Wednesday 29 February 2012

Today's Review: Tower Heist

I don't particularly like Ben Stiller or Eddie Murphy, they've turned out some pretty shitty stuff over the years. But I was willing to give this one a go, 'cause it's about a heist. Also a tower.

Tower Heist follows the staff of an exclusive apartment complex in New York called The Tower. Ben Stiller plays Charlie, the manager of all the staff on call to make sure the occupants' needs are met. But when the millionaire owner of the penthouse gets arrested for fraudulent activities, the entire staff pension that he promised to invest for them is gone. Desperate for their money back, and revenge, Charlie and a few other members of staff hatch a plan to break into the penthouse suite and locate the rich guy's safety net cash reserve.

It's an original enough plot, and I actually quite enjoyed watching it unfold. The comedy throughout this movie is not as outlandish as Murphy and Stiller's regular efforts, and it fits quite nicely in with the story, toning down the outright laughs to make sure the robbery element gets enough focus. Stiller and Murphy themselves are pretty good, they didn't annoy me one bit during the movie, and that's quite rare these days.

The only real problem is the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything, except to say I was disappointed. There is a build up and a certain plan of action going on throughout the movie, but the final events leave everything half-assedly resolved and full of plot holes. It's like queuing up for a long time to get on an awesome rollercoaster, but at the last minute you're diverted into a small room where a fat guy shits in your mouth. I can definitely say I was enjoying Tower Heist, and it's certainly not an awful film, but the last act really soured my opinion of the movie over all. Still, good effort, better luck next time.

My rating: 2/5

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Today's Review: In Time

"Time is money", so they say. Well, here is the official movie adaptation of that quotation.

In Time follows the rise and fall of Will (Justin Timberlake), a man working away for a living in a poor neighbourhood. Of course, things aren't that simple, because this is sci-fi. In Time takes place in a world where human beings have been genetically altered to never age past 25 years, but to avoid overpopulation each person gets only a year of time to stay alive after their 25th birthday. To gain more time they must work for it, and everything they do costs minutes, days, or even months. Get enough time and you can live forever, but inflating prices and lower wages means life is ever tougher in the ghetto. But when Will suddenly finds himself with more time than he knows what to do with, he ventures into areas of the country where people can literally throw their time away. But with the local police force, or Time Keepers, on his back, Will is soon forced to take desperate measures to get himself enough time, and perhaps level the playing field between rich and poor.

Yes, if you haven't already guessed it, let me spell it out for you. In Time is purely about the distribution of wealth. It's actually a really neat concept to switch out money with years and hours left to stay alive, and every aspect of the financial situations laid out by the recession and the Occupy movements recently is perfectly mirrored in this universe. There are a lot of neat comparisons and ideas executed throughout the movie, but it all trails off a bit when the plot becomes like a more futuristic Robin Hood. I guess there are several indicators that this is where the plot is going, and while it makes for a stylish and action packed latter half, it seems like the deep thought processes behind the first half are abandoned in favour of guns and heists.

Performances in In Time are pretty good. Cillian Murphy is as great as always, and while I normally can't stand Amanda Seyfried she didn't annoy me too much in this movie. Justin Timberlake is good too, I didn't believe he could really make it in his transition to acting, but he has surprised me in several movies that he's been in. The trouble with the casting of In Time is that everyone has to look 25, so there's no veteran talent to back everyone else up. Some people in the movie certainly look a bit older than 25, but for the most part they got it right, and there was never a point that I thought the acting was terrible.

In Time is a great sci-fi movie. It has a well thought out concept that is executed wonderfully in the beginning stages, but the ending trails off into more of a Hollywood blockbuster. It's definitely worth checking out.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 27 February 2012

Today's Review: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Remember that guy who stuffed his face with McDonald's for ages? Well, he's back, with a new documentary about product placement.

Yes, I'm sure we all know about product placement, but Morgan Spurlock is on a mission to find out exactly how it all works. Of course, to make the movie, he's going to need some money, so Spurlock approaches several brand name companies to ask if they'll endorse his documentary on product placement if he only uses their products during the movie. Yes, it's all very self aware and meta, but it actually gives Spurlock a very good insight into how the whole process works once he's snowed under with contracts and obliged to act in a certain way while filming.

We have interviews with the people who deal with placing the products, as well as those who are mostly against the idea. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a pretty balanced documentary. It doesn't seek to force an opinion on the viewer, perhaps due to the contracts that Spurlock had to sign with his funders, but instead seeks to inform the viewer as much as possible about how product placement really works, and where advertising may be going in the future.

The whole idea of the funding coming from brands is a pretty good one, but I can't help but feel it wasn't executed as nicely as it could've been. It seems like Spurlock was on a mission to make a statement of some kind, but nothing really results from his constant usage of certain products, or all the branding he does. Sure, it injects a bit of fun into the proceedings, but it all seems a little bit pointless in the end.

Still, I enjoyed the movie. While it certainly could have been put together better, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is an informative and fun documentary.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 26 February 2012

Today's Review: Carnage

Why people still want to work with Roman Polanski when he is wanted for raping a 13 year old girl in America, I have no idea. But hey, I'm not here to review the man, I'm here to review his latest movie, Carnage.

Carnage is based on the stage play God Of Carnage, as evidenced by the fact that the entire movie takes place in one apartment, and there are only four characters throughout. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael, the parents of Ethan, a boy who has been on the receiving end of a playground attack by schoolmate Zachary. Zachary's parents, Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), have been invited to Penelope and Michael's place to discuss the incident and hopefully settle things between the boys.

Of course, things just aren't that simple. After some polite discussion, and what seems to be the conclusion of the incident, comments are made and the situation quickly escalates into something completely different. Debates flow from the upbringing of children to the state of relationships and outlooks on life, all within the space of an hour and a half, with things only getting more heated with the introduction of alcohol.

Despite its small size, the cast of Carnage is fantastic. Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster are great, as they have proved with many performances in the past, and Christoph Waltz continues to blow me away as he has since I saw him in Inglourious Basterds. The only slightly out of place actor is Reilly, but he blends into the cast wonderfully, and the relationships and arguments between the four parents are fascinating, hilarious, and sometimes embarrassing to watch.

Stage adaptations into film are often a little flat and boring, as movies in a fixed location with a small amount of actors don't provide much stimulation on the big screen. Carnage does suffer from some pacing issues at some points, but really pulls it all together with a great script and wonderful acting. Waltz's facial expressions are spot on, and Winslet plays probably the most realistic drunk that I've seen in a long time. If the movie adaptation can be this good, I'd like to see it on stage.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 25 February 2012

Today's Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

In the wake of a man made tragedy, everybody wants an answer. Why did this happen? Normally the media latches onto the first exploitable thing they can find, but the truth is there are any number of things that can make somebody do something unthinkable. We Need To Talk About Kevin is an exploration of these factors, and more.

Kevin (Ezra Miller) has always been a difficult boy, who has never shown any real attachment to his mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton). After several trials and tribulations growing up, Kevin performs an unthinkable action one day, leaving his mother to look back over her life and wonder where it all went wrong.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is certainly a hard hitting movie. There's not a moment where anything feels safe, there is always the event that has yet to fully unfold lurking in the background, and the snippets of the relationship between Eva and Kevin are often uncomfortable, sometimes cringeworthy. The best thing about this movie is that no one factor is focused on too much. Kevin is a difficult child, sure, but Eva harbours her own resentments and is certainly not a perfect parent. Internal, external, familial factors are all portrayed, but there is no clear winner, which is pretty accurate, as in real life we have no idea what makes any given person snap. 

Swinton puts on a very good performance, but it's probably the actors who play Kevin that shine through. We see Miller in the role for a short while, and he certainly oozes creepiness, but Jasper Newell, who plays Kevin aged six to eight, is quite a show stopper. At such a young age, he immediately instilled me with unease as I watched Eva struggling to communicate and tame a wild, young Kevin. 

Alongside the great performances there is a lot of imagery employed. Little glimpses in the background are portents of events to comes, and I haven't seen such great imagery of blood and violence since the opening credits of Dexter. Still, in creating so much unease and symbolism, the movie does move at quite a fast pace, switching between time periods at many points. If you're not paying attention, it's possible you may get lost.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is a good movie. Perhaps if it were a little bit more straightforward in its approach it would have had more of an impact, but the jumping between scenes and set pieces made the whole thing feel a little bit juddery. Still, it was certainly thought provoking and very well made.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 24 February 2012

Today's Review: Chocolate Soda

Here is another product I found on my venture into Cyber Candy yesterday. There were many variations of soda, but this one caught my eye the most. Unfortunately, while I do find most off things I eat quite wonderful, this one is not so.

I should've seen it coming, really. How else would chocolate soda taste? There are already chocolate flavour drinks, mostly in the form of milkshake. Soda would have to be fizzy. I'm sure you can work out the vague taste from combining those two ideas, but let me confirm it to you. It's basically fizzy, watery chocolate milkshake. Like if someone made a milkshake with the wrong ratios of powder and then stuck it in a Soda Stream. I've tried to drink this a few times today, but after a few sips it just starts to feel wrong. While it sounds like it could be a match made in heaven, it's just not a good drink.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Today's Review: Trespass

Hey, look, it's Nicholas Cage. I sure haven't seen him around in a while... Yes, the Cage is back in another mediocre offering. This time it's Trespass, a psychological thriller that is only really psychological in the way that it will drive you crazy before the end.

Mr. Cage plays a fast talking business man named Kyle, as evidenced by the opening scene in which he talks fast about business while driving his car. I couldn't quite make out everything he was saying, and I thought there would be important plot points contained therein, so I had to turn on the subtitles and read a fast paced one-sided conversation about diamonds. He drives home to his wife Sarah, played by Nicole Kidman, and his daughter, Avery, but before long his home is raided by armed thugs demanding to know where all the diamonds are. Why this movie is called Trespass and not Armed Robbery, I don't know.

Anyway, Kyle starts to try and negotiate with the guys holding guns to his face, and as tensions rise there are several twists and turns revealed, and secrets about the characters uncovered. Why do the robbers know so much about the victims? What secrets are the family members hiding from each other? Why does each of the robbers have a completely different material over their face? I guess that's so you can tell their flat characters apart, but it's still hard to figure out who's playing it straight, especially as I soon found out that the subtitles kept misspelling things, so I couldn't even trust them anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good twist as much as the next person, but when there's a twist every damn five minutes it gets a bit tiring. The movie is way too fast paced, and the characters just aren't interesting or convincing enough to keep up with it. It's hard to empathise with the family when they all act like idiots, and it's hard to find the bad guys threatening when they keep squabbling amongst themselves.

I thought Trespass was going to be quite good when I saw the trailer, so I guess they did a good job on that, but the finished product is just too much of a mess. Perhaps if there were less twists and turns throughout the whole thing there could have been a decent story in here, but by the end I just didn't really care about it anymore.

My rating: 1/5

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Today's Review: The Ides Of March

Heavy political dramas are not my thing, though I certainly did enjoy Frost Vs. Nixon. The Ides Of March, however, I was not expecting to enjoy much.

Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, a pretty awesome campaign manager who is working to get Mike Morris (George Clooney) into the White House, where he hopes a difference can be made to America for once. But revelations and plots threaten to derail everything, as Meyers begins to see that politicians will always play dirty, and it isn't so hard to stray to the dark side.

I enjoyed The Ides Of March a lot more than I thought it would. It's quite an easy going movie, the plot isn't too hard to follow. However, it only portrays a very short period of time, and the movie itself is just over an hour and a half, so I felt there was certainly quite a bit more that could have been done to involve me more in the plot, as it starts out quite slow and crams a lot into the final minutes.

Gosling does a pretty good job, as he has in most of the stuff I've seen him in lately. Clooney is good too, but is somewhat overshadowed by the appearances of greats like Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. There certainly are a few twists and turns as the story progresses, and there are some great tense conversational moments throughout, but it seems like they wanted to portray the movie as a lot more tense and action packed than it is, with dramatic, suspenseful music playing in scenes where not much really happens.

The Ides Of March is certainly not bad, and I certainly enjoyed it more than I expected to. It didn't do much more for me though, perhaps an extra chunk of run time could've helped spread out the pacing and deliver some more great stuff to round out the whole thing.

My rating: 3/5 

Monday 20 February 2012

Today's Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Now that Saw is all over (apparently), it's time for Paranormal Activity to step up to the mark and deliver a new movie every year. Number four is already confirmed, so look out for that in October. But here we are with number three, a prequel that shows our two hapless female victims from the first two movies as cute little kiddies with some spiritual difficulties.

Yes, Paranormal Activity is set in 1988, but it still manages to feature a character who has access to several full HD video cameras, which were apparently the thing to have if you video taped weddings for a living. On to video tapes. I'm not going to dwell on this too much, instead let's look at the paranormal activity.

It's basically the same kind of formula as before. Adults start filming everything because their new cameras are cool, some strange noises happen, more cameras are set up in fixed locations, and the jump scares begin. In fact, some of the jump scares are almost identical to the ones seen in Paranormal Activity 2, but hey, there's not many things you can do with flying furniture and crashes in the night I suppose, and it still managed to do a very good job of making me jump, if only due to my natural reflexes to jump at loud noises.

We are dealing with the same entity after all, as evidenced by the fact that whenever it's nearby there's a strange rumbling reminiscent of a large truck driving past the house. While the suspense is certainly thick throughout the movie, I feel that if the rumbling wasn't there it would be a lot more effective in the scares. Instead we know something's going to happen, it's probably going to be something sudden that makes us jump, and while it still works, I couldn't help but feel like I'd seen it all before.

The actors in this movie do a pretty good job though, especially the two girls. Where Paranormal Activity 2 stepped up the creepy mark by including a baby, number three went even further, validly assuming that the creepiest thing to put into a horror movie is freaky girls. Even though the actresses are quite young, they certainly pull off convincing and eerie performances, and the whole thing still feels kind of real, even though we know it's not.

At the end of it all though, it's hard to see exactly where this franchise is going. The initial unique scares seem to be wearing thin, and the more that the lore is explored the more over the top and complicated it gets. While there are many mysteries left to resolve in future sequels, it just seems like they're dragging it out to keep pulling in the big bucks. While Paranormal Activity 3 certainly is a nice addition to the series, you can definitely tell the novelty is really wearing off.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 19 February 2012

Today's Review: Ben & Jerry's The Vermonster

I do love a bit of Ben & Jerry's, although I love a lot of Ben & Jerry's even more. I haven't seen a new flavour for a while, so The Vermonster immediately caught my attention, especially at half price. 

What makes it so Vermonty? The fact that it's maple syrup ice cream, 'cause Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States (I just looked that up on Wikipedia). There are also some caramelised pecans and caramel swirls thrown in for variety, but the ice cream itself is what makes this flavour good. The balance is just right, so it's not too sickly, but the flavour really packs a punch. The pecans are pretty good too. I don't normally like nuts in my ice cream, but they're perfectly caramelised so the taste blends in really well with the ice cream. If you're after something different in your ice cream, this is something you probably haven't tried before, and it's well worth it.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday 18 February 2012

Today's Review: Engineering Works On A Trip Home From Paris

Thanks London, for making me walk through the streets with two sleepy children, a buggy and a suitcase. It's good to be back.

My rating: 0/5

Friday 17 February 2012

Today's Review: Rolo Biscuits

Holy crap! New things! Following Cadbury's attempt at turning their chocolate bars into biscuits, Nestlé are stepping up their game and doing the exact same thing. Well, sort of.

The first thing you notice when unwrapping this pack is that each biscuit is individually wrapped. You're bound to notice it because it's the first thing you see. But once the secondary wrapper is open you're treated to what looks like a giant Rolo.

Oh wait, it is a giant Rolo! Turns out the amount of biscuit shown on the packet is quite exaggerated. There is certainly biscuit in there, but it's overshadowed by the vast amount of caramel afforded by the expanded cavity. Sure, there's more chocolate as well, but because the whole thing's flatter the ratios are a bit off. There's just a bit too much caramel, and the whole thing just tastes a little too syrupy and sickly. Still, it all tastes nice, but if you're expecting it to be like a normal Rolo with some biscuit thrown in, prepare to be disappointed.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 16 February 2012

Today's Review: Kit Kat Pop Choc

These have been around for a while, I know, and that is a terrible picture, I know. But today I picked up a bag for a mere pound, so down the hatch they went.

Quite literally, in fact. One I popped my first choc I couldn't stop popping pop chocs. Kit Kats have always been awesome, but the regular version is somewhat lacking in the chocolate to wafer ratio, something that the Kit Kat Chunky went some way towards fixing. Each of the pop chocs, however, is a small ball of the wafer covered in a reasonably thick layer of chocolate. They're like the Kit Kat version of Maltesers, but that amount of chocolate coating is extremely satisfying, and it certainly didn't take me long to eat them. I'm just sorry I left it so long to try them.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Today's Review: Blogging Every Day For A Whole Year

Why, it was exactly a year ago that I started this whole endeavour. I'm surprised I haven't missed any days, but there we have it, 365 reviews. Phew. To celebrate I'm running off to Disneyland and leaving this anniversary post to publish itself, as well as a few more after this.

How has this blog changed me over the course of a year? Not very much. I've certainly learned to stick to a deadline, which is nice, but I have, for some reason, not become rich and famous. Crazy. Perhaps in the coming year I'll start to shamelessly self advertise, post my links all over IMDB whenever I review a movie, saying "Hey guys, here's my opinion, please give it a read and tell me what you think!!11!"

Still, I have had over 18,000 views, which I suppose isn't too bad. 11% of those have been on my KFC Supercharger review, and the rest of my top five consists of several other food items, so I guess that's the way to go. Apparently people don't review random food too much, so I must be showing up on Google quite a lot.

There have been times where I've just not had the motivation to write a review, the result of which is one of those annoying short ones or reviews on random objects I see lying around the place, but on the whole it's been pretty fun. I feel my writing has improved a little, my critiquing style has probably improved more so. So whoever is out there reading my stuff, thank you very much, even if you're just seeing whether you should try the new KFC burger.

Here's to another year. Hip hip hooray.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Today's Review: Valentine's Day

Ah, love. As the mutated stop motion insects of the James And The Giant Peach movie once sang, love is the sweetest thing. They also said that it's the strangest thing in the next chorus, but I guess that's true. Love is strange, love is sweet, love can be many things, particularly a method for corporations to gain craploads of money by dedicating a specific day of the year to the celebration of love.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. If you're in love with a special person, namely if you're a man in love with a woman, today is apparently the day to let them know more than you usually do, and you're expected to do so by spending vast amounts of money on flowers and chocolates, expensive dinners, jewellery, and various other tokens that represent romance these days. Or, if you're feeling particularly creative, you could create a token of love at no financial cost, but filled with thought and effort. Sometimes that works better than generic gifts, and if not, then hey, at least you know she's only in it for the material things.

Valentine's Day isn't good for everyone though. On the run up and arrival of this day, the people without valentines are constantly complaining about this "celebration of love" that they can't partake in. Today is the day that they are constantly reminded of their lack of a partner. I suppose they have sort of a point, but really? Complaining about Valentine's Day because you're not seeing someone? That's like complaining about Chinese New Year because you're not Chinese. All these damn fireworks and dragons all in my face. Okay, I guess the lack of a relationship can be more personally painful than not having a certain heritage, but if you don't like Valentine's Day, just ignore it. It won't go away, but let the lovers be lovey and everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

I have a valentine though, of course, in the form of my fiancĂ©e and mother of my beautiful children. We're not partaking in Valentine's Day this year though, because we have to pack to go to Disneyland tomorrow, and all of the money we could be spending on gifts has already been spent on that. We don't spend too much time on Valentine's Day anyway, because the anniversary of the day I asked her out is the 7th of March, and holding out for a few more weeks to celebrate a more personal day just feels better. The restaurants aren't packed, the flowers aren't overpriced, and there aren't hundreds of other couples trying to do the same things in one rushed, cramped night.

So I somewhat agree, singletons, Valentine's Day isn't all it's cracked up to be. I could rant at length about how commercialised it all is, but we've heard it all before. If you want to celebrate your love, do it every day you can, or pick a day that means something to you personally. But for those who aren't that great at showing their romantic side, at least there's a day that pushes them into showing their love. Love is good, yo.

My rating: 2/5

Monday 13 February 2012

Today's Review: "Fun Camera Keyring" From Poundland

Just look at that. Isn't it great? While I do quite like some of the stuff Poundland chucks into its technology section, this one is just a monstrosity.

It's a little plastic camera, that goes on your keys. Does it actually take pictures? No. But it has a "working flash", which in this case means that it just lights up for a second when you press the button. It would be great for the unfortunate protagonist to have in a horror movie where there are monsters lurking in the darkness, but apart from that, utterly useless. Also, when you press the button, it doesn't sound like a camera shutter as it does a small animal trapped inside being crushed by your actions.

The very motivation behind this keychain is sketchy at best, its main selling point seems to be that you can pretend to be a "mini paparazzi", ignoring the fact that, not only is the singular form "paparazzo", but also that "paparazzo" is one of the most hated job titles in the entire world. At least warlords can be quite charismatic. But how does this make you a mini paparazzo? If anything it would make you a regular sized paparazzo with a tiny toy camera. Would you dare to point it in the face of a celebrity? No.

The fact that this idea was thought up by someone, and proposed to someone else, who then accepted it and put it into production, raises some serious questions about the people working under the Signalex brand. Who would want this? The desired demographic seems to be young girls, but there is a blue version for the boys who want to have this annoying piece of machinery dangling from their keys.

I just don't understand. I just don't.

My rating: 0/5

Sunday 12 February 2012

Today's Review: Typing By The Light Of The Monitor

We've just finished watching the last Harry Potter, in 3D and with all the lights off, proper like the cinema innit. Anyways, it's almost the end of the day, and so I have rushed on here to write a review, without even bothering to switch the light on first.

I've never learned to touch type. By the time I found out such a method existed I'd already learned to type pretty quickly just by looking at the keys while I was doing it. While I have come to learn the placement of the keys, I do end up looking at the keyboard more than the screen. Trouble is, the light in this room is mostly emanating from the computer monitor, so I'm forced to hunch over a bit to squint awkwardly at where my fingers are going. This must be how old people feel when they're not sure how computers work yet.

Anyway, it's certainly not something I'd make a habit of. I feel my eyes straining more to correctly push all these letters than I do staring at several screens for most of the day. So type in well lit areas, people. Or failing that, learn to do it by touch alone. It's too late for me.

My rating: 1/5

Saturday 11 February 2012

Today's Review: The Last Day At Work Before Having Two Weeks Off

I went to work already hoping it would be over. Just five hours standing between me and two whole weeks of sweet F.A. I'm sure we've all had that feeling, that anticipation of the time off to come, and the utter contempt at being forced to work before we can have it. It may build up in the preceding week, but this last day is the killer.

Still, it didn't drag on all that much, and finally I am home, and free to do as I please for, in fact, more than 14 whole days. Feels good man.

My rating: 5/5

Friday 10 February 2012

Today's Review: Cups

I'm not just talking about cups here. I'm talking about receptacles for drinks, whatever they may be. How did we ever live without cups, or glasses, bottles, flasks? I imagine some undeveloped dirty caveman cupping his hands and dipping them into a stream, being disappointed every time he brings them out and doesn't quite get enough. Then he just sticks his head in and looks pretty undignified, even for a dirty caveman.

How did the first cup get discovered? Was it some freakish formation of stone? Was it carved out of some wood with a sharp rock? I don't know, I don't think we'll ever know. But now cups and glasses are a firmly established part of pretty much everyone's culture. They're what provide us with sustenance without making us work too hard for it. Hell, there's even mugs with handles in case the mug itself is too hot from all the hot drink you've put inside. If you haven't used a cup before, you don't know what you're missing, and you're probably not human. In which case you probably can't read this either. Anyway, cups are amazing.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 9 February 2012

Today's Review: Johnny English Reborn

I remember watching the first Johnny English in the cinema with my dad. Mostly because I remember how disappointing it was, and talking with my dad about how silly it all was on the way home. But now those glorious memories have been updated with the latest movie in the series that should never have been a series.

Johnny English Reborn starts with our bumbling agent, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), training in some martial arts hideaway in some form of Asian country. Why? I don't know why, probably to be a lame parody of Rambo, or even a lame parody of the quite good parody of Rambo, Hot Shots Part Deux. Anyways, English gets called back to Britain to undertake a case that only he can accomplish. Why? Because the person with vital information only wants to talk to English. Why? To create a mind numbing sequel of course!

Off around the world English goes, accompanied by junior agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), pulling off a far more disappointing performance than he proved he can make in the excellent Black Mirror episode he was in. Various plot points unfold, twists are revealed, and English has to once again prove he is the best man for the job, while clearly not being the best man for the job.

There's really not much I can say about Johnny English Reborn. Perhaps it was because I was constructing a wooden T-Rex while watching it, but I couldn't find any strong thread of a plot line in this movie. I'm thinking that the plot was indeed quite flimsy, because the snippets I did hear were pretty tenuous at best. It's like someone thought of several different situations for Johnny English to be in that would be really funny, shoved them all in the trailer (seriously, all the "jokes" are in the trailer), and then was reminded that there does in fact need to be a story when you create a movie. So here we are with a bit of a mess, with some jokes thrown in.

It wouldn't be so bad if the jokes were funny, but sadly they aren't. It's just as predictable and silly as the first Johnny English, if not more so. Atkinson does an alright job I guess, but even the best performances wouldn't really save this movie. If you were thinking of giving Johnny English another try, I implore you, please do not. Just let it die.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Today's Review: Hesher

Hesher is a pretty odd movie. I'd heard nothing about it before it came in, and sometimes that's a very good thing. I watch pretty much everything that comes into work, and I must admit this is better than most, but still, quite weird.

Hesher's plot revolves around a broken family. T.J. (Devin Brochu) and his father (Rainn Wilson) are grieving over the loss of their mother in a car accident. T.J. is being mercilessly bullied by a guy at school while his father sinks into a deep depression. But then along comes Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a metal loving dude who pretty much lives in his van. Upon seeing T.J. in trouble, he takes it upon himself to move into the family home and inflict his unique brand of therapy upon the residents, forcing them to face up to the facts and begin to movie on with their lives.

I say "unique", but Hesher's tactics are a little sporadic at best. Basically he acts like a total dick throughout the whole movie, with only a few spurts of understanding or helpful behaviour. He swears, threatens, smashes things up, perhaps his way of helping this family cope is to just completely mess up their stuff. Then when he moves out they'll just be happy he's gone.

The performances are all pretty good. Wilson shows a different side of his Dwight persona by playing a depressed recluse to good effect, and Gordon-Levitt is just as great as he has proven to be over recent years. Natalie Portman turns in a good role as a girl that T.J. and Hesher befriend on their journey together. Perhaps the best performance comes from Brochu. He plays the foul mouthed, grieving boy very well indeed.

Despite the performances, Hesher seems like a movie that doesn't really know what it's doing. It's unclear why Hesher starts intervening, or even what he's doing to help, and I suppose that could be open to interpretation, but mostly there just seems to be no clear direction that this movie is taking. Hesher certainly can be entertaining, there's just no real message to take home at the end.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Today's Review: The Video To Needing/Getting By OK Go

I've been a fan of OK Go since they first released Get Over It, and I thought their first album was a blast. Their music has kinda gone a little downhill since then, and I haven't paid particular attention to their later releases, but since they started making their awesome music videos they just haven't let up. You know the ones I'm talking about. From dancing on the patio, to dancing on treadmills, to operating a massive Rube Goldberg machine, each and every one of their videos has a great concept and a great amount of time and effort put into them.

This one is no exception. Here we have a car kitted out with mics and rods, being driven through the desert in order to hit several pianos, guitars, bells and whatever the hell else can bring out the desired melody at the correct speed. Apparently it took four months of preparation and four days of shooting, but the result is pretty damn impressive. Damian, the singer there, took stunt driving lessons to do this video, and it shows, he drifts and turns perfectly to get to the next section in time to carry on the song. 

People may say it's fake, but come on, this is OK Go. They're here to work their asses off for three minute videos that are awesome. It's gotta be real, and hell, it looks real enough. Great concept, and wonderfully pulled off. You've done it again, guys. 

My rating: 5/5

Monday 6 February 2012

Today's Review: The Muppets

Yesterday I went to a free advance screening of The Muppets, even though I would have gladly paid for a seat. Hey, maybe I still will once it's on general release. I've always been a fan of The Muppets, and while I've not been a hardcore follower, I have enjoyed pretty much everything they've done, and paired with my love of Sesame Street it adds up to a great love of Jim Henson and his work.

I remember seeing Muppets From Space a long time ago at the cinema with my dad, and I remember it not being that great. Since then there's been a couple of Muppety things put out, but they seemed to have faded a great deal. All praise to Jason Segel though, who pitched this movie to Disney, co-wrote the script, and starred in the result.

The plot involves a man named Walter, born as a Muppet, travelling to L.A. to visit the Muppet theatre with his human brother, Gary (Segel) and Gary's girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams). Upon finding the place deserted and about to be torn down, they track down the Muppet crew and get them to join together again for one last show in order to raise enough money to save the building.

This is the Muppet movie that could give the franchise the reboot it so badly deserves. Segel is obviously a big Muppet fan, this movie is so full of the humour that the Muppets are all about. There are so many meta references, some great one liners and visual gags, and of course, some great songs. Probably the best thing is that it doesn't try and set itself apart as an entirely new movie. There are constant references to the glory days of The Muppet Show, including mentions of guest stars and some of the old songs that the Muppets used to perform together. Near the end of the movie when the show is underway, just seeing the whole gang singing the theme song is like a massive nostalgia trip.

I can't really fault this movie. I loved every minute. Disney have done a lot of good in recent years, first bringing their movies back to hand drawn animation and fairy tales, then creating a great throw back to the classic Winnie The Pooh movie. With The Muppets they have risen in my esteem even more, and I just hope that the success created by this movie will persuade them to make a new Muppet Show, because that would be amazing. Jim Henson was clearly a man ahead of his time, but I think now is the time when The Muppets could work extremely well again.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday 5 February 2012

Today's Review: Mango Lilt

I don't particularly like Lilt that much. It's always a bit too tangy for my taste, it's nice until it just starts tasting too sharp. Must be all the pineapple and stuff. But now they have a mango flavour. Oooh. I'm not really a fan of the actual mango fruit either, it's quite nice, but it's very chalky and a little bit dry. But I've had the Rubicon sparkling mango drink before, and that's pretty awesome. None of the chalkiness.

That's basically what Mango Lilt is like. It certainly tastes like mango, despite having very little actual mango in it. It's very refreshing compared to the original Lilt, none of that dry tanginess that leaves me still a little bit thirsty afterwards. Perhaps you've given up on Lilt for the same reason, but now is your chance to go back and try this nice little twist.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 4 February 2012

Today's Review: I Don't Know How She Does It

I was going to watch this on Blu-Ray, but then I realised it had a bunch of wrinkly people in. Don't wanna see that in HD.

I Don't Know How She Does It is an unashamed female worship exercise. In a working men's world, there is one woman who can efficiently hold down a rewarding career and look after her two kids, and that woman is Kate, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. There are a few documentary style interviews conducted with her peers, in which they all wonder, repeatedly, how she does it.

Of course, it's pretty clear how she does it, because her children are often looked after by a nanny, and indeed, by her husband, who also has a quite full on and rewarding career. How does he do it? We don't care, 'cause he's just some stupid man. Anyway, Kate takes on a pretty demanding project at work that sees her travelling a lot with suave businessman Jack, played by Pierce Brosnan. Of course, he is very charming, and our heroine does in fact begin to look like she may stray, but of course her husband has done absolutely nothing wrong and is actually a very nice person, so that plot line falls flat on its face. Instead we're just faced with an ending where Kate decides to change her entire life for the better after she has quite a minor argument with her husband, but doesn't really change much anyway.

Sorry for the spoilers, but maybe now you won't want to see this movie, and that's a good thing really. It helps that I went into it expecting it to be awful, because is exceeded those expectations, of only slightly. It wasn't entirely excruciating to watch, but it certainly is not a good movie. It's one of these movies that seek to empower women, but the way they big up the female sex is so over the top and outdated it feels kind of embarrassing. I Don't Know How She Does It is bland and unfunny, and probably not particularly worth your time.

My rating: 1/5

Friday 3 February 2012

Today's Review: Watching Pulp Fiction In HD

Woah, it's freaky man, somehow it looks more like the 90s. The terrible fashion sense is so crisp and clear. I can see every wisp of smoke going around Tim Roth's face. I think I'll enjoy this.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 2 February 2012

Today's Review: One Day

One Day stars Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as Dexter and Emma, two people who meet on July 15th, 1988, after they graduate from university. After a somewhat unsuccessful attempt at doing some sex, they remain friends, but there is something that still lingers and grows between them. This movie basically takes place over the span of 23 years, but each scene takes place on the same day of the year, July 15th. As the years progress and Emma and Dexter go in and out of jobs and relationships, we begin to see the special bond growing between them that started on that one day in 1988.

The concept is quite interesting. It really serves to propel the story along and start dealing with the next thing to pop up in our heroes' lives. Sometimes long running love stories like this can be dragged down by dwelling on a certain point in time for too long, but One Day keeps the story fresh, and really helps to encapsulate the lives of these two people. The only problem is that it's perhaps a little too fast. Before we can get used to the state of their lives in one year, we're thrust into the next, and the story on the whole feels a little disjointed and stuttering.

There is a certain chemistry between Sturgess and Hathaway, but their performances aren't really amazing enough to make this movie great. The fact that Hathaway is an American playing an English woman shows at times too, as her accent wavers from posh to not so at various points throughout. At least she doesn't devolve into Dick Van Dyke territory though.

So yes, One Day is not an amazing movie. It's a fresh idea though, and is relatively well executed, despite the limitations that come packaged with it. I can't help but compare it to the superior 500 Days Of Summer, which showed the rise and fall of a relationship in a much better way, juxtaposing the good directly with the bad through time jumping techniques. Or maybe I just liked it because Zooey Deschanel was in it. Ahh, Zooey.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Today's Review: The Motivational Posters I Saw Outside A Church

There are a few churches that I walk past on the way to work. One of them has a bulletin board outside, which mostly just posts congregation times and the like. But today I saw they had put some nice little posters up.

Aww, look, it's like LOLcats for Christians! "You can give your worries to God, because he can untangle them". I dunno man, that ball of wool doesn't look very tangled to me. That cat and dog don't seem particularly worried either. This isn't a very good portrayal of what they're trying to say. Perhaps the fact that there are cute animals on the poster means I am more likely to open my heart to an all knowing deity. Can't say it worked on me. Until...

Aww, wook at him! He's so cute! This poster tells me that God will iron out my problems. I was almost ready to go in and join the priesthood, but waaaait a minute. If God is so good at ironing things out, why the hell does that dog look like that? I wouldn't let him fix my wrinkled problems if he can't even make that dog look right. He made a whole bunch of flat ones, why did this one get left out?

How am I meant to give my worries to God anyway? The poster doesn't specify. Do I Fed-Ex them? What really specifies a "worry" anyway? One person could be worried because they could die any day, while another could be worried that they won't be back home in time to watch the new episode of The Only Way Is Essex. This blanket solution posted on a flyer isn't going to cover the whole spectrum of human emotion and despair. 

Yeah, turns out I'm not a born again Christian. Those animals are cute though.

My rating: 1/5