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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Madagascar 3

Did we really need another Madagascar film and did we really need it to be in 3D? The answers may surprise you.


I know they're massive hits and beloved by kids everywhere but I never understood the appeal of the first two Madagascar films. They were bright and jolly, sure, but the plots were dull and the characters bland and neither film was ever funny or anarchic enough to ever make up for so fatal a combination of flaws. That they also contained some of the most annoying pop-tacular soundtracks of all time didn't help matters either.

Here we are then, with Madagascar 3 in 3D and, would you know it, the main characters are still boring, the plot still uninspired and the soundtrack still annoying. Why wouldn't it be. It is still co-written and directed, after all, by Eric Darnell who has somehow made a career out of these movies. Some might rejoice at the addition of indie darling Noah Boambach as co-writer but I still haven't forgiven him for his last film, the truly hateful Greenberg. And, lets not kid, the film's decidedly unspectacular trailer offered little in the way of hope that Madagscar 3 would be any better at all than its predecessors.

Here's the twist though, Madagascar 3 is really kind of awesome. Yes, all of the series' previous missteps are still present and accounted for and there's nothing about the film's storytelling that would ever raise it to the kind of classic status that 80% of all Pixar films have managed to attain but somehow none of this takes away from the sheer amount of fun to be had during the film's brisk 93-minute run time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting

Come on, really? Did the creators and/or marketing people behind this film intentionally give it a title that seems to serve as little more than a set up for some really obvious jokes at the film's expense? I've heard that the title is actually the name of a self-help book on which the film is based but I'd prefer to imagine we live in a world where films are not based on self-help books so a set up for a lame joke it is. "What to expect when you're expecting? A bad movie that's what." Why go for lame when you can go for lame and vaguely nonsensical at the same time...


First we had Love Actually and it was good. Then we had Valentine's Day and it was basically Love Actually with all the good bits taken out. And then, just a few short months ago, we had New Years Eve and it made the worst, most excruciatingly schmaltzy parts of Love Actually look like the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. And now, by way of Think Like A Man, comes What To Expect When You're Expecting and it's like Love Act- Actually, you know what, we are now at a point where these multi-stranded romantic comedy dramas would need a shovel and a hard hat to get any lower. Indeed, to be fair to What To Expect When You're Expecting, it is a massive improvement over Think Like A Man and New Years Eve. It's smash-your-head-against-the-wall bad, rather than gauge-your-eyes-out bad so, you know, good on it for that, but that doesn't mean that you should waste your hard earned cash on it.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a number of very, very loosely connected couples who are, as you may have guessed from the title, waiting for the proverbial stalk to come. Each of these couples do, of course, represent different kinds of expectant parents. We have an unwanted pregnancy, a planned pregnancy, an adoption and, let us not forget, a race between a son and his ultra-competitive father to reach the delivery room first with their respective partners. Oh how we laughed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gone

Just as well I'm not a respected critic because if I was, this here review would totally sink my reputation. Though, of course, after liking Men In Black III that ship may well have already sailed...


There really is no reason to like Gone. It is silly, under-written and has the feel of a bottom-shelf D-movie that makes very little use of its charismatic star or its Winter's-Bone-like setting. And yet, for all of that, I kind of had a blast watching it.

First, and there's just no getting past this, I really like Amanda Seyfried. Here she plays a troubled young woman who insists that she was kidnapped by a man intent on murdering her but, in one of the film's many departures from logic and believably, no one believes her so when her sister goes missing in similarly sinister circumstances, it's up to her to find and stop her unknown assailant from doing to her sister what he failed to do to her. In effect, she is playing a role that bears more than a slight resemblance to her lead role in the rather underrated Jennifer's Body. The whole plot is clearly complete hogwash but her commitment to the material and likable screen presence means that even if you don't go with the film, you can can certainly enjoy its shameless trashiness.

More than Seyfried though, the reason that this film worked for me is precisely the thing that so frustrated seemingly every other person who has seen it. Gone is a twisty thriller that stubbornly refuses to ever twist.      It constantly threatens to pull the rug from beneath you but instead leaves you all the more befuddled for its complete refusal to befuddle. It's a film that spends every second of its running time promising some big reveal about what's really going on, only to have the revelation be that what is going on is EXACTLY what it seems to be.

I know nothing about the production of the film or what its director and screenwriter had in mind for it but the film is so unambitious, so resolutely unwilling to fulfill the audience's expectations of unexpectedness that I can only imagine that its seeming "laziness" and "worthlessness" must be intentional. It's either that or it really is as hopelessly inept as it appears on the surface. The filmmakers are either sly geniuses or the laziest of lazy hacks. There really is no middle ground here. Call me a naive optimist but I like to think that they're closer to the former, standing right there with us, laughing sardonically at a film that, like the most petulant of spoiled brats, simply refuses to play by the rules.

And no, I really don't care that I seem to be the only person on earth who thinks this.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

W.E.

Hey, I almost forgot to have my say on Madonna's "Masterpiece"!


W.E. has clearly evoked a variety of reactions in people - or at least the handful of people who actually saw the retched thing - but most reviews seem to lean towards it being either the worst film ever made or a wonderfully evocative piece of cinema. Personally, I'm going to have to go for the middle ground. Or, if not the middle ground, then at least leaning towards the former while still admitting to enough redeeming qualities to stop it from being anywhere near as bad as, oh I don't know, Swept Away.

That's right. I'm no Madonna fan. Her  music leaves me cold and, though I haven't seen her previous directorial effort, her involvement in that Guy Ritchie abomination, Swept Away, is enough to ensure that I would have been quite happy to never have the words "film" and "Madonna" mentioned in the same sentence together ever, ever, ever again.

Credit where credit's due though, W.E. may be mostly pretty damn bad, but Her Royal Madgeness has enough visual style to hold, even if just barely, the viewers attention throughout. She has also surrounded herself with enough grade-A talent in front of the camera that it becomes all but impossible to write her film off as nothing but a vacuous vanity project. It is a vacuous vanity project, yes, but at least it's an aesthetically attractive vanity project that is also fortunate enough to contain on-screen performances that range between stellar (Andrea Riseborough) and perfectly solid (pretty much everyone else).  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prometheus

Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise with Prometheus. Really, what more needs to be said?


What it's about

The discovery of incredible ancient wall paintings on various sites throughout earth prompt a couple of scientists to enlist the help of the starship to Prometheus to travel towards a distant planet where they hope to uncover the true – and extra terrestrial - origins of humanity.

What we thought

While, for some of us, 2012 is all about its big superhero films, other genre fans have undoubtedly placed most of their “summer blockbuster” hopes in the semi-resurrection of a beloved science fiction franchise: Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

Scott's 1979 game-changer, Alien, is rightly held up as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, but in the decades since, his original vision has been sullied by countless sequels and spinoffs, of which only James Cameron's Aliens ranks as a truly worthy followup. Prometheus may not be a direct Alien prequel (thank goodness for that, honestly) but it does have Ridley Scott returning to expand on the universe he created all those years ago.

Expectations then, really couldn't be much higher. Not only are the franchise faithful promised a new look at an old favourite, Ridley Scott fans have their undeniably worthy film-making god returning to the genre that he helped to shape, a genre that in turn shaped his entire career. It's hard to imagine where science fiction cinema would without Alien and Blade Runner and, by the same token, it's equally impossible to imagine Scott's long and varied career without these same two films – genre classics that remain to this day, three decades later, his calling cards.