Sunday, 29 May 2011

So it's a Sequel, Not a Remake? You sure?

There are a few sequels which take the first movie and redo it with a slightly different scenario. Please don't. Here's why: The Hangover, Part II.

Quickly, let's list the key points in the first movie:
  1. Some one is getting married.
  2. the Bachelor party takes place somewhere famous for night life. (Vegas)
  3. The main characters get very drunk/drugged, loose a friend and remember nothing.
  4. The main characters search for their lost friend, finding a helpless person (a baby) and an animal that belongs to someone else (a tiger that belongs to Mike Tyson.)
  5. Eventually they find their friend somewhere they really should've checked.
  6. They make it back to the wedding on time.
All of this is the same in the second movie, except in Thailand with a old monk and a monkey who belonged to some Russians. From Stu doing something stupid to his body, to him confronting someone at the wedding and speaking his mind.

Phil and Stu were shocked by Alan's choice to become a Britney Spears impersonator.

Okay, let's start with good things. Ken Jeong was brilliant reprising his role as Mr. Chow. Definitely the best character. Mainly because he wasn't in the first movie as much so there was room for a whole new layer of his character. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms were both good as Phil and Stu respectively. Their characters developed a little. Admittedly, in Stu's case, it wasn't entirely in a good way. The character who had been developed the most was Alan. He was also the least amusing. In the first one, he was stupid. In Part II, he had delved deeps into the realm of mental difficulties and had lost a lot of what made him funny the first time round. no other characters were really major enough for any serious analysis. Yeah, Doug still wasn't in it. I would've loved to have seen Doug get caught up in the mishaps.

Stu thought his new tattoo made him look really tough. It didn't.

So, the writing and directing. Clearly, Todd Philips and his team took a laid back approach and said, "Hey, it worked before, lets do it again." And I don't just mean the plot. I mean every joke, every gag, even the same characters. Yes I liked Chow. But where the hell were the new characters? Even Eddie, the chapel manager from the first movie, made an appearance. (Though as a different character. Copy and pasted but with a name change and some hair.) Even Paul Giamatti's cameo was very disappointing. There were trade overs, mistaken identities, hookers and lots more of recycled jokes. The first movie still strikes me as a brilliant work in comedy in recent years. This does not.

I wouldn't suggest spending money to see this. Just watch the first movie again. That will stay good. This won't. Twice as vulgar and twice as silly, but half as good. Sillier you say? There was a drug dealing monkey. Enough said.

That's enough from me. I don't want to talk about this movie anymore. I heard it wasn't good, but I thought surely no. I was wrong. It wasn't very good. I was disappointed.

Best bit? When Chow was onscreen. He was hilarious. Particularly the car chase. A good scene in an otherwise poor movie.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Ghosts Really Like Tiny Tim,

With horrors often passed over or frowned upon by film enthusiasts, it takes something different to cause a decent audience reaction. Recently we had Paranormal Activity but now we have internet sites full of images from James Wan's new film. Why? Let's see. This is Insidious.

Despite the expectation of horrors being poorly acted and weak in terms of plot, Insidious tries to be successful in both film-making and creating scares. The plot is a fairly generic premise for a horror. A family made up of mother, Renai (Rose Byrne), father, Josh (Patrick Wilson), and three kids move into a new house. Soon after they move in, things start to go wrong. After being lured into the attic by strange noises and opening doors, one of the sons, Dalton, falls down a ladder and goes into a coma shortly afterwards. Slowly, Renai starts to see and hear things around the house. A voice on the baby moniter. A man in her baby's room. The usual. So the family move. But nothing gets better.

So Phil, does it beat the expectations of horrors? Well, let's see. In terms of acting, it's not the best piece of work. We are never presented with a real fear. Admittedly, the worst acting is in the last three seconds but overall it's nothing special. Patrick Wilson, lacks conviction while Rose Byrne presents most of the good acting. Though, contrary to popular belief, working with children can work. Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor (playing Dalton and Foester respectively) both show us that the younger generations can act. Still much room to improve but good enough. The light relief of the movie comes in the form of 'ghostbuster' double, Specs (Screenwriter - Leigh Whannell) and Tucker. (Angus Sampson) Their humor may seem out of place in a film full of jumps but the transitions between comedy and horror are so seem less that I don't see it as an issue. And finally, Elise, the psychic, (Lin Shaye) is the serious, all knowing figure. Something about her whole performance seems somewhat half hearted and never really becomes real.

Darth Maul's cameo is often missed.

But really, it's the film making that moves this film up from a normal horror. Wan and Whannell, the writing team that created Saw and Dead Silence, know a think or two about making horrors. No doubt they'll make a clown film soon. They've done psycho killer. They've done puppets. Now they've done children. Wait... I should re-word that. Made a horror movie revolving around a child. Better. What really struck me about this movie was the subtlety and the tension in the first half of the movie. Moments which made you question what you had seen. Not just because they came and went so quickly. Things in the background where you say, 'What was that? Did you see that? (See what) That thing in the corner.. It looked like...' Etc. There were several moments like this (including a cameo from Billy the Puppet.) These moments kept you on the edge of your seat.

However... The second half of the movie, while not without it's good bits, is a lot more cheesy. It becomes a bit too supernatural. It moves from the realms of paranormal experiences to a whole Further realm. (little inside joke for those of you who have seen it) Some of the most terrifying moments loose clarity here. What I suppose really should have been a big twist, despite being creepy, was not shocking. My opinion on why it looses clarity? Too much face. Demon's are A LOT scarier when you're unsure what you saw. The unknown is always scary. Showing a face for longer than a second, particularly a CGI or made up face, allows the audience to see what they're dealing with and see it's not as creepy as it first seemed. It gets a bit silly and far fetched.

I'll be honest. I'm not sure why she wore this in the movie. But it's creepy.

The music was old school. It reminded me of films like The Shining and Psycho. Lots of strings. Lots of sharp, jarring notes. The inclusion of Tiptoe through the Tulips, Tiny Tim's version, was one of the creepiest uses of a cheesy song since the alarm tone in 1408. Well, until the second time it played. Camera work was nothing special. Very plain and basic. With a horror, lighting becomes very important too. The use of strobes, odd shadows and complete blackness is used to great effect.

Overall, not a bad film. Nor the next great horror. Enough to install hope for future horrors. Scary but also silly. If you have trouble sleeping after these sorts of movies, you may want to just think twice. James Wan and Leigh Whannel have gone downhill since Saw but still haven't reached that standard that other horrors hit.

Best Bit? There are a few really good bits. Personally, I loved the bit with the dancing kid. But that may just be me.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Enter Through The Door - Part Of Documentary Day... Or Is It?

Nominated for an Oscar and was a huge hopeful for the win due to the director's need for secrecy. Speculation arose to what would happen if he won. A monkey suit perhaps? Maybe he wouldn't turn up. Who knows. We'll never know. It is however, a documentary. Or is it? This is Exit Through The Gift Shop.

Famous street artist Banksy takes up the task of directing. Well, sort of. Let's start at the beginning. Thierry Guetta, a French shop owner living in LA, films his every move. Everything he does, he has a camera in his hand. One day, while visiting his family, he discovers that his cousin is street artist, Space Invader. Fascinated by the night time world of the street artist, he goes out with Space Invader to film him working. He thinks it's a wonderful idea: to create something you're passionate about and putting it out in the open for all to see. Space Invader then takes a trip to LA to spread his work to America and introduces Thierry to other street artists, in particular, Shepard Fairey. Eventually, Thierry decides he's going to publicise the world of street art in the form of a documentary. But his film is missing something. The famous Banksy. The elusive British artist reamins hidden... that is until Banksy needs a hand in LA and a friend of Thierry's suggests that Thierry could help. The two strike up a friendship and do everything in LA together. This friendship leads to questioning by Disneyland, a terrible documentary by the name of Life Remote Control and the invention of Mr Brainwash.

Banksy wasn't sure about being filmed. He could smell a rat.

Is it real. Oh gosh. I really don't know. Arguments for and against are both rather solid. But it doesn't matter. It's a great film. It's funny. But most of all, it's a brilliant tribute to the talent and reasoning behind street art. Thierry is supposedly a real man despite claims he's not. He's mostly a nice guy. He's helpful, determined, always willing to help and smart. He's fun to watch as he's a really bubbly personality that emits happiness. Banksy's occasional input keeps the audience aware of how we should feel towards the events in the movie, particularly Mr Brainwash near the end. Other inputs are equally entertaining such as police turning up every now and then and causing Fairey to fall of his ladder.

When the late 1800s phoned and asked for their mutton chops back,
Thierry was very offended.

The often overlooked point of the film is a statement about the nature of art and popular culture as well as a look into the deeply secret world of street artists. If you're a fan of street art, this is a must see. From small pictures of space invaders to inflatable Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Disneyland, this movie gives an otherwise unseen insight into the creating process of street art and the passion behind it. It also shows how that can be lost through commercialism. Whether it is real or fake does not matter. The fact that one can't tell makes it all the more impressive if it was staged. However, the film producers are apparently very upset that people think it's a hoax after all the effort that they went though to search all the tapes of footage. Apparently, to just pass it off as a hoax doesn't give it the credit it deserves. And I agree. I personally believe it to be real, at least to a point. Call it ignorance, I call it acceptance.

Great movie, less than 90 minutes long. Definitely worth watching, especially if you're an art fan. To see one of my favourite installation pieces (The crumpled phonebox) being created was really cool.
Best Bit? I loved all the 'Behind the scenes' of art sort of things. Particularly with Fairey and at Disneyland.

P.S. I researched this film a lot to decide how authentic it is. I ended up having twelve movie related tabs open on my computer. I still can't decide. That's how good it is.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Internet Fish - Part Of Documentary Day... Or Is It?

Advertised cunningly as, "Forget The Social Network - This is the Real Facebook Film." Sneaky considering both movies tell incredibly different stories that involve Facebook. However, this is a documentary. Or is it? This is Catfish.

The trailer suggested something Blair-Witch-ish. Admittedly, the marketing campaign for this movie was extremely misleading. The movie is about a photographer Nev (pronounced Neev - Get it right Channel 4) and his relationship with a family in Michigan. Trouble is, he lives in New York. This means Nev's only forms of communication are online and through the telephone. His brother, Ariel, and friend, Henry, decide to document Nev's friendship with the youngest daughter, Abby, who is a child prodigy in art. However, as Nev starts getting friendly with the rest of the family, he becomes rather attracted to Abby's half sister, Megan. As the friendship develops and infatuation begins, the trio discover a few of Megan's deepest secrets.

Hidden cameras provide fairly useful in the final third of the movie.

Having never reviewed a documentary, I'm not sure where to start. I guess with the movie as a whole. I'll try to keep it spoiler free. It's great. It's suspenseful, fun and super unnerving. Nev is a great person to follow. He's normal, friendly and most importantly, he's easy to relate to. What's great about this self classed 'Reality Thriller' is the reality of the emotions. What is on screen is real and the audience are drawn in. But wait, is it real? The authenticity of the film has been question by many viewers including celebrities such as Zach Galifianakis. The film makers stand by their statement that it's 100% true. Ariel said that it all felt too perfect to them too. However, both himself and Henry are use to filming plenty of everyday life and it finally paid off. Supposedly. The mystery surrounding how real the film is only adds to it intrigue. Whether or not it's a hoax, it still raises real issues that are out there relating to social networking sites like Facebook.

Photoshop - As crucial to distance lovers as attention seeking teenage girls.

It's not impossible to guess what happens in the film without even seeing it. That's not important. Even if you know how it's going to end, which as the film develops you're likely to do, it's still the extent of the conclusion that makes the reality of the situation so shocking. Once the trio reach Michigan to meet the family, we are left squirming at particular moments. There are bits that are hard to watch and there are bits that border on disturbing. That reality may be too much for a movie that starts off fairly light. If you're a fan of something a bit more real and are welcome to see a darker side of the internet, this movie isfor you.

Despite the questions regarding it's authenticity, it's a gripping documentary. You grow to like the characters, you react when they react, and you feel just as uncomfortable as Ariel when he states, 'I just want to leave.' it encompasses a whole range of emotions as well as nailing the Facebook Zeitgeist right on the head. Enjoyable as well as unsettling.

Best Bit? It's tricky. Two moments stand out for me. The song discovery scene and the Painting of Nev scene near the end. Note: I have given these scenes these names. You'll understand if you watch the movie.