Friday, 30 October 2009

Recent Movies...

Ok, so I had a few problems which meant that I couldn't update my blog. I haven't actually seen many films recently, but just to catch up on the other week, here they are:

Friday the 13th (2009) **
Hamlet 2 (2008) **

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Movies This week...

The Burbs (1989) **
Cube (1997) ***
Deep Rising (1998) **
Up (2009) ****
Videodrome (1983) ***
The Wild Bunch (1969) ***

Up (U)



When it comes to reviewing Pixar, the only change worth mentioning is the title of their films. This is not to say that Pixar is predictable, simply that the quality of their output is so consistent one struggles to avoid repeating what has already been said a thousand times before. The animation, the humour, the emotion; these are now practically institutionalised facets of the Pixar formula and with their tenth effort have produced one of their best films yet.

Let’s be clear; Up is good. Very good. Within the first five minutes alone, director Pete Docter delivers such a powerful emotional sucker-punch that the opening scene of Finding Nemo (2003) positively pales in comparison. Two dried eyes later and we’re off on our adventure with Carl Fredricksen, Pixar’s most complex and engaging lead since Woody. Accompanied by the extremely likeable Russel providing the inevitable yin to Carl’s yang, the recurrent mismatched buddies routine of Toy Story et al is handled with supreme finesse. Special credit must go to writer Bob Peterson especially, who expertly balances humour alongside their eventual friendship.

Once into the second act, the drama is ratcheted up significantly with the introduction of adorable Disneyesque sidekicks Kevin the female bird and Dug, a talking dog whose antics provide many of the films funniest moments. One minor disappointment is the villain of the piece, Charles Muntz, whose arrival comes far too late to impose a significant threat. Of course, Shere Kahn arrives two thirds of the way through The Jungle Book (1967) but whereas Disney has developed a penchant for crafting appealing villains, Pixar’s appear two dimensional, arbitrary even. As it stands however, Up is not a film reliant on a villain and the lack of one therefore is of no great loss. Of far greater importance is Carl’s journey from curmudgeonly old widower to a selfless friend at peace with his wife’s death.

At times Up risks losing sight of the crux of the story, particularly in the deftly handled action scenes, but thankfully Docter never drops sight of Carl’s personal struggle. In fact, despite its epic scale, Up is surprisingly intimate with the brilliant Michael Giacchino orchestrating a simple but sweet score to accompany the incredible visuals. And they are incredible. The dazzlingly bright colours are truly stunning to behold and the image of a thousand multicoloured balloons evokes a sense of magic nd wonderment rarely found in cinema these days. Particularly impressive are the 3D effects which like the recent re-release of Toy Story showcase a far more understated use of the technology and with it add a phenomenal depth of field to the beautifully designed South American backgrounds.

There seems little purpose in dissecting the animation which is predictably awe-inspiring as it combines the squash and stretch plasticity of Ratatouille (2007) with the more subtle nuances of Wall-E (2008) to create a visual tour de force far greater than Docter’s last effort, Monster’s Inc (2001).

With perfect pacing, exciting characters, an extraordinary emotional depth and potentially the finest closing shot of all time, Up showcases storytelling at its very best.

****

Monday, 5 October 2009

Movies This week...

(500) Days of Summer (2009) **
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) **
The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) **
Sleepless in Seattle (1992) **
Some Like It Hot (1959) ****
Toy Story 3D (2009) *****

Sunday, 4 October 2009

(500) Days of Summer (12A)

Warning. This is not a love story. Or so the trailers voice over would have you believe. Sadly (500) Days of Summer, whilst masquerading as a remedy to the conventionally stilted rom-com is in truth nowhere near as inventive as it would like to think, coming off instead as saccharine as the very films it claims to counter.

Much like the lukewarm Away We Go (2009), (500) concerns itself with ticking every box on the indie checklist; the kooky Brit-pop loving female; Regina Spektor and Feist wailing on the soundtrack; interstitials between each scene. Amidst the innumerable clich├ęs it is virtually impossible to identify any appealing qualities whatsoever as the protagonist journeys through more troughs than peaks in a melodramatic knock-off of Forgetting Sarah Marshal (2008). Whereas the latter mingles laugh-out-loud humour with a convincingly steady romantic arc that impeccably builds towards a deeply satisfying crescendo, the former offers neither with an ambience less heartening than Straw Dogs (1971).

Despite cutting back and forth across the timeline, we still cover a traditionally structured narrative which suggests the technique was employed for aesthetic purposes above anything else. Not that this is the only attempt to spice up an otherwise underwhelming experience. Now and then the director employs split-screen and fantasy dream sequences to top up the quirky charm but so false and inconsistent are these diversions one can’t help but feel how forced it all is, like a sterile recreation of Fight Club-like stylistic cool.

The characters aren’t much better, particularly the irritatingly “wacky” Zooey Deschanel who speaks each line like a motor-neurone sufferer still learning the English language and looks set to take over Ellen Page as the most irritating screen star this side of Juno (2007). While everyone wanders around spouting defeatist dialogue about how terrible their lives are and performing ker-azy acts like drawing buildings on arms I found myself choking on the hatred I felt towards this universe of overemotional fuckwits.

Yet the real bitter pill arrives at the very end, when our hateable leads suddenly reverse their attitudes and proclaim fate and destiny to have been behind everything. Perhaps under the watchful eyes of Apatow this could have been an excitingly original love story, but as it stands (500) Days of Summer is quite simply one of the dullest rom-coms I have ever seen.

**

Toy Story 3D (PG)

I shan’t be providing an in-depth review of Toy Story as anyone who has yet to see this film is clearly not worth knowing. Having watched this masterpiece numerous times, I still found myself grinning at how charming it all is so many years after its release. Viewing Toy Story on the big screen again is a magical experience that truly made me appreciate how lucky I was to have experienced such a cinematic achievement within my youth. Now in 2009, the added bonus of 3D technology retains all the warmth and humour but throws in an added extra something special.

For some the 3D may be disappointing if a tour de force of eye-popping visuals is expected, but in my honest opinion the use of such gimmicks should be employed sparingly. Having watched the fantastic Coraline (2009) also in 3D, I found myself occasionally being dragged out of the story whenever objects appeared to point from the screen directly at me. Toy Story on the other hand feels far more relaxed, using 3D not to show off but as a subtle technique to immerse the viewer into a classic story.

Quite simply, if you want to see a perfect film made even better, go see this now!

*****