Archive for ‘2000s’

June 23, 2012

Get Smart (2008 – DVD)

“How about Chuck Norris with a BB gun?”

The promise of a sequel to the legendarily funny ‘Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy’ had me searching around for a hit of the same surreal goofery.  I plumed for 2008’s ‘Get Smart’, a spy spoof based on Mel Brook’s 1960s TV comedy of the same name.  It stars Steve Carell (From ‘Anchorman’) as frustrated desk-bound Intelligence-Analyst Max Smart who gets a chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a field agent accompanied by the beautiful and deadly Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).

As with most modern Hollywood remakes of fondly remembered cult TV shows, sadly ‘Get Smart’ is louder, more action orientated and brasher than a light spoof of this kind really should be.  The fact that the Smart character is a genuinely intelligent, witty, deadly and often suave secret agent, yet somehow keeps on making Clouseau-esque mistakes is a bit of an odd mix (Director Peter Segal obviously isn’t over familiar with the “Cake and eat it” phrase).  Indeed the choreographed fight scenes are visceral enough to fit into any hard edged action flick. The creative team should have devoted more screen time to the gags which are actually very funny fueled by Carell and Hathaway’s cracking chemistry and comedy timing.  ‘Get Smart ‘ is a fun couple of hours, I just wish it had been more fun!

Here’s the first episode of the original TV series:

April 22, 2012

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002 – Blu-Ray)

“You’re 32 years old, and you’ve achieved nothing. Jesus Christ was dead and alive again by 33. You better get crackin'”

I remember George Clooney’s directorial debut ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’ getting a few mixed reviews when it was released a decade ago.  In the light of his subsequent successes with last years ‘The Ides Of March’ and 2005’s sublime ‘Good Night, And Good Luck’ and not forgetting star Sam Rockwell’s ascendant star and a script from master craftsman Charlie Kaufman, I thought it high time to investigate.

The movie is based on the autobiography of maverick television producer Chuck Barris (The guy who invented ‘The Dating Game’ aka ‘Blind Date’ in the UK).  In his book, Barris had claimed that all the while he was working at ABC, he was also a top CIA assassin.  Clooney reveals on the DVD extras that he didn’t want to know if this claim was true or not, so he simply didn’t ask Barris, he just filmed the story as fact.  However his directorial eye lends proceedings an air of fantasy with the CIA scenes shot to look like a glamorous Spy movie complete with Julia Roberts as the archetypal James-Bonds-esque femme fatale.  Unfortunately I found these scenes to actually be a lot less interesting than the story of Barris’ exciting television career.  Spys have been done to death but a film about a lunatic TV producer who creates a surreal talent showcase called ‘The Gong Show’ for acts with no talent to actually showcase is a unique one.  Determined to use almost no digital effects, Clooney uses rotating sets and all manner of old-fashioned stage tricks to create a film look where TV fantasy blends with real life.  Sam Rockwell’s performance is outstanding, outlandish, and crazy yet with a dark mysterious depth.  To quote Cilla, ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’ is a lorah-lorah fun.

Here’s a ‘Best of’ the real Barris presenting ‘The Gong Show’:

And for comparison, here is Sam Rockwell’s hilarious screen test for ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’:

April 10, 2012

Harry Brown (2009 – Blu-Ray)

“It’s not Northern Ireland Harry… No it’s not, those people were fighting for something, for a cause. To them out there, this is just entertainment”

Having watched one London bound Michael Caine film this week I thought I’d try another with the 2009 release ‘Harry Brown’. The story follows seemingly mild-mannered pensioner Harry’s nightmare existence among the violent denizens of a south London estate.  The simmering unchecked violence has prescient shades of the recent London Riots.  After his wife dies and the estate’s youths brutally murder his only friend it’s revealed that Harry was as a young man a highly trained marine who it’s suggested took a less than blameless part in the bloody past of Northern Island. At this point he acquires a hold-all full of guns and turns vigilanty.

The thing that nearly ruined the film for me was the use of ‘Digital Blood’. When are filmmakers gonna learn that you can always tell it’s been added in post and that just squeezing a bit of Heinz everywhere would probably look more realistic! Violence is used thoughout ‘Harry Brown’ and when it is physical like punching and kicking it is shocking to the point where you may be forced to look away. Then as soon as someone gets shot you’re not turning away in disgust but throwing your hands in the air saying “That looks so fake!”.

Caine is of course mercurial as the star of this depressing show and the supporting cast of young actors is excellent to. However the usually reliable Sean Harris turns in a performance so outlandishly crazed, depraved and rotten as a drug dealer that it clashes with the gritty realism on display elsewhere. The film’s thought-provoking grimness is diminished by a final “Revelation” that I found largely meaningless.

March 16, 2012

Bronson (2008 – Blu-Ray)

Look, love. No one gives a toss about Charlton Heston. The man’s a cunt. You’re more of the Charles Bronson type”

My recent viewings of Nicholas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ and Tom Hardy’s excellent scenes in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ reminded me that I should catch up with 2008’s ‘Bronson’.  It’s the life story of Michael Gordon Peterson (aka Charles Bronson) the “Most violent prisoner in Britain” who was first incarcerated in 1974 and is still behind bars today.

The Blu-Ray begins with the unusual option of listening to a rambling and menacing 15 minute audio intro from Bronson himself controversially recorded for the film’s premier without the knowledge of HM Prison Service.  Aside from a great Synth led soundtrack, ‘Bronson’ shares no similarities to Refn’s recent ‘Drive’ which is a great prospect for the variety of his future films.  I’d liken it most to Terry Gilliam’s ‘Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas’ in terms of its flare, colourful theatrical style and blending of outlandish fiction and outlandish fact.  Tom Hardy’s central performance is astonishing (As always!) for which he put on 19kg of muscle and talked with Bronson himself to get the look and sound just right.  Bronson even claims in the audio introduction that he shaved off his famous moustache and actually gave it to hardy to wear in the film!  By the end of ‘Bronson’ I’d enjoyed a dazzling feast for the eyes and ears but I wasn’t sure I’d learnt anything lasting from it.

You’ve gotta love a trailer cut to Pet Shop Boys:

March 1, 2012

Enchanted (2007 – Blu-Ray)

“The steel beast is dead, peasants… I’ve set you all free!”

The idea of a Disney movie about a Princess who is thrown down a well by an evil enchantress ending up in New York sounds bloody awful. But 2007’s ‘Enchanted’ is actually utter genius and had me laughing so hard that I was exhausted by the end of it.

The main reason it works is down to Amy Adams outstanding performance as Princess Giselle. Adams clearly spent ages pouring over classic Disney movies to get the glowing smile, the floaty-balletic movements and the wavy hands just right. The film starts as a cynical parody of the Disney smaltz but ends up as a wonderful celebration of the studios love-conquers-all outlook. It probably switches at about the moment Giselle induces the whole of Central Park to follow her in a glorious song and dance number. The music of the film is by Alan Menken the Composer behind most of Disney’s most famous scores. I’m still humming the main theme ‘True Loves Kiss’ as I type.

In my favourite scene is Giselle calls out of a window and a host of critters arrive to help her clean up in traditional Disney style. The gag being that, since this is New York, some of the critters are actually rats and cockroaches. The technical achievement on display in this blend of real trained animal footage and CGI is staggering. On that note, the Pop-up-book style end credits are worth the watch alone. The Blu-Ray extras include making of featurettes and a fiendishly difficult “Can you spot the Disney references?” quiz (There are literally thousands of them).

March 1, 2012

OSS 117: Lost In Rio (2009 – DVD)

“Some people have adventures… I am an adventure!”

With Jean Dujardin crowned as 2011’s Best-Actor and Michel Hazanavicius hailed as 2011’s Best-Director at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars, I thought it was time to view the second of their Spy spoof films, 2009’s ‘OSS 117: Lost In Rio’. This time the action shifts from Cairo in 1955 to Rio in 1967.  We find charming yet brainless Secret-Agent OSS 117 is once again taking his cover story (This time as a photographer) too seriously and consequently missing all the intrigue around him (Check the end credits to see his terrible photographs).  For my tastes the humour seems a little broader than the first film but this was made up for with a string of Hitchcock film references.  The best gags are still based around OSS 117’s ridiculously Nationalist, Colonialist and Sexist outlook. Dujardin’s leading lady is Louise Monot who gets plenty of laughs as a Mossad Agent who is given the bewildering task of working with OSS 117.

I’ll be revisiting both OSS 117 films until I can get my hands on ‘The Artist’ on Blu-Ray but, luckily there’s also still a few older Hazanavicius films to catch up on before next year’s ‘The Search’ remake hits our screens.

February 26, 2012

Metropolis (2001 – DVD)

“Well, if you are a human… who’s your father?”

I’ve wanted to watch the 2001 Anime ‘Metropolis’ for some time but hearing how gorgeous the visuals were, I thought I’d wait for a release on Blu-Ray.  However, the other day I saw a Double DVD copy in my local CEX store for a mere £4 and before I knew it I was walking home with it in my bag. The image quality is good but in need of the HD treatment’ while the extra on disc two features are excellent. Metropolis’ is a loose adaption of Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 Manga, by Director Rintaro and writer Katsuhiro Otomo (Of ‘Akira’ fame).

The movie draws inspiration from a number of sources Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, Fritz Lang’s own ‘Metropolis’ and most noticeably Otomo’s own ‘Akira’.  Like ‘Akira’ the plot revolves around the idea of a childlike supreme being, who shadowy forces seek to use to rule the world but are heedless of its frightening power.  Seemingly lost amidst the teeming triple level city are a foreign Detective and his nephew who get caught between the competing political forces.  Along the way they are helped by various Robot slaves who show more humanity that most of the other characters.

The Steam-Punk look of the Art-Direction is indeed beautiful which is complimented by a wonderful New Orleans Jazz soundtrack.  State-of-the-art (For the time) CGI is blended almost seamlessly with traditionally animated characters and techniques to create a unique look.  Overall, while I found the similarities to Akira detracted from my complete enjoyment, I was greatly moved by the life and death struggles of the characters.  So now I’m left waiting for the Blu-Ray with even more anticipation.

Here is the heart-breaking finale (Spoiler Alert!):

February 19, 2012

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies (2006 – DVD)

My sole purpose here is increase my chicken sales”

I couldn’t resist picking up DVDs of Michel Hazanavicius’ last two films, the hit French OSS 117 comedies.  The first is 2006’s ‘OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies’ featuring Jean Dujardin as incompetent yet charming Spy OSS 117.  The movie pokes fun at the spy Genre and satires patronising and ill-informed colonialist views of both the past and unfortunately the present too.

It doesn’t have the emotional power of ‘The Artist’ (It’s a straight comedy) but it has just as many spot on jokes.  The best moments had me howling with laughter, in particular a clever one involving a clichéd camera move and a vase of roses.  The movie is also full of running gags involving squawking chickens and mysterious Veal stews.  But the best running gag is that we the audience can work out the plot in the first 5 minutes but OSS 117 is clueless at every turn.  Like ‘The Artist’, ‘Nest Of Spies’ also co-stars the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Bérénice Bejo playing the straight-woman/love-interest foil to Jean Dujardin’s inept secret-agent.  The disaproving and bewildered looks she gives OSS 117 every time he says something idiotic, are some of the funniest bits.  I’m hoping the sequel ‘OSS 117: Lost In Rio’ is just as good.

February 13, 2012

The Room (2003 – Cinema)

“You don’t understand anything, man… leave your stupid comments in your pocket”

Yesterday I finally got to see Tommy Wiseau’s infamous 2003 film ‘The Room’ at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of their The Room Week.  Unfortunately I was a few minutes late to see Tommy himself doing a live Q&A (Although On the way out after, one punter was saying “What kind of Q&A was that?!?! he didn’t even say anything!!”).  The room has been promoted with the line “If The Room is the Citizen Kane of bad movies, that makes Tommy Wiseau the Orson Welles of crap”.  This wonderfully describes how eye-gougingly awful the film is and also the admiration one feels that one man could create a movie that stands head and shoulders below everything else mankind has yet created (Of course I haven’t seen Madonna’s new film ‘W.E.’ yet!).

Tommy Wiseau directed, wrote and starred in the film despite the now obvious fact that he can’t direct, can’t write and his acting is isn’t just bad it’s like his face is trying to channel some hitherto unknown emotions he’s learned from some visiting aliens.  What also impacts on his lead performance is that his face and body is that of a disfigured 1930s Universal Studios monster.  In fact the multiple shots of Tommy’s cadaverous naked buttocks pulsating in front of the camera during the many ill-judged sex scenes are still giving me Vietnam style flashbacks (To quote the Colonel… “The horror, the horror”).  At one point the lead actresses very neck muscles are comically popping out and misbehaving, perhaps in an attempt to get away from this film.

Clearly I’m way behind some of the people who have already been indoctrinated into the cult.  Some audience members knew all the lines and shouted them out, held lighters in the air during a love scene, threw spoons into the air (When a picture of a spoon was shown!) and were even having loud imagined conversations with the characters on the screen.  It was one of those boisterous and hilarious screenings that the PCC is uniquely famous for.  Go see The Room at least once but I guarantee you’ll want to see it again!

Here are the best bits:

February 3, 2012

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005 – Blu-Ray)

“If there’s anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now”

There are two reasons why I added 2005’s ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ to my LoveFilm rental list.  One, because I’m still excited by the impending ‘The Hobbit’ films (Which will also star Martin Freeman) and two, because I just watched ‘Moon’ and rapidly needed another hit of Sam Rockwell acting genius.

Of course being a lifelong fan of Douglas Adams’ hilarious Hitchhiker’s series of Radio/TV-Shows and Books I saw the film at the Cinema when it came out in 2005. At the time I thought it was alright but my affection for the 1978 Radio Show meant that some of the film’s departures from the source felt misjudged. The two most obvious of these were, the casting of Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent who while good isn’t a patch on Simon Jones’ world-weary Arthur and the stunt-casting of Mos-Def as Ford Prefect.  The change from David Dixon’s Posh-English-Mildly-Eccentric Ford (In the 1981 TV Show) to Mos-Def’s version of Ford as a bizarre-hyperactive-mumbling-Brooklynite (Despite supposedly being from Guildford!) was a big pill to swallow.

On that first viewing, one thing the makers had clearly got right was by casting Sam Rockwell as Egomaniac-Galactic-President Zaphod Beeblebrox. On the DVD-Extras it’s revealed that two of Sam’s inspirations for his portrayal of Zaphod were Bill Clinton and Elvis.  It was the only element of the 2005 film that comprehensively surpassed all previous portrayals. Though of course the gorgeous quirkyness of Zooey Deschanel made a wonderful new Trillion.

Now watching the film seven years later I’ve gained a bit more perspective, allowing me to fully enjoy the kaleidoscopic delights of this movie.  This is made all the more pleasurable by the absolutely stunning Blu-Ray transfer featuring eye-popping colours and clarity bringing every detail of the wondrous costumes and sets to life. On this viewing I appreciated all kinds of clever things like nods to Terry Gilliam’s bureaucratic-nightmare ‘Brazil’ in the design of the Vogon’s city and the brilliance of Jim Henson’s Vogon puppets themselves.  The film succeeds in that essential Sci-Fi goal of making every item you see (Or even barely notice) on the screen look designed and the Guide itself looks and works a hell of alot like an iPad, 5 years before Apple created it (Although unlike that Apple device, the voice-control actually works!).  The best new thing I noticed was the effort of the film-makers to demonstrate the benefits of Towel ownership in many scenes (One of Douglas Adams’ best gags).  Ford and Arthur can be seen using their towels as cravats to keep warm, as weapons to flick the Vogon’s with and even as shields against weird shovel-like alien guards.  I’m now wishing that the creators had been given the money to make the sequel that the end hints at. Oh well, guess I’ll have a cup of tea instead.

Here’s one of the “REALLY deleted scenes” from the DVD-Extras (Comedy gold!):

Also here is a Sam Rockwell screentest bonus (Unrelated to Hitchhiker’s but still genius):