There was a time there back in 2008 where – for a few months, anyway – I was pulling double-duty. Well, triple duty actually, as I was working fulltime while freelance writing. But the opportunity came up to write some film reviews – and a few music pieces (interview, profiles, previews, reviews) for The Herald on Sunday. The problem? I had to do it under a penname. So I became Mark Reid. The brief was to keep it very brief. Short, short reviews. Holy shit,it was the worst though. The music stuff, fine. But the movies, I liked writing movie reviews. I still do. But I must have picked the worst months of that year to give it a whirl. I had to sit through some of the worst fucking films…
The man that gave us Independence Day (I don’t remember asking for it?) is back with a caveman action flick. Oh dear. Roland Emmerich’s Neanderthals chase wooly mammoth creatures and throw spears. Yay. They are also a pack of rope-heads with thespian accents, running around with their shirts off and clubbing each other over the head in attempts to net a hot-looking woman. 10,000 years before the birth of Christ? Really? Such antics still go on when the pub closes in Havelock North. All of the extras look like they need to just sit and chill with the new Jack Johnson album. Cliff Curtis, whose C.V already reads like a “who’s he” of ethnic extras adds Cro-Magnon to that list. The worst film I’ve ever seen. Ever.
Arvilla Holden (Jessica Lange) is dealing with the loss of her husband. Her step-daughter is not helping. So Arvilla embarks on a road trip with the help of the titular vehicle (her husband’s pride and joy; a 1968 convertible) and her two best friends (played by Kathy Bates and Joan Allen). Unfortunately for the viewer shared grief is not halved grief; because, plot-wise, nothing significant happens. Bonneville is trapped, somewhere between Thelma And Louise and Boys On The Side. But it is so mind-numbingly dull and safe that it actually makes you wonder why three decent female leads are sharing the spotlight without a decent line or moment between them. Stick with An Unfinished Life and/or The Straight Story.
Brick Lane tells the tale of Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who is sent from Bangladesh to London in the 1980s to marry a man old enough to be her father. They have two children and Nazneen starts to have an affair with a younger man. Her job as a seamstress reinforces how hemmed in she feels. And then we get to September 11, 2001. The racial backlash is only lightly touched on. And is unconvincing given how much we know of this recent piece of history. The performances from Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik (the know-it-all husband) are brave but the power of Monica Ali’s novel has been reduced to a script that might have been better served up as television fodder.
Nothing is more upsetting than when a strong ensemble cast is left to fend for itself with a lame script. Based on a Maeve Binchy short-story with a predictable redemptive arc, How About You sees director Anthony Byrne essentially making a British version of Fried Green Tomatoes and, even worse, this year’s turkey, Bonneville. It’s Christmas and four tough customers (known as “The Hard Core”) are left in a retirement home, Ellie (Haylie Atwell) is a pushover to these old heads. But of course she’ll learn something as part of the journey. Groan. To waste Brenda Fricker, Imelda Staunton and Vanessa Redgrave is a cinematic no-no. But it’s hardly surprising given Binchy’s boring source material. After all this is really just Circle of Friends: The Grey-Power Reunion.
This bizarre translation of D.H. Lawrence lumbers along for nearly three hours in an attempt to force-feed the viewer an idea of the stiff atmosphere of England in the 1920s. That we have to tolerate England in the 1920s in transliterated French-to-English subtitles is bad enough; that the film makes about as much sense as a double-feature of The River Queen and Breaking The Waves creates a harrowing ordeal. It seems pretty to watch and the erotic moments have a tension leading up to and underscoring, but the weight of the finished product flumps, white hairy belly and no soul, all over any art-house intentions.
Patrick Dempsey wisely chooses to capitalise on his “McDreamy” status (Grey’s Anatomy) by moving back to the world of movies. Unwisely, he chose Made Of Honour as the vehicle, a film so devoid of originality that it insults its audience by assuming that the likes of My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Wedding Date were never even made. Dempsey plays Tom, a successful guy who is generally lucky in love but (yawn) finally notices (yawn) that he (yawn) actually (yawn) loves his good friend Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) after she moves to Scotland and gets engaged to someone else (yawn). Hannah asks Tom to be her “maid” of honour and the laughs have to be beckoned. Guys, you should only go to this if she agrees to watch Iron Man afterwards.
Jet Li (Fearless, The One) and Jason Stratham (The Transporter, Crank) are both veteran martial artists and borderline-terrible actors. So Rogue Assassin is a film that seemed to stop having any ideas after the writers decided to cast these two – oh and there’s the concept of an assassin who has gone rogue. His name, cleverly, is Rogue. Disappointingly there is not much in the way of actual decent martial arts action, so instead we get one average car-chase, the requisite roof-top run and Stratham mugging it in a way that suggests Vinnie Jones as Dirty Harry. Li looks old and is moving a lot slower. And the plot twists are beyond ridiculous. Avoid.
The only thing semi-professional about this ghastly Will Ferrell vehicle was the script-writing job. Ferrell’s attempts to poke fun at sports read like comedy tombstones, Talladega Nights, Blades Of Glory and now Semi-Pro completes the cemetery. Where once Ferrell’s booming voice and comedy wigs signaled box-office gold (Anchorman) now they just signal another movie starring Will Ferrell alongside some not-funny, off-colour jokes. Woody Harrelson demeans himself by co-starring in this lame air-ball of a film. Ferrell attempts to chew the scenery as Jackie Moon, owner/player/coach of a 1970s basketball team. That’s the pitch. And, sadly, where the humour starts and ends. Hopefully, if enough people cry foul-ball Ferrell will be sent back to the bench where he can contemplate being semi-retired, a necessary move for a once-funny comedian.
This remake of the 2004 Thai film of the same name (which was remade for the Tamil audience last year as Sivi) is not scary; not a good thing when it’s a thriller/horror. And though it’s mercifully brief, the 85 minutes still feels like a waste of time. Blame The Ring and The Grudge, both were Asian-cinema classics remade for and by Hollywood and both remakes made a lot of money. The fact that they weren’t very good films seems to have only sped up the amount of lame remakes we now receive. But with Shutter, this time there are ghosts in the camera lens, it feels like the genre is parodying itself. And yet the film doesn’t play for laughs. And, as I said, unfortunately it doesn’t play for scares either.
With a plot that takes elements from Flashdance, Bring It On and a dozen other half-baked ideas, Step Up 2 The Streets tells the tale of 16 year old Andie West (Briana Evigan) – a vague sequel to 2006’s Step Up. Part of a street-dancing posse, Andie has to learn the real steps in the classroom or else she’ll be sent away to Texas. That’s all you need to know. The rest of the film relies on the dancing abilities of the cast. An impressive music video, but as a movie it’s essentially High School Musical for those that never made it through high school. It is harmless and spreads a good-vibe, the dancing is incredible and though this film is self aware, it is also rather ridiculous and doesn’t bear close scrutiny.
Since the release of The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has guaranteed himself an audience. Following that up with variable product the one constant that the auteur has shown is the ability to create a mood. He also loves leading his audience down a path to be fearful of what might happen. That is because his characters are so often very boldly scared of what they do not know. The problem with this type of filmmaking, beyond the audience always expecting a twist, is that Shyamalan writes awful dialogue and draws out basic Twilight Zone and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers ideas with a film-school pretentiousness that never stands up when the final credits roll. This time there is a ‘green’ message within his too-proud attempt at a morality play.
The number of people in the world who are both fans of U2’s music and interested in seeing a 3D digital film in a movie theatre justifies this concert flick’s existence. But the result is stunningly average. Microphone stands float forward of the screen and Bono steps up to croon. The band plods through a range of songs – only playing a few of their greatest hits. It looks sharp (shot with 18 cameras, chosen from nine different shows) but it really feels like overkill. The fact that U2 has released a concert film (usually straight to DVD) from every major tour the band has done since 1984 doesn’t exactly help. But fans will flock. And the trailer for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (also in 3D) might be another reason for people to go. It looks like a similar exercise in style over content.