Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spud

I must admit, that when someone recommends a South African film, I am usually more than a little bit sceptical and also reluctant to give it a chance. Don't get me wrong,  I don't question the level of talent within the South African film industry – the problem comes with a lack of resources and proper infrastructure, something that is usually painfully evident in SA films, as the poor production values often detract from the overall impact.

But the last decade have produced some amazing SA films, like 'Yesterday', 'Tsotsi' and the more recent 'District 9' – all of which delivered the entire film package, presenting themselves as well-rounded and tight cinematic triumphs. Each of these films however had help from some overseas partners, a formula that seems to have worked splendidly for the latest SA film hit to join this list as well: Spud, based on the novel by John van de Ruit.

Written and directed by Donovan Marsh, Spud is a solid addition to the 'coming-of-age' drama as it successfully tackles always-relevant teenage issues like puberty; relationships with family, friends, mentors and lovers as well as more serious ones like alcohol addiction and how to deal with loss.

A solid cast (with a dangerous amount of child actors) delivers believable and spirited performances, imbuing the film with the same sense of cheekiness and humour that the novel itself is known for. John Cleese (best known for the Monthy Python series) gives this local production a decent amount of star appeal with a eccentric, but honest supporting performance. The star of the show is of course Spud himself, played with immense skill by Troye Sivan (Born in SA, but raised in Australia). Sivan seems perfect for the role (big ups to the casting director), playing his confused, but extremely comic character with an impressive level of insight and sensitivity. The rest of the ensemble cast do well to fill the gaps in Spud's crazy teenage world, as they all contribute in some way to Spud's development as a character.

The most poignant aspect of the movie however has to be the amazing, almost haunting cinematography, contributing to the film's overall impact immensely as emotional scenes (as well as the more humorous ones) are awarded a nice lingering sensation with beautiful close-ups.

Special mention must also be made of the movie's great understanding of comedy: I found myself astonished at how many times I couldn't help myself from bursting with laughter. My bursts were caused by a well-varied mixture of humour that ranges from humorous schoolboy antics to some very intellectual (and some less intellectual) inner contemplations as well as confrontations between Spud and the rest of the cast.

Even though I'm sure that international audience members will find more than enough here to enjoy, Spud will definitely ' hit home' stronger for South Africans, as the pre-Apartheid backdrop is used cleverly as a light basting, resulting in most scenes having a juicy, deeper meaning. Some of the jokes assumes the viewer has at least an average insight into SA's political history for them to be effective, but most are timed and explained well enough by the narrator to work for a much broader geographical audience as well.

With all of this said, there does seem to be one aspect of the film that could have been improved upon, namely the score. While the score isn't horrible, some techno-beats seem horribly out-of-place, whilst other pieces seem a bit too dramatic for them to gel properly with what is happening on screen.

Nevertheless, this is a small blemish in a beautifully serious film, that strangely enough manages to not take itself too seriously, resulting in a satisfying, but honest cinematic experience that is sure to resonate powerfully with most audience members – especially males who'll find a magnitude of experiences to relate to.

Highlight: As Spud learns more and more about girls, his fantasies also seem to become much more... well... 'adventurous'.

The 'Crazy 8' seem to be missing their most 'prominent' member...
Rating: 4 Meerkat Tails

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

After the slightly lackluster previous installment (The girl who played with fire), my hopes were high that 'The girl who kicked the hornet's nest' would redeem the Millennium trilogy. Luckily, my optimism played off in spades as the series' conlusion proves not only to be an excellent final act, but a riveting wrap-up of what has conspired since we first met Lisbeth, Micke and the rest of the Millennium team.

The hornet's nest takes off moments after the previous film's events, with both the main protagonist and antagonist in critical condition. With even more baddies scheming in the background, the situation seems the most dire it has ever been (this is quite a statement in a series where the protagonist has had her fair share of misencounters). Nonetheless, Lisbeth remains admiringly determined to overcome her circumstances as she steadily fights her way back to health.

Special mention must be made to Noomi Rapace's performance, which is the most poignant it has ever been. Even though Lisbeth utters nothing more than a few lines of dialogue through the course of the film, she acts as the film's main emotional connection as she portrays her feelings superbly by means of extremeley expressive facial cues and her revealing body language.


"the situation seems the most dire it has ever been – this is quite a statement in a series where the protagonist has had her fair share of misencounters"

The rest of the ensemble cast are once again nothing less than superb, with the Millennium editorial staff doing their best to get to the truth, as they gradually expose a secret government organisation. The team's search for truth quickly becomes central to the story, as viewers will find themselves unable not to root for a positive resolution to the characters' dire circumstances. But even at the film's most optimistic moments, there still exists a sense of sombre disposition, a trademark of the series since the first segment of the series.


The Hornet's greatest accomplishment however is its powerful thread of tension and suspense, lovingly spun by director Daniel Alfredson as the story starts to heat up considerably. This results in some excellent action sequences that play out with great impact, adding to the thick layer of tension that builds up to a glorious, but subtle climax. 

An extremely honest and abrupt ending comes highly welcomed, as it fits in perfectly with the expectations created by the series thus far. The lack of resolution between Micke and Lisbeth might be a bit disheartening, but manages to give the series that final sense of mystery – almost as if these two still have a mutual path to complete.


Lisbeth once again wears her 'war paint' proudly, as she confronts those who have wronged her.

Highlight: Lisbeth's court case near the end of the film is beautifully realised, acting as a type of synopsis for the series. Lisbeth finally achieves redemption as the painful truth behind her past comes to light. Lisbeth's sense of relief resonates, resulting in the biggest emotional release since Lisbeth was first introduced to audience members.

Rating: 4 Meerkat Tails

* Choosing the best film in the Millennium trilogy comes down to a choice between the first film's novelty value and the last films emotional impact. The tie-breaker, namely the technical excellence of each film however puts 'The girl with the dragon tattoo' firmly in first place, with the Hornet's nest second and the 'The girl who played with fire' in third position.

Overall Series rating: 4 Meerkat Tails

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Every now and then, a movie comes along that is virtually impossible to classify, as it shifts the boundaries of what one has come to expect from a cinematic experience. A successful "WTF?" (Yes, this is an actual film genre) movie can probably be regarded as one of a director's greatest accomplishments, as these daring and risky movie concepts are never easy to translate to screen. And even when the film works, there is no guarantee that audience members will appreciate the director's bold cinematic experiment.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's Comic book series) does not only 'work', but it has already managed to generate an impressive cult following, as it successfully encapsulates and portrays a world that many of the 'cool kids' might never have been introduced to: The universe of comics. This gives the film a very niche audience, seeing how an appreciation, or at least a positive acknowledgement of comic book literature is vital to the interpretation of the movie, as director Edgar Wright assumes that the viewer understands the mechanics and conventions typically used in comics.

The movie is littered with references to comic books and the culture that surrounds it, but Wright takes this a step further by shaping his movie as an actual comic book itself: Typical comic book sound effects jumping out of the screen; simple & sometimes incoherent bursts of dialogue and scenes that feel disjointed as if you were scanning through a comic book are but a few examples of the comic book structure used. The film's other huge influence, classic arcade gaming, is also injected into the very fabric of the film, with a soundtrack that could have worked just as well as the score to a video game like 'Megaman' and fight scenes that take direct inspiration from classic fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Tekken and King of Fighters.

"no character feels 'out of place' in this weirdly wonderful, jumbled-up geekfest."

This makes for an very interesting film, but luckily there's much more to Scott Pilgrim vs The World than its original concept. Fans of director Edgar Wright's previous work like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will be glad to hear the movie is injected with the same sense of dry, sharp humour that made these movies runaway cult hits. There are more than a few laugh out loud moments, mixed in with generous helpings of sheer randomness and even a bit of typical teen comedy, resulting in a film that is astonishingly varied in terms of its comedic appeal. While the off-beat humour definitely won't strike a chord with all audience members, there's enough variation here to ensure even the most traditional movie goer will utter at least a few giggles before the final showdown.

But sharp lines are worth nothing without sharp actors to deliver them and Scott Pilgrim vs the World's impressive list of Indie stars do not disappoint. At the lead is the modern posterboy for untraditional comedy and boyish looks – the very funny Michael Cera, best known for his role in the TV series 'Arrested development' and his breakthrough role in Juno. Not only does it seem Cera was born for the role of Scott Pilgrim, but he also gets the opportunity to play a much more forward character than his fans are used to, showing that he has the capacity to play more confident characters with a surprising level of conviction.

Special mention must also be made of Kieran Culkin's (Igby goes down, The cider house rules) extremely powerful supportive role as Scott's GBF (Gay Best Friend). Culkin, like Cera, appears perfect for the role, resulting in a hard-hitting comic duo that delivers some of the film's best laughs as well as most touching moments. Phenomenal performances by the movie's female cast members accentuate the movie's central focus around relationships and how complex even the most simple ones can be. The most impressive thing about the cast is that no character feels 'out of place' in this weirdly wonderful, jumbled-up geekfest. Even though there are more than 20 characters that feature prominently, not one feels like a 'stage filler', as all contribute to the film's strong sense of uniqueness.

"...the weirdest fight scenes witnessed on screen, all of which benefit from the use of a colourful retro palette of special effects..."

But the acting/dialogue is only one part of this crazy & awesome mess. The gaps between dialogue are filled with brilliant, over-the-top action sequences that have a distinct 'cheesy' feel to them. Somehow, this turns out to work quite awesomely, as the movie's comic book influence is more than enough justification for some of the weirdest fight scenes witnessed on screen, all of which benefit from the use of a colourful retro palette of special effects that will never work so well outside of this context.

But...

With all the praise there is to shower on Scott Pilgrim vs The World, also comes the bitter realization that the movie is far from being something one can classify as 'accessible'. Not only is the context extremely niche orientated, but the weird comic book structure of the film makes it very challenging to follow. The fast moving pace and frequent cases of unexplained randomness is sure to confuse (and even irritate) many audience members. While this is all intentional, one cannot deny that certain traditional elements (that make most movies agreeable) are somewhat lacking. I also feel that the level of randomness could have been taken down a notch or two, as it does subtract from the overall impact of quite a few scenes (especially later in the movie).

Nonetheless, one cannot deny the film's courageous approach and even those who hate the film can't deny the very distinct imprint it leaves on your thoughts. While it's definitely no 'Social Network', I have a feeling that Scott Pilgrim will still be fondly remembered long after humanity stops poking each other...

*Sadly, as with most highly experimental films, the movie was not well received by American or International audiences, as the $60 million production budget was never reached, grossing a mere $31 million in North America and $14 million abroad. 


When Scott earns the 'Power of respect', he is rewarded with a flaming sword – Awesomeness.


Rating: 4 Meerkat Tails 

(Add half-a-star if you are a super geek, or subtract one if you haven't picked up a comic book in your life before)


Highlight: 1. The lesbian fight scene – nuff said. 2. The duel with the DJ Twins.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

The romantic comedy genre has been cursed with some horrible entries for the last few years, as directors not only settle for cheap genre gimmicks, but also stereotypical characters that keep the flock happy as they dough out enough cash to justify the making of the next stinker.

Taking this into account, it should be obvious why I was so delighted by 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day', a fresh, but familiar approach to the genre that does not settle for vulgar or slapstick humour to entertain its viewer. Even though the film is extremely light and fluffy, it never descends to levels of extreme cheesiness or melodrama, as director Bharat Nalluri goes to considerable lengths to give the movie solid presentation values and a great sense of theatre (as if you were watching a play on broadway).

"An adept ensemble cast fills up the screen with over-the-top performances that complement the film's stage-like feel perfectly."

Special mention must be made of the movie's set pieces that truly make the pre-World War II backdrop come alive as the rich and famous of London try to divert their attention from the pending doom by rather focusing on their glamorous lifestyles. A light, but fitting soundtrack also contributes to the film's sense of immersion and thick sense of irony that doesn't let go till the end.

An adept ensemble cast fills up the screen with over-the-top performances that complement the film's stage-like feel perfectly. At the steer of things is Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading, Something's gotta give) as Miss Pettigrew, delivering her role with great confidence as she gets caught up in a world very new to her.

The majority of the ensemble cast do a fantastic jobs with their strong, vibrant performances, accentuating the film's stage-like persona beautifully. Special mention goes out to Amy Adams (Julie & Julia, Enchanted), Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) and the relatively unknown Tom Payne who deliver the most memorable performances amongst the very well-casted group of actors.

The premise of a Romantic comedy with an old styled flair comes together just great, as the underlying message of hope for a brighter tomorrow never overshadows the film's obvious focus on finding one's true love. This superficialness is however handled in a very stylish manner, as the movie is ever aware of it's true intentions, making the soppy ending that much more bearable.

Fans of period pieces with a twist will find a lot to enjoy. Those who like their rom-coms more traditional and formulaic might also however find this little gem refreshing.

Highlight: Miss Pettigrew is at first very reluctant to accept the facade she has set-up for herself, but she soon realizes that she will not have an opportunity like this ever again.


Miss Pettigrew is out of her league, or is she?
Rating: 4 Meerkat Tails

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The third Chronicles of Narnia book-to-film adaptation (The Legend of the Dawn Treader) will seem positively familiar to fans of the series, but movie-goers who expect something new and fresh might leave the cinema yearning more.

Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) once again leads the group as the only lead cast member who has passed puberty and does a good job in giving the story some needed adult credibility. The rest of the main cast is remarkably smaller than in previous franchise entries, as the orphaned Prevensie family has been reduced in ranks; with only half of the original cast continuing their Narnia adventure this time around (the two older siblings have lost their sense of childish imagination and have learned all they can from the world of Narnia).

While this makes perfect sense in the context of the story, it does leave a noticeable void, as the two remaining orphans, Lucy and Edmund (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes) seem to struggle to fill up the screen with their very subdued performances. Luckily, a new cast member, Lucy and Edmund’s cousin Eustace (played by Will Poulter) does a fantastic job as the latest ‘Narnian’. Will Poulter plays the role of the ‘evil, sarcastic stepbrother’ with a surprising level of sincerity and believability, as his character convincingly evolves into the next Narnian hero (ironically, the most likable one as of yet).

“Adding insult to injury, the film’s antagonist is so ill-defined and unoriginal that it makes it difficult to feel intimidated by its‘evil intentions’.” 


The rest of the ensemble includes some welcome return appearances from a very likeable Mouse/Swordsman, A soft-hearted Minotaur as well as some special flashbacks from the series’ greatest villain (Tilda Swinton) as well as its greatest hero (Liam Neeson). Nonetheless, there seems to be an obvious lack of strong performances, detracting from the movie experience quite a bit.

The very simple, lackluster storyline doesn’t help either, as the cast seem to be without an obvious sense of purposeful direction. Even the action sequences (although very pretty) just doesn’t seem to gel well with the look and feel set by the previous franchise installments. Adding insult to injury, the film’s antagonist is so ill-defined and unoriginal that it makes it difficult to feel intimidated by its ‘evil intentions’.  Nevertheless, this seems to be a problem with the source material (shame on you, C.S. Lewis) and not the movie itself – even though it does subtract from the film’s overall impact substantially.

Things do however start to pick-up right after the halfway mark (with some excellent CGI and interesting plot twists), but sadly it feels like a case of ‘too little, too late’, resulting in the worst entry of the franchise to date.


While the latest Narnia adventure could have been much better, it still delivers enough to recommend it to fans of the series. Newcomers should however stay away from Narnia till the following entry comes to redeem the franchise. Is the change of director (From Andrew Adamson to Michael Apted) to blame for the series' regression? I'm willing to bet it is...

The film's best performances are by a lizard and a rodent... Make your own conclusions.

Highlight: Eustace’s emotional farewell to his rodent friend.

Lowlight: All scenes with Lucy, Edmund and Prince Caspian (There are a few). 


Rating: 3 Meerkat Tails

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)

Sequels are always burdened with the difficult task of living up to the reputation of their predecessor. And in most cases, not even this mean feat is good enough, as most audience members expect an actual improvement on the previous franchise entry. With this strict criteria in mind, it saddens me to admit that 'The Girl Who Played with Fire' (The second film in the Millennium Trilogy) has more than a few problems.

The films most prominent flaw is a basic one, namely that nothing really new is brought to the table, except the logical continuation of the trilogy's interesting storyline, which this time around delves deep into the protagonist's past, resulting in a revealing character study that drives the film to its exciting and riveting conclusion. While the story does have a lot of appeal, it does seem a bit watered-down in comparison to its predecessor, mainly because much of the series' novelty value has now started to wear off.

Still, the story remains the series' greatest achievement, as director Daniel Alfredson does an astounding job (maybe a bit better than the previous director, Niels Arden Oplev) in condensing a huge amount of facts into a tight, well presented package. The sub-plot of sex trafficking is well realized, giving audience members more than enough to chew on as they try to unravel the plot.

"One particular fright came so unexpected that it resulted in me exclaiming a tiny scream - something that hasn't happened to me in years... No, really, I'm quite hardcore."

The ensemble cast also seem better utilized this time around, supporting the movie's line of tension with honest performances that accentuate the dark storyline. Some familiar faces once again join the fray, but there are also a few new characters (like a lesbian boxer and Frankenstein-like baddy) that help to imbue the cast with a sense of freshness. Overall, the acting is superb, as the cast help to keep one in 'the moment of things' till the end credits starts rolling. 

While the sequel has less scares, the few that made the cut really do a brilliant job at giving you a proper jolt in your seat. One particular fright came so unexpected that it resulted in me exclaiming a tiny scream - something that hasn't happened to me in years (No, really, I'm quite hardcore). These scares however take a definite backseat to the movie's dramatic scenes and heated confrontations, probably even more so than in the previous instalment.

To be blunt, The girl who played with fire just doesn't have the same sense of  'innovation' as the first Millennium film, resulting in the franchise acquiring the traits of a mini-series, making one wonder if this isn't merely a very well packaged Hallmark Crime series. This, is not meant as an insult, but merely a warning for those expecting a Hollywood blockbuster, something the Millennium series is definitely not. Those that do however enjoy a solid plot, good acting and a proper dosage of dark will find the movie entertaining all the way.

Small references to American culture are even more ironic in the light of the upcoming remake of the series by American director, David Fincher (Zodiac, The Social network)


* It is recommended  that you watch the first entry of the series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) before giving this film a try. Many crucial story elements are only explained in the first film. Not knowing these particulars will surely affect your experience of the film. Click here for my full review of the first film: http://www.meerkatburrow.com/2010/10/showing-at-numetro-man-som-hatar.html


Rating: 3-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

As one of those modernists that hasn't read one of the Potter books (Or many other books for that matter), It's always been nice to be totally surprised by each new film, something that definitely increases my appreciation for every part of Harry's tale. I found the previous Potter movie (The half-blood prince) extremely disappointing, which should explain why I was totally dumbstruck by how magnificent the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was – by far my favourite segment of the young wizard's story till date.

Even though this is the third Potter movie under director David Yates' belt, it immediately feels noticeably different to any of the previous entries of the franchise. The biggest reason for this is purely because the plot takes a radical turn, as the main trio of Hermione, Ron and Harry find themselves on the road, far away from the comforting walls of Hogwarts as well as their dearest friends. For most of the movie, the trio is utterly alone and without direction – things that were all present in previous Potter films, but never to such a ruthless, striking degree as it is here.

This results in a terribly dark adventure, filled with a substantial amount of dread, suspense and a fine strand of hopelessness, gradually spun by Yates as the story starts to unfold. As I was not aware of this heavy plot change beforehand, I was taken completely by surprise, as I watched the Potter franchise cleverly reinvent itself. One can go as far as to reclassify the movie from a fantasy adventure to a fantasy/suspense thriller.

"This results in a terribly dark adventure, filled with a substantial amount of dread, suspense and a fine strand of hopelessness, gradually spun by Yates as the story starts to unfold."

The best thing about this shift is that it makes complete sense when one considers what the trio has been through (and probably still have to face). I’ve always felt that the previous Potter movies downplayed the dark happenings to a considerable extent, probably due to the PG rating – this is not the case with Deathly Hallows part 1.

But do not threat, the movie is far from being a emo-fest (a pitfall very prominent in the Twilight series of films), as the scenes of hard-hitting drama are accompanied by a fair share of humour, even though these segments are far less than Potter fans are used to. In a strange turn, Ron (Rupert Grin) is no longer the main source of jokes, as Hermione (Emma Watson) serves up the best laughs this time – poking fun directly at her habit of thinking things through to the smallest of details, as a type of motive throughout the movie.

The rest of the ensemble cast are as strong as ever, as the baddies get the first proper chance to really stretch their dramatic muscles. Helena Bonham Carter gets the most screen time of the dark gang, playing her role with an overabundance of terror and diabolic intent, as she has throughout the series. Daniel Radcliffe (aka The chosen one) however steals the show, with some astounding performances in various heavy scenes, proving how the series has helped him developed into a very capable actor.

I was also impressed by the movie’s glorious action sequences, which feel a bit less ‘grand’ this time around, but a heck more realistic, complementing the drastic change in scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the Deathly Hallows is as creative visually as always, it’s just a bit less ‘pretty’. A short animated insert is beautifully rendered and while it might seem a bit out of place, works great to calm one’s senses for a brief while.

With all this praise, also comes the confession that the movie is not perfect: Yates timing isn’t always spot-on, as some parts of the movie start to drag, whilst others blast passed quicker than a Golden Snitch. The movie has also rightfully been criticised for its very open-ended ending, as the viewer gets confronted with the credits as soon as the plot finally starts to get momentum. This works great as a way of getting one excited for the last movie, but this installment does suffer from it, nonetheless.

While Deathly Hallows seems a bit flawed, its minor imperfections are overshadowed by the striking and daring shift, a change that Yates handles with utmost skill. Potter’s latest journey has some emotionally cumbersome moments, but the rewards are simply spectacular for those willing to bare its weight.

Highlights:

1. When the trio is out of choices, they jump right into the lion’s mouth (i.e. the ministry of magic). This leads to some hilarious, but suspenseful encounters that will leave you gasping for air.

2. A touching scene between Potter and Hermione is as moving as it is disheartening, as the friends realize they have nowhere left to turn. 

 Be warned: Things get very bloody in the latest Potter movie.

Rating: 4-and-a-half Meerkat Tails (subtract half-a-tail if you're not a Potter fanatic)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Karate kid 2010 (Jaden Smith)

Directed by Harald Zwart (the dude who cursed us with silly films like 'Pink panther 2' and 'Agent Cody Banks'), the latest take on this over-used plot cliché (A youngling that gets bullied by those stronger becomes a professional ninja within a few months in order to defend himself) is worse than you would imagine.

The inexperienced Jaden Smith, Son of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, takes the viewer with him on a ridiculously predictable ride, complete with some very fake-looking action sequences and lifeless, irritating characters that don't do much to try and save this 'should-not-have-been' cash cow.

"It might have been a better idea to have given Chan a stunt double for scenes where he wasn't handing out karate chops.."

Jackie Chan must receive special mention for his unconvincing attempt at begin dramatic, as Director Zwart clearly miscasts him as the sensei (aka Mr Miyagi). It might have been a better idea to have given Chan a stunt double for scenes where he wasn't handing out karate chops, as drama is clearly not his forte. The cast is further filled-up with a long list of Asian nobodies, many of whom verge on the edge of inaudibility, which isn't down-played by their strange facial expressions.

What makes the movie even more unbearable, is the clear signs of amateur direction (probably a result of all the 'support' from mommy and daddy on the set - Will and Jada-Pinkett are listed as 'co-directors' of the film). What's even more strange is the movie's experimentally long runtime for a kid's movie, as if Will and Jada-Pinkett wanted to make sure their little boy gets enough screen time to give his career a proper kick start. (Ironically, I suspect they might just have ended it before it started). 

The only group of people that I can actually imagine enjoying this movie is devoted fans of the karate kid franchise. But even Karate kid devotees should find the film's lack of emotional depth, humour and excitement a bit disheartening. 
Don't let Nostalgia get the best of you... this is B-grade film-making.

Highlight/Lowlight: A humorous scene with Jackie Chan trying to destroy a motor vehicle he worked weeks on to repair, suddenly becomes very 'touching', as he explains the nonsensical logic behind this weird ritual of his.

Rating: 1 Meerkat Tail

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mnet Sunday night movie: Knowing

I was convinced (before 'knowing' who the director was) that this was yet another failed attempt by M. Night Shyamalan ('Signs', 'The happening', 'Lady in the water', 'The Village' etc.). I had all the typical trademarks one had come to expect from the man: A seemingly interesting premise and good start, followed by a downward spiral into absurdity and irrelevance. To my sheer amazement, Knowing was actually directed by Australian, Alex Proyas ('I, Robot' and 'The Crow'). After finally forgiving myself for mistaking someone for Shyamalan (wouldn't intentionally do this to my worst enemy) it was much easier to look at the movie more objectively:

As mentioned, Knowing starts out extremely promising, as the mood for this dark sci-fi/suspense horror is set with utmost skill by means of decent camera work and a nicely varied and impressive score. At a certain point, the movie actually reminded me of the cult favourite Donnie Darko, as the movie's 'quiet' scenes create a thick layer of eeriness that seems to get more intense as the movie progresses.

The characters (well, most of them at least) also seem surprisingly interesting, with Nicholas Cage as a modern pessimist/father figure and a refreshingly excellent debut performance by child actor, Chandler Canterbury. The only really bothersome performance was from Rose Byrne ('Troy', 'The dead girl', 'Wicker park') who just seems to be horribly miscast as a mother with some serious mommy issues.

"A seemingly interesting premise and good start, followed by a downward spiral into absurdity and irrelevance."

The movie also benefits from some awe-inspiring action sequences (probably some of the best I've seen since Children of Men), giving the movie a great sense of balance in-between the heavily dramatic character-driven scenes.

Sadly, some time close to the halfway mark , all of this turns horribly sour, due to the lack of a believable and enthralling plot, as the viewer is forced to digest a unoriginal and almost laughably holey storyline that sucks the movie dry of any credibility. This a really pity when one considers what the movie had going for it... begging the question: Did someone take the time to actually read the script before direction started? One thing's for sure, Ryne Douglas Pearson (Screenwriter) should stick to writing books, seriously.

Either way, Knowing is a failed, but commendable attempt and even though it becomes very silly very quickly, the first 45 minutes is enjoyable enough to make one sit through the terrible second half. And I honestly do think it's a much better film than most of the rubbish that Shyamalan has tried to bore his audiences with. I look forward to seeing what Proyas does with his rendition of "The Silver surfer", due for release in 2012.

Highlight: When four planes mysteriously crash land, Cage finds himself enveloped in the ensuing chaos: A visually striking scene, that leaves quite an imprint on one's senses.

Lowlight: A weirdly out-of-place scene at a petrol station is just too silly for words, resulting in a ridiculous scene that announces the movie's descent into B-grade doom.

Nicholas Cage - the only man that can make a train smash look like a fashion shoot. Bravo

Rating: 2 Meerkat Tails

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Look & Listen DVD: Shutter Island

The 'mental institution psycho thriller' has been done numerous times, but it seems as though Scorsese has managed to inject the genre with a great sense of freshness.

The beautiful cinematography jumps right off the screen, with blood and guts flowing as eloquently as would a red evening dress during an intimate night out with a loved one.

DiCaprio's intense performance should be commended, with Ruffalo as well as Kingsley doing solid jobs themselves. What's interesting about this movie is that the plot seems to take a backseat, as the exploration of DiCaprio's struggles to come to grips with his nightmares becomes increasingly deep and revealing as the movie progresses.

"The beautiful cinematography  jumps right off the screen, with blood and guts flowing as eloquently as would a red evening dress during an intimate night out with a loved one."

Shutter Island is therefore much more of a character study than it is a true thriller/horror, something that the numerous scenes of long-winded dialogue manage to accentuate perfectly. Not much of a popcorn movie - go see it when your in the mood for someone that requires a bit of brain scrambling.

Highlight: Scorsese puts a considerable amount of effort into the movie's visual impression, resulting in some powerful flashback scenes between DiCaprio and his former love.

Time to let go Leo, seriously.
Rating: 4-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nu metro/Ster Kinekor: Life as we know it

The romantic comedy drama is gradually spiralling down into a pit of irrelevance. While that might seem like a bit of a exaggeration, it does seem plausible when one considers the genre's latest cash cows like Bounty hunter, Ugly truth and a long list of other horribly sub par entries. This decrease in quality (in a genre that isn't known for its greatness) is part due to a lack of original screenplays as well as the use of unimaginative, superficial characters (the type Gerald Butler seems to have become a poster boy for). 

It is for these reasons alone that I was pleasantly surprised by 'Life as we know it', one of the genre's latest entries, starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel. Even though the movie doesn't save the genre, it does settle for an interesting diversion from the obvious rom-com plot, as it deals with the touchy subject of death, as Director Greg Berlanti uses this simple, but quite risky premise as the foundation for this romantic night out. 

"her obvious lack of chemistry with male lead, Josh Duhamel works surprisingly well on screen."

While you might be hard to convince, it manages to work quite well, giving the movie a sense of honesty and relevance not present in most of its modern counterparts. Even though Katherine Heigl once again plays the same stereotyped bookworm, undersexed character she's known for, her obvious lack of chemistry with male lead, Josh Duhamel works surprisingly well on screen. Josh Duhamel (Win a date with Tod Hamilton) is believable as a typical alpha male, without coming across as an over-stereotyped caveman - a rare rom-com achievement that the movie should be applaud for. 

The movie also benefits from its soft approach to humour,complementing the film's more serious subject matter - making it easy for one to reflect on the situations depicted, as you watch the film become more and more predictable (an unpreventable genre staple?). The movie's ensemble cast is also surprisingly funny, helping to lighten the mood in-between some very dark and depressing scenes.

While 'Life as we know it' is by no means revolutionary, I do want to believe that it can be regarded as a tiny flicker of hope that the rom-com genre could improve. Sue me for being optimistic.

Not convinced that the death of a loved one can work as the premise for a rom-com? I had my doubts as well...

Rating: 2-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NuMetro Pre-release: The Social Network

David Fincher, the mastermind behind films like Panic Room, Fight Club and Zodiac (one of my all-time favourites) has definitely hit the jackpot with this modern gem that explores the controversy behind how the biggest revelation in communication (arguably, since the telephone) came to be. 

Skilled in the art of condensing a huge amount of facts in a tight package, Fincher (with the help of Aaron Sorkin’s awesome screenplay) creates a surprisingly interesting modern take on the classic legal drama, mixing it up with an important lesson in business ethics, student antics and a mini study in social alienation.

A powerful ensemble cast will serve for most of the movie’s mainstream ‘likes’: Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland, The squid and the whale) is so well imagined that is hard not to get infuriated by his condescending nature, but at the same time admire his dedication, insight and obvious intellect (even though he struggles to get ‘poked’ by the ladies). 

Andre Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) serves as the most prominent force of friction with the film’s anti-hero, effectively becoming the posterboy for the modern BF as he struggles to understand his friend’s cold and greedy nature. Justin Timberlake plays a very similar character as in Alpha dog and other past ventures, raising suspicions in concern to how flexible he is as a film actor. Rashida Jones finally gets her big break, as a type of ‘beta version’ for a love connection in-between all the business disputes.

The perfect movie, right? Well, no. Not exactly...


Add to this great cast the following: A conservative, but well-timed, hard-hitting musical score and a few good laughs. The perfect movie, right?

Well, no. Not exactly: The only thing that ‘The social network’ does lack is a clear, resonating emotional core. As fun as it is to see the plot unravel in its clever way, the movie is devoid of almost any sense of emotional connection, a crucial element of the drama genre, ultimately resulting in this cinematic gem’s greatest crack. While I understand this might have been intentional (illustrating how the internet has resulted in a type of emotional dullness), it does result in a sense of flatness that makes the experience feel like more of a documentary instead of a  fully-imagined film experience. 

Fincher’s simplistic filming style only serves to accentuate this emotional shortcoming, creating a strange sense of fleetingness, as one soon forgets huge chunks of the film (even though you remember it as a great film overall) before you even make it out of the theatre.

To put it simply, The social network is one app short of a complete Facebook page.(Just had to throw that in here, sorry)

Highlight: Mark’s realisation that his best friend has cheated him out of their partnership leads to a heated confrontation: A beautifully acted scene that pushes the character to his limits, resulting in the movie’s most intense moment (one of very few).

A generous amount of screen time is devoted to scenes with people looking at screens. Riveting stuff.

Rating: 3-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mnet Monday night Drama: Disgrace

One thing about Disgrace (an adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s book) is sure: By no means is it an easy watch. It gives a shockingly real glimpse of the dark reality of the current state of affairs of both rural and urban South Africa – a reality that should strike frighteningly close to home to those willing to face the film's interesting debates about sexual dominance, interracial tension and uncontrollable lust, to name but a few.

Interwoven with these themes one will find a riveting character study in the form of a flawed Cape Town professor (played with immense skill by John Malkovich) who finds himself unable to come to terms with his daughter's total willingness to accept her dire circumstances – a fact that becomes very ironic when one considers his own shortcomings and wrongdoings, which he is very well aware of.

The rest of the ensemble cast also contributes greatly to the movie’s emotional resonance, as they all play their characters with conviction and sensitivity to the context of the movie. Special mention must go to Eriq Ebouaney (Kingdom of Heaven, Hitman) for his spot-on depiction of a rural farm worker who serves for much of the movie’s best scenes, as he quietly contributes to the protagonist’s sense of helplessness to change his daughter’s circumstances.

The movie also benefits from some amazing cinematography, giving the rural landscapes of the Eastern Cape a chilling, cold feel even though the movie takes place during the summer months. This, along with other small touches serves as a testament  to the lengths that Director Steve Jacobs (Beethoven, Robo Cop 3)  must have gone to in order to properly research South Africa as the setting for this dark masterpiece.

'Disgrace' is as infuriating as it is revealing, making it a bitter pill that many South Africans won't want to swallow - this is however the greatest compliment one can give this thought provoking film. 

Highlight: Near the end of the movie, Malkovich once again helps out his veterinarian friend with her daily duty of putting out homeless dogs. This time however, his willingness to help signifies a dramatic change in his disposition – he has accepted his and his daughter’s fate.


Welcome to South Africa, John. You're lucky you made it out alive!


Rating: 4-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nu Metro new release: Piranha 3D

Director Alexander Aja clearly kept four crucial elements in mind as he was making Piranha 3D: Boobs, Piranhas, mutilated human flesh and more boobs. And while this might sound like the recipe for a disastrously corny, cheesy film, it all comes together surprisingly well.

Aja's previous work, includes some horrible misses (Mirrors) as well as some terrifically disturbing hits (The Hills have eyes). Piranha 3D joins his list of successes, mainly due to the movie's total lack of pretence - Piranha 3D utilises its simple, unimaginative premise (a thought-to-be extinct species of killer piranhas treat  themselves to a beefy buffet of drunk teens on Spring break) to the full extent, resulting in a superficial horrorfest with just the right amount of awesome scares and intensely gory scenes of Piranha-induced carnage.

The movie's 3D effects may be some of the best I've had the honour of experiencing (for a horror film), as it is used sparingly but effectively to heighten the movie's most visually impressive and frightening moments.The fishy villains come over as terrifyingly viscous and unforgiving, giving the movie a wonderful sense of aqueous dread (rivalling the sense of dread in 'Jaws') that doesn't let go until the final victim meets his pitiful end at the 'hands' of these clever monsters.


 "...a superficial horrorfest with just the right amount of awesome scares and intensely gory scenes of Piranha-induced carnage."


Special mention must also be awarded to the movie's amazing cinematography (especially the underwater scenes) that contributes to the building of a thick layer of tension, as viewers are constantly clueless in regards to who will be fish food next.

The familiar ensemble cast (with only a few unknowns and two actual porn stars) play their victim roles convincingly, with Jerry O'Connell (Tom Cats, Body shots) serving for most of the comedic relief as an asshole porn director and Elisabeth Shue (Hollow man, Hide and Seek) as the protective supermom who does everything in her power to prevent her family from being eaten by aquatic carnivores. The film's actual protagonist (Steven McQueen) is so unsure of himself that he quickly fades into the scenery, giving one more time to enjoy all the horrific goriness and screams of agony from the rest of the cast.

Piranha 3D doesn't set any new ground or deliver any mentionable insights - it instead settles for great entertainment value that will leave you reconsidering your December holiday plans...

Highlight: 1. Spring break gets interrupted by the fishy fiends when hundreds of irresponsible teens get gorged, mainly due to their inability to heed the warnings of the coastal police force. 2. The movie's two adult entertainment stars shoot a tantalizing underwater 'mermaid' scene, totally ignorant of the impending doom heading their way.

See this as payback for being such an asshole to Dam Humphrey! xoxo


Rating: 4 Meerkat Tails

Thursday, October 28, 2010

M-Net Monday night Drama: Adam

Even at its worst moments, 'Adam' gives its viewer an interesting take on the world of people with mental disabilities, mainly due to its focus on a less well known form of mental retardation, known as Asperger's Syndrome - a mental disease that hampers one's social skills dramatically, as well as the ability to express one's emotions clearly.

At its best however, Adam is surprisingly honest and acted with supreme sensitivity. What is even more heartening is director's Max Mayer's ability to prevent the film from going down the route of melodrama, something that happens very often in movies that focus on a very real and serious form of disability.

In fact, Adam (played with excellent style by High Dancy) manages to become a type of symbol for man's constant sense of disconnectedness with those close to him, even though we continuously struggle to function without the affection of other human beings. This thick thread of irony is cleverly spun and developed as the movie progresses, rounded off beautifully by a unpredictable but honest ending.

While the movie isn't perfect (pacing could have been better and a stronger soundtrack could have done wonders), Adam delivers its agenda so effectively that you're sure to ponder its applicability on your own life long after the credits have rolled.

Social awkwardness 101.

Rating: 3-and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Now @ NuMetro: Machete (Robert Rodriguez)

If you can forgive extreme profanity, unrealistic blood fountains, a predictable and choppy story and painfully bad dialogue, then there's really nothing holding you back from enjoying Robert Rodriquez's latest bloodfest - aptly named after its hero's favourite weapon, 'Machete'.

Spending time on unraveling Machete's plot is totally pointless as the plot itself only serves as an attempted mechanism for giving the gruesome (and often hilarious) scenes of violence a platform of execution.

But it is in this never-ending list of obvious shortcomings that lies the movie's greatest beauty: Yes, Machete is supposed to be horrible, unoriginal and awesomely cheezy. Machete is in fact a spoof of itself, cleverly utilizing all the elements characteristic of B-grade action films to make fun of itself as well as the genre it is portraying.

"Best viewed with a large popcorn and slush 
or 10 years later on E-TV."

As soon as the movie-goer realizes and accepts this fact, Machete can be enjoyed in its full glory as a humorous and silly, but insanely fun take on America's border control legislation and those who enforce as well as oppose it. The movie also has a surprisingly lot to say about propaganda and how it is still used as an effective political campaign promoter (but this is definitely not explored deeply enough to make you question your views on the subject).

The movie also benefits from a star studded list of actors, that include Don Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Danny Trejo and the king of cheezy action movies himself, Steven Segal. Lindsay Lohan must also be commended for being willing to play a character very similar to herself, serving as a great chunk of irony that becomes more and more ridiculous as the movie progresses.

Machete joins the list of Rodriguez's films (like Once upon a time in Mexico) that are destined to be misinterpreted, but those who 'get' its amazing horridness will find themselves laughing all the way to the credits.

Best viewed with a Large popcorn and Slush or 10 years later on E-TV.

Highlights: 1. Machete's undeniable charm with the ladies is so irresistible, that he finds that he needs very few words to win their respect and admiration in the bedroom. 2. A discussion about the length of the human intestines inspires Machete to test the validity of the discussions' claims in the form of an unbelievably cheezy action sequence.

"Machete don't text." He is however very fond of killing and rough sex.


Ranking: 3-and-a-half Meerkat Tails (Add half-a-tail if you love brain-dead violence)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Look & Listen DVD: Iron man 2

While not as funny or exhilarating as the first, Iron man 2 still follows the same effective formula that made its predecessor so ridiculously successful. Downey once again steals the show, proving his confident words in the movie to be totally true: "I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one".

Johansson plays a subdued, slightly out-of-place member of the Avengers, with Rourke and Rockwell standing in as great villains. The uncomplicated script works well, but seems to move a bit slow in certain parts.

Nonetheless, a great addition to the Iron Man saga.

Who wears the suit? Stark wears the suit.

Ranking: 4 Meerkat Tails

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Showing at NuMetro: Män som hatar kvinnor (The girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

At first glance, 'The girl with the dragon Tattoo' will seem like an extremely inaccessible movie, something that will threaten  many mainstream audience members (some ignorant few will even get put off by the idea of watching a movie with subtitles). But after hearing the news that the movie will be showed at standard Nu-Metro cine's around the country, I started to have my doubts about how 'arty' this movie really is...

My doubts proved to be justified, as this Swedish beauty follows a relatively formulaic approach to the  mystery suspense/drama (as made famous by Hollywood), instantly reminding me of the work done by American Director, Ron Howard in the series of film adaptations of Dan Brown's Da Vinci code.

'The girl with the dragon Tattoo' however opts for a much safer central subject matter than that of 'Da Vinci code', resulting in a movie that is easier to follow, easier to get into, but at the same time, a little less profound. This, however proves to be the movie's greatest strength, as director Niels Arden Oplev balances his simple presence with a visceral level of graphical violence that gives the movie an impressive degree of poignancy. 

The movie's relatively safe subject matter also makes the movie premise (as well as the actual plot unravellings) totally believable, giving the director an ample amount of freedom to explore darker waters, (like the long-term effect of sexual abuse) without alienating the viewer. The movie must also be commended for its ability to keep itself from drowning in the finer details of the plot, as this has proven to be one of the biggest pitfalls of the mystery/suspense genre over the last few years.

Add to this almost perfect pacing, honest performances by the two leads (Noomi Rapace deserves special praise) and you get a movie that is extremely polished and enthralling. I truly hope that the movie does well at the local box office (it did horribly in the US), as I look forward to seeing this trilogy of films play itself out. 

* Not as good as David Fincher's 'Zodiac', but very close to it.

"You want to see my tattoo of a dragon, don't you?" 

Ranking: 4 Meerkat Tails (Subtract 4 if you can't be bothered to read subtitles)

Monday, October 18, 2010

M-Net Sunday night movie: Funny People

The greatest compliment that one can give Funny People is that it's just as funny as Judd Apatow's most successful films ('The 40-Year-old-virgin' and 'Knocked up'). But unlike Judd's previous successes, Funny people has a much darker and chewy centre, resulting in a very grown-up movie that won't strike a cord with all of Apatow's fans. 

One gets the feeling through the very ambitious 2 hours and 15 minutes runtime that this movie was a true labour of love for Apatow. And while not every single moment is brilliance, the movie comes together beautifully, revealing a lot about the lives of people that have made it their jobs to keep others happy and entertained – with specific focus on the burden these entertainers carry, a burden their legion of adoring fans are completely ignorant of.

The second part of the movie does however feel a bit detached from the first, but in retrospect, contributes tremendously to the overall impact of this deep and surprisingly sombre comedy (verging on the edge of black comedy classification). Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen deliver their bromantic roles well, with Eric Bana stealing the limelight in the last part of the film (part due to extremely clever dialogue and part due to Bana's surprise role). An exceptionally diverse and experienced ensemble cast (and a few brilliant cameos) serves for the rest of the movie's best dry comedic moments.

Mainstream comedy lovers will like, but not love this movie - anyone that appreciates a daring concept and execution will however find a lot to fall in love with. Highly recommended.

Highlight: A special appearance by Eminem will leave you in stitches and stands as a testament to the impressive amount of small extra touches included to give the movie a sense of pertinence. 

Funny People daringly mocks it's own genre and more specifically, the exact type of slapstick its lead is most well-known for. Bravo. 

Ranking: 4 Meerkat Tails (Add half-a-tail if you've forgiven Sandler for atrocities like 'Little Nicky')

Friday, October 15, 2010

Look & Listen DVD spotlight: Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-ass is an awesome visual punch in the groin, as characters are continuously and gloriously beaten to a pulp to great cinematic success. This distinctly authentic take on the superhero genre spoils its audience with a refreshing departure from the formulaic approach used by the last few year's constant stream of new additions to the genre.

This results in an unexpected, but thrilling ride that seems to get to the core of what it means to be a real-life modern superhero. The movie could however have benefited from a more convincing performance by its lead, but this is easily forgiven in the greater scheme of things.

In-between all of the bloodshed, you might also find the movie's focus on some interesting themes like responsible parenting; dedication to a cause; mankind's never-ending thirst for recognition and other more subtle philosophical nudges quite enlightening.

The movie is also surprisingly funny, which will make it easier for more squeamish movie-goers to digest the movie's numerous ultra-violent scenes. Not the most accessible movie, but those who are willing to get a few bloodstains on their capes won't be disappointed.

Responsible parenting 101: Teach your children to defend themselves. 

Ranking: 4 Meerkat Tails

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kalahari.net DVD release: Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson is definitely back, but that doesn't really say a lot. At best, 'Edge of darkness' ('Edge of stupidity' could also have worked) manages to keep you slightly entertained, but something about it just seems horribly second rate.

Maybe it's due to the fact that the ensemble cast, which includes an out-of-place and slightly inaudible British actor, have no sense of onscreen chemistry. Or maybe it's because the movie's plot seems like something taken directly from a really bad Steven Segal movie?

The movie's very cheesy soundtrack and weird moments of unnecessary silence does not help either. Maybe director Martin Campbell was thinking he was skilled enough to pull this off... sadly, no, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Nevertheless, Gibson does a commendable job with the little he has to work with (even though Gibson himself is turning into a bit of a lunatic), making the movie not entirely impossible to watch if you have loads of spiked Coca-Cola to help you through it.

See, even Mel can't believe this bull was a hit at the box office!

Ranking: 2 Meerkat Tails (Add half a tail if action movies are your favourite movie genre)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kalahari.net New Release on DVD Review: Toy Story 3

With two highly acclaimed prequels looming in the shadows, Toy Story 3 had a huge legacy it had to live up to (and even surpass to a certain extent) to be able to reach the same glorious film heights.

Fans and Toy Story newbies alike will however be glad to hear that the film is just as spectacular, inspiring and masterfully paced as both its predecessors. The final installment also benefits from an interesting plot line that helps to bring the movie to its natural poetic conclusion.

A long list of A-list actors once again imbues the movie with an undeniable sense of charm and emotional depth, giving the film more resonance that one would expect. Interesting new additions to the cast, that includes a evil strawberry-smelling bear, a Ken doll and even a creepy Baby doll give the movie a welcome sense of diversity and a true epic quality.

Highlight: Buzz's spacesuit undergoes a 'minor' malfunction, leading to some seriously hilarious translation issues between him and the rest of the gang.

Buzz and Woody epitomize what it means to be truly loyal to one's friends. A universally valuable lesson indeed.
Ranking: 4-and-half Meerkat Tails

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

M-Net Monday night Drama Review - Gifted hands: The Ben Carson story

As far as biographical drama's go, there's not a lot that one can fault 'Gifted hands: The Ben Carson story' for. While this statement might sound like an attempt at actually complimenting the film, it is actually intended as a cleverly disguised insult: You see, director Thomas Carter plays it so safe, (by means of a very one-dimensional protagonist, a predictable plot as well as the inclusion of many other genre staples) that the movie quickly becomes very tedious to watch.

Don't get me wrong, Cuba Gooding Jr. is perfectly suited for the role (referring to more than just his acting skills) of a black neurosurgeon that redefines his profession, but for some reason Cuba just seems too comfortable here, playing yet another 'under-confident character that learns to overcome his weaknesses caused by a broken past'.

Carter seems to like movies that revolve around themes of social oppression, a flimsy hero and a soppy, inspiring ending (Coach carter, Save the last dance etc.). While there's nothing wrong with this, it just seems as though more could have been done to give the film a bit of extra meat and depth.

Those who love these type of movies (Pursuit of Happiness is a great example), will find a lot to enjoy, but more demanding film-goers might leave the cinema longing for something a bit more juicy.

Ok wait, will the real Ben Carson please stand up?

Rating: 2-and-half Meerkat Tails

Monday, October 11, 2010

M-Net Sunday night movie review: The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth indeed has an appropriate title, as it confirms the very ugly truth about the romantic comedy genre: These movies will always settle for sub par acting, predictable plot mechanisms, a corny & unimaginative soundtrack and an pathetically unrealistic look at love.

What makes Ugly Truth even worse than the other members of its dreary flock is that it tries to inject the genre with a new sense of flair, by opting for vulgar toilet humour that manages to leave a nasty taste in one's mouth. Not only does this approach fail horribly, but it also succeeds in highlighting how Hollywood is desperately in need for more clever script writers like Diablo Cody ('United States of Tara', 'Juno') to prevent their romantic cash cows form being sent to the butcher.

Gerald Butler once again plays the stereotyped shallow man-whore character to utter perfection, making one wonder if we'll ever see him in something proper again. Katherine Heigl delivers an all-time career low performance as another stereotyped, flat character with no real point to her existence, except for the creation of a canvas on which the movie can paint it's horrible picture of the modern business woman.

Director Robert Luketic (the mastermind behind the laughable 'Monster-n-law' and 'Win a date with Tad Hamilton') should now realize that he wasn't destined for making movies about love and that he should rather stick to his action-adventure attempts like '21'.

I can't even recommend this movie for nights when you just want to be brain-dead, sorry. But you know what's the Ugly Truth? This movie was a huge hit at the box office... how sad.

A great example of Hollywood's willingness to make crappy movies for a few extra bucks. Tisk tisk.

Rating: 1 Meerkat tail (Add one if you can actually bare to watch Rom-coms without puking)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Now out on DVD Review: Robin Hood (2010)

If you're one of those people that believe that movies cannot exist as a stand-alone entity from its source material (which is the case with most critics), then you should stay far away from Ridley Scott's 'ADAPTATION' of Robin Hood.

If you can however wrap your mind around a different interpretation of the story's soul and conviction, then you will find a lot to enjoy in this engaging epic that features excellent performances, a solid and fast-moving script and satisfying action sequences. Crowe and Blanchett give the movie enough star quality to keep it entertaining till the very end, with commendable performances by the rest of the ensemble cast as well.

Add to this the potent and jarring action sequences that make Lord of the Rings seem like Teletubbies and you have a winning formula. The movie adds a tremendous amount of depth to the well-known and loved legend of Robin Hood, showing how the man came to be who and what he is.

Fans of similar epics like Gladiator and Braveheart, that infuses its tale with a fair amount of darkness and tribulations will fall in love with this movie, others (that expect more spirit and humour) will leave the cinema disappointed.

The best I've seen of it's genre in a long time, with a great amount of emotional depth to boot.


Yes, Crowe is the kind of person that will shoot an arrow up your ass.

Rating: 4-and-half Meerkat Tails

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

To say I was blown away by this movie is an understatement. The first 5 minutes already indicated that I was either going to hate this movie or adore it to bits. The latter option went into full swing by halfway through this ridiculously entertaining movie. 


Werner Herzog (not very well-known) tells the story of a morally skew and crack addicted police Lieutenant in New Orleans. What follows is excellent humour, amazing and flawless plot unravelling and all other things that makes a movie great. 


The biggest surprise however lies in Cage's performance, whom has been cursed by horrible film choices for the last few years. Cage is brutally fantastic as the protagonist, playing his role with so much conviction that I could swear Cage was playing himself. Eva Mendes surprises again, with Val Kilmer an co delivering great supporting roles. 


One of my favourite movies of the last decade and one of the most entertaining things i've seen since Kill Bill. You have to see this is you're into weirdly wonderful movies.


Cage contemplates who he's going to fuck up next.
Rating: 4 and-a-half Meerkat Tails

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

M-Net Monday night movie review: Two Lovers

If you have the stomach and the heart for it, you'll find the beautifully dismal 'Two Lovers' to be an extremely revealing and interesting character study. To not give special mention to Joaquin Phoenix's hauntingly entertaining and memorable performance seems an injustice, a sentiment that Hollywood 'surprisingly' didn't seem to share back when the movie was first released in 2008.

It would seem as though the film was conjured from the deepest trenches of  director James Gray's (a relatively unknown film master) mind as audience members are treated to a movie that strikes a painfully close emotional blow. A long list of themes are interwoven into the movie's bloody fabrics, that include the general awkwardness of life, the price of infidelity as well as the destructive power of sudden infatuation brought on by a damaged heart.

Special mention must also be awarded to the film's clever cinematography that gives the movie a consistent sense of urgency, complementing the protagonist's unstable state of mind as the story quickly starts to spiral down a black hole of tragedy.

Don't let the simple, nice-sounding title fool you - There's no 'nice' to be found in 'Two Lovers', but if you're willing to indulge in a bit of dark, you'll find loads to enjoy here.

Dark and broody... just the way I like me films..arrgh.


Rating: 4 Meerkat tails (Add half-a-tail if you're an emo kid)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Legend of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Putting my disturbing obsession with violent, ninja-like owls aside, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a magnificent, awe-inspiring visual punch in the groin, that is unfortunately destined to be misinterpreted by many a critic and casual movie-goers alike. 


Firstly, this gem of a movie suffers from horrible marketing misrepresentation, as the poster creates an expectation that the Guardians can be compared to the b-grade musical kiddy fest known as 'Happy Feet' (as this is the nearest movie that the ignorant American movie-going audience will understand). The only similarity between these two films is that penguins (who are actually mammals) look kinda like birds and owls are an actual species of birds. The guardians does however have much more in common with director Zack Snyder's very dark & sombre 'Watchmen' and the super-violent bloodfest known as '300' (another good example of Snyder's extreme attention to detail and focus on the visual impact of a movie). 


Guardians' plot has been criticized for begin unoriginal and uninteresting, as critics struggle to grasp that this was an intentional choice by Snyder, as the thin, easy-to-follow plot (which isn't horrible by any standard) creates a wonderful spotlight on the movie's true accomplishment - beautiful, intensely detailed visuals: Each individual owl (from the finest detail on each beak and the beautiful patterns on each feather) comes alive as an entirely unique character. Extreme attention to detail like this cements guardians as an amazing visual achievement (far exceeding the previous benchmark set in Pandora's world of giant smurfs with spears).


An experienced, mature and serious voice cast (that includes Sam Neil, Geoffrey Rush and Helen Mirren) imbues Guardians with a unique atmosphere for a fully-animated Hollywood movie, successfully differentiating it from the usual animated fluff that Hollywood resells like expired cotton candy at a rundown carnival. 


The most exciting thing about the Guardians is the fact that it stands as a testament for the inevitable change in general movie taste (i.e. a higher tolerance for fresh interpretations of movie genres) that the mainstream film industry is gradually undergoing - the type of mindset that the anime-loving, forward-thinking citizens of Japan have managed to mold into a fully-realized & thriving stand-alone cultural movement.


Please leave your expectations at the cine door when you go watch the unbelievably realistic Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole in 3D - one of the most beautiful, engrossing cinema experiences ever imagined on screen.


Owls with helmets on. Nuff said
Rating: 4.5 Meerkat tails (Must-see)