Archive for the Film Tirades Category

CHRONICLE – X-teens and angst.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by helenparker1212

So what do you do when you’re drunk and/or stoned in the woods, and you find a mysterious hole in the ground? Why, you jump right into it – what’s the worst that could happen? Well, like a Dr Pepper ad directed by Bryan Singer, turns out the worst that could happen is three feckless teenagers acquiring a bundle of superpowers that would put most of the X-Men to shame. It sounds like a dream come true; unfortunately, one of these souped-up adolescents is the bullied and hostile loner Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a kid with a serious axe to grind.

Director Josh Trank’s first feature is a found-footage story about a trio of X-Teens struggling with the moral implications of their newfound gifts. It plays out as a winning combination of Stephen King’s Carrie and an episode of Jackass, with a finale only King Kong can rival. The result is an original and revitalising addition to a genre many had already written off. With the subtlest use of special effects – the high-school talent show sequence is a joy to behold – and a compassionately observed relationship between its three key characters, the film begins disarmingly as a buddy movie.

Foisted together by their shared secret, a symbiotic relationship forms between Andrew, his philosophy-spouting cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and future class president Steve (Michael B. Jordan). But their budding friendship sours as Andrew’s behaviour begins to deteriorate, and Matt and Steve find themselves having to contain and control the renegade before it’s too late.

As with most films in this genre the conceit that every relevant plot point just happens to be caught on camera can stretch paper-thin at times, and Chronicle has its fair share of tenuous moments. (Look out for the scene where a girl films herself in the mirror for no apparent reason.) Thankfully, these slip-ups are few and far between, only surfacing on the rare occasions when the camera is held by someone other than Andrew.

At other times, however, the found-footage technique is used with true poignancy.  Where other shakycam movies reference Cloverfield or Blair Witch, Chronicle, via DeHaan’s accomplished and unsettling performance, evokes any number of recent high school massacres – tragedies that invariably seem to be accompanied by found footage of their own. The relevance of this film, which documents an embittered individual’s build-up to a mass atrocity, shouldn’t be diminished because of its science fiction label.

PROMETHEUS – A Heroic Effort

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , on June 26, 2012 by helenparker1212

As far back as 2002, ideas for an Alien origin movie were bouncing around Hollywood like a split bag of ping-pong balls. It was clear from the off that Ridley Scott was the man the bigwigs wanted to spearhead the project, with James Cameron coming a close second. However, the direction Scott wanted to take the franchise in was one that baffled and intrigued money-men and fans alike. An Alien film whose focus is on God, creation and science, rather than on chest-bursting, face-hugging killing machines? But no one uttered the words ‘it’ll never work’ with any real intent, because everyone wanted this film to work.

 

 

And to a certain extent Prometheus does, both as a faithful and reinvigorating addition to the Alien canon, and as a sci-fi movie in its own right. It is, however, light-years behind its predecessors in terms of directorial competence. Forget plot holes, the fundamental flaws of Prometheus are far more rudimentary, and can only be blamed on Scott himself.

There are entire sequences of the film where actors in shot are blatantly unsure of what they are supposed to be doing. Key moments of action are spoilt by unpolished performances – for example, the whole ‘walking into a flamethrower’ sequence comes off as awkward and even ridiculous, as does the ‘squashed by a spaceship’ and ‘decapitated by an angry alien’ scenes.

 

 

Much of this film feels under-rehearsed and underdeveloped, with several actors seeming confused as to what their characters are even supposed to be. We are offered stereotypes that we all thought serious cinema had grown out of by now, one of whom is the surly-but-good-hearted token black captain, played by Idris Elbah with aplomb. Another is a shaved, tattooed, gun-wielding Sean Harris, whose character is built up to be the next Hudson or Vasquez, but who in fact turns out to be a simple cowardly geologist who’s “only interested in rocks”.

 

 

However, it’s not just the actors who are suffering from a lack of direction, it’s also the cinematography. In a key scene towards the end of the film, Shaw – our main protagonist – has just stumbled away from a self-administered alien caesarean and into a room containing the very people who have attempted to kill her. The audience is on tenterhooks as to what will happen next. Will Shaw erupt in a Ripley-esque spree of justified ultra-violence? Will she attack her enemies with a verbal tirade against their monstrous scheme? Will she run away? These people are murderous psychopaths, after all.

 

 

Whatever the audience thinks Shaw is going to do at this point, they are not expecting for her to be relegated into the background by the director. Scott even has the nerve to place the protagonist out of focus, leaving her loitering in a doorway while the bad guys waffle on about the meaning of life. She then meekly follows these people – who have murdered her lover and used her as an incubator – into the heart of darkness without so much as a word of protest. This isn’t the only moment of unrealistic character behaviour in the film. In the case of Rafe Spall’s biologist Millburn, any astronaut who treats an alien tentacle like it’s a curious puppy deserves to meet a sticky end, even if it is an end we all saw coming a mile off.

 

 

In fact there is little in this film that comes as a surprise. From the convenient lifeboat which also doubles up as a self-administered surgery machine, to the revelation of Weyland and his relationship to Vickers, every big reveal has already been guessed. Yes the CGI is impressive, yes the ideas and mythologies behind the film are engrossing, yes Michael Fassbender is hypnotic to watch as the devious android David, and yes, as a stand-alone sci-fi in its own right, Prometheus is genuinely entertaining. However, as a Ridley Scott film, from a director of 33 years experience and more, Prometheus is yet another disappointment.

The Lovely Bones? The Lovely Pile of Douche more like.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , on October 13, 2010 by helenparker1212

I have been saving up my dvd of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones for well over a year now, because I really wanted to watch it and appreciate it without all the hype and commotion which surrounded its cinematic opening. Well. I just got through watching it. And it was bollox.
I am vexed.
Here are the reasons why it is less a pile of lovely, and more a pile of steaming.

1. What the hell was the point in Psychic Girl and ‘The Moor’? They were in four short scenes and played absolutely no part in the plot except at the end when Psychic Girl suddenly, inexplicably and fucking stupidly morphed into dead girl for a quick snog whilst her corpse was being rolled into a pit in the background. Forget catching the killer in the act, she was more interested in a good snog. The killer escapes to kill again, while the other victims’ families continue in their mental torture of not knowing the truth behind their daughters’ deaths. But dead girl got some. So it’s all alright.

2. Heaven appears to be a tree and limbo is a technicoloured cornfield copied straight out of the Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come (which, incidentally, did it better, but is also a far superior film to this messy heap of confused imagery and vacuous symbolism). Why the hell does she spend most of her time in a gazebo which we never see her in in life? She’s supposed to meet a boy there but never makes it, then it becomes her centrepiece in limbo because she’s never been kissed. So basically limbo is all about her wanting a snog. Thus, the gazebo.

3. Limbo is populated by a suspiciously enlightened group of horribly murdered girls whose only desire is to send Carol Anne into the light. I mean, send Susie Salmon to the tree. Forget about any kind of justice or sympathy for the living left behind, they appear to be interested only in picnics and butterflies. Alright, I totally get the idea that in limbo you have to let go of life and find peace, but these girls are just frikin pathetic! And the final scene with them all appearing in the field and flitting off to heaven (the tree) is just darn creepy, so intent are they on getting Susie to follow them, it feels like they’re working for the killer. That Holly girl has a glint in her eye that’s more agent of hell than agent of heaven. Acceptance of death is one thing, but embracing injustice is just plain strange.

4. Why is Susie’s mum such a twat? I understand it might be hard on the family if the father becomes obsessed to the point of deranged with finding his daughter’s killer, let alone her body, if she really is even dead. Yes, if over the course of years this happened a mother would be forgiven for leaving her husband and taking her family with her. Susie Salmon’s mother Abigail, on the other hand, gets pissed off with her husband and ditches her entire family after what appeares on film to be only a few months. What a bitch. In the book she even has an affair! She is replaced by her alcoholic mother played by Susan Sarandon who is absolutely not hilarious.

The film is supposed to be about the family, and about how they are to go on without Susie. Why then, is Sarandon only in three scenes, does the young son only have three lines, does the younger sister only become significant when embroiled in the murder mystery plot right at the end, does the mother leave entirely and is not seen again until the finale, and why oh why when you’ve found the condemning evidence of who the murderer of your sister really is, why oh why would you ever consider not giving it to the police? Which brings me to point 5.

5. Why does the message of this film appear to be ‘anything for an easy life’ ? The entire film was trying to come across as a murder mystery/family drama where the family is torn apart by their search for the truth until ultimately they come to realise that the truth is not worth it. This is all very well and good. But their giving up of the truth results in the escape of a serial murderer who can then carry on to kill more girls.

Their giving up of the truth is in fact a horrifically selfish act of self-preservation at the expense of every one else: the previous victims’ families, and the future victims and their families. The Salmon family is in fact uniquely and unnaturally selfish. Human beings do not give up on justice for their lost children. They just don’t. They don’t allow their childrens’ murderers to go free, and yes, families do fall apart.

And no, murderers do not generally get miraculously killed by falling icicles.

Which brings me to point 6.

6. THE MURDERER WAS KILLED BY AN ICICLE!!!

They made the decision that family was more important than justice, so the killer is free to kill and that’s their fault. But then they realise how douchey that is, so they kill off the killer with an icicle. Just to make sure they don’t get blamed for him killing anyone else. Job done.

My point is this: is your family more important than everyone else’s? Are we not compassionate and community centred creatures? Or are we cold-blooded, isolated and selfish beings?

Are we apes, or are we snakes?

PANDORUM – DON’T BELIEVE THE SHITE

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2009 by helenparker1212

It was Orange Wednesday, I was in the mood for entertainment on the darker side of things, and it was a toss up between Zombie Land (much hyped) and Pandorum (slated and ignored). I chose Pandorum because the tv advert looked fukin ace and because I never listen to douchebag film critics. And guess what, I was proved correct as per usual because I was treated to a little gem of a film which no one else seems to know about because they listen to douchebag critics. And I especially don’t reguard the opinions of the nonentities who write on web sites like Rotten Tomatoes.

pandorum_2

The main criticism appears to unoriginality. Well, to this I say so bloody what? I refer back to my review of Jaume Collet-Serra’s House of Wax of a few years ago, a slasher with all the typical generic traits which is still a bloody good horror film. How many times do these donks have to be told? Generic loyalty is NOT A SLUR! Pandorum is a film with flaws, this is undeniable, but you know what? It’s still a bloody brilliant film. Its cinematography is magnificent, it is genuinely frightening, Ben Foster is a revelation, Dennis Quaid is Dennis Quaid, and it has several great twists at the end which leave you sufficiently impressed, perhaps even enough to go see it again, like I will on Saturday, and this time I’m going to pay full price.

Yes.

It’s that good.

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So. You’ve decided to remake ‘Last House On The Left’.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , on March 20, 2009 by helenparker1212

There’s something about remakes of films with sadistic sexual content that proves the old adage that a talented director really can polish any kind of turd.  As a third generation feminist  (i.e. I take women’s lib for granted) it’s very rare for me to bother commenting on such things as misogyny and the sexual exploitation of women in film and tv. It’s so passe, right? But there’s something about Wes Craven’s 1972 film Last House on The Left which has suddenly turned me into a militant, second generation, bra-burning, seeing-sexual-discrimination-and-exploitation-in-every-damned-media-product feminist.

This film was banned in Britain and became a notorious video nasty, only achieving a proper release in 2003 after numerous battles with the censors. I, as a film student and cinephile, never thought I’d say this about censors, but thank God for them. Not only that, but they didn’t go far enough in censoring this poisonous, pernicious, insidious, downright pornographic piece of shit film. There aren’t enough words ending in ‘ious’ to do this toxic film justice. It has absolutely no redemptive qualities whatsoever. And believe me, I always try to find a redemptive feature to justify a film’s existence, no matter how atrocious. This film is unique to me.

lasthouseontheleft

I simply cannot find any excuse for filming, extremely badly (fuck off with your hand-held-camera-Veitnamesque-verite-style-excuse Craven!), two girls being sadistically raped and murdered by four badly acted criminals to a soundtrack that alternates between hillbilly farce and mellow-yellow psychedelia, while two superfluous cops are seen reading magazines and trying to hitch a lift on top of a chicken-truck driven by a mad black woman with no teeth. Oh, and it’s also apparently based on Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Virgin Spring’. It is possibly this final claim to worth that makes me the most incensed. That anyone could watch Bergman’s film, and then roll out this piece of crap as a homage, simply defies reason and induces vomit.

Mark Kermode was asked to argue for this film’s release, and he cited its historical significance – as a banned film, a video nasty, an early work of a famous director, fodder for feminists etc. Well, Kermode, you failed to convince them. It’s just a shame you couldn’t g on failing to convince them because this film deserves to be relegated to the deteriorating doom of VHS. But no. Absence of quality control won out, and I have just undergone one of the most unpleasant cinematic experiences of my life.

So with all this in mind, you’d think I’d be virulently opposed to a remake. I am, however, fully in favour. The main problem with Craven’s film is not it’s subject matter. It is the fact that the film’s quality is just plain shit. It’s badly filmed, badly plotted, badly scripted, badly acted – and all of this bad only serves to increase the unpleasantness of the violence it depicts, lessening to the point of erasing the value or purpose of its existence. It actually views as the perverse manifestations of a sick mind, Wes.

So, Dennis Lliadis, whatcha got for us? The film hasn’t released in the UK yet, so I have no idea, but even a poorly executed Hollywood remake of this film is going to be far, FAR superior to the original – that I can guarantee without seeing it. And even if the remake is awful, ‘awful’ is still an improvement on ‘has no creative or artistic merit or purpose and should never have been released’.

Who’s watching the Watchmen? Probably no one once the reviews start coming out.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , on March 9, 2009 by helenparker1212

“Mother forgive me.”

But I have to do the honest thing and admit that Jack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen is a disappointing dud. A fantastic first hour proves to be a mere pricktease preceding an hour-and-three-quarter-long fizzling-out to a finale I can only describe as farcical. I so wanted this film to be amazing. The source material was solid gold, the challenge was notorious, the rewards monumental. And for the first hour I really thought damn, this guy’s nailed it. But then something terrible happened. The tide turned. And an outstanding film turned into a steaming pile of horse excreta.

However, for all you “I told you so”-spouting parasites out there, I will not bang the final nail in this movie’s coffin. The ‘to adapt or not to adapt’ debate has been raging in the academic and cinematic community for decades. The primary tenet of the debate is that work of one medium – say literature – cannot be faithfully adapted by any other medium – say tv – because of the fundamental differences between the mediums. This is an academic debate, and it is bollox. The people who purport it are the same douchebags who claim Shakespeare can never be faithfully adapted to film because it is fundamentally literature, forgetting in the process of their academic diarrhea that Shakespeare never meant for his work to be read by anyone but the actors.

watchmen

Alan Moore himself is unfortunately one of these douchebags, refusing to have anything to do with film adaptations of his work and claiming that cinema cannot faithfully adapt comic books to the big screen because they are fundamentally different mediums. In his opinion cinema should not even attempt it. I say it again, this is bollox.

It is a fundamental principle of artistic creativity that all stories are capable of being told in all mediums. And it is the skill of the artistic adapter which dictates the success or failure of an adaptation. If it is a successful – read popular – adaptation, then literary adaptation becomes acceptable. If it is crap, then everybody says “I told you so”. For nearly twenty years comic book fans have been waiting for someone to have the kahunas to make a film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ epic masterpiece. Even Terry Gilliam, the hardest working man in Hollywood, gave up on this project. Twice. Generally the excuse has been that the original comic is ‘unfilmable’, and deliberately so; Alan Moore’s intention with Watchmen was to show what comic books could do that other media could not.

Zack Snyder has to be congratulated, then, for the fact that he even got the damned film made in the first place. And anyone watching the film can tell he has tried – he has really, really tried to film the deliberately unfilmable. But I am going to have to tear him a new one, and these are the reasons why:

The unnecessary focus on the love story between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, the lack of exploration of the Ozymandias character, the almost total absence of the Comedian after the first hour, the confused and blurted ending, the love story – did I already mention that? Well I’ll say it again, the frickin’ love story!! The absence of the Black Freighter comic, the Nite Owl character/actor full stop, the lack of explanations about what Doctor Manhattan, Ozymandias and the Comedian are up to, the lack of explorations of themes, the love story…

I’ll say it again, the first hour is magnificent, and Snyder succeeds in the near impossible task of telling a hundred different stories all at the same time. But it falls apart. And that is a tragedy, because the studios aren’t going to let anyone else anywhere near this franchise for a very long time. We can only hope that in another twenty years someone will come along with even bigger balls than Snyder, and attempt another adaptation. If at first you don’t succeed, try try try try…

Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ as cult film – an essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by helenparker1212

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moment will be lost, in time. Like tears, in the rain…Time to die.” (Roy Battey, Blade Runner)

“like science fiction pornography – all sensation and no heart.” (Pat Berman State and Columbia Record, Columbia, South Carolina, July 2, 1982)

roy

In this essay I have chosen to discuss Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner as a primary example of a ‘cult’ film. I will begin by exploring the various definitions and debates surrounding the term ‘cult cinema’, and the different categories of cult film, with particular focus on the debate over the relevance of the ‘midnight movie’ phenomena in the age of the internet, TV, and video/DVD rental. I will then analyse Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner as an example of the cult category ‘the resurrected financial/critical flop’. I will then explore the reasons why this film attained cult status, looking at its appeal to niche audiences, and also its appeal to those attempting to unravel the mysteries and mistakes surrounding its production history. I will explore the relevance of generic hybridity in a film’s progression from cult to mainstream success, and ask whether or not a cult film can still retain its cult badge of honour once it has achieved this success.

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White British Cultural Identity in Film – an Essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , on February 20, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The English are great lovers of themselves and of everything belonging to them. They think there are no other men like themselves and no other world but England and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say he looks like an Englishman and it is a great pity he should not be an Englishman…”

The Venetian Ambassador of 1497, quoted in ‘English Traits’ In Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays 1856 London: Read Books (2006 edition p.85-6)

“They’re rubbish the French. They’ve never forgiven us for the Armada.”

Irate English holidaymaker, interviewed by the BBC during the 1995 French seamen’s blockade of English ferries.

The film I have chosen to analyse as a representation of my personal cultural identity is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006). My identity, at its broadest level, is ‘white English’. However, the white identity is one in crisis, and has been since the mass immigrations of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw a totally unprepared Britain become a multi-racial society in the space of one generation. I personally find the racial definition ‘white English’ entirely unhelpful when considering contemporary cultural identity.

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Today, with the added threat of global Islamic terrorism, and the converse emphasis of Islamic rights and culture, a dangerous breed of white English anti-immigrant sentiment, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s and 70s, is threatening to rear its ugly head once again.

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Review of Jaume Collet-Serra’s film ‘House of Wax’

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , on February 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

See Paris Die!

The main tagline for director Collet-Serra’s first feature film (and I have to admit what drew me in) is unfortunately a deceptively shallow condensation of what is actually an intelligent, well crafted and generically celebratory horror film, which deserves a lot more praise than it has received.

The premise of the film is wonderfully traditional – hot teens get slashed up by hicks – and yet artistically imaginative and refreshing. In addition to your bog-standard slashing, they also get covered in wax and put on display in an American hicksville version of Madam Tussaude’s. Nice.

housewax

One of the many unimaginatively derogatory criticisms of contemporary horror films (as in, anything made past 1990) is that they are “all the same”. What these unversed critics fail to recognise – due to their lack of education in film theory – is that horror films, more than any other genre, display a true loyalty to and celebration of their generic predecessors, that their audiences recognise and engage with positively. The sight of an excerpt from ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’ in House of Wax is a perfect example of this. People who are generally dismissive of horror films and their theoretical ancestry are woefully handicapped when it comes to appreciating them. So they really ought to shut the fuck up.

House of Wax is an excellently written, well paced, thoroughly entertaining, witty and also pretty brutal and sad horror flick at its generic best. And although it has that annoying bint from 24 in it, it also stars an infinitely watchable Jared Padalecki, which more than compensates – though his demise in the film is particularly vicious and unusually tragic for a slasher.

I’m not going to bore anyone with an in-depth theoretical analysis of horror films – we go to university for that. But it has to be said there is so much more to horror than meets the untrained eye. So if you’re unwilling to see it, don’t watch them. And don’t attempt to review them, or you’ll end up sounding like a douchebag.

A review of Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges’

Posted in Film Tirades with tags on February 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

Cocaine-induced racist tirades from thespian midgets, murderous skinhead bum-boys, a medieval setting and a performance from Ralph Fiennes that knocks Ben Kingsley’s performance in ‘Sexy Beast’ out of the water. Just a few of the nuggets of genius to be found in this masterpiece of absurdity from new directorslashplaywright McDonagh.

“What did I do to deserve this?” the film’s young protagonist Ray (played by a sterling Colin Farrell) asks his world-weary cohort Ken as the two find themselves stuck in the medieval landscape of Bruges, awaiting instructions from big boss Harry (played by Fiennes with terrifying finesse). What have they done? is indeed the question we are asked to ponder as we follow the personal journeys the pair undergo whilst being stuck in Bruges. Cue some of the darkest, wittiest humour seen on the big screen in years.

inbruges

Farrell gives possibly the finest performance of his career so far as the guilt ridden Ray, a character trying desperately hard to ignore the moral consequences of a terrible mistake. Trying to help him come to terms with what he has done is his partner Ken (played with gravitas by Brendan Gleeson), who is struggling to find a path between his loyalty to Harry and his desire for Ray’s redemption. Harry, however, has other plans. And if Ken won’t fulfil his responsibilities, then Harry will have to do it for him.

So begins a cat and mouse game to rival a Marx Brothers film, through ancient churches, bell towers, canals and, of course, pubs. The dialogue is razor sharp and the director’s theatrical origins shine through in the detail of the character’s psychologies and in their interactions with each other. The relationship between the tormented Ray and his mentor Ken is nothing less than heartbreaking, and Harry’s ferocity is nail-biting. Action builds steadily and slowly, giving the audience time to enjoy the characters and the scenery, before the impending denouement which we know is coming, but resist acknowledging in the same way the central characters do.

We, like Ray, would much rather have a gay beer with a beautiful girl (played by Clemence Poesy of Harry Potter fame) than think about his impending day of judgement. This is a wonderful film, equal parts tender, comic and bloody tragic. So I’ll have a gay beer please, and if the racist midget doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what will.