Author: thesixfingeredman

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

The much anticipated and much hyped sequel to the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) has finally arrived to a fair amount of fanfare, backed by a mass market media campaign that its predecessor could only have dreamed of. There’s been TV spots, cinema advertising, soft drink tie-ins and of course the mobile phone hook-up for Burgundy Wednesday.

And therein lies the issue. This second film feels like a cash in. I know it’s easy to dismiss any sequel as such but this seems to suffer more than most, even more than Die Hard 17: Die Harderererererer. You see, part of the charm of the Anchorman was that it felt, not only quite original, but free and improvised. What I mean by this is that there was no expectation from it, it was basically a group of very talented performers completely uninhibited by time, pressure or script that were allowed to let their comedic juices flow. The result was lightning in a bottle. Even though the original was basically a flop at the cinema it eventually found an audience on DVD and became a monster hit. One of the most quotable films of the last 25 years became the Shawshank of the comedy world.
This does not have that same vibe at all. That’s not to say it isn’t funny, it often is. We chuckled along for most of the film without ever bursting out into full on guffaws. However, the jokes feel forced and a little ruthless. Whereas the first film was heavily improvised here the jokes are too scripted. You can almost see them sat in a room going “wait…..Anchorman fans will love this one, it sounds just like this joke from the 1st film….” Even down to Ron’s expressions of dis-belief. I’m positive that the first time he proclaimed “Sweet Grandma’s spatula” that everyone around him corpsed completely, here we are just given 2 dozen variations on the same style, (although “by the Hymen of Olivia Newton John” was a highlight).

We are enormous fans of the first film and wanted to love this so much but just couldn’t. That’s not to say that is was crushed by the weight of expectation though. We actually approached this with an open mind and heart but we just couldn’t connect with it.

The basic plot outline is that sometime after the events of the original, Ron and his news team have gone their separate ways. He is a success living in New York with his wife Veronica (a woefully underused Christina Applegate) and their boy Walter. He gets fired because, well, he’s useless and ends up at the desk of new 24hr news channel GNN via a Blues Brothers-esque “putting the band back together” sequence.

What follows is a mix of silliness that diehard fans will probably love. For every joke that lands there are 4 that don’t. There are two that really stand out. Firstly they try to recreate the hilarious “sex panther” scene only this time with condoms .It just aint funny. Secondly, a really poorly conceived and judged Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scene that is just awful and many will just consider to be outright racist. Ron Burgundy speaking jive and calling a seemingly middle-class black family “pipe hittin bitches” just made us cringe.

The fact that this film was agreed, written, directed, edited and released in 11 months really shows. It seems like Adam Mackay (returning director) and Ferrell hit upon satirising CNN and ran with it and didn’t give much thought to anything else. The digs at said news channel are about as subtle as Camp Kinds “Whammy” catch-phrase. Just as it’s becoming too preachy about what is and isn’t proper news they throw in a star-studded re-hash of the first films fight which although totally unoriginal is actually one of the highlights if for nothing else how unbelievably surreal it is.

This review could go on for another 1000 words about how frustrating and infuriating this film actually is but we need to stop now because the more we think about it the worse it gets.

All in all it’s a hugely disappointing re-tread of the vastly superior first film with barely an original thought. There are funny moments but not enough to warrant the ludicrously expensive trip to the local multi-plex. Don’t waste your money watching this, it’s shit.

Advertisements

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

Alan Partridge is dead funny.

We were tempted to leave the review at just that, “Alan Partridge is dead funny”. It sums up the film perfectly. If you are a fan of Steve Coogan’s finest creation then there is no way you won’t love this film. Even if you aren’t familiar with the titular radio “star” or North Norfolk Digital then there is so much to enjoy about this very funny film.

Steve Coogan first created the character of Alan Partridge some 20 years ago and has since appeared in virtually every entertainment medium since his inception, it was only a matter of time before he attempted to conquer movies, and we’re glad he did.

You could argue that the plot is a little flimsy and mostly formulaic but it’s really a secondary concern. Why waste your time getting bogged down in plot details when you can spend your time listening to the cringe worthy stuff that comes out of Partridge’s mouth almost constantly.

But here is the basic outline anyway. Alan stitches up sad sack DJ Pat Farrell, (a brilliant Colm Meaney) by getting him fired instead of himself when new owners come in to shake up NND. A disgruntled Pat returns with a gun and hold everyone hostage. When Alan becomes the face of the siege he senses an opportunity to get his face back in the public consciousness.
And that’s it really.

However, the joy here lies in watching Coogan inhabit a character so completely that I don’t doubt that he dreams in AP’s voice. His every twitch and preening glance is perfect. There’s gold throughout the running time, it’s consistently funny and on 4-5 occasions funny enough to make you do your real laugh, not that shit one you put on in front of people, your REAL laugh. You know the one, the one where you sound like a donkey getting kicked in the neathers.

AP regulars get little moments to shine as well, including the ever faithful Lynne (Felicity Montagu), DJ with a past Dave Clifton, (Phil Cornwell) and of course Michael, (Simon Greenall). It’s a shame that Michael didn’t get more lines as he’s always a treat.

Yes there are a few rough edges but this is part of its charm. If Coogan et al had attempted to make a big screen adventure it would have failed. It retains some small screen charm and that’s what makes it work.

Go and see it and laugh and cringe in equal measure. Top stuff, Coogan’s best performance since 24hr Party People.

The World’s End (2013) “Just 3 cornettos, give them to me”

2004 saw the big screen debut of the comedy triumvirate that is Simon Pegg, best mate Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. What they gave us was, quite frankly, fucking brilliant. Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant homage to the zombie greats that have gone before, paying particular reverence to all things George A Romero, (all hail to the king). It was so good that Romero himself is a huge fan of the film.

2007 then brought us part 2 of the 3 flavours Cornetto trilogy. This time spoofing/loving/improving on the action movie genre. Hot Fuzz is a film that just gets better and better with repeat viewings (something we think will be true of this one as well). Once again the trio of Spaced alumni absolutely nailed it.
2013 The World’s End. The finale. If they were worried about their ability to bottle lightning for a third time, they really shouldn’t have. They’ve nailed it again.

The World’s End sees a tonal shift from the gang. Gone is Pegg and Frosts buddy buddy shtick, instead they are former best friends who were driven apart by an event in their past. Also gone is Simon Pegg as a loveable slacker or an uber cop, here he is barely likable as Gary ‘The King’ King, one time most popular kid in school now…..a bit of a twat.

The confidence of the 3 writers here is obvious. They trust the script enough to allow it a slow start. A very slow start. We are sloooowly introduced to the main players as King runs round trying to put the band back together to take on ‘The Golden Mile’. A stretch of 12 pubs, (1 pint in each), that they attempted but failed to conquer when they were 17. We meet Nick Frost as Andrew, a corporate lawyer, Paddy Considine as Steven a successful developer, Eddie Marsan (excellent) as the formerly bullied Peter and finally Martin Freeman as  Oliver or Oman as Gary likes to call him.

Fortunately for the film once they get back together and head back to their old stomping ground of Newton Haven it gathers pace in double-quick time. After they settle in to their old banter routines, (it’s obvious how close they all are off-screen as some of the interplay flows as well as any you’re ever likely to see) the reveal of the aliens who have taken over the town happens almost immediately. Cue a brilliant fight scene in a toilet, a wonderful moment when a very drunk gang try to figure out a name for the invaders, a scene that Buster Keaton would be proud of when Gary is trying to fight off an invader whilst not spilling his pint and a scene stealing turn from the bloke who plays the caretaker from the Harry Potter films.

Whereas in the previous 2 films Pegg was clearly the star here it is Frost who steals the show. He is excellent and very funny throughout. He carries the emotional scenes brilliantly and is quite the mover when it comes to a fight sequence. Who’d have thunk it. All of the main cast are great and ably supported by those around them, particularly Rossamund Pike as Oliver’s sister and the object of both Gary and Steven’s affections. Both get some great lines to share with her including, “I love you…I always have. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had 7 pints” and Gary’s “We’ll always have the disableds” which is as beautifully written a line as you will ever hear.

What follows is a couple of rug pulls and lots of running, jumping and whacking people with bar stools all done with plenty of vim and vigour. We did have to question how they were all such brilliant fighters but we’ll let it slide because it was so much fun we didn’t really care.

If you are a fan of Pegg, Frost and Wright then you should love this film. It ticks all the boxes and is different enough from what’s gone before to be interesting while not so different that you will be scared off.
And if you aren’t a fan of these 3 we think you will be by pint 12.

The World’s End is out now and well worth a watch.

Man Of Steel (2013)

Zach Snyder hates skyscrapers. I mean really hates them. In 20 minutes of spectacular action he destroys more of them than The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the whole Chitari race put together.

But skyscrapercide apart what he has done here is taken, what is seen by many, as the poisoned chalice of Superman and formed a thoroughly entertaining film full of intense performances.

As my co-veiwer rightly pointed out, Superman has been done to death. We’ve had George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling (Smallville), Brandon Routh, (seriously, what has happened to him?) and now Henry Cavill. That’s a lot of water under the spandex.

Because of all this history with the big blue Boy Scout a different approach was needed. We’ve only ever seen the same kind of Supes. Of course Christopher Reeve was the definitive version and every subsequent Superman or Boy has basically played Christopher Reeve playing Superman. However, here we don’t. We get our own, very Dark Knight inspired Superman. (The Clark Knight anyone?)

This Clark is brooding and intense. You feel that the burden of him growing up and having to hide who he truly is weighing down on him. As such he doesn’t fit in and so lives a nomadic existence, helping those who need him and then moving on again before he’s discovered. He’s a fisherman one day and a waiter in a backwater town the next.

The first hour of the film is great but not perfect, Snyder forgets that he’s giving us a backstory that 98% of the world already know and he includes everything, including a prolonged visit to Krypton. Although spectacular the scenes on Krypton at the beginning could have been trimmed down a little, we meet Clark’s real Mum and Dad, (a quite buff looking Russell Crowe) and the big bad General Zod, (an intense as always Michael Shannon). Gone is Terrance Stamp’s camp Zod, you would not spill this fella’s pint. We see Krypton as it is collapsing around in inhabitants and a battle ensues in which our Super Bairn escapes.

The rest of Clark’s growing up is dealt with via non-linear flashbacks. We meet his adoptive Mum and Dad, (Dianne Lane and Kevin Costner, both very good) as they struggle to impress on Clark his importance to the world and how he may be rejected out of fear of the unknown.

In giving us everything, the running time of the film is well north of 2 hours. It’s at least an hour or so before the cape and boots finally get an airing but it’s worth it when they do. The action set pieces are absolutely breath-taking. When Zod and Co finally arrive and start beating the living krypton out of Clark, it is stunning. Snyder’s eye is well and truly in when it comes to the fighting. We see what it would be like if these God like beings actually punched one another. Buildings are hewn in two by the impact of one of them being ka-powed right through a foundation. Trains are thrown like Aerobies, (anyone else remember them?) and beatings are handed out all over the place. But. There’s always a but. Snyder seems to enjoy the rough stuff and the explosions so much that he doesn’t know when to stop. Some of the action goes on sooooooo long that you start to become a little overwhelmed and desensitised to it. Because of this the feeling of peril for much of the cast is lost, save for one scene where Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White is helping a colleague trapped under a building.

Lois Lane is no longer the wise cracking sass machine. Amy Adams version is a tough as nails war journalist. Her and Clarks relationship is different to the ones we’ve seen before. This time she knows who Clark is and is the only person on Earth who manages to track him down. She also isn’t just a screaming girly who seems to be falling off buildings the whole time. She is integral to the overall victory of Big Blue.

Cavill does a grand job as Superman, he looks incredible, (man crush engaged) and is believably nails but it’s Shannon’s show. Michael Shannon is a fantastic actor and here he turns what could have been clunky dialogue into an intense, brooding performance that even has you appreciating his point of view regardless of how genocidal it is.

One criticism we’ve read several times is that Man of Steel takes itself too seriously but honestly, I think it has to. The DC universe IS a darker and more serious place than its Marvel counterpart. Superman has never been a wise cracker and shouldn’t change just because The Avengers are quick with a pithy remark.

All in all this is a really solid effort and Super-enjoyable. There was a lot that could have been tightened up and trimmed down and there may have been one to many Christ allegories but generally good stuff. Welcome back Kal-El it’s good to see you again.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Three years ago JJ Abrams took on possibly the bravest undertaking of his meteoric rise to prominence by agreeing to direct the Star Trek reboot / reimagining / re….whatever you want to call it. Fan boys and geeks everywhere went into meltdown and feared the worst. However, what followed was ludicrously good fun.

Few would deny that 2009’s Star Trek was exactly what a summer blockbuster should be. It was exciting, loud, brash and unashamedly geeky. It wasn’t without its faults of course, most notably a gaping plot hole that we still can’t quite understand how it escaped everyone’s notice. (If Nero had traveled back in time why didn’t he just go and warn Romulus before it was destroyed instead of waiting 30 years for Spock?) That aside, though it was a joy.

For the most part Abrams steered clear of shoehorning in references to the original series or the films, which we think was hugely to his credit. It allowed viewers who may not have previously been fans to access this Star Trek universe without needing any knowledge of Shatner, Nimoy et al.

And it’s here that Into Darkness really falls down. There are just too many references and overt nods to both the series and the films. So much so that my companion was left feeling completely alienated by the in jokes and references to what has gone before. We assumed that after cleverly creating an alternate universe in the first film that we would avoid this, sadly not. A lot of the time we caught ourselves thinking  “Really? Did they need to do that? Is this just a reboot of another of the films? That makes no sense.” And finally “WHAT!!!!! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT……THAT’S NOT EVEN YOUR LINE”.

Abrams also seems to struggle to know what to do with any of his female characters. For the most part they are just used as exposition or are just shown in their underwear.

The film itself delivers plenty of bang for your buck in the effects and wow factor stakes. There are a couple of scenes that are draw droppingly good, especially the opening. We are reintroduced to the crew of the Enterprise as they are chased by a primitive tribe on a faraway planet as they try to avoid breaking the prime directive, (you can’t interfere with the development of another species – I’m not sure that Kirk’s libido got that memo in the original series though) with limited success almost resulting in one crew members death.

Meanwhile back on earth we meet the film’s big bad – JOHN HARRISON. Hardly a name that strikes fear into your heart. As it turns out he is formerly of Star Fleet and has turned terrorist against his former employers. Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly having a whale of a time, he chews his way through scenery while still sounding like he has plums in his mouth. (Steady) He commits an act of horror against the Star Fleet big wigs and then promptly scarpers to Kronos, (the Klingon home world) where he cannot be followed. We get to see some of the old Cornish Pasty faced warriors as they get their arses handed to them by Sherlock himself.

We won’t go into too much detail after that as it would be difficult to do so without giving away vital plot points. Needless to say the brown stuff hits the fan and Kirk and Co are thrust into a variety of perilous situations. These just seemed to be a procession of fights and chases which seemed to go on, and on, and on ad nauseam.

We were left feeling a little short changed by Into Darkness. Yes the villain was an improvement from the first film and yes it looks great, particularly if you like lens flare, but like many Vulcans it lacked emotion.

One real positive however is Zachary Quinto as Spock. He is the beating heart of this franchise. Although others perform admirably, (even with the dodgy accent, Simon Pegg is again on good form) it is he who performs the films heavy lifting. Kirk feels strangely redundant in this film and Cumberbatch although good is woefully underused.

The 12 year old in me enjoyed the explosions but the adult in me just couldn’t help but feel like they could have done much, much better. It’s a shame that they couldn’t capitalise on the start they made three years ago, this feels like a step in the wrong direction.

This was less Wrath of Kahn and more Trouble with Tribbles. Let’s hope he does a better job with Star Wars.

The Evil Dead (2013) Will it swallow your soul?

There are certain films that horror fanboys, (and girls) would have you believe should never be remade. They should exist forever in their original state, a testament to their genius. The Exorcist, The Shining, Suspiria, Videodrome and Don’t Look Now to name but a few. The Evil Dead definitely fits into this category. Its fans are some of the most hardcore that I know, their love of this cheap as chips video nasty runs deep, I know because I am one.

I went expecting another poorly conceived and executed rehash. I left pleasantly surprised at what someone can do when they truly love the original.

Director Fede Alvarez is obviously a fan of the original films. Their fingerprints are all over this well executed remake. He has approached this with the right attitude and tries to deliver all of the elements you would expect from the original films but brought to you in a way that twists it so as not to deliver a shot for shot remake, (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho anyone?). The Oldsmobile is there, the swing is there, the close up clock shots are there but only as references and not as a part of the story. At times this feels as though he might have been co-erced by Raimi, Campbell and Tapert, (all on board as producers) to include some of these familiar items so as not to alienate the old fans. Personally I thought it was a nice touch.

With this new Evil Dead they have tried to introduce a more cohesive plot, instead of a group of demon fodder twenty somethings just going up to a cabin in the woods for no obvious reason this time we are introduced to the gang as holding an intervention for their drug addicted friend, Mia (Jane Levy). Her older brother David is there with childhood friends Eric (the nerd), Olivia (the nurse), and Natalie (the blonde). This makes for some interesting ideas on withdrawal. Are the things Mia is experiencing just part of her going cold turkey? This isn’t explored for long as the shit starts to hit the fan in glorious bloody and gory style.

When the splatter starts it’s actually a welcome relief. One of the negatives of the film is the first 25-30 minutes. There is a completely erroneous opening scene that is in no way relevant to the rest of the film. I have no idea why it wasn’t cut.

Also in trying to introduce the characters to us our leads all have to act. They seem to struggle a little with this, emoting is not their strong suit.

But one possession later (this will make most women in the audience cross their legs), we have our first Deadite and the film takes off and takes off in a tidal wave of effluvia.

While you could argue that most of what happens next has been done before I would argue back that it has been a long time since I’ve seen it done so well. The fact that Alvarez has used virtually no CGI in this film is a real feather in his cap. The gore is brilliantly well done, he seems so proud of what his team has accomplished that the camera lingers on a few scenes to the point that you are almost begging him to stop. In particular are a shot involving a Stanley knife and a tongue and an electric bread knife and a possessed arm. From there we have rivers of blood and gore, he really has turned it up to eleven with the amount of the red stuff that we see. He keeps the shocks coming thick and fast and you barely have chance to catch your breath, (one scene in the bathroom had another of the Early Bird team pressed so far into his chair it nearly enveloped him). Characters fall, toolsheds are visited and redemption of sorts is found by fiery purification.

You need to go into this film and be prepared to switch off your critical brain and just enjoy it for what it is, an extravaganza of blood and guts and a very loving nod to a horror classic. On the whole I think it has succeeded in bringing a 32 year old franchise right into the modern-day. Where it goes from here I don’t know but if they keep Alvarez on board then I think they are on to a winner, he’s a real horror talent and one to watch.

If you like your horror creepy and subtle you may not get the most out of this, but if, like me, you like it loud, in your face and with tons of blood and sinew then this is the film for you.

Well worth the admission fee.

GI Joe Retaliation (2013) No really, one of us actually went to see it.

Where do we begin with this turgid, lumbering and, most disappointingly, boring film. Well we’ll start there. Boring.

GI Joe Retaliation picks up exactly where the first one left off. We all remember how that ended, don’t we? Well some stuff happened in the first one with some people and things were blown up in slow motion. But it did these things with a sense of glee and self-awareness that a film based on a 4” high plastic soldier needs. The sequel however takes any sense of joy its predecessor had, straps a grenade to it, and boom. Gone.

We could outline the plot for you here but there really is no point. You’ve heard and seen it all before and executed much better.

Instead we want to talk about missed opportunities. These films could have been brilliantly silly and yet somehow we end up with a film, (based on a doll with a drawstring voice box and eyes that were moved via a back of the head slider, gizmo thingy) that is so weighed down by its own seriousness and importance that it cripples it. The only levity comes in the short time that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Channing Tatum spend on-screen together. They had the making of a passable buddy relationship. There’s even a pretty funny moment about the irony of one of these elite soldiers being terrible at Call of Duty. But then we lose the lofty skills of Tatum and are left with The Rock to carry the movie with some attractive people who looked confused. Even Mr. Johnson’s bulging biceps struggle under the weight of the task.

The fight scenes are clumsy, the action set pieces are all close up and shaky cam and useless, the script is beyond terrible and the “acting” appalling. We’re not sure what we expected from the director of Step Up 2 and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never but still, this?

Bruce Willis phones in yet another performance, (when did he stop smiling?) and salvages no credibility from this film.

We imagine that if you are 5 years old and a little on the slow side then you will love this film. If you are not, well then you will most certainly not enjoy it.

We considered doing a Spinal Tap, Shark Sandwich/Shit Sandwich review as we didn’t want to go over this film in our head again. We’re dumber for watching it. If you are thinking of watching this then please, for the love of Die Hard, don’t.

In honour of the late Roger Ebert we give this film 3 thumbs down.