Film RE-view: Crash (2004) [SPOILERS!!!] @KermodeMovie #FilmReview #MovieReview

check out my film review and Netflix blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

This RE-view has spoilers

WHY RE-VIEW?

Crash is about racism in America today and the different forms and faces it takes. Institutional, white-on-black, black-on-white, conscious, unconscious bias, rich, poor, and all between: the film was awarded three Oscars for its in-your-face message. It confronted racial tensions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Various story strands are interwoven in what I can only call a Love Actually ensemble stylee — although the film seems to think itself more Pulp Fiction. Yes, a whiff of self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, and self-congratulation emanate from this flick. And that’s why I gave it 2/5 when it came out. But a friend kept begging me to give it a second look. So finally I did.

THE GOOD

It’s true, there are some great moments. The sweet story of the protective cloak that a father tells his daughter stands out as genuinely touching and believable. The film is well directed and the plot well structured. You can’t fault writer-director Paul Haggis for his mastery over the craft. And despite the large cast, there is good character development, and the film is well paced and zips along nicely. Despite this, some characters are completely extraneous and should have been cut. Particularly, the roles played by Sandra Bullock and her on-screen husband.

THE BAD

The film is also very funny in places. Although I strongly suspect that was unintentional. Either way, it’s certainly odd. The two African American car-jackers provide much of this unintentional comic relief. They drive around procrastinating on race and racism, like a crap Travolta-Jackson Pulp Fiction rip-off duo, whilst their actions confirm the negative stereotypes that they rail against.

This is the worst thing is that nobody reacts normally. Everybody is ready to fly off the handle over the slightest thing. It’s this constant hysteria that jarred so badly thirteen years ago and jars so badly now. And in these sobre days, where 9/11 is now history, we can see this film for what it is. Over-the-top characters and cartoonish racism are par for the course. Everyone constantly make shouty outbursts laced with racial slurs that seem shoe-horned in and never genuine. Example: “So tell me, who gathered these remarkably different cultures together and taught them all to park their cars on their lawns” says a black man whilst hanging out of the back of a Hispanic woman…. Another example: a moronic, obnoxious Iranian shopkeeper — driven to rudeness by post-9/11 hysteria and racism, we are meant to think — does not do what his locksmith told him to, consequently gets robbed, and then does what anyone would: get a gun and go shoot a child… I mean, seriously, we never see him get pushed to that breaking point. By opting for pure melodrama at every turn, the message that racism comes in many forms, not just the obvious KKK lynch ’em kind, is completely undermined.

IN CONCLUSION: OVER-HYPED

I still think the hype and the three Oscars were overboard. Right after watching this again, Midnight Express came on the telly. So I watched that — also, for the first time in ten years or so. Wow, that is what a multiple Oscar winner is all about (despite an equally dubious portrayal of race), not this melodramatic, unrealistic portrayal of racism designed to exorcise middle class white America’s racial and 9/11 demons. Crash was the kind of film America needed in 2004, but that doesn’t mean it lived up to the hype. Crash‘s ideology and surreal histrionic racism are just as jarring as ever. But I have a renewed appreciation for the craft of this film and the moments when it is believable. For that, it earns an improved mark: 3/5.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/x0zz5XjT9FkZqoktcb7zGdbx8la.jpg

Netflix Film Review: P.S. I Love You (2007) #100WordReview @netflix

check out my new film, TV, and Netflix review blog at www.filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

P.S. I Love You is a rom-com based on a quirky and compelling idea. A terminally ill husband arranges ten surprise packages to be delivered to his wife in the months after his death. Think: posthumous and vicarious Bucket List.

Great idea, some genuinely moving sequences — all utterly undermined by the fundamental unbelievability of the acting and set-pieces. The husband’s better-than-Ed-Sheeran serenade is a stand-out moment of absurdity. And the kooky humour’s far less charming and funny than it thinks.

An odd film: I cried, and reached for the zapper. Coulda been great, but unbelievability and misplaced zaniness ruin it.

2/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.waitsel.com/actors/gerard_butler/ps_i_love_you-1.jpg

Netflix RE-view: Fire in the Sky @KermodeMovie #FireInTheSky #TravisWalton #NetflixReview

Fire in the Sky is the 1993 screen depiction of the 1975 alleged alien abduction of lumberjack Travis Walton while out working with his crew. A slowburn, the film is notable for its focus. Rather than gratuitious shots of ETs, the drama revolves around how the disappearance of a local man affects a small town. His crew are villified as murderers, and mob tyranny ruins their lives as the towns tears itself apart.

This film seared itself into my memory as a kid. The petrol station scene (I won’t ruin it) genuinely disturbed me. And the tension throughout builds to that sequence: the single most believable portrayal of an alien abduction I have ever seen. As utterly convincing, visually impressive, and skin-crawlingly disturbing as it was when I saw it some twenty-odd years ago.

But was he abducted? Some have criticised the ambiguity of the film: it never gives us a clear yes-no answer. But I think this is the feature’s strength. The picture’s concern is how people cope with traumatic situations.

Still so fresh. Please give it a watch on Netflix.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-wJ_UpP7EG1s/TYJ5F0FcTXI/AAAAAAAAA3E/rJCapE-uPC0/s1600/fire-in-the-sky-original.jpg

Netflix logo from http://contestpatti.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Netflix-logo.png

 

Film Review: Arrival #100WordReview @ArrivalMovie @TheFilmReview @KermodeMovie #AmyAdams #ericheisserer #DenisVilleneuve

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Arrival sees a linguist tasked with making first contact with extraterrestrials. Based on an award-winning short story, the film can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Same epic feel, familiar dark featureless monoliths (spacecraft). Yet it’s no rip-off.

Truly alien aliens, a tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. All achieved without wobbly camcorder shtick.

Just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward plot-wise, and handles deep themes without pretension or pomp.

The anti-Independence Day. Found Contact snooze-inducing? Miss it. I say: instant classic.

4/5

(see the full-length review here)

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.space.com/34783-stephen-wolfram-arrival-interview.html

Film Review: Arrival @ARRIVALMOVIE @THEFILMREVIEW @KERMODEMOVIE #AMYADAMS #ERICHEISSERER #DENISVILLENEUVE

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Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 Nebula award-winning novella  Story of Your Life, can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are even shades of 1998’s Sphere. It’s not derivative of those great works, but has the same epic feel — and by “epic”, I don’t mean bloated and poorly plotted, which is what so often passes for epic nowadays (see Superman v Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and a 300 page book being turned into a three film, eight hour monstrosity, The Hobbit).

Aliens have landed, but they keep quiet, safely ensconced in their ships. What’s their intention: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or more War of the Worlds? The film sees linguist Dr Louise Banks, so well-played by Amy Adams that I forgot I was watching a well-known A-lister, tasked with deciphering the alien’s language and making first contact. Her job cannot be underestimated: these aliens are no humans-with-rubber-ears.

Truly alien aliens, a sense of tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. And it achieves this without wobbly camcorder shtick. With a nod to 2001 and Sphere, it even has its own monoliths — gigantic, featureless, silent, dark spaceships which float mere feet from the ground.

And just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward in its plot, and deals with deep themes with no hint of pretension or pomp. It even raised a few laughs from the audience. Perfectly pitched mind-candy. The only minor criticism is that the film might have benefited from upping the personal and global peril in places.

It really is the anti-Independence Day. If you are one of those people who described Contact as snooze-inducing where nothing happens and “in the end it turns out her dad was an alien” (quote from South Park, not actually what happens!), then give Arrival a miss. However for me, as a fully qualified linguist, I hope this is the start of a glut of films where knowledge of valency changing operations and morphosyntactic alignment in obscure New Guinea languages saves the world. Grammar has never been this exciting, or important. An instant classic.

4/5

(see the 100 word review here)

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.space.com/34783-stephen-wolfram-arrival-interview.html

Netflix Film Review: Victoria #100WordReview @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie #Victoria @VictoriaFilmUK @Netflix #Netflix

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Victoria (2015) is the latest film by German actor-cum-writer/director, Sebastian Schipper.  It generated a lot of hype because, unlike Iñárritu’s Birdman, CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE POST

Film Review: Cabin Fever (2016) @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie

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Ah, the great tradition of the horror film remake: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, 2003), The Last House on the Left (1972, 2009), Carrie (1976, 2013), Poltergeist (1982, 2015) and now… Cabin Fever. When I first heard they’d be rebooting the thirteen year old Eli Roth flick, I thought it was an actual joke. The 2002 original was hardly a classic, and surely thirteen years was just too soon. At least with those dodgy English language remakes (Ring, Let Me In), there’s some vaguely-justifiable kind of point: more familiar actors, setting, language. Cabin Fever version 2016 might just be the most pointless remake ever.

I was at least hoping writer Randy Pearlstein would take Eli Roth’s concept in a completely different direction, give it a different spin: do a number like the Scissor Sisters did to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. But instead they’ve done a Madonna American Pie.

It really is the same film. A bunch of young adults go to a cabin in the woods but they all start getting mysteriously ill with a flesh-eating sickness: hence the punny title, Cabin Fever. The same horror shocks as the original (the razor scene, anybody?), the same OTT humour (violent hillbilly locals). But at least the lead characters in the Travis Zariwny directed reboot are not annoying. In fact, they’re quite believable — by horror movie standards, at least. I mean, one character does try to get help by peering in the window at a love-making couple, and promptly gets chased away for being a pervert, instead of just, y’know, knocking on the door. The slightly (like 10%) heightened realism affects the humour, too: the jokes just aren’t quite as zany and funny as the original (for example, there’s no sign of everyone’s favourite line “shootin’ niggas”).

All in all, I thought 2002 Cabin Fever was entertaining if pretty poor. I gave it two stars. 2016 Cabin Fever is still pretty funny, though not quite as much, and it’s still pretty horror-ish, yet slightly more believable. Good fun. A slight improvement over the original. But seriously: no more remakes of decade old non-classics, please. What next? A remake of Osunsanmi’s 2009 The Fourth Kind? Another Hitcher Reboot?

3/5

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.tribute.ca/images/videos/cabin-fever-trailer-14806-large.jpg

 

Netflix Film Review: Nanny Cam [SPOILERS!!!] @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie #NannyCam @Laura_AllenLA @IndiaEisley1029 @MKnightShyamalan

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Nanny Cam is the tale of two parents, Linda and Mark Kessler (played by Laura Allen and Cam Gigandet), working impossible hours and struggling to raise their child. Downsize to just the two bedrooms, or find a nanny to raise their child for them? This is USA!, buddy; you know what the answer’s gotta be!

Unfortunately, super-nannies are hard to come by. But just as our young capitalists might have to consider no longer over-reaching themselves, in steps the too-good-to-be-true Heather (India Eisley) who is snapped right up. This being a film, and not real life, it turns out — oh plot twist of plot twists! — that the new nanny is too-good-to-be-true! In fact, she’s a possessive nutter hell-bent on wrecking the Kesslers’ perfect family.

Her evil behaviour, such as encouraging the daughter to funnel her creative energies into literature instead of the mother’s treasured violin (seriously), lead our couple to do what any couple would do: badly hide CCTV cameras all over the house and secretly watch literally nothing evil happen. This of course prompts the nanny to do what every jealous nanny would do in retaliation: drug the husband, in full view of camera, and ride him like a bull at the rodeo.

The plot twists come thick and fast. And the reason for Heather’s behaviour is the type of twisted genius that would make 2015 M. Knight Shyamalan cry with awe and envy, but 1999 M. Knight Shyamalan just cry.

The movie has a workable if not very original idea. It merely isn’t very well-made. I’m not sure if the actors are third-rate or whether they are just embarrassed to be taking part (which is my suspicion); either way, unconvincing lines are unconvincingly performed. Everything that’s wrong with the film can be summed up by its twist ending.

Femme fatale nanny on the coach after having made her daring (impossible?) get-away. Doddery old codger toodles up to her and says, ‘Excuse me, I hope I’m not bothering you. But he is so beautiful.’ Reveal: small new-born baby next to femme fatale. ‘Thank you. He’s called Mark. He’s named after his father’.

Why spoon-feed the audience? We’re not idiots. Just have her sat on the coach, quietly content, and then reveal the baby. We’ll put two and two together. And if you really must have the old codger dialogue (for whatever reason), just have our tempress say, ‘He’s called Mark’. Again, we’ll know that the husband is called Mark and this is likely his child. Don’t take a sledgehammer to the walnut and finish it with, ‘He’s named after his father’.

Dodgy acting, some unnatural and flabby film-school writing, this film is a mediocre realisation of an okay idea. At least Laura Allen is beautiful to look at — who would be tempted by the puppy fat of India Eisley, anyway!?

2/5

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from rottentomatoes.com

150 Word Film Review: Honeymoon (2014)

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Honeymoon stars the ridiculously lovely Rose Leslie (a.k.a. “Ygritte”, of Game of Thrones fame) and Harry Treadaway as can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other newlyweds Bea and Paul. Honeymooning in Bea’s family cabin in the woods, things start to unravel quickly for the young couple after Paul wakes up to find his wife sleepwalking in the woods. Despite claiming no memory, it soon becomes clear that something very bad happened that night.

So what did happen in the woods? The film never spells it out. But it doesn’t matter; the nocturnal events are merely a device to explore what becomes of a healthy and seemingly rock solid relationship when one partner is violated in some way.

Brilliant and deeply unsettling, the off-centre performances heighten the tension. Honeymoon gave me repeated goosebumps and made me shiver almost endlessly. Horrific and disturbing. Perhaps the finest American horror film in years.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/Honeymoon_film_poster.jpg

FILM PREVIEW: The Office

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I’m a huge Ricky Gervais fan. So I’m always excited when there’s news of an upcoming Gervais project. But the news of Gervais’ latest project has filled me with excitement, and diarrhoea. First, I’ll take you back to 2003:

That’s the end of The Office … [my] sort of legacy … So many people in the past have let me down, I think so many of my favourite comedy sitcoms/writers and actors have gone just one step too far. The quality goes down, you suddenly think, I don’t want to see this again, its repetitive or just poor! They have taken the money and run and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want people to say or think that of me.

Gervais talking there. Therefore, the news that Gervais is making a film of The Office, to be called Life on the Road, seems to be proof that he’s getting desperate and really has jumped the shark (Life’s Too Short, anyone?). This movie actually scares me. Is he going to ruin the perfect legacy of The Office? Has he “taken the money and run”?

Gervais is, all due disrespect to the haters, a genius. Fact. The Office alone proves it. Magnificently written and brilliantly acted, Gervais’ performance as David Brent was flawless: every word, every look, every facial twitch was spot on and every bit the equal of, say, Cleese in Fawlty Towers.

But he’s also lazy. And his recent projects have all been characterised by laziness. Life’s Too Short is a cheap Extras rip off, with Warren Davis doing a pathetic and embarrassing impersonation of David Brent; I can hardly bare to watch it, even alone, eyes closed, drunk. And I love Gervais’ collaborations with Karl Pilkington – The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad – but they are, nonetheless, quite lazy too. The formula: Gervais and Steve Merchant chat and take the piss out of Pilkington. Even Gervais’ stand up, funny as it is, has a certain sloppiness to it: think the “Chris Tarrant” anecdote which was the supposed grand finale to Fame. And let’s not mention his lame attempts at being an interviewer: he was too egotistical to act as foil to his guests. Which brings me on to the next point.

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“…the incredible miscasting of Gervais … as a mentally-handicapped man, single-handedly ruined the show”

The one project since Extras which wasn’t lazy, Derek, was self-indulgent. Set within an old people’s home, that show could’ve gone down as one of the most socially relevant, beautiful, brilliant, and important sitcoms ever. But the incredible miscasting of Gervais in the title role, as a mentally handicapped man, single-handedly ruined the show. Gervais just isn’t a good actor. That’s not a criticism, but trite fact. He’s a brilliant writer, stand up, and comic mind. But he hasn’t got the acting chops to portray such a character. And who cast Gervais in that role? Answer: Gervais. What self-indulgence! And self-indulgence and egotism have often attached themselves to Gervais’ projects. If only Ricky Gervais could have gotten over himself.

Therefore, whilst Gervais really is one of my idols (I rank him up there with Sellars, Cleese, Ben Elton, Ianucci, and Linehan and Matthews), I am worried. He can be lazy, he can be self-indulgent. The Office ended so beautifully, so perfectly, the character arcs were so neatly concluded, that an Office movie seems to be asking to fail. It’s like when Only Fools and Horses carried on after Delboy became a millionaire: the character’s journey was already satisfyingly and naturally finished. Continuing it was a bad idea from the get go: and, yes, post-millionaire Only Fools turned out to be an embarrassing, legacy-ruining, let-down.

So Ricky Gervais really is dicing with artistic danger here. There’s no need to bring back The Office. But he is. So he needs to drop his egotism, stop being lazy, and hopefully, he won’t ruin his own legacy. And touch wood, Steve Merchant, who seems to be a marginally moderating influence on Gervais, will be in tow. The only way to do this film is to make something flawless. “Never go back”, they say, “you’re bound to fail”. It’s a law of the universe. I hope The Office movie is the exception to that proven rule.

Watch this space.

 

References

featured image from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/06/10/article-0-0064B02900000258-752_468x312.jpg

Derek image from http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02191/derek_2191238b.jpg

Gervais quote from http://www.dvdactive.com/editorial/interviews/ricky-gervais.html?post_id=172921&action=report

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/aug/05/ricky-gervais-david-brent-movie-bbc-the-office

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/08/ricky-gervais-swaps-office-pop-stardom-david-brent-film

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry