Monday, May 30, 2011

Review - The Hangover Part II

Director: Todd Phillips
Running Time: 102 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That seems to be the philosophy of director Todd Phillips, whose sequel to the box office comedy smash The Hangover doesn’t so much try to replicate the magic of the first film as it does try to replicate everything about the first film. The setting has changed from the neon strip of Las Vegas to the filthy streets of Bangkok, but the premise nonetheless remains ridiculously similar: Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a state of dishevelment with no memory of the night before, and are once again forced to piece together the increasingly crazy pieces of their drunkenness and debauchery in order to find a missing friend. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, be it the because the characters are less likeable, the jokes not as well written, or simply because the very idea of a The Hangover Part II is just so implausible, this darker, dirtier, nastier follow up, although still generally funny, does not hold a candle to its predecessor.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

(Mini) Review - Brighton Rock

Director: Rowan Joffe
Running Time: 111 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

 The latest adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1938 novel of the same name, director Rowan Joffe sets his version of Brighton Rock against the 1964 England youth riots and casts Sam Riley as Pinkie Brown, a vicious small time mobster looking to movie up in the Brighton criminal underworld. This suspenseful and gut-twisting film noir is masterfully made; the setting, cold and eerily beautiful, is combined with superb cinematography, shot composition, lighting and editing, all of which contribute to the films inescapable atmosphere of imminent doom. Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis all give expectedly strong supporting performances, while Andrea Risenborough is excellent as Rose, a timid young waitress who ends up in an abusive relationship with Pinkie. That particular plot point does cause some consternation; perhaps it is because the film never quite establishes a consistent time-line, but it is somewhat difficult to believe Rose’s undying devotion to so hideous a man, no matter how much of a wet blanket she is. That said, Sam Riley is absolutely magnetic in the central role. Rarely will you see a film with a more despicable protagonist than Pinkie Brown, but Brighton Rock will hold you captivated in spite of your revulsion. 

This review originally appeared as part of the regular "Movies We Watched" post over at Row Three, which this week also included reviews of  Attack the Block, Japanese Girls at the Harbor and more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vote for me for Best Movie Reviewer at the 2011 LAMMYs

I just wanted to take this time to give my thanks to all the LAMB members who nominated me for a 2011 LAMMY Award for Best Movie Reviewer. It's an absolute honour to be named one of the six nominees, especially when I consider the extraordinarily high standard of competition.

If you're new to my site because of the nomination and are considering whether I am worthy of your vote, below is a compilation of extracts from some of what I feel are my strongest reviews. Hopefully you enjoy them (even if you don't end up voting for me). As always, comments are highly encouraged. And when you're done reading, here is the all important link to the LAMMY ballot. Remember, only LAMB members are eligible to vote.

Click on the posters for the full reviews!

"...solidifies the series as a soulless corporate engine as lacking in imagination as it is in thrills. An utterly unnecessary film that resembles little more than the reanimated skeleton of its earliest predecessor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides flounders over the course of its needlessly extended runtime between insipidly un-exciting and embarrassingly unfunny, while my reaction to it similarly alternated between annoyance, disappointment and almost intolerable boredom."

"One of the most lively, joyful and talented directors of the modern age brings another unique slice of cinematic splendor to the big screen...Danny Boyle, whose previous films have include Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire proves once again that he cannot be bound by the limitation of genre or physical space, delivering a film in 127 Hours that, despite being contained largely to a single location, buzzes with the sharp sounds and vibrant colours of a thousand commercials, music videos and feature films"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director: Rob Marshall
Running Time: 137 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

It is no secret that money is the deciding factor behind practically every Hollywood motion picture. Opening weekend gross. Videogame tie in. Franchise potential. These are the terms that drive studio decision making, often to the detriment of originality and creative vision. That said, commercialization doesn’t always mean a low quality product, just as we saw with 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a film that despite being based on a Disneyland theme park ride with no real story or characters was never the less spectacularly fun and thoroughly entertaining. Unfortunately, after the first films success the accountants took over, and since then we have seen a sequence of ever worsening sequels, the most of recent of which (number four, for those of you keeping count) solidifies the series as a soulless corporate engine as lacking in imagination as it is in thrills. An utterly unnecessary film that resembles little more than the reanimated skeleton of its earliest predecessor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides flounders over the course of its needlessly extended runtime between insipidly un-exciting and embarrassingly unfunny, while my reaction to it similarly alternated between annoyance, disappointment and almost intolerable boredom.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review - Water for Elephants

Director: Francis Lawrence
Running Time: 120 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

Robert Pattinson is no stranger to smouldering gazes. The twenty-five year old British actor has become a household name playing one half of the twenty-first centuries most significant on-screen romantic pairing: that between the eternally conflicted vampire Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and the human personality vacuum Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) in the ludicrously popular Twilight franchise. Yet in spite of the vast, vast sums of money Pattinson has no doubt made being part of this cultural phenomenon, playing a character whose facial expressions range from “intense” to “more intense” is hardly the path to career longevity. So Pattinson has expanded his horizons, albeit not very far, by taking the leading role in Water for Elephants, a forbidden love story between a young man and a married woman set in a depression era travelling circus. And while the romance is far from the strongest element of the film, Pattison never the less demonstrates that he can be more than just a broody face, while tasteful cinematography, beautiful period detail and additional strong supporting performances from Reese Witherspoon and the effortlessly intimidating Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) make Water for Elephants a mature and thoroughly satisfying dramatic film.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"In space no one can hear you scream" - A few thoughts on an Alien/Aliens double feature

One of the best things about being a film fan in Melbourne is The Astor; an old art deco cinema that regularly plays double features of older and classic films. Just this year, I’ve had the pleasure of catching Grindhouse, a Good Friday screening of Ben-Hur (my first time seeing this classic film, and I can think of no better way to experience it), as well as a Stanley Kubrick double feature of Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange. Last night, I had what was perhaps my favourite experience at the Astor thus far – a double feature of Ridley Scott's Alien followed by James Cameron’s sequel film, Aliens. Anyone who has seen my online avatar knows what a big fan I am of this franchise, and while I don’t have the time to offer full reviews of either movie, I still thought I’d share a few thoughts that came to mind  while watching these two phenomenal science fiction films back to back on the big screen. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead for both films

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review - Killer View (aka Snuffed)

Director: Brian James O'Connell
Running Time: 75 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

Serial killer movie are a disturbingly common part of cinematic culture. There are hundreds, probably thousands of films in existence that depict the graphic deaths of innocent people at the hands of psychopathic murderers. Some are captivating. Others are terrifying. And yet others are simply repulsive. But regardless of one’s reactions to these sorts of films, it is undeniable that filmgoers have an obsession with murder, and that some would like nothing more than to be given an all access look into the mind and actions of a real life serial killer. Killer View (aka Snuffed) is a film that purports to give them that look, offering a brutal critique of the voyeuristic desires of modern film audiences through its false documentary presentation. Clearly shot on a shoe-string budget, the movie consists a series of interviews with a man claiming to be a serial killer intercut with first person video of what is meant to be one of his killings. Despite containing almost no onscreen violence, Killer View is at times so distressing that it is nearly impossible to keep watching. But of course that is the point, and while the film does not make for particularly pleasant viewing experience, it does make for an uncomfortably enthralling one.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Groovers and Mobsters Present "The Buddy Flick" (Clerks II Mini Review)

The following review of Clerks II is my contribution to the monthly "Groovers and Mobsters Present" series, hosted by Andy Hart of Fandango Groovers, Heather Roddy of Movie Mobsters, and this month, Marc Ciafardini of Go, See, Talk. Be sure to check out the main post over at Movie Mobsters by clicking on the image above.

“You’re my best friend…and I love you. In a totally heterosexual way” – Randal Graves, Clerks II

Closing the book on his View Askewniverse, writer/director Kevin Smith revisits the characters from his debut film with Clerks II, a sequel that picks up more than a decade later and sees slackers Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), now in their mid thirties, transplanted from the Quick Stop Convenience Store to the world of Mooby’s Fast Food Restaurant.

Like the first film, Clerks II is set over the course of a single work day in the life of its leads, and constructs a loose plot around a series of frank and extraordinarily vulgar discussions about contemporary and popular culture. The excellent dynamic between the laid back Randal and his comic foil, the eternally frustrated Dante makes the dialogue all the more hilarious. In Clerks II, the conversation ranges from Lord of the Rings, the physically handicapped, racial epitaphs, Transformers, Christianity and of course, sexual perversion.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Life in Movies Blog-a-thon

Last year, Andy of the excellent Fandango Groovers Movie Blog was responsible for the massively popular, LAMMY award winning Desert Island DVD Blog-a-thon. This year, he's at it again, hosting what he calls the Life in Movies Blog-a-thon, wherein bloggers have to pick their favourite movie of each year they've been alive. Below are my selections - be sure to check out all the other participants over at Fandango Groovers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Review - Paul

Director: Greg Mottola
Running Time: 104 minutes
Review by Tom Clift

Co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost wear their love for movies and science fiction on their sleeve in Paul, a perfectly calibrated slice of pop-culture infused comedy. Directed by Superbad helmsman Greg Mottola, the film follows Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings (Pegg and Frost), two British nerds on a road-trip across the US who pick up an unexpected traveler in the form of titular character, a pot smoking alien slacker on the run from the American government, voiced by comedic mega-star of the moment Seth Rogen. Basically an R-rated stoner comedy remake of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the language in Paul may be foul, but the film never the less has a wonderful, innocent charm to it, finding most of its humour from a series of clever, affable references to all manner of science fiction from television, movies, novels and comic books. That plus a wonderful cast of leading and supporting players make Paul a funny and one imagines enormously re-watchable comedy that feel tailor made for sci-fi geeks and cinematic nerds. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review - Scream 4

Director: Wes Craven
Running Time:
Review by Tom Clift

It has been fifteen years since director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson posited that audiences understood the conventions of the horror genre and proceeded to create a brilliant tongue in cheek horror movie populated by characters who understood them as well. Since then, almost every single movie referenced and parodied by the original Scream has been remade. Prom Night, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th – it is the modern remakes of these 80s staples that face pop-cultural analysis in Scream 4. Unfortunately, Craven and Williamson’s fourth collaboration feels like a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too; to scold the never-ending stream of creatively bankrupt franchise revivals that cash in on the brand recognition of their predecessors, while simultaneously doing the example same thing itself. So, while Scream 4 is still decidedly more entertaining than most of the awful films it references, it is still a little bit sad to see this franchise falling victim to so many of the clich├ęs, shortcuts and logical flaws that it once so savagely skewered.