Thursday, 30 December 2010

Black Swan

One of the most amazing directors of the last decade Darren Aronofsky returns from The Wrestler with what has to be one of the best films I've seen this year.

Probably like many of you out there, I walked into this film not really knowing if I was going to like it. I love Aronofsky, even The Fountain which a lot of people hated I still hold in high esteem. His brave filmmaking defies convention, pushes boundaries and he always gets top performances from his cast. However, the trailer is somewhat misleading. Is it a thriller? A drama? Even a horror? But then, all these genres have filled his works in the past (apart from The Wrestler), it's hard to label it, which is all part of the magic. Even the Russian-inspired posters look amazing and will grace many a wall in the future of young trendies I'm sure. But the main point of issue however was really the fact it was about ballet and to be matter-of-fact about it, I know sweet FA about ballet. Fortunately, it doesn't matter and I have never been so enthralled by a film of this nature.

To put it simply, the story focuses on young Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballet dancer who is trying her hardest to win the Swan Queen part in a new vision of Swan Lake but she just cannot exhibit the passion of the Black Swan. Her slow, torturous journey into the dark realms of her psyche uncover more than just passion and soon we start to question reality as we travel alongside her.

Aronofsky does his typical European 70's 'amateur' 16mm style film-making that uses a lot of handicam, jump cuts, shaky, 'realistic' shots that make us feel like we are part of the action, that we are part of Portman's character, an extension of her conciousness. She is so innocent, so child-like that the idea that she has to play a dark, seductive monster through movement of her body alone seems unrealistic but Vincent Cassel as Thomas believes in her, he sees something, a darkness she keeps hidden. Like pretty much all of Aronofsky's work, the human body is an important factor in his films, whether it's sexual, violent, or through expression - everything counts, and in Black Swan, it's here in spades.

Portman plays rather an understated, muted yet remarkable performance as Nina gets to grip with her role. There's so much going on here, said in so little, that it's hard to express unless you've seen it. We all know that ballet dancers are known for having eating disorders, putting their body through unbearable pain, often resulting in a child-like appearance and Portman, at her thinnest and youngest, is going through all this to be perfect. She's an obsessive compulsive which doesn't help either and her child-like appearance is often reflected in her demeanour. She doesn't like talking about sex, she has an overbearing mother, no friends, works too hard and has a melancholiness that is hard to relate through words. We know she has a history of self-abuse and that her mother (who is creepy to say the least) is living her dancing dream through her daughter, that the other girls don't really like her but what is truly frightening is that by opening the pandora's box of restrained emotions, it's making her go insane. This isn't really a drama, it's a psychological horror that I think will make a lot of cinema-goers uncomfortable and shock them, but in a positive way.

Nina is taking over from Winona Ryder in the main Swan Lake part, but it's a position Ryder's character is somewhat reluctant to leave. As a result of this, Cassell tells us that by being self-destructive, by being that passionate, is what perfection is about, it is what makes Ryder's character such a joy to watch, and he constantly drives the point home in that she must lose control to really give a great performance, that you can spend all your time learning the moves but without that soul, it's meaningless. However, she is trying her best to stay in control of losing control because her world is crumbling around her, she is literally being corrupted in front of our very eyes.

Throughout all this, she feels pressure that Mila Kunis' character Lily is ready to jump into her shoes at any minute. She knows that Lily's care-free, easy, passionate attitude is something Cassell wants in the Black Swan performance, and in fact Lily soon becomes a representation of the dark side of Nina, and it's this dark side that is so tempting ...

I don't know what Swan Lake is really about, but there's enough information here to make you realise that the similarities with the play and the film aren't a coincidence. In fact, the whole film might as well be a performance of Swan Lake, the final temptation of the Black Swan being too irresistible. Many theories can be read into this, whether it's the obsessive compulsive nature going one step too far, whether Portman's character is mentally unstable, self-destructive, whether Lily exists, whether Nina is a figment of Lily's imagination or perhaps that it's in fact Nina's mother's vision and Nina doesn't exist at all. Whatever the film is truly about, it's exciting to watch, you are soon questioning everything and Portman's descent is intense, horrific and yet mesmerising to watch, I spent the whole time on edge and the physical horror of the nails, the picking and the scratching was enough to make me look away, and I have never looked away at anything before. The idea of mirrors, reflections, doppelgangers and this 'fake' image of ourselves, this other-worldly reality we see in front of the mirror each day, this dual nature like the Swan is also fascinating and something Aronofsky plays with expertly during the film. The sexuality of the film is also very strong and people will no doubt talk about the lesbian scenes for years to come, but her embrace of her dark nature, of her womanhood in fact, is something I hope no other woman had to go through. The crescendo of the piece is Swan Lake and is where you see Portman literally transform. She is almost intoxicated with everything she has strived to keep under control and for her to be perfect, for her to survive, she has to pretty much destroy herself.

Of course, many things can be read into this piece and I'd love to hear what other theories people have come up with. Whether I've missed anything stupidly clear out or if I'm completely missing the point entirely. But in any case, the acting was superb, the directing was flawless, the script inspiring and as a film it was perfect, it's hard to believe this and The Wrestler started off as an idea for one film! I can't hold this work of art in high enough esteem and can only hope that it takes over at the Oscars. It's dark, it's visceral, it's horrific, it's disturbing, it's glorious, it's the Black Swan.

Rating: 10/10

Tron: Legacy

After reviewing the Tron Legacy soundtrack and the Tron Evolution tie-in game, finally here is the review for Tron: Legacy - and it certainly is a Merry Christmas for one and all.

Before starting to delve into The Grid and it's inhabitants, I have to start by saying I've always been a huge Tron fan. As a kid, I would often pick up Tron again and again to watch over and over and has always had a special place in my heart, so when the initial concept footage for Tron 2 was released, you could imagine my excitement. Since then, I've been cautious not to get too over-excited. Sure the trailers look incredible, Daft Punk (whom I adore) were signed on to do the music, Jeff Bridges was going to do it, it was going to be 3D and also in IMAX. I had to bestill my beating heart that every time I get over-excited about a film, it very often disappoints and I didn't want that to happen here. Not to Tron. Please.

As readers know, I didn't rate the game very highly but Daft Punk's score got top marks (both reviews can be found on the right hand side or on Youtube's 'thewildboretv' channel) and once the film was released it got some very mixed reviews but I tried my best to keep out of it until I'd seen the final product myself, which was in centre seats at Waterloo's IMAX by the way.

If you don't know already, Tron Legacy takes place after the events of Tron (but not Tron 2.0 - the PC game for those non-geeks) where Kevin Flynn is taking advantage of being able to enter digital space by playing God and creating his own world. However, random beings, pieces of code or whatever they are, called ISO's have turned up and inside them could be the answers to the Universe, apparently. However, Flynn's 'supervisor' program Clu has a lot of ideas above his station and believes the ISO's to be imperfections and thus destroys them in The Purge (events of Tron Evolution). Kevin Flynn is banished and is hiding out with the beautiful Olivia Wilde (Quorra). Meanwhile, Sam Flynn, heir to his father's company, is busy causing havoc and being a rebel in the real world until he enters The Grid where luckily all his extreme sports hobbies come in good use.

Firstly the visuals are probably the best I've seen in anything, ever. It looks fucking cool and is absolutely incredible to witness. The first time we see the Tron world, it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. In this respect, the 3D-ness (is there a word for it?) works perfectly and it's the best use of 3D effects I've seen yet, and yes that's including Avatar. However, there is one massive flaw and I've seen it crop up time and time again in reviews - and that's the young Jeff Bridges as Clu. It simply doesn't work. It looks like Tom Hanks from The Polar Express or something, it is clearly animated and really stands out as he stands next to real people. It's a shame that technology has come leaps and bounds but actors don't have to worry, because recreating actual people won't be an issue for a while. It's a shame because it takes away from the rather dramatic scenes rather than adding to it.

The script is slightly flawed and they try to push in some key lines inbetween the set pieces but it's mainly because the pace is so incredibly fast. From disc wars to light cycle races to hand to hand combat the action is relentless and slows down in the right places to put it into context. If anything it's too textbook. Ever since Disney began, their writers were apparently handed out a guide to The Hero's Journey, a simple guide to Joseph Cambell's 'Hero Of A Thousand Faces', and it's essentially a template to creating an engaging storyline and one that can be traced as far back as Greek mythology and beyond. I know of it because I did a whole blooming thing on it in University. But Tron Legacy follows it point by point without missing a step which means that it might be simple but yet it's a familiar story, much like Star Wars or The Matrix but they had more depth. In fact, what Tron Legacy is missing, which is key, is the sense that it's part of a bigger thing and it feels way too self-contained without much knowledge of the actual geography of the place. To some this might seem indifferent, but subconsciously it works to give you a sense of realism and interaction. An example I often use is Alien, you often feel like you know the layout of the ship and it's a highly successful way of allowing your imagination fully integrate with the film by creating, arguably, boundaries. It's not saying you have to know where everything is, just that you realise that it's a part of the bigger picture. Unfortunately, there's not enough sense of what goes on inside The Grid and you're a bit confused as to where everything is. Why would they put the games arena right at the edge of the Outlands for instance? It sounds like nit-picking but I feel subconsciously people pick these things up, which is often why people find it hard to summarise why they did or didn't like a film. Pop psychology there folks or perhaps just slightly patronising.

You could argue that the whole point of The Grid in digital space is that it is infinite and these are programs, not living people, but I wanted there to be a bit more time in the 'city' part of the Tron Legacy world. What do these programs get up to? Do they couple off? Is it a working society? Why do they have to eat? Where is the food coming from? People can take it at face value but these are questions I found myself wanting to know the answers to after I left. Not in a geeky way of knowing every detail, more a way of wanting to understand the world more.

What's great about this storyline though is that a huge amount of history, myths and religion can be compared to it. Everything from the Nazi's, Cain and Abel, Darwinism, The New Testament, The Big Bang, Pat Pong, the Romans etc. could be related to this film and, in a way, the film itself is post-post-modern. A digital world within a digital world within the real world, where does the line end? You could read all sorts into it, that perhaps it is Flynn's purgatory, that it was Sam's dream, that it's the afterlife or perhaps it's just a simple story of a son searching for his father's love. Either way, it's not as superficial as most action films and, although it's not perfect, it's a great attempt to satisfy newcomers and fanboys alike.

The characters work quite nicely, Cillian Murphy makes a brief appearance (and one that will most definitely turn up in a sequel) as Ed Dillinger's son, the main villain in the 1982 Tron film, but it's a great glimpse into what will most certainly be a great sequel to come. Garrett Hedlund is remarkably perfect for Sam Flynn's role, it's never too cocky nor too naive, but does play up to the all-American rebel that tends to be popping up a lot (see Chris Pine in Star Trek as an example). It also made me laugh that his name is Sam and when asked how old he is, he states "27" - "Cor! Just like me! It's like I'm in the bloody film!" - I didn't say that, but I felt like saying it.

Jeff Bridges, I thought, did a great job as well. I had already read that people thought he was too much like The Dude and it had put some people off, however I honestly think it's only because he uses phrases such as 'man' and 'zen', which is a bit like not being able to see the forest for all the trees. People accustomed to the first film will know that Flynn was all about being laid-back and cool, it was pretty much what steered the first film, he had to be forced into action and indeed forced to mature which was the whole point of his journey in Tron. What people also forget is that he would have been a hippy child of the Seventies and seeing as he is trapped in The Grid for twenty odd years, he would not have been privy to cultural movements and therefore it might seem cheesy, but in fact works perfectly for the narrative. I was scared that Bridges would play his role too jolly, too happy-go-lucky like the original Flynn but fortunately, he has a lot more gravitas, probably not as much as I originally hoped (I wanted him to be a dark, angry, almost evil character - something to come perhaps?) but he is still clearly quite disturbed. His black and white grainy dreams looking more like a sketch, as if his dreams of the past are almost like out-of-date technology, which finally come back to colour as he is brought almost 'back to life' in a sense by the return of his son. People might think the journey is about Sam, but I'd argue it might be more about Kevin.

Bridges also plays Clu, who is very child-like and lashes out when he doesn't get his way. Just like in the first film, Kevin Flynn must conquer his immaturity, his fear, his naivety in order to continue, all of which is summed up in Clu. The real stand-out performance for me, for more than one reason is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, her wide-eyed innocence is as effective as her strength in such a powerful feminine role - she is clearly very sexual (the best leather-clad female on-screen since Pfiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns) but it doesn't define her. Fellow House fans will already know that she is one of the most gorgeous women about at the moment and she certainly proves it here. Her cat-like appearance (and I bloody love cats) helps in her feline performance but she is more than just a love interest, which is respectable these days by itself. She will be on FHM's list next year if she isn't already. Is she?

Martin Sheen as a strange David Bowie character mixes up the seriousness with a bit of zaniness but the whole scene feels rather forced and I felt the club could have been a bit more impressive, even if it does have Daft Punk in it. The rest of the cast do look slightly like extras in a Tron version of The Warriors, or perhaps Emo-Rockers but for all the manliner, it does kind of work.

The whole world feels dark, gloomy, a constant storm hanging overhead, and slightly depressing, but in a good way, it's better than an iPod white future and Daft Punk's music over the top creates an amazing French soundscape that works perfectly into the film. It's further proof that as amazing as certain composers are, sometimes it's good to hand out work to more popular, respected musicians instead of a James Bond-esque title song that artists usually get dumped with. The film also has some light comic relief to stop people thinking it takes itself so seriously, it is after all a Disney film. But advert director Joseph Kosinki has done an incredible job and other gamers out there will recognise his work in the Gears Of War and Halo 3 adverts that did so well.

Watching this film in 3D and especially in IMAX was a treat for the eyes, but it wasn't a perfect spectacle, however it was perfect for me. Okay so it might be a little too close to Star Wars, the Jedi, Storm Troopers, Death Star and all that, but at least it knows it (you'll know what I mean when you see it). It's incredible to watch but is flawed in a few areas which means that speaking objectively I will have to mark it as such. But as a fanboy I'd definitely give a 10/10. May there be many more Tron's to come! I bloody loved it.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 13 December 2010

Boardwalk Empire Season 1

Scorsese teams up with The Sopranos crew to make what will be one of the defining moments in TV history. Think you know what you're favourite TV show ever is? Well, you might want to put that decision on hold for a bit.

Let me briefly tell you what Boardwalk Empire is about. The film takes place in Atlantic City during the Twenties prohibition era and local politician Nucky (Steve Buscemi)  rules the roost. However, as highly respected as he is, he is also a ruthless gangster and the main storyline is about the growing rivalry with New York.

People will see a lot of parallels between this and The Sopranos. There is the obvious reason that it was created by Sopranos writer Terence Winter and the main director is Sopranos vetaran Van Patten, but it's not just the technical aspects. The style is very subtle, the plot being just about what is not said rather than what is and this isn't taking anything away from the remarkable, clever, intelligent dialogue that takes place between the incredible characters. Visually, it's a delight, the city is a living, breathing creation that makes you forget it's some backlot in Brooklyn and the camerawork and photography is exquisite. Much like Mad Men, people will start talking about the fashion, the glamour and splendour of the era that will inevitably start coming through into our everyday lives and along with the music, everything fits perfectly, you can tell that HBO weren't scared of haemorrhaging money into this series with an $18 million pilot and a series cost of at least $50 million, but boy is it worth it.

It helps that Scorsese directed the pilot and produces the series, it's gangster element is always there but never shows its face too often and the intermittent violence makes it more shocking and more visceral with a lot of surprises that would catch me out almost all of the time. It's a series, much like Sopranos, that will never follow suit but isn't scared to do what it wants. There are moments in this series that will stay with you forever and I know that you will be discussing amongst other Boardwalk fans when the time comes. However, what I will say makes it remarkably more different from Sopranos and arguably better is not only the narratives (which I will come on to) but the characters. The acting, as a whole, I would say is a lot better than Sopranos and it makes a difference that many of these characters actually existed, including Nucky, Rathbone and obviously Al Capone played by the incredible Stephen Graham. The dialogue, look and style of the piece will engross you in the first place, but the stellar high class acting that is performed here will suck up a lot of awards inevitably coming it's way and even though the series takes place around Nucky, a lot of the other characters are given just as much, if not more, screen time. Which brings me on to the stories at hand.

The general metaphor here is that the characters, much like the city and well, everyone, might have a shining, sparkly exterior but underneath it's a vile cesspit of secrets. It's a place where innocence is lost and with Kelly Macdonald's Irish housewife Mrs. Schroeder being the main example of this, it is a dark place that you can leave your morals behind and where you have to have two faces to survive. Michael Pitt plays a war hero returning to a life of crime and now is a different man. Often his life of the French trenches will surface showing a disturbing portrayal of a man trying to get on with his life and yet at the same time hold on to his humanity while trying to rise up the ranks with his mate Al Capone. A lot of historical accuracy is taken here, with a touch of salt of course, and in Capone's case you can see him develop from hot-headed ruffian to a man that will be one of the most well-known gangsters of all time. My favourite character Richard Harrow played by Jack Huston is the physical manifestation of Michael Pitt's insecurities and the ugliness of war - a character that will stay with me forever. Two other stand out performances are Paz de la Huerta's Lucy who oozes sex appeal and her constant use of 'Daddy' makes you realise that she's just a little girl who wants male attention as well as Prohibition cop Michael Shannon who is seriously fucked in the head and is fast becoming the most watchable person on a TV screen - you cannot help but hold your breath every time he appears, he steals every scene. These characters are just the tip of the iceberg though with actors like Michael Williams (Omar from The Wire), Aleksa Palladino as Pitt's wife and Michael Stuhlbarg as the charasmatic New York leader Arnold Rothstein. However, what made me realise that this will probably be better than Sopranos is that, not only are the different narratives just as interesting as each other (and doesn't just follow Nucky which for the most part Sopranos does with Tony) but also the characters and acting feel less cartoon-like and more realistic, which is strange seeing as it is essentially a period piece. Proof of this is Greg Antonacci who plays Johnny Torio and was one of the New York gang working under Johnny Sack in Sopranos, he plays the part well but is completely out-acted by everyone around him and what might have worked in Sopranos, doesn't work here, it's a lot more of a serious affair.

I'm going to sacrifice going into too much detail here so that you guys experience the series without knowing what's happening but I'd be interested to see what people think. It deals with racism, politics, sexism, sexuality, war, violence and more without ever being too 'in-your-face' and it never slows down and you never know where it's going to go, it's just incredible.

Seeing as this hasn't hit UK shores yet until Sky releases Sky Atlantic showing HBO shows, this will definitely be it's flagship series and this'll be worth subscribing to for any cost. I can't tell you too much about the storylines without giving anything away but rest assured it's one of the best TV series out there and is definitely the best first season I've seen for anything ever. If it carries on with such high quality, it'll definitely be my favourite TV show ever - I cannot wait until next year to see the second series. I was going to do a video review for this, but it would be better just to show you a trailer as this series should not be taken lightly! It's an honour to watch such artists work.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Uncharted 3 Trailer!

Due to come out next year, here's a first look at Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. Apparently the following is all using the in-game engine and with the film now been green-lit, surely 2011 is going to be the year of Drake! Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was perhaps the best game of 2009 and probably all time, so I can't wait to see this in action.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon

The new official trailer for Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon!


Sadly another foreign classic has been taken on by Hollywood and ripped apart. It's a shame as the cast is quite impressive: Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Sam Riley, Jason Statham, David Zayas (looking a bit more menacing here), an awful 50 Cent and the incredible Michael Shannon (fast becoming one of my favourite actors). But with such an engaging story, a respectable cast and with the same director as the original French film, surely they're not taking any chances here? Spin. Aim. Not necessarily survive.

13 Tzameti was a great film for all the right reasons. The story, if you don't know, is about an underground game of Russian Roulette where people bet a lot of money on the outcome. In a weird sequence of events, a young man gets involved without knowing what it is and ends up having to play the game. The first film was a black and white, gritty, disturbing film that was full of suspense and everything that worked about it has sadly floundered in this remake.

There's a number of reasons why. Firstly, there is a multiple narrative about some of the other contestants, this means that you lose the personal attachment you have with Riley in the first place. It also means that due to the famous cast, you know who is going to survive and who isn't. The Hollywood sheen where it looks pretty, full of rich colours and takes place in a rich mansion means it loses all it's dirty, hostile and cold surroundings that made the original film feel so awkward to situate yourself in. The build-up to watching the bulb is about 1% of the tension of the original, you honestly didn't know what was going to happen in the first one but in this instance you feel like you do and the tension isn't there at all. Instead it feels like a stupid game where you don't care about anyone.

The stories of the other contestants detract from the mood and feel like a complete distraction. Rourke's storyline especially. His little story alongside the painfully unbearable 50 Cent is completely unjustified and a waste of time. Statham and Winstone's brotherly love hasn't been thought out and feels superfluous to say the least. Sam Riley does an okay job as the young innocent player, but his lack of conviction makes you feel like a voyeur rather than being involved. The actual game itself and the gambling techniques were also completely unclear and convoluted with the bulb, once being the main source of tension in the first film, rather being set as a preoccupation. The reason why they had a hanging bulb in the first room is that it was a tiny concrete room, so the only thing there was the bulb hanging down, casting judgement. Whereas here, you can't imagine that blowing each other's brains out around such rich tapestry is ideal for cleaning up.

The rest of the acting was awful and even Shannon, as another crazy character, is so OTT that you can't help but feel it's comical. The only saving grace about this film is the Russian Roulette itself but I implore you not to watch this film and go out of your way to watch the original instead, otherwise it will ruin the experience for you completely. You'd think since 2005 Babluani would have become a better director, sadly he hasn't and with The Legacy ( L'héritage ) being his only film made between the original and this one, perhaps he's just out of practise. A film that should never have been remade and is an example that Hollywood should sometimes just leave things alone instead of ruining the experience for everyone.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Finland isn't known for it's film exports, so here truly is a 'Rare Export' but should we return it? It's not exactly in the spirit of Christmas is it?

This film is rather a prequel to two short films that the director made in 2003 and 2005 (both I will stick at the end of this article) where Santa isn't the merry old fat man we've come to know and love but is rather a beast of the wild that is tamed and exported around the world. But deciding that some short films weren't enough, Jalmari Helander decides to make a feature film about his 'hunters' before the events of Rare Exports Inc. & Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions. I have to put this film into context because when viewing the film, not knowing much about it, it seemed very strange afterwards but now it kind of makes sense. However, it might be worth watching without seeing the videos included here, but it's your choice.

Either way, the story is about how some corporate diggers are excavating something from a mountain near a remote village in the snowy outdoors. But it is a young boy who works out what is buried beneath and is taking every precaution just in case, whether it's taping cardboard to your bum or carrying around a shotgun, he's not taking any chances. I read somewhere that this harks back to the kiddie films of the Eighties like The Goonies where the kids were always right and the adults were idiots, but this has much more of a horror element to it. In fact, it is very funny in different places for different reasons but always keeps a dark, sinister edge whether it's the weird wooden dolls, the crazy rich excavator or the creepy Santa they find, there's always a tinge of horror at all times.

The film is very well directed and, like many have said (mainly because of the snow) reminds people of The Thing, but all the set-up's are there and around the whole thing is the myth of Santa Claus (or Claws in this case). It makes for a very exciting, disturbing experience that is set around a time where people are supposed to get together and for someone who doesn't really enjoy Christmas, like myself, it makes a welcome distraction to all the 'niceness' of the Christmas season. The acting is, for the most part, very impressive and the end sequences with hundreds of naked old men running across the mountains is both funny and breathtaking at the same time. The film finds a great balance between horror, terror, humour and remembering that it shouldn't take itself too seriously, the gag is that it's about Santa after all.

I always found something creepy about a fat, old man going into children's houses at night and giving them presents, seeing if they've been 'naughty or nice' and this plays on people's insecurities especially at a time where paedophilia is all over the news these days. It also has a rather serious, dramatic edge with an obviously painful father/son relationship, a man who is frustrated with the world and a 'coming-of-age' element about sacrifice and becoming independent. It could also be seen as a war of male generations, the son against the father, and the father against his own father, which in this case is represented by Father Christmas, it would make sense seeing as there is no females in the whole film but rather a world of manly hunters where soppy things like Christmas have no place.

Overall, the film is enjoyable and the last five minutes is rather strange but makes sense once you see the short films. It might have a few plotholes but has been well thought out, perfectly directed and for something that could have so easily been one big joke, remains an impressive piece of work that the director clearly cared about. I recommend that you forget the usual Christmas ho-ho-Hell's and delve into a dark place where being naughty or nice is a life or death decision.

Rating: 8/10

Rare Exports Inc. Short Film

Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions

Monday, 6 December 2010


Another animated 3D film comes along and better yet, it's about superheroes (groan) except the twist here is that it's from the point of view of the villain, so is it all bad?

The cast of this is a bit like the Who's Who of Frat Pack/Saturday Night Live etc. with Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, David Cross and Ben Stiller (with Stiller co-producing as well) all comedy heavyweights and the added Hollywood status of Brad Pitt to boot but do they work? Yes they do. Very well in fact.

I've always wondered how much input stars have with the scripts, after all if you're paying for the talent you might as well let them run riot with the script. By doing so you would get such achievements such as Anchorman which got a lot from improvisation, and you can tell that 90% of all the funniest bits in this film clearly came from improv and are pretty much from Ferrell. People might love or hate him, but I personally think the guy is a genius and will be fondly remembered when we look back at comedy heroes. Sure he sells out quite often, but I think he often makes even the shittiest films funny. That dinner scene in Bewitched? Loved it. His coffee freak outs in Kicking & Screaming? More please. It's just a shame that he is confined to a script, but at least here where you'd think in a medium where improvisation would be least encouraged, he is often able to drop some great one liners. This isn't taking away anything from the script which is funny in it's own right, but if it wasn't for Ferrell's magic, I'd be afraid that it would be a dud.

But before I crawl completely all the way up his arse, I'll tell you what it's about. Megamind is a victim of circumstance and childhood bullying which leads him to use his powers for evil rather than good. This immediately puts him in a more accessible light, Catholics might not rate this film because he's not inherently evil, but the audience can see that he's merely misguided and relishes the attention he gets from performing dastardly tasks rather than nothing at all. He is, after all, an orphan and completely working class. His upper class nemesis is MetroMan (aka Brad Pitt) who is smarmy, slick and arrogant yet believes in justice. After an unfortunate mishap, Megamind is soon left with free reign over the city until he gets bored. In his boredom he creates Titan who is a petty, selfish stalker who uses his powers for bad, perhaps proving that some people are inherently evil after all. As well as all this, Megamind is falling in love but never does this get in the way of the story, in fact it helps steer it forward.

Pitt does his charming superhero to the tee, but never is he truly funny, but then I wasn't sure if he was supposed to be. Fey plays the strong female reporter well without any glitches but it's Cross, Hill and Ferrell that really make the show. Cross as Minion is more like a room-mate than a servant and Hill can easily make you feel disgusted yet amused at the same time, a trait he pulls off quite a bit. You could read Megamind's fight with Titan as Dr Frankenstein's battle with his own monster, a monster that is full of immaturity, selfishness, nihilism and essentially is a sociopath. In order to truly grow up, he must accept and conquer these inner demons which have formed into Titan. Of course this is reading into it a bit too much for a kids film, but all the best kids films have deeper adult undertones.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and the 3Dness of it was appealling but Will Ferrell gives a great bad guy performance that will make kids and adults both laugh. There's enough here as well for adults to go to without kids (like myself - cough) such as Ferrell's Brando performance from Superman, and Mark Twain's quote that rumours of his death have been 'greatly exaggerated' and stuff that the kids are too stupid to figure out, probably. Doogie Howser would have known though.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it wasn't amazing, it had some really good, funny moments and looked great but lacked a real punch that makes it different from other animations. Though it is definitely one of the best released this year. You won't be disappointed if you made an effort to see it.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The X Factor

Here's what really happened in last Sunday's X Factor: Simon shagging One Direction, Louie up for raping Justin Bieber, Mary is actually a man who likes to play with balls and more. Enjoy!

Ricky Gervais IV: Science

Ricky Gervais returns to the stage with some more comedy tenuously linked to science. Why he looks like a strange lesbian on the front I have no idea, am I missing a pop culture reference...?

People give Gervais a lot of stick as he had no stand-up experience and on his first tour was selling out huge venues, people felt like he hadn't 'earned' his way up. However, how many people do we see on shitty TV panel shows that suddenly are selling out the O2? A lot.

Gervais got quite a lacklustre response for Fame but with Science, I feel like he is getting back on track. The trouble is, I still feel that he's finding his feet and is somewhat uncomfortable, constantly apologising for himself and being self-referential. It's clear he puts a lot of effort into his performance and material, which is good, but there isn't really a professional feel to it, instead it's like your mate chatting to you for a while. Which isn't a bad thing at all, his everyman connection is what makes him so appealable in the first place. Unfortunately it feels very, very short but his anecdotes and punchlines are amusing and I was properly laughing out loud in a lot of places.

Gervais goes into old territory such as religion, a great bit on a Noah children's book for instance, obese people and again pushes borders by just saying out loud what normal, white, Joe public males talk about. It's smartness contrasting to schoolyard humour is a great, successful mix but some of these jokes fall a bit flat and sometimes you get the impression that some of the jokes are just trying to be controversial rather than funny. Yet I'm slightly perturbed by some of his remarks 'kicking me off TV? Good luck with that', 'they were talking about controversy, so of course my name cropped up' - did it? I'm not sure these comments were supposed to be ironic, in fact I'd say he plays on his success and popularity a lot. However, I feel that Gervais is wearing a bit thin, not just physically (he's clearly lost weight but eeek... look at his arms!) but I can't help but think he's getting a bit old hat. Maybe I'm wrong?

He describes how people meet over humour and to see if you are like each other, fortunately everyone feels like they could get on with Gervais and his cheeky humour, including myself. This was funny, but I'd probably only watch it a couple of times and there's still life in the old dog yet, but this is far from perfect. Great for Gervais fans, but he's clearly not a professional stand-up.

Rating: 7/10