ELYSIUM

What Would You Do To Get There?

Director
Neill Blomkamp

Starring
Matt Damon
Jodie Foster
Alice Braga



Set in the year 2154, Earth is a rotting overpopulated wasteland where crime is rife, life is hard and improvement is nigh on impossible. A select few, however, reside on an orbiting space station named Elysium; a utopia free from disease and hunger. The narrative opens with a brief establishing flashback before detailing the relatively self-serving parolee, Max Da Costa [Damon]. There’s nothing particularly bad about Max, he’s merely a product of his environment. Growing up in an orphanage, he had to resort to stealing cars to make ends meet and wound up in prison for three years. Following that, the totalitarian robotic police force continually hound him as an ex-con, acting as if it’s just a matter of time before he returns to his criminal ways. Lucky enough to be working for minimal wage in a factory, Max is forced to step inside a malfunctioning device and exposed to lethal doses of radiation. With only days to live and well aware that the med-units on Elysium can cure him, Max agrees to a cybernetic upgrade to allow him to kidnap an Elysium citizen and gain access. Simultaneously, the corrupt defence secretary, Jessica Delacourt [Foster] has been arranging a coup with defence contractor John Carlyle [William Fichtner] to reboot the entire system. With this information, Max becomes a lethal target and all of Los Angeles is put on quarantine until he is found.

Despite the critical and commercial success of Blomkamp’s District 9, many audience members complained about the found footage filmmaking style, the rather linear narrative and the simplicity of the lead character. So you’d think by taking on board these points, his second science fiction release, Elysium, would allay some of these complaints. Apparently not. The film hasn’t been out long and already people are whining that it’s too conventional and simplistic in its execution. Is this the case? To a degree but predominantly because the story and setting dictates that it should be. First thing to highlight is that the science fiction genre has an unpleasant habit of accentuating gender stereotypes. The bad guys aren’t just bad, they’re malicious murdering rapists. The hero overcomes obstacles the only way he knows how, with violence yet somehow survives some of the most ludicrous attacks. A woman in a place of high authority is cruel and power-hungry. The female love interest is not only a nurse but also a caring mother. Each role is acted to the level required of said stereotype and no further. It all serves a purpose and has been perpetrated countless times in praiseworthy releases and bottom-of-the-barrel schlock alike.

Second thing to address is the ‘message’ which one could argue was hammered heavily throughout but if you come from a country like South Africa and your success transports you to Los Angeles, wouldn’t you feel the need to make a giant, obvious statement? (Before you get picky, I know he moved to Canada as a child, I’m making a point here) I’m not suggesting we compromise the integrity of film to preach about humanity but sometimes things need to be spelled out. Point in case, the average complaint I overhead as I left the screening was “I thought we’d get to see more of Elysium.” To which, I’m quietly confident the confrontational response should be, “you live in Elysium you dolt, you’re supposed to witness the ravaged populace and feel bad not coo over the shiny spaceship.” And for the more highbrow audience members who have the same complaint but throw out words like “politics,” “corruption” and “societal structures”, it’s a utopian society much like The Hunger Games, the story and characters of interest and note aren’t the ones residing in paradise, they’re the ones mucking it out in the wasteland. Despite all its good intentions, the more you analyse Elysium, the more two dimensional it is. The characters are there to forward the story and the story is there to shout about poverty and class divides. But does this detract from the film as an experience? Not really. And while you could say that these flaws should be more detrimental than I am giving them credit for, ask yourself, how many science fiction films can you think of that are absolutely watertight and without flaws? Science fiction is and always has been a prime location for exploring contemporary societal issues in a crazy, unfamiliar, yet entertaining setting.

Setting all the layering and acting to one side for a second, Elysium is a technical marvel. The cinematography is wonderfully stunning, the production design is so superbly detailed and populated with filth and decay. As odd as this may sound for a movie set and filmed in what is a effectively a landsite for rubbish, it’s a veritable treat for the eyes. If there’s one thing that adds production value to a film, it’s endless detail. Complementing the physical elements are the flawless – absolutely flawless – visual effects. Not only do they feel one hundred per cent real, they manage to fit into the created universe seamlessly. And to top everything off, the primal, organic score by Ryan Amon is specifically impressive on two accounts, first on merit alone and second because this is Amon’s debut.

With a clear message that runs from start to finish, decent performances, lush visuals and an entertaining story, Elysium delivers a more intelligent summer blockbuster. Granted, it’s not perfect and any artist that thinks their work is going to actually change the world is sadly deluded (don’t argue with me on that one) but it’s a fun film. It sets out to present a world and tell a story and does so admirably. Comparisons to District 9 are not only detrimental, they’re utterly pointless, so avoid reviews or conversations that do.


Release Date:
23rd August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Less a scene and more a directorial touch. Both on Earth and Elysium there is a strange sense of borderless unity. Granted, the class divide between those on-planet and those off-world is obvious but the fact that the citizens of Los Angeles skip back-and-forth between English and Spanish while those on Elysium favour English and French (at least, the ones we are shown do). Small thing but a very simple touch that details how the story’s universe has been neatly crafted and honed.

Notable Characters:
Two standout individuals that instantly come to mind is the unrecognisable Sharlto Copley and the fairly unknown but highly energetic Wagner Moura. Copley plays the reprehensible sleeper agent, Kruger. Kruger is your typical wasteland bad guy with his history of violence, creepy dialogue, prolific swearing and general callousness towards the death and suffering of others. But considering this is the same guy who played the fairly simple, endearing Wikus in District 9, it’s quite impressive. Secondly, Moura plays Spider, a smuggler and hacker who organises routine raids on Elysium – where possible – for the infirm. His reasons, while fairly noble, are far from altruistic and his primary function is a gangster. Either way, he’s an interesting character, largely due to the mannerisms and traits of the actor embodying him.

Highlighted Quote:
“What’s in it for the hippo?”

In A Few Words:
“Straightforward in its storytelling and simplistic in its character design but these flaws are easily overlooked when considering the sheer production levels that audiences are treated to”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #103

[18 August 2013]


Winning Team:
Transformers Of The Caribbean: Attack Of The Franchise Blender

Genre – Romantic horror comedy

Runners Up:
Charlie’s Angels
Genre – Superhero slasher psychological thriller
Cloudy With A Chance Of Infected Balls
Genre – Medical comedy
A Nightmare On Meryl Streep
Genre – Horror musical
Kormageddon – The Curry That Ends Your World
Genre – Toilet related disaster film
Armageddon Quiz Points
Genre – Apocalyptic quiz show mockumentary


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The alien invaders in Mars Attacks! launch their attack from which planet?
MARS
2. In film coding and categorisation what does B/W stand for?
BLACK & WHITE
3. What was the name of the lead character in The Wizard Of Oz?
DOROTHY GALE
4. In Miss Congeniality, Gracie Hart works for which US governmental agency?
FBI
5. What breed of dog do John and Jenny adopt in Marley & Me?
LABRADOR
6. Which actor played the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather?
AL PACINO
7. Who directed Young Frankenstein?
MEL BROOKS
8. What was the title of the sequel to The Mask Of Zorro?
THE LEGEND OF ZORRO
9. What was the title of the Bottom movie?
GUEST HOUSE PARADISO
10. Be excellent to each other, Party on dudes and Most non-triumphant are catchphrases of which film duo?
BILL & TED

ROUND II: Filming [Films in which a character sacrifices themself for another Special]
1. Which actor played the lead role in Man On Fire? Denzel Washington? Mel Gibson? John Malkovich?
DENZEL WASHINGTON
2. What did Michael Bay direct after The Rock? Pearl Harbour? Armageddon? Bad Boys II?
ARMAGEDDON
3. How old is Rose supposed to be when the Titanic sinks? 16? 17? 18? [bonus point for stating how old Kate Winslet was during filming]
17 [21]
4. Which of the following quotes from Terminator II is correct? I know now why you cry? I now know why you cry? Now I know why you cry?
I KNOW NOW WHY YOU CRY
5. How many characters sacrifice their lives for others in Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring? One? Two? Three?
TWO (Gandalf, Boromir)
6. In Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, Ron sacrifices his piece during a game of wizard’s chess. Which chess piece does he represent? Knight? Bishop? Rook?
KNIGHT
7. What was the title character’s last words in The Iron Giant? No following? Superman? Why?
SUPERMAN
8. What was the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in End Of Days? Peter Aquinas? Thomas Abner? Jericho Cane?
JERICHO CANE
9. What is the name of the science space station that Dr. Carol Marcus works on in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan? Reliant? Regula? Rebor?
REGULA
10. Leon was the first movie to have an official website. True or False?
FALSE (it was Stargate)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. In Jack Nicholson’s “you can’t handle the truth” monologue from A Few Good Men, how many times does he use the word wall/s?
FOUR
2. What was the subtitle for Mad Max 2?
THE ROAD WARRIOR
3. Toys, Moscow On The Hudson and Bicentennial Man all starred which actor?
ROBIN WILLIAMS
4. The Man With The Golden Gun was released in which year?
1974
5. What is the name of Morpheus’ ship in The Matrix?
NEBUCHANDEZZAR
6. What was the name of the Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson film about a couple trying to get pregnant?
MAYBE BABY
7. Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer are the lead characters in which comic book adaptation? [bonus points for naming the actors who played the roles of Enid and Rebecca]
GHOST WORLD [Thora Birch / Scarlett Johansson]
8. ‘The tooth hurts’, ‘You can’t handle the tooth’ and ‘Putting a smile on your face this summer’ are poster taglines for which 2010 family film?
THE TOOTH FAIRY
9. Sister Suffragette, Jolly Holiday and A Man Has Dreams are songs from which Disney film?
MARY POPPINS
10. Finish the following quote, “Alright, Mr. DeMille..
I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. How many Quentin Tarantino films has Harvey Keitel featured in? Five? Three? Two?
THREE
2. In 1998’s The Man In The Iron Mask, which actor played the musketeer Aramis? Gerard Depardieu? John Malkovich? Jeremy Irons?
JEREMY IRONS
3. Excluding those used in the credits, how many ABBA songs are sung/hummed in Mamma Mia!? Twelve? Sixteen? Twenty?
TWENTY
4. Who composed the scores for Road To Perdition, Wall-E and The Lost Boys? James Newton Howard? Thomas Newman? James Horner?
THOMAS NEWMAN
5. What was the title of the 1961 John Huston film that starred Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach? Splendour In The Grass? The Misfits? The Absent-Minded Professor?
THE MISFITS
6. What was Jet Li’s first English speaking role? Lethal Weapon 4? Kiss Of The Dragon? Romeo Must Die?
LETHAL WEAPON 4 (also his first time playing a villain)
7. How many films has Danny DeVito directed? 7? 8? 9?
SEVEN
8. What does alien Jerome Newton become addicted to in The Man Who Fell To Earth? Heroin? Alcohol? Chocolate?
ALCOHOL
9. Which of the following films did not star both James Stewart and John Wayne? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? Cahill? The Shootist?
CAHILL
10. Monty Python & The Holy Grail was Elvis’ favourite film. True or False?
TRUE

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Sting / The Godfather: Part II / Shutter Island
Poster: A Nightmare On Elm Street
Actor: Katherine Hepburn

KICK ASS 2

You Can’t Fight Your Destiny

Director
Jeff Wadlow

Starring
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Chloe Grace Moretz
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Jim Carrey



The plot for Kick Ass 2 is an amalgamation of the Hit Girl and Kick Ass 2 comic series, which probably accounts for the slightly disjointed and split narrative. The story opens a few years (presumably) after the events in Kick Ass. Dave Lizewski [Taylor-Johnson] hasn’t patrolled as the crime fighter Kick Ass in a long time, giving way to other new vigilantes. Following the death of her father, Mindy Macready [Moretz] is forced into a ‘normal’ school life by her adoptive father, Marcus (played by Morris Chestnut but regularly skips out on school to train. Desperate to avenge the death of his own father, Chris D’Amico [Mintz-Plasse] dons the super-villain persona The Mother Fucker. While he has no powers or real physical skill, he has a very large sum of mob money that he uses to fund his evil organisation. Stepping up to the threat, Kick Ass returns and unites with other vigilantes to form the Justice Forever team. What is essentially a feud between two embittered teenagers escalates dramatically and both Mindy and Dave have to analyse whether they are doing the right thing by dressing up in costumes and fighting crime.

Dealing with the notion of identity and whether or not to take up the mantle of hero, this movie suffers in a similar manner to The Dark Knight Rises. While the absence of a costumed Batman in that film had a solid impact on the story, it meant that the audiences found the villain more engrossing and compelling. The same can be said here, except without the serious dramatic elements of a Nolan release, it just plays off as a trifle dull. Then there’s the realistic side of the story (the high school elements), which were fairly interesting and aided the character’s growth, yet became detrimental to the narrative flow and never really entered the coveted Mean Girls territory. There’s also a great deal of emotional potential that simply fails to deliver, as if the event simply didn’t happen. For example, Katie (Dave’s girlfriend from the first film) breaks off their relationship because he’s distracted with crime fighting and believes Dave is seeing Mindy but this is never addressed again. She’s simply shuffled off-screen and apparently out of Dave’s mind entirely. So after a slow start and lacklustre build, you’d expect at least a thrilling conclusion but while the final showdown wasn’t so much anti-climactic, it was a little too bland – I appreciate these characters are powerless vigilantes but the hand-to-hand fighting was visually very simplistic and unengaging.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still great as Kick Ass but the beefier he gets, the more ridiculous his casting becomes. The same goes for Chloe Grace Moretz. I know you can’t halt the aging process but the older Hit Girl gets, the more edge is taken off. And yet both actors still give great performances and retain that level of familiar silliness from the source material. Additionally Clark Duke, John Leguizamo, Lindy Booth, Donald Faison and Jim Carrey offer neatly memorable performances but surprisingly aren’t really utilised more than a handful of scenes. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, on the other hand, takes things to a whole other level but I’ll expand on that in greater detail later.

From start to finish, Kick Ass 2 is commendable superhero fare. This is both a praiseworthy note and ultimately why the film falters. It never pushes the envelope or elevates itself nor does it bore or overly disappoint you. The one outstanding feeling is that Vaughn’s direction is sorely missed. The very definition of a sequel is to surpass the original with heightened outlandishness, crazy setups and ridiculous payoffs. Nowhere in the cinematic universe does this work, save for superhero films. Yet somehow Kick Ass 2 seems to have a smaller scale than the first movie. This is largely because the majority of the sequences are simply presented to the audience. Here’s a school bully scene.. and here’s a scene between Dave and his father. And all the audience can do is quietly murmur, “Yes, I see that, I’m waiting for something to happen.” A point of frustration which I found rather surprising. Despite claims of excessive violence and gore, this film is actually quite tame and feels reserved in its foul language, violence and outrageousness. One thing the Kick Ass franchise should do is present audiences with typical comic book scenarios in the real-world.. before turning that notion on its head and delivering the absurd. Point in case, Dave’s first attempt to stop crime in Kick Ass led to him being stabbed, assaulted and run down by a car. Yes, it escalates to something bonkers but it starts out with an explanation of why nobody actually tries to fight crime in this way. Kick Ass 2, while bleating about the consequences of the character’s actions, rarely shows us that realism that the story desperately needs. Overall it’s a bit fun, a bit silly and bit heartfelt but never strides into really impressive territory, coming off like a direct-to-video sequel, despite the returning lead cast.


Release Date:
16th August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Learning Night Bitch’s [Booth] secret identity, The Mother Fucker invades her home and attempts to rape her. Horrific concept (that is quite gruesome in the comic) but rather than having the character gang-raped, The Mother Fucker hisses “Time to see what evil dick tastes like” before realising he can’t get an erection due to the pressure. It’s a silly scene that uses malicious humour to undercut a rather serious and despicable act; hence humiliating the would be attacker. Which to me.. is very funny.

Notable Characters:
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is a joy to watch in this film. From the outset to close, every single scene he’s in is exquisite. Similar to Hit Girl in the first film, The Mother Fucker is the most memorable and quotable thing in the film. Watching him desperately trying to emulate his mob family and become the evil villain he thinks he is while continually fucking up (knocking himself in the face with his own gun, obtaining the wrong kind of fertilizer for explosives) is a delight.

Highlighted Quote:
“Why do I need to go back to school? You just taught me everything I need to know”

In A Few Words:
“Entertaining throughout but lacks the fun and over-the-top absurdity of its predecessor. At this point, a third instalment seems thoroughly unlikely”

Total Score:

3/5

ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

12 Hostages, 24 Hours, 1 Partridge

Director
Declan Lowney

Starring
Steve Coogan
Colm Meaney



Bloody siege films. A familiar sight in lower budget releases (due to the minimal locations and small cast/crew) and in the right hands they offer a writer the canvas to produce clever dialogue and simple scenarios. Most of the time, it’s just a long, drawn out mess of tedium and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is just another title in a long line of unimpressive middling similar releases. Ego-inflated disc jockey, Alan Partridge [Coogan], works at North Norfolk Digital and his mid-morning chat show represents everything antiquated and embarrassing about local radio: over opinionated call-ins, outdated musical requests and clumsily delivered offensive remarks. Yet he seems popular with the listeners and therefore has retained his job all these years. After a takeover by Goredale Media, several of the staff believe redundancies will be made and send Alan to the board to negotiate. Upon learning that the two primary candidates for removal are himself or fellow DJ, Pat Farrell [Meaney], he immediately saves his own skin and Pat is fired. Later that day, Pat returns with a shotgun and takes hostages. Alan manages to escape and becomes the police’s chief liaison – as Pat will only speak with Alan. But will Pat find out that Alan was the one who got him fired? How will the siege end? Stretch those two simple questions out for a further seventy minutes and you’ll have a rough idea of how quickly this movie begins to circle the drain.

Alpha Papa is a rather mercurial release, continually sliding back-and-forth between amusing lines/setups and completely tedious scenarios. As if any hints of genuine comedy were slowly and steadily beaten and reduced to passing giggles in favour of exposition and rather paint-by-numbers direction. The bookend scenes offer us a real taste of the Partridge character we’re familiar with but once the siege plotline wades in, it settles down and chortles its unwelcome hairy arse off into the camera for a solid hour and a bit before finally exiting and leaving us a glimpse of the humour that made Alan Partridge a household name.. in some houses.. in certain counties. The acting is perfectly commendable from all involved but the characters themselves are very simplistic and unimaginative. Partridge-canon faces such as Lynn, Michael and Sidekick Simon get a few appearances but aren’t overused – which would usually be a positive statement but in this case it’s to give way for more Partridgeisms that fall flat – and the newcomers are fitting but thoroughly disposable. So taking these fairly flat characters and placing them sequentially in a series of hideously repetitive plot devices is crippling at times. Alan’s in the building, out of the building, in the building. It becomes very mundane very quickly and the overall message that change and faceless corporate takeovers are bad is readily accepted by ‘the general public’. So rather than being condemned, the public rally around Pat the underdog and his plight; which actually doesn’t work thematically, especially as Alan (the ‘hero’) is a weasel, continually working the angles.

There are times when I really hate ‘British comedies’ with their slews of guilt inspired laughs, silly sex jokes and jovial awkwardness. What embarrasses me more is the adoration they’re slathered in by limp-minded audiences and reviewers desperate to set a trend by highlighting how much they ‘get it’. I’m reminded of the release of A Cock And Bull Story, which critics fell over themselves lauding praise aplenty but was in fact rather mediocre. In conclusion, the cameos were lacklustre, the plot was simple, the direction was straight forward, the acting was average, the jokes were good but far from plentiful, the music was insipidly dull and the point was so horribly and completely missed. And yet, the film is far from bad. I may have only said a total of five positive words about this movie but I was still led to the end without checking my watch or feeling the passage of time come to a standstill, when the jokes worked they worked incredibly well and as tiresome as the narrative was, it could have been so much worse – Johnny English comes to mind. I left the cinema feeling very indifferent but by the time I gathered my thoughts, it occurred to me I was fairly bored. Similarly to The World’s End, I seem to be one of the only critics who didn’t get the euphoric reaction that most seem to have been graced with. Alan Partridge fan or not, this effort was a fair go but comes up short.


Release Date:
9th August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
In one of his many transitionary scenes (in the building, out of the building, etc.), Alan accidentally manages to escape the siege. Realising he’s become the centre of attention and so very desperate to cling to the limelight as long as possible, he desperately tries to get back into the broadcasting centre. Cue a bit of average slapstick culminating in catching his trousers on a window latch and defrocking his lower half. “Oh now. Alan Partridge with his todger hanging out. Most embarrassing. Oh and look here. An armed policeman wants him to raise his hands! Oh hilarious. Whatever will he do? Tucking his cock and balls in between his legs? Oh stop, it’s all too much. Next you’ll tell me that a notorious paparazzi fiend will appear and photograph his posterior and smushed genitalia. There’s one now! Oh, Mr. Partridge you are too much. Whatever will you do next?” Fuck off.

Notable Characters:
Colm Meaney outshines everyone, in terms of performance but also makes his character curiously sympathetic. Granted, that could be down to the fact that the other supporting characters aren’t given much of a look in. Either way, he’s a delight and when he’s actually given things to do, it’s pleasant watching him command the scene. Tim Key as Sidekick Simon also deserves a nod but, as stated before, is criminally underused.

Highlighted Quote:
“I found when I went through my dark stage that Norfolk may not have been the best place to be. You know, ’cause it’s so flat… and depressing”

In A Few Words:
“Feeling more like a feature length episode of a TV show, Alpha Papa fails to bring the wit, humour and self-deprecation that makes the Alan Partridge character so appealing”

Total Score:

2/5

THE LONE RANGER

Never Take Off The Mask

Director
Gore Verbinski

Starring
Armie Hammer
Johnny Depp



The film opens at a fare in 1933 San Francisco. A little boy in cowboy attire is perusing a Wild West stall and notices the wax work of an elderly Comanche is in fact alive. The wax work claims to be Tonto, mistaking the little boy for The Lone Ranger. The boy, believing the infamous characters to be fictional, queries the old man, leading to the start of the story. We are then transported to 1869 Colby, Texas, where railroad tycoon Latham Cole [Tom Wilkinson] is announcing plans for westward expansion, in accordance with the treaty with the Comanche natives. Simultaneously, a multi-purposed train is heading to Colby with young, gun-shy, idealist lawyer, John Reid [Hammer], various missionaries and two prisoners: the scarred menace Butch Cavendish [William Fichtner] and eccentric Indian, Tonto [Depp]. Before reaching their destination, Butch’s gang swipes their leader and derails the train. Miraculously, both Reid and Tonto survive. A posse is formed and Reid joins his brothers and six other rangers to track down the notorious fugitive. In the process, however, they are all shot and killed. While burying the bodies, Tonto discovers that Reid is still alive. Believing he has travelled to the other side and returned a spirit walker, he hands Reid a mask, coaxing him to pursue justice, vengeance and retribution.

The Lone Ranger is a fairly interesting foray, covering most of the big thematic elements of Westerns but ultimately a little dull. Since the 90’s, the grisly revisionist Western has seen moderate success but it’s still a very difficult genre to resurrect. The family-friendly Western adventure, on the other hand, is a fucking zombie; the first thing cinemagoers want to do is recoil and shoot it in the head. To the degree that audiences probably won’t even give this film a chance or go in with prejudices concerning the genre. But Verbinski has already proved he could bring back previously successful enterprises (Pirate films for crying out loud! Who ever thought they’d be popular again?) and even produced a brilliant and award winning Western of his own with Rango. The design of Cavendish’s gang is very much akin to the townfolk of Dirt but other than that, the similarities with Rango stop there, failing to import the memorable charm and charisma of the characters. Despite the wide anamorphic shots and Utah scenery, synonymous with John Ford flicks, the scale feels very small, both in terms of plot and execution. Again, this is in spite of the good direction, fairly impressive acting and luscious cinematography and comes down to the fact that the script simply doesn’t cut it. The whole thing was very reminiscent of the 1998/2005 Zorro films, which enjoyed a modicum of success but failed to really impress. Impress me that is.

The acting can be split into distinct thirds, in terms of quality, exploration and reception. The obvious starting point is Hammer as John Reid and Depp as Tonto. In order to launch a successful franchise (which is Disney’s ultimate goal), you need a set of spectacular leads. Unless you’re talking about the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, in which case it was the supporting roles of Depp and Geoffrey Rush that really stole the show. Hammer is fairly commendable but still not winning over the public for some reason. It’s my opinion that he was sold into the image of the young heartthrob but his real talents lie in dramas rather than comedic family roles. But the performance is far from bad, the character is simply flat. Based on the simple, altruistic moral core that the original Lone Ranger represented, it’s a hard sell but Hammer manages to convince the audience that he’s a generally good guy – even if he spends the majority of a Western unarmed. I’m saving all my thoughts on Depp until later. The second third is occupied by the two lead bad guys (*spoiler*). Fichtner has a really vicious edge to him and like the Barbosa character in POTC, genuinely feels authentic to the savagery of the West. Equally, Wilkinson brings an almost fatherly element to the first half of the film before revealing a thoroughly twisted and malicious side later, which is superbly delivered. And then there’s everyone else. The supporting cast and the extras are pretty much filed down into the same vacant space (in a two and a half hour film!), jostling for attention and meaning. So, in addition to countless nameless actors simply populating the town, Barry Pepper, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson and James Badge Dale (all of whom are praiseworthy actors in their own right) were criminally underused, making way for more crazy Depp.

While the film leans heavily on its technical merits (smooth editing, glorious visuals, stellar costumes, hair, make-up and set design, etc), there is a staggering amount of redundancy from start to finish. While several scenes work physically well, they add nothing whatsoever to either the characters or the story. To list them would be pointless out of context but any cinemagoer could probably point to at least seven or eight scenarios that the film could have done without. More frustratingly, however, was the altogether pleasing but very unimaginative score from Hans Zimmer. Zimmer has produced some truly magnificent melodies and themes over the last few decades, striding happily into a Jerry Goldsmith level of prowess. But in doing so, the level of expectation when his name is attached to a project is incredibly high. The only chance he really gets to spread his legs (outside of rather obvious references to Ennio Morricone) is when adapting the ‘Lone Ranger theme’ (William Tell Overture). Personally, I understand the desire to infuse an iconic element such as this into a film of this nature but it felt really, really hackneyed. I assume the intention was to bring back those childlike memories of running around a garden somewhere pretending to be a cowboy or listening to the radio shows/seeing the TV programmes and instantly being transported back to a simpler time. Not the case, it just felt bloody stupid. Like having Christian Bale appear for the first time in Batman Begins, uttering the immortal words “I’m Batman!” before running off into the night to the theme of ‘dinna dinna dinna Batman!’ But in the midst of it, Zimmer manages to work a few adapted sections in, creating a fresh feeling for even a brief moment. Personally, I couldn’t care less if this film succeeds or not. It was pretty entertaining and a lot of the so called criticisms stem from a poor marketing campaign which relied on the Pirates Of The Caribbean name and aiming the movie at kids. I think I’m most irked because this movie was made instead of BioShock. At least it wasn’t 3D and was better than Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, so we have that to be grateful for.


Release Date:
9th August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
As previously mentioned, there is a narrative framing device that jumps back and forth between old Tonto looking sad. This happens more often than one would like and while the aged make-up is very impressive, it’s absolutely unnecessary. Furthermore, you’d think this unreliable narrator element would produce something really manic and crazy but instead it just leaves the story feeling disjointed at times. The thing that really bugged me is Tonto’s appearance in the canyon where Reid is shot. The little boy openly asks, “How did you get out of jail? The wizened native doesn’t actually respond, he just carries on telling the story. No! Sorry. You can strong-arm a kid with that bullshit but not cinema audiences. How.. exactly.. did Tonto get out of prison? And more importantly, why did no one feel it necessary to show this, when they showed everything else? Not good enough, sir! Not good enough.

Notable Characters:
Tonto and his execution is quite easily the worst thing about this entire movie. In the hands of anyone else it could be considered a little quirky but Depp defined quirky with his Jack Sparrow character. There was, artistically speaking, no need whatsoever for him to take on the role of Tonto. Depp has openly said in interviews that he “considers the role an attempt to right the wrongs of the past” in the way Native American culture is portrayed. Amazingly, I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not as if Johnny Depp is doing highly offensive black-face acting, he’s just a stupid character. The age group that’s going to go see this film is going to be older than Disney predict and as such, he’s just going to come off as irritating with a flash of interesting.

Highlighted Quote:
“You were right, there is no justice”

In A Few Words:
“An ambitious experiment that simply failed to capture the imagination and fun that coursed throughout Pirates Of The Caribbean

Total Score:

2/5

PAIN AND GAIN

Do You Even Lift, Bro?

Director
Michael Bay

Starring
Mark Wahlberg
Dwayne Johnson
Anthony Mackie
Tony Shalhoub



Based on real events in 90’s Miami, the story introduces us to Daniel Lugo [Wahlberg], a rather simple individual with a love for weight gain and muscle toning. He seems harmless enough but operates under the simple delusion that he is entitled to more. Working as a personal trainer in the Sun Gym, Lugo meets businessman Victor Kershaw [Shalhoub], whom he believes to be a criminal and therefore not entitled to the life and wealth that Lugo so desperately covets. With the assistance of Adrian Doorbal (Mackie playing Lugo’s steroid-using friend with impotence issues) and Patrick Doyle (Johnson as a cocaine addicted convict who has found both Jesus and sobriety in prison), Lugo stages a snatch-and-grab heist to extort Kershaw of his money and finally live his idea of the American dream. After several bumbling attempts, the trio finally manage to snag Mr. Kershaw and begin torturing him for his earnings. Eventually he relents and the three fitness obsessives live large, falling into bad habits and a false sense of security.

**Spoiler in the last sentence**
Pain And Gain is no doubt one of Michael Bay’s most experimental, restrained and thought provoking releases to date but for the very fact that he made it, it’s still a ridiculous movie. Despite any attempts at unique camera work, sporadic freeze frames and pop-up text, it boils down to the same Michael Bay formula, slathered in homophobia, racism, arrogance, stupidity and sexism. The real difference is that he’s not trying to hide it under layers of teen-friendly shit. From the outset, it’s evident that Bay was simply the inappropriate choice for this film. The real-life events that the narrative portrays weren’t funny but the sheer bungling nature of both the criminals and the police department could work in a black comedy; in the hands of a better writer and director. A good example would be Fargo. Fargo is brutal and grim in its execution but the unreliability and incompetence of the criminal element (not to mention a likeable lead in Frances McDormand) make for entertaining and amusing viewing. Having said that, it only claimed to be based on actual events. Outwardly trying to make this story a comedy was a mistake. Simply illustrating their actions and allowing the audience to make up their own minds would have been sufficient. Subsequently, what we end up with at the end of the film is an incredibly shocking resolution because the acts of torture and murder are undercut by humour. So when Lugo and Doorbal are sentenced to death you can’t help but raise an eyebrow and ponder “Really?” before slapping yourself and saying, “Kidnap, extortion, torture, mutilation and murder? In a southern US state in 1995? Of course death sentence. Stupid.”

Setting aside the real-life comparison, let’s just analyse this movie as a standalone release. The various cuts to simple lens cameras and saturated graphics were actually fairly interesting and kept the film fresh and visually pleasing. The weird plot holes, excessive focusing on muscles/tits and constant bloody slow motion sequences were not. Another curious factor was the insane amount of voiceover work; to the degree that almost every character became a narrator at one point or another. There are two simple schools of thought when it comes to voiceover: either it’s a timeless staple of classic cinema (utilised specifically in Film Noir) or it’s a completely shallow use of exposition to compensate for a weak script and mediocre acting. Personally, I believe it depends on the film/story in question. While it was extremely excessive here, it sort of went hand-in-hand with the on-screen madness. If any of the visual eccentricities were toned down, the voiceovers would have been disorientating and a major source of irritation but when used in conjunction with rapidly escalating chaos and tremendously silly acting, it actually worked. Having said that, the manic melting pot did produce a rather grinding effect and after the first 40-50 minutes, all pacing went completely out the window. It reminded me of Tony Scott’s Domino, which took a really brilliant post-production style (as used in the spectacular Man On Fire), injected copious amounts of adrenaline and infused it into a rather tedious bio tale, just to see what would happen. On a more positive note, the score didn’t disappoint. I like Steve Jablonsky. You could knock him for building on what Harry Gregson-Williams has been doing since the 90’s but he brings a fair amount of memorability into what could be a considerably bland score.

With shows like Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore and The Valleys enjoying years of resounding success, a film of this nature – highlighting the utter stupidity of meatheaded shit-sacks and their weird ‘roided-out sense of self entitlement – is long overdue. But not in the hands of a meatheaded shit-sack director with a weird ‘roided-out sense of self entitlement! Bay fans won’t get it, Americans will feel insulted by it and international audiences won’t care. All-in-all, this film will probably fall into obscurity in the shadow of next year’s upcoming Bay release: a fourth Transformers flick. I guess you can’t blame the man for trying something different.


Release Date:
30th August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Having frittered away his cut of the money on drugs and his stripper girlfriend, Doyle is forced to rob an armoured car. Although he manages to get away with two bags of cash (one of which is revealed to be full of coins), a dye pack explodes in his face and he is forced to evade his pursuers half-blinded and covered in neon green paint. Midway through the chase, his toe is shot off, which he quickly pockets and deliriously makes his way to Doorbal’s new home.

Notable Characters:
Dwayne Johnson is undeniably the highlight of this film. I’ve always held Johnson’s acting ability in high regard but here he really gets a chance to stretch his acting muscles – not a terrible pun, honest. Undoubtedly, certain audience members will be offended by his flippant interchanging between worshipping religion and worshipping cocaine but a lot of addicts/convicts tend to bounce back-and-forth like that. Both amusing and entertaining as well as unnerving, Johnson’s character strikes a pretty interesting chord.

Highlighted Quote:
“Why’d you make me do that to you, Victor? I have responsibilities! Jesus Christ himself blessed me with many gifts. One of them is knocking someone the fuck out!”

In A Few Words:
“For a Michael Bay film, it’s challenging, edgy and interesting. As a narrative piece of cinema, it’s just mediocre formulaic nonsense”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #102

[04 August 2013]


Winning Team:
Alpha Q

Genre – Phonetically challenged radio presenter does stuff

Runners Up:
Can You Smell What Sam Rockwell Is Cooking!?
Genre – Claymation, found footage, comedy with sexy results
Sam Rockwell? More Like Sam Rocks-well!
Genre – Musical biopic with dancing
What’s That Lassie..? Trapped In Sam Rockwell
Genre – Erotic misadventure
Matt Never Thinks Of A Bloody Team Name
Genre – Documentary covering an internal feud at a Norwich film quiz
Three-Headed Sex Beast
Genre – Documentary
Thunder-Gun Express
Genre – Totally badass bro flick


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the lead character in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom?
INDIANA JONES / HENRY JONES JNR
2. 1995’s Richard III is based on the play by which playwright?
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
3. Who directed Goodfellas?
MARTIN SCORSESE
4. What is the name of the film in which Phil, Stu and Alan try to recall the drunken events from the previous night, in order to locate their friend Doug?
THE HANGOVER
5. What is the name of the little girl in Monsters Inc. ? [bonus point for identifying her nickname for Sully]
BOO [Kitty]
6. Finish the following film quote, “Hasta la vista.”
BABY
7. How many films/instalments make up the Twilight saga?
FIVE
8. In which Star Wars film does the emperor (portrayed by Ian McDiarmid) make his first appearance?
RETURN OF THE JEDI
9. Was “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into” the catchphrase for Laurel or Hardy?
HARDY
10. Who plays the farmer, Arthur Hoggett, in Babe?
JAMES CROMWELL

ROUND II: Filming [Dancing Sam Rockwell Special]
1. Which Iron Man instalment did Sam Rockwell appear in? Iron Man? Iron Man 2? Iron Man 3? [bonus point for identifying his character’s name]
IRON MAN 2 [Justin Hammer]
2. How many heads does the character Zaphod Beeblebrox have in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Two? Three? Four?
TWO
3. Sam Bell, Tess Bell, Eve Bell and GERTY are characters in which Sam Rockwell release? Moon? Choke? Welcome To Colinwood?
MOON
4. How old is Devon Stockard (played by Mischa Barton) in Lawn Dogs? 10? 11? 12?
TEN
5. What is the name of Eric Knox’s company in Charlie’s Angels? Knox Incorporated? Knox Enterprises? Opportunity Knox?
KNOX ENTERPRISES
6. Which historical figure does Bill Wharton not like to be associated with, in The Green Mile? Billy The Kid? Wild Bill Hickok? Bill Key West?
WILD BILL HICOCK
7. Who directed Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind? George Clooney? Ron Howard? Jon Favreau?
GEORGE CLOONEY
8. What was the name of the house shared by Ben Affleck, Sam Rockwell and French Stewart in Glory Daze? El Rancho? Dude Ranch? Los Locos Ranchos?
EL RANCHO
9. What is the name of Rockwell’s character in Matchstick Men? Roy Waller? Frank Mercer? Harris Klein?
FRANK MERCER
10. Bonny, the Shih Tzu in Seven Psychopaths is Sam Rockwell’s dog in real life. True or False?
FALSE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. How many Oscars did 1990’s Dick Tracy win?
THREE
2. Who directed The Duellists in 1977?
RIDLEY SCOTT
3. In 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, what colour is the good fairy Fauna’s dress?
GREEN
4. Finish the following film quote, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here!”
THIS IS THE WAR ROOM
5. What is the name of the Joker’s lead henchman in Batman?
BOB
6. Which of the characters in The Breakfast Club doesn’t pair up at the end?
BRIAN / THE BRAIN (Anthony Michael Hall)
7. What did Frank Oz direct in between Housesitter and In & Out?
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Get ready for rush hour”?
SPEED
9. Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Elliot Goldenthal and John Frizzell were hired respectively to score the instalments of which franchise?
ALIEN
10. The opening prologue of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is set in which year?
1462

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following Wes Craven films was released first? The Hills Have Eyes? The Last House On The Left? Swamp Thing?
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
2. Where is Joe Gillis’ body found at start of Sunset Boulevard? In the swimming pool? In the boot of a car? Tied to the bed?
IN THE SWIMMING POOL
3. Which of the following actors did not audition for the role of Mozart in Amadeus? Mark Hamill? Kevin Bacon? Mel Gibson?
KEVIN BACON
4. The Charlton Heston version of Ben-Hur was an adaptation of a novel but also a remake of a film of the same name, released in which year? 1925? 1935? 1945?
1925
5. Finish the following film quote, “I have always depended on”. The incompetence of the police? The feel of my rifle? The kindness of strangers?
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
6. What is Crocodile Dundee’s first name? Michael? Walter? Richard?
MICHAEL
7. Which Abbot and Costello film featured Lon Chaney Jnr and Bela Lugosi reprising their roles of the Wolfman and Dracula respectively? Abbot and Costello In Hollywood? Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Hold That Ghost?
ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN
8. Which of the Rojo brothers in A Fistful Of Dollars is the rifle-favouring marksman and Joe’s main adversary? Miguel? Esteban? Ramon?
RAMON
9. In Goldfinger, what nationality is the character Oddjob? Chinese? Korean? Japanese?
KOREAN
10. The entirety of Mississippi Burning was filmed in sequence. True or False?
FALSE