I don’t care what anyone says about Family Guy, American Dad or any other cartoon Seth MacFarlane’s involved in. These shows have displayed an incredible streak of savage satire combined with crude and surreal humour. So even when I saw the trailer of Ted, I felt a little let down.
Some of the MacFarlane ingredients are still there. There are moments of humour on pop culture, celebrities and mild racism, always flirting with controversy. But if you’re expecting a continuous stream of laughter or something unique and challenging, stick to the TV shows.
It is charming how much MacFarlane got involved with his first film (he directed, wrote and voiced the funny but not very outstanding character of Ted). However, for someone who has been pushing the boundaries of television comedy so far, his first step into the movie world has been extremely disappointing. The story of a thirty something office worker (Mark Wahlberg) trying to balance life between his walking talking teddy bear best friend and his girlfriend (Mila Kunis) feels too much like every other romantic comedy we’ve seen and which MacFarlane himself mocks within the film (in this case, Bridget Jones).
There are laugh out loud moments but there’s much more room for comedy instead of the endless tiring clichés attempting to depict a romantic relationship. Is this MacFarlane trying to prove there’s more to him than toilet humour? If so, with dull characters and plotting, this is not a promising start to his film career.
There’s one event connected to this film that highlights the danger of hype. When a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer gave The Dark Knight Rises a negative review, he received death threats from people who haven’t even seen the film. However, when the reviewer compared Dark Knight Rises to Transformers, I was inclined to agree; not that it’s that bad.
I guess the important question is: is this as good as its predecessor, the now classic Dark Knight? I’m prepared to say no. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s second instalment in his Batman trilogy. The only thing I really liked was Heath Ledger’s creepy performance as the Joker, and even the scariness of that has been overrated.
The intensity and the scale of the events in this latest film have been stepped up somehow. The new villain is satisfactorily unnerving and Anne Hathaway surprisingly sizzles as the latest Catwoman. However, all the film seems to offer is intensity. The audience is bombarded with dramatic events that take place and are resolved so fast they have little time to leave much impact.
Like the other Nolan Batman films, Dark Knight Rises attempts to be smarter and darker than the average blockbuster but there are still the old clichés and questionable politics. Although the film looks good and the action is enjoyable, I think too much is trying to be said with an unbelievable set up and story. So unless you’re a comic book fan, don’t believe the hype.
A friend of mine declared that if all films were racially categorised (like Spike Lee films are classed as black cinema) Moonrise Kingdom would be labelled in the white middle class genre. He does have a point, as this is a Wes Anderson film and most of his films would fit this label. Certainly his latest work, like all his films, glows with that warm, quirky, indie character of his which both annoys and charms me.
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s (when the island doesn’t even have proper roads or towns yet), the character and quirkiness of the island’s peaceful, close-knit community is exaggerated to place the audience in their comfort zone, along with the warmth and colour exuding from the unusual shots and soundtrack.
But a storm is brewing (the worst to hit the island in history) and the community is thrown into chaos after two young adolescents (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in impressive performances) both considered ‘emotionally disturbed’ outsiders, run away together. The hunt is organised by the exasperated parents of the girl (Anderson favourite Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and the well meaning chief of police (Bruce Willis in a surprisingly gentle role) and an order-obsessed Scoutmaster (in a funny turn from Edward Norton).
The film is full of charm, comedy and emotion but it is a little too quirky to the point of being annoying and unrealistic. If that matters little to you though, it’s an enjoyable ride.
This film should have been called Liam Neeson vs. wolves. Neeson portrays yet another overly serious central role as a tortured, sad eyed action hero, who, after whispering monologue over the film’s long depressing intro, ends up on a plane with some manly oil workers, which crashes in Alaska.
Once the bunch of disaster film stereotypes (including the negative idiot who annoys everyone, the black guy and the ordinary, sweet natured men who clearly have no chance of survival compared to Neeson’s rugged experience) band together for survival against the freezing snow, they start getting picked off one by one by a pack of wolves. Neeson decides to lead the men away from the plane crash to try and find civilisation. However, despite the fact that he is trying to keep everyone alive, a lot of his ideas do end up in the deaths of the other characters.
It would have been nice if all this was rendered realistically. The wolves were presented as CGI monsters and any attempt at realism regarding them and the men’s behaviour was sacrificed for dramatic plot.
I was told that the film was existential, which excited me. However, although the film did have a go at some Naturalist elements, such as man rendered to animalistic behaviour by his surroundings and the merciless power of Nature in order to survive, I was disappointed that the film boiled down to silliness, despite being an exciting and original idea for a thriller with some moments of exhilaration.
For a prequel, this film leaves a lot unanswered. Intended as a precursor to director Ridley Scott’s other sci-fi horror Alien, a classic from 1979, the plot follows the ever familiar narrative of a band of humans setting off into space on a quest of discovery, this time to find out whether the origin of humanity was the work of aliens. Eventually, the intellectual awe gives way to brutal horror as the scientists get more than they bargained for.
There are some good elements. Visually, the film and its special effects are stunning (although the incredible detail of the spaceship’s technology is confusing, since they appear a lot more advanced than the machinery shown in the following chapter of Alien).There are good performances, especially Michael Fassbender as a charming but chilling android trying to play God.
However, there isn’t much substance behind the shock and awe. The plot is nothing new, a lot is left unexplained and we are left with a mess of narratives and characters that falls short of the intellectually astounding epic the film tries to be.
Since we have been waiting a while for Scott’s latest addition to his Alien legacy, the fact that this doesn’t feel like a satisfactory following on to Alien is disappointing. In fact, the ending is left rather open. Let’s hope that Scott isn’t planning some prequel trilogy like George Lucas attempted with sci-fi classic Star Wars because we all know what a disaster that was. Nice try but not a good start.
Mclusky are surely one of the most underrated rock bands to have been ignored by the masses on initial release. They burst out of Cardiff during the early 2000’s and after three electrifying albums, due to unfortunate circumstances, were forced to disband.
If you like your rock music loud and raucous but with a smart, humorous edge, Mclusky are certainly for you. This is their debut, originally released in 2000 on Fuzzbox and re-released in 2003 on Too Pure.
Ignore the seemingly despairing and self indulgent title. Mclusky’s delivery was all about humour, which is refreshing for post-2000 rock. The album’s sound harks back to glorious old school days of ‘90’s and ‘80’s underground punk with a twist of the familiar British indie rock sound thrown in.
In fact, a lot of the songs sound like they were worryingly raided from the Pixies’ catalogue. Thankfully, the band came into their own sound powerfully and confidently with their second album, Mclusky do Dallas.
My pain… isn’t produced as crisp and doesn’t rock as hard as later work. This is the sound of a band finding its feet but what great ground to start upon.This is surely the band’s most upbeat and varied work, with relentless savage rockers like singles ‘Joy’ and ‘Rice is Nice’ blending with catchy pop guitar and senseless but appealing lyrics that are either shouted or murmured at you.This album takes you to polar extremes of indie rock heaven, charming and attacking you with equal measure.
The fourth and final album recorded by 1980’s American political punk band, the Dead Kennedys, ‘Bedtime for Democracy’ retains the sound and voice that always made the band stand out from their contemporaries.
The lyrics, penned mostly by singer Jello Biafra with minor contribution from other band members, are still on top form. They address almost every issue affecting American society at the time with the band’s unique brand of satire, attacking everyone from music capitalists to religion fanatics, from corrupt politicians to ignorant civilians, from punk conformists to obsessive left wingers, with no unnecessary fancy.
By this point in the band’s career, however, these lyrical politics sometimes feel too much. Jello’s songs read like essays set to fast messy background music, a sound which dominates the album. There are a couple of inventive songs that stand out and the more musically interesting tracks were written by other band members. Perhaps if there was more input from the band overall than mostly Jello, this could have been a more satisfying album. Also, Jello’s vocals, which have stood out on previous records, have been badly produced and coupled with the speed of the tracks the all-important lyrics are hard to pick out.
Overall, the album is more lyrically satisfying than musically. It is their weakest sound and doesn’t leave such a lasting impression as previous work. However, considering that the band had faced a lawsuit with their last album, it’s still impressive that they held onto their darkly humorous, confrontational edge.
This film reminded me of Reservoir Dogs and not because of any violence. The deceptively simple plot takes place in limited settings with a limited amount of nameless characters, all men in suits. These restrictions only served to increase the film’s intensity, along with superb acting and gripping dialogue.
A boy is being tried for the murder of his father. The twelve, all male members of the jury retire to a stifled room to decide the verdict. Eleven are convinced he’s guilty. One isn’t.
The characters arguably represent different figures of society. The dissenter, played by Henry Fonda, is the ‘do-gooder’; willing to stand against the majority and stick to his opinions to the end. He is not convinced that the boy is innocent. He is just unsure on sending him to his death on what he perceives as doubtful evidence and he is willing to sit out and point out the evidence’s defects. His main opponents are ignorant, crack jokes, shout at, insult and bully everyone if they show disagreement with the guilty verdict, through personal reasons such as prejudice against the boy’s background or simply because they have other places they’d rather be. The other characters either sway with the majority or are open to arguments.
This film serves as a powerful, relevant warning against holding blind confidence in the death penalty or treating the subject lightly and attacked outdated social ideals that demanded respect but encouraged hypocrisy and prejudice, in a manner that moves and angers you.
This is the first film I’ve awarded zero stars since I started this blog. It seemed to do everything wrong. The only good things about it were the music performances to a degree but the fact that the performances were there still annoyed me, particularly the choice of bands, all of whom seemed to be ‘hip’ bands of the era.
All it seems to consist of are footage of rock concerts, explicit sex scenes showing warts and all and seemingly unrelated documentary footage of Antarctica. Let’s talk about the sex, which made this film notorious. I was expecting to get some pleasure from the film’s sex scenes but not even that. My mind even wandered while they were happening, which is not a good sign. Winterbottom seemed to believe that by sticking repetitive piano over clumsily shot sex scenes, they could be rendered romantic. They just bored me, even repulsed me. If the film was trying to show sex as natural as possible, fine. But don’t think that just by showing shots of penises you can break boundaries.
The film tried to show a relationship, but the dialogue and acting just felt unnatural and you were left with no emotional impact. This film could have worked, maybe, with more emotion and character development. As it is, it’s a case of style over substance, except there wasn’t any style! Winterbottom was trying to do too much with too little. It’s unsatisfying, unimaginative and thank God it was only an hour long.
It’s hard to write a review of this film, since due to its age and the restrictions of its time, it’s unfair to compare it to today’s film standards. The only objections I had to the film were that it’s ‘dialogue’ and plot were sometimes too simple and obvious. At the same time its Gothic themes and look were over the top; as well as it’s acting, to the point of being laughable; although that was because the cast were following Expressionist ideas. Also, through no fault of the film’s, the upbeat score invented by the musicians at the showing I attended downplayed the horror.
However, at the time the film came out it was considered groundbreaking. At just over an hour, the film still holds up as a silent horror masterpiece despite the technical and plot restrictions of the period. The eerie narrative is told by a young man named Francis (Friedrich Feher) to an elder on a bench, and takes place in a small German town, where a menacing, eccentric character named Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) arrives showing off his future-predicting somnambulist or sleepwalker, Cesare (Conrad Veidt). Then the murders begin.
Thanks to elaborate props and settings which strongly suggest where Tim Burton received much of his influence from and a first-of-its-kind twist ending which holds up today, this imaginative German art experiment makes for a sometimes fun but overall strange and harrowing experience, with its sinister use of lighting and shadows and evoking of murder and madness.