Dear oh dear, poor Roland Emmerich seems to be synonymous with disaster movies – both in terms of genre and quality. This is another ‘Wow-the-end-of-the-world-is-coming-let’s-have-some-really-huge-jaw-popping-special-effects-to-cover-up-the-sheer-ridiculousness-of-the-plot-yeah!-special-effects-oooooh-i-love-them’ movie that he has made himself king of. More is expected of this film with a cast as good as it has, but then you have to remind yourself not to get your hopes up as it will obviously end up disappointing you. It is crammed with horribly cheesy dialogue “home is where the family is” [cue vomit] and SFX after SFX after SFX. Credit where it is due, some of the effects are well realized, but as there was no suspension of disbelief I wasn’t able to really engage. And the fact that it cost $200,000,000 is an absolutely laughable. That is so much money I can’t even fathom it. For that I could buy 8,697 Ford Mustang V6s; 400,801 iPad 2s or 263,157,895 tubes of wine gums. All considerably better value than this eye-boggling piece of rubbish.
James Bond doesn’t get any better than this. In fact, film doesn’t get much better than this either come to think of it. Challenged with reinvigorating the series they did just that. Daniel Craig explodes onto the screen with a fantastic noir-esque pre title sequence, and then gets your Bond juices flowing with an epic chase through Madagascar (actually the Bahamas) that allows us to see Craig’s characterisation of Bond from the outset: a tough and brutal agent hell bent on getting his man. When he burst through the dry wall I knew I was in for a treat. Martin Campbell has made two of the best Bond films in the last twenty years with this and with Goldeneye, both times having been challenged with kick-started the franchise, and both times hitting a bull’s eye. Perhaps the only disappointing thing about this outing for me was that Bond was seen driving a Ford. And they tried to make him look cool whilst doing so. A Ford. And not even a Ford Mustang (would have been excusable) but a Ford Mondeo! Grandpas drive them, not James Bloody Bond. Anyway… moving on. The locations are what you would expect from a Bond film; there are no Moore style campy jokes, but instead the script is darker and grittier; the gambling is well done; the torture scene superb (amazingly containing a laugh out loud funny bit too) and to wrap it all off, Craig is superb as 007. He is powerful, brutal, ripped, cocky and Fleming would be proud. What is so impressive about Casino Royale is that it is just as successfully the 1st Bond film as it is the 21st. And this really is some achievement. More please. Lots more.
In Season 9, The Simpsons memorably sing a ditty Those were the Days which features the wonderfully reminiscent line “When Michael Jackson still was black… Those were the daaaays!” Very much along the same lines, I can’t help but hum to myself “When the Coen’s were still good”. I think back to their stream of classic indie hits: Raising Arizona; Miller’s Crossing; The Big Lebowski; O Brother Where Art Thou?; and of course, Fargo, all of which are belters and timelessly rewatchable. I wish I could say the same for what they have churned out in the past decade. Films that may have received more critical acclaim, but are significantly inferior to their earlier work. Fargo is magnificent. From its bleak, desolate yet beautiful exteriors, dark and edgy characters, creepy and intriguing plot, to its pitch perfect performances from the whole cast – does anyone do ‘sad pathetic loser’ better than William H Macy? (maybe Philip Seymore Hoffman. Maybe.) This is a film worth watching and rewatching. I can’t help but think that with their more commercial success these days, the Coens would do well to remember Marge Gunderson’s précis of the Brainerd crimes, “And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know.”
Simply put: Style over substance. There are some excellent sequences, but that is all this film seems to be, well planned and executed sequences – but with nothing coherent gluing the whole thing together. The ‘aeroplane near crash and last minute rescue’ is extremely impressively realised and the machine gun ammo slamming off Supe’s chest followed by the bullet in the eye are magnificent. My jaw was dropping and I almost wanted to cheer. That is what Superman is about: seeing him defeat the bad guys in new, engaging – even amusing – ways. But that was where the fun ended. As what Superman is not about is love children and ridiculous heroic dabblings with kryptonite. I find both to be so hideously implausible that they must both be ridiculed. As Brodie (ably played by Jason Lee in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats) points out, “It's impossible! Lois Lane could never have Superman's baby. Do you think her fallopian tubes could handle his sperm? I guarantee you that when he comes during sex, he probably blows a load like a shotgun blast... right through her back.” So aside from Lois Lane being alive post coitus, you would then have the impossibility of a human being conceiving and bringing to full term an alien’s child. Do not forget that just because Clark Kent looks like and ostensibly acts like a human he is an alien. He is a different species entirely. And entirely different species cannot mate. Just think of the havoc it would cause in the animal kingdom if a lion fell in love with and mated with a crocodile. Or a guinea fowl.
The other issue that makes me quiver with anger is the whole cretinous concept of Superman being physically able to lift an entire continent of kryptonite into outer space. As internet blogger dpogue21 so proficiently phrases it (much better than I could – so thank you dpogue) in his imdb review, “My next major complaint [is] that Superman lifts a continent made out of kryptonite up into outer space. It doesn't take comic book guy from the Simpsons to point out what's wrong with that. I don't know how many comic books Bryan Singer has read, but when Superman is exposed to even a small amount of kryptonite he barely has the strength to stay on his feet. Whoever had the idea to have him fly a large island made out of his greatest weakness into space has no business being associated with any Superman-related projects ever again. The concept is as ridiculous as making a Dracula movie where the title character has a stake through his heart and still manages to fly a spaceship made out of garlic into the sun. Why not just have Superman eat kryptonite? He can eat it and then brush his teeth with it, and then go to sleep in kryptonite pyjamas. That's not any more absurd then having him hoist a continent of kryptonite into space and then fall powerless through the atmosphere without burning up in re-entry or splattering all over central park when he hits the ground.” Need I say more? Didn’t think so.
Films do not get much more tongue-in-cheek than this riot of a film. Engaging from the very beginning, it sets out to send up every action film – especially buddy cop films – of the last couple of decades. Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Point Break, Leon, Mad Max, Jurassic Park, Trainspotting and a whole bunch more are referenced, parodied and spoofed here. The better you know your films, the more you will enjoy this. But do not let that put you off, as it can also be enjoyed knowing nothing of film history. And therein lies its genius. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (on the surface, a most unlikely action double act, but such is their comic talent, timing and sheer love of film that they work very well) form an improbable partnership that uncovers hidden secrets of the most macabre nature in a peaceful rural English village, “Village of the Year” no less. The city of Wells makes for a beautiful setting, so beautiful that it is easy to be lulled into its false sense of security. The race to uncover the many mysterious deaths is energetically paced, superbly edited (a take off of most Tony Scott action films), full of shocking twists and turns and darkly hilarious all rolled into one. Should it be funny, for example, when a character is impaled by a falling church steeple that lands on top of him causing his head to explode like a watermelon? No it shouldn’t. But it is. Timothy Dalton is also excellent is his role as local supermarket manager.
A suitably dark finale to the epic Potter octalogy that wraps everything up and ticks all of the boxes in terms of storylines from the book (but tries to do so a little too neatly). The actors seem to relish it being ‘the last time’ (what with various long awaited deaths, long awaited kisses and long-awaited confrontations) and really get their teeth stuck in, in many cases, bringing real pathos to their portrayals (has anyone come out of this series better than Alan Rickman?). Worthy too, is the tone of the film: dark and creepy with a crescendoing tension that builds to the final wand-off. And yet, sadly, the climax is all a bit drab and flabby. When Harry does finally confront old Voldemort (who perfected the gutteral agonised scream, but certainly seemed to overuse it… how can a character evolve if he is always just seriously pissed off?) and polish him off (did you really think he wouldn’t?) he doesn’t explode into a cool eruption of wizardy evil flame and black magic fire. That is what you would expect. And that is what you want. No, instead he wistfully flakes off into the wind. What?!? Yes. Flakes. Into. Wind. It reminded me off the rubbish and nauseating way they polished off that vampire bint at the end of Blade II. I just find it very hard to believe that the best way to bring to end this epic saga, this much anticipated fight, this showdown to end all showdowns, is with whispy CGI dandruff.
And the very next scene is also worthy of significant gripe. Having finally killed this evil Lord who has been a plague on ALL of their lives and been responsible for so many deaths, what is everyone’s reaction? To mope around! No celebrations, no congratulations, just forlorn moping. Yes, yes, I know they are mourning for their fallen comrades, but seriously, not even a slap on the back, or an affirming hug from his bit of ginger squeeze or a “well done mate, you finally killed the bastard!” from a fellow Hogwartian? He has, after all, just killed the devil. It’s not like he has just sent an annoying bully packing, or swatted an irritating fly. He has killed the wizard devil incarnate. But no reaction or words of congratulations. Nothing! Just a good old mope. I can’t quite believe I am writing this, but it needed to be 5 minutes longer. It needed to show life after Voldemort, in both the land of wizards and the world of the muggles. And so, disappointingly, ends the saga.
Wow. This is so startlingly bad that I cannot quite fathom it. It was just embarrassing to watch. For a moment, I even felt bad for the multi-millionaire actors caught up in this car wreck of a film. And then I remembered that they’re multi-millionaires and my pity disappeared about as quickly as one of the punch-lines. I caught it on TV and kept thinking that something funny would happen soon. I mean, surely, something funny had to happen. But I was just kept waiting until the credits. I’d expect this stupid base humour of someone generally talentless like David Spade or Rob Schneider, but I expect more from Adam Sandler – and what was Steve Buscemi doing in there?! It was cringe-worthy. There was no plot, just episodic moments of awkward and stupid behaviour. I’m just angry that $80 million dollars of money was spent making this. Aren’t we supposed to be in a huge recession right now? $80 million! For what? For awkwardness and hitting yourself in the head and hoping this isn’t really happening.
Perhaps more astounding is that it made $271 million worldwide. That makes it a hugely successful movie in financial terms (#28 for the 2010 Worldwide Grosses) and that shocks me. How?!? It’s one thing for a movie this bad to be made in the first place, but it’s another thing entirely for so many people to pay to go and see it. If you think I am being overly melodramatic, let’s just look at a couple of quotes from the film shall we:
Roxanne: [an older woman approaches them] And this must be your mother.
Rob: My wife.
Roxanne: I’m sorry.
Or how about this…
Bean: [as milk is shooting out of Sally's breast] You're wasting it!
[Sally's breast milk gets all over Deanne's face]
Sally: I'm sorry.
Deanne: [while tasting the breast milk] Actually, it's not that bad.
And I rest my case.
Another lonely voice on the internet.