Friday, February 23, 2007

Hot Fuzz or Luke-warm Fluff?

I have a problem - I'd like to be a glass half-full person, I really would, but it's just not in my nature.

I was reminded of this when leaving a screening of Hot Fuzz with my friend Miss Deadline. 'Don't be so pessimistic', she admonished me, as I avoided the question of how 'good' I thought the film we'd just seen was, muttering something along the lines that it was 'OK' and had 'some good moments'.

I just don't understand our national obsession with mediocrity, and Lord knows there was a LOT of mediocrity in Hot Fuzz. The film is beautifully acted, with the creme de la creme of British acting talent, high production values and marketing to die for (I heard actor Simon Pegg and his director Edgar Wright on THREE different radio shows last weekend - and I don't even listen to radio very much!).

But someone forgot to write a half-decent script with some actual jokes in it. Of course if your idea of jokes is endless homages to great films of the past, then the film is full of 'in jokes', but if you want actual clever writing, and laugh-out-loud funny jokes there's none to be had. Admittedly I laughed a few times, encouraged by seeing the film in a packed theatre where people were determined to have a good time, but there's something wrong when the biggest laughs in a film are for tired old Carry On jokes that would have been thrown out as being too weak for Are you Being Served? or by the old trick of having an elderly character that's been prim and proper suddenly utter a bunch of four letter words (I mean, how many times has THAT been done?!). Hot Fuzz is a three minute TV sketch stretched out to make a two hour film.

It's depressing to read that the film has made more in its first two days of release than Shaun of the Dead (a rather over-rated, but nevertheless enjoyable, film from the same folks) did for its entire theatrical run. It seems endless hype in the media works, and over on there are four pages of endless praise with comments like 'Funniest film I've ever seen', 'Best British Film ever'. One wants to shout 'But the emporer's got no clothes' to every single daft, mindless rave that appears. How is copying great scenes from other films in any way 'clever' or 'funny'? Anybody can do that!

But it seems I'm alone on this. The latest issue of Empire - a magazine that's becoming more and more subject to a phenomenon that I can only describe as 'Ignore the film. Do we like the people? Have they flattered us with their time?' school of film reviewing - gives Tepid Fluff, as I like to think of it, a four out of five stars rave review, while deciding that the infinitely superior 300 is worthy of just three stars, being all style and no substance, apparently!

So it was a bit of a relief on a day feeling like I've got nothing in common with any other member of the film-going public, to get this week's copy of The Week and discover the lowly rating, averaged across all the mainstream press reviews, of just two stars. Finally, some common sense. The most accurate review comment, I thought, was from The Sunday Times. Cosmo Landesman wrote 'Whereas Shaun of the Dead was a small, low budget gem, Hot Fuzz is the kind of over-indulgent, underwritten work that comes when your first film is a hit and you are handed the keys to the cinematic sweet shop."

Alas, it seems the great 'optimistic' movie-going public are more than happy to be served over-indulgent, under-written fare. I suppose I should just be glad it's not one of the nominations for this Sunday's oscar ceremony! When the likes of Mark Wahlberg are nominated as 'Best Supporting Actor' for a 'no acting required' role, it seems rather odd that Hot Fuzz hasn't done a Shakespeare in Love and bagged itself an oscar too!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Film Screening Preview: 300

John Tucker Must DieThanks to the generosity of my good friend Brian Sibley I got the chance to attend an early preview of the new film 300.

Having had 3 hours sleep last night and a minor crisis at work today I nearly cried off, particularly since Brian couldn't join me having gone down with the dreaded lurgy that's going around at the moment. The trailer hadn't particularly excited me either.

The film is named after the 300 Spartans who faced insurmountable odds, fighting a massive Persian Army to the death. It is based on a graphic novel (pesonally I prefer the term comic book - it sounds less pretentious!) by Frank Miller and stars Gerard Butler (star of Phantom of the Opera and the under-rated Dear Frankie) and David Wenham (Faramir from Lord of the Rings) amongst others.

The film is visually like nothing I've seen before - well, OK it is slightly reminiscent of Miller's other big graphic novel movie, Sin City, but feels MUCH bigger, much more colourful even with its over-bleached grainy look, and even more awe-inspiring. It truly has something unique to it that could only have been presented in this form which is like a very high quality 'painted' comic book crossed with an odd, distorted, beautiful reality.

It is quite simply gorgeous!

There may not be a lot of plot and dialogue here, but there's enough, and when the visuals and sound are this fantastic, who cares about deep, meaningful conversations between talking heads? This film makes Gladiator look like a cheap, old-fashioned cartoon in comparison!

Zack Snyder (who he?!) has turned in one of the most impressive films I've seen in a long time, and Lord knows there have been some great movies this last year. For the first time in ages I'm advising friends to go see this at a good cinema, rather than wait for a good DVD or HD-DVD transfer. At the Odeon West End tonight the print quality was superb (and very large), given the deliberately grainy and bleached-out look, and the speaker system did full justice to the wonderful soundtrack which is note-perfect throughout.

It's funny that I wouldn't have thought of going to see this if I hadn't been given a free ticket - it seemed like it was going to be just another overhyped film from people barely heard of before. It is so much more than that. Please go see it when it opens on March 9th (or March 30th - the notes accompanying the press release seem to contradict each other). If you don't like this film then, quite frankly, you just don't like movies. Period.