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A masterpiece of action cinema

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 09:09 (A review of Rambo (2008))

"You know what you are. What you're made of. War is in your blood. Don't fight it. You didn't kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God's never gonna make that go away. When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing."

John Rambo has always gotten a bad rap, as he's perpetually misconstrued by both the supporting characters in his films as well as the cynical movie-goers of the outside world who dismiss him as a joke. This is, of course, because the iconic action hero is best remembered as a cartoonish, buff instrument of American vengeance from 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II and 1988's Rambo III. Due to this, people have forgotten that the first outing of John Rambo, 1982's First Blood, was an action-drama dealing with America's post-Vietnam disillusionment and one man's failed fight to reincorporate himself into society. For 2008's Rambo (a.k.a. Rambo IV), Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote and directed in addition to starring) returned the character to his roots; emulating the tone and emotion of First Blood in order to craft a gritty, poignant war picture that doesn't skimp on the action. What's truly daring about Rambo - and what a lot of critics have missed - was Stallone's decision to resurrect the ironic warrior to lament his soul rather than celebrate his strength.

The story, expectedly, is simple and direct. Twenty years have passed since John Rambo (Stallone) saved Colonel Trautman from Russian forces in Afghanistan, and he now lives the life of a recluse in Thailand desperate to evade his personal demons. As the film opens, a group of Christian missionaries approach Rambo seeking passage into the heart of Burma, as they wish to bring medical supplies and prayer books to the war-town country. Rambo reluctantly accepts the offer, but is wary of the dangerous terrain. Days after, Rambo learns that the missionaries were captured by the Burmese military. Choosing to assume his psychologically tattered soldier mentality and launch into battle once again, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries as they head into Burma on a rescue mission.

Stallone chose to preface Rambo with authentic documentary footage depicting the actual situation in Burma, which has endured what is described as the longest-running civil war in history. This horrific footage effectively places the story in a real-world context - it's made clear that the atrocities taking place in Burma are real, rather than part of the screenwriter's imagination. In this sense, Stallone and co-writer Art Monterastelli utilised Burma as a framework within which they constructed a typical action movie. Yet, within the simplistic framework there are layers of complexity that may be easily missed. For instance, the Burmese soldiers appear to be the epitome of one-dimensional evil since they slaughter villagers and enjoy gang-raping women. However, the documentary footage prefacing the film reveals that thousands of these soldiers are kidnapped boys who are forced into the army and dehumanised into soulless killing machines.

Ultra high body counts have become a staple of the series, and Rambo does not disappoint in this sense. The levels of gore push the R-rating to the very brink, yet the unremitting violence is not as joyously self-indulgent as previous Rambo adventures. See, there's more to Rambo than just carnage. The film builds with a palpable intensity, and the first half depicts Rambo reluctantly working his way back to his former self to confront the life he tried to leave behind. Through depicting the Burma atrocities in explicit detail, the film additionally offers a social commentary and manages to shed light on the realities of life in the country (the film has done more for Burma awareness than the UN). Thus, this entry to the series is more about authenticity and gritty realism, mirroring the tone of First Blood. Rambo is not perfect, of course - it's largely generic (at times painfully so), the dialogue is risible on occasion, and the tonal shifts can be problematic - but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Yet, all of this is probably looking too deeply into what is a taut, expertly crafted shoot-'em-up of pure awesomeness. You attend Rambo movies to watch the titular badass laying waste to hundreds of bad guys, and this fourth instalment offers exactly that. In prior Rambo sequels, Rambo was dropped in some hellhole to rescue a bunch of people before he breaks them out, kills the bad guys and escapes. Rambo '08 stays true to the formula, except - as previously stated - there's a lot more grit. Stallone is never shirtless at any point, and the cheesy music was replaced with Brian Tyler's harrowing, exceptional score. Rambo even works as a member of a team, as opposed to taking down hundreds of soldiers single-handedly. Up until Rambo, Sly had never directed an action film, but his excellent handling of the material here belies his inexperience. Sly may have utilised a shaky-cam approach, yet the style benefits the picture and is at no point distracting. And my word, the picture delivers in terms of action - the final battle is a celluloid tribute to the blood-soaked mayhem of the '80s. For all the criticisms Rambo endured, the violence is deserved: it characterises the villains, and provides the audience with a sweet sense of vengeance.

Sylvester Stallone is cold as ice in his performance as Rambo, and he brought to the role a sense of menace that has been lacking in previous entries. John Rambo is truly scary here; he's a powder keg waiting to explode, and he certainly does explode once the action shifts to the camp where the missionaries are held captive. It's not an Oscar-worthy performance, but it is more nuanced than most will admit. Julie Benz is also effective as a Christian missionary named Sarah. While Rambo jumps through hoops for Sarah, she is not a love interest. Sarah is Rambo's prime motivation for battling the Burmese army, but it's because she profoundly touched his soul. In the supporting cast there's also Matthew Marsden and Graham McTavish, both of whom are standouts as mercenaries. There are others in the cast, but suffice it to say every actor hit their mark.

Infused with a poignant social commentary to provide sufficient context for the action, Rambo exists to call attention to the atrocities in Burma in addition to providing a fitting end for John J. Rambo. In First Blood, Rambo's breakdown in the film's final minutes left us with the sense that he wanted to discover who he is and put the past behind him. This theme was never brought full circle in the following two sequels, but Rambo '08 does exactly that: providing the ending that fans have yearned for since the commencement of the franchise. One could argue I've read too much into Rambo, but I believe critics are not reading enough. It would be a shame for a viewer's preconceptions to overwhelm Stallone's achievements, which goes for both the cynical critics looking to be critical as well as the action fans seeking a fix. There is a beating heart at the core of Rambo, whether you wish to notice it or not.

Interesting to note, Sylvester Stallone's director's cut of Rambo is the superior edit. It fleshes out the characters more effectively, and the film as a whole feels more cohesive and complete. For my full analysis of the extended cut, see [Link removed - login to see]


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Epitome of Burton's filmmaking!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 09:06 (A review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

"There was a barber and his wife...and she was beautiful..."

Tim Burton is unquestionably one of my favourite directors, if not my absolute favourite director. It's a fact that no matter what the film or the subject matter, I will view a film helmed by Tim Burton (at the time of writing this review, I have seen all of Burton's work and own all his films). The partnership of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp will forever be a movie occasion to treasure, be it Ed Wood or Edward Scissorhands among an enormous number of others. It was the end of 2006 when Dreamworks fast-tracked Burton's latest collaboration with Johnny Depp...and I initially discovered Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The plan was to transform the lucrative Broadway musical into the world of live action cinema. The best part is that Burton promised a full-on musical to maintain a sense of fidelity to Steven Sondheim's brilliant Broadway production. Before the announcement of Burton's cinematic version of the musical, I hadn't possessed any prior knowledge of the source material. I had no idea what the film was about until my interest suddenly flared and research followed.

If you're familiar with the Broadway musical, you'll be aware of the dark humour and gothic style that is such a prominent feature. Sweeney Todd is a story intended for Tim Burton. The director possesses a distinctive superiority when it comes to the macabre and gothic tones. With the completion of creepy period films such as the wondrous Sleepy Hollow, director Burton demonstrated a special ability to deliver dark humour and elegant visuals. Burton is a director who can bring flawed and unusual characters to life. He is the master of darkness and has adapted a penchant for tossing a little blood around his sets in an exaggerated, albeit entertaining manner. Since the beginning of his career, stunning gothic visuals and extravagant production design has been his forte. Sweeney Todd is a film regarding a central character who is a sorrowful, vengeful and formerly caring individual. This character finds redemption for crimes against him and his family by slashing the throats of the innocents of London while hoping to one day slash the throat of the man who stole his wife and daughter from him. What better plot and central character could possibly be better suited for Tim Burton to bring to life?

2007 was a year that beared the release of several great films, but the year also saw its fair share of bad films (in my opinion, there were more bad films than good films throughout the year). Tim Burton's cinematic vision of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a masterpiece of epic proportions, and ultimately ended up being the best film of 2007 without question or debate. After mentioning so much about Burton's brilliant work, I must admit I was a little worried because Burton's last movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was disappointing to say the least. With this film, however, Burton patches up the scars. Like I previously mentioned, I didn't know much about the source material before walking into the cinema and had no idea that this film was going to be so good. Within the first few seconds of the titles commencing, I was completely enthralled in Burton's universe.

The film is so poetic, stylish, beautiful and so incredibly emotional at times as well. Every shot has been conceived beautifully, and every line delivered remarkably. This is a musical of course, so naturally the songs being interesting is a vitality. All the songs are utterly stunning and are crafted beautifully. Combine the witty lyrics of Steven Sondheim with the musical stylings of a successful Hollywood composer...suddenly things are looking interesting. The songs are both memorable and remarkable. I purchased the soundtrack CD immediately and now it's my default channel.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the story of a man named Benjamin Barker (Depp) who once had everything; a wife, a child and a successful career as a barber. For Barker, life could not be better. But a false conviction of a crime he did not commit destroys his happiness and his life, causing him to suffer through a massive, heart-breaking emotional trauma. Upon Barker's London homecoming by boat 15 years later to right the wrongs against him, he comes home to nothing. His family has been ripped apart. He forms an unlikely partnership with Mrs. Lovett (Carter), a creepy old woman who owns a pie shop. Benjamin Barker, who now goes by the name of Sweeney Todd, wants revenge on crooked Judge Turpin (Rickman) who convicted him out of sheer jealously. Sweeney re-opens a barber shop on Fleet Street, with the intention of getting sweet revenge on Turpin if he comes in for a shave. Sweeney uses his sharp silver blades to slash the throats of the innocent London public that come in for a shave, before destroying the evidence of his crimes by allowing the troubled Mrs. Lovett to cook the human corpses into her pies.

From start to finish, I was completely hooked. I literally couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. Its combination of a superb cast, excellent music, exquisite production design and gorgeous cinematography creates a flawless movie. I remember goose-bumps literally covering my body as soon as the music commenced at the start of the opening credits...the outstanding organ music that successfully creates the desired atmosphere and tone for what is about to come.

Burton's unique colour scheme depicts the grimy streets of London with extremely drained colour that predominantly makes use of grey a black among other dark colours. The sky is always dark, with never a ray of bright sunshine poking through. This is the depressing, gothic mood that the director aimed to achieve. During the flashbacks that depict the events of the past, the colour scheme has been changed to show an array of bright colours as the sun lights the cheery streets. This symbolises Barker's emotions, so to speak. When Barker is happy with his life the colours are bright and joyous. Then when he returns to London and the life he once lived has been destroyed...his depression is reflected in the gloomy visuals.

Johnny Depp, playing the demon barber, is absolutely remarkable. Before this film Depp had never displayed his singing abilities on film. Before he was an actor he played guitar in a band with never an attempt to handle any vocals. If it weren't for his close friend Tim Burton asking him to consider a singing role, he would have gone through his whole career without singing a note. Thankfully, Depp's former career in the music industry allowed him to sing a brilliant tune. Before the film's release, Depp singing was a big question mark. As the film was not marketed as a musical from the previews, we were therefore never given the opportunity to witness the actor handling a song. When I first viewed the film in the cinema (on opening day) I sat in complete awe at the beauty of Johnny Depp's breathtaking singing. The actor was recognised with a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (I still believe he wholly deserved to win). Helena Bonham Carter was the only member of the cast I was reluctant about, but my fears were soon alleviated by her stunning acting skills. She is able to carry on a brilliant duet with co-star Depp. Her singing is amazing. Alan Rickman is brilliant here, as are the rest of the supporting cast. This includes Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen (whose singing is quite incredible), Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders. Every member of the cast can sing to perfection.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a brilliant mix of dark humour, horror, romance, drama and tragedy. The ending is very sad, but very poetic at the same time. As the credits start to roll (with every screening I watch) I am a complete mess. Usually tears are escaping my eyes...I'm left speechless and stunned. The film is very violent, and when the exaggerated bloodshed begins it is very relentless and there is no stopping it. With Burton's direction the violence is very stylish and extraordinarily beautiful. Of course Burton's direction is the icing on the cake here. The man is a visionary and a wizard of filmmaking. His films are simply close to unbeatable. I am not a fan of the musical genre (interestingly enough, neither is Burton); however a musical of this superiority is a rare event. With each new screening I am always captivated.

Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a modern masterpiece. It's an acquired taste and will not be liked by all of course, so you're welcome to disagree. Every aspect of the filmmaking is absolutely stunning. Without argument or question, this is the best movie of 2007. Since first watching this film, I cannot prevent myself from indulging in repeated screenings. To date, this is Burton's finest hour. Winner of 2 Golden Globes including Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Best Actor (for Johnny Depp).

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Classic Charlie Chaplin. Very funny!!!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:50 (A review of Modern Times (1936))

Modern Times is classic Charlie Chaplin slapstick comedy, and a timeless experience. The film marks one of Chaplin's most potent movies that still has bucket loads of relevance to typical contemporary audiences.

In one of his final silent movies (more or less), Chaplin plays a worker at a local factory who struggles to live in an industrial society. In a nutshell, the film essentially examines the dehumanisation process of modern industries. In a time when people's lives hinge on getting a steady job and an income, Chaplin's character is still endlessly searching for work with the help of a young homeless woman who is on the run.

The whole movie is a collection of hilarious gags strung together with not much of a plot, which is the film's biggest downfall, but its entertainment value is what matters most during a silent movie. Like most of Chaplin's silent movies, the film is frequently hilarious.

As the title character, Chaplin is able to insert a plethora of side-splitting sight gags that never lose steam. I will admit that the opening gags were better quality than the succeeding gags, but I was still laughing from start to finish.

And Chaplin doesn't utter a word until the very end with his very amusing (and immensely random) dance number while he sings pure gibberish. For the most part, the film is silent. But there are minor instances when dialogue is used, but it is only used for voices coming from mechanical devices. This is another symbol of the film's theme of modern technology and its importance to the typical society at the time.

Modern Times is a highly hilarious slapstick comedy, but this is only what it seems on the surface. Below the surface; a sleuth of groundbreaking, amazing themes and motifs that seem to become more relevant as humanity becomes ever more reliable on technology. And the film also parallels the American dream in the way that Chaplin and his love interest (played by Paulette Goddard) fantasise about living in a beautiful home with the husband raking in cash while the wife stays at home all day to cook and clean.

I found the 1930s slapstick gags somewhat predictable at times, but I was always laughing incredibly hard. However, not all audiences will find Chaplin's antics as funny as some others do. In my opinion the comedy is classic and exquisite, and some of the slapstick stunts in the movie are highly intriguing (who could forget that classic image of Chaplin roller-blading blindfolded in a department store) not to mention just plainly uproarious.

The music used throughout the movie is extraordinary (essential to any silent movie is pertinent music to accompany the almost complete silence on screen). For a scene that includes some of Chaplin's hilarious dancing or otherwise, I found the music to suit the mood extremely well.

While viewing the movie I was completely amazed about the outstanding restoration job. I could not imagine the film being as entertaining if the transfer wasn't on par. Of course it's no-where near the quality of a film made recently, but for a film over 70 years old it's mind-blowing.

Modern Times is a comedy that has been regarded as one of the funniest movies of all time. Although not entirely accurate, the film has symbolic meaning under the surface as the filmmakers point out the ills of society. Running at a brisk 83 minutes, the film delivers its message quickly and doesn't overstay its welcome. For the reason of such contemporary significance, the film is groundbreaking and is a fabulous tale to watch even after the time of silent pictures has long passed.

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Great fantasy flick!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:48 (A review of The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008))

"Vengeance or death!... Hopefully vengeance."

In tradition with usual children's fantasy features like Bridge to Terabithia or The Golden Compass, I found The Spiderwick Chronicles to be a whole lot better than I originally thought it would be.

Usually with this genre there's a bunch of stupendous plot points and a clichéd story, but this film was somewhat different. I will admit that the sub-plot concerning the divorce of parents was extremely clichéd, but it will never be a drawback on an otherwise highly entertaining fantasy film.

Based on the series of books of the same name, The Spiderwick Chronicles is the story of a family who move to the run-down old Spiderwick Estate. The family consists of twin brothers (Jared and Simon; both played by Highmore), their sister Mallory (Bolger) and their mother Helen (Parker). Jared finds within the house a book written by his late great uncle (Strathairn). The book is a field guide full of detailed information about creatures like goblins, ogres and fairies that inhabit the forest outside the estate. But reading this book awakens said creatures including a horde of goblins lead by the vicious Mulgarath (Nolte). They aim to recover the book, but by doing so it will doom mankind.

It's impressive to comprehend the fact that Freddie Highmore plays two characters in the one movie. But face it - Highmore is mildly cute but his acting skills need work. He's wooden for most of the time and his lines sound so contrived. Some may excuse this because he's merely a child actor, but this was the main obstacle in the film being anything more than a good fantasy for the kids.

The CGI is impressive, but quite underwhelming. Most fantasy films don't appear to care much for steering away from CGI, and it hurts the film quite severely. Most of the creatures look so cartoonish and horribly artificial. I don't think there were any scenes that I actually found the creatures to look real. Again, we can overlook this because it's aimed at the little ones. But honestly, some filmmaking that mirrors Jim Henson's work could have done some good. (that is, puppets and marionettes) I guess today's younger audiences do not warm up to the old school effects common in 80's fantasy films.

The script was pretty good. Some of the dialogue needed work, the ended seemed unbelievably rushed and there were a number of plot holes...but in all honesty the film is at least entertaining. It moves at a brisk pace and contains loads of creative ideas.

Overall, Hollywood's recent obsession with these fantasy movies (adapted from books) has produced some turkeys and some successes. In my opinion, The Spiderwick Chronicles is one of the better fantasy movies to hit our screens for a while. It's not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it's guaranteed to keep its target audience entertained. Just be aware of a number of frightening scenes that will make the kids grab the hand of an adult in fear. But rest assured, it is a good family movie if the kids are in the age range of about 4-10. Females of any age should enjoy it, but adolescent males will probably detest it.

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Effective Aussie croc movie. Recommended

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:46 (A review of Black Water (2007))

"Three Cheeky monkeys, sitting in a tree,. Teasing Mr Crocodile. "You can't catch me". Along comes Mr Crocodile, quiet as can be and SNAP..."

Before starting this review I will be completely honest; the standard for crocodile movies keeps lowering with each passing year.

Black Water was a film I'd heard a few things about; mainly concerning the fact of using real crocodiles as opposed to taking the usual CGI route. From the sounds of things, I thought that it would take years for the eventual release and the product wouldn't be too great.

2007 was the year for crocodile movies. The year first welcomed Primeval; a Hollywood crocodile movie that was terrible in every way.

But the director of Wolf Creek, Greg McLean, had been given the green light to make a crocodile movie with a number of big name producers behind him. Rogue became the only decent crocodile movie that had ever been released. And for the creators of Black Water the odds must have looked hideous when they heard what they were up against.

But truth be told, Black Water is an effective, terrifying horror film that can easily add itself to the list of decent crocodile movies. This film is the crocodile version of Open Water; playing on our fears and emotions while in a perilous situation.

As the film opens we are introduced to three characters; Grace (Glenn), Lee (Dermody) and Adam (Rodoreda). They are taking a vacation together in Northern Australia. But when they head out for a fishing trip their lives are changed forever. The film is then a tale of survival while the characters find themselves stranded in the isolated mangroves and swamps while a hungry crocodile lurks beneath the gloomy waters.

Black Water is more of a psychological thriller that takes the route of "less is more". This isn't some sleazy horror fest where the crocodile is visible whenever there's a suspense scene. Instead the filmmakers chose to utilise shots of the croc scarcely; instead showing us ripples in the water that might suggest the croc is about to strike.

The film is filled with tension and some pretty suspenseful horror scenes. It's not bucket loads of blood and all out action - the filmmakers instead rely on the fear of not knowing where the crocodile is. There's still strong violence during the attacks; but the focus wasn't primarily on the gore.

I will admit that the acting was sometimes below average. The actors were not big names, but small time folks who haven't had much experience. Some of the scenes of drama had some terrible acting for sure. But into the second half I could definitely feel some talent shining through; the characters genuinely seem petrified of the situation. And the use of real crocodiles is a fantastic move. The croc never looks fake, and hence we can never laugh at one of the attacks.

The camera work was beautiful. There are many stylish cinematical techniques during the horror scenes. However some obscure shots of the water make it obvious that the croc is about to strike. In some circumstances it comes as no shock when the hungry reptile reveals himself from the depths.

The script was mediocre. Because of the genre we're going to get some stupidity; it's to be expected. The dialogue is sometimes laughably cheesy as well. The character development is kept to a minimum; instead developing the protagonists as a whole so it's even more devastating when someone is attacked or killed.

For a small time low-budget Aussie crocodile feature, Black Water completes its objective. The film is intense and skillfully crafted; and ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. It's interesting that the Americans have forever tried to make an effective croc film but kept failing terribly. The Aussies try twice in the one year and strike gold. Worth seeing for aficionados of the genre.

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Will Ferrell...is hilarious!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:40 (A review of Semi-Pro (2008))

"It's like the Titanic but with bears!"

Of course, whenever Will Ferrell is thrown into a comedy there's always a guarantee that there'll be at least a few decent laughs. I guess I was hoping for another Anchorman or Talladega Nights when I walked into this one...and ended up walking out of the cinema feeling quite dissatisfied.

First of all, the film is only mildly funny. I was hoping for a bunch of great laughs but there are very few to be experienced here. There was a lot more foul language and profanity than Ferrell's usual movies, but it's a shame they only focused on using language rather than making the dialogue at all witty.

Second of all, the film is highly predictable. Despite the ending being unconventional the rest of the film was filled with gags that could be predicted before they happen.

Will Ferrell is hit singer Jackie Moon who owns a basketball team that he is also coach of, not to mention he's also a player. A group of basketball teams are given the chance to qualify for the NBA depending on their performance during the season. Subsequently, Jackie rounds up his team-mates (prominently made up of black people) who aim to make their NBA dreams come true.

Despite the laughs being a rarity, the funny gags were rather worth it. Ferrell wasn't doing his usual overacting for the most part, which was an interesting change of scenery. He relied more on dialogue rather than being overzealous. He had a few good lines...but nothing major that was too redeeming in this somewhat mediocre comedy.

Face it, Semi-Pro is a film that you begin watching with the mild expectation of just being entertained. It's a Will Ferrell comedy, not The Godfather. I guess it's only for die-hard fans of these types of disappointing, albeit entertaining comedy features. Watch it with your mates, and you'll probably find yourselves quoting the film for the next few weeks. Like I said, there are a limited number of laughs...but the laughs we do have are somewhat satisfying.

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Not brilliant, but just plain funny!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:37 (A review of Superhero Movie)

In recent years, Hollywood have spent so much time producing spoof comedies that have been utter piles of rubbish that are almost painful to watch. Date Movie and Epic Movie destroyed all hope of a future in spoof films (it wasn't even solid to begin with) due to the woeful writing of two blokes who single-handedly made two of the worst movies in the history of cinema.

At first I was reluctant about Superhero Movie but I must say that I was relieved when I realised some of the talent involved. At first glance one would dismiss Superhero Movie as its title lumped together with the dreadful filmmaking of those who made Date Movie and Epic Movie. This film could have been a whole lot worse, but on the other hand it could have been a whole lot better.

In a spoof predominantly of Spider-Man, Batman, and Fantastic 4 among many others we follow our hero named Rick Riker (Bell) who is a geeky science nerd with limited friends at school. He takes a massive fancy towards a girl from his school named Jill (Paxton) who is interested in other more sophisticated guys. But Rick's life changes when he is bitten by a dragonfly during a science excursion and eventually transforms into a superhero.

And hence the stage is set for Rick, who now calls himself Dragonfly, to begin cleaning up the city of all crime.

Superhero Movie is not nearly as bad as many were anticipating. Sure, the plot is as thin as a piece of paper and the gags are cheap...but at least the gags were actually funny. While watching this in the cinema I was in stitches for a lot of the film's duration. Unlike the other cheap spoof films, this one actually delivers a number of genuinely hilarious laughs. In the cinema I was almost in tears with laughter. A quality foreign to those who have been exposed to the aforementioned spoof films that I unquestionably detest.

The send ups of many films I found to be quite creative. Of course the elaborate sets are very clever and mirror those used in the films that are spoofed. On top of this, there are some very creative ideas that are incorporated into the film.

The cast was decent. The performances were never worthy of an Oscar but they certainly did what they set out to do. Leslie Nielson was a stand out amongst the cast. He's about 80 years old but he still hasn't lost his touch with such comedies.

Honestly, Superhero Movie is a film that has been created merely for a few laughs. The movie is a myriad of hilarious scenes stitched together with little evidence of a plot. There was a little evidence of establishing a plot, but it wasn't strong enough to make the film as good as it had the potential to be. It has been a long time since Hollywood saw comedy gold found in such movies as Airplane! and it has been my hope that another film like it would come along.

Superhero Movie may be from the same creators as the abovementioned comedy, but it's not near the same quality. I loved some of the hilarious gags that had me in tears with laughter, and I liked the creative ideas. Unfortunately the film's plot is appalling and it seems the gags won't be very funny the second time around.

This brisk 80-minute spoof is good for a laugh and nothing else. I enjoyed it.

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The worst of 2008 so far!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:30 (A review of Prom Night (2008))

"I've missed you!"

All my worst fears were confirmed when I took my seat in the cinema to watch this ineffective, appalling horror film. Prom Night firmly takes the title of the worst film of 2008 so far; this remake of the classic slasher film is every bit as horrible as anticipated.

The name-only remake is just about some teenager who is being stalked by some insane psycho who's obsessed with her. On her prom night this psycho turns up and starts killing her friends.

So what makes this one so horrible? Gee, where should I start...

First of all, the film was toned down to a PG-13 in America so it will be a hit at the box office (Sadly, it currently is). But PG-13 means no gore, no sex, no profanity and tame horror scenes. Instead of gore, we're shown tiny amount of blood spatter that doesn't even look realistic (The blood all over the knife didn't look natural at all). This is a slasher movie. How can a slasher film be considered good when the violence is toned down?!

The original also contains drug use and sex. None of that here. The word 'sex' isn't even said. Instead they just hint at it. Top points for realism here! I am a teenager and I know it as a fact that teens use explicit sexual dialogue in everyday life.

And no profanity? There's mild use of the word 'shit' but nothing else. Another perfect way to portray teenagers; exactly what they aren't.

Secondly, the script was woeful. Dialogue was laughable and cheesy even for the genre. It was all so by-the-book. When there are mysterious noises the characters just venture over and ask "Hello?" or "Is anybody there?" into the darkness. On top of this the characters were stupid, illogically developed and could be out-witted by a stuffed animal. An example of this? They hear the killer in on the loose. Do the police remove the teenage girl in trouble? Nope. Instead they let her continue her prom night in fear of messing it up. Well isn't that intelligent. A prom night would mean nothing if the girl in question winds up dead. And of course when the hunt is on they just have to bring in the S.W.A.T. unit. I mean one man with a knife...now there's a massive threat. Let's pull every available officer into this situation to hunt the guy. And of course S.W.A.T. team turn up armed with massive machine guns.

The scares occur exactly when we expect them to. There were no surprise scares at all. At least the scares were hilarious.

Thirdly, the acting was terrible. The so-called teenagers look like they're in their mid-to-late twenties! The dialogue was already bad enough, but the actors made it sound even worse. There was no intensity while delivering dialogue, and there was no evidence of people actually acting. No more needs to be said on this issue.

Finally, I couldn't believe how badly the film was made. The editing was horrible and the directing was terrible. In the cinema where I was, there were sheer roars of laughter when it was meant to be scary. The editing was slow and ineffective. The music makes the film even more predictable.

Prom Night is a terrible movie. I never thought I'd ever say this...but I wish Michael Bay's company commissioned this remake because then it would have at least contained some actual gore as opposed to this teen-friendly flick that was more of a comedy than a horror.

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Classic comedy at its best!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:20 (A review of Office Space (1999))

"Peter, what's happening?"

Office Space is a film I had no interest in seeing at all. The front cover of the DVD was something that never sparked my interest; the cover was not enticing and it made the film look like some silly child comedy. But I am very glad that I finally took the time to sit down and watch this gem.

The first shot was enough to have me allured. And after the opening scene I was already laughing and clapping due to the comedic genius of the whole thing. And yet the whole film maintains this high level of comedy genius.

No matter how many times I watch it I have a tremendously good time. I had no idea the film was going to be this enjoyable. Office Space is bright and funny; it contains a sleuth of fantastic, quirky characters and amusing one-liners that will have the audience laughing the whole way through.

Peter Gibbons (Livingston) lives a mundane life. He despises his miserable dead-end job, finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him and has an irritating neighbour. For Peter, everyday is the worst day of his life. At his job he's forced to spend the whole day in a cubicle in front of a computer screen and has a sleazy boss named Bill Lumbergh (Cole). At the request of his girlfriend Peter sees a hypnotherapist who dies before releasing Peter from a state of complete and total bliss. He is then free of worrying about making a living; instead just not caring anymore about the company he works for. Instead he decides that he just won't go to work anymore. Ironically the more Peter malingers, the more he's seen as management material by the idiotic consultants. To add further insult to the situation, two of his hard-working co-workers are set to be dismissed from the company. To get revenge the three men team up and hatch a cunning plan that will rip off the company.

Office Space is excellently played out like a simple comic strip, and it works. The film is based on comic strips conceived by director Mike Judge. He skilfully retains this charm. But I think many audiences like this film so much because of its accuracy in displaying the dull life of sitting in an office cubicle all day long. The surrounding characters are all 100% accurate! I loved the way that the actors executed their roles.

Ron Livingston was very good as Peter Gibbons. He was accurate and wasn't too over-the-top. Stephen Root was the stand out here for me. He nailed his character. Every time he says a line it was enough to make me chuckle. Gary Cole was also a stand out as the sleazy boss. His droning voice is an aspect of a boss that we can all relate to. Cole delivers his lines in a memorable fashion. Heck, I could go on about every cast member present here but this review would go on for ages. I loved each and every person present in the cast. They all had their moments of genuine hilarity.

Office Space is hands down one of my favourite films of all time. The whole film is surprisingly unpredictable with an ending that is highly unconventional and unexpected. I cannot express how much I love this movie. Needless to say, you must see it without hesitation.

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Deservedly a classic. Unmissable!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:18 (A review of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939))

"You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that."

Frank Capra is a man with an impressive résumé; he directed some true classics during his career, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is certainly one of his best. The film is deservedly a classic; an uplifting experience that boasts some truly groundbreaking perspectives.

As the film opens we are informed that a senator has died and a replacement is necessary. While searching for a candidate they come across an honourable, modest man named Jefferson Smith (Stewart). Smith is a man who has nothing but the upmost respect for politics and politicians. Smith also runs the Boy Rangers, is respected by the boys around him, and has just heroically put out a forest fire. And so he is chosen as a senator in Washington. At first awe-struck by the historic merits of his surroundings; but as he begins getting settled in, Smith finds nothing but corruption and crime in the highest levels of government. Smith is highly inexperienced but finds himself single-handedly battling ruthless politicians who are out to destroy him and expel him of his powerful position.

The plot is simple but brilliant. The concept of portraying political corruption was unheard of at the time. The film especially emphasizes the cynicism present in some politicians who will go to great lengths to cover something up. It will probably never be proved if such corruption exists, but the perspectives are made believable.

But one aspect that is most admirably highlighted is what politics can do to a man. Claude Rains delivers a poignant speech that points out what happens to a man when they enter politics; ideals are changed and their sense of individuality diminishes. And he admires Mr. Smith because he does his best to defend his ideals that still firmly exist.

The expansive production design looks outstanding. Most of the film's budget must have gone into the realistic Senate set where most of the action takes place. The set looks fantastic, real and believable. There appears to be no difference between the set and the real thing.

One thing that I discovered while watching the movie was a number of minor technical faults. There are several jarring edits that are sometimes obvious; despite this the material is always so strong and highlighted by a dynamic performance from James Stewart that is bursting with energy. Stewart's performance can't be faulted and he was nominated for an Oscar. He is supported by a host of outstanding co-stars. Jean Arthur was particularly memorable as someone who shows firm support in Mr. Smith. And of course Claude Rains was another unforgettable actor who helps carry the film. Stewart was already enough to keep me engaged; thankfully the rest of the cast maintain this high level of talent.

Because the film turns into a Senatorial debate for about the final 30 minutes there always had to be something that keeps the audience interested. The whole thing is staged very well and moves at a brisk pace; carried by the magnificent actors and the passionate directing from Frank Capra. The film builds up to an exhilarating climax.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a timeless classic and a cinematic triumph; it's unforgettable, powerful and moving. Not to be missed.

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