Saturday, 27 April 2013

No.186 : Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here at IMDb

Not to be confused with the 1987 Emily Lloyd film (see No.117)  this ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a 2012 mystery drama with a non-linear narrative and a lot to like. The lack of a question mark in the title makes it sound more of a plaintive plea than an invitation, and as the film develops you can see that was totally the intent.

We open with a high energy holiday being enjoyed by four friends in Cambodia. There is a rocking soundtrack as they party on the beach and eat insects without a care in the world, but the cares are in the post, don’t you worry. As the credits sequence ends the bright lights and rave music are replaced with a haunted man walking through a sodden field as the sun comes up. Something has happened and what follows is the story of the night before. A bit like ‘The Hangover’ with less slapstick.

The four friends are Dave, a kind of tubby Russell Crowe who looks constantly drunk, his wife Alice and her sister Steph and Steph’s new boyfriend, Jeremy. The four head off on the bender as Alice is six months pregnant and it’s their last chance to party before their brood expands to three. We quickly learn that only three of the friends returned home, with Jeremy’s ticket going unused.

At first it looks like a straight forward missing person case but as we learn more about the past through flashbacks we know that secrets and lies abound. The family is wrenched apart when Dave admits to having sex with Steph and the police’s interest in Jeremy’s business interests mean his fate is looking bad. As the customs dog sniffs its way through the warehouse will his disappearance be down to a business deal gone bad or to something a bit closer to home?

Meanwhile Dave has spotted a sinister car tracking his movements and his wife is taking on an unhealthy taste for wine as her baby's arrival dawns. Let’s hope she remembers to buckle up!

I really enjoyed this Aussie slice of life as heavy drinking and infidelity spell all manor of trouble for our hapless bunch. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a laugh to be had, but their headlong lunges towards oblivion leave you with your fingers over your eyes in places.

The narrative is all over the shop as we are slowly drip fed snippets of information in flashback which serve to dismiss our theories as soon as they develop. The outcome in a Glittering bar wasn’t expected but it put all the pieces neatly and satisfyingly in place.

The cast were uniformly good but for the most part it was a two man show with Dave and Alice shining as their marriage crumbled as the secrets of the holiday were exposed. The editing was excellent and there was never any confusion over where we were in the story with the Cambodia scenes that bit brighter and, helpfully, always containing Cambodian characters.

The police detection angle and the scene with the missing Jeremy’s parents were mostly padding but the sense of doom was well handled as Dave’s infidelity was as big a blow as the other stuff that threatened to engulf them all. I’m being deliberately vague as the unfolding story is really worth your investment. All in all this was an excellent and unsettling 90 minutes and well worth your time.

Best Bit “Tonight’s Special Offer Is…
‘W’ Score 19/23

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

No.185 : Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins at the IMDb

Martin Lawrence stars in this alleged comedy as a successful talk show host who has to reassess his priorities when he returns to the family home and reengages with his relatives. It’s basically a fish out of water scenario rolled up with some issues and knowing that family is more important than money. So far so very righteous but is there something to be salvaged from this worthy premise? Not much!

Lawrence runs his chat show as ‘Dr RJ Taylor' and dispenses homely wisdom to his brawling guests. He’s engaged to a beautiful lady who has just won ‘Survivor’ and confident in his life of luxury and comfort. We can tell where the bar is set early on when he shows up for his plane in a white suit and orders a red wine - guess the rest! With is suit ruined and luggage lost he’s immediately out of his comfort zone and cheap laughs are gained as he has to wear a succession of gaudy outfits.

Things deteriorate as he meets up with his wise-cracking brother, complete with the afro comb stuck in his hair. The brother is meant to have an easy charm to offset RJ’s stiffness but he just comes across as an annoying prick. We learn that ‘Dr RJ Taylor’ is the Roscoe Jenkins of the title and that he’s trying to escape the humble roots that he’s now returning to.

His superior attitude is immediately pricked by his father James Earl Jones and his other siblings including the late Michael Clarke Duncan who kicks his ass whenever possible. The rest of the weekend contains all the predictable sequences such as a softball game and treasure hunt where our man is cast down from his ivory tower and forced to consider what is really important in life. That along with an endless succession of people getting hit by stuff, dog rape and fart jokes.

We learn that Roscoe regrets not hooking up with his high school sweetheart and that the ‘Survivor’ girlfriend is not that nice, as she’s conniving to snare her man like she's still on the show. Will Roscoe’s materialistic approach be forgotten for what is truly valuable and will he end up with the slightly plainer prom queen or the bitchy game show contestant? Probably the latter but you never know. Well maybe you do…

OK I’m not the target market for this film with its 99% black cast but I’m multi-cultural and can appreciate a well crafted character piece that examines family life and the assembling of wealth over other priorities - but this isn’t it. People getting hit in the balls and food fights are low brow in any culture and the wafer thin character arc for Lawrence made for an unengaging two hours.

The third act where Lawrence leaves his son behind to win an obstacle race while being cheered on by his bitch girlfriend to be greeted by his sad family and poignant musical cues was cringe worthy beyond belief. A talk with Dad flagged the inevitable Road to Damascus conversion and as Lawrence’s wardrobe improved you knew things were going to be all right.

It was a good cast and, despite some slapstick that was out of kilter with the overall tone of the film, there were some things to like. Sadly these were remote islands in a sea of mawkish sentimentality and the long-awaited payoff couldn’t be more predictable if it was set in red lights before the credits.

Best Bit :  Personal topiary wins the day
‘W’ Score - 8/23

Sunday, 21 April 2013

No.184 : Wandering Eye

Wandering Eye at the IMDb

You’d think after our experience with ‘Web of Lies’ that we would be avoiding Canadian made for TV films but that’s quitting talk here at the 100+ ‘W’ Movies Quest. The premise of this film involves murders against a backdrop of cheating spouses using the titular web site. Don’t look however if you are after some titillation - this film is so tame that even the word ‘whore’ is obscured by a car horn!

Our heroine is Maren, an attractive redhead who is married to a trainee doctor. She doesn’t work and is upset that’s she’s not getting enough in the bedroom despite the poor sod working all hours to keep her in lattes. She confides in her douche bag friend who offers to deliver her the goods, so to speak. She doesn’t fancy this poor bloke, despite letting him pay for dinner, and instead seeks her sleazy thrills on the internet. We know this isn’t a good idea as a cheating couple seen earlier in the film were shot by an unknown assailant. Be careful Maren, you slut!

She logs onto the titular titilation site and soon meets up with a man in a hotel room. True to form she doesn’t put out and to cap his day off the bloke gets shot when Maren leaves. The cops aren’t too slow on the case and soon two detectives, who used to be married to each other, are teamed up on the case. They manage to link the deaths to the ‘Wandering Eye’ website and with the help of their bookish computer geek programmer they manage to establish how the bad guy is finding his targets.

Troubled by her conscience and possibly her lack of nooky, Maren goes to the cops and they set up a sting operation to capture the killer. Will it be one of the likely suspects such as the man fingering his gun or the troublesome ex-friend who wants paying for that expensive lunch? Surely it’s not going to be the least likely candidate possible, someone barely seen and with no discernible motive? Could be!

To be fair this was a bit better than ‘Web of Lies’ but it shared many of the same failings as that film. The plot was as linear and undemanding as possible and the three acts wouldn’t have been more obvious if sign posts had been erected. That said the lead character’s motivation was unclear as she never really looked at all horny or interested in the poor blokes whose time she chose to waste. I didn’t recognise any of the cast but I see that the lead, Amanda Righetti, has an ongoing role in ‘The Mentalist’ which I don’t watch. She was wooden throughout but was quite fetching in her black bra and panties.

The detection angle was minimal with too long spend setting up red herrings which made the big reveal seemed rushed and unearned. The production wasn’t exactly lavish with the action minimal and stars non existant. There were the usual slices of web-fu, with a couple of key strokes answering all the questions and some very tame sex scenes which wouldn’t worry you if the vicar appeared midway through your guilty viewing.

Basically this is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ TV movie with nothing invested in the script or indeed production, leaving a half baked and unsatisfactory product. That said you will see worse - we won’t ; TV movies about computers are joining made for DVD werewolf films on our banned list!

Best Bit - Dress Try Ons
'W' rating 10/23

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

No.183 : World Gone Wild

World Gone Wild at the IMDb

Well here’s a first for the 100+ W Movies Quest - no not a reader, although that’d be nice - an actual request. OK it was a request borne out of vanity as the person making the request only did so as he almost shares the name of one of the characters, but we’ll take what we can get.

This dystopian action thriller is absolutely dreadful and I doubt you’d be able to find it anywhere apart from my hard drive and numerous land fill sites - but let’s have a look anyway.

The film opens with some scene setting narration. The production evidently didn’t have the cash for a scrolling paragraph so instead poor old Bruce Dern is tasked with setting the scene. It’s the late 21st century and a 75 year war has left most people dead and it hasn’t rained in 50 years. Realising their shaky premise and the abundance of clouds in the film, they add in ‘cruelly there are clouds but no rain’ - you can’t fault science like that.

After a dreadfully tacky credits sequence with the cheapest TV movie graphics and over filtered colours we get to the nub of the action. The writer has seen ‘Mad Max 2’ and thought ‘Yeah no one will notice if I steal that’ so he sets us up in a remote compound filled with people in white clothes and hair bands. He cleverly substitutes the rare resource from gasoline to water to make it all original. Anyway the school only has four books, so at least it’s an improvement from today’s education cuts - little bit of politics there, and the kids have no pencils and a teacher lacking most of her clothes.

The lesson on etiquette is interrupted when Adam Ant appears, towed by cape wearing lackeys, resplendent in his flying goggles and in a hollowed out helicopter. I ‘d say ‘you couldn’t make it up’ but clearly someone has - drugs really screw you up. Ant is playing the ridiculously named ‘Derek Abernathy’ and after spouting a lot of shite for five minutes starts shooting up all the peaceful locals along with his dead eyed henchmen. Total carnage is averted when Bruce Dern turns up and kills a bad guy by booting a hubcap into his throat - clearly he’s not a man to be messed with.

Ant crawls off with some of the settlement’s young men (Operation Yew Tree?) to brainwash them into his cult, yes that's cult, while those who remain take stock and fix their hair. They know Ant will be back and Dern sets off to town for reinforcements. The town is a hell hole with women in basques running about while dying babies are denied water. Sounds like my kinda town! After some recruiting of colourful sidekicks Dern returns to fortify the settlement and wait Ant’s next attack. Can the mismatched gang of renegades and mercenaries take on Ant’s formation bike riding team of white clad brainwashed youths? Will the inevitable explosions kick start the environment? Hell yes!

This blog has been guilty of exaggerating the awfulness of many films but I defy anyone to see this and declare it even a partial success. Well OK, pished up students may be able to laugh ironically at the many plot holes, dreadful acting and atrocious dialogue, but we’re a bit higher brow at this blog.

For a start where, in a world with no rain for 50 years, do they find an endless supply of brilliant white clothes, never mind endless bullets and enough TNT to make 9/11 look like a box of Aldi fireworks? For a world scrabbling in the dirt to survive everyone looks well nourished and there is frankly an over abundance of motorcycles and capes.

OK, we can set these gripes aside, as long as the cast is strong and the plot is tight and coherent. Er, sorry. Ant fails to stand and deliver in the acting stakes and it is baffling how he managed to get through the audition. To be fair in a film where “Does Pinocchio have a wooden dick?” is the best line, the standards were never going to be high. Bruce Dern fails to deliver his usual mania and he seems largely disinterested in a film that doubtlessly looked more fun in the script than in reality.

The gang of misfits were uniformly dreadful from ‘Nitro’ the dynamite expert to some other guy who created a ‘snake pit’ trap with precisely 4 small snakes in it - at least they squashed them together for the close up
shot - Indiana Jones this was not.

The plot was virtually non-existent and they even had two goes at the finale both of which failed to elicit any excitement or tension. Ant had one of the lowest key demises of any movie baddie despite being seemingly bullet proof for the first 90 minutes. The big conclusion was ridiculous as it was predictable and frankly if the new rains had washed this effort out of existence no one would be complaining. Well apart from Mr Abernethy at any rate…

W Rating 6/23
Best Bit - Ant ain't no Goody Two Shoes

Saturday, 13 April 2013

No.182 : Welcome to the Punch

Welcome to the Punch at the IMDb

Another page from Alan Partridge’s book of ‘Bad Slags’ now as we pick through this British cops v robbers action and swearing fest.

The film opens with a daring bank raid. It’s daring because all the bad guys are wearing suits and escape as a motorcycle formation team. The only cop in town is James McAvoy who has a shiny car and no back up. He’s ordered not to pursue but we know he’s reckless, er a maverick, from the off as he disregards the stuffed shirts at HQ and goes after the bad guys. Clearly Health and Safety called this one right as after a minor kafuffle McAvoy is shot in the leg and the bad guys get away.

We fast forward a couple of years and, although still a cop, McAvoy is bitter and forced to syringe out fluid from his still painful leg wound. He’s still bitching at his superiors, one of whom is that annoying one out of all these type of films and the other the Governor out of ‘The Walking Dead’ who has political ambitions. We learn that the leader of the robbers was Jacob Sternwood who not only has a tough name, he’s tough as well.

The bad man has gone to ground but the cops fancy their chances of a collar when they pick up Sternwood’s son on an unrelated offence. What follows is a predictable game of cat and mouse as the gangster heads back to the smoke to rescue his kid while McAvoy tries to remember to limp and look tough despite a weak beard.

This film wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated but it was still pretty poor. Of course it’s easy to pick nits, so let’s do that then.

McAvoy may now have the leading man status to open a film but he didn’t convince as the haunted copper with a score to settle. He may have been shown a couple of gun drills but his running about and swearing while offering his piece was more laughable than threatening. Better was Mark Strong as the villain but he’s had plenty of practice -  see ‘The Guard’ ‘Kick-Ass’ etc. He certainly topped McAvoy in the acting stakes but even he floundered with some hokey dialogue and ridiculous plot twists.

Down the list you also get Peter Mullen doing what he does and a disinterested David Thewlis as the aspirational politician who’s plan to shoot up London to win votes and lucrative contracts was ill conceived at best. The lead lady was a bit plain and her habit of writing stuff on her hands had her fate signalled from the off - guess where the killer clue is found?

The story was overly complicated and too reliant of coincidence and lucky timing. At the end McAvoy has a long speech where he explains the plot along with flashbacks and I was still a bit puzzled. Some of it didn’t even make sense - Britain’s most wanted escapes from his Icelandic lair, kills plenty, and then jets straight into the heart of London without a second glance. He also manages to meet all his old contacts and wanders in and out of various crimes scenes with no questions asked.

The big showdown where the two arch enemies forge an uneasy alliance was so much horse shit, but at least it did let a few extras get shot up. The production was quite lavish for a British film but it had so many ‘London at Night’ establishing shots you’d think the whole thing was bankrolled by the tourist board - well maybe if every person in Britain wasn’t shown as a total murdering psycho you might.

Overall the film was like a lavish episode of ‘The Sweeney’ and it was certainly better than the recent remake film of that series. Part of the fun is spotting all the actors they found sitting about in the Garrick Club and shoved on screen for five minutes. The violence was moderate with nothing too graphic despite ten million bullets being shot off in the name of entertainment. Worth a look but only a passing one as you skip past it on Channel 5 in a couple of years time.

W Score 12/23  Best Bit - Storage wars Writ Large

Friday, 5 April 2013

No.181 : Wrecked

Wrecked at the IMDb

Fancy watching a film about a man stuck in a wrecked car and then crawling about the woods for an hour and a half? Well I didn’t either but we all have to make sacrifices!

Adrien Brody stars as the hapless motorist who wakes up in his wrecked car at the bottom of a ravine. He’s no idea how he’s got there, but his legs are trapped and he’s got a dead body in the back seat for company. The first half hour is almost without dialogue apart from the odd grunt, groan and curse. We endure Adrien’s pain as he tries to reach a dropped sweet and get something less crap on his one station radio.

Things slowly develop as he finds a gun under his seat and a credit card that may have his name on it - he’s got that selective movie amnesia, you see. He makes progress by inches and small triumphs such as getting some water from a passing hiker are soon dismissed as fantasy - or are they?

He hears a snippet on the news about dangerous bank robbers on the run - one of whom has the name that was on the credit card. After days of trying and pissing his pants, Adrien eventually manages to get out of the car and finds the boot is full of cash. But what can we believe? People appear and disappear and we’re clearly dealing with a man suffering from hallucinations here.

With no help in sight Adrien binds his shattered leg and tries to crawl to safety. He gains the friendship of a nice dog and a foe in the shape of a well trained mountain lion. He crawls for ages and falls into a river before, you’ve guessed it, arriving back at the wrecked car. He sees a man taking the loot from the boot and has visions of a nice lady and of pursuing police officers. Is he already dead and enduring a life in purgatory or are those pills he found not helping with the hallucinations? Can Adrien make it back to the road and untangle the wreckage of his existence?

‘Wrecked’ is pretty much as you expect if you’ve read a two line blurb on the DVD box. The good old device of movie amnesia is wrung for all it’s worth as Adrien tries to piece together his circumstances and life in general. Is he a desperate bank robber or an unfortunate in difficult circumstances? Clearly this thin plot needs some padding and we get it in spades as various quests eat up minutes of running time - that five minutes securing a mint totally wasn’t worth it!

It was clear from early on that most of the visions were just that, but they kept coming thick and fast all the same. The film did present a good sense of the desperation of the nameless lead character but there is only so much of a man crawling about that anyone needs. Brody did OK with thin material but I wasn’t really rooting for him at any stage - even when he shares his jerky with the dog. His make up was good and towards the end he was looking like an extra from ‘The Walking Dead’. The big denouement offered no surprises and the narrative couldn’t be more plain as it ended on a ‘here’s how it all happened, kids!’ sequence so as to rob you of any sense of mystery or interpretation.

All in all it was better than being stuck crawling about in a forest with a broken leg but only just!

THE Tag Line : Get wrecked instead of getting ‘Wrecked’
'W' Rating 12/23

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

No.180 : Westbound

Westbound at the IMDB

Randolph Scott stars in this undemanding 1959 western.

We open to a scrolling paragraph that tells us the Civil War is still being fought and both sides need gold. The Union Army gets its gold from California and the Confederates will try anything to stop it getting to where it’s needed 3000 miles away.

Scott plays a cavalry officer, sorry the best cavalry officer in the whole army. He is called to a meeting with his commanding officer and a man from the government and comes across as a tit as he tries to make some wise remarks. Clearly understanding that the star billing outranks their characters’ positions they take his cheek and offer him a new job into the bargain.

The previously mentioned gold shipments are being increased to one a day and they need Scott to set up the staging posts and hire the drivers . He bitches at first but is soon on the stagecoach to set up his staging post. On the stage he meets a Union soldier who is heading home after losing an arm in the war. He fingers a picture of his bride lovingly but Scott brags that his squeeze is hotter.

They arrive in town to a frosty welcome. Scott’s old rival has married his girl and has a gang of brigands employed to laugh at passers by - including Scott! To make his position clear a gunslinger shoots off Scott’s guns much to the amusement of the entire town - well they don’t have squirrels on skateboards on Youtube yet.

Not to be seen off so easy, Scott sets up his staging post and employs the one armed soldier to run it for him - presumably as he’ll only have one hand in the till. The soldier needs the work as he’s worried about being teased by the nasty men in black shirts who say he’s only half a man - he’ll show them! The bad guys turn up the heat and burn down some staging posts and run off the horses. Can Scott get things set up in time to win the war?

Things get worse before they get better but when a stagecoach is run off the road and down a hill, killing all the occupants, including a girl in pigtails, the townsfolk reassess their loyalties - as does Scott’s old rival. Will their combined efforts see off the black shirted bastards?

At 70 minutes this film barely qualifies as a feature and the running time doesn’t offer much to allow plot twists or character development. Scott is a bit old for the leading man role and God knows why he commands fawning respect and fear wherever he goes considering he’s such a stuffed shirt. The goodies and baddies are clearly flagged with the main villain, Mace, being as despicable as his limited range would allow. He did have a strange stance however and it looked like he was constantly shooting his bullets into the ground - fortunately the stuntmen fell off their horses as required.

For such a straightforward tale of good versus evil I was surprised to see some pretty harsh deaths with the stagecoach crash a real surprise. I also expected the one armed soldier to fare better but at least it left his girl open for Scott’s creepy charms as the credits rolled.

For a 1950’s western this is pretty much what you’d expect but I did it enjoy it and, although broadly drawn, the characters did manage to elicit plenty of boos and hisses from me - even the bad ones!

Best Bit - And the wheel was still spinning…
W Score : 16/23