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Archive for March, 2010

We are a quarter of the way through the new year already, British Summer time has been welcomed with typically British weather (It hasn’t stopper raining all week!). But how have things been at the movies so far this year? I would say pretty good, I have seen twenty-eight new releases, ten of them have received four stars, and a further ten have three, the other eight have all had two stars meaning I haven’t given any movie one or no stars. Last year we had three movies I would have given five stars (if I had been giving ratings, I only started this year) but the first of those didn’t come out until April. While I haven’t given any movie five stars yet this year two came very close.

So what has impressed me so far? The best movies so far have been:

  • Kick-Ass
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Shutter Island

The most pleasantly surprising films have been:

  • The Book of Eli
  • Youth in Revolt
  • Daybreakers

The worst movies so far:

  • From Paris with Love
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Ninja Assassin

 

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Just a reminder Desert Island DVDs is coming soon, a week on Sunday to be precise.  All participating bloggers will be listing their eight movies to be stranded on a desert island with.

Narrowing a list down to just eight movies is really tough as I am finding at the moment.  It’s not just a matter of picking your favourite eight movies, the movies you can watch over and over again may not be your all time favourites as and as mentioned by Kai from The List

There is still time to get involved take a look at here and here for information and leave a note below if you are interested.  And if you were wondering the posters are a sneak preview of just a few of the movies that have been selected.

 

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Kick-Ass

After working as a producer, most famously on Guy Ritchie movies Matthew Vaughn directed Layer Cake a movie that virtually reinvented the British gangster movie that was at the time suffocating under all the Guy Ritchie-alike crap. Layer Cake gave us a slick, stylish and exciting film that looked more like a Michael Mann than a Guy Ritchie movie. Three years later he made Stardust, a romantic fairytale co-written by Jane Goldman (Jonathan Ross’ wife) featuring Sienna Miller and Robert De Niro in drag. As terrible as the film sounded it was actually brilliant. So that brings us onto Kick-Ass based on the premise of what would happen if an ordinary everyday person decided to become a supper hero. Clearly we have already seen this all before last year in Watchmen, what can another movie offer other than a comedy spoof on the idea. Kick-Ass is so much more than a spoof on super hero movies, and strictly speaking it isn’t a comedy. It is funny, very funny but not exactly a comedy. It is a coming of age drama, a satire on human nature and modern society and a violent bloody action movie.

Dave Lipetsk (Aaron Johnson – John Lennon in last years Nowhere Boy) is a normal geeky high school student who along with his two even more geeky friends reads comic books. One day he wonders out loud why nobody has ever become a superhero. Despite his friends telling him it is dumb idea he (without telling his friends) goes ahead with the plan. After a false start that introduces a useful plot device Dave intervenes in a fight and is filmed by a kid with a mobile thus making his alter ego Kick Ass a youtube Phenomenon. Meanwhile Damon Macready aka Big Daddy (a surprisingly restrained Nicolas Cage) and his eleven year old daughter Mindy Macready aka Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s sister in 500 Days of Summer) have had the same idea about becoming super heroes and are on a quest for revenge involving local gangster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

The casting is perfect Johnson plays geeky to perfection, Lyndsy Fonseca does well with what little she has to work with as the love interest. Strong is rapidly becoming Hollywood’s go-to guy for villainous roles both straight and comic, he plays them all with relish. Here he is well supported by fellow brits (and graduates of British gangster movies) Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher and Tamer Hassan. But the heart of the movie rests with Hit Girl, if the casting was wrong or the chemistry between Cage and Moretz was off the whole film would have failed. As it is she is the cement that holds the film together, I have heard many people compare her as a cross between The Bride from Kill Bill and Matilda from Leon, I think this is an accurate assessment. The great appeal of the Dave/Kick-Ass character is that (other than the fact he becomes Kick-Ass) he is an ordinary everyday guy with everyday issues. He has no real agenda or motivation, he isn’t looking for revenge or redemption, he is just looking for meaning, direction or in other words something to do. This sense of realism amongst the ridicules is refreshing but not the best thing about the movie, the best thing is its self awareness. Based on a comic book by Mark Millar, the movie knows it’s a comic book movie, this is alluded to in the voiceover that like the film itself references other comic books. Amongst all the fun the film has to offer, and it is tremendous fun there is also a lot of violence and a large body count. The dialogue is edgy, cutting, snappy and brilliant although many viewers will find it hugely offensive, for example Hit Girl uses the words cunt and cock and tells her farther that she is only fucking with him. All these things are done for comic effect as recognised by the BBFC. The shock value really adds to the comedy. Speaking of shock value, there is some really great uses of music, Bad Reputation by Joan Jett is a good fit for the movie, but it’s the songs that don’t fit that have a the most impact for example the Banana Splits theme and Elvis’ version of Battle Hymn of the Republic from An American Trilogy used in violent shootouts provides a memorable juxtaposition. Made for a reported $28 million but looking like it was made for a lot more it really should make money.

As the film goes on it gets darker without loosing its comic edge. It is all held together by the cutting dialogue and the John Woo style action. The movie ends with a Spiderman inspired postscript (with a reference to Batman) and like all great movies it leaves you wanting more hopefully they will have the nerve to leave people wanting and not cash in with a sequel.

Four Stars out of Five

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Hair

I have just seen the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World trailer where Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to be sporting some unusual hair colours. So I thought I would compile a list of similarly wacky choices. (I know some of them are wigs!)

One of my personal favourites and most iconic looks from recent years: Franka Potente in Run Lola Run

Not to be confused with the more orange Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element

One of Kate Winslet’s looks form  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Pink wigs must have been the thing in the early 00’s, Natalie Portman in Closer

And Scarlett Johansson just a year before in Lost in translation

Angelina Jolie’s locks look conservative next to Ryan Phillippe in Playing by Heart

Will Chloe Moretz ever be able to get beyond playing such an iconic character as Mindy Macready/Hit Girl at such a young age?

Who have I missed out?

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Green Zone

I saw this movie a week ago and am only just publishing a review, why? Version one condemned the movie for not being as good as The Hurt Locker; Version two was a rant suggesting two former world leaders are war criminals for starting an illegal war; Version three was a lengthy explanation of how the movie differs from the Bourne movies. The following is probably a combination of all three rather than the new and original review it was supposed to be but I am not going to do a version five.

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is looking for weapons of mass destruction in post invasion Iraq its no great surprise that he doesn’t find any. When he challenges the intelligence he is stonewalled by people who have their own agenda. Before long he is following his own leads to which he receives both support and opposition for warring factions on his own side.

Directed by Paul Greengrass and staring Matt Damon the comparisons to the Bourne movies is inevitable but completely miss the point, true they share an actor and director and both have action but that’s where the similarity ends. The Bourne movies are concept movies based around Jason Bourne’s searching for his identity and his memory. Green Zone is about a wholly different character, what Miller is looking for isn’t in his head, it is very real and quantifiable. The problem is that the quantity in question is zero, Hans Blix failed to find weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq and yet The British and American governments went to war in the hope they would find some after the invasion. We all know that no such weapons were found. Millers realisation that he wasn’t going to find anything is the most telling thing about the film. The UK release of the movie couldn’t be more timely with the Chilcot Inquiry in full swing the so called “dodgy dossier” and the “Sexed-up” intelligence reports are back in the news. We have also had former Prime Minister Toney Blair giving a performance testimony worthy of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Back to the movie, the real strength is the blend of the genres; it is an all action movie with a political point of view and more importantly a conscience. Matt Damon is looking every inch the movie star and like Linus Caldwell, his character in Ocean’s Eleven he has fought his way out from the shadow of his once more famous contemporaries. Damon is always centre stage but is well supported by Jason Issacs (and his moustache), Greg Kinnear and Brendan Gleeson. The one disappointment is Amy Ryan, after her brilliant turn in Gone Baby Gone she was a little wasted here, her character a necessary evil to introduce a plot device when it could have been a key part of the narrative.

Greengrass’ documentary style with its shaky hand held cameras has received plaudits and detractors in equal measure, whatever your thoughts on it, it is perfect for this movie. The film depicts a war that was fought in the public eye on CNN and Sky News, movies like The Hurt Locker and the TV show Generation Kill are based on stories by journalists. The style of the film gives it the same authenticity, it also benefits from the work of talented cinematographer Barry Ackroyd who also shot The Hurt Locker and worked with Greengrass on United 93.

As mentioned at the top it isn’t as good as The Hurt Locker but then it is a very different movie, while Green Zone blends genres, The Hurt Locker transcended its genre.

Four Stars out of Five

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The Crazies

David and Judy Dutton (Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell) are happily married, they live in a small town, he is the local sheriff, she is the town doctor; they are expecting their first child.  Two local men start acting strangely, what starts as strange suddenly becomes deadly, then the sheriff makes a shocking discovery that could shed some light on the situation.  Before they know it the outbreak of the infection is far less concerning than the faceless governments attempts to contain the problem. I say faceless as they literally are, we never see the leaders and the soldiers all wear gas masks obscuring their faces.

Whilst not one of George A. Romero’s best movies, his original version of The Crazies (1973) is still an interesting and enjoyable horror thriller.  Made in the last few years of the Vietnam War the film was a critique on society and a damming indictment on the war full of symbolism such as the moment a soldiers boot crushes toy soldiers under foot.  It is hard to look at the remake without comparing it to the current world situation.  The attitude of the military or more to the point the government who control them could easily be seen as a metaphor for American policy in recent and current wars. There is one incident that mirrors a lot of peoples view that criticise the institution without criticising the individual soldiers.  Regardless of any possible meaning the new film has retained its criticism of society and sense of mass hysteria but lost its black humour, it also doesn‘t have the originals most damming scene, where a cure is lost because of stupidity. In the remake human nature is summed up in one line of dialogue.  After their wives have been taken, suspected of been infected two of the characters are talking about saving themselves versus helping their wives: “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife and I won’t ask you why you can!”

The film is largely well made with good photography and lighting, the sense of time and space is well handled, this is something that is often lacking in movies of this genre.  The acting is good especially from Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell.  The only real criticism is the film could have done with more tension and even a few more cheep scares as well as a greater sense of dread. Directed by Breck Eisner whose previous movie Sahara (2005) was enjoyable nonsense, like that film The Crazies offers nothing new but is still enjoyable. It is also worth mentioning that Timothy Olyphant is slowly developing from a bad boy character actor and TV star into a genuine leading man.

Far from a classic and lacking the social and political commentary of the original but an enjoyable enough movie that is worth a look for horror fans.

Three Stars out of Five

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Desert Island DVDs Update

I have already emailed everyone who have confirmed they intend to take part. If you missed the email or if anyone else wants to join in here are the details:

Everyone publishes their own list on their own Blog. As well as my own list (on a separate post) I will publish a list of all the participants with a link to their list. Please include a link to this list, the link will be: http://wp.me/prVbF-17I  (if you try and use it now it won’t work, but trust me it will on the 11th).

We are publishing on Sunday 11th April at 11 am BST (that’s 10am Zulu, I will confirm the time for other time zones closer to the time if anyone is struggling). To give me time to set up my part you will need to send me a link no later than Friday 9th April.

Creating a link before publishing is easy on wordpress using the auto-publish feature. Anyone who needs help with this let me know. If you other blog publishing applications and are struggling let me know and I will see what I can do.

This is a list of confirmed participants. If I have missed anyone of or anyone else who is interested there is still time to join in: 

  • Fandango Groovers Movie Blog (Me!)
  • Thanks again to everyone taking part. And thanks to Kai who has already sent me his link.

     

     

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