Category: Film

The Guard

One of the best films of the last few years is In Bruges, a melancholy comedy about a pair of Irish hit men who found themselves in Bruges. I was delighted then, to see Brendan Gleeson in a film so thoroughly unlike In Bruges while being simultaneously reminiscent of it. It wasn’t until the day after that the penny dropped: The Guard is the brother of In Bruges, just as its writer/director John Michael McDonagh is the brother of In Bruges’ writer/director Martin McDonagh. Funny, that.

 

The Guard, of course, hits an entirely different emotional key: that of endless and shameless laughter. It’s the sort of film that will suddenly attack you a couple of days later while you’re washing your hands and you’ll audibly crack up. It’s a haunting film, but not in the traditional sense of the word: it’s good enough to lodge itself into your brain, to store itself up for inopportune moments of hilarity.

 

Jane Eyre (2011)

While Jane Eyre does not have the distinction of a Kate Bush song dedicated to it, Charlotte Brontë’s story is perennial, with at least 24 adaptations having been produced to date. The 2011 effort, shot on the wild and windy moors of northern England, is a welcome addition to a crowded canon. Gloomy but not relentlessly so is this tale of an intelligent young woman of indomitable spirit.

 

Friends With Benefits

 

Much has been made of the fact that Friends With Benefits has the same concept as No Strings Attached, which came out much earlier in the year, and that each of these movies featured a key member of the Black Swan cast.

This is irrelevant: Justin Timberlake is objectively better than Ashton Kutcher. That’s as far as this needs to go.

 

Friends With Benefits is another movie about people disillusioned with love as it is represented in romantic comedies. By being incredibly self aware it tries to suggest that it’s above romantic comedies, but really it’s fooling no one: Friends With Benefits is a romantic comedy, albeit one that only has a couple of moments to be ashamed of.

Green Lantern

 

Given the two month release delay and the awful trailers, I always knew that Green Lantern was not going to be a good movie. Periodically I see movies that feel more than anything like I’m sitting in a darkened room, staring at a screen, and Green Lantern falls precisely into that elite circle.

 

Green Lantern is a special kind of bad movie. It’s not dull, but it is singularly unengaging. It has a relatively good cast who either don’t bother or founder in its roles. Its action is stupid and the CG is unforgivably bad for a 2011 production. There is very little indeed to like about a film that is more toyetic than anything else; this is the first comic book film since the 21st century “renaissance” that is blatantly geared towards children and the sale of toys.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Full disclosure: I have an aversion to apes. I simply don’t like them. I have never seen a Planet of the Apes film, so this is a new experience for me. In the age of The Simpsons it’s hard not to have a base familiarity with the series, though, so I think I knew enough going in to make a reasoned judgment.

I had a healthy scepticism for all of the early promos for this film. It wasn’t until the last trailer was released that I was willing to give it a chance. In the end, James Franco delivers on his promise with all of his limbs intact.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty good film. Technically the fifth in the Marvel universe that has been forged since 2008’s Iron Man, it is the chronological first. I would go so far as to say it’s the best one that they’ve offered yet, completely failing to pander to easy nationalistic pride while presenting a valid hero’s journey and allowing Chris Evans to create a character with some nuance and likability. Intensely stylish and pure of heart, Captain America: The First Avenger is surprising in many ways … except for its wholly and depressingly unnecessary subtitle.

Bad Teacher

The quadrant of America that rails against the “lamestream media” is the same that claims that the educational system is terrible, that kids don’t learn the important things, and that, because education is so bad, funding should be withdrawn from schools. Bad Teacher plays right into the fears of the “heartland”: teachers are apathetic morons and the only lessons that your children need are the filtered teachings of Jesus.

 

It’s not a good movie, and it’s hard to see who it’s designed to appeal to: it’s a dumb comedy with feigned bite, occasionally falling back on racism and homophobia to generate laughs. If you think that the implied erection of a grade school boy is hilarious, then this film is for you.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the Potter franchise ends not with a bang or a whimper, but unending fields of grey. Not shades of grey. Not grey to represent moral ambiguity. Just literal grey. No colour was used in the creation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
This is not to say that it’s a bad film (although it does have a bad title), For something that has been effectively ten years in the making, dragging seven films of baggage behind it, this is a movie that relies too heavily on the projections of its audience; David Yates has provided a near blank canvas upon which actors run through motions endowed only with the meaning that the audience chooses. Yates has forced us to do the heavy lifting, spending hundreds of millions of dollars without investing any of it in emotion or gravitas.

Directing With A Tintin Ear

I would dearly like to believe that Steven Spielberg isn’t a terrible person full of bad ideas, but being presented with the trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a severe test of my faith. I’m no wholesale motion capture snob, but I don’t understand how Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg could look at what they’ve created and call it aesthetically pleasing.

There was very little point approaching a Tintin project this way. While the scenery looks okay, Hergésque, even, the animation and the character models are simply not up to standard. This level of work is only one step above the visual hellscape that was Mars Needs Moms, which is considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time after inflation. If you look at the 50 second mark with Thompson and Thomson bumbling down the stairs, or the 1:50 mark where one of them hits the street light, it’s clear that Spielberg has no sense of animation. These characters are being clicked and dragged, and it’s not a good look.

Whoever decided that Snowy looked like a dog rather than a series of cotton buds needs to be fired, as well. It’s he and Tintin, rendered breathless by Jamie Bell, that get the worst of it all. Tintin, being the title character, needs to look less dumb. It’s too late for that. It was always going to be too late. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, intent on whittling away all of the good will that they’ve earned over the years, are uninspired thus far.

Next we have Captain Haddock, the most pleasing member of the bunch. He looks like Captain Haddock! Alas, he’s been rendered into a bumbling Scot. At this point in the Tintin mythos he’s a drunkard, but that’s not communicated here. Due to the inexplicable thick accent, the audience is forced to assume that his stupidity is directly related to his country of origin. I know that this isn’t strictly fair given that we’ve only got 2:24 to work with, but trailer cutters should know that first impressions count.

While I believe I will drag myself to see The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, I don’t hold out much hope for it. The sense of adventure might be pointing in the right direction, but the look and the sound are entirely wrong. Had Spielberg attempted to go all the way in either direction – live action and effects driven, or computer generated – he might have ended up with something worth looking at. Secret of the Unicorn is the movie of 2011 that I’m most likely to watch with my eyes closed.

Jack and Jill: Adam Sandler hates me and you and everyone we know

In Judd Apatow’s long and boring 2009 vanity project Funny People, Adam Sandler plays a successful comedian who made his fortune with a series of terrible and gimmicky comedies (a wizard has turned Adam Sandler into a baby! Only Justin Long can look after him!). In 2011, Funny People has come true.

Yes, Adam Sandler’s career has finally caught up with Rob Schneider’s. I never thought I’d see the day!

 

Making terrible movies is nothing new for Adam Sandler, but I think that Jack and Jill has to be a new low. It has to be, because I refuse to accept that he has made a movie worse than this one. I don’t make a habit of watching Adam Sandler movies and was burnt terribly by his last non-Apatow vehicle that I saw, so I’ll just keep on believing what I choose to believe.

 

Is there any way that Jack and Jill can be good? Adam Sandler plays himself and his twin sister, living in an idyllic and totally unsympathetic capitalist dystopia. Every single problem that the Sandlers face in this trailer can only be experienced by a stupidly rich person: “I hope my sister doesn’t ruin my pool by riding on a jet ski!” “I can’t believe Al Pacino is hitting on me court side at a Lakers game!” Even their apparent reconciliation, awkwardly shoe-horned  in the midst of the trailer, comes in the form of Double Dutch skipping on the $1.2 billion USD largest passenger ship ever built.

I know that the millions of families who go and see this movie will personally identify with the sickening bourgeoisie antics of Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler! If anyone recalls Macaulay Culkin’s Richie Rich from 1994, the entire concept was that Richie had so much money that he had no idea how to relate to society. A more “modern” example like Russell Brand’s remake of Arthur covers similar material, denouncing wealth while revelling in it.

The nightmare that the Sandlers live in with Katie Holmes is presented as if it is a wonderful life that can only be spoiled by outside influence. Humanity is presented as destructive to the American way of life, which is the right to own more than you could ever possibly need while systematically ignoring your family.

 

Of course, “none of this would matter” (it would) if the movie looked funny at all. It doesn’t. It has no capacity for laughs, existing only to bring further shame to Al Pacino, who I understand has made some good movies in his time … but that was so long ago I can’t remember. I can’t picture Katie Holmes and Adam Sandler having anything approaching chemistry, and the cute adopted child cribbed from Easy A is more than a little on the nose. I can’t wait for this movie to make billions and reinforce my total lack of confidence in the universe.

 

I’ve got one thing to say to you, Adam Sandler: Don’t Bring Me Down!