Wednesday, December 01, 2004

For Your Consideration...

Bad Santa

This is definitely not a kids film. Billy Bob Thornton plays an alcoholic safe cracker, who works as a department store Santa at Christmas time in order to infiltrate the store security and pull off a daring Christmas Eve heist. Thornton has a lot of fun creating one of the most appallingly memorable characters ever put to film.

3.5 out of 5

The Grudge

Remake of the 2003 Japanese shocker Ju-On. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as an American exchange student working as a nurse in Japan, The Grudge offers a fair few scares, but relies too heavily on sudden jump scare tactics, rather than exercising the original’s psychological horror.

3 out of 5

Team America: World Police

The new movie from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone is an absolutely hilarious, very politically incorrect, parody of the all-American action movies produced by the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. Only instead of actors, the stars are puppets. Just think thunderbirds, but with one hundred percent more swearing, sex and world politics!

4 out of 5

Movie Review (I Heart Huckabees)...

I Heart Huckabees

Director David O. Russell (Three Kings) brings us an ‘existential comedy’, where the laughs come as thick and fast as the ponderous, pseudo-philosophical dialogue. Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) stars as Albert Markovski, the hippie head of the Open Spaces Coalition, fighting against the plans of department store chain, Huckabees, to lay waste to a woodland and marsh in order to erect a new store. Brad Stand (Jude Law), an executive climbing the corporate ladder at Huckabees, tries his best to manipulate the Open Spaces Coalition into conceding some land.

Albert has been experiencing a series of disconcerting life coincidences, the meaning of which he desperately needs to investigate. Upon hiring a pair of existential detectives, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin), he is forced to confront his fears, his emotions, and his new worst enemy, Brad Stand. Unbeknownst to Albert, Brad has also hired Bernard and Vivian, who see through the sham of his seemingly perfect life with model girlfriend and ‘voice of Huckabees’, Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts).

This is a bizarre movie. One moment there’s talk about the meaning and/or meaninglessness of life, the next there’s an in-your-face slapstick comedy sequence. It shouldn’t work, but it does. While there have, and always will be, movies concerned with questions about the nature of the universe and the meaning of life, none seem to pull it off with such charming reckless abandon as I Heart Huckabees does, to such an extent that sometimes even the characters themselves acknowledge that they have no idea what others are saying to them.

Even the most wonderful screenplay could be let down by an uninterested cast, but thankfully everyone involved here gives their all, especially scene stealer Mark Wahlberg. Whether it’s Dawns eventual understanding that there may be more to life than selling her image, or Wahlbergs’ fire fighter finding himself while putting the pieces of his life back together after “that big September thing”, almost every scene is unforgettably entertaining.

4 out of 5

Movie Review (The Incredibles)...

The Incredibles

The latest from Pixar, the studio behind ‘Toy Story’, ‘Monsters Inc.’, and ‘Finding Nemo’, to name but three, is a computer generated animated adventure concerning a family of oppressed superheroes. Written and directed by ‘The Simpsons’ veteran Brad Bird, ‘The Incredibles’ blends action, humour, and drama into a magnificently well crafted and visually stunning feature.

Fifteen years ago, ‘supers’ were not uncommon, protecting and serving innocent citizen from such everyday annoyances and inconveniences as petty theft and runaway trains. Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) were three such ‘supers’, enjoying their powers and working at the top of their game. But when the very people who are being saved begin suing for distress, the supers lose their government sponsorship, and are forced into anonymity courtesy of the “Supers Relocation Program”.

Present day Mr. Incredible, under the new guise of Bob Parr, a bottom-rung employee at an insurance company, and his wife, the former Elastigirl, have assumed the identity of a typical suburban family. Kids Dash and Violet however, have inherited super powers (speed and invisibility respectively), but are under strict orders never to use them in public. Frustrated by the limitations he faces as Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible starts sneaking out of the house to resume his heroic exploits, while under the pretence he has joined a bowling league.

It’s hard to know who this movie is aimed toward. On one hand, The Incredibles is the perfect children’s film, designed to distract and entertain for two hours, much in the same way as previous Pixar efforts. But on the other hand, and crucially for Brad Bird, it manages the tricky task of being both funny and entertaining for adults too. Perhaps taking a cue from rival studio Dreamworks’ ‘Shrek’ franchise, Pixar figured that they needed to cater to both ends of the audience spectrum to remain competitive and more importantly, relevant to modern audiences.

While the physical comedy and visual flair will wow younger viewers, it’s the fantastically written script that will hold the interest of even the most jaded adult. The running gag involving the concept of “The bad-guy Monologue” will surely fly over younger heads, but will be rewarding to older viewers. As with most Pixar movies, The Incredibles is highly recommended viewing and probably the most family fun to be had in cinemas this Christmas.

4 out of 5