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What makes a good X-Men film?

9 Jul

With the release of X-Men: First Class, and the success that it has achieved, both critically and commercially, it is now time to ask the question that is on everyone’s lips: what makes a good X-Men film?

There have been a total of five X-Men films now, all of them are linked and all of them share cast members. Each has a large cast and across the life of the franchise no less than four different directors have transitioned the characters to film. Brett Ratner, Bryan Singer, Danny Wood and Mathew Vaughn have all helmed, however out of them, there are those who are clearly better at directing superhero films.

So, let’s start with the directors. Danny Wood directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Mathew Vaughn directed X-Men: First Class, Brett Ratner directed X-Men 3 and Bryan Singer directed X-Men and X-Men 2. Prior to X-Men, Danny wood directed the Academy Award winning Tsotsi, Brett Ratner had cut his gums on the Rush Hour series, Mathew Vaughn directed the superlative Kick-Ass among others and Bryan Singer broke into the scene with The Usual Suspects. These are all very different films, and indeed none are specifically similar to any of the X-Men films. Yes, some elements are comic, as in Kick Ass,  some are touching as in Tsotsi, some are very action orientated, as in Rush Hour and the intrigue present in The Usual Suspects is very much alive in the X-Men films. Does that mean that anyone of these directors has a different expertise that benefits the franchise more? No, it does not.

On closer inspection, it can be seen that one thing holds two directors above the others, that is a love of comic-books. Matthew Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman have in the past adapted the work of Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar for the silver screen to explosive effect and clearly love the genre, their dialogue and understanding is near unmatched in the film industry. Bryan Singer is a comic-book geek, he loves the characters and has grown up with them. Alone, a love for the genre and the characters does not guarantee a good superhero film, Zack Snyder loved Watchmen a little too much, suffocating the film while Christopher Nolan, only vaguely interested in Batman beforehand, revolutionised the genre. What elevates the films of Singer and Vaughn is the balance between love and technical ability. While Wood and Ratner are both technically competent directors, they don’t care much for the characters, and indeed X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are very much exercises in style over substance.

That is not to say that the characters present in X-Men aren’t exercises in style over substance themselves. Who among the X-Men has real depth? Xavier is an all-powerful rich boy, Wolverine is nigh-on indestructible, Storm is Halle Berry and Mystique can become anyone. There are those who have suffered real trauma and difficulty, such as Magneto, Nightcrawler, Rogue and Beast, yet they are never truly the focus. It is when an X-film gives more breathing room to its more troubled characters that they truly begin to rise. After all, that is what the X-Men are, the representatives of genetic diversity fighting against the bigotry and fear present in the world, frightened teenagers and troubled adults who have to come to terms with overwhelming responsibility. X-Men 2 and X-Men: First Class touch on these themes to varying degrees and are all the better for it, with the truly interesting characters being given plenty of time in the sun. Again, this is where Wolverine and X-Men 3 fail, both are nothing more than glorified action scenes pasted together with vague attempts at pathos.

So, it has been established then, X-Men: First Class and X-Men 2 are the best examples of the X-franchise, while Wolverine and X-Men 3 fall flat. The directors are what truly make the difference in these productions. From casting, to scriptwriting, to producing, the directors have had a hand in many aspects of the final product that constitutes each film, not least shooting it. Danny Wood and Brett Ratner fall short where Mathew Vaughn and Bryan Singer stand tall.

So what makes a good X-Men film?

The director.

So, where next? Fox has stated that they envisage a trilogy being produced from the newly released X-film, something which should surely be celebrated. Whether it will be Mathew Vaughn at the helm is something that is yet to be seen, but one thing is sure, now that we know what happens when toads are struck by lightning and that you shouldn’t mess with the Juggernaut, bitch, we can comfortably look forward to more X-drama, X-fun and most importantly, X-citement.

Sean Cameron

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Batman: What Next?

6 Mar

Batman: What next?

Batman is among the most famous of comic-book characters and he is certainly the most written about comic book character in existence. Countless tales involving the Caped Crusader have been woven for over seventy years now. Across film, comics, literature and videogames his story has been told and retold to successive generations.

It is in the medium of film however that Batman now receives his greatest accolades and attention, mainly thanks to the involvement of one Christopher Nolan. The director has reinvented the tale of the Dark Knight for a new millennium. Across Batman Rises and the Dark Knight and helped by an impressive performance from Christian Bale, he has remoulded Batman as a character. Gone is the anti-shark spray and gone are some ridiculous enemies (here’s looking at you Penguin). This version of Batman is dark, sanitised from the wackier realms of imagination and unafraid to philosophise.

This article will speculate as to the story of the next Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises and offer some insight as to what is next for the World’s Greatest Detective.

As has been established, Christopher Nolan isn’t one for frippery; it is presumable that the tone he has established will be continued. So far Tom Hardy has been cast as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Talia Al Ghul, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Joseph Gordon Levitt as the Black Mask, (it is less Batman and more Inception 1.5).

So let’s elaborate, Bane is a remarkable choice for a main villain. In Batman and Robin (1997) he was little more than a buffoon, in the comics though, he was a different story altogether. What is remarkable about the Batman universe, or at least the Nolanverse, is that very few villains can match Batman in a one-on-one conflict. Bane in every incarnation has been a muscle-bound, hyper-intelligent wrestler-a-like man. When first introduced in the 1990’s he broke open Arkham Asylum (like a gothic Alcatraz for all of Batman’s foes) and left Batman to clean up the mess. By the end (two months later) Batman was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. In that time Bane had figured out his secret identity as Bruce Wayne and had also discovered the Batcave. He waited there and when Batman arrived, he promptly snapped his spine, crippling Batman.

The seriousness of this in the comic book universe is easy to overstate. Death is a recurring theme in comic books, however it is never an obstacle when you have parallel dimensions, magic, demonic bargains and all sorts of other avenues back to the realms of the living. However, presuming Bane performs a similar stunt on Nolan’s Batman, this would be a big deal. With no magic to heal or revive him, all injuries would be permanent.

Now we move on to Talia Al Ghul. The devoted daughter of Ra’as Al Ghul (Liam Neeson in Batman Begins) she is portrayed as an excellent hand-to-hand combatant and capable with advanced weaponry. What is intriguing about her is that she has been a recurring love interest of Batman’s throughout the comics for a number of years. In some stories she even bears him a son, Damien Wayne. It is more than likely that she’ll arrive looking for Batman’s blood, while this may seem slightly cliché, Nolan’s movies, while often bearing unconventional themes, often have conventional plotlines. He killed her father, so she arrives to kill Batman.

As for Anne Hathaway, she is a somewhat leftfield choice for the character, it can be assumed that she’ll perform well in the role, but whether she can quite perfect the mixture of sex appeal and danger that make Catwoman unique is yet to be seen. At least it isn’t Halle Berry in the role. Nolan’s Catwoman will presumably be a million miles from either a Burton-esque feline resurrection or a (rubbish) moisturiser transformation. However she comes into existence though, one thing is important, in the comics, Catwoman and Batman have the hots for each other, (it seems as though Bruce Wayne, whether Batman or not, has dated every woman under the sun). It has been speculated that Batman might be missing at the start of the movie and that she might fill the void left by him, presumably not using his non-lethal methods however

Our last character to analyse is that of the Black Mask. The Black Mask is one of the lesser known Batman villains. He basically performs the same role as that of the Kingpin in Spiderman, that is to say he is the lord of all organised crime in Gotham. In the Dark Knight, the Joker makes something of a mess of the organised crime bosses. It is presumable that either in the period between the films, or the speculated absence of Batman, that the Black Mask will arrive and take over all crime in Gotham. The Black Mask is notable in that (at least in the comic books) as the result of a childhood accident, his face was horribly deformed and closely resembles a pitch-black skull. It can be assumed that such an unlikely injury will not be present in the Nolanverse, rather the black skull will be an actual mask. The Black Mask will probably be the villain equivalent of Batman, wearing the mask to hide his true identity so he can keep up appearances as a ‘respectable’ business man. The Black Mask is also significant to Batman since he was a figure his youth, they were both boyhood play pals as their parents were friends.

Given this analysis, the story may go a little something like this: Batman is absent from Gotham, undertaking either a personal mission, or taking a break from being Batman, or being so disenchanted with the image of Batman that he cannot make himself don the black cowl. Nonetheless he is also in mourning, both for his love Rachel Dawes and lawman Harvey Dent.  In his absence and in Bruce Wayne’s withdrawal from public life, the city has gotten much worse. Crime plagues the street and organised gang activity is on the rise due to the appearance of a new shadowy figure, nothing much is known of him, except that he wears a Black Mask. Attacks become more frequent and violent. As a result of this a new champion of the people arrives, Catwoman, however she is no patch on the man she replaced. With ambiguous morals she steals as much as she saves. It is into this chaotic situation that Batman returns. He quickly sets things on the path to recovery, the Black Mask’s thugs are useless against him, and his operations are greatly disrupted. Bruce Wayne resumes his public life, however a mysterious new woman has appeared on the Gotham social scene, intelligent, charming and beautiful she soon works her way into his heart. After this happens, Catwoman also encounters Bruce Wayne, this time as Batman. He attempts to force her chaotic ways, but soon her seductive ways prove too much for him and they end up romantically linked also. Emotionally fragile since the death of Rachel he enters into this unusual love triangle. Each of his women don’t know of the alter egos, Catwoman of Bruce Wayne and Talia of Batman. He is forced to ask the question, is Batman the mask for Bruce Wayne, or is Bruce Wayne the mask for Batman?

Meanwhile, the Black Mask has become ever more impatient and in his hysteria decides to bring someone in to kill Batman. Whom he chooses to perform this task is none other than Bane, a hulking figure with a formidable intellect. Bane enters the fray and soon Batman is on the run for his life…

Whether this is or is not the case is yet to be seen, however it is presumable within the bounds of logic that it may be.

Research for this article was based around graphic novels. It is highly recommended that you read some of these if you plan to conduct research yourself, excellent examples include, Year One, The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum.

As for what happens next to Batman, who knows? Christopher Nolan has plainly and authoritatively stated that he has no interest in directing another Batman film, especially with sequels to Inception in the works along with his involvement in the new reboot of the Superman franchise. How the story pans out is heavily dependent on the director. The films have made too much money not to see another picture produced. A new director would most likely remove the existing cast, (they are all going to be in Inception 2 anyway) and reinvent the origins of Batman once again.

It is needless to say that Batman will always continue to exist, so long as the character is reinvented.

Top Ten Worst Horror Movies

24 Dec

10 Worst Horror Movies

10. Final Destination

Final Destination is on this list not so much for being an incompetent film as just a weird film. There are several elements to this weirdness, but all of them are centred on the core premise. A guy has a vision of his own death. Having received this vision he avoids said death, along with several other teenagers. Since they were ‘supposed’ to die and didn’t, Death (that is the elemental personification of Death) thereafter takes a personal interest in seeing to their demise. So far, so weird. This is just the beginning however. Over the course of the film it becomes apparent that Death doesn’t have a lot in his schedule and watches too many cartoons. Overly complex and convoluted deaths abound, often with an Acme twist, forcing an already silly plot to supreme levels of idiocy. This, along with stilted and wooden acting, unimaginative scene setting and a hammy script ensure Final Destination’s reputation as a bad horror movie.

9. Return of the Living Dead III

A little known film in many circles, Return of the Living Dead III was a film among the 80’s splatter era, and is a prime example of why that era sucked so bad. Basic premise: boy’s girlfriend dies, boy goes to Colonel Father and asks him to re-animate her. Colonel Father, in the best traditions of army whack-jobs, agrees and they promptly give her a dose of zombie gas. She wakes up, makes a snack of a few Latino gangsters and begins a new zombie apocalypse. Despite the obviously masterful plotting, what really lets this film down are the special effects. In that time of ketchup-for- blood, the special effects department managed to come up with zombies that looked as though they had wandered in from a children’s play. What ensues is just plain embarrassing, the cast seem to agree. Watching bored people run away from clay-mation monsters that they evidently don’t care about is not a way to spend an afternoon.

8. Black Sheep

This 2006 fable of killer sheep is a good example of a special kind of film. This kind of film is based around one single joke, ala Killer Tomatoes etc. The single joke that Black Sheep is based around is instead of turning into a Were-wolf, someone turns into, yes, a Were-sheep. How hilarious! Oh, and they could set it on New Zealand! And run the tagline “Get ready for the violence of the lambs!” or “Get the flock out of here!” or even “There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand…and they’re pissed off!” As this concept demonstrates, there may be beauty in simplicity, but there is also a hell of a lot of stupidity. Black Sheep fails to engage on every level. It is clear that once the writers had come up with their core idea they let everything else write itself albeit badly. The humour is confusing at best, and in a comedy horror, that is simply inexcusable. Save yourself and your eyeballs the bother and stay away, you have been warned.

7. I Am Legend

I Am Legend is a film about Will Smith showering. Oh, sorry, got it wrong. I Am Legend is a movie about Will Smith exercising and driving a fast car. Ah, damn, again. I Am Legend is a movie about world renowned biologist Will Smith being the last and therefore coolest man on earth fighting bad CGI albino vampires by night and showering, exercising, driving a fast car, playing golf on an aircraft carrier and getting emotional with a dog by day. Yes! Got it right! Oh yeah, the film is rubbish too, for the definitive last man on earth experience watch 28 Days Later, to see Will Smith be Will Smith, watch this.

6.  The Village

M Night Shyamalan has been taking a lot of stick recently. Every movie that he has done since The Sixth Sense has been derided to varying degrees, and the Village is a prime example why. It starts with an intriguing premise (as Shyamalan’s screenplays tend to), there is a village in ye olde times. This village is surrounded by a large forest, a dark forest in which exists unnamed creatures. The villagers have a truce with these creatures, they stay out of the forest and the creatures stay out of the village. Then one night the truce is broken and all hell breaks loose. It is at this point that he makes the mistake that he has been making ever since, confusing plot twists for actual plot. We are lead through a story so labyrinth that it is impossible to follow and the film suffers as a result. A poor showing given such an original premise, as such it is rightfully panned.

5. The Howling

The Howling makes for an easy entry on this list, both for being terrible and spawning a million sequels which were even worse. In this most abhorrent of features we follow our protagonist Karen. Karen is a news reporter. One day she is felt up by a bad man. Then she is upset and goes to a resort to recuperate. She is sad when she arrives because the people there are weird. This is because they are werewolves. Then she kills them all with a macguffin, turns into a werewolf herself and is killed also. As a story, The Howling is uninspired and contrite, as a movie it is awful. With many incoherent and unexplained moments, terrible effects, protracted painful dialogue and muddy lighting the film as a whole is amateurish, dull and confusing.

4. The Wasp Woman

It is a shame to drag this film up from the depths of history, however it ultimately necessary, let us elaborate. The Wasp Woman was made in 1959 on a shoestring budget (these shoestrings evidently belonged to a hobo) and is one of the single most boring films ever made. Poorly received in the day, it fares even more poorly in the present day. The basic premise is this: an anti-aging cream is invented which uses “wasp enzymes”, a female CEO of a cosmetics firm takes notice and uses the cream herself to great effect. However as time passes she changes and inevitably becomes the titular wasp woman. Halle Berry Catwoman comparisons aside, this film is let down by an awful screechy soundtrack, a flat script, hammy acting and above all, a truly laughable attempt at a monster costume, look it up if you dare!

3. Gothika

Halle Berry is another whose star has waned in the last decade. Ever since her Oscar win for Monster she has starred in a series of successively awful films. Gothika is case in point. The film opens in an absurdly gothic psychiatric hospital, with Halle Berry playing the role of one Miranda Grey. Miranda Grey drives home one night, encounters a little girl ghost, is possessed by said ghost and wakes up in the psychiatric hospital the next morning as (shock!) a patient, having murdered her husband. What follows is an attempt to attach plot to this drivel, without any success whatsoever. Plot is essential to horror, as we have seen, and Gothika is a good example of why this is the case. Without originality or suspense, no scares ensue.

2. Teeth

Teeth is a horror that attempts something new and tries to be funny about it, on the former it triumphs and on the latter it fails miserably. The premise is this, a girl has teeth in her vagina and can bite off a man’s penis with it. Where this movie fails is execution, what could have been a somewhat meditative movie is turned into a rote high school flick in which said girl lives in a town with an improbably high number of perverts and has an origin story of sorts as she bites off the penises of these men and the fingers of one gynaecologist. It is unfortunate that this is the case, as at times there is genuine promise. The reason Teeth fares so poorly is that while it is a great idea, the execution is simply terrible.

1. Feast

Feast is the result of Project Greenlight, a competition set up to encourage amateur horror directors. Throughout you can see the touch of the amateur; the strange camera shots, the occasional lighting problems and oh yeah, the absolute lack of any redeemable features. There is no humour, plot, chemistry, atmosphere, inspiration or (something essential for a horror) scares. The plot is this, monsters attack a bar. One sentence, that’s all. There is no attempt to stray beyond this, and indeed this mentality pervades the film as a whole. The characters speak in one liners. The creatures are one note. The film is set in one room (practically). One minute is too long to be watching. End of.

The Top Ten French Comedies

20 Nov

As of late we have seen a mass proliferation of French films into the UK. Why they have arrived can be attributed to the sheer quality and quantity of output from French filmmakers such as Agnes Jaoui, Jean Pierre Bacri and Thierry Lhermitte. These people have driven cinema forward, and without being elitist, have elevated the general quality of films present in UK cinema. There are other factors of course, such as the fact that French films are better financed now than they have ever been, and also that relations between the UK and France have improved in recent years. Look to the list beyond this and be enlightened as to ten of the best French comedies produced that you will probably not have seen, then haul your uncultured ass along to the Filmhouse to take part in their French film festival. Recommended in particular is LOL, starring Sophie Marceau and Christa Theret and also Des Hommes et des Dieus. This writer personally guarantees that you will be both pleasantly surprised and amused. Just a note though, make sure you know how to read first, there ain’t no engurlish in them thar films!

10. Les Visiteurs

This film is one of the most conventional on show. It was the most successful French film ever in the French domestic market. Based around a simple everyday concept; an 11th century knight and his servant are transported from the past into the present and learn to deal with and survive in the modern world. The result is a hilarious, mostly due to the excellent performances given by Jean “Leon” Reno as the said knight and Christian Clavier as his bumpkin servant. Despite the humour being somewhere around the toilet level at times, Les Visiteurs offers an idiosyncratic experience which will challenge your preconceptions of time travellers in general. This is a very enjoyable film indeed.

9. Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra

At the time (2001) this film was the most expensive French film ever produced. The benefits of this budget are easy to see. With stars such as Monica Belucci and Gerard Depardieu present, stunning sets and mountains of extras, this film offers a feast for the eyes. Based around an Asterix comic, the plot is somewhat childish but ultimately satisfying. Although the laughs maybe somewhat conventionally scripted and easy to see, they are no less funny for it. With excellent performances, wonderful costumes, gags and songs, this film has no sense of self importance and revels in that fact. Self-knowing, wry and again ultimately warm and lovable this is not a film to miss.

8. Les Bronzés font du ski

This film, made in 1979, is a who’s who of French film, at least in the modern era, with names from Christian Clavier, Thierry Lhermitte, Maurice Chevit and Marie-Anne Chazel. These stars light up this otherwise conventional film and elevate it from what some may consider a slightly low status. Despite its immense success in France, it received little to no exposure elsewhere. The plot here is simple, people go skiing and people have accidents (which are hilarious, despite the injuries that the various characters experience). Indeed people do things. Two somewhat inferior sequels were made, but this film did something different, something impossible to copy. It created characters that are thoroughly believable as human beings and thus the situational comedies are all the more enthralling. Join in the iconic song (the title by Pierre Bachelet), drop your presumptions and come along.

7. Mon Oncle

This is a film that film students will know, and perhaps despise. It is the arguably the most conventional (but unarguably the only Oscar winning) film that French cinema auteur Jacques Tati ever created. It is here, again, that Tati employ his signature character, Tatischeff. Like Chaplin’s Little Tramp, but French, Tatischeff was a very distinctive character used in every single one of Tati’s films (six in total). Mon Oncle is no different. Thus Tati bumbles his way through the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies of modern life, albeit in his idiosyncratic but ultimately humorous manner. As an example of Tati’s work, this is limited, as a beginning to French cinema and indeed to Tati, it is invaluable, miss it at your own risk.

6. Parlez-moi de la Pluie

The first of the Jean Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui films on the list; this is also the most recent. Bacri and Jaoui were theatre actors who wrote and performed in a number of their own plays. They then made films of these plays, each with marvellous results, of which this film is an example. We follow Agathe Villanova (Jaoui), a politician and feminist as she returns home for ten days to shoot a documentary filmed by Michel Ronsard (Bacri) and Karim (a truly excellent Jamel Debbouze). As is always the case in these films, there is a labyrinth of family politics to unwind, nonetheless, like other movies on this list; Parlez-moi de la Pluie is a wonderful example of a good story told well. With an expertly woven script incorporating drama, tragedy and comedy, Parlez-moi de la Pluie is entrancing. Truly, it would be a sin to miss it.

5. Le dîner de cons

The infinitely superior predecessor to “Dinner for Schmucks” (Paul Rudd, Steve Carrel, 2010), Le dîner de cons is notable for a number of reasons: the first of which are two leads, Thierry Lhermitte (a name which should be familiar by now) and Jacques Villeret. Lhermitte is excellent as always, but it is Villeret who shines. Villeret, now sadly deceased, plays monsieur Pignon, an idiot whom Pierre Brochant, publishing extraordinaire, invites to his “Dinner for Idiots” in order to mock him. The film clearly flaunts its theatrical roots, for it compromises one room and two men for the vast majority of its running time. That the film is so hilarious is a testament to the quality of the script and the ability and chemistry of the two actors on display. For Villeret is truly mesmerising, fully becoming his character, a master at his peak. If you are fully possessed of your sanity, you will see this, the original, the classic.

4. L’Arnacoeur

L’Arnacoeur is the most recently released film on this list. Starring Roman Duris and Vanessa Paradis, it follows the story of a professional break-up artist, who (surprise surprise) breaks up couples for a living. He is hired to break-up the daughter of a gangster from her fiancé, a rich Englishman, but of course, over the progression of the film, he falls in love! What is not exemplary in this film is the originality of the plot, what is exemplary however, is the general quality of the film. Truly beautiful cinematography (the film is set in a sun-flooded, softly shaded, golden Monaco), riveting performances and a riotous script ensure that this film is a fundamentally good natured experience that you’d be mad to miss.

3. Neuilly Sa Mere

This is again another more recent film, and is an excellent example of the kind of high class comedies that the French film system now seems to be producing effortlessly. For this film we follow young Sami Benboudaoud as he is transplanted from his working class council estate to live with his aunt and her wealthy husband Stanislas de Chazelle in the posh Parisian département of Neuilly. Excellently scripted, this film offers an insightful look into the discrepancies of contemporaneous French society, from the disaffected Arabic portion of the population (Sami etc) to the Sarkozy worshipping yuppies (Stanislas’ son Charles) and the prejudices encountered. Done in a breezy and ebullient manner, Neuilly Sa Mere wins you over quickly, educates you a little and more importantly causes asses to be laughed off. See now.

2. Les Goût des Autres

This is a collaboration by Jean Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui, adapted from a theatre production. Theatrical influences abound, indeed as one of the main characters is an actress a portion of the film is set on the stage itself. In another film this might have been a weakness, pretention may have abounded. Needless to say that it does not. Bacri and Jaoui show their true ability in this, their masterpiece. Tight, impressive scripting, imaginative set-pieces, beautiful cinematography, believable and sympathetic characters, humour by the bucket-load and excellent performances from all the cast ensure that Les Goût des Autres earns its place in the upper echelons of the pantheon of French film with ease. This film represents the best introduction into the world of Bacri and Jaoui (Un Air de Famille is an excellent second), and is also an excellent choice for a first French film. Go and watch, you will enjoy.

1. Bienvenue chez les Ch-tis

This, the last film on the list, may not be as high concept, or as artistically engaging as some other examples, yet on pure comedy it delivers in abundance. Indeed this is the funniest film, and in a list of comedies, that is the most important qualifier for prominence. In this we have that oldest of tropes, the north/south divide, which is ploughed fruitfully for laughs. Postal worker Philippe claims he is disabled in an attempt to have himself transferred to a sunnier clime. Upon the corporate discovery that he is indeed not disabled, he is sent to… (dunh dunh dunh dunh) …THE NORTH! What follows is an enlightened puncturing of stereotypes told in a warm human way with a playful style by writer/director/star Dany Boon.  Belly laughs abound for all nationalities and indeed it is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Sean Cameron

The Top Ten Biggest Movie Letdowns

17 Sep

Every year hundreds of movies are released worldwide,  across every decade there are thousands. Some films have a little more anticipation tagged to them than others and as a result have unequivocally disappointed. Here is a list of the ten biggest culprits:

10. Star Wars Episode II: The Attack of the Clones

The Star Wars franchise has taken a beating as of late, and here is one of the principle reasons why. Following the exploits of Anakin and Obi-Wan as they do something involving a threat to galactic security and for some obscure reason, negotiate trade agreements with amphibians and somehow end up fighting robots, the story fails to achieve real grip. Factor in Mr Christensen’s remarkably leaden acting and the overall lack of magic that the series possessed, this is an easy number ten.

9. Planet of the Apes (2001)

For unexplained reasons, at one point in his career, Tim Burton decided to spend the rest of it doing adaptations. Sometimes successful, sometimes not, this is the absolute worst of the crop. This film is a perfect example of the golden rule: special effects do not a good film make.  With an uninspiring Spartacus-wannabe performance from Mark Wahlberg, a truly mystifying ending and the charm of the 60’s era effects, this film is a true let down.

8. The Golden Compass

Every so often, a classic children’s book series is adapted into film. The Golden Compass shows how to do it wrong. New Line wanted this film to be the next Lord of the Rings; indeed they advertised the film as such. However, in their eternal wisdom, they neglected to add essential elements. For example: heart. When you allow one of the writers behind the Nutty Professor 2 to both write and direct, you can surely expect something dismal. Indeed this film’s soulless script is the low point among many lows, and thus the film makes an easy entry on this list.

7. Jumper

Occasionally it is also the case that a certain respected director does not make a movie for a while. Understandably his first feature after an extended hiatus has certain expectations attached. Doug Liman manages to let down on every level with this unwatchable film. Hayden Christensen teleports! He’s chased by Templars (sort of)! Samuel L. Jackson has white hair! Thus the essential subtlety of the plot is conveyed. With no heart and no soul, Jumper makes for painful viewing, thus its entry on this list is well earned.

6. Highlander 2

For many of you, this may be a surprise and obscure entry, nonetheless, this film’s place is well earned. The original Highlander film, although by no means a masterpiece of the silver screen, had a certain lo-fi charm and an endearingly bonkers plot that saw it gain a reasonable following. In this film we find that not only is Christopher Lambert not Scottish, but neither is Sean Connery! No, they are both from outer space and need to return, urgently. To fight.  Highlander 2, with an incoherent script, nonsensical settings and highfalutin airs, exists but for lists like this.

5. The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons has been on air for twenty years now. As the longest running prime time show ever, The Simpsons has understandably taken a dip in quality as time has gone by. With new seasons failing to capture the simple essence of the cutting satire and relatable stories of the beginning, it has become a cartoon ever more than before. The movie represented a chance to reverse this trend. It did not. It only proved to be unfunny and soulless, and thus resides at number five.

4. Transformers 2

As has been seen so far, sequels usually fare poorly when compared to the originals. Transformers 2 does not break the mould. The film is an extended advert for Hasbro and General Motors punctuated by explosions with a lot of added Megan Fox boobs (Megan Fox is also in the movie, albeit in a slightly more sporadic role). Indeed Michael Bay treats the audience as he always does, numpties willing to pay top dollar for tits, guns and explosions. Even in a film rated 12 he somehow gets away with this. Nuff’ said.

3. Southland Tales

Imagine a film about renewable energy, set on the eve of world war three. Now also imagine it being in the future, and in Los Angeles. Now cast the Rock as the lead, involve something about a porn star and twins and parallel dimensions and you’ve got Southland Tales. The first film after an extended hiatus for Richard Kelly, once renowned director of student favourite Donnie Darko, Southland Tales disappoints and confounds on many levels, and so is here at number three.

2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The expectations could not have been higher for this, the fourth in the Indy series. Thus this film could not have ever lived up to expectations. However it let down on an unforgiveable scale. The plot has no feeling to it that the 80’s originals had. We’re led to believe that not only can a geriatric archaeologist outwit and outfight professional soldiers, but that aliens leave ornate crystal skulls lying about for anyone to find, Shia LeBoeuf is related to Harrison Ford and a fridge can save you from a nuclear explosion!

1. X-Men 3

Words cannot express how bad this film is. I’ll try anyway.  Director Brett Ratner throws away the complexity of the previous films by having Jean kill everyone. Before that he has Ian McKellan lift a bridge and Vinnie Jones call Juno a bitch. After that Patrick Stewart is reincarnated as a freaky baby and everybody is happy. Except the audience.

Sean Cameron

Scott Pilgrim vs the World Review

2 Sep

Scott Pilgrim vs the World review

Adapted from a series of comic books, Scott Pilgrim is the newest feature to come from acclaimed British director Edgar Wright. Described as filling many genres, with critics across the country waffling somewhere between rom-com and comedy with added martial arts, this movie is certainly hard to define or pigeonhole, therefore the act is somewhat pointless. Scott Pilgrim is much better serviced by a simple one paragraph description than a tiny catchphrase. So here we go:

The plot of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, quite surprisingly, follows the actions of a protagonist named Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera; doing his whole witty nerd schtick to good if somewhat been-there-done-that effect). See, Scott is trying to woo a pink-haired hipster chick called Ramona (Mary Elisabeth Winstead, charming as ever) who just happens to have seven evil exes. Seven evil superpowered exes. If Scott is to ever woo his hipster, he must first defeat these evil exes, no mean feat. That is the essential plot, although the film has a few diversions here and there, the focus here is not on plot, but on blazing action and witty dialogue, both of which it deals in abundance.

Edgar Wright, as he has demonstrated in the past with Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, can deal with action comedy. He shows here that he can also deal with effects. Scott Pilgrim, lifting straight from the source material, is a film obsessed with videogames culture. From subtler references such as the theme tune Zelda to the bass line from Final Fantasy II to more obvious homages such as the Street Fighter and Rock Band styled brawls with the evil exes to Scott’s band name, the Sex Bob-Ombs. The fights themselves offer up a neon style, flashes of colour and anime style effects ensure that there is never a dull moment, provided that’s your thing of course.

Ultimately, providing a strong mix of music (did I mention that the soundtrack literally rocks?), visual style and witty dialogue, Scott Pilgrim definitely merits the purchase of a cinema ticket, even if just to see Kieran Culkin being gay.

Score: 4/5

Sean Cameron