Friday, December 21, 2007

For No Good Reason: The Best and Worst of 2007

I did my best to resist doing a list like this, but there's really no better way to round off the blog for 2007. Happy Christmas to all and I'll be back come early January with a preview of 2008 (hint: I can't wait to see No Country For Old Men!).

Best Film: Zodiac
Honorable Mentions: Into The Wild, The Lives of Others, Superbad, Once, The Fountain, Half Nelson, Teeth, 2 Days In Paris, Ratatouille, Knocked Up, Assassination of Jessie James..., The Darjeeling Limited, The Last King Of Scotland.

Best Director: Sean Penn for Into The Wild

Best Actor: Forest Whitticker in The Last King Of Scotland

Best Actress: Keri Russell in Waitress

Best Script: Superbad

The Jessica Alba Award or "Wow, ain't that pretty!": The Assassination Of Jessie James By The Coward Robert Ford (for some incredible cinematography).

Best Scene: The voice of Roger Rabbit, Charles Fleischer, creeps Jake Gyllenhall (and the rest of us) out in Zodiac by going down to the basement.

Worst Film: Transformers
Almost as bad: Black Sheep, Hostel Part 2, Vacancy, POTC: At World's End, Spider-Man 3.

Worst Prostitution of Talent For A Paycheck: Kevin Spacey in Fred Clause

Most In Need of A Good Film: Jim Carrey

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quick Review Update

The Christmas Crazies are upon us (aka: actually thinking that it's a good idea to be in or around the Grafton Street area at any time of day) and I've dropped behind with reviews. Here's a quick smattering (well, 3 really) of what I've seen lately...

Southland Tales
Being the huge Donnie Darko fan that I am I was particularly looking forward to Richard Kelly's next for the best part of 4 years. A disastrous Cannes screening bode ill for a film that was reportedly self-indulgent, confusing and meandering. A year and a re-edit later, Southland Tales emerged and, well... it's still all those things, but maybe not as much as before. It's still a good film and worth watching, but it seems like it has lost itself and drowned amid a sea of half-ideas that never come together.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

The Assassination of Jessie James By The Coward Robert Ford
If you happen to enjoy the films of Terrance Mallik then you'll love this one. Mallik's Days Of Heaven was an inspiration for this tale of how one of the most infamous men of 1800's America was killed. It looks absolutely gorgeous, with one scene involving a train robbery at night especially standing out. The story itself takes time to properly kick off, and when it does the film is at it's most compelling and interesting. Pitt and Affleck give excellent performances and make this one to watch during awards season.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Enchanted
I have every reason to hate this film: it's a chick flick, tons to saccharine laced story lines, the bloke from Grey's Anatomy and, being a Disney film, the potential to be overly moralistic. The fact that I really enjoyed it almost makes me ill. It's funny, well written and has some excellent performances. Disney takes the piss out of itself and does so with a knowing wink. What Scream is to horror, Enchanted is to the fantasy fable. Pity the final 20 minutes of the film, when Susan Sarandon shows up, goes all clich├ęd and Hilary Duff-esque.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

First Poster for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull


...and it looks amazing! (click for bigger version)


Waits For Christmas #1

This may not really be film related (although he did appear in many films like Domino and Mystery Men) but there's a campaign currently underway to get Tom Waits' song "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" to the number 1 spot in the Irish Charts for Christmas. Needless to say, this is pure genius!

You can find out more at the Official Blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Go! Speed Racer! Go!

The first promotional photos of Speed Racer, The Wachowski Brothers' next film, have appeared online thanks to USA Today. It's always been said that the brothers were going for a look that replicated the original cartoon, and these photos just look as trippy as hell! When I get around to making my preview of 2008 over the holidays this is one of the movies that'll certainly feature. Click the link for more photos.

Did Morgan Spurlock find Osama?

Morgan Spurlock is a documentary filmmaker who has eaten nothing but McDonalds for a whole month in Super Size Me, and brought numerous excesses to TV screens with 30 Days. His next feature documentary, to be premiered at Sundance next year, is called Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?, and follows Spurlock as he travels across the Middle East in search of the infamous terrorist.

This is all well and good and, on surface level, could make for an entertaining doc. However, MSNBC have reported here that there might be more to Spurlock's film, and that he might just have actually found Bin Laden. The article mentions that in February last Spurlock screened 15 minutes of the doc to potential buyers in Berlin and these 15 minutes caused The Weinstein Company to immediately drop $25 million onto Spurlock's lap to secure distribution. It's not an unusual amount for a distribution deal, but when you consider that most documentaries don't even make close to that amount you begin to think that there could be more to it.

The directory of photography for the doc, Daniel Marracino, is quoted in Variety as saying: "We've defiantly got the Holy Grail". While I don't really think Spurlock sat down with Osama and did a little interview, I do imagine that he managed to get something that will, at least, cause the Bush Administration much embarrassment. Or, more likely, the Weinstein's just spent $25 million on some impressive publicity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

The Short... This is another well rounded and entertaining film from Anderson. Funny, engaging and meaningful. You just wish that he'd try to make a film with new themes or stories that he hasn't already done many times before.

The Long... Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers who meet up in India (on request of Wilson's character) to go on a journey of "spiritual discovery" after their father died a year previous. This journey includes boarding a train (run by the company in the title) that is traveling across the country and stops from time to time to allow the brothers to partake in activities that are supposed to help them bond and find themselves. This journey is cut short with an incident involving painkillers, cough syrup and pepper spray that ends up with the brothers thrown off the train and left in the middle of India with nothing except 11 suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine.

As this is a Wes Anderson film you can expect fantastically written characters, quirky dialog, unusual situations, slow-mo shots, parental issues and deliberate pacing. Now, before I go into my issues with The Darjeeling Limited, I need to stress that this is a really good and well made film. I throughly enjoyed it and is well worth the €9-ish price of a ticket. My issues are not with the film as a separate entity, but as part of the Wes Anderson cannon.

Let's take the major themes of the film: a family that doesn't know how to communicate with each other, parents who have neglected or ignored their offspring, the seeking of a spiritual enlightenment, the way in which people deal with death. These are all themes that Anderson has covered many times over in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. This fact makes viewing The Darjeeling Limited an un-unique experience, and we don't feel as impressed or as refreshed as we were before. The film is still a good one, but it's just nothing new. A large part of me wishes that Anderson would try to explore different themes and attempt to go away from the machinations that he feels comfortable with and what make a "Wes Anderson film". That said, his next film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox that's supposed to be mostly done using puppets and stop-motion animation (akin to some scene in The Life Aquatic), so maybe then will my appetite for something different will be sedated.

Repetitive issues aside, this is an engrossing film. The performances are excellent (including Owen Wilson who has never been as good as this in any film before) and the photography is top notch. To compare it to other Anderson works, it's as good as Rushmore, but not as enthralling or involving as The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic.

Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Review: The Nines

The Short... An admirable attempt at a story that has ideas way beyond its own existence. While very enjoyable for the most part the film falls flat from being mishandled by a director who tries to cram in too many themes while attempting to simplify them. Fans of Donnie Darko may find something here.

The Long... I've been having difficulty in trying to properly explain the story of The Nines without giving away the whole plot. To explain one aspect means you have to clarify it with the next and so on. So, to summarize in as concise a fashion as I can manage, Ryan Reynolds plays three characters (an actor, a tv producer, and a games developer) whose lives become entwined in a complex system of numbers and coincidence. Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy also appear as three separate characters in each of these lives.

Throughout the whole movie I kept being reminded of Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (which happens to be my favorite film). Both films set up realms of their own which have important and specific rules that their characters must adhere to, or else the world as they know it will end. In Darko, the audience has this realm slowly and purposefully revealed to us in a way that is compelling and intriguing. In The Nines, however, I saw little evidence of control over the substance of the story and thus the film's quirks and revelations become stunted and their meaning diluted. That's not to say that The Nines is scattered or grossly inept, as the script contains quiet a lot of good work and displays a certain wit to many scenes.

Ryan Reynolds shows off an acting range here that was not at all apparent in, let's say, Van Wilder. As the film's lead he does a really good job of holding things together and gives each of the characters enough connection between themselves without playing each the same way. His supporting cast doesn't display that same range, but are adequate nonetheless. First time director John August, who also wrote the screenplay, does his best to contain the story and present it in a way that's meaningful (which he does quite well for most of the film), but it all crumbles in the final revelation.

There are certain ideas within The Nines that are indeed interesting and entertaining, but I wish they were handled in a different manner. We never feel like we've discovered or learned anything along with the main character(s) and the impact of the ultimate story arc is lessened. It's an enjoyable film with many positive points, but fails to deliver on these.

Rating:
* * * (3 Stars)

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Golden Figure

Next Wednesday sees the opening of the main tentpole film of the Winter/Christmas period: The Golden Compass. In previous years this position has been fairly profitable for the high profile and high advertising budgeted (see: half the Harry Potter films, Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Narnia, Casino Royale) and Compass is no different. Except for one particular oddity: Nobody in Hollywood is expecting it to make a profit in the cinema.

According to it's director, Chris Weitz, the budget for The Golden Compass is around "the 220 million dollar mark". This figure is for the production alone and does not include the cost of advertising and the amount of money it takes to produce the thousands of 32mm prints for distribution to cinemas. So, the final magic figure for New Line Cinema (it's production company) is somewhere in the region of $350 million. Of course, the film will easily make that amount in worldwide box office receipts after about 2 weeks, but a good deal of it will go to the theaters for their operating costs and their own profit. Therefore, The Golden Compass will need to make between $800 to $900 million until New Line actually sees any profit. This doesn't really make any sense (as it's not going to make anything near that amount in theaters) until you consider DVD sales and TV syndication deals.

New Line is expecting the current DVD market to snap up The Golden Compass, to make enough money to push it into that profitable realm and be the deciding factor in the question of further sequels. It's thinking like this that makes current blockbuster budgets appear to be astronomical (see Spider-Man 3, Transformers, Pirates Of The Caribbean) when, in fact, they are pre-approved as an investment in DVD sales.

The current Writers' Strike is is sign that all is not well with this system. Writers (and soon directors and actors unless an agreement is reached) feel that producers are reaping the benefits of DVDs which have come swiftly with the dawn of the product (and so swiftly that the WGA had neither the time nor the inclination to renegotiate contracts) while they get minimal returns themselves. It's fair (and right) to say that writers deserve their slice, but the issue of money is hiding another, more strange fact.

If blockbusters are expected to finish their run in cinemas with an overall loss, then it's reducing a theatrical release to an advertising campaign for DVD. Now, this is not the case for most of the films currently released on these shores and Hollywood has shown signs that they are budget conscious with some potential blockbusters, Cloverfield for example. But it remains a fact that as the opening weekend figures for The Golden Compass come in that, unless it's a total failure, the studio heads will barely take any notice.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Catch Up!

I've been fairly busy (and ill, darn colds!) of late and haven't been posting at all, but that hasn't stopped me from going to ye ol' pictures. Some short reviews of what I've seen during November...

Beowulf
If you go to see this, make sure it's in the main screen (The Mezz) in Dundrum as it's there that you'll find the Real D Cinema version. It's in 3D (the same type that James Cameron is using for Avatar) and looks fantastic. Don't, however, see it in the IMC as their 3D version is your old-skool, red/green, headache-inducing shite-fest. As a film, it's better then you think it is but is still only ok.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Into The Wild
One of the films of the year. This deserves a longer review as it's an incredible tale and handled really well by screenwriter/director Sean Penn. It does drag at some points which makes it's 2 hour plus runtime feel almost longer, but there's no denying it's brilliance. It comes highly recommended and will stay long in your memory after you've left the cinema.
Rating: * * * * * (5 Stars)

Stardust
Here's something that I can guarantee has already been said in countless other reviews of this film: if you liked The Princess Bride then you'll love Stardust! Why do I repeat it? Because it's the best way to summarize it! While not as funny, witty or clever as Bride, it's still quite enjoyable and a lot of fun. Not quite a 4 star film, but not as bad as a 3 star.
Rating: * * * and a half (3.5 stars)

Eastern Promises
Very well directed and performed (Viggo is excellent!), Eastern Promises is let down by a script that is confused of its own focus. Two stories are told here: one concerns Naomi Watts and a baby orphaned by a badly treated Russian girl, and the other is about the Russian mafia in London. They chose to conclude the former (in an unsatisfying fashion) and leave the latter dangling. It's unfortunate that the latter story is where Eastern Promises is at its most riveting.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Horrorthon: Day 5

Director Tim O'Sullivan was the festival guest for the final day, bringing with him screenings of Hood Of Horror (which I missed, thankfully!) and his new film Driftwood.

Review: Driftwood
It's a TV movie essentially. Same kind of production value, actors who you'll find in the depths of mediocre or worse TV shows and a story that pretty much riffs off The Devil's Backbone (a much better film). And it wasn't all that scary, or even looked like it was even trying to be scary. A poor effort, but the DVD is apparently selling well in the States.
Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Following a rather long Q & A with O'Sullivan, where he came across as a decent individual and decried the emergence of torture porn (go Tim!), there was a screening of Close Encounters. What was interesting about this is that it was a brand new print from Columbia Pictures of Spielberg's definitive edit. Most of the additional scenes from the Collector's Edition DVD remain (and some are trimmed) but gone is the final scene inside the mothership, something that Spielberg hated having to include in a re-release some time following the original. It looked great and was a good reason as any for those with Blu Ray players to buy the new disc.

Review: Planet Terror
Talk about the perfect way to end the festival! Full of over-the-top gore, violence, laughs and in-jokes it was a hell of a ride, especially while watching it with a cinema full of horror hounds. A film like this is practically impossible to review, as it's shortcomings are on purpose and any attempt to pick at them is utterly pointless. So instead I ask the question: how enjoyable was it? It was great, but it's subject won't push it beyond anything that could be construed as a masterpiece.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

5 days of horror movies and I was exhausted. The following 2 days I took in Psycho, The Exorcist and Halloween at another horror fest in the IMC in Dun Laoghaire. While it doesn't compare to the "official" IFI Horrorthon it was good to see some effort in a multiplex attempting to give it's audience something that resembles purposeful programming. It showed they're not totally governed by a studio release schedule and I hope they continue it next year.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Horrorthon: Day 4

It was Sunday and I really appreciated that extra hour of sleep once the clocks went back. Summer Scars was the first of the day and it didn't seem to be all that interesting to merit getting my lazy ass out of bed. Once I got in it was time for The Masters Of Horror selection. In the previous Horrorthon the MOH was a daily feature with double episodes of the TV show. Some were really good (Family, The Deer Woman) and some were downright awful (Pro-Life). Sadly, the 2 episodes for this year's Horrorthon (The Screwfly Solution and The Black Cat) were terrible. Once that was over it was time for Dracula!

Review: Dracula (1958)
This Hammer-Horror version of the Dracula story was the first time it was shot in color and made a star out of Christopher Lee. The BFI's clean-cut restored print will be screened in the coming weeks at the IFI and is well worth checking out. It's not hte best adaptation I've seen of the story but is really entertaining nonetheless.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Review: Shrooms (Surprise Film)
Shrooms isn't a bad film, and is probably the best Irish horror film ever made (which doesn't say much about Irish horror), but it wasn't that much of a "surprise". You could hear the disappointment in the audience when the titles came up, and then the credits rolled there were some very audible boos. The Surprise film should just not have been so predictable (in the selection sense). As a film, it's ok. It does create a nice atmosphere and is unnerving at times, but it is nothing that you can't find in other horror films cut from the same cloth (Blair Witch, Evil Dead, Cabin Fever).
Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Review: Stuck
Stephen Rae is a homeless guy who gets hit by a car driven by Mena Suvari late at night after a night on the town. She freaks out, drives home (with Rae still stuck in the windscreen) and hopes that it'll all work out in the end. This was the best film of the festival! It plays out more like a good thriller than a horror, and contains some of incredibly tense sequences. If Hitchcock were alive today then he'd be making films like this. Highly recommended.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

What began as a terrible day with some lackluster Master Of Horror and turned into disappointment with Shrooms, Stuck redeemed it. A few beers later and it was time to head home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Horrorthon: Day 3

Saturday turned out to be the longest day of the festival. Had a massive (and tasty) lunch in Yamamouri followed by some pre-festival beers. Nice!

Review: The Tripper
Another comedy/horror hybrid, this one with a more political stance. A group of drug-taking youths arrive for a music festival in a large forest, only to be stalked by a conservative killer who wears a Ronald Regan mask. The laughs are more like titters and the horror is only average. A nice idea, but could have been more.
Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Review: The End Of The Line
Low-budget Canadian horror about religious freaks who descend bloody hell onto a stalled metro tram. This was truly awful! Not a kind word to say about it really. Dreadful! The very thought of it is depressing me. Acting, direction, script, production value... really really poor.
Rating: * (1 Star)

Review: Teeth
This is a film about a girl who discovers that she has teeth....in her vagina. And it's really good! The film that is. No, I'm not kidding! What could have been a grindhouse-style, woman-revenge flick is actually is really well made and thought-provoking piece on attitudes and fears towards sex. Written well and superbly acted, this was a huge surprise. A festival highlight and a film that will cause a little controversy when it's released.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Review: All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
Another highlight. The title sums the plot up nicely: Every guy in high school wants to be with Mandy Lane and a small group coerce her into spending a weekend filled with drugs and booze down at a secluded ranch. Once there, certain members of the party fall prey to a sadistic (and possibly jealous) killer who offs them one by one. Smartly written (with a really good climax) and shot beautifully (it's probably the most gorgeous horror film I've seen in a while), this deserves to find a large audience.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Having watched ...Mandy Lane it was time for another in-between-movie beer and then a screening of Fright Night. It'd be unfair for me to review this vampire flick from the 80s (with it's ultra-camp dance scene midway through) as I began to nod off. One Nightlink later and I was at home in bed.

Horrorthon: Day 2

Not wanting to burn myself out on a supposedly terrible film (Motel Hell) so early on I didn't show up on Day 2 till 3pm and Friday 13th: The Final Chapter. Thankfully, the issue surrounding the tickets, that caused so much grief on both sides the night before, has finally been sorted.

Review:
Friday 13th: The Final Chapter
I've always seen the Friday 13th movies as something of a joke. None really differ in many way from the other (except when Jason X came along) and I've enjoyed them as one would a guilty pleasure. This one (which was supposed to be the last one until it made some money) has more intentional comedy then the rest and is somewhat more accomplished then Part 3. It's fine, but then you know what you're getting yourself into.
Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Review: Gamerz
The world of Role Playing Games is perceived to be enjoyed by a bunch of nerds who sit around being all nerdy about elves, orcs and the like. Gamerz does nothing to dispel this myth. The story of a RPG playing student, outcast from the real world but finds solace, purpose and, maybe, love in pretend dungeons and characters, is predictable and really pointless. Directed like a prolonged student film, it did nothing for me.
Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Review: Botched
The first half-decent film of the day is a strange mix of comedy and horror. Shot in Ardmore studios, a group of thieves are involved in a heist-gone-wrong situation and take some hostages to a vacant floor of an office building. There, they encounter a serial killer who attempts to kill them one by one. It's silly, but in a fun way. I'd put it on the same level as Severance.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Review: Joshua
Think of The Omen, but without the demonic streak in the story, and you have Joshua. It's a fine attempt to be a Hitchcock film but fails in taking it's time to tell us very little. It's entertaining to watch and is performed to a high standard, but it is given many chances to become a really good thriller and takes none of them. The scariest thing about it is how much I enjoyed the Dave Matthews song over the end credits (**shiver**).
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

That was it for Friday. Caught the almost last bus home which left me some time to chill with a bottle of wine and that oddly-named TV channel "Dave".

Friday, October 26, 2007

Horrorthon: Day 1

The Horrorthon began in style yesterday evening with a packed out audience in the IFI Screen 1 to watch 30 Days Of Night. I almost didn't get in myself due to a royal mess up with my festival pass and a really snarky bitch in the IFI ticket office telling me it wasn't her problem. Eventually, and thanks to the legend that is the festival director Ed King, it all got sorted and the lovely pair of Nell and Lucy got me and the other half our seats.

30 Days Of Night
This had received mixed reviews thus far and I didn't know if I was going to enjoy it or not. Well... it's a really good film! Finally, an original Hollywood horror movie that didn't play to the lowest common denominator and evoked memories of Carpenter's The Thing. It's well played, deftly directed and the creatures in the film are downright face-behind-your-hands scary. There are problems though: the final conclusion doesn't really capitalize on what had come before and ends up being cheesy, also the passage of time (it's supposed to be 30 days!) feels like it all could have happened in a day or two. Nonetheless, it's a film that's well deserving a trip to the cinema.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Afterwards the was a screen of Dead Silence which I didn't make. I'd already seen it before and wasn't impressed enough to sit through it again (if you want a rating: 2 Stars).

Today there's Friday 13th: The Final Chapter, Gamerz, Botched and Joshua. Will report back tomorrow with more reviews.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Your Daily Dose of News...

No reviews from the weekend as I've been as sick as a dog. Here's some news that's been going round...

- Mark Whalberg is staying in Pennsylvania to work on Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones following his lead role in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Marky Mark is replacing Ryan Gosling in the film who left to "creative differences".

- George Clooney is out of White Jazz, but director Joe Carnahan says he's already got a good replacement lined up.

- William Shatner will not be cameoing in the next Star Trek film. Well darn it!

- Tippi Hedren thinks the supposed The Birds remake will be a mess. Smart woman.

- Linda Blair reckons there's a remake of The Exorcist in the pipeline. Gah!!!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Random News...

- Brian DePalma is planning a pre-quel to The Untouchables and it's going to be called: The Untouchables: Capone Rising. Interesting, but unnecessary.

- A Wolverine film is in the works all will be released in May 2009, taking up the prime spot originally held by the third Narnia film which has been moved to a later date.

- A Kurt Cobain biopic is in the works, thanks to Working Title and writer David Benioff. Courtney Love is an Exec. Producer so some details may be...well...glossed over. Or not. Approach carefully.

- Daren Aronofsky is getting physical! Already announced is boxing drama The Fighter with Marky Mark and Brad Pitt, and now he's directing The Wrestler with Nic Cage about a former wrestler brought back from retirement to fight his nemesis. Ding ding!!

- The Birds is being remade with Naomi Watts in the Tippi Hedren role and Casino Royale's Martin Campbell directing. What's interesting is that this is not a pre-strike priority and may not be put into production till after the strike is over. Let's hope it doesn't go into production at all!!

Review: Black Sheep

The Short... What could have been a guilty pleasure in the same vein as The Evil Dead is instead a half-hearted effort that's only justifiable by the creature effects from Weta.

The Long... Well, I don't want to spend too long on this review. The acting: bad. The direction: worse. The script: terrible. Is there's anything good about it? The work Weta Workshop (the same company behind The Lord Of The Rings effects) have done in Black Sheep is great and serves as the only positive in a huge field of negatives.

I was hoping that it'd be a film cut from the same cloth as the Evil Dead franchise, or Shaun Of The Dead, but it differs from these in terms of how the film handles itself. Each actor knows the type of film it is and plays it as a pantomime, almost always a breath away from turning to camera and winking at the audience. The story itself, while a good basis for a decent OTT film, never realises its potential and relies on tired arcs that you can see coming from a mile off.

It's a massively poor film that had the prospect of being something greater and funnier. Wait for this on DVD and even then I'd suggest massive amounts of alcohol before pressing 'play'.

Rating: * * (2 Stars, incl. one for Weta's impressive work)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More News in Brief...

- A 7 minute sequence detailing how the Joker came into existence for the new Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, will be screened in IMAX cinemas this December. Which means that, without an IMAX screen in Ireland (although I think there's one in Belfast), we'll have to hope that it also appears on ye ol' Internets. Another teaser trailer will be attached to I Am Legend which is out this December/January. Did anyone ever go to the old IMAX where Cineworld is now? I went twice, to an Everest documentary and a 3D film about dinosaurs.

- Grindhouse could finally be coming to Irish and UK screens by January, once Death Proof and Planet Terror have finished their runs in the cinema. Click here for info.

- With Saw 4 coming out in a couple of weeks the news is that they may just NOT release a Saw 5 till October 2009, breaking their one a year pattern so far. Lets hope it's replaced with some original horror in the schedule.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Review: Ratatouille


The Short...
Another high point in the Pixar cannon. Funny, entertaining, intelligent and full of joy.

The Long...
Something happened in the IMC Cinema, Dun Laoghaire on Monday night last as the graphic for the IFCO appeared on the screen. It looked different, gleaming with a kind of sheen. It hit me once the Pixar logo with it's lamp jumped around to introduce a short film before the main feature... it was all projected digitally. No film, just a large projector box with a whole bunch of 1's and 0's being pushed through it's lens. And WOW, it looked freakin' awesome!

It's a theme that ran through the whole of Ratatouille, one of amazing technical achievement. Disregarding the actual film, story, characters and elements the film there is some impressive attention to detail and organic, realistic textures throughout. Rain droplets hit the ground and look ultra photo-realistic. A carpet seems as though it really does have millions of fibers running through it. Vegetables appear to have tangible weight and grain. With each film since Toy Story Pixar seem to be pushing the limits of 3D animation to new heights.

Production quality aside, is Ratatouille any good? It begins quite slowly, setting up the character of Remy, a mouse who has a nose for food and a passion for cooking it. He, his family and their fellow rats are driven from their country house by it's owner (an old lady) when Remy is discovered attempting to find some herbs for his next culinary endevour. Remy is separated from the main group and finds himself beneath the restaurant of his now deceased hero, Auguste Gusteau. So far, so average, but things really begin to pick up when Remy tries to fix a soup ruined by the restaurant's new garbage boy, Alfredo.

It's a great rat-out-of-water story and yields some excellent gags as Remy attempts to control Alfredo's cooking. The lush design and smart writing add to a story that exhibits an intelligence far beyond the moral stickiness of Cars (their worst film). Ian Holm and Peter O'Toole perform excellent jobs as the main villains of the piece, in particular O'Toole's rich and brilliant voice adding an incredible depth to food critic Anton Ego (you could listen to him talking for ages).

Ratatouille is an amazing feat. Technically brilliant while ensuring that just as much attention is paid to story, laughs and characters. Along with Toy Story 2, this is one of Pixar's best.

Rating: * * * * * (5 Stars)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Horrorthon '07


From Thurs. Oct 25th to Mon. 29th I'll be attending the annual Dublin Horrorthon at the IFI. Running for 5 days it screens some soon-to-be-released horror films and some classics from the past, all in the cozy and relaxed atmosphere of the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar.

I've been going to this fantastic festival for the last 2 years and it's become something of a highlight on the film calender. Memorable events from those years have been...
- Watching Jaws on the big screen (with a scratchy 70s print, a Grindhouse experience before Tarantino even thought about aping it)
- Discovering Behind The Mask (a still unheard of film that's in the same genre, but funnier, then Scream)
- Meeting Ruggero Deodato after a screening of Canibal Holocaust
- Seeing Poltergeist on a huge 70mm print
- Experiencing hilarious films like Demons and Grizzly while drunk with a crowd that cheered every scene

Go to www.horrorthon.com for this year's line-up. The ones you should keep your eye on are 30 Days Of Night, Teeth, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Surprise Film and Stuck. I'll be keeping the blog updated with mini-reviews and updates during the fest.

News in Brief!

Here's some of the goings-on of late...

- Simon Pegg (Shaun himself) is Scotty in in new Star Trek flick
- The new Rambo movie changed it's name from John Rambo to Rambo: To Hell And Back and almost immediately went back to John Rambo. WTF?
- Sean Astin says that The Goonies 2 is a "certainty". Gulp!
- Frank Miller (director of such movies as Mad Max and Happy Feet) is currently casting The Justice League Of America by test screening most 20-something actors and actresses from TV shows like Friday Night Lights

Desert Island Movies...

Went home for the weekend to visit the folks and on Saturday evening over a few bottles of wine the subject of the "Top 3 Movies" came up. Some tried to get their 3 favorite, others (myself included) went for a range of good films. The results were...

Mom: Pride & Prejudice (1940s version with Olivier), How Green Was My Valley (1941), High Society (1956).
Dad: The Great Escape (1963), Shane (1953),
Rebecca (1940).
Sorcha: The Last Unicorn (1982), American Beauty (1999), The Fountain (2006).
Conor: Donnie Darko (2001), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Review: The Kingdom

The Short...
Feels like a watered down version of a more interesting film with added action. Fans of 24 will lap it up.

The Long...
I sat down to The Kingdom with the fear that it would turn into a pro-American rush to the head with added extra Middle-Eastern stereotypes. Luckily, this isn't the case as the film does it's best to serve both sides equally and ultimately tries to convince us that, save for culture, both sides are indistinguishable from the other.

It begins with an impressive credits sequence detailing the history of American relations with Saudi Arabia and leads to a savage attack on an oil workers colony in Ryiadh. This sparks an investigation team of 4 FBI agents to head to Saudi Arabia with the intention of bringing the man behind the attack to justice. Once there, they encounter the Saudi police and military who do not feel that an American presence is necessary and do everything possible to hinder their progress.

While not entirely sympathetic to either side the film does have a tendency to play the America-is-smarter-than-you card (watch out for a silly piece of dialog as Chris Cooper's character asks a Saudi if he knows what clues and evidence are) which comes off as being slightly arrogant. The story itself is entirely uncomplicated and exhibits a definite urgency to be a Syriana for the MTV generation. And this brings me to a point where the film will be either a piece of entertainment or a horrible and disgusting fable born out of a Hollywood that wants to capitalise on post-9/11 fears.

Essentially, I find it to be the latter. Some will disagree, but I believe that it's really an action film that tries it's best to be current and meaningful, while failing at doing both. Yes, the action is well executed, but using such a volatile backdrop in a way that comes off as frivolous and half-hearted doesn't sit well with me at all. I can't help but think that if the setting had been changed (even to a totally fictitious
country) then we'd have a film that would at least be a decent thriller.

The final scene where the The Kingdom's core message is delivered is not so much revealed to the audience, but shoved down our throats. It does it's best to be fair and balanced, but is thrown off course by a story that is both irresponsible and lazy.

Rating: * * (2 stars)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A note on Reviews...

"When I sees it, I'll reviews it!". That's the mantra behind the reviews for this blog. There's no way I'll get to every new release and I'm not going to spend my hard earned cash on some pointless chick-flick or yawn-inducing Adam Sandler film (yes, I have not and will not go to see ...Chuck And Larry!). So, when I see a film... I'll review it. It's that simple. I'll also do the oft-copied 1 to 5 stars rating system. It's easier and people seem to like it.

Thunder...Thunder...

...Thundercats! Ho!!

It was inevitable really. Thundercats will be let loose on the big screen via a CGI animated feature in the same vain as last March's Ninja Turtles film. Jerry O'Flaherty ("who?" I hear you ask!) will be helming. O'Flaherty will be making his feature debut as director on Thundercats, having already served as art director on such games as Gears Of War and Unreal Tournament 3.

I caught an episode of Thundercats on digital a few months back. After the nostalgic opening sequence it became more cringe-worthy then an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Absolutely awful!

Star Trek news...

The next Star Trek film, under the watchful eye of JJ Abrams, is beginning to pick up speed. The re-imagining of the original crew has been generating some casting rumors of late...

- Eric Bana has signed on to play the villain, Nero
- Zachary Quinto (Sylar from Heroes) will be playing Spock
- Anton Yelchin is Chekov
- Zoe Saldana (soon to be in James Cameron's Avatar) is Uhura
- Leonard Nimoy is strangely returning as old Spock

And finally, we could potentially have Chris Pine (last seen in Smokin' Aces) as Captain Kirk. He's also set to star alongside George Clooney in White Jazz, but both films have similar schedules. If they can't work out a way for Pine to do both he'll have to choose between them.

Terminator 4 in the works...

Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins is the name given to the next Terminator film from the WB. Apparently it's the first of a new trilogy of Terminator movies to be set in the future.

No director has been confirmed as yet, but McG (ouch!) is supposed to be the front-runner. A Summer 2009 has been set and Arnie has been offered the chance to reprise his role in some way, but it's not detrimental to the production if he says "no".

My thoughts....
1st Terminator: Good!
T2: Ultra classic!
3rd: Meh-tastic
The prospect of a 4th doesn't really set my cinematic soul on fire, esp. with McG on board.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Golden Compass: New Trailer and Conclusion

The Golden Compass is hitting our screens this December and has a new trailer which can be viewed here: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808718640/video/4451177/

In other Compass news, director Chris Weitz has confirmed on his official blog that the final 3 chapters of the book will be removed from the final film and re-inserted into the very-likely sequel The Subtle Knife. Having not read the books myself, I've no idea if this is a good or a bad thing. However, if you remember back to Lord Of The Rings Peter Jackson decided to cut the Shelob sequence from The Two Towers for placement in Return Of The King. That wasn't such a bad idea and, from what I've heard, Weitz's cut is along the same lines.

Has anyone read these books? Are they worth picking up?

The remakes go on and on and on....

It seems that most Hollywood horror movies these days are either sequels or remakes of old 70s classics and J-Horror imports. Thankfully this trend hasn't crossed over to other genres in such a fashion, but still does pop up every now and again to make us all cry out: "Ah seriously, what's the point!?".

Next up for the remake treatment is John Woo's action flick The Killer. To be honest, the story of a hitman on his last job doesn't strike me as that original to warrant a specific remake (Holloywood at one point churned out these "original" films on a regular basis) so the only benefit I can see from making it an official remake is from a studio standpoint. And that is that it's safer to make a film where you already know what the finished product will be like since you have the template, rather then gamble on originality. The studio wins, and the audience loses out (both in cinematic and financial terms).

HOwever, there have been successful remakes in the past. Let's see, there was Cape Fear and....and...em... anyone?

And in the Beginning...

...there was this blog! This space will soon be filled with news, reviews and various other musings on film and related matter.