a collection of film reviews which are accompanied by a healthy percentage of irony, bitterness, and not a single mindless Quote Whore Superlative in sight.
The following review does contain some minor spoilers, lots of sweary words, and a scarily high number of mentions to Bollocks, so if you don't want the film ruined for you, have a problem with swear words, or get easily grossed out by a plate of shami kebabs and lamb kofte's, then this review probably isn't for you.
This review is also brought to you by Cyberdyne Skynet security systems. Bringing you fast and efficient Armageddon with a big metallic smile.
WDF#1: TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
A fair warning is needed for any film maker who dares take on a film project based on an old establishment which has developed a hardcore cult following and ultimately trying to get the balance of pleasing these fans and satisfying your own vision can be as treacherous as a picnic in a Sarajevo minefield.
Of course calling these people hardcore fans as such is the more flattering way of describing them, and therefore it will be more appropriate to refer to these fans and the section of fan they fall under as 'Geeks' and Geekdom respectively, and whilst im not saying that all of these people spend their lives playing World of Warcraft and writing dodgy pornographic Twilight fan fiction, there are some traits that seem to be common amongst Geeks. The most annoying of these seems to be the fact that if the programme, film, or game they love comes under any critical scrutiny at all, they will defend it as vigorously as John Goodman defends a crispy pot roast, and often with nastier consequences.
Take last summer's remarkably well made but punishingly difficult to watch blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT for example. The film was a great example of how to stick to the tone and style of its source material to keep the diehards happy whilst making it entertaining enough for a wider audience, and justly received extremely positive reviews. However, it did receive some negative criticism, mainly in that its running length was too drawn out in certain areas, and in the opinion of yours truly was too oppressive to fully enjoy as a simple summer blockbuster. Soon enough, the legions and legions of Batman fanatics, comic book lovers, and other general fuck wits who have nothing better to do began to bombard the message boards of film critics who had dared to make a solid and objective opinion, leaving such wonderful and baffling comments such as "i hope you get AIDS motherfucker", "you make me so angry that i want to punch a puppy", and my personal favourite, "stop being disrespectful to Heath Ledger, i bet you killed him you shiteater", which is like Greenpeace shaking its fist at a random passing cyclist and shouting "i bet your the ones destroying the Ozone layer just to piss us off you twat".
However, as much as i have been a bit harsh on Geekus Regularis, it is a fair point to make that there is a bit of a geek in all of us and weve all had our own obsessive interests at one point or another. For example, my own geekish guilty pleasure when growing up was the now sadly defunct Robot Wars, in which big fat beardy weirdies would attach a chainsaw and some sofa castors to a box of Shredded Wheat, call it a robot and fight it against another fat beardy weirdies equally chainsawy and castory biscuit tin. However, given that the average budget of each of the contestants for building a robot wouldn't be enough to get them a weeks worth of shopping from Netto, some of it was a little bit naff. However, budget wasn't such a problem for the film up for scrutiny this week, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, although as we will see and without giving too much away, it almost falls into the same levels of Naffness.
In terms of plot, this film picks up, obviously, where the first TRANSFORMERS left off, with the good robots, known here as the Autobots and lead by the very leaderish name of Optimous Prime, having formed an alliance with humans in order to flush out the remaining bad robots that are hiding on Earth, and given that these robots are funnily enough called the baddy sounding name of the Decepticons, its pretty obvious that you wouldn't want to by a second hand DVD player off of them or even lend them Ã�Â£10 because you know you'll never get it back. Meanwhile the main human character Sam Witwicky, played here by Shia LeBouef, has had enough of being a twat in his own home and decides he wants to go and be a twat at college, making the insane assumption that sitting in a classroom and listening to someone drone about science is a better life choice than spending all day watching Megan Fox's character straddle a motorbike in denim shorts and a tank top.
After the Autobots and the humans bring down one decepticon that given its design is obviously meant to take the form of a giant wheelbarrow, said wheelbarrow makes a grim warning about the revenge of a decepticon known as The Fallen, hence giving rise to the unique and inspired titling of this film. Meanwhile, Sam happens to find a piece of the supposedly destroyed Allspark, which burns its information onto his eyes and brain, hence giving the remaining decepticons reason to pursue Sam with the intention of allowing the return of this particular Decepticon with a name which suggests he must have been bullied as a little robot, and to be fair it must be something particularly important if it means that they have to actually go within 1000 feet of Shia LeBouef. And so what follows is a endless litany of explosions, pop culture references, big explosions, the destruction of ancient landmarks, bigger explosions, one unnecessary shot of a decepticons scrotum, and of course extremely big explosions.
So, you'll have probably guessed from that checklist that once again we are dealing with our arch nemesis Michael Bay, who having decided to entertain us by assaulting our ears with a jackhammer in the first TRANSFORMERS, follows up by dumping an air strikes worth of napalm into our eyes, although if i can i would like to start with some of the positives from this film.
Firstly, much like the first TRANSFORMERS, the real star of the show here is the effects of the gigantic robots themselves, and not trying to sound too obsessed with robots again, it is mind boggling how many different little moving parts there are on each of the machines here, and it really shows that a lot of time and love has been poured into the graphic and technical design of this film. Secondly, a minority of the acting here is fairly accomplished if not fairly bog standard for the roles required, ie: the comic relief character in Sam's room mate cum wannabe conspiracy theorist and a delicatessen owner who turns out to have his own military past. And of course, as a minor point Megan Fox is looking as stunning as ever, its just a shame that Shia LeBouef gets to lay his hands all over her, the lucky monkey swinging bastard.
In truth, that is really the long and short of what is accomplished about this film, and now we have a list of problems as long as Fern Brittain's shopping list. To begin with, the film tries on numerous occasions to try and be funny, and although the scenes involving the pratfalls of a once great but now doddering old decepticon turned Autobot named Jetfire do raise a couple of minor chortles, most of the attempted humour falls flatter than a post crash Hindenburg, and with the stony silence amongst the audience during the supposedly funny scenes, we may as well have been an audience of Jews being told jokes about the holocaust by Bernie Ecclestone..
Oh yeah, i think i may have mentioned a giant pair of decepticon Scroti at some point, which is probably the best example of a possibly comic moment falling flat on its arse like a balloon animal making lesson held in a ward for people with Cystic Fibrosis.
A similar thing can be said for much of the scripting and dialogue of this film. Yes, it is very difficult to follow the already convoluted yet predictable plotting of events when the human characters talk speak in a schizophrenic, hyper Jargon jumble which wouldn't look out of place in an episode of some MTV produced bullshit like Pimp My Super Sweet Skateboarding Faceplant's hosted by Bam Margera, and the mighty robots are reduced to such lame one liners such as 'Punk Ass Decepticon' and the countless offerings of cringe inducing hip hop wannabe banter from a pair of Autobots that were plucked straight from a Vanilla Ice CD.
And since we mention plotting, not only do you not need to be Mystic Meg to work out whats going to happen, it trundles along this merry and undemanding course whilst sprinkling hefty conveniences and Deus Ex Machina's behind it like some fat German kid spreading breadcrumbs behind him. For example, Optimus Prime meets an untimely demise halfway through the film, only for there to fortunately be a way of bringing him back to life via some extremely important pendulum key thing that has huge significance, but not quite enough significance to have even warranted a mention in the first TRANSFORMERS. So, if you cant guess how those two come together at some point, then you obviously wouldn't spot Mr.Staypuft wearing a Hockey Mask in a police line up relating to a mass murder of a troop American Boy Scouts.
In a summation of what makes TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN worth any salt at all is the fact that it is unashamedly a loud, dumb and obnoxious piece of July orientated cannon fodder which slots in perfectly with all of the other pieces of July orientated cannon fodder, and in that sense it does succeed. However, its duty as a sequel is to not only match what its predecessor has accomplished, and it didn't have a particularly have a difficult job to do given the mediocrity of the first TRANSFORMERS. And yet, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN fails to even try anything new, so subsequently in this view is a bit of a cop out. I didn't walk in expecting a piece of Shakespearean art, but what i did expect was something to make it even slightly different to its older brother, yet i may as well have been looking at the first one for all the differences it managed. So really, its fine as the piece of Summertime boomfest it is, and the effects are somewhat impressive, but its lack of invention and engaging storytelling makes it an Also-Ran amongst the Summertime Boomfests it slots alongside.
And as for Michael Bay, the sooner that this Shyster stops taking things that are deeply and sometimes inexplicably loved and worshipped, such as TRANSFORMERS and the THE FRIDAY 13TH franchise, and violating it in every orifice multiple times the better. In fact, i can see this hack writing himself into the inevitable third TRANSFORMERS film, hence meaning that you would probably hear Optimus Prime saying, rather than "AUTOBOTS, MOVE OUT!", replacing this command with the more suitable "OH SHIT HERE COMES MICHEAL BAY. AUTOBOTS, QUICKLY, COVER YOUR ARSE!".
The following review is brought to you in association with Reeves's Hardware and DIY emporium. Because only a plank of MDF knows what to do with a plank of MDF
This review contains, along with all of the usual sweariness and general disrespect for practically everything, alot of references to black magic and other occultist guff which may offend those boring primitive Daily Express subscribers who would try and convince you that the Royal Family are worth preserving for any reason at all. Therefore, if you are any one of these people, i suggest you stop reading this and go back to your 43rd viewing of that recording of the Queens speech you taped over Christmas while you were hosing down your drunken mother in law with a fire extinguisher of condensed milk.
WDF S2 EP2: HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE
When you say the words Harry Potter to someone, it is more than likely that a number of different thoughts will run through their minds quicker than a North Yorkshire tourist in Malaga runs towards the breakfast buffet at the Fuerteventura. For the sake of column inches, i will narrow this down to bullet points:
Â· Yeah, it is a kids book, but its alright for me to read it if i buy the versions with the adult front covers
Â· BLASPHEMY!, BURN IT!
Â· I WILL catch Daniel Radcliffe eventually, and when i do he can live in MY cupboard under the stairs.
Â· You know what, i suddenly have a strange urge to steal my mums curtains and mutilate my face so i can look like Harry.
Â· Jesus, i bet that J.K Rowling could afford to buy Neverland.
Yes, from this short approximation, it seems that when discussing Harry Potter you will either find someone who is freakishly obsessed enough to risk institutionalisation at Broadmoor by prancing around outside a bookshop riding on a mop, or someone who believes that the content is too dark and evil for the ickle kiddies to handle and should be banned, and in that case why the fuck have you moved to Salt Lake City?. Because of this, it becomes difficult to have a level headed and neutral conversation about the good and the bad of JK Rowling's now immortalised saga of magic, double cross, and a game whose rules make Rugby League seem like a game you can play without bashing your head against a wall in frustration.
In the humble opinion of yours truly, not being particularly bothered by the ins and outs of the series, the books are lovingly detailed by Rowling and the scale of the universe that the characters inhabit is astounding, but conversely the actual character development of the main characters is cumbersome and the plotlines are overly winding and convoluted, relying too much on that wonderful little plot device called a Deus Ex Machina, in where an almost impossible plot device is solved by a somewhat fortunate and inexplicable turn of events. For example, in the second Harry Potter Book, Harry Potter and the Chamber with a Whacking Great Big Snake in it, Harry is about to meet his demise at the Hands of said Whacking Great Big Snake, only for a Phoenix to conveniently fly into the chamber carrying a Great Big Sword that would give William Wallace a blue ribbon winner of an erection, and Harry commences to shish kebab said Whacking Great Big Snake, laa la laa la laa, and they all live happily ever after until the next time Lord Voldemort tries to steal someone's cheesecake.
Despite these shortcomings however, the series has turned JK Rowling from penniless teaching assistant to prime example of capitalism gone wrong, being listed top of numerous best kids books again and again, almost in the way an Ugly yet harmless rash refuses to go away despite applying all of the right lotions. And, predictably, a series of films based on these books has followed post haste, and these films suffer from the same problems as the books, with their quality ranging from passable cinema filler to downright confusing and tedious.Despite this, enthusiasm never seems to dampen, and the release of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE, or HP SAUCE as it will now be referred to, has seen the franchise overtake the Bond franchise as the most profitable film series of all time, although probably not for long given how James Bond seems to have discovered the elixir of long life in his martini.
The film itself begins with an example of yet more shoddy Geordie architecture, which happens to coincide with the growing number of attacks by Lord Voldemorts death eaters on Muggles, and we see Harry and Dumbledore introduced to ex teacher now returning teacher Horace Slughorn, with Dumbledore soon revealing the agenda behind this re-appointment as the plot thickens. Meanwhile, pale vampire emo kid Draco Malfoy is getting up to something a bit dodgy involving a cabinet that has obviously been stolen from the Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry stalks him like some overweight sociopath trying to get John Lennons autograph, only that he's brought a revolver instead of a biro. Unfortunately, for the sake of staying out of that rough, stabbing and drug ridden borough known as spoilerville, its impossible to really divulge any more except to say that in between the actual plot we have the usual trials and tribulations of your average mid teenage student who handily has the ability to use a broomstick in a non perverted way.
As you would expect with any instalment of a long running franchise it isn't particularly easy to judge a film that doesn't really have a beginning or a conclusion as such. With it being the 6th of a planned franchise of 8 films, don't go into this one expecting a nice little recap because this film has a lot of places to go to in a relatively short period of time, and hence may alienate 'casual' viewers who have no idea about the storyline and how it has developed throughout its long convoluted lifespan.
However despite this potential Achilles heel there is in fact alot to admire about this offering. For a start, HP SAUCE continues the agreeable trend of the high profile actors putting in consistently good performances, and in particular Micheal Gambon's Dumbledore and Jim Broadbent's Horace Slughorn stand out admirably, although im still mesmerised by the way Alan Rickman can manage to speak coherently through a mouthful of Marshmallows and Hatred. Slightly less good are the teenage actors, although it must be pointed out that they have grown considerably from the cardboard rabbits in the headlights they were in the first two films, and do have a great deal of potential, although looking i am now a little concerned that a large number of the older male audience may have been their solely to see how Hermione's getting on.
Another aspect that works in the films favour is the way in which, despite throwing in a hatful of new ideas and elements to the storyline, the film doesn't patronise the audience and is considerate enough to take the time and explain most of these new objects or ideas. And, in the humble opinion of this writer, the decision of the film makers not to dumb down or even delete alot of the stories darker content is a brave one which does pay off, and adds a certain feeling of edginess and increasing foreboding that keeps the viewer interested and engaged with the storyline.
However despite the decent storytelling and high standard of acting chops for all of that HP SAUCE to go on, alot of the films flaws lie in the winding subplots surrounding the more boring lives of the students, where all of the fumbling adolescent relationship and love triangle junk borders on parodying a particularly poor episode of Eastenders. To save a good hour of pointless squirming, a basic summary would be that Hermione wants Ron but Ron is being stalked by some bunny boiling psycho bitch, Ron's sister Ginny is going out with one of the films extras but really wants Harry, Harry is too fucking oblivious to notice any of this, whilst Professor Snape actually turns out to be some kind of deformed three toed sloth with a kilo of vanilla fudge stuck to the roof of his mouth. Well, maybe i made that last one up, but you get the general gist as to how bizarre and pointless all of the awkward teen hormone pumping is.
In film making terms though, the cinematography and make up effects are steady but not spectacular and not always effective, much like feeding a vindaloo to an orang-utan and teaching it to play a trombone with its arse cheeks, whilst it is now becoming apparent that the special effects have lost the ability to shock and awe the audience, and have become fairly pedestrian and even shoddy at times.
Ultimately though, these flaws don't take away much from what is an accomplished and lovingly crafted chapter in the HP SAUCE saga, which never loses that ability to keep its audience engrossed with the storyline and the emotions of its characters, even if this emotional weighting is mostly cynical and forced. So unless you are one of these strange mole people (sorry Mormons) that have such a deathly objection to the idea of angsty teenagers waving bits of wood at each other, and not to mention casting magical spells with their wands, then this is pretty much set to be one of the films you will end up seeing this summer, be it by your own preference or through the sheer necessity of keeping your little bundles of joy , hyperactivity and temper tantrums happy for at least 12 minutes. On the other hand, if all of this talk of HP SAUCE has made you suddenly made you really fancy a bacon sandwich, then by all means fire up the grill. I think i left some leftovers of that cut of Rupert Grint i bought from the Butchers. Unlike Bacon, i doubt that he will have Swine Flu....oh wait....SHIT.....