Thursday, May 13, 2010

BritFilm - Four Lions (Spoilers hidden)

I deliberately avoided as much information on this film as I could before seeing it.  Knowing that there was a comedy about suicide bombers, by master of controversy Chris Morris was all I knew.  It certainly sounded like a very dodgy subject.  I decided to avoid the fuss made and go see it with an open mind.

From the moment it starts off you can see it is firmly a comedy.  Not a film with dark humour or situations that lend a sense of amusement.  This is a full on comedy.  The recent film it reminded me of most was In the Loop.  Even though the humour was mainly from different sources.  The main character, Omar was reminiscent of Malcom Tucker in that he's confident that he's right and the imbeciles around him are just complicating things.

As a comedy it is very, very funny.  I haven't laughed that much since I saw In the Loop.  Apparently a film that shares a couple of writers with Four Lions.  The jokes and amusing, ridiculous situations flow thick and fast.  I'm sure I missed a few things on the first watch.  It's rare I actually laugh out loud in the cinema as I find this rather irritating.  Neither I nor my fellow cinema goers could help it.  Luckily we were laughing at scenes that were actually funny.  A rarity.

I suppose the major question is - Is it right to find amusement in such a dark, nasty subject.  I'm not deep or intelligent enough to answer that question.  I can tell you that I felt at least awkward for laughing at such a film, if not actually a little shamed.  I do however think that such subjects should not be off-limits to writers.  As I've avoided as much information about this film and it's effects I'm unsure yet what, if any, real protests have been made. I haven't seen much more of Chris Morris' work.  His other controversial stuff passed me by.  I do suspect that he would enjoy the fact that his audience felt uncomfortable laughing at this film.

This film was very well written from a comedy viewpoint.  The cast did that script proud.  I think we'll see more of Riz Ahmed.  What I've seen him in he's always done well in his role.  The rest of the cast had to play mainly buffoons.  Which they did very well.  There were no roles for a vain actor in this film.

SPOILERS BELOW (rollover to view)

The one thing I found very uncomfortable in the film was the inclusion of Omar's son.  Those scenes were hard for me to watch.  The brainwashing of a child in such a manner wasn't nice to say the least.  I also found it unbelievable that he wouldn't hide his plans better from his son.  Who could easily slip-up in school, in front of an adult.

The one scene I didn't think fitted the film was the scene of Omar's brother obviously about to be tortured.  This seemed too much of a statement on government practice in this area.  The statement didn't fit with the rest of the film.


I would say to see this film before you judge it.  It is hilarious but yes it's also dubious subject matter.

I won't even try and consider how I would feel about this film if I had lost someone in a suicide bombing.  I imagine I may not be able to see the funny side.  It's release would probably make me very angry.  It's this that makes me a little shamed that I found it so funny.

3.5 pawprints out of 5

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BritFilm - The Disappearance of Alice Creed (no spoilers)

I knew virtually nothing of this film.  I knew it was about a kidnap and starred Eddie Marsan and Gemma Arterton.  The deal maker was Eddie Marsan.  He is always great.  I also wanted to see Gemma Arterton in a non-fantasy role.  Supporting a British film is always a bonus too.  Which is never easy as British fare seems to disappear from our cinemas pretty bloody quickly.

The film starts out pretty damn quietly.  There is virtually no dialogue in the first scenes.  These scenes portray two guys setting up to carry out a kidnapping.  Giving particular attention to soundproofing and the prevention of any forensic evidence being found.  They mean business, are extremely well prepared and have obviously been planning this for a while.

Once the kidnap has occurred the film takes a very dark turn.  It doesn't pull any punches and depicts what must be done to protect the kidnappers, keep their victim secure and their identities secret.  Some of these scenes are difficult to watch especially if you're a woman.

This film doesn't have your standard heist-type storyline.  It has the odd twist and turn to add intrigue to the drama.  It's a very tense film, not exactly a pleasant watch but a must-see.  I was satisfied by the ending too.  I'm not telling you any more of the plot.  Go see this film in your cinema, if not rent the DVD.

What really makes this film is the calibre of the cast.  Eddie Marsan is his usual fantastic self.  I've always liked Arterton in interviews and was worried she may drop the ball in this role.  My worries were totally unfounded.  She was excellent.  I completely believed her terror.  The humiliation and subjugation of her character must have been immmensely difficult to film.  If I were to award a best actress award this year, I'm pretty sure it would go to her.  I don't think the markings from her bindings were make-up.  I think that girl suffered in the making of this film.  The big surprise for me was Martin Compston.  An actor whose films I want to see more of.  I'd never heard of him before this film.  To me he quietly stole the show.  His was the character who grew more and more as the film went on.  His performance was perfect.

4.5 pawprints out of 5.

Turn off your computer and go see it now!

Iron Man 2 - Solid or a flop? (spoiler free)

I wasn't over-excited to see this film.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, a fun film with lots of bangs and flashes.  I wasn't sure I wanted to see it all again. I seem to prefer origin movies to their sequels.  I think filmmakers dump all the character exposition into the origin film.  Filling the second with another enemy to provide bigger and better explosions.

I have never been a comic book fan so I'll judge this film as a film that's a sequel to a film.  I know of nothing before the first film.

The cast doesn't bring any worries.  Sam Worthington is nowhere to be seen thank the Lord.  Robert Downey Jr did a sterling job in the first and I expected similar here.  I really didn't like his character in this film.  I think this was the desired effect though.  He'd lost any charm he had and was just a smug, arrogant git.  Not great really as disliking the main character lost me most of my emotional involvement with the film.  Sam Rockwell gave a great showing in his role.  Totally and utterly predictable but that was only to be expected with such a character in such a film.  Gwyneth Paltrow gave a pretty good performance.  I just have little respect for her character.  She should just tell her boss to piss off and go work somewhere less stressful.  She gets a lot less than she puts into that relationship.  A bit sappy really.  Don Cheadle's character is very similar.  I couldn't see what Tony Stark had to make those close to him so emasculated and a tad pathetic.  Mickey Rourke was great as his character.  One of the best roles in the film.  I didn't like the way the story panned out near the end but that wasn't Rourke's fault at all.  Scarlett Johanssen played my favourite role in the film.  I don't think I understand her character properly yet.  I'm hoping we see more of her.  She definitely played the least obvious character in the whole film.  Samuel L Jackson was used perfectly.  Just enough to make him interesting.  Little enough not to make us want more.

Overall I thought the story was a little too obvious in places.  Most of the characters were paint by numbers types.  Tony Stark needs to be a little more likable if they make another.  He just needed a slap in this one.  I found him completely unsympathetic, even with what he was suffering.  The scene on the Monaco circuit was just totally ridiculous.  Yes, I know I was watching a comic story but it just felt ridiculous.  As did the usual against all odds climactic final scene.

It was enjoyable though.  It was fun.  It would have been much more fun had it been 40 minutes shorter.  Please filmmakers contain yourselves when it comes to running time.  It shouldn't be a relief to get out of the cinema.  A shorter run time would maybe have me watching this again.  Maybe we could get 'cinema-goers cut' editions of films.  Trimmed down so they're better paced.

Marvel, it's a lovely idea to get a teaser for your next release.  Just don't make me sit through 5 minutes of credits for 10 seconds, it's arrogant and bloody annoying.  please just put them on Youtube.

3 out of 5 pawprints.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Centurion - Marshall's Period Piece.

I was pretty excited about this film.  Neil Marshall is one my favourite directors and Michael Fassbender on of my favourite actors.

I liked the way the opening credits were done.  Broad sweeping words on matching vistas.  Giving you a great vision of how harsh the terrain the film would take place on actually is.

After the first scene though things started to go downhill for me.  Dominic West playing Dominic West with a bucketful of bluster thrown in really didn't do it for me.  Neither did the Cockney accents of his Roman soldiers, a la Saruman's Urak Hai.  One of my pet peeves in period films is the use of modern accents to tell us someone's personality/character.  I don't need to view everything in it's correct language and enunciation.  I just don't want strong modern accents thrown in.

I'm afraid this film made me think Neil Marshall should stick to modern day set films.  Many will probably disagree.  To me this film gained nothing from it's period setting.  It was too modern day laddish.  I can't really explain what I mean here as I'm sure the Romans were laddish too.  This just felt a little too Guy Ritchie for the 2nd Century.  This was what ultimately took me out of the film.

The cast were mostly very good.  Fassbender I suspect would be good in Crossroads if he was cast.  David Morrissey played yet another blinder.  Solid dependable co-star who doesn't need to chew up the scenery.  As was Liam Cunningham.  Olga Kurylenko played her part very well.  That she was mute definitely added to her character.  If looks could kill though, she'd leave a trail of death with her eyes only.  I felt Dominic West overplayed his boisterous, 'I'm one of you my soldiers' role.  Brian Blessed type acting that doesn't suit him.  he just looks false.  Noel Clarke seemed to play his usual streetwise lad about London.  Again that didn't fit the setting for me. Axelle Carolyn will be one I'll keep an eye out for in the future.  The camera loves her and she held her own in her scenes.

Towards the end the film was a little predictable in places.  But nothing I'll lose sleep over.  I really wanted to enjoy this film.  It was the first time I've felt a little let down by Marshall.  Maybe I'm being a little harsh, I just didn't enjoy this film like I did his others. At least he had the sense to keep it short.  None of this trendy 2 hours+ I keep having to suffer with other filmamkers.  I'm hoping he returns to modern day or at least recent history with his next project.  He's still one of my favourites, he just has a slight blot on his record.

2.5 pawprints out of 5