Saturday, 30 March 2013

No.179 : Web of Lies

Web of Lies at the IMDB

A film so obscure now that I had to make my own screen grab of the title card. The only image I could find on the web was the ‘sexy’ one below - you can’t say we don’t give you the full nine yards here at the 100 W Movies Quest!

The film’s low profile is down to it being a TV movie and an awful one at that, but let’s check out that plot before slagging it off.

We open with a girl running through a city with her headphones on. She’s dressed in a hoodie so we don’t know if she’s a jogger or a mugger but she serves to give us some nice city shots which no doubt pleased the Montreal Tourist Board. The girl turns out to be our heroine, Abby, who on arriving at her apartment is surprised by an uninvited guest. It turns out to be a sexy surprise as it is her unreliable boyfriend, Josh.

The pair have some of that movie sex where they are wrapped in the sheets tighter than a pair of mummies before falling asleep. All is not well however as Josh uses the post coital lull to access Abby’s laptop and upload a programme. He leaves the next morning but is seemingly blown up in his car - I say 'seemingly' as the budget only stretched to having some flammable jelly set alight on the bonnet.

Being a trouper Abby returns to her work as a computer programmer for a security firm and manages to do a ‘hacking for thickies’ demonstration for some investors and indeed the slow witted viewers who have stayed on board this long. Her boss congratulates her on a job well done but her triumph is short lived when two FBI agents arrive to advise that Josh is a notorious hacker who seduces lady programmers to get into their systems and presumably, their pants.

Abby is worried that her kick ass programme may have been compromised and soon finds she has been set up in an account with $10 millions. Rather than run off with the cash she starts a long quest to figure out who she can trust and how she can restore her reputation. You see ‘Web of Lies’ is a clever title - it’s a pun on the internet or something!

This was a real effort of a film to watch with acting that would make a soap opera blush. It looked more like a film school effort than TV movie with some of the actors nothing of the kind. The comic relief assistant and the excitable boss were dreadful but the lady FBI agent topped the lot with  her complex and variously motivated character a mystery to all, including the viewer.

The film did have a few surprises, but so does a bad curry and some of the computer wizardry was patently ridiculous to anyone whose ever waited five minutes for Firefox too boot up. There was a decent stab at reassessing what had gone before with previously related events replayed in monochrome from a different character’s perspective to make you second guess the plot, but it didn’t work and seemed gimmicky at best.

The big scam which was original to anyone who’s never seen ‘Superman 3’ or ‘Office Space’ or basically any film involving computers was the old ‘fractions of pennies being shaved off’ routine but at least it did try to evolve beyond this. Sadly the expanded scam was basically stealing cash using a laptop, although efforts to clue the thickies in with demos involving coasters and sugar packets were used to muddy the waters somewhat.

You won’t know any of the leads and won’t remember them after this either. The actress playing Abby was a poor man’s Scarlett Johansson and she was offered no support from a feeble douche with floppy hair. If you are into watching films with a detached sense of irony ‘Web of Lies’ may do it for you, but for anyone who values each 90 minutes of their lives it’s definitely best avoided.

Best Bit : Hello Heads of Computer Conglomerates - this is a computer - Duh!
W Score 5/23

Thursday, 28 March 2013

No.178 : Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans at the IMDb

 Off to the olden days now as we take a look at this sequel to the remake of ‘Clash of the Titans’ - they don’t make them like that any more - oh wait they do. I haven’t seen the original remake probably due to it’s lack of Harry Hamelin or indeed a ‘W’ initial.

We don’t get much in the way of a recap, but it seems 10 years have passed since that film when Perseus slayed the Kraken and saved the day. He is now a widower and father to a young son. Despite being the son of Zeus he is living the simple life of a fisherman, so we are in for a dull film. But wait! Stuff is happening!

Zeus, played by a disinterested Liam Neeson, pops by to see the grandson and warn of bad omens. It seems that people have wised up and stopped praying to the Gods lessening their powers. The bad guys are taking advantage of this and plan to destroy the world. After getting the brush off from his idiot son, Zeus heads off to the underworld to have a chat with his brother Hades, played by an even more disinterested Ralph Fiennes. Bad mistake! Hades has his own plans and takes Zeus prisoner at the behest of their father Chronos - it’s like the Jeremy Kyle Show in that family.

The ominous portents prove truthful when, with their added Zeus powers, the bad guys unleash the titans - basically a pile of CGI monsters. These attack Perseus’ village and he soon has to don the leather chaps that signify he’s off to battle - or The Blue Oyster Club - it’s not made clear. The rest of the film is basically a quest as he gathers some support from the lovely Rosamund Pike, a poor man’s Russell Brand (if such a thing is possible) and Bill Nighy who hams it up horribly.

Soon our heroes are in the underworld and ready to free Zeus who has been connected to a Santa making machine that’s given him a long white beard. Can the siblings get together and gang up on Dad before no one believes in them anymore and condemns them to a dusty fate? Will Perseus remain at his nets with his son or will the passing of the thunderbolt tell him there is more to life than haddock?

This was a very much by the numbers swords and sandals epic and although it had a raft of stars and some decent action the whole thing was far less than the sum of its parts. Sam Worthington, late of ‘Avatar’, didn’t hack it as Perseus for me with his Aussie accent most jarring in the ancient world. He didn’t impress as the reluctant hero and his character’s arc where he went from fisherman to action hero to reluctant heir didn’t convince.

Liam and Ralph were obviously just in it for the pay cheques and you could sense their embarrassment as they apologetically delivered their laughable dialogue. Better was Rosamund, who although miscast as an Amazon warrior queen, did look most fetching in her leather mini skirt.

The bests bits were the action sequences with the opening and closing battles good fun. Both were totally pointless in the course of the film but you can’t see enough eight legged monsters getting a stick in the eye as far as I’m concerned. Despite a seemingly massive budget some bits were decidedly shoddy with a totally unconvincing flying horse only beaten in the crappy stakes by some fake looking Cyclops giants and some ropy wire work.

I’m not sure of the market this film was aimed at - there were long passages of dull chat with occasional CGI battles thrown in to keep the tempo up. The violence was cartoon at best and apart from Rosamund’s skirt there wasn’t any sexiness either.

Overall ‘Wrath of the Titans’ had a few watchable moments but ultimately it was a pointless exercise, unless you have ‘O’ level classics on Monday.

Best Bit : Oh me skirt keeps flapping up.
‘W’ Score 13/23

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

No.177 : Walter

Walter at the IMDb

A lightening of the mood now with this happy tale of a mentally challenged man who ends up in a loony bin wiping bums - wait! That’s a terrible fate!

Ian McKellan plays the title role in this film which was made for Channel 4’s first night of broadcasting. Why anyone tuned in for night two is a mystery. The tone is set from the off when a caring mother sets her handicapped son on a wall as a train approaches beneath. Once the train passes and the steam clears (for it is the olden days) she is dismayed to see the lad hasn’t fallen to his death - mother of the year she is not.

We learn this was the highlight of Walter’s upbringing and meet him again as a middle aged man with two less than doting parents. Dad has largely switched off and Mum is as harsh as ever - at least she’s generous with her toffees! Walter can talk a bit but is prone to anxiety attacks and is definitely a bit slow in virtually all departments - expect pigeon fancying.

He has a job in a warehouse; but it’s mostly charity and his fellow workers, including a young Keith Allen, are all cruel to him. Soon Dad is dead and it’s just Walter and Mum. They spend this quality time wailing and slapping and it’s no surprise when Mum pops her clogs too. Well it is to Walter who, rather than accept being alone, moves all his pigeons into Mum’s bedroom to keep her corpse happy.

Eventually social services catch wind, or probably the smell, of Mum’s demise and Walter is moved to a sanatorium. This environment is even worse than home and although he gets a bit of action on his first night from a rapist dwarf it’s downhill from there as bum wiping and patient murders are all he has too look forward too. Can we see some hope in Walter’s tale? or is the message that life is hell and you shouldn’t bother getting out of bed?

I must have seen this film 30 years ago and it was grimmer than I remember. It’s basically some poor sod going through hell for 70 minutes with a five second interlude of pigeon affection squeezed in to offer some respite.

McKellan is excellent as the troubled Walter but it’s such a desperate role that it is hard to empathise with the character. Sure you feel sorry for him but he offers nothing in the way of redemption and you can see why his unsupportive parents can’t wait to shift off the mortal coil. The message, if there is one, is nihilistic at best and at worst an exercise in thinking ‘thank God that’s not me’.

The director, Stephen Frears, certainly doesn’t hold back in the stark reality stakes and if there is a shittier bottom in movie history I’ve never seen it (thankfully). The cast, especially those in the latter scenes in the institution are a terrifying bunch given the environment they are placed. Rapes and slashings are prevalent among the inmates apart from the innocent Walter who tries to grin through it all with his buck teeth. Jim Broadbent shows up as an orderly and is possibly the only half decent person on show.

The film closes with a chat between Jim and Walter where the meaning of life is discussed but for the most part this is a depressing downward spiral that offers nothing apart from an excuse for more Prozac. Wikipedia tells me that a sequel was made but frankly I don’t think I could handle anymore - thank goodness then it doesn’t start with a ‘W’!

W Score 13/23
Best Bit - Dead Mum gets a bird shit makeover

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

No.176 : White Noise

White Noise at the IMDb

If you think our TV is bad you should see Michael Keaton’s local TV station - nothing but static 24 hours a day. Still beats ‘The X-Factor’ I guess.

Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect with a pretty author wife. He has an unnecessarily complicated marital situation with an unfeasible young ex-wife but I guess this was used so that his annoying child didn’t have to be there all the time.

Anyway, the wife reveals she’s up the duff and her book is about to be published these happy news items can only mean one thing - immediate death! True enough, after a late night waiting up for the wayward wife Keaton finds that her car has been found missing and she is presumed drowned in the river - Rivers by name… After a few days of unconvincing worry he heads back to work but spots fatty Ian McNeice trailing him - maybe he dropped some do-nuts - it isn’t made clear.

He confronts the slobby stalker only to be told the wife is dead and he has messages from the other side. Keaton clearly hasn’t read the script and tells him to bugger off but soon after the cops turn up with the body. We flash-forward six months and Michael is trying to make a new start. He is still hearing the static however and rather than bin the nylon shirts he heads over to McNiece’s house - and doesn’t even take a pie.

McNiece reveals what we the viewer already know that dead people can communicate using the medium of static - well we did get to see the trailer. The slovenly psychic plays Keaton a few crackly snippets that convince him so much that he’s soon using a Dixon’s gold card to fit out his house with a state of the art static observation unit. He also meets a fellow mourner who vouches for the obese occultist as he managed to find some crackles that sounded like someone she once knew.

Things develop quickly as every video tape reveals a new secret and sends Keaton across town to save some lives. He guesses his dead wife is directing him to people who are soon to die in the hope he can save them from their fate. This meddling doesn’t go unnoticed however and, despite being warned off by the world’s only genuine psychic, Keaton ploughs on. He better watch those three ominous shadows in the playback - they could develop in to some unconvincing CGI is he’s not careful!

‘White Noise’ is a decent high concept effort but essentially it’s just an updating of the ‘meddling with the Ouija board’ ‘B’ movie. Keaton has little charisma and his descent from loving husband to grieving widower to obsessed researcher barely lifts an eyebrow.

There were some interesting touches but no real scares and it was only the wait for the big reveal, that made no sense, that kept me watching. The constant hissing of the static screens was most annoying and I barely got beyond the opening credits due to this. The effects were poorly rendered with the three bogeymen looking about as threatening as a Bee-Gees reunion - there again…

The big showdown at the end upped the pace somewhat but I don’t think the outcome was earned with a tragic sacrifice looking more like a irresponsible wet floor. The full manifestations of the static was not explained and the bad guy was so unexpected a flashback was needed so we could say ‘oh it was that guy’.

The film had a couple of scares and some uncomfortable scenes but all in all it was a forgettable piece of undemanding trash that looks as dated as Keaton’s collection of VHS tapes.

Best Bit - Gonna have trouble getting those jeans off.
‘W’ Score 10/23

Monday, 18 March 2013

No.175 : Went the Day Well?

Went the Day Well? at the IMDb

Some proto ‘The Eagle Has Landed’  action now as we cast an eye over this 1942 World War 2 thriller. We open with a country yokel marvelling at a tombstone in an English village churchyard. The grave has German names and he assumes we are interested in how they came to be here. Of course we are, so we fade back to a time before the Jerries were planted.

The sleepy village is all excited when 60 soldiers appear with orders to be billeted in the area. There is great interest as they are parcelled out, especially by one old bint who sadly only gets one of the two men she applied for - well there is rationing on. We the viewer know they are in fact Nazi infiltrators who plan to set up some jamming equipment prior to a full blown invasion which is planned for a few days later.

At first the locals are happy to pitch in but soon suspicions are arisen when foreign chocolate and continental number sevens start to make their unwelcome presence known. The local toff is of course on the side of the bad guys and even when the cover is blown he still tries to thwart all attempts to raise the alarm.

The Germans manage to herd the townsfolk into the church and in a scene reminiscent of ‘Dad’s Army’ start to dish out the threats. Of course the English won’t be cowed and several attempts to break out of the blockaded village are spoiled by bad luck alone. Eventually the good word gets out and the battle is taken to the manor house - will the villagers save the day or will the Boshe lay down the rebelling townsfolk? Given this is an English film dating from 1942 I’ll let you have two guesses!

Although a virtual propaganda film there is a lot to like in this B&W drama, that has more of an edge than many films from the era. For a start the violence is pretty brutal with axes and the like used to dispatch the evil interlopers. It’s not all one way however, with every heroic kill matched by a tragic one perpetrated by the quietly evil Germans.

The cast are largely unknowns, apart from Thora Hird, but they do a good job as convincing townsfolk, slowly building the will to strike back at their Kraut captors. The plot was somewhat predictable but must have been ground-breaking at the time. How Jack Higgins managed to partially rewrite it as ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ suggests someone at the copyright office was asleep at their desk - even down to the churchyard scenes that bookend the film, the whole narrative of the later book is near intact.

You could argue that the characters are thinly drawn along the lines of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but there is a war on and it was good to see the non-combatants stepping up to the plate to save the day. I did like the evil lord of the manor collaborator best, who managed to perpetrate greater and greater outrages in every scene he appeared. He was always going to get his comeuppance and it was all the more welcome for it being drawn out.

For a 1940’s film the body count for both the home and away side was massive with plenty of brutal dispatches to keep the scorers happy. I'm sure the message was one of ‘do your bit’ but I just hope many war time village cinemas didn't end up as slaughterhouses as everyone who looked a bit foreign was drowned in the popcorn machine!

The film, which is based on a Graham Greene short story, is a minor and ground breaking classic and well worth your time.

Best Bit - Lady Driver Suffers Egg On Face
W Score : 18/23

Monday, 4 March 2013

No.174 : Welcome to the Rileys

Welcome to the Rileys at the IMDb

Next up we have a bunch of what Alan Partridge would describe as ‘problem people’. Not only do they have problems but they also have issues and need a bit of healing. If this already sounds like a hard slog you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Tony Soprano is living a dull life as a bathroom fittings supplier. He has no relationship with his wife, with their interaction down to her nagging about smoking in the garage. She is on the pills and socially withdrawn. Her nosy hairdresser asks about her daughter when she finds the child’s room but the stony silence tells us something is up.

Tony is getting his jollies with a waitress and by playing poker and frankly what is shown as an empty life seems all sorts of fun. That can’t last and when his waitress lover drops dead he realises his life is a nightmare - especially when he visits her grave to see his own tombstone already in place. ‘I ain’t dead yet’ he cries with little conviction. We learn that the couple lost their 15 years old daughter in a car crash and they haven’t started to rebuild their lives since.

Tony sets off for a convention in New Orleans and finds it hard to interact with his colleagues so heads off to the local strip joint - yes that old excuse. It’s here that he first encounters the skuzzy Kirsten Stewart who hustles him for a private dance and Champagne before sending him off with a flea in his ear when she suspects he’s a cop due to him not wanting to get jiggy with her.

Luckily they frequent the same diner and soon a fledging relationship begins to develop. We learn that Kristen is on the game and is 16 years old - not unlike Tony’s dead daughter (apart from the on the game bit).

Meanwhile back at the family home, Tony’s wife Lois is starting to come out of her shell. Tony dumping her was her wake up call and she resolves to drive to New Orleans to get him back - well if she can get the car out of the drive first at any rate. By now Tony has moved in with Kristen and tries to fix her plumbing in a totally non-metaphorical sense. He tries to teach her stuff like cleaning and not swearing so fucking much, but makes little headway with the headstrong ho.

Eventually Lois arrives and rather than get upset at her husband living with a whore in a squat she moves herself in too. Will these broken people find some hope and salvation in each other. Let’s hope so and in double quick time please!

This had ‘awards consideration’ rote large all over it but it was done in such a broad and ham-fisted manner that even a coma victim who be able to guess the blaring subtext that the couple were substituting the wayward wench as their lost daughter. Fair enough you might think, but the stretches of credibility were such that the cast must have been asking ‘really?’  when the next outrage was met with good natured rebukes and the offer of more money to make things right.

The older couple’s relationship was well observed at first but it soon spiralled into a ridiculous sequence of more and more blatant example of how damaged they were and reliant on the other when they maybe didn’t know themselves. Healing that’s what they need - and a better script.

The wife was woefully written with her venturing out only to be flummoxed by the big bad man’s car. She then crashes it twice in a scene that wasn’t so much about empowerment as it was about hiding your car keys. Tony was poor too but at least he ditched his fake accent halfway in. His motivations weren’t clear and although we were meant to applaud his patience and kindness he just came as a mark being taken for a ride by a prostitute - and not in a good way!

‘Twilight’ heroine Stewart was more ‘heroin’  here, and although her performance was no doubt lauded as ‘brave’ I wasn’t buying - takes more than some bruises and a potty mouth to convince as street trash Dear!

All in all this film had a very formulaic three acts and the bits of redemption you expected for each character were duly delivered, and in a fashion so obvious it wouldn’t be clearer if Tony wrapped them in the ribbon from his regifted suitcase.

THE Tag Line : You’re Welcome to the Riley’s

W Score : 13/23