Friday, 9 August 2013

Incredible Hulk (Smaltz Review)

Dir: Louis Letterier
Starring: Ed Norton
Rating: Good
So The Incredible Hulk or Bourne on Radiation as I like to call it. We get through the origin story in the opening titles and straight into mild mannered Bruce Banner living in exile in Portugal. From here he’s on the run in a Bourne like style before finally being pushed too far and turning all green and angry. I wasn’t expecting much above average but I liked it. Ed Norton is very good, likeable and believable. Tim Roth snarls about and is a fun villain and the romance is sincere enough although not explored very far and cast aside a bit too quickly. As for Hulk himself, as with all CG humanoids they don’t look real but this one’s pretty good and him smashing stuff can be quite exciting although it has to be said the quality of the visual effects is a bit hit and miss. The first Hulk outbreak keeps him in the dark with fork lift trucks coming out of nowhere and is very exciting. A later one in bright day light is at times very good but when the digital Hulk (the correct way to do the character) is fighting a digital helicopter (wrong, we have helicopters!) it doesn’t look very good at all. It has to be said as well that like so many action films the ending is a bit of a damp squib.

All in all I liked it. It all felt a bit more real and down to earth than I thought and for a title character that says little more than ‘Hulk smash’ it kept me entertained for the duration of its only slightly overlong running time.

The Karate Kid (New one) (Smaltz review)

Dir: Harold's Wart
Starring: Jayden Smith
Rating: Top Wok
This is a really nice remake. It walks that fine line of telling the same story but in its own way whilst making it relevant to a new audience. Moving the story to China is a brilliant idea. It makes everything more intense as its a country much of the western world is afraid of and doesn’t really understand. It’s even more intimidating from the perspective of an 11 year old boy.


This is a very understated film, very quiet which is refreshing. The director shows real restraint especially when it comes to the amount violence in what should be a family film. The fight scenes have weight and are quite harsh but they’re never excessive. They only happen when the story requires it, Jackie Chan for example only has one fight scene which is brilliant as you’d expect. It has been criticised for being too long but I like a film that takes the time to visit a shadow theatre and watch a lady balancing on the edge of a mountain whilst a snake copies her movements.


In terms of characters Jaden Smith takes on the lead character well and Jackie Chan gets to do some real acting which is great to see whilst the Chinese scenery is a character in itself. The story is predictable yes but that’s okay, we want the underdog to win anyway. As for how it compares to the original, well I didn’t grow up with The Karate Kid but I have seen it and I did really like it, it’s a proper 1980’s family film. But if you were to show both to someone who hadn’t seen either I think the majority would prefer this new version. It’s subtler, has more of an edge and loses a lot of the 80’s snarling and melodrama.

I would probably give Karate Kid 3 ½ stars or 7/10 but as Narry doesn’t do half measures I’m going to stick my neck out that bit further, and for sheer effort and being brave enough to be a bit different I’m going to award this film…

Watchmen (Smaltz speaks...)

Dir: Zack Snyder
Starring: Malin Akerman
Rating: Average

This is the first in a triage of snappy ‘week off work’ reviews.

What to say about Watchmen…enigmatic, political. How about nasty, confusing and worst of all a bit boring. I’ve not read the graphic novel so I’m reviewing the film on its own and I’m afraid we didn’t click.

I like some of its ideas, namely a world where everyday people decided to become costume heroes to try and restore justice, and Dr Manhatten, a real 1950’s creation, being born from an atomic lab accident only here he’s taken further as he starts to become less and less human so no longer really cares about our world. Unfortunately it’s all very long and I must admit I got bored to the point I had a race on F1 2012, coming back for the last 25 minutes which I have to say I rather enjoyed. Things seemed to be moving finally and the morally questionable ending is definitely not the norm and it leaves the film in an interesting place.

The real problems seem to be that there is no emotional involvement at all and that there is no backbone to the violence and nastiness. Case in point The Comedian.

The film starts with his death and then goes back into his story for a while. Thing is after seeing a couple of the horrible things he’s done I didn’t care who’d killed him but was kind of pleased he was dead. Later when he breaks down and has a change of heart I still didn’t care. Even by the end and after the atrocity that happens I wasn’t really that involved. There’s nothing to draw you in, no character to care for just some interesting visuals and ideas stretched out over two hours and forty minutes.

What’s really worrying is that after the film I had to go to Wikipedia and read the plot which is not something I’ve had to do before. Now maybe that’s my fault for drifting away from the film but I’ve read other reviews where the reviewer had a similar problem.

I’m hoping I’ll come back to it in a few years’ time and realise I was completely wrong…we’ll see.





Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Outisders

Dir: F. F. Coppola
Starring: Swayze, Dillon, Cruise, Estevez, etc.
Rating: Good

Arrested Development (Series Four)

Dir: Michael Hurwitz
Starring: Jason Bateman  
Rating: Average

Life at 24 Frames a Second

?: Radio series by David Thomson
Rating: Genius

Star Trek

Dir: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Zahary Quinto
Rating: Good

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Dir: George Clooney
Starring: Sam Rockwell  
Rating: Average

3:10 to Yuma

Dir: James Mangold
Starring: Russel Crowe, Christian Bale  
Rating: Average

Oblivion

Dir: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Crooz  
Rating: Poops

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Dir: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: David Bowman  
Rating: Terrible

Philadelphia Experiment

Dir: Stewart Raffill
Prod: John Carpenter
Starring: Michael Pene
Rating: Average

Starman

Dir: John Carpenter
Starring: Jeff Bridges
Rating: Good

The Thing

Dir: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell
Rating: Great

Men at Work

Dir: Emilio Estevez
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez
Rating: Good

80s films were much more simple. There's no reason for anything - two dustbinmen find a dead body, there's a beautiful girl, a crazy ex-soldier. Let's go crazy!

Exploding poop bags.

The Fly

Dir: David Kronenbourg
Starring: Jeff Gollum
Rating: Poops.

Ech. A sentimental horror romance about a human fly. Come on, Cronenborg.

If it wasn't for Goldblum's epic performance The Fly would lose all credibility and be a simple B-Movie.

Some great moments using models - the days before CGI were much more memorable. But a poor script and terrible idea for a film.

The Chase

Dir: Arthur Penn
Starring: Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda
Rating: Good

With such a top cast, it's hard to go wrong. But The Chase somehow just ends up being a bit dull, and you want it to end.

Brando again steals the show. He's tough, seems almost out of place in the Texas police station, but perfectly at home with his wife.

A slightly overblown picture.

On the Waterfront

Dir: Elia Kazan
Starring: Marlon Brando
Rating: Top Work

Kazan taught Brando to act, or so he claims. On the Waterfront is all about Brando - it's pretty much a one man show, although the Union boss tries to get some of the limelight.

It's a gritty tale, as all films set at ports are. The struggle between worker and authority. Brando plays the thug who changes his ways.

Interesting, captivating, but not massively enjoyable.

Seconds

Dir: John Frankensteiner
Starring: Rock Hudson
Rating: Top Work

Ah, the 60s. Psychological twists, loose plots. Seconds is a classic example of that.

Frankenheimer's great at making messed up films. Everyone's thought about this - and it stands as a perfect metaphor and parable, albeit with a sci-fi horror twist. Can you trade bodies, and begin again?

Watch Seconds and find out.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Star Trek (Smaltz)

"A big old fun space adventure." Smaltz, converted Trekist

Dir: Abraham's, Jay Jay
Starring: Chris Pining to be photographed, Zachary Quinto-ssentially American

Smaltz ain’t no Trekkie. You might think I would be but I ain’t. I’ve tried a couple of times to get into Star Trek, and it seems like something I should a bit nerdischleiner about. But I’m not. Before watching this film my knowledge of Star Trek was this: Capt. Patrick Stewart goes back to earth for a garden party in one episode; the ship is called The Enterprise; Star Trek 2 is the best film; Klingons…live long and prosper.

This makes it difficult to get into the latest Star Trek film. Characters reel off clich├ęs - maybe the film is trying to reassure long time fans with these references, but Smaltzy was lost. Eventually, the film settles down and we meet James T. Kirk as a young rebel who is convinced to join “star fleet”. He goes on to impress, but also to cause trouble and ends up being taken aboard the Enterprise for its maiden flight illegally.

Lucky for us he does, because what ensues is a big old fun space adventure. I was dubious about sitting through two hours of Star Trek and even more concerned about making Mrs Smaltz watch it with me but we both thoroughly enjoyed it. New Kirk, James Pine, keeps the whole thing going with his cocky yet likeable and youthful charisma. Mdm. Smaltz also informs me that he’s extremely good looking, and I do indeed see something of a young Smaltz in him.

The most impressive thing in Star Trek is that it manages to be both a reboot and a sequel to the previous films at the same time. That’s very clever in my eyes. Sure, the way they do it is through some astrophysics nonsense, but that’s what Star Trek’s based on so it really isn’t a problem. 

There are sadly a few things that stop it being brilliant, and they are the same problems I found in Mission Impossible 3, also directed by J J Abrahams. For some reason in amongst all the drama and life threatening action there’s some slapstick silliness. In Trek, we have Simon Pegg’s Scotty (I thought he was awful but Mrs Smaltz liked him) flying through some hamster cage style tubes filled with water. In MI3 we had Tom Cruise scurrying around a Singapore highway. I think it’s meant to be light relief and to balance the film, but I find such silliness distracting and too much of a shift in tone.

The other dodge E. aspect of Star Trek is Eric Bana’s villain, Nero. If you wrote a character description he would be very scary... but he isn’t. Personally I would have liked an affected voice, but Bana seems content to use his normal tone.

I’m not sure how the hard core Star Trek community have taken to this new version but it’s got me excited for the sequel due out this year and I’ve never been excited by Star Trek before.

Rating: Good

Monday, 11 February 2013

Thomas Crown Affair (Smaltz Review)

"Even Sting couldn't ruin it" Smaltz
Dir: John McTiernan
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo

Ah remakes; the chance to fix the problems of the original. Unfortunately, what normally happens with remakes is they fall into one of two categories: 

  1.   Disaster; or, 
  2.   What was the point of that.

Thomas Crown is a rare exception. It takes the good ideas from the original and develops them. They are thus; Thomas Crown is a bored billionaire who decides to spice up his life by staging a heist. He is then pursued by a saucy insurance woman and they try to work out how to exist together on opposite sides.

It’s a good story and for me this is the better telling of it. The characters are more rounded and the film is pacier. The biggest change is the heist itself. In the original, Thomas Crown orchestrates a bank robbery, whereas here he steels a painting. This seems much more in keeping with the character. The thrill is in carrying out the crime, and stealing a Monet is far more worthwhile to a swanky billionaire than money.

The film is helmed admirably by Die Hard director John McTiernan who keeps things stylish and tense but also humorous which makes for very easy viewing. Brosnan and Russo have excellent chemistry and you instantly buy into their relationship. To further smooth things along there is an interesting original score from Bill Conti and an excellent array of existing songs.

The only thing to cause any offense is Sting’s version of The Windmills of your Mind, the brilliant song from the original. Thankfully this is held back until the end credits so sorry Sting, despite your best efforts even you can’t ruin the film.

Rating: Top Work!


Friday, 8 February 2013

The Dark Knight Rises (Narry B Review)

"Loses all respectability at that moment" Narry B
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway

"His only crime... was that he loved me" (*Narry B spontaneously pukes all over the TV screen*)

Rises' script features such powerful lines as the above. The film plays host to a whole heap of cliches, in fact:

  1. The invincible villain makes an entrance
  2. The superhero is defeated
  3. He trains hard while in exile
  4. He returns and beats him with ease
  5. There's a final "shocking" plot twist
  6. The film sets itself up all too nicely for a sequel, against all the odds
This is 'plot by numbers', straight out of the ABC of filmmaking. Of all these, no. 5 is the most ridiculous. The last minute identity twist adds nothing to the story. It only serves to undermine the character of Bane, who would otherwise be one of the better villains from modern comic book films.

Rises mimics some elements of  Hugo's Les Miserables in order to hint at a deeper political meaning. Yet the overall story is utterly facile. It would have been better off trying to be an all out entertainment feast, instead of hinting at revolutionary ideals.

Admittedly, the film is kind of compelling - the first half in particular. There's plenty of action and it's very pacy. You can't fault the production values, either - for £200m you'd expect that, at least. Anne H is excellent as Catwoman, and provides the movie's best moment wherein she pretends to be hysterical when the police turn up after she causes a ruckus in a bar. And, as Smaltz noted, Bane is a great villain - which is why it's so annoying that all his credence and cachet is taken away at the end.

But at the end of the day... "His only crime was that he loved me..." 

I'm afraid you lost all respectability at that moment, Christopher N.


Rating: Average

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Dark Knight Rises - Smaltz Review

"Violence... is never justified in the film" R. Smaltz
Dir: Chrisdagopher Nofun
Starring: Chrisdeurn Bail

The Dark Knight trilogy for me is the best cinema trilogy of all time. I wouldn’t argue against Toy Story, either... and I like the Godfather... but, for me, Christopher Nolan’s re-invented Batman series is more intense, more surprising and more powerful, which is an epic achievement when you think about how run of the mill its comic book contemporaries have been.

Rises seems to be the one that has divided people the most. I know people who love it and a lot of people who don’t. After seeing it at the cinema I liked it, after seeing it a second time, on Blu-ray, I loved it. So much so I think it’s the best of the three.

Never before has the sacrifice Bruce Wayne makes (or the hero in any film for that matter) been so integral. Crucially,  Rises gives you a real sense of that.

These are violent films for a 12 certificate. Children have always had an attachment with the central character, and I think it’s very important that the consequences of the violence are shown alongside the element of self-sacrifice. Because of this the violence is never taken lightly, nor is it justified even within the films.

A lot of the criticisms levelled against Rises are that it’s too political and doesn’t have anything comic or eccentric in the way Batman normally does. But this feels like a natural way for the story to progress. Batman’s appearance has drawn out the nut cases - they’ve gone away and it seems inevitable that someone stronger and more dangerous will take their place, in this case Bane.

It’s fascinating how the villains reflect a side of Batman: In "Begins", the Scarecrow is fear, in "The Dark Knight", the Joker is the psychotic side, and in "Rises", Bane is strength both physically and in his determination. He’s relentless and seemingly unbeatable. Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane has split audiences, mainly because of the voice, but as far as Smaltz is concerned he’s terrific and terrifying.

The supporting cast is excellent as always. I’d like to mention how good Anne Hathaway is as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. I was very sceptical how that character would fit in this real world Batman but she’s fabulous as a femme fatale and a grifter. Also top work by Hans Zimmer for unashamedly bashing every big drum he’s got and producing a fantastically exciting score.

I’d like to finish by echoing a thought from Mark Kermode; that, despite what you may think of Rises, we
should all be thankful that someone is willing to spend £200 million on a film that is very brave, so full of interesting themes and characters and doesn’t dumb down to what it thinks mainstream audiences will like.

Rating: Genius!

Argo

"Grainy picture and authentic beards" Narry B
Dir: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston

Advertising works. Narry B found himself inevitably drawn to the movie house to watch Argo after seeing it advertised on a bus billboard. Why? Because it features the mighty Bryan Cranston, a versatile and (until recently) underrated actor.

But is it "based on a true story"? Really? Isn't that just another way of rewriting history? Seems like some key facts were left missing from this tale, Mr. Affleck, if that is your real name.

That aside, Argo is one of the best films Narry B's seen at the cinemaplex for many years. And it all comes down to one thing: tension. Narry B was so tense he had to have a massage afterwards.

A lot of modern films fail because of two things: wanton violence/sex, and poor scripts. Argo has neither of these. In fact, it feels very much like a 60s/70s film from one of the great filmmakers like Hitchcock, or Coppola. The grainy picture and authentic beards lend it even greater vintage-appeal.

Argo watch it yourself.

Rating: Top Work!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Skyfall (Smaltz Review)

"It isn't fun. It's annoying." Roger P. Smaltz
Dir: Sam Mendes
Starring: Craniel Daig, Bavier Jardem etc.


Much like Smaltz, Bond's back after a four year hiatus. Schmaltz, of course, is a fan of the books and the ten or so films that resemble Ian Fleming’s stories. So I had high expectations for this. It saddens me to say, then, that I found it to be a crushing disappointment.

Just to clarify, Skyfall’s not a bad film. The cast is excellent - I really like the way Bond and our perception of Ralph Fiennes’ character changes throughout the film - it’s beautifully shot, and the theme song is really good. In fact the production as a whole is impeccable.

The problems nearly all come down to the writing. Firstly, this is a celebratory Bond, it being fifty years since Dr. No. As such the writers thought it would be fun to re-introduce all the old clich├ęs the last two got rid off, namely Q, Miss Moneypenny and slightly cringing one liners. It isn’t fun, it’s annoying.

Not only does it ruin the good work done by the last two films did but completely undermines the new direction the film tries to take. By new direction, I mean it wants to be like The Dark Knight. As such, it never feels like an Ian Fleming Bond story.

The second big problem is that the character of Bond is not quite right. One scene springs to mind, in particular. It involves Severine, a mysterious young woman who has been in the employ of Silva (Bardem) since she was twelve. Her story is clearly tragic yet Bond seems to think it’s okay to get in the shower with her unannounced. To me this felt very inappropriate and out of character. In fact, even if Smaltzy tried that out, he'd get a slap in the ying yangs.

His relationship with Camille in Quantum of Solace (another very vulnerable character) is handled much better, bringing to mind the restraint shown in the Moonraker novel where Bond’s fellow undercover agent is wearing an engagement and he doesn’t know whether it’s genuine or part of her cover.

Other problems include the plot about a stolen hard drive full of undercover agents that gets forgotten about half way through, the nonsensical timeline (how is Bond too old in this film when in Casino Royale he has only just got his 00 license? And how does he have the Aston Martin from Goldfinger??) and a ponderous score.

The biggest kick in the pants however is the films last scene which might as well turn to the audience and say ‘you remember the last two films…you won’t be getting another one like that’.


Rating: Average

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Dir: Grant Heslov
Starring: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney

Staring at a goat is a hazardous occupation. It is said that in Estonia, they employ people not to stare at goats in order to assuage their anger. Narry Borman is not convinced that system can work, as even an accidental glance at goats can result in the pulling of hair, a kick to the gonads, or a bitten earlobe.


This film strays a strange line between farce, satire, and fact. As a result, it doesn't quite work. It's enjoyably brief. And Jeff Bridges and George C are always worth watching. But it seems like the film doesn't really know what it wants to be, and I'm certainly not going to waste my time telling it what it is.

Rating: Average

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Rutles: All You Need is Cash / Can't Buy Me Lunch

Dir: Eric Idle
Starring: Neil Innes, Eric Idle, Ricky Fatar, etc.

Eric Idle... a man after my own milk. But The Rutles would be nothing without Neil Innes. It's the music that makes this ridiculous film or two credible, after all. In fact, Bazza N would go so far to say that once you've heard how closely The Beatles can be mimicked, you start to prefer The Rutles.

The first Rutles film is a work of staggering beauty - it's stupid, clever, and fun. Cameos from Bill Murray and John Belushi, among others, keep the viewer hooked.

The second film is a simple rehash of the first, but with interviews of celebrities "inspired" by The Rutles  - which vary massively in quality - interspersed with footage from the first film.

Once you've heard Cheese and Onions, you can never go back.

Rating: Top Work / Good

Sunday, 27 January 2013

35 Shots of Rhum

Dir: Claire Denis
Starring: Alex Descas, Mati Diop

Ah, Paris. Narry Borman spent a few years there in belle epoque, mixing with such characters as Hemingway, Vian, and a young Johnny Depp.

This modern tale of life in the beautiful city is a work of staggering beauty. There's depth, beauty, romance, and even rum.

The story centres around four characters who inhabit the same apartment building. Twisted histories, potential futures, pet cats... it's such a good film.

Oh, and it has Mati Diop... (*wipes drool from chin*)

Rating: Top Work

The Hustler / Colour of Money

Dir: Robert Rossen / Martin Scorsese
Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Tom Cruise

I tell ya a storey, see... Narry B once hustled the legendary hustler 'Flageolet O'Hanson'. Yerp... I stole the green beans from his plate when he went to the toilet.

Another great hustler was Paul Newman, who was a one of the great 9-ball players of all time. 'The Hustler' is a fairly slow tale, but if you like pool, then you'll probably enjoy the nuances of this here flick.

20 years later, Paul Newman discovers hotshot 'Tom Cruise' who can also shoot a mean ball. And the story kinds of repeats itself - except that Newman is older and wiser, and gets the better of every one he meets. What a dude.

Forrest Whittaker makes a genius cameo. Newman's lover in The Hustler is a good romantic interest. The difference between the two films is Scorses's direction. The Hustler is very low key - The Color of Money has some imaginative scenes that Lewbowski took inspiration from.

As with many films from books, there are obvious omissions and the viewer is required to use their heads to figure it out.

One day, the story of me and Flageolet O'Hanson will be told. But until then you can enjoy a good hustle with Paul Newman and co.

Rating: Good

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Blue in the Face

Dir: Wayne Wang
Starring: Harvey Kite-hell, Loo Read

Is Brooklyn really like this? A place where people live based on gut reactions, and not much else? If so, NB wants to go there.

Blue in the Face uses a lot of the same cast as Smoke, a rather dull film, and was, in fact, filmed around the same time. In a kind of proto-Curb stylee, the cast were asked to improvised a lot of their lines. No fear. Lou Reed is there to make sense of it all.

Top cameos from Roseanne, Michael J. Fox, Jim Jarmusch and Madonna. The ineffable John Lurie provides the music. But it's Lou Reed who steals the show with his perm and glasses.

Rating: Top Work

Buried

Dir: Rodrigo Cortes
Starring: Ryan Goosling

Roger Smaltz was once buried alive. In fact, he's still down there. We gave him a laptop so he could submit reviews. But he's down there until he apologises for eating my last ginger biscuit.

Ryan Goosling was also Buried by Rodrigo Cortes for this international collab. It's an interesting film. I don't want to give too much away. It's tense, slightly stupid, and downright enjoyable. It's good to see a film that uses unusual production methods, and manages to pull them off.

Now... time to check on Smaltz.

Rating: Good

Get Low

Dir: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray

All those mid-west films in the late noughties... What was that about? Narry B remembers well his time spent in the Mid-West of America planting and reaping corn. Even now, people remember him as the corniest man in the tri-county area.

Get Low is a personal and warming drama. The tension builds up nicely as Robert Duvall plans his own funeral. In fact, it's Duvall's performance, and Murray's charisma, that drives this film.

A nice setting, great acting, and a good script. The final payoff was surprisingly weak, and the constant gnawing sounds of background music was grating. But Get Low was a fine film... "mighty fine".

Rating: Good