Category Archives: 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan (2010)

I find it strange that director Darren Aronofsky calls Black Swan a ‘companion piece’ to his 2008 film The Wrestler (probably my favourite film of that year) because while they are both excellent, they are completely different films.

This one is about a New York ballet production of Swan Lake and the rivalry and obsession between two dancers (played by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) that spirals into deadly madness.

I’ve been a fan of Portman since Leon (or The Professional), and this is perhaps her best performance.  It didn’t surprise me that she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and is the heavy favourite at the Oscars.  The supporting cast was also terrific, in particular Barbara Hershey as the frighteningly overbearing mother.  Vincent Cassel’s sleazy ballet director and Winona Ryder’s ageing dancer were also solid.

Unlike The Wrestler, which is a moving drama, Black Swan is as dark and disturbing a psychological thriller I’ve ever come across.  At times it plays out like a horror film, making the audience squirm in their seats and challenging us not to look away.  It’s a beautiful, atmospheric, chilling, masterfully directed film that kept me at the edge of my seat, even though for much of the 108-minute running time I was struggling to put the pieces together.

As Nate from TheNinthDragonKing said, the movie is at times reminiscent of David Lynch’s wonderful but hugely frustrating Mulholland Drive — except in my opinion Black Swan is less confusing and has an ending that doesn’t disappoint.

4.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Fighter (2010)

[Apologies for the massive influx of movie reviews but I’ve just got too many lined up — it’s the award season anyway, so why not?]

I saw an advanced screening of The Fighter a few weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to review it.  Just as well, because I’ve allowed the film to sink in, allowing me to make up my mind that this is one of the greatest boxing movies ever.

I am quite well-acquainted with “Irish” Micky Ward, a professional boxer from Massachussets best known for his three epic brawls with the late Arturo Gatti, including a ridiculous round 9 in their first fight that has been called ‘The Round of the Century”.  However, I didn’t know a whole lot about Ward’s background, and I knew almost nothing about his half-brother and fellow former pro boxer, Dicky Eklund, who once fought the great Sugar Ray Leonard.

As with most boxing films, The Fighter is a bit of an underdog story — and it’s one heck of an underdog story.  Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) comes from a crazy ‘white trash’ family, with a drug addict brother Dicky (Christian Bale) who serves as his trainer and a controlling mother (Melissa Leo) as his manager.  He’s what you might consider a journeyman boxer — someone with tremendous heart but not particularly gifted in the ring.  The film follows a familiar trajectory as Ward goes from a down-and-out boxer to a rising star, but most of the drama revolves around Ward’s relationship with his family as well as the new girl in his life, barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams), who threatens to tear his family apart.

Inside and outside the ring, The Fighter is intense, packed with emotion and turmoil, and ultimately inspirational and triumphant.  It does take some liberties with the truth, as most ‘based on a true story’ movies do, but for the most part it is a pretty realistic portrayal.  And since most of the characters in the film are still alive, the actors were able to study their real life counterparts closely, resulting in some amazing performances.  Mark Walhberg gives perhaps the best effort of his career with a low-key, nuanced performance that holds the movie together and allows his co-stars to shine — and man they really do shine.

Christian Bale was simply phenomenal and I believe will add to his Golden Globe win with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (and in doing so establish himself as one of the best actors of this generation — I mean, name one other actor that can play Patrick Bateman, Batman, The Machinist, John Connor and Dicky Eklund?).  Melissa Leo ousted Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes, but I would not be surprised if either won at the Oscars.  Leo had the meatier role but Adams probably did more with what she was given as the feisty Charlene.  Both were outstanding.

As for the boxing?  Also some of the best, most realistic we’ve ever seen.  Part of that is because Wahlberg physically looked like a boxer, having trained for this role for several years to replicate not only Ward’s body but also his fighting style.  And apart from some real fight footage, director David O’Russell also did a fantastic job of imitating that slightly grainy TV feel and presentation, complete with authentic commentary.  Apparently a lot of the fight scenes were also punch-for-punch lifted from Ward’s real life bouts.  The action was therefore as close to real as we’ve ever seen on the big screen.

The only disappointment (not really a complaint) is that the film only followed Ward’s career up to a certain point in time, meaning that the epic Ward-Gatti trilogy become no more than a footnote.  A shame because it would have been fantastic to see them try and duplicate those amazing fights.  Perhaps we’ll have to wait for the Gatti biopic.

At the end of the day, in my humble opinion, The Fighter is better than Ali, better than Cinderella Man, better than The Hurricane, better than any of the Rocky movies (which were, let’s face it, not the greatest films).  I dare not throw Raging Bull into the equation because it’s considered an all-time great (regardless of genre) and Million Dollar Baby holds a special place in my heart — but The Fighter is the real deal.  Whether in terms of the boxing action or the drama or the performances, this one is right up there in the pantheon of boxing films.

4.5 stars out of 5!

The Fighter commences across Australia tomorrow


Movie Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

My first impression of The King’s Speech (before I actually saw the film) was BORING!  A movie starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush about a stuttering British Monarch and his speech therapist set in the 1930s?  Forget about it.

But as it turned out, everyone — and I mean everyone — was raving about this film, and all of a sudden it was a frontrunner at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.  So I put aside my prejudices and went to watch The King’s Speech, fortunately, not knowing a whole lot about it apart from what I wrote above.

And well, I was immensely impressed.  Given my aversion to such films, I find it extraordinary that I found The King’s Speech to be one of the best films of the year.   While it may or may not make my top 10 list (not sure until I put that post together — very soon!), I don’t hesitate in saying that it might very well be the best acted film of 2010, and I think Colin Firth has a terrific chance of nabbing his first Oscar.  Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce — everyone in it was exceptional, making the film a delight to watch.

At it’s core, The King’s Speech is about the relationship between two very different men — Albert, the Duke of York (Firth), who is a horrible stammerer (not a desirable attribute who someone that has to speak publicly all the time) and Lionel Logue (Rush), an unconventional Australian speech therapist.  Much of the film is dialogue, but the screenplay (by David Seidler) is so wonderful and the direction (by Tom Hooper) is so skilled that I was never bored, despite the admittedly slow pace.

There’s tension, light humour and charming banter, plus plenty of heart.  And really, it’s actually quite a fascinating story, handled with intelligence, subtlety and care.  It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but if even I can enjoy it as much as I did, then there’s hope for everyone.

4.25 stars out of 5!

Start of Year DVD Blitz: Part II

As Frank Costanza once said: ‘You want it?  You got it!’  Four more movie reviews to continue my Start of Year DVD Blitz.  I predict there will probably be one more after this.  Maybe two.  Or three.

Beautiful Kate (2009)

If Animal Kingdom was 2010’s best Aussie film, then Beautiful Kate was most probably the cream of the 2009 crop of Australian cinema.

In many ways, this was a typical Aussie film — low budget, set in the outback, sad and depressing.  But for some reason I was really affected by the emotions of this splendid movie directed by Rachel Ward.

It’s based on an American story by Newton Thornburg but adapted to Australian conditions, and tells the story of Ned (Ben Mendelsohn), a writer to returns home with his young girlfriend (Maeve Dermody) to his dying father (Bryan Brown) and younger sister (Rachel Griffiths).  Ned’s past his replayed through various flashbacks, most of which revolve around his twin sister Kate (Sophie Lowe) and their tragic youth.

This was the type of film that, perhaps as recent as two or three years ago, I might have scoffed at as another boring old Aussie flick.  But I was never bored with Beautiful Kate.  Because it deals with taboo subjects and has a lot of powerful scenes, I found myself engrossed.  A few sequences towards the end may have overstepped the mark, but this was still a small triumph.

4.25 stars out of 5

Creation (2009)

Paul Bettany is fast becoming one of my favourite actors, and Creation, in which he plays Charles Darwin, may be his best performance to date.

I’ve always been fascinated with the struggle between science and religion, and Creation is at the very heart of this battle, telling the story of how Darwin came about to write On the Origin of Species, one of the most important works ever written (for those who don’t know, it is considered the foundation of the theory of evolution).

I thought a film about writing a book would be rather dull, but boy was I wrong.

Little did I know, Darwin (a fellow Cambridge student — I remember walking past the house where he once lived) was once quite religious, and his wife and first cousin, Emma (played by Bettany’s real life wife Jennifer Connelly) was a deeply devout Christian.  And so it was actually a gargantuan struggle for Darwin to write what he did.

Bettany’s marvellous performance drives this film from start to finish, and I was amazed how moved I was by his story and his relationship with his eldest daughter Annie.  The narrative jumps around back and forth in time quite a bit, which was distracting at first (because I could only gauge the time through how much Bettany’s hairline had receded), but once I ot used to it I was completely captivated by this fascinating film.  The final scene was perhaps a little contrived but it didn’t dampen the experience for me.

I know a lot of people were underwhelmed by this film, but not me.  I loved it.

4.5 stars out of 5

Despicable Me (2010)

Universal’s first foray into CGI animated features was a success.  I can’t believe I had almost zero interest in this film before, which utilises the vocal talents of Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Will Arnett.  Perhaps it was the lack of promotion, but Despicable Me was every bit as good as, if not better than, Megamind, that other animated feature about a villain with a heart.

Despicable Me has a pretty familiar core — a bad guy who wants to be worse, but through a bunch of little orphans, becomes good.  However, I loved the humour, which uses a combination of clever references to real life, slap stick and outrageous jokes.  The kids are also very cute.  Not much to dislike here, though I grant you that this will unlikely go down as one of the more memorable animated features.

Nonetheless, I had a great time with it.  Not sure if it can challenge the other nominees in the best animated film category this year at the Golden Globes (Tangled, Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist) but it will sure give them a run for their money.  Or at least it should, anyway.

4 stars out of 5

Notorious (2009)

I was desperate to see this one (even though I’m not a huge fan of hard core rap) because I had always been fascinated by the Notorious BIG and that whole East Coast-West Coast feud thing with Tupac, which probably led to both their deaths.  I finally got a chance to watch Notorious the other day and it was just okay — a biopic where the subject and story were absolutely fascinating but the film’s execution was somewhat lacking.

The life of Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious BIG, aka Biggie Smalls, is one of rags to riches that was ultimately cut short at the age of 24.  The man was built like a barrel, but he was a rapping genius and had a way with the ladies.  I got to see all of that, but I still didn’t really feel like I got the essence of the man.  I’m not sure if it was the script or the performance of Jamal Woolard, but BIG never shone through, even though he narrated the freaking film.  Perhaps it’s because he was portrayed as not a particularly likeable guy — a bit of a sleeze, a serial cheater and prone to outbursts of violence, especially towards women.

Interestingly, I thought the two most sympathetic characters in the whole film were Puff Daddy (played by Derek Luke) and BIG’s mother Voletta Wallace (Angela Bassett) — and as it turned out, they were both producers of the film.

For a biopic, 123 minutes is not especially long, but Notorious felt long.  I did enjoy it because I was interested in the subject and his life, but this was a film that could have been so much better.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Little Fockers (2010)

Meet the Parents (released in 2000) is one of my favourite comedies.  The 2004 sequel, Meet the Fockers, was silly and disappointing, despite the added star power Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.  And so I was a little wary of the third film, Little Fockers. Any time a franchise reaches its third standalone film (ie not a planned trilogy), there’s a risk that the jokes will start wearing thin.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened here.  Even with the whole gang back (Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Tero Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, Hoffman and Streisand) plus a surprisingly good Jessica Alba inserted (along with Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern), Little Fockers failed to capture the essence of what made the first film so good.

This one, as the title suggests, takes place several years after the second film, with Greg Focker (Stiller) and his wife Pam (Polo) raising twins, who are about to celebrate their birthdays.  Of course, Greg’s father-in-law and former CIA agent Jack (De Niro) is still around making Greg’s life hell, and the majority of the movie revolves around several subplots — Greg representing an erectile dysfunction drug (which is where Alba comes in), getting his place ready for the birthday party (enter Keitel) and the trying to get his kids into a prestigious kintergarten (enter Dern).

I won’t deny that there were some good moments and funny one liners, especially with Wilson, Alba and Dern, but on the whole there were too many stale, lame jokes.  The cleverness and the subtlety of the original have been thrown out the window in favour of unoriginal cheap laughs and sex gags, especially towards the end.

While Little Fockers is definitely a level or two better than the disaster that was Meet the Fockers, it nevertheless continues to damage the goodwill of the original.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Tourist (2010)

Two of the biggest and sexiest stars in the world (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie) teaming up with the director that brought us the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others — sounded like a winning formula to me.

Unfortunately, and inexplicably, The Tourist turned out to be a somewhat stale and poorly paced action thriller that wasted all the incredible talent involved.

As the title suggests, Depp is Frank, a tourist who by chance meets a woman named Elise (Jolie), who turns out to be a secret agent that turns his life upside down.  There are gangsters and British government officials (led by criminally underused Paul Bettany), and there’s the usual chase scenes, mixed in with a touch of romance and a couple of twists, but it all felt strangely flat and uneventful (despite the beautiful backdrop of Venice).

Both Depp and Jolie produced sub-par performances by their usually lofty standards, but perhaps the biggest problem was their lack of chemistry.  I really don’t know why, but they had such little spark that the romance, which drives the narrative, never felt believable.

At the end of the day, The Tourist was an average film (at most) that should have been much much better.  Just shows you can’t toss up a couple of stars and a hot director and expect brilliant results.

2.5 stars out of 5

Start of Year DVD Blitz: Part I

As promised, here is my first set of DVD reviews for the start of 2011!

Centurion (2010)

Here’s another one that when I first saw the trailer thought was going to be a hit — but strangely, it either never screened or screened for such a short time that nobody noticed, then went straight to DVD.

Centurion is based on the Roman conquest of the Picts, told from the perspective of the ill-fated Ninth Legion.  It’s dark, moody, gritty, extremely violent and gory, and a surprisingly enjoyable ride.  Even though we get the story from the side of the Romans, there are really no good guys or villains in this one.  

Excellent performances from a great cast, including Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko and Dominic West, even though the script and characters probably don’t do the performances justice.

Centurion certainly doesn’t have the depth or wide appeal of Gladiator, but hardcore battle fans (like myself) might get a kick out of it because it does have some wonderful battle and fight scenes.

3.5 stars out of 5

Cop Out (2010)

This buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan (from 30 Rock) and directed by Kevin Smith has been on many of the ‘Worst Film of the Year’ lists, so I decided to check it out for myself.

And well…I didn’t personally hate the film, but it was pretty awful, especially when you factor in the director (Smith has been a favourite of mine, even though this is the first time he didn’t direct his own material) and the all-star cast (which also includes Rashida Jones, Jason Lee, Sean William Scott, Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack).

My problem with Cop Out was that it wasn’t as funny or clever as it thought it was.  I haven’t seen much of 30 Rock, but Tracy Morgan was extremely annoying.  He just wouldn’t stop shouting and screaming all the time.  It was exhausting to watch and listen to him go on like a lunatic for the overlong 107-minute running time.

There were a couple of amusing scenes but most of it was pretty stock standard stuff that you’d see in any B-grade comedy.

1.75 stars out of 5

Remember Me (2010)

Enter the non-Twilight star vehicle for Rob Patz to showcase his acting chops as Tyler Hawkins, an American college student who has a dead brother, a neglected younger sister and a father (Pierce Brosnan) who is too absorbed in his work to care.  He meets and befriends Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), a girl with a dead mother and an overprotective cop father.  Sad, tragic, melodramatic love story.

Remember Me is depressing and tries too hard to tug at the heart strings through numerous ‘please feel sorry for me’ sequences.  At its core it’s not a horrible film, but there’s not a whole lot going for it.  It had a strong introductory sequence but went downhill from there, and even though I expected things to pick up and the various plot threads to be tied together, it never really happened.

The ending, which I’m sure gets discussed a lot, came out of nowhere, and I believe some might even find it offensive to pull a stunt like that.

Watchable for Rob Patz fans, but everyone else won’t be missing much by skipping this one.

2 stars out of 5

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day is acomedy action film about an ordinary girl caught up in the world of CIA operatives and dangerous/revolutionary inventions.  It’s fast paced, outrageous, over-the-top, and quite fun if you don’t take it seriously.

However, I didn’t really like it much.  To be honest, it’s probably because the film stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  I used to really like Cruise, but ever since he lost the plot there’s just something off about him, even on screen.  Maybe he’s getting too old, but the suave routine he got used to pulling on Top Gun and Mission: Impossible doesn’t work for me anymore.  As for Diaz, sorry if this offends anyone, but I really dislike her face.  I know she’s considered one of the most attractive women in the world, but I simply don’t get it.  It became a distraction to the detriment of the viewing experience.

Knight and Day is a film that runs on the charm and chemistry of the two main characters, so fans of Cruise/Diaz might enjoy it a lot more than I did.  But unfortunately for me, I let my prejudices get the better of my objective judgment.

2.5 stars out of 5

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

A coming-of-age/character study film by Richard Linklater about a 17-year-old kid (Zac Efron) who got to spend a few months with Orson Welles (Christian McKay), the man credited with making Citizen Kane, a film widely regarded as the best of all time.  However, this film takes place in 1937 (4 years before Citizen Kane), and it was about a stage production of Julius Caesar.

It’s pretty light-hearted, harmless stuff, but to me, it was more like ‘Meh’ and Orson Welles.  Perhaps lovers of period pieces and those who appreciate meticulously designed sets and the threatre might enjoy it more than I did.  I don’t deny that the film is well-made, though I can’t help it if it didn’t get my juices flowing.

Efron is adequate and McKay is actually brilliant as Welles, the egotistical, narcissistic genius, but neither the technical attributes nor the performances made me enjoy this film as much as I wanted to.

3 stars out of 5

I still have a few more left — Part II should be coming soon.

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

My long-awaited post(s) on the best and worst movies of 2010 is coming soon, but before I can write it, I need to watch as many notable 2010 films as I can (good and bad).

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (let’s just called it Dawn Treader for short) is the third film in the franchise based on the classic CS Lewis books, and it’s not as horrible as some have made it out to be.  It’s just that compared to that other children’s film juggernaught (Harry Potter), the Narnia franchise pales in comparison in just about every category.

As far as stories go, there’s nothing particularly special about this one.  The two younger Pevensie kids, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are back (with their older siblings relegated to cameos), as well as Prince (now King) Caspian from the previous film (Ben Barnes).  The only notable addition is the (pardon me) butt ugly and extremely annoying cousin of the children, Eustace (played pretty well by Will Poulter).

For some reason, the three kids are once again transported to the magical world of Narnia, aboard Caspian’s ship, the Dawn Treader.  There are villains and there are missing people, desert islands, dragons, sea monsters and glowing swords (all done with wonderful special effects) — and of course, that God-like lion, Aslan — but despite all these things, Dawn Treader never felt like it really got off the ground.  It’s okay — not exactly boring but the excitement factor isn’t particularly high either.  It’s not fair to say that this film is derivative or unoriginal (considering it is based on a book written in 1950), but it did feel like I had seen it all before.

It’s not an awful effort, as I did enjoy parts of it, but to me, the film was not compelling enough for adults and not engaging enough for children.  And at 113 minutes, it’s too long for both.  It’s a shame because I think Narnia a terrific franchise and one that translates to film rather well.  The Christians will probably enjoy it more than the secular folk, for Dawn Treader is much more obviously ‘Biblical’ than the two prior films in the series.

I’d say it was better than Prince Capsian, but on whole, Dawn Treader was only a sliver above average.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Tron: Legacy (2010)

Tron: Legacy was one 3D movie that I actually wanted to see (and was not too torn about forking out the extra cash to see it).

I’m too young to have seen the original Tron (except maybe on video, though I can’t remember it), but I have older friends who keep raving on about it and say that it’s a timeless classic.  Made in 1982, Tron featured special effects that were revolutionary for its time, and it’s fascinating to see just how far CGI has improved over the last 28 years.

I can’t say the trailer instilled much confidence in the film itself, but I was willing to give it a shot.  It seemed like one of those movies where the visuals were going to be impressive but the story was going to suck.

As it turned out, the visuals were even more incredible than I could have hoped for, and the story probably sucked a little more than I had expected.  Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the overall result — style over substance, for sure, but still a dazzling and (for the most part) exciting spectacle that’s different to anything I’ve seen before.

The film begins in 1989, several years after the first film, where Kevin Flynn (a young Jeff Bridges) is telling his young son Sam about the virtual world he created in Tron.  Twenty years later, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is all grown up and through a series of discoveries finds himself transported to that very world.

And it’s a very very cool world, full of neon lights, flying discs, and amazing bikes (‘Light Cycles’) and planes (Light Jets).  A gamer’s wet dream.

Interestingly, even though Tron:Legacy is only released in 3D, the parts of the film set in the ‘real world’ are intentionally shot in 2D so as to contrast the awesomeness of the virtual world.  You will be hard pressed to find a more vocal critic of 3D films than me, but I didn’t mind it so much here.  At least it was a clever idea, and at least it enhanced the special effects.

Speaking of special effects, Tron: Legacy may not have been as revolutionary as its predecessor, but it was still a visual feast that made my eyeballs dance in awe.  However, the young version of Jeff Bridges didn’t feel quite right to me — perhaps it was his Beowulf-like eyeballs or the way his mouth moved, but it felt less authentic than the de-ageing technology I saw in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from two years ago.

As for the story…well…after a cracker of a start, as soon as the action died down it became rather boring and muddled.  A lot of techno talk that didn’t make much sense to me, and still doesn’t.  Not that it mattered.

3.5 stars out of 5

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part IV

I guess this will be the final part of my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’, considering it is the new year, after all.  Four more here, then I’ll have to start my ‘Start of Year DVD Blitz’ (since I still have a bunch to watch).

Machete (2010)

Apparently Machete is a character from the children’s film Spy Kids and stemmed from a fake trailer in Grindhouse, but this Robert Rodrigue (and Ethan Maniquis) film stands on its own just fine.

In Machete, Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican badass that likes to use, uh, machetes to hack people up.  And there’s plenty of that intentionally fake, gory violence that was employed in Grindhouse, though for me it was still cringeworthy watching limbs and heads hacked off.  The film features of trio of sassy ladies — Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan — and excellent bad guys, such as Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey and in probably the best role of his career, Steven Segal.

Machete is fun, entertaining and loud-out-loud funny at times, though the ‘fake exploitation’ angle does get a little old quickly.  It’s a movie you’re likely to remember a few years from now, though you’ll probably have no idea what it was all about.  I actually have trouble remembering right now, but I do recall it was fun while it lasted.

3.25 stars out of 5


The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

Perfect example of a tight, well-written script and excellent direction (by J Blakeson).

Gemma Arterton is the titular Alice Creed, who is kidnapped by two goons (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan).  It seems like a standard kidnapping film, except that it’s not.  The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an intelligent film full of thrills, tension, and twists and turns.  Shows that you can make a great film that doesn’t have to be lengthy (96 minutes) and has a limited set and budget (most of it takes place in a couple of rooms), as long as it has a good script, a good director and good actors.

This film might have gotten most of its press from the fact that Arterton gets her kit off but it’s definitely one of the better thrillers I’ve seen this year.

4 stars out of 5


Skrek Forever After (2010)

I liked the first Shrek and liked the second, and I can’t remember whether I saw the third (and don’t care).  I kind of approached this fourth, and supposedly final film in the franchise with the same indifference — thinking that it would be pretty funny but wary because I was afraid they have milked the same jokes too far.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.  In this one, Shrek, married with children, is bored with living ‘happily ever after’, and in a moment of weakness hastily signs a contract that turns his world upside down.  By creating an alternate universe and a brand new villain (Rumpelstiltskin — played by Walt Dohrn), DreamWorks has reinvigorated an otherwise stale franchise.  A lot of the jokes have been recycled, but there are some new ones to keep things fresh and funny.  The magic and the excitement may no longer be there, but the laughs certainly are.

It may be because my expectations were relatively low, but I think this one was definitely better than the third film, whether or not I actually watched it.

3.5 stars out of 5

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

I’ve always thought any movie with a Judd Apatow connection has been overrated.  Some of them may have been pretty good, or at least different to a lot of the same old crap we had been seeing over the last few years, but none of them have been, in my humble opinion, as great as they have been made out to be.

Get Him to the Greek is, and I don’t say this lightly, the WORST movie I have seen this year.  Maybe not from a technical standpoint, but I truly loathed this film, to the point where I had to challenge myself to finish the damn thing.  This is incredibly rare for me as I’m usually known to be quite generous when it comes to reviewing movies.

Where do I start with this crap?  It’s a comedy-drama that is brutally unfunny for the vast majority of its 109 minute running time.  I wasn’t even in a bad mood, so I can’t blame it on that.  I actually thought Russell Brand’s character Aldous Snow was the highlight of the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall (from which this film spun off), but here he was just an annoying prick.  And despite his girth, Jonah Hill, whom I’ve never been a big fan of, simply cannot carry the film as the protagonist.  Maybe he tries too hard, but neither him nor Brand are likeable or sympathetic characters.  And don’t even get me started on P Diddy, who received rave reviews for his performance as a foul mouthed record company head.  His act got old on me real quick too.  Only Rose Byrne’s character, Jackie Q, cracked me up a couple of times.

Am I being too harsh here?  I dunno.  All I do know is that I have rarely felt such passionate distaste for a film.  If people being incredibly obnoxious and vulgar, constantly swearing (in an unfunny way), constantly vomiting and being obsessed with anuses is your idea of humour, then maybe you might like it better than I did.  The randomness worked well in Sarah Marshall because Snow was a minor character, but here it felt contrived.  I just didn’t get this one.

0.5 stars out of 5