Thursday, March 31, 2016

Quick Critique: 10 Cloverfield Lane

So Maestro J.J. Abrams decided to take his Mystery Box cock and once again fuck our minds by releasing a trailer for the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie with very minimal promotion that nobody really knew about. The production team were quick to outline that it is more of a ‘spiritual sequel’ to 2008's Cloverfield. Inasmuch as it has absolutely nothing to do with the found footage monster movie, and was in fact a completely separate project that was labelled with the ‘Cloverfield’ branding in order to gain public attention once Bad Robot got interested.

And, I’m gonna be blunt here…that’s pretty clever. It’s a cynical marketing strategy, but frankly nobody would have seen the damn film otherwise, and if this is a way to get original science fiction concepts even remote public attention, then let the Cloverfields go abound I say! It’s a shame that it needs the branding to sell something remotely original, but perhaps we’re to blame here.

So you’re probably wondering why I spent nearly 200 words talking about how this film was marketed and not about the movie itself? Well, and I know I’m in the minority here, but it’s the most interesting thing about it.

Essentially, 10 Cloerfield Land is two parts locked down mystery thriller and one part science fiction dystopian drama. While I can definitely see a story like this working, I don’t feel the elements were balanced well enough to fully work as an overall piece. The thriller elements are a bit too easy to figure out, and the sci-fi stuff is relegated mostly to the last 10-15 minutes, and it feels rather underwhelming as a result. It honestly would have worked better if they had just emphasised the thriller aspects and downplayed the alien stuff, but they tried to do both right at the end and neither feels very satisfying.

Also the cast are not that engaging. Not the actors-John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead give solid performances as expected. It’s just that Goodman’s character is too undercooked because of how the plot deals with him, and Winstead feels like character parts that don’t really make up the whole. There are certainly a lot of subtleties to her and clever reincorporation, but I never felt I got to know her fully as a person. The most fully realised character is John Gallagher Jr.’s, though the pathos he's imbued with feels a tad contrived.

There is certainly a lot to like about 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s got a lot of nice subtle moments and some excellent sound design, the limited spacing never feels drab or repetitive (except maybe at the start), and the performances are definitely enough to carry it. I just don’t know if it works that well as a thriller as everything is left too up into the air and it's is too fast to move onto a new thing to focus on to get truly invested in what’s going on. I'd certainly recommend checking it out and judging for yourself, but this is one well-praised outing that won’t be getting too much of my praise. No matter how clever the marketing was.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Quick Critique-Sing Street (2016)

Conor Lawlor (Feridia Walsh-Peelo) is an ordinary boy who is put into public school after his parents fall on hard times. Whilst attending Synge Street, he becomes infatuated with a girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and lies about being in a band in order to impress her. Getting some lads from his school, they actually form a band as Conor is aided by his waster, musically-obsessed older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor).

None of this is exactly new territory for writer-director John Carney, having previously done the ‘aspiring musician’ movies Once and Begin Again. And, being honest, the first ten minutes or so of Sing Street was pretty old hat and nothing about it wowed me. However, once the band start being formed and we’re introduced to more members, the plot really starts to get going and, by the end, it won me over with its rebellious charm and infatuation with 80s pop.

Yes, we're in the 80s for this one, and one of Sing Street's biggest appeals is its soundtrack. Not only is the score  energetic and engaging, the film is filled with great 80s tracks that any fan of the decade will adore. Bands like Duran Duran, The Cure, A-ah, The Clash, etc. are name checked and listed, and the reverence and energy these musicians evoke is just infectious. The way Conor (later dubbed ‘Cosmo’) changes his style to reflect the current band he’s listening to is both poignant and hilarious.

It’s not just the great music that makes this film work, it’s the cast. Lucy Boynton is a scene stealer and mesmerising in the role; it’s not hard to get what Conor sees in her. She also brings a lot of vulnerability, which makes her character not too stock or unreachable. Jack Reynor does the same, playing a very different role than we’re used from him, but acing the lackadaisical but troubled Brendan. It truly shows what a diverse talent he is. Homegrowm faves Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy add a lot of presence, though sadly are not in the movie that often.

Probably one of Sing Street’s finest aspects is the band members themselves. All of them are unknown, and these kids are just great! Despite not getting as much focus as Conor, Raphina and Brendan, each of them feels distinct and brings something extra. They feel like real children, led by a breakout performance from Ferdia Walsh-Peelo.

Sing Street just has that charm that Once had, just focused on rebelling facing-the-world teenagers rather than jaded, world-weary hipsters. It honestly made me feel like a teen again, wanting to take on the world my own way and go on mad adventures with a pretty girl and my mates. If you don’t want to pick up an instrument after watching this, be you 15 or 50, you are dead inside. All of this is well trodded ground from both the director and most coming-of-age flicks, but it's charm and easygoing nature make up for that. An endearing and relatable piece, hopefully one that will find its audience with the youths who want to stand out and rebel. 


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Quick(ish) Roasts: Grimsby (2016)

Donald Trump gets AIDS in this film.

You know, one of the main talking points of it? A gag clearly added last minute because Sasha Baron Cohen knew he’d get coverage of it due to the insane shitstorm that America is calling a political race? And like, there’s no joke. Donald Trump has AIDS. That’s it. no punchline, no set up, it’s not even shocking or weird. It’s a moment in this film’s narrative that is only funny if you let your antipathy for Trump overrule all your other senses.

I hope you’re getting the sense that I hated this movie! I left the cinema eye rolling in its stupidity have now settled into an all-consuming rage. The only thing that saves it from being one of the worst comedies I’ve ever seen is that it happened to come out on the same year as Dirty Grandpa.

I was going to do a proper review of it, but fuck it. Here are a list of reasons not to watch Grimsby. Ever.
  1.       Sasha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong have absolutely no chemistry. The film’s attempts at getting an emotional catharsis in their relationship is pathetic, especially as it plays these moments 100% straight faced.
  2.           Louis Leterrier directed it, who is best known for action movies (and for sucking). This shows. The only semi-decent thing is the POV shots that lead to one of the only semi-decent jokes in the entire thing. He sucks at comedic timing, and never knows how to punctuate a joke.
  3.           The shock humour does not work. They try every single way to get a reaction out of you that it just comes off as desperate. It gets to the point that, by the 90th time you hear about how working class people are leeching scum, it won't even register a blip.
  4.         They seriously do not know if they want to play this as an action comedy or a satirical comedy with action elements, so they tried both. And failed at both. The stupid humour about the working class is clearly from someone whose understanding of them is from the Daily Mail, and the action tends to be played too straight laced to be remotely funny.
  5.        The film is clearly edited to shit, so it lacks any sort of cohesion or pacing. It makes the mercifully short 83-minute runtime drag because they never manage to build momentum from previous scenes.
  6.         Am I the only one who found it weird that they had Gabourey Sidibe, an actress primarily known for playing a victim of rape, involved in a gag where she files a sexual assault claim? I mean, her previous roles shouldn’t dictate her future ones, but it’s seriously tone deaf.
  7.           Penelope Cruz looks more bored here than she did in Zoolander 2. Is her career going to solely consist of shitty spy comedies now? How depressing
  8.         The much talked about elephant ejaculation scene. It’s too long, really stupid, not funny, not creative, not gross, not shocking, not anything, it eats up so much of the movie’s pacing because this was clearly the scene they wanted to save. And it is so bad, the only reason people are talking about it is because it’s a gross idea.
  9.         Johnny Vegas is in this.
  10. .       So is Rebel Wilson.
  11. .       Did the man who made Borat and Bruno really do this?

In short, fuck this movie.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Quick Roasts: Point Break (2016)

So the Point Break remake is shit. Judging by the critical and financial results of this film, I don’t think I’m really shocking anybody by saying this. What I’m hoping, however, is that this stops a particularly annoying and desperate trend in Hollywood: the RiNO (Remake in Name Only).

Here is the plot: a former extreme sports athlete becomes an FBI agent after he gets his partner killed during a stunt (in a rather confusing, if obvious, moment). The feds are investigating a case of people Robin Hood-ing internationally with what can be described as loose connections to their jurisdiction. The former athlete, Johnny Utah, realises they are tributes in this weird battle against nature thing set up by a famous athlete named Ono Osaki, who died doing his third trial. Knowing where the next one will take place, he infiltrates the criminals to try to take them down from the inside.

Now, outside of the name and final line, does ANY of that sound like the 1990 original film? No, because this was clearly a script written before it became a Point Break ramke, and they cut and pasted elements from the original in the laziest way possible. Point Break had a weird resurgence in popularity recently (well, not ‘weird’ as the movie is pretty good), and the studio clearly saw marketing it as a remake would give it more attention than pushing the extreme sports angle, which feels outdated (granted, the script was written years ago).

Again, this is speculation based on my own reading of the movie, but even without it being a RiNO, this thing is shit on its own. Terrible script with absolutely none of the characters having even a remote sense of depth or likeability. Even with the forced Robin Hood thing they tap onto the villain, he’s just a dick (Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi robbed and killed people purely for selfish reasons, but he was still more likeable than his 2016 counterpart). The direction is absolutely awful; they filmed on location, and the director still managed to make it look like they did it on a green screen. It’s also so choppily and annoyingly edited; I honestly thing not ten seconds goes by without a cut. The acting, outside of Ray Wintsone (why is he in this?) is just tepid and boring all around.

The lack of success at the box office and terrible critical reception is making it clear that audiences are catching onto this tired gimmick of trying to sell terrible movies with eye-catching nostalgic titles. The Jem and the Holograms reboot (which was worse, but was STILL closer to its ‘source material’ than this film was) bombing is more a testament to that. But if you take anything away from this review, keep up the smarts and look into the original and see if it even looks remotely like their attempted remake/reboot/whatever they label it. And let’s all stop watching them together.


p.s. This remake DOES contain one of the funniest out of context exchanges I’ve heard in a while:

‘Ideas are powerful.’
‘Not as powerful as whaling ships.’

Why was I the only one at my screening that laughed at that?