Tuesday, 20 September 2016

On 20.9.16 by KieronMoore in , , , , ,    1 comment

Full review on Starburst.

From The Producers to The Player, there’s no target Hollywood loves to satirise more than itself. This 1999 comedy, now being released on Blu-ray, is no exception, poking fun at everything going on in the film industry of its time through the story of Bobby Bowfinger, an enthusiastic but penniless film producer.

Bowfinger (Steve Martin, who also scripted the film) will stop at nothing to get his alien invasion movie made, even when the star he wants, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) flat out rejects him. His idea is to have Ramsey star in the movie without knowing he’s in it – by following him around with a hidden camera and having the rest of their cast walk up to him in the street and act out their scenes. The thing is, Ramsey’s already the paranoid kind, being a member of a Scientology-esque organisation called MindHead, and this scheme only further convinces the star that aliens are after him.

It’s a great premise, and one that plays out in very entertaining fashion, with some clever satire mixed in with the surreal and zingy dialogue you’d expect from a Steve Martin script. A couple of the set pieces stop just short of being truly hilarious, but you’re never far away from the next laugh.

What really makes Bowfinger work is the performances of two comedy actors with very different approaches to their craft; Martin’s deadpan delivery of lines like “This film is only for Madagascar and Iran, neither of which follow American copyright law” makes Bobby Bowfinger a very watchable grifter, while Murphy’s over-the-top style perfectly suits the neurotic Ramsey. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

On 14.9.16 by KieronMoore in , , ,    2 comments

Full review on Starburst.

On the planet Prosper, the Doctor and Mel have brokered peace between the native mole-like Mogera and the humans from colony ship The Duke of Milan. A century later, the Doctor returns, this time with Ace and an older Mel in tow, only to find that this peace didn’t last, and Prosper is in a worse state than ever. Worse, it’s all the Doctor’s fault!

The Doctor’s guilt is an intriguing hook for a story, perhaps similar to the situation the Ninth Doctor found himself in in 2005’s Bad Wolf, and writer Matthew J Elliott gets some good material out of this. Meanwhile, in their third adventure together, Ace and Mel once again stand out as fine companions; Ace becomes a captive of a Mogera soldier and deals with it in her usual hard-nosed way, while Mel gets a chance to show off those computing skills.

If some of the character and location names seem familiar to you, you may have noticed that this story is inspired by The Tempest, featuring a shipwrecked crew, technology which seems like magic, and mysterious monsters; in fact, several characters directly quote Shakespeare’s play. This does add an edge of magical fantasy to proceedings, though it is odd that it’s never actually addressed – surely the Doctor’s met Mr. Shakespeare enough times to pick up on this?

Kubo is a young boy with the magical ability to make origami come to life with his music. Using his animated paper figures, he tells the story of his father, a great warrior who searched for three magical pieces of armour but was ultimately slain by the evil Moon King (who happens to be Kubo’s granddad from his mother’s side). But after a run-in with his evil aunts (yeah, this family’s really screwed up), Kubo must take on his father’s quest and find the armour himself.

From the animation studio that brought us Boxtrolls and ParaNorman, this is not only Laika’s best movie yet, it’s also their most ambitious; an epic adventure across a landscape inspired by Japan and its geography, with an incredible variety of visually imaginative characters, beautiful locations, and action set pieces.

There’s a touch of Ray Harryhausen in one particular scene, where our band of heroes fight a giant skeleton, and Laika’s blend of stop motion and CGI is as magical and engrossing today as Harryhausen’s films were in their time, each creature dynamic and terrifying, each character tangible and emotive. It’s honestly astonishing; this is the only film I recall seeing where a bit of a behind-the-scenes featurette has been included in the end credits, and yet it doesn’t come across as at all pretentious or jarring, so unique and impressive are the methods used.

But this technical brilliance would be nothing without a good story, and Laika have achieved that by giving us a good old hero’s journey epic, with wise mentors, mystical MacGuffins, and evil witches aplenty. Yet in a manner that made me think of classic Star Wars, it has a tight-knit family story set against this epic backdrop, with all the major characters tied into Kubo’s tale in a way that makes the film heart-wrenching as well as thrilling.

If there’s anything to criticise, it’s that the comic relief could be a little stronger – Matthew McConaughey’s dopey samurai Beetle provides a few chuckles, but the script could do with more of that; the attempts to make him a double act with the Monkey sometimes fall flat, perhaps due to a miscast Charlize Theron, who plays everything incredibly straight.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

On 7.9.16 by KieronMoore in , , , ,    No comments

“Half man… half ant… all terror!” That’s the tagline not to Joe Dante’s Matinee but to Mant!, the schlocky film-within-a-film produced by John Goodman’s cigar-chomping Lawrence Woolsey. Woolsey likes to put on a good show, and for the screening of Mant! in Key West, Florida, he’s pulling out all the stops, not least his ‘rumble-rama’ which will simulate the film’s nuclear explosion. The problem is, this is October 1962, and not far away from Key West, the Cuban Missile Crisis is threatening to tear the world apart – which Woolsey sees as an opportunity to draw on his audience’s fears.

Following a group of local kids in the build-up to the Mant! screening, and then the show itself as it goes as out of control as you’d expect, Matinee is a fast-paced and very funny farce, with broad, daft humour aimed at a family audience. 

It’s also a film filled with nostalgia; this is Joe Dante paying tribute to his favourite childhood movies, and though John Goodman’s long monologues on the magic of cinema can get a little bit too much, the warmth of Dante’s affection for this genre shines through in the upbeat tone, particularly when we get to see scenes from Mant!. It perfectly tears apart the tropes of that genre, from the shrieking women to the patronising scientist: “now he’ll grow at an accelerated – or speeded up – rate”.