Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Room (2003)

Image is property of Wiseau-Films

The Room  – Film Review

Cast:  Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott

Director: Tommy Wiseau

Synopsis: Johnny (Wiseau) and Lisa (Danielle) are engaged, but unbeknownst to Johnny, Lisa has grown tired of the relationship and wants out. When she tries to seduce Johnny’s best friend Mark (Sestero), it threatens to tear their lives apart…

Review: Of all the films to have acquired a cult following over the years, there’s hasn’t been a film quite like the bizarre concoction that is The Room. The “brainchild” if you will, of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, who when trying to make it in Hollywood, chose to make a film, largely funded out of his own back pocket. In spite of earning a reputation as being “The Citizen Kane of bad films,” it has not prevented the film from gaining a passionate cult following, a following that has endured many years after the film’s release, in spite of just about every aspect of this film being, well, terrible.

When we first meet him, Johnny’s life is appearing to go splendidly with a great job, a lovely fiance in Lisa, and a best friend in Mark. But everything is not as happy as it seems as Lisa, in spite of being treated well by Johnny, has grown tired of him and plans to dump him, in favour of Mark. Though this doesn’t sit well with Mark initially, he succumbs to her advances and consequently a love triangle has formed. Now, based on that quite dramatic sounding premise, one would think that they’re about to be absorbed by a thrilling relationship drama. Though Wiseau clearly intended it to be perceived this way, it is anything but.

“Just up here, thinking y’know….”

Instead, due to the abysmal script, practically every line in this film is unintentionally hilarious. The writing is awful across the board, especially the romantic dialogue, which is so cheesy it makes George Lucas’s romantic dialogue feel like Shakespeare in comparison. Indeed, given that the script is filled with such poor writing, many scenes have become notorious for just how hilariously cringe-inducing they are. As a consequence of the inept script, it means that every member of the cast turns in hilariously awful performances across the board. Performances that in the age of the internet, have secured iconic status, but definitely for the wrong reasons. Furthermore, in a movie that’s got so many long and gratuitous sex scenes, it’s somewhat bemusing that the film was not marketed as a porno upon its release.

There’s so many things about this movie that really don’t make any sense (spoons anyone?), or the excessive establishing shots of San Francisco. In addition, it could not be more apparent where there’s a scene involving a green screen. Though in spite of everything being the dictionary definition of terrible, for one reason or another, this film’s popularity has endured, and it no signs of slowing down any time soon. Indeed, thanks to the 2017 film The Disaster Artist, that explored the behind the scenes making of The Room, the notoriety of the film was likely introduced to a whole new audience, and its legacy has almost certainly been enhanced.

Watching the hilarious atrocity that is this film with a group of people makes the viewing an infinitely more enjoyable experience, especially when it comes to the spoons being chucked at the screen. However, when when people talk about The Room being one of the worst movies ever made, they’re not wrong. The complete ineptitude on just about every level of the production ensures that the title of “The Citizen Kane of bad movies” is richly deserved.

Its cult status has undoubtedly endured throughout the years. However, the poor quality of every aspect of the production ensures that The Room is consistently hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

curse-of-the-black-pearl
Image is property of Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: When a dastardly band of Pirates seeks a valuable piece of treasure to lift a curse, a blacksmith and a rogue Pirate must unite to help save the daughter of a Governor who happens to be in the possession of said treasure.

Review: Pirates, for a very long time now, these swashbuckling individuals have been almost an ever present in popular culture for about as long as anyone can remember. Some of the most notable being of course Captain Hook from Peter Pan and  of course there’s Steven Spielberg’s Hook, but perhaps no other franchise in Hollywood as left such a lasting impression on Pirates in pop culture than the franchise that began all the way back in 2003, this of course being Pirates of the Caribbean, based on the popular Disneyland attraction.

Enter Jack Sparrow (Depp) a pirate who arrives in the Jamaican town of Port Royal, in rather dramatic and amusing style, on a mission to commandeer a ship in order to exact revenge on his former pirate comrades. During this mission however, his path crosses with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of a Governor, and the Blacksmith Will Turner and the three become entangled in a mission that involves treasure, swordplay, action, romance, scheming and the supernatural all in one go. If nothing else it’s stylish entertainment at its absolute best.

ARR is it treasure ye be looking for????

Director Gore Verbinski is the captain of this vessel, and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are the first mates if you will, with the cast being their eccentric, and rather brilliant crew! In a role that has arguably become his most well known, Depp is absolutely electric as Captain Jack Sparrow, he’s humorous, witty and extremely charismatic and Depp’s fine work ensured he received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Of course Depp is the shining light of a cast that is packed with excellent performances, Geoffrey Rush is excellent as the wicked and treacherous Captain Barbossa is the primary target of Jack’s vengeance, with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley completing the cream of the crop in terms of fantastic performances, the latter two certainly boast some excellent chemistry.

Verbinski steers this ship like a captain who has been sailing the seas for all eternity. The action is enthralling to watch and the effects are equally terrific, the resulting outcome of the curse that is placed on these pirates  transforms them into utterly terrifying beings that at times really push the 12A rating of the film, it is entirely possible that one or two people might have had nightmares. Throw in an excellent score to boot, composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, with a fantastic theme that is guaranteed to make you hum along to it every time you hear it,  you’ll be entertained right from the get go and will not have any desire or need to go and walk the plank.

When pitching this film, it is entirely possible that studio execs might have just looked at each other in utter bemusement as to how this could possibly mesh and work together. Fortunately Verbinski and crew make it work, and the results are just an utter blast. As one character says near the beginning of the film, during a rather daring heist, “This is either madness, or brilliance,” to which the other character responds “it’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.” Certainly applicable in the case of this film, though it is certainly more a case of brilliance, but a bit of madness is thrown in there for good measure, and all the better for it, savvy?

Here be treasure alright! It is quite appropriate for a film to be based on a theme park attraction to be one hell of an entertaining ride, as that is precisely what this film takes you on. 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

All image rights belong to New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: While Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli lead the charge against Sauron and his armies of Mordor, Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring and banish evil from Middle Earth, once and for all.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO BE AWARE MY PRECIOUSSSSSS….

Review: The journey to bring The Lord of the Rings to the big screen was one that started all the way back in 1995, and that reached its conclusion in 2003 with this closing chapter of this masterful trilogy. You just did not want it to end, but all good things must come to an end, and there isn’t a better way to close the book on this epic masterpiece than to go and make what is without doubt, one of the best films ever made, and quite possibly the best film of the 2000s. New Line Cinema rolled the dice with Peter Jackson and this adaptation and this gamble paid off big time, with three tremendous movies making one of the best trilogies of all time.

With Saruman and his armies now vanquished, the Iron Fist of Mordor and Sauron’s flaming eye is now firmly focused on Gondor as he bids to topple the world of men once for all. Yet in his path stand the rest of the Fellowship with Pippin and Merry following their victory over Isengard, who briefly rejoin the rest of the Fellowship to celebrate, but that joy is short-lived as the enemy prepares to strike. Gandalf and Pippin depart for Minas Tirith to help Gondor prepare for the imminent war and the rest of the Fellowship to mobilise Rohan and its armies for the grave and massive incoming army that is about to descend on the world of men. Sauron moves to conquer all and only it is in the hands of Frodo and Sam, aided by Gollum who all the while is growing ever more deceitful and treacherous, to stop Sauron consuming Middle Earth in darkness.

Throughout the near ten hour run time of the entire trilogy (not counting the extended editions) Peter Jackson threw some terrific action sequences upon the audience. You thought the Battle of Helm’s Deep was outstanding and a wonder in terms of film-making, the battle of Pelennor Fields is somehow almost on another level. Trolls, Catapults of severed human heads flung at the walls of Minas Tirith, Nazgul, Oliphants, this battle has just about everything, and it’s a cinematic battle of immense quality that could and should certainly stake its claim as one of the finest ever put to screen, featuring among other things, Legolas take on an enormous oliphant all by himself, which leads to one of the best one liners ever said by the great Gimli son of Gloin.

Given the stakes in the movie, the tone is considerably darker here, and this is noticeable from the very beginning with a rather twisted tale of how Smeagol was transformed into the creature otherwise known as Gollum. This dark tone is a recurring one throughout the film’s run time as Sauron’s power seems to be unstoppable for the Fellowship to contain. All the while, the Ring is taking a heavy toll on Frodo as he and Sam move closer to Mount Doom. All the while Gollum, purporting to lead them to Mount Doom, is scheming to try and take the ring back again. The script weaves between the different story lines as brilliantly as it can. Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh again wrote the screenplay and it was this screenplay that won the trio a well deserved Oscar for their efforts. Indeed the film swept the board at the 2004 Oscars, winning all of the ELEVEN Oscars it was nominated for, setting a record in process, jointly tying with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the most Oscars ever won.

Although no one was nominated in any of the acting categories, everyone on screen gives utterly tremendous performances, right from those who were introduced to us in Fellowship and Two Towers, to those who were introduced in this concluding chapter. Of the new cast, John Noble’s Denethor, the father of the late Boromir and Faramir (David Wenham) certainly makes an impression, and quickly becomes a very dis-likeable man due to his mistreatment of Faramir, who he views in a considerably lesser light than his brother. The extended edition of Two Towers introduces the audience to Denethor but it’s here where he shows his utter contempt for Faramir. Viggo Mortensen shone as Aragorn in the previous movies, but here he really steps up to the plate as he accepts his true destiny, to become King. Also deserving of praise is Miranda Otto as Eowyn. “I can fight,” she says in Two Towers before the Wolves of Isengard attacked, and boy was she right. She certainly showed a woman can fight and own a battle scene just the same as a man. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are also tremendous but Astin in particular really shone as Sam battles to support Frodo who is becoming corrupted by Gollum’s influence.

There really is no shortage of superlatives that can describe The Lord of the Rings trilogy in all of its magnificence, but Peter Jackson could and should remain immensely proud of what he and his team brought to the big screen. If Tolkien could see what Jackson did with his beloved book, he would surely be thrilled that his masterpiece was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. If you count the extended edition, these movies are just over eleven hours of pure cinematic joy, spectacle, drama and emotion with so many wonderful and brilliant characters. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has cemented its status as one of the best that has ever been put to screen with three perfect movies that have secured their well deserved place in the record books, and will hopefully be adored for generations and generations to come.

The third chapter in a trilogy can so often be a huge let down. Not a chance of that happening here, this is pure cinematic perfection and glorious entertainment, the trilogy took its well deserved crown. One trilogy to rule them all!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Image is property of A Band Apart and Miramax Films

Kill Bill: Volume 1 – Film Review

Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Vivicia A Fox, Gordon Liu, Sonny Chiba

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: After a Bride (Thurman) is brutally beaten up by her former assassination squad members on her wedding day, after a lengthy spell in a coma, she wakens and swears revenge on her former colleagues, and her boss, Bill.

Review: If you ever want some terrific over-the-top violence and some well written characters from your movies, then Mr Quentin Tarantino is the director who usually has you covered, particularly when it comes to the over-the-top violence, and blood, lots and LOTS of blood.

For many people, their wedding day is the happiest day of their lives, well not for a lady who we initially just know as The Bride codenamed, Black Mamba. Her former colleagues of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad arrive at the ceremony to literally rain blood and bullets on her parade with some messy consequences that leave her in a coma for four years. Once she awakens, she is furious and on a very personal mission of revenge against her former assassination squad members. As the old saying goes “hell hath no fury, like a woman scored.” She is a woman on a mission with a hit list of names to find and take revenge,  which as the film reminds us, is a dish best served cold.

After making his name in very bloody fashion with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and six years after the release of Jackie Brown, Tarantino emerged with a new film that originally spanned over four hours, as such he decided to cut it into two movies. This first film of this extraordinary story focuses on the Bride as she tracks down the first name on her death list O-Ren Ishii, (Lucy Liu) but in typical Tarantino fashion, the story is not told linearly, jumping back and forth between the present and events in the past, but he does so with great effect.

Tarantino, after winning an Oscar for an Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction, once again shows off his tremendous talent as a writer. Yet here he certainly honed his craft as an excellent director of action. From the very first shots that  feature a very beaten up Bride, you know it’s time to fasten your seatbelts, as you’re in for a bloody and entertaining thrill ride. The story is tremendous, with very well developed characters all round, with a superb screenplay. It’s very apparent that anime, martial arts and spaghetti westerns are influences in the writing, with plenty of visual nods to the aforementioned genres and it’s all fused together incredibly well.

Uma Thurman in the lead gives an absolutely tremendous performance, one of the very best lead female characters that has ever been put to the big screen. She is utterly without mercy and compassion as she hunts down her colleagues and will not hesitate to kill any and all who stand in her path. As she’s our protagonist,  you want to root for her as she battles her foes, with the film’s final showdown certainly being one of the most gripping and enthralling confrontations that has ever been put to screen, certainly one of the most bloody too with swords swinging and limbs flying absolutely everywhere, and lots and lots of blood.

Her former colleagues that we meet here O-Ren, Vernita Green (Vivicia A Fox) and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) all give tremendous performances as the merciless members of the assassination squad. Furthermore even though we never see his face, the big boss Bill emits a sadistic, cold, merciless persona just through his voice, and the late David Carradine does an excellent job bringing him to life and besides Thurman, it’s his work that helps to steal the show. Tarantino almost never fails to bring deep and interesting characters to the big screen in his movies, and the crop of characters, both lead and side characters certainly don’t disappoint. It’s a bloody thrilling ride, and we’re only halfway into the story.

Terrific writing, expert directing and some top performances particularly from Thurman and Carradine, Tarantino managed to slash together another extraordinary film that definitely ranks among his very best.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Finding Nemo (2003)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios

Finding Nemo – Film Review

Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Geoffrey Rush

Director: Andrew Stanton

Synopsis: When a young clownfish is abducted by deep sea divers, his timid father must brave the terrifying ocean in order to rescue his son.

Review: The big blue ocean, something that covers around 70 per cent of the surface of this planet. It’s something that is so deep and terrifying, yet there is certainly for some, a deep fascination with the big blue beyond, and the life within it. It would certainly seem that a few folks over at the animation juggernauts of Pixar have this fascination.

Fish are not exactly many people’s first choice to have as pets, and therefore to make a full length feature about them, might have seemed like a mad idea for Pixar. Yet as they often do, they pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Right at the very start, everything appears all happy and joyous, and then instantaneously it changes. Disney movies of the past certainly weren’t afraid to go dark where necessary, and the opening scene here is certainly not on a Bambi level of terrifying, it is rather melancholic. But it sets the tone for the movie and really builds the character of our main protagonist, Marlin and why he’s so overprotective of his son Nemo. As such when Nemo is whisked away by divers, Marlin has little choice to go out of his comfort zone, go after him and brave the terrifying ocean, and the ensuing adventure that Marlin ends up has its mix of delightful humour and some more darkish moments.

finding nemo

Though it’s probable not many of us have been there ourselves, certainly not as deep, director Andrew Stanton does a terrific job of immersing the audience in this ocean world. The other wildlife and the plant life are all beautifully recreated along with the animation being absolutely perfect. In addition to this, we have a very interesting collection of characters. Marlin is a clownfish, but he struggles to tell a good joke. However he doesn’t need to as he’s aided on his quest to rescue his son by the lovable but forgetful Dory, voiced by the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres. There’s a fair bit of dramatic moments mixed in with some truly hilarious ones too, such as the shark equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Nemo’s unfamiliar surroundings, we have the likes of the serious but friendly Gill (Willem Dafoe) Bloat (Brad Garrett) a porcupine pufferfish of whom does his bit to ensure that the laughs keep on coming. The screenplay is so well written that you care about every one of the characters on screen, particularly Marlin, Nemo and certainly Dory too. The latter of whom proved to be such a popular character, that she is getting her own film, due out this summer. It’s easy to see why as a lot of the comedy comes from her forgetfulness and funny one liners. The characters are extremely well developed and the fact that the voices involved are provided by some top Hollywood talent ensures that the there’s that emotional connection between them and the audience.

There are plenty of humorous moments littered throughout this really entertaining story. Even some of the side characters provide some of the most ridiculously entertaining moments. The sharks, the turtles and in particular the seagulls especially in particular do their best to keep the laughs coming. The latter of whom although they don’t have the largest amount of screen time, they certainly make a significant impression, and you might just find yourself saying “mine” just a little bit. Whoever knew that a story about the life of aquatic based animals could be so entertaining and so heartfelt?

Beautiful animation with some great humour, along with well written, developed and lovable characters, Pixar just kept swimming onto success with this wonderful story. One of their finest without a doubt.

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