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


"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.


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

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