Saturday, 30 June 2012

Why Aren’t Funny Movies Considered Good Movies?

Comedy is one of the biggest genres in the world of film and has spawned almost every sub-genre possible. There is horror comedy, romantic comedy, zombie comedy, romantic zombie comedy, satire, black comedy… you get the point. With more comedies than you can shake a stick at hitting the big screen every year for the last two or three decades, why do so few find spots on lists of the greatest movies? Is there really a difference between comedy and quality?
With Empire’s Top 50 Funniest Comedies released not too long ago, I began asking myself, ‘Are these really considered the funniest movies ever?’ Despite the list being voted for by the readers, it seemed I was not alone; the comments section was full of negative statements. While, of course, humour is subjective, I don’t think anyone expected some of the neglected talents. No Chaplin? No Keaton? Are the classics not as funny in today’s society as they once were?
The point was raised that a great movie may not necessarily be the funniest. Take In Bruges as an example. It is recognised by critics worldwide as a masterpiece of modern cinema and black comedy. However, as the movie progresses, its tone becomes darker and more intense. Whilst not completely lacking in laughs, it is understandable that this would force it lower down the list than a movie that focuses entirely on making its audience laugh such as There’s Something About Mary or Superbad. Surely this then raises a question: can a full scale comedy also be one of the greatest movies or does trying for laughs take some of the quality away?
On IMDb, the first comedy in the top rated 250 is Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb and that falls in at 34. Like The Apartment, which is at 12on Empire’s top 500, these comedies are considered some of the best movies ever made, and surely that makes them the best comedies? Yet, according to Empire’s list, there are still 16 funnier films than Strangelove and The Apartment is not even in the top 50. So maybe they are just the best received. And then, on the other side of the spectrum, what about Airplane!? A film that constantly tops ‘Funniest Films’ lists and yet is nowhere to be seen on IMDb’s top 250 and is all the way at 368 on Empire’s top 500. Can a film really be thought to be the funniest and top of its genre, but not be considered alongside the greatest movies of all time?
If you handed me the Empire’s top 50 Funniest Films list and asked me to pick my favourite film, I would have no difficulty selecting In Bruges. However, if you asked for my favourite comedy, I would probably read the list several times before throwing it across the room and complaining over the lack of Burn After Reading, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Guard, Submarine, and Little Miss Sunshine, despite none of those being my favourite comedy.
Whether or not it is possible to create a comedy that is worthy to be considered alongside the likes of The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, and Fight Club, there is one certain fact. It is not hard to make something that will make your audience laugh more than those films. Whether you go for a gag-a-minute type film like Airplane! or something a bit more sophisticated like The Big Lebowski, the truth of comedy is as long as it makes you laugh, it has done its job and it doesn’t matter how highly it is rated on other merits. A comedy is only truly a failure when it fails to make you laugh. (Here’s looking at you, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie.)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Sci-Fi. Aliens or Time Travel... Or Both?

Trilogy is a word that causes film nerds to hide in fear. They grab their copies of Lord Of The Rings, the original Star Wars trilogy, Back to the Future, and all three Toy Stories. For the kids of course (Ed: Lying bastard. Everyone loves Toy Story.) So how did this trilogy excite people? How did it manage to convince people that it may be different? Two words: Will Smith.

When Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from his high security prison on the moon, he swears revenge on the Agent who shot his arm off and arrested him in 1969. However, instead of finding revenge in the present day, he decides to go back to where it began. The past: 1969. The Agent he want's revenge on? Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Back in the present, Agent J (Will Smith) realises that something's different. No one has any recollection of Agent K. J does the only sensible thing, goes back in time to stop Boris the Animal. (Ed: It's just Boris) Back in 1969, he meets the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), and together they team up to save... well... Agent K. Of course, in 1969, there are now two Boris the Animals, only one Agent K, Agent J, and a strange man called Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see all outcomes of any time space combination. Time travel is hard.

Time to strap in... to the love train
All brain numbing paradoxes aside, (don't get me started!) there are plenty of good performances to keep the movie going. While this is, as the other tow movies were, completely Will Smith's movie - normally playing next to Tommy Lee Jones' straight man, Agent K - Josh Brolin is the one who really comes out in this film. One of the most perfect pieces of casting ever known. Brolin channels his inner Tommy Lee Jones perfectly and it is hard to tell that he is not an actual younger version of him. The big difference is, the younger Agent K is more charismatic and this encourages a really nice partnership between him and J. Of course, Will Smith is still brilliant. It's nice to see him going back to his Men in Black character and that he still remembers it, despite the long gap between movies. Tommy Lee Jones, as well, is fantastic and one can't help but wonder if working with Josh Brolin in the past helped the pair learn more about one another which greatly helped their performances.
Despite his might, Boris needed a hand to escape.
As mentioned earlier, there are serious paradoxical issues with the script writing. Of course, Men In Black is an alien franchise primarily but I will forever have issues with people who go back in time to stop something which will lead to them to not wanting to go back in time at all causing a ripple in the time-space cont... oh no I've gone cross-eyed. There are little faults in terms of technical elements; the CGI is perferctly fine (and should be with such a high budget.) The biggest issues come with the script, not just in terms of time travel, but also in terms of heart. There is little heart in the movie until one point that just seems to be thrown in with little thought. Once the audience get past the 'aww' factor, they will question the purpose of it entirely.

Overall though, it is a fun film and one that will present a good laugh, despite jokes falling flat or just not developing completely far too often. Serious Sci-Fi fans beware, but if you're after a simple laugh with a friend, this may suffice for you.

Best Bit? There is a really nice moment when K, J, and Griffin are all gathered at a ball park, in the past, watching a baseball game from the future. It is a part of the movie that actually is touching. That and the very last joke of the movie (The best joke in the movie) are the best parts for me.

Monday, 18 June 2012

People Are Not Important.

At first there was Alien. Then there was Aliens. Then there was some other stuff. The world slowly died with the release of Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Everyone agreed that the Alien universe should be left alone. But then Scott got back in the director chair. Soon teaser trailers started appearing for a movie from that very universe that should not be touched. They showed lots of people in trouble and then some letters appeared. Those letters spelt one word: Prometheus.

The year is 2089 and, upon discovering a wide range of ancient art work from ancient settlements that all share some extremely key features - people worshipping a giant who is pointing at a constellation of stars - Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) feel that they have reasonable proof to gain funding for a trip to explore where life on Earth came from. Flash forward around four years. With funding from Weyland Industries, the couple have managed to rope together an expedition aboard the ship 'Prometheus'. Also aboard the ship is David (Michael Fassbender), the android, who keeps everything ship shape whilst the rest of the crew, including Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and mission director Meredith (Charlize Theron), are in deep sleep. 'Prometheus' takes the crew to the moon of LV-223 where they are to look for a race called 'Engineers', which may be the original human. The crew discover a structure that doesn't seem natural and begin investigating. But the moon they've landed on may not be as harmless as they first believed.

The crew of Prometheus had to face their fears. 

There are good performances all round in Prometheus. Noomi Rapace gave a fantastic performance as Elizabeth Shaw. What really made her stand out was her character development. At the start of the film she is nothing more than a hard working scientist with ambition and determination. As the film progresses, that ambition and determination seem to surface more and her professionalism slips away from her. She grows and grows as a character and Rapace does an absolutely brilliant job in portraying this to the audience. Another stand out performance is that given by Michael Fassbender as the android David. Everything about him screams artificial intelligence. His movements, his speech pattern, everything, right down to his posture sitting at a table. He's the most marketed and most memorable character in the film and he'll stick with you after the movie ends. Also, Idris Elba is great as Captain Janek. He is the average guy on the ship, surrounded (mostly) by scientists and people of extreme importance. He just wants to do his job and drive his ship. He is a nice addition to the team.

'Let's go down here... I'm sure the ominous red light is nothing.'  
What really makes this film, though, is the outstanding visual effects and wonderful soundtrack. They both help to really create the atmosphere and world surrounding the crew of Prometheus. Of course, Ridley Scott worked on a 'If we can do it without VFX, we do it without VFX,' approach, which a lot of viewers will always prefer to overdone CGI. (See the many criticisms of Avatar.*) Even the 3D, something that is so wastefully used, was used to a good effect (unlike recent films like The Avengers). Prometheus is one of those rare movies that is enhanced by the 3D. The biggest issue with the film is in the plot. Often, things happen and are not even mentioned later or explained. (For those who have seen the movie, see Red Letter Media's video on unanswered questions.) Scott has already mentioned that this is not the full director's cut, so fingers crossed that plot holes or confusing points are elaborated in future editions.

Despite the issues with the writing, and the fact that some characters make extremely rash or perculiar decisions, the film has enough merits to stand in the company of good science fiction thrillers. The big mistake, when seeing this movie, is expecting an Alien film. Don't even compare. This film should be considered as its own film and not be connected, or considered related, to the Alien franchise. Many a disappointed viewer has claimed, 'it just wasn't like Alien.' It is its own film with a very loose connection to the Alien franchise. Enjoy it on its own merits, of which it has plenty.

Best bit? The scene in which David informs Shaw of the interesting results of her medical scan and Shaw's reaction to that, is one that shows the android's character in his fullest extent and the professor in her most challenging situation, psychologically and physically. A good scene.

*A view that is not shared by this blog writer. I adored the visual effects in Avatar and don't think it was too much CGI.