Monthly Archives: October 2014

Prometheus

This is actually the second time I have written about Prometheus on efihr.com, if you check out the first attempt you’ll see that it was slightly more enjoyable the second time around. Prometheus begins with a huge blue dude drinking a shot of toxic Sambuca and disintegrating into a waterfall as a giant oval space craft maneuvers overhead. Quite why the giant blue dude does this is anyone’s guess, but the subsequent close ups of DNA type stuff, multiplying in the water makes one thing extremely clear, the blue dudes shot antics have led to some sort of life. Prometheus is full of moments like this, on the surface entirely nonsensical, but ultimately making some sort of sense. The thing is, the strands that knit these moments together are not strong enough to make something like a coherent whole. There is the giant blue dude storyline, the aliens storyline, the cyborg storyline, then there is a whole bunch of things which I guess might serve some sort of purpose for character development, but that actually don’t mean much at all. The things people (and cyborgs, and alien dudes) do in Prometheus quite regularly make no sense. I think the aim might be to make the watcher go ‘well why did they do that?’ then think really deep meaningful thoughts about life, the universe, faith and our place in this big scary world, because, you know, that’s what this is all about, but really it just feels like everyone is doing silly things for no reason. The coolest character is a cyborg, one assumes, given Scotts obsession with cyborgs that this has some sort of link with Blade Runner, and indeed the whole ‘being human’ theme is well explored here – but the coolness really stems from the cyborg being the only character whose actions actually sort of make sense, plus he is pretty sassy with his non human-ness on top. It’s a worthy Alien predecessor if just for its good looks, but in trying to answer too many of lifes deepest questions at once Scott has rather taken all the fun out of it.

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Escape Plan

I had completely forgotten about Escape Plan – which obviously would have been called Prison Break, had some inconsequential TV not already taken that name. When everyone in my world was going particularly crazy for The Expendables there was this little part of my brain that was repeatedly saying ‘But Stallone and Arnie are doing Escape Plan, I can’t wait for that either’. Then I saw the Expendables and promptly forgot that the other film even existed. That is, until I saw them, just sitting there on my TV, Stallone…Arnie…back to back…How could I forget such a thing? It was like a little surprise for myself. So how is the film? It’s brilliant. Just unadulterated, silly, brilliance. Arnie and Stallone are on the same side, but don’t let this get in the way of a good punch up. Stallone does some wise cracks; Arnie does many many more wise cracks. There is an emotional moment. The best thing about it is Stallone is playing his favorite ‘looks like a thug but it super intelligent’ character – he has even written a white paper about prison security don’t you know. It’s just great. In my experience these guys, in these silly action movies are a little bit marmite. You either think they are brilliant, hilarious, great, amazing, or you think they are getting too old for it. If you fall into the latter category, ask yourself, would the explosions be any less explodey, would the wisecracks be any less funny … would the plot be any less stupid, if anyone but these guys were starring in the film? Never. You’ll never out wisecrack Stallone and Arnie.

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Find Me Guilty

Find me Guilty is a pretty good film. It is a great story about a mobster who decides to serve as his own lawyer, all good you say, except he is up on a rico charge which could see his whole crime family go down. If you don’t know what a rico charge is, go watch some more gangster movies you sap. So clearly having this fly by night in the court room is seen as a bad thing by all the other guys, no matter that he is a real charmer. Clearly they are guilty, the film isn’t really about that, it sort of breezes past the whole ‘crime is wrong’ thing, its half way a comedy so they wouldn’t want to bring the mood down with no ethics. The problem, the big problem, isn’t even with the film. It’s with the DVD cover:

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Now Vin Diesel plays the wise guy who is defending himself. He does a really good job as well, turning in a performance that is way above his usual action hero standards. The thing is, he has hair, and wears a suit… and the only lengthy time inside a jail cell is spent adjusting his bed so he can sleep (bad back you see). Its the furthest from action movie you’ll ever see Vin in. So why the hell does this DVD case make it look like shits gonna blow up?

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Inception

There are lots of pretty great things about Inception, but then, there are also a lot of really pretty awful things about it too. In the spirit of the film I have constructed a giant set of scales. These scales are enormous, each side is bigger than the observable universe, and within each is all of everything. You read that correctly, on each side of the scales is every known, and unknown piece of matter, anti-matter, cat, steam train, robot life form from another planet, absolutely everything. Everything, that is, except the good and bad things about Inception. At the moment, all of everything is reproduced on each side of my meta-cosmic scale, so it is perfectly in balance, we’ll start adding some things and tipping it one way or the other. I am adding amazing special effects to the plus side of the scale. It is so finely balanced just this one tiny addition causes all of everything to come crashing down, the all of everything on the minus side is launched skyward, coming to rest with the scale firmly tipped in favor of Inception being a good film. There is a caveat though, we need to add the fact that the special effects are often so derivative, mostly of the Matrix, that they are not that mind blowing at all. What is the point of special effects if they are not mind blowing? No one can answer that. The scale tips back slightly. The acting is great too, that’s a huge weight on the left of my scale. Then, we come to the storyline. A storyline so self-consciously complicated it is almost akin to creating a giant meta-cosmic-super scale and weighing filmic concepts on each side. A storyline that, in fact, shouldn’t be complicated at all. It boils down to ‘These people can go into dreams and all that’. It’s a playground fantasy gone completely over the top. The thing is with playground fantasies is that they should really stay in the playground, or drunken conversations in the pub, those two contexts are the only places where the ‘what would you do if you were invisible/could stop time/could go in peoples dreams’ conversations should happen. This is not multi million pound movie territory – because it’s bloody stupid. I have put it on the scale, it has not fully taken back the advantage from the ‘Inception is a good movie’ side, but it’s getting pretty close. The only reason the stupid storyline didn’t weigh more is because there are millions of stupid movies with stupid storylines which are absolutely brilliant. It does mean that we have to return to that amazing acting though. It is perhaps, a bit too amazing, a little too deadpan, cares just a bit too much about trying to make its stupid premise believable. I came to watch worlds get folded in half and mildly derivative special effects, not heartfelt conversations about the sub-conscious…which have no basis in the reality of what we know about our psychological make up at all. I am taking acting out of the plus side of the scale, and with that, the balance is tipped. The mega-complicated-meta-cosmic-super-metaphor-scale dictates: Inception is a worse movie than it is a good one.

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Oil : The Billion Dollar Fire

Just to note, before we even get into talking about the film, that the title we have here is what it says on the DVD copy I have. There are however, about four other titles for the film, and we all know that a film which has been re-released under many titles is always going to be a goodun. Ever wondered how they put out oil fires? I have once or twice, not enough to actually, you know, type ‘how do they put out oil fires’ into google (other search engines are available, but, let’s be honest, they are not as good), but enough to jump at the chance to watch a whole ninety minute movie all about putting out oil fires. The big evil oil company has basically discovered that the longer an oil fire rages in Abu Lambeth, a place with such a ridiculous name one can only assume it was set ablaze by its embarrassed inhabitants, the higher their stock prices soar. This is sort of explained at the start of the film but the soundtrack is so muddy and the editing so all over the place that I am not entirely sure why burning oil somehow equates to better share prices. Then slightly wonky story lines are actually the least silly thing about this movie. Joining in the mix is a brilliant romance, hilarious jokes about smoking on a burning oil field, a laboured reference to salamanders legendary ability to withstand flames, amazing dubbing, an outstanding bar fight and the best mano e mano fight (including kick in the balls as a finisher) I have seen in ages, and finally, the crème de la crème, loads, and loads, and loads, of shots of oil fires. If I was prone to exaggeration I would say about 98% of the film is just shots of fires burning. The reality, without exaggeration, is that it is at least 87%, and that is just the close ups, the long shots that show lots of oil fires at once take it up to about 93% of total film time being oil fires. The other 7% is bar fights and helicopters taking off. And a safari scene. All in all this film has an entertainment value that is through the roof, it’s pretty much awful enough to be funny, but weirdly you do rather end up rooting for the guys putting out the fires towards the end. Oh I forgot to mention, look out for the best phone conversation you’ll ever see committed to screen.

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Ninja Assassin

When I woke up this morning I thought to myself ‘well, what do I really want from a movie called Ninja Assassin?’ ‘Well’, I said, or at least this is what my inner monologue said ‘I want a Ninja, and what I want him to do is be raised by a mysterious assassin clan. Then assassinate people.’ Then I went about my day just like normal, then it hit me, I stopped dead in my tracks, which was embarrassing because I was in the supermarket. I had got it all wrong… ‘I want the Ninja to assassinate people’ I thought ‘and I want to see their heads fly off and stuff’. That is what I really wanted from a movie called Ninja Assassin. How could I have been so stupid as to not consider heads flying off and stuff in the first place? I mean, seriously, heads flying off is literally the cornerstone of a movie called Ninja assassin surely? Well anyway, I sat down to watch Ninja Assassin and all my dreams were answered. Heads flying off to the right, limbs to the left, blood squirting all over the place. Add in a storyline which is just complicated enough to make it interesting, but by no means taxes the brain enough to take away from all that fun bloodletting, and you have what I consider to be a pretty great movie. There is some fun stuff going on here with ridiculous clan family speeches, some rubbish about hearts, a couple of envelopes with black powder in (not dissimilar in use to the ‘Black Spot’ from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) and a frankly baffling agency based in Berlin called Europol. It’s like Interpol, but everyone is wearing white suits and keeps engaging in soft core pornography scenes. At least this is probably what it is like; Europol is actually just an excuse to get some non Ninja (read, not Asian. Damn you Europol and your lack of diversity in the workplace) folks involved in the whole thing. The fight scenes are ridiculously confusing. I am sure there are some amazing physical feats going on here, but frankly I was too distracted by all the throwing stars and those knives on the end of chain things flying around, they look awesome. That is not the point though, I don’t think this is for martial arts purists, and you can get much better fixes in far older and far sillier movies. If you are looking for a movie that lives up exactly to its title though, you could do a lot worse than Ninja Assassin.

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The Amazing Spider Man II

There is a pretty good movie somewhere in here. The thing is, its ruined, totally and absolutely, by Spiderman. I used to hate Spiderman because far from being a badass, cool, don’t give a shit action hero, he was a kind of wimpy idiot who happened to have spider skills. He was always so emo that I really couldn’t connect. Well he isn’t emo anymore, he is a douche. He swings around in awful CGI mode cracking wise, which, if you have read any of my other ramblings you’ll know I am a huge fan of, but in a spidey suit, it just makes him seem like a cocky shit. Beyond this, I get self referencing, but having the spider man theme as your ring tone, when you are spider man? Just absolutely fuck you. It is that infuriating. It is so frustrating because every other aspect of the film is pretty great. I mean, the villain’s motives are nonexistent, and there is a really self conscious attempt to appeal to ‘the youth’ with unnecessary dubstep moments, but the Peter Parker bits are really enjoyable, and there are some actual heartfelt moments. It is all ruined though by that awful, awful Spider Man.

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Cop Out

Any self respecting Kevin Smith fan (of which I regard myself as one) will know via the magic of Smodcast, Hollywood Babble on, etc, that Mr Smith isn’t the hugest fan of his own film Cop Out. In fact, in an unusual move for a director he quite often goes out of his way to actively dump on his own work. The thing is though; the film isn’t really that bad at all. It is a pretty generic buddy cop movie with all the clichés in place, but honestly, a buddy cop movie without the clichés isn’t a buddy cop movie. No one ever went to see a film about a pair of cops who are great friends throughout, never experience any friction in their relationship and dote upon one another mutually. Cop Out even features a pairing such as this as foils for our leading men, buddy cop clichés are such because they work. The problem might be that there is a lot of action here, more perhaps than would be reasonable to hand off to a second unit well versed in shooting such scenes. That it is perhaps not the strongest aspect of the film speaks to the skills of a director who made his name in long shots of people talking. Accordingly, here, the film succeeds when the action halts and we are in a car sharing juvenile jokes, even if Bruce Willis’ character isn’t too pleased about it. And about Bruce. The on-set grievances between leading man and director are pretty well known by now, but it’s a testament to someone (Willis? Smith? Smith in the editing room?) that it all looks like everyone was having rather a lot of fun putting the film together – perhaps it is just Willis’ half smile or Tracy Morgan’s indefatigable attitude. I also can’t help but love Seann William Scott as a sort of parkour wielding, house burgling asshole, whose brilliantly honest, but outstandingly childish outlook is the most Kevin Smith aspect of the film. This all assumes though that this is ‘A Kevin Smith film’. That such a thing can even exist. A wholesale example of auteur theory exemplified. The thing is, no matter how much creative control there might have been, this isn’t a Smith film, he didn’t write it, he didn’t produce it, hell, I can’t see a single one of his friends in the cast or crew in what has to be a first for serial friend enabler Smith. It is a Hollywood film that didn’t do so well. I am not sure it would have done any better with an action director at the helm; maybe we’d be having the same conversation but discussing the action scenes as the films saving grace. But what I am certain about though is that Cop Out isn’t quite as bad as everyone says it is, especially its director.

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Les Miserables

This review contains spoilers, but since I assume everyone in the world already knows the story it’s ok. It is surely a testament to the success of Les Miserables that any mention of the French Revolution is inextricably associated with flag waving barricade dwellers, defiantly standing against their oppressors and eventually rising to storm the Bastille. Perhaps though, that is the enduring image because it is actually what happened, that Les Mis co-opts this exciting and romantic narrative to be subjugated with a horrible little romance is frankly rather a shame. I have never seen the play. This is because I am no fan of musical theatre, and said theatres translation into film is never going to be especially appealing to me. I dislike all the standing around, its actually quite difficult to do anything whilst you are singing your little heart out. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch this outstandingly long film. It starts with singing, then there is more singing, then at the end, people are still singing. I don’t suppose I should have expected anything else. The thing is, for a film that is so bloody long, which ostensibly spans many years of French history, nothing much really happens.  Actually, that is not true, loads of stuff happens: a scumbag has a revelation that he probably shouldn’t be a scumbag, some other dude tries to catch him a lot, someone becomes a prostitute, some guys try to do a revolution, and someone kills themselves for no real reason. All this stuff though is ultimately in the service of the least interesting, and frankly confounding aspect of the story, a love affair based, literally, on a lingering glance across a crowded street. Most of that other stuff was quite exciting and fun, if gloriously stupid (especially the killing of self), but the love stuff is so wildly ridiculous that it is frankly astounding that it even exists as a plot device. Our main man Huge Jack Man literally decides he is willing to die, so some twerp he has never met, and who, incidentally, his daughter has only met for about seven seconds, can live. Given that the story so carefully lays out the reasons behind the French Revolution (basically everything being awful) it’s surprising that the same sort of care is not given to establishing at least some sort of relationship between the two people about which the whole film comes to revolve. Establishing a relationship would literally have required there to be some sense of them spending a couple of hours in a room together, and maybe a nice steamy scene to nicely juxtapose the awful prostitute times of Cassette tapes mother.  Did I mention her name is Cassette? I mean, its Cosette really, but it’s one of the only ways to make the film less infuriating if you call her Cassette tape. Les Mis isn’t a bad film for what it is, and I have no doubt lovers of the play will enjoy it. Really my issue is with the story not the film. I just really, really, can’t see how a story with such a shallow, meaningless love affair at its very heart has endured for so long.

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Calvary

Calvary takes a significant proportion of the cast of The Guard, adds in some new faces, throws them into a small village and puts Gleeson into the role of Father James, a man who stoically attempts to help those around him even as they become increasingly hostile. There is also a death threat, a week to live, and a host of supporting characters. Needless to say there is an awful lot going on in Calvary. High concept it is not. It deals with a whole host of issues, the taking apart of which would run into endless A level film studies lessons, and actually not get you anywhere. Calvary doesn’t answer any questions, but then it doesn’t promise to either. Given the tricky nature of some of the things going on in the film there are a good few laughs to be had, though there is something of a tendency for absurdity to perhaps overshadow the story. Equally it feels at points that the role of Father James is simply a vehicle to take us into the lives of a set of people, where we are presented with little vignettes of their lives solely for the purpose of extending some sort of commentary, rather than to push the story forward. It avoids being preachy though, literally, given the main characters profession. Even there though the film asks you to question it, never is it actually stated, but there is a definite sense that Father James is not as devoted to his God as he is the people around him. Like his character in The Guard he is something of a mystery, but again, that he cares is the most evident thing about him. There is a lot on offer here, what it is all about certainly will depend on the viewer. It is refreshing though to see a film which doesn’t put everything on the plate at once, but gives you just enough to get you thinking.

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