Sunday, June 24, 2007

Insomnia = A Bunch of Quick Film/DVD Reviews

My alarm is set for 3.30am so I can catch the flight back to Ireland, and yet here I am at 11pm, having struggled to get to sleep since 8pm, feeling wide awake. Aaaaarggh!

I still have no internet connection in Ireland. The "I can get it connected within 24 hours" promise of the landlord has dragged on for 2 weeks now and the latest is "It should be there in 7-8 days", which explains the complete lack of activity on the various review blogs. I'm not holding my breath for the fact that this is going to get fixed any time soon!

Lack of internet access in Ireland is probably not the end of the world as my current contract there is consuming many hours, with the specs for what we have to deliver in 5 weeks time still not even close to being tied down. Despite that and the horrendous weather (an hour long walk to work when it's nearly always raining is no fun!) I'm enjoying the "Emerald Isle" experience, mainly because of the group of people I'm working with and the fact I'm getting to learn some new stuff and work with the technologies I really want to.

I spent last Saturday (in Ireland) checking out the local cinema, in the form of the Limerick 12-screen 'omniplex'. Alas, I made the mistake of choosing the new Fantastic Four movie as the film to see. The first FF movie got panned by the critics, but I thought it was far better than the reviews implied, albeit with some serious mis-casting for the chief villain 'Dr Doom' and the super-hero leader 'Mr Fantastic'. This time round the director is supposed to have responded to criticisms of the first film and turned in a more adult offering. Alas, he's made a much worse picture, and the first half hour is a disjointed, badly edited mess. The whole film is barely 90 minutes long, but feels longer, and special effects house Weta clearly didn't have the time or the budget to finish off the CGI on the central Silver Surfer figure that gives this sequel its main title. The Surfer looks like a demo version of the metallic figure we got 20 years ago in The Terminator 3 movie, and things should have moved on a lot since then. The audience I saw the film with seemed to have an average age of about six, which seemed to me to be the one the film-makers were aiming for. The mis-casting of the main leads in the first film were even more obvious this time around, with only the under-used Chris Evans really delivering. Overall, this is one to avoid!

Evan Almighty

This morning, thanks to Brian, I got to see a preview of Evan Almighty, the follow-up to Bruce Almighty starring Steve Carell (The Office (US), The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine), due to hit screens in the UK officially on 3rd August. Alas, it's a weaker follow-up to the original and although Jim Carrey is one of my least-favourite actors, he worked far better in the original film than Carell, who replaces him this time round, does in this one. The basic premise this time around is that God tells Carell, a former news-reader recently turned congress man, that a flood is coming and he has to build an ark to rescue all the animals just as Noah did in Genesis 6:14. There's some big budget special effects but I couldn't help wishing the money had been spent on something with a lot more substance than this meaningless tosh. That being said, it's a fairly innocuous 90 minutes, and will undoubtedly make back its money as it's a good 'date movie', albeit one that could have done with a bit more structure and a lot more jokes.

Black Book and Goal 2 DVD covers

On DVD, whilst in Ireland, I've seen Black Book set in Holland during World War 2, which was excellent, and Goal 2: Living the Dream which wasn't. This latter film is the sequel to... erm... Goal which was perhaps most notable for the 'deer caught in headlights' acting debut of one David Beckham. This time round the paper-thin story of the first film is even slimmer, and Beckham is thankfully relegated to endless background shots and a non-speaking part, but this is not enough to save the film, despite moving the action from dreary, rainy Newcastle to sun-soaked Real Madrid. The third film of a planned trilogy, with the final film having apparently been shot mainly around last year's World Cup, is apparently now looking like it will be shelved - based on Goal 2 I'm not surprised!

On DVD I've managed to finish the Complete Season 2 of Rescue Me, a brilliant drama series about firefighters in New York post 9/11. The second series, against all expectations, not only lived up to the strong writing and performances of the first season but, if anything exceeded it. The third season is already available on import Blu-Ray high definition disc (and region free to boot. Hoorah!) so that's going to be moving to the top of the 'To be watched' pile.

Shortbus and Rescue Me Season 2 DVD covers

The surprising highlight of the weekend's viewing though has been Shortbus, which has received a lot of publicity for its 'explicit' sex scenes. Actually explicit doesn't really cover it - in the first 10 minutes alone we get self-fellatio, explicit sexual intercourse and cum shots, with rimming and Lord knows what else to follow later in the film when a background orgy scene featuring a lot of 'sextra's takes place. The surprising thing is that unlike Michael Winterbottom's equally controversial 9 Songs, which was just plain dreary and borderline sleazy, the film doesn't, to this viewer at least, feel at all gratuitous. It has a sweet, quirky, good-natured feel to it that made it totally watchable, with some cute cartoon sequences, witty writing and a 'feel good' ending. Of course the explcit sex scenes are always more watchable when your cast are all young, uninhibited and very attractive. British critics have been surprisingly enthusiastic about the film, despite the explicit sex scenes, and it's not hard to see why, although you need to be VERY liberal minded to cope with nudity which is frequent and sex acts which are numerous. The strange thing is that although there's a lot of sex in the film, the film doesn't come across as being just about sex, and is actually more about relationships and character, with the sex making the whole thing feel more real. The characters here are very sweet, with a nice little pay-off for all of them at the end but the sex grounds it in a reality too often missing from rom-com's. Absolutely not for Daily Mail readers, and it would be hard to find screen caps that could be considered 'safe for work', but otherwise highly recommended.

Talking of rom-com's I also got to see Music and Lyrics on high definition HD-DVD disc this weekend. It's enjoyable fluff, particularly for those who like to take the mickey out of 80's pop acts like Duran Duran. Hugh Grant is a real surprise (he can sing AND dance!) and Cameron Diaz is naturally warm and sympathetic, with some surprisingly witty writing. I don't generally like rom-coms but after Shortbus and this I may have to revise my opinions.

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