Monday, 27 December 2010

Meet the Parents: Little Fockers

So the third installment of Meet the Parents has arrived. Now I don't know when the trilogy became the standardised measure of a good film but sometimes it simply doesn't work! I mean look at the Blade trilogy or even Terminator (before the McG effort) my feeling is if you finish the cake of with a layer of excrement it'll sour the whole taste. I'm not saying all Trilogies are bad but a story shouldn't be stretched for financial gain.

It has been ten years since the original Meet The Parents landed in cinemas and a lot has happened in the world. Terrorist attacks, global economic decline and Martin Scorsese even winning an Oscar. So how have the Fockers and family come along? Well you know from the title that the jokes are still the same but unfortunately so is the plot. Poor old Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) unable to convince his ex-CIA father in law Jack (Robert De Niro) that he is good enough for his daughter. He starts off well before fudging things up then coming good in the end - see Meet The Fockers for further details.

The formulaic approach to film, or should I say "franchise" making, appeals to the type of audience that watch Little Britain. They want the same jokes regurgitated so they know when to laugh and when to feel sad. The positives to this is that you don't need a degree to understand the references (oh look he's doing the "I'm watching you" bit again!) but it would be nice to use the brain at least once.

The gimmicks run thick and fast in this film and so do the cameos. Watching De Niro and Harvey Keitel argue about building work is like watching two eunuchs chatting up girls in a bar: You know neither of them have the balls anymore. These are the guys from Mean streets for crying out loud! Apart from the initial "look it's [insert famous person's name here]" there's not much else to it and there's the rub. There's not much else to it, less funny bits, more cameos and undoubtedly good paychecks for all involved.

Aside from the obvious jokes there are the occasional funny moments; just not as many as the guffawing donkeys in the other isles actually laugh (or LOL) at. The problem being that each installment of Meet The Parents has stuck to a vein of innuendos that cuts fairly close to the bone despite being a 12a rating. The idea that a parent would let their 12 year old watch a film where references range from Penile Dysfunction through to carpel tunnel wank cramps is a little disturbing.

Scores 2 out of 5

Twitter Fitter Review

Switch brain on standby;Watch Meet the Fockers, mix in the Little Fockers trailer and you'll save yourself time and money.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is Marmite. It seems people either love or loathe his films. One thing that is normally accepted is that his best work is behind him though. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction set the world alight in a way which in which Tarantino has struggled to keep aflame. That's not to say his work is without merit. For me he is one of the soul film-makers who is making genuine cinematic icons. From the Reservoir Dogs boys in their smart cut suits through to Uma Thurman in Yellow Bike leathers wielding a samurai sword. If you have seen a Tarantino movie you'll remember it.

So what of Tarantino's self proclaimed masterpiece? well to watch Inglourious Basterds  it might help to know a little about it's production. Tarantino started the script in the mid-ninties - gave up- wrote and shot Kill Bill and Death proof then returned to finish the job. Such a long time frame in the writing process normally suggests the dreaded writers block. Whereas, Pulp Fiction was written in Amsterdam during a matter of weeks, Basterds has been through more guises than a gender confused chameleon. It changed from film to 2 part to mini series then back to film over the years and the changes have taken their toll. It's plot is split into chapters. Firstly we have Shosanna Dreyfuss, a young Jewish girl who escapes the Nazi massacre of her family. Years later she inherits a cinema which is chosen to house a premiere full of Nazi topbrass. Meanwhile, a crack team of Jewish hard nuts with Apache tendencies are planning to assassinate Hitler at the same premiere.

Inglourious Basterds has been billed as both Tarantino's "men on a mission" movie and a Spaghetti Western rolled into Nazi Europe . So with such a difficult writing process, it is no wonder that the film turns out to slightly clunky in places. The first clash of ideas arrives between Tarantino's dialogue style and the genre style. Tarantino loves fast paced, witty interchanges with a healthy slab of in-jokes showing off his film geek roots. Unfortunately the deliberate timing of a Spaghetti Western is where the magic lies. Sergio Leone didn't even give Clint Eastwood a name!

This is not to say that the dialogue is without purpose; Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Lander depicts an SS officer so irritatingly polite that it'll have you begging for his blood. Reminiscent of Funny Games his scenes are fraught with tension as he goes from gracious to gratuitous in a split second. Having said that there is often a feeling that Tarantino is trying to squeeze as much as his research into the dialogue as possible (quick lecture on Goebbels's cinematic achievements anyone?). There is even a Samuel L. Jackson voice-over explaining the reason why burning film rolls is a good plot device to use. All this historical detail in a film about a fictional Jewish assassination of Hitler. Think of it like a Da Vinci Code for kids who read comic books.

 So what about our eponymous heroes. "The Basterds" are a crack squad of Nazi hunting Jews led by Aldo the Apache (Brad Pitt). They kill and scalp Nazi's for fun and send the survivors back with a Swash sticker carved into their foreheads. The first thing to notice is Pitt's role. I like the idea of his character but the execution is just strange. I have no idea why he chose to jutt his chin out and pull a funny face for the role but it must have been hard to hold it for such a long time especially as he apparently stayed in character of camera!

The main problem I have with Inglourious Basterds is that it's too short. A film with so many different elements takes time to gel properly. Melanie Laurent is brilliant as Shosanna Dreyfuss but from her introduction as an adult character it only takes two more scenes before she is in a room with Josef Goebbel's and Hans Lander. Similarly, I would have loved to have seen some practice missions with "The Basterds" as it is we go on a triple jump of scenes with them from introduction- torture scene then straight into final mission. I just feel there are too many points where the audience should be drawn in but due to time constraints we are jolted into the next part of the plot.

Scores 3 out of 5

Twitter Fitter Review

Could have been so much more. Some brilliant performances and the film is riddled with comic elements that make it a worthwhile watch.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The bad lieutenant: port of call - New Orleans

First things first - This film has a lot to answer for. Film critic and cinematic encyclopedia Roger Ebert has placed this in his top ten for the decade, Danny Boyle has named it his film of 2010 and all this with a cast list that should be held apart with ASBOS! Seriously, has anyone actually seen Ghostrider? So Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes are back but this time it's different... It's Werner Herzog directing.

Now, I'm not going to profess to be a huge Nicholas Cage fan. For me he's a bit like a one armed midget drunk and playing darts: He'll miss the target nearly every time but when he hits the bullseye it's miraculous. So let's put things in context. Cage plays a dirty but injured cop who steals, blackmails, snorts, smokes and fornicates his way through life. It's his best role since Leaving Las Vegas but whereas that character portrayed a mind void of drive and lust for life, Terence McDonagh is different. His life is centred around action and reaction and Cage plays him this way. Gone are the puppy-dog-eyes of City of Angels: Cage is a scowling badass. He's in constant pain and he's not afraid to share.

There is no conventional progression for the character and he's so unpredictable that it sets the entire plot on a knife edge. He does evil things but is he evil? Every action he under takes is to fulfill his own desires from a drug fix to stashing his "hooker with a heart" girlfriend with his alcoholic father and step mother. The fact he injured his back begrudgingly saving a drowning inmate shows his conflict more than dialogue can.

So this ranks very high on Cage's CV but what about Herzog? What I love about Herzog is that he bases his films on truth. A majority of his films being documentaries or based on actual events. He seems to direct from a personal fascination with our world and the internal conflicts of the soul. Whereas, I felt  Rescue Dawn was ruined by an overly saccharin ending, thankfully Herzog leaves the resolution suitably dirty. Don't think That Herzog has gone all Hollywood on us though. Ever seen a roadkill from the eyes of an Alligator? It's no dancing chicken but it's pure Herzog. Most directors spice up their action scenes with fast cuts but not Herzog.The most tense scenes in Bad Lieutenant are shot on a handheld camera which swoops into different shots almost like an observer in the room avoiding the conflict. It's mainstream sure but it's skewed vision allows it to stand out from the red carpet toilet paper currently doing the rounds.

Scores 5 out of 5

Twitter Fitter Review

Cage is astounding: think Christian Bale in The Machinist but with more depth. Not a film for the masses but a must see for Herzog fans.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


I thought it might be a good idea to start my blog with Inception. One of only a few films in the last few years which has captured the mass imagination of the cinema-going public without the aid of a millions of booksales or film pre-equals. I guess what excites me most about this film is that it feels like Hollywood has started to exhaust the Dc and Marvel vaults. Genuine originality and a mixture of religious sci-fi not seen since The Matrix.

So what is it Inception? Well, the basic premise revolves around the ability to not only entire but manipulate dreams and hopefully plant an idea which affects the dreamer when he wakes. Simple? not quite. One of the limitations of technology and Sci-fi based thriller is that it requires a hell of a lot of detail to create the world in which the audience believes in (hence the more accepted series format). This inevitably leads to exposition - the sure fire way to patronise or bore the audience. Nolan copes with this in the same way James Cameron did in Terminator. Keep the pace high, lace the exposition into the action and hope the audience can keep with it.

Fortunately, if there is one director who has made a career out of audience manipulation then it is Nolan. From The Film That Was Filmed Backwards (Memento) to The Prestige Via Batman. Nolan has a history of compromised Heroes and plots so thick which twists that the audience wear neckbraces instead of 3D glasses. It's this blink and you'll miss it approach which gives Inception that sense of engagement that shouldn't really work with a plot this so intricate and an audience so broad.

There are drawbacks to the complexities. You spend so much time "learning" how the world works that you never stop to appreciate the characters that inhabit it. To say that Dicaprio's Cobb is the most developed character is inaccurate: He's the only character. Ellen Page plays Ariadne, an architect new to the dream realities. Her sole purpose is to learn we go along and to ask questions which the audience probably hasn't even thought to ask. There's plenty of other stereotypes as well. The sidekick, the comic relief, the mentor and other characters who all serve the plot where needs be.

Dicaprio though is brilliant. It seems that since his collaborations with Scorsese he has transformed. Whereas, in the past he has been talented, he has also been too attractive to take seriously. I feel that a lot of his roles have had an undercurrent of trying too hard. An almost child-like will to prove himself to a world that wants nothing more than to press pause and admire the shape of his skull. I read an interview in Empire with Quentin Tarrantino where he notices the same thing about Brad Pitt and how Pitt's aging had relieved him of the burden of stereotypical roles. I feel Dicaprio has also benefited from a change in appearance. It's been 10 years since Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet thrust him onto the bedroom wall of every tweenage girl. The subtlety and nuanced acting he demonstrates in Inception and indeed Shutter Island seem to suggest he's finally at ease with the skin he's in.

Scores 4 out of 5

Twitter Fitter Review

Splendid turn from Dicaprio. In my dream world I'd like to see a sequel.Nolan has created the world: I want to see who he populates it with.

My name's Jamie.

As my first blog I guess it would only be polite to give some info about myself. I’m a uni graduate who studied literature and screenwriting. I’m obsessed with world cinema and music and I’m overly opinionated and under qualified on both.

I don’t really buy into this whole myspace/blog culture which seems infested with fashionably neurotic attention seekers. I will not moan about being unemployed, unloved or unappreciated. I’d much rather remain silent and appear stupid than speak and remove all doubt.

I am basically writing this because I miss writing, I miss expressing myself and I miss the smug satisfaction that comes from formulating arguments and presenting them like a dog with a dead animal.

My greatest passion is discovering music and film. For me life is about discovering movies and music which reveal more of the human condition than I thought I knew.
So I plan (over the course of however long my attention span lasts) to write reviews/critiques/grievances about film and music which sticks in my mind for either being amazing, surprising or down right offensive.
Please argue with me, agree with me but don’t abuse me I'm very fragile under this tough Yorkshire exterior!