Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Rango review

Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin

Director: Gore Verbinski

Johnny Depp has often been called a chameleon for his ability to embody vastly different roles. Clearly, Paramount took this description literally, as Depp stars as the Hawaiian-shirted reptilian Rango. To say that animated anthropomorphic movies have been common in recent years would be something of an understatement, meaning that new animated films really have to strive to stand out, or risk being forgotten. Rango certainly does the former.

Rango’s plot seems as though it could’ve come from any other cutesy animal animation. Rango is a domesticated pet lizard who finds himself stranded in a desert town. He assumes a Clint Eastwood-esque persona, and tasks himself with solving the mystery of the water shortage plaguing the town. However, the artistry that has gone into making Rango renders the plot, simplistic or not, almost irrelevant. 
The Nickelodeon production tag will no doubt carry a stigma, but Rango is unusual in that it makes little effort to balance the humour between adult and juvenile; instead, it aims almost completely at an older audience, with plenty of black humour throughout (the tombstone of the previous sheriff reads ‘Thursday to Saturday’), and numerous film references (at one point Rango is thrown onto the car of Depp’s Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).

Quite often, when a known live-action star voices an animated character, the result is less than fantastic, a recent example being Seth Rogen in Paul. However, Depp is exceptional as Rango. He sounds unrecognisable, and captures the dual-aspects of Rango’s character perfectly.

Accompanying Rango as he sinks into the ‘guacamole of his own deception’ is a near-whimsical trip into a fantastic, original world which fuses the old Wild West with Mexican owl mariachi bands. It’s a smart, loving homage to Spaghetti Westerns, and one not to be missed.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never review

Another one written for the Uni paper. I will start writing specifically for Raging Blog soon.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Starring: (if you can call it that) Justin Bieber
Director: Jon Chu

In 2008 Anvil! The Story of Anvil charted the twenty five year struggle of a metal band to achieve success, showing that despite their repeated rejection, their love of music kept them believing in their dream. This kind of story is common in the world of music, and the message given in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is that everyone who’s experienced such adversity was completely wasting their time. As the title suggests, Bieber’s rise is shown to be one of great difficulty, an arduous journey which lasts for literally months, and involves Justin facing the seemingly insurmountable task of uploading a video of himself to YouTube. Needless to say, it’s a laughable comparison.

Obviously, Never Say Never is aimed squarely at those whose Bieber-fever has reached advanced stages, but the actual need for this film is extremely questionable. Bieber epitomises the new age of technology, and is seen Tweeting and blogging and whatever-elseing at numerous points throughout. He owes his success to YouTube, both for his initial discovery, and for his carefully cultivated image. His fans can know his every move and every thought, from the mundane (‘good morning world’) to the vaguely threatening (‘Kill it in LONDON usher. I will hold down Paris for u.’). This near unmitigated access begs the question of why make this film? The only real audience will be those who religiously follow him, and Never Say Never won’t tell them or show them anything new. It may sound cynical to suggest this is entirely a money-making exercise, but the fact that the film will be re-released at the start of March with a slightly altered soundtrack is damning evidence.

As a film, it caters perfectly for its target audience. There’s plenty of home videos of Bieber as a kid, so the tweens in the audience can go ‘Aww,’ 3D footage of Bieber’s concert at Madison Square Gardens is interspersed throughout, so they can go ‘Aww,’ and several swishy slow-mo shots of his fringe, so they can go ‘Aww’. For anyone else, it offers absolutely nothing, other than a stark reminder that modern music is less about lyrics and more about pretty hair. If you’re not a fan going in, you won’t be a fan when you come out, unless Bieber-fever is airborne.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Adjustment Bureau tagline and the trailers for Rio

The trailers for The Adjustment Bureau recently all screamed 'IT'S BOURNE MEETS INCEPTION'. Having seen the film a couple of weeks ago, it's safe to say that it's actually nothing like either of them; the storyline is actually much closer to The Matrix meets 1984, and it had very few of the action scenes that the Bourne trilogy are famous for (the only similarity was Damon stars in both). The two chases I remember are for the wrong reasons; one because it was punctuated with John Slattery running back to pick up his hat; the other because the music playing as Matt Damon chatted up Emily Blunt (or 'THE Emily Blunt' as she's called on the poster) whilst being chased by one of the Bureau employees was more reminiscent of a light-hearted rom-com than a 'serious' sci-fi. Essentially, they could have easily said 'IT'S JURASSIC PARK MEETS GOOD WILL HUNTING' if the formula they used was 'name a popular sci-fi film and a well known Matt Damon film'.

Another set of film ads which has been particularly irritating in recent weeks is that for Rio. I can't remember the last time when a marketing campaign was so systematic in its ensuring that I will never be interested in the product being advertised. In actuality, I've only seen the trailer a couple of times, it looks fairly standard talking animal CGI fare; the really annoying things have been the Orange adverts, which have been shown before just about every film I've seen for the last two or so months (it seems like so, so much longer). Not only do they not really make sense (Orange being a phone company and showing video calling to not only be undesirable, but also totally rubbish), but they have made me, and I'm sure others, loathe the main creature Blu weeks before the film is actually released. A true feat of advertising fail.