solo blares in the background, then see this film. It's been made for you. If, on the other hand, you think it sounds like one of the plots the autistic kid came up with from Real Ultimate Power, then perhaps you ought to give it a miss.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Okay. So, Scott Pilgrim.

Everyone kept telling me to see this movie, everyone ensured me it was my cup of tea, right up my alley, the real deal, totally something I'd be into if only I gave it a chance (as usual, the awful trailer put me off).

I saw it; it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Nonetheless I was asked, "so what did you think of it?" to which my earnest reply, in a slight daze, was "I've never loved and hated a movie at the same time before".

That really is the only way I can describe my personal alignment toward this movie. If you asked me to give it a rating out of five stars, I'd have to get back to you on whether it was worth five or zero. In fact I may never reach that conclusion for as long as I live.

So let's just delve right in here.

I am still reeling in shock that this was directed by Edgar Wright, who directed Hot Fuzz and Sean Of The Dead. I will give him his due for stepping out and doing something completely different, but I'm a little unsure he was the right director for this film.

I will not pretend to be a Scott Pilgrim fan - I haven't read the comic (though now I am curious to do so). I've only played the videogame which was a lot of fun despite focusing strangely too much on grinding for a beat-em-up (though I was massively biased toward that game because I am a longtime fan of the pixel art of Paul Robertson). But I think it was a poor choice to cast the bumbling, goose-necked Michael Cera as Scott.

I... I don't like him. It's a personal thing. Some people love him but he was just too much of a dork in that movie. The script he was given didn't help - I found Scott Pilgrim himself to be a profoundly unlikable character until the final scene of the film when he actually realises he's kind of been a gigantic dick to everybody and (finally) makes things right.

Now, the Exes on the other hand, were another matter entirely. In my opinion they saved this film. I was practically squirming in my chair through the first movement of the movie, until finally the Satanic Indian Matthew Patel showed up out of nowhere and started singing, surrounded by flying succubi. The whole thing had me in stitches and I realised this movie could still pick up yet, and it did.

The saving grace of this entire film was the lavish cast of opponents Scott has to face. Every one of them was a hilarious, larger-than-life personality, and my only gripe was that the Twins didn't get enough exploration. They are more of a walk-on part in comparison which I think is a shame.

To be honest I think it has a lot to do with the awkward directorial choice to create a live action movie based on a comic which is about videogames. As a result we have a movie with real actors walking around and walking into poles and banging drums which produce big comic-book words for sound effects. I wouldn't have a problem with this if everyone didn't also explode into coins when Scott defeated them or sprites and pixels didn't keep appearing along with Nintendo sound design. I couldn't decide whether it was supposed to be a movie about comics or videogames, and apparently neither could Edgar Wright.

The fight scenes for me were the hilight of the film, brilliantly directed and pulse-pounding, with highly creative special effects and a keen eye for spectacle. I have a fishy suspicion that these moments were the very reason and impetus for this whole movie being created. Certainly, they are the only parts I really enjoyed. If I had to give a black and white, straightforward summary of the film, I would say that the action scenes were fantastic but most of the jokes were lame.
This is obviously a personal thing and your tastes may vary, but I think it is a bit of a warning sign when a movie is made sheerly and solely for fans of retro video games of yesteryear and an obsessive fan of retro video games of yesterday doesn't find most of them funny. Again, strangely, the only parts I really laughed hard at were the bits with the exes - they are just so perfectly cast. The vegan bass guitarist, Todd Ingram, steals every shot he's in and his whole scene left me hysterical. I don't think there was a single evil ex of Ramona's (ironically) that turned me off as a character, as opposed to the more fickle, whiney, limp-wristed cast of heroes.

Ramona is a piece of ass but her personality is nothing short of repellant, Scott's band and friends are either grumpy, bitchy or just plain stupid (with the exception of his admittedly pretty funny gay housemate), and I am still really confused and a bit confronted by how everyone just keeps dumping and cheating on each other. Seriously, is this a Generation thing? A Canadian thing?? Am I so outside the social world this movie portrays?

Gideon made for a good final villain - I liked how charming he was - but my major complaint here is that with the compression of a comic series into a feature-length film comes the fact that we didn't really get to know him enough. As a boss, he's fantastic, but as a villain he's kind of lame; at least in the sense that he kind of shows up out of nowhere and we have to sort of take it for granted that he's the final challenge and the big bad. I think with more time there could have been a more solid buildup which overall would have strengthened the story, which I found focused a bit too much on Scott's hang-ups.

I will concede the movie wrapped itself up very nicely, though I found the beginning to be rather interminable - and unlike my fellow film nerd Arch, I don't find jokes about Michael Cera being a totally unattractive dork very funny.

So yeah.

I'm afraid I can't really conclude by saying whether I love this movie or hate it. Only that it was certainly an experience. I admit that I have no regrets about seeing it; I knew I had to see it sooner or later. But just because there are a lot of bloops and pixels, doesn't mean a movie is right up my alley.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We've got a lot to talk about.

Thing is, I am currently being worked like a dog and I'm also about as sick as one - I was sent home early from work today, which is crazy because it's taken four days for a supervisor of any capacity to say, "you look sick enough to go home" rather than simply "wow you look like dogshit". No skin off my nose, it's money in the kitty, but on the other hand goddamn I'm looking forward to my days off next week. What will I do with all that spare time?!

Well, apart from catching the hell up with Headbucket, I'm going to be spamming you guys with reviews.

1) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

A detailed explanation as to why it was a bittersweet experience for me, neither astoundingly good or astoundingly bad - but rather a strange mix of both.

2) Tron: Legacy

Rant detailing how the movie vastly exceeded my expectations - how it could have been better, or at least very different, and what it got right beyond the soundtrack everyone is talking about.

3) Megamind

I've had a certain friend of mine begging me for ages to review this film and I kind of just have a free pass for two sitting there so I mean whatever. I was going to review it side-by-side against Despicable Me but, despite having a free pass for it, I never felt inspired to go and see it. I'll probably have to end up renting a DVD for the double-review, which I will still be doing after this one. Eugh.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So there are these movie packs at my local Coles

...and they look bloody awful.

They are five-packs, twenty dollars each (wow crazy value right? RIGHT?), but the collections on them are pretty terrible. One of them has all five Doctor Dolittle movies. I didn't even know they made that many.

And so, for your enjoyment, I'm going to purchase some of these horrid collections (Dr. Dolittle included, of course) and see if I can somehow watch all five movies on each disc in one sitting. It'll be like a game.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Human Centipede: Where to from here?!

Today I hung out with my old friend Nick and we bought a bag of chips and went to his place to watch a movie.

That movie was The Human Centipede.

I hope you clicked that link! Congratulations, you've officially seen the whole movie!!
Except for the part where the cops run in at the end and get shot and the mad scientist dies and the people on the front and back of the centipede both die and the girl in the middle is the only survivor.

Oops, -Spoiler alert-

Okay so maybe it's not exactly good form to deliberately tell someone the plot and ending and then warn them afterwards about the spoiler. But if you actually planned on watching this film, and would have enjoyed it had I not just spoiled it for you, then you belong in a home for the mentally unsound.

Where do I even begin with this travesty?
Somehow it picked up a budget of one and a half million euros (it was made by a Brit, Tom Six, though I didn't realise this because the two main characters were enragingly irritating valley girls) and wound up grossing about a hundred and eighty thousand dollars back worldwide. Clearly it was eaten alive by word of mouth. Not hard for a film where people walked out in disgust during the test screenings.

Perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that this movie was intended to be part of a trilogy. Rumour has it that the second is already in post production (I can only assume it had begun being made before the results for the first bomb came in), because not only is this concept now officially a guaranteed misfire, but this world has nowhere to go.

IMDB sums up this movie more or less perfectly in the following paragraph:

"A mad scientist kidnaps and mutilates a trio of tourists in order to "reassemble" them into a new "pet"-- a human centipede, created by stitching their mouths to each others' rectums."

Yyyep. That's pretty much it.

Now, this film has become notorious, utterly notorious, for being one of the most revolting films ever made. Everything you think would happen in those circumstances does - they inadvertently eat each other's poo and the one at the end dies from an infection. I know Nick didn't take it quite as well as I did.
I just sat there pointing and laughing, making puns.

"Hey Nick, looks like she's between a rock and a hard place!"

It probably has to do with three things.
One, the characters were so pathetically one-dimensional that I literally could not have cared less about what happened to any of them. Two, I grew up with the internet. Things like people eating each other's feces is a concept you will run into eventually. Thirdly, the gore was not really all that shocking. Certainly nothing worse than the terribad but hilarious Machine Girl, which Nick and I watched directly afterwards.

Actually it's basically impossible to be scared by a movie where the mad scientist shows anyone a picture that looks like this.

That is actually from the movie.
Yeah, I know!!

What I really just cannot get over is that there was going to be three movies! Where can this idea go??

Apparently the sequel is going to have a Human Millipede (my own term), the same thing as from this movie but with twelve people. Not really sure how this works as a) the stereotypical, clichéd creepy nazi doctor is dead now and b) he acts like this is the first time he's ever gotten it to work with humans. Which means that whoever made the 12-person version was someone else.

What could Part Three have possibly been about?

Nick and I got to discussing this. Clearly, the only direction for it left to go is for an absolutely massive chain of people to be made, then the first person is fed all this yummy food and immediately has his mouth stitched up to someone's ass. Then the food will just keep going around and around this thing and speeding up until one of them is so disgusted at having to eat all this shit that they puke in the opposite direction. Then when the shit and puke meet, there will be this massive explosion and they will discover the Higgs Boson.

It will be called,

Now THAT'S an interesting idea for a movie!!!

Hey, you know what would be even better? If this thing makes money, right, then the sequel would be about some evil NASA scientists who hear about this crazy stunt (which probably took place in Switzerland or something) and use the same principal to construct a space elevator out of humans beings. They lead right up into outer space and basically whenever they want to send supplies to the moon, one of the people at the bottom on Earth has their mouth unstitched and they are fed the supplies and it goes all the way up via the digestive tract.

But then they rebel!!

See I didn't even come up with this shitty idea and I've already come up with some ideas for sequels that are at least interesting.

Honestly Nick and I only watched this to say that we had. It's one more thing to put on my resumé, I guess. "Managed to watch The Human Centipede without barfing once". But was it really worth it?