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Archive for August, 2010

A year after being dumped by his girlfriend 22 year-old Scott Pilgrim (MichaelCera) is dating a “high-schooler” (Ellen Wong), he is unemployed, he shares a small studio apartment (and bed) with a gay friend (Kieran Culkin) and to top it all off Sex Bob-omb, the band he plays in suck! Then he meats the girl of his dreams Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the only problem she comes with baggage namely seven evil exes who all want to fight our hapless hero.

Depending on your point of view Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is either the coolest movie of the year or a flashy over edited mess that is trying too hard. Although I don’t subscribe to either point of view I am leaning more towards very cool. The movie sets its stall out from the start with the Universal logo being depicted in in the style on an 80’s video game with oversized pixels and matching monotone music.

The action takes place in a comic book/video game world complete with descriptive bubbles appearing on the screen and people being turned into coins as they are defeated, The editing is frantic and the story often jumps forward randomly (just like a video game). This unusual style is possibly what has alienated audiences resulting in poor box office returns in America. That’s a shame as it is a real “cinema experience” movie with the (packed) audience when I saw it cheering and even applauding as well as laughing through the movie.

The casting is brilliant: Michael Cera’s Scott Pilgrim is only two steps remove from Nick (from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and develops from a vacuous self centred arse into an almost likable guy. Cera’s biggest drawback is that he lacks range and can only play a version of himself, he gets away with it in this movie but I’m not sure how many more time he can get away with it; Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfect as Ramona Flowers , she is too hot and too trendy to be interested in Scott Pilgrim but that’s half the point of the movie; Ellen Wong is impossibly cute as the seventeen year old “high-schooler” Knives Chau (at 26 she is actually four years older than Cera); Chris Evans, Brandon (Superman) Routh and Jason Schwartzman are the standouts of the evil exes; From the rest of the cast, Anna Kendrick is brilliant as ever as Scott’s sister, as is Kieran Culkin as his gay roommate but the best casting of the entire movie goes to Alison Pill as Kim, one of Scott’s exes and the drummer in their band.One of the best things about Shaun of the Dead was that it was zombie movie that knew it was a zombie movie filled with characters that had seen zombie movies. The same could be said of Scott Pilgrim and video games and comic books. This is what makes the setting of the movie ambiguous. It is set in either an alternative universe that really does play out like a computer game or its all in Scott Pilgrim’s egotistical head? It really doesn’t matter either way and if anything the movie is better for the ambiguity.

Just a little too quirky and as mentioned above it tries a little too hard this prevents it from being truly great. All this isn’t important when watching the movie as it is truly hilarious and real fun.

Four Stars out of Five

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A year after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is in the Caribbean until she is compelled to return to Sweden. Meanwhile Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and his colleagues at millennium magazine are working on a story involving sex trafficking. When Lisbeth is implicated in a murder Blomkvist is one of the few people who believers her to be innocent and sets to work trying to prove it.

As the weakest of the three source novels it stands to reason that this adaptation wouldn’t be as good as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Having said that it is still a really good movie. I accept that the plot is simplified and the supporting characters are marginalised as they were in the first, both because of time constraints however the tone of the movie suffers in comparison to the novel. The two most notable instances are the glossing over the horrors associated with the sex industry and the toning down of the media circus involved in hunt for Salander, both of these reduce the impact and meaning of the story. The structure of the movie also suffers from a pet hate of mine, poor portrayal of time and space, we are never quite sure of where or when anything happens in relation to each other.

Keeping the two main characters apart for the majority of the movie was an interesting plot device in the book, it doesn’t work as well in the movie taking Blomkvist away from the action. Add this to the fact that Salender is the real star of the movie and Blomkvist is strangely redundant for a lot of the movie in a way he wasn’t in the book. Two characters that I am glad made it to the screen are Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) a kickboxing lesbian and occasional lover of Salander and Paolo Roberto a former champion boxer who in a strange twist is a real life boxer turned actor who plays himself. These two characters share the best scene in the movie that doesn’t feature Salander when they fight Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz) a near giant that doesn’t feel pain. For those who were repulsed by the sexual violence of the first movie, it is toned down dramatically this time earning it just a 15 certificate (in the UK). There is still some bloody violence but it isn’t disturbing the way it was first time around.

We now know that Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig will be taking over the characters of Salander and Blomkvist for the American remake(s), they will have to go a long way to improve upon Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist who are nothing short of perfectly cast. For Noomi Rapace, Salander is like James Bond or the kids in the Twilight and Harry Potter movies, whatever else she does she will always be associated with this character, but this is testament to how good she is. Despite being a little too old and a little too tall for the part I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. The secret to the power of the performance is bringing a certain emotional attachment to a character almost devoid of emotion. And that’s how and why the movie works and appeals, you actually care about what is going on and what will happen to these characters.

Ultimately whist The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a great movie with a compelling murder mystery story, The Girl Who Played With Fire feels more like a setup or steppingstone for the final part of the trilogy. Its worth seeing for fans of the books or the first movie but don’t expect it to be as good as either.

Three Stars out of Five

 

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest will be in UK cinemas from 26th November 2010

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Back in June I asked the question “Did their love last?” of some couples from 80’s movies. Now I ask the same of the 90’s:

Nikita (1990): At the end of the movie Nikita (Anne Parillaud) walks away from everything including Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade), but was this the end of their relationship? 

Pretty Woman (1990): Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) got her fairytale ending with Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) but did they live happily ever after? The big question, does anyone care?

Point Break (1991): We know from his conversation with Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) at the end of the movie that Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves ) still surfs every day, but does he do it alone or with Tyler (Lori Petty) and are they still together now?

Dazed and Confused (1993): It’s the last day of school and a group of kids have their whole lives ahead of them but lets be honest they arn’t thinking much beyond the summer. There is lots of hooking up going on but will any of them be lasting relashionships? Possibly first love for Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) and slightly older girl Julie Simms (Catherine Morris). Sabrina Davis (Christin Hinojosa) and Tony Olson (Anthony Rapp) make for an awkward couple but possibly the one that lasts longest. Cynthia Dunn (Marissa Ribisi) and David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) are the most unlikely combination, will they last the summer? Will they last long enough to see Aerosmith? Michelle (Milla Jovovich) and Kevin Pickford (Shawn Andrews) seem to be a long term couple And what is Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd (Jason London) up to? Will he end up with Simone Kerr (Joey Lauren Adams) or Jodi Kramer (Michelle Burke)?

Pulp Fiction (1994): We know that Ringo aka Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Yolanda aka Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) love each other, they mentioned it before threatening to “execute every motherfucking last one of ya”. But what happened after they left the coffee shop?

The English Patient (1996): The war in Europe is over and nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche) has survived as has her lover Kip (Naveen Andrews) a Sikh sapper in the British Army. Will these two people from very different backgrounds make a future together?

Fight Club (1999): The Narrator (Edward Norton) told Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter): “You met me at a very strange time in my life”. As the building come crashing down around them, is this the foundation for a lasting romance?

L.A. Confidential (1997): Will Veronica Lake lookalike Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) and bruiser cop Bud White (Russell Crowe) find peace and happiness together?

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Dr. William ‘Bill’ Harford (Tom Cruise) and Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) have had some marital problems. Alice has suggested a solution, to “Fuck”. But will this be enough to bring the couple together? Played by real life couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman who divorced two years after the film came out.

G0 (1999): They say opposites attract, and good girl Claire Montgomery (Katie Holmes) and drug dealer Todd Gaines (Timothy Olyphant) really are opposites. The appearance of the Vegas bouncers cuts their encounter short, did they have a round two?

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Overdue Reviews

Gainsbourg

I went into the movie not knowing much about Serge Gainsbourg. A huge star in France, I don’t think I could name any of his songs other than “Je t’aime… moi non plus”. I know far more about his daughter, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg who was originally going to play her farther in the movie, something that would surely make for an even more surreal experience. Interestingly one thing I do know about him is omitted from the movie, if you don’t know what I am talking about Google “Serge Gainsbourg and Whitney Houston”

Written and directed by French comic book artist Joann Sfar the movie is a visual treat but somewhat of a mess in its structure. Going from Nazi-occupied Paris through to the birth of his youngest child in 1986, the movie encompasses a lot of his life but really suffers from a poor sense of time. You will either love or hate the use of a caricatured idol of Gainsbourg that appears throughout the movie, for me it really works as a sort of alter ego representing his insecurities. The acting is great, particularly Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg. Lucy Gordon (who sadly died whilst the movie was still in post production) as Jane Birkin and Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot are also really good but the hugely talented Mylène Jampanoï is wasted in a tiny part as Gainsbourg’s final wife Bambou.

An interesting movie rather than a good one, like its subject there is lots like about it but just as much to dislike.

Three stars out of five

 

Knight and Day

An impossibly attractive couple are on the run all because of a silly MacGuffin, the results are spectacular and make for one of the finest movies ever made. Of course I am talking about Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece North by Northwest and not Night and Day. So what’s Knight and Day all about? Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) and June Havens (Cameron Diaz) bump into each other at an airport, this sets in action a series of events where the pairs futures are entangled. What unfolds is a mix of mayhem including fights, car chases, shoot-outs, that walks a fine line between James Bond style movie and a spoof of James Bond.

The result is somewhat mixed. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz make a likeable couple with some real chemistry. There isn’t enough ambiguity to the story leaving no surprises as the plot is supposedly twisting and turning. Disposable rubbish that is not as good as Mr & Mrs Smith but it is fun disposable rubbish.

Three stars out of five

 

 

 

The A Team

For anyone of a certain age (me) The A Team was staple viewing as a kid, it was by far the best TV show ever made. Except looking back now it wasn’t, it was poorly made tongue firmly in cheek cheesy crap. That is why making an up to date version is so tough, do you go down the tongue in cheek route or do you go for a more “serious” action movie. The filmmakers have tried to take the latter option and have mainly succeeded. The movie is good fun with some good action that is just as OTT as the show and probably the most fun when it is at its most ridicules. The casting is pretty good, Liam Neeson shows his star credentials as Hannibal, Bradley Cooper is perfectly cast as ‘Faceman’ and Sharlto Copley is brilliant as Murdock. Jessica Biel is somewhat wasted and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson is out of his depth as B.A. but who realistically could live up to Mr T!

The movie easily splits in two, the protracted opening showing an origin of the team and the on the run clearing their name main body. I was a little sceptical of the origin part of the movie but it actually turned out to be the best part of the movie. Taken at face value the movie is better than the show it was based on but put into context of when the show was made, it actually fails to live up to the original.

A film that your enjoyment of will depend mainly on the frame of mind and point of view of the viewer.

Three stars out of five

 

 

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The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid (1984) was a great movie, unfortunately looking back on it now it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t as good as I remember it as a ten year old. So for that reason I actually don’t mind them remaking it, its not like they are messing with a classic. It does show a lack of originality but that’s another issue!

Single mother Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson) and her son Dre (Jaden Smith) move from Detroit to Beijing with her job. Dre is less impressed with China than his mother, something that gets worse when he gets into a fight with a local bully who also happens to be pretty adept at kung fu and kicks Dre’s Ass. The problem escalates until salvation comes from the unlikely person, building caretaker Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Before he knows it he Dre has been entered into a Kung Fu competition.

Taking its time to get going without much character development, the movie does avoid a lot of racial stereotypes often associated with these fish out of water movies, it does however leave no stone unturned in its search for underdog sports movie clichés. The movie is split into three distinct parts, the final and shortest of these is the tournament that is actually very short and sort of rushed, like the rest of the movie it follows the plot of the original.

Jackie Chan is fantastic as Mr Han, unfortunately hen just doesn’t live up to Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi from the original movie, he was the best thing about that film and was nominated for and Oscar. Although Chan adds a certain gravitas and credibility to proceedings the real star here though is Jaden Smith who is sensational and at just twelve years old he is actually the same age as his character unlike Ralph Macchio who was 23 when he made the original movie. Even at such a young he is showing signs of the charm and charisma of his farther, who incidentally he is a perfect Mini-Me of.

Predictable and clichéd but enjoyable none the less! Due to the success of the movie a sequel is reportedly in the works, as the sequel to the original was set in Japan will they set the sequel to this movie in America?

Three Stars out of Five

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice began as a poem from 1797 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It tells the story of a sorcerer’s apprentice who uses magic to enchant a broom to do his work for him, it begins okay but quickly gets out of control when he cannot stop the broom. French composer Paul Abraham Dukas then composed a single movement piece of orchestral music based on it. It is best know as part of the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia featuring Dukes music and Mickey Mouse playing the part of the apprentice.

This new movie only shares the name and a short but fun homage to the original story. With a story so contrived it requires two prologues, the first set in the dark ages tells the story of Merlin (James A. Stephens) and his three appetencies Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci). One of them betrays Merlin and sides with his arch nemesis Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige), look at the casting I think you may guess which one betrays him! The action then relocates to New York in 2000 where we are introduced to Dave (Jake Cherry) a ten year old kid who may be the new apprentice Balthazar has been searching for, for over a millennium. After all this the rest of the action takes place in the present day with Dave now being played by Jay Baruchel.

Alfred Molina is by far the best thing about the movie clearly having fun with his character. Nicolas Cage on the other hand decides to play it straight and serious, this on the whole works but it would have been interesting to see how the film would have worked if he played it a little more crazy and funny. Monica Bellucci and Alice Krige are hardly used leaving Teresa Palmer playing Becky Barnes, the love interest for Dave as the main female part. And brings us to one of the issues with the movie, Jay Baruchel does a good job playing a geeks dweeb but fails to make him particularly likeable and that is a real problem. Toby Kebbell (you may remember him from RocknRolla) is entertaining as Drake Stone another apprentice who has been using his abilities to become a superstar celebrity magician. He could have made an interesting lead.

The one thing I haven’t said may come as a surprise but I actually enjoyed the movie, I know the story is sill and the characters are week but it is still good fun.

Three Stars out of Five

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Salt

CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) and her boss Ted Winter (Live Schreiber) are about to leave the office for the day when a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski) walks in. He describes a plot involving a Russian sleeper agent called Evelyn Salt. What do you do in a situation like that? To quote Minority Report “Everybody runs”.

It is common knowledge that the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer was originally intended as a Tom Cruise vehicle, and this really is Cruise territory with similarities to the aforementioned Minority Report as well as the first and third Mission Impossible movies and this years Knight and Day. The greatest credit to the casting of Angelina Jolie is that we you don’t walk out of the movie spouting bullshit about how her vulnerability as a woman adds an extra dimension to the movie. Proving herself one of the few credible female action stars around Jolie’s performance is probably straighter and more serious than Cruise would have played it.

Directed by Phillip Noyce who is probably best known for his two Jack Ryan movies, Clear and Present Danger & Patriot Games (neither of which is as good as The Hunt for Red October), but he has actually had a long and varied career that includes the classic Dead Calm, the underrated The Bone Collector (also starring Angelina Jolie), the brilliant but little seen Rabbit-Proof Fence as well as the appalling The Saint. Keeping the movie to a taught ninety-something minutes the action keeps coming and on the whole is well handled. The action is too farfetched to be truly realistic but does have a certain realism created by its brutality and serious tone. It is that serious tone that will dived audiences, forgoing the fun of Knight and Day or The A Team offer, Salt relies on its action and not its humour to entertain. In that way (as well as the cold war theme) it is very much an old-fashioned movie. It is Jolie’s performance that really makes it work she has the same intensity as in her more serious movies. As the story develops and the action kicks in her dialogue becomes minimal, that is when you appreciate the intensity. Flashbacks are used effectively throughout the movie developing a compelling if not always credible back story.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is wasted, this is mainly because his character is only really needed for the final scenes but he really is needed for those scenes. On that subject, the ending is perfect for the movie allowing a satisfactory conclusion without sacrificing the earlier scenes and also leaving the door open for a sequel “The Salt Supremacy”? comparisons with No Way Out are inevitable but this really is a very different movie. As for the person on the run theme, it has been done so many times before but nothing ever lives up to Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest, it is therefore no surprise that salt is no different.

Three Stars out of Five

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