Monthly Archives: May 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

An off-key sequel

This isn’t just a sequel, this is a sequel to a comedy film so, you know…hmm. I want to like it, I really do, but this film is just not aimed at me.

Personally I care as much about pop-star celebrity culture as Sepp Blatter cares about FIFA being an honest and respectable organisation. I think that is my biggest stumbling block. Any film about people becoming famous for singing is instantly a turn off. That said I will try and be as impartial as I can be.

I fucking hate Rebel Wilson… jesus, this impartiality thing is harder than I thought. OK, lets try this again. Normally I really don’t like Rebel Wilson I feel that most of her comedy is quite forced and of course she always has to play “the goofy fat one”. I was totally uninspired by her in Bridesmaids, she was one of the worst characters in Night at the Museum 3 but actually she had some of the best lines in Pitch Perfect 2 and were often the best delivered.

Obviously Anna Kendrick as Beca is the poster child for Pitch perfect but I couldn’t help but find her all too forgettable. If it wasn’t for Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, Ester Dean as Cynthia and the Barden Bellas’ nemesis Das Sound Machine the film would have been as interesting as cheese grating my eyelids.

The film gets some laughs so cheap you could find them on sale in Poundland with John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizebeth Banks) playing radio hosts and quipping about other acts and performers. Unfortunately this is a high brow and innovative as succumbing to basic racial sterotypes. By the end of the film I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear them say “har de har derp – look a towel head!” or “Yellow man has the slitty eye”. Seriously, the scripting is terrible.

Thankfully there is a lot more subtlety to the characters listed above and in places it can be quite amusing.

Das Sound Machine are probably the best thing in the film even if they too fit in to a generic stereotype. They are German so of course their musical style is electro inspired. The banter they bring is uptight and very literal. They are wearing black leathers and string vests and their performances are all well choreographed, on time and err… Efficient.

That sounds a little bit rubbish but the energy that they bring to the screen is a guilty pleasure and actually brings me to my next point. Das Sound Machine actually sound quite good and have a quite decent show. The Barden Bellas don’t. At best they are average, pitch perfect they aren’t.

Admittedly their final performance is quite a touching performance. No. Touching is the wrong word but its nice enough. Even so it wasn’t enough to make me care about the group.

If you are a fourteen year old girl then it might be an awesome and hilarious film but I’m not one and never have been one so I found it overall a bit dull and boring. Go see Mad Max instead!

Go See

  • Das Sound Machine
  • If you are fourteen and a girl

Avoid

  • The script is garbage
  • Jokes that rely on basic racial stereotypes
  • Barden Bella’s just aren’t that good

Overall

2-stars

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad by Name – Bonkers by Nature

It is truly mind blowing to think that director George Miller has pretty much only directed two types of films: Happy Feet/Babe with their super cutesy anthropomorphic animals and Mad Max with it’s depiction of the degeneration of human kind and decline into madness. I’d love to know what goes on in his head, a cross between talking unicorns and Arkham asylum perhaps?

Still, you have to love him because the original Mad Max was pretty much an instant cult classic and you only need watch the first few minutes of Fury Road to know that the same is true about this film. Still not sure? Just watch Nicholas Hoult say “Oh what a day. What a lovely day!” I will be quoting that endlessly I’m sure.

The film starts with Max getting chased down and held prisoner by a gang from “The Citadel” which is run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a self proclaimed idol who promises to take people to Valhalla when they die. Because of this he has a layer of frenzied skinhead “War Boys” who keep order over a horde of downtrodden followers that are just grateful to get rations of water now and again.

Immortan Joe is a typical dictator surrounding himself with water, fresh food and unblemished women. So when one of his wives Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) takes it upon herself to free the other women under Joe’s control the rest of the film happens: one long, absolutely bonkers, car chase and Max (Tom Hardy) is dragged along for the ride!

Did you, as a child, do any of the following; play a game called Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8? Doodle the craziest looking cars possible with 8 wheels, a machine gun and a lookout perch? Build a car out of Lego that looked nothing like a real car but wonder why real cars weren’t made like yours?

Of course you did. Mad Max is exactly this but on film. You are treated to a visual feast of cars that look like hedgehogs, drag racers with flame thrower turrets, 70’s saloons with caterpillar tracks trying to blow up an armoured fuel truck with machine gun turrets. Of course, with such an arsenal things are going to get blown up, dismantled, over-turned and people are going to die in both amazing and shocking ways.

Mad Max has such a cacophony of petrol headed eye blistering action that it is easy to overlook some of the more subtle aspects of the film. The most obvious is the sheer descent into madness as humankind is fractured in this post apocalyptic landscape. OK, so this aspect isn’t particularly subtle but it’s a joy to watch each of the main gang leaders indulge in insanity. Joe with his see through body armour and skull mask/breathing apparatus, The People Eater (John Howard) with his diseased feet that look like elephant trunks and the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) with his suit made of bullets. Interesting as these characters are it’s when you look at the rest of the war boys and compare the vast gulf that is our current society and what the world has become in Mad Max that will captivate most peoples attention.

Another more subtle aspect of the film is the fact that we never really know what happened to the world in the first place and also how it became so broken. we are given just enough glimpses to form our own opinion but it’s always left to your interpretation and child-like imagination.

Finally there is the way that gender and ability is portrayed in this film. The son’s of Immortan Joe are physically and/or mentally disabled but in this dystopia they are all equal. Similarly Furiosa has lost an arm yet she is probably the strongest character in the film and further to this the wives she is trying to save start off as dainty helpless beings but grow to be quite resilient – comparatively at least. It might be weird to think that Fury Road casts such an unbiased representation of gender and disabilities but if you think that everyone in the film is equally as broken, just in their own ways, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the film however is Max himself. The script doesn’t do anything to really develop the character or give us a reason to really care about him apart from the sole reason that he is the main character. Unfortunately Tom Hardy plays Max like he played Bane from Batman with just a few grunts and mumbled sentences. It’s a rare miss for Hardy and exacerbated by how strong Charlize Theron is throughout the whole film.

Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal of Nux – psychopathic yet gentle and at times na├»ve war boy in Joe’s gang – is also one of the standout performances here and fills in for the absence of a loveable male lead.

But Max isn’t the only misstep in the film as the plot is really rather basic; Furiosa tries to save the women and Max gets absorbed into the fold. That’s as complex as it gets. No real plot twists. Barely any plot development just a car chase.

It may sound like a bit boring just being one long car chase but this is action like you haven’t seen before. Not only because of the stunts but it is also gloriously shot. It is coloured to perfection and is on a scale that is both vast as they travel through expanses of desert but localised to the twenty or so vehicles involved so never feels impersonal.

The film is so delightfully mad and over the top that it is hard not to love it even if it’s not perfect but hey, that’s almost the definition of a cult film right? Either way, I can’t help but think if there was a post apocalyptic world I wish it was like fury road because if life is going to be a pile of shit it may as well be a full frontal, unhinged crazy pile of shit with grenades on sticks and harpoon-gun-cars right?

Go See

  • Glorious madness
  • Action satisfaction
  • Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult

Avoid

  • Plot doesn’t really go anywhere
  • Max isn’t the hero you want him to be
  • Script doesn’t help the plot or Max

Overall

4-stars

Spooks: The Greater Good

Eerily Average

You know nothing Jon Snow. Sorry… couldn’t resist. Yes that is Kit Harrington who stars alongside the cast of Spooks. I say ‘alongside the cast’ because of course Spooks is a popular TV series in the UK. Not popular to the same degree as Game of Thrones in which Kit also stars but enough for most people to have seen at least an episode here or there.

Not me though. I’ve never actually seen an episode. Not for any particular reason, it’s just never crossed my path. If, like me, you haven’t seen Spooks the TV series then I don’t think this film will particularly draw you in as a new viewer to the franchise. That said it is a perfectly watchable film; there are a couple of really clever plot points and the film has a decent but perhaps not fast enough pace yet it suffers from the fact that there is a whole lot of back story in the TV series and newcomers, like me, will miss the nuance of it all.

The film starts with Qasim (Elyes Gabel), an international terrorist en route to being deported to America, being broken out of MI5 custody much to the annoyance of the CIA. This leads to the MI5 chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) being disgraced for the failing.

As I noted before there is going to be a lot of nuance to the characters that I will miss and one of the most obvious is the films sub-plot. Harry believes that Qasim’s breakout was led by a mole in the MI5 who is working with the CIA in order to bring down the MI5 allowing the Americans to roll in and effectively own the British intelligence. Whilst the actual sub plot is fine and does add a layer of depth to the story it provides preciously little information about who in the CIA or MI5 wants this to happen and why.

I can’t shake the feeling that if you watched the TV series you would understand this troubled relationship between the two intelligence agencies a lot better. From my point of view though the MI5 messed up once and suddenly that’s almost enough to nearly close down the department? Yeah that doesn’t work for me.

This mole leads Harry to fake his own suicide and search out the help of Will Holloway (Kit Harrington) to dig through some mole hills. Will is an adept (but former) agent of the MI5 and shares a history with Harry. Again, I’m not sure if Kit was in the TV series previously but the relationship is well revealed throughout the film and leaves little interpretation so I can only assume this is a new character.

To be fair to the film; Will is a good character. He is a straight agent who will do what he thinks is right, not what he has been ordered to do and it’s very hard to get that archetype wrong so it won’t be a shock that I say he was my favourite character in the film. It obviously helps that he is younger so he can do more of the dynamic action scenes but Kit Harrington manages to hold an on screen presence that shows determination to get the job done, skepticism about his orders and a bitterness over loosing his job as an agent.

Thankfully there is a good chemistry between Kit and Peter which helps keep your interest throughout the film. The highlight is undoubtedly when Harry meets Will. Harry has left a breadcrumb trail which not only leads Will to him but is also designed to shake off Will’s accompanying and tailing agents. The breadcrumb trail is super clever and leaves you guessing why certain items have been left or things written down until the reveal where you can’t help but go “ah! that was clever”. It is absolutely what you want from an intelligent crime drama.

It’s a shame that this scene is at the start of the film because the rest of the film just isn’t as clever even though you are always hoping it will reach those heights again. this means that the rest of the film can feel all too mundane – almost as if the writer had a eureka moment with the meeting sequence and then got his mate to write the rest of it. Job done.

That’s perhaps a little harsh as the scripting, like most aspects of the film, isn’t bad at all. The plot is interesting and the set pieces are often impressive enough. These sequences are also shocking at times as certain characters are killed off which is something I wasn’t expecting. Whether these have played a large part in the series or not though I couldn’t tell you.

Still one of the best aspects of the film is the cinematography, which you don’t need prior experience to appreciate – you just need a pair of eyes really. The film captures some beautiful locations that have been filmed throughout London and it’s not just your normal views of Westminster or Canary Wharf – it even made me think it wouldn’t be so bad to live in London… but then I remembered concrete and noise and stress and always rushing so that thought soon passed.

Overall this film has some good things going for it but ultimately it’s just an extended TV show that relies on the viewer being already emotionally invested in at least some of the key characters. If you manage to overlook this then you are treated to a proficient crime drama that is very well shot.

Go See

  • Kit Harrington plays an excellent lead character
  • Beautifully shot
  • When Harry met err… Willy

Avoid

  • Too dependent on prior knowledge of the series
  • Cleverness of the script peaks too early
  • Slightly too slow paced for some

Overall

2-5-stars