Movie Reviews: The Hangover Part II

the-hangover-part-2-banner-imageThe Hangover Part II was the highly-anticipated followup to 2009’s sleeper smash hit The Hangover, and the middle part in the inevitable Hangover Trilogy franchise. You probably know that. It was released back in 2011 (Which you probably also know), but I kept missing out on seeing it until now – after the third part has already left theatres. So now I’ve seen it, what did I think? Well…

The Hangover is a great movie. It’s shocking, funny and (despite its absurdity), it’s still relatively believable. And as a result, it’s also relatively relatable. Sure, not everyone has gotten into quite such dramatic all-night benders, but many of us have had nights where we’ve done crazy things while under the influence and most of those us who have also have nights with huge gaps in our memories. It’s got a generally brilliant cast, fantastic and actually surprising cameos, and it was an even better movie when you saw it in a packed theatre.

The Hangover Part II is probably also better when seen in a packed theatre. Unlike its predecessor though, that’s probably the only time it’s any good at all. What might surprise you is that I don’t dislike it for being a rehash of the original. In fact, that’s kind of what I wanted. Another spin on the “crazy night we can’t remember” wheel is what I was looking for with this movie. No, what I dislike about the sequel is what they changed. Reusing the same bones, that’s fine. The problems with the sequel relate to turning some of the weaker elements up to eleven and contriving to reuse utterly inconsequential elements (like plot coupons) of the original for no good reason.

I still get plenty of laughs out of re-watching The Hangover. But the sequel left me cold even on this first viewing. There are some decent laughs in it, but almost all of them (with precisely two – it’s so few I can count them) come from characters the movie seems convinced are less funny than “the funniest character of all time”, played by “the funniest comedic actor of all time”: Alan Garner, played by Zach Galifianakis.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, those assessments are not my own, but those (apparently) of the writers, director and producers.

I say that because Alan gets a whole lot of focus in this movie at the expense, once again, of Doug – played by Justin Bartha – who is written out of the majority of the action in a way so contrived it’s brushed over as quickly as possible. It’s also at the expense of the far more interesting character of Mason Lee’s Teddy (Stu’s soon-to-be Brother-in-Law). Alan is a classic example of a character from an ensemble piece who was well-received enough to be forced to the fore of a later entry in the franchise.

In the original movie, Alan is an equally divisive figure. Some people, I know, love his schtick and enjoy Galifianakis’s style of “weird for the sake of it” humour. I’m not among them. But the first time around, I was okay with it. Alan was funny in the original because he was used (relatively) sparingly alongside the other members of the franchise’s core trio – as well as the rest of the ensemble – and he acts as a plot coupon. He’s the wild card which sets off the chain of events the movie revolves around, and his presence is justified well in the plot.

That is…Not the case here. Alan is forced into the movie with the flimsiest possible justification: Doug’s wife twists his arm about letting Alan attend Stu’s wedding, so he twists Stu’s. Stu, justifiably, wants nothing more to do with Alan who is clearly a deranged individual, who drugged Stu and his friends te first time he spent any time with them. Stu has every reason not to want him there. But Doug convinces him (it’s not particularly well justified), so they go and get him.

What’s worse is, before they even get to Thailand for the wedding, Alan furnishes them with (at least) four perfectly good new reasons not to want him around. By the end of the movie, there are at least five occasions where he should have been punched in the face, and arguably even more where he should just have been left to rot. These characters have absolutely no reason to like Alan and no earthly reason for putting up with his nonsense, which includes the revelation that he drugged them again, information which should in fact have led to Stu and Phil beating the living snot out of him on a public street. Instead he is quickly forgiven, for reasons which never become apparent.

See, the thing is, Alan is not their friend and never was. He insists on the idea that he is, but the only possible reason for them going along with this fantasy is pity. And that just doesn’t cut it when you’re talking about a guy who’s now twice drugged them, causing them no end of problems. Especially since – in this case – Phil winds up getting shot, Stu’s fiancé’s brother (who is a cellistloses a finger and Stu himself unwittingly cheats on his future-wife with a prostitute and gets a crazy Mike Tyson Face Tattoo days before his wedding.

But instead of getting the asshole incarcerated, or beating him within an inch of his life, they forgive him as if all he did was lose their crate of beer. In fact, eventually they go ahead and treat him as if he’s a hero and they’re best buds. It all plays out as if the movie is begging us to love Alan, whilst also expecting that we already do. But I just can’t. He’s the least funny thing in a comedy in which he is a starring player, and he’s an asshole. No justification the movies offer excuses how much of a colossal jackass he is. He’s not even a loveable jackass. He ploughs clean across the edge of unsympathetic comedy protagonist territory and winds up a straight up villain protagonist.

What’s worse is, the only character who could conceivably be justified in pretending to like Alan is Doug, and he is once again sidelined! I’d have loved to have seen a The Hangover story where Doug makes it through the night with the others, and then joins them in their efforts to suss out what happened, because he’s a likeable character. My ideal rewrite of this script would have been to change it so that Alan’s presence was a surprise (like Mr Chow’s) and Doug joined them on the night out instead of heading off to bed early. Teddy could still have served as the lost member of the group, but the first act could then have been spent letting us get to know him better rather than wasting our time reminding us that Alan is a creep who nobody in their right mind would befriend.

And so now you’re saying “but then how would they have gotten into the mess without Alan drugging them?”

Answer: Who the hell cares? Any number of things could have happened. Why did it have to be the exact same thing as in the first movie? Maybe the bartender offers them the “house special” shot free of charge since they’re with a wedding party, and it turns out to have some crazy local ingredient in it which is a powerful hallucinogenic. Contrived? Maybe a little, but as contrived as Alan being there just to do the exact same thing again? No way.

What really bugs me is, when the focus is on the others, it’s actually pretty enjoyable. Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper are both very entertaining in their roles, as is Justin Bartha (when he’s given a chance). Mr Chow’s nonsense and the the zany denizens of Bangkok also make for an enjoyable ensemble. It’s a crying shame that filmmakers’ sad devotion to one character from a movie built on the back of at least a dozen fantastic performances ruined its chances of a worthy sequel.

Dismayingly, I hear the third one is even worse.

Christmas Letter 2010

Dear family; friends; casual acquaintances; people who I don’t know reading this online and Google Spiderbots,

It’s that time of the year again. You know? The most wonderful one. That one. Christmastime. Yeah? You probably noticed what with all the pretty lights and tinsel and goodwill to all men and sudden inexplicable rise in quality of television. Which also means it’s time for me to write my Christmas Letter, a tradition which – despite the protestations of many –  shows no signs of ending. You know? Like mince pies.

Now for some of you this is your first time receiving one of these letters, and some of you who have received one before have preposterously short atten…Oh hey look, a bunny rabbit!

Where was I? Oh right, explaining the letter.

Every year, I sit down and ask myself a simple question: “What kind of year has it been?”.

Then, in the letter, I ramble on and on, at times quite tediously, in answer. And because I’m a wacky goofball, I usually litter it with jokes. Mostly the stuff I didn’t have time to say in the year that was. Why? Because why the hell not, that’s why.

So anyway, let’s set about answering that question. What kind of year has it been? Well…A damned long one! I don’t know about you, but January 2010 feels like so long ago I can barely remember it. Maybe it’s the quite preposterous number of things which happened this year, or the way everything seems to have changed, or maybe it’s the fact I’m a Student and therefore have consumed what is surely a dangerous amount of alcohol.

No, just kidding folks. The only DANGEROUS amount of alcohol is none.

Just think, this time last year, me and many of my peers were waiting around for the sadistic system known as “UCAS” to let us know our fate. I was in College and almost all my friends were 17, which means there was no nightlife to speak of.

How times have changed.

And look at all the other stuff. This year, amongst the achievements to my name are, sleep (Drunk) in a Disneyland Paris Hotel bathroom; move to University; spend an hour on a stage telling my fellow College leavers how awesome we are; go to Prom with a date AND pass Year 13 whilst basically sleeping through most of the Exam period – thank YOU inexplicably high marks in January Exams*!

*Seriously, I have no idea why they were so high. I thought I’d failed them.

Yes, it’s been one hell of a year. A year in which I, repeatedly, discarded almost all of my hair and started reviewing drinks on the internet for…Some reason. You know now that I write that down, it seems even weirder…Still…Go watch those reviews…

Still, by far the most exciting part of the year was moving to Portsmouth where, to paraphrase a song, I’ve got some friends that I may hardly know, but we’ve had some times I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Man, I hate it when people pretend to be deep by using the lyrics of a song, don’t you? Doesn’t that just make you want to punch them in the face? Well please don’t do that, I’m still typing. It’s hard to type with broken glasses and a black eye you know. I speak from experience.

Also, some stuff happened in the wider world, but it’s mostly very depressing. But…Uh…Hey, Toy Story 3 came out. So it’s not all bad. Oh and they brought Golden Grahams back. Some of you have no idea why that’s amazing, but I assure you, it’s like the best thing that ever happened in the world of cereal.

You know, speaking of Toy Story 3, I saw a lot of good movies this year…So there you go, there’s some good news from the wider world. It was a good year for cinema.

Still reading? Good…A lot of people duck out after the second or third paragraph after they realise I’m just as annoying in writing as I am out loud. In return for your persistence, I have some happy news: IT”S SNOWING! I literally glanced at the window as I was writing this paragraph and it’s started snowing again! on Christmas Eve ! That’s in-freaking-credible!

Yeah, as you may be aware, I never grew up.

I’m still a kid at heart.

Anyway, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time now. Plus I want to get this sent at about Midday. So then…Have a Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Hannukah; Kwazy Kwanza; Solemn, Dignified Ramadan and a Happy New Year.

Yours,
Paul Douglas

PS: Okay, NOW you can hit me.

PPS: OW! Hey, it wasn’t mandatory! Jeez.


Christmas Letter 2009

It’s that time again folks.

Yes, it’s the time of the year when, in lieu of sending Christmas cards (Because sitting and writing someone’s name then my name then someone’s name then my name over and over and over is the kind of thing which will eventually drive me over the edge and thus cause me to go on the psychopathic rampage which the majority of you are still expecting of me), I write out a long, winding look at the year that was and what lies ahead, with characteristic sarcasm and comical faux-hipness. Because I’m “like” “with it”. Er…”dawg”!

So then…To business!

Ah what a year it has been. For me, terrific. Wonderful things have happened over and over again (Green Day – the best band in the world seriously don’t even argue, turning 18, the computer I’m writing this on, Disneyland which is like heaven for me and of course a certain Mr. Jenson Button winning the World Championship).

But as with any year, 2009 has had it’s fair share of flaws. Yes, for every Barack Obama becoming President, there has been an unfortunate but inescapable Twilight Saga release. In the future, they will look back on years like this as the beginning of the zombie apocalypse which is still speeding on its way to destroying our world as we know it, presumably within the next 5 years.

For those of you about my age over here in the UK, this year has also probably begun your association with the most unspeakably horrific torture device known to man. Yes, I speak of UCAS, which dominates your life for months at a time stressing you out about filling in a form, getting Personal Statements & References written and all this as soon as humanly possible rush rush rush. Then it immediately turns into the most insufferable waiting game ever devised – it’s like an ironic punishment in hell, it taunts you for your previous desire to slow things down by going to the other extreme.

Cruel and unusual.

If you’re like me (To those very few of you, you have my sympathy) you mostly measure a year’s worth on the quality of the entertainment put out that year. On that front, New Moon aside, 2009 is a standout success. We’ve had brilliant movies like The Hangover, Role Models & Zombieland as well as amazing TV shows making their debuts (Such as FlashForward) or re-launching (The fantastic Scrubs Season 9 (Med School)).

In more good entertainment news, word reached us this year that Channel 4 will not be buying any more seasons of Big Brother, ending its run on the channel in 2010. Every reasonable person in the country is delighted by this news. In less welcome news, ITV (Continuing its downward spiral into being the most vulgar unappealingly cheap and tacky network on Television) has ordered more seasons of The X-Factor. Which means 2010 will be another year in which the Christmas Number 1 will go largely un-contested…

Eff you ITV. You ruin everything.

In the world of video games, Killzone 2 released this year and overshadowed all other First Person Shooters. Honestly can’t think of a single other significant one. None at all. Nope. Modern What 2? Never heard of it. It’s the biggest entertainment release of all time? Oh that Modern Warfare 2. Why didn’t you say so?

In more interesting video game news, The Beatles: Rock Band released this year, broadening the appeal of Rock Band-like games as well as of The Beatles’ superb music. As if Harmonix, makers of Rock Band, hadn’t done enough to make me love them, they recently announced that next year they will release another game. Green Day: Rock Band. Thereby immortalising my two favourite bands in their own games.

Less fortunate this year were those Activision guys. Tony Hawk: Ride is the punchline to every video game joke made from now until Project Natal releases.

On a more universal note, the economy has started to recover! That’s good!

But VAT in the UK is going back up. That’s bad.

But it’s not going up to 20%! That’s good!

But the Tories will probably put it up to 21% (That’s bad) as soon as they get in (That’s bad).

Potentially far worse news from the land of politics is that the BNP got into the European Parliament. Which is both a disgrace and nonsensical. How can a party who think anything and everyone from outside the UK is sub-human represent us in Europe? It’s a logical absurdity!

And on that note, we come to “Climategate”. I’m going to put this to rest once and for all: The world is getting warmer. We’re at least partly to blame through CO2 emissions. Get over it and help us start fixing it.

Jeez, is it that hard to stop burning things left and right?

So then, what lies ahead, in (As weirdos call it) The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten (Or as the hipsters call it “Twenty-Ten”)? Well how the hell should I know, I’m not psychic. I do however have some predictions for your amusement:

1) The Tories will win the General Election and ruin the country, but idiots will still claim things have improved.
2) A celebrity will die and the whole world will overreact.
3) Someone, somewhere, will have sex with somebody else. This will piss off a third party who will throw a hissy fit about it and/or go to the press.
4) A man will discover the Meaning of Life and start trying to tell people it. Nobody will listen.
5) Britain’s Got Talent will still suck.
6) The X-Factor will suck even more.
7) Twilight Saga: Eclipse will suck even more than James Cameron’s Avatar clearly does. Dan Berry will not notice due to his guy crush on Robert Pattinson/Taylor Lautner/Dan, seriously what the hell.
8) Kanye West will continue to be a douchebag.
9) Sarah Palin will, on at least 4 separate occasions in each case, fail to spell her own name or even the word “a” correctly.
10) I will write another Christmas letter.

Now, let’s see how my predictions form last year did:

1) Sky will stay blue (Correct!)
2) Music will continue to dominate culture (Correct!)
3) Economy will finally begin to rebound (Correct!)
4) Summer will be hot (Correct!)
5) Spring will suck just as much as ever (Correct!)
6) Someone, somewhere, will be inappropriately offended by something they know was not meant in that way – they will proceed to destroy someone’s career over it despite being aware they meant and caused no actual harm (At least half-correct!)

Wow! Maybe I am psychic! On that bombshell, I’m off to make a killing gambling on sporting events!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and of course a Happy New Year!

Yours,
Paul “Jensonb” Douglas

Movie Review: 8 Mile

So here it is, the (Admittedly belated) review of 8 Mile. It’s a natural choice to review this after Get Rich or Die Trying, both being vehicles for popular rap artists to launch (Potentially unnecessary) Acting careers. So is this one as bad, worse or is it (Gasp) actually kind of decent?

Well, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I enjoyed it. 8 Mile is a good movie. It’s hardly fine art and it’s not going to be remembered as the defining moment of a generation, but it’s decently entertaining and very watchable.

One of the crucial differences is the scale of the story on offer. Get Rich went for a preposterously overblown tale of a kid who becomes not only a drug lord, but also a rap star, On top of that, it is stuffed with over-dramaticised attempts at emotional weight. The resulting scenarios and story are implausible to the point of unwatchable.

8 Mile on the other hand focuses on a relatively small story. It’s not about grandiose ambition coming to fruition, it’s not a false-feeling attempt to portray a modern rags-to-riches tale. Instead, we have the real story of rap – the working class, Motor City and, of course, the streets.

And that’s not “the streets” in the eccentric “bullets flying every which way” sense Fitty Cent used it for Get Rich. It means real people. The youth, in the real world, just trying to pass the time in relative comfort and get by on what they can.

When guns appear in 8 Mile, it’s a big deal – they’re a real threat. People don’t just suddenly become drug dealers, or rap stars. They work day in, day out and blow off their steam however they can, and between that and work they spend their time surviving. It’s not the happiest portrayal of working class life, but it’s at least real.

The performances are pretty decent all round, and Eminem’s rapping is at its absolute best here. He was at the top of his game when this movie was made, and it shows in his epic Battle performances and the movie’s theme “Lose Yourself” – in my opinion, hands down his best ever track.

On first blush, Eminem seems rather bored with his part, wandering through the film with a lazy wide-eyed mild disinterest. But on closer inspection, and after watching the movie for a bit longer, this bewilderment seems more like his character’s persona. He seems constantly to be looking over his shoulder and lacks confidence.

He has just that right sense of mild but contained frustration with his lot in life that you would expect from a low-paid metalworker, and by the time he opens the taps and destroys the Leader of the Free World, you’re really rooting for him.

8 Mile is an easy film to recommend if you’re okay with Rap music. Those of you who can’t stan it are well advised to steer clear, but if you’re even merely okay with it, this is a move to check out. Stay the hell away from Get Rich though.

Movie Review: Get Rich or Die Trying

So I’m not going to waste too much of your time here, you probably don’t need me to. This movie is bad. BAD. The acting is terrible, particularly on the part of “Fitty” himself (The scene where he “learns to rap again” is particularly painful).

Worse is the story, with the scenarios it creates positively cringe-worthy at times (An eleven-year-old aiming to whack a drug dealing gangster with a steering wheel lock, an eleven-year-old drug dealer beating up a thug).

I mean, the music’s not bad if you like rap, but this movie seems to think it’s going to do for African-American Gang Culture what The Godfather did for Italian-American Gang Culture. Perhaps that’s why Fifty stayed on such a clearly awful movie (Out of a mis-guided belief it was high art – you know, where you want it so bad you think it’s there).

…Nah, he’s just an idiot.

Anyway, the movie just sucks. It’s painful to watch, filled with implausible characters and situations (That eleven-year-old writes an overtly sexual love rap to his sweetheart which is such an abomination to the ears her stepfather kicks her out).

And when it’s not implausible, it’s over-long, predictable or formulaic. Several times one of us was heard to say “lemme guess: X happens” only for X to occur moments later.

As for the over-long remark? It becomes pretty obvious exactly what events are going to play out and why as the movie draws to its (First) climax. Despite this, the movie makes you wait easily 10 minutes more than it needed to actually get to those events, instead tacking in some out of place emotional crap which does not achieve its (Presumably) intended goal of lifting the film’s tone in any way.

It’s a trainwreck. Next time, I’m reviewing 8 Mile. let’s see if the “Shameless Rapper Vehicle” formula for movies is inherently bad or if this one’s just bad on its own.

Christmas Letter 2008

Oh, I guess it’s that time of year again.

You probably think I mean Christmas, but in fact you are but half-correct, half I say! I am referring to the (As of this year) annual custom where I waste the time of my friends and family with a pointlessly and arguably too-long letter reflecting on the past year, which this year means we have a lot to cover, and with any luck we’ll get some hilarious snarky comments in along the way.

Huzzah!

Ah, but what is it about this year that is most memorable? After all, so much has hap…Yeah, alright, the economy went down the proverbial crapper, nay the literary crapper. And that’s kind of a bummer. Money’s, like, useful. It can be exchanged for goods and services. And I don’t know about you, but I for one like goods and services. They’re great! But you know…Whatever. There’s more than one way to have a party!

Ignoring the fact that I had no idea where I was going with that metaphor when I wrote it, I shall move onto some good news. Bush is gone in a month. Obama is in in a month. For us Brits, that means we can finally stop hating the country which gives us such wonderful gifts as The Simpsons, Heroes, The Killers and Katy Perry.

Oh hey, speaking of music, Axl Rose (We get it Axl, it’s an anagram of an impure act. It’s not funny any more dude, get a real name) finally got around to releasing his album “Chinese Democracy”, the most expensive and also inappropriately attributed album ever recorded. I mean, honestly, “Guns ‘n’ Roses”? There’s more members of Guns ‘n’ Roses in Velvet Revolver! Perhaps Mr. Rose has difficulty moving on. So while your enjoying your wonderful Christmas, shed a tear for a washed-up old rock star whose latest record is rubbish and who can’t seem to move on I mean seriously what the hell get over it.

Ahem. Got a bit carried away there. Anywho, in other entertainment news, The Dark Knight came out, meaning we have been given something unheard of since before Tim Burton got kicked off the project: A good Batman sequel. If you don’t know what I’m getting at, go watch Batman & Robin, a movie so bad its star will personally reimburse you the cost of admission on request.

So I guess, actually, don’t watch it.

Now then, let us not forget that we almost did not get to see this Christmas. It seems a group of friendly nutcases near Geneva decided to build and activate the first Halo ri…I mean, the Large Hadron Collider. A device with potentially catastrophic consequences. Yes, our friends in Switzerland chose to risk sucking us all into a Black Hole. But the risk of being condensed to a singularity isn’t even the worst bit. We’d have had to die in Switzerland…That’s so boring! They’re neutrals! It’s neither a hateable place or one you’d love! Never mind though, because we seem to have escaped the worst of it.

Huzzah!

In fact, some people are trying to save the world to make up for it! That and, you know, white liberal guilt. Yes, Bill Gates has decided to dedicate himself to philanthropy. Damn does that man want a Nobel or what? Well whatever, good luck to him. Lot these days makes you think the world’s headed downhill, good work should be applauded. So, uh, yeah. Woo for the world’s charity even in what’s tastefully not being called a Depression.

But it is.

But we don’t call it that.

Cos it seems less dramatic if we call it a “Crunch”.

Or a “downturn”.

It’s like how we don’t call it Global Warming or the Melting of the Polar Ice Caps, we call it “Climate Change”.

But I digress. Man has it been a fast year or what? I swear it was only a matter of weeks ago I was gearing up for GCSE exams, and yet it was many months ago. I’ve long since passed and joined the madhouse that is Sixth Form and yet, it still seems like no time has passed at all. Nevertheless, so much has happened it’s hard to remember most of it.

Hmm…Oh, I got a Mac. Which is nice…Let’s see…Important things we haven’t covered yet…Um…I hear Canadia has had its government shut down by their Prime Minister. Something about protecting his job and right-wing policies from the left-wing will of the people. So, uh, sucks to be them I s’pose…Oh, speaking of Governance, Mr. Brown saw fit to drop our VAT! Yes, I know it’s only till the end of 2009, still nice though. Bloody Tories inflated it so much. Honestly. Anywho, props to Mr. Brown for that. He is good godammit. Stop reading the Red Tops! These are the same journalists who tell you which public figure is involved in which sex scandal!

I mean, what the heck kind of political knowledge can they have if that is what became of their lives.

Oh, hang on though, speaking of sex scandals, Screws of the World totally got Max Mosley. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

Hmm, I was just looking over the list of Christmas Number One contenders…I mean…Wow. It’s like actual musicians don’t even I want to beat X Factor phonies any more. Where are the proper Christmas-themed songs? I mean, there’s a few there, but they’re mostly covers and/or likely to be the same dreary pseudo-joyous “Christmas” junk we’ve had to make do with for nearly two decades now!

Someone release a new Merry Xmas Everybody, please! A proper, 21st Century Christmas rocker.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the X Factor. The era of manufactured music must end! Open your ey…EARS people!

Erm, excuse me. Got a bit carried away there. So, what will the new year bring us? Well, if I knew that, I would be aiming to make a killing at the Bookies and on the Stock Market (They’re having their 35 Years-ly Blowout Sale by the way!). So since I have no idea, I can but guess…Let’s see…Predictions and aims for the new year…2009…Two Thousand and Nine…Hmmm…

Sky will stay blue; music will continue to dominate culture; the economy will finally begin to rebound; summer will be hot; spring will suck just as much as ever and someone, somewhere, will be inappropriately offended by something they know was not meant in that way – they will proceed to destroy someone’s career over it despite being aware they meant and caused no actual harm.

Yeah, I guess most of those are cop outs, the summer one’s just wishful thinking. Yes, you read that right. So then, aims…

Hmm…Seems like I should be more decisive and also stop, you know, thinking in text…I mean, it’s text. If I need to think of something why don’t I just stop writing until I have? I mean, the way I’m doing it’s just weird, right? Well, anyway, those and probably something about expressing love. That sort of thing always goes down well. So, yeah. Hmm, actually that reminds me of something…

Yes, I’ve checked. Mistletoe’s white things are, indeed, berries. Also it’s a poisonous parasite.

We humans chose some odd symbols for love.

Anyway, I’ve kept you long enough. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Yours,
Paul “Jensonb” Douglas

PS: I just noticed this letter’s almost twice as long as the first one.

PPS: I want to make it clear, that I think that is all the way awesome.

PPPS: So there.

Son of Rambugh

So we went to the cinema earlier on a Media Studies Trip. British Cinema was the name of the day (Indeed, that was the theme of the festival they were running…I think anyway, it wasn’t exactly heavily publicised).

The movie? Son of Rambow. Wow. I would never have imagined a film with such an off the wall, bonkers plot could be so hopelessly formulaic. Writer-Director Garth Jennings seemed to have a passable idea, but he singularly failed to deliver on it, never mind turn it into something worthwhile.

Great directors can take a serviceable plot and make a classic (Examples might include Jaws for Spielberg, Star Wars for Lucas and Sleepy Hollow for Burton). Okay directors can take serviceable ideas and make acceptable movies (The Superman Series springs to mind). Awful directors do this.

So apart from being formulaic what’s wrong with Rambow? Well, the whole exercise is simplistic. Jennings seems content to point his camera with all the eye for framing and excitement of his characters – in whose defense, are children. Jennings takes no risks and makes liberal use of filming cliches. It’s pretty bleak.

It doesn’t help that the whole thing seems kind of pointless. It feels like Mr. Jennings is trying to make a touchy-feely piece. But when almost all his characters are male and most of the few whoa re not are either contemptible or asexual, the whole thing comes across as rather odd. Not even gay, which would be somewhat interesting. It’s a movie about friendship…But none of the friendships make much sense.

Why’s that? Leaps of logic. Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban suffered similar problems, but was at least well made to make up for it. Here, the way the lead is rather blindly lead by his eventual friend makes little sense.

Less sensical is the fact that he befriends the guy in the first place. The two are utterly incompatible. Well, actually, they only start that way. Lee, who starts out as a jerk and a bully, suddenly becomes a victim and a sympathetic figure.

It’s a device used throughout the film – even paradoxically. For example we learn that Lee’s brother is nasty to him. But then we learn that Lee’s mother causes him no end of problems. So that’s two instances of passing the blame.

Jennings manages to paint about 7 characters as villains. Of them, 3 are redeemed with deus ex machina (This is particularly true of the out-of-place French boy Didier – and if you want to know why he’s out of place, it’s not cos he’s French, it’s because he’s a product of the modern era, not the film’s setting). Another 2 villains are minor characters with maybe 4 speaking parts between them.

Ultimately, by the end of the movie, you’ve seen everything coming from the first few moments of exposure to the various characters. It’s a snooze-fest and it doesn’t help that few of the characters are endearing. You like them well enough in some ways, but you won’t come out caring what happens to them after the film.

Nor will you care much about anything the film says or does. Notably, some of the messages the film tries to send are debunkings of old-fashioned ideals which seem ridiculous even by being mentioned, which makes the whole movie seem a trifle pointless.

Son of Rambow has some pretty good jokes in it, but ultimately it falls flat.