At The Movies With Javid #28

Step Brothers (2008)

This images captures the essence of the film quite well

This images captures the essence of the film quite well

After the critically acclaimed success of films like Talledega Nights, it made sense to continue profiteering off the relationship between Will Ferrell and John C Rielly, right?

OK so maybe not.

In a way they played this quite cleverly. Of the plethora of criticisms that Ferrell receives, the biggest is his preference for childish improvisation and lots of shouting – how better to utilise this skills set than to write a film about two 40 year old men with the minds of petulant 9-year olds? Grown men, acting like children. It’s like Jackass, but it’s actually scripted. Whether or not this makes it better is up for debate.

You might remember I gave a favourable review to the movie Old School because it set the mould for the modern take on a genre that’s been played out way too often. There are some moments that are relatively amusing but there are many times you view these two as idiot losers – once again though, it’s hard to use this as a criticism because that’s how the characters were written.

The two have a good chemistry, but there are much better examples of it at play, such as the critically neglected and aforementioned Talledega Nights.

Perhaps most frustrating is the end, where the father (and step-father), who has been an absolute asshole the whole movie (although not without reason at times) suddenly tells the kids they should have been chasing their dreams all along, the dreams that he’d spent the last 90 minutes telling them were absolutely stupid. In what I can assume was a mostly-improvised movie about two men acting like dicks it’s weird that the bit that annoyed me the most was an actual plot point.

Despite all this there’s still something inherently enjoyable about this film. Yes the guys are immature children but really, by the time we get to 40, there’s a chance we’re all keen to revert back to that stage.

You almost feel for the two single children, before you realise that if they were your own you’d probably send them to the third world. 5/10

Black Sheep (2006)

“That’s one down, now WHERE THE HELL IS PETER JACKSON!?”

Having recently obtained Netflix on my PS3, I’ve come to the realisation there are are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of films at my fingertips, all of which I can watch through more…. legitimate means than some of the films that have so far featured in my amazing movie reviews.

Of course, with such a big pool, it’s going to be diluted with some serious shit – and this is where Black Sheep comes in.

What did I expect? With a user rating of a star and a half out of five and a description that sounded far more stupid than terrifying I’m not sure what inspired me to watch this New Zealand-made ‘horror’ film about a herd of sheep infected with a virus that turns them into flesh-hungry monsters. I think I was just giddy on the volume of the Netflix library.

It’s about as good as it sounds.

The ‘scary’ scenes look like they were cut by someone who was enduring an epileptic fit at the time, and it’s impossible to tell what’s going on, except that the main characters are in no trouble whatsoever. There are many points throughout the film where you’re tempted to ask yourself “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?” aloud and turn the damn thing off, – the main one being when you find out that the INCREDIBLY STUPID female lead is named ‘EXPERIENCE’ – but my professionalism as a film critic just wouldn’t let me.

Not even when the people bitten by the sheep turned into large Minotaur-esque monsters and started running around.

Not even with the wise-cracking Johnathan Thurston lookalike makes his way through a seriously bad range of puns.

Not even when our two main characters fall into an offal pit while trying to escape the crazy brother who turned the sheep into monsters.

Not even at the end when we’re expected to believe that an infected sheep bites someone’s dick right off.

Not even when our characters realise that the best way to kill all the sheep is to LIGHT THEIR FUCKING FARTS ON FIRE.

One day you might remember this review and trick yourself into believing that such a film might be a bit of a laugh. Don’t. It took me a long time but I finally found a film SO FUCKING BAD that it makes the last Transformers look like an Oscar-worthy piece of cinema.

That someone paid a decent amount of money for this film to be made is the most astounding thing of all. From the terrible writing to the appalling acting, it’s unendurable. The puppetry is admirable but it’s hard to admire it in such a shit film.

New Zealand has contributed many great things to the world, but this film is DEFINITELY not one of them. I’m sure I’ll sit through many more of them before the novelty of Netflix finally wears off. 1/10

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

Hoffman pulls off a sour Kraut quite well.

Hoffman pulls off a sour Kraut quite well.

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed last year (or whenever it was) thanks to a drug overdose, I was unaffected. While I’d seen him in roles in the past I can’t say I found him as big a loss as others certainly did.

A Most Wanted Man was one of the last film he did before passing. Some of these movies end up getting praise or a certain status simply because they’re the persons last performance (as I’m sure those Robin Williams films he did before his death will), but is this one of those?

No, A Most Wanted Man is a great standalone film, irrespective of the demise that followed. It’s a moderately complicated plot, as a cynical, substance abusing German detective (played by Hoffman) seeks to bring down a series of terror suspects and their helpers with the aim of reaching his ultimate goal – a prominent businessman who he suspects is tied to all of it.

Of course, the Americans get involved and Phil’s had some previous experience with then, getting completely fucked over, which adds to his cynicism. Robin Wright, House of Cards haircut and all, joins the cast as the American who gives off a trusting air in the ‘gritty’ German and his anti-social persona.

The movie shifts gears, moving incredibly quickly at some parts and agonisingly slow in others. It can leave you a bit confused if you don’t give it your full attention,. Hoffman’s German accent is relatively respectable, and his performance is definitely praise-worthy. It almost entices me to go over his back catalogue and see what I’ve been missing out on, and if we didn’t get Netflix this week I probably would have. Oh well.

On the language point I will say that I feel this film would have been even better if it were done in the Inglorious Basterds multiple-language style, as the true story itself would have definitely played out.

Perhaps most astounding about Hoffman’s performance in this is the fact that he was probably inebriated for much of it. It gives his character a woeful authenticity. Maybe he wasn’t, but if he had a history of abuse and was using again there’s a good chance he was going to work whacked.

Whether he did or not, it certainly looks that way – but somehow he still holds it together very well and you truly share in his emotions (that I won’t spoil) when the movie comes to its ending – which is also unique in that it’s both surprising and completely expected.

It’s a strange movie, but perhaps that’s because of everything that happened after it was filmed. Despite the somewhat contemptible nature of the protagonist, you don’t hate him. You don’t really feel sorry for him either, but he feels incredibly real, and that helps you accept him if nothing else. 8/10


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