18 August 2009

Danland at the Trailer Park #4 - Hackers (1995)

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Week 4 - Hackers (1995)

17 August 2009

Movie Review: Outlander

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C+

Outlander
2008, 115mins, R
Director: Howard McCain
Writer (s): Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
Cast includes: Jim Caviezel, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Sophia Myles
Release Date: 23rd January 2009


Vikings have been notoriously underserved on the big screen in recent years, the last time a group of ale swilling and axe wielding pillagers featured in a cinema near you was 2007 – the film- “Pathfinder” a depressingly mediocre and unenthused bout of Nordic carnage. Now we’re granted “Outlander” which at least adds space-age back-story and alien dragons to the mix, yet it stills feels that given the periods potential audiences are still being sold a little short. I enjoyed large portions of this effort but by the end it had grown tiresome and the talented cast aren’t really giving it their all in underwritten warrior parts.

After crash-landing in Norway during the year 709 A.D, Kainan (James Caviezel) finds that the deadly cargo he was transporting has been lost. His space craft is destroyed and thus taking what weapons he can salvage he begins to track the terrifying Dragon like Moorwen, following its trail of destruction across the land. However after stumbling upon a village that the alien has desecrated, Kainan is captured via a hunting party led by Wulfric (Jack Huston). They blame him for the Moorwen’s damage and the lives it has claimed, but later the dragon shows itself and attacks the stronghold led by Rothgar (John Hurt). Together the Vikings decide that with the outlander Kainan they will hunt and destroy the Moorwen, taking revenge on the beast for the evil deeds it has committed.

Sounds like a pretty barmy time, huh? Well “Outlander” only partially delivers on it’s whacked out plotline, fans of crazy movies will get solid portions of the undiluted silliness the story seemingly offers but at 115 minutes this romp is unquestionably too long. My patience with “Outlander” had been stretched beyond breaking point by the time Howard McCain decided to call an end to his maxed out Viking epic, had the film ended a quarter of an hour earlier I would have undoubtedly been alot more enamoured with what I’d just seen.

The performances are routine at best and dull at worst, McCain revealing himself as a far from stellar guide for actors. Caviezel isn’t an appalling choice to lead the charge but his offering is little better than average, he plays the strong and silent type adequately but by the same token unremarkably. Something a little more animated might not have done “Outlander” any harm, his quietly spoken and physically imposing shot as an action hero is excessively ordinary in the confines of such a ludicrous screenplay. John Hurt and Ron Perlman are more entertaining as a set of neighbouring warlords whilst much like Caviezel Jack Huston is stunningly so-so as the towns next in line to the throne. However the least impressive cast member is without a doubt British actress Sophia Myles, who fluffs her character from start to finish and cooks up a thoroughly half baked love story with Caviezel. Her interpretation is stunningly generic, the hard bitten daughter of a king having been explored even earlier this year in “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (which incidentally McCain co-wrote).

The romantic elements in “Outlander” are a key problem as not only do they not work but also further the runtime to a notably overlong point, had it all been Viking banter and dragon fuelled carnage then this would have been a hugely more consistent property. The action is well shot and the opening hour moves along at a genuinely exciting and passionate rate, peppered with sword on sword anarchy and some top class creature chaos. The design of the Moorwen actually kept reminding me of the lizard in Roland Emmerich’s unloved “Godzilla” remake from 1998. It’s an imposing looking animal, as you would have to be if the audience is to believe you could give Ron Perlman a case of the shivers.

Clearly with the flourishes of otherworldly imagination (we see the Moorwen planet and the ways of Caviezel’s people) and frantic action “Outlander” had genuine artistic love backing it, the problem is that maybe said love means McCain has taken his monster vs. Marauders tale to unnatural lengths. The climax to “Outlander” follows an excellent set-piece- in which the heroes try to capture the beast- for pacing reasons that sequence would have been a more appropriate end to this venture. Yet McCain soldiers on delivering a bigger but not necessarily as enthralling a climax. Had one of the two final bombastic instances been trimmed and the Myles character dropped this might have been an exquisite dose of B-movie fun. As it stands it’s passable but pretty underwhelming.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

16 August 2009

Movie Review: 17 Again

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B

17 Again
2009, 102mins, PG-13
Director: Burr Steers
Writer: Jason Filardi
Cast includes: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Michelle Trachtenberg, Thomas Lennon, Sterling Knight
Release Date: 17th April 2009


When 2009 climaxes in a few months time it’s unlikely that anyone is going to tout “17 Again” as its best screen endeavour. The film has multiple problems and at its worst runs genre formulas into the ground, there are a handful of instances where those with more than slight exposure to the time travel genre or teen movie construct will find themselves groaning. However that’s not to say it’s a failure because for the vast majority of the picture’s runtime I was immensely entertained. It’s a bright and breezy effort which is particularly suited to the easy going charisma of leading man Zac Efron, for my money “17 Again” is a much superior vehicle to any of the “High School Musical” offerings.

Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) is stuck in a dead end job, reaching the end of a nasty divorce and has absolutely no relationship with his two kids. Looking back he attributes his ugly life to a night in 1989, when at a career spawning basketball match he found out his future wife (Leslie Mann) was pregnant and as a result he ditched his opportunities’ to marry her. Whilst picking his son and daughter (Sterling Knight, Michelle Trachtenberg) up from school he meets a peculiar janitor who (after a serious suspension of disbelief on the audience’s part) allows Mike to relive his youth. Mike’s 40 year old head is stuck in his 17 year old body (Zac Efron), which directly allows him to correct the mistakes he made in his initial high school years. Mike decides to go for the prestige he missed out on, rekindle his failing marriage and help his struggling children along the way.

Despite several glaring moments of genre repetition and a few unwarranted shots of saccharine, “17 Again” is a delightful commodity, made all the more sufferable via a genial and likeable turn from Efron. He’s proved on several platforms that he can sing and dance but with “17 Again” Efron shows solid comedy chops and enough gusto and thespian bravado to hold audience attention for over 90 minutes. Sure he’s not going to land Academy gongs in the near future and for the rabble of teenage girls we’re provided copious amounts of above the belt Efron nudity, but his performance here is remarkably well played and sympathetic. It’s not hard to root for Efron when he shoots out stage presence and charm like some sort of handsome machinegun. The support is solid too, Leslie Mann is fast becoming an audience favourite and her serviceable work here will do little to detract from her growing popularity, whilst as Mike’s nerdish best friend Thomas Lennon scores the lion’s share of the laughs. As Mike’s troubled daughter Trachtenberg isn’t given alot to do and Matthew Perry merely bookends the picture but overall this is a game cast that deliver on their potential.

The screenplay is fabulously witty and features several belly laugh inducing moments, even if at times it can’t help but conjure up scenarios and characters taken from a thousand other Hollywood properties. Those looking for a completely original venture might leave “17 Again” a little disappointed, at times the comedy veers from referentially playful to outright copycatting. “Back to the Future” gets several clear nods and one can’t help but feel a few other body swap pictures might have had some artistic pull over director Steers, and it’s not like the teen stereotypes get forgotten. Yet there is a charm and skill in the writing and acting that allows this charismatic picture to thrive onscreen, it might not be the most unique of its type but “17 Again” is comfortably in the top tier.

The character development feels genuine and rewarding, nicely broken up by several infectiously joyful moments of comedic banter. A sex-Ed class is mined for several chortles whilst Efron’s well natured shtick and Lennon’s goofing go a long way in creating a credible laugh quota. One might debate that “17 Again” suffers from a character too many but most of the key relationships are well crafted by writer Filardi, the 102 minute runtime nicely filled out by the cocktail of giggles and beefier moments of emotional growth and understanding. It’s not like “17 Again” ploughs the human psyche in massively new and interesting ways but it certainly takes time to create characters we care about and present a hero who like.

As a consequence of the film’s emotional bent it occasionally moves into overly sugary waters, but it’s a forgivable sin given the admirably earnest and consistent laugh flow that “17 Again” also offers. Efron’s dabble with time travel is unlikely to be held in the same regard as Michael. J Fox’s or even that of Tom Hanks, but it’s a pleasant and mostly wholesome way to spend 100 minutes anyhow. Plus if your teenage daughter is giving a little too much lip, a dose of Efron should keep her fixated (and quiet) for a little while. Sounds like a recommendation if ever I’ve heard one.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

14 August 2009

Movie Review: The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

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D+

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
2009, 103mins, R
Director: Tony Scott
Writer (s): Brian Helgeland, John Godey (novel)
Cast includes: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzman, John Turturro, James Gandolfini, Ramon Rodriguez
Release Date: 12th June 2009

“The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” is a severely disappointing addition to summer 2009. Those who fostered high hopes of Tony Scott delivering a subtle or intricate retelling of this story were fools to begin with but there was always the off chance the uber-kinetic director might create something that at least bordered on exciting. However what is actually served up is a frenzied and over directed piece of nonsense, hardly descriptions to which Scott is a stranger. His rendition does include some interesting conversations between protagonist and villain with a few snippets of tension as a consequence, but overall this is a badly directed and blurred slice of ADD filmmaking rather than the summer blockbuster it’s being sold as.

“Pelham” opens with one of the least impressive pre-credits sequences I can remember, its mix of ear shredding hip-hop, slow motion and swerving camera jumps instantly reminding you of the technical horrors to which Tony Scott so often unleashes. At least by the end of them the plot has been fully set-up, a crazed sociopath going by the name Ryder (John Travolta) has taken hostage a train carriage and as a result the 18 people within it. Radioing back to the dispatcher on duty, in this case the unfortunate Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), he makes his demands and the consequences of neglecting them clear. He wants $10,000 000 within an hour and for every minute that the City is late with the money, he’ll kill one of prisoners. The Mayor (James Gandolfini) and a negotiating specialist (John Turturro) are drafted in to help solve the matter, but Ryder is interested in communicating only with Garber and thus the fate of the passengers rests in his hands.

Within the film’s 103 minutes there is one outstandingly orchestrated scene in which Garber has to make a sacrifice on his end to save one of Ryder’s hostages. The moment is filled with tension, unease and a real sense of psychological warfare, and shows just how good this remake might have been had the rest of the movie followed suite. Sadly it doesn’t and the consequence is a positively drab effort, a muted and thoroughly ineffective lurch in the direction of suspense coated in layer upon layer of stupidity. “Pelham” 2009 only displays respect for the audience in a few select scenes, the rest of the time it’s content to act like a bad Michael Bay film minus the awesome CGI.

The leads are certainly talented but ultimately both hand in mediocre performances, Washington isn’t trying hard enough whilst Travolta overacts the vast majority of his scenes. Washington is always an affable screen presence and certainly he’s the closest thing to a hero in “Pelham”, yet his acting feels overly relaxed and lazy at times. Travolta emits quite the opposite problem, in giving it his all he ends up going too far, taking his lunatic away from the disturbed pastures the story requires and into the realms of cartoon villainy. There isn’t much intimidating about Travolta’s portrayal other than sporadic blasts of gunfire, relegating “Pelham” instantly to the levels of forgettable that it’s highly content to roll in. The support is peppered with good actors but none are given a part worthy of their talent, Gandolfini is enjoyable to watch as the mayor but it’s hardly a complex or intriguing character. Similarly John Turturro’s natural ability makes him a sufferable screen presence but his hostage negotiator is a lame duck entity.

Whilst it never enjoys more than infrequent success in the arena, “Pelham” 2009 is at its best when it focuses on the mind games between Ryder and Garber. Outside of this it resorts to ridiculous car chases and needlessly idiotic stunt work, suggesting that audiences won’t be able to take the quieter and more though provoking stuff without a dose of over budgeted and moronic action. On a technical level the action is well performed but it serves no purpose and only goes on to insult the intelligence of the average viewer. This being a Tony Scott venture we are also treated to all manner of coked up camera trickery and irritating visuals, the excessively awkward shot-making utilized on even the few refined and raw moments that this retread offers. The soundtrack goes no way to helping matters; it’s a blend of generic scoring and massively irritating rap records. I hate to hark back to the opening credits again, but it’s blurring of over directed nothingness and crass hip-hop really says all that needs to be said about this trite and unrewarding trespass.

The finish caves in via gunfire and car pursuits before collapsing in a heap of psychological twaddle. Several of the one to one conversations that “Pelham” 09 offers are actually decent but the moment that Scott chooses to end proceedings on is predictable and boring. Whilst the opening 90 minutes are a fairly robust example of poor filmmaking themselves, somehow the whole thing manages to feel anticlimactic. It’s a testament to Tony Scott’s skill as a filmmaker that he can make one pine for the prior levels of mediocrity, simply by deploying a piss poor conclusion. Oh on a final note the last shot also happens to be a cheesy old freeze frame, one can only wish that the studio backing this crass remake had frozen the project itself after day one.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

12 August 2009

Danland at the Trailer Park #3 - The Omen (2006)

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Week 3 - The Omen (2006)

11 August 2009

The full summer 2009 round-up - well nearly.....

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The summer is now into its final weeks and the autumn movie season beckons with a few interesting prospects, though the immediate September slate is as barren as ever. I’m looking forward to “Jennifer’s Body” but overall the 9th month of the year is usually its weakest, this annum content to hold that pattern. However of more interest is the passing of the film industries most profitable few months, now well into the second week of August it’s safe to say the blockbuster season has come and gone. There where surprises of a pleasant (“Star Trek”, “The Hangover”) and more unpleasant (“Transformers 2”, The Ugly Truth”) nature, whilst several films soared to unexpected financial heights whilst other supposed certainties flopped against all odds. As a commentator on film no section of the calendar leaves more to talk about than the summer. I’ve neglected to name my top 5 and bottom 5 film’s of the season until August properly finishes, though I fear that will be more beneficial to the latter list.

The first big film was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” an amiable if underwhelming opener. The movie was riddled with flaws but managed to provide enough fun for a minor recommendation, though fans of the franchise where as equally disheartened here as they where in 2006 after “X-Men: The Last Stand”. I enjoyed this movie more than that one, though a repeat visit will be required to fully form my feelings concerning “Wolverine”. I would be interested in a Director’s Cut (apparently Fox where interfering during aspects of the theatrical version) though I doubt that would solve enough to take “Wolverine” to the heights of “X2”. The Box-Office was initially strong but dropped off faster than Fox had hoped, leading to the film being profitable but ultimately coming under pre-summer expectations. A sequel (and other character spin offs) have been green lit, though viewers and Fox accountants might be hoping for a crisper performance on all bases from part 2.

“Star Trek” flew high and mighty a matter of days later to become one of the season’s bigger hits, whilst the less heavily advertised “Angels & Demons” also did good business despite soggy reviews. I missed “Angels & Demons” but thought “Trek” to be one of the summer’s finest confections, a delightful way to spend an evening at the movies. I myself am far from a devotee to all things Enterprise but it’s hard to overlook the pioneering job that was done with this stellar reboot. All things considered it’s a contender for the end of year top 10 and a certainty for the top 5 at August’s conclusion.

“Terminator Salvation” arrived to mixed reviews and tepid box-office, again like “Wolverine” it wasn’t a flop in the strict sense but fired under analysts predictions. I liked the movie, certainly it was far preferable to Michael Bay’s robotic counterpart “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. This noxious bundle of drivel was amongst my most anticipated summer films for the year, after all the 2007 original was a sweet embodiment of the summer season itself. Bay’s sequel however was unbearable, and in a slightly depressing note it’s currently the year’s highest grossing movie.....figures.

“Up” Pixar’s latest scored great reviews and outstanding box-office, though given the studios superb record in both fields that hardly comes as a surprise. More astonishing was the similar critical love and box-office kerching for R-rated comedy “The Hangover” an outstandingly raucous and infectious comedic party. The film surprised all by entering at no.1 back in early June and only in the last week finally dropped out of the US top ten. That’s good going. The seasons biggest flop is probably Will Ferrell’s “Land of the Lost” taking in only half it’s production budget during US release. The movie wasn’t bad and actually provided a solid if frivolously entertaining 100 minutes, though in fairness I was amongst the very few who thought so, the movie’s 28% on Rotten Tomatoes indicating a general dislike for the feature from critics.

The summer’s best film was “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” a perfect blend of blockbusting gusto and artistic magic. I’ve seen the movie twice and on both occasions it held up beautifully, a rip roaring and dramatically engaging adaptation. The box-office has been grand as well, though anyone who predicted anything less than mammoth numbers must be living under a very large rock...or other immovable object.

The rom-com enjoyed a decent summer at the box-office, early effort “Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past” did soundly whilst later offerings “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth” have scored well, despite questionable quality. Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno” underperformed at the box-office and with critics (albeit the general consensus was disappointing though undeniably funny) whilst Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” gave horror fans something to cheer about during the brighter months. The movie didn’t rack up massive numbers (the PG-13 rating ironically a deterrent rather than a pro here) but was provided with one of the larger critical applauses of the season. I know I had a good time with it.

The “Ice Age” gang remained financial gangbusters despite ever waning love from the critics on their third outing, ditto for “Night at the Museum 2”. Michael Mann was on good form and earned well with “Public Enemies” one of the summers best movies, though there was some critical division on the subject of the film. Last weekend “G.I: Joe” netted a hefty $56 million opening despite bad buzz, though a rumoured $170 million production cost will be hard to recoup.

The projects left on the horizon that look to be worth a damn are few and far between, “Inglorious Bastards” is a must and I intend to seek out “Funny People” but at this juncture I feel I’ve seen the high majority of the season’s offerings. Looking at that roster summer 2009 is perhaps a little less eventful than a few of its recent counterparts and definitely leaner, though not necessarily any worse. The final verdict on summer 09 is still a fortnight away (hopefully a long and sunny one at that) though as of the minute despite it’s smaller stature it looks as patchy as any other year of popcorn and blockbuster. Hopefully we’re in for a trend bucking final few weeks, though looking at the current roster I wouldn’t bet on it.

I’ll provide further summer musings when the top and bottom 5 lists go online in a fortnight or so.

8 August 2009

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth

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D-

The Ugly Truth
2009, 96mins, R
Director: Robert Luketic
Writer (s): Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kristen Smith Cast includes: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Eric Winter, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgins
Release Date: 24th July 2009

The Ugly Truth” is an ugly film, a mirthless romance which fails to generate laughs or worthwhile insight into relationships between male and female. The direction from Robert Luketic is far from inspired but it’s the limp performances and tragically unimpressive screenplay that sink this turgid mess, writing of the quality apparent in “The Ugly Truth” couldn’t be turned into a decent movie under the eyes of even cinemas greatest auteur. Adding insult to injury the film also showcases a creepy misogynist streak, meaning that everyone can be vaguely offended amidst the unstoppable boredom.

Abby (Katherine Heigl) is a successful TV producer working for a station in dire need of ratings, and in a cheap ploy to up their audience the executives have hired relationship guru Mike (Gerard Butler). However unlike most self-help experts Mike prides himself in revealing the “ugly truth”, never sugar coating his dating advice and as a result Abby tires of his loudmouthed and chauvinist attitude. In a bid to win his new producer over Mike decides to help Abby get the man of her dreams, if he fails to make her attractive to hunky doctor Colin (Eric Winter) then he’ll quit and let Abby get back to her old professional environment. Thus a battle of the sexes ensues, albeit one in which little of substance occurs and even less laughter is stimulated.

For my money Katherine Heigl was one of the brightest spots in 2007’s delightful “Knocked-Up” but since then things have taken a notable dip for the worst. Last year’s “27 Dresses” was a modest box-office success but artistically stank up the multiplexes whilst the actresses increasingly diva like behaviour has gained her a notorious professional reputation. Things now come full circle with the abominable “The Ugly Truth” the current nadir of her career as a leading lady and certainly a film that she will struggle to dethrone from said title. The picture has a raunchy temperament but the jokes are awful whilst the central pair make a duo so toxic it’s impossible to care about their love lives. It’s obvious that Luketic thinks he’s making an edgy and balls out comedy in the vein of Judd Apatow, in truth his feature is tonally closer to National Lampoon’s current output.

Heigl and Butler are thoroughly useless in “The Ugly Truth”, their performances are stilted and the scenes they share feel remarkably forced and unnatural. It’s a safe bet that “The Ugly Truth” will fulfil all your usual rom-com plot contortions, but not even the overstretched journey to the predictable finale is amusing. The characters themselves are a heinous pair but the terrible acting and Butler’s utterly blank comedic timing ensure that there is no hope of onscreen salvation. Romantic comedies should boast a pair of people who the audience grow to care about and empathise with but the vulgar leads in “The Ugly Truth” are worthy of neither. Support is irrelevant seeing as no other character has been conceived as anything more than a broad comic buffer, the like of John Michael Higgins, Cheryl Hines and Kevin Connolly wasted in minimal and unsatisfying parts.

The movie is filled with brutally sexist and damagingly brash opinions, all three of the people involved with writing this trash are female, a cinematic enigma if ever there was one. In creating this atrocious and gender offensive cinematic wreck the group of scribes have sullied their own sex and conjured up a rather disgusting and false view of men. Good going gals. To further highlight their ineptitude the character of Mike is painted in broad strokes as a rampaging boar, occasionally being allowed to show through a saccharine nephew based subplot that he’s well....shucks.....a really sensitive guy. This insipid piece of characterization is a good example of the imbalanced nature between gross and sickeningly sweet that infects “The Ugly Truth”, yet even the sex gags worked into the piece fail to raise a titter. “The Ugly Truth” has jokes sourced from orgasms, vibrating panties, oral sex and bikini clad jelly fights but they all share one common trait, they’re not funny.

There isn’t much more to say about this loathsome enterprise other than it’s a trashy, unfunny and chauvinist dullard of a movie, with absolutely nothing of worth to say about relationships or even the sexual dynamics of man and woman. “The Ugly Truth” is the sort of film that 13 years olds might get a kick out off because it stars that chick from “Grey’s Anatomy” using expletives and climaxing in a restaurant whilst King Leonidas talks about boobs and drops F-bombs like they’re going out of fashion. Everybody else however should see it for the worthless piffle that it really is.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

Danland at the Trailer Park #2 - Psycho (1960)

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Week 2 - Psycho (1960)


5 August 2009

Movie Review: G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra

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B

G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra
2009, 118mins, PG-13
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writer (s): Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Stephen Sommers, Michael Gordon
Cast includes: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rachel Nicols, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park
Release Date: 7th August 2009

Following the monumental success of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” it appears that Hollywood has decided mining the history of children’s toys might be a good way to earn big bucks fast, moving its gaze upon the “G.I Joe” universe as its next plaything turned multi-million dollar blockbuster. Under the control of Stephen Sommers “G.I: The Rise of Cobra” has been privy to some stinging pre-release buzz, rumours started to appear that it was the worst testing movie in Paramount history and that final cut on the project had been taken away from it’s credited director. One can only assume that such whispers where blasphemy, “G.I Joe” has several traditional blockbusting flaws but by the same token it carries off enough of its big budgeted ambitions to equate to wholesome summer fun.

The plot isn’t overly beefy but given that this installment seems like the first in a prospective franchise, that’s not unexpected. The film picks up as US soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) have their platoon ambushed and murdered as they attempt to move a set of devastatingly powerful missiles across the country. The thief happens to be an old squeeze of Duke’s who now goes under the name The Baroness (Sienna Miller); she steals the weapons but thanks to intervention by a secret unit called G.I Joe the men escape with their lives. G.I Joe immediately take Duke and Ripcord back to base where the pair join up under the eye of General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) , who sets them a series of trials. After completing the initiation Ripcord and Duke prepare to help the squad find out if the culprit of the theft is a sinister weapons dealer (Christopher Eccleston) or if something bigger is behind the Baroness’s violent actions.

Not being familiar with the source property I can’t say if this is the film long-time devotees have been waiting for, and as a result whether much of the pre-release fanboy derision was well placed. However as a solid piece of summer escapism I found “G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra” perfectly acceptable and stacked with adequate amounts of explosive action, those expecting anything mentally taxing had best readjust their expectations but for the rest it’s a blast. Sommers is a veteran of big budgets and blockbusting after helming the likes of “The Mummy” and “Van Helsing”, displaying his refined skills nicely at the front of “G.I: Joe”. Certainly for those with a taste for the directors love of CGI and oddly effective ensemble casts this is another triumph, even if the story is more than a bit flat and occasionally messy.

Channing Tatum is quickly maturing into a big star and after initially disgusting me with the puerile “Step-Up” I’m starting to warm toward the man’s ability. He’s a charismatic actor with a decent screen presence, more than can be said for most of the good looking hunks being handed stardom today. He can handle action, drama and even a little comic relief competently which makes him a sound and efficient face to hoist the “G.I Joe” flag on, even if he’s unlikely to trouble the Academy next year. Around him there are a nice cocktail of thespians including old stalwarts like Dennis Quaid and Jonathan Pryce to more unlikely successes such as Marlon Wayans. Again nobody here is going to enjoy a career revolution based entirely on their “G.I Joe” efforts, but the casting has been remarkably well executed and the various participants now have lovely franchise potential to stamp on their CV’s. Adding a healthy dose of sex appeal is Sienna Miller, whose villainous character prances around in skin tight leather showing of plenty of cleavage and gleeful energy in the process. Miller has tended to favour more traditionally credible drama in the past but her participation here highlights a willingness to embrace Hollywood and partake in kick ass action, facts likely to only further boost her inflating popularity.

The action is typically well handled by Sommers, who pushes it as far as one imagines the budget could support. The finale holds a deliciously loud bang for those so inclined but the middle section set-pieces also hold up beautifully. One elongated sequence in Paris boasts destruction and effects use that Roland Emmerich would be proud of, whilst Sommers always maintains a high octane energy throughout every gun fight and sword duel. In every sense of the word “G.I Joe” is a blockbuster, fluffing story elements in favour of supremely well shot action and spectacle, there are instances of adrenaline pumping carnage so good in “G.I Joe” it makes you a little sad that the plot fails to keep up. The screenwriters have imbued several of the characters with a few interesting nuggets of back-story but ultimately it’s the jaw dropping brilliance of the set-pieces that makes “G.I Joe” so entertaining.

The movie lacks a focused villain which for most will be a notable handicap, in a world where good and evil are so easily divided it’s slightly problematic when audiences aren’t given a single central figure to root against. There are characters who act as bad guys but not until the final moments does one emerge as an ultimate adversary, a problem that at least should be fixed by default in any potential sequels. One has to accept that “G.I Joe” is the sort of property in which plot is the padding for some fabulous action and several cool performances, in order to enjoy “G.I-Joe” it’s 100% crucial that you should be able to tap into your inner 15 year old. If that’s a problem you can still admire the technical proficiency and valiant attempts at character development, but you’ll miss the exhilaration, sexiness and brazen flashes of blockbusting genius that make “G.I: Joe” a commendable gambit. Future installments are hinted at and on the basis of this, I would happily welcome them.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

2 August 2009

Movie Review: G-Force

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C

G-Force
2009, 88mins, PG
Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Writer (s): The Wibberleys, Hoyt Yeatman, Tim Firth, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Cast includes: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan, Jon Favreau, Bill Nighy, Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett
Release Date: 24th July 2009

“G-Force” is a better movie than discerning film fans are likely to expect, which only makes the fact it lags in the territory of mediocrity all the more disappointing. The trailers and promotional material for this fuzzy blockbuster where utterly cringe inducing but the film itself is a light-hearted and forgettable frolic that’s handicapped by its unwillingness to separate itself tonally from other kiddie fare. The movies sense of humour is certainly pandering more to the young but the action is slickly assembled and energetically shot, far superior to the unmemorable storyline and dire live action performances.

The film follows a government unit called G-Force, consisting of humans Ben (Zach Galifianakis) and Marcie (Kellie Garner) along with a group of genetically engineered Guinea Pigs and a fly. The resourceful rodents are Darwin (Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz) Blaster (Tracy Morgan) and Speckles the mole (Nicolas Cage) who after discovering an evil plot by electronics mogul Saber (Bill Nighy) have their unusual operation shut down by the FBI. Unwilling to give up and receiving secret aid from Ben, G-Force continues to investigate the Saber case whilst being hunted by Federal Marshalls and meeting other crazy creatures along the way.

The cast in “G-Force” are very talented but sadly wasted on such broad and un-ambitious fare. The voice work is decent from Rockwell, Cruz, Cage and Jon Favreau (playing Darwin’s overweight but well intentioned brother) though Tracy Morgan is a huge irritation and the live action performances are lazy in the extreme. Bill Nighy does his best with the part of the underwritten villain but the like of Galifianakis and Will Arnett are tumultuously miscast in their respective parts. Galifianakis in particular is completely out of his comfort zone in “G-Force”, the raunchy and loudmouthed comedian being forced to play a reigned in and touchy father figure to a set of CGI critters. After his uproarious gig in “The Hangover” this marks an unfortunate change of pace.

Director Hoyt Yeatman does a good job of providing “G-Force” with an agreeable candy coating, it’s a massively colourful picture filled with several cherry-bomb action scenes. In a season where big vacuous spectacle has hit new heights, nothing in “G-Force” pushes the boundaries of tech wizardry or imagination but all the same it retains a fun innocence. Kids should really be able to warm to the movies cartoonish dollops of adventure and espionage all given a polish of supremely silly comedy. Alot of the jokes the film throws up are unlikely to please anyone over the age of 12but seeing as anybody exceeding a dozen years is unlikely to take interest in this escapade; such a flaw quickly becomes moot. Even though I wasn’t laughing I could appreciate how the raw and unpolluted goofiness of “G-Force” might have delighted me in my childhood, its combination of toilet humour and semi-serious hi-jinks will undoubtedly agree with the undiscriminating mind of an 8 year old.

Surprisingly though one feels there is a better film in this concept than Yeatman has delivered, a more unique storyline for example would have done “G-Force” wonders. At 88 minutes it’s a minor slice of summer pie to begin with, but the story on offer is maybe excessively linear and familiar, a little added plot driven ambition likely would have made “G-Force” a worthwhile proposition for all age groups. The finale is nicely measured and much like the rest of the film should sit well with the target demographic, it’s kind of like “Transformers” only with added touches of silly and cute.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend “G-Force” as a family night out, it simply won’t entertain adults in the same way that a Pixar or superior DreamWorks efforts might. That said when it arrives on DVD this could act as a useful babysitting device, I didn’t get alot from it but the blend of juvenile gags and frantic action is bound to go down smooth with the youngsters. “G-Force” is unlikely to linger in the memory past this summer season and in the grand cinematic scheme it’s decidedly mediocre, but I can’t help but predict it could be a big hitter for the kiddies.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

Movie Review: S. Darko

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F

S. Darko
2009, 103 mins, R
Director: Chris Fisher
Writer: Nathan Atkins
Cast includes: Daveigh Chase, Jackson Rathbone, Ed Westwick, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Elizabeth Berkley
Release Date: 12th May 2009 (DVD)

“S. Darko” is a candidate for the most uncalled for sequel of all time, nobody wanted further exploration of Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult hit “Donnie Darko” and yet the studios in the search for a little green have coughed one up. I don’t consider the 2001 original a masterpiece but it was an interesting and admirably thoughtful motion picture, this is just a superficial and failed attempt to replicate Kelly’s work on a surface level. Directed with no storytelling skill by TV journeyman Chris Fisher, “S. Darko” sinks miserably under the weight of a horrible screenplay and bad acting. “S. Darko” is the sort of atrocious filmmaking that displays nothing in the way of intelligence or artistic integrity.

“S.Darko” is the story of Donnie’s now matured sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase) who along with renegade buddy Cory (Briana Evigan) is heading across America in a bid to escape her past and forge a future. Their car breaks down in a small town and as they stall Cory ingratiates herself via hardcore partying whilst Samantha takes a quiet and more purposeful approach. She becomes friends with several of the locals and takes an interest in a manic war veteran named “Iraq Jack” (James Lafferty) who in four days predicts the end of the world. As the story unwinds “S.Darko” incorporates religion, murder and time travel into its bungled and unsatisfying story, adding in a host of awful supporting characters in the process.

Hatred was always going to be a prerequisite of creating a sequel to “Donnie Darko” but “S. Darko” earns its scorn and malevolent disdain like few other films I’ve seen, a failure from start to finish the film literally has nothing to recommend it. Fisher shoots the sequel slickly but his proficient visuals are simply being cribbed from better movies, making it hard to appreciate his work on any artistic level. Filled full of pointless and half assed imagery, Fisher’s film makes a mockery of the classic symbolism cooked up by the first slice of Darko, modestly impressive cinematography and landscape shooting no compensation for his unoriginal and theft ridden guidance of this project. The diehard Darko lovers will no doubt keep a firm and unloving eye on Fisher in the future, avoiding any further sham infested offerings he might try to plague theatres with. This is the sort of fascinatingly awful picture that kills a career, and thus in an act of mercy Chris Fisher’s time behind the camera might be over as soon as it’s begun.

The performances are rancid, nobody impresses and thus to dissect them at any great length is a waste of time and paragraph space. Chase is a boring lead but she’s well above everybody else who files their acting firmly under the label of “amateur”, the characterizations aren’t great but hiring a selection of talentless idiots to fill them out was never a smart solution. The worst offenders are Ed Westwick and Jackson Rathbone handing in stunningly shambolic performances as a pair of local guys with an interest in the new arrivals. James Lafferty’s war veteran is pretty important to proceedings but the teen star fails completely to create a unique perception of mental deterioration, cliché completely dominating his forgettable performance.

“S. Darko” is working from a heinous screenplay, one that recycles the twists and curious questions of the original film with no point or purpose. Writer Nathan Atkins seems to have forgotten that the success of Kelly’s 2001 effort relied heavily on it’s creative visuals and narrative individuality, neither of which “S. Darko” is able to bring to the table. It’s a monstrously unimaginative enterprise content to steal and pilfer all the original movies conceptual hooks and unique plot mechanics to form a hideous mind-fuck of a film. Granted “Donnie Darko” was loaded with plenty of unforeseen twists and plot diversions but all “S. Darko” seems interested in is confusing the audience and using the time travel formula to patch over its gaping shortcomings. Circa 2001 this newly birthed franchise had something intriguing and compelling to offer, now it’s just a sickly maze of repetitive gargling and onerous pontificating.

I have no desire to donate any more of my time to attacking this despicable film, it climaxes as poorly as the opening segments deserve, never attempting to wrap things up in a cohesive or smart manner. “S, Darko” is supposed to be Samantha’s journey but the character is so badly written that audiences simply won’t care and in a bid to unearth a little quirky cred the screenplay is riddled with dialogue of the most sickeningly weird and referential fashion. The best that fans could realistically have hoped for from “S. Darko” was a follow-up that attempted to add a little extra to the originals legacy and be built on the solid filmmaking staples of good direction and sound acting - instead they’ve been given a movie that commits cinematic larceny at every available turn and is riddled with terrible performances and handled most incapably by it’s director. “S. Darko” is an awful work and one that fully highlights just how bad needless sequels can ultimately be.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

1 August 2009

Movie Review: Lesbian Vampire Killers

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D

Lesbian Vampire Killers
2009, 88min, NR
Director: Phil Claydon
Writer (s): Paul Hupfield, Stewart Williams
Cast includes: Matthew Horne, James Corden, MyAnna Buring, Silvia Colloca, Paul McGann, Lucy Gaskell
Release Date: TBC

The funniest thing about “Lesbian Vampire Killers” is easily its barmy name, the short and at times crushingly lazy script never offering up anything of equal amusement. “LVK” ought to be filled to the brim with knowing gags and guilty chuckles but the screenwriters have simply peppered it with buckets of sit-com level humour and tepid sexual innuendo. Indeed there isn’t much in the way of good action or titillation either, rendering “LVK” a wasteful excursion and a disappointing feature debut for British comedy duo Horne and Corden.

Jimmy (Matthew Horne) and Fletch (James Corden) are best friends both down on their luck. Jimmy has been dumped for the seventh time by his girlfriend and Fletch is maintaining a streak of job losses at a remarkable rate. Both low on cash they decide to take a weekend in the English countryside, ending up in a small and heavily depopulated village. On arrival however they encounter a group of buxom history students heading to a local cottage with the promise that Jimmy and Fletcher can stay the night with them. Arriving things start as a party but quickly turn to a bloodbath, the girls start disappearing and it transpires that the local legend of Carmilla (Silvia Colloca) the vampire queen could be behind it. When Carmilla rises to power all the girls in the village will turn into lesbian vampires on their 18th birthday, so with the last surviving student Lotte (MyAnna Buring) and a crazed Vicar (Paul McGann) Jimmy and Fletch set out to end Carmilla once and for all.

In “LVK” Horne and Corden make for a remarkably average pair of leading men, the latter is a little more skilled at generating laughter but neither manages the necessary heights to make the endeavour worthwhile. Part of the problem is that neither character is all that likable; Fletch is a misogynistic loudmouth whilst Jimmy is a wimpy and often whiny companion. Watching these two for 88 minutes isn’t easy so routing for them is a positive challenge, a flaw that immediately places “LVK” on unfavourable ground. Slightly better is Paul McGann as a Vicar obsessed with destroying the vampire legend but levelling things out comes MyAnna Buring, the actress offering an excruciatingly lame attempt at a sassy love interest. The other history students and vampires are just token totty, required to do nothing but stand around in skimpy attire and occasionally snarl.

One has to assume that “LVK” had no horror pretentions from the beginning and that all its goals where stacked in the arena of comedy, because frankly it never gets close to scaring the audience. That would be fine if its comedic bent was fulfilled in a satisfying fashion but sadly it’s not, the script filled full of stale slapstick and obvious sex gags. Corden occasionally manages to dig up a laugh for the audience to feed on but otherwise “LVK” is depressingly devoid of any comedy bite, the lowest common denominator style of humour grating fast and never recovering.

Director Phil Claydon has obviously pitched his effort as a tongue in cheek throwback to the Hammer flicks of old, and whilst it fails as a comedy it at least looks aesthetically pleasing. Unlike alot of British films “LVK” actually has a distinct and attractive visual style, Claydon and company having captured the Hammer vibe with skill and determination. One can’t help but feel that had the same polish been applied to the screenplay then this would be a considerably better movie but alas “LVK” is all shine with nothing of worth behind its admittedly atmospheric surface.

The attempts at action are hampered by budget and the conclusion is as half assed as they come. It’s not like “LVK” was working from massive amounts of funding to start with but by the end Claydon has clearly run out of cash and thus his idea of a big bang finale is decidedly closer to a whimper. Those seeking a horror styled comedy in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead” had better keep looking because this tired and unadventurous attempt lacks the charm or comic fizz necessary to make this sort of thing bearable, let alone good.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009