Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 Film Review Round Up

All those pesky little films that I didn't quite get round to reviewing in full earlier in the year...

Black Pond
Bit privileged to see this as it was the only screening outside of London! Unfortunately it was also the day after LFF finished so it got a bit swallowed up with that. But that's not to say it was a disappointment - it was a fresh take on the British black comedy, an impressive debut from youngsters Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe and marked the return of Chris Langham to acting. All three were there at this special screening and Q&A at the Hyde Park Picture House - to be honest it would have fitted perfectly into the LFF, not sure why it wasn't! It's shot mockumentary style, with narrative divided by talking heads from the characters explaining what was going on at that particular moment. It's quite clever - there's a lovely moment when Chris Langham's character Tom stops talking to wait for an aeroplane to pass overhead. The story revolves around a bickering family (Chris Langham and Amanda Hadingue make up the parents, with Helen Cripps and Anna O'Grady as the chalk and cheese surly student daughters) and their guest Tim (Will Sharpe acting as well as directing) who are arrested and accused of murder after a man (Colin Hurley) dies at their dinner table. The family discuss events leading up to the death, and speak about how the man had come into their lives randomly, and had become a friend when he came into their home to say his last words and die quietly as their sup spaghetti bolognese. Tim, traumatised by the incident, has also been seeking counselling from therapist Eric Sacks (Simon Amstell) who whilst simultaneously (and hilariously) telling him to get over himself, is tipping off the police with confidential details of the events. Simon Amstell does own every scene he's in - he's gleefully appalling as the morally bereft counsellor - there's a moment where he gets Tim to imagine the whole of the Thompson family are sat on a chair in minuscule form which was utter genius! It also reminds us what a brilliant actor Chris Langham is. Despite what has happened to him in previous years (and believe what you want - the actor himself let out a passionate and surprise defence and self absolution during the Q&A) there's something solid and rewarding about watching him on the screen. The film is really pretty to look at as well with homemade and low budget inspired creative effects. Black Pond is available to watch on Love Film now and the DVD should follow in 2012.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Again, this had a very rare screening out of London when it was released in the Summer, but when we got to the HPPH the projector had broken and we had to walk away like Charlie Brown! Boooo. Luckily the film came out on DVD just weeks later. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is flipping ingenious - an hilarious take on the 'dumb pretty students go into the woods and get killed by murderous rednecks' horror movie plotline. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two redneck-esque but harmless truck buddies who go into the woods for a weekend to do some fishing. Joining them are a group of dumb pretty students who are highly suspicious of the duo, and when one of their fold, Allison (Katrina Bowden), is taken by them all sorts of hilarity ensues. Genuine hilarity, not all the best bits are in the trailer hilarity. Tucker and Dale have saved Allison from drowning, but her friends think she has been kidnapped. So in the best interests of getting her back they stalk the men, and one by one die in comedy gold accidents, only furthering the belief that Tucker and Dale are evil killers. My favourite by far, is when Tucker accidentally chainsaws into a wasp nest and is flailing around angrily trying to get them off whilst at the same time looking like a crazed maniac with a weapon. You can see the pay-off coming before it happens, but it makes it all the more satisfying to watch. Brilliant fun, and one of the funniest films I have seen in a long, long time. I thoroughly recommend! Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is on DVD now.

Chalet Girl
As I may have remonstrated earlier in the year, I had free tickets to go and see this at the cinema, and it was quite exciting as I NEVER get free tickets to see anything - I always end up getting there too late. But then I stupidly deleted the email with all the information on, and couldn't get in to see it. Noooooooo! It was more the principle than actually missing a film I was desperate to see. But I picked it up cheap on DVD a couple of months ago. It's a classic girl power rom-com, about teenager Kim (Felicity Jones) who gets a job as a chalet girl at a ski resort in Austria to help support her dad (Bill Bailey) after her mother dies in a car accident on the way back from a skateboarding event which she was won. Not fitting in with the posh girls and embarrassing herself in front of the son of the yuppie family who own the chalet (Ed Westwick) she takes up snowboarding, in the hope her talent will crossover and she can win the pro championship at the end of her stay to win enough money to keep herself and her dad secure for several years. It's all very formulaic: of course she wins the competition, of course all the posh girls like her in the end, of course she gets the guy, of course she gets over the death of her mother... there's a few 'twists' along the way but to be honest it gets a bit tedious and your mind starts wandering. It's a shame as this a wholly British film, with lots of mention of Tesco's and even lots of snippets from T4. And I love Felicity Jones and Ed Westwick, and they're cute together but nothing really sizzles. It seems to be aimed at the wrong crowd: 13-14 year old girls would love this, but yet they try and push the risque humour and sex talk just a little bit too much. The script just lets it down - it would have made a much better toned down. More emphasis on the 'com' than the 'rom', please. In fact the best bit of the film is the wonderfully fun and silly end credits where all the cast dance around like loons and we get to see all the bloopers. Chalet Girl is out on DVD now.

Your Highness
Meant to see this in the cinema when it came out - I can't remember a time since Garden State where I haven't been to see a Natalie film in the cinema! - but I never got round to it. The trailer made me giggle and I wanted to go and see it with a group of friends but it just never happened, and then due to awful reviews it vanished pretty quickly. So I caught up on the DVD at Christmas. I wanted SO much to like it and to refute what everyone had been saying about it, but I humbly and regrettably have to agree. Your Highness is a big puerile mess. This could have been the next Monty Python, or Princess Bride but much of the problem lies in the fact that it's written by Danny McBride, who is actually very good at what he does, but he's a better performer than he is a writer. Most of the jokes revolve around sex, drugs and penises which is going to appeal to the people who will happily give this full marks - Nuts magazine. To the normal viewer you're yearning for something more. There's promise: "not triangle face, I hate triangle face!" still makes me laugh, and I loved Simon the mechanical bird. But a giggle here and there does not a good movie make. It's a shame because the fantasy/adventure plot is actually good, and the cinematography (I got quite excited when Natalie was stood in the exact same spot of the Giants Causeway I've been to) and sets are fab. It almost makes you wish they'd played it straight instead. Rasmus Hardiker, who plays squire Courtney, is by far the best thing in it. And apart from McBride you can't help but wonder if the rest of the cast, including Natalie, signed on to work with the director and their co-stars more than the witty, intelligent script. It's a new role for Natalie, and she does play the obsessed with revenge warrior woman well, but I do have to wonder at some of the things she had to do... Damien Lewis and Toby Jones are horribly miscast, the rest of the knights barely used (they had the pick of the British comedy scene, why not use them?) and Zooey Deschanel is like a completely different actress in this, and that can only be the fault of the script. Your Highness is out on DVD now, but even coming from a Natalie fan, it's not worth your pennies. Unless you actually liked Pineapple Express or are a 14 year old boy - then you've probably already seen it.

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