Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Movie Review

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Optimus Prime, Megatron, Decepticons, Autobots
Director: Michael Bay
Man, oh man if you take the kids to see this, whatever you do, don't fill them with sugar.
Because that, coupled with the visual overload that is Revenge Of The Fallen, will push them right over the edge.
The latest Transformers film, Revenge of The Fallen, has very little plot in terms of what you may come to expect.
However, it breaks down a little something like this: Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is heading to college but after coming into contact with a shard of the Allspark Cube which haunted him in the first Transformers film, he taps into the past of the Transformers - and inadvertently ends up holding the key to their future.
Yet, trouble isn't too far behind as the Decepticons begin to hunt Witwicky down - and once again, the Autobots and the Decepticons fight their battle here on earth - with our future at stake as well as theirs.
As I read that back to myself, I can already sense that you feel there's very little in terms of character analysis, the frailty of the human condition and intelligent sparky dialogue in ROTF.
And you'd be right.
But what there is - in spades - is action sequences designed to make your eyeballs pop out of your head and stun you into submission.
Director Michael Bay's upped the ante this time - within minutes of the film opening, we're plunged into a visually frenetic explosive opening which cuts a swathe through your senses and is designed to leave the kids wanting more, more, more.
What we actually get is a succession of well put together action segments, which move frantically from one set piece to the next with a minimum of plot and exposition - but drips of humour throughout.
Suffice it to say, the budget appears to have been substantially upped in this one - and while the robots get their time to shine (both new and old creations on both sides), it comes, sadly, at the expense of the human actors.
Both Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are sidelined - Fox in particular has dissolved into some caricature of a token hot female in danger, with pouting lips and a series of short outfits, who simply wants her boyfriend to tell her he loves her.
Even the main Autobots like Bumblebee and Megatron of the Decepticons find themselves out of the main spotlight.
There are some neat robots - the early scene where various kitchen appliances transform into robots brings back memories of the malevolent Gremlins .
Yet for those more subtly underdeveloped robots, there is a pair of comedy Autobots, who spend the film irritating the viewer by talking in hip hop slang and generally bumbling about.
The whole film feels like one long pitch for Hasbro's latest line of toys - but when the action sequences kick in, there's so much going on on the screen that all you can do is sit back and try to process it all - quite frankly you won't be able to (ask the kids after to explain); however, those sequences do look stunning on the big screen (I'd suggest watching it in IMAX if you can) but it's not quite enough to paper over the plot hole cracks.
And it should have been edited down from its mammoth 150 minute running time - in parts it feels bloated and some of the visual shenanigans lose some of their punch after you're assaulted with yet another explosion.
At the end of the day, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is one hell of a spectacle - it's everything an old school blockbuster should be - loud, noisy, and a lot of fun.

It's just disappointing some of the smarter brainier side of it has been demoted in favour of old time Hollywood excess.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Bunch Of Amateurs: Movie Review

A Bunch Of Amateurs: Movie Review

Rating: 3/10
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Samantha Bond, Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton
Director: Andy Cadiff
Lauded as a personal favourite of the Queen and Prince Phillip after the Royal Film Performance in December, A Bunch Of Amateurs is the tale of fading star Jefferson Steel (Burt Reynolds)
Steel is the hero of the Ultimate Finality action blockbusters - but who is looking for his next challenge.
Thanks to the awfulness (and downright idiocy) of his agent (Charles Durning), Steel accepts a part as King Lear in Stratford.
Sounds fine - but what the agent neglects to tell Steel is that the Stratford in question, is not the venue beloved of the Bard, but rather a sleepy backwater in England and with a bunch of am dram actors.
It's about as far away from the Royal Shakespeare Company as Steel could get.
Sadly A Bunch Of Amateurs is also about as far away from funny as you can get.
Co-written by Ian Hislop (a respected UK satirist), I'm sorry to say this is beyond dire in places - Reynolds is wooden in the role and I'm not sure whether that was intentional or otherwise.
Some of the jokes should never have made it off the page - Steel is mis-recognised as Sean Connery and Tom Selleck in a couple of scenes. Granted these jokes may have seemed funny on the page but somewhere in translation they didn't cross over onto the screen.
At best portions of this would have made a made for television movie or sitcom (which would have ultimately been axed)- and nothing more.
Every Hollywood stereotype of an actor heading back to the stage is exploited - Reynolds' ego allows him to mistake a camera being used for construction purposes as a moment of paparazzi stalking.
Granted that could be a cunning statement on the vanity of Hollywood actors taken out of their big star habitat - but in this film, it simply comes across as lazy and unfunny as well as deeply unoriginal.
There is also an entirely predictable sub plot about Steel's troubled relationship with his daughter, which is you won't be shocked to learn, resolved.
If you call a film A Bunch of Amateurs, you are asking for trouble from a reviewer.
Maybe I should be more constructive in my criticism rather than taking easy pot shots at this film.
Perhaps the biggest crime of this film is the squandering of the talent involved - to see Imelda Staunton over-acting in a way which would be better suited to a Carry On movie. And I can't even begin to understand how Derek Jacobi (respected veteran of the RSC) decided it was a good idea to get involved with this.
However, the only actor who emerges with some level of dignity in tact is Samantha Bond - her director never loses the charm and she never descends into the kind of on-screen farce as that displayed by Imelda Staunton.

A Bunch Of Amateurs screams (bad) TV sitcom - it should never have made it to the big screen.

Gomorrah: Movie Review

Gomorrah: Movie Review

Rating 7/10
Cast: Nicolo Mante, Gianfelice Imparato
Director: Matteo Garrone
A sprawling epic about the gangster way of life in Italy, Gomorrah has high aspirations.
Based on a notorious book by Roberto Saviano, it's an unflinching portrait of the working of the Comorrah (a mafia-like group) in Naples and Caserta.
Beginning with the brutal slaying of several gangsters in a tanning salon and ending with the death of two wannabe gangsters, this is not a film for the faint hearted.
In a similar vein to Magnolia, the film takes a look at five different Italian lives and how they're touched by the crime syndicate.
There's a teen who sees drugs being ditched and enters the murky world of the gangs; a timid middleman who distributes the money; a graduate trapped in the disgustingly unsafe world of toxic waste management; a tailor who teaches Chinese workers and two cocky teens who see guns being stashed and decide to steal them.
Basically all walks of life are intertwined in this cautionary and bleak tale of the crime world.
Garrone's view of the world tainted by crime is not an easy one to watch at times - various members of various gangs are dispatched brutally and callously throughout.
Gomorrah won't surprise many when it comes to how far the tentacles of crime extend but there is no glamour in the world of Gomorrah - everyone's doing what they have to to survive.
This is no rosy tinted view of gangster life as Tarantino portrayed in Pulp Fiction - it's gritty, grimy and the fact the majority of the cast are unknowns outside of Italy makes it harder to work out who'll survive the body count.
Compelling and upsetting, Gomorrah may take a while to pull you in (it's paced slowly to begin with) - but the beautifully woven narrative will leave you a little shocked and ultimately gripped- and sometimes, that's not a bad thing from a film.

An horrific view of how crime corrupts societies, destroys individuals and provides long term damage to all around it, Gomorrah is everything a good film should be.


The Proposal: Movie Review

The Proposal: Movie Review

Rating: 4/10
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Craig T Nelson, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Anne Fletcher
The problem with doing an unoriginal story is how you do it anew.
The Proposal sees Sandra Bullock's uptight, bossy editor in chief Margaret Tate (hated and feared by many in her office) facing an expired visa crisis.
Being a Canadian, she's looking at losing her job and deportation from the USA unless she can find some way to stay in the country.
Enter her much put upon executive assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) who has spent the last three years working for her, in the hope he'll become editor.
Suddenly Andrew's facing a shotgun wedding if he wants that promotion - and Margaret's facing a weekend away with the in laws in Alaska on an impromptu (but necessary to beat immigration) fact finding mission.
And you'll never guess what happens next...
Except, to be honest, you probably will.
The Proposal is not a stunning - original - piece of cinema - but it never sets out to be. It's a romantic comedy which has some funny moments but that's about it as it's predictable throughout.
That said though, Bullock's Tate and Reynolds' Paxton have a good chemistry on screen as their characters share an uneasy pact - however, the revelations about them are easy to spot and the Paxton family tensions are completely unoriginal.
Bullock underplays the comic elements and situations to her credit- but Reynolds is reduced to simply staring in disbelief at what's unfolding around him (no doubt a view some of the audience could ascribe to)
Sitcom stalwarts Betty White (Golden Girls) and Oscar Nunez (The Office) make the most of their parts and actually light up the screen with their antics - Nunez's appearance in the post film credits is a highlight (and worth staying around for)

When push comes to shove, depending on your mood, you'll either love or hate The Proposal - but you will leave with a distinct feeling of déjà vu.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Hangover: Movie Review

The Hangover: Movie Review

Rating 6/10
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Heather Graham, Zach Galifianakis
Director: Todd Phillips
We've all done it - partied so hard the night before and woken up to have little recollection of what exactly went on.
That's the premise of The Hangover - a gang of three guys head to Vegas to send off the groom in true style.
Only they wake up the next day - to find the expensive hotel suite trashed, various unwanted and unwelcome surprises in the room - and perhaps, worst of all, the groom is nowhere to be seen.
The trio of Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis) and Phil (Cooper) decide to start retracing their steps to find the missing Mr-to-be before it's too late.
However, the further they delve, the more they realize they're in big trouble...
Vegas, baby - the retreat of so many middle aged people these days for bachelor parties, it's all becoming a bit clichéd.
And the road trip genre has been done to death as well.
So, what is there about the Hangover which is new?
Well, Todd Phillips (Old School) has assembled a pretty good, relatively unknown (outside of some circles) cast and a pretty amusing script with some great one liners.
And Zach Galifianakis.
His slightly dorky and awkward Alan is the main reason to see this film (although it's closely followed by Ed Helms' Stu, a dentist who can't see his relationship is a mess) - with most of the best (and oddest) lines, his bearded, pot belly attitude helps him steal every scene he's in. And at times, he's borderline idiot savant and rather than just idiot.
The three main actors teeter at points on physical slapstick - a scene in a police station brings to mind The Three Stooges - but all put in such restrained performances with potentially over the top material, that they make this film likeable.
However, as for any other cast, well they're reduced to cameos ( don't even get me started on how wasted Heather Graham was in this.)
A lot of the hilarity comes from the unexpected (which I don't want to spoil the fun of here by pointing out every gag in the film) - but the only real problem with The Hangover is that it's amusing throughout - rather than riotous.

Some of the best laughs come during the end credits - it's a shame that couldn't have been spread throughout.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Terminator: Salvation: Movie Review

Terminator: Salvation: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10 - 9/10 if you like things blowing up, fanboy (or girl) moments
Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Michael Ironside, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: McG
It's 2018 - the world's been annihilated as Skynet continues its purge against the human race.
In this post apocalyptic world, John Connor (Christian Bale) is continuing to lead the resistance - which is growing ever more desperate and despondent as the battles continue to rage.
But Skynet decides the way to decisively win the war against Connor is to target his father Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin).
So Connor races against time to save his father and the future.
At the same time, Kyle Reese's befriended by a death row inmate (Sam Worthington) from 2003 who finds himself mysteriously in the future and desperate to find some answers to who and what he is.
Terminator: Salvation is an odd beast - as a Terminator film, it doesn't really work - as a blockbuster film, it's okay with plenty of things exploding in widescreen and plenty of action sequences.
There's much to admire in this film - some of the action sequences are superb; but for every moment that has you admiring what they've done, there's an equal myriad of celluloid scenes which scupper your enthusiasm.
McG's created a brilliant vision of the world post nuclear holocaust - he's bleached the desert scenes so that it's a desolate white - but while you're admiring that, he shows us an industrial world which is riddled with stereotypes and with random fireballs shooting into the sky.
As for the cast, they're all pretty impressive - Anton Yelchin is good as Reese (although he's a little underused); Bale is all gravelly voiced resistance fighter and world weary as the so called saviour of the world.
However, the film belongs to Sam Worthington's character, Marcus Wright.
Worthington spends most of the film looking for answers - even though the audience's already guessed what he is - but it's this turn which should, if there's any justice, see him given a much higher profile.
McG's made a film which will have the real Terminator fans impressed with some of his vision (and some nice cameos for fans of the genre) but many will feel overall it's a little lacking.
Granted, there could have been a bit more done to tweak the plot (and improve some of the frankly atrocious dialogue) but he's created a very real vision of what the world could be - and his high octane action sequences are visually stunning and enthralling.

Just a shame it doesn't hold up to the cancelled far too early Sarah Connor Chronicles - which managed a lot more with character and on a TV budget.