Movie review entries

July 13, 2012


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The Amazing Spider-Man
2 out of 5 stars

The first time I saw a Spiderman film, I was very drunk indeed. Ireland had just been knocked out of the World Cup by Spain, on penalties. My sorrow-drowning had reached the point where I needed to ask why there were two Hobgoblins.
‘You’re fucked, Christ,’ Paddy said. Paddy liked to call me Christ, or Jesus; Iosa if he felt Hibernian, or Yahweh when the Old Testament tickled his fancy.
‘They played so well,’ I mourned. It was the year of Roy Keane and Saipan.
Some time later I saw the film on DVD and decided it was alright. Tobey Maguire was good for the Peter Parker role. Kirsten Dunst bugged me a bit; that dead expression of hers.

Now I am so very old that I have lived to see a Spiderman reboot. It is 2012 and the idea of Ireland getting to penalties against Spain is science fiction.

The Amazing Spider-Man – in addition to a hyphen – has the chap from the Facebook movie in it, and a love interest I care less for even than Dunst. It’s heavy-handed stuff. Morality-spinning Uncle Ben can’t die fast enough for my liking, and Spidey shouts ‘woooooo!’ in a very American way whenever he is swinging off things.

The cinema in Singapore is always freezing. People talk quite loudly during the film.

Spiderman needs to (a) become Spiderman, (b) indirectly cause the death of a tiresome relative to teach him a thing or two, (c) make a mortal enemy, (d) meet a girl who gives him a prospect of touching a boob some day, (e) prove his worth vs some low-ranking criminals, and (f) confront the horrible monster and smash up some buildings. The Amazing Spider-Man ticks all of those boxes in a perfunctory manner, by way of a giant lizard with an English accent. This is not a major spoiler as people with English accents usually turn out to be evil, or so cinema has taught me.

There’s a silly plot development with a mathematical equation. When will it end?

For a time I worked in a book shop under the management of a silly fellow who had a curling moustache, a cigar, a collection of Hawaiian shirts, a resonant voice and, I suspected, a closet of considerable size. Naturally I enjoyed imitating him, including an occasion when he phoned up the shop and I answered it in his voice. Hellooo-oo-oo! Anyway, I did a comic bit around the shop in which he was friends with Spiderman, and he would complain about one of his many foes in this world, ‘Well I can’t stand her, and my wife can’t stand her, and Spiderman can’t stand her.’ His dog was called Midge.

They’re still duking it out, Spiderman and the lizard. Get a job!

I have just googled this film and the Wikipedia entry includes the utterance, ‘Rhys Ifans compared this film to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the grounds that Spider-Man can be redone many times on film.’ Well, there’s the only time this production will be mentioned in the same breath as a Shakespeare play.

January 16, 2010


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Sherlock Holmes
2 out of 5 stars

What would ol’ Clay make of Guy Ritchie’s bare-knuckle boxing, Frenchman beating, second-act lulling, occult-battering bromance?

It seems that the best way to solve a mystery is to slap it about the head, or electrocute it, or give it a hearty spanking with one’s cane. So it is that we first encounter Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, who meditates on the best means of clocking some chap who obstructs his path to Mystery Solution and then – mark you – he knocks the fellow out, the confrontation proceeding exactly as he deduced it would in the cornball slow-motion sequence. ‘Aha’, we say to this internal narrative, ‘clearly this Sherlock Holmes fellow is some manner of Thinker.’

An IMDB entry for Sherlock Holmes tells me that ‘it is made to be a rollicking good time’. Anyone who says ‘rollicking’ is bound to be a total prick (even, if not especially, in that overworn mode of irony), but the prick has a point. The result of the commitment to Rollick is that Conan Doyle’s world and characters are merely the dressing for a fairly conventional action-adventure movie. Sherlock Holmes is given the 21st-century comic book reboot, and not much of the literary original turns up for the adventure. Look at the fucking promotional posters – they’re like ads for superhero films:


Ritchie has one good idea in livening Holmes up, as opposed to depicting him in his traditional screen incarnation as a pipe-smoking, contemplative bore. Robert Downey Jr is good as a troubled, eccentric Holmes too, but no-one can seem to think what to do with the character other than chase scenes and fighting villains or, when there isn’t a chase scene to be had or a villain to fight, boxing people after dinner. Aspects of Watson’s military past are evoked with the consequence that he is multi-dimensionally dull. Our ultimate problem, then – with Moriarty creeping into view, trying to nick stuff – is that we have reputedly brilliant characters under the volition of idiots. Thus our team of creators has Holmes rushing around in a sort of Victorian Dark Knight affair with explosions, and gadgets, and Holmes predicting in idle moments everything the next century of science will bring in a tongue-in-cheek manner that makes me wonder whether a bad script provides grounds for a cinema refund.

Anyway, there’s this evil chap called Lord Blackwood, whose name is evil, and who looks evil, and he’s trying to stick a knife in some virgin. Holmes stops him, to Blackwood’s chagrin, and the ensuing tussle inexplicably consumes over two hours of our time, with the subplots of Holmes trying to do some woman (Rachel McAdams) and Watson planning to marry some other, funny-looking woman (Kelly Reilly). Moriarty slips into the darkness, anticipating a chance to creep back for a sequel, although I’ll understand if he decides to give it a miss, and stays at home.


June 07, 2009


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Terminator Salvation
1 out of 5 stars

Grrrrrrr! Christian Bale growls as he emerges from some mud.

Roar! Christian Bale shouts as he fires a machine-gun at a robot that has beef with him.

Noooooo! The script-writers have watched Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and think it’s top drama to have upset characters shouting Nooooooooo! to let us know they’re ticked off.

Blair! (Is that character’s first name really ‘Blair’? Really?)

Help! Christian Bale looks around vainly for a way out of this franchise:

The Terminator films didn’t need, or deserve, another sequel. The first two were built around Arnie’s admittedly perfect performance as the relentless robot, and the attendant chase scenes. The films were set in the good old 20th century and the science-fiction storyline was pretty thin, and was alluded to more or less just to facilitate more high-speed chases and blowing things up. Terminator Salvation proceeds without the (now old and busily Republican) lead actor by building on the flimsy sci-fi mythos. From Judge Dredd to The Matrix, tales of machines taking over the world are commonplace, and the direction of a Mr MCG does nothing to avert the dangers of predictable plot and overall unoriginality. Many robots are harmed in the process, but even this seems detached and flat somehow, Bale is wooden and there isn’t an ounce of personality in the whole thing.

a terminator
Smiling doesn’t get you off the hook for this dross, sonny.

November 20, 2007


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4 out of 5 stars

Parallel Worlds! Witches! Quests involving Object Retrieval! True Love! False Love!

Stardust puts us in pretty familiar fantasy-adventure territory, tipping its hat respectfully at Labyrinth, but most in debt to The Princess Bride, working off the same formula of fairy tale fuelled by comic cameos, with a smack of the Endymion myth about it too. Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert de Niro enjoy new leases of life in roles that defy expectations of typecasting, while Ricky Jervais also crops up touting his sole comic mannerism to any takers.

Our focus is on an Adventuring chap named Tristan (no relation to Sir Tristan). Fantasy aside, Tristan takes an unfeasibly long time to realise he should be poking Claire Danes, who appears as Star Personified in this Mortal Realm. It all proceeds pleasantly enough, if predictably; it’s well-crafted and enjoyable. Yet there is a Take That song during the end credits, so be prepared to make a hasty retreat.

Be warned that Stardust does get quite mushy, and if your love life falls short of being an amorous idyll at all you may end up tearing off your own arm just for something to hurl at the screen.

July 23, 2007


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5 out of 5 stars

Robots with anger-management problems take to the streets of Earth.

The by-the-numbers blockbuster may seem a low art form whose requirements are easily met, yet it’s a genre that has yielded some awful films. Spiderman 3, Godzilla, Ang Lee’s Hulk (unrelated to Ang Lee’s Emma) and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (I didn’t bother with 3) are turkeys of note. So it’s satisfying when something like Transformers comes along and hits all of its targets, avoiding the pitfalls of the family-movie genre: mawkishness, predictability, awful humour, and bad effects. Why, there are even masturbation jokes for those so inclined.

Explosions! Noise! More Robots!

Transformers has attempted to placate the more committed (read ‘desolate’) fans of the cartoon series: surveys were taken by the producers allowing participants to vote for their favourite lines from the TV series to be included in the film. I don’t remember enough of the cartoon to comment on the fidelity of the robots’ design to the originals, but I think it would be mean-spirited to complain, as they look great. Of course, it’s silly at times – Jazz is pretty obnoxious, but his presence is minimal, and the Autobots choose to disguise themselves as pretty lame American cars – but it’s enjoyable throughout. The robots themselves are impressive and have not been devalued too badly by those Citroen advertisements.

Fun for men who never grew up!

Right down to the metal soundtrack which includes, unfortunately, a new Smashing Pumpkins song, to which Optimus Prime writhes in agony. Poor chap. But that’s the low point. Let’s hope they don’t ruin the effect with a bunch of sub-standard sequels. The Curse of Starscream’s Gold.

May 07, 2007

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3
2 out of 5 stars

In which Spiderman makes heavy work of battling foes who could be overcome with a gong and a cup of water.

If there’s one thing Spiderman can’t stand (and there are many), it’s infection with an extra-terrestrial phlegm; a pity because that’s exactly what he gets in Spiderman 3. The result, an Evil Spiderman, joins a long roster of anti-social wrongdoers in a film that includes such illustrious ne’er-do-wells as Venom, Hobgoblin Junior, and Flint Marko. Having spent the previous two films mythologising the death of Spidey’s sainted uncle, Ben Parker, the producers elect to inform us that actually, his murder was the work of one Flint Marko who, pathologically angry at the cruelty of his parents in naming him Flint Marko, turns to a life of Misdeed. By a poorly-explained accident involving a sand-pit and a particle accelerator Marko is transformed into Sandman. Because he is made of sand, water is not his friend.

If all this Evil sounds unpalatable, fans of Aunt May’s tedious moralising will be relieved to learn that Spiderman 3 is replete with her rage-inducing doses of sucrose. She even tells off Evil Spiderman for killing Marko, spoiling the party for everyone. Far more acceptable is Kirsten Dunst, whose reaction to all stimuli is to part her lips and gaze into the distance in that way that makes my friend Mike wish she was free for a beverage in central Carlow this Thursday evening. (Dunst, if you’re reading, I can testify that Mike is a true gentleman who can resolve disputes without recourse to CGI.)

The film’s sole stroke of genius is the scene that lets us know that it’s OK for grown-ups to like Spiderman. Due to receive the key to the city for his feats of civic destruction, Spidey informs MJ that his costume is a popular item at Hallowe’en, at which point the audience’s overgrown comic-readers trade knowing glances, the self-referential humour assuring them that this is adult entertainment and they do not all have Peter Pan complexes. (Besides, they prefer the term graphic novel.) Meanwhile, Mike mutters something unrepeatable about Dunst that begins in the conditional tense and ends with ‘until her ears bled’.

Out of popcorn. Tedium sets in. This is the worst film in the franchise. The mind drifts back to the Transformers trailer, hoping that it is free from the mawkish family-values that have marred everything Spielberg has done since the onset of his mid-life crisis. By now the meteoric substance courses through the veins of Aunt May. She terrorises the city, hurling corrective proverbs at the hapless New-Yorkers.

Can she be stopped?

Say; does anyone have a cup of water?

Depressed by a poor script

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