Cinepub


Review: Angry Birds by Jamie

Ever since the release of Super Mario Bros in 1993, Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to leech off of the popularity of video games. This was particularly troublesome back in the day because most video games didn’t have much going in the way of plot beyond run right, jump and stomp on bad guys. Studios inevitably found themselves having to try and flesh out these threadbare plots to try and put something on the screen for at least an hour and a half so that they could somehow justify calling it a film.

It’s just like the game you remember and love!

Even as the years have gone by and the games themselves have developed more complex and intricate storylines with more fleshed out and developed characters, for some reason the movies that are adapted from them don’t seem to have been able to bring that to the screen. Max Payne was a game widely regarded for it’s storytelling and strong central character but the movie version is a lukewarm piece of shit starring Mark Wahlberg that no one really remembers any more and rightfully so.

Still, video games are massive money makers and with the right property it should be possible to pull of the seemingly herculean task of actually making a video game movie worth seeing. I won’t lie, some of them do seem like they could be promising. There’s the Duncan Jones helmed Warcraft movie which has some potential and an Assassin’s Creed movie starring Michael Fassbender which could be pretty good. And then there’s Angry Birds. Yes, someone out there saw the travesty that was the Super Mario Bros movie and said to themselves “Can we find a game that has even less of a plot than that and make that into a movie? After all, the only thing that matters is brand recognition. As long as the name gets people to put their money on the counter, who gives a fuck if it has literally any story?”

It’s that easy!.

And so here we are, nearly a quarter of a century later and we find ourselves faced with a movie based on a video game that most people spend five minutes playing at a time while sitting on the toilet. What is the plot of the game? Some pigs steal some birds eggs. The birds want them back. FIne, that’s a perfectly fine and simple setup for a quick little physics puzzle game. I’ll even go so far as to say that it could make a fairly decent basic of a plot for a movie maybe. But the problem is that by adapting that story from a video game, you suddenly find yourself restricted by the rules of that video game. This means that you have to reference things that the video game has in it. For example, one of the characters in The Angry Birds Movie is called Bomb. When he’s upset, he explodes. It’s as simple as that (or it would be if he actually exploded the many, many times he should surely be upset during this film, but I digress). Why does this happen? I dunno. This is perfectly fine as a mechanic for a video game that you’re not meant to put too much though in to. At the end of the day, if the object of the game is to knock down structures and kill pigs, does it matter if it’s an exploding bird or an actual bomb? No. No it does not. But when it’s a talking, emotive character in a movie then there should be some kind of reason? Why do some of these birds have super powers? Why do some of them not? Why did someone decide to make Angry Birds into a movie? These are all questions which probably should be answered.

There are other problems too. Early in the movie, Red, the main character, is sent to an anger management therapy where he meets the previously mentioned Bomb and the small yellow bird named Chuck. Neither of these two actually seem particularly angry. Chuck is literally just fast and Bomb’s only problem is his exploding which generally seems to happen when he is startled rather than infuriated. Why are these two in anger management? Fuck knows. Because Red has to meet them somehow I guess?

Ok, so maybe I’m thinking a little too much about what is ostensibly a children’s movie. Sure, I can understand that and perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the most importnat thing when you really get down to it is whether or not the movie is entertaining. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. There aren’t really jokes in this movie. Just things happening and then people reacting to them often with a phrase that’s popular at the moment. You know, the kind of timeless humour that will really, really play well in a few years time. And there’s a few jokes sprinkled in for the adults throughout although they are mostly pretty weak such as a book on the pigs ship being called “Fifty Shades of Green.” That kind of thing. In fact, there were maybe two jokes that made me laugh throughout the whole film. One was the line “Something isn’t kosher with these pigs.” and the other was when Red insinuated that another bird looked like he may be a kid abducting paedophile. Hehehehe. Children’s movies. Ok, I’ll admit, Peter Dinklage might have gotten a smile out of me as the Might Eagle but I couldn’t tell you if that was because of the movie or because I thought of Tyrion.

Finally, there’s the message of the movie. Red doesn’t trust these foreigners who have shown up on his land and his ingrained mistrust of strangers is proven to be correct. It turns out that these weird people from a strange land don’t want to be friends! They just want to eat the natives children! Vote Red, 2016. Make Bird Island great again.

Again, I know I’m probably coming down too hard on a piece of shit fluff movie that’s just meant to keep kids entertained for an hour and a half. But there are movies that prove that can be done well and with thought and passion and craft. Movies like How To Train Your Dragon or Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs or, you know, most of Pixar’s catalogue. People deserve better than someone assuming that you’ll cynically pay to see a move just because they recognise the name of it. Your children deserve better than that too.

½ pint out of five for that paedophile joke. Hehehehe.

The Angry Birds Movie



Review: Godzilla (2014) by Jamie

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.

Snowtown_(film)



31 Days of Horror 17: Snowtown (2011) by Jamie

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.

Snowtown_(film)



31 Days Of Horror 16: Frankenweenie by Jamie

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.

Frankenweenie_(2012_film)_poster



31 Days Of Horror 15: ParaNorman (2012) by Jamie

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.

ParaNorman_poster



31 Days Of Horror 14: Monsters University (2013) by Jamie

Ok… I know I was stretching the definition of horror with Stoker. Yes, there is no way that Monsters University could truly be defined as a “horror” film but Monsters is right there in the title and I’ve been enveloped in gore, murder and all that kind of stuff lately and god damnit I need something light so I’m going ahead with this one… Did I mention that the word Monsters was in the title?

So, the original Monsters Inc. It’s a good movie I can’t deny that but I was never a massive fan of it.  It had some interesting ideas but it was kinda formulaic especially after Toy Story 1 and 2. It kinda falls above Bug’s Life for me but definitely near the bottom of the Pixar pile, a good pile though it may be. So how good could a prequel released twelve years after the original actually be especially given the fact that prequel is almost a curse word by this point?

Well, honestly I think I preferred it to the original. Scrap that. I definitely preferred it to the original. I’ll admit, I was sceptical as many were when I first heard of this film. It seemed as though lately Pixar had been falling into a sequel quagmire and their latest original film wasn’t exactly ground-breaking (Yes, I’m looking at you Brave). Monsters University was just another attempt at a soulless cash in by a company that was running out of good original ideas. I also wondered exactly why they were releasing a movie set at a university, a movie ostensibly aimed at kids.

Having watched it though, I can say that whilst this may not be Pixar’s most heart-warming movie, though it still has it’s moments, it is one of their funniest. I also realised that despite the colourful monster designs this isn’t a movie aimed squarely at kids like the Cars franchise is and it made sense to me when I considered that twelve year gap between films. The kids who saw the first movie are probably around University age themselves now. There’s no way kids are gonna get jokes about new age philosophy or subtly implied accidental incest jokes but the kids who watched that first movie twelve years ago are and this is a movie for them. There’s still plenty of jokes and stuff kids will enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but I firmly believe that kids today aren’t the primary audience for this film.

Pixar are really good at this ageing with their audience thing and getting a good balance between appealing to both kids and adults. Hell, just look at Toy Story 3 released ffteen years after the first film. It’s all about growing up and leaving behind your childhood, about parents saying goodbye to their kids. It’s a film that I absolutely believes resonates more with the generation who grew up watching that first film than it does with kids today.

Still, it does fall into a few traps that prequels inevitably do. The crammed in jokes that serve as a bridge between the two films. They aren’t anywhere egregious as the hoops Lucas jumped through to ensure that every little thing in the Star Wars prequels was connected to everything else (3PO was built by Vader! Obi-Wan was chased by Boba Fett and his dad! Yoda hung out with Chewbacca!) but there is a plot thread featuring Randall from the first film which seems like it just stops at one point, feeling like an excuse to have the character there because, you know, prequel.

Still overall this a damn enjoyable film and, to further justify this being included in my horror month, one of the final scenes is a pretty nice homage to horror movies in general. It even takes place at a summer camp. It’s a scene where a character finally realizes… Well, saying anymore would be entering spoiler territory but it’s a surprisingly different place than I thought the movie would go so good for it. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

 

Monsters_University_poster_3



31 Days of Horror 13: Stoker (2013) by Jamie

It can be debated about whether or not Stoker counts as a true horror. It could be said that it is really more of a thriller but I find that the borders between the two genres are often blurred somewhat and so I feel good with my choice of including it here. I’ve even heard some critics describe it as a horror so that helps aid my decision to include it plus it’s heavily influenced by that ol’ master of horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock. What this all boils down to is screw it, I watched Stoker and now I’m reviewing it. Deal with it.

The first thing I should point out is that this is not a vampire movie. There seems to have been confusion when this film came out, I guess owing mostly to the name Stoker. The film does draw some inspiration from Stoker’s novel Dracula but nope, this is not a vampire film. This is a movie more in the mold of Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, a film which I’ll say right now that you haven’t seen, you should. It’s awesome.

Anyway, Stoker is about a young girl called India and how her life gets twist-turned upside down when her father is killed in a car accident on her birthday and her Uncle Charlie comes to stay with her and her emotionally fragile mother. Uncle Charlie seems like a very nice guy but is there something sinister lying behind his polite nature and his good looks like some kind of handsome shark?

That’s where I’ll stick to on synopsis because this film has a number of twists and turns whilst still managing to keep a slow, steady pace. That’s not a criticism. This is a Park Chan-wook film and from this and Oldboy (the only films I’ve seen of his, a tragedy I seek to correct as soon as possible) I can say that he is a master of deliberate story-telling, choosing not to reveal anything until he is ready to but managing to keep you drawn in with his beautiful visual style and steady pacing.

Thankfully, this movie isn’t just well paced and well shot, it’s also terrifically acted. I can’t think of a bad performance in the whole thing… Well, maybe some of the bully characters who are kind of broadly drawn arsehole stereotypes but they’re a pretty minor part of the whole piece so I’ll let them slide. Oh and the way music is used is just another reminder that Chan-wook is a master of his craft.

Overall this is a pretty terrific film. Rent it, buy it, do whatever you have to do but see it. Can’t think of a bad thing to say about it really, or, sadly, too much good because to go into too great detail would inevitably reveal something about the plot. So yeah five pints out of five. Laterz.




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