Posted in Film Reviews on June 29, 2009|
Leave a Comment »
I don’t go to see a huge number of outright comedies. Take some of the biggest comedy films of recent years such as the American Pie or Austin Powers films I just didn’t find funny. Therefore it comes as no surprise that I was in no rush to see The Hangover. A solid four stars and a great review from Empire and good word of mouth got the better of me and I went to see it at the weekend. Amazingly I actually loved the film. From all the advertising I am sure everyone knows the plot by now. Four friends go to Vegas on a stag night. The next day they wake up to find they have lost the groom, but gained a baby, one of them has lost a tooth, they have stolen a police car, there is a small matter of a tiger in the bathroomand worst of all no memory of how they got to this point.
What sets this apart is the charisma and chemistry of the leading men despite the fact there isn’t an A lister amongst them. This leads to the question when did Bradley Cooper become a leading man? He is best known to me as the geeky friend in Alias, the only film I have seen him in is the direct to DVD The Midnight Meat Train that I reviewed earlier in the month. But now he the main man in this film walking the fine line between self serving and charismatic, a part he plays perfectly. His character is reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s Gardner in Fandango. Cooper has many future projects lined up including Faceman in the A-Team movie it will be interesting to see how his career shapes up from here. The other reason the film works is that it treads a different path to similar films. Whilst most films cover the hilarious (or so the director thinks) antics of the stag night this film skips over that period and sets its action the following day as the group try to piece together what happened and where the groom has gone. This also allows for a great ending to be played out over the closing credits. Obviously this is a film about men so the female characters are given less screen time but they all perform well. Heather Graham’s stripper Jade actually turns out to be a sweet and innocent character. Sassha Barresse is good as the bride to be. But the best character of all is Melissa the controlling girlfriend of Stu (Ed Helms) played with relish by Rachael Harris.
Whilst the film triumphs on the merits of its cast some credit has to be given to the director Todd Phillips whose previous work includes a handful of films I haven’t seen and the overrated Starsky & Hutch. The reason I point out his importance in the process is that the film is walking a knife-edge where it could descend into gross-out comedy or go the other way and just not be funny. Phillips keeps the action moving and the gags coming playing to the stereotypes of the characters without being too clichéd. In short it is a film that is far better than I expected and I liked far more than expected I would. I haven’t been so presently surprised by a film since In Bruges.
Read Full Post »
Anyone who has read my earlier posts will know I love vampire movies. One of the things I love about the genre is that even within the confine set out by the mythology a vampire film can be: Horror (Near Dark), Action (Blade), Romance (The Hunger), Teen comedy/drama (The Lost Boys), Comedy (Innocent Blood), Sci-Fi (Lifeforce), Arty (Nadja), Sex (Vampiros Lesbos). So with this in mind I have obviously been to see the latest vampire film, Blood: The last vampire. I was a little concerned that I couldn’t find any reviews of the film even two days after it came out. Added to this it is the third film from music video director Chris Nahon whose first film Kiss of the Dragon was frankly rubbish. I decided to take my chances and see it anyway.
Based on a 2000 Japanese animation it is the story of Saya a vampire with a sole (sound familiar?) who hunts down and kills demons with the help of a shady agency. Even with my lowered expectations I was disappointed. There are many problems with the film including: Saya suffers from the same problem as Wolverine, she appears virtually impossible to hurt and cuts through her foe (literally) with too much ease without ever appearing to be in danger. This prevents the viewer from connecting with the character. The CGI is poor at best, not a big problem other than the fact it is over used. There is also a real lack of a decent villain. The “bottom feeders” as Saya refers to them offer no real test so we are left to wait for the oldest and most evil demon who Saya has been waiting centuries to kill. When she arrives she is hardly the supreme evil we have been waiting for. It is not helped by the dream like other world type setting of the showdown that offers nothing new to the genre and dulls the action. All these problems are minor in comparison to the biggest problem of the film the acting is really really poor . Gianna Jun is okay as Saya, Allison Miller isn’t too bad as Alice but she is a bit annoying at times and is clearly in her mid twenties and not of school age as is suggested. The rest of the cast includes English TV stalwarts Larry Lamb and Colin Salmon who really ham it up as does Lian Cunningham.
Fortunately the film is relatively short so does not drag out the disappointment for too long. Lets hope the next big vampire film Daybreakers is better!
Now that looks more like it!
Read Full Post »
Posted in DVD Gems, Film Reviews on June 27, 2009|
1 Comment »
Based on a short story by Clive Barker The Midnight Meat Train is Ryuhei Kitamura’s first English language film.Looking for inspiration for his art photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) decends into the subway at night. He saves a young girl from a group of attackers only to find out the next day that she has disappeared. With the police unwilling to help he starts to investigage himself. In a Blow Up style sceen he studies his photogrphs and discovers a mysterious man, Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) Mahogany a butcher by trade is killing people on the late night train, but how long has he been doing it for and why? In an interesting plot device we get to see a litle more of what Mahogany is doing after each killing until finally through Leon we get to see his clinical process. The visual style is great with use of slow motion and time lapse as well as excellent use of light. Although bloody, gory and violent it is actually quite tame in comparison to the directors Japanese films. In the final half hour the film begins to play with the audiences perception of what is going on before the final reveal. Someone had clearly seen Vinnie Jones in Gone In Sixtiy Seconds and realised it would be best to keep his lines to an absolute minimum, I think they succeeded!
Other films by the same director that are worth watching are:
Versus (2000):A quite bizarre film that combines the Zombie and Gangster genres with a few sword fights thrown in for good measure. The Forest of Resurrection is the “444th portal to the other side” one of 666! An escaped convict, a woman and a group of gangsters all find their way there. As people are killed and buried they come back to life as zombie type creatures accompanied by the evil spirit that resurrected them. Although clearly low budget the film is full of imaginarily executed action sequences and some fantastic fight scenes. A sequel has long been rumoured as the film has little narrative closure. There has been no sequel yet but in 2004 The Ultimate Versus was a 3 disc DVD that can be described as the ultimate directors cut. The film features completely new footage shot with the original cast and crew. There has also been talk of an American based sequel/remake that would be set at the same time as the original film but using one of the other portals.
Having finished his work early as one of nine directors on a short film Project called Jam Films Ryûhei Kitamura and another director Yukihiko Tsutsumi were given the opportunity by produced Shinya Kawai. The two directors proposed to make a film in one week featuring two actors battling in one setting. The two films had the collective name of Duel Project; Ryûhei Kitamura’s film was called Aragami (2003). A simple story of a god and a samurai fighting in series of battles in an isolated temple. He did break the rules a little bringing in a few other actors to play smaller parts to help the narrative. An interesting film project that is well worth a look.
His next film was possibly his best Azumi (2003)is the story of an orphaned girl who is raised along with nine other children by a master Samurai. After years of training they have to face one final test before going on their first mission. The test is nothing short of brutal. Their mission is to kill three warlords preventing a civil war that will be devastating for the country. The main reason the film works is the lead character Azumi (played by the impossibly cute Aya Ueto) as proved by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you can’t go far wrong when you give a beautiful woman a sword and drop her into the middle of the male dominated action genre.
Sky High (2003)returns the director to a more supernatural setting after the almost real world of Azumi. It is based on a Manga comic of the same name and ties in to a TV series of the same name. A serial killer is killing people and taking their hearts. Detective Kanzaki who is on the case believes along with the rest of the police that the killings are random. However it is revealed that the victims are guardians of the gateway to the afterlife. The next victim is Mina, Kanzaki’s fiancée on the day they are due to be married. The killers Kudo and Rei are actual after six hearts they need to summon demons from the Gate of Rage who will grant their every desire. The unfortunate side effect is that doing this will open the gate of rage sending the world into darkness. In the afterlife Mina meats the guardian of the gate and is presented with three options and twelve days to make an impossible decision.
Read Full Post »
Don’t worry you haven’t come to the wrong place. This is still Fandango Groovers Movie Blog, I am just doing a bit of site maintenance. To celebrate my 10,000 hit (that I will hopefully get in the next few weeks) I have changed the appearance of my page to one with widgets (whatever that means). This allows me to put a hit counter on my page (thanks for the advice Caz).
The downside is that I have lost my custom header. But don’t worry normal service will resume. My custom header will return over the weekend. Until then take a look at this:
For those who don’t already know the photograph saying Groovers 71 that I use for my header is graffiti inside Chata Ortega’s Bar & Grill a filming location from the movie Fandango. It is located just of I20 in West Texas. For more information click Ultimate Fandango on my blogroll and select locations from the menu at the top.
And if you click on my about at the top of this page you will see a photograph of me (Stetson in hand) inside Chata Ortega’s.
Read Full Post »
I didn’t intend to blog today but Just have time for a quick note on the death of an icon. With all the publicity over the death of Michael Jackson yesterday it would be easy to miss the sad news that Farrah Fawcett also passed away. She was 62 and had been battling cancer for three years. More a TV star than a film star she will be best remembered as one of the stars of the original Charlie’s Angels. For a full obituary take a look at this:
For me her most memorable role was not Charlie’s Angels or any of her other TV work but staring with Burt Reynolds, Dom Deluise, Jack Elam and a Dodge Ambulance in The Cannonball Run. Not a fantastic film but enormous fun.
Read Full Post »
The idea of a trailer is to get people to see the movie. Nothing more nothing less. After all a films success can live or die by its marketing. However in recent years trailers have become an art form in themselves. They have to give away enough of the film to make it compelling without ruining the plot. Music can be essential in creating the mood and the feeling of a movie. A great example of that is the recent (excellent) trailer for Watchmen that utilised the Smashing Pumpkins song “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” from the Batman & Robin soundtrack. It fits this film so much better than it did its original film. The other great trailer at the moment is Public Enemies that uses Ten Million Slaves by Otis Taylor but also contains a lot of film dialogue.
The best trailer I can remember seeing is the Kill Bill trailer below. There are lots of variations but this one for Vol. 1 was perfect. The action mainly centres on the House of Blue Leaves scenes, possibly the best section of the film featuring Uma Thurman in her iconic Bruce Lee inspired yellow tracksuit. The dialogue is kept to a minimum and only used at the end. The music is cranked up and fits perfectly with the editing. Take a look:
Is that the best film trailer ever? I think so!
Read Full Post »
Set in two universes; four lost souls are all looking for something, meaning in their life? Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) is a masked vigilante living in Meanwhile city a strange gothic fairytale looking city in seemingly perpetual night. Meanwhile City is run by “The ministry” using Religious dogma to control people. As the only atheist in the city Preest is a wanted man. After failing in his mission to kill a man and save a young girl he is arrested and incarcerated for four years. Then suddenly he is released and sent to kill his original target “The Individual”. A man we are told is responsible for the death of the young girl.
Meanwhile in London, Milo (Sam Riley) is coming to terms with his fiancé jilting him shortly before their wedding, until he meats up with his childhood sweetheart who is not all she seems. Peter Esser (Bernard Hill) is looking for his son. A young man who we discover is traumatised by his time in Iraq and the death of his sister. Emilia (Eva Green, in another great role, why doesn’t she make more films?) is a young art student with serious emotional problems and penchant for theatrically staged, cry for help suicide attempts. As the film develops we start to see parallels between London and Meanwhile City as locations have equivalent places in each city. We see the same characters appearing in the both realities. This is integral to the plot but also a nice touch by the filmmakers. There is a fantastic reveal as the camera moves through the wall of Emila’s apartment between the two worlds.
The film has a slow pace that may annoy some viewers but there is enough to hold the interest. It is more than half way through the film before it gives much away and starts bringing the characters together. The production design is excellent particularly the look of Meanwhile City. This is contrasted with the brighter more ordinary London setting. The two looks are bridged by Emilia’s apartment and costumes that could fit in either world. Although not spectacular the photography is good giving each character their own lighting and filming style. It is difficult to say more about the film without giving away key plot elements other than to say that although comparisons with Pan’s Labyrinth are valid this film falls a long way short of Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. Although less successful there are still pleasing aspects such as clues within the story that make perfect sense with hindsight.
Considering it is director Gerald McMorrow’s fist feature film it is a very accomplished work that often looks more expensive than its approximately $12million budget. Although I enjoyed the film I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone it isn’t a film with universal appeal. You will notice the film is filed under DVD Gems, although it got a theatrical release it was in limited screens and none near me. It is yet to be released in the USA.
A note of trivia to finish on. Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and John Hurt were all originally cast. McGregor broke his leg in a Motorbike accident. Viewers of Long Way Down will remember this happening. The delay and the subsequent Long Way Down trip caused a delay making the other two drop out as well. Eva Green was the original choice to play Emilia.
Read Full Post »