Monday, August 25, 2014

Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1984) Review

On Saturday, Peter Capaldi blessed our screens as he made his debut on Doctor Who as the latest incarnation. The general consensus seems to be: Peter Capaldi good, Steven Moffat bad. However, let's look back at one of Capaldi's very first acting roles set in his native Scotland. Let's take a look at Local Hero

Oil tycoon Happer (Burt Lancaster) decides to build his next oil refinery over a small Scottish seaside town and sends Mac Macintosh (Peter Riegert) as a scout to try and confirm this with the locals. He is assisted by native Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) as he settles into the quiet town and gets social with the townsfolk. The town comes together to discuss their opinion of Mac while Mac slowly starts to conform as a result to the exposure to the town. Happer waits for the verdict while Mac tries his best to win over the town.

Local Hero is pleasant. Even if you are unfamiliar with small, sea side towns like Mac is, you can relate to his exposure to the serene location and tight community while those who become nostalgic of the realistic setting will side with the town. You are positioned to want to see the town spared anyway so naturally it has to do a good job of presenting the town in a good light as well as show Mac's progression into their society. This is done thanks to the subtle writing and acting as well as displaying progression with Mac's conversion into the local lifestyle by use of Peter Riegert changing his stance, pace and outfit as the film goes on. It's clever stuff and I imagine this will be a film that will have you catching more if you rewatch it at a later date.

I started this review about Peter Capaldi who does quite a good job considering that this is one of his earliest acting roles and works well opposite Peter Riegert. Overall the acting was enjoyable. Fulton Mackey brings a warm and jolly performance to the role of beach dweller Ben Knox and Denis Lawson joins Riegert and Capaldi for a likable trio residing in the town. The characters are likable and all lend themselves to hilarious moments. The key of Local Hero, as I've mentioned, is the subtly. All the best comedic moments are cemented by throw away lines and facial reactions with one case being made hilarious because there is no reaction. It's subtle yet specific and therefore makes for a unique blend of comedy.

Local Hero is definitely a feel good and calming film with a great sense of humour. The actors bring lighthearted and jolly performances in their wake and the writing makes for some classic lines and moments. Local Hero sets out to do it's job of entertaining and being insightful. I recommend it to those who wish to get more acquainted with Peter Capaldi now that we have him as The Doctor.

Calm, funny, pleasant and a feel good film that started Peter Capaldi's career path.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck, 1986) Review

It seems fitting that on the same day Guardians of the Galaxy released 28 years ago was this other Marvel film. We already know now that Guardians of the Galaxy was not only a commercial success but also a critical success. Sadly,I can't say the same for Howard the Duck if you couldn't tell. That's why you've probably never heard of him.and you can tell just from the image what's wrong with this. Anyway, let's take a look at Howard the Duck.

On a planet where anthropomorphic ducks are the dominant species, Howard (Chip Zein) is relaxing at home when an experimental machine from Earth captures him and sends him to our planet. Now stuck on Earth, Howard tries to fit in but finds it difficult because...he's a duck. He does manage to befriend rocker Beverly (Lea Thompson) and impress her friend Phil (Tim Robbins) however things get worse when it's revealed that Howard wasn't the only alien taken to Earth but these aliens are far less friendly.
Howard the Duck has some bad, bad acting. Really bad. Chip Zein as the voice of Howard is the only actor that stands out probably because he's just voicing a character rather than having to act opposite a guy in a duck suit. Lucky him. I could be bias because I loved Lea Thompson's work in the Back to the Future trilogy but I can't defend her here. Not only do I have no idea why she did this, I have no idea why the film was even made. They are clearly trying to make this a family film since it was rated PG but...the film starts off with a naked duck in the bath...a naked anthropomorphic duck. No idea but I wish I could unsee it. It's not even in the background as the shot lingers on it for a few seconds. It's unsettling. That's the key element here: it's unsettling. Geofrey Jones, bless him for his work in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Beetlejuice, hams up his role but probably too much. It comes off as cheesy and silly. God knows what Tim Robbins was thinking.

I'll go through why Howard the Duck can't work as a film in the first place (and Marvel would be smart to avoid it in the future no matter what the hint at). Yes, Rocket Raccoon is an anthropomorphic animal from another planet too however A) He's likable and B) he's part of a team that rivals the Avengers. He has people backing him up. Howard doesn't. He's an unlikable drunken douchebag whose franchise promotes bestiality. The film was dangerously close to crossing this line too. There are some lines you don't cross and that's one of them. The rest of the cast are also bland and lifeless. Howard is the only memorable character and that's because he's a freaking duck!

Howard the Duck is a low point in Marvel's cinematic career. It's not the lowest but it's close. (Yes, there are films worse than this amazingly). Howard himself is the only good thing about it and I'mr eally streatching the word "good". The actors are either bad or misplaced. Howard the Duck is a bad idea for the film from the very beginning as it would not only suck but not sell very well either...and look what happened. Howard the Duck sucks and bombed at the box office. It was a failure and wasn't even good enough to gain a cult following. Avoid at all costs and let's pray Marvel doesn't do it again..then again they made Rocket and Groot work so...we'll see.

Silly, stupid, poorly acted and was dead on arrival anyway.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1998) Review

I woke up this morning feeling the most tired I had ever been. I could barely coordinate and just crashed in a heap on the sofa. After a two hour nap, I woke up to find Sky Movies playing a few Robin Williams films. Naturally I chose Aladdin as it is one of my favourite films but after it finished, I decided to rewatch Mrs. Doubtfire, another one of Williams' classics. It seems only fitting to take a look at this after his death so let's take a look at Mrs. Doubtfire.

Daniel Hilard (Robin Williams) is an eccentric yet caring father of three who works as a voice actor. Despite his love for his kids, his wife Miranda (Sally Field) sees him as a bad role model. After Daniel throws an extravagant yet disastrous birthday party, Miranda official has enough and files for divorce. Miranda is given custody of the kids, leaving Daniel heartbroken and desperate. He learns that Miranda is looking for a housekeeper which gives Daniel the idea of taking on the persona of Mrs. Doubtfire, an elderly Scottish nanny. Daniel now has to balance his life as Mrs. Doubtfire as well as his real work after quitting his voice acting gig.

We all know that Robin Williams is a very versatile actor and Mrs. Doubtfire is definetly one of the best examples of that. While Daniel is clearly just Robin being himself (right down to his job having him to a plenitude of voices) however he gets away with dressing up as Doubtfire herself. Considering that he managed to use the disguise to fool people off set, his performance combined with the wonderful make-up job makes for a lovable and unique character. Robin Williams does stand up above the rest of the cast however I can't put the others down. Sally Field delivers a solid performance as does Pierce Brosnan however the rest aren't as memorable. Mara Wilson is only worth nothing because...she's Mara Wilson although she has done better now (it was her first film. I can't be that harsh). Also Terry McGovern makes a cameo so...that's cool (not that you'd you know who he is).

On the surface, one could very easily brush this film off as a "silly". That's only on a surface level. Deep down, this is a very heartwarming comedy. Mrs. Doubtfire knows when to be charming and eccentric as well as balance the serious scenes. One of my big complains, however, is that the ending is very sudden. There was much more that could've been developed as you could argue that it was built up enough. It's at least satisfying so there's that but sometimes that just isn't enough. On the other hand, the comedy is so well done, especially combined with sincere and heartwarming moments. I guess it's two steps forward, one step back.

Mrs. Doubtfire is often up there in top Robin Williams films and there are reasons why. He is delightful in the role and show his diversity (one scene only existing just for him to throw voices out) however this means he stands very high above the rest of the cast who try to deliver solid performances but, let's face it, we're just here for Williams. The plot itself does have one or two problems with the main one being how quick the ending actually is. I plan on reviewing more Robin Williams films in the future but, for now, we can just let him rest in peace.

Delightful, heartwarming and filled with charm and wit if a bit clunky towards the end

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Tribute to Robin Williams

As you may very well know by now, legendary comedic actor Robin Williams has sadly passed away. Robin Williams has blessed us with his presence in many fantastic films such as Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam, Jumanji and Hook. He has touched many generations with his zany, 'out of the box' sense of humour, his warm and light-hearted personality and his iconic voice.

I am aware that many other great talents have passed on this year however Robin Williams is very special to me. He was one of my biggest inspirations when I was a kid. I was first introduced to him, as were many people my age, when he voiced the Genie in Aladdin (my fifth favourite film of all time!). The moment he debut in the film, you knew you were in for a treat and his performance is the sole reason that I love Aladdin as much as I do. Even better was when he returned for the third in the trilogy, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, which proved he can bring so much unique humour and life to a character. Genie is one of my favourite fictional characters and I have Robin Williams to thank for that.

In additon, his work in live action works is also fantastic. Dead Poets Society is a delightful film and his charming yet authoritative role rejuvenated the iconic phrase "O Captain! My Captain!", Bicentennial Man had him play a much more sympathetic yet naive character,  Jumanji saw him balance savage wildness and attempted sophistication and Hook sparked a new found interest into Peter Pan as he played a more over-worked and stressed version of Peter. Whiel not every film he was in was a hit, his presence is still appreciated. Flubber, Patch Adams, Happy Feet and Jack. While they aren't the best films, he still does a wonderful job in all of them. He also can't forget is Oscar winning performance in Good Will Huntng, a film that I know has made an impact and changed lives. A powerful, powerful performance.

For me, Robin Williams was an inspiration as I'm sure we was for many people. When I saw Genie in Aladdin, something sparked in me and I wanted to pursue the film industry, specifically acting (voice acting to be even more precises). He was one of the earliest favourite actors and I have him to thank for where I am today. His zany, jolly and versatile nature was contagious and to this day find myself singing 'Friend Like Me' and 'Prince Ali'. I cannot praise him enough. He has made such as huge impact on my life, especially since he makes it easy to point out a favourite Disney film.

As a gamer, I also have to bring up his contribution to the gaming world. He named his daughter Zelda after the eponymous princess of the Legend of Zelda games leading to his appearance in the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D which is arguably one of the best adverts for a game and has admitted he's a fan of said franchise. Seeing Zelda at E3 for the tournament for Super Smash Bros. For Wii U as well as her friendliness to the community as a whole also makes me appreciate common interest. It's fascinating. Maybe in another universe there was a Zelda movie with him in it.  

I don't wish to dwell on this tragic event but instead want to remind you of just how talented a person Robin Williams was. He was bright, funny, warm and, of course, eccentric and that's why we loved him. He will always have a place in Hollywood history and has left his mark for many generations. Thank you Robin, you will be forever missed.

O Captain, my Captain.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) Review

Marvel still dominate Hollywood. It's even more clear with DC's recent idea to change the date for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice since it clashed with Captain America 3. Good idea! I would've seen Captain America 3 anyway so win-win. Now, we have to look at a film that features a talking raccoon, an anthropomorphic tree voiced by the Iron Giant and have been set the challenge of taking that idea seriously. I have faith in Marvel....right?

In the depths of space, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an outlaw out to steal an orb for a high price. Turns out the orb is wanted by a madman named Ronan (Lee Pace) who sends out an assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to steal it from Quill. During their conflict, an alien duo of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) attempt to kidnap Quill for the bounty but all 4 of them are arrested by Nova Corp. In prison, the 4 team up with a inmate, Drax (David Batista), who wants revenge on Ronan for murdering his family. The 5 inmates form a group to keep the orb safe from Ronan and deliver it to a safe location.

I'll get the one flaw out of the way quickly. To begin with, the plot is a little bit all over the place as the film has to establish not only all 5 team members but also the planets and civilizations. It's a bit crammed in for those with no idea of what the Guardians are about. However, those who keep up with their comic knowledge or at least kept up to date with his film should have no problem. On the flip side, this film is an absolute delight. It was clearly advertised as a comedy/action flick and it delivers on both aspects wonderfully. Sure, Avengers Assemble arguably had stronger action but Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast to watch. Every character in the film has a hilarious moment probably with Drax and Rocket being the two comedic highlights. Drax's is oblivious to abstract ideas while Rocket is just a high sprung rodent. The entire team consists of wonderful, flesh out characters which is commendable for one film.

The CGI is great as Rocket and Groot feel almost real due to the combination of the CGI and the strong voice acting. Bradley Cooper completely loses himself in the role and becomes Rocket while Vin Diesel is perfectly cast.  Chris Pratt follows Robert Downey Jr. in the sense that he does almost play himself but he's endearing and likable that you don't mind. Zoe Saldana does a good job too but David Batista, who I heard wasn't very good, actually delivers a solid performance. For someone who isn't traditionally an 'actor', I'm was very impressed with him. As this is a Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, you can expect a lot of references and connections between the films in the this franchise. They are a lot more subtle this time around as well as a credits scene that only the die-hard Marvel films will get (and I did so...I loved it). As you might also except, the soundtrack is amazing. As there are two soundtracks (vocal songs and background music), there was a chance that one would stand out over the other. You could argue that but I feel that both soundtracks are great.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a joy to watch from start to finish.The only flaw is the establishment of the plot and even then, you'll understand the second time through as will the comic book fans so it's basically a moot point. The CGI is fantastic and, combined with great voice action, makes the CGI characters feel real. The live action characters are also well developed over the course of the form. If you enjoyed Avengers Assemble, you will have a fun time with Guardians of the Galaxy. This was my most anticipated film this year and I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Man, we are doing REALLY well with films this year. I've already given 5 films either a 9 or 9.5. We are doing well. Maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will break that streak.

A joy from start to finish. Everything works and is a delight to watch.