Immortals: King Hyperion will stop at nothing to obtain the Epirus Bow, but he faces an unlikely challenge from a peasant trained by Zeus himself. Directed by Tarsem – as you’d expect the clothes, masks, set designs and attention to detail is immaculate. It’s also technically impressive, well shot, and a good blend of CGI and real images that other directors would shun away from. Tarsem has some moments of intense vivid uber imagery (what he does best) however, the producers have clearly forced in as many ‘300’ similarities that the contract would support: plastic skies, million-man armies, traitors, rippling abs, oracles, boring grey colour pallets, scrolling one-on-twenty fight scenes… which everyone’s seen before, loads. The story is put to the front and played out well, although there are times when you think ‘less talk, more rock please’. It’s well cast, with Luke Evans, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto and John Hurt standing atop a mountain of decent performances; for a stylised Greek Myth! While it’s very watchable and a decent film, The Immortals and the Fall perfectly illustrate the differences between such an imaginative and unique director doing a stunning self-financed film, and a studio-backed blockbuster with some shining moments.
Napoleon Dynamite: follows the mundane life of a dorky student in rural Idaho over a couple of weeks… doesn’t sound gripping, and it’s not, but it’s still well worth watching. Straight from the awesome opening credits you know this has potential. Because nothing much happens in the story department it’s all down to the characters to push the film forward. Nerdy Kip, delusional uncle Rico, apathetic Pedro, coy Deb and manly Rex are all fantastic. Then there’s Napoleon. John Herder absolutely nails his character; the mannerisms, accent, attitude, partial blindness, heavy breathing and the look, especially the so-bad-they’re-good T-shirts. Everything Napoleon does is so funny because of the teenage angst oozing out of every pore – Hess & Herder have truly created one of the coolest geeks in fiction. The low-fi style and the lack of movement or structure in the story are still huge pitfalls. The elevator music is one of many nods towards ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’, which is absolutely no bad thing. First time round I totally didn’t get this and couldn’t understand why it was a big deal, upon re-watching it several times it just gets better and better.
Hot Rod: a wannabe stuntman has to pull off the biggest jump in history to save his terminally ill step-dad; just so he can kick his ass and win his respect before he dies… Ace! This is one of the few comedies I’ve seen lately that remains consistently funny throughout, with too many laughs to list, and a great script’s that throws up obvious and subtle jokes. Some of the humour’s pretty silly and offbeat but works because of the deadpan delivery. The cast are great with Samberg as the standout (unfortunately the Lonely Island are unheard of in the UK). Danny McBride and his usual posse also put in some good face time, Isla Fisher‘s also on good form. The laughs slow up in the third quarter and a few of the visual gags are predictable but it’s forgivable because the retro 80s hair metal / synth music soundtrack that compliments (and compensates for some of) the humour so well. For me the entire film just worked, and the production values were great. It will get bashed by any serious movie goer but Hot Rod totally exceeded my expectations and was genuinely funny throughout. Will definitely be watching again. Cool beans!
Blades of Glory: started off very strongly by backgrounding the characters and fierce competition, paired with commentators on the BASEketball level of awesomeness. Unfortunately it fizzles out a little when the focus shifts off the rink and a fairly uninspired underdog / unlikely friendship story plays out. The characters definitely have their moments but they’re no Ron Burgundy or Napoleon Dynamite. Even Will Arnett couldn’t muster up many laughs, an indication of the patchy script. I’ll buy a meal to the people who made Jenna Fischer look that hot! The rest of the film relies on the innuendo of male skaters and there’s a whole load of skating stars & references throughout. Probably more for fans of the sport than Joe Public but there are some good bits scattered throughout.
True Romance: (Blu Ray, Director’s Cut) A guy that loves, and is frequently visited by, Elvis runs away with a girl that looks mysteriously like Lolita after they score a suitcase of drugs: cue the mafia and police hunting them down. Definitely not your average tale of monogamy. The story-driven action is a different class, mixing the best bits of Tarantino’s script with a Tony Scott in his Prime. It’s pretty violent, especially the final shootout and girly beat-down – although that scene can claim ‘best chest in a fight, ever’ award. Another highlight is the dazzling ensemble cast including Gandolfini, Oldman, Chris Penn, Rubinek, Kilmer, a noteworthy stoned Brad Pitt and one of cinemas truly great moments: Dennis Hopper & Christopher Walken mesmerisingly discussing the finer points of Sicilian heritage with a dash of classic piano. Not to be forgotten, Slater and Arquette give what could easily be the performances of their careers. There’s some great tension (lift scene) and it lands up being quite poetic given the content. Can’t forget the cheesy / feathery ending and staple Tarantino cooler-than-thou movie & pop culture throughout. The picture and sound are both astonishingly average, only fans should upgrade. All-in, you can’t really fault much of this movie, and it’s amazing to think that even all the big names couldn’t save True Romance at the Box Office. Impressive runaway fantasy.
The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon: Richard Gale’s ten minute short that’s a pseudo-trailer for what would make an absolutely awesome film. Despite the descriptive, yet modest, title this short has explosions, beards, guns, the undead, tanks, global locations and spoons… what more could you ask for? Genuinely funny and very well produced this one is well worth checking out – ‘It will kill you. Even if it takes the rest of your life!’ No need to go anywhere though as it’s on Youtube in HD! LINK:
Hard Candy: a character-driven modern thriller that feels like the most extreme episode of ‘To Catch A Predator’. Right from the opening IM conversation you know this film will be difficult to watch, and the first 20 minutes are among the most awkward I’ve seen. Because there’s only two characters the story’s very neat and wrapped up tightly: Ellen Page is nothing short of phenomenal and Patrick Wilson was great. David Slade made a good job of making the film feel cold, minimal and clinical, although colour is used very effectively, and his direction throughout is spot on. Guys will always remember what happens off-screen and there’s a few more scenes that stuck with me since I originally saw it in the cinema. By the end, it begins to feel a little stretched out, and it does make you question how a kid could execute this plan so perfectly. Fantastic feature-length debut, but hard-hitting content will be too uncomfortable for some.
Antichrist: since studying Europa / Zentropa in Uni I’ve made it my business to see all of Lars Von Trier’s films, most of which push the envelope of style and content. This film sees none of his characteristic rules or obstructions in the film-making process, perhaps why there’s not much content and only a couple of memorable scenes. It’s it’s essentially a film too far, and with loads of needless violence, sex and symbolism – it feels like a slow burning ‘Hostel’ or ‘Saw’ flick. Technically it seemed a waste of the mighty Red One cameras used and things like the GCI animals / talking fox are plain absurd. Eden’s cabin and cheap atmospheric music seemed to nod at the Evil Dead series. The acting’s the only redeeming part of this flick, but I suspect this film will be a stain on both their careers. You can tell Von Trier’s depression was severe when he wrote this; uncharacteristically crap!