31 May 2009

Movie Review: Seven Pounds

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D-

Seven Pounds
2008, 123mina, PG-13
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer: Grant Nieporte
Cast includes: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper
Release Date: 19th December 2008


“Seven Pounds” is an uncontrollably mawkish attempt at Oscar bait, a picture that the majority of participants should have known better than to sign up for. The sentimental and somewhat sprawling nature of the plot might have enticed a few people into thinking they where partaking in something special, but the one dimensional characters, unbelievably dull opening 90 minutes and saccharine feel to the production might have warned them differently. This is a truly bad piece of work, a film more likely to pull on your last nerve than your heartstrings.

The plot is multiple shades of relentlessly boring, peppered with cryptic messages and characters that the filmmakers never attempt to make us understand. Granted director Muccino is going for the surprise ending, but even amidst all the mystery and soulful gazing, not one person makes sense before the final 15 minutes. That probably means that the closing twist works, but it makes the rest of the project an insufferable bore. Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS agent auditing seven people, all of whom he has taken a keen interest in. Chief amongst those is Emily (Rosario Dawson) a woman with constant heart trouble, and a regular fixture at the hospital. The two slowly form a friendship and when Ben isn’t helping or fawning over Emily, he’s in his rented Motel room planning something. We’re not sure what it is, but thanks to flash backs we know Ben’s life has been stung by tragedy and the few that are aware of his intentions seem fairly upset by the potential consequences. So what Ben’s got coming, has to be pretty major.

I’m fond of Will Smith as a performer and always have been, but that doesn’t give him free reign to go off and make guff like “Seven Pounds” whenever he feels like it. After the breezy fun of “Hancock” Smith has clearly decided to once again prove his acting credentials and take up a darker project, re-teaming with “The Pursuit of Happyness” director Muccino in the process. Difference is “Pursuit” was a good movie with great performances and an emotionally rewarding plotline, “Seven Pounds” is happy to cheat the audience into tearjerker mode. The cast is filled with talented actors but unfortunately the horrible character conception prevents a single person from handing in a decent performance. In the lead Smith is blank and dour, but it’s a one note effort from the most bankable man in Hollywood , there is no variety or range in his interpretation of Ben and thus little to engage with during the movies prolonged runtime. Rosario Dawson is equally underdeveloped as a potential romance with medical issues and other than that no other actor gets more than a few minutes worth of screen time. The likes of Woody Harrelson and Barry Pepper also feature and have parts integral to the story, but Muccino puts little to no focus on them resulting in a film that is basically a dull portrait of a boring central performance.

“Seven Pounds” obviously wants to make audiences sob and cry, and it might achieve those aims but not for the reasons intended. After just a quarter of an hour I was nearly asleep and the picture never livens up, carrying out its pretentious and bleak plotline for over two hours. “Seven Pounds” is quite possibly the most snore inducing picture of 2008, not necessarily the very worst (though it’s a barrel scraper for sure), but probably the dullest. In order to make this sort of movie work someone needs to tell Muccino that keeping proceedings interesting is vital, because right from the start he seems to overlook that factor. The one thing that audiences can usually count on from a Will Smith picture is charm and charisma, even that has been milked dry from “Seven Pounds”.

From a technical stand point the film at least manages to be sporadically intriguing on a visual level, the cinematography is top class and there are a few instances of well crafted imagery and atmosphere. The inclusion of a Jellyfish in the plot is likely to trigger thoughts of a Zucker brother’s movie (i.e ridiculous) but at least Muccino’s stupid storytelling device is well shot and unique on an artistic level. The musical score also succeeds but these are the only real praises you can sing of “Seven Pounds”, hammering home its failure as a film striving for emotional resonance and audience empathy.

The twist ending does improve the picture a little; it’s still indigestibly cloying but at least adds a little depth to the central character and makes the whole experience vaguely logical. It doesn’t repair the awful 105 minutes that precede it and even in its own right is far from perfect, but at least Muccino answers most of the questions that his movie asks the audience during its runtime. The findings are as silly and emotionally bizarre as the various questions, but be thankful, at least they are answered in some sort of semi-reasonable fashion.

“Seven Pounds” is the sort of film usually associated with the Holiday season and it’s no surprise to find out that’s when it was released. I actively skipped the movie in theaters and after a DVD viewing am only too glad that was the case, without a pause button on a remote control this beast would be impossible to sit through. “Seven Pounds” is a dreadfully bland and self righteous picture that fails to provide engaging characters, interesting story developments or genuine moments of emotion. I can only advise you skip it over and that tearjerker junkies don’t bother, you won’t get your kicks from this sentimentalist stinker, that’s for sure.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


30 May 2009

Retro Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

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A-

An American Werewolf in London
1981, 97mins, R
Director: John Landis
Writer: John Landis
Cast includes: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine, David Schofield
Release Date: 21st August 1981

As the years have passed “An American Werewolf in London” has gained cult status, been an influence over countless genre directors and even earned a little seen and far less celebrated 1997 sequel. The movie directed by one time Hollywood legend John Landis is a viciously entertaining mixture of comedy and horror, drawing belly laughs from situations that other filmmakers would likely drum for tension. That’s not to say that Landis movie is devoid of good scares, the opening twenty minutes are filled with eerie atmosphere, spooky prophecy and ultimately a rip roaring Werewolf attack. The plotting is linear and works from a roughly sketched and transparent template, but ultimately the acting is robust, the special effects excellent, the dialogue witty and the wolf based set-pieces stirringly energetic and suspenseful. It’s a cut below the very finest examples of the horror genre, but fans of all things terrifying would be wise to check out this well made ode to one of cinema’s best bad guys, the Werewolf.

David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are on a backpacking trip through Europe and on their travels have found themselves in the mist filled and ominous moors of Northern England. After wandering for a considerable time they stumble into a small village, and more specifically into a pub named “The slaughtered Lamb”. The residents of the Pub are perturbed by the boy’s arrivals and after probing a little too deeply, the beer guzzling inhabitants forcefully ask them to leave. However before departure they have a few wise nuggets of information, namely to stick to the roads, avoid the Moors and be wary of anything they would deem peculiar. In the dark of the night the boys fail to take heed of the townsfolk advice, stumbling onto the moor and quickly hearing bellowing and echoing howls. When the werewolf attacks it kills Jack but thanks to the locals David is saved, but not before he’s given a few wounds. David reawakens in a London hospital bed with little recollection of the occurrence, the official police report says the duo where attacked by an escaped maniac, and whilst David’s blurred memory refutes that point there is little evidence to prove otherwise. David begins to have disturbing dreams but most peculiar of all he is visited by the rotting ghost of Jack, revealing that he is now undead (as all Werewolf victims become, until the wolf chain is broken) and that David is now a Werewolf himself. Jack tells his friend that suicide is the best option, because on the next full moon David will go on a murderous rampage and create more slowly decomposing undead like his best friend.

The blend of comedy and horror in “An American Werewolf in London” is just right, it’s a hard balance to find but using his warped sense of humor Landis hits an almost perfect commodity of both. Neither outweighs the other, the easiest mistake to make when treading such genre hopping paths. After all one too many sequences of mutilation and bloodshed and the audience might find it impossible to source many laughs from what is put in front of them. Go for too many chuckles and the production is going to seem too goofy to hold any real terror. Landis divides the two and using his skills as a writer (probably more impressive than his directorial abilities) he cooks up a constant barrage of amusing dialogue and sight gags, whilst every so often relapsing into horror territory with a disturbingly eerie or suggestive moment of Werewolf violence.

The special effects pioneered in the movie have become legend within that section of the industry, before “Jurassic Park” or “T2” ignited the CGI craze, Rick Baker’s FX work on this picture was one of the most visually impressive feats committed to celluloid. The gore and such is competently handled, but the transformation sequence from man to beast remains startlingly effective. A twisted and thoroughly brutal use of make-up and FX, the 2 minute sequence has deservedly become the movie’s eternal calling card; the transformation in “An American Werewolf in London” is like the Shower scene in “Psycho”. Without it the finished product simply wouldn’t be the same.

The performances are well judged and engaging, never outstanding but certainly better than the average cardboard turns the horror genre usually peddles. Much like the story the characterizations are pretty simple but thanks to well written dialogue and the sturdy performances that does little to detract from the film. In the lead Naughton is a convincing and modestly charismatic everyman, forging good chemistry with Dunne and romantic interest Jenny Agutter. His conviction is crucial in embracing the full terror of David’s predicament and in engaging within the surreal dreamscapes into which his damaged mind sometimes wonders. Dunne despite a grotesque appearance is a principal source of comic relief and in Jack’s slashed up and battered stage of existence Baker gets another chance to romp about with his impressive looking FX toys. Agutter is probably the best of the bunch, this was filmed in the height of her popularity and explains how such success befell her, she’s sympathetic, sexy and strong willed and deserves as much credit as Naughton for making the beauty and the best element of the story work. In many ways “An American Werewolf in London” is as much a romance as it is comedy or horror, and the reason for that third label being ascribed is largely indebted to the actors portraying the love struck characters.

Landis shoots the Moors rather delightfully and captures a delightful bleakness in the countryside of England, adding to any sense of menace that this monster movie builds up. From a technical perspective the visuals certainly add more to the horror elements but there are a few moments where they might solicit laughs to, namely the ever degrading appearance of Jack. At first we’re a little shocked by his zombie state, but Landis takes it in such a direction that we’re eventually giggling.

The linear nature of the story is forgivable thanks to other strengths, but one thing that grates hard about “An American Werewolf in London” is that it just sort of stops, rather than ends. It’s not that Landis doesn’t wrap things up neatly from a narrative perspective but rather that in doing so he lazily undercooks certain emotional elements in the process. Also for what looks to have been judged as a big scale monster on the loose pay off, the finish is decidedly underwhelming in contrast to some of the more claustrophobic horror that precedes it

“An American Werewolf in London” is certainly worth checking out for those interested in horror, comedy or film as a whole, namely as a chance to see one of the movie’s most quickly forgotten sons at work. After this Landis’s career went into a quick decline primarily due to his unfortunate involvement in the death of actor Vic Morrow on set of “Twilight Zone: The Movie”. That haunted Landis career (and apparently his mind) for many years, and by the time he was willing to make a convicted return to his filmmaking career Hollywood had long forgotten his name. Along with “Animal House” and “Trading Places”, “An American Werewolf in London” is the most famous of his cinematic legacy, and despite its imperfections, it’s an impressive piece of work to leave behind.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

29 May 2009

Movie Review: Miss March

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D+

Miss March
2009, 90mins, R
Director (s): Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore
Writer (s): Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore
Cast includes: Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Raquel Alessi, Craig Robinson, Molly Stanton, Sara Jean Underwood
Release Date: 13th March 2009

“Miss March” is a stunningly unremarkable slice of American comedy, taking a well worn road trip formula and peppering it in old age sex jokes, resulting in an experience so unnecessary that it legitimately is a waste of time. There are a few witty exchanges located and at least a degree of enthusiasm from the writer/director/ acting duo of Cregger and Moore, but sadly a passion for the project won’t amount to much without any genuine skill, and in all three creative departments the boys hit a fairly bum note. It’s unlikely to be the very worst comedy of the year but that’s about the heftiest praise you can throw in the direction of the shockingly passive and unimaginative “Miss March”.

The story is a thinly veiled chance for the filmmakers to endorse Playboy and carry off a road trip picture. Eugene (Zach Cregger) is a rarity, a teenage boy stuck on the staunch principals of virginity and waiting until marriage. Girlfriend Cindi (Raquel Alessi) has supported his beliefs for two years, but knowing that Eugene is her real love, she wants to get intimate on Prom night. However thanks to a bout of nerves and sex crazed friend Tucker (Trevor Moore) he gets wasted, ends up hitting his head and not only misses the chance to have sex with Cindi, but is also shot into a four year coma. Upon waking up the only person to have stayed by his side is Tucker, and whilst Cindi has long since left the scene, her location is no mystery. She is one of the top Playmates at the Playboy mansion and in a bid to win her back Tucker suggests driving up to find her, so Eugene can finally lose his cherry with the girl he loves. Of course being a road trip movie we’re also treated to some crazy characters and situations including a superstar rapper, vengeful girlfriend, horny lesbians and a blood crazed fire service.

I giggled a few times during “Miss March” but not with enough conviction or regularity for me to even approach recommending the film, the lightweight laugh ratio and shamefully uninventive template to obvious and annoying for anyone to be satisfied by Cregger and Moore’s onscreen shenanigans. The duo are part of a relatively popular comedy group, but a lot of their humor must be lost without the rest of their posse, because very little of “Miss March” is actually funny. 13 year old boys might find it a little more laugh inducing than most, but the R rating locks them out, and everyone else is only going to feel disappointed by the banal lunacy on show. Any real comedy success is located in the dialogue, the various large scale laugh desiring moments are left wanting, Cregger and Moore handicapped with an entirely stale set of genre staples to hang their flimsy enterprise on.

The performances from the leads are energetic but amateurish, they try hard, but given their inexperience as both actors and directors the film comes across as a horribly slapdash production in both respects. The caliber of jokes is patchy at best but in creating believable relationships and character motivation Cregger and Moore are simply lazy. This is probably the movie’s biggest discrepancy, and only serves to highlight the unoriginal and unintelligent nature of the picture. Nobody comes to a playboy sex comedy looking for IQ puzzling cinema, but a believable reason for partaking on the ludicrously thoughtless road trip would be nice, instead of the pre-heated stinker of a fairly the production rams down viewers throats.

The raunch value isn’t as high here as in some over recent productions, there are a few fleeting moments of T&A along with a plethora of crass sex jokes, but overall it fails to even fully ignite in this simple respect. Thumbs up to Craig Robinson for handing in another amusing supporting role as hip-hop star Horsedick. MPEG, but even he can’t fully elevate the benign and ineffective humor that populates this project. Look out for appearances from playmate Sara Jean Underwood and Mr. Hefner himself in a wonderfully self indulgent piece of endorsement (he’s like a more sexually rapacious Gandalf…you know?) both out for a little extra financial bounty. “Miss March” is a crude and rude misfire, funny on a few rare instances but mostly just unashamedly ordinary and generic. Fans of the leading boys or maybe vulgar fratboy flicks might want to give “Miss March a go, otherwise just buy the magazine on which it’s based. You’ll get better nudity and jokes, and that’s a guarantee.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

28 May 2009

Movie Review: Drag Me to Hell

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B+

Drag Me to Hell
2009, 99mins, PG-13
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer (s): Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Cast includes: Alison Lohman, Justin Young, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer
Release Date: 29th May 2009

“Drag Me to Hell” is a pretty straight forward cinematic property, its aims are to amuse, scare and generally just provide the audience with a darned fun time. On all counts it fires in as a success, a lean and ruthlessly efficient movie “Drag Me to Hell” does what is required to make it an enjoyable summer romp before accumulating in a wonderfully twisty and tricksy build up to a ballsy climax. As a return to the genre that made its directors name, “Drag Me to Hell” isn’t a CV pinnacle but marks a confident and accomplished effort, riddled with oodles of energy and black wit, it’s a horror trip worth buying into.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a working gal with a desire for promotion, and thus an opportunity to disprove her quaint farming roots and show herself as worthy of professor boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). Such a chance presents itself in the form of the vacant Assistant’s Manager Job at the bank, but whilst Christine is a prime candidate there is stiff competition. The head of the establishment suggests that if Christine was a little more willing to make “tough calls” then she would be ideal, and later that day a chance to demonstrate said quality arises. Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) a one eyed crone seeking a third loan on her house wanders to Christine’s desk, and in a bid to be seen as firm she denies the elderly woman her want. However Ganush isn’t easily sated and places a curse on Christine, one that after three days of torturous haunting and menacing visions will send her right to the depths of hell.

“Drag Me to Hell” is almost exclusively fixated on the character of Christine and two of the movie’s strongest points are focused around that aspect. Firstly as the leading lady Lohman is a star, making good on the promise that she suggested in other features, now elevated to head status and relishing it with a determined and strong central turn. Secondly the movie is lean and unless a character serves to flesh out the personality of Christine or power the plot, then the Raimi brothers have seen fit to leave it out of their script. The perfect example comes in the form of Justin Long’s boyfriend, it’s actually a pretty decent effort from the usually geeky actor, but he only really features when he is able to add to the three dimensionality of the main character. The chemistry between Lohman and Long is believable and in “Drag me to Hell” that’s really the only relationship that counts.

The movie isn’t a nail biter in the most traditional sense, it isn’t primed with pants wetting terror or “Saw” style gore, Raimi favoring the slow burn before unleashing an unforeseen moment of boo horror. The picture received a PG-13 rating, usually the kiss of death from a creative perspective in the horror genre, but on this occasion Raimi is able to use his considerable genre know how to elicit respectable amounts of tension and seat shaking shocks. It never approaches the levels f cringe worthy terror that “The Evil Dead” conjured in its most intimidating moments, but it’s about the most unsettling PG-13 genre piece to arrive all year. Being a Raimi movie it’s also filled with yukky laughs and black humor, the sense of humor at the heart of “Drag Me to Hell” is certainly twisted but it’s also regularly funny. Raimi has a way of making the most bizarre horror conventions seem amusing, an arterial spray from the nose is worth a good chuckle as is believe it or not the slaughter of an innocent cat. An instance involving a possessed goat is more blatant concerning its comedic intentions, but all in all for those willing to embrace it, the horror goofballing is pretty strong with this one.

The film is short and based on a simple and deliciously effective hook, sure the screenplay requires a little hokum and laughable mythos to be bandied around, but they’re easily embraced on such a salacious and amusing thrill ride of a picture. Audiences are sure to enjoy the fact that this is a plot molded to an appropriate runtime, keeping things constantly at a level of intense enjoyment. For purists it probably lacks the groundbreaking innovation of some of their genre favorites, but overall even they should be able to take this as a pleasurable cinematic experience.

Technically the movie has a rash of crap CGI but the cinematography is cool and underplays the style whilst always effortlessly dialing up the tension and creepy theatrics. The atmosphere is religiously freaky, Raimi deploying his work in low budget and high budget affairs to concoct a slick looking horror whilst avoiding the assembly line work that plagues a lot of modern thriller work. The film also wraps up with a deliciously twisty and unpredictable ending, the movie keeps you guessing right up to the final frame and unleashes a delightfully bawdy climax. This is one of the elements that really helps “Drag Me to Hell” overcome most genre competition, it’s got the backbone to deliver the finish that the population really wants.

An energetic and commendable addition to the collective works of all involved, “Drag Me to Hell” infuses dark comedy and jittery tension to neat effect, and boasts a really good central performance from Lohman. It’s not a perfect attempt in scare theatrics and is plagued by a few minor concerns, but they won’t stop you from having a damn good time with the quick and potent “Drag Me to Hell”.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

Fox to remake "Alien". Fuck off.

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This will officially be known as the week that nothing was sacred, days after making fans blub over a proposed Buffy reboot minus Whedon, Hollywood has revealed plans to remake sci-fi classic “Alien”. The culprits are this time Twentieth Fox (fast becoming everybody’s least favorite studio), and even director of the original Ridley Scott. Scott is onboard as a producer whilst reports are that music video helmer Carl Rinsch will direct. Can it get any worse???

All this of course follows the news from earlier this year that Robert Rodriguez is set to reboot “Predator”….. Not a hugely appetizing concept either. I wonder if the Strause Brothers are free, because AVP3 is starting to sound mighty good……….

26 May 2009

Buffy for the reboot? Say it ain't so!!!!

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For years tales and whispers have moved through the internet concerning another filmed adaptation of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The last feature filmed version was in 1992 and was an utterly horrible mish mash of bad comedy, bad acting and horrendous action, but of course in 1996 things changed. Joss Whedon brought the character to the small screen for what turned out to be one of the greatest TV shows ever, launching the careers of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and David Boreanaz. The show was wonderfully written by Whedon and ran for 7 seasons, some better than others but its common knowledge there was never a bad series of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The action was great, the supporting cast awesome and in Gellar we were given a definitive Buffy. All in all, perfection had virtually been reached.

However things change, and not always for the best. It was announced today that after a 6 year hiatus from our screens that Buffy would be back, but Joss Whedon will not be involved. Instead the project will be moved forward by Fran Rubel Kazui and her husband Kaz Kazui, and will be an origin story (surprise!!!). Kuzui had a producer’s credit on the TV series, but was the director on the foul motion picture of 1992, in which it has since been apparent that Whedon's initial attempt to get the story on screen was unfairly altered and fucked about with. The new spouse production team also claimed that the beloved supporting characters of the TV show, Xander, Willow and Giles will probably not make a return, whilst old casting options (Gellar!!!) are not really being considered. No release date is set or director confirmed, but this is bad news.

25 May 2009

First glimpse of Myers from Rob Zombie's "H2"

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The first picture of Michael Myers from "H2" the sequel to Rob Zombie's remake of "Halloween" has shown up online. The image comes via MTV Movies, and the network is promising a video clip soon. It's minor news surely, but being a Myer's fan (even though Zombie's initial retread was less than super) I'm looking foward to him returning to theater's. "H2" is out August 28th, the same weekend that two years ago the first in this reboot saga found box-office success. Hopefully this nails it a little better, and at least in this instance a remake of the dismal part two can be no worse than what it imitates. Or can it?

Movie Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

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C+

Confessions of a Shopaholic
2009, 104mins, PG
Director: P.J Hogan
Writer (s): Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, Sophie Kinsella (Novel)
Cast includes: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Leslie Bibb, John Goodman, Joan Cusack
Release Date: 13th February 2009

I love to lap up a little unfiltered fluff every now and then, a picture detached from reality but with sufficient good will and comic optimism to keep me interested. In terms of “Confessions of a Shopaholic” I’m well outside the target demographic, and it goes without saying that the film has a fair share of problems, but damn it…….there are a few well aimed comic gems and a darling performance from Isla Fisher on show , meaning that for the majority of the viewing my brain was actually modestly entertained.

Rebecca Bloomwood is a down on her luck journalist, working for a magazine far removed from the glitz and glamour of those she wants to pursue, and thanks to her shopaholic tendencies Rebecca has also mounted a steep debt. After her job hits the dirt, Rebecca is desperate to find further employment as to effectively combat her pages and pages of credit card bills, and in a move of perplexing irony ends up at the junior end of a finance magazine called “Successful Savings”. Having shown some initiative Rebecca has caught the eye of editor Luke (Hugh Dancy) as an exciting financial prospect, and within no time her fashion sourced articles have made her a big hit in the office and even globally. However as the glory mounts so too does the call from Rebecca’s dream job at the Alette fashionista rag, which would mean leaving “Savings” and a potential romance with its editor behind.

Isla Fisher certainly deserves bigger screen exposure than her career has afforded her; along with Will Ferrell she stole the hit comedy “Wedding Crashers” and since has made a few interesting and amiable projects that have back fired on the grounds of weak cash earnings. In “Shopaholic” Fisher is the star and leaves no qualms about it, running rings around the suspect supporting acts and blazing a trail of comic earnestness wherever the story takes her. Fisher is petit in stature but is a fire cracker on the screen, her charm and pleasant aura far outweighing her minute size. “Shopaholic” is a breezy and forgettable soda pop of a picture, not a bad career choice per se, but certainly in terms of conception and comic realization a few solid notches below its leading lady. Fisher is happy however to use it as a playground for her comic timing, kinetic energy and gorgeous smile, keeping in the process “Shopaholic” as inoffensive big screen material.

The support is on the other hand a mixture of wasted talent and crappy performances, as love interest Luke, Hugh Dancy may represent the pinnacle of the movies thespian barrel scraping. He has a rancid chemistry with Fisher and delivers his lines like Hugh Grant on Ritalin, almost like a sort of English tree that bares the foppish haircut of its people. I’ve spied Dancy in a few other projects over the years and whilst he always veered toward the inanimate side, he was never as unbearably boring as he is in “Shopaholic”. As Rebecca’s mom and pops Joan Cusack and John Goodman are callously wasted in parts far below their talent threshold, whilst as a fashion rival of sorts Leslie Bibb is thrown the most bizarrely unnecessary role of all. Bibb who was comic fire in “Talladega Nights” might have been some use here, but director P.J Hogan just uses her as plot device instead of joke fodder or a potential 3-D character.

The story for “Shopaholic” has been nabbed from a book of the same name and whilst I have no idea how far it deviates from its source material, as a standard Hollywood comedy it’s okay. The romantic element would certainly be better with a less wooden male lead, but Fisher bring enough fizz to the other elements of the tale to keep it rough and feisty, without ever pushing the PG rating the MPAA has prescribed it. Some of the gags within are neat and tidy in their drawing of smirks and giggles, whilst a few belly laughs also get thrown into the cocktail for good measure. Regular movie goers are sure to see several funnier comedies in 2009 but also a hash of far less impressive ones, for my money this is a more satisfying film than the hugely successful “Paul Blart Mall Cop”, there isn’t much between them but I’ll use “Blart” to highlight this movies comedic solidity.

Those predisposed to a good chick flick should give “Confessions of a Shopaholic” a run, it’s a better movie than the vast majority are stating, imperfect sure, but genial and funny enough to warrant a slice of your time. In times of economic hardship it’s an oddly appropriate watch, filled with sprightly characters beating down the monetary barriers laid in front of them. Also the more people who choose to see it, the more folk will witness the comic majesty of Isla Fisher, and this her transaction from Aussie soap star to Holywood gold might be completed. That in itself is more than enough reason to give this ration of mainstream fluff a quick spin on your DVD player.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

24 May 2009

Movie Review: I Love You, Man

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B+

I Love You, Man
2009, 105mins, R
Director: John Hamburg
Writer (s): John Hamburg, Larry Levin
Cast includes: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, J.K Simmons, Andy Samburg, Thomas Lennon, Sarah Burns, Jon Favreau, Jane Curtin
Release Date: 20th March 2009

“I Love You, Man” is an impressive comedic duet between Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, with a few neat supporting acts to prop them up from time to time. Pitched as a Bromantic comedy the film is directed by John Hamburg who made the imperfect but still underrated Ben Stiller comedy “Along Came Polly”. Like with “Polly” Hamburg’s direction leaves a little to be desired but his writing is top dollar, indeed the wonderfully witty and consistently engaging screenplay is what really makes “I Love You, Man” such a genre delight. It’s got some creaks and groans to bemoan, but overall this is a lovable picture in the mould of recent Judd Apatow successes, sharing the man’s desire of well forged emotional depth and knob gags without his name appearing anywhere on the credits.

Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has always been more of a ladies’ man, able to connect seamlessly with all the estrogen around him but without a same sex buddy in the world. After proposing to long time love Zooey (Rashida Jones) it hits Peter that he has no best man, and so with the help of gay brother Robbie (Andy Samburg) he begins to look for potential candidates. After a series of woeful “man dates” go wrong Peter stumbles upon Sidney, a relaxed and testosterone pumped dude who just wants to have fun. Unexpectedly the two click and before long they’re chilling out nearly every day, but as Peter fully begins to appreciate the advantages of male companionship, he slowly starts to lose Zooey in the joyfully masculine blur.

Paul Rudd has always been both a talented comic and a decent actor, a rare combo that if life was fair would make him one of the most sought after men in Hollywood. Granted since 2007 his star has been noticeably rising, but really given his breadth of ability the filmmakers of the world should really be clicking sooner. As Peter, Rudd is excellent, a little happier and less cynical than usual, but still exhibiting his renowned ability with improvised material and quick witted way with a punch line. Like all of cinema’s most engaging funnymen Rudd has a way of connecting and concocting believable characters, then gift wrapping them in a shiny and wonderfully appealing comedic glean. Jason Segel is a commodity I’ve had slightly less success enjoying over the years, he was amusing in a small role in “Knocked Up” but little better than average in the over appreciated “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. However as playful knock about Sidney, Segel has finally delivered something I found remotely worthy of the generous praise he’s garnered from other bases. He exhibits good comic timing and an equally efficient way with improv, leaning his portrayal of the ultimate man child into enjoyable comic territory. His rapport with Rudd is well pitched and whilst he’ll need to repeat this sort of skilled comic performance a few more times before I totally buy in, this was a rewarding if slightly belated pitch in my direction.

Rashida Jones is effective, pretty and cute as the wife to be, showcasing good chemistry with Rudd at the same time. A whole host of other familiar comic faces pop up during the runtime, the most impressive being Jaime Pressly, Andy Samburg, Jon Favreau and Thomas Lennon, the latter playing one of Peter’s many attempts at making friends gone wrong.

The technical direction from Hamburg could have been better, and at 105 minutes I’m also unlikely to believe this couldn’t have been a slightly trimmer mainstream comedy. Still the screenplay is very good, not that original, but boiling with quality jokes and surprisingly well formed characters. Despite his absence it’s hard not to lump “I Love You, Man” in with the Apatow back catalogue, and if it was to be ranked amongst them “Man” is a foot above “Drillbit Taylor” and Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, but a pace behind “Knocked Up” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin”. The reason for being that “I Love You , Man” maybe lacks any of the true inspiration that was seasoned over the latter pair, but by turns is more credibly laugh worthy and emotionally resonant than the other aforementioned titles. Hamburg has penned an entertaining and boppy little screenplay that fizzes with high ambitions, and unlike most genre counterparts has the good will and respect to make good on them. In terms of the amount of laughs offered this picture chugs along solidly and without many dry patches, at times the jokes are cheap and a little vulgar, but what’s funny is funny, right?

The movie is fairly openly craving to be seen as a male bonding movie, and is being marketed strongly in that direction. This wouldn’t be lying as the core theme in the picture is the solidly played out relationship between Peter and Sidney, the final scene hammering home Hamburg’s desire to have this embraced as a film that really highlights the importance of good friends. However to write “I Love You, Man” of as a date movie would be uncool and unwise, the romantic elements are also well executed and in terms of decent gags it’s got a more than respectable quota. Appealing and more memorable than a lot of its kin, “I Love You, Man” isn’t a classic but it’s definitely recommended for those looking for a good time, and maybe a little intimate bonding. Even if it’s whole heartedly of the bromantic variation.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


23 May 2009

Movie Review: Obsessed

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D

Obsessed
2009, 108mins, PG-13
Director: Steve Shill
Writer: David Loughery
Cast includes: Idris Elba, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell, Bonnie Perlman, Scout Taylor-Compton
Release Date: 24th April 2009

Those seeking vapid and calorie free entertainment should make a point of seeing “Obsessed”, a tacky and unoriginal thriller, featuring people who could do better. Idris Elba an actor of considerable talent and screen presence is wasted in a ridiculously generic role, whilst Ali Larter and Beyonce Knowles flounce ineffectively around him in a film that scores as neither sexy nor entertaining. For TV director Steve Shill it’s an unimpressive leap to feature film, granted the script he’s saddled with is just the genre driven into onerous nothingness, but his attempt to conjure up excitement or convincing relationships behind the camera isn’t much better. As with another film featuring Elba from last year “Prom Night”, the PG-13 rating that “Obsessed” has garnered does it more harm than good. After all when has an erotic thriller ever been done well on family friendly terms, if Paul Verhoeven was to see this he’d probably feel all his work from the 1990’s had been an epic waste.

Derek (Idris Elba) is living the American dream, a loving wife, a gorgeous son, a good job and a brand spanking new house, all making day to day life as sweet as it could be. One day arriving into the office he is greeted by new office temp Lisa (Ali Larter) a pretty and sprightly girl who instantly takes a liking to Derek, much to wife Sharon’s (Beyonce Knowles) dislike. However whilst Sharon’s insecurities initially seem premature, things take a turn for the worst when Lisa puts the moves on Derek at the Christmas party, and despite his persistent refute of her advances takes to stalking him. Derek begins to not only fear for the state of his marriage and office integrity, but as Lisa’s actions become stranger and more direct, the very safety of his family and home.

I’m a fan of Elba as an actor, his TV work is phenomenal and whilst he tends to become embroiled in big screen dogs, he at least manages to be the best thing about them. “Obsessed” doesn’t break the trend, it’s just another picture that Elba should have had the sense to leave be, the character written for him a bumbling one dimensional cliché, with Jerry O’Connell as a best friend. Nothing about that cocktail could have attracted him to the role, so we have to presume it’s a cash thing or he didn’t oppose the idea of getting groped by Ali Larter or Beyonce. Either way, “Obsessed” is just another in a line of efforts openly bashing his artistic credibility. As for the aforementioned actresses both are capable of better, Beyonce is usually no better than average but on this occasion her inconsistent performance is below the norm whilst Larter is happy to just take the femme fatale cliché and put a little extra insane into the mix. None of the actors are provided with a suitably in depth character but I detected little effort in their attempts to formulate the personalities into believable and engaging entities, the screenplay between Elba and Knowles particularly toxic.

The film’s attempts to conjure up excitement and tension are ill fated and occasionally laughable, any thriller attempting to coin suspense in the form of computer emoticons and tepid spam mail is surely a guaranteed fail. Sadly having been saddled with a PG-13 rating these are the most advanced weapons that Shill has been given the chance to work with, and the movies attempts at eliciting titillating imagery are little better. Openly marketed as a sex thriller in line with the likes of “Indecent Proposal” and “Basic Instinct” (Larter even has a resemblance to Sharon Stone) there is nothing that even approaches hot and heavy in “Obsessed”. Larter briefly strips down to her pants in a scene that’s so ineptly staged you’ll barely notice, and there’s a blurry sex sequence, as fully clothed and frigid as could be. Surely the teenage boys of the world who thought the MPAA had slipped up and granted them a PG-13 erotic experience with Beyonce and Larter will be disappointed. “Obsessed definitely ranks in the more innocent and cold side of the genre.

From a visual perspective the movie is glossy but very much a product of assembly line cinematography and the musical score is filled with high string notes designed to encourage tension, but sadly outdated by about 20 years. The screenwriter is David Loughery who wrote last year’s well played and reasonably intelligent “Lakeview Terrace”, a thriller also centered on family conflict but ultimately it also managed to generate entertainment value and a few thought provoking questions. “Obsessed” is so run of the mill and dumb that we would have to assume Loughery penned it over a lazy weekend, maybe deciding that he needed a new kitchen or entertainment system. Evidently he’s viewed a handful of genre highpoints, subtly ripped them off and stacked it into a formulaic and unimpressive story. Hardly a recipe for successful big screen entertainment. Also at 108 minutes this junk runs for far too long, its flaws being exaggerated by a runtime 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. I doubt a shorter cut of this inane story would grant it much more in the way of worth, but it might have at least made the unintentional amusement it sometimes generates more compact and digestible.

The finale is both predictable and lacking in anything remotely associated with creative filmmaking, a little bit of cat fighting followed by a thoroughly unsatisfying tying up of the loose ends. “Obsessed” is a tired and under cooked screenplay that has been turned into the simple minded and vacant product , a movie that is borderline worthless in nearly every department. The creative minds behind “Obsessed” should be utterly ashamed of themselves, their movie so lacking in innovation or competent assembly that having it on their CV might damage future career prospects. However if this is the level of dull output we can expect from said people, maybe their disappearance from the industry would be for the best.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


22 May 2009

Comedy Review: Dane Cook- Isolated Incident

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A-

No other comedian in the world has to endure as much love and hate as Dane Cook. The Boston born funnyman rose to prominence in 2003 with the solid debut album “Harmful if Swallowed”, a slice of audio comedy that established Cook’s brand of observational absurdity and earned him legions of fans. It by turns garnered him much hate and whilst further albums have molded to an equally decent standard , thanks to allegations of joke theft and some unimpressive film roles Cook continued to divide the masses like marmite. I personally really enjoy his crazed and energetic performances, his material is usually sharp and his physical skills as a comedian add to the appeal. Industry purists might feel that he’s overly dependent on Jim Carrey light Shtick, but that’s about to change with Cook’s latest efforts “Isolated Incident”. It’s an album still rife with the comic’s over the top edge but also in a slight departure from the norm, a more personal and political touch as well.

A lot of people have mounted attacks on Cook for performing to huge crowds in an attempt to cover up his patchy material, but with “Isolated Incident” Cook has formed the perfect rebuttal. Performing to no more than 400 people rather than the thousands he’s used to, Cook presents some of his funniest material yet and even shows a higher degree of improv and interaction skills. The delightful cherry bomb routines are still here, fuelled by vulgar and crazy punch lines, but this time he also takes a minutes at a time to draw comedic hilarity from both his and America’s trials and tribulations. “Isolated Incident” uses the tragic death of his parents and the plethora of hate that has emerged in the past two years to awesome effect, shoving potential laugh fodder at the listener like there won’t be a tomorrow. You can still sense the manic energy and riffing that has been both his ultimate weapon and kryptonite in the past, but mixed in with fresher material and a host of fresh and deeply hysterical gags.

The election of Obama is addressed early on and mixed in with a running joke to good effect, whilst other highlights include tracks named “Vernacular” and “Haters”. The CD is packing 27 tracks of numerous lengths and boasts little in the way of duds, “Role Play” slows things down a bit toward the end but in truth it’s a minor fault. Cook’s fans should eat the more personal performance up; “Isolated Incident” will only go on to widen his appeal. If one of his albums was to go fourth and convert a few haters this is the most likely candidate, Cook addressing several of the more logical complaints pitted against him in recent time. I’m not a comedy enthusiast but I am a fan, and whilst I’m not going to deny my liking for Cook, this is a funny album no matter which way you play it.

A DVD documentary is also included with the comedy CD.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

21 May 2009

We're hitting blog catalog!!!

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Danland is further moving in the blososphere, we're now on blog catalog!!!


20 May 2009

Movie Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

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C+

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
2009, 88mins, R
Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Writer (s): Danny McBride, Kevin Grevioux, Howard McCain, Dirk Blackman, Len Wiseman, Robert Orr
Cast includes: Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Kevin Grevioux, Steven Mackintosh, David Ashton
Release Date: 23rd January 2009

“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” is a the third in the “Underworld” cycle, a film series that took off in 2003 with a guilty pleasure of an original then fumbled terribly in 2006 with a yawn inducing and cheaply assembled sequel. The factors that made the first film enjoyable largely involved well staged gunplay, attractive washed out visuals and Kate Beckinsale in skintight Goth get-up, only one of these assets making it all the way to this, part three. The dark yet oddly stimulating visual palette is still on show, but Beckinsale has jumped ship and being this a medieval prequel of sorts, automatic weapons are a scarcity. Still under the new guiding eye of Patrick Tatopoulos (the initial entries where directed by Len Wiseman) “Rise of the Lycans” is surprisingly amiable, as silly as ever, but more often than not reasonably entertaining.

“Rise of the Lycans” chronicles the rise of the werewolf style monsters of the title, amidst a Romeo and Juliet plotline. Such forbidden loves formed the core basis of the first picture and even to a degree the follow up, but Tatopoulos has seen fit to reuse it again, once more we’re treated to the sights of vampires and dog people getting jiggy with each other. Enslaved by the vampire lord Viktor (Bill Nighy), Lycanthrope Lucien (Michael Sheen) spends his days forging metals, slaving and making passionate love to Viktor’s own daughter, Sonya (Rhona Mitra). The wolfman and young vampire are truly enamored with each other, but for such a love to exist is heresy, and thus all their intimate frequenting is done in isolated privacy. After Sonya’s life is saved by Lucien in a way forbidden by Viktor, the vampire overlord locks him away leaving the predatory lovers in a state of separation. However with Sonya’s aid Lucien is set free along with the Lycan hordes and a small army is amassed to fight the vampire threat. Viktor learning of the wolf’s lust for his spawn has however a defensive plan, use Sonya as bait, and kill Lucien and the Lycan danger once and for all.

If there is one thing “Rise of the Lycans” consistently does unlike its predecessors, it’s telling the majority of the tale from the werewolf perspective. Previous installments where all about Beckinsale’s ferocious and sexually rapacious vampire warrior, this time we focus on Michael Sheen who is errr…..also ferocious and sexually rapacious. Like Beckinsale, Sheen is able to inject an iota of acting credibility into a story seeing little use for it, and this characteristic is what keeps “Rise of the Lycan’s from spiraling into self parody and disaster. It’s not a film to be taken seriously, Bill Nighy is in full ham mode and Mitra keeps proving a hugely amateurish performer, but thanks to Sheen’s intensity and a few well placed and thrilling moments it’s always an actioner and never a comedy. The cast do look to be having a tremendous amount of fun as they spurt wonderfully overwritten sonnets of dialogue and attack each other with swords, and a lot of that energy and giddy entertainment value crosses over to the audience. It’s not a memorable origin story nor does it ever try to be, but it’s actually rather delightful in short fitful bursts.

On a technical scale the movie rates highly and is given like the other entries a charged and electronically fuelled score by Paul Haslinger, further cementing himself as the go to guy for musical scores containing an emo edge. The action is shot with a sprightly eye for carnage and pomp by the franchise inheritor and whilst some of the CGI is a little dodgy (the last films also featured some less than perfect digitals) it rarely detracts from the unapologetic nonsensical chaos that plays out onscreen. Brevity is another commendable asset the feature boasts, and whilst the screenplay is riddled with bad writing and insurmountable cliché, the filmmakers know it’s about the OTT mythological set-pieces and horny vampire/Lycan moments. At the speed with which “Rise of the Lycans” thunders you probably won’t catch anything else anyways.

Fans of this now stretched saga should feel elated with what’s on offer here, regardless of your opinion on the series this betters part two and gets within touching distance of the moody first. Tatopoulos has against all odds proved that there’s still a little hysterical and frenzied entertainment value in this beast yet, and drags a good deal out in what combines to be a rather amusing threequel. A fourth is probably pushing it but once again those looking for vigorous action and delirious silliness can safely return to the Underworld.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

19 May 2009

Ritchie's Sherlock Holme's reboot gets a trailer, and it's err.....very action packed?

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Love or loathe him nobody quite intrigues like Guy Ritchie, the British filmmaker behind some of the surprise hits of the past 15 years, and some of the periods most notorious flops. Now the trailer for his anticipated rethink of Sherlock Holmes has gone online, and in truth it looks pretty good. A little more explosion ridden and action packed than anything Conan Doyle wrote, but still entertaining. Downey Jnr. looks a good choice for the lead part after all, and whilst Jude Law is always an unpredictable commodity, the reliable Mark Strong is looking like a solid bad guy. Rachel McAdams also spends the majority of the trailer prancing around and kicking people in a skimpy corset, never a bad thing. "Sherlock Holmes" is in theaters Christmas Day.

18 May 2009

Host of "Revenge of the Fallen" stills hit the net.

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Today a new wave of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Stills" hit the net. They really don't tell us anything we didn't already know or expect, but they sure are purty (especially the Fox one). The film is due out next month, and this blogger is getting ever more excited.

Movie Review: Mirrors

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D

Mirrors
2008, 111mins, R
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer (s): Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Cast includes: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Jason Flemying, Cameron Boyce
Release Date: 15th August 2008

Everyone knows that asides from “Prison Break” there is no show on television more ridiculous and mind bogglingly crazy than “24”. That program’s star Kiefer Sutherland is also the leading man for Alexandre Aja’s “Mirrors” an Americanized version of an Asian original, neither of which I knew too much about prior to viewing this, the former. Just as well, following his television sensibility Sutherland appears to have opted for the most illogically dumb feature length screenplay he could find, if this represents the current status of the man’s discerning career taste, he can stay as Jack Bauer until the end of all that is holy. “Mirrors” is not only a stupid idea but also a horror film that cheats the audience, rarely in my life have I seen a picture so firmly worked around the directors and writers fancy, at the expense of plot holes and basic intelligence.

Just how slavishly this remake follows its predecessor is unclear, as stated above I’ve never seen and would have little desire to check out the 2003 original. Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) is an ex-NYPD man and former alcoholic, slowly starting to rebuild his life after accidently shooting a man in a policing incident. As a result of his past errors Ben has lost his marriage and the respect of wife Amy (Paula Patton) and has suffered the ultimate punishment a man can face, limited access to his beloved kids. In an effort to convince everyone he is back on the straight and narrow Ben takes a night watchmen’s post at a local and burnt out department store, the previous job holder having mysteriously vanished not long before. Whilst on watch Ben starts to notice something funny about the many mirrors that layer the old buildings interior, until eventually they start showing him terrifying visions and hallucinations. It quickly transpires that the mirrors want something from Ben and until they get it, they’ll use every reflective surface at their disposal to kill the people he loves.

To give credit where it’s due the first 30 minutes of “Mirrors” are actually semi-decent, making a reasonable stab at building a central character and racking up a few moments of palm sweating suspense. It’s everything that comes after which is a laughable mess, and at times self indulgent and lazy to boot. In searching for scares Aja is so laid back with plot consistencies that he’s practically horizontal, meaning that whilst he can splash around blood like cheap soup, there is no sense of logic or impending dread in his directorial handling of the product.

Sutherland is unexceptional in the lead role, moving through the motions but with no real force or focus. I suppose from a purely story driven perspective he does a fair job, keeping a straight face as he battles homicidal reflections, but the audience never really cares about him or his family. Paula Patton never stops playing scared, and the chemistry between her and Sutherland is poisonously rank. Patton in the few projects she’s appeared in has exuded an unquestionable woodenness, a reputation “Mirrors” won’t distort. Elsewhere Amy Smart is given nothing to do as Ben’s sympathetic sister (though she does have the key part in the film’s most visceral moment) and the child acting is rotten. The fact that youngsters Cameron Boyce and Erica Gluck are so poor just further reflects badly on Aja’s direction, it takes good helming to cast child actors and help them deliver a believable turn, Aja seemingly having failed at both junctions.

The film is technically stylish and features a plethora of well constructed gore effects but interms building a sense of dread or impending horror, it’s a disaster. Much of this lies in the director and writers utter inability to conform to a set of horror rules, the monster in this movie seemingly doing whatever it pleases to claim victims, the mechanism blazing a trail of idiocy as the story carries on. When Aja refuses to set in any sort of barrier to add an extra level of suspense or viability to the fear, what is there for the audience to bother getting scared over? If as a filmmaker he simply wants to sit and do as he pleases with no regard for cohesion, that’s fine, just don’t expect an audience to care or find much empathy with the characters. The final half hour is also peppered with some truly hysterical sequences masquerading as adrenaline pumping terror. The final showdown in “Mirrors” is in excusably silly and a supposed twist at the end might even be this turkey’s low point.

People are constantly bitching about remakes today, moaning about how they pollute the cinematic landscape for a fast buck whilst shamelessly encouraging unimaginative story telling. I personally don’t subscribe to that view, but even if I did the fact that “Mirrors” is a retread is the very least of its problems. A bumbling and badly executed horror film, “Mirrors” throws out the blood like there’s no tomorrow, and sadly all sense of intelligence and indeed enjoyment seems to have gone with it.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


16 May 2009

Movie Review: Bride Wars

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D

Bride Wars
2009, 89mins, PG
Director: Gary Winick
Writer (s): Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Rapheal
Cast includes: Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey, Candice Bergen
Release Date: 9th January 2009

Bridal Smackdown or Fight Night Brides might have been more appropriate titles for “Bride Wars” a sloppily named and lazily compiled chick flick, which works its way through a series of utterly predictable comic moments before resting on a disturbingly saccharine and uncreative denouement. At the central of the piece are two talented actresses, both with Oscar nominations to their names, but sadly this is clearly the sort of film that performers of that calibre do because the pay cheque might provide a nice Swimming pool. How anyone involved saw genuine promise or comic mirth in this hasty and unimpressive concept is beyond me, especially people who have worked on....you know good movies.

Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) have been best friends for their whole lives, and for the majority of that time together they’ve both dreamt of having a June wedding in the Plaza venue. After having the question popped to both of them around the same time, the duo go together to schedule their desired dates, both getting prime Summer time spots in the process. However things take a turn for the worst when it turns out that both weddings have been accidently booked on the same date, leaving the pair in a small scale crisis. Neither wants to give up their swooning moment of true happiness, and so they begin to play dirty, attempting to foil the other at every opportunity and leave her in a position of unavoidable cancellation. Things start on a minor note but quickly escalate, the brides to be leaving a blaze of destruction and chaos as the pranks get ever grander and more damaging.

“Bride Wars” is an ugly comedy with few laughs or moments of emotional depth, director Gary Winick opting for turgid slapstick and long winded dirty deeds to draw the entertainment value. It’s safe to say that Hudson and Hathaway are watchable in anything and “Bride Wars” is no exception, but leaving the dominating females aside and this is a picture of supreme vacancy. The film never builds a convincing rapport with its characters or a steady stream of quality gags, slowly dying as the short runtime burns down.

The characters in “Bride Wars” are dreadfully written and the central friendship ill conceived, but spirited actresses like Hudson and Hathaway always give it their all, and thus they at least get marks for trying. I doubt either did this junk on an artistic whim but at least they earn their pay cheques, unlike anybody else involved. I dread to think how insufferably lame “Bride Wars” would have been without two performers of such effortless screen presence, neither is having to stretch their chops but with less talented thespians this could have been a truly abhorrent way to spend an hour and a half. The rest of the cast don’t deserve mention, they’re a non event, all plot devices and cardboard cut outs to stack against the insanely dull melodramatics playing out on screen.

Director Winick has struck motion picture success before in the like of “Tadpole” and “13 going on 30”, but “Bride Wars” really is an embarrassing excuse for mainstream entertainment. A laboured farce with nothing of value to say about the relationships of women or a well timed joke to its name, Winick would do well to pretend this never happened. At any rate the new house helming this turd bought him, should cause a pang of guilt every time he looks at it. Its the trio of writers who deserve the biggest damnations however, to think that it took three people to churn out such ordinary rubbish is astounding, and the writing constantly looks like it was polished over by an emotionally unbalanced 14 year old girl. The writers clearly thought they where penning what some like to call “breezy fun”, but this is neither. Even when attempting a light hearted comedy it takes a brain to be entertained, and “Bride Wars” struggles to penetrate the skull.

Things go from bad to worse in what amounts to a sugary and bizarre ending in which Winick and co. wrap up every lose end as speedily and unconvincingly as possible. “Bride Wars” is precisely the sort of film that Holywood releases to make a fast buck, knowing full well that the product will quickly slip into obscurity due to obvious suck factor, and so spends as little time prepping it as possible. Obviously thrown together at the drop of a hat and with little to recommend it to even the cosmopolitan brigade, “Bride Wars” is mediocrity as it’s most sickeningly slovenly and stupid level. One can only hope that a hinted sequel is not to follow.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009



Movie Review: My Best Friend's Girl

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B

My Best Friend’s Girl
2008, 112mins, R
Director: Howard Deutch
Writer: Jordan Cahan
Cast includes: Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan, Diora Baird
Release Date: 19th September 2008


Dane Cook has had an underachieving beginning to his cinematic career, previous efforts “Employee of the Month” and “Good Luck Chuck” pinged in as merely average, reining the magnetic performer into bland and inoffensive romantic leads. Both movies retained the man’s penchant for vulgarity, but his ability to wield a punch line was ignored by scripts that happily let the supporting acts upstage the poster star. That’s not the case in “My Best Friend’s Girl” a surprisingly good romantic comedy with a black edge severely lacking in the genre. Those who can’t stomach crude and misogynistic humor need not apply, nor should Dane Cook’s many haters, but for me this is a first good step in the direction of comedic redemption.

Tank Turner (Dane Cook) is by his own definition an emotional terrorist, to compliment his customers service job at an Air Purifier firm he takes girls out on horrible dates, so they’ll realise just how great and dreamy their last boyfriend was. Guys pay Tank healthy sums of cash to do the deed, and within the art he’s second to none. An opportunity for a gag arrives when Tank’s best friend Dusty (Jason Biggs) is dumped by love of his life Alexis (Kate Hudson), and as a result left in a mire of distress and disappointment. Tank quickly organizes a date with Alexis and shows her an appropriately terrible time, but in a surprise move she warms to him, registering him as just the sort of one night stand jerk she requires. As the pair better get to know each other love slowly blossoms, Alexis seemingly bringing out the closet romantic in Tank. However as their relationship strengthens Tank is faced with a dilemma, betray his best friend, ditch his dream girl, or risk losing both.

“My Best Friend’s Girl” works purely on the grounds that Cook is in sensational comic form, he improvs like a man on fire and uncovers good laughs on route. The part requires Cook not just to fork of his stand up talents but also to try and unearth a 3-D and emotionally complex character, something that he actually comes fairly close to achieving. Granted he’s a lot more assured when riffing on all manner of vulgar topics, but in the end Cook actually comes good and provides an agreeable leading man performance. The support is a little more rickety, Hudson does a passable job as a romantic interest and serves up acceptable chemistry with Cook, but doesn’t look particularly bothered in turning Alexis into anything other than romantic comedy template 1024. Jason Biggs an actor, who I’d rather see less of in the future, is more creepy than nice, though some of his scenes with Cook are genuinely amusing. More effective are Lizzy Caplan and Alec Baldwin, playing Alexis’s roommate and Tank’s Dad respectively. Caplan has more punch in her performance than Hudson does in hers, and one almost feels the picture might be better had the two switched screen time. As Tank’s sexist and womanizing Dad, Baldwin is in full blown cartoon mode, but the man never lets that get in the way of delivering raucous and shockingly misogynistic giggles.

The film has a peculiar arc, staring out as a decidedly anti-romance it then swivels 180 degrees and goes for a full blown love story. The screenplay by Jordan Cahan actually manages this transition fairly well, other comedies would become bogged down in schmaltz but whilst the romance factor cranks up towards the end, the picture never loses it edgier tone. Several of the comedic set-pieces concocted work well and are surprisingly inventive, always aided when Cook’s acerbic maw is able to interject and dial up the energy another notch. It can be a hard task to get sweet and gross to balance out, something that “Good Luck Chuck” in particular failed to do, but for my money “My Best Friend’s Girl” nails it.

The film is set in Cook’s native Boston and director Howard Deutch presents it in a glowing way, the city consistently looking gorgeous throughout. At nearly two hours I’d argue the film could do with losing 10 minutes, probably at the slightly overdrawn and bloated romantic finish, yet even being overlong the entertainment factor stays high and doesn’t really relent to the end. On a few occasions there is even directorial flair on show, further etching it above the Rom-com norm. I enjoyed “My Best Friend’s Girl” despite obvious flaws, and can only hope that Dane Cook keeps moving up the comedy ladder. On this occasion there is still room for improvement, but at least the realms of mediocre junk feel distant enough for a recommendation.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

15 May 2009

Movie Review: Paul Blart Mall Cop

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C

Paul Blart Mall Cop
2009, 91mins, PG
Director: Steve Carr
Writer (s): Nick Bakay,Kevin James
Cast includes: Kevin James, Jayma Mays, Keir O'Donnell, Raini Rodriguez, Shirley Knight, Peter Gerety
Release Date: 16th January 2009

A mighty success upon release earlier this year, “Paul Blart Mall Cop” is an insanely average comedy made slightly more appetizing thanks to a well staged central performance, Kevin James taking the title role is in truth the only genuinely worthwhile asset the picture has to offer. There are a few decent laughs within the 91 minutes it devours but “Paul Blart Mall Cop” is going to seem painfully obvious in places to folks who have seen more than half a dozen broad slapstick comedies.

Paul Blart (Kevin James) is a hardworking guy and a dutiful Dad, who dreams of becoming a state trooper. Problem is that Paul suffers from intense hypoglycemia and thus can never make it the full way through the police initiation test, meaning he has to spend his days walking the mall cop beat. He treats the job with a degree of seriousness and dedication unparalleled in his lazy colleagues, and when not handing out inner Mall citations he’s fawning over shop girl Amy (Jayma Mays) but like everyone else she underestimates him. That all changes when a group of super athletic criminals take over the mall in the hope of a big cash haul, with hostages trapped in the interior and the various strands of law enforcement bickering on the outside. However Paul is still left in the Mall and so uses this as his chance to show his real grit and determination to all those who assumed he was just another loser. Using his knowledge of the complex and some rather unorthodox methods, Paul proceeds to try and best the bad guys, whilst keeping the captured alive.

Kevin James is excellent in “Paul Blart Mall Cop”, in truth the stocky comedian might be the only above average feature the picture boats. Combining his ability for slapstick with an empathetic goofiness James keeps the audience rooting for him and delivers the majority of the big laughs in the process. Supporting players consistently fail to show flair or anything approaching the raw comic energy of the lead, Jayma Mays is a flat romantic link whilst as thief chief bad guy Keir O’Donnell is neither imposing nor funny. This is James vehicle all the way; the bland performances surrounding him simply further compounding that fact.

In terms of sourcing its laughter the movie seems happy to simply spoof “Die Hard” and roll out the obesity jokes, hardly rich and untapped fountains of comedy. The film offers some laughs mostly courtesy of the hard working lead man, but the screenplay is ultimately pedestrian and Steve Carr’s direction about as ordinary as anyone can logically conceive. There is an affable sense of pleasantry around the whole thing, its constant determination to conform to mediocrity not propelled by its desire to forgo all comedic artistry at the expense of cash grabbing smirks and woeful gags. No “Paul Blart Mall Cop” means well, it’s just had the misfortune to be made by a selection of people not particularly good at what they do. James is the exception as the bumbling title character, but everything about “Paul Blart Mall Cop” reeks of the cinematic norm.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

"The Road" finally gets a trailer.

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The cinematic adapatation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" has finally been given a trailer, the delayed story of a family in a post apocalypse world now ready to hit theaters this fall. The film will star Viggo Mortentsen and Chrlize Theron, and on the basis of the trailer looks to have at least captured the visual element of McCarthy's story well. On the other hand this trailer is surprisingly alike to one of the promos for 2007's "I Am legend" another end of the world thriller that took big box-office bucks. Having been delayed so many times it's only natural to be a little concerned with the production, but overall the first trailer is decent.

Trailer at link below:

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810037227/video/13468775/

14 May 2009

"A Christmas Carol" poster appears.

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The poster for the upcoming "A Christmas Carol" starring Jim Carrey has been unveiled. The movie which reworks the classic Dicken's story of the same name, is directed by Robert Zemeckis( "Back to the Future")and will deploy heavy 3-D. The poster looks more or less like what anyone would expect and Jim Carrey looks heavily made up as Scrooge. I Will await the trailer to make a prediction on this one, but with the quality involved (Gary Oldman is also in a supporting role) things look good so far.

The movie will be out in theaters this November.

13 May 2009

Megan Fox reviews "High School Musical". Should be interesting.......

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Hollywood's sexiest women Megan Fox recently offered Esquire magazine her own interpretation of tween favourite "High School Musical", and it's a bit weird.

"Let me tell you what it's really about," she told Esquire magazine. "High School Musical is about this group of boys who are all being molested by the basketball coach, who is Zac Efron's dad. It's about them struggling to cope with this molestation. And they have these little girlfriends, who are their beards. Oh, and somehow there's music involved."

Well, at least she keeps surprising us.

Aqua thriller looks set to be awful direct to disc excellence

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Arriving direct to disc on May 19th, "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" looks like the sort of extreme cinematic poverty that might actually be highly entertaining. Not because it features suspense, good acting or even credible special effects, indeed the watchable nature of this aquatic turd is realiant on it boasting quite the oppisite. The trailer looks really bad, but can you really sniff at a movie that features an 80's pop star turned milf, a man who makes Segal look talented and a shark attacking a plane. The answer is probably yes, but you'll get no such conclusion from this thirsting lover of hysterically inept cinema.


12 May 2009

Movie Review: The Spirit

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C

The Spirit
2008, 103mins, PG-13
Director: Frank Miller
Writer (s): Frank Miller, Will Eisner (novel)
Cast includes: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Jaime King, Dan Gerrity
Release Date: 25th December 2008

Once thought an untouchable icon of popular culture, graphic artist and now filmmaker Frank Miller has had a change of fortunes since last December. Miller the creator of several pieces of celebrated geekdom, decided to put his directorial skills to the test in a filmed version of Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”, and boy did it go down badly. Like cheap vodka regurgitated by the body, fanboys ripped the work to shreds and ultimately rejected it at the box-office, leaving Miller’s career with at least one immovable stain. It’s easy to see why a lot of people disliked the product, and whilst it’s far from a great picture, Miller’s interpretation warrants a little celebration thanks to its visual audacity and truly bizarre genetic make-up.

The film is narrated by superhero The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) a man with mysterious abilities and who along with the good cops in town tries to keep the bad guys down. The city they inhabit is much like a Gotham or Metropolis, purely fictional, and in keeping with the former it’s always in a cold dark grip, dirty and consistently pervading a metallic hue. The City’s biggest rogue is the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) and underground drug pusher of sorts, who like the spirit is seemingly invincible, thus when they clash carnage ensues but nobody ultimately gets hurt. However that’s set to change as the Octopus with the help of eye candy sidekick Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) has found a way to empower him above his nemesis, and allow Octopus to take control of the city and maybe the world. If that sounds like a primitive narrative, well, that’s because it is. The thing which makes “The Spirit” such a brazen cinematic oddity is its judicious use of computer aided visuals and stark raving bonkers imagery.

The script (also by Miller) is more of an excuse to let loose his imaginative need to render everything as noirish and comic book styled, “The Spirit” playing out like an old time strip, combining cheesy humor and light footed action. For a film as heavily marketed as “The Spirit” was, I found the film suffered a surprising dearth of big exciting moments, instead compensating with insane performances and touches of pure, unfiltered, weirdness. Macht is ok in the central role, though nothing special, and given the movies venomous reaction it’s hard to expect this will launch him to bigger things. Of those involved he’s probably the most refined, though with Samuel L. Jackson in hyper overdrive beside you, that’s not actually a good thing. In every sequence he features Macht is upstaged by one of his co-stars, either clad in a revealing outfit are treading the route of delirious camp. Jackson’s over the top bad guy could only work in this sort of furiously silly effort, whilst Scarlett Johansson treats the film like another lengthy advertisement for her chest. Hardly what nerds hold in short supply. Eva Mendes pops up as an equally under dressed anti-hero, with a ridiculously unnecessary story arc, but at least she packs a little added vigor into her performance.

One sequence in particular sums up the mentality of “The Spirit” perfectly, in which our hero is tied to a chair, attacked by a sword wielding belly dancer whilst Samuel L. Jackson and Johansson in Nazi garb, melt a cat. I can admire and take enjoyment in this sort of sheer craziness in moderation and whilst “The Spirit” probably overdoes it, you have to at least give the movie kudos for trying. Anybody expecting a remotely linear or reality based adventure had really better take themselves elsewhere, because the movie packs a bizarrely counterbalanced comedy/dark action dynamic and throws gloriously odd sequences at the audience like bargain basket hamster feed.

I certainly was amused by proceedings and would give it a mild recommendation for those with a thirst for the weird and wonderful, or for men who prefer style to substance, but everyone else looking for more regular multiplex thrills will be perplexed and angered in equal measure. It’s certainly got some stuff going for it, but overall to justifiably call “The Spirit” a good movie you would need to be substantially zanier than me.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

11 May 2009

Megan Fox in Esquire shoot.

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Being a male and stumbling upon Megan Fox's latest shoot for Esquire, I had to link it up to the blog. Sadly Chris Cornell is wailing in the background like a cat with it's balls cut off, but the visuals speak for themselves. Enjoy.

New "Land of the Lost" trailer

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Another "Land of the Lost" trailer has gone online, and I'm pleased to report this one is much better. Previous trailers featured some really bad jokes and dodgy digital effects, but this one provides a better slice of CGI and some proper funny material. The opening scene in the classoom looks like it could be a hoot which along with some classic Ferrell improv could be ample laughs. However, there is of course the chance that everything cool about this movie has been placed in the new promo material. None the less my expectations are not quite as low as before, which as far as the marketing element goes, renders this trailer a success. Plus any film with Will Ferrell and a T-Rex can't be totally awful, can it?

10 May 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

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A-

Star Trek
2009, 129mins, PG-13
Director: J.J Abrams
Writer (s): Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Cast includes: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Ben Cross, Tyler Perry
Release Date: 8th May 2009

“Star Trek” marks the first must see venture for summer 2009, a blockbuster skillfully rendered, filled with the excitement, humor, visuals and heroic characters that audiences simply lap up this time of year. I confess to always having been more of a “Star Wars” guy, but what J.J Abrams has concocted here is superior to any of George Luca’s CGI fuelled prequels. “Star Trek” hits all the essential bases for providing a good time, so despite a handful of hokey exposition and an ordinary villain, I can’t encourage cinema goers to get out and see it enough. Hardcore Trekkers should be more than satisfied with this fantastically rambunctious prequel, whilst relative newbies can also approach this explosive Sci-Fi opera in the knowledge that it’s highly accessible. You don’t need to own a pair of Vulcan ears to enjoy this soon to be smash hit.

The film chronicles the early years of the USS Enterprise and it’s now legendary crew, indeed one could debate it’s the most popular bunch of space explorers since Sci-Fi went visual. After a brief but important piece of back-story we are introduced to James Kirk (Chris Pine), a reckless and cynical farm boy yearning for something more in life. After involving himself in a brawl Kirk is offered the chance to join Starfleet space academy and despite brief reluctance, eventually enlists. Once there he quickly cements himself as a maverick, a trait not always looked on favorably, particularly by Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto). From the youngest of ages Spock has been taught to obey logic and monitor his emotion and thus Kirk’s enigmatic and at times dangerous attitude shocks him. However the two are promptly expected to put their differences aside when an enemy from the past returns, a vengeful Romulan called Nero (Eric Bana) who has a burning desire to get revenge on Starfleet. His plans are destructive and ultimately approach genocide levels of death and mutilation, thus the still fresh faced members of the USS Enterprise are thrown together to stop him.

As far as reboots go I can’t think of any better in recent years than “Star Trek”, it’s easily on a par with the likes of “Casino Royale” and “Batman Begins”, a statement only further highlighting its quality. Many fans were perplexed when Abrams let loose his intentions to revisit the original characters, why go back when you can go forward they hollered. Well those naysayers might as well return to their troll like fixation with premature and undeserved slander, as “Star Trek” soars high enough to make it in all probability, this year’s most entertaining event movie. Indeed if it isn’t then we have something truly special to look forward to.

In tone the film has hit exactly the right chord, it’s a serious adventure but screenwriters Orci and Kurtzman have added in lively twists of humor to keep things ever approachable and consistently appealing. The pair also wrote 2007’s “Transformers” another big hitter with an ability to enthrall and entice, and so are looking at seriously prosperous lives in this industry. The script pings the characters from one wonderfully enjoyable set-piece to another, never turning its back on furthering the personalities as it does so. “Star Trek” really explores the origin of Kirk and Spock in a way most fans won’t anticipate, simply because it’s so thoughtful, resonant and loving. The dialogue to is thunderously written, stilted lines and wooden delivery are two problems long associated with the blockbuster season, but “Star Trek” rarely suffers from either. The story requires a slightly dubious mcguffin about halfway through, but thanks to the epic and relentlessly fun nature of the final product, it’s easily forgiven.

The movie brings the whole of the Enterprise’s crew to the fore, but in truth like the TV show it’s all about Kirk and Spock. The tag team that defined a generation of adventure are wonderfully recreated thanks to Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, the latter putting in the picture’s standout performance. Pine has the essential swagger and likability in bags, also proving a dab hand at action moments and the zinging one liner. If ever the term space cowboy had a cinematic incarnation, its Pine’s delightfully mischievous and endearingly courageous interpretation of Kirk. Quinto also excels, finding the monotonous yet bizarrely colorful cocktail that is Spock, bringing the oxymoron of a personality dazzlingly to life onscreen. It’s always Pine’s show but one might debate that Quinto manages to draw the heftier weight of emotional gold; the origins of Spock are in subtle ways possibly even more tragic than those of Kirk. As Bones Karl Urban is good value, and filling Uhura’s shoes Zoe Saldana does a rather terrific job. The young actress is provided limited screentime but sizzles with sass and is part of one of Abram’s most interesting departures. “Star Trek” features a surprising romantic element, and whilst not spoiling anything, its success can be largely attributed to Saldana’s touching interpretation.

Elsewhere actors prove more than adequate in the roles of famous supporting players, John Cho is perfectly weighted as Sulu whilst Simon Pegg gets to do a lot of the heavy comedy work as Scotty. Anton Yelchin is vaguely irritating as Russian youngster Chekov but in truth it’s easily forgotten given the impressive majority of the casting. Indeed the only genuine disappointment is Eric Bana playing the big bad rogue Romulan, though whilst mediocre, his performance is never a travesty. One would hope that in the future adventures of the young Enterprise Abrams provides a more memorable villain, but seeing as this one focuses more on the developing heroes than the first big journey, it’s a minor detractor.

Abrams directs “Star Trek” like a Spielberg or Lucas, he has the high flying energy and charming cinematic heart that characterizes the best works of those fine directors, and if he can hold this level of soaring excellence he could fill their now fading shoes. Each action sequence is marked with creative visuals and flawless CGI, Abrams seemingly looking veteran in the way he caresses excitement from even the most basic set-pieces. The finish is seriously large scale stuff, but in truth what really marks “Star Trek” out as a fabulous piece of summer entertainment is its ability to entertain without having to lavish millions of dollars on a scene. The film is effortless in the way it captivates and gets the balance between character and action just right, resulting in an arresting combination of personal development and bombastic blockbuster moments.

If even one more film can live up to expectations like “Star Trek” then the writer’s strike will not have had a fatal effect on summer 2009. This is the sort of high quality escapism that popcorn and extra large cokes where designed for, a film for the whole family to sit back and revel in. A thrilling collection of what makes big budget cinema special, “Star Trek” is nigh on vital viewing for those who like their movies big, explosive and gloriously fun.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009