Wednesday, 29 June 2011

REVIEW: Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon

You didn't have to be a psychic to know that Transformers 3: Bark At The Moon was never going to be released to critical acclaim, but I don't think anyone was expecting the kind of hostile debate that erupted yesterday with fans criticising critics for lambasting a film that "is just a bit of fun", which resulted in an excellent counterpoint from Helen at Empire Magazine.
I myself would freely admit that not every film sets out to be Citizen Kane and it would be unfair to review a blockbuster film and slate it for not being it's equal.  However, as Helen's article states, just because the film is aimed at the crowd-pleasing summer market doesn't mean that it should be exempt from such aspects as plot, character development and emotional connection.  And on this level, Transformers 3 fails on all accounts.
I tried to watch it with an open mind.  I had heard praise for the action sequences, that the use of 3D was "the best since Avatar" (yes, the brightness levels were an improvement but I'd still prefer to watch it in 2D) but just like The Hangover Part 2, it just smacked of lazy filmmaking.
Please do not think of me as one of those film snobs who only enjoys the latest Werner Herzog film or wants every film he sees to be in black and white accompianed by subtitles.  I enjoyed the hell out of Fast And Furious 5.  There was a point in the film, around 20 minutes in, when Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive off a cliff and jump into the water below, surviving without a scratch on them.  I made a concious decision to accept this and enjoy the film, which I did (mainly because The Rock brung it) but unfortunately I could not do the same with Transformers.  Too many elements kept drawing me out of the story.
The plot of the third film is about how the space race was actually about retrieving Cybertronian technology that crash landed on the moon, which is capable of teleportation between Cybertron and Earth and the Decepticons wish to use it to invade. All well and good, but with all these films it is just a plot device designed to get giant robots together to smack the shit out of each other.
Iron Man 2 suffered from a similar problem, in that it is difficult to engage in a battle between giant robots or men in CGI metal suits.  The element of danger or threat of "real" harm is reduced and therefore more difficult to emotional invest or care about the outcome.  The action becomes very "samey" and indistinguishable from film to film (apart from the fact there are no giant robot balls swinging around the screen this time round).
This leaves the audience to connect with the "human characters", if you can call them that.  I enjoyed the first Transformers film, mainly because Shia LaBeouf made for an engaging everyman, a geeky little upstart who is thrown into this world of tranforming robots and lucks out by getting a smoking hot Megan Fox to take an interest in him.  By the third film, LaBoeuf has ruined two film franchises (Indiana Jones and Wall Street) and Sam Wikipedia has evolved into a whiny guy who sulks about being unable to find a job even though he saved the world and we are supposed to believe that once again he has managed to get an improbably hot girl to hang on his every word and support him financially.  I know that this is a film where I'm meant "to leave my brain at the door" but even that stretches the suspension of disbelief!

When told to "bring it" for the guy who did The Rock, they meant Michael Bay and not Dwayne Johnson!
Poor Rosie Huntington-Whitely.  I'll leave it at that.  She goes out with The Stath and he could break me in half with just a look!  It doesn't help her when her character is introduced with a shot of her (perfectly formed) arse walking up the stairs.  Unfortunately for Hollywood, for every film like Bridesmaids that promotes strong female characters, there will be Michael Bay lurking around to provide a fantasy figure for lustful mastabatory teenage boys!
Not that the rest of the supporting cast fair that well either.  Malkovich, Malkovich cashes another paycheck by playing Sam's boss who is oranger than the entire cast of The Only Way Is Essex, Frances McDormand initially gives some bite to her character but fades into the background as the film progresses.  Not learning any lessons from the overbloated Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels, Bay insists on bringing back numerous minor characters from the previous films like the army guys who I can't remember the names of even though I've just watched the film and John Turturro.  The only merciful blessing is that Ken Jeong is killed off quickly to atone for The Hangover Part 2!
The main problem I have with recycling these minor characters is that since they have survived two already long installments, I don't foresee any danger that they won't make it to the final credits.  I remember back in the day, with the likes of Independence Day or Jurassic Park, when movies had the robot balls to kill off minor/supporting/even main characters, thus making the final victory/escape/etc more meaningful.
The idea of an hour long climax complete with more money shots than a Sasha Grey retrospective would normally make for appealing viewing but unfortunately Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon is just like Rosie Huntington-Whitely.  Astoundingly beautiful eye candy but with nothing underneath to sustain my interest for two and a half hours!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

BlogALongABond #6 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Relevance of opening sequence: It holds off from initially revealing Bond's face until he a) stops Diana Rigg from commiting suicide by drowning in the sea (as the plot goes), or b) stops her from going for a midnight swim fully clothed (as it looked to me). The brief introductory sequence allows for Lazenby to drive a fast car, show he can handle himself in a fistfight, but fails to get the girl. It ends with a nice, nearly fourth wall breaking comment, "This never happened to the other fellow".

Bond Song: For the opening credits we get an instrumental track that would become one of Bond's (and Barry's) most iconic tunes, and would repeat during various action set pieces throughout the film. A welcome bonus is Louis Armstrong singing We Have All The Time In The World (oh how ironic), but somehow it seemed to slip my mind that the song was written for the film and not already a hit beforehand.

Time elapsed before we hear "Bond... James Bond": 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

Attractiveness of Bond Girls: While Bond does sleep around with a few women at the test clinic, as Bond is prone to do as he can't resist, his main love interest is Diana Rigg as Tracy Di Vicenzo. She is arguably the best ever Bond girl, precisely for the reason that she doesn't behave like a Bond girl. She is a match for him physically and mentally (she sees through her father's scheme immediately), and most importantly, she doesn't give into his advances easily. However I must bring up an exchange between her father and Bond concerning Tracy. Having thanked Bond for saving her life, Draco offers Bond $1 million to marry her. "She needs a man to dominate her. To make love to her enough to make her love him. A man like you." My reading of this was - I'll give you a $1 million to give my daughter a damn good f*cking! Glad to see the Bond films hadn't lost their mysoginistic ways when Connery left!

Best Innuendo: While at dinner with a table of young women, one of them writes her room number on his leg under the table (he's wearing a kilt) which startles Bond. "everything alright?" asks Bunt, "Just a slight stiffness coming on... in the shoulder" replies Bond.

Best One Liner used when despatching an evil henchman: A pretty poor selection to choose from in this movie with the jokes being very tenuous but the best of a bad bunch. Bond throws a goon through some trestled fencing in a hotel room and quips "Gatecrasher". See what I mean!

Best Gadget: Since Bond is not on assignment, he gets no assistance from Q branch, therefore no cool gadgets to speak of.

Evilness of Villain: It's the return of Blofeld (or is it?) and Terry Savalas plays the bald baddie which gives him a more physical presence than Donald Pleasance but I preferred his take on the character. Also there is a huge continuity problem created by this film. The filmmakers stuck closely to the book of OHMSS which was the first meeting of Bond and Blofeld which kind of explains why Blofeld doesn't recognise Bond despite a poor Superman-esque disguise of a hat and glasses. However it doesn't explain away the events of You Only Live Twice, which left me with some major questions till I discovered this fact in the Imdb trivia page.

Feasibility of Evil Scheme: Having tried to engineer a nuclear war in the previous film, Blofeld decides to try a different tactic to hold the world to ransom, by using biological warfare to prevent the world's crops from being able to grow. His secret is to use normal brainwashed woman as pawns to release the toxin. There is no denying the versatility of Blofeld and SPECTRE, every scheme is different, but this one seems destined for failure. There are just to many variables to consider.

Does Bond end the film in a boat in a romantic clinch? Well this is new. Bond does end the film in a vehicle with a woman, but here he is clutching the dead, lifeless body of his new wife!

General thoughts: Where do I start? With the Carry On-esque section where Bond is pretending to be Sir Hilary Bray who sleeps his way around the various women at Blofeld's clinic, to one girl "I'll be in your room at 7.00", to another "I'll see you at 8.00", before sneaking into one room to find the brutish Irma Bunt instead? Or perhaps the point in the film where we have a getting to know you montage? That's right, a montage in a Bond film... and it's not even a training one. These moments seem out of place in a Bond film but I can understand the need to try new things with the disappearance of Connery. One major plus point of OHMSS was it introduced us to Bond's love and adeptness at winter sports with some cracking chase scenes on the ski slopes.

James Bond, and Sean Connery, return in July in Diamonds Are Forever.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

REVIEW: X-Men: First Class - Vaughn gives this franchise a reboot up the arse.

Ah, what a difference a couple of months can make.  It was only back in March that people (The Incredible Suit included) were despairing over the terrible marketing campaign Fox were putting out for X-Men: First Class.  Could it be that an insanely tight production schedule had resulted in a turkey of mutant proportions?
Fast forward to the end of May and First Class debuts to a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics hailing it as the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight.
So what's the truth?  While it is certainly not as good as The Dark Knight, it is closer to Batman Begins than Batman & Robin.
A lot of the reviews so far have made comparisons to Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise and a lot of them are justified.  Both Tim Burton's Batman and Bryan Singer's X-Men started with the heroes already existing in society.  Nolan went back to the beginning to look at what makes a man dress up as a bat to fight crime, and Vaughn looks at the formation of the X-Men (the recruitment montage features one of the best ever cameos and uses of the F-bomb) and the pivotal moment that turned friends Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnser into the enemies they were are the start of the first film.
"I loved you in Band Of Brothers", "I was going to say the same thing!"
Matthew Vaughn is really coming into his own as a director and delivers a summer blockbuster that nearly manages to break out of the comic book genre and become just a really great movie.  The period setting allows for Vaughn to fulfill his Bond fantasies (to the extent that the villain has a secret submarine in his yacht).  Kick-Ass proved he could do action but he manages to create a fun, action-packed summer blockbuster that never has to sacrifice story or character development. 
He has an impressive ensemble cast that help provide a lot more threads in the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon game but top marks however must go to the James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence.  Despite the iconic performances of Stewart and McKellen, their younger counterparts quickly make the parts their own.  McAvoy has an impish charm to him, using his power to get girls until fate shows him that he is destined to use this power for a greater purpose, and Fassbender has the steely eyed look of a man who could be the next James Bond, and in this film he becomes a bona fide star.
There is a moment in the film where Xavier helps Magneto achieve the full extent of his powers and the look on Fassbender's face played out with Henry Jackman's music underneath is a truly touching moment which cements their friendship which makes the tragic turn events take all the more sad.
Jennifer Lawrence also makes the most of a terrific story arc that focuses on what has always been at the heart and soul of the X-Men stories: the struggle and fight for acceptance in a world that fears what is different.
First Class is not a perfect film.  Due to the rushed production schedule (it was rewritten, filmed, edited and post production all within a year), unfortunately there are some niggling issues like dodgy CGI, Beast's make-up, missing love story lot between Charles and Moira, a couple of underwritten minor characters, and Fassbender's accent going rather Oirish at times.  But I think that if Vaughn had had a little more time to polish rounds the edges then this could have been a five star film... but unless he gets the chance to tinker with it before the DVD release then he'll have to make do with a rating of 4.5 stars.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo... and a safety pin through her nipple!

The first teaser poster for David Fincher's US remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has arrived in The Belmont and I'm posting it here for all to see.

What does everyone think?  Rooney Mara certainly has the required look (including exposing her breats with a safety pin through her nipple), what will the silver screen brigade make of it?

After a killer first teaser trailer and now this poster, this is one remake I'm actually looking forward to!