ONLY GOD FORGIVES

Time To Meet The Devil

Director
Nicholas Winding Refn

Starring
Ryan Gosling
Vithaya Pansringarm
Kristin Scott Thomas



Set in Thailand, we are introduced to Julian [Gosling], a US expatriate who operates a Muay Thai boxing arena in Bangkok and his brother Billy [Tom Burke], who uses the arena as a front for drugs smuggling and trading. The opening events of the film depict Billy taking in the local brothels, searching for an underage girl to have sex with. His lack of success leads to violent outbursts against both the pimps and the girls themselves. Finally, he rapes and kills an underage prostitute before being apprehended at the scene of the crime – seemingly with no remorse for his actions. The officer in charge is Lieutenant Chang [Pansringarm], a cop with little tolerance for crime and a sense of street justice. He summons the girl’s father to execute Billy, before Chang punishes the father for failing to take care of his daughter and removes one of his hands with a sword. Julian is notified and seeks retribution but on learning of his brother’s actions, lets the man go unharmed. A few days later Julian and Billy’s twisted mother (who is the head of the criminal element in their family), Crystal [Scott Thomas] arrives in Bangkok, appalled at Julian’s inability to avenge his brother’s demise. Crystal takes matters into her own hands, hiring outside contractors to kill Chang but he proves a difficult individual to eliminate and seeks retribution against the Thompson family.

Only God Forgives is full of elements that made Drive a stunning release but none of the key execution that actually made it work; as if someone had watched Drive and tried to produce their own version. The lead characters are completely unsympathetic to the point of becoming outright deplorable. Dealing with oedipal incest, paedophilia, prostitution, violence, murder, mutilation and drugs, our central characters are unquestionably scum – some would even argue that Chang’s vigilante justice despite his position of authority is equally despicable. With a central focus on cinematography and the overall visual execution, the acting leaves a lot to be desired. The three key roles are incredibly flat and the few supports that are featured rarely veer outside of demands one would ask of scenery. Ryan Gosling is an incredible actor, I’m not going to question that, but his inability to deviate from three facial expressions (as deep and emotional as they may be) becomes incredibly boring, incredibly quickly. Stepping away from typecasting roles of the cool, suave hero, to a rather weak willed and often physically incapable individual is certainly praiseworthy for an actor but without attempting something dramatically challenging, it’s just another look at the same Ryan Gosling we’ve seen a thousand times before. Arguably, the same could be said of Vithaya Pansringarm’s portrayal of Chang but unlike Gosling there’s something interesting about him. Yes, I understand that Julian killed his father at his mother’s request and he’s still reeling from it but this is never explored enough to becoming an intriguing development. Chang being a family man (specifically a single father), an officer of the law and a man of uncompromising moral beliefs, is an individual audiences would be curious to explore and find out why he has become this way; his reasons, his motivations, his opinion on the man he is/has become and whether he believes this will actively change anything.. but it’s never touched upon. Then there’s Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal. From her introduction onward, she is an amazing presence. It’s very easy to highlight the loud, crass character because it requires a specific amount of ‘acting’ but this is like saying your favourite colour is red. The first colour the eye is drawn to (on a chemical level) is red. On our spectrum, it takes immediate priority – not to mention the connotations with blood, wine, danger, etc. So naturally, one actively notices red more often than any other colour, so too with performances, we are often drawn to the most over-the-top character because of their over-the-top nature. But after a while, she starts to fade a little and her constant swearing, disregard for local authority and lack of insight into her fascination with her sons and their penises wears thin.

It’s all fine and good despising the characters, hating the story and cringing at the sparse dialogue but no one can deny the film is absolutely gorgeous. Each and every single shot is framed, lit and executed with such precision and beauty. Luring you in, building a gnawing tension, equally beautiful and monstrous in the same brushstroke; to strive for these kinds of shots is commendable and certain directors achieve a handful per film but to nail it in every scene is frankly miraculous. Laced on top of that, we’re treated to Cliff Martinez’s exceptional score – a tense, atmospheric pulsing that resonates from start to finish… except for the karaoke interludes but we’ll get back to that later. But that’s the start and end of my praise for this film. Only God Forgives is a nauseatingly soppy love letter to 80s art house cinema without any of the narrative charm or class. Taking a simple premise, building it over time, focusing on visuals over script or plot, utilising synthy techno musical elements with a deep bass hum throughout and cutting to moments of shocking violence. Having said that, I do not believe the violence to be detrimental to this movie. I will agree that the violent element is graphic but it’s short lived and fails to sink to the depths of exploitation cinema (it’s not as atrocious as the Hostel films, for example). After a while though, it tends to get a little boring, big scary opening which peters out to repetitive tedium. When Chang is interrogating one of Crystal’s hired men, he starts by taking a pair of ornamental chopsticks and plunging them into the man’s arms, pinning him to his chair. Wince from the audience and the scene continues. The tension builds a little as Chang produces a second pair of chopsticks and punctures the seated man’s legs. At which point, it becomes a little silly. So rather than fearing for the victim’s well-being and cringing over what horrors his tormentor could inflict next, the events become farcical scenarios.. laughable even. Which, when we’re talking about a man getting his eyes gouged and pierced, is quite the statement.

In all honesty, I have no idea who this film is made for; there’s no demographic that can be singled out. The Gosling groupies won’t be interested in the drama or the weak pillar of impotence that Mr. Gosling portrays, the hardcore grisly vengeance/horror people won’t care for the disorientating story and sporadic, underplayed violence and cinemagoers simply looking for an entertaining story will probably be the most disappointed. If anything, I can only assume that fans of visual flare over actual substance will praise this movie for the feast for the eyes that it is. But to make a meandering mess like this, just to house gorgeous shots is music video territory and unsuitable for a ninety minute release. A point stapled by the simplistic symbolism which fans will argue was deep, complex and meaningful but in actuality it’s amateurish at best. It’s not often I tell people not to bother with a film, believing my reviews are more analytical studies than a simple recommendation/condemnation but in this case, whether a fan of Nicolas Winding Refn, Gosling or new cinema, I would skip this release.


Release Date:
2nd August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
There is a rather surprising amount of karaoke in this film. After each encounter with the criminal underworld, Chang brings his men to a local bar, where they sit in paralytic silence as their commander sings to them. It should have meaning or add some colour to the performance (think Gary Oldman in Leon) but it just comes off as obscure and ridiculous. Most notably, Chang is singing over the end credits and while Pansringarm has a reasonably nice voice, it’s fucking stupid and several people at my screening were giggling, despite the severity of the scene.

Notable Characters:
This is tricky. With no likeable or relatable characters and no one evolving or emoting beyond their introductory scene, it’s almost impossible to select a highlight. For every positive element to a performance, there’s an equal amount of terrible things – both in terms of character actions and acting. At a push, I would say Pansringarm for his range but it’s really not that diverse. This really isn’t a film about characters, it’s a film about the presentation of characters.

Highlighted Quote:
“Remember girls, no matter what happens.. keep your eyes closed. And you men.. take a good look”

In A Few Words:
“As an homage to 80s high art European cinema every stunning shot is gloriously absorbing, as anything else Only God Forgives is a self-indulgent fucking travesty”

Total Score:

2/5

THE WOLVERINE

The Fight Of His Life Will Be For His Own

Director
James Mangold

Starring
Hugh Jackman
Tao Okamoto
Rila Fukushima
Svetlana Khodchenkova



Set several years after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan/Wolverine [Jackman] has taken the death of Jean Grey [Famke Janssen] badly, relegating himself to a life of isolation in the mountains. There he is haunted by both nightmares of his past and a phantom Jean Grey, bidding him to rest – which being close to immortal, he can’t. After punishing a hunter in a bar, Wolverine is approached by Yukio [Fukushima], who has been hired to bring Logan to Japan, so that an old acquaintance can say his final farewell. Upon arrival in Japan, Logan quickly learns that the acquaintance is in fact Yashida [Hal Yamanouchi], a soldier whose life he saved during World War II. Close to death, he asks for Wolverine’s regenerative powers, so that he can continue his successful company’s work. Wolverine refuses, despite being tempted by the concept of a peaceful death. Trying to remain spoiler free for as long as I can, I will simply skip a few details and explain that certain events unfold and Wolverine is forced to protect Yashida’s granddaughter and heir, Mariko [Okamoto].

The first thing to note is the setting for this story. Japan is a country with strict investments in honour, discipline and decorum – three things Logan isn’t known for exuding. Having said that, Logan is gifted with a clear sense of right and wrong and this aids him when his harsh manner fails to. Unlike, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there are far fewer mutants and at times feels more like a grumpy ex-cop/soldier in a fish out of water tale, rather than a science fiction action film about mutated humans with special powers. Origins was a flat-out travesty. Shoe-horned continuity, terrible visual effects, pitiful plot development, stupid casting, meaningless exposition and uninspired action sequences. Which is primarily annoying as the first ten minutes were very good and quite loyal to the comic. Learning from these mistakes, this movie focuses intently on story and character development over action. Some will label it boring but exploring the heart and soul of a weary warrior, doomed to walk the earth for eternity is interesting. What’s more, the imbued Japanese ronin elements (a samurai who serves no master) from the 80’s comic series and a capturing of subtle mythology is wholly appreciated: a young soldier meets a mystical creature at the bottom of a well who has magic powers, who then protects the Yashida family and fights his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a golem-like warrior. It’s folklore and mythology without the heavy-handed need to turn to the audience and scream FANTASY! What’s more the location change offers audiences something unique, rather than simply depicting Wolverine on a motorbike, roaming North America, gritting his teeth and flashing his claws at random mutants.

Jackman has been and always will be a wonderful Wolverine. Not every X-Men fan will agree with that but in his sixth appearance as the character, he really has made it his own. Outside of the obvious and oh-so-very established lead, the acting was all commendable but I felt there should have been more Japanese dialogue. Admittedly, getting even this much in a major US blockbuster was quite an achievement but since Inglourious Basterds had the balls to challenge how English speaking countries watch film, studios shouldn’t be afraid of it. But this is a minor quibble. Hiroyuki Sanada as Yashida’s son, Shingen was very good – but then, I think he’s pretty much brilliant in whatever he’s cast in. No, he’s not the same Shingen in the comics but I’ll elaborate on that in my highlighted character section. Two points of contention, however, would be Khodchenkova as Viper and Okamoto’s Mariko. When on-screen, Viper is a moderately interesting character but a henchman more than a lead villain. Rather than fully developing her character and giving her any sort of history or dimension, she’s merely given various costume changes – probably to amuse/appease the fans but serves little actual purpose. Then there’s Mariko, who’s a rather atypical Asian casting type; quiet subdued female who happens to be a relatively gifted fighter but too oppressed to explore it. There’s a sort of half-explored love story between Logan and Mariko but it never really connects and part of that is the inclusion of the Jean Grey scenes. Personally, I’m not entirely sure the Jean inclusion worked.. at least, not as intended. Story wise, they make absolutely perfect sense; of course Logan would be plagued by the memory of the one woman he truly cared for and had to sacrifice to save others (who he couldn’t give a crap about). But those events happened so long ago and with an Origins prequel and X-Men: First Class, we’re resolving an issue that people had sort of forgotten about.

No matter how much I enjoyed this movie, I couldn’t help but expect something bigger from Mangold. Everything was perfectly commendable but lacked a certain joie de vivre. Marco Beltrami’s score was paced and tender at times, rising to fittingly triumphant without being overwhelming or stifling. The subdued use of CGI.. or obvious CGI was a welcome treat. And the fight scenes were grounded, brutal and inventive enough without exceeding their PG-13/12A boundaries. But after a while, the action sequences felt a little disjointed. Certain editorial cuts came off a little jarring as the filmmakers have clearly removed a handful of frames of violence – which will no doubt be seamlessly reinserted into an unrated director’s cut for DVD and Blu-Ray. The overall problem is the movie simply isn’t layered enough (the problem with all the Marvel films released by Fox). It told a story, it gave the audience something thrilling and pretty to look at and managed to further a character’s massive arc a little more but there’s not enough going on. In summation, The Wolverine is a nice solo outing and curiously more entertaining than X-Men: The Last Stand or (obviously) X-Men Origins: Wolverine but there seems to have been little point to it and that’s the feeling that really takes root and grows in the back of your mind as you leave the cinema.


Release Date:
26th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
The monk’s reward. I appreciate most post credits scenes are self-serving ego trips or, in Marvel’s case, a trailer for the next film but this was a very welcome treat. No, I’m not going to describe it. Don’t want to hype or spoil it. But it was awesome.

Notable Characters:
Fox have little concern for comic loyalty. They own the property and will do as they please with it. Point in case, Origin’s excuse for Deadpool. But to a degree, that shouldn’t be a problem. So if anyone is expecting me to tear apart characters who happen to share names with their comic counterparts, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, I’ll discuss Yukio. Neither a family member, nor an employee, Yukio is a potentially interesting individual. An orphaned child, adopted by the Yashida family as a friend for Mariko but also for her mutant abilities. Add to that an exceptionally talented fighter and she makes for a curious break from the useless, skimpy outfit clad, action genre heroines we’re usually force fed.

Highlighted Quote:
“I told you a long time ago, you’re not the only one with gifts”

In A Few Words:
“Far from perfect but a very enjoyable standalone film for one of the most popular X-Men characters. In no way necessary but a nice stepping stone between X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #101

[21 July 2013]


Winning Team:
The Fashion Of The Christ

Genre – Gok-Wan travels back in time to help Jesus deal with his body issues

Runners Up:
Adginhardcore
Genre – Historical battle re-enactment.. with tits
Battle Of My Bulge: With Sexy Results
Genre – A historical drama of epic ‘proportions’
Kal-El
Genre – Documentary


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the release title of the 2013 remake of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead?
THE EVIL DEAD
2. The iconic Dirty Harry character was played by which actor?
CLINT EASTWOOD
3. Which animation studio released The Emperor’s New Groove in 2000?
DISNEY
4. Evan Almighty is the sequel to which film?
BRUCE ALMIGHTY
5. Who voiced the title role in animated film, Rango?
JOHNNY DEPP
6. What nationality are the crime family in Eastern Promises?
RUSSIAN
7. The Disney princess Giselle appears in which live-action film?
ENCHANTED
8. Enter The Dragon was released in which year?
1973 (40th Anniversary)
9. What was the title of the science fiction comedy directed by Ivan Reitman, starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones and Julianne Moore?
EVOLUTION
10. What did Tim Burton direct after Batman?
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

ROUND II: Filming [Historically Inaccurate Films Special]
1. Which of the following contains the most historical inaccuracies? Lincoln? The Conspirator? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
2. In the Roland Emmerich film 10,000 BC, what type of animal is being used to build the pyramids? Woolly Mammoths? Tyrannosaurus Rex? Cyclops?
WOOLY MAMMOTHS
3. The Scots in Braveheart are depicted wearing kilts hundreds of years before they came into fashion. Roughly how many years after the film were they used? 200? 300? 400?
THREE HUNDRED
4. Which of the Inglourious Basterds actually kills Hitler? Smithson Utivich? Omar Ulmer? Donny Donowitz?
DONNY DONOWITZ
5. Which of Elizabeth’s supposed suitors in Elizabeth: The Golden Age was in fact dead at the time? Ivan The Terrible? Count Von Helfenstein? Sir Walter Raleigh?
IVAN THE TERRIBLE
6. Which character in Gladiator was actually strangled by a wrestler in the bath? Lucius Aurelius Commodus? Marcus Aurelius? Maximus Meridius?
LUCIUS AURELIUS COMMODUS
7. Despite the plethora of inaccuracies, how much did Pocahontas make at the box office? 210 million? 340 million? 560 million?
346 MILLION DOLLARS
8. According to John Carpenter, in what year is New York cut off from the mainland and designated a one-way prison, in Escape From New York? 1983? 1988? 1992?
1988
9. One of the more inaccurate elements in Shakespeare In Love is the changing of the title of Shakespeare’s play to Romeo & Juliet. According to the film, what is the name of the lead female character? Ethel? Viola? Mildred?
ETHEL
10. During the final and climactic battle in The Patriot Cornwallis orders a retreat. In real life, the British held the battlefield, thereby winning the skirmish. True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “He is afraid. He is totally alone. He is three million light years from home”?
ET
2. What was Mike Myers’ cinematic debut?
WAYNE’S WORLD
3. The following films all starred which actor, Trading Places, Vampire In Brooklyn and Meet Dave?
EDDIE MURPHY
4. Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins appeared in which film?
THE EDGE
5. About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants were directed by whom?
ALEXANDER PAYNE
6. The Elephant Man was shot on a budget of how many millions of dollars?
FIVE
7. The planet Dagobah is introduced in which Star Wars film?
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
8. What is the title of the WWII film starring Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris?
ENEMY AT THE GATES
9. Equilibrium was mostly filmed in which European city?
BERLIN
10. In which film does Clint Eastwood play the character Frank Morris and attempts to break out of prison?
ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Escape From Planet Of The Apes is the nth instalment in the series. Third? Fourth? Fifth?
THIRD
2. In Erin Brokovich, what source has been infected with the carcinogenic hexavalent chromium? Gas? Water? Electricity?
WATER
3. Of his three films, which was James Dean’s first (filmed, not released)? Giant? East Of Eden? Rebel Without A Cause?
EAST OF EDEN
4. What was the title of the sequel to East Is East? Everywhere And Nowhere? Brick Lane? West Is West?
WEST IS WEST
5. The following is the synopsis for which film: After losing one billion dollars a shoe designer decides to commit suicide but hearing that his father has died needs to retrieve the body. On his way, he meets a woman who changes his perspective on life? Melancholia? The Tree Of Life? Elizabethtown?
ELIZABETHTOWN
6. What is Rita studying in Educating Rita? Literature? Biology? Art?
LITERATURE
7. Which of the leading cast directed Easy Rider? Peter Fonda? Dennis Hopper? Jack Nicholson?
DENNIS HOPPER
8. The End Of The Affair is based on the book by which author? Graham Greene? John Le Carré? Frederick Forsyth?
GRAHAM GREENE
9. The following quote is from which film, “Where we’re going we don’t need eyes to see”? A Nightmare On Elm Street? Event Horizon? Hostel?
EVENT HORIZON
10. Shutter Island is the highest grossing film of Martin Scorsese’s career. True or False?
TRUE (taking $293 million at the box office, worldwide)

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Ocean’s Twelve / Superbad / Back To The Future: Part II
Poster: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Actor: Al Pacino

THE WORLD’S END

Good Food, Fine Ales, Total Annihilation

Director
Edgar Wright

Starring
Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Eddie Marsan
Paddy Considine
Martin Freeman
Rosamund Pike



Alright, try not to beat me to death here but I’ve got a confession to make. While I enjoyed Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, I don’t rate them as highly as others. Most of the people I know/meet will say to me “They’re like the best films ever made” to which I’m always biting my tongue thinking, “Steady on.” The World’s End, on the other hand, is just sorely disappointing. I’m sure there will be plenty of boot-licking sycophants who will contest this but I don’t think I’m alone in my assessment; I attended a fairly packed screening of at least a few hundred and the laughs were few and far between.

The story opens with a recounting of ‘the perfect day’ twenty years ago, upon which a group of five friends set out to complete an epic pub crawl of twelve pubs, in the small British town of Newton Haven. The tale is recalled by Gary King [Pegg], a narcissistic, immature alcoholic with a selective memory who wants to reunite the group, in an attempt to finish what they failed to do in their youth. The other four friends are Peter [Marsan], the shy kid with the rich parents, Oliver [Freeman], a successful estate agent with a head for business from an early age, Steven [Considine], the would-be leader of the group but takes a backseat to Gary and Andrew [Frost], Gary’s best friend before a falling out after a car accident. Throw in the addition of Oliver’s sister Sam [Pike], who both Gary and Steven have a thing for and you have the makings of a simple drama. However, being an Edgar Wright film, things in Newton Haven feel strangely off and after the fourth or fifth pub it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. In addition to working through their issues, the group must continue the crawl to avoid suspicion, escape the town if possible and/or defeat a host of robotic invaders.

**I tried to keep this spoiler free but I can’t. Consider yourself warned**
A continuing theme that runs through each instalment of the Blood And Ice Cream Trilogy is the notion of growing up or moving on. In Shaun Of The Dead it was about shirking adult responsibilities and in Hot Fuzz, it was about realising that there is more to life than ambitious ladder-climbing. The World’s End attempts this in a very literal sense by creating a mentally unhinged central character who has not grown up or moved on in twenty years, rejecting therapy and desperately trying to reclaim the supposed glory days of his youth. In doing this, Wright has focused on a more adult premise but the resolve is still the same old deferment. So many social problems, issues and complications are generated but almost none of them are resolved, they simply get side-tracked by the presence of blue-blooded robotic invaders. Another frustration is that the humour is no longer reliant on wit and severely British mannerisms but slapstick and swearing. That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely funny moments but they don’t build enough or grow, so you’re almost surprised when something funny actually happens. The pacing works well enough but the story literally goes nowhere, to the degree that the death of main characters isn’t really felt by the audience. Even when it is revealed that the original had been mulched down to compost to fuel the copy, you don’t really care. And after the story is told and the enemy vanquished, we’re treated to a horrifically messy ending; a sort of ham-fisted statement about technology and simpler times, or maybe it was about societal bonding, the nature of humanity and friendship. I dunno. But I’ll expand on that later. The visual effects are rather impressive but after Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, I’d be surprised if they weren’t. Same goes for the cinematography, lighting, sets, props and most other technical aspects. But the direction (of the fights especially) is very samey and Wright’s signature traits are severely subdued or, at times, not present. I’m not saying he should be whip-panning everywhere and quick cutting like a drug segment in Requiem For A Dream but a little personality to the execution would have been nice.

Performance-wise, The World’s End is pretty strong. The role reversal between Pegg and Frost’s characters was very pleasing a real testament to their abilities. Sure, Gary King may not be the most likeable or identifiable character but he is different from Pegg’s other roles. Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan are tremendous actors but don’t really get enough leg room to really achieve much of anything with their roles. And then there’s Martin Freeman, who has been cast to play Martin Freeman with a different name. Again, highly unfortunate. The introduction of Rosamund Pike doesn’t help, with her character embodying the same traits as every other two dimensional female character in Wright’s films (I’m choosing to exclude Scott Pilgrim from that statement), continually saying “Oh crumbs” like she’s in bloody Danger Mouse. But one could argue that Wright’s films aren’t about the characters or the performances, or even the story but the quotability, the references and the cameos. Sure, there’s another ex-James Bond and several cast members from Spaced show up but none of them add anything to the plot. As a filmmaker and critic, I really love the hidden layering in Wright’s movies; his use of background items, jokes and references make his films a re-viewing pleasure. Creating a multi-layered experience is all well and good but when you’re relying on people realising that the main group’s surnames (King, Page, Chamberlain, Prince, Knightly) and several of the lines are linked to Arthurian legend and that it’s all cleverly connected, you’re taking a massive gamble; especially as the surface layer is so bland.

But it’s not all bad, Steven Price’s score is really impressive at times but unlike his previous composition for Attack The Block, it’s not as memorable or well utilised. In fact, Attack The Block is a good comparison of an extremely well executed, infinitely superior alien invasion film which doesn’t get bogged down in forced messages and genre clashing. So my recommendation would be to watch that instead.


Release Date:
19th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
**I’m going to effectively describe the end of the film.. so obviously there will be spoilers**
The only time the audience really started chuckling was during Gary’s drunken final confrontation with the disembodied voice of the alien network. Having reached the twelfth pub, Gary is considerably ratted and all bar Andrew (and later Steven) are presumably dead. The giant glowing lights, voiced by Bill Nighy explain that Earth (and by extension, humanity) is the most uncivilised in the universe and is a danger to themselves and everyone else. Effectively, it’s the The Day The Earth Stood Still argument. But rather than simply issuing a warning, the invaders believe that a melding of the species is in order to offset chaos. Being drunk, unreasonable and devoid of ignominy, Gary hurls insults and abuse at the voice, as though a stroppy child arguing with a parent. Except the child wins, the force gives up and they escape.. only to roam the vast wasteland of a technology ridden Earth. It’s baffling. Funny delivery but a really stupid, stupid close to a movie. As if the genuine message is “fuck it, have a good time, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Notable Characters:
Although this is more a scene than a highlighted individual, it really adds something to the character, so I’ve put it here. Just before the group become aware of the robotic invaders, Peter speaks with his high school bully, Hawkins (played by Darren Boyd), who doesn’t recognise the man he tyrannised daily for years. This leads to a very personal and heartfelt speech from Eddie Marsan detailing “It’s not that he beat me up every day, it’s not that he made my life a living hell, it’s the fact he didn’t know me. He looked right through me.” Then the scene is undercut by a selfish, comedic outburst from Gary. Every time Marsan turns up in a film, whether he’s playing a horribly vicious individual (Tyrannosaur) or a bumbling detective (Sherlock Holmes), or an introverted criminal (Ray Donovan), he really sells the role he’s in. The World’s End is no different but the character is never really explored further than the obvious arc. Pity really.

Highlighted Quote:
“Why don’t you get back in your rocket and fuck off back to Legoland, you cunt!”

In A Few Words:
“The only word that keeps echoing in my mind is ‘disappointing’. Everything about this film is slathered in disappointment and failed potential, which is a damn shame”

Total Score:

2/5

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

School Never Looked This Scary

Director
Dan Scanlon

Starring
Billy Crystal
John Goodman



Despite earning the position of leader in family animation, Pixar have finally become Disney; punching out banal, hollow mediocrity designed to sell toys. In fact, from 2010 onwards, Pixar haven’t announced a single project that has demonstrated the originality, heart and promise of the company’s first two decades. And if Monsters University in anything to go by, the future looks very bleak indeed.

Set a decade or so before the heart-warming, wonderful, hilarious, entertaining events in Monsters Inc., we learn that Mike the cycloptic green creature [Crystal] and James ‘Sully’ Sullivan the lumbering hairy polka-dot beast [Goodman] were not only not friends, they had never met. It was only after a fateful encounter during their university years that they bonded and became lifelong buddies…. sorry, spoiler. After a school fieldtrip, the young and impressionable Mike Wazowski has set his sights on becoming a scarer for Monsters Inc. and enrols at Monsters University on Monsters Lane using the Monsters Bus – available now at all Disney Stores. *ahem* Unfortunately for him, despite all his studying and knowledge of scaring technique, he simply isn’t scary. James P. Sullivan (from a long line of elite scarers) is naturally built for scaring and subsequently is a bit of a jerk. Following a mishap in class, both students are kicked off the scaring course but see a chance to prove themselves by entering the tri-wizard tournament.. or hunger games.. or whatever you want to call it; some inexplicable decathlon of crap that could be stretched out for an hour and a half.

For any animated release, so much of the movie’s success is down to visual quality. With a budget of 200 million dollars (double that of its predecessor), Monsters University is decent but neither warrants or really shows off the extensive budget. By comparison, Rango is a truly delightful experience, rich in texture, tone and detail. The problem here seems to be that everything is far too bright and colourful, losing some of the scale in the process. Furthermore, the setting of the college campus really limits the potential range of locations, sets and props. The only time the animators really get a chance to stretch their legs is when Mike and Sully find themselves by a moonlit lake in the human world, complete with moonlight streaming through the tall pines, shimmering water and a thick fog covering the land. Second to the animation, is the voice acting; you can hire the most talented actors in the world but if they can’t convey emotion, plot points and a distinct uniqueness (that pairs with the character design and singles them out from the others) they will only hinder the film. While the acting talent utilised here is thoroughly commendable, there’s absolutely no challenge for any of them and the new additions are completely forgettable. Nathan Fillion plays a simple bully but lacks any venom, Steve Buscemi is given a watered-down version of his previously menacing character, Charlie Day plays a woolly arch that says silly things when the script remembers he’s there and Helen Mirren is essentially portraying Helen Mirren.

**This paragraph is a spoiler filled nightmare. Skip ahead to the end if you like**
This whole thing is a one-sheet prequel concept, thrown about a studio office that never had any hope of being developed outside of the initial pitch. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a one-sheet pitch is a producer’s phrase for how to sell a film. The ‘one-sheet’ refers to a poster detailing a famous actor/character and the film’s rough title or premise; the remaining details can be hashed out later. Of course, the problem with hashing out ‘the remaining details’ means that story, purpose and humour are shoe-horned and rushed to fit the simple synopsis. A prime example of this is actually a contradiction in the original Monsters Inc. Apparently Pixar tried to acknowledge/incorporate a line from the original: “You’ve been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade” showing Mike and Sully meeting earlier than university but after that didn’t work out, they just hoped people wouldn’t remember or take it as an exaggerated statement. It’s this kind of broadly insulting thinking that highlights how little this film was thought through. You couldn’t create a sequel because of how the first film ended, so a prequel or spin-off would need to be explored. What we end up with is a charmless, padded-out, paint-by-numbers affair, void of all heart and the amusing parallel between our world and that of the monsters. Even the setting of the university is a weird choice. Rather than recycling countless other college movies, we’re presented with a few simple social cliques and lesson plans that feel more like the first days of high school – obviously due to the fact that any sort of higher education experimentation (sex, drugs, alcohol, social manipulation) would be grossly inappropriate for children. Several prequel tick boxes are taken into account, giving audiences a chance to learn why Randall squints, how Mike and Sully first met, how they got their jobs at Monsters Inc, why they work well as a team BUT WHO FUCKING CARES!? I can guarantee you that absolutely nobody came out of Monsters Inc. unsatisfied because we never saw how Mike and Sully were introduced. It was in no way important to the story or the characters. To quote Patton Oswalt, “I don’t care where the things I love came from, I just love the things I love.” We gain nothing from this film except maybe a weird anti-education statement. The only surprise that the film offers is the fact that both Mike and Sully are actually expelled from MU at the end of the film and have to work their way up the company ladder (something you can’t really do in companies these days). I’ll openly admit, I didn’t see that coming. But the inclusion of this tiny detail makes the franchise a revenge story. Mike and Sully are kicked out of the most prestigious school in their world then start on the lowest employment rung of the most important company in their world. After however many years, the events of Monsters Inc. occur and we learn that children’s laughter is more potent than their screams; which rejuvenates the energy supply and completely changes the workforce. But that means that scaring is no longer an art form. It’s no longer necessary. Effectively, Mike and Sully manage to not only shut down the entire department of the university (or at least rebrand it for performance comedy) but put countless trainers, tutors and veterans out of jobs. Much in the same way that John D. Rockefeller ruined several rail empires (specifically upsetting Pennsylvania Railroad) by diverting oil distribution to pipelines instead of locomotive transport in the late 1870’s. There’s a possibility I’m reading into this a little too much but I have to believe this film is layered in some manner. It can’t literally just be a surface-based, two-dimensional story of how two familiar characters met. Right?

One could argue that marking this movie down to a 4/10 is a little extreme; that even at their worst, Pixar are still producing better stories than their big budget competitors. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Yes, it has a handful of funny moments, the animation is impressive and the story is serviceable but these shouldn’t be praiseworthy points. These elements should be the foundation of a movie, the given standard that all movies should start with. From there, elevating to great movies with superb writing, astounding visuals (be they cinematographic or computer generated), lush sound quality and music and a truly gripping or intriguing story. That is what should be achieved and if you think that is in any way unattainable, just look back at Pixar’s first eleven films because they nailed it every single time.


Release Date:
12th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Could be classed as a spoiler, I guess**
Right at the end of the movie, Mike and Sully start their first job at Monsters Inc. working in the post room. Sorting through and distributing the mail. We are led to believe they are very good at this, due to the power of awesome teamwork. Cue a cameo from the abominable snowman, who was banished in the first film. Except he seems to be their boss.. yet when they meet him in Monsters Inc. they have no idea who he is.. which is quite surprising considering if someone they knew and worked with was exiled from their world, you’d think that would make an impression. But that’s not the point! The point was to bring back another recognisable character (who I swear to God looked into the camera and winked, as if to say “remember me, kids?”) because familiarity breeds content. Who cares if it makes no sense, contradicts later events, pisses on the fans or proves that none of this was thought through properly? We’ve got your money now, suckers.

Notable Characters:
**Yeah, spoilers here too**
I didn’t like anybody in this film. There was no personality or memorable impact to any of the characters. If I was pushed, I would say Nathan Fillion as Johnny Worthington but only really because it’s Nathan Fillion. And even then, his character was a douchebag who started a douchebag and ended a douchebag. Actually, now that I’ve said that, we never really get to explore his fate as it’s no longer important. Technically, his fraternity won the cup by default, so he would go on to have a long and successful college life. Hmm.. I wonder. Oh wait, no I don’t because I didn’t like anybody in this film.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m here to make good scarers great, not make mediocre scarers less mediocre”

In A Few Words:
“A horrific let down. While not a death sentence for Pixar, they are well and truly lost at this point and desperately need to get away from the concept that sequels make for good cinematic releases”

Total Score:

2/5

PACIFIC RIM

Go Big Or Go Extinct

Director
Guillermo Del Toro

Starring
Charlie Hunnam
Idris Elba
Rinko Kikuchi



Pacific Rim opens with a rather interesting coverage of the first few chapters of an alien invasion. Rather than simply starting the film and covering the first contact, we’re treated to an introductory montage that highlights mankind’s first victories over the lumbering alien beasts (referred to as kaiju) and the gigantic human piloted robots (jaegars) used to defeat them. After the first battles mankind did what it always does and underestimates the situation, elevating the jaegar pilots to celebrity status and reducing the kaiju to an almost farcical threat. Then the resistance started failing; the kaiju were bigger and more aggressive, taking down jaegars with ease. From here on it became obvious that the attacks would not stop. Disappearing for five years after the death of his brother and co-pilot, Raleigh Becket [Hunnam] is sought out by the marshal in charge of the jaegar program, Stacker Pentecost [Elba], to re-enlist and be part of humanity’s last stand against the invading horde.

From the start of his career Quentin Tarantino drew on 70’s pulp and exploitation films for inspiration but as his success grew, he began to flat-out replicate them (think Kill Bill onwards). While any genre in the hands of a masterful director can be significantly elevated, it still carries with it a great deal of flaws disguised as traits. Del Toro’s films are no different. His love of fantasy, insects, comics and anime has always been present in his work but this is a complete replication of Japanese Mechs vs. Monsters at its finest and Asian cinema can be very different from Western cinema, leading to cliché dialogue, random flashbacks and convenient plot reveals. Being a fan of anime and certain 60’s monster films, I really enjoyed this release. It was an exceptional amount of fun that really incorporated Del Toro’s “If I were 12 I would love this” mantra. Having said that, as a critic I have to acknowledge that this movie is far from perfect.

On a technical level, Pacific Rim is a modern marvel. The visuals – in terms of effects, production design and cinematography – are absolutely flawless and simply superb. Being able to see every detail in a world that felt completely alive and plausible is exactly what was required, rather than a myriad of disorientating, over-the-top quick-cuts favoured by Guillermo Navarro and of course, Del Toro himself. The scale is also wonderfully nailed, and even when the jaegars are fighting the kaiju in the middle of the ocean, the sense of enormity is never in question. These beings and the mechanical units we have constructed feel simply colossal. Outside of that, things tend to get a little trickier. I find Ramin Djawadi a very divisive composer. Sometimes he creates really epic, iconic scores (notably Prison Break, Iron Man and Game Of Thrones) but most of the time, they lack that memorable tone that really amplifies the entire film. While achieving that big, adventurous, upbeat feel, there’s a sense that Djawadi is somehow holding back. So you sit and wait for the triumphant finish and it never really arrives.

As previously stated, this is a love letter to a very specific style of filmmaking and really Del Toro is aiming to introduce something he loves to a new generation. However, in doing this, he’s introduced everything! For those unfamiliar, a lot of kaiju/anime releases have a very specific set of character archetypes, most of which are present in this film – everything bar the cutesy girl who’s a bit useless and cries a lot.. possibly with a pet that may or may not talk. There’s also the unorthodox construction of character names such as Stacker Pentecost, Newton Geiszler and Hannibal Chau, which you really wouldn’t expect anywhere else. Additionally, we have the unconventional love story that doesn’t really feel necessary, the use of the ultra-super weapon near the end of the fight when it would have been better to lead with it at the start and characters fighting amongst themselves then working together really quickly to achieve something positive. At one point, a character even shouts “This is for my family!” in Japanese before attacking and if you’re going for cliché, that’s pretty high on the list. I appreciate these could be attributed to any film, made in any country but the way in which they’re shot, acted and presented is very much akin to Japanese cinema. For those who aren’t familiar with these quirks, they simply come off as silly implausible setups. Imagine trying to recreate a Sergio Leone spaghetti western for an audience who was unfamiliar with them. All the close-ups, the two-three minute cuts, the audio dubbing and the seemingly never-ending suspense would come off as ridiculous. Which puts me in a difficult place. How do I review the film from a point of neutrality? While I’m familiar with the anime homages, does the rather laughable dialogue, obscure plot developments and fairly flimsy story cause the film to suffer? Arguably, no. Despite the fact that any other release would be penalised for these elements, they are executed as a loving recreation and as such, are done well. One could say “Giant robots fighting stuff? Shaky dialogue and acting? Surely it’s just like Transformers?” So, to pre-emptively combat that statement, let’s just clear a few things up. Del Toro is selling robots beating up monsters, not sex and racism. One of the reasons this film works so well is the passion and love for creature features of the past that has been infused into every single element. Should Del Toro have made this film? Of course not, it’s absurd. But in making this film he has managed to capture and present his unabashed love for these types of films and simply asked you to take a look, see if you could like them too. It’s a very a silly premise told by someone who is an astounding visual filmmaker; a mindset which is not to be confused with the makers of Sharktopus Vs. Crocageddonosaurus or some other bollocks mockbuster, which is a silly premise told by a silly person.


Release Date:
12th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
This movie prides itself on the visual fight sequences and this is one of the main points raised by its detractors. However, most will agree that a rather standout moment is a surprisingly tender one. A flashback by jaegar pilot Mako Mori [Kikuchi] reliving a close encounter she had with a kaiju as a child (brilliantly acted by Mana Ashida) and the pilot who saved her life. I’m not saying any more than that but anyone who’s seen the film knows what I’m talking about.

Notable Characters:
My fiancée and I are massive Idris Elba fans. Everything he’s in usually has to be sampled as he’s an incredibly talented individual and the roles he ends up in are compellingly done. His portrayal of Stacker Pentecost is no exception. I had heard that originally Tom Cruise was considered for the role and I cannot think of a worse choice. Elba’s calm demeanour and stoic nature towers over his fellow cast members, resonating a real sense of superiority. The whole thing reminded me of Col. Shikishima in Akira. Outside of that, Ron Perlman’s turn as Hannibal Chau is so out of a manga/anime (in terms of visuals, mannerisms and characteristics) that his presence strikes a very memorable cord.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s not obedience, Mr. Becket. It’s respect”

In A Few Words:
“In the hands of anyone else, this film would be a hollow, schlocky mess. But Del Toro lovingly recreates an enormous part of his childhood for contemporary audiences. Big, fun and exciting but possibly a little too loyal to the source material”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #100

[07 July 2013]


Winning Team:
Dial M For Moustache

Genre – Hirsute thriller

Runners Up:
Ass Centura: When The Quiz Master Calls..
Genre – 100 movie bums come to the film quiz (with hilarious consequences)
2 Fast, 2 Nick Fury
Genre – High octane musical.. with sexy results
Blue Deuce
Genre – Tennisurf
The Turd Man
Genre – Thriller: Harry Lime slips up in the sewers
After Birth
Genre – Injured Will Smith fights to save the world from dodgy father/son collaborations
(2 But We’re Already Complaining It’s Too Hot And Soon We’ll Be Moaning It’s Too Cold) Days Of Summer
Genre – British classic
He Was In A Franchise So Bad It Was Remade After Four Years
Genre – Urgh, Tobey Maguire is such a dick


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. How old is Sam Baker in Sixteen Candles?
SIXTEEN
2. What genre does Seven Brides For Seven Brothers belong to?
MUSICAL (will also accept romantic comedy, comedy, period)
3. Who played the role of Daphne in the live-action Scooby Doo films?
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
4. Who voices the characters of Shrek and Donkey respectively in the Shrek franchise? (one point per correct answer)
MIKE MYERS / EDDIE MURPHY
5. How many Saw films have been made to date?
SEVEN
6. What did Steven Spielberg direct in between Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park?
SCHINDLER’S LIST
7. How fast would you need to drive a flux-capacitor fitted DeLorean to travel through time, as seen in Back To The Future?
88 MPH
8. Comic duo Stan & Ollie were more commonly known by which alias?
LAUREL AND HARDY
9. Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in which country?
AUSTRIA
10. The character Sam Spade was famously played by which actor?
HUMPHREY BOGART (although the character has been played by six or seven actors)

ROUND II: Filming [Marvel Special]
1. What is the alias of vigilante, Frank Castle, in The Punisher? The Punisher? Deadpool? Captain Marvel?
THE PUNISHER
2. Who replaced Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man? Jamie Bell? Andrew Garfield? Josh Hutcherson?
ANDREW GARFIELD
3. Who voiced the subtitle character in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer? Michael Clarke Duncan? Gary Sinise? Laurence Fishburne?
LAURENCE FISHBURNE
4. In which Marvel film does Robert Downey Jnr play Tony Stark but not Iron Man? The Incredible Hulk? Spider-Man 3? X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
5. Who directed Thor? Kenneth Branagh? Matthew Vaughn? Guillermo Del Toro?
KENNETH BRANAGH
6. What is the name of Schmidt’s Nazi science division in Captain America? HAMMER? HYDRA? AIM?
HYDRA
7. Which of the following countries was Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance not filmed in? Romania? Turkey? Poland?
POLAND
8. How many characters appeared in all three Iron Man films? Three? Four? Five?
FIVE (Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Col. Rhodes, Happy Hogan, JARVIS)
9. Who composed the score for The Avengers? Alan Silvestri? Craig Armstrong? Patrick Doyle?
ALAN SILVESTRI
10. Taylor Lautner (of Twilight fame) was cast as Beast in X-Men: First Class but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. 2004’s Secret Window was based on the novel of the same name by which author?
STEPHEN KING
2. What was the title of the sequel to Donnie Darko?
S. DARKO
3. Who played the title role in the 90’s comic adaptation of The Shadow?
ALEC BALDWIN
4. The Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil was released in which year?
1989
5. How heavy is the stolen diamond in Snatch?
EIGHTY SIX CARATS
6. The following was the poster tagline for which film, “Something wonderful has happened.. number five is alive”?
SHORT CIRCUIT
7. The 2001 Odyssey is a club in which seventies film?
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
8. In an attempt to step away from conventional horror scores, Marco Beltrami’s music for Scream was made with a different genre in mind. What was that genre?
WESTERN
9. What did Frank Darabont direct in 1994?
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
10. The Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane is the setting for which 2010 film?
SHUTTER ISLAND

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who played the lead role in 1946’s Sergeant York? Gary Cooper? John Garfield? Cary Grant?
GARY COOPER
2. Which of the following films did Ray Harryhausen not work on? The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad? First Men In The Moon? The Lost World?
THE LOST WORLD
3. Which of the following quotes is not from Sex And The City? We were dressed from head to toe in love, the only label that never goes out of style? I love you but I love me more, I’ve been in a relationship with myself for 49 years? Yes, I wanted the attention and I wanted the flirting but I didn’t want the kiss?
YES, I WANTED THE ATTENTION AND I WANTED THE FLIRTING BUT I DIDN’T WANT THE KISS (from SATC2)
4. Which Beatles album wasn’t a title of one of their films? Help? Abbey Road? Magical Mystery Tour?
ABBEY ROAD
5. Lee Marvin and Roger Moore only appeared in one film together. Which of the following was it? Shout At The Devil? The Iceman Cometh? The Wild Geese?
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL
6. Sin City is made up of how many short films? 3? 4? 5?
FOUR (The Customer Is Always Right, That Yellow Bastard, The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill)
7. What is Aunty Entity’s nickname for Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome? The Master Blaster? Raggedy Man? Pig Killer?
RAGGEDY MAN
8. What is the name of the lead character from She’s All That, played by Rachael Leigh Cook? Mackenzie Siler? Katie Darlingson? Laney Boggs?
LANEY BOGGS
9. The original version of Shaft was released in 1971. When was the Samuel L. Jackson remake released? 2000? 2002? 2003?
2000
10. John Wayne’s son, Ethan, was named after the character his father portrayed in The Searchers. True or False?
TRUE

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Skyfall / Slumdog Millionaire / Smokin’ Aces
Poster: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari
Actor: Christopher Lee

BOUNS IMPRESSIONS ROUND
Impression 1: Batman Begins / Batman
Impression 2: Daredevil / Bullseye
Impression 3: Gangs Of New York / Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting
Impression 4: The Hunt For Red October / Captain Marko Ramius
Impression 5: Die Hard / Hans Gruber

DESPICABLE ME 2

More Minions. More Despicable

Director
Pierre Coffin
Chris Renaud

Starring
Steve Carrell
Kristen Wiig
Benjamin Bratt
Miranda Cosgrove



I was late to the Despicable Me party but found the original heart-warming and incredibly impressive. The two other original releases knocked out by Illumination Entertainment weren’t great, so a sequel to Despicable Me seemed obvious and while it’s not awful, there was absolutely no need for it.

Set shortly after the events in Despicable Me, Gru [Carrell] is living the life of a reformed villain, attempting to start a business selling jams and jellies. However, proving himself to be a wonderful dad for his three adopted daughters isn’t enough and he starts to wonder if the girls need a maternal figure. Annoyingly, all the candidates he’s set up with are rather hopeless and the idea is immediately shelved. After hosting a birthday party for Agnes (his youngest) Gru is confronted by Lucy Wilde [Wiig], an agent working for the Anti-Villain League. He is then recruited to assist in the exposure and capture of a nefarious new villain that has emerged. The only lead is a genetic signature traced to a large biodome-like mall. Going undercover with Wilde, Gru attempts to identify the culprit – his hottest lead is Eduardo Perez [Bratt], the overweight owner of a Mexican restaurant who bears a striking resemblance to legendary villain, El Macho. In addition to this, Gru is still subconsciously on the search for a suitable mother for the girls, Margo [Cosgrove] has started dating, Dr. Nefario [Russell Brand] has quit and the Minions are disappearing.

Throughout the movie, we are treated to some truly cinematic visuals – for an animated film, this kind of scale is often sought after but so rarely captured. Additionally, the parallel score work by Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams compliments the visuals and sets tones of both severity and levity when called for. Unfortunately, pushing the technical elements to one side, the story isn’t as inspired and happily sinks into atypical sequel territory. Furthermore, the laughs are still good but not nearly as constant or sustained as the first film. No doubt, younger audience members will enjoy the pratfall silliness but more adult audiences will bemoan the absence (or gross subsidence, at least) of the villain inspired humour and wit. But that’s what the studios want; get the audiences in young, people! Gotta sell those Minion toys to someone! If anything, the whole thing seems inspired by the results of a focus group. If you don’t know this already, I bloody hate focus groups. Damn you, focus groups. Damn you all! Taking a small group of 10 or 50 people and changing the nature of something creative based on what they liked or related to is not only moronic and detrimental but it’s fundamentally ruining the cinematic industry… but of course, we all knew that already.

At least the characters feel true to themselves. There are few things worse than sequels that betray the very core nature of their characters. With the introduction of new faces, less time is spent with the girls (save Agnes for her cute factor – see focus group comments above) but at least they still feel exactly the same, rather than some revisionist nonsense. But the story and setups are largely carried by the performances of Carrell, Wiig and Bratt, all three of whom are exceptional and it’s evident that their personalities have really been worked into both the dialogue and the animation – less so for Bratt but I’ll mention that later, in my Highlighted Character segment. Then there are the Minions. I’ll openly admit it, I like the Minions. For kids, they represent slapstick hilarity and they remind parents of their children. When they were on form, the Minions were flat-out hilarious, when they weren’t, they were quite tedious. I can remember no less than three attempts to get me laughing with singing Minions. Minions! Singing Boys2Men! AND THE VILLAGE PEOPLE! SMACK A DUCK! That’s bloomin’ marvellous! Oh, I’m positively rolling on the floor in sheer joy and exquisite amusement. On the contrary, it was drawn out filler that was never funny. Not once! Singing should be forbidden in most films, especially family films, wherein it is a simplistic cheap gimmick that even Disney knows to hold back on now. I know there’s a Minion film being released next year but with the plot focusing so heavily on them, I feel like I’ve already watched it; which is annoying as the premise for the spin-off/prequel sounds intriguing. Much like the first film, they should be used sparingly and only when necessary, so as not to suffer the same fate as those penguins from Madagascar.

Still, Despicable Me 2 is better than most of its competitors but it would have been nice to leave the Despicable Me universe alone and work on something new, rather than diving into franchise territory (something Pixar are quite guilty of, of late). Just because the visuals are good and the jokes are amusing, doesn’t mean you can just wheel out a simple, disposable story and shoehorn in a handful of new characters. I mean, they’re going to but they shouldn’t. If we’re lucky the Minions film will be a rather impressive surprise and the whole thing will be left alone to age with dignity. Chances of that actually happening? Slim.


Release Date:
5th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
My favourite scene was largely ruined by the endless trailers aired in the run up to the cinematic release. Gru is building up the courage to ask Lucy out on a date and has been practicing with a phone and one of his minions. After a disastrous attempt, he decides to make the call. As he reaches for the phone, terror sets in and the back-and-forth cuts between a terrified Gru and the looming phone is genuinely funny. All of which reaches a crescendo when Gru finally snaps, whips out a flamethrower and melts the phone. Naturally this triggers a fire alarm and three Minions enter the room, adding to the destruction and mayhem. Everything working in harmony to produce a very amusing scene. More of those would have been appreciated.

Notable Characters:
Benjamin Bratt was amazing. His role as Eduardo Perez was really entertaining and added so much to an already decently stacked cast of characters. But then I learned that Bratt was brought in weeks before the film was complete, to rerecord the audio that had already been put in place by Al Pacino, who left the project citing creative differences. To come in at the last minute, lip-synch and already animated character while ignoring what Pacino did and inventing your own thing AND being one of the movie’s highlights is astounding. Effectively he out Pacino’d Pacino? Flabbergasting.

Highlighted Quote:
“My house is made out of candy and sometimes I eat instead of facing my problems”

In A Few Words:
“Not a terrible movie but lacks the depth, charm and personality of the original”

Total Score:

3/5

NOW YOU SEE ME

Come In Close Because The More You Think You See, The Easier It’ll Be To Fool You

Director
Louis Leterrier

Starring
Mark Ruffalo
Melanie Laurent
Jesse Eisenberg
Woody Harrelson
Isla Fisher
Dave Franco
Morgan Freeman



A smart caper film from the director of Clash Of The Titans? Yeah, that’ll be an intelligent, riveting thrill ride. Or the other thing: a bloated, simplistic, unimpressive example of sheer mediocrity. To my mind, there are three great contemporary magic/con films: The Illusionist, The Prestige and The Brothers Bloom and the thing that made them great was by drawing us in and then revealing themselves to be faster and smarter than the audience. This film was neither.

Now You See Me opens with a brief introduction to four magicians. J. Daniel Atlas [Eisenberg] is a typical card-pulling street magician who seems to have achieved moderate fame, Henley Reeves [Fisher] used to be Atlas’ assistant but now goes it alone, performing elaborate stunt tricks, Jack Wilder [Franco] operates simple scam tricks, using deception to steal watches and wallets and Merritt McKinney [Harrelson] is a mentalist who has fallen from the limelight but uses his ability to blackmail adulterers. All four are summoned by the mysterious secret cabal of magicians, known as The Eye. The film then jumps ahead one year and the four magicians are headlining Las Vegas as The Four Horsemen. In front of a packed crowd, the magicians seemingly rob a bank in Paris then distribute three million dollars worth of Euros to the audience. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes [Ruffalo] is brought in to arrest the magicians, with the assistance of French Interpol agent, Alma Dray [Laurent] but naturally cannot convict them without openly admitting that magic is real. Unable to prove their case, they release the illusionists in time for their next show. Sure enough, they pull off another elaborate cash-related stunt and evade the police once more. As the stakes heighten and the pressure escalates, Rhodes consults magic defrauder, Thaddeus Bradley [Freeman] and must take a leap of faith to see past the deception, in order to catch the performers in the act.

The reason this movie fails is that the mediocre writing ensures the story, twist, motives and explanations are all simplistic. Whether this was intentional, to cater to the lowest common denominator is debatable but watching the story unfold is like watching an idiot doing a wordsearch; the answers are blatantly obvious and their inability to figure it out faster is just painfully frustrating. But (sticking with the wordsearch metaphor) watching an idiot get irritated with a puzzle they can’t figure out is surprisingly rewarding; a smug reminder that people are dumb and you are not. The cast assembled is very impressive and they salvage what they can but the characters are so shallow with no justification, drive or motive for any of their actions. But the actors shouldn’t be praised too highly as there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them. Considering the compatibility (or incompatibility if you like) between Eisenberg and Harrelson in Zombieland, this is a really staggering accomplishment. None of the magicians were believable outside of the current scene, as if they had only just met every single time they appeared. I mean, if you’ve spent an entire year with a small group, planning an elaborate heist, keeping secret from anyone and everyone, you’d think there would be an obvious and emanating bond. On a more positive note, Brian Tyler’s self-indulgent pumping score was actually quite fitting, suiting both the on-stage illusions and off-stage drama.

**Spoilers throughout this paragraph**
While the dumb writing was the biggest flaw of the film, silly things irritated me the most. Things that would only bother a nit-picking critic or any actual filmmaker, things that completely take somebody out of the realm of credibility. Countless films (possibly even some of the greatest films) are responsible for perpetrating similar actions but I was so annoyed with them that I felt the need to highlight a few.. without seeing the film, this list is going to be an erratic mess but bear with me. Set design and production on a film like this needs to be smart, so having a big leather bound book called The Eye Of Horus which explains in poetic detail the nature of this magical fraternity with lovely pictures and borders is flat-out unrealistic. The tarot cards becoming some sort of electronic activation device for a super-spinning carousel that somehow reveals their headquarters.. or something, I dunno, it was pretty horseshit. I really wanted the carousel to take off and reveal to be aliens or something equally stupid; that would have been amazingly awful. Taking hours to install a floor-to-ceiling mirror, just to smash it with a sledge hammer, rather than simply lowering/raising it seemed excessive. The use of CGI for most of the magic also ruins the credibility of the trick. For example, during one of their sold-out shows, Atlas is conjuring giant bubbles seemingly from thin air. Ok, I can see how a magician could do that. Then, to enhance the trick, Henley jumps into the bubble and flies around the room, only for it to burst and Atlas to catch her in the audience. As far as stage magic goes, this is perfectly plausible. Similar tricks have been performed before but because the movie relies on fairly ropey CGI, the credibility is completely shot to hell. What’s more, they choose to reveal how certain tricks were done but not others, which means the really elaborate illusions (exploding into cash would be a good example) feel hollow. The list goes on. I appreciate these are minor quibbles but in a stupid movie posing as a clever film, these moronic developments and methods only staple the uninspired nature of the movie. Then there’s The Eye itself. I really had a problem with this. All the way up until the end we’re led to believe that The Eye is part of the deception, that it’s either a real organisation or possibly somebody using the concept to insight fear/awe. Plot twist, it’s real! Yey! Magic is real! The order of super magicians is a real thing! Wonderful! Wait.. hang on. What the fuck is the point or function of The Eye? What purpose do they serve? They seek out the world’s greatest magicians then invite them to their secret order, leaving their entire life behind to do.. what? Lazy shit like this (probably for the purposes of a sequel) is really bloody infuriating. Especially when it’s such an integral element to the film’s story.

It’s not that Now You See Me is offensively bad, it’s just annoyingly simple. A lot of the time, we forgive films for their simplicity and quirks but when you brand yourself as a smart thriller, you really need to deliver. Granted, it’s not an easy task and I appreciate that being exposed to so many cinematic stories and then analysing them in reviews, I’ve honed my senses to look for these kinds of developments. But the smartest person in the room is the person you should be trying to please. Yes, cinema is an escape but I’m not saying make the movie complicated, I’m saying make it clever. Just because some people don’t understand is no excuse to dumb things down. I’m getting a little off track here. Viewable from start to finish and praiseworthy in its technical execution but don’t expect anything other than a completely forgettable couple of hours.


Release Date:
5th July 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
I rather liked Woody Harrelson’s introduction. The man is gifted with an exceptional amount of charm and charisma and having him play a previously successful hypnotist was an amusing premise in of itself. Watching him use his powers to con an adulterer out of cash to keep his secret quiet only made him more amusing. The whole thing takes place over three or four minutes but you immediately get a sense for the man, his motivations and his abilities.

Notable Characters:
**Giant spoiler.. basically ruins the film**
Mark Ruffalo plays agent Dylan Rhodes and for some reason he’s assigned the bank heist case. But there’s more to Rhodes than meets the eye. What starts off as a crappy, angry, two dimensional character becomes the orphaned son of a deceased magician who was debunked by Thaddeus Bradley. Ooooh, what a twist. Actually no, it’s not because you can pretty much tell from the get go what’s going to happen. The clues are so obvious that a child could figure it out. Actually, that’s not entirely true. As you start to piece things together you know that the dead magician (Shrike) is at the centre but as we’re never really told his age, it’s hard to tell if Ruffalo is playing Shrike or a close relative. What really gets me, is the final confrontation between Rhodes and Bradley. Bradley’s first expose led to the death of that magician and the orphaning of his only son. Now, don’t you think if you were responsible for a man’s death and the ruining of a child’s life, no matter how unscrupulous a human being you are, that their faces would be emblazoned on your mind for eternity? Evidently the writers didn’t believe so.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m not sure about this. These guys.. they’re tricky”

In A Few Words:
“A very straight forward film that happily jumps from predictable setup to predictable conclusion, believing it’s the cool kid in class, when in fact, no one really cares”

Total Score:

2/5