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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Yes the tiger really is called Richard Parker, and the sheer number of times Pi calls his name will have you hearing it in your sleep

A surreal story about a boy called Pi (Suraj Sharma) who is a Hindu, Muslim and Catholic, and who after a shipwreck ends up stranded on a life boat with a dangerous Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. Actually initially there was also a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena, but you can probably guess what happened to them. If Pi wants to survive he has to keep the tiger from eating him, and that means either keeping a safe distance from the boat (by building a raft) or keeping the tiger well fed, something which is getting harder as food supplies dwindle.

It’s a tragicĀ  – Pi has lost his family in the shipwreck – yet often beautiful and charming film, with a dream like lyrical quality. There’s both a symbolism and an unrealness that pervade the film. You will look at many scenes of the boat floating in a clear still idyllic ocean framed by the setting or rising sun and wonder can this really be real? Or is it a dream? Or a mixture of both? That is for you to decide and ultimately the film will cleverly ask “What would you prefer to be true?” at the same neatly paralleling most peoples’ reasons for their religious beliefs. Thankfully the film does settle the question of the story’s veracity once and for all in the final scene, and it’s a better film for giving the viewer closure.

I found this to be a refreshing film, and the story of Pi’s relationship with his tiger companion is both well told and compelling. Pleasingly their relationship never reaches full familiarity – it would seem corny if it did – but they do begin to approach a sort of tolerance of each other, almost a mutual understanding. Although I did enjoy the story and the insight into human belief given to me at the end, I also found the movie as a whole to be a little unsatisying and not as meaningful or rewarding as it wanted to be at it’s conclusion. It’s reminiscent of a joke where the set-up is much better than the punchline.

6/10

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It was very hard to find a still from this film that didn’t feature a half-naked Megan Fox having her breasts felt by Leslie Mann, but I’ve done it for you. You’re thanking me right?

A Judd Apatow comedy and semi-sequel to 2007’s Knocked Up and in a way it’s genius. I genuinely don’t know how you would plan or write something like this? It’s less about set pieces and more about creating realistic yet funny and exaggerated characters and then putting them in situations whcih allow the comedy to flow. On paper the story seems mundane – the film follows Pete (Paul Rudd) and his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann) who are both approaching 40, as they struggle with the ups and downs of parenthood, financial problems and relationship issues. However the apparent ordinariness of the storyline is actually a blessing because it means it’s very easy for us to relate to what’s happening which allows the comedy to be more subtle rather than having to obviously signpost jokes or explain why they’re funny.

It’s rarely laugh-out-loud, I would describe it as lively, subtle and clever. I found that I always had a smile on my face and what I particularly liked was how varied and unformulaic it all was. You can never really predict exactly what’s going to happen next.

Negatives? There’s a risk if this is not your cup of tea that you could find it all slightly irritating, and there are a couple of ‘jokes’ which should have been left on the cutting room floor. Overall though a very good comedy with especially strong performances from the the two leads (Rudd and Mann) and also Maude Apatow (the director’s daughter) is impressive too as Sadie the couple’s stroppy eldest daughter. Worth watching. 8/10

Super Meat Boy developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes previous games include Cunt, Time Fcuk and Bitch Hunt which probably explains why they have yet to release a game for Nintendo.

This is no King of Kong (the acclaimed film which followed 2 video game players as they competed to achieve a new world record on the classic arcade game Donkey Kong) and it’s not exactly a movie either. More accurately it’s a movie-length documentary following 3 independent game developers, each with a game at a different stage of development. The games in question are Fez (at the time of filming, midway through it’s development), Super Meat Boy (fast approaching it’s release date) and Braid (which had already been released to critical acclaim).

Much is made of how the developers’ individual psyches and childhood experiences influence their games. This and the fact that the developer’s like to complain about generic massmarket games is slightly ironic given how ultimately, they all end up making what are at a basic level 2D “Run and jump” games (think Mario but with added bells and whistles).

Considering how this could all be slightly dry subject matter, it’s impressive how the director has managed to mine such a rich seam of emotion from it. The developers have all poured their heart, soul and financial security into their games and the stakes are high. The games *need* to succeed. This is something that the documentary really gets across well to the viewer and there are a number of emotional moments as the developers flit between despair and elation.

The flipside to this is that you get the feeling more than a couple of times that dramatic moments have been exaggerated at the expense of the truth. For example Fez’s constant crashing at it’s initial showing appears to make it unplayable, but not much later on this doesn’t seem much of a problem at all – you see a queue of people all happily playing and enthusing about the game. Similarly Tommy (Super Meat Boy programmer) is distraught when he realises his game is not featured on Xbox Live Marketplace on it’s release day but then the film switches to show his co-developer Edmund who doesn’t seem at all bothered and in fact doesn’t even mention it. You get the feeling this issue was quickly resolved after an email to the publisher.

Still this is a well made, interesting and occasionally emotional documentary. Recommended especially if you are interested in video games, and even if you aren’t you will still get something from it.

6/10

Piranha DD promises B-Movie horror, comedy and breasts but only delivers on that last point (or points).

If you really want to watch unfunny soft-porn then there’s Google or Miley Cyrus’ last video. However if you are desperate to watch this and can make it past the first hour to when the water-park (the target of the piranhas’ attack) finally opens, you will be rewarded with a few amusing moments and a self-aware David Hasselhoff sending himself up as the washed-up Baywatch star that he now is.

However it’s not really worth it, unless you have never seen breasts before. In which case you will be in heaven… or more likely on your knees with a box of tissues. Stay away 3/10

A Mission Impossible movie wouldn’t be a Mission Impossible movie without Tom Cruise climbing up something.

I wasn’t expecting to like this but it’s actually a good film. I enjoyed the first Mission Impossible, thought the 2nd film was over-produced (blame John Woo with his doves and slow motion operatic sequences) and completely missed the third installment. So I can’t say how this, the fourth film compares to that movie but I can say that this is much improved over the 2nd film, while still not quite reaching the standard of the original.

Interestingly this also feels more like the the original 60s TV series than any of the previous films. Cruise has a team of agents supporting him and both the classic face masks and ‘double’ room trick are readily employed. Being less grounded in realism actually benefits the film and means it can take it’s self less seriously and get away with the type of outlandish stunts that the new James Bond or Jason Bourne would never be able to. Tom Cruise (as in Oblivion) is looking older now but again delivers that sparkly charismatic quality he is famous for. In his team of agents : Simon Pegg adds both humour and ineptitude to the mix, Paula Patton is able and beautiful, and Jeremy Renner always reminds me of the guy from Castle. You can see that too right?

To sum up a combination of over-the-top action, much needed humour, and preposterous deception. It’s enjoyable but loses points for being predictable and for not delivering anything particualy special or unexpected. Very impressive for the fourth film in the series though.

6/10

Make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman), producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) celebrate their fictional film being commissioned.

“Ar go fuck yourself!” a phrase that gets used a lot in this film, so much so that you wonder if the whole reason they used the name Argo was just so they could keep using this pun. This is a good movie though, set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and based on a true story. Ben Affleck (also the director of the film) plays Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who is sent undercover to Iran to rescue 6 American hostages who have been hiding out in the Canadian Embassy. What’s remarkable is the way he is planning to get them out – using a fictional Canadian film shoot for a science-fiction movie called Argo as cover for the operation. The hostages are to become part of the film crew who are scouting Iran for shooting locations for the film. Why is it called Argo? I don’t know, go fuck yourself! Wait… that wasn’t right…

It’s impressive in many ways – the authentic 70s setting, complete with bushy hairstyles and facial hair, boxy angular cars and even the old run-down Hollywood sign. It even feels like a classic 70s thriller relying more on drama than action to thrill you. The story is well told and tension is skilfully created and built upon. You really get a sense of how dangerous it is to be American and in Iran at this time, even Iranians with tenuous American links are regularly hung from construction cranes. It is made very clear that any minor detail of the operation which they get wrong would almost certainly result in the loss of all their lives.

There’s very little to criticize here and and it’s nice to see some humour creeping in with the tacky sci-fi epic Argo needing to be promoted in Hollywood just as if it was a real film. Impressive though all of this is, at the end of the film you do feel that this is just a story well told. Nothing more. It’s really a good 70s film transported to 2012. Improvements? Without taking major liberties with the story it’s hard to say. However maybe the background of Hawkins and the characters could have been fleshed out a little more and by doing so there would have been extra opportunities to create drama and also to provide some more emotional scenes with Hawkins himself. A good film though. 7/10