Friday, October 21, 2005

Movie Review: Domino

I went to see Tony Scott's latest movie two nights ago but didn't have time to post a review yesterday.

Domino is the "sort of" true story of Domino Harvey, a movie star's daughter and former Ford model who, jaded with life, answers an ad in the paper looking for bounty hunters and embarks on a new career on the edge of the law.

Domino is certainly a fascinating character, Keira Knightly seems unlikely in this role but is, in fact, very good, and her story would seem to be a very interesting one.

However, this movie isn't really her story at fact....this movie isn;t really anything. It looks fantastic, is very artfully shot, but...Scott seems so concerned with getting the film's look right that he completely loses focus when it comes to plot and characters. As such, this is a lot like sitting through a two hour music video, and the effect is little more than nauseating. You could alsom like the experience of watching this as being like sitting in front of a strobe light for two hours, and I'm surprised there's no warning for epileptics before the film starts.

I really feel for Keira Knightly here, she's put her heart and soul into this role and she really is very good...but the film is shot and edited in such a way that you just find it completely impossible to connect with her. You really don't care whether her or her friends live or die, and in a film like this, that's disasterous.

Rather than the fascinating bio-pic this could have been, we're subjected to a complex plot involving an inside job to steal ten million dollars from a Las Vegas hotellier and then pay it back to him to collect a three hundre dthousand dollar finders fee. This plot is hatched by Domino's gang's boss, and he seriosuly lands them in it by having them deliver a group of young men they've framed for the robbery to the mob to be executed. However, two of the young men are the sons of a mafia boss. So...Domino and her gang end up caught between the Las Vegas millionaire and the mafia. Messy business indeed....but you really don't care. Why? Because you never get to know any of the characters. Domino's life story is told in two or three extremely short flashbacks, so you never really learn who she is or what motivates her. We're really never given any other reason for her becoming a bounty hunter other tahn that she's bored and she wants to have some fun. It's all just too shallow. As for her two companions, they are almost totally blank slates who do little more than react to the situations they are in.

This is a total train wreck of a movie and given the subject matter and Tony Scott's excellent record as a director I really am at a loss as to explain why. This could have been so much better.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Movie Review: Sky High

Welcome to the second of my movie reviews.

I took my four year old son, Zak, to see this latest super-hero film today. I'm letting you know that because it probably effected by perception of the film (y'know...missing key scenes while I tell him to sit down and stop whinging about being hungry...).

The film stars eighteen year old Michael Angarano as fourteen year old Will Stronghold. Okay, why the reference to his age? There has been a lot of talk in the press about the possible need to recast the Harry Potter movies because the actors playing the kids will get "too old." At worst we're going to end up with a twenty year old Dan Radcliffe playing a seventeen year old Harry Potter (see...the press don't seem to get that Harry is actually supposed to be a year older in each book/film). I figure a twenty year old playing a seventeen year old is fairly passable. In this film we have a group of eighteen and nineteen year olds playing fourteen year olds...and one girl that the main character actually dates in the movie is played by a twenty one year old! Okay....that character's supposed to be in the year above...but a twenty one year old playing a fifteen year old girl??

I will NEVER understand Hollywood's obcession with getting people in their twenties to play teenagers. Mellissa Joan Hart, TV's Sabrina the Teenage Witch is the SAME AGE AS ME! Okay, I know they stopped making that show a while back...but I stopped being a teenager even longer ago. (And, yes, I did find out MJH's age just so I could prove to myself that my fancying her wasn't so creepy after all...). The maker's of the Harry Potter films have been extremely brave by casting young actors that are the same age as their characters, and I think they've proved that it works very well.

Ok, ok, rant over, is the film actually any good? The good news is that it's great, and the even better news is that because of the stupid age/casting thing the cute girls in it are 100% legal so, guys, you needn't feel so wrong for thinking they're hot Twisted Evil

Back to the movie... The film stars Michael Angarano as Will Stronghold, the son of the world's two greatest Super Heroes, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Will, along with his best friend Layla (the extremely cute Danielle Panabaker) are just starting out at Sky High, the school for the children of super heros...where they will be sorted into two categories, Hero and Hero-Support (a PC term for sidekick). The problem is that Will has no powers and so is assigned to the Hero-Support stream (which is both embarassing and disappointing for his parents who were hoping he would be joining them in their little super team). Will's powers do eventually kick in, but not before he makes friends with a motly group of "geeks" in sidekick classes. He gets moved to the Hero stream after his powers emerge where he attracts the attentions of school "babe" Gwen. This leads to an inevitable betrayal of his old friends, particularly Layla, who is secretely in love with him. Add to this the fact that Will's dad has put his fellow student bad-boy Warren Peace's dad in triple life imprisonment and that Gwen is really...but...wait...let's not give too much away.

The movie could have been truly awful, but a strong cast and a witty script save it. Steven Strait is particularly good as Will's nemesis, Warren Peace. That the supporting cast includes Bruce Campbell can never be a bad thing. The one thing I didn't particularly buy was that Will would give Gwen a second look when Layla is about a million times hotter than she is.

Clearly the films writers have understood that the real reason people love super-hero comics is because of the soap opera style relationships between the characters. The super-heroics really take a back seat to what is pretty much a standard teen movie plot (but I love teen movies too).

There is, it must be said, very little that's original here. Every super power is lifted straight off the pages of a Marvel or DC comic book, and the general concept has been explored again and again in books like The New Mutants, Generation X and Academy X. But who cares? It's still a great movie, with super heros and cute girls!

I'll finish up with a summary of my four year olds comments on the movie: "I liked the fighting and I liked the bit where they all got turned into babies."

He's not into girls yet. It's not a bad thing.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, October 14, 2005

Movie Review: Serenity

Oh, this is the first of my movie reviews, so bear with me, eh?

Ok, last night I went to see Serenity, which is a continuation of Joss Whedon's prematurely cancelled series, Firefly. Now, I haven't seen Firefly so I came to this movie with almost no expectations. Pretty much all I knew was that, supposedly, if you like Star Wars then you'll like Serenity.

That's a pretty fair assesment as you can see that Joss Whedon has been clearly influenced by the Star Wars movies. The good news for most people will be that the influence is from the original trilogy and not the prequels (although, personally, I feel that Episode III redeemed the prequels [but I still find it hard to stay awake during Attack fo the Clones).

The big influences from Star Wars are the used, dirty, malfuntioning technology and the character of Han Solo...the Han Solo that shot first. The Serenity itself shares a lot in common with the Millennium Falcon. While it's a lot bigger, it's just as prone to breaking down at the wrong moment. It's Captain, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), shares a lot in common with the Falcon's captain too, albeit a Solo before he bumps into an old Jedi and his young apprentice.

At this point I should make it clear that these comparisons are in no way a bad thing. Indeed, one of the most disappointing things about the new Star Wars films was the clean, fully functioning un-Star Warsy ships and the complete lack of a Han Solo type character. For many people Han Solo was their favourite character, and for a lot of Star Wars fans Serenity will provide a welcome dose of Han Soloness.

Serenity is by no means just a Star Wars rip-off though and it's over all tone is a lot darker than any of George Lucas' films. Whedon shows himself to be a master storyteller and while genre fans will probably always be one step ahead of the plot the movie never falls into cliche.

The films biggest strength is the wonderful dialogue, through which you instantly connect with all of the main characters. That was always the best thing about Buffy, so it's no surprise that it's present here too.

What makes this film so absorbing though is also what differentiates it from the Star Wars movies. Whereas Lucas' universe is full of stark moral contrasts, where good and evil are clearly defined, almost all of the characters in Serenity inhabit a definite grey area, morally. Our heroes, the crew of the Serenity, are not averse to breaking the law to make ends meet, and our villains, The Alliance, sincerely believe they are acting in the interests of the greater good.

The effects are fantastic, though they never take centre stage. Film fans should look out for an incredibly long steady cam shot near the beginning of the film.

All in all this is an excellent film, exactly what I've been waiting for for a looooong time. Now I need to go buy the DVD box set of Firefly and see what I've been missing.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shine...Shine Like A Star!

It's a strange day today. My left ear is completely blocked and it feels like my head is in a goldfish bowl. Not that anyone out there really needs to know about my problem with excess earwax. Not that anyone out there is actually reading this.
I find it so hard to get motivated. I know I should really get working on Young Gods #2, or maybe sort out #1 so that I can try and sell it as an e-comic on eBay. I'm currently waiting to hear back from publishers regarding #1...I hate waiting for rejection.
I guess I should also continue working on Shine too, my other comic book project. Shine's been in the making since I was eighteen...that's over ten years! Basically Shine is just your average schoolgirl/superhero/intergalactic adventurer. She's the girl in the picture, the guy with her is Captain Jack (he'll get you high tonight!). Whereas The Young Gods is closely plotted and planned, Shine allows me to just be spontaneously creative. It'll just go off at odd tangents and be fairly free-form. Of course, that's going to make it harder to pitch to publishers, so I'm either going to have to produce something like six months worth of complete comics before submitting it or I'm going to have to keep it until after something else gets published.
With #1 of the Young Gods now complete, and the first six issues fairly tightly plotted, I'm wondering what to do with the concept if no-one wants to publish it (by the way, the pic' that I use for my profile is of Outrage, a character from the Young Gods). Do I just carry on and try to distribute the book myself...most likely in electronic form, or do I give up on it and try something else? Visually, I'm a lot happier with the work I've done on Shine, but I'm really pleased with the writing on the Young Gods...I actually surprised myself when I finished writing #1. I thought that it was going to be "just a bit of fun"...a fairly light hearted sci-fi/superhero romp...but I discovered while writing it that I actually had something to say. Hopefully someday you'll get to read it...hopefully someday someone might actually read this!
Well, I'll leave it here for tonight. I've just got done reading Marvel's (relatively) recent six-part Origin...which finally spills the beans on exactly where Logan came from...or does it? I'm still piecing together my opinions on the series but I'll probably post some thoughts tomorrow.
'Till then, this is me saying, "Sorry? What?"