All About biggest_loser
Reviewed on May 23rd, 2013
Roadshow presents a film directed by Todd Phillips
Screenplay by Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, John Goodman and Ken Jeong
Running Time: 100 minutes
Released: May 23rd, 2013
Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover series, Starsky and Hutch) said that he felt there was freedom in making R rated movies and that it provided energy and aggressiveness. There has been a lot of testosterone and energy used in the revival of the 'man-child' films made by Judd Apatow and Phillips recently. Some of these are throwbacks to the raunchy comedies of the 1980s, where teenagers could watch raunchy, adult entertainment. When similar films embrace rather than critique the man-child syndrome however, they reveal how outdated and archaic they are because their target audiences are now older and smarter and deserve more.
The bromance subgenre could be traced back as far as any Western but today it echoes Hollywood's fixation on male friendships and reveals the general misogyny of the studio system as it hinges most of its resources on male orientated films. The reckless stupidity associated with not all, but many of these bromance films, amounts simply to wasted energy, aggressiveness and chaos, still in search of the word adult.
In spite of racist and misogynist undertones, the first Hangover movie drew appeal from the fact that its story seemed shrouded and mysterious, as its central characters uncovered their idiocy from the night before. It was about them coming to terms with their actions. If the sequel was a poor, laugh free cash-in, this third film challenges it to lower the bar past juvenile and into a new zone of painfulness.
Lame, unfunny and poorly made, this is not simply a question of juvenility or gender politics, but how far a director and producer is willing to sell-out a popular cast and franchise name for something that displays his own ineptitude.
Zach Galifianakis' opening scene, where he drives along a highway with a giraffe in the trailer, is an example of the attention-seeking, mean-spiritedness found in The Hangover Part III. What isn't shown in the film's previews is that when the giraffe reaches the overpass its head is knocked clean off and it smashes into a windscreen, causing a pileup of cars.
Animal cruelty features three times in this movie and like everything else here it's grimly unfunny. Who would have thought? The writing in Phillips' screenplay, co-written by Craig Mazin, is generally awful. The jokes aim low and still miss and there are three or four long, laboured transition scenes where the characters stop to signpost the next lurching stage of the plot through lazy expositional dialogue. There's no mystery or actual hangover till an end credits scenes, which means the title is now redundant too.
The story structure is dull and rigid, now resembling a heist action movie as the Wolfpack search for gold. After the giraffe incident and the death of his father (Jeffrey Tambor), Alan (Galifianakis) is forced into an intervention by his Wolfpack friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha). They prepare to take him to a clinic, only to be ambushed by Marshall (John Goodman) who kidnaps them. He reveals that Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has escaped from prison and has stolen half his gold. He wants it back and says that he will kill Doug if they don't comply or contact the police.
Todd Phillips' dependability on Galifianakis is the sum of why the film is so unfunny. No one else is allowed to try and be funny, unless you think a grotesquely exaggerated Asian stereotype counts, but then I've never liked Mr. Chow. Bradley Cooper, after his career defining performance in Silver Linings Playbook, is called to do so little that Phillips seems utterly daft about his comedic talents. Once quirky and original, Galifianakis' mentally strained man-child act is now irritating and sad, with every quip line foreseen, which robs the jokes of their unpredictability.
If anyone were to say that the lack of growth in these cartoon characters is the point then it would be to excuse the dunderheadedness of this achingly boring and hopefully, but not definitely, last entry from what it is: a limp, unimaginative, charmless, joke-free action movie, pretending it's a comedy, and one that should be shunted and long forgotten.
Reviewed on May 9th, 2013
Universal presents a film directed by J.J. Abrams
Screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch and Simon Pegg
Running Time: 132 minutes
Released: May 9th, 2013
In 1966 Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek as a TV series and coincidentally this was the same year that director J.J. Abrams was born. The show was pitched as a space Western in the vein of Wagon Train, which was a Western mystery show set on the Frontier. Star Trek converged with the start of the Vietnam War. Roddenberry had already seen action as a fighter pilot in World War II. To counter Vietnam, his version of Earth was a society without conflict and in space there were galactic truces, race relations and a sense of unity aboard the ship the Enterprise. As with any good Western, there was moral code of ethics between men, no matter how pointy their ears might have been. Roddenberry believed in a disciplined society that could be unaffected by war or religion. Spock for example was said to be modelled on a police Chief he knew when he was part of the LAPD.
After many years as a TV show and dozens of films, someone decided Star Trek should be reinvented yet again and Abrams was hired to transform it into a glossy action film. As a filmmaker J.J. Abrams is somewhat of an enigma. One of his heroes growing up was Steven Spielberg. When he was a boy he was hired to repair some old film footage for him. Spielberg would later produce Abrams most personal film Super 8, a movie that typifies the director's career. Part of the film is a loving tribute to home movies and geek culture, while the other is a bombastic, overblown blockbuster, short of any personal imprint. He's a slick filmmaker, I enjoyed his TV show Alias until it became ridiculous, but he struggles to find the balance his idol has between action and character. Into Darkness is a better film than the messy 2009 film though. The best scenes overcome the generic, simplification of the action genre by retreating back towards the essence of the original show: a morally ambiguous grey zone, where the values of the characters and their races are tested. However, the characters are still bound by a rigid story structure, where at least ten elaborate set pieces take full precedence over the human and Vulcan drama.
The most interesting aspects of the plot are when Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine) butt heads over their different beliefs. Kirk is tasked with tracking down a rogue agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is now essentially a terrorist bomber, causing havoc in London by using desperate people to do his bidding. This leaves a chilling, lasting impression, particularly when the film adds a layer of complexity, with Spock insisting that Harrison should be captured and trialled first. He's at odds with the order of the mission and Kirk, who wants revenge for the death of a colleague. Cumberbatch is frighteningly good in the film, a massive improvement over Eric Bana's villain in the first movie. The tension he brings through his menace, his arrogance but also his ability to cast doubts in the minds of the protagonists about who the baddies really are, is a magnetic quality that is hard to prepare for prior to seeing the film. What a terrific find he's become over the last few years.
However, by ingraining itself in the structure of an action film, a lot of this ambiguity is undone. Whereas action and moral ethics fought and overlapped persistently in The Dark Knight, Into Darkness' rhythm is too discrete and foreseeable. The action is timed acutely to follow a stretch of exposition, dividing itself between moments of ideology and combat, and the emphasis on set pieces means the lines between good and evil become transparent again and remove the crucial shades of grey. Abrams also seems more interested in choreographing lavish action sequences than exploring the personal side of the drama. His imagination in the set pieces is limitless. He employs an array of frenzied techniques, including rapid cutting, tilting cameras, overhead shots and quick pans, to breeze through the action. Yet when the characters stop to face one another and talk his direction has none of the same flair or creativity. The actors sit or stand still, with the camera perched on their shoulders for dull reverse angle shots that don't heighten the tension.
Rarely do we ever see these characters in their downtime either. Without any inner life they become ciphers for voicing conflicting moral ideas, like instinct against logic or law and these conflicts are often resolved within a scene of one another. After watching Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan recently, which Into Darkness borrow from, it's also fascinating that Kirk is viewed as an ageing man who has to start thinking about death and his legacy. In this film he's more on par with Tony Stark, able to bed two alien girls with tails at once. That amplifies where they're aiming this film at, in spite of the occasionally intriguing layering of the story. For a franchise that prides itself on going where no man has gone before, the Enterprise is starting to travel in circles.
Reviewed on May 2nd, 2013
Icon presents a film directed by Harmony Korine
Screenplay by Harmony Korine
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and James Franco
Running Time: 94 minutes
Released: May 9th, 2013
In 1995 Harmony Korine wrote the screenplay for the Larry Clark film Kids, an unflinching drama about kids engaging in underage sex and drug use. Two years later, Korine made his directional debut with the bleak, apocalyptic Gummo, which charted more absurdist waters in a post-apocalyptic world of boredom and young people running amok. Troubled youths is a reoccurring theme that has stayed with this former skateboarder right up till now.
Spring Breakers is a more accessible and commercial film than Gummo but its short of a narrative and it lacks the matter-of-fact treatment of Kids. There's a memorable visual style and a bizarre, entertaining performance by James Franco, but not enough story or insight to certify its importance. The film is long and flabby, its characters and plot underdeveloped and Korine's direction lacks certainty. Is this a critique of a self-absorbed generation, a comedy, a thriller or just an exercise in perversion?
The film is about four bored college girls named Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who want to party during spring break. When they can't pool enough money together for the trip, they decide to rob a diner. They reach the spring break destination, only to be arrested by the police and then bailed out by a man calling himself Alien (James Franco). He is a drug dealer that encourages them to join him on a crime spree and wipe out a nearby rival gangster.
In an interview with the Australian movie magazine FilmInk, Korine discussed his intentions for the film: "I make movies because I like the story and the characters. I'm not making a movie that's an indictment on American culture, or a movie that's about boobs or guns - those are parts of that world and that fabric, but it's not about that." As Korine suggests, the film's point becomes extremely elusive, particularly when the filmic style is separated from the theme, and his direction relies on technique to substitute plotting.
The early scenes work to instill feelings of belonging. The long shots of the still, tired, grey and empty college grounds reflects the girls' isolation because they fear they won't experience anything new or meet anyone exciting as everyone has already left for spring break without them. These shots are juxtaposed by the party scenes, which are filmed through the extensive use of montage, with music playing over slow-motion and highly saturated images.
It provides these ugly scenes of drinking, drugs and senseless nudity as a dream-like vision of paradise in the minds of these morally corrupted girls. "Pretend it's a video game...act like you're in a movie," one of the girls says to further highlight their detachment from reality. The night scenes reflect darkness in mood and lighting but also moral decay, with only the fluorescent colours of the girls' costumes brightening the screen to suggest their belief in their own self-importance, while the broader landscape of society fades into the shadows.
However, the film's voyeuristic disposition reveals Korine's apathy towards character development and narrative thrust. Korine's costume choice of leaving the girls in their swimsuits for most of the film, and the way that his camera lingers over those raunchy party scenes, evokes an unintentionally creepy sense of perversion. Apart from the opening scenes, the elaborate neon visuals eclipse the story and characters, with the repetitive vision of raunchy partying making the film seem excruciatingly long and banal.
Selena Gomez is the only standout of the girls, proving that she can act by showing some believable emotion. However, the religious symbolism of her character barely registers as one-dimensional and the other three girls, despite their intimidation factor, are underwritten and lack distinction. James Franco provides the most memorable role of his career as Alien, a cross between a hip-hop rapper and the Devil, who has a cornrows haircut, gold teeth and dresses like a gangster.
He's utterly mesmerising and funny, but what exactly does his character want? He uses the girls for crime jobs but never really needed to as he has his twin henchmen. Sex is an option he fulfils, but not straight away either. A promising seed of conflict is planted when the girls look as though they'll rob or kill Alien, only for the moment to fizzle out. He embodies a bastardised version of the American Dream: to take everything you want, while you can, but not understand what to do with it. In a very funny scene, he showcases all of the useless things he was able to obtain, including several kinds of shorts, a looping copy of Scarface, and nunchucks.
Alien's artlessness is amplified strikingly through the film's best and strangest scene, where he sits at a piano, surrounded by the girls dressed in pink balaclavas, carrying assault weapons, and declares Britney Spears as one of the best singers of all time. He starts singing Britney's song "Everytime" and then a montage opens with the song playing over images of the girls' crime spree. Decadence is visualised magnificently but in the end the film is hypocritical: a hasty attack on a pop generation when the film itself is not art but poorly disciplined and morally questionable.
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