Friday, 27 July 2007

The Simpsons - Dir. David Silverman (2007)

A monumental eighteen years in the making. Eleven talented and critically acclaimed writers at there disposal. A cast of thousands. And 'The Simpsons Movie' lives up to everything it promised. One of the most intelligently-stupid, well-written eighty-seven minutes of animation created in the last decade. From the Tracey Ullman Show to the Big Screen, the 'Simpsons Movie' was definitely worth waiting for.

The plot and story are as simple as ever, allowing the jokes and slapstick-humour too take centre-stage throughout. After Homer becomes romantically involved with a Pig and intentionally pollutes the Springfield River, the small-American town is placed under 'quarantine' and the family is nearly lynched, however they manage to hilariously escape as Homer evades making an 'apology' (inverted comma's are necessary!) and set-up-base in Alaska (the good ol' American city where every resident gets a thousand dollars as the oil companies ravage the land), however it's not long before the family miss their beloved Springfield and must make a decision to return home and attempt to save their hometown or stay daunting-quiet Alaskan mountains. In between all this cra-diddly-azyness, Lisa acquires a boyfriend, Bart befriends Ned Flanders and Maggie seems to show a side which says to me; 'all babies are crazy, cartoon or real'.

What follows is gag-after-brilliantly-written gag, with adulterous and political innuendoes/humour (in the opening scene as a 'Itchy and Scratchy' movie plays a 'Itchy/Hilary 2008' sign can be seen held by one of the 'Itchy supporters') for the older generation and the good ol' slapstick stupidity of Homer for everybody else (including the older generation). Every character seemed to have it's pulls, and apart from the notable mention of the Simpson family themselves, President Schwarzenegger, Cletus (the slackjaw yokel), and the 'big-boobed Indian spiritual guide', among many others backed up that 'crazy-yellow-family' very well. This film is nothing more than good, well-written fun supplemented with brilliant visuals making an episode of the 'Simpsons' on a normal, in-the-home television seem boring, bland and well, so 1999.

While the opening twenty minutes of the film, seemed to worse than one of 'President Schwarzenegger’s' poorly thought-through political decisions, with the script and jokes seemingly floating around everywhere in a dis-combobulated mess. Yet the following hour seems to make up for it, with the awkward nakedness of Bart, and the proclaiming 'I love men' from the ridiculous, yet utterly hilarious Ralph, drawing the biggest laugh and subsequently leading to me nearing a heart attack, as I could not simply stop laughing throughout. A part the sub-plot involving Lisa and her Irish boyfriend, who's did 'is not Bono'. The scenes simply lacked any humour as Lisa was always the smart, intelligent and politically/socially motivated character who simply set up scenes and was used as a catalyst for the main attraction of Bart and Homers ingenious stupidity (always leading to some hilarious slapstick moment).

The effort that has gone into this film is easy to see, eleven writers have worked flat-out to create a script full of laughs, tickles and tales which will last the running time equal to the length of three or four back-to-back Simpsons episodes. It's witty, crazy, ridiculous and down-right utterly hilarious. I honestly, could not stop laughing.

By Jordan

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Transformers - Dir. Michael Bay (2007)

While the acting is lifeless and the script is stale, the real gem in this movie is in Michael Bay's way in which he can magically orchestrate the use of CGI into a visually stunning and mesmerizing spectacle bringing out the small child wriggling inside every adult that goes to see Bay's overblown, massive and hugely lucrative blockbuster 'Transformers'.

'Transformers' is every young boy and young man's dream (or wet dream in some cases) as the film focuses on the generic line of aliens crash landing on Earth and doing battle in the heart of America with the obligatory interference from the US Military and all their gadgets at there disposal. Based on the television series and the popular Hasbro line of toys, 'Transformers' see's the good 'Autobots' and evil 'Decepticons' face off against each other, while Shia LeBeouf (Sam Witwicky), one of the most sought after actors on the Hollywood circuit at the moment, try's to impress local bad-girl Mikaela (Megan Fox) with his beaten-down '76 Chevy Camero which mysteriously changes into a robot during the night to make contact with other UFO's via laser beam.

While Sam stumbles around trying to impress Mikaela, with his Camero not helping playing the right song at the right time with "Baby Come Back by Player" being played as Mikaela leaves the car after it stalls, he is also caught in the middle of the largest robotic battle on Earth, with all the planet's hopes being placed in his small nerdy hands. However the relationship falters, as there is little passion or connection in the relationship between the two seemingly distant characters who seem to have the emotional connection of a recently divorced couple until the final scene, where a minimal connection can be seen and believed between the character's, a good two hours too late.

Meanwhile, in the Middle Eastern country Qatar, American soldiers (Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson) come under attack by an robot which transforms from a Military helicopter into one mean and vicious piece of steel, that destroys anything in it's path while trying to steal 'classified' files from the computers of the United States Department of Defence, leading to the Secretary of Defence John Keller (Jon Voight) calling a press conference and all the available technology and analysts at his fingertips. Like Josh Duhamel (Captain Lennox), Bay fails to bring Voight to life at all, however some may see this as making an even more believable politician in the age of deceit and deception. However the script also leaves little lee-way for the actors themselves, as it's as simple and streamlined as possible, showing that the action takes centre stage over everybody else.

Sam's connection to the robots, is due to discovery one of his ancestors made and piece of his memorabilia he has in his care, which the 'Decepticons' (or evil robots) will need to find the 'All Spark' or the big-energy-cube that would the universe go, with quite a loud bang, kaboom! Sam's '76 Camero is one of the good guys, an 'Autobot' known as Bumblebee who along with the 'Autobot' leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) have taken base on Earth to stop Megatron leader of the 'Decepticons' and his cronies from destroying Earth with a fair bit of opposition in the way.

Unlike Michael Bay's earlier films ('Armageddon'), there's a subtle political undertone running through out this film sometimes making it feel like a George Bush speech circa 2001, with both Russia and China originally being blamed for the attack on the US, providing speculation the Cold War is still alive and the heroic portrayal of the United States Air Force, and their help and patriotic nature in the fight, making it look more like a video for 'Uncle Sam And Iraq 2007' rather than a fight between alien forces and man, something which Bay touches upon in the majority of his films, something tells me he's quite proud to be an America.

Everybody viewing the film knows the actors are just 'extras' in a hugely spectacular and stunning CGI-mad mega-fight between large, intimidating robots in a live-or-die affair to save the fate of the universe and while the acting and script, which were never Michael Bay's strong points detracted from the film, nothing could stop me from grinning from ear to ear like a little boy who got caught with his hand in the cookie-jar as the stunning final fight sequence took place and my enjoy-o-meter exploded.

By Jordan

Hostel: Part II - Dir. Eli Roth (2007)

After Eli Roth's successful 'shock-horror' film 'Hostel', a rolling sequel was inevitable in today's 'franchised' Hollywood, however in 'Hostel 2' all the nastiness and aggression is substituted for out-of-time and disturbingly pathetic 'slapstick comedy-horror' leaving nothing more than a blank canvas splashed with bucket-loads of blood and prosthetic body parts.

Roth's aim with both 'Hostel' and 'Hostel 2' was to push the boundaries of exploitative cinema, however the seemingly one-sided characters and incredibly wooden acting coupled with a repetitive plot and a lingering sense of deja vu that 'didn't I see this film last year and it was called Hostel?'. The sense of deja vu comes from the fact that 'Hostel Part 2' is basically a re-release of 'Part 1', but with three girls (Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, and Heather Matarazzo) as the lead characters as they are in Europe studying art and relaxing. Cue, the trusting, yet deviously psychopathic friend (the beautiful Vera Jordanova) to whisk the girls away to beautiful Slovakia, the gruesome hunting grounds of the cold torturers that await. While the film does intertwine the hunted (Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, and Heather Matarazzo) with the hunters (Richard Burgi, Roger Bart), trying to add a new dimension to the characters and installing a sense of humanity in the soul-less sadists, the little time spent with the characters shows little to the viewer a part from the 'dominator and submissive' approach between the two men.

While Roth's approach to the 'snuff' and 'violent' aspect of the film, most notably the biggest selling point of the 'Hostel' series, I found myself disturbingly...bored, than anything else with Roth trying to force and create shock, which is seen in a seemingly pointless scene which involves the death of a child, the death itself isn't shown, but for a film like Hostel, trying to force viewers to use there imaginations to involve themselves and create an emotional and shocking connection, when the main focal point of the film is to drive home into the retina's the horror, pain and sadist nature of the tortured and torturers. In comparison to many films released this year; e.g. 'Captivity' starring Elisha Cuthbert, the sadomasochistic violence and misogynistic approach compiles and parades nothing new, as 'snuff' or extreme, unbridled violence and suffering is almost mandatory for most 'horror' films wishing to gain an edge above there competitors by exploiting the exploitation of violence. However there was one scene, which would make most men wince, yet that couldn't make up for a lacklustre second effort from Roth.

The rest of the film itself had nothing special about it, a mediocre score added nothing to the suspense or disturbing nature of the film, the 'look' into the 'Hunting Club' itself was short and annoying as it gave little away we already knew and the opening scene itself, seems it was just added by Roth to bump the running time by an extra five minutes. The worst bit of brutality in 'Hostel 2'? The treacherous and severely painful ninety-three minutes running time. Let's just be glad, Eli Roth's agreed not to do a third.

By Jordan

Friday, 20 July 2007

Hot Fuzz - Dir. Edgar Wright (2007)

With the Critical acclaim the film 'Shaun Of The Dead' arose, the team (consisting of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright among other countless stars) are back with there new film 'Hot Fuzz'. And this time...they have BIGGER GUNS! 'Shaun Of The Dead' saw British comedy placed back on the Film-o-pedic map with a Zombielicious bang (and a little biting)! And it was going to take a lot for the team behind this Rom-Zom-Com to rival this beautiful piece of British film-making, however with spending countless hours behind the scenes watching 'Bad Boys 2' and 'Point Break' over and over again, Edgar Wright and the boys have done it. 'Hot Fuzz' is a roller-coaster ride of witty jokes, violence and a seasoning of sexual innuendo all rolled into one fantastic film that'll keep you hooked for the whole two hours.

Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a top Cop in the Metropolitan Police Force, err I mean Police Service in the heart of London, however his expertise in every available area ranging from hand-to-hand combat to high-speed pursuits and his perfect arrest figures are making everybody else in the MET look bad! So to curb the embarrassment, the Force ship him off to normal ol' Sandford where nothing out of the ordinary ever happens, however Angel along with his partner PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) start to notice that something eerie's going on when everything seems to be a simple, ol' accident! This leads Angel and Butterman down a path of guns, explosions and mind-excessive-Hollywood-style violence till they reach the truth.

The cast is full of famous faces, from Jim Broadbent, to Bill Bailey, to the 'forgotten Bond' Timothy Dalton. And while there's an extensive list of characters, each has there own quirky feature that makes them stand out in a distinctive and varied cast. However it's the witty and hilarious script written by Pegg and Wright that carries this film. There's miniature jokes everywhere that'll take you a second viewing to just notice half of them and the many references to the action genre (from the Bad Boys 2, to Point Break, to Dirty Harry), like 'Shaun Of The Dead' Wright and Pegg have written a script to accommodate for all the characters personalities and in-particular the miss-match partnership of bumbling PC Daniel Butterman and the courageous Sergeant Nicholas Angel.

Hot Fuzz is a non-stop thrill ride of blue and while aggression, and while the jokes may thin out at times due to the two hour running time, you'll be hooked from start to finish with the over-the-top Hollywood style violence mixed with the hilariously addictive humour of Wright, Pegg and Frost. A must see film that'll make you want to scream at the top of your voice every time you see a Police car 'HERE COMES THE FUZZ' before running away like a little girl.

By Jordan

The Departed - Dir. Martin Scorsese (2006)

The Departed (2006) "You've accused me of being a rat twice now, and if you do it again I swear I'll put a god-damn f*cking bullet in your head no matter who you are." Martin Scorsese is quite possibly the greatest director of the 'crime drama' or 'gangster' films that Hollywood has ever produced. Gangs of New York, Casino and Goodfellas, just to name a few of the excellent films he has directed and 'The Departed' is no different. Superbly written, brilliantly acted and a flowing story that is mesmerising. Typical Scorsese some will say.

Leonardo Di Caprio (Billy Costigan) and Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan), find themselves on the other side of the fence as one infiltrates the Boston State Police and the other the Irish Mafia, but as the discovery of 'rats' within both organisations arises, everybody becomes a suspect, especially those that are guilty. While Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) play the men at war from the different sides of the law.

First off the bat, William Monahan's writing is next to nothing, but brilliance. The slick dialogue combined with Scorsese's stylistic direction makes this film what it is. From the aggressive nature of Detective Dignam (Wahlberg) to the father-like, old-school Police Commissioner Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen), Monahan has the dialogue down to a tee, while Scorsese's introduction of simple cinematography allows the other techniques to take centre stage. Scorsese uses lightning particularly well in 'Departed', just like in Casino, as the darkness represents the unknown, danger, the aggression, the light shows reality in its bleakest form. Every piece of music in the film, also compliments the film very well such as 'Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb' being played lightly over a scene that contains both sex and adultery.

However the real brilliance is in the cast, Nicholson, Sheen, Di Caprio, Wahlberg, Damon, Baldwin, Winstone and Dalton and nobody let's the film down. Leonardo Di Caprio (William Costigan) is particularly stunning playing a tough-guy gangster that must hide his past or face the darkest of punishments, death. Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan), on the other hand is less convincing than Leonardo Di Caprio, but his performance still doesn't let up, as his role switches quite instantly from the 'collaring-result-delivering protagonist' to the bad-guy mob man on the inside. While Martin Sheen (Queenan) and Mark Wahlberg (Detective Dignam) play there supporting roles, countering-acting 'good-cop bad-cop' exceptionally well. Nicholson (Frank Costello) played the role of the tough-guy gangster quite well, but his character was missing substance and felt a bit two-dimensional, but apart from that, the acting, just like the cast, was superb.

Scorsese is quite simply the master of the Gangster genre and while some may say 'it's been done before' it feels so fresh and new to a period of cinema full of horror, thriller and romantic comedies. If this film does not get nominated for an Oscar, Leonardo Di Caprio should be instead for his best role since 'The Aviator' (which was directed by Martin Scorsese as well.) If you're a Scorsese fan you will love all two hours and thirty-six minutes of this. If your not, you will still very much enjoy it.

By Jordan

Children Of Men - Dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2006)

I had high hopes going into a screening of this film after seeing the trailer on the television and I wasn't disappointed.

The story is simple, the scenery is beautiful and the direction is executed perfectly.

The whole world has gone infertile and mankind is on the brink of extinction, but one lone pregnant woman holds the key to the world's problem, in her young belly. 'Theo' (Clive Owen) is dragged into the 'mission' by his ex-wife Julianne Moore and must battle enemies from both sides of the fence if 'Kee' (Claire-Hope Ashitey) is to give birth to the first child in 18 years.

Alfonso Cuarón directs this film beautifully, at times it felt as if I was watching the cinematic beauty of nature evolve from heaven to the hellish land of industrialism as every detail, angle and shot was done down to a tee. Instead of opting for a 'Hollywood' stance or trying something new/inventive, Cuarón uses the surroundings and the people he works with instead to the visual beauty of a film which must be an Oscar contender. He also created a beautiful, yet believable futuristic vision of the world marred by immigration problems and more enclosed-topia than utopia.

Clive Owen has given the Oscar selectors a little prod in the back with a magnificent performance in this film, he plays 'Theo', a depressed worker of society who is horrified by the violence he witnesses day and day out, yet his character transforms throughout the film leading to a newer, more refreshed 'Theo' who has taken over from Julianne Moore (Julian) as the lead protagonist in the film. He is also backed up with some superb supporting acting from Julianne Moore (Julian), Michael Caine (Jasper) as the laid-back futuristic 'hippy' of the modern world and Claire-Hope Ashitey (Kee), a young actress who has taken to such a large role with so much professionalism and enthusiasm that you think she'd been acting for years.

The film itself contains a large amount of action and aggression as it shows the repression of immigrants looking for new life in Britain and the way the masses are dealt with reminds the viewer of totalitarian regimes such as Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, however the action is portrayed brilliant, at times with just the sound of rapid gun fire in the background to intimidate and give the viewer a sense and perspective of the location in which the characters currently stand. The 'Coup D'Etat' scene shows the masses rising up against the elitist minority and gives the viewer a large sense of satisfaction; however this is culled quite quickly with the bleak and up-close killing taking place of those who are both guilty and innocent.

I went into this film with high expectations and came out wondering what would challenge it for the 'Best Oscar' gong next year. Alfonso Cuaron's directing is hard-hitting, beautiful, bleak and brilliant. Clive Owen steals the show with his emotional rise to the protagonist of the world and the supporting actors just build upon his performance and the film as a whole.

Definitely one of the films of 2006.

By Jordan

The Da Vinci Code - Dir. Ron Howard (2006)

I'd only read around 1/3 of Dan Brown's the Vinci Code, before going to see this film, however I was sat with people who had read the book and bar one scene when Silas should've used a candlestick instead of a book/religious trophy, the film was very close to the book, but that doesn't mean it'll be a great film. The film is just full of dull "oh my god it's/that/he/she/they..." type moments, but Howard doesn't embrace that. Instead he makes them dull, better Cinematography could've made a lot of the scenes in the film better instead of boring and mind-numbingly boring. Ron Howard (Apollo 13), is a great director that knows how to exploit the audience for the reactions he wants, however this is quite hard when the suspense and tension dies down before the final 'clue' has been given to Langdon.

Tom Hanks (Langdon) and Tattou (Neveu) had no 'chemistry' what-so-ever, whether or not Ron intended to create 'passion' between Tattou and Hanks, who knows, because the scenes between the two characters look like a half-hearted job at romantic sequence with neither actor caring, nothing is there and it's clear as hell. On top of this you had a stale, yet highly amusing performance from Sir Ian McKellen. It felt at times he was lecturing the audience on the history of the times rather than carrying on the story and with the plot already all over the place, this wasn't needed. The only actor which I enjoyed in the film was Paul Bettany as the religious Opus Dei monk Silas. He fit the psychotic, yet lonely role of lost man perfectly. Jean Reno was same ol', same ol' as yet another detective. Nothing new.

The ending of the film dragged on, was hugely predictable and failed in so many ways that it killed my enjoyment of the film and ultimately was an important factor to why I gave it such a mediocre score. The 'key' scenes were impeded by stone-cold acting that didn't help such a predictable and clichéd script. I hadn't even read the book yet at one point I was able to recreate the script before Hanks had even spoken a word. Following on from this, no tension or suspense, it probably will leave many in a confused state of "oh so that was the twist." It was met with a cold silence as it was forwarded to the audience so poorly, Hanks and Tattou didn't connect on any level needed for such an ending and it was something that could've been covered in 10mins and better.

All in all, from somebody that hadn't read the novel all the way through, I thought it was a mediocre film at best. Remove Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Audrey Tattou, Jean Reno, Sir Ian McKellen and re-shoot the ending, then you'll have a slightly better film. See Brick instead, it's a lot better film that cost nowhere near what Howard spent (and I'm honestly wondering where the $160 million went?).

By Jordan

Munich - Dir. Steven Spielberg (2005)

"The darkest day in Olympic history, September 5th, 1972." The film is obviously about the '1972 Massacre'. For anybody who hasn't heard about this event, during the 1972 Olympics in Germany, 8 Palestinian 'Black September' members climbed into the Olympic Village before taking hostage, and eventually killing 11 Israeli athletes.

While the film centres more on the Israeli retaliation, where they hired groups to remove individuals thought to have masterminded Munich. Avner (Eric Bana) an Israeli Mossad Officer and four other men (including Daniel Craig and Ciaran Hinds) are hired to travel around Europe and 'take out' Black September members and sympathisers who may have helped plan the attack. Until eventually the hunters become the hunted.

I had mixed views before I was going to see this, because instantly I thought. Spielberg is Jewish, this film centres around Israeli/Palestinian relations, obviously it will be biased in some way or another, but I was dually surprised to find this film not taking any sides to an extreme point, just relaying the hard facts on top of an underlying deep moral message.

The opening sequence is typical Spielberg, a quick violently sequence showing you the horror of Munich and the hell the Israeli's viewed. Setting a harrowing tone for the rest of the film. While the ending is a confusing mixture of the events and a strong emotional period.

Eric Bana was a brilliant choice for the leading role. He projects his emotion into the audience as he struggles with the guilt of murder and the fact he has been turned from a father of a newborn child into a relentless perfectionist killing machine. Ciaran Hinds is also great as the emotionless 'cleaner' until the pressure of the job clearly gets through to him and his true colours are shown.

Credit also has to go to the Scriptwriting team of Tony Kushner and Eric Roth. A slick and thoughtful screenplay which gives the film an extra leg to stand on. While the most notable scenes are the ones involving the assassination attempts as perfectionism is trying to be achieved.

One thing that got to me was the running time. This film runs for around 2hrs 33mins and could've easily been edited to around 2hrs 10mins as some of the scenes add little to the overall story except for boredom and confusion.

This is an intelligent film by an intelligent director that portrays just one 'fight' in a longstanding battle between the Israeli's and Palestinians.

By Jordan

The Business - Dir. Nick Love (2005)

Nick Love aims to show off the 80's scene where criminals would live there life in peace away from law & order, with them being the kings of there own castles & he does this perfectly.

The plot is simple & the outcome is inevitable, greed, betrayal & violence, but all with a pinch of humour & some great acting thrown in.

Danny Dyer is brilliant as the 'nervous' Frankie, who has been given the chance to start a new life away from all the scum & crime in South London & instead become a resident on the crime-less Costa Del Sol alongside his friend & mentor Charlie.

Charlie also provides a larger than life, arrogant & egotistical character to a tee as well. He's cocky, he's unpredictable, & he's cool. Everything you expect from a East End Gangster living out his days in Spain.

The story itself is very simple & because of that, easy to read into. I admit it's been done before, but Nick Love makes this film stand out by going back into time & re-creating the 80's. The cars, women, huge mobile phones & superb 80's songs are all there. All adding to the surrounding atmosphere of the film.

The film is a must see for any Brits even remotely interested in any films such as Scarface, Football Factory, Casino, Scum & Sexy Beast. The acting is great. The plot simple. The women beautiful. And the South London accents, gritty.

The Business won't be a huge over the Atlantic hit nor will it be a cult classic, but it's one of the best films to come & grace our screens this year. So don't waste your time watching Duke's Of Hazzard, watch the Business instead. A great film.

By Jordan