"Source Code" (2011)

Source Code (2011)
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Running time: 93 minutes

Hello and welcome to part 2 of “I’m sorry that my interwebs were being crap!” review sesh. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you clearly haven’t read my Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides review, so why don’t you go do that. The rest of you, let’s just skip the intro and hop to it shall we?

Now Showing this week is the film Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Duncan Jones (who directed the fantastic film Moon). Basic premise, Jake Gyllenhaal plays soldier Colter Stevens who is being forced by the government to relive the last eight minutes of a man’s life who was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train, in the hopes that he might be able to discover who was responsible for the attack. He is reliving this man’s demise through a piece of technology known only as the Source Code (oh, I see what they did there!) which they describe as a piece of technology that is able to digitize the residual electrical activity left in the human brain after death and the result is a sort of security camera recording of that individual person’s last eight minutes. The Source Code can then send a person into that memory and they can then wander around the scenario and discover what happened that the forensics teams could not. While inside the machine, he falls for a lady on the train and therefore he tries to find a way to save her.

Now, the film assumes that it’s audience are morons because those of us who aren’t morons would have already realised that what I just explained to you doesn’t make any sense. I know that there is a degree to which we must suspend our disbelief in science fiction films, and the explanation of residual electricity in the brain and gaining a recording of the last moments that person witnessed makes a little sense. That’s all well and good. But there is no explanation, nor could they possibly make one, to explain how the hell that that recording stretches to being able to make an open world that Stevens can walk around in and see things that the real man did not see. The scientists in the film use the security camera analogy so I shall as well. In their logic, the human brain recalls events like if a security camera in a petrol station was able to not only record what it was pointing at but also what was happening one hundred meters behind it! See my point, that makes no sense! Sure Stevens could go in and re-witness the eight minutes leading up to the train bombing, but it would just be like watching a film and he certainly would not be able to go around and see something that the real man didn’t see. So please good people, explain to me how any government organization would deem anything gained from this piece of technology as tangible evidence?!

Have any of you seen the film Deja Vu? Source Code reminds me a lot of Deja Vu in the sense that it has a science fiction premise of using technology to observe the past in order to catch the perpetrator of a terrorist attack, but during the process the main character also falls for a woman killed in the attack and tries to find a way to use the technology to save her. Ok, scratch that, it doesn’t remind me a lot of Deja Vu, it’s freakin’ exactly the same as Deja Vu! And like Deja Vu it made this grave mistake: it ignores it’s own logic. I won’t say how Source Code does that for the sake of spoilers but to give you an idea in Deja Vu they say that you can’t use the time machine to change the past and guess what he does. Yeah, you guessed it.

I guess I need to leave this one there given there isn’t much more I can say about this film without going into spoilers. The acting is good if it’s any consolation, Gyllenhaal and his supporting cast all play there roles very well. And the romantic subplot is believable which is nice to see in a movie these days. But given the plot has more holes in it then Swiss cheese and unlike a RedTube video none of these holes get filled with anything, the film is just plain stupid. Enough said.

See you next time!


"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011)

pirates4_final_posterPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Running time: 136 minutes

Let me start off by apologizing about the lack of a review this past week. Due to technical difficulties that seem to have magically solved themselves (don’t you love technology!) I was unable to sign into my blog and therefore I could not post. However, that does not mean I shall skip a review, no sir, instead there shall be two reviews posted this morning! It will be like the Tenth-Review-Extravaganza only better because both reviews will appear at the same time! Now ain’t that a treat, you can’t say I’m never good to you guys. Anyhow, onto the first review.

Now Showing technically last week is the fourth installment to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which is subtitled: On Stranger Tides. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, as does Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, but aside from them almost none of the original players have returned for the sequel. Previous protagonists Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are no where to be seen or even mentioned and it’s like they never even happened. Basic plot is that Jack Sparrow has given up searching for the Fountain of Youth, but given he knows where to find it he has been conscripted to help another pirate named Captain Blackbeard, who is “the pirate that all other pirates fear” due to his mystical abilities, to find the Fountain. Along for the ride is newcomer to the series Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s daughter and previous lover for Jack. Captain Barbossa (far too many captains in this series!) has joined the Royal Navy and is leading the British expedition to find the Fountain before Blackbeard and his crew do.

The first thing that both shocks me but at the same time doesn’t shock me is that we’ve made it to FOUR of these films! Four! I had a glimmer of hope from the trailer that it wouldn’t be just a “let’s-make-another-Pirates-because-it’s-guarenteed-to-make-a-gagillion-dollars!” film and actually would be a refreshing reboot from the hole they dug themselves into from the last two films. But no, I was completely wrong in that regard, it is just a “let’s-make-another-Pirates-because-it’s-guarenteed-to-make-a-gagillion-dollars!” film. The film producers were well aware that anyone and everyone would go see it just because everyone loves Captain Jack Sparrow so much. And the people love the character of Captain Jack Sparrow so much that they basically have destroyed him.

Am I the only one that misses back when Captain Jack was a character? And don’t you all start yelling: “but he’s still a character, he’s Johnny Depp!” ’cause you all know what I’m talking about. In the first Pirates film Captain Jack was a character, with a tragic back story of a man who’d had his prized ship and his lively hood taken from him and abandoned on an island with a pistol and one bullet to end his own life. But instead he held onto to that one gun and bullet, and he’s saving it to kill the man responsible for ruining his life. When Jack Sparrow was like that, his humour had purpose. It was funny that he had gun with only one shot, but the reasoning behind it was so serious. And his charisma and his antics were punctuated by moments of vulnerability and anger. That man was “Captain Jack Sparrow”. Now, since about the latter third of the second film onwards, he’s become “Captain Faff About for Laughs Sparrow”. All he’s here for now is to make references to the absence of rum and have ridiculously huge escape attempts. I miss you Jack….

But at least in the last few films his faffing about was mildly tolerable (even though the third film sucked epic amounts, we’re talking beyond human consumption limits here, of balls) due to the fact that there were other main characters to drive the storyline around his antics. In On Stranger Tides, we’ve just got him and it doesn’t work. Given Jack Sparrow has become a comic relief character, he doesn’t work as the main character! And none of the other characters in the film attempt to pick up the slack. Penelope Cruz is just there as a sexy love interest character and she doesn’t really fulfill that role very well. Both myself and a friend of mine I saw this film with were expecting her to be a very large piece of sexy entertainment and we both exited the film underwhelmed by the lack of screen time of Cruz’s breasts. Captain Barbossa is another candidate for a main protagonist but his character is so unlike the character from the last three films he may as well not be Barbossa at all and is no where near present enough to be a main character. So what we’re left with for this film is a faffing-about-comic-relief-side-kick, a-bland-love-interest-without-nearly-a-high-enough-breasts-to-screen-ratio, and a-returning-character-who-is-so-different-that-he-may-as-well-be-a-new-one. I don’t know about you, but that’s a not a good mix of characters for a film.

But at least we have a villain! Captain Blackbeard is the villain, however don’t start celebrating yet because he has his major flaws. Namely: how the fuck does he have the ability to telekinetically manipulate ships to his will using his obviously overcompensating for something sword, and also be able to bend reality enough to have a collection of real ships in bottles? More to the point, is there any “evil” pirate in this world that doesn’t have super powers? This series started off with the simple notion of it being the real world but with one group of special cursed pirates, and it has now spiraled into a realm that includes fish monster pirates, the Kraken, a Ju-Ju Sea Goddess, a compass that tells you want you want most, Mermaids and a pirate who can literally be the puppet master of any ship he wants. Jesus, this stopped being a pirate film and suddenly became Lord of the Rings!

Anyway, back the Blackbeard. At least with all the villains in the last two films there was a reason for them to have their super powers. The crew of the Black Pearl were cursed to be undead from stealing Cortez’s gold; Davy Jones was charged with ferrying the dead to the afterlife, but disobeyed and became a fish monster as punishment. While those are convenient explanations, they are explanations nonetheless. Blackbeard on the other hand gets no explanation as to why he can manipulate reality. It is implied that it is due to the sword, but god knows what the sword is! And what’s more is that he sort of forgets he has these powers unless the plot calls for it, so there was really no point in him having them; the writers could have just thought of more plausible solutions.

In closing, this film is quite bad. While I didn’t loath the two and half hours I spent watching it, if you really think about the film you begin to realise how terrible it is. But I suppose the crowd it is catering for is the crowd who don’t think about their films in any depth other than “Oh Johnny Depp, he’s so hot. I wish I could meet Captain Jack Sparrow *swoon*” even though if they knew anything about pirates they would know that he would smell like a sewer, steal her jewelery, rape her to death and then proceed to crap over the side of his ship. If that describes you, then go enjoy the film! The rest of you, don’t go see Source Code instead of Pirates 4, you’ll have to read today’s second review to find out why….

See you next time!

"Inception" (2010)

Inception (2010)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Running time: 148 minutes approx.

Again, I’ve had another hectic week at uni and my job given it’s the end of semester so I sadly have not seen a film at the cinemas this week. However, the other day at work I found myself having to defend the film Inception to a fellow co-worker who was not a fan of the works of Christopher Nolan. So that made me decide that I would also defend it to all of you, my fellow readers. I will say this however: in order to fully express my defense, I will have to spoil a large portion of the plot. I know that’s bad reviewing practice but it must be done for my points to make sense. So, if you happen to be someone who has not seen this film and do not wish to have the experience tainted with spoilers you should leave now. Go on, you know who you are. Off you trot, go on. Bye bye now.

…are they gone? Good.

Now Showing this week is Inception which was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, a.k.a. the Master of Cinema. It was released back in 2010 to high critical acclaim and popularity and was one of the most talked about films of the year. Yet it still did not get any Academy Awards other then stupid Sound Mixing ones. Sometimes this world just makes no damn sense. But I digress. The story revolves around a man named Dominic Cobb who specializes in the illegal occupation of “Extraction”, that being the activity of invading another person’s mind whilst they are dreaming and taking their ideas to give to their employers. However, Cobb is a fugitive on the run from the United States government for allegedly killing his wife, who actually committed suicide because she refused to believe that she and Cobb were in reality and were in fact dreaming, and to escape the dream she jumped off a building. Cobb has been offered an opportunity to be cleared of all charges when a powerful man hires him to commit “Inception”, which is the act of placing an idea in someone’s mind rather than taking one. Cobb embarks on this difficult task, along with a team of fellow dream specialists, and must not only confront the challenges of inception, but his own subconscious guilt of his wife’s demise attempting to sabotage the entire operation.

Wow, that was a lot harder to explain then I thought it would be! Anyway, this film was liked by a lot of people, but many did not see it for what it is, which is a piece of genius. Much like Nolan’s other films, such as The Prestige, it has been crafted in such a way that almost all of the complaints/loop holes people find in the storyline/characters can be explained by the premise and how one interprets the twist at the end! Hence the spoiler warning earlier, I must now explain the ending. Here goes: by the conclusion of the film, the audience are presented with the possibility that Cobb himself has in fact been dreaming for the entire film and that his wife was correct all along. This was expressed in such a beautiful way, with Cobb arriving in the US, getting home and finally seeing his kids. Before he does however, he spins his spinning top (which is his “Totem”, an item to tell him whether or not he is in a dream by whether or not it topples over. If it falls, he is in reality.) but gets distracted and we are left seeing the spinning top spinning, and the film cuts before we can see it fall. It was fantastic!

So, now I shall go through problems people had with the film and how they are idiots because of how the films is so cleverly crafted that there are explanations for all of these issues if one pays close attention. Firstly, it is extremely clear that Cobb is in a dream for the entire film! And I shall now explain why: because no matter what the spinning top actually does, it still means he can still be dreaming. Earlier in the film, when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Arthur is explaining how the totems work, he says that a totem is an object of which only the individual who possesses it knows the specifics of it so they can tell when they (and I quote) “are in someone else’s dream.” Therefore if Cobb is in his own dream, his subconscious mind would be aware of the specifics of the spinning top and would therefore be able to fake it falling over! So he can be in a dream no matter what!

Secondly, the dream sharing itself. You will notice in the film that the technology that allows the characters to invade a person’s dreams is never explained, they never tell us how it works. Did that bother anybody? Did you question that while you were watching it? No, of course not, you only did after you saw it or now that I just mentioned it. Why is that? I’ll let Cobb explain it for me: “dreams don’t feel strange when we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something’s strange.” Have I blown your mind yet? Christopher Nolan has used the notion of automatic suspension of disbelief in science fiction films to his advantage! But wait, there’s more.

Thirdly, a lot of people complained that Cobb was the only character that had any depth to him; that the other characters were merely two dimensional characters who’s sole purpose was to fill the roles required to commit a dream invasion. While I disagree with the two dimensional part, I do agree that they were under developed in comparison to Cobb. And there is an explanation for that: if this is all Cobb’s dream, they can be merely projections made by his subconscious for the purpose of filling those roles! His brain decided he needed an architect to create dreams so bam, there’s an architect. That’s all she is, that’s all we need her for.

Fourthly: why can only the psychological insecurities of Cobb’s mind sabotage the dreams? What about the other characters insecurities? Well, for all we know the whole dream sharing technology isn’t real and that Cobb is simply having a normal night’s sleep with a dream where he’s the hero of this epic tale. So of course he’s the centre of attention and only his troubles can affect the worlds he inhabits; it’s his dream! On top of that, that’s why he’s being chased by nameless goons with guns: cause it’s all about him in his own dreams, just like the rest of us!

However, I did say earlier that the film can explain away almost all of the problems people had. It pains me to admit, but I have tried and tried to find an explanation as to why the character Eames can disguise himself as other people in the dreams and the other characters cannot. I’m stumped, I admit that. I suppose I could play the “it’s a dream, so anything is possible even if it makes no sense” but I think that’s just a cop out. At least the rest of the film’s explanations are based upon the logic it presents to us, not just “it’s a dream so we can do whatever the fuck we want!” It presents it’s arguments throughout the film based on the logic of dreaming and the explanations follow that logic.

I could go on for a long time about how much I love this film, but I shall stop there since I know most of you are probably bored by now. I just think that Christopher Nolan did a fantastic job with this film, even without going way too in depth like I have. It is an original, complex, intelligent film that presents itself in such a way that never assumes that the people watching it are too stupid to understand the concepts. It is complicated but never confusing and that’s exactly what I hear people crying out for in movies these days! They yearn for films that aren’t just phoned in, low brow, aimed at the lowest common denominator films. They want movies that are intelligent and thought provoking afterwards; and that is exactly what Inception is. I am proud to include it in my top 7 films.

See you next time!

"The Notebook" (2004)

The Notebook (2004)

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Running time: 123 minutes approx.

Howdy internet! I would like to begin by saying that due to this week being so busy for me, including lots of uni work, starting a new job and many other things, that I have failed to go to the cinema this week. I know, and I’m sorry but I have instead decided to bring you another retroactive review of a film now available on DVD. I hope you all enjoy it!

Now Showing this week is The Notebook that had its cinematic release back in 2004. Highly recommended to me by many friends, it is a film about an old man giving company to an old woman by reading her a story about two lovers and their long life story of falling in love and ensuing tragedy followed by more falling in love. So as you can see, clearly a romance film. And that’s really all I can say about the basic plot without spoiling some of the more major plot points. But yeah, that pretty much encapsulates the idea of the film. It stars Ryan Gosling, a favoured actor of mine, as Noah (the man in the story being read) and Rachael McAdams as Allie (his lover); so already I was keen to see it. I’ve very much enjoyed Gosling’s work in Fracture and Half Nelson, and his ability to play such different roles in both of those was very impressive. I guess I was keen to see McAdams as well; I mean, she was decent if completely unnecessary in Sherlock Holmes and I literally had to “IMDB” her to remember she stared in Red Eye so she clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me there either. Anyway, so I had a romance film that was highly recommended to me and staring Ryan Gosling, I was keen.

….too bad it’s crap.

Now I know you’re all going to think: “but Tom, you’re a guy who just loves movies with explosions and horror etc. like Aliens and Inception! Of course you didn’t like it!”. But, that’s not true. I have enjoyed love stories before, and have even been tremendously moved by them. I admit that I do prefer my love stories to have some fantastical elements to them and not just be a boring old “exactly like real life” love story. I’ve experienced that sort of stuff first hand so I don’t need to watch films about it!

And before I go on, I was given a challenge by several friends of mine before I went into watching this film. That challenge was: “to watch it and not cry by the end.” Already I knew I was in for a tragic love story and I was excited, I love a good tragedy. But upon watching the film, not a tear was shed at any moment throughout it. When I told this to my friends they said: “you had your expectations up for a really sad story and that ruined it.” Well, I would like to take this opportunity to say: no, that was not the case at all. What happened was that the film was awful.

My brother once told me what he believes to be the golden rule of romance films: all the women in the audience must fall in love with the male protagonist and all the men must fall in love with the female protagonist. And I agree with him, a good love story should achieve just that. Without it, who gives a shit what happens to them? Without that, the lovers are just two people faffing about in the story who’s very existence we don’t actually care about. So, I am now going to explain point one of why The Notebook is bad:

The first moment that Noah and Allie first interact with each other goes down like this: Noah is at a carnival, and he spots Allie having fun with a group of her friends and her boyfriend. It is “love at first sight” and he decides he must have her. He promptly walks over to her and starts attempting to flirt her away from her boyfriend whilst he is standing right next to her!

Audience opinion of Noah: He’s an arrogant douche-bag who thinks he can just take what he wants.

Allie is shocked by this and tells him to take a hike. She then goes to the ferris wheel and sits in a seat with her boyfriend. Before they get too high, Noah runs over and hangs off of the bars in front of their seat on the ferris wheel. Suddenly, they are at the top of the ferris wheel and the attendant stops it and yells at him through a megaphone. Noah then asks Allie to go on a date with him, still with the boyfriend sitting right next to her!

Audience opinion of Noah: Not only is he an arrogant cock-bag, he is also a lunatic!

Allie says no, as she freakin should! Noah then lets go of the bars with one hand and asks again, threatening to kill himself if she denies him a second time.

Audience opinion of Noah: Scratch that, he’s a suicidal lunatic, arrogant cock-bag!

Allie then says yes just to stop him killing himself and they all get to the bottom of the ferris wheel safely. Allie and her boyfriend then leave very quickly. Later on, she runs into Noah in the street and he asks when they’re going on their date. After some convincing, she agrees. She agrees to go on a date with the man who threatened to kill himself if she didn’t.

Audience opinion of Allie: Where once we thought she was a rational, sensible human being in accepting the date offer only to save a human life, we’ve now realised that she is in fact thicker than two planks and has agreed to date a man who is clearly psychotic!

They go on the date, which involves lying in the middle of the road, and the rest they say is a shitty movie. After this point in the film, a scratch on the DVD caused it to pause slightly and my girlfriend and myself had time to discuss this part while we re-navigated DVD menus. I told her that I thought this was terrible and asked her if I had asked her out (and she had said no) and then asked again while holding a gun to my head saying that I would shoot if she said no again, would she actually have gone on a date with me. She said no, like any normal, actually-bearing-some-form-of-sentient-intelligence, woman would. But not Allie, she’s gonna go on a date with a psychotic nut. So remind me, if the women watching this film agree with me on the whole “using-suicidal-threats-as-an-asking-out-method-is-bad” thing, what about these two people’s relationship do you find romantic?

Now onto point two of why The Notebook is awful. The above events, which all occupy the first fifteen minutes of the film, were so alienating to me that I was able to predict the tragic plot twist that takes place at the end. I predicted it to almost pin point accuracy, I’m not kidding. That’s not me tooting my own horn, it was that freakin’ obvious once the film made you realise the main characters are stupid/insane.

So, to wrap up, this film is awful. Plain awful. It failed the basic principle of love stories, that principle being to make us (the audience) fall in love along with the characters. And my lord this film certainly wasn’t tear worthy. And yes, before you ask, I have cried in love stories before so I’m not heartless. They just all had something that The Notebook didn’t: characters that got me to care about them! I mean come on, this isn’t just rule one of love stories, it’s rule one of goddamn storytelling!!!!!!

Phew, it felt good to write this one. I love the feeling of a good angry rant. I hope you all enjoyed the review, please leave your concurrences/hate mail in the comments below. See you next time!

Tenth-Review-Extravaganza Part 2: "Paul" (2011)!

Paul (2011)
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Running time: 104 minutes approx.

Hello all, and welcome to the conclusion of the very timid/pointless but extremely and undoubtedly awesome event of my “Tenth-Review-Extravaganza”! For those of you only now tuning in, basically this week was the posting of my tenth ever review on this blog and to celebrate I decided we’d have two reviews this week so as you dedicated readers could have another film to either agree with me or hate me not liking. I know it’s not really much in the way of a big event, I mean all I did was “hey, let’s post two things this week instead of just one! That’s amazing, and such a once in a lifetime thing!” but shut up, I liked doing it and I’m sure you liked reading it too if you still here at this point so let’s just move on to the review!

Now Showing this week is the latest film from the British comedy duo that is actors/writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost called Paul. Now the people I mentioned above who enjoy hating me for ragging on a film that they really like are going to be disappointed after I write this next statement: Paul is awesome. It’s really good and you all owe it to yourselves to see it; especially if you grew up with/are fans of films such as Star Wars, Aliens, Star Trek, Back to the Future etc. The film is littered with excellently timed and placed references to all the classic sci-fi/adventure films and TV shows of the last forty years that are gut wrenchingly funny (an Aliens reference involving Sigourney Weaver was my favourite!).

The film revolves around two British geeks named Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) who are road tripping around America to attend the San Diego “Comic-Con” festival and to visit famous UFO sighting spots. Whilst on their travels, they happen to run into an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan) just outside of Area 51. Paul has escaped the facility and is on the run and he asks if Graeme and Clive will take him to where he wants to go. What follows is a road trip of epic proportions with a fantastic guest star cast featuring Jason Bateman, Jeffory Tambor and (as mentioned earlier) Sigourney Weaver. The film is essentially a comedy but does contain some very poignant and moving moments, and that’s really what Pegg and Frost are really good at: making us laugh but also playing such serious roles on top of that.

Granted, Paul is not in the same league as the other films that these two have worked on (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) but it comes pretty damn close. What’s missing, for me, is director Edgar Wright. I could not possibly pinpoint what it is that Edgar Wright brings to his films, but his signature is unique and unmatched in terms of reference comedy. He has this uncanny ability to recreate the feeling of a moment from a previous film down to the last detail. Don’t get me wrong, director Greg Mottola does a fantastic job with Paul but I was disappointed that Wright hadn’t signed on to do the job and instead went off to make the decent yet tiring film Scott Pilgram vs. the World (that’s right internet, come get me!).

I suppose I may as well wrap things up here because I can’t say too much more about Paul without spoiling some of the jokes and plot twists so I’ll just say thing: go see it. The humour is brilliantly written and so well timed and acted; on top of that, there is a brilliant “on the run from the law” story filled with many twists and turns that can be quite surprising. And the use of all the references is fantastic. Perhaps I thought that cause I’m a bit of a geek myself however, if one is familiar with any science fiction films/franchises from the last forty years then you will enjoy them because you never see them coming! Again, go see Paul, you won’t regret it.

And so concludes my Tenth-Review-Extravaganza! I will now again like to thank my readers for sticking with me this far, I really appreciate it. I love writing these blog reviews but there would be no point to it if no one was reading them so once again, thank you. See you next time!