Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Top of the Stairs...Reaction

So,we had The Top of the Stairs screened in The Revue cinema in Toronto as part of their Drop Your Shorts short film night. Some kindly person took a shine to it a wrote this blog about it. Have a read. It'll warm the cockles of your heart...it sure warmed mine :)

...Oh and sorry that I haven't been very bloggy lately. I've been caught up in the trans-Atlantic move and a trip to Portugal. Soon...very soon, I promise.

- Charlene Lydon 3/12/08

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Top of the Stairs

Here is me n Bren's "experiment in terror" :) We decided to see what would happen if we made a film completely with just the two of us. We shot, acted, edited, make-upped, musicked and directed it with just one camera and two people. To be fair, I did little more than act in it. It's Bren's baby.

It's only intention is to give a bit of a scare. Hope it works...let me know, leave a comment.

Charlene

Friday, September 12, 2008

Me and Orson Welles

"You know what I see when I look in your eyes...I see images of magnificence"

Written by: Holly Gent Palmo
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes

My rating: 8/10

OK, I am totally weak for films that are fictional but based around true events. I love that. Films that could very well be true, but aren't, necessarily. Me and Orson Welles is a wonderful story of a young boy whose only acting experience is in high school musicals (ha! See what I did there) who manages to get a small part in Orson Welles 1937 production of Julius Caesar. The film follows the volatile relationship between Orson and his company. He is a madman, a selfish, arrogant user and an absolute genius. He knows how the politics of showbusiness and he knows people, and how to play them. However, for all his antics, he is powerfully charismatic and it seems generally accepted that he is a genius.

Christian McKay's performance here as Orson Welles is wonderfully broad as he goes through every one of Orson Welles personas with equal relish. He is snappy and arrogant but at the same time warm enough to earn some affection so when he lets a character down, you feel just as played yourself. The rest of the cast were great too. Zac Efron has been getting a lot of flack for being dull, but I personally thought he was solid and likeable, with just enough of a sparkle in his eye and just enough skill to keep it there after his inevitable fall from grace.

Overall this film has a charming, if predictable, story, a very strong cast and most importantly a sweet disposition that left me smiling for a good half hour after the credits rolled.

- Charlene Lydon 6/10/08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear

Me and Brad Dourif



Being a fan of the horror genre for years and years, I was very excited to hear about Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear. Not only do I love horror but I'm also a fan of all things cinematic so the fact that entry to the Festival of Fear also gives you entry to the entire Hobbystar Fan Expo meant I would get to experience the sci-fi side of things too.

The whole weekend was really fun and informative so I thought I should give it some space on my blog.

First off, Friday evening I arrived at the convention and not only is the place full to the brim of crazy costumed nerds, but it's bleedin' massive! Seriously this place is enormous and full of nerd stalls where you buy nerd things and people going around in costumes and nerdy people duelling with light sabers and whatnot. That evening I just wandered and checked out which celebs were signing and took sneaky pictures of Fonzie who was charmingly doing his coin trick from Click with a little kid (anyone not familiar with Click, see my review). There were no screenings or Q&A's that day so it was basically wandering. I checked out this exhibit on Death Photography which was a really interesting phenomenon in the late 19th century where people would photograph their dead loved ones, propped up, pretending to be alive. This was because photography was just coming into its own around this time so people had no photos of their loved ones so in desperation they would do it after they died, as it was their last chance. Really interesting, if horribly morbid, stuff. The photographs are really REALLY weird. That evening, after the convention ended there was a screening of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. John Waters says it's the greatest film ever made. I say it's up there. The screening was wonderful. Russ Meyer's beautiful (and not celebrated enough) black and white cinematography looked fantastic on the big screeen and watching that movie with the right audience really makes you appreciate the great comic lines and the richness of the delivery. There's definitely somehting special about it that sets it apart from other trash classics and it's certainly the jewel in Meyer's crown.

The lead actress and burlesque icon, Tura Satana was at the screening and gave a bit of a chat afterwards which was really nice. She was fascinating a spoke a lot about the background of making the movie. She's a tough girl and spoke a little about her rape-revenge gang days (I shit you not). It was pretty harrowing. She's certainly learned to deal with her anger though because the woman on that stage was a bubby, charming woman, not the scowlingly sumptuous villainess we know and love from the movies.

Next morning I had to get up bright and early for a screening of Black Christmas (the 1974 Canadian film, not the shit remake from last year). I had never seen it and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually brilliant, like seriously BRILLIANT and pre-dates Halloween by 4 years making it the king of the stalk n slash genre, also it predates Halloween's use of the killer POV camerawork. Hmmm, tell that to those history books. There was a panel discussion later that day with three of the films stars, its cameraman and composer. That was fascinating and it was nice to see John Saxon who you may know as Nancy's cop dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Art Hindle who was in one of my favourite Cronenberg movies, The Brood. So, that was a treat. Although the cast and crew have gone on to bigger and better things since the film was made 35 years ago, they all had lots to say about it and it ended up being a really interesting panel. Interestingly enough, there is one shot in the film of the killer, he is shrouded in shadow and difficult to recognise. It seems nobody knows who played him. Everyone seems to forget and peoples guesses are all conflicting. I kinda like that. Gives it a bit of mystery, oooooh!

After that was a Q&A with Wes Craven which I was very excited about but I was kinda disappointed in. I dunno, he was just a bit closed and not that interesting. He did tell a wonderful story about the man who inspired the creation of Freddy Krueger...a creepy man standing outside his bedroom window. When the man saw Wes looking at home, he caught his eye, gave a really horrible grin and walked into his building..little Wes freaked out and got his brother to go look outside the apartment with his baseball bat. Creepy imagery. He spoke a little about the folding of New Line into Warner Brothers and the implications of that regarding the remake. Basically that nobody has much of a say in the matter. He spoke highly of the remake of Last House on the Left. He said it was really well-recieved in the first screenings. I'll reserve my judgement until I see it but I'm wary to say the least.

After that (actually during that, I had to leave early) was a Q&A with Brad Dourif. This was the event of the weekend for me. It's so amazing hearing him talk cos he's got That Voice He's a man with some interesting stories indeed, not least a great story about Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (they're always good stories) and a wonderful one about Christopher Lee but they're too long to go into here, and I couldn't tell them nearly as well as he could, so what's the point? What's great is that when he's telling a story and gets all excited he starts to sound like Chucky. Little bit of back story on me; I've been in love with Chucky movies since I was about 7 years old and was OBSESSED with Child's Play 1 and 2 well before Jamie Bulger happened. Then I wasn't allowed anymore. That just made Chucky even cooler. Anyhoo, he spoke a little about what it was like working on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Lord of the Rings and Deadwood. It was very exciting and he speaks really well about his craft. He loves his work (not so much the Chucky movies, but he's damned territorial about him).

On Sunday, the final day. Again, I up early for a Q&A with Italian horror director Ruggero Deodata. I'm sure you've all heard of the notorious video nasty Cannibal Holocaust, well this was his film. A very very sick and controversial film, with a lot to say about the dishonest nature of the media and misrepresentation of the truth. It's a tough one to watch, but ultimately very worthwhile. He spoke very little English so that was kind of annoying because there was a translator. But he was interesting and it was great to hear about the film's release and notorious court case. This involved an actress who had been impaled on a stick in the film. She disappeared after the film wrapped and the scene was so convincing that the filmmakers were arrested on suspicion of actually killing her on set. They eventually found her and all was well. It's a great effect though. I can see why the judges were so convinced of its authenticity. He then talked a little about The Blair Witch Project, which is very similar in presmise (and in my opinion, in premise alone) to Cannibal Holocaust. As soon as he heard about it he got on the phone to his lawyers and tried to sue them for $2million. Seems a little harsh if you ask me. It feel through in the end though, at least there's some justice in the world.

After Ruggero Deodata I wandered around the shopping stalls and I went and got my Brad Dourif autograph and that would have been nice if I wasn't such an awkward eejit and vomited nonsensical words at the poor man. But anyway, he was nice and he signed my Chucky photo. After that I watched a documentary about Ted V. Mikaels who is a trash (oooh, he doesn't like that word!) filmmaker who I'd never heard of but am now very interested in. He made films such as The Corpse Grinders and Astro Zombies...yes, he's THAT kitschy It was interesting but I left early to go see Sean Astin, Samwise Gamgee himself. He didn't have a moderator and actually just stood in front of a room of thousands and nattered for an hour. Seriously, this guy can talk. When we were outside waiting to go in, he happened to be standing beside me. He looked at the long queue and said to the guy next to him "Are all these people here to see me? Awww". Aww, indeed, Sean. Anyway, he had a lot to say about Lord of the Rings and The Goonies and working with Adam Sandler. He's an interesting guy. Then last but not least I went to a Q&A with Sid Haig who I pretty much only knew as Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses. I'm not a fan of the Rob Zombie films but I do like that guy. He's a great character actor. Anyway, he was really cool and told some great stories about life as an indie actor and passing up on the MArcellus Wallace role in Pulp Fiction. He cried too, telling stories about his grandparents. Not a guy you'd expect to see shedding tears so that was interesting.

Sunday night then was the big event. The screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Tobe Hooper. We got to see it on this great mucky print on a big screen. And Tobe Hooper talked for over an hour afterwards which was cool. Like Wes Craven, I didn't find him all that interesting. He answered questions in circles and didn't really say much of anything despie talking for ages. But it's always a treat to hear a filmmaker talk about their art. He did mention that his next project is an adaptation of Stephen King's non-horror From a Buick 8. That's exciting given the wonderful job he did on Salem's Lot.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I'm suffering from something very similar to music festival fatigue at the moment but I had SUCH a great time, I'm thinking of flying back for it next year.

Nerds are funny...seriously.

- Charlene Lydon 24/08/08

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tropic Thunder

"I don't read the script, the script reads me"

Written By: Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen, Justin Theroux

Directed By: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Matthew McConaghey, Tom Cruise

My rating 8/10

As far as stupid blockbuster comedies go, the only thing this film is missing is Will Ferrell. As close to perfect as big dumb summer movies get, Tropic Thunder is refreshingly disrespectful, delightfully satirical and a wonderful load of fun! With it's stupidly talented cast, I have to admit, my expectations for this film were sky high from about 6 months ago when I first saw the trailer. I wasn't disappointed, except perhaps with Tom Cruise's much-lauded role a s foul-mouthed movie producer Les Grossman.

Tropic Thunder is not only a brilliantly written, brilliantly acted film. It is also a fun action flick with plenty of explosions and gore. The film follows a bunch of vacuous Hollywood stereotypes (and one unpretentious up-and-comer, nicely played by Jay Baruchel) as they trek through a real-life drug war, unaware that the gunfire and explosions are anything more than guerilla filmmaking. Tugg Speedman (Stiller) is trying to come to terms with a flailing career, Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) is a blonde Australian Oscar-winner taking "the method" too far, playing a black sargeant and in the process driving the actually black rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) crazy with his refusal to come out of character. Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy whose fart-filled movies are losing him the respect of his peers. He has also just lost his heroin stash to a rogue bat and is going through serious withdrawal when they come across the heroin processing plant. All of these characters, and all of the supporting characters are wonderfully simple and therfore easy to just sit back and enjoy.

Similarly to Stiller's earlier genius comedy, Zoolander, this movie hits all the scathing marks it aims for. Matthew McConaghey is brilliant as Cruise's agent who is desperately trying negotiate Tugg's TIVO, as stipulated in his contract, meanwhile being blissfully unaware of how far beyond contract things have actually gotten. His encounters with corporate slimeball Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) are funny and at times Cruise's performance is wonderful, let's not forget, he's still one of the greatest actors of our generation no matter how nuts and possibly evil he is. However, the performance takes a downturn into desperation as he moves into Goldmember territory with hip hop dance routines. It's a extremely cringe-worthy and it's a bit too clear how much Cruise is banking on this cameo to ensure his return to "hip with the kids" status. Hmmmm...didn't do it for me.

Anyway, as the story progresses, knocking down retards, blacks and fat folks as it goes, it becomes an action-packed extravaganza, but never forgets it's comedic responsibilities. I loved it! I loved it's irreverence for everything, it's sharply observed characters and it's brilliant, brilliant performances. Forget the Joker, my vote's for Kirk Lazarus "the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude".

Go see this movie, it's just simply a good movie. You'll enjoy it. And don't be a sap and get offended. It plays the South Park card and offends so many types of people that it therefore offends no-one.

- Charlene Lydon 14/08/08

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Orphanage

Directed By: Juan Antonia Bayona

Written By: Sergio G. Sanchez

Starring: Belen Rueda, Fernando Caya, Geraldine Chaplin

My Rating: 8/10

When a famous director "presents" a movie it generally means it's a bad b-movie. Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino and Tobe Hooper deserve a good finger-wagging for the crimes against audiences that they have endorsed. Guillermo Del Toro, however, has proven himself to be a somewhat more trustworthy advocate. The Orphange is a wonderfully eerie and tragic tale about a woman who buys her old orphanage to turn into a home for sick children. After her son goes missing mysteriously, she tries to find him with the help of the ghosts from her past.

As the film starts it has the air of a tragic tale from the outset. Laura's adopted son is very ill, suffering from HIV. Not the start of you typical horror movie. The orphange itself holds many secrets and there is a creepy old lady pretending to be a social worker lurking around. The film is unsettling from the start, if a little standard. As it progresses however, it becomes more apparent that there is a thin line between ghosts and hallucinations. However, the film never really confirms either reality.

Much like Del Toro's Pan's Layrinth and The Devil's Backbone (to which this film owes a tremendous debt), the filmmaker never takes the side of supernatural or craziness. This makes for a nice comfort zone of believability and adds layers to interpretation to every incident in the film. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, but the film has a satisfying, if tragic denoument that really sets it apart from other creepy haunted house movies.

Definitely check this out. It is creepy, but ultimately a delicate human tragedy of madness and guilt.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

The Lost Boys: The Tribe


"Who ordered the stake?"

Directed By: PJ Pesce

Written By: Hans Rodionoff

My rating: 3/10

Ok, Buffy can say "Who ordered the stake" and get away with it...Corey Feldman cannot!

I'll be honest and admit that I only rented this movie out of divilment and never thought for a second it would be anything more than something to make fun of. Unfortunately for me, it didn't fall into the category of "so bad it's at least entertaining". It took itself quite seriously and was just so heart-wrenchingly standard it was almost upsetting. However, if you're one of those people who just like horror movies and you'll enjoy nearly anything, then this will satisfy. It's got some nice gore and it has some nice vampire ladies for the boys! For fans of the original, this film will disappoint. The first movie was cheesy, yes. But it was delightfully innocently cheesy and it also had a genuinely clever script. This film is just medicority embodied.

The plot follows newcomers Chris (Stifler's Brother from American Pie: Band Camp, hmmm) and Nicole (replacement Mischa Barton from The O.C.), brother and sister who have more sexual chemistry than acting skills, which is disturbing. Apparently, according to interviews with the crew, these kids are supposed to be Michal and Star's children. This is never referenced and is just silly. Anyway, they come to town and are seduced by vamps. Chris must save his sister from a life of goth-hood. That's about it. Oh and the head vampire is played by Kiefer Sutherland's half-brother. I guess that could be called a nod to the original.

The Frog Bothers are now the Frog Brother, Edgar (Corey Feldman). The other Frog Brother is not referenced (until briefly at the end, we'll get back to that). Edgar is pretty much the same character as he was in the first one. To be honest, you hardly even notice that he's a grown-up now. He's still as deep-voiced and vicious as always and this character works, for the most part, but as per my first remark he really should lay off the cheesy slayer-speak. The end of the movie is a brief, pointless reference to the other Frog brother, and Sam, our teenage hero from the first movie which suggests some sort of mythology the audience is not aware of. Why? I dunno! Makes little sense! Why not just make a movie about what happened to Sam and the other Frog brother? Be sure to check out the alternative endings on the DVD, they make waaaaay more sense than the endings they used.

This is a silly little horror film, and all references to the original genius Lost Boys movie are purely cosmetic. Nothing sets this apart from any other straight to video horror flick...but curiosity killed the cat as they say, so if you must rent it (like me), don't get your hopes up too high.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Step-Brothers

"You're a big, fat, curly-headed fuck!"

Written By: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Directed By: Adam McKay

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins.

My rating: 6/10

The set-up for Step-Brothers involves Nancy (Mary Steenburgen)and Robert (Richard Jenkins) an older couple who fall in love, get married and try to prepare to spend their retirement days living on their boat. Trouble is, both have brought a 40 year-old son who refuses to grow up into the marriage. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play these new step-brothers and "play" is the operative word here, as they let totally loose and have an enormous amount of fun with these characters. Although both are well capable of playing serious roles, they have both made goofy over-acting into a lovable art-form.

The set-up for Step-Brothers is definitely one of the most tantalising I'd heard in ages and ages. The second I heard about the general idea I thought to myself that all is forgiven for Talladega Nights and this pairing of Ferrell and Reilly as infantile brothers was the greatest stroke of genius ever. As predicted, this pair are great together and they bounce off each other really well. Although they play really similar characters, they both have their own personality that they bring to the film.

However, it's hard not to be a bit disappointed with how the film turned out. Similarly to Talladega Nights, the creative team seem to get a bit caught up in having fun with improv and it all gets a little lost in the mayhem. I like dick and fart jokes as much as the next guy...but certainly not as much as THESE guys. Not to be a prude or anything, but there's just too much of it here. They start to get unfunny after a whole. And who wants to see Will Ferrell's ball sack rubbed all over a drum set. No-one!

Step-brothers is by no means more disappointing than Talladega Nights which was downright retarded, but it's slightly too over-the-top for it's own good. However, I dare you not to howl laughing at certain points in the film. It's difficult not to join in with the enthusiasm shown by the actors involved. Kudos must be given to Adam Scott who plays Will Ferrell's brilliantly awful brother who is, I guess, the villain of the piece. He's a smug, horrible guy who we just loooove to hate. His performance was great and I seriously felt like punching him throughout the movie...a sign of a job well done.

So, to sum up, this movie is good, way better than Talladega Nights, but suffers a little from "coulda been" syndrome. It let itself go a little too wild, not grounding itself in reality, which lessens the impact of two such crazy lead characters. It's fun, you'll laugh, but it's a pretty standard film from what could've been a classic.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You Don't Mess With the Zohan

"I just want to make people silky-smooth!"

Written by: Adam Sandler & Robert Smigel

Directed by: Dennis Dugan

Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Rob Schneider.

My rating: 5/10

I can't help it. All film lovers, no matter how well educated have their downfall. It seems mine is Adam Sandler (I have many, but he's a serious one). I have loved him since The Wedding Singer and have sat through some of the worst movies of my life because of him. But I always forgive him and I always see the best in them. After all, one thing you have to say about Sandler is that he seems like a pretty genuine guy. Thats why his films wind up being so crap a lot of the time, fun in favour of quality. That has to count for something right? Right? Anyone?

Well, You Don't Mess With the Zohan is something of a comfort zone for me. It's not a great movie but it doesn't offend me with it's crapness. Unlike I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry or Little Nicky which I found offensively bad. Zohan is too juvenile to loathe. It follows military hero Zohan (Adam Sandler) as he fakes his own death to ditch being a national hero in Israel and moves to New York to be a hairdresser armed with a fab new bouffant and a Paul Mitchell hairstyle book from the 1980s. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that the hairdressing world has moved on. However, he find his niche in a small hairdresser and falls for the owner who hates him (surprise! I wonder will she come round...). Things are going well until his Palestinian arch-nemesis Phantom tracks him down.

Zohan will probably not make you fall off your seat laughing but it will probably make you smile. Adam Sandler is his usual goofball self and his usual motley crew of character actors help to make this movie work. It's dreadfully silly, some people are offended that the politics are being brushed over/made fun of. I think it's charming. Leave your brain at home and maybe you'll get a few laughs out of this one!

- Charlene Lydon 31/9/08

Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Written & Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz,Scarlett Johanssen, Rebecca Hall

My rating: 9/10

I have been a huge Woody Allen fan since the day I saw The Purple Rose of Cairo back in the early 90's. His sharp dialogue, complex relationships and really cool characters living where I want to live and having careers that I want. What's not to love about Woody Allen movies? The problem is, the past few Woody Allen films, actually anything after Bullets Over Broadway have made me feel a bit empty afterwards. Usually they're enjoyable enough (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion excluded) but afterwards there's just a feeling of lack of effort or that Woody Allen has forgotten how to be Woody Allen. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the first time I've really felt a spark from him in well over a decade.

Set in sunny Barcelona, the film has a warm, enticing glow to it that is rare in Allen's dreary, New York-set films. This seems to rub off on his characters because they all seem to be a little bit sunnier than his usual characters. Not that there isn't darkly complex human emotion going on here, it's here in spades.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johanssen)are on summer holidays in Barcelona, staying with Vicky's aunt. Vicky and Cristina, the narrator points out, could not be more different when it comes to men. Vicky needs stability and Cristina prefers grand romantic love affairs that always end abruptly and badly. When the pair meet sexy painter Juan Antonio they are both eventually seduced by his passion and his seemingly genuine romantic heart. As Cristina enters into a relationship with him, his ex-wife, crazy genius Marie-Elena (Penelope Cruz) comes back into his life and they live together and bond together as a threesome in love, finally giving Cristina a passionate realtionship and also making Juan Antonio and Marie-Elena's relationship work. In the meantime, Vicky marries her fiancee, boring Doug who seems to only talk about the house they're going to buy when they get home. Vicky, swayed and confused by the temptation of loving someone with passion and charisma but who will surely hurt her must struggle with her feelings as the events of the summer play out.

The reason why this film works is because each character is written in the most truly animated way. They are neurotic and playful and fascinating. Everyone here deserves credit for their performances. They are all wonderful and the chemistry between all the leads is electric. Woody Allen's sharp dialogue harkens back to when he was the top of his game. Lately, he may be accused of being a bit too Woody Allen but missing the mark but here his banter is perfectly scripted and his characters are full of life. I found it marvellous how he captured the essence of a generation of women that must be alien to him, at his age. He portrays Vicky perfectly and her conflict between passion and stability and I loved his willingness to make fun of Cristina's pretentiousness and lack of interest in anything other than the cool bohemian lifestyle.

A lot has been made of the love scene between Scarlett Johanssen and Penelope Cruz. I hate to burst anyone's bubble but you pretty much see most of it in the trailer. However, the film bursts with sexual energy throughout which is a credit to the enthusiasm of its cast. Penelope Cruz gives a truly standout performance here. Babbling in Spanish about love and art and craziness, she is on fire in every one of her scenes and she and real-life lover Javier Bardem are great together onscreen. Hopefully she won't be denied an Oscar this year after the Academy failed to reward her for her wonderful work on Almodovar's Volver.

I highly recommend this film. If you're a Woody Allen fan, it's a refreshingly upbeat (if ultimately as pessimistic as his other films) film that truly modernises his original brilliance and remind us why we loved him in the first place. If you're not a fan of Woody Allen, there's enough here to entertain you anyway. It doesn't parade his stamp around like many of his films do. It's an enjoyable comedy/drama about the nature of passionate love and asks whether it exists at all and if it does, can it ever survive?

- Charlene Lydon 31/07/08

Monday, July 28, 2008

Son of Rambow

"This has been my best day ever!"

Written & Directed by: Garth Jennings

Starring: Will Poulter, Bill Milner, Jessica Stevenson

My Rating: 4/10

If there's one thing that really gets my goat it's films selling themselves as the next big indie thing and it turns out its a marketing ploy and its not actually that indie at all.
Son of Rambow is directed by Garth Jennings of such "indie" favourites as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Oh come on! The way people went on about this film, I was expecting handheld camcorder and a thousand pound budget. It is nothing of the sort. Like last year's Juno, it is directed by a pro who has proven he can make a glossy big-budget Hollywood film. I know its immature to dog a film for this reason but I can't help it. It's downright infuriating.

Ok, all that aside, it's an ok movie. It's very Hollywood, it's very standard and didn't have half the charm or sweetness I'd envisioned. The story revolves around bad boy Lee and good boy Will who is part of a religion that does not allow television. So when he sees a pirate version of First Blood he sets about helping Lee make a movie, Son of Rambo (the "w" in the Rambow of the title is added for copyright reasons. What a world we live in!). The usual trials and tribulations occur and there's the obligatory happy ending. Forget the annoying marketing for a second, there's just nothing memorable about this film. It's pretty run-of-the-mill. It's funny, and enjoyable (though it drags a little in parts) but its got nice performances and a good deal of imagination.

I guess all you need to know about Son of Rambow is that there's nothing very offensive about it, but then again, there's not much to love either. See it if you're bored on a saturday night. You'll have fun.

- Charlene Lydon 28/7/08

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

"Let's just say I want to believe"

Written By: Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter

Directed By: Chris Carter

Starring, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly

My Rating: 6/10

So, after the torturous final seasons and another torturous 6 year wait, this was the best they could come up with! I am loathe to be critical of this film because I know it was made for the right reasons. It was a labour of love, however misguided and its very clear that everyone involved really wanted more films to come their way. So it's with a heavy heart that I must admit it wasn't wonderful. It wasn't awful! But unfortunately, as my friend exclaimed as the credits rolled "I've seen better episodes in Season 9!".

The film starts off 6 years after we left Mulder and Scully on the lam from the FBI, lying in bed together in a motel. If I was running from the FBI, based in Washington D.C., I would definitely run further than the countryside of Virginia. Not Mulder and Scully! They live together in a modest home in the country side. She is a paediatrician and he's a recluse who seems to do little other than cut weird stories from the newspaper and wallpaper his office. The FBI come along and offer to forget the past if Fox Mulder will come on board to help them with a case. Naturally, Mulder agrees, much to Scully's chagrin as it brings back the darkness of their past into the new life they've built together.

Billy Connolly plays a paedophile priest, Fr. Joe who claims to have psychic visions of the abductor of several women in the area. Mulder is needed as an expert to figure out if Fr. Joe is for real. Scully, with her love for children and still raw wounds of having to send her son William off to live on a farm, instantly hates Fr. Joe and this makes for some wonderfully biting dialogue (Scully: "Do you think God listens to your prayers?" Fr. Joe: "Do you think he listens to yours?" Scully: "Well, I didn't bugger thirty-seven altar boys").

The story moves along slowly and by the time we find out whats really going on it's hard not to feel like they should have given us more of this and less suspense. The final act and answer to the mystery is very very cool, but is hardly given any screen time.

Ok, so what's wrong with it? First of the horribly dated print that looked like a reject from the 1980s. With their meagre budget it seems they shot on pieces of film they found on the floor of the studios basement. I know it seems like a small thing, but it really effects the tone of a film. The aesthetic quality of the film is completely lost on such shoddy prints. At least the first movie looked fantastic. This, coupled with a pretty messy script made for an uneasy two hours.

What's right with it? First of all, the performances are as wonderful as ever. Gillian Anderson gets her acting chops out in full force here as almost every scene she's in is an emotional rollercoaster. Duchovny is his usual droll self but horrible underused. It's nice to see Scully shine for once, but really, Mulder was written like a bit of an idiot. When Mulder and Scully are together on screen, they both seem like they were never away. Their interaction has changed somewhat as they have settled into their romance and their love has deepened but of course become more blasse. Of course we miss the raging sexual tension but I loved that Carter had the balls to let them be realistic and not just give into the mob's demand for sex. He put Mulder and Scully exactly where they would be. Still each other's only other but domesticated. As the events of the film begin to tear them apart, you can see the strain and the fear in Scully of returning to that dark place that they've been before. You can't help but feel sorry for her and blame any over-reaction on her part on panic. Will it be the end of them? You have to wait for about two minutes into the end credits to see what the future holds in store for Mulder and Scully. I promise you the weirdest, most out of place image thats ever been committed to celluloid.

Personally, I am glad of where the story of Mulder and Scully went in this film. I would have loved to see them a bit more together and not unhappy and being torn apart. The tone couldn've used a bit of lightening up. Feeling more like an episode of Millenium than The X-Files, it's extremely dark and almost devoid of humour, which is unfortunate because that's where The X-Files and its stars really shine. So, I'll be content with this mediocre film and hope they're allowed make another one and that God sends Vince Gilligan or Darin Morgan back into the fray to write it. That's what I want to believe!

I still love you Mulder and Scully!

- Charlene Lydon

28/7/08

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stephen King's "N"

Dear Constant Readers (ha ha, like I have any, apart from my boyfriend who is actually only a casual reader, probably out of pity)

This is a new Stephen King project that looks interesting. It's based on a short story from his forthcoming short story collection Just After Sunset (released 11/11/08). Anyway, a new episode will appear daily so I thought it would be nice to put it on my blog for you, Constant Reader, to enjoy while you're not reading my manic crazy X-Files review.

Enjoy,

Charlene




Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Somebody calm me down....


...3 days and counting till

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Bottle Shock


Written By:Jody Savin & Randall Miller

Directed By: Randall Miller

Starring: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor

My Rating: 4/10

What a wonderful story! How Californian wines rose from obscurity through the tangled vines of snobbery to become some of the most revered and popular wines on today's market.

Bottle Shock tells the true story of how a disillusioned wine merchant living in Paris travelled to California in 1976 to gather wines to be sampled in a blind taste test by some of France's most reknowned wine connoisseurs. As the story goes, the Californian wine whooped the ass of the French wine and thus overcame French snobbery (no, they didn't, but it overcame it for a brief moment. Long enough to allow the rest of the world to see).

The wine merchant in question is played by Alan Rickman who is his usual charmingly horrible self. He is the hero of the piece, despite being a cantankerous know-it-all. That is the beauty of casting Alan Rickman. He can make any character kinda likeable.

So far so good right? The perfect seeds for a wonderful story. It's a shame then that someone thought it would be a good idea to add a bunch of horny teenager plotlines and focus more on stoner loser Bo, the vineyard owner's son and some sort of nonsense love triangle with poor Mexican wine-lover Gustavo. Instead of focussing on Bill Pullman's complicated Jim Barrett (the obsessive, aggressive owner of the vineyard), it completely skirts over him, making him almost impossible to like. That's a shame becasue he was an interesting character that mostly just came off like a prick because of lazy writing.

However, studios will be studios and audiences like pretty girls with blonde hair and boobies. Hence the kissing amongst the vines and the comic scene of flashing a police officer. Scenes like these are what destroyed this perfectly adorable story.

There's no bad performances here. Everyone is pretty much good at their job but there's such a clear line between what the film could've been (Rickman v. Pullman) and what it turned into (blonde teengers v. grown-ups). It's a shame because it had a lot of potential. See it for the interesting story, and start saving your pennies for a bottle of Chateau Montelene chardonnay which retails at about $40 a bottle. Whoosh!

- Charlene Lydon

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight (here be spoilers)

"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Written by: Jonathan & Christopher Nolan

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart


My rating: 8/10

Ok, that The Dark Knight has reached the No. 1 spot on IMDB's precious Top 250 Films of all time in less than 3 days says nothing to me other than people are idiots! I think this is a truly excellent piece of cinema but seriously, fanboys, get a life!

Enough venting...on with the review.

I am one of the very few people who didn't like Batman Begins. I didn't like it for a number of reasons. Mostly, the nonsensical and boring plot, and the dull as a mallet villains. I also hated Batman's stupid voice. It's a small thing, but it drove me nuts. However, I was pretty hopeful for this sequel because I knew for a fact that the villains were more interesting, and the film would be overall more entertaining because of this. Luckily, I was right.

The film really tells the tale of the fragile nature of heroism and villainy. The three main characters Batman, The Joker and Harvey Dent all revolve around the notion of what it means to be a hero. Bruce Wayne is convinced that the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent, is the white knight that Gotham needs. An uncorruptable, brave and, most importantly, good man. If Harvey can keep gaining power, they will no longer need Batman to clean up Gotham and Batman can be free. The Joker, a chillingly carefree criminal who cares not for money, humanity or even himself is in town merely to create chaos and enjoys playing moral games with people, highlighting how easy it is to get in touch with one's own dark side.

Insofar as this hero/villain dichotomy goes, The Dark Knight succeeds tremendously. Mostly due to the wonderful performances by absolutely everyone involved. The man of the hour, Heath Ledger delivers a fantastic performance as The Joker and it is a shame he didn't live to see the world enjoy this performance objectively. It's hard to see clearly through all the hype, but it is a solid, wonderfully creative performance from a seriously gifted actor.

However, I have to say, it was Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent that did it for me. He completely stole the show and every moment he was on screen, I was thrilled by not only his presence, but his ability to create a genuinely wholesome man out of what could have been so cheesy. Eckhart's performance is a lot more understated than The Joker, so bound to get less attention (plus, he's not dead, so we can look forward to seeing a lot more from him). However, his creation of Harvey and his convincing portayal of his dark side took a lot of charisma. His tragic downfall (I'm pretty sure I'm not spoiling anything here) is truly tragic and upsetting to see how he is used and manipulated by The Joker.

This is a superhero movie that will be talked about for years to come and is certainly one of the best (but who can even compare it to the kitsch of Spider-Man, which is pretty perfect in its own right). At almost two and a half hours, however, it's a bit of a stetch and if you ask me there's at least twenty minutes of set-up involving a very showy sequence in Hong-Kong that is completely unnecessary. The script overall had a lot of holes (when did Rachel get kidnapped?? I know it's not absolutely necessary to see it, but she just shows up kidnapped!!). And some kind of Sonar device which is just really stupidly over-the-top and conveniently pseudo-sciencey.

...Oh and Batman's voice is still ridiculous!!

However, despite these flaws, it is still a top-notch film and certainly the best summer blockbuster you'll see this year...yes, even The X-Files: I Want to Believe won't top this, I'm not that deluded.

Charlene Lydon 21/07/08

Dr Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog

"I have a Ph.D in horribleness"

Written by: Joss Whedon, Zac Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day

My rating: 10/10

Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog came from the bored, genius mind of Joss Whedon during the recent Writer's Strike. Because he was not allowed to do any work, his mind wandered on to a non-union side project available to watch for free online. This project was to be shown in three acts, each almost 15 minutes long. It was to be strictly internet only (although there is talk of an imminent DVD release, fingers crossed).

The story is about a wanna be evil genius, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), a nerdy loser with a flair for flamboyant science. He is in love with Penny, a girl he meets at the laundromat but doesn't have the nerve to talk to her. He must prove his worth by being accepted into the Evil League of Evil so he can find the confidence to ask her out. The only problem is, "cheesy on the outside" Captain Hammer also has eyes for her. Dr Horrible must battle Captain Hammer for both evil staus and Penny's heart.

First off, this work is not only revolutionary in its use of the internet medium, but it is also brilliant! Brilliantly funny, brilliantly tragic, brilliantly acted, brilliantly sung. The script is spot-on, the tone is spot-on and the songs are spot-on. The only variable here is your tolerance for the style of Joss Whedon. His ultra-hip turns of phrase and too witty to be believed banter can grate on some. But to others, it just helps to make the Buffyverse, and all it encapsulates, all the richer.

The first act starts with about 5 minutes of straight to camera video blog monologue from Dr. Horrible. Neil Patrick Harris absolutely nails the tone necessary to pull off this character. As with most of Whedon's characters they only work in the hands of the right people. Luckily he has a knack for casting and that explains his casting of Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer. Joss knew a good thing when he found Fillion for the role of Captain Mal Reynolds in Firefly. He uses him to tremendous comic effect here. Nathan Fillion's asshole super hero is the perfect foil to our hero, the villainous Dr. Horrible.

The second act sees Dr. Horrible crumble as he sees Penny's relationship with Captain Hammer deepen. The third act takes as darker tone and the comedy fades and gives way to a tragic moral tale. Joss Whedon isn't just fancy one-liners folks. He's all about the heartbreak too. However disconcerting the final act was, in relation to the first two, it certainly proved that Joss is a daring storyteller and just an all-round genius who can do no wrong....hold your breath for his new show Dollhouse. Woo-hoo!

I know 10 out of 10 seems dramatic. But seriously, it's too silly to be called flawed and too joyous to criticise. It's about as perfect as silliness can be, but with a tragic punch to knock your socks off.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog is no longer available to watch for free online. It can be downloaded on i-Tunes, or if you're feeling naughty it can probably be You-Tubed :)

www.drhorrible.com

- Charlene Lydon 21/07/08

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

"Bianca's in town for a reason"

Written by: Nancy Oliver

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer

My rating: 7/10

What happens when you cross the writer of televisions "Six Feet Under" and the director of last years funniest guilty pleasure "Mr Woodcock"? You get a warm-hearted, absurdly high concept comedy with a dark centre but also a lot of love. For many reasons "Lars and the Real Girl" is a strange film. For the fact that it makes a movie about a man and his sex doll, and immediately reveals that he has no intention of using it for sex. For the mixed bag of talent involved in the project and for the fact that, given the subject matter, all sex jokes are made in the first 20 minutes.

The story follows 27 year old lovable loner, Lars, who suddenly springs on his family that he met a girl on the internet and they are in love and can she stay with them for a while. His family are ecstatic until they realise she is a rubber sex doll. They soon realise that he is suffering a delusion and they, and the whole town, agree to go along with it so he can work through the stuff thats causing the problems in his head.

This is where you must suspend your disbelief a little; but by that point you've fallen in love with Lars as much as the town have and you can see why they are so willing to help this gentle, if insane man.

It is not a perfect film and it gets really nonsensical towards the end unfortunately, but it never offends, it always has its heart in the right place. I get the feeling that the writers traded quality for tearjerking in the final act, which is a pity because it doesn't do Lars's character justice. There's also the problem of the love interest (the human one) who doesn't have any actual character and was a little too convenient for my liking.

Despite its flaws, I found it impossible to dislike this film. It was charming, sweet and there were wonderful performances from all concerned. Ryan Gosling was fantastic as Lars and Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider who played his brother and sister-in-law were equally charming and believable.

Check it out, at the very least it is an entertaining comedy, and at best its a warm parable about love and tolerance.

- Charlene Lydon 02/06/08

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

"Not as easy as it used to be"

Written by: George Lucas, David Koepp

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeof

My rating: 4/10

As far as Steven Spielberg is concerned, if he's not making pretentious terrorist buddy movies (Munich) Hollywood is just one big piggy bank. I've never really understood people who believe he is some kind of renegade cinematic revolutionary. However competant and emotive a filmmaker he may be, I never saw Spielberg as anything other than a blockbuster tycoon, a better one than Michael Bay, but with the same dollar signs in his eyes. That's why it came as no surprise to me that he was re-hashing Indiana Jones. I'm not trying to be hard on Mr. Spielberg, but it's hard to deal with his constant accolades when he's producing nonsense like this.

The pointless fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series brings Indy to Peru in an attempt to return a Crystal Skull to its rightful resting place. He finds a sidekick in cocky young "greaser" Mutt (Shia LeBoef, when are they gonna stop with trying to make him the next big thing, seriously??) who shows very Indy-like resourcefulness leading to the most obvious plot twist ever in the history of cinema.

There are parts of the movie where the action is interesting and some where its just plain silly (surviving a nuclear blast in a FRIDGE anyone? No problems with fallout? No broken limbs after said fridge been blasted across the desert??). And the overall Roswell/Peru/Alien plot is just too much, even for Indy.

Despite people's negative response to Cate Blanchett's villain, I quite liked her. I think she encapsulated everything about a typical Indy villian. She is a fine actress and this shone through in her less than meaty role. The other small charcters, notably Mutt and Mac (Ray Winstone) were completely one-dimensional and despairingly functional. John Hurt looked like he was having trmendous fun. Silly, I can handle. Boring, I won't tolerate.

Maybe bring the kids to see this. There's enough carry-on with monkeys and whatnot to keep them entertained and Indiana himsef manages to whip up a slight spark of his borderline magical self, but its really a half-arsed effort and I would recommend saving your money for more interesting summer blockbusters (X-Files anyone?).

- Charlene Lydon 26/5/08

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stop-Loss


"I ain't scared, I'm pissed off!"

Written by: Mark Richard & Kimberley Peirce

Directed by: Kimberley Peirce

Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Abby Cornish, Channing Tatum

My rating: 5/10

The stop-loss policy is a clause in every soldier's military contract that in times of war, they may be re-drafted immediately after their tour of duty has been served.

In the case of this film's hero Brandon, he is stop-lossed immediately after returning home from a horrific tour in Iraq. He and his men return home as heroes (the ones who survived) and just as he is revelling in his local celebrity status, he is informed that he must ship back out to Iraq, despite having served his tour of duty. Brandon refuses on principle and goes on the run to try avoid his fate. From home, he is faced with both support and also accusations of being a traitor. As his army buddies fall to pieces from post-traumatic stress, Brandon must decide whether to keep running forever, or to return to Iraq.

This is an emotional,two-sided debate about the ethical correctness of the stop-loss system. It's pretty much against the system but it certainly allows room for argument as many points are raised in favour of stop-lossing and why it is a necessary evil. There is a sense in this film that had it not been made by MTV Films, it would have stood a chance at being taken seriously. Too many hot, beefy men. Too many partying scenes. I got the sense that it was really, seriously trying way too hard to appeal to the young, hip generation. The poster for example looks like a gender-reversed Maxin spread. It's hard to pinpoint what it is exactly that gave this film its MTV feel, but it desperately needed a subtler tone, something along the lines of last years In the Valley of Elah.

The tragic events in the film, such as young arrogant Tommy's (Joseph Gordon Levitt, not to be confused with his teenage alien Tommy from 3rd Rock) descent into darkness and the general malaise of Brandon's friends and family are well-acted and overall the performances here are really, really strong. It's a shame that the overall tone of the film cheapens it so much because otherwise it could have been really interesting with a lot to say.

I guess it isn't the worst way to spend two hours of your life, but really there are so many other, better things you could be watching.

- Charlene Lydon 23/05/2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Bruges

"If I'd grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn't, so it doesn't."

Written & Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes

My rating 5/10

In Bruges is Martin McDonagh's first feature, following on from his triumphant Oscar-winning short Six Shooter (2004). It's the story of two Dublin gangsters (Gleeson and Farrell) on the run from Ireland. Their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes)sends them to Bruges, Belgium to hide out. Grumpy Ray (Farrell)hates the fact that he has to be away from his precious Dublin while Ken is enjoying the break and taking in the quiet and pretty surroundings.

The film starts off really well and the chemistry between the leads is wonderful. Their adventures in Bruges ramble along almost arbitrarily and it is overall an enjoyable experience. In the second half of the film, however, the film takes a turn into typical gangster fare that we've all seen a hundred times. The introduction of Ralph Fiennes character was so late in the film that the film changed tone and felt like an entirely different film. This is unfortunate, as it had been going along so well at the start.

By far the best thing about In Bruges is Brendan Gleeson's wonderful portrayal of Ken, a man full of regret and in search of peace. Of course, this is a staple of the gangster genre and there's nothing original about this type of character. However, Gleeson's performance transcends stereotypes and make you feel heartbroken as you see him grasp on to the purity and innocence of being a tourist, while he is being dragged back into his own murky world.

Colin Farrell, on the other hand, was really dead in this one. I'm usually a fan. He's a wonderful actor and he has proven he can play a young Irish blaggard in Intermission (2003). Here, however, not only is he over-playing the role, but he seems to have forgotten what it is to be a Dubliner. He played it like an outsider. Maybe he's been in Hollywood too long.

Despite its drawbacks, this is a very entertaining film and its themes of torturous regret and the inescapable circle of karma give it a little extra emotional punch that allows it to rise above the Guy Ritchie league of gangster films.

It's worth a look, but it won't blow your mind.

- Charlene Lydon 22/5/2008

...and speaking of trailers...




Here's an X-Files one! I am VERY excited about this one.

http://www.comingsoon.net/films.php?id=38879

Charlene

The "Vacancy" of 2008?


I came across this trailer and, as some of you may have read, I was a big fan of last year's motel horror movie Vacancy. The Strangers looks like something along those lines. I'm excited to check it out. You can be guaranteed a full review up here as soon as it hits the cinema! :)

Liv Tyler in a horror movie...I'm intrigued.


Charlene Lydon 22/5/2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Iron Man


"They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once. That's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far."

Written By:
Mark Fergus & Hawk Otsby

Directed By:
Jon Favreau

Starring:
Robert Downey Jr.
Jeff Bridges
Gwyneth Paltrow

My rating: 8/10

One of the weaker trailers I had seen for this years crop of summer blockbusters, my heart sank on viewing it as I dismissed the film as a dud. Nonetheless I decided to give it a chance (thanks to a voucher for a free combo with every Iron Man ticket purchased and a rumour of an X-FIles trailer before it, which proved to be untrue). Jon Favreau's adaptation of Marvel's Iron Man comic is definitely in the top ten best super hero movies in recent history.

A charming blend of laddish antics, mad gadgetry, political drama and most importantly great character development, this film does the impossible and makes an arrogant, self-loving lazy genius a totally lovable hero, despite the fact that his character arc makes it barely south of decent. By the end of the film, he has advanced morally, but not to the extent that would usually be expected and in one of the greatest endings I've seen in a long time, he proves he will always be the Tony he's always been, despite his moral makeover.

I cannot over-emphasise how much of this films success is owed to Robert Downey Jr's performance. 90% of the reason this film works is due to his awesome screen presence. This man is nothing short of a genius actor and gives Tony Stark such a huge amount of depth and charm that it forces the audience to forgive him all of his flaws.

The political undertones are heavy, but luckily, not heavy-handed. It makes a strong point and is an interesting fable on the weapons industry which has the sense of humour to not get bogged down in preachiness.

Apart from Robert Downey Jr's performance, kudos must be given to Job Favreau for his wonderful direction. Given his previous films Zathura and Elf, this is a huge change of scenery for him and he makes it work so, so well that it is tough to believe his background is in children's films.

Anyway, check it out, it is undoubtedly going to become a classic and will more than likely be the cream of the crop of summer blockbusters for 2009 (fingers crossed for The X-Files though)

- CHarlene Lydon 6/5/08

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Mist



"The end of times has come. Not in flames, but in mist."

Written & Directed by: Frank Darabont

Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden

My rating: 8/10

Being a huge Stephen King fan and a huge film fan is a frustrating mix, as the two rarely go hand in hand harmoniously. True, Mr King's work has spawned some of the greatest cinema ever (see, Carrie, The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption) but generally speaking, King adaptations usually go for the TV movie standard fare and miss out on the subtleties and heart of the source material. Luckily, The Mist, although certainly campy and full of B-movie tackiness, really focusses on the heart that Stephen King gives the story in his own novella.

The film centres around a bunch of small-town characters trapped together in a supermarket as an evil mist descends upon the town, carrying inside it mythical monsters of all shapes and sizes. Among the townspeople are level-headed everyman/action hero at a push David Drayton (Thomas Jane), and crazy God lady Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) who spits hellfire and damnation and demands that everybody repent and turn to God. The rest of the inhabitants are clearly defined stereotypes who do and say all the things expected in a horror movie.

The dichotomy between crazy God lady and the other townspeople is pivotal to this film's refreshing originality. At the start, she is yet another horror-movie stereotype and merely causes people to groan and roll their eyes. However, this soon changes and she slowly gains power until the townspeople are split into two factions, Mrs Carmody's people who have faith in God's mercy and refuse to look for rescue and David Drayton's people who refuse to wait in the supermarket to die.

The two sides clash and things turn ugly, leading to a third act that goes in a bold and unique direction and ends in the most startling and downright cruel way imaginable.

Director Frank Darabont, although not usually affiliated with the horror genre (despite a stint as a writer on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3) does a fantastic job scaring the pants off his audience and also, keeping their brains functioning throughout. He even manages to turn this B-movie into a thought-provoking and morally brave parable, in an ironic twist on the tagline from his other masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption..."Fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free".

I recommend this film very highly. Despite a few very very dodgy-looking CGI tentacles and winged beasts, this film is an interesting study of morality and the human condition as well as a really fun little horror flick.

- Charlene Lydon 7/4/08

Friday, March 28, 2008

Southland Tales



"Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted."

Written by: Richard Kelly

Directed by: Richard Kelly

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Seann William Scott

My rating: 7/10

Notorious is the word most commonly used in relation to this film. It's reputation as a sprawling mess preceded its release by two years. After the event that was Donnie Darko's rise to power, Kelly's second venture was seen as a disappointment to many. It's true that Donnie Darko's sprawling mess worked far better than Southland Tales, but that's not to say there's no merit to be found in it.

It is a chaotic film which jumps from one set of characters to the next, with a good plot that's unfortunately too reliant on having read the prequel graphic novels (at $30 each, I doubt many people did their homework). However, it is one of those movies that if you allow yourself to just go along for the ride, it is a load of fun and actually very clever. It starts with a nuclear explosion in Texas, and continues in Los Angeles showing the repercussions of this event. It boasts a colourful bunch of charcters including a porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar)who has her own political discussion TV show, and Boxer Santoros (Dwayne Johnson)a movie star/prophet who has written a screenplay that apparently predicts the end of the world.

It looks amazing, the futuristic, but not too futuristic look of the film is very interesting, as it is set in the very near future. The film is loosely based upon the Book of Revelations and is about as subtle about its meaning as the infamous Bible book.

An interesting thing about this film is its casting. Kelly cast actors who are almost all comedians (half the cast of SNL) or at least famously tongue-in-cheek (Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock). This comic casting is the film's saving grace, in my opinion. Somehow, it makes the convoluted storyline and the grandiose pomposity of the scenario a lot less pretentious. I had a lot of fun watching this movie and I believe a lot of the problem with the intial disillusionment with the film may have been people taking it too seriously. Granted, that's no excuse and the film still is, in fairness, a big ol' mess. However, I believe if you file it under tongue-in-cheek and take any actual social comment or profundity as an added bonus, rather than the other way around, you may just find this film really enjoyable and smart, despite its pandemonium.

- Charlene Lydon 28/03/08

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

"Kids forgive, they don't judge, they turn the other cheek, and what do they get for it?"

Written by: Aaron Stockard & Ben Affleck

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Starring: Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan

My rating: 7/10

Gone Baby Gone is a difficult film to judge. As a story, it's about as interesting and gripping as you can get, but as a piece of filmmaking it's enjoyable but very flawed. So, I guess it may be filed under entertaining but nothing special. However, I would hate to downplay just how good this film is. It is a very affecting film and a very gripping story.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, the film tells the story of a little girl who is taken from her home without a trace. Her mother is a junkie skank who didn't look after her but cant handle the guilt and shock of all that is happening. Her sister hires Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck)to "augment" the investigation along with the police because in their dodgy neighbourhood, people aren't too forthcoming with enquiries from the police. Patrick, having lived there his whole life knows the seedy underbelly and all its shady characters. The investigation is gripping and full of macguffins and is a moral rollercoaster which shows how ethically messy some situations can be.

The acting is superb. Casey Affleck shines through as a fantastic leading man again (after this years Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, you all know my feelings on that movie), balancing street smart toughness with everyman likeability. His supporting cast is led by Amy Ryan playing the kidnapped girl's mother who throughly deserved her Oscar nomination. The main area in which it falls down is in its structure. The novel clearly consists of a story which ends in a series of false epilogues, which I'm sure worked well in the novel, but in terms of cinematic adaptation, these false endings seem a little trying on the nerves. By the end of the film, I felt satisfied with the conclusion, but all the "it's over...no it isn't" was very jarring to watch.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this film for a saturday night. It's a lot better than one might have expected from Mr. Affleck. A LOT better...but it probably won't be studied in film schools.

- Charlene Lydon 20/03/08

Be Kind, Rewind

"when you're walking down the street...and you see a little ghost...whatcha gonna do about it...ghostbusters"

Written by: Michel Gondry

Directed by: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover

My rating: 10/10

To say Be Kind Rewind is your typical Jack Black movie is both true and horribly untrue. Yes, Jack Black plays a big, arrogant but ultimately lovable character, yes it has a big concept and yes it's full of huge laughs. However, far from typical cineplex fodder, Michel Gondry delivers a heartfelt, beautiful, bjut enormously entertaining masterpiece that proves that you can get a balance between art and entertainment.

The story revolves around a tiny video store in a shitty town in New Jersey owned by Mr. Fletcher (a wonderful performance by Danny Glover) who is aided by Mike (Mos Def) and driven crazy by Mike's best friend Jerry (Jack Black). When Mr. Fletcher goes on a trip out of town, elaving the store in Mike's hands, Jerry accidentally manages to (don't ask!) magnetise his body and therefore (again, don't ask) erase every video in the store. To avoid disaster, Mike and Jerry decide to remake every film in the store. This is where Gondry shows his trye level of creativity. The "sweded" films may be silly and fun but they are bursting with imagination and are so full of innocence and joy that it is impossible not to be charmed.

All this silliness however is counteracted by a lovely storyline about the evil Hollywood people suing them and trying to knock down the store to build condos. The sense of community and the preciousness of this tiny crappy video store is really touching and all concerned lead this silly farce into a really touching denoument. Not a dry eye in the house.

Kudos must go to everyone involved in this movie for how genuine it seemed. It's hard to imagine anyone playing the diva on set, when everyone seems to be so full or energy and spirit.

Highly recommended!

- Charlene Lydon 20/03/2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Atonement


"I am very, very sorry for the terrible distress that I have caused you. I am very, very sorry..."

Written by: Christopher Hampton

Directed by: Joe Wright

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Keira Knightley

My rating 5/10

Despite being critically revered, Atonement strikes me as yet another film adaptation of a wonderful book that just kind of missed why the book was so wonderful. The film starts off really well. Every bit as sumptuous, sweeping and intriguing and these costume thingies are supposed to be. The plot completely sucked me in and despite Kiera Knightley's posturing and so British it's hardly even British anymore accent I began to get really caught up in the events at hand.

The story starts with young Briony Tallis, a precocious 13 year old who becomes involved in a series of events that end in a fabulous lie that tears apart her sister Cecilia (Knightley) and her lover, the gardener, Robby (McAvoy). The story follows Robby through WWI and Cecilia now working as a nurse, pining for her lost love.But the main character is Briony, growing up and still complately lost in the guilt of what she has done all those years ago.

The story is completely engaging for the first hour as it focusses on the events that led to the scandal. After this however, it seems to decide it wants to be a war movie and focusses on Robby's trek to get back to Cecilia. This is very long-winded and could seriously have been a ten minute interlude, allowing the focus to remain on the interesting story...Briony's guilt.

The film had many problems, mostly the fact that there is no real relationship built between Robby and Cecilia. We get the impression that Cecilia is spoiled and fickle so the relationship never seems to have had a solid base to begin with. This completely destroys any sense of tragedy that the doomed relationship might carry.

Having said that, the film picks up enormously in the final 20 minutes, revealing a very unusual ending, that goes in a very strange an interesting direction. The structure of the story and the themes of the film were fascinating and I think if it had been a little longer and /or left out some of the very decorative war sequences, it may have captured the darkness and beauty of McEwan's story. However, it seems to want too much to be a Merchant Ivory love story and therefore fails to lay the focus where it should be.

- Charlene Lydon 6/2/2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Away From Her


"It's never too late to become what you might have been."

Written & Directed by:
Sarah Polley

Starring:
Julie Christie
Gordon Pinsent
Olympia Dukakis

My rating: 7/10

Away From Her tells the story of an elderly couple torn apart when the wife Fiona(Julie Christie) develops Alzheimer's Disease. After struggling to deal with it together, they decide she would be better off in a home. Her husband Grant reluctantly agrees to repect the policy of the home and stays away for 30 days to allow her a settling in period. However, during this time, Fiona has forgotten her husband and fallen in love with another man.

There are many things about this film that are remarkable. The most remarkable thing is the beauty of the story. Plain and simple, this is a beautiful story and nothing could possibly effect that. The second remarkable thing is the perfectly written screenplay. Sparse as the dialogue is, the screenplay does a lot with very little and portrays these characters in all their glory. The performances from everyone involved were wonderful and although Julie Christie is winning the awards, each performance is as beautifully tender as hers and make this film a pleasure to watch.

A very admirable thing about this film is how it steers away from trying to be a weepie. It is tragic, it is sad but it sticks to themes of what love and companionship really mean and celebrates Grant's realisation of what she means to him. It is indeed painful to watch him see his wife with another man every day while she ignores him but Grant is a hard man and never crumbles. This is why Gordon Pinsent's performance is so wonderful. He's not getting dramatic scenes and there is no shouting and breaking down. There is regret, sadness and love in his eyes at all times but again, never played for weepiness.

The problem with the film was that first-time director Sarah Polley just didn't have the skill to bring such a delicate screenplay to the screen. To her merit, she made a very good film and I would be delighted to see more from her. However, I couldn't help but feel that, in the hands of someone with more experience, the film could really have touched me profoundly. At times, the film sank into TV-movieland and just needed to be handled a little more deftly. That being said, Polley's screenplay is so beautiful that I feel guilty from detracting from someone so clearly gifted.

I would definitely recommend "Away From Her" to anyone. It is sad, frightening and uplifting, all at the same time and, despite a slight case of "what could have been" I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

- Charlene Lydon 5/2/2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Oscar Nominations

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Nominees:
Atonement (2007)
Juno (2007)
Michael Clayton (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
There Will Be Blood (2007)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees:
George Clooney for Michael Clayton (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises (2007)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees:
Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Julie Christie for Away from Her (2006)
Marion Cotillard for Môme, La (2007)
Laura Linney for The Savages (2007)
Ellen Page for Juno (2007)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees:
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (2007)
Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton (2007)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees:
Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There. (2007)
Ruby Dee for American Gangster (2007)
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement (2007)
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton (2007)

Best Achievement in Directing
Nominees:
Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton (2007)
Jason Reitman for Juno (2007)
Julian Schnabel for Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Nominees:
Juno (2007): Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton (2007): Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
The Savages (2007): Tamara Jenkins

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Nominees:
Atonement (2007): Christopher Hampton
Away from Her (2006): Sarah Polley
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men (2007): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Nominees:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007): Roger Deakins
Atonement (2007): Seamus McGarvey
No Country for Old Men (2007): Roger Deakins
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Janusz Kaminski
There Will Be Blood (2007): Robert Elswit

Best Achievement in Editing
Nominees:
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Christopher Rouse
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild (2007): Jay Cassidy
No Country for Old Men (2007): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Dylan Tichenor

Best Achievement in Art Direction
Nominees:
American Gangster (2007): Arthur Max, Beth A. Rubino
Atonement (2007): Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Golden Compass (2007): Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
There Will Be Blood (2007): Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Nominees:
Across the Universe (2007): Albert Wolsky
Atonement (2007): Jacqueline Durran
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): Alexandra Byrne
Môme, La (2007): Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Colleen Atwood

Best Achievement in Makeup
Nominees:
Môme, La (2007): Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald
Norbit (2007): Rick Baker, Kazuhiro Tsuji
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007): Ve Neill, Martin Samuel

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Nominees:
Atonement (2007): Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner (2007): Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton (2007): James Newton Howard
Ratatouille (2007): Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma (2007): Marco Beltrami

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Nominees:
August Rush (2007)("Raise It Up")
Enchanted (2007)("Happy Working Song")
Enchanted (2007)("So Close")
Enchanted (2007)("That's How You Know")
Once (2006)(“Falling Slowly” )

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cloverfield

"Approximately seven hours ago some *thing* attacked the city. If you found this, if you're watching this then you probably know more about it than I do."
Written By: Drew Goddard
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Michael Stahl-Davis, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller
My rating: 8/10
Cloverfield is, as everyone has already assumed, The Blair Witch Project in the city. Pretty accurate description. However, the nature of the film, the amount of special effects necessary and the constant action means that it is one of the most technically accomplished films I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
The film follows a bunch of twenty-something, yuppie, beautiful people from a farewell party in a trendy Manhattan loft, through the madness of NYC under attack from a monster and finally to a wonderful final sequence in Central Park.
Sickeningly shaky camerawork aside, this film is incredibly enjoyable and serves both as a relentless thrill-ride and as a brainy "what if..." that realistically considers a monster attack from the perspective of the people on the ground, as opposed to the usual military/journalist/president, etc. This experiment in realism worked so well because the filmmakers took such care in creating the illusion. It would take only one bad actor, or one dodgy special effect to blow the entire feeling of realism. Luckily, this never happens. The special effects are cleverly obscured by smoke and debris which both heightens the curiosity about the monster and also masks any dodgy CGI that might otherwise have stained the film.
The design of the camera movement is also extraordinarily clever in it's deliberately accidental catching of the tail end of the monster and other important events. The camerawork never feels set up and much to the irritation of the audience it often misses important things and teases us by coming in too late, etc. The effect of all this realism is quite harrowing and there are plenty of proper jumps and scares to ensure that everyone feels suitably terrorised.
This film probably would have gotten five big shiny stars if it weren't for the fact that the characters are so annoying and the dialogue got very hammy in parts. The love story arc that forms the plot gets bumped up to far too high a priority for my liking and as the film progresses, it becomes more and more the focus of everything. This is a shame because the fact that is starts to feel like a soap opera takes away from the adventure slightly. However, kudos must go to the filmmakers for bravely killing off so many characters throughout, unexpectedly and tragically.
Overall, this film is at least enjoyable and at best revolutionary. If you have a problem with seasickness then be warned, this is shakier than The Blair Witch Project and more action-packed. Otherwise, I highly recommend it and at 85 minutes, it certainly won't be a waste of your time.
- Charlene Lydon 21/01/2008