Thursday, 27 August 2009

Review - Let The Right One In

In a nutshell:- Character-based Swedish arthouse vampire film.

The Basics:- Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the screenplay), it tells the story of outsider Oskar who is being bullied at school and doesn't seem to fit in. He meets new neighbour Eli, a girl who doesn't seem to to feel the cold from the snow and only seems to come out at night and they strike up a friendship...

The Good:- It's engaging, beautifully shot and features great performances form the two young stars as Oskar and Eli. It's very much unlike your standard vampire film, concentrating on the burgeoning love affair between the two main characters. That's not to say it shies away from moments of vampiric blood-letting but that's not the focus of the film. It's a very ambiguous film - both in some of the details about Eli and also morally which is quite refreshing. There's no clear cut right and wrong in the film - this is just what happens to the characters and how they behave. The film also has some nice use of traditional vampire lore - at one point, we see exactly what happens to Eli when she enters a house into which she hasn't been invited...

The Bad:- To be honest, I can't think of anything bad to say about the film. The only bad thing I can think of is the quite frankly bizarre UK marketing campaign for the DVD release of the film which is pitching it as a blood-soaked, scare-a-minute, terrifying horrorfest which is exactly the sort of film that it isn't. As campaigns go, it's truly odd - the sort of viewer attracted to the kind of Hostel-style slasher film they're pitching it as will be put off by the films languid pace and emphasis of character over schlock and, conversely, the viewer who might enjoy an odd, character-based, arthouse-style film wouldn't be enticed by the promise of shocks and gore. Utterly strange.

Closing Remarks:- Definitely one to watch - it's odd and creepy with some great performances and some nice directorial touches (particularly the scene in the swimming pool). Go and see it before Hollywood remakes it as "Let Me In" and completely spoils it.*

* This is on the way. Successful foreign film = instant crap Hollywood remake. It's the rules.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Review -Terminator Salvation

Warning - here be spoilers...

In a nutshell:- Future-y Terminator-style shenanigans.

The Basics:- I'm a big fan of the first two Terminator films. Good, solid sci-fi action films which quite rightly, along with Aliens, cemented James Cameron as your man to go for a good quality sci-fi blockbuster*. I held off watching the third one for quite some time as it was pretty universally panned, only watching it for the first time a couple of months back. Admittedly, it wasn't great but it wasn't an awful film. No, it's main crime was that it was utterly superfluous. I didn't feel that it added one single thing to the universe set up in the first two films. So, would this additional sequel prove to be any better.

The Good:- The film takes the right first step in moving away from the whole Terminator-sent-back-in-time schtick of the previous three films and giving us a good look at the future post-Judgment Day world. There are some impressively realised new Terminator machines, including one that shoots bike Terminators out of it's legs (it looks a lot cooler than my description) and the overall feeling throughout the film is that of a war movie with hidden headquarters on submarines and isolated resistance pockets scattered about, heightened by John Connor's role as "Voice Of The Resistance".

The Bad:- Well, it doesn't quite feel like the same skull-strewn, war-torn landscape of the first few films (it looks a lot cheaper for starters). It's also extremely predictable - there is no surprise at all in Sam Worthington's character Marcus and I'd surprised if you didn't manage to work him out right from his first appearance. It's got no real sense of humour, something which lightened the first couple of films (sometimes not always completely successfully, admittedly, but still). It also doesn't make a lot of sense - there are plotholes all over the place, particularly SkyNet's unleashing of a Terminator and just hoping that it wander about and bring John Connor back to them. Not really much of a plan. But, most importantly, much like Terminator 3 before it, it also feels utterly superfluous. As it's set before John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time in the first film, it's effectively a prequel so, again, there's no sense of real danger. John and Kyle have to survive for the first two films to happen.

Closing Remarks:- It's not a bad film, certainly not as bad as some critics would have you believe but it is ultimately pointless. As we're bound to get another installment in the franchise, can I make a request? Set it in the future after the first couple of films and give us some genuinely unknown territory. Go somewhere new and give us some situations where we don't know the outcome and might actually stand a chance of caring about what happens to the characters. Just a thought...

* OK, so he then went on to make the three hour, over-hyped and mostly dull yawnfest that is Titanic but nobody's perfect.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Really Not Very Good At All

In recent weeks, I seem to have gone through a spate of watching some pretty bad films. And not in that fun "so bad, they're good" type of way. Just bad films. Why are they bad and which films do I speak of? Let's find out, shall we?

Journey To The Center Of The Earth
In a nutshell:- Quick, point that at the camera! We're in 3D, you know...
The Verdict:- I kind of hoped that it might turn out to be a dumb but fun blockbuster, something with a bit of a sense of humour. Sadly, I was to be disappointed on that score as it turned out to be a dull and leaden affair, featuring some fairly sub-standard CGI. However, the worst aspect of the film has to be that it was originally shot as a 3D film and is one of those most irritating of 3D films which has many unnecessary shots of people poking things at the camera in order to prove that it is, in fact, 3D. All of which is completely lost when you're watching on normal 2D television.

The Happening
In a nutshell:- M Night Showaddywaddy continues his career decline.
The Verdict:- So, a while back, M Night Shyamalan made an intriguing film called The Sixth Sense with an infamous twist ending*. He followed it up with a slow-paced but enjoyably down-played superhero film, Unbreakable (which I quite enjoyed). Since then, he has churned out a succession of twist-ending based films with increasingly irritating results. I thought Signs was an awful film until this pile of excrement came turding along. I can honestly think of nothing good to say about it. The acting, the script - all atrocious. Worst of all, it limps along to a nothing of an ending and just kind of stops without making any real sense at all. Avoid it. Really, just save yourself the time.

10,000 BC
In a nutshell:- Apparently, woolly mammoths helped build the pyramids.
The Verdict:- Well, I wasn't really expecting this one to be much cop and, in that respect, I wasn't really disappointed. It is, after all, from one of them men who brought us Independence Day. Kate managed to summarise what the upcoming plot would be within the first minute or so** and it pretty much stuck to that. What I didn't expect was that it would be mostly very dull. It didn't really have much in the way of spectacular set pieces - what it did have was a dull version of the hero's journey with improbably well-groomed and erudite cavemen.

So, there you have, some films what I have watched so you don't have to. Of course, it's not all been bad films, I've seen a rather good one recently, too. But that's a blog for another time.

* Is it smug to say that I knew what was going on quite early in? Well, I did , so there.

** In fact, this has become something of a trend. We worked out between us exactly what was going to happen in atheist-Arnie-fights-the-Devil flick End Of Days (I worked out the entire backstory of Arnie's character before he appeared on screen while Kate worked out the specifics of the ending). I didn't get to see the last half of it but I feel like I have...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Stench Of It

As previously stated, I'm very much a city boy at heart. I love the hustle, the bustle, the life, the people, the noise. However, there is one thing, particularly in the city when it's warmer*, that is not always overly pleasant about city life. I'm talking about the near constant assault perpetrated against the olfactory senses by the various niff, pongs, whiffs, smells and stenches that are encountered on a minute by minute basis.

There's that shrubbery in someones garden that seems to have a sweet smell on the surface but is soured by a strong underlying whiff of shit. Next up, it's the underpass that has had so many tramps filling it with their Special Brew-flavoured urine that it has permanent stench of boozy piss. A bit further along the way and there's that walkway up to the station that inexplicably seems to smell really strongly of stale sweat. And, of course, there's the train itself which all-too-explicably smells of stale sweat. That's not counting the various street turds, passing rubbish trucks and food-strewn buses that also give the nostril a swift smellpunch of the way past.

But then... but then... there's the smell of fresh bread and pastries as you walk past the bakery early in the morning. There's that scent of perfume that kicks off a memory of times gone by. Over there, the waft a whole chicken gently roasting on a spit at the deli on the corner. The good smells, the enticing smells, the ones that make you go "mmmm". So maybe it's not all that bad.

Who plants something that smells like shit, though? I mean, seriously. What's that about?

* Not that we've had a huge amount of that this summer. This is England after all and our summers can often consist of three days of blistering heat that we're unprepared for which give us all sun burn followed by weeks of rain that we're then unprepared for as we keep expecting that hot weather to come strolling back in. Ever the dismally pessimistic optimists, eh?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A New Era

He stood, legs askance, posture erect and expression one of lordly satisfaction. The domain was his now and he was master of all he surveyed, from the ceremonial line for clothes drying in the conservatory to the washer of the dishes in the kitchen, from the wall of DVDs in the living room to the (much lower now it doesn't have 30 comic boxes underneath it) regal bed in the bedroom. Yes, the flat was his and he planned to enjoy it (on the days of the week when he wasn't round at his girlfriend's anyway).

Yes, prior to their impending nuptials, Bro and Mrs Bro have struck out for a place of their own because no one wants to be the married couple that lives with the brother/brother-in-law (fear not, while they may no longer be flatmates, they are now neighbours, having moved about five roads away).

So, what difference does this make to flat life?

1. You Made That Mess, You Tidy It Up. One plus point is that the flat will always be found in the state in which I left it upon my return. On the down side, however, the flat will be in the state in which I left it upon my return. Cuts both ways that one, really. I have to admit, it has unleashed my inner OCD slightly - the remote controls are back to being lined up in height order before retiring for the night. What? It's nature's way (tallest to smallest).

2. Unlocked. You get ingrained into certain habits via repeated use. But when you're the only person who lives in the house, you really don't need to lock the bathroom door anymore.

3. Born Free. Societal conventions naturally dictate that a reasonably modest selection of outer garments should be adorned when in the company of others. However, if you live on you own, there's no reason not to let the meat and two veg swing free. Come on, you know if you lived on your own, you'd wander about in the nip far more often. Mind you, the postman could be in for a surprise (and a healthy dose of envy) at some point...