Showing posts with label Thomas Heden Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Heden Church. Show all posts

Friday, 1 March 2013


A friend at work recently watched a film and since doing so has been repeating the phrase “I have two guns, one for each of you” over, and over again in a terrible American accent. The film in question is Tombstone, a 1993 Western starring Kurt Russell and office favourite Val ‘the chameleon’ Kilmer. It was lent to me recently by my quoting friend and I watched it this evening. I’ll be honest early on. I’ve never had much time for Westerns and rarely seek them out but I do enjoy a really good one. I also don’t particularly enjoy Val Kilmer on screen (though don’t tell my colleagues). With these facts in mind I wasn’t expecting to get much from Tombstone but I really enjoyed it, thanks largely to a fun, if slightly formulaic script and a fantastic, over the top performance from Val Kilmer.

Tombstone feels very much like a classic Western and looks older than Unforgiven, the Oscar winning movie which is younger by eighteen months. The premature aging doesn’t work against the film but merely gives it a gravitas that I’d associate with a classic Western of the late forties to mid sixties period. Even the plot feels well trodden. Three brothers, one of whom is a former lawman (Kurt Russell) relocate to Tombstone, Arizona with their families in the hope of earning their fortune. It soon becomes clear that the local law is defenceless against a large gang of outlaws who call themselves The Cowboys. Slowly the brothers and their friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) begin to rid Tombstone of the gang but at a high cost of human life.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Killer Joe

"Who's dick is it?"

A young man, Chris (Emile Hirsch) in debt to a drug dealer and his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) decide to hire a contract killer known as Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) to kill Chris’ mother in order to claim $50,000 life insurance money. Unable to pay upfront, Joe suggests taking Chris’ innocent young sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a retainer, something that doesn’t sit easily with Chris.

This is a darkly comic and extremely violent film which is likely to repulse some and delight others. There were several walk outs in the packed screening I was in and many audible gasps as well as perhaps the biggest laugh I’ve ever heard in a cinema. For an example of how it will polarize people I turned to my girlfriend on the way out and said “what did you think?” She replied “I hated it. It was awful. One star”. I on the other hand thought it was excellent.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Spider-Man 3

"Everybody needs help sometimes Peter, even Spider-Man"

The final part of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy finds Peter Parker finally enjoying life. Things are going well for him; he’s top of his class, closer than ever to MJ and still has time to fight crime as Spider-Man. If anything Peter has become over arrogant with his all round success and this comes back to bite him when an extra terrestrial parasite which amplifies the characteristics of its host attaches itself to Peter and turns his Spidey suit black. Now more cocky and arrogant than ever Peter has little time for MJ and they drift apart. At the same time an escaped criminal accidentally ends up in a particle accelerator filled with sand. The sand fuses with his body and turns him into the Sandman – Spider-Man’s latest nemesis.

This is generally regarded to be the worst of the Raimi Spider-Man films but personally I’d put it second, slightly ahead of Spider-Man While there is an enormous amount wrong with the film, I actually think that the story is the strongest of the three. I like how the film looks at Peter Parker’s psychological state and how the alien parasite is able to effect how and who he is. His relationship with Mary Jane becomes fractured after ending on a high in Spider-Man 2 and this creates plenty of drama and commotion. Add this to Harry’s ever growing disdain for Spider-Man and you have the makings of a decent plot. As a result of focussing more on Parker/Spider-Man’s turmoil, the villain characters suffer a little and the Sandman’s back-story is only briefly touched upon. Venom is only really seen in a few scenes as an arrogant up and comer before becoming a super villain.

Monday, 19 March 2012

We Bought a Zoo

I walked seven miles, there and back to watch this film on a quiet Monday afternoon. This should tell you three things; One) I have too much time on my hands, two) I really like Scarlett Johansson and three) I’ve hit rock bottom. I sat in an empty cinema auditorium in the hope that the seven miles would have been worth it. I sat through the Orange advert and the painfully annoying M&Ms/FTRC advert, wishing the film to be worth the trip. Well it wasn’t.

The plot, based on a true story which I was familiar with goes as thus. Recently widowed writer, Benjamin (Matt Damon) is struggling to keep his family on the straight and narrow. He is close to losing his job and has a fourteen year old son who keeps getting into trouble at school. After his son is expelled, Benjamin decides to up sticks and finds a lovely house in the country. The house has one drawback though, it’s a zoo. With the help of a dedicated team which includes Head Zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), Benjamin tries to bring the ailing zoo up to standard before a grand opening in the summer.

I think from the trailer and even my paragraph above, 95% of people could guess how this is going to turn out. There are no shocks or surprises and you can see all the jokes from a mile off. The film over uses the families loss to try to inject heart into the film and I think this is a mistake. It constantly pulls on the heart strings by showing Damon looking at picture after picture of his wife while terrible music plays underneath. We know how hard it must be but the film keeps pulling the audience back to it. The family also only appear to miss the mother at convenient moments which doesn’t feel very realistic. The whole film is also miss-sold by its trailer as a comedy. Pretty much all of the comedic moments are in the trailer and it is much more of a drama.

There are plenty of plot holes here too. Damon’s son Dylan (Colin Ford) is expelled for drawing an inappropriate mural in class which is put up in a corridor anyway along with murals depicting love and recycling etc. Also, Scarlett Johansson’s character complains that she doesn’t have time to see her friends or find a man but spends all of her free time in a small bar at the zoo with the three or four people she works with. The whole story is oversimplified which makes it feel unreal, even though it is based on actual events. Both Benjamin and his son spend half the film oblivious that they both have attractive women after them. I know they’ve just had a loss but come on!

It wasn't all bad...
Neither Matt Damon nor Scarlett Johansson are stretched by these roles and you have to feel that it was just a paycheque for them. Johansson is wasted and Damon’s only good moment comes when he is yelling at his son. He plays the likeable everyman well though. The supporting cast are mixed. Colin Ford is fine as a mopey teenager and Maggie Elizabeth Jones is cute but annoying as Damon’s young daughter. If I was annoyed by the first time she shouted “We bought a zoo”, by the third time I was ready to leave. Elle Fanning who was wonderful in Super 8 was ok but like the stars, not stretched. Her whole character was a bit odd. She plays a thirteen year old who doesn’t go to school but works at the zoo and everyone seems fine with this. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove plays an Estate Agent but I wish his part had been bigger so he could have injected some humour.

The film does pick up in the final few minutes for the sweet ending that we all expected. I’d expected more from an interesting true story and great actors but it is nothing more than mediocre.


Monday, 12 March 2012

John Carter

"Good God... I'm on Mars!"

Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitch) is on the run from the law and takes shelter inside a cave in which he discovers gold. Before he can mine it however a man appears as if from nowhere and attacks him. Carter kills the man and repeats his dying words. Suddenly he is transported to a strange world where he has the ability to jump great distances. He is met by a four armed green man and taken back to his city. To cut a very, very long story short, John Carter has been transported to Mars and gets embroiled in another civil war.

The first thing I have to say about the film is that Disney should never have changed the title to John Carter from John Carter of Mars. This was done for the ridiculous reason that Disney executives believed that the Mars part of the title would put people off as not everyone wants to watch Science Fiction. They were obviously unaware that Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time and that 16 of the top 20 top grossing films of all time contain at least some science fiction or fantasy elements, whether it be Orcs, Wizards or Robots beating each other. The decision makes no sense. All one has to do is see the poster or trailer and it is pretty obvious that it is a sci-fi film. The first word spoken is ‘Mars’ for heavens sake!

As for the film itself, it starts with a funny and exciting chase across the Arizona desert when the action is suddenly transported to Mars which looks realistic (although I’ve never been). Carter meets a Thark which are well designed creatures with a well thought out an interesting culture and story. From then on, I kind of lost interest in the story. Carter meets a beautiful princess (Lynn Collins) who is on one side of the war and he decides to help her. The problem is that you learn very little about the two cultures involved in the Civil War. You have no real reason for backing one over the other except one has a beautiful princess while the other has Dominic West in Xena the Warrior Princess’ hand me downs and a blue laser weapon.

The large battle scenes lack the heat, intensity and passion of say Helms Deep in The Lord of the Rings and are over in a matter of seconds. And because you know so little about the protagonists, they just feel like faceless pixels. The entire quest theme of the film is flat and dull. Carter spends much of the film trying to get back to Earth but the character isn’t interesting enough for you to care if he does or not. The costumes the human like character wear feel very Conan the Barbarian and as a result feel a bit dated and cheap. The film isn’t camp enough to pull the look of the costume off. On the plus side, the design of the film as a whole is excellent. The CGI is also excellent. As I mentioned, the non humanoid aliens look terrific, as does their pet, a dog like creature that happens to be the highlight of the film. The cities look detailed and sumptuous and the ships feel mechanical and real. Unfortunately the film reminded me too much of other, better films such as Star Wars and Gladiator and that just made me think “why am I not watching those instead?”

While the film is really just a simple love story intertwined with the search for ones identity, it is complicated quite a bit by the number of names, species and words which the script creates. Some people have complained about this and while it is a bit confusing and off-putting at times people forgave Star Wars its Jedi, Sith and Midiclorians and Harry Potter’s Dementors, Muggles and Horcruxes so perhaps John Carter deserves a break in this respect. Perhaps the reason it has got so much flack for its Tharks, Xavarians and Sab Thans is because the story isn’t compelling enough for the audience to want to take notice of what all of those things are and understand what they mean. The script itself is ok but hardly in Sorkin territory. There is quite a bit of cheesy dialogue. Usually I’d overlook that in an action sci-fi film but when the writer has also been responsible for penning Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall:E its inexcusable. Andrew Stanton is better than that. His scripts are usually funny, flowing and flawless but that is not the case here.

Taylor Kitch is well cast as John Carter. He pulls of the Civil War veteran part of the role well and his confusion on Mars is funny while he is great in the action sequences. Lynn Collins, although beautiful is wooden as Princess Dejah and Dominic West seems to be playing the bad guy with Flash Gordon levels of camp which unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t have. Perhaps it would have benefited from not taking itself so seriously. Willem Defoe is great as Tars the Thark and Samantha Morton equally excels as his daughter Sola. Mark Strong is scary and intimidating as bad guy Matai Shang. Andrew Stanton’s direction is better than his writing. He makes the leap from animation to live action well and has created a believable world populated at least in part with interesting creatures and characters.

In the end, the film didn’t keep my attention for long enough and the characters lacked the depth to make me worry about their fate. It ends very strongly though and I would go back to the world for a sequel.    

  •  Additional - I have no opinion about the 3D in the film as I've given up with 3D on the whole and saw it in 2D. I'm fed up of paying more for an inferior product.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Easy A

Someone sound the alarm! This film is quirky enough to be reading 8.3 on the Deschanel Scale. The film is the story of a smart but largely unknown high school student called Olive (Emma Stone) who lies about losing her virginity. The lie cascades and changes the way she is perceived at school eventually bringing about trouble in her life and those around her.

I have to say I was quite disappointed with the film. I’d heard very good things and although I probably fall outside its target demographic now at age 26, good teen comedies are still good no matter what age you are. The problem for me is that it isn’t anywhere near funny enough and although it is an interesting idea, it isn’t very interesting. I’m aware that I’m becoming increasingly cynical but a happy ever after ending was never in doubt so I just spent 90 minutes waiting for it. As I said though, it is an interesting idea. The idea that losing your virginity changes the way people see you, judge you and interact with you as well as the way you see yourself is one that merits looking at but the film lets the concept down.

Another problem is that all of the high school students look like they are in their mid twenties. After a quick Google search I discovered that Stone, 21 at the time of release was the youngest of the main High School cast by a couple of years. One of them is 29! Add this to the ridiculous ‘Hollywood’ High School that the characters are in and the backdrop to the story doesn’t feel very real. That being said, the characters are quite well written. There are obvious stereotypes as you’d expect in any teen movie (geeks, jocks, sluts, religious weirdoes) but they are well defined and well written. Olive’s nemesis in particular is a well written and well acted annoying Jesus-person. The acting on the whole is also good. Stone delivers a confident performance that gained the attention of critics and award’s judges and she is surrounded by a decent young cast and experienced older cast which includes Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell and Lisa Kudrow who takes the film past 8.5 on the Deschanel scale. Olive’s family is one of those open, liberal, funny families that could be really annoying but I quite liked them and found most of the film’s laughs in their company.

Part of the film is told with Olive (Stone) talking into her webcam. While blogging etc are obviously popular among young people, I didn’t like it and it felt like a bit of a cop out. It also increased the kooky factor which was already dangerously high. The reason became clear towards the end of the film but it just felt like the film was pandering to its audience. The film plays it safe with the message it delivers regarding sex. Both sides are fairly well presented with the case for abstinence and sex being discussed, but in the end the film plays it down the middle as you’d expect of a mainstream teen movie.

It’s a shame that the film is as dull as it is because there is an interesting story at the heart of it and features a worthy cast, acting admirably. There are just no where near enough laughs and the script is quite weak.