Showing posts with label 2010. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2010. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dinner for Schmucks

Based on a French comedy called Le Dîner de Cons, 2010’s Dinner for Schmucks is a politically incorrect screwball comedy. Featuring likeable leads and an overstretched central idea, the film stars Paul Rudd as ambitious financial executive called Tim Conrad. After impressing his managers, Tim is invited to an exclusive dinner which he hopes will lead to a long overdue promotion. The only catch is that each guest must bring a plus one, chosen for their ability to compete for the prize of ‘biggest loser’. Tim’s in two minds about attending the insensitive dinner but when he literally runs into the sweet but simple squirrel taxidermist Barry Speck (Steve Carell) and thinks to himself, what’s the worst that could happen?

Despite being a fan of pretty much everyone in front of the camera in this movie, it passed me by until now. I remember its release but the trailers and reviews did nothing to pull me to the cinema. It’s not a film I’m gutted to have missed three years ago but I came out the other side thinking that it was an average comedy which was short on laughs and story but enjoyable nonetheless.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dinocroc vs. Supergator

Last week, friend and fellow blogger Richard (of I Liked That Film) produced a DVD from his bag and passed it to me. He told me to watch it and said it’s rubbish. Over the last year or so, a succession of films has passed between the two of us with each attempting to increase the other’s cineliteracy. This time though, I thought he was taking the piss as the film he presented me with was called Dinocroc vs. Supergator. I was briefly told about one or two terrible scenes and like you do when you receive socks for Christmas, I smiled politely, said thank you and tucked the film into my own bag. Despite having just bought Rome Open City and Breathless the day before, it was this that found its way into my DVD player first. Perhaps it was curiosity or maybe it was similar to how you eat the vegetables before saving the steak until last but I watched it first. And it’s awful. I’ve seen some bad films before but this is up there with the worst.

The plot is very simple. An unscrupulous biotech company is developing super crops on a Hawaiian Island. Secretly they are also using the methods they’ve discovered to grow animals. For some reason a Dinocroc and Supergator escape and eat most of the scientists. Then they eat random idiots on various parts of the island before being contained and forced to fight each other by a ramshackle group of local heroes and assorted hangers on.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Date Night

Date Night is a film that I didn’t see at the cinema because little about it appealed to me. The premise seemed weak and having yet to discover 30 Rock, I was unaware of female lead Tina Fey. Having recently watched it when it was on television though, I was pleasantly surprised by a film which is much funnier than I had anticipated.

Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) are your typical middle aged, middle income family, living in suburban America. Their lives are driven by their children and slight financial difficulty which is imposed by the recent recession. Tired of their usual, hastily organised date nights, the couple decide to head into New York City with the hope of snagging a highly sort after table in a swanky Tribeca restaurant. Unable to book under their own name, Phil takes the reservations of another couple who fail to show and their mistaken identity leads them down a path of deception and danger when they discover that a gangster is out for blood.

Date Night is driven by some likeable leads, delivering highly improvised and very funny dialogue around the conceit of a story which is fairly basic but something I haven’t seen before. The movie occasionally runs out of steam and relies on silly action set pieces to reinvigorate the plot but there’s also a lot in the film which is relatable to people who are in long term relationships.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Despicable Me

This will be just a very quick review and I’ll be honest from the start, I didn’t give the movie my full attention. After no interest or excitement from the first half an hour I did something I never do and let the film continue in the background while I caught up on reading some of my favourite blogs. As a result there is a good chance that I missed things in Despicable Me. The film centres on an evil super villain called Gru (Steve Carell) who adopts three young girls in order to help him steal the Moon and win the approval of his mother.

I found there was little to laugh at during the film and I wasn’t able to engage with the story. I’d heard that the little minions were good fun and have since been given their own spin off but they did nothing for me. There was little inventiveness in the story despite the inventions of the various villains. The voice acting was fine and the animation was good although I didn’t like its style. Overall Despicable Me wasn’t a film I enjoyed but don’t feel qualified to give it a rating out of 10 as I didn’t pay enough attention to it. I wish I hadn’t started watching it because it was a waste of 90 minutes. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013


In the hours after the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, mother Yuan Ni (Fan Xu) is forced to make a horrific choice between saving either her son (Jiajun Zhang) or daughter (Zi-feng Zhang) from the rubble of their former home. With both children trapped under opposite ends of the same slab of concrete, the rescuers can only get one out alive. After making the hardest choice imaginable, Yuan and her badly injured son leave the city with the rescuers returning three years later to restart their lives. What neither of them know however is that the presumed dead daughter survived and was adopted by two of the soldiers who helped with the rescue effort.

I wasn’t aware of this film until a couple of weeks ago when I was talking about The Impossible at work and The Wizard mentioned to me that the plot sounded remarkably similar to a Chinese film he owned. He lent me the movie and while the two films do share certain thematic similarities, they are very different and excel in different areas. Whereas for me The Impossible’s strongest moments came in the moments of disaster, Aftershock isn’t so strong in those moments but the following hour and a half is very good.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

A couple of Christmases ago I took a punt on a film I knew very little about on a trip to our local, and excellent, Art House Cinema; Cornerhouse in Manchester. The film was Rare Exports and the gamble paid off. Rare Exports is the sort of oddly engaging and original film which only comes around a couple of times a year. The story was daring and unique and the acting, cinematography and direction were all excellent too. Fast forward almost exactly two years and I watched the film for a second time and while I still enjoyed the unusual Fairy tail like story and darkly comic script, some of the shock and awe which accompanied my first viewing had dissipated.

On the Finnish side of the Finland-Russia border, high in the Arctic Circle, a team of foreign scientists and excavators are carrying out experiments on top of a mountain which overlooks a small village home to Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila). The head of the excavation one day announces that they have unearthed the largest burial mound on the planet, something which Pietari believes may be the final resting place of Santa Claus, and not the Americanised Coca-cola Santa but the original, child eating Santa. Pietari’s suspicions begin to take further shape when first all the Reindeer are found slaughtered and then the local children begin disappearing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

My Name is Khan

My Name is Khan is a film that comes tantalisingly close to perfection but misses out due to a mixture of a disappointing third act over simplified view of the world. Nevertheless it is an excellent film, telling the story of a pre and post-9/11 world through the eyes of Indian’s living in America.

Rizwan Khan (Shahrukh Khan) is a mildly autistic Muslim man who moves to America after the death of his mother in India. There, he meets and falls in love with a Hindu woman Mandira (Kajol) who works as a successful hairdresser in San Francisco. The film is split into three very distinct acts with the first being an often light hearted, cute and funny look at romance, tolerance and love. Khan says that the western world views history in two epochs; BC and AD but he would add a third, 9/11. Following 9/11 the lives of the Indian characters, whether Sikh, Hindu or Muslim change for the worse as racial profiling, racist attacks and xenophobia takes hold thanks to the anti-Muslim hysteria of the post-9/11 world. There is an appalling tragedy around the halfway mark which sets up the third act in which Khan travels America to meet the President and tell him “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Beautiful Lies

"I don't want to love someone else. Understand? I just want to be sad"

Known in some countries by the titles Full Treatment or De vrais mensonges, Beautiful Lies is a French romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou. Emilie (Tautou) is the co-owner of a new Salon in the beautiful seaside town of Sète. She receives an anonymous love letter which is actually from the Salon maintenance man Jean (Sami Bouajila). Jean is head over heels in love with Emilie but besides the anonymous letter hasn’t let his feelings be known to anyone. Emilie briefly reads the letter but throws it away then meets her mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye). Maddy has lost her spark and is depressed about her failed marriage. Emilie decides that to cheer her mother up she will take the love letter from the bin, type it up and post it to her mother’s address. This brings Maddy back to life and she begins her quest to discover its sender. What follows is a series of confused misunderstandings as the man ends up caught in a love triangle with mother and daughter.

Beautiful Lies is a frothy and often very funny romantic comedy which features some great performances from the principle cast.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


A newly famous actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) spends his days drinking, taking pills and having casual sex with a string of beautiful women while residing at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Occasionally he will be called to give an interview or sent to a photo shoot with a co-star but usually he has his days to himself, sometimes hanging out with his school friend Sammy (Chris Pontius). One day he receives an unexpected visit from his eleven year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) whose stay challenges his lifestyle.
The film can be seen in a semi autobiographic sense as director Sofia Coppola spent much of her childhood following her father Frances Ford around the world for film making and press. Cleo can be seen as a version of herself while Johnny is the archetypal star for whom life has become easy and boring. The main problem with the film is that we, the audience, are meant to feel sorry for Johnny but I did not.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Benda Bilili!

Benda Bilili! Is a 2010 documentary about a group of disabled musicians from Kinshasa, Congo who use rudimentary and hand made instruments to produce wonderful rumba and reggae music. The band are followed from 2004 to 2010 by French film makers Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye as they progress from living on the streets and practicing at the city’s zoo to recording an album and touring Europe. The film focuses on the struggles of the various members and those around them and upon their influence in the city and especially on the young street kids who follow and assist them.
The band use strange hand peddled tricycles to get about as most of the members suffer from Polio and are unable to walk. Their songs are about their lives on the streets from being laughed at for being handicapped to songs about sleeping on cardboard. Bad things keep coming at the various members but they never let it get them down and remain focused on making a better life for themselves and their families. In one scene, the leader of the band Staff Benda Bilili a street papa called Ricky Lickabu receives a call to say that the shack that he has been staying at has been burned down. He simply turns to the camera and says “these things happen in life”. He is later seen sleeping on the street with his wife and four children.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Expendables

"First of all, I don't feel comfortable talking business with a giant carrying a shotgun"

The Expendables are a group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) who are sent by CIA Operative ‘Church’ (Bruce Willis) to overthrow a Latin American Dictator, General Garza (David Zayas) who is in reality a puppet of ex-CIA man James Munroe (Eric Roberts). Joining Ross on the mission is ex SAS man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Martial Art expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), sniper Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), weapons specialist Caesar (Terry Crews) and demolitions expert Toll Road (Randy Couture). The team may be a little long in the tooth but they still pack a punch and the fate of a country is in their hands.

I’ve been watching a lot of 80s films recently so it’s quite apt that I’ve watched this which although made in 2010, is well and truly grounded in the 1980s. Most of its stars made their names in the action movies of the period and they are joined by the action heroes of today. It’s an impressive action movie cast, a bit like a corny version of The Avengers only with fewer superpowers and more muscle.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Norwegian Wood

"What if I can't get wet ever again?"

Set in 1960s Japan, Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori) is a film about depression, loss and sexuality. After his best friend Kizuki commits suicide aged 17, Watanabe (Ken-ichi Matsuyama) moves to Tokyo and enrols at University in an attempt to escape the depressing nature of his home town. By chance one day he meets his dead friend’s ex-girlfriend Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) and the two begin a loving but strained relationship. Naoko has never truly got over the death of Kizuki and one day disappears, eventually turning up in a sanatorium deep in the forest. Watanabe tries to maintain both a friendly and sexual relationship with the depressed Naoko but this is made difficult by her mental state and the introduction of the outgoing and self confident Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) who vies for Watanabe’s affections.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

A group of typical college students are on their way through the isolated West Virginian wilderness when they come across a couple of Red Necks. Afraid, they scarper and set up camp near a lake. The Red Necks, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) have recently bought an old cabin and are in the area to do some fishing and maintenance. That night the kids go skinny dipping and one of them (Katrina Bowden) falls in banging her head. Dale and Tucker come to her rescue and pull her aboard their boat. The other kids see this and believe she is being kidnapped and formulate a plan to get her back and enact their revenge.

The film is a nice twist and reverse of the classic kids in the woods surrounded by hillbillies film but is unfortunately usurped in its originality by The Cabin in the Woods. The idea itself is clever and interesting, it’s nice to have a look at the oftold story from the hillbilly perspective but after forty minutes I’d had enough. I laughed a couple of times in the opening minutes but overall found the film unfunny and boring. After the opening twist there is little else of interest and the plot becomes predictable and dull.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Little White Lies

2010’s Little White Lies is a French Comedy-Drama from actor/director Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) and stars an ensemble cast of the great and the good of French cinema in a story about love, friendship and lies.

The film begins in a Paris night club where Ludo (Jean Dujardin – The Artist) is drinking. On his way home his scooter is hit by a lorry and he is left with severe injuries. After visiting him in hospital, his close group of friends decide that they will continue with their yearly tradition of holidaying at hotel owner Max’s (Francois Cluzet – Tell No One) holiday home near Bordeaux in spite of Ludo’s inability to join them. Seven friends set off for two weeks, leaving Ludo in the Paris hospital. There is plenty of eating, drinking and boating but also tension in the group for various reasons, all of which are played out and resolved over the 154 minute run time.

The film features some extraordinarily stereotyped characters. Of the women there is an Earth Mother type (Valérie Bonneton), a free spirit, arty one (Marion Cotillard) and a sexually frustrated wife/mother (Pascale Arbillot). Of the male characters there is the drug taking, party boy (Dujardin), playboy, arrogant actor (Gilles Lellouche – Adele Blanc-sec), the rich obsessive (Cluzet), the neurotic (Laurent Lafitte) and the sexually confused husband (Benoît Magimel). There are some fantastic actors in that bunch and some of them are spectacular in the film but all of the characters are badly drawn and stereotypical.

The story intertwines and proceeds at a steady pace. It is interesting to watch and like being a fly on the wall at an extended middle class dinner party. The film almost invites the audience in as one of the friends and makes you want to be part of the group. There are nice little side stories with each character spending time with each other and each having their own problems and issues, some of which are more volatile than others. The script isn’t particularly funny but the film most definitely is. The humour comes from the awkwardness of certain situations and the actor’s physical reactions to the dialogue, mostly in the form of surprised looks and glaring glances. Every now and then a secondary character will pop in for a few minutes which helps to add to the realism of the story.

The acting is fantastic across the board with Bonneton and Lellouche receiving Cesar nominations for their efforts. Personally I thought that Cluzet stood out more and Cotillard was very understated but fiery when she needed to be. Dujardin is also very good in a smaller role than the others. Either way, the film is an acting master class. One thing that perhaps helped with the acting and also helped to make the film feel so realistic are the actor’s relationships with each other. Cluzet and Bonneton are married, Cotillard is married to the director Canet and Cluzet, Lellouche and Canet worked together on Tell No One. These pre-existing working and personal relationships must have helped the director and cast to feel at ease while working together and it definitely shows up on film. It feels like everyone had fun making the film.   

One thing that nearly ruined the film for me is the music. The choice of music is diabolical. The director has chosen music to intensify the audience’s emotions but in doing so is treating his audience like idiots. Each time there is a sad scene some mushy, American Ballard is played and when we need to be uplifted we get some sort of happy, funky pop. Its shocking how bad the music is and the director might as well have just had flashing red letters on the screen reading ‘LAUGH NOW’ or ‘BE SAD’ at the appropriate moments. I can’t tell you how much this irked me and it honestly came close to ruining an otherwise decent film.

Overall this is an admirable film which features an engaging story and fantastic acting. It is both funny and sad and feels incredibly realistic. It is too long however and makes use of some terrible music.  


Friday, 6 April 2012

The Man from Nowhere

The Man from Nowhere was the highest grossing Korean film of 2010 and is the second film from writer/director Lee Jeong-beom. It stars Won Bin (Mother) as Cha Tae-sik, an ex Black-Ops agent who is now leading a quiet life as a pawn shop owner. His only connection with the outside world is a little girl So-mi (Kim Sae-ron) who pretty much looks after herself as she is neglected by her drug addict mother. While Cha doesn’t really want anything to do with the girl, he occasionally takes her in and feeds her. After So-mi’s mother steals from some drug dealers, she and So-mi are kidnapped. Cha then sets out to bring back the girl and uncovers a dangerous underworld of child slavery and organ harvesting.

There are parallels here with Leon in that the story revolves around a cool, calm killer and a little girl who tries to befriend him. Their relationship at the beginning of the film is also similar with both male characters trying to help a stray little girl but without getting too involved. From then on, apart from trying to protect and save the girls, the two films are very different. This is much, much darker than Leon and is not about hit men but another, seedier side of the underworld.

The story was very good and kept me interested but I wasn’t as gripped as I had been while watching some other Korean thrillers such as The Chaser or I Saw the Devil. The film is very good, but for me it isn’t quite in their league. As with those films, and many other Korean thrillers, it is chilling and features some quite horrific scenes. They are cut in such a way that they aren’t quite as gruesome as the likes of I Saw the Devil or Bedevilled but nonetheless, what is implied is often much worse.

The two lead actors are brilliant. Won Bin shows a completely different side to the one I witnessed in Mother. It is like watching a different actor. Kim Sae-ron, only ten years old when the film was released, is outstanding, showing maturity beyond her years in a difficult and edgy role. Thanayong Wongtrakul also deserves special mention for his acting and fighting skills. Lee Jeong-beom’s direction is fairly conventional but still noticeably Korean. Everything is very crisp, clean and beautifully framed. The director also uses an interesting colour palate in the underworld scenes which give the impression of a washed out world.

There is a fight scene towards the end which is reminiscent of the corridor scene in Oldboy. Cha takes on a horde of henchmen in a well choreographed battle set inside a beautiful Roman looking ballroom. It ends with an even better fight scene, a showdown between Cha and the Vietnamese street thug played by Wongtrakul.

As usual with an interesting and successful Asian film, a Hollywood remake is in pre production. I’m not sure that it will translate well to a mass Western audience due to the dark themes and excessive blood letting. A watered down version would also be a mistake.

The film pulls on the heart strings throughout and is more emotional than your average thriller. It is edgy and beautiful, interesting and well made but a slight step down from the best that Korea has produced in the last ten years. 


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Morning Glory

Morning Glory is a 2010 comedy (apparently) drama set in New York. Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is an up and coming TV News producer who loses her job on a New Jersey TV show due to budget cuts. She lands a job in New York City at Daybreak, a national morning network show which is struggling with poor ratings and a lack of funding and direction. Becky sacks the male anchor and tries to get veteran journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to join co anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) in fronting the show. Pomeroy has to accept due to a clause in his contract but makes it clear both on and off air that he is above the show and doesn’t want to be there. Somehow Becky must try to improve the ratings before her boss Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) cancels the show.

Do you think she will manage it? Will Mike Pomeroy come around and save the show? Will Becky end up in a relationship with the hot guy she meets on her first day? Of course she will. The plot is so obvious you might as well have a director’s commentary telling you what is going to happen next. It isn’t just the plot that’s obvious but specific parts of the dialogue. I found myself saying what characters were about to say before they said it. The film treats its audience like idiots, as does the TV show which they are trying to save. It is the kind of sunny, happy, vacuous show that is on some channels in the morning. You know the type. Here in the UK it’s whatever is shitting all over the screen if you tune into ITV in the morning. I was actually routing for the arrogant and grumpy Pomeroy when he tried to inject some current affairs in amongst the stories of psychic pets and celebrity name changes. Occasionally the script will make fun of these types of shows but then go straight back to telling Pomeroy he can’t talk about the news.

The film has one of those terribly annoying and patronising soundtracks which sound like a tampon advert. Every time Becky makes strides we get some uplifting warbling from Natasha Bedingfield and then some slow schmaltz when she hits hard times. It’s predictable and lazy.

There are so many idiotic problems with the film. After losing her job, Becky is offered a job in NYC which is one of the most expensive cities in the world. She is told she will be earning half what she earned in New Jersey but moves in to an apartment that is large enough to swing several cats. Also, while she is still on the verge of having her failing show cancelled, she is offered her dream job on The Today Show, which makes no sense. What makes even less sense is that she turns down her dream because Harrison Ford makes a bloody frittata on TV! It’s infuriating. The Daybreak office is unrealistically unkempt. The filmmakers try to get across the idea that the show is in turmoil by having everyone speak at once in a production meeting and showing that the door knobs are broken. I’m pretty sure that even the forth biggest morning show in the richest nation on earth could replace a couple of f***ing door knobs! This film is so stupid!

This is a truly terrible film but is partially salvaged by four excellent actors. At least three of them should have gone nowhere near it but nonetheless, all four are good. Rachel McAdams is affable as Becky. This is a role she is comfortable in but has done many times before and since. Diane Keaton is believable as a news anchor and Jeff Goldbum is good in a very small role but is by no means stretched. The standout is Harrison Ford though who, although playing a version of himself brings some gravitas to the film. His character really seems like he doesn’t want to be there, but that could just be the actor’s emotions showing through. Patrick Wilson also features but has so little to do it is hardly worth mentioning him. He basically has to flirt with Rachel McAdams and act sad when she thinks about work too much.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone. Even for fans of the normal Rachel McAdams rom-com type films, this would be disappointing. It isn’t funny, nor is the idea interesting. The romantic storyline feels like it was added on the set and if not for some fine actors paying their bills I wouldn’t have made it to the end. There is nothing to like here.


Saturday, 24 March 2012


"You killed them all, bitch! Why didn't you just kill yourself?"

Bedevilled is a 2010 South Korean horror/thriller from debut director Chul-soo Jang. A young single woman from Seoul called Hae-won (Seong-won Ji) is ordered to take time off from her job in a bank after slapping a colleague and visits the small, backward island that her grandparents lived on when she was a child. When she arrives she becomes reacquainted with Bok-nam (Yeong-hie Seo) a woman she briefly knew as a child and is shocked to find out that she is treated as a virtual slave by the other islanders. She is used as a sexual play thing by the men and for slave labour by the women. Although Hae-won is shocked at the behaviour of the islanders she is reluctant to become involved in their affairs and remains distant from the activities on the island.

After Bok-nam fails in an attempt to escape from the island with her ten year old daughter Yeon-hee (Ji-Eun Lee) she is merciously beaten by her husband. In the insuring violence, Yeon-hee hits her head on a rock and is killed. This marks the beginning of a violent and bloody final act in which Bok-nam finally snaps and takes out her revenge on the small island population.

It should be said at the outset that this is not an easy watch. I started eating a packet of M&Ms as the titles rolled but soon had to put them down. The audience watches as Bok-nam is brutally abused by most of the eight or so island population. She is stripped of all her dignity but still manages to remain hopeful of rescue. Shortly after this rescue fails, the viewing gets even more difficult with more horrific beatings and humiliation for Bok-nam which is then followed by over the top Korean violence which if you are familiar with the likes of I Saw the Devil might not be too shocking but even I who have become accustomed to Korean horror, felt my entire body clench on a number of occasions as the blood started to splatter. On one occasion the entire camera lens is covered with blood as Bok-nam goes about getting her revenge. The violence is met with psychological horror as Bok-nam stops briefly during her rampage to sharpen a scythe and scissors only to then give an elderly islander a haircut. This act is very creepy but provides some calm in an otherwise frantic final half hour. The sound of the steel on the sharpening stone sent shivers down my spine.

Yeong-hie Seo who was excellent in 2008’s The Chaser is even greater here. She has to undergo some quite humiliating acts and is treated like dirt during the first half of the film but manages to maintain an optimistic attitude. Her transformation towards the end is spectacular and bold as she appears to completely lose control. She appears possessed but underneath you can still see some semblance of love and compassion and that is a credit to her as an actress. She is truly terrific. Seong-won Ji is more uneven as the outsider. She sort of floats through the film and is unconvincing in the final scene. The supporting cast are all excellent and manage to come across as backwards, dumb and cruel. They reminded me of the sort of inbred character’s I saw in 2003’s American horror Wrong Turn but with less of a blood lust and more of a cruel superior nature. They really believe that Bok-nam is there to serve them and has no other use.   

The film isn’t as compelling as some of the great Korean thrillers such as Oldboy or Joint Security Area but stands up well on its own as a scary and unsettling genre film. It’s gruesome, troubling and violent but has love at its centre. I look forward to seeing what debut director Chul-soo Jang comes back with next.


Friday, 23 March 2012


Six years ago a NASA probe carrying possible alien life forms crash landed in Mexico. Today, northern Mexico is known as the infected zone and the US and Mexican military are trying to contain the outbreak of 100 foot high aliens. South of the infected zone, photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is on an assignment when he is asked to check on his boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able) who has somehow ended up in a hospital near by. Kaulder’s boss tells him to make sure that Sam gets out of Mexico and the two set off through the infected zone in an attempt to get to the American border.

When I saw this film at the cinema a couple of years ago I was blown away. It was made for only $500,000 with Director Gareth Edwards also shooting the film and doing all of the special effects by him self at home. The finished film looks anything but home made as Edward’s has created depth of field with his cinematography and CGI which rivals all but the best that the big Hollywood Studios produce. It is frankly astonishing that the film was made with such a small budget and looks as good as it does. When I was at the cinema back in 2010 there were a few walk outs and I think it probably has something to do with the film’s title. Monsters is a human story and not a monster movie at all but rather a film which features monsters, and sparingly. The alien creatures provide a backdrop to a relationship drama with political undertones.

The political aspects of the film become more apparent towards the end when the two characters are confronted with a giant wall to get across the border having undergone a dangerous journey to get there. Aside from a few other political moments such as talk of Kaulder being paid handsomely for a photo of a dead child but nothing for a smiling child and people talking of America sealing itself off in its own prison, the main focus of the film is the relationship between the two lead characters who happen to be a couple in real life. This familiarity helps to add to the connection and understanding between the two of them and comes across well on screen. Both actors do a good job of reacting to their surroundings and the ordeal they face. Most of the film’s dialogue was ad-libbed but the finished film is coherent while remaining natural.

Considering the budget and themes I was glad that Edwards stayed away from the found footage formula that more and more low budget films are using these days. It would have been easy for him to have done this as he wouldn’t have had to worry about such high production values but the traditional method that has been used looks wonderful and has earned Edwards the honour of being asked to direct the latest Godzilla remake. I personally think this is a shame because there must be hundreds of directors who are capable of making a monster movie with a $70m budget but there are probably very few who could make one for under $1m as Edwards has proved he can. I’d like to have seen him stick with this method of film making for a few more years.

As I mentioned earlier, the CGI is for the most part excellent, especially considering that it was not an outside Special Effects company that did the 200 plus effects in the film but the director on his own computer. The creatures themselves, though they only appear a handful of times, look spectacular from far away. This is not more so than in a quite superb scene in which two of them appear to be dancing as they either court or mate with the two human characters watching a gasp with tears in their eyes. When we see close ups of the creatures, the effects aren’t so great but the shots of destroyed buildings and downed helicopters are.

One criticism of the film is that it is hard to believe that the aliens who show few signs of the capabilities could have caused as much damage as they have. Another problem is that Sam’s father is incredibly wealthy so why would he ask a photographer to save her rather than chartering a helicopter or something similar? These are only minor faults however in a film which on the whole is a triumph and shows what is possible when a film maker has a vision and the ability to carry it through. With many film makers becoming ever more marginalised by big budget remakes and franchises, we could see more of this type of film making in the coming years and if they’re half as good as Monsters, I for one can’t wait to see them.     


Sunday, 18 March 2012


"All it takes to become a superhero is the choice to fight evil."

2010’s Super is a black comedy/superhero film about a loser called Frank (Rainn Wilson) whose wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) is a recovering drug addict. Despite Frank’s attempts to keep her sober, she leaves him for a charismatic and dangerous club owner called Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After seeing visions and a religious TV show featuring a superhero called the Holy Avenger, Frank decides the best way to clean up the city and win his wife back is to become a superhero himself. He creates a persona and costume and becomes The Crimson Bolt. His methods of crime fighting turn out to be quite un-PC and his only weapon is a wrench which he hits people across the head with, to the catchphrase, “Shut up, crime.” Later he is joined by Libby (Ellen Page), a slightly unbalanced comic book store employee who becomes the Crimson Bolt’s sidekick, Boltie. Together they try to get Sarah back.

Super unfortunately came out in the same year as Kick-Ass which is a far superior film and a film with a larger budget ($28m to $2.5m) and more hype. While the films share a similar idea, they are in fact quite different. Super is a much darker and more unhinged film with themes of religion and mental illness. It is quite strongly hinted that both Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page’s characters have mental problems and is not more apparent than when Page jumps around and screams with delight at cracking someone’s skull open. The film is very violent and deserves its 18 Certificate. As well as the graphic violence there is also racially inappropriate language and laughs at rape, which occurs twice, on one occasion firmly cementing Page’s mental problems.

There are plenty of laughs with most coming from Rainn Wilson. For anyone familiar with his The Office character, here he plays something quite similar. He is geeky and insecure but also has a dangerous religious side to him. He has vivid visions and believes that God talks directly to him as well as asking for signs as to whether he should continue with his path of violence. Ellen Page is also good. She seems totally on edge and you are never quite sure what she will do next. She also looks fantastic in her provocative superhero outfit.

I think this is a fairly good film but could have been so much more. It is true that there have been other Superhero without powers movies (Defendor, Kick-Ass) but I think there is still scope for the genre. The message was quite confusing and it felt rushed and unfinished. It is easy to forget that this is an adult film which makes the violence and language feel surprising and sometimes nasty. We are so used to the 12-A Superhero that it feels odd to see one crack open a skull with a wrench. I’ve had mixed feelings since I finished watching it. On one hand it is darkly funny and interesting but on the other it feels ill-judged and rushed. The performances are good and it is worth seeing for Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page alone.  


Thursday, 15 March 2012


Disney’s 50th feature length animation, Tangled is loosely based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Rapunzel, though obviously without the pregnancy and blindness of the original. In this version the Queen is gravely ill when giving birth to her baby girl and drinks a potion made from a flower grown from a drop of sunlight. The baby is born and her hair contains magical rejuvenate properties. She is snatched from the castle by an evil old woman and kept in a tower where said woman can use her hair to keep herself young… It is eighteen years later and a thief has stolen a crown and whilst running from the King’s Guards stumbles upon Rapunzel’s tower. She forces him to help her find the source of magical floating lights which she sees on the horizon on each of her birthdays and an adventure with romance ensues.  

I am probably about twenty years older than the target audience and with one extra appendage but I can see why young girls would be charmed by the film. There is a cute chameleon, a beautiful princess, a handsome hero and plenty of jokes and sight gags to keep a young child entertained. From my perspective it had some of the magic of an earlier hand drawn Disney animation but has been updated in order to appeal to 21st Century children. No longer is the hero a valiant Prince but a thief and it is the female character who often saves the day. The genre has been subverted and it seems that it is no longer acceptable for the heroin to simply wait for the hero to rescue her but must show that ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’.

The animation is breathtaking. I have a soft spot for the old fashioned, hand drawn style of Snow White and Dumbo but maybe a modern child wouldn’t. Either way the computer generated animation is incredible. It looks wonderful. There is so much detail and the light and shadows look so incredibly real. The characters still maintain the traditional Disney look, the chiseled handsome man and demure, slightly too young looking woman but they’ve updated the look to fit with modern times. One scene in a tavern had all the charm and comedy of an earlier Disney film and was my favourite scene while the lantern scene was simply spectacular.

At $260 million this is the second most expensive movie ever made (after Pirates of the Caribbean 3). I'm a little surprised by this as there were no big name stars, expensive locations or CGI robots etc, but I guess you pay for this quality of animation. And anyway, the film made more than $590 million worldwide so Disney made their money back and then some! Incidentally it cost $60 million more than Toy Story 3 which was released in the same year.

As I said, this film is not aimed at me and I was a bit bored by it. Even a five year old can tell how it will end and the jokes were on the whole not funny to me. Nevertheless I am sure that people born in 2005 will be as charmed and attached to this as children in the 1940’s were by Pinocchio and my generation was by The Lion King. It is far from Disney’s best but also far from its worst and compared to its last ten years output is very good indeed.