Thursday, 19 March 2009

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

Everything that Roald Dahl wrote was complete and utter nonsense. But what incredible, beautiful, bizarre, fantastical nonsense to grow up reading, and having read to you!

Charlie and the Chocolate factory was, without a doubt, my favourite book as a child, and remains very high up on my list. 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory' was, although not completely true to the book, still very 'Dahlian', after all, Dahl wrote the screenplay as well.

In the film, Willy Wonka runs a chocolate factory. His ideas were of a genius never seen before, and so people tried to copy them. Wonka was infuriated, and so shut down the factory. Now, decades later, Wonka is reopening his factory, and allowing five people inside to see the magic, if they are lucky enough to find a golden ticket.

This film is dark. As a child, there were scenes in it that genuinely freaked me out. Dahl's stories often have a surreal edge to them, and this has been kept in the film. Any children's film that shows the decapitation of a live chicken clearly has guts to go aganst convention.

It is very hard to find fault with this film, and so I must direct you to a peice of trivia. How much better would the film be if Willy Wonka had been played by Roald Dahl's first choice for the role? Who was that? Spike Milligan.


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Ed Wood

"My friends, can your heart stand the shocking facts about grave-robbers from outer space?" Ed Wood, 1958.

Edward D Wood JR was the worst director of all time. I am not exaggerating that, or being blazé, he was actually voted the worst by a jury of his peers.

He created films about transvestism, alien plans to make people rise from their graves, more transvestism, naked vampires, and transvestism. Since the mid-1980s, his films have gained a huge cult following, especially 'Plan 9 From Outer Space', but there is no denying that this is because they are well and truly awful.

'Plan 9 From Outer Space' (1959) Trailer

As a truly cult director of strange creepy films, who better to direct his biopic than Tim Burton? He did just this in 1994, with the film 'Ed Wood'.

The film (shot entirely in black and white) tells the story of Ed Wood, from the first script he writes, to the release of his 'best' film, 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'.

The first film Wood made was 'Glen or Glenda', a film based on his real-life struggle with transvestism, which he had been involved in since childhood, even admitting that, during the Second World War, he had parachuted into action wearing women's underwear beneath his uniform.

Tim Burton was incredibly brave to film entirely in black and white, but it worked perfectly. It had the B-Movie feel that Wood movies all had, and despite having millions of dollars spent on it, winning dozens of awards in the process, it feels like a very quaint small movie.

The film contains just the right amount of comedy, while still remaining quite moving in places, and staying true to Wood's life. Of course, it has the 'Burtonesque' feel about it, but, with this subject matter, it works.


Finding Nemo

Disney have always ruled the market in children's films. People of all ages define their childhoods by what films they remember. My parents remember films like 'Jungle Book'. A friend's father told me about being introduced to jazz from seeing 'The Aristocats'.

Personally I think I grew up at the best time for Disney movies, my memories lined with screenshots from 'The Little Mermaid', 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Aladdin', but I am sure that you always think YOUR youth had the best films to grow up with.

It is sad to think that my children won't see any new hand-drawn and coloured cartoons from Disney, but they will have a hell of a replacement with the films of Pixar.

In 1995, Pixar made the first computer-animated feature film ever, 'Toy Story', and it was a hit of epic proportions. Since then, they have become more efficient, and bring out one film a year, compared to one every two and three, that have consistently topped the box office, and taken more money than any other animated film (and often any film at all) that year.

In 2003, Pixar raised the bar for all future animations with the excellent 'Finding Nemo'.

In the film, a fish named Marlin (voiced perfectly by Al Brooks) loses his son Nemo, who he has brought up alone after his wife and other eggs are eaten by a barracuda.

Marlin, with the help of a friendly but dim-witted friend Dory, explore the entire ocean to find Nemo (now you know where the title comes from), along the way meeting sharks, jellyfish, a hippy turtle, and many other cameos played by unbeleivably famous people in parts with just a handful of lines.

Of course, being a Disney film, it all turns out okay. Marlin finds Nemo and they save the day, by freeing some fish from a net.

The film is about as good as a children's film gets. It has so many jokes delivered with perfect timing, for kids and adults, and it has plenty of important lessons to teach children without being patronising.

If you haven't seen it (and I don't know how you could have managed not to) then please do. It will make you very happy.


I know, I am sorry!

Two days running with no review! I am afraid I was still recovering from the 24 hour review-a-thon. Good news is that last night I slept for 14 hours, my internal clock appears to be running at GMT for the first time in ages, and I am going to make it up to you lovely lads and lasses with two reviews tonight.

A certain someone has been bothering me to do 'Finding Nemo', so that's first up, followed by the cult Johnny Depp film 'Ed Wood'.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

It ends...

Well, that's it! A 24 hour review-fest of epic proportions. 13 films in total I beleive?

I hope you have all enjoyed, and quite frankly, if you think I am going to be doing a review tomorrow, then you can sod off.


Die Hard

Well, here we are people, our last review of the 24 hour film-fest. I know many people will be thinking "hang on, this is being posted at like, 10, 10.30, that' only 22 hours!" This is because the site saves the time I STARTED the review, and so the actual film and review ends at around Midday.

Anyway, on with the review. It's 1989, and all the kids in the playground are yelling 'Yippie Kiy Yay!'. That's right boys and girls, it's time for 'Die Hard'!

In Los Angeles, a Christmas party is held on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza office building. While the party is going on, downstairs, a group of German terrorists arrive and take the entire building hostage including its employees and attempts a huge robbery of over $600 million in bonds from the building's high tech vault. The only one who eludes capture is New York City Cop John McClane who launches a one man war in an attempt to stop the terrorists and save all hostages, including his wife Holly.

What takes place in just over 2 hours of film is such a great, textbook example of no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall dumb but fun violent action ever put on film. John McClane (Bruce Willis) slowly but violently works his way through around 30 bad guys (Really bad guys too. They have no redeeming features. Plus, they are those dirty foreign types too!).

It's not the kind of film you watch with your mum, but if you are looking for a film for having a few drinks with your friends, and want to end up yelling and cheering at the screen, then this is the film for you.


The Breakfast Club

1985 delivered us some amazing movies. It was the year of 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', 'The Goonies', 'Stand By Me', 'Back To The Future', 'Rambo' and 'Cocoon'....cancel that last one. It also brought us the now legendary 'Breakfast Club'.

It tells the story of five teenagers, all of whom have been given a Saturday detention for various different reasons. They are instructed by the arrogant teacher in charge to write an essay about who they consider themselves to be. Instead, they learn more than they ever thought they would. They learn about each other. The popular girl (Molly Ringwald) learns how badly she has been treating the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), and how a troubled life has led to the bully (Judd Nelson) knowing nothing more than his attention-getting ways.

I have to say, I chose this, and the final film (Die Hard) based entirely on the fact they are two of my favourite films, and I wanted to end the marathon on a high.

This film is so funny, so clever, so touching. It really was written with teenagers in mind, and when you are growing up, there is nothing like knowing that at least one person out there understands how you feel. If you haven't seen it, please do watch it, it really does have an affect on you.

The only small criticism I have of this film is the real change for the better that occurs in the group is instigated by the smoking of a hell of a lot of weed, which doesn't really set a good example for the younger viewers!


Iron Man

It was the film of the year, the superhero film of the decade, 'Marvel's marvel'. The world waited with baited breath to decide whether a success or flop would come from 'Iron Man'.

Playboy genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is the successful CEO of the Stark Industries, a weapon company founded by his father. His second in command is Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who worked with his father, and his loyal and professional secretary is Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is in love with Tony.

While in Afghanistan demonstrating the Jericho missile developed by his company, his military convoy is attacked and Tony is seriously wounded and kidnapped by a group of rebels that wants him to assemble a missile for their use. Tony stays with his abductors for three months and develops a powerful metallic armor to escape from the cave where he is kept. He decides to stop manufacturing weapons in his company under the protest of Obadiah, and dedicates his time to improve the armor, manufacturing it with gold and titanium and installing a propulsion system to fly. However, Pepper discovers that Tony was betrayed by Obadiah, who is using Tony's data to build prototype armor for himself, transforming it in the ultimate weapon.

The film is, without a doubt, the best Marvel comic movie there has been. Personally I think this is due to how likeable Tony is as a character. We can call him arrogant if we want, but there is nobody who can say they wouldn't love to be where he is. He is rich, powerful, loved by all, and on top of that, he can put on an awesome red and gold suit, and fly around!

Unlike so many superheroes, who have to protect their loved ones, and keep their identities safe, Stark is able to do as he pleases, announcing at the end of the film "I am Iron Man", and you will wish you were too.


Maybe Baby

Ah, at last, a film in this review marathon that I didn't enjoy! You lot that recommended movies are too damn nice. You recommended to me films that you genuinely enjoyed and wanted my opinion on, and so, generally, these films were fairly good. Leave it to my better half to foinaly siggest a film thta I found boring, predictable, tasteless in an unfunny way and self important where importance is certainly not due.

Sam and Lucy Bell are a married couple who seem to have it all. Good looks, successful careers and an enthusiastic love life. The only thing they lack is the one thing they want most, a baby. They try everything in their efforts to get pregnant. New Age chanting, acupuncture, creative lovemaking, but all this hectic schedule achieves is them finding themselves getting more tired. Ovulation charts soon replace spontaneity, when the couple reluctantly put themselves in the hands of medical professionals. At the same time, as Sam comes to find his job increasingly unfulfilling, he sets his sights on writing a screenplay, but writer's block strikes. Encouraged to 'look within' by his hippie friend Druscilla, Sam is inspired. He will write a comedy about a couple trying for a baby! But Lucy is horrified at the idea, and forbids him to tell their story. Sam and Lucy's love for each other, the most important thing they both have, is truly put to the test.

Don't worry, I haven't gone soft on you, I purposely wrote that to sound corny, and like a soundbite, because that's all the film is. A big soundbite from all the films just like this. "Oooh, I love you, but you annoy me, and we can't have a baby, and you did something wrong, oh maybe we broke up but it's all OK now because we sorted it out somehow".

It's not worth the hour and a half for about 4 laughs.


Mystery Men

In 1999, the film of the year was a sure thing, dozens of celebrities were signed on, and everyone was talking about it. When it came out, however, it completely flopped, and to an extent, I agree with the fate given to 'Mystery Men'.

In order to generate more endorsement revenue, Champion City's resident superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) arranges for the release of supervillian Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), only to be captured by him. The city's fate rests in the hands of seven loser superhero wannabes: the fork-flinging Blue Rajah (Hank Azaria), the shovel-wielding Shoveler (William H Macy), the posessed bowling ball-hurling Bowler (Janeane Garofolo), the flatulent Spleen (Paul Reubens), the only-when-nobody's-looking Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), the mysterious Sphinx (Wes Studi), and the perpetually-angry Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller).

The best parts of the film comes from the comedy. A lot of the stars in it have a history in stand-up or sketch comedy and so have very good comic timing, and are very skilled in ad-libbing. Unfortunately, this does mean that some of the more heavily scripted scenes feel a bit flat. Obviously a scene that needs to stick to the script is likely to have important plot points in it, and so the flatness of those scenes make the whole plot feel fairly redundant.

It's still worth seeing just for a good few jokes, and Tom Waits reading his lines off his fingers.


O Brother Where Art Thou?

Roughly telling the story of Ulysses from Homer's Odyssey, The Coen Brothers 2000 film continued the brothers' very odd, but very successful series of films. I can safely say that there has never been a film quite like 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'.

In the film Everett (George Clooney) escapes from prison with the help of two inmates (John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) by promising them a cut of stolen loot that he hid before being arrested. Along the way, they meet a blind prophet who dooms their journey, sexy sirens, a 'cyclops' (a man with an eye-patch played by John Goodman), and a KKK lynch mob that nearly hangs them and their 'negro friend' Tommy (Chris Thomas King) who was rumoured to have sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads at midnight for an incredible skill on the guitar.

To say Coen Brothers films are strange is like saying Britain is a little short on cash at the moment. They often stem from unusual or obscure stories, and break into tangents that are often hard to follow, but anyone who knows films knows that when a Coen brothers films come out, you should expect something very special.

It's well worth watching, but you might have to watch it more than once to understand everything.