Sunday, 5 September 2010

No.166 : Wedding Daze

Sometimes the clue to a film’s quality can be found in its title and given Wedding Daze’s pishy pun offering you can be assured that you won’t overawed by the quality on show. But let’s not jump to conclusions, let’s look at the content and production values and then declare it a pile of crap.

Pie shagger Jason Biggs is all excited as he’s about to propose to his girlfriend in a home made cupid costume. His friend, the private eye guy in ‘House’ tries to dissuade him to no avail. We the viewer know the relationship won’t work as the girlfriend is flirting with the Spanish waiter but when she conveniently drops dead of heart failure all bets are off.

We skip forward a year and rather get counselling and stuff he’s been sitting about in his flat, presumably boning baked goods. His long suffering friend persuades him to go to the diner and for no explicable reason he proposes to the waitress Isla Fisher. As he asks the question we see her life in flashback and learn that her douche bag boy friend proposed the night before. For other reasons unknown she accepts and the unlikely premises is off and not quite running.

The mismatched pair then go through a few dull trials as they meet each other’s parents and encounter a few bumps in the road. His parents are sex mad swingers who seem a bit creepy and her mother has a new Jewish husband and an ex in prison in the shape of Joe Pantoliano.

After an extremely long middle section where the ‘will they, won’t they’ trundles along before they eventually do. As you’d expect Joe breaks out of jail and soon the whole party is on the run with some hapless cops on their trail. I can guarantee you won’t care by the end but just to hammer it home how pointless the whole thing is we get the treat of an extended ‘what they did next’ montage.

Despite a half decent cast this a real charmless stinker that’ll have you fast forwarding before the end on the off chance that Isla gets down to her skimpies for the finale. The rest of the film tries to be a bit edgy with snotters and riske sexy practices sprinkled about to offer something for the lads in a genre that rightly has ‘chick flick’ written all over it.

Part of the problem is that the central premise is so feeble; he’s an emotional wreck and she’s patently mental so where is our investment in them getting together? That allied with the zero chemistry between the leads makes for an awkward 100 minutes as they bumble around to the general apathy of the audience.

The big finale, which goes on for half an hour is a real shocker with the ass hole boyfriend inexplicably becoming gay and the straight-laced Mom going back to the jail bird ex. For a romantic comedy to be so lacking in comedy and romance is a rare feat but one executed here with some aplomb.

Best Bit : Isla’s Black bra an boy pants combo 43%

Saturday, 17 July 2010

No.165 : Wild Bill

You know, it’s lucky they make a wild west film every five minutes or we’d be in real danger of forgetting these guys, who in reality were a bunch of hard drinking’ hard shaggin’ murdering cow pokes. But it’s as near as America has to a history so let’s have a look at the 42nd re-invention of Wild Bill Hickok.

This film has a really excellent cast with recognisable names all down the credits. For me, that sounds a warning as the film is more likely to be stars raiding the dressing up box than anything even close to entertainment. I know that sounds like starting with a conclusion but that’s only because the film started it.

We open in black and white with Wild Bill’s funeral. We get a slightly reverential commentary from John Hurt as the Englishman abroad, a role later filled and bettered by Saul Rubinek in ‘Unforgiven’. Hurt then goes back into colour to paint a picture of the man and the legend.

We meet Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill enjoying a few captioned ‘greatest hits’ as he shoots up the old west while playing cards, drinking whisky and smoking opium. We then catch up with in his present day as he starts losing his sight and coming to the attention of various young guns keen to make their name by shooting the great man.

Bill settles in Deadwood and is soon pumping Calamity Jane and avoiding the attentions of his bastard son who has hooked up with Kelly Bundy, who looks quite fetching in her bustier. The narrative, as it is, is really more ‘scenes from a life’ rather than a decent story, and while that’s true of most bio-pics, this one has been so well mined before that there’s not a lot to surprise or thrill.

The Old West as shown here is a bit too clean, with the gun fighters, such as the wheel chair bound Bruce Dern, a bit to noble to be real. I’d imagine that the ‘Deadwood’ TV series with its bushwhackers and road agents to be a lot more realistic than these tales of people being called out for a duel. They also have the cleanest looking whores you’ll ever see.

I thought Jeff Bridges did his usual stand up job, but I wasn’t really convinced that he was a complicated nineteenth century gunslinger. It wasn’t helped by some ill-advised opening sequences where he kill a slew of men for touching his hat, which made the film seem like a comedy from the start.

The production values are pretty high with a recognisable cast of some standing and the usual old west sets and stick on moustaches. I just felt the whole film had a ‘TV Movie’ aesthetic with the wobbly camera and flashbacks to black and white serving only to highlight the limited scope of the whole affair.

With a life so well documented getting the bio-pic focus you really have to bring something new to the party and when all you come up with the ‘greatest hits’ it’s no surprise that this western is largely forgotten. It’s not particularly bad but nothing special and with an unsympathetic character at the forefront you’ll quickly wonder why you bothered.

Best Bit : Bill shares his bath water
‘W’ Rating 14/23

Thursday, 3 June 2010

No.164 : Where The Wild Things Are

The classic children’s book is brought to the screen by Director Spike Jonze with mostly positive results.

The film opens with Max, a young boy who is loud and annoying, running around screaming. I started watching this film on a plane and the head phones were off straight away. Still the Quest is a demanding beast so on I soldiered as Max ran about making a pest of himself to his lovely mother Catherine Keener and to her slobbish boy friend Mark Ruffalo. Max has clearly got no friends, and has to resort to attacking passing neighbours with snow balls to get any attention.

Pretty soon Mom has had enough and after yelling at Max he runs away from home in his natty wolf boy costume. At this point the film slips from reality into fantasy as we follow Max’s adventures in a far away land conjured up by his annoying brain. After a boat trip he finds himself washed up on a remote beach that looks suspiciously like that one which always shows up in ‘Star Trek’. Max soon encounters the inhabitants of the island, a lumbering crew of ‘Wild Things’ that look like a faded reunion show for ‘The Banana Splits’.

The beasts resemble stuffed toys but rather than be a fearsome crew they are all pretty nice and are voiced by celebrities. The Tony Soprano character is at first keen to eat Max but when the lad develops a bit of spirit and declares himself king, the monsters soon agree to his rule. Not all is well however as the characters of the beasts resemble the moods of Max and that’s never going to end well.

After an overlong dirt ball fight some of the monsters get hurt while others start to doubt the wisdom of their ’king’. Max himself realises what a difficult job being a leader is and how his Mom maybe isn’t so bad after all. Can max get home before the local nonce finds his secret hidey hole and will he be a bit nicer to his Mom following his experiences?

This is a strange kind of film. It’s based on a book for 5-7 year olds but seems to be trying to tells us grown ups about our lost innocence and imaginations, through the medium of muppet. The film opened badly with 20 odd minutes of screaming and it looked like Canadian public access TV, with its rocky cameras and no expense spent sets.

It does get better when we reach Monster Isle and I was quite impressed by the monsters. The suits are great and although the expressions were realised digitally you can’t see the joins. One thing that was a bit jarring was having the cartoon monsters from the book lifted straight out and placed in a real environment. In the book the cartoon monsters lived in a cartoon forest and didn’t look quite so unnatural.

I fully appreciate that we are dealing with a young boys fantasy here, and that was well shown when one monster got an arm yanked off and saw dust came out. He’s obviously playing with a big toy box here and although the lessons were a bit in your face there were still a few laughs along the way.

I did find the voice acting somewhat distracting with the celebrities kind of stealing the limelight form the excellent costumes. The film runs a fairly compact 90 minutes and although it’s not a patch on the book there is enough care and attention to detail on show to make this a journey worth taking.

W Rating 16/23
Best Bit : “Hide in me”

Monday, 22 March 2010

No.163 : Wrong Side of Town

You’d have thought an action flick starring a couple of wrestlers would have swept the board at the Oscars but as always it’s not who you know it’s who you blow.

In truth the only reason to watch this film is for the laughably bad acting and dialogue but I’m sure there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. Hmmm, let’s see sticking your willy in a blender for one and then …

No neck midget wrestler Rob Van Dam takes the lead as Bobby a simple family man who is living the suburban dream. The fact that he’s got a cissy pony tail and more tats than a council estate isn’t mentioned. He meets his new neighbour, a bookish black fellow, and despite our hero looking the front man for a BNP rally he quickly agrees to a night out on the town. Bobby has some reservations as the club is on the ‘wrong side of town’ but goes along anyway.

Despite the club being the hot spot in town Bobby gets in with his t-shirt on and settled down to dinner in the least convincing restaurant you’ll ever see. As he predicted things soon kick off when Bobby’s wife gets molested by a dickwad on drugs. Bob saves the day but the bad guy falls on his own knife setting our hero against the miscreant’s father.

Despite his obvious innocence Bob is quickly on the run, well waddle, against a lacklustre army of deadbeat gang bangers and an unconvincing bent cop. The journey home is peppered with low-rent bust ups as Bobby does his best at kicking some face. Once home he discovers his daughter has been kidnapped by Mr Big and he has to set off on his Harley with his shades on at 2 am with only some other WWF guy to help.

This is a real comedy classic and if it wasn’t being played straight you’d think it a masterpiece. I know you can’t expect a lot in a film starring Rob Van Dam in the acting stakes but this is really cringe making stuff. Rob is actually only dreadful in the lead as a black ops guy with more muscles than a sea food restaurant. He doesn’t even master the basics like remembering to limp after he’s been shot in the leg and the emotional scenes with the daughter will make you wince and snigger in equal measure.

You’d imagine that when you have wrestlers in the main roles you’d get them a bit of support in the cast but no! Seth, the main villain, is played by possibly the worst actor you’ll ever see. He heads a gang of baldies that are as menacing as the Teletubbies. His maniacal rantings and burst of anger come across as mild annoyance and his henchmen, including a mute black man in sun glasses, beggar belief.

The action scenes are really poor and amount to a few people getting kicked in the balls. Obviously wrestling moves don’t translate to street fighting, what with the lack of folding chairs and all, so all our muscle bound main man can manage is a couple of bitch slaps.

The whole thing wraps up pretty neatly in the course of one night and hopefully that’ll also cover the span of the careers of all those involved.

Best Bit : Rob Hits the Strip Joint
‘W’ Rating 11/23

Sunday, 7 February 2010

No.162 : Whiteout

It’s kind of hard to motivate yourself to watch a film like ‘Whiteout’ in the midst of the coldest winter in memory but alas ‘Couples Retreat’ doesn’t start with a ‘W’.

The film had the dreaded ‘DVD Premiere’ tag which seems strange as it’s a perfectly decent thriller with high production values. Maybe it couldn’t find a spot at the multi plexes due to the dominance of ‘St Trinians 2 : The legend of Fritton’s Gold’.

The film opens in 1957 with a Russian plane struggling through a winter’s storm to an unknown destination. The pilot and co-pilot chat in subtitles and it’s clear that a plan is afoot. The co-pilot goes into the cargo hold and plies his passengers with vodka before trying to shoot them all. The plan is pretty poor, as is that of the passengers who start machine gunning everything including the pilot. Luckily the plane manages to land itself leaving the secret cargo intact and stuck in the ice of the South Pole.

As you’d expect things soon melt into the present day where we meet US marshal Carrie (Kate Beckinsale) who suffers from sepia flashback fever. She does her best to warm things up by stripping off for a shower but that’s pretty much your lot as it’s all mittens and no muff from here on in.

The base is closing down for the winter with the bad weather set to descend in 72 hours. It’s poor timing therefore that lets the pilot with the best eyesight in history spot a body on a remote glacier. Our able copper is soon on her way helped by Tom Skerritt’s crusty doctor and a mysterious man from the UN who is keen to avoid Antarctica’s first murder getting out of hand.

After some implausible deductions our heroine is soon checking out a remote Russian base only to be attacked by a nutter with an ice axe. She manages to get away with the loss of only a few digits and soon she’s found the source of all the trouble - it’s that downed Ruskie plane - knew it was there for a reason.

With the bodies stacking up and the weather closing in can Kate solve the mystery of the Black Tragic Box?

This is a perfectly decent thriller that looks good and has some exciting set pieces. That said I fear it’s memory will be lost like snow off a dyke. It is well made and well acted it’s just nothing that special or different.

The settings are great and the weather is always a threat. When Kate is having an ice axe fight in the snow you wouldn’t guess that it’s the door handle that will score the most points. The sense of isolation is also well worked as is the lack of help when the shit inevitably hits the fan.

Kate Beckinsale does quite will with a thinly drawn character who is transparent from the off. She’s obviously on this remote detail due to some incident in the past and we get frequent flashback clues to the deadly event. The problem is that you’ll guess the whole story from the first flashback so when you finally get the big reveal towards the end it’s a total anti climax.

The mystery element is OK although the various schemes to secure the illicit cargo seem unnecessarily complicated - old Tom Skerritt could of achieved the same aim with a well zipped up soap bag! The big fight in the blizzard towards the end was poorly executed however as you has three people in parkas and goggles scrapping in a snow storm - as you’d guess it was kinda hard to make out what was happening!

All in all ‘Whiteout’ was a decent thriller and had enough going on in it’s 100 minutes to keep me interested. Just a pity that the thrills and chills were so widely spaced that they may be digging for 50 years to unearth it once it’s done the rounds.

Best Bit : Kate Gets Fingered
‘W’ Rating : 14/23

Saturday, 23 January 2010

No.161 : Whip It

After the ‘girl power’ frenzy that was ‘While She Was Out’ I approached this film with some misgivings seeing as it was written by a lady and directed by Drew Barrymore. As you’d suspect the ‘go girl’ element is high and all the male characters are thinly drawn but it was a pleasant, if slightly familiar distraction.

Ellen Page, late of ‘Juno’ stars as a student and part time waitress who is under the thumb of her overbearing mother who thinks that her two daughters should follow in her footsteps and enter beauty pageants. Clearly our girl is more of a free spirit and after finding a flyer for an all girl roller derby match she decides to go along with her friend to see if there are any ‘cute guys’.

Of course there are and before we know it our little shrew is trying out for the team and having awkward soppy moments with a louche dude who has a band and interesting hair. The roller derby team , ‘The Hurl Scouts’ dress like mobile hookers and generally slap each other about a lot - no wonder there is no shortage of guys. The teams plays against the same five teams and we soon meet the baddie team ‘The Holly Rollers’ and their evil leader played by Juliette Lewis, reprising her bad girl routine from ‘Starsky & Hutch’.

Despite falling over a lot at the trials and looking about twelve our heroine gets on the team after lying about her age. Meanwhile romance is blossoming with the douche bag and he even gets to see her lacy bra and a souvenir in her ‘Stryper’ t-shirt. The roller derby team are usually last but with their new star player they soon start rising up the league.

Before we know it it’s time for all the clich├ęs to set in with the championship game and the mother / daughter beauty pageant taking place the same night. Who will she choose? Will they win and what event? Has the dick weed boyfriend given away her t-shirt? It’s all so immaterial you might find yourself caring.

I actually quite liked this film although I’d be hard pressed to say why. But let’s try.

For one the sport was quite fun. I’d heard of but never seen a roller derby and it looks pretty gruesome. I wasn’t totally sold on the action scenes but they had the standard device of a funny commentator to explain things to the slow people. The team was your usual mix of sassy characters with a smart quip and some bonding never far away. At least the skirts where short and the school girl blouses tight.

The directing by Drew Barrymore was OK but I’d like to have seen a bit of the fat trimmed as nearly two hours for a formulaic rites of passage / sports film is a bit too long. There were a couple of good scenes with the one in the swimming pool nice and touching without being too letchy about a 17 year old.

The cast were all pretty good with Ellen Page almost convincing as a hell cat skater. At one point she does a tiny jump over one person and everyone is like ‘whoa Evel Kinevil here’ although not very convincingly. Barrymore couldn’t resist a small role in the team too but she was looking a bit long in the tooth for the short skirt and coloured hair - more like someone’s granny who forgot her pills.

Over all the film was a forgettable bit of fluff. It did have some indie sensibilities and was almost a hybrid of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Rollerball’ but not enough to spark the imagination or get me pulling on my skates.

As Devo didn’t say Whip It - Quite Good.

Best Bit : I’m wearing my best bra
‘W’ Rating 15/23