There was a time, back in about 2012, when I genuinely believed that Gerard Butler was going to be a great actor. I admit, this was mostly to do with the film Coriolanus where he blew everyone’s minds by being fucking awesome in Shakespeare. Since then, Hollywood has continued to cast him in underwhelming action movies or shitty romantic-comedies. How many of you out there can name a Gerard Butler movie that they enjoyed? Okay, I’m sure a few of you will have said 300 but then we have to get into the whole Zack Snyder debate. I mean the guy fucking sucks! Look at what he’s doing to DC. I mean I’ll give him Watchmen because I was one of the few people who liked it. Anyway, I can’t get into this again. So, ignoring 300 (because we’ll never agree) name a Gerard Butler film that you actually like? It fucking tricky, right? Can you even name 5 Gerard Butler movies? They all pretty much meld into one so it’s really difficult to tell them apart. Kind of like Vin Diesel, if you’ve seen one Gerard Butler film then you’ve seen them all. Or at least that’s what I thought before Geostorm came out. I genuinely believe that this film marks the very moment that Gerard Butler became the new Nicolas Cage. It was a film that looked so preposterous that I never planned on seeing it. The kind of film based around such dodgy scientific fact that you walk out of it feeling like fucking Stephen Hawking compared to the writers. Still, I wasn’t counting on being full of cold this week. I wanted to watch and review the new Netflix film Mudbound because it looks bloody amazing. My brain wasn’t quite prepared for that though. So yesterday, overcome by the various fluids that are slowly filling the hole where my face normally resides, I decided it was a good idea to actually watch the film that made Gerard Butler one of the most unconvincing American scientists ever seen on-screen. I mean, it is only about 109 minutes long. Even in as close to a snotty death as I was, that was a length I could manage.
So it’s been four throwback Thursday’s since Alan Rickman died and I’m still remembering him through his classic films. I was only planning to do this for a month to properly mourn his passing but I’m tempted to continue indefinitely until I get all the good ones. There are still a few to chose from and I’d be keen to rewatch them. This weeks film is one I haven’t seen in a long time and was both a fantastic and awful thing to do to myself. Watching the film was fucking hilarious because it has not aged well. The major consequence was having the fucking abysmal Bryan Adams song ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ in my head all day. I’ve never wanted to bash my head with a frying pan more than I have today.
The legend of Robin Hood is one that has understandably struck a chord with people’s imagination. A brave archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor and still manages to save the damsel in distress: he’s exactly the kind of guy young kids grow up wanting to learn about. It’s no wonder, then, that he has a long history with films. He is surrounded by excitement, romance and morality. Still, there had been better versions of his tale before and there have been better since. It’s certainly weird watching Kevin Reynolds 90s modernised version in the wake of the BBCs recent television series starring Jonas Armstrong.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my ultimate guilty pleasure movies. There’s so much to dislike about it but it’s so fucking awful that it’s something you can’t stop watching. I mean the performances and the script are pretty horrendous and often verge into unintentionally funny. The scenarios are just bizarre at times and the references to other movies is just weird. The fight scenes are so confusing and badly directed that its difficult to see what’s going on. The costume design is just misjudged and the sets are inconsistent. It can also boast one of the most annoying songs in film history, probably tying with Armageddon for first place. It’s a terrible song and you can see why Reynolds kept it out of the film as much as possible.
It’s also an incredibly dark film: both literally and figuratively. Literally, because most of the action takes place in a fucking forest or a castle lit only by candles. Figuratively, because it’s really ducking gruesome for a family film. There’s so much death, torture, sex and devil worship on display and that’s before you get to the final act which is just a lengthy scene of attempted rape intercut with classic one-liners from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The film has a really weird tone which doesn’t work at all with the hero as we know him. Overall, is a totally misjudged and badly made film but I fucking love it.
When it comes to our hero, Kevin Costner is particularly dull and decides to go against the norm and play him as an introspective and quiet hero rather than the dashing and sassy man in tights he usually is. He even forgoes the wacky hat and joyful demeanour for a brooding look. Costner really never quite gets the tone of Robin right and, because of Costner’s insistence that we get some backstory to Robin’s life, he is a man wounded by his experience fighting in the Crusades. I much preferred the fox in Disney’s version. At least he always tackled his crazy schemes with a fucking smile on his face.
Then there’s the underwhelming love story that really only takes place because it has to. Maid Marion, on the whole, isn’t that abysmal and has some real moments of brilliance. She isn’t the shy and retiring type when we first meet her and can actually hold her own in a fight. That is until she, very quickly, falls in love with Robin and becomes the helpless damsel who needs to be rescued. Still, Mastrantonio comes across much better than fellow American Christian Slater who plays outlaw Will Scarlett. All three actors struggle with attempting a British accent but Slater fails to convince as an Englishman on so many levels I’m kind of embarrassed for him. Plus, he has one of the least secretive secret histories of any movie character to date.
So, why, I hear you cry, do I love this film so much? For the same reason anyone does. Alan Rickman. Rickman is in a completely different film to anyone else. Rickman actually has fun with his role. He’s anything but subtle but that’s what we need. He delivers every line perfectly and it’s always dripping with venom. This is Rickman at his most venomous but, it’s important to note, he’s also incredibly funny with it. To say he’s the best thing about this film isn’t saying much but he’s no doubt the reason people come back to this film so often. It’s Rickman’s film and he fucking smashes it.
I like Les Misérables. I guess it’s the closest you’ll get to a manly musical. It’s all about violence and loyalty and extolls the Revolutionary values of liberté, égalité and fraternité. Anyone who doesn’t leave the theatre after watching without feeling the rousing desire to storm something is someone not worth thinking about. It is safe to say that I was excited about the film version. On paper, it sounded fantastic. A great cast of actors (and Amanda Seyfried) all of whom are known to be competent singers (and Russell Crowe). However, it ended up being slightly disappointing. Thanks to director Tom Hooper who is a director quite keen to stand out from the crowd and point out how clever he’s being. Who can forget the story about The King’s Speech when he delighted in shoving a camera in Colin Firth’s face on the first day of filming to capture his real-life nervousness? At least that had a purpose. The only reason for the awful use of close-up here is to continually point out how clever he was in recording the vocals live on set. It just ends up looking dodgy though.
Take the ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ scene. If you can take your eyes off Anne Hathaway’s outrageous faces you may notice the shoddy camera work on display. So something that was supposed to show the skill of the director and his cast just looks very lazy and badly put together. Heightened thanks to the CGI which, if you ask me, just looks too computerised and fake (this may sound odd but this kind of technology is getting so good that this just feels like this has taken us a few steps backwards). Then we have the all-important singing which is patchy. Even great singers like Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway end up seeming like they belong on the opening rounds of Britain’s Got Talent or something. Russell Crowe was surprisingly good in places but, for the most part, he wasn’t great. Unfortunately, there’s something of a lack of melody and tune about his performance. Oh and the less said about Amanda Seyfried’s screechy warbling the better.
Before I even saw this film I objected to it. It’s kind of sad that Hollywood believes the only way to show a modern audience the true horror of the First World War is through the story of a boy and his horse. I mean the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth managed to keep all things equine out of it and still be an emotional fucking rollercoaster. I don’t think there’s anything that can be added to the horror of the real life events by putting a horse into the equation Especially when you don’t have the book’s ability to give the horse a voice or the amazing puppetry of the stage show to justify it. Still, I decided to watch it because, you know, Tom Hiddleston’s face is in it. And I’d watch anything that gave that a starring role.
Spielberg attempts to play the film as realistically as is possible for a narrative revolving around what, essentially, becomes a fucking magical horse. A horse that survives certain death through a mass of coincidences and a ridiculous amount of good luck. The film’s narrative begins in the horse, Joey’s, home in Devon where he is trained by Albert (Jeremy Irvine), the son of a wounded ex-soldier struggling to keep his farm afloat. The partnership between boy and horse is torn apart when war breaks out and Joey is sold to become a part of the war effort. What follows is his adventures through war-torn France where the horse moves between the British and German camps with an almost pleasant stop gap as a young French girl’s pet.
Producing a film from the point of view of a horse without the use of any type of voice-over is problematic. No matter how many fantastic stunts the horse can perform it is always just going to be a horse. Joey will never be able to react to the situations he finds himself in. The best we can hope for is that he stays in shot long enough to get the scene finished. This means that the main emotional emphasis within Joey’s story is placed upon the people he meets on the way. The acting is, for the most part, fantastic but, ultimately, this isn’t the story of the German soldiers, the French farmer or the Geordie private. This is Joey’s story. There is no real time to get engrossed in the human stories because they have to be wrapped up quickly in order to move Joey’s plot forward. It is a waste of such great talent and potential drama.
That is not to say that there are not moments of genius within the film itself. Spielberg is celebrated for his ability to create spectacular cinematic moments and there are some stunning single sequences that really do stand out. The most obvious being the cavalry charge taken from the point of view of the young Captain Nicholls, wonderfully portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. The camera focuses on his face as the young man comes to realise the devastating consequences of the fighting. It is a harrowing and truly emotional moment. There are other single Spielbergian visuals that provide moments of brilliance in what is otherwise a lame beast of a film. Take for example the stunning entrance of a character shown through his reflection in Joey’s eye. Then we have the scene towards the end of the film where a German and a British soldier come together in the middle of No Man’s Land to save the trapped horse. It is a scene that seems to sum up the whole film in managing to be both utterly preposterous and thoroughly entertaining.
That’s the main problem with this film; it has dual personalities. It doesn’t quite know whether it is a hard-hitting war film or a Disneyesque animal fantasy. The bi-polar narrative flits between moments of utter devastation and the constant reminders that Joey is a “miraculous” horse. The repeated emphasis on this special quality has the same effect that saying a single word over and over will have. By the end of the film, it has completely lost any meaning and becomes an unintentionally humorous plot point. To be honest, I laughed my way through this film. I doubt Spielberg would have approved. War Horse lacks any real dramatic punch thanks to its classification as a family film. Spielberg is always skirting close to the violence of war but, because it cannot be shown, the viewer remains detached from the human casualties. The cavalry scene is never able to reach the height of its emotional argument thanks to the fact that Spielberg is unwilling to show death on screen. Instead it is alluded to with cuts between the loud and furious charge with silent, blurry images of riderless horses galloping off into the trees. Rather than finding it harrowing, I found it fucking funny.
It was always going to be difficult to suggest the mindless violence that defined the war without being able to show the loss of young lives on screen. We have a film that is focused on the survival of its animal star instead of the loss of its supporting human cast. Therefore, the deaths come thick and fast but have little, if any, emotional impact. From a director who gave us the gritty realism of warfare in Saving Private Ryan, War Horse becomes nothing more than Homeward Bound 3: Lost in No Man’s Land.
When Twilight came out about three years ago I was assured by a friend that I would “fall in love with one if not both” of the main characters. This same friend demanded that I watch the film as soon as I could as it would undoubtedly change my life. However, Twilight, like Dirty Dancing, was going to be one of those films I never lowered myself to watch. It clearly wasn’t aimed at someone like me and, I must admit, in terms of the series of novels I’m clueless. I do have it on good authority that the books are better than their big screen counterparts and, after finally watching the first film, I honestly can’t imagine how they can’t be even slightly better than the self-indulgent and pathetic drivel I’ve just witnessed. Twilight is everything I was ever led to believe it to be; essentially it’s vampire-centric, family-friendly porn. It is the stuff of every hyperbolic teenage girl’s fantasies. The handsome and mysterious stranger without the underlying issue of sexual desire. It is a safe but bland love story.
Whilst it is perhaps rather redundant to comment on the plot of any film based on a novel, the story of Twilight is beyond pointless. We see Bella move to a new town to live with her estranged father. She finds herself surrounded by a pleasant and accommodating community but only finds herself drawn to the mysterious Cullen clan, specifically the pale and, I’m told, handsome Edward. What takes place is a drawn-out process that sees them move together and attempt to overcome the small problem of Ed’s vampirism and desire to taste her blood. Twilight is neither a great romance or a terrifying Vampire film. Instead it is 122 minutes of self-centred teenagers moaning about their insignificant problems and idealising their ‘great love’.
Twilight is a film that places a great deal of pressure upon its two lead actors and, unfortunately, it is a challenge that neither of them are up to. Robert Pattinson, every Twi-hard fan’s pin-up, simply flounders on screen. Thankfully his input is small but the audience must still be forced to watch him pout his way through the story. Edward Cullen, the vampire with a conscience, is the mysterious figure of Bella’s, and many a fan girl’s, dreams. There is no real hint within Pattinson’s performance that any potential threat exists. Lord Ruthven or Dracula he most certainly is not. Thanks to some dodgy special effects, Edward becomes a harmless superhero who removes Bella from some slightly unnerving situations. It is only towards the films end that the potential danger of their relationship comes to light but that is rushed over in a blurry mess of moaning and shaky-cam close up. Edward Cullen is not a Byronic hero; a complicated and dangerous figure who cuts himself off from society. He is a soppy teenager who enjoys his meat on the rare side.
Whilst she excels as an actor next to Pattinson, Kristen Stewart doesn’t fair much better. Bella is meant to carry the entire film but her relentless and completely redundant voice-over only adds to her self-absorption. After walking the audience through her discovery of Edward’s true identity, including a confession from the man himself, Bella feels the need to tell us she “was now convinced Edward was a vampire”. Well I’m glad that was finally cleared up. In Stewart’s defence, she is faced with the task of playing a deplorable and insipid teenager in dire need of a slap in the face. Bella never seems fully developed as a character. All of her relationships are turbulent apparently just because she’s a teenager. Rather than delving into her motivations, her cold attitude to the kind people around her is excused because she is a stereotypical teen. I can only speculate that trying to portray such a horrific person would be difficult.
For a story about love, admittedly a scary, obsessive, Disney-love, Twilight’s lead actors lack on-screen chemistry. Whilst I can’t admit to being terribly knowledgeable about acting techniques, I’m not sure the Twilight ‘mouth open, heavy breathing, stare’ approach is one to look out for. Whilst we are supposed to believe, as we are told on many occasions, that their love is the most spectacular love ever, we are never given evidence to back up the claim. Their romance suddenly just happens and is described by the pair rather than lived. It may just be an age thing but I could not understand why this coupling was something to fight for. Their romance is nothing to rival the great literary pairings even though they work hard to convince us otherwise. In all areas, Twilight tries incredibly hard to be something it isn’t. It comes across as something that looks distinctly like a film student’s end of year project, so desperate to show their knowledge they throw everything they can into the mix. All in all the film looks lacklustre and shoddily thrown together.
However, as I pointed out, this is not a film for someone like me. Twilight is harmless and adequate tale that would keep any teenage girl satisfied. It may wish to be a great example of cinema but at the very least it delivers for its target audience.