Five articles we meant to have written by now…

November 15, 2010

Greetings and Castutations!

Whilst we’re keeping to a strict and rigorous schedule on the audio front these days, we’ve sort of dropped the ball vis-a-vis the written content this month and for that we humbly apologise as we know just how much you all like to read what we think as well as hear what we think.

As a way of catching up then here are five short reviews of films we’ve been meaning to write about of late but just haven’t found the time to do so. As always when we’re both sounding off, Chris W will write in green whilst Chris M will scribe in blue.

1. Film Community Potluck – The Seventh Seal

I’d been quite intent on watching this movie for a long time, finding that most things that have been parodied (at least in the classic sense of the term – not the “parodies” like Vampires Suck which we’re subjected to nowadays) do themselves prove to be quite worth watching. I was very happy then when I saw that it had been nominated by Ripley from four of them and shouted out my desire to be paired up with it.

The Seventh Seal tells the story of various levels of Swedish peasantry living through a plague sometime in the middle ages – more than that though it’s a study of mortality, faith, the value of life and the importance of having a good chess strategy.

Whilst its early shifts around various characters prove to be somewhat confusing, by the time the cast has met up and are travelling as one, the movie effortlessly hits home with its questioning of life, death and the futility of resistance to the latter.

As much as this film still proves to be a good thinking man’s watch over fifty years later, I’m not really sure how well it holds up to classics of its period – watch it but be prepared to muse whilst you do so.

2. Review – The Kids Are Alright

I feel like a broken record saying this about yet another movie but the folk who put taglines in the trailers and posters for TKAAR saying it was “the funniest, laughtest-out-loudest film of the year” are off their rocker. This is a dramedy in the strictest sense of the word; an explorative character piece about what happens when people from different backgrounds come together and effect each other’s lives.

So far as it goes TKAAR is a decent watch. All of the cast are on top form- notable mentions to Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasijowska (of Alice in Wonderland) as the offspring of same sex couple Annette Benning and Julianne Moore (two performances that both traverse the real/stereotype line at many points during the film) who go in search of their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo- FIT!) with consequences that affect their comfortable family existence.

The film outstays its welcome by the end (there is at least one mid-act subplot that could be lifted completely to lighten the film’s load without, I would argue, affecting the films impact at all) but in general it is a very easy watch that doesn’t ram it’s west-coast liberalism context down the audiences throat. Not bad.

3. Tag Team Review – Burke & Hare

The thing that strikes me most about this movie it is that it’s pretty boring. Being as we’re keeping this succint I’ll say that the laughs are few and far between and the story will only prove to be of slight interest if you’ve never heard of Burke & Hare before. Residents of Edinburgh like myself will undoubtedly already know the tale back to front.

The cast is crowded and severly underused in most cases (hello Tim Currie) even to the extent of Sirkis and Pegg themselves, and the over reliance on both support characters and cameo appearances throughout (p ss off Stephen Merchant) lend themselves more to a feeling of desperately trying to flesh the movie out enough to last the requisite ninety minutes than for the purpose of benefitting the proceedings.

Personally I don‘t think that Burke & Hare is informative, funny,  involving or captivating enough to hold anyone but the most ardent history buff’s attention – and they’ll only be annoyed at how liberally the history has been treated.

Oh and please stop hiring Australians to play Scottish people. Cheers.

We’ve set ourselves 150 words each on this one…how many words in “I was really bored”? There is the possibility that I just don’t like historically set comedies that spend their duration dropping contemporary references and attitudes into the proceedings, but even by those standards this was still hogwash. I struggle to think of anyone involved in the film that comes out of this with much integrity left- maybe Tim Currie, at a push Tom Wilkinson, but Pegg and Serkis are almost unwatchable at times, Isla Fisher is embarrassing (although her cleavage does at least try to change the subject from time to time) and that it is directed by a comedy legend of John Landis’ standard just makes the whole thing sit even worse in the stomach.

And despite what I said before about The Kids Are All Right being more of a drama than comedy it still had more laughs per minute than this piece of tosh.

A very bad effort.

4. Review – Despicable Me

Whilst most other people have sung and danced about this film, I’m going to lay down the gauntlet. I hated this movie, plain and simple.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen anything on the big screen so overtly pander to children. This movie is shameless in its attempts to gain cheap laughs, half of which miss completely. The voic

e acting is poor, the writing is sloppy, the characters don’t feel fully realised, the incident is bland and uninvolving and the morals feel too tacked on. I felt insulted throughout, particularly by Gru’s little yellow henchman, who go down in my estimation as some of the worst supporting characters of any film in recent memory.

But hey according to all the people I know who have seen it with children, their kids really enjoyed it. This then appears to be a film strictly for the younger kids out there, albeit a much more hollow one at which the parents will be left feeling less involved than with the usual animated fare. I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy this on DVD and genuinely find it worth watching five or more years down the line.

Oh and last thing… As much as I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, please don’t try and imply that taking the moon out of orbit around the earth wouldn’t have instant catastrophic effects the world over. Shame on you Universal.

5. Review – Mary and Max

I would like to argue that we are ending this post with the best film of the bunch. I cannot describe how completely enjoyable a viewing experience I had with Mary & Max.

We’re spoilt for choice these days with animated features and this Australian claymation MASTERPIECE must be a sure fire nomination for next year’s best animation Oscar (or the Toy Story 3 award to give it its full title) or my name isn’t Christopher Madd- oh…damn!

The story is simple and heartfelt; two lonely people separated by a continent (one an Australian girl with an alcoholic mother, the other a 40 year old Jewish New-Yorker with aspergers syndrome) share a pen pal relationship spanning 22 years and help each other to find their own identities in a world that doesn’t seem to want them in it.

I’m going to do a CM and not say much more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it, but put simply I haven’t laughed more this year than I did in the opening 15 minutes, and I haven’t been as touched as I was by this in its last 20 minutes. It’s mesmerising. A movie of two-halves; a must see.

That’s your lot. Thanks for reading. Hopefully you’re now all caught up with our movie goings on and looking forward to our next audio post which should go up some time tomorrow.

Later alligators!


Film Community Potluck – THX 1138

October 30, 2010


This week’s Potluck movie film was nominated by Ripley from Four of Them.

I was really pleased to be paired up with this film as I’ve wanted to see it for a very long time and had been very intrigued as how George Lucas’ directorial debut measured up against his later, ever so slightly better known work. I knew absolutely nothing about it before going into it (other than who directed it) and that was probably for the best as I hadn’t set my expectations too high; good job too because I didn’t really take much from this movie.

THX 1138 tells the story of Robert Duvall (in the titular role) as a citizen of a dystopian society where the populace are enslaved and emotionally repressed through the use of narcotics and strict law enforcement. THX manages to get off the drugs and tries to escape the city he is forced to reside within only to encounter obstacles at every turn.

Synopsis out of the way, let’s talk about my experience with this movie. I really didn’t enjoy it much. Sorry. A lot of this film felt very awkward to me; it’s shot in a strange style and there are often minutes at a time without dialogue or much in the way of incident leading to it feeling like somewhat of a trying watch. On the occasions where there is dialogue, it is often delivered in a rough, often incomprehensible manner and whilst it’s good that the film doesn’t pander to the audience or seek to explain everything that is happening at any one moment in time, it doesn’t help when you get to the end of the movie and you’re not really sure what the instigation and action was that led to the film’s climax.

Another bugbear of mine was the music which often felt intrusive (although at some moments is quite elegant) and it really got me thinking about the importance of a good score. Having watched this movie and sometimes having whole scenes almost ruined by the score, it made me thankful that Lucas collaborated with John Williams for his later movies and not with Lalo Schifrin as in this case.

A lot of the other quibbles I had with the film could easily be explained away by the fact that this film is almost forty years old and I think I need to at least pay reference to the fact that considering the limitations of technology, effects and budget that the film no doubt faced, it actually stands up pretty well now visually; it’s just a shame that the actual narrative content and structure of the film isn’t as compelling.

There are stand out moments however that really do lift this film; in particular is the car chase towards the end of the movie between THX in a super-powered rocket car and two police androids in pursuit on motorbikes. The scene is very frenetically shot and looks great nearly forty years on. There is a caveat here however in that I don’t know if this is one of the touched up scenes for the director’s cut (more on this below) and as such basically could have looked crap to start with for all I know. Whatever the weather it was still a very welcome change of pace for what had been, at least up until that point in time, a very slow and almost plodding movie.

From a narrative perspective, I also really enjoyed the fact that THX was a cog in the dystopian machine and not the man to bring the system down. There is a slight tendency within this kind of film to elevate an individual to system crashing  extremes and I think that as soon as a dystopian story becomes more about the situation than the characters within it, it instantly loses a lot of its appeal; I want to see what it’s like to exist within this society – not follow the hero who changes the world. So well done for not doing that in this case. Applause all round.

One thing I wanted to get on my soapbox about before I wrap this up is that much like in Lucas’ unyielding control over the Star Wars franchise, the director’s cut of the movie which was released in 2004 (a full thirty three years after the film’s original release) is the only way you can see this film on DVD; as far as I can tell from limited information, the director’s cut added in around seven minutes of footage and also saw Lucas tinkering with computers and the edit to change the look and feel of whole scenes. It feels strange to me that the decision has been made to effectively erase the original version of the film from existence and unfortunately I’m not able to comment on the changes made because I have no way of comparing them to the original. It does seem to me though that a later cut of a movie (especially one more than thirty years later) should be offered as an alternative to the original version and not as a way to supersede it. Shame on you Lucas.

Film Community Potluck – Cemetery Junction

October 24, 2010


Welcome to the first of a new regular feature for Casta (I hope) – the film community pot luck draw. Whilst Chris of the Wakemans has been off watching movies with other people, I’ve been sat in at home reading the internets. Luckily for me, the fantastic folks over at Anomalous Material have begun a new community feature whereby everyone nominates a movie and then they’re randomly assigned to all those taking part who watch the movie and post back on the site with their thoughts on whatever they had to watch. It’s a fantastic feature and gets some great discussion going – it’s always the more the merrier so if you fancy joining in then head over there and sign yourself up!

This week Marc from Go, See, Talk nominated the film that I was eventually paired up with; Cemetery Junction.

Despite my hesitation towards Gervais and Merchant, I was actually really pleased to be paired up with this movie as I narrowly missed the opportunity when it was out at the cinema this year; I’d heard some quite good things about it and was interested to see how this would weigh in against previous collaborations from Gervais and Merchant.

Cemetery Junction tells the story of three young men who are all looking to make something out of their lives in a middle to lower class working town in early seventies England. It’s a more than typical coming of age story that stands out because of the quality of the three leads and how relatable their situation is. The setting works surprisingly well (obviously drawing on Gervais and Merchant’s own youths) and is really reinforced by one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in recent memory. I had a great time watching this movie and there were numerous occasions where I had to stifle laughter in slight disbelief at the raw seventies dialogue.

The only thing that stood out to me about this movie to be particularly annoying was the appearances of Gervais and Merchant on screen. As much as I enjoyed their writing and found their direction to be relatively inoffensive, their roles in front of the camera felt completely obsolete and bordered on indulgent. Gervais is basically the same as he is in every other role he’s ever done and Merchant appears in the most needless five second cameo I’ve seen in recent times. It’s a shame really that they felt compelled to give themselves roles as it adds a certain branding onto the movie which I would have thought they might have been keen to move against being as this is somewhat of a departure from other things they have written in the past.

All in all it’s a very competent coming of age/ making something of your life movie, with a strong young cast in the lead roles and a solid support behind them, especially in the form of Ralph Fiennes who adds a good deal of gravitas to the movie. For me, it stands as an interesting indicator as to what could come from Gervais and Merchant in the future; I just hope they keep themselves out of their movies in the future and concentrate on the behind the scenes elements, instead saving screen time for movies in which they are the principal cast.

A highly enjoyable and recommended watch for anyone who ever felt like they wanted to make something out of their life and can stand a bit of close to the bone seventies humour.

Cheers Marc!