Archive for June, 2012

Rock of Ages

Posted: June 17, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise.

Are you ready to Rock? It’s 1987 and naïve small town girl Sherrie arrives in LA with the intention of being a big star. Within a few minutes of getting off the bus she’s been robbed, met a nice boy named Drew and got a job at the (in)famous Bourbon Room, a club run by Alec Baldwin’s Dennis, assisted by Russell Brand. The Bourbon Room is where mega rock God Stacee Jax (Cruise) made his debut, and where he’s playing his final gig with his band, Arsenal, before going solo.

Will Sherrie make the big time? Will she and Drew get a happy ending? Will Tom Cruise ever put some clothes on…

Riding in on the heels of other notable instances where a stage show has been successfully transformed into a movie money maker (Chicago, Mama Mia, Hairspray—though that was a show based on another film which may confuse matters!) comes this slice of 80’s Rock. Rock of Ages is no Mama Mia.

It isn’t without its own charms however, it just never breaks out from its fairly safe and predictable story and doesn’t quite attack the source material with the same exuberant glee that something like Mama Mia does. If you can’t see what’s coming in this film then you obviously haven’t seen enough films, in fact you’ve probably never seen a film at all. It’s fairly obvious where the film will end up, and there are no real surprises along the way.

Actually that’s not strictly true, there’s one major left turn which is very unexpected, and very funny, but this aside Rock of Ages is a fairly straightforward story of love’s young dream and making your dreams come true.

It doesn’t help that as far as Rock goes this has been fairly sanitized, it’s more soft rock than death metal, and it never really leaves its comfort zone. For the most part the characters are clichéd, although that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t feature some good performances. Zeta Jones is great as the uptight mayor’s wife with a secret, as is Giamatti who really has slime ball down to a tee. Baldwin and Brand are a great double act as well, although someone should have maybe suggested Brand made a decision whether his character was from London or Birmingham and got him to stick to it!

Initially Hough and Boneta are fairly bland leads, although thankfully they do get more likeable as the film progresses, and once their love affair and mutual careers go off the rails, Boneta in particular is a hoot once he’s repackaged as the furthest thing from a rock god… Mary J Blige turns up as the owner of a strip club, and Malin Åkerman is easy on the eye as a Rolling Stone journalist (though I loose kudos for not recognising her as Watchman’s Silk Spectre sooner!).

And there’s some other guy in this, Tom something or other… Ok, ok…Tom Cruise is good, possibly even great, although you’re never quite sure if his ‘on another planet’ Rock Star isn’t just the real him! He’s funny, and oddball though, and without him the film probably would have been a lot more forgettable, and much as he was in Interview with a Vampire, he can be strangely mesmerising when he’s doing something out of the ordinary. Not sure about the codpiece however…

Oh yes and there’s an amusing baboon as well…

All in all it’s a diverting bit of fluff, inoffensive, sweet, and quite funny in places, but not a film that’s likely to be remembered as a classic for the ages.

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Hungur

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Published fiction

Got my contributor’s copy of Hungur Magazine today featuring my short story, Evelyn. As always great to see my name in print! That probably gives me greater pleasure than the $12 I got via paypal today for the story!!

Should you want a copy you can get one via the following link!

In other writing news I got word a few weeks ago that Pill Hill Press will be publishing my story, Weapon of Choice, in their third monster hunter anthology, which is great. Have had two rejections since then however, it really is an up and down game this!

Prometheus

Posted: June 5, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender.

Well  the incessant trailing and in your face ad campaign that’s been promoting Prometheus for more than six months does at least now make a bit of sense. They perhaps wanted to ensure they could get as many people through the door as possible before word of mouth revealed that, whilst no disaster, this isn’t a classic.

It’s the late 21st Century and Dr Elizabeth Shaw and her lover have persuaded billionaire Peter Wayland (Guy Pearce) to finance a mission to a remote star, the location of which has been displayed within multiple cave paintings and carvings throughout history.

Shaw believes the planet orbiting the star will prove to be the home of an alien race she calls ‘Engineers’, a species she believes created man.

Upon landing the crew of Prometheus discover an underground citadel, along with the decapitated body of an alien creature and a room full of vases containing a murky liquid… Whilst investigating further the crew of the Prometheus discover that the Engineers weren’t what they’d hoped, and that some within their own number have their own agenda that will put them all, and perhaps the entire human race, in jeopardy.

Ok, first the good. The film is gorgeous to look at, and Scott makes good use of some very different looking terrain to create the image of an alien world. Similarly the engineers look wonderful. Cast wise Fassbender again shows why he’s a major star, portraying the android David flawlessly—it takes real acting chops to present us with a character who can embody both child like wonder, and creepy emotionless at the same time.

The first half of the film is interesting, as the crew explore the curious alien world they’ve discovered, although at times its hard to discern just where the film is going. As the film moves towards its conclusion however, minor flaws become major ones, like tiny cracks widening into major chasms.

For starters the pacing is too fast. Obviously Prometheus is a product of it’s time, and patience isn’t a virtue these days, but it’s a shame more time isn’t spent building tension. In Alien it took Dallas, Lambert and Kane an age to trudge through the storm to find the crashed alien ship. In Prometheus the ship simply lands right next to the underground citadel and everyone bundles straight out and inside and seem to find everything far too quickly.

Later in the film a section featuring Rapace goes from her being sedated, to beating up some other crewmembers, to rushing across the ship, to finding her way into a medical scanner in order to…well you’ll need to wait and see. The problem isn’t the sequence of events, it’s the ADHD way it’s presented (although actually there are major problems with the sequence, specifically with everything she’s able to do afterwards).

It’s like they can’t wait to tell the story, and in many ways the franchise entry it’s most reminiscent of in this respect is the first Aliens Vs. Predator film, which actually had some interesting ideas, but quickly dispensed them in a rush to get from A to Z, not realising that sometimes what separates a good film from a great one is the rest of the alphabet in between, the pauses between the action. Alien is a great film because of this, as is Aliens, and whilst it’s flawed, Alien 3 again is a film that rewards patience.

I mention the other Alien films because clearly this is a prequel, even if not one in the strictest sense, and another problem is the overwhelming number of alien life forms/lifecycles going on in this film. I always hated the opening five minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, not because River Phoenix didn’t make for a great young Indy, but because they tried to shoehorn in every aspect of the man he’d become into that tiny fragment of his life. Explaining the hat, the whip and his hatred of snakes. It just felt false.

Prometheus does likewise with the Aliens. Showing us where different elements of their physiology likely originated, but whilst interesting, it also at times makes the film feel a little like fan fiction, with too much effort being given to shoehorning in things that don’t add anything to the film, and sadly demystifying the Aliens in the process.

This need to jam as much as possible into the film means some interesting ideas aren’t given nearly enough time to breathe, whilst sledgehammer exposition is too often the order of the day; witness as a character’s infertility is mentioned mere minutes before this becomes an important plot point, or how various elements early in the film are referenced so obviously they might as well have had a bit neon sign overhead saying THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER!

Character wise it’s hard to identify a stand out other than Fassbender. Rapace is just plain annoying, whilst Theron does her best with a character that’s sadly just too one dimensional,  Idris Elba is good value as Prometheus’s captain, but he isn’t utilised nearly enough, and might as well have been behind a glass screen saying ‘in case of needing a heroic captain please break glass.’  Guy Pearce…well he’s a favourite actor of mine but why Scott felt the need to cast him rather than just an old man I couldn’t say. As for the rest, aside from Logan Marshall-Green as Shaw’s lover, they’re a pretty anonymous and disposable bunch, and there are just too many of them (although the two pilots have an interesting running gag).

Scott is a good director, and a lot of time’s been put into world building here, it’s just a shame the script doesn’t match the scope of the idea. This isn’t the mess Resurrection was, but unfortunately it’s no Alien either…