Tuesday 26 February 2013

Oscar Ceremony Review

I suppose that in order to review the Oscar ceremony I really should have watched it…? Sort of like the nominated movies themselves?
Well, hey - I did!  Er, almost.
You see what happened was I cancelled my cable a few weeks back so my wife and I had to catch the show on-line.  And you know that never works.  So instead we spent most of the evening staring at the little buffer circle going round and round and round…
From what we did see though it looks as if we didn’t miss too much.  The red carpet show was…
It always is, isn’t it?  That red carpet conveyor shuffling along the hapless mannequins…
Blah blah blah, question?
Blah blah blah, Armani.
Ha ha ha!  Next!
The gormless looking plus ones, rabbit eyeing the camera, shuffling off to the side trying to look as invisible as they are.
And what of the host, poor Seth whatshisname, yikes – what happened there?
I was really rooting for Seth.  I always hope for the host.  I want them to recapture the lustre of Oscars of old.  But they never quite manage it. Billy Crystal attempted to reprise his MC magic last year.  But all he did was confirm something we all knew - his moment had past. 
But maybe Seth could bring back the gold?
Or maybe not.
I missed McFarland’s opening monologue, but when the internet wheel finally stopped spinning we were greeted with:
‘Getting nominated for an Oscar is something a 9 year old can do’
Ha ha!…Uh?
‘The only person who truly got inside Abraham Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth’
What was Seth thinking?  How was that Lincoln gag ever going to work?  The cast of one of the most revered best picture nominees – which was little more than a 2 ½ hour adoration of Abe’s awesomeness – is sitting in the front row and you try to burn the man down?  That’s like celebrating the biopic of Princess Di then laughing about car crashes in front of her kids…
The presenters and the acceptance speeches didn’t fare much better either.  The celebs, stuttering through the autocue, squinting at it like a bad smell.  Hey - that’s me you’re cringing at!  And come on winners - at least try to make the speeches entertaining. Christ - there’s a billion people watching! (or at least trying to…spin, spin, spin).
The James Bond tribute was weird.  A fluffy montage followed by a gold-sequined Shirley Bassey.  Sure the old girl can still sing, but yikes – she must be a hundred.  I don’t know about you but old people make me nervous, like they’re going to croak any minute.
We stopped watching when the 50th no name nomination came up.
“And now the award for best make-up effects editing”
“What’s that?”
“No idea”
The boring awards suck the life out of the Oscars.  Nobody clicks on the box to watch a bunch of nobodies.  Unless we’re watching the Kardashians.  Surely the producers know this?  Do they really think we care?
“Darling!  The award for best wig is up!”
“Great, I hope Goldstein gets it!”
The nominees at least, should be aware of their irrelevance. 
‘Just run on the stage, say something funny, and fuck off’ the producers should bark at them, as they cue the Jaws music to start, just as they lean towards the mic…
“I’d like to thank…”
De de de! 
I read a couple of Oscar reviews the day after the show.  The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell lamented the loss of Oscar gloss, then went on to suggest that the ceremony should, ‘be true to what it really wants to be’ which is, apparently, an upper class ape of the Globes. 
The Oscars is not the Globes.  The reason I watch them is because they strive to be something more than frivolous, something elegant, classy - a link to our illustrious past. 
Howell also suggested they replant Globe hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
I love these ladies but come on - the Oscars demand a little more class.  My wife suggested Martin Short as a future host which I think is a great idea.  Short is funny, elegant, weird and nostalgic – perfect!
Well, whoever hosts the show next year I only hope I can be bothered to watch, because right now the gleam is getting a little lean.  But who knows, if this damned circle ever stops spinning I might give them another whirl.
Spin, spin, spin…
Stupid fucking internet.

Friday 22 February 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
I thought I’d tried to catch this flick ahead of the Oscars and I have to say it was…OK.  Toronto’s Bell Lightbox didn’t help my enjoyment with their terrible soundproofing.  What’s going on there? 
I don’t much like the Lightbox.  Everyone’s friendly enough but I always feel underdressed and unworthy - like they’re all waiting for someone more important to come along.
‘Enjoy the show sir’ they say, as they look over my shoulder for George Clooney. 
For some reason the wall between theatres four and five was paper thin.  There was obviously a corporate event of some kind going on next door which meant that while Hush Puppy’s daddy was trying to die in peace all we heard was:
“OK everybody question number 2!”
And, as the little girl recounted sweet memories of her Mamma:
“Tony’s team’s in the lead with 25!”
Thanks Bell Lightbox.
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of life in the ‘Bathtub’, an impoverished enclave on the ‘wet’ side of the New Orlean’s levy, through the eyes of six year old Hushpuppy around the time of Hurricane Katrina.  The story is simple, sparse and occasionally engaging.  But for the most part it’s just boring.
I was drawn in by the trailer, in particular the performance of Oscar nominated Quvenzhané Wallis.  Kid actors can be adorable - or inane - in this case Quvenzhané is the former, a real treat.  But, although I enjoyed her innocent take on a hard life I was never quite sure where the story was going or what I was supposed to learn. 
There’s a token effort in the beginning to elicit sympathy.  Hushpuppy’s Daddy goes AWOL so the little girl resorts to talking to a basketball jersey draped on a chair - her Mum - as she cooks up a soup/cat food combo on the stove.  But that tapers away.  And there is some attempt to draw comparisons between the bereft citizens of the swamp and the civilized world on the other side.  Shots of a street party in full swing with moonshine and laughter and kids sprawling and wailing on blankets, and voice over commentary about fancy daycares, push chairs and a way too complicated way of life.  But that tapers too so that in the end, I am never really sure what the movie is all about.
You’d be hard pressed to say that Hushpuppy - the kid who’d been held but two times in her life - has it good.  Sure her Daddy loves her but it’s a mostly empty love.    And what of those ancient beasts?  Hushpuppy faces them down in the end but - so what?  Now she’s ‘de man’?  Strong enough to face the world?  Destined to struggle along just like her Daddy?  Great!
The movie left me with little hope, but it didn’t leave me with much despair either.  I suppose in the end I didn’t care, and when it comes to art - that’s the worst reaction of all.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Oscar Picks!

I have just one week to see the remaining Oscar movies!  Can I do it?
No!  Of course I can’t!
Well I could, if I wanted to.  But I don’t, so I won’t.  So there.
But - why not?  Because, well because - Beasts of the Southern Wild?  Really, what does it even mean? 
Thus far I’ve forgone Armour (too French) and Beasts of Southern Wild (What? Where? Huh?).  Actor wise I’ve no idea what Joaquin Phoenix was doing in… whatever he was in. Emmanuelle Riva was probably brilliant in, er something, and Quvenzhané Wallis was…Eh?  Huh?  Who? 
Well… good luck everyone!
Wilful ignorance isn’t going to stop me shooting some Oscar arrows, so - here goes!

Best Picture

Let’s dust off the crystal dartboard with, ready, aim…


It looks as if Ben Affleck’s sort-of-true story recounting the 1970s American Embassy exfil operation in Iran is now the Oscar shoo-in for a best film bullseye.  But, steady…whoosh,
Every dart player knows that ominous pinging sound.
It’s the sound of arrows bouncing off the board.  Yes, ‘ping’ means only one thing:
So close!
I loved this movie, loved the notch by notch ratcheting up of the tension, the comic relief of John Goodman and that bloke out of Little Miss Sunshine.  I even loved Ben Affleck’s beard.  But you have to be careful when you torture the truth.  A little tweak here and there is OK, but - Jeeps chasing the plane? 
Way to pop the pressure bubble Ben.

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Nada!  Ben’s dart is lying bent and blunted beneath the board.  Pick it up Mr. Affleck.  Perhaps we’ll see you back at the oche next year.   

Django Unchained

Django Unchained is another cracking movie…which won’t win an Oscar.  Tarantino’s crimson tinged treatise has all the essential elements of an Oscar contender:  Great acting, great pacing, snappy dialogue, but - there’s just so much gore. 
You can’t underestimate the ‘gore score’ when it comes to making your Oscar picks.  Can you think of a movie this gory that ever got the nod?  No! Oscar doesn’t do gore.  They do war (Platoon, The Deer Hunter, Bridge Over The River Kwai).  And Law (Chicago, No Country for Old Men).  They even do Whore (Driving Miss Daisy).  But - they’ve never done gore. 
So, sorry Quentin.  If you’d like to win the little gold man you gotta clean up your actors (good luck with that).

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
…Plop!  Oh!  It’s landed on 15, just outside the center circle.  No bullseye this time Mr. T but not to worry, the arrow is a perfect marker for your next throw.

Les Mis

Les Miserables got the Oscar nod purely out of sympathy - you know - for trying so hard.  Sort of an ‘A’ for effort sort of thing. 
If there was sympathetic applause for losing movies, Les Mis would get a lot of it.
Les Mis ain’t going to win, everyone knows that.  And nor should it.  The first 20 minutes of the movie are amazing.  But once Ann Hathaway is away with the French fairies the rest of the film d-r-a-g-s...
Oh, God…so much singing, when will it stop?  Christ - is he still alive?  Ug, enough with the Master of the House.  And, what’s this now – a revolution?  God let it be over! Zzzzzzzzz.
It takes a lot to make me sleep through a revolution but Les Mis tucked me in nicely.

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Ka-plump!  Alas, the dart has landed harmlessly wide, arcing over the top of Tarrantino’s flight and settling near the treble 12.  A bad miss.  We’ll put that one down to nerves.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi is the kind of movie I’m supposed to like more than I did.  But I didn’t.  In fact I liked it only exactly as much as I did which was, well - just a bit.
Life of Pi is good - watchable.  I admire Ang Lee for keeping me engaged when all I was watching was a boy in a boat with a tiger.  But – why pick that subject matter anyway?  It’s all well and good to applaud the efforts of a director who takes a dry subject and wets your eyes but, well – he didn’t have to pick this did he?  It’s like 127 Hours – a movie that feels as long as its name - and Castaway.  You watch these movies and you ask yourself:  How good can you really make a film with only one frame?

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Plop…Oh!  25.  Not bad for a first try.  A few more throws Mr. Lee and you’ll hit the bully for sure. 


Lincoln is another critics’ pick and, let’s be fair, another great movie.  But the trouble with great movies that are based on true stories, especially ones that don’t involve jeeps chasing planes, is that they whittle you away. 
Lincoln is dry, as dry as the powder in the soldier’s guns.  You don’t notice the blandness so much at first, ensconced as you are in the elegant trimmings of the 19th century scenery, entranced by Daniel Day Lewis’ exquisite portrayal of the legendary war time pol.  But then the movie wears you down and before you know it you’re, uh oh, is that the time?

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Swoosh…Ah!  That was close!  The arrow was swooping into the bullseye bed but then…What?  It swooshed sideways at the last second!  Better check those flights Stevie Boy…

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is my pick for Oscar night.  Not just because I’m a sap and I have the hots for Jennifer Lawrence who’s cute in a, I’m-not-sure-why-she’s-cute sort of way. It’s my pick because it’s the best movie of the lot (of the ones I’ve seen which is some of them).
SLP feels new – like a pile of clean laundry.  Director, David Russell picks a stinky subject and gives it a fresh spin.  At the end of the film we all feel a little tumbled yet replenished at the same time.

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Ooooh – Get in!  Bullseye all the way.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is my Dark Horse contender.  Apparently this movie isn’t supposed to win because it’s too blunt on, ooh!  Touchy touchy torture. 
The torture scenes aren’t overdone and nobody is suggesting everything in the movie is totally real.  Why would they do that?  Let’s face it, when Hollywood turns the page there’s no such thing as a ‘true story’.  Just ask Ben Affleck. 

Bully’s Oscar Dartboard Score:
  Ka-ping!  Is it in?  Is it in…? 
…Bigelow steps up to the board, her eyes trace the line of the tungsten but…oh!  Can you believe it?  It looks as if, just like all those Jihadists stuffed into crates all over the world, this movie has landed on the wrong side of the wire.   

Best Actor
Daniel Day Lewis. 
Because:  Well, because of course.

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz
Because:  I didn’t see Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Why not?  Because he was in The Master.  So, assuming he was no good I’m giving this to Christoph.  The guy is just brilliant.  Tommy Lee might win though because he’s old.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain
Because:  Because it’s not easy walking around looking stroppy for 90 minutes. 

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway
Because:  I didn’t see Helen Hunt or Amy Adams and, whatever - this one’s a lock.  How could it not be?   I mean - Singing in a coffin?  In just one take?  Making me cry?  (Allegedly).  Yes, it’s all over (bar the Susan Boyle duet DVD). 

Best Director

Drum roll please…
‘And the Oscar probably goes to…Steven Spielberg!’
Because:  ‘All hail Steven!’ 
Steven Spielberg always comes away with something.  He’s like that kid at the party who doesn’t get a lucky bag because that ginger brat took two and now they’ve run out so he whines and cries and he won’t leave until you:
Give me something!’ 
I think Spielberg left empty handed last time he was here and everyone held their breath. God help us if they run out of gold toys this time around.

Oscar Noms

Best Picture:  Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor:  Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington

Best Supporting Actor:  Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhané Wallis, Naomi Watts

Best Supporting Actress:  Jacki Weaver, Helen Hunt, Anne Hathaway, Sally Field, Amy Adams

Best Director: Amour (Michael Haneke), Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin), Life of Pi (Ang Lee), Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell), Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)

Oscar broadcast date:  Sunday, February 24th.
  Enjoy the show folks and, if all my picks are wrong don’t blame me blame this stupid magic crystal dartboard (I bought it in a charity shop after all, hey – half price!).

Monday 11 February 2013


Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
So I finally went to see Lincoln.  God knows I tried not to.  I’d trudge out of the house and empty the garbage instead.  I’d put on my coat – then take the dog for a walk.  But in the end, history - and the Oscars probably (this Sunday!  Woo Hoo!) – beckoned me in. 
Lincoln tells the story of the 16th president of America, Abraham…erm, I forget his last name. Apparently it’s a true story, but really – can we be sure?  It seemed believable, at least right up until the moment when the jeep started chasing the president’s wagon as he legs it out of the Senate.  No wait, that was Argo.  Christ, all these true stories – can’t we make shit up anymore?
Lincoln centers on the President’s efforts to drive the anti-slavery bill through the senate, bribing senators, telling half-truths…really, it’s amazing how little has changed.  Daniel Day Lewis is uncanny as Abe.  He looks just like him, and, if the YouTube clips I’ve been watching are any guide, his voice and mannerisms are spot on too. 
I suppose you get a free pass when you play a historical figure who died before the advent of camcorders.  Who knows how good DDL’s take really was?  He could have played him flamboyantly gay, with a limp and a lisp, and we’d have been none the wiser.  Except that they probably would have mentioned that in the history books I suppose.
“Lincoln then folded up the Inaugural Address, thanked the crowd for being ‘Absholuely Shuper’ then skipped off the podium like a fairy”
Sally Field is predictably over-dramatic as Lincoln’s whining, over-bearing wife, and Tommy Lee Jones is a stand out as the grouchy Thaddeus Stevens, leader of the Radical Republicans. 
I found myself drawn in close by Tommy Lee, whose character has been pushing for the abolition of slavery for half his adult life.  He gets off the best line in the movie later on, remarking on the infamous vote:
The greatest measure of the Nineteenth Century. Passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”        
I’m not sure if this a quote, but it neatly sums up the whole movie.
The civil war scenes are scant, a fact I was grateful for after suffering through the slime soaked sentimentality of Steven Spielberg’s other recent war time epic, Warhorse.  Although this time the war is merely a backdrop, Spielberg once again cannot resist ladling on the treacle at every opportunity.  For example, an early scene features black and white soldiers trying to recall the words of Lincoln’s famous Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg (you know the one ‘this nation, under God…government of the people, by the people, for the people...” And all that).  Anyway, when the white soldier forgets the words the black soldier finishes it off.  The scene was supposed to demonstrate unity I suppose, and American pride, but it just made me think about all these jingoistic American’s going to gun shows and wittering on about their right to bear arms.
Another dramatic technique over-employed by Spielberg is of course, his music.  And, while I loved the pulse pounding piccolos of Jaws, and the lyrical hues of ET’s violin sonata, the endless oboes and ocarinas that pervade Lincoln are obtrusive, cartoonish and transparent.  Why do we need a crumhorn and a clarinet while Lincoln is schlepping through a battlefield looking weary?  Can we not just have dialogue or better still – silence?  The endless barrage of bassoons made me think of Lincoln as Wile-E-Cayote as he steps, witlessly off a cliff…
Another petty gripe is the casting.  While every actor held his own and the main cast excel, I have to wonder why Spielberg used a mix-bag of the usual period piece suspects.  It would be nice to see some new bearded faces under those ridiculous hats.  And speaking of newbies - why was the ubiquitous Joseph Gordon-Levitt picked to play Lincoln’s eldest son?  There I was, immersing myself in the gaslight of the 19th century White House when I’m suddenly confronted with – hey!  Isn’t that the bloke out of 50-50? 
Lincoln is a good movie but it’s not an Oscar one.  It is bone dry – in the way historical films tend to be when they steer too close to the facts – and it fails to resonate.  When the anti-slavery bill finally passes I realized that I was probably supposed to well up but, beyond Tommy Lees occasional pronouncements about its importance, and Lincoln’s own loosely defined obsession, I failed to make a deep connection.  As the people on screen were crying and cheering – I was busy digging around for a nugget at the bottom of my bag of popcorn.
Lincoln’s strongest parts are its quieter moments, when Lincoln is showing compassion and his infamous common touch.  There is a scene where he is about to decide how to respond to the Yankee leaders who are poised to approach Washington with terms for their surrender.  He dictates a message to the clerks then stops to chat about life, fate – and a 2000 year old mathematical theorem.  After listening to the clerks’ thoughts and recalling the famous Euclid proof “if any two things are equal to a third, they are equal to each other” Lincoln changes the last line of his letter - and the course of history. 
As a subject for artistic inspection Lincoln may well be better suited to a more intimate medium, like theatre.  But for a snowy Monday afternoon when there’s bugger all else on it works just fine.  But it still won’t win an Oscar.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Side Effects

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
Warning:  The movie may cause headaches, nausea and diarrhea.  Consult a qualified movie reviewer before seeing it.
That’s not true.  I was just trying to be clever.
Side Effects is actually a taut little thriller - not too clever – you don’t need a Sixth Sense to reason out the riddle.  And not too bland either.  It’s just the right dose of mental stimulation for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The movie centers around a female psychiatric patient played by Rooney Mara.  You know her - she’s the chick from the Dragon Tattoo movies.  Not that I knew that when I was watching.  I almost went mad trying to figure it out. 
Where have I seen her before…?!  Arg! 
Rooney takes the meds prescribed by Jude Law, does something bad (no spoilers here!) then blames it on the side effects. 
Nice!  I wonder if that would work for me whenever I stay out too late or get caught ogling…
“It’s the meds Susie the meds!”
We spend the rest of the movie trying to unweave the not so sticky web.
The twists in Side Effects are no so tightly wound.  The plot uncoils smoothly, and unsurprisingly.  This will be a disappointment for smart arse moviephiles like the people who went ‘Yeah yeah’ when Bruce Willis’s wedding band rolled along the floor at the end of The Sixth Sense.  But I was OK with that.  I’m not a genius.  I don’t want to have to take a 258 bit decryption key with me every time I go to watch a thriller.  An abacus will do just fine.
Jude Law is adequate in the undemanding role of the psychiatrist. Rooney Mara is endearing as the sleep walking psych patient.  And Catherine Zeta Jones is satisfyingly smarmy as the Psychiatric Consultant who keeps hovering around in the background. 
Why is she here?  Why does she keep cropping up?  What has she done…?!!
I have to confess I wouldn’t have bothered going to see this movie if there was anything else on.  But there isn’t.  Apparently early February is a dearth zone for good movies.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps we’re all Oscared out?
One reason I wouldn’t have bought a ticket is the movie’s title. ‘Side Effects’ is about as bland a label as you can wrap round a bottle.  Why not choose:  ‘The Placebo Effect!’  ‘Drugged Up’. Or ‘Over Dosed!’?  Hey - at least they have some pazzazz!  I had the same titular trouble with the Ewan McGregor movie, ‘The Impossible’ - another title that tells you nothing and fails to draw you in.
My other disincentive was the director.  This may be Steven Soderbergh's last hurrah but why should I care?  I’m still suffering from 2011’s Contagion. There’s no cure for that.
Fortunately Side Effects won’t leave you feeling drowsy or unfulfilled.  It might be just the kick you need.  

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I watched this movie a couple of weeks ago during my lunch break, by myself. Again. I don’t know why I can’t get anyone to go to the movies with me – is there something I should know? Anyway I called my friend Dee and she told me to go see it because it was between this and Lincoln and, well, it’s a lunch break not a lunch week…
Silver Linings Playbook is a lovely little movie about mental illness, something we all have. I found it nice to watch a bunch of A list Hollywood fancy pants playing roles which made them look unattractive for once and not like Tom Cruise adjusting his sunglasses or Ben Affleck taking his shirt off for no f****g reason.
Good looks AND a six pack? Why am I so inadequate…?
There’s a great scene where Bradley Cooper can’t find his wedding video at 3am in the morning. He’s wailing at his Mum and his Dad (Robert DiNero), tearing the house apart. The police are called, the neighbour’s yell, dogs bark - basically it’s like bedtime at the Bulls.
Chris Tucker is great too as another mentalist, along with OCD afflicted Robert DiNero.
The fact that I could identify so much with all these unbalanced actors is a bit worrying I suppose but hey – what’s so great about being normal?

Zero Dark Thirty

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I went to see Zero Dark Thirty by myself during my lunch break last week. I’d heard it was a bit boring but it was either that or Lincoln and, well, you just know that Lincoln is going to be boring...
Although the movie is basically a bunch of spliced together scenes with that Golden Globes winning chick shouting and strutting around in a huff – I found that it wasn’t boring at all! The torture scenes were unpleasant of course but, hey – Not Guilty. That was the Americans right? So, you know - call your Congressman.
The tension builds up, slowly, like a cat stalking a mouse or my daughter Molly getting ready for school and, unlike Argo where Ben Affleck almost blows the whole movie by having the bad guys chasing after the plane – it never happened! – the film feels like each enactment might actually be true - all the way through.
They could’ve added a twist at the end though and perhaps a bit of humour?
Here’s my alternative ending:
One of the Special Ops soldiers is unzipping the body bag and studying the face of the corpse,
“I thought they said…Obama?”
“Oh ha ha ha ha ha!”
The rest of the Special Ops squad rolls around on the floor laughing as they realize their mistake.
“Ha ha ha! I can’t believe we shot Obama!”
And…roll credits.
What do you think? Yeah I know - too soon.
Fortunately the gag reel at the end was funny and more than made up for all that messy torture.

Django Unchained

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
Django Unchained is, in a word: Indulgent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I quite enjoyed this movie although once again Tarantino seems unable to not shoot and blow everything up. It’s fun but it does get a little silly.

The movie is disjointed at the beginning – Jamie Foxx shoots the bad guys and gains his freedom and then, oh, now we’re off doing this are we? OK, well I’ll sit back down again...

I like to know where I’m at early on in a movie, none of this ‘3rd Act’ - another 30 minutes - bullshit. But that’s fine.

When the Bounty Hunters get to DiCaprio’s mansion the authentic slave stuff is very gruesome and informative (I’m assuming it’s based on fact) and the performances are typical Tarantino, tongue-in-cheek blood and bluster. The tension ratchets up and up but it doesn't sustain, probably because it takes way too long to rescue the girl and I don’t even really care that much...

There are some unsatisfying moments. Like when the slave gets pulled to bits by the dogs – why did that have to happen? Yuk. I cared more about him that I did Jamie Foxx’s wife. And at the end all the shooting up gets a bit mundane – there’s only so many ways to watch a man die. But it was a good movie overall. I gave it two thumbs up, at which point everyone in the movie theatre peered at me sideways and slowly edged their way past.

Les Miserables

Bullseyes:  ② (out of 5)
I saw Les Mis with my daughter Molly on a Saturday night because my wife Susie went out ‘with the girls’ and I had nothing else to do. How selfish is that? She could’ve at least got me some booze in... Anyway, so there was Molly and me starting to watch the movie and, what’s this – it’s all singing?!

I didn’t realize the whole movie was singing but - it wasn’t so bad in the end. I got used to it, although I was always nervous about any trivial dialogue which might occur which didn’t warrant a musical outburst:
“Wheeer eees le bathroom?”
“Eeets over theeere!”
Ann Hathaway is brilliant. Depressing but brilliant. She’s hot and that always helps. I dreamed a dream is such an emotive song, especially when I'm singing it. Hathaway’s rendition was tainted a little though because, sitting just to my right, in my peripheral vision, was a portly Phillopinio girl furiously stuffing her face with fistfuls of popcorn.
“I dreamed a dream in time gone by…”
Reach, gobble, Crunch.
“When hope was high and life worth living”
Reach, gobble, Crunch.
The moment was lost.
Times were certainly grim back then – Christ. There’s poor Ann, getting canned, groped, scalped, having a tooth extracted and then selling her body for sex and getting mauled and almost arrested – and all in the same day! And she still had the energy to sing!

Sadly the movie went downhill after that. It was just so – looong. I’m not sure how well stage translates to film. I found the whole French revolution bit boring and long-winded. After 2 hours I couldn’t wait for it all to end.

On my way out I bought an advance ticket for Lincoln.  There's no way that's going to be too long.


Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I think I was more relieved than anything when this movie didn’t suck. What with all the Borne films and Mission Impossible and whatnot I’m not sure I knew who James Bond was anymore when I sat down.  But this movie reminded me.

Javier Bardem is great, although, when M dies at the end I sort of wondered if it had all been worth it. I mean - didn’t he go to Skyfall to save her? And then he failed? James Bond never fails! Nooo!

Life of Pi

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
Life of Pi is very, what’s that pretentious word I’m looking for… Ethereal? Yes ethereal.

No I don’t know what it means.

In the beginning I had to struggle to get past the poorly contrived ‘why is he called Pi?’ back story (because his uncle liked swimming and insisted he be named after his favourite ‘Piscine’… really?). But after I’d gulped that down it was all fine. Sort of like Avatar without the guns and the spaceships. I should’ve watched it in 3D now that I come to think of it but I’m too tight – it’s 5 extra dollars! -and the 3D cinema is a 20 minute streetcar ride away.

The Impossible

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I’d heard about this tsunami true story a few months back and almost forgot to watch it until I got so bored last Sunday that I had no choice.
“Isn’t there anything else on?” I asked my wife Susie as she burrowed under her quilt and begged me to let her rest in peace, “How about Lincoln?”
I have to say I wasn’t drawn to this movie. For one thing the name didn’t exactly grab me. ‘The Impossible’? Obviously it wasn’t impossible if it actually happened. It did actually happen right…? Hmm… I wondered if this was one of those ‘true’ stories like Argo which was almost probably true right up until the time the bad guys hopped in their jeep and started chasing after the plane…

Another problem was that I was still suffering from YouTube fatigue after watching a zillion tsunami clips 9 years ago (has it really been 9 years?) and then all over again after the recent Japanese disaster. I was starting to feel a bit car crashy about the whole thing.
So I checked the movie reviews on-line before pulling away the duvet - ‘Noo…leave me alone!’ - and was pleased to see that it scored 7 ½ out of 10! Not bad for Ewan McGregor.
I’ve started checking movie reviews religiously after paying real actual money to see Warhorse. I still hear neighing in my sleep and crappy Geordie accents - God Damn you Steven Spielberg!
The Impossible was painful to watch. The tsunami yanks you out of your seat – literally. Or maybe that was Susie after I farted for the tenth time (hey - it wasn’t me! It was that potato salad you made me right before we left. Now that was a good idea…). Whatever it was I found myself ducking and cringing and clutching at the arms of my chair as the wave crashed ashore.
Every bang, slap and rip - as Ewan McGregor’s missus tumbled around in the wash and got slashed and bashed by all the rolling crap - made me grind my popcorn into mush – Ouch.
The acting was incredible. Especially when you think that the whole thing was probably filmed in front of a green screen in a bath tub.
When the water finally drained away there was no let-up to the agony. Endless wading through forests and swaps, riding in the back of trucks, waiting around is filthy hospitals, scouring the streets for missing loved ones... I finally unflinched when the rep from the insurance agency turned up like Mr. Del Monte with a clean set of towels and a private jet.
“Let’s get out of here!”
It made me feel a little guilty to look out of the window of the plane with Ewan and his clan and see the poor locals frowning up at the sky. The very same locals who had just helped them wade through the wreckage and cling to life…ah well. Sucks to be poor I guess.


Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I don’t like Ben Affleck. He’s got that twatty Tom Cruise thing going on – he takes himself too seriously and you’re always aware that you’re watching the actor, not the character. In Argo Affleck manages to take his shirt off and flash his rock hard abs for absolutely no relevant reason. Why does he have to do that...?

But this is a very good movie. It’s informative, well-paced and the tension builds nicely. There’s great comedy in the Hollywood scenes and the ending isn’t overdone. My only gripe is the ridiculous jeeps chasing the plane scene – was this really necessary? We know it never happened. It took me out of the movie and had me playing back the scenes with the Arabs in Team America, “Durka durka durka!”

This is 40

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
Yeah I know, what's Ben doing watching a safe, date night chick flick. But hey - it was Christmas – what else am I supposed to do?

There's good chemistry in this flick with Paul Rudd and that girlie from that other movie I can’t remember. And lots of good comic moments. It's a bit long though. And the whole two-car enormous house setting bothered me. Why do these movies always have to be set in enormous pristine white houses with two brand new cars? What’s wrong with a downtown row house and a Nissan? Or an apartment and a bus pass? And the main characters always work at these generic white collar jobs like a teacher and we somehow are supposed to believe they can afford to live like this. I didn’t have any sympathy for their financial predicament in the end because of their damned fiscal irresponsibility! Mark Carney would be appalled.


Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
Flight is a good little movie. Excellent plane crash scene at the beginning and Denzel is his usual surefire self.

I like the whole down on his luck type character story, because, well, it makes me feel better about myself (whatever - I’ll talk to my counselor). I especially like it when the main character hooks up with another of life’s losers and they all sort of win in the end.


There is a very touching scene at the end of the movie which almost made me cry but didn’t because I turned my head away and my daughter doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

I did wonder how Denzel could land such hot looking women. The opening scene when the stewardesses arse is pressed up against the camera – I mean - come on! I’m with my 19 year old daughter here! But then I remembered – Denzel is a pilot (they don’t tell you these things in Career planning class do they?).


Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
I thought I was going to get lost in this movie, lost as in - Inceptionized. When I saw the trailer I had flashbacks of, ‘a dream within a dream (within a dream...)’
Arrg! Inception!!

But in the end it all made sense. I think. The problem I had was that I spent the whole time watching the movie expecting it to not make sense:

'Now if he’s gone back in time and done this, how can he have done that in the future…?'
'And what if he gets killed in the past? Wouldn’t that mean the last ½ an hour never happened…?'

But it sort of ties together. Unlike Inception which is stupid.

Seven Psychopaths

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)
I loved this movie!  Seven Psychopaths is quite the caper.   
One reason to love it is that the actors have so much fun.  It's as if main characters, Sam Rockwell (who knew he was so funny?), Colin Farrell and Christopher Walkin were just screwing around the whole time. It had a Lock Stock and Barrel feel to it – entertaining characters, join the dots plot (you never quite knew where it was going) and lots of crazy dialogue and, of course, blood.

The girl behind me kicked my seat and roared with laughter the whole way through. Curiously though, she warned me she was going to do this before the movie started so I couldn’t really complain which was strange. It’s as if someone tells you they’re going to hit you before they hit you and then after they hit you you just sulk and walk away. I probably should’ve complained.

Saturday 2 February 2013

The Hobbit

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
I didn’t read The Hobbit because it was too long and it looked boring and I have the concentration span of a goldfish. Tolkien fans are always harping on about the movie being true to the book and in that sense I think it’s fair to say the movie is true to the book. It’s long and it’s boring.

The first third is protracted. Blah blah blah lots of quirky hobbits don’t they eat a lot, what are they doing here, when is this f***g movie going to start? And then it gets going.

I wasn’t that invested in the plot to be honest. The dwarfs have lost their home to a dragon who’s wallowing in all their gold, OK…so find somewhere else to live! There certainly seemed to be enough land to go around – why didn't they just build some more huts?

The quest was well filmed and the casting was great, but many of the sequences were overly long. Why have the rock monster fight if no-one dies? I thought the whole point of a story was that if something happens it has to affect the plot, or else we have to learn something? If we go through a mountainous area and almost die but we don’t die and nothing really changes then why bother including that scene? Ka-ching, another 10 minutes of my life gone by... Directors need to start keeping movies to 90 minutes or else give me a good reason to keep squirming in my seat (some of us have weak bladders you know).

Friday 1 February 2013

Inglorious Basterds

Bullseyes:  ② (out of 5)
Inglorious Basterds is one of those movies you’re supposed to like because it was made by Quentin Tarrantino.  And as we all know Quentin Tarrantino is cool, and Reservoir Dogs was a ‘game changer’ and Pulp Fiction was shear, ‘genius’ and, well - whatever.  I didn’t like it.  So there.
The problem I have with Inglorious Basterds is that I could never get behind the underlying premise - a re-imagining of the Second World War.  The second world war already happened.  We know what went down, that era has been movied and documented to death.  And most of the stories are amazing.  So why re-write them?  Can’t you just take a real story and film it, or else make something up from scratch?  How can you fictionalize certain fact?  Isn’t that what Creationists and religious nut-jobs do?  Hitler died alone in his bunker he didn’t die in a crowded movie theatre.  So why pretend otherwise?
I loved the acting - of course.  Again, I knew I had to, but that’s OK because I really did.  And I loved the craft of it.  Those long drawn out scenes, the subtle build-up of tension - The apple strudle!  The eyes under the floorboards…
Arr again!
In all those aspects I stepped back like everyone else and worshipped at the altar of the big goof.  And I was quite happy to cross myself, to genuflect - rapt as I was under the spell of Christoph Waltzs Jew Hunter.  Entranced by Melanie Laurent – the girl under the floorboards, the heart of the movie. 
But, alas - the film just didn't tie together.  For one thing the Nazi Hunters noted in the title hardly feature at all. And the relationship between Shosanna and the German sniper, Fredrick Zoller, which we’re supposed to despise, I guess, was actually - quite sweet.  I thought we might see some redemption in Zoller’s character, an admission of his flaws, a willingness to step into the light.  That would have been nice.  But no, he just got slaughtered like everyone else. 
In the end Inglorious bastards is flawed because it doesn’t ring true.  And that’s probably because it isn’t.