Involuntary/De ofrivilliga (2008)

Involuntary begins with a father taking a firework in the face at his wedding anniversary, after declaring said firework to be completely safe. After walking back into the house with both his visage and dignity more than a little bruised, Father continues to celebrate his nuptials with his wife, despite all the evidence and the guests suggesting he should go to the hospital. His fears that the evening will be ruined lead him to carry on as normal regardless. He sees disapprovement all around him and maybe to a greater extent, he sees people questioning his own masculinity and pain endurance. That all this is in his head is apparent, but soon, his behaviour convinces others that he’s fine and soon no one else wants to make a fuss. Such is the power of group behaviour.

This is just one of five stories that play in front of us; each one showing the actions of group behaviour. Two teenage girls go for a night on the town, each seeking to prove how much more mature they are than the other; a teacher is pressured into not blowing the whistle on a colleague who beats a student who is despised by the rest of the faculty; a famous actress on a coach witnesses the frustration of her fellow travellers when the driver refuses to move until the vandal of a toilet steps forward; and a blokey weekend in the country comes to a brittle end when a game from their youth raises its head again.

Director Ruben Östland’s scenes roll by without any attempt of a cut. Often the camera is positioned in a manner as to make viewing difficult.  We’re not told what to look for, we have to search for it ourselves. In essence, we become part of the group, struggling to listen in on whispered lines and staring at the back of heads. As people talk over each other, it’s like everyone in the film has decided you’re not allowed to play anymore, so welcome to Coventry. Other times, we find ourselves waiting for the characters to catch up with us, and we stand in country lanes, watching them talk amongst themselves. Does this make Involuntary feel stilted? In a sense, yes, there are a number of long pauses. But then that’s why it feels completely natural as well. Dialogue with regular human beings that aren’t played by Bruce Willis or Morgan Freeman doesn’t mean waiting for the other person to finish so we can say our bit. Sometimes we want to talk over the masses and be heard; sometimes we just let ourselves be talked at for fear of repercussions. What happens after you make your choice will be up to you.

Östland’s script, as well as the performances he gets out of his cast, means that even the most minor of characters doesn’t feel wasted. Whether that be the mother hens clucking at their husbands to take their friend to the hospital, or the recently divorced coach driver who just wants to know who broke the coach toilet. The main characters themselves are lovely little enigmas that test your loyalty of them. Which of the two girls the leader and the other the follower? Are some of the lads on holiday victims of the jovial Leffe (Leif Edlund Johansson) or is it the other way round? You may not end up with the same answers as us, or even the same questions, but you will come out of the film wanting to discuss, which is more than you can say of a lot of films that have come out this year.

Hotel Transylvania (2012)

Looking through the murky depths of Adam Sandler’s filmography, it’s surprising to see that Hotel Transylvania, his billionth movie, is only his second family film after Eight Crazy Nights. However, this only comes in second to the surprise that it’s co-written by Peter Baynham, who brought us  such kiddie friendly fare such as Arthur Christmas, Brass Eye and I’m Alan Partridge.

Contrary to popular belief, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) is not the Bela Lugosi-shaped blood sucker we all know him to be. Rather than feasting on the blood of virgins and harassing the wives of estate agents, he’s actually a docile single father trying to balance the pressures of running a hotel for his fellow denizens of the night, with trying to protect his 118 year old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from the horrors of the outside world. If there’s one thing that truly horrifies him, it’s the thought of a human encroaching on his domain, and would you Adam and Eve it? Here comes a big box of trouble in the shape of clueless backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg). What’s a Transylvanian nobleman to do!

Hotel Transylvania is unashamedly a kid’s movie, which is both complementary and damning. We know we laughed just as much as the munchkins in the audience with us, but coming out we struggled to remember any actual ‘jokes’. The zaniness of Samberg’s performance is counteracted by Gomez, whose years on the Disney channel have really helped her fine tune the art of blandness. And so it goes on.

Maybe the issue is with us, the thought of Genndy Tartakovsky directing Hotel Transylvania made us a bit giddy. With a pedigree that includes Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and 2 Stupid Dogs, we really wanted him to pull something special out of the bag. Unfortunately, the script by Robert Smigel and the aforementioned Baynham has very little in the way of originality; feeling like a mixture of Monsters Inc and Rent-a-Ghost with an ending that can be used by Ground Technicians to land planes. It all feels a bit, well, toothless.

This all makes it sound like Hotel Transylvania is a mediocre film, which is far from the truth. The problem seems to be that on the one hand, we have a film that celebrates the art of the fart joke with a plot that’s plotted simply enough for the ankle-biters to follow. However, on the other hand, we have a weakly plotted film with a penchant for breaking wind. Which side of the age of 10 you land on will probably determine how you feel after those 90 minutes are over.

The Ides of March (2011)

Ryan Gosling is Stephen Myers, the cocksure Junior Campaign Manager for Governor of Pennsylvania, Mike Morris (George Clooney). He’s awesome, he’s witty, he brown-noses Morris on a daily basis. Then one day, as they say in the trailers, his life is turned upside down when he is invited to a join the oppositions campaign trail and he begins a relationship with Evan Rachel Wood’s spunky intern. What’s a guy to do? Well, as Ryan Gosling is in the lead, we get lots of staring like a child who’s just been told that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

The Ides of March wants to be so intelligent. It really does.

Everyone talks in ridiculously long sentences that can only ever happen in political movies. ‘Well, Ted, if we don’t get the vote for the 45% of the 10 members of the ABC generation in this state, then we may as well hook line and speak to the frighteners about approaching this campaign from a new angle nearer to the unions’ idea of a plate of eggs’.

Everyone furrows their brows, rolls up their sleeves, undoes their ties and look serious. We’re talking Oscar baiting seriousness. Hey, you know what Hollywood? This film has a message that needs to get out there… Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And you know politicians? They lie, man. They lie and they don’t care who gets hurt. It’s true. This film is pulling back the curtain, it’s through the looking glass, it’s pointing at other films and questioning their reason to exist.

It’s so heavy with it’s own self-importance, it gets crushed underneath the weight of it’s own bullshit.

That power corrupts is nothing new. The Godfather Part 2 pretty much wrote the book on wide-eyed innocence becoming a cold icy stare. That doesn’t instantly mean that the film is bad. It’s just it doesn’t shed any new light on to the subject. The other issue is that Gosling is so unappealing. His character is so unlikable, that you have next to no sympathy for him as the likes of Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei begin to piss on his parade. And piss they do. As Gosling stumbles like a new-born fawn from one ludicrous plot twist to the other, you wonder when he’s going to realise that he is acting like a total idiot that kind of deserves what’s happening to him. And as each bad thing that happens to him, the melodrama begins to increase. Evan Rachel Wood’s final scene genuinely made me smirk. I don’t think that was Clooney’s intention. I’m pretty sure he was going for drama. The final showdown between Gosling and Clooney is  nothing more than a moodily lit wailing and gnashing of teeth to show amazing these two actors can act when they want to show how good they are at acting. OMG, they R so gud!!1

The Ides of March is so serious and aiming to be worthy, that it loses sight of what’s important. Namely characterisation and plot. Seriously, save yourself some time and pop The Godfather Part 2 back in  the DVD player.

Nosferatu (1922)

F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is the ultimate in vampire (sorry, vampyre) movies. Yes, it’s consider as German expressionism at it’s finest and Murnau’s direction is wonderful the main reason this film is so iconic is due to it’s titular antagonist. Mak Shreck’s Nosferatu not only beats up Edward Cullen, he has off it off with Bella whilst doing it.

Nosferatu is a terrifying creation and I vividly remember being very young and running out of the living room when his face was used briefly in a TV documentary on, unsurprisingly, horror. Schrek’s performance comes down in part to his body shape. Lengthy limbs that were made for casting recognisable silhouettes on the walls of unsuspecting victims. He was a like a Doug Jones of his day. Or is Doug Jones a Max Shreck of our time? I’m drifting…

One thing that surprised me was the humour that runs occasionally crops up through the film. Now, one may argue that my humour is derived from the fact that the film can look quaint compared to today’s offerings. Well, yes… But ol’ Nossie is a bit of one for the old one liners that in no way suggest he is a vampire…

Yep, no vampires here. I’m just liking your lady’s throat. Woo, mama! That’s a jugular.

Okay, I’m not suggesting this the precursor to Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but I was surprised how much it wasn’t like the furrowed brow offering I had always thought it was.

Nosferatu is obviously one of those movies you should at least try to watch.

I don’t want to tell you to watch the whole thing. That would be pushy. I feel we’re too early in the relationship to do that. Try it for ten minutes and if you don’t like it, then go look up topless pictures of Kat Dennings as it’ll probably be a better use of your time, you uncultured swine.

Okay, that was pushy.


Dr. Who and The Daleks (1965)

Dr. Who and the Daleks is what happens when the BBC tries to make a bit money off a flagship show, but realises it’ll be a good 30 years till someone invents video. With the promise of not only starring the Daleks, but also being in colour and having Peter Cushing as the Doctor, you can see how a child of the 60s would be screaming down the house to go see it. The thing is, if we were that child we’d be punishing ourselves afterwards for even letting our parents considering to take me.

The film wastes no time in taking us straight us to a mysterious planet and getting the plot running. At a run time of only 70 minutes, it can’t afford to. Within six minutes, we’ve met Dr Who, his family (also with the surname Who), a man called Ian (played in Carry-On style by Roy Castle), the TARDIS and then, BOOM, we’re on an alien planet. You want to get straight to the point, you come to this movie. Unfortunately, the proceeding 65 minutes is filled with poor acting, terrible scripting and some fantastic conjecture. ‘No one could survive on this planet,’ says Dr Who, having only been on the planet for 30 seconds and both seeing and hearing evidence to the contrary.

So, onto the Daleks… A race of terrifying aliens… who need static electricity to move around. Which really makes them a bit quaint and, honestly, a bit shit. They mope around wanting to be released from their casings and yet these metal pre-cursors to emos managed to find time to destroy half their home planet in a war. They really are crap.

The Thals, our hero species and enemies of the Daleks, look and act like a satirical dig at the rising hippie youth of the time. All floppy hairs and clothes no doubt made from hemp, Dr Who ensures that they buck up their ideas and learn to fight. In fact, aside from impersonating William Hartnell, this is all Cushing does for the entire film. He really does seem to be phoning this one in. It will be probably come as no surprise to some that he never mentioned this, or its sequel Dalek Invasion 2168 AD, in his autobiography or anywhere else.

What we have here is not so much a Doctor Who movie, but rather a cheap sci-fi movie that’s managed to get hold of a couple of BBC licenses. And once you remove those copyrighted items, you still can’t garner any joy from it.

Love and Other Disasters (2006)

Love and Other Disasters is a spiraling, screaming pile of overly saccharine poop. I don’t think you will find a truer sentence on this blog.

Starring the late Brittany Murphy, it tells the story of a fashion designer (Murphy) and her turbulent love life in London. Living with her gay best friend, Murphy is happy to set her friends up and enjoy the life of a bachlorette, despite having sterile, by the book sex with her vile ex. Then she meets Paulo. Thinking he’s gay, she promptly tries to set him up with her neurotic housemate, not realising that he really likes…. You know what, I’m going to stop there. The more I type about the thin tissue that’s called a plot, the more I want to take an eyeball out with a spoon.

I struggle to find anything positive to say about this film. Okay, it has a gimmick whereby the characters constantly remind us and each other that this is ‘real life’ and not a ‘movie’. In fact, Murphy seems to have it as part of her contract that she recites this mantra every other sentence. They reference the rules of a romantic comedy and all the clichés that come with one. That’s right. We’re in Scream for the Bridget Jones generation. However, if it were really was clever as it wants to be, then why allow everyone’s storylines to be resolved in the formulaic fashion that they mock.

The gay stereotyping that runs through this is equally trite. ‘Ooh, gay men. They love talking about girly things with girls. Thye like soooo get girls’. Ugh. I didn’t realise people still used the term ‘gaydar’, let a lone with a straight face.

Everyone is so English and so white and so middle class, part of me wondered if this ws a giant piss take in the vein of Epic Movie et al. Richard Curtis has liteally nothing to fear from this abortion of a movie.

But let’s look at the positives. The film had an ending.

The Beaver Trilogy (2001)

The Beaver Trilogy is an unusual beast. Directed by Trent Harris it is, as the title may suggest, a trilogy of short films. None of which feature actual beavers. Okay, there’s the city of Beaver, but still… I was expecting beavers. Filmed over the course of six years, each film centres on Olivia Newton-John impersonator and seeker of fame, Groovin’ Gary; a real resident of Salt Lake City who Harris met whilst trying out a new colour news camera.

The first third introduces us to Groovin’ Gary via the footage filmed by Harris. Gary is a word a second guy slipping from one impression to the next. His desire to be famous spills out of every nervous twitch and glance at the camera. The fact that he seems so nervous makes you wonder whether he truly has what it takes or whether he’s just so excited that he sees a spur of the moment interview in a car park as his big break. Harris later goes to the titular Beaver, Utah to film Gary perform as an Olivia Newton-John tribute act in a talent contest. It’s here we see how serious Gary is to be famous.

The next two thirds are two films, again directed by Trent Harris, that take the original premise of the preceding ‘documentary’ into two different directions. The Beaver Kid 2 is a dramatic interpretation staring Sean Penn as Groovin’ Larry. Whilst Crispin Glover dons the moniker Groovin’ Larry in the comedy, The Orkly Kid.

The Beaver Trilogy is more of an art house project than a true feature film and all three movies vary in quality; literally and figuratively. As it has never had an official release due to licensing problems (DAMN YOU OLIVIA!), the main selling point seems to be seeing Crispin Glover and Sean Penn dressed up as women. To be honest, this was the main selling point of To Wong Foo as well.

For me, there’s something morbid about about it all. Groovin’ Gary’s desire to be famous has come to fruition but it seems to be at the expense of his modesty. I’m genuinely interested to know what old Gary thinks of this. And whilst I can protest the point of this film, I’m half sure that if Gary does know about this film, then he’s probably happy with the results. After all, it’s not everyone who gets Sean Penn to play them in a film.

Green Lantern (2011)

When my fellow EBFS associate and I were young, we would often play superheroes. Batman, Superman, Spiderman and even Lion-O would be the opinion formers of our young fertile imaginations. Do you know who we never pretended to be? Green Lantern. Not once. Mainly because we had never heard of in the UK. Now, over the years, I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces about Green Lantern and, if I can be honest, it never really tightened my trousers.

Green Lantern, a superhero who is one of 7,200 other members of the Green Lantern Corps who, in turn, share exactly the same powers. He’s hardly special in the wider spectrum. The anthropomorphic Howard the Duck has more individuality compared to Hal Jordan. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m aware Green Lantern has a dedicated fan-base. I mean, who doesn’t admire someone whose biggest weakness is Yellow. ‘Argh, look out! It’s Big Bird. I’m fucked!’ DC and Warner Brothers know this as well, which is why they’ve been pushing Green Lantern movie as being the next best thing to Christopher Reeve rising from the dead and doing another Superman movie.

Now, I’ve been a bit late to the game because Lantern’s release was held back in Australia. Not sure why, but the fact they didn’t even release it during the Winter holidays in July suggests to me they didn’t think even kids would want to see it.

The film tells the story of Hal Jordan, a fighter pilot and asshole, who is given a ring and becomes a superhero and asshole. That’s pretty much it. I really don’t know have anything else to say about the plot. The Green Lantern is by far one of the worse superhero movies since Catwoman. Wait, scratch that. Leonard Part 6. It’s that bad. Before I enjoy myself, let’s get its good points out of the way. They are:

  • The brevity of it – Under two hours is a bonus
  • The special effects – For all it’s detractors, I actually thought the special were pretty good
  • Geoffrey Rush – Who doesn’t fucking love him?!
  • Being a DC film, it’s one of the few comic book movies that doesn’t have frigging Samuel L. Jackson

What’s wrong with the film? Well, how many ways are there to leave your lover. Let’s break it down into bite-size chunks.

Ryan Reynolds/Hal Jordan
The cinema’s answer to a poor man’s impression of Bradley Cooper. ‘Buried’ showed that Reynolds can be more than a sitcom actor severely punching above his weight. As Hal Jordan, Reynolds takes the novel approach of playing our hero as the biggest douche in the universe. During a battle simulation against a couple of plane drones, Hal sacrifices his wing-man in order to beat the drones, thus preventing them from being sold and, finally, meaning that a lot of people are made unemployed. Reynolds winks, giggles and flies off. Presumably we’re meant to think ‘wow, he’s so anti-authority, I wish I were him’. Didn’t work for me. I immediately thought he was a bucked toothed, tall glass of piss tasting milk. They also try to give Hal backstory, but all this boils down to is ‘dead daddy issues’. Yawn.

Peter Sarsgaard/Dr Hector Hammond
Hector is not a bad guy name. The Joker, Venom, Green Goblin… These are bad guy names. Hector Hammond is not a bad guy name. I don’t care he was in the comic book, he sounds like an accountancy firm. And he’s so whiny… God, he’s whiny. Least there’s no kitchen fucking.

Most comic books try to establish a connection between the goody and the baddy. ‘The Green Lantern’ has no time for this. DC have decided that the chances are that if you’re in the cinema then you’re a Lantern fan and, therefore, don’t need to be told any backstory. This explains why they don’t extend on Hector and Hal’s relationship until the last half hour… Try and imagine having a conversation with a feriend in a pub. Halfway through the conversdation, your friend breaks off to have a conversation with some that’s walking past. You hear every word, but don’t understand what’s going on. You’d ask, but feel rude doing so. That’s what this film does. It makes you feel bad for wanting to know what the fuck is going on. Even the surprise ending following the credits makes no sense unless you’ve read the comics.

‘Guys, I’ve been watching the final edit and I like what I see. That whole first hour where it’s ‘Hal Jordan: An asshole in portrait’ is great. Then when you follow it up with two hours of shooting shit up… Blew my mind!’

‘Glad you liked it.’

‘The thing is.. The folks upstairs want a film that comes in under two hours. They were thinking that maybe Reynolds should step into the suit within the 20 minute mark.’

‘Gee, the asshole part is pretty intricate to the whole thing…’

‘Yeah, I know. Look it’s either that or the two hours where Green Lantern shoot shits up… I know you guys will make the right decision.’

Aaaand that is exactly why (probably) the finale is so rushed.

All in all, Green Lantern is pretty poor as comic book films go. If this works out to be a trilogy, they really need to buck their ideas up… Or just not do it. Yeah, that would be better.

*Five minutes later*

Noonan: Well, that’s that review done. Oh, look there’s that yellow ring that makes you evil. May as well put it on with no real motivation for doing so.


Noonan: Yep. Looks like I’m evil!

Nick Fury: Wanna join the Avengers?

Noonan: Yay! To the inevitable sequel!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)

Previously on ‘Reviewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows‘…

‘Deathly Hallows is a tome of a children’s novel.’

‘Where the Hell do you get off? You dick!’

‘Grumpy teenager of a film.’

‘The Nick Cave bit…’

‘The Boy Who Lived…’

‘This’ll be the best Christmas Walford has ever seen.’


Excuse the theatrics, but I’m just doing what Deathly Hallows Part 2 refuses to do. Give the casual viewer a catch-up on Part 1. Nope. David Yates makes sure we hit the ground running. And by running, I mean mumbling for 20 minutes in a beach side cottage, but my point stands.

My previous review gives the sensation that I’m not a Harry Potter fan. Trust me, I am. My problem with the films is that they are so uneven. I genuinely only count three as being actually any good. Part 2 is one of those. Following the threat of more walking, Part 2 really picks up the minute we get to Diagon Alley and, from that point, very rarely lets up.

There’s a sense of maturity to this film that has definitely been missing from the others. It’s hard to put my finger on what makes me think this, which is pretty useless for a film review I know. The direction is right, the mood is right and the jokes are right. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling I get when I watch 80s movies from my childhood.

One could go on all day about how out three protagonists work so well together, but mention should be made of Alan Rickman. A ten minute series of flashbacks showing Snape’s part in Harry’s life enforces the reasons why Rickman was chosen for more than just looking like an elderly Trent Reznor.

The climatic battle at Hogwarts is bloody without being too dark; a good blend of one-liners prevent it from being too bogged down in its own emo-ness. It’s structured so that, whilst long, you don’t lose your bearings among the chaos.

So, with all the Potter love I’m spewing, you’re probably wondering if there is actually anything wrong with it. Well, yes. The attempt to throw in numerous cameos from the previous seven films does distract from the action on screen.

‘Oh no! He’s dead. I can’t believe it… Wait, is that Jim Broadbent? It is! Oh, and there’s Miriam Margoyles!’

A big special mention has to be made to the ending… I’ve mentioned my disdain for the epilogue from the book so my heart truly sank when they decided to include it in Part 2. It’s awful. It’s like watching pre-schoolers raiding mummy’s wardrobe so they can play dress up. CGI was not invented for this. Yes, it was put in there to appease the hardcore fans, but so were the multiple endings of ‘Return of the King’. That didn’t make any more fucking right.

Long story short, Part 2 finishes the series on a high and I’m sure that Warner Brothers are happy. Now, let’s remake all Chris Columbus’s contributions and we may be onto something…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)

Deathly Hallows is a tome of a children’s novel. Lots of walking, camping and exposition coming out of the wazoo. It’s also supremely dull for the first third and has one of the worse epilogues known to humanity.

In fact, no. The worst epilogue ever belongs to Stephen King’s Dark Tower serial.

No, Stephen, just because you warn us that the last chapter is not very good doesn’t make it okay. Seriously, it took you 20 years to write that… THAT! Where the hell do you get off? You dick.

I’m drifting…

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that with a book so weighty, how do you turn it into a summer friendly film? Well, you could go Peter Jackson’s route and trim off some of the Tom Bombadil sized fat and give us a 2 hours plus popcorn fest. However, if you’re Warner Brothers, what you actually do is split the book into two and release them over the course of six months, therefore financially raping the very fans they should be appeasing.

Does it work? Well, on the basis of Part 1, no it fucking doesn’t.

Part 1’s problem is that it’s the grumpy teenager of the film series. It really wants to be seen as a grown up. It walks around in dark clothes and tuts at obvious humour. It pouts, emotes and shuffles along at a snail pace. It thinks its amazing because it swears and finds symbolism in Nick Cave lyrics that others ‘wouldn’t understand’.

Ah, yes. The Nick Cave bit. With Ron having left the trio, Hermione and Harry sit in silence working out their next move. From Hermione’s radio we hear the beginning chords of the Bad Seeds’s fantastic ballad ‘O Children’. Harry stands up and, taking her hand, dances with Hermione in a scene whose underlying message is that one can find joy in the darkest moments. THAT is what it’s supposed to be.

THIS is how it came out:

What is that look on Harry’s face? The Boy Who Lived… reduced to looking like someone dancing whilst trying to hide a massive erection.

So, yeah. There is a lot wrong with this film. Direction be damned. For whilst it is impressive, its dragged down by incompetent acting and sheer bloody morbidness. Obviously, the old WB want to save the best till last and Part 2 is destined to bring us the final fight at Hogwarts, but having to wait close to three hours and six months to get there seems to be pushing it…

Time will tell.