Thursday, 16 April 2009

REVIEW: Gran Torino

Gran Torino came with high expectations. This is reportedly Clint Eastwood’s last film as an actor (he will continue to direct) and so fans had high hopes for his swan-song. And aside from a few quibbles, this is the great film that you would expect it to be.

It’s a simple plot, maybe even a little corny: racist old war veteran reluctantly befriends his Korean neighbours and becomes their guardian when the youngest is pressured to join his cousin’s gang. But the simplicity allows Eastwood lots of memorable moments: wisecracking racist slurs, berating his spoilt family, dishing out tough-love advice or threatening local youths with a rifle. His character is the classic Dirty Harry badass and more.

Also, Eastwood displays some great moments of comedy, such as his flustered reaction when his neighbours shower him with flowers and his life lessons on how to talk to guys. Admittedly, at times, his growling, mumbling and grimacing appears like an overplayed self-parody of himself. But whether intentional or not, it’s still pretty damn hilarious.

The laughs are welcome because the film can be dark at times (the son is beaten, the daughter is raped) but it wouldn’t be a Clint Eastwood film if there weren’t bad guys to punish. And the punishment is genius – a twist on the expected Eastwood reaction.

In short, Gran Torino is a fitting last outing for Eastwood’s extensive hit list – a mix-match of your favourite Eastwood characters with some new now-or-never stuff.

Not sure his singing over the closing credits was a good idea though.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

REVIEW: Monsters Vs. Aliens

After an intense Oscar-film binge at the start of this year, followed by the dystopian, sci-fi, film noir epic Watchmen, I decided it was time for something completely different…

Monsters Vs Aliens! In frickin’ 3-D!

That’s right. Out with the true stories, the melodrama, the hand-held cameras and Sean Penn. This film has monsters. And aliens. Fighting each other. In 3-D. Hell yeah!

Excitement aside, this film was everything I expected it to be. Dreamworks, as always, will never be able to touch Pixar when it comes to CGI animated films. But Dreamworks offerings are colourful, silly and fun. And they are getting better.

The plot is ridiculously simple: aliens invade and the governments only hope lie in a misfit bunch of monsters, each one referencing a different B-movie classic. We have parodies of The Blob, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly, The Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman and Mothra. All are brilliant, introducing a new generation to the mighty monsters of the 50s, and each is voiced fittingly by Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie (on top Blackadder King George form) and Reese Witherspoon.

The jokes are hit-and-miss (as you would expect from a kids film) but the real thrill is seeing these guys battle aliens and destroy stuff in 3-D. With so many 3-D films coming out this year and James Cameron’s epic space opera Avatar due out in December, which will change the world, we might as well get used to wearing those Real-D glasses now. At least they’re cooler than the old red-and-green specs.

So, Monsters Vs. Aliens: harmless, bright and energetic entertainment. But mostly, it is the perfect dose of silliness after a long Oscar season.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Cloverfield 2?

aThe low-budget sequel to Cloverfield?