Filed under: Review | Tags: Andrew Airlie, BDSM, Callum Keith Rennie, cinema, Dakota Johnson, Dana Brunetti, Danny Elfman, Dylan Neal, E. L. James, Eloise Mumford, erotic, Fifty Shades of Grey, film, Focus Features, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Kelly Marcel, kink, Lisa Gunning, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Michael De Luca, Michael De Luca Productions, mom porn, movie, mum porn, Rita Ora, romance, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Seamus McGarvey, Trigger Street Productions, Universal Pictures, Victor Rasuk
I entered the booking number into the automated ticket dispensary, fingers trembling with apprehension and a sense of growing dread despite the alcohol coursing through my system, the result of a couple of hastily downed pints at the bowling alley opposite in order to try and steady my nerves. The kind of nerves that anyone would experience when willingly putting themselves through a masochistic experience such as this. My mind was a blur as I waited in line for refreshments, a large coke on my mind, something large enough to try and help me endure the two hour torture session I was about to submit myself to. Finally it was my turn. I ordered, fingers fumbling with my money as I handed it over. Could the person behind the counter sense my fear? Did they know what it was that I was here to do?
“I LOST A BET!” I yelled, slightly drunkenly, at the man who was taking tickets. “Ok…” He replied, a confused look upon his face until he saw the name of the movie on the ticket that I handed him and he chuckled knowingly, tearing it and informing me that I would be in screen one, seat M17. Of all the lies I had thought up to try and save face in front of the ticket collector, I lost a bet was the one that had suddenly come to me in my moment of panic. He bought it, I thought to myself, smiling and safe in the knowledge that this perfect stranger who I would almost certainly never have another social interaction with knew that I was not here of my own choice. I entered the screening room, the doorway decorated with a number of black, grey, lighter grey and white balloons. Apparently the party industry never anticipated a day when they would actually need balloons in a massive variety of shades of grey.
The screening room was packed, a few couple sprinkled through here and there and frankly a lot more men than I’d anticipated but the majority of the crowd were older women, the kind that apparently didn’t realise that porn was widely and freely available on the internet.Perhaps it was my imagination but I could almost swear that the scent of ancient vaginas lubricating themselves for the first time in years out of anticipation for what was to come permeated the room. Pity the poor bastard who had to clean this place afterwards. I tried to keep my head down and was distraught to find that my seat, seat M17 which I had chosen thanks to it’s position next to the aisle, was currently occupied by a creature that I could best describe as Jabba the Hutt in a sundress. Best not to disturb this beast, I thought, and took the seat opposite, still on the aisle, and hoped that no one would claim it for themselves. Eventually four teenage girls came and sat in the four empty seats next to me and it looked like I was safe from having to move or attempt to meet the sundress wearing Hutt in hand to hand combat. And so I settled in to watch Fifty Shades of Grey…
What can really be said about E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey that hasn’t already been said? We’ve heard all the criticism, that it’s domestic abuse tarted up as kinky sex, that it has as much to do with realistic BDSM as The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (Not the first Care Bears movie, the BDSM scenes of which were extensively researched and portrayed in as realistic a way as possible) and that it’s poorly written with characters being little more than cardboard cut-outs with the internal monologue of pasta. Some of us, myself included, know these criticisms to be just because we’ve actually read the damnable thing. I read it because I’m a glutton for the worst entertainment has to offer and wondered if reading a bad book could be as enjoyable as watching a bad movie. Spoiler alert, it isn’t. It’s a lot longer and good luck trying to get a bunch of friends round for a drunken reading of Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyway, with the way that this book has been slammed by critics, laypeople and kink enthusiasts (And I mean slammed as in criticised not as in, you know, a good way) alike, the world was left wondering if a movie adaptation could be any better. Well it is.
Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey: The Motion Picture is better than
Kinky Twilight Fanfic Fifty Shades of Grey: The Novel but please, don’t get your hopes up that this is the great BDSM work of fiction that the world has been clamouring for. Saying this movie is better than the source material it is based on isn’t much different that saying a rhinoceros with two legs has a better chance of survival than a rhinoceros with no legs. I mean, it’s technically probably true but the difference is negligible at best. The story is still largely the same story which means that it’s weak though it does have the advantage of not being narrated by it’s main character Anastasia Steele and her fucking “inner goddess” so we’re at least saved from that indignity.
The film tells the story of the aforementioned Miss Steele who ends up interviewing handsome young billionaire Christian Grey in place of her room mate who has fallen ill. There is an immediate attraction between the two (apparently) and he is soon stalking her, tracking her phone using GPS and picking her up while she’s drunk and bringing her back to strange hotel rooms and changing her clothes while she is passed out. You know, love. It is as the plot, well, progresses I guess that Anna learns that Christian has special tastes when it comes to the bedroom. He sleeps hanging upside down and often leaves the bed in the middle of the night. Could it be that Christian Grey is in fact the mysterious Batman who stalks Gotham’s criminals at night? I kid of course. Christian is actually in to kinky sex which could only really be shocking to post-menopausal grandmothers and people who’ve never heard of the internet in this day and age. A few bland sex scenes later and we’re left with Anna wondering if she can really go down this sexy path and also knowing that if she doesn’t she might just lose Christian forever! Whatever will she do? Will you care? No. No you won’t.
Ugh. Ok, let’s get in to the meat of this thing. Why is Fifty Shades of Grey the movie better than the book even if it is only marginally so? That, as near as I can tell, rest on the shoulders of two people. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and Anastasia Steele actress Dakota Johnson. Taylor-Johnson, it seems, didn’t take the material as seriously as the author did and so she thankfully injects it with a slight camp, tongue-in-cheek tone the story sorely, sorely needed. She knows that she’s making a movie based on trash and so she’s going to have a little fun with it and that is much appreciated by those of us who have forced ourselves to see it.
Dakota Johnson is the real highlight of the movie though. She takes what was a weak-willed, personality-less character in Anastasia Steele and actually gives her some agency and, most importantly, a sense of humour. She’s quick witted and smart and Johnson has a real sense of comedic timing which really works to her advantage. Whereas the Anastasia Steele in the book feels as though she’s being manipulated and cajoled into doing things that she doesn’t really want to do through some stupidly blind love for an abusive partner, this Anastasia Steele actually feels as though she’s in control and is allowing things to proceed as she wants and at her pace. It’s a stark contrast and one that’s really important if you’re going to bring this story to the big screen.
As for the bad, well, there’s Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey himself. Well, perhaps bad isn’t the right word just kind of left without much to do beyond say fuck a few times and fret about Anna. Oh, and I guess he broods a few times too. What I’m saying is that he isn’t really giving much to work with here and that which he is given leaves him feeling much more like a charicature than a character, especially when placed up against the much more wilful Anna that inhabits the screen version of this story. All his assertions that he wants to make her his come of as silly rather than sexy or steamy. And he ends up just seeming like a complete tool, perhaps even moreso than if he had the love-blind, meek, enabling Anna opposite him. Perfect example is a scene where Christian is explaining his sexual inclinations. Anna asks if they can still go on dates, watch movies and such to which he replies “That’s not really my thing.” There is a moment’s silence in which Anna looks a little upset prompting Christian to ask her to keep an open mind. Excuse me? Did your character just say that he’s absolutely not interested in what the other character wants and then accuse the other character of being closed minded because they weren’t interested in what he wanted? Wow.
As for the other characters, ummm, yeah. They don’t really matter. As for plot, well, it’s a slight improvement over the original but it’s still the same basic thing. Nothing actually happens in this movie. Why would it need to? Our main character begins a relationship with a billionaire. Anytime the plot needs to move forward, he throws money at it. Job done. And when the movie wasn’t being tongue in cheek or the romance was trying to be taken seriously, well, let’s just say I spent a lot of time checking the time and figuring out just how much time I had left and as I already mentioned, the sex scenes were just kind of bland and it wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the girls in my row couldn’t stop giggling through each and every one.
So in the long run, this movie was not as bad as it could have been but that by no means makes it good. I’ll say that, since it’s fair to compare this to Twilight due to it’s fanfic roots, it is better than all but one of the Twilight movies (that one being the last one. Thanks Michael Sheen!) and that is largely because Dakota Johnson > Kristen Stewart. Hell, this movie even managed to get a couple of laughs out of me. Still I can’t recommend this to anyone . If you want romance with a hint of sexiness then… well, fine. I guess there isn’t a dearth out there particularly for female audiences. But if you want porn, then the internet is out there and those things can have some pretty deep story lines sometimes I hear. One and a half pints out of five. Laterz.
Filed under: Review | Tags: bait, Channing Tatum, cinema, film, foxcatcher, mark ruffako, movie, osar, Review, Season, Steve Carell
Have you ever had boring sex? I mean like completely and absolutely terrible boring sex? Well I have and there is literally no other way to describe how I felt about Foxcatcher without going in to this because it’s my point of reference. So anyway, I had sex once whilst wearing a super safe condom and it went on for about as long as the running time of Foxcatcher. And it was boring. It was boring as hell. I honestly couldn’t tell you if we finished or not. To be fair, I don’t think we did. I think both parties just agreed this was a lost cause and maybe we should just go for a drink or something… Right, Foxcatcher. Foxcatcher is like that. Because even during the most boring sex you have ever had, your brain, and I admit I speak exclusively for males here, will try and convince you that this is awesome because you’re having sex. But there’s something in the back of your mind telling you that as awesome as this is, something is not quite right. Something is off and it’s not worth it to drag it out but you will because sex.
This is the experience of watching Foxcatcher. You know it’s an Oscar season release and so you’re initially forgiving during the opening because, hey, some of the best movies start of slow, right? And of course, you’ve heard great things about Steve Carell so maybe things will pick up when he’s on screen. And they do, for a moment. And then once the novelty has worn off you’re just like huh? Yeah, that was Steve Carell and he was definitely doing an impression of that guy I watched a YouTube video of earlier. Good for him.
I kid Steve Carell but to be fair, he’s great in this. Everyone is. It’s just the directing that is so fucking poor. This movie was around two hours and forty five minutes long. If they’d cut out every slow, ponderous scene where someone drives a car or two people sit down and one of them composes themselves for a minute before talking or cut out every scene where people just weren’t talking to each other, this easily would have been an hour and a half. Easily. And yeah, I get that the latter example there, people sitting and not talking to each other, can be used to great effect to build dramatic tension but once you’ve spent an entire movie watching people sit around and not talking, it kind of loses it’s dramatic effect and just winds up being “Oh great, another minute or two dragging this shit out.”
In conclusion, because I can’t be bothered to write about this any more, I feel like this was a potentially great story, poorly told. I mean Channing Tatum’s character was the main character through the entirety of the film but hey, last half hour you’d best forget about him. And going back to the boring sex analogy, this film is boring sex with a pretty good orgasm but it’s still over so quickly and without the end result really gelling quite well enough with the build up that it’s ultimately disappointing. In conclusion, again (yes I realise that I wrote that already but I got distracted because booze) this film was less an actual film than it was a slideshow with some story thrown in to try and distract you from the fact that it is just awful. And yet it’s not awful, thankfully because of it’s actors. They all really shine and I can’t help but get the feeling that even they were pissed off by the director’s ‘style’ because everything just feels flat, pedestrian. Dull. Yeah, so anyway this has been instant drunk reviews. 1 1/5 out of five for the acting but everything else? Fuck this movie.
Filed under: Review | Tags: 2014, Amanda Woods, BBC Films, Ben Kellett, BocFlix, Brendan O'Carroll, Chris Patrick-Simpson, cinema, Danny O'Carroll, Dermot Crowley, Eilish O'Carroll, film, Fiona O'Carroll, Gary Hollywood, Irish, Jennifer Gibney, Keith Duffy, Martin Hawkins, movie, Mrs Brown, Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie, Nick Nevern, Paddy Houlihan, Penalty Kick Films, Review, Robert Bathurst, Sorcha Cusack, Stephen McCrum, That's Nice Films, Universal Pictures
If you want me to relay to you what watching Mrs Brown’s Boys D’ Movie is like then imagine a boot stamping on a pair of testicles forever. Full disclosure, I have never seen the series that this movie is based on so I went into this knowing pretty much next to nothing apart from what the trailer told me. And that trailer left quite an impression. What stuck out to me most was the fact that there was an outtake, an actual outtake, in the trailer. This, of course, makes absolutely no sense but fine, I thought, it’s some stupid little joke for the trailer. Put it out of your mind and try and judge this movie fairly.
Then part way through an HILARIOUS scene where blind people are being taught ninjitsu and the man who plays Mrs Brown is playing another character, Mr Wang (“But he’s not even Chinese!” Complains one of the characters, which is fine since neither is ninjitsu.), the actors start cracking up. Holy shit. An outtake in the actual movie itself. Not during the credits, not as some DVD extra but during the actual plot of the actual movie. Then there were two more outtakes, just there in the movie as well. Who thinks this is a good idea? Were they so worried that people wouldn’t laugh at the film so they’d have to laugh at it themselves?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate breaking the fourth wall but there are ways to go about it that work. For example, the Wayne’s World movies break the fourth wall regularly and to hilarious effect. That is carefully crafted, well done comedy. Outtakes are literally the opposite of that and leaving them in the actual movie is the laziest choice a filmmaker can make.
Still, they needn’t have worried about people not finding it funny because people in my screening were pissing themselves laughing. Laughing at the fact that blind people can’t see. Laughing at the Asian character who can’t pronounce Ls properly. Laughing at all this tired, ancient bullshit.
This is definitely a call back to British sitcoms of the past. The problem is that I can’t figure out what. Every sitcom from back in the day that I try to compare it to is much, much better than it. ‘Allo ‘Allo? Better. Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em? Better. Steptoe and Son? Better. I mean, I think we’re literally in the territory of Heil Honey, I’m Home in terms of being just relentlessly, offensively unfunny. This is a throwback to the lowest form of humour, the basest, crassest form that I thought we as a society had moved beyond. I thought things like Seinfeld and The Office had revolutionised the sitcom. How have we found ourselves back here? It’s literally like someone saw the parody of bad sitcoms, When The Whistle Blows, from Extras and thought “Let’s make our show like that.”
I could write a long list of everything that’s wrong with this film. I could tell you about it’s tired plot (Evil people want to buy up Mrs Brown’s stall), I could tell you about it’s offensive stereotypes (The gay guys seem to have no character beyond shrill queens) I could tell you about all that and more, but you know what?. It’s too nice a Sunday to sit here writing a review of this “movie”. Everyone who wants to see it will see it. People who know that they don’t want to see it won’t see it with the possible exception of myself. Roasts are being cooked, pints are being served and actual, real movies are being screened. And as a douche bag played by a murderer once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 0 pints out of 5. Laterz.
Filed under: Review | Tags: 2014, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Alexandre Desplat, Bryan Cranston, cinema, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Olsen, film, Films, Gareth Edwards, godzilla, japan, Juliette Binoche, kaiju, Ken Watanabe, Legendary Pictures, M.U.T.O, monster, movie, movies, Review, Sally Hawkins, Toho, usa, Warner Bros. Pictures
I’ve tried to keep this spoiler free but it’s hard to tell what people consider spoilers these days so be forewarned. You may be unintentionally spoiled in some way.
In 1954 the Japanese Toho production company brought a King to the Silver Screen. His name was Gojira, soon to be Americanised to the admittedly better Godzilla, and he would begin a cinematic legacy that would last for sixty years and counting. He has been many things during his storied career from destructive force of nature to wacky good guy who saved Japan from a host of other monsters and back to destructive force of nature again. And there was that American film produced in 1998. That one was… well. Yeah. It just wasn’t Godzilla.
So when I heard the news that the Yanks were going to take another shot at bringing the King of the Monsters back to the screen, I was a little concerned. This concern only grew when I heard that Gareth Edwards was set to direct, my concern originating from the fact that he had only directed one feature length film before, Monsters, which left me slightly underwhelmed. And the trailers started appearing and I was ready to get excited.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to be a fan of a film series that, to be fair, has not always been stellar and then finally looking forward to something new from that series. I grew up watching Godzilla films, Son of Godzilla in particular which is easily one of the worst of the bunch but it played a big part in my childhood so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Hell, my pet gecko is called Godzilla because a) I love the king of the monsters and b) reptile owners are not the most original people when it comes to names. To be fair, there aren’t that many famous reptiles to go to for names. It’s pretty much Godzilla, Dino from the Flintstones and Rango. Godzilla is clearly the best out of those three… I’m sorry, I seem to have become distracted. Where was I? Oh yes, feeling excitement for a Godzilla movie. It was truly a wonderful thing, especially after that ’98 piece of shit that for all intents and purposes killed Matthew Broderick’s career just like he killed two people that one time in Ireland. Look it up.
And so the weeks went by and the release date grew closer and closer and I took the time to revisit every Godzilla movie ever made, twenty nine films in total. It was a bit of a long haul but overall an enjoyable experience and so I felt properly prepared and primed for the King’s return to the silver screen. Finally, the day of release came and I was working so I went the following day. Would the film see Godzilla reclaim his crown or would it be another American turd in the Tokyo punch bowl? Christ, that was a lot of preamble.
Simple fact straight up: I loved this film. Loved it. Is it a perfect film? No, not by a long shot. There are definitely a few things that could have been done differently, a few casting decisions that could have been corrected and a few special effects decisions that maybe didn’t sit right with me but overall, I loved this film.
Perhaps we should start with the things that weren’t so great. First up, a lot has been made about Aaron Taylor-Johnson and how he’s just not that great in the film and it’s true that he is probably the weakest link in the film. I’m not going to go all the way and say he’s bad, though he does exhibit a few moments of ropey acting here and there. Fact is that he doesn’t have much of a character to work with. He’s something of blank plate which I believe is deliberate attempt by the film maker to allow the audience to put themselves in his position, projecting their thoughts and feelings on to him. It’s an age old storytelling trick, one that was recently most successfully employed in the Twilight series. The fact that a girl can easily imagine herself in the place of Bella is what makes those things so popular despite being poorly written pieces of trash. Yeah, I just bashed Twilight. Deal with it. Unfortunately for Johnson, a lot of people didn’t want to be taking his place, experiencing what he was experiencing. They wanted to see monster fighting and during the middle of the film, it dragged a touch simply because Taylor-Johnson is not a giant monster.
There is also the problem of Taylor-Johnson’s character very conveniently finding himself able to easily move from location to location where all the monster action is taking place. I suppose it could be easily explained by saying that he’s a member of the military so he’d be able to move with the armed forces to where he and they need to be and also what are they gonna do instead? Leave their main character behind whilst the monsters fight elsewhere? Still, it does occasionally stretch the limit of believability in this giant nuclear lizard movie.
Finally, the biggest problem I had was the M.U.T.Os. I was not a major fan of their design, seeming as they did a little bit too Cloverfieldy and then there’s that name. Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism is what M.U.T.O stands for and it seems like such an unnatural string of words to put together just to get an acronym which sounds a little bit like mutant which is obviously the reason that that name was chosen. Which is a shame because M.U.T.O. just sounds fucking stupid coming out of an adult human beings mouth. Seriously, any time someone said it, particularly David Strathairn, I cringed. Just stupid. Frankly it was the kind of role that could have easily been filled by a second-tier Toho monster like the Praying Mantis-esque Kamacuras.
Now on to the good and frankly this all comes down to this being a Godzilla movie and whether or not it is a worthy continuation of the big guy’s saga. This was a Godzilla movie and frankly, I’m surprised by just how much it followed some of the conventions of the series and not just the original ’54 Godzilla as I was expecting. Villainous monsters showing up first to wreak havoc? Check. Humans trying but failing to solve the problem? Check. Godzilla awakening from his slumber to sort shit out? Check. Even the music was perfect. It was loud, it was bombastic. It was everything I wanted from the score for a Godzilla film though I’m perhaps a little disappointed that Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla March wasn’t used or referenced but I suppose you can’t have everything.
Now on to the main event. The Big G himself, Godzilla. There has been much discussion about the fact that Godzilla has so little screen time in the film. This is true. Personally, I loved this choice. It made all the time that we actually got to spend with Godzilla all the more impressive and impactful. Besides, I never felt as though he was missing from the film. From the first time he shows up in Hawaii, I felt his presence was there. Just scenes where you see his dorsal spikes sticking out of the water, flanked by aircraft carriers, as he hunts his prey help to convey his size and really build up the anticipation for that awesome final fight. Seriously, if there is one thing that this film does great in my opinion, it is building up anticipation.
I love the redesign though I did originally agree with some Japanese fans that he was a touch on the chunky side though once I saw it in action, it fit in with this Godzilla’s more bear-like movement and way of holding himself. And of course there’s the roar. The roar is beautiful and really should be heard in a cinema to truly appreciate it. Yes, just like this IS a Godzilla film, this IS Godzilla. I felt his personality come through in the limited time that he was on-screen and it genuinely felt like a certain Godzilla from a certain period of his film history. There’s even one moment which really caught me off-guard in which is probably the best moment in the film, a moment I shan’t spoil here but when that moment occurs, I was literally grinning from ear to ear. The King had returned.
So yeah, like I said, I love this film. I can understand the frustration that some people have with the film but personally it’s a frustration I do not share. Would I hate this film if it weren’t a Godzilla movie? Hate may be a strong word but I definitely would not have enjoyed it as much. It’s the things that make this a Godzilla movie that largely make it enjoyable to me. So yeah. Four pints out of five… And in my long winded ramblings, I realise that I have largely overlooked the actors so lets just say good cast overall though some are criminally underused. *cough* Bryan Cranston *cough* Laterz.
Filed under: 31 Days of Horror, Review | Tags: 2011, 31 Days of Horror, Adam Arkapaw, Andrew McGarry, Anna McLeish, australia, cinema, Daniel Henshall, Debi Marshall, film, Films, halloween, horror, Jed Kurzel, Justin Kurzel, Killing for Pleasure, Louise Harris, Lucas Pittaway, Madman Films, movie, movies, Review, reviews, Sarah Shaw, serial killer, Shaun Grant, Snowtown, The Snowtown Murders, true crime, Veronika Jenet, Warp Films
Unless movies have lied to me, Australia is a terrifying hellscape filled with murderers, Lord Humungus and uncanny knife discernment. This of course goes without mentioning all the terrifying poisonous animals, Steve Irwin-killing stingrays and koala bears. As a younger man I wondered why we Brits sent our criminals away from the dreary weather to what seemed like a tropical paradise. Now I realise the true horror that is Australia.
And so I return to this continent forsaken by every God of mankind’s many myths for true life horror story of Snowtown. The movie is based on the Snowtown Murders of the 1990s and it’s kinda one of the oddest films based on a true story I’ve ever seen. It follows the story of 16 year old James “Jamie” Vlassakis and how he comes to be drawn into the murderous rampage of John Bunting and his band of thugs. The reason that this is an odd film is that the murders kind of take a back seat to the other events taking place around them. You still get to see a few scenes of murder and torture but this isn’t so much a film about the murders or even the psychology of the killer, as these true life serial killer films so often are. Rather it is, as I said, about how someone can find this self in this situation and eventually come to be a complicit, even willing partner in these acts.
And the movie achieves this in a brilliant way. The way it’s shot, the way music is used, it all makes the story play out like some kind of a dream with Jamie, and by extension the viewer, drifting along with the story almost as though he is helpless to fight back against the current that is dragging him a long this dark path. And by dream I mean nightmare. This is a dark, chillingly atmospheric film that could be used to teach people about how effective music, and even the sudden absence of music, in particular can be in conveying tension in even the most seemingly pedestrian scenes, scenes that you feel should give you a break from the way things a spiralling out of control but they don’t.
So yes, this is a breathtakingly beautiful expression of absolute terror and the way the human mind can be coerced into going along with that terror be it out of fear or misplaced friendship or, most likely, a mixture of both. Five pints out of five.
Filed under: 31 Days of Horror, Review | Tags: 1984, 2012, 31 Days of Horror, Allison Abbate, animated, Atticus Shaffer, Catherine O'Hara, Charlie Tahan, Chris Lebenzon, cinema, Danny Elfman, disney, film, Films, frankenstein, Frankenweenie, halloween, John August, Lenny Ripps, Mark Solomon, Martin Landau, Martin Short, movie, movies, Peter Sorg, Review, reviews, stop motion, Tim Burton, Walt Disney Pictures, walt disney studios, Winona Ryder
So I figured I might as well male this animated diversion a trilogy since I was reminded that Frankenweenie existed at some point and out of the three, it could be said that this film has the largest horror pedigree because it is obvious that Tim Burton loves classic horror films, 1931’s Frankenstein in particular.
The story concerns Victor Frankenstein… wait a minute, Victor Frankenstein? Huh, fine. So yes, Victor Frankenstein loves his dog Sparky. Unfortunately Sparky is hit by a car and killed. Inspired by an experiment in his science class, Victor decides to try and reanimate his beloved pet and, living up to his namesake, he is successful. His classmates learn of this and, worried that Victor will show them up at the science fair, they decide to try and get the secret of animal resurrection for themselves.
So like I said, for the most part this is a pretty straightforward take on Frankenstein (the movie more so than the book). It follows it pretty much directly with a few diversions here or there to reference a number of other horror films (from Godzilla to Gremlins). There are differences of course. Re-animated Sparky retains his former personality rather than becoming a lumbering, misunderstood beast-dog, though he still does wind up being misunderstood of course.
Now I don’t have a problem with Frankenweenie basically being Frankenstein with a dog, in fact it’s really rather enjoyable because I love 1931’s Frankenstein too. It even manages to put a more modern spin on the story. The message of Frankenweenie isn’t “Science has dared to spit in the eye of God!” Rather the message is science is awesome and it is neither good nor bad but it can be used both ways. The middle of the movie even contains a great scene that is essentially science vs ignorance with one character complaining about how Pluto isn’t even a planet any more thanks to science. It’s great.
he movie does have another message however, one about loss and letting go, a message that seemed to have sunk in by the end of the movie in rather a nice, heartfelt way until it is completely negated by the film’s ending which is a shame. If Burton had had the guts to stick to where the movie looked like where it was heading, it would have been a vastly superior film.
Still this is probably Burton’s best film in years, reminiscent of his earlier stuff like Edward Scissorhands and, by virtue of it being stop animated and being filled with horror references, A Nightmare Before Christmas. This makes sense since it’s based on a short film of his from 1984 and it was nice to see him returning to an original idea of his rather than taking an existing property and ‘Burtonizing’ it. Hopefully, he’ll stay on this path for a bit longer. Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.
Filed under: 31 Days of Horror, Review | Tags: 2012, 31 Days of Horror, Alex Borstein, animated, Anna Kendrick, Arianne Sutner, Bernard Hill, Casey Affleck, Chris Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christopher Murrie, cinema, Elaine Stritch, film, Films, Focus Features, halloween, Jeff Garlin, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman, Jon Brion, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Laika, Leslie Mann, movie, movies, paranorman, Review, reviews, Sam Fell, Stephen Stone, stop motion, Tempestt Bledsoe, Travis Knight, Tristan Oliver, Tucker Albrizzi, Universal Pictures
So it seems as though I’m still on my nice little animated break from the blood, guts and gore of your more traditional horror fare but this one at least has something more Halloweeny about it than Monsters University what with it’s Zombies and ghosts and witches and such.
ParaNorman is the tale of a young boy named Norman who is obsessed with zombie movie and, it just so happens, can see and speak to the spirits of the dead. He lives in a town that’s only claim to fame is a witch trial some three hundred years prior. The witch it seems placed a curse on those who tried her that would mean that they would rise from their graves, doomed to have their souls trapped in undead bodies for all eternity. Norman comes to learn that this legend actually has a basis in fact and, due to his special ability, it will soon be his responsibility to see that the curse goes unfulfilled for another year. Will he succeed or will the accursed undead rise from their rest?
Well, I should think the answer to that is pretty obvious or else there wouldn’t be a movie. and a movie there is. A rather enjoyable movie as it turns out and one that I’m happy to see doesn’t feel the need to talk down to kids. It’s a movie that realises that you don’t have to talk down to kids. You can make jokes about sex and violence because kids are already making the same jokes on the playground. One character whilst getting Norman to keep a promise by asking him to swear to which Norman responds “You mean like the F word?” These are the kinds of jokes that I can appreciate. Jokes that remind me of my childhood when I heard kids say shit in The Goonies or Elliot call his brother penis-breath in E.T. It’s stuff kids don’t need to be sheltered from because they already know it. It’s honest.
There’s also a pretty good message at the heart of this film, the message of acceptance. Yes, that you should always be accepting of others no matter your own prejudices or fears but also acceptance of the fact that some people just won’t like you, they’ll be dicks to you but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be a dick back.
All in all this was a pretty funny and thoroughly enjoyable film. If I have a complaint it’s that it kinda lags a touch in the middle where the talking to ghosts conceit seems to be all but abandoned for a while but it makes up for it with a pretty strong beginning and ending, some nice horror references to things like Halloween and Friday the 13th and by being one of the best looking stop-motion films I’ve ever seen. Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.