Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Sex and the City

Fans of the show are going to love it.

I’ve got to be honest I’m a little jealous; here’s a film where the creators have genuinely made it for the fans. They haven’t taken some concept or franchise with a fan base and then diluted it, added extra parts to appeal to a larger audience, they’ve delivered on every front and is exactly what you’d expect of a “Sex and the City” movie.

I wish other properties were shown similar respect (I’m looking at you Lucus).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a huge fan of the series and I thought the film was just ok. So if you don’t like the series, there is no way in hell you’re going to like this movie. But what annoys me is wouldn’t you love it if the creators of your beloved franchises showed the same respect to you, and didn’t destroy your fave films by making another unjustified sequel and cramming it with un-needed extras.

There is no extra “unique” creation or story development in SATC to try harder or increase the fan base; it’s just “exactly what it says on the tin” fan filled entertainment. Presumably that was the aim, and in that regard it’s hard to fault in any area, this is perfect film-making for any fan.

I saw it with 3 girls who are all fans and they all loved it, and judging by the (majority women) filled cinema they loved every second of it too.

I’m not going to elaborate on the story or anything like that, as it is basically a 2 hour episode, but Kristin Davies does get naked in the shower so it got an extra point for that.

But this really deserves two film scores.

Fans – 10/10
Non-Fans – 6/10

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Friday, 23 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Last Crusade should most definitely have been the Last Crusade!

For a die-hard Indy fan - Disappointed, would be an understatement.

Shocked and what the hell just happened?? Is a little closer to the mark.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, just read the non-spoiler paragraph next.

I really can’t understand the thought process of George Lucus & Steven Speilberg, how anyone could think this was a good idea is beyond me. They had 19 years to get the story right and if this was the best they could come up with, then what was the point? Topped with the fact none of the actors even try to look bothered during the whole film. It just looks like everyone is going through the motions. There are some cool bits, but not nearly enough to justify the existence of this movie.

I can’t really say anymore without spoilers, and no matter what I say you’ll probably go and see it anyway. But it’s probably best to close your eyes and pretend this never happened.


Now specifics, major spoiler filled review next so don’t read unless you want to have the “surprises” ruined.

One large problem that plagues the entire movie is how it’s filmed. Now I know it was filmed in a similar style to the old three films, using similar cinematography, etc, so as to not make a huge contrast between them. And this works fine in theory for all the practical effects of the film, but when used in combination with CGI (of which there is a lot), it makes it look ridiculous. Using old style lighting and camera work with CGI looks appalling, and every special effect has a weird overly bright blooming effect that just doesn’t fit with rest of film.

A lot of the special effects are also in areas where I can’t understand why they wouldn’t do it for real. Or if it wasn’t possible, why bother doing it at all?!

That is a general problem, and for all the talk Speilberg gave about using practical effects, that was an out-right lie. The last ten minutes is virtually all CGI and shot on green screen and looks completely out of place, Indiana Jones virtually jumps into a computer game.

There are two shots that are technically brilliant though, Indy looking at the nuke cloud and the flying saucer taking off at the end (yes you read that right), but they both look like they should be in another movie in order to appreciate them.

Well some good things - the opening action sequence in the warehouse and the motorbike chase through the campus are both cool, but again are the two sequences that don’t use CGI, and parts of the jungle car chase/ant attack are fun (minus the monkeys and the Tarzan imitation). But these two/three parts are the highlights.

(Don’t get me wrong I usually love CGI in films, but the majority of this just looks so bad it ruins the experience.)

There are bits and pieces throughout the entire film that are cool, and I thought “that’s a good idea”, like Marion slamming the breaks on causing Spalko to roll over the jeep bonnet and grab the turret gun, the ants climbing up each other, Indiana running across the wooden frames in the warehouse, blowing the poison dart back at the grave indians or climbing through the car during the motorbike chase.

But then you have Mutt swinging through a computer game jungle with monkeys, the entire end sequence filled with aliens and a teleportation device, Indy surviving a nuke by hiding in a fridge without even gaining a scratch, crotch shots from cgi plants, surviving three waterfall drops without even gasping for air and a f***ing flying saucer coming out of the ground for no reason what-so-ever!!

It’s point like that that leave you in utter disbelief and “How the heck did they think that was a good idea” or “what the hell is that doing in an Indiana Jones film?”

George Lucus if you want to make some 50’s style “Saucer Men from Mars” B-Movie create another character to do it with, don’t mess with Indy.

See the film follows the basic structure of the other Indy films, but this MacGuffin and conclusion are just awful and so not a part of the Indy world. There’s a flippin full life alien in an Indiana Jones film for Christ sake!! Indy discovering a long lost civilisation of dinosaurs would have worked ten times better than that.

The acting isn’t much better, no one seems particularly bothered about what’s happening, they see a huge flying saucer, survive falling off mile high cliffs and everyone is just like “Yeah, whatever, happens all the time. Let’s laugh about this great family day out.”

Harrison as Indy was a bit inconsistent, sometimes he was classic Indiana rolling with punches and making the right expressions, and other times he was just regular Harrison Ford which to be honest felt awkward, especially when jokes fell flat. Even when Indy finds out about Mutt being his son, he just makes jokes about it and makes stupid grins for the next half hour. Right so you’re now a cartoon version of your younger self??

The classic get up, didn’t seem to fit him either, it was like watching your granddad in a fancy dress “one-size-fits-all” Indy outfit. In the other films, they felt just like regular clothes, now it was like he was putting on his super-hero outfit.

An even bigger problem is the majority of the characters aren’t even needed, Mutt and Marion are pretty much just along for the ride, and they serve no purpose what-so-ever.

Shia Lebeouf as Mutt Williams (Indy’s son) wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t particularly amazing either and I’d have no desire to see him lead his own franchise or continuation of this one. But hey, if I got asked by George Lucus and Steven Speilberg to be in Indy 4 I’d have done it too!

The alien storyline was pretty weak but could have been passable if it wasn’t for the ridiculous out of this world (literally) ending. If they’d just kept it to alien relics, instead of actually bringing them to life, or used a earlier idea mentioned in the film of children having they’re skull elongated, then it could have worked. But as it stands you’re left with a big “What the f***?! They didn’t just do that did they?”

I’m a die-hard Indy fan and really wanted to enjoy this, but I can’t, I’ll go and see it again with much lowered expectations and see what I think of it then. But I can’t see it holding up over time against the other 3, it’s a forgettable film with a few nice touches but essentially wasn’t needed.

They should have very much left this trilogy alone. At least with Rambo and Die Hard they seemed to know what they were doing.

- Update –

Having seen it a second time this weekend, I have come to realise I was probably overly harsh in my initial opinion of it. This was due to my overly high expectations from a 19 yearlong wait, a few miss-steps in the film that drew my pessimistic focus and ruined the film for me and the fact it has the burden of having to live up to the other Indy sequels (I love TOD and LC equally but for different reasons).

I did enjoy it much more the second time, though I still absolutely hate the monkey swing sequence, it looks completely fake and out of place in the contexts of the film and the original trilogy, and the needless over-use of CGI for 3 minutes of the inner temple destruction (portal machine) and aliens at the end.

If it wasn’t for these two sections I think it would hold up a lot better and sit comfortably with the original films. Even though the nuclear test (fridge escape) and triple waterfall drop are a little too much I can kind of accept them.

I absolutely love the opening action sequence in the warehouse, the bike campus-chase, jungle jeep chase and the giant ants. I really got into these sequences the second time and found them much more impressive.

And Harrison Ford felt more like Indy for the duration this time, don’t ask me why…

So I guess I can’t really hate a 2hour ten minute film for what probably amounts to 5 minutes of problems with CGI (even though they still severely tarnish the film).

It’s an enjoyable film, not as bad as my initial “over-hyped self” thought, but still not entirely necessary and not in the same league as the first three.

Revised review score:

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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Speed Racer

Go. Speed. Go.

Where do you begin with a film like this, a film that from a distance looks like a combination of LSD covered skittles, dipped in sugar and candy floss, topped with hundreds and thousands.

Well, it’s probably a good idea to get it out of the way and just say I liked it, though I can see why a lot of people won’t and because of this I am very surprised it got made in the first place (Especially at the cost). A main-stream budget ($125mil +) with a very indy audience.

As a review, it’d be best to review each individual area on it’s own merits.

Special Effects – the main focus, as virtually the whole film is one big special effect. They are spectacular, though an acquired taste. If you’ve seen the trailers, then you’ll already know whether you’re into it or not. Everything is very big, bold, full of primary colours and intentionally cartoony.

All excellent and cutting edge stuff, with camera moves that swirl around the race and then spin for a close-up of the driver in one prolonged action. You’d be hard pressed to find better CGI in a film this year. But bare in mind you can’t judge the quality of these effects on realism as that’s not what their going for. The races and the backgrounds are all amazing in their bubble-gum way.

Characters/Actors – All the actors play their respective parts well, though again some of the performance may seem wooden and/or outlandish, but again it’s the imitation of a cartoon world, so you either get it or you don’t.

Saying that though, a lot of the film is about the Racer family and their values, and key emotional scenes between Speed and his parents are very well acted and not cartoony in the slightest.

Oh and Christina Ricci as Trixie is to die for…

Story – The story overall is relatively simple, I’m not going to ruin it for you but essentially it’s about racing, family values and corporate greed.

This is where the film weakens a bit, as for a film that is aimed at 10 year olds, there are some very long stretches of dialogue that focus on business, economics and corporations. These sections could have been trimmed and compared to the all out cartoony mayhem that occurs during the races, these parts really slam the breaks on and slow the story.

I didn’t mind these sections, but a CEO giving a 5 minute lecture about share prices in a “kids” film seems a bit out of place.

This does however build to a very tense climatic race, with the introduction as Speed walks out being my favourite part of the film.

Music – Complimenting the visuals, it’s crazy, exciting and uplifting, and gives the races an extra oomph.

Overall, I enjoyed the film minus a few odd steps with the economic lessons mid-way. It is definitely a marmite situation though, you’ll either love it or hate it. Check out the trailer, if you think “What the f***?!” when you see it, the films probably not for you, but if it intrigues you and you think it looks new and exciting, see it in the cinema!!


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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Iron Man

Fun, Slick, Exciting, Incredible.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) really is the guy most boys want to be when they grow up, charming, sophisticated, rich, handsome, has supermodels dropping at his feet, oh and all of this is before he even becomes a super-hero.

Downey is by far Iron Man’s greatest strength, the film rests on his shoulders with ease and every scene with him flies by as he’s such a joy to watch. He’s the perfect choice for the character and in more ways then one, as I’m sure the sequels will reveal…

To add to this, you have an amazing cast of characters to back him up with Gweneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges all playing magnificent parts and bring life to this comic-book world.

The action sequence are fun, fantastic and keep a sense of realism to them all at the same time, which allows you to get absorbed into the world without ever thinking to yourself “that’s not possible.”

The story is strong, yet balances the origin of our hero with the birth of a villain a bit unevenly. The main problem is that the origin story is by far the focus (and is very strong), but being a summer-blockbuster it has to have a climatic fight at the end and the creation of Iron-Monger feels a tad rushed in comparison to the excellence of the Tonk Starks story. But that’s a minor quibble.

The special effects are a combination of CGI and practial, and ILM have blantantly used the same technology originally created for Transformers for Iron Man’s suit, this isn’t a bad thing though and looks amazing.

My only problem with Iron Man (and this isn’t the films fault itself) was the trailer! You see, the trailer basically set out the whole movie in chronological order in 2 and half minutes. Therefore, whilst watching the film, I did sometimes feel like I’d seen it all before and knew what was going to happen. The worst case being Stark’s capture in the middle-east, as I already knew how he was going to escape, etc. Obviously this is my own fault, but nonetheless it did effect my viewing slightly.

I can’t hold this against the film per se, just maybe the marketing department!

Definitely top rate entertainment, that is a combination of classic James Bond and a super-hero film, highly recommended.


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Sunday, 18 May 2008

First Look at Two-Face from Dark Knight!!!

The real new TWO-FACE!!! This looks like a concept art (so obv not a screen cap from the movie), but if this is what the final version looks like, then hell yeah! Everything about this movie reeks of awesomeness!

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