Friday, June 27, 2008

Teeth (Lichtenstein, 2007)

I could be completely predictable and say this is a film with ‘bite’...but really, I wouldn’t be lying.

Teeth tells the tale of Dawn, a young girl repressing her own sexuality who discovers she is the literal embodiment of vagina dentata after a horrendous sex attack (is there any other kind?). Her discovery leaves her confused but eventually empowered.

Vagina dentata. Sounds like a topic for exploitation cinema to me, but Teeth, while at times very funny and fantastically gross, plays it straight. The balance is right, and I think in no way better exemplified than by the scene of Dawn’s discovery of her secret. She is attacked, and her natural defense mechanism does its thing. Now, penile dismemberment is always going to be funny on the big screen. Between the blood and the screaming and the audience’s shock, the effect is one of laughter. And so Dawn runs back home, and you’re still kinda thinking “haha! that guy had his dick bitten off!” Then Dawn takes a shower and you realise: I’m laughing at the guy for getting what he deserved: you go, girl! – and you remember that she was just raped.

The attacks in the film aren’t funny. Dawn’s own, odd, repression isn’t funny. These aren’t the things that need to be funny – Dawn’s strength of character leads to some funny moments. When she realises that, actually, she can have sex and not go straight to hell for it, we’re happy for her. We’re even happier when the man she chooses to sleep with turns out to be an idiot that suddenly, her secret is her power. And when men lucky enough to survive encounters with Dawn are ultimately humiliated on the operating table – we’re laughing.

The film is disturbing enough, too. The gynacology scene in the film is incredibly difficult to watch, but more subtle is Dawn’s step-brother, Brad, who has clearly developed several complexes* due to Dawn’s secret – before Dawn herself is even aware of it. And when he meets his commupence – we’re laughing, but we really know we shouldn’t be.

Jess Wiexler is fantastic as Dawn, making a character that could’ve come across as incredibly stuck up immensely likeable; the supporting characters are all suitably grey. Michael Lichtenstein skillfully blends more surreal moments with the mostly realistic shooting. Some very simple shots are the most memorable – Dawn in the bath, for example – and a simple score underlines the importance of character to Teeth’s success.

*He owns a female rotweiller named 'Mother' and keeps her in a cage, for crying out loud.

The Happening (Shyamalan, 2008)

Considering this film is called 'The Happening'...well, not a lot happens.

I've stuck up for M. Night Shyamalan. I like his work (I've not seen Lady), and while it seems like the majority has had enough of his babble but I've still enjoed his films. Even I can't defend The Happening.

I really like the idea behind this film. The plot of the film is slight at best, but the concept is an interesting one and one I could certainly have enjoyed.

Visually, as well, this worked for me. It's difficult to make trees menacing, but I enjoyed how Shyamalan shot the greenery of the film in such a way that did provide an element of threat.

Having said that, there is pretty much no sense of threat in this film. I don't know if the marketing department of Fox got it all wrong in how they've promoted this film, but the film did not match the marketing. It's pretty obvious why this is.

The script is absolutely terrible and delivered with zero talent. The majority of the actors in this film should be ashamed of themselves. Mark Wahlberg, who impressed me mightily in The Departed, was just ridiclous; he was either acting like an eight year old or a simpleton - and I'm really not sure which. Zooey Deschanel should never work in film again EVER for the simply terrible performance she gives. The characters are so flat that any attempts at emotional content (of which there's lots) are just utterly pointless.

The best performances come from John Leguizamo - whose involvement in the film is far too brief, but probably for the best - and Betty Buckley, who appears in the most effective sequence of the film.

In the house with Mrs. Jones, alone, would have made a brilliant piece of filmmaking. Her character is the most subtley characterised of the entire film (which granted isn't saying much) and is more frightening than any other aspect of the film. The 20 minutes or so spent in her house is the most effective and genuinely good part of the film.

There are a few other decent jumps and scares in the film, but these are fleeting, and pretty much depends on the visual. Considering this is Shyamalan's first R-rated film, there is little gore. I actually admire Shyamalan for cutting away from the more grisly deaths, and yet sticking with what probably pushed the film into the higher rating (not to spoil but it involves kids). In a film that it's pretty much this dull, I think any additional gore would actually have made it worse and not more interesting.

A disappointment, then, that's for sure. I think it's time Shyamalan passed his ideas on to someone else and directed a script not his own.

The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008)

Marvel making in-house movies could quite possibly be one of the best moves for blockbuster comic book movies.

Inferior to Iron Man but still utterly entertaining, this film suffers only from a weaker script, less charming characters and the incredibly talentless Liv Tyler.

Tim Roth is brilliant as Blonsky and Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Sterns is a fabulous secondary character. The Robert Downey Jr cameo is as satisfying and thrilling as expected. Also Stan Lee, as usual, is hilarious :D

Nice nods to the TV show in here too - Lou Feringo has a cameo, as well as use of the 'walking away' music, mwahaha! Nice joke about the purple pants, too! Nice little references for fans (I had to look these up, lol) in there, just like with Iron Man - like the 'demise' of Dr. Sterns.

Marvel are brilliantly setting up their series of films to come. I think these films are getting middling reviews from people but they are strong origin stories and as a whole, assuming this level of awesome continues, could form a brilliant movie saga.

Bring on Thor and Captain America :D

In Defense of Aliens in Indy IV

In many of the reactions I've seen to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I've noticed people range from surprised to dismayed at the inclusion of aliens and the paranormal in the series.

Personally, I don't see the problem, and while it was definitely a brave move, to me, it's a move that makes sense. So, we've got an archaeologist-adventurer now in the 50s, the height of the Cold War.

1) There are plenty of theories that wonder if ancient civilisations were founded by extra-terrestrial beings, so surely an archaeologist would be familiar with this.

2) This is set 10 years after Roswell and when flying saucer sightings were prominent and gaining attention...

3) ...and a theory as to why aliens were suddenly so interested in us? Because we were now nuclear...

4) ...a big part of the Cold War, along with the space race.

To me, it makes sense that aliens would be a considered and chosen option for Indiana Jones. Granted, some parts may have been over the top and verging on silly, but really, like Nazi faces melting off isn't silly?

Yes, it helps that I'm a great big dirty UFO believer, but whatever...

10,000BC (Emmerich, 2008)

I wanted to like this film. It looked big, dumb and stupid, and I like that sort of thing. I wasn't expecting historical accuracy and I wasn't expecting plot. However, I wasn't expecting the film to suck beyond all belief, either.

The film didn't entertain me, at all. The highlight of the film were the wonderfully rendered woolly mammoths, which were super cool. However, most of the rest of the film the visuals are terrible, which is pretty stupid for a big effects movie. There's far too much talking (complete with really bad accents and acting) for this to work as a big dumb movie.

So, because I wasn't being entertained, my mind set out to entertain itself, by evidently reading far more into the film than the filmmakers probably did, which led to my leaving the cinema offended as both a female and as someone with non-Caucasian blood in me. I could sum-up this film as "We macho Americans love you coloured folk, but are better than you and definitely don't like Arab-types. Oh, and women are useless."

The main heroic tribe is all-white, despite the dreads and the war paint. They lead a group of many different dark-skinned tribes in an all-out attack on a bunch of Arab-looking people, who fancy themselves gods. Oh, and the tribesmen are all MACHO and MANLY whilst the EVIL people are all bejewelled and prance around with long fingernails.

I could go on, but really, then I'd definitely be thinking about it more than the people who made it. My point it, I wouldn't really notice or be bothered by any of the above if the film had done its job and entertained me. I liked 300 and that smacks of underhand racism, and while I think this film is trying to be the kiddie-friendly 300 - historically-inaccurate (but it doesn't matter) throwback to how they used to make 'em - it fails utterly in having good bits to compensate for the bad. Where 300 is based on a comic and doesn't pretend to be anything else (hammy dialogue included), 10,000 BC actually fancies itself a serious film and really should've placed that tongue in its cheek.

Erm, anyway. Rant over, honest. Rent this film on DVD if you fancy a few laughs.

Murder Set Pieces (Palumbo, 2004)

Okay, the BBFC banned "Murder Set Pieces" from being released on DVD in the UK (it wasn't up for being released theatrically).

Having just watched it, I support their decision.

While the individual sequences alone were not particularly offensive by comparison to other films, but the number of sequences and the sheer lack of plot to support their inclusion renders them pointless, making them in opposition to the BBFC's (mostly reasonable) guidelines.

Certain scenes are disturbing, primarily ones involving children. Though not *too* graphic, their context and implication makes them distasteful. I would say they add nothing to the plot, but there's no plot in the first place.

Controversy aside, the film is terribly acted, terribly directed, even more terribly edited and the score is...really terrible.

There is one moment at the film's climax that is pretty good (by comparison to the rest of the film), but that moment dies as quickly as this film's credibility died following the opening credits.

Even if you disagree with censorship or the banning of films, the BBFC should be commended for not subjecting the UK to this utterly crappy film.


Take 2.