Maleficent is Disney playing around with being Disney, and it’s pretty impressive. They manage to maintain a good sense of what they have always been good at, little white princesses, whilst also managing to tie a new story around a very old one in a somewhat unexpected, but at the same time entirely predictable way. It’s a story of revenge gone awry really. I am not sure how the actual sleeping beauty fable ends, because I am a boy, but I am pretty sure this veers way off it at points. All the better for it really, the prince awakening the sleeping princess with a kiss always was rather vapid, and somewhat rapey. The movie looks very pretty indeed, there are all sorts of interesting creatures inhabiting its magical world, and whilst some very much fall into the “can’t wait to sell millions of these as soft toys” category, there are some that have a far more ethereal quality. There is probably some complex allegory in the film about losing one’s freedom and how one goes about living their life in the face of the abjectly careless world we live in, but it’s buried so deep it’s probably better to assume it is invisible. It’s a good re-working, it’s not going to make you change your whole world view, but it might make you re-consider your position when you next get dumped and someone tries to destroy your magical kingdom.
I, like most other people I think, rather enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It is an almost vomit inducing happy movie. It is all about being friends, even if your friends are homicidal cyborg type people, little furry things, and big strong guys. It is all led by a typically good looking guy with nice hair, but we’ll forgive them that – can’t stray too far from the ideals now. The story isn’t overly complicated, good looking guy has something which a lot of bad people want, and he has some chums who help him keep hold if it. There is never any real peril, even when it seems as though everyone might die they are not really that close to actually dying. Just getting a little frosty or shot or put in goo or blown up or whatnot. It’s a feel good movie that ramps up its feel good by pretending to be all irreverent and ‘Footloose’ but in reality is about vague notions of inclusivity and being nice to people, all lovely fun concepts for everyone to embrace. Fun fact, Vin Diesel plays a giant tree type guy who only says one (or two) words throughout the whole film. Must have been the best pay check ever.
Good things about Transformers : Age of Extinction
Optimus Prime and Bumblebee
Bad things about Transformers : Age of Extinction
Almost irresponsible amounts of product placement, not even inconspicuously in the background, like, actual beer bottles in the middle of a fight scene.
The moment when someone says “The Mongolian Desert” whilst gesturing at a map which clearly labels “The Mongolian Desert”.
A main female character, who is completely useless.
American football in China.
How the dinobots turn up.
Romeo and Juliet.
Beats by Dre speaker.
A secondary female character who is good at fighting.
Chinese security guards inexplicably saying one line in English.
For some inexplicable reason, the belief that Texas is the best place in the world.
Annoying fighting phrases.
Prime only says ‘Autobots roll out!’ after a load of other rubbish.
Ending not the ending.
Chicago destroyed, again.
Transformers juggling humans.
Everything in ‘China’ having way too much written on it.
All of the Transformers except for Optimus and Bumblebee.
Cigar Smoking Robot.
The character with the puns leaving after about fifteen minutes.
Calling the all spark a soul.
Nolan Batman music in a not Batman film.
Inexplicable armchair room.
Overly complicated plot lines.
Bumblebee not having an awesome body all movie.
Race car boyfriend.
Explaining every single thing in way too much detail.
Fully automated US army – Made in China.
Equally gratuitous overseas product placement.
Thousands and thousands of people die.
“Its a big magnet”…”its sucking up metal and dropping it”
Seriously, racial stereotypes
Nearly passed the Bechdel test…but didn’t
Victorias Secret Bus.
Jimmy’s Hall falls into the all too usual trap of being a film set in Ireland that is all about how terrible it is to be in Ireland. No one really seems to be interested in making a film set in Ireland that is about anything which isn’t intrinsically politicised or thematically religious, like robots, killer clowns (without political agendas) or anything like that. It is not that I don’t think these things are important, Philomena, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Jimmy’s Hall – all dealing with very important issues, but in the end all so bloody depressing. I am not saying put dinosaurs or killer clowns into those movies, I am saying that surely as a nation Ireland has more to say than how awful it is. Jimmy’s Hall does have the interesting aspect of telling the story of a social activist not aligned completely with any of the usual suspects like the Church, or the IRA, but standing for freedom of expression, freedom from oppression and a fairer society. This means that basically everyone hates him and he must try to forge some unsteady alliances to achieve his goals. None the less it’s a refreshing look at a part of history which is so frequently presented as fervently two sided. It’s not going to cheer you up though.
Wes Anderson has this film making thing locked down. He has realised that, no matter how much money you have to spend on making things look pretty, looking pretty doesn’t always mean looking realistic. As a consequence there are all sorts of fantastic and magical settings in the film, the fictional Republic of Zubrowka has something of the fairy-tale about it, Ludwiggian castles and paper cut clouds. It’s not the real world, but it’s a beautiful place to visit. The story is equally whimsical, it has interesting things to say about loyalty and friendship, fascism, folly and greed, but these things come second to the story. It’s an adventure that would fall into the category of epic were it not about so few people. Ralph Fiennes plays M. Gustav, a man who delights in the pomp and unashamed aesthetic of the world that he occupies, able to see through its slight ridiculousness and remain in the face of all things polite, kind and gentlemanly. By his side though, and the real star of the story is Zero (Tony Revolori) who begins the story as Gustavs humble lobby boy, and ends it his saviour. The best thing is Revoloris straight faced acceptance of all that goes on around him. Above all though, this is the first film I have watched in a while where I didn’t want it to end.
Tracks is like Into the Wild. In fact its almost exactly the same in a lot of respects, just without the depressing ending and overtly philosophical stance. It tells (true) the story of Robyn Davidson, a young woman who decides to trek about a bazillion miles across the Australian desert with nothing but her dog and some camels for company. Along the way she encounters the sort of problems one might expect from such an undertaking, but what has the most impact is the apparent impossibility of escaping the real world of tourists, journalists and people in general. It’s a classic journey of self-discovery tale which works because it doesn’t over state itself. It’s a simple story but it has things to say about the nature of tourism, cultural sensitivity, the Aboriginal peoples place in modern Australia. Also has some interesting facts about camels, but that isn’t as important. Pressing issues the handling of which could have been heavy handed, but it’s played without judgement or overt comment. It’s a slow pace, and not much happens, but it’s a nice vaguely affirming watch.
I have done some nominal research and have discovered that since Charles Dickens’s classic novel A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 it has been adapted for TV and film over four billion times. This is particularly impressive considering that the moving image wasn’t really capable of re-creating the story until around the 1900s. Scrooged is just one of these adaptations. It’s probably the second best after A Muppet Christmas Carol because it does what I believe Dickens always intended with the story, makes it pretty funny. Clearly Scrooge is played for laughs in the original book, the phrase ‘humbug’ being so close to the more overtly hilarious ‘bumhug’ but just off enough to get past the notoriously strict mid-18th century censors. The brilliant Bill Murray makes Scrooge just as filthy and fun as he should always have been, ignore those austere and depressing iterations from the 50s and stick to this fun and stupid version. It is a story we should all pay attention to anyway, it reminds us failure to adhere to Christmas like good little Christians means we’ll get haunted and probably die. Seriously, you will die, and probably no one will go to your funeral. You’ll be dead so it won’t matter, but the moral of the story is, if you are rich old git spend all your money before you die so everyone likes you and comes to your funeral.
Tokyo Gore Police is absolutely as ludicrous as its name suggests. I have previously criticised films for taking themselves too seriously when they are in fact rather silly. Tokyo Gore Police works for precisely this reason though. The violence is absolutely brilliant, there are more limbs removed in this movie than characters with lines, and it’s all done with such a straight face that it simply becomes sublime. We follow Ruka, a member of Tokyo’s now privatised police force fighting against a new threat, the engineers, criminals who have modified themselves so that when they are injured their wounds re-grow as weapons. It’s just that ridiculous. All the action is intercut with little vignettes and adverts which are overtly satirical, but exceptionally well done, I just can’t commend them enough. As the weapons the engineers grow become more insane Ruka becomes more morose, her dedication to the police becomes something more akin to a personal vendetta and the film begins to stray into slightly more sexualised shocks. It’s like Brookers black mirror, exploring ultimate outcomes of current cultural trends, and I am afraid this means we’re all going to have our hands cut off. Its hyper violent body shock schlock, but as far as I am concerned it is essential family viewing.
Sometimes I feel bad saying that a movie is bad. The effort, money and general willpower it takes to get an actor in front of a rolling camera is simply ridiculous, only too often do we forget the plethora of people behind every scene, making the people on screen look right, making what comes out of their mouths sound right, making them stand in the right place in the world. Moreover, that is just the tip of the iceberg, there is craft services feeding everyone, drivers, pilots, horse wranglers…if the movie has horses, all of these people need to be in exactly the right place at the right time to make films work. What is a shame is that sometimes all that work, all that organisation, all that money goes into something which is let down by giant triangles. The bad dialogue could be forgiven, the creaky plot which is little more than a group of guys wandering around a little bit could be forgiven, even the just tongue bitingly awful voice over saying blindingly obvious things could be forgiven were they not all punctuated with massive see through triangles. Who the hell wants to watch a movie where the ostensibly scary and horrifying radioactive alien/ghost/whatever presence is entirely signalled by giant triangles? Triangles are not scary, even when they are accompanied by stereotypical Afghan ghost music. You know the type, all guys singing about stuff that is probably absolutely nothing to do with giant triangles, like what they had for breakfast this morning or whatever, but just because we can’t understand them it’s supposed to be scary. Sometimes, just sometimes, when I watch movies like this, I don’t feel so bad saying they are bad at all. Stupid triangles.
There are quite a few films called Cargo, this one is the one that is all about space and terrible futures and all that. What is immediately noticeable is that everyone in the future isn’t American. See, I thought that Americans would be the only race in the future based on the movies, but, you know, I guess there might be some people who are not American. I was personally going to just put on my best Texas yee-haa accent and see if I couldn’t pretend to be American for long enough to survive the apocalypse. Those of you more attuned to sarcasm (stereotypically speaking, those of you who are not American) might have guessed that this is a Swiss made film. As such it has sort of flown under the radar, it doesn’t even have a rating on ubiquitous tomato based websites. It looks far better than anything with a low budget really deserves to, there are a few concessions to its space decay atmosphere, zero gravity is not a thing in space anymore, and quite why a space craft is so wet is anyone’s guess, but there are some really impressive sets and the CGI, the usual big let down with indie flicks, is very pretty indeed. It’s not the most original story, a kind of mash up of gravity with Alien aesthetics and a healthy dose of the Matrix. But none the less, its serious Swiss attitude and general professionalism mean that it is punching well above its weight.