Saturday, 7 August 2010

Review: Toy Story 3

This film is a perfect film. Everything in it works.

It will entertain children whilst also making adults cry.

It was beautiful and wonderful. Just the right amounts of bleakness, despair, hope and love. Perfectly blended and seasoned.

It is the best of the 3 films. It may be the first 3 that is the best of a film trilogy. Not that the other two films aren't also great.

I reckon it will be 2010's best film.

Go and see it.

Review: Inception

I am generally split between not liking and liking Christopher Nolan's films. I didn't like Batman Begins or Insomnia but I really loved Memento and Dark Knight. I liked The Prestige but also found it a bit emotionally cold.

Inception falls into the didn't like camp.

Part of that may be that I am not that interested in James Bond style action sequences. Which is not to say that I don't like action, I do. I just have to care about the characters and find the sequences to have something new and engaging about them. I found Inceptions action pretty dull and unoriginal. And there was just TOO MUCH of it.

The film has some good things about it. The cast are great. The acting very good. There are some brilliant sequences, really brilliant, almost worth watching the over-hyped and overlong film for. They hint at how good the idea could have been: An action film/blockbuster than takes place in peoples minds. Thieves who steal information from inside peoples minds. A heist movie where they have to insert an idea into the marks mind. All good.

However the execution of the above is a vast failure.

People have said of Inception that it is somehow refreshing. That we don't get blockbusters with art movie ideas, with difficult concepts and existential elements. That Inception somehow changes the game.

I'm afraid it doesn't. The Matrix (and don't let the sequels spoil how good the original was) does everything that Inception tries to do, but it did so with style, originality and interest. Clever blockbusters have happened loads though, from Terminator I and II to LA Confidential. Inception isn't new. It isn't a game changer.

It also isn't as complicated as it wants you to believe. What it actually does is fail to explain things well. It thinks making things unclear can distract from When you boil it down it has lots of plot holes. It is generally very implausible.

That said all of this may be deliberate. I fear that it is. Take this review/analysis of Inception [WARNING FULL OF SPOILERS]:

Everything that review says seems likely to me. Nolan could very well have deliberately made things implausible and full internal logic for the reasons stated in that article. He may also have been trying to make a film about the process of making films. Crafting a clever metaphor for his own process.

The problem is that in doing so he has made a film that is indulgent and lazy. It would have been much better if he'd developed the idea for longer, researched his topic more, thought more about the effect of the film rather than the ideas he wanted to put in it. Boiled it down better. Stopped navel gazing.

The main problem with the film is that it isn't like a dream. It thinks it is, but it isn't. There is not enough surrealness. There is just lots of guns and chases. Is that what dreams are like? No. Dreams are much more interesting. There is loads of information out there about dreams that he could have fed into it, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation. All of that could have been great.

And why all the guns? Are they really that interesting? Surely you also dream about swords, about fish, about flying, about so many different things. And you accept them all because its a dream and we generally accept the logic of dreams. There are 3 beautiful bits that hint at what it could have been. 1. The sequence where Ellen Page redesigns the city in front of her using her imagination and making it not obey the laws of physics. 2. The fight sequence in a hallway where the centre of gravity keeps changing. 3. The sequence where gravity goes completely and yet various people need to be moved through space as if they were falling in order to wake them up.

We needed more of that and less Bond shoot outs. We needed fluidity, invention, imagination. We needed it to be a fucking dream.

The problem I think is that Nolan actually wanted to make a film about the subconscious. He wanted it to be all about moving through different levels of someones subconscious. Well that's a good idea too. So choose. Dreams or subconscious. And whichever you choose cut out all the guns. They aren't adding anything. The guns in the Matrix and Terminator and LA Confidential added something. Christ even the explosions in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves add something.

If you are going to do it about different levels of the subconscious then it still has to be more interesting. You have to have different visual cues for the different levels, rather than colouring them all in a similar way. And crucially you have to think it through: Why would what happens to a body in one level have an affect on it in another level but not to the body in the next level... etc...

Inception to me was like District 9, full of great ideas that weren't thought through fully. However District 9 was a much more satisfying watch.

I was bored in this film.

I think a better film could have been made with 45 mins of action cut and more work done on the dreamscape and its logic.

I also think the idea could have been much better realised over a TV series, which would allow the sort of character development and narrative depth that an idea with this sort of potential deserves.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Unknown Music Review 5: Betty and the Werewolves: Teatime Favourites

"I don't want dinner and a movie. I just want someone that'll move me." - Euston Station
(As with many of this series of Unknown Music Reviews I have a connection to someone in this band. That's an inevitable part of the process since many of the pile of CD's that I'm working through have been purchased from friends and acquaintances.

So I happen to be friends with Emily who plays guitar and provides one vocal in the wonderful Betty and the Werewolves. That's the disclosure out of the way.)

Betty and the Werewolves play punk influenced indie pop. They do so very deliciously. I am very much a Fan with a capital F. They've enchanted me ever since I saw them play live last year. It's a sweet pain when you're a musician and you're friend has a great band and great talents. You are pleased, excited and also jealous to fuck. This happens to me far to frequently. And with B&tW I get it the pain and joy in endless waves because they really are terrific.

They have the bouncing danceable beats of the first Futureheads album and that's a good reference point for Teatime Favourites, both albums are perfect for long distance drives in a car or for putting on when everyone gets to the dancing drunk stage of a house party. Both albums have great lyrics and great harmonies, and are filled with energy and distance. Both have lots of tracks (Teatime Favourites has 14 all together) but all of them are short (the album comes in at 39.33). There are some filler tracks (for me) on the album, maybe it could have been chopped down to say 11 or 12, but having said that I suspect the tracks that feel like filler now are more likely to be growers rather than show-ers! Already the last track Hyacinth Girl for example has been worming its way into my heart from a meh, to a mmm.

The album is full of singles and much of it would work as the score of a Tarantino film, with the sort of licks and grooves that infuse his films being the guitar hook in many of the tunes. The two vocalists really compliment each other, dancing around each other with Cranberries style harmonies and occasional melodic shouting. Laura provides a perfect Dubstar/Black Box Recorder style reverberant distance, with Emily providing a warmer touch. There's a Smiths feel to what they do, there's a touch of the early Doves and they have some Buzzcocks syncopation going on.

The band are obviously enjoying themselves and it comes through on the recording. The record captures everything that's great about them live and adds extra resonances. They have great keyboard sounds, fantastic drumming, riffs galore, ace solos and most importantly they have great lyrics, they have darkness, light, fun and games.

I imagine everyone will mention in reviews that they are formed of three women with a man on drums. Which is, of course, both completely irrelevant and absolutely essential to what makes them great.

The band have a distinctive stance and sound. They have some great things to say about the world. And they are hungry for it. And they are doing it now.
"I'm obsessed with a piece of plastic... My plan for the future is to have some pieces sewn into my face" - Plastic
My stand out tracks are: Plastic, Euston Station, Paper Thin, Francis and David Cassidy.

The only real criticism I have is that I don't like the title font used on the front of the album. And I'm not too keen on the video for Paper Thin (though I love the song).

Buy there album it's available from Damaged Goods. You can also find them on Itunes and Twitter and Spotify and Last FM and Facebook and probably on the radio right now!!!

Betty and the Werewolves - live - 2 of 3 from Joseph O Hughes on Vimeo.