19/12/2014

GOTHAMIZED: THE BUTLER - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this 14th episode, we discuss the tenth episode of Gotham, Alfred, Will Smith, Viola Davis and Danny Elfman.

(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

18/12/2014

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS - REVIEW


Not content with painting his face green in The Mask and wearing nothing but green as The Riddler in Batman Forever, Jim Carrey decided to cover himself in green fur for Ron Howard's live-action version of Dr Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

This decision did pay off in that Carrey turned out to be the perfect choice to play the moody Grinch and, whether you like the movie or not, it's hard to deny the rubber-faced actor's energy makes his portrayal of the classic character a lot of fun from start to finish. Who else could have pulled off such a cartoonish role so convincingly? He even aces the old "You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch" tune in one of the movie's best and most memorable sequences. The make-up effects on Carrey as well as on all the actors playing the Whos of Who-ville are impressive and spot-on, bringing Dr Seuss' unique visual style to a live-action setting beautifully.

Unfortunately, while the film boasts tons of Christmas spirit and the great cast approaches the whole thing with gusto, Ron Howard's direction feels surprisingly clumsy, rushed almost. The usually reliable filmmaker doesn't seem to take his time at all when telling this story as the characters remain two-dimensional throughout and the camera appears to be stuck on wide-angle mode and moves around constantly as if Terry Gilliam was conducting a rollercoaster orchestra right next to Howard and the crew got mixed up somehow. It's a highly frustrating film to watch because you know there is a classic, iconic Christmas movie in there somewhere (see the original cartoon), it's just buried under a whole lot of lazy screenwriting, bad jokes, over-the-top cinematography and a lack of genuine artistic style. It doesn't help that the film looks crazy-expensive as well.

Where's Tim Burton when you need him?

Because of the film's unfocused nature, it can sadly aspire to little more than guilty pleasure status. This is the kind of movie you watch pretty much every year during the Christmas season and, although you do enjoy parts of it, you're also always reminded of how flawed it is but you decide to look the other way because it's festive and entertaining enough to work... just about.

Carrey is a delight, Dr Seuss' rhymes are as charming as ever and the Whos look great but there's definitely a true vision missing from this movie which needed to be far quieter, more genuinely interested in its characters not to mention far more appealing and creative visually.

Clunky yet likeable Christmas fare.

16/12/2014

BAD SANTA - REVIEW


In-between directing more arty/trendy flicks, Terry Zwigoff tried his hand at a somewhat more commercial effort with Bad Santa, a Christmas movie with a difference.

The main difference being that our "bad Santa" is a shady, foul-mouthed, boozing thief who pisses his pants.

Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox's Christmas tradition in this movie is posing as a mall Santa and Elf then robbing the whole place after the busiest shopping day of the year. Unfortunately, Willie (Thornton) is struggling to keep both his alcoholism and his sex addiction under control so he soon becomes a liability in grave danger of messing up the whole plan. Along the way, Willie meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a girl with a Santa fetish and they begin a relationship of sorts. He also meets a clingy overweight young boy amusingly called Thurman Merman, played by an appropriately wide-eyed Brett Kelly, who, for whatever reason, believes Willie to be the real Santa Claus. And although the kid annoys the hell out of him, the latter gladly crashes at his house, making himself at home before inevitably genuinely feeling bad for Thurman who is constantly being bullied by other kids due to his dumbfounding naivety.

The film, which had the Coen brothers as executive producers, walks an interesting line between gross-out shenanigans, black comedy and Christmas fable as it manages to keep a constant rudeness and dirtiness going while also telling its story through a sharply-written script and subtly instilling a calculated dose of Christmas spirit into its audience. You'd never expect to find a film like Bad Santa, a film that prides itself on how anti-Christmas it is, heart-warming in any way and yet Terry Zwigoff somehow manages to have his cake and eat it too. The darker humour works, the sweeter moments work and, bizarrely, it all works together rather well. Sure the plot is super simple and hardly a mind-altering, inspiring event but all the characters, no matter how repulsive or pathetic, are so likeable you'll want to follow this one through. It's sad to think that, since Bad Santa came out, we lost both John Ritter and Bernie Mac but it was definitely good to have them both in this movie doing what they did best: being pretty darn funny.

All in all, I certainly recommend Bad Santa. While perhaps not the best choice for the whole family to sit around and watch on Christmas Eve, it's a fun R-rated Christmas romp the likes of which you don't see very often. It's a great concept and the filmmakers pulled it off royally.

Good Santa.

ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS - REVIEW


If anyone was going to save Christmas, it had to be Ernest P. Worrell.

Those of you unfamiliar with Jim Varney's somewhat cult creation may be missing out on some fun times, though Ernest Goes To Africa was pretty brutal...

Yeah, I watched that.

Ernest Saves Christmas, luckily, is one of the good ones. Not only because Varney once again delivers his own brand of rubber-faced, fast-talkin', cartoonish madness but also because Douglas Seale makes one loveable Santa and adds a lot of heart to an otherwise purely slapsticky farce. The film sees Santa search for a worthy successor and seeing as Ernest, who kindly drives Santa around in a cab, is all about that Christmas spirit, there's no better candidate to help Santa achieve his goal. Except maybe the elves who actually do have their own subplot in this movie, as do the reindeers, believe it or not. Actually, come to think of it, this movie has more subplots than it does have a plot as Noelle Parker becomes Ernest's sidekick and her character Harmony also gets her own arc of sorts.

Add to that random scenes of Ernest in drag, struggling with Santa's sack (of toys), destroying poor old Vern's house with an oversized Christmas tree, hanging out with snakes, being the worst taxi driver ever and flying around completely out of control in a sleigh and you've got yourself one very busy and very wacky Ernest movie. Fans of Varney's slapstick antics should find plenty to enjoy here and if you're looking for a heart-warming, fun-for-all-the-family type of movie for this season then you could do a whole lot worse than Ernest Saves Christmas. Somehow, even a silly Ernest movie managed to capture some Christmas spirit and deliver it to us wrapped in a big bow.

Easily one of Varney's best, this Santa-centric movie is entertaining, funny, bizarre and surprisingly charming. Worth seeing for Ernest's unique rendition of "O Christmas Tree" alone.

KnowhutImean?

14/12/2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 - REVIEW


If there was one comedy I was not expecting to ever get a sequel, it was Horrible Bosses. Armed with a fun, clever concept and a strong cast, the film still somehow managed to be very uneven and instantly forgettable.

So now we have Horrible Bosses 2 and our moronic trio are back with yet another unlikely plan involving, albeit rather indirectly, some horrible bosses. The plot sees Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day try to sell a new product of their conception called "The Shower Buddy" to a big company run by an intimidating Christoph Waltz and his spoilt, twisted son, an almost show-stealing Chris Pine. Of course, the gang are soon tricked into being ruined and selling their product for cheap to Waltz and they are soon plotting their revenge. Murder isn't so much on their mind this time as they turn their intention towards kidnapping.

Or "kidnaping", rather.

What follows is a series of nifty twists and turns as Pine gets involved in their revenge mission and the plan becomes more and more intricate. Both Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston are back as well, the former with little more than an extended cameo and the latter with a wholly unnecessary subplot. At least Jamie Foxx's character is of more use to the actual storyline by the end. Once again, this is an uneven movie with a handful of jokes hitting the mark but many others feeling much too easy and falling flat. Mostly, we're left to listen to Day and Sudeikis speak over each other loudly and constantly, which was one of the more annoying aspects of the first film. This sequel does get some points for at least trying something a little different and including a couple of entertaining new elements to an essentially pretty paper-thin thread.

As pointless of a sequel as this is, it isn't quite the disaster you'd expect from a follow-up to a dangerously average comedy no-one remembered after watching it. That said, it's still hardly inspired and lacks some big laughs.

Harmless/mindless time-waster.

13/12/2014

LENNY - REVIEW


Dustin Hoffman takes on the role of iconic 60's stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce in Lenny, director Bob Fosse's first post-Cabaret film.

The movie, which is presented to us in gorgeous black and white, follows Bruce's relationship with stripper Honey (Valerie Perrine) as they get married and eventually share some tumultuous times together. We also, of course, see how Bruce's career as a comedian developed over the years and get a good glimpse of the sleazy side of his character and comedy clubs. Though the film is about Lenny Bruce, one of the most important comedians to date, I wouldn't expect too many laughs with this movie as it's far darker and moodier than you'd expect. There's a fascinating contrast throughout the movie between the cornier aspects of Bruce's early style of comedy and the raw and gritty 70's style of the film itself. Fosse certainly doesn't sugar-coat anything and even includes some documentary-style Q&A's with Perrine's character here and there, which adds a strangely modern feel to the whole thing. Leaving Las Vegas would try the same thing years later to a less effective extent.

Hoffman gives a perfectly crafted performance and even though he looks nothing like Lenny Bruce, he captures the spirit of his work so well that you'll soon forget that. Perrine gives it her all and it's no wonder why she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1975. The film looks great, boasts a terrific script and, even though it's based on a play, it never feels stagey. It is one depressing ride, though. Even when nothing too dark is happening in this movie, you still feel like something's wrong somehow. All these weird audiences and people Bruce comes in contact with have a grotesque, almost spooky quality to them like it's a particularly morose Fellini film or something. While the film gets its point across brilliantly, putting forward why Lenny Bruce was such a valuable comedian, there's very little in the way of laughs as I mentioned before. Bruce's story is one of tragic frustration as he was clearly way ahead of his time and the film captures this so convincingly that, by the end of the film, you'll probably need to be cheered up big time.

Bob Fosse's film is a stylish, well-made biopic all around and the two lead performances alone make Lenny well worth it. If you're into comedy at all this is also a really interesting look into the life of one hugely talented and forward-thinking comedian who was just born too damn early.


C***-****ingly good.

11/12/2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 - REVIEW


Another year, another Hunger Games movie.

Well, part of one, anyway.

The popular pseudo-Battle Royale franchise is back as the actual "games" finally take a backseat to an actual plot and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a hidden world outside the big city and her own district. To put it in retro movie terms: this is basically the Beneath The Planet Of The Apes of the series, except not awesome.

After breaking out of the arena, Katniss finally wakes up in some kind of underground bunker/shelter occupied by a rebel army led by yet another silly-named character: President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). She is kept up to date by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his *sob* final roles) and Jeffrey Wright's character as they try to convince Coin that Katniss is a worthy "Mockingjay", the face and spirit of the resistance. But Katniss' beloved Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still held captive by Donald Sutherland's intimidating baddie President Snow and the latter proves himself to be more ruthless than ever ordering several executions in every district, bombing hospitals etc.

It seems that in every Young Adult book-to-movie franchise, from Harry Potter to Twilight to this one, there'll always be repetition and at least one completely useless film. The first sequel, Catching Fire, felt like little more than a retread of the first, actually decent, film. Sure it ended with a worthy cliffhanger but it never needed to be as long as it was and it was shamelessly near-identical to the first instalment. Mockingjay Part 1 is a better sequel in that it's very different and definitely moves the plot forward. This wholly unconvincing future world is at least fleshed out a little more and it's good to see characters take what they've learned from "the Games" and apply it to real life.

Unfortunately, even this movie has its share of problems.

For one thing, Jennifer Lawrence honestly drops the ball, giving one unsubtle, unfocused and surprisingly clunky performance throughout. Her facial expressions when reacting to... anything alone are laughable and it's often hard to distinguish Katniss' poor acting from Lawrence's, which is frankly distracting. The fault is not all hers, I'll admit, as her character is reduced to an impressively dislikable cry-baby. Now I realise that times are hard in this movie: her district is reduced to ashes, Peeta's in a bad way and all-out war is underway but based on how smart, strong and mature she was in the first film, this is one transformation that just doesn't make sense. Her attachment to Peeta is overdone to say the least, the very mention of his name making her nearly lose her mind, and none of that feels earned at all.

We get it: she loves him.

Can I go now?

Luckily, these movies have brilliant supporting casts so anytime Lawrence makes a weird face or sheds an unnecessary tear, you can always turn to Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci or even Liam Hemsworth for comfort. Elizabeth Banks also makes an appearance and, in case you're wondering, yes she is as over-the-top as ever. The conversation the latter has with Katniss about which clothes she's gonna wear is tough to take seriously when a war is going on and the Disney-friendly whimsy of the franchise doesn't quite gel with the darker elements this movie introduces. Did The Hunger Games franchise really earn its Holocaust imagery? I'd contest that. Admittedly though, those darker moments definitely make this sequel worthwhile as, finally, the harshness of this world becomes a bit more palpable.

Fans of The Hunger Games movies should enjoy this one, for sure. Those more indifferent viewers will find more to like here than in the last movie but a below-par lead performance and some sillier aspects of the film will still annoy at times. Part 2 should hopefully deliver more of the good stuff so at least we're back on the right track and my personal interest in the franchise has perked up a bit.

A flawed but promising second sequel.

09/12/2014

GOTHAMIZED: FASTY FASTY FURIOUS - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this 13th episode, we discuss the ninth episode of Gotham, Harvey Dent, The Suicide Squad, Baywatch Nights and Adam Sandler movies.

(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

04/12/2014

THE BIG REWIND: EPISODE 46 - PODCAST


In this 46th episode, Adam (aka The RetroCritic) and fellow film buff Jamie discuss movie news, review Nightcrawler and talk retro stuff.


Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

Oh and you can also find us on iTunes and now Stitcher where you can subscribe to the podcast and download every episode thusfar!

@TheRetroCritic
#TheBigRewind
retrocriticblog.blogspot.com

BOND 24: SPECTRE - TEASER POSTER

Pay attention, 007.

Your new mission finally has a name:


Also, a teaser poster:


Your new villain, by the way, will be played by the ever-wonderful Christoph Waltz.

Agent 2015 better get here soon...

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