Saturday, 20 June 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen - Dir. Michael Bay

Michael Bay’s first ‘Transformers’ film gave the audience an entertaining blow of knock-out proportions and I (like many others) left the cinema with a childish grin from ear-to-ear after watching two and a half hours of robots beating seven bells of scrap metal out of each other, however the sequel ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ felt like nothing more than a soft jab into the abdomen. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I found it tedious, incredibly boring at times, and apart from one or two sequences, the action felt very stale and was concerned more about how each explosion could out-do each other for the extended destruction of our dear planet.

So I will start by addressing what made the first film so enjoyable for me; the god-damn action! With the colossal budget and the build-up of how this was going to be ‘bigger’ and ultimately ‘better’, I was expecting a computer generated onslaught of pure, unadulterated robot-o et robot-o brutality, but sadly only found two scenes out of the whole two hours and thirty minutes running time that matched the first film for childish squealing and prolonged smiling of excitement. One came an hour into the film as Optimus Prime battled his way spectacularly through a forest of evil Decepticon Robots at a vicious pace, while the second scene was at the very end of the film as Bumblebee had a very short, yet enjoyable tussle with Rampage. Aside from these two; battle, fight, action (what-ever you wish to call them) sequences, Michael Bay seemed to be more concerned with how he could create larger and louder explosions with every rocket being fired, or bomb being dropped. The perfect example is in the drawn out final sequence in which we are continually blocked from seeing the actual robotic destruction take place as the screen fills with copious amounts of dust, smoke and sand due to the amount of explosives being thrown around! With the entertainment value slightly eroded for myself, I found little joy in the rest of the film.

From viewing just the first thirty minutes of ‘Fallen’ I noticed Michael Bay seems to have somewhat of a penchant for the use of pointless long-angle shots and slow-motion sequences. If you removed all the pointless, unemotional, tedious scenes involving the sour intimate embraces by Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox (which takes the biscuit in one scene as the camera constantly revolves around both parties around forty-three times before eventually ending, not only the most annoying scene of the film, but also my suicide attempt due to boredom) then the film would be considerably shorter and a lot more engaging. This is another problem the film comes up against, a running time at nearly more than two and a half hours, yet it could quite easily have had at least forty minutes of ‘filler’ material trimmed (such as various incredibly unfunny acts involving Judy Witwicky), and some of the cringe-worthy jokes toned down or removed (however, maybe it’s just me, as some of the jokes did get a good reaction from some of the younger members of the audience). Oh and there is that much information thrown at you during the time that the film is on-screen that you’ll be hard pressed to understand everything that is going on, that is if you are actually trying to follow the plot and the history/motives regarding the new characters entwined within the Transformers universe.

I went into ‘Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen’ with quite low expectations, I wasn’t expecting to see a great film, nor was I really expecting to see a good film from the King of the Cinematic Explosions, but I was hoping for one thing; to be entertained with violent robots hacking each other to bits in a blaze of beautiful destructive glory. But this was unfortunately not fulfilled for me. When I saw Michael Bay’s first ‘Transformers’ film I was sat on the edge of my seat throughout as every action sequence made my jaw-drop a few feet, it was something different and something special, however during ‘Fallen’ I found myself for the majority of the film propping my own head up with my palm, trying to keep myself awake...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Doghouse - Dir. Jake West

Vince (Stephen Graham) is going through the final stages of his divorce and to help him through this period his friends Mikey (Noel Clarke) and Neil (Danny Dyer) decide to take him and a few of the other boys to a remote village outside the humdrum of their London lives to get, in Dyer's own words; 's**tfaced'. However, when they turn up to the incredibly eerie village of Moodley to find flesh-eating, man-hating, cannibalistic women who want to do nothing more than rip out their internal organs and eat them for breakfast, the boys realise they have bitten more than they can chew and must fight their way through a barrage of blood-thirsty women in the most misogynistic way imaginable.

The premise of the film completely reflects the manner in which Jake West approaches this project, with a gleeful nod towards plenty of harmless sexist humour and cheap gory death sequences that are all nice, light-hearted and fun. Neil, Vince and Mikey are all your typical working-class likely lads out to simply flirt with the opposite sex and drink as much as their body-weight, with Danny Dyer in particular needing to place little effort in recreating his Cockney 'laddish' persona (yet again) on the big-screen. While Dave Schaffer's script contains many easy-going humorous gags to keep your attention ticking over while the next axe, gnome or sword heads to try and end the boy's misogynistic ways and eliminate the male chromosome all in one.

'Doghouse' is nowhere near the heights of Pegg/Frost's rom-zom-com-supremo 'Shaun of the Dead', but it isn't the worst film you will see this year. At a short running time of 85 minutes, you'll be cheaply entertained with boys being boys and women being...err, evil, vicious, un-relentless and, well women (just kidding!). This a film you'd probably enjoy seeing more after you've been kicked out the local Pub at closing time and are heading home with your Chicken Jalfrezi in one hand and the DVD in the other.

Awaydays - Dir. Pat Holden

‘Awaydays’ is not your typical football hooligan film, the sub-culture of football hooliganism in the early years of Thatcher’s Britain is there to set the brooding scene, however it is evocative the homo-erotic relationship between Carty (Nicky Bell) and the eccentric Elvis (Liam Boyle) that takes centre stage and gives Paul Holden’s film slightly more depth than simply being a film about men taking out their boredom in the form of fighting on a Saturday afternoon.

Paul Carty is a suburban male who is drawn towards the ‘The Pack’, a group of thugs who take their excitement from fighting on a Saturday afternoon all across Britain, through these encounters he grows closer and closer with a bohemian working-class character in Elvis. Elvis just wants to move away to Berlin and start a new life around people who understand him, while Carty just wants to find direction in his life after his mother’s death. As they connect through their mutual love of Bowie, the Liverpudlian music scene and Art, they develop an increasingly complex relationship that is bordering on the homoerotic. It is this intricate bond between these two seemingly different, yet very similar and flawed ‘men’ that keeps the film ticking over. If you removed this key component then the film falls a little flat, with Kevin Sampson’s script missing out many explanations to key elements such as why Carty is drawn towards the allure of the ‘The Pack’ in the first place and the death of John. With that said, it is hauntingly shot with a soundtrack that compliments Pat Holden’s sombre directorial style, and even though at times he has a tendency to delve too much into the LSD-induced hallucinogenic state’s of both boys minds, he does it with little expense to the viewer.

If you want a film that doesn’t simply look at the male phenomenon of having a good scrap on a Saturday afternoon because we’re all bored and working class zombies in a capitalist machine (‘Football Factory’, ‘Green Street’) then ‘Awaydays’ is for you, as it offers just that bit more and is akin to something of a ‘football-love-story’.