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Bride Of Laceyvision

Hello! I'm here again to spurt sticky criticism into the eyes of Pirates Of The Caribbean - At Worlds End, Fantastic Four - Rise Of The Silver Surfer, Denzel Washington's silly time travel action film Deja Vu and long-awaited comedy Knocked Up.

Pirates Of The Caribbean - At Worlds End

This is a pretty difficult film to review - a big, sprawling, climactic entry into one of the most unpredictable franchises of recent years. Where the first film was a surprising romp, last years sequel Dead Man's Chest expanded on the supernatural elements at play, raising the stakes to create a greater sense of danger on the high seas. Pretty much every character from the first film re-appeared, disappointing those who had hoped for an Indiana Jones-style unrelated adventure. The plot too was seen as overly complex, when in fact it was fairly simple - each character has a clear cut motivation that underlines the series trademark labyrinthine piratey double-crosses, which are misdirection rather than plot. If you accept the blurring of the lines between friends and enemies, there's nothing particularly difficult to follow going on at all. In retrospect, Dead Man's Chest is probably the lightest and most frivolous of the three films, despite taking the characters to ever-darker places - it climaxes, if you remember, with Captain Jack flinging himself into the jaws of the Kraken. For all the bluster and drama of that film, it was mostly concerned with aligning various plot elements for this one, and while it picks up pretty soon after, it's also a distinctly different film in tone and style. It's a serious, involved narrative that dives headlong into the surreall from the off, with the rescue of Captain Jack from the "land of the dead" being a Gilliamesque delight and like nothing these films have contained before.

It's easy to see why this instalment proved too much for some fans to swallow - the first film is valued chiefly as lightweight popcorn fluff and the writers aspirations to tell a grander story are undeniable this time out. Whereas in Dead Man's Chest you could pretty much tell the goodies from the baddies and enjoy the explosions, you'll need to keep your ears open in this one for key parts of it to make any sense at all. It's not an illogical film - it's just a very dialogue heavy one. Which is fine by me - it's my opinion that Depp has yet to deliver a bad performance as Jack Sparrow, and this ones insistence on proving that he's actually technically insane is fun to watch, as is his verbal sparring with Geoffrey Rush, the brief and surprisingly well-handled cameo by Keith Richards as his Dad, Bill Nighy continuing the best-motion-capture-performance-ever, Tom Hollander as the worlds biggest prick, etc. These are great characters to spend time with and each has great moments here. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom recieve a lot of criticism for their performances in this film, but I think it's more their characters that people are taking issue with - Orlando is sort of meant to be a bit of a crap ponce, isn't he? Isn't that the point? And while Keira has spent a lot of time in these films being a silly girly, she's also stretched herself dramatically on a number of occasions - the sexual tension between her and Depp in the last film was one of the highlights, and she has some rough decisions to come to terms with in this film. Their eventual marriage is a very silly moment, but it also feels fairly appropriate for these characters. There's been so much going on in these films that it's only towards the end of this one that it becomes totally apparent what the overarching storyline actually is, but it's suitably weighty for the scale of the final battle. Tom Hollanders slow-motion descent onto the deck of his exploding ship is one of the most wonderful pieces of cinematography and integrated special effects that I've seen in ages, and it's an example of the style and detail that raise these films above most other summer blockbuster dreck. There are extraneous characters who could have been trimmed down, it could be shorter, but for once I'm glad it's not - I'm happy to afford them such self indulgence. Except for Mackenzie Crook and his little fat mate - while the ways this trilogy has evoked Star Wars have mostly been appealling, burdening the film with a pirate C3PO and R2D2 was un-necessary. Because they're as funny as chewing lightbulbs. 4/5.

Deja Vu

Unlike Pirates Of The Caribbean 3, Deja Vu is a really easy film to review. Do you think you'd like a film about a murder and a terrorist attack being investigated by Denzel Washington recieving mysterious messages from the past and Val Kilmers super secret Government time-travel detective agency? That's Denzel, Val Kilmer, explosions, time travel, car chases, and time travel, and that guy who played Chandlers weird room-mate who watched him sleep? If you have a penis, watch this! If you have a vagina, don't watch this. If you're not sure if you have a penis or a vagina, watch this and find out! 3/5.

Knocked Up

I love Judd Apatow stuff. The first season cancellation of the brilliant Freaks & Geeks (essentially The Wonder Years crossed with Dazed And Confused) and the possibly superior college-sitcom Undeclared makes me so angry I mail turds to strangers but it did leave Apatow free to direct the heartwarming and hilarious 40 Year Old Virgin and this follow up, in which long-time Apatow cohort Seth Rogen is upgraded to an unlikely leading man, a pissed-up stoner porn-obsessed man-child who manages to use his "earthy charm" to bed Katherine Heigl and perform the titular knocking up. Rogen may not share the looks of Hugh Grant, but he's a hugely likeable, self-effacing lead who grounds this film in the realism that is it's main strength - aside from being completely balls-out hilarious. Rogens stoner housemates - made up of a variety of Apatow alumni - tear up every moment that they have onscreen, and Paul Rudd makes the most of a role as Heigl's conflicted brother-in-law. Paul Rudd is funnier than anyone else in the world without even trying, he really is. Each of these peripheral characters provides plenty of mirth, and it's a relief to have so many laughs arising from believable dialogue and touching characterisation while the dramatic aspects of the film play out unhindered to their conclusion, which is sappy and obvious but you'll have soaked up so much of the films warmth by that point you really won't care. Even the obligatory frat-pack cameo (Steve Carell, here) is unobtrusive and hilarious. Edited down through preview screenings from a reportedly fantastic three-hour cut (hopefully to be DVD'd at some point), this leaner version still finds time to stray from it's main narrative with confidence, and scenes that may have appeared inconsequential are wisely kept not just for their hilarity but the insights they provide about various characters. Hopefully that DVD will spend an extra half hour at least on Rudd and Rogens Las Vegas mushroom freak-out. 5/5.

Fantastic Four 2 - Rise Of The Silver Surfer

Anyone who's used the internet over the past few years has probably come across at least one article about what an affront and disgrace the original Fantastic Four film was. In casting a load of B-list telly actors and hiring the director of "Barbershop", 20th Century Fox was clearly making absolutely no effort to turn out an adaptation of any quality whatsoever. Why you'd expect such a terrible comic to make a good film is beyond me anyway - a "family" of celebrity superheroes with the gayest powers of all time? To recap, that's Captain Fantastic or whatever played by Hornblower, who has super-elastic powers, which look hilarious, and he's a scientist. There's Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, his wife who can go invisible and make force fields, her brother Johnny Storm who can go on fire, and Captain Fantastics old pal The Thing, played by Michael Chiklis. Is being made out of stone really a superhero, per se? Then there's Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom, a queer supervillain with metal hands or something. Despite all of this, the first film wasn't *completely* useless - Johnny Storm and The Thing (wisely clad in prosthetics rather than CG nonsense) were adapted to film as well as those characters possibly could be, and were reasonably fun to watch.

Typically, origin stories are always fairly interesting, and the real test for a superhero franchise is where they go after that. In this case, Rise Of The Silver Surfer completely pisses away any goodwill earnt by the first film. It's dog shit of the highest order. Brash, shallow, half-baked, anti-climactic, under-written drivel. It really feels like someone had a gun to their head and a ticking clock next to them and fifteen minutes to write it. And they were a moron, to boot. Do you remember in the 80s and 90s, when sequels did little other than retread the plot of the original with a few minor tweaks? Father Of The Bride II, Honey I Blew Up The Kid, Ghostbusters II etc? That's what Fantastic Four 2 feels like - it's not just predictable because it's crap, it's predictabe because it's crap you've basically watched before. New plot elements - Captain Fantata trying to marry The Invisible Woman (but people keep asking him to save the world! what a selfish prick, trying to save the world. boooo.), the enigmatic Silver Surfer (the best performance in the film, a luminous combination of mo-cap and CG. Oh, and a pretty terrible Lawrence Fishburne voice-over), the cloud-eating space-prick Galactus, Johnny Storm gaining the ability to trade powers with his gang of super-tossbag friends... it's all just fluff disguising the fact that these characters take exactly the same journey they did in the first film. Doom even turns up at the end, inexplicably brought back to life, to completely inexplicably try and hamper the Four's attempts to STOP THE WHOLE WORLD BEING EATEN. Which doesn't make any sense at all, however you look at it. It just doesn't make a lick of sense. And didn't Hornblower used to be good at acting? Like when he was in Hornblower? Here he seems to be concentrating so hard on his accent he's forgotten how to emote. Unless he's meant to come across as an arrogant prick who doesn't actually know anything about science, which I don't think is the case. And the effects are really patchy and uneven, too. The Silver Surfer looks admittedly glorious but when the Fantasticar turns up in the final act, the ensuing ruckus looks like an actual toy advert. The guy playing Johnny Storm is still fairly good, but they haven't written any funny lines for him this time out. And just wait till you see whoever the girl playing The Thing's blind girlfriend. Her blind acting is even worse this time out. Could they not just put some sunglasses on her? It's impossible not to laugh when she's walking into tables and talking just to the left of peoples faces.

But then, it is a kids film, as was the first one. It's just gone from being one of those kids film that you can get away with watching to one of those kids films that makes you long for death. 1/5.

About this entry


Paul Rudd is funnier than anyone else in the world without even trying, he really is.

He really is one of the most underrated comedy actors out there at the moment. He also single-handedly rescued the final season or two of Friends.

I'm intrigued by Knocked Up. I quite enjoyed 40 Year Old Virgin, while also accepting that, in much the same way as, say, American Pie, I probably shouldn't have been. In that film, it was of course Carell that made it - but I did enjoy Rudd and Rogen, so I'd be interested to see the latter "graduating" to a leading man role. It also seems as if this film, unlike ...Virgin, has been appealing to a wider range of people - so it looks pretty well worth seeing.

By Seb
July 01, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

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I just saw "Diggers", which stars Rudd and some other people I vaguely recognised (I think one of them was in Wet Hot American Summer with him) as clam diggers (ho!) in the 70s. It's a nice, down to earth, drama and he's very good in it, and I cried a little bit. But partially just cos my tummy hurts today.

The thing about The 40 Year Old Virgin is that it's not really about a virgin trying to have sex, it's about a virgins friends trying to get him to have sex. Carrells own narrative is more about discovering aspects of himself and the wider world that he's been shut off to for a long time. His virginity is an important part of his character, but he wouldn't see it that way, which is the important difference between this and American Pie-style sex comedies. Why did you feel you shouldn't have been enjoying it? I thought it was one of the most natural, loose, friendly, good-natured comedies I'd seen in a long time.

By Michael Lacey
July 03, 2007 @ 2:07 am

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