Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Experience

"So this is where the story ends, A conversation on IM, Well I'm done with texting, Sorry for the miscommunication"

Starring: Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas, Kevin Jonas

Directed By: Bruce Hendricks

My rating: 2/5

The Disney machine has done it again. A money-making machine of epic proportion! They own the Jonas Brothers, they made millions from ticket sales on the Jonas Brothers Burnin’ Up World Tour and now they’re making many more millions from a 3D movie that cost next to nothing to produce. All money made off the brothers Jonas goes back into the machine. Much like Ms. Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers phenomenon has proven to be very lucrative. Unlike Hannah Montana however, the Jonas Brothers aren’t cute bubblegum pop. They are faux-rock stars complete with skinny jeans and Jagger strut. I can’t say how irritating these charlatan musicians are to grown-ups. There’s absolutely no appeal to people above the age of 15, hence the lack of airtime on the radio. On the other hand, their own demographic pump enough money and hysteria into them to make up for the rest of us.

The 3D concert experience is every 11year old girl’s dream. The sexually charged men who are supposed to appeal to pre-adolescent girls is kind of creepy and the sexy looks and winks straight into the camera looks are very uncomfortable in 3D! I was lucky enough to attend the press screening with a group of school children who had also been invited along. I say lucky because how much you like this movie completely depends on your feelings on the Jonas Brothers. These girls really allowed me to gauge the reaction of its intended audience and if they’re anything to go by, the kids are going to lap this up! They sang and squealed and raised their arms in the air and clapped and cheered like they were seeing the real thing. I thought this was charming, if a little too much like brainwashing, because seriously this music is godawful!

The movie is roughly half concert, half documentary about a day in the life of the boys. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that much of the “documentary” segment felt a lot like an episode of The Monkees only without the humour or charisma. There were scenes where the guys had to make a mad run across Manhattan from a bunch of screaming girls and had to eventually be taken away by helicopter, their only means of escape. It’s a shame because I bet a day in the life of the brothers would actually be very interesting without the fiction added in. The 3D has very little function except to feel a bit more up close and personal with the boys and a few little effects like the crowd being hosed down with foam (insert nasty allegory here) and Joe throwing his sunglasses at the camera. However, it is all part of the fun and the kids I saw it with were enthralled.

The music is awful, Joe, Nick and Kevin are smarmy and dull, but don’t underestimate the power of the Disney machine to use hyperbole and peer pressure to create hysteria about a product. The Jonas Brothers are that product and 3D is just another gimmick to get bums into seats. My guess is it will work a charm, but there’s definitely nothing here, except frustration, for anyone who’s not a fan.

- Charlene Lydon 23/05/09

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Directed by: Stephen Frears

Written by: Christopher Hampton

Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates

Rating: 6/10

At the core of this costume drama is an examination of the pain and gracelessness that come with the loss of youth. Michelle Pfeiffer, who could not be ageing more gracefully, gives a classy performance as Lea, an ageing courtesan who falls for a former colleague’s 19 year old son, Chéri (Friend). The couple, although scandalous, share an idyllic, pressure free love but as reality begins to catch up with them Lea must face the fact that she cannot be anything to Chéri but a mother.

Chéri is forced into a marriage by his mother and the middle part of the film is taken up with both lovers trying to get along without the other. As it becomes clear that they cannot do this they are drawn back to each other but have drifted further than they thought.

A glorious balance of cynicism and romance, the film truly believes in love, but accepts that reality can often get in its way. The start of the film is rather snappy and trite. You’d be forgiven for feeling like you had seen all this before. However, as it progresses, the level of intimacy heightens and the story becomes more engaging.

The film fails on some levels. It seems to focus more on sumptuous visuals than character. The actors have very little to go on, particularly the title character who never really gets anything to do than display his melancholy and disillusionment. He changes his attitude at the drop of a hat, much to the confusion of the audience. Rupert Friend does what he can with a role that is more about the female gaze than developing a romantic lead. Lea’s fascination with him as her last chance to grasp youth and beauty is second only to her need for a son in her reasons for falling in love with him so hard. She has never had a son and he has never had a proper mother. This strand of the story is the most interesting. They need each other as mother and son but they know that this relationship will stunt their ability to grow as human beings.

The end of the film is very abrupt, tying up the story in a lazy voiceover. This nonchalance regarding the plot, coupled with the final shot of the film, a lingering close-up of Pfeiffer examining her wrinkling face, reinforce the true aim of this film; to examine the effects of ageing on someone whose whole life has been dependent on beauty. To this end, Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance is extremely moving. As someone who is never seen looking haggard, it is lovely to see her face finally ageing. Radiant and still very sexy, her crows feet and sagging brow line are starting to become apparent. Her performance is sad and beautiful, definitely the high point of the film, and probably what will make this film stand out from the usual costume drama fare.

This is a flawed, but in some way profound story. It looks wonderful and is worth the price of admission for Pfeiffer’s performance. It is mercifully short and although the plot is sparse, there is enough emotional engagement to keep the audience invested and entertained.

- Charlene Lydon

State of Play

Directed By: Kevin McDonald,

Witten By: Michael Matthew Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray;

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Helen Mirren.

My rating: 8/10

State of Play was adapted from the highly regarded British television series of the same name. When it was decided the political drama would not be returning for a second series, Hollywood picked it up and cast Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in the lead roles. The world rolled its collective eyes at the prospect of a big budget Hollywood attempt to squash such an intricate web of plots into a two hour film. However, somehow, it worked. Clearly, the importance of writing a script that would do the story justice was a high priority for the filmmakers. The writers who were brought on board; writers who have been responsible for Michael Clayton, Breach, The Bourne Ultimatum and Lions For Lambs, some of the greatest political thrillers of the past few decades, put together a simple, fluid and admirably neat screenplay which underplays every plot twist and allows the audience to be led by the story and enjoy the ride, rather than the expected Hollywood sucker punches.

There’s not really any way to synopsise this plot, so let’s just outline the basic setup. A homeless black man in Washington DC is shot dead after having stolen a very important suitcase. An ill-timed passer-by is also shot and put in a coma. The next morning a beautiful young political researcher meets with an “accident” in the D.C. Metro. As it turns out she worked for, and was having an affair with Senator Stephen Collins (Affleck). Collins’ former roommate Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is a grumpy old reporter with the Washington Globe and tries to uncover what’s really going on. He is teamed up with young blogger (McAdams) and they become embroiled in a very complex, very far-reaching plot to privatise homeland security for the sake of profit. This is the basic setup, but must be viewed as a basic jumping off point for almost constant twists and turns and outward growth of the story.

After both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton dropped out of the project, two rushed replacements Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck were drafted in. Luckily, this worked out very well. The script does not focus on character. It sets up the basic caricature and it’s up to the actors to reveal the rest subtly and slowly. The importance of a good cast in film like this cannot be underestimated and as an ensemble piece, it worked really well. Even Ben Affleck, who we all have reservations about, proved here that he is capable of delivering a strong, restrained performance. Russell Crowe is also impressive. His chemistry with Senator Collins’ wife (Wright-Penn) is electric and also the platonic relationship between him and Rachel McAdams’ character Della is great, avoiding the usual romantic traps.

The film deals with some interesting themes of fearing and unwillingly facing the future. This is highlighted by the pairing of old school scruffy journo and fresh young blogger. Also, the shadowy corporation at the centre of the conspiracy, Pointcorp echoes the name of the company, Mediacorp, who have recently bought the Washington Globe. It’s paranoid touches like these that make this film stand out. It is definitely a film that will keep you entertained for two hours, but it is also a film that manages to fill that void left by The X Files in making audiences consider the frighteningly shadowy depths of U.S. politics.

- Charlene Lydon