Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

October 29, 2010

I have never seen the original Wall Street film, though I have heard good things, and so was a little worried that I wouldn’t understand all the references. Fear not, for as long as you know that Michael Douglas said “Greed is good” you will be fine (unless I missed something!).

This is a film about how everyone on Wall Street is horrible, that somewhat shoots itself in the foot from the very beginning by making the main character they want you to empathise with, someone from Wall Street. In my opinion actually they first made the mistake of making that someone Shia Le Beouf. How does he keep getting jobs? In WS:MNS Shia plays an arrogant, money driven, ambitious young trader with some morals, though this generally means he’s much the same as he was in Transformers or Indiana Jones, but this time he has to wear a suit.

The film spends quite a lot of its time showing you some of the nasty side of Wall Street, though strangely, everyone Shia knows is actually really nice and caring and the bosses, apart from his one, are all pantomime villains. There are some good scenes in this to be fair, particularly the meetings between bankers and government over the bail-out, but the longer the film goes on the more caricatured the “baddy” becomes and the more you realise the trailer was very selective in showing the more action and anger based clips rather than the meetings.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s major weakness was the ending. It was awful, one of the worst I’ve seen in ages. A happily ever after that fixed absolutely everything possible, was overly saccharine and didn’t fit the film. The villain of the piece is exposed, the romance is back on, his fiance’s business is suddenly taking off, her wayward father and his wayward mother both suddenly realise the errors of their ways and successfully get their lives back on track and are shown getting along wonderfully together at their grandson’s 1st birthday party, at which all of Shia’s former colleagues from throughout the film are suddenly really happy, playing with young children and laughing and joking with each other, which seemed odd given they were investment bankers and traders in a recession, from rival companies who had hated each other and were in danger of losing their jobs.

All of this good cheer seemed particularly bizarre given that all the top bankers (bar the one who crossed Shia who ended up in jail) were still in charge. The back stabbing crooks, who the film had made a real effort to show had basically ruined the whole country, were still controlling the banks. Obviously necessary really as this part at least is “inspired by real events” but then why have a ending so happy even Disney would be ashamed?

This film felt a bit of a mess, like it was unsure what it wanted to be. A story about the power and love of family, a documentary about power hungry bankers, a tale of redemption or an episode of Scooby-Doo. These don’t make for comfortable bed-fellows and while I wasn’t actually bored I didn’t really care. When Frank Langella’s character died, so did my interest in this film. Sadly that was less than 30 minutes in.

Chrysalis

October 29, 2010

Chrysalis is a French sci-fi thriller I picked up cheap on Amazon whilst randomly browsing and it appealed to me in a way many Matrixesque films do but with the added bonus of being French and cheap which tipped the balance for actually making the purchase (though the film turned out not to be a Matrix clone at all).

The first thing that stands out about this film is the near constant use of a grey filter in the now seemingly mandatory style required by action led dystopian future visions ala Equilibrium. It is an effect I quite like in moderation but it was too much even for me.

The plot involves criminal gangs, shady business dealings, government intelligence agencies and a street fighting, maverick cop who just won’t give up on his case. Oh yeah, and mind altering, memory storing machines in a future Paris. The sci-fi input therefore is really more of a maguffin, though obviously memory altering does play a major part.

The film is quite stylish though not particularly high budget and on the whole the story moves along reasonably quickly with fairly obvious twists and turns. Bonus points are earned by the very impressive hand to hand fight scenes, which are some of the best “believable” action I’ve seen in a long time. On the downside there are minor sub-plots that don’t seem to be answered and I was left with a feeling of not quite having understood what was happening. The weird memory flashback edits also confused me as they showed some stuff that was still to happen as well as memory, but no mention of seeing the future was made.

On the whole this is a fairly good film that perhaps aimed a little too high and failed to achieve all that it intended but overall its successes outweigh its faults.

Despicable Me

October 26, 2010

Firstly I should say that I saw this film in 3D and if you go to see it and you have the option save yourself some money and see it in 2D. A ranty blog about 3D shall follow shortly.

Despicable Me is an animated film aimed at a family audience, i.e. trying to appeal to both adults and children simultaneously. This can be a tricky genre to pull off as many post Toy Story films have proven, I’m looking at you Shrek 3, Ice Age 3 and other non sequel titles. However the trailer for Despicable Me showed promise and so I went in with fairly high expectations, which were met.

This is not going to be long-lasting classic like Toy Story but it is certainly one of the better efforts in this genre. The evil genius and mad scientist roles are played with well and the endearing minions will no doubt prove popular at Christmas. I can already feel the looming presence of some low quality, straight to DVD minion spin-off.

 I liked this film, the humour was consistently funny, there was depth to the characters and, although it wasn’t massively original, there was a solid and strangely believable story, given a plot about stealing the moon. This was a film that felt lovingly created, by people who made an effort and not just a rush job for a quick buck, and for that reason alone it is worth seeing. If you liked the Incredibles or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which it felt strangely close to in some undefinable way, then you should see this and if you didn’t, I feel sorry for you for losing your inner child.

The Other Guys

October 18, 2010

I’m back.

So when I went to see The Other Guys at the cinema last week I went in with fairly low expectations. I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan, as although he has done some good stuff, he has also done a fair quantity of bad stuff and there is something in his general demeanour that gets me off on the wrong foot. I think its the near permanent look of slight surprise and social awkwardness that most of his characters seem to have. Also going against The Other Guys was a blog post from a friend of mine on comedies which I mostly agreed with, which said that straight up comedies lack depth and have limited appeal. So I entered the screen in a sceptical frame of mind.

Which is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it. I often find myself setting such low goals for a low expectation movie that they are easily met and so I come out more impressed than I should. In this case however I would say that this didn’t affect my judgement too much, or at least so I hope. There were better jokes in there than I had expected, though there still were some stinkers (in fact, some that I only realised were supposed to be jokes from the space left for laughter in the script, I’m looking at you rival cop duo), and some attempt at character development, though this is no War and Peace. What raises this film above many other passable comedies is the performance of Mark Wahlberg. I love this man.

Playing a parody of many of his former hard cop roles, I found that his angry disillusioned policeman worked well, for most of the film at least, and that the little back story they gave allowed me to fill in the blanks from his character in The Departed and others. Sadly this only works if you have seen Marky Mark’s previous films so can’t really be credited too much to the Other Guys.

All in all it’s a fairly good action comedy that works out better than the trailer would suggest and meets the basic requirement of making me laugh, but it’s not enough to make me a Will Ferrell fan yet and for those of you looking for depth, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Books You Should Read (or so I think)

October 18, 2009

Basically this is a list of my all time, extra special, favourite books, but more than that books that I want you to read because I hope that one day they can mean as much to you as they do to me and maybe they could change your life. That sounds like a grandiose claim and it’s rather clichéd but everything should change your life a little, I just hope these are good ones. (Also there are loose rules I am using on this list i.e. one book per author though I will list other recommendations by them too)

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (also The Scar, Iron Council, King Rat, Looking For Jake and Un Lun Dun)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Diamond Dogs by Alastair Reynolds (also Revelation Space, Redemption Ark etc.)

Salt by Adam Roberts (also Polystom)

1984 by George Orwell (also Animal Farm)

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (also Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain etc.)

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (also Xenocide, Speaker for the Dead, Children of the Mind, Traitor)

The Truth by Terry Pratchett (also all Discworld novels)

Wilt by Tom Sharpe (also Wilt on High, The Wilt Alternative, Wilt in Nowhere)

The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton (also The Neutronium Alchemist, The Naked God, Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained)

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

I will update this list as and when I think of more. You might notice a fairly heavy sci-fi leaning in the list but that’s because that’s a fair majority of what I read. Try it, you never know you might like it!

Gran Torino

April 21, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the film of the year, so far at least. As you might have guessed I liked this film. It is brilliant from start to finish and off the top of my head I can think of virtually nothing wrong with it. Clint Eastwood, as I believe I have already said on this blog, is a great director. I was going to say is proving to be great but I think it is now definitive. This man has a talent for film most people can only dream of.

His acting in this can’t really be said to be testing him outside of his normal roles. You can’t, for instance, imagine him in a romantic comedy (probably another thing to be said in his favour) but he’s very good in this, as is the entire rest of the cast. The story is powerful, though maybe be a little predictable, and it is wonderfully directed. The full range of emotions is covered without this often somber tale taking itself to seriously and with laugh out loud moments along the way. Basically this film has pretty much everything you’d want in a movie and should be manditory viewing for everyone.

Young Victoria

April 20, 2009

I have to admit I didn’t have high hopes of this film before I saw it. It looked like a film for girls in their early teens and the saturation coverage of Emily Blunt everywhere got a little wearing, lovely woman though she is. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the film. Don’t get me wrong, it still clearly is a film primarily for young girls but that didn’t make it unwatchable, far from it. It is an enjoyable film in a costume drama kind of style but with less frilly excess storywise.
Emily Blunt is very good in the title role and while there is little doubt over the general outcome of the film for those with even basic historical knowledge the story hangs together well. This is a good film, and though not to everyone’s taste, if you’re interested in Victoria or even just pretty dresses this film is a good way to spend some time.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

February 21, 2009

CCBB, as I shall refer to it here, is another darling of the current awards judges. Even if I hadn’t known that before I went in it would soon have been obvious that it would be as you watch the film. There are the interesting and varied characters from all walks of life, who are still all have hearts of gold under their various rough exteriors. There is a tale of a life that was touched by others and touched back. A story of disability fought, of love overcoming great odds, courage in battle and life in general, all with great historic events as a back drop and some obscure tale unrelated tale running parallel as some kind of commentary.

This had multi-oscar winner written all over it and as such I was ready to lash out in hatred and bile just automatically. However I have to say that it wasn’t that bad really. It went on forever though, and for the majority of it Brad Pitt had minimal make-up on i.e. was between the ages of 25 to 50 and the fact he was living backwards could quite easily have been forgotten. Much of this section was a little dull, it must be said. The beginning 45 minutes or so were interesting up until he ended up in Russia when it went downhill and didn’t really pick up until the overly quick ending. Another problem I had was with the now overused and somewhat clunky use of the narrator reading a memoir in a hospital. This added virtually nothing to the story apart from 20 minutes or so which could happily have been cut from the mammoth running time.

However the film was good in parts and generally well acted. If you like the other sentimental films of similar genres, particularly the likes of Titanic, Forest Gump and other such you will like this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot better than Titanic but it’s not my kind of thing. Sorry.

Doubt

February 21, 2009

Before I describe in some detail why I disliked this film (which I guess should have a spoiler warning!!)  I should say some points in its favour. It is very well acted by everyone in the cast. There isn’t a single weak performance, though I found Amy Adams did slowly more unbelievable the more of her you saw. It is also fairly well directed which is why I can understand why it is up for awards, however I won’t be watching it ever again.

This is because I was bored. Really quite bored for the majority of the film. Obviously with a title like Doubt you expect uncertainty and unfinished business, but that kind of thing needs to be done very carefully and this just didn’t balance it well enough. As Mark Kermode pointed out in his review, the level of doubt shown in this film isn’t really particularly high. Quite soon in the film the main area of doubt is brought to light and, while there is no real proof either way, it seems quite obvious which side is right, and from then on the film seems to be more about a search for evidence. Fair enough you say, that’s often how detective stories run, but rarely in detective stories do they tell you in the title that the case won’t be solved!

Also for a film called Doubt and set in a religious setting there was basically no religious content. I’m not asking for evangelism or anything like that but doubt in a religious context can give a really powerful story on a human level. As it was there was basically no Christian content above being nice to people, and it portrayed Catholics as belonging to basically 3 groups. People who go to mass but don’t care otherwise, people who are anti-women and potentially homosexually kiddie fiddlers and people who believe all modern inventions are evil and that are so stuck in tradition that they won’t help others in danger except through the rigid channels provided by the church. Now there probably are these people in the church, particularly of the first catagory, but not a single character in this film, with the exception of Amy Adams, was likeable, and even Amy was all wishy-washy, ‘everyone’s nice really’.

Basically, if you’ve seen the trailer you know about the story, and unless you have an interest in behind the scenes life in a 1950’s American convent school I can think of little reason in the story to watch this film. Phillip Seymour Hoffmann is brilliant as always and the others no doubt deserve their nominations for awards, I only wish they could have been in a more interesting film.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

February 10, 2009

This film didn’t have much to live up to following the appalling rubbishness of Underworld: Evolution. I actually liked the first one quite a lot though repeated viewing has tired me. Rise of the Lycans explores the back story of the series and though someone told me they thought it was the best of the series so far I have to differ. It is certainly better than Evolution but the first one still reigns supreme for me.

The story of Rise of the Lycans is covered in a couple of small flashbacks in the original and frankly there wasn’t much more that needed to be said. Basically I think your choice of favourite Underworld film comes down to a very simple choice. If you prefer automatic weapons choose 1, for swords and crossbows choose 3. If you have severe bad taste in film problems then choose 2.

P.s. I recently found out the huge scary black guy who plays a werewolf in the films and only really grunts, actually wrote the scripts… weird!